Posted 3/27/15 at 12:33 AM | Ramona Tucker
The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis tells of two children helping a prince escape a dark witch’s underground kingdom. It includes my favorite Lewis character, Puddleglum, a gloomy marsh creature.
Despite Puddleglum’s ongoing pessimism, he’s the one who stays the course, an encourager. He rallies the children when they are caught, forever it seems, in the underground kingdom, wondering if an outside world really does exist.
The witch taunts the children. She says this outside world is only make believe.
Puddleglum answers: “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun . . . Suppose the black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. … four babies playing a game can make a play-world that licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world.” FULL POST
Posted 3/25/15 at 4:57 PM | Audra Jennings
Helo Matzelle thought her relationship with God was as good as it could get. As a busy stay-at-home mom and devoted wife, she would have described her life as beautiful. Then, one Friday afternoon in 2011, her life changed. In her new book, Halo Found Hope: A Memoir (Dog Ear Publishing/December 11, 2014/ISBN: 9781457531330/ $16.95), Matzelle shares how her life went from planning ahead for the weekend to relearning basic skills after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. What’s most remarkable is not what she endured physically, but how she grew spiritually.
Matzelle says when she looks back, she should have paid more attention to the physical symptoms: the strange voices in her head, like she was remembering movie lines. The metallic taste in her mouth. The ringing in her ears. But those symptoms were easily chalked up to the stress of life or the effects of spending too much time in a building with freshly painted walls. However, what started as a routine MRI for her ear revealed Matzelle’s symptoms signaled a more serious problem. “After hearing the terrifying news that I had a golf ball-sized tumor on my brain, my mind began to race,” she admits. “I thought, ‘Why me, God?’ I wanted to make this nightmare go away, but God is our refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble.”
In this personal diary-turned-memoir, Halo Found Hope, Matzelle details how her recovery from surgery was only supposed to entail six days in the hospital, but things took a turn for the worse in the operating room. Matzelle’s brain tumor was one in two million: Because of the way it was structured, the removal caused intense brain swelling, and several hours later, she became unresponsive. Doctors put her into a drug-induced coma, but life-threatening complications persisted. When she finally awoke after three weeks in the ICU, this mom learned she was facing months of intense rehabilitation, and instead of car-pooling and caring for her family, she would be learning how to function again on the most basic of levels. What would her new normal look like?
Matzelle admits trusting God wasn’t always easy. “Over and over again, I’d ask God, ‘Will I walk, talk, eat, and think again? My strength is wearing thin. I’m afraid,’” she reveals. “God reached down and asked, ‘Helo, do you trust me? Remember, I promised you I’d never leave you.’ Now that is one amazing love.”
Helo doesn’t want her story just to be one of survival; despite her remaining physical challenges, she is passionate about spreading the message that no matter what others are facing and wherever they are, God is right there with them and will equip them to be brave.
About the Author
Helouise “Halo” Matzelle was born in the city of Delft, Holland. Three months after her birth, Helo immigrated to the United States with her parents. Helo graduated from the University of Washington where she met her best friend and husband, Rich. Formerly in marketing for a major pharmaceutical company, Helo became a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her daughter, Lauren. Later the Matzelles were blessed with two sons: Jordan and Austin.
Matzelle led a charmed life until receiving a shocking diagnosis in 2011 of a rare brain tumor sitting over the main artery in her brain. She details her painful diagnosis, risky surgery and miraculous recovery in her memoir, Halo Found Hope.
Matzelle’s passion is helping those who face various challenges and afflictions discover where true hope is found. She resides in Redmond, WA, with her husband and their three children.
Posted 3/24/15 at 5:00 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of an interview with Helo Matzelle,
Author of Halo Found Hope
Helo Matzelle thought her relationship with God was as good as it could get. As a busy stay-at-home mom and devoted wife, she would have described her life as beautiful. Then, one Friday afternoon in 2011, her life changed. In her new book, Halo Found Hope: A Memoir, Matzelle shares how her life went from planning ahead for the weekend to relearning basic skills after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. What’s most remarkable is not what she endured physically, but how she grew spiritually. FULL POST
Talk about your background and why you became an author and a speaker.
For over thirty years, I practiced tax and estate planning law, helping families get their financial affairs in order and take care of children and grandchildren. I enjoyed my career as a lawyer, but wanted to move into inspirational speaking and writing because I had been helped so much by inspirational authors over the years. My husband and I closed our law office in 2008 and I began writing more. I had been a speaker at legal conferences for years, but now I wanted to speak in the area of my inspirational writings. I told my friends at church and was invited to speak at women’s conferences, retreats, and other groups in various places. I sometimes combine my legal and financial training and do presentations like “Ten Things Every Woman Should Know About Money,” talking about basic financial principles as well as the joys of giving and tithing. The material presented is equivalent to reading several books on financial planning, which most people don’t want to do, and teaching a spiritual principle that is paradoxical, but true. Although I do use my legal and financial training in presentations at times, my main focus is helping people achieve their dreams and overcome difficulties and hard times. Dreams are attainable if we will continue to believe and work in spite of setbacks, discouragements, and fear. My books contain many examples in every area of people who have done that. FULL POST
Posted 3/18/15 at 1:12 PM | Tim Challies
I read a lot of books. I read a lot of books because I just plain love to read, and a read a lot of books because, as a reviewer, I receive a lot of them and am always trying to keep ahead of the growing piles. But the more I read, the harder I can find it to answer this question: What is a good book? What are the marks of an especially good book?
I was recently reading Iain Murray’s short biography of Amy Carmichael and in there he quotes A.W. Tozer who once said, “The work of a good book is to incite the reader to moral action, to turn his eyes toward God and to urge him forward.” And yes, this a good criteria; a good book will urge its reader to do something, to become something, to make some significant and lasting change to life. Murray goes on to say, “Amy Carmichael’s writings belong to that category. Numbers who took her books up only out of interest, put them down to pray.” Prayer: That may be the best moral action of all because it ought to come before anything else we do, any other changes we make, any other plans we form. FULL POST
Posted 3/17/15 at 2:36 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Colleen Coble
Author of the Journey of the Heart series
Colleen Coble’s Journey of the Heart series take readers back to her very first book. Revised to read as a single epic novel, the Journey of the Heart serialization launched in March (2015) with A Heart’s Disguise, and an installment will follow each month through August. In the following interview, Coble shares why this story remains so close to her heart.
Q: What made you want to be a novelist? What really kick-started your career?
I wrote my first story in first grade about a horse that had twin colts. The teacher praised it, and the dream of being a writer was planted. It went underground for a while when I started raising our family, but when my younger brother, Randy, was killed in a freak lightning storm, the dream resurrected.
Q: What inspired the story in Journey of the Heart?
My first book was really a grieving book for Randy. I wanted to write a story about him if he’d lived in the 1800s as he’d always wished. When I wrote the story, it really helped me to come to grips with my grief.
Q: What was it like to write a story that came from such a personal place for you?
It reminded me in many ways that my brother isn't really dead. He’s more alive now in heaven than he’s ever been. And I will see him again. There are always pieces of the author in every story, and these books are a prime example of that! In the first book, Rand comes back from the dead, basically. His family thought he died in the Civil War. Even now, when I reread the part where his family realizes he’s alive, I cry.
Q: How is the new release of the series different from the original?
These books have the amazing touch of my team at HarperCollins Christian Publishing on them. With their suggestions, I've enhanced conflict and characterization and even changed some endings.
Q: What message do you hope readers walk away with after reading the Journey of the Heart series?
We will all have trials in our lives. Trials serve to make us stronger and to point us to the One who is always by our side, no matter what we face!
Posted 3/16/15 at 12:58 PM | Audra Jennings
As special needs parents fight tooth-and-nail for the best life for their child, their mental, emotional and spiritual reserves quickly deplete. Wallin offers replenishment in her book, Get Your Joy Back: Banishing Resentment and Reclaiming Confidence in Your Special Needs Family (Kregel Publications/January 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443398/$13.99). “I've been married for 16 years to a man with a wicked sense of humor and an Asperger’s diagnosis,” she reveals. “Two of our four daughters have half a dozen medical, developmental and mental health special needs. Daily we try to balance their care with ‘normal’ family stuff like sports, homework and my desire to lock myself in a closet and watch entire seasons of Downton Abbey in a single night.” FULL POST
Posted 3/12/15 at 3:34 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of an interview with Tez Brooks,
In The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce (Kregel/February 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443602/$14.99), Tez Brooks offers authentic, down-to-earth wisdom from one dad to another. This much-needed guidebook addresses the spiritual and emotional health of fathers as well as their financial and practical arrangements. Using the experience of his own divorce and the real-life stories of other single dads, The Single Dad Detour is a humorous and invaluable companion for single dads at all stages of their journey. FULL POST
Posted 3/6/15 at 12:47 AM | Ramona Tucker
I grew up in the small town of Rainsville, in northeast Alabama. There wasn’t anything to do so we drove around. This later became known as “Cruising.” We simply called it riding around and we literally did just that – we rode around, and around, and around. Rainsville wasn’t large enough to have a Dairy Queen but we did have a Dairy King. That was a small dairy bar owned and operated by the King family (no relation to me). As teenagers we circled the Dairy King round after round. I still get dizzy thinking about it. Others parked their car and watched as we circled. I think the reason they didn’t ride around in circles was because they didn’t have 35 cents. Maybe they did have 35 cents but choose to spend it on a burger from the Dairy King instead of gas for circling the Dairy King. Sometimes we piled in as many teenagers as possible in one car and anteed up our change to buy enough gas to make a few more laps. I guess we were car-pooling! FULL POST
Posted 3/3/15 at 2:30 PM | Audra Jennings
It’s difficult enough to live with the consequences of your own decisions, but what do you do when those choices endanger the ones you love? In Twisted Innocence (Zondervan/ February 3, 2015/ISBN: 978-0310332367/ $15.99) beloved suspense author Terri Blackstock weaves a gripping tale of murder, mistaken identity and human frailty.
Q: In Twisted Innocence, you tackle some messy issues in the life of a Christian. Tell us a little about your character Holly, and the challenges she’s facing in this book.
I wanted to tell Holly’s story because she’s my favorite character in the Moonlighters Series. Of the three sisters in the series, Holly has been the most troubled. In the first two books, she’s a taxi driver who has trouble keeping any other job, and she discovers she’s pregnant. She struggles with how to tell her sisters she’s made another mistake and even considers abortion. But she decides to do the hard thing and go through with the pregnancy, despite how it will alter her life. In Twisted Innocence, she has just had the baby and is struggling to change her life when some consequences of her past catch up to her. My hope was any reader who feels God has given up on him or her will relate to Holly’s struggles and see it’s never too late to start over.
Q: Do you think readers will be able to identify with what Holly Cramer, a young woman facing the consequences of her youthful indiscretions, is going through?
I think many readers will identify with Holly. Ever since I wrote the Intervention series, which featured a family dealing with drug abuse, I've heard from many, many people like Holly. I know it gives them hope to see someone who’s made all the wrong choices and still learns God hasn't given up on them. He knows how we’re wired and why we are the way we are, and while there are no excuses for sin, God has made all the provision necessary for us to find forgiveness and salvation. It’s never too late to start over. God sent Jesus so He could wipe our slates clean.
Q: Many people feel as though they’ve done things in their lives “out of order.” Do you think God holds those things against us?
I like to think about the biblical story of the woman at the well and how out of order her life was. Jesus pointed out she’d had five husbands and was living with a sixth. But Jesus chose her to be the one who would take the good news of the Messiah’s arrival to her village. He came that time as a savior, not a judge.
I used to have a pastor who often said churches should send an ambulance, not a firing squad. That’s what Jesus did. He looked at people such as the woman at the well and knew she needed a savior. She had plenty of judges already. He changed her life, and she was never the same after that. She’s now an example of Christ’s redemption that has been told for 2,000 years.
Q: Although Holly thought her party lifestyle wasn’t hurting anyone, she ends up pregnant by a man she hardly knows. What does this teach us about how our decisions can impact the lives of others?
Holly has had many consequences throughout her life — job losses, financial collapse, relationship problems — but nothing has ever shaken her like her pregnancy. When she comes close to aborting her baby, she realizes she has to change. She cleans up her life as she carries her child but never tells the father about his child. When he learns about Lily’s birth, he comes back into her life but brings a world of trouble with him. He’s a suspect in a murder case, and when Holly uses her private investigating skills to help with the investigation, the tables turn and he takes her and the baby hostage. But nothing is as it seems. Is he a killer or a victim? His link to her family’s arch-nemesis creates an even more tangled web.
This story shows the domino effect of our decisions on others’ lives, but it also shows those decisions can be redeemed. God can use even our worst mistakes.
Q: In the first book in the series, Truth Stained Lies, Holly learns she’s pregnant and briefly contemplates abortion. What stops her from making that choice?
Holly values life, and even though she dreads the thought of admitting to her sisters she’s messed up, she can’t make it through the door of the abortion clinic. In Truth Stained Lies, the first book in the series, she sits in the parking lot across from the abortion clinic and tries to convince herself to go in. She finally realizes though this child is real — it’s not a blob of tissue. It has fingers and toes and nerve endings and a brain. She decides to have the baby, even though it’s the most frightening thing she’s ever faced.
Q: What challenges do single mothers face? How were you able to capture her fears and difficulties so realistically?
I was divorced when my children were young, so I was a single mother for a while. It’s so hard to have to do every little thing yourself and be forced to navigate the rocky emotions of motherhood alone.
Q: Holly struggles with self-loathing as she surveys the rubble her life has become. Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt like you’d never be able to pick up the pieces?
There have been many times in my life when I felt like I’d never pick up the pieces, but God has always given me the power to do it. One of the themes in my novels is that our crises can turn into blessings. We can feel like our world has crumbled, but ten years down the road when we look back on that time, we can see God’s hand at work. I love writing that theme into my books.
Q: After suffering the consequences of bad decisions, it’s tempting to try and piece together your life by yourself — to get your life on-track by being “good.” Why does this never completely work?
It doesn’t work because we can’t “be good” enough under our own power. We can try to change our behavior for a few days or months, but eventually we stumble and fall. And why should we try to do it alone, when God has offered His spirit to empower us? He is our Helper, and it’s only through His strength we can change our lives in a meaningful, long-term way.
Q: Even after receiving the gift of grace and forgiveness Christ offers, it can be difficult to forgive ourselves. What advice do you have for the person who wants to be truly free from his or her past?
Lamentations 3:23 tells us God’s mercies are new every morning. Think about that. There is nothing we've done that can’t be wiped clean by Christ. I think parents understand this concept. Most of us are eager to forgive our children when they mess up. If they apologize or admit they were wrong, we can get up the next day and start over without dwelling on the bad behavior of the day before. There’s nothing heavier than the weight of sin in our lives. It’s crushing. But what a luxury to know the burden of it can be lifted off of our shoulders if we repent and give it to God.
Q: While Holly’s family is supportive of her, you can tell some are just waiting for her to mess up again. Is there any way to overcome people’s perceptions of us?
It takes time, and true humility means you give the same grace to those skeptical family members as they gave to you. That means you show patience to them when they doubt you, knowing your new life is the only proof you can give them you've truly changed. And you take comfort in the knowledge that God knows your change is real.
Q: You have been a best-selling author of Christian suspense novels since 1994 — but your journey as a writer didn’t start there. What kinds of books did you write before then?
I started my career in the romance market, writing for Harlequin, Silhouette, Dell and HarperCollins.
Q: What happened that led to your decision to write only Christian novels?
I was a Christian when I went into that market, but in the interest of fame and fortune, I began to make compromises. That meant adding content to my books that didn’t reflect my Christian values, and it took its toll on my spiritual life. After thirteen years and thirty-two books, I was miserable. After intense spiritual conviction, I rededicated my life to God and gave Him that last thing I’d been holding back from Him: my career. I left that market, bought back some contracts and turned to the Christian market where I could write books that impacted lives. I had been writing under two other names, so I started over with my real married name, Terri Blackstock. And because I was reading more suspense at the time than romance, I decided to switch genres and bring faith-based suspense novels to the Christian market. The timing was perfect because Christian readers were starving for that kind of book.
Q: Do you feel like you grow spiritually as you develop the characters in your books?
Absolutely. When I’m struggling with something in my life, I have my character struggle with it. It’s a way of taking it and examining it from every angle, and it’s extremely therapeutic. I often find God speaks to me and teaches me as I’m writing through that story. I may not have any answers to my own dilemma when I begin writing, but by the time I get to the end of the book, I have more insight for my own battle. The letters from my readers indicate I’m passing that insight onto them as well. That’s one of those God-things that happens. I’m not crafty enough to engineer that, but God can use anything we give Him to minister to His people.
Q: Your stories address some of the messy issues of life that some may not expect in Christian fiction. Could you share your approach to storytelling?
A long time ago I realized Christianity doesn’t necessarily insulate us from suffering. Christ’s blessings are abundant when we trust Him, but He promised in this world we would have trouble. I like to have my characters ask the hard questions people really ask when they’re in pain, and I put them through serious trials because real people experience trials. I once had a Christian friend who was dying of cancer, and she said, “Christians need to talk about suffering.” She felt so many of us are unprepared for it, and when it comes, it shakes our faith. I hope my stories will give people courage and hope for the trials ahead and that people already in a time of suffering will relate and feel understood. If they can say, “Yes, I’ve thought that same thing,” and see God’s provision for the character, they might recognize it in their own lives.
Q: As readers experience Holly’s journey as a broken woman, trying to piece together the pieces of her tattered life, what do you hope they walk away with?
I want this book to reach anyone who’s ever made bad choices and feels like God is disgusted with him or her. I want readers to come away with the realization that God knows what challenges they’ve had throughout their lives and that He understands what got them to this point. He doesn’t want to dwell on their sins or bad choices. He wants to wipe their slates clean because He has big plans for them. It’s never too late for them to start over. If people close the book inspired to start over with a clean slate and experience the unfathomable love of God for them, then I’ve succeeded.
Watch Terri Blackstock share about Twisted Innocence here.