Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs and Giveaway

I grew up reading Piers Anthony, Jean Auel, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Asprin, Terry Brooks, and Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (none of which were Christian and many I'd forgotten about). What did you grow up reading that influenced what you would write as an adult? Did you get sucked into that world like I did as a kid?

Absolutely sucked in! For the most part, I read everything I could. Tolkien and Lewis would be the obvious starting points, mainly for the grand scope of their stories. More direct stylistic influences would include wordsmiths like Patricia McKillip and Guy Gavriel Kay. I also devoured Madeline L’Engle, Susan Cooper, Ursila K. LeGuin, Lloyd Alexander and others. As for the author’s you mentioned, I loved Brooks’s Shannara series, but never got too much into McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. I opted out of Weis and Hickman because of the D&D connection.

I understand now about Weis and Hickman, but back then anything was ok when it came to Fantasy novels in my dad's home. Trust me when I say it was all very real to me back then. Because of how deeply involved I became in those books, I'm very sensitive to the Christian Fantasy genre. I've read the first book in Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper Chronicles and loved it. The Restorer series by Sharon Hinck is absolutely a favorite of mine and Robert Liparulo's Dreamhouse Kings pulled me in! Now, I have another favorite and that would be D. Barkley Briggs...honestly. :o)

In our world today, Christianity and magic do not go hand in hand. Have you had to deal with any criticism in this regard? How do you balance what scripture says regarding warnings against anything magical and then writing about it in Christian fiction?

I haven’t had any criticism yet, but it’s certainly possible. For me, the point of fantasy isn’t to contradict Scripture, but to feed the imagination. Done properly, that’s a holy thing. We should expect big things from God, and teach our kids the same, but how? Kid’s imaginations are so anemic today, fed a watery diet of video games and timid little stories. They need big, daring tales---of heroes and courage and sacrifice. So if on a larger scale, the framework of an otherworldly story emerges from a thoroughly Christian worldview, elements like magic become abstract plot points, wings for the soul---not theological in nature. Not an enticement to sacrilege. The question becomes, “Is it true to the story of that world?” The wording of your question is important: “In our world today...?” It might help to turn this around. What would an outsider with no knowledge of God’s ways or truths, for example, someone from another planet---what would they say about some of the stories told in the Old and New Testament? Making an axe-head float in water, being healed by the shadow of another man, calling down fire from heaven? These are extraordinary events. What might the ordering of an entirely different world look like? If there was another place of human existence besides earth, how might an infinitely creative God choose to express Himself there? Would the narrative of earth’s history simply be duplicated in that place, or might we be surprised at some twists and turns that are very different than what we’ve come to know and expect? Is God a one note storyteller? No doubt, there would be a consistent moral core, but the expression of those divine values might change. Or so I suspect.

In The Book of Names, Sorge the monk says to Ewan: “Magic is a word, like pleasure or fun. or pain or knowledge. There can be pleasure in evil, in selfishness, in lust, but surely not all pleasure is evil? And discipline, though painful, can be healing for the soul. yet knowing this, I still do not enjoy pain. The source from which a thing comes, and the end to which it is put, make it good or bad. Grace and kindness and the power of decency are quite magical when they touch you. Magic is everywhere, but it must be perceived. Pick another word if magic doesn’t suit you. But now we’re talking merely about the best way to describe something, not whether the thing is right or wrong.”

Thank you so much for your honesty and candor. I appreciate you answering these questions.

I know this could be a tough and challenging question, but something I believe will be brought up in many Christian circles. How can you reassure parents that their teen can read this and not be drawn into the occult, mysticism, and magic?

It’s a fair question, and an important one in a day of great spiritual darkness. First of all, I would say, does the story evoke the right longings? That’s highly subjective, I realize, but nonetheless real. I remember reading Madeline L’Engles A Wrinkle in Time in the 4th or 5th grade. I had no idea she was a committed Christian, and there was nothing overtly Christian about the story. In fact, it had isolated elements that could have been argued to be otherwise. But every time I read it, even in the 4th grade, I came away thinking, “I can’t put my finger on it, but I think she’s a Christian.” Years later, in college, I discovered that as a fact. Something of her own walk with the Lord inevitably informed the soul of her story, and I caught a whiff of it. As a parent, I try to be very discerning. I haven’t read Harry Potter and I won’t let my kids, because there is a spirit about the series I don’t trust. It doesn’t sit well with me and we must be led by the Holy Spirit. The seductions of this age are too great, and so very subtle. But I don’t think the answer is to be timid and turn away from the awesome potential of a redeemed imagination. Every parent considering mine or any other author’s stories (fantasy or otherwise), must likewise seek to discern those things for themselves. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Why didn't you add any female siblings to the mix? Will the dad ever make it to Karac Tor and will the boys ever go back to their own world?

The story is a rough outline of my own life experience as a husband and father of four sons, having lost my wife of 16 years. We have definitely felt swept away into another world---a strange new world. There is grief and loss of identity and a struggle to make sense of it all. But there is hope and courage and goodness, too. I wrote this story to help my boys with their journey, to find adventure and magic in life again. As for the Dad ever entering Karac Tor? Hmm....

This book seems like it's an important part of your healing and working through your loss. I hope that it helps other families who have faced similar circumstances.

If you lived in Karac Tor and could give yourself a gift, what would it be and why?

I think the Power of a More Restrained Diet! And a love for my treadmill. Do those count? :)

Yes, it counts in my mind. And you'd have a love for tofu and wheat grass? Blech... I think I'd want to have the gift of speaking truth so that the person would understand it in their hearts (and in a way that was sweet and essence a miracle)

I liked the names you gave to the Nameless because I think we can all relate to at least one of them or find a name to label ourselves with. It seems a stark reality of how the life can be sucked out of us when we begin to believe lies. What do you want teens to walk away with after they've read these books?

I want them to be swept away, maybe even to dream of Karac Tor, like I did of Star Wars and Narnia and Middle Earth. I want the story to become fuel for their own dreams and courage for their souls. Life brings major battles right to our door whether we want them or not, ready or not. The challenge is to rise to the moment with courage. This generation of young people have gifts. They, too, are called. But do they know it? In the midst of the adventure of The Book of Names, I hope they ask some of those questions.

Can I be honest and tell you that all of a sudden Haydn and Ewan will pop into my head and I wonder what I might be missing? Then I realize, with great disappointment, that Book #2 isn't out yet.

Where can readers find you? When will book 2 come out and what's the story about?

I’m at Facebook and Shoutlife. The website for the series is There’s lots of cool stuff there: extra stories, free sample chapters, original artwork, ecards, videos, a fan board. Fun stuff. If readers enjoyed Book 1, they’re gonna love Book 2! It’s called Corus the Champion and it significantly expands the epic scope of the story. It’s about the last great champion of Karac Tor, Corus of Lotsley, who has long been thought dead, betrayed by his best friend into the hand of his enemies. As the evil Horned Lord, Kr’Nunos, extends his power across the Hidden Lands, the Barlow brothers are once again called on to stem the tide, and seek out Corus.

Thanks for including me in your blog!

It was my pleasure and thank you so much for taking time out of your life and hectic schedule to answer my questions.

If you would like to read Dean's first chapter, I have it posted on my blog. You can also follow this link and to read my review at To win my copy of this book, leave me a comment telling me a gift you would hope to have if you were suddenly in another world. Please leave a way for me to contact you if you win. Only US residents please. I have to admit that my copy of the book is used. I've only had it for a month (maybe), but it's gone a lot of places with me. It's not roughed up, but the edging is worn. Hey, it gives the book more character. :o)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society by Beth Pattillo and Giveaway

Sweetgum Knit Lit Society
WaterBrook Press
ISBN: 1-4000-7394-4
$13.99; 352 pages
Beth Pattillo (Heavens to Betsy and Earth to Betsy) knows how to follow a dream—even with a pile of publishing industry rejection slips to her name. She spent seven years on the path to her first publishing contract, and the characters in her new novel, The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, embrace Pattillo’s persistence.

Eugenie, Ruth, Esther, Merry, and Camille are not perfect women. They each struggle with love in their own way—unrequited love, forbidden love, overwhelming love, even lost love. Yet they battle on, meeting every month in the Pairs and Spares Sunday school room to knit, discuss that month’s book selection, and puzzle out their lives.

When Eugenie throws neglected and abused teenager Hannah Simmons into their midst, however, walls decades in the making come crashing down. With secrets thrown on the table amid the tangle of yarn, needles and books, one thing becomes certain: The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society will soon discover what’s most important in the complicated lives they lead.

~~~Beth Pattillo Is Available For Interview~~~

About Beth Pattillo

Beth Pattillo is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and holds a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University. She and her family make their home in Tennessee. Her novel, Heavens to Betsy, won the prestigious RITA award from the Romance Writers of America. TheSweetgum Knit Lit Society is her fourth novel. To learn more, visit

Q&A with Beth Pattillo, author of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society

Q. What was your inspiration behind The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society?

The book was inspired by the knitting group at my church. I loved the way a group of diverse women, from their teens to retirement age, bonded over knitting and prayer. I think book clubs experience a similar phenomenon. Something about knitting or reading together really helps to create authentic community. One of the things I enjoyed most about writing this book was looking at the world from such different points of view. Each of the women in the novel is unique. And the variety of ages and life experiences kept things interesting.

Q. In the book, troubled teen Hannah Simmons has seen her share of neglect and abuse before meeting the ladies of the Knit Lit Society. Do you see many teens like Hannah in the course of your work as an ordained minister? If so, what is your philosophy in helping them find healing?

Unfortunately, I’ve met a number of teens over the years that were neglected by their parents. I’m a strong believer in youth ministry because I know it can provide guidance and care that’s often missing in a teenager’s home. In the novel, Hannah happens to be poor, but I’ve found that income level, however high or low, doesn’t always correlate to the quality of parenting. The love and attention of a youth minister and/or youth sponsor can often keep a teen from making bad choices with disastrous consequences. Teenagers need to feel competent and valued. A strong youth ministry provides an opportunity for young people to find their spiritual gifts and use them. It also makes God’s love tangible and powerful.

Q. Since not every town has a Knit Lit Society, what would your advice be to anyone who has a "Hannah" in their life or knows of a teen in a similar situation?

Most teens need someone to listen to them without judgment or agenda. Mentoring, serving as a youth sponsor, teaching Sunday school and Bible study – these are all great ways to reach out to teenagers. As a minister, in a particular situation, I have to assess whether a teenager needs the help of social services in addition to the love and care of a church family. All ministers are required by law to report suspected abuse. Neglect, though, can be a bit trickier. Ideally, a minister can reach out to the parents as well as the teen to try and help the family become more functional and caring. I always appreciated my church members letting me know if they thought a particular teenager needed help. I think it’s better to get involved and ultimately find that the situation wasn’t as serious as you thought than to ignore something until a crisis occurs.

Q. Do you knit in your spare time?

I love to knit! I’m into hand-tied yarn right now, taking eight or nine different yarns in a particular color palette and tying 2-3 yard sections end to end. The result is wonderfully shaggy scarves or shawls that have real depth of color and texture. (I was inspired by the owner of The Shaggy Sheep in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas – a terrific yarn store!) I’m afraid I have numerous unfinished projects around the house, but one day, I hope to finish them all.

Q. You spent seven years waiting to publish your first book and now The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society is your fourth book. What advice do you have for novice or aspiring writers?

Aspiring writers have to persevere. For that matter, so do published authors. The publishing industry is a rejection-based business. Work hard, acquire a thick skin, be open to good criticism, and revise, revise, revise. As writers, we take our work personally, but the publishing industry doesn’t. Rejection is a business decision, not a critique of our value as human beings!

My other piece of advice is to write every day, even if it’s only a small amount. I run an email loop called Club 100 For Writers. The challenge is to write 100 words a day for 100 days. I’ve seen this practice transform people’s lives. Instructions for joining the group are on my website,
I really enjoyed reading this book. When I first started reading it, I could picture our local librarian as Eugenie. Our librarian is much more relaxed with those in her library though. Thank goodness since my family enjoys visiting and we aren't the quietest bunch.
I could absolutely relate to wanting to help Hannah, what some would deem "trailer trash". Those are the kids I love because I want them to know how precious they are. So, I wanted the Knit Lit Society to really rally around her. They had the same response to her as many adults do to these kinds of kids. Beth really understood how Hannah was being viewed by each of the Society members.
Speaking of Society members, there are a lot of storylines going on and Beth handles them fluidly. First there's Eugenie, who basically runs the group. She's the librarian that likes order in everything, including her life. Of course, what would a great book be without undoing the put together one? Then there are the sisters; Esther and Ruthie. These two take sibling rivalry to a whole new level. Well, at least Esther does. Beth made it very easy to dislike Esther! And next is Merry, mom of 3 and wife to Jeff. I could absolutely relate to her; the hecticness of her life and the disdain she recieves from her daughter. Camille is the young one of the group. Taking care of her ailing mom has kept her from leaving Sweetgum. She dreams of shopping in Paris, but is relegated to running her mom's small clothing shop.
When Eugenie brings Hannah into their knitting and reading group, she turns the group upside down. They're all prepared for the reading that was already planned for the next 6 months. She instead changes all their reading to Classic novels such as Little Women and Pollyanna. Beth did a wonderful job picking books that would reveal a struggle each of her characters was going through. Seems like a daunting task if you ask me.
Each of these characters works through something in this book, although when it comes to Esther I'm pretty sure she hasn't learned anything. Man I wanted to reach through the pages of my book and wring her neck! I wish there were a 2nd book so she would get her come uppance! It would be great to see Hannah's life turned around, Camille make it in the big city, and Ruthie find love in this late period of her life.
My one issue with the book was Eugenie and Paul. *SPOILER ALERT* Because he's a pastor of the church, I find it hard to be okay with them having a relationship. The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked. The only time Eugenie steps into a church is to have her book club. As we dive more into her past, it seems she wants nothing to do with the church. So, decades have gone by and she has no desire for God, or so it seems to me. You would think Paul, having been a pastor for his entire adult life, would know that this relationship would be a poor example to his congregation. I know, I'm being critical on this point when I truly enjoyed the entire book. Pastors are to be an example and to lead their flock. That was the stickler for me.
So, aside from that one issue, this was a really well written book. It was very emotional and tugged at my heart stings on so many levels. It's a book that will make you think of how you've lived your life and how you still want to live it.
If you would like to enter to win this book, let me know if you've ever tried your hand at knitting. I have a feeling I'd have 2 left hands! I'd love to learn how to quilt! I have no idea where I'd fit it into my life, but it'd be fun. Please leave me a way to contact you if you win. Only US residents only, sorry, and thank you.

Glass Road Public Relations

7926 State Route 166 EastFulton, KY 42041

Phone 615-986-9516 Fax 615-986-9517

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

and his/her book:

NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)


Dean Barkley Briggs is an author, father of eight, and prone to twisting his ankle playing basketball. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few)...and generally thinks most fantasy fiction pales in comparison. (Yes, he dabbled in sci-fi, too. Most notably Bradbury, Burroughs and Heinlein).

After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who, while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.

Briggs is remarried to a lovely woman, who previously lost her husband. Together with her four children, their hands are full.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 397 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160006227X
ISBN-13: 978-1600062278

Watch the Trailer:

Enter the Contest:


In final days / Come final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Forgotten curse / Blight the land

Four names, one blood / Fall or stand

If lost the great one / Fallen low

Rises new / Ancient foe

Darkest path / River black

Blade which breaks / Anoint, attack

If once and future / Lord of war,

Queen la Faye / Mighty sword,

Rises ‘gain / As warrior king,

Prepare / For day of reckoning

If Aion’s breath / For music cursed

Sings making things / Made perverse,

Fate shall split / Road in twain

One shall lose / One shall gain

If secret lore / Then be found

Eight plus one / All unbound

Beast shall come / Six must go

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

If buried deep / Hidden seen

Ancient tomb / Midst crimson green

Nine shall bow / Nine more rise

Nine horns blow / Nine stars shine

If falling flame / Burning pure

Ten thousand cries / For mercy heard

Then plagues, peril / Horns of dread

End of days / Land be red

When final days / Bring final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Fate for one / For all unleashed

Come the Prince / Slay the beast

Cross the water / Isgurd’s way

White horse / Top the waves

Aion, fierce! / Aion, brave!

Aion rides / To save the day

— The Ravna’s Last Riddle

Chapter 1


The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic. Strange clouds overhead teased the senses with a fragrance of storm wind and lightning and the faint, clean smell of ozone. Invisible energy sparkled like morning dew on blades of grass.

Standing alone in an empty field on the back end of their new acreage, Hadyn Barlow only saw the clouds. By definition, you can't see what's invisible, and as for smelling magic? Well, let's just say, unlikely. Hadyn saw what was obvious for late November, rural Missouri: leafless trees, dead grass, winter coming on strong. Most of all he saw (and despised) the humongous briar patch in front of him, feeling anew each and every blister and callous earned hacking through its branches.

Making room for cattle next spring, or so he was told; this, even though his dad had never owned a cow in his life. He was a history teacher for crying out loud. A college professor. Hadyn's shoulders slumped. It didn't matter. Everything was different now. Mr. Barlow didn't let his boys curse, but low under his breath, Hadyn did, mildly, just to prove the point. Life stunk. That was the brutal truth.

All true for the most part. Yet standing alone in the field, bundled in flannel, something else prickled his skin—something hidden in the rhythm of the day, at its core—and it wasn't just the chill wind. He couldn't shake it. A sense of something. Out-of-placeness. Faced with a friendless sophomore year, Hadyn knew that feeling all too well. It attacked him every morning, right before school.

But this was something more, more than the usual nervousness and name-calling stuff. His intuition was maddeningly vague. Hadyn sniffed the air, eyeing the field. A fox scampered in the distance. Bobwhites whistled softly. This had been his routine for weeks. Go to school, come home, do chores. Today was no different. Except for the clouds.

He looked upwards, struck again by the strange hues. The colors were still there; kinda creepy. They had lingered since the bus ride home. He had seen it happen with his own eyes, though he didn’t think much of it at the time. Right about the time school let out and the yellow buses began winding home, the skies had opened and spilled. Low banks of clouds came tumbling from the horizon like old woolen blankets. Like that scene from Independence Day, when the alien ships first appeared. Hues of purple, cobalt and charcoal smeared together. Not sky blue. Not normal. Riding on the bus, face pressed against the cold window, he didn’t know what to think. Only that it looked…otherworldly. Like God had put Van Gogh in charge for the day.


Earlier, the day hadn’t felt weird. If anything, he had felt relief. Two days until Friday...until Thanksgiving Break. Only two days. He could make it. Standing by the mailbox with his three brothers, waiting for the bus—he couldn’t wait to get his own car—mild winds had stirred from the south, scampering through row after row of brittle stalks in the neighbor’s cornfield across the road. He heard them in the leafless oak and elm of his own yard, hissing with a high, dry laughter. Warm winds, not cold. But about noon, the wind shifted. Again, no big deal for Missouri, always caught in the middle between the gulf streams of Mexico and Canada’s bitter cold. Temperamental weather was normal in these parts.

Yet there it was. From the winding ride home to this very moment, he couldn’t rid himself of that dry-mouthed, queasy feeling. It was more than a shift in wind. It was a shift in energy. Yes, the dark clouds and strange colors reminded him of the thickening air before a big, cracking Midwestern storm, but that wasn’t it. This was different.

Hadyn being Hadyn, more than anything else, wanted to identify the moment. To name it.

Though he didn’t actually verbalize until age three, Hadyn was born with a question mark wrinkled into his brows. Always searching, always studying something. He couldn’t speak a word before then—refused to, his dad always said—yet he knew the letters of the alphabet at a precocious 12 months. When he finally did decide to talk, words gushed. Full sentences. Big vocabulary. Not surprisingly, it was clear early on that Hadyn was one of those types bent toward structure, patterns. He hated incongruities, hated not knowing how to pinpoint the strange twist in sky and mood right in the middle of an otherwise typically dreary day. If it was just nasty weather, name it! What did it feel like? Wet fish guts? Not quite. A full wet diaper? He remembered those well enough from when the twins were little, but no. A three day old slice of cheese?

Yes, that was it. Cold, damp, moldy.

Velveeta, actually, he decided, feeling a small measure of satisfaction. He fumbled for the zipper of his coat as another icy breeze prickled his skin. Yep, another lousy Velveeta day in the life of Hadyn Barlow.

He thought of the roaring wood stove back home. Hot cocoa. Little consolation. Until dusk, the oldest Barlow boy was stuck outside in a field with hatchet and hedge shears. Stuck in a foul mood, stuck with a knot in his throat. Just plain stuck. His task, his life, seemed endless and pointless.

“Just a little bit every day, however much you can manage after school,” his father would remind him. “And don’t look so grumpy. The days are shorter and shorter.”

But not any warmer.

“Grr!” Hadyn grumbled aloud, snapping at the cold in his thoughts. He had chosen to “clear” the massive beast by carving tunnels in it, not just hacking mindlessly. Probably not exactly what Dad had in mind, but, well, to be honest, he didn’t really care. He was the one stuck out here in the cold. He had already carved several tunnels, and reentered the biggest one now, loping and clicking his shears at the endless mess of thorns and branches, alternated by halfhearted swings of the hatchet. The briar patch sprawled a couple hundred feet in every direction, comprised of dense, overgrown nettles, blackberry bushes and cottonweed. Untended for generations, the underbrush was so thick and tall a person could easily get lost in it, especially toward the center, where the land formed a shallow ravine that channeled wet weather rains toward the pond on the lower field. Hadyn guessed the height at the center point would be a good 12 feet or more. Enormous.

Really, it was a ridiculous task. Dad had to know that.

“Why not just burn the thing?” Hadyn had asked him. Burn it, then brush-hog it. Throw a hand grenade in and run.

Mr. Barlow never really answered, just said he wanted him to clear it by hand. After the first day of grumbling and complaining (which proved none too popular with his father), Hadyn started carving tunnels. His plan was to craft a maze out of it, maybe create a place to least have some fun before his dad made him level the whole thing

Fun? He caught himself, tasting the word like a spoonful of Nyquil. Fun is soccer with the guys back home.

He paused for a moment to wipe his brow. Home was no longer a city, not for four months now. It was a cow pasture. Home had been Independence, the suburb of Kansas City whose chief claim to fame (other than being the birthplace of Harry S. Truman) was that Jesus would return there, at least according to one of numerous Mormon splinter groups. For Hadyn, it was all about skateboards and traffic and rows of houses. Noise. Friends. Now, all that—everything familiar and good—was exactly three hours and nineteen minutes straight across I-70 on the opposite end of the state. Might as well have been on the opposite side of the planet. Home now: three hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, away from all he had ever known.

The town was called Newland. The name seemed like a smack in the face.

New town. New school. New faces. New troubles to deal with. New disappointments. His dad had tried to make a big deal of the “new” thing. This would be a new start for their family, a new chapter, blah, blah, blah. A change, from sadness to hope, he said. Hadyn hated change.

He didn’t want new. He wanted it how it used to be.

How it used to be was happy. Normal. Right. Fair. How it used to be meant they were a family of six, not five. Hadyn felt a familiar pang slice across his chest. He would have traded all the unknown magic in the world for five more minutes with—


It had been a year since she died. His mental images of her remained vivid, of a beautiful woman with porcelain smooth skin, naturally blonde, witty, vivacious. All four Barlow brothers shared her spunky attitude, as well as an even mix of their parents’ coloring: mom’s fairness, dad’s darker hair and complexion, the boys somewhere in between. Hadyn, rapidly entering his adult body, was tall for his age, muscular, lean, possessed of a sometimes uncomfortably aristocratic air. Some days his eyes were smoky jade, others, iron gray. But he had Anna’s cleverness.

His parents had been saving money for several years, studying the land all around Newland. Hadyn could not fathom why. What was so special about Podunk, America? But he knew his mom had been happy to think about life in the country. Once upon a time, that was enough. But now? Without her, what was the point? Why couldn’t they have just stayed in Independence? Moving wasn’t going to bring her back. Didn’t Dad know that?

For the second time that afternoon, a tidal wave of loneliness nearly drowned him, left him in a goo of self-pity, the sort of sticky feeling he didn’t want anyone to spoil by cheering him up. He took one more angry swing. Done or not, he was done for the day. Work could wait. Dad would just have to deal with it. Already, he had built a pretty impressive maze, though. Six unconnected tunnels so far.

Like I give a rip about these stupid tunnels, he thought as he crawled from the center toward the mouth of the largest, longest shaft. Or this stupid land, or town, or patch of—his knee jammed against a thorn protruding from the soil—thorny! ridiculous!...

He clenched his jaw, flashing through dozens of choice words, using none. Honoring his dad. Pain streamed as tears down his cheek, and it wasn’t just the thorn in his knee. It was life. Crawling forty more feet, he emerged to face the slowly westering sun melting down the sky. The otherworldly colors he had seen earlier were gone. Only the cold remained. And now, a bleeding, sore knee.

Behind him, he heard heard rustling grass and the high pitched, lilting notes of his brother’s tin whistle. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and grimaced. Ewan, like his mother, was musical. Even more like her, he was sentimental. He often carried the whistle she had brought him as a gift from Ireland. It would, no doubt, have seemed humorous to some, to see him wandering the field, playing a spritely little tune. It only annoyed Hadyn. Thankfully, as Ewan drew closer, the song trailed away.

“Hey, Hadyn.”

Hadyn grunted. “What do you want?”

Ewan shrugged, tucking the flute into his back pocket. He wore blue jeans, and a blue embroidered ball cap, initialed ‘ECB’.

“Wondered how things were going.”

“Dad sent you to help, didn’t he?”

Ewan frowned. “Yep. Got done with my chores sooner than planned.”


“Major bummer,” Ewan emphasized. “Looks like you’re near the center, though. That’s pretty cool.”

Hadyn didn’t reply. With only two years between them, the two brothers had always been the closest of friends, the fiercest competitors, the quickest of combatants. They understood each other’s rhythms like no one else in the family. Whereas Hadyn was studied, wise and cautious, Ewan was quick, fearless and comfortable with long odds. No one could make Ewan laugh—gasping-for-air, fall-on-the-ground-cackling—like Hadyn. Likewise, Ewan could frustrate Hadyn to no end, or, with the sheer power of silliness, cheer him up when a sullen moment was about to strike. Not much wanting to be rescued from his mood at the moment, however, Hadyn let his silent response wrap around him like a barrier against further penetration. He didn’t notice that Ewan’s gaze had drifted from the briar patch to the low sky and paused there.

“What do you make of that?” he dimly heard his brother say, distracted, curious. Through the haze of his own thoughts, Hadyn followed Ewan’s line of sight, his pointing finger, straight into the sunset. At first, he saw nothing. Then it was obvious. Several large, black birds were swooping low on the horizon. Even at a distance, it appeared they were headed straight for the two boys, unveering over the slope of the ground, drawing swiftly nearer, a hundred yards or so away. From the sound of their raucous cry, they were like ravens, only larger, throatier, and if possible, blacker.

“Cawl-cawl,” they cried.

Hadyn counted four total, wings outstretched, unflapping, like stealth bombers in formation. There was something organized and determined about their flight. It lacked animal randomness.

“Do they look strange to you?” Ewan asked, cocking his head.

Hadyn pretended to be uninterested. It didn’t last. “What is that in their claws? What’re they carrying?”

“Yeah, I see it. Sticks?”

“Too thick. It would be too heavy. Wouldn’t it?”

“Hard to tell at this angle. Are they heading for us?” Ewan held up his hand to shield his eyes. “Man, they’re fast. What are they?”

“I don’t know, but they’re still—”

“Look out!” Ewan dove to the side, tripping Hadyn in the process. Both boys hit the ground on a roll, turning just in time to see the birds swoop suddenly upward, arcing high into the sky, turn, then turn again. The lead bird, larger than the others, croaked loudly; the other three responded. Over and over, the same phrase, like a demand: “Cawl!”

All four were pitch black, having none of the deep blue sheen of a crow’s feathers, or so it seemed in the failing light. They flew as black slashes in the sky, all wing and beak, not elegant in the air, but fast. Disappearing completely against the lightless eastern expanse, they reappeared again as silhouettes skimming the western horizon. At first it seemed to Hadyn the birds would fly away, as they swept up and out in a wide arc. But the curve of their path soon came full circle. They were attempting another pass. Both boys nervously scooted further outside the angle of the birds’ approach.

“What in the world?” Hadyn said, hatchet raised and ready. It was clearer now in silhouette form. Each bird carried the form of a long, thick tube in their talons.

The brothers hunched on the ground, motionless, muscles tensed, watching as the birds continued their second approach. Hadyn held his breath. The birds didn’t veer, nor aim again for the boys. Instead, they formed a precise, single-file line, a black arrow shooting toward the main tunnel of the thicket. With a final loud croak—“Cawl!”—and not a single flap of wing, all four swooped straight into the hole, one after the other. As they did, each released the object clutched in its talons. The tubes clattered together with a light, tinny sound at the mouth of the tunnel, literally at the boys’ feet. The birds were already beyond sight. Their throaty noise echoed for a moment, evaporating into an obvious silence marked only by the faint breeze of wings passing over broken grass.

Hadyn and Ewan stared first at the tunnel, then at the objects. Then at each other. Then back at the tunnel. In the same instant, each of them leaped toward what the birds had left behind: four thin, black metallic tubes, trimmed with milky white bands at top and bottom.

Hadyn slowly stretched out his hand and picked up a tube. He rolled it between his fingers. It was about the length of Ewan’s Irish whistle, but thicker, maybe the circumference of a quarter. Not heavy at all. In the middle of each tube, finely wrought in scripted gold filigree, the letter ‘A’ appeared.

Ewan lightly shook his tube, listening for clues to its contents. It sounded hollow.

“They didn’t even have us sign for delivery,” he deadpanned. “What do we do with these? They look important.”

“How should I know?” Hadyn said contemptuously, flicking his eyes cautiously toward the tunnel. “Where’d they even go? I mean, really. Are they just hiding back there until we leave?”

“Who cares!” Ewan said. His disgust was obvious. Hadyn’s was being an analyst again. “This isn’t hard, Hadyn. Some big birds dive bombed us. They dropped these cool tubes. It makes no sense. It’s awesome. Totally, factor 10 cool.”

Hadyn mulled it over. “Maybe they’re some sort of carrier pigeon, carrier pigeons even fly anymore?

“Only on Gilligan’s Island. TV Land. Listen to me, you’re just guessing.”

“Have you got a better idea?” Hadyn demanded.

Ewan waited, considered. Hadyn knew he hated being put on the spot like that, in the inferior position. Now it was Ewan’s turn to think.

“Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe those birds really are carriers of some sort?—” Ewan held up a tube, “—obviously they are. What if they need to carry these things farther still? What if they’re just resting? What if they are trained to do this when they need to rest? Drop their packages, find a hole, rest, then grab their stuff and carry on?”

“So...are you suggesting we flush them out? Cause there is no way I’m going to crawl back there. They can get out later on their own.”

Ewan didn’t reply. Instead he dug into his pocket, pulled out a small flashlight, and scuttled into the tunnel the birds had entered. “Wait here,” he ordered.

“Hey, watch it back there!” Hadyn cautioned. Secretly, he wanted him to go, knew how to punch his brother’s buttons to make it happen. “Those claws looked sharp!”

While he waited for Ewan to return, Hadyn examined the tubes further. He shook one tube, flicked it, smelled another; picked up and twirled the third and fourth tubes. His efforts yielded the same muffled sensation of something barely shifting inside. Maybe a rolled up piece of paper? If the ravens (or crows, or whatever they were) were carriers of some sort, a written message did make the most sense. But who in the world still sent paper bird? By raven, no less. Hello, email anyone?

Presently, Ewan reappeared, breathing hard.

“They’re gone,” he said simply. “Must have flown out one of the other tunnels.”

Hadyn creased his brow. “No way. None of the tunnels connect yet.”

“They don’t?” Ewan’s eyes widened as it dawned on him that he hadn’t seen any other tunnels. “No...they don’t.”

The two boys stared at one another in silence. Evening enfolded them; soon, darkness. “They must have crawled through the branches,” Hadyn surmised, but he hardly sounded convinced. “Are you sure you didn’t see them?”

Ewan rolled his eyes. “Hello? Big, black flappy things. Yes, I’m sure.” He grabbed one of the tubes, shook it again. “This band looks like ivory, but it’s hard to tell in this light.”

“Reminds me of one of mom’s necklaces.”

Ewan grabbed the end and twisted. “Only one way to find out.”

This time Hadyn didn’t argue or analyze. Curiosity had gotten the best of him. The lid twisted off with surprising ease, followed by a thin hiss of sealed air. Ewan wrinkled his face. “Smells old. Yuck. Turn on your flashlight. Mine is getting weak.”

He tapped the open end against the palm of his left hand. The coiled edge of a piece of thick, cream-colored parchment slipped out. Hadyn leaned in closer. Ewan gingerly teased the scroll out. It had a heavy grain of woven cotton, with rough edges trimmed in gold foil. Both boys let out a long slow breath. Neither the silver moon hung off the treeline, nor the winking stars, provided light enough to clearly see. Hadyn turned on his flashlight as his brother unrolled the parchment. The paper was larger than normal, rich to the touch. Pinning both ends to the ground, both boys read at once the simple message beautifully scripted on the inside in golden ink: “You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

“Dude!” Ewan whistled softly. “Looks like something from King Arthur. What in the world are the Hidden Lands?”

Hadyn, who actually loved the lore of King Arthur—and Ewan knew it—was already reaching for another tube. Ewan followed his lead. Within twenty seconds, all four tubes were opened, and four identical parchments lay spread on the ground in the dark, illuminated only by flashlights. Golden ink glimmered, subtly shifting hues. Each bore the exact same message.

“You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

Hadyn grabbed the four sheets, quickly rolled them up, and inserted each back into its thin metal sleeve. “We need to head home before Dad gets worried,” he said. “You take two and I’ll take two. Stick them under your shirt and act cool. I have no idea what these are. But for now, they’re our little secret.”

He puffed up for a moment, the older brother. Still out of sorts with the world.

“And none of your games, either, Ewan. I mean it. I’m not in the mood.”

I am still in the process of reading this book. It reminds me of a combination of other books: Narnia, The Restorer series, Lord of the Rings, The Darkhouse Kings series and others like this. The Book of Names is definitely a keeper because I know at least one of my daughters will like it (the other sticks to teen chic-lit) and down the road I think my boys would be big fans. I have been drawn in to the adventure that the boys are on and like them am curious about what their "Call" is. Because of the business of life, the only time I get to read it when I'm making our mama dog feed her week old puppies. I only get to read for about 1/2 an hour at a time, so not as much as I'd like. If you have teens with a sense of adventure, they will really enjoy this book.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Church That Multiplies by Joel Comiskey & Giveaway

Often misunderstood, the cell church movement is alive and well in Northern America. We hear about explosive growth of cell churches in Colombia and Korea, but where are the dynamic North American cell churches? This book shows how the cell church concept is working in North America and dedicates an entire chapter to examining North American churches successfully using the cell strategy for growth. The Church That Multiplies gives practical examples and instructions to implement cell church strategy. This book provides the latest statistical research about the North American church and provides solutions for pastors and lay leaders to implement these concepts for cell-based ministry.

About the Author:

Joel Comiskey (Ph.D. Fuller Seminary) is an internationally recognized church consultant and speaker. He has served as a missionary with the C&MA in Quito, Ecuador and is now founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California. Joel's books have sold 130,000 copies in North American and an additional 200,000 copies worldwide. His titles include: Home Cell Group Explosion (Touch Publications, 1998), How to Lead a Great Cell Group Meeting (Touch Publications, 2001), and An Appointment with the King (Chosen Books,2002). Joel teaches as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries. Joel and his wife, Celyce, have three daughters and live in Moreno Valley,California.

Endorsements Include:

  • Dr. Peter N. Nanfelt, President of the Christian and Missionary Alliance
  • Larry Kreider, author House to House
  • Billy Joe Daugherty, senior pastor of 12,000 member Victory Christian Center
  • Dale Galloway, dean of the Beeson International Center
Why is the cell church so attractive in the 21st century?

More and more leaders around the world are attracted to a simple form of church life, one that doesn't require huge budgets and super-talented preachers but follows the pattern of the New Testament church. I now find myself desiring a simple, reproducible, New Testament model. And I believe North America needs the same thing.

Tomorrow's cell church won't depend on large buildings or technology to make it work. It will go back to the New Testament rhythm of meeting in celebration and cell.

One reason the mega churches appear so complicated is that they are. One influential mega church in the suburbs of Los Angeles, for example, is embarking on a ten-year expansion project with a 4000-seat worship center, an artificial lake, food court, coffee house, and recreational attractions including a rock-climbing wall and jumbo video screens. The list of activities sounds like the offerings at a Club Med or a small liberal arts college: poetry workshops, creative writing, singles groups, job fairs, vocational training, musical lessons, and even auto repair clinics.Testament rhythm of meeting in celebration and cell.

The beauty of a simple cell church is that it's reproducible.

What are the first steps in starting a cell church?

Cell church plants come in different varieties: mother-daughter cell church plants, satellite cell church plants, or just starting a cell from scratch.

The simplicity of cell church planting makes it exciting. Even without a supporting mother church, a church planter can simply open the first cell in a home and begin reaching non-Christians. The cell at this stage is more like a house church. The goal is to see non-Christians come to Christ, be trained through the training track, and then be sent out to lead their own cell groups.

I recommend, however, that the church planter seek to find a team of core members. Each core member should be prepared to eventually start a cell group (or perhaps start one in partnership with another core team member). Where will these core members come from? A few possibilities are the mother church, the denomination, a plea for "missionaries," or help from another church.

The core group meets together in a pilot cell for six months to one year. During that period, the pilot cell of core members practice cell life, using the four Ws as the guide for the cell (welcome, worship, Word, witness). Each core member is encouraged to get to know non-Christians in the neighborhood.

During this same time, the church planter teaches the training track to the core team members apart from the cell itself (see Chapter 10). In our church plant, we found it effective to set apart a Saturday or Sunday for concentrated training.

If you'd like to win a copy of this book, leave a comment on my blog. This is only open to US residents. Have a blessed week! Please make sure to leave a way to contact you when I have the drawing. A couple ways to stay in touch with this thread is to sign up for my newsletter or click to receive updates when people post. I will leave a post here to let you know who the winner is as well.

Friday, August 15, 2008

FIRST tour of I’m Not Crazy, But I Might be a Carrier by Charles Marshall

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)


Charles Marshall began his career onstage as a singer/songwriter. When his singing voice gave out, he turned to stand-up comedy and was much more successful. He is now a nationally syndicated Christian humor columnist and has contributed to Focus on the Family magazine. He is the author of Shattering the Glass Slipper: Destroying Fairy Tale Thinking Before It Destroys You and has filmed two stand-up comedy videos, I'm Just Sayin' and Fully Animated.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 082543419X
ISBN-13: 978-0825434198


Chapter 1 Going to the Dogs

My wife and I have been thinking about getting a dog, lately, and discussing what type we might get. For me, there is really only one possibility—and that, of course, is a real dog.

For the uninitiated, there are three basic types of dogs:

1] Real dogs. These are dogs as God originally made them—monstrous, made-for-the-outdoors hunting machines that are perfect for intimidating neighbors and attracting lawsuits.

The ownership rule for guys and dogs is simple: the bigger the dog, the cooler you look. Walk down the street with a Pekingese and you might as well be wearing a tutu.

When you observe a man walking down the street with a massive real-dog, his message to you is clear. “Yes, I’m overcompensating for my insecurities and lack of masculinity but I’ve got a really big dog.”

Now that’s the kind of attitude I can get behind.

2] Mutant rat-dogs, otherwise known as Chihuahuas. These poor creatures are the unintentional result of secret experiments conducted by the Mexican army in a failed attempt to create the ultimate weapon by cross-breeding bats and Great Danes. The only surviving result of these experiments is a group of nervous, angry little rat-dogs that decided to take their revenge on humanity by being annoying on just about every level known to mankind.

If you are approached by one of these aberrations of nature, know that it despises you with a hatred rarely seen outside the Middle East, and that it won’t hesitate to tear your ankles to shreds. These dogs are the piranhas of the canine world and would nuke

mankind tomorrow if they thought they could get away with it. Under no circumstance should one of these animals be allowed to run for public office.

3] Kitty-dogs, which is every kind of dog that does not fall into one of the first two categories. I’m all in favor of this type of dog because, hey, girls have to have dogs, too.

The curse of the kitty-dog is that there are those who take a warped delight in dressing them up like people. Most dogs would rather be subjected to Mexican weapons experiments than go through this type of torture.

I cannot say this in strong enough terms: You should never, ever dress up your dog for any reason whatsoever. Take it from me—even if it were thirty below outside, your dog would rather die with dignity in his own fur coat than live while being seen in a little poochie parka.

If you dress your dog, you need to know two things:

1] The rest of us are making fun of you behind your back.

2] Every day your dog prays for a heaven where he gets to dress you up in humiliating costumes while he and his doggie friends point at you and laugh for all eternity.

If you feel you absolutely must dress an animal, go dress one that at least has a chance of defending itself like a cougar or a wolverine or a Chihuahua.

One of the most amazing things about the three dog types is that for every one of them, there is someone that likes that kind of dog. At this very moment, there are people risking the loss of fingers and eyes while they stroke their vicious little rat-dogs, all for the sake of love.

That’s a mysterious kind of love, isn’t it—the kind that embraces the unlovely, that sees through the imperfect and loves without regard?

Let’s face it, the human heart isn’t very attractive either. Every thought we have is consumed with self. If you peel away the layers of even our most noble deeds and acts of kindness, you will find thoughts that circle back to ourselves like homing pigeons. In our hearts, we are all mutant rat-dogs.

And yet God loves us.

In the Bible, you find that same theme of an indefatigable, undefeatable love reaching out to a vicious, ungrateful humanity over and over again. I’ve found it’s a love well worth pursuing.

And so the great dog debate rages in my household, and I think my wife is coming around to my point of view. But, if by chance, you happen to see me in the neighborhood walking a Pekingese that is wearing a teeny hat and sundress, you may safely assume things did not go my way.

This was a funny book. I'd say it's a Christian comedian's version of a devotional. Of course, there are too many chapters to use it for a month, so it'd be a great way to start out the next month. Every time I started a chapter I wouldn't even be wondering about where God was going to come into the story. Mr. Marshall is such a great story teller that I'd be drawn in by his humor and then boom, there it was, how God fit into his tale.

I could see him having one of those 1 min devotions on the radio. An extremely condensed version of one of these chapters (which are about 2-3 pages) would fit perfectly into one of those time spots. All he needs to do is find a ministry to back him.

If you're crunched for time and want to find humor and God in the everyday mundane things of life, this would be a fantastic book to have on your bookshelf or in the bathroom reading basket. As for the latter, each chapter would be the perfect amount of time for each visit! ;o)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Can you handle the ride?

So, last month I talked about how I felt like my life resembles a roller coaster. I think I've entered the part of the coaster that spins you upside down...the loops.

Two weeks ago I thought someone had broken into my house around 4:30am. Needless to say I didn't sleep well for the next few days. Because my husband and I are separated, he felt bad that he wasn't here to protect us so he surprised us with a puppy. Not just any puppy, but a 12 week old Border Collie. He has like 1/16 Sheltie in him. I had been researching dog breeds the last year or so because I wanted to really know what I was getting into when we finally decided on a dog. A herding dog was at the bottom of the list because of their high energy level and intelligence. No, I didn't want a stupid, slow dog, but I knew a herding dog would take tons of time and energy. Both of which I have in short supply.

Then the pooping and peeing began in the house and I thought, "this is NOT for me". We named him Rugby. He started getting used to our schedules. When I would get home from work, he would run to me with his BC smile. It looks like he's snarling, but it's his happy face! He learned the 2nd night that he potty's on the side of the house when he's outside. Inside it's a free for all apparently. I'm telling you, he's smart.

Well, one of my thoughts on whether we'd keep him or not was my ability to get hold of the "breeder" and the possibility of finding an older dog around 2 yrs old. The "breeder" never has called me back. How convenient. I also hadn't found an older dog. That is I hadn't found one until I got a call from my in-laws saying a stray lab mix had wandered onto their property. Every day I would get a report on "Abby" as they were calling her. By the end of the week I had to go up there to get my boys who were visiting them. All 4 different families kept trying to convince the other members they were taking her home. To top off the fact she's a stray, she's also pregnant. None of us knew how far along she was so we started calling people we knew who might have an idea and I called my daughter to go online to find info. No one could tell us for sure.

On my way home Sunday I called an Animal Shelter because I wasn't so sure I could do another dog. I was barely functioning with the puppy we had and I had no experience with a pregnant dog. The lady at the shelter was wonderful. She said she'd give me a kennel, dog food, and a birthing box to use. While we were there it looked like she'd lost her plug! The panic in my eyes was probably evident. I called back up to the in-laws to inform them of the possibility of Abby giving birth. My sister in law really wanted to watch, but her husband really wanted to get home to Chicago. By Monday morning nothing was really happening when I headed off to work. The in-laws decided to head home since they couldn't get hold of me.

While I was at work my daughter called to ask me if Abby had any of her shots. Uh, can anyone say, "stray"? I had no idea. Well, she informed me that I'd love to hear what she was about to share. I guess Abby had gotten loose while outside and my 9 yr old couldn't hold onto this stacked dog. She went after a 13 yr old girl who was walking her little dog. Abby didn't do anything to the dog, but because she was so interested in the dog she jumped up on the girl and scratched her pretty deeply! I need this, right? I called the mom and explained to her our situation realizing that we could probably be liable. The mom seemed to understand and since Abby hadn't bitten her there wasn't a concern of rabies! Sigh...

Around 10:15pm I started a load of dishes and all of a sudden Abby looked like she was in full blown whelping mode. So, my 17 yr old calls my 15 yr old at her friend's down the street. She has 1 puppy before they make it and while they're here she has another one. I thought that if she kept up like that we'd be done in no time!

Even before the first one is born, I head back downstairs for something and find the dishwasher is leaking all it's water onto the Pergot! I turn off the dishwasher and yell for the kids to get me towels. I start pulling stuff out from under the sink because it seems to be coming from there. Well, I hear it spraying under there. I'm pulling stuff out praying Abby isn't having a puppy. I find the leak by being sprayed in the face. I turn off all the valves and hope it helps.

Over the course of the night until 4:30 am, Abby goes on to have 8 puppies altogether. We took detailed descriptions of each puppy as she gave birth. A few were super sized! Most were average and none were too small. After 4:30 I prayed to God that she was done! Please let her be done because I was exhausted. I fell asleep on a rolled up carpet upstairs at one point and Abby must not have seen me because she seemed to go searching for me and ended up having a puppy by the gate 1/2 way down the stairs. Around 6:30 am I thought she was having another puppy, but nothing happened. I slept for another hour and woke up because I wasn't sure if I still had to take her to the vets. I called them and they said, "no".

Thankfully we already had a plumber coming because they were replacing our A/C from hail damage. So, I called them to make sure they'd gotten my 4:30am message about the sink leak. God's timing is perfect, isn't it?! So, the A/C guys are here and are trying to work around our 14 week old Rugby who just has to be underfoot while they're working. I just got off the phone with the girls' mom who was scratched by Abby to let them know she'd had her puppies and see if they wanted to come visit and see that Abby really is a sweet dog. I don't know if they'd come or not so we shall see.

Does anyone have experience with newborn puppies? They don't have back dew claws, but probably front ones. I set up to have them removed on Thurs. Does that need to be done? I have no idea if the people who get them will be hunters. Will it be worth it? If anyone has any suggestions or advice, I'd really appreciate it. Sorry this was so long and rambly. Remember I've only had 3 hours of sleep. I also don't know how many gramatical and/or spelling errors I have. Again, I apologize! :o)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Coach by Joel Comiskey and giveaway


The goal of Christian coaches is to move people toward Jesus Christ. The Christian coach strives to lead people forward to conformity with Jesus Christ, knowing that the ultimate crown is the one that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:25). While Christ-like character is most important, a small group coach also equips leaders with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to develop themselves and become more effective in small group ministry. A cell coach encourages, nourishes, and challenges cell leaders to grow and multiply their cell groups. Coach provides step-by-step instructions on how to coach a small group leader from the initial stages of leading the group all the way to giving birth to a new one. Those who have never coached before will receive clear information on how to take the small group leader to the next level. And someone who is already coaching a small group leader will also find the eight lessons in this book invaluable to empower others to lead fruitful groups.

What is the book, COACH, about?

It's about how to come along side someone who is influencing others for Jesus Christ. My area of writing over the years has been small group based ministry, so I'm specifically writing for people who are influencing others in a small group setting. Yet, the principles of this book are much wider than just small group leadership. They reach into many areas, including how to live the Christian life.

Why is coaching so important in small group ministry?

Coaching is essential to small group ministry because small group leaders are ministering to others on a voluntary basis. They are constantly giving out. One huge question is: who is going to care for them? Who is going to minister to their needs?

The coach comes alongside the leader, not just to dish out information, but to be a friend, to listen, and to develop the leader. Often the best thing a coach can do is simply listen. Most of the time the leader knows what's wrong. More than hearing advice, the leader needs to know that there's someone available to listen.

What are some of the key principles that you bring out in your book?

I've titles my chapters after the key principles of coaching: receive, learn, plan, listen, serve, develop, strategize, and challenge.

I talk about the need for the coach to make sure his or her life is in tune with Jesus. Great coaches will first be successful with God and those closest to them (God, spouse, family).

Has coaching replaced the concept of mentoring?

Mentoring was always an obscure word. Mentor was actually one of the Greek mythology characters. And thus, it's always difficult to explain what mentoring is. Yet, coaching is all around us. We see sports coaches, business coaches, and spiritual coaches. The practice of coaching that we see around us helps explain what it is and thus people have more readily picked it up.

Joel Comiskey (Ph.D. Fuller Seminary) is an internationally recognized church consultant and speaker. He has served as a missionary with the C&MA in Quito, Ecuador and is now founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California. Joel's books have sold 130,000 copies in North American and an additional 200,000 copies worldwide. His titles include: Home Cell Group Explosion (Touch Publications, 1998), How to Lead a Great Cell Group Meeting (Touch Publications, 2001), and An Appointment with the King (Chosen Books,2002). Joel teaches as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries. Joel and his wife, Celyce, have three daughters and live in Moreno Valley,California.
To win a copy of Joel Comiskey's book The Church that Multiplies leave a comment here and I will hold a drawing at the end of Aug/beginning of Sept when the book is available. Please leave your contact information. US residents only please.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What's in a name?

My birth name is Meredith. And to my mom's dismay, the only people who have every called me that are my family. I don't even know when I changed to being called Mimi. I have no idea where the nickname comes from or why I chose it. Did I choose it? Did someone choose it for me? My mom likes to say it's because I was always saying "me me me me". Well, I know plenty of little kids who like to say, "no no no no" and they aren't called NoNo.

So, I've thought about going by my given name and I wonder who that person would be. I can't see it being me. Meredith seems so blah (sorry mom). "Hi, my name is Meredith and I'm a boring adult". Now, no offense to the Meredith's of the world. My best friend in High School was named Meredith and she's not "blah" at all. She's a crazy lady... in a good way. I just don't think I could change. I'm corny, disorganized, messy, mouth running a mile a minute, and a general fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. I am a Mimi. Maybe when I'm in my 80's and I'm acting like an adult I'll go for the change. By then I'll probably have dimentia and every time they call me Meredith I won't know who they're talking to!

Now, as for work and my name. It's been kind of interesting. I have a given name, which I don't use except to sign legal forms. I have a nickname, which everyone knows me by. And to top it all off, many people have managed to shorten even Mimi! When I lived overseas at a boarding school, my roommate and dear friend called me Merit. Still don't know why. When I moved to MN I worked at a large company. I had a couple of bosses and numerous coworkers. Four of them called me 4 different things. Cathy called me "M", Linda called me "Meriweather", Bonnie called me "Meem", and for the life of me I can't remember what my other boss called me. Not a single one called me Mimi. I didn't care because I found it amusing and somewhat endearing.

When Bonnie or "Bon" as I call her emails me or talks to me on the phone, she still calls me "Meem". Some people have called me "Meemers" and one of my current coworkers calls me "Meems".

I think there are probably very few people who go by their given names. I wonder why. I call my oldest daughter Baby and never shorten Brieanne to Brie. Amber goes by Ber from playing basketball. Jacob is Jake and in our home I sometimes revert to Jakeybear (which every 9 yr old boy loves, right?!). When he was in baby group and preschool, he was called Jacobbaker by his teacher and it caught on to a couple people. They still call him his first and last name combined. My littlest guy, Ryan, doesn't have just one nickname. I call him Ryguy, Doodles, Doodlydo, and Lovey. Wonder how long I'll get away with those! :o)

Ah, our names can mean so many things to different people. Our relationship with them I think can be found in what they call us. I prefer my mom calling me Meredith. I have no idea why. It just sounds right coming from her. When my oldest younger brother and I were young, he started calling me Meredith to tick me off. At first it did and I wanted to beat the snot out of him, and probably did. Then I decided I couldn't give a hoot and let him call me Meredith. It was my name, so who cared. Take that little bro! I'm Mom to my kids and Daughter to God.

What names do you go by? Is there more than one? Do you like your given name? I wonder what God will call me when I see him face to face! What an exciting thing to look forward to learning! ~Mimi

Monday, August 4, 2008

Discover by Joel Comiskey

Small group expert, Joel Comiskey,creates a new tool for individuals and group study. In Discover, Use Your Gifts and Help Others Find Theirs, Joel shows clear steps and guidelines to find and activate spiritual gifts. The eight lessons offer biblical insight on what the gifts are and practical suggestions on how to use them. Discover will especially help those leading a small group to know how to discern the different gifts among group members--and then to help each person activate that gift. According to the Bible, everyone has at least one spiritual gift. But many don't know what their gift is or how to effectively exercise their spiritual gift.

About the Author:

Joel Comiskey (Ph.D. Fuller Seminary) is an internationally recognized church consultant and speaker. He has served as a missionary with the C&MA in Quito, Ecuador and is now founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California. Joel's books have sold 130,000 copies in North American and an additional 200,000 copies worldwide. His titles include: Home Cell Group Explosion (Touch Publications, 1998), How to Lead a Great Cell Group Meeting (Touch Publications, 2001), and An Appointment with the King (Chosen Books,2002). Joel teaches as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries. Joel and his wife, Celyce, have three daughters and live in Moreno Valley,California.

For more information go to:

Why did you write this book?

So often we want to be like someone else. How often have we said, “I wish I was a great conversationalist like Tom. He always has something interesting to say, but when I’m in a group of people, my brain freezes up, and I can hardly remember what to say.” Or “I wish I could teach like Donna. She articulates her message so perfectly. In comparison, my teaching is simplistic and even superficial.”

Most of us have prayed, “Lord, make me like …. ” Because too many of us stumble through life with an inferiority complex, I wrote this book to help people discover who they are and how God wants them to function in the body of Christ.

Where is the best setting to use your spiritual gifts?

In the larger worship service, naturally experimenting with the gifts rarely happens because risk-taking is not encouraged in such an environment, nor should it be. Yet, in the safety of the small group and with the encouragement of the group leader, experimentation can happen, and the Holy Spirit will bless. When you’re sitting in a comfortable living room with just a few people, there’s far more possibilities to talk with and minister to others.

Once the group becomes comfortable with each other and more knowledgeable about spiritual gifts, the leader can encourage the participants to confirm in each other their spiritual gifts in the small-group time. Gift discovery takes place in the process of serving one another, caring for one another and living the life of the body. When you find that God consistently blesses your efforts in a certain area that builds others up, you can confidently conclude that you have that particular gift.

Are the spiritual gifts given permanently?

There are two views on this. One view, the constitutional view, says that God gives us the gifts permanently. The other side, the situational view, says that God equips a person with a particular gift when the need arises.

I personally believe that God has permanently given each born-again believer at least one or more gift. And in this sense we need to discover what he has placed in us. Yet, I also realize that God is the gift giver, and that he reserves the right to drop any gift into our lives at anytime. We need to expect God to work in our lives at all times.

Joel has offered his book The Church that Multiplies as a giveaway on his blog tour. So, if you'd like a chance to win this book, leave a comment on my blog and at the end of the tour I will be picking a winner!

Creative Commons License
Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.