By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Category: Fiction Review (page 1 of 11)

What I’m Reading: Courting Calla

The sun is shining and the blue sky is dotted with fluffy white clouds. After what seems like endless rain in southern Illinois, it is finally a beautiful summer day. Of course the sun brings heat, which I’ve never dealt well with. Maybe that’s why I favor autumn. There is one thing I enjoy about summer. It’s not the beach. I don’t go swimming very often. It’s not hiking. I’ll wait until cooler weather when stepping on a copperhead is less of a possibility. It’s not even grilling out. We don’t save that for summer in my house. We grill all year long.

In summer, the one perk that comes with the heat is that it’s the perfect weather to enjoy a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than the sweet, tanginess of lemonade. It doesn’t have to be fresh, but it does have to be good. No canned lemonade. If I’m not making it myself, I’ll spring for the good stuff. My absolute favorite is Simply Lemonade’s Raspberry Lemonade. One glass has the perfect balance of flavor for cooling off during the hot summer days.

There are days I need a lemonade type book to read. Long, tiring, stressful weeks cry out for a quick, refreshing dose of fiction with just the right amount of sweet and strife. As I’ve been trying to adjust to a new schedule and job, it’s definitely been one of those weeks. I wanted a refreshing story to help calm my mind and entertain me. God blessed me by bringing Courting Calla by Hallee Bridgeman to my attention.

Calla’s crush on Ian has gone unnoticed in the years they’ve worked for the same company. Though in the same business, one is high up the ladder of executive success while the other struggles to make ends meet with her clerical job.  It’s not hard to understand how she’s seen him but until her broken down car forces the issue, he’s not seen her.

Misunderstanding and embarrassment bring Ian and Calla together. Shared interests and easy conversation keep them coming back to each other. The dark clouds on the horizon of their summer sky are those that come from two ends of the social spectrum coming together and a secret shame Calla has shared only with her closest friend.

Calla’s own step-mother has been using her identity for years, piling up debt in Calla’s name. Grief and embarrassment have kept Calla from having the funds to pursue her culinary education while enslaved to bills she should never have been responsible for. Just as she’s ready to handle the situation, the truth comes out in a devastating way.  Her predicament is hard enough to face, but when it leaves Ian wondering if she thought he was her ticket out of trouble instead of the love of her life, things go from bad to worse.

You’ll have to read Courting Calla for yourself to find out if blue skies return for Ian and Calla. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I think you should enjoy it this summer with a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade for a refreshing afternoon all around.

By the Book: Great stories and cool drinks are wonderful for refreshing yourself after a long week. But don’t forget you need times of spiritual refreshing too. While you may enjoy the ministries God has brought into your life, they still demand time, energy, and focus. Giving without taking time to recharge isn’t good for you or for those you’re ministering to. Find a quiet place to meditate on a favorite Psalm. Follow it up with your favorite praise music and a time of thankful prayer.

Check out Courting Calla for yourself:

What I'm Reading: Courting Calla

The sun is shining and the blue sky is dotted with fluffy white clouds. After what seems like endless rain in southern Illinois, it is finally a beautiful summer day. Of course the sun brings heat, which I’ve never dealt well with. Maybe that’s why I favor autumn. There is one thing I enjoy about summer. It’s not the beach. I don’t go swimming very often. It’s not hiking. I’ll wait until cooler weather when stepping on a copperhead is less of a possibility. It’s not even grilling out. We don’t save that for summer in my house. We grill all year long.
In summer, the one perk that comes with the heat is that it’s the perfect weather to enjoy a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than the sweet, tanginess of lemonade. It doesn’t have to be fresh, but it does have to be good. No canned lemonade. If I’m not making it myself, I’ll spring for the good stuff. My absolute favorite is Simply Lemonade’s Raspberry Lemonade. One glass has the perfect balance of flavor for cooling off during the hot summer days.
There are days I need a lemonade type book to read. Long, tiring, stressful weeks cry out for a quick, refreshing dose of fiction with just the right amount of sweet and strife. As I’ve been trying to adjust to a new schedule and job, it’s definitely been one of those weeks. I wanted a refreshing story to help calm my mind and entertain me. God blessed me by bringing Courting Calla by Hallee Bridgeman to my attention.
Calla’s crush on Ian has gone unnoticed in the years they’ve worked for the same company. Though in the same business, one is high up the ladder of executive success while the other struggles to make ends meet with her clerical job.  It’s not hard to understand how she’s seen him but until her broken down car forces the issue, he’s not seen her.
Misunderstanding and embarrassment bring Ian and Calla together. Shared interests and easy conversation keep them coming back to each other. The dark clouds on the horizon of their summer sky are those that come from two ends of the social spectrum coming together and a secret shame Calla has shared only with her closest friend.
Calla’s own step-mother has been using her identity for years, piling up debt in Calla’s name. Grief and embarrassment have kept Calla from having the funds to pursue her culinary education while enslaved to bills she should never have been responsible for. Just as she’s ready to handle the situation, the truth comes out in a devastating way.  Her predicament is hard enough to face, but when it leaves Ian wondering if she thought he was her ticket out of trouble instead of the love of her life, things go from bad to worse.
You’ll have to read Courting Calla for yourself to find out if blue skies return for Ian and Calla. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I think you should enjoy it this summer with a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade for a refreshing afternoon all around.
By the Book: Great stories and cool drinks are wonderful for refreshing yourself after a long week. But don’t forget you need times of spiritual refreshing too. While you may enjoy the ministries God has brought into your life, they still demand time, energy, and focus. Giving without taking time to recharge isn’t good for you or for those you’re ministering to. Find a quiet place to meditate on a favorite Psalm. Follow it up with your favorite praise music and a time of thankful prayer.
Check out Courting Calla for yourself:

What I’m Reading: Red Rose Bouquet

Tall. Apparently it’s how people describe me. Don’t worry if you’ve mentioned my height in conversation. I’m used to it, and it doesn’t offend me. At a hair below six feet without shoes on, I know I’m tall for a woman.

So when I met a couple fellow Mantle Rock Publishing authors at a conference recently and I learned they were told to look for “the really tall one”, I understood completely. It probably is the trait you would lead with because it’s the one that people will see first.

My height used to bother me. I was taller than a lot of guys, and it was one in a long list of things I was self-conscious about. I’ve grown out of that. When I’m told people of my height shouldn’t wear heels, I shrug and do it anyway. I like wedge sandals, boots, and other wedge heeled shoes. If they’re cute, I don’t care that they make me even taller. I own the “tall one” label.

Not all labels are as easily accepted. Often we allow the mistakes of the past to become our label. When we do, we let those events or traits or mistakes dictate our futures. Just ask Cheryl Thompson from Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald. Cheryl’s been going through life with one fling after another. She’s a successful in her profession, but her personal life is a wreck.

When her brother calls her back home, Cheryl is not prepared for the memories she has to face there. And she definitely isn’t ready for Brock Kelly, her brother’s best friend. He doesn’t fall easily into the love him and leave him place Cheryl has reserved for the men in her life. He challenges her and awakens hope for something better in her life. But he doesn’t know about the one big secret, the huge regret in her life that Cheryl has used to label herself for more than ten years. If Brock knew who she really was, he would never look at her the same way again and he definitely wouldn’t be offering hope.

When the truth comes out, the relationship between Cheryl and Brock is stretched to the limit. It becomes obvious that Brock’s love and acceptance is never going to be enough. Cheryl needs to understand the way God sees her and the decision from her past if she’s ever going to heal.

Some labels are pretty painless, like being “the tall one”. Ones like Cheryl’s are devastating. Cheryl made a sinful decision, and it haunted her for years. Whether it’s sinful or simply a horrible choice one regrets, we tattoo the labels they create onto our hearts. Failure, loser, worthless, or worse names than these become the thing we see when we look in the mirror each day. But they don’t have to be.

When we give our sins and failures over to God, we allow Him to bring something beautiful out of the mess we’ve created. God promises if we confess our sinful choices to Him, if we turn from them, He will forgive us. We may still face physical consequences of our choices, but we are forgiven. He’s not keeping tally in heaven to hold over us later.

And more than forgiven (and that’s a huge thing), we’re wanted. We’re loved. We’re children of God. We’re redeemed. We belong. We have purpose. We are chosen by the Creator of the universe. We are His. Forever.

When we allow God’s forgiveness it’s work in our lives and turn away from our sins, our old labels are erased. We may face the pain from our choices in the future, but we don’t have to let it define us and tell us we are less than. We don’t have to be trapped by regret. We are forgiven. When the past tries to close in on us and move us into a cycle of continuing bad choices, we can say no. We can remind ourselves of our new labels. These are labels given to us by God and found in His word. They are for all who have accepted God’s gift of redemption for themselves. They are labels that allow us to move forward in confidence and peace. They are labels that help us move beyond our past failures and hurts. And they are labels that no man can ever erase.

What I'm Reading: Red Rose Bouquet

Tall. Apparently it’s how people describe me. Don’t worry if you’ve mentioned my height in conversation. I’m used to it, and it doesn’t offend me. At a hair below six feet without shoes on, I know I’m tall for a woman.
So when I met a couple fellow Mantle Rock Publishing authors at a conference recently and I learned they were told to look for “the really tall one”, I understood completely. It probably is the trait you would lead with because it’s the one that people will see first.
My height used to bother me. I was taller than a lot of guys, and it was one in a long list of things I was self-conscious about. I’ve grown out of that. When I’m told people of my height shouldn’t wear heels, I shrug and do it anyway. I like wedge sandals, boots, and other wedge heeled shoes. If they’re cute, I don’t care that they make me even taller. I own the “tall one” label.
Not all labels are as easily accepted. Often we allow the mistakes of the past to become our label. When we do, we let those events or traits or mistakes dictate our futures. Just ask Cheryl Thompson from Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald. Cheryl’s been going through life with one fling after another. She’s a successful in her profession, but her personal life is a wreck.
When her brother calls her back home, Cheryl is not prepared for the memories she has to face there. And she definitely isn’t ready for Brock Kelly, her brother’s best friend. He doesn’t fall easily into the love him and leave him place Cheryl has reserved for the men in her life. He challenges her and awakens hope for something better in her life. But he doesn’t know about the one big secret, the huge regret in her life that Cheryl has used to label herself for more than ten years. If Brock knew who she really was, he would never look at her the same way again and he definitely wouldn’t be offering hope.
When the truth comes out, the relationship between Cheryl and Brock is stretched to the limit. It becomes obvious that Brock’s love and acceptance is never going to be enough. Cheryl needs to understand the way God sees her and the decision from her past if she’s ever going to heal.
Some labels are pretty painless, like being “the tall one”. Ones like Cheryl’s are devastating. Cheryl made a sinful decision, and it haunted her for years. Whether it’s sinful or simply a horrible choice one regrets, we tattoo the labels they create onto our hearts. Failure, loser, worthless, or worse names than these become the thing we see when we look in the mirror each day. But they don’t have to be.
When we give our sins and failures over to God, we allow Him to bring something beautiful out of the mess we’ve created. God promises if we confess our sinful choices to Him, if we turn from them, He will forgive us. We may still face physical consequences of our choices, but we are forgiven. He’s not keeping tally in heaven to hold over us later.
And more than forgiven (and that’s a huge thing), we’re wanted. We’re loved. We’re children of God. We’re redeemed. We belong. We have purpose. We are chosen by the Creator of the universe. We are His. Forever.
When we allow God’s forgiveness it’s work in our lives and turn away from our sins, our old labels are erased. We may face the pain from our choices in the future, but we don’t have to let it define us and tell us we are less than. We don’t have to be trapped by regret. We are forgiven. When the past tries to close in on us and move us into a cycle of continuing bad choices, we can say no. We can remind ourselves of our new labels. These are labels given to us by God and found in His word. They are for all who have accepted God’s gift of redemption for themselves. They are labels that allow us to move forward in confidence and peace. They are labels that help us move beyond our past failures and hurts. And they are labels that no man can ever erase.

Eustace Clarence Scrubb

dawn treader“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Wow. Could there be a better opening line and character description? Immediately readers, even the children for whom the story is meant, will be able to identify the Eustace’s in their lives. With one sentence the “nails on the chalkboard” existence of Eustace is firmly planted in our minds.

C.S. Lewis draws us in with the first pages of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and he continues to lead us through the misadventures of Eustace. We can understand the sentiments of Lucy and Edmond as they deal with his attitude of superiority, and we find it too easy to give in to the idea that he gets what he deserves as things fail to go in his favor. He tries our patience just as he does the same to every creature on the Dawn Treader.

When an author so completely gives us an image of his or her characters, it’s easy for them to become real to us. Suspending our disbelief to accept Narnia and Aslan and dragons as real is only natural. But a great description is only the beginning.

In a well-told story, readers get to know the characters. They get to see beyond the actions and outward appearances to who the characters are at their core. C.S. Lewis describes this occurrence in another quote from Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

“‘In our world,’ said Eustace, ‘a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.’

‘Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.'”

There is more to a star than what is is made of. There is more to a character than their looks and behaviors. It is an author’s job to give their characters souls. In doing so, readers are able to enjoy a fully formed person as complex as the ones sitting beside them while they read.

But in a well-told story the characters evolve through their failures and triumphs. This is not to say they become perfect versions of themselves. Readers don’t want perfection. They want a better understanding of reality. Even in fantasy, there has to be something for the reader to connect to. If readers see themselves in the characters then they also need to see attainable hope. We won’t reach perfection, and I find it frustrating to read about someone who always does the right thing. I want to see the one who tries and fails and gets up to try again. It makes a character work. It made Eustace Clarence Scrubb work.

“It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”

It had begun. It was not finished. And we can appreciate this in the characters we read about. Sometimes it is more difficult to appreciate in the real world with the people affecting our day to day lives. We sit in church and judge the one who tried and failed or the one who is traveling at a snail’s pace in their journey of faith. We place people on a pedestal of perfection that no man since Jesus has been able to attain. We hold them to this impossible standard and crucify them when they fall. Just like we did with Eustace at the beginning of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we fight pleasure at their circumstances when they seem to get what they deserve.

But often we fail to let ourselves relate to them. We color over our own failures. In Jesus’ words, we “look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye”. (Matthew 7:3) When we realize we are all Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and we almost deserve it, we find patience we didn’t know we possessed. We find empathy that desires to see those we previously rooted against become the people God created them to be. We learn how to come along beside our brothers and sisters to encourage each other to continue to grow in faith. We stop taking note of every failure and choose to look at God’s cure in them that has already begun.

What I’m Reading – Justice Delayed

When I’m under pressure I have the bad habit of procrastinating. As my deadline looms ever closer, I find myself rebelling against the clock. I have plenty of excuses for what I’m doing. I’m tired after a long day at work. I need to make dinner. There’s a new Hallmark movie starting soon. And if the procrastination is to its highest levels, I need to wash the dishes.

I’m ashamed to say the excuses win out in the fight for my attention. And they are all true and some even good things. My husband is thrilled to come home to a clean kitchen despite the fact that it’s simply a way to further my procrastination. I’m not sure why I do it. I know I shouldn’t do it. I want the pressure to end, but the pressure is what pushes me into procrastination mode. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s one only I can break.

Andi Hollister from Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley understands excuses all too well. For years, she has worked to put her sisters murder behind her. Days before the murder’s execution is to take place, circumstances bring to light the possibility that the wrong man is about to die. Andi is hesitant to accept this. Her excuses range from a confession and subsequent conviction to simply not having the strength to face the pain of losing her sister all over again.

Andi is a go-getter when it comes to her job as a reporter. She doesn’t hesitate to do whatever is necessary to get her story. When her attitude leads her into trouble and friends and family tell her she needs to slow down and let God lead her in her actions, Andi has excuses at the ready. The stories need told. Why should she ask for help when she can do it herself? Why should she wait on a God that took her sister from her?

While Andi is searching for the truth about her sister’s murder, she becomes a target herself. Tracking down answers to questions that should have been asked during the first investigation puts Andi in harms way and aggravates an old back injury. It’s this injury that give birth to Andi’s most devastating excuses.

To deal with her physical pain, Andi was prescribed a pain medication. While she knows in her head that pain medication can be dangerous, she has convinced herself that she is immune to becoming addicted. Even as her drug use causes issues for her in her quest for the truth, Andi continues to make excuses. She’s too busy to have the surgery that will correct the back problem. She was prescribed the medication. She’s too smart and capable to fall into the pit of addiction. She is only using when she has pain. Even when she begins to see a problem developing in her use, Andi convinces herself one more dose can’t hurt anything. Besides, she needs it to finish the job.

Some excuses, like the ones I use to justify procrastination, don’t have a great potential for causing harm in my life. They need put in their proper place and dealt with, but missing deadlines and sleepless nights cramming to get the job done are more than likely the worst results I’ll face. Excuses like those Andi uses to justify her drug use are far more deadly. Continuing drug use could cause her to lose her job, her health, and endanger herself and others. The ripples of those choices can keep going forever.

Andi’s excuses to misuse her prescriptions may sound horrible to us, but we need to consider how often we make those types of excuses in our own lives. It may not be for drug use, but how often do we excuse sinful behaviors that come between us and God? How often do we excuse a lie with the idea that it’s only “a little lie”? How often do we gossip about others excusing it because “it’s true”? How often do we ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit because “we must not have heard Him correctly”? The list could go on and on. We sin in our anger and call it justified. We choose to say or do things we know are not godly because of what others will think of us if we don’t.

We excuse our behaviors as being necessary and not harming anyone, and we can’t honestly say that. And just as bad are the times when we acknowledge our sin and laugh it off because “everyone does it” and “God will forgive it because He knows I’m human”.

It doesn’t matter what excuse we use. Sin is sin, and it puts a wall between us and our heavenly Father. It’s time to rid ourselves of the excuses, acknowledge our sins, and turn away from them. Only when we get rid of the excuses can God work in us to make us more like Christ.

What I'm Reading – Justice Delayed

When I’m under pressure I have the bad habit of procrastinating. As my deadline looms ever closer, I find myself rebelling against the clock. I have plenty of excuses for what I’m doing. I’m tired after a long day at work. I need to make dinner. There’s a new Hallmark movie starting soon. And if the procrastination is to its highest levels, I need to wash the dishes.
I’m ashamed to say the excuses win out in the fight for my attention. And they are all true and some even good things. My husband is thrilled to come home to a clean kitchen despite the fact that it’s simply a way to further my procrastination. I’m not sure why I do it. I know I shouldn’t do it. I want the pressure to end, but the pressure is what pushes me into procrastination mode. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s one only I can break.
Andi Hollister from Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley understands excuses all too well. For years, she has worked to put her sisters murder behind her. Days before the murder’s execution is to take place, circumstances bring to light the possibility that the wrong man is about to die. Andi is hesitant to accept this. Her excuses range from a confession and subsequent conviction to simply not having the strength to face the pain of losing her sister all over again.
Andi is a go-getter when it comes to her job as a reporter. She doesn’t hesitate to do whatever is necessary to get her story. When her attitude leads her into trouble and friends and family tell her she needs to slow down and let God lead her in her actions, Andi has excuses at the ready. The stories need told. Why should she ask for help when she can do it herself? Why should she wait on a God that took her sister from her?
While Andi is searching for the truth about her sister’s murder, she becomes a target herself. Tracking down answers to questions that should have been asked during the first investigation puts Andi in harms way and aggravates an old back injury. It’s this injury that give birth to Andi’s most devastating excuses.
To deal with her physical pain, Andi was prescribed a pain medication. While she knows in her head that pain medication can be dangerous, she has convinced herself that she is immune to becoming addicted. Even as her drug use causes issues for her in her quest for the truth, Andi continues to make excuses. She’s too busy to have the surgery that will correct the back problem. She was prescribed the medication. She’s too smart and capable to fall into the pit of addiction. She is only using when she has pain. Even when she begins to see a problem developing in her use, Andi convinces herself one more dose can’t hurt anything. Besides, she needs it to finish the job.
Some excuses, like the ones I use to justify procrastination, don’t have a great potential for causing harm in my life. They need put in their proper place and dealt with, but missing deadlines and sleepless nights cramming to get the job done are more than likely the worst results I’ll face. Excuses like those Andi uses to justify her drug use are far more deadly. Continuing drug use could cause her to lose her job, her health, and endanger herself and others. The ripples of those choices can keep going forever.
Andi’s excuses to misuse her prescriptions may sound horrible to us, but we need to consider how often we make those types of excuses in our own lives. It may not be for drug use, but how often do we excuse sinful behaviors that come between us and God? How often do we excuse a lie with the idea that it’s only “a little lie”? How often do we gossip about others excusing it because “it’s true”? How often do we ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit because “we must not have heard Him correctly”? The list could go on and on. We sin in our anger and call it justified. We choose to say or do things we know are not godly because of what others will think of us if we don’t.
We excuse our behaviors as being necessary and not harming anyone, and we can’t honestly say that. And just as bad are the times when we acknowledge our sin and laugh it off because “everyone does it” and “God will forgive it because He knows I’m human”.
It doesn’t matter what excuse we use. Sin is sin, and it puts a wall between us and our heavenly Father. It’s time to rid ourselves of the excuses, acknowledge our sins, and turn away from them. Only when we get rid of the excuses can God work in us to make us more like Christ.

What I'm Reading: The Sister Circle

womenI’m the youngest of three children and the only girl. It almost goes without saying that I was a little bit of a tomboy. I had a dollhouse, but the G.I. Joe’s would often invade the house during war time. Sure, I watched My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons. I also loved B.J. and the Bear, The A-Team, and Air Wolf. I liked to wear makeup occasionally, but I had no idea how to make my hair look good like the other girls in class. To be honest, that’s something I still don’t get!
I was always curious about what it would be like to have a sister. I’m not sure why. I had female friends, but I tended to get along better with the guys. I had little patience for the manipulation games that girls tend to play. Besides, it worked out just fine for me to have guy friends. At least it did until I hit the age that I wanted to be more than “one of the guys”. Then, I was stuck without hope of escape.
I never got a sister, and I was okay with that. I think I realized it would have been a disaster, especially if she’d been more girly than me. But God did bless me with girl friends throughout my life. I never had more than one at a time. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have handled more than that. And they were usually very different from me. One was very girly. One seemed to know how to talk to guys in ways I didn’t get that got them to see her as more than one of the guys. Some were definitely extroverts. I’ve rarely had girl friends similar to me, even in adulthood.  Of course, we had some things in common or we never would’ve become friends, but the similarities were more superficial like similar music tastes or favorite television shows.
These differences could cause issues, but they could also be exactly what I needed. It’s a lesson the women of The Sister Circle by Nancy Moser and Vonette Bright learned as they lived together in Peerbaugh Place. Some would say fate or fortune threw them together. Others in the group would say it was God at work. At first their differences seemed trivial, but it quickly became apparent that these ladies had extreme differences in personality, experience, and beliefs.
It’s the differences that threaten to tear the tenants of the boardinghouse apart. But it’s also the differences that open up the avenues God wants to use to bond these women together as a family. Together they learn about themselves and grow in faith and love. Despite their differences these women become sisters who would do anything for the others in the group.
Like the women of Peerbaugh Place, women, even Christian women, can hold at arm’s length those who are different from us. Instead of getting to know each other and trying to understand one another, we push others away. God didn’t intend this. While scripture is specific about not engaging in sinful behaviors and beliefs, God never wanted us to use this as a reason to segregate ourselves from the people in our lives.
Scripture tells us repeatedly to love one another. The story of the Good Samaritan was used to teach us we are to show practical love to everyone, even those who our differences would encourage us to walk past without a second thought.  We are to be the image of Christ to the world around us, not just in the church pews with like-minded people. We are to reach beyond the doors of the church, and there are great differences when we decide to step outside the circle of believers.
The women in The Sister Circle worked together despite their differences. They faced challenges for sure, and we will too. But the end result of learning to look past differences and care for the people we come in contact with is the world seeing God’s love in action. And experiencing God’s love will change the world for the better.

What I’m Reading: The Sister Circle

womenI’m the youngest of three children and the only girl. It almost goes without saying that I was a little bit of a tomboy. I had a dollhouse, but the G.I. Joe’s would often invade the house during war time. Sure, I watched My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons. I also loved B.J. and the Bear, The A-Team, and Air Wolf. I liked to wear makeup occasionally, but I had no idea how to make my hair look good like the other girls in class. To be honest, that’s something I still don’t get!

I was always curious about what it would be like to have a sister. I’m not sure why. I had female friends, but I tended to get along better with the guys. I had little patience for the manipulation games that girls tend to play. Besides, it worked out just fine for me to have guy friends. At least it did until I hit the age that I wanted to be more than “one of the guys”. Then, I was stuck without hope of escape.

I never got a sister, and I was okay with that. I think I realized it would have been a disaster, especially if she’d been more girly than me. But God did bless me with girl friends throughout my life. I never had more than one at a time. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have handled more than that. And they were usually very different from me. One was very girly. One seemed to know how to talk to guys in ways I didn’t get that got them to see her as more than one of the guys. Some were definitely extroverts. I’ve rarely had girl friends similar to me, even in adulthood.  Of course, we had some things in common or we never would’ve become friends, but the similarities were more superficial like similar music tastes or favorite television shows.

These differences could cause issues, but they could also be exactly what I needed. It’s a lesson the women of The Sister Circle by Nancy Moser and Vonette Bright learned as they lived together in Peerbaugh Place. Some would say fate or fortune threw them together. Others in the group would say it was God at work. At first their differences seemed trivial, but it quickly became apparent that these ladies had extreme differences in personality, experience, and beliefs.

It’s the differences that threaten to tear the tenants of the boardinghouse apart. But it’s also the differences that open up the avenues God wants to use to bond these women together as a family. Together they learn about themselves and grow in faith and love. Despite their differences these women become sisters who would do anything for the others in the group.

Like the women of Peerbaugh Place, women, even Christian women, can hold at arm’s length those who are different from us. Instead of getting to know each other and trying to understand one another, we push others away. God didn’t intend this. While scripture is specific about not engaging in sinful behaviors and beliefs, God never wanted us to use this as a reason to segregate ourselves from the people in our lives.

Scripture tells us repeatedly to love one another. The story of the Good Samaritan was used to teach us we are to show practical love to everyone, even those who our differences would encourage us to walk past without a second thought.  We are to be the image of Christ to the world around us, not just in the church pews with like-minded people. We are to reach beyond the doors of the church, and there are great differences when we decide to step outside the circle of believers.

The women in The Sister Circle worked together despite their differences. They faced challenges for sure, and we will too. But the end result of learning to look past differences and care for the people we come in contact with is the world seeing God’s love in action. And experiencing God’s love will change the world for the better.

What I'm Reading: Blue Columbine

blue columbine flowerWe try to teach our children that actions have consequences, but society tells them otherwise. Actions have consequences if you’re not rich or famous. Actions have consequences unless you choose to get rid of that consequence. Actions have consequences unless you’re willing to strike a deal to get out of them. We make decisions every day, and whether we like it or not the natural order of things is for our actions to lead to reactions.  Nothing can be done or said without leaving its mark on the people and things around it, no matter what we tell ourselves.
When those choices are fueled by addictions, the consequences created are often devastating for those closest to us.  Jamie Carson and Andrew Harris learn this painful lesson in Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald. Similar circumstances in their teenage years forced these best friends apart until they are well into adulthood. Though their circumstances mirrored each other, their reactions to the events in their lives couldn’t have been more different.
Jamie’s faith is deeply rooted in her life when a chance meeting puts Andrew back into her life. Andrew’s faith has been discarded for pursuits that allowed him to rebel without the guilt. Though Jamie sees the spark of the boy she loved deep inside, the man he has become is a stranger to her. With patience and love, she hopes to point him back to the God he walked away from.
Andrew knows his life is a mess, but he can’t see his part in it. His choices have been perfectly fine, and he should not have to face consequences for them. They’ve led him to an addiction he denies. They’ve put a wall between him and his family. And he keeps disappointing and hurting the one person who still seems to believe in him. As Andrew comes to accept there are things in his life that need to change, he believes Jamie is who he needs to help him do it. When his actions bring consequences she can’t stomach, he may lose her and his reason to be a better man.
Jamie knows what Andrew needs is God’s redemption. She simply doesn’t know how to help him see it. Even when things seem to get better, Jamie can’t escape the fear his actions have caused in her heart. Redemption or no, Andrew may have to live with losing Jamie for good as a consequence of his behaviors.
My thoughts on the book: Jennifer Rodewald is a new author to me. I found Blue Columbine while scrolling through Kindle Unlimited’s Christian Romance selections. The cover and title peaked my interest, and I began reading it immediately. I didn’t want to put it down. The ups and downs in Jamie and Andrew’s relationship kept me turning the pages. The author handles addiction in a real way. The addict isn’t treated as a monster. The author does a wonderful job of showing the struggle, the failures, and the successes of one dealing with addiction. She also does a great job of showing how the addiction affects those who love the addict. Helping and enabling, trusting and being realistic, loving them through and leaving for their best are all subjects the story doesn’t turn away from.  Jennifer Rodewald is now on my “keep reading” list. In fact, I downloaded two more of her books as soon as I finished this one.
By the Book: No matter what society tells us, our actions do have consequences. And we become known by the actions we make part of our lives on a regular basis. That’s where our character comes from. Proverbs 20:11 tells us, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.” You can’t lie habitually without becoming untrustworthy. You can’t steal without being known as a thief. An attitude of entitlement will label us as lazy and arrogant.
This isn’t God’s plan for His children. He tells us we are to have the mind of Christ. Our actions and their consequences should point others to Him. What do your actions say about you? Are the consequences of your actions a world that knows more of God’s truth and love?

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