Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson

Book Description:  Christmas is approaching, and Lena Markham finds herself penniless, friendless, and nearly hopeless. She is trying to restart her life after false accusations landed her in prison, but job opportunities are practically nonexistent. When a secondhand red coat unexpectedly lands her a job as Mrs. Santa at a department store, Lena finally thinks her luck is changing. But can she keep her past a secret? This tender story about fresh starts will charm readers as all of Melody Carlson's Christmas offerings do. Full of redemption and true holiday spirit, Christmas at Harrington's will be readers' newest Christmas tradition.
My ReviewAhh...the sweet smell of the holidays are in the air as the new Christmas books are being released. I grabbed Melody Carlson's new book, Christmas at Harrington's, mainly because I really, really like this cover and because I begin Christmas shopping in July and am finished by Thanksgiving.  So, I'm in the mood for Christmas reading.  Christmas at Harrington's is a wonderful read filled with love, grace and the redemption of Jesus birth! 
Lena is a "marked woman" who needs a fresh new start.  She begins her new life in a small town but must prove herself over and over again.  She has a secret she wants to keep but as secrets go, this one gets out the bag.  Will her secret make or break her?
Lena allows God to work for and even though she goes through exceptionally hard times, somewhat like the trials Joseph in the Bible endured, God once again proves that He loves those who trust in Him. 
This read made me think about those who seem less than me.  I was enthralled with the sweet lady the Lena meets on the bus . . . I would like to emulate her attitude towards those less fortunate.  As the old saying goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover."  Nor can you judge a person by his lack of a coat.  Yes, I judged this book . . .LOVE , LOVE the cover and LOVE, LOVE the story inside---absolutely fabulous!  So, glad I had the privilege to read this 5 star book!
In the mood for a great-tastic Christmas read?  Then you'll not want to miss this excellent story!
**Buy this book HERE!**


The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Book Description:  Two Hearts. One Hope. Rose has been appointed as a healer's apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter's daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her---a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill. When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she's never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose's life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.

My Review: As a young girl I loved hearing the story of Beauty and the Beast because a beautiful, young girl is being raised as a poor, humble girl but in reality she lives to serve others.  
The Healer's Apprentice reminds me of a christian version of Beauty and the Beast.  Rose is a sweet young teen who is apprenticed and has learned to read (both are unusual feats for the poor and especially for girls of this age).  Rose's family is very poor.  Her mother seems to feel no love or affection towards Rose.  Her father is loving from a distance.  Rose feels that she doesn't fit "into" her family.
As the story progresses the author does an excellent job of creating the medieval scene.  Rough, coarse people who seem to love the Lord Hamlin and his family who "rule" over them.  The royal family is a family without its own eternal problems but Lord Hamlin tries to rule fairly and not with a hand of iron.  If he sees a peasant in need he tries his best to fix it so the peasant can better his own living conditions.
Meanwhile, Rose is fighting with her mother....her mother wants her to marry this most disgusting old man....Rose who can't stand the sight of said man wants true love.  One day Lord Hamlin is seriously hurt and Rose must doctor is terrible wound.  Rose does the best job she knows and realizes that she is falling in love with Lord Hamlin, howbeit a forbidden love. But as live would have it Rose and Lord Hamlin meet on more than one occasion.  And then Rose is invited to the ball at the castle!!  What to wear?!?  A beautiful gown is presented to Rose AND this is where the story really takes off!
As Rose goes to the castle for the ball she is reminded by her friend that Lord Hamlin is supposedly betrothed to an unknown lady.  No one in the kingdom has ever met this mysterious lady.  Rose doesn't know what to think but knows she can't go back home so must make a go of her apprenticeship.  
Days go by . . .Rose and Lord Hamlin's life become more intertwined . . . ahhh....the mystery begins to unravel.
I also liked the way the healer always prays over the hurt person as she doctors him.  Trusting God to do the healing is the main source of healing in this read.
This is a wonderful 5 star medieval story of love and redemption!  This is classified as a YA book but I think it's a great adult read too.

*I reviewed this book for Zondervan*
Buy The Healer's Apprentice here!

Chicken Ranch

This is one of our favorite recipes from Southern Living:
Prep Time: 30 minutesCook Time: 2 hours 19 minutesOther: 40 minutesYield: Makes 8 to 10 servings


  • 1  (4 1/2- to 5-lb. ) whole chicken
  • 2  celery ribs, cut into 3 pieces each
  • 2  carrots, cut into 3 pieces each
  • 2 1/2  to 3 tsp. salt
  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 1  medium onion, chopped
  • 1  medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1  garlic clove, pressed
  • 1  (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1  (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  • 2  (10-oz.) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
  • 1  teaspoon  dried oregano
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  teaspoon  Mexican-style chili powder*
  • 3  cups  grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 12  (6-inch) fajita-size corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips


1. If applicable, remove giblets from chicken, and reserve for another use. Rinse chicken.
2. Place chicken, celery, carrots, and salt in a large Dutch oven with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 50 minutes to 1 hour or until chicken is done. Remove from heat. Remove chicken from broth; cool 30 minutes. Remove and reserve 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Strain any remaining cooking liquid, and reserve for another use.
3. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 6 to 7 minutes or until tender. Add bell pepper and garlic, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in reserved 3/4 cup cooking liquid, cream of mushroom soup, and next 5 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes.
4. Skin and bone chicken; shred meat into bite-size pieces. Layer half of chicken in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Top with half of soup mixture and 1 cup Cheddar cheese. Cover with half of corn tortilla strips. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining 1 cup cheese.
5. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
*1 tsp. chili powder and 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper may be substituted for Mexican-style chili powder.


A friend of mine Molly at Molly's Book Reviews By Molly sent me this sweet award!  She is truly a helpful, kind and christian friend and I thank her for this cute inspirational award!  It really made my day! Please stop by Molly's blog and look around....she is a wonderful friend and I highly recommend you follow her reviews! I have 3 blogger friends (check them out too as they are GREATASTIC bloggers!) whom I am passing this along to, just because they make my day! 

They are:
Abi Bueing @ 4 The Love of Books

Masquerade by Nancy Moser

Book Description: 1886, New York City: Charlotte Gleason, a rich heiress from England, escapes a family crisis by traveling to America in order to marry the even wealthier Conrad Tremaine. She soon decides that an arranged marriage is not for her and persuades her maid, Dora, to take her place. What begins as the whim of a spoiled rich girl wanting adventure becomes a test of survival amid poverty beyond Charlotte's blackest nightmares. As for Dora, she lives a fairy tale complete with gowns, jewels, and lavish mansions--yet is tormented by guilt and the presence of another love that will not die. Will their masquerade be discovered? Will one of them have second thoughts? There is no guarantee the switch will work. It's a risk. It's the chance of a lifetime.

My Review:  Nancy Moser has long been a favorite author of mine.  I've read Mozart's Sister, Just Jane and  Washington's Lady.  I love the way her writing flows and she places the heroine in the story as a true, blue christian lady --- nothing trivial about the ladies in these books!
As I read Masquerade I was reminded of The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.  But instead of a young prince soon to be king trading places with a servant, a young lady of marked means trades places with her personal maid.
Charlotte or Lottie as her friends call her is tired of the sham of her life.  Now her servant, Dora, longs for such a rich life but as the two soon find out with many twists and turns in this life is not always greener in the other person's wallet.  
Dora struggles with some issues even though she wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth and then Charlotte, even though she has a sweet nature, is rather spoiled but doesn't think she is.  Both of these young ladies "think" they are ready for others life BUT as this read points out it's good for all of us to get-outside-our-boxes ever now and then and see how the other half lives.  Lottie and Dora learn that God will and can be ALL if you are willing trust Him with your very life!
I love the title of this book, Masquerade, for a masquerade can also be something that  is a facade.  So, many people live with a facade....some live beyond there means with fancy cars and big, beautiful houses, endless parties and travel but are empty both in the wallet and in character.  Whereas, others live without many fancy things at all.  You might think they are poor or that they don't care but come to find out they send thousands of dollars to missions or help many a stranger pick up the pieces of his life. 
As Dora and Charlotte find out switching your life may mean others are hurt in the process.  We can't be selfish and think that we know better than God what our life should be or that we know the best plan for our life.  God's path is best and what others have or may not have doesn't mean they are better or richer than you.
If you're looking for a fantastic 5 star christian romance and adventure read with a twist (in my humble opinion) to Mark Twain's Prince and The Pauper then Masquerade is the book for you!

Click here to view the trailer of Masquerade
             AND then
Click here to buy Masquerade!

*I reviewed this book for Bethany House Publishers*


Love's First Bloom by Delia Parr

Book Description:  Ruth Livingstone's life changes drastically the day her father puts a young child in her arms and sends her to a small village in New Jersey under an assumed name. There Ruth pretends to be a widow and quietly secludes herself until her father is acquitted of a crime. But with the emergence of the penny press, the imagination of the reading public is stirred, and her father's trial stands center stage. Asher Tripp is the brash newspaperman who determines that this case is the event he can use to redeem himself as a journalist. Ruth finds solace tending a garden along the banks of the Toms River--a place where she can find a measure of peace in the midst of the sorrow that continues to build. It is also here that Asher Tripp finds a temporary residence, all in an attempt to discover if the lovely creature known as Widow Malloy is truly Ruth Livingstone, the woman every newspaper has been looking for. Love begins to slowly bloom...but is the affection they share strong enough to withstand the secrets that separate them?
My Review:  Another great, new author for me!  The cover of this book is very interesting to me.  I guess because I like the colors and the lady on the front cover is gazing off into  the sea makes wonder where her life is going.  
I was hooked from page one.  Ruth is a pastor's daughter.  Her dad is one of those pastors who sees that ALL humans need the Lord...not just the "clean" well spoken ones.  He has been visiting the brothels trying to help the women who really need God's guidance.  On one such visit one of the "ladies" is murdered .... Ruth's dad finds the "lady" and is charged with her murder.  
He has just.enough.time to get to his daughter, Ruth, and send her to the safe house where he was going to send the now murdered "lady."  But he not only sends his daughter, Ruth, he sends the murdered lady's baby girl, Lily, with Ruth.  No one is aware that Lily exist.
Ruth doesn't enjoy being known as a woman of ill repute with a child, to boot!  But she has promised her father to keep Lily in safety and to hide out herself in order to protect her father until his trial is over.  The trial takes quite awhile and in the meantime Ruth meets a journalist, Asher Tripp.  Asher is in the "bad graces" of his brother who owns the newspaper that he and Asher were to operate together.  Asher ran out on him and now Asher wants a second chance to prove himself.  Asher's brother gives him the job of hunting down the reverend's daughter whom is presumed dead----many supposing that the reverend killed his own daughter, too.  As Asher and Ruth make a rocky acquaintance Ruth's father is pronounced not guilty BUT this is only the beginning of the story.  Lies, deceit and who is baby, Lily?  Why did her mother not let her presence be known? 
I also really like the couple at the safe house who took Lily and Ruth in.  Even though Ruth is pretending to be the woman who is now murdered she is accepted without questions or judgment by this loving couple.  This sweet couple help Ruth with baby Lily and try to steer Ruth in the "right" direction.  
Ruth is a sweet, wonderful young lady who trusts God and her father without reserve.  She knows that God is in control and that all things will work for His good.  Many of the characters in this story are "second chance" winners.  They all intermingle throughout the story and are gifted in helping others.
A wonderful story.  An attention 5 star read!

*I reviewed this book for Bethany House*

Click Here to purchase this book!


Pursuit of Justice by DiAnn Mills

Book Description:  Special Agent Bella Jordan is assigned to investigate a series of murders in West Texas that are linked to the Spider Rock Treasure. Since she spent the first fifteen years of her life in this area, FBI authorities believe she can get the job done. What they don’t know is that one of their prime suspects—a man who’s been on their wanted list for years—is deeply connected to Bella’s past. 

The other prime suspect is Carr Sullivan, the man who owns the ranch where the murders occurred. Carr was once one of the wealthiest businessmen in Dallas and has a shady past a mile long. But it appears he’s turned his life around. Can Bella trust him, or is he just trying to cover his tracks? 

As Bella probes deeper into the case, threats on her own life convince her the killer is someone she knows. But it soon becomes clear he’s not working alone, and she’ll need to face the past she’s tried so desperately to forget in order to solve the case and prevent more murders.

My Review: I had the pleasure of reading DiAnn Mills book, Breach of Trust, and loved it.  So was excited to read Pursuit of Justice.  In each of the Call of Duty books the heroine is in either a CIA, FBI or border patrol agent. Women with men's jobs but with the heart and feelings of true ladies.
In Pursuit of Justice, Bella, is a FBI agent sent to investigate the murders of three men on a West Texas ranch.  Even though the books are in the Call of Duty series, each book is a stand alone read about a different woman and a different set of circumstances.  So, if like me, you missed one of the books you can easily read them out of order and not miss anything from another book.
Bella is a strong woman but yet is soft enough to be gentle when needed.  She cares for others and often makes emotional mistakes but when called to investigate the murders on the ranch of Carr Sullivan she doesn't want to go by her gut instinct.  She wants/needs to go by the "book" because all the evidence points to Carr as the bad guy.  However, Carr who does have a "bad" past has turned his life over to God and IS a changed man.
I loved the character of Carr.  An all around great guy who has made quite a few mistakes but asks for God's forgiveness and stands strong in his faith.
As Carr and then Bella discover the one who you think is involved in the murder and mayhem may not be the one who is the culprit.  
The whole mystery of the treasure surrounding the Spider Rock in West Texas is great!  I had never heard of the Spider Rock Treasure and enjoyed learning about the treasure and reading more info on West Texas.  
This read has a lot of high excitement and action.  Carr and Bella seem to get into a lot of scrapes and have to work out things not only together but individually.  Carr and Bella both have issues in their past that have set their "make up" for now.  Getting past all those issues is what makes this a great 4 star read.
If you love action and adventure mixed with a smidgen of romance then you'll love DiAnn Mills' books!

*I reviewed this book for Tyndale House Publishing*

Click here to purchase this book!


Where Hearts Are Free by Golden Keyes Pasrsons

Book Description:  Bridget is in love with one man...and promised to another.
Amid the liberty and promise of the New World, Bridget Barrington and Phillipe Clavell fall in love. But nothing about their love seems possible.
To pay for the Clavell family's passage from France, Philippe, a former member of French royalty, worked as an indentured slave to the Barringtons. Bridget is the heiress of the prominent plantation.
When Bridget's parents discover the budding Romance between their daughter and their servant, they quickly orchestrate her engagement to an older, more advantageous match. But Edward Moorehead has a secret. And he's anything but a good match for Bridget.
Separated from her true love and in danger from her betrothed, Bridget must rely on God to deliver her from darkness into light.
Gold Keyes Parsons is an author as well as a popular conference and retreat leader. Her first series is the highly acclaimed Darkness to Light trilogy. She and her family live in Texas.

My Review:  Another new author for me, Golden Keyes Parsons. I  just loved the name of the author.  I could imagine that her computer has the "golden touch" as she types her stories.  the cover of Where Hearts Are Free is both beautiful and gives a hint of what lies in the covers of this wonderful read!
Where Hearts Are Free is another read set in Texas.  I just love reading all these stories with Texas as the backdrop.  Of course, I may be partial to Texas
This story is the third book in this set.  I didn't read books one and two but I easily read book three as a stand a lone book.  If I go back and read books one and two I may see that the books go together but having read book 3 by itself I see no "back references" to the previous two books.
Bridget is a young woman who is spirited and definitely knows her own mind.  However, she also has a gentle and loving spirit.  Her gentle and loving spirit helps her to recognize that the "older gentleman" her father has picked as her husband is not a good match for  her.  Her struggles to make her own marriage match is what this story is about.
Faith in God, trusting one's own self and a good friend are the keys to Bridget making her own marriage match.
The "older gentleman", Edward Moorehead, is not what he seems.  He seems to be a man of wealth and a gentleman.  However, Bridget, sees through his disguise and discovers another faucet of this gentleman.  
Bridget and her childhood friend, Phillippe, are compatible and long to have more than friendship.  But Phillippe is a man of character and Bridget's father does not approve of him. 
Bridget must find her own way and this 4 star read is all about her grand adventure.  And the two men whom she must choose betwixt---one for her parents approval and one for her own approval.
If you're looking for a "golden" well thought out story then be sure to pick up this great read!

*I reviewed this book for Thomas Nelson/BookSneeze*

Click here to buy this book!

WOW! Zucchini Cupcakes---Great Fall Treat!!

  • 18-24 Servings
  • Prep: 20 min. Bake: 20 min. + cooling


  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups confectioners' sugar


  • In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil, orange juice and extract. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to egg mixture and mix well. Stir in zucchini.
  • Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
  • For frosting, combine the brown sugar, butter and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Cool to lukewarm.
  • Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until frosting reaches spreading consistency. Frost cupcakes. Yield: 1-1/2 to 2 dozen.



A BIG welcome to all the new followers from BlogMania!

BlogMania was such fun and now we're glad to have you come visit the Parlor where reading is fun, too!

Drop by often and keep a watch out for those
great book giveaways!

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

Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship
Book Description:  In 1937, on the threshold of Nazi Germany s war on the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote what turned out to be one of the most influential books of the century, The Cost of Discipleship. In it, he challenged the flabby faith and compromises of German Christians, famously writing, When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die. Now, seventy-three years after the book was first published, Jon Walker writes Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship.
Walker brings to a new generation the timeless message of Bonhoeffer against the background of today's political upheaval and societal change and what it means to those who claim to follow Christ's teachings.
Christianity Today named Bonhoeffer's book one of the ten most influential books of the twentieth century, but although the book still has a loyal readership, it has not been adequately viewed through the eyes of the twenty-first century, until now.
Costly Grace, Walker, who worked with Rick Warren for several years and recently authored Growing with Purpose (Zondervan, 2009), writes a book that will challenge contemporary teachings and lifestyles.
Grace is a foundational doctrine for Christians, yet it is one of the most misunderstood. Bonhoeffer watched as many used the doctrine of grace as an excuse to do whatever they wanted, and in response, he wrote his classic work on what it truly means to follow Jesus. We cheapen grace, he declared, when we use it to compromise our behavior or to lower the standards of God s Word. In a modern retelling of this Christian classic, Walker explains what Bonhoeffer meant when he taught that grace is free but will cost us everything.

My Review:  My husband "found" Dietrich  Bonhoeffer about 3 years ago.  Ever since then we've read everything that has been written about him.  So, when I was offered the chance to read the manuscript of COSTLY GRACE by Jon Walker I jumped at the chance to learn more of Bonhoeffer's life.  
In COSTLY GRACEA Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Grace Bonhoeffer challenges christians!  In the very first sentence of the book "Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared cheap grace the deadly enemy of our church in 1937.  'We are fighting today for costly grace,' he said.  We are in that same fight today."  With this opening statement I was stricken in my heart to find out what is cheap grace?  "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolutions without personal confession, says Bonhoeffer.  'Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."  Oh.the.truth.hurts!
As I read this book I wanted my heart to be cleansed.  I don't want cheap grace but costly grace because it costs my Savior everything!  
When I got to the middle of the book on page 123 "Is It Ever Appropriate To Tell A Lie?"  I was curious to know and was not disappointed to find that Bonhoeffer states, "The issue is not whether a particular lie is more forgivable, the issue is that we all need to be forgiven.  A lie is a lie, and a lie is a sin, and that brings us short of God's standards."  Bonhoeffer tells us that if we're looking for a way to make lying acceptable we will BUT if "we look to Jesus, we see our sins are forgiven, so stop arguing about the acceptability any form of lie." 
As I read this chapter I was reminded of a short story that Corrie ten Boom told of her niece during this terrible regime:  She told of how the her niece and her husband taught their children that lying was NEVER acceptable and if you always told the truth God would make a way.  The story continues with Corrie telling of how the  Nazis would go house to house looking for men and teenage boys to capture.  Her niece and husband and their children, two of which were teenage boys, were home when they heard the terrible knocking of the Nazis on their door.  Her niece went to open the door but before she did her husband and her two sons hid in a hiding place that was a trap door under the kitchen table with a throw rug on top.  As the Nazis stomped in guns pointed at the girls, one of the soldiers yelled at Corrie's young grandniece, "Are there any men hiding here?" Her grandniece was terribly frightened but she would only tell the truth.  She replied while nervously giggling, "Yes, they are under the table."  The guards looked under the table and saw nothing.  Thinking it was a joke all the guards began laughing and left the house.  Corrie's nephew and his boys were saved that day by truth!
This is a FANTASTIC 5 star read!  Not a fantasy story but the truth of God's Word is revealed!  This is one of THE best books I have read that opened my eyes to God's will for us....COSTLY GRACE requires obedience to the ONE who loves us most!  
If you don't want cheap grace but costly grace then this is the read for you!  Bonhoeffer will pierce your heart with his timely words for such a time as this.  Be encouraged in the Lord!

*I reviewed the Costly Grace manuscript for ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers*

About the Author: An interview with Jon Walker
Question --- Give us a quick synopsis of 'Growing with Purpose.' Where did you come up with the idea?
Answer --- This book grew out of my frustration at trying to live the Christian life and constantly failing. I'd try to 'be holy as our Heavenly Father is holy' (1 Peter 1:16), and some days I'd feel I was doing pretty well on this Jesus-walk, and the other days I was a complete failure. I set out to determine the 'I' quotient - what else do I have to do - only to discover that I couldn't do a thing except depend upon God to develop holiness in me. His grace is the most powerful tool for change in our lives; we're saved by grace, but we're also transformed by grace. I accepted that God saved me, but I still had an independent streak in me, where I believed I could then work myself into saintliness.
Question --- If I read 'The Purpose Driven Life," why read your book? In what way does it press further into the Purpose Driven Life?
Answer --- In "The Purpose Driven Life," Rick does an incredible job of teaching that God created and shaped us for a purpose. But, as I began to 'grow in purpose,' I found myself stumbling in the little things; it was like, 'What good is it if I tell the whole world they were created in the image of God, but then I don't treat my own children as if they are unique creations of God.' So I had to grow within my purpose, and as God taught me, he kept emphasizing that the same Spirit at work in me is the same Spirit at work in others (James 4:5). It forced me to focus on the truth that the Spirit God placed within us both is constantly at work, washing our windows and sweeping out the cobwebs, changing us for God's glory and his purpose. So my book drives deeper into grace and the role of the Holy Spirit in pursuing our purpose. Rick teaches that in "The Purpose Driven Life;" I'm just too dense to get it at first and I know there are others who have the same 'density propensity' when it comes to their walk with God. Hopefully, my book will help them see how the presence of the Holy Spirit is part of what connects us within God's family.
Question --- You mention that the faith walk can become tedious and stale. How would you recommend preventing this?
Answer --- My friend, Steve Pettit, says that we have a tendency to focus on the how of Christianity, and although well-intentioned, it causes us to lose sight of the "wow!"--that the Holy Spirit lives within us as proof (Paul refers to it as a down-payment) that we are infinitely valuable to God and that he is intimately available in our lives. Wow! If we can remember the 'wow!,' then our walk will remain fresh and exciting. As Eugene Peterson suggests in "The Message," we'll be constantly saying, "What's next, Papa?"
Question --- What are some simple steps anyone can take in order to establish a richer, deeper, more satisfying relationship with Christ?
Answer --- The most important step is that we've got to get to the place where we say 'I can't; only God can.' But this is the step we most often miss: we race past the 'I can't' and then get stuck in a cycle of following steps toward intimacy with Christ without ever growing because our pride is still in the way.
The 'step' that Jesus constantly encouraged was to be dependent on God. We have to get to a place where we really believe we have no other option: 'God, I have no where else to go. I can't even depend on myself. I can't; only you can.' Like the widow at midnight, we have to stay there, refusing to leave step #1 until our 'I can't' becomes a faithful certainty that 'God can.' That's when God will open the door to greater intimacy.
Question --- Was 'Growing with Purpose' difficult to write in any aspects?
Answer --- It was extraordinarily humbling to try to interact with God on what each message should be because my pride kept getting in the way. For instance, I kept wanting to really show off my writing talents, but then God would seem to say, 'Keep this one very simple.' Like the Apostle Paul, I was forced to agree with God that the transformation of a heart - including my own - would not result from the eloquence of my writing, but from the power of the Holy Spirit working through the words.
In addition, I knew that every time I would write on a particular aspect of the Christian walk, I would be tested on that, and it was painful to face those tests and downright humiliating to fail so many of them. But, then, God would pick me up and say, "See, this is why I offer Grace; you are still my beloved."
Question --- Who are some of the writers who have influenced your writing style?
Answer --- Eugene Peterson, Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, Walter Wangerin, Max Lucado, King David, The Apostles John and Paul. The music of Rich Mullins, John Lennon, Jars of Clay and Relient K; their creativity inspires my creativity.
Question --- Could you give us a preview of what's next for you?
Answer --- I'm working on a project related to "The Cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonheoffer. He wrote about "cheap grace" in 1937 as he witnessed the winds of war sweep upon Germany and he struggled within a church that had disconnected belief from behavior.
We live in a similar time, when the things we've traditionally seen a stable and secure are crumbling and the church is discovering the current disconnect between belief and behavior. In these hard times, I believe God is calling believers to make an authentic assessment of how their beliefs connect--or remain disconnected--to the decisions and actions they make each day.
Jon's Bio:
Jon Walker has served with Rick Warren, first as a writer/editor at, later as vice president of communications at Purpose Driven Ministries, and then as a pastor at Saddleback Church.
He's also served as editor-in-chief of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine and founding editor of the Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox. His articles have appeared in publications and websites around the world.
Jon's Blog:


Hidden (Sisters of the Heart) by Shelley Shepard Gray

Hidden (Sisters of the Heart, Book 1)
Book Description:  When Anna decides it's time to leave her abusive boyfriend, she doesn't know where to turn. Rob has completely won over her parents, and the entire community, with his good looks and smooth charm. Only Anna has seen his dark side.
Desperate, she runs to the only place she's ever felt completely safe—the Amish Brenneman Bed and Breakfast, where Anna met life-long friend Katie Brenneman. The family welcomes her in, and with few questions asked allows her to stay, dressed in Plain clothing, and help around the inn.
Katie's older brother Henry is the only one who doesn't take too kindly to the intrusion. He tries to ignore Anna, knowing no good would ever come from caring for an Englisher like her. But as he gets to know Anna, he discovers her good heart and is surprised with her readiness to accept their lifestyle.
The more time Anna spends with the Amish, the more she feels she's found a true home. But how can she deny the life she left behind? And will her chance for happiness be stolen away by the man from her past?

My Review:  Another new author for me (yay!).  I've been so pleased to "meet" these new authors and their wonderful works!  Hidden is a great read about a young woman who like many young women falls for the suave guy.  Suave guy is not what he seems and now issues ensue!
Anna is young and naive and, unfortunately, also known to be flighty.  She doesn't think she has a good relationship with her parents but as young adults sometimes forget....parents are humans too.  The story begins with Anna and her flight to safety.  As the author so delicately points out in times of need we run to those we feel are safe and who we can count on.  In Anna's case she rune to her Amish friend's bed & breakfast. Wonderful, gut food and gut times for Anna.
Of course, the sweet romances of this book capture the heart for the pure and simple times.  
I like reading about the Amish but don't enjoy a trite, I!  So, I truly enjoyed this fast, not so light read. 
This story could have taken place in today's I'd call it a modern story.  Seemingly nice guy wants to control and hurt sweet, innocent young lady. Young lady has enough sense to see that suave guy is a Nut and feeling that she must leave heads to yonder city. 
Henry, Oh Henry! (Sorry just couldn't help myself =)  Is a wonderful gut man!  I love his character and maybe, just maybe, he can see beyond Anna'a exterior.  
Then there's sweet, lovable Katie!  Who really does understand Anna as only a true friend can do.  
Parental issues with both the Amish young people and the English child were well written by this author.  It seems that no matter who you are or where you are in life....we all tend to be humanely the same!
Reading this 5 star book was like eating a soft, moist, just-out-of-the-oven oatmeal raisin cookie.  Sweet but not too sweet, lovable without being sickly and best of all wanting more!
Can't wait to read her next book Wanted!
*I reviewed this book for Zondervan*


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Apple Blossom

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