Book Review: The Breeding Tree

The Breeding Tree

In this riveting tale of utopian society, the characters are forced to choose between their conscience and safety. The Breeding Tree tackles important questions about right to life, and who determines whether or not a person is useful to society. Do birth defects, accidents or age dictate a person’s worth? Or, does the value of human life come from something intrinsically deeper?

J. Andersen is a budding author who understands the pace and rhythm needed to move a story. From the establishment of the Institute’s Code of Ethics, to the description of lab experiments, J. Andersen has created characters and environments that are believable and compelling. I found myself cheering for Kate and warning her about the shadows chasing her through the streets of Sector 4. I had a hard time trusting Micah, yet felt pulled to find out more about him. And Kate’s grandmother held more secrets!

The book is targeted to the Young Adult audience, yet held lessons for all ages. The storyline is fast-paced and multilayered. Fans of The Hunger Games will recognize the same thirst to rebel against an establishment that threatens life and liberty.

Fantastic book! I can’t wait to see how the ongoing story will unfold!

Sally

You Want to be Published?

publish

Scores of books and articles have been written on how to get published. So maybe, you don’t need me to tell you how, but to encourage you, that you can do it!
1. Set goals. If you write one page every day for a year, you’ll have 365 pages! I have kept a desk calendar at different times, just for word count and submission goals.
2. Be disciplined. You have to put your seat in the chair and stay there! Use a timer and then reward yourself with a stretch break. Find what helps to keep you on task.
3. Outline. Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden say “an effective outline can help you stay on track and focus on your topic.” Break your subject down into three or five major areas. Then begin filling in the gaps with stories and essential points. Edit until it sings.
I used this method for the article in Women of Worth: Sugar & Spice, and it helped me meet my deadline!
4. You can find ways to get published when you email the editor. What are their editorial needs? How do you get on their author rotation? I did this with Light From The Word, and was able to land an assignment for seven devotionals when I sent samples of my work.
5. Visualize your audience and write to that person. If you’re writing for young moms, then you’ll use examples from when your kids were toddlers. Edit out big words when writing for children. Watch for slang that won’t relate to senior citizens.

Oddly, when you look at writers on writing, they focus more on developing your craft, than on finding a publisher.
Point taken, you’ll get published when you know how to write.
Ellison and Gilden ask, “Do you see your writing as a ministry? Then, who can you serve? How can you help? Where can you enlighten? What can you teach? When can you encourage? Why have you been given the gift of words? Is it to keep them to yourself, or for the benefit of others?”
If for the benefit of others, then do so with excellence!
Helpful Resources:
For The Write Reason:   Marybeth Whalen
WriterSpeaker.com:  Carmen Leal
Write His Answer:  Marlene Bagnull
The Complete Guide to Christian Writing and Speaking:  Susan Titus Osborn
Called to Write:  Edna Ellison & Linda Gilden
The Art of War for Writers:  James Scott Bell
Funds for Writers:  C. Hope Clark
Sally

Book Review: Lazarus Awakening

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Joanna Weaver says that which we believe will destroy us, can be the catalyst to more accurately reveal Jesus in us. Her direct, yet gentle approach paves the way to receive the truths packed throughout this three piece set of the Lazarus Awakening DVD Bible Study.

Weaver tells us, her previous book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, began a ten year journey with the family from Bethany. Her smooth writing style puts personal stories to good use to illustrate Scripture. She unwraps truth in the telling of story, with profound depth to the multiple layers of application found there. We are reminded that we all have issues we need to surrender to the Lord, and the convicting is done is such a gracious manner, you keep coming back for more. This book should be placed in the hands of every person who ever tested faith. It probes questions we usually leave simmering beneath the surface, yet has a way of clarifying Scripture in such a way that stories open up in a whole new light. Suddenly the application to my sin wound is crystal clear and reveals a Love so profound that the Truth is staggering. Weaver uses “analogies concerning the tombs we often settle for and the graveclothes we often wear, pointing us to the resurrection life Jesus came to bring.” Halfway through the book I knew I was holding in my hands a transformational key for our next Women’s Retreat! And there, on the third DVD, I found a retreat format ready to be tweaked to our own event, including power point slides, craft ideas and workshop materials.

The workbook consists of an 8-session series for personal or group study, as a companion to the video sessions. It is user friendly, with lots of tools for reflection. I like the use of journaling prompts and opportunities to flesh out what the Lord is saying through the passage. Planning Guides are also provided with action steps, and it’s packed with helpful tools for personalization and application.

The DVD was filmed in Israel, placing the study of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, in their homeland. The visual backdrop of the Holy Land is stunning, as Joanna Weaver explains God’s Word in a compelling way. Extra footage highlights interviews on location and tools for study. The piece that especially grabbed my attention, was the section with downloadable leader’s guide, promotional material, and a complete retreat laid out. Weaver has thought of everything!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received this book set from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Sanctity of Life

What does it mean to set apart life as sacred? What is so special about one life, that it would cause others to guard it? Maybe that one life, is that of the inventor of the smallpox vaccine? Or maybe it was the life of Winston Churchill, who taught us to “Never, never, never give up.”

Who determines the worth of a soul? Does government? Does popular opinion? Hitler declared the Jewish race inferior to his own. He succeeded in swaying public support for his beliefs. Watch as Joel Rosenberg describes the horror of Auschwitz.

When does a human being have the right to terminate the life of another? Before birth? At the end of a long life, now being snuffed out by disease?

Where are the limits to what a person/regime/political entity can impose on another country/race/individual?

Why should people care, when life is spiraling out of control in so many arenas? Joanna Weaver says, “God created us with a primal instinct for life and a violent resistance to death. There is a fight reflex within us that battles to breathe, scratching and clawing to the surface of whatever we’re going through in order to survive. And that is as it should be. If we don’t have a desire to live, then something is terribly wrong. Something has short-circuited our wiring, both physically and spiritually.”

How could one person make a difference, in a world where values are relative to circumstantial evidence?

Allow me to share a story. A reporter happened upon a beach where starfish upon starfish had washed up upon the shore, casualty of the previous night’s storm. The sea creatures would not survive out of their natural habitat, and the morning sun would surely bake them before hitting the noonday sky. But a lone beachcomber tossed specimens into the breakwaters, barely moving from one spot to reach for the next one. The reporter asked what difference it would make, when so many would not make it into the water. The man continued with his task, not even looking up to answer, “It makes a difference to that one.”

Is it an insurmountable task, to stem the tide of abortions in our country? Maybe. But it could save the life of one, who could save the life of one, who could…

abortion

I watched a movie last night with Hubby that left me cheering for life. The Martian, starring Matt Damon, is about an astronaut left behind in an aborted science mission to Mars. The ensuing struggle to survive on his part, and to launch a rescue attempt on the part of others, is a beautiful commentary on the value of one human life. One that is worth saving at all odds and all cost. Hmmm. That sounds a lot like the Rescue Effort launched by the Father and the Son. Jesus came to save us at the greatest cost of all time. Could we treat life any different?

Sally

Book Review: You Don’t Know Me

You Dont know me

You Don’t Know Me begins with a mysterious goodbye. Then, Annalise Decker alludes numerous times to her fragile existence. But the reason why it’s fragile is not fully understood until her Witness Security agent shows up. To the townspeople of Deep Haven, the Deckers look like the perfect family, but inside, they’ve got their problems, too.

Her mother-in-law, Helen has secrets.

Her husband, Nathan has secrets.

Her son, Jason has secrets.

Her daughter, Colleen has secrets.

And her son, Henry wants a different life with skateboarding, rather than the one he has with soccer.

The secrets turn into a nest of lies, and Annalise wonders what the town would do if they discovered she’d lied to them over 20 years? She’s very good at lies, and doesn’t know how to separate truth from fiction any longer.

You Don’t Know Me tackles themes of integrity, trust and self-worth by fleshing out how bad choices affect those around us. And when grace and forgiveness come back into play, the Deckers learn hard times make you stronger and more compassionate. Their struggle to trust God and each other brings them to wonder, how does family stick together when their world falls apart?

Author Susan May Warren says, “I believe I am called to be authentic and honest in my storytelling. As a Christian woman, I am not interested in cardboard characters with unrealistic struggles who receive pat answers. Life can be overwhelming and at sometimes messy and confusing. Relevant faith-filled fiction deals with that and yet offers hope. I don’t presume to know all the answers. I just try and write stories about people learning to walk in faith, every day trusting God just a little bit more.”

Susan May Warren has lived up to her desire to portray real people with real struggles. You Don’t Know Me brings raw emotions to the surface and weaves them into a can’t-put-it-down-book. Bravo!

Sally

Note: I received this book as part of the Tyndale Rewards Program. I received no compensation for this review.

Where do you find retreat locations?

forest_retreat_by_environaut

When word of mouth gets out that you’re looking for a place to host your gang, people can be really helpful with ideas. So helpful in fact, that it gets overwhelming.  Whether you’re planning a family reunion, church getaway or a team building event for work, there are a few crucial elements to settle first.

1) Do we want to cook?  Didn’t you think the first question would be about food?  Let’s be practical!  We all want to know what’s for dinner!  The food question is a big issue because it could pare down the number of choices.  Do you want to haul in food to grill yourselves, or do you want the food to be prepared and served in a dining hall?  There are merits to both and they affect time, cost and atmosphere.

2) What kind of amenities do we want?  Swimming?   Fishing?  Campfires?  Spa Treatment?  Golfing?  The location can bolster your theme’s effect.  For instance, a Boy Scout retreat would be out of place in a 5 Star Hotel.  And many people prefer a mattress over sleeping on the ground in a camping area.  So, find what works for you.

3) What size of group do you need to accommodate?  While searching the internet for a retreat location, my co-coordinator came across a gorgeous setting with prayer gardens and a castle atmosphere.   It wasn’t big enough for our retreat, but later we used it for a leadership training event!

Try several keywords when you Google places: retreat centers, vacations, and hideaways all convey the idea.  When you think like a tourist, you can find things you may not have noticed before.

4) How far are you willing to drive?   Even though a closer location is enticing for gas savings, it also presents a unique challenge.  People feel free to come and go according to their own schedule!  That means they miss out on group bonding time, as well as cheat themselves out of the amount of time needed to unwind.  If they’re still running on their own timetable, have they really retreated from the daily grind?

5) How much will it cost?  Your answers to all of the above questions will funnel down into this last major one.  Cost will effect who can come and participate.  If the cost is too high, you may eliminate someone who really needs to be there!  Anything you can do to knock off some of the price will create goodwill and growth in the long run.  Fundraisers in the months prior to your event are helpful, as well as build anticipation for what is to come.

Don’t let too many options cheat you out of finding the best option for your retreat. A little bit of research will launch you into the next phase of planning and equip you for the nuances of a great event!

You can find more articles like this, here.

For more tips on Retreat Planning, see my ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat!

Sally

Out of Africa

I still weep when I look at the pictures from Uganda. How can a trip to another continent render one so utterly speechless? Maybe it’s the culture shock, but, would you believe culture shock is harder coming back home? If you have running tap water in your house, you have more than most people in Third World countries. You are wealthy! 

One of the home visits we made was to a widow’s in Gulu. She takes care of her grandchildren because their parents, her children, have died of aids. Her home is a tiny mud hut with a thatch roof. Inside, she had a rocking chair and a fire pit. She was thrilled to invite us in, and brought a bench inside, just so she could host us in her home.
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There’s no welfare from the government in Africa. People survive off the land and the love of others who have compassion on them. We brought gifts of lotions, soap and shirts, and small toys for the children, as well as beans and rice. You would have thought she received great riches, her gratitude was so profound.
One organization that is making a difference in their lives is Children of Promise, a child sponsorship program of the Church of God. The program they developed for the widows is called TAPP, and is described this way,
“Tumaini Aids Prevention Program is a holistic social program that reaches out to those infected and affected with HIV & Aids. It provides training, Home Based Care, income generating projects, education and social support for a hopeful life which encompasses the entire community.
The Church of God child sponsorship office is located in the Kasubi area, in the city of Kampala, Uganda. As the office doors would open each morning, more and more families were showing up needing assistance. The need to care for families affected by HIV was overwhelming. Soon it was obvious that a separate program should be created. They called this program TAPP. ‘Tumaini’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘hope’ and became the vision of this program.”
We have long been associated with TAPP through the beautiful beads made by the widows. They create the beads with strips of paper rolled into tight balls and strung together, and this is one of the ways they support their families. Take a look at their work here.
Read more about our home visits here.
In his book, Something Beautiful For God, The Classic Account of Mother Teresa’s Journey into Compassion, Malcolm Muggeridge says this about encountering impoverished people:
Accompanying Mother Teresa… to the Home for the Dying, to the lepers and unwanted children, I found I went through three phases. The first was horror mixed with pity, the second compassion pure and simple, and the third, reaching far beyond compassion, something I had never experienced before – an awareness that these dying and derelict men and women, these lepers with stumps instead of hands, these unwanted children, were not pitiable, repulsive or forlorn, but rather dear and delightful; as it might be, friends of long standing, brothers and sisters. How is it to be explained – the very heart and mystery of the Christian faith? To soothe those battered old heads, to grasp those poor stumps, to take in one’s arms those children consigned to dustbins, because it is His head, as they are His stumps and His children, of whom He said that whosoever received one such child in His name received Him. (pp. 52-53)
Indeed, we met our brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews in those huts. And we were blessed.
Sally
Originally published August 28, 2014 at sallyswords

Book Review: Ties That Bind

Ties That Bind
Cindy Woodsmall has done it again! She’s drawn me into her world so effectively, that I hardly noticed I had reached the end of the story. In fact, I was frustrated that the story was finished, as it had more to disclose.
Ties That Bind begins with a crisis and immediately pulls you into the story of an Amish family and an Englisch family whose lives intersect. Woodsmall is able to navigate the two worlds successfully, framing each with the language and idiosyncrasies that make them believable.
The mysteries continued throughout the book, and it made me feel valued as a reader, not having everything spelled out for me. I love the wisdom spattered throughout, such as when Quill realizes hardship is a sign of being alive (p. 71), or when he recognizes the shallowness of treating God as a star to wish upon (p. 175). Arianna’s world turns inside out as she considers the treachery of those leaving the Old Order, but clings to love’s virtue, “with its thriving desire to be kind, encouraging, and protective” (p. 193).
The audience of Amish readers will have no further to look to find a great story. Award-winning Cindy Woodsmall has added another family to her repertoire, with The Amish of Summer Grove series, and it left me hanging on the edge of my seat for book two!

Sally
Disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Welcome to Momhood

I am a bad mom.
There. I’ve said it. I’ve laid it all on the table.
I have two adult children and I still try to make life all better for them.
Wasn’t I supposed to let go of that role when they were in elementary school? I bandaged the cuts and brushed off their knees, with a kiss to make it all better.
bandaged knee
When did I adopt the role that said, “I have to keep everyone happy”? I scurry around trying to be the peace-maker and hand-holder and all of that scurrying leaves me empty and scarred. As moms, do we enable our kids to grow, when we are the go-to person in their lives? Where is the fine line between being an enabler and being a springboard to launch them into adulthood? In their book, The Cure for the “Perfect” Life, Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory point out that “we live with the illusion that we have some measure of control over how other people behave. We’re like a three-year-old kid strapped into his car seat and using his Fisher-Price steering wheel, absolutely certain that he’s the one driving the car.
It’s crazy feeling that we have all the responsibility for other people’s lives, with none of the authority to make a difference.” (p. 171)
I gave up that authority with each birthday we celebrated. My children entered the pre-teen years with an earnest desire to make their own decisions. They went through the teens with independence as their motto. Letting go actually began the day I gave birth and gave them opportunity to breathe on their own. Why then, do I strive to take back control and seek to guide them still? Isn’t that something I label creatively as nurturing? When I hide my controlling tendencies in nice sounding terms, it makes me sound like a “good” mom. Yet, my whole job description as a parent is to prepare my kids to make their own decisions. And that cannot happen when I second-guess their judgment. Is there a better way for me to show them love? Lipp & Gregory say, “there is a love that goes deeper than hurting when others hurt- it’s the kind of love that allows those we love to be in pain so they can become the kind of people God has designed them to be.” (p. 175)
Now, I am the last person to want to leave someone else in pain. I am a people-pleaser with a capital P. But if I understand that I am not to rescue others from their problems, maybe I will embrace their journey to the Throne of Mercy by getting out of the way. And that is the best way to be an enabler.
I don’t have this all figured out. I’m sure I will regress and fall back into patterns of habit that are within my comfort zone. So here are two questions I will ask:
“1. Is this the best solution for them?
2. Is this the best solution for me?” (The Cure for the “Perfect” Life, p. 178)
Lipp & Gregory explain, one way to advocate healthy self-care is to tell myself, disappointment isn’t deadly.

When I release my kids to experience pain, they are empowered to reach out to God as their own Rescuer.
Here is my question for you:
How have you learned to release your adult children to the consequences of their own choices?
Sally
Originally published September 3, 2014 at sallyswords