Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

Book Review: A Second Chance by Alexis Goring

Book coverI interviewed Alexis Goring here in May, and came to know her as one who stands in the intersection of the arts and faith. Ever since then, I looked forward to her new book, A Second Chance. Here is my review.

What will food critic Traci do when she receives an inheritance from her grandfather … with a string attached: She must marry, with her mother’s approval, before she will receive a penny. At least there’s no time limit imposed on her love life.

And then she loses her job.

Is her attraction to political journalist Marc desperation, or is it real? With her history, how can Traci tell?

And given those who have lied to him in the past, and his current responsibilities, will Marc open his heart up to her?

Alexis Goring’s novella, A Second Chance, starts off with an intriguing premise. How will Traci and Marc sort through all the issues as they build a relationship? This is exactly the kind of romance I enjoy (I’m normally a suspense gal, of course).

Their faith issues play an important role in their relationship, as well. And you know what, in real life, this is how it is for Christians, working out their relationship with God as they navigate the challenges of life. This is what made Goring’s novel such a good read. The faith aspect was real, not contrived, not ignored, not glossed-over. Again, this is the way it is for real Christians in a real world. We get to sit back and watch Traci and Marc unravel the knots of their lives to see if their lives can be knotted together in a good way.

The writing itself is another excellent aspect of A Second Chance. Goring is a smooth writer, skillfully weaving the subplots (Marc’s sister and her kids, and Traci’s financial situation) into the main love story plot, and hitting all the awww moments romance readers crave. Skillfully, I have to add — those awww moments are neither forced, nor are they so sweet they give you a tummy ache.

What did I not like about A Second Chance? I felt the relationship between Traci and her mother, while not ignored, was given short shrift, especially given her grandfather’s mandate that her mother approve her marriage. She does approve, of course, but this could’ve been a source of tension, though Traci and her mom get along well, that would have enriched the story. Of course, it would’ve lengthened it, too, and the novella is just about perfect, length-wise. A tough balance for any writer.

Goring’s intriguing premise, and her adroit weaving of the subplots, and the adept heart-touching awww moments make the reader’s day.

I highly recommend A Second Chance.

Blessings,

Voni

Alexis Goring: The intersection of the arts and faith

Christian author Alexis Goring is here today, sharing her faith, her heart, and her novella, A Second Chance. (I have a review of A Second Chance here.)

Voni: Thanks so much for coming on my blog, Alexis! I’ve been excited for you to show off your new novella. The cover is just all-out fun…what can you tell us about the story itself?

Alexis A. Goring, April 2017

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ.

Alexis: Thanks, Voni! I’m happy to be here. A Second Chance is an inspirational, standalone novella. It’s a contemporary romance about characters that are in need of a second chance in life and at love.

The story features Marc (the hero), Traci (the heroine) and Gina (Marc’s sister). Marc is a newspaper journalist who keeps getting burned by women. So before he meets Traci, he’s ready to give up on love. Traci is also a newspaper journalist. Her fiancé left her at the altar on their Wedding Day and ran off with her Maid of Honor who she thought was her best friend. Needless to say, when readers first meet Traci, she is knee-deep in debt from the wedding that didn’t happen and her heart feels wounded beyond repair. Gina becomes quite the matchmaker in this story. But you’ll have to read it to find out why and how.

Book cover

Voni: How do Traci and Marc meet up in your story? What connects them?

Alexis: Traci and Marc’s meet-cute takes place inside a fancy restaurant. They connect later on when their best friends prompt them to give love a second chance. Working as newspaper journalists gives Traci and Marc immediate common ground. It also gives them a competitive edge because they both know when they’re “on to something”. You’ll have to read the story to find out what I mean by that phrase.

Voni: Common ground…just what people need when they’re on to something! On your Facebook page, you say “I’m a storyteller with a passion for the Arts & Entertainment industry and a heart for Jesus Christ!” What drew you to the arts and entertainment industry?

Alexis: Movies and music! Together along with amazing acting, these elements make movies memorable. I still listen to movie soundtracks when I’m writing a new fictional story. Movies always felt like home to me. Music has soothed my soul and inspired me on so many occasions. It was only natural for me to want to work in the Arts and Entertainment as a career professional. So I pursued it and graduated from college with a B.A. in Print Journalism and grad school with an MFA in Creative Writing. Waiting on the Lord to see what He wants me to do next.

Voni: Movies and music are a natural pairing, for sure, tied together with passion. How does your heart for Jesus intersect with this passion for the arts?

Alexis: My faith informs my viewpoint on life. As a believer in God and a follower of Jesus Christ, I consult them first before I make a career move. I go to God for every issue, praise, problem and concern for whatever happens in life because He is the only One with the answers that I need. It’s amazing how He places people in your life to connect with and help you in your time of need. I love how God works through people to accomplish His kingdom purposes. Since faith informs my viewpoint on life, it’s easier for me to stay motivated and bubbly because I’ve got Heaven on my mind. I know that Earth is not our home so that helps me to choose my battles wisely. When it comes to writing fictional stories, I always pray about it first and I ask God to guide me in every aspect of the creative writing process. He never fails me. As a writer of faith-based stories, my hope and prayer is that God will speak through my stories to help my readers find Him. I hope that each story is like an altar call, leading people closer to the heart of Jesus Christ who loves them with His Life.

Voni: Absolutely! How could your faith not be a part of all the stories you create? Thanks for letting us get to know you, Alexis. Congratulations on your book! Blessings!

(Alexis and I are having fun trading places today. Check out my turkey story on Alexis’ blog!)

The Wedding Rings–True story

We were like most people first starting out. When we got married, we were at the beginning of our careers. In other words, we couldn’t afford an expensive wedding ring, just an awesome one. It was a small marquis-cut diamond with rubies on either side. Beautiful. Both traditional and unique. I loved it.

Wish I had a picture of this ring, but this happened long before cell phones and phone cameras.

 

Six years later, we adopted our daughter. Beautiful. On my first Mother’s Day, she was ten months old. My husband, who loves me, handed me a ring-sized box. “Leah got you this with her allowance,” he explained.

My heart melted.

It melted again when I opened the box: A ring with a ruby in the center and diamonds on either side. The perfect companion to my wedding ring. Wife and Mother.

The two rings reminded me every day of my love for Rich and Leah, and their love for me.

Perfect.

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Then we attended the Navy Bean Festival in Rising Sun, Indiana. Yep. It’s a thing. A cool thing. It was a great time, enjoying the Indiana Fall and all the creative crafts and events. It was time to sit down for some bean soup and cornbread for lunch, and we found our place at a long, crowded table with open windows to let the gently brisk fall air stir our senses. Who knew bean soup tastes and smells like home? The inviting smell of the soup wafted out the windows.

Attracting wasps.

One of which made his way into the building, where my left-hand ring finger apparently bothered him.

So he stung it.

The paramedic hated telling me he was going to have to cut it off my poor swollen ring finger.

I did, too.

Rich did, too.

But that’s life.

 

We couldn’t afford to replace the ring, but I wanted a ring so we went to Walmart and got a cheapie, planning on buying a good one later. It was pretty. However, it didn’t take long for a prong to get messed up and get caught on everything; a diamond chip disappeared. I had to quit wearing it.

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Fast forward several years later. My husband, who loves me, decided enough was enough. He was on a trip to Juneau and decided to surprise me with a new ring.

Yet another melt-my-heart moment.

Only I am just 4’6”. The ring needed to be sized. Our local jeweler couldn’t do it, as he knew it would end up almost a square shape, as far down as it needed to be cut. The jeweler in Juneau said he could do it, but he was preparing to close up for the winter, so I had to make haste. We mailed the ring along with my old high school class ring which did fit, insured and all, to Rich’s co-worker in Juneau, who took the ring to the jeweler and returned it to us when he finished sizing it. Yeah, it’s the slightest bit square-ish. But not really. It fits. And I love it, and it reminds me of Rich’s love for me every time I put it on.

Perfect.

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Fast forward a couple of years. We were at the movie theater, and my hands were dry. As we waited for the movie to start, I took off my rings, put my lotion on, settled in to enjoy the movie…

And I noticed later…at home…No ring.

My heart dropped. I took it off for the lotion. But it was also cold that day, and I took gloves on and off as we went to and fro. It could have fallen anywhere. Especially with be-lotioned hands.

My husband, who loves me, did not get upset.

My heart stayed in my stomach for the next couple of days until the movie theater was open and I could call. But I didn’t need to call.

Someone responded to my Facebook message asking people to watch for it. That someone was the manager of the theater.

A teenage boy had found my ring when he went to watch the late movie that night.

And turned it in.

Hope for the world.

And my heart returned to its rightful place, beating away in my chest.

 

As our pastor reminded us yesterday, a wedding ring isn’t a marriage. It is just a symbol, just a thing.

So why have my ring(s) meant so much to me?

The same reason why stomping on a flag is more than stomping on a piece of cloth.

The same reason why a cross is more than just a decoration or something pretty to wear.

It’s the meaning behind the symbol.

A cross is not my faith, but it is a symbol of my faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That sacrifice is why the cross means something.

The American flag is not my country, but it is a symbol of my country and its history and its rich legacy of democracy. That history and legacy is why the stars and stripes mean something.

A wedding ring is not love. But love is why my wedding ring means something.

I love you, too, Rich.

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What symbols mean a lot to you? What is behind the symbol? I’d love to hear!

Blessings,

Voni

Review: Warror’s Seal by Ronie Kendig

I was enjoying my lunch out (it was my birthday, and Rich was traveling for work). I took my Kindle and was reading Ronie Kendig’s novella, Warrior’s Seal.

The waitress walked up to ask me if I wanted a refill. “Oh! Sorry!” she said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Yep.

I was that into it.

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Ronie has a way with a military novel. She has a way with imagining an impossible (fiction) situation, and making it more impossible. She has a way of connecting your heart with the characters, so that when they are nervous, you are; when they are determined, you are; when they are exhausted, you are; when they are happy, you are.

All these things are very evident in Warrior’s Seal. Thus, the waitress’s ability to startle me.

What did I like about this novella? The situation, first and foremost. The main character, Tox, is the leader of a military team tasked with a mission to save the President, a mission that is complicated by his personal relationships (no spoilers here, but this is a doozy). I absolutely love how Ronie was able to bring in ancient history, too. Do we today have the ability to save the world from the ancient toxin that is released?

What did I not like about Warrior’s Seal? Not much. It makes me angry that Tox is in trouble (I told you it was a doozy), though his loyalty to his team is very evident in the end. It makes me even more angry that Tox accepts the trouble. He is an extraordinarily capable warrior of integrity and yet sees no way out? He obviously feels powerless, destined to the trouble. He has more strength of character than this; If he told his story, explained why he did what he did, America would be on his side.

Of course, it’s complicated (I told you it’s a doozy), and Tox himself is complicated.

I did not like the ending: I wanted more!

But that’s the purpose of this free prequel. (Get it here) It’s setting up her Tox Files series, the first book of which is on preorder now, and releases tomorrow. It’s called Conspiracy of Silence.

Ronie is sending the more that I’m craving.

Thanks, Ronie.

Blessings,

Voni

SOFT PLAQUE VS. TARTAR

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Found on Wikimedia under Creative Commons license. Photographer, D. Sharon Pruitt Owner of Pink Sherbet Photography Official Website, www.pinksherbet.com Contact Email, pink@pinksherbet.com

File this in the category “They didn’t know they were teaching me something spiritual.”

My dental hygienist today explained to me that if you do not brush and floss, within 24 hours soft plaque will harden…

Into TARTAR.

Ew. No one wants tartar. It’s just gross. And it only takes 24 hours to happen.

24 HOURS!!!!!

In fact, it’s worse than she said. According to this website, it only takes 12 hours for soft plaque to develop…Guess that’s why they say to brush and floss twice a day.

It made me think about sin as I sat under the hot lights with torture devices, I mean, dental tools assailing my mouth.

Does God give us the law, then sit “upstairs” gleefully waiting to zap us with lightning bolts at the slightest infraction? Of course not. Any more than the hygienist wants to deliver a soft—or hard—lecture on flossing. Not that I would know. Ahem.

The law is there, like toothbrushes and dental floss and those dental torture devices, to keep our sin from hardening. Hygienists know what ultimately happens when plaque hardens; they don’t want that for us. God knows what happens when sin hardens our heart; He doesn’t want that for us.

Because hardening is what sin does. I think of when Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and it took plagues (spelled surprisingly close to plaque, just saying) for the Israelites to be released (Starting in Exodus 9). On the other hand, I think of Cyrus of Persia, who listened when God stirred his heart, and God’s people were released from exile and returned to rebuild the temple…with funds from Cyrus (Ezra 6).

I think of David, who committed adultery and murder in a kind of sin two-for-one. Yet, when confronted, he repented so deeply we have Psalm 51 to show us the softness of his heart for God. On the other hand, I think of Jonah, who refused to listen when sent to Ninevah and ended up in the belly of a whale, followed by a trip to Ninevah where he preached to the Ninevites with a pretty hard heart. (They repented, anyway–the story is told in the eponymous Old Testament book.)

Yes, with Jesus, our sins are forgiven. (But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgiveus our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9)

Yes, guilt comes from Satan, who is called The Accuser, while conviction, or conscience if you prefer, comes from the Holy Spirit.(And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. John 16:8–Jesus speaking about the Holy Spirit.)  It’s important to note from the Greek-Hebrew Study Bible that in the Hebrew “convict”–clenchos–means to expose, to rebuke, to show fault, rather than “find guilty” as in the sense of a modern-day court or a judgemental lightning bolt.

Yes, God, through the Holy Spirit, still uses the law to show us where we are going wrong so we can come to him in repentance before the soft plaque of sin turns to hardened tartar in our hearts.

Blessings,

Voni

Trail Leader or Command Leader?

Rich and I went on a short anniversary trip to Fairbanks this month, enjoying the beauty of the nearby Chena Hot Springs as well. While we were there, we signed up for a tour of Chena Dog Kennel, home to both retired and up-and-coming sled dogs as well as ones who love the trail, but just aren’t fast enough for the elite dog mushers.

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We didn’t tour the kennels too much. We were too busy enjoying the pup he brought indoors for us to play with and peppering him with a million questions. We loved it.

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(Rich is on the left, our tour guide on the right)

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It wasn’t even a spiritual conversation. Our tour guide didn’t mean to cut my soul to the quick during our “tour.” But he did.

He shared how there are two types of lead dogs: Command Leaders and Trail Leaders.

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Trail Leader dogs know the trail so well they could lead the dog team without the musher. They don’t get lost. They don’t run off. They are trustworthy. They know their job and do it with alacrity and joy.

Command Leader dogs have that same alacrity and joy, but they may or may not know the trail, or they may be entirely off-trail. It doesn’t matter. They listen for their musher’s voice and respond. They can be trusted wherever the musher takes them.

It makes me think of parenting. What parent wants their kid to be one who is just along for the run, pulling their weight? Who even wants their child to be a leader, but one who simply runs the trail correctly? A wise parent wants their child to be Command Leader, attuned to the values and morals they were taught, so that no matter what the trail of life brings them, they can respond with alacrity and joy.

Since when has the trail of life ever been simple and unchanging, anyway?

And what about my spiritual life? Am I a Trail Leader or a Command Leader?

Do I check off all the Christian boxes? Church attendance, check. Read Bible daily, check. Pray before a meal, check. Run the trail as usual, check.

Or do I feel safe when God leads me off the trail into glorious, beautiful, mysterious parts unknown, because I am attuned to His voice?

John 10:27 “My (dogs) listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” — Jesus refers to us as sheep, not dogs, but the point is the same, lol.

Psalm 143:8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. —uh, Who else would we trust but our Creator?

May God lead you off the trail into glorious, beautiful, mysterious parts unknown as you listen to His voice!

Blessings,

Voni

PS. As an aside, life is like dog mushing…a leader is not the one in charge. The Musher is, as in Jesus Christ. Life is also NOT like dog mushing…a leader is not necessarily the one out front. There are many ways to be a leader and impact the world for good other than being out front.

PSS. After our “tour,” which lasted longer than expected as we asked question after question, we were invited to watch them prepare the dogs to take some tourists on a run. To keep the dogs healthy and engaged, they do this on wheeled carts year-round, even without snow. Rich was petting one of the dogs when she was not “chosen”—don’t feel sorry for her; her turn eventually came. The poor, silly thing literally climbed up Rich and began whining. These dogs LOVE to run.

 

 

The Gathered Waters

The Gathered Waters He Called Sea

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The pounding of the ocean waves, pummeling the shore…

The deafening whoosh of the waterfall…

The rush of the mighty river…

The babbling of the brook…

The stillness of the gentle lake on a summer day…

The laughing splash of the swimming pool…

The “Ahhhh” of a cool draught of water…

The quiet of the trembling drop clinging to the limb…

The plop as it lands on my nose.

Kenhardt

 

Picture credits: 
Waves: “Waves in pacifica 1” by Brocken Inaglory – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Waves_in_pacifica_1.jpg#/media/File:Waves_in_pacifica_1.jpg
Water Drop: By Lourie Pieterse (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons