Friday, January 29, 2010

Just wondering...

I was just cleaning out my spam email folder and I'm wondering - Do you ever blush just reading the subject lines? Oh my goodness...I'm a little embarrassed just thinking about it!

Tea with Hezbollah by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis

Tea with Hezbollah
by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis

Is it really possible to love one’s enemies?

That’s the question that sparked a fascinating and, at times, terrifying journey into the heart of the Middle East during the summer of 2008. It was a trip that began in Egypt, passed beneath the steel and glass high rises of Saudi Arabia, then wound through the bullet- pocked alleyways of Beirut and dusty streets of Damascus, before ending at the cradle of the world’s three major religions: Jerusalem.

Tea with Hezbollah combines nail-biting narrative with the texture of rich historical background, as readers join novelist Ted Dekker and his co-author and Middle East expert, Carl Medearis, on a hair-raising journey. They are with them in every rocky cab ride, late-night border crossing, and back-room conversation as they sit down one-on-one with some of the most notorious leaders of the Arab world. These candid discussions with leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas, with muftis, sheikhs, and ayatollahs, with Osama bin Laden’s brothers, reveal these men to be real people with emotions, fears, and hopes of their own. Along the way, Dekker and Medearis discover surprising answers and even more surprising questions that they could not have anticipated—questions that lead straight to the heart of Middle Eastern conflict.

Through powerful narrative Tea With Hezbollah will draw the West into a completely fresh understanding of those we call our enemies and the teaching that dares us to love them. A must read for all who see the looming threat rising in the Middle East.

Author Bios:
Ted Dekker is the author of many nationally bestselling novels, including Bone Man’s Daughters, The Circle Trilogy, Thr3e, and House, which was coauthored by Frank Peretti. His unique style of storytelling has captured the attention of millions worldwide. Visit him at

Carl Medearis is the founder and president of International Initiatives, LLC, an organization that promotes cultural, educational, and commercial exchange between the East and the West. He is an advisor on Arab affairs to the members of the U.S. Congress and leaders in international business.

Go to Random House for more information about this book or to purchase this book.  This book was provided to me for a review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
Monday, January 25, 2010

Letters to Darcy by Tracy Ramos

Letters to Darcy originated as a blog, written by a young woman from Texas named Tracy Ramos. The blog was comprised of a series of diary entries that Tracy wrote to her unborn daughter, Darcy, over the course of approximately nine months. Early in her pregnancy, Tracy learned Darcy had a rare, terminal genetic condition known as Trisomy 18. Of people diagnosed with this disorder, about 95% die in utero, and for surviving infants who live to term, less than 10% survive their first year of life. Tracy’s response to her unborn daughter Darcy is an incredible testament to the sanctity of human life. You will walk with Tracy and Darcy through each entry and see how lovingly mom Tracy cares for her unborn child. Through her simple, honest, and intensely personal entries, Tracy beautifully and convincingly answers the question: When does life begin?

Tracy Ramos is a stay-at-home mother and home educator. Tracy lives in Magnolia, Texas, along with Jason, her husband of twenty years, and their six beautiful children. She will soon give birth to her tenth child, Brooklyn, in mid-November 2009. Darcy, her ninth child, has joined two other siblings in the presence of our Lord.

Tracy’s life and passion are her family. She loves spending time with them and enjoys playing games and sports, watching movies, working out, and riding her Kawasaki Ninja with her husband. She gets a rush from finding great shopping deals—even when she chooses not to buy. Tracy spends her free time reading, clipping coupons, and going on Facebook.
“I absolutely love my life. Thank you, Lord.”

You can go here to find out more about the book (and I really recommend you go and see all the precious pictures!). Below is an interview with Tracy Ramos. 

1. When you received Darcy’s diagnosis, did you ever feel as if you were being punished for something you had done?
The question of whether I had done something that would cause God to punish me in this way did cross my mind. Jason and I both wondered this. But I know, as evidenced by how God used this special child, that he was not using her to punish me. Of course, the Bible says that God does discipline, or train, His children to put them back on the right course, but that’s not the same as punishment. If the blessings that came with Darcy are punishment, I don’t know what punishment is.
2. Were you ever angry with God?
I’ve been asked that question a lot. In fact, many have advised me that it’s all right for me to be angry, even at God.
I’ve always considered myself a weak person. Before Darcy, I was confident that God would never give me more than I could handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). I rested on that verse and just “knew” that losing a child was something that would never happen to me. But it did happen to me, and here I am walking in the aftermath. But, no, I never became angry at God. I was angry at a lot of people, but not at God. It wasn’t because I was some super Christian with nothing but pure intentions. It was simply that I’ve never embraced that concept. God was and is the source of all the good things in my life. He has given me a wonderful husband and beautiful children. We have never been in need of anything. How could I be angry at Him because something didn‘t go my way, despite how grave it was? Get mad at him? God forbid! Are we not supposed to love God in the valleys as well as on the mountaintops? Doesn’t He bring rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous?
His ways are not our ways. So many beautiful things have come from Darcy’s life and death. Even though Darcy never said a word, her story helped stop abortions. Her life has caused many parents to love their children a little more, to worship God a little more, and in some cases, even to come back to Him. Darcy had more impact on people in her fifteen days with us than I have ever had in my lifetime. Her legacy will live on.
Was I ever angry at God? No. Who am I to question my Creator?
3. How did you hold on to your faith in God through the trials?
I don’t know how I got through. It would be easy to say that I wish I had slept through the entire thing and then woke up when it was over. But that’s not how I feel. My time with Darcy was the single most difficult series of days in my life. But I would not have gotten to know my little angel were it not for those days. I once heard that it is a beautiful experience that I would wish on no one. Been there, done that, and it’s so true.
I know one thing for sure: The Lord is the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). I had faith not because I had it in me to have faith. I had faith because He gave me just enough faith to go through this.
4. What more did you learn about your faith through your journey with Darcy?
I believe that the things I learned about my faith are only some of the blessings I mentioned above. The biggest lesson is that God will never leave us in our time of need. Another is that it relates to the second half of 1 Corinthians 10:13: that God will make a way for me to endure the testings, or trials, in my life. We should never underestimate the power of God or second-guess Him. He loves us and wants only the best for us. And even though we don’t understand how trials can be good for us, we must trust in God’s sovereignty. We need to have faith through the trials, and when we reach the other end, we can look back and see that He has been carrying us through them all.

A famous poem by Mary Stevenson, called “Footprints in the Sand,” expresses my sentiments more beautifully than I can.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene, I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
Other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me, Lord, that if I followed you,
You would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have been only one set of footprints in the sand.
Why when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?"

The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
Is when I carried you.”
 5. How did you find the daily strength to go on, knowing that your baby would probably not survive long after her birth?
In the beginning, my focus was on finding a cure or anything that could save her. Eventually, my focus turned to wanting to make the most of the time God would allow me to have with her. He gave me the strength and inspiration I needed to focus, not on Darcy’s dying, but on her living.
I wanted to make sure I had no regrets after she was gone, so I made a list that was based on advice I solicited from many people who had already walked this road before me. I made sure that we did as many of the items on the list as God would allow, so that Darcy’s life—however long it might be—would have meaning for me and for everyone else who knew her. We had to make a lifetime of memories in a very short time. We didn’t know how long Darcy would live, but we went through that list as if she were going to die before the next minute came. I believe that gave me the energy and drive that helped me bear what could otherwise have been a horrific two weeks. Jason made it his goal to see to it that every item on the list was accomplished. I believe it was his shining moment.
6. What did you and Jason need to do—in your relationship—in order to persevere through the pregnancy and then after Darcy was born?
Studies have revealed that there is a high rate of divorce for parents of deceased children. We were aware of that and vowed not be a statistic. Our relationship has been tested more through the pregnancy and Darcy’s life than at any other time in our twenty years of marriage. We still struggle, but we are persevering. I believe that our relationship will eventually become unbreakable because we have a righteous multitude who continue to pray for us and provide love and support. We used to think of ourselves as independent people who do not need to rely on others for help. We were determined to meet this challenge head-on. But during that time, God revealed the pride that was the source of our independent attitude, even toward each other. He showed us in practical ways by gathering His people around us in our time of need. I guess this is where the phrases “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” from our wedding vows come in.
7. In what ways has your experience with Darcy changed the person you are now?
God has made me much more compassionate toward those who experience similar trials, especially those who have kids with any kind of trisomy condition. Also, because I survived this heart-wrenching ordeal, I know that I can survive anything and can help others do the same. Last, I have a renewed commitment to help spread a new kind of “pro-choice” message: that we must choose to help those who cannot help themselves, especially our own unborn children.
And, of course, the negative thing about the experience is that there will always be a Darcy-shaped hole in my heart, a hole that will never be filled in this life.
8. How has your experience changed your family and your life together?
It has brought us closer, and we value one another more. We now truly believe that life is a vapor and that any one of us can suddenly be taken up to heaven. Although the kids occasionally forget this and fight, the fights don’t last as long as they used to.
This is part of the silver lining in such a hard experience. Grief has a strange but powerful way of forcing us to confront the sins in our lives. And even though we have to go through more rough roads while we’re grieving, we also know that it’s the best way to deal with those sins in a lasting way.
9. What advice would you give to families going through this kind of experience—whether or not they know God?
Of course, I am not a psychologist. But because I have gone through it, I feel I have something to say about the matter. But I would give advice only if I were asked for it. The hurt of losing a child is so deep that the last thing people want is unsolicited advice. The reality is, I would much rather have my child here with me, alive and well. However, if someone asked, these are things I might tell them.
First, I would tell them that they will need to prepare for a long, hard road ahead. During the delivery, a nurse told Jason that we were about the face the deepest sorrow in our lives. She was right. In a way, this helped us brace ourselves and expect the worst. Knowing it was coming helped us deal with it better than we would have if we have not known what to expect. And, the proof is in the pudding. God does see you through, and joy does come in the morning.
Second, I would urge them to rely on one another and never forsake one another, just as God has never forsaken us. The death of a child can do irreparable damage to a marriage. Satan uses situations such as this one to split families. Husband and wives must work extra hard to keep it together both during and long after the death of their child. Do not lay guilt on the other person or blame him or her for the disease. Instead, be understanding with one another. Each person has a different way of dealing with the grief and stress. Realize that everyone in the family—not just the mother—is grieving. The grieving period will pass, but you need give family members as much time as they need.
Following that, I would encourage them to trust that the Creator has their little one in His care and that their precious child will soon be in His arms. If they want to see their child again someday, they must believe in God’s Son, Jesus. My advice would not change just because someone else doesn’t believe the way I do. I know that God’s Word always bears fruit, so I would rely on the Holy Spirit to direct what I say and to reveal His message to the hearts of those I speak with.
During Darcy’s time with us, we realized that her story is more than a message about life on earth. It is, in a more important way, a story of eternal life with our Creator. Jason called Darcy our “little evangelist.” I think we’ll see the truth of that statement once the book is released. The story of Darcy is a story of God’s grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. It was when we were in the deepest despair that we really got to know God. Our hope is that when people share our sorrow as they read about Darcy, they will come face-to-face with the Savior.
Having said all that, I would like to offer two pieces of unsolicited advice to those who desire to comfort grieving families: First, it is better to offer nonverbal support, such as giving hugs or simply sitting quietly and listening. A sweet lady at our church did that for me. Whenever she saw me, she just leaned over and gave me a long hug without saying a word. I will never forget those hugs. Second, and this is in line with the first statement, do not feel compelled to say something and end up being insensitive (for example, “at least you have other children”).
10. What were some of the supportive things that friends and family did or said that were most helpful in dealing with the pregnancy and adjusting to life after Darcy was born?
Our Family - We came together and supported one another. There was no bickering or whining. The focal point was Darcy. It was the one thing we shared. We assured one another that her condition was not a result of anything we did. We said, “I love you” a lot.
Church - Where do I begin? Every day for several weeks, we enjoyed meals that church friends had lovingly created. Our deacon family coordinated activities during Darcy’s birth. During the delivery, several women were there to coach me. Those who had medical backgrounds were available to us 24–7. Those who knew photography took literally hundreds of pictures of Darcy and the family. Church families spent the night to help us care for Darcy. Our pastors and deacon constantly checked on us and made sure we were in need of nothing. They brought a church service to our home (one of the items on Darcy’s List was to go to church.) The list is endless, but the experience would not have been the same without the support of our church family. Our little church became a picture of how the body of Christ should act.
Friends - Friends (neighbors, doctors and nurses, and other acquaintances) were very understanding. Knowing that hundreds of these people were available to us at a drop of a hat was so reassuring.
Total Strangers - The comments posted on Darcy’s Web site from people all over the world were a source of inspiration to us. Finding out about lives saved, families reunited, and people finding their way back to God gave us a clear sense that Darcy’s life had purpose. We took comfort and strength in those numbers: Approximately four thousand people a day followed Darcy’s story!
Prayer - Prayer kept us connected to God. That connection stayed strong, due in large part to the thousands of petitions people brought to the only One who could help.
Scripture - It may be difficult to open the Bible in times of such intense pain, but there is so much comfort to be had in knowing what the Lord has to say about times like these. The verses I have stated above have been my inspiration.
Music -I played several specific songs constantly during our time with Darcy. Now when I hear those songs every now and then, my thoughts return to the sweet moments I had with my little girl in my arms, her smell, her softness, her purity.

 I received a free! copy of this book from Christian Speaker Services in exchange for posting this information.
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eyes of Elisha by Brandilyn Collins

by Brandilyn Collins

First in the Chelsea Adams Series

The murder was ugly.
The killer was sure no one saw him.
Someone did.

In a horrifying vision, Chelsea Adams has relived the victim's last moments. But who will believe her? Certainly not the police, who must rely on hard evidence. Nor her husband, who barely tolerates Chelsea's newfound Christian faith. Besides, he's about to hire the man who Chelsea is certain is the killer to be a vice president in his company.

Torn between what she knows and the burden of proof, Chelsea must follow God's leading and trust him for protection. Meanwhile, the murderer is at liberty. And he's not about to take Chelsea's involvement lying down.

About the Author:
Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ."®  Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995.

Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn's awards for her novels include the ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers' Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice.  Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). The Writer magazine named Getting into Character one of the best books on writing published in 2002.

When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences. She and her family divide their time between homes in the California Bay Area and northern Idaho.

My review:
Brandilyn Collins has a very easy to read writing style, but that doesn't mean her books aren't full of twists and turns. I found this book fascinating as I really did not know much about the gift of prophecy, as the main character had. I knew about it from biblical times but not modern day times. As only God can do, while I was reading this book, I was spending time with someone who also has this gift. Fascinating!

You will not figure out the ending of this book until the end of the book. But, at that point you didn't figure it -- the author told you! I am looking forward to reading more of the series!

If you like a good mystery, then this is definitely a book you'll want to get. You'll have to keep yourself from skipping pages so you can get to the end.

I received this book from Brandilyn Collins in exchange for reviewing it.  Thank you!  

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

Though Waters Roar

"Thank goodness you're such a plain child. You'll have to rely on your wits."

So went the words of Grandma Bebe. And for all of my growing-up years, I scoffed at the beauty of my sister and what I saw as her meaningless existence. But my wits hadn't served me well in this instance, for here I was, in jail. And while I could have seen it as carrying on the family tradition (for Grandma Bebe landed in jail for her support of Prohibition), the truth is, my reasons for being here would probably break her heart. 
So how did I end up becoming a criminal? I've been pondering that question all night. Perhaps the best way to search for an answer is to start at the very beginning.

My review:
This was the first book by Lynn Austin that I have read and I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed following three different generations through different ethical issues which were occurring during her era and how each of them handled it.  (Maybe these are called historical fiction novels?)  They each thought they were so different from her mother but in the end, they all shared the same passions.  They each put their own lives on the backburner so they could care for others.  I would recommend this book and I look forward to reading more of Lynn Austin's works. 

Go to Lynn Austin's site for more information about her and the book!  Thank you to  Bethany House for sending me a review copy of the book.
Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cries for Mercy (Repost from Living Proof Ministries)

This is a repost from the post on the Living Proof Ministries blog.  Words just sort of escape me, so I've used someone else's.

My Dear Siestas,

We're having the same conversations in our family that many of you are having in yours. Melissa called me a little while ago and said, "You don't sound good, Mom. What is it?"

I told her I was just standing in front of the television screen still trying to wrap my mind around the ever-worsening horror in Haiti. She then said, "That's just what I was calling to talk about." While we were on the phone, Amanda called and we also shared our heart sickness over the unimaginable tragedies there.

Melissa mentioned that the more she watched, the more hopeless she felt and that suddenly she grasped hold of the obvious: "I don't have to just sit here feeling like there's nothing I can do. I can find a way to give." Amanda and I agreed that doing something tangible to help - like getting down on our knees in believing prayer and back up on our feet to open our checkbooks - might be the only way we three Moore women can sleep tonight.

Many of you already have avenues for giving to disaster relief. Others may not know exactly what to do. Compassion is already in active operation toward aid for Haiti and so is World Vision. You can also get on the official Red Cross website and give online. (Cathy says she put the link in for donating to the left.) I know for a fact that many of you are financially strapped right now and you might be looking for a way to make a vital contribution but one that won't put you further in the hole. Perhaps this ready option might work:

Text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts. It will be charged on your cell phone bill.

On any given day, around 10,000 independent visitors come to this blog. Ten dollars may not sound like a lot until you multiply it that many times over. Sister, if you don't have an extra dime to help, God knows the desires of your heart and esteems your powerful intercessory prayer. Let's just not sit here and twiddle our helpless thumbs. Join us as we cry out for mercy.

And miracles.

I am honored to kneel alongside each of you and band together as a group and give.

Posted by Beth at 6:27 PM

There are many other avenues to donate (if you can donate).  These are the ones I'm sharing.  (CakeWrecks is supporting Doctors Without Borders.)
May the Lord bless you beyond measure for giving (your time and/or your resources) to these people.
Picture courtesy of New York Times.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some Funnies

The Sunday School teacher was describing how Lot 's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt, when little Jason interrupted, 'My Mommy looked back once while she was driving,' he announced triumphantly, 'and she turned into a telephone pole!'

A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan. She asked the class, 'If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?' A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, 'I think I'd throw up.'

A Sunday school teacher asked, 'Johnny, do you think Noah did a lot of fishing when he was on the Ark ? ''No,' replied Johnny. 'How could he, with just two worms.'

A Sunday school teacher said to her children, 'We have been learning how powerful kings and queens were in Bible times. But, there is a Higher Power. Can anybody tell me what it is? One child blurted out, ' Aces!'

A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most quoted passages in the Bible - Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the chapter. Little Rick was excited about the task - but he just couldn't remember the Psalm. After much practice, he could barely get past the first line. On the day that the kids were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the congregation, Ricky was so nervous. When it was his turn, he stepped up to the microphone and said proudly, 'The Lord is my Shepherd, and that's all I need to know.'

The preacher's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why. 'Well, Honey,' he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages. 'I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon.' 'How come He doesn't answer it?' she asked.

When my daughter, Kelli, said her bedtime prayers, she would bless every family member, every friend, and every animal (current and past). For several weeks, after we had finished the nightly prayer, Kelli would say, 'And all girls.' This soon became part of her nightly routine, to include this closing. My curiosity got the best of me and I asked her, 'Kelli, why do you always add the part about all girls?' Her response, 'Because everybody always finish their prayers by saying 'All Men'!'

Little Johnny and his family were having Sunday dinner at his Grandmother's house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When Little Johnny received his plate, he started eating right away. 'Johnny! Please wait until we say our prayer.' said his mother. 'I don't need to,' the boy replied. 'Of course, you do.' his mother insisted. 'We always say a prayer before eating at our house.' 'That's at our house.' Johnny explained. 'But this is Grandma's house and she knows how to cook!'
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Sweet By and By by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck

The Sweet By and By

By Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck

A redemptive story from multi-platinum recording artist Sara Evans.

Jade Fitzgerald left the pain of her past in the dust when she headed out for college a decade ago. Now she's thriving in her career and glowing in the light of Max Benson's love.

But then Jade's hippie mother, Beryl Hill, arrives in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee, for Jade's wedding along with Willow, her wild younger sister. Their arrival forces Jade to throw open the dark closets of her past--the insecurity of living with a restless, wandering mother, the silence of her absent father, and the heart-ripping pain of first-love's rejection.

Turns out Beryl has a secret of her own. She needs reconciliation with her oldest daughter before illness takes her life. In the final days leading to the wedding, Jade meets the One who shows her that the past has no hold on her future. With a little grace, they'll meet in the middle, maybe even before that sweet by and by.

My review
I have really enjoyed this book.  When I saw it was co-authored by Rachel Hauk, I knew I would enjoy it.  The book is easy to read and hard to put down.  It drives home the point that you just cannot outrun your past, no matter have hard you try.  Your past is part of who you are.  This book also shows how you can be forgiven for your past mistakes and how relationships can be mended.  I understand there are more books to come in this series and I look forward to reading them.
You can purchase the book directly from Thomas Nelson or from  Doesn't matter where you purchase it from - just purchase it!
Thank you member Thomas Nelson for allowing me to be a Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger and for providing me a free copy of this book to review.  If you're interested in blogging for books, go to Thomas Nelson and sign up.