Friday, April 30, 2010

The Winner of Lisa and Ty Samson's 'Love Mercy' is....

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The Random Number Generator has chosen a winner for 'Love Mercy: A Mother and Daughter's Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God' by Lisa and Ty Samson. 

That winner is Karen K!

Congratulations, Karen.  

An email from me is on its way to get your mailing information.

For those of you interested (and you all should be - it's a terrific book!), you can order it here.

Thanks to everyone for your entries and comments!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

‘The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church’ by Andrew Farley – Book Review and Giveaway

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If one really looks at the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we find that it is fairly simple.  That is the premise of Andrew Farley in his first book, ‘The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church.’  Here is the description of this book from the back cover:

Jesus plus nothing.  100% natural.  No additives.  It’s the truth you may never hear in church.  The Naked Gospel is a chapter-by-chapter assault on the churchy jargon and double-talk of our day.  It puts forth a message that is simple but life-changing.  With a fresh take on Scripture and an unapologetic style, The Naked Gospel will challenge you to reexamine everything you thought you already knew.

And here is Andrew’s biography:

Andrew Farley is lead pastor of Ecclesia.  He cohosts Real Life in Christ, a television program that airs on ABC-TV in the West Texas and New Mexico area.  He is a tenured professor of applied linguistics at Texas Tech University and lives in Lubbock, Texas, with his wife, Katharine, and their son, Gavin. 

Here’s an interview with Andrew talking about his book:

There was a book entitled ‘The Naked Gospel’ by Arthur Bury in 1691.  This is how Mr. Bury explained the concept in his book:

The naked gospel [is] discovering what was the gospel which our Lord and his apostles preached; what additions and alterations later ages have made in it; what advantages and damages have thereupon ensued.

Dr. Farley noted that the original ’The Naked Gospel’ was burned by the church of his day. 

In his book, Dr. Farley offers this invitation:

I once thought I knew all about the Christian faith, but it wasn’t until fourteen years after I’d received Christ that I would begin to grasp the real thing.  I’m not talking about another salvation experience or a second blessing.  I’m talking about a return to the foot of the cross and the door of the tomb to learn all over again.
And for me, there was as much unlearning as learning.
With that in mind, I invite you to dive deeply with me toward the indispensible, powerful core of the Christian faith.  I found genuine answers that don’t disappoint.  I’m excited to share them with you.  I’m betting you’ll be surprised at least a time or two along the way.
The real thing has a tendency to do that. (p. 16)

I liked the sound of that!  I have realized over the last few years that I have been exposed to a lot of false teaching in different churches in my lifetime.  I was anxious to see where Andrew was going to take me with this simple journey.

Andrew makes the point that there is a lot of style over substance in many churches today – just as there are in the world:

There’s nothing wrong with top-quality facilities, creative programs, and a genuine sense of community.  But the fundamental question is, “What message are we sharing in our community and within our walls through our programs?”  I believe it’s our substance, not our structure, that is leaving so many stagnant and dissatisfied.  A church may have polished programs, well-trained staff, and dynamic speakers.
But content is what people walk away with. (p. 27)

Andrew also points out that many Christians live such sad and defeated lives that their lifestyle is not attractive to non-believers.  He proposes another way:

So what if there is another way?  What if we could do away with all of the religious guilt and live from delight?  What if we could enjoy so great an intimacy with God that it would seem he was nearly beneath our skin?  What if we could just go through life being ourselves and somehow express Christ along the way?  And what if all of this could come at no expense of our own?  It would mean the religious things could end.  It would mean we wouldn’t have to analyze ourselves and measure our spirituality. (p. 36)

Dr. Farley differentiates between the Old and the New – the Old Covenant with its innumerable rules and regulations, and the New Covenant – Jesus’ death and Resurrection.  When Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross (John 19:30), He meant it!  Yet many Christians live under both Covenants.  Andrew doesn’t mince words about Christians who make that decision:

It’s preposterous for Christians to adopt portions of the law of Moses as our guide for living.  We’re presuming that God grades on a curve.  But the law is completely incompatible with our other attempts to “do our best.”  Law is a pass-or-fail system.  
And one strike means you’re out. (p. 52)

He goes on to say this about those who continue to keep the Ten Commandments after they’ve been saved:

We may think that placing ourselves under the Ten Commandments is a good way to clean house.  But law-directed living has the opposite effect.  The only sensible choice is to allow Christ to be himself through us.  This is God’s way of impacting our lives and placing his life on display. (pp. 57-58)

It’s also another way for Christians to justify keeping control of their lives to themselves instead of yielding it to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  It is difficult for Christians, especially in the success- and achievement-driven society we live in here in the U.S., to accept the gift we have been given.  Andrew points out what is stated in the Bible on that subject:

The author of Hebrews invites us to rest along with God.  We rest by ceasing from the dead works we thought would gain us favor with God.  Rather than performing religious acrobatics to rid ourselves of sins, we can sit down with Jesus.  We can simply agree “It is finished.”  That is entering God’s rest. (p. 66)

Andrew provides a real-life example of how the Naked Gospel idea changed the life of a lady named Barbara:

…We had examined a few dozen Scripture passages about her identity in Christ, her freedom from the law’s demands, and the boundless forgiveness she has in Christ.  She told me that when she set her mind on those truths, she began to experience some relief from her debilitating depression. (p. 86)

Andrew points out the fact that sometimes Christians have a hard time accepting God’s gift of grace through the sacrifice of Christ.  He considers grace to be the secret formula:

Grace is the system that the Holy Spirit uses to counsel and teach us on a daily basis.  Grace is in place, whether or not we’ve sinned recently.  We worry that an absence of law will result in a lifestyle that is out of control.  This concern is natural.  But it contradicts what the Scriptures say about the effects of grace.  Grace isn’t just a treatment for sin; it’s actually the cure for sin!
…Our greatest fear is that we’ll be out of control.  But we were never made for control.  Self-control has always been a natural attribute of the Holy Spirit.  The reason he lives within us is to produce the self-control that we’re afraid we lack under grace. (p. 91)

Dr. Farley points out the biblically sound way to live:

Living a life of dependency on the Spirit is really more than being ourselves.  We were built for it from the ground up.  After all, we are now God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).  We’re designed for walking in the attitudes and actions that God has already prepared for us. (p. 115)

Dr. Farley sums up ‘The Naked Gospel’ this way:

In short, the real gospel is a bulletproof message that is essentially spiritual common sense from every angle.  It makes biblical and practical sense, and there is no verse in the entirety of the Scriptures that ruins its splendor. (p. 218)

And he expresses what he thinks the apostle Paul would tell us today (p. 208):

          Celebrate the New!
          Learn who you really are!
          And then just be yourself!

I greatly appreciate what Andrew shared in this book.  This basic information is rarely shared in most churches today.  I am grateful I attend a church in which the teaching is solidly biblical – plus we have an awesome building and great technology (I love serving on the Video Tech Team).  I am grateful that Andrew is filling that large void – and pray that many lives will be changed by being made aware of the truth of the Gospel.  I give this book the highest recommendation.   It is biblically based and solid – and provides the truth for the problems of this world – the person of Jesus Christ.

You can download a sample of the book here.

You can order this book here.

This book was provided by Zondervan for review and giveaway purposes.  I am pleased to be participating in the Blog Tour Spot blog tour with these others bloggers.

I have a copy of this book that I would love to send along to one of you! 

There are several ways to gain entry:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog, telling me what your thoughts are on this book and its message.  Please make sure to leave your email address in this format – sample[at]gmail[dot]com.

2) Follow me on Twitter; I will more than likely follow you back!  If you are already a Twitter follower, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

3) Follow me as a Google Friend on this blog; if you are already a Friend, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

4) Become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

5) Follow this blog as a NetWorked Blog Follower after you’ve become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

So there are five chances to enter!  Please limit one entry per option.

This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.  The deadline for entry is Thursday, May 13 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  A winner will be chosen via the Random Number Generator on Friday, May 14, 2010 and will be contacted via email.  The best to all of you!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Interview with Author and Writing Instructor, Janice Hanna Thompson

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I have had the pleasure of reading two of Janice Thompson's books - 'Swinging on a Star' and 'Allegheny Hopes;' I will shortly be reading and reviewing her latest, 'It Had to Be You.'

This very gifted author has a Freelance Writing course.  Here she is explaining what is included in it:

Janice has offered us some additional information on this valuable course:

Janice, could you tell us a little about your new venture?

Of course! Thanks for asking. On April 20th, 2010, I debuted my new writing course “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer” at The sole purpose of this venture is to teach struggling freelance writers how to earn money with their writing. Here’s how it will work: students can purchase one lesson (for $24.95) or all ten (for $199). They don’t have to feel compelled to buy the whole package, though they will get a package price, if they do. Each lesson will include an audio file and a video power point presentation of me teaching the lesson (available with just a click of the mouse), a corresponding audio script, a downloadable worksheet,  a bonus feature, and full access to the site’s forum, where I will meet with authors for some group mentoring (at designated times). Right now there are ten lessons, but eventually those ten lessons will become ten separate categories with multiple lessons in each. For example, the current lesson on magazine article writing will eventually have multiple other lessons underneath it—all meant to teach writers how to make money writing articles. People who take these courses will have the benefit of meeting other freelancers in the forum and can also chat with me about their projects. Best of all, the site will continually grow. New, fresh material will always be available. (I’ll be recording new lessons routinely.) I’m so excited, because I know that struggling freelancers can and will learn how to make money with their writing.

What prompted you to set off on this new adventure?

For years I’ve been writing novels and non-fiction books. I’ve been so blessed to have over fifty books published, as well as dozens of magazine articles and even a movie script. It’s been quite a ride. . . and it’s not ending anytime soon! I’m currently contracted through 2011. The longer I’m in this business, however, the more I’m aware of the basic need of the average freelance author to make “better” money. Sure, many of them eventually sell books. They get advances and royalties, (though, not often in the range they had hoped). As a full-time freelancer, I’ve faced this myself. Several years ago, I found myself hollering, “Where’s the money?” I made up my mind to find as many creative ways as I could to bring in money as a freelancer. I’ve learned so much since then, and want to share what I’ve learned with others, so that they can benefit, too.

Why are you so passionate about teaching others how to make money with their writing?

I meet so many struggling writers. So many are just hoping and praying to sell a book. They pour all of their energies into that venture. Most don’t realize that they could be making money much sooner if they would explore other avenues (besides just books). The possibilities are endless. If I can share what I’ve learned about the money-making aspects of writing, then I’ve helped another struggling writer on his or her journey.

Tell us a little about your own writing.

As I mentioned above, I’ve written just about everything! Most of my writing is for the Christian market, so my stories have a clear faith element. Lately I’ve been writing romantic comedies, (most recently the “Weddings by Bella” series), but I also enjoy writing mysteries, kid’s stories, historicals and more. I continue to write magazine articles, because they provide a great financial supplement. I’m also very excited about my many write-for-hire projects, because a huge chunk of my income comes from those. 

What has it been like, supporting yourself full-time as a freelancer? Is there really money to be made?

As I mentioned, there was a time (back in 2007) when I wasn’t sure I could do it. At that time, I hadn’t set any real goals for myself. That all changed in the fall of 2007 when I began to strategize about the future of my writing. Instead of worrying about the challenges I faced, I got busy and put together a plan. I began to look for non-traditional ways to earn money with my writing. . .and it worked! That’s not to say I’ve “arrived,” but I have managed to support myself full-time from that point till now.

I would think that the writing industry would be very competitive. Why do you want to see others succeed? Aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot when you hand off potential freelance jobs to other authors?

The writing industry is competitive, but that doesn’t mean I am! Sure, I want to make a name for myself, (most writers do), but I’m equally as interested in training up other writers to be the best they can be. Why?  I believe that Christian writers have been called by the Lord to spread His love through their writing. How will they get the word out if someone doesn’t show them the ropes? I love to see others succeed because we’re all one big happy family and we care about each other.

I know that you worked for several years as a writing teacher at a school of the arts. Could you share a little more about that?

From 1996 – 2001 I taught creative writing at a Houston area school of the arts that catered primarily to home-school students. What a blast I had! (Truly, these were some of the best years of my life.) Several of my students traveled with me to national writing conferences (like Mount Hermon and ACFW), and a few went on to be published in various genres. My students will tell you that I was the most creative teacher on the block. I was always looking for a new, fresh way to teach the writing craft. My writing lessons have been compiled into a text, which I titled, “Creative Writing for the Christian Student.” It is available to freelance writing course participants. I love stirring up the creative gifts in my students! I hope that shows in these lessons!

If you could list one of the biggest frustrations that freelance writers face, what would that be?

The biggest frustration of all is this: Some markets don’t want to pay. This is especially true when it comes to the Internet. It’s so challenging to make a living when you can’t figure out who pays and who doesn’t! But that’s why I created this course! There are so many markets that do pay, and many of them are relatively untapped. Freelancers can earn money. . .they just have to discover where the money is! (And I plan to help them in that journey!)

You’ve said there’s money to be made. . .but where? What avenues are available to freelancers?

At, students will explore multiple areas where they can earn 
money with their writing. Lessons include:

·   Setting Career Goals
·   Magazine Article Writing
·   Write for Hire Work
·   Marketing and Public Relations
·   Becoming a Public Speaker
·   Becoming a Creative Writing Teacher
·   Making Money as an Editor
·   Writing and Selling the Non-Fiction Book
·   Writing and Selling the Novel
·   Secrets From the World of the Pros

Each lesson will cover a host of possibilities and will give real, practical suggestions.

You’ve mentioned other lessons that aren’t yet available. Could you share a few here?

Sure! Each of the ten topics listed above will eventually become its own course (with multiple lessons in each). I’ll be heading back into the recording studio soon to cover the topic of magazine articles more thoroughly. I’ll also record lessons covering all aspects of fiction writing. We’ll talk about passive vs. active writing, plotting, characterization, and much more. I’ve also got a host of lessons coming up related to non-fiction books. We’ll delve into specific topics related to write-for-hire work (my favorite!) and will share a host of lessons on marketing and PR. Hang on for the ride! Participants in these various courses will get the tools they need to work as a pro in the industry.

How, exactly, will these courses work?

When participants sign up and pay, they will be granted access to the “inner sanctum” of the site, where they can view the various components of the lessons, (the audio file, audio script, worksheet, power point and forum). I would suggest folks start with the first lesson (Setting Goals) and go from there. They can print up a copy of the worksheet and follow along with the audio and power point presentation. Then, at a designated time, participants can meet with me in the forum to discuss the topic at hand. I love the fact that this is all so user-friendly and participants can work at their own pace.

If you could tell beginning freelancers one thing, what would it be?

Don’t give up. Keep going and keep looking for creative ways to make money. Examine new markets. Learn all you can about the industry. Become friends with editors. The potential for money-making is there, but much of it is relational.

Why do you feel so strongly about stirring up the gifts?

There’s a scripture I love where the apostle Paul speaks to his young protégé, Timothy: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (II Timothy 1:6 NIV) The King James version uses the words “stir up the gift” instead of “fan into flame the gift.” The idea is the same. Gifts need stirring and fanning. As a published author, I make it my goal to “stir the gifts” of those hoping to be published (or hoping to be published in more markets). I know that these lessons will stir people up. I could sense it as I recorded them. Changing lives. . .and encouraging writers. . .what could be better?

I understand you won the 2008 American Christian Fiction Writers “Mentor of the Year” award. Could you tell us more about that? What role does mentoring play in your life and how will you incorporate mentoring into your online writing courses?

I have a theory about mentoring. I believe that everyone should have someone they’re mentoring and someone they’re being mentored by. If we ever think we’re too “big” to be mentored, we’re in trouble! And it’s imperative that we pour into the lives of those who are learning the writing craft, especially if we’re published and/or doing well in the industry. I’m tickled that I received the ACFW Mentor of the Year award. I can think of nothing better to be remembered for than mentoring others, to be quite honest. Writing books is great, sure. And getting my name out there is fun, too. But if I don’t mentor. . .if I don’t pass along what I’ve learned, then my writing is nothing but selfish pleasure. I don’t ever want to be known as a selfish author. I want to be known as a giver and an encourager. My prayer is that people who take this course will see my heart for all writers to succeed and earn money doing what they love!

Janice, where else can people find you on the web?

My freelance writing courses site:
My book-related website: www.janiceathompson


What writers are saying about Janice’s course:

I've taken a number of classes since starting on this journey of writing, but Janice's course on freelance writing has been the most helpful. Full of tips, suggestions and her own writing experiences, Janice's course has something for everyone.  If you are considering signing up for her writing lessons, I urge you to do so. You won't regret it!” – Edwina Cowgill, American Christian Fiction Writers member.

I've not only had the pleasure of taking online classes from Janice, but also attending seminars. I love the practical working knowledge she teaches because I was able to put much of it into practice immediately. From the classroom to real life in a snap, Janice Thompson gives the steps, the encouragement, and the simplicity to help any writer become self-sufficient. Would I tell you to take her courses? ABSOLUTELY! You will grow the ability to earn money with your writing! Every writer's teacher, Janice Thompson. -
Angie Breidenbach, Author of Creative Cooking for Colitis, ACFW PR Officer, Mrs. Montana International 2009

I participated in Janice’s online course in January of ’10. I found her to be very thorough and very concise in her explanations. She also took pains to offer lots of feedback and make it interactive.  I know her classes will be great! – BK (Brenda) Jackson

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

‘A Stray Drop of Blood’ by Roseanna M. White – Book Review

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A Stray Drop of Blood’ is the debut novel from a talented author named Roseanna M. White.  Roseanna’s story is set in Jerusalem.  Here’s the description from the back of the book:

Born free, made a slave, married out of her bonds, Abigail never knows freedom until she feels the fire of a stray drop of blood from a Jewish carpenter.  Disowned by Israel, despised by Rome, desired by all, she never knows love until she receives the smile of a stoic Roman noble.

Here is the biography of Roseanna from the back of the book:

Roseanna M. White is a wife, mommy, writer, reviewer, and lover of all things literary-related.  She makes her home in the mountains of Maryland, where she runs the Christian Review of Books.  She is a member of ACFW, HisWriters, and HEWN Marketing.

The main character is Abigail, a Hebrew girl who finds herself sold into slavery at age eight by the relatives of her parents, who are deceased.  She is living in Jerusalem, and is owned by a family which treats her as a member of the family.  The matriarch, Ester Visibullis, is also a Jewess.  She is married to Cleopas, a Roman prefect.  They have one son, Jason, who is also a Roman soldier; he identifies more with his father’s heritage than his mother’s.  Abigail blossoms into a beautiful young woman who is cherished by one and all.  She is highly intelligent, and, contrary to the norm, Cleopas teaches his slave how to read and write several languages, including Greek, Hebrew and Latin.

These characters happen to be living in Jerusalem at the same time as a rabbi by the name of Jesus.  All of them had heard about him; in fact, He had brought Cleopas’ colleague Jairus’ daughter back to life (which is detailed in the Bible in Mark 5).  Cleopas, in particular, was interested in learning more about this possible Messiah:

….he loved the one God, Jehovah, with all of his heart.  He wanted to serve him, he wanted to be counted as one of his children.  Perhaps he was wrong to expect the messiah, the King of the Jews, to be able to intervene for him; perhaps popular opinion was correct, and the true messiah would be a great warrior to wage battle against Rome.  But just maybe he was a teacher instead, and maybe the lessons this Jesus taught were true – maybe it was the love in a man’s heart that counted with the Lord, not the number of sacrifices he made or how the Sanhedrin viewed him. (p. 91)

It is interesting to see how Cleopas’ colleagues described Jesus:

“Perhaps he will run into the Galilean rebel.  We heard he was moving in that direction.  The governor [Pontius Pilate] is not certain he is a threat, but still, one can never be too certain about these dissidents.  All reports of his actions are heard along with the rest.” (p. 96)

Abigail and Jason were witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus.  Abigail described what was going through her mind as He passed by:

He was close now, only a step away, and Abigail had a horrible fear that he would look at her.  Quite suddenly, that thought struck her as unbearable.  She knew, knew with every portion of her being, that if he looked at her, he would see her in her completeness.  He would see how black her soul had become with sin and hatred and bitterness.  He would see all she had done and thought to do and wished herself capable of.  He would see that though she wished him spared, it was only so that another could die in his place. (p. 175)

I really enjoyed this book!  Ms. White has created a story with great attention to detail, and the characters are multi-dimensional; I would go so far as to call it an epic.  I thought it was really creative how she used some real people from scripture (such as Jairus and his daughter) in her storyline.  She is a masterful writer who has the gift for creating sympathetic characters.  Abigail is beautiful, intelligent - and flawed, as are all of us.  She ultimately seeks her Messiah and finds Him – as do many of the other characters.  God shows His incredible mercy to the characters in this story, none of which are perfect!  Roseanna has obviously done her research, creating a Jerusalem fully detailed and descriptive.   I would recommend this book highly if you’re looking to read a historical fiction novel. 

You can order this book here.

This book was provided by White Fire Publishing for review purposes.
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