Monday, July 29, 2013

Nadab and Abihu (Little-Known Old Testament people)

The post today is a story from my unpublished book about little-known Bible people,
Ordinary People Come face-to-face with Extraordinary God
If you wish to know more about this book, check the tab on the blog.

NADAB AND ABIHU: They Chose to Change God's Directions for Worship
(The story is found in Numbers 3:3 and in Leviticus 8-10)

Moses and his family came from the tribe of the Levites, the men chosen to show the Israelites how to worship. But we must remember that this large group had not been a cohesive people group for many years. They had been slaves in Egypt. They had not been worshipping corporately since they became slaves in Egypt.

God was teaching them how to worship as he led them through the wilderness. As God gave the laws to Moses, Moses told Aaron, and Aaron taught the people how to worship God. To them, everything about corporate worship was new, so they had to learn how to worship together.

Before they went to Egypt, their fathers worshipped God and offered sacrifices to him, but these traveling nomads were several generations removed from the people who originally went to Egypt during a famine. This generation only knew the land of Egypt and the stories that had been handed down from previous generations about the Holy God.

God chose Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the High Priest, as the ones destined to assume their father's role. Although these two young men knew nothing of sacrifice and worship, their father surely impressed upon them the seriousness of the work they would do. If you read Leviticus chapters 8 through 10, you will see how carefully Aaron taught them. Surely they must have realized that God demanded strict adherence to the laws he gave. Yet they made a terrible mistake,

Nadab and Abihu had been eyewitnesses to the mighty acts of God--the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of the Ten Commandments, the building of the Tabernacle, and the beginning of God's laws. They had good family examples to follow. They watched their uncle, Moses, lead the people and perform great works. Their aunt, Miriam, was a prophetess and a songwriter; the young men watched as she led the people in praise and worship to God, and they watched their father, Aaron, as he led the people in worship and obedience and in sacrifices to God.

Consecrated to God

When the time came for Nadab and Abihu to be consecrated as priests, Aaron followed the high laws of God. Leviticus 10 tells us that Aaron and his sons were taken into the Tent of Meeting. They were washed in water and then dressed in priestly robes. The sacrifices were prepared according to God's law. The consecrating oil was sprinkled in the correct places to denote the holiness of this act. Nadab and Abihu presented the offerings and prepared the sacrificial meal according to the laws that God had given Moses.

All this was done to show Aaron's sons the awesome holiness of God and that they were to follow the laws strictly with no deviations. We are told in Leviticus 8:36 "So Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord commanded through Moses." They were on the right track.

But we read in the first verse of Chapter 10, "Aaron's sons Nadab and Abidhu, took their censors, put the fire in them, and added incense, and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord." Their young lives were snuffed out before they had a chance to start on their journey with God, because they did not follow God's laws exactly as he had commanded.

Perhaps these young men brought coals of fire to the alter from another source or perhaps they added incense when it was prohibited. It could be that the two young priests gave an offering at the wrong time. Whatever it was, they did something disrespectful to God. They tried to change the way God had commanded the people to worship. Nadab and Abihu were careless about following God's laws. God had given rules for worship yet they attempted to add their own ideas to what God had told them to do.

Do Not Become Careless

It is sometimes easy for us to grow careless about obeying Go and to want to do things our way instead of listening to God in obedience. However, if one way were as good as another, God would not have given the laws as he did. He would not have commanded that we live his way.

This story reminds me of people today who think they don't have to obey the rules. They think they can exceed the speed limit if no one is looking, or if they have a radar device on their car to tell them when a police officer is near. They think they can take shortcuts to attain what they want, even if the tactics they use are illegal or not even totally ethical. Some people today have no scruples. Whatever they desire is their main goal, no matter what must be done to obtain it. Just take a look at our government, and you see countless examples of this--men and women who think they are above the law.

The Holiness of God

From the story of Nadab and Abihu, we learn that sin has deadly consequences. God always has good reasons for the things he tells us to do. We place ourselves in serious danger when we think we may have a better plan, or if we carelessly disobey or disrespect God. We are in danger of making the same mistakes these brothers did when we treat lightly the justice and holiness of God.

We must recognize God's holiness and remember that he controls the universe. However, today we no longer live under the laws of the Old Testament. Jesus came and brought a new way. By trusting in him and receiving him as our Savior, we can become a new creation. We still worship him, but not in the way taught by the priests eons ago. The sacrifices to do not have to be presented, because Jesus is our sacrifice. We worship him in Spirit and in truth.

Questions for further thought: (presented at the end of each chapter)
1. This is a hard story to read. Why do you think God did not give these two young men another chance?
2. After learning all the laws for worship why do you suppose Nadab and Abihu chose to worship in a different way? The Bible says they offered "unauthorized fire." Why do you think they did this?
3. What does this story teach immature young people of today?
4. When people disobey God today, is he more lenient that he was in the day of Moses?
5. What lesson can we learn from the story of Nadab and Abihu?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sometimes It's Hard to Accept Reality

As we moved to different churches during my husband’s ministry, he liked to find out about the people and what they were going through; what they needed from him. In one of those churches, he discovered that a woman who had been a long-time member was suffering from cancer. She had been afflicted with the disease for quite some time and was very ill. So my husband, the new preacher, went to visit her.

When he arrived at her house, he was ushered into the bedroom where she lay, almost unable to rise from her pillow. They visited for a while. She told him about the work she had done in the church during her productive years, and they talked about the church where she had been a member for many years, the church he had just come to serve.

Then my husband asked a simple question He said, “How long have you had this cancer?”

She looked at him with frantic, wide eyes. Rising to a sitting position in the bed, something she had not been able to do without help for days, and pointing her finger at him, she said, “I do not have cancer. Don’t you ever say this is cancer!”

He apologized profusely, as she managed to get back onto her pillows and turn away. He left the room.

My husband visited her at other times, but he never mentioned the word “cancer” as her body wasted away.

After a time, the woman died and my husband preached her funeral. But she never accepted the fact that her disease had been a debilitating cancer.

This woman was unable to accept the reality of her life. She was unable to come to terms with the fact of her cancer. But did that stop the cancer from ravaging her body?  No.

Sometimes things come into our lives that we cannot accept. Hard things that we will not face with a true spirit. We think that by denying the fact of the matter, it will go away. But it won’t. Perhaps it is a habit that we don’t want to get rid of. We know it is hurting our bodies, but we refuse to come to terms with the reality of what it is doing.

It may be a spirit of rebellion that a person refuses to acknowledge. Time moves on and the rebellion or spiteful spirit grows within the person. While the attitude grows, it ravages the mind. It goes on, even when the person who has it refuses to accept its reality.

It may be a deep hurt that has festered for a long time. Sometimes a faithful church member drops out of church and stays away from his house of worship because of something somebody said or did that hurt their feelings. Satan comes to us, reminding us of how this person or that person hurt us, keeping us upset and mad, and out of fellowship with God, as long as we allow him to do so.

These things we refuse to acknowledge hurt the one who will not come to terms with it. When a person is convicted and allows God to work again in his or her life, the victory no longer belongs to Satan. Once we acknowledge our reality and confess it, we can be forgiven and restored.

Is there something in your life that has been festering a long time? Take a deep look inside and allow God to heal your spirit, if this is your reality.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On My Blog

I've had some wonderful authors on my blog with eleven book winners since I started this. I think it was November or December when I started maintaining a blog in earnest. And it is a full-time job. I don't know how many of you do a blog, but I didn't realize what I was signing up for. Believe me, I know now! Keeping a blog and posting regularly keeps a person on her toes.

If you didn't see The Dust Bowl, November 30, 2012, I hope you will check my blog for older posts and look at this. I watched some PBS specials on the dust bowl of the 1920s and 1930s and posted pictures from the internet. Then I ordered and read a novel that was advertised on those programs. Sanora Babb lived through these times and wrote about them. She had her manuscript ready and sent it to editor Bennett Cerf in New York in 1939. He was interested and planned to publish this "exceptionally fine" work, but when John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath swept the nation, Cerf did not feel that the market could sustain two books on the subject. So Sanora did not get her book published until 2004, 65 years later. The novel is titled Whose Names are Unknown and it was a fantastic read. Babb wrote five other books during her lifetime. Steinbeck became famous,
but Sanora Babb was the one who lived these experiences.

I've written about many people we knew during our ministry and afterwards. I wrote about a Christian country gospel group in our area, The Barn Again Gang, on November 8. I was very impressed by the woman singer in the group who told about how God had healed her from cancer and told about it in the post. Just recently she lost her battle with cancer.

I've written about travel. Our son who now lives in Germany was here in February for a visit and we went back to the town where we lived when he was a little boy. My blog on February 12 was about our Trip to Bogard and how the town has changed, complete with pictures our son and I took while we were there.

I can't count the number of book reviews I've posted.

I've written about people in our churches. You would not know them, but you might enjoy reading about them. Some of the titles in this blog are: Death of a Judge, January 8; Piano Memories, May 3; I Remember Joe, June 21; Sometimes the Doctor is Wrong, June 28.

Our son, David, from Midland, Texas, writes on my blog, too. His essays are posted on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. His pithy and humorous wisdom is worth reading.

Here is a list of the book winners along with the titles of the books and their authors:
1. God's Little Miracle Book by Sally Jadlow -- winner: Margo from Illinois
2, Finding Your Place by Margo Dill (children's book) -- winner: Elizabeth from PA
3. Too Brides Too Many by Mona Hodgson -- winner: Wendy from Florida
4. Secrets Over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth-Jones -- winner: Faye from Missouri
5. What Matters Most by Bette Lee Crosby -- winner: Karen from PA
6. Winner's Choice of any book by Julie Lessman -- winner: Carol from Alabama
7. Picture Perfect by Janice Thompson: winner: Bonnie from Kentucky
8. The Dance by DanWalsh -- winner: Debbie from Texas
9. Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer -- winner: Maxie from Texas
10. She Makes it Look Easy by MaryBeth Whalen -- winner: Cherie from Ohio
11. I'll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock -- winner: Allene from Texas

I plan to continue my blog for a while longer, but will not be able to keep it up forever. I need to cut out some stress because I had another heart cath Monday of this week. That's the third one, About the end of April I had the same test and a stent was inserted. I did not have to have a stent this time, but will be checking with my doctor about medications. I probably need to slow down even more than I have already.

Thanks again to all the people who read my blog. I hope you have enjoyed it. I appreciate all those who commented, whether on the blog, Facebook, or by email.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sweet Tea -- by David Nobles

The winner of Ann Tatlock's book I'll Watch the Moon is Allene from Texas. Congratulations, Allene. And thanks to all of you who visited my blog and commented, either on the blog, on Facebook, or by email. Today, Monday, July 22, I will be in the hospital having a heart cath. Hope to be back soon

Now here's another essay by our son, David Nobles, who lives in Midland, Texas.

I like sweet tea. Growing up, we had sweet tea at just about every meal. With four kids, it was hard and expensive to go out to eat, so my mom cooked for us, and she cooked really well. I can remember her pot roast, fried chicken, spaghetti, and lots of other great meals. Almost all were accompanied by sweet tea.

We very rarely bought soft drinks. Maybe Mom thought they weren’t healthy enough, but I suspect it was “all about the Benjamins” and cost kept them out of our house. I do remember they didn’t last long if they ever showed up. My biggest memory of soft drinks in the house was on Sunday nights after church, getting a half-gallon (in a glass bottle) of Dad’s Root Beer and having root beer floats. If only Blue Bell had been around back then!

So tea was my drink of choice, until I went off to college and they had soft drink fountain dispensers in the dorm cafeterias. Forget the tea, gimme the good stuff! Being a loyal Baylor Bear, Dr Pepper quickly became my favorite. I even learned that it’s spelled WITHOUT the period.

At some point in my early adult days, I began drinking tea again, and decided to drink it without sugar. At first it was very bland, but eventually I came to appreciate it. I was eating out more, and adding sugar to the iced tea brought to my table wasn’t anything like home, so I figured it was no great loss and maybe even a bit healthier.

Today, more and more restaurants offer sweet tea. I have noticed some of the tea in town is worth it and some is not: Rosa’s is amazing, Bush’s is good, McAlister’s is OK, Jason’s sweet tea is putrid. I’m sure you know as I do that it depends on the type of tea and sweetener used and when and how sweetener is added. When the tea is hot, real sugar (the best sweetener) dissolves and flavors the whole pot. When the tea is cold, you can stir that thing all day long and you’ll still end up with a lot of sugar on the bottom of the glass.

In other words, the tea has to be right to accept the sugar.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Just like the tea, we have to be in the right position to accept God’s truth and instruction in our lives. The sugar doesn’t change—it’s still sugar—but when the tea is hot it combines with the tea in a way that produces a much different result than when the tea is cold. I know there’s a scientific reason for this, and it’s all about the heat. When we are ready to accept God’s influence, he can dramatically flavor our lives. How do we get hot—how do we become ready? Admit sin. Repent. Ask Him to give you the desire to experience Him fully, then ask Him to fill you, lead you, influence you. Get in the habit of talking to Him all the time—He wants to hear about everything, no matter how big or how small. Read His word and let it fill your heart. Serve God by serving people.

All that is really easy to write and much more demanding to do—but when we do—life is sweet.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Faith, Hope, and Love by Kimberly Rae Jordan

FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE by Kimberly Rae Jordon


            Many times when I download a book on my Kindle that is listed as Christian Fiction, I find that it really does not belong in that category. But this book was correctly placed, and I enjoyed reading about Cassie and Quinn, a young missionary couple serving in South America. The author used flashbacks much of the time, to let the reader know what had gone on before.

            Cassie had just learned she was pregnant and planned to tell her husband that night, but during the day he and several of the men in his teaching group were kidnapped. They were held for more than five years before some of them were released. Quinn was one who was allowed to go back home, to the states, where Cassie had gone to live as a single mother when she thought she had lost her husband.

            When Quinn returned, however, he had lost his faith in God, his hope for the future, and his love for Cassie. Most of the book told about his disillusionment with God because of his wasted years, and Cassie’s trying to encourage him to be who he was before.

            Quinn was proud that he had a daughter and immediately connected with her. He connected with his sister, but he could not express love to Cassie.

            Quinn had to examine himself  before he could come to terms with the losses in his life. I think if you read this book you will be impressed. The author introduced likeable characters. At times, I wished she would move a little faster, but in the end, it was an enjoyable book.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Meet Author Ann Tatlock

Hello, Ann,
I have read several of your books and I had to devour each of them, only putting them down when absolutely necessary, so I am looking forward to talking with you today. I hope our readers will enjoy this conversation as well.

Juanita: First, please tell us about your faith and why you write Christian novels.

Ann: The first blessing in my life was my parents. Mom and Dad were wonderful people who loved the Lord, each other and their children. Because of them, Jesus has been my Savior from the beginning and he has kept me in his grace all my life. My desire from an early age has been to serve him, which is what I strive to do through my writing.

Juanita: I know you attended Wheaton college and worked for Decision magazine and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for a few years. Did you think that would be your life work, or were you pulled toward writing novels early?

Ann: Early on, I thought I would be solely a writer of non-fiction. I attended Wheaton College Graduate School to earn my master’s degree in journalism, with the hopes of joining the staff of a Christian magazine. When I graduated, I was offered the position with Decision. I really enjoyed interviewing people and writing their stories of conversion and faith. So yes, at one point I thought this would be my life work. I didn’t see the point in making up stories when there are already so many fabulous true stories out there.

Eventually, though, I began to realize that fiction is a powerful vehicle for relaying the truths of the Bible because people are hard-wired to learn through stories—which is why Jesus taught so often in parables. I had always loved to read fiction, so I decided to try my hand at writing it. I discovered I loved it! I write stories to entertain, but I also want to leave readers thinking about biblical concepts such as forgiveness, mercy, redemption, hope and restoration.

Juanita: I read somewhere that you kept on persisting, even after years of rejection notices. How long was it after you began writing that you finally received an acceptance from a publisher for your first novel?

Ann: Eleven years! And then it was another two years before I saw my first book in print, so a total of 13 years from the time I started writing fiction to the day my first book was published. As I tell aspiring writers, persistence is key! Don’t give up.

I had started writing non-fiction articles in college and did some freelance writing after graduating. Then I went on and got the degree in journalism, so I was trained in non-fiction but I’d never had a fiction-writing class. I learned to write fiction simply by writing fiction (and reading good fiction), so it was a long process of trial and error (and rejection and trying again).

Juanita: I’m pretty persistent, but I believe you would outdo me! I have read some of your novels and have looked at the reviews for all of them. I notice you insert American history into every book you write. For example, All the Way Home was about the Japanese internment during World War II and the friendship of two little girls—one American and one Japanese. A Room of My Own was about the time during and after the Great Depression, and many historical incidents were inserted in that story. I understand that your new book, Sweet Mercy, is also set during the Depression, and it has gangsters and illegal alcohol, and how a young girl dealt with that. How do you choose your settings and why is history so important for an author to deal with?

Ann: Twentieth-century American history fascinates me. It was a remarkable century, with each decade filled with both amazing advances and overwhelming struggles. What interests me most isn’t so much the overarching events themselves, but how those larger events impacted individual lives. How did the Japanese internment camps affect one child? How did the 1948 polio epidemic alter the dynamics of one family? How did the era of Prohibition forever change the heart and mindset of one teen-aged girl? We are all products of the historical setting in which we find ourselves, though we may not always view our life in that way. (In other words, No man is an island!) I’m always looking for an intriguing era to use as a backdrop for the development of my characters.

Juanita: Many of your main characters were young girls and many times, you wrote in the first person. Do you do this because you put yourself into the situation you are writing about to make your books so real and compelling?

Ann: I think you’ve nailed it! I like to pretend I was really there and that now I’m telling the story. It’s a writing device that comes naturally and seems to work.

Juanita: Tell us about your most recent books, Travelers’ Rest and Sweet Mercy, published in 2012 and 2013. What do you want the reader to take away from each of these books?

Ann: Thank you for asking about the take-away; that’s so important!

Travelers Rest is about a woman whose fiancé returns from Iraq seriously wounded. He wants to call off the engagement; she has to decide whether or not to stay with him.
Take-away: The knowledge that when you put your heart in God’s hands, it will never be broken by unrequited love. His throne is the one sure place we can lay our heart and never have to take it up again. It’s the end of the journey. His is the love we long for and the only love that ultimately satisfies.

Sweet Mercy is the story of teen-aged girl who fancies herself “a righteous person” among the many criminals and law-breakers of the Prohibition era—until she too finds herself breaking the law for the sake of family and love.
Take-away: None of us is good by our own merit. Righteousness is a gift of God’s mercy.

Juanita: Can you relate a funny situation that happened while you were working for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association?

Ann: I remember the afternoon Ruth Graham came to speak to the employees. A friend of mine from the art department had just found an old photograph of a young Billy Graham dressed in an outlandish and unfashionable suit and tie. My friend dared me, and I took the dare. After Mrs. Graham finished speaking, we made our way to her and showed her the photograph. “Mrs. Graham,” I asked, “is it true that you pick out your husband’s clothes for him?” She laughed heartily at that.

Juanita: If people knew, what it is about you that would surprise them?

Ann: In 1998, my husband Bob and I traveled to China to pick up our 7-month-old daughter and bring her home. Laura is 15 now and the joy of our lives!

Juanita: I notice you speak at Writers’ Conferences. What importance do you place on these organizations for new, aspiring writers?

Ann: I highly recommend that aspiring writers attend a writers conference—or several! They give you the opportunity to take helpful classes from published authors, meet and connect with other aspiring writers, brainstorm with a host of creative people, and meet face-to-face with editors, agents and publishers. Conferences definitely offer a foot-in-the-door to anyone wanting to be published.

Juanita: Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Ann: It has been a joy to be a guest on your blog, Juanita. I hope you and your readers will come with me to Marryat Island this summer and enjoy Sweet Mercy!

Juanita: Thank you so much, Ann. I appreciate your time in answering these questions for those who choose to read my blog.

Readers, it’s your turn again. Comment on this interview and leave your email address so I can contact you if you win, and you will be entered in the drawing for a free copy of one of Ann’s books. The book Ann and I have chosen for you is I’ll Watch the Moon, published in 2011. This story took place in the late 1940’s during the polio epidemic in America. Winner will be announced on July 19, (one week from today) and will also be notified by email.

Get extra contest entries if you "follow me" or "subscribe to my blog".  Mention on your comment that you have done this for the extra entries.

Ann's newest book, Sweet Mercy

I'll Watch the Moon

Promises to Keep

These are three of the nine novels Ann has written. Check for the other titles.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Guest blogger, Darrell Gwaltney

Learning How to Let Go

I have a love affair with books. I started dating books when I saw Dick and Jane run after Spot in first grade.

I nurtured the relationship in third grade when The Scholastic Book Club let me order books from handouts my teacher, Mrs. Baker, would give us. I still remember reading The Furious Flycycle

I married books in the fourth grade. Mrs. Fountaine held up a sign and told the class we would get a certificate if we read something like 8 fiction books, 5 science books, and 8 non-fiction books. I read more than a hundred.


My love affair with books has lasted my entire lifetime and I probably have somewhere over 3,000 books now.

My wife often tells me I have too many books and I say, "No, I do not have enough bookshelves."

I finally admitted I needed to start cleaning out my overflowing shelves when I began to stack them in piles on the floor. Early in June, I started setting books out in a hallway outside my office for whomever might want them. I have kicked them out on their own.

I feel unfaithful to these books. I hope they find good homes.

Cleaning out these books has been an exercise in learning how to let go of things that are important to me. The principles that I have used could be applied to any attempts to let go of things in our lives--books, possessions, feelings, etc.

1. I learned letting go requires measurable goals.

I started out by setting a goal of removing ten books from my office. Once I removed ten books, I set a goal for ten more.

Like the books I am setting out into the wild, my goals stacked one upon another until I am close to 300 books removed from my office. Since I originally planned to remove 100 books, turning loose of 300 of them is a huge accomplishment.

As you try to let go, start on the edges of whatever ever needs to go and work your way toward the center in measured steps. 

2. I learned letting go is an emotional experience. 

I can pick a book off my shelf and remember the chair I sat in when I read it twenty-five years ago. I can remember how it changed me, thrilled me, confused me, and even frustrated me.

I gave away some old books that were important to me a long time ago, but I had not opened them in decades. It was time to let them go because we no longer connected with each other.

I could not give away books given to me by someone else who had written a note inside. Those books tie me to specific people. I still have a relationship there.

As you try to let go, be honest with yourself about your emotions because they affect what you can and cannot let go.

3. I learned letting go takes time.

I thought I could clean my shelves in a week, but it has taken over a month.

Some of the books I have sent packing were picked up three or four times over the month before I finally could let them go. I had to say good-bye to them gradually.

As you try to let go, give yourself the time you need to grieve and say goodbye. 

I am just cleaning out bookshelves but our lives often become crowded with many things we need to release. Set some goals, embrace your emotions, take your time and let things go.

How about you? Do you have trouble letting go of things? What sort of things are you trying to let go?
Bio for Darrell Gwaltney
Dr. Darrell Gwaltney has served as the Dean of the School of Religion for Belmont University in Nashville, TN, since 2004.  He served in a similar capacity at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL.  He has a Master’s degree in English from University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Master’s of Divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. He received his Ph.D. in theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has also studied at Oxford University, Oxford, England.
In 2010, he was named the H. Franklin Paschall Chair of Biblical Studies and Preaching.
His work in the School of Religion gives him the opportunity to work with amazing young men and women who are preparing for ministry all over the world. He teaches classes in vocation, faith and culture, hermeneutics, and worship and preaching.
In more than thirty years of ministry, he has served as pastor of churches in Missouri, Indiana, and Florida. Before coming to serve at Belmont University, he completed a pastorate at Northwood Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Florida, serving a diverse, suburban church of 900 members. Most recently, he finished an extended interim pastorate at Crievewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He remains active preaching and serving in local churches.
He has been married for thirty-one years to Donna Gwaltney and has three children: Meghan, 25 years old; Jordan, 23 years old; and Trey, 21 years old. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan who also loves music, reading, writing, gardening, and traveling.
His blog can be found on the web at
Thanks, Darrell, for your blog today and for your witness for Jesus through the years.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Prairie Song by Mona Hodgson

In this first volume of the Hearts Seeking Home series, Anna Groben convinces her mother and grandfather to join the wagon train from St. Charles, Missouri, to California. There are family troubles resulting from the death of Anna's brother, and she feels the family could profit by a new start in a new place. If you read Mona Hodgson's novellas, The Quilted Heart series, you will recognize people from that series as they make a new start in these three novels.

Ms. Hodgson deftly tells the stories of several families as they travel together, meeting trouble on the road as well as in their company. Some are friends while others in the group are strangers. The intricacies of the personalities intrigue the reader as we learn about these people who are traveling together. Some become involved in romances, while others have feelings of dislike and distrust. More than about the trek west, this book is about people.

Ms. Hodgson deals with nationalities as well. People on the wagon train are German, French, Irish, and some don't even speak English. They all bring their personal likes and dislikes as they must deal with each other, and the author clearly defines the problems people have when they are in close proximity with those they might not even like to be around.

If you enjoy reading about relationships, you will enjoy this book. Of course, there are adventures along the trail, but the gist of the book is relationships. There are two more novels planned in this series as the Boone's Lick Company leaves St. Charles and travels west. In Prairie Song, the group gets as far as Fort Kearney. Mountain Whispers, the next book, will take the group from there on further west, then another book will complete the series. I, for one, am anxious to read the next installment to discover what the people will find. Will they be excited about their new home or will they pine for what they left behind? I can't wait to find out.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Acclimated, by David Nobles

Something is seriously wrong. It's July in West Texas and I'm cold.

In case you're not from around here, "July in West Texas" means H-O-T. Midland, a city in the desert, has been well above the century mark for weeks. The power company is loving it, as are the AC repair guys, but everybody else, not much.

My Beautiful Bride has been running our AC at home pretty high. Or is it 'pretty low'? I never know how to say that. Do you turn it up to make it colder, or turn it down? Anyway, she wants it cold, and it is so cold that while she is enjoying it, I'm wrapping up in quilts to get warm. Thankfully, we have lots and lots...and lots....of quilts
(See Saturday morning I knew I would be doing several things in various parts of the house, so I just put on warm-up pants, wool socks, and a long sleeve t-shirt and I was comfortable.

My office building can't get it right either. Through most of June while it was cooking outside, I was freezing. The system blew cold air all day long. I have a thermostat, or at least a wall decoration that looks like a thermostat. Modern art, who can figure it out, right? The temp gauge on the thing said it was in the mid-60s but it felt more like the mid-40s. Changing the settings did no good, of course, it's all set on a computer in Bangladesh--so I just ran my little space heater and wore a jacket. When I left for lunch, it felt great to step outside and stand in the sunshine for a few minutes. Walking to my car, I seriously considered sitting at some restaurant's outside table. However, getting in the car cured me of such blasphemy.

After several weeks like that, I complained about the cold in my office and sure enough, the crackerjack building guys took care of it. For the next week, I sat next to my fan with my sleeves rolled up; I was sweating. The temp gauge said it was in the 80s and I think it was accurate that time. Adjusting the fake thermostat settings did not change anything, thanks to the guys in Bangladesh.

Saturday night we got a little rain (and a lot of hail) and things cooled down. Sunday morning as we left for church, we were stunned when we noticed the outside thermometer read 75. A few nights before that I went outside late in the evening and it felt like I had walked into an oven. I thought the desert was supposed to lose its heat at night, but the mercury told me it was 98 degrees. At 11 p.m.! So, a 75-degree Sunday morning was a very pleasant surprise. When we got the church, however, the guys in Bangladesh had a good laugh. They had the building temp set for 100-plus degrees outside, meaning it was absolutely freezing in there. We go to one of those new casual churches, and I have worn shorts to Sunday services. I didn't yesterday, but I did wear a t-shirt. Yes, Mom, it was a nice one, clean with no holes in it. Well, let's just say no one was going to sleep through that sermon.

This morning it's cloudy and looks like rain. I'll believe THAT when it happens. Annually, we have about 355 days of sunshine. Being a weatherman in West Texas has to be the easiest job in the world. Here's a typical exchange on the 10 p.m. newscast: Anchor guy: "Now let's check in on the weather. Norm, what does it look like tomorrow?" Weather guy: (Brightly, with a big smile) "Sunny and hot, Al, sunny and hot," (Aside, frowning and in a frustrated tone) "Just like always."  Because of this morning's clouds, I shivered a little as I walked to the office from my car. It's all the way down in the 70s out there.

Isn't it funny what we get used to? Apparently I have acclimated to the heat, because a day in the 70s shouldn't make me feel cold.

What else have I "acclimated" to in my life? My dad is a retired preacher, and he used to tell the story of the frog in the kettle. Drop a frog in boiling water, and he will jump out instantly. Put him in room temperature water, though, and slowly increase the heat to boiling and he will stay there and die. We get used to things, all too often to our detriment.

Most everyone has things in their lives that have been there so long, they are not noticed any more. What have you acclimated to that just shouldn't be there?
Thanks to David Nobles for today's essay. David, our son and our third child, lives in Midland, Texas, where he is chief counsel for Dawson Geophysical. I enjoy his humor, and I hope you do, too.

Winner of free book by MaryBeth Whalen

Cherie from Ohio is the winner of She Makes It Look Easy by Mary Beth Whalen. Thanks to all of you who commented on the interview. Congratulations, Cherie, I know you're going to love it!

I hope many of you will come back a week from Monday for an interview with Ann Tatlock and book give-away.

Juanita Nobles

The next article is written by our son David. Hope you enjoy it, too.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Another Friday

I guess the summer heat, or something, got to me this week and I didn't get the post done in time. I've been reading, working crossword puzzles, and going to therapy to help the pain in my back and leg. I hope you had a great holiday yesterday, and will have a wonderful weekend.

Please read some of the older posts if you'd like to. The past two Fridays I have written about people we knew while we were pastoring churches. Our son has written some humorous and interesting articles on the second and fourth Mondays, with a great one coming up next week.

The winner of Marybeth Whalen's book She Makes it Look so Easy, will be announced on Monday, July 8. Thanks to all those who commented on that one. More authors are signed up-- Ann Tatlock, Miralee Ferrell, Cindy Woodsmall, Ann Gabhart, and Meg Moseley, to name a few for the rest of the summer.

Be sure to attend the church of your choice as we worship on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Wishing Tree

Marybeth Whalen's new novel, The Wishing Tree, is about two sisters. Shea, the younger daughter, is involved in the excitement of a wedding. Ivy, her older sister, has just discovered that her husband cheated on her, and is dealing with disappointment and heartache. The older daughter also is dealing with the fact that when she married several years earlier, she did not have the beautiful wedding her sister is having. Ivy has been estranged from her mother and sister and is concerned about going back to be with them while she decides what to do about her marriage.

The Wishing Tree is a wedding custom in their family, where people write their good wishes on notes and attach them to an artificial tree which is a centerpiece during the wedding dinner.

As Marybeth writes about these two sisters and the people they know, she delves deeply into their characters. The reader comes to know them, their idiosyncrasies and their friends and acquaintances as the pages turn faster and faster. This is a story told in modern times, with email and Tweets as Ivy's husband, Elliott, tries to get in touch with her to present his side of the story.

As Ivy prepares the Wishing Tree for her sister, she examines her own dreams and must decide what she wants for her life.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Meet author MaryBeth Whalen

Hello, Marybeth,

As I sit here in the St. Louis area in March, watching the sun melt the frost from my lawn, I’m thinking of you on the beach, knowing you love it because I read your blog. How I’d love to be there, too. I’m wondering, since you live in North Carolina, do you have access to the beach in your backyard? If not, how often do you get to enjoy it?

Marybeth: We don’t have the beach in our backyard but are fortunate enough to live a pretty easy drive away. We can be there in 3.5 hours. My uncle (my dad’s side) and aunt (my mom’s side) both live at the beach so I visit them often. My kids have formed many happy memories at the beach thanks to my strong tie to the place. I like to think I’ve passed that on to them and that the NC coast holds a special spot in their hearts, too.

I noticed you do a lot of cooking and with a husband and six kids, I can easily understand this. In your blog of menus, you had some down-home southern dishes planned for your menus. Did you grow up in the south and is that where you learned to cook like that?

Marybeth: I am a native North Carolinian and you can definitely tell from my cooking! I learned to cook from my mom and grandmother and embrace my southern heritage that is so strongly tied to food. I still can’t make decent biscuits though, unfortunately.

Well, you can buy canned biscuits at the grocery store that taste pretty good. I remember one of the first times I made homemade yeast rolls and when I served them, my husband said, “These rolls are pretty good. What brand of canned biscuits did you use?” I didn’t do yeast rolls again for a long time.

Tell us a little about your faith, and why you write Christian novels.

Marybeth: To be honest I didn’t set out to make my first novel, The Mailbox, a Christian novel. But the idea that there is a Kindred Spirit that people want to connect with and are drawn to just demanded that I deal with the issue of faith and seeking God in the story. After that, I was under contract with a Christian publisher so I structured my stories to continue to explore issues of faith and spiritual growth. In all of my Sunset Beach novels, there is a strong symbolic faith element (the Kindred Spirit from The Mailbox, the Artist from The Guest Book, the wishing tree from my upcoming novel The Wishing Tree) that naturally ties into the story. I want the faith element to always feel organic to the story and not feel forced.

In the future I might write outside of the Christian marketplace if the story demands it. I want to be true to each story and not make them fit into a box. I have story ideas that are inherently Christian, and other stories that I know a Christian publisher would be unable to publish because of the themes or elements within them not fitting their publishing model. I hope to be able to write them all. My faith is intrinsic to my daily life, and I hope that—intentional or not, published by Christian publishers or not—that will always come through in my writing.

You direct an online book club, Tell us a little about that.

Marybeth: She Reads is a daily celebration of women’s fiction and the writers who create it for us. We select a book a month, discuss it and hear from the author all through the month. We also offer guest posts from other authors so that we can spotlight more than just one book, because the majority of fiction readers read much more than one book a month. We want to put the best books out there in front of the women who join our community of readers and so far it seems like we’re doing our job!

That’s a for sure! I read about three books a week.
I was captivated by your book, She Makes It Look Easy. I couldn’t put the book down. How did you make your characters so real? Did you draw somewhat from people you knew, or do you just have a super imagination?

Marybeth: That book is definitely my most personal story in that it came out of a situation in my own community that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I wanted to answer the questions running through my mind by exploring this story I made up. While none of those people were exact replicas of real folks, many of them were hodgepodges of people I know or knew or knew of. That’s what I love about fiction—you’re not tied to the truth but you can certainly use truth as a springboard.

Your descriptive language had me seeing the neighborhood where Erica, Ariel, and Justine lived because it was similar to one in which my daughter lived. And the book was real because of the topics you discussed: jealousy, pride, love, anxiety, even an affair. I was amazed that you could put so much of today’s world into one compelling book.

Marybeth: That neighborhood in the book is an actual neighborhood I used to visit years ago. An old friend who has now moved far away lived there and we spent many afternoons letting our kids play outside or baking in her kitchen, etc. I remember thinking back then (20 years ago!) in a very outside way that I would someday write about this place. I had no idea that it would manifest itself in this story, but it just lined up so perfectly with the atmosphere I was trying to create. I think that exploring real issues and adding real elements to a story just make it more gripping and relatable.

You have a new book, The Wishing Tree, which released in June of this year. Tell us a little about this book and what you want readers to take away from it.

Marybeth: The Wishing Tree is about two sisters—one who is planning the perfect wedding to the perfect guy, and one who is facing the fact that her perfect marriage may not be so perfect after all. When the two sisters are thrown together again as they prepare for the upcoming wedding, truths emerge and long-held beliefs are challenged. When Ivy, the main character, gets put in charge of the wishing tree for her sister Shea’s wedding, she must face her own wishes about the realities of marriage, choosing what to let go of—and what to hold onto. I just finished reading this one and it is great.

I purchased that one and just finished reading it. I'll have a review of it on Wednesday's post this week. Thank you for letting us get a brief glimpse of you and your books today, Marybeth.
Readers can find you on line at and can check for all your books. I hope many of them will be picking up one of them, and I hope they are prepared to keep reading long into the night. They will be captivated, just as I was. I can’t wait to read your other novels.
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Now it’s YOUR turn. Go to the comments, and enter your name to win a copy of She Makes It Look Easy. I know you’ll love it, just as I did.

You can get extra entries in the contest by choosing to subscribe to my blog or to follow me. Be sure to tell me in the comments, so I'll put your name in more than once.

Also, don't forget to leave your email address. We need to be able to find you if you win. A few people missed out on previous books because they didn't leave an email address. :( 

MaryBeth will mail you an authographed copy of She Makes It Look Easy if your name is chosen. Winner will be announced on Monday, July 8. I promise you will love this book. I read it in two or three days. Check my book reviews if you wish, and you'll see what this book is about.