Food for the Soul
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Audra Jennings

Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.

Posted 9/19/14 at 9:06 AM | Audra Jennings

Elisabeth Gifford Discusses Allowing Honesty to Heal You

St. Martin's Press

What happens when you bring the truth of who you are and where you’ve been into the light? In her impressive debut novel, The Sea House (St. Martin’s Press/April 15, 2014/ISBN: 978-1250043344/$25.99), author Elisabeth Gifford introduces readers to characters who are forced to dig up the pain and secrets of their past in order to let the fresh air of faith and grace purify and heal the broken places in their heart.

Gifford was inspired to write The Sea House after coming across a letter in The Times archives from 1809, in which a Scottish schoolmaster claimed to have spotted a mermaid. Weaving the ancient Gaelic myth of the selkies into her story, she has created a sweeping tale of hope and redemption that is an ode to the healing readers can find when they acknowledge the truth about themselves.

Q: Your new release, The Sea House, is a fascinating historical mystery that was born out of a letter you found from an old edition of The Times. Can you tell us about the letter?

The Sea House is based on a real letter written to The Times newspaper in 1809 by a Scottish schoolmaster, reporting a mermaid sighting. There were lots of mermaid sightings up to 200 years ago around Scotland and even a recorded mermaid funeral in the islands. There were also persistent legends of selkies, seals who could take off their sealskins on land to become human. I thought these were simply old fairy tales from a more credulous time, but it may be that these sightings and legends were connected to something very real. For thousands of years the native Sea Sami used to kayak down to Scotland from Norway using Eskimo technology. Their sealskin kayaks would become waterlogged after a few hours and lie just below the sea surface looking like a wavering tail. On land, they removed their sealskin jackets and became human — just as described in the legend of the selkies. Some must have married locals and stayed on the islands, giving rise to certain families such as the MacOdrums, who were said to have come from the seal people

It’s a theory that’s hard to prove, as the Sea Sami tribe was forcibly assimilated into Norwegian culture 200 years ago and disappeared — at exactly the same time the mermaid sightings stopped. The only evidence we have left is The Times mermaid letter, a kayak held in Aberdeen museum with Norwegian pine struts inside instead of the usual Eskimo baleen and of course the old legends of mermaids and seal men.

Q: One major theme in the book is the power of acknowledging and telling your story. Why do you think this is such an important part of finding personal healing?

You meet people who have had terrible childhoods yet still emerged loving and positive people. Other people become very bitter about relatively common hurts. I wanted to look at what makes the difference. My father was a neglected orphan, and I saw how his faith gave him the means to remain a very contented, loving and patient father and pastor. The way we see our history and tell our story affects how we live.

I read Talking of Love on the Edge of the Precipice, which is known as “the book that healed France.” Boris Cyrulnik, the author, was Jewish and as a child was left hidden and neglected in a farm loft for years during World War II. He also lost all his family. Now he helps trauma victims retell their sad stories in terms of a bigger arc that includes a source of love and allows their story to end in hope. For Christians, we have the option of rewriting our stories around the extravagant love shown to us on the cross, if we choose to.

Q: One character in the book is a woman in the process of building her dream home with her husband. However, a discovery buried under their house mars her perfect plans, causing her to confront her painful past. In what way is her discovery a metaphor?

The baby buried beneath the house was inspired by a real case of a baby discovered beneath a croft house in Orkney. It is a metaphor for the way Ruth has to acknowledge her past, just as she needs to understand why the child is there in her home. I also wanted to convey to the reader the kind of physical fear people sometimes experience when coping with the effects of poorly understood or unacknowledged trauma, as well as showing there is a way to get beyond that fear. It’s really up to the reader to work out what they think is the truth behind the story. A story is a drama and is all about the choices people make. The metaphors and similes have to be earned in the story and come naturally. In a way, a story itself is a kind of life metaphor.

Q: In The Sea House, we also meet a vicar who must confront his own ideas about his relationship with God. What lessons about faith can we learn from his spiritual journey?

In classic fairy stories, the hero works out how to win the princess and is pretty pleased with himself. Then about halfway through the story, it all goes wrong, and what used to work isn’t enough. At this point the hero has to go deep into his character to save the day.

While Alexander says he believes in grace, he really believes in a formula where his particular failures cannot be forgiven. So he tries incredibly hard to become a better person. Only after he sees how miserably he fails as a pastor does he let go and accept the mystery of grace. In many ways, he follows a pretty common Christian path from an early faith in our ability to “become good” to a mature and knocked-about faith relying on grace and love.

St. Martin's Press

Q: What parallels can be drawn between the storyline of The Sea House and the Gospel message?

The thing that hit me when I began writing was the image of a seal man unable ever to return home. This mirrored how, for many people, something happens that means they can’t find a home for the person they are. It’s the same for Moira, who gets evicted from her village in the clearances, and with Ruth in the cold children’s home. They represent the longing for a true home that often sets people on their way to a faith.

It’s also interesting to note that a lot of the Gospel teaching is in the form of stories. Stories show us a lot about how choices pan out, about character and about what is of real value. In The Sea House, Ruth and Alex have to battle to work out what is true and what is not true and then choose what they will believe about who they are and where home is. We all live by stories about how the world is. Not all of them are true — but some are, and they may be the ones that sound quite unlikely at first!

Q: The characters in The Sea House discover much of their redemption comes from reconnecting with their personal pasts and their family history. Why do you think this is so important?

I suppose there’s a human impulse to invent a better self so other people, and even God, will like us more and not turn away from us. That can lead to us living two different lives. In some cases, prominent Christians actually have complete double lives. Jesus came to a very real and ordinary world, and that’s where God meets us. He sees all of us and doesn’t turn away. Facing up to who we are and where we came from is a form of accountability, and the “real you” is the only person who can form genuine relationships and be happy and fulfilled. And that is only if we are willing to accept the grace and love of others.

Q: This is your debut novel, but you’ve been a writer for some time and have an M.A. in creative writing. What is your favorite part of the fiction-writing process?

It’s very exciting when you find the voice for a new character and they begin to live on the page. They can become quite opinionated about the plot. I also get really excited by story structure and the way it gives the reader a chance to live other lives and develop insight and empathy. I also love evoking real places and their physical impact, so writing about the very beautiful Hebrides was pure pleasure.

Q: The Sea House is rich in history and Gaelic myth. What kind of research did you do in preparation to write the novel?

It started when my family fell in love with the beautiful and remote Hebridean islands in North Scotland. I was feeling very stressed at the time, and when we saw an advertisement for a white cottage on a remote island, we decided to rent it. We became hooked on the area’s quiet beauty and its continuity with old ways, customs and legends. The Gaelic Outer Hebrides are something of a time capsule where the old crofting ways and Gaelic still cling on. While we were there, I talked to Harris artist Willie Fulton, who shared his stories of living in a crofting village throughout the past half-century and the remarkable people there. I read all of the books I could get my hands on about the time period and met with John MacAulay, who wrote Seal Folk and Ocean Paddlers, an historical account about what really lies behind the seal people legends. He gave me permission to use his research in the novel. In the islands the past always feels very present.

Q: Have you always had a fascination with mermaids?

I initially became interested in the selkie and seal people myths when I heard the children’s story from my daughter while we were in Harris. Standing on a remote island shore on a deserted beach facing the Atlantic, it seemed very possible a seal man might appear. The mermaid legends were first told in Gaelic, legends going back thousands of years, but they are still told and sung today, especially on Uist island. The folk singer Julie Fowlis, who sang the Gaelic songs on Disney’s Brave soundtrack, came to the Glasgow book launch and sang a song taught to her on her island of Uist. That song was written more than 200 years ago by John MacOdrum, who was said to be a seal man’s descendent. Due to the clearances where villagers were evicted from the land, the MacOdrum clan descendants are now only found in the US and Canada. I’ve been in contact with some of them.

Q: What is the message you hope readers walk away with after they close the covers of The Sea House?

Hope . . . and the power of love and grace. We don’t just get to choose how we tell our past stories, but we can also choose how our future story will be written.

To keep up with Elisabeth Gifford, visit www.elisabethgifford.com, become a fan on Facebook (ElisabethGiffordAuthor) or follow her on Pinterest (LizGifford355).

Posted 9/17/14 at 4:15 PM | Audra Jennings

Dealing With the Loss of a Dream

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.

At 21 years old, Sophia Montgomery has been working toward the goal of becoming an Olympic gymnast since she was a young girl, but everything changes one night when she is attacked in her mother’s home. Her attacker leaves her with career-ending injuries and the inability to speak. Most tragically, he snuffs out her beloved mother’s life. Reeling from the loss of her mother and her dreams, Sophia has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s invitation to come and live in their family home. FULL POST

Posted 9/16/14 at 12:08 PM | Audra Jennings

Curl Up in Front of the Fire With the Perfect Christmas Read

Where Treetops Glisten
WaterBrook Press

Three of the most beloved Christian authors of World War II-era fiction have come together to gift their readers with the new Christmas release, Where Treetops Glisten (WaterBrook Press/September 16, 2014/ISBN: 978-1601426482/$14.99), a collection of three Christmas novellas.

Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman and Sarah Sundin invite readers to turn back the clock to days gone by as they listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow and get to know the Turner family. Each of the three siblings is forging their own paths in their own love story filled with the wonder of Christmas. Hailing from the heart of America in Lafayette, Indiana, these characters will never be the same as the reality of America’s involvement in World War II hits incredibly close to home.

The collaboration was unique and enjoyable for the writing trio. “We started in the brainstorming phase, throwing out character and family ideas and making them mesh,” explains Sundin. “The collaboration was challenging since our stories are more tightly connected than in most novella collections, but it was a lot of fun.”

In Putman’s White Christmas, college student Abigail Turner loses a beau to the war and is skittish about romance, until a young man with a serious problem needs her help. Pete Turner, a former fighter pilot in Sundin’s Ill Be Home for Christmas, is trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. In Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner (or “Merry” to those who know her best) is using her skills as a combat nurse in the Netherlands. She’ll have to face the deepest kind of betrayal a world away from her family, but that could be precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.

The unsettled World War II era may not at first glance seem like a backdrop for love to flourish. “Our purpose is to remind readers of the importance of family, of home, and of togetherness,” Goyer reveals. “Even in a time of war we can remain strong because of the love of God and the love of those we serve.”

Will the Turner family be able to absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for their futures even in such a tumultuous time? “There’s a freshness and sense of wonder to Christmas,” Putman says. “The idea that God would send His Son to earth as a newborn is an incredibly humbling thought. Combine that with great music, tradition and the love of family, and it becomes a magical time where almost anything seems possible.”

Readers will be able to feel the crunch of newly fallen snow under their feet as they get caught up in these stories of love and loss set against one of the most pivotal times in world history.

About the Authors


Tricia Goyer is the bestselling author of more than 45 books, including fictional tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. She is a two-time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Nominee. A popular blogger, Goyer contributes to a number of homeschooling and Christian parenting sites. She and her husband, John, live in Little Rock, AR, and are the parents of six.

Cara Putman, the award-winning author of 19 books, including Shadowed by Grace, graduated high school at 16, graduated college at 20 and completed her law degree at 27. She is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University and also practices law. Putman is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at Krannert. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.

Sarah Sundin is the author of six historical novels, including In Perfect Time (Revell, August 2014). Her novel On Distant Shores was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies.

Posted 9/11/14 at 11:01 AM | Audra Jennings

Suzanne Woods Fisher Invites Book Clubs to Take Part in Christmas Brunch

Best-selling, award winning author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites readers to celebrate Christmas with her this year by hosting a Christmas at Rose Hill Farm (Revell/September 2, 2014/ISBN: 978-0800721930/ hardcover/$15.99) themed brunch. Between now and September 29, readers can sign up on the author’s website at suzannewoodsfisher.com/book-club-brunch to host. Hosts will be able to choose their celebration day between November 1 and December 23.

Hosts will be selected and notified via email on October 3. From the entries received, 50 hosts will be chosen to receive a party kit, which includes:

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm brunch
Litfuse Publicity Group
  • One copy of Christmas at Rose Hill Farm
  • Discount code to purchase book club copies
  • One copy each of Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray and One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon from Revell (can be used as door prizes or kept by host)
  • Brunch menu ideas and recipe cards
  • Amish-themed trivia
  • A book conversation guide
  • Suggested outline for planning the morning
  • Link to a special recorded message from the author

The brunch is the perfect opportunity for Amish fiction fans, as well as garden lovers, to get together, enjoy the holiday season, and discuss Fisher’s latest release.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, Fisher encourages hosts to collect non-perishable food items from their guests to be donated to the host’s choice of local food banks or community shelters. For each group that collects 50 items on the day of their event, Fisher will donate $10 to one of her favorite local charities, Shephard’s Gate, a shelter for abused women and children.

“There’s an unusual character named George in this Christmas story,” Fisher said, “who has a knack for helping Billy see a bigger picture and get back on track. We all need someone like George in our lives—and we need to be ‘George-like’ to others. That’s the motive behind this food drive. It’s a way to help others make a fresh start and to remind them they’re not alone. To me, that’s the very best gift of Christmas. ‘Emmanuel. God is with us.’”

About Christmas at Rose Hill Farm

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm
Revell

Billy Lapp is far away from his Amish roots working as a rose rustler for Penn State and wants nothing to do with Stoney Ridge. And that suits Bess Riehl just fine. Why should she think twice about a man who left without a word of explanation? It’s time she moved on with her life, and that meant saying yes when Billy's cousin Amos proposed — for the third time — and beginning to plan for her Christmas wedding.

When a “lost” rose is discovered in a forgotten corner of the greenhouse at Rose Hill Farm, Billy is sent to track down its origins. His plan is to get in, identify the rose, and get out. The only catch is that he’s having a hard time narrowing down the identity of the lost rose — and he can’t get Bess Riehl out of his mind.

As the history of the lost rose is pieced together, it reminds Bess and Billy — and Amos too — that Christmas truly is the season of miracles.

About the Author

Suzanne Woods Fisher
Suzanne Woods Fisher

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling, award winning author of Amish fiction and non-fiction and a columnist for The Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She has won a Carol award, been a finalist for the Christy Award, and was a two-time finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year.

Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She travels back east a couple of times each year for research. Fisher has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. She has an underlying belief in her books — you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate many of their principles into your life: simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily, trusting in God.

When Fisher isn’t writing, playing tennis or bragging to her friends about her grandbabies, she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Keep up on Fisher’s latest news by receiving her e-newsletter, as well as connecting on Facebook, Twitter and her blog! Her free Amish Wisdom app is available for Android, iPhone and iPad.

Posted 9/10/14 at 2:39 PM | Audra Jennings

Mary Connealy Hosts Live Web Event to Celebrate New Book

Tried and True webcast
Litfuse Publicity Group

Best-selling author Mary Connealy invites readers to join her for what is sure to be a fun-filled evening on September 23 at 8:00 PM EST when she will be hosting a webcast. The live online event will celebrate the release of Connealy’s latest release, Tried & True (Bethany House Publishers/September 2, 2014/ISBN 0764211782/$14.99), which kicks off the new Wild at Heart series.

“The last webcast I had was so fun I can’t wait for another one,” Connealy quips. “I’m hoping to know what I’m doing a bit more so whoever is watching and listening to me isn’t primarily motivated to be kind . . . out of pity!”

During the live online event, Connealy will be talking to readers about Tried & True, previewing the next installment of the Wild at Heart series and answering reader questions. Throughout the hour, readers will have an opportunity to chat with other fans, answer trivia about the book and submit their own questions for Connealy to answer during the evening. A number of prizes will be given away to those participating in the discussion, including copies of Connealy’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 Tried & True blog tour being coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group during the month of September.

“Whenever we ask our authors what their favorite part of the writing process is, they almost always say the same thing: connecting with readers,” reveals Noelle Buss, marketing manager at Bethany House. “In Mary’s case, that includes sharing a laugh with them too — or a whole webcast’s worth of laughs. Mary is one of those people who writes funny because she does funny really well in real life!”

Publishers Weekly’s review of Tried & True states, “Connealy’s style is fast-paced and spritely and sure to keep drawing fans.” This new series featuring the three Wilde sisters is sure to entertain. The sisters fought in the Civil War disguised as men, pressured into fighting by their father, who was crazed to avenge his son, their older brother, who died in battle. After all those years, without being revealed as women, they now qualify for homesteading. That is, as long as they don’t get caught!

The Tried & True webcast will be hosted on Connealy’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 September 8–25, fans can also enter the contest for the Kindle Fire HDX via the author’s Facebook page.

About Tried & True:

Saddle up for a wildly fun ride with the Wilde sisters!

Kylie Wilde is the youngest sister—and the most civilized. Her older sisters might be happy dressing in trousers and posing as men, but Kylie has grown her hair long and wears skirts every chance she gets. It’s a risk—they are homesteading using the special exemptions they earned serving in the Civil War as “boys”—but Kylie plans to make the most of the years before she can sell her property and return to the luxuries of life back East.

Local land agent Aaron Masterson is fascinated with Kylie from the moment her long hair falls from her cap. But now that he knows her secret, can he in good conscience defraud the U.S. government? And when someone tries to force Kylie off her land, does he have any hope of convincing her that marrying him and settling on the frontier is the better option for her future?

About the Wild at Heart series:

Three sisters fought in the Civil War disguised as men. They were pressured into fighting by their father who was crazed to avenge his son, their older brother, who died in battle. After all those years, without being revealed as women, they now qualify for homesteading, with their years of fighting reducing the years needed to prove up on a homestead.

Living in western Wyoming on 160 acres each, with their father owning the fourth homestead, they have a real nice spread tucked into the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, a remote area where they can live as they please and no one needs to notice the Wilde family is made up of three sisters.

They’ve gotten away with it by staying to themselves. They homesteaded in the fall, spent the Wyoming winter mostly snowed in, but now it’s summer and they’ve avoided town. They’ll have to spend their lives as hermits to get away with this.

And maybe they could do that, except they’ve stepped on the toes of a big rancher who wants to drive the nesters off his land. Tried & True will be followed by the release of Now & Forever and Fire & Ice.

About Mary Connealy:

Mary Connealy, author of Tried and True
Bethany House
Mary Connealy

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner and a RITA, Christy and IRCC Award Finalist. She is the author of the Trouble in Texas, Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages and Sophie’s Daughters series, Cowboy Christmas, Black Hills Blessing, and Nosy in Nebraska and has contributed to several novella collections. Her latest release, Tried & True, kicks off the Wild at Heart series.

Connealy is a contributor to the Seekerville and Pistols and Petticoats blogs. She lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her husband, Ivan, and has four grown daughters and a growing bevy of grandchildren to boot.

Readers can keep up with Connealy via her website www.maryconnealy.com and blog http://mconnealy.blogspot.com. She is also active on Facebook (maryconnealyfanpage) and Twitter (maryconnealy).

Posted 9/8/14 at 9:27 AM | Audra Jennings

Illustrator of The Beginner's Bible Brings Rhyme and Humor to Story Time

Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley
David C Cook

Chances are you still remember your favorite nursery rhyme — why? Because meter and rhyme are powerful memorization devices. So for parents who want their children to have the lessons of the Bible hidden deep in their hearts, Kelly Pulley’s new Magnificent Tales™ release, Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times (David C Cook/September 1, 2014/ISBN: 978-0781409179 /$19.99), will be the perfect nighttime read.

Best known for his work as the illustrator of The Beginner’s Bible, which sold more than 1.5 million copies, Pulley introduces us to his Treasury of Bible Stories, a full-color, hardcover book which is engaging enough to capture the attention of even the most media-savvy youngsters. Written for ages 4-8 (children who are too old for a toddler Bible but too young for complete Bibles), this collection offers engaging spiritual lessons, humorous rhymes and vibrant illustrations. Each story takes about ten minutes to read, making it perfect for an end-of-day, bedside wind-down. Created to be read aloud, the stories are presented in a way the whole family can enjoy.

From “The Salty Tale of Noah and the Ark” to “The Lasting Story of the Last Supper,” the rhyming tales in Treasury of Bible Stories remind us God loves his people — in the Bible and today. Not even mom or dad will grow tired of reading its pages night after night . . . after night. “I have four kids, so you know I’ve been there! I must admit, I’ve tried hiding books or skipping pages to get through them faster,” Pulley reveals. “I think the writing is clever enough in Treasury of Bible Stories to make them enjoyable for adults as well as children.”

Reminiscent of the Dr. Seuss classics, these familiar Bible stories come to life on the page with creative art and a dash of humor. Pulley reveals the famous author and illustrator has definitely been an inspiration for him. “When I was at the school library in grade school, I would always head straight to the Dr. Seuss books. I loved the rhyming tales and the fantastical illustrations. I still do."

The book is the fifth installment in David C Cook’s Magnificent Tales series, which includes the four previously released stories. Treasury of Bible Stories contains the most beloved biblical narratives from both the Old and New Testaments, leading up to Christ’s death and resurrection. Pulley chose key stories with the strongest spiritual lessons and images that would jump off the pages.

Filled with clever cadence, captivating art and clear spiritual lessons, Treasury of Bible Stories will quickly become a reader’s beloved family tradition.

Visit www.davidccook.com for more information about the Magnificent Tales™ series.

About the author

Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley
David C Cook

Kelly Pulley was born and raised in a quaint Midwestern town surrounded by corn and soybean fields. He was brought up to love and create art alongside his artistically talented mother, while his father, ex-WWII bomber pilot, fireman and electrician, worked multiple jobs to keep him and his four siblings in Red Ball Jet tennis shoes.

Pulley began his career as a graphic artist at a leading sportswear screen-printing company. He remained in that industry for seventeen years before taking a full-time position illustrating dozens of The Beginner’s Bible series of books, including the latest version of The Beginner’s Bible (2005), which sold more than 1.5 million copies. He’s also authored and illustrated four other books in the Magnificent Tales™ series from David C Cook: Food for a Fish, Good News of Great Joy, The Biggest and Toughest, and Daniel for Lunch.

Currently, he works from his home in Tennessee as an illustrator and author. When Pulley's not working, he’s spending time with his wife, Vickie, or riding his bicycle while enjoying the beautiful middle Tennessee countryside. The couple has four adult children.

To keep up with Kelly Pulley, visit his online home at www.kellypulley.com or become a fan on Facebook (kellypulleyauthor).

Posted 8/28/14 at 11:39 AM | Audra Jennings

Rob Peabody Asks Us to Reject Status-Quo Christianity

Citizen by Rob Peabody
Monarch Books

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.

He began by redirecting his church toward the poor on their doorstep. “Jesus did not just save us from something (hell and eternal separation from Him), but He saved us for something.” Peabody explains. The church adopted local schools and created mentoring programs to teach the less-fortunate important life skills. In Citizen, Peabody defines the kingdom-centered identity given to followers of Jesus and uses his personal story to reveal fundamental problems in the Christian culture. He shows how each problem — the model of competition, the idol of the autonomous self, the desire to create God in our own image and conflicting allegiances — can be resolved by appealing to our loyalties and duties as citizens of God’s kingdom.

Citizen is also a wake-up call to the church in the West. Peabody’s spiritual journey has now taken him from America’s Bible belt to the United Kingdom, where he is dedicated to reaching the young adults walking London’s streets. Only 2% of the city’s residents identify as evangelicals, giving Peabody a unique view of life as a Christian in the U.S. “When you live in a city as a part of the tiny religious minority, your faith either falls away or becomes very real,” Peabody reveals. “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.”

In Citizen, readers will learn salvation is so much more than just a get-out-of-jail-free card; it’s an invitation to change the way they live completely and transform a culture in the process.

About the Author:

Rob Peabody, author of Citizen
Monarch Books
Rob Peabody

Rob Peabody left his position as lead campus pastor of a mega-church in Texas in 2011 and moved with his wife, Medea, and their two sons to the U.K. He is now the co-founder and director of Awaken, a non-profit organization that exists to provide resources and creativity to the church and reach Londoners in their 20s and 30s with the Gospel. This work is commissioned by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and in partnership with the Church of England. Peabody also currently serves as a missional consultant for multiple church networks. He appears regularly at the Spring Harvest conferences in Great Britain and will be leading a new upcoming national U.K. conference for young adults called The Pursuit. In addition, Peabody has written a small-group film series entitled Kingdom Rise, which was released in March of 2013.

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 8/26/14 at 3:12 PM | Audra Jennings

Sarah Sundin Discusses Releasing Regret and Embracing Love

In Perfect Time
Revell

When you can’t get over the mistakes of your past, it’s nearly impossible to accept the gifts of the present. In her final installment in the Wings of the Nightingale series, In Perfect Time (Revell/August 1, 2014/ISBN: 978-0800720834/$14.99), Sarah Sundin introduces readers to two characters entrenched in the perils of World War II who are forced to confront their inability to receive the love and grace of God.

Q: All of your books are set during World War II — what is it about that era that draws you in?

It was a time of such intensity, of great upheaval and of great unity, a time that showed humanity at its most cruel and depraved — and at its most noble and heroic. Ordinary men stepped out of their ordinary lives and discovered they could do extraordinary things. Women tried on exciting new roles, learned new things about themselves — and yet remained ladies. It was a time of drama, daring and romance.

Q: What is the overall spiritual theme or message in this new book, In Perfect Time?

Both Kay and Roger feel they don’t deserve God’s gifts. Kay feels unworthy of God’s love and His mercy. While Roger has accepted God’s forgiveness, deep inside he doesn’t believe he deserves God’s grace, His blessings, His gifts. Both Kay and Roger learn that God doesn’t give to us because we’re good, but because He’s good. They can’t earn His gifts — and they should wholeheartedly embrace the gifts He gives.

Q: Was there a particular Scripture verse that inspired you as you wrote this book?

Although I never quoted it in the novel, a verse that underlies so much of this story is James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” Another important theme verse that is quoted in the novel and is crucial for both Kay and Roger is Romans 5:8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Q: Your main character, Kay, is actually a bit of a flirt, so much so that it’s impacting her career as a nurse. What drives her to seek out so much male attention?

A bit? She’s an extreme flirt! Throughout the course of the novel, Kay reveals exactly what makes her tick. For Kay, collecting men’s hearts gives her a sense of control and also serves as a form of rebellion against her overbearing father.

Q: Readers will get a sense she is also very wary of making any sort of commitment to a man. What is the basis for this fear? Do you think single women in our culture today will be able to identify with her feelings?

Women — and men — can have many reasons for avoiding commitment, such as deep hurts from past relationships or a history of abuse. For Kay, it boils down to a fear of losing control, of not being in charge. I see this more and more frequently nowadays. Women value their independence and strength, and sometimes men and relationships are seen as a threat or a hindrance to what they’ve built. I think a lot of women will relate to Kay.

Q: In the book we see a tension between those who have faith and those do not; why are people sometimes so sensitive when their friends try to talk about their faith?

Many people have been hurt by bad experiences at churches or with believing friends or family members, but for many people it once again comes down to the issue of control. Christianity requires surrender to God—to His teachings, His ways, and His will. That’s unacceptable to a lot of people.

Sarah Sundin
Revell
Sarah Sundin

Q: What can we learn from Kay’s relationships that we can apply to our own friendships with non-Christians?

Early in the story, Kay describes how she sees people of faith: “As far as Kay could see, religious people came in three varieties. Some held a can of white paint and wanted to slather it all over her. Some, like Mellie Blake, offered the paint can but didn’t get huffy when Kay turned it down. And some acted as if she held a can of black paint and wanted to slather it all over him.”

When Christians run into trouble is when we treat non-Christians as projects to be painted white or as evils with black paint to be avoided. I like Mellie’s approach with Kay the best. Throughout the Wings of the Nightingale series, Mellie and Kay have been good — if odd — friends. Mellie rightly understands that something in Kay’s past has made her skittish about God. She doesn’t hide her faith or apologize for it, and she offers occasional advice or comments — but she respects Kay and backs down when Kay doesn’t want to hear it. As a result, after almost two years of friendship, when Kay has questions about God, Mellie is the person she turns to.

Q: You write in this book about the tensions that can exist between a father and daughter. How can that influence how a woman views God? Other men?

It’s often said that our impression of our heavenly Father is strongly influenced by our earthly fathers. We tend to subconsciously transfer the strengths and weaknesses of our earthly dads onto the Lord. Unlike God, even the most loving dads have weaknesses that can skew the child’s impression of the Lord. When the earthly dad is cold or cruel or abusive, the child can be leery of God. For Kay, this is a serious problem, one she isn’t even aware of. And awareness is the cure. We must recognize this natural human tendency, then carefully extract the negative traits we’ve unwittingly placed on our perfect God. Immersing ourselves in the Bible and in prayer shows us the truths of who God actually is.

Q: The two main characters connect over difficult pasts. How would you encourage readers to allow God to use their pasts to minister to others?

This is one of my favorite parts of the story. Roger is ashamed of his past and is terrified history could repeat itself. He’s built walls to protect himself from temptation, and he guards his secret past closely. Although he tries to avoid Kay, he slowly sees her hurt and realizes his story might be just what she needs to hear. Revealing his past to her is painful, but it benefits Kay — and ultimately benefits Roger too as he wrestles with the truths he still needs to learn.

Bad things have happened to all of us, and we’ve all done bad things. Rather than live in regret, I choose to use those negative experiences to help others. Only through my hurts can I comfort the hurting. Only through my shame can I help someone burdened by shame. Only through my sins can I point the sinner to forgiveness. As King David says in Psalm 51:11-12, in his confession after his sin with Bathsheba, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.”

Q: This is the final book in the Wings of the Nightingale series. Is it sad for you when you complete a series as it is for some readers?

Absolutely! The initial story ideas came to me in 2006, so I’ve been hanging around with my Nightingales for many years, getting to know them and developing their stories. Now those stories are told, and yes, I’m sad. Writing the final chapter of In Perfect Time was an act of bittersweet mourning for me. I still miss my character friends from Wings of Glory, my first series — even as I’m making new friends with the characters from Waves of Freedom, my upcoming series.

To keep up with Sarah Sundin, visit www.sarahsundin.com, become a fan on Facebook (SarahSundinAuthor) or follow her on Twitter (@sarahsundin) and Pinterest (sarahsundin).

Posted 8/20/14 at 1:27 PM | Audra Jennings

Elisabeth Gifford Writes of Discovering Healing in the Search for Truth

St. Martin's Press

What happens when you bring the truth of who you are into the light? In her impressive debut novel, The Sea House (St. Martin’s Press/April 15, 2014/ISBN: 978-1250043344/$25.99), author Elisabeth Gifford introduces readers to characters who are forced to dig up the pain and secrets of their past in order to let the fresh air of faith and grace purify and heal the broken places in their heart.

Gifford was inspired to write The Sea House after coming across a letter in The Times archives from 1809, in which a Scottish schoolmaster claimed to have spotted a mermaid. Weaving the ancient Gaelic myth of the selkies into her story, she has created a sweeping tale of hope and redemption that is an ode to the healing readers can find when they acknowledge the truth about themselves.

Readers of The Sea House are taken back to 1860 and meet Alexander Ferguson, a newly ordained vicar and amateur scientist who takes up his new parish on the poor, isolated Scottish island of Harris. He hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkies — mermaids or seal people who have been sighted off the northern coasts of Scotland for centuries. Family legend says Alexander is actually descended from selkies. As he struggles to be a good pastor, his maid Moira faces the eviction of her family by Lord Marstone, whose family owns the island. Their time on the island will forever change the course of their lives, but the white house where the vicar lives on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after they are gone.

Readers may identify much of their own faith journey in the vicar’s story. “Alexander says he believes in grace, but he really believes in a formula where his particular failures cannot really be forgiven,” Gifford reveals. “So he tries incredibly hard to become a better person. Only after he sees how miserably he fails as a pastor does he let go and accept the mystery of grace.”

It will be more than a century before the house reluctantly gives up its secrets, when Ruth and Michael buy the grand, yet dilapidated, building and begin to turn it into a home. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery: Buried under the house are the tiny bones of a baby whose fragile legs are fused together. Is it a mermaid child? Who buried the bones and why? To heal her own demons, Ruth feels she must discover the secrets of her new home — but the answers to her questions may lie in her own traumatic past.

Connecting with the truth of one’s story is a critical theme in The Sea House. “I suppose there’s a human impulse to invent a better self so other people, and even God, will like us more and not turn away from us,” Gifford explains. “Jesus came to a very real and ordinary world, and that’s where God meets us. He sees all of us and doesn’t turn away. For Christians, we have the option of rewriting our stories around the extravagant love shown to us on the cross, if we choose to.”

To keep up with Elisabeth Gifford, visit www.elisabethgifford.com, become a fan on Facebook (ElisabethGiffordAuthor) or follow her on Pinterest (LizGifford355).

About the Author

St. Martin's Press

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University and has published poems in Cinnamon Press and The Oxford Magazine. She’s also written articles for The Times and The Independent, along with a nonfiction book, The House of Hope (2011), a biography of Dr. Joyce Hill who opened a rescue center for abandoned babies in China. The Sea House has been shortlisted for the Historical Writer’s Association Crown debut award. Her second novel, Return to Fourwinds, will be released in 2015.

Gifford has a degree in creative writing from Oxford OUDCE and an M.A. in creative writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married to an illustrator, and together they have three children. The family divides their time between Kingston, near London, and the Hebrides in Scotland.

To keep up with Elisabeth Gifford, visit www.elisabethgifford.com, become a fan on Facebook (ElisabethGiffordAuthor) or follow her on Pinterest (LizGifford355).

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Posted 8/19/14 at 9:59 AM | Audra Jennings

Deborah Raney Asks: When Life’s Storms Hit, is a Parent’s Job Ever Really Done?

Abingdon Press

They say blood is thicker than water, and in her latest release, Home to Chicory Lane (Abingdon Press/August 19, 2014/ISBN: 978-1426769696/$14.99), Deborah Raney writes a story that examines how the love of our family can help us weather life’s storms. The first book in the new Chicory Inn series introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all of her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Raney has beautifully captured the tenderness — and turmoil — of family life in her new release. It was easy for her to do. “We have four grown children and five grandchildren . . . so far!” Raney says. “So, as you can imagine, family is extremely important to us. We’re both close to our families, and all of the good, the bad, the ugly, the wonderful of being part of a family, went into this series.”

Readers of Home to Chicory Lane will meet all of the Whitmans, including Audrey and her husband, Grant, who are turning their beloved family home into a bed and breakfast. As Audrey works toward opening weekend, she is more than a little anxious, even as she joyfully anticipates her family and friends gathering from across the country to help celebrate the occasion.

What she doesn’t expect is her youngest daughter, the newly-married Landyn, to arrive with a U-Haul, clearly intending to stay more than just a few days. Questions flood Audrey’s mind: What happened in New York that sent Landyn running home? Where was Landyn's husband, Chase? It appears the Chicory Inn will be getting off to a bit of a rocky start.

The empty-nest parents of the story aren’t the only ones opening their doors to adult children — it’s a phenomenon increasing in the current economic climate, leading to the question: Is a parent’s job ever really done? “I think it is — or at least it should be,” Raney weighs in. “Ken and I loved how the relationship switch flipped from parent to friend at a certain point. Now, our job is to encourage, enjoy, give advice only when asked and to be the best grandparents we can be to our kids’ kids. That’s the true reward of all those sleepless nights raising our kids.”

In Home to Chicory Lane, that kind of parental love shines through Audrey’s character. As the stress of running her own business mounts, she will soon begin to wonder if she will be able to realize her dream while still providing her daughter with the comfort of home she so desperately needs.

Despite the challenges they face, Raney reminds us in Home to Chicory Lane that our family — whether brought to us through birth, marriage or adoption — is a gift given to us by God. Readers will come away from this warm and moving book with a new appreciation for family, in all its forms and functions.

Join Deborah Raney for a live Facebook Party on September 9 at 8:00 PM EDT, where she will chat with readers about the Chicory Inn series and give away copies of Home to Chicory Lane. Watch for more details on her Facebook Page.

About the author

Abingdon Press
Deborah Raney

Deborah Raney accomplished something very few authors are able to do with their first book. Her debut novel, A Vow to Cherish (originally published in 1996), inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists.

Raney’s newest novel, Home to Chicory Lane, releases in August as the first book in the Chicory Inn Novels series for Abingdon Press Fiction.

Deborah and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas –– the setting of many of Raney’s novels –– for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Raney also enjoys teaching at writers’ conferences across the country.

For more information about Raney and her books, visit her online home at deborahraney.com, become a fan on Facebook (deborah.raney) or follow her on Twitter (@authordebraney).

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