Dropdown menu

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prioritizing from behind

I seem to be in a constant catch-up loop. Or at least that's what it feels like.

Last week, no wait, it was the week before, I was in Indianapolis for the ACFW board meeting. Wow... So many interesting things to come out of that meeting. It's going to be a great conference, and a lot of good things are in the works. But that's all I can say about that. :) However, it left me behind on a lot of stuff I needed to get done.

Last week... I played catch up from being gone for five days. In the middle of the week, we had a huge snowstorm and snow day. Which put a wrench into my plans, putting me further behind.

And then, I left Friday for our church's annual silent retreat. Which is such an important spiritual time for me that despite everything on my plate, I wasn't going to miss it. An entire weekend with no connection to the outside world, and a day and a half of complete silence. Bliss! But of course, not having the weekend to catch up has me... wait for it... further behind.

With all the stress of a to-do list longer than I even want to think about, I had to make some decisions about my time.

This morning, we moved critique group to my house at the last minute because I'd forgotten that this week, my kids are on Spring Break (yes, one more thing to keep me from catching up). As I apologized for my disgustingly messy house, lack of planning, and completely scattered everything, one of my critique partners said very sympathetically, "you could have canceled. We would have understood."

Yes, I could have canceled. But I realized, as I was forced to confront my available time and completely full list, that when I'm behind, I tend to cut the things I love to make room for the things I must do. I hate every minute of it, and I tend not to do as good of a job at those things because I resent pushing out the things I love. As I told my very understanding friend, I'm learning not to cut the things I love. Those are the things that give me the energy to keep going.

So today, I didn't cancel my critique group. I let them see my dirty house. I let them read my unedited manuscript. I let them find their own cups for coffee that one of my critique partners brought so I didn't have to make any. I laughed with friends. I found encouragement. And my tank was filled enough to deal with the rest of my day.

Did I get it all done? Nope. But I feel good about what I did. And I accomplished more than I'd originally thought I could. I'm still behind. But it's looking a lot closer to being caught up than I could have imagined because I kept room in my schedule for the love to do as well as have to do.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deliver Us from Evil by Robin Caroll

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Deliver Us From Evil

B&H Academic (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn of B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***


Robin Caroll has authored eight previous books including Bayou Justice and Melody of Murder. She gives back to the writing community as conference director for the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. A proud southerner through and through, Robin lives with her husband and three daughters in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Academic (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805449809
ISBN-13: 978-0805449808


Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.
FBI Field Office
Knoxville, Tennessee

Jonathan’s throat closed as he stared at the building from the parking lot. He gripped the package tight in his arthritic hands. Could he do this? Turn over evidence that would implicate him?

His heart raced and he froze. Not the best time for his atrial fibrillation to make an appearance. Despite being on the heart transplant list for eight months, it looked like his progressed heart disease would do him in. The most important reason he couldn’t go to prison—he’d never get a heart and would die. While Carmen wanted him to confess his crimes, she wouldn’t want him to die. The memory of saying good-bye to his beloved mere hours ago scorched his soul.

Her eyes fluttered open. Those blue orbs, which had once sparkled even in the absence of light, now blinked flat and lifeless.

He swallowed hard.

“Jonathan,” her voice croaked, “it’s time.”

Tears burned the backs of his eyes, and he rested his hand over her parchmentlike skin. “No, Carmen. Please, let me get the medicine.”

Her eyelids drooped and she gasped. Air wheezed in her lungs. “Sweetheart, the fight’s . . . gone from me.” She let out a hiss, faint and eerie. “The cancer’s . . . won.”

Jonathan laid his lips against her cheek, her skin cold and clammy, as if in preparation for the morgue. How could she continue to refuse the medicine? Even though she didn’t approve of his means of acquisition, the drugs had kept her alive for five years. Five years he cherished every minute of. He’d do anything to keep her alive and the pain at bay—the intense pain that had become her constant companion these last two weeks. It killed him to witness her agony.

She licked her bottom lip, but no moisture soaked into the cracked flesh. “You’ve done . . . your best by me, Jonathan. I know . . . you meant . . . no harm to . . . anyone.” Her eyes lit as they once had. “Oh, how I’ve enjoyed loving you.”

His insides turned to oatmeal. Stubborn woman—she’d allow herself to die, all because she discovered how he’d gotten the money.

“Promise me . . . you’ll . . . tell the . . . truth. Admit what . . . you’ve done.” Her breath rattled. “What you’ve . . . all done.”

Pulling himself from the wretched memory, Jonathan breathed through the heat tightening his chest. He’d secure himself the best deal possible—immunity—or he wouldn’t decipher the papers. And without him no one could make sense of the accounting system he’d created more than five years ago. Officials hadn’t a clue.

With a deep breath he headed to the guardhouse in front of the fenced FBI building. His legs threatened to rebel, stiffening with every step. He forced himself to keep moving, one foot in front of the other.

At the guardhouse, a man behind bulletproof glass looked up. “May I help you?”

“I need to . . . see someone.”

“About what, sir?”

“I have some information regarding a crime.” He waved the file he held.

“One moment, sir, and someone will be with you.”

Jonathan stared at the cloudy sky. He could still turn back, get away scot-free. His heartbeat sped. The world blurred. No, he couldn’t lose consciousness now, nor could he go back on his promise. He owed it to Carmen. No matter what happened, he’d honor Carmen’s dying wish.

“Sir?” A young man in a suit stood beside the fenced entry, hand resting on the butt of his gun. “May I help you?”

Jonathan lifted the file. “I have some evidence regarding an ongoing crime ring.”

The agent motioned him toward a metal-detector arch. “Come through this way, sir.”

Jonathan’s steps wavered. He dragged his feet toward the archway.

A car door creaked. Jonathan glanced over his shoulder just as two men in full tactical gear stormed toward them. He had a split second to recognize one of the men’s eyes, just before gunfire erupted.

A vise gripped Jonathan’s heart, and he slumped to the dirty tile floor, the squeezing of his heart demanding his paralysis.

Too late. I’m sorry, Carmen.

Two Weeks Later—Wednesday, 3:45 p.m.
Golden Gloves Boxing of Knoxville


Brannon Callahan’s head jerked backward. She swiped her headgear with her glove.

“You aren’t concentrating on your form. You’re just trying to whale on me.” Steve Burroughs, her supervisor and sparring partner, bounced on the balls of his feet.

“Then why am I the one getting hit?” She threw a right jab that missed his jaw.

He brushed her off with his glove. “Don’t try to street fight me. Box.”

She clamped down on her mouthpiece and threw an uppercut with her left fist. It made contact, sending vibrations up her arm.

He wobbled backward, then got his balance. “Nice shot.”

It felt good to hit something. Hard. Sparring with Steve was the best form of venting. The energy had to be spent somehow—why not get a workout at the same time? She ducked a right cross, then followed through with a left-right combination. Both shots made full contact.

Steve spit out his mouthpiece and leaned against the ropes. “I think that’s enough for today, girl. I’m an old man, remember?”

She couldn’t fight the grin. Although only in his late forties, the chief ranger looked two decades older. With gray hair, hawk nose, and skin like tanned leather, Steve had already lived a lifetime.

She removed her mouthpiece, gloves, and headgear before sitting on the canvas. “Old? You’re still kickin’ me in the ring.”

He tossed her a towel and sat beside her. “So you wanna tell me what’s got you all hot and bothered this afternoon?”

She shrugged.

“Come on, spit it out. I know something’s gnawing at you, just like you were picking a fight with me in the ring. What’s up?”

How could she explain? “I’m not exactly keen that the district feels there’s a need for another pilot in the park.” She tightened the scrunchie keeping her hair out of her face.

“That’s a compliment—having you on staff has been so successful they want to expand.”

“But I have to train him. Did you notice his arrogance?” She ripped at the tape bound around her knuckles. “He’s nothing more than a young upstart with an ego bigger than the helicopter.” While only thirty-six, she often felt older than Steve looked.

“You’re so good, you can come across a bit intimidating at first, girl.” Steve grabbed the ropes and pulled to standing, then offered her a hand. “Give him a chance.”

She let Steve tug her up. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even if he had maturity, I still have to train him. With all the rescues we’ve been called out on of late . . . well, I really don’t have the time.” She exited the ring. “Like those kids yesterday.” She shook her head as she waited for Steve to join her on the gym floor. “Their stupidity almost cost them their lives.”

“They were young, Brannon.”

“Please. Any amateur with half a brain should know better than to try to climb Clingmans Dome in winter.” Didn’t people realize if something happened to them they’d leave behind devastated family and friends? Loved ones who would mourn them forever? She fought against the familiar pain every time she participated in a search and rescue. All because people hadn’t taken necessary precautions.

“They didn’t know any better.”

“It takes a special kind of stupid not to have researched your climb.” Most SARs could be avoided if people planned a little more. It ripped her apart that so many parents, grandparents, siblings . . . fiancĂ©es . . . survived to deal with such grief. She’d tasted the bitterness of grief—twice—and the aftertaste still lingered.

Steve paused outside the locker rooms and shifted his sparring gear to one hand. “I agree, but most people don’t see the dangers we do every day.” He tapped her shoulder. “Hit the showers, champ. You stink.”

She laughed as she headed into the ladies’ locker room. Maybe Steve was right and the new pilot just made a lousy first impression. Maybe he’d be easy to train.

Please, God, let it be so.

Friday, 2:15 p.m.
US Marshals Office, Howard Baker Federal Courthouse
Knoxville, Tennessee

“You want me to escort a heart?” Roark struggled to keep his voice calm. He tapped the butt of his Beretta, welcoming it back to its rightful place on his hip.

Senior US Marshal Gerald Demott glared. “Look, I know you think this is a slight, but it’s important. And for your first assignment back on the job . . .”

“IA cleared me of all wrongdoing. I’m seeing the shrink and everything.” He gritted his teeth and exhaled. “I’ve been released to return to active duty.”

“This is active. It’s a field assignment, and it’s important. Here’s the case information.” Demott passed him a folder, then glanced at his watch. “You’d better hurry or you’ll miss your flight.”

Roark grabbed the file and turned to go.


He looked back at his boss. “Yeah?”

Demott held out Roark’s badge. “You might want to take this with you, too.”

Roark accepted the metal emblem, then clipped it to his belt before marching out of Demott’s office. A heart. His job was to escort a human heart from North Carolina to Knoxville. Any rookie could handle that. But no, they still didn’t trust him enough to handle a real assignment.

He’d done everything they asked—took a medical leave of absence while Internal Affairs went over every painful minute
of his failed mission, saw the shrink they demanded he speak to every week since Mindy’s death, answered their relentless questions. The shrink reiterated he’d been forgiven for acting on his own.

Maybe one day he’d forgive himself. How many innocent lives would he have to save for his conscience to leave him be?

Roark slipped into the car, then headed to the airport. But to be assigned a heart transport? Not only was it wrong, it was downright insulting. After almost fifteen years as a marshal, he’d earned the benefit of the doubt from his supervisors. Especially Demott. His boss should know him better, know he’d only disregard orders if it was a matter of life and death.

But Mindy Pugsley died. They’d all died.

He pushed the nagging voice from his mind. Even Dr. Martin had advised him not to dwell on the past. On what had gone wrong. On disobeying a direct order.

If only Mindy didn’t haunt his dreams.

Roark touched the angry scar that ran along his right cheekbone to his chin. A constant reminder that he’d failed, that he’d made a mistake that took someone’s life. He’d have to live with the pain for the rest of his life.

He skidded the car into the airport’s short-term parking lot. After securing the car and gathering the case folder, Roark grabbed his coat. Snowflakes pelted downward, swirling on the bursts of wind and settling on the concrete. The purple hues of the setting sun streaked across the mountain peaks beyond the runways, making the January snow grab the last hope of light.

Yes, he’d handle this mundane assignment, then tell Demott he wanted back on real active duty. Making a difference would be the best thing for him. Would make him feel whole again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Finding Inner Peace During Troubled Times by William Moss

Finding Inner Peace in Christ

Exploring the lost art of Christian meditation

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—Peace is perhaps the most elusive, miraculous phenomenon in the human experience. From the kindergartners arguing on the playground to the world powers storing up technologically advanced weapons, we clearly struggle to coexist peacefully with each other. Yet for all our efforts to generate peace between people, we often overlook the importance of finding peace within ourselves. Though we long for this inner peace, our world full of war, famine, bank collapses, pandemics, and day-to-day struggles has discouraged us from even trying to find it.

In his new book, Finding Inner Peace During Troubled Times, author William Moss shows readers that inner peace is indeed attainable in the person and presence of Jesus. As a high-powered businessman and a key political decision-maker, Moss has faced his share of daily distractions. For over a decade, he has studied and practiced the lost art of Christian meditation. “I believe God wants us to find peace and will show us the way, if we are willing to accept it. But for many, the peace of God is elusive. They are not sure how to accept it or where to begin in their pursuit of it,” says Moss. “There are many difficulties, distractions, and hardships that stand in the way of our inner peace. Sometimes these are due to our circumstances. Other times it is our sin or the attitudes of our hearts that stand between us and the inner peace we crave. Through prayer and meditation we can transcend all the distractions and difficulties of our days if we live by the Spirit and put God’s love and presence first.”

Many believers are wary of any form of meditation because of its association with Eastern religions. These Christians might be surprised to learn that meditation was regarded as a key spiritual discipline throughout church history. Eastern meditation focuses on emptying the mind completely. Christians find inner peace by filling their minds—with scripture and with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Another fundamental difference is the motivation behind the meditation. Peace, like life, is a gift from God that is for His glory—and it is meant to be shared. For those who are in Christ, meditation is not about practicing the kind of self-focus that precludes people from being involved in the solutions of the many problems that confront them. It is communion with God through the Holy Spirit. It is letting go of anger, worry, and fear and taking on the loving, serving character of Christ instead.

Finding Inner Peace During Troubled Times uses key scriptures to demonstrate God’s gift of peace to every believer. This slender book encourages readers to be intentional about pursuing that peace, even including a simple, step-by-step example of Christian meditation. This is a perfect book to take anywhere you go, put in your purse, backpack or briefcase and refer to throughout the day.

“With the constant stream of media, noise, commitments, conflicts, and other distractions, you will not likely find times of quiet, stillness, and spiritual reflection unless you plan them, unless you pursue meditation as a discipline,” states Moss. “The key to inner peace and a fulfilled life is one that is grounded in Christian meditation.”

My Review:
This book seemed more of a "what to meditate on" rather than a how to, which is what I thought it was going to be. A lot of great thoughts, and I think it's a good book for those needing something else to meditate on. For me, though, I was looking for more of a how to book, so this didn't really work for me in that respect. Still, he had some good thoughts, and gave a lot of good things to think about.

Finding Inner Peace During Troubled Times by William Moss

The Barnabas Agency December 2009

ISBN: 978-0-578-04244-2/64 pages/softcover/$5.99


Special thanks to Audra Jennings at the B&B Media Group for providing me with a free review copy as well as a giveaway copy.

**Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing to win a copy**

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The week in review

It's been a crazy week... on one hand, probably one of the worst weeks I've had in a while. On the other hand, it's been a pretty good one.

Monday and Tuesday, I had sick kids at home.

Tuesday, every writer's worst nightmare happened. My desktop crashed. Massive crash. So completely dead I wanted to die myself. I mostly use my laptop, but I've got important stuff on the desktop, and one of the programs I needed at the time happens to be only on the desktop. Translation: UGH!!

Wednesday, I decided to do something productive while waiting for the desktop fixer upper, aka my hubby, to fix the desktop. Opened the closet doors in my office and realized... we'd had a massive flood sometime in the past few days. Fortunately, we use those plastic storage bins anyway, so almost everything was okay. EXCEPT... a box containing some pictures and a bunch of old manuscripts. I managed to salvage most of the pictures. The manuscripts- toast. Well, soggy toast. It wouldn't be such a tragedy except those manuscripts happened to be on said dead computer. Yes, I have backups somewhere, but honestly, I have no idea where I put the backup cds.

So yes, this would be the time when I start sobbing.

Thursday looked better. I went to tea with my BFF, and well, that's always such a treat. I love our monthly tea time. Then, I arrived home to find that a short piece I'd written is on its way to acceptance. Wahoo!!

Friday, I had a semi okay writing day. I didn't accomplish as much as I'd hoped, but I did get an article submitted. I also had a great time writing with friends. I also realized something cool about productivity. I may not have gotten the quantity I'd been hoping for, but the quality of time was good. Plus, the article I wrote was a good God thing, and showed me some really cool ways God has been working in my life.

I spent a lot of time Saturday cleaning house. I don't really enjoy cleaning, but there's something really satisfying about being in a clean and organized room. I'm learning as I get older that the less cluttered things are around me, the better I feel. I just wish I could figure out how to have my whole house clean at once instead of a few rooms at a time.

I know, exciting, right? But I learned something from my crazy week. I learned about God's mercy and how He cares abut us. My computer crash WAS horrible. But my wonderful hubby managed to fix it and now I've got another hard drive doing the work and my data accessible on another. Based on what hubby says, the new setup will work better. While the flood wasn't thrilling, and I lost a lot of important papers, I didn't lose anything irreplaceable. In fact, it saved me from having to sort through the box. As I looked at my week, I learned what was important and what wasn't. Hard lessons to learn, but in the end, it worked out okay.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

They're ugly, but they're mine

On my visit to San Jose, Camy decided to teach me how to knit socks. I was semi excited about the prospect. The only problem with learning a new knitting skill is that my old habit of using really bad words tends to flare up. It took me a month, but I am proud to say that I now have my very own pair of homemade knitted socks.

They're ugly, but they're mine.

I've decided that what I like about knitting is that there's a lot of instant gratification. It's pretty easy to see your progress. Of course, it's also to see a lot of mistakes, which is where the bad words come in. One thing I've learned about knitting, though, is that while I do strive for a certain level of quality, I don't beat myself up for when things don't turn out perfectly. These socks are pretty darn ugly and full of mistakes. I think I ripped the first one out four times before finishing, and the second got ripped out twice. I should have ripped out the toe and fixed it, but I was too ready to be done, so the toe is funnier looking than it should be. But guess what? I don't care. I'm wearing warm knitted socks.

Maybe it's not the grand victory that will change my life. But today, it's the victory I needed after tons and tons of stress.

What makes you feel victorious?