Book Review: "Blackout" by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn

>> Wednesday, December 30

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary Advanced Review Copy of “Blackout”.





BLACKOUT
by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn

Football hero Riley Covington is tasked with a mission that has nothing to do with passing, rushing, or yardage. His FBI former colleague and close friend Scott Ross says Riley is the only person who can help protect the United States from the next terrorist attack. His college thesis on the exact type of weapon aimed at the US makes him the only knowledgeable person on the subject, and his past service with the FBI as a Special Forces operative makes him more than fit to lead this mission.

As someone who doesn’t even believe in coincidences, I found the plot rife with them.

Often while reading “Blackout”, I had the feeling that I was reading a sequel: too much back-story was referred to but not explained, and I was left confused. The first hint I had that this was indeed not the first novel in the Riley Covington series came from reading an endorsement on the back cover after I’d finished. If either less or more attention were focused on previous events, I would have been better able to concentrate on the current scene. Because I hadn’t read of the previous adventures of Riley Covington, the hints were distracting rather than helpful.

I so wanted to like Riley, and almost did, but I didn’t find his character believable. He is too amazingly talented, and while I admired the strength and depth of his faith, he was too humble, for the average person to relate to.

I could never get a gauge of Riley’s age or the ages of the supporting characters. The respected positions they hold and the power and respect they garner don’t match their juvenile dialog and personal actions. The author tries to explain it away in a confrontational scene late in the book, but it was too late by that time to internalize.

The writing in the first half of “Blackout” staggered from passable to intriguing as chapters bounced from The Professional Football League to the Counter Terrorist Division. Midway through, however, the excitement picked up and the writing style smoothed out, making me want to keep turning pages.

In addition, the storyline of “Blackout” is totally believable – it could potentially happen tomorrow and we all know it. Which is why, though I don’t necessarily recommend this book, I ended up enjoying it despite its shortcomings.


My rating: 2 out of 5



Coming soon: a review of
"Eyes of Elisha",  a chilling thriller by
award-winning author
Branilyn Collins!



Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Book Review: "Though Waters Roar" by Lynn Austin

>> Sunday, December 27


Though Waters Roar
by Lynn Austin

From her narrow cot in the town lock-up, Harriett ponders the question, "How did I end up here?" Her grandmother BeBe would be heartbroken. Even though BeBe herself had spent time in jail in her day, Harriett's infraction went against everything her grandmother had fought for.

Through a series of flashbacks, Harriet tries to put in order the stories Grandmother BeBe shared with her throughout the years. She hopes to make some sense of who she is and where she is going is by examining where she came from. Her recollections drop us into the lives of three generations of women in three distinct but overlapping eras.

The author makes history come alive, and I found myself sneaking into the attic with Hannah to take food to a slave family escaping north to Canada, I joined hands with BeBe and her sisters in the Christian Women's Suffragette Union and prayed and sang hymns in front of seedy taverns; I suffered humiliation and discovered humility along with Lucy fighting for the right for women to have a voice and a vote.

The same wise words of advice gleaned from scripture and experience were passed from each mother to her daughter. Each character listened and obeyed, albeit grudgingly.And each saw clearly the truth in her mother's words only after facing a crisis: God orders our steps according to His plan, landing in this place, at this time, for His purpose.

And where does that leave Harriett? She is a simple, unmarried Sunday School teacher, who can't see what God could possibly have planned for her life's purpose.

The female characters are four very different women with complicated family relationships. I was as much enthralled with the familial dynamics and getting to know Hannah, Beatrice and Lucy and their husbands and kin as I was with the historical events that were so accurately and movingly portrayed.

Although Harriet has "top billing" I never felt like I got to know her. By the end of the novel, I finally got a glimpse of who she might become. Maybe that was the intent of the author: a reflection of Harriet herself wondering, "Why am I here?" Not just in this jail cell, but here in God's Kingdom. It's merely a supposition on my part, though, and even if that is the case, her scenes were my least favorite and I was always glad when she drifted into another flashback. Harriett's reminiscences of her foremothers were much better reading than her own story.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, as well as those who like to get lost in another place and time. Lynn Austin will take you there in Though Waters Roar.

My rating: 4 out of 5

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of "Though Waters Roar" for review..


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: No Place Like Home

>> Saturday, December 19




I was pretty much out of commission yesterday with a migraine, so I'm a day late for Friday Fiction. Let's call a bit of "Saturday Satire". Sometimes I can get in a bit of a snit during the mess leading up to Christmas as the world makes a mountain of madness out of the celebration of the Christ Child's birth, as reflected in the first half of this story I wrote last year. The judges at FaithWriters didn't like this one very much, but I hope you do.


No Place Like Home

Irving was at it again. Frankly, I was over his whining. One more word about missing his precious Aunt Betty's sweet potato soufflé tomorrow and I was going to drop kick him to the curb. Besides, just the thought of sweet potato soufflé makes me want to gag.

I shot him a look that could melt diamonds and put my nose back into Grisham's "Skipping Christmas." Boy could I relate to Mr. Krank; I was ready to skip the rest of December and move straight into January.

Irving was acting like it was my fault I had to work on Christmas this year. Maybe I could tell the patients they'd need to care for themselves tomorrow because the nurses had to go home to mommy. Wait, I've got it - we could just shut down the hospital tomorrow. I should ask Irving if he'd call the director and suggest it.

I gave up reading and closed my book none too quietly. "Let's go. You're taking me shopping. Bring the credit cards."



Macy's jewelry counter sparkled like Christmas morning. Rubies, emeralds, and diamonds reflected fluorescent light into shopper's eyes, luring them like sheep to slaughter, blinding them to exorbitant price tags. I marched straight to the display where I had eyeballed a tennis bracelet last week.

The sales clerk wore so much mascara I wondered how she was able to lift her eyelids. "Happy holidays," she crooned. "Is there something I can show you?" I wasn't fooled by her faux festivity. Under all that mascara, her eyes brimmed with boredom.

"Merry CHRISTMAS." I raised my nose a bit higher. "This bracelet, please ...if it's not too much trouble." I tapped a red fingernail on the glass over my greed's desire. Irving shuffled closer, and I glowered at him from the corner of narrowed eyes. He was squinting; I knew he was trying to peek at the tiny price tag dangling from the clasp.

"An exquisite choice. Perfect for your dainty wrist." Luckily the clerk missed my unchecked eye-roll as she unlocked the glass case. With exaggerated flourish, she presented the glittering band of diamonds.

I stuck out my hand, and she fastened the bracelet around my wrist. "Stunning! And a perfect fit. You could take this home with you today. Shall I wrap it for you?"

"No, thank you. I shall wear it." I left Irving to finalize the purchase while I had a look at a sale in the shoe department.



A dazzling sunrise on Christmas morning heralded promises of a splendid day. I emerged from the bedroom bathed and refreshed - body and soul. I had prayed away the hateful spite from the days before and pledged to make peace with Irving before I started my shift.

Wrapped in my trusty old bathrobe, I headed off to start coffee. The worn and frayed robe hugged me like an old friend. If we'd "gone home" for Christmas instead of staying home, I'd have worn the homely robe his Aunt Betty gave me last year, still stiff and scratchy from unuse.

Rounding the corner into the den, I got a surprise: my beloved Irving met me with a kiss and a steaming cup. The Christmas tree lights flashed and a fire crackled in the hearth. Irving had taken advantage of the homefield, too, and had donned his favorite faded sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants. We looked each other up and down and shared a laugh.

"Merry Christmas, Irving. I'm sorry for being a bit... grumpy lately."

"No, I'm sorry. I made too much of going home for Christmas, when this IS my home. Right now, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. Got time to open a present before you get ready for work?"

"Are you kidding? At least one!" I reached for the biggest box under the tree, but Irving caught my arm. He pulled a long, blue velvet box from his pocket.

"This one."

My trembling hands threatened to drop the box as I fumbled the lid open. I gasped at the diamond necklace glittering in the satin lining. It was perfect match to my new bracelet. The tears on my cheeks told Irving of my joy; I was speechless.

"The clerk with all the eye makeup said you'd like it."

"Um...I'll be late this afternoon. I need to stop at the grocers," I stammered.

"But we got everything for Christmas dinner yesterday. What else..."

"Sweet potatoes," I blurted. "Sweet potatoes and marshmallows."

And I didn't even want to gag.


© 11/20/08


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: 'Tis Better to Give

>> Friday, December 11


Is your Christmas Shopping done? Mine isn't. But the best gifts don't cost anything and can't be wrapped in pretty paper. And the giving is truly better than the receiving.






'TIS BETTER TO GIVE
by Catrina Bradley

The frigid wind turned Carrie's cheeks into roses. A gust almost ripped the door from her hand as she opened it and ducked inside the nursing home.

"Hi Carrie, I didn't think you were working today." The head nurse looked puzzled.

"I'm not, but Jim and I have exchanged our gifts and had breakfast, so I decided to come spread some Christmas cheer this morning."

Carrie pulled off her mittens and stuffed them in her pockets as she walked past the front desk to the coatroom. She already knew which residents were expecting family today, and which ones would be alone. She decided to start with Mr. Griffin on Wing A. His wife had passed away this year, and they had no children.

Carrie went from room to room, spending time with each of the residents on her mental list. Besides talking with them, she helped a few use the restroom, rubbed lotion on some aching limbs, and helped look through drawers for misplaced belongings. It was rewarding to take time with these dear people for a change. She loved being a nurse's aid, but she never had extra time for the residents.

She saved Ada Larson for last. Carrie knew she really shouldn't have favorites, but this lady was special. She had been widowed for many years, her friends were all gone, and her daughter and grandchildren rarely visited. She was confined to a wheelchair, her body riddled with arthritis. None of this dampened Ada's attitude toward life at all. She was always quick to point out the silver lining in every black cloud, never complaining. She could barely hold a spoon, but was determined to feed herself as long as she was able. She wanted do all she could for herself; she wasn't ready to give up.

Carrie tapped lightly on the frame of Ada's open door.

Ada lifted her eyes from her book. "Carrie! What brings you here today? You have Christmas off this year."

Carrie walked in and gave her a gentle hug. "I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas."

"Oh, you are such a dearheart."

Carrie moved aside a large box so she could sit on the bed. "Did you get a Christmas present?"

"Grace sent it. She's a good daughter to remember her old mother."

A "good" daughter would drive four hours to visit her mother for Christmas. "Can I see?" Carrie was careful to keep judgment from her voice.

Ada smiled "Yes, of course."

Carrie removed the lid, and pulled out a beautifully crocheted blanket. "Oh, this is nice. She must have worked hard on it." Carrie stroked the pale yellow stitches, then hugged the blanket to her. "So soft and warm. I bet you love it."

"Yes, it's very nice. I don't think Grace made it herself, though. She was never interested in learning needlework. I tried to teach her, but..." A note of melancholy crept into her voice.

"I'm sorry, Ada."

"Don't be, dear. Grace may not have liked needlework, but she has many other talents. She's a very smart girl. She owns her own business, you know." She started perking up again.

"I've always wanted to learn to crochet. Do you think you could teach me?"

Ada beamed. "I'd love to! You'll be able to make something like this in no time."

"So, how are your grandchildren doing?" Carrie looked at the new photos Grace had sent with the package, and listened to Ada's boasting about the children.

After chatting for a time, Carrie glanced at her watch and reluctantly stood. "Well, Ada, I really should be going. I wish I could stay longer, but Jim's home waiting for me. He should have the turkey in the oven by now, and I've got to get busy with the rest of our small feast. I'm glad we had a chance to talk today, and I can't wait to get started on our crochet lessons."

"Yes, by all means, go home to your husband. Merry Christmas dear. And thank you for coming to visit with me today." Her voice was cheery, but sadness tinged her eyes.

"Merry Christmas, Ada."

Carrie retrieved her coat, and was almost to the door when she heard her name. She turned and saw Ada wheeling toward her with the big box in her lap.

"Carrie, dear, I want you to have this."

"Oh, no! That's your gift from your daughter."

"I saw how much you liked it. And your love means more to me than this blanket. Merry Christmas, Dearheart."

---

During the "Unsung Heros" quarter, December of 2006, "Tis Better to Give" was given 3rd place in Level 2 at FaithWriters, and I was promoted to Level 3.





Friday Fiction is hosted by Karlene Jacobson at
Homespun Expressions.
Pay her a visit to read more Christmas fiction!





Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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And the winner is...

Well, it's time to announce the winner of my Name That Story contest. It was difficult - I like them all! But I had to choose just one, so the title for my story is....


(drum roll....)



"Fuel for the Fire",

suggested by Sharlyn Guthrie! Thanks Sharlyn!

I like the double entendre in the title, plus it's "salsa" (Jan Ackerson's word). It has "shelf appeal". Sharlyn will be receiving a copy of "The Silent Gift" by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley.

A close second and honorable mention goes to Tim George for suggesting "Safe in the Arms". Congrats, you non-romantic-type you! I like the double meaning in that one too - Beth is safe in her husband's arms again because they are safe in the arms of Jesus.

Tim already has most of the books I have lined up to give away, but I don't think he has "Blackout" by (former Atlanta Falcon kicker) Jason Elam and Steve Yohn. It sounds like a real guy-type novel - football and terrorists. He'll have to wait for me to read it first though. ;)

Friday Fiction is coming soon .. stay tuned!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

Book Review: Double Header! "Kiss" and "Burn"

>> Thursday, December 10

I was excited when Tim George has asked me to review another book for his website, Unveiled, especially when he said it was a Ted Dekker book. When I jumped in and shouted YES (that's how you shout in chat - YOU USE CAPS!). Then he asked, "Can you do two?" YES YES!

This week, Tim is featuring my Double Header Review - by dual authors.



It may not be “cool” for a Christian to say, but I am an avid Stephen King fan. When I first heard of Ted Dekker’s Christian “horror”, I checked it out and found it enthralling. Then I discovered Dekker’s fantasy/allegory “Circle” trilogy, and I was transported another place and time and I got lost there.

When Ted Dekker teams up with Erin Healy, the result is a different kind of novel altogether.


"KISS" and "BURN"..read more...




PS: Have you entered to win a free copy of "The Silent Gift" yet? The deadline is noon Friday!
http://catrinabradley.blogspot.com/2009/12/friday-fiction-untitled.html

Merry CHRISTmas!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

Monday Manna: The Word Became Flesh

>> Tuesday, December 8

God is perfect Love. And perfect Love is nothing like the emotional feelings we know as humans.

Perfect Love acts .. despite feelings.

And God acts in a huge way.


When God created the earth and all that inhabit it, His plan wasn't to create some sort of human-farm in a glass box that He observed from afar. He wanted a relationship with His creation. He created Earth for man, and He created man to share His perfect love with. He knew that He would one day become a physical part of His physical realm

And God knew the hearts of His fallen children; He knew how fickle they would be even before they turned away from Him time and again. He knew. And He loved them. With that active kind of love.

Perfect Love.

By His own Law, only a spotless sacrifice could reconcile his children to Him. And only One could satisfy the requirements to fulfill that law.

Himself.

Jesus, God the Son, had to empty Himself of all that came naturally to Him. While still retaining His full Godhood, He laid down its power and its glory at the Throne in order to put on mortal flesh, pick up the cross of pain, betrayal, and execution, and carry it to Calvary.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14


If we want to be filled with the power and goodness, the grace and truth, the peace, of Jesus Christ, we likewise must empty ourselves of all that comes naturally to our carnal man. Pride, vanity, greed, lust. Execute them. If we want to follow Christ, we must pick up the cross of self-sacrifice. The burden is light, though - Jesus will carry it up that rocky hill for us.

Jesus descended from His rightful place, His Holy throne, to enter into the dusty existence of those whom He created and loved so He could carry the burden of our sins and endure the rightful punishment due us. He suffered the consequences of our sin so we could be spared eternal death and separation from His presence. He became flesh in order to put to death our sinful flesh.

On December 25, Christians celebrate with rejoicing the day the Word became flesh, when God "put on skin" and came to dwell with us. We celebrate the fulfillment of the promise God declared to Eve in the garden of Eden and put forth through the prophets of old: The birth of the Saviour of the world. The Word become flesh. Jesus. Victory.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


Monday MannaMy good friend Joanne is the creator and hostess of Monday Manna. I've known her for years. and she's one amazing woman. If you'd like to chime in with your thoughts on John 1:14, or if you want to read what others have to say, or if you want to offer Jo a word of encouragement or a prayer (she needs some right now), visit her blog, An Open Book.


Bless you, and Merry CHRISTmas!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Contest Ends This Friday! Win a free book...

>> Monday, December 7

Don't forget about the book give-away on my blog!

I need your help with a story title for my Friday Fiction. Just leave a comment on Friday's post. with a title suggestion and you could win a copy of the novel "Silent Gift". You only have until this Friday at noon when I pick the winner! I've got some great ideas so far, so put on your creative cap.

Click here to enter -- My story needs a title!!

Enter as many times as you like. :)




Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

Friday Fiction: Untitled

>> Friday, December 4



Yay! It's Friday again!
Friday Fiction is at home this week at Karlene's blog, Homespun Expressions. Please pop over and say "Hi" to my good friend. You'll find lots of great short stories, plus you can join the Friday Fiction fun and add a link to your own post.


I started this story for a challenge last December, and when I read it today, I decided I wanted to finish Elizabeth and Daniel's story. I'm glad I did. I hope you enjoy it!

(I've left a surprise gift for you at the end, be sure to check it out!)



(UNTITLED)

The wood pile had dwindled to a dozen or so scattered sticks. Elizabeth wanted to cry but she knew the tears would freeze on her cheeks, only adding to her misery. She scraped her icy scarf from her face where the wind had plastered it, and gathered the remainder of the wood in her arms.

--

Daniel hunched his collar up closer around his ears. He was grateful for the fur lining, and for Beth, who had insisted on sewing it in before he set for town to do some bartering yesterday morning. That dad blamed snowstorm came out of nowhere and it had kept him there overnight and most of today. Assuredly she'd be worrying about him, but he was near frantic for her.

--

Two lonely pieces of wood remained on the stone hearth. Elizabeth shivered as a frigid gust sifted between the logs of the cabin wall, and she reluctantly poked the smaller of the two sticks into the embers of the dying fire. A few puffs of breath resurrected a flame.
Daniel's voice whispered through her thoughts.

"Darlin, it must be your warm heart."

Elizabeth tilted her head, and firelight danced in her golden tresses. "What is, my love?"

"I'm heated through already and you've only lit the fire."

She pounced on her husband, and he caught her in a hug. They nestled on the rug in front of the fire and watched the flames lick, then devour the logs as through the window the moon rose over the horizon.


Elizabeth settled into the rocker she'd pulled up closer to the fireplace and wrapped her cloak more tightly around her shoulders. As she fingered the soft red wool, she warbled the opening lines of "Oh Tannenbaum". She no longer fought the tears, but welcomed their warm caress on her windburned cheeks.

No Christmas tree graced the forlorn cabin. Beth had strung red berries on threads and the colorful garlands were the only sign of the season. Worse yet, it didn't appear that her husband would make it home for their first Christmas together. Daniel, where are you? Lord, are you keep him safe and warm?

--

Daniel lay his load on the ground and rubbed his mittened hands together, hoping to generate some warmth. At the top of the snow-covered hill ahead of him, he could see a wisp of smoke curl out of the chimney of the cabin perched there, and his racing heart spread a warming flush to his cheeks. Ah, my Beth. Praise the Lord. I'm comin' Darlin. I'm comin'. He patted his coat, checking the safety of the parcels tucked inside.

--

Elizabeth crouched before the popping embers, praying, her cloak spread open to catch the warmth. A rustling outside the door made her start and teeter off her heels and onto her backside. Before she could right herself, the door burst open and a snow-covered Daniel fell onto the floor beside her.

He pulled Beth to him and grabbed her into a hug. "Beth, my Beth. I'm home.

"Oh, and the stoop is icy."

"Yes, my love, I see," she said, laughing through her tears. "Can you close the door, please? You've let all of the heat out."

"Oh, 'tis heat you want then. I can help you out with that."

"Daniel! Really. I mean, I missed you too, but.."

Daniel roared with laughter. "Oh, we'll get to that, Darlin' don't you fear. But I had a different kind of heat in mind. Now get off me woman."

Elizabeth pummeled his chest with her tiny, chapped fists and couldn't stop laughing. He got to his feet, lifting his wife with him, then set her in her rocker before wrapping her cloak around her again and kissing her long and tenderly.

"Now sit tight a minute," he said. Daniel watched his step this time as he walked out the door. "And close your eyes."

Elizabeth obeyed, squinching her eyes shut tight. "What is it?" she called out.

She heard Daniel come back in dragging something behind him before shutting the door tight. A thump, then "Ok, you can look now, Darlin'."

"Oh! A Christmas tree! Oh, Daniel!" She bounded out of her chair and threw her arms around him, squealing and giggling.

"Seems a bit too tall. Plus we need to stoke up that fire. Get me the hand axe and we'll get her ta goin'. Then I'll warm you up, my Darlin'."

© 12/4/09



Thanks for reading to the end! Now here's your surprise:

As you can see, I have no title for this story. I stink at titles.

Leave me a comment with a title suggestion, and the one I choose will receive a copy of "The Silent Gift" by Michael Landon, Jr. and Cindy Kelley, a WONDERFUL book! You can read my review here and Karlene's review here.

Happy Friday to all!!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Word-Filled Wednesday: I Will Sing!

>> Wednesday, November 25


"I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: 
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being." 
Psalm 104:33

My favorite part of church has always been the singing. I even sing along with the choir and the soloists, much to my husband's chagrin. When I discovered contemporary Christian radio I was overjoyed! Now I don't have to wait for Sundays to "sing unto the Lord". Yes, I will sing praise to my God as long as I live, and when I enter Heaven I will have the ultimate joy of singing praises with the angels.


For more Word Filled inspiration, visit Susan at "Forever His"



Photo from dbthielman's album at www.photobucket.com. Scripture from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

 
Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

Book Review: "The Silent Gift", by Michael Landon, Jr. and Cindy Kelley

>> Monday, November 23


The Silent Gift
by Michael Landon, Jr. and Cindy Kelley

The Silent Gift is the remarkable story of a mother's unconditional love for her son, and the lengths to which she goes to protect him from a world, and a father, who doesn't understand him. Her own past haunts her, and she vows that her son will never know the same the heartbreak and betrayal she suffered as a child.

The book opens with the harrowing account of Jack's birth. Flash forward: 1930's America is reeling from the Great Depression, and Jack's mother, Mary, struggles to put food on the table and clothes on her son's back. She has always known that Jack is special, but when their circumstances lead to the revelation of her son powerful gift, their lives are changed forever.

Jack's mother is a character I can relate to. At times she is plagued by doubt, and at other times she is all but certain she is doing the right thing. Who can she trust? And whose motivations are less than charitable? Mary isn't always right: she misjudges many of the people she encounters, and she makes mistakes along the way. But even when she makes the wrong choice, even when things go horribly awry, she never gives up her mission to protect, at all costs, the son she loves. She desperately wants Jack to be accepted, and for others to realize how special he is (even without his "gift"). Like our Heavenly Father, Mary is willing to sacrifice everything, including her freedom and her life, for the child she loves.

After reading the publisher's blurb for The Silent Gift, I expected a sappy-happy story dripping with sugar. I was partly wrong.  This heartwarming historical novel is filled with emotional tension, suspense, and true-to-life characters, faults and all. The authors succeed in showing us a snapshot of life in this decade and bringing history to life. I couldn't help but notice the similarities of Depression-era America to our current economic situation.

I truly enjoyed The Silent Gift. When I can't resist the temptation to keep reading, and I ignore "real life" in order to stay "in" a story, I know I've found a good book. I even found myself worrying about Mary and Jack when I wasn't reading.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me a free copy of The Silent Gift.  Just so you know, I only recommend books I would choose for myself. Too many books fill the bookstore and library shelves for me to waste your time reading bad fiction. If I didn't like it, I would tell you so. Mr. Landon and Ms. Kelley have penned a novel that is worth reading.

Counting my many blessings, including BOOKS,

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Book Review: "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown

>> Saturday, November 21

The Lost Symbol
by Dan Brown

The King of Controversy is back with another day in the life of code-breaking, mystery chasing, secret betraying, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. To describe this novel as a page-turner is an understatement. "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown crisscrosses our nation's capitol at a breakneck pace as the hero races the clock to solve the cipher of the Ancient Mysteries.

Robert is given just 12 hours to find a secret hidden pyramid, crack its code, and locate the key to the Ancient Mysteries, or his close friend and mentor will die. But if he succeeds, the world as we know it may very well end. Robert teams up with his mentor's daughter, Katherine, whose discoveries in the field of noetic science also have the potential to change the world forever.

Glimpses into Robert's past give his character three dimensions, and his burgeoning relationship with his new partner in anti-crime shows us his heart. By the end of the book, we know Robert even better.

The Freemasons take center stage in "The Lost Symbol." As an organization known for keeping its secrets secret, the Masonic brotherhood is a natural target for conspiracy theorists and inspiration for an imaginative novelist. I have little doubt that, even though Mr. Brown was complimentary of the Masons, his latest undertaking, like its predecessor "The DaVinci Code", will create yet more fodder for the rumor mill.

I know from experience that Masons will not reveal their secrets, even to those they are closest to. I've always been curious, and have even been tempted to believe some of the disinformation propagated about them, but in preparing to write this review, I, for the first time, sought out what those secrets might truly be.

Like me, it seems Mr. Brown also used the internet for much of his research. Blogs and articles abound that confirm much of what The Lost Symbol "reveals" about the Masons, until you get to the site sponsored by the Masons themselves. If you'd like to read their official response, it can be found here: http://www.freemasonlostsymbol.com/ .

I was pleased to see faithful Christian characters and Scripture verses used not only extensively, but kindly. "The Lost Symbol" is not a Christian novel, however, and should not be read as one. Even though the existence God the Father is declared and defended by Mr. Brown's Christian characters, God the Son, Jesus, is only spoken of as a prophet or a great teacher; God the Holy Spirit is completely left out of the equation; and man is exalted above all.

In addition to almost-Christianity and the Freemasons, we are also treated to a smorgasbord of philosophy, science, and history, plus world religions of all flavors. I read everything with a grain of salt, knowing that if he didn't tell the whole truth of the Bible, he likely misconstrued, misstated, or misunderstands the other things he writes about as well.

For pure readability, excitement, and page-turning potential, I give "The Lost Symbol" five stars. If you chose to read it, please remember - it's fiction and every word should be read as such.


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: Brodery In Pure Snowwhite

>> Friday, November 20

Brodery in Pure Snowwhite

Grandmom's teaching me how to in broder. She showed me how to make pretty stitches that look like flowers and she promised to show me lots more stitches too.

Grandmom has a box filled with special threads of all the colors God ever created and I want to make all my flowers a different color. Grandmom says, “That would be too much work.” If I was God, it wouldn't be too much work.

She got us snowwhite new pillowcases to broder in. There's a garden drawn on them and we're going to broder in lots of colors and all kinds of stitches. Once I've learned how to make them.

I'm supposed to wash my hands, with soap, before I touch my bordery. Grandmom says, “White won't stay white if you don't work with clean hands.”

One time though I didn't. I came inside and wanted to broder in lots of flowers to surprise Grandmom. I wanted her to show me a new stitch.

I looked at my hands and they looked clean so I decided I didn't need to wash them. Besides, I didn't really do anything to make my hands dirty. Grandmom says lots of stuff and I don't always do what she says all the time, like the times I don't think I need to.

When I was all comfy in Grandmom's rocker, I licked my fingers and squished the end of a pink thread so it would slide through the needle. Grandmom thinks this part of brodery is hard but it’s really easy for me.

Grandmom told me she liked to broder in clean snowwhite because white is like God's canvas and brodering it in with colored stitches is a reef lection of His creation. I don't know what a reef lection is, but I think it's something like a beautiful painting. I know you make paintings on a canvas because I've watched that guy on TV do it. And Grandmom's broderyed in things are just as beautiful as his paintings are. Yep, they’re a reef lection.

I was thinking about this stuff and making flowers and pretty soon the pink thread was too short to make any more. I pulled the needle out and poked it into Grandmom's pincushion and held up my brodery to look at my new flowers.

At first I thought there were shadows on the pillowcase but when I held it close I saw it wasn't shadows. It was dirt. All over the clean white. I licked my thumb and started rubbing it. It got worse and worse and I started crying. Grandmom would be so mad at me. She would know I didn't wash my hands even though she always told me to.

I knew she would be coming in from the garden pretty soon but I just sat there in her rocker crying and staring at my ruined brodery.

When she came in smiling with a pitcher full of pretty flowers, I scooted out of the rocker and just held out my brodery because I couldn't tell her what I did. And I couldn't look at her either.

As soon she took my brodery, I hid my hands behind my back. I wanted to wipe the tears off my face, but I was afraid I'd leave dirt on my cheeks. Even though my hands still looked clean to me.

Grandmom scooped me up and gave me a big hug. "I want to show you something," she said.

Grandmom was really nice instead of mad. She took me to the laundry room and poured some washing powder into the sink and ran some water. Then she took the hoop off my brodery and put my pillowcase into the water.

"Remember when I told you about the white fabric being like God's canvas?"

"Uh, huh, Grandmom." I was still sniffly but Grandmom's hugs made my crying stop.

"When God first made us, we were clean and white inside. But we're just people, and sometimes we do bad things. And that makes us get dirty. God knows that, but He loves us."

Grandmom swished my pillowcase around in the soapy water, pulled it out and rinsed it off and squished it in a towel. When she held it up it was clean again.

"That's why He gave us Jesus, little one. Jesus is the soap that washes us inside. He makes us clean white again. Now go wash your hands, with soap, and I'll show you how to in broder a vine.”

© 11/20/09

Thank you for reading my offering for this week's Friday Fiction!
Our hostess today is Sherri at A Candid Thought Click on over!



Check back tomorrow for my review of Dan Brown's new novel, "The Lost Symbol."

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Gospel or Idolotry? God is Enough

Today I thought I'd share a short video you may have already seen. In fact, I've seen it dozens of times myself. It doesn't matter. Each time I watch it, and hear Mr. Piper's words, I want to cheer, cry, and fall to my knees all at the same time.


Courtesy of MckLinky Stuff - FREE!


God is enough.

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Book Revew: The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

>> Wednesday, November 18


The Sacred Meal
The Ancient Practices Series
By Nora Gallagher

The Sacred Meal is not a treatise on the sacrament of Eucharist, nor is it a theological lesson on the Last Supper. It is simply one humble woman sharing her personal experiences, remembrances, and revelations on the practice we call Communion.

Nora Gallagher makes no attempt to use scholarly terms or confusing definitions to convey her thoughts, but she does keep the Word close at hand as she reminisces about her Communion encounters. Each chapter includes quotes from Scripture that Ms. Gallagher applies to her life. Recounting moments from Christ’s life, she speaks of His purpose, cites His teachings, and seeks to understand His heart. She examines our Savior in an intimate way.

Our author invites us to participate in a personal Communion that is only possible when shared with others, then gives us examples of how we might go about doing that. She remains transparent and honest while telling of her own communion experiences from both the servant and server aspects, at the altar and in the soup kitchen. In whatever circumstance, the reader is assured that, whether Ms. Gallagher is serving or being served, she is the recipient of great joy.

Ms. Gallagher shares her own inferences and interpretations without forcing her opinion on the reader. Throughout most of “The Sacred Meal” I was drawn into a deeper understanding of what I already knew, or was reassured of the promise of the Word. On more that a few occasions, though, Ms. Gallagher presented a concept I had never before considered. I didn’t always agree with her, but I can’t say how many of my disputes result from Godly wisdom and how many from what “I’ve always been taught”. What I do know is that Ms. Gallagher made my inner eyes widen and caused me to examine my own relationship with the Body of Christ and with Jesus Himself.

I’m grateful for Thomas Nelson Publishers for proving me a copy of “The Sacred Meal” and giving me the opportunity share my opinions. My education from the Holy Spirit will not be complete until God calls me home. “The Sacred Meal” has opened windows leading to new and deeper learning. If you, like me, never grow full of wisdom, I suggest you give it a read.


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Word-Filled Wednesday: Oh the books!

>> Tuesday, November 17




This may not surprise you, but I love books. New books, old books, shabby books, shiny books, it doesn't matter. I gobble them up.

To think the wisdom, kindness and teaching imparted by one man could not be contained by all of the books in the world is astounding. Add to that, this man's life was cut short at the age of 33. Unfathomable.

If you laid the shelves in the Library of Congress end to end, they would stretch from New York to Boston. Not even close to enough books. Incomprehensible.

Our God is an awesome God.

Praise His Name.


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)



The purpose of Word filled Wednesday is to share God’s word through photo’s & a verse! If You’d like to join us for Word Filled Wednesday, run to The 160 Acre Wood and find our host for today!


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Friday Fiction: The Rise and Fall of the GEICO Gecko

>> Friday, November 13


It's time for Friday Fiction! My entry for the "Green" topic at FaithWriters.com didn't go over well with the judges, but the commenters seem to like it and it made my husband laugh. I'll chock that up as a success. I hope you enjoy it as well!




The Rise and Fall of the GEICO Gecko

Kermit the Frog knows what he's talking about when it comes to being green. One minute you're the darling of the masses, and the next you're hanging out with a heavy-footed Neanderthal wielding a tennis racket. Before you know it, people say, "Who?" when you mention the once-infamous GEICO Gecko.

At one time, the entire television-viewing population of the United States knew my name. Well, not my name, exactly. No one ever cared to ask. It's Martin, by the way, just in case you give a fig.

I was popular with the masses, and even those who didn't care for my flavor of humor knew me on sight. They welcomed me into their homes night after night, sometimes as often as nine times during prime time alone. I made them laugh; I made them smile; I brought joy to their homes.

When the next big thing came long, the newest face on the block, I was relegated to second string...and eventually cast away like last week's tuna casserole.

Oh, if only I could turn back the clock and relive the 90's - my glory years. I'd even settle for the early double-aught's when I shared the stage with the Neanderthals. Did you know one network actually signed those uneducated posers to star in their own sitcom? Appalling. Even though their show was quickly cancelled, it was the beginning of the end for this lizard.

By 2015, the never-ending letter-writing campaigns and obnoxious e-mail petitions and slews of angry phone calls had convinced that network to bring back the cavemen. Or possibly they just wanted to stop the madness. In any case, Nielsen families loved them, ratings flew off the charts, and yours truly, Martin the GEICO Gecko, fell to the wayside.

I'm convinced a conspiracy is afoot. I've emailed, texted, and Facebooked Kermit to get his opinion, but he has yet to get back to me. He is nearing retirement years; maybe he's just willing to go gently into that good night.

You see, when the whole eco-biased "green" brainwashing rigmarole was revealed for what it really was and a certain eco-politician was humiliated before the Supreme Court, "Green" was no longer in vogue, to put it mildly. "Green" was out, and all things green along with it.

Sometimes, when I catch sight of a shooting star, I wish I were a salamander.


-----

The GEICO Gecko is a trademark of GEICO.

© 10/21/09


Be sure to visit our hostess this week, the sweet Yvonne Blake (Vonnie), at My Back Door where you can follow the links to more fiction or join in and post your own! MckLinky will tell you how.

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Win a Kindle!

>> Saturday, November 7


Win a brand new Kindle!

When I first heard of the Kindle, an electronic device to read books, I thought, 'No way." I thought the same thing when I saw Captain Picard reading Shakespeare on one in the "future'.

I love books - the feel of the paper, the riffle of the pages, the smell even. And everyone I talk to who has a Kindle absolutely agreed with me - before they tried one. Now they love they love their Kindles.

So, of course I'm curious. And if I can win one, I can find out for myself without shelling out $250.

Are you curious - - - it doesn't hurt to enter!




Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: Mamma's Roses

>> Friday, October 30






For Friday Fiction today, I attempted to finish an unfinished story for the FaithWriters writing challenge. I've been having a hard time with this quarter's theme: "Colors". I this story wrote for the topic "Red", but I couldn't get it "challenge-worthy" enough to enter. I had three versions of this story on my computer, and today I finally saw how to connect my three ideas into a cohesive (I hope) plot. But I'll let my readers be the judge.



Mamma's Roses



Red was Mamma's favorite color. That's why I cut all her red flowers that day. The day Mamma died.

At one time, my mamma was the picture of joy. She was also the perfect mamma. That's why I never stopped loving her even when she didn't seem to love anyone or anything anymore. I knew my mamma, and this wasn't her. I knew there was something wrong with her.

In those last days, if you wanted to see Mamma smile, you brought her something red. I was only a kid, a nine-year-old girl who missed her Mamma, but I knew what made her smile. I gifted Mamma with white lace handkerchiefs I’d painstakingly outlined with red embroidery stitches; red candies of all varieties: peppermints and redhots and licorice; elaborate drawings that wore my red crayon to a nub; a collage of leaves I’d pasted on cardboard – the reddest of the red maple leaves I’d plucked from the sea of orange and yellow under the trees.

Those things all made her mouth smile, but the thing that made her eyes smile again was the red leather journal from Aunt Claire. The book was little enough to tuck away in some private hidey-hole, but big enough to really write in. Mamma kept touching that red leather cover, stroking it, with this quiet smile, and her eyes had a light in them that made me grin.

She kept that journal with her, wrote in it all the time. I didn't know where she kept it when she wasn't writing in it, but I know it made her smile.

On that last day, Mamma couldn't barely open her eyes when I came into her room to tell her good morning. I patted her hand and kissed her cheek and said, "Ill be back. Love you," and skeddadled before I cried.

I went straight to the back porch and got Mamma's gloves and clippers. I fought crying again when I realized how stiff and dusty they were. Mamma used to love her rose garden. She'd cut a fresh red rose bud every Sunday morning for Daddy's lapel, and smile that smile that warmed her eyes as she fastened it into his buttonhole.

I grabbed the basket Mamma uses to gather flowers for the always-fresh arrangements on the table. My eyes were blurry from unshed tears, so I stepped gingerly down the porch steps then dashed to Mamma's rose bushes. I frantically grabbed stem after stem with my left hand and hacked at them with the clippers held in my right, filling mamma's flower basket with only the red roses and leaving all other colors behind. I wiped away unwilling tears trickling over my cheeks.

In the kitchen I stopped to make some order of the bouquet, then I lugged it to Mamma's bedroom. I made a place for it on her dresser where she could see it. The water glass in her bathroom made a great vase for a little arrangement for her nightstand.

I wanted to forget that Mamma wasn't my Mamma anymore so I started chattering trying to pretend it was like it was back whan she was my Mamma.

"I think yellow is my favorite color, but I really like pink too. Mamma, why do you love red so much? " I wish she could have said more than she did, but I'm ok with her answer.

"So pretty. Love. You."

A blossom of roses bloomed across Mamma's bed sheet. Red red roses. Mamma's favorite color.

I begged her to open her eyes; to answer me. I had to lean in real close to hear her whisper.

"Pocket. Red book. Read. Love you"

Those were the last words I heard Mamma say. I like to think she still heard me though when I spilled my love out to her, crying on her bosom.

And I knew what the red book was. Before I went to get Aunt Claire and tell her about Mamma, I dug the little journal out of Mamma's robe pocket and tucked it inside my shirt. Afterward, after Mamma was gone and I'd told Aunt Claire I just wanted to go lay down, I read Mamma's journal.

It was one long letter to me.

And when I finished reading it, I understood a lot more than why Mamma's favorite color was red.

Red was the color that saved her. The red blood of Jesus. She wrote to me her plan of telling me all about it one day, but how it just got to be too late. She didn't want it to be too late and that's why Aunt Claire's red journal was the perfect gift.

When I finished reading it, reading all about Jesus' love and his sacrifice, red was my favorite color too.


© 10/30/09


For more Friday Fiction, Visit Christine at "With Pen in Hand". She is our hostess with the mostess this week!

Blessings,

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

Coming up: November Reads and Reviews

Book Reviews coming up!

I love being a book review blogger. Just for writing down my opinion and posting them on my blog and another site, I get free books! If you are interested in becoming a book reviewer too, Christina Banks (aka Stina Rose) has posted links to three publishing houses she's working with (two of which I'm reviewing for also. CLICK HERE to read all about it on her blog!

I'm watching my doorstep for the following books to review in November:


The Sacred Meal
The Ancient Practices Series
By Nora Gallagher
Thomas Nelson Publishers 

The sacred meal that is part of our faith does more than connect us to the holy. It connects us to each other.

"I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he wanted them to do could not be done alone. How the things he did could not have been done without them."

In her inimitable style of memoir and personal reflection, Nora Gallagher explores the beauty and mystery of this most fascinating of topics. Whether exploring the history of Christian Communion, taking us inside the workings of a soup kitchen or sharing times of joy and sadness with friends, the author reminds us what it means to partake of and be part of the body of Christ.




Though Waters Roar
by Lynn Austin
Bethany House Publishing

For three generations, the Sherwood women have fought for social justice. When Harriet decides to follow in their footsteps, she never imagined her efforts would land her in jail. Languishing in her cell, she sifts through her life and the lives of the brave women before her. They were fighting for their beliefs--but what is she fighting for?

In a stirring tale reminiscent of Eve's Daughter's, Lynn Austin spins a compelling generational tale of finding the courage to live a legacy.


plus one of the two following books:



...the silent gift
By Michael Landon and Cindy Kelley
Bethany House Publishing



or

Things Worth Remembering
By Jackina Stark
Bethany House Publishing





Be watching in November for my reviews!



Catrina Bradley


"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Book Review: "Green" by Ted Dekker

>> Monday, October 19


GREEN by Ted Dekker

The Weak Link In This Circle

Fans of Ted Dekker’s “Circle” Trilogy have been waiting none-too patiently for the release of his sequel/prequel to the series, “Green”. This fan has anyway, since the day I heard it was on its way to the bookstores.

Green is touted as being “the beginning and the end,” the book that completes the Circle. Readers new to the series are told they can start with Green and then read through Black, White, and Red, or start with Black and end the series with Green. Either way, the story is complete, the Circle unbroken.

This fan disagrees.

Had I read Green before the original Circle Trilogy, I would have experienced none of the magic and wonderment of discovery, the need to devour page after page, the sense of slowly losing myself to the future world of the colored forest, furry rousch, ugly shitaki, scabs and forest dwellers, heroes and villains, juxtaposed with a current-day race to save the earth’s population from destruction by madmen intent on releasing a deadly virus. The fate of both History and Future are dependant on the actions of our hero, Thomas Hunter, who travels between them in his dreams.

I cracked open Green eager to return to Thomas Hunter’s dual existence and an all-new adventure. I was more than curious as to how Green was going to begin and end the series, but I had no doubt Mr. Dekker would amaze me…again. As I read, I kept the thought in the back of my mind, “How would I like Green if I were reading it first, not having read the other three?”

Having finished, I’m afraid the answer is, “Not much.”

A good portion of Green is spent going over what happened in the first three books, plus the seven books that accompany and continue the original Circle Trilogy. For example, Chapter One opens with a beautiful, moving reenactment of the Great Wedding, only to be interrupted after just six paragraphs with a page-length review of what has happened over the past 10 years, what the Great Wedding is, and why they are reenacting it, before finishing the scene.

Reminders and rehashes of the previous books are sprinkled liberally throughout the book. Had I read Green first, I would know much of what was to come. I would even know the main theme of the allegory, having it spelled out quite clearly by a couple of characters. Part of the sheer pleasure I got from the Circle Trilogy was unfolding the story page by page, chapter by chapter, and book by book; uncovering symbols and allegories and connections. Meeting new characters and mourning deaths. Reading Green first would have robbed me of that joy.

As a sequel, it works…somewhat. Mr. Dekker has written some amazing scenes, visually and spiritually enrapturing. I did occasionally find myself weeping for Eloyn with Thomas, gasping in awe or in disbelief, and was reminded of why I was so captured by the Circle Trilogy. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of those scenes, the novel being bogged down with going over the past (or the future, as the case may be.)


SPOILER ALERT: You may want to skip ahead if you don’t want to know too much! I’ll give you the ALL CLEAR when you can start reading again. ;)

Green slips from the symbolic allegory of the Circle Trilogy to almost-Biblical fiction, recreating John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ. There is no wondering, no mistaking at all what is happening here.

Green doesn’t end where Revelation does, though; Mr. Dekker’s ending is extra-Biblical, and conveniently crafted for the very purpose of being able to advertise Green as the beginning as well as the end. I sensed it coming and I shouted in my mind, “NO! Don’t do it! Please, Ted, don’t do it.” He didn’t listen to me. He did it.

If you’ve read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, you’ll groan with me. Stephen did it right, though. Ted left me shaking my head with disappointment. Not only does it make no sense logically (I’d go so far as to say it’s silly,) it is unbiblical. I’ve been trying to work out how it fits theologically, but I’ve been unable.

ALL CLEAR: End of Spoiler alert.

Green might work best as a stand-alone novel, an “extra” to the series. It is too revealing to be a prequel, and too history-laden (pardon the pun) to be a sequel. I caution the reader to remember that Green is not scripture, but a novel. And if anyone can explain how the ending fits into Biblical theology, I’d like to hear it.


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Monday Manna: What is Man?

>> Sunday, October 18

Monday Manna




I've often read (and enjoyed) Joanne Sher's Monday Manna, but her verse this week begged me to participate in her meme for the first time. [Yes, I know I'm a day early, but I'm eager.;)]

In Joanne's words, "The purpose of Monday Manna is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word." Click on over to add your own thoughts, photo, artwork, song, or what ever the Spirit moves you to share on the following scripture:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4

Photobucket

A moonless night in the farmland of Iowa can descend on you like a heavy blanket. The thick darkness extinguishes any trace of the city lights burning miles and miles away. From horizon to horizon, billions of stars blaze and twinkle and glimmer. The Milky Way can be seen in all its glory.


As a child growing up in Iowa, I could stare at the stars (or the clouds, for that matter) for hours, in wonderment of God's creation. I felt very tiny lying on a blanket in the yard, surrounded by its depth, its breadth, its vastness. And the pull of the heavens' majesty never lessened as I grew to adulthood.

Here in Georgia, I still stare at the stars in awe and wonder of God's Glory, and I still feel small, but I don't feel insignificant. I feel humbled.


The God who spoke the universe into existence and brought life to a lump of clay with merely a breath, the God that made these majestic heavens, created each star and planet, crafts the ever-changing clouds, and paints a unique and breathtaking sunset each and every day - He loves me. He cares for me. He hears me. He thinks about me!

He created the beauty and majesty of our world for me.

He could have made earth ugly and distasteful to man, but He chose to make it beautiful so man would enjoy it.

What an amazing God, praise His Name!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: Zero Hour

>> Friday, October 9





Welcome to Friday Fiction! Karlene Jacobson's wonderfully inspiring blog "Homespun Expressions" is the new home of Friday Fiction. Be sure to click on over for links to more short fiction. Feel free to link up your own short story too!

I was stunned when Zero Hour was honored with 2nd place in the weekly Faithwriters Writing Challenge. Marta's story spilled up from the bottom of the pit of depression (we who suffer fall into it every so often). The original ending wasn't fit to share with anyone, and I forced my screaming muse to change Marta's mind, and rewrote it. In doing so, I gave myself hope also.

We are not meant to suffer the dark valleys of life alone; that's why the Body of Christ is made up of many members.

Be Blessed,
Cat

----------

ZERO HOUR

Marta pressed her palms onto the worn wood of the rocker’s arms and heaved herself out of the chair. The despair weighing down her soul infected her body as well, making the simplest task seem insurmountable.

Most of the brilliant red and gold outside Marta’s windows had faded and withered to drab, dying shades of tan and brown. Like her spirit. Like her life.

This was supposed to be their view. Their cabin. Their dream.

They had come so close.

How could she enjoy their dream without him?

What was the use in trying?

Getting out of the rocking chair was only the second effort she’d expended today, the first being dragging her unwilling body out of bed and shuffling to this rocker…his rocker. The one he insisted make the move to their retirement home with them. Settling into the hollow he left behind felt like sinking into him. She spent most of her days sitting here now, staring out at the tree-draped pond.

Marta plodded across the room and stood before the wall of windows, arms crossed over her chest.

“It’s not fair, God. He was supposed to be here. This is his house, his master bedroom on the main-floor so he wouldn’t have to climb steps when he was old, his pond so he could go fishing every day of his retirement.

“This was all for him. I mean for us.

“And where is he now? With you. And here I am, left behind.

Marta stifled the curses she wanted to shout at her Lord, and swiped at the tears and muck running down her face. She rubbed fiercely at her face, smearing snot and tears into her hair with her fingers as she grabbed hold with both fists and pulled.

“No more, God. I’m sorry, but your timing stinks.”

Marta yanked at the handle on the French door, her slimy palm slipping on the brass. She opened the door and strode across the deck, over the gravel lane, and onto the tiny private beach designed for secluded afternoon “siestas” but now a solitary sanctuary of loneliness.

Not hesitating at the icy bite of the water at her ankles, Marta kept going until only her head was above the surface of the pond. There she paused, threw her head back, and thrust a fist at the heavens, sending up a shower of droplets that rained back down on her face.

“No more!”

She started at the crunch of tires on gravel, and turned to see a green minivan pull up and her two grandsons pile out of the passenger side and run toward her.

“Grammy! Hi Grammy! Are you swimming? Can we go swimming too?” Ethan’s sweet voice carried across the water to her ears.

Nick was older than Ethan by two years, but at eight was still the grandbaby she remembered. “Hi Grammy, we saw you from the car! We want to swim with you.”

Tears streamed down Marta’s cheeks as she watched their mother, her only daughter, her beloved Alana, round the front of the van and corral the boys. She couldn’t move, just stood neck deep in frigid water and sobbed and shivered.

“Guys, go on into Grammy’s house and see if you can find her cookie jar.” Alana shushed their questions and complaints and herded them toward the cabin. Once the screen door had slammed behind them, she ran to the water’s edge and trudged through the icy pond until she reached Marta. Alana pulled her shaking mother into her arms and held her close.

“Hi, Mom,” she murmured. “We thought you could use some company.”


© 9/18/09

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Book Review: "Kabul24"

>> Monday, October 5


I'm happy to announce that I am now a Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger!  My first book was Kabul24 by Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson, and I enjoyed this read on so many levels.



The Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan, and they have targeted Shelter Now International as an infidel organization out to convert the Afghani people to Christianity. A trap is set; a trust is betrayed; and 24 SNI workers - eight Westerners and 16 Afghani employees - are taken prisoner.

Kabul24 is the true story of how faith and divine intervention sustained 24 innocent men and women as they suffered over three months of captivity at the hands of madmen.

This book offered an intimate look beyond what I read in the papers or saw on the news. I was invited inside the dank prison cells and into the hearts, thoughts, fears, and prayers of the 24 SNI workers held by the Taliban, never knowing if they’d live to see tomorrow.

The SNI mission workers have nothing but compassion for the Afghani people, and their love and kindness help them build lasting relationships with their fellow prisoners. I was uplifted and encouraged by their constant hope in God and their faith that His will and purpose was being fulfilled through them.

I was expecting a tell-all tale of the horrors of being held hostage by one of the most evil empires in current history. What I found instead is a tale of hope and courage. Of quiet strength and faithful urgency – a compelling combination that resulted in a book I could not quit reading.


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)


I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

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Friday Fiction: Child-Sized Armor

>> Friday, September 18



I was quite pleased when I saw my entry for the "Childhood" topic at FaithWriters was named as an Editors Choice this week! "Child-Sized Armor" needs to be a lot longer; I was battling the word-count limit and had to leave it purposefully vague. I guess it worked, although I'd love to do some serious research and add specifics. Could be a novel idea. ;)


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Child-Sized Armor

The new workers were as nervous as fresh-born foals: eyes wide and darting; steps timid and halting. The factory foreman chewed the cigar stub jutting from the corner of his mouth and estimated their worth as they filed in

Jonas didn't completely dislike hiring kiddies. If they could do the job, they could make him money. And if not, they went back home to Mama.

Most of the tykes could be trained to do the simple tasks required, and those who couldn't either weren't grown up enough for their age (Jonas picked off those weaklings easily); or their learning abilities fell below the standard required (their parents were encouraged to seek special education).


**


Sylvia bowed over the small sacks. Each one held an egg-salad sandwich, an apple from the orchard, and a fresh-baked oatmeal-raisin cookie, and was marked "LUNCH" in either pink or blue crayon.

Lord, I'm glad I can do this simple thing. Please bless each boy and girl with nourishment to their bodies and their spirits. Amen

Into each sack she slipped a scrap of paper. The sacks with pink crayon got the following words: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." The sacks marked with blue got: "And whatsoever ye do, do heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."

Sylvia breathed one last prayer and rolled the tops down.


**


Jonas looked up from his paperwork to eye the huge round clock on the factory wall. Time to do a check. Gotta reinforce the rules while the brats are still green.

Especially those Nielson brats.


He couldn't decide if the girl would drag her brother down into her well of self pity, or if he would pull his sister up with his stubborn tenacity. The boy could be a good worker if he'd focus more on the line and less on the pathetic crybaby.


**


Sylvia settled each sack lunch into her shopping bag then toted her burden to the 13th Street trolley stop.


**

A scowl was Jonas' answer to Sylvia's timid knock on the frame of his open door.

Sylvia lifted the bag. "You know the new children might not have lunch."

"Bah. Spoiling the brats, you are."

"We can't fault them for not knowing on their first day, can we? It's just this once, Jonas. And they'll work better fed than hungry."

The noon whistle shrieked and the assembly line rumbled to a halt. Jonas lumbered to his office door and hollered out, "Lunch break. Twenty minutes."

The conglomeration of ragamuffins staggered to their feet and stretched their cramped muscles. The new ones looked to each other with fear and uncertainty. Only a few had brought a crust of bread and some cheese, or a scrap left over from last night's meager supper, wrapped up in a handkerchief.

Sylvia sought out the hungry and distributed her offering, along with a soft word and a stroke to matted hair or a gentle hug to a tiny unwashed body.

Jonas watched her until the last sack was handed out and she was on her way. He then retreated to his office to spy on the brats through the door and eat his roast beef and freshly baked bread.

He didn't exactly approve of his wife's charity, but he found malicious satisfaction watching the newbies open their gifts. Most tore into the food, leaving the silly scrap of paper with the rest of the rubbish. A few took their time, seemingly in wonderment of what they held.

The Nielson brats were different. First out of the sacks came the scraps of paper, and before they even looked at the sandwiches or sniffed the apples, they read the words Sylvia had printed, traded papers to read each other's, and then traded back read their own again.

"Bah. Blabber-jabber is all that is." Jonas redirected his attention to the food in front of him and his thoughts to putting his feet up tonight.

Out on the factory floor, the Nielson children joined hands in prayer.

Outside the factory door, Sylvia paused to pray.


**


Another shrill whistle signaled the end of the break, and Jonas scanned the floor to make sure the brats all hurried back to work.

Especially the Nielson brats.

His eyes widened, then narrowed as he watched the tiny girl square her shoulders and set to task with new determination and confidence, and the boy actually grin and work faster.

What in the world did that woman put in the egg salad today?


**


Scripture KJV
Eph 2:10
Col 3:23


© September 10, 2009

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My good friend Joanne Sher is hosting Friday Fiction today at An Open Book. Links to more fiction are at the bottom of her post. Add your own link if you'd like to join the fun.

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...
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