Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Miles and Months Behind Us

It’s hard to believe 2008 is already half gone! Time certainly flies…whether you’re having fun or not.

I did have some fun in June. My husband and I climbed into a little car we borrowed from our son (great on gas, not-so-great on comfort) and hit the road. We ultimately wound up in familiar places—the ones we visit every time we get a chance to—but this time we took an alternate route and actually saw some of the Country we’d never seen before and some people we don’t usually get a chance to visit. The weather accommodated us beautifully, and—even in Texas and Oklahoma—we didn’t hit any “excess” temperatures. Nothing too hot or too cold…well, aside from Rock Springs, Wyoming. Can you believe it was actually 32 degrees there one night…in JUNE??? But days were beautiful, and we enjoyed seeing our friends and family at every stop.

Because most of the states we passed through had been blessed with a generous amount of rain this year, we saw a great deal of lush green countryside—some of it so gorgeous it took my breath away. Elk, deer, antelope…they were everywhere. I even fed a couple of adorable little chipmunks right out of the palms of my hands!

So now we’re back home and, while it’s nice to be here—we were both very tired by the time we called it quits and turned that little vehicle back toward California—there’s always a bit of a let-down after a trip like that, at least it seems that way for me. Especially since we’re still a little iffy about where we’re going to ultimately wind up living…help us pray about that, please!

One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting to meet my author friend DeLyn Fisher—and her beautiful little girl, Rebekah—while we were in Texas. DeLyn drove from their home in White Oak to meet me in Gilmer, Texas. We had a great barbecue lunch at Bodacious, and talked up a storm. DeLyn and I had chatted extensively online, and I already felt as though I knew her. Now I really DO, and I’m thrilled to call her a friend! (See my pics below.)


We also passed right by the hometown of author Deborah Raney in Kansas. I was in the middle of her book, Leaving November, and it was pretty special recognizing the places she mentioned in her wonderful tale of romance and healing as we drove by or through them. I zipped off an e-mail to Deb, and she sweetly replied. I felt so special!!! :)


This month’s edition of The Bookshelf is a little short on content…hey, I wasn’t here to put it together! :D Still, I know you'll find something to enjoy in what’s here.

Christine Miller’s piece, “The Names of God,” is the first of several she’ll be contributing in upcoming months. Christine is a friend from right here in my hometown of Bakersfield. Her son is married to my niece, so she’s family, too! You’ll enjoy her articles.

Rhonda Clark’s work is always an inspiration and a delight to read. Don’t leave until you’ve checked out her “Chocolate Chip Cookies” - the first batch of several upcoming tasty treats.

Enjoy your summer, dear readers, and remember…”Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."


DELYN, HER SWEET LITTLE REBEKAH, AND ME

Notes of Devotion: Rhonda Clark

God is the Sugar in the Cookies of Our Lives
(Part 1)

God’s Taste Test


So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth! Revelation 3:16(AMP)


They’re perfect.

They’re beautiful.

They smell divine.

I stare at the most awesome chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made. With anticipation, I lift a cookie to my smiling lips and take a bite. The comforting sensation I expected as the warm morsel melts on my tongue isn’t there. An unexpected flavor fills my mouth. The texture is correct, but the taste is more along the lines of wet cardboard. I rush to the sink and spit out the revolting, palette-offending imitation.

I furrow my brow and grab the flour-coated recipe. Something on the cabinet catches my eye. It’s the white sugar I forgot to add. The perfectly measured cup sits amongst the mess on the counter. How on earth could I forget the most important part? My dream of winning a blue ribbon at this year’s county fair fades like a distant balloon in the sky. I don’t have time to make another batch. Disappointed and heartbroken, I rake the entire batch into the trash.

I stare into the garbage can, and think how these cookies reflect the Christian life. To the world, we may appear to be perfect Christians. We’re always doing God’s good works but, when it comes down to it, can we pass God’s taste test? Do we have all the ingredients in our lives that God requires Christians to have? Or are we perfect imitations?

God knows what’s in our hearts. He knows our thoughts and our attitude. Even though we may look perfect to the world, we are rancid on God’s palette. He is the one who makes us sweet—He adds the sugar to our lives. For those who do not have His sweet goodness in their lives, He will throw them into the fiery pit, just as I tossed my perfect, but revolting cookies into the trash.

Dear Father in Heaven, I want you to be the sugar in my life. Make my life sweet and delicious to all I meet, especially to my family and friends. Let my life be the real thing, not an imitation. In Your precious name, Amen.

A Special Note - Christine Miller

I’m so pleased to introduce my friend Christine Miller, a minister and writer from right here in my hometown of Bakersfield, California. Chris will be presenting several articles on The Names of God. In this edition, she’ll discuss Elohim. She’ll be back in November with Jehovah-Jireh and in December with Jehovah-Raah. For a special New Year’s article, Chris will discuss El Elyon…God Most High. Be sure to check back each month—you'll enjoy Christine Miller’s sincere, heartfelt discussions!

The Names of God

Elohim

Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.”

Do we really know this God to Whom we pray? Do we have a living, breathing, moment-by-moment relationship with Him? Or is He merely this omnipotent Presence somewhere “out there” to whom we turn only when our world is turned upside down?

One of the greatest blessings in my spiritual life was to be introduced to a book entitled, “The Peace and Power of Knowing God’s Name”, by Kay Arthur. Kay is an internationally known speaker, teacher and author. Through the reading and studying of this book, I learned some of the Hebrew names of God. Each name gives insight into the nature and character of God.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see examples of names given to people that actually give an accurate description of who they were:

Jeremiah: “The Lord throws”—The prophet was thrown into a hostile world; or it could point to “throwing down” the nation in Divine judgment for their sins.

Abraham: “Father of many”—(Needs no explanation!)

Isaiah: “The Lord Saves”—His prophecies, though often ignored, were intended to lead people to the living God.

Because there are so many facets to God’s character, He has more than one name. He is Healer, Provider, Creator, Shepherd and Sovereign King of the universe, just to name a few. So, let’s begin our journey of “getting to know Him.”

“ELOHIM” means Creator. “El” means “mighty or “strong”; “Him” means “more than one.”

The first three verses of Genesis l: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light”.

So we see that the Holy Spirit was also present at creation. God spoke; the Spirit moved.

There are also Scriptures pointing to the fact that Jesus was present at creation. One such verse is Colossians 1:6: “All things were created by Him – things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” Another is John 1:1-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

Each person of the triune Godhead had a part in creation. Gen. 1:26 says: “Let us make man in our image.”

So when you look at yourself and are displeased with this or that feature—wishing your appearance or temperament were different…or wishing there was such a thing as a “personality transplant”…it’s time to run into the strong tower of your Elohim. You are exactly the way God designed you to be. Steep yourself in the truths of Psalm 139:1-14: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered (wove) me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works and that my soul knows very well.”

Pretty awesome! He made not only the magnificent mountains, the starry host and the endless oceans; He specifically made and designed you—custom-made to fulfill His purposes. Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in them.”

Rejoice in the fact that you are exactly who God created you to be and that He has a purpose for YOUR life!

Christine Miller lives in Bakersfield, California, with her husband of 40 years. She and Ken are blessed by two wonderful children, a teriffic son in-law and daughter in-law and four "fantabulous" grandchildren!

Christine considers Cursillo—a renewal Movement which she feels changed her life—to be her major ministry. “I love the in-depth study of God's Word and leading others concerning its life application—through both teaching and writing,” she says.

Author of Note: Allison Pittman

Q. Welcome to The Bookshelf, Allison! Before we start talking about you as a writer, let’s discuss who you are away from your desk. Tell us a little about Allison Pittman, the lady next door.
A. Well, the people who actually live next door to me would probably describe me as the lady who never met a flower she couldn’t kill! Other than that I’m just the woman who’s a constant blurry motion between the front door and the mini-van, going to baseball games and the grocery store and school programs and church…usually carrying a big Diet Coke.

Q.
That said…you have a book being released in May—how exciting! Tell us about With Endless Sight.
A. This is the story of Belinda—my readers know her as “Biddy” from my first two novels, Ten Thousand Charms and Speak Through the Wind. She arrives in those stories under tragic circumstances, and her future is uncertain at the end of Wind. This is the story of her past…and a glimpse into her future.

Q.
What was your inspiration for this book?
A. In a sense I’ve known the high points of this story for years, as the character was conceived years ago when I was working on Charms. But there were some nuances of it that came to light during the intervening years. During that time my brother went home to be with the Lord, and I wanted to spend some time there exploring the brother-sister bond. That’s where the character Chester came from, and I just love him. (He’s nothing like my own brother, by the way…that’ll be important to know when you read the book J.) Belinda’s also such a philosophical and spiritual opposite to Kassandra (Speak Through the Wind). Her entire character and conflict stems from her final scene in that book.

Q.
If I’m not mistaken, this is your third novel—the third in the Crossroads of Grace series. You’ve been busy the last couple of years! How long does it take you (on average) to write a book, from first word to putting it in the publisher’s hands?
A. The whole process takes about 9 months—sound like a familiar time frame? But really, in my case at least, if we could take that year and put it in a space bag and suck out all the time spent staring at a blank screen and a quick game of Spider Solitaire between paragraphs, it would probably come out to a lot less.

Q.
What’s next? Can you talk about what you’re working on now?
A. I just finished my first work of nonfiction! The book’s called Saturdays with Stella: How God Taught Me to Sit, Stay, and Come when He Calls. It’s the story of the spiritual lessons I learned when I took my dog, Stella, to a six-week obedience course. I had a blast writing it, and I think it’ll strike a chord with just about anyone who’s ever loved a dog. And, of course, I’m hard at work on my next novel. This is my first step outside of the Crossroads series, but it is another historical.

Q.
What do you enjoy most about writing? Least?
A. I promise this is true…earlier today my youngest son, Charlie, came home from school and I was finishing a chapter. He sat down next to me in my office (a.k.a. the couch) and said, “It must be fun being a writer because you get to hold all the secrets.” Is that a great answer or what! So, like any good writer, I’m totally stealing it (ha!). Seriously, though, love everything about writing. I love that moment when the perfect sentence or word comes into your head and lights a way out of the corner I just wrote myself into. And even though it’s often cringe-worthy, I love going through the editing process and seeing the product a good editor creates with my raw material. What do I like least? That feeling I get about six weeks before deadline when it seems the end is nowhere in sight and I don’t have enough money in my off-shore bank account to support my disappearance!

Q.
You’re probably tired of answering this question, and I apologize for asking it yet again but…inquiring minds still want to know. Where do you get your ideas?
A. The good Christian writer answer is that my ideas come from the Lord, and of course that’s true. The idea for Saturdays with Stella was a pure gift—tied up in a bow and left in my stocking. In terms of fiction, I guess the more specific answer is to talk about how He reveals ideas to me. My ideas always start as a character. I’ll spend forever thinking about who this person is and where he or she comes from…and then at some point I’ll decide which part of their lives to tell. I’ve gotten some great ideas from looking at photographs, and entire story elements have grown from snippets I read in the captions for those photos. The essence of Gloria’s faith journey in Ten Thousand Charms came from a scene in the soap opera All My Children, circa 1991. See? I think it’s a great thing to be asked that question frequently, because my answer is so scattered, it could be different every time!

Q.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
A. Well, first of all, we have to remember that, given my housekeeping skills, “nightstand” is a relative term which extends to include the surrounding floor area, a corner of the bookshelf next to it, and occasionally the rim of the bathtub. That said, it’s quite a collection including The Book Thief (which I’ve just started…) and Grisham’s The Chamber (which I’ve officially given up on—I’m Netflixing it next week…) Jesus for President (which is one of those books you need to hold in your hand, flip through and smell—a true multisensory experience) Ken Burns’ Baseball (it weighs about 9 pounds); Praying the Names of Jesus; The Message; and LaVyrle Spencer’s Then Came Heaven (which I’ve read a hundred times, but love to just open to a random page and enjoy). I also have a copy of Pride and Prejudice which makes me sound really smart, but I’m not reading it. I just finished re-watching the BBC miniseries on Masterpiece Theater and I’ve been obsessively hi-lighting all the actual lines of text that made it into the screenplay. Yeah, you might have guessed that I didn’t date a lot in high school.

Q.
What do you do when you’re not reading or writing?
A. If it’s springtime, I’m very likely to be at a baseball field. Both of my twins play, and I love the whole ballpark experience. I love planning vacations (hubby and I are obsessive vacation planners…). Ours is a family of avowed Disney-philes—we try to go every other year—and we also like just about any venue where we can get funnel cakes and ride roller coasters.

Q.
I know that interviewers often don’t ask the questions an author would really like to talk about. What would you like to say that I haven’t touched on?
A. I want to be sure to let all of my readers know how very, very grateful I am that I’m able to do this. I thank God every day that He has made it possible for me to pursue this passion of mine, and I hope I’m being a good steward of the gift He’s given me and the trust the readers put in my books. I want to invite everybody to drop by my website (
www.allisonpittman.com) or my page at www.shoutlife.com/pittman and leave me a note! Or sign up for my newsletter so we can keep this chat going!


Brief Bio:

In the spring of 2006, prompted by the Holy Spirit, Allison Pittman left a teaching career to pursue writing full time. So far, God has blessed that obedience by granting success to her Crossroads of Grace series.
She serves as the co-president of the Christian Writers Group of the Greater San Antonio Area and leads her church’s Theater Arts Group.
Allison lives in Universal City, Texas (NE San Antonio) with her husband Mike and their three sons.

Notes in Review - With Endless Sight

With Endless Sight
by Allison Pittman


Thirteen-year-old Belinda leaves her Illinois home with her family, all of them bound for a new life in Oregon, 1861. Disaster strikes mid-way through the long, arduous trip, leaving the young girl wounded, alone…and completely at the mercy of the man who put her there. Ever the devout Christian, Belinda’s faith is sorely tried as she comes to terms with violence, loss, sickness, and hunger in the months and years ahead.

The twists and turns of her life’s path take her first to a barebones shack in the mountains, where she discovers an unexpected—albeit hard-won—ability to forgive. It settles her under the roof of a house of ill repute, where she discovers more about herself than she ever wanted to know.

And it will ultimately lead her to her destiny.

Allison Pittman doesn’t balk at difficult and controversial subjects. In With Endless Sight, sin is presented in all its ugliness and forced to shrink against the shining light of love and the wonder of salvation. Gambling, robbery, murder, lust and sexual violence…they all become all-too-familiar to the once pampered and sheltered young heroine, who discovers a hitherto unrealized capacity for wrongdoing even in herself. Is her faith founded and her heart fixed enough to bring her through the fire unsinged?

A beautifully written, tightly woven tale that inspires and entertains with moments of laugh-out-loud humor and others of gut-wrenching dread. An emotional odyssey that relentlessly pulls the reader in, acquaints her intimately with the characters, and involves her heart-deep in the moral dilemmas peppered throughout.

With Endless Sight is storytelling at its best.

Contest/Drawing Notes

As I announced in last month’s Bookshelf, you’re no longer required to do anything to be entered in the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered.


How to subscribe? Use the icon on my website’s Home page, or the link in the website Navbar (right-hand column), which will put you on my e-mailing list. If you want the Bookshelf articles to come right to your inbox each month instead of receiving just a link, use the FeedBlitz link in the top left corner of this page (in addition to the manual icon subscription.)


JOANNE TROUTMAN won the July drawing. Congratulations, JoAnne!
JoAnne won two books: Beloved Castaway by Kathleen Y’Barbo and
Courting Emma by Sharlene MacLaren


The JULY BOOKSHELF PRIZE will include:
With Endless Sight by Allison Pittman
(See my review, this Bookshelf edition)
Goldeneyes T-shirt

Note: The Bookshelf contest is completely separate from the BIG Goldeneyes Contest Series on my website. Be sure to check that out—it’s a seven-month contest series with some absolutely fantastic prize packages—some with values well in excess of $100—to be awarded each month. Kathleen Williams of Blountsville, Alabama won the June prize – Congratulations, Kathleen!