Sunday, February 28, 2010

Matt Redman's Blessed Be Your Name

by Gina Welborn

I like to sing. Give me 40 minutes of singin' and only 20 minutes of preachin' any Sunday. Or maybe 50/10.

Anyhoo, when the Inkies were discussing this theme, Wenda shared a story about how a man in her church was quite offended by the song, "Blessed Be Your Name," written by Matt Redman. Wasn't a worship song. Wasn't uplifting. Had no place in the church. Ouch! There's a bitter porcupine. Wenda said, "Reminds me of me. How I'd rather not let God into the hurting places in my life. I'd just like to lock Him out and only acknowledge him in the good stuff. Seems like it would be the other way around, but for me it's not."

Boy, did she relate to me.

When I found out I was pregnant with baby #5, I wasn't the least bit excited. In fact, I'd say I was majorly ticked off. ANGRY. Hubby wasn't too thrilled either, but he adjusted to it quicker than I did. He's mature like that. While we never found out the sex of our other 4 critters, I told hubby I needed to on this one because I needed something--anything--to help get me excited...or at least help me not be angry anymore. Pink baby girl clothes scream happy. I'd have eaten pink baby girl clothes if doing so would have made me happy.

Well, one Sunday morning for some reason, hubby needed me to fill in for the guy who normally worked the Power Point/Media Shout for the music during first service morning worship. I figured doing it would give me something to focus on instead of worshiping a God I was ticked off at.

The first two songs were no problem. Then "Blessed Be Your Name" came on.

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Easy to read. Easy to hear. But the next weren't so...

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

By this point my throat tightened, eyes teared up, my lungs constricted...

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...

By here, I couldn't breath and had to force myself to push the button to change slides...

See, I was okay with blessing God when "when the sun's shining down on me, when the world's 'all as it should be," but I certainly didn't want to bless, praise, honor, glorify Him when I was "on the road marked with suffering." Not that being pregnant was suffering, but being pregnant when I didn't want to be certainly felt like suffering to me. So I could freely say there was "pain in the offering," pain in blessing His name that I felt it was easier to stay angry at God.

Call me crazy, but I'm a pain avoider. I didn't like to hurt for myself so why would I want to hurt for God?

Somehow I kept my emotions bottled until we got home. Which was foolish. I should have felt free to weep at church. Only we hadn't told anyone I was pregnant, and I think I was at least three months along. Shoot, maybe more because I think I'd already been to the doctor and I hadn't gone in until I was 4 months along, which garnered me lots of lectures from the nurses. Actually, I don't think we told many people I was pregnant at any time during the pregnancy because tons of them were shocked when critter 5 and I showed up to church the Sunday after delivering her.

Anyhoo, now when I look at our precious #5, I can't imagine not having her. When I was typing this, she walked in my office and smiled at me. Needless to say, I had to pick her up and put her in my lap. She sipped my Vanilla Coke and said, "Mmm. That's good coffee."

Before I take the confused child to Starbucks, lemme finish my story...

Last spring, I did the Beth Moore ESTHER Bible study. During week four's video session, Beth talked about fear. She said, "We can protect ourself right out of our callings." Boy, do I know how to do that with my writing. But God didn't want me to focus on my shallow writing fears. He decided to smack me upside the heart with my deepest fear. Eventually. Here's what I wrote in my notes:

"Courage is when you look _______ in the face. Don't deny it. Deny it's victory over you. You may be one brave decision away from a new path--from your calling, destiny. The #1 command in the Bible: DO NOT BE AFRAID. We all cherish fear so closely that we can shed it even when told to. Psalm 138:8. Can you imagine living without fearing _______? Do you believe a good week is only a happy accident? Proverbs 31. Most of what we fear will never happen to us. Although this is true, Satan will keep threatening us with it over and over again. WHAT IF is an acronym for I FEAR."

In the listener guide, Beth wrote this: "And if _________, then God will take care of me."

She challenged us to find what that ______ was in our lives. What did we fear on a daily basis? What even was our deepest, most crippling fear?

Ladies all over the room were in tears. Not me. I was, well, kinda peturbed.

How the heck was I gonna confront my deepest fear if I didn't know what it was. Oh, I have fears which you can read if you click on this link. Driving across a bridge. Heights. Swimming in a lake, river, or ocean where human-eating fish live. And so on. But those are only fears I have for to garner sympathy. I don't really fear those things. Well, maybe I do the fish.

So I told my friend Tanya as we were leaving the classroom (paraphrasing here), "I feel abnormal because I don't have any crippling fears. Surely I have a fear. A real fear. In fact, this week I'm gonna pray that God shows me a real fear. Ooh, I'm excited!" I won't describe the "look" she gave me. Just between us, I think she's confident I'm abnormal.

Three days later...NOTHING. Still no fear.

I even complained to my husband. I'm sure he thought I was abnormal for wanting a fear. I was considering pondering the very idea that perhaps maybe I was abnormal. (See note above about Tanya.)

Not but a day after I'd decided to live with my disappointment in not having a fear to conquer in Jesus' name, God opened my eyes. He played a song on my heart. Then again, it could have been on the radio.

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

I had a fear. A real fear. Getting pregnant. My fear began after baby #3. He wasn't planned. After I had him, I began to dread when Aunt Flo was late in visiting. I know: TMI. Do you know how much pregnancy and babies cost? Several years, a miscarriage, and a traumatic deliver of baby #4 later, I was emotionally crippled with the fear of getting pregnant again. So can you understand why I was so angry at God when I realized I was pregnant with #5? All my fears were answered with her.

Oh my satellites dishes! That was not the fear I'd wanted to face. I figured God would show me I had a fear of creepy crawly things or not making it to the potty quick enough when I was in the middle of Wal-Mart. I wanted a cool fear.

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

I had to pray my way though the song, though my fears, though my lack of trust in God knowing what was best for me. I had to reach a point where I could say "If I got pregnant again, God WILL take care of me and I WILL be okay."

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Funny thing is this past fall when I was at a doc appointment and the nurse said, "Is there any possibility you could be pregnant?" (a routine question), I shrugged and said, "Probably not, but if I were, it's no biggie."

So I'm back to where I was when I walked out of the Esther video session four: happily relishing my fake fear of driving on bridges and swimming where the human-eating fish live.

Boy, does it feel nice.

Love the song? Listen to it HERE

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

To read more about Matt Redman's inspiration behind the song, click here.

What do you fear? What lesson has God ever taken you through to teach you not to fear?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's Coming Up This Week

Join us this week
for the Month of Expectation.
Who knows what excitement March holds?

Sunday Devotion

Monday - Friday
It's a bold move... our first ever serial story!
Monday - Part 1 - Dina
Tuesday - Part 2 - Debra
Wednesday - Part 3 - D'Ann
Thursday - Part 4 - Anita
Friday - Part 5: The Conclusion - Niki

An Inkalicious Review

See you all around the Inkwell!

We Interrupt This Book Review....

by Wenda Dottridge

This book review, slated on the last Saturday of St. Valentine's month, was supposed to be about married love. It was supposed to open with a story about my grandparent's 60 + years of marriage and the question, what makes love last? With over 40% of marriages, and yes, even Christian marriages, starting with "'til death do us part" and ending in divorce, I was going to review a secular marriage book, Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson. You see, years ago, when my husband and I were leading a home group made up of several crumbling marriages, we came across Dr. Johnson's "Emotionally Focused Therapy." As a family doctor always in need of better therapy tools, my husband was intrigued with EFTs successes relative to behviorial or cognitive therapies. We considered travelling to Ottawa to participate in intensive EFT training so we would be better equipped to minister in our church, and, for my husband, for him to be more effective in his medical practice.
While traditional marriage therapy boasts an almost negligible (like, close to 0% long-term) success rate for saving marriages at the brink of dissolution, Dr. Johnson claims 70-75% of couples who enter EFT couselling in crisis stay married through good times and bad. This is a similar statistic to Christian marriage therapist Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair Proof Marriage. And while one author writes from an evolutionary/biological framework and the other from a Christ-centered framework, they both understand humans from the perspective of emotional need and attachment.

And then I would tell you a little more about both books and that they are worthwhile resources for anyone who is married, ever thinking about marrying, formerley married, related to anyone who is married, or in ministry with or to anyone married.

But I interrupt this book review because there is a completely different story I'd like to tell.

I want to share with you a heartbreaking tale and a miracle to shed hope on tragedy.

In the past few years we've experienced some of the most incredible faith-building, grace-filled moments of our lives and we KNOW God. But over those same years we've also shared in the pain of close family who have emerged from brutal, faith-destroying church-based abuse. These days it is hard to become carried away by religious hype. I add this preface to the story I am about to tell because I want you to know I am coming more from a place of caution than a from wide-eyed faith.

We recently hired a housekeeper. A Lebanese woman with a firm handshake, a desire to work hard for us,  and a penchant to share Arabic coffee with me (yum!). I'll call her Mariam.

Mariam promised one morning over coffee that she would make me Tabouli, but the next week she apologized that she hadn't brought me this signature Lebanese dish. You see, her young cousin, a woman as sweet as an angel, Mariam says, was walking through a parking lot with her two young children, the baby in her arms and the toddler walking by her side. A car racing through the lot struck her three-year old daughter.

The little girl, also named Mariam, was thrown twenty or twenty-five feet. A bystander helped the young mother load the child in a car and they raced to the Children's Hospital. Another bystander followed the car--it fled the scene--and managed to take down the license number.

From what I understood from Mariam's broken English and hand gestures, Little Mariam's c-spine, the vertebrae in the neck, were broken and there was some swelling in the brain. I promised to pray for the little girl, and I did. That night at supper my family prayed for her recovery and over the next few days I continued to pray for her but in a way I can only describe as perfunctorily. Not that my concern was lacking, but my faith was.

The next time Mariam came I asked after Little Mariam. This time as Mariam told me about the small child's condition (From what I could understand, she continues in a medically-induced coma and is in restraints to allow the neck to heal. The bleed on the brain is healing on its own without surgery, but the long-term damage is still unknown), I started to pray, "What can we do, Lord. In the face of such a tragedy? How can we show your love? Help."

As Mariam described the way she was helping the young mother every day I started to understand that Mariam and her son were the woman's only family in our city. So I asked, where is her husband?

Mariam told me he was in Afghanistan. The young mother had sponsored his immigration just three months ago. We discussed the difficulties with immigration and the long waits. I sponsored my husband's immigration. It took almost a year. My sister-in-law waited almost two. Recently we looked into sponsoring another family member. The wait can be as long as 48 months. I realized I wasn't encouraging Mariam.

In Canada, once an immigration application is in process it is almost impossible to check on its status or to speed things along. It is also not possible for a potential immigrant to visit the country while the application is in process. Mariam knew this. So did I. And then I thought, we could look into a political solution. We could contact the young mother's MP or even appeal to the Minister of Immigration. This young mother needed her husband.

I brought up the possible ways the family could bypass the bureaucracy to bring this father to Canada. Mariam brightened. She had an idea. The young mother had worked with an interpreter to process the sponsorship documentation. Mariam would suggest the young mother contact the immigration interpreter to help her find her apply for her husband to come to Canada as soon as possible. If that failed, I would work with the family to petition for compassionate leave for him to come to Canada.

As soon as we finished talking, I emailed my fellow Inkies. Pray, I asked, explaining the situation. Pray for the child's recovery. Pray for this family. Pray for a way for the husband to come to Canada as soon as possible.

And the wonderful Inky ladies prayed. And I prayed, too, through the morning.

Three days later, Mariam arrived at my home bursting with news. Shortly after she left my house the cousin called Mariam's cell phone. She urged Mariam to hurry to the hospital. Anxious for Little Mariam, Mariam rushed to Little Mariam's room to find her cousin with the immigraiton interpreter! Mariam couldn't believe it. She hadn't mentioned our discussion yet, although she had planned to as soon as she arrived at the hospital.

And so this is what happened: A few hours after my discussion with Mariam and my email to the Inkies, the interpreter went to the hospital to vist another child. When she saw the young mother in the corridor she recognized her from the immigration office. She asked, "What are you doing at the Children's Hospital? Are you visiting someone here?"

The young mother told her about her daughter's accident, and that the child had been in a coma for ten days. The interpreter urged her to go to the immigration office without delay. Thus, the panicked call to Mariam. While Mariam sat with Little Mariam, the young mother and the intrepeter spoke to the immigration office manager. He called the Afghani Embassy in Ottawa and the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan. A Canadian Embassy representative was dispatched to the father's village about two hours from Kabul (I presume). The young mother managed a call to her husband to let him know the Canadian officials would expedite his arrival in Canada.

Within hours, all was arranged. He arrives in Canada next week.

A coincidence? Or a miracle?

Mariam praised God. She said, "So many prayers have gone to God's ears for Little Mariam. But we didn't even think her father could come to Canada. We never imagined it could be done until you said it might be possible. And then, we didn't have to do one thing. Not one thing. And it is arranged. Like that."

"Praise God," I said. And then I added, "Do you know what a blog is?"

She shook her head, no.

"It is a thing on the internet, like a diary. I belong to a group of fifteen or so Christian writers. We write something on the internet every day, we take turns. And we are all Christian writers who write stories for Christians."

She nodded, slightly puzzled now.

"After I talked to you, I emailed all my Christian writer friends, and we all prayed for Little Mariam and prayed that her father could come to Canada."

And gruff Mariam's eyes filled with tears and she threw her arms around me. I hugged her back and cried with her.

God is good. And his goodness doesn't depend on our faith or belief.

I still don't understand the mystery of prayer. But I do know a miracle when I encounter one.

Join me and the Inkies and my home group in continuing to pray for Little Mariam. That God would heal her body completely. That her father would arrive safely in Canada and would adjust to this strange new world at the same time the family continues to help their daughter recover from her injuries. And that God's grace would abound in this family.

And thanks for letting me interrupt my book review to share this miracle.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Power in the Blood

by Dina Sleiman

In case you haven't noticed, on the last Friday of each month, we feature poetry here on Inkwell Inspirations. Poetry has somewhat fallen out of fashion in our generation, except perhaps the "Spoken Word" variety, but it is a powerful and artistic form of writing, and I for one refuse to let it die.

Poetry can be defined as "the art of language." A poet takes words, forms them as a sculptor scults clay, as a dancer moves the body, and turns them into a work of unique beauty. When reading poetry, one must begin by slowing down. You cannot rush through poetry. There is not necessarily a point or a plot that you can skip through to find. Each poem should be read several times in order to digest meaning on a variety of levels. First, poems do have a literal meaning, despite popular opinion. They also mean pictorially through the images and metaphors. Poems mean through normal syntactical grammar, such as sentences and phrases, but they also mean line by line. They mean through sounds and patterns. They mean through the choice of words.

Perhaps this could seem threatening for those who like to keep things simple. Poems don’t find meaning in a logical 1 + 1 = 2 manner. They mean in exponential ways. Poetry can contain limitless possibilities. Don’t be afraid, just enjoy.

Last month we featured Roseanna White and her book A Stray Drop of Blood. As I read this amazing novel, I was reminded anew of the overwhelming power contained in even one stray drop of Christ's blood. Can you picture the imagery? What an awe-inspiring symbol. For me it brought to mind old songs about being washed and cleansed in the blood of Jesus. "There is power, power, wonder working power in the blood of the lamb." And, "Are you washed in the blood, in the soul cleansing blood of the lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are you white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb."

It also brought to mind a poem I once wrote about this subject.

Painted Red

After a long and shady path
she pushed back the last branch,
opened to a bewitching scene,
a small paradise, a pool that sparkled in sunlight,

a waterfall streaming down the sandstone walls.
The pool glistened
not crystal, but ruby—a deep red pool,
and the falls a bloody gash against the rocks,

flowing from a wooden cross atop the cliff.
The entire vale suffused in odd crimson glow.
She felt herself drawn, drawn forward, slowly, mesmerized.
Against all reason she was drawn, against all shame.

She felt her fingers running down her dress
and freeing the ties. She felt it sliding to the ground,
then each garment, one by one,
as her feet caressed cool moist earth.

Until she stood at the bank,
dipping her toes into sticky warmth,
watching the blood drip, and it felt good.
Oh so good, and she was running,

she was splashing, and dove headfirst into spilt life,
immersed in it, one with it, and she was swimming.
She was swimming through it to that fountain,
climbing the rocks to be washed,

to watch her body painted red again
and again within a smooth, clean sheet of blood,
that left her feeling white as snow.
She opened her mouth to drink deep,

and whispered up so inadequately, thank you.
* * *

Let's try taking the words out of the lines for a moment and just enjoy the picture...

She was swimming through it to that fountain, climbing the rocks to be washed, to watch her body painted red again and again within a smooth, clean sheet of blood, that left her feeling white as snow. She opened her mouth to drink deep, and whispered up so inadequately, thank you.

And here's what the Bible has to say about the blood of Jesus from the very poetic Message Version...

Hebrews 9:11-15

But when the Messiah arrived . . . He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God.

Have you experienced the power of Christ's blood? What does the blood of Christ symbolize to you? Can you think of any more songs about this amazing symbol?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interview and Giveaway with Debut Author Christa Allan

Jen here. It's my pleasure to introduce you to debut novelist (and fellow Abingdon Press author) Christa Allan. Please join our virtual chat where she tells us all about her new book, Walking on Broken Glass, including how she came up with the musical title.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A:  I’m a recovering alcoholic, and by God’s grace, have not had a drink for over twenty years. I invited God back into my life because of AA, not in spite of it. As I grew in my faith and in my recovery, I realized that so many Christian families suffer in silence. Alcoholism, drug, sex, or food addiction, lifestyles are all the big elephants in the room we don’t talk about. But we all know they exist. So, what’s someone to do who’s immersed in these challenges? I wanted to reassure women struggling with addiction that they’re not alone, that there’s a loving and compassion God who cares about them and His grace will be sufficient for them. I wanted to remove the fa├žade that often hinders real recovery. “Good” Christian families aren’t immune to the world, but once we admit we have a problem, we can be healed by God.

The title of my book is taken from Annie Lennox’s song with the same name. My original title was Going Nowhere Fast , but it just didn’t evoke the right feel about the novel. Listening to my iPod on a walk [an unfortunately rare happening], I heard the song and trotted home to change the title. It captured exactly what I’d wanted and, as I continued writing, found a moment to even use it in the novel.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  In high school, I was always the chick everyone wanted on the other team in P.E. I couldn’t dance, sing, draw, play music or flirt. I had short hair when long hair was in, curly hair when Cher-hair was popular, and a “fluffy” body when Twiggy appeared. I had enough teen angst to market it in bottles as a new perfume. One day, after watching my friend across the street get picked up by my ex-boyfriend for a date, I put pen to paper and felt healed. That’s when I started writing. Thinking of myself as a writer is something I’ve only recently come to recognize.

Q:  How do you come up with your story ideas?
A:  Honestly, I drive my family crazy with the “What if” syndrome. For example, “What if a woman walked to her mailbox and disappears?” is the one they’re all ready to choke me over. But I jot down things I read, hear, see…That’s the best part about being a writer. The entire world is your scratch pad of ideas.

Hey, I like the woman-at-the-mailbox idea. If you write it, I will definitely read it!
Q:  How does your faith impact your writing?
A:  For all of us who write “inspirational” novels, the primary difference to me is that there’s always hope. That regardless of the events in our character’s lives, they come to a sense of or, if they’re already believers, a greater sense of God being active in our lives. One universal message, I think, is that nothing is impossible with God.

Q:  How do you deal with writer’s block?
A:  Well, sometimes I use “weed therapy,” which, when I said that to my students, caused them to raise their eyebrows. One of those language/generational gap issues. What I really mean is that I’ll wander outside and start pulling weeds out of the garden. Often, I use journaling a la Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones where I just pick a topic, a word, an idea and just write for 10-15 minutes without any thought to spelling, grammar, punctuation, or even sentences. I just write. Eventually, something will break out of my brain. And, if all else fails, chocolate and/or Blue Bell.

Q:  How long does it take to complete a novel? How many drafts do you go through?
A:  I’ve completed only one novel, which is Walking on Broken Glass, I’m not sure I have a track record yet. Hurricane Katrina happened in the middle of Broken Glass, so I didn’t write for the two years we were displaced. So, eliminating Katrina from the equation, I’d say a year. Drafts? I don’t do drafts, at least not of the entire novel all at once. I’ll review what I’ve written in chapter chunks along the way. My oldest daughter, Erin, proofreads/critiques for me, so I’ll send her chapters to review. She’ll let me know if I need to pay more attention to or change something. Erin’s also great at telling me I’ve use the word “so” fifty times on a page… For now, the chunk method words.

Q:  Do you plot out your story ahead of time, or do you dream it up as you go?
A:  Is making order out of chaos a choice? I’m a plotter-wanna be. I’m totally seduced by the idea of it, but totally terrible at it. I have an idea of where the story is going, and I just go with it until I have absolute brain rot. Then, after I’ve consumed pounds of chocolate and a dozen Coke Zeros, I call on my writer friends whose opinions I value [hint], and whine for help. Usually this happens about five chapters in, then I rewind, pay attention to my synopsis, and forge ahead. Some times I’m surprised. For instance, a character showed up in WOBG that I did not plan on and still have no idea where he came from. I do, though, as I draw closer to the end, start sketching out chapters to make sure I’ve not dropped a thread somewhere.

Q:  Do you treat yourself to something special when a project is completed?
A:  Sleep? No, completing it is my reward.

Q:  What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a fledgling writer?
A:  Be teachable, be willing to spend money before you make money, and be persistent. Also, it’s easy to justify not reading as much because I’m writing. But I think that’s a fatal mistake to my growth as a writer. I need to absorb other books by writers whose works I admire to learn, almost by osmosis, how they work plot angles, use words, and create characters, for example.

Of course, spend money with discretion. For me, spending money on attending my first ACFW conference was the single most important investment I made that year. It’s tempting to spend money on a shelf full of “how to” writing books. Before doing that, I’d suggest asking for recommendations from other writers who are where you want to be.

Here’s my defining moment of persistence: Between the decision to attend that first conference and the actual conference date, everything that could go awry absolutely did. My husband’s job opened up again, so I returned to my former job, but he had to work for two more months before leaving. I came back and lived with a friend for two weeks. I didn’t have an internet connection, so all of my work had to be finished at school. And since funds were tight, I attempted to print my own business cards. The school web blocker wouldn’t allow me on the site, then-when I finally found a site it wouldn’t block-my printer died! I left school two hours late and, what should have been a five hour drive to meet my daughter who would eventually drive me to meet my ride, ended up being almost seven hours because of an accident. My cell phone died in the process, so I had to make the last few miles on a prayer because I’d never been to my daughter’s new apartment. And, because I couldn’t call her, I didn’t have the code to enter the apartment complex’s gate. I believe that the one who doesn’t want us to succeed is always on the sidelines waiting for us to give in to despair.

Q:  What’s the one far out sci-fi technology you’d most like to see become a household item?
A:  A robotic housekeeper and chef.


With the exception of having spent some years in Texas, I’ve been a lifelong Louisiana girl. After college, I started teaching high school until the mommy years. I have five children, who are now 32, 29, 26, 26, and 24, a son-in-law, and two precious grandgirls ages 4 and 2. Twenty plus years ago I returned to teaching high school, and I’m hoping to graduate in the next five or so years! My husband Ken and I spend our time with our three neurotic cats, play golf, and dodge hurricanes.

Visit Christa at her website -

For a chance to win a copy of Walking on Broken Glass, just comment on this blog. Please leave an email address so we can contact you if you're the winner (include spaces or brackets around the "@" sign so Net spiders, etc, can't phish your address). I'll pick a winner at random on February 28th. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On a Lighter Note

By Lisa Karon Richardson

Music is such a personal thing. The song that ministers to me may bore someone else to tears. I know because they told me so. We’ve covered so many songs here over the past weeks, but only scratched the surface of what music means to people.

One of the things music gives me is simply put… joy. There are few other mediums that can make me smile even when I’m struggling with something, sad, scared or depressed. And now for a confession:

My ringtone is the VeggieTales song, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.

It’s true. I don’t like talking on the phone in the normal course of events. I especially don’t like it after I get a string of bad news. So having a ringtone that makes me smile is a must.

And darn it, there’s just something joyous and catchy about those Silly Songs. If you are not a connoisseur of this fine group of classics may I suggest a few of my favorites? I could sing an ode of my own to The Water Buffalo Song, or I Love my Lips, or The Song of the Cebu. And let’s not forget His Cheeseburger.

Ah, such great memories. There’s nothing quite like letting my hair down and belting out one of these masterpieces. Talk about a stress reducer!

And in fact, there are a multitude of studies that prove that listening to music reduces stress. There is also plenty of clinical evidence that shows that laughing is good for us. SO why not combine these two healthy activities into one.

I know I connect to my kids in a special way when we giggle and act silly together, and that includes dancing like nuts to VeggieTales. I love that we are building such happy, carefree memories together.

So there you have it. My confession, I am an adult and I like VeggieTales. I’ll say it again (I’m told it’s the first step in recovery.)


I leave you with this:

Do you have any favorite silly songs? Is it VeggieTale flavored or not? Please share!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bridging the Generations

by D'Ann Mateer

When this “sing a song” topic came up, I thought Great! I can do that! But it hasn’t been that easy. Instead, I’ve written this post at least ten times, sometimes in my head, sometimes on the computer. And every time I’ve erased it. Why? Because asking me to write about a song that means something to me is like asking me to write about a book that means something to me! It’s impossible to choose!

While I do love music, can read music and plunk a few notes on the piano, and did actually sing with a praise team at church for a few months many moons ago, I am not a musician by any stretch of the imagination. Yet my youngest son is. So while he and I traveled to a friend’s book launch party the other night I decided to solicit his opinion.

“We’re blogging about songs for a couple of week,” I told him.

“What song are you going to do?” he asked.

“My first thought was ‘The Motions,’ but then there’s ‘I Need You’ or ‘Glorify Your Name.’”

He nodded his head. I could hear the thoughtfulness in his silence.

“Those are great songs,” he said. “But what about ‘Your Love Never Fails’ or ‘Highest and Greatest’? Or do you know any of Phil Wickham’s stuff?”

I told him I did. His sister had shared that music with me. He rattled off several more songs, ones he plays in chapel at school and at the Sunday school hour at church. His suggestions spurred more thoughts on my end. Back and forth we went, talking through lyrics and music. And as we talked, it occurred to me: instead of creating a generation gap, music was bridging one.

That’s not to say he and I agree on all music. I know he rolls his eyes at some things I like. I do likewise with some of his. But at that moment, we were able to find those songs—songs that spoke of our God and our faith—that brought us to common ground. Music can do that. It can divide (and I’ve seen way too much of that!), but it can also unite. We can choose to focus on the differences in style or volume (and I’d just like to note here that my children tell ME to turn the music down!) or we can find those artists, songs, styles that cross the ages and speak to both young and old.

Are there ways in which musical choices have affected your relationships? Has it been the common ground with someone you had trouble connecting with? Has it caused issues in your family or your church? How can you use music to spur reconciliation?

Or on the lighter side: do you consider the role of music in your life like songs in a musical (punctuating and explaining various situations and feelings) or like a score that plays in the background and is not necessarily noticed?

Photos courtesy of Except the boy at the piano. That's my baby!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mansion Over the Hilltop

by Anita Mae Draper

As soon as I saw this theme, I thought of sitting with my Finnish grandmother and singing Mansion Over the Hilltop.

My grandparents emigrated from Finland to Northern Ontario in 1930. We were raised to call them Mum-ma and Pup-pa which means old woman and old man in Finn. To me, they were unique because they never bathed. Instead, once a week, they gathered towels, soap and clean underwear and walked down the railroad tracks to visit the neighbor’s sauna.

Mumma knew Jesus. She’d found Him as a young girl when missionaries went to their small village. In her memoirs on my cousin’s website, Mumma said, ‘when I was twelve years old, there were Mission girls (ladies) in my village. I loved to go to their meetings. There are all kind of obstacles, when I didn't know what to do, I prayed to God to forgive me all my sins, and He helped me all these years. I gave God my life, and wanted to please Him in every way. I became a Christian, born-again Christian.

Mumma once told me she’d go home after the meetings and her family would laugh at her. She was the only one in her family to believe in Jesus but she knew in her heart He was real and she wouldn’t let anyone talk her out of her belief. This is my heritage. Faith in the face of unbelief.

I remember visiting Mumma when I was about 8 and she took me to worship with her. Since there wasn’t an evangelical church around, the service was held in the living room of a believer in town. I have this image of myself sitting beside Mumma, hymnbook in hand, singing Mansion Over the Hilltop. From the first time I heard it, it called to me. Maybe it was because the farm still didn’t have electricity. We used oil lamps for light and a woodstove for cooking and heat. Cold water came from the well and had to be heated which meant we fed the woodstove all day even during the dog days of summer. Yes, that meant there wasn’t any indoor plumbing. Chamber pots at night if you really needed to go and an outhouse with a diamond window in the door for the daylight hours.

Mumma was always humming and singing hymns whether she was at the farm, in town or at our place 6 hrs to the west.

When I was 12 yrs old, I had the privilege of spending the whole summer at Mumma’s farm. Of all the times of my childhood, this one stands out as magical. The freedom of the farm, learning to drive Puppa’s old Cockshutt tractor, reading the afternoon away. And spending time with Mumma. I remember sitting in her sunny kitchen while flies buzzed against the window and danced against the fly tape hanging in the corner. Embers snapped in the woodstove just feet away. Beside the stove was the door to the lean-to where we washed our faces and hands and Mumma did the laundry. We always laughed because the room was sinking and you had to step down into it, leaving that back corner of the kitchen stove without support. Scary when I think about it now, but nothing unusual back then.

Mumma would sit in her kitchen chair, ankles crossed and swinging her legs, smiling. She had this little girl look to her where she’d duck her head as if shy and her shoulders would shake. ‘He he he,’ would spill out of her. Not a giggle and not a laugh but something unique in between. And then she’d say in her heavy Finn accent, “Un-nita, you know Yea-sous loves you.”

I’d smile and nod because yes, I did know He loved me.

And there in that little farmhouse without electricity or plumbing, with the floors sinking and the walls leaning, she’d sing about a mansion on a hilltop where the streets were paved with gold.

Mansion Over The Hilltop
(~1949 Words & music by Ira Stanphill)
I'm satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that's silver lined

I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Tho often tempted tormented and tested
And like the prophet, my pillow a stone;
And tho' I find here, no permanent dwelling,
I know He'll give me a mansion my own.

I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Don't think me poor or deserted or lonely,
I'm not discouraged, I'm heaven bound;
I'm just a pilgrim in search of a city,
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.

I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old


I found this YouTube video of Mansion Over the Hilltop done in a variation of American Sign Languge (ASL) called Pidgin Signed English (PSE) with Elvis Presley doing the singing. It's released by hutt5 who have a whole bunch of signed hymns on YouTube.

I accepted Christ as my own personal Savior that same summer.  Mumma is gone now but her legacy of faith lives on in my own children.

Do you have a legacy you'd like to share?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Hope You Dance

By Dina L. Sleiman

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
-Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

This month we’ve been celebrating the power of song. In no way is song more inspirational to me than when it emerges into the embodiment of dance. Dance is often seen as a metaphor for life: for the willingness to step beyond yourself, to embrace the wonder about you, to move in harmony with the universe. Yet dance is an actual physical expression as well. As joy and celebration build within, they require an outlet. And so, our hands and feet begin to move, our bodies begin to sing and flow, releasing emotions from our hearts and culminating in dance. Even releasing the heavenlies deep within through our fingertips and toes.

Dance is a fundamental form of human expression. It can be found throughout history in nearly every culture. It can be found in the Old Testament as a form of celebration, praise, and worship. David danced before the Lord with all his might, and God was well pleased. Even Jesus spoke of his frustration with the generation around him by saying in Matthew 11, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.” Yet how often do we stifle this wondrous outlet?

Most churches today that incorporate contemporary choruses sing songs about dance.“Dance with me, oh lover of my soul.” "Dancers who dance upon injustice.” “We will dance on the streets that are golden.” “Dancing with my Father God in fields of grace.” The list goes on and on, but do we take it seriously, or do we stand still and sing the words, hampering our bodies from becoming living, breathing expressions of praise.

Romans 12:1 instructs, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." Of course this scripture has many applications, but I prefer to take it quite literally.

Dance may or may not be acceptable in your church’s culture. However, I urge you sisters, on your own, at home, in your prayer closet and throughout your life to offer up your bodies as living sacrifices of praise. Embrace and enjoy the wonder of dance. Take time to relate with God through this amazing form of expression today.

I have had the honor serving as a worship dance choreographer and director for fifteen years, and I have discovered that dance is at its core, a form of communication. It can be used in as many ways as words themselves: worship, praise, prayer, intercession, warfare, prophecy, evangelism, teaching, and yes, even fun and entertainment.

In closing, I would like to share one of my favorite dances I have ever choreographed to a song titled “I Hope You Dance.” This piece is special to me because it incorporates males and females from babies to grandmothers in a beautiful portrait of worship and joy. You can see me dancing in this piece, along with all three of my children, Christiana, Jonny and Adam, and my niece Ella. Professionals, we are not, but I hope you will draw much inspiration from the spirit of the piece.

So today please remember—I hope you dance.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Coming to a PC Near You...

The beat goes on...

Join us this week
for more fun
as we experience the
music of our lives!

Putting an Ink on Scripture


Monday - Friday
Sing a Song!
Monday - Anita Mae
Tuesday - D'Ann
Wednesday - Lisa
Thursday - Special Guest - Debut author Christa Allan
Friday - Dina

An Inkalicious Review

See you all around the Inkwell!



Two Brides Too Many

by Susanne Dietze

Two Brides Too Many, the debut novel of veteran children’s book author Mona Hodgson, is a delightful twist on the tried-and-true premise of mail-order brides and mystery grooms. Set in 1895 Colorado, this inspirational romance weaves spunky heroines, memorable secondary characters, and romance into a colorful tapestry set in the mining town of Cripple Creek.

Sisters Kat and Nell Sinclair have no option but to become mail-order brides, heading out to the wild and woolly west to marry their grooms. Nell, a romantic, has fallen in love with her intended through his letters, and she dreams of a fulfilling life as his wife. Kat, however, would rather spend her days writing than wed. She resigns herself to marriage as the only pragmatic solution to her plight. When the sisters' train arrives in Cripple Creek, however, no one waits for them at the depot. Well-bred and refined, the Sinclair sisters must make their own way in a frontier town full of men – except for the two who were supposed to marry them, that is.

While Kat and Nell are fortunate to have one another for support, they will be forced to rely on others and God’s provision for their future. As their expectations disintegrate, so does the town around them when a fire breaks out soon after their arrival. The sisters must start fresh, rebuilding their lives along with the rest of Cripple Creek. It doesn’t take long for the sisters to find new responsibilities and new dreams, but when their “missing misters” are discovered, their plans for the future and hopes for love might scatter like ash in the Colorado wind.

As heroines of an inspirational romance, Kat and Nell naturally rely on God for provision and help. They reach out to others by lending a hand, taking in an orphaned child and tending the injured after the fire devastates the town. Yet they are also resourceful enough to protect themselves, especially Kat. She, in particular, grows in the story as she learns to cling tighter to God than she has before as she re-shapes her idea of who she is and what she’s supposed to do with her life.

Cripple Creek is a real town, and Hodgson’s research adds a rich dimension to the story. Her depictions of the mountainous scenery and burgeoning town sparked my imagination. I’m grateful for the inclusion of a true resident of Cripple Creek in the story, Sister Coleman, a Catholic nun who served as a nurse in the town's first hospital. She is a solid secondary character, though perhaps not as memorable as Boney, a sweet tobacco-spitting miner, or Hattie, the generous owner of the boarding house. I hope they will all appear in subsequent novels, as two more books, featuring Kat and Nell’s sisters Ida and Vivian, are forthcoming.

Two Brides Too Many can be found exclusively at Wal Mart stores until May 4, 2010, when it will be available at all major booksellers.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Martha Rogers!

Changing As We Grow In Christ

Because my series is set in Oklahoma Territory, I find myself humming tunes from the musical Oklahoma! (click here to hear) I never saw the play done professionally, but I saw the movie and our college department put on the musical one summer at Youth Camp. Those songs are timeless and they create images in my mind that help with the images I want to create on paper. The idea for the name of the series came from a line in the title song that talks about the wind sweeping across the plain.

Lucy, Dove, Becky, and Caroline are the heroines of my series and each of these ladies grow and change to become the kind of young women who helped to make Oklahoma a great state. As Christians, we all must grow and change. Even at my age of 73, I am learning to adapt to changes that affect my lifestyle. As writers, we must be willing to adapt to what our editors want and what we learn in workshops.

The biggest change in our life comes when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. We become new creatures in Him. Our hearts are changed and that makes a big difference in the way we live our lives. The way we live must change and grow as we mature in our daily walk with Jesus and learn about what we are to do for Him.

One of the most difficult lessons I have learned is that of forgiveness. My brother was in and out of trouble from his teen age years to present. He is currently serving a prison sentence set back in 1983, and I had conveniently erased him from my life. When I learned he’d made a profession of faith in prison, I didn’t believe it, but came to realize if I didn’t forgive him for his heinous crimes, I could never have peace.

I also learned to be patient and to persevere in spite of circumstances. We all have lessons to learn throughout our lives, and God is a patient teacher. If we don’t get it the first time, He’ll keep coming back until we do.

One of my favorite songs from the musical is “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” When I think of that song, I think of the line, “I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.” A day begun with the Lord will be a wonderful day. A day when our hearts and minds are open to whatever He has to teach us that day will be a wonderful day whether things go your way or not.

My own writing life has undergone so many changes throughout the years. As a young girl I escaped into books and then made up stories for my paper doll families. Those stories were a way to escape a world I didn’t like to one of fantasy with perfect families and lots of love. That evolved into writing short stories about my imaginary worlds. I wrote my first novel at age eighteen and it was about 40K in length. After many rejections, I put writing on hold to have a family, teach school, and earn a Master’s Degree in education.

When I was asked to write some devotionals for a book put together by the women’s ministry of our church, I jumped at the chance. Then I became involved in a writing group and began attending writing conferences. That’s when I learned how much more I needed to know to write good articles. From 1994 until this year, I wrote novels and wrote novels and improved and grew with each one. When the call came in June of this year, I was so excited, but I knew my writing still needed much more growth.

Another song from the musical comes to mind, “Everything is Up to Date in Kansas City.” The next line says, “They’ve gone about as far as they can go.” I hope that I never get to the point that I feel I’ve gone as far as I can go. No matter what my age, I want to have goals out there before me. I want to look ahead at what I can still accomplish.

When we strive and forge ahead with what God wants us to do, He will strengthen the talent He gave us. When we delight ourselves in Him and seek His will daily, He will stay with us and give us the desires of our heart, and we may find that our desires will change as we grow and mature in His love.

Please leave a comment and your e-mail addy [ex. martha(at)martharogers(dot)com] for a drawing to win a copy of BECOMING LUCY.
Touching Hearts...Changing Lives

Her book credits include the novella, Sugar and Grits, seven Bible studies, contributions to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Karen O’Conner, and Debbie White Smith. Martha has contributed devotionals to several anthologies including soon to be released Whispers of Wisdom for Step-Moms from Barbour. Martha served as editor of an eight-page monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization, Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference.

Becoming Lucy
After her parents’ deaths , seventeen-year-old heiress Lucinda Bishop travels to Barton Creek, Oklahoma in 1897 as the ward of Amelia and Ben Haynes, her mother’s sister and brother-in-law. There she meets Jake Starnes, a drifter now employed by her uncle. With Jake, she faces emotions she’s never before experienced. When Jake must return to Texas to face murder charges and certain execution, Lucinda is forced to go on with life which includes Luke Anderson. When Jake is found innocent, he heads back to Oklahoma, but can he arrive in time to prevent Lucinda from marrying the wrong man?

Buy a copy today from Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, or Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Free To Be Me, Free To Be You

by Niki Turner

As soon as this week's theme was announced (and every time it's been mentioned since) I have a weird Sesame Street/Karen Carpenter flashback. I debated posting at all, but I couldn't let go of this one song... But there was one song that kept coming up in my head when I considered this week's theme.

It's not very old, not a famous hymn (though it was nominated for a Grammy!), and I don't know the story behind its creation, but this song has been stuck in my head for close to a year. Here's the video of "Free to be Me" by Francesca Battistelli, from her Paper Hearts album.

The chorus of the song goes like this:

'Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me

Have you ever been afraid to let someone "see" the real you? Afraid that if they knew how you "really" were they'd reject you, or judge you, or persecute you? I have.

Peer pressure doesn't go away after high school. It continues, as far as I can tell, throughout life. There's pressure to get married, pressure to have kids, pressure to raise those kids a certain way. Christians are pressured to conform to their particular church flavor in manner of dress, speech, even hairstyles. There's additional pressure on ministers, and their wives, to comply with certain external expectations.

You might be under subtle pressure from your neighborhood to "fit in" with the Joneses, or the Smiths, or the Brackendorfels. Writers experience peer pressure, too; from publishers, agents, readers, and other writers. It may be pressure to write a certain way, or to stick with a certain genre. Try to stuff yourself into all those molds very long and you'll crack. It's hard to role-play for extended periods of time. We long to "let our hair down," to "be-eee real," and to find ourselves loved and accepted in spite of our human frailties.

That's where this song ministers to my heart, and I hope, to yours. God has loved you your whole life. He loved you when you were a screw-up. He loved you when you were being good. He loves you right now, even though you hid your dirty dishes in the bathtub when that missionary couple stopped by unexpectedly.

Have your kids ever adopted the mannerisms, speech inflections, clothing styles, or facial expressions of their friends? As a parent, how did that make you feel? It irritated me. I think it probably irritates God, who is not only our Father in heaven, but our Creator. He shaped us and knit us together according to His design. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians. And here we go, comparing ourselves among ourselves and trying to fit in, not with God, not with Jesus, but with each other!

In the same way we want our children, our friends, our loved ones, to be free to be themselves, to be able to relax in our presence, God wants us free. He wants us to be ourselves, not cheesy copies of someone else. Why? Because He loves us! As the saying goes, "You were created an original, don't die a copy." Not a copy of the world, and not a copy of some religious image.

Where have you yielded to peer pressure and brought yourself into bondage?

What one thing could you do today to GET free?

Francesca Battistelli's website

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