Monday, December 30, 2013

I want better.....

I want better than what I see in the world, when it comes to contentment and joy and love and marriage and children and everything... I just don't know how to get it.

so sweet, if more people kept this in mind maybe there wouldn't be so many break ups

Have you ever seen an elderly married couple bickering and fighting in public?
I have... up close and personal with grandparents, and then again with strangers.
And it really makes me sad. We'll use the strangers for example in this post.

This summer, while loading our kayaks onto the truck after a trip around our local pond, we met an older couple who were intent on taking their own kayaks out for a paddle.
As we bustled back and forth, they did too, and we exchanged a few words as we crossed paths and then we got into out truck as they pushed off into the water. They were neat and clean and outdoorsy looking.... he had a bunch of trail signs made up and ready to be placed stacked in the back of the car.

Once we were out of earshot {barely} we began to compare notes on out perception of them.
Mom suggested that they were a peaceful, content couple enjoying time together in nature.
And they probably were... the only problem was that I had overheard a little exchange that overshadowed my positive views of them.
Him, unpacking the two faded life-vests from the backseat of their spotlessly clean car: "Which one do you want?"
Her: "Oh, whichever."
Him, with snideness in his tone: "It hasn't always been 'whichever' before."

That will be all, thank you. {Walks away feeling disillusioned.}

Mr. Husband, can we be cute and madly in love when we are old?

And last week at the grocery store, I walked down the frozen aisle just in time to overhear another older couple snapping at each other over a frozen entree... Once again they were ideal-looking, her in a pretty blouse and lovely sweater, him in pressed pants and jacket. At 10:00 on a sunday, they were probably coming from Church.
And I got there in time to hear him saying in keep-it-down tones "I was just pointing it out!"

They chose the entree in argument, they'll probably go home and consume it in anger.

I was privileged to care for an older gentleman in a medical situation.  He was 94 and said that he and his wife had been married 74 years.  Later that morning in walks this beautiful very lively tiny Lady and the gentleman smiled so wide and yelled "there comes my bride".  Ohhhhh to be called a "bride"  after 74 that's what matters most!!!!

Overhearing those encounters turns my stomach for two reasons.

I know that these are natural exchanges. That everyone says things like this, that everyone has "I'm mad or sad or in pain or just plain hungry and my mouth is running while the brain is shut off" moments.
You have them, you receive grace, you forgive them, you move on from them.
But I've seen too many times where this isn't just a foot-inserted-into-slot-of-mouth moment, it is a way of life.
Those rebuttals, those snark-attacks, those talking over you moments become the familiar pattern for some couples whole days. Never mind "He doesn't bring me flowers and/or look into my eyes any more," we are talking "Everything we said to each other today was a defense or a counter blow."
There are marriages like that.
So much life or death really does reside in the power of the tongue.

And 2.
It makes marriage look really sad and pitiful. Because if you had someone at work like that, who was constantly making you feel small, or needling you, and you probed and poked them right back, you could leave them at the end of the work day.
But you don't leave a marriage. In both of those cases, the old couples were probably going to be together a-l-l-l d-a-a-a-a-y, and that's a really long time when your spouse is a challenger and foe in the verbal tournament instead of your enduring best friend and shelter.

Am I one of those naive little people who is convinced that when I meet and wed my Prince Charming, we will never argue and all will be smooth sailing?
Forever Love


I know there will be dissent and discontent, hopefully generously mixed with joy and companionship and forbearance and forgiveness. I know there will be arguments... as someone said, lock two cranky and selfish people into the marriage covenant and what do you expect?!!

But I want to have a marriage.... no, that's too small a vision.... I want to cultivate every relationship so that snappy exchanges and snarky comments are not the warp and woof out our days.
I want the majority of words exchanged to be commonplace and everyday, yet fitly spoken and the sort of word that builds someone up rather than tearing down.

Old people in love always melts my heart! They're so cute together, D. I want this to be us. D.

I want A BIG picture of the world and of marriage... so big that the frozen entree becomes not-worth-fighting-about on that grocery run after Church, and an argument about which life-vest I'm wearing while boating is ridiculous, and clearly seen as such.
I've seen too many "Long, Happy Marriages" that are long on the long, short on the happy, and present a horrible image of the whole entire thing.

I don't really know what I'm saying here. Perhaps nothing except this: Life and death really are in the tongue, we do use words to build worlds for others to dwell in, as Gladys Hunt says, and if you marry a snappy person when you're young, they'll probably be a snappy person when you're old.
And if I am a snarky, sarcastic person now, I'll very likely make myself a miserable marriage.

Lets not be the guy who said to his friend, while they was rockin' in the rockin' chairs on the porch, "Yep. Sally and me, we had 50 years of wedded bliss," and here he spits tobacco,
"Fifteen of 'em were happy, so that ain't bad." have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part...And they lived happily ever after :)

{As an item of note, why would I want to marry a prince anyway? There are far more interesting occupations out there, which produce better stories to tell your wife at the end of the day.}

*Rest Not in Peace*

Rest Not in Peace (Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon Chronicles #6)

My Review: 
I was eager to try the Surgeon Chronicles, starting by accepting book six "Rest Not in Peace" from Kregel for review. I began reading this one, and as a mystery lover who tries to see disturbing visuals in light of the larger picture, I was still deeply disturbed by a scene that came out of nowhere shortly after the beginning. 
I wasn't able to finish this book because that scene turned my stomach, so I can't say anything more about it. 
What I can say is that if you are in the market for a mystery, you may not want to jump into this series in the middle, but if you have been following Hugh de Singleton all along, then this will probably be a good addition to your library. 

And if you *are* in the market for a mystery, then I highly, highly recommend another Kregel title, The Advent of Murder by Martha Ockley. I love that book. "Set in the crisp, cold days leading up to an English Christmas, and following the adventures of a perceptive police-woman turned vicar and her quirky parish full of people, the Advent of Murder is a delightful read." 

Volume Six in the Surgeon Chronicles.... 
Master Hugh is asked to provide a sleeping potion for Sir Henry Burley, a friend and guest of Lord Gilbert at Bampton Castle. Sir Henry, (with his wife, a daughter by a first wife, two knights, two squires, and assorted servants), has outstayed his welcome at Bampton Castle. The next morning after Master Hugh provides the potion, Sir Henry is found dead, eyes open, in his bed. Master Hugh, the target of the wife's wrath, is asked by Lord Gilbert to determine the cause of death ... Rest Not in Peace (The Chronicles of Hugh De Singleton, Surgeon)

These Questions and Answers are excerpted from a longer article on, which you can find right here. 

I want my fiction to be honest to time and place. I don't think fiction writers should lie about people or eras just to create a sale-able plot: think Dan Brown here.

Probably since I learned how to read. Really, I believe that all who enjoy reading secretly (or not so secretly) wish to try setting pen to paper—which, by the way, is how I write. No computer for me.

I hope they will learn something of life in 14th century England, the challenges and triumphs of people of that time, and will be able to escape to that world for a few enjoyable hours. Escaping for a few hours is all most modern people would want to do; we would not want to live there and then, I think. 

Mel Starr

Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated fromSpring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received an MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970. He taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those inPortage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School.

Mel married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Naperville, IL, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hill Street Blues....

  Hill Street Blues... and the Detectives too. {Review to Come Shortly}

This is a collage dedicated to the legendary partnership's on Hill Street Blues.... and to Mick Belker, who was a friend to anybody who needed it, and who was The Hill's go to man when you needed a fine Detective with uncompromising integrity.

Detectives Neal Washington and John "J.D" LaRue,
Officer's Lucy Bates and Joseph Coffey,
Partners Andy "Cowboy" Renko and Bobby Hill.

J.D and Neal on stakeout, Season One episode 3, when J.D was tempted to go corrupt.
Season Two episode 11, Neal and J.D discussing a detective they feared was using drugs.
Season One episode 7, conniving how to get a side of beef out of Lucy's squad car where Andy and Bobby has stashed it.
Season Two episode 8, J.D being comforted by his Captain after he witnessed a man try to hang himself in the holding cell.

Season Three episode 2, Lucy teasing Joe about his upcoming comedy debut at an all-precinct roast for Chief Daniels.
Season One episode 7, Lucy wondering what Renko has in mind, concerning that same side of beef. Season Two episode 11, Joe watching Lucy play poker.
And Season Three episode 12, in a precious end scene,  Joe sitting on the hospital bed beside Lucy with the dwarf Christmas tree that he brought to her for Christmas Eve in the hospital after she was injured. Ends with the classic "Merry Christmas, Lucy." "Merry Christmas, Joe."

Season One, episode 14, Andy and Bobby answering a man's questions about the investigation by asking him if he's the FBI.
Season Two, episode 14, Bobby leaving the BOC.
Season One, episode 14/15, Andy and Bobby tenderly wiping the faces of two neglected children they found locked in an apartment.
Season Two, episode 15. Andy in plainclothes from a raw and wrenching prostitution assignment he'd been on, now at the hospital hearing that his father is dying.

Season One, episode 7, Mick confronting Roland P. Quarstairs about a purse and sack of groceries he had just stolen. "Will that be cash or check, hairball?"
Season two episode 12, Mick feeding the pet mouse in his pocket while Howard looks on.
Season Three, episode 5, Mick comforting Neal after Neal shot an armed store-keeper who was chasing the real robber.
Season Three, episode 13, Mick with Robin, whom he later marries, trying to cheer her up while they're at the hospital for an officer down.

Friday, December 27, 2013

*The Ragamuffin Bible*

NIV Ragamuffin Bible: Meditations for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Brokenhearted 

I had wanted to read some of Brennan Manning's books for a while, and so when I saw that this NIV Bible with notes taken from Brennan's writing was available from 
B&B Media, I requested it in a hurry. 

First, the NIV is a great all-around translation. The 1984 NIV was the first Bible that I began reading to myself, at about age 15. Oh how I love my copy. The reading was smooth and easy to follow, the beauty and majesty of the Word was preserved even in the clear modern English, and the introduction assured me that there was much attention paid to accuracy and clarity. 

And them, add the words of Brennan Manning, a man who wouldn't want to be exalted, he would just want to be known as Loved by God. This was my introduction to his writing, and I want to read more. I've already sent away for his book The Prodigal. 

If you are familiar with Brennan's writing, then it will be a delight to own this Bible with notes from his sermons and books. 
If you aren't, then take advantage of the blessing of Youtube and look up Brennan's talks. We are talking well worth watching. 

And while you are there, look up Brennan's friend, fellow Loved-By-God, and brilliant songwriter Rich Mullins. Look up his "Creed", his "The Color Green", "Everywhere I go I see you,"  and "Hold me Jesus."  
They were straight talking men, both of them, and as you read and listen to what they had to say, it hits you and makes sense. 
Brennan and Rich had one main message: God loves you, so come to Him as you are, and be honest about the real ache in your heart, the desire to be accepted and held and hugged like the child that you are. 

Here are two of my favorite Brennan quotes from the notes in this Bible. 

"Often I have been asked 'Brennan, how is it that you became an alcoholic after you got saved?' It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure, because I got discouraged and uncertain and guilt-ridden and took my eyes off Jesus. 
Because the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me me into an angel. Because 
justification by grace through faith means I have been set in right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table." 

And: "No human word is even remotely adequate to convey the mysterious and furious longing of Jesus for you and me to hang on his words. But 'Union' comes close, very close; it is a word pregnant with a reality that surpasses understanding, the only reality worth yearning for with love and patience, the only reality before which we should stay very quiet..." 

There is much to absorb from the Youtube videos that are posted, too. 
Like when Rich Mullins talks about the pull of temptation, and our tendency to put ourselves where we know that sin can find us. "Even if you don't intend to sin, sometimes it's nice just to be tempted," he says, with disarming honesty that challenges us to admit that deep down, we agree with that idea.
He understands us, and we understand what he means.  

Or when Rich says, with quiet intensity: "Christianity isn't spread by information. Christianity is spread like a disease. Through touch, through breath, through life." 

Together these two men were clay vessels, whose brokenness let the grace that God poured into them spill over to the world. 

Thank you B&B Media for my review copy! Now I have an NIV Bible to give my friend, who loves the timeless prose of the KJV, and who also appreciates this crisp, fresh translation.  {And who loves Brennan Manning and Rich Mullins!} 

“Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.”
Richard Francis Xavier Manning, better known to legions of faithful readers as author, speaker, and contemplative Brennan Manning, for whom grace was irresistible, completed his earthly journey on Friday, April 12 at 12:10AM.  He is now resting safely in the arms of his Abba.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

*Castles of the Heart*

Castles of the Heart

This is the story of a promising attorney, who returns home to rural North Carolina to defend an innocent man. 
The attorney happens to be a white woman named Starlight, and the defendant happens to be a young black man, the teenage grandson in a family where they are all friends of Star. 
That charge that she will be defending Samson against is murder. And this is Starlight's first trial... she isn't a trial lawyer. 

Take a good look at the book cover. See the well-built and weather worn cabin? See the sunlight shining through the trees? The hills, cabins, and people of the backwoods form Starlight's roots, and they shaped her whole life. 
*Castles of the Heart* starts in those hills, and it ends there, but in the intervening years Starlight journeyed far from her home. 

This book is not just about the final courtroom moments, this book begins with Star's childhood and how the experiences that she had defined her. 

We start back when she was a little girl, a precocious child who entered third grade instead of first, and who made fast friends with the entire Hopkins clan. Star head the stories that patriarch Solomon told about his ancestors, and she adopted the Hopkins children as her second family.  
Then we follow Star into her later school years, and her first introduction to the law at an incredibly young age. The prodigy with a near-photographic memory becomes an ambitious woman with a brilliant mind. 

Starlight's narrative voice as a female attorney in the 1940's is unique. Her whole world is opened up to us as we read, and we are allowed to hear the story of her heart. 
I enjoyed "listening in" on her conversations about politics and economics during the Depression, and hearing her thoughts on the war, and witnessing her love of Justice and willingness to fight to achieve Liberty for all. 

I could picture *Castles of the Heart* being a movie someday, the story is that good and that compelling. 

Thank you to Hale Meserow and Fred and Nora St. Laurent at for my review copy!

Author, small businessman, Christian, and conservative. Married 25 years, two grown sons, one granddaughter. Disgusted by MN politics.

Friday, December 20, 2013

*Girls Uncovered*

 Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America's Sexual Culture Does to Young Women

Co-authored by a team of two knowledgable and compassionate doctors, *Girls Uncovered* is a book that every mother and father needs to read as they guide their daughter.
Even though I promise you that it will be a hard read.

I requested this book from MP Newsroom to review, and I gave it first to a friend of mine with two daughters, one at the end of her teens and one at the beginning. She read it with a sad look on her face, because she came from a home where the daughters were uncovered. It was a confirmation of what she'd felt all along: that she hadn't been given the best care in her vulnerable years, and that the good foundation she was building for her own girls was worth every effort it took.

Nobody wants to think about the dangers that lurk around our daughters as they grow up and begin to navigate love and relationships.
Nobody wants to visualize the affects of an STD, or the ramifications of a teen pregnancy, or the trauma induced by an abortion, or the pain caused by a broken heart as unworthy men file through a young woman's life.

We need someone, someone well educated and in touch with this generation of girls, to speak into our ears and help us help our daughters. We need to hear a message of warning and of hope at the same time.

And that's what *Girls Uncovered* delivers. This is a sober book, because the facts are sober. Chapter by chapter the authors unfold the reality that young females are entering. We're sending them out there with a morass of lies in their head from media and pop culture about what sort of sexuality they should engage in and embrace.
We're then turning them over to the young men who have absorbed the culture's message to them: take advantage of your single years, and take advantage of your girlfriend.
And we're left with girls who don't know why they are hurting, but they know that this isn't the love they crave.

And yet this is not the end of the story.
The authors point out that as crazy as our sex-charged culture is, and as many forces try to shape our girl's psyches into being careless with sex, our daughters still want parental input and still desire a cherishing, lasting, romancing love.
And our input can put them on the path to find that love.

Thank you MP Newsroom for my copy of this book.

JOE S. MCILHANEY JR., M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist. In 2001, Dr. McIlhaney was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. He also serves on the Advisory Committee to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. McIlhaney has co-authored over six books including Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children, and 1001 Health-Care Questions Women Ask. Dr. McIlhaney resides in Austin, Texas with his wife, Marion.

FREDA MCKISSIC BUSH, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and a partner in private practice with East Lakeland OB-GYN Associates in Jackson, Mississippi. She currently serves as Medical Director of the Center for Pregnancy Choices Metro Jackson and the Henry M. Johnson Women's Resource Crisis Pregnancy Center. Freda spends much of her time speaking on sexuality and social behavior education. Her passion is to help women "raise a standard" to become who they were created to be. To that end, she teaches and encourages a lifestyle of abstinence until marriage and fidelity within marriage. She co-authored her first book, Hooked, with Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney, in 2008.

Thursday, December 19, 2013



This book was so fun to read! The story of 'Derailed' was life and love affirming, and it dealt with a multitude of serious topics in a way that was neither peachy nor heavy. 

This is my first book by Dave and Neta. My sister read and reviewed book one in the Windy City Neighbor's series, which focused on a young Christian singer. She loved Grace Meredith's story so much that I knew I needed to try book two.. and when I found out that the protagonist in this volume was a Chicago detective, I dove right in. And I'm reviewing this installment in the series. ;) 

That was my favorite part of this story, the cop/mystery element. I really enjoy a good detective story, and although Harry Bentley was retired at the start of this book, and he thought police work was behind him, he didn't stay retired for long! Soon he was back in the thick of it, with a trusty K-9 named Corky by his side, a badge on his belt, and a SIG on his hip.... and I was there with him. 

As I was reading, I began to feel that Harry Bentley was familiar. And then I realized who he reminded me of! 
Remember the great Neal Washington, Chicago detective on Hill Street Blues in the 80's? 


Detective Washington is the only person I know of who can walk around perpetually chewing on a toothpick and still look competent. :) 

Harry reminds me so much of Neal, except about 15 years down the road and with a family. He even uses Neal's favorite expression, copacetic, which means everything is alright, and in good working order. 

The first time Harry said it I felt like I was right back on Hill Street with the undercovers and the blues. 
{I really enjoy that show, and I can recommend the first three seasons with a few select edits here and there. After that, I think it changed.} 

So you better believe I enjoyed this book! 

If you remember Neal, you probably remember his partner, J.D LaRue, who had a drinking problem in the first couple seasons. 
Watching J.D struggle, fall, and rise again made for some great episodes. When J.D was clean and sober he was a great cop with a funny personality, and when his life repeatedly went off the rails you wanted to see him redeemed. Apparently Harry had some of the same struggles that J.D did... alcoholism and broken relationships. 

When we meet Harry he is a new Christian, with a wonderful wife whom I would love to have as a neighbor and friend. Having some less that healed family dynamics myself, I really related to Harry and Estelle and the way they wanted to help and support and bless their family. 

I'm so glad I got the chance to visit with the Bentleys, to watch them make new friends and renew bonds with family, and to experience the warmth within their circle. 

Thank you Worthy for my copy of Derailed! :) 

Dave and Neta

As a husband/wife writing team, we are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together we are the authors or coauthors of over 120 books.  In addition to writing several books about Christian community, we have been privileged to coauthor numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

*Running Lean*

Running Lean

The night that Calvin Greenlee looked up anorexia online, he misspelled it the first time.
He typed in "anorecia."

In the small, rural North Carolina community where this farm boy lived, he had never seriously encountered an eating disorder before.

But then, he had never known anybody like his girlfriend Stacey before either.
Stacey... the passionate artist with a beautiful spirit that turns an ordinary day into a wonder-filled one, the way a prism splits sunlight into rainbows.

And yet now Stacey is wasting away before Calvin's very eyes. She seems to be turned inward, almost to the point of turning away from him. Even the new pink highlights in her hair don't make up for the sparkle that is missing from eyes.

Running Lean is a tender and truthful story.

Calvin and Stacey are both carrying more pain than they know how to handle yet they understand more about relationships than some people three times their age...
They've been each other's shelter. They've been each other's shoulder.
He's mourned his soldier brother and found peace in her love, and daily joy in the little poems and drawings she creates for him.
Now it is time for him to help her. But helping her may be the hardest thing he has ever done, because just like every woman with anorexia, she doesn't think she has a problem. And there are times when she thinks that Calvin is the problem, for standing in between her and her goals.

It is so frighteningly accurate that parts of it are hard to read. Stacey's inner dialogue is perfectly logical to her anorexia imprisoned mind, and totally crazy to those who are looking at her from the outside.
She lives trying to go two ways at once: she is desperately wants someone to hold her and love her and yet she is determined to control her own life.
She tells herself that she is becoming stronger and more healthy, that this is a diet and not a disorder, and all the while she is dying.
And when she's confronted about that, she tells herself that the critic is the crazy one, that she knows exactly what she's doing, and nobody has any right to boss her life around.

This is a story with the pull of a whirlpool, because it is so real.

Thank you Booksneeze for my review copy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Beyond Resolution: A finely told and gritty story.

Beyond Resolution

Samara's odyssey began when the man she gave her heart to left her by means of a note.
It read "It's not working." And that was that. Only it never is. You don't sever a connection and erase history that simply, that cleanly.

With her whole world rocked on its foundations, Samara dove into a lifestyle she hadn't known before, and in a very short time she ended up in places she never expected to be with people she couldn't trust. In the blinded brokenness after Jed disappeared, Samara had a brief relationship with his brother Flynn, where the choices they made damaged both of them.

After that Samara engaged in a loveless stint as the girlfriend of a major drug dealer, and when he moved on to a younger model, Samara turned to stripping in a seedy club.

And that is where we meet her in this novel.

We follow Samara...
In the strip-club where the surgically augmented women infuse themselves with the false courage of cheap champagne before going out to earn their pittance.
In the dark alley way, where she was attacked.
And into the flat where the girl she rooms with is has moved on to hard drugs when she returns from a night of prostitution.

And we follow her back home, back to her policeman father who needs care after a motorcycle accident, back to her nursing skills that she had given up, back to a place where resolution and restoration and a future of joy are all waiting for her.

Beyond Resolution is a finely told, gritty story.

I am very glad I had the chance to read this book, which is set in Australia by the way, and without I wouldn't have ever heard of it!

Rose DeeRose Dee was born in Ingham, North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her first novel, 'Back to Resolution'. 

Rose, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree, is inspired by the love of her coastal home and desire to produce exciting and contemporary stories of faith for women.

Beyond Resolution, and A New Resolution are the second and third books in the 'Resolution' series. 

Rose’s debut novel 'Back to Resolution' won Bookseller’s Choice at the Caleb Awards 2012.

She has also released 'The Greenfield Legacy', a collaborative novel, written in conjunction with three other outstanding Australian authors. 

Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband, young son, and mischievous pup, Noodle.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rules are Broken. Visions are Lived.

Sex and the Single Christian Girl: Fighting for Purity in a Rom-Com World

Every woman I know of wants three things: love, acceptance, and commitment.
And every woman I know of imagines finding those things in the context of a romantic relationship, a relationship to share their whole lives, giving and receiving.
Throughout the ages, that kind of romantic relationship has been know for the way it connects minds and hearts, souls and bodies.

It is only recently that the order of romance has been turned upside down: the connection of bodies is encouraged before the union of hearts.

In the last few decades, the media has sold us a vision of romance.
This new vision is often wrapped in a sweet, sweep you away story where sex happens before the characters know each other's last names, where sex comes before they have a history of trust, where sex becomes synonymous with true love, and where sex {as long as it's with Mr. Right} always turns out to be a good choice in the end.

In most young ladies minds, there are only two choices in life: Romance or Rules.
Romance says you find that special someone, you get attached, and you get physical...
Rules say that you remain abstinent, and that you have the TLW ring to prove it.

The problem is that the rules alone are insufficient. We all know that.
Purity is not *less* than discipline and commonsense and knowing when and how to wait... but it is far, far *more!*
It is also far, far more than a level of physical preservation.
Purity is a whole way of life, which is why no sin can take it away forever, because God is in the business of restoring his daughters.

So how, in the midst of the media's messages and our own longing for affection, can we possibly maintain purity and convince others to do the same?
The answer is two fold: To know the battle, and to have a different vision.

In this book Marian Jordan Ellis goes about laying the groundwork for both.

I really like the fact that Mrs. Ellis talked about how the battle for purity is way more than attraction and desire... it is a spiritual battle between God and the devil, fought over the souls of men and women.
The strongest attacks come on God's best gifts, sexuality being one of them.

And then the vision. If you take one foundational concept away from this book to inform your fight for purity, take this one: Rules are broken, visions are lived. Cast a new vision, Biblically informed, in light of the Love of Jesus. Cast a vision where you are treasured and holy and where you are worthy of far, far more than our cheap sexual culture offers. And never think that you are too far gone for this. You are not too far gone to start over clean.
As God said, "Though your sins be as scarlet, I shall wash you as white as wool."

That is another thing that makes this book stand out: Marian can speak to women of all ages, whether they're thirteen or thirty. She can speak to the ones with a sexual past they regret and the ones who have yet to enter a relationship.

And then the last section of this book was also immensely helpful. It was ideas on how to navigate a relationship and the intimacy that comes with it in a God honoring way.

Thank you Bethany House for my review copy!

Have you ever seen a street after a parade?  The lonesome scraps and fragments that are left seem dirty, abandoned and trashed.  Runover.
What a shift from the moment before when music trilled, drums beat, people danced and colors burst through our senses drawing us closer and closer, the goal to press as closely to the barricade as humanly possible. What fun! What exhilaration! What glitter! What a draw! And then... it’s gone. Passed. Done. Confetti becomes litter; songs trail to silence and the attraction of the crowd dwindles and dies. This is how Marian Jordan describes her life without Jesus Christ.
Fun, loud, colorful, cyclical, lonely and trashed. Her sharp observation of the party years, resonate with the familiar. Her transparent account of the lure of fashion, sex, booze, and approval chronicle the dilemma of “every girl” in today’s society.
Marian's powerful testimony of coming to brokenness and emptiness and her dynamic account of the gentle mercy and forceful grace of Christ who called her into his arms permeate all of her writings and speaking engagements. Whole in Christ and ready to tell any ear that will listen, Marian has a passion for young women who flock to the parade of emptiness.

Friday, December 13, 2013

One Imperfect Christmas

One Imperfect Christmas

How could the story of a mother's stroke, a daughter's emotional abandonment of her own child,
a loving marriage ship-wrecking on the rocks, and one very wise young girl who sees what needs to be done, how could that be a Christmas story, you ask?

Well, think about what Christmas is all about. Jesus Christ, Son of God, entering this broken world and putting on a body of our fallen flesh, living among us, identifying with us and saving us.
It was in the darkness, sadness, lostness that we all live with that the Light was born.

And it's the same in this story. One imperfect Christmas is not a fluffy holiday comedy, and it is not a book of heavy despair either.

One Imperfect Christmas is a wonderfully real, very human, and dearly beautiful tale.

Reading this was an experience.
It made me sad, it made me get a little misty-eyed, it made me irked at some of the characters choices, and it made me cheer for some of the character's decisions.

I like the way Myra wrote this story, going back and forth between Natalie, her husband Daniel, and their daughter Lissa as their world fell apart.

Blaming herself for not being there the day her mother had a stroke while she was trying to pack away Christmas decorations, Natalie falls into an emotional and psychological whirlpool that sucks her aways from everyone she loves and threatens to drown her.

Daniel doesn't know how to reach his wife. Her focus is on researching strokes and working, not helping Lissa adjust to the new reality of Grandma being in a nursing home.
And Daniel feels like nothing in his power to help her is good enough.
After months with no change, he gives Natalie a shocking ultimatum: be fully present here or leave.
And his wife leaves.

In the center of it all is Lissa, a girl who might just hold the key to some of Grandma's healing and whose knows that her mother and father have a chance for restoration if only they'd try!

How much does a promise mean?
What do you do when you just want out of a situation where you can't see hope?
How much will you risk for the people you know you love?

That is the story of One Imperfect Christmas, one of my favorites of 2013!

Thank you Abingdon for my review copy.

*A Forest of Doors*

A Forest of Doors: An Orphan's Quest

A Forest of Doors is an amazing story of restoration. 
It is the story of a young girl's life when everything around her was breaking and coming apart, and it is the story of a woman who decides that she will find her family and strengthen their bonds of love. 

Lynnann's early memories are a whirl-wind of trying to care for her little siblings while her mother and father both walked in and out of their children's lives at whim. 
They were a mother and father who left a path of destruction and near-death in their wake, the kind who never comprehend the harm they've done. 

This is the story of Lynnann's journey, a journey that is physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological, with all of those woven together in A Forest of Doors so that we see the whole picture of a child, then a girl, then a woman who needed to be healed of the wounds she had been given in this flawed world. 

There is shattered innocence, torn hearts, the aching need for affection and stability, malformed ideas of what Love is, fear of rejection, and very real abandonment. 
And yet somehow, undaunted by all this brokenness, there is God in this story. Which is right where He always is, in the thick of the story, walking with you in the heat of the fire, staying with you through the pain of the trauma, and Lynnann sees his Hand on her in a myriad of ways. 

This woman, who has such an awesome testimony of how it is possible to rise from the ashes, sees the presence of God in her Story. And one of the main ways that God healed her was through friends and family. Her words touched me very much when she wrote: "God always made certain I had someone in my life close by to remind me I was a very special creation with or without a family." 

This is a book about God picking Lynnann up, and then helping her to pick up the pieces to rebuild something truly beautiful. 

Highly recommended for anyone with experience with orphans, foster parents, adoption, broken families, rebuilding legacies, and anyone who is trying to find their place in the world. 

Thank you Lynnann for this book. 

Thank you B&B Media for my review copy. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blame it on the Mistletoe!

Blame It on the Mistletoe

"She said she'd help us get to the bottom of this. I'm beginning to think someone is poisoning us, or something, making us act all weird, maybe piping mind altering gas in the heating system, or putting drugs in our oatmeal."  ~ Agnes Sparrow, resident at the Greenbrier.

Introducing Mildred Blessing, Bright's Pond's one and only police officer {and therefore the chief of police.}
Mildred Blessing has a new case to investigate, and Mildred always gets her man.
This time her mystery is strange behavior by the old folks.

For example, Haddie Grace, resident of the Greenbrier nursing home was recently observed riding a red tricycle up and down the hallways, crashing into the medicine cart.

And, Faith, aged 90, and Clive, aged 86, also residents of the Greenbrier, who are suddenly in love and determined to marry. They're constantly sneaking off to the gazebo to re-enacting the scene in Sound of Music where Rolf and Leisl were dancing.

Could it be drug activity in the Greenbrier?!

And that's not Bright's Pond's only problem: Ruth Knickerbocker is determined to have a spectacular Thanksgiving, unlike anyone before her. It will be a Hawaiian Luau Thanksgiving: tiki torches in the living room, her turkey will wear a lei, and her stuffing will include passionfruit and macadamia nuts.
So what if the top popped off the blender while Ruth was making cranberry sauce and she ran down the road, covered in red, and one of her neighbors thought she had been shot!

Toss in Pastor Speedwell, and Boris Lender with his perpetual "stogie," and a guy named Studebaker.
How do you end up with such an interesting community?
Blame it on the Mistletoe.
Or on Leon Fontaine and his Fountain of Youth.
Or on the Full Moon Pie served down at the Full Moon Cafe.
Blame it on something.

And then add our narrator and her sister, Griselda and Agnes Sparrow.
Both of these sisters have their own story to tell, and their own personality that endeared them to me as I read. I hear that they each have a book in the Bright's Pond series too, which I plan to read.
Griselda explains her town in a tongue in cheek sort of way, she loves the people there and she loans us her eyes to see them with, making this a very fun read.

Bright's Pond and its people are quirky with a capital Q.

The humor, oh the humor! Have you ever read the Grandma Dowdel books?
{You should, by the way.}
The humor here is like the humor there.
I really did Laugh Out Loud, and this book is so quotable. I was interrupting my family's reading time every few minutes to share another line. Don't start reading this in a public library where snorting with laughter and reading aloud isn't wanted.
One of my favorite lines: "Nothing like a good old-fashioned false alarm fire drill to make people friends. Impending disaster was great for soothing old wounds."

See what I'm talking about?
Thank you Abingdon for my review copy. I hope to visit Bright's Pond again soon. :-)

Joyce MagninI am the author of seven novels. Five adult novels and two middle grade readers. I never wanted to do anything else but write and every day I wake up astonished that I get to do what I always dreamed about. My days are filled with words and images along with the usual family stuff. I have three children, Rebekah who is married to Joshua. They have three of the most adorable boys on the planet, Lemuel, Cedar and Soren. My daughter Emily Kate is a lovely young woman anthropologist and my son Adam is fourteen and a student--he's a genius who loves frogs and lizards and fish and plants. He amazes me.
I have never eaten a scallop. I love cream soda. Drink way too much coffee. I do not like elevators but I do enjoy needle arts and of course books. I prefer jazz over country (no offense), milk chocolate over dark, but not roller coasters although my life has often resembled a roller coaster ride.
One of my life's desires is to meet Amy Grant so I can tell her she saved my life.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

*The Christmas Star*

The Christmas Star

I have come to expect a certain standard of excellence from Ace Collins. When I read one of his books, I expect it to be a well written, engaging story with themes worth thinking about after the book ends.

This book is all of that, and it is even set around Christmas too!
The Christmas Star is a historical novel set right after the war. Ace Collins imagines the atmosphere of joy in a small Arkansas town with Christmas coming and almost all the heroes home.

That 'almost all' is the only thing marring the happiness in Ash Flats.
Jimmy Reed's father isn't going to be here for Christmas. The war is over, but for Robert Reed's widow and his son the grief most definitely is not. Young Jimmy's life has taken a turn toward rebellion, and his mother marge can't seem to get through to him anymore.
His father isn't here to guide him, and Jimmy is convinced that his father couldn't even be proud of the person he's become.
One choice leads to another, and if a someone, somehow, doesn't step in then his life is going to go off the rails completely. Everything seems dark and hopeless to Jimmy, and he's convinced that no one can save him now. What he needs is a Christmas miracle.

Can a collection of townsfolk with impart their wisdom and grace to reach Jimmy before it's too late?
The answer, of course, is Yes. The story of how it happens is a rich reading experience, perfect for a November/December night.
Jimmy's internal struggle of "That which I hate, I do, yet I long to do better" is one we all know well.
The story of his transformation is what makes this story so wonderful.
This one can easily be read alongside A Christmas Carol each year.

Thank you Abingdon for my copy!


Citing his Arkansas heritage, Ace Collins defines himself as a storyteller. In that capacity, Ace Collins has authored more than sixty books for twenty-five different publishers that have sold more than 2.5 million copies. His catalog includes novels, biographies, as well as books on history, culture and faith. His current novel from Abingdon, Darkness Before Dawn, has earned scores of great reviews and been chosen by several different book clubs and publications as one of the top reads of 2013. It also made the most inspiring book list on iTunes in July and Hope For Women’s “Top Five Summer Reads.”

The God Puzzle: Teaching Little Ones How the Bible Fits Together.

The God Puzzle is a really creative way to teach little ones about God and His word.
This book combines thinking activities and look-up-the-verse activities with word-searches and fill in the blanks, so that children can gain knowledge and remember it.

Throughout this book you can tell that Valerie Ackermann has kept learning and fun hand-in-hand,
and she knows how to write so that information overload doesn't shut a child down.

The lessons are substantial, but not in an overly difficult way. I love the way she phrases deep theological truth in a way that will resonate with young readers.
These quotes should give you a feel for this book.
Her words on being Creations in His image.
"To be made in God's image means that we are, in a lot of ways, like him. We have minds to think, emotions, and we like to create. All this is like God. He is our Creator, and we are his created. We have some similar qualities so we can enjoy a relationship with him." 

And on the Bible:
"The Bible is like a long letter from God to you to help you understand Him, the world, and yourself.
He wrote it as your father, the One who made everything around you."

And on sin:
"Sin works by tricking us into believing that by sinning we will be happier. Sin tries to make promises that are really lies." 

Valerie explains that throughout the Old Testament, "God is showing Himself to be the one true God, who alone can save His people from sin and the effects of evil. All the Old Testament unravels a story that shows God's plan to save His people through His own power, not theirs."

And in the New Testament, we see what God meant by the promise that He would save us.
Valerie points us to this truth with a word-picture that stands out: "God's righteousness, given to us as a gift upon salvation, puts us in a place where we have a new, clean heart. We are declared righteous. It's like God took our bad report card, and wrote us a perfect one as a gift."

I think Moms, Dads and children will find The God Puzzle to be a real blessing. I would advise any Christian parent who is nervous about the wonderful {and terrifying!} responsibility of training their children: Slow down, pray for God's love to surround you, and then gather your babies on the couch with some good books like this one and begin the journey together.

Thank you Litfuse and Valerie for my review copy!

Valerie Ackermann   I see too many parents in the church frustrated at their time with their kids teaching them about God.  It shouldn't be that way.  Teaching about God is not only for parents who are gifted teachers, or homeschoolers, or pastors is for EVERY parent even if they are very new to the faith.  It is our job as a church to equip these parents with a book that is deep, yet simple, affordable, engaging, and requires no prep or background in the faith to get through.  THE GOD PUZZLE is that book.  Parents can do it with their kids at whatever pace works for them.  It's something easy enough for a child, yet with the depth and structure of a theology textbook.  The faith should be able to be explained in terms a child can understand, and that's what THE GOD PUZZLE does."    Valerie Ackermann

Monday, December 9, 2013

Living the Real life that Christ leads us into.

Real: Becoming a 24/7 Follower of Jesus

I admit I had two reactions as I read this book.
One was: this is way more than I want to do, it's out of my normal-zone.
The other was: Whoa. I want to live like this, I can imagine how we could set the world on fire if we did!!

Pastor Jamie Snyder begins this book with a provocative statement. He writes, "If you conducted a man on the street interview and asked people to use words to describe church, you would likely end up with a list like this:
Careful. "

And while those words aren't all bad, they aren't the only adjectives that should describe us. As Pastor Snyder points out, many America churches cannot be accused of turning the world upside down.
{Perhaps thats part of why we often feel like the world is being turned upside down on *us* instead.}

He also points out that the early church was known for turning the world upside down for Christ and for all that is good. The early church would be described by a different set of adjectives, such as Unbridled, Daring, Rebellious, Risky, Relentless, Scandalous, and Mad.

Yep. Your first thought is mine too: Those don't sound like very Christian terms.
Oh, but they are! Pair up each of those strong and heady words with a concept such as Love, Faith, Courage, Joy, Hope and Generosity.
You get Relentless Hope, and Mad Love, and Unbridled Generosity just for starters.

You begin to see the pieces coming together to form a picture of how we could change the world.

'Real' made me think. It made me think about the pride and desire for comfort and ease and the compulsive putting-self-first mentality that keeps me from living this way. I'm not going to claim that this is a simple life-style to put into action, but I will say that for each of us a way of acting out our Real Christianity is close at hand.
And it made me wonder why I don't take some of these steps more often.
For a start in Unbridled Generosity, why don't I donate two or three good items of clothes instead of tossing my ill-fitting rags in the Salvation Army bag?
When it comes to Daring Love, I'd like to think that I could reach out and minister to the anybody in need, at the moment they need it, yet I make excuses about forgetting to send emails to family members on their birthday.
I want to imagine myself preaching the Gospel boldly in prison, offering Relentless Grace, but one attempt to reach a relative who doesn't seem moved and I'm tempted to crawl out of the fight.

Yet the Bible presents this vision, this vision of followers: "They could not be contained; they could not be controlled; they could not be restrained; and they could not be limited..." And Jesus promises that because He began a good work in me He will bring it to completion.
So lets step forward into real life and trust Him to get us there.

Thank you Bethany House for my review copy!

Jamie Snyder writes and preaches  every week as pastor of Lakeside Christian Church. He previously served at the country's fifth largest church, Southeast Christian Church, where Kyle Idleman pastors. Jamie and his wife, Alex, and their two young sons live in Lakeside Park, Kentucky. Learn more at

The Advent Of Murder

The Advent of Murder (Faith Morgan Mystery #2)

Set in the crisp, cold days leading up to an English Christmas, and following the adventures of a perceptive police-woman turned vicar and her quirky parish full of people, The Advent of Murder was a perfect read for a November afternoon.

But don't let that fool you into thinking this is a "light" book. Nope.
Faith Morgan digs into spiritual matters and asks big questions. She herself is a deep and engaging character. Faith is a combination of street knowledge and spiritual wisdom. She understands the worst of human behavior from her years in police work, yet she also knows her own fallen nature and she believes in redemption for all who truly seek it.
Those two facets of her character: clear-eyed viewing of the sad and broken world, and at the same time a heart that seeks understanding of God and His love, make her fascinating.

Her personal life has a relationship conflict born out of her character. The man she 'loved and lost' is a tough cop just like herself, but he has never tempered the necessary toughness with hope grounded in God's transforming power. When he sees a bad situation he doesn't look for anything better on the horizon. He doesn't want to understand Faith's new life-role as a minister to souls, yet I had the feeling by the end of this story that he understood more than he wanted to outright admit!

Faith's detection skills flow out of her sharp mind and keen eye, and merge with her sensitivity to people and her questions of their motivations.  Somehow she manages to see them as more than perpetrators and victims... she sees them as people who may need her help to get back on their feet and who need to hear the news of the Gospel.

And we get to meet some of those people in this story. Each one is unique and well described... some made me laugh, some made me shake my head. None of them were cardboard.
For one, the past was never dealt with, and evil flowed out of a tormented heart.
And for another one, the past may lead to restoration.

That is the mystery.

Thank you Kregel for my review copy of The Advent of Murder!
And I want a Book Three!

Rebecca JenkinsThe Rev Faith Morgan is "a young woman in her early 30s with glossy brown shoulder-length hair and a healthy outdoor tan". Before being ordained into the Church of England, she had worked as a police officer in Hendon for nearly four years, and had had a long-term relationship with another police officer, Ben Shorter. But then Faith's vocation had taken a different turn, and her relationship with Ben had been broken off as she became increasingly uneasy with his drive for convictions, seemingly at any cost. But, even now as one of the clergy, she still "likes investigating; talking to people, analysing their expressions, reading their body language, peering into their lives; fitting together the broken puzzle of what they said and didn't say, and why. She was good at it.”

Martha Ockley is the pen-name of Rebecca Jenkins. She read history at Oxford University, and spent several years working alongside her father, the Rt. Revd. David Jenkins (Bishop of Durham 1984-94) during the turbulence of the 1980s. She lives in Teesdale in the North East of England where the landscape and history provide the inspiration for her Regency detective, F R Jarrett. Since September 2009 she has been Royal Literary Fund Fellow and Writer in Residence at York St John University. She is a full-time author, writing both fiction and non-fiction. (She should not be confused with a Canadian actor and singer, also called Rebecca Jenkins.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

This is Christmas...

 For our Christmas music collection this year, we added a Luther Vandross' Christmas CD.

I never get tired of this man's voice, and the rich way he brought these songs to life is a pleasure to hear.
One of my favorite songs on this CD is This is Christmas. Here are the words.

Don't be discouraged
Don't be dismayed.
There's hope for all in this world
'Cause this is Christmas day
Say A little prayer for the world

"God Teach us love"
Though you think that He doesn't hear
I know He does.

This is Christmas 
Let the world sing
Let us all began to heal
Hallelujah, this is Christmas
And with love we can began today

Christmas bells ring,
People's hearts sing
I forget about all the troubles I seem to have,
Tell myself to feel how my brother feels
Try to love'em then maybe then I could understand.

Make a little room in our hearts 
No heart's too small
We can love each other today
'Cause after all

This is Christmas 
Let the world sing
Let us all began to heal
Hallelujah! This is Christmas
And with love we can begin today

Come Come Come see the Little One
Come Come Come see the Little One
Come see the Baby
Come see the Baby

This is Christmas 
Let the world sing
Let us all began to heal
Hallelujah! This is Christmas
And with love we can begin today. 

*Like Moonlight at Low Tide*

Like Moonlight at Low Tide

This story really touched me. I couldn't put this book down, and I was carried along by the emotional power and the psychological insight into a young woman's life.

This book is worthwhile reading for any teenage girl who can relate to Melissa's story. If you've experienced something similar, the honesty and beauty in this story may even sow seeds of healing.
And grown up women should read this book too, because as women we have all shared Melissa's concerns and asked her questions.

Melissa is growing up on the tourist haven Anna Maria Island in Florida... a place where the loveliness seems almost ironic at times to Melissa.
How could there be so much trouble in her family, so much sadness, when they live in near-paradise? And how is a high school girl supposed to carry her mother's burdens, encourage her older brother, and nurture her younger sister all by herself... and still navigate the deep waters of romantic relationships, bullies, and friends?

It actually startled me how attached I was to the characters by the end, and how the specifics of the tragedy were completely unexpected by me.

This may be a book about a teen girl and it may include her boyfriend problems, but this is not a fluffy book. It's a book about what happens when someone breaks your heart, when someone dies and leaves you, when your life isn't carefree.

Thank you Booksneeze for my review copy. I will be looking for more books by Nicole Quigley.

The first time I fell in love with the written story was when I was about nine years-old, and my mother read an Emily Dickinson poem to me from a leather-bound anthology of American poetry.  I spent the next years drawn to anything that would help me recapture that feeling of pure wonder I felt when I discovered how the perfect string of words could come together to illuminate a truth, or a heartache, or even love.
As a kid, I memorized lines of words in community theater. I wrote pages upon pages of words to my best friends in high school (and in subsequent summer school).  I thought I had lost all my words when I was rejected from my high school newspaper, but I found them again when I got my first writing job as a student columnist for the Manatee Am/Sarasota Herald Tribune years later.
After majoring in Communications at Appalachian State University, I was blessed to find the profession of public relations, which allowed me to work with words on a daily basis for the last dozen years in Washington, D.C.
But it wasn’t until I wrote Like Moonlight at Low Tide that I got to share the words that meant the most to me—the ones that tell a story of God’s goodness and relevance to all of us.  I don’t think my words will ever do that mission justice, but it is sure fun (and incredibly humbling) to try.
Originally, I am from beautiful (and sunny) Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stones for Bread.

Stones for Bread

'If thous tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.' Robert Browning.
Liesl McNamara understands this. She lives and breathes this reality everyday at her bakehouse Wild Rise.

'Modern home-cooks think nothing of tearing open a bag of silken flour and a package of active dry yeast, and pouring the dry ingredients into a machine with a couple measures of water and an hour wait for a fresh loaf. Bread's dark history is unknown to them. And the sacrifice.'
Stones for Bread, page six.

Wild Rise is a world unto itself, and it is her world.
There are a select few individuals who understand the spirit of Wild Rise, and together they navigate life in all its tears, tragedy, innocence and irony. We get to meet these people in Stones for Bread

Stones for Bread is a book that I am almost afraid to review.
I'm afraid that my stumbling attempts to describe the magic of this story, most of which takes place in the Wild Rise kitchen, will make it sound small and cliched, when it is none of those things.
This book isn't your typical *anything,* and I can't confine it to one genre.
It is a God-story, a Love-story, a Family Legacy story.

This book is a raw-and-lyrical-at-the-same-time story, an exploration of living after you've been devastated and discovering the meaning of life.
This book is Liesl's story, and her faith is woven in like gold threads in a tapestry.

I loved the way the theme of the Eucharist, Christ as the Bread of Life, the physical bread symbolizing Him, was displayed here. There were times when I stopped, went back to the passage, and read it again to let the words resonate.

This novel is a literary journey worth taking.

Thank you Litfuse for my copy!

 "If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us."  Franz Kafka 
I feel this way both about the books I write, and those I read. But I also think this is true of a life transformed by Christ. Our faith should be the "ice axe" that breaks our frozen places as we're awakened by the Spirit's nudging, prodding, or - dare I say it? - hammering of us into the image of the Almighty.