Wednesday, December 22, 2010

THE Christmas Nativity Quiz

The first time I saw this quiz, sometime during the 70’s I thought it would be easy. My husband was a young youth pastor and we thought it would be fun to do at the youth group Christmas party in tiny Felton, California. That was before I actually took it. I must confess the first time I took it I didn’t do so well. I wouldn't have wanted to be graded on my answers that first time!

But it made me wonder--how much do we really know about the long ago Christmas night and how did we learn what we believe?

Through the years we have had a lot of fun giving this quiz out at various parties. It has inspired many cries of outrage and frustration as people who were sure they had the right answer found out differently. My middle school students got two years to try and still had trouble. Seems as many of our ideas about the birth of Jesus originate from imaginative Christmas carols as from the Bible.

Now it’s your turn. Answer the questions below to see if you really know as much about the birth of Christ as you think you do. Have fun and leave me a comment on how you do!

Here goes:
1. Joseph was from:
a) Bethlehem
b) Jerusalem
c) Nazareth
d) Egypt

2. Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem by
a) Camel
b) Donkey
c) Walked
d) We don't know

3. The innkeeper told Mary and Joseph...
a) I have a stable you can use
b) There is no room at the inn
c) Both (a) and (b)
d) None of the above

4. Which animals were present at Jesus' birth?
a) Cows, sheep, goats
b) Cows, donkeys, sheep
c) Many barnyard animals
d) None are mentioned

5. Who saw the star in the east?
a) Shepherds
b) Mary and Joseph
c) The Wise Men
d) Everyone

6. How many angels spoke to the shepherds?
a) One
b) Three
c) A Multitude

7. What sign did the angels tell the shepherds to look for?
a) A star over Bethlehem
b) A baby that doesn't cry
c) A baby in a stable
d) A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger

8. Did Baby Jesus cry?______________

9. What did the angels sing?
a) Joy to the World
b) Alleluia
c) Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given
d) Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men

10. How many wise men came to visit Jesus? ________

11. The wise men found Jesus in a
a) manger
b) stable
c) house
d) a good mood

12. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem
a) To inform Herod about Jesus
b) To find out where Jesus was
c) To buy presents for Jesus

13. Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
a) The angel
b) Mary's mother
c) Herod
d) Caesar Augustus

14. Joseph took baby Jesus to Egypt
a) To show him the pyramids
b) To be put in a basket in the river
c) Because he dreamed of it
d) To be taxed

15. Where do we find the Christmas story to check the answers to these questions?
a) Matthew
b) Mark
c) Luke
d) John
e) All of the above
f) Matthew and Luke
g) Mark and John

Answers: 1(c), 2(d), 3(d), 4(d), 5(c), 6(a), 7(d), 8(Yes, like any other baby) 9(d), 10(we don't know), 11(c), 12 (b), 13(d), 14(c), 15(f)

Your score—
15 right—Arch Angel
12-14 right—A Shining Star
9-11 right-- Praising Shephard
4-8 right---Time to reread Luke 2
1-3 right—You’re making baby Jesus cry
0 right--Donkey

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hear "90 Minutes in Heaven" Authors Live TONIGHT.

Thanks to Kathy Carlton Willis for the following information

"Bestselling Authors Join Forces Again
Call-Ins Welcome

This book is now in its fifth year on the New York Times' bestseller list. It's sold more than five million copies and has been translated into 40+ languages. A feature film is in the works. The book? 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey.

Piper will join Murphey on the new Toginet online radio show, Cec And Me on Tuesday, December 7th at 7 PM Central time, 8 PM Eastern. That's tonight! Tune in to learn how the authors connected—the birth of a multi-book project and their mutually-respected relationship.

Listeners are welcome to call in with questions or comments, with opportunities to win free books. Piper and Murphey offer comfort and wisdom from their vast source of life experience with heartache, pain and loss. These men live out the phrase, “I feel your pain.” This show is certain to deliver grace-filled strength.

More about The Cec And Me Show:

Billed as a delightful, thoughtful, serious, and not so serious call-in show with Cecil (Cec) Murphey and Twila Belk, the show promises a blend of fun and a variety of topics, including tough issues such as cancer, caregiving, and sexual abuse, as well as lighter topics such as writing and Christmas miracles.

The far-reaching, refreshing, faith-based, shared conversation and call-in show offers:

  • An inside look at the “Man Behind the Words.” This patriarch in the publishing industry shares from his life of words—over 100 books and going strong.
  • Special guests who've been impacted by Cec in some way—people who in turn impact others—authors, speakers, pastors, ministry leaders and more.
  • A wide range of topics—tough issues, practical helps, encouragement, inspiration, hope, and some fun thrown in for good measure.
  • The opportunity to call in with your questions and comments.

About Cecil (Cec) Murphey
Murphey is an international speaker and bestselling author who has written or co-written more than 100 books, including Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). His books have sold millions and have given hope and encouragement to countless people around the world. Many writers claim Murphey as their mentor or the father of their writing.

About Twila Belk
Belk is a writer, inspirational speaker, and conference director who also works fulltime with Murphey as his manager and personal assistant. She serves as the show’s host. "

Check out this clip for more details of Cec And Me:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cec And Me hosted by Twila Belk & Cecil Murphey

I'm so excited. My good friend Twila Belk has a new online radio show on! She and best-selling author Cecil Murphey will be on each Tuesday night at 8 PM, 7PM central LIVE. They'll be interviewing guests each week on a variety of subjects from the serious to the not-so-serious with honesty, candor and a healthy dose of humor.

This Tues (October 18th) will be an interview with Jonathan Friesen, author of the ALA award-winning book, Jerk, California. Jerk is the story of a high school senior named Sam who just happens to have Tourette's Syndrome. It is a subject Jonathan knows from the inside out as he, too, was diagnosed with TS at the age of 19. Tune in tomorrow night and hear this fascinating interview.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Big Stone Gap is the story trials and tribulations of Ave Maria Mulligan, a 30-something woman raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia who discovers her life and family are not what she thought they were.
Reminded me of the Mitford books with a small mountain town (dare I say "Hillbilly") sort of flavor.

Gentle humor, sweet romance, sassy women, kind and compassionate with a heroine called Ave Maria. What's not to like?

I do have to share my favorite passage in the book with you. Here goes:
"...I've made it my business to observe fathers and daughters. And I've seen some incredible things, beautiful things. Like the little girl who's not very cute--her teeth are funny, and her hair doesn't grow right, and she's got on thick glasses--but her father holds her hand and walks with her like she's a tiny angel that no one can touch. He gives her the best gift a woman can get in this world: protection. And the little girl learns to trust the man in her life. And all the things that the world expects from women--to be beautiful, to soothe the troubled spirit, heal the sick, care for the dying, send the greeting card, bake the cake--all of those things become the way we pay the father back for protecting us. It's a fair exchange..."

I like to think of myself as a strong, independent woman, but I gotta tell you, those words ring true in my heart.

Treat yourself to a sweet, funny story this fall. Get to know Ave Maria and all the quirky characters of Big Stone Gap, VA.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Levi's Will by W. Dale Cramer

Some sins follow you your whole life. Mr. Cramer’s book, "Levi’s Will", is the story of an Amish teenager who makes a mistake and spends the rest of his life wondering if it is possible to atone for some sins.

Young Will runs away at 19, escaping the control of his father Levi, who even by Amish standards exceptionally strict with his children. Leaving behind a pregnant fiancée, Will rides the rails before joining the Army during WWII, always depending on the work ethic he learned at home to help him cope with life, never learning how to trust, and how to give what he was never given growing up.

From his Amish roots, through service in the military during WWII, marriage, work and life we follow the story of Will Mullet/McGruder as he seeks to work his way to atonement. He lives a life of secrets even from those nearest and dearest to him and in the end becomes a proverb of how the sins of the father do linger on, hurting their own sons.

This is a story about the importance of family, of independence, of hard work and most of all love and forgiveness. Mr Cramer examines the relationships of fathers and sons bridging three generations.

If you like stories set in the Amish culture you will enjoy this one. Told from the masculine point of view it reveals the struggles Will faces seeking to reconcile the best of his Amish upbringing with the modern culture in which he has chosen to stay.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hooray, It's Autumn & Hooray for AIR!

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
George Eliot

My sentiments exactly. And on the very first day of this incredible season I find myself thanking God for something I don't think I've ever thanked Him for before--AIR.

That's right just plain old air, that invisible stuff that surrounds us each moment, that makes life possible, that most of us never, ever think about.

Thank You Lord for air--

~for the life it gives us

~for sweet breezes blowing on arms in the mornings and across faces in the cool dark of night.

~for carrying wonderful fragrances to us stirring memories and longings in hearts and minds

~for lifting kites, balloons, birds, airplanes and our spirits soaring as we see them fly.

~for fluttering flags and rustling leaves and rasping cornstalks.

Thank you Lord for air.

1 Chronicles 16:34 (New King James Version)
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

P.S. Just found a really pertinent Facebook page if you'd like to check it out

How cool is that?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today would've been my mother's 80th birthday. She's celebrating today in that land where birthdays don't matter and time is no more. All is light around her and she is reunited with those she loved and those who loved her. Thank you Lord for the gift of a godly mom and the certain hope that we will meet again.

Shirley L. Poag, a resident of Irving, Texas died on Friday, June 4, 2004 at Riverview Manor Nursing Home in Pleasant Valley, Iowa.
Her husband, Samuel died Thursday, April 1, 2004 at their daughter’s home in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Shirley was born August 11, 1929 in Dallas, Texas, the daughter of Forrest & Lucy (Kinsolving) Dudley.
Samuel was born August 16, 1927 in Waxahachie, Texas, the son of Samuel L. & Dimples (Chalmers) Poag Sr.
Shirley & Samuel were united in marriage on November 19, 1949 in Dallas.

Shirley was a devoted & loving wife & mother. She was an active volunteer of the Democratic Party and taught 1st Grade Sunday School at the McArthur Blvd. Baptist Church in Irving for many years.
Among the other things she enjoyed were gardening, raising & caring for her roses and bowling.

Samuel was employed as a supervisor at the Dallas Power & Light Company for 38 years and was also the business manager of the IBEW, Local #69 of Dallas. He was an accomplished Golden Gloves boxer and enjoyed bowling. During World War II, he served in the Merchant Marine and in the U.S. Marine Corps as well.

Those left to honor their memories include their daughters & sons-in-law, Gail & Rev. Rick Smith of Bettendorf and Sammie & Stan Jones of Houston, Texas; their son, Craig Poag of Irving, Texas; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. They were preceded in death by their son, Mark; and their grandson, Jason.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dogwood, by Chris Fabry

Karin-a sleepless preacher's wife, Will--a prisoner, Bobby Ray--the cop, Danny Boyd--the irresponsible brother, Ruthie--the seer, these are the people whose stories are told in Dogwood, by Chris Fabry.

Stories of love and loss, romance and prison, truth and fiction, I found this a fascinating tale of life in a small town after tragedy strikes.

Chris Fabry's characters are real people, not cardboard Christians, who face life's worst the best way they can, some with courage, some with resentment and rage and some in denial. There is a mystery at the heart of this love story and a love story at the heart of this mystery.

Chris Fabry's writing is fast-paced, tight and yet elegant too. To give you an example of what I mean here's part of a passage describing how a son relates to his father.
"Talk to me of a father's love, and I will tell you of baseball. Tell me of a tender touch or a hug that lasts in your memory, and I will kiss you with stories of our game. Walk with me in moonlight and I will tell you of pitchouts, squeeze bunts, and called third strikes...
In the cool of evening, when his work was done, my father and I played catch to the voices of Al Michaels and Joe Nuxhall. We groaned together through the 1971 season and rejoiced at the next and all the way to Oakland...
Baseball cast a spell that drew us together. Baseball was the closeness we shared. We were never able to express ourselves and enjoy each other fuly, without reservation, except with baseball."

Great story, great writing, great read.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wonderful Wordless Wednesday

I've taken a few pictures I particularly liked lately and just felt like sharing them.
Hoping to bring some beauty and joy to your day,

Grammy Gail

My dear granddaughter Maggie. I just LOVE the light in one and the sky in the other.

And one last butterfly good bye.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti

Move over Ted Dekker. “They Almost Always Come Home” is one of those books that captures your attention on the first page and holds your heart all the way till the last.

Libby’s husband Greg is late coming home from a wilderness trip. She’s not sure if she’s mad or glad about that. But either way, it’s all she can think about. By the time the first chapter ended I was hooked on this story of a real woman facing real problems the best way she knows how.

After taking as much waiting as she can Libby decides that anything is better than sitting at home wondering. Her best friend Jenika, and father-in-law Frank insist on joining the camping challenged Libby in a trip retracing husband Greg’s steps to find out what really happened to Greg. At this point the story really kicked into high gear for me and became as suspenseful as any John Grissom or Stephen King I’ve ever read. I felt I was behind the scenes of a real life mystery as it unfolded to the participants.

Libby’s story had me reading late into the night. As the suspense built this book took twists and turns I never saw coming and kept me on edge and nervous and anxious to find out what was going to happen.

Author Cynthia Ruchti’s writing is REAL. You feel Libby’s frustration and fear, her anger and grief; her humor and sentimental moments all ring true. Libby, Jenika and Frank (Greg’s father) seemed like folks I felt like I might run into at the corner store or Wal-Mart. The faith and commitment they exhibit is never overdone, but always just people what people who really care for each other do in a crisis.
It was one of the things that made this book so satisfying to read.

If you’re a mystery or suspense fan you won’t be disappointed in “They Almost Always Come Home.”

Watch the trailer for "They Almost Always Come Home"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Need a good summer read? "Rooms" is it!

Intriguing, creative, unique, mysterious, fantastic, "The Shack" meets "Back to the Future". These are a few of the ideas that roamed through my head while reading the thoroughly entertaining novel “Rooms” by James L. Rubart.

A cryptic letter arrives giving Micah Taylor a beach-front mansion from a relative he never knew. Micah Taylor is the man every woman wants and every man would like to be. Successful, good-looking, and smart enough to build a million dollar business and still remain a nice guy. As bright as Micah’s future looks, he’s not a man without a past and in getting to where he is today, he may’ve lost some of the best parts of himself.

Even though the house located in the place of the greatest tragedy of his life, Micah decides to check it out. What he gets is way more than what he sees. A house whose footprint changes daily, sometimes hourly? As far as real estate goes, this house is a dream built exactly to his tastes. Or maybe it’s a nightmare because with each new room Micah finds a new set of questions buzzing in his mind, disturbing his sleep, questioning his existence.

Along the way Micah meets his new BFF and a lovely straight-shooting young lady who seems to good to be true at times. But the one thing they all have in common is their search for the Pearl of great price.

“Rooms” is an unusual book. It is a fantasy with a big heart, a journey with twists and turns, missteps and surprises. Yet through it all is an undeniable feeling of God’s love, protection and care for His children. I love that! In the end I found myself asking the same questions as Micah, seeking the same truth and freedom and knowing it is worth the trip. It's a book I'll remember for a long, long time and I like that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Daily Devotions Inspired by 90 Minutes in Heaven

I depart from my year-long review of Christian fiction today to share a great devotional book I've just finished reading. It turned out to be one of those books that just speaks to your heart exactly what you need to hear each day, and of course I had to share that!

Don Piper is man who lives with pain. But he doesn’t wallow in it. In 1989, he was pronounced dead by EMTs for 90 minutes in a car accident. After returning to life, he spent months in the hospital recovering from his injuries and still today lives with the resulting pain from the accident.

I also live with pain. Due to arthritis, physical pain is a given in my daily life. I’m also terribly sensitive to the normal big-time pain killers (such as Vicodin) so I pretty much refuse to take them.

I’ve often asked God about the “why” of pain, of being unable to walk even a mile a day I used to, the ability to work out at the gym. Then I picked up “Daily Devotions Inspired by 90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey.

Reading the devotions in this book has renewed my faith in God’s providence and reminded me that I’m not alone in my suffering. Just knowing there are other believers fighting the same battles, trusting and persevering and looking forward to heaven for our complete healing is a fantastic blessing and comfort.

Don and Cec write for people not saints. The devotions are full of personal stories; lessons learned the hard way and inspiring scriptures on every page. I especially loved the prayers at the end of each devotion. These moments with God expressed the desire of my heart beautifully.

If you are a person who sometimes wonders about what God is doing in your life, if you’re going a rough patch or even if you’re just wondering about heaven and what God has in store, this would be a wonderful 90 day journey for you to take. The end will leave you comforted, peaceful and closer to heaven and to the Lord.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't forget to say "Thank you"

Remember the first thing out of your mom's mouth after opening your presents on Christmas morning? For most of us it was "Tell Uncle Clyde, Grandma, Daddy thank you!" Sometimes we did it joyfully, sometimes with resignation, but saying thanks was the expected reaction after viewing your Christmas loot.

Then there were the "thank you" notes to write for all those great presents that came from family and friends far away. I had a rule for my kids. After Christmas day, no playing with/using the new gift until the "thank you" note was written. It was painful, but my kids learned that a simple "thank you" meant a lot to the person who "gifted" them making the giver feel appreciated and loved. In fact, one of my kids used her stellar ability to pen "thank you" notes in a job for a Hollywood TV show and later at a major university.
Telling people you appreciate them--it's a good thing, as Martha Stewart used to remind us.

Many of the readers of this blog are familiar with their co-author Cecil Murphey. His generosity with his time, talent and resources have touched the lives of many readers and writers, both professionally and personally.

Has Cecil Murphey been a source of help to you in your writing journey? Maybe he encouraged you along the way, provided a scholarship to a writing conference or even used your story in a compilation book.

Perhaps, like me, you're a reader and you've found just what you needed to hear one day while reading a book Cecil wrote or co-wrote. A word of truth encouraging you to keep looking up, God is watching and loving and understanding you just where you are. And maybe it's time to say "Thank You".

June is "Cecil Murphey Appreciation Month". I once read a quote once that said it's not the things we do that we regret the most, but the things we leave undone, the words we leave unsaid. If Cec has touched your life, this would be a great month to tell him so.
Why not take a moment drop Cec a note via his web site or through his assistant,Twila Belk, and tell him what his ministry has meant you? It's a chance to give back a bit of the blessing you've receieved.

Cec's contact page is

Finally, just let me say to Cecil Murphey, author extraordinaire:

"Thanks Cec, for letting God use you to bless my life and the lives of so many.

Thank you for not telling God "No" when He changed your directions and put you on new paths.

Thank you for keeping the faith when things turned painful, in the face of physical illness, the loss of your home and so many other hurts no one else will ever no about. You kept trusting and obeying. I'm grateful to God that you did.

Your life and your writing have blessed me, helped me and brought me closer to God.

May God grant that each day you continue your walk and each day you are closer to Him. May your best days be still to come."

To read more about Cecil Murphey Appreciation Month

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cancer and Eating Whataburgers in the Car

Yesterday I sat in my car in Target's parking lot, eating a hamburger and thinking wistfully about my dad.

Dad died April 1, 2004 of esophageal cancer. I was down in Texas taking care of him back then. In the months preceding his death, a tumor in his esophagus left him unable to swallow anything that could not fit through a straw. This made eating quite a challenge. If that wasn’t bad enough, Dad also suffered from dementia (possibly from cancer in his brain) so he really didn’t understand or remember that he had to be very careful about what he ate.

Consequently, anytime we were eating together we'd eat only liquids or something super soft that could fit down his obstructed esophagus. His favorite, his “comfort food”, was Milk Toast, which if you’re not an "old timer" from Texas you may think that is just a term used to describe a wimp. Milk Toast is hot milk poured over buttery toast, and really not too bad, but it's not getting featured on the Food Channel anytime soon, either. Most of the time the Jell-O, soup etc. was fine and a good reminder to me of what Dad was going through, how much he'd lost to not be able to even eat normally.

Occasionally though, I'd get really hungry for some "chewable" food and sneak off to get a "Whataburger". The first time I did it, I sat in the restaurant and ate. When I walked into the house an hour later Dad asked me where the hamburgers. He could smell them from my clothes.

After that, whenever I would get the burger buzz, I'd used the drive-thru, then I'd park a block or so away from home and eat in the car. After I finished, I'd bury the trash outside under what was already in the can and leave the car windows open to make sure there was no burger aroma to give me away.

It was one of those sad/funny/guilt inducing things that you do when someone you love has cancer and you're the primary caregiver. As I sat in the car back then, I'd feel silly and guilty, with my heart aching because of what Dad was going through.

The worst was probably dealing with the dementia. Dad couldn't remember why he couldn't eat or what the problem was. It was a constant struggle, but we were blessed with a strong and loving relationship of trust in each other and God got us through that oh, so difficult time. As hard as it was, it was also one of the greatest blessing of my life to be able to give back to my father just a fraction of the loving care he'd always given to me.

Today my dad is in heaven, healed, and eating heavenly hamburgers every day I suspect.

I'd like to ask you a favor. If your dad is still here, please give him a big hug or send him a loving e-mail for me today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Review of RUSH by Jonathan Friesen


By Jonathan Friesen

RUSH is the latest young adult novel of my friend Jonathan Friesen. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy to read. His first novel “Jerk, California”, a road trip/coming of age story of a teen who just happens to have Tourette Syndrome won the American Library Association Schneider Family Award.

“He could burn. She could die.
Anything for the rush.”

These words from the cover of Rush are a fairly accurate ten word description of the RUSH.

18-year-old Jake King is the kind of teen who gives parents sleepless nights and frantic days. Never one to sit still for a minute, Jake’s idea of a perfect afternoon begins with blowing off school to play “Spiderman” by rock climbing up a sheer walled canyon in a thunderstorm. Along the way, Jake rescues an 8 year-old stuck half-way up the canyon wall. Then instead of a bedtime story, Jake scales the local water tower for a late night dangle.

AD/HD, E/BD are just a few of the initials used to describe adrenalin junkie Jake’s constant quest for thrills.

But there is more to Jake than just action. His best friend Salome Lee knows a side of Jake that no one else is permitted to see. Ever since they were 8 years old and he climbed the rope ladder at school to rescue her locket, his tender friendship and loyalty have been calling to Salome’s heart, causing her to overlook most of Jake’s crazy stunts. Their relationship is complicated further by Jake’s fear that if he lets Salome get too close he’ll only break her heart.

Just when it seems Jake has worn out his welcome at school and his father’s patience at home an opportunity comes up that seems perfect for Jake’s unique skill set. The local crew of hotshot forest firefighters has an opening. These are the guys who rappel into wildfires, smoke jumpers who parachute into the belly of the beast to pull out its fiery teeth. Jake can just see himself in one of those leather jackets with “The Immortals” stitched on the back. Never mind that these guys have a habit of dying young.

But there is more to “The Immortals” than Jake knows. “According to legend, each year at least one member of the underground firefighters’ brotherhood must die.” But dead firemen never speak and the living “Immortals” are just as tight-lipped. All of which appeals to Jake even more.

RUSH is a fast paced story with a full serving of action and a side dish of mystery seasoned sweetly with romance. Jonathan’s writing will have you feeling the heat from the firefighting scenes and heart-pounding excitement as you follow Jake’s “live large or die” philosophy of life. This plot and these characters are well-written and interesting, getting into your head and keeping you turning pages long past bedtime.

So if you’re a reader who likes your action with a little lovin’ or your romance with a touch of danger, RUSH to Amazon and put in your pre-order because RUSH doesn’t release until June 10, 2010.

Check out the book trailer at: or below!

The “Skinny” on RUSH (what I really loved)

  • The nice/tough guy character of Jake. He’s a high-risk, adrenaline-loving troubled kid trying to do the right thing.
  • Jake’s descriptions of how AD/HD affects his mind.
  • Sweet & sassy Salome, an strong, independent young woman who’s not sitting around waiting for a “knight in shining armor.”
  • The story setting in the California wildfire region, exploring the exploits of men who risk their lives fighting out of control fires.
  • Mystery of “The Immortals,” firefighters’ secret club.
  • It's a fast-paced page-turner.
  • Really FEELING the rush as Jake risks everything, jumping bikes, fighting fires and scaling rock walls all for the thrill of it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Age before Beauty" by Virginia Smith

What fun I'm having in my search for new authors and new books to read! I discovered Ginny Smith when I noticed her name listed on the faculty of the Quad-Cities Writers Conference, which is directed by my friend and boss Twila Belk. (You can check us out online at Conference this year is April 9-10 in Eldridge, Iowa. We'd love to see you).

I saw Virginia’s book listed on her face book page and not realizing it was the second in the Sister-to-Sister series I began reading "Age before Beauty". Well, thank you Ginny for a real treat!

When I say Ginny's characters and the difficulties they face remind me of Karen Kingsbury, I am giving her the very highest of compliments! It's almost like finding a new "Baxter family" to get to know!

Allie is in love with her baby daughter, her handsome husband and her loving supportive family. So what could possibly the problem?
As Allie approaches the end of her maternity leave she finds the idea of leaving her newborn with "strangers" is more than she can handle and when an opportunity to work from home presents itself, Allie jumps in determined to be the best salesperson the Varie Cose home party company has ever had!

If these changes weren't enough Allie comes home from the initial party to find standing in her kitchen her taciturn mother-in-law, "the only person in the entire world who hated her guts." Turns out "Mom" has left her husband and is moving in.
This is an entertaining, current story with believable, likeable characters whose struggles and how they handled them were in turn funny, touching and inspirational.

Read "Age before Beauty". I promise you'll be entertained, touched and maybe even shed a few tears. And if you're like me, you'll be reading more in the Sister-to-sister series.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How One Ripped Page Changed a Life By James Pence

I did not write my post today. It is used by permission and is the amazing true story of how God used a page from a novel to reach the heart of a man broken over the murder of his family. Even more heart wrenching is the fact that it is the true story of a man, Terry Caffey, who lost his wife, 2 sons, and his house - all at the hands of his teenage daughter.

The story of this horrific crime and the struggle of a father to forgive the unthinkable is available in the new book Terror By Night by Terry Caffey (the father) and James Pence.

James Pence, the author of the novel and of this article, is one of the keynote speakers for the 2010 Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference, April 9-10 in Eldridge, Iowa. For more information about the conference, check out our website

How One Ripped Page Changed a Life By James Pence

Recently, I heard an amazing story of how God used my novel, Blind Sight, to turn someone's life around. After hearing this story, even if I never sell another book, I'll feel fulfilled as a writer.

At about 3 a.m. on March 1st of last year, two young men broke into Terry Caffey's home in Emory, Texas. They shot Terry and killed his wife, Penney, and then went upstairs and murdered the Caffey's two young sons, Bubba and Tyler. They then set fire to the house and left the family for dead. Although he had been shot twelve times, Terry escaped through the bathroom window and crawled three hundred yards to a neighbor's house. To make matters worse, Terry's daughter Erin was implicated in the crime. Overnight, Terry Caffey lost his entire family.

A month or so later, Terry went back to his property. The remains of the house had been bulldozed and little was left. Torn with grief, Terry was contemplating suicide. Unable to understand why God had taken his family and allowed him to survive, Terry cried out to God, "Why did you take my family? Why didn't you take me, too? I don't understand."

As he stood there, Terry noticed a burned scrap of paper standing up against the trunk of a nearby tree. He went over and picked it up. The paper was part of a page from my novel, Blind Sight. The edges of the page were scorched and it was difficult to read. But the words were like a direct message to Terry from God.

Here's the portion of text that Terry found:

[The viewpoint character in these paragraphs is Thomas Kent, a man who lost his wife and children in an automobile accident that he survived. In this scene, Thomas is praying.]
"I couldn't understand why You would take my family and leave me behind to struggle along without them. And I guess I still don't totally understand that part of it. But I do believe that You're sovereign; You're in control."

Justine's voice reverberated through his thoughts: Maybe God knew we needed you.

"And I know that You've brought Justine and those children into my life. And they need me. Lord, You could have taken my life that day, but You spared it. And You've gone on sparing it. It doesn't matter what happens to me now, but if I can help them, please let me do it."

Thomas closed the drapes and stood alone in the dark room. For the first time in two years, he was at peace with God and with himself. He knew what he had to do. Justine and her children would be safe, even if he had to die to make sure of it.

Those paragraphs turned Terry's life around. He found the strength to go on, and is now sharing his testimony in churches around the country. When he speaks, he brings the page from my novel, now preserved in a frame, and shows it to the congregation.

Because the page was only partially preserved, Terry didn't know what book it had come from until a few weeks ago. He spoke one Sunday morning at Greenville Bible Church, and my daughter, Charlene, was present in the congregation. [She and Terry's daughter, Erin, are good friends.] Charlene and Terry both had lunch at pastor Jim Corbet's house, and Terry told them that he'd love to find out which book the page had come from. The pastor and his wife had both read Blind Sight and they thought they recognized the passage. Charlene agreed that it sounded like it had come from my novel. Pastor Corbet took his copy of Blind Sight down and they eventually found the page.

That same afternoon, Terry called and shared the story with me. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to a story that is nothing short of a miracle of God's providence. Not only had the house burned, but the site had been long since cleaned up and the debris bulldozed and hauled off. What little material was left had been exposed to the weather for at least a month. And out of a nearly 400-page book, the only scrap that remained was a brief passage where a man who had lost a wife and two children came to grips with the sovereign goodness of God, submitted to His will, and decided to move forward.

That scrap of paper lay there against a tree trunk as if waiting for Terry Caffey: a man who had lost his wife and two sons, a man who was in deep despair and who was contemplating suicide, a man who desperately needed to come to grips with the sovereign goodness and mercy of God.
Needless to say, I am deeply humbled to have been the one who wrote the words that God chose to use. What an incredible, awesome God we serve!

--Is that amazing or what?

James H. Pence is the founder of Tuppence Creative Ministries, an outreach that encourages excellence in the arts for the glory of God. In addition to being the author of six books, James is a performance chalk artist and vocalist.

Terry Caffey's website is at:

About the author

James H. Pence is a full-time professional writer and editor living near Dallas, Texas. James is a multi-talented writer who has been published in both fiction and nonfiction. His publishers include Tyndale House, Kregel, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. James holds a master’s degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in creative writing and journalism from Dallas Theological Seminary. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Dallas Bible College. James is also a vocalist and gospel chalk artist, and he regularly uses his talents to share the gospel in prisons.

James is the author of Blind Sight, a gripping novel about mind-control cults and coauthor (along with Terry Caffey) of the new book: Terror by Night: The True Story of the Brutal Texas Murder that Destroyed a Family, Restored One Man’s Faith, and Shocked a Nation.

Used by permission

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cardinal Cafe

I love watching the cardinals and other birds eating each day, right outside me office window. I recently bought some new bird seed called "Cardinal's Choice" and dining at the Cardinal Cafe in my backyard has been standing room only. I tell you the customers are really flocking in to try my little Michelin five star hot spot on these cold winter mornings. And the only squawking has been over the choice seating at the one table I have.

This morning I opened the door for "breakfast service" and there in the fresh snow were tiny little bird tracks leading right up to my back door as if to say "Hey, where's breakfast? I'm hungry." It was obvious the early bird had been there and not finding any unfrozen worms or fresh seed had hopped up see what the problem was.

As I looked at those tiny tracks and pictured such a frail creature approaching my ginormous door to get his needs met, into my head popped a picture of ME, approaching the throne of our almighty God.

Here I go, tiny, impotent, frail, but up I boldly hop on my skinny little bird legs and before the God of all Creation start twittering about my needs and when they're going to be met and what the problem is. How my loving Father must smile at my chirping and shake His head at my squawking, knowing all the time the good plans He has for me for a Hope and a Future.
Thank you Lord for lessons and reminders in small things, for patiently reassuring us in Your word of Your constant care and love. Thank You for the wonders of creation and for speaking to my heart from it's simply awesome/awesomely simple beauty.

Luke 12:24 (NLT) Look at the birds. They don’t need to plan or harvest or put food in barns because God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than any birds.

God sees the little sparrow fall,
It meets His tender view;
If God so loves the little birds,
I know He loves me, too.

He loves me, too, He loves me, too,
I know He loves me, too;
Because He loves the little things,
I know He loves me, too.

He paints the lily of the field,
Perfumes each lily bell;
If He so loves the little flow’rs,
I know He loves me well.

God made the little birds and flow’rs,
And all things large and small;
He’ll not forget his little ones,
I know He loves them all.

Ma­ria Straub, 1874

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not Your Mama's Writing Conference

“I wrote, she wrote, we all wrote”. We also learned and laughed, talked and listened to great authors (some bestsellers), took notes and got critiqued. And then we ate and “coffee talked” and made some great life-long friends, all at the Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

It's been a lot of fun writing about wonderful books this year, but it's a lot more fun to see positive comments about your own writing. Just imagine a big cardboard box arriving at the door. You open it up and see the cover of your very first published book. If that is a dream of yours, then read on, my friend.

If you’re looking for insight into the publishing industry, have questions about getting published or marketing your finished work, or just need some plain old-fashioned encouragement on your writing journey, QCCWC is the conference for you. From all over the country authors and participants gather to share ideas, to spend time together finding and giving help and encouragement in a conference unique because of its heart. Over and over again we've received feedback from people sharing comments like:
"There's a different Spirit at this conference".
"I didn't know the authors and teachers would be so accessible."
"I can't wait to try out what I've learned."
"Thank you for such a wonderful conference!"
We hope you'll take time to come and see for yourself the difference two short days can make in your writing and in your life.

From the website:
"The Quad-Cities Christian Writers' Conference is pleased to announce that some of the best writing instructors in the nation will join us in 2010 for two full days of breakout sessions, continuing sessions, keynote talks, one-on-one appointments, and inspiration.

In order to make an impact with your writing, it's important to LEARN THE CRAFT. That's what the Quad-Cities Christian Writers' Conference is all about. You won't find publishers, agents, and editors in attendance, but you will experience the care and coaching of a professional, knowledgeable staff. Our faculty will answer your questions, guide you, teach you, and show you how you can use your writing to change the world one word at a time."

Join us April 9-10 in Eldridge, Iowa. It could be your first step toward the thrill of seeing your work in print. For more information or to register go to

I'll be looking for you!

The special early-bird rate for registrations postmarked or electronically submitted on or before Saturday, February 20!