Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Faith to Die For by Mark Geppert - 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:

Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Geppert is president and founder of the South East Asia Prayer Center. He teaches seminars on prayer walking, micro-economic kingdom business principles, and team building to leaders in Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe, as well as throughout the U.S. He is known as a “master communicator” through his work in radio and television. Mark has worked in over 30 countries and has authored four books. Ordained through Elim Fellowship of Rochester, New York, he has served on the staff of several churches in the U.S. and has most recently established and pastored the English-speaking congregation of the Church of Singapore (Bukit Timah).

Visit the author's website.


My Thoughts:
The problem with the multitudes is that they can be directed and affected by a very small group of extremists.  Hatred grows in hungry bellies.  It spreads its ruinous roots until murder and suicide become viable options to people who are hopelessly bound to the life-sucking system.” (p. 23)

The multitude is looking for hope.  Whether they gather in stadiums or in public lands, whether they walk across parched deserts or sail across shark infested waters, they search for hope.  They want to believe that their leaders are telling them the truth, and they are willing to die to provide hope to their children.”  (p. 30)

The premise of this book is clear from the very beginning. The author shares episodes from his life that proclaim the life-transforming truth given to believers in a true God.  It doesn’t matter what they believe, what they claim to believe or what their life circumstances are at the time, when they encounter God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ their lives are completely, unmistakably and forever transformed! Mark Geppert nearly died sharing that truth multiple times, but he did so with the peace that passes understanding.

Geppert shares the truth with Muslim extremists (a VERY small percentage of those practicing that faith), and, in the end winds up in a situation that cases him to state: “I was ready to go.  All issues resolved.  Peace in my heart.  Absent of fear.  I was ready to see Jesus…I was ready.  He was there, just as He had promised He would be.”  (p.153)  The end result?  You will have to read the book to receive that particular blessing! And it is a blessing that will cause you to rejoice and bolster you own faith in a True and Living God!!

As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we find Him to be the Giver of faith, the Giver of hope, and the Giver of love.  The prices we pay pale in the glory we will see as we follow faithfully in His footsteps."

 (p. 165)

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“He stood and looked at us. The weapon was hot and heavy in his hand as he lowered the barrel toward us. His face was streaked with sweat and dirt; his eyes were filled with the sights of combat. He stared at me and asked, ‘Are you Mr. Mark?’”

How can you face death squarely with an absolute absence of fear? You can if you have hope. You can if you have traveled from Guatemala to Kiev to Beijing and seen God restoring hope in the midst of hopeless situations. Recounting his action-packed, journey from captivity in Indonesia, to freedom, Mark Geppert reveals the reality of knowing a God who neither fails nor abandons him. Many who have read A Faith to Die For  compare it to an action spy thriller. The big difference is that Mark’s story is true. He believes he lived to tell it not for personal glory, but to encourage others to welcome God’s intimate involvement into their daily lives and watch Him transform the mundane into the miraculous!



Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603748911
ISBN-13: 978-1603748919


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“What Do You Want from Us?”
“What do you want from us? Do you want to convert us all? Do you want us to be your slaves forever? What do you want from us?”
If hatred had a face, it would have been his—turban askew, eyes aflame, mouth spewing the red-hot lava of “jihad jargon.” Only the steel bars of the jailhouse window kept us from being consumed by this molten fury.
It was a terrible day in paradise. The gentle breezes of the Indian Ocean and Malacca Strait could not quench the fire. If he had been free, this Indonesian imam would gladly have done Allah a favor and killed an American Christian. His rage was the result of a lifetime of being forced to serve ExxonMobil executives and sleep in a one-room wooden coop, while they danced the night away in high fashion. His people had waited hand and foot on elite Dutch and Americans while the Javanese government collected the few crumbs falling from Aceh’s tilted table.
Finally, he and the multitude he served had captured three of the oppressors, as well as their Chinese friend. Justice would be served, if only for one torrid afternoon.
USA Today reported that it was a group of missionaries who “ran to the police station for help when faced with the mob.” The Jakarta Post said it was “another unfortunate incident of Muslim/Christian conflict.” While most of the world sat at their breakfast tables, turning the pages of these newspapers while sipping their juice and coffee, a group of people in Aceh, North Sumatra, expressed its indignation at the injustice of what had become an international incident. The events that transpired in March 1999 were just the tip of the iceberg, eventually escalating into larger events that would polarize the world.
We had come to the town that morning in our desire to pray for the Indonesian province of Aceh. A day’s journey north of the provincial border, the little town of Perlak is the last police post before a stretch of highway feared by police and freedom fighters alike—a location of mass graves. This stretch of land is one that military personnel do not dare to travel during the night. It is the place where seeds of rhetoric grow into large armies of youth that are ready to blow themselves up for militant ideologies. It is a recruiting ground for extremists, a place where boys become men before they can shave, and where families send their young sons to fight holy wars against the infidels.
We arrived on a beautiful, calm, peaceful March morning, and looked forward to reaching Banda Aceh, which had some of the best scuba diving in the world, beyond the checkpoint. Our hired driver felt that he could make our journey more comfortable by stopping to have a bite to eat before going on the road again. He parked in a central area, and we agreed to go to the market and then venture on to the police station so we could register and be on our way, within the hour. We decided to pair off in twos so that we could experience the quiet little town with another person and share what we had found with each other.
A secondary school had dismissed for lunch and Friday prayers, and we found ourselves in the midst of hundreds of teenagers who wanted to practice their English. Happy to oblige, we haltingly entered into conversation about the NBA and other American topics that interested the youth. The young people were the same ages as our sons and daughters. It was fun to learn how they lived, what they thought about, what they studied, and what they thought was funny. It was a real joy to be accepted by these young people.
It was not long before they had noticed the books we had in the car, and we gladly gave a few to them. Finding that these books were written in their mother tongue of Acehnese, they became very interested. Soon, we had handed out five hundred books and ninety cassette tapes to the teenagers. It had taken about forty-five minutes to do so, and the parents started to call the young people, warning them not to be late for prayers.
In these villages, the mosque was central to the people’s lives. Although they had the freedom to choose their religion, there was a civic pressure to abide by Muslim traditions. The farther away one lived from the capital, the stronger the civic pressure was. As a result, the children’s delay in reporting directly to the mosque after school was not strictly their parents’ concern; therefore, with apology, the students moved along quickly. They got to the mosque at about the same time we arrived at the police station.
Our driver met us at the station. He had to show the officers his appropriate licenses because he had worked for a company in another state and had registered his vehicle there. The police officers were professionally cordial and more than a bit interested in the books and tapes we had brought along.
None of us read the language or spoke it, and so we seized upon the officials’ offer to translate the message we carried. They found a tape player and started to play our cassettes. We listened together to the Christian message and soon realized that it was the gospel of Luke and the book of the Acts from the Bible. Not illegal in Indonesia, the gospel message did not set off any alarms with the police. They did caution us, however, about the strong Islamic culture in the area and suggested that we use discretion when sharing the material. We assured them that there was no problem, because the young people had already exhausted our supply. After all, we just wanted to pass through this area to the beautiful city several hours ahead.
Then we were invited into the police station so that they could make a record of our papers and call the station to which we were headed, to give them a departure time and an estimated time of arrival. We were shown to a comfortable room in the back left of the police station, where we were offered cool drinks and made comfortable while a clerk recorded our passport and visa information. The Indonesian police were very professional, thorough, and hospitable. Soon, we found out that they were also well-tempered and very loyal to their guests. They made calls to ensure that our travels would be safe. We really enjoyed the good humor of our newfound friends, along with the conversations about basketball, the World Wrestling Federation, and the recent heavyweight title champion.
Then conflict crashed against the windows. “You mother __________! What do you want from us?” Not quite the material from Conversations in English, Tape 3. A thrown bottle accompanied the shout, breaking the window and sending shards of glass throughout the room.
The police quickly pushed us into a hallway for cover and began to reprimand the man at the window. We checked each other for glass and, after finding everyone to be all right, took up a safe place in a cell at the end of the hallway. This would be our shelter for the next five hours, the time it took a very unhappy group of Muslims to vent their hatred, anger, and frustration to their fellow Muslims who protected us (a hapless group that was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time). We were in the midst of a civil war, with roots that ran too deep for any Westerner to fully understand.
In response to our question, “What do they want?” the police officer replied, “You, dead.”
***
“Multitudes” form when reason can no longer be found. They live in tent cities in the Sudan or gather on hillsides in Palestine. Multitudes lend their force of numbers to any cause. They can be built on a common fear or a common need. They gather in the deserts of Arizona for the annual Burning Man Festival, a celebration of hedonism. They gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for many different causes. They gather at Tiananmen Square or Trafalgar Square or any other square that accommodates them. They march for causes related to the environment; globalization; abortion; political positions; academic freedom; funding for the research and treatment of disease, such as HIV/AIDS; and common needs, like food and clothing.
Many of them are harmless. They wait for trains, escape heavy rains, and attend sporting events. They walk through deserts to find water. They sell their possessions and carry few necessities on their backs to flee conflict. They search for their basic needs.
When a multitude forms, leaders ask, “What do they want?”
Of the multitudes of Cherokee Indians, who began to move west from the Appalachian Mountains, the leaders said, “Do not worry; they will never survive the winter.” When multitudes of people were herded onto train cars to be destroyed by fascism, it was said, “They are an inferior race; we are doing the world a favor to eliminate them.” When multitudes of people fled Atlanta in the face of Sherman’s March to the Sea, it was said, “Do not be afraid; the South shall rise again.”
The problem with the multitudes is that they can be directed and affected by a very small group of extremists. Hatred grows in hungry bellies. It spreads its ruinous roots until murder and suicide become viable options to people who are hopelessly bound to the life-sucking system. A multitude, once in motion, is an irrevocable force that meets the government’s immovable hand. Once it swells in the streets and gets a taste of forbidden power, it mutates into a mob that is viewed as a mutiny. Mutiny must be dealt with at all costs, so brothers take up arms against brothers; nations stand against nations. Eventually, people begin to kill each other.
What every mass murderer needs to be successful is a multitude that will follow his or her lead. It makes little difference whether these followers are disciplined and in uniform or undisciplined and blowing themselves up. They are a multitude. They want a slice of the pie; a crumb from the table; the freedom to farm; the right to have a child or to receive an education.
The multitude is not mindless, as some are led to think. It bows down to the one it thinks can give it a better life. It commits to the leader who promises change and reform, because it hopes he or she will be different. It wants to believe that its morsel will become a loaf of bread if it pays the price. And when it begins to appear that it has been used, again, it begins to hope for a better future for its children.
***
Would Aceh Province of North Sumatra, Indonesia, be any better if it were governed by Islamic law? Would the rice grow taller? Would the fish return to the Straits of Malacca in abundance, as they did in times past? Would passages to the Straits be free of pirates? Would the profit of ExxonMobil be shared with every home? This multitude, fueled by the rhetoric of a young man instructed in Arabia and armed by money from a man found in a hole in the earth, believes with all its humble heart that the answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”
When faced with the first messenger of this multitude, we were frightened to the core. There had been many other multitudes, in other countries, for other causes, but the heat of this fire, in particular, found fodder in our hearts. We could hear the multitude milling about the station. They threw rocks on the roof and bottles at the walls and windows. They chanted and cursed in English and Indonesian. They broke windows and cried out what they would do to us and to those who protected us.
The euphemistic phrase they used again and again was this: “The situation has escalated.” Across from me in the cell was the “Banker,” a three-time Golden Gloves boxing champion of the State of New York. With a black belt in several martial arts, and being no stranger to violent situations, he simply smiled. “Stay calm; this is a Level 4. The police will wait until they calm down. Stay away from the windows. Be still. Do not worry; the police know what to do.”
I glanced at the “Doctor,” a mild-mannered man who was also a close friend of mine. He smiled back. I am sure he was thinking of the other situations we had been through together. But the veins on his forehead looked like they would burst at any moment.
The Asians were calm, poised. They had lived with jihad for decades and knew how to ride out the storm.
I decided to think through past experiences with multitudes. Taking the Banker’s advice, I sat down to quietly wait it out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Raw Edges by Sandra D. Bricker - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Raw Edge
Abingdon Press (September 17, 2013)
by
Sandra D. Bricker


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The Big 5-OH! was released by Abingdon Press in the Spring of 2010, and the novel was very well-received, garnering a couple of nibbles from Hollywood.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride was released by Abingdon Press in September 2010. With its phenomenal reviews, the novel spawned a series of three more books based on the popular cast of characters at The Tanglewood Inn, a wedding destination hotel in historic Roswell, Georgia. The series cemented Sandie's spot in publishing as a flagship author of Laugh-Out-Loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.

"Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with my writing dream," says Bricker, "well, that's the best of all worlds, as far as I'm concerned!"

ABOUT THE BOOK

Grayson McDonough has no use for teal ribbons, 5k runs, or ovarian cancer support groups now that his beautiful wife Jenna is gone. But their nine-year-old daughter Sadie seems to need the connection. When Annabelle Curtis, the beautiful cancer survivor organizing the memory quilt project for the Ovacome support group, begins to bring out the silly and fun side of his precious daughter again, Gray must set aside his own grief to support the healing of Sadie’s young heart. But is there hope for Gray’s heart too along the way?





My Thoughts:
“…;kind of like drinking a cocktail mix of joy and regret, with a splash of wonder for added flavor.”
(p. 60)

This is a beautiful expression of the heart of Sandra D. Bricker’s book, Raw Edges.  This story told on the pages of this book actually mirror the story of my own family – how loss opened a door for something far different than what was planned on an earthly plane, but how, almost five decades later, we are able to see God’s handprint over everything.  Raw Edges deals with the ravages of cancer on the lives of all that is touched by its unseen and unexpected hand.  Grayson McDonough and his daughter Sadie have lost a wife and mother, and Annabelle Curtis is a cancer survivor who has lost a fiancĂ© and the hope of having her own family.  These two, along with a precious group of survivors – survivors of many kinds – come together to raise money for cancer research.  What they find as they work on the project, a memorial quilt, is far more than they ever dreamed or expected.

Bricker uses journal entries to tie this story together with threads of love so incredibly personal and precious that your heart will feel its impact long after you reach the final page.  I related to this story on a very personal level, because my own dad was Grayson McDonough in the past.  And I have been blessed to live in the grace God poured into his life many years ago when he faced the loss of his wife and mother to his children.  My family was born out of a very similar situation that Grayson finds himself in, and my own mother was an Annabelle-type character in my dad’s life.  Oh, how I understand the precious, tender raw edges of this story!!  I KNOW God is GOOD no matter what, and that HE is faithful even when we pull away in hurt and doubt. 


Raw Edges is a book that I HIGHLY recommend for EVERYONE!!  It is beautiful and life changing!! Thank you Sandra Bricker for faithfully writing this story.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Raw Edge, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A View from Jordyn Redwood's Window - Peril!!

Jordyn Redwood has written a thrilling trilogy of medical suspense trilogy that is absolutely brimming with intrigue and so many twists and turns that you will most certainly lose a few hours of your day in pursuit of the very satisfying ending that accompanies her stories!  Peril is the final book in the Bloodline Trilogy, and I am very grateful to be able to share some insight from Jordyn about her latest work! 

Please join me and welcome Jordyn Redwood to my Window!  Enjoy the view!

Peril is a word that aptly describes the state of human existence when scientists attempt to play “god” using new technological advances!  The field of neuroscience  - specifically the concept of neurographs – certainly made a very creepy concept to incorporate into fiction!  Or was is fiction?  Tell your readers, how this story was conceived?

Jordyn: There is a lot of anecdotal evidence in medicine of recipients of organs developing tastes and even having some memories that come from their donors. Liking a certain baseball team and even one story about a recipient recalling details of her donor’s murderer. A fascination with that phenomenon became the seed for Peril.

Do we have scientists convinced that they are able to play “god” in their particular area of research?

Jordyn: This is an excellent question and probably hard to answer because I don’t work in research or know individual researchers. I will approach the question this way. If a scientist doesn’t believe in God—then where does he draw his moral and ethical boundaries from? Is anything off limits? Because there are some very scary people, granted on the fringes at this point in time, that advocate for infanticide and some who advocate for unfettered abortions. Late term abortions are not illegal in every state. It’s perplexing to me how we work so hard to save the life of a 24wk infant in the NICU yet—possibly just down the road—aborting these same aged infants.

When the value of a life becomes a point of convenience then society as a whole is in trouble because then it becomes the person in power's opinion of whether or not your life is valuable. 
I found it fascinating that you were able to weave so many different – yet similar – responses to tragedy using many different angles!  How difficult was it to write such an emotionally charged book?


Jordyn: For me, the intensely emotional scenes tend to be difficult to get right on the page because all my other writing (for instance charting at work) is approached in a dry and clinical just-the-facts manner. I do feel like this is an area I have really worked hard at in my writing and probably the biggest growth I've had as an author.

What research was required for you to write about the different stages/responses to grief? (we witness a range of emotions from suicidal thoughts to insane rage and violence).

Jordyn: I did not do specific research in the area of grief. Sadly, my twenty year nursing career gave me plenty of first hand experiences to draw from.

Why does the human heart remain so resistant to accept the truth that we are emotionally needy, and that, without God in our life we do not possess the strength to handle the challenges life lays before us?

Jordyn: Wow, there are a lot of ways to answer this question from an emotional, psychological and theological point of view but I'm going to boil it down to pride which is something I struggle with and Morgan particularly struggles with in Peril. We feel like as humans we are intelligent enough to know and have all the answers and we don't need anyone to "save" us. We can do that fully ourselves. Couple that with a culture that doesn't recognize sinful behavior anymore on many different fronts and I think you have a perfect storm of declining belief in God. 

Do you expect that there will be a reaction to your work regarding the unborn element?  (trying not to give anything away!)

Jordyn: This will be very interesting for me to hear from readers. Will they come away feeling that the whole novel was a pro-life message in disguise and be offended by that? I don't know. This may be one where the reviews are polarized between one and five stars. People may love it or hate it. Thus far-- the reviews have been very positive so I'm worrying a little less.

Peril is the last in a trilogy.  What project is next for you as a writer?  Can you give us a sneak peek?

Jordyn: My agent is submitting a fiction proposal that investigates the near death experience (NDE) phenomenon. Are these experiences purely medical, purely spiritual or a combination of both? Thus far it hasn't been picked up by a publisher but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I am considering self publishing next year so I make sure my readers have something to entertain them until my next traditionally published novel comes out.

What have you learned as you created the Bloodline Trilogy?  How has that impacted your faith?

Jordyn: I've learned a lot just about the craft of writing a novel. I've been so blessed to get to work with some amazing editors who have taken my coal-like rough writing and helped polish it into diamonds. As far as faith-- so many ways. Am I courageous enough in my faith to "fictionalize" some of my deeply held beliefs and put them out there for public consumption? I have seen God's footprints on this writing journey in some amazing ways and the toughness of this journey was definitely worth having those moments.

What words of encouragement would you like to share with your readers?


Jordyn: Whatever your dream is . . . go for it! 

If you want to discover more about Jordyn Redwood and her writing please check HERE!

The Machie by Bill Myers

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:

B&H Kids (September 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bill Myers is an accomplished writer and film director whose work has won more than sixty national and international awards including the C. S. Lewis Honor Award. Among his best-selling
releases for kids are The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle and The Forbidden Door. He has sold more than eight million books and videos and lives with two cats, two kids, one dog, and one
wife near Hollywood, California.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

For ages 10 to 14, Truth Seekers is a fast-paced, thoughtful, and funny new series using a 21st century approach to sharing ancient Bible truths.

In book one, The Machine, twin siblings Jake and Jennifer have just lost their mother and are not thrilled about moving to Israel to stay with their seldom seen archaeologist dad. They don't yet understand how "all things work together for good to those who love God." But they will when a machine their father invented points them to the Truth.


Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Age Range: 10 - 14 years
Series: Truth Seekers
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: B&H Kids (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433690802
ISBN-13: 978-1433690808


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

It was like a dream, but not really. I mean it was a dream but there were parts that seemed so real—besides the parts where Mom had actually died in real life. Does that make sense? I get those every once in a while, dreams that are more real than real, ever since I was a kid.



Anyway, in the dream Mom was driving our SUV up the steep, winding road to our home in Malibu Canyon.



Jake and I were in the back, sitting in our clearly designated seating areas . . .



Jake in his WARNING: Biological Hazard Zone, complete with empty Cheetos bags, crumpled McDonald wrappers (which had last seen action months ago), his wadded up T-shirt and crusty socks (which had last seen a washer longer than that), and don’t even get me started on the last time he shampooed his hair.



I, on the other hand, sat in the WELCOME: This is How Normal People Live Zone, complete with breathable air and a place to sit without catching some deadly disease. (Jake accuses me of being a Neat Freak. Maybe, but it’s better than being a toxic waste site.)



And where was our dear father in all of this? To be honest, he seldom shows up in my dreams—just like he seldom shows up in our real lives. Oh, he says he loves us and all, but what’s the saying? Actions are louder than words. Anyway, I’ll get to him a little later.



It was the same dream I’d had a hundred times before . . .



I was busy doing homework when I glanced up to see a monster truck coming around the corner in our lane.



“Mom!” I shouted. “Look out!”



“What’s that?” She reached over to turn down the radio—one of her silly Country-Western songs about some girl breaking some guy’s heart.



“Up ahead! Look out!”



But she didn’t look out. And, just like all the other times, I saw the truck heading towards us, blasting its horn. I’m guessing his brakes had failed by the way he was scraping along the mountainside to slow himself. A good idea, except the mountainside was on our side!



Mom had nowhere to go. She swerved to the outer lane then tried to turn back, but she’d run out of road. We crashed through the guardrail and sailed out over the can- yon floor, which was a good two hundred feet below. There was no sound. I could see Mom screaming but heard only silence—except for that Country-Western singer going on about his broken heart.



I spun to Jake but he didn’t even glance up. He was too busy playing his stupid computer game. Then, just when the singer reached the line, Why you stompin’ on my achin’ heart with your high heel boots, we hit the water with a huge splash.



And this is where things get interesting . . .

In the real world, on the day Mom died, there was no water at the bottom of the canyon. It was September and the stream had dried up. And while we’re doing a reality check, Jake and I weren’t even in the car that day. Jake had been at the beach being Mr. Cool with a bunch of girls, and I was at home doing my algebra. (I know I’m only seventh grade, but besides being a neat freak, I’m kind of a workaholic.)



But in the dream there was plenty of water and the SUV kept sinking deeper and deeper with all three of us inside. Well, actually four, if you count the Country- Western singer who was now sitting in the front passenger seat, strumming his guitar!



Water poured in and quickly rose.  Mom tried opening her door, but it wouldn’t budge. She hit it with her shoulder over and over again, but the pressure of the water outside was too much. It began swirling around our waists and rising to our chests.



“Jenny,” Mom shouted, “roll down your window!”  “It’ll flood us worse!” I yelled.



“It’s the only way. Roll down your window and swim out!”



“But—”



“Hurry!”



I threw a look to Jake who had conveniently disappeared. (Even in my dreams, he’s a slacker.)

“Hurry!”



I rolled down the window. More water roared in, pounding against my chest and face. I had to turn my head just to breathe. Then I grabbed the sides of the open window with my hands, turned my head away for another quick breath, and pulled myself out into the water.



I kicked and swam until I grabbed the SUV and pulled myself over to Mom’s door. By now the car was completely filled. Our faces were inches apart, separated only by her window.  I yanked at the door handle.  It didn’t budge. I tried again. Nothing. My lungs started aching for air, but I kept pulling and tugging as Mom kept pushing and banging.



Still, nothing.



My heart pounded in my ears. My lungs felt like they were on fire. The outside edges of my vision started going white. Mom pounded on the glass. I joined in and hit the window with my fists.  When that didn’t work, I tucked in my feet, raised my legs and kicked it. Still nothing. My lungs were screaming for air. My vision grew whiter. I had to get a breath. I pointed to the surface and shouted, “I’ll be back!”



She nodded and I pushed off, my lungs ready to explode. Sparkly lights danced through my head. I was losing consciousness, I was going to pass out, I was—



Then I broke through the surface, coughing and gasping. Cool air soothed my lungs as I gulped in two, three, maybe four breaths. I forced my head to clear, then took one more breath and ducked back down into the water.



It was dark and murky but I could follow the bubbles. The SUV had settled to the bottom of the river. When I reached the roof, I pulled myself over to Mom’s side. She wasn’t moving.



“MOM!”



I yanked at the door. I slammed it. I kicked it. I had to get her out. The door gave, ever so slightly. I pulled harder. It moved some more, then it opened with a groaning CREAK.



I grabbed Mom’s arm and pulled, but she was stuck. I spotted her seat belt and reached down to unbuckle it. My lungs were crying out for air again as I pulled her from the car. But we’d barely started before we were jerked to a stop. I  turned  and  saw  that  something  like  a  shadow  had grabbed  her  other  arm.  At first I thought it was the Country-Western singer.  I pulled but it held her tight.  It was like a tug of war game, me on one arm, the shadow man on the other. And the harder I pulled—this was even weirder—but  the  harder  I  pulled,  the  more  he  started turning into this shadowy creature that kept growing bigger and bigger with huge, bat-like wings.



This is a dream, I kept telling myself, this is only a dream!



But my lungs were on fire. My vision was going all white again. This time I would not leave. I’d stay here and die with her if I had to, but I would not leave.



The pounding in my ears grew louder, filling my head . . . along with the song. That’s right, the singer or shadow or whatever it was, had begun singing again. Maybe it had never stopped:



I’ll never let you go . . . you will always be mine . . . always be mine . . . always be mine.



Well, Mr. Shadow could guess again. Dream or no dream, he could not have her.



Always be mine . . . always be mine . . .



My vision was totally white now. My mind shutting down. I could no longer feel my hands or my legs. I knew I was dying, but I would not let go. I loved her too much, I would never let go. The shadow thing may have won, but—



And then I heard a shout. “Augh!”



It sounded like Jake. But that was impossible. What would Jake be doing down here? I heard him again, even louder.



“AUGH!”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Peril by Jordyn Redwood - REVIEWED



About the Book: (from Kregel)
 Dr. Thomas Reeves is at the pinnacle of his career. The Department of Defense has awarded him a lucrative contract for his new research into superior autobiographical memory, which promises the ability to create combat troops able to quickly learn complex battle plans and enact them perfectly under the most demanding battlefield scenarios.

An elite unit has received neural grafts from fetal cadavers of genetically altered brain cells with enhanced NMDA receptors. The results are remarkable . . . until the recipients begin suffering hallucinations, nightmares, paralysis, . . . and death. Dr. Reeves searches for answers, but DOD insiders want him to stop the search.

The situation becomes public when pediatric ICU nurse Morgan Adams, Dr. Reeves’s daughter, is taken hostage by three research subjects in an attempt to force Dr. Reeves into disclosing why they are sick. If answers aren’t revealed within twenty-four hours, patients in the pediatric ICU will be killed.

This spine-tingling conclusion to the Bloodline Trilogy raises spiritual and ethical dilemmas torn directly out of today’s headlines. When does life begin? How far does commitment to family go? And can the sins of the father ever be forgiven?

My Thoughts:
“Was it, in the end, beneficial to sell your soul to the devil for benefits delivered to the flesh?”    (Chapter 21)

The loss of a child, by whatever means, is brutal on those left behind.  Jordyn  Redwood, approaches this loss from several different angles in her latest book, Peril.  At first, the reader is led to assume the traumatic event at the beginning of the story will be the focus.  Then, you are introduced to Morgan and Tyler, and you can almost physically feel the pain of their loss reflected in their marriage.  Next, you are introduced to another physician dealing in the field of neuroscience and you are allowed to witness a totally different type of loss.  None of these losses or tragic events seem related on the surface, but Jordyn Redwood ties these threads of story together in such a way that you will be gasping for air by the end of the story!

It’s been a while since I read such a masterfully told suspense tale!! As the reader, I was drawn into the lives of this cast of characters in such a way that at times, this story was almost too painful to read!  The residual emotional and spiritual fallout in the lives of each family represented in the story is brutal at times!  The clincher is the neuroscience angle!!  You will know fear indeed when you consider that our society is playing on the edge of this field in ways that make Redwood’s story almost plausible!!  Google it!  You’ll see what I’m talking about!!


Peril releases October 1, 2013, so I don’t want to spoil a moment of this terrific book!! Suffice it to say this is a thriller that will keep you up at night!! The relationships are fragile and very real in their struggles.  The scenario that is played out toward the end is very plausible and quite terrifying! Peril is a very taut and satisfying read, and you have much to look forward to!!

About the Author:
Jordyn Redwood has specialized in critical care and emergency nursing for seventeen years. A member of both the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the American Christian Fiction Writers association, Jordyn lives in Colorado. 


Friday, September 20, 2013

Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris - REVIEWED



About the Book: (From Baker Publishing)
She's dedicated her life to ending violence. But has she moved too deep into a treacherous world?
When two Jane Does are killed on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, detective and behavioral specialist Avery North discovers they share something in common--a magnolia tattoo on their shoulders. Suspecting a serial killer, Avery joins forces with medical examiner Jackson Bryant to solve the crimes and prevent another murder. As they venture deep into a sinister criminal world, Avery and Jackson are taken to the very edge of their abilities--and their hearts.

Dangerous Passage exposes a fully realized and frightening world where every layer peeled back reveals more challenges ahead. You'll be hooked from the start.

My Thoughts:
Death is a part of life whether we are ready for it or not.”  (p. 118)

Avery North is a widowed at age twenty-nine and loses her brother in an accident a short time later.  Now, she is investigating the death of two young women and the possibility that those deaths are related.   Death has become a huge part of her life.  Now, there is a medical examiner who wants to offer her a new breath of life in a romantic relationship, and her life begins to feel just a bit crowded.

The process of sorting through death and life is a fascinating trail of escalating tension and growing danger.  The end result is both surprising and very satisfying!!  Lisa Harris really knows her romantic suspense genre and you will not soon forget her characters and the trials that they must face.  You will remain captivated and completely entertained from first page to last! Ultimately, this book sheds light on an area that is both alarming and heartbreaking!  I am so thankful that Christian Fiction is part of the movement that God has placed in motion to call people to action!

I will most certainly be adding Lisa Harris to my list of favorite authors!!  I am so happy to recommend this book to everyone!!

About the Author:
Lisa Harris is an award-winning author with more than 400,000 copies of her works in print. She was a 2011 Christy Award finalist for Blood Ransom and lives in Mozambique together with her husband, Scott, and their three children. Visit her website at www.lisaharriswrites.com.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fired Up by Mary Connealy - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Fired Up
(Bethany House March 1,
by
Mary Connealy


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Christy Award Finalist, a Carol Award Finalist and an IRCC Award finalist.

The Lassoed in Texas Series, Petticoat Ranch, Calico Canyon and Gingham Mountain. Petticoat Ranch was a Carol Award Finalist. Calico Canyon was a Christy Award Finalist and a Carol Award Finalist. These three books are now contained in one large volume called Lassoed in Texas Trilogy.

The Montana Marriages Series, Montana Rose, The Husband Tree and Wildflower Bride. Montana Rose was a Carol Award Finalist.

Cowboy Christmas—the 2010 Carol Award for Best Long Historical Romance, and an Inspirational Readers Choice Contest Finalist.

The Sophie's Daughters series. Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats, Sharpshooter in Petticoats.

She is also the author of; Black Hills Blessing a 3-in-1 collection of sweet contemporary romances, Nosy in Nebraska, a 3-in-1 collection of cozy romantic mysteries and she's one of the three authors contributing to Alaska Brides with her Carol Award Winning historical romance Golden Days.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Rollicking Wild West Adventure and Romance from Bestselling Author Mary Connealy

Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can't let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he's trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.

Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she's determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she's terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner--never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. The men in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.

Glynna can't help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There's the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna's diner into Dare's back. Are Flint's cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna's son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?


My Thoughts:
Dare wondered if God ever got plumb tired of the people He’d created.”  (p. 173)

Dare Riker is not the first person to wonder this!  I daresay that Glenna Greer and her two children, Paul and Janny, have wondered this when they suffered abuse from not one but two different men!  And Jonas Vince and Luke wondered that as they tried to keep peace at the Andersonville Prison during the Civil War and witnessed untold cruelty.  In fact, I will be bold enough to say that everyone who belongs to God has to wander about His long-suffering toward us when we stop to consider the heartache that takes place in everyone’s life from time to time.

Mary Connealy tackles this and many other tricky situations with humor and style in Book Two of the Trouble in Texas series, Fired Up.  Glenna is starting over for the third time in life, and she is both weary and wary of her surroundings.  She’s a strong lady though, and with the help of an unexpected friend begins to make a fresh start by running a diner.  When a series of “accidents” begin to take place, it quickly becomes evident that someone wants to be rid of Dare and his doctoring!   Or is someone else walking around with a bull’s-eye  on their back?  This book is really a fun romp that includes romance, mystery, family dynamic and a dash of faith.  Forgiveness evolves as a beautiful centerpiece of healing for everyone in this small town of Broken Wheel.


Mary Connealy has once again created a cast of unforgettable characters that will keep the pages flying! Readers will be drawn in and carried away!  I am happy to recommend this to everyone!
If you would like to read the first chapter of Fired Up, go HERE.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Watsons Go To Birmingham - An Interview with the film-makers



I think this is an important and relevant film for today. Rogers and Cowan arranged for me to interview the folks responsible for this film project, and it is my privilege to share their thoughts with you here on my blog.  The film airs on the Hallmark Channel Friday, September 20th.  Go here to find out more!

What made this award-winning piece of fiction the right choice for film adaptation in 2013?  Turning this wonderful book into a film has been a nine year journey for us together.  While we wish it was realized a long time ago, with our persistence and never give up attitude, the film was ready when the timing was right.  Now it is the 50th anniversary of the events that we depict in the film and we have a chance to remind young people of our shared American history.  The film and the issues we discuss are especially poignant as the Supreme Court rolled back on Voting Rights so that young people understand why the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act were needed in the first place.  It is important for us all to know where we came from in order to understand why we are where we are to plan for the future and where we want to go.

  As a 20-year resident of Alabama, I know first-hand that racism is alive and well.  I also know that it is a two-way street. What percentage of the general populace feels as though they are the target of prejudice in the 21st century?  While racial prejudice can go both ways, institutional racism truly impacts African-Americans disproportionately and especially poor African-Americans.  When we look at the disparity in economics, education, health and criminal justice, African-Americans are still at the losing end.  This is not because African-Americans lack the intelligence or the wherewithal, but because generations of systems, laws and legislation work against them.  So while we have made progress in the last fifty years by eliminating legal segregation and civil rights legislation was enacted to protect the rights of people of color in America, the fight continues.

Byron seems to be the focus and purpose behind the trip to Birmingham, yet he not the only one profoundly changed by the events of the film.  The scene between him and Kenny by the side of the pond was especially touching!  What was the most challenging part of his particular role?  In writing the script, the most challenging aspect of Byron was making sure we understood the complexity of who Byron is as a teenager who is trying to figure out life and to make sure we understood how and why he changes by being in Birmingham.  Byron is a teenager and like so many he makes mistakes --he hangs with the wrong crowd, he rebels against his parents, he picks on his little brother -- and yet he loves his family. When he discovers true meaning in the world and begins to see a purpose in his own life he becomes more focused on his own possibilities.  He begins to understand that he can make a difference in his world just like his cousins.

 Mrs. Watson seems to be a particularly complex role, because she has really turned a blind eye to the reality of racial tension. She even says, at one point, that her mother is stronger than she is.  Kenny reflects the same dichotomy of strong and weak.  What challenges did these two roles present in the transition from novel to film?  Each character had its own unique challenges, but Mrs. Watson and Kenny represent the raw pain of dealing with segregation...they internalize the societal slights and express the devastating impact that living as a second class citizen has on  a people.  We would argue that Mrs. Watson has not turned a blind eye to the reality of racial tension, but in fact feels it intensely and hence does not want to deal with the pain and does not want that inflicted on her family.  She thinks of her mother as stronger because her mother can withstand the daily degradation seemingly without anger, frustration and sadness.  I don't believe it is true, but we often think of those who can face difficulty as strong and those who walk away from it as weak...

Do you think the film will draw attention back to the original novel? Why or why not?  We certainly hope the film draws attention to this wonderful novel as any adaptation often does.  When people enjoy these characters on screen we hope they decide to read the novel, which is slightly different than the film.  And Walden has created such a wonderful curriculum for educators to use in teaching both the film and the book that we hope teachers and parents will take the opportunity to really inform young people about our history.

Hallmark Channel and Walden Media are in a partnership with Cable in the Classroom (CIC) and will offer educators a new framework for teaching their students about the  Civil Rights Movement with a customized curriculum created around “The Watsons Go To Birmingham.”

Developed by Walden Media, in partnership with Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers, and designed for students, grades 4-12, “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” Teacher Guide offers parents and educators a turnkey lesson plan, streaming video resources, and archival photographs, giving fresh context to the Civil Rights Movement. Using the themes and messages explored in the movie as a narrative backdrop, the Guide is based on the Zaner-Bloser Voices Curriculum and was written in collaboration with a team led by Professor Robert Selman of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” Teacher Guide, which will be free of charge on a dedicated Hallmark Channel microsite (http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/thewatsonsgotobirmingham/educatorsguide ) and the Walden Media website www.walden.com , integrates social-emotional learning, literacy, writing, and character education designed to reinforce critical thinking and deep comprehension skills. 

Without spoilers, what is your most satisfying scene in the film?  This is hard to answer because each scene matters, but I would say the last scene of the film.  I love seeing this family together and the last scene sums up the entire sentiment of the film. A touching example of how people come-together and support one another during difficult times and is played out beautifully in both the book and the movie.  Their experiences give them a newfound courage to stand up for what is right and helps them grow stronger as a family in the process. The Watsons Go To Birmingham demonstrates the power of family, the power of children to learn and grow and the power of love over evil.


What is the take-away message you hope fans of film will take away from the Watson’s go to Birmingham?  The take-away message that we would like people to have with The Watsons Go To Birmingham is the message for young people that, like the young people in the children's crusade in Birmingham, if they see something in their world that is wrong they can fix it by being committed and raising their voices.  Despite the ugly brutality that they faced, these young people made a difference in the lives of us all by standing up with courage and letting the world know they deserved to be treated like human beings.  As cliche as it may sound we  hope that people come away from the film understanding that love truly  overcomes hate.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Watson's Go to Birmingham - REVEIWED

About the Movie:( from the Hallmark Channel)
In the Summer of 1963, Flint, Michigan is home to the Watsons, a close knit family made up of Daniel and Wilona Watson, (Wood Harris and Anika Noni Rose) and their three kids, 15-year-old juvenile delinquent Byron (Harrison Knight), nerdy 11-year-old Kenny (Bryce Clyde Jenkins) and eight-year-old adorable sister Joetta (Skai Jackson). When Byron’s antics go over the top, his parents realize enough is enough and they decide the family needs a dose of Grandma Sands' (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) no nonsense approach in Birmingham, Alabama.

So the Watsons load up their 1948 Plymouth Brown Bomber outfitted with a true tone Ultra-Glide turntable and head South with plenty of comedy en route. When they finally make it to Birmingham, they meet Grandma Sands and her friend, Mr. Robert (David Alan Grier), who show them around town and the Watsons discover that life is very different there than in Flint – and not necessarily for the better. During that historic summer, the Watsons find themselves caught up in something far bigger than Byron’s antics; something that will change their lives and country forever.


My Thoughts:
If this is your home, you’ve got to make it work.” (Byron to Kenny)

These words reflect a profound change in the life of both Byron and Kenny Watson! The journey that allows this sentiment to be truly reflected in their lives comes amidst the racial turmoil within the Southern states in the early 1960’s. The Watson’s are a family residing in Michigan when circumstances developing with their oldest son bring them to the decision to visit relatives in Birmingham, Alabama. Despite the racial turmoil spilling from national news sources, they decide that Birmingham (and specifically their grandmother) holds the answer to their worsening problems.

The Watsons reflect the choice many made to turn a blind eye to the reality of the racial tension brewing between blacks and whites. Mrs. Watson goes to great lengths to protect her youngest children from watching or listening to any of the developing stories. The reality they are forced to face when they arrive during the height of turmoil in Birmingham brings reality crashing down upon them, and every member of the family is forever changed.

In the beginning of the film, Kenny is the golden child and Byron is the “juvenile delinquent”. By the time you reach the closing credits, Kenny is scared and uncertain and Byron has gained the purpose he lacked and the love and respect for his family that was missing from his heart and mind. Each member of the Watson family learns a great lesson during the course of the film, and their lives are forever changed.

The Watson’s go to Birmingham is a thought-provoking film adaptation of Christopher Paul Curtis’ award-winning novel bearing the same title.

The film airs on the Hallmark Channel Friday, September 20th!  Go here to find out more!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A View from Perry Lahaie's Window - AHEAD

Perry LaHaie recently released his latest CD project Ahead, and I had the opportunity to talk with him about this project and discover his heart behind the messages of his songs.  Perry has a huge burden for the lost, and particularly for the people of the Muslim faith.  He wants to share the truth of Jesus’ redemption with everyone, and really wants to see the body of Christ serving others, reaching the lost and living lives that are free from the past and dedicated to serving Christ with everything within them. 

It was truly an inspiration and encouragement to meet and talk with Perry, and I hope you will spend some time getting to know him here, as we take a look at his life and his work on his latest project, Ahead.

Me: I want to quote a couple of lines from the song The End Will Come: “I will suffer, I will serve, I’ll die; give every breath of life away. I will go where no one’s seen the light; where no one’s there to show the way.  You said when we fill the earth with your word, when every nation has heard then the end will come.”
This is a bold statement that hearkens back to the passion of early church.  Why do you think Christians in churches today seem to want fruit without laboring in the fields?  Content to stay in a support role and not willing to suffer anything for Christ?

Perry:  The Evangelical Church today is influenced by American culture – caught up in the pursuit of celebrity, power, beauty – and we’ve absorbed that into our faith.  I think we are living the “American” version of faith.  We all wear blinders to some degree, and we become blind to just how much our culture has weakened our faith.

In our society success and popularity have become idols.  We must die to our own dreams and ask, “What is God’s dream for my life?”  We must take up our cross, and die to self.  In dying to self we find true freedom.

Me:  In your song, “Unqualified” you ask, “How could God use someone as broken as you?”  Why do Christians have such a hard time releasing past mistakes and accepting God’s forgiveness? Why do we use our past as an excuse NOT to move forward with God?

Perry: The Free gift of grace is something  we wrestle with.  Paul even addressed this in First Timothy when he said, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”  We don’t understand the gospel.  The gospel has somehow become just another way to please God.  We must return to the TRUE gospel and that is that Christ became sin for us, died in our place and rose from the dead.  It is a GIFT not a religion.

Every day we must return to the cross.  We are bankrupt without Christ.  We must allow Him to refill us daily. We must admit we are wretched sinners who are in desperate need of a Savior.  We hold on to past mistakes, because we are too proud to admit how desperately we need Christ.  We must know that He has made us alive!

Me:  Another area where Christians seem to struggle is accepting the freedom found in Christ’s forgiveness.  Another line from"Unqualified" says:  "There’s a freedom waiting; there’s a hand you can take; well rescue is here and it’s calling your name.”  Why are Christians afraid to walk in this freedom?

Perry: I think people are afraid of this freedom because we choose to believe the enemy when he tells us we are not worthy of the grace and freedom Christ offers us.  Satan is the accuser and he wants to keep us locked in the dungeon of our sin and shame, locked up in our fear and pride.  We must accept that our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags and accept the free gift of grace and forgiveness Christ offers. We must walk in the freedom of that gift of grace and stop listening to the lies of the enemy.
.
Me:  In another song, “American Dream,” you sing: “You promised me wealth; promised me power and beauty; but what I loved the most is you promised me glory and fame....Goodbye American Dream, I have loved you too long and it’s always been wrong. Now it’s finally time to break free.”  Why has the “American Dream” been so hurtful to the Christian community?  What dream should replace this in our lives?

Perry: The cross is where grace and mercy meet.  Christ became our substitute and took the wrath meant for us.  The cross is better by far than any empty promise offered by the American Dream.

Me: “Help Me Find My Way” is a song that reflects a deep loneliness in the hearts of people. Why, in a world so connected, do people feel so alone?

Perry: This song was written to reflect the perspective of a lost person.  It was written to remind Christians how alone and hungry people are to find their way back to God and His presence.  I want believers to understand how lost people feel without Christ.  I still remember when God touched me and healed my shame – how He found me at my worst and loved me.  I experienced the reality of that love in my own life and I want Christians to be burdened for the lost to experience this same love and forgiveness.

Me: One of my favorite songs on the CD is “Great Sinner, Great Savior.”  I want to quote from this song as well: “This is who I really am, an extravagant sinful man….I’m a great sinner, You’re a great Savior; I’ve only one rescue, only one refuge…”  Do you think Christians are reluctant to view themselves as an extravagantly sinful person? Is this a necessary point of recognition all must come to before they are able to recognize the greatness of God’s love and sacrifice?

Perry:  Sanctification is the process that includes recognizing more and more of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.  It’s a journey of faith and we are finding out continually who we are and who He is!  As extravagant as our sin is, Christ’s love is even more extravagant!   When I really want to grasp this truth, I envision myself standing before the cross with a spear in my hand.  I realize how perfect and sinless Christ is and how imperfect and sinful I am and I react to that reality by throwing that spear into His side.  When I do that, His blood flows over me and He comes down from the cross and tells me He loves me.  My life begins to be transformed by that love and forgiveness.

Back in 2010 I sat in a church service and listened as a pastor was preaching about Jacob wrestling with God.  Jacob’s name means deceiver and it wasn’t until he named himself before God that He was touched and transformed by God.  Jacob had to reach a totally broken place before God and say to God that if He didn’t bless him that he would die.  We have to be like Jacob.  I often pray, “Help me believe the gospel today and let go of my self-righteousness.”  It’s important that we realize that all of our self-justification efforts are vain and worthless.

Me: “So You’ve faithfully brought me this suffering; to show that it’s not about me; to show that unlimited power; comes to me when I am weak.  At the end of myself is the beginning of You.”  This is a quote from “Beginning of You.”  Where did Christians begin to equate hardship with God’s lack of love or blessing instead of recognizing at His loving grace that allows us to grow in grace and repentance?

Perry: A lot of Paul’s teaching shows up in my songs!  In 2 Corinthians 12:10 Paul says: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.”   I think we have to have trials in our lives to learn the transforming lessons that Christ wants us to learn.  No one likes to suffer, but it is through suffering that we become more like Him.  And He even brings opportunities to minister to others out of our trials!

In my own life, I struggle with bouts of depression.  I would have never chosen that, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Suffering destroys self-righteousness and pride and it ultimately makes me a better reflection of Christ to others.  The Bible says we are to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

Me: Are there any closing words of encouragement you’d like to share with listeners?

Perry: I work with a group called Frontiers, and it is all about bringing the love of God to the Muslim people.  His love is amazing and meant for the whole world.  Did you know that there are at least 3000 people groups that don’t have a single Christian among them?  I want to tell others how great His grace is and what a debtor I am to this grace! I want to share this with everyone so that others will know about what Christ has done for them.

Me: Please visit Perry's website to find out more about his ministry, his music and words of encouragement he shares with everyone!  Thanks, Perry, for blessing me with your testimony and your time!