Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sarah Sundin’s ‘Anchor in the Storm’ All Hands on Deck Giveaway

In a time of sacrifice, what price can one put on true love? Pharmacist Lillian Avery and Ensign Archer Vandenberg are about to find out in Sarah Sundin's new book, Anchor in the Storm. During the darkest days of the war, Arch's destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves—and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions Lillian has been filling? As the danger rises on both land and sea, the two must work together to answer that question. But can Arch ever earn Lillian's trust and affection?

Celebrate the release of Sarah's Anchor in the Storm by entering to win her All Hands on Deck Prize Pack!

anchor in the storm - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A signed copy of Anchor in the Storm
  • Nautical tote bag lined with anchor fabric
  • Anchor necklace made from copper reclaimed from the USS Constitution in Boston during restoration
  • 365 Devotions for Hope by Karen Whiting
  • Shine: Nautical Inspirational Adult Coloring Book
  • "Hope Anchors the Soul" journal
  • Set of two nautical tea towels
LF AIS full group 2 

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on June 8th. The winner will be announced June 9th on Sarah's blog.

anchor in the storm - banner


(Revell, May 2016)
One plucky female pharmacist + one high-society naval officer = romance—and danger
For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg’s attentions only annoy–even if he is her brother’s best friend.
During the darkest days of the war, Arch’s destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves–and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian’s trust and affection?
Sarah Sundin brings World War II to life, offering readers an intense experience they won’t soon forget.
Sarah Sundin


Sarah Sundin is the author of Anchor in the Storm, as well as Wings of the Nightingale and the Wings of Glory series. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist’s mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force. Sarah lives in California.
Find out more about Sarah at www.sarahsundin.com.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Why am I blogging about #thebachelorette again?


I'm already questioning why I am doing this yet again. Unicorn girl JoJo launches her own journey to find love. Wearing the dumb rubber mask almost worked for her. What kind of gimmicks will we all be witness to tonight during the limo unloading?

But first, a recap of JoJo's difficult path to rejection last season.

If she hadn't been dumped last time, she wouldn't have learned so much about herself and she wouldn't be ready to find love.

It's necessary before the men arrive for JoJo to get advice for Ali, Des and Kaitlyn. They convince her that the guys' nerves will calm down her own nerves. Kissing on the first night? Regrets? Hurting feelings?

Perhaps the best advice is to ignore the guys that stand out on the first night for the first week to see if there is anything there.

JoJo does say she will be cautious in throwing out, "I love you," due to the fact she was burned by Ben and their exchanges.

A few videos introduce us to some of the men. I'll roll the intro info into the line-up below.*

*Jordan - 27 - Chico, CA - former NFL quarterback - His older brother was a star football player who was pro before him and made it tough for him to shine. He gave up a relationship for a career. "I want to be JoJo's #1 draft pick." He encourages JoJo by telling a story of how quickly his parents were engaged and how long they have been married. Right off the bat, she thinks he is hot.

Derek - 29 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL - commercial banker - Really nice smile. I think. His shoes don't match his suit. He was impressed by her sense of self. Her first impression was that he was sweet.

*Grant - 28 - San Francisco, CA - Firefighter - "Looking for someone to light his fire." Let me just say, the b-roll of him walking down the street in full gear looks ridiculous. He says he won't do what Ben did - fall in love with other girls because he is going to fall in love with her.

James F. - 34 - Nashville, TN - Boxing club owner - He strikes me as someone who can't box, so he owns a club. I don't think that he will be around in the long run. He didn't come for a rose, he came for a relationship.

Robby - 27 - Jacksonville, FL - former competitive swimmer - He walks funny. He brought a bottom of wine for her. They drink from the bottle. He may be the first slushy drunk. She thinks her mom will like him.

*Alex - 25 - Oceanside, CA - Marine - He's also a tatted up motorcycle rider. It did help him figure out what he wanted to do in life. He has a twin brother who is also a marine. They may have matching tattoos. When he gets out of the limo, his pants look to short. Like he's expecting a flood.

Will - 26 - Jersey City, NJ - Civil engineer - He drops his note cards getting out of the card and messes up his lines as a dump schtick.

Chad - 28 - Tulsa, OK - Luxury real estate - He kind of gets awkwardly in her personal space. She says he smells good. He was hanging around close enough for her to tell. He talks hateful smack about everyone to the camera all night long. Like ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

Daniel - 31 - Vancouver, BC - Canadian - Because Canadian is evidently an occupation like "twin" on this show. He reminds me of some other guy from another season. I can't put my finger on it.

*Ali - 27 - Santa Monica, CA - bartender - First of his siblings born in America instead of Iran. His siblings are dentists and surgeons while he is a surfer with a skateboard. He has the busy caterpillar eye brows down.

James Taylor - 29 - Katy, TX - singer-songwriter - They do actually give his full name since he shares it with James Taylor the famous singer. He comes out playing a guitar. They bond over both being from Texas. She loves country music, so they are golden.

Jonathan - 29 - Vancouver, BC - Technical sales rep - This Canadian has a job. he is also half Chinese/half Scottish. He is wearing a kilt because he is half Scottish below the waist - interpretation left to whoever wants to make it. The men are not impressed. The other Canadian makes fun of him.

Just when the guys think there couldn't be any dumber thing to do to get attention...

Saint Nick - 33 - The North Pole - Father Christmas - Complete in a Santa Claus outfit. Since she has been such a good girl this year, she gets a present. I have no clue what his name really is.

Chase - 27 - Highlands Ranch, CO - Medical sales rep - He steps out in sunglasses and a fake mustache. "I mustache you a question." However, he is going to save it for later.

About this time the introductions start going faster and faster and faster and I have to keep hitting pause more and more to keep up with my typing.

Jake - 27 - Playa Vista, CA - landscape architect - A man of color, and that's all we know because the other men were talking in the background and the intro was rushed.

Sal - 28 - Fort Lauderdale, FL - operations manager - He has two blue stress balls and gives her permission to squeeze his balls if she gets nervous. And these guys think they are clever?

Coley - 27 - Chicago, IL - Real estate consultant - He hopes he is the one to take her off the market. He's kind of awkward though. 

Brandon - 28 - Los Angeles, CA - Hipster - Because that too is an occupation. He didn't watch last season at all. He knows nothing about her. He needs to go already. 

*James S. - 27 - Phoenix, AZ - secret super Bachelor fan - He gets the goober award. He makes brackets. He has watch parties and talks to himself about The Bachelor.

Nick S. - 26 - San Francisco, CA - software salesman - He goes down on one knee and into the splits as he introduces himself. Then they dance.

Vinny - 28 - Delray Beach, FL - barber - He brought a piece of toast so he can give her a toast.

Peter - 26 - Chicago, IL - staffing agency manager - He brings a giant heart and wants to be her Man Crush Monday.

*Evan - 33 - Nashville, TN - former pastor turned EDS medication specialist - At least I think that's what he said he did before he decided to medicate the men of America. "I have my mojo for JoJo." he makes the most unattractive impression in my book.

Wells - 31 - Nashville, TN - radio DJ - He brings a music group with him to sing. All for One sings "I Swear" to her. Remember 1988?

*Christian - 26 - Los Angeles, CA - Telecom consultant - He's at the gym at 4:30 every morning. Super techy geeky, but also strikes me as an MMA guy. His teenage brothers live with him. he is mixed race to throw just a hint of color in. He rolls up on his motorcycle. She wants him to take her for a ride because a motorcycle is hot.

*Luke - 31 - Burnet, TX - war veteran - He's a country boy turned West Point grad turned rancher.  I question his boots. He rides up on his unicorn. Actually, it was a horse (Coconut) with a horn. She likes that he is from Texas.


  • There are a lot of guys from California.
  • There are a lot of guys who used corny lines.
  • There are a lot of guys that don't like the guys who use corny lines.
  • There are several unattractive guys.
  • There are some unemployed guys.
Once all the guys make it in, it's about to turn ugly as the first men make their moves. 

The first one to take her off is Alex, the marine. The guys already don't like him for being the first to take her off. He tries to impress her with push-ups. He has striped socks like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Derek is a self-professed nerd who tells JoJo he looked like Harry Potter as a kid and that he is super nervous. 

Ali is jabbery nervous. 

I can't keep up with who is who, but they are all awkward and nervous.

Jordan seems to make a connection. There's some hand holding and he regrets not kissing her. 

Coley's nephews call him CoCo. Like CoCo and JoJo. 

There's boxing lessons... 

Some weirdo - Will - has a cootie catcher which means they have to kiss because of the last count of the game. It was beyond awkward.

Jordan comes back to interrupt and get his kiss. It was much better than Will's. She's also impressed by his butt.

Here comes Chris Harrison with the rose on the tray. They all start guessing. But JoJo doesnt' know when it arrives. 

All for One hangs out all night long singing evidently. They sing again when Well gets a little personal time.

Unfortunately, Chad come off as "vulnerable" to JoJo. Too bad. He's a jerk. He tells the camera he is much more rugged than Ben.

So, the stupid Canadian, Daniel, is uber awkward... evidently my word of the night. He's been drinking and doesn't make sense when talking to JoJo. When he goes inside, he pokes Evan in the belly button which is evidently very offensive. His tie is super short too. He strips down to his underwear and ends up in the pool. My guess on the first sloshy drunk was wrong.

Also taking a prize for a messy drunk is... It's the first night. Who am I kidding, I don't know who that is. One of the Nick's. He comes in while JoJo is trying to do an interview. Vinny breaks into the room and assures her he'll never do it on a bathroom floor.

There are lots of hammered men. She's already thinking about sending several sloppy drunks home.

Aly plays the piano for her. I think she is impressed.

Saint Nick stays in character for a long time, until JoJo finally gets in his lap, and he finally reveals his true face. It's kind of creepy, if you ask me.

James Taylor's hair reminds me of Lyle Lovett. JoJo is impressed by both him and the other fellow Texan, Luke. Luke brings her cowboy boots.

She finally goes in for the first impression rose, and steps back out past a lot of men and finally tracks Jordan back down. 

The Chinese Scotsman reminds all the men that Olivia got the first rose last season and got left alone on a beach. Just a reminder to all that you never know what might happen. Chris isn't worried though. He knows he will be around tomorrow.

Finally, Chris Harrison comes in to tap his glass. JoJo has to decide who gets roses at the ceremony tonight.

There are 19 roses on the tray. With Jordan already getting a rose, the math says 6 are going home. There are a lot I would send on their merry way already. JoJo says that not getting a rose is nothing personal.

Before the ceremony can get started, we see a limo driving up. I'm about 12 minutes behind, and I saw on Twitter what is about to happen.

Jake Pavelka arrives. Everyone hates Jake except for me. I don't hate Jake Pavelka, actually. I think he's misunderstood. I saw Jake once, on an airplane. One of my bosses actually met him and had talked to him about writing a book. Anyway, I will say he is very attractive in person. My co-worker was convinced he winked at her and kept turning around to look 8 rows back the whole time. At that time, he was still flying for American Airlines. He was riding from Dallas to Atlanta to or from a flight.

Half of the men don't know who Jake is. He's a family friend, evidently. She says in a way, he's like a brother. Jake has known her for a long time, but can't let her go through with this without saying, he wants love for her. He hopes it's in that room. Jake doesn't want JoJo, he just wants to give her advice.

All the men are talking about how old he is. OH, my word! He's not ancient. He's 38. I'm a year older...

So now back to the roses...

  1. Luke - the almost first impression from Texas
  2. Wells - moral of the story... bring A Capella back-up
  3. James Taylor - you need to be from Texas people, I'm telling you
  4. Grant
  5. Derek
  6. Christian
  7. Chad - I HATE HIM! He's so mean talking bad about EVERYONE. So cocky.
  8. Chase
  9. Alex
  10. Robby - Another with an ego
  11. Brandon - Why the hipster?
  12. James F.
  13. Ali
  14. Saint Nick - There are some men fuming over that one.
  15. Will - He WILL accept the rose.
  16. James S. 
  17. Vinny - Really? He seems a little ratty. 
  18. Evan - I'd send him home too. 
  19. Daniel - WHY the sloshy drunk?
That means going home are:
  1. Coley - he was too socially awkward anyway
  2. Jonathan - the kilt didn't work for him
  3. Peter - just didn't stand out
  4. Jake - the black guy, not Pavelka
  5. Sal - and his blue balls?
  6. Nick S. - one of the drunkest guys
The sun is coming up as the men are going home. It's obviously been a long, long night. 

Looking ahead at the season, there are dates on yachts (as usual), something going on in the water (as usual), rooftop kisses (as usual), rumors of girlfriends (as usual), everyone hating the cocky one (as usual). 

Chad evidently gets violent. There's a fight. There's tears. There are beautiful places to fall in love. 

Same old, same old! Please say you're reading my blog to make it worth it. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Books of the Old Testament version 1

This is what you learn when you ask, "there's an Amos?" during scripture races!

Books of the Old Testament

To the tune of “Did You Ever See a Lassie”

Let us sing the books of Moses, of Moses, of Moses,
Let us sing the books of Moses for he wrote the Law.
First, Genesis; second Exodus; third, Leviticus; forth, Numbers;
And fifth is Deuteronomy, the last of the Law.

Let us sing the books of history, of history, of history;
Let us sing the books of history which tells of the Jews.
There’s Joshua and Judges and the story of Ruth,
And First and Second Samuel, and First and Second Kings.
Then First and Second Chronicles which give us the records;
Then Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther the Queen.

Let us sing the books of poetry, of poetry, of poetry;
Let us sing the books of poetry, the songs the Jews sang.
Job the patient, Psalms of David and the Proverbs or a wise one;
And then Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.

Let us sing the major prophets, major prophets, major prophets;
Let us sing the major prophets, they wrote five books in all.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, who wrote Lamentations;
Then Ezekiel and Daniel, who were true to their God.

Let us sing the minor prophets, minor prophets, minor prophets;
Let is sing the minor prophets, there were twelve of them all.
Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk,

Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

You only get one shoe

So you get your weekly crafty post, but it's not the norm.

Peyton had to make something out of duct tape for her science class. Why? No one really seems to know.

So, she called me. Actually, she texted me.

She decided to make a flower vase. So I helped her even though she got quite aggravated that at one time I got a Coke can stuck in it because I was trying to shape it. Finally, she got mad because I wouldn't just do it for her.

It did hold water, by the way.

She is very much her father's daughter. No patience, that child. We're lucky there is a flower.

I told her she should have made flip flops. I made her one, but admittedly got annoyed with her impatience and whining about how horrible I was for not finishing her flower for her, that she only got one shoe, which she did wear home by the way.

I have to say. I'm glad I don't make duct tape art.

She's also going to hate that I posted this picture.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Melanie Dickerson’s ‘The Beautiful Pretender’ Once Upon a Kindle Giveaway

Inheriting the new title of margrave means Reinhart has two weeks to find a noble bride. What will happen when he learns he has fallen for a lovely servant girl in disguise? Find out in the new medieval fairy tale, The Beautiful Pretender, by Melanie Dickerson. Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

Join Melanie in celebrating the release of The Beautiful Pretender by entering to win her Once Upon a Kindle giveaway!

beautiful pretender - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of The Beautiful Pretender
  • A Kindle Fire tablet
  • A $25 Amazon gift card
  • The choice between a Funko POP Disney Beauty or Beast doll
beautiful pretender - prize collage 

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on June 7th. The winner will be announced June 8th on Melanie's blog.

beautiful pretender - enter banner


(Thomas Nelson, May 2016)
What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?
The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.
Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.
Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?
Melanie Dickerson


Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer’s Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Alabama and has been a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.
Find out more about Melanie at www.melaniedickerson.com.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Karen Barnett's Through the Shadows blog tour and giveaway

San Francisco begins from the ashes of a devastating earthquake, and an age-old battle looms between corruption and the promise of new beginnings. Don’t miss the third and final book, Through the Shadows, in Karen Barnett’s The Golden Gate Chronicles. Putting her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable. But opening her heart is even more terrifying. So when Elizabeth meets attorney, Charles McKinley—a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco’s crooked politics—Elizabeth begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?
Enter to win a copy of Through the Shadows—five winners will be chosen! Click the image below to enter to win. The winners will be announced June 7th on Karen’s blog!


(Abingdon, May 2016)
As San Francisco rises from the ashes, an age-old battle looms between corruption and the promise of new beginnings.
The devastating earthquake is just two years past, but the city of San Francisco is still trying to recover. Destruction of this magnitude is not so easy to overcome-and neither are the past regrets shadowing Elizabeth King’s hopeful future.
Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth dedicates herself to helping girls rescued from slavery in Chinatown brothels, even if it means putting her own life at risk to sneak through the gloomy alleys and rooftops where dangers lurk.
Putting her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable. But opening her heart is even more terrifying. So when Elizabeth meets attorney, Charles McKinley—a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco’s crooked politics—Elizabeth begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?


Karen Barnett is the author of Through the Shadows, Beyond the Ashes, Out of the Ruins, and Mistaken. Named the 2013 Writer of Promise by Oregon Christian Writers, Karen lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband and two kids. When she’s not writing novels, she loves speaking at women’s events, libraries, and book clubs.
Find out more about Karen at karenbarnettbooks.com.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Seed: A True Myth

God’s grand narrative — the only ‘true myth’

Author’s debut novel is rich in Christian theology and symbolic imagery

At some point everyone will have a moment where they simply know something is missing in their lives. Attempts to fill, ignore or dull this void are never successful and only end up leaving them exhausted, confused and alone. These are themes explored by author Erik Guzman in his debut release, The Seed: A True Myth (New Growth Press/May 16, 2016/ISBN: 978-1942572794/$17.99). This parable uses symbolism and vivid imagery to help readers think critically about the great lengths they go to in order to avoid the pain of living in a broken world, rather than accepting the peace and freedom the Gospel offers. 

Guzman’s “true myth” takes the reader on an unforgettable journey that captures the grand narrative of God’s redemptive work in the world. “The word ‘myth’ is derived from the Greek word ‘mythos,’ and that word simply means ‘story,’” Guzman explains. “Tolkien famously used the idea of a ‘true myth’ to lead C.S. Lewis to accept the Christian faith. The Christian story is similar to pagan myths. However, what Tolkien argued was that in the case of Christianity, the story we see everywhere in cultures across time actually happened in the person and work of Jesus. Therefore, Christianity is the one true myth . . . the one true story. And my book tells that same story.”

The Seed introduces readers to Madeline and Roark, two young people who are desperately running from the shadow that destroyed their home and is threatening their lives. One day, they encounter Tatus, an older man who has sworn to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the shadow. As the three form an alliance, Tatus promises he can keep them safe from the shadow if they help him build a fortress. So they build.

As fortress-building consumes their lives, Madeline and Roark are increasingly filled with anger and fear, and unknown to them, an unseen evil threatens to destroy them. When they finally face the shadow, they are presented with an unthinkable offer that will reveal the shocking secrets of the forgotten past, the unseen present and the unimaginable future.

Without using overtly Christian terms, The Seed deftly communicates the heart of Trinitarian theology and reinforces biblical themes such as God’s character and man’s true identity and calling. Writing with theological accuracy was critical for Guzman. “I went to seminary to write The Seed. I read lots of books and attended lots of lectures. It took years of shooting ideas around with friends and a number of talented editors to get the story right. I didn’t do it alone.” This page-turning fantasy tale is packed with mystery and drama, and readers will feel the weight and power of redemption as they journey alongside Guzman’s characters in their epic battle.

Guzman hopes the imagery, characters and events in The Seed will truly become an actual seed in readers’ hearts that will blossom into a lifetime — and an eternity — of freedom and joy.

Advance Praise

“It’s rare, but sometimes one reads a book that is so absorbing that one can’t put it down, so filled with truth that one can never ‘un-see’ it, and so profound that one will never forget it. The Seed is that kind of book. The ‘experience’ of reading The Seed will haunt me the rest of my life. I don’t even have the words to describe that ‘experience.’ Experience it for yourself and then give this book to everyone you know.”
~ Steve Brown, Author; Key Life radio broadcaster

“There are stories that we know so well they lose their power to overwhelm, transform, warm, and enlighten us. The story of God’s love for sinners is sadly one. But here, in this beautifully written fantasy, Erik Guzman has done what many writers try to do without success. He’s made that old story come alive in a new, illuminating way, the way of Love. The Seed will both remind of the old story and teach you new truth about the repeating ‘pattern of Love in the world’ and how we are loved, not for what we do but because we are His. Buy this book. Share it with your family.” 
~ Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Author of Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longing

“A colorful, right-brained feast that satisfies the soul and stimulates the imagination.” 
~ Frank Viola, Author; speaker; blogger at frankviola.org

About the author

Erik Guzman is Vice President of Communications and Executive Producer at Key Life Network. He’s the co-host of the nationally syndicated talk show Steve Brown, Etc. and announcer for Key Life. Guzman’s writing has been featured in the organization’s magazine and website as well Liberate.org, Burnside Writers Collective and Sojourners (sojo.net). He has a BA in mass communication and an MBA and is perpetually working toward a Master’s in theological studies. He is also the author of the soon-to-be-published book The Gift of Addiction: How God Redeems Our Pain.

Guzman is also a Lay Eucharistic Minister, a drummer and a fifth-degree black belt in Aikido. He lives near Orlando, Florida, with his wife and their three children.

Keep up with Erik Guzman on Facebook and Twitter, or read his articles at www.keylife.org.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cynthia Ruchti calls readers to redefine who they are when life hits a sour note

An interview with Cynthia Ruchti,
Author of Song of Silence
What’s the first thing mentioned when introducing two strangers? Typically, one person introduces another by saying the individual’s name, followed by his or her vocation. “This is my friend, Bob. He’s an airplane mechanic.” “I’d like you to meet Sally. She’s a triathlete.” It’s natural for people to derive their sense of self from what they do, not who they are. In her latest novel, Song of Silence (Abingdon Press/April 5, 2016/ISBN: 9781426791499/$14.99), award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti reminds us God takes a different approach when it comes to identity and explores what happens when identity can no longer be linked to an occupation or life’s passion.

In Song of Silence, readers meet Lucy and Charlie Tuttle who, despite their differences, can agree on one thing: They’re committed to each other for life. The trouble is neither of them expected life to look like this. Charlie retired early, but Lucy has been completely devoted to her long-term career as a music educator in a small Midwestern school . . . until the day she has no choice. Now what? How will she survive the gravest disappointment she can imagine when “who she is” is silenced?

Q: Your characters are usually based on people you know or have met. Can you tell us about the woman who inspired the main character, Lucy, in your new book, Song of Silence?

Some teachers leave a lasting impression on our lives and — deeper than that — on our souls. When my family moved to southwest Wisconsin when I was in fifth grade, I met a vocal and general music teacher who helped feed my passion and appreciation for vocal music. Lucy (her real name that I asked permission to borrow) taught the children entrusted to her not only the enriching importance of music in life, but its elegance and ability to communicate. She drew out of us the kind of emotion, excellence, and love for vocal music that my father succeeded in evoking through his role as the instrumental teacher at the school, a respected role he held until his death in 1993. He was the one who fueled my love of instrumental music and so much more.

The storyline in Song of Silence is not the story of that vocal music teacher’s life. She moved from music to another creative art: co-owner of a flower shop known for its stunning, stirring arrangements and its sensitivity to the needs of the human heart. In that role, years later, Lucy created my wedding flowers! But the Lucy of my childhood and the Lucy of the story share the same passion and the same ability to leave a lasting imprint on hearts. The real Lucy blessed me to my toes when she attended a book signing near her area. Reconnecting with her that day underscored the inspiration for Song of Silence.

Q: Music is almost a character itself in this book. How do you use music and song to tell the story?

Music and story share so much in common. Rhythm. Pace. Lyricism. A ballad-like quality. There’s the risk that some readers for whom music does not play a strong role in their lives would assume Song of Silence is a book about music. Though music does play the role of a character — present in many scenes, voicing its opinions, interacting with other characters — music could also be seen as part of the setting around which the action and interaction flows. Lucy’s passion could have been neuroscience or clean eating or lace knitting, and the tensions and disappointments she experienced would have put her through some of the same emotions.

Even those who aren’t musicians are often appreciators of music, or they subconsciously turn to music as a salve, a motivator, a comfort, or an accompaniment to life’s celebrations. Why? Because music moves us on a deeper level than many other elements of life.

In Song of Silence, readers can “hear” when the music fades for Lucy. They pick up on the subtle rhythms that hint at hope’s crescendos and diminuendos as she faces a future not at all as she planned. The most satisfying musical pieces use moments of discord and harmony. Chords resolve. Life resolves. Not always in the same key.

Q: What role has music played in your personal story?

I grew up in a musical family, and road trips in the station wagon with my parents and four siblings often became songfests with at least four-part harmony. As Johnny Cash sang in an old country song, “Daddy sang bass. Mama sang tenor. Me and little brother(s) (and sisters) would join right in there. Singin' seems to help a troubled soul.” Many of the songs we sang were hymns or our parents’ era music, such as “Skinnamarinky dinky dink, Skinnamarinky do, I love you!” and other deeply meaningful classics.

As children of a music educator, all five of us siblings learned to play at least one musical instrument. Among us, we played clarinet, bassoon (me), French horn, flute, trumpet, tuba, piano, guitar, and bass drum in the marching band (me, again).

But playing music wasn’t the point for my dad or for any of us. Communicating emotions such as joy, peace, exuberance, sorrow, strength, courage, and grief through music was the goal. Music is expression rather than notes. One of Lucy’s repeated messages in Song of Silence is that we are to play the rests — both in music and in life — with as much intensity and intentionality as the notes on the page.

Q: As in music, rests or pauses in life play a key role in Song of Silence. Some rests are welcomed, while others can feel like cruel interruptions. Have you ever experienced an imposed rest, and how did you handle it?

My husband was forced into early retirement. Twice. He embraced that challenge much differently than I would have, but observing the fallout of those life changes informed some of the elements of Song of Silence.

For a writer, any time she is between contracts feels like an unnatural or unwanted pause, holding her breath until it becomes clear whether another opportunity will present itself to share another story with readers. Writers keep writing intentionally, with intensity. But will the story find its way into readers’ hearts or just our own?

In other ways, I’ve experienced those imposed rests through different health issues throughout the years. Lyme disease knocked me flat for an extended period of time when I was a young mom writing and producing a radio broadcast. Back issues kept me couch-bound a couple of times. Foot and knee surgeries landed me on the same couch. My world shrank to that two-foot by six-foot space . . . and the pain-wracked distance to the bathroom and back.

During those imposed rests, I did some things right and wasted other opportunities. I tried to strike a balance of rest and work, not letting the rest keep me from caring about and for people, not letting it silence my ability to keep my mind alert and ministry moving forward. But I did not fully embrace the quiet as I should have. Our souls heal best in the quiet of stilled waters, God tells us. Like many, I probably erred on the side of trying to accomplish something during those imposed pauses rather than soaking in the deep meaning of the rest.

Q: One of the other major themes in Song of Silence is identity. From where do you think most people derive their sense of self? What does a healthy identity look like?

This was a tough lesson for Lucy. Many Americans introduce people to one another with a name followed by a job. “This is my friend, Bob. He’s an airplane mechanic.” “I’d like you to meet Sally. She’s a triathlete.” We derive our identity from what we do, not who we are. When what Lucy did was stripped from her, she flailed and floundered. When her husband gave up what he did, she wasn’t sure how to relate to him anymore.

God takes a different approach to identity. Who we are and whose we are, because of who He is, eliminate long-term identity crises. No matter our position, station, work, or lack of it, I am His beloved child, and He is my loving Father. The rest are mere details.

Q: Why did you choose to write about a couple who has been married for 30 years in this book, when so many people are used to reading about young love?

Thousands of books about young love line our shelves. If young love stayed young, that would be sufficient, wouldn’t it? But where are the stories that show how to cope with the middle of the plot of a lifelong love? Where are the stories that show the realities of toughing it out through decades — not months — of struggle or conflict? Who feeds us stories that invite us into the lives of those who wrestle with the issues that challenge relationships long after the honeymoon stage?

My prayer is that young readers will find courage for the long haul in Lucy and Charlie’s story, that those in the stage of their relationship when raising children consumes their energies will look ahead and set themselves up for success years down the road, and that those in or near retirement years will finish Song of Silence with insights that will help sweeten that time in their relationship. I’m convinced couples nearing retirement need pre-retirement counseling just as we expect pre-marital counseling (spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally) for a bride- or groom-to-be.

Song of Silence is a novel, a story. But even in the editing phase, the truths embedded in its lines and between the lines made an impression on my marriage.

Q: What lessons can couples approaching a later season of life learn from Lucy’s relationship with her husband, Charlie?

When we’re first married, most of us go through a period of adjustment that isn’t always comfortable. The way he squeezes the toothpaste tube. The fact that he likes catsup on his tacos. The cloud of hairspray she leaves in the bathroom when he’s trying to trim his beard. Then there are the more serious issues about handling money, responding to crises, or how long each of us needs to process information before discussing it.

Too few of us realize that after the children are grown and gone, or at the point of retirement, another period of adjustment awaits us. For Lucy, it was the sense that “he’s home all the time.” Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? But when I say that line to women of all ages, I get the same response: an immediate and knowing “Ohhhhh.”

Whether stay-at-home, work-at-home, or work-away-from-home women, we understand the unique tensions in the 24/7 aspect of a relationship, even with someone we dearly love. The kitchen feels smaller. Our thoughts seem to have no room to breathe. A measure of independence is crimped, needing to accommodate the other person in the relationship once again in as dramatic a way — or more so — as when we went from single to married.

We have to find ways to move in sync with each other, to value the other person’s core values, to allow for differences, and to remind each other what we love about each other.

So many challenges, but so great a reward!

Q: Each of the characters in Song of Silence takes a unique path in dealing with his or her disappointments. What have you learned from your own letdowns and frustrations?

For me, a key element has been retaining or recapturing a sense of humor about what can otherwise seem to be labeled as irritation or inconvenience. Unmet expectations don’t just affect new couples starting out; sometimes they fester and rupture later in life. Treating every incident as a single event rather than as one more in a long list is so much more manageable, livable, and survivable.

It doesn’t come naturally, but seeing frustrations and letdowns through the other person’s perspective makes a huge difference in our ability to emerge intact.

Q: Lucy’s grown children move home again because of life changes, which is something we see more and more in this day and age. Do you think a parent’s job is ever really done?

Never. Parenting evolves into new phases, including the phase when parents begin to need counsel from their grown children! How do we navigate that stage with grace?

At one time I thought, “If we can just get our kids through high school without major damage to either them or us. . . .” I honestly thought my prayer labor could let up a little after that stage. They’d lived through toddlerhood, adolescence. Job well done, right?

Parenting takes on a whole new challenge when the decisions they make are life-changing decisions, and then when they’re deciding not only for their own futures, but the futures of our grandbabies.

We hold our offspring tight to our hearts forever. We care about how they feel, what they do, who they love, how they love, and the crises they face whether they’re pre-born or near the end of their lives. But love is what compels us, so we’re grateful for the assignment.

Q: How were you emotionally impacted while writing some of the very tender scenes in Song of Silence?

I cry through several scenes every time I read them. Rewriting. Editing. Final proofreading. I think the scene between Lucy’s son, Sam, and Sasha in the small chapel is one of my favorites ever for its emotional impact. Can’t wait until readers get there to see if they feel the same way.

Q: Do you think the arts should be a more prominent part of modern education?

It is a debate that raises its head often. It’s hard to find just cause to disagree with the flood of evidence — scientific, medical, academic, and anecdotal — that shows a strong correlation between the arts (including music) and stronger brains, stronger compassion and empathy, stronger problem-solving skills, and richer lives.

Q: You’ve said the church small group you participate in with your husband always plays a role in the writing of your books. How is that?

They’re invested. They pray for each book as it’s written and after it launches. They care about the readers and are diligent encouragers. They pray me through tight deadlines and enthusiastically talk about the books with others. I often test-drive book concepts with them or draw from the insights I gain from their lives and wisdom. Our whole church community is like that, but it’s intensified in our life group.

Q: What is the number-one message you hope readers hear from the words of Song of Silence?

Hold onto hope even when life’s song is silenced, even when unexpected and unwelcomed pauses interrupt the music.

Learn more about Song of Silence and Cynthia Ruchti at www.cynthiaruchti.com, Facebook (CynthiaRuchtiReaderPage), Twitter (@cynthiaruchti), and Pinterest (cynthiaruchti).

Monday, May 16, 2016

Drop the mask and get real

Steve Brown calls readers to live honestly

and embrace God’s shocking grace

It’s easy to imagine high-powered executives and egotistical politicians having hidden agendas. What may not be so simple to accept is that deep down, all have a secret plan for getting themselves from where they are to where they want to be. As author and radio host Steve Brown has written in Hidden Agendas: Dropping the Masks that Keep Us Apart (New Growth Press/May 16, 2016/ISBN: 978-1942572657/ $17.99), people, especially Christians, wear disguises to make it easier to accomplish these concealed plans. These masks might be religion, appearance or power, and the pressure of keeping it all together can be overwhelming. For most, though, it will be a cold day in a hot place before they are fully honest with anyone else about their fears, struggles and sins.

Why do Christians do this? While they may begin their walk with Christ basking in the light of forgiveness and redemption, they soon feel the sting of judgment when they fall short, whether from their own guilt or the criticism of others. As a survival mechanism, they hide their failings to avoid pain and accomplish their personal goals, lying to themselves, others and even God.

Brown knows how they feel. After serving 25 years as a senior pastor, he resigned his post at his church, feeling crushed by the weight of the pressures he had created in his life. Since those difficult days, he’s learned there is so much more to living than hiding, pretending and never being loved. “We’re all phony, ashamed, guilty and afraid,” Brown writes. “It’s killing us and hurting those we love.” Inspired by his experience, Brown invites readers to move beyond hiding to finding the courage to get real.

In Hidden Agendas, Brown explains “being real” starts first and foremost with their relationship with their heavenly father. After all, God already knows his children inside and out, and his unconditional love is the true reason they can live without fear of rejection or judgment. “It does no good to tell God you’re sick when you’re drunk, you love him when you don’t or you didn’t steal and eat an apple when you have apple juice dripping down your chin,” Brown says. “God always recognizes and loves the ‘you’ behind the mask.” Readers will learn that once they grasp the true nature of the forgiveness and grace God offers their sinful selves, they will finally be able to drop their masks and live in freedom and honesty with others.

Hidden Agendas is easy to read and perfect for either individual or small-group use with its chapter-by-chapter questions for reflection. Raw and real, this book forces readers to confront the ugly truth of the conscious and subconscious deceptions they practice and the dangerous behaviors that can sabotage any real chance for authentic, loving relationships.  

With his characteristic dry wit and good humor, Brown calls readers of Hidden Agendas to embrace God’s shocking grace and live freely and courageously in the truth about ourselves and others.

About the author

Steve Brown is the founder of Key Life Network, which exists to communicate that the deepest message of the ministry of Jesus is the radical grace of God. Having spent 25 years as a pastor, Brown now devotes much of his time to the radio broadcasts Key Life and Steve Brown, Etc. which are currently heard on more than 600 outlets.

Brown has a B.A. in philosophy and religion from High Point College and an S.T.B. degree from Boston University School of Theology. He is a visiting professor of practical theology at Knox Theological Seminary and at Westminster Theological Seminary. Brown is also an in-demand speaker and the author of numerous books, including A Scandalous Freedom, How to Talk So People Will Listen and Approaching God. His articles have also appeared in many top Christian publications.

Additionally, Brown is a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Religious Broadcasters and a current member of the Board of Harvest, USA.

With such varied experience, Brown refuses to be a “guru,” doesn’t want to be anyone’s mother and gives, in his teaching, the freedom to think. He lives in Florida with his wife, Anna. They have two daughters and three grandchildren.

Keep up with Steve Brown at www.keylife.org, on Facebook (Dr.SteveBrown) and via Twitter (drstevewbrown).