Posted 8/28/14 at 11:39 AM | Audra Jennings
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 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.
Posted 8/28/14 at 8:57 AM | Tim Challies |
I hate sin. Sin is destructive. Sin is insane. Sin is maddening. Sin is just plain stupid. Yet sin is also so alluring, so tempting, and always so close at hand. Even while we fight sin, sin fights us.
There are many strategies to identify and destroy sin, and one of the best is to read great books on the subject. There is no better book than John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin (or Overcoming Sin and Temptation). I plan to begin reading it next week and would love you to read it with me—and hundreds of other people—in a program I call “Reading Classics Together.”
Will you read it with me?
Here is how the program works: Each week we will read one chapter. Then, on Thursdays (beginning next week—September 4), visit my site and I will have an article on that chapter along with a place for you to add your comments or a place for you to link to your own blog (or Facebook or any other place you have been discussing it). The idea is to read the book together, so we can benefit from one another’s insights and have mutual accountability as we press on in our reading.
How do you participate? Simply by getting a copy of the book and reading along. You don’t need to register, you don’t need to comment, you don’t need to do anything other than read one chapter per week. FULL POST
Posted 8/26/14 at 7:58 PM | Ann Frailey
Reviewed By Karen Pirnot for Readers’ Favorite
In Neb the Great: Shadows of the Past, author A.K. Frailey offers the last in the Deliverance Trilogy. Not having read the first two books of the trilogy, I did not feel at all disadvantaged in reviewing this book on its own. The book is beautifully conceptualized and developed and was easy for this reader to follow. Gizah and Ammee are expecting their first child. They have asked Ammee’s aging father to tell the tale of his ancestors so that the history might be passed to their own child. And this begins a saga which encompasses six generations. But don’t be overwhelmed by the complexity of the book. It eases the readers into the various generations. The names are easily associated with beautifully-defined characteristics which make each of the characters unforgettable. I particularly loved the characters of the oldest generation of Hezeki and his children Enosh, Kenan and Eva. Their decision to leave the oldest brother, Neb, was instrumental in a series of choices throughout the generations. Inevitably, the choices were primarily those of good and evil. FULL POST
Posted 8/26/14 at 3:12 PM | Audra Jennings
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.
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.
Posted 8/26/14 at 9:15 AM | Tim Challies
Habits are tricky things. We are more than our habits, but certainly not less. We live so much of our lives according to our habits, but still remain responsible for what we do and what we do not do. Some habits emerge without any thought and through mindless, repetitive actions, while others are formed only through deliberate effort. As Christians we work to build godly habits and put aside ungodly habits, but learn not to depend on habits for our salvation or lean too heavily upon them for sanctification.
Habits are the subject of the bestselling The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It is a fascinating book, and especially so when it focuses in on the habits that make our lives what they are.
We are creatures of habit, and I have to assume that God designed us this way. He designed us so we form neurological pathways that condition us to do certain things in a kind of routine. “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.” FULL POST
Posted 8/25/14 at 7:41 AM | Ann Frailey
Excerpt from chapter 3 of Georgios I - Hidden Heritage
A young adult novel to be published this Autumn. Enjoy!
Georgios took another step backwards, now well out of the
hut. He had never been in a fight before, though he had seen
some of the boys at home wrestle. He had always disdained those
youthful contests, for he considered himself too well brought up
to get into any physical contact with the servants and sons of
lesser men, for his family was considered superior to everyone
else on the island. Here, however, was a moment when a battle
for supremacy would not be decided by class or wealth, and he
might not be able to avoid a confrontation. Georgios cringed
at the thought of actually touching this dirty, ragged-looking
boy. He cleared his throat and tried to make his voice as deep
as possible, speaking with slow, precise words. “I am a Roman
citizen, the son of Alexios…” he never got the rest of his words
out, for the boy jumped on him and began to pummel him with
both fists. At first, Georgios was too surprised to even put up
his hands in defense, but then the searing pain of a jab to his
cheek and a blow to his middle made him realize with distinct
shock that if he did not act soon he might be beaten to death,
so scrambling back to his feet, he used what little skills he had
and began slapping and clawing at his enemy. What he lacked
in strength and skill he made up for in sheer determination and
spirit. He would not be beaten; he would not lie down and die for
anyone! He wanted to scream but he had no extra breath. Every
ounce of his strength was used to keep his aggressor off him.
When exhaustion began to overwhelm him and he realized he
was too weak to win, he saw out of the corner of his eye a wooden
staff leaning against the interior wall. Georgios scampered under
the larger boy’s arm, ran inside the dwelling, grabbed the staff,
and in one swift motion turned and swung with all his might
at the lunging youth, who had not seen the staff or realized his
opponent had a weapon. Georgios felt the impact of the heavy
cedar stick against the skull of his challenger resound with a loud
crack. In slow motion, the young man crumpled to the ground in
a helpless heap. Georgios stood, sweating and panting, unable to
comprehend all that happened in the last few moments. He felt
himself fall to the ground, completely exhausted, aware once
again of his own throbbing head, his sour stomach, and now his
many aching bruises and burning scratches. FULL POST
Posted 8/20/14 at 1:27 PM | Audra Jennings
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.”
About the Author
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.
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Posted 8/19/14 at 9:59 AM | Audra Jennings |
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
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.
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.
Posted 8/19/14 at 9:37 AM | Tim Challies
Well, at least I won’t go to the grave having accomplished nothing. After more than 130 hours of listening, I finally came to the end of William Manchester’s incredible three-volume biography of Winston Churchill (As you may know, Manchester grew ill and died before completing the third volume, leaving it in the capable hands of Paul Reid). It is a stunning achievement—over 3,000 pages of reading or 130 hours of audio, all focused on just one man. Few men merit such attention. Churchill practically demands it.
A couple of years ago I set out to read a biography of each one of the American presidents, a long-term reading project that is progressing quite well and will probably take ten or more years to complete. I found myself reading biographies of Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Truman and realized that each of their lives intersected that of Winston Churchill; it seemed only right, then, that I would pause and cross the Atlantic for a time. I am so glad I did. (With my brain working the way it does, I paused after the second volume on Churchill to cross the channel and brush up on Hitler.) FULL POST
Posted 8/18/14 at 11:56 AM | Book Stop |
Marriage Month Tip Of The Day from Shaunti Feldhahn
Marriage Tip: When you and your mate experience hurt feelings and conflict, mutually reconnect by sharing a private signal that says “We’re okay.”
Welcome to Marriage Mondays! Each Monday, join us here in the Book Corner as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on what makes happy marriages so happy, based on nationally-representative research with more than 1,000 couples.
Tip #26: Mutually Reconnect With Your Spouse After Conflict FULL POST