Monday, August 31, 2009

Gone to Green by Judy Christie

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Gone To Green

Abingdon Press (August 2009)


Judy Christie


Judy Pace Christie, after working as a journalist for twenty-five years, left the daily news business to open a consulting firm that works with individuals, businesses, and churches on strategies for meaningful life and work, including goal-setting, living fully, and balancing personal and professional lives. She is the author of Hurry Less, Worry Less; Hurry Less, Worry Less at Christmastime; and co-author of Awesome Altars. Judy and her husband live in northwest Louisiana.


Lois goes from being a corporate journalist at a large paper in the Midwest to the owner of The Green News-Item, a small twice-weekly newspaper in rural North Louisiana. The paper was an unexpected inheritance from a close colleague, and Lois must keep it for at least a year, bringing a host of challenges, lessons, and blessings into her life.

When Lois pulls into Green on New Year’s Day, she expects a charming little town full of smiling people. She quickly realizes her mistake. After settling into a loaned house out on Route 2, she finds herself battling town prejudices and inner doubts and making friends with the most surprising people: troubled teenager Katy, good-looking catfish farmer Chris, wise and feisty Aunt Helen, and a female African-American physician named Kevin.

Whether fighting a greedy, deceitful politician or rescuing a dog she fears, Lois notices the headlines in her life have definitely improved. She learns how to provide small-town news in a big-hearted way and realizes that life is full of newsworthy moments. When she encounters racial prejudice and financial corruption, Lois also discovers more about the goodness of real people and the importance of being part of a community.

While secretly preparing the paper for a sale, Lois begins to realize that God might indeed have a plan for her life and that perhaps the allure of city life and career ambition are not what she wants after all.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Gone To Green, go HERE

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nevertheless, a man has died

Working out on an elliptical trainer at the gym this morning, I caught a few scenes from Ted Kennedy's funeral.

The camera paused on a man, maybe his son, visibly moved by Kennedy's death. While most eyes were dry, this man's were not and I was touched by his display of sorrow.

I've already shared I didn't have any respect for the Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts, but today I was reminded of his humanity as a husband and father, brother, uncle, a man who was loved.

When I saw the one man's face, I was challenged to wonder how Jesus would perceive people and situations.

Jesus died for all. Those we love, those we despise, those we disagree with, and those who disagree with us. As a Christ follower, my leader Jesus reminds me in Matthew 5 that I will be hated and reviled for believing in Him. It's a hard reality to swallow.

Even more so when I consider Jesus died for the Mother Teresa's of the world as well as the Hitler's. And some where in between is me. And you.

We like to qualify things. Compare. If "this" is evil, then "that" is most certainly evil. We want a fair scale. And the truth is, only One commands the scale. Only One decides what's fair.

I am sorrowful for those who buried a man they knew and loved today. Death is never easy. They will miss the Kennedy most of us never knew.

I still disagree with the political Kennedy's stand on abortion, on socialism and expanding government. But nevertheless, a man has died. I think Jesus weeps in a way we can't understand.

I want to partner with Him, share His heart no matter what I think and believe in the natural. I have a ways to go on my journey. To love Jesus, to love truth. We must love truth.

Come Lord Jesus, come.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The end of the Kennedy era

I've watched with fascination the media's response to the passing of Ted Kennedy. He's treated like a demi-god.

He was a liar. A womanizer. The stories of his antics with women are legendary as well as documented. Above all, he was a murderer. All his years in the Senate, where he lived like pseudo royalty feigning to care about the little man and the oppressed, does not pay the price for murder.

Ed Klein, former foreign editor of Newsweek and editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine, recalling on an episode of The Diane Rehm Show that Ted Kennedy liked to joke about Chappaquiddick. Here's what he said to guest host Katy Kay.

"I don't know if you know this or not, but one of his favorite topics of humor was indeed Chappaquiddick itself. And he would ask people, "have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?" That is just the most amazing thing. It's not that he didn't feel remorse about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, but that he still always saw the other side of everything and the ridiculous side of things, too."

He joked? About killing a woman? "He saw the other side of everything and the ridiculous?" Ed Klein finds this endearing? Please, tell me, what is "the ridiculous" about letting a woman die? It's not like Ted spilled mustard on his shirt during a Senate session. The blog goes on to say how the producers tried to backpedal from Klein's comments.

I don't think Mary Jo and her family find her death amusing. Nor see Ted Kennedy a devout servant, a man to be honored. Neither do I.
A leader should make one feel safe. I would have never felt safe under his leadership. Would've never wanted to follow him into battle. Would've never wanted him in the Oval office on a day like September 11th.

I pray Ted Kennedy stood before the Father covered in the blood of Jesus. I pray we stop honoring adulterers and murderers in this nation. No matter who they are, or where they came from.

America wake up. May the fear of the Lord falls on us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Look to the East by Maureen Lang

Please welcome my friend and author, Maureen Lang! Girl, you're up.

Greetings! I'm eager to share the news about my newest book release. Have you ever wondered how many love stories have one war or another for a backdrop?
Rather than counting, I decided to plunge ahead and add a few more titles. Look to the East is the first in a three book series, each one linked by a European, First World War setting├│but little else, since each one is an independent story.

So come along for a glimpse back, circa early 1900's, rural France . . .

Look To The East

A village under siege. A love under fire.
France 1914

At the dawn of the First World War, the French village of Briecourt is isolated
from the battles, but the century-old feud between the Toussaints and the de
Colvilles still rages in the streets. When the German army sweeps in to occupy
the town, families on both sides of the feud are forced to work together to
protect stragglers caught behind enemy lines.

Julitte Toussaint may have been adopted from a faraway island, but she feels the
scorn of the de Colvilles as much as anyone born a Toussaint. So when she falls
in love with one of the stragglers├│a wealthy and handsome Belgian entrepreneur --she knows she's playing with fire. Charles Lassone hides in the cellar of the Briecourt church, safe from the Germans for the moment. But if he's discovered, it will bring danger to the entire village and could cost Charles his life.

A note from Maureen:

This book was one of those stories that just needed to be told. Inspired by actual events in a small town in France, it was a dream come true for me to travel there for research and to absorb the atmosphere. Although my book takes place nearly one hundred years ago, the same area today is similar in many ways:
picturesque little villages surrounded by a lovely rural landscape. Thankfully, there were no rumbles of battle in the distance when I was there . . .

My prayer is that the events of the past won't be forgotten, so we'll never again make the same mistakes.

About Maureen Lang:
Maureen lives with her family (her husband, three kids and their lovable lab) in
Illinois. She spends her days dreaming up people in faraway places, characters
who live far more exciting lives than she does within the safety of her happy
home. Look to the East is Maureen's ninth novel.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is the Lord's touch unfamiliar to us?

Yesterday a good friend and I were talking about those uncomfortable places in God. Those times when a comment from a friend or pastor, a story you've read, a song lyric that challenges our comfort zones and belief system.

He said, "
The Lords touch is so unfamiliar to many. Including His people."

Have you been in that place where you were uncomfortable? Even felt a panic or a fear. I have. I was hanging with some big-gun friends, ministers who, you know, get visits from Jesus or who have been snatched into heaven a time or two, fast on a regular basis, are continually in the Word and prayer, and they were talking about the End Times.

Man, I wanted to jump out of the car. And I was driving. Panic gripped my heart. Since I'd struggled with that in the past, and overcame, I started praying, rebuking, quoting Scripture. Looking back, it's pretty funny because I was more than likely rebuking God.

What was going on? In the midst of their conversation, God came and His presence made me uncomfortable. The entire weekend, all I'd experience was joy and exhortation, charged up and ready to stay in the game and run the race for Jesus with endurance.

Suddenly, I can't sleep. I'm anxious. I'm bothered. I'm being challenged by the Holy Spirit to leave my comfort zone. I'd said "Yes" in my heart to the Lord to walk in a new place, to be wholehearted and that weekend He tapped a place in my heart and said, "This. I want to change this."

When Jesus appears, He will be both glorious and terrifying. We can't stay in a comfortable, thus-far-no-more place in Jesus if we want to be Kingdom minded, ready to stand with Him to the End of the Age.

Is there a part of your life that God is touching so it makes you feel uncomfortable. Is He confronting a belief system that you cling to because it's where you want to be. Even if it's a good spiritual place, not one of sin. But you know He's challenging?

God's touch can be so unfamiliar, yet we need to be in a place of communion and confidence with Him. We want to be like John, the Beloved, leaning our head against His breast, hearing His heart beat.

Next time you feel "uncomfortable" in a worship service or conversation, maybe while praying and being in the Word, ask for understanding and stay in that place until the Lord has completed His good work.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crit Groups: Should I be in one?

From my post over on My Book Therapy.

The other night during the Voices forum chat, Susie and I were asked about crit groups -- if we believed they were valuable, and what advice would we give. Here's the summation of our collective advice.

Should I be in a crit group?

If you are new to writing fiction, or struggling in your writing, join a crit group. American Christian Fiction Writers has established groups that are waiting for an author to join. I was in Crit group seven my first few years in ACFW.

Crit groups do not have to be your best friends. In fact, I recommend not pairing with your friends if you are starting out. It's too easy to be nice to each other. You like the other's work too much. Join up with people who are going to challenge you. Not knowing them is a great advantage. But do know if they are accomplished critiquers. That should really be your only requirement. If they are published, all the better.

Often we see crit partners like girlswriteout and we believe that's what we all want and need. Those woman started out just like all of us -- looking for input on their stories and they became best friends.

If that happens with your crit group, great. If not, it's still a valuable tool. I do think over time crit partners who become friends can be more forthright with input and not worry about hurting feelings.

Crit Group Pitfalls

I had input on a few of my manuscripts, but over the long haul, crit groups didn't work for me. I didn't have time to review five people's input on the same chapter. It became tedious. Constant chapter exchange can be overwhelming. Set up a workable guideline for your group's members.

Crit groups often turn into nothing more than line edits. Make sure your crit, or the ones you're receiving, are more about craft and the story than correcting a misspelled word, an awkward sentence, a missing question mark.

A crit group should focus on the story! Does the story work? Is the dialog realistic and snappy? Does it deliver the story? Is there a balance of narrative and action? Too much internal thinking? Is the hero and heroine likable? Is their character acting consistently. Are their goals obvious and planned out? Tension, where's the tension? I could go on. But you get where I'm going. Is this story working? Is it too cliche, too sweet, too dark?

Children with Pebbles

Often new writers armed with a handful of writing rules are like children standing on the side of the road with a fistful of pebbles. They have ammo but no idea how and when to use it, even if they should use them. Instead of helping a crit partner, they damage them. "This is telling," when it's not. Or, "you shouldn't use the word was." (My personal favorite.) At the same time, they lack understanding of how to use more mature writing techniques that would help you advance -- like recognizing metaphors or themes.

Most of all, immature crit partners throw pebbles at your voice. The biggest hurdle for any writer is to find her/his voice. You don't want a perfectionistic line editing crit partner adding or deleting words or phrases that define your style. You want a crit partner to read your work with a somewhat artistic eye. She should highlight a line and note: THIS is your voice.

In the end. . .

The hardest part for a writer is to show their work. The second hardest is to let someone give you feedback. You need a crit group, even a weak one, for that purpose alone if you're starting out. Let someone read your work. Not your spouse or best friend, or mother. They will hear you in the story and love it. Let another reader or writer who is not familiar or close with you read it. Ask for an honest opinion.

I'll admit it. I've lied to new writers before. I said I liked something when I didn't because I knew if I told them the truth -- both the good and the bad -- it would crush them. I didn't feel they were in a place where it mattered if I held back a bit. But if you're serious about writing, get honest, helpful feedback. If you don't get the response you want, email the critiquer and ask questions.

Once an author read my synopsis and said she loved it. When I asked more specific questions, I found out she didn't like the heroine's profession very much which made her not like the heroine. Well, gee, now you tell me. :)

Conference Critiques

Please, sign up for conference critiques. They are a big help.

Later, we'll talk about the dynamic of brainstorming partners.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Looking for an agent

Over on My Book Therapy, I blogged about my journey with agents and offer some advice to writers looking or wondering.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall

Please welcome my dear friend and proud-to-say, New York Times Best Selling author, Cindy Woodsmall.

The Hope of Refuge

Raised in foster care and now the widowed mother of a little girl, Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads Cara and Lori out of New York City toward an Amish community, she follows every lead, eager for answers and a fresh start. She discovers that long-held secrets about her family history ripple beneath the surface of Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, and it’s no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes that he received from God–"Be me to her"– despite how it threatens his way of life.

Completely opposite of the hard, untrusting Cara, Ephraim's sister Deborah also finds her dreams crumbling when the man she has pledged to build a life with begins withdrawing from Deborah and his community, including his mother, Ada Stoltzfus. Can the run-down house that Ada envisions transforming unite them toward a common purpose–or push Mahlon away forever? While Ephraim is trying to do what he believes is right, will he be shunned and lose everything–including the guarded single mother who simply longs for a better life?

About the author -

Cindy Woodsmall is the author of When the Heart Cries, and the New York Times best-sellers When the Morning Comes and When the Soul Mends. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. A mother of three sons and two daughters-in-law, Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband of more than thirty years.

What others are saying -

"Cindy Woodsmall's The Hope of Refuge takes the reader on an emotional journey into the heart of Amish country and the heart of a very human heroine. A compelling novel. . ."
-Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Deep Down

"I'm not a huge fan of Amish books, but Cindy Woodsmall's novels are in a class by themselves. The Hope of Refuge is one of my top picks for 2009. Novel Reviews and I highly recommend it. A 5-star read."
-Ane Mulligan of Novel Reviews

"What a beautiful story of hope and renewal! Cindy Woodsmall's The Hope of Refuge is an honest and moving portrayal that rings with authenticity."
–Marlo Schalesky, award-winning author of If Tomorrow Never Comes and Beyond the Night

"This book [The Hope of Refuge] was excellent! It was so good that I couldn't put it down. . .
-author Cecelia Dowdy

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spiritual Warfare: In a word or two

A friend lent me the Ted Dekker book, Adam. While talking with another friend, I absently flipped through the back of Ted's book to the printed conversation he had with author and speaker, John Eldredge, about spiritual warfare.

This sentences arrested my heart and pinged with deep level truth. I know what Eldredge is saying, I've lived it, but his expression brought all my understanding and experiences into focus.

The question was: What is the bottom line on spiritual warfare?

JE: The battle is not the point. Evil is not the point. The point is the love story. We live in a love story that is set in the midst of war. When you understand those two things, you will suddenly understand Christianity, and you will understand your own life.

This concise truth blows me away. Eldredge is exactly right. What's going on now is a battle for our affections. Satan wants your affection to draw you away from the greatest love you'll ever know. From healing, intense, deep, passionate, perfect, personal love.

He's created all kinds of "bling" to keep us fascinated, like babies, with elementary values and principles of his world. Money, sex, career, status, entertainment, things, friendships and family, our personal identity even can rob us of our affection (who we think we are.) He makes his trinkets easy to obtain and for the most part, fun.

But Jesus draws us to a deeper love with jewels and gifts that cannot be matched. We must mine for them, be disciplined, draw ourselves away from all the things that so easily capture our affection.

Does food, or a certain television show, or sport, or person ignite your affection? You can feel the exhale, or released, when you know you're going to sit down to a program or with certain food? Or spend time with someone?

Fast food is fun. It's easy. It's temporarily filling. But well-cooked, prepared food like we learn to do on some of the cooking shows takes time. The flavors can be endless, the food nutricious, adding value.

What we can't be is fast food, easy love Believers. We must be aware that Satan is out to steal our affection. Guard your heart and mind with all you have. Give Jesus your affection. Remove those things which get in the way.

He is so worth it!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

It's been awhile

Bump! Did you hear that? It's the echo of me falling of the blogging band wagon last week. Ouch. I landed hard.

But I chased 'er down and climbed aboard. Whoo-woo, whoo-woo.

I'm working on the second book with Sara Evans, incorporating ideas from our editor. Good stuff, but I'll be heads down for the next two weeks. I'm also teach a course for ACFW, "Your Write Like A Girl -- Honing the Male Perspective." So far, we've had good discussion on the course loop.

Tony has been prepping all week to return to teaching. First time to be in a classroom in 22 years, but he's really excited about it. He'll be at school until noon, then head over to Church On The Rock to get work done there. Between ministry and working with teens again, he feels like he's back into his passions again.

Handing youth ministry over to Matt and Jodi was the right thing -- we'd stopped being effective with young teens -- but the classroom setting feels perfect for Tony.

He's been prepping math classes all weekend. Alegebra, Alegebra 2 and Geometry. And that's just for the first week.

In other news. . . isn't that cool. "In other news. . ." They used to say that on Hee Haw. In other news. . . there is no other news. Getting excited about Sara and my book coming out in late December. The official release is 12.30.09. So save some Christmas money for a good New Year's Read.

May God richly bless you.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Personal Expression verses God Encounter

I've noticed something lately. Church has changed. And I don't mean in the Emergent kind of way where intellectuals gaze at their navels asking, "Is Jesus really the Christ? Is He the only way?"

Yes, in case you're wondering. Unequivocally yes.

My observation of the Evangelical Bible-believing church is we've become about personal expression rather than God encounter.

Let me explain. I was recently sitting in our church's leadership meeting, looking around at folks I love, listening to our wise and steadfast pastor talk about our Simple Church model, and I wondered, "Why would any one want to come to here, to our church?"

We offer corporate prayer, home churches, children and youth church, and a Sunday morning service. We don't have a choir or drama team. No book club or weight loss meetings. We don't offer art or exercise programs. The women's ministry is a monthly Bible Study. The men's ministry is a bi-weekly Saturday morning gig.

We don't have a video or multi-media team for the techies to join. No financial ministry, marriage encounter or grief overcomers, or a group for those who want to support the troops (though our congregation does), no bi-lingual ministries. . .

And it's not that we don't care about these things. We do. But we are too small (200) to support such diversity. So, back to my original question: "Why would any one come to our church?"

Church has become a place where we expect to express ourselves, to get our needs met, endulge in the Christian version of the Saturday Night Playhouse for those who love drama, the Coffee House with Christian Rock Bands for those who love music, the more spiritual versions of recovery mininstries like Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters.

We have none of these things. No coffee house, no drama team or choir, no rocking band other than the worship team. ;) Where are the artists, singers, dancers, actors and teachers supposed to go? We have no ministry to support their gifts?

I envisioned a new family coming into our sanctuary and pursing the bulletin. Youth and home churches on Wednesday. . . Sunday morning meeting. . . prayer three mornings a week, but hmm, he's not into prayer and "intercession" is not her gift.

There's no scrap booking night, or wood shop, or a kid's orchestra for twelve-year-old Lila.

What they expected when they entered our church is what they've been conditioned to expect in the past twenty years: a place to express themselves.

But what they should have demanded, no, yearned for, was a place where they encountered God.

The one offering besides Sunday morning where they might meet with Him and others, morning prayer, was dismissed. While I fabricated this story, the scenario comes from very real situaitons.

Yet, I can't remember the last time I walked out of a Sunday morning service and overheard the people lamenting, "I just didn't encounter God today. I so wanted to meet with Him here. I need Him, I need His kiss on my heart."

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone KNEW God was there? I have. Not enough, but I have a few times and it's pretty incredible. The love I felt universally is the room had only one source: Jesus.

Corporate gatherings are for edification and encounter. There's nothing like the Body of Christ worshipping together. I love corporate worship and prayer. There's a deepening and dynamic that doesn't happen when I'm alone.

If you and I have an alive, awakened heart, our personal expression of dance, music, woodworking, scrapping booking, whatever, will find a home, "out there" in the world where we can be salt and light.

When I worked for a corporation, the Lord said to me, "Welcome to your mission field." Through prayer, worship, fellowship, ingesting the Word, I remained focused on my journey.

If you love acting, why does it have to be in church dramas? Go to your local playhouse and join up. Serve. Love. Be humble. If your town doesn't have one, start one!

If you love to build things, start a group or look for elderly people who need work done around the house. Be salt. Be light.

We have something non-Believers don't have: access to God through the blood and Cross of Jesus. God literally ripped the veil that kept the Jews out of the Holy of Holies as a sign to the ages to come: "You can freely enter in now!"

Before Jesus, only a sanctified priest could enter the Holy place. He alone could encounter God. But Jesus made the way for you and I to stand before Him, sanctified, called, loved, just as the Jewish priest of old.

We can and must encounter God on our own as well as when we gather for corporate meetings. We must leave different than when we came in. Thirty minutes of worship and forty of preaching must not easily satisfy us. We should yearn and hunger to encournter God when we meet. The lame must walk, the blind see, the hurting healed.

I want my church experience to be about ENCOUNTER! Not about Rachel finding personal epxression. I want to worship beyond myself and see God.

I don't want church to be a laundry list of ministries. Beloved, if we encounter Jesus on a regular basis, we won't need so many ministries because lives will be changed!

Church is about loving God and loving others, serving one another. Until we're doing it well, let's set aside all the distractions. Focus on prayer and the Word, becoming empowered lovers of Jesus. Maybe we'll be blessed to be like the Twelve who encountered Him and turned the world upside down.