A Quick Notice

Barbour Publishing, Inc., just announced that Devotions for the Hungry Heart will be free until 2/27/18. It is available on all e-book platforms!!

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Author at All Things Southern, newest devotional, Devotions for the Hungry Heart is on eBook special!

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The Battle Plan Prayer Journal by Stephen Kendrick and‎ Alex Kendrick

My Review

The Battle Plan Prayer Journal, modeled after the one used in the movie, The War Room, comes in two sizes, the stationery size, which is 3.7 x 0.6 x 5.7 inches and weighs 3.2 ounces, or the paperback size which is 5.1 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches and weighs 6.4 ounces. Mine is the smaller of the two.

The Battle Plan is bound in a soft brown, suede-like material. What I like about it is the size. It is perfect for carrying in a purse. It could possibly even fit in a pocket.

Although it is mostly pages that are lined, there are several introductory pages, followed by pages for prayer requests with space for the date of the request and when it was answered, along with a Bible verse. On the opposite side is a space for journaling. Also, there are sections divided into specific types of prayers. For example, prayers for each day of the week with ideas for what to pray for, prayers of adoration, prayers of confession, etc. The book ends with guided prayers, such as prayers for the workday, prayers for forgiving someone and for someone sick in the hospital, to name a few. There are little nuggets scattered throughout – things like the meaning of the cross-hairs, scripture to pray and guided prayer.

One warning, though, if you get the stationery size, the lines are very small-scale, and there is not much room to write. Nonetheless, it’s perfect for tucking prayer requests in the back pocket of the book or for tracking your prayers.

I received the book from Lifeway. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

Publisher’s Summary

The Battle Plan Prayer Journal provides users with a prayer planning, execution, and tracking resource that they can carry with them no matter where they go. The journal is small enough to fit in a pocket or purse, but sturdy enough to last through a hardback cover, elastic closure, and ribbon. The content is far from plain lined sheets and instead provides the user with guided prayer prompts, prayer request organization, scripture reminders, answered prayer tracking, and more.

 

Perennials by Julie Cantrell

My Review

I came to sympathize with Eva (nicknamed Lovey), the protagonist of Perennials. She feels betrayed by her older sister Bitsy. No matter which direction Lovey turns, Bitsy is doing everything in her power to hurt and destroy her. I could empathize with Lovey. I could imagine Lovey, at age 45, becoming tired of running. I could believe her seeing her father’s request to come for his and her mother’s 50th anniversary as a way to “come home again.”

I was looking forward to reading Perennials, by Julie Cantrell. I had not read any of her books but had heard many good things about her work as an inspiration fiction writer. I think of the inspirational fiction genre as a publishing arm of the Christian community. You can imagine my surprise when I found the protagonist follows the teachings of her Buddhist mentor. I was even more surprised at allusions to Mary, Christ’s mother, speaking to and guiding other characters in the book.

I love to learn from the novels I read. Julie Cantrell vividly weaves an abundance of flowers and trees into the story’s setting, along with information about the cities portrayed in the book. Perennials teaches us about the color and greenery God has planted in His world.

Perennials is an interesting story. It speaks to our heartfelt need for home and family, even under circumstances that are desperately difficult. The book resonated in my life; it inspires.

I received this book from Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.

Eva Sutherland—known to all as Lovey—grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.

At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.

Lovey is drawn in to a secret project—a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, learning how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.

Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

Book Tour for 21 Days of Love: Stories that Celebrate Treasured Relationships

About the Book

Title: 21 Days of Love

Compiled by: Kathy Ide

Genre: Non-fiction, Devotional

Release Date: January 1, 2016

Love can be found in many treasured relationships: boyfriend-girlfriend, husband-wife, parent-child … with a special friend, teacher, or pet … in the kindness of a stranger. We even have a national holiday to celebrate love.

The greatest love ever known is God’s abundant love for us, His children. And He often demonstrates that perfect love through imperfect people.

These stories represent all kinds of love. Woven through each story is the sustaining hand of our loving heavenly Father. On Valentine’s Day—and every day—whether your life is chocolates and flowers or loneliness and pain … let these stories fill your heart with hope, peace, and most important, love.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review

21 Days of Love highlights Valentine’s Day by focusing on the love one has for another, be it romantic, for family members or for friends, illustrating how God brings each type into our lives for a reason.

The 21 stories are short and end with a life application and a small “biography” of the author.

The book is the perfect size to tuck into your purse or have next to you on your nightstand for a quick morning or evening devotional.

I have several of the 21 Days books, and I treasure them all! I am excited to add this one to my collection.

I received this book from CelebrateLit. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

About the Author

Compiler and editor KATHY IDE has been a published author since 1989. She has written fiction and nonfiction books and is the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. She has ghostwritten ten nonfiction books and a series of five novels. She also writes columns of writing and editing tips for blogs and newsletters. Kathy makes her home in Orange County, California.

Guest Post from Kathy Ide

Kick off the new year with love!

21 Days of Love: Stories that Celebrate Treasured Relationships, book 3 in the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series, contains short fiction stories about all kinds of love. Boyfriend-girlfriend. Husband-wife. Parent-child. Teacher-student. Even love for pets and showing love to strangers. Since the greatest love ever known is God’s abundant love for us, His children, the sustaining hand of our loving heavenly Father is woven throughout. Each story is written by a different author and is followed by a brief Life Application in which the author shares how the fictional story relates to our day-to-day lives.

21 Days of Love has chapters written by well-known, best-selling novelists, including Susan May Warren, Sherry Kyle, Renae Brumbaugh, and New York Times best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall. There are also stories by writers you may not have heard of. At the end of each chapter is an author bio that gives some background information about the author. So if you really like a story you read, you can find out what else that author has written. You may just find some new names to add to your favorites list.

And if you haven’t read much Christian fiction, this devotional will give you a small taste of several different authors and genres, without having to commit to reading an entire novel. You might just discover that you actually love Christian fiction!

21 Days of Love, a finalist in the 2017 Selah awards, makes a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for friends and loved ones.

Blog Stops

Bibliophile Reviews, February 10

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 11

Jeanette’s Thoughts, February 12

A Greater Yes, February 12

Captive Dreams Window, February 13

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting,  February 13

Mary Hake, February 14

Blossoms and Blessings, February 14

Bigreadersite, February 15

margaret kazmierczak, February 15 (Interview)

Janices book reviews, February 16

Christian Bookaholic, February 17

Reading is my Super Power, February 17 (Interview)

Texas Book-aholic, February 18

Carpe Diem, February 19

A Baker’s Perspective, February 20

Simple Harvest Reads, February 21 (Guest post from Mindy)

Pursuing Stacie, February 22

proud to be an autism mom, February 23

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Kathy is giving away

2 Grand Prizes of a full set of the 21 Days Hardback books
3 first place prizes of a hardback copy of 21 Days of Love
4 second place prizes of an eBook copy of 21 Days of Love!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c8e3

Blue Ridge Sunrise (A Blue Ridge Romance) by Denise Hunter

My Review

Denise Hunter’s newest book, Blue Ridge Sunrise, is a little edgier than most of her books, indeed more so than most books in the Christian genre. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the story.

Zoe Collins ran from Copper Creek as fast as she could. A tragic misunderstanding undermined her feelings of self-worth, and she took off, with the town’s bad boy-Kyle Jimmerson-to become a famous songstress. Things were seeming to go well, and their band, Brevity, was making a name for itself. However, as is often the case, life got in the way.

Cruz Huntley could not understand why Zoe fled, leaving him with a broken heart.  Now that she is back, he’s not sure where he stands.

There are some weighty issues dealt with in Blue Ridge Sunrise, for instance; two issues are premarital sex and domestic abuse. Portions of the book are a little difficult to read. Readers should be aware that Blue Ridge Sunrise does not have an explicit gospel message in which its characters’ broken lives are redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ.  Rather, the characters in this novel are strengthened by hardship and adversity. Seeing them emerge stronger, in the end, is inspiring and fits the book well into the genre of inspirational fiction. Due to some of the situations depicted in the story, I would suggest this book be read by those in their mid-teens or older. This novel could be used as a catalyst to open up a line of meaningful dialogue (and I sincerely hope it will!).

I received this book from Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe–a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?
Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now–five years later.

 

A Place at Our Table (An Amish Homestead Novel) by Amy Clipston

My Review

Amy Clipston’s novel, A Place at Our Table, deals with heartbreaking family situations. Throughout the book, however, the characters seem real and relatable. I could see myself reacting in much the same way under similar circumstances.

Kayla Dienner is working hard to overcome grief from the loss of her oldest brother, who was a volunteer firefighter and died while fighting a fire. In addition, her boyfriend, for no apparent reason, broke off their relationship.

Jamie Riehl is a volunteer firefighter and workaholic. He feels responsibility for his family, and even though he has a brother and father, he takes on more and more of the farm work-leaving him exhausted because he only gets a scant few hours’ sleep a night. When tragedy strikes his family too, he takes on more of the burden of farm work and bears guilt for his part in the tragedy.

A Place at Our Table is an interesting book. Amy Clipston shows us a different side of Amish life by giving Jamie a firefighter role. However, some aspects of Kayla’s personality and character are frustrating for me. I want to see her as a sympathetic protagonist, but she comes across as overly clingy and needy. I needed to remind myself that she lost her brother to a fire and inexplicably lost her boyfriend’s love. She is reeling in pain. Then, while fighting the attraction, she finds herself falling in love with Jamie, a firefighter. He embodies both losses. It’s no wonder she petulant at times.

I’m looking forward to reading more of the Amish Homestead series. I’m excited to see who is featured and to learn more about Jamie and Kayla.

I received this book from Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Kayla Dienner has suffered her fair share of heartache, which is why she vows to protect her heart at all costs . . . until she meets Jamie Riehl.

Along with his volunteer work at the local fire department, running his Amish farm keeps Jamie Riehl busy. He barely has time to eat at the family table, never mind find someone to date. But when he meets Kayla Dienner, he is smitten.

Kayla tries hard to deny her attraction to Jamie. After all, she’s spent the last year discouraging her younger brother, Nathan, from becoming a firefighter. The death of their older brother in a fire a year ago is fresh in her mind—she can’t bear the idea of putting her heart on the line every time the sirens blare.

Then tragedy strikes, and Jamie wants to extinguish any flame between him and Kayla. Can Kayla set aside her own fears to save the love she was determined to deny?

The first book in the Amish Homestead series, A Place at Our Table invites us to a quiet community in Lancaster County where love burns brightly no matter the cost.

 

Thoughts About a Tree

The power company informed us earlier this week that a tree in the middle of our yard had to be cut down and removed. It wasn’t very large, but it would become so and would interfere with the power lines, they said.

The tree was just a little twig basically when we moved in a few years ago. We protected it from kids climbing on it (actually they were just jumping on it as it was too small to be climbed), and we protected it from getting mowed down, also.

As I watched the process, it reminded me a lot of how God works in our lives. The first thing done to trees, of course, is to trim the tiny limbs. In our Christian life, especially as we are first beginning it, God needs to “trim” the limbs, too. Our limbs can be anything from “white” lies to not keeping our word. Please note, in God’s eyes, sin is sin, and there are no small sins. However, when we’re just starting out our Christian life, God again extends His loving mercy by convicting us in ways we can grasp and understand. In the same way, He helps us grow, not by giving us meat right away, but by giving us milk- 1 Corinthians 3:2 King James Version (KJV) I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it…. 1 Peter 2: 2 (KJV) 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby…

As we grow, there is more trimming to be done, and as with the trees, larger areas need to be hewn off.  During this process, we get into the “meat” and begin to feel God convicting us about deeper issues in our lives. We can let this confrontation with our nature draw us closer and closer to God, too.

Sometimes, depending on our lives, we may need to uproot the whole tree to completely rid ourselves of harmful, hurtful vices, much like a tree which is cut down to the stump and the stump removed. However, unlike the tree that exists no more, we come back new creations, bigger and better.

Then, as we continue to grow, we need to be regularly trimming our “limbs” in order to avoid becoming like the tree in our yard which must be “cut down” again. Ephesians 4:12-15 (KJV) 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ…

How apt the metaphor for our lives is a tree! Bill, my husband, will be reviewing a book about the Roman centurion who nailed Jesus to the cross (David Kitz, The Soldier Who Killed a King, 2017). We often reflect on the truth that it is our sins (us, really) that nailed Christ to the cross. In The Soldier, the centurion literally did! The cross was a tree, and I am musing that trees are metaphors for Christians. Oh, how true!

My prayer and wish for you is for you to grow in Him.

Friday Flashback

I lost my Dad four years ago on Super Bowl Sunday, which, if you knew him, you would know it seemed fitting and appropriate that it happened on that day.

I had a lot of respect for my Dad, but a lot of anger, too. I was able to forgive him. However, the pain of some of his words still linger.

In many ways, even though he was short (in his estimation) for a man, and always carried a chip on his shoulder because of it, he was also bigger than life to all of us in our family.

Below is the blog post, with minor revisions, I wrote two years ago where I was reminiscing about him.

Dad, this ones for you!

Dad20(One of my favorite pictures of Dad)

My father passed away two years ago on a Super Bowl Sunday, that Sunday, however, was February 2.

Dad had been having trouble here at home, which had sent him to the hospital and then rehab. One of my sisters, who lives in another state, wanted to spend some time with him and help get him back to better health.  Therefore, we decided when he left rehab for him and hubs (to help with transfers, etc.) to fly to her home state for Dad to visit.

Things were going pretty well until he had a small incident with his heart that sent him to the hospital. He was there for a while and then sent to rehab again. Things were progressing really well at rehab, but he was lonely. My sister’s FLMA (Family Leave and Medical Act) time was up, so I decided to fly out to visit for a short time.

While I was there, his doctor decided to release him from rehab on February 2. I was scheduled to fly home on January 29. I tried everything I could think of to delay my flight, but without a substantial penalty, I couldn’t. Naturally, I turned to prayer!

On January 28 a massive ice/snow storm was predicted for the south, where I was flying back to. In the early AM of January 29th, I received a message my flight had been canceled. I jokingly told my brother-in-law that the Lord had answered my prayers. He, not so jokingly, replied that he really didn’t think the Lord inconvenienced the entire South for my benefit.iceWhoa!! Talk about me being put in my place! We got 13 inches of snow where I was. I don’t remember ever seeing that much snow in my life and definitely not from the start of snowfall to the end. It was COLD but very, very pretty. (Side Note-we got 10 inches this year-2018, in Alabama, no less!!)

We all went to see Dad and joked about the weather, lamented about his beloved Cowboys not being in the Super Bowl and teased each other about our choices of winner. Everyone was in high spirits looking forward to Dad being out of rehab and the upcoming Super Bowl.

On the morning of February 2, Dad got up, ate breakfast, teased with the nurses and CNA’s (he always said he’d be a tease till the day he died, and he was!). He took his shower, shaved, got back in bed for a little bit to warm up from his shower-and never got up again.

There were so many things about Dad that were admirable, and quite a few that weren’t, also. He was a dedicated and hard worker. He cared very much for his family. He even, when our car broke down, and we didn’t have money to repair it, rode a bicycle to and from work, in all kinds of weather and at all hours of the day or night-whatever his schedule dictated. There were times he could be unbelievably sarcastic and cruel, but he never asked anything of anyone that he wasn’t willing to do himself.

at-t-stadium Dallas

He worked for several years for the Dallas Cowboys, during their golden years with the Jimmy Johnson dynasty. And, even though he could not stand owner Jerry Jones, he was fiercely loyal to the Cowboys. (Loyalty, to a fault sometimes, was another of his good qualities.) I have some wonderful memories of visiting the old Cowboy’s stadium, along with some fantastic pictures-my kids have run off with the pictures!

So, every Super Bowl Sunday is bittersweet for me. I’m sure it will be even worse when the Cowboys finally do play a Super Bowl game again.

Dad, one day soon, your beloved Cowboys will win the Super Bowl again!

Self Incrimination by Randy Singer (A Guest Review)

Guest Review

When Robbie drafted me for another guest review, I was deep in the Randy Singer whodunit, Self Incrimination.  Randy Singer wrote The Advocate, my favorite Christian legal fiction thriller.  Scratch the modifiers.  My favorite book, ever.

Robbie and I have a running conversation about Christian fiction that contains “un-Christian” elements of the culture in which Christianity is necessarily immersed – scenes of explicit sexual immorality or profane language, for instance.  Some writers insert “edgy” content into their Christian message to attract readers who might not otherwise read a book that contains the gospel.  Robbie thinks immoral content dressed up as Christian fiction is flying under a false flag.  Personally, harsh words do not phase me.  But then, I had a job as a teen-ager shoveling horse manure.  When the wind shifted, flecks of urine-soaked sawdust would blow across my face, and I really didn’t mind that either.

Self Incrimination is edgy and gritty.  It deals with child abuse, child sexual assault, rape and cold-blooded murder.  Nothing in it seems “sanitized.” Yet, upon reflection, I could not recall a single profanity, obscenity, or concession to contemporary sexual mores.  I told Robbie she would love this book, so she invited me to review it.

Leslie Connors is a first-year attorney, working in partnership with the lawyer she is about to marry.  As the novel opens, a wealthy socialite walks into the office to hire Leslie’s partner (who happens to be a famous trial advocate).  The woman’s sixteen-year-old daughter is charged with murdering her Dad.  The sixteen-year-old, however, hires Leslie.  In Leslie’s first trial, she has a client she believes in, but cannot believe.  Corrupt and incorruptible opponents are arrayed against her, and Leslie can hardly decide which are worse, or more formidable.  During it all, she is planning a wedding, but a bombshell explodes in its path and shakes Leslie’s confident, plucky life to its core.

While Leslie reels, a former client, the wife of a martyred missionary, hands her a copy of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.  Leslie has a logical mind, like Lewis, her friend believes.  Unable to sleep, Leslie reads.  Passages haunt her.  Lewis describes sin as Jesus did in the Golden Rule – treating others in a way we ourselves would not want to be treated.  He describes sins as events that will inexorably overtake each one of us, next month, next week, or “perhaps this very day.”

That phrase echoes in Leslie’s mind as she remembers harboring health secrets from Brad, her fiancé. She remembers cringing when her client’s autistic brother spit on her.  We readers encounter these incidents as the story unfolds.  They gave me slight pause as I read them.  Then I thought I might have done the very same things.  Of course.  Most of us would have.  Because “All have sinned…”  Randy Singer has trapped us, and C. S. Lewis’ words convict us when they convict Leslie.  “…perhaps this very day.”

The book’s courtroom climax is a stunner, if you are like me and happily let an author lead you where he will.  I predict that when Robbie reads Self Incrimination, she will solve the mystery early on.  However, solving the mystery was not Randy Singer’s raison d’etre for writing the book, nor ours for reading it.  God uses the tragedy that unfolds in this story to lift the scales from a skeptic’s eyes.  A skeptic we are rooting for.

You will want to read Self Incrimination if you won’t mind buying or borrowing the rest of Randy Singer’s dozen-odd novels, because you certainly will.

Publisher’s Summary

Tara Bannister’s abusive stepfather finally pushed her too far. To save herself she had to kill him. Or did she? Tara’s confession doesn’t add up, and as her self-defense claim crumbles, attorney Leslie Connors must overcome more than first-trial jitters to mount a credible defense. Leslie must save Tara’s life—against her client’s will. In the midst of this taxing case, Leslie’s wedding plans to law partner Brad Carson are interrupted by a devastating diagnosis. Does she dare tell Brad? Before the final gavel falls, Leslie must confront the truth about herself and her mysterious client, or the darkness of the past will swallow them both.