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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A very good day

Yesterday we celebrated my oldest daughter's birthday with a knitting party and a fun time with great friends. My oldest is an incredible knitter and has been knitting since she was nine.

But trying to teach mom to knit was most likely the low point of the day. You know saying about teaching an old dog new tricks?

I'm that old dog.

It was a wonderful day despite that. ;-)

We also enjoyed an impromptu knitting party (four participants were under the age of 12) around our kitchen table after the birthday party and a viewing of National Treasure 2~ a movie we all love.

Then, later that evening, I scooted out of the house for a WORD meeting where the group brainstormed two awesome stories and I laughed with writer friends. I love being part of this group.

My last fun thing of the day was meeting with a dear friend to work on our teaching for Lifeway in September. She told me a story as we walked out about attending an Amish auction and wanting to bid on a particular item because she knew I'd love it.

Well, an Amish friend bid and won the item. But later, two Amish ladies found out about my friend wanting this item for me and ended up sending her another one. A handmade, Amish plaque.

It epitomizes all that's best about my day.

So a very special THANK YOU to my friend and her Amish friends for being a big part of a super wonderful day.

And while I'm at it... thanks to all the folks in my life who this plaque is about:

My husband and kiddos, Jen, the Medlins, Cindy, Sharon, the WORD group, Carrie, and all of you reading this blog.

You all make my life sweeter. Thanks for being part of a day to celebrate. A day that is a precious reminder that there are things in life worth celebrating.

Even on the rainy days.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Title Trakk

If you've never visited Title Trakk, please hop on over there and check out this amazing site filled with all things book, music and movie. There are author interviews, music interviews and great, well-written reviews for books, movies and CDs.

Plus if you sign up for their informative newsletter, you could win lots of stuff you'd love to have. ;-)

When you go, be sure to check out the left side of the page, right under the newsletter sign up, to enjoy some of my husband's computer genius.

And if I haven't convinced you to check out this site yet (what are you waiting for???), here's an added bonus...

Nowhere else can you find out about the last time I cried, the mystery of the missing shoe solved with sniffles, my favorite chocolate (in case you'd like to send me some ;-) ) and my less-than-mature way of handling writer's block.

There's also a Title Trakk exclusive on how God changed my path from one barreling toward destruction to running into His loving arms. yourself a favor and go enjoy some time at Title Trakk. Then stop back by here and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dry Spells

I don't know if you've ever gone through a time where you felt shriveled up inside. I hope not. But if you have, you'll understand where I've been lately.

I've been stuck in that dry place where words fail and fear prevails. Thus, my lack of soul-bearing blogging.

But I caught a drop of water the other day and wanted to share.

Part of the reason fear has prevailed is because I've run away from any God-stuff. The only other place to go is into "me-stuff" and that's a pretty shallow oasis.

But the other day I opened the Bible expecting the same old stirring up of dry dust in my soul. (Yep, I've still been in the Word and running from God.)

What I found instead was a charge. A lightening bolt, light bulb on, hallelujah type of ah-ha moment.

First came a bit of gulping at the Galatians 6, "A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

Gotta tell you, there was a lot of ouch as I understood that this current dry spell has been very much my doing. Sow fear and faithlessness, reap deadness. I have.

But then God's tender words washed away that guilt and a good bit of the dust in my soul. Galatians 6 continues with, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

There was the charge. Don't stop. Don't give up. Don't listen to the critics and those who say you don't have what it takes.

Keep doing good. Keep walking forward in forgiveness no matter how many times it's required. Keep working on the next story and trust He will breathe His life into it. Keep parenting when it seems to do no good. Keep trying to reach out to fellow believers even when your hand gets snapped at. And keep loving when nothing is returned.

Because the reality is God said to keep doing good. And HE will cause a harvest to come at the proper time.

I'm still a little shaky on believing that promise, believing it really will come. I'd appreciate your prayers on that.

But this I know, God is good. In the happy times as in the dry.

And this I will keep doing... Remember. Do good. Look to Him for the results. Run toward instead of away from His loving arms.

Because He not only has a drop of water to share…He has living water in abundance.

I hope you'll join me in drinking deep and doing good

Monday, August 18, 2008

Great Family Fun

One of the things we love doing in the Wallace home is snuggling up with a good book and reading together. From preschooler to grown-up, one of our favorite book series stars the hilarious Junie B. Jones.

And recently, we added three new books to our reading fun. Two are from a favorite author, one is a new-to-us author.

After you read about these great children's books, please add a comment about your favorite books to read with your kiddos! We're always looking for more great stories.

God Gave Us Heaven

by Lisa Tawn Bergren

Little Cub awakens one morning with some important questions on her mind: What is heaven like? How do we get there? Will we eat in heaven? Will we be angels?

During a delightful day spent wandering their arctic world, Papa gently answers each question, assuring Little Cub that heaven is a wonderful place, “a million times better” than she can imagine. He explains how God has made a way for those who love him to enter their heavenly home forever after their lives on earth are over.

Reuniting the best-selling author-illustrator team from God Gave Us You, this gentle story provides satisfying answers for a young child’s most difficult questions about heaven. Parents, grandparents, childcare professionals, librarians, Sunday school teachers, and others will appreciate the gentle approach to a topic that’s on the minds of so many “little cubs.”

Through captivating, full-color illustrations and tender, biblically sound storytelling, young readers and those who love them will find reasons to rejoice in knowing that God Gave Us Heaven.

Author Bio:

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than one million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Heaven is Lisa’s fourth children’s book, following in the tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She makes her home in Colorado, with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

Illistrator Bio:

Laura J. Bryant studied painting, printmaking, and sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. She has illustrated numerous award-winning children’s books, including God Gave Us You, Smudge Bunny, and If You Were My Baby. Laura lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

God Loves Me More Than That, and When God Created My Toes

In two new books from best-selling children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall, clever rhymes and delightful illustrations help young children, ages three and up, understand God’s huge love for them and his joy in creating them. These enchanting picture books from the writer-illustrator team of Dandi Mackall and David Hohn will instill awe in young children as they revel in each page. Parents alike will appreciate the engaging stories that communicate God’s perfect plan and his divine purpose for little hearts.

In God Loves Me More Than That, children learn that God loves them deeper than a wishing well, wider than a semi-truck, louder than thunder, and softer than a kitten’s sneeze. Each question, presented with charming child-like faith will help young ones grasp the great love of God through comparisons and descriptions they can easily understand. In short, they’ll discover that His love is bigger, wider, higher, and deeper than anything they could imagine!

In When God Made My Toes, kids are drawn into the wonder of their creation by God. Their masterful artist who fashioned them just right for amazing and delightful adventures, such as roller skating, finger-painting, doing flips, and drinking cocoa. Children will come to an understanding that God shaped each part of their amazing bodies with joy, delight, and humor.

Author Bio:

Dandi Daley Mackall has published more than 400 books for children and adults, with more than 3 million combined copies sold. She is the author of WaterBrook’s two other delightful Dandilion Rhymes books, A Gaggle of Geese & A Clutter of Cats and The Blanket Show. A popular keynote speaker at conferences and Young Author events, Mackall lives in rural Ohio with her husband, three children, and a menagerie of horses, dogs, and cats.

Illistrator Bio:

David Hohn is an award-winning illustrator who graduated with honors from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has worked as both a staff artist and an art director for a children’s software company in Portland, Oregon, a position which led to his art directing an award-winning project for Fisher-Price. Hohn’s recent projects include Lisa Tawn Bergren’s God Gave Us Christmas.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beach Dreaming

One of my favorite authors is Trish Perry. She’s been on my fave list since her first book, The Guy I’m Not Dating. And she’s up at the top again with her third book, Beach Dreams. It’s a story filled with fun, romance, the beach and a powerful message about how God uses even our mistakes to bring about His divine purposes.

To get the word out about Beach Dreams, she’s doing a very cool thing I hope you’ll take part in. So stretch your fingers and get ready for some fun…

What: a special contest for Beach Dreams

Prize: goody-filled beach bag

How: post a response to the following prompt: How has God used a mistake you made - big or small - for his purposes?

The example may be serious or funny, complex or simple, and you may or may not have realized He was even using it at the time it occurred. Tell your story and reference that you are participating in the Beach Dreams blog tour.

Then visit and add your post. All entries must be received by 5pm CST on August 22. Trish will judge the entries and declare her favorite.

To get you in a writing and reading mood, here’s a little about my friend, Trish, and her wonderful new novel, Beach Dreams

Beach Dreams:

Following up on Sally John’s bestselling Beach House series is a brand new Beach House book from veteran Harvest House novelist Trish Perry.

Tiffany LeBoeuf recently lost her mother to cancer. Still grieving, Tiffany seeks rest for her body and soul at a cozy beach house in San Diego. A scheduling mix up causes a double booking, and Tiffany ends up sharing the house with a woman named Eve. When Eve’s boyfriend, Jeremy, arrives to surprise Eve, he’s surprised to see Tiffany as well. He settles in at the beach house next door, and what happens after that surprises them all.

To win a copy of Beach Dreams, just post a comment below!

Trish’s bio:

Trish Perry is an award-winning writer of The Guy I’m Not Dating and Too Good to Be True. Her most recent book, Beach Dreams, was released on July 1, 2008. She served for seven years as the editor of Ink and the Spirit, a quarterly newsletter of the Capital Christian Writers organization in the Washington DC area. She has published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media, and she is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group.

Trish lives in Northern Virginia with her son, and has a gorgeous adult daughter and an amazing grandson.

You can learn more about Trish at her website,

An interview with Trish...

Tell us a little bit about your background and your family.

I’m the middle child; middle girl. I was raised as one of five kids by my British mum and my WWII Air Force vet dad. I lived in Newfoundland (Canada), California, Colorado, and finally Virginia, which I’ve called home for the greater part of my life. I love it here. Most of my family still resides in Virginia, which is a bonus.

My late sister lived a rough lifetime of medical problems, which had a distinct bearing on our family lifestyle and our sensibilities toward the hardships of others. Her eventual death may have been a blessed relief for her, but it was a huge loss for us. The loss is what brought me to the Lord.

Both of my children are believers, which brings me such peace. I have a 29-year-old daughter, who is one of the coolest, smartest, most intuitive women I know. She’s blessed me with a remarkable grandson, now five. And my 16-year-old son is brilliant and funny, and he tells me daily that I’m weird (but I can hear the “I love you” in there when he says it).

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Well, hands down, I’d have to be able to teleport. Frankly, I’d travel a lot more if it weren’t for airports! I would have chosen the superpower of flying, but who wants to carry all that luggage in the air? If I could teleport, I could have my luggage in my circle of teleportability (you have heard of those, yes?), and it would teleport with me, free of luggage searches and additional-baggage fees.

What has God been teaching you lately?

I’ve been blown away by how clearly He forgives my weaknesses. Things have occurred in my life over the past 18 months for which (right or wrong) I carried a burden of guilt. You know, that feeling of “how did I contribute to this mess?” Yet He has blessed me so abundantly in the midst of my feelings of conviction, that He amazes me daily with His obvious love. The blessings keep me humbly aware of how much I need Him. And they instill in me such a strong desire to serve Him and to follow His guidance and will.

What’s next in your writing?

I’ve just begun work on the follow-up to Beach Dreams, which is tentatively called Sunset Beach. We’re expecting a June 2009 release, but that’s not definite yet. The book’s setting will be the same, but all of the characters will be new. I’m having fun with it!

How do you find time to write?

At the moment I’m blessed to not have to work an outside job, but I expect that to change in the next year or so. Still, I have to deliberately keep my schedule focused first on writing. Sometimes it feels as if I have the time to get back into the worship team at church or to beef up my social commitments. But I’ve learned to avoid putting too much on my plate, and it has resulted in my finding enough time to get my writing done. My son is now 16 and just got his driver’s license, so that has freed up some time for me as well. I’d actually like to write more than I do, so I guard against throwing my time away.

When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?

There is always surprise, no matter how well I plan out a book’s progress. I was just talking with my editor about that the other day, the fact that the initial summary I write might change a bit as events unfold around my protagonist. I think that’s happened with every book I’ve written. I typically write a summary, which tells me generally where the story will go, and then I write a sentence or two per chapter idea, and then I start hammering away on Chapter One. As I write actual chapters, the events between “Once upon a time” and “The End” evolve in more significant ways than I expected in the first place. It’s an exciting process!

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?

Give the endeavor to God first. And daily. When doubts arise (and they will), you must be able to fall back on the knowledge that your efforts are for Him. And know that He will never show you the way by crushing your efforts with rejection and desolation. If He wants you to do something other than writing, He’ll lovingly draw you to that other endeavor.

That said, take all the practical steps to learn the craft and the business. Read (both how-to’s and novels), write, network, and submit. Over and over again.

Where did you get the idea for Beach Dreams?

I wanted very much to write a book about Jeremy and Tiffany, who were secondary characters in my first two books (The Guy I’m Not Dating and Too Good to Be True). I started to write the third book with the same setting as my first two, but then Harvest House asked if I would move the setting to fit The Beach House Series, the first two books of which were written by Sally John. So I started over and made my east coast protagonists travel across country to sunny San Diego. It was fun to create that facet of their story—it added quite a few layers to the plot. In fact, the circumstances of their getting together was completely different than what I originally planned.

What are the major themes of the book?

The importance of seeking God’s guidance constantly surfaces in my stories—the different circumstances that drive my themes usually fit under that umbrella.

Situations aren’t always as they appear, for example, and we can be fooled or we can misjudge others if we don’t constantly seek God’s wisdom and guidance. And sometimes we can miss out on His blessings if we fail to see situations as He means us to.

Another theme that emerged was how difficult it can be when a believer is drawn romantically to a nonbeliever. I’ve touched on the subject before, but in Beach Dreams, the nonbeliever is someone who feels almost real to me (and many readers) at this point. I feel a renewed empathy for Christians in these circumstances. Again, God’s guidance and strength are so important.

Why did you decide to bring back characters from your previous books?

There was such an unfinished feel for me with regard to Jeremy by the time I finished my first draft of Too Good to Be True. He had become so lovable, but he was still alone and spiritually lost. Both my editor and I hoped there would be an opportunity to do a third novel, with Jeremy and someone falling in love and Jeremy getting a clue about Christ. Because Tiffany had been such a pain in The Guy I’m Not Dating and for much of Too Good to Be True, it was fun showing how God could reach even her. So her development became intriguing to me, too. Surprisingly, I received requests from many readers to throw these two characters together. I’m not such a unique thinker after all!

What is a mistake - big or small - that you’ve made that you could later see God used for a specific purpose and how did he use it?

I was deeply into adulthood when I went back to school to earn a degree. Rather than fretting over having waited so long, I focused on the fact that now I knew what I really wanted to be. A psychological therapist. You couldn’t have found a more attentive, diligent student, and I did well. So, when I neared graduation and realized I had developed an overwhelming desire to write fiction, I freaked out just a little. How could I switch gears yet again? Had I just wasted years earning a degree I wasn’t going to actually use? That felt like a huge mistake.

But God knew what He was doing. If you want to do an in-depth study of character goals, motivation, and conflict, you go on out there and earn a degree in Psychology. I may not be too quick in the plotting and scene-setting departments, but my psychological training comes in handy when creating characters and walking with them through life. I think that’s why God led me to get that degree, and now I know I didn’t waste a moment learning what I did.

Want to learn more about Trish? Check out the links below…
And you can surf on over to some other fun blogs and find out even more about Trish during her blog tour August 11 - 22

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A controversial book

I'm way late in the game here, but I just read a review that captures my biggest concerns with the book, The Shack. I've bolded a few things below.

"The Shack": What God Should Have Said?
Walter Henegar, Issue Number 20, June 2008

If no one has handed you a tear-stained copy yet, The Shack is a work of Christian fiction penned by first-time novelist William P. Young. The story centers on family man Mack Phillips, whose seven-year-old daughter is kidnapped and murdered in the opening chapters. After three and a half years of understandably “Great Sadness,” a mysterious note invites Mack to the site of her murder, a shack in the woods. There he spends a healing weekend with the three persons of the Trinity, who manifest primarily as an African-American woman called Papa, a middle-aged Jewish Jesus, and a wispy Asian woman named Sarayu. Literary criticism aside, give the brother credit for guts: Young attempts to answer the problem of evil and the nature of the Trinity in 248 pages.

Sales of The Shack have skyrocketed since it was first published in May 2007, garnering rapturous praise from readers (“life-changing,” “joyfully giving away copies by the case”) and glowing endorsements by the likes of Eugene Peterson—who, inexplicably, compares it to Pilgrim’s Progress. Writing an unfavorable review of The Shack, then, is like criticizing your Aunt Martha’s macaroni casserole. Sure, it’s fattening, but everyone else in the family loves it, so why not just shut up and eat your Waldorf salad? Any critic risks stumbling directly into the book’s own well-worn stereotype: a strident religious nitpick. God the Father, as portrayed in The Shack, oughta cluck her tongue and give you a talkin’ to.

Of course, not every detail is worth dissecting; a novel is not systematic theology. Yet it’s clearly more than just fiction. Mack’s conversations with Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu make up the bulk of the book, with his questions serving as little more than prompts for their extended divine speeches. Though never citing Scripture directly, the characters make enough allusions to biblical content to imply fidelity to orthodox Christianity. Combined with chapter-heading quotes by thoughtful Christians like C.S. Lewis and Marilynne Robinson, the effect is prophet-like: not quite “Thus saith the Lord,” but not far from it.

And therein hides the book’s gravest, and most subtle, problem.

Though some parts roughly align with biblical teaching (and many others explicitly contradict it), the book’s overall attitude toward Scripture is persistently dismissive. Mack’s own disdain is conveyed early on: “God’s voice had been reduced to paper. … Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?” (p. 65-67).

More significant, when Mack mentions biblical events or concepts (often in gross caricature), “God” promptly brushes them off and glibly explains how it really is. Unlike the biblical Jesus, who constantly quoted the Old Testament and spent many post-resurrection hours “opening their minds to understand the scriptures,” The Shack’s Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu turn Mack’s attention away from Scripture, coaxing him to trust instead their simplistic lessons set in idyllic, Thomas Kinkade-like scenes and delivered in the familiar therapeutic language of our age.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. Positively, The Shack’s God-figures emphasize the full divinity of each person of the Trinity, the superiority of divine wisdom over human understanding, and the absolute necessity of grace over the illusion of human merit. Those are great points to emphasize, and there are a few pithy insights on lesser matters as well.

Negatively, however—that is, in clear opposition to Scripture—they explicitly teach that there is no authority or hierarchy within the Trinity, and that God is never willing to violate human free will. There’s also a paragraph that seems to imply universal salvation, and a chapter about judgment that stubbornly avoids pronouncement about the fate of the wicked. In fact, there’s little reason to believe that The Shack’s God ever judges anyone.

By the end of the book, even the daughter’s serial killer appears to be, conveniently, on the road to redemption. Despite regular jabs at organized religion, there is something systematic about Young’s theology. Apparently, the essence of sin is our fearful desire to control God’s messy-by-design world, and thus all rules, expectations, hierarchies, or positions of authority are merely human inventions servicing this vain desire.

Salvation, then—or healing, at least—is found by surrendering these misguided ideas and embracing the mystery of relationship. As Papa explains to Mack: “Submission is not about authority and it is not about obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way… we want you to join us in our circle of relationship” (p. 145-146).

Young’s diagnosis of sin as “control” has some merit, but his prescription of an entirely flat, circular relationship between us and God ultimately violates a fundamental truth of biblical anthropology: God is the Creator, and we are His creatures. Even after we have been redeemed by Christ, our relationship to God is rightly characterized by obedience and one-way submission to Him.

The result? To the extent that you trust The Shack, you will distrust your Bible—including huge chunks of the Old Testament and at least half of the red letters. Few errors are more corrosive to vigorous Christian faith. Some will plead that there is enough meat for careful readers to spit out the bones, but sadly, this yeast leavens the whole loaf.

In the end, The Shack is spiritual comfort food loaded with theological trans fat. Though not without some nutritional value, its effect on the body of Christ is more harmful than healthy. Even if you love it, and even if it makes you cry. Junk food and bad movies can do the same. Good fiction has the potential to illuminate biblical truth, but not when it effectively supplants it. We need the Bible, not The Shack.

The true Word takes more work to understand, and it won’t always tell us what we want to hear, but we can trust it to reveal a greater, wiser, more loving, and more gloriously Triune God than any novelist could conceive.

Copyright 2008, all rights reserved, byFaith magazine. This article first appeared in the June 2008 issue of byFaith and is reprinted with permission.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Closing a chapter

Wow, does it feel strange to finish one chapter of life and not be quite ready to flip to the next page in the adventure.

In case you're wondering what in the world I'm referring to... I've just turned in edits for my last Defenders of Hope book, Enduring Justice. What I love writing most is the last chapter and the author note and acknowledgements. I figure if they still make me cry after umpteen edits, it's ready.

I'll go ahead and say it early: THANK YOU to all of you who have prayed and encouraged me through the writing of this story. I poured my heart into the pages and am excited about what God will do with Enduring Justice.

But I'm not ready to jump into the next project yet. It's still brewing in my heart. And it's strange. Because I've already connected to the main character and see God working out things in my life that correlate directly with this next book. Sometimes it's awesome when that happens. Other times, not so much. Especially the spiritual stretching.

But it's good. All good.

And now it's back to work on homeschool lessons and then writing a new book. Prayers for guidance and God's story to tell are much appreciated!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Got a question?

For the month of July the ACFW Book Club discussed Healing Promises. There were lots of amazing posts. If you missed it, you can still join us in the book club and talk with other book folks about great stories.

And there's still a chance to get in on the discussion of Healing Promises! So bring all those questions about the story, characters and the crazy author :-) and come hang out me during the ACFW book club author chat!

I'll be in the ACFW Chat Room Monday night at 7:00 p.m. CST/ 8:00 p.m. EST.

Please stop by and say hi!
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