Food for the Soul

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Posted 4/24/15 at 12:33 PM | Audra Jennings

What Daniel Can Teach Us About Living as Christians in Today's Culture

Dr. John C. Lennox
Dr. John C. Lennox

The concepts of tolerance and political correctness are having a chilling effect on the public practice of Christianity. That’s why readers will find Dr. John C. Lennox’s new book Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism (Monarch Books/March 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0857216212/$19.99) incredibly timely. Lennox, who has defended the Christian faith in debates against the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, gives every follower of Christ the intellectual foundation they will need to argue the role their faith should have in the public discourse.

While anyone who has spent time in a Sunday-school classroom is familiar with the biblical story of Daniel, Lennox mines this classic historical account to encourage cultural bravery in Christians trying to find their place in a postmodern society. The story of these four young men born in the tiny state of Judah around 500 B.C. and captured by Nebuchadnezzar, the emperor of Babylon, is one of extraordinary faith in God lived out at the pinnacle of executive power. The book of Daniel describes in detail how each of them eventually rose to senior positions of administration.

Q: You have studied and lectured on a number of different biblical topics – why did you choose to write Against the Flow about the biblical story of Daniel?

It is one of my favourite narratives in the Bible because it records the life of an individual who was prepared, even when he was given high office, to publicly stand up for God, despite being under immense pressure to renounce or privatize his beliefs. He didn't just maintain his private devotion to God, but a cutting-edge public witness which is much rarer.

Q: Why should every Christian be familiar with the themes found in the story of Daniel?

Much of the book is of direct relevance today. Babylon is the ancient version of our secular society, and Daniel and his friends were called upon to stand for their faith even though they were in a tiny cultural minority. They did this in the full glare of publicity rather than run away to form a ghetto. Their values were challenged – is there anything of absolute value or is everything merely relative? Are our religious beliefs just a result of our upbringing? What evidence is there that the supernatural realm exists? What do we do if God’s law clashes with human law? When is the status of humankind compared to animals? Do we live in a closed or open universe, and how ultimate are the laws of nature? Does the Bible have any predictive power? The real weight of many contemporary intellectual spiritual, moral and ethical questions come out clearly in Daniel’s remarkable book.

Q: Babylon, where Daniel was captive, was a hub for commerce, culture and education. How was this possible when it was built on false religions and moral ambiguity? What can modern Christians learn from this juxtaposition?

This was one of the questions that Daniel and his friends must have contemplated. Was the sheer scale and might of the city a sign of God’s favour or even a confirmation of the power that the Babylonian gods wielded? Yet, as the story shows, Babylon was built on very shaky and inadequate moral, spiritual and philosophical foundations as we see in Daniel’s analysis of the reasons for its ultimate demise.

Q: Why do you call the times in which we live a “modern Babylon?”

The city of Babylon is used throughout the Bible to describe a society that has turned away from God, indeed is founded on defiance of God basing its confidence on human ability and intellectual capacity to “make a name for itself.” Its ancient ziggurat was a forerunner of the modern skyscraper and all that such buildings symbolize. It was a powerful city within which a plurality of beliefs existed and the same kind of idols that its inhabitants worshipped (many of which were based on deifying the laws of nature) still predominate in society today (sex, greed, power, wealth, etc). Daniel, though he lived in Babylon didn't live for it. He, like Abraham, lived for a heavenly city which has true foundations and whose architect is God.

Against the Flow by Dr. John C. Lennox
Monarch Books

Q: Why do you think Daniel and his friends were able to rise to power in the midst of such a corrupt culture?

What is interesting about their rise to prominence is that they were not prepared to keep their faith in God a secret, which they could easily have done in order to save themselves. Instead, they deliberately stood up for their belief in the public sphere and, as a result, crucially, they were seen to be different (in a positive sense). Daniel was known for his “insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom” (Daniel 5:13). His life was such that his accusers were unable to find anything to charge him with (Daniel 6:4). He also showed immense courage to interpret the dream for Nebuchadnezzar, as the King had already threatened to execute his wise men for their inability to do so. Nebuchadnezzar’s promotion of Daniel was a result of Daniel’s obedience to God. Those that honour God, he honours.

Q: What should the focus be for Christians who have found themselves placed in positions of power and influence?

The focus of all Christians should be to live for God in whatever sphere of influence they are in. It is in our work environments that our faith in God is most likely to be tested. People in positions of power are under particular pressures. In one sense they have a great opportunity because of their influence, but in another they have a great responsibility, as well as much to lose. Yet these concerns were exactly the same for Daniel who provides an amazing model for us today, whether or not we are in positions of power.

Q: It would be hard to find a child who grew up in church who has not heard the story of Daniel in the lion’s den – but this is more than just a thrilling story – what does it tell us about the relationship between law and religion –specifically, the Jewish religion?

The genius of Daniel is that it shows how important law and legislation is. Once laws are passed they can be very difficult to overturn and it can be too late to protest about them. So in Daniel a central theme is about how we should focus on living under God’s law in a culture that is prepared to pass laws that discriminate against believers publicly expressing their faith.

Q: What has been the effect of political correctness on the public practice of the Christian faith? Could Daniel have identified with this?

There is a pressure in society to respect all different viewpoints and to keep our faith private, so we don’t ‘offend’ anyone. One problem with this is that it causes confusion about how to judge between different ideas (their truthfulness), for example, or right and wrong. In society we have relativized the absolute and yet we can’t live without absolutes, so we tend to do the opposite and treat as absolute what is merely of relative value – like money, power, status etc.

Q: You say in Against the Flow, that there is one point Richard Dawkins has made that you completely agree with. What is that point and what does it mean for Christians?

Dawkins is not a postmodernist, nor am I. We agree upon the fact that there is such a thing as truth that is independent of you and me. We agree that if someone makes a truth-claim, then you should be able to ask them what evidence they have for holding that viewpoint. Christians don’t have to be philosophers or academics, but they should be able to give reasons for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15). Yet this is not a one-sided thing, as the same must go for the naturalistic beliefs that most atheists hold.

Q: Why do you think our culture has accepted the idea that faith has little or no place in the public discourse?

A major reason for this is a misunderstanding of the word. The new atheists have helped to propagate the notion that faith is believing in something in the absence of evidence. This is an idiosyncratic and incorrect use of the word and is what is usually referred to as blind faith. My faith in Christ is evidence based – the main evidence being the resurrection in history and my own experience. It is also helpful to remember that faith is indispensable to science. No one would do any science if they did not believe = have faith in the fact that = science can be done.

Q: What is the proper place of Christianity in today’s postmodern society?

Although our culture is informed by postmodernism, most people believe in truth in one form or another and certainly in areas they consider important. There are several worldviews in our western culture today – naturalism and Christianity being two of them – and what I object to is atheistic naturalism being regarded de facto as the default world view. That is not the case – all worldviews ought to be free to enter discussion in the public space.

Q: Do you see the stand for righteousness in a wicked culture as being in competition with Christian compassion?

I wouldn't see the two as being in competition with each other, as the key is how we convey our faith to others. We must always communicate righteousness in a way that also conveys our compassion. This isn't always easy, which is why we have to ask God to help us in our conversations.

Q: You have debated well-known atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. What was one of your most challenging debate moments? Most rewarding?

The most challenging thing is probably after a debate, when you process what was said and what might have been said. The most rewarding part is hearing from those who have been helped by them, such as those who have subsequently become Christians or those whose faith has either been strengthened or revived by seeing the discussions. One of the motivations for doing them is that people are influenced by what public intellectuals say. It is not surprising that if Stephen Hawking says there is no God, people think “who am I to question him?”

Q: What is the single most important lesson for the Christian from the life of Daniel?

It is intended to be a clarion call to our generation to be courageous and to not to lose our nerve and allow the expression of our faith to be diluted or squeezed out of the public space, thus rending us spineless or ineffective. Hopefully it will help strengthen our resolve to swim against the flow, not only to put our heads above the parapet, but also to make sure in advance that our minds and hearts are prepared, so that we do not get blown away in the first salvo!

Learn more about John C. Lennox and Against the Flow at www.johnlennox.org or on Twitter (ProfJohnLennox).

Posted 4/20/15 at 10:47 AM |

Award-winning vocalist hopes new music project will help curb biblical illiteracy

According to a LifeWay Research study, only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week, and 18 percent of attenders say they never read the Bible. A Barna research study showed that 60% of Americans cannot name five of the ten commandments. Similar surveys have shown that scripture illiteracy is at an all-time high, and Telly Award winner and top 40 Billboard artist, Jennifer Shaw, hopes her new project will help alter the current trend. Shaw is releasing a children’s music project entitled Scripture Memory Songs for Kids and Families, which features 30 word-for-word scripture songs from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible. The NIV version is the second most popular version according to American Bible Society, surpassed only by the King James. The recording project also includes nine bonus Christian theme songs suitable for Vacation Bible School curriculums or for other kids-themed events. Shaw says the project has been eight years in the making. FULL POST

Posted 4/17/15 at 3:09 PM | Audra Jennings

Does Christianity Have a Place in Today’s World?

Against the Flow by Dr. John C. Lennox
Monarch Books

The concepts of tolerance and political correctness are having a chilling effect on the public practice of Christianity. That’s why readers will find Dr. John C. Lennox’s new book Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism (Monarch Books/March 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0857216212/$19.99) incredibly timely. Lennox, who has defended the Christian faith in debates against the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, gives every follower of Christ the intellectual foundation they will need to argue the role their faith should have in the public discourse.

While anyone who has spent time in a Sunday-school classroom is familiar with the biblical story of Daniel, Lennox mines this classic historical account to encourage cultural bravery in Christians trying to find their place in a postmodern society. The story of these four young men born in the tiny state of Judah around 500 B.C. and captured by Nebuchadnezzar, the emperor of Babylon, is one of extraordinary faith in God lived out at the pinnacle of executive power. The book of Daniel describes in detail how each of them eventually rose to senior positions of administration.

Yet despite their lucrative positions, Daniel and his friends were not content simply to maintain their private devotion to God. Instead they maintained a high-profile witness in a pluralistic society that was highly antagonistic to their faith, and they would eventually be forced to face the possibility of paying the ultimate price for their religious bravery. Lennox proposes their story carries a powerful message for us today as Christians living in a society that tolerates the practice of Christianity in private homes and in church services, but increasingly deprecates and in some cases even punishes public witness.

“Strong currents of pluralism and secularism in contemporary Western society, reinforced by a paralyzing political correctness, increasingly push expression of faith in God to the margins, confining it if possible to the private sphere,” Lennox says. “It is becoming less and less the ‘done thing’ to mention God in public, let alone to confess to believing in anything exclusive and absolute, such as the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior.” Lennox believes if Daniel and his compatriots were with us today they would be in the vanguard of public debate.

Against the Flow is a truly fascinating examination of the life of Daniel from a leading expert on faith and science. In his first biblical work, Dr. Lennox provides a unique perspective on both Western society and biblical exegesis that will make Against the Flow an instant classic encouraging Christians to speak out in our modern Babylon.

Learn more about John C. Lennox and Against the Flow at www.johnlennox.org or on Twitter (ProfJohnLennox).

About the Author

Dr. John C. Lennox
Dr. John C. Lennox

Dr. John C. Lennox is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College. He studied at the Royal School Armagh, Northern Ireland, and was Exhibitioner and Senior Scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University from which he took his MA, MMath and PhD. He also holds an MA and DPhil from Oxford University and an MA in Bioethics from the University of Surrey.

Lennox lectures on faith and science for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and has traveled throughout North America, Eastern and Western Europe and Australasia lecturing on mathematics, the philosophy of science and the intellectual defense of Christianity. He has debated Richard Dawkins at the University of Alabama (2007) and the Oxford Museum of Natural History (2008), as well as Christopher Hitchens at the Edinburgh Festival (2008) and at Samford University (2010), among others.

Lennox’s hobbies include amateur astronomy, bird-watching and walking. He and his wife, Sally, have three grown children and seven grandchildren. They make their home near Oxford.

Keep up with John C. Lennox and read more about Against the Flow at www.johnlennox.org or on Twitter (ProfJohnLennox).

Posted 4/15/15 at 1:52 PM | Audra Jennings

Mom Fights for Her Life and Her Faith

Part 2 of an interview with Helo Matzelle,

Author of Halo Found Hope

Halo Found Hope by Helo Matzelle
Helo Matzelle
Helo Matzelle

Machines beeping, the blur of medical staff running, a crash cart whizzing into an ICU room, was there any hope? Helo Matzelle laid packed in ice as doctors attempted to somehow stop the swelling in her brain that threatened to take her life.

What was supposed to be six days of recovery in the hospital turned into eight weeks. She awoke to discover that she was not the same. She saw two of everything, couldn't feel half of her face, couldn't hear from one ear, and could not speak. She couldn't even tell anyone that she felt hopeless.

Halo Found Hope is the story of a busy wife and mother of three whose life changed instantly with the diagnosis of a rare brain tumor. An exceptional ENT, a brilliant neurosurgeon and a dedicated medical team tackled the tumor, setting off a series of unbelievable miracles. Helo’s story is not one of survival, or of salvaging a life through a broken body. It is not about endurance through pain, but victory because of it. While the family heard her silence, God heard her prayer.

Helo’s story is simply this: Wherever you are and whatever you are going through, God is right there.

Q: Prior to surgery, your doctor expected you to go home about a week after the surgery, but it took eight weeks instead. What happened that caused the delay?

My projected hospital stay was only six days. In 29 years of practice, my neurosurgeon only had one other patient in stay the hospital for more than a week after brain surgery. Of diagnosed brain tumors, mine was one in two million with a particularly nasty trait. When the tumor is touched, it’s like touching poison ivy; when doctors went in to extract it, my brain swelled, and I became non-responsive. At first, my coma was drug-induced, and then I slipped into one on my own. Life-threatening complications persisted, yet miracles counteracted them.

Q: What was your recovery process like? What did you learn during those difficult days?

My recovery process was lengthy. After three weeks in the ICU, I spent five weeks in in-patient rehabilitation learning how to walk, talk, eat, think and function again. I was an exhausted, floppy, Raggedy Ann doll with contorted double vision and felt completely trapped inside my body. I slept more than 19 hours a day, and the goal of three hours of daily therapy was not simple to accomplish. Learning how to do so much over again was frustrating, but I learned the battle was not my own to fight. God stayed by my side the entire time and helped me turn frustration into determination.

After eight weeks of hospitalization, I was finally discharged to go home — but therapy didn't stop there. I endured an additional 20 weeks of in-home therapy in an attempt to gain a new normal. My patience, endurance and strength were monumentally tested, but I held on to 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV), which says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Q: What were some ways that your friends and loved ones showed support to you and your family during this time?

For the eight weeks I was hospitalized, my husband and parents rotated shifts so someone stayed by my side every day. My children and extended family visited as often as they could. Loved ones, family and dear friends lifted us up in daily prayer, dropped off home-cooked meals, drove our boys to school and various activities, ran errands and did their best to fill in the gap when my husband and I were not around. When I returned home, my mother-in-law, a retired ICU nurse, flew across the country to take care of me. The support and affection of family and close friends did not waiver. It was humbling to ask for continual help, but I will always be grateful for it.

Q: How did you work through your feelings of doubt and fear?

I got real with God and held nothing back. He is one amazing listener. When I doubted Him, I let Him know. When I was terrified, I wasn't afraid to let Him see my fear. Nothing can be hidden from God. That is beautiful and comforting. He has this tender way of understanding and never holds back His perfect affection. Sometimes I thought He did, but I learned quickly He does not let go. When I felt like He had abandoned me, it was because I wasn't looking upward. Over and over again, I’d ask God, “Will I walk, talk, eat, think and function again? My strength is wearing thin. I’m afraid. Why did this happen to me? God, I am scared and sometimes I feel like you aren't really there.” Time and time again, I reflected on Psalm 121:1 (NIV), “I lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.” God reached down and asked “Helo, do you trust Me?” Over and over again, I said, “Yes.” and when doubt set in and I felt like quitting again, He repeated, “Helo, do you trust me? Remember, I promised you I’d never leave you.” Now that is one amazing love.

Q: How would you have described your relationship with God before your health scare? What about afterwards?

Before my health scare, I thought my relationship with God was as good as it gets. I convinced myself I spent enough time with Him, knew how much He loved me and thought I loved Him back enough. I was wrong about that. After my health scare, I fell in love with Him all over again, in ways I never imagined possible. Over time, I saw the more I fell in love with Him, the more I wanted to get to know Him. That cycle of falling in love and wanting to spend time with Him didn't stop. His affection is contagious. At times, I felt I couldn't get enough — and still do today. That’s beautiful. After the storm hit, I placed God as my first priority. Before it hit, I admit I didn't consistently put Him there. I learned when we ask God for something in His name, He doesn't always give us what we want but rather gives us what He wants — for our good.

Halo Found Hope by Helo Matzelle
Dog Ear Publishing

Q: How has this experience changed your perspective on life? How has your faith grown?

I look at everything differently now. I take nothing for granted — well, I’m better at trying not to. Given a second chance at life here on earth, I’m humbled, have a new heart and new motive, and made my top priority loving Jesus. I live life not simply following God and calling myself a Christian, but live for Him. I've learned to trust God more. I've learned to be patient and wait upon Him. I've learned Jesus doesn't say, “Just ask me, and I’ll give you exactly what you want.” God doesn't work that way. And I am happy he doesn't. His ways are perfect, and mine are not. He takes what He pulls us through to make us stronger and molds us. He knows how to show us what He alone is capable of. We simply need to pay attention. He’s a great teacher who is not done with me (or you) yet. God knows how to show His children what He alone is capable of. All accolades go to Him.

Q: In what other ways has God used your brain tumor for good?

He’s taken this journey and not only helped those with brain tumors, but those facing various afflictions, including cancer, Parkinson’s, depression, frustration and loneliness. Many tell me my journey inspires them and sets their day in perspective. I tell them this is all about what God can do — not me. I am bolder now in sharing God’s strength and affection for each and every one of us.

Q: Do you still experience any side effects from your tumor and surgery?

A large portion of the left side of my face is permanently numb due to nerve damage — as if I go to the dentist every day — but when I smile, no one can tell. I’ll be on anti-seizure medication for the rest of my life. I am challenged and tire easily. My “new normal” brain can only handle so much stimulation, so if I overdo it in one of three areas (cognitive, emotional or physical), I start to shut down and exhaustion sets in. But I've learned to pace myself and recharge my brain capacity with rest. Quiet time with God restores me emotionally; physical rest helps me to press on.

Q: What would you like readers to learn or realize from reading Halo Found Hope?

If I were sitting right across from a reader of Halo Found Hope right now, I’d lock eyes with him or her and say, “No matter who your are, what you are going through, God is right there. You don’t have to face anything alone. He can replace fear with courage, doubt with trust and discouragement with determination — if you let Him. My hope and prayer for you is that you will see — in Jesus, hope is always found. Reflect on His words in John 16:33 (NIV), ’I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’”

Learn more about Helo Matzelle and Halo Found Hope at www.halofoundhope.com and on Facebook (Helo-Matzelle) or Twitter (HaloFoundHope).

Posted 4/14/15 at 1:38 PM | Audra Jennings

Finding the Love of Family in Unexpected Places

The Inn at Ocean's Edge by Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson

God promises in Psalm 68:6 He will place the lonely in families, and in The Inn at Oceans Edge (Thomas Nelson/April 14, 2015/ISBN: 978-1401690267/$15.99), author Colleen Coble paints a picture for readers of how comfort, acceptance and love can come from the most surprising sources and in the most dire of circumstances. In the first installment in the new Sunset Cove series, Coble introduces us to Claire Dellamore, who — at first glance — seems to have lived an idyllic life. Even to Claire, her childhood seemed like a fairytale, but a business trip to Sunset Cove turns her world upside down.

The minute she steps inside the grand Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Claire Dellamare knows something terrible happened there. Her anxiety runs so deep she has a panic attack, causing quite the scene and embarrassing her father. To quiet her nerves, she goes for a walk on the beach but ends up seeing a woman fall to her death from a nearby cliff. Claire believes she has witnessed a murder, but local police find no evidence of foul play and quickly write off the “nervous” woman’s testimony as less than credible.

Local resident Luke Elwell has reason to believe Claire, though. His mother disappeared years ago, and the local law enforcement never investigated it as a potential homicide. Wondering if this new incident could be connected to his mother’s disappearance, Luke steps in to help Claire solve the mystery. As old family secrets are revealed, Claire begins to wonder if her fairytale upbringing was really an elaborate lie.

As their pasts leave them wondering whom they can really trust, Claire and Luke are drawn together into an unexpected bond. “Some families are born and some families are made,” Coble explains. “God brings people into our lives who can fill in some of our missing pieces and help us grow stronger and closer to him.”

Coble has experienced this principle firsthand. Growing up with three brothers, she always longed for a sister, and in her adulthood, she found one in Diann Hunt. Coble says before meeting Diann, she never knew people unrelated to you by blood could feel so much like family. Sadly, Diann lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 2013, with Coble at her bedside. Coble reveals, “My love for and connection with her inspired me to write about complex family situations that extend beyond just the traditional nuclear family.”

Readers’ minds will be captivated by the thrilling mystery unraveled in The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, while their hearts will be reminded that ultimately, their identity doesn't come from the family they were born into, but from the Lord — and it doesn't always take blood for love to flourish.

Colleen Coble will be hosting a Facebook party on May 5th at 8:00 PM EST to celebrate the release of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge and connect with her readers. Watch for updates on Coble’s Facebook page.

Colleen Coble, author of The Inn at Ocean's Edge
Colleen Coble

About the Author

Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice and the Booksellers Best.

She has more than two million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband, Dave, in Indiana.

To keep up with Colleen Coble, visit www.colleencoble.com, become a fan on Facebook (colleencoblebooks) or follow her on Twitter (@colleencoble).

Watch Colleen Coble give a sneak peak at The Inn at Ocean's Edge:

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Posted 4/13/15 at 2:09 PM | Audra Jennings

Cambron Pens Book About a Flicker of Hope Found in a War-Torn World

A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron
Thomas Nelson

Just like a single candle can brighten a dark room, a glimmer of hope can sustain the soul in dark times. In her highly-anticipated second novel, Kristy Cambron shines a light on the resiliency of the human spirit in A Sparrow in Terezin (Thomas Nelson/April 7, 2015/ISBN: 978-1401690618/$15.99).

A Sparrow in Terezin shares the heart-wrenching truth of the Terezin concentration camp during WWII. Of the approximate 150,000 prisoners who passed through Terezin, nearly 90,000 were deported to extermination camps. Of the 15,000 children sent to Terezin, fewer than 100 survived. Despite the lack of basic sanitation, food and clean water though, an arts community thrived there, even among the children. “The art of these children refused to leave my heart,” Cambron admits. “The images are so heart-wrenching, they beg for a voice. It’s because of them that Sophie and Kája’s story was born.”

In parallel stories, readers are introduced in the present day to Sera James. With the grand opening of her new art gallery and a fairytale wedding just around the corner, Sera feels she’s stumbled into a charmed life — until a brutal legal battle against her fiancé, William Hanover, threatens to destroy her carefully planned future. Now, after an eleventh-hour wedding ceremony and a callous arrest, William faces a decade in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and Sera must battle the scathing accusations that threaten her family and hopes for a future.

In 1939, decades before Sera was born, Kája Makovsky narrowly escapes occupied Prague and is forced to leave behind her half-Jewish family. Kája is working as a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in England when she discovers the terror has followed her across the Channel in the shadowy form of the London Blitz. When she learns Jews are being exterminated by the thousands on the continent, Kája has no choice but to return to her mother city, risking her life to smuggle her family to freedom.

Connecting across a century through Holocaust survivor Sophie, who was a child in the Terezin concentration camp, Sera and Kája will discover a powerful kinship. In this tale of hope and survival, these two women must cling to their faith to protect all they hold dear — even if it means placing their own futures on the line.

Above all, Cambron hopes readers walk away from A Sparrow in Terezin encouraged that no matter what life brings them, they can find strength, courage and beauty in a life following Christ.

A Sparrow in Terezin is the follow-up to Cambron’s critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, which has garnered numerous awards, including being named to Library Journal Reviews’ “Best Books of 2014.”

About the Author

A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron
Kristy Cambron

Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her debut historical novel, The Butterfly and the Violin  (Thomas Nelson, 2014), was named to Library Journal Reviews’ “Best Books of 2014,” Family Fiction’s “Top Ten Novels of 2014” and received nominations for both the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards “Best Inspirational Novel of 2014” and the 2015 INSPY Award for “Best Debut Novel.” Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin (Thomas Nelson, April 2015), was named Library Journal Reviews’ “Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction)” for February 2015.

Cambron is an art/design manager at TheGROVEstory.com storytelling ministry. She holds a degree in art history from Indiana University and has nearly 15 years of experience in instructional design and communications for a Fortune-100 company. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.

For more information about Kristy Cambron or A Sparrow in Terezin, visit www.kristycambron.com, become a fan on Facebook (KCambronAuthor) or follow her on Twitter (@KCambronAuthor).

Posted 4/9/15 at 2:40 PM | Audra Jennings

The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce

Part 2 of an interview with Tez Brooks,

Author of The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce

The Single Dad Detour by Tez Brooks
Tez Brooks

The saying used to be “father knows best,” but with changing cultural tides, a man’s role in the family has been greatly diminished  especially when it comes to single dads. The divorced father is often portrayed in movies and television as an object of humor, ridicule or pity. Where does that leave real single dads trying to do their best? It can easily make them susceptible to overcompensation or apathy, which is why Tez Brooks has written The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce (Kregel/February 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443602/$14.99).

Q: Why did you use the metaphor of cars and navigating the road in your book?

I wanted it to appeal to your average Joe. That theme just seemed to come naturally as I began writing. I kept comparing a divorce to a car accident. I compared the similarities between finding your way through that wreck and navigating a road trip. Those metaphors just kept coming until I realized a theme was developing. I liked it because men and cars seem to go together.

Q: The Single Dad Detour is filled with practical advice on topics from what food to keep in your fridge to how to decorate your new house or apartment. Why are these things important?

Kids need a sense of home. There’s a reason sometimes why Hollywood portrays us as clueless single dads whose fridge contains nothing but soured milk. It’s because they know it’s often true to life. While a lot of single dads may have found real freedom in being able to display their Mad Max posters and their beer can lampshades, our kids need photos of Grandma on the wall and a living room floor not cluttered with tools. One of the easiest ways we can create a sense of home for our children is to learn to cook and provide a safe and warm environment for them to live in.

In the early months following my divorce I hadn't learned this valuable lesson yet. I made the mistake of buying my son a dog bed. Yep, you heard me right. You know the big round ones for German shepherds? I know I’m an idiot, but it seemed like a great idea at the time. And my son Caleb loved it! It took about 30 seconds for it to hit me: My son’s sleeping in a dog’s bed! I got him a real bed the next day.

Q: It’s common for single dads to feel overwhelmed by their financial and relational responsibilities. How is The Single Dad Detour designed to bring meaningful change to a busy dad’s life?

I wanted to be intentional in addressing this very issue, so I developed an interactive element at the end of each chapter so dads would have some practical “takeaways.” Readers have an opportunity to reflect on what they've read by answering some hard questions, reading a scripture passage and then planning their next steps to apply what they've read. There’s even a suggested prayer at the end of every chapter. These things are key for going beyond just reading a book to discovering lasting change.

Q: Why are some men tempted to become absentee fathers? What are some of the consequences for their children if they do so?

As I interviewed men in my research for The Single Dad Detour, I ran into guys who said they were tempted to be absent. I think this comes from the insecurity men can develop as a single dad. There’s already an expectation from the world that they are going to fail, coupled with the normal low self-esteem that comes with a failed marriage. It can make a guy feel like maybe his child would be better off without him in his or her life.

What happens is actually the opposite. Studies show boys who don’t have their father around are more likely to end up in prison. Little girls without that strong connection to a present father are more apt to become promiscuous as a teen. It’s imperative dads cast down those lies the devil tells them and be intricately involved in their kids’ lives.

The Single Dad Detour by Tez Brooks

Q: Men are “fixers” by nature, but it can be tempting for them to fix parenting problems without the Lord’s help. You had one such moment after Christmas shopping with your daughter once. Tell us about that.

I was shopping with the kids and had really had my fill of the holiday crowds and traffic. I just wanted to get home. My daughter was crying in the back seat because she didn't get to have her photo taken with Santa at the mall. My impatience was building, but I didn't expect it to boil over like it did!

Her whining wouldn't stop, so in a moment of exasperation I screamed, “Be quiet! Santa’s not real. He’s dead!” The crying stopped as she blinked in disbelief. I knew I had messed up as soon as I said it. I could see by the look in her eyes, my words had slapped her in the face. No Father of the Year Award this year, I supposed. My daughter started her crying again, but this time it was more of a high-pitched squeal. “Nooo, Santa’s not dead!”

I remained silent all the way home, considering how I might cover my mistake. There was no hiding my outburst, though, and all I could do to make it right was apologize. When we got home I hugged her and asked for forgiveness. She sunk into my chest as we rocked back and forth. I realized that night I must make it a habit to initiate an apology when I screw up. Even more, I learned I’m a pathetic father without God’s grace and help.

Q: How can a dad have a strong spiritual impact on his children even when not living with them all the time?

Your kids are watching you no matter where they live. For kids who watch their fathers, there’s no mistaking what their dad is passionate about. It’s going to be obvious. Kids observe when you react to things in your flesh, rather than respond with Christ’s character. I messed up a lot. I showed my anger, my selfishness, my pride . . . but I tried to live a life of repentance. I think if we make the Lord part of our everyday conversations, our kids will be able to discern our Christianity is more than a hobby — it’s a relationship with the Creator.

Learn more about Tez Brooks and The Single Dad Detour at www.everysingledad.com, on Facebook (everysingledad) or on Twitter (tezd63).

Posted 4/1/15 at 2:38 PM | Audra Jennings

New Book Explores the Complexity of Family Relationships

When Grace Sings by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Waterbrook Press

Bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer believes in the power of second chances — a theme she’s captured with poignant grace in her new book, When Grace Sings (WaterBrook Press/March 17, 2015/ISBN: 978-0307731333/$14.99) which follows the CBA bestseller When Mercy Rains in The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy. Sawyer says the series is based on one simple truth: “God gives second chances. We as humans make our mistakes, we flounder and err and build walls that seem insurmountable,” Sawyer reveals. “When we confess our wrongdoings and ask God to redeem us, He brings restoration.”

When Grace Sings introduces readers to Alexa Zimmerman, who has relocated to Arborville, KS, where she’s converting her grandmother’s farmhouse in Old Order Mennonite country into a bed-and-breakfast. Inspired by her own experience of running a B&B, Sawyer was able to depict perfectly the charm and challenges she details in the book. “I would never have considered writing a story including a B&B were it not for our experiences at The King’s Inn,” Sawyer admits. “We've met so many wonderful folks we wouldn't have known any other way. They came as strangers and left as friends. And that brings me to the hardest part — the goodbyes. It’s nice, though, that we are still in touch with many of our guests through Facebook.”

Seen by locals as an outsider, Alexa wonders if the close-knit community will ever fully accept her and her new business. Her family roots here aren't what anyone thought when she first arrived, but she is hopeful her culinary and hospitality skills will win the skeptics over.

However, the arrival of overly confident and dashing Chicago reporter Briley Forrester throws Alexa for a loop. Despite her suspicions of just what his sudden appearance amidst the plain folk means, Alexa agrees to allow Briley to stay as a long-term boarder. She has to — she has a lot riding on her new bed-and-breakfast — even if his flirtatious manner annoys her. Struggling to fit in, Alexa encounters more than she bargained for when her cousin Anna-Grace Braun and fiancé, Steven, visit. The presence of extended family brings out Alexa’s insecurities, and the two women find themselves on a trail to unraveling long-held family secrets.

Plans for a secure future and the sweetness of young romance hang in the balance when Alexa and Anna-Grace are forced to face that their secrets are connected, binding the two in ways they could not have imagined. Will the revelations they stumble upon shake them and their family to the core, or will they trust God to restore relationships and accept His grace?

This engaging novel will remind all readers that with God as their guide, it’s never too late for a second chance.

About the author

Kim Vogel Sawyer, author of When Grace Sings
Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kim Vogel Sawyer told her kindergarten teacher someday people would check out her books in libraries. That little girl’s dream came true in 2006 with the release of Waiting for Summer’s Return. Since then, Sawyer has watched God expand her dream beyond her childhood imaginings. With more than 30 titles on library shelves and more than a 1.5 million copies of her books in print, she enjoys a full-time writing and speaking ministry. Her books have received the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Empty-nesters, Sawyer and her retired military husband, Don, enjoy a quiet existence in small-town Kansas, the setting for many of her novels. When she isn’t writing, Sawyer stays active serving in her church’s women’s and music ministries, traveling with “The Hubs” and spoiling her quiverful of granddarlings.

Keep up with Kim Vogel Sawyer at www.kimvogelsawyer.com, on Facebook (KimVogelSawyer.Author.Speaker) or by following her on Twitter (KimVogelSawyer).

Posted 3/31/15 at 11:07 AM |

We need to go back to the America of Schoolhouse Rock

By Jefferson Drexler

Jefferson Drexler is a professional video producer with career stops in the fields of news, corporate, commercial, government, education, and house of worship sectors. In ministry, Jefferson has been a lay-pastor and an on-staff pastor for a house-church ministry and a mega-church. Jefferson and his dad, Rod Drexler, host a podcast called “Real Stuff My Dad Says” on www.e2medianetwork.com.

Whatever happened to the great American Representative Democracy that Schoolhouse Rock sang about? I’m the first to admit that I probably watched too much television as a child, but I wasn’t just one to stare mindlessly at the screen – I actually paid attention. I remember acing a high school history exam without studying a single minute simply because I could recite the Constitution’s preamble. If only I could have sung it instead of write it down. I knew how a bill became a law, and the injustice of taxation without representation. I sang about the “three ring circus” that consists of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of our government. FULL POST

Posted 3/25/15 at 4:57 PM | Audra Jennings

Author Helo Matzelle Found Ray of Hope in Darkest of Circumstances

Halo Found Hope by Helo Matzelle
Dog Ear Publishing

Helo Matzelle thought her relationship with God was as good as it could get. As a busy stay-at-home mom and devoted wife, she would have described her life as beautiful. Then, one Friday afternoon in 2011, her life changed. In her new book, Halo Found Hope: A Memoir (Dog Ear Publishing/December 11, 2014/ISBN: 9781457531330/ $16.95), Matzelle shares how her life went from planning ahead for the weekend to relearning basic skills after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. What’s most remarkable is not what she endured physically, but how she grew spiritually.

Matzelle says when she looks back, she should have paid more attention to the physical symptoms: the strange voices in her head, like she was remembering movie lines. The metallic taste in her mouth. The ringing in her ears. But those symptoms were easily chalked up to the stress of life or the effects of spending too much time in a building with freshly painted walls. However, what started as a routine MRI for her ear revealed Matzelle’s symptoms signaled a more serious problem. “After hearing the terrifying news that I had a golf ball-sized tumor on my brain, my mind began to race,” she admits. “I thought, ‘Why me, God?’ I wanted to make this nightmare go away, but God is our refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble.”

In this personal diary-turned-memoir, Halo Found Hope, Matzelle details how her recovery from surgery was only supposed to entail six days in the hospital, but things took a turn for the worse in the operating room. Matzelle’s brain tumor was one in two million: Because of the way it was structured, the removal caused intense brain swelling, and several hours later, she became unresponsive. Doctors put her into a drug-induced coma, but life-threatening complications persisted. When she finally awoke after three weeks in the ICU, this mom learned she was facing months of intense rehabilitation, and instead of car-pooling and caring for her family, she would be learning how to function again on the most basic of levels. What would her new normal look like?

Matzelle admits trusting God wasn’t always easy. “Over and over again, I’d ask God, ‘Will I walk, talk, eat, and think again? My strength is wearing thin. I’m afraid,’” she reveals. “God reached down and asked, ‘Helo, do you trust me? Remember, I promised you I’d never leave you.’ Now that is one amazing love.”

Helo doesn’t want her story just to be one of survival; despite her remaining physical challenges, she is passionate about spreading the message that no matter what others are facing and wherever they are, God is right there with them and will equip them to be brave.

A portion of all author proceeds from Halo Found Hope will go to the National Brain Tumor Society, the largest non-profit organization dedicated to the brain tumor community in the United States.

About the Author

Halo Found Hope by Helo Matzelle
Helo Matzelle
Helo Matzelle

Helouise “Halo” Matzelle was born in the city of Delft, Holland. Three months after her birth, Helo immigrated to the United States with her parents. Helo graduated from the University of Washington where she met her best friend and husband, Rich. Formerly in marketing for a major pharmaceutical company, Helo became a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her daughter, Lauren. Later the Matzelles were blessed with two sons: Jordan and Austin.

Matzelle led a charmed life until receiving a shocking diagnosis in 2011 of a rare brain tumor sitting over the main artery in her brain. She details her painful diagnosis, risky surgery and miraculous recovery in her memoir, Halo Found Hope.

Matzelle’s passion is helping those who face various challenges and afflictions discover where true hope is found. She resides in Redmond, WA, with her husband and their three children.

Learn more about Helo Matzelle and Halo Found Hope at www.halofoundhope.com and on Facebook (Helo-Matzelle) or Twitter (HaloFoundHope).

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