Review: The Beginner’s Guide to Intercession, by Dutch Sheets

The Beginner's Guide to Intercession, by Dutch SheetsThe Beginner’s Guide to Intercession, by Dutch Sheets (Vine Books, 2001)

What I appreciate most about this insightful and practical book is its emphasis on prayer as a way to draw nearer to God. Intercession rises out of that, but the essence of prayer is relationship with God. It’s not about bringing Him our wish lists.

Through Scripture, personal examples and the experiences of others, the author shares key principles of intercession. This isn’t a “name it and claim it” book, but one that points to the Holy Spirit leading people to pray for those things He wants to accomplish. Some of the stories have miraculous endings – but they’re results of God’s direction in prayer, not formulas to follow to get whatever we want to ask.

Easy to read and understand, each chapter builds on those before. The book challenged and equipped me to deepen the intercession part of my prayer life, and to ask to see what (and how) God is calling me to meet with Him about in prayer.

Dutch Sheets’ website tagline is “Teach – Awaken – Restore”. He’s an author, speaker and teacher, and you can find more about his books and ministry at dutchsheets.org.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

The Write Thing to Do

The Write Thing to Do

by Steph Beth Nickel

Tomorrow I will have the privilege of attending Write Canada. Although I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference this year, there are still many benefits of attending Saturday only. It was the write thing to do.

"Do the Write Thing"

Photo credit: Pixabay

Why?

Learn New Things

Just in case you ever wondered if I’m truly eclectically interested … this year I’m taking a couple of fiction classes, “Structuring Your Fiction” with Davis Bunn and “Deep Point-of-View” with Marcy Kennedy; “Do Good Not Harm: Writing to Empower,” a class whose description begins like this: Christians are uniquely positioned to bring a message of hope and redemption to a world broken by poverty, oppression and injustice (sounds great, doesn’t it?); and finally, a panel discussion on vlogs and blogs.

Refresh and Re-ignite

It may seem strange to say that after a jam-packed day, including approximately five hours of traveling, I anticipate returning home refreshed and re-ignited to devote several hours every week to writing. There’s something about hanging out with dozens of other writers that does that to me.

Discover What’s New in the Industry

In many ways, the journey to becoming a writer isn’t what it used to be. And it certainly doesn’t look the same for every writer. Finding out what’s new in the industry is invaluable. While it may seem overwhelming, it also helps the writer plot the course that best suits him or her.

Make Professional Connections

We hear a lot about networking these days. And of course there’s the old saying, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” While that is only true to a certain extent (after all, it’s each writer’s responsibility to become the best he or she can be), those connections can help you get from where you are to where you want to be on the journey to publication.

Be Challenged to Write Something New

This is probably a good reason for me to stay home, but it’s still a great reason to attend a writers’ conference. I never imagined writing a memoir. Yet, I had the privilege of co-authoring Paralympian Deb Willows’ Living Beyond My Circumstances. Deb and I are now working on a follow-up book. (I attended my first conference with the lady who introduced Deb and me. I also met our publisher there.) Because of this project, I had the joy of co-teaching a class with Carolyn Wilker on memoir writing at the 2015 Write Canada. You just never know what doors are going to open for you.

And probably the number one reason for me …

Reconnect with Friends

Write Canada is the only opportunity I have to reconnect in person with some dear friends. It also provides the opportunity to make new friends. And when those friends are fellow writers (and other industry pros), it is truly amazing. I will be flying for days—and hopefully, energized to go home and get writing.

Attending a writers’ conference or workshop just may be the write thing for you as well.

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Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel (Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Closer to God

When he [Barnabas] arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.
Acts 11:23, NLT*

Many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, and the two men urged them to continue to rely on the grace of God.
Acts 13:43, NLT*

Both of these encouragements are to ongoing, persistent behavioural patterns. How do we stay true to the Lord and continue to rely on His grace?

  • prayer and praying Scripture
  • practicing His presence
  • reading – and thinking about – Scripture
  • talking, praying, studying with other believers
  • serving where He leads
  • relying on His strength in service and in all areas of our daily lives
  • getting to know His character through life and His Word
  • noticing and keeping a record of where we see God at work in our lives
  • telling our stories of faith, and listening to others

Feel free to add other points in the comments. I think what it comes down to is that we need to let God more into our lives.

God our Sustainer and our Source of life and hope, we echo John the Baptist’s awareness of the need to decrease so that You can increase. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit to indwell us. Please help us to give Him full access to our hearts, so that You can grow us in our faith. Help us stay true to You and rely on Your grace every day.

I’ve always taken Cliff Richard’s “Discovering” as a song from God to us. From that perspective, listen to what He might say in invitation.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Smoke and Mirrors, a romantic suspense collection

Smoke and MirrorsSmoke and Mirrors, a romantic suspense collection (2016)

This is an ebook box set of “hidden identity” Christian romantic suspense novellas. At present, it’s only available for Kindle.

Some characters are in witness protection, some are undercover, and some are just plain hiding – either from danger or for nefarious purposes. It can be love at first sight, a relationship that’s been developing for a few years before the story opens, or characters with a past connection now thrown together again.

Stories are set in various parts of the US, including Alaska. Sometimes the tension is high, other times more moderate.

My pick of the set is Heather Day Gilbert’s Out of Circulation, mostly because I always enjoy her characters and her writing, but also because her protagonist walks with a limp and isn’t as beautiful as her sister. It seemed I met a lot of gorgeous people in this collection.

I also found a spiritual nugget in Connie Almony’s The Long View, where one of the Christian characters searches his Bible for a verse to tuck into his mind to meditate on in his worship time. His reverence for God’s holiness challenged me.

If romantic suspense is all you read, then devour the whole collection in one go. I like more variety, and should have spaced them out a bit.

These eight original novellas are written by authors Connie Almony, Sally Bradley, Hallee Bridgeman, Heather Day Gilbert, Kelli Hughett, Alana Terry, Rachel Trautmiller, and Alexa Verde. In some cases they’re stand-alone stories, and in others they either begin or continue other works from the authors.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Guest Post and Interview

I’ve had a couple of recent opportunities to visit other sites recently. If you visit, be sure to check out the other posts. Who knows what you might find that you’ll like?

 

I used to post monthly at InScribe Writers Online, and it was fun to go back for a guest post to talk about what opportunities I see for serving God in my writing. Here’s the link: My Corner of the Vineyard.

Because I have a short story in one of Kathy Ide’s Fiction Lovers Devotionals (in 21 Days of Love), she interviewed me on her website. What are some treasured moments to do with writing? What Bible story do I wish had a different ending? Here’s the link: Treasured Moments.

 

An Encourager

Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul.
Acts 11:25, NLT*

Gentiles were coming to faith in Antioch, and the leaders in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to visit. He was excited to see what God was doing, and sometime after arriving, he left to get Saul. When they returned to Antioch, they stayed a whole year. Clearly, there was a lot to be done.

Paul had been sent away from Jerusalem for his own safety, because his preaching about Jesus was so powerful it made him a target. Perhaps Barnabas thought bringing him in to speak to Gentiles instead of Jews would be safer?

The New Testament shows Barnabas as an encourager, one who believed in people, saw their abilities, and who spoke up for them when needed. He also brought them alongside to work with him.

He saw an opportunity in Antioch, or perhaps a need, and rather than trying to do it all himself or even just recruit the locals to help, he went for Saul. Did he have to go personally because he thought he’d need to convince Saul?

Sometimes it’s easier to keep slogging by ourselves, especially if we have a certain way we like things done. Barnabas reminds us to be open to God’s leading about partnerships and about encouragement.

God who gives us different gifts and abilities, please help us to discern the abilities in the people around us, and give us willing hearts to involve them in our lives and our work. Help us to affirm in others what You have placed there, for the overall increase of Your Kingdom.

Matt Maher’s song, “Instrument,” affirms our calling to community in serving our Lord.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Unforgotten, by Kristen Heitzmann

Unforgotten, by Kristen HeitzmannUnforgotten, by Kristen Heitzmann (Bethany House, 2005)

Lance Michelli’s family is living the generational effects of past tragedy. He can’t stop comparing himself to his perfect brother, Tony, who died in 9-11. And in trying to bring closure to his beloved Nonna Antonia for the trauma of her youth, it seems he’s only made things worse.

This is the second in a series, and in book one, Secrets, Antonia sent Lance to her girlhood home on a mission. Unforgotten leads Lance and the woman he loves (Rese, who has renovated the home to be a bed and breakfast) into more fallout from the past. A secondary thread reveals more of Antonia’s past as the elderly woman processes the revelation of even more secrets.

Secrets was set in California wine country. Unforgotten brings Rese and Lance back to his home in a run-down part of the Bronx – a home packed with his extended family. We see the solitary Rese learn to not only survive but to find her place in the mayhem.

Unforgotten brims with deeply flawed characters, some of whom are learning what it means to grow in relationship with God and with each other despite misconceptions, mistakes, and setbacks along the way. There’s a lot of love in the novel: romantic, family, and between friends. There’s also an element of spiritual warfare and an honest portrayal of the Christian’s struggle to understand why God allows so much suffering.

These characters have a place in my heart, and I can’t wait to follow them to the series conclusion in Echoes.

Bestselling author Kristen Heitzmann writes contemporary romantic suspense, psychological suspense, and historical fiction, that connect with readers’ hearts. For more about the author and her books, visit kristenheitzmannbooks.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

New Bonus eBook

Prelude to Danger, Redemption's Edge Series ExtrasBecause it’s short, and because it collects all the bonus features you could read here on the site if you took time to find them, my intent is to make this ebook free. At present it’s free for Kobo, Nook, but only free for Kindle in the US. Elsewhere for Kindle it’s 99 cents USD, which is the lowest they’ll let me set it. Kindle readers outside the US, I’ve tried my best to convince Amazon to match the free price, with no success. 🙁 You can find the bonus features listed on each novel’s book page here on my site. You might also have more luck than I’ve had with asking Amazon to match the price if you can find it free at one of their online competitors in your country. Readers who prefer iBooks, I’m sorry, but Apple only wants full stories, so they won’t take a book of bonus features.

Contentment’s Secret

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Philippians 4:12, NIV*

Paul goes on to say that his secret is to rely on Christ’s strength (verse 13), a verse many of us have memorized. He trusts that God is enough in the moment, and he doesn’t waste mental energy with what-ifs.

Our guest speaker on Sunday challenged us that anxiety comes from dwelling on the future, but contentment comes from living in the present. Now, a person can do a bundle of complaining in the present without Paul’s attitude of God-reliance, but anxiety does feed on the unknown future.

What could go wrong? Will we have enough, be enough? What if we don’t like what happens?

When anxiety whispers, I remind myself, “Whatever happens, Jesus will be there.” Paul’s words suggest I should also be saying, “Here, in this moment, Jesus is here. His strength is enough.”

Christ, who strengthens us, help us rely on Your power in at work in our lives, to help us do the Father’s will and to help us live with surrendered, trusting spirits. Protect us from fear of the future, and protect us also from discontent in the present and regrets for the past. Help us live in You moment by moment, following Your leading and not relying on our own understanding.

Our song this week is the classic hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” sung here by the Antrim Mennonite Choir. The chorus comes from Paul’s words to Timothy, and it echoes his contentment.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Review: Vain Empires, by Brandilyn Collins

Vain Empires, by Brandilyn CollinsVain Empires, by Brandilyn Collins (Challow Press, 2016)

Seven deadly sins. Six people in a remote island mansion. One reality show.

One of the six contestants will win their dream prize, valued at up to $10 million. All they have to do is discover which sin each of their competitors represents – and decide if they themselves represent one too. To help in the discovery? Clues are revealed – and broadcast worldwide. Clues that may destroy each one on the island.

It’s interesting to watch the civilized facades crack as the pressure mounts – and to watch most contestants labelling the others while excusing their own failures and counting themselves as sinless. Most don’t seem to have a faith connection, although one of them, Gina, does.

Chapters alternate among the six contestants, who are different enough that I didn’t have trouble keeping track. This is a book that entices you to keep turning pages, so prepare to lose some sleep.

I enjoyed it, although the ending didn’t work for me. There’s a nice twist, and everything makes sense, but the characters leave the island and that’s it. They’ve been through this great upheaval, but what difference, if any, will it make in their lives? For some characters that’s clear, but not for all. To me it felt incomplete.

Vain Empires comes from a best-selling author of Christian suspense, but it should appeal to most mainstream readers. And if you’ve always wanted to try one of Brandilyn Collins’ suspense novels but were too timid, this is a good one for you. The ticking clock and relentless clues make it tense, but it’s puzzle-tense, not traumatic-tense.

Brandilyn Collins is known for her Seatbelt Suspense® novels, and she also writes contemporary fiction. RT BookReviews calls her “a master storyteller,” and I agree. For more about the author and her work, visit brandilyncollins.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]