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!

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?


Photo from
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...

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?


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.

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...

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:

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
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.
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...