Invitation: A Book Review

Invitation

Very few Christian fiction take me by surprise, but Invitation was definitely unexpected!

Renowned authors Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky join forces to write a book of “episodes,” similar to a television series. The new series focuses on four characters–Brenda, The Professor, Andi, and Tank–who are thrown together as an unlikely task force against the spiritual realm. Each author takes the point of view of one of the characters and presents a situation for the team to confront.

Bill Myers portrays Brenda, a rough and tumble tattoo artist, who has the ability to see things in the future. What she sees, she tattoos. When Tank, a big-hearted jock, stumbles drunkenly into her tattoo parlor with his buddies, Brenda knows that they are meant to join forces. When his friends leave him behind, Tank is left to either “sleep it off” outside Brenda’s parlor or allow her to take him home. Along the way, the two come across The Professor and Andi, who find themselves completing the task force. Before they know what’s happening, they are all headed to the Institute, a place that launches the best and the brightest into their careers. But when they reach the campus, it becomes quite obvious that supernatural forces are at work. Can this unlikely team work together to conquer forces that they can’t see or understand?

Frank Peretti creates a story from The Professor’s point of view. Once a Catholic priest, The Professor now guest lectures around the country, striving to convince people to abandon faith in God. Even after the unexplained events at the Institute, The Professor can’t seem to wrap his mind around the fact that God exists. But when an old friend of The Professor calls him for help, The Professor finds himself thankful when his assistant, Andi, calls in the task force. What they find when they get into town is that houses can appear to be alive and can move or disappear without warning. Along the way, the team meets a young boy, who seems to be the missing part of their team. Can The Professor use logic to explain what is happening?

Angela Hunt tells Andi’s story. Andi is the beautiful but extremely intelligent assistant to The Professor. With her ability to see patterns in numbers and shapes, Andi is able to believe in the unthinkable, which often annoys The Professor. But when Andi goes home to spend time with her grandparents, she begins to sense that there are more powerful forces there and knows that she needs the help of her newly-formed team. But can the team face the unseen before it’s too late? And why are birds suddenly dropping from the sky without any eyes? What is happening to the sea life? Once again, the unlikely team must face things that they can’t explain or understand.

Alton Gansky reveals the story of Tank, a gentle jock, who loses his place on the team after taking time to go help the task force. Trying to regain his focus, Tank goes home to spend time with his uncle, the local sheriff. But when a young girl is found barefoot in the snow with no signs of frostbite and the inability to speak, Tank begins to think that his powers of healing may be of help after all. But while Tank thinks that he is there to help the girl, he finds her drawing him in while she seems to be getting younger. One thing is certain, Tank will fight against anything to protect her–even a beast that he can’t see. With the help of the task force, can Tank save her before it’s too late?

While at first I thought that this series was going to be a disappointment, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the stories and characters easily crossed over into each other. The authors do a wonderful job of collaborating on the stories and making the “episodes” flow easily together. I would definitely recommend this book.

*I was given this book in exchange for my honest review from Bethany House Publishers.

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And the winner is…

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Congratulations, Crisy! I sent you an email, so please let me know if you don’t get it. Thank you to everyone who participated in my birthday giveaway! Look for my book to be released in November 2017! Pre-orders are being taken now!

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Book Debut and Giveaway

This is a really busy weekend, but I just wanted to stop in to let you know that my book is now available for pre-orders on Amazon!

 

Just click on the picture to place an order on Amazon! And make sure you don’t forget to enter my birthday giveaway here! There’s just one day left!

 

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Blurry Vision: Why It Makes Me Long for Heaven (and Don’t Forget My Giveaway!)

I had my annual eye doctor appointment today. Somehow I always seem to forget about the dilating pupils. The blurriness stays with me for the rest of the day, and I usually develop a severe headache.

As I walked outside with the children in tow, the sunlight was blinding, and I could hardly open my eyes to see where we were going. Did I mention I had forgotten my sunglasses in the car? The glasses they give you in the office are really a joke, barely staying perched on your eyes as you struggle to find your way through the blurriness.

Fortunately, my doctor’s office is just a mile down the road from my house, so I was able to get us home quickly and inside without much incident. But the headache had already set in and stuck with me the rest of the day. I managed to make lunch and get some work done, but I was definitely walking around in a fog most of the day.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known–I Cor. 13:12.

Whether we realize it or not, we are walking around in this life with blurry vision. We think we can manage this life on our own, but we are really just stumbling through, making the best of the vision we have. Some day we will see clearly. Some day we will have the right prescription. But for today, we need Someone to guide us.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come–Jn. 16:13

Just as I need contacts or glasses to see clearly, so we need the Holy Spirit to help us to see the truth clearly. Jesus didn’t leave us alone to stumble around with blurry vision. He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth. He didn’t leave us to guess what is right and wrong. He gave us a clear prescription to tell the difference.

If you feel troubled or perplexed with life, maybe it’s time you put on your “glasses.” The first thing to do is to accept Jesus as your personal Savior. Then you need to continue to adjust your prescription through reading His Word and spending time in prayer with Him. Then follow Him. He will always lead you on the path to righteousness.

The truth is that we will never have 20/20 vision on this side of eternity. We will always need a Guide to help us see clearly. It’s just one more reason for us to loosen our hold on this world and look to our eternal home instead.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal–2 Cor. 4:18.

Don’t forget about the giveaway I have going on for my birthday week! Just click on this Rafflecopter link and enter to win a copy of my book when it comes out in November!

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Myth-busting Monday: Foster Care Doesn’t Cost a Thing (and a Giveaway!)

When my husband and I began our adoption journey, we spent months researching every route available. We applied to adopt through a 501(c)3 agency from China, but I was too young for China’s requirements at the time. We looked into foster care, but most of the children in our area that were available for adoption were older children, and we wanted to start our parenting journey from the bottom (at least for our first one). It was my boss who pointed us to private adoption after seeing his previous assistant go through an adoption journey of her own.

We now have three adoptions under our belts. Each time we filled out paperwork to start adopting through another way (including foster care!), we would receive a phone call that our daughter’s birth mom was pregnant again and wanted to know if we would adopt this baby as well. Three adoptions later, we have worked with the same attorney each time. But that is not necessarily the route we had planned to take. We were open to all of the possibilities.

One of the hardest things for us was the financial burden we faced. Each adoption cost thousands of dollars, and we have never had thousands of dollars. So we held fundraisers. And we asked for donations. And we applied for grants and loans.

During each adoption, we were asked by several people why we wouldn’t just go through foster care. After all, foster care doesn’t cost anything. Many people mistakenly think that the money we pay out for private adoption is like “buying” the baby. But that is a myth to be busted another day. Today, our myth to bust is

Foster care doesn’t cost a thing.

1. Foster care comes with an emotional cost. Foster families know that there is a good possibility that the child they bring home and love as part of their family may very well be returned to their biological family. They could have a child for over two years and be in the process of adopting them when the courts turn the tables and send the child back to their biological parents. The emotional cost is great in foster care.

2. Foster care comes with a cost to self. Bringing home a child from foster care does not necessarily mean that the people involved automatically become a family. Children in foster care often carry a lot of emotional, physical, and psychological scars. Often what parents would do to comfort a child cannot and will not work for these children. I have one friend who is a foster mom who had a baby come into her home as a meth addict. The detox period was the worst. But this mom was told to do everything the opposite that she naturally would do. While the baby cried, she couldn’t pick her up. They had to keep the lights off all the time. Any sound would set the baby off. But once the baby made it through detox, the foster mom was able to love on her just as she wanted to do all along. That mom had to lay aside her self–her desire to mother this baby–in order to do what was best for the child.

3. Foster care comes with a cost to the child. The child you bring into your home through foster care has come to you through great loss. While you may be offering them a safer home, a more loving family, and a better future, all that child knows is that they have lost the only family and life they have ever known to come live with strangers. There is a great cost to the child who has lost their entire identity–even if you can’t understand why they would want to hold on to something so broken. The cost to the child is often the greatest cost of all.

As you can see, foster care does carry some costs. In fact, they are the most expensive costs of all. But the fact remains that these children need you. They need me. They need a safe place to go, even though they may not appreciate it. They need a loving family, even if they still long for the family who abused or neglected them. They need someone who is willing to die to self daily in order to give them the security and strength they need. Are you willing to pay the price for these children? Are you willing to make an investment for eternity?

Now for the giveaway…

It’s my birthday week! And it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, too! So I have a special gift for one lucky winner. My publisher has given me permission to give one lucky reader a free copy of my book, Why Did You Choose Me?, when it is released in November. All you have to do is enter here. I’ll pick a winner on Sunday, May 14, my actual birthday!

 

 

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National Foster Care Awareness Month

The first foster kids I met were friends of mine in junior high. They were actually living in a children’s home rather than being sent to live with a family full-time. These kids were just like me. There wasn’t anything strange about them. They didn’t act out (that I was aware of); they weren’t addicted to drugs; they weren’t “bad” kids. They just had the unfortunate lot of being children of parents who had made some choices that were detrimental to them living as a family.

When I met my husband, we began serving together in our church’s bus ministry. The basic idea behind this ministry was to send a bus into some of the less fortunate neighborhoods, pick up the kids who wanted to come to church, and “give them Jesus”–apart from the “normal” church attenders. After all, we didn’t want them to associate with our church kids! I even know one person who was about to put an offer in on a house–until she found out that a foster family lived next door. She didn’t want her kids around “those” kids.

There are over 400,000 children currently in the foster system in the United States. They come from all cultures, backgrounds, and home situations. Some of them have simply lost their parents due to tragic events (cancer, car accidents, etc.). Some of them have parents who have abused them or neglected them. Some have one parent. Some don’t know who their parents are. Some come from wealthy families. Some come from impoverished families. They have black hair, blonde hair, brown hair. They are Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, African American. But they have one thing in common–they need a safe and loving family to call their own.

Unfortunately, we Christians have forgotten that it is our job to care for the fatherless. We have forgotten that Christ called us to meet the needs of “the least of these.” We have become a society that is so afraid of “inconveniencing” our children that we lose sight of our responsibility to reach out to those who need us even more.

God is not honored by the fact that there are over 400,000 kids currently in the foster system in the U.S. Every time we turn our backs on these kids, we are turning our backs on God. But every time we reach out to one of them and love them as Christ has loved us, we will receive such blessing from Him!

Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, 36 I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? 39 And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?” 40 And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.”

41 Then He will say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” 44 Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?” 45 Then He will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life–Matt. 25:34-46.

May is Foster Care Awareness Month. How ironic that this is also the month when we celebrate Mother’s Day. What do you think the children in foster care feel when their classmates, friends, and neighbors have plans to celebrate their moms? Who is mothering these children?

There are over 400,000 kids in foster care! That number pulls at my heartstrings, making me want to add one more chair to our table, one more bed to the kids’ rooms, one more carseat to our already-packed van. These kids need me! And they need you!

Foster care isn’t a disease. Your kids won’t “catch it” just because you decide to foster. But they may just find a way to open their own hearts and look to the care of others. They may learn to have compassion for someone in need. They may start appreciating the family and things they have and stopping taking their world for granted. And they may just find that they can make a difference in the world–one child at a time.

In my state alone, there are over 5,000 children in the foster care system. Some of them have had to sleep in social service offices, some have been placed in homes that are already overflowing, and some are simply moved from one home to another. These kids need a place to call home. They need someone they can rely on. Is it you?

I implore you to help these children! You can be single, married, young (at least 21), or old. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be open to love. Do you have room at your table?

For more information on how to help these children, please visit www.adoptuskids.org or www.heartfeltcalling.org.

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Tips to Tame the Tattler

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“Mommy, sister’s getting candy!”

“Mommy, brother’s not staying in his room!”

“Mommy, somebody spilled water in the kitchen, but it wasn’t me!”

All day long, the tattling doesn’t stop. My three-year-old is often the one with the loudest voice, but the nine-year-old and six-year-old aren’t innocent from tattling themselves. It is something that I am sure just about every mother has to deal with. Of course, the child doing the tattling is never guilty of wrong-doing. Until you find out that they did, indeed, participate in some way–whether accepting the stolen candy, sneaking brother out of his room, or actually being the one who spilled the water!

Our pastor is going through a series about “One Another.” We as a church are striving to learn how to follow God’s command to “love one another (Jn. 13:34).” But tattling is definitely not a way that we obey Him.

It is our job as parents to “train up [our children] in the way [they] should go” (Prov. 22:6). If we are going to teach them how to love others well, then we need to start in the home. And the first lesson they need to learn is how to not tattle.

Here are some simple tips to stop the tattler from wagging their tongue:

1. Refuse to listen. Most children tattle because they want your attention. We moms often fall into the trap of listening when they complain or tattle because we want them to feel like we are always there for them. But all we are doing is fueling the fire for gossip. They know something about someone else, and they want to share it with you. We need to teach them about what is good to share with us (praises, real emergencies, etc.) and what they need to keep to themselves.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble – Prov. 21:23.

2. Give them something to say. When you catch your child in the middle of tattling, encourage them to find something nice to say about their sibling. I am a firm believer that we don’t put something off without putting something on in its place. If we don’t want them to say unkind words, then we need to guide them in finding kind words! Perhaps (for just a little while), you could set up a reward system for saying something kind so many times each week. Even if you don’t reward them with a tangible prize, at least give them your praise and let them know how wonderful it is to hear them use kind words for their siblings!

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear – Eph. 4:29.

3. Be an example. I struggle with this. I love a good story. And I hate to be the only one who doesn’t know something! But tattling is just a childish way of gossiping. Our kids are watching–and listening–to us. When they hear us “sharing” with someone else, they are learning that it’s okay to tell on one another!

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things – Phil. 4:8.

4. Love them well. Our children learn how to criticize each other when we are quick to criticize them. But when we love well, as Christ loves us, we are able to look past their sins and see the beauty that God sees. That isn’t to say that we allow them to get away with sin. It just means that we don’t dwell on it, remember it, or not forgive them when they confess. We don’t easily jump to the conclusion that the tattler is always right. We give our children the benefit of the doubt and believe the best of them. When we start looking for the good in them (and in others), our children will start looking at each other that way as well.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins – I Pt. 4:8.

We need to remember that what we teach our children now is what they will remember as adults. We can teach them now how to love well and how to look for the best in others. But when we feed the gossip monster, we are telling them that it is okay to treat others badly. Gossiping isn’t showing love. Tattling isn’t showing love. It’s not cute, and it’s not “just a phase.” We need to stop it in its tracks and teach our children to be gracious to one another. The learning starts at home.

 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person – Col. 4:6.

 

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