Monday, December 31, 2007

Top Books for 2007

Ah, the time of year where we are all allowed to climb up on our individual pedestals and pontificate on our favorite movies/books/albums/etc. for the year.

OK, so I'm a little cynical about this. But - not cynical enough to avoid participating in such an event. Heh.

Without further ado, I give you my favorite books for 2007:

5. Wedgewood Grey by John Aubrey Anderson. Book 2 of the Black or White Chronicles continues an amazing tale of spiritual warfare from Mississippi. He continues a great beginning with a strong second effort.

4. Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead. Another second in a series. I enjoyed the start of the King Raven trilogy with Hood, but the voice for Scarlet was just perfect. No one does historical fiction quite like Lawhead.

3. Fearless by Robin Parrish. Hmm. As I write this post, I see I had a weakness for sequels this year. Anyway, I gushed plenty about the amazing suspense in Fearless. I'm still waiting for a copy of the next book to proofread for Mr. Parrish, so I don't have to wait until July '08. Still waiting... (Oh, and this book inspired this essay by me - shameless self-promotion)

2. Try Dying by James Scott Bell. Ha! It isn't a sequel. Mr. Bell is a prolific writer, but I had only read a How-to book on fiction by him. Well, this taut legal thriller caught my interest in both his writing and the legal thriller genre in general. I definitely will check out more of his work.

1. Abiding Darkness by John Aubrey Anderson. I read this book early in 2007, and it stayed my favorite book throughout the whole year. This was a book that had me crying at one point, and a couple chapters later I was laughing out loud. The description, the characterization, the setting, and the plot all caught me in a strong way. It was an amazing first book for Mr. Anderson, and it started the Black or White Chronicles off on very firm footing. If you haven't read it yet, you are certainly missing out. Just a note: I received an email from the author recently asking for prayer, as his latest book is being considered by a publisher. I hope it is the fourth book of B or W, as it was intended as a 6 book arc.

A few honorable mentions:
Snitch by Rene Gutteridge - still the best comedic writer I've come across. Fun characters with whimsy and a catchy read.

The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock - a bold start for the very enjoyable Legend of the Guardian King fantasy series. This Christy award winner is a must read for fantasy fans.

In High Places by Tom Morrisey - a touching book from a man who knows his adventure.

To Dance in the Desert by Kathleen Popa - a literary women's fiction book that drew in this action and mayhem man. Great first book!


Anyone else have a great read this year they'd like to mention? I'm always up for hearing about books (affording to buy them is a different story...)

Oh, and Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Come and Gone

Wow. That was fast. Did you see it? That was Christmas, come and gone so fast.

Having three little boys, I see the holiday through their eyes in a lot of ways, I think. I'm excited for them to open their presents, as we'd planned for several months what we'd get them. The snow isn't always fun to shovel, but taking the boys sledding and watching them romp around in it helps change my perspective on the white stuff. They all love eggnog and rum cake, all things that we get during the Christmas season. Overall, kids are great for keeping one from getting Scrooge-y with all of the baggage that goes along with this time of year.

As an adult, I think (at least I *hope*) I have enough maturity to be able to see things from their perspective. The hard part is working on the boys to see some things from MY perspective. My greatest desire in life is to have my boys become strong and healthy men of God, reproducing life and advancing the Kingdom wherever they are. This is so hard because you don't know if you're on the right track until it is too late to change course. If they're grown and off somewhere else, then it is out of my control.

Of course, I know Who is in control. I know He will be faithful. I just want my boys to know the love and grace and purpose I have in Jesus. Christmas creates one of the best ways for showing them the true meaning of life. We read Luke 2 first thing on Christmas morning. My wife makes sure the kids know what December 25th is really about through songs, singing "Happy Birthday Jesus" and other things.

So if I had a Christmas wish, it would be for my boys to know the love that propelled the Son of God from heaven to a manger, and to share that love around them wherever they go. Thankfully, I've got great kids, and they are on their way to fulfilling their father's wish.

I hope everyone who stops by here had a wonderful Christmas full of blessing!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

CSFF Tour - Wayfarer's Journal

Greetings Science Fiction fans! This month's Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy blog tour is focusing squarely on the sci-fi aspect of our moniker. The highlight is the website Wayfarer's Journal, a resource for short science fiction that isn't afraid of the spiritual.

I went to check the site out this weekend, and it was unfortunately having some difficulties and I wasn't able to access it. The site is fully up and running right now, but between holiday events and my work I have been severely limited with internet access. I'm afraid I don't have much to contribute, only to point out that there are many others in this tour listed below, and I encourage you to check them out to see what they have to say about Wayfarer's, and to visit the site yourselves. I hope to peruse it over the weekend, and I'll try to post a little belated review myself.

Blessings to all of my CSFF tourmates! Have a wonderful Christmas season, and may you all experience the joy and wonder the star of Bethlehem foretold!

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir's Here
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Steve Rice
Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Donations for YWAM Arvada for Shooting Victims

Here is a note from YWAM Arvada's accounting department. I asked them how we could give to support YWAM and the families in this tragedy. I want to remind people that YWAMers all serve as volunteers, raising support from their churches and family to go on these mission trips or to be on staff. I'm sure that there have been extra costs the Arvada center to deal with issues from this event. The families of the victims have extra bills, and there is a scholarship now established in the name of Phillip Crouse and Tiffany Johnson. See the note below. I know there are so many financial obligations and possibilities to give at this time. I only ask you prayerfully consider joining me in donating.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers at this time. We are grateful for your desire to pray for us and to also help meet some of the immediate financial needs for the families. We have established three separate funds that you can give towards:

1) Victims Assistance Fund (to help family needs in re: to burial, etc.)

2) Phil & Tiffany Scholarship (for future students wanting to do missions)

3) YWAM Denver Emergency Fund

If you would like to give, you can do it in the following ways:

1) Check

Please make all checks payable to “Youth With A Mission Denver.” Mail the checks to 12750 W. 63rd Ave/Arvada, CO 80004 with a note designating it to the fund you would like it to go to.

2) Credit Card

We take Visa, Master Card, and American Express

You can call our accounting office at (303) 424-1144 or via email at accounting (at) ywamdenver (dot) org.

Thank you for standing with us at this time of need. It is deeply appreciated.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh! Christmas Tree

Author's note: Best read while listening to Switchfoot's song Oh! Gravity, link provided below.

I've always enjoyed getting the Christmas tree each year and spending time as a family decorating. The ornaments especially bring out nostalgia - as you dig out boxes of decorations, it is like unpacking memories that have been lost in the clutter of everyday life.

Of course, as the man of the house this means I get to do all the heavy lifting. Hauling the tree in, wrestling it into the stand, pulling out all the boxes from storage. My wife loves snowmen, and our house looks like the Invasion from Winter Wonderland every year. It's still all fun and good times - I just appreciate things more having to do them myself.

We've never had holiday disasters at our house before. This year didn't seem like a problem either. We found a nice, full tree that even had soft needles. Didn't end up with a "Charlie Brown" tree. For the money we paid for it, it better not be!

Last Saturday we picked the tree out and got it home on top of our minivan. I scavanged around until I found the stand, and the boys were helpers as I cut a little off the base and brought the evergreen into the living room. Since having kids, we've always put the tree up on a little table to keep it a little farther from curious hands, but this year the boys were old enough I kept the stand on the ground. It got late, so we promised that we'd decorate after church.

Sunday afternoon came and the kids were terribly excited to put on their favorite ornaments. Spiderman, Peanuts, Veggietales were objects of coveting. My mom collected decorations each year since the mid-70's, so the older ones I grew up with were my choice. The lights sparkled from the boughs. We had ourselves a pretty Christmas tree.

Except for the problem with leaning.

As we put on ornaments it liked hanging to one side. I adjusted the screws a little tighter, and it seemed to be stable. Later it tipped a little more, so I backed the screws off and twisted the base to line it up straighter. Problem solved, and we put the finishing touches on.

After dinner I plopped on the couch to watch the last few minutes of America's Funniest Videos since the football game was a blow-out (in the first quarter). I glanced up at our hard work, only to notice...

The tree was headed right for me.

Cat-like, I sprang from my comfy spot and caught the darn thing before I was picking needles from my nether-regions. The boys squealed and my wife shouted. Disaster averted. Except for the fact that the tree had rebelled, I suppose from too many cutesy decorations, and would not stay put at all. The bark was so soft that it just gave in to the screws. Obviously I would need to make a Wal-Mart run (being Sunday night) to get a new base.

Now the question was how to keep the tree behaving.

We tried tying a rope to it and hooking some hand weights to it, but that wasn't going to work. My wife took over for me and I ran out to the car. Then I promptly dashed back in to shut the blinds so the whole neighborhood wouldn't see her holding the tree for 30 minutes as I did my errand.

Thankfully Wally-World had a different type of stand, and after un-decorating a half of the tree, we laid it down and cut a few branches off the bottom so it would fit the new stand. Now, the test: would the rogue conifer stay upright?

It worked.

The boys got to worry if their decorations had suffered in the ordeal, and fight over who put which green ball up again. I had to hurry and clean up the house to be ready for the next day. What... fun.

It looks nice now, and I can laugh about it. I was even inspired by Switchfoot's song Oh! Gravity.

Oh! Christmas tree
Why can't we
Seem to keep it upright.
Sons of my wife
This is going to keep us up all night.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Service for YWAM Arvada Staffers

So much focus goes on the killer in these type of things, and I despise that. Denver Post has a touching article on the two YWAM staff members who were senselessly killed this weekend. Here's to Tiffany Johnson and Philip Crouse - may you always rejoice in your Creator who loves you and will never leave you. We'll see you soon.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More on Colorado Christian Shootings

Since I first blogged about this, there was a second shooting, this time at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Two more victims died at the church shooting, while the gunman there was shot by a security guard. The authorities are investigating to see if the two events are connected. More information is from this MSNBC link.

I've had an amazing number of hits on this blog since news broke. To fellow YWAMers, I offer a heartfelt greeting and hope you are encouraged wherever God has you at this time.

I was thinking this morning that there may be a lot of extra things going on at YWAM Arvada. If any reading this is not familiar with Youth With a Mission, it is a volunteer organization where all the staff and students pay their own way to serve. There are always "adventures in faith and finances" at YWAM due to this policy, as many times people are following the leading of the Lord and walking in faith. So many people have stories of God's faithfulness in finances and His provision.

I would encourage anyone who feels led to consider contacting YWAM Denver to donate to the mission organization to help them with extra costs incurred in this tragedy, and as a way to honor the memory of Tiffany Johnson and Philip Crouse. As I get more information, I'll post it here.

As an aside, an AP article about YWAM was posted. I think it is pretty fair and explains things well overall. Having been misquoted in the media a couple of times, you always wonder how things will come out in print.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pray for Victims of YWAM Colorado Shooting

"Once a YWAMer, always a YWAMer."

Many groups can say this, but attending a program through Youth With a Mission is always life-changing. This is why my heart is so heavy today as I read about the shooting that occurred at a YWAM training center in Arvada, Colorado. It happened early in the morning of 12/9/07. So far there are two staff members confirmed dead, and two others wounded. One of the wounded is in critical condition and is slated for more surgery today.

It is always a tragedy when innocent life is taken, no matter the circumstances. I have prayed for the families of the Omaha mall incident earlier this week, and I also grieve for those who go missing in large cities anonymously every day. It is unavoidable that some situations hit us more as individuals than others.

I was just looking over pictures of my own time in YWAM, so the thought of what those young people were doing when this happened is very fresh in my mind. As of this writing, the killer has not been apprehended, and there is little information as far as motive.

Please pray for the families of those who were injured and killed. Pray for the healing of the wounded. Pray for justice. Pray for those who have survived and the people in Arvada. Pray for YWAM, as a global family they will be grieving as well.

Lord, we don't know why these things happen. We don't understand. But we can trust in Your great faithfulness, grace, and mercy. I pray for the wounded to be healed by Your touch. I pray for those who died, that they will realize the reward You have prepared for them. I pray that Your strength will be evident to all those at the YWAM Arvada center and for YWAMers around the world.

In Your great name Jesus, Amen.

For more information, see the MSNBC link, and YWAM has limited information at this time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


There are some link-worthy posts out there today. Make sure you check these out.

First off John C. Wright gives a wonderful little essay on the the rationality of Christianity compared to other world paradigms. I don't agree with the first few paragraphs all the way, but still worth a look.

Then Mike Duran gives a good exposition of the paradoxes in Christianity, and the changing viewpoints in physics. Again, a thoughtful post.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What's Your Super Power?

I've decided that I have a super power. It is uncanny how this ability manifests time and time again in times of stress. I've always imagined being able to fly, having super strength, or having laser beams come from my eyes to zap the twit that just cut me off in traffic. I never thought something like this would happen to plain, ordinary me.

Now I wonder how I can harness my gift for the greater good. What can I do to serve people with this amazing power?

What is this awesome and terrible display of super-human ability, you ask?

I have the ability to make traffic lights turn red.

DO NOT LAUGH. It proves itself over and again. I will be hurrying to work, running to the store, or on a leisurely drive through town. It never fails. The crimson orb hanging in the intersection glows in my presence. Why I would be chosen for such a talent does vex me. Also, how can I use it effectively to fight crime and evil-doers? Perhaps I drive around with a police scanner, and start following any nefarious people and trap them at the light? I must ponder this...

Anyone else out there have some ability, something unique that you can't explain, but you know it is meant to be wielded by you alone? What is this gift, and how do you use it?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Book Recommendations

I'm taking a little break from reviewing books for blog tours. The biggest thing was that the books for December and January weren't ones I was interested in reading or reviewing. However, I have been in a mode of continually having reading obligations. I enjoy the reading of a variety of things, and it is great to participate and get books. I found that I wasn't able to read other books that may interest me due to my commitments.

I'll keep highlighting books for the CFBA and CSFF tours here through those months, so I can add to the internet buzz. I'll continue to post relating fiction. I just want to branch my reading out a little bit.

There's several books I already know I want to read. I have Gilead, always touted as a must read. I would like to start Rene Gutteridge's Boo series. I have an adventure by Tom Morrisey. I need to get into Fugitives of Chaos by John C. Wright. To borrow a quote from a friend, "my to-be-read pile threatens low-flying aircraft."

I'm also looking to read some other books outside of areas I'm not usually reading. Can you believe I've never read Dean Koontz? I'd like to check out one of his. Anyone have any recommendations regarding him? I'd prefer more on the suspense side than horror. I've had one person recommend Odd Thomas. Any other suggestions for Koontz? How about general fiction overall? I'm actually trying to stay away from CBA books for a month, to see what else is going on in publishing.

What say you people? Can you help me out?