Blog Love

Screenshot_20171209-174119Little girls (and boys) grow up with heroes. There are people in their lives who are bigger than life, who inspire them to dream big dreams. Sometimes they get to meet their heroes in unconventional ways.

And I’m all about doing things in unconventional ways. I’ve been privileged to meet one of two heroes I had a teenager. We haven’t met in person, but we have met in print. And he has been kind enough to refer readers of his blog to this blog. So if you’re looking for my reviews of An Accidental Cowboy, welcome! You can find them here and here. 

You can find my review of Dancing With the Dead here.

 

Advertisements

1 Amazing Contest, Including a Perfect Giveaway for You

There are a few great loves in every life. Things we cling to as if our life depended on it and sometimes we’re sure they do.

Some of mine are, Jesus. He is not only a great love of and in my life He IS my life. Apart from Him I can do nothing good, nothing of value, nothing that will endure. I’ve known about Him for a long, long time, but I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of knowing Him.

Coffee. If you’re at all familiar to my blog you are very aware of my love of all things coffee. I love the word coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I love, especially love, the taste of coffee.

Words. I love everything about words. I love to think of words. I love to see words, say words, write words, study words.

Books. Oh yeah. This one. I have rarely met a book I haven’t at least liked. Books. They fall open and I effortlessly fall in. I love sharing books with my friends.

In light of all this, I need your help! I’m starting a new blog focusing on ALL THINGS BOOKS! My book reviews will show up there first. I’ll share recommendations.

I need you to help with the name of the blog. I want you to comment here (or on this blogs facebook page. You can find that here.) your ideas for the name. I’ll pick the best one and the winner will receive a FREE copy of Lee Strobel’s newest book, The Case for Miracles.

case for miraclesThe Case for Miracles is Lee’s newest book to hit the store shelves and one I’m just digging into myself. But I know you’re going to love it! If you’ve ever wondered if miracles are real, or ever happen, or if they do happen. You will want to read this book.

Contest is open now and closes at midnight (mountain daylight time) on Monday, April 23rd and the winner will be announced here (and here and here) at noon on Wednesday, April 25th.

You can share this contest with anyone, wherever you desire.

A Review: An Accidental Cowboy (Take 2)

612426Novels are written and read as a means of escape. At least they are for me. Memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies are typically read because we want to know more about someone with some level of renown. We want to see if our heroes really do have feet of clay.

These books are, by nature, not written to change us but sometimes they do. Those are the best ones.

An Accidental Cowboy by Jameson Parker is, for me, just such a book. In this book, Jameson recounts the story of the attempt by a madman to snuff out his life and his subsequent dance with the depths of depression. A place many have been, a dance many have danced.

In this book he offers hope of a way out. His life is a testament to us that we don’t have to stay in this most painful of painful places.

In this book you will giggle, you will laugh big loud guffaws that cause you to throw your head back while the laughter rushes out of your open mouth in loud gales. In this book you will also cry as you realize heroes really do have feet of clay. You will weep because no one should have to cry that way, and no one should feel that alone.  You will feel anger.  You will feel fear.

But most of all you will feel grace. The grace that held Jameson through this and brought him out on the other side to show us the endless possibilities, is the same grace that holds you in the midst of your greatest pain. It might not be the same pain, but it’s pain all the same.

Jameson writes in a very personal, very conversational way. He draws you in and through his words the story lives in your mind’s eye. It’s not because he gets bogged down in endless amounts of description, in fact the opposite. He gives no real description outside of what is needed for the story but he allows your imagination to picture it all and you place yourself in each situation he writes about. It lives in bright, vibrant color.

If you’re looking for spoilers, you won’t find any here.  This is a most remarkable book written by a most remarkable man in a most remarkable way. I can’t recommend it high enough. It is added to the very short list of books I will return to again and again.

I give this book all the turning pages, because like Dancing with The Dead to give just a few would be ludicrous.

A Review: An Accidental Cowboy

 

 

NOTE: This review is NOT a review of the book, instead this is a review of MY reaction to the book and really, who cares about that?? If you’d like a much less fan-girl review of this wonderful book, please read this post. 

612426I have no real desire to meet celebrities. I don’t want to hob-nob with people whose names are a household word. I don’t want to meet movie or television stars, I have no desire to meet the royal family, or the President of the United States.  At one point in time over the past nearly 5 decades of life on planet earth I might have had this desire, but if I did it is long gone now.

However, I do have a very short list of people with some level of renown that I would very much like to meet. Only 4 names comprise my list. I would like to meet former President George W. Bush. I want to stick my hand out and say, “Hi! I’m Virginia. Thank you so very much!” and be on my merry way.

I want to meet Beth Moore. I want to sit with her over a plate of nachos and cups of coffee. I want to be able to “pick her brain”, to pepper her with questions. I want to revel in our mutual sharing of all things Jesus.

I would like to meet Tom Selleck. He was a hero of mine 30 years ago. His poster hung over my bed. He just looks like a very kind, nice man.  I want to, again, stick my hand out and say, “Hi! I’m Virginia. Thank you for helping me get through some very difficult years.”

The last name on the list is Jameson Parker.  But this man is one I don’t want to shake hands with, I don’t want to say, “Hi! I’m Virginia, thank you!” No. This is a man I want to throw my arms around his neck in a full-on frontal hug and whisper in his ear, “Thank you so very much, dearest friend!” I want to choke on the words as I’m choking on them now.

Jameson wrote a memoir, a memoir to end all memoirs.  In 1992, he was shot and very nearly killed by, what I would call, a madman. An Accidental Cowboy is the story of that. He ends the first chapter, before you ever read of the tragedy he experienced, with:

“I start to walk, fast, very fast, and then to run, faster, harder, farther, farther. I will never be able to run fast enough or far enough, yet I will run to a world I have never dreamed of, a life I have never imagined. I will run all the way to a ranch in the Sierras”

No, that day he doesn’t literally run from the streets of Seattle to a ranch in the Sierras, but over time he does. His heart constantly runs in an attempt to get away from the demons that haunt his mind.

This is another book I don’t want to give to much away because you just really need to read this book. Here is what I will tell you though, through Jameson’s writing I traveled the road from Caliente to Twin Oaks. I rode shotgun in his truck as we bounced over the broken pavement. I felt the fear when the road seemed to disappear.

I sat in his closet as he lay there huddled and sobbing. And my heart broke.

I rode on the back of Miss Flirt as we went after two rogue bulls. Together we slid down the trail and our eyes stood out from our heads on stalks.  I was there as tiny Joyce walked through her cattle.

I was there for every gathering. I was there when he competed with Cookie in a macho game of “who has more injuries and who was hurt more”.

I was there when he held a loaded stainless steel revolver a .357 magnum to his forehead and I, too, felt the metal’s cold creep softly into my skin.

I tried to heave 300 pound hay bales with him.

I walk with him to the house where Darleen was so cruelly insulted, I felt every ounce of his anger. I stood there on the tiny porch of that ugliest of ugly houses as he knocked and rang the doorbell as we strained to hear it’s resounding gong throughout the house before realizing it didn’t work.  I was there when he was shot. I was there.

And I couldn’t stop it.

I was there when the darkest thoughts would take over his mind. And I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t take it on myself to spare him the pain and the terror.

“If I had known, if someone had said to me, All these things are the result of a specific event, would it have ameliorated or shortened that dark spiral? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Certainly it would have helped to know that I was not insane, that there was a cause. It would have helped to not have been ashamed.”

Oh, my dear friend, you most certainly are not insane!

Jameson, obviously, writes in such a personal way that the reader is drawn in to the story. He has such a conversational way of writing, I can’t even really say I read the book. No, we sat together over cups of black coffee and he told me story after story.

Every now again exposing the raw places of his heart, as if to say, “can you handle this too? Can you handle more than the happy places? Can you handle the painful places I’ve been? Can you?”

When I read chapter 30, the chapter in which he recounts the attempt to snuff out his life, I felt mounting fear, my heart began to race. I wanted to shut my ears, I wanted to shout, “NO!! Turn around! Go home! This doesn’t end well!!” But I read on. My fear soon turned anger as I wanted to throw myself between the muzzle of the rifle and this man. I wanted to scratch off the face of the man with the white hair. I want to tap dance on his head. I wanted so desperately to pummel him with my fists.

It was then I realized, this man had moved from crush to hero to friend to big brother. Because it’s only family that evokes that kind of visceral response.

I finished this book last night in tears. Not because it has a sad ending (it doesn’t) but because it was over. The conversations with Jameson have come to an end. And it has left a hole in my heart, my life. It’s like my vacation in the Sierras is over and I’m watching from the rearview mirror as slowly he and his ranch get smaller and smaller in the background.

I can very honestly say I have never had a book affect me in this way. I’ve laughed while reading books before. This book moved me from a small snicker to giggles to gales of laughter that makes you throw your head back as the laughter runs up from your abdomen and erupts through your open mouth to laughing so hard you can’t even make a sound but you just sit there shaking and making everything around you shake. I’ve laughed until tears ran and I nearly wet my pants. (Which is another thing, you won’t want to take a break from reading so you’ll put off potty breaks until the last possible moment. You’ll be praying the whole way that you just make it. And you take the book with you as you try to think of a way to continue to read while undoing your jeans. Take it from me, there isn’t one. Too many close calls prove that.)

But I have never had a book move me to tears like this one.  I’ve had books make me angry, angry enough to throw them across the room or in the trash. But not move to me to being a teary-weepy mess.  I’ve read books by authors I’ve liked, adored, wanted to emulate. But I’ve not been moved to love an author like this book.

If I could dictate a comment on this post from Jameson it would be simply, “Woman, come and get your hug.”

To give this book any number of turning pages is laughable. How do you put a number on a deeply touched heart? You can’t. I could give all the turning pages in the world and it wouldn’t be enough.

You will want to know where you can get your hands on this book. You could check your public library. Mine didn’t have it but your library might. You can order it through amazon.com, or request it through your local bookstore. (Link is not an affiliate link, I profit nothing by your clicks or orders.)

(To satisfy the government’s requirements, I did not receive anything for this review. I purchased the book. All thoughts and opinions are most definitely my own.)

A Review: Becoming a Welcoming Church

20180403_100841If you regularly attend church, and it’s habitually the same church, chances are you find your fellowship to be well, friendly and welcoming.

It’s probably a church you felt instantly at home in when you walked in the door for the first time, ergo, you are a welcoming and friendly church.

If you’re in leadership at your church, have you noticed that many who visit your church never return? Are you convinced the problem is elsewhere? Maybe you blame it on the GenZers. Or think everyone is vacating the church in droves. Maybe you think it’s because you’re not fancy enough, or you don’t have enough programs. You might think you’re not big enough, fancy enough, innovative enough.

But could it be that you’re just not friendly enough?

Now before you scoff at me and call a million fifty poxes on my head, listen. Maybe you’re not. It isn’t programs that hold people. It’s not fancy stages and shows, it’s not lights and sound. It’s not a killer youth group or children’s programs. (Killer…that might not have been the best word to use there.)

The first thing people are looking for when they come to a church for the first time is Jesus. That might be overly simplistic, but think about it. They want Jesus or they wouldn’t be there.

They also are looking for a place to belong, a place they feel loved, accepted, wanted, enjoyed, needed. They want people to genuinely express eagerness to see them and a deep appreciation they are there. They want to be noticed, to be seen.

But when we stand around in holy huddles, chatting with the other regular attenders no one is noticing the visitor. Often no one greets them. No one wants to acknowledge they are there.

Maybe your church is large and has multiple services. And maybe like me, you’ve been embarrassed by greeting someone as a visitor when they’ve been attending for months or even years. (This could even happen if you don’t have multiple services. Don’t ask me how I know this, let’s just say I’m smart, okay?)

But what if it isn’t all of that? What if you’re not quite as friendly and welcoming as you could be?

In Thom Rainer’s newest book, Becoming a Welcoming Church, he talks about this issue. This little volume (just 5.5″ x 7.5″ and only 100 pages) speaks into the friendliness issues confronting our churches and offers some practical tips for repairing first impressions.

He touches on everything from websites (and most are so sadly lacking even the rudimentary information needed) to children’s programs to the meet & greet time. If you’d like to gain a fresh perspective on your church and lead it to become, again, a friendly, welcoming place to worship, please read this book.

It is available from amazon.com, B&H Publishers, or you could simply order it through your local Christian bookstore.

 

I received a free copy of this book from Lifeway.com and B&H Publishers for the purpose of review. I did not have to post a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Review: Dancing with the Dead

20180404_131207Every now and again you pick up a book, ignore the beginning, pick a random spot and begin reading. It is only with every ounce of the sheer force of your very-strong will that you stop reading and begin where all good stories begin, at the very beginning.

This book, this story, draws you in like a drunk to a bar, or a moth to a flame, or me to a good cup of strong, black coffee.  All the rest of your life stops, or at the very least is put on hold, necessities like food, changing your clothes, using the restroom are all weighed against reading further and they are often discarded as very definitely unnecessary in light of reading.

This writing has so drawn you in that you are no longer just a woman sitting at home reading a book, no, you are, at the very least, an observer IN the story. But more often you are a character in the book. You feel every emotion the characters feel. You’re angry. You’re giddy. You feel that sweet spot of true love. You feel the fear. The terror, the hate. You cry. You laugh.

Dancing with The Dead by my long-time hero, Jameson Parker is just such a book. Honestly, dear reader, this book made me realize novels aren’t written the same way today. This book hearkens back to the days when a novel was an enjoyable way to pass the afternoon, a place to get lost, a time for the noise of the world to disappear as you disappeared in the pages.

Dancing with the Dead is the story of Pamela and Tony. I’m not going to say too much because quite frankly, you just need to order this book for your own big boy or girl self and read it.  From the prologue to the final word of the final chapter you are drawn in to a world of mental illness, Vietnam,Mississippi, lynching and murder of blacks in pre-Vietnam America,  Argentina, Civil War, ponies and polo.

Jameson Parker so masterfully moves from one character to another without ever losing each individual character’s voice.  The plot and character development are honed so fine you don’t even realize until you’ve finished the book and you find yourself asking, “Well, then what happened to them?”

And trust me, you will ask that question. I’m still asking it. “Then what happened? What happened to Pamela and Tony? We can’t just leave them there. Yes it was a happy place, but then what???”

Plot and character development are so masterfully woven and brought to life you will never forget them. But that isn’t the only thing that makes a book good. The craft of writing must be honed, and Jameson has honed it to a fine science. Any book I read that forces me to have a dictionary right next to me is a good book! And this book (as well as his blog) both require that.

Any book that leaves me wishing I could write like that and spurs me on to be a better writer, to hone my own craft and voice is an excellent book. And yes, this book did that.

This book is available through Bear Manor Media or amazon.com or you could order through your own local bookstore. I don’t much care where you order it, but please just do yourself a favor and order the book! (Incidentally those links are not affiliate links. I gain nothing through your clicking or purchasing.)

It has been a long, long while since a “novel” has impacted me to this degree. This book changed me, in more ways than I realize right this moment. It’s not simply because at one time I had a crush on the author, it’s not that at all. This book came alive in my hands and I am not ever going to be the same.

To give this book 5 out of 5 turning pages is, well, frankly, it’s not enough. It needs at the very least 10 out of 5 and at most 50 out of 5 turning pages.

 

(To satisfy the government’s requirements, I did not receive a free copy of this book for review. I gain nothing at all by my review and my opinions are my own.)

 

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges {A Review}

51JAXctyoTL._AC_US218_The late Jerry Bridges is known for authoring many books on our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His books include: The Practice of Godliness,  The Pursuit of Holiness, and many others.

I had not read any of his works before reading Transforming Grace. I might have to change that.

Transforming Grace is simply the best book I have read on the topic of God’s Grace toward us.  I have read many books on the topic of grace by many different authors, but none hold a candle to this one. So much of the book resonated deeply in this heart.

If you want or need a good book on the topic of God’s grace go to your local Christian bookstore and purchase this one. An added bonus there is a study guide in the back of the book. This book would work well for an individual, personal study of grace or it could be used in a group study.

Jerry Bridges, as much as any man could, had a handle on grace. He tenderly teaches us that our salvation is all Jesus and not at all us. It’s isn’t Jesus + Whatever I do, but it is simply Jesus and His great Grace.

A few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“This instantaneous act of God by which He beings sanctification in us is just as much a gift of God’s grace as justification. God does not wait until we ‘surrender all’, make a second commitment to Christ’s lordship, or anything like that. God give sanctification by His grace.” (page 117)

And another one.

“Our love for God, expressed through obedience to Him, is to be a response to His love, not a means of trying to earn it.” (page 92)

One last one.

“God is worthy of my loving obedience because of who He is, not because of what He does.” (page 89)

What did I love about this book? In short, everything. It put into words what my heart believed and couldn’t articulate. So many times I was inwardly shouting, “YES! This is exactly right!!”

It opened my eyes and brought out many questions, hard questions that I needed to answer.

What did I not like about the book? Nothing.

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges will change your life and is a necessary addition to your library. It is published by NavPress and is available through your local Christian bookstore or your favorite online seller.

 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. All opinions are my my own.