Tag Archives: Christianity

Sugar Creek Gang: Swamp Robber

I met Heather Idoni on my birthday this year – on FaceBook! She happened to notice it was my special day, and popped on over to say “hi.” And, boy, am I glad that she did! When I asked her how we were acquainted, she remembered that I had been to visit her website, www.belovedbooks.com

I checked out her delightful site (more thoroughly this time), all the while regretting the fact that my son has shown little interest in audio books. That is, until we received our copy of Sugar Creek Gang: Swamp Robber. It came in the mail on two CDs. Each is about an hour and twenty minutes long. I immediately dug out an old CD player, and we began listening to them!

I must admit, I allowed myself to become distracted while these CDs were playing in the background, so I couldn’t possibly give you every single detail. I write a lot, and I totally lose myself when I am reading or writing; I never hear what’s going on around me. I know I’ve been like this since at least the 6th grade, when I looked up from my book to find my teacher sitting at her desk smiling at me. The rest of the classroom was empty. And where had all the kids gone? To recess! I was so busy reading, I didn’t hear them leave.

Anyway, while I couldn’t give you a book report on the story, I do have several things that I want to say about this audio book:

First and foremost, this book clearly communicates the gospel message to children, or to anyone who might be listening for that matter. While nothing can replace a child’s own parents setting a godly example and taking the time to instruct him in righteousness, this book will help your diligent teachings to gel in your child’s mind.

Second, the narrator is phenomenal! I kid you not. No matter how long I sit here and try to explain to you how fantastic he is, there is no way you can possibly wrap your mind around it without listening to him for yourself. He portrays little Bill Collins so perfectly, it’s impossible to imagine that an older man was actually sitting in a studio somewhere reading from the book while being recorded. He does a great job with the other characters as well.

Third, this book is not only parent-approved, but kids like them too. My son wanted to listen to the story over again, and that’s a first for him. Also, even though I was zoned out most of the time, my son could actually play with his toys and pay attention at the same time. He came up to me several times while the story was playing to remark on something he heard. The book spawned several very good conversations between him and me.

Forth, Beloved Books offers great customer service! (Or is it friendship?) When I mentioned to Heather how much we were enjoying the CDs, until our CD player finally gave up the ghost, she sent me a couple of links to download the MP3 files for free. I downloaded them without telling my son what I was doing. I then pressed the play icon and waited for his response; he was so excited when he realized just what was coming out of my laptop.  We were so grateful to Heather for helping us out.

The only thing I could wish is that the other books were available individually. It’s going to be difficult to save up the money to buy a whole volume at a time (6 volumes in all – 32 different books), but considering how perfectly amazing the first book was, how can I skip this opportunity? I can’t imagine, now that I know what we would be missing, not having these CDs around for years to come. If you’d like to read more parent reviews, check it out: http://www.belovedbooks.com/page/page/1567675.htm

Conclusion: order the sample for $4.95 plus free shipping. You can do that here: http://www.belovedbooks.com/page/page/1567474.htm


My First Thanksgiving

I was nine months old. My parents had been brought up in church, but had not attended since they were teens. They both knew that they wanted to raise their new little girl (me) in church. So they prayed. They were too shy to go from church to church looking for just the right one, even though they still lived in the same town in which they grew up. Maybe because of that reason, who knows? So they prayed. They prayed for God to send someone to them. I know that’s not a very active way to seek an answer to prayer, but it’s all they were willing to do at that time in their lives.

Then, Thanksgiving Day, 1979 rolled around. They were sitting at the dinner table chowing down on turkey when someone knocked on the door. It was two women. Two church women, Sharon and Annie. They invited Mom and Dad to church, and my parents went.

I was raised in that church, saved in that church, and baptized in that church (well, really it was Indian Creek, but I was with my church family). I called my mom tonight to get the details. She said that all four of her kids grew up gnawing on the backs of those wooden benches.

I love God with all of my heart, and I am working to pass that on to as many people as possible. Where would I be today if Sharon and Annie had not responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit 32 years ago? They had the guts to knock on someone’s door on a holiday, no less! Did they knock on a lot of doors that night, or only one? I can’t help but wonder. Anyway, I thank God for them, and for the domino effect they caused in my life!

I said all that to say this: your associates, acquaintances, friends, etc. might be praying right now for God to send someone to them. Deep down inside, I think that every person desires a relationship with Him, and some are just on the verge of accepting Him. We don’t know which ones. Please do everything you can to reach out to them. Be brave! You never know how a word from you may affect generations to come! Eternity is at stake.

Author interview with Amanda L. Davis

I recently had the opportunity to interview Amanda L. Davis, author of Precisely Terminated. After getting to know a little about her and about her book, I must say this: I can’t wait to read it!

While visiting your FB page, I was delighted to find that you have such an active lifestyle outside of writing: spinning, sewing, planting, running, etc. What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

My favorite thing to do outside writing? That’s a pretty tough question. I equally enjoy spinning and sewing. I always say I’m not very good with ‘favorites’ questions. My tastes change from day to day. Some days I might like sewing better, and then another day I might prefer spinning.  Besides those two, I also really enjoy spending time with my family—playing board games or going on walks.

As a homeschooler myself, I’m interested in that aspect of your life. Could you describe a typical homeschool day in your family? How did your homeschool routine change after you decided to focus on writing?

Our family’s typical homeschooling days are probably not much like other people’s. My mother is teaching only my younger two sisters now, because my four older siblings and I have all graduated from high school.  Usually, though, we get up and go for a run before having family devotions. After devotions are done, my sisters start school. My mother works with my fourteen-year-old sister, Hannah, and my seventeen-year-old sister works on her own. Two days a week my cousins come over for co-op lessons (my mother teaches some classes and my aunt teaches others).  Often times I help with the meals for these days. I must say I don’t get much writing done on the co-op days!

Have your experiences with Precisely Terminated changed you as a person?

My experiences with Precisely Terminated have really changed how outgoing I am. I’ve been forced, you could say, to be more energetic, talkative, and lively. When I’m at home I’m a very quiet person and would rather watch and listen than be the person speaking. I have to be the opposite when I’m talking about my books, or no one would listen to me or be interested! I’ve gained confidence in my speaking abilities as well, especially on this current promotion tour my dad and I have been on. In the past month I have spoken to 50 different groups, telling them about my writing journey and overcoming dyslexia.  So yes, I think my experiences with Precisely Terminated have changed me as a person and definitely for the better.

Your synopsis for Precisely Terminated doesn’t give any hints as to the Christian concepts presented in the book. Can you clue us in?

Some of the Christian concepts in Precisely Terminated are self-sacrifice, freeing those who are enslaved, and persevering through severe trials.

What does Job 12:21 mean to you?

Job 12:21 reminds me that God will not let ruling oppressors remain in their positions forever, and He will take care of the weak who are being oppressed. It’s not just verse 21 that needs to be looked at, but 13-25, where Job speaks of the greatness of God. Twenty-one was just a small selection of that, an encouragement to those trodden on by people who seem so much more powerful and undefeatable. It shows that God is in control of everything.

Why do you think this story needs to be told? What message does it bring to your readers?

I think this story needs to be told because of its message, which tells of perseverance and giving of oneself for others. It also provides a wholesome, entertaining story to help combat against all those not-so-great novels out there.

How does Monica perceive God?

Unfortunately, Monica hasn’t had a chance to know God yet in Precisely Terminated. She was taught about Him in her childhood, but she was orphaned at an early age and since then has had no teaching. She knows there is a God, but not much else. But don’t worry; she’ll learn more as time goes on! She just needs a teacher.

If you and Monica became pen pals, how would you introduce yourselves to each other?

This question could be answered in a few different ways. In this scenario are we author and character or should I consider myself not as her author and just as if she were to exist? Either way I think it would be very difficult to do, because Monica has trouble trusting people due to her oppressed life. I don’t think she would answer a letter if I sent her one, poor thing.  I would probably introduce myself by saying I’m an author and writer about worlds like her own. She might wonder why I would choose to write about such things and why it seemed like nonfiction!

What were the difficulties involved with creating a realistic society set 800 years in the future?

Although I am familiar with the differences in people’s personalities and societal conflicts among classes, I wondered if things would be similar in the future. Unfortunately, my time machine isn’t working right now, so I wasn’t able to go see for myself, but I assumed humans would continue being humans and based my future society on that thought.

Do you see the Cantral Chronicles as the first step in the beginning of a lifelong career, or do you have other professional ambitions?

Yes, I do see the Cantral Chronicles as the first step of a lifelong career, but I do have other ambitions as well. I would really like to be a costume stitcher. I’ve been sewing for sixteen years now and really enjoy it. A costume stitcher is someone who sews the costumes but doesn’t design them. I would like to do this because I love sewing and creating garments, but I don’t like coming up with the original ideas (otherwise I would be interested in being a designer).

Tell us three things that we don’t know about Amanda L Davis.

My middle name is Lin.

I broke my femur in 2007 and needed 4 surgeries and 3 ½ years to fully recover.

I have severe dyslexia and didn’t begin to learn to read until nine years old. I didn’t write well until fifteen.

Is there anything else you’d like to leave with us today?

I’d like for you to know that Precisely Terminated is the first in a trilogy, and I’ve already written the first draft of the sequel, Noble Imposter, so I’m very excited for that book as well.

Thanks, Amanda, for taking time to answer these questions for us!

When God Whispers Your Name

When God Whispers Your Name, by Max Lucado, is a collection of inspirational pick-me-ups for the believer. Mr. Lucado points us in the right direction when we encounter times of depression, fear, or doubt in our lives. Does God really love me? Does He remember who I am? Does He care about my future? Does He have a plan for me? All these questions, and more, can be answered by one simple statement. God knows your very name.

I found this book to be a supremely quick read. It was encouraging for me, and I have never doubted God’s involvement in my life. I can only imagine what a blessing it would be for those who have feelings of loneliness from time to time. The book was slightly disjointed, but not distractingly so. I had never read a book by Mr. Lucado, so that aspect sort of took me by surprise. It seemed an anthology of ramblings on a loosely-defined topic, but it was quite enjoyable nonetheless. It was somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster, as Mr. Lucado is a very good author who can evoke any emotion from the reader. He is downright hilarious when he wants to be, but at the same time, he knows how to touch your soul. My husband’s review (and he merely observed me reading it): You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…you’ll laugh, you’ll cry.

If you want to find out more, check out the product page for this book. Or you can preview it here.

Note: In exchange for an honest review, the publisher provided a complimentary copy of this book through BookSneeze®.

The difference between Peter and Judas

We’ve heard the stories over and over. Over-confident Peter denied Christ three times. Judas betrayed our Lord for money. Yet Peter went on to serve God with his life and death. Judas never found repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. What was the difference between these two men? Was it the details of their sin? Betrayal is worse than denial maybe?

Sin is sin. We cannot know which sin is worse until we know how our sins are going to affect the future. How can we know the exact consequences of our individual sins? Only God knows that, and He commands us not to sin in the first place. Was Eve’s sin just an act of self-indulgence? Of eating something that wasn’t good for her body? No. Her sin lay in the fact that she disobeyed God. The act of disobedience to God is what makes something sin. Interesting that we would not know sin without the law, isn’t it? Almost like it is impossible to sin until you know better? I wrote about this topic once before in a recent post. No. The difference between Peter’s sin and Judas’ was the fact that Peter was caught off-guard, and Judas’ sin was premeditated. He had accepted the fact that he was going to sin.

Now what does that mean to you? How can seeing this difference change your life? Listen to this: you are going to sin. I am going to sin. As long as we are alive on this fallen earth, we cannot escape that reality. Does that give us an excuse to sin willfully, all the while smiling and saying, “Well, nobody’s perfect”? Of course not! Does that give us the excuse to have personality flaws and weaknesses, accepting them in our lives because we have committed the same types of sin hundreds of times, and we just can’t see ourselves changing? No! Accept the fact that you are a sinner, but never accept the sin. When we do sin, we need to reflect on it, pray about it, ask forgiveness for it, and then move on. We don’t have to live with guilt. That’s not what I am promoting. Do better next time. But we have to actually make an effort if we have any hope of doing better. We need to look for our weaknesses, the sin we return to over and over like an addict returns to his addiction. These are the areas that we need to take care of first. Don’t ignore them because they seem like part of your personality. Don’t accept them because they’ve always been around. Examine yourself and ask for God’s grace and help in dealing with these issues.

I know what my weaknesses are. I am very well aware of them because they nag at me constantly. Some of them, I have gone to great lengths to war against. I have set boundaries in my life to keep myself from coming within a mile of certain, life-destroying sins. I can never forget they are there; never let down my guard. (Overconfidence is very dangerous to a Christian seeking to avoid sin. I learned this the hard way.)

I know a couple of women. Now these women are literate; they can read. And they aren’t ignorant; they understand what they’re reading. However, there are a couple of scriptures in the Bible that they wish had never been penned. Or maybe they just wish they’d never read them. It’s not disobedience until they know better, after all. But these women have refused to honor God by obeying their husbands. They have lived their entire adult lives in direct disobedience to God. One of these women is finally starting to come around. I can see the difference in her life. Too bad she didn’t begin to obey until after she had already infected the other woman with her disobedient ideas and attitudes. Mothers, train your daughters to obey their husbands. Train them in word and in deed. They are watching you. And actions speak louder than words.

I am afraid we are losing femininity in our culture. Where will our daughters find themselves? Women are needed in the capacity that they were designed to fulfill. There’s nothing derogatory about that. We are needed. The world needs women, not just a bunch of men and a bunch of females aspiring to be men. I know that most of my posts seem to swing back around to the role of women, but I am truly concerned about this generation and the ones to follow.

Ramblings from Sunday’s Sermon

So I had an idea Sunday morning while my pastor was preaching. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but just in case you forgot: when I think back to a sermon I’ve heard, I don’t always remember what the preacher was saying. I pay attention, but then my mind takes me somewhere I need to go, and I only remember what I take away from the message. Anyway, his message was about intimacy with God. Not sure what he was saying at the exact moment that my idea crept up, but it was something along the lines of getting to know God more. It occurred to me that all my personal problems, you know, my fleshy parts that I wish would just dry up and fall off – like arrogance, unforgiveness, the things I struggle with most – all my personal problems would go away on their own if I could just develop an intimate relationship with God. These are things I try to fix on my own, reminding myself that no one is better in God’s sight, no matter how much one is “trying” or not trying. God has forgiven me for all, so why do I have trouble extending the same grace to others? So I keep reminding myself of these things, pretty much on a daily (if not hourly) basis. I’m trying to “fix” myself. Then I thought, why don’t I just talk to God more? Talk to Him as I would my best friend? Because He is my best friend. The more I communicate with Him, the more I am honest with Him about everything, the more it seems I get back from Him. I begin to understand His nature a little more. His Word is revealed to me a little more. Eventually, I’m hoping that forgiveness and humility will just become clear to me, as God becomes clearer. There are so many things that “just make sense” when you surrender to God. I’m sure that if I looked more closely in the mirror that is God’s Word, I could see myself more clearly, and God would help me work out my problems.

When the Bottom Drops Out by Robert Bugh

In his book When the Bottom Drops Out, Robert Bugh shares his insights and encouragement for dealing with the death of a loved one. A well-loved and well-respected pastor, he had counseled many through similar situations. His understanding and empathy reached new depths, however, as he suffered the loss of his best friend to cancer, and slightly afterward, cancer consumed his wife as well. The faith of his best friend and wife as they approached the ends of their lives affected him deeply. The journey toward death by way of cancer is a difficult one, to say the least; but for Christians, there is hope. Hope for those heading home, and hope for those of us left behind to face what comes.

This book inspired me on so many levels. There were so many tidbits of wisdom within these pages. Several times, I had to stop and ponder or write down my thoughts in response. On top of encouragement and advice for dealing with death, he taught me many other things as well: Mr. Bugh reminds us that we are all important to God. He helped me understand the true meaning of sacrifice and forgiveness. He taught me to prioritize – obedience to Christ comes first; only after taking care of that can we experience true happiness. In his book, he also talks about dealing with any major change in your life, good or bad. Definitely a must-read for the living and dying alike.

If you want to find out more, check out the product page for this book. Or you can purchase it here.

Note: In exchange for an honest review, Tyndale House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book.

Does God get bored?

Are there some who really struggle with a question of whether God really loves them or not? Do they think that maybe He has moved on to somebody more interesting? Or that He doesn’t have a plan for them anymore – either because He’s given up on them or because He’s bored?

Robert Bugh seems to think so. He refers to people (not himself) having these feelings over and over in his book When the Bottom Drops Out. I can only assume Mr. Bugh knows what he’s talking about, since he is a pastor who has personally counselled countless souls.

This is a new concept for me and difficult for me to grasp. No one that I know has ever articulated such feelings to me. I’ve certainly never felt that way. I have questioned my love for God (or at least the depth of it) many times, but never the other way ’round.

I know God loves me because here I am. I’m living proof that God thought of me – conceptualized me. For a while, I was merely an imaginary person in the mind of God. Even after thinking of poor, imperfect me, He went on with His idea and created me anyway. Before all of that, He died for me. Now, He’s not only created a place for me in His kingdom, but He sees me through life, He ordains my steps, convicts me, comforts me, etc. In short, He involves Himself in every tiny aspect of my life.

He loves me! And I am more important to Him than I am to myself or anyone else on this earth. He rejoices in my spiritual progress and grieves when I mess my life up. He was very pleased with me on the day I gave my life to Him, and He continues to be pleased as I continue to give my life to Him everyday in obedience. He smiles on me, and blesses me. He loves me!

And He loves you too!

What is sacrifice?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

A living sacrifice. What does that mean exactly? Basically, it means we shouldn’t do everything we want to do. Even if those things are within our means. We should say no to ourselves sometimes. Deny our flesh. I have been reading When the Bottom Drops Out by Robert Bugh. I’ve really been enjoying it, and getting a lot out of it.

He had this to say about sacrifice: “Sacrifice is saying no to something you prefer so you can say yes to God. It’s placing your preferences, what you love, on the altar and telling God, ‘I want to keep this or have this or do this, but You are speaking to me and I am giving it up. Take it; it’s Yours!’…Sacrifice is counterintuitive; it’s winning by losing, gaining by giving, living by dying, doing without now so you can be rewarded later in heaven…Hear me, dear reader: as painful as it is, it’s sacrifice that will keep you from wasting your life, because it’s sacrifice and service that reveal the lordship of Christ in your life.” – pages 101-102

I don’t hate myself. I’m not going to go out of my way to make life difficult on myself. But I do know that I don’t need everything I think I do. God will take care of everything I need, and sacrificing the things I want won’t necessarily make life any harder on me. In fact, sometimes, I think sacrifice makes our lives simpler. It’s going without. It means there will be fewer things in my life to distract me from God.

What about sacrificing my time? Won’t that add things to my life? Won’t my schedule get busier if I try to minister to others when I already have so many things on my plate? Not if you sacrifice something else that eats up your time. Television is the first thing that comes to mind. Nobody needs it. On your deathbed, you won’t regret the hours you didn’t spend watching television.

What about homeschoolers? Homeschoolers are too busy already. So many things to teach, to learn. Let’s not forget the reason many of us are homeschooling in the first place. It’s not so our kids will be smarter. It’s not so they’ll get a better job or function better in society. Are we not preparing our children for a life of service to God? And do they not learn best by example?

Some ideas for sacrifice:

Change the way you eat or drink, what you watch, what you wear, the way you spend time on the internet or the phone.

Change the way you spend your money, your time, your emotions.

Change the way you relate to God, your spouse, parents, children, and others.

When you see a need, fill it. Be sensitive to the urging of the Holy Spirit.

Why does sacrifice mean so much to God?

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:2

How to Forgive?

I struggle with forgiveness. I especially have trouble forgiving repeat offenders, and there are a couple of people in my life who I feel have sinned against me more times than 7×70, even though I realize that Christ was being rhetorical.

I struggle.

How do I forgive someone? If I could just decide to forgive them, then I would, but I don’t know how! I try to remember that I’m no better than anyone else, that my sins are as grotesque as anyone else’s. I remind myself that when I sin, I do it willfully, because I know better, and that’s even worse than someone who is just floating along in life randomly stumbling and sinning. I remind myself that Christ died for the whole world, and I’m just one member of that population.

But then I think, “But so-and-so’s not even trying! Why do I have to forgive them? They’re not even sorry!”

Yesterday I read something that may indeed help me: “How can Joseph do this? How can he forgive his brothers? I think the answer lies in his mature and settled conviction that God has been sovereign in the events of his life, telling his brothers, ‘It was not you who sent me here, but God.’ ”

When the Bottom Drops Out by Robert Bugh, pg. 76

Then again on page 83: “Did you catch that? God is somehow using your suffering for His global purposes.”

I am hoping that this perspective will help me forgive more readily. Next time I feel at a loss to find forgiveness, I’m going to see if it works. I really think it will! I’m excited because this is something I have struggled with for a very long time. I see now that my lack of forgiveness is a lack of trust in God’s ultimate plan for my life. No more! I can see more clearly now.