Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Practicing the Presence of Jesus with Wally Armstrong

An interview with Wally Armstrong,
author of Practicing the Presence of Jesus

Although professional golfer Wally Armstrong had pursued a relationship with Jesus for over 35 years, he always sensed that there was something missing. As Armstrong puts it, there's a big difference between believing something is true and experiencing something as real. In Practicing the Presence of Jesus: Experience the Gift of His Friendship (Summerside Press, October 2012, ISBN 978-1-60936-702-2, $12.99), Armstrong shares his personal journey of discovering Jesus as a real companion and true friend.

Q: You write about a deep spiritual hunger that led you on a pursuit to experience a closer relationship with Jesus. Was there any one event that awakened the hunger?

There has always been a deep desire to be an authentic believer and pursue a closer relationship with Jesus. He just seemed so unapproachable for many years. I didn't feel worthy and did not feel I had achieved the level of understanding or performance that I needed to get to that higher level.

In Practicing the Presence of Jesus, I talk about the series of events that happened when I picked up a book by Dallas Willard on spiritual disciplines and was tipped off on a book from the 1920s about friendship with Jesus. It was when I started reading the first paragraph of the book’s prologue titled “A Modern Vision of Jesus” that the hunger was heightened. For the next two hours, I totally indulged in this new experience with Jesus that took me to the beginnings of living life on the highest level. It was completely different than how I had envisioned, and it all had to deal with having the truth become a reality.

There's a big difference between believing something is true and experiencing something as real. Before this experience, I believed Jesus was alive, but I had no idea that he wanted to be my friend and companion every moment of every day. The picture I have in my mind now is standing shoulder to shoulder with Jesus facing my sin together. I always felt alone and that he would have nothing to do with me in the midst of my sin such as, impure thoughts or unfair criticism of someone.

Q: Tell us about the day you met “Jesus” in Augusta.

In the spring of 2004, I drove up to Augusta to follow the King – Arnold Palmer. I had no idea that I was going to see Jesus standing there in the flesh talking to another golf professional like me. The Jesus I encountered behind the 18th green had no sandals or beard or long flowing robe, but was dressed like every other spectator at the event with a golf shirt and slacks. He only stood out in the crowd because people had seen the movie The Passion of the Christ that winter and recognized Jim Caviezal’s face as that of Jesus. So when they saw Caviezel, they were saying “look Jesus is talking to that Pro over there!”

When I came around behind the 18th green to meet my friend Jim Hiskey and his granddaughter, Rachel, I had no idea that I was going to see Jesus there talking to another player. It was just God's timing that Jim asked me to come up there and meet his granddaughter or I may have missed this whole encounter. It was the affirmation that this was the picture that I needed to secure the truths that I believed in as well as validate the personal encounter I had with the real Jesus four months before.

You see months before I found myself in my library reading a book which encouraged the reader to envision what Jesus would look like today if he showed up in your world as someone like you or me. As I thought of this, I envisioned Jesus as a fellow golfer and all of a sudden he became approachable and alive and real for the first time. The truths about Jesus became a reality. So I began to engage him mentally, not only as my Savior and Lord, but as a friend. A friend who is up-to-date and spoke my language. I always heard the scripture “I am the way the truth and the life,” but now I realized that this was just not encountering truth or discovering a way or a lifestyle. He is a real living person who was always there, I just never saw him in that light.

Back to Augusta – Later that evening when I was on the phone being interviewed live on a national radio sports talk show, it all gelled and made sense when I began to describe what it was like to see Jesus in the crowd. It must've been similar to what the disciples saw or maybe Zacchaeus saw from up in the tree. He saw that Jesus as one of them. The moment I finished the interview  I felt as though God were saying to me, “now this is a wonderful way for people to connect with Me on a level they were created to experience, so tell others so they can meet Jesus as their personal friend in this simple uncomplicated way.”

Q: Growing up, you struggled with being “good enough” for your own father. How did that translate over to your spiritual relationship with Jesus and the feeling of not being able to measure up?

Growing up as a child of an alcoholic you become a human “doing” rather than a human “being.” You find all of your significance in your performance and attempts to please your father, and to be recognized by him as being okay. There was so much energy spent on meeting his expectations. You're just looking for that nod of acknowledgment that you’re special or have done well, but when it never comes, the energy builds up and it gets transferred to other ways of gaining that affirmation such as winning golf tournaments, writing books, speaking to hundreds of people, and doing golf clinics. Over the years, I have found many ways of gaining that affirmation. So your greatest strengths become your greatest weaknesses. Unfortunately, I found my significance and got my affirmation from the praise of other people.

This same quest for affirmation was transferred over to my relationship with God the Father and Jesus. After accepting Christ I read about a father who really loved me and my energy was transferred into that new relationship. I was driven in a new direction, but I was on the treadmill of performance again, but this time it was spiritual in nature. I still felt like I fell way short of God's expectations, and even though reading the words of Jesus in the Scriptures gave me great comfort, subconsciously I was still restless and working so hard to be okay, to get to the next level where I knew I had to be. I was trying to be a disciple on the highest level, but I was getting there on my own effort and understanding, based upon what I had read about in other books. No one really shared with me that Jesus was really alive, and beside me and in me, every moment of every day—whether I was doing well or doing bad, whether I was honoring him or dishonoring him.

I read the truth of Scripture telling me about how much God loved me and how special I was to him but this didn't deeply impact my heart until I encountered Jesus as real and began to practice his presence. I began to hear the voice of my Savior and friend affirming me of his love for me, not based on me doing anything but being his friend. That's the big difference between changing and transformation. Change requires effort and trying and earning to be okay, but the transformation requires letting God love you for who you are and receiving that affirmation without trying to change to earn that love.

Q: What is the chair experiment?

The chair experiment came about when I read the book I mentioned earlier, and the author’s own personal experiment of desiring “the friend’s” comforting presence and envisioning him in his office. The writer told the story of a man that a pastor once visited. The old Scotsman was ill and had a chair beside his bed. He made the Savior real by imagining him sitting in the chair and talking to him eye to eye as though he were his friend. When I read that from his old book, I decided to jump right in and visualize Jesus in my room and to imagine him as real.

Once that connection was made, and I saw that I could receive his gift of friendship as if he were a loving friend, I turned my desk chair to face me in my reading chair and began to imagine Jesus sitting across from me. I visualized what he would look like and how he would speak to me. This became a habit, and I could not get enough of this relationship every morning. I would get up and imagine him in the chair and mentally speak to him. Then, I would listen and imagine how He would be sitting and how he would be talking. The friendship was developed and nurtured day after day. To me it's finding space, a place for him not only in the morning for our special times together, but throughout the day whether it be imagining him in the car sitting next to me, on the golf course walking down the fairway together, or playing with my grandchildren. My desire is for him to be involved in my daily life and to acknowledge his presence in the good and the bad, knowing that everything is okay because he is there and as much alive today as he was with Peter and the disciples when they were on the beach cooking fish.

Q: What does it mean to practice the presence of Jesus? What steps are involved?

Practicing the presence of Jesus is something that takes discipline and work just like building a friendship with anyone else. It requires spending time with them and being totally transparent with them. It requires learning about them by asking sincere questions, sincerely listening and hearing with your heart.

My first waking moments start with meeting him wherever I am, whether it's in a hotel room on the road or at home in my den. This is the time when I am most alert and alive. It's an acknowledgment of his presence and his sovereignty and his love, the time when I talk to Jesus eye to eye and worship the Father for who he is.

I read his word in Scripture and visualized him speaking the same words to me in a modern setting with modern language. I know that he is present in all of my activities throughout the day, so there is an acknowledgment that he will be a part of everything I do and everything I think. It's more than a relationship but a companionship. A relationship is on and off, but a companionship is alive all the time because he lives in me and walks beside me every moment of every day. I desire for him to enjoy my life, and that I would be a loyal friend to him wherever I am and whatever I am involved in.

As I come to situations, circumstances, decision-making, and meeting people, I desire to have an awareness of his presence and check in with him during the day. Some days I may go for hours without this actively happening. I just think you develop a mindset to look back and to look ahead in order to have the assurance that He has been a part of it and will be a part of the future whether you want him to be there or not. It's a lifestyle and the mindset that follows the Scriptures of “come to me,” “learn from me,” and “fix your eyes on me” so His joy may be in you. The truth is because of his presence he experiences our life with us, now that an incredible truth to ponder.

Q: Why do you think we too often see our Christian lives as performance-based rather than relationally-based?

We are living in a performance driven society where everything is based on the curve. You're constantly being graded and everything is achievement oriented. From the time you understand this force, it becomes more and more drilled into you. Relationships take time and, most of all, risk. It’s much easier to perform a task than to develop a relationship. God wants people to be involved in being real with each other and be in relationships that are genuine and filled with integrity. With Jesus and others, risk is the path to certainty. If you don't risk, then you'll never be sure that relationships are real and sustained. This is where so many opposites come into play. In order to be a leader, you must be a servant. To be a true follower of Jesus requires looking at life in a whole different way. You make choices every day to follow his lead rather than your own common sense or instincts. Jesus said my sheep hear my voice and they follow me. So as we live our life in this interactive companionship with Jesus, it requires looking at him and stepping out onto thin ice, or as Peter was encouraged to do, by walk on the water to Jesus.

Q: We often think of Jesus as being condemning, but He was nothing like that with His disciples, was He?

As I read in the Scriptures about Jesus’ relationship with his disciples, there was a tremendous amount of patience with these numbskulls. They were very numb to what was happening around them. Jesus was teaching a whole new way of life than what they were used to experiencing. Jesus lived an upside down life and was encouraging them to follow him in the same way. You have to go back and understand the culture that they lived in to see how incredibly upside down Jesus was turning everything. He wasn't condemning people except those who were religious fanatics or cruel to little children. He loved the disciples and corrected them, but he realized that they were not filled with his Holy Spirit yet, so their spiritual insights were not fully developed yet. When they got connected to Jesus after the resurrection, then the Holy Spirit helped them to see Jesus clearly and connect with him and live life on the highest level. So there is no condemnation, only corrective love.

Q: What do you mean when you talk about not only accepting Jesus as a Savior, but as a friend?

There is such a reverence to Christ and a loyalty to his sovereignty that some people like me keep him at arm’s length in the sky as a royal judge. They see him as a task master who requires them to shape up and get to work. They're not comfortable sitting at his feet and resting. They have no time to learn from him because they're too busy learning about theology and doing all kinds of benevolent things for others. They're becoming disciples on their own efforts and the have never been taught the first step of how to follow him as the living person he is and the friend that he wants to be.

They don’t see the gift of his friendship that is offered. We are talking about a living person who is a brother and is an advocate (someone who comes along beside to help). He is someone who is approachable and has walked in your shoes, experiencing everything to the same level that you experienced them. This is a side of Jesus that very few people see and understand. They have not been enabled to see a simple way of entering into this friendship.
That's what I am hoping that this little book will do: open up this side of Jesus that is personal and intimate and that people will enter in to this invitation he gives to be his friend and develop intimacy (which means – “in to me see). Now that's what friends are for.

Q: What can we learn about Jesus by looking at His relationships, especially with His father?

Jesus was the actually the first disciple, a disciple to his father. And because Jesus was the first disciple, we can learn many things by looking at the way that he described his relationship with his father. Then we can realize that these are the same opportunities we have to enjoy fellowship with the father and the son. It was his desire that we would be living together in communion with the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. In the Lord's prayer, Jesus encourages us to live on earth as it is in heaven, so we just live on this Earth with the triune God as it is in heaven. We are invited into their family as a son or daughter. It was once said, the son of God became a son of man so the sons of men could become the sons of God. God is in the business of building a family of sons and daughters who will live with him forever and ever. Jesus was sent to start the ball rolling again. He was mankind’s second chance. The best second chance ever and it's all about being saved by grace. On Earth as it is in heaven.

Q: You say that you waited a number of years to write this book. Why did you wait so long?

I was a busy bee, writing another book and traveling to support other ministries with my speaking and clinics. As I began to practice the presence of Jesus and study his word I began to put many of my thoughts and experiences down on paper in my Journal, so the book was written over many years. I'm an avid reader and usually have three or four books I am reading at one time and because of this, I'm constantly learning from others new ways of looking at this interactive life with Jesus.

As I began to get deeper into this friendship with Jesus, I realized that I had many misconceptions of the truth. I began to categorize these within my Journal, so when I had enough of them together I wrote out my story. I started the first rough draft about five years ago, then I had a number of writers take a look at it and doctor it up, so the book just kept growing and being refined.

Just like in golf instruction, there's nothing new under the sun, so this book is a giant compilation of many things that I have read from other people and listened to other people talk about. It's always been my desire to share with others the simplicity of the gospel. I've spent my lifetime refining the golf swing into its simplicity and teaching it so people can play golf and enjoy it for what it was meant to be not for what it has become. This is the same desire in writing this book – that people could be freed to live life on the highest level in the simplicity of a friendship with Jesus.

Armstrong invites readers to visit his website for more insights about receiving the gift of friendship Jesus offers us, and check out for free golf tips.

Practicing the Presence of Jesus: Experience the Gift of His Friendship by Wally Armstrong
(Summerside Press, October 2012, ISBN 978-1-60936-702-2, $12.99)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My seemingly irrational fear of squirrels

Most of us fear something irrational. Or maybe with good reason. I dare say that my new fear is unique. Two or three weeks ago, Rachel and I were walking around my neighborhood. As we were walking along, we walked beneath a tree where a squirrel was chattering its head off. I'm going to venture as far as to say this squirrel was "screaming." I looked up, ducked around in a funny side step and said, "I don't want that squirrel to fall onto my head."

At this point, I'm pretty sure Rachel thought I was a few nuts short of a bushel. Some people I know were a little bit behind us, and I'm pretty sure they thought the same thing.

On Sunday as I drove over to my parents' house after church, a squirrel was crossing a power line as my car drove under. I thought, "if that squirrel were to fall off and onto my car, I bet it would make a dent." It made its way across. I don't know why I've had such a thing about falling squirrels lately, but I've never given it much thought before.

Yesterday, as Rachel and I were walking, we were talking right along when all of a sudden the leaves above us started rustling. An acorn fell to the ground followed by a squirrel. Splat right smack onto the street not more than a few yards from us.

At this point, we just started laughing like crazy people. Much like a cat, I think the squirrel landed on his feet, but he just laid there a minute. A car was coming, so Rachel starts walking across the street to make it stop. She couldn't bear to see it get run over after its drop. I, however, think it would have made for a funnier story.

The car would likely have passed over with tires on either side and surely thought Rachel was just this side of nuts herself. The car slowed down, backed up a little and drove around. Rachel was committed to picking up the squirrel to protect it if need be. She got within about a foot before he did jump up and run on away.

Through this whole ordeal, I'm just laughing on the side of the road. Once Earl (I call all squirrels Earl, it's a rather stupid story and family joke) went about his merry way, Rachel crossed back to the other side and we went on our merry way.

Then I said, "see, you just thought my fear of falling squirrels was stupid."

"Yes, I did."

"And it was realistic after all."

"Yes, it was."

A few blocks further along, I hear leaves rustle again. I look up, see Earl's cousin, and do a funky running dance to the other side of the road. This is when Rachel gets her best laugh in.

"I thought you didn't run. That was pretty entertaining right there."

Thankfully that squirrel kept its balance and stayed up the tree where it belonged.

So, now, if you've read this story and "wonder, what's the big deal?" maybe you just had to be there. Or, just think about it... have you ever known anyone scared of a squirrel falling on their head? That picture right there should be funny enough.

Monday, October 29, 2012

This recipe made the cut - 8 Can Taco Soup

And so the adventure of cooking my Pinterest "I wish someone would cook this for me" board begins. I got this recipe from a pinner and her blog High Heels & Grills.

This, my friends is 8 Can Taco Soup. I don't know who the original recipe creator was, but I approve!

  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (15.25 oz.) can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 (12.5 oz.) can white chicken breast, drained
  • 1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (10 oz.) can green enchilada sauce
  • 1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
  • 1 packet taco seasoning

I couldn't find anything that said green enchilada sauce. Or anything that looked like I thought green enchilada sauce, so I bought the salsa verde. I was kind of scared about how hot it was going to be as i poured green pepper seeds into the crock pot.

I posted this picture pre-stir. Some people said yummy. I thought it looked pretty disgusting. 

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large pot.
  2. Heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
  3. Serve with tortilla chips.

Let me just say that smelling food all day makes me hungry. Rachel and I did add some shredded cheese to it. It was really good.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Since none of my Pinterest followers can take a hint

Me and my frozen dinner self decided to actually cook some of the recipes from my "I wish someone would cook this for me" board.

Wishing obviously didn't do much for me.

The result this far was giving up my usually long afternoon of snoring on the couch. I printed recipes, made an extensive grocery list, spent forever and lots of money in the store, then forever making room in the fridge, freezer and cabinet to put my groceries. I have four varieties of cream cheese now. Seriously.

Hopefully, it will be several weeks before I go back. (I hate going to the grocery store that much.) Except for milk. The gallons of skim milk on the shelf had a date of two days ago. Brookshires needs to check their shelves. I checked dates on most everything I bought because I have bought expired food lately.

And yes, I realize how terribly boring my weekends are to blog about this.

The only other thing I have to blog about is how Rachel and I chummed up with 11 year old Thomas at a going away supper at church tonight. I told Thomas jokingly that he needs a new friend that's not Collin, and I guess I am it for now. It is kind of funny actually.

I may have finished my crochet project tonight. Maybe. I need a second opinion.

I have also discovered that my new phone is more Blogger friendly bit the touch screen auto correct makes me sound like an illiterate idiot.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

No words needed - photo of the day

Yes, that is a group of guys dressed as Elvis driving mini motorcycles. This was Waxahachie today.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Win an iPad at Joanna Weaver's Live Webcast

Celebrate the release of At the Feet of Jesus with Joanna Weaver by entering to win an iPad and RSVPing for the "True Life" Webcast Event on 11/8!

One blessed winner will receive:

  • An iPad
  • The Year in Bethany Trilogy (Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit and Lazarus Awakening 
  • At the Feet of Jesus for YOU and Five of your friends.
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 7th. Winner will be announced at the "True Life" Live Webcast Event on November 8th. Connect with author Joanna Weaver and her special guest for an evening of encouragement, laughter and a Q&A! There will also be gift certificates and books given away to participants.

So grab your copy of At the Feet of Jesus (or one of Joanna's other books) and join Joanna on evening of November 8th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the books - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 8th!

For more about At the Feet of Jesus,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Janice Thompson plays it straight with Queen of the Waves

An interview with Janice Thompson,
Author of Queen of the Waves

This year marks the hundredth Anniversary of the Titanic’s maiden and only voyage, yet the passing of time has done little to diminish our fascination with the “queen of the ocean” or our love of stories set upon the ill-fated ship. This fall Summerside Press’ new American Tapestries™ line of historical romance novels will set sail with the release of Queen of the Waves (Summerside Press/October 2012/ISBN: 978-1-60936-685-8/$12.99), a story of love and destiny by Janice Thompson.

She shares more about how her latest release is different from anything she has done in the past and the unique challenges to writing about an event as historic as the sinking of the Titanic in the interview below.

Q: You are one of the first two authors to release a book in the American Tapestries series. How did you become involved in the project?

My agent asked me to put together a story idea focused on the Titanic. I’m usually a comedic writer, (and he happened to catch me on my way home from the theater, where I direct musicals), so I quipped: “Only if I can throw in a song and dance number involving an iceberg!” He laughed and responded with, “No, we have to play this one straight.” At first I wasn’t sure if I could come up with a serious plotline, but 24-hours later I had the story idea and the first chapter. My editors at Summerside (Rachel Meisel and Susan Downs) read the idea and loved it. When they saw me at the ACFW conference I got the news: “We’re going to publish your novel!” I was especially thrilled to hear that my book would be among the first to release in the new line. What a privilege!

Q: Writing historically accurate novels take a lot of research. How much time and effort went into researching for this book?

Oh my goodness! Talk about a lot of work. Not only did I spend months researching Titanic’s story (reading every available book and watching every conceivable documentary), I also drove from Houston to Branson, Missouri to go to the Titanic museum. Talk about an eye-opener! The exhibit covers everything you could imagine, and includes all sorts of artifacts from the ship. When you write about an event such as this, particularly one that has been so well documented in movies and books, you need to get your facts right. Even the “little” things (like how long did it take to load everyone onto the ship) can bog the writer down. Dozens and dozens of times I would stop writing just to look something up. And don’t even get me started on the clothing and hats! I created a board on Pinterest to study 1910 fashion!

Q: What are a couple of facts that you found while researching for this book that you never knew before and think that audiences will find particularly fascinating?

I’m not sure I realized that the Titanic made multiple stops before setting out to sea. She sailed out of Southampton, England, of course, but stopped in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland to pick up additional passengers. Some of the best-known passengers actually boarded at the later stops. And one very famous passenger (Francis Browne) disembarked in Queenstown. He took photographs during his few hours onboard, and his photos helped document the first leg of the journey. Another thing that took me by surprise was how the second and third-class passengers were treated. After watching the infamous movie, Titanic, I felt sure the third class passengers were treated more like animals (or steerage). In reality, their living and eating conditions onboard the ship were better than most were accustomed to in their daily lives. Being on the ship was truly an adventure for all involved, (even prior to the iceberg incident, I mean).

Q: The book is dedicated to your Queen of the Waves online group and (specifically) to Cathy Stenhouse Peeling. Could you tell readers a bit more about those people?

I had just started writing Queen of the Waves when I got a note from a friend, asking if I would be interested in taking a Titanic anniversary cruise. My response? “No thanks! The only Titanic cruise I would consider taking would have to be a virtual one.”

As I typed the words, the idea hit: Set up a Facebook group, title it Queen of the Waves, and invite people on a “virtual” Titanic cruise. Use the name of my POV character (Tessa Bowen) as cruise director. Within ten minutes I’d established the group and posted to my primary Facebook page extending the invitation. By the end of the day more than seventy people had asked to join the cruise. We eventually reached over 200!

Most of my guests chose the names of real people who traveled on the Titanic. They posted photos, comments, and much more. We utilizing networking sites like Pinterest to collect photos. What fun! And speaking of photos, you should have seen the dresses, shoes and hats my passengers wore aboard the ship. We had a delightful time shopping for our time aboard the great luxury liner.

I gave my passengers the background of the ship (all in first person, of course, from Tessa’s point of view). I also shared information about the staterooms, and tantalized folks with menus from the various dining rooms. I also provided activities for the children. (Side note: I opened this group to homeschool families, and many children boarded. With that in mind, I put together a full document of activities that families could use to teach their kiddos about the Titanic. I encouraged other participants to add to the activities list, so the document has grown a lot!)

To answer your question about Cathy, she’s the great-niece of Captain Edward Smith and is an awesome, godly Facebook friend! I met her while sharing on Facebook about my story. She agreed to play the role of “captain” of our cruise, but (unfortunately) was hospitalized with a very serious illness while we were on our journey and was unable to participate. Praise God, she recovered and we remain wonderful friends!

Q: Talk about your reenactment of the night the ship went down.

Our Queen of the Waves journey coincided with the actual dates that the ship set sail. I knew that we would eventually have to “sink” our proverbial ship. So, on the night of the 100th anniversary, we all met in the group at a designated time and (literally) reenacted the entire event. It took a couple of hours to accomplish (with lots of weeping and wailing, as you might imagine), but we got the deed done. The various “characters” (many of whom were named for real-life passengers) re-lived the event in real time. I will tell you that I was completely worn out (emotionally and otherwise) when the night ended. I don’t recall every feeling so drained! (It takes a lot out of a person to drown that many people!)

Q: This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Titanic. Why do you think we’re still so fascinated with the so-called unsinkable ship after all this time?

I would imagine that people 500 years from now will still be interested. It’s such a tragic story, and one that affected thousands of people. Meeting Cathy Peeling really put this in perspective for me. Her uncle passed away that night. This completely changed the make-up of her family. And she’s just one person out of thousands. Generations of people were affected by this tragedy. And so many feel a connection. Ship builders. Dress designers. Modern-day cruisers. The rich. The poor. The dreamers. Those who long to travel. We can all envision ourselves aboard Titanic on that fateful journey. Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from Titanic is this: We cannot put our trust/confidence in man-made things; only in the Lord.

Q: For such a tragic moment in history, why do you think so many stories are told of finding love on the Titanic? What makes it so romantic?

I think it’s the “unknown variable” that makes it all so interesting. It’s the fact that we can only speculate. Who were those people? What were they feeling? What were their hopes and dreams? What were they feeling before the ship set sail? After? How strongly did they feel it? Who did they feel it with? These are the questions that motivate us. As I sat to write this story, I envisioned people from every walk of life, all converged in one small world for a brief moment in history. Together, in that place, emotions surely ran the gamut (from exhilaration to distress and grief). Placing a love story in the middle of all of that emotion just made sense.  

Q: We often think of the opulence of the Titanic and how some of the world’s richest people were aboard the ship. There were also very poor passengers as well, hoping to start a new life in America. Do you know how much it would cost for a ticket?

Cost of a ticket (one way) -

First Class (parlor suite) $4,350 ($83,200 today)
First Class (berth) $150 ($2975 today)
Second Class $60 ($1200 today)
Third Class $40 ($298 to $793 today)

Q: Is there a spiritual thread through the story/a message that you hope readers come away with?

Absolutely. Several of my characters (primarily Tessa) face their own destiny. They come to grips with the brevity and value of life. They see first-hand what’s truly important and what isn’t.  In my story, Tessa learns that her picture of God has been skewed since childhood. She discovers a relationship with Him while onboard the ship, but that relationship is tested the night the ship goes down.

Q: What’s next for you? Where will you be taking readers with your next book?

I’m currently writing historicals for the Summerside “Belles and Whistles” line. The first book, Wedding Belles just released and the second, Sleigh Belles will release in a couple of months. These stories are more light-hearted in nature and deal with comedic women from the West.

Readers can keep up with Janice Thompson by visiting, becoming a fan on Facebook or following her Twitter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I hate getting a new phone | THIS | much

We are so technology and convenience dependent that getting a new phone ranks among the biggest pains in the neck there is.

So what if part of the keys at the bottom of my less than two year old BlackBerry Torch weren't lighting up? So what if I couldn't get Instagram or Words with Friends on the Torch? I liked the keyboard that slid out of the touch screen and it was broken in.

What I did care about is making a two minute phone call with a charged battery, then getting cut off. I couldn't call 9-1-1 if I had to.

I bought a new Android. I refuse to pay for an iPhone when I could buy a refurbished Android for $9.99 and if I don't like it, I can pay more later.

Regardless of what phone you buy, the transfer to a new phone is horrendous.

If I wanted to save my contacts to transfer, I was going to have to go and save each one on to my SIM card because they were saved on the phone. Smartphone makers should be smarter than that. Make the contacts save on the SIM card. We can sync media in other ways. Save our contacts on the stupid SIM card. If I went and had to individually save each one, I might as well just type them all in by hand which is what I am going to have to do because I cannot figure out to get the SIM in and out of this new phone. I think it involves a straight pin to trigger a spring ejection.

AT&T has a "Ready to Go" semi-set-up your phone function where you can log on and type in contact info and select certain bookmarks you want on your browser. But you still have to manually type all the contacts in. I can't call anyone whose names starts with a letter after E in the alphabet though.

Everyone just do a favor and call or text me, and I'll add you that way. But do tell me who you are.

I have my email accounts set up, and the inbox is much better than on the BB because I can file away on my Gmail based work account and it Syncs better with Outlook hallelujah! However, my calendar is not syncing. And I think HTC only wants to sync media (music and photos) if you connect to the computer.

I've gotten most of my apps downloaded. All the apps that were on my BlackBerry, plus my apps from my Kindle. Now that the apps are downloaded, I have to log-in to everything. Then the problem is that everything wants to load under my Gmail-based email address because it's Android.

My Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Pinterest, Kindle, and all of that are under my personal email address, so I probably am going to have to disconnect the Gmail account, log into everything and then add the Gmail account back.

Oh, and then the problem with logging in... I can already tell that the phone wants to auto correct the sbc part of in my email address that all my accounts are attached to as my primary email account and have been for years.

Now, I'm logging off to spend the next few hours working on that. And rummage for food because I need to go to the grocery store. The morning started off with the amount of cereal I had left in the box being way too much for the amount of milk left in the carton. I didn't realize that until I started pouring the milk. I couldn't even finish my cereal because it was almost dry, but not.

The rest of my day followed a similar pattern.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Melanie Dobson shares her fascination with the Oregon Trail

An interview with Melanie Dobson,
Author of Where the Trail Ends
Many events in our country’s history have shaped us into the nation we are today—countless stories of brave men and women giving up the lives they knew in hopes of making better ones for their families. Sometimes they lost everything they owned to build this nation, but in the midst of their losses, many of them discovered faith and love. Life was especially difficult along the Oregon Trail, as depicted in Where the Trail Ends by Melanie Dobson (Summerside Press/October 2012/ISBN: 978-1-60936-686-5/$12.99), one of two debut releases in Summerside Press’ new American Tapestries™ line of historical romance novels.

Melanie Dobson’s writing has allowed her to travel to and explore many locales around the country, but she was excited that Where the Trail Ends allowed her to stick closer to home. “Our family moved to Oregon six years ago, and I’ve been intrigued by the unique history of this state ever since,” explains Dobson. “Writing this novel gave me the wonderful opportunity to delve into the history of my new home state and learn about the strength and determination of the first Oregonians.” She shares more about her new release in the interview below.

Q: You are one of the first two authors to release a book in the American Tapestries series. How did you become involved in the project?

It’s such an honor for me to join Janice Thompson in launching this wonderful series about significant events in our country’s history! I wrote five historical novels for the “Love Finds You” series and I so enjoyed writing each one of these that when Summerside began developing the idea for American Tapestries, I was really excited about the opportunity to partner with them again.

Q: The American Tapestries line sets a love story against the backdrop of an epic moment in American history. Did you get to choose the event yourself, or did you have options to choose from?

The editors and I brainstormed almost a dozen major events in our country’s history, but we kept coming back to a story about the Oregon Trail. Most of my books have been set on the other side of the United States so I loved the idea of setting a novel in the beautiful and rugged state that my family and I call home.

Q: Did you choose to write about the Oregon Trail because it was close to home?

Our family moved to Oregon six years ago, and I’ve been very intrigued by the unique history of this state ever since. When Summerside asked me to write a novel about the Oregon Trail, it was a ton of fun for me to delve into the history of my new home state and learn about the strength and determination of the first Oregonians.

Q: Writing historically accurate novels take a lot of research. Have you always had a love for history and research?

When I was younger, I loved reading about history, but I hated the timelines I had to memorize in school. Instead of learning about dates, I wanted to hear stories! For a long time, I thought I would be an archeologist until I discovered that I enjoy digging up information about people and events a lot more than bones and artifacts…and it’s a bit less dusty. My oldest daughter now wants to be an archeologist.

Q: What is the first thing you remember learning about the Oregon Trail? How old were you?

I grew up in Ohio, and while I don’t remember the first time I learned about the Oregon Trail, I was an avid fan of the Little House on the Prairie series. The life of pioneering families fascinated me so much as a child that I spent hours sending my Barbie dolls off into the vast frontier (also known as my basement) in a shoebox-turned-wagon. I still treasure the memories of those Barbie pioneer days.

Q: What would it have been like for a single woman out on the trail?

A single woman on the trail would most likely be single because she’d lost a spouse or a parent along the way. There wouldn’t be time for her to stop and grieve her loss so she would have to grieve as she worked and walked all the way to Oregon City. The wagon trains were run like democratic countries so each party had unique rules that they agreed to through voting. Usually only men could vote so a single woman would be at the mercy of the others in her party. Most wagon trains would have rallied together to help a widow or a young woman if they had enough supplies to do so, but there was no guarantee.

Q: What are some of the conditions settlers on the trail would have to endure?

Approximately three hundred thousand Americans traveled West on the Oregon Trail, and the conditions were often horrendous. Not only did the emigrants have to protect themselves from extreme weather and dangerous animals, the first Americans to travel to Oregon Country in a wagon train had to ford dangerous streams, fell trees, and leave behind most of their belongings in the rugged mountains. About thirty thousand pioneers lost their lives on this journey to accidents, drowning, and cholera—one grave, it is said, for every eighty yards of the trail.

Q: What are a couple of facts that you found while researching for this book that you never knew before and think that audiences will find particularly fascinating?

I’ve always been fascinated by how these emigrants could survive six months on supplies from a wagon so almost every detail of the research captivated me. While I once thought that pioneers rode their wagons west, I discovered that almost everyone walked the entire two thousand miles from Missouri.  The children were often responsible for counting the rotations of a wagon wheel to see how many miles they traveled each day, chewing coffee beans to stay awake so they wouldn’t be run over by another wagon. I also didn’t realize when I started that what was known as Oregon Country was jointly owned by the British and American governments until 1846. The British fur companies and local Indian tribes were amiable, and they worked together for decades to trap animals and ship thousands of pelts back to London where beaver top hats were quite fashionable among noblemen. The British didn’t think Americans would ever be able to cross into Oregon by land.

Q: If our audience would like to visit a museum or exhibit to learn more about the Oregon Trail, where should they go?

There are actually two fantastic museums about the Oregon Trail. The first is the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City, Oregon. This museum has old wagons and artifacts and a wonderful visual timeline of the trail as well as a fun children’s section where my girls dressed up as pioneers. The second is the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho. A wagon master guides visitors through this amazing center as you travel together back in time about a hundred and fifty years. This tour—and the simulated wagon ride—was an unforgettable experience for my family and me.

Q: Is there a spiritual thread through the story or a message that you hope readers come away with?

One thing I love about novels with spiritual themes is that God often speaks to readers in a way the writer never intended. The spiritual threads in Where the Trail Ends are about God’s faithfulness and protection and also about crossing over into what The Pilgrim’s Progress calls the “Celestial City”. I pray God will use this story about a harrowing physical journey to encourage people wherever they are on their own journey.

Q: What’s next for you? Will you be writing another release in the American Tapestries line? Where will you be taking readers next time?

I’m hoping my next writing journey will be to Williamsburg and New York City during the American Revolution. My daughter and I just toured the old plantations along the James River, and my mind is full of possibilities about a female spy who risks everything to help the Patriots win this war.

Readers can keep up with Melanie Dobson by visiting or becoming a fan on Facebook.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What would you put in your Memory Jar?

Celebrate the release of The Memory Jar with author Tricia Goyer by entering her Amish Kindle Gift Pack Giveaway and RSVPing to her Facebook party on November 7th. 

(And be sure to catch the fun video trailer or try your hand at one of the simple, keepsake crafts Tricia has put together on her website.)

One fortunate winners will receive:

  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Custom-made Memory Jar Kindle Cover
  • Amish-made decorative items {Wall hanging, horse/buggy and Amish houses}
  • The Memory Jar {Be swept away by this captivating series.}
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 6th. Winner will be announced at the "Memory Jar Author Chat Party on 11/7. Connect with Tricia for an evening of book chat, Amish trivia, and a live video chat! There will also be a chance to win gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of The Memory Jar and join Tricia on the evening of the November 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

About The Memory Jar:

Book One in the Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series
Every year, 30–40 young Amish men descend on the cozy little town of West Kootenai, Montana, arriving in the spring to live there for six months and receive ‘resident’ status for the hunting season in the fall. They arrive as bachelors, but go home with brides! Sarah Shelter has lived in West Kootenai for the last ten years and wonders if she will ever fall in love.
Since the tragic death of her best friend, she carries her memories in a jar along with the small items connected to them. For just as long, she’s also been carrying around her emotions instead of allowing them to penetrate deep into her heart. Now she’s met a kind and gentle man who may be able to break down the wall. But can Sarah risk her heart to finally achieve her dreams?

Meet Tricia Goyer:

Tricia Goyer is the award winning author of over thirty books including Beside Still Waters, Remembering You, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences and is the host of Living Inspired. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

For more about Tricia, visit:
And check out her new blog community, Not Quite Amish

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Don't miss your chance to enter to win Susan May Warren's Weekend Getaway

Have you picked up your copy of Susan May Warren's latest offering in her beloved Deep Haven series, You Don't Know Me. Susan is celebrating with a $200 Weekend Getaway Giveaway and hosting a fun video Author Chat Party on December 12 (the chat on 10/23 is being rescheduled)!


One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa Gift Card (Use that to catch up with a loved one and “Get to Know” your spouse, friend, sister, mom…whomever!)
  • The entire set of Deep Haven Books
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 22nd. Winner will be announced at the ”You Don’t Know Me” Author Chat Facebook Party on 12/12. Connect with Susan for an evening of book chat, Deep Haven trivia, and a live video chat! There will also be info about Susan’s BookShout read-along and a chance to win gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of You Don’t Know Me and join Susan on the evening of the December 12 for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the books – don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. 

About the book:

A Deep Haven Novel
Sometimes the secrets we keep to protect ourselves can be our undoing.
To all who know her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She’s a permanent member of the PTA, never misses a sporting event, and is constantly campaigning for her husband’s mayoral race.
No one knows that Annalise was once Deidre O’Reilly, a troubled young woman whose testimony put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Relocated through the Witness Security Program to the quaint harbor town of Deep Haven, Deidre received a new identity and a fresh start, which began when she fell in love with local real estate agent Nathan Decker.
Twenty years later, Annalise couldn’t be more unprepared for her past to catch up with her. When Agent Frank Harrison arrives with news that the man she testified against is out on parole and out for revenge, Annalise is forced to face the consequences of her secrets. Will she run again, or will she finally find the courage to trust those she loves most with both her past and her future?
About the Author:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.