Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Marlow's Latest is a Real *Jem!

Roasted rattlesnakes! Have you been confounded in your search for an adventure-filled, wholesome story for tweens? That’s a tall order these days. And if you hope to find one with a bent towards boys it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Author Susan K. Marlow comes to the rescue with her new series for boys—just in time for Christmas! Marlow has turned her big imagination from Andi Carter in her Circle C Adventures series, to Jem Coulter in her new Goldtown Adventures series. But, honestly, it’s good, clean fun for everyone—boy or girl! 

In book one, Badge of Honor, we meet twelve-year-old Jem Coulter and his little sister Ellie. The two want to help their widower father take care of things around their broken-down ranch. It was with the best of intentions that they both skipped school to pan for gold one fine, spring day. Surely the melting snow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains washed some gold down Cripple Creek to their little family claim, right? It's worth an afternoon standing in the freezing water to find out!     

When their father, Matt Coulter, hunts down his truant children, they’re in double-trouble. Not only are they grounded from gold-panning until school gets out (a whole month away!), but their dad is sporting a six-pointed star on his chest. 

Matt Coulter has been named the first sheriff of the unruly, mining settlement of Goldtown, California. Jem is devastated. Goldtown is full of hot-tempered men carrying firearms and that badge seems like a target on his father’s chest. Not to mention the example Jem will be expected to portray as the sheriff’s son. What could be worse?

Well, the day isn’t over yet. The Well’s Fargo wagon brings an aunt and cousin from sophisticated Boston to live with the Coulters. What are a couple of greenhorns from the city going to do on a ranch in a mining settlement? Change things—much to Jem’s dismay. He and his sister have been making it just fine since their mother passed away a year prior. The only bright side that Jem can find is that his cousin, Nathan, will be another set of hands to help with chores.

And so begins a new chapter in Jem’s life . . . as if being caught between boyhood and manhood at age twelve isn’t complicated enough. When summer finally arrives and the kids can officially return to pan for gold, things really heat up. The creek is nearly dry and Jem, Ellie, and Nathan stumble on something much more life-altering than gold . . .

Using humor and historical accuracy, Susan Marlow weaves a tale of danger and mystery that is sure to please most young men at about this age-n-stage themselves. 

With godly, moral lessons as an underlying current, you can be sure that Susan’s new series will please the conservative palate without being stuffy or preachy. As mentioned, girls will enjoy the Badge of Honor as much as their male counterparts. It would also make a great read-aloud for the whole family. It's a book I've thoroughly enjoyed and I'm waaaay older than the approximate 9-13 year old target audience!

You can read some sample pages from Badge here. Or you can download the free study guide and make it a very well-rounded adventure!

Publisher Kregel books sent me a complimentary copy of Badge in exchange for this honest review. Thank you, Kregel! It is a pleasure to review any of Susan Marlow’s books. 

For three other reviews of Susan K. Marlow’s stories, click here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Election Pondering

The phone rang.


"Turn on your TV." It was my dad.

I reached for the remote with a sinking sensation. The last time he called and said this was in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.

"Oh my goodness. What's going on?" I asked. Visions of an airplane flying into the Twin Towers filled the screen. It didn't make sense.

"It's a terrorist attack," Dad said. "After today, America will never be the same, Heather. Our world has changed because of this."

Prophetic words from my father that have echoed in my mind when I stand at a security check-point in an airport, or have to allow strangers to search my purse at a ballgame.

If my dad were still alive, I think I would have received a similar phone call last night. Election night 2012. "Things will never be the same."

As a conservative, it is rather disheartening to see how divided our country has become. It makes me sad to look at the number of people that have left traditional values to embrace the ideals of Hollywood and are in favor of a socialistic standard. Are people really comfortable with the quicksand that we have been sinking in for the last four years? Skyrocketing debt and unemployment, bigger government and less take home pay—those aren't even the moral issues—haven't convinced the 'other half' that this is a failed experiment?

Yep. Things have changed. The saying, "If you repeat something enough, people will believe it," has been lived out. The liberal media repeats their pet-mantras of a "war on women," and "the rich get all of the tax breaks," etc. Hollywood promotes its anti-family, Christian-mocking agenda, and pours millions into the coffers of the democratic party. It's no wonder that the Obama campaign team has Tweeted multiple times about Jay-Z and Beyonce and once about the attack on the Libyan Consulate. Signs of the times.

Our ideals as a nation have been turned on their head. It's no longer "liberty and justice for all," but "Let me live however I want, regardless of its effect on the greater-good. And the government should pay for it."

We have become the "Divided States of America" to quote the headline from the Drudge Report this morning. I think those of us that hoped to reclaim what makes America great have realized that we are becoming outnumbered by those that want to redefine all that America stands for.

It is a bit chilling.

Contrary to the so-called "hope" offered by our 44th president, I do have authentic hope in the sovereign hand of God on our nation. As much as I'd like to blame Christians that didn't vote, or point a finger at the snow-job of the media . . . the truth is that God has used our election process to put into power His man for president.*

Romans 13: 1-7 tells us, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (I note that the exception to this is when the governing authorities command you to disobey scripture, it is better to "obey God, rather than men."Acts 5:29).

I Timothy 2:1-6 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.” 

In light of verses such as these, we can face the challenges of the next four years (and the aftermath) with confidence that God has everything well within His grasp. That's not to say that what Obama stands for are standards that the Lord is pleased with. Not at all. But one cannot read the Bible without noticing how God used corrupt and wicked governments to execute His purposes. Whether to test His people, to bring judgment, to display His miraculous power, or bring revival, the Lord sets the governing authorities in their place.

In America's case it may well be that He is allowing our nation to eat the fruit of its ways. Romans 1:18-22, 28-32 explains, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools . . . Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."

THAT is a pretty accurate "State of the Union." THAT is where we find ourselves this November 7th, 2012. The election has not caught God by surprise—unlike many of us—so we can be comforted in that truth.

Even so . . . it's still a bit chilling.

Where will we be on this slippery-slope in four years? What freedoms will we lose? I don't like the answers, to be honest. But I must accept them. I must pray for our country and its leaders and I must be faithful to lift up the truth of scripture and share the love of Christ, regardless of what it may cost. (And I'm pretty sure that it isn't just the cost of living that will skyrocket . . . our freedom of religion will also come with a price).

Am I willing to count the cost? Luke 14:27-30 warns, "And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish." 

~Lord, prepare me to be able to carry whatever cross you choose to give. Prepare your people to stand for your truth in a land that no longer wants to recognize it.~

I'm glad my dad, a veteran of the Korean war, is not around to watch the demise of what made our country great. He isn't here to see the freedom he fought for trampled on by big government. He is not affected by the insolent apologies from the President of our country about our country. He doesn't need to wonder why President Obama would ignore meeting with Israel's Prime Minister so he can appear on Lettermen.

But every so often, when something "big" happens, I think of how my daddy would have called me to talk about it. Last night would have been one of those times. I know what he would have said:

"America will never be the same, Heather."


*On the subject of our civil responsibility as Christians, I'd like to share a Facebook post from friend Evan Taylor.  
       "Each one of us will be held accountable before God for how we exercise the governing authority that He has entrusted to us in voting. Fear God, and evaluate how well each candidate is seeking to honor the responsibilities of the office and the bounds of that authority. Note that, while legislation cannot solve the moral problems of any society, we are still obligated to seek the good of others through every opportunity afforded us, and law acts as both a teacher of the difference between good and evil as well as a mechanism for praising good and punishing evil. So then, where do the candidates stand on the most wicked acts taking place in the world and the role of law in those battles? When you come face to face with your judge, how are you going to explain the way you are prioritizing “the issues” in weighing the candidates?"

Click here to read more from Evan on "Citizenship." Or visit Evan's blog at:

Monday, July 9, 2012

We’ve all known someone who is manipulative and controlling. There’s a good chance you work for someone like that, are related to someone like that, or--perhaps--you are such a person yourself. Though there’s nothing wrong with a Type-A personality, there are times when such dominating characteristics are unhealthy, and become a monster of their own.
Enter Confronting Jezebel: Discerning and Defeating the Spirit of Control by Steve Sampson. This revised and expanded edition sets out to help readers understand how to recognize this type of person, how this person operates, and how to fight back spiritually.  

Mr. Sampson explains that the Jezebel spirit, coined after the wicked wife of King Ahab in I Kings, can operate through either a male or female. The controlling spirit is no respecter of persons--and usually the person themselves is no respecter of anyone but their ego.
The person that lusts for control uses a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. If they can create a little fan club of their own, they will use their minions to cause strife and division for them, while they can keep their hands clean and seem like a bystander in the fray. 
“A Jezebel never works alone; she is most effective with an Ahab at her side to enable the evil spirit to operate fully. ...the clear battle with the Jezebel principality is always over the dominion of people.” (pg. 21).
Sadly, this type of person doesn’t just operate in the world. In fact, the insidious spirit is all too willing to slip into a church and begin dismantling it. A Jezebel will appear very religious. In Revelation 2:20 the Lord describes her with these words, “she calls herself a prophetess.” 
I chose this book to review (offered in exchange for my honest opinion from Chosen Books) because I have a Jezebel in my life that I have to deal with. Unfortunately, this controlling type of personality is prolific. There is likely someone coming to mind while you are reading this review. 
Confronting Jezebel has helped to bring some clarity to the problem, as well as give solid instruction for those that have to interact with this type of spirit. Although Mr. Sampson falls more on the Charismatic side in some of his theology, it is still a good resource for anyone facing this issue. 

At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.