Reading Well in 2016

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Discovering new authors is one thing in which I delight, so when my writing colleague and four-time author, Karen Barnett, suggested Elizabeth Camden, I ordered her newest tale, The Lady of Bolton Hill.

Set in Baltimore in the late 1800’s, journalist Clara Endicott, a champion of the poorest children in England, has escaped a prison sentence and returned to her native America.

Once home, she is thrust back into high society writing for her father’s publications and becomes reacquainted with her childhood friend, Daniel Tremain. The man was once an impoverished lad himself, but because of his strong work ethic and cleverness, has risen prominently among the city’s elite. Clara soon discovers Daniel is driven by a deep-seated grudge against someone who wronged his family early in his youth and has created his own enemies seeking revenge.

Daniel’s attraction to Clara makes her a target. How she manages her affection for Daniel, her commitment to writing the truth, and her deep love for those who don’t know her Savior makes an intriguing and intertwining tale. I was held captive from the moment I opened the book and have already ordered a second story.

If you like intrigue, historical stories, blended with the promise of love, don’t miss this novel.

I will be recommending other works as the year progresses, both historical and contemporary writers. Watch for future installments.

Happiness In A Sock

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The homeless man stumbled into our city’s mission, coat dripping rainwater, feet leaving squishy prints on the floor. The director asked the man how he could help. Hot food? A night’s shelter?

“No,” the man said, “But I could use a pair of dry socks.”

The director left to retrieve the footwear from the mission’s supply of donated clothing only to discover all the socks had been given away. With a heavy heart, he returned to the waiting man, dreading the delivery of his news. As he went, he prayed, “Lord, let me never have to tell another person I’ve run out of socks.” He apologized to his visitor and helped him dry out the clothing he had, sending him on his way.

As the mission director recently related this story to our church, I was moved that such a basic need could cause so much pain. Imagine having your day’s happiness hinge on finding a pair of dry socks, something most of us would take for granted.

Not food. Not shelter. Socks.

In I John 3:17(NKJV), the apostle John writes: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? . . .let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Clearly, scripture teaches us to care for those around us. Even providing socks.

Jesus said, in Matthew 25:35-40 (NJKV) “for I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me  in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.”

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”

“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

There’s a happy ending to this story. Our church made the Mission our Christmas giving project in 2014 and 2015, donating 4000 socks to the facility last year and another 5,000 this season. The mission director came to thank us. Everyone who needs sock leaves with warm, dry feet. They’ve not run out since. Answered prayer.

Welcoming 2016 With Promise

sprouts 004I enjoy new beginnings. Stepping forward into 2016 exercises faith—in a continuing world, a loving God, a life of surprises.

This week a tiny green spear pushed up through the soil, having endured the recent ice storm, defied the torrent rain, and ignored the lack of sun. Promise pulsed from that little shoot, a pledge that flowers were waking beneath the soil, stretching their limbs and preparing to thrust their slender bodies toward a spring sky. I imagined their yawns as they primed themselves to grow.

All around me I heard the twitter of birds, small, excited warbles as they searched through the lilac bush for moss. The little beings drank greedily from the fountain, their excited chatter evidence they didn’t miss the ice sculpture that encased the waterfall the week before. Water splashed merrily from the bowl, the burbling sound like uncontrolled laughter. The new year had arrived and all of nature seemed to welcome it.

In our culture, worry seems to come with the freedoms we enjoy. Did we overdo at Christmas? Will we stay safe? Will the drought nudge food prices higher?

In the Bible, scripture teaches us in Matthew 6:25-27: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them . Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Won’t you welcome 2016 with me, praising God we get to start another year? Anticipate God’s blessings and accept His gifts remembering that no matter what goes on around us, He has everything in control.



This Pastime Can Kill

frantz044Last week I found myself pacing the floor, my breathing erratic, my pulse at a gallop. I chanted beneath my breath, “No! No! No!”

Lest you become alarmed, I was not in the middle of a health crisis. The heroine of the book I was reading had just said, “yes” to a man I considered the wrong suitor. I wanted to grab the hero by the throat and shout in his face, “She’s getting away, you idiot! Do something!”

Do you enjoy books that pull you so far into the story you feel like you are standing among the characters and can somehow alter the ending? If so, you need to discover Author Laura Frantz whose love for history and  her skill at creating an emotional response make her a must-read author.

Writing in the time of early America, Frantz gives careful attention to detail and includes historical bits that immerse her readers in the depths of the period. Her stories flow from the page like a marshmallow dipped in chocolate fondue.  She often includes Scottish themes that reflect her heritage and she explores issues of the era that plagued her characters and filled their lives full of danger. The result is jaw-dropping drama.

Frantz has authored several novels: The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, and The Ballantyne Legacy  which includes Love’s Reckoning, Love’s Awakening, and Love’s Fortune. Her latest tale, Mistress of Tall Acre, released in September 2015. All are wonderful reads, but prepare yourself for a breath-taking ride.

I’m bracing myself for the next dive into exhilarating history—after my heart returns to normal, of course.