Monday, December 27, 2010

FLU - I'll be back to the land of the living as soon as possible


We had a great time with family, but shared a nasty gift.

pray for us!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

I want to wish everyone a truly blessed time of renewed faith, great fellowship and lots of fun as you celebrate this special time of year! I have been truly blessed by all of the great books, interviews and friendships throughout the year, and I am looking forward to another great year of blogging in 2011!

I wish everyone safe travel, lots of special memories, but most of all a renewed and strengthened relationship with Christ our Lord in the coming year!

God bless you all!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Voices of the Faithful with Beth Moore - Reviewed

About the Book (from Thomas Nelson)

A 366-day devotional with inspiring stories from the front lines of faith.

"A willingness to go is all they have in common," says Beth Moore, speaking of her friends on the front lines who are spreading the gospel around the world and with whom she collaborated to create this book. This brilliant, 366-day devotional features incredible stories of God's faithfulness in the face of uncertainty and danger, written by hundreds of missionaries worldwide.

With a foreword by International Mission Board president Jerry Rankin and an introduction by Beth, this volume also includes advice on how to hear God's voice, pray for missionaries, and understand the church's and individual's role in missions.

My Thoughts:

Beth Moore loves missionaries and mission work with the same enthusiasm with which she teaches and loves serving the Lord. Her childhood enabled her to know missionaries on a personal level, and that love for those who give up their lives to serve the Lord in foreign lands has impacted Moore's life in a powerful way. She wants others to know and love missionaries as she does, so this book, Voices of the Faithful, gives daily devotionals from people serving God around the globe. Their hearts reflect on God's love and grace through the lens of the land and people where they have been called to serve.

This book is a powerful reminder that all Christians are called to spread the good news. Even though we may never be called to serve on a foreign mission field, we can pray for and support those who do. Voices of the Faithful is a beautiful and inspiring reminder to serve the Lord with all our hearts and to pray for and support those who are called to serve on foreign soil. I am happy to recommend this book!

About the Author:

Beth Moore is a teacher and writer of bestselling books and Bible studies whose public speaking engagements carry her all over the United States and the world. A dedicated wife, mother of two, and happy grandmother to two, Moore leads Living Proof Ministries.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gray Matter by David Levy, MD with Joel Kilpatrick - Reviewed

About the Book: (from Tyndale publisher)
A perfect blend of medical drama and spiritual insight, Gray Matter is a fascinating account of Dr. David Levy’s decision to begin asking his patients if he could pray for them before surgery. Some are thrilled. Some are skeptical. Some are hostile, and some are quite literally transformed by the request.

Each chapter focuses on a specific case, opening with a detailed description of the patient’s diagnosis and the procedure that will need to be performed, followed by the prayer “request.” From there, readers get to look over Dr. Levy’s shoulder as he performs the operation, and then we wait—right alongside Dr. Levy, the patients, and their families—to see the final results.

Dr. Levy’s musings on what successful and unsuccessful surgical results imply about God, faith, and the power of prayer are honest and insightful. As we watch him come to his ultimate conclusion that no matter what the results of the procedure are, “God is good,” we cannot help but be truly moved and inspired.

My Thoughts:

“That sense of challenge is also a major reason that I pray – not because I lock confidence but because I am realistic about what I am able to do and confident about what God is able to do.” (p. 14)

Dr. David Levy’s statement on page 14 beautifully encapsulates the humble servant’s heart with which he serves his patients and his Lord. Gray Matter is one of the most interesting, encouraging and thoughtful books that I have read in a very long while. Dr. Levy’s obedience to God in the matter of praying with his patients has had far-reaching benefits in physical, spiritual and emotional ways that far surpass what Dr. Levy ever imagined possible! Isn’t that just like God? He is so awesome!!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of what God is doing in Dr. Levy’s life as his ministers to his patients! He is very candid about his personal fears and reservations that plagued him as he began the practice of praying with his patients. He shares accounts with people from all walks of life, and the fact that most of his patients have experienced profound effects from inviting God into this critical moment in their lives. Dr. Levy has also experienced both personal and professional blessings from his obedience to God’s direction to pray for his patients. It is touching and humbling to read such a personal account of one man’s devout obedience to God in a very challenging professional setting.

I’m pleased to share that I know first hand what it’s like to have a doctor who prays. My family has a doctor that we see twice a year. Each time we share prayer requests and then a time of prayer together. I know that God has blessed all of us through trusting Him with both our health and the doctor’s skill. Dr. Levy’s life is an inspiring example of the power of prayer in the believer’s life. He may never know the eternal effect of his efforts here on earth, but I’m quite sure there will be a lot of folks thanking him in eternity for taking the time to care for their spiritual needs as carefully as he took care of their physical needs.

Please visit Tyndale's website to learn more about this fabulous book!

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, please mention as part of every Web or Amazon review that Tyndale House Publishers has provided you with a complimentary copy of this ARC.

About the Author:

David Levy, MD practices neuro and endovascular surgery in San Diego, California. His articles have been published in a variety of neurosurgical journals, and he is an accomplished and engaging speaker and presenter. In his off time, David enjoys jogging and playing beach volleyball near his home in San Diego.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Media Diet Calculator Launching December 26th!

New Free Media Diet Calculator Planned to Launch Dec. 26

Aims to Bring Awareness of Family Media Intake Versus Real Life Interaction

Nashville, Tenn. Dec. 15, 2010… After a season filled with record-setting cell phone and gaming gifts to teens and tweens, iShine is announcing the upcoming Dec. 26 release of the Family Media Diet Calculator. The calculator is a new tool providing customized awareness to families in regards to how much time they spend connected to media in comparison to the amount of hours they spend plugged in with real life interaction and content consumption.

By visiting, parents nationwide will be able to plug in amounts of time their families spend texting, browsing online, consuming television and more. They will then be able to print a free custom analysis of where their families are spending their time in comparison to their involvement in recreational and faith-based activities along with family time and reading. The campaign is not an anti-technology movement. It is about use awareness and being intentional about the content.

It is estimated that the 20 million tweens in this country spend 25 hours a week watching television and playing video games and only one hour in church. George Barna (The Barna Group), a pioneer in research on Christian culture, recently noted that kids spend more time absorbing media than anything else in their lives, except sleeping. A recent article in The New York Times titled “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” (insert link - also discussed the effects of technology compared to focusing and learning.

We as parents must be deliberate of what media our kids consume, understanding that it is forming the way our kids look at everything – self image, friends, parents, leaders, themselves,” remarks iShine Founder and Chief Creative Officer Robert Beeson.If we as parents aren’t actively forming the person our kid’s are becoming – make no mistake – someone else is.”

iShine, known for bringing family-friendly media options through tours, music, television and radio mediums, is sponsoring the free Media Diet Calculator. The organization will also be releasing a new interactive Bible for tweens with Tyndale House Publishers in Feb. of 2011.

iShine is a Christian media group dedicated to ministering to “tweens” and their families. Tweens are defined as children between the ages of 7 and 13, and represent the single most influential age group in the world today. Mainstream media and consumer marketing groups focus their messages of identity, popularity and value predominately to the “tween” marketplace for a reason. iShine reaches today’s “tweens” through Biblically-based live concerts events (iShineLIVE!), unique television programming seen weekly on TBN (iShine KNECT), iShine artist releases to CD and DVD, interactive websites and coming in 2011, an entire line of books and Bibles all specifically designed to be relevant to this vital audience.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Damascus Way by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke - Reviewed

About the Book: (from the publisher)
The fledgling church is being scattered by persecution.•
It is spearheaded by a fanatical young Pharisee who does not realize he is unwittingly aiding a divine mandate to spread the truth "unto the ends of the earth..."

Young Julia has everything money can buy—except for acceptance by either Gentiles or Judeans in Tiberias. When she discovers the secret her beloved Greek father has kept all these years, she is devastated. Julia and her Hebrew mother are indeed less than second-class citizens. Her future is dark with clouds of uncertainty.

Jacob, Abigail's brother, is now a young man attempting to find his own place among the community of believers. Does it mean trading away the exhilaration and adventure of his current profession as a caravan guard? Hired by Julia's father to protect a wealthy merchant's caravans on the secretive "Frankincense Trail," Jacob also reluctantly takes on the perilous responsibility of passing letters and messages between communities of believers now dispersed across the land. He is alarmed to discover that Julia, hardly more than a girl, is also a courier. Can their initial mistrust be put aside to accomplish their mission?

An earthshaking encounter on the way to Damascus has repercussions far beyond the lives of Julia and Jacob.

My Thoughts:

Once again I have been transported back in time to the land of Jerusalem, Tiberius and Damascus. I have met Julia and her heartbroken mother as they anxiously await the arrival of Julia’s father, Jamal as he visits between caravan routes. The Damascus Way takes the reader deep into the heart of the ancient trade routes and the dangers, risks and vigilant lifestyle of those who spend their lives transporting valuable trade goods throughout the ancient Middle East. Alongside the merchant trade routes and all of its mystery, danger and adventure, the readers also experience anew the persecution of the early church. As the followers of The Way increase in number after Jesus’ resurrection, the Temple guards and Roman soldiers become ever more intent on destroying this threat to their power. Leading the persecution efforts is none other than Saul.

My heart alternately soared and ached as I lived life alongside the early believers. Julia, Zoe, Abigail, Jacob, and Linux are but a few of the characters that you will spend time with during this very special time in history. The followers of Christ are busy transforming lives, performing miracles and growing the early church as they try to meet together in safety. Couriers operate in stealth among the followers to make sure that the Word of God is spread to everyone regardless of ethnic or social background. Truly, Christ’s ministry transformed the world in miraculous ways!

Truly, much is to be learned as we are called to remember the persecution of the early church and the work of the apostles and early disciples. The Acts of Faith series is one of the most powerful and special biblical history series I’ve ever read, and I can’t begin to recommend it highly enough!!

You can read my reviews of the first two books in this fabulous series by clicking on the links below:
The Hidden Flame
The Centurion's Wife

About the Authors:
Davis Bunn is an award-winning novelist whose audience spans reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings. He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write. Visit Davis' Web site at

Janette Oke (pronounced "oak") pioneered inspirational fiction and is the leading author in the category today. Love Comes Softly, her first novel, has sold over one million copies. Janette is now the bestselling author of over 70 books, 32 of which have been translated into fourteen languages. Her books have sold over 22 million copies.

Janette receives fan mail from all over the world and answers each letter personally. She received the 1992 President's Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for her significant contribution to Christian fiction, the 1999 CBA Life Impact Award and has been awarded the Gold Medallion Award for fiction. Janette and her husband, Edward, have four grown children and enjoy their many grandchildren. They make their home in Canada.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flashback Friday - Christmas Presents in the Past!

When did you open Christmas presents when you were growing up? Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? If you traveled, did your parents take the gifts, or did you open them early or late? Did your parents have Santa leave presents? Were they wrapped or unwrapped? Did you have stockings? What was generally in those? Were gifts simple and practical or more extravagant? Did you give presents to your parents and siblings? Were they homemade or purchased? If purchased, did you pay with your own money or did your parents pay? What are memories of special gifts you received? Did you ever peek and find out what your gifts were ahead of time? Did presents gradually appear under the tree in the days leading up to Christmas and were you allowed to touch/shake them?

As long as I can remember, presents were always in a grand display beneath the Christmas tree. It was the only time that the hallway door to the den was closed. We all had to stand at the door while mom or dad went around into the den and got ready to let us in to see our gifts. I guess they enjoyed the expressions of delight as we discovered what had been left for each of us. I don’t recall anything being wrapped, but instead it looked like a really neat store display window. It was the most exciting morning of the year to say the least!

I have memories of trying to sneak around to the den as my parents and older siblings worked to display our gifts when we were very young. We always got caught and sent back to bed! We did have stockings, but for the life of me I can’t remember what was put in them at this moment. I just know that mom must have paid really close attention throughout the year, because we usually found things that we really wanted on Christmas morning! I’ll never forget the Barbiedoll pool, the year I got an 8-track tape player, or the HUGE teddy bear my brother gave me one year. It’s funny really, because I don’t remember so many details as I remember that we were all really happy and having a good time. I had an aunt and uncle that didn’t have any children, and they usually popped by to see what Santa had brought us.

Christmas night was always spent with that same aunt and uncle (just as it still is today!) so as soon as things settled down (we always started really early!) we had a great breakfast and then headed off to my visit my mom’s mom and sister who lived nearby. We usually had lunch with them, and then left there and went down the road to my aunt and uncle’s house. (my dad’s youngest sister and husband and also my grandparents lived there) We always took gifts to them, and the young kids got gifts from them, we ate a ton and then gathered around the piano and sang hymns. We still do that today!!

My favorite Christmas memory hasn’t changed much. The year I was a Junior in college I spent a week with my oldest sister who had been put to bed with toxemia. It was the first time in my life I’d been away from my parents on Christmas morning, and I remember sitting on the bed with my sister and her husband and talking on the phone with all of my family. We then went to her in-laws for their Christmas celebration and had a really good time. My sister went into labor that night, and I got to be there when my first niece was born on December 26th. That year we didn’t get individual presents, but the family got a video camera to record the family’s newest edition. It was a very special time for me, and one I’ll never forget.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

the clouds roll away by Sibella Giorello - REVIEWED - AND CONTEST!!

“The church smelled of paraffin and my mother’s tears and my own shame.” (p. 304)

Reading a novel written by Sibella Giorello is a feast of sights, sounds, sharp images and poignant emotion. Raleigh Harmon, the protagonist in her stories, is a woman who seems to be hanging onto life and faith by a tenuous thread. However, she hangs on with such tenacity you can’t help but admire her courage and her desire to do what is right – no matter the cost.

The clouds roll away is my second Raleigh Harmon novel, and it was as satisfying, exciting, and spiritually melancholy as the first. Raleigh is an FBI agent who has a LOT to deal with when you consider what she does for a living! Combined with a mother who lives in a very fragile emotional state, Raleigh tries to do the right thing in every situation. But sometimes she has to choose between bad and worse. I think her heart is pretty fragile too, but she buries a lot of her own hurt and confusion about the depravity in her world beneath a mountain of really unhealthy food choices!

Well…she doesn’t bury them entirely with food…but she sure has the ability to put away some serious takeout! Raleigh also has an insatiable appetite for the truth, and that takes her to some very scary and dangerous places in this novel! Gangs, drugs, rap music stars and international smuggling are only a few of the things this terrific gal has to deal with!

And you know what I love the most about Giorello’s stories? She doesn’t reveal a SINGLE THING until the very last pages of the book!! She throws a lot of red herrings in the path of the reader, but you have to hang on through some pretty intense stuff before the answers come to light!

I really love the character of Raleigh Harmon. She’s strong, weak, brave, intelligent, and such a hero in her heart – but she doesn’t know it! If you like a great suspenseful story crafted of words spun together like gold…you don’t want to miss the clouds roll away!

Sibella’s celebrating the release of The Clouds Roll Away by giving away a KINDLE prize pack worth over $150.00!

One Grand Prize winner will receive:
  • Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to
To enter simply click on one of the icons below! Then tell your friends! Winner will be announced January 3, 2011 on Sibella's blog.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Operation Bonnet by Kimberly Stuart - REVIEWED

This title is scheduled to release sometime in January or February of 2011 by David C. Cook.

“Stubborn grace, it turned out, came in various forms, straight from the hand of God and in the form of a cranky old lady in a bonnet.” (p.262)

Operation Bonnet it the most original, funny, delightful tale that I have read in a very long time! The characters were such an eclectic group of people – each of them struggling with a private issue that ultimately led them to a very unexpected point of grace. Nellie is the protagonist of the story, and her twenty-year-old life makes about as much sense to her as the wild and unruly mane of red (excuse me, orange) curls that adorns her head. Born to a couple of people who’d rather play golf and spend money rather than raise their only daughter, Nellie finds herself caring for her grandmother and desperately trying to pursue the closest thing she has ever had to a dream – the life of a private detective.

Sounds like a hodge-podge of issues, huh? Well, once you meet Nona, Matt and Amos – oh, and don’t forget Tank! – this story takes on the characteristics of adventure, light romance, and contemporary, realistic issues that every man and woman have had to face at some point in time. Kimberly Stuart develops each character with their own, unique blend of quirkiness, and then intertwines their lives in such creative ways that the reader must keep the pages turning at a rather rapid clip to discover what becomes of their lives. There are Amish characters in the book, by the way, but not in any role that you’ve ever seen them placed within. That fact alone adds a bold, unique feel to this story amid everything I’ve been reading lately. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I laughed out loud, giggled, cried and just simply sighed when I read the truth of the human condition so creatively captured in this story.

The truth in this story? Well, there are many truths about the human heart that will touch you. My favorite? Probably this one on page 213: “You cry or pout or laugh or whatever you must about what needs to be let go. And then let go. Never try to run the world. Only a God of bottomless grace can pull off a feat like that.” The journey that the reader takes until this point is one you won’t soon forget. This tender, funny story will linger in your heart for a very long time.

Bravo! Kimberly Stuart! Bravo!!

About the Author:

Kimberly Stuart holds degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Iowa. After teaching Spanish and English as a second language in Chicago, Minneapolis, Costa Rica, and eastern Iowa, she took a huge increase in pay to be a full-time mom. She makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and two young children.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 60-Minute Money Workout by Ellie Kay - Reviewed

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The 60-Minute Money Workout: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Finances into Shape

WaterBrook Press (December 14, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky and Staci Carmichael of Doubleday Religion/ Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc., for sending me a review copy.***


ELLIE KAY is a financial expert on Good Money (ABC NEWS) and best-selling author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of magazine articles. She’s a regular media guest on CNBC, CNN, and Fox News, and has been featured on ABC Nightline, Your World with Neil Cavuto, and Fox and Friends. Her radio commentary for Focus on the Family airs on more than two thousand radio outlets around the world. She and her husband are the parents of seven children and live in Southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446034
ISBN-13: 978-0307446039

My thoughts:
This book contains a lot of common sense and a lot of practical ways to not only work your way out of debt, but to also save money and live comfortably within your means! Ellie Kay has figured out what many of us try to acheive our entire lives - how to live within the means God has blessed us with. I needed to read this book, because I need to elimitnate debt and start saving money.

I already practice some of the things Ellie suggests in this book, but I think I have allowed fear to hold me back from trying the more challenging aspects of her plan. I really need to repent and ask God for the strength and wisdom to put these ideas into practice. That would make my life a whole lot easier.

I highly recommend this book for everyone - whether you have a lot of debt or a little - whether you have a large family or a small one. Ellie Kay has a correct and effective way to manage your fianances, and we all could do a better job of that!


60 Minutes to

Financial Freedom

Thirty years.

That’s how long it took to achieve the dream.

When I was at the ripe old age of ten, my parents won a trip to Germany because my dad bought a certain number of air conditioners for his part-time building business. They promised to bring me back “something special.” I imagined a Bavarian costume, a crown that belonged to a real princess, or maybe even a china teacup. Instead, they brought me a book and a rock. The rock came from the lake where King Ludwig allegedly killed himself, and the book was a compilation of his castles and treasures. They were a little odd, but those gifts ended up serving me well.

At school, I used the book to write a report on King Ludwig that earned an A+. And the rock inspired a dream to one day see Neuschwanstein, also known as “the Disneyland Castle.”

Three decades later I was able to fulfill those travel dreams, thanks to my international work with military families. As I walked through the castle’s gilded hall, my imagination wandered to what life must have been like for people such as King Ludwig, who had only known a life of wealth and privilege, then to have that life cut short through suicide or murder. I decided that my life as a mother of seven wasn’t that bad after all. I may not have been at the pinnacle of wealth and privilege, but I was fulfilling my dream, which also happened to be squarely in the path of another of my dreams: helping military families achieve their financial dreams.

Along the road to a dream fulfilled, there was hope deferred, justice denied, and paradise lost. But one thing remained true: there was a plan and purpose for the ten-year-old version of me, and my dreams—some material, some personal, and some spiritual—were worth keeping.

What were some of your childhood dreams?

Do you still dream, or did you stop dreaming a long time ago?

Would I trade my dream trip to see Neuschwanstein for anything else? Of course I would! There are boatloads of things in life that carry far greater value than a trip: my husband, kids, friends, health, and an entire host of far more meaningful things than the material ones. But the point is that if we are purposeful, principled, and proactive about money matters, then we can still hang on to those longtime dreams and watch them come to pass.

Maybe your dream is to stop fighting about money with your mate.

Maybe you want to buy a home or go to Paris.

You might dream of putting your babies through college without a mountain of student-loan debt.

Or you might want to be able to sponsor a third-world child and give her a life she couldn’t have without your help.

While many people know they need to be proactive about money matters, few know the secret to putting feet to fiscal concepts. Knowledge alone is not enough to make a difference in a person’s financial picture. This knowledge has to be put into action regularly in order to reach your goals.

So move over money “makeovers,” it’s time for the money workout.

Makeovers fall short of truly revitalizing your financial picture. While they address the problem and suggest solutions, implementing those concepts on a day-to-day basis can feel like driving a Honda when you were dreaming of a roadster. Another challenge of a makeover is that you don’t know how to do it on your own after the experts leave.

But my money workout method will teach you how to have self sufficiency once this book is closed.

Maybe you’ve tried to work on money issues but instead ended up fighting with your spouse. It might be that the thought of sitting down with all your bills is so overwhelming that it falls into the realm of impossible. Maybe you’re convinced that you will never get out of debt, live in financial harmony, or own a home. It’s not about how much time you spend working on money issues; it’s about the quality of that time. So let’s get started with your own money workout.

It’s time to do our first pre workout quiz. It will only take ten minutes. The quizzes throughout this book serve to prepare you for the main workout, and you’ll get a lot more out of your sixty-minute money workout if you take the time to prepare. While our dream quiz seems to be a lifestyle quiz rather than a money quiz, it’s important to understand that almost every area of our lives is impacted by some financially related area. For example, an educational goal or dream coming true is often related to a work ethic, which is a financial skill. Personal goals that deal with family, marriage, and kids are definitely related to finances because of the impact that money matters have on families. Spiritual goals highly influence us in the way we use or view money. So try to fill out these dreams with that financial element in mind, and you’ll get more out of the quiz. Once you’ve finished this exercise, it will help you focus on past dreams or expectations, current realities, and future possibilities.

Pre-workout Quiz

1. What are some dreams you had as a much younger version of yourself? List a dream for each category:






2. If you were to rank these “dreams come true” from 1 to 10, with 1 meaning that it did not get fulfilled in any way and 10 meaning it came to pass as you dreamed it or better, then how would you rank the dreams in question 1?

For example, maybe you always wanted a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California; instead you earned a master’s from the University of Texas. If you are satisfied with the fact that you received a better degree from a different college, you could indicate a 10 for that dream. Or maybe you always wanted to be a pilot in the air force but didn’t have the requisite eyesight. So you got rated in a Cessna and went on to have a fulfilling career in real estate. You might give that dream a 5. This is your test. Although it’s subjective, it represents your life and your level of contentment with your dreams.

3. Go back and add up your dream scores from questions 1 and 2.

4. Repeat the exercise, but instead of listing childhood dreams, list your current financial dreams for your future and/or your family’s. For example, buying a house, helping third-world children, putting your kids through college with minimal debt, building an adequate retirement fund, going to Paris, having a zero balance on all your credit cards, being in a position to help others in need. You get the idea.

5. If you can, put a “dreams come true” ranking next to your current dreams using the same scale as in question 2, but base it on how likely you think it is that your current dreams will come true.

Quiz Results

In step 3, you added your scores for the dreams of your youth. See below to determine where you are with those.

25 points or less: You’ve had a severely average life as opposed to the life you dreamed of having as a child. Or maybe you just had a very creative imagination and dreamed of becoming a dinosaur—talk about an impossible dream(unless you’re an archaeologist and you dig up dinosaurs, thus finding fulfillment by working in the same category of that childhood dream).

Another interpretation of this score can indicate an absence of exposure to key elements in your life. For example, maybe your family didn’t value education, so you didn’t have educational dreams. Consequently, you’ve either had to made adjustments and become a better person in the process of some dream-shattering realities, or you may have given up on the whole idea of dreaming and emptied your pockets of hope.

26–35 points: Either you weren’t very imaginative as a child and didn’t day dream about life in the future, or you had an above average culmination of your dreams coming true. This score could also indicate that you were purposeful and realistic in ways to make your dreams come true, even though you fell short of the youthful version of yourself. It might be that you’ve had some challenging life-changing events, but you’ve recovered from them enough to be able to take the second chance this world has given you.

36–45 points: You might be a lot like my husband, Bob, whose dad took him to a Blue Angels air show when he was a child. After the show Bob told his dad, “When I grow up I want to fly those jets with the funny noses.” He grew up to fly the F-4 Phantom, the same jet he saw at the air show. You have had most of your dreams come true and/or you’ve been very satisfied with a different interpretation of your childhood dream. Even if your real dream came true almost exactly the way you imagined it, you still may not be content, because contentment is often a choice. But it appears you have had every opportunity to be satisfied with the results of your childhood dreams.

45–50 points: You might be one of those people we know as someone who is “living the dream.” You were prescient or intuitive as a child, and it seems you followed your passions to see these dreams to fulfillment. Very few people can say that they’ve had most of their dreams come true, but you are one of that minority. With great privilege comes great responsibility, so you are now in a position to help others set goals and make their dreams come true. You can’t do everything for others, but you can help and give them hope. Congratulations on living the dream.

In step 5, you were to rank how likely you believe your new dreams will come true. This exercise measures the realistic nature of your goals and expectations as well as your optimism about your future. So add up those results and then go back and read the result descriptions above to see what areas may need to be adjusted in order to set yourself up for success in your financial life.

Boundaries for the 60-Minute Money Workout

As we prepare for the workout, it’s important to establish boundaries and do a little mental preparation as well. Some of the workouts in this book will be done alone, but other chapters will involve your mate, an accountability partner, or your family. The guidelines, however, are the same whether there’s one or ten people involved. Here are some boundaries to keep in mind:

No condescension or negativity. Don’t talk down to anyone who’s involved in the process, and if you’re alone, do not allow your mind to entertain any negative self-talk. It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed in the past, lack knowledge about certain aspects of finances, or have a bad self-image. For one hour, you are going to be focused on learning, keeping a positive mind-set, and making progress in the workout. In fact, that’s why it’s called a “workout,” because you are working out some of these things in your life to have a positive result.

No interrupting others when they are talking. If you have trouble with interrupting others, then sit on your hands. It will serve as a reminder that you are to listen in an active manner and not spend the time thinking about what you’re going to say next. If sitting on your hands fails to keep you from interrupting, then get a tennis ball and pass it back and forth. If the ball isn’t in your hands, then your lips should be still. And if you are talking and the other person starts to interrupt, just wave the ball and smile.

No name-calling. For one hour you are going to be part of the southern genteel class, an aristocrat born and bred with good manners. For a measly hour, you’re going to say nice things and not throw around labels.

No throwing food. Okay, this may seem like a funny and random boundary—it is. During my husband’s military service, a formal dinner could turn into a food fight if one wayward roll got out of control. So if you are prone to this kind of behavior, then maybe you shouldn’t do your money workouts over a meal.

If you truly have a problem with throwing golf clubs or Scrabble boards when you are frustrated, then you will need to do your money workouts with another mature person (or couple) or even a professional counselor.

Begin each workout by saying one positive thing. Most of us have negative self-talk tapes that run through our heads, and sometimes we just need to destroy those. I haven’t ever been able to stick to a budget. You’re such an idiot, how can you possibly get it together at your age? These are trash talk negative statements that should be thrown out. Instead, tell yourself something positive about yourself. Or tell your partner one positive thing that you like about him or her. It will be more beneficial if these positive things are financially related, such as, “You have a good work ethic” or “You really saved a lot when you bought that new notebook after shopping around.”

End each workout by saying one positive thing. You started on a positive note, and now you’re going to end on a positive note. If your positive statement can relate to the workout, that would be ideal. For example, “I didn’t quit. I stayed and finished the entire thing.” Or if you’re talking to another family member, “You really did a great job of listening, and I appreciate that you didn’t interrupt.”

Create an environment that encourages comfort and success. If you hate Mondays, then maybe you shouldn’t make Monday your money workout day. You want your workout to be set up for success, which means you should do it at a time when you feel rested, the kids are not underfoot, and you are in a place that is conducive to conversation. Part of this boundary point is to put this money workout on your calendar at a time and in a place that promotes a relaxed yet purposeful atmosphere.

Gather workout folders. One major positive about these money workouts is that you don’t have to purchase any journals, financial kits, or other expensive materials to make this work for you. The basic supplies you need are minimal and inexpensive. You will need to invest in a dozen pocket folders from a local office supply store (less than $10) and label them for the different workouts. For example, if you are working on a spending plan, then when you are finished for the hour, you can place the notes you made into the folder and later easily pick up where you left off.

Keeping your working materials separate also allows you to put other related materials into the folders and keep them organized, which makes your workouts easier. For example, if there’s a new Web site you want to check out for “The 60-Minute Travel and Fun Guide Workout,” then throw it into the appropriate pocket folder, and you’ll have it at the ready when you need it. If you have a college scholarship application you want to help your student complete, then place it in “The 60-Minute College Plan Workout” folder. This is all very low tech and simple.

Have a timer on hand. You need to stick to the times listed, even if you’re “on a roll” and want to keep going beyond the hour. Do not go overtime. It’s the same as a too-long workout at the beginning of a physical fitness routine. An extended workout will do you in and make you sore the next day, and a workout marathon defeats the purpose of the exercise. If your “money talks” have an established start time and a set finish time, they are going to be a lot less painful. Realize that you won’t get all the problems solved in just one hour. That’s okay. You still will make progress in that hour. Then you can come back to it and either make a little more progress or finish it. Part of the benefit of The 60-Minute Money Workout is that you’ll make the best, most productive use of those sixty minutes. A set hour is a wonderful motivation to stay on topic and move through each section quickly, without getting bogged down by any of the negatives listed above in the boundaries section. The regular part of the workout will keep you busy enough, because there’s no time for squabbling, condescension, or negativity.

The 60-Minute Money Workout

This is how the sixty-minute money workout works: every chapter has a different goal for the workout, such as retirement planning, vacation trips, or paying down consumer debt. You will have a timer and specific materials for each workout (such as calculators, Internet access, bills, etc.).The prep work for each exercise will list the materials you need. At the end of each chapter, you will find a tip sheet that will serve as an outline when you have the weekly topical workouts.

As with a physical workout, the keys to your success are consistency and intensity. For this workout to facilitate the miraculous in your life and revolutionize your finances, you have to practice it regularly (at least once a week) and you have to abide by the boundaries. So let’s get started.

Pick the goal you want to work on. Then grab a timer. You can set it for one hour and watch the time for each section. Or you can set the timer for the minutes available in each section, and when it goes off, it’s time to move on to the next section.

Here is how the times are broken down and what you do within each section.

1. Make-Up-Your-Mind Warm up (5 minutes)

This part of the exercise is listed in the boundary section as “Begin each workout by saying one positive thing.” There’s a proverb that says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” This is where you are going to begin to get focused on good things. If you are alone, then you will begin by closing your eyes and breathing deeply to relax your body and to get rid of any distracting thoughts from a busy day. If you are in the habit of praying, this would be a good time to meditate in order to think about what you want to accomplish during the next hour.

If you are with a family member or your mate, begin by saying something positive to him. For example, you could take your spouse’s hands, look into his eyes, and say something affirming. Then you will make a commitment to work on the issue in the session in order to get back into good financial shape. For example, “During this hour I want to work on a plan to have a debt-free vacation for our family.”

2. Strength Training (10 minutes)

It usually takes more than one mistake or circumstance to get into financial trouble. Whether you are working out alone or with someone else, you need to realize that this is the part of the workout where you move from being a victim of your choices or circumstances to taking the necessary steps toward having victory over them.

While step 1 was to start with affirming words and a commitment to work on your money topic, this section is a time to write down your goals so that you will have a tangible and objective standard to work toward. This gives both of you a temporary focus for today and a long-term focus for the next few months, as well as a big-picture view for the future.

Your goals will depend on your topic of the day. For example, if you are discussing a budget, your goals might include (a) setting up a budget that is real and workable, (b) staying on that budget for the next six months in order to learn how to spend less than what you make, and (c) establishing a budget habit that is a financial vehicle that will get your family out of consumer debt, help you pay for your kids’ college, and fund your retirement. Each chapter will guide you specifically through each section of the workout.

This is also the time for you to jot down any obstacles that have come up in the past and to plan how you can overcome them. For example, you may want to budget, but you keep going off budget, which is an obstacle. You could add, “Have accountability about budget” as a means of overcoming that obstacle. Or you could write, “Review budget monthly to stay on task.”

3. Cardio Burn (20 minutes)

In this step, you give feet to your goals. Basically, underneath where you wrote out your goals in step 2, you will write down the steps involved in how you plan to get there from where you are now as well as delegate who is going to be responsible for what, specifically. For example, if you’re setting up a budget, write down the specifics of what your budget needs to include, how you plan to implement your budget, and how often you’ll check in on your progress toward this goal. This may not seem like a lot of time to do all this during this section, but realize that you may not accomplish your goal during your first workout.

You can also carry the work from this section over to the next section— if you don’t have extra work to do in the next session. The key is to keep your discussion moving and to work on what you can. Whatever you don’t finish, you can get to the next time around. There are tools for every chapter in the “Tool Center” link on my Web site,

Discuss and work on a plan for your topic of the day. Yes, this section and the next are the two hardest sections, but they are also the “fat burning” phases where you get the most benefit. When you write down the step-by-step plan for your topic, make sure your approach is realistic, and be sure to give and take when it comes to discussing this topic with your mate.

If you find the discussion stalls or otherwise gets bogged down, then you may want to table a particular point and get back to it later, or you may even need to agree to disagree.

4. Take Your Heart Rate (20 minutes)

This is the point where you do any of the specific work after you’ve written out the step-by-step plan from the previous section. It’s also a time to crunch the numbers and fill in the details (facts and figures) on any tools or work sheets you are using. For example, if you need to get the facts on your credit and debt information, this would be the time to do it. That means you may need to have a computer and Internet access. Don’t worry about the specifics now; this chapter is just an overview of how the program works. Each chapter will list the specifics of what you will need to do for this section. The examples I use here are just to familiarize you with the concept.

If your topic concerns credit and debt, then this would be the time to order a free copy of your credit report at Or if the workout is about saving money, you could use this time to set up an automatic allotment from your paycheck or from your checking to savings accounts. If your plan for the day is debt reduction, you may decide to cut up all but two or three credit cards and cancel some of your open credit accounts (be sure to cancel the most recent cards first and keep the cards you’ve had for five years or longer in order to maintain the longevity part of your FICO—Fair Isaac credit score).

Don’t procrastinate. Do this during this “work” part of the workout. This will help minimize the temptation to procrastinate on the practical aspects of your workout and also keep you on track with your goal for the day. If you don’t have any outside work to do during this time, then feel free to expand your discussion from step 3 in order to reach closure on your topic of the day.

5. Congratulations Cool Down (5 minutes)

Sit back and grab a glass of something cool to drink and reflect on all you’ve accomplished in just one hour! You started on a positive note, and you’re going to end on a positive one as well. If this is an individual workout, tell yourself something that is truthful and encouraging. For example, “I finished the first hour, and if I continue to do this workout, I will master this topic.”

If you are working out with someone else, then take this time to tell your partner one thing that you appreciate about today’s workout to end the discussion on a positive note. For example, you can say, “I noticed you gave my ideas a lot of respect. I appreciate that.” Or, “When I got upset and started to cry, I appreciate the way you weren’t condescending. Thank you.”

Keep in mind that just as you don’t get physically buff after one workout, your finances aren’t going to be in perfect shape after this first effort either. So during this step you will set the topic and the time for your next workout. Maybe you’ll have a continuation of today’s workout, or maybe you’ll look at a new area. Whatever the case, decide what you’re going to cover next time and put it in writing. After you and your mate have exercised with this money workout a half dozen times, you’ll find yourself stronger, smarter, and sweeter.

Tip Sheet

At the end of every chapter is a “Workout Tip Sheet” that you have on hand to help facilitate the workout and keep it flowing, without wasting time to look back and forth in the chapter. Here’s a sample Workout Tip Sheet.

1. Make-Up-Your-Mind Warm up (5 minutes)

• Say something positive.

• Commit to work on the topic.

2. Strength Training (10 minutes)

• Write down realistic short-term and long-term goals.

• List means of overcoming obstacles.

3. Cardio Burn (20 minutes)

• List specific steps to accomplish each goal and delegate


• Research topical tools at

4. Take Your Heart Rate (20 minutes)

• Implement work on each specific step.

• Fill in facts and figures.

5. Congratulations Cool Down (5 minutes)

• Say something positive.

• Set topic for next workout.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas - featuring Margaret Mcsweeney

Hello - I'm thrilled to announce the 2nd Annual 12 Pearls of Christmas! We've lined up several authors to share their Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along beginning today (Monday the 13th) through Christmas day as Melody Carlson, Lauraine Snelling, Rachel Hauck, Tricia Goyer, Maureen Lang, and more share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post or any of the following 12 Pearls of Christmas posts (on any of the participating posts) to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! You may enter once a day. The winner will be announced on New Year's Day! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.


Pearls of Patience

by Margaret Mcsweeney

As I write by the light of my Christmas tree on a late winter’s night, I reflect upon the poignancy and purpose of this season. The tiny white lights look like strands of pearls draped gracefully (perhaps haphazardly is a more honest description) across the evergreen boughs. Tomorrow I will hang the ornaments and at last place the angel atop the tree

Angels carry a special meaning this Christmas. My brother, Randy passed away on December 2nd from a heart attack at age 53. He was feeding a stray cat on his side porch. Randy was always like St. Francis of Asissi – animals would find him, sensing a kind soul. And my brother was a gentle and patient soul. He loved to fish. He tried to teach me, but I immediately lost interest when I realized worms were involved. And I could never sit still on the banks of a river and just wait. However, Randy could do that. He could wait, and waiting is a true gift. He put into practice the Scriptures. “Wait upon the Lord.” “Be still and know that He is God.” Patience doesn’t have to be passive. Wait is still an action verb. Part of the waiting process for fishing is seeking. Elaine (Randy’s wife of 31 years) told me that Randy said he could see the fish deep beneath the waters. He actively waited for the right time to catch them.

During Randy’s last fishing trip on earth – just a week before his death, he felt an urgency to take a picture of the clouds with his cell phone. When he returned home, he showed the picture to Elaine. They realized that a face of an angel was looking at Randy from the sky – perhaps waiting for God’s timing to bring Randy home to heaven. In my heart I like to think that this “angel in the sky” was part of the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds over two thousand years ago. A Christmas Angel.

The Christmas Angels brought tidings of great joy that Jesus, our Lord and Savior was born. And because of that incredible gift from God that these angels announced, we all have the promise of eternity. Let us actively wait for His return by sharing our faith, offering hope and acting with love in everything we do.

May each of you be blessed this Christmas as you celebrate the purposeful promises of the Season: Faith, hope and love. And may the 12 Pearls of Christmas be a blessing to you, too.


About Margaret: Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs. After earning a master's degree in international business from the University of South Carolina, Margaret moved to New York City to work at a large bank where she met David. Charity and community involvement are very important to Margaret. She is the founder and director of Pearl Girls. For more information please visit Margaret is fast at work on several fiction manuscripts and her book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace was written to help fund the Pearl Girl Charities. Connect with Margaret on Facebook or Twitter.


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

INSPY Winners Announced!!

INSPY Winners Announced

December 13, 2010—The INSPY Advisory Board announced today that the following books have been awarded the inaugural INSPYs in their categories. Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs — — were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.

The INSPY Award winners are:

Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes, General & Literary Fiction (Tyndale House)

Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans, Creative Nonfiction (Zondervan)

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell, Historical Fiction (Bethany House)

The Knight by Steven James, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction (Revell)

Green by Ted Dekker, Speculative Fiction (Thomas Nelson)

Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman, Amish Fiction (Thomas Nelson)

Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren, Romance/Romantic Suspense (Summerside)

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, Young Adult Fiction (Little, Brown)

The 2010 INSPY Awards cover books published from July 2009 through June 2010.

"We on the Advisory Board are really pleased with this year's winners," said Amy Riley, who spearheaded the INSPY's creation. "We're looking forward to building on this year's success in the future." The winner in each category was collectively chosen by a panel of blogger-judges, who were working from a short list of five books.

The Advisory Board collectively expressed their appreciation for the volunteer judges. "We really want to thank our judges for all their time and hard work," Riley said.

The judges in each category explained why they chose the winner they did:

• "Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes focuses on issues we all must face, such as life, death, relationships, and the choices we make when faced with our mortality.… Holmes leaves her characters flawed and human, which makes them extremely relatable."

• In Evolving in Monkey Town, "[Rachel Held] Evans' honesty in telling her faith journey impressed us along with how much her love of the Lord imbued the entire narrative. Interweaving her own tale with the views of people she meets, Evans juxtaposes all of the voices about God in her life."

• In She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell, "a steadfast faith is embedded into the plot seamlessly and not, instead, centered out as a forceful plot device. The novel's inspirational resonance will reach Christian and non-Christian readers alike."

• "The literary skill employed by Steven James creates a story" — The Knight — "that steals the reader’s sleep while also stealing their breath. Creating an unforgettable set of characters who face an unimaginable and escalating series of terrifying crimes, James captures both the imagination and heart of the reader as he spins his tale."

• "The brilliance of Green by Ted Dekker is the fact that it is both the beginning and the end of the series. He did something completely unexpected with the ending of his book, while tackling the Christian faith from a different angle."

• Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman "is perfect for people who have never read Amish fiction before. The story line was interesting and it was easy to get involved with the characters. This book dealt with subject matter not normally found in Amish fiction, which made it a refreshing change."

• "Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren is an epic story that spans a couple decades and takes place on several continents. Warren took us from the Greek Isles to Prohibition-era Chicago, and back again, with enough description to make us feel like we'd lived in both places; she filled the book with rich detail, multi-layered characters, and plot twists we never saw coming."

In Once Was Lost Sara Zarr "authentically portrays Sam, a pastor’s daughter, grappling with her faith in the midst of personal upheaval and uncertainty. Teens will relate to this excellent and very real book that goes beyond a surface-level exploration of what it means to follow God."

The innovative INSPY Award is designed to help readers in their search for the preeminent faith-inspired literature of today. The INSPYs were created to select and showcase books with the highest literary standards that grapple with the Christian faith. To find these works, the INSPYs net is cast wide, accepting nominations of books aimed at the Christian bookstore market as well as those from the general market.


Hannah Nielsen,


Topkapi Secret by Terry Kelhawk - a brief review

About the Book (from the publisher)
A fourteen hundred year old cover-up…
All who threaten this secret die…
A race through the Middle East to uncover evidence buried in plain sight

Cultures clash and emotions soar as Arab researcher Mohammed Atareek and American professor Angela Hall race away from death towards discovery. Will they succeed in their journey to expose the truth, or will the opposition terminate them first?

On display within the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul lies the Topkapi Codex—an ancient manuscript of the Koran involved in the murder that split Shiite from Sunni. What’s the truth about the Topkapi Codex? Is there blood on it? Are its contents the same as the modern Koran’s? No one knows because the Topkapi Codex is off limits to research.

Mohammed Atareek is obsessed with getting his hands on this mysterious manuscript. His research has convinced him that the Koran has been changed many times, and the text of the famous codex could prove it. But other scholars are turning up dead. Did they share his conviction? Should he expose himself to their risk?

Angela, a UC Berkeley English professor, married money and kept it; but lost the marriage, most of her family, and a friend under traumatic circumstances. On top of that, she makes a career move that puts her in the Middle East and in Mohammed’s path. His overconfident, witty, and impulsive personality is both puzzling and refreshing to Angela. But when Mohammed tries to engage her in his quest, he finds she has an agenda of her own. Cat and mouse games, heated discussions, and sparks of romance inevitably ensue.

Based on solid historical research, this exciting debut novel features a page-turning plot, a startling conclusion, and many eye-opening facts about the origins of the Koran.

About The Author:

Terry Kelhawk is an award-wining speaker, writer, and teacher with significant personal and professional experience with Islam and the Middle East.

In Terry’s words, “I love peoples and cultures. We have so much to learn from each other, and this makes the world a richer place. Yet when I come across a misunderstanding or deception which adversely impacts a culture or people group, for the sake of those people I believe it should be exposed.”

Terry Kelhawk holds a doctorate degree, but believes people should keep on learning through life. Her areas of interest are culture, religion, and women’s rights – especially of Middle East. She blogs on,, and, and likes travel, reading, and asking questions.

Terry believes we should, as Honey Jean of Atlanta in The Topkapi Secret would say, “Make the world a better place, or y’all just taking up space!”

My Thoughts:

Let me begin by saying that this book is not my normal fare. Actually, I failed to notice some of the disclaimers on the announcement for this tour. That said, I found this book to be written in a style that was very, very distracting. Each chapter began with the location of the action and the date on which it was occurring. Good thing, because the chapters ranged in length from one page (there were several of these little disrupters) to six to ten pages. None of the chapters were very long, which is not bad in itself, but most were 1-5 pages and they blurted out some piece of information that sometimes felt very unnecessary, and then moved on to some other place and time. I read one chapter and all in the world I learned that had anything to do with the plot was that the guy outran (outrode actually) a bull! (don’t ask!) This author could have told a much more effective story without so many short chapters.

That said, this story deals with the pursuit of the truth about the publication of the Koran. I’m sure I can’t begin to understand the significance of that fact in the grand scope of the Muslim faith. I understand the danger involved because of the main character’s occupation and the fact that there are those who want the secret kept, but overall, I did not find this to be a compelling tale. The conversations were stilted, a lot of the historic background read like a textbook, and poor old Mohammed couldn’t decide whether to say ‘sister’ or ‘seester’. This story needed a good editor.

And, there was some foul language that could have skillfully been avoided when the author portrayed an abusive character. But, this is not a Christian publishing house, so I guess anything goes. The overall premise of the story is good, but the skill with which it is told leaves a lot to be desired.