Monday, August 27, 2012

Some Dreams Are Hidden

It looms on the horizon, black and sinister, churning through the atmosphere and masking all that it touches in shadows of doom and deadly uncertainty. Circling the land like a beast stalking its prey, the hurricane surges closer and closer to the Florida coast, threatening to level everything in its wake. For Dr. Elena Burroughs, the almost sadistic storm system is but a single raindrop in her bucket of worries. A much larger storm is brewing, far more power-hungry ... and far more deadly.

“It all came down to the dreams. And her own next step. The prospect of what awaited her was wrenching.”

 As we re-enter Elena’s life in this sequel to Book of Dreams, she is steadily attempting to piece her shattered world back to a semblance of normalcy. After a fizzled romance, shelved friendships, a tanked career, along with the loss of her home and nearly all her possessions, the world’s leading authority on dream analysis has only one remaining option – the dreaded spotlight. With no job and virtually no one to turn to except her ever-persistent editor, Elena reluctantly agrees to a worldwide publicity tour … one that leaves her drained and emotionally raw, not to mention humiliated by a demeaning and obnoxious scientific colleague.

 A glimmer of hope shines through the wreckage when Elena is offered a professorship at a Melbourne college campus. But no sooner has she filtered back through the cracks and slipped momentarily underneath the fame radar than a peculiar bit of her past creeps back into her new life.

 Elena is dreaming again.

But she’s not the only one experiencing the prophetic dreams … more than a dozen people from around the world with no prior connection to each other are now assaulted by the same dreams. Worst of all, these vivid nightmares are beginning to come true.

Forced once again to serve as reluctant leader of an unlikely group, Elena feels less prepared than ever before. How can she, with a faith gone dry, find the strength and guidance to lead such a group? Especially when that group’s most compelling urge is to warn the world of the encroaching disaster.

“… right now, all I can tell you is, God has never felt more silent.”

 The clock is ticking and Elena must seek out the truth harder than ever before if she is to discover why she and the other “dreamers” have been granted the ability to see the future. And more importantly, what they can do to prevent the coming storm from destroying them all.


Personally, I didn’t enjoy this book quite as immensely as its predecessor, but that’s not to say that Hidden in Dreams isn’t amazing in its own right. Still packed with peppy dialogue and timeless Biblical truth (not to mention a few startling plot twists that’ll have your brain doing an about-face), this novel oozes quality and talent.

 I’m giving Hidden in Dreams a very unsubtle five stars as well as two thumbs up to Davis Bunn!


I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book of Dreams (a review)

What if you had a choice … a choice to hear the voice of God speaking to the deepest crevices of your soul? What if you were given a book, a centuries-old heirloom that is a meticulous and perfect copy of the original … and what if you were told that God may choose to speak to you through that book? What if all you had to do … was listen? Listen. And dream.

 This is the choice Dr. Elena Burroughs is presented with upon receiving a priceless treasure from a dear family friend who believes that Elena may be “the one” chosen to unlock its secrets.

 For seventy-two of her eighty-one years, Miriam, a seasoned and saucy woman with a successful counseling career, has viewed a shining gift as a shadowy burden. Now ready to be free of the enigmatic book, she passes it on to Elena, certain that her goddaughter possesses the gift of interpretation necessary to discern the meaning behind the calligraphic writings. There’s more to the book than jeweled covers and fancy lettering. Could it be that an ancient prayer written in its original language is the key to unearthing a plot against the world’s economy?

Thrust into an unwanted leadership position, Elena must learn to surrender her fear of change and her aversion to letting anyone get close. As her trusted pastor friend so wisely conveys: “God has drawn you out of your comfort zone. Get used to it. I doubt it will be the last time.”

 Ranging from the grand and historical brick abodes of London to England’s back hills to Italian mansions, Book of Dreams will steal your breath with its setting and enrapture your mind with its deep theological themes. (Plus, any story with such a copious supply of British accents, rain-drenched backgrounds, and coffee gets mega awesome points in my book.)

A definite five stars! Book of Dreams is a priceless treasure worth reading.


 Deeper into Dreams:

  *Warning: May contain mild spoilers.
To Miriam, the ancient book containing the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic is nothing more than a picturesque mockery of her life – a glowing representation of her failure. Despite the woman’s success and even the wisdom she clearly possesses, she has spent her life feeling unworthy and detached. Never able to move past the first page, the first word of the Lord’s Prayer in the decorative book. Never quite able to call her God “Abba” … Daddy.
The answer was there all along. She was upset because she felt she had missed the clues, the formula, the rules of how it all was supposed to work, but all along the first step was to come to God in utter confidence of His fatherly love and His desire to speak to her.

Yet when Elena inherited the book, she realized that there were no rules. All that was required was a heart searching for wisdom ... a heart that was willing to learn and to continue searching until it found answers.

Elena knew that despite the unique book’s value, the book itself was not divine. It was merely another tool with which to better understand the divine. She realized that the ancient book could not replace prayer and God’s Word itself. It is through those things that we maintain communication with the Lord and a sensitivity to His Spirit’s whisperings. Anything else is merely another avenue through which He speaks. It is only through prayer and Scripture that we can understand those other avenues. The truth is right there waiting for us to open our heart and see.


Monday, July 2, 2012

A Rose Among Thorns

What happens when you toss together a middle-class ladies’ man and a dirt-poor chambermaid, telling them that a distant mutual cousin has left them in his will? Sprinkle in some spicy love triangles and tantalizing plot turns and you have the recipe for Gilbert Morris’ latest novel The River Rose!

We enter our story in the bitter winter of 1855, Memphis, Tennessee. The elements are harsher than usual this year, but perhaps even harsher are the winds of circumstance howling in the rosy face of widow, Jeanne Bettencourt. And quite a rose she is – delicate, yet determined; painstakingly honest and a diligent worker; penniless, yet somehow supremely confident. “You’re not like the other chambermaids,” she is often told by hotel patrons who are interested in much more than her room-cleaning abilities. And they’re right. Something about her grace and intelligence seems bizarrely out of place with her lowly lot in life.

But Jeanne’s purity of heart and nearly eternal optimism keep her from paying undue attention to her poverty. Despite the hard times, she is content with the Lord as her strength and trusts Him completely to provide for her and her frail, but joyful six-year-old daughter.

So when Jeanne’s breaking-even lifestyle is interrupted with news that she is part heir to a gorgeous steamboat, it’s obvious that the boat is a gift from above. But she still has a choice to make: sell the boat and buy a cracker box house of her own with the money, or live on board and begin making a living with the steamer through freight runs. To Clint Hardin, her buff and charming co-heir, the decision is simple. Why settle for a mediocre life when you have a chance at the extraordinary?

Neither Jeanne nor Clint could guess that God has much greater plans ahead than either of them ever thought possible for their lives. In the process, the unlikely business duo must each face their own past and decide whether or not they will allow it to affect their future.

All in all, The River Rose was a pretty nice read. I'll give this historical romance four shiny steamboats out of five.

Bonus thoughts (comparison to The River Queen):

Though the books in the Water Wheel series are completely unrelated as far as characters and plot (although there is a minor character with the last name of “Bettencourt” in The River Queen … hmmm.), I had fun noticing the little comparisons and contrasts between the books.

For instance, The River Queen is somewhat of a riches to rags story where a spoiled and selfish aristocratic woman must learn how to make a living for herself and her family. The River Rose on the other hand, centers around a hard-working young woman whose every joy in the world is derived from making her daughter happy. Rather than being merely a blessing in disguise for Jeanne, the steamer that she inherits may as well have been dropped out of the sky by angels.

Julienne, in The River Queen, is highly vain and spends most of her time fussing over her hair and dress. Jeanne, though also strikingly beautiful, is modest and humble and prefers to dress simply even when she no longer has to wear raggy clothes. She is very others-focused and has a heart for the less-fortunate, especially since she knows first-hand what it’s like to have barely a penny in her pocket.

Both women are strong and determined, daring to step out and accomplish a task that society says they can’t. Both are strangely annoyed and easily outraged by the man in their life who cares the most for them.

But what I found most intriguing was their differing views of God and each woman’s journey with Him throughout their individual story.

Julienne began with a nonchalant attitude toward her Creator. She had never really needed Him, in her estimation, and therefore was mostly oblivious to His existence. In losing her worldly goods, however, she was plunged into the realization that life was bigger than her own personal happiness, and she began to seek God for the wisdom and provision to survive the uncharted waters of her life.

When we first meet Jeanne in The River Rose, she possesses an almost uncanny faith in God, perfectly embodying what the Apostle Paul meant when he said “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” Even with the faintest raise in tips or with the appearance of her favorite fruit or tea at the store, Jeanne breathes a silent prayer of thanks to the Father above. Later, she must rediscover her strong relationship with God, having uncovered the jolting truth that she has allowed her gaze to be turned from Him once her life’s circumstances began to blow in a new direction. She must learn that through poverty or prosperous seasons, in sickness or in health, there is never a time when we outgrow our need to love and depend on our God.

I also enjoyed the additional plot twists of this novel. Whereas The River Queen plotted a fairly straight and steady course, The River Rose dug deeper and deeper into its characters, revealing little bits of backstory along the way that keep you reading and wondering what happened that caused Jeanne to be widowed six years before. And before you’re half-way through the book, Gilbert will have you wondering which man in her life Jeanne will end up with after all.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from B&H Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I
am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Something new ... a book review!

It's always fun to do something new. To bring a new dimension to something familiar. That being said, I'm pleased to announce that I'll be adding a fresh new angle to my blog. Though I've written a few CD and book reviews in the past, I've generally posted them to sites with a need for that specific content, such as and, leaving my blog mostly for devotionals.

 Recently, however, I've joined a team of book reviewers for a couple of major blog tours coming up this year. I'll be reviewing several hot-off-the-presses novels from notable Christian authors Gilbert Morris and Davis Bunn. I'll give you the gist of the story, along with spiritual lessons and sneak-peeks of golden truth that you can walk away with at the end of the book. Get ready!

My first review, scheduled for early July, will be on Gilbert Morris' new novel The River Rose. As this is the second book in his Water Wheel series, I decided to read The River Queen first, though each book in the series is meant as a stand-alone. You can read my review of The River Queen below:

“I want to look pretty, I want to have fun, I want to dance. I might even meet some exciting new people!”

 Thus are the words of the fiery Julienne Ashby whose flaming red-gold locks match her haywire temper and headstrong rebellious air. Spoiled by the life of frills and social calls and glamorous living that sprouts from her family’s aristocratic status in the community, Julienne hasn’t a care in the world other than the angst of wondering what over-priced outfit she will wear for her next party.

Along with her tomboy sister who’d rather collect worms than learn geography and her partying brother who spends his days recovering from last night’s hangover, this twenty-three-year-old fashion guru of 1855 refuses to cut back on her extravagant lifestyle, despite their father’s persistent warnings that the family’s financial position is headed downstream fast.

When tragedy strikes and the Ashbys are forced to sell nearly all their possessions, Julienne is thrust into a position of family leadership, discovering untapped potential as a businesswoman and using her stubborn will to keep her family off the street.

Enter the River Queen. Now the owner of the dilapidated little steamboat, Julienne decides that the Queen is their only chance to make a living and regain their dignity.

The long-neglected steamer seems to mirror its primary owner’s soul – strong and steadfast with a potential for great beauty. If only the multiple years’ worth of muck and grime can be scrubbed away. Dallas Bronte, the steamer’s new captain and pilot sees the hidden inner beauty of both. But will Julienne’s pride cause her to turn to a less honorable man to assist her in renovating the Queen? A man who, unlike Dallas Bronte, is not motivated by a love for the Queen and its feisty owner … but simply by a desire to own them.

And will Julienne’s regard for her steamboat and its pilot move from one of frigid necessity to, perhaps, even love?

Through it all, Julienne and Dallas must learn to trust in a God whose power and love they’ve never fully acknowledged, and realize that no matter how bleak a situation, you’re never too filthy for Him to clean up.

Note: In my personal opinion, the book didn't possess the type of edge-of-your-seat, page-turning pull that I'm used to. However, it did bring back some reminiscent memories of the Mandie series, a childhood favorite of mine, as the historical setting and writing style is similar to that of Lois Gladys Leppard (minus the mystery and frequent kidnappings). But for those who enjoy a good, historical romance with a slight Pride and Prejudice feel and solid Biblical values, this book is a perfect read and should be accompanied by a cozy fireplace and a steamy cup of chamomile tea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Faith Chronicles Part 1: Faith versus Fear

They rise up around you on every side, choking, suffocating, drowning you. With deadly vengeance they slam you repeatedly beneath their hammering blows. You try to fight, but they are too powerful, and each time one of the mighty waves crash upon your weakened form, you feel another piece of your endurance eroded away and rushed mercilessly into the tempest.

But these are not waves of salt water and foam, and the storm is not one of unrelenting rain and roaring thunder. You may have never found yourself being devoured by the waves of a monstrous sea amidst a dragon-hearted downpour, but these waves are a foe that is all too familiar. Each surging breaker has its own descriptive name – a horrid, devilish name – but there is one that unites them all. Fear.

Like a mighty ocean it engulfs its prey, sinking you into its cold, wet, dripping fangs.

What fear holds you in its grasp? Fear of poverty? Fear of loneliness? Fear of mediocrity? Fear of an unknown future? There is no end to the creative forms fear takes in order to plague us. Worst of all, we seem to be defenseless against its onslaughts.

But are we?

To answer that question, let’s travel back to the scene of an infamous storm on the Sea of Galilee. A storm where fear was rampant and defeat, so thought Jesus’ frazzled disciples, was imminent.

Alone in the middle of the sea, the disciples struggled in vain as their tiny vessel was thrashed by the opposing wind and the menacing jaws of black water that threatened to swallow them whole. Jesus was back at the mountain where they had left Him to pray, and chances are they were really yearning for His presence right about this time.

And just when every ounce of their strength and hope had been drained by their fight with nature – things seemed to get worse. As if they weren’t freaked out enough, they now saw a new reason for terror. For there, hovering and gliding across the choppy waters was what could only be … “a ghost!” After all, what other creature could be so totally unaffected by such a storm?

But breaking through their shouts of panic came a familiar voice. The voice of One more powerful than the howling wind that swirled around them. “Have courage! It is I; do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid.

Peter was the first to obey that command. While the others were still dazed, still clinging to the mast and gripping the oars, Peter understood Jesus’ meaning. If Jesus could walk unharmed atop the source of their fears and troubles, then surely He would protect His followers as well. At that moment, Peter decided that the safest place to be was not in the flimsy shelter of their ship … but right there next to Jesus.

And so he did the unthinkable. He asked Jesus if he could join Him on the water.

We often pick on Peter for his lack of faith, but we forget what great faith it must have taken for him to step out in the first place. Notice that Peter did not attempt to venture out in his own power. He knew the task was impossible for a mere man to accomplish. But he sought the Lord; he asked permission and simultaneously requested supernatural means to accomplish this feat. His primary focus was on drawing closer to Christ, and his gaze was fixed entirely on his Lord. It didn’t matter to him that men just don’t walk on water. If some of his fellow disciples warned him, “Peter, that’s suicide!” he didn’t care.

He knew that if the Master willed it, he could transcend the very laws of nature.

So out he walked, mesmerized by the Prince of Peace in the midst of raging chaos. He knew he was supernaturally protected. His Lord had called him forward and so he could come.

But, as so often happens in a Christian’s life, Peter’s heavenly gaze faltered and he suddenly found himself examining the “reality” of his circumstances. Worldly truth began to sink in … and so did Peter.

“Hold on a second!” he must have thought, “I’m not supposed to be surviving this!”

And when his focus was turned from Christ to his circumstances, his fears were realized and he lost the power to stand. When he lost sight of the Source of his power, the impossible became impossible once again.

At that moment he could only do one thing – look back to Jesus to save him.

I love what Jesus did next. Scripture says that Jesus immediately grabbed his hand. He didn’t hesitate for awhile and watch Peter go down. “Well, serves ya right for not having enough faith in My power! You need to learn your lesson …”

Ah … no. Jesus immediately rescued him.

But though Jesus wasted no time in pulling Peter out of the inky black waves, that doesn’t mean He wasn’t disappointed. No doubt with sadness in His dark Hebrew eyes and an incredulous shake of His head, He told Peter, "You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?"

The goal had been in sight. Peter had ventured out in faith, literally in deep water (or on it), in a bold move that no one else had dared to try. His troubles started when he let doubt swallow his once-invincible faith.

That’s the biggest problem with fear … it drowns out our faith.

Often we are just like Peter. Just when we feel God’s power the strongest, just when His peace is flowing over us like never before, just when we feel that He has given us a rock-hard faith to walk on … suddenly a split second arrives when we look at everything surrounding us. And then the doubt and fear slowly worm their way to overcoming us. That’s when we must pray for Him to save us and pull us above our circumstances once again.

Jesus never told the disciples, “You have the power. Don’t be afraid.” He said, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“I am here,” He was saying, “I am with you. Place your faith in Me and you will not sink.”

Don’t let fear overtake your faith. Next time you find yourself battling against a bigger-than-life storm, I challenge you to look past it. Ignore the wind. Ignore the life-sucking waves. Ignore the screaming disciples who are beside you in the ship. Look to the only One Who has power to walk above your problems … and Who can enable you to walk beside Him.

Go out to Him. And don’t be afraid.

(Story found in Matthew 14:22-33 and Mark 6:45-51.)