Thursday, March 31, 2011

Leaving a Legacy

I originally began this as a post about Victorian philanthropist Dr. Thomas Barnardo and how God sometimes changes a person's plans. And then a guest minister said something a couple days ago--something that made me really think. That is, something that made me really think God was prompting me to change my plans about this post.

It seems God has a sense of humor.

I may come back to Barnardo in the future, but for today, I want to consider the spiritual legacies we leave behind. Perhaps the minister's words hit me especially hard this week when we are making our first college visit with our 16-year-old son. I've seen the statistics about American young people turning away from Christianity, and I'd be a fool not to feel concern for my children.

The major part of my ancestory is from France. The Huguenots fled persecution rather than renounce their beliefs. Even the act of leaving France carried the death penalty for those who were caught. It's a rather humbling inheritance. Have I passed on a legacy of faith strong enough to stand against the world's influences, one that would risk exile or even death?

Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." The same can be said for faith.

Bible (in Dutch) that belonged to the the author's great-great-grandmother. After the family fled France, they spent several generations in the Netherlands before immigrating to America.

The Bible has a lot to say about inheritances. Abraham waited 25 years for his promised son who would inherit his wealth and lands. The book of Joshua describes in detail how that inheritance was to be apportioned among Abraham's various offspring. The law contained elaborate provisions to protect a man's legacy--the story of Ruth is based around the concept of the kinsman-redeemer.

But God never intended an inheritance limited to material wealth. Over and over God instructed the people to pass His words to future generations, to "your children and their children" (Deuteronomy 6:2, NIV). The ancient Israelites understood these commands literally. They didn't venture beyond the boundaries of Israel to share God's words with anyone other than their own tribe--when they shared His words at all, that is. Unfortunately, sad examples abound of Godly people who failed to pass a spiritual inheritance to their own children: Samuel, Eli, David, Hezekiah--to name only a few.

Jesus expanded the commandment to share our faith beyond one's family when he sent his disciples to "teach all nations." All nations. You can't get more encompassing than that without a starship and universal translator.

But how tempting it is to be just like the Israelites of old, defensively huddled behind our church walls, preaching to our choirs when we need to be like Paul. Have you ever considered that Paul had no biological children? And yet, he left a spiritual legacy across the globe.

How many of the following people can you identify?
  • Johann von Staupitz
  • Edward Kimball
  • Karl Gutzlaff
  • Samuel Davies
  • Christoph Beta
  • George MacDonald
  • Isaac Milner
  • Mordecai Ham
Chances are, you won't find many of these people mentioned in a high school history book, and yet each of them had a profound impact on the world.

Johann von Staupitz was the priest who instructed a tormented monk named Martin Luther to read the scriptures and look to Jesus for his salvation. Edward Kimball was a Sunday School teacher for a boy named Dwight L. Moody. Karl Gutzlaff was a missionary to China whose writings captured the attention of David Livingstone. Samuel Davies was an evangelist during the Great Awakening whose words influenced a young Patrick Henry. Christoph Beta was a university student who invited his hard-drinking friend Georg Muller to a prayer meeting. George MacDonald was a 19th century writer whose works reawakened a belief in God in a 20th century atheist named C.S. Lewis. Isaac Milner was William Wilberforce's tutor--their lengthy discussions about faith contributed to Wilberforce's conversion. And Mordecai Ham was the evangelist at a North Carolina revival when Billy Graham dedicated his life to Christ.

Yes, we need to be mothers like Monica (Augustine) and Susanna Wesley (John and Charles Wesley) who set examples of strong faith to their children. Unfortunately, in our fallen world many of the people we know don't have Godly parents to mentor them to spiritual maturity. Others we meet in our fractured world may have moved to new cities or states or even countries, far away from their family and community.

Is God calling you to be a spiritual mentor to someone? Perhaps it is the overwhelmed single mother in your neighborhood. Or maybe the child who will never go to Sunday School if you don't offer to take him. Or  it could be a lonely serviceman or college student away from home for the first time.

It occurs to me that if we take our faith to the world, we will have less to fear from the world's influence on us and our heirs--biological and spiritual.

C.J. Chase writes for Love Inspired Historicals. Her debut novel, the winner of RWA's 2010 Golden Heart award for best inspirational romance, will be available in August under the title Redeeming the Rogue. C.J. lives in the swamps of Southeastern Virginia with her handsome husband, active sons, one kinetic sheltie, and an ever-increasing number of chickens. When she is not writing, you will find her gardening, watching old movies, playing classical piano (badly) or teaching a special needs Sunday School class. You can read an excerpt of her book at:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fiction Finder

by Anita Mae Draper

A couple months ago I was writing a proposal and needed to make a list of comparative titles. My first thought was to go to Amazon but it’s hard to find the Christian books among all the others on that huge site. Where else could I go?

ACFW Fiction Finder Then I remembered we have Fiction Finder as part of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) website. It’s a huge Christian book database where you can find books by author, genre, and content. This sounds like a fantastic resource, right? So why doesn’t everyone use it?

I’m going to walk you through the Fiction Finder website and show you what I mean. For the purpose of this demonstration, I went to the home screen, and clicked on Books which took me to a screen of new and upcoming releases. On the left are some boxes to define your search. I clicked on Romance for the first one and General for the next. I then went to the top where it has a search box for Book Title/Author/ISBN but instead of filling it in, I clicked More Options.

That opened another screen as shown on the right. As you can see, I like some Action, Spirituality, Sensuality and a whole lot of Romance in my reading. After sliding those buttons, I clicked Search and found that 2 books fit my criteria. (Click to enlarge image): 

Since I wanted more books, I tweaked the criteria by not making Romance a requirement and choosing Suspense instead of Sensuality. This time 12 books came up. I was pleased when the first of those - MaryLu Tyndall's Surrender the Night - came up as one of my choices because it contains a whole lot of romance anyway.

But what if a man was looking for a Christian book... I went to the left side again and this time picked Thriller/Suspense and then in the next box, I chose Men. As for the content, you can see on the photo at right that I slid over a whole bunch of things. But if you look on the bottom right of the photo - under the Search box - it says there are no results. Hmmm. So, I chose less criteria. Still nothing. And less. Nothing. Finally, after several failed attempts, I took all the choices off except for one - I left Men in the Target Audience box. And one book showed up:

Surely there are more Christian books aimed at men? Is the problem that the authors aren't adding their books to Fiction Finder? Or is it because they aren't labeling them for men?

Those questions had me looking back at some of the choices I'd been given for my Action/Suspense criteria and I'd like you to take note of this:

In the listing for Jamie Carie's Wind Dancer, there aren't any Topics listed as there are in the examples I've shown above. Why? I know one Inky (waving to Dina) who is a dancer and would probably read the book just because the heroine "dances alone in the moonlight as a praise offering to God". The thing is, when I went back to find Wind Dancer, I couldn't until I deleted all choices and looked for the title alone.

So, here are my observations:

- As authors, we need to enter our books and as much information as we can.

- As readers, we need to use the system and if we find any bugs and ways it can be improved, we need to contact the Fiction Finder developers.

- Together, we can raise the awareness of Fiction Finder so that it's not a question of where to look for a faith-based book, but which book to read.

Have you used the ACFW Fiction Finder? What did you think?

Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. In 2005, Anita Mae decided to return to writing and make it a priority in her life. She writes old west stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Her characters are strong because the land demands it. Anita Mae likes to write characters who sit up and notice when that special person God’s chosen just for them walks by. The story is all about the courtship between the two main characters. But it won’t be an easy path. And if they don’t know about God at the beginning of the book, they will by the end. Anita Mae has finaled in the 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest in the Inspirational category, the 2008 Gateway to the Best in the Contemporary Series category, and the 2008 Golden Gateway in the Long Contemporary category. She’s currently waiting to hear the phone ring and have someone say they want to buy Emma’s Outlaw. Meanwhile, she’s working on another story and trying to keep her imagination in check. A pathological picture taker, she usually has a photo or two of the quirky world she lives in on her blog at:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'll take "Truth in History" for 200

by Gina Welborn

A couple weeks ago a college-aged friend of the family asked if she could come over and watch a couple movies: Seabiscuit and Remember the Titans. Since we owned both movies, we decided to make it family double-feature night. Son Jadan (11) wasn't interested in watching "not another stupid horse movie." The best punishment in the world for him is to make him watch Flicka. (Note to self: Remember that next time he "forgets" to do his book report.)

Anyhoo, the reason our friend had to watch these movies (and a couple others) was because she was learning in class about the Liberty Valance Effect, coined by comedian and actor Robert Wuhl in his HBO series, Assume the Position.

"When the truth becomes legend, print the legend." ~Who Shot Liberty Valance?

Now while I believe Mr. Wuhl made some valid points about how we've allowed historical facts to be embellished, I also realize that he views history through very liberal-colored glasses. (There is a reason Israel Bissel isn't a house-hold name.) However, the point Wuhl was making was that the public generally doesn't care if something really happened that way as long as the re-telling is engaging.

Or do they?

Initially people believed the "scientific evidence" in Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvient Truth. Yet, in the last several years, that evidence has been debunked (read here or here or here or here).

In the past, I think it was easier for movie makers to get away with historical inaccuracies. But with the internet at easy disposal, it's far harder for them to get away with perpetuating the Pocahontas Myth  (more info here).

This past Saturday night, the kids and I watched Secretariat. Oh, it was an enjoyable family film -- for all of us, minus Jadan and his anti-equine sentiment -- but when I got to reading about the inaccuracies, I was more apathetic than bothered. (Read here and here for info on inaccuracies.) Yes, they could have written a better and more truthful script. When the Secretariat wasn't in the scene, I was bored. What actually bothered me the most about the movie was the feminist and anti-war propaganda subtly snuck in.

Well, the reading of about the Secretariat's historical inaccuracies lead me to reading about the ones in Seabiscuit.  One man wrote a review titled "Seabiscuit: Hollywood Filmed the Legand, Not the Fact!" Of course, that lead me to one called "Historical Liberties Aside, Seabiscuit is an Excellent-Piece of Movie Making." Even though I had read Laura Hillenbrand's book and did a bunch of googling after watching the movie, I didn't care so much about the liberties taken because I enjoyed the quality of the movie-making. That slow first 45 minutes where the main three characters are developed is my favorite part of the movie. I cry every time Howard cradles his dead son's body. Of course, I also was annoyed by some of the liberal glorification of Savior Federal Government, and had to ignore that narrative aspect.

While I enjoyed the movie-making aspect of The New World (Colin Farrell is John Smith, Christian Bale is John Rolfe), I was utterly annoyed by the inaccuracies. When I watched Kingdom of Heaven (Orlando Bloom), I reached "annoyed" by the 15-minute mark because even though I'm not a middle ages expert, I knew enough to be annoyed. I googled the historical facts as soon as it was over. To this day, I will not watch the movie again.

Funny thing is A Knight's Tale (Heath Ledger) is a movie I will watch again and again. Why? Because the directer knew he was taking liberties. He did it intentionally.

"[Director] Helgeland also jokes in the commentary that he chose 1970s music and hairstyles for the movie because 'the seventies are always the same,' regardless of century. More seriously, Helgeland justifies his use of music by speculating that even during the 1370s, persons in the main characters' age group would've enjoyed newer, more contemporary music than something that had been around since their great grandparents were young, and opted to use music that would affect the audience the same way late 14th century music would've affected the youth of the 1370s. Thus, Helgeland attempted to stylize the movie in such a way as to bring the Middle Ages to the audience, rather than force the audience into the Middle Ages." ~Wikipedia, A Knight's Tale.

"Bring the Middle Ages to the audience."  I like that because when I'm reading a historical romance, that's what I want the author to do. Bring the time period to me. Don't force me into it. I can read a non-fiction history book if I want that.

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY: How do you feel about historical inaccuracies in movies? Do you tolerate them as long as the movie is enjoyable? Does your enjoyment waver when you know women didn't wear hoop skirts in the later 1800s?

Let's get more specific.

What movie's inaccuracies were so blatant that you refuse to watch the movie again?

What movie's inaccuracies don't matter to you because you loved the movie despite them?

Gina Welborn worked in news radio scripting copy until she took up writing romances. She is a 2009 ACFW GENESIS historical romance finalist and a 2007 RWA GOLDEN HEART® inspirational finalist. As a member of RWA and ACFW, she’s an active contest judge and coordinator. Her inspirational historical manuscripts have also finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Duel on the Delta, Dixie, and Maggie contests. This Oklahoma-raised girl now lives in Richmond, Virginia with her youth-pastor husband, their five Okie-Hokie children, and a Sharpador Retriever who doesn’t retrieve much of anything. Her first novella, “Sugarplum Hearts,” part of the HIGHLAND CROSSINGS anthology, will be released by Barbour in January 2012.

Monday, March 28, 2011

You say Ghadaffi, they say Quadafy

 by Niki/Nikki/Nikky/Nicki/Nickie/Nicky Turner

Niki is apparently a hard name to spell. My own grandmother never got it right, but I kept her birthday cards anyway. 

The long-time leader of Libya has engendered a spelling nightmare for journalists, writers, bloggers, and the general public. The general public, of course, creates spelling nightmares all by themselves, but I digress. 
photo by quapanvia PhotoRee

Part of the trouble comes from transliterating Arabic—which has its own alphabet—into English. It's like trying to explain to a guitar player the notes on a piano. Not only are the notes presented differently on paper, they sound different.

Back in the late 1980's (the last time Libya made big headlines) their leader signed his name "Moammar El-Gadhafi" in a letter to Minnesota second-graders. (Why Mr. Gadhafi wrote to second-grade students in Minnesota is a whole 'nother subject.)

In 2009, ABC News posted 112 different spellings used by various media sources, print and online. Since the recent Libyan rebel uprising, I'm quite sure more versions have been created. Even the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times aren't in agreement. The WSJ uses a “g” and includes an "h," while the NYT uses a “q” without the "h."

Can you say "confusion"? C.O.N.F.U.S.I.O.N. 
In my job as a copyeditor at our small weekly paper, we aim for consistency. If you can't be consistently right (because there is no official "right" or "wrong") then at least be consistent with whatever you choose to use, even if it 's not correct. How painfully typical of English grammar ... and Christianity.

It's frustrating to admit that everything in the world around us isn't perfectly black and white. Whether we're talking about personal application of spiritual truth or how to spell the name of a foreign leader ... we want to know that we are "right" and we want everyone else to agree with our "rightness."

But editing, like life, is horrifically
photo by Bah Humbugvia PhotoRee
subjective. It's the infamous "tomato, to-mah-to" debate. Our individual perception—based on our personal history and experience—creates our reality and our sense of right and wrong. In your world the leader of Libya is
Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi (the usage preferred by the CIA world fact book). In my world, it might be Moammar El Gadhafi or simply, "that guy in Libya who sounds as crazy as Charlie Sheen."

However you choose to spell the Libyan leader's name, it's important to remember God's law of love supercedes every other rule, every other guideline, every doctrine of man. And it is His law of love to which we are indebted in Christ. Have you prayed for the leader of Libya lately?

Lord, You said we should pray for those who are in authority. This man, whose name YOU know, has ruled the nation of Libya for many years. Now we pray, Lord, that Your divine will may be accomplished there, that righteousness would rule and reign, and that mercy would triumph over judgment. Lord, we believe according to Your Word that you place men in authority according to Your will, and so we pray for Your will to be done as it is done in heaven. In the name of Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, amen. 
(1 Tim 2:2, Rom 13:1, Mt 6:10)

About the Author: Niki Turner has been a pastor's wife at a small church in rural northwestern Colorado since 1998. She and her husband have four children, are soon-to-be grandparents, and have been married for 20 years. Niki writes fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in addition to posting here and at Inkwell Inspirations. She is a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.  

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Family for Faith by Missy Tippens

Book Review by Suzie Johnson
If you’re a fan of fun, fast-paced contemporary romances with a small-town feel, you’ll want to make sure to read Missy Tippens’ newest book. A Family for Faith is an April release from Love Inspired and in my opinion this is Missy’s best book to date. I’ve enjoyed all of her other books, but I absolutely hands-down loved this book.

Faith Hagin is fairly new to the small town of Corinthia, Georgia, where she owns a coffee shop. Faith is looking forward to a visit from her teenage son (who lives with his father), and hopes they’ll be able to repair their broken relationship. Her failure at motherhood is something she keeps secret from the people of Corinthia, for fear no one will want to associate with her. Given the mistakes she’s made with her son, she repeatedly turns down requests that she help with the church youth group.

Chief of Police Gabe Reynolds is an over-protective father facing the fear of most fathers of young daughters: His little girl is growing up much too quickly. She wants a cell phone. She wants to wear make-up and go to boy-girl parties. Gabe wants to keep her from growing up for as long as possible.

Chelsea Reynolds is twelve going on twenty-four. When she has a difficult time getting her dad to loosen up and quit worrying so much, she pulls out all the stops and enlists Faith’s help in praying for Gabe to find a girlfriend. Unfortunately for Gabe, Chelsea makes the mistake of also asking for prayers from an elderly woman who has a fairly significant prayer network. Gabe is taken by surprise when he starts receiving dinner invitations from eligible women.

When Gabe asks Faith to help out with Chelsea, she’s reluctant to tell him how she failed as a mother. At the same time, she doesn’t want to see him make the same mistakes she did.

Finding himself attracted to Faith, Gabe his a difficult time letting go of the past. And as interested as he might be in pursuing a relationship with her, he has a hard time with the idea of someone else taking his late wife’s place.

A Family for Faith is adorable, funny, and extremely touching. I’ve said before that it’s rare for me to cry when I read a book. I can only think of three in recent years: Emily’s Chance by Sharon Gillenwater, Unspoken by Angela Hunt, and now this is one.

I was immediately caught up in Faith’s relationship with her son, but I also loved her growing relationship with Chelsea. Faith is a beautifully crafted character, and as a mother, I found it so easy to identify with her.

Chelsea is just plain lovable. Who couldn’t sympathize with a young girl eager to grow up, but desperately missing her mother at the same time?

As for Gabe… sigh… he is a sweet, gentle, wonderful, heart-melting hero. Missy created someone special when she dreamed up Gabe. He won’t be easily forgotten, and for him alone, this book is worth the read. If I were giving out a hero-of-the-year award, Gabe would certainly be my top contender.

As a fan of baseball, I loved Missy’s fun little baseball shout-out when Faith buys tickets to an Atlanta Braves vs. the San Francisco Giants game. She makes reference to her son’s favorite Giants player, without naming names. Hmmm… I wonder who that could be? If you know Missy, you’ll know exactly who that player is. If you don’t, and you’re curious, you can probably find your answers by reading her blog:

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels (writing as Susan Diane Johnson), including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards, as well as finaling in the Touched by Love, Finally A Bride, Linda Howard Award for Excellence, and Virginia Fools For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much to cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

By Lisa Karon Richardson

We’re faced with innumerable decisions every day. From the mundane to the monumental we all have to deal with making choices. Even when we can’t choose our circumstances we have to choose how to react to those circumstances.

One of my biggest struggles has been trying to find the Lord’s will as I navigate life’s maze. I’m getting better at recognizing my shepherd’s voice. It seems to come easier with familiarity. (Except for those times when I pretend I can’t hear it because I don’t like what He’s telling me. But that’s another post!)

When it comes to my writing though it is easy to be sidelined by discouragement. To question the validity of my talent, my ability, and my capacity. Authors put so much of ourselves into our writing that when it is rejected or dismissed it feels very personal. There is lots of talk in writers’ groups about developing a tough skin, and that is absolutely a must.

But even with rhino hide, when that sixth or fifteenth or thirty-third rejection letter comes in, it’s really easy to begin to doubt. I would venture to guess that the same thing holds true for anyone who is pursuing a dream.

If the goal were easy to achieve it wouldn’t be a dream. A dream is challenging and makes us stretch. A dream causes us to look not at what is, but at what could be. If your dream isn’t just a little bit impossible, maybe you’re dreaming too small.

Because of its very nature a dream is vulnerable to attack by what we consider “reality.” It’s a pretty human tendency to believe that reality is what we can see and touch, when in fact this life is the illusion, and reality is found in the spirit realm. Your destiny is not hemmed in by probability.

If you’re struggling with the decision to continue pursuing a dream or to throw in the towel I want to leave you with a thought from Cynthia Ruchti, American Christian Fiction Writers’ last president:

“God has never used discouragement to direct his people.”

If you’re in a place where you are trying to decide how to proceed, just keep that truth in mind. There are lots of valid reasons to set a goal aside, but don’t quit on your dream simply because you’re discouraged or doubting your worth. That is most definitely not the voice of your shepherd calling to you.

What dream are you pursuing? Have you ever felt like giving up? How did you find the strength to keep going?

Lisa Karon Richardson has been creating stories, since she was little. Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess her early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. It took her awhile to figure out why grandma thought it was unrealistic for boys and girls to share a room! Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, entitled Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in May, 2012.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The power of story

by Niki Turner

Whew, I'm squeaking this post in barely under deadline. I'm so far behind after spending the entire month of March in the Scottish Highlands. Not literally, to my verra great sorrow.

photo by Athanasiusvia PhotoRee

I rediscovered Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series just before the end of February. I originally read the first book in 1991, shortly after the birth of my daughter. A spirit-led fast of all fiction, coupled with the births of my three boys between 1992 and 1997, meant I never knew Gabaldon had released more books about Jamie and Claire.

The second book (Dragonfly in Amber) made me cry. Not those tidy little tears you dab away with a tissue, but the racking sob kind with lots of snot. I haven't cried over a book in a very, very long time, because I generally avoid the kinds of stories that induce tears—those involving animals, illness, and the deaths of small children and/or entire families.

As I write this, Voyager (the third book in the series) lies open on my desk at pages 698-699. I've less than 200 pages left in the story, and this post will likely be brief because I want to finish the book tonight.

A good story holds the power to transport me away from my schedule, my stress, my sleep, my social obligations, and so on. I've neglected email, Facebook, my WIP, blog reading, and more for near on a month. Dust creeps stealthily over my furnishings, unanswered messages scream for attention, and the pantry approaches famine-status (at least in the eyes of my houseful of men, for whom food that cannot be eaten straight from the package is not considered edible).

There's such unlimited power contained in story. Power that transcends the language barrier, the generation gap, political differences, culture, religion, and more. Books, whether written on paper or screen, have the power to transform the world through words.

Sometimes I think we who write forget the awesome power we wield. I fear losing the awe of the story under the weight of writing rules and the pressure of becoming published and the desire to find acceptance among other writers.

The scriptures warn us to be cautious before jumping into the role of teacher, "knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." (James 3:1) James then expounds on his warning with a message about the power of our words. Generally, his discourse is limited to the spoken word, but I believe we must consider the written word as well, both nonfiction AND fiction.

photo by Muffetvia PhotoRee

Do I think this means everything we write has to be "chapter and verse"? No. I merely think we must remind ourselves of the magnitude of power we hold as we spin tales of romance and mystery and history and more ... power to change lives, move hearts, inspire confidence and faith, and encourage acts of love and kindness.

  1. What was the last book you read that made you cry?
  2. In what ways has your life been changed by the power of story?

     Niki Turner writes romantic fiction, Christian non-fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. Her first completed manuscript won second place in the 2009 Touched By Love contest for contemporary category romance.
      Colorado natives, Niki and her husband of 20+ years have four children  (three at home) and are soon-to-be grandparents. In 1998 they planted a church in rural northwestern Colorado. Currently, they share their home with three teenage boys, two black Lab mutts, and Niki’s absurdly spoiled Westie, Archie.

     Niki can be found at In Truer Ink, her personal blog and website, here at Inkwell Inspirations, and at The Pastor’s Wife Speaks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

19th Century Coffee Taverns

by Anita Mae Draper

For all those readers who thought the British only drank tea, I have a story for you. And if you think coffee bars and baristas are a new trend, think again. Back in 1885, coffee houses – or coffee taverns, as they were sometimes called – were all the rage in Britain, and to a lesser extent in Europe and North America.

These coffee taverns were in direct response to the poverty and hopelessness of the British lower class who used alcohol to escape their wretched living conditions. Drinking affected all levels of society. Everyone suffered as men drank their pay away. Families came apart as wives waited days for their husbands to return. Sons followed in their fathers’ footsteps as they realized the futility of their lives. Debtor’s prison flourished. Industry lagged. Wars were lost. All because the people tried to escape into alcohol.

In 1853 Captain George Bayly and his wife, Mary decided to do something. They took the novel approach of inviting 16 of the dregs of society home for an evening of companionship and tea and urging them to sign a pledge of abstinence. Five men signed that night. Within a year, 100 men had signed the pledge and a cry had been heard. “We want a public-house without the drink.”* This led to the opening of coffee taverns where working men could go to relax without the temptation and availability of alcohol.

Since the working men often carried their meals to work, the public coffee houses wouldn’t supply meals, but rather offer a comfortable place to eat them while enjoying a hot drink and companionship. Because they realized that many soldiers and sailors were single, however, the coffee houses sold nourishing bowls of soup. Sites were made available down near the docks and industrial areas where the men worked. Since the whole idea was to compete against the alcoholic taverns and to save the workmen money so they could bring it home to their families, the bill of fare items were sold at the lowest price possible while still making a profit.

The idea of public coffee houses were to give the men a club as an alternate when they would have gone drinking in a tavern instead of going home. Comfortable furniture and homey accents incited men to linger as they drank the best tasting, unadulterated coffee, tea, or cocoa. A reading room provided daily and weekly newspapers. A smoking room encouraged relaxation and card playing for entertainment.

After ten years of flourishing, thousands of homes were happy as the man of the house was saved from the alcoholism. And then the movement began to fail.

By 1886 only a few coffee taverns were left and those that were still open were bare of customers. Why did such a brilliant scheme fail? One of the reasons was greed. Managers wanted more profit and offered watered down, muddy-brown beverages that tasted like ‘horse-beans, rotten dates and burnt figs’. The men wanted more substantive meals than just the soups, especially when they had to return to a labour-intensive job. Newspapers were fine, but the men wanted magazines and literature like modern novels. Although women made up half the population, they were barred from the coffee houses unlike the alcoholic drinking establishments. The men who enjoyed their smokes didn’t like to be sequestered in a back room away from the rest of the crowd. In order to provide a friendly, calming atmosphere, loud boisterous conversations weren’t allowed. Some managers posted signs at the entrance which read, "No Bad Language Permitted" and went so far as to forbid group discussions so that the rooms had the sound of a library and not the place where men gather. Together, these negative aspects caused the downfall of the public coffee house movement.**

As I wrote this post, I couldn't help wondering - where were the churches during this time in history? I welcome your thoughts on this movement, its origins and it's failure.

Fun Question: What's your favourite hot beverage?

*The Foundation of Death: A Study of the Drink-Question by Alex Gustafson, Published by Ginn, Heath and Company, 1885
**The Coffee Public-House News and Temperance Hotel Journal, July 16, 1885
Photos: The Coffee Public-House News, 1878-1885

Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. In 2005, Anita Mae decided to return to writing and make it a priority in her life. She writes old west stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Her characters are strong because the land demands it. Anita Mae likes to write characters who sit up and notice when that special person God’s chosen just for them walks by. The story is all about the courtship between the two main characters. But it won’t be an easy path. And if they don’t know about God at the beginning of the book, they will by the end. Anita Mae has finaled in the 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest in the Inspirational category, the 2008 Gateway to the Best in the Contemporary Series category, and the 2008 Golden Gateway in the Long Contemporary category. She’s currently waiting to hear the phone ring and have someone say they want to buy Emma’s Outlaw. Meanwhile, she’s working on another story and trying to keep her imagination in check. A pathological picture taker, she usually has a photo or two of the quirky world she lives in on her blog at

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recognizing the Awesomeness of God

by Jennifer AlLee

I am often baffled by the children of Israel. The Old Testament is chock full of stories where God's chosen people doubt him, question him, even rebel against him. Now, I'm not saying I expected them to be perfect. But you would think that after seeing him do miraculous things, such as parting the Red Sea, the people would have a bit more faith.

Jesus' disciples weren't much better. They hung out with the Son of God for three years. They walked the roads with him, sat in boats, slept under the same roofs. They saw him heal the sick, raise the dead, and walk on water. Yet they never really seemed to understand his mission. At least not until after his resurrection.

I'd like to think that if I lived back in Bible-days, I would have recognized the power and majesty of God. If I had stood before Jesus, seen what the disciples saw, surely I would have gotten it. I mean, how can you miss it when the miracles are right in front of your eyes?

But it's really not that simple, is it? If I'm honest, I know that God shows me miracles every day. The beauty and power of his creation is all around me. It's all around you. Any of you ladies who've given birth know exactly what I mean. Or think of our own bodies. The human eye alone is a marvel that can't be duplicated in a lab. Only the Creator of the Universe could make something as amazing as that out of nothing.

Still, I doubt. I let worry creep into my life. I try to fix things, certain that if I don't, everything will fall apart. I forget, or ignore, that God is so much bigger than me. He's bigger than my troubles. And he's more than capable of providing for me in ways I could never imagine. There's a scripture in James that I first came across a few months ago. Now, it seems to pop up all over the place.
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. (James 4:12-16, NLT)
I don't believe James is telling us not to plan ahead. I think what he's condemning is when we make plans without consulting the Lord. When we move forward, not out of prayerful conviction that we're doing God's will, but out of fear that we must take control and make things work... that's when we get into trouble.

It's a lesson I need to learn daily. My prayer for all of us is that we will rest in the Lord's goodness, knowing that his plans are the best plans.


JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her first novel, The Love of His Brother, was released by Five Star Publishers in November 2007. Her latest novel, The Pastor’s Wife, was released by Abingdon Press in February 2010. Her upcoming novel, The Mother Road, will be released by Abingdon Press in April 2012. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

After the Darkness, Light…


The Begotten, The Betrayed, The Blessed.
The Gifted Trilogy by Lisa T. Bergren

An ancient secret. Dark forces that want to keep the secret hidden at all costs. An unlikely group of God’s faithful followers who are willing to stand up to those dark forces…

If you love history, adventure, romance, sweeping landscapes, and spiritual truths, The Gifted Trilogy by Lisa T. Bergren, set in 1339 Italia is a must-read series that sweeps readers from Roma to Provence, and so many wonderful places in-between.

In Corinthians, Paul speaks talks about spiritual gifts. What if there was another letter written by Paul, one that didn’t make it into the Holy Scriptures? A lost letter that once revealed, foretells the gifted, whose powerful gifts include healing, wisdom, miraculous powers, visions and faith?

Lisa Bergren plunges readers directly into the intrigue as the series opens in Constantinople, in 731, where a faithful monk is willing to lose his life over his divinely inspired illuminations of a letter that appears to have been written by the Apostle Paul. The monk's determination sets into motion a series of events that, centuries later, will bring an unlikely group of people together on a holy journey.

1339 Roma…
While Lady Daria d’Angelo is taking refuge at a convent to heal from her broken heart she makes a surprising discovery. She has a gift of healing. A woman of incredible faith, Daria immediately recognizes this is a spiritual gift from God. Father Piero, a priest at the convent, also recognizes the gift and soon takes Daria into his confidence. She is one of the gifted.

Daria agrees to go along with Father Piero on this journey. As they leave the convent, they come upon an injured knight. Gianni de Capezzana, captain of the Knights de Vaticana, was on a mission to find the sorcerer, when he was wounded and left for dead. After his encounter with Daria, Gianni pledges his loyalty to her and withdraws from his service to the church. Gianni has a strong belief that God wants him here, guarding Daria from an unseen, but very real danger.

As the gifted ones begin to slowly discover each other, dark forces converge to conspire against them. Danger lurks everywhere, and Lisa Bergren doesn’t spare her characters with an easy out. After the darkness, light, becomes a concept they use to keep pushing forward as, for the glory of the Lord, they search for the strength to face their evil foe with their eyes focused on Him.

I must confess I’ve been a little apprehensive about presenting this recommendation, simply because this series is so captivating and powerful that I don’t want to risk doing a bit of injustice to the books or the author. The descriptions are breathtaking, the action heart-pounding, and the truth soul-stirring.

The journey begins in The Begotten. The battle is fierce in The Betrayed. Events happen in The Blessed that I never would have expected. Without giving anything away, as cliché as it sounds, the book lived up to the title and I truly felt blessed while reading it. In fact, several weeks ago, fellow Inky Dina Sleiman asked if we’ve ever read a book that changed our lives. I was reading The Blessed at the time. It honestly changed something in me and opened my eyes to a new way to think about something I’ve been struggling with.

The Gifted Trilogy is an incredible series, and so worth every minute spent within the pages.

You can visit Lisa’s website at:, where you can read about her back list, her upcoming books, and so many other fun things. Lisa’s newest book, Waterfall, is the first book in her River of Time series.

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels (writing as Susan Diane Johnson), including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards, as well as finaling in the Touched by Love, Finally A Bride, Linda Howard Award for Excellence, and Virginia’s Fool For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much to cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at

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