Jodie
Hello, friends!

Due to a long overdue website update, the blog has moved! Come check me out at my new online home.

Some of you are getting this in your email, so yay! This will be the last post you get in your email from here, so not yay. The blog and webpage have moved to a different server. You can still find my homepage at www.jodiebailey.com, but the blog is now here.

If you wish to keep receiving the blog in your email (and I love you for reading it, believe me!), then go to the new blog and find the "Follow Me" space to enter your email address. Thanks so much for being a part of all of this!!!

-JB
Jodie
Warning! Audience participation is required!

I'm a sucker for surveys. Can't help it. Every time one of those crazy "about you" things landed in my inbox, I was compelled to answer every question. So when my friend Jennifer McCarty asked these questions on her blog, I totally jumped at the chance to steal it. (My answers are in italics.) I'm curious what the rest of you have say, so hop down in the comments and let's talk!

1) How many books have you read so far in 2010?
I read a book every ten days or so--that's slow for me right now--so 18? Probably more. I read too much. :-) That doesn't count books for class or other "required" reading or research reading.

2) What percentage is fiction/ non-fiction?
Right now, other than the required stuff, 100% fiction. No, wait, I read one nonfiction: Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff.

3) What's your favorite 2010 read so far?
Without a doubt, Sarah Sundin's A Distant Melody. Girl went and knocked my socks right off my feet. Amazing writer. I'm honored to cyberspace know her. And Jon's SCL jerked a Holy Spirit kind of knot in me. Totally woke me up in a lot of ways... and made me laugh.

4) What are you currently reading?
Ramona Richards's Field of Danger. Lisa Wingate's Word Gets Around.

5) What's at the top of you to-be-read pile?
I have a VERY TALL TBR pile. Not sure what I'll pull off the top next. Probably Susan May Warren's Happily Ever After. I love the cover.

Your turn! Head to the comments and share!

-JB
Jodie
About six months ago, my truck's tail light got cracked. Not sure how, but it was a crack big enough to let water collect in the bottom of my light, even though you have to really LOOK to find the crack. My husband wanted to replace it that day, but it was Christmas, and I couldn't see paying over $100 when we could simply drill a tiny hole in the bottom of the light, drain the water, and move on. Yay, that worked! And I saved us some cash!
Then, in March, the turn signal light went out. Turns out it had corroded from the moisture. We cleaned it and put it back in, my husband still saying we needed a new tail light. I still disagreed. Well, last week, two lights went out, and when I went to clean them, they were so corroded that they had actually melted into the light assembly. (Oh, MAN! Now I had to tell my husband he told me so.) Off I went to buy a new tail light assembly. Brought it home, went to switch the plug into the new assembly, and found the corrosion had reached all the way back to the pigtail socket and that has to be replaced too. I went from buying $6.00 bulbs to a repair of over $150. If we'd simply replaced the light in December, it would have been $100 and done.

When we figured out the socket was corroded, I laughed and said, "Wouldn't you know? I just thought of a blog post."

Sin. Sin starts out with a small crack, and the devil is good at finding those small cracks. We figure a little bit can't hurt, so we let a little in. But before long, if we don't take care of the problem immediately, we're corroded and falling apart. We're in so deep we can't seem to find a way out. I thank God that Jesus can heal us at the first crack or at the deepest corrosion.

I've been letting some small cracks open up lately, things that seem harmless, truth be told. But in the long run, they'll deepen the crack and lead to things that are corrosive. I think there are some tail lights I need to replace. Today. How about you?

-JB

Photo from freefoto.com
Jodie
So, on Monday, I talked about must and how it is my new favorite word.

But last night, God asked me a question... What about MY must? Do I reverence God so much that I'm compelled to fall on my face before Him? Do I love Him so much that my every action is done to His glory? Is He the central, most important thing in my life? Do I turn aside from what I'm doing to say, "God, I must come to your house today?"

Hm. Seems like there's more to this must thing than meets the eye.

And I've got some growing to do...

-JB
Jodie
A couple of days ago, I was reading the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19. I love that story, but never more than I do at this moment. You see, one little word stopped my reading cold. It stopped me so cold that I went online to look at Luke 19:5 in four different translation of the Bible. I wanted to know that word was really and truly there, not just added in my NIV. Know what? It was there in every version I checked. Want to know what that word was?

Must.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." (Luke 19:5, NIV, emphasis mine)


Now, I can't begin to speak to why Jesus really used that word there. Maybe God told him to visit with Zaccheus. Maybe this was a divine appointment that couldn't be denied. But you know what? I like to think Jesus was so struck by Zac's desire to see him that he felt compelled to spend time with him. I like to think Jesus was overwhelmed with love for that tiny tax collector and simply couldn't pass him by.

But here's what really got to me... Jesus feels that "must" for all of us. He loves us so much that he "must" spend time with us. He "must" reach out to us. He "must" die on the cross for us. "Must" because he has an overwhelming, compelling love for us. Do you think it's a love so strong that he "must" express it?

The thought makes my heart beat faster. That's a whole lot of love in one tiny little word, isn't it?

Must. I think it just became my very favorite word.

-JB
Jodie
Know what I hate sometimes? Choices. There can be two perfectly good options in front of me, both equal when it comes to pros and cons, and I don't know what to do. I settle on a decision, wrap my fingers around the chosen, then stop. I can be like one of those master chessmen who stops in mid-move, fingers still on the pawn, rethinking everything I just did until I set the pawn down and pick up the rook instead. Uh, but was the pawn right after all? Maybe it's the pawn. Pick up that pawn, girl. Wait. Then again...

Unlike the chess master--who is contemplating his opponent's next 38 moves or something--I'm busy thinking, "What if this displeases God? What if it's against His will? What if I do this wrong and wind up in a wasteland somewhere? What if He punishes me because I chose unwisely? What if I miss the better one? What if I cause an earthquake in Outer Mongolia? What if..." You get the picture. It's the world's worst case of overthinking.

Actually, it's the world's worst case of no trust. Why's that? When I spend time in prayer and know I've heard from God, why do I let the devil come in and cause me to doubt? I doubt that I heard from God. I doubt that I heard right. I doubt His compassionate, merciful ability to hold back a lightning bolt of punishment and rage. I doubt that God can/will take care of me even if I make the wrong choice. In essence, I doubt that God is God when I do that double-minded waffle imitation.

Oh, to remember always and all the time that God is God and I am not! That He is bigger than everything, even bad (or simply wrong) decisions! Thank you, God, that you are, now and forevermore, Almighty, Holy, Compassionate, Loving God...

-JB
Jodie
We live on high ground. On April 24 of this year, that wasn't necessarily a good thing, as tornadic thunderstorms and golf ball-sized hail and a reported 80-mph wind gust ripped up the area around us. Believe me... I wanted to be at the lowest point in the valley on that day.

But the very next week, I was thanking God for life up on the hill. The weekend of May 1-2, Tennessee measured its rainfall in feet. In some places, high ground was all that was left. People lost their homes to the rising water just a couple of miles from us. High ground was a blessing that day and in the weeks to follow.

There's a lesson there. Our refuge is not in high or low, in men or weapons, in great numbers or in solitude... The only refuge is in Christ. Nothing else is going to stand.

And there's one more thing. In the midst of despair, in the midst of floods and tragedy, there is hope. God is still on His throne and He will never be removed. NEVER. I thought of my mom that day. Nearly eleven years ago, she lost almost everything she owned to sudden, unexpected, record floods after Hurricane Floyd. I will never forget the picture my grandmother sent me of my mother, standing in front of the pile of debris that used to be her possessions, flipping through her waterlogged Bible. Earthly things may not endure, but God and His Word will always be.

Want to know the amazing thing? As the rain stopped on Sunday, May 2, I walked out on my deck... and this is what I saw:



-JB
Jodie
I'm late with this, but Memorial Day and D-day fell within a week of each other this year. Pray for our men and women in uniform. Hug a veteran. Thank a family whose loved one gave all.

And if you've never listened to this song all the way through and really thought about it, take the time now...


The heroes of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Polar Bears, Operation Iraqi Freedom. 06-08
Jodie
Congrats to all the ACFW members with releases this month! If you're looking for summer reads, look no further...

1. A Hopeful Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer -- An Historical from Bethany House. Can she turn her second-best chance into a golden opportunity?

2. A Love of Her Own; Heart of the West series by Maggie Brendan -- A Romance from Revell. April McBride has everything her heart desires . . .except the one thing money can't buy.

3. A Matter of Character; The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs, #3 by Robin Lee Hatcher -- A Romance from Zondervan. In 1918, writing dime novels simply isn't done by an heiress, so when Joshua looks for the author who's sullied his grandfather's name, he never suspects Daphne's the guilty party.

4. A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer -- An Historical from Bethany House. Sparks fly when a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity.

5. Almost Forever; Book 1, Hanover Falls Novels series by Deborah Raney -- Women's Fiction from Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. Survivors of five fallen firefighters band together to try to make sense of the tragedy that took their loved ones.

6. Anna Finch and the Hired Gun; Women of the West series, Book 2 by Kathleen Y'Barbo -- A Romance from Waterbrook. When an aspiring reporter and a Pinkerton detective get tangled in Doc Holliday's story ˜and each other˜sparks can't help but fly.

7. Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart -- Women's Fiction from FaithWords/Hachette. A coming-of-age story set in Texas in the 1950s as a young girl struggles with her own identity in light of her mother's mental illness.

8. End Game; Big Sky Secrets, book #3 by Roxanne Rustand -- A Romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Big Sky Secrets--a five-book Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense series set in the Rockies of Montana

9. Her Abundant Joy by Lyn Cote -- An Historical from Avon Inspired. Can a beautiful young widow find peace in the arms of a Texas Ranger?

10. Maid of Murder; India Hayes Mysteries, Book One by Amanda Flower -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Five Star Mystery. College librarian and reluctant bridesmaid, India Hayes, sets out to prove her brother's innocence when the bride is murdered.

11. Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist -- An Historical from Bethany House. Two servants at Biltmore House at the turn of the century find that God can take your life in a very different direction than you had planned.

12. Manor of the Ghost by Tina Pinson -- Women's Fiction from Desert Breeze. Kaitlin didn't believe in Ghosts, until she saw them in Devlin's eyes and heard them in the deafening silence of her son, Derrick.

13. My Son, John by Kathi Macias -- Women's Fiction from Sheaf House. Can God bring healing to a family torn apart by a brutal crime?.

14. Ruby Red; Ruby Red and The Colors of Home Series by Robin Shope -- A Multicultural from Sparklesoup. Eleven-year-old Ruby Red sneaks on board the Orphan Train, meant only for white children, with her pet cockroach in her pocket.

15. Sabotage by Kit Wilkinson -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Steeple Hill. Equine veterinary student Derrick Randall tries to help Olympic hopeful Emilie Gill find faith and a way to her Olympic dreams.

16. Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky -- A Romance from Waterbrook. When Marnie becomes the guardian of her Down syndrome nephew, will she run again?

17. Steadfast Soldier; Wings of Refuge #7 by Cheryl Wyatt -- A Romance from Steeple Hill. These soldiers of the skies are fearless, faithful...and falling in love.

18. The Heart's Song by Winnie Griggs -- A Romance from Love Inspired. Two lonely people work together to help others and ultimately find love.

19. The Homecoming; Sequel to The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh -- An Historical from Revell. Shawn Collins returns home from the dangers of WW2 to face the loss of his first love, but discovers God has set in motion a plan to heal his broken heart.
Jodie
I love my little library. Movers do not love my little library. Every time we move, at least one of them makes a comment about the weight we have in my books alone. I'm sorry, Mr. Mover Men. I just can't help it. You'd better be glad I own a Kindle now, or there'd be even more weight for you to bear.

I went to one of my bookcases the other day and pulled Rachel Hauck's Lost in Nashvegas. I love that book. It's about aspiring songwriter Robin Rae McAfee and her gutsy move to Nashville to follow her dream. There's a lot about her journey that directly relates to the publishing industry, and if I'm feeling low, Robin Rae makes me feel a little bit less alone.

I was reading a couple of nights ago and came across one of Robin's thoughts on page 68. It's not Scripture, but it struck me in the way some scriptures do, with that pause and that thought that God wants me to hear this:

"Besides, we don't know when Jesus plans on coming back and I sure-as-shooting don't want to be caught holding my one dinky talent over a hole in the ground. 'Oops. Hey. Jesus, I've been meaning to do something with this...'"

Ouch. There's that reminder, the one I talked about a couple of weeks ago. This is not about me. This is about God and what He wants me to do. Fact is, whether it's writing, speaking, teaching, caretaking, or fixing a leaky roof, God's given us all talents. If we're not using 'em, we're wasting 'em. And if we're not using them for His glory, we're still just burying them in the dirt.

And I sure-as-shooting don't want to be caught with my fingernails dirty when He cracks open the sky...

-JB
Jodie
(Now, from the outset, I'm going to tell you not every word of this song works, okay? Just go with me on this one...)

If you've been reading here long, you know I've been downright lost without a church in our new town. It's been three months and six or seven different churches and tears and frustration and loneliness and anger and disappointment and blue funk and homesickness trying to find a church. I think it was last week or the week before when I mentioned how much I miss the hugs I get at church back home. I just miss having a church family. We found a wonderful church with an amazing pastor and went for a month, but something about it didn't soothe my soul. Wonderful church, just not "home."

Well, today, I set out to go to one church, but I wound up at a different one. It just sort of happened that way. We went in and sat down and basked in good old-fashioned traditional worship with the Apostles' Creed and the Gloria Patri. (Which is odd, because I am usually a contemporary service kind of girl.) It was nice. I felt quiet and peaceful and like I could breathe.

And then it happened. During the last song, I glanced behind me and saw a woman who could be the twin sister of my best friend's mother. (Think Paula Deen in every way, y'all. I love Miss Peggy and miss her so much!) Something in me told me to walk up to this precious stranger and tell her she reminded me of Miss Peggy. So, I gathered up my courage, walked back there, and told her that. Know what she did? She threw her arms around my neck and squeezed me in the best hug I've had in months and said, "That's the sweetest thing anybody's ever said to me." Then she proceeded to take me by the arm and introduce us to the entire church, give us her phone number, and invite us to lunch. That Ms. Wanda is one awesome lady. When we walked out of church, our daughter said, "I like it here."

But here's the kicker. I got in the car, flipped on the A/C, and turned on the satellite radio. There's a Jimmy Buffett station on there, and I just programmed it in yesterday. I hit that Jimmy Buffett preset, put the car in gear, and heard the words, "The smilin' eyes match the smilin' faces, and I have found me a home. I have found me a home. You can have the rest of everything I own, 'cause I have found me a home."

Well, dadgummit, God went and made me cry.

-JB
Jodie
Generally, reminders are good things. And sometimes reminders are needed. (To be honest, sometimes knocks upside the head are needed too.)

A couple of nights ago, I was talking to a friend about how I couldn't seem to get out of the desert. I prayed, I sat still, I read my Bible... and yet I couldn't seem to connect with God. Frustrating. Lonely. Empty. Yucky. I hate the desert.

Know what she had the nerve to say to me. "Sometimes, God puts us in the desert. And sometimes, we go there ourselves." So? Then she said, "How much of this is God teaching you something, and how much of this is you being lazy?"

So, after I slammed the phone down in here ear... Okay, really, I didn't do that. She didn't make me mad, because this particular friend is quite well known for telling me the truth with a big dose of love. She was telling me the truth the other night. I'd forgotten.

What had I forgotten? You and I were made to worship. Yep, it brought to mind the Chris Tomlin song. Worship is something we were created to do. We can worship God with our lives and our acts by doing them for His glory, true, but we are missing out on something basic to our being when we don't take time to give God focused worship that is all about Him. When we don't worship--and I don't just mean in church--we are denying ourselves the opportunity to bless God and denying a core part of our very selves. That's why I felt so empty and drained. Part of me wasn't active.

How 'bout you? Walking through your own desert? Why not stop now and take the time to bless God? It may not cure you, but I'll guarantee it'll help.

-JB
Jodie
In June 2007, I missed my beloved cousin's wedding. Ben and I have been oddly matched cousin-friends since we were tiny kids catching fireflies in the backyard. We believe polar opposite about, well, everything, but we still manage to get along.

I was so excited to get his wedding invite in the mail. Travel from NC to Maryland? You bet, let's go. Right now. All over it.

Until I figured out that was the very weekend I had agreed to speak in church. Come on, God. Really? I can postpone the speaking in church thing, right? Surely you don't want me to miss such an amazing thing as my cousin's wedding. This is huge! I have to be there! Yes, I spent a few days whining to God. But He told me I couldn't go. There was something I had to do for Him, and that was stand up in front of church on that Sunday and speak. So, I did. And God did an amazing thing in me and in someone else because of it. Of course, He was right, even though I missed out on something else.

I'm facing that again with some plans for this fall. In staring down that decision, I am reminded that sometimes, when it comes to ministry for Him, God asks us to sacrifice. Sometimes, what seems like the oddest or least fun choice is the one where God shows up and knocks my socks off. Wonder how this one will pan out? Will He give me both of the desires I have? Or will He make me choose? After all, I highly doubt He'll let me be in two places (virtually) at once. All I can do is stay tuned...

-JB
Jodie
My husband has lately become fond of answering, "How was work today?" or "How are you doing?" by saying, "Livin' the dream." A lot of days (because some really, really crazy stuff has been going on with some of the guys he works with), he's being sarcastic. It made us laugh, though, when his aunt (who has never heard him say that) sent me a Mother's Day card with a picture of a woman in curlers, surrounded by five or six kids and soaking her feet in a kiddie pool. The inside of the card said, "Living the dream..." Too funny.

I dealt with an unexpected attack from the enemy this week. I struggled with trusting God with this talent He gave me. I struggled with putting words on the paged because I feared mediocrity. I struggled with not earning any money last year at all. I struggled with every single thing about my writing journey. To be honest, I wanted to delete everything I've ever written and walk away. The only reason I didn't is because I knew, deep in my gut, that God wouldn't want that. He put me here. He set this up. He wants this from me. And if the devil is kicking me that hard, then I must be doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. If I wasn't on the right path, the devil wouldn't bother to try to derail me. In fact, he'd encourage me to keep right on steppin' in the wrong direction.

A dear, wonderful, God-sent writer friend wrote me a note last night. She said, and I quote, "You're living your dream." Know what? Until she said that, I'd forgotten. I'd forgotten the joy of making a character come to life in a world woven of words. I'd forgotten the feeling of filling a blank page with a new world. I forgot the power of creativity, of hearing my fingers dance on the keys, of watching the letters and the words appear as if by magic on the screen. I forgot it all. I lost the childlike wonder of God's gift.

So thanks to that wonderful friend, who unknowingly tossed my husband's words up for me to catch. I needed that reminder. Yep. I truly am livin' the dream.

-JB
Jodie
In late March, I started writing a military suspense. If you know me, you know this is way, way different than anything I've done before. I started the book because my awesome agent asked me to and, after prayer, I truly believed it was the right thing to do. Actually, that sentence shouldn't say "was the right thing," I still fully believe it is the right thing.

I got halfway through the book. That's when it all fell apart. I went back to revise the first half and realized this is the worst work I've ever done. The characters, while alive to me, lay dead on the page. (And not because somebody murdered them. Okay, one of them was murdered, but not the important two.)

What happened?

Because of some pretty intense personal things, I took a couple of days off writing. And in prayer time, God let me know pretty heavy duty why things ran totally off the tracks.

I sat down every day to write a book for my agent, for my audience, for an editor, for my husband (who is pretty excited about this one...). There was not one single day of that writing when I sat down and made God and what He wanted the priority on this book. Not one. With the other two books, I sat down every day and said, "God first, everybody else second." When it came to this manuscript, after He gave me the go-ahead to write it, I never thought of Him at all. God gave me a talent and an idea, and I took off running without Him.

So what do I do? First things first... God and I had a long talk. This is His now. Second, every morning I sit down to write, I talk to Him about it first. This has to be for Him first, and then for Sandra and editors and other readers. If He isn't first, there's no point in starting at all.

"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." -Colossians 3:17 (NASB)

-JB
Jodie
I agonized yesterday morning. I mean cried agonized. Want to know why? Over where to go to church. There is so much going on in my family right now. We are fine as a family, but we are weathering a few storms together. And the worst part of it all is we recently moved and don't have a church family yet. I miss those hugs from people who just know you. I was privileged to grow up in and attend the same church for the first 23 years of my life. Making new church homes is hard.

But that's not what this is about. (And if the above qualified as whining, then you can ignore it...) When we finally stepped into church this morning, I got slapped with "Amazing Grace" right off the bat. Why, oh why, God, do you always hit me with that one when I'm down? Because I want me to remember, "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved." Oh yeah. That's why.

Then they hit me with "Your Grace is Enough." I'm starting to get the message, God.

And then? Matt Redman's "You Never Let Go." Oh, God, do You know how embarrassing it is to break down and weep in a room full of strangers? To cry because, no matter what, "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," my God is with me and He never lets go? God knew I needed the embrace of the words, "Oh no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm. Oh now, you never let go, in every high and ever low. Oh no, you never let go. Lord, you never let go of me." No matter what you or I walk through, no matter how far away He seems, he never lets go.

May we be able to say, "And there will be an end to these troubles, but until that day comes, still I will praise you..."

-JB
Jodie
The volcano in Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull (don't even joke about asking me how to say that) continues to spew ash into the air as I type this. When I was thinking about this blog, I did a search for the spelling and found some amazing, horrifying pictures of the volcano at the Boston Globe's website.

Aside from thinking a couple of weeks ago that the thing looks like the gates of hell, I haven't given much thought to it. I'm not a world traveler trapped by airport closings, and I have that human tendency not to think a whole lot about things I don't see every day.

But today, that volcano personally affected me. Not a single person in my corner of the world ever dreamed it would have anything to do with us, but it suddenly does. Out of nowhere, it has had a direct, personal impact on my family, even though I hadn't thought about its existence in days.

And it's exceptionally convicting. So many times, we forget to pray (or we neglect to pray) for what we don't see. There is so much pain in the world, so many people hurting, so many things falling apart, but as long as we are safe, we walk along with this illusion that all is right with the world.

Until it affects us.

It would be impossible to pray for the entire world, but what prayer burden does God have specifically for you? Is it a friend who's hurting? A foreign mission group you read about? A news story that pricked your heart? Who does God keep bringing to mind for you?

Perhaps it's time to hit our knees and bring it to His throne... because we are the body. And every single person and event in the world ripples to us all.

-JB
Jodie
There is something happening on the web this week. It's a quiet little something, unless you're there. Then it's exceptionally loud. It's something you may never have heard of before. And if you haven't...

I pity you.

And I am about to enlighten you.

It is a thing that will change your life forever. Or, at the very least, it will make you snort milk (coffee, tea, water, or whatever beverage you are drinking at the moment) out your nose. I do believe that would give you the benefit of clear sinuses if you are in a pollen-plagued area.

Would that make the man behind this amazing event a miracle worker?

Are you ready? Can you handle it? Are you sure? Then point your web browser to the 2010 Bad Poetry Contest, held annually in honor of Chip MacGregor's birthday.

I promise, you will not be disappointed.

-JB
Jodie
Okay, whining probably doesn't make you old, but it might make you feel that way. Over the course of the past three days, I have earned a black belt in whining. I won't go through the list here--because that would lead to whining--but it seems like anything and everything is whine-worthy in my house this week. I can feel it wrapping around my emotions and squeezing, because this perpetual attitude of self-pity is beginning to take hold.

Self-pity is arrogance, folks. Plain and simple. It's all about me (or you or whoever is whining and pitying at the moment).

I started not to blog today, because the whining felt like it would spill over onto the page, but then the news came on. There are very few places in central and western Tennessee that aren't waterfront (or water on) property this morning. An oil slick threatens the Gulf, and people who depend on it for their livelihood are facing that slimy threat. I just heard of a family near us who lost the father and daughter in one terrible instant (please pray for the Quall family).

As it turns out, I have nothing to whine about.

Maybe it's time to count blessings instead of letting the devil turn my petty problems into perceived disasters?

-JB
Jodie
Need some good reads? Here's the list of ACFW new releases for May...

1. A Quiet Place; A Tabor Heights Novel by Michelle Levigne -- A Romance from Desert Breeze. Tabor Heights -- A friendly little town on Ohio's North Coast, where the members of one church help each other in their journeys of faith, learning, and love.

2. Betsey's Return; Book 2 in the Brides of Lehigh Canal series by Wanda E. Brunstetter -- An Historical from Barbour. After being left once at the altar, Pastor William vowed to serve the Lord alone. But that was before Betsy's Return.

3. Black Hills Blessing; A 3-in-1 Collection by Mary Connealy -- Three Contemporary Romances from from Barbour. Buffalo owner butts heads with an ornery cattleman; a lady rancher has a cantankerous neighbor; A doormat wife stands up to her tyrant husband. Who will survive when worlds collide?

4. Clara and the Cowboy by Erica Vetsch -- A Romance from Heartsong Presents. Alec takes on robbers, rustlers, and kidnappers, but his greatest challenge will be taking on Clara, his boss's daughter.

5. Finding Jeena; Book 2, Homecoming Series by Miralee Ferrell -- Women's Fiction from Kregel. Shaken to the core at the threat of losing everything, Jeena is confronted with her prejudices and with a God she had long forgotten.

6. In Harm's Way; Heroes of Quantico, Book 3 by Irene Hannon -- A Romance from Revell. An abducted infant, a tattered Raggedy Ann doll, a terrified woman and a skeptical FBI agent come together in what Publishers Weekly calls "an ever-climactic mystery."

7. It Had to Be You; the third and final novel in the "Weddings by Bella" series by Janice Thompson -- General Fiction from Revell/Baker. Bella couldn't be happier that her long-feuding Aunt Rosa and Uncle Lazarro have finally admitted their love for one another and are getting married. Their forties-style wedding is sure to be a night to remember.

8. Kate's Philadelphia Frenzy; Camp Club Girls Series, Book 5 by Janice Hanna -- General Fiction from Barbour. The Camp Club Girls series introduces young readers to six friends who meet at church camp and solve mysteries together.

9. Legendary Space Pilgrims by Grace Bridges -- A Sci-fi/Fantasy/Futuristic from Splashdown. If Pilgrim's Progress were a space opera, it might look something like this: two young seekers on a journey of discovery, searching for freedom and a planet to call home.

10. Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley -- An Historical Romance from Summerside Press. Heroine in peril becomes a mail-order bride. . .gone awry

11. Love is Monumental; Book 2, A Walk in the Park by Annalisa Daughety -- A Contemporary Romance from Barbour. Finding love has become a feat of monumental proportions for a shy park ranger.

12. Morning for Dove; Book 2, Winds Across the Prairie by Martha Rogers -- An Historical from Realms, a Division of Strang Communications. Luke and Dove struggle against prejudice and a deadly natural disaster for their love.

13. No Other; Protecting the Witnesses LIS continuity series--book #3 by Shawna K. Williams -- An Historical from Desert Breeze. Jakob Wilheimer longs for healing after his family's internment during WWII, but will freeing Meri from the captivity of her upbringing heal them both, or tear them apart?

14. Nowhere Carolina; Book 2, Southern Discomfort Series by Tamara Leigh -- A Romance from Waterbrook. When Maggie Pickwick's teenaged daughter decides it's time she knew the identity of her father, Maggie's carefully balanced world begins to teeter.

15. Seeds of Summer; Book 2, Seasons of the Tall Grass by Deborah Vogts -- A Romance from Zondervan. When a former Miss Rodeo Kansas queen returns home after her father's death to care for the family ranch and her two younger siblings, what follows is a summer full of change, life-lessons and an unexpected romance with the new minister in Diamond Falls

16. So Over My Head; Book 3, Charmed Life Series by Jenny B. Jones -- General Fiction from Thomas Nelson. Newly single, stalked by a killer, and in desperate need of some chic clown shoes,˜ Bella is one mocha frapp away from a total meltdown.

17. The Heiress; New Jersey Historical Series Book 2 by Laurie Alice Eakes -- An Historical from Barbour. Desperate for money, Daire Grassick sells a family heirloom to a lady he doesn't know, only to discover it holds a secret formula for glass without which his family will be ruined.

18. The Narrow Path by Gail Sattler -- A Romance from Abingdon. When they must combine efforts for the most important event in Ted's church's history, can modern Mennonite Miranda Klassen and Old Order Mennointe Ted Wiebe find peace somewhere in the middle?

19. The Wedding Garden; Book 3, Redemption River by Linda Goodnight -- A Romance from Love Inspired. Join RITA and ACFW Award-winning author, Linda Goodnight, in "Redemption River", where healing flows.

20. The Weight of Shadows by Alison Strobel -- Women's Fiction from Zondervan. Kim has found a way to suffer for her sins and ease her guilt--but is her relief more important than her innocent daughter's safety?

21. They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti -- Women's Fiction from Abingdon. He was supposed to go fishing, not missing.

22. To Be a Mother by Ruth Axtell Morren and Cheryl St. John -- Romance from Steeple Hill. Two heartwarming stories of non-traditional families becoming families in a very traditional sense.

23. White Roses by Shannon Taylor VanAtter -- A Romance from Heartsong Presents. Can a heart-broken florist and a widowed pastor reclaim romance after their lives collide among the thorns?

24. Wildflower Bride; Book 2, Montana Marriages by Mary Connealy -- A Romance from Barbour. Glowing Sun, a white woman raised by the Flathead tribe, has never met a man she didn't want to pull a knife on, including the man determined to marry her.
Jodie
I did a lot of venting a couple of weeks ago about songs I like and songs I don't like (mostly remakes). And since I'm a bit of a music junkie, I thought it would be fun if we got a discussion started. Top 3 favorite songs of all time. Now, this go-round, I'm not asking for your top 3 praise songs (because you know I just can't narrow down my top 3 Third Day songs, let alone my top 3 praise songs by everybody), we'll do that another week. Hit that mainstream station (or that oldies station, because I recently found out that the 80s are the oldies now), and share.

My top 3 is pretty much always the same, and you can call me a geek because, believe me, when you see number one, you're going to scream "geek," especially since Newman on Seinfeld referenced the dude...

3) "Aubrey" by Bread. Okay yes, it's a total cheesy seventies song. And yet, for reasons unexplained, if I play it once, I have to go back and play it seven more times. Who can resist a line like, "We tripped the light and danced together to the moon"? It makes me want to write stories. Longhand. With my new multi-colored "real" fountain pens.

2) "Oh, Girl" by Paul Young. We've been over this one already.

1) Okay, I'm going to confess this out loud. Ya ready? My all time favorite song ever is... "Sailing," by Christopher Cross. More seventies cheese, I know. As a child of the eighties, I just can't explain it. As someone who has never sailed, I can't explain it either. I just know it takes me to a happy place. Maybe therapy could help me figure that out? Oh well, I guess I would have been happy at Newmannium, anyway.

Okay, so let's hear from you. Top 3 favorite songs. If I can confess Christopher Cross and Bread in the same post, surely you can do no less...

-JB
Jodie
Know what I love? Chocolate pudding. I thought instant pudding was so awesome until a certain amazing pudding company came out with individual serving packets of pudding powder. Instead of messing around with an entire batch of pudding, I could just pull out my little single serving pouch, dump it in a mug, add milk, and chow down on my chocolate treat--all in about five minutes.

Sweet.

Know what I don't like? Non-instant chocolate pudding. You have to cook it. My word, I have to wait for it to heat up, wait for it to cool down... And then, it just has this weird mouth feel to me. I have to get used to it before I can enjoy it. It takes a few bites for my mouth to go, "Mmm. Chocolate."

Here's the problem. Sometimes, I treat prayer like instant pudding. I run in, stir up the waters, chug down my mug of godly chocolate, relish the fact that it's just like last time, give a quick, "Thanks, God," then rush right back out.

Prayer should be like cooked pudding. Time in worship to warm up, to get close to God. A good long simmer in His presence. A good thank you time to cool down. But here's the scary part... Remember how I said I don't like the "mouth feel" of cooked pudding at first? When we take that time to slow cook with God, sometimes He tells us something we don't necessarily want to digest. It's different. It might be conviction. It might be a new calling. It might be change. But it requires us to adjust.

That's one of the reasons I think I shy away from cooked pudding prayers. I don't want to be uncomfortable. Like the cooked pudding, I don't like to change. (Sound much like the Pharisees from Monday's post?) It doesn't feel right at first, because I've grown lazy and used to quick and easy.

So... think about this season in your life. Are you an instant pudding prayer? Or a cooked pudding prayer?

And are you craving chocolate yet?

-JB
Jodie
Oh, those silly Pharisees. Can you believe them? There they go again, asking one of their unanswerable questions, trying to trap the Son of God and prove Him wrong. Don't they know Jesus knows what they're all about? That he has all the answers? Aren't they so silly?

And aren't they so sad and pitiful? Here they are, loving their religion so much that they can't even see Jesus in front of their faces. Clinging to their laws and their power and totally missing out on their relationship with Jesus. Those poor, sad, pitiful Pharisees. I'm sure glad I'm not like them.

Hm. Hey. Wait a second. Know what those Pharisees were really saying? "Look, Jesus. We've got a great thing going here. Our religion is awesome and we love it. It's all about God, really, isn't it? I mean, we say His name and we attach Him to all of these laws we make and these actions we do. We happen to like the way things are, even if it leaves some of the truth out, it's a nice religion and it's partially built on truth. It might be a house of cards, but we really kind of enjoy it, so please, Jesus, don't you come along and start breathing too hard on us. That just causes a big ol' mess. 'K? Thanks."

I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong, but that sounds like some of us in the church today, doesn't it? If we're honest, it sounds like all of us some of the time, huh? We can get into our little routines with Jesus in certain seasons of our lives, and we forget this is a relationship. The center focus is HIM and our relationship with him, not the things we do. That was the problem with those Pharisees. They forgot exactly who was at the center. They forgot it was God first and not religion first. It's a fine line, I know, but it's a line. They'd have liked Jesus just fine if he hadn't rocked their boats. But Jesus is the premiere boat rocker, isn't He?

I had to stop the other day and really think. Am I following Jesus? Or am I following my religion?

Hm. Something to think about, huh?

-JB
Jodie
If you have ever wanted to be kicked in the teeth and laugh while it happens, you've come to the right place.

Jonathan Acuff is Prodigal John on Twitter, and if you're one of the four people in the world not following him, you're missing out. His 140-character tweets are worth signing up for Twitter, even if you never follow anyone else. Then go to Stuff Christians Like and check out the blog that started it all.

But about the book...

I never planned to review Stuff Christians Like. I bought it because I agree with Jon that Chick-fil-a sweet tea should be served in fountains in heaven. I bought it because his random observations on life are hilarious, and I figured a book full of random observations about the church would be awesome.

Oh, it's awesome alright. Awesome in a way that makes the Holy Spirit slap you upside the head. I thought I knew what SCL was all about from reading the blog, but there's something about having these ideas concentrated in one place that changed the way I think in a way the blog never did. Maybe because I read the SCL blog in a drive-by fashion and the book at a slower pace. Or maybe God just thought I was ready for what Jon might call a "truth smack-down." I dare you to read about "the splinter in my eye, plank upside yo' head" gossip plank idea without laughing so hard you wake your dog up from three rooms away. But after you laugh, you're going to stop and you're going to think. "Wait a sec... I do that."

Then two things are going to happen. First, you're going to feel some conviction. We're all hypocrites in some area or another. Jon's observations have cracked me up on more than one occasion, then the Holy Spirit has used that to bring me to my knees. (More on that in Monday's post.) I've laughed 'til I cried, true, but I've also done more repenting reading this book than I have after every sermon in my whole life, I think. Second, you're going to realize you're not the only one. I have beat myself up over my quiet time lately, thinking I'm the worst quiet time Christian ever. And then I read Jon's awesome quiet time essay. Oh yeah, I laughed, but I also gave a big sigh of relief. I'm not alone in my struggles.

Seriously, go buy this book. Today. It's not what I expected it to be. It's a million and one times better.

-JB
Jodie
I picked this picture up on MSNBC a couple of days ago, and I can't stop looking at it. That's the Iceland volcano that has wreaked havoc on air travel the past week or so. If you're like me, you'll stare at that for a while. It is so strangely beautiful and yet so horrifying. It makes me think of Luke 10:18 when Jesus says he say Satan cast from heaven like lightning.

After I looked at it for a while, it got me thinking about sin. I mean, we don't sin in a vacuum. Oh yes, we like to think we aren't hurting anyone, but we do. Eventually, sin spreads. It may happen in Iceland, but it drifts on the upper air currents and causes disruption around the world. Despite what the commercials would like you to believe, what happens in Iceland, doesn't stay in Iceland.

And there's also that terrible/beautiful thing. When Mel Gibson cast Satan in "The Passion of the Christ," he chose a gorgeous woman and shaved her hair and eyebrows. He wanted the look to be hauntingly beautiful yet terribly disturbing. His reason? Sin is like that. We fall because Satan makes it so attractive we have trouble looking away.

I don't have a conclusion today, no pretty way of wrapping this up. I do know this much: I'm glad God is ultimately in control. And I'm glad Jesus sacrificed his life for me so I'll never have to know what hell really looks like.

-JB
Jodie
I know I already blogged today, but this is just too much for me to be quiet about. You will rarely hear me go crazy fan girl about anything. I tend to reserve those moments for when I'm alone. Right now, I just can't help it.

We all know I love Third Day. We all know I love Tobymac. Michael W. Smith is, well, he's Michael W. Smith and he goes beyond the need for description. I cut my grown up Christian teeth reading Max Lucado. So, when the tweets hit today from them that, come October, they will all be sharing a stage to support Worldivison, I have to say it sent me straight to concert heaven.

And then I saw this picture...

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic


Click on that picture, make it bigger, and you will see there is so much awesomeness in one room that the world should have spun off its axis. Thank you, David Schroeder, for sharing that pic. It made my day, maybe even my year.

Great music, great message, worthy cause. With all that anointing in one place, I can't wait to see what God does. October is going to be amazing.

This marks the end of my crazy fan girl rant... :-)

-JB
Jodie
I've been very frustrated lately. For me, the hardest part of moving is finding a new church. I'm not totally settled until we have a church home. It's been two and a half months since we left our amazing Georgia church, and every Sunday I come home frustrated and sad after visiting a perfectly nice church that just isn't "the one."

Today, we may have found "the one." We'll go for a second visit next week and pray for confirmation in the meantime. With all that is happening in our lives, I am desperately hoping this is it. We need that family.

Anyway, today we sang a song I love, "Mighty to Save." Know what? It made me realize how much the devil likes to hit me with the same old tricks. There's a lyric, "Savior, he can move the mountains. My God is mighty to save." Moving a mountain would be hard, wouldn't it? But God can do it. Saving me is even harder than moving that mountain, but God is mighty enough to do it. He is mightier than anything I can ever throw at Him.

So why is it that I--and I'll bet you too--keep believing the lie that God doesn't want to be close to us? That we can be so far gone He can't save us? No. He is mighty to save. It doesn't matter how many days, weeks, or months we've missed quiet time. It doesn't matter how far we've fallen down the mountain. Know what? It doesn't matter if we've never even been on the mountain before. God is still mighty to save.

Nothing's too hard for Him. It's time to start believing that, isn't it?

-JB
Jodie
(I was feeling this today, so I went back, found the blog, and decided on a repost.)

Well, folks, I've been struggling. Sometimes I think that the outward struggle to write is related to the inward struggle of faith. The weaker I feel in Christ, the harder it is to write. I have to cling to the fact that He is strong in my weakness. And feelings just don't matter when it comes to God.

Whenever I have those times when I feel like I'm in that valley where I just don't "feel" God at all, I tend to say that I'm "walking through Egypt." (I probably got that from Clyde Edgerton's book Walking Across Egypt.) The point is, it's like being in a desert and looking for water. When I am able to say that I'm "walking through Egypt," it helps me to hold onto the faith that I will eventually get to the other side and that God and I will connect again; that I'll get to the top of the mountain and have that sweet communion that I just can't seem to grasp when I'm in the midst of seasons like this.

Despite the fact that I'm in a dry desert, pretty much alone, Egypt can have some really awesome moments. There is, in fact, mail delivery in the middle of my Egyptian desert. God sends me postcards. They're not letters, because they don't take long to "read," but they are little bitty "hellos" that God sends to remind me that I am never, ever alone.

This morning, I was driving to Atlanta Bread Company (where you should have figured out by now that I typically like to write on Fridays) in the middle of a good ol' Georgia spring rainstorm. I was just about to change the radio station when "East to West" by Casting Crowns came on. That song has meant a whole lot to me at various times, but a new line grabbed me today and, when it did, the tears just smacked the backs of my eyelids. "I'm not holding on to you, but your'e holding on to me." Even now, sitting here in ABC, my eyes are welling up. There just aren't words for what that spoke to me, what it's speaking to me now. That even in Egypt, when I feel so spiritually weak that I can hardly hold my head up, when I've fought and fought to see the face of God and felt like He's just not there (even though my head knows He is, my heart could use a good shot of Him), that even though my grip may slip, He's never going to let me go. Never. Feelings don't matter; truth does. And the truth is that God loves me so much that He will never let me go. Such love. Such love for me. Wow. I needed that love.

-JB
Jodie
I found a quote by Eugene Peterson in the I Samuel introduction in the Message Bible. At first, I thought I'd write about it. Then I decided to let it speak for itself. Sometimes, it's better to draw your own conclusions...

"...as we submit our lives to what we read [in I Samuel], we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but to see our stories in God's."


(And yes, this is my typical Monday post delivered on Tuesday. I ran behind yesterday.)

-JB
Jodie
I hate remakes. H-A-T-E them. It really irks me when I love a good old song,then someone comes along and tries to do it better. Very few people can get away with remaking a classic.

When I was a teenager, I refused to like that red-headed mall singer who shall remain nameless. For those of you who think this had something to do with the fact she dated my biggest teen-aged crush, you're WRONG. It is because she first dug her nails into Tommy James and the Shondells, then she dared to defile a Beatles song by not only remaking it, but changing the words as well. 'Nuff said.

It's not that remakes aren't good, it's just that they seem pointless. Part of the reason I feel this way is because I grew up with parents who taught me a deep appreciation for the "oldies." And when songs are classics like that, you just don't mess with them. (Annie Lennox, I'm talkin' to you. You should have left "Whiter Shade of Pale" alone.)

I said all of that to say this: Only once in my life have I gone ga-ga over a remake. I was sixteen. And to this day, that remake is one of my all time, no doubt about it, listen until my ears fall off, favorite songs. Don't get me wrong. The Chi-lites did it right, but (and this is quite possibly the only time you will ever here me say this), Paul Young did "Oh, Girl" so much better. The man was made to sing that song. Hear his pain and that slight gravel in his voice. I could listen to it ten times in a row, then go back for more. I think, quite possibly, the Chi-lites traveled forward in time to 1990, snagged that song, then went back to 1972 and did a sort of "premake," if you will. That, folks, is how much Paul Young rocked that song.

Okay, so there might be one more remake I can stand. Tom Cochrane's "Life is a Highway" was almost an anthem when I was in high school. Rascal Flatts? Good job making me like yours almost as much. Then again, that's a song it would be really, really hard to mess up in the first place.

So, how about the rest of you? Care to leave a comment about your favorite remake? Join me, won't you? I think I'm off to grab a hairbrush and sing in the kitchen.

-JB

(A P.S.--Just learned my dear friend Kay has a different opinion if you want to check it out.)
Jodie
About a week and a half ago, I had new lenses put in my glasses. Lesson from previous pair? Don't put cheap lenses in your glasses. 'Nuff said. This go-round, I didn't get anti-glare coating. I hated the stuff on my last pair. I could never get the lenses clean, and it seemed like things were just never right. The woman selling me my lenses kept arguing that I'd hate glasses without the coating, but I stood my ground and got my glaring glasses.

I slid on the new pair and headed home, but there seemed to be a smudge in the lens. I kept cleaning, but the smudge wouldn't go away. It took me a couple of hours to figure out what the smudge was. You'll never guess. I could see the reflection of my own eyeball. Without the anti-glare, the whites of my eyes bounce right back at me.

That got me thinking about the plank in my own eye and the speck in somebody else's. What would life be like if we truly could walk around and see our own "eyeball"? Rarely do we have a clear picture of our own sins, but we can sure point them out in somebody else! Wouldn't it be cool to have a way to impartially see those planks in our eyes?

Then again, I could see the whites of my own eyes. Until I got used to it, it was pretty hard to take the focus off of, well, me. Instead of clearly seeing what stood right in front of me, everything filtered through my reflection. Need I go any farther with that, or are you already getting the gist of it? It's hard to see others and their needs when we're focused on ourselves, huh?

So there you have it. Two things on my mind this week, and all because I caught a glimpse of my own eyeball. I may need to swallow my pride and go back to the store though. I think I need anti-glare.

-JB
Jodie
This is not a book review. Yeah, I stole the title from a book by Max Lucado, but that's not where I am today.

On Good Friday, I couldn't get those four words out of my head. In the past, I always thought of them in the context of Jesus allowing the crucifixion to happen, as though he was so involved he may as well have walked up to a bin of nails and personally chosen the ones used to impale his hands and feet.

Friday, I realized there is yet another meaning. Jesus had a choice. He could have stopped the crucifixion at any point. When he was in Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood in agony, asking God to take this cup from him, he could have walked way. Jesus was not obligated to die for us. He chose to. In essence, he chose the nails (and our salvation) over his own life.

It goes so much deeper than that. When God created His law, He alone declared that the only atonement for sin is death. Nobody forced Him to make it that way. He chose to. And He knew all along, before He ever said, "Let there be light," that man would fall. He knew we'd need a Savior. Yet He still created us, and He still made the law.

Before the earth was even formed, He chose the nails.
Jodie
If you're looking for good reads, here are the new releases from members of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Congrats to everyone with releases this month!

1. A Promise Forged, Heartsong Presents Historical Ohio Series by Cara C. Putman An historical from Heartsong Presents. A player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League finds challenges and love as she travels with her team.

2. Abbie Ann; Daughters of Jacob Kane, 3rd & final installment. by Sharlene MacLaren An historical romance from Whitaker House. Abbie Ann, president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1907, butts heads with a handsome divorcee, blindsided when she realizes her utter attraction to him.

3. Blood Ransom; Mission Hope Series, Book 1 by Lisa Harris A suspense/mystery/thriller from from Zondervan. A thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare to challenge it.

4. Calculated Revenge by Jill Elizabeth Nelson A suspense/mystery/thriller from Steeple Hill. When a teacher finds on the playground a backpack belonging to her long-ago abducted sister, she turns to the principal, an ex-private detective, to stop a child-killer from targeting her daughter.

5. Chesapeake Weddings by Cecelia Dowdy A romance from Barbour. Life sends three African American women into a tailspin; Can these women let God rebuild their tattered hopes when new romances unexpectedly enter their lives?

6. Code Blue by Richard L. Mabry M.D. A suspense/mystery/thriller from Abingdon. A doctor finds that returning to her home town has put her in the midst of conflict and possibly marked her for death

7. Crossroads Bay by Kathleen Kovach A romance from Heartsong Presents. A beautiful charter boat captain searches for lost treasure while her real prize is the caterer trying to keep up with her.

8. Damages by Deborah Kinnard A romance from Desert Breeze. A story of second chances, found in an unexpected place.

9. In Plain Sight by Michelle Sutton A suspense/mystery/thriller from Desert Breeze. Abused by her gypsy ex-boyfriend and left for dead, Jovana moves to America seeking a new life; two handsome men desire her heart, but she must choose the right one or end up in a situation much worse than before.

10. Lorenzo and the Pirate by Rick and Lila Guzman An historical from Blooming Tree Press. Will Lorenzo Bannister, marooned on a deserted island with two pirates, ever get home to New Orleans?

11. Love Lessons by Margaret Daley A romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Alexa Michaels brings a breath of fresh air into Ian Ferguson's and his daughter's life, but is it enough to make Ian trust in love again?

12. Lucky Baby by Meredith Efken A women's fiction from Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. Will adopting an orphan from China bring Meg and Lewis the happiness they long for?

13. Mountain Peril by Sandra Robbins A suspense/mystery/thriller from Steeple Hill, Love Inspired Suspense. A woman discovers violence has once again entered her life when a grisly website sets the stage for murder and terror on a peaceful college campus.

14. Queen of Hearts by K. Dawn Byrd A suspense/mystery/thriller from Desert Breeze. Daphne Dean never knew that serving her country as a spy during WWII would send her into hiding in an abandoned mental institution with secrets of its own.

15. Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson A suspense/mystery/thriller from Kregal. As Camden Bristow works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored on Crescent Hill, she discovers a deep family secret hidden within the mansion's walls that could change her life˜and the entire town˜forever.

16. Rodeo Sweetheart by Betsy St.Amant A romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. She grew up with a cowboy hat and a pony; he grew up with designer duds and a silver spoon. Will this mismatched couple ever be able to lasso their differences?

17. Rooms by Jim Rubart A suspense/mystery/thriller from B&H Fiction. A young Seattle software tycoon inherits a home on the Oregon coast that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his soul.

18. Scenarios for Girls, Book 3 by Nicole O'Dell General fiction from Barbour. Molly Jacobs isn't sure what she should do: Should she follow through with stealing some clothes for her friends from Magna the trendy girls clothing store where she works? Or should she do what she knows is right, even if it means losing her newfound popularity? Scenarios for Girls are interactive books that allow the reader to choose between alternate endings to make important, moral decisions for the main characters.

19. Scenarios for Girls, Book 4 by Nicole O'Dell General fiction from Barbour. Kate Walker joins the swim team and becomes obsessed with practice and making it through the championships with flying colors. What will Kate do when she's faced with pressure from her teammates to take an illegal substance that will help her swim multiple events in their championship meet? Scenarios for Girls are interactive books that allow the reader to choose between alternate endings to make important, moral decisions for the main characters.

20. Seasons in the Mist; Seasons of Destiny Book 1 by Deborah Kinnard A romance from Sheaf House. An eager historian, a time portal, and intrigue in King Edward III's court.

21. She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell An historical from Bethany House. As Clara Carter makes her debut, she realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

22. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson An historical from Bethany House. Sixteen Civil War widows join the Ladies Emigration Society and head west to claim homesteads, only to find their organization has other plans. . . involving the word "brides.

23. Sworn to Protect by Diann Mills A suspense/mystery/thriller from Tyndale. Border Patrol Agent Danika Morales is caught up in a conspiracy and her life is at stake.

24. The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough A romance from Barbour. Three mail-order brides arrive expecting to marry the town marshal. But he didn't order a bride. A contest to discover which bride would make the best wife turns into mayhem when there is a fourth anonymous entry.

25. The Cowboy's Baby by Linda Ford A romance from Love Inspired Historical. The prodigal returns but is he too late for a second chance?

26. The Word Unleashed, Book 2 of Face in the Deep by Steve Rzasa A sci-fi/fantasy/futuristic from Marcher Lord Press. Baden Haczyk's adventure continues as he tries to keep the last Bible safe from the religious secret police.

27. Too Close to Home, Book 1 of the Women of Justice Series by Lynette Eason A suspense/mystery/thriller from Revell. An FBI agent and a detective must track down a killer of teenage girls before his next victim hits Too Close to Home.

28. Wildflower Hearts, Book 1 in Series Set in North Dakota by Vickie McDonough A romance from Barbour. Three siblings who live on a ranch face problems and romance in the North Dakota Badlands

29. Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer An historical from Abingdon Press. In Denmark's darkest days, is it duty, faith...or love?
Jodie
This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. (I just realized that was the dumbest opening blog line ever, since pretty much all of you already knew that...) When I was growing up, the children all marched into church waving palm branches on Sunday, but the adults all missed out on the palm waving action. To my recollection, last Sunday was the first time I've been handed a palm branch as an adult. Just a cool bit of trivia for you.

Anyway, I was thinking about the original palm branch wavers 2000 years ago during Christ's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Since he knew the very same voices crying "Hosanna" that day would shout "Crucify him!" before the week was out, it made me wonder if their praises rang hollow to him.

Know what? I don't think so. That day, with all of their hearts, they meant it.

Know what else? It's easy to vilify them in hindsight, but we are just like them. We stand in church and sing praises on Sunday morning, and by Sunday afternoon we gossip about the choir director's marriage. We stand in church and sing praises on Sunday morning, and by Monday lunch we turn away from the homeless man on the street. We stand in church and sing praises on Sunday morning, and by Thursday afternoon we shrink from sharing the Gospel with a friend because they might think we're "weird." Do we love God less? Are our praises false? No. We're sinful humans in a sinful world where perfection is unattainable. The "Hosanna" criers and "Crucify Him" shouters and sinners like us are the very reasons he came to earth, died, and rose again. His love is bigger than our mistakes.

And of course, that made me, as I typed that last line, think of a song. (It's how my brain works. Ask my friend Shannon. She once said my life is a soundtrack.) "Your Love is Better than Life" by The Newsboys is the perfect example of that dichotomy in us, how we can praise one moment and curse the next, yet, in the end, His love covers it all.

-JB
Jodie
The title of this blog? It's one of the biggest lies in the Christian church. However, just because it's a lie, it doesn't mean I don't struggle with the idea every single day.

It seems like, if we love God and do His will and follow His commandments, we should be safe from pain. As Christians, we treat God like the magic genie sometimes, the one who will take away every bad thing. And when He doesn't, we get M-A-D.

Frankly, I'm a little worried today. Why? Because about four days ago, I woke up thinking what I'm going to write in the next paragraph. And because yesterday, the sermon at church was about brokenness. Those times in life when the pressure's so hard we think we're going to shatter. Does God cause those times? I don't believe so. Does He use them if we let Him? As one who has been there, oh yes, He certainly does. And in ways we can't even imagine.

Jesus walked this earth, Son of God and Son of Man. Did God exempt His Son from suffering? No. In fact, Jesus may have suffered more than any other man who ever walked this earth. I mean, think about it... beyond the agony of the Cross, Jesus was straight-up Satan's number one target. Life could not have been easy.

If Jesus was not exempt, then neither are we. Do I have the grand answers as to why some suffer more than others? I wish I did. But I can say this... when those hard times smack us right upside the head, we can know we're not alone. Jesus walked that road, and he's ahead of us, waiting to take our hand and lead us through it.

-JB
Jodie
So Monday was the background and what I originally started to write. Today is what I found when I looked up the lyrics to the Jars of Clay song "Faith Like a Child." Like I said, sometimes I go looking for the song, and sometimes the song comes looking for me.

I know that a lot of my writing deals with feeling "miles away" from God, but I'm beginning to wonder if that isn't the way the majority of life on earth feels. After all, we are not yet in heaven. We get those awesome, amazing, mountaintop moments like I had on Sunday, where we feel like we can see Him if we squint just right, and then we face the world again.

I'm not going for "downer" here. I'm actually going for "upper." Thing is, we all feel that way, like God is farther from us than ever. The other fact is, Satan likes to take that feeling and make us think we're the only ones who feel it. He likes to poke and prod and get us down, make us believe God isn't near when, really, He is as close as our next breath. That's why songs like this one and so many others I've mentioned make me feel a little better. I'm not alone. Other people go through it too, even the ones who I look up to as "giants" in the faith.

We can't live based on feelings. Feelings are easily manipulated (just watch a sad movie when you're happy or a happy movie when you're sad and you'll see what I mean). We must live based on faith... like a child.

-JB
Jodie
Sometimes, the song I hear brings up the words in my head. And sometimes, the words in my head bring up a song. I knew what I wanted to write this morning, so I titled the post, "Faith Like a Child." Then I started hearing the words to the song in my head, so I looked up the lyrics and re-titled the post. We'll make this one a two-parter to be continued on Wednesday.

Yesterday we visited a new church. During praise and worship, I felt like walking out. Only a handful of the hundred or so people there were singing. Only one or two actually looked like they meant it. The praise band didn't even look happy to be there. It made the air feel heavy. Ever been in that situation? I was totally distracted by what was going on around me and my own thoughts about it.

Then... communion happened. The closer my daughter and I got to the altar, the more God gripped my heart. By the time we got to the bread and wine, tears were already pouring down my face. (If you know me, you know I hardly ever cry.) Oh my, did God ever show up. I'm surprised I couldn't see Him there, He was that close. It was amazing.

Guess who was convicted for judging those worshipers earlier...

And then there was my six-year-old, who grabbed me by the hand after we took communion and dragged me down to the altar to kneel. When I was done praying, I moved to stand, but she stopped me and waited another minute, then she got up and led me back to our seats.

When we were eating lunch, I asked her why she didn't want to leave the altar. She said, "I was talking to God. I told Him I was sorry and thank you for dying for me and to help me be nicer."

Guess who cried again? It's only the second time she's ever had communion, but my goodness, the six-year-old has it.

May she never lose it.

-JB
Jodie
I love it when the American Christian Fiction Writers loop gets a little... loopy. We've been talking this week in our emails about characters who get out of control. Sometimes, we plan out an entire plot only to have a character "act up" and change the whole thing. No, we can't seem to control our characters when they do that. Sometimes they go crazy. Jake, in Going in Circles, positively refused to let me change his name. I hated that name for him, but every time I tried to change it, he refused to be written. It was almost like he stood in the corner, crossed his arms, and glared at me. (Trust me. Other writers talk like this too. I am not crazy. Well, not THAT crazy. Things like this are why I love writers conferences. "My people" understand this and do not call the loony bin.)

The original plan for Jake was for him to be a memory. He was not to show up at all in the book except in Samantha's guilt. He was the past, the wish-I-could-do-that-over, the person who needed to be forgotten.

One night--I kid you not, it was straight-up midnight--Jake woke me up. He was banging on Samantha's door. I rolled over in the bed and told him to shut up and go away, since he wasn't allowed in the book. Long story short, I had to get up and write a scene where she let him in.

I wound up keeping the scene, and it changed the whole book.

Know why Jake took over like that? Because I was too afraid to write him into the book. The book needed him. It's richer for having him. It's more emotional with him there. He highlights Sam's frailties and insecurities. But I was terrified of that kind of emotion, of that kid of digging into my own insecurities, and I tried to take the easy way out.

God wouldn't let me. It wasn't really Jake knocking on Samantha's door. It was God knocking on mine, asking me to face my fears, telling me I had to be honest with those emotions. Fear is one of the reasons I think characters get out of control.

So no more fear, folks. God's got stories to tell. Those of us who are writers need to let go of the wheel and let Him tell them...

-JB
Jodie
(So, I wrote chapter one of a new book on Friday. It's a military suspense, which is WAY NEW for me. It reminded me of this post from last year, so I thought I'd share it again, because I'm feeling a bit like this...)

I'm procrastinating.

It's true.

This is the part that I hate the most about writing. I'm sitting here and staring at a blank Word document (Well, I was. Now I'm writing this...) and I'm hesitating to put down the first word. I've got the germ of the idea for the next book. I've even written the first page on paper with a pen. (Yep, paper and pen still exist!) I've got the character sketch for the main character done.

But, I'm still staring at that blank Word document and hesitating.

Why?

Well, a little bit of it might be because I'm the tiniest bit afraid. If I put that first word on the screen, then I'm committed. I'm either committed in succeeding to write the book or in failing to write the book. It'll either come to a big ol' something or a big ol' nothing. The big ol' nothing scares me. I like the new character. I think I'm afraid of failing her. Unless you've written something before, that sounds insane because, as is obvious to us all, characters only exists in my head, so I can't really fail them. But I can fail to tell the story that God's placed in my brain, if that makes any sense at all. I can fail to make the characters come to life the way they're meant to.

But then I remember something. It's hanging on the wall next to the computer. It's Ephesians 6:19: "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel." And there ya have it. That's what I need to do. God's word, God's job, without fear. Yay, God!

So, I'm gonna go now and I'm gonna commit myself. It's high time I did it. I wrapped up Going in Circles around mid-October and have been editing and "selling" ever since. It's time I got around to putting that metaphorical pen on the metaphorical paper again, huh?

Or maybe I'll go get lunch first?
Jodie
It's been a busy six weeks for us, what with packing, moving, waiting for the house, unpacking, settling in... And lots of other stuff I haven't bothered to mention. This morning, I sat down to write this blog and started thinking about the Jars of Clay song "Crazy Times." Not the whole song, because, honestly, I think I understand the message even though the lyrics make about as much sense to me as a late-era Beatles song.

Anyway, it was just the chorus. See, typically, I have seventeen blog ideas in my head competing for attention. Lately, I've had, well... none. As I sat here and thought about what to write today, I realized why. In all of the crazy times we've had around here lately, my God times have been sort of sporadic. Instead of spending every morning in quiet time with God, I've been trying to catch up on sleep or arranging a room to my satisfaction. Instead of occasionally jamming out to a great praise and worship song, I've had my energy-inducing eighties pop blasting.

My tank is starting to run empty. Like the song says, "You can't attract the things that you lack." That's deep, I think. If I'm not full of God, how can I expect God to use me? How can I expect to draw from a well I haven't bothered to fill? And the kicker is this... the hunger is starting to gnaw. That longing for Him is growing stronger. That may be the only good part of this.

It's time to stop making excuses. Last night I read in Deuteronomy about offering our first fruits to God. It's time for me to sacrifice a little sleep and to start giving God those first moments of my day again. Let's face it. I need Him to be "my daily bread" and "the air I breathe." Nothing else matters next to that.

-JB
Jodie
Love it when God gets a song chasing in my head. This morning, it seems like all I can hear is Chris Tomlin singing "Your Grace is Enough." I read about the feeding of the five thousand today in all four gospels. (That in itself ought to be enough to tell you I was doing my Beth Moore homework!) It got me thinking about how all I need is Jesus. He is my "enough." In fact, only He is enough!

Today, I will type the first words of my next book. I'm a little out of my comfort zone on this one, and I'm not afraid to say that. From the beginning, this one has been different, so that scares me a little. It brings up that insecurity that makes me wonder if I'm good enough for this.

Isn't it "odd" (ha ha) that Beth Moore noted this in the homework I happened to read today:

"Matthew 14:17 records the disciples saying, 'We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.' Christ then responded in verse 18, 'Bring them here to me.' Beloved, I want you to hear something loud and clear; no matter what your 'only' is, when you bring all of your 'only' to Jesus, it's huge! When we bring Him everything we have, He multiplies it beyond our wildest imagination."

Ah... this is not MY book to write under MY power. It is HIS book to write in HIS power through me. That's certainly something I needed to know today.

When we're feeling ill-equipped to handle any situation... When we're feeling like we lack what it takes to do the job set before us... Let us remember to take our "only" to Him and surrender it so He can make it amazing for His glory!

-JB
Jodie
Okay, gang. Sit up and listen. This is something you will not hear me say often: Sarah Sundin's novel is one of the top ten books I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Since I started writing "for real," few books have made me forget I'm reading a book. I have a hard time getting lost in the story world, because I'm used to revising and editing and critiquing and seeing how things are put together. (Same thing happened when I volunteered in the theater. It ruined TV for me, because I could see the cues and tech tricks.)

Sarah Sundin got me, y'all. I can't remember the last book that had me interested right from chapter one. There was no "getting into" this book. I was in it. We've been moving, and I spent all day long for days on end unpacking boxes, but a lot of my time was spent looking forward to bedtime, so I could read more pages. I wish I could have read it all in one sitting.

A Distant Melody tells the story of Allie and Walt. They meet in 1940s California where Allie is the daughter of a ball bearing magnate and Walt is a farmer boy preacher's son who now flies B-17s. Their love story would be perfect if Allie didn't already have a beau and if Walt was not on his way to the Eighth Air Force in England. They begin a friendly correspondence, but war and their own internal battles threaten even their friendship, which grows deeper with each mail delivery.

Sarah's really done her homework. The scenes with Walt and his bomber crew were particularly well done. It was like being there, flying beside them. She brought Walt, his men, Allie and all of their struggles into living, breathing life.

Whether you're male or female, this is one phenomenal book. You're missing something if you don't head to your nearest bookstore or favorite website and check out Sarah Sundin's A Distant Melody.
Jodie
If you came here looking for "deep" this morning, you simply aren't going to get it. Sorry. We've spent the past six days unpacking boxes, so I'm a little too numb for anything that goes beneath the shimmery, still surface. Try me on Wednesday. Technically, I'm "sabbathing" today and taking a day of rest. Couldn't tell, could ya?

I just wanted to share a couple of pictures. This is my old office, in our old apartment (if you look past the den, you see my desk and chair in the tiny little alcove):



Don't get me wrong, I loved my reading chair and my "view" of the pond out the window. I really did. But my desk was not in the greatest place. Lots of glare and, let's face it, lots of white walls. I hate white walls.

And then, we moved into this house, which was already painted by the owner. This was the dining room until I commandeered it and staked my claim. Now, it's my new office:



As my from-so-far-North-he's-practically-Canadian husband would say, "Big difference, eh?"

Y'all have a great day! I plan to spend mine in my office. :-)

-JB
Jodie
Hi, all. Looking for good reads? These are the March releases written by ACFW members!

1. A Distant Melody, Wings of Glory, Book One by Sarah Sundlin An historical from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Allie is promised to a man she doesn't love, but a B-17 pilot captures her heart--will she honor her family's wishes or take a chance on love?

2. A Woman Called Sage by Diann Mills An historical from Zondervan. A woman bounty hunter fights bitterness and revenge to find the killers of her husband.

3. Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett Women's fiction from Tyndale. A moving story about women helping women and lives changed across continents, inspired by a non-profit organization of the same name.

4. Beguiled by Deanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand A suspense/mystery/thriller from Bethany House. A dog-walker and a journalist pursue a thief (and each other) in atmospheric Charleston.

5. Cowboy Protector by Margaret Daley A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Love Inspired Suspense. When Hannah Williams comes to help Austin Taylor with his injured daughter, she draws him into an intrigue that threatens their relationship--and their lives.

6. Dead Reckoning by Ronie Kendig Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Abingdon. Trapped by a terrorist plot in Mumbai!.

7. Disarming Andi by Elizabeth Goddard A Contemporary Romance from Heartsong Presents. Contractor Andi Nielsen has another chance to discover what ís hidden inside the missile base she was hired to remodel. Is she prepared to detonate her feelings for the new owner?

8. Fatal Burn; Big Sky Secrets, Book 2 by Roxanne Rustand A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Love Inspired Suspense. In Montana's wide open spaces, danger and love are waiting....

9. Forget Me Not, Crossroads Crisis Center series, Book 1 by Vicki Hinze A Contemporary Romance from Waterbrook-Multnomah. Someone's robbed her of her identity and goes to great lengths to convince her she's someone else; someone who wants her dead.

10. Gold in the Fire/Light in the Storm by Margaret Daley A Romance from Love Inspired. Stories of love and loyalty

11. Groom in Training by Gail Gaymer Martin A Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired. Friends, Four-legged Friends and Love.

12. Kansas Courtship, After The Storm, No. 3 by Victoria Bylin An Historical Romance from Love Inspired. Dr. Nora Mitchell came to heal the town of High Plains. She stayed to heal Zeb Garrison's heart.

13. Katie's Redemption, The Brides of Amish Country by Patricia Davids A Romance from Love Inspired. A young woman returns to her Amish roots but can she find her way back to her faith.

14. Katy's New World, Katy Lambright Series by Kim Vogel Sawyer General Fiction from Zondervan. An Old Order Mennonite girl holds to her convictions while attending public high school.

15. Liberty's Promise by Amber Stockton An Historical Romance from Heartsong Presents. Feel the heartbeat of a chaotic new country through the lives of three Pennsylvania women who seek to know to whom they can entrust their hearts.

16. Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon by Miralee Ferrell A Romance from Summerside Press. A schoolteacher must choose between a man from her past and one who could be her future, while risking her reputation to rescue two runaway orphaned children.

17. Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson A Romance from Summerside Press. A widowed father and his young daughter find healing and hope in the communal Amana Colonies.

18. Morning's Refrain, Book 2 in Song of Alaska series by Tracie Peterson An Historical from Bethany House. Adventure and Romance in 1800's Sitka, Alaska.

19. Once in a Blue Moon by Leanna Ellis Women's Fiction from B&H Publishing. Faith is the first step to soaring.

20. Romance by the Book by Myra Johnson A Contemporary Romance from Heartsong Presents. A shy young woman's crush on her favorite romance author leads her to the man who will finally claim her heart.

21. Scattered Petals by Amanda Cabot An Historical from Revell. Tragedy broke her spirit -- will love mend her heart?

22. The Captain's Lady by Louise M. Gouge An Historical from Steeple Hill. Torn between love and duty, American Patriot James Templeton must deny his heart to help win his country's freedom.

23. The Easter Edition by Robin Shope A romance from White Rose. Bridal shop owner Carol Horn feels she will never find a love of her own until a new pastor comes to town, turning up by accident at her mother's funeral.

24. The Family Way by Michelle Levigne A romance from Desert Breeze Publishing. Pregnancy brings their shaky marriage to the breaking point, and Lisa and Todd must rediscover their love, their faith, and what true marriage means.

25. The Mockingbird's Call by Diane Ashby and Aaron McCarver A Romance from Barbour. Amelia Montgomery, torn between her family's traditions and her own convictions against slavery, must also choose between her duty and her heart as she works for the Underground Railroad.

26. The Promise of Morning, Book 2, At Home in Beldon Grove series by Ann Shorey An Historical from Revell. When loss drives them apart, can their faith bring them back together?.
Jodie
Sometimes, it's nice to have a reminder that God really does protect us, even in the everyday things.

I bought my car two years ago, and one of the tires has a slow leak. About once a month (or less), it trips the low pressure sensor on my dash, and I have to add a little bit of air. No big deal. Monday morning it got cold, and the tire tripped the sensor. Tuesday morning, same thing.

Tuesday afternoon I was pumping gas at Sam's when I noticed a sign that said, "We repair member's tires for free." Pretty cool. If I ever needed to fix a tire, I'd know. And hey, that reminded me to fill up my sensor-tripping rear tire. I drove the mile back to our temporary housing and grabbed my pressure gauge, hopped out of the car, and knelt down to see how low the tire was so I could fill it up with my handy portable tire pump. (I am nothing if not prepared, right?)

Except... when I knelt down I heard a weird popping sound. It had been raining all day, my tires were wet and, after a second of looking, I saw bubbles on the tire right by my head. Rats. There was a real, bonafide hole in my tire. Since it wasn't flat yet, I drove the mile back to Sam's where they fixed it for free.

That night, as I drove to a meeting with my daughter after dark in the rain, I realized all of the little "coincidences" God had lined up. If I hadn't seen the sign at Sam's... If I hadn't parked so that my tire was in the exact position to put that leak right by my ear when I knelt... If it hadn't been raining and the tire had been dry... Well, I'd have had a flat in the dark, in the rain, in a not-yet-familiar new town, with a six-year-old.

No, I do not believe in coincidences. But I do believe in a God who protects me in all things, big and small. May I never forget that I can trust Him. Hallelujah and YAY, GOD!

-JB