Thursday, December 16, 2010

City of Tranquil Light

Author Bo Caldwell shares an inspired story of a young couple
whose marriage and faith are put to the test in Revolutionary China

Bo Caldwell’s 2001 debut novel, The Distant Land of My Father, set in historic China and based on the story of her uncle, was a critical and commercial success—a national bestseller that was loved by critics, booksellers, and readers in equal measure. In 2002 Caldwell turned to the story of her maternal grandparents who were missionaries in China in the early 1900s. For years her mother had urged her to write about them and when she dove into the research she found their lives full of conflict, danger, and heartbreak, as well as joy and fulfillment. But life, in the form of a cancer diagnosis, kept her from her writing desk until 2006. When she returned, she completed City of Tranquil Light (Henry Holt and Company), a searing love story of a man and a woman, their God, and the country they jointly loved and a deeply researched and page-turning portrait of a country in utter turmoil.

At the center of the novel are Will and Katherine, two Mennonite missionaries from the heartland who have come to China because they feel called by God to serve the poor and spread the Good News. But this is more than a missionary story; it is really the portrait of a marriage set against the backdrop of a radically shifting nation that is plunging into revolution.

A novel based on her grandparents wasn’t Caldwell’s idea. “I’m embarrassed to say that before I had dismissed my grandparents’ lives as too dull and simplistic. But as I reread my grandfather’s memoir and began to ask my mom about my grandparents, I learned how wrong I’d been.” As she began to see her grandparents as her mother had seen them, and to read the biographies and autobiographies of other American missionaries in China, Caldwell found similar stories. “I saw a pattern emerge in the later lives of many of these men and women. Most eventually returned to the United States, usually to be near their children (now grown) and grandchildren, but also because of illness or frailty. I was moved by the contrast between their lives in China and their later lives in the U.S. After enduring decades of war, famine, illness, personal danger, and great hostility toward their work, these people settled safely in the suburbs where they walked in rose gardens and played with their grandchildren and lived out their days. I was struck by the sacrifice that must have been involved in leaving the people and work that had been at the center of their lives, even with the reward of the comforts of modern life. I also began to feel that missionaries often get a bad rap in fiction. While there were certainly those who exploited the people they had come to serve, there were also many who poured out their lives for strangers and for their faith. And I wanted to tell their story.”

That story is one of marriage, of leaving one home and finding another, and of faith. “When I began the novel, I tried to understand my grandfather’s faith and to present it accurately,” says Caldwell. “I tried to see the world through his eyes.” Then life intervened, including a battle to quit drinking followed shortly after with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Once Caldwell returned to writing two years later, she returned as a different person. The combination of sobriety and a serious illness had affected her faith deeply, and she was no longer writing about her grandparents’ faith. She was writing about her own.

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell
Henry Holt and Company - September 28, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9228-8 – hardcover - $25.00

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Examination of the High Cost of Grace

Are you feeling as though your faith is 'soft'? Wanting a challenge? Read this book.

A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship

In 1937, on the threshold of Nazi Germany’s war on the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote what turned out to be one of the most influential books of the century, The Cost of Discipleship. In it, he challenged the flabby faith and compromises of German Christians, famously writing, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.”

Now, seventy-three years after the book was first published, Jon Walker has written Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Although Bonhoeffer’s book still has a loyal readership, it has not been adequately viewed through the eyes of the twenty-first century. Walker brings to a new generation the timeless message of Bonhoeffer against the background of today’s political upheaval and societal change and what it means to those who claim to follow Christ’s teachings, challenging contemporary teachings and lifestyles.

Grace is a foundational doctrine for Christians, yet it is one of the most misunderstood. Bonhoeffer watched as many used the doctrine of grace as an excuse to do whatever they wanted, and in response, he wrote his classic work on what it truly means to follow Jesus. We cheapen grace, he declared, when we use it to compromise our behavior or to lower the standards of God’s Word. In a modern retelling of this Christian classic, Walker explains what Bonhoeffer meant when he taught that grace is free but will cost us everything.

“Bonhoeffer called for a return to ‘costly grace,’ to a recognition that God’s grace comes at the cost of Christ’s passion. Grace is free, but it demands a disciple’s whole life, not just partial obedience to the commands of Christ. Bonhoeffer’s message resonates with our time of instability and insecurity,” Walker explains. “We’re tempted to compromise in order to keep things as they have been, but the cost of discipleship requires that our loyalty be only to Christ and Christ alone. Where our behavior is at odds with our belief, God requires we be ruthless in letting go of the things that entangle us and keep us from becoming just like Jesus.”

Costly Grace is a clear call to discipleship, reminding us what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and makes the doctrine of grace understandable and practical. Following Bonhoeffer’s example, Walker has anchored this book around an expository study of Matthew 5–7, including the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. As such, Costly Grace is an excellent resource for small group curriculum or congregation-wide study.

Also set to release in October is the Costly Grace 90-Day Devotional. The companion devotional is dedicated to bringing home to the heart of every Christian the vital call that Bonhoeffer made in his book and that Walker now makes in his. What decisions do we need to act on to walk the road Jesus shows us? Who is it we are called to love and forgive? And why is it imperative that the Beatitudes become our way of life? These are just some of the challenges that Walker helps us tackle in his valuable guide.

Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship by Jon Walker

ISBN 978-0-89112-676-8/224 pages/softcover/$15.99

Costly Grace 90-Day Devotional

ISBN 978-0-89112-677-5/224 pages/softcover/$13.99

Leafwood Publishers, October 2010 ~

Friday, October 08, 2010

Wise Words From Daphne Gray-Grant

Power Writing

Super fast tips to punch up your prose
October 5, 2010

You know reading is good for you -- right? Here are seven ways to make it even better....

Word count this issue: 733 words

Estimated reading time: Less than 3 minutes

PW #242 - Seven ways to ensure your reading is helping your writing


When people ask me the one thing they can do to improve their writing and I tell them to read more, I often receive shocked looks in return. Is it really that simple?

Well, no, of course it isn't. But reading -- and reading well -- can make a huge difference to your writing life. Here are seven tips to ensure you're doing it right:

1) Be sure to read only those books you enjoy. There's no honour in plowing through Charles Dickens if he bores you senseless. Ditto for Albert Camus, Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway. Your life is not an English 100 class -- and reading "obligatory" novels you don't like will only make you feel trapped. If you enjoy Jane Austen (as I do), well, sure, read her. But if you don't, well, don't. I promise you that no reading taskmaster is ever going to call you to account. Reading should be a pleasure. Read what you like so you read more, not less!

2) Read only a limited amount of crap. Tip #1 notwithstanding, you should read only small amounts of badly written material. The reason? You will start to sound like the authors you read. Bottom line: a little bit of People Magazine is okay as is a small amount of authors like John Grisham, who write for plot, not finely crafted sentences. But mainly try to stick with writers whom you honestly admire.

3) Read the kind of writing you aspire to produce yourself. If you're a marketing writer, find the very best marketing writers out there and devour their work. If you produce annual reports, scour the world for the most interesting best-written annual reports in history and read them! Perhaps you have a non-fiction book you want to produce? Read a plethora of non-fiction books until you find a model you want to emulate. This type of reading is never wasted time!

4) Never feel obliged to finish material you don't like. I don't know about you, but I've always had a hard time walking away from things I've started and haven't finished. Nevertheless, I've now learned to close the covers on books that don't "grab" me quickly enough. For example, I recently tried Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco. Although the book had earned rave reviews, by about page 80, I still wasn't engaged. So I returned it to the library. True, I couldn't regain the time lost reading 80 pages I didn't enjoy. But this was less "costly" than reading 320 pages I disliked!

5) Keep a record of what you have read. I have kept a book journal for the last 20 years. I don't always remember to record every single book but I try really hard. My journal used to be a spiral-bound notebook; I switched to a computer-based record about five years ago. I record the name of the book, its author, the publishing year, the first sentence of the book (sometimes a bit more) and one or two of my own thoughts. It takes me less than five minutes and I cannot tell you how many times this record has proven to be inordinately useful.

6) Have a good system for tracking the names of books you want to read. I like to have my "future reading" list with me at all times, so I've created three entries in the address book of my iPhone:

· Books, fiction
· Books, nonfiction
· Books, youngadult

As the iPhone is always in my purse or pocket, this allows to me pop into any bookstore without planning! When possible, I prefer to buy books for my Kindle but having the list in one portable, electronic place is still incredibly handy.

7) Give books away when you're finished. I'm a firm believer that our lives shouldn't be filled with stuff we don't need. When my husband and I rebuilt our house last year we went through two massive book "thinnings." I've kept a small bookshelf of reference works and books about writing, and a handful of books I adore, but everything else I give to friends when I'm done.

Finally, one important P.S. I'm no longer a member of a book club because I dislike being told what to read -- especially when there's a deadline. If a book club works for you, well, make that item #8. If not, don't feel guilty about it! Reading should be about enjoyment, not guilt.


Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Authentic voice, authentic research, a joy to read. If you like this genre, you will love Healer. It's one of those "couldn't put it down" books you will tell your friends about. If you have friends into New Age beliefs, this is a perfect book to make them think and open the door to discussion. Can't wait to read the next one in the series.

“In Healer, Linda Windsor continues a knack for thorough research

and the skill to draw from it judiciously in telling an engaging story.”

~ Randy Alcorn, author of Safely Home and Deception

Watch the book trailer for Healer!

With an estimated million books in print, Linda Windsor is an award-winning author of sixteen secular historical and contemporary romances and thirteen romantic comedies and historical fiction for the inspirational market. Her switch to inspirational fiction in 1999 was more like Jonah going to Ninevah than a flash of enlightenment. Linda claims God pushed her, kicking and screaming all the way. In retrospect, the author can see how God prepared her for His writing in her early publishing years and then claimed not just her music but also her writing when she was ready. At that point, He brushed away all her reservations regarding inspirational fiction, and she took the leap of faith. Windsor has never looked back.

Linda’s research for the early Celtic Gleannmara series resulted in a personal mission dear to her heart: to provide Christians with an effective witness to reach their New Age and unbelieving family and friends. Her goal continues with Healer of the Scottish Brides of Alba series, which reveals early church history, much of which has been lost or neglected due to intentional and/or inadvertent error by its chroniclers. This knowledge of early church history enabled Linda to reach her daughter, who became involved in Wicca after being stalked and assaulted in college and blaming the God of her childhood faith—a witness that continues to others at medieval fair signings or wherever these books take Windsor.

Windsor is convinced that, had her daughter known the struggle and witness of the early Christians beyond the apostles’ time and before Christianity earned a black name in the Crusades and Inquisition, she could not have been swayed from her early faith. Nor would Linda herself have been lured away from her faith in Christ in college by a liberal agenda.

Linda’s testimony that Christ is her Druid (Master/Teacher) opens wary hearts wounded by harsh Christian condemnation. Through her witness, admitted Wiccans and pagans have become intrigued by the tidbits of history and tradition pointing to the how and why druids accepted Him. She not only sells these nonbelievers copies of her books, but she also outsells the occult titles surrounding her inspirational ones.

About Linda Windsor’s latest book Healer:

A prophecy launches this family saga of strife

and superstition in Arthurian Scotland and

of the healer whose love and faith are its only hope.

Her mother’s dying prophecy to the chieftain Tarlach O’Byrne sentenced Brenna of Gowrys to twenty years of hiding. Twenty years of being hunted—by the O’Byrnes, who fear the prophecy, and by her kinsmen, who expect her to lead them against their oppressors. But Brenna is a trained and gifted healer, not a warrior queen. So she lives alone in the wilderness with only her pet wolf for company. When she rescues a man badly wounded from an ambush, she believes he may be the answer to her deep loneliness. Healing him comes as easy as loving him. But can their love overcome years of bitterness and greed…and bring peace and renewed faith to the shattered kingdom?

Healer (Book 1 in the Brides of Alba Series) by Linda Windsor

David C Cook/June 1, 2010/ISBN 978-1-4347-6478-2/351 pages/softcover/$14.99

Visit Linda Windsor at her Web site:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Getting There by Marcia Lee Laycock

“Done! Done, done, done!” My husband smiled as I did an excited dance around the room.

I had just finished the structural edit on my manuscript. It was a long haul and a challenge to my “little grey cells.” You see, this book came to me in flashes, in scenes and bits of dialogue. Unfortunately those bits and pieces did not come in any kind of order. In fact, they were a chaotic mess. So it has taken some time to put them into an order that will make sense and create the necessary tension and flow in the story. I think I have finally succeeded in doing that, without leaving any misplaced details or dangling threads.

When I finished I had a great sense of accomplishment, a sense that I am one step closer to being completely finished with this particular piece of creative work. But there is much more to do. There is more setting to be described and more dialogue to be fine tuned. There may be additional scenes to write and details to change. The work of editing, it seems, is never done if I want the work to truly shine. I’m willing to do that work because I’ve learned from experience that the end product will be much better for it.

As I worked on that manuscript this morning it made me think of the work God does in my life. It’s a work that will never be done until I am in His presence and that thought encourages me. He never gives up, never says, “Oh well, this is good enough.” He keeps on editing my life – nudging me to do this or that, putting people in my way who will sharpen me, books that will enlighten me and His Word that drops me to my knees. Some of the process isn’t easy but I’m willing to receive all of God’s editing in my life because I’ve learned from experience that the end product is much better for it.

A wise writer who had just given me a lengthy critique on a short story told me that “It’s impossible for me to edit bad writing. This writing is worth the effort.” In the same way it encourages me that God deems me worthy of His refining work. Some day it will be done and on that day I look forward to seeing what the final product will really look like.

“… we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Experts speak on digital publishing

Digital Publishing - some experts speak out -

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Crossing Oceans

Nothing deepens a stream like a good rain . . . or makes it harder to cross.Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But life has a way of upending even the best-laid plans. Now, years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter.

As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love to change everything—to heal old hurts, to bring new beginnings . . . even to overcome the impossible.


“Beautiful and heartfelt.”
Charles Martin, NYT bestselling author of Where the River Ends

“Poignant and unforgettable, CROSSING OCEANS will break your heart — and then put the pieces back together again. This is an uplifting and inspiring tale that reminds us to live every day as if it’s our last.”
Tess Gerritsen, NYT Best-selling author .

“Moving, heart-rending and poignant, a stunning debut. Holmes returns us to what matters in a too-short life—what it really is to come home.”
Tosca Lee, Author of Havah & Demon: A Memoir

“Gina Holmes explores the beauty, tenderness and tenacity of mother-love in Crossing Oceans with marvelous skill and insight. An outstanding debut from a gifted storyteller. Bravo!
Susan Meissner, Author of The Shape of Mercy


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Online Devotional Course

Ever wanted to learn how to write devotionals? Join me for four weeks of fun learning -

Next Date – May 3 – 24, 2010

Content: Writing in an anecdotal style, learn how to stimulate your readers to consider spiritual things. The course will cover Using Literary Devices, How to Show instead of Tell, Keeping your Focus, Using Metaphor

Instructor: Marcia Lee Laycock

To enroll e-mail

Cost: $100.00. Receipt of fee confirms enrolment. Enrolment is limited. Send cheque to ICWF c/o Laurie Hanchard, 7403 – 92A Ave. Edmonton, AB. T6B 0V4

Format: The course will run as a Yahoo group. Students should make themselves familiar with before the course begins. A short lesson and assignment will be given at the beginning of the week. Each student will send her/his devotional to Marcia for critique. Students are also free to comment on/critique one another’s work.

Credentials: Marcia is an award-winning, published writer. She has been writing a weekly devotional column for more than 20 years and has been published in both national and provincial newspapers and magazines. Marcia has taught writing at Inscribe’s conferences as well as at Write Canada (The Word Guild in Ontario) and through Adult Learning of Alberta. Her devotional books, The Spur of the Moment and Focused Reflections have been endorsed by Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Her novel, One Smooth Stone won her the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006 and was released in Sept. 2007. A second novel will be released in Spring 2011.

Endorsements from previous students -

I took the anecdotal devotional course that Marcia teaches and it is
very good! I learned lots of good technique, especially how to revise down
to a brief devotional (the kind most publishers want!)
Pam Mytroen

This course has been a great help to me in my writing. The critiques were very enlightening. Your remarks were right on target. It was also beneficial to be able to view my fellow student’s writings and critiques as well.

The assignments were fun as well as challenging. The content was just right without being too cumbersome for those who work fulltime. It was $100 well spent. Thanks Marcia!

Sandra Briggs

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay

If you're a pastor's wife you'll love this book. It's laugh out loud funny but takes you to some serious places too.

It's about identity and being grounded in Christ. It's about knowing what God wants from you and being able to gracefully refuse to mold yourself into someone else's false picture of who you should be.

If you're not a pastor's wife, pick it up anyway - it will give you some great insights into your pastor's wife and maybe just maybe you'll be able to avoid heaping some of those unrealistic expectations on her.

Lisa McKay’s You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes is an utterly honest, charmingly witty, and biblically insightful guide for every minister’s wife who wants to serve the church and her husband without losing herself along the way.

Excerpt from the introduction of You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes…and Other Great Advice from an Unlikely Preacher’s Wife by Lisa McKay (© David C Cook, 2010)

“God is calling you to do what?”

Such was my reaction fifteen years ago when my husband, Luke, told me he felt God was leading him into the gospel ministry. Even though I supported him wholeheartedly, I naively believed this calling was somehow just his gig. My job was simply to accompany him while he did his “thing.”

Reality didn’t hit until a well-meaning gentleman enlightened me on the expectations of a minister’s wife. He said, “The best thing you can do for Luke is learn how to play the piano. He’ll have a much easier time being called as a pastor of a church. Congregations love it when the pastor’s wife can contribute. It’s like they are getting two for one!” If I knew then what I know now, I would have had a serious fight with the flesh to keep from sharing my thoughts on the buy-one-get-one-free concept.

The restraint of the Holy Spirit is a beautiful thing.

Before that moment, it truly had not entered my mind that anyone would expect anything of me, or that my lack of musical talent could affect my husband’s “success” in ministry. I thought of my childhood pastor’s wife, a grim-faced woman whose hair was piled high in a bun. Polyester skirts and sensible shoes were her standard uniform. And yes, she played the piano. Was this the person I must become in order for God to use our family in ministry?

…It also did not help that the books I read about being a ministry wife only reinforced my insecurities. The advice ranged from how to brew a perfect cup of tea for a ladies’ luncheon to how to organize a large staff when hosting a dinner party. According to these books, I was to be gracious at all times, keep a spotless home, and have well-dressed, obedient children. I’m certainly not criticizing these noble aspirations, but even before children I was completely overwhelmed at this picture of perfection. I don’t agree with the busyness of our culture, yet there is no use in denying I often fall prey to its trappings. The truth is, I am a wife and mother deep in the trenches. The only tea I brew is Lipton. And staff? Are you kidding me? If I ever have a workforce at my disposal, they will be too busy doing laundry to prepare a dinner for the deacons. And where do I begin with the kids? Someone please tell me what to do with a child who sneaks his Halloween costume under his clothes, strips off in the bathroom, and shakes hands as Spiderman during the greeting song when he is supposed to be in children’s church. Susanna Wesley would definitely not approve.

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay
David C Cook February 1, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6726-4/208 pages/softcover/$12.99

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Little Help from a Friend

When my daughter decided to take a language course by correspondence I had some trepidation. Would she have the self-discipline to finish it? Could she really learn a language by listening to audio recordings and reading a book? She dove in with enthusiasm at first, but quickly got bogged down. I did my best to encourage her to keep going. We were working on an assignment together one morning when she looked up and said, “You know Mom, I really want to know how to speak Spanish. I just don’t want to have to learn it!”

I’ve thought of that day often over the past few months. It’s been a struggle to get my next novel finished. I so want it to be finished. I dream of seeing the book in my hands and on the shelves of many bookstores. But right now I have little of the enthusiasm I need for writing it.

Most writers hit this wall, when it’s just not that much fun and you have to force yourself to sit in the chair and do it. I’ve hit this point before and I know it will pass. Like my daughter, I will persevere and the book will be written. I just have to get over this hump.

Sometimes the path of our spiritual life can have a lot of humps. We want to go church, but can’t drum up the needed energy to get out the door. We want to read the Bible but there are so many distractions. Even the apostle Paul seems to have had a number of humps along the way. Hear his distress in these words – “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:20-24).

The struggle to live as we should, to enjoy God as He intended us to do, is sometimes more than a hump. It can seem like a mountain.
But listen to what Paul says next – “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”(v.25)

Paul made it over the hump, with a little help from a friend. The good news is He’s our friend too and He’s very good at bulldozing the humps in our lives, both spiritually and physically. He cares about all of it and he wants to help. Just ask Him.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Inspiration and a Funny Movie

Great article on inspiration -

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kindle- ing your book

Great article on how to get your book published in format for Kindle -

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Interesting Insights into Church History

I just viewed the first part of this video series and was intrigued, Diarmaid MacCulloch gives an interesting overview of the development of the church, particularly in the east - a part of our Christian history we don't often hear about. Highly recommended.

Q & A with Diarmaid MacCulloch,
Host of A History of Christianity (Part 1 of 2)

Q: A History of Christianity corrects several misconceptions regarding Christianity’s past and traditions, beginning with the earliest days of the fledgling religion. How does the true history of Christianity’s origins differ from the version most of us know?

A: Today, Christianity is seen as a Western faith. Indeed, many in the Muslim world would see Western lifestyles as Christian lifestyles. But Christianity is not by origin a Western religion. Its beginnings are in the Middle East, where there still exist churches which have been Eastern since the earliest Christian era. For centuries, Christianity flourished in the East, and indeed, at one point, it was poised to triumph in Asia, maybe even in China. The headquarters of Christianity might well have been Baghdad rather than Rome, and if that had happened, Western Christianity would have been very different. The story of the first Christianity tells us the Christian faith is, in fact, hugely diverse with many identities. The history of Christianity has been the never-ending rebirth of a meeting with Jesus Christ, the resurrected son of God. For some, like the Oriental and Orthodox churches, the meeting has been through ritual and tradition, or the inner life of the mystic. For Western Catholics, through obedience to the Church. In Protestant churches, through the Bible. And it’s the variety that is so remarkable in Christianity’s journey. It’s reached into every continent and adapted to new cultures. That’s the hallmark of a world religion.

Q: Why does Christian history fascinate you?

A: When I was a small boy, my parents used to drive me around historic churches searching out whatever looked interesting, but soon, they realized they had created a monster. The history of the church became my life’s work. For me, no other subject can rival its scale and drama. For 2,000 years, Christianity has been one of the great players in world history, inspiring faith but also squalid politics. It is an epic story starring a cast of extraordinary people—from Jesus himself and the first apostles to empresses, kings, and popes, from reformers and champions of human conscience to crusaders and sadists. Religious belief can transform us for good or ill. It has brought human beings to acts of criminal folly as well as the highest achievements of goodness and creativity. I will tell the story of both extremes. Christianity has survived persecution, splits, wars of religion, mockery, hatred. Today there are two billion Christians, a third of humanity—Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and many more. Deep down, the Christian faith boasts a shared core—but what is it? This is something I wanted to explore on a truly global scale.

Q: Your search for Christianity’s true history begins with a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Why does this location tell us about the Christianity’s global roots?

A: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is said to have been built where Jesus was crucified and buried. At its heart is what’s believed to be his tomb. The church built around the tomb of Jesus is the starting point for a forgotten story, a story that may overturn your preconceptions about early Christianity. Pride of place in this building goes to two churches—the Greek Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic church. It’s true that Orthodoxy and Catholicism dominated Christianity in Europe, in the West, for its first 1,500 years. But as you walk around the edges of the church, you can’t fail to notice other curious little chapels. They’re not Western or European. They’re Middle Eastern and African, and they tell a very different story about the origins of Christianity. Around the back of Jesus’ tomb is Egypt’s Coptic church. There are plenty of other churches at this location, but you need to know where to look: the Syriac Orthodox church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, to name a few. Many versions of Christian history would make these churches unorthodox, yet they are far older than better known versions of Christianity like Protestantism. It’s easy for tourists to dismiss these ancient churches as quaint or even irrelevant. But that would be a big mistake.

Q: What are some general differences between the expansion of Western and Eastern Christianity?

A: In the West, Christianity became the religion of an entire empire. This meant the end of persecution. It brought power and wealth. It gave the Christian faith a chance at becoming a universal religion. In theory, it embraced Christians in the Eastern Empire as well as in the West.
But in the east, many Christians were unimpressed by the new alliance—even hostile. At stake were fundamental disagreements about the direction the faith should take. Jesus had told people to abandon wealth, not to ally with the rich and powerful. It was Eastern Christians in Syria who led the way, showing Western Christianity a pattern for spiritual life. We call this pattern monasticism, a way of life involving isolation from the world, austerity, and suffering. The expansion of Eastern Christianity has often taken place apart from any empire. It has often been a religion of dialogue, not conquest.

The DVD set will arrive in stores, including Sam’s Club, in time for the Easter Season. The series will also be available on

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years 6 DVD Set presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch
March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A good quote to Remember

"If you cry while you write, that's catharsis. If others cry while reading what you wrote, that's craft."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Exciting Upcoming Conference

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—The Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC) has announced its annual conference to be held on May 20-22, 2010 at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, TX. The keynote speaker will be Tullian Tchividjian, addressing this year’s theme of The Gospel Revolution.

Tchividjian is the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, founded by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, and is the grandson of renowned evangelist Dr. Billy Graham. Tchividjian has authored several books, including Unfashionable and Do I Know God?, and speaks at conferences throughout the US. His sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program Godward Living.

The conference is an experience designed for both the young and old of our culture and those who lead them. The Gospel Revolution: Rediscovering the Power of the Cross will teach a new generation of Christians how to effectively apply the Gospel of the Cross to the real issues of everyday life. Tchividjian explains, “I am absolutely convinced that most Christians believe that the gospel ignites the Christian in life, but they fail to believe the gospel is the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing every day.”

Although the conference is targeted to counselors, the event is open to anyone who would like to better apply Biblical principles to own their lives, as well to those who are seeking to become better equipped to offer counsel within their churches and ministries.

The Gospel Revolution conference will feature several authors and international speakers, including Dr. Paul David Tripp, Elyse Fitzpatrick, and Dr. Mike Emlet. Speakers with local ties include Beau Hughes (Lead Pastor of The Village Church in Denton, TX), Elliott Greene (Redeemer Seminary), and Jeremy Lelek (President of ABC).

Based in Bedford, TX, the Association of Biblical Counselors exists to encourage, equip, and empower all believers everywhere to live and counsel the Word. ABC offers resources designed to equip professional counselors, pastoral staff, and all Christians to provide wise counsel that comes straight from Scripture—and only from Scripture. ABC believes that the Bible answers every single question that psychology tries to answer.

For more information about ABC and for conference details and registration, visit

Monday, March 22, 2010

Platform Schmatform

Good article on that nasty word, Platform -

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Make Love/ Make War by Brian Doerksen

If you have been blessed by Brian Doerksen’s music you will be blessed by this book. Be brings the same open devotion to God into it and shares his heart with us. Using stories from his experience as a song-writer Brian talks openly about his own struggles and weaknesses yet never slips into the overly sentimental or trite. The story about the birth of his second son, for instance, is powerful.

The blurb on his website says:
In his first book, Brian shares the powerful stories behind some of the most influential worship songs of our time, including "Come, Now Is the Time to Worship", "Refiner's Fire", and "Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing)". Brian's hope and prayer is that the stories surrounding these songs and the truths they sing will awaken your heart to 'Make Love & War' for the glory of God!

It’s obvious that Brian’s songs pour out of a heart longing for God and he leads the readers of this book down that same path.

If you are a worship leader in your church this is a must read. If you are trying to write songs there is a segment at the end of each chapter just for you. But it’s not only beneficial to song-writers. It speaks to us all about being real with God and real with people.

If you have no musical talent at all this book is still a must read. It’s a glimpse into the heart and soul of a man of God who struggles yet comes out shining in His light.

Brian is about to launch into an exciting adventure with his touring musical,
Prodigal God. I look forward to the performance because I know it will be so much more than that.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rooted in Love

The Bible college professor handed out the syllabus for the first term and I gulped as I read it. The course dealt with two books written by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians and it included choosing a chapter to memorize. A whole chapter! I started praying that God would give me the capacity to cram that much scripture into my brain and be able to get it all back out onto paper, verse numbers and punctuation included.

We had several weeks to do the assignment but I picked chapter 13 of First Corinthians and began right away. I picked it because I already knew a portion of it by heart and I figured memorizing the famous "love chapter" would be easier that some of the others. I had no idea what memorizing that portion of scripture would do to me.

At the time, I was in the middle of teaching a women's bible study on campus but after getting half way through the love chapter I seriously considered quitting. My motivation had been all wrong. I hadn't accepted the teaching assignment out of love, I had accepted it out of pride and my need for affirmation. I spoke with an older woman of God about my dilemma and she gave me wise counsel. She said that even though my motives may not have been the best, God was teaching me through the process. The challenge was to rise to the need for change, to pray for guidance and then obey.

I began to realize that the love God had poured into me the day I accepted Christ as my Saviour was not meant to stay buried in my heart. It was meant to be poured back out. That wasn't easy for me. Still isn't. Because of some of the damage that was done to my heart and soul as a young girl, I'm a bit afraid of love, afraid to receive it and to give it freely. I'm sometimes afraid it will cost too much, hurt too much.

But little by little God is helping me to trust Him enough to know that His love is patient and kind it is not easily angered. His love keeps no record of wrongs. His love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. His love never fails.

I take courage in the Apostle Paul's prayer in the book of Ephesians chapter 3, verses 17-18 -"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."

Rooted and established in love. That's what being a Christian means because God is love. So we are rooted and established in Him. We may fail to show it, fail to do it, but that is the reality of who we are. My prayer is that as we write, as we speak, as we live our lives day to day, the love of God may not be a trickle that seeps out of us, but a torrent flowing through all we do.

Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Great Article on Branding

Chip MacGregor is clear on Branding -

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Synopsis Checklist from Writers' Digest

Writing a Synopsis for your novel? Here's something to help -

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Great Titles

Good article on finding a great title for your work -

Monday, February 08, 2010

Query Letters

Great article on writing a query letter.

Monday, February 01, 2010

From Fear to Freedom by Grace Fox

If you have ever struggled with fear this book is for you. If you have ever longed for the freedom only Christ can bring, read this book. You won't be disappointed. This one delivers.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke

If you like American soap operas, you’ll love this book. It has all the same elements – beautiful people, most of them with lots of money, famous nightclubs and restaurants, frequent mention of Hollywood and “Haute Couture,” and of course the ever-present love interests and drama that goes along with them.

The book is thicker than it needed to be and could have used a good edit, but it’s fairly fast paced and doesn’t take long to read, nor does it take much thought as you go. It could be described as a fun romp in a world most of us won’t ever experience - through the eyes of a "Boomer" woman who is stuck in and obsessed with the 70's.

From the publisher -

Where Life Is a Dance and Disco Is a State of Mind
In Her Latest Novel, Queen of Boomer Lit Allison Bottke
Offers Mature Women Contemporary Fiction with an Attitude!

In You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, the first book in the Va-Va-Va Boom series, Susan Anderson owns and operates a hip hair salon on the Las Vegas strip, decorated with her collection of disco memorabilia accumulated decades ago when she was one of the beautiful people on New York’s disco scene. Now happily married, Susan is known for her business savvy, her fabulous vintage ensembles, her faith, her big heart—and the impromptu disco dance numbers salon staff and clients join in when the spirit moves. If life is a dance, Susan’s mastered all the moves.

But an exciting business opportunity, her husband’s impending retirement, and her fiftieth birthday rock her world, shaking Susan’s foundation and revealing regrets and painful memories she thought she’d dealt with. Will Susan be able to face her past, reinvent her marriage, launch a new dream . . . and keep on dancing?

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke
David C Cook/June 2009/ISBN: 978-1-434799-49-4/437 pages/softcover/$14.99 ~

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stealing Some Thunder

A great post on a friend's blog -

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Longview by Roger Parrot, PhD

Comments from a Pastor :
This book on the principles and strategies of leadership, aspects of which can apply to both the secular and church worlds, is replete with practical insights for both present and future leaders. The topics covered range from means to prevent burnout, cautions on accountability and evaluation and certain critical warnings about vulnerability. The book emphasizes the importance of having a “longview” approach to ministry, to seeing yourself there in the distant future. It emphasizes doing the necessary disciplines to accomplish that. The author cautions about over planning as that which can preempt creativity, a refreshing comment in the day of overemphasis on priorities and goals. The books 251 pages are written in an open and candid style making it easy to read and grasp. When it comes to material on leadership this is a book to read and then refer to over and over.

Q&A with Dr. Roger Parrott

America is paying the price of short-term decision making (i.e., sub-prime mortgages, Bernie Madoff, health care costs, General Motors bankruptcy, et al). As more ministries adopt the prevailing short-term pattern, they move closer to the same outcome—the quick payoff—at the cost of a future crisis. In The Longview, Roger Parrott calls for a seismic shift in the leadership attitudes and actions of readers. Parrott is a seasoned, practical leader who is not afraid to challenge younger leaders to lead for lasting impact, not fleeting bragging rights. The book offers practical insights from both scripture and his own experience. Both young and seasoned leaders will uncover a solid foundation for success for any ministry, organization, or business.

How does the Longview approach get lived out in the every-day demands of ministry leadership?

I suggest that leaders begin by leading as if you’ll be there forever. The heart of the Longview does not begin with actions as much as attitude. Imagine that the organization and position you are in right now is what God wants you to do for the rest of your professional life. For many, it might be discouraging to truly feel “locked in” to your job. But contrary to the mantras of popular career gurus, this is one of the best things that could ever happen to you and your ministry, because to lead as if you must remain in that same position forever—and live with the long-term consequences of every decision—will shift your perspective, align your priorities, and build lasting strength in your organization, rather than allowing you to settle for the comfort and accolades of immediate results.

When a leader is thinking, living, and acting in terms of only the short-range, everyone around him suffers and may be handicapped for years to come because the decisions of today will narrow subsequent options and opportunities. The compounding weight of each shortsighted decision speeds the deterioration of the ministry’s foundation, while a long-term perspective strengthens that substructure for a higher reach in the future. Whether new on the job, nearing retirement, or eyeing a climb up the career ladder, leading as if you’ll be in your current position forever will revolutionize the way you lead.

Give us some examples of leadership principles made with the long term in mind.

This book challenges leaders to think very differently about leadership, so some of the section headings can be a bit jarring because we need to radically break free from conventional leadership models if we hope to return to a biblical pattern of leaderships. So I’m suggesting to leaders ideas such as:

· Planning Will Drain the Life from Your Ministry

· Deflate Your Ego to Expand Your Influence

· Policies are for Cowards

· Learn to Work with the “Untouchables” Of Leadership

· Understand the Diagnostic Triggers to Preempt Conflicts of Interest

· Treasure the Four Gifts Found in Your Rearview Mirror

· Learn to Shepherding A Vision Without Scaring Away the Flock

We live in a quick-fix, immediate-impact, short-view world. But we serve a Longview God. To bridge this gap, Jesus became the ultimate example of Longview leadership amid the clamor for expedient results. Of course His sights were always aimed toward eternity (the ultimate Longview), and He lived and thought in that realm. But even in the practical everyday demands of leadership, Jesus showed us the value of investing in Longview solutions as we serve those in our care. And that’s what I wanted to address in the book – how Jesus lived our Longview leadership in the practical challenges of everyday leadership.

If you could summarize the Longview approach in one rule, what would it be?

To boil it down to one rule, it would be this: be prepared to catch the wind of God.

I am convinced one of the core problems of evangelical leaders is that too often we’ve stopped trying to catch the wind of God in our sails because we’ve become fairly effective at creating our own independent power to get God’s work done.

Would we rather set out to achieve a set of sharply defined goals by revving up the engines to create the best programs, the best ministry concepts, and the best future our well-trained minds could imagine? - OR - Would we rather go wherever the wind of God might take us? While the second choice is clearly our desire, too often we live, plan, and work as if our direction is totally dependent on the power we can generate and the best course we can envision.

There is a world of difference between powerboats and sailboats. And those differences are critical benchmarks for each of us in ministry leadership. (I lay out six of them in the book.) Leaders need to be willing to turn off the power of their organization’s agenda and the best ideas that drive them. We may feel proud when powerboats of ministry are big, well built, and polished, even a small, poorly crafted, and worn sailboat will outdistance a powerboat every time—because only the sailboat is able to catch the wind of God.

About the author:
At age thirty-four Roger Parrott became one of America’s youngest college presidents. Parrott is currently the president of Belhaven University, an innovative liberal arts institution recognized as the leading evangelical college in the Arts. He earned a PhD in higher education administration from the University of Maryland. Parrott serves in leadership of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Mission America Coalition, and Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He has advised a wide variety of ministries in the US and internationally.

The Longview by Roger Parrott, Ph.D.

David C Cook/October 2009/ISBN: 978-1-4347-6749-3/hardcover/255 pages/$16.99 –