Thursday, November 12, 2009

Set Apart by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

setapartcoverSet Apart
Jennifer Kennedy Dean
New Hope Publishers
ISBN: 10-1596692634
ISBN: 13-978-1596692633
Release Date: 9/1/09
Retail: $14.99

Because Living IN this World

Doesn't Mean Living LIKE the World

About the Book:

(Marion, Kentucky) - In a world of self-love and materialism it's reassuring to know that God's Word has a better plan for living. Renowned author and speaker, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, provides insight to the life of Christ, specifically the Sermon on the Mount, in her new book, Set Apart: A 6 Week Study of the Beatitudes.

Through careful study of the Hebrew traditions of biblical times, Dean leads participants into a deeper awareness of this early ministry sermon series by Christ.

Jennifer guides readers to a heightened understanding of each beatitude, correlating the Ten Commandments with the Sermon on the Mount to tie these Old and New Testament principles together. Dean shares how living the Set Apart Life is an exciting and life-changing spiritual journey. Participants surrendered to Christ will see a total transformation: outward actions of holiness as well as inward attitudes of joy. Believers following along in this workbook will experience the life God intends. This blessedness comes from seeking and knowing God. Anything outside the realm of Jesus Christ results in emptiness--the ultimate opposite of blessing.

Each chapter includes interactive questions for readers to answer, emphasizing God's desire to reproduce the character and attitudes of Jesus in each Christian's life. Along with the Bible study book, there is a Leader Kit that includes six DVD sessions and a CD with bonus material for small-group leaders. Jennifer's website,, provides opportunities for previewing the Set Apart materials and extra resources for pastors and leaders.

Jennifer Kennedy Dean is Executive director of The Praying Life Foundation and a respected author and speaker. She is the author of numerous books, studies, and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Her book Heart’s Cry has been named National Day of Prayer’s signature book. You’ll find articles and daily quotes from Jennifer at the National Day of Prayer website. Her book, Live a Praying Life, has been called a flagship work on prayer.

Jennifer was widowed in 2005 after 26 years of marriage to Wayne Dean, her partner both in life and ministry. They are the parents of three grown sons. Jennifer makes her home in Marion, KY.

Adapted from Set Apart by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

"I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:9-10).

My weakness is my greatest asset in the Kingdom. My weakness is where God meets me. My weakness is where Christ's power is most clearly displayed in me. Only when I am confronted with my own helplessness can I experience the power of Christ in me.

"Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and He becomes actively engaged at once in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness." (O. Hallesby, Prayer)

I recently had the tiniest glimpse of how powerfully helplessness speaks. A few years ago, I lost my husband to brain cancer. During the final months of his illness, he became utterly helpless. The man I had leaned on for 26 years, whose strength I counted on, was now dependent upon me for his every need. During those weeks, my ear was tuned to his every sigh, his every restless movement, every change in his breathing pattern. If I had to be out of his room for even a few minutes, I had a monitor with me so I could hear him if he needed me. When he was strong, I was not so attentive. His needs did not fill my waking moments, when he could meet them himself. His helplessness spoke louder than any word he might have spoken. Because of his helplessness--because I knew he could do nothing on his own--I was on watch day and night.

My experience is but a pale shadow of the reality of the Kingdom, but still it helps me understand how my weakness is the opening for His strength. The fact of my helplessness is the only prayer I need. It speaks louder than eloquence.

Let your helplessness and your weakness be the offering you bring to Him. He is not waiting for you to be strong. He is waiting for you to recognize that you are weak.


Please leave a comment to be entered in a drawing to win the following items from Jennifer. If you are a leader (small groups, book club, Bible Study, Women's Ministry), please note that you are--you will automatically be entered in the contest. If you are a member of one of these groups at your church or community, mention that you are a group member.

You will be entered to win:
A Set Apart Leader's Kit (video and leader resources and a student book) retail $79.99
A copy of Fueled by Faith (retail $19.99)
Jennifer will have a live web event just for your group


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Christmas Miracles by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson

Christmas Miracles<br>Cecil Murphey/Marley Gibson

Christmas Miracles
Cecil Murphey/Marley Gibson
Foreword: Don Piper
St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 2009
Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN: 978-0312589837
Retail: $14.99
(Atlanta, GA) Many ordinary people experience Christmas miracles—those special moments during the season of giving and receiving when Christmas becomes more than just a holiday. In Christmas Miracles (St. Martin’s Press, October 2009), Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson share the stories of those who have recognized the special moments that transcend daily experience and transform their lives.

In these stories, people overcome desperate situations through a miraculous twist of fate—all during the most wonderful time of the year. A young boy sits down to read a Christmas book and discovers that his learning disability has vanished. A woman stranded in a blizzard is rescued by a mysterious stranger who she suspects is an angel. And a woman living far from home gets an answer to her prayer in the form of an unexpected gift.

Bestselling author Cecil Murphey says, “We all face discouraging times, whether it's the lack of money, being stuck on a road in a snowstorm, feeling stress, or being hungry and homeless. But God's help is available. I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural. We start by asking, and in strange and wonderful ways God tiptoes into our dark nights; we experience renewed joy in life and witness God in action through people and unexpected events.”

author Cecil Murphey

Award-winning writer Cecil Murphey is the author or co-author of 114 published books, including the NY Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He’s also the author of When Someone You Love Has Cancer and When God Turned Off the Lights, both 2009 releases. Murphey’s books have sold millions and have given hope and encouragement to countless readers around the world. For more information, visit


Marley Gibson is a young adult author whose first published books in the Sorority 101 series were released by Penguin Group in 2008 under the pen name of Kate Harmon. She has a new Ghost Huntress series with Houghton Mifflin written under her own name. She can be found online at

Interview with Cecil “Cec” Murphey by Marley Gibson Co-authors of Christmas Miracles, from St. Martin’s Press
I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity today to talk to my friend and co-author, Cecil “Cec” Murphey, and to chat about our upcoming book,Christmas Miracles.

Marley: Cec, thanks for spending some time with me today.

Cec: Marley, it's great that you could take time away from important things like making a living to spend a little time with me.

Marley: I’m so jazzed about our Christmas Miracles book that’s coming out soon. I’ve had a lot of questions from folks wanting to know how we met, what brought us together, etc. So, I thought we’d do a back and forth on how it all came to be. Of course, I have to give props to our amazing agent and friend, Deidre Knight, for bringing us together. For those of you who don’t know, Cec co-authored the runaway New York Times bestselling hit 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper.

Cec: I have to say thanks to Deidre Knight as well. Between Deidre and my assistant, Twila Belk, I've been able to sell quite a few books. 90 Minutes in Heaven has been my big book. I'm also proud of a book I wrote in 1990 called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. The book has never been out of print and has hit close to four million in sales. Early this year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the made-for-TV film version.

Marley: That’s amazing! You are truly prophetic and definitely “the man behind the words.” Now, people ask how we teamed up. Sadly, there was a personal tragedy that brought Cec and me together as friends.

Cec: True. In early 2007, our house burned and our son-in-law died. Aside from the grief over Alan, we lost everything. Deidre and Jan, my-then-assistant, sent the word out of our tragedy without telling me. I'm immensely grateful for every gift people sent, but I probably wouldn't have admitted I needed help and wouldn't have asked. They taught me how much we need other people.

Marley: Deidre put out a call to other clients of The Knight Agency, to help Cec and his family out in any way in their time of need. At the time, my company was moving and we were cleaning house. We had a ton of office supplies that we were either going to throw away or give to some of the charities the company worked with. I got my boss’ permission to send a large care package to Cec…full of office supplies for him to re-stock his writer’s office. You name it…post-its, staples, paper clips, pens, pencils, markers, white out, ruler, scissors, paper, notebooks, notepads, envelopes, a laptop case, tape, glue, folders, binder clips…etc. A veritable potpourri of office delights. I was hoping that it would help Cec have a sense of getting his office back so he could keep working.

Cec: Marley's gift was the most unexpected I received. We hadn't met, although Deidre Knight had spoken of her many times and kept telling me she was wonderful. I wonder if you can imagine what it was like for me to open that box from someone I didn't know. I saw all those practical things for my office and yelled for my wife. I felt as if I were reading a first-grade book. "Look! Look and see! Oh, look!" I was overwhelmed by the gift and even more to receive it from a stranger. Those supplies were the most practical gift anyone could have given me. I'm still using black paper clips and red folders from Marley.

Marley: Awww…thanks, Cec! I didn’t have to think twice about doing it. Writing is such a solitary “sport,” but the writing community always astounds me with how they help their own. Not long after that, over plates of spinach and Gouda omelets, Deidre introduced me to Cec in person and I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the words. Deidre knew we needed to work on a project together and thus began our brainstorming. What did you think of that first meeting, Cec, and cooking up the idea to work together?

Cec: Deidre and I had already spoken about a Christmas book and I had some idea about what it should contain, but nothing had come together. One day Deidre told me that Marley was coming to visit her and she wanted us to work together on a Christmas project. Marley and I talked before we ate and again during the meal. Everything felt right to me. I knew my strengths and Marley knew hers (and Deidre knew both of us). Everything clicked. Marley, a far better networker than I am, immediately sent out the word for submissions. Within days she had almost four times more than we could use. (She read every one of them!)

Marley: I was truly impressed with the submissions we received and it was hard narrowing it down to the ones we chose for the book. We’re fortunate to have such a go-getter agent in Deidre Knight. Cec, can you share how the whole idea of Christmas Miracles came about and what you thought of the project originally?

Cec: For me, it actually started while I was on the rapid-rail train from the Atlanta airport when I listened to teens talk about Christmas and it was mostly about gifts. I had the idea then, but nothing really came together. Months later when Deidre I and had a meeting, she brought up the idea of a compilation and mentioned my working with Marley. I've been Deidre Knight's client since 1997 and I've learned to listen carefully when she comes up with an idea. I said yes before she gave me all the information.

Marley: That’s the truth about Deidre! Getting back to those submissions, I want to say we got more than two hundred submissions for Christmas Miracles. So many wonderful stories to read through and select for the book. It was a challenge to pick and choose which ones were right for the book, but I loved every minute of it. After I chose the entries that would go into the book, Cec toiled long hours editing the works for a unified voice. What was the biggest challenge you found in the editing process, Cec?

Cec: I've been a ghostwriter and collaborator for twenty-plus years and this was a switch to give the book a unified voice—which was mine. It would have been easier to stay with each writer's voice, but the book—like many compilations—would have been uneven in tone and quality. When I discussed this via email with our delightful editor, Rose Hilliard, she was (to my surprise) familiar with my work. She told me she liked the warm tone of my writing and that I don't waste words. "That's the voice we want," she said. It still wasn't easy, but it was an exciting challenge. After Marley and I agreed on the stories and gave them that unified voice, our editor pulled six contributions. Although different, Rose felt they were too similar to other stories.

Marley: Can you give our readers a preview of the book? A favorite story perhaps…or one that moved you to tears? (I have to say the little boy who wished for nothing but to be able to read a book all the way through because of his stutter had me bawling when I read the submission.)

Cec: That's not fair! I liked them all. The one that touched me most, however, is the last story in the book, "Sean's Question." We had almost finished the book and I was teaching at a conference in Florida. I felt we needed one strong story at the end. Despite all the good ones, I didn't feel fully satisfied to conclude the book. On the last day of the conference, I met a conferee named Sara Zinn for a consultation. As we talked, I mentioned Christmas Miracles and that I still needed one more story. "I have a Christmas story," she said and told me about Sean. As I listened, tears filled my eyes—but, being the macho type I am, I was sure it was an allergy. Sara wrote the story, and it became the one I sought.

Marley: Oh yes…that one is an emotional one all right. It was meant to be in the book because of how you met at the conference. Now, you and I have both had challenges in our lives that others might have found too much to take, but we are both very strong in our faith and our relationship with God. How do you think Christmas Miracles is going to help others feel closer to God and experience His miracles in their own lives?

Cec: Awareness and appreciation are the two things I want readers to grasp. Awareness means for them to realize that they're never totally alone in life. Those unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events remind us of that. Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have. Too often, and especially at Christmas, we focus on what we'd like or what is supposed to make us happy. Christmas Miracles gently reminds readers of both.

Marley: In this day and age when our country is fighting two wars, unemployment is high, and a lot of people have a lack of hope and faith for their future, what do you want readers of the book to take away fromChristmas Miracles and how can the stories in our book help provide comfort to those struggling?

Cec: I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural (as in one of Marley's stories). I call myself a serious Christian. For me, the world's greatest miracle began with the birth of Jesus. Regardless of a person's religion, this book encourages readers to think about life during the Christmas season and see that life as more than gifts and celebrations. It's also a reminder that God loves us and hears our needy cries.

Marley: Beautifully put, Cec, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can we share what’s next after Christmas Miracles? J

Cec: Why it's the Cec and Marley show, of course. Because of our go-getter agent and our enthusiastic editor, we've already received thumbs up for The Christmas Spirit. This will be stories of people who express the true spirit of Christmas by acts of love and kindness, for release in the fall of 2011.

Marley: And I can’t wait to start working on that project! Thank you so much for your time, Cec, and answering my questions. It was a privilege and honor to work with you and I look forward to our future projects together. You’ve helped me along during a trying time and I appreciate your friendship and support.

Cec: I liked this project because Marley had to send out the word, collect submissions, read them, and discard the weaker ones. I get to see only the better-written stories. (Don't tell her that I have the better job.) Although I mentioned only one story, all of those in the book touched me because of the poignancy of their situations and the miraculous answers. I won't say the stories increased my faith, but they increased my appreciation for the delightful mix of human need and divine intervention.

Marley: Thanks again, Cec! God Bless! And to our readers, please be sure to pick up a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, out October 13, 2009 from St. Martin’s Press. It’s a great stocking stuffer or gift basket filler. We hope you, too, will discover your own Christmas Miracles in your life.

Leave a comment for your chance to win this fabulous gift basket!

Leave a comment for a chance to win the Christmas Miracles gift basket.
Wouldn’t you love to take home this amazing basket filled with Christmas goodies galore? This amazing gift basket contains everything you’ll need to make your Christmas holiday a success. Inside you’ll find a stocking stuffed with hard candies, kitchen towels and oven mitts, seasonal potpourri, holiday-colored candles, stuffed animals that talk, snowman candle, nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, gift bags, gift tags, gift bows, ornament hangers, Christmas cookie cutters, a Merry Christmas doorstopper, a picture frame, Christmas cards, Santa ear muffs, and not just one, but two copies of Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson’s Christmas Miracles – one to keep and one to give away to someone special.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kona with Jonah and Frappe' with Philippians by Sandra Glahn

AMG Publishers
July 27, 2009
ISBN-10: 0899573967
ISBN-13: 978-0899573960
Retail: $12.99

July 27, 2009
ISBN-10: 0899573959
ISBN-13: 978-0899573953
Retail: $12.99

Sandra Glahn, Th.M., is adjunct professor, Christian Education and Pastoral Ministries, at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), her alma mater. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Aesthetic Studies (Arts and Humanities) at the University of Texas at Dallas. In addition she serves on the board of the Evangelical Press Association, the advisory board of Hannah's Prayer, and the women's executive committee for Sandra is editor in chief of Dallas Seminary's award-winning quarterly magazine, Kindred Spirit.

Her books include The Coffee Cup Bible Study series and the medical suspense thriller, Informed Consent (Cook). Ms. Glahn has also coauthored seven books and she has contributed to several additional works, including Genetic Engineering: A Christian Response (Kregel); and The Making of a Mentor (Authentic). Sandra has appeared on the 700 Club, Ivanhoe Productions' "Smart Woman" television broadcasts, Family Life Today, At Home Live television, Janet Parshall's America, and in other national media. She and her husband, Gary, have been married twenty-nine years and have a daughter who joined their family through adoption.
Good Books and Good Coffee
A Blog Tour Designed with
Coffee Lovers in Mind

About the Books:

(Dallas, Texas)- There's nothing better than curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee--and there's no better book than the Bible. Sandra Glahn continues her series of Coffee Cup Bible Studies, presenting Kona with Jonah and Frappe with Philippians. Using creative teaching resources, including the Internet, art, online study groups and more, Glahn provides a special blend of bold and flavorful experiences that will bring participants back for a second cup of God's Word.

Kona with Jonah begins with a brief history of Jonah and Ninevah. Merging historical event with current modern day practicality, Glahn invites readers to take a walk in Jonah's sandals. Coffee sippers will find it hard to escape the similarities as these two worlds collide. Prayer, mercy, city revival and other strong themes will perk the interest and heart of diligent students.

Frappé with Philippians brews for five weeks of strong, powerful conversation about Paul and the heroes of the Philippian church. With detailed study time spent examining the letters of Paul to the Church, readers will come away feeling like they have met with the man himself. With sections entitled "That God Will Get me Out of Here, and Other Prayer Requests Paul Doesn't Make," Glahn keeps the tone of the study light, without disrespecting the seriousness of the study of God's Word.

A Chat Over Coffee with Sandra

Women who typically feel they don't have the time to do Bible Study find your studies relevant and easy to use. What's the secret to making the study inviting?

I don't know if there's one secret. Different things appeal to different people. But I do know that with my own personal Bible study time, I've been able to stay fairly consistent Monday through Friday when my daughter is at school. But on the weekends everything changes in our household. Sometimes we travel. Or we sleep later on Saturday. And we rise and go to church on Sunday. Result: my routine gets disrupted. For this reason I often have a more difficult time doing Bible study on the weekends. So I designed the series for Monday-through-Friday study with only short devotional readings on the weekends. The weekday time can require twenty minutes or more; the weekend readings take less than five minutes.

I think the studies also appeal to the right-brained person. As an artsy type, I sometimes engage more with the Bible if I can write out a prayer, draw, view a related video, compose a story, sing a song... And I wrote this series with that person in mind. The devotionals are also full of stories, which most of us love to hear.

In addition (and this is probably the main reason), when I was working full-time, I wanted a study I could stash in my purse without having to lug a Bible and a commentary. I wanted to use my lunch break for a quiet time without parading my resources in front of people. And I think it helps that the Coffee Cup series books don't look like typical Bible studies; they're all-inclusive (text, commentary, questions included); they're small enough to throw in a briefcase or diaper bag; and they're both spiral and bound--making it easier to use on a treadmill or fold in the lap and write on while sitting. In short they're designed for the multi-tasker. I heard from an ob-gyn who uses them as she's sitting in the doctors' lounge waiting for babies to arrive.

And one more thing--I also include a prayer at the end. I heard from an eighty-something man who told me how much those prayers meant. All his life he had struggled with prayer, and that guidance helped him respond to God. I'm glad that a series directed to women didn't scare him off!

In Jonah with Kona, what do you hope participants will take away and apply to their own lives?

We tend to like our own causes best; we like our own country best; we like our denomination best; we like our own families best; we prefer the schools we attended, the neighborhoods where we grew up, our own political party or cause, our gender--even our brand of peanut butter. And somewhere along the way we cross the line from preference to prejudice. We pray for our loved ones but rarely, if ever, our enemies. Mention atheists, opposing politicians, humanists, materialists, homosexuals, and radical feminists in most churches today, and the response you'll evoke will sound nothing like, "Let's pray right now for God to pour out his love."

Genesis tells us that humans are fellow creations of one maker. The qualities of God that so angered Jonah are the very qualities we most need: grace, compassion, patience, mercy, abundant love, and truth. And not just for those we love--but for those we hate. For those who have wronged us. For those who want us dead. For those with whom we strongly disagree. The only possible way we can demonstrate such remarkable goodness is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The focus of Frappé with Philippians is the life of Paul and the early church. What kind of historical research did you do and did you learn any surprising facts as you compiled your information?

I think it's enormously important to understand the world in which Paul was writing. Let's take the view of women, for example. The Jews were the most conservative. The Greeks were better, though greatly influenced by Aristotle's low view of women. And the Roman women had the most freedom--even owning property and supervising gymnasiums. Knowing a city's predominant citizenship helps us understand Paul's letters on such issues.

My PhD work relates a lot to the Greek pantheon and Greek and Roman history. The historical backgrounds for the Bible books are essential, and fortunately they interest me.

I also love getting a sense of the geography, if I can. I had the advantage this summer of taking a clipper to follow the journeys of Paul. Some of our stops included Corinth, Troas, Neapolis, Philippi, and Athens.

One sentence out of the mouth of a guide in Corinth really stuck with me, as she provided a key to understanding the cities we visited. She mentioned that while American visitors seem generally uninterested in talk of gods and goddesses, knowing which member of the Greek pantheon a city worshiped is essential to understanding that city's mentality. The more I thought about this, the more sense it made:

ATHENS. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, so citizens of Athens wanted their city to reflect culture, religion, and philosophy. And sure enough, in Acts 17 we find Stoic and Epicurean philosophers hanging out at the Areopagus (Mars Hill). Paul affirms them for being religious, and rather than dissing their many false gods, he zeroes in on their altar to the unknown God and tells them about this Almighty one who was not made with hands--One who is never far from any of us.

CORINTH. Corinth was the home of Aphrodite, goddess of love (and not the agape version). Behind the city ruins stands a towering hill at the top of which sat Aphrodite's temple. One could not walk down the street without being conscious of its prominence. Might that explain why the Corinthians had so many issues with sexual immorality, and why Paul tells them that it's good for a man not to touch a woman (1 Cor. 7:1)? For the sake of the kingdom, he encourages them to consider embracing sexual abstinence rather than marrying. How fitting that in a city that prides itself on being a center of love, Paul pens the beautiful definition of true love--known to us as the love chapter (1 Cor. 13).

EPHESUS. Ephesus was home to the virgin Artemis who loved her virgin status and was immune to Aphrodite's love arrows. Among other things, Artemis was the goddess of the hunt. If you take a close look at the Artemis statues from the first and second centuries, you find her legs covered with numerous animals and flanked by a couple of deer. Now, usually we think of women as gatherers and men as hunters. And the fact that Artemis was a hunter suggests she had a less-than-feminine persona. In Ephesus we find stone work with the Amazon story (these women were way independent!), and guides tell visitors that the city was founded by an Amazon queen. The Book of Ephesians was probably intended for more than one city (like Laodicea), so we don't find much that points to a specific city's mentality in that book. But we do find 1 Timothy directed to Paul's protégé in Ephesus, and in it we find an emphasis on widows, women teaching false doctrines, and the need to marry and have children.

When reading the New Testament, I think it's important to find out something of its geography and certainly what member of the Greek pantheon each book's readers were up against. How its authors approached the cities' demons can provide insight for us into engaging a culture that's in love with worldly wisdom, immorality, and a low view of family.

Creative Ways
to Have
Bible Studies

· Get ripped with Ruth. Meet at the health club and walk side-by-side on the treadmill with your BFF. The study’s spiral binding and modest size lends itself to being stashed in a gym bag. You won’t even have to pack your Bible. The text is included.

· Inhale the aroma of java as you enter your favorite coffee shop. Order yourself a cappuccino, and then hang out around the table with friends discussing Colossians.

· For your friend’s birthday, give her chocolate-covered coffee beans and a Coffee Cup Bible study. Promise her an hour every week of your time for building your friendship on what lasts.

· Invite the person who does your nails to consider the words of Jesus. Provide a copy of Mocha on the Mount, and every time you’re together discuss what you’re both learning as you go through it.

· Schedule an extended “Spiritual Spa Day” together by watching and discussing a movie about Esther as you kick off bi-weekly meetings around your kitchen table. Contemplate what the Hadassah spa—Esther’s year of beauty treatments—must have been like. Then consider the part of her beauty that was deeper than skin.

· You don’t have to sip your cuppa joe in a shop that starts with an “S.” Grab some colleagues and organize a small group study. You can nurse your favorite beverage in the company cafeteria, the hospital coffee shop—even your local McDonald’s.

· Brew a pot of coffee in your church kitchen and meet one evening per week with members of your congregation. Engage in a lively discussion about Deborah, Jael, and Samson’s mother as you go through Java with the Judges.

Thank you to Kathy Carlton Willis and the author for providing a complimentary copy of a book in exchange for this blog tour post.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Call of Zulina, by Kay Marshall Strom

Freedom...more than the absence of chains.
Grace...more than a name.
The Call of Zulina...more than historical fiction...
a modern message regarding slave trade and trafficking in the modern world.

ISBN: 1426700695
ISBN-13: 9781426700699
Format: Paperback
Abingdon Press
Pub. Date: August 2009
Retail: $13.99

About the Book:

(Eugene, Oregon) – An arranged marriage, a runaway bride, and an ugly family heritage of brutal and inhumane slavery operations leave no room for a fairytale story. Grace Winslow, daughter of an English sea captain and African princess, finds herself in a horrific position of betrothal. Doomed to marry an obnoxious white man, whom she does not love, Grace runs away to escape the slavery she’s been surrounded by all her life. Instead, her journey from home brings her face-to-face with issues of extreme slavery, abuse and human trafficking. In the end she discovers slavery is more than just chains and finds grace that exceeds a name given to her by her parents.

Written by Kay Marshall Strom, The Call of Zulina links historical slavery issues with the modern-day crisis tainting many countries. On the heels of important legislature regarding human trafficking, Strom tackles the subject boldly as she sheds light on the practices and techniques used by angry slave traders. Seen as an advocate for those who have no voice, Strom finds words to communicate the message of history to today’s readers. While this book shines the light on an uncomfortable subject, the message of hope, freedom, and justice prevail and eternal truths discovered.
Author Kay Marshall Strom

Author Kay Marshall Strom

About the Author:

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books, numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim. Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers’ conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations.

Blog Tour Interview:

1. How did you come up with the storyline of The Call of Zulina?
While in West Africa working on another project, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby manacles bolted to the wall. The characters of Lingongo and Joseph Winslow, Grace's parents, are modeled after real people who ran a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I "met" them when I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton, a biography of the slaver turned preacher and abolitionists, author of Amazing Grace. The more I thought about them, the more I wondered, "If they'd had a daughter, who would she be? Where would her loyalties lie?"
2. What inspired you to write a book so entrenched with uncomfortable issues?
I used to think that non-fiction was the meat and potatoes of writing and fiction was the chocolate mousse dessert... fun, but not of much value. But I've come to understand that truths can be revealed through fiction just as powerfully as through non-fiction. Sometimes, more so! The fact is, for so long we have tried to look away and pretend that this horrible chapter in history never happened. But it did, and we still feel the effects today. Moreover, the roots of slavery--hunger for power and money, fear and diminishment of people unlike ourselves, and humanity's endless ability to rationalize evil actions--abound today. The time seemed right.
3. How have your travels around the world equipped you for writing such a historical novel?
People ask me where my passion for issues such as modern day slavery come from. To a large degree it is from the things I have seen and heard on my numerous trips to India, African countries, Cambodia, Nepal, Indonesia, and other places around the world.
4. Tell us a personal story regarding modern day slavery.
A most pervasive type of slavery is what is known as bonded servitude, where entire poor families are bound into virtual slavery--sometimes for generations--because of a small debt. This is especially common in India. I visited a village in central India where the women had been freed from bondage and set up with a micro loan that allowed them to raise a small herd of dairy cows. They worked so hard and saved every rupee. When they had enough saved, they persuaded a young teacher to come and start a school for their children. Then they used further profits to make low interest loans to others in the area so they could start their own businesses, too--a little bank. I sat in a circle with the five women who made up the "board of directors." Only one could read and write. I asked, "How will the next generation be different because of what you have done?" They said, "No more will be like us. When people look us, they see nothing. But when they look at our children, they see real human beings with value."

From invisible slaves to human beings... all in one generation!
5. Grace, the lead character in The Call of Zulina, forsakes all to escape the slavery of her parents and an arranged marriage.How common is this scenerio today in other countries?
Horrifyingly common. Slavery today takes many forms. According to UNICEF's more conservative count, there are about 12 million people living as slaves today--three times as many as in the days of the African slave trade. As for child arranged marriages, I have talked to girls "enslaved" to husbands in many countries. Examples include a girl in Nepal married at 9 to a middle-aged man, one in India married at 11, a 13-year-old in Egypt married to a man older than her father. I've seen it in Africa, Eastern Europe... so many places!
6. What about in America, are there slavery and trafficking issues here?
Unfortunately, there are. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, although it concedes that the real number is actually far higher. And it's not just states like New York and California that are affected, either. According to the U.S. Justice Department's head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.
7. You've had 36 books published, and more written and contracted for future release. How has this one impacted your own life?
Some books report, some tell stories. This book has torn my heart.
8. Briefly tell us about the next two books in this Grace in Africa trilogy.
In Book 2, Grace watches her reconstructed life smashed by slavers and revenge, and she is forcibly taken to London. There she faces a new kind of tyranny and another fight for freedom... and for her husband, who is enslaved in America.

Book 3 is set in the new United States of America, in the heart of the slavery. It is a story of slavery at it's worst and redemption at its best.

What Can Concerned Citizens Do to Raise Awareness
Find out all you can about Modern Day Slavery: then watch for chances to pass on what you have learned.

Write to your elected officials: Petition them to place a high priority on enforcing anti-slavery laws and to put pressure on countries that tolerate forced labor or human trafficking.

Buy Fair Trade products: Fair trade provides a sustainable model of international trade based on economic justice. To find out more, see .

Support organizations that are in a position to make a difference. When you find an one that is doing a good job on the front lines, contribute to their cause so they can continue on.

Be willing to step into the gap. If you suspect someone is being held against his or her will, call the Department of Justice hotline: 1-888-428-7581. Or you can call 911.

Grand Prize Giveaway!!!
Kay Marshall Strom is giving the following books to one fortunate commenter from The Call of Zulina blog tour. The prize package includes several of Kay's books:
  • Seeking Christ: A Christian Woman's Guide to Personal Wholeness & Spiritual Maturity
  • John Newton:The Angry Sailor
  • Making Friends with Your Mother
  • Making Friends with Your Father
*Mandatory Entry*: Leave a comment telling us which book you are most interested in reading.

Extra Entries:
  • Tweet this giveaway and leave a comment with a link to the tweet. This can be done once each day.
  • Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know your Twitter user name.
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    By RSS: RSS Feed

  • Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with a link to your post.
  • Add a 3Stairs button to your blog and leave a comment with a link to your blog so we can visit!

I'll let choose a winner on the morning of Monday, November 2, so get your entries in by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, November 1.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

When God Turned Off the Lights, by Cecil Murphey

   Is it possible that God would use a time of spiritual loneliness and isolation in our life as an answer to our prayer for "something more?" That's what happened with best-selling author Cecil Murphey. In When God Turned Off the Lights (Regal, September 2009), he openly shares from his journey that seemed to be stalled in darkness.

Murphey decided to write about his months of seeking God in the darkness because he suspected his situation wasn't unique. "If this happened to me, a rather ordinary believer, surely there are others out there who have wept in the isolated blackness of night and wondered if they would ever see God's smile again."

Murphey could have handled this topic as a theologian and given pages of heavy, hard-to-read advice, but he chose to write from his heart and expose it for the readers to see. He talks honestly and shares his skepticism and frustration. He asks hard questions. And he lays out the steps of healing that brought him back to the light.

When God Turned Off the Lights is a book for those of us who ask, "What's wrong with me? Why are others living in the sunlight while nothing but dark clouds and darkness envelop me?" Readers will learn:
  • Why God turns off the lights
  • Why we have to have dark nights
  • Why asking "why" isn't the right question
  • What's worse than going through the darkness
  • How to feel worthwhile and accepted by God
   Each chapter of When God Turned Off the Lights ends with an inspirational personal quote from Cec. Here's a sampling:

Although it may seem as if God is asleep when we go through deep darkness, could it be that God is most watchful in the moments of our despair?

Could it be that moving from why to what might take us one more step closer to the light?

Our task is to hang on. We wait until God takes us off hold and deals directly with us again.

God's provision is based on unconditional love - not on my faithfulness.

When God Turned Off the Lights Author Cec MurpheyAbout the Author:

Award-winning writer Cecil Murphey is the author or co-author of more than 100 books, including the "New York Times" bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He's also the author of When Someone You Love Has Cancer and Christmas Miracles, both 2009 releases. Murphey's books have sold millions and have brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world.

What to Do
When the Lights Go Out

by Cec Murphey

If you sincerely desire to follow Jesus Christ, life won't always be easy. Many times the Bible promises victory, and you may need to remind yourself that there can be no victory without struggling and overcoming obstacles.

In my book, I used the image of God turning out the lights because that was how I perceived the situation. I felt as if I walked in darkness for 18 months. We all interact differently with God, and my experience won't be the same as yours. Even so, most serious Christians have times when God seems to turn away or stops listening. And we feel alone.

Perhaps it's like the time the Israelites cried out to God for many years because of the Egyptian oppression. "God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise...and knew it was time to act" (Exodus 2:24 NLT). God hadn't forgotten, of course, but from their perspective, that's how it must have seemed. It may seem like that to you if you're going through your own form of darkness.

Here are a few suggestions to help you:

1. Ask God this simple question: "Have I knocked out the lights by my failures? Have I sinned against you? After you ask the question, listen. Give God the opportunity to speak to you.

2. Don't see this as divine punishment (unless God shows you it is), but consider the silence an act of divine love to move you forward. This is God's method to teach you and stretch you.

3. Avoid asking why. You don't need reasons and explanations--and you probably won't get them anyway. Instead, remind yourself that this temporary darkness is to prepare you for greater light.

4. Say as little as possible to your friends. Most friends will want to "fix" you or heal you and they can't. They may offer advice (often not helpful) or make you feel worse ("Are you sure everything is right between you and God?").

5. Stay with the "means of grace." That is, don't neglect worship with other believers even if you feel empty. Read your Bible even if you can't find anything meaningful.

I chose to read Lamentations and Psalms (several times, especially Lamentations) because they expressed some of the pain and despair I felt.

6. If you don't have a daily prayer time, start one. Perhaps something as short as three minutes--and do it daily. Talk honestly to God. It's all right to get angry. (Read the Psalms if you're hesitant.)

7. Remind yourself, "I am in God's hands. This is where I belong and I'll stay in the blackout until I'm ready to move forward."

8. Pray these words daily: "But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12 TNIV). Some versions say "secret sins." These are failures and sins of which you may not yet be aware. One of the purposes of your darkness may be to bring those hidden problems to light.

9. Ask God, "What do you want me to learn from this experience?" You may not get an answer, but it's still a good question. Continue to ask--even after the lights go back on again. If you're open, you will learn more about yourself and also about God.

10. As you receive "light" about yourself while walking in darkness, remind yourself, God has always known and still loves me.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Book Review: Intimate Conversations by Alicia Britt Chole

Intimate Conversations coverPress Release:

Relief for Busy Women and Moms To Draw Closer to God — During All of Life’s Busy Moments
Author Alicia Britt Chole shows women how to rejuvenate their spiritual lives with this collection of short yet deeply thought-provoking meditations.

Women spend a large portion of their lives serving everyone around them—making sure the kids are fed and to school on time, the house is in working order, the to-do list is full of checkmarks and they’re volunteering on Sunday mornings at church. After pouring into everyone and everything else, it’s a struggle to have any time or energy left over at all—not even when it comes to cultivating their relationship with God.

Author and seasoned mentor Alicia Britt Chole offers relief. In her latest book, Intimate Conversations: Devotions to Nurture a Woman’s Soul, she shows women how every season—even those marked by hectic schedules and overwhelming responsibilities—can offer unprecedented opportunities to actually deepen your faith without having to put God on hold.

She reveals how that’s possible through this set of 52 daily readings. Each takes only moments to read, yet these poignant meditations will bring a refreshing perspective to a reader’s entire day.

Rather than ignore the daunting real-life issues and faith struggles that complicate your connection with God, Chole addresses them with grace and understanding. Whether it’s yearning to love God more, to learn to listen, to not give up or to overcome fear, she helps women understand how they can develop a more intimate and satisfying relationship with God in the midst of everyday challenges.
“I want to show women how each minute of every loud, distracting day is pregnant with potential for intimacy if we can learn how to simply and intentionally live it with God,” Chole says.
She draws from her experience as a mentor, daughter, wife and mother to weave personal stories of laughter and tears alongside Scripture in these meditations. Paired with thought-provoking questions for reflection or group discussion, Chole’s insightful writing will be cathartic for any woman who is hungering for a more intimate connection with God, no matter how crazy life gets.

What Others Are Saying:
“Alicia has a unique way of framing truth. Her heartfelt and thoughtful words penetrate the soul and make you think and feel in new ways.”
— Mark Batterson, author

About the Author:

Alicia Britt Chole speaks nationally and internationally to leaders, pastors, professionals, students, women, and churches. She has been a mentor for students and women for more than twenty years. She is the author of Anonymous and Finding the Unseen God. Chole lives in Missouri.

About the Publisher:

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

For more information, visit

My Review:

As I read Intimate Conversations, I kept wanting to write for permission to share the devotion I'd just read. Then I read the next one and wanted to share that one, too.

The devotions are quick and easy to read - perfect for a mom or young children, or any busy woman. But don't let the "quick and easy" fool you! Alicia cuts through the fluff and gets down to the business of getting intimate with God. With captivating stories and anecdotes and thought-provoking, heart-arresting questions, Intimate Conversations will draw you into the deeper - and yes, more intimate - relationship with God that you're longing for.

Trust me, just go get the book, and quick!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Weekend of Prayer and Fasting and Guest Post from Kay Marshall Strom

Salvation Army Sponsors
4th Annual International Weekend of
Prayer and Fasting
for Victims of Sexual Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

September 25-27th concerned individuals across the world will join in prayer and fasting for the victims of sex trafficking and modern day slavery. In an effort to raise funds and awareness for this project, the Salvation Army is raising hands and hearts together in a special weekend dedicated to praying and fasting for the social injustices forced upon many individuals in our world today. For more information about this important project and other organizations partnering with The Salvation Army, go to the Salvation Army homepage.

For years, author Kay Marshall Strom has visited countries where human trafficking and modern day slavery run rampant. Her recent fiction release, The Call of Zulina, draws attention to the historical issues of slavery, that unfortunately continue today across the world and even in the United States of America. Through her diligence and commitment to help resolve inhumane issues revolving around slavery and trafficking Strom has become an expert in the field.

Stolen Identity
by Kay Marshall Strom

Enormous eyes in a bony-thin face, and a baggy green dress that dragged the ground. Because of all the cast-off children at the village school in India, the raggedy girl stood closest to our translator, he gently asked her, "What is your name?"

The girl stared.

"Your name. What is it?" the translator asked again.

The girl whispered her answer: "I have no name."

A child with no name. A little girl abandoned so young she could not even remember what her parents had called her. She grew up begging at the train platform, snatching up the scraps harried passengers dropped, watching other children picked off by traffickers. Now that she was seven or eight--perhaps even a scrawny nine--the traffickers had come for her. But the girl screamed and kicked and clawed so ferociously that someone called the police. Someone with clout, evidently, because the police came and pulled her away from the traffickers. Somebody in the crowd suggested that instead of putting the child in jail, the police might take her to the village school, which they did. They dropped her at the door and left.

Human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, is rampant around the world. We think of it as an eastern European problem, or Indian or Nepalese or Thai. It is. But it's also a Western problem. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, but concede that the real number is far higher. According to the U.S. Justice Department's head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.

The little girl with no name was fortunate that someone responded to her screaming pleas. What would you do if you heard a child shriek for help? Of course, if she were a trafficking victim in this country, she wouldn't likely scream or kick. She would probably shrink away in terror, or act submissively. You might see wounds--cuts, bruises, burns. Perhaps what would catch your attention would be the constant work: babysitting, cooking, washing dishes, scrubbing floors--never just being a child. Or maybe you couldn't say exactly what was wrong--only that something about the child's situation made you profoundly uneasy.

Please, please, if you suspect a person is being trafficked, call 911 and report it. Yes, it is okay. Yes, even it you are mistaken. In fact, eighteen states require citizens to report possible child abuse or neglect of any kind.

In the 1700s, Quakers led the fight against the African slave trade. In 1885, the Salvation Army took up the abolition banner, and since then it has led the fight against a different kind of slavery. More and more, 21st century abolitionists are followers of Christ determined to see slavery of all kinds ended in our day.

Oh yes... Before I left the school in India, I asked if we might give the little girl a name. She is now Grace.

About the Author:

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books including Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution and In the Presence of the Poor. She's also authored numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim. Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers' conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations.

Schedule Kay for an interview or request her book for review by contacting Kathy Carlton Willis Communications at or call 956-642-6319.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Buying Bliss

Question: Who isn't blissfully happy when they're buying books? 
Answer: People buying books without a coupon - they're just happy.
Alibris 190x112
Use coupon code LAPPE to save $3 off $30 or more 
of books, music, and movies at
This coupon expires 30 September 2009.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prayer Power by Peter Lundell

Prayer Power cover
Prayer Power
Peter Lundell
Publisher: Revell (1/1/09)
ISBN-10: 0800732634
ISBN-13: 978-0800732639
240 pages
Retail: $12.99
In the crazy world around us, our prayers may too often seem ineffective. Do you want to connect with God when you pray and receive more direct answers? Prayer Power is the tool you need to build a more powerful and dynamic life of prayer.

Intensely practical and straightforward, Prayer Power helps you improve on thirty essential facets of prayer such as passion, routine, fasting, praying with others, listening to God, handling distractions, and spiritual warfare. In each brief chapter you'll be inspired by stories of people whose lives of prayer give us powerful examples.

Prayer Power can be used as a month-long devotional, a prayer guide, or a reference for help in specific areas. Whether you're a new believer or think you've heard it all, this book's refreshing and honest insight will guide you to a deeper connection with God.

About the Author:
author Peter Lundell
author Peter Lundell

Peter Lundell, a former missionary to Japan, is a pastor at Walnut Blessing Church in Walnut, California. He has an MDiv and DMiss from Fuller Theological Seminary and is the founder of the Walnut Valley Pastors' Prayer Network. Lundell is the author of two books, and his articles have appeared in magazines such as Guideposts and Pray!

Q & A with Peter

Many Christians don't talk about hardships with prayer. Why do you open up about the struggles you have had drawing close to God in prayer?
My first draft of the book read like an instruction manual of all the things you ought to do to be spiritual like me. I realized that the more spiritual I tried to sound, the less honest I was being. I was hiding behind my words. No reader should have to put up with all that. And besides, it was boring.

So I determined to be totally honest. I rewrote the book and openly shared my doubts, struggles, and failures, because everybody goes through the same things. And if I’m not honest with readers, how can I expect readers to be honest with others or even themselves?

I take sort of an “I mess up and you mess up, but God loves us anyway, so let’s connect with him” approach. Readers often tell me how much they identify with that. And when they read about how God still worked amazing things in my life and in others’, it gives them hope.

I’ve discovered two things: First, honesty is liberating, and I don’t want to live any other way. Second, when we stick with prayer and don’t give up, answers and victories rise from our struggles. Answers and victory never rise from pretending.

I hope to connect with readers so that they’ll in turn connect with me and the victories I’ve experienced—so that they will experience their own victories.

What are some of the things God has taught you about prayer over the years - especially from the perspective of your leadership roles?
It’s good to listen before I talk. If I always dive into prayer and never spend time listening, I only dump my own “give-me list” on God. But his word says in 1 John 5:14–15 that when I seek and pray according to his will, my prayer will be answered. So the key is to first get in sync with God.

We’ve got to have a hunger, or thirst, for God. Without hunger, no program or technique or anything we learn will go anywhere. But with hunger for God, we could know almost nothing and still have a great prayer life. Hunger is singularly important—which is why it’s the first chapter.

When I pray with faith and don’t get what I ask for, God will soon show me why. There is always something to learn in unanswered prayer.

What do you mean by "praying boldly" and how can Christians learn to do that?
Praying boldly is the opposite of excessively polite prayer and of—I’ll just say it—wimpy prayer. Praying boldly is praying without intimidation, not caring what other people think, expressing ourselves to God without concern for being appropriate or religiously correct but rather with a passion from our guts that pours out, unashamedly. Bold prayer is not arrogant. It’s humble and faithful, because of its self-abandoned focus on God and expectation of what God will do.

People often assume they must be polite or solemn before God. Nowhere does the Bible teach this. Two thirds of the Psalms are complaints, and they are not polite. Most prayers in both Old and New Testaments are bold, expectant, and to the point. When Jesus teaches on prayer in Luke 11:5–10, he talks about an obnoxious guy who bangs on his friend’s door at midnight. Then he says we should bug him the same way by continually asking, seeking, and knocking. I often wonder if God gets tired of diplomatic prayers. Why else would he actually tell us to be bold and persistent—and use examples that, if we were on the receiving end, most of us would say are obnoxious.

There’s no real method to doing this. It’s a mindset that chooses to free itself from previous assumptions and uses the Bible as a model of how to pray.

How can we practice the presence of God and include him in everyday tasks?
Practicing the presence of God primarily has to do with developing an attitude, a continual awareness that God is always with us, and that in turn, we always incline our attention toward him.

The first thing most of us need to do is to slow down or cut unnecessary activities from our calendar. Busyness is an enemy to practicing the presence of God. Jesus repeatedly blew off other people’s agendas for him and continually focused on his purpose for being here. Pastors who do the same are always happier, closer to God, and more effective. And when we practice the presence of God, we increase our ability to be intimate with him when times do get busy.

Here are some practices that may help develop that attitude: My last thought before I sleep and my first thought when I wake up is centered on God. When I get mad or stressed, I try to see things from God’s perspective. When I am waiting for someone, I use that time to pray. I do menial tasks with an awareness and love of God. I often have a praise song on my mind as I go through the day.

You're a proponent for creating a place of prayer and establishing a time of prayer. Why are these important elements for prayer?
These two disciplines are the most important external helps for maintaining a strong prayer life. Without them, our good intentions eventually drown under the assaults of busyness and distractions.

A place of prayer helps us concentrate in the face of distractions. That place could be the church sanctuary, an empty room in the house, a spot in the back yard, or even a rug laid out on the floor, on which the only thing we do is pray. The physical surroundings of a location devoted to prayer tell our brains, “Focus on God.” And if we ever feel bored or in a rut of over-familiarity with a place, a change of location can be stimulating.

Establishing a set prayer time engrains a habit of prayer into our minds, such that if we miss it, we feel anxious because something is missing or wrong—and it is! A set prayer time is not to force ourselves to pray as much as to create a boundary of protection from busyness. That boundary of time is like a protective fence around a garden, where we give ourselves freedom from intrusions to spend unhindered time with God. Preferably we’ll do this as early as possible in the morning, so we can lay the whole day before the Lord. And unlike a prayer place, I have never found benefit in changing my prayer time, so I highly recommend keeping it sacred, especially if we’re travelling or really busy. Whether short or long, this protective fence of a set time must be intentional, because no one else can do it for us.

What advice would you give to people who struggle with God when they pray?
True men and women of prayer will sometimes struggle in prayer, as did many figures in the Bible, like Jacob’s symbolic wrestling with the angel and Jesus’ wrestling over his fate in Gethsemane.

Like anyone else, I struggle with unanswered prayer or major decisions to do something by faith, when tragedy strikes, problems of injustice, and healings that take a lot longer than I’d like. The key is to keep struggling—don’t give up and too quickly assume something is God’s will before you know for sure. The angel commended Jacob for not giving up until he got a blessing. God the Father actually sent an angel to help Jesus wrestle in Gethsemane. Sometimes wrestling in prayer is God’s will for us.

Wrestling in prayer is actually a good thing. It draws us closer to God. And it changes us in the process. And that’s what most of us hope for!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Updates and Upcoming

Today's mail brought my copy of When Someone You Love Has Cancer by Cecil Murphey from Kathy. It's a lovely little book with wonderful illustrations. It's like a gift book, but doubly so, since the message inside of it is such a gift in and of itself. I hope to post a review of this soon, as well.

I've got another blog tour coming up on Tuesday, 18 August about a book called Prayer Power by Peter Lundell, so be sure you stop by and check it out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When Someone You Love Has Cancer by Cecil Murphey

When Someone You Love Has Cancer
Author: Cecil Murphey
Harvest House Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2428-3
Retail: $10.99

Cecil Murphey, author of 90 Minutes in Heaven and a seasoned ghostwriter of more than 100 books, has written a loving inspirational book for cancer caregivers and family members. Cec isn't new to cancer. His intimate care for his wife as she fought cancer is evident on the pages of this sweetly written book. From the cover of this beautifully illustrated book to the closing remarks, he guides caregivers through a gentle question and answer session. Prayers for difficult situations are scattered throughout the book and personal illustrations from cancer caregivers help validate and encourage readers.

About the Book
The World Health Organization reported that by the year 2010 cancer will be the number one killer worldwide. More than 12.4 million people in the world suffer from cancer. 7.6 million people are expected to die from some form of cancer. That's a lot of people, but the number of loved ones of cancer sufferers is far greater. What do they do when a special person in their life is diagnosed with this devastating disease?

Murphey brings his experiences as a loved one and many years of wisdom gained from being a pastor and hospital chaplain to his newest book When Someone You Love Has Cancer: Comfort and Encouragement for Caregivers and Loved Ones (Harvest House Publishers). His honest I've-been-there admissions and practical helps are combined with artist Michal Sparks' soothing watercolor paintings.

Readers of When Someone You Love Has Cancer will receive:
  • Inspiration to seek peace and understanding in their loved one's situation

  • Help in learning the importance of active listening

  • Guidance in exploring their own feelings of confusion and unrest

  • Suggestions on how to handle anxiety and apprehension

  • Honest answers to questions dealing with emotions, exhaustion, and helplessness

  • Spirit-lifting thoughts for celebrating the gift of life in the midst of troubles

Murphey explains why this is a much-needed book: "Most books about cancer address survivors. I want to speak to the mates, families, and friends who love those with cancer. I offer a number of simple, practical things people can do for those with cancer."

A Chat with Cecil
The first sentence of your book reads, "I felt helpless." Tell us about that feeling.
Because her doctor put Shirley into the high-risk category, I felt helpless. To me, helpless means hating the situation, wanting to make it better, but admitting there was nothing I could do for her.

About the Author:
Cecil Murphey is an international speaker and bestselling author who has written more than 100 books, including the New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper). No stranger himself to loss and grieving, Cecil has served as a pastor and hospital chaplain for many years, and through his ministry and books he has brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world. For more information, visit The Man Behind the Words.

On that same page you also write, "One thing we learned: God was with us and strengthened us through the many weeks of uncertainty and pain." How did you get from feeling helpless to that assurance?
Shirley and I sat down one day and I put my arm around her. "The only way I know how I can handle this," I said, "is to talk about it." Shirley knows that's my way of working through puzzling issues. "Let's consider every possibility." If her surgeon decided she did not have breast cancer, how would we react? We talked of our reaction if he said, "There is a tumor and it's obviously benign. Finally, I was able to say, with tears in my eyes, "How do we react if he says the cancer is advanced and you have only a short time to live?" By the time we talked answered that question, I was crying. Shirley had tears in her eyes, but remained quite calm. "I'm ready to go whenever God wants to take me," she said. She is too honest not to have meant those words. As I searched her face, I saw calmness and peace. I held her tightly and we prayed together. After that I felt calm. Since then, one of the first things I do when I awaken is to thank God that Shirley and I have at least one more day together.
When most people hear the word cancer applied to someone they love, they have strong emotional reactions. What are some of them? What was your reaction when your wife was diagnosed with breast cancer?
As a pastor, a volunteer chaplain, and a friend I've encountered virtually every emotional reaction. Some refuse to accept what they hear. Some go inward and are unable to talk. Others start making telephone calls to talk to friends.

Me? I went numb, absolutely numb. That was my old way of dealing with overwhelming emotions. I heard everything but I couldn't feel anything. It took me almost two weeks before I was able to feel--and to face the possibility that the person I loved most in the world might die.
"What can I do for my loved one with cancer?" That's a good question for us to ask ourselves. How can we be supportive and helpful?
Many think they need to do big things; they don't. Express your concern and your love.

Be available to talk when the other person needs it--and be even more willing to be silent if your loved one doesn't want to talk. Don't ask what you can do; do what you see needs doing. To express loving support in your own way (and we all express love differently) is the best gift you can offer.
Why do you urge people not to say, "I know exactly how you feel"?
No one knows how you feel. They may remember how they felt at a certain time. Even if they did know, what help is that to the person with cancer? It's like saying, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself. I know what it's like and I'm fine now."

Instead, focus on how the loved one feels. Let him or her tell you.
Those with cancer suffer physically and spiritually. You mention God's silence as a form of spiritual suffering. They pray and don't seem to sense God. What can you do to help them?
God is sometimes silent but that doesn't mean God is absent. In my upcoming book, When God Turns off the Lights, I tell what it was like for me when God stopped communicating for about 18 months.

I didn't like it and I was angry. I didn't doubt God's existence, but I didn't understand the silence. I read Psalms and Lamentations in various translations. I prayed and I did everything I could, but nothing changed.

After a couple of months, I realized that I needed to accept the situation and wait for God to turn on the lights again. Each day I quoted Psalm 13:1: "O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?" (NLT)

I learned many invaluable lessons about myself--and I could have learned them only in the darkness. When God turns off the lights (and the sounds) I finally realized that instead of God being angry, it was God's loving way to draw me closer.
Guilt troubles many friends and loved ones of caregivers because they feel they failed or didn't do enough. What can you say to help them?
We probably fail our loved ones in some ways. No one is perfect. If you feel that kind of guilt, I suggest 3 things:
(1) Tell the loved one and ask forgiveness.

(2) Talk to God and ask God to forgive you and give you strength not to repeat your failures.

(3) Forgive yourself. And one way to do that is to say, "At the time, I thought I did the right thing. I was wrong and I forgive myself."
Do you have some final words of wisdom for those giving care to a loved one with cancer?
Be available. You can't take away the cancer but you can alleviate the sense of aloneness. Don't ever try to explain the reason the person has cancer. We don't know the reason and even if we did, would it really help the other person?

Be careful about what you say. Too often visitors and friends speak from their own discomfort and forget about the pain of the one with cancer. Don't tell them about your cancer or other disease; don't tell them horror stories about others. Above all, don't give them false words of comfort. Be natural. Be yourself. Behave as loving as you can.