Food for the Soul
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Audra Jennings

Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.

Posted 10/13/14 at 4:38 PM | Audra Jennings

Author Lynn Austin to host live webcast on October 21

Lynn Austin hosts Keepers of the Covenant webcast
Litfuse Publicity Group

Best-selling author Lynn Austin invites readers to join her for a live webcast on October 21 at 8:00 PM EDT to talk about the latest addition to The Restoration Chronicles series. The evening will center on a Biblical fiction book club discussion featuring Austin’s new release, Keepers of the Covenant (Bethany House Publishers/ October 7, 2014/available in hardcover, paperback and ebook).

During the online event, Austin will be discussing Keepers of the Covenant, answering reader questions live and giving a sneak preview of future releases. Throughout the hour, readers will have an opportunity to chat with other fans, answer trivia about the book and submit questions for Austin to answer during the evening. A number of prizes will be given away to those participating in the discussion, including copies of Austin’s books and gift cards. At the end of the webcast, the winner of a Kindle Fire HDX will be announced. The Kindle giveaway is being held in conjunction with the Keepers of the Covenant blog tour being coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group during the month of October.

“We are so excited for readers to be able to connect with Lynn through this upcoming webcast,” states Noelle Buss, marketing manager at Bethany House. “Lynn is just as delightful and well-informed as her books. I’ve always come away cherishing my interactions with her.”

Austin’s The Restoration Chronicles have received rave reviews from critics and readers alike. Library Journal wrote of the first book in the series, Return to Me, “. . . a powerful new historical series that brings the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah to life.” According to Publishers Weekly, “Austin shines a bright light on ancient Jewish life and lands. Biblical fiction fans will cheer her latest offering, which bolsters this challenging genre.”

“I know many readers have been eagerly awaiting the next novel in my Restoration Chronicles series. It is based on the biblical book of Ezra and features him as one of the main characters. I really enjoyed researching this exciting time in biblical history and bringing the story to life for my readers. Even for those who didn’t read Book I, this book works well as a stand-alone novel, too,” explains Austin.

The Keepers of the Covenant webcast will be hosted on Austin’s Facebook page, as well as the Litfuse Publicity Group website for readers without a Facebook account. Leading up to the webcast, readers can RSVP for the event and sign up to receive an email reminder. From October 1-21, fans can also enter the contest for the Kindle Fire HDX via the author’s Facebook page.

About Keepers of the Covenant:

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
Bethany House

In their darkest hour, where would hope be found?

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king's palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman and child throughout the empire in less than one year.

Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future — of family and love — seem impossible.

Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God's unwavering love for His people.

About The Restoration Chronicles:

The Restoration Chronicles bring the books of Ezra and Nehemiah to vibrant life, telling the stories of Babylonian exiles: the few faithful followers who struggle to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home. The series follows biblical characters like Zechariah and Ezra as they bring hope to God’s people in a time when dreams of the future—of family and love—seem impossible.

The first release in the series, Return to Me, released in October 2013.

Lynn Austin, author of Keepers of the Covenant
Lynn Austin

About Lynn Austin:

Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner and an inaugural inductee into the Christy Award Hall of Fame, as well as a popular speaker at retreats, conventions, women’s groups and book clubs.

Along with reading, two of Austin’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. Twenty-five years ago, Austin was able to travel to Israel to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah.

Austin’s husband’s career allowed them to live in Bogota, Colombia, as well as Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. They now make their home in Michigan.

Readers can keep up with Austin via her website www.lynnaustin.org or on Facebook (LynnAustinBooks).

Posted 10/10/14 at 2:41 PM | Audra Jennings

Terminal Cancer Patient Implores Brittany Maynard to Reconsider Her Last Days

Kara Tippetts, author of the Hardest Peace
Jen Lints Photography
Kara Tippetts

This week the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who plans to end her life on November 1, has made national news. A California native, Maynard moved to Oregon for the purpose of being able to take her own life legally by aid of a prescription under the Death with Dignity Act. Her goal is to bring attention to assisted suicide laws in hopes that other states will follow Oregon’s lead.

Kara Tippetts, a Colorado mother of four, has written a letter to Maynard asking her to reconsider. Similarly, Tippetts has stage-four cancer (which started as breast cancer two years ago) that has passed the brain/blood barrier and metastasized throughout her body. She too knows that her days are numbered but believes it is possible to die with dignity while cherishing every breath she has been given. In her letter, Tippetts gently challenges the medical community to consider whether or not they are walking away from the Hippocratic Oath.

Since Tippetts’ letter to Maynard was posted on Wednesday (October 8) on Ann Voskamp’s popular blog, A Holy Experience, the post has been shared almost 900,000 times on Facebook. Tippetts book, The Hardest Peace (released last week), has also rocketed to the top 15 in sales on Amazon.com.

In her letter to Maynard, Tippetts writes:

“Dear Brittany Maynard,

This morning my best friend and I read your story. My heart ached for you, and I’m simply grieved by your terminal brain tumor, for the less than six months the doctor’s gave you, just past your 29th birthday. With a heavy heart, I left my home and headed for my oncologist. I too am dying, Brittany. My oncologist and I sat for a long time with hurting hearts for your story. We spoke in gentle tones discussing the hard path you are being asked to travel. . . .

. . . Today my oncologist and I spoke of your dying, of my dying and of the beautiful partnership I have with my doctors in carrying me to my last moments with gentle care. For 2,000 years doctors have lived beside the beautiful stream of protecting life and lovingly meeting patients in their dying with grace.

The doctor who prescribed you that pill you carry with you that will hasten your last breath has walked away from the Hippocratic Oath that says, “First, do no harm.” He or she has walked away from the oath that has protected life and the beautiful dying we are granted. The doctors agreeing to such medicine are walking away from the beautiful protection of the Hippocratic Oath. . . .

. . . Hastening death was never what God intended. But in our dying, He does meet us with His beautiful grace. The Hippocratic Oath matters, and those who are choosing to walk away from it need to be challenged. My heart hurts that they have decided to swim from the shores of grace that it protected in our living and dying. I get to partner with my doctor in my dying, and it’s going to be a beautiful and painful journey for us all.

But, hear me — it is not a mistake — beauty will meet us in that last breath.”

(Click here for the full letter.)

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts
David C Cook
The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Tippetts has also been interviewed on Colorado Springs CBS affiliate KKTV (Click here to view.) as well as Denver and Colorado Springs ABC affiliates about both The Hardest Peace and her letter to Maynard.

Tippetts’ story has also been featured by:

Visit Kara Tippetts online home at www.mundanefaithfulness.com, become a fan on Facebook (mundanefaithfulness) or follow her on Twitter (@mother_to_many).

Posted 10/9/14 at 2:51 PM | Audra Jennings

Robin Caroll Discusses Dealing with Shattered Hopes

Robin Caroll
Robin Caroll

Where do you turn when a dream you’ve cherished in your heart for your entire life is completely shattered? In her new release, Hidden in the Stars (Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press/September 16, 2014/ISBN:9781426773600/$13.99), Robin Caroll introduces us to a young woman who must find the strength to continue living after losing everything she cares about.

Following an attack that killed her mother and stole her ability to speak, 21-year-old Sophia Montgomery has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s offer to return to their family home. Although detective Julian Frazier is working hard on the case, Sophia unknowingly frustrates him because her inability to speak thwarts her eyewitness evidence.

Little do they know, the clues to solving the case may be right in front of them, displayed in Sophia’s mother’s “special” quilt design. Who will realize the secret Sophia’s unwittingly been hiding in plain sight? When the truth comes to light, will Sophia find her voice again? Or will the murderer — still at large — silence her forever?

Q: Tell us about the main thread or theme that runs through Hidden in the Stars. 

The strength of the familial bond is the strongest thread in the story, but another theme would be the sacrifices we make for the people we love.

Q: How important to you is the faith element in your stories?

I never “plot” the faith element of my books in advance. I always pray for God to show me the spiritual arc for the characters, and then I let it grow organically from the characters as I interview and write them. Sometimes I’m lucky and the arc is apparent in the beginning of the story — sometimes it doesn’t become clear until near the end (that’s usually when God’s using my own story to teach me something or refine something in me). It’s my job to put that on the page with realism, but not beat anyone over the head.

Q: The main character in Hidden in the Stars, Sophia, loses not only the person she loved the most in life, but also her dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast. What can readers learn from how she manages this loss?

So often we begin to believe our dreams define who we are. What we do becomes our identifier. I wanted to portray a character who had worked hard for something all her life — something her mother had sacrificed much to help her attain — yet she had it snatched away with no hope of reclaiming it. I think we (myself included) sometimes need to realize we are, first and foremost, a child of God and not a dream or a goal.

Q: Sophia suffers a brutal attack, and the criminal remains at-large, leaving her feeling vulnerable and afraid. We all face moments in life when we feel that way, even if the events in our lives vary. Where do you go for strength in those times?

God. Yes, I have family members who are loving and supportive and encouraging and helpful. Yes, I have friends who are there for me through thick and thin. But when it comes down to brass tacks, as my grandmother used to say, God is my source of strength, comfort and peace.

Q: Why is it so challenging to forgive people who have hurt us?

Because we’re human and our initial reaction is based on our own thoughts and feelings. When we’re hurt, we don’t WANT to forgive. Sometimes, at least for me, the choice to forgive is more about wanting to be obedient to God and wanting to keep that pain from clawing at me.

Q: The attack left Sophia without a voice — is this a metaphor in any way?

Yes. When we’re attacked — physically, mentally or spiritually — we often feel like we aren’t heard . . . that our cries for help fall on deaf ears.

Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll
Abingdon Press

Q: Which character in the book do you identify with the most and why?

Sophia. She was strong and determined and wouldn’t let her attack and the murder of the one person she loved the most stop her from living a good life.

Q: Tell us about the quilt in Hidden in the Stars.  How does it play a role in solving this mystery?

The quilt itself was made from the costumes of Sophia’s mother, Nina. It’s like a large declaration of her life’s ballet work. Once the police get the quilt, they determine it holds the key to solving the mystery and the murder.

Q: Tell us a little more about the Quilt of Love series and how you became involved in it.

As a young girl, my family lived in the country. We didn’t have many friends close enough during the winter where we could just hop on our bikes and ride down to a neighbor’s house. During those lonelier times, my mother taught me how to quilt. I will always associate quilts with the strength of the mother-daughter bond. When I heard about the Quilts of Love series, I wanted to be a part of it.

Q: How have you seen the Lord’s hand in your writing career, whether it be open doors, prayer partners, etc.?

I’d spent many, many months studying the craft and learning as much as I could. After finally getting up the nerve to start the submission process, I found myself faced with rejection slips, one after the other. I was extremely blessed to have strong critique/prayer partners who encouraged me, but I also had a mentor who pushed me and helped me develop the ability to separate my writing from myself as a person.

One day, fully frustrated and on the verge of tears, I prayed the scary prayer: that if writing wasn’t what He called me to do, then I’d walk away from it, but He’d have to remove the desire from my heart because I wasn’t strong enough to do it myself. I was lucky enough to get my first contract not too long after that, but I truly was willing to walk away if that’s what He told me to do. It was really scary because, for me at least, writing was, in my mind, tied to my identity. I learned that writing, while important to me and I love it, is still what I do, not who I am. I love being an author, but I’m also so much more: wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend, etc.

Q: Do you ever hear from readers about how they have been touched by reading your books?

I hope each of my books brings glory and honor to God. Some of the reader mail I’ve received has put me in tears of praise for being allowed to share stories with readers. For instance, one reader wrote me after reading one of my books and thanked me for showing that it was possible to reconcile with God after being angry with Him. It truly blesses me for God to use me in such a way.

Q: What is the one thing you hope your readers will walk away with when they close the cover of Hidden in the Stars?

I hope they will feel they were entertained, but also they will be reminded that no matter what their circumstances, what the Enemy means for evil, God will turn to good.

For more information about Robin Caroll and her books, visit her online home at www.robincaroll.com. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter.

Keep up with the Quilts of Love series online at: QuiltsOfLoveBooks.com ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Pinterest

Posted 10/8/14 at 10:27 AM | Audra Jennings

Some Secrets Are Like a Noose

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson

When the noose of your secrets begins to tighten, it can cut off any hope for freedom and love in the future. Letting the light of truth sever your unhealthy tie to the past is a major theme of award-winning author Sarah E. Ladd’s latest release, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall (Thomas Nelson/October 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1401688370), the third and final installment in the Whispers on the Moors series. Set in Great Britain’s Regency era, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall perfectly conveys the romantic sensibilities of that time.

Rampant change — socially, politically, and economically — marked this period from 1811–1820. The great excesses of the wealthy class sharply contrasted against the rioting and social upheaval among the poor, making it an era of great interest to Ladd not only as a reader herself but as an author.

Cecily Faire carries the shame of her secret past with her when she begins a new position as a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall. She knows one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. “During this era a woman was defined by her reputation,” Ladd reveals. “If her reputation was soiled and she could not find a good husband, she was essentially condemned to a difficult, lonely life.”

Shortly after making her home at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years. Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own though — one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. As long as this shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world — or fall in love.

When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past, or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long-suffered?

Hiding behind a shroud of secrets always results in isolation and loneliness, and that is true of the characters in A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. “When we are so afraid to share the truth about ourselves with others, we are not allowing them to know the ‘real us,’ which prevents us from those truly meaningful relationships that bring so much joy to life,” Ladd explains.

Ladd hopes A Lady at Willowgrove Hall will show readers even though their pasts may be shameful or painful, God can take the darkest personal histories and turn them into the brightest futures.

About the Author

Sarah E. Ladd author of A Lady at Willowgrove Hall
Sarah E. Ladd

Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in that era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously. Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in the Whispers on the Moors series, The Heiress of Winterwood (2013). That title was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance and is a finalist in the Debut Author category of the 2014 Carol Awards. The second book in the series, The Headmistress of Rosemere (2013), was on the ECPA best-seller list for several months.

Ladd also has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Ladd lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter and spunky Golden Retriever.

To keep up with Sarah E. Ladd, visit www.sarahladd.com, become a fan on Facebook (Sarah Ladd Author) or follow her on Twitter (@SarahLaddAuthor).

Posted 10/7/14 at 9:49 AM | Audra Jennings

Finding the Courage to Make Unpopular Choices

Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky
Waterbrook Multnomah

When family expectations and societal pressures collide with love and faith, which values will emerge the victor? Award-winning author Carrie Turansky explores this theme in her new book, The Daughter of Highland Hall (Multnomah Books/ October 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1601424983/$14.99). FULL POST

Posted 10/6/14 at 1:38 PM | Audra Jennings

Finding Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom

Rob Peabody, author of Citizen
Monarch Books
Rob Peabody

When living what you believe to be a good Christian life still leaves you feeling empty, you might begin to wonder: Do I really know what it means to follow Christ? It’s a question Rob Peabody, author of Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom (Monarch Books/July 29, 2014/ISBN: 978-0857215420/$14.99), asked himself at the age of 26, shortly after landing his dream job as the lead campus pastor of a burgeoning new campus of a Texas mega-church. “The church exploded with excitement. People were being baptized and saved, and true growth was occurring,” Peabody says. “It was all going to plan . . . and then it hit me. I couldn’t go on this way any longer.”

Peabody realized his faith had little connection with the world around him. He had inherited a westernized view of Christianity that too often glorifies personal success, comfort and individualism to the detriment of the lifestyle to which Jesus calls his followers. He realized Jesus was calling him — and all of us — to an all-or-nothing lifestyle, not a pick-and-choose faith salad bar. Something had to change.

Q: Let’s start off by talking about the title of your book — Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom. What is the “alternative Kingdom”?

The “alternative Kingdom” is the way in which God originally intended for creation to live. In the Garden of Eden, everything was right, perfect and the way it should be, but man’s sin corrupted this perfection. Ever since, all of humanity has been subject to living in a world that is not right; there is something wrong with it. We find in the Gospels that, through Jesus, God is setting the world back to the way it should be, and when we find Jesus, He invites us to do the same. I find it interesting that at the height of the Roman Empire, Jesus (and later the Apostle Paul) begins speaking of the “Father’s Kingdom,” or a new way of life. He didn’t speak of a better empire or corrections to the current world system but rather a completely different kind of Kingdom. Jesus showed us how to live as part of the only Kingdom that will truly last and the Kingdom that brings heaven to earth. He then He empowers and releases His followers to do the same. The “alternative Kingdom” is the “Jesus way” of living life. It is a rebellion of righteousness in a broken world that is far from God.

Q: You once held a position as the lead campus pastor at a mega-church in Texas. While there, you had a major realization about your life and work. What was that realization, and what did it lead you to do?

I was 26 and had just finished seminary when I was promoted from young adult pastor to the new role of leading our newest church campus. It was my dream job with great influence, hundreds of congregants and the chance to lead a thriving church community. The church exploded with excitement. People were being baptized and saved, and true growth was occurring. It was all going to plan . . . and then it hit me. I couldn’t go on this way any longer.

God was doing something in my heart. Later I would come to describe it as a “holy discontent.” I began realizing the way I viewed church was off-kilter. For me and many others worship was being reduced to an hour time slot on Sunday morning. Don’t get me wrong; worship services are an essential part of following Jesus, but God was showing me that true worship transforms a life completely, not just when it is time to sing. Monday through Saturday is just as important as Sunday morning when it comes to following Jesus.

This realization led me to our city mayor’s office, along with my friend and worship leader Joel Warren. We told the mayor Jesus did not just save us from something (hell and eternal separation from Him), but He saved us for something. Stated simply, we wanted to see the worship overflow from the church building to the streets in which we lived. We wanted to be agents of change where we lived. We asked the mayor about the greatest needs in the community and vowed to strive to meet those needs in the name of Jesus. We mobilized the church to adopt local schools and mentoring programs to teach life skills to the down-and-out in our community. We began the process of being the church and not merely going to church.

This wake-up call for me personally led to the formation of the Awaken Movement. Later my family moved to London, England, to facilitate Awaken’s vision in the U.K., as well as church-planting amongst those in their 20s and 30s who would never step foot in a traditional church environment.

Q: What did your family and friends think about your move to another country?

My family and friends were very supportive of our move to the U.K. Although it was hard for the grandparents to see their only grandchild at the time move across the Atlantic, they understood God had paved the way to London in so many ways. It was clearly His plan too.

Q: Do you think the majority of Christians are really living the kind of life Christ calls his followers to?

I don’t think so . . . at least from my limited viewpoint of the church in the West. Unfortunately, we have inherited a Christian sub-culture that thrives on individualism and personal choice to the detriment of pursuing the true calling of ultimate allegiance to King Jesus. Jesus makes very bold and explicit claims about what it looks like to follow Him, and for many churchgoers these claims get in the way of how WE want to live our lives. Jesus is calling us to an all-or-nothing lifestyle in the way that we follow Him, not a pick-and-choose salad bar. When Jesus becomes King in our hearts and minds, our actions and behaviors will follow suit. Until that happens we (churchgoers) find ourselves a conflicted people wanting to love Jesus on the one hand, while still bowing to the idols of our flesh. This conflict must be dealt with before we can truly live out the kind of life to which Jesus calls us.

Q: You talk in Citizen about how Christians have competing allegiances. What are those allegiances, and how do they stand in the way of Kingdom living?

We all have allegiances. Some are healthy and God-given, such as marriage, parenting, being an employee or employer, friendship, etc. When Jesus takes His rightful place in our life, there is a re-prioritization of life that naturally takes place. When this happens, our relationship with the King becomes the lens by which we see all our other loyalties and allegiances. Therefore living for the Kingdom informs all areas of our lives and all earthly loyalties and penetrates everything that we do. According to Jesus, there is no such thing as compartmentalization of certain areas of our lives.

Q: You say, “Citizens of the Kingdom should be the most risk-taking people on the planet.” What do you mean?

I’m finding this quote is really standing out to people. It means if we have truly died to our allegiance to ourselves and it has been replaced by a greater ultimate allegiance to Jesus, then our lives are no longer our own. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us we have been “bought with a price” — that price being Jesus’ own life — and that we died with Him (Romans 6:3) and will be resurrected with Him. So if we have already died and the penalty for our sin has been dealt with, we have absolutely nothing to lose! There is no fear of death for people who have already died. For the believer, death has been dealt with, so what is the worst that could possibly happen to them?

I think it is this reality that frees us to live as risk-takers, Kingdom-bringers and radical, righteous rebels who take Kingdom ground during our relatively short time on this earth. I am becoming increasingly convinced that Kingdom ground is not taken any other way.

Citizen by Rob Peabody
Monarch Books

Q: Has the spiritual climate in the U.K. changed the way you view the American church? How so?

Absolutely. You never really see your blind spots until you are given a different perspective. Living as an outsider in a different country has given me a unique view into Great Britain but also a different perspective of my homeland.

Living in a post-Christian city (London) made up of less than 2% evangelical Christians has opened my eyes to the reality that if the church in America does not make some serous changes, they will go the way of post-Christian Europe. I think the American church, with all its members, money and “success,” is (at times) over-complicating what it means to follow Jesus. I’m finding that as an American pastor, I didn’t really understand the need for unity or Kingdom living amongst the body. I got too caught up in numbers to the detriment of true discipleship. Programs began replacing relationships, and buildings clouded my view of the body. When you live in a city as a part of the tiny religious minority, your faith either falls away or becomes very real. I think the church in America could use some of this shock to wake them up from operating as business as usual before it is too late.

Q: Some have called Citizen a “wake-up call to the church in the West.” What is it that American Christians need to awaken to?

I’ve thought about this question a lot recently, and I would say discipleship, prayer, unity, stewardship, lifestyle worship and Kingdom-living. What it all comes down to, though, is Jesus. We must re-imagine our lives, re-position what we value, re-identify who we are and re-center all of these things on the true King of the world.

Q: Tell us more about the Awaken Movement you helped found. What is its mission and purpose?

Awaken was born in 2008 as an organization to help resource the church for action. We inspire, educate and equip local churches to put action to their faith as they strive to be the church outside the walls of the church building.

Co-founded by Joel Warren (musician/worship leader) and me, Awaken came out of our work together in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, as we sought to help our church “reclaim our Jerusalem” and live as agents of change in the cities in which we lived. Awaken is led by a collective of compelled artists, musicians, pastors, photographers, filmmakers, songwriters, authors, missionaries and business professionals who are dissatisfied with the status quo of merely attending church. We desire to see a generation of churchgoers living as Kingdom-bringers in their communities. We create small-group studies, films, music, books and church-wide campaigns to help carry this message and vision to the church in the West.

Q: One unique characteristic of the western world is our love of personal autonomy. How can this actually be a detriment to the Christian life?

Individualism and personal autonomy are two of the things our Western dreams are based upon. The tricky part is that Jesus lived on earth and the Bible was written from an Eastern perspective and worldview. So the task is to see how Jesus lived, hear His words and examine His life, and then apply that to our 21st-century lives. It seems to me that individualism is actually a Western cultural stronghold that prevents us from living like Christ at times. If the goal of our lives is to make money, be comfortable, save for the future, enjoy life and seek happiness, those values and ideals can be pitted against the very things Jesus is calling us to. We must let Jesus transform our heart and reevaluate what we want to devote our life to. This is especially important when living in a culture where personal autonomy reigns supreme.

Q: What do you think is the biggest enemy to the Gospel in America? The world?

I believe one of the main ploys the Enemy uses against believers in the West is to encourage them subtly to give in to the silent killers of apathy and fear. Comfort could also be added to this list for many of our brothers and sisters in the West.

Q: Does a Christian need to quit his or her job and go into full-time missions work to apply the principles you lay out in Citizen?

Most definitely not. In fact, I think that would completely defeat the purpose of my message in Citizen. This book is for everyday people who want to follow Jesus and live for something greater than themselves.

Q: How do you hope Citizen changes its readers?

My prayer is that Citizen would show you who you really are in Jesus and then release you to live a life more abundant, more fulfilling, more daring and more joyful than what you are currently settling for. There is so much more to life, and it can only be found in our true King.

For more information about Rob Peabody, visit his online home at awakenmovement.com, become a fan on Facebook (awakenmovement) or follow him on Twitter (@AwakenRob and @awakenmovement).

Posted 10/3/14 at 2:17 PM | Audra Jennings

Finding God in Life’s Hardest Moments

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts
David C Cook
The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Life can be a roller coaster, with unexpected twists and turns. But when things go wrong and you enter a freefall, how do you cling to grace in the midst of fear and disappointment? In her new book, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard (David C Cook/October 1, 2014/ISBN: 978-0781412155/$15.99), Kara Tippetts challenges readers to trade anger for joy in the most challenging moments of life.

Tippetts knows the ordinary days of mothering four kids, the joy of watching her children grow . . . and the devastating reality of stage-four cancer. In The Hardest Peace, she doesn't offer answers for when living is hard but asks us to join her in moving away from fear and control and toward peace and grace. Most of all, she draws us back to the God who is with us, in the mundane and the suffering, and who shapes even our pain into beauty.

Within the book’s pages, Tippetts looks at her life through the lens of the seasons found in Ecclesiastes chapter three. Chronicling her seasons of childhood hurt, love in marriage, heartbreak in ministry and devastation in illness, she asks this question: In the worst pains of life, is Jesus really Emmanuel: God with us?

“I never expected to be planning my funeral and fighting for my next breath in my 30s,” Tippetts confesses. “I never expected to be sitting on my daughter’s bed with the sinking feeling her mama was going to die of cancer and not of old age. This is my own testimony of what is broken and ugly being made right and redeemed. The brokenness of today causes us to look at hope for tomorrow.”

While her story includes a long battle with cancer, The Hardest Peace holds wisdom for all who have met what Tippetts calls the “hard edges” of life. Whether it’s a marriage you didn’t expect to fall apart, a job you thought you’d never lose or a rebellious child, everyone will come face to face with at least one of these moments.

Growing up in a strict home with a father prone to anger, Tippetts rebelled in her teens. After drugs, alcohol and men left her empty, she finally surrendered her life to Christ. However, her walk with the Lord continues to deepen and change. “Before cancer, I would have said I was on the journey of seeking grace, but in truth I was manufacturing my own faith,” she reveals. “My going, doing, loving, was my faith, not my nearness to Jesus. In the depths of my illness, I was able to set aside my striving and look for God’s presence in my suffering.”

As her journey unfolds in The Hardest Peace, Tippetts challenges each reader to find God’s grace in their own story by exploring five questions at the end of every chapter. “I am not the first to write from the grip of cancer. I am certainly not the first to write on suffering,” admits the wife of a pastor and mom of four. “Many have done so before me with more clarity and understanding. I come to you in these pages as a broken woman, realizing that my brokenness may be my greatest strength — that it may be the greatest strength of us all.”

Tippetts adds that ultimately The Hardest Peace is not a book about trying to “win” at having the hardest story, but about one broken woman who is on the journey to know peace in the midst of hard.

About the author

Kara Tippetts, author of the Hardest Peace
Jen Lints Photography
Kara Tippetts

Kara Tippetts is the wife of one excellent man and the mother of four amazing children. She supports her husband, Jason, as he is planting a church in Colorado Springs. Her story was dramatically changed in 2012 when Kara was first diagnosed with cancer. She has shared honestly the painful journey of walking through suffering and looking for Jesus through her increasingly popular blog, www.mundanefaithfulness.com.

In September of 2013 her diagnosis changed, as more cancer was found in her reproductive system and brain. She lives for the graces of time, time with loved ones, time spent building community and sharing her story of living life in grace. Tippetts continues to maintain her blog where she shares her daily struggle in finding grace in all areas of life, not only in her journey with cancer.

Visit Kara Tippetts online home at www.mundanefaithfulness.com, become a fan on Facebook (mundanefaithfulness) or follow her on Twitter (@mother_to_many).

Posted 10/2/14 at 9:52 AM | Audra Jennings

Discovering God’s ‘Intentional, Unconditional, Without-Limits Love’

Too Loved to Be Lost by Debora M. Coty
Barbour Publishing

In a world where a woman’s acceptance so often seems contingent on her looks, behavior or talents, does anyone love her simply for who she is? Debora M. Coty answers that question with a resounding “yes” in her new book, Too Loved to Be Lost: Discovering God’s Intentional, Unconditional, Without-Limits Love (Barbour Books/October 1, 2014/ISBN: 978-1628369694 /$9.99).

“I believe that women today spend a lot of time feeling taken advantage of, judged unfairly and accepted only within certain boundaries,” Coty says. “We need to know — really KNOW —there is One who doesn’t condemn or critique us, but instead loves, forgives and accepts us — quirks, meltdowns, zits and all.”

Coty says as women fear loss of acceptance and try to outperform one another, they can begin to view God as a ruthless, judgmental, stern entity just waiting for us to crash and burn. “Sure, our heavenly Father is holy and just. He’s righteous and wants us to be too. But that doesn’t make Him a mean ole hulking principal stalking the halls with a big paddle. That is so not our loving Papa God.” Filled with Coty’s trademark quirky humor, Too Loved to Be Lost offers women simple, practical steps for finding healing, refreshment and revitalization of spirit, body and faith.

Coty chose to use a travel theme for her book to illustrate life’s journey. A self-professed, “directionally challenged” traveler, Coty believes most women will experience the hopeless feeling of being truly lost at some point in their lives. She knows because she’s been there herself, struggling with depression for two years following six heart-wrenching miscarriages. “My wounds were so painful and raw that I distanced myself from the Lord,” Coty admits. “At my lowest point, He reached down to me with His tender mercies and gently began chipping away at the rock that was my heart.”

Coty tells readers that God allows detours to happen in their lives to show them deeper and higher facets of his limitless love. Whether they’re struggling with issues related to trust, depression, patience, relationships, hurts or hopes, Too Loved to be Lost will bring readers back to a secure love that no one can take away.

Too Loved to Be Lost is the fourth installment in Coty’s “Take on Life” series. Much like her earlier releases in the series, Fear, Faith and a Fistful of Chocolate, Too Blessed to be Stressed and More Beauty, Less Beast, this latest volume is filled with humor and will deliver a much-needed smile while equipping readers with simple-to-implement tips for attaining the kind of guidance and belonging they crave — the kind only found in the unconditional love of Papa God.

Learn more about Debora M. Coty and Too Loved to Be Lost at www.deboracoty.com, on Facebook or Twitter (@deboracoty).

About the author

Debora M. Coty
Debora M. Coty

Debora M. Coty has a gift for getting across sound biblical concepts with a refreshing lightheartedness. She is able to use humor to engage her readers and get to the heart of the topics women struggle with most. Coty began writing to fill the void when her youngest child left for college, and it has since become a passion.

Coty is the author of 14 books, including Too Love to Be Lost, Fear, Faith and a Fistful of Chocolate, More Beauty, Less Beast and Too Blessed to be Stressed. She has also contributed to numerous devotionals for women. Coty also writes a monthly newspaper column titled “Grace Notes: God’s Grace for Everyday Living.”

In addition to being a published author and popular speaker, Coty is an orthopedic occupational therapist and a tennis addict.

For more information about Debora M. Coty or Too Loved to Be Lost visit her online home at www.deboracoty.com, on Facebook or Twitter (@deboracoty).

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Posted 10/1/14 at 11:09 AM | Audra Jennings

Preparing for the Journey of Parenthood

Expectant Parents by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin
Focus on the Family

It’s said that when a couple welcomes a new baby, everything changes; but is that a wondrous prediction or an ominous warning? In her new book, Expectant Parents: Preparing Together for the Journey of Parenthood (Focus on the Family/ October 1, 2014/ISBN: 978-1589977945/$14.99), Suzanne Hadley Gosselin examines that question from the perspective of a young mother who has given birth to three babies in fewer than five years.

“I think many Christian couples feel fairly satisfied with their lives and marriages when they decide to have a baby. So hearing ‘everything is going to change’ can sound like a threat,” Gosselin says. “Yes, a baby will change everything, but you will never want to go back.”

While many books for new parents focus on prenatal development and the health of a mom-to-be, Expectant Parents core purpose is to help new parents understand key issues related to the arrival of a new child in the home, offering practical assistance as they prepare themselves for long-term family success. This includes strengthening their own marriage relationship, setting plans and expectations for parenthood, increasing communication and preparing for the new stage of their family life that is just ahead.

Expectant Parents could even be called a marriage book, as it offers expert advice on strengthening that all-important marital relationship. “I didn’t fully realize how having a baby would shift the dynamic between my husband, Kevin, and me,” Gosselin admits. “While our shared joy in having a baby was a really special bonding experience for us, the stress of sleepless nights, postpartum hormones and life changes increased our need for communication and empathy.”

It’s often said babies don’t come with an instruction manual. Filled with expert voices, including those of popular authors and bloggers such as Jon Acuff, Matt Walsh, Greg and Erin Smalley and Chrystal Evans Hurst, this book actually provides parents with the information and practical steps they’ll need for writing their own, as they work as a team to create the kind of home and family they desire.

Author Dr. Greg Smalley, who co-wrote the book’s foreword with his wife, Erin, says this guide for thinking through how a child impacts your life and marriage is deeply needed. “This book is filled with stories from real moms and dads who’ve been there,” Greg writes. “You’ll find practical tips and advice as you prepare to dive into this adventure of parenting.”

Ideal for first-time parents, this book will be helpful to any couple wanting to explore and prepare for the emotional, physical and spiritual life-changes that come with the arrival of any new child into the family.

Learn more about Suzanne Hadley Gosselin and Expectant Parents at www.suzannegosselin.com.

About the author

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is the former editor of Clubhouse Jr. magazine for Focus on the Family. She is now a regular contributor to Thriving Family magazine and Boundless.org, and the recipient of several Evangelical Press Association awards for her writing and editorial work.

Gosselin writes children’s resources for David C Cook, Zondervan and Harvest House. She is also the author of Faithgirlz Handbook: Let Your Light Shine Through and is currently working on the God’s Got an Answer for That children's devotional and activity books to be released in January 2015. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and biblical theology from Multnomah University.

After having three children in fewer than five years of marriage, Suzanne and her husband, Kevin, who is a children’s pastor, consider themselves on the family fast-track — a blessing they wouldn’t trade for anything. Their family lives in Colorado where Suzanne enjoys sharing a good cup of coffee and conversation with friends and serving in ministry with her husband. Suzanne calls herself a Jesus-follower who delights in watching God infuse Himself into people’s lives and stories.

For more information about Suzanne Hadley Gosselin or Expectant Parents visit her online home www.suzannegosselin.com.

Posted 9/29/14 at 3:40 PM | Audra Jennings

Quilts of Love Authors Amber Stockton and Robin Caroll to Host Facebook Chat

Quilts of Love
Abingdon Press
Quilts of Love

With cooler weather coming just around the corner, it will soon be time for readers to pull out the quilts and settle in with a new book. Abingdon Press authors Amber Stockton and Robin Caroll invite readers, with quilts in tow, to join them for the live Quilts of Love Fall into Fall Facebook chat on October 7 at 8:00 PM EDT to talk about their latest releases, A Grand Design (Stockton/August 19, 2014/ISBN 978-1426773471) and Hidden in the Stars (Caroll/September 16, 2014/ISBN 978-1426773600).

The live Quilts of Love quarterly event will center on an interactive chat between the authors and readers, allowing participants from around the country (and the world) to participate in one large book club. The authors will share the inspiration behind their stories and ask discussion questions surrounding the themes of each book. Chat participants will be eligible for prizes, including copies of books from the series and gift cards, to be given away at the end of the hour. The winner of the $200 Visa Cash Card giveaway, held in conjunction with the latest Quilts of Love blog tour, will also be announced. The chat has been promoted online with the help of bloggers participating in the blog tours for each book coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group.

“I’m honored to be a name included among the illustrious list of Quilts of Love authors. And I’m thrilled to be taking part in this quarterly chat with readers of this line, as well as readers of my or Robin Caroll’s books,” shares Stockton. “Robin and I have known each other for several years, but her genre is often far different than mine, so this will be the first time we’re paired together in this fashion. It’s going to be a lot of fun!”

Caroll shares Stockton’s sentiments. “I’m so excited to be a part of the Quilts of Love series and can’t wait until our Facebook party. I’m looking forward to being there with Amber Stockton, whom I’ve known for years, and getting to chat with readers of the series or just readers in general. I’m planning for such a good time, and I hope to see many there!”

The Quilts of Love series centers on the idea that quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. Each release focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family history. Featuring contemporary and historical romances, as well as Amish fiction, women’s fiction and the occasional light mystery, readers are drawn into the endearing characters and touched by their stories. A new book will be released each month through January 2015. A special tradition the authors have instituted with each release is the donation of a quilt to their chosen charity or individual in need.

Readers can RSVP to the Facebook chat any time between now and October 7 by visiting the Quilts of Love Facebook page. All fans are encouraged to invite their friends to join in the fun.

Keep up with the Quilts of Love series online at:

quiltsoflovebooks.com ~ pinterest.com/quiltsoflove/ ~ facebook.com/quiltsoflovebooks ~ twitter.com/TheQuiltsofLove

About the authors and their books:

A Grand Design by Amber Stockton (August)

A Grand Design by Amber Stockton
Abingdon Press

A getaway on a charming island may be just what Alyssa needs — if only she can let go of her past.

When Alyssa Denham, a single career woman, wins a fun getaway for two on Mackinac Island where her grandmother lives, she gives her carefree best friend a call. Together, they tour the old shops and hidden treasures of the quaint island while helping Alyssa’s grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest gains them entrance into the homes of many longtime residents of the island, parts of the city that are otherwise off limits to tourists.

As the quilt’s story takes shape, Alyssa gains amazing insight into her grandmother’s life . . . and attracts the attention of the handsome Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go? Or will the quest to piece together the heirloom quilt restore Alyssa’s fractured heart — and bring healing to her entire family?

Amber Stockton is an award‑winning author, a national speaker and a direct‑sales brand partner with Nerium International. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and a son, and an Aussie/retriever mix named Roxie. Three of her novels have won annual reader’s choice awards.

Find out why readers love her by visiting her website AmberStockton.com. Readers can also keep up with Stockton via Facebook (Author Amber Stockton) and Twitter (@AmberStockton).

Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll (September)

Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll
Abingdon Press

A quilt holds the secret to a killer still at large — and who his next victim will be.

Following an attack that killed her mother and stole her ability to speak, 21‑year‑old Sophia Montgomery has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s offer to return to their family home. Although detective Julian Frazier is working hard on the case, Sophia unknowingly frustrates him because her inability to speak thwarts her eyewitness evidence. The fact that Julian is undeniably attracted to Sophia doesn’t help either, so Julian hides his feelings as concern for a trauma victim and focuses instead on finding the killer.

Little do they know, the clues to solving the case may be right in front of them, displayed in Sophia’s mother’s “special” quilt design. Who will realize the secret Sophia’s unwittingly been hiding in plain sight? When the truth comes to light, will Sophia find her voice again? Or will the murderer — still at large — silence her forever?

Robin Caroll is the author of 22 published novels. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of 20‑plus years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character‑filled pets at home in Little Rock, Arkansas. She gives back to the writing community by serving as conference director for ACFW. Her books have been named finalists in such contests as the Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best and Book of the Year.

For more information about Robin Caroll and her books, visit her online home at www.robincaroll.com. She is also active on Facebook (robincaroll) and Twitter (@robincaroll).

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