Friday, June 28, 2013

Sometimes the Doctor is Wrong

Another couple we met during our years as pastor was Kathryn and Earl Thye (Tee). They moved into the Bogard, Missouri, community in the 1960's with their nine children, and of course, some of the kids were close in age to ours. They were members of a German Baptist Church, but since there was not one of their churches anywhere near our town, they joined our church.  Immediately the attendance almost doubled! We were so happy to have a nice Christian family with all those children in our congregation.

Kathryn and Earl were sweet, down-to-earth people, the salt of the earth, so to speak. Their children were well-behaved and so much fun. We learned later that shortly after their marriage they had three miscarriages and the doctor told them they would likely never conceive. "You two had better think about adoption if you want a family," he said. But this time the doctor was wrong.

Earl said "I thought God was in charge of babies. We're going to pray harder." Kathryn promised God that if he would let her become a mother, she would have as many children as God gave her.  And she gave birth to nine children--6 boys and three girls.

The local Catholic priest heard about this family and went to visit them, to invite them to his parish. He thought they were surely Catholic, because of their large family. Earl laughed and said, "No, we're not Catholics. We're just passionate Baptists!"

All the Thye children were hard workers. They all graduated high school and most were able to finish college. We spent five years in Bogard and came to know every one of the kids. The oldest girl was married in our little church. She was sick for a week or two before the wedding, and we all worried that she would not get through it, but she made it, and they are still married. Another daughter is a Southern Baptist missionary in Africa. One of the daughters married a boy from our church who went on to become a Missouri patrolman.

Six of the nine siblings are now grandparents and some are great-grandparents. They continue doing what they saw their mother and dad do, teaching the little ones to love God, to pray, to be faithful in church attendance, and to live in a manner pleasing to God.

The greatest of all influences a family can have on a community is when they stand up for God. Everyone in that little town in Northern Missouri knew the Thyes, and they knew of their faithfulness to God. And even though the doctor gave them the wrong advice, they went on trusting their Heavenly Father.

This is the second in a series about people we knew while we were pastoring churches in Missouri, Texas, and Florida. These stories will be presented on Fridays.  I will continue to do book reviews on Wednesday, though I missed this week. (The pictures are not actual pictures of the family I wrote about, but are pictures I selected from the internet to show lots of children in the family.)

On the first and third Mondays I will have an author interview, most of the time with a book give-away. On the second and fourth Mondays, you will continue to read essays written by our son, David Nobles, who lives in Midland, Texas.

Monday, June 24, 2013

An Opportunity to Serve Dad

The winner of the book by Dan Walsh, The Dance, is Debbie from Texas. Congratulations, Debbie, hope you enjoy the book, and thanks for visiting my blog and participating in the drawing!

Now, here's today's blog by our son, David Nobles, from Midland, Texas. He tells about a trip he and Margaret made to help us a few years ago when our health was beginning to decline.

We planned the trip a long time ago. Sarah was leaving for college and we would finally be empty nesters. It was tough to see Sarah leave home, but we knew she was “safely” tucked into a dorm at Texas Tech. Yes, that’s not as safe as home, but it’s also not as dangerous as living in an apartment. With her away at school, there was no reason not to have an early fall trip to see my parents in Missouri.
I understand now how wrong it was for me to take for granted my upbringing in a state as pretty as Missouri. Only in the last few years and especially this trip have I realized how beautiful the hills, trees, parks, and rivers are in that state. In fact, the ride down the interstate—down the interstate!--on the way home from the airport was so pretty that I requested we take a day just to drive around and enjoy the scenery.

We lived in a lot of houses in a lot of Missouri cities as I grew up, but my favorite is the house on Arapaho Lane in Hannibal. It was a ‘split-level’ house, very common there but just about unheard-of in Texas. The front of the house appears to be one story but from the back it was a 2-story home. When you walked out the downstairs door into the back yard, there were no fences. The two houses to the right were home to boys a little older than me and we played football across the three yards. I’m sure my memory is fuzzy here but I can see myself five feet off the ground, laid out, flying through the air, making fingertip grabs only Randy Moss can make now. I was fast, tough, and determined. Or something like that.
Straight out of the back door, walk about 75 feet and you come to a steep grassy hill. Forty feet below you are the houses on the next street—still no fences. At the time it never occurred to me to wonder how someone would mow that grass. Come out the door, turn left, and in about 100 feet there is a long slope that descends into an undeveloped wooded area. Just inside the trees is a small creek. Playing in those woods and in that water was all a boy needed. I was a pioneer settler hunting game, I was an Indian taking care of my village, I led my squadron into pitched battle--I was filthy and I was in heaven.
When we began planning this trip, my folks said they would have a few jobs for us to do. I was looking forward to that. I can remember far too many times growing up that I was, let’s just say “not in the mood” to do much work around the house. I regret that and as my parents have aged, I have looked for ways I can help them. Living a very long day’s drive away means I don’t get to see them near as much as I would like to, and I want to take advantage of each opportunity to show them my gratitude for all they have done for me over the years. The jobs turned out to be not very difficult or time consuming.
The biggest job was turning a flower bed back into the yard. I had actually helped build the bed years ago. It was an oval in the front side yard, on the corner of Jefferson and Eleventh St.  The week before we arrived, Dad had another heart attack and so he wasn’t doing much but he pulled up a lawn chair and we talked as I worked. I don’t remember what we talked about, probably just bulbs and rocks and dirt—but the topic wasn’t important. I was with my Dad, we were outside, and it was my turn to serve. My heart was full. The temperature was probably in the 70s, with a bright sun shining gently in a sky as blue as you’ll ever see. It actually seemed a bit chilly as we started. I could feel soreness creeping into my back as I handled the tools and got a little sweat going. I filled the wheelbarrow with small red decorative rocks several times, and on the last trip the low tire finally let go. When I had first grabbed the wheelbarrow earlier I thought we should put some more air in that tire, but didn’t say anything and now we had to struggle to hold the tire tight to the wheel to air it up.
Then it was time to dig up the bulbs. This turned out to be the hard part. I think I’ve seen a bulb two or three times in all my 50 years. They were mostly on the edge of the bed, so I worked my way around. As I moved, Dad moved his chair. He had a tub and I pitched the bulbs there. He picked up my misses and made a snide remark or two about my basketball skills. There were a lot of wild onions in the area so it was tough to tell the small bulbs from the onions. Onions got thrown in the street and bulbs were to go in the tub. The big bulbs were obvious, but I probably tossed a few good into the street thinking they were onions. Some of the bulbs were replanted elsewhere, some came home with me, and most were still in the tub when I left.
Using a pick, I pulled up the landscaping timbers. I thought this was going to be the tough part of the job but it was incredibly easy. They were staked down and hadn’t moved an inch since I installed them but they just came right out of the soft ground. I tossed them to the side and later we got out the chain saw (now there’s a manly phrase—anytime you get to use the chain saw it’s a good day) and cut them into pieces small enough for the city to haul away. Two days later they were still stacked on the curb when a car drove up and two guys asked if they could have them to build a patio. Dad and I were sitting and talking on the front porch and we were very glad to see them go to a good home.
As I worked on the flower bed, Dad sat and watched and talked. He caught the bulbs. He found the right gas and oil for the chain saw. He suggested using the fork instead of the shovel to dig up the bulbs, and he was right. He directed me on where to stash the rocks and the bird bath that had sat in the middle of the little flower garden. He knew the rules about how long the landscaping timbers could be for the city to pick them up. He had a better view of the whole area than me, so as I smoothed the dirt to wrap up the job he pointed out high and low spots that needed attention. He had the whole job planned out, so all he had to do was coach and all I had to do was follow the game plan.
It was good to be outside. It was good to sweat a little. It was good to be with Dad. Most of all, it was good to be helpful. It was a pleasure to serve. As Christians, God calls us to serve Him, and we do that by serving people. Developing a servant’s heart is one of the most important things I think a Christian can do, and it always amazes me to see so many people in our churches who don’t serve.

Friday, June 21, 2013

I Remember Joe

Joe was a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Hannibal while we were there as pastor in the 1970's. He was a Sunday School teacher and since my husband was interested in having the very best teachers in Sunday School classes,  he visited all the classes to listen to the teachers present their lessons. When he got to Joe's class of men, he thought, "I've never heard a poorer teacher. We need to get these men somebody else to teach them."

He went to Bob,  one of the men who had been on the pulpit committee that brought us there (who happened to be in that class), and said, "We need to get you another teacher."

"Oh, no, pastor," the man said. "Please don't bother our teacher."

"He can't teach," Charlie told him.

The man agreed. "We know that, and we can study our lessons,  Please don't bother him. He needs to be the teacher of our class."

My husband said again, "He can't teach."

"Well," Bob said, "you just have to know Joe."

So my husband set out to find out about Joe. He discovered that Joe was an alcoholic. He was dry and had been for several years at that time, but my husband learned that when Joe used to drink, he would get mean. He would beat his wife. He would tear up things around town. The police had to bring him home many times and other times he ended up in jail.

So he and his wife made an agreement. Whenever she saw that he was heading for a binge, she would lock him in the bathroom. Special locks were installed on the outside of the door and a little hinged opening was cut in the bottom so she could slip food to him. He slept in the bathtub and everything else he needed was right there. No matter how loud he yelled or beat the door, or whatever he did, she did not let him out until she knew he was stone-cold sober.

She had to check the bathroom before she put him in there because he would hide liquor in the cabinets so he could stay drunk longer. She would get all the liquor out and lock him in when she knew he was heading for a binge and she knew trouble was coming. This happened several times. Joe agreed to this because he knew he could not control himself when alcohol got hold of him.

Then something happened to Joe. His wife had invited him to church many times and he had refused to go, but one night during a revival meeting, he agreed to go. God spoke to him, he walked down the aisle and got saved, and in a miraculous one-time event, God did a mighty work. He delivered Joe from the his sins and from the desire for alcohol. Joe never took another drink.

Now Joe was teaching a Sunday School class for men at Calvary Baptist church. He was living a Christian life and helping alcoholics to kick the habit. He said to my husband, "Preacher, you call me anytime, day or night if you have an alcoholic who needs my help. I have an agreement with my boss and if somebody needs help to get off alcohol I can come. I'll stay with him until he's past the bad time, no matter how long it takes."

Anytime a child needed money to go to camp or for anything else related to the church, Joe was the first person to give.

My husband used to say in one of his sermons, "If God could save Joe and deliver him from alcohol at the same time, He can do anything for anybody. We just have to let Him."

Yes, I remember Joe. He is gone now, yet I still marvel at the work God did in him. He didn't make him a marvelous Sunday School teacher, but he made him a recovered alcoholic. He made him a lover of people and a giver to little children. And his life spoke for God. My husband got to know Joe, and he agreed with Bob. When we left that church a few years later, Joe was still teaching that men's Sunday School class.

(Disclaimer--the picture is NOT the picture of the actual church. When we were there, the church was housed in a white building in town, but the congregation is now in a beautiful new building. Bro. Jeff Anderson is pastor there. This picture was chosen from stock photos on the internet.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sutter's Cross by Dale Cramer

I now have read several of Cramer's books, but this was the first one he wrote. It is the story of several people who live in the small town of Sutter's Cross, Georgia, in the Appalachian mountains in modern times. The author goes to great lengths to describe the town and the people. Some of the people are go-getters with an agenda, while others are old-timers who want things to stay as they are. Web Holcombe is a man with an agenda to change the town to make it more tourist-friendly and to increase his own worth, while Jake and his wife Jenny just want to live life as it comes, without many changes. When Harley, a drifter, appears on the scene, everyone takes notice. The story centers around these three, but there are many others who have a part in this story.

This book was harder for me to read because of the many people and changes. Each chapter was about a new person until all had been introduced, then it told about the nuances of each person's life as it moved along, ponderously at times, it seemed to me.

It took me a while to get into this one because of the many different personalities, but I began to relate to them, and when I was finished I was glad I had stayed with it until the end, where it became more exciting and I could hardly turn the pages fast enough.

If you choose to read this book, be prepared for some exciting experiences as well as some heart-breaking ones. Dale Cramer did a marvelous when he wrote Sutter's Cross. I think he must have had to have a master plan to keep everything straight. It all ended well, thanks to his ingenious mind.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Meet author Dan Walsh

Congratulations to Maxie, from Pasadena, Texas, who won Karen Witemeyer's book, Stealing the Preacher. Now let's say hello to Dan Walsh, an author who has been compared to writers, Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans.

Juanita: Hello, Dan, it is a pleasure to be able to talk with you this morning about your books. I have read several  of them and have perused many interviews others have done with you on the internet. As we talk today, I hope I can come up with a few questions that are different from the others. First, please tell us when you made your decision to accept the salvation Jesus offered you?

Dan: I came to Christ as a senior in high school way back in 1975. I had been raised a Catholic, and even attended a Catholic school through eighth grade but never really understood the gospel until that year when I was seventeen.

Juanita: When did you know you wanted to be a writer of novels and how many years have you been writing?

Dan: I’ve wanted to do this since I took a creative writing class in eleventh grade. Back then, I mainly wrote short stories and poems. But I set it all aside for several decades after experiencing a call to pastoral ministry a few years later. I began writing again in 2007 as something of a pastime, urged on by my wife who knew I loved to write back when we first met. I finished my first novel and was able to get an influential agent almost right away. She quickly secured a contract with Revell a few months later. And I have been writing for them ever since.

Juanita: I know you were a pastor for twenty-five years before the Lord led you to begin writing full-time. As the wife of a busy pastor, I know how much time that takes. While you were pastoring, did you find time to write?

Dan: I had just turned fifty years old when I began to write again. My kids were both grown, so I actually had some spare time on my off-hours. My first three novels were written this way, in my spare time.
Juanita: What about your idea for The Deepest Waters? I always read the author’s thoughts at the end of the book find out how the book came to be. Please tell our readers this most interesting story.
Dan: I had just finished my second book, The Homecoming. My publisher wanted to keep this going and asked if I had any other ideas. Things had happened so quickly, I really didn’t have any other book ideas in mind. Then I watched a show on the History Channel that totally gripped my attention. It was about a shipwreck in 1857 that included a couple on their honeymoon separated by the storm (they were both certain they would never see each other again). The ship went down with over 16 tons of gold. Some amazing things happened as the story unfolded. I was certain someone had to have written a novel about this. I looked into it and no one had. So I did.

Juanita: I was very impressed by the character, Micah, the old slave on the rescue boat. Where did you get the inspiration for him?

Dan: I really believe it came from the Lord. I don’t say that lightly. He wasn’t part of the historical record, but I needed a character who would help Laura deal with her grief and loss. Since this took place three years before the Civil War, I came up with the idea to have Micah be the one to help her. As I wrote the book, Micah’s character grew to be far more than I had anticipated. He’s one of my favorite characters in all my books.

Juanita: I read in one of your interviews, “When I write, I leave out the words that readers skip.” How do you zero in on the main things, yet still tell such descriptive stories?

Dan: That’s an interesting question. I think the secret has something to do with trusting the reader’s mind and his or her own imagination. People who like to read fiction are usually thinkers with active imaginations. My goal is to give them just enough detail to “prime the pump” and get them going. Then I shift right into the story itself. Leaving out the parts readers skip allows the story to move at a good pace and the reader is not frustrated as they wade through a thick swamp of boring words.

Juanita: Thanks for that answer, Dan. I sometimes get tired of all the description that could easily be left out so the reader can get on with the story. And I sometimes find myself  skipping some of those parts, so I understand why you do it.

Several other books you have written are stacked near my reading chair and I can’t wait to get to them. Tell us about your recent book, The Reunion.

Dan: I loved writing this book. It came out this past September and has received the best reviews of all my books so far. In fact, a major Hollywood producer who has made three films for Hallmark has optioned it for a movie. It would take several paragraphs to describe the story well, without giving too much away. Perhaps it would be safer to provide you with a link on my website devoted to this book:  

Juanita: Since we did this interview, I read The Reunion and it touched me deeply. It's about some of the unsung heroes of the Vietnam war. 

People have compared your style of writing to that of Nicholas Sparks and Richard Evans. Since all three of you are men who write romance novels, what is the first thing that sets your books apart? What are the main differences readers will notice when they read your books and possibly compare them to these other two well-known authors?  

Dan: I think my writing compares a little more closely with Richard Paul Evans, although more people compare me to Sparks. I think one difference between me and Evans would be that my stories typically include more romance. I can see three differences in my writing than Nicholas Sparks. I never have any bedroom scenes, they have stronger Christian themes and I never have tragic endings. Other than that though, I can see why my books are often compared with his.

Juanita: For readers of Christian novels, those are some pretty good reasons. Thank you. Now you are writing a series of books with Gary Smalley. How many books will be in this series?

Dan: Four books are planned for the Restoration series. The first one, The Dance,  released April 1st. The second one, called The Promise, comes out in September. I’m just getting ready to start Book 3 in a few weeks.

Juanita: Will you tell us about these books and what you want the reader to carry away?

Dan: The books are similar to the Redemption series Gary co-authored with Karen Kingsbury. If readers liked those they would like this series also. The stories follow the unraveling and rebuilding of a Christian family, the Anderson’s. The first book features John and Marilyn, the mom and dad who have been married for twenty-seven years but, for Marilyn, they have not been happy ones. The goal of the series is to contrast the genuine happiness God has in mind for marriage and family life compared to the counterfeit, inferior model many of us drift into. Each of the other three books features the Anderson children, who are adults now, as each go through a God-ordained restoration process of their own.

Juanita: I know you are a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. What advice would you give an aspiring novelist who is trying to get started in the business?

Dan: Don’t become sidetracked in your writing by all of the many distractions clamoring for your attention. Some of them are even important. Some of them only sound important. But none of them can compare to the importance of learning how to write and rewrite a great book. A great book will find its way to publication, because that’s what readers are always looking for. But no amount of marketing, publicity or social networking can make up for a mediocre story poorly told.

Juanita: Do you speak at Writers’ Conferences? If so, which one(s)?

Dan: I’ve just begun to do this more often in the past year. I spoke at the CLASS Christian Writers conference in New Mexico last November. At the beginning of March I spoke at the Florida Christian Writers conference. I’ll be speaking at a Christian writers retreat in July and also as part of an authors’ panel at the ACFW conference in September.

Juanita: How can readers find you and order your books on the net?

Dan: They are available at all the major online stores in print or e-book form (some are also available as audiobooks). Simply type in “Dan Walsh books” and they should see all the ones in stock. Here’s a link that might make the process easy. It’s my Book Page on my website. They can just click on whatever book they are interested in and it will open a page with links to all the stores at the top of that page:

Juanita: Thank you so much for your time, Dan. I really appreciate being able to interview you. I will be reading the other books you wrote as soon as I can.

Dan: Thanks Juanita for the chance to spend some time with you and your readers.

Now, readers, it's your turn. If you'd like a copy of Dan's newest book,  The Dance, you need to comment here. You can tell whether you enjoyed the interview, or you can say, "I want a book" or whatever you wish to say.  Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.
The copy I will send is not a new book; it is one I ordered it from Amazon and read, but it's in almost new condition. Winner will be announced on my blog on June 24.
 (One week from today).

You can get extra entries in the contest if you "Follow Me" or "Subscribe" to my blog. Let me know in your comment so I can credit you with the extra chances to win.

Three of Dan's recent books
 Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 8 novels, published by Revell and Guideposts, including The Unfinished Gift, Remembering Christmas and The Reunion. Reviewers often compare Dan’s books to Nicholas Sparks. His latest project is a 4-book fiction series with Gary Smalley. The first book, The Dance, just released in April. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Dan now writes fulltime in Port Orange, FL. He and his wife Cindi have been married 36 years. You can email him or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. There are buttons to connect to these on his website at

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father's Day -- Article by our son, David Nobles

Parenting and Other Dangerous Activities
 Father’s Day.* Time to buy a card and (hopefully) (rarely in my case) get it sent off in time. Picking a card is like a putting stroke: everybody does it different. Some come in and have to read ALL the cards, rejecting one because it said “and” instead of “or,” or maybe the font wasn’t “just right.” They take an hour to pick the perfect card. Others look at a few and grab the first one that hits them. You might be somewhere in between those two, or maybe you make your own using software designed to help you create a card.
I have two rules for holiday card picking: the card has to be funny, and if I’ve taken more than 10 minutes to pick one out something is wrong. I can easily skip the ones that are, shall we say, less than family friendly, and the ones that are just stupid, and the one that are mushy. The mushy ones are the worst. “I can’t live without you,” “You’re my everything, my world.” Gag. Actually, I want one that’s funny but that’s also true. I want to make ‘em laugh, but I also want them to know they truly are loved and appreciated.
I always tell my wife that my job is to make her laugh. The way I figure it, I’m not keeping her with my looks, so I need her to think I’m funny. The money doesn’t hurt, but she can replace that. It’s my ‘unique’ sense of humor that convinces her to hang around. A quick example: one night we went to one of those restaurants that has buckets of peanuts on the table. I was eating peanuts and quietly dropping some in her purse. The next day she found them and we had a good laugh. Ever since then, we have both been hiding peanuts in funny places for the other one to find. When I go on a trip, I quite often find a peanut in...some of my garments. Right now there’s one in her makeup drawer, just waiting to be discovered and deliver a smile. Finding a peanut means hearing someone say “I love you.”
So here’s the card I picked for my Dad this Father’s Day: “A Dad is someone who can kick and save your butt in the same day. (inside) Thanks for both. Happy Father’s Day.
Like the man said, I don’t care who you are; that’s just funny. It also made me cry (one of my faults: I cry way, way too easily). I can’t tell you how many times Dad has kicked my butt. I’ve probably chosen to block out most of those memories, actually. I also can’t tell you how many times he has saved my butt.
One of those days when I got both was in high school. We could leave school for lunch, so a bunch of guys piled in my car and we went for burgers. On the way back the guys were having fun throwing the paper cups out the window (what can I say, it was the 70s) trying to get them to land standing up and slide across the hot pavement toward the curb. Thrown just right, they would hit the curb and ice would explode out of the top of the cup. [Please DO NOT litter!] A driver behind me thought we were throwing the cups at him, and he wrote down my license number and called the cops. The chief of police was a member of the church where my dad was pastor, so when “Marvin Nobles” popped up as a wanted man he did the right thing and called him. Well, to make a long story short, my butt was seriously kicked but I did not go to jail. And the cup throwing game was never, ever repeated.
So, like the card says: Thanks, Dad. You and Mom taught me right from wrong. You taught me to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. You gave me a love for learning. You taught me to love my family and my neighbor. You taught me who my neighbor is. You showed me how to love my wife. And more than anything, you showed me that a life of service to a loving God is the best way to live.
You showed me that while parenting can be messy and dangerous, it’s a great game. You won when it was your turn at bat, and I sure hope I did the same. My son and his wife will have a baby in August, so it’s the next generations’ time now—if they are half as good at parenting as you were, well they’re going to be just fine.

Thanks, David, for your thoughts on "Fathers' Day." Hope it gets read by lots of people, because it contains some really good thoughts.
Love you, Son.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Reviews

Since the last time I posted on May 29 about Dale Cramer's Amish trilogy, I've read several books. I came upon The Returning by Ann Tatlock in our church library (a new book, just added) and read it quickly. It was about a man returning to his family after several years in prison and how each of the family members related to him. He had an older teen-aged son who accepted him, a younger teen-aged daughter who chose to ostracize and ignore him, and a seven-year-old daughter who was afraid of him because she had never seen him before.

As he worked patiently with each of the children, trying to gain their trust, there were many ups and downs. The man had found God's purpose for his life while in prison, but his family were not church-goers. In fact, the teenaged daughter was involved in some very off-the-wall activities.

This was a very good story, as are all of AnnTatlock's offerings, and I was glad I read it.


Stealing Home, by Allison Pittman, was a babeball story set in a small town in the early 1900's, a period piece very well researched by Ms. Pittman. The main character was Ellie Jane Voyant, a 26-year-old woman who had never had an offer of marriage. She lived with her father, the Judge, when her brother asked her and her father to rent a room to a down-and-out baseball player. He was an alcoholic needing a place to stay where alcohol was not readily available, so that he could prepare himself to continue with his major league career. Of course, he made a big splash in the small town, and we meet many quirky characters as they try to relate to him.

Ms. Pittman wrote subsequent chapters about the main characters in the book, introducing us to them. One was Morris, a twelve-year-old black boy who wanted to play baseball. Another was Ned, who secretly loved Ellie Jane. And then there was Duke Dennison, the ball player who came to live in this town for a time.

The book was charming, inviting, and kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. There was an unexpected ending, one that took me totally by surprise. I think if you decide to read this book, you will enoy the authenticity and the small town flavor.


Dan Walsh's newest book, The Dance, co-authored with Gary Smalley, is similar to many of the Karen Kingsbury books I have read. It is the first in a four-part series about the Anderson family.

Jim and Marilyn Anderson were a couple in a beautiful house with everything a modern family could want, except love and respect. They were drifting, as many couples do today, until Marilyn left and disrupted Jim's comfortable life. The story tells about the couple, about their children and how this event affected them, and how this drastic act woke a man up. Jim began to realize how many times Marilyn had sought him out in previous years.

This story was simple, yet profound. When a couple comes to the place where these two were, it took a jolt to cause them to think of the other person. Marilyn had been thinking, but Jim was totally unaware of what could happen to his life because of his unthoughfulness. Dan Walsh is an excellent writer, and I think you will enjoy reading this one. You will want to read the others, as soon as they become available, as he weaves stories about this particular family.


In our local library I found another book by Dale Cramer titled Summer of Light. I had enjoyed his Amish stories, but this one was very different. It was about an iron worker, a strong man who lost his job because of an accident. His wife, a lawyer, convinced him to stay home with the three small children for the summer while she continued to work. The kids were out of school and one of them was a special needs child who needed special attention. So began Mick's adventure with his children, a hilarious, yet sweet journey.

This book contained laugh-out-loud humor that could only have been written by someone who experienced it. There were too many hilarious incidents for this to just have been made up.

Mick tried to work as a carpenter while keeping an eye on his son Dylan and the dog, Andy. The scrapes they got into just kept on coming. Mick also related to a homeless man he had met on his job, and this relationship continued through the summer with many poignant scenes.

I recommend this book if you want to just read for fun. It is highly entertaining.


The Outsider by Ann Gabhart is the first in her series of books about the Shakers, a group of people who had a religious community in Kentucky in the 1800's. The main character was Gabrielle, who had come with her mother to live in this celibate community. Shakers did not believe in marriage, in fact, they were taught that it was a sin to "commit marriage."

Gabrielle relates to the the younger girls as their teacher and we come to know several of them. Dr. Scott enters the community because of an outbreak of disease, and this doctor is the outsider who is another main character, the one who falls in love with Gabrielle.

Ann Gabhart has written a series of four books about the Shakers, and this is the first. I hope I am able to read the other three because I was very much taken with the people I met in this book. Ms. Gabhart draws her characters carefully and causes the reader to care about each one.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Opportunities by David Nobles

Have you ever wondered why an opportunity comes along when it does? Or why that specific opportunity was afforded to you? I think about things like that a lot. I also think about things that I missed.  I remember when the phrase “mediation” became a big word in the legal world. The idea is the two sides in a lawsuit get together at an impartial third party’s office and have an intense day of focused and directed negotiation. An attorney in my building, whose office was right below mine, went to a seminar to be “certified” as a mediator and actively went after the mediation business in our area. He got a lot of cases settled. Shortly after that, a bunch of lawyers, including me, obtained our certifications—but it was too late. The first guy had all the business locked up. I did a few mediations, but only a few. It was an opportunity missed. Today, courts require that ALL cases go to mediation.

I also remember the struggle to bring in business to my firm as a young lawyer. I tried lots of things but had little success. Then one day I asked my friend who was an Allstate agent to introduce me to the Allstate claims people. It turned out they were about to start a new program which would vigorously contest small cases where there was minor damage to a vehicle and no “objective” evidence of harm to the person filing the suit. I became the MIST (Minor Impact Soft Tissue) lawyer for Allstate and in six months I had over 100 cases from Allstate. Instead of receiving assignments from the partners, I was assigning cases to and supervising other attorneys. It was an opportunity seized.

I recently heard a sermon series about about Nehemiah, who led the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city after the Babylonian captivity. Nehemiah saw an opportunity not to increase his status but to help people and with God’s help he methodically and actively recruited people to his cause and accomplished his task in amazing fashion.

I believe that one of the most powerful opportunities in the Christian world is something you and I can do right now. Like Nehemiah, we have the opportunity to help people in a dramatic way through the small group. I believe that being involved in a properly functioning small group is an amazing, life-changing thing. Do you? I believe that building friendships with people and supporting others in a small group, and doing the same thing for people new to the group is an act of worship, an act of service, and an act of discipleship. I am convinced that doing little things like inviting someone to a party or to the group, asking someone to sit with the group in church, making sure new people feel included in a variety of ways, just making a phone call, or just showing up to a party or to a group session are in fact not little things but are huge things. Every single one of us can have a ministry of involvement if we’ll just reach out and grab the opportunity.

Will you make it happen? If you’re naturally quiet or shy, you don’t have to turn into the life of the party--in your way, include people. Be willing to send an email. If you’re a person who can talk to people, well get after it! Talk to that friend on Monday. During your small group time, find somebody new or someone you don’t know very well and spend some time with them. It’s not rocket science, but you do have to be intentional.

So what will it be? Opportunity missed or seized?
Thanks to my son, David O'Dell Nobles for this article today.

Check out the interview with Karen Witemeyer (June 3) if you'd like to enter the contest to win a copy of her book, Stealing the Preacher.  You can comment on the blog or send me a personal email, or comment on facebook to enter the drawing, which will be June 15.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

This book has some of the characters that were introduced in Short-Straw Bride, so if you read that one, you will recognize the Archer brothers, one of whom is a preacher. He is on a train, heading from Palestine, Texas to a meeting in Brenham, where he will be considered as pastor for their church, when the train is held up by a group of aging cowboys. He is abducted and taken to the home of the head cowboy, because this man's daughter, Joanna, wanted a preacher for her birthday. When the dust settles, Crockett Archer discovers that Joanna's wish is to get their local church up and going again with the hope that her dad will accept God's call on his life.

Crockett eventually learns that the church he was going to has already chosen a preacher, so he returns to Joanna's home to help her rejuvenate her community church. He takes a job working for Joanna's father on his ranch.

As we meet all the characters, there are many chuckles and some out-loud laughter at the antics when misconceptions evolve into actuality. Silas, a twelve-year-old boy who is a neighbor of Joanna, has his sight set on marrying her when he grows up, but as he comes to know Crockett and draws nearer to the Lord, he realizes that his ideas may have to be changed. When Holly, the other young girl in the church, sets her goal for getting the preacher, some serious complications follow.

This is a very exciting read. Some of the old western things happen in a different way. I think you will be glad you read Stealing the Preacher or any other of Ms. Witemeyer's books. This book exceeded my expectations, and I was glad I was able to read it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Karen Witemeyer, Writer of Historical Western Fiction

Winner of Janice Thompson's free book is Bonnie from Kentucky. Congratulations, Bonnie! Your book will arrive in the mail, signed by Janice.
Now, let's meet Karen Witemeyer......

Juanita: I’ve had fun this morning reading on the Internet about you and the books you have written and have found out some pretty interesting facts about you. You married a Texas cowboy, just like I did. Your man is a deacon, while mine is a retired preacher. You are a Texan (moving there from California), and I’m a displaced Texan (moving to Missouri away from my home state). And we both have a history in Abilene, though mine was long ago, shortly after my marriage in the mid-1950s. I’d say we have some things in common, besides our love of writing.

First, will you tell us about your faith, and why you write Christian books?

Karen: I grew up in a Christian home and came to know Jesus at an early age. My faith is an essential part of who I am, and when I decided to try my hand at writing novels, it was important to me that my stories honored God. I pray over my writing every day and try to infuse subtle nuggets of truth within the pages of an entertaining read.

Juanita: How hard was it for you to get started in your writing career? What was your first success that started you on the road to becoming an award-winning writer?

Karen: It took six years of learning and practicing the craft of fiction writing before I finally saw a book of mine on the shelves. My big break came at the 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers conference. I happened to be working as a pre-conference volunteer stuffing envelopes and next to me at the table was another woman whose name was also Karen. I had never met her, had no idea who she was, but we had fun connecting over the fact that we shared the same first name. It turns out that this lovely lady was none other than Karen Schurrer, an editor from Bethany House, my dream publisher. Not knowing what to do, I decided not to pitch my book idea at the volunteer station, but later at the conference, I sat at her table for lunch and was able to pitch it there. One brave lady at the table asked her if we could all send her our proposals. Karen graciously said yes, and the minute I returned home, I emailed my proposal. A few weeks later, she sent a request for the full manuscript. I was so excited, certain that God had brought this perfect storm of circumstances together for me. Then came the rejection. It was too similar to another book they recently published. However, God was indeed at work, for this rejection came with a request. They liked my writing enough that they asked me to submit again when I finished my next novel. By conference time the following year, I had a novel ready to go. We met again during the conference, and by January 2009, I signed my first three-book contract. Because of my experience, I am huge proponent of writers' conferences for authors seeking traditional publication.

Juanita: I can certainly agree with that. I have attended a few writers’ conferences, and while I didn’t receive a contract, some people of my acquaintance did, and I was happy for them. And six years is a comparatively short time, compared to many authors, so I commend you for that! 

I notice you write Western fiction. Tell us about the blog you share with several other writers of similar books, Petticoats and Pistols, and what you want people to take away from this site, where wonderful authors share their visions.

The Alamo in Texas

Karen: Petticoats & Pistols is a fun blog made up of western romance writers from both the Christian and general markets. We talk about some of the historical research that goes into our books, about our favorite TV and movie cowboys, about anything and everything with a western theme. We host guest authors on Saturdays and always have a great time. Some other Christian authors you might recognize who blog there are Mary Connealy, Margaret Brownley, Victoria Bylin, Winnie Griggs, and Renee Ryan. I blog every other Friday there and would love to have you stop by and visit. You can find us here:

Juanita: Thanks, Karen, I certainly will. I also perused the blog Writes of Passage to which you are a contributor, and enjoyed learning the history of some of the books I have read. (I also made of list of others I want to read after learning of this site.) How did this blog come to be? Tell us what you want to convey to readers through Writes of Passage.

Karen: I am a new addition to the Writes of Passage blog and have really enjoyed getting to know the wonderful ladies who blog there. All of us are Christian authors who write historical stories. We blog about historical things that interest us, but we also blog about our lives and welcome readers to get to know us more personally. The blog is made up of bestselling authors such as Tracie Peterson, Tamera Alexander, Julie Klassen, Lynn Austin, Robin Lee Hatcher, Jody Hedlund, and more. If you love Christian historical fiction, you would love this blog where many of your favorite authors hang out. You can find us here:

Juanita: Are your books stand-alones or do you write books in a series?  

Karen: My books tend to be stand-alone titles. My publisher prefers that style for me, especially since I only write about one book a year. However, my latest release, Stealing the Preacher, is as close to a sequel as I'm likely to get. I introduced the four reclusive Archer brothers in last year's Short-Straw Bride, and readers clamored to hear more about the other brothers. I had grown rather attached to them myself, so I was eager to write a story about Crockett. His book still stands alone; you don't need to have read Short-Straw Bride to understand what is going on, since his story takes place three years later and in a different setting. However, readers who enjoyed the Archer brothers in Short-Straw, will have fun seeing what happens with Crockett in Stealing the Preacher.

Juanita: I just finished reading your new book Stealing the Preacher, which released June 1 and was sent to me by Bethany. I loved it! I’ll be reporting on it on Amazon and here on my site this next Wednesday. Please tell us a little about it.

Karen: In Stealing the Preacher, Crockett Archer is abducted from a train by a gang of aging outlaws and must choose between either escaping to follow his own dreams or staying to help the daughter of his captor fulfill hers.

Since Crockett is no ordinary preacher, but a gun-toting rancher with a gift for doctoring . . . well, that meant a plot full of scrapes, trouble, and shenanigans. But amid the adventure and romance lies a heartrending tale of God's pursuit of a single lost soul.

 Juanita: What is next for you? Do you have your next book in mind?

Karen: My next project is actually a novella that features Neill Archer, the final brother in the Archer clan. I just couldn't let him go without giving him his own happily ever after. Away from the Archer ranch for two years to earn the money needed to start up his own spread with his childhood friend, Josiah, Neill takes a job repairing a little old widow's roof. Only the widow isn't old nor is she little. She's nine months pregnant with her deceased husband's child, and she meets Neill with a shotgun aimed at his chest.

Neill's story, A Cowboy Unmatched, will be part of a collection entitled A Match Made in Texas. It releases January 2014 and includes novellas by three other wonderful historical authors: Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Carol Cox.

Juanita: That sounds wonderful. I’ll be waiting to read it. I truly enjoyed your writing style in the two books of yours that I have read—To Win Her Heart and Stealing the Preacher. Thanks so much for visiting with us today. It has been my pleasure to meet you and share some facts about you with readers of my blog.

Now, readers, it’s your turn. Comment on this interview and leave your email address. (It will not be shown to the public.) Starting today, June 3, Karen and I will be checking the comments and on June 16 a name will be randomly chosen (only US authors, please). The lucky winner will receive an autographed copy of Karen’s new book, Stealing the Preacher. Don’t miss your opportunity to possibly win this book. Believe me, you’ll have a hard time putting it down.