Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Movie Reviews

Since today is Good Friday, I thought I would review two of my favorite Easter movies.

The first is really more of a Passover movie than an Easter movie, but since Passover is a depiction of Christ's atoning sacrifice for His people and since, of course, this IS Passover, too, I feel it is especially appropriate. 

I'll be the first to admit I am a sucker for old movies, especially old movies in the style of the great Hollywood studios.  One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments.  Yes it's sometimes pompous and silly and often overwrought, but how could you resist that all-star cast?  Charlton Heston as Moses, Yul Brynner as Rameses, Anne Baxter as Nefretiri, Edward G. Robinson as Dathan, Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora, Debra Paget as Lilia, Judith Anderson as Memnet, Vincent Price as Baka, and John Carradine as Aaron. 

I always especially enjoy Sir Cedric Hardwicke's sly performance as Seti and John Derek's earnest Joshua (maybe just because he was SO cute).  The movie is lush and always a visual delight and seeing death itself pour into Egypt's streets to claim the firstborn always chills me.  And, after the dramatic parting of the Red Sea and Rameses' defeat, I love to hear his grudging declaration concerning Moses' triumph:  "His God IS God."

The other movie I would like to review is Jesus of Nazareth.  Filmed in 1977 as a miniseries, it was directed by  Franco Zeffirelli, and his touch shows in the lavish sets and costumes.  Jesus is portrayed by Robert Powell, blue eyed and ethereal, not exactly Jewish, but his performance is touching and memorable.
This movie also boasts an all-star cast:

    Anne Bancroft as Mary Magdalene
    Ernest Borgnine as the Roman Centurion
   James Farentino as Peter
    James Earl Jones as Balthazar
    Stacy Keach as Barabbas
   James Mason as Joseph of Arimathea
   Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus
    Donald Pleasence as Melchior
    Christopher Plummer as Herod Antipas
    Anthony Quinn as Caiaphas
   Ralph Richardson as Simeon
    Rod Steiger as Pontius Pilate
    Peter Ustinov as Herod the Great
    Michael York as John the Baptist

I particularly enjoy Olivier's Nicodemus as he puzzles over what it means to be born again.  The crucifixion scene, though I'm certain not as harrowing as the one from The Passion of the Christ, is certainly brutal and heartbreaking enough.  And when they take Jesus from the cross, in the pouring rain and His mother wails out her grief, I am always touched by Mary Magdalene kneeling silently in the mud, kissing His feet.

Of course, there are many movies depicting Jesus' life, death and resurrection.  Ben Hur is another in grand Hollywood style.  And King of Kings with Jeffrey Hunter is also a favorite.  Of course, Hollywood never seems to get everything exactly right, but this is truly the greatest story ever told, and it has power no matter how imperfectly it is portrayed.

I hope I'll get a chance to watch both of these movies this weekend.  What are your favorite Easter movies?

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic and The Key in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries will debut in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

If My Life Were A Book...

by Jennifer AlLee

I have always loved books. Certainly, this comes as no surprise, as being a writer who didn't love books would like being a jockey who couldn't stand horses. It doesn't make much sense.

When I was a kid, I would reread books over and over. Among my favorite rereads were the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read those books until the bindings were falling apart. I loved them so much, I used to imagine what it would be like to be Laura, to live on the prairie, and do all the things she did.

I think part of my fascination with those books is because I always lived in the city. I grew up in Hollywood, after all. Being a country gal was a very romantic idea, and it stuck with me for a long time. That is, until I had a chance to live it out.

During college, I was able to spend a summer in Montana on a real ranch. I got to experience all kinds of new things. Some of them were great: riding a horse bareback, making cinnamon rolls from scratch, and picking wild strawberries. And some of them were not so great: mucking out stalls, taking a bath in the ice-cold crick, and being bitten by mosquitoes over 100 times while picking wild strawberries. It was a great experience, but it proved to me that I wasn't cut out for the country life.

Thinking about living out my literary dream made me wonder... Have YOU ever wished you could live out a book? If you could transplant yourself into another time period, another setting, another pair of shoes, what would it be? Let's have some fun with this!

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 novels include The Love of His Brother (Five Star, 11/07), The Pastor’s Wife (Abingdon Press, 2/10), The Mother Road (Abingdon Press, 4/12) and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (Abingdon Press, 11/12). She's thrilled to be working on her first historical series with the amazing Lisa Karon Richardson. Diamond in the Rough is the first book in the Charm and Deceit series, to be released May 2013 by Whitaker House. And... as if that's not enough, her novella Comfort and Joy will appear in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories (Barbour, 9/13) She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.
Visit Jennifer's website at

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Secret Underground

By Lisa Karon Richardson

My recent post about the time capsule Parisian apartment got me thinking about secret places and abandoned spaces. I remembered a story I had read about a secret underground built in New York City 30 years before the officially sanctioned subway project got underway. It happened this way:

Alfred Ely Beach, inventor, editor for Scientific America, and owner of the Beach Pneumatic Transit Company had an idea for a subway system using pneumatic pressure to power the cars. Several groups had attempted to propose such a system, but had met barriers due to concerns that tunneling would cause buildings to cave in and undermine the entire city.

After being denied a permit to build his underground transit system. Beach applied to Tammany Hall and received permits to build a pneumatic package delivery system. This was originally to consist of two small tunnels from Warren Street to Cedar Street. These permits were later changed to reflect a single large tunnel in order to “simplify construction.”

Beach, gutsy guy that he was, then set about constructing his tunnel right beneath City Hall. It was meant to be a showpiece. An example, that would have citizens clamoring for more of this new method of travel.

To maintain secrecy, the digging and carting away of debris was done at night and everything went through Devlin’s Clothing Store on Warren Street. The tunnel was completed in just about two months. Then Beach brought in artisans to make the Warren Street station beautiful. When it was done the station was replete with mosaics, a goldfish fountain, a grand piano, and zircon lighting. It ran about a block on lower Broadway in Manhattan between Murray and Warren Streets.

Beach opened his technological marvel to the public on February 26, 1870. The car was essentially a large tube. It was furnished with couches and could hold up to 22 passengers at once with an airtight door to maintain the pneumatic propulsion. He sold 11,000 rides in its first two weeks of operation at $.05 each. Visitors came for the novelty. They gawked at the elaborate station and thought it beautiful. But it was little more than a curiosity to New Yorkers.

In 1873 the tunnel was closed for lack of passengers and the experiment was over. 

Beach and the amazing tunnel he created were completely forgotten by the citizens he hoped to serve until 1912 when a construction crew working on excavation for the BMT Broadway Subway line found the remains at the south end of the tunnel and the wooden remains of the car. They kept on with their project, completely destroying the original tunnel in the process. (Beach had passed away but his successors sued over the destruction of their property!) The lavish Warren Street station was destroyed when the building above it was demolished and rebuilt.

I have to say I was sad to find out that this 19th century marvel hadn’t been preserved for tourists of today. I’d have loved to give it a try.
The pneumatic tunnel when it was discovered in 1912.

How about you? Would you be willing to ride in a pneumatic tube like you were a bank deposit? What do you think of Mr. Beach’s chutzpah in moving forward with his plans secretly?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. 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 newest release, The Magistrate’s Folly, is available now. And look for Diamond in the Rough, co-authored with Jennifer AlLee coming May 1st.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Eastery Yet?

 by Susanne Dietze

Time for some Better Homes and Gardens Talk.

How do you make your house look Easter-y? Do you hide eggs? Do you prefer pastel eggs or brighter colors? Will you have an Easter lily in your house? Ham for dinner, or something different?

(For the record, my house has a few Easter decorations of a pastel nature, and if the jonquils in the yard are blooming, I'll cut some stems and bring them inside. For dinner, we’ll have ham, asparagus, and a potato casserole.)

Since I’m the wife of a pastor who’s happily exhausted by Easter afternoon, our Easter Day traditions are simple. After a joyful celebration of the Resurrection at church, the kids hide plastic eggs multiple times for the joy of finding them, and in the evening we eat a nice, yet undemanding dinner while wearing sweatpants.
© Trexec | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Easter is the foundation of our faith as Christians, for it's through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that we have received new birth into a living hope (1 Pet. 1-3 NIV). As Christians, our desire is to "...know him and the power of his resurrection..." (Phil. 3:10 ESV). Therefore we keep a holy Easter.

We all have traditions to commemorate holidays, but at Easter, I think it’s a treasure when we follow traditions that remind us Jesus conquered the cross and grave for us.

Here are a few of my personal traditions (it's striking how many of them have to do with food):

Hot Cross Buns--more please! The icing cross on top of these breakfast buns reminds us of the true meaning of Easter. I confess I could easily become addicted to Panera’s hot cross buns, made super-scrumptious with candied orange peel and strawberries. But instead of indulging, we try to keep them as a special treat, remembering Jesus when we eat them.
© Teekaygee | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Several years ago we bought Resurrection Eggs from the Bible book store. There are a dozen plastic, hollow eggs in a cute little carton, and inside each egg is symbols of the Easter story (a donkey for Palm Sunday, a chalice for Maundy Thursday, a spear). You open one egg a day for twelve days, accompanied by a short devotional.

Attending Church services during the week keeps me grounded and focused. In my denomination, we offer services on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so we go into Easter having journeyed with Jesus through Holy Week.

At some point, I'll watch “The Passion” (starring Jim Caviezel), because it's is a visceral reminder to me of what Jesus endured for my sake.

Dyeing eggs with my kids happens on Friday or Saturday. No wonder eggs have long been symbols of Easter, with their hard shells representing the tomb, and the hatching chick symbolizing the new life of Resurrection. There could be other yummy reasons, too: since Lent is a season of fasting, Christians boiled eggs laid during Holy Week to preserve them for Easter, and it’s interesting to note some countries’ traditional Easter dinners contain boiled eggs (Hungarians eat them with potatoes, while Spaniards enjoy them in hornazo).

As for our family's eggs? They generally end up in sandwiches, but I can tell my husband’s gunning for deviled eggs.
Resurrection Cookies are another fun (and tasty) tradition that helps direct our eyes to our Risen Lord. They're meringue cookies, and if you make them, let me know how they turn out!

You’ll need:
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
a pinch salt
1 cup sugar
a zipper baggie
1 wooden spoon
scotch tape
  • Preheat oven to 300F. Line cookie sheet with wax paper.
  • Place pecans in baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by Roman soldiers. (Set aside the baggie.) Read: John 19:1-3
  • Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar to drink. Read: John 19:28-30
  • Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life.Read: John 10:10-11
  • Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin.Read: Luke 23:27
  • Add 1 cup sugar to the bowl. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him.Read: Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16
  • Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.Read: Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3
  • Fold in beaten pecans. Drop cookie batter by teaspoon onto waxed paper-covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read: Matthew 27:57-60
  • Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus tomb was sealed. Read: Matthew 27:65-66
  • Leave the cookies alone and go to bed. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read: John 16:20,22
  • On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.Read: Matthew 28:1-9
What about you? What are some of your Easter traditions?

In the mood for a spring outing? Wednesday, come visit me on Regency Reflections, where I'm posting on what it would have been like to visit the zoo (The Royal Menagerie in London) during the Regency. Here's a teaser: Monkey Attack.


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. Susanne is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. You can visit her on her website,

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Diary in the Attic

by C.J. Chase

It’s always a special day when I can introduce a book written by a friend. The Diary in the Attic by fellow Inkwell contributor DeAnna Julie Dodson is part of the Annie’s Attic Mystery series.

While searching the attic for her grandmother’s Easter-themed table linens, Annie Dawson stumbles upon a box contain a diary (dated 1943) and other World War II memorabilia. Did the young couple in the letters marry or did war end their chance for a happily ever after?

From the inside front cover:

Lilly saw Mrs. Lambert standing in the front window, clutching the curtain in one hand and a paper of some kind in the other. She was at the door before Lilly could knock.
Sobbing out a broken torrent of German, the older woman pulled Lilly inside and sat down with her on the sofa. She held out the paper in her hand. A telegram. The telegram.
“Peter,” she managed to say. “Peter!”

Annie Dawson’s discovery of a diary in the attic of Grey Gables, the Victorian-era home she inherited from her grandmother, Betty Holden, has set her on a mission. The diary reveals a poignant love story from World War II, a story cut short when young Peter Lambert goes off to the European Theater, leaving his young girlfriend, Lilly Pryce, with a promise: He will come back to her.

But that promise is smashed when Peter’s mother receives notice from the War Department that Peter is missing and presumed dead while on a mission behind enemy lines.

Lilly’s diary brings into focus Annie’s personal tragedy—and her growing relationship with Ian Butler, Stony Point’s handsome mayor. Did Lilly find a new love after her loss of Peter?

She is also intrigued by the discovery of several V-mail letters form Peter to Lilly and several photographs. Annie wonders: Whatever happened to Lilly after Peter’s death? Where is she now? How did such personal belongings end up in her grandmother’s attic.

With the help of her best friend, Alice MacFarlane, and the other members of the Hook and Needle Club, Annie sets out to find the answers to this latest mystery. Along the way, they may also find the answer to that age-old dilemma: Can love once lost become love found again?

Annie locates the diary’s owner in an assisted living apartment near Stony Point. But what happened to Lilly’s handsome beau? The last available information from the War Department listed him as MIA. Can Annie discover his fate and bring closure to an 87-year-old woman’s remaining time—or will her questions resurrect old wounds and betrayals best left buried in the past?

This is a gentle mystery. And while Stony Point bears more than a passing resemblance to Jessica Fletcher’s (Murder, She Wrote) Cabot Cove—right down to the picturesque, Victorian-era coastal Maine town—you won’t find any dead bodies here.

The Annie’s Attic Mystery series is only available to subscribers in either (or both) hardcover and digital formats. You might also check your local library for copies. (And if you library doesn’t have them, be sure to ask if they will order them.)

If you like cozy mysteries with small town settings, here's a new series for you to check out.

Do you like mysteries? Do you have another favorite mystery series (either book or TV) that you think Inkwell readers might want to check out?

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her current release, The Reluctant Earl, is now available at retailers such as Walmart and Kmart and in online bookstores. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do you love YOU?

 by Niki Turner

Jesus was pretty clear about the commandments He considers most important...
Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." 
Matt 22:37-40 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
Love the Lord your God... check.
love your neighbor photo: Love Your Neighbor ph-10801.jpgLove your neighbor... check. you love yourself.


Christians, particularly Christian women, are often terrible at keeping the third part of those instructions.  I know I am. 

I've been battling with some physical symptoms for the last month or two. Upon seeking God's wisdom and direction as to a course of diagnosis and treatment, I felt a distinct conviction from the Holy Spirit about something I've been doing. Now, you might think I'd be convicted about my eating habits, or my exercise program, or my (lack) of a consistent sleeping routine, but that's not what I sensed the Holy Spirit prodding me about. 

In a nutshell, He told me I need to stop being so mean. To me. My negative attitude and words about myself are as dangerous and detrimental as ingesting any external poison, and until I put a stop to my toxic tongue, I'm thwarting my own progress toward health and well-being.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 
James 3:5-11 NKJV
Consider this: Would you talk to anyone else the way you talk to yourself? Would you castigate a loved one for an error or accident?  Would you write off a friend as worthless because of a failed job, marriage, or other assignment? Would you look at a beloved friend standing beside you in the mirror and say vicious, terrible things about her appearance? Would you verbally abuse your mother/sister/daughter by calling her stupid, fat, ugly, or a failure? 

Of course not! That's not walking in love! 

But when was the last time you said ugly, mean, hateful things to (or about) yourself, whether in your mind or aloud? For many of us, it's a perpetual habit which I believe grieves the Lord, and has a detrimental effect on our minds and bodies. Put simply, being mean and nasty to yourself is as much a breach of the Lord's commandment as being cruel to your fellow man or ignoring and denying God Himself. 


So the next time you're tempted to criticize, belittle, and abuse yourself for whatever reason, remember... if you wouldn't say it to your neighbor, don't say it to yourself. It's OK to love yourself, to be kind to YOU, to grant yourself the same unconditional love you grant to your family and friends. Today I challenge you to talk to yourself like one of God's dearest, most precious, most beloved children today, because that is who you are!  
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God — you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration — what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.

Ps 139:13-16 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

 Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of two. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.

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