Tackle Reading - A Guest Post from Kathryn Starke

Tackle Reading: A Book & Movement to promote a love of literacy with a passion for football-a partnership supported by the NFL! 

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Kathryn Starke, national urban literacy consultant and author, wrote Tackle Reading, a popular reading resource published by Creative Minds Publications. The book has motivational tips, engaging activities, and inspirational stories written by 45 contributing writers including NFL athletes. It’s used in teacher book clubs and PD across the country and nominated for the book list of Books Every Teacher Should Read.

To bring the book to life for children, Starke partnered with fellow literacy leader and author Michelle Staubach Grimes to kick off the annual Tackle Reading day, held each March to celebrate Read Across America and national reading month. NFL athletes coast to coast spend the day reading to their local elementary schools. Thanks to corporate sponsorship and charitable giving, we are able to donate children’s books to classrooms across the country on this special day.

Find Out: How the Minnesota Vikings help Tackle Reading Across America

Check Out Our story in Read it Forward and Publisher’s Weekly NFL Players Inspire Kids to Read Coast to Coast

Read the Story Monsters Magazine feature: Kathryn Starke Scores a Touchdown with Tackle Reading

Tackle Reading “180”-a reading model to help schools achieve literacy success any time of the school year

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How Anyone Can Participate in Tackle Reading Day:

1-Any school across the country can participate on #TackleReading day (next date: March 1, 2019) by implementing any of the ideas (football themed books, cooking, etc.)  from this link.

2-Any NFL athlete can join our team to serve as a guest reader by contacting the Community Relations department of your NFL team or emailing Kathryn Starke, founder of Tackle Reading, at info@creativemindspublications.com

3-Any individual, business, or organization can sponsor a #TackleReading event in a local school of your choice and help give the gift of reading and books to children and classrooms.

4-Note: Tackle Reading assemblies, teacher PD, book club discounts, and family or community literacy events are available all year long at a discounted cost when using the code word: #TackleReading. Email info@creativemindspublications.com to inquire and book for your school.

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Taking Your Part in the Conversation

To me, a great novel says something. Beyond having compelling characters or page-turning plot elements, a great novel makes a point of some kind. It has something to say to the world. It might be as simple as “Love conquers all,” or “You can never go home again,” or “Do unto others.” Or it might be a far more complex statement about human nature or political systems or whether there is a God. But one thing that all great novels have in common is that they have something to add to the Conversation.

You may not be surprised to learn that someone who thinks this way—namely the writer of this article—was an English major in college. It’s such a delightfully impractical degree. Why would anyone get a degree in a language they already speak? Surely others have their own reasons, but my reason was that I loved to read and I wanted to teach others to love to read. I thought I’d be a professor and take my place as another happy cog in the futile wheel of teaching students literature so they could teach students literature so they could teach students literature.

Of course, that oversimplifies things a bit too much, don’t you think? As an English major studies poetry, plays, short stories, and novels she is learning plenty of “useful” skills: how to read a text closely, how to identify subtext, how to interpret symbols, how to think critically, how to defend one’s position on an issue. But that’s not why one becomes an English major. One becomes an English major because one wants to be part of the Conversation.

The Conversation I’m talking about is that time-bending, mystical union between writer and reader. That magical transference of thought from one mind to another over miles and over oceans, over years or decades or centuries. A writer speaks onto the page and sometime later a reader listens.

John Donne opines on the nature of love in the 16th century and 450 years later a brokenhearted man finds solace.

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe exposes a generation of Americans who preferred to look the other way to the horrors of slavery and ten years later President Lincoln is said to have said upon meeting her, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”

In post-war Britain, George Orwell puts pen to his fears about humanity giving up freedom in exchange for safety, and in 21st century America his words ring out from countless memes shared on social media.

Personal or political, quiet or inflammatory, satirical or sentimental, the Conversation continues through the ages as new books are written and new readers are born. What a privilege that despite our own obscurity we can speak with the likes of William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison.

As it turned out, I went into publishing rather than academia, into the realm of creation rather than critique. I am adding my own thoughts to the Conversation, which will carry on without me after I die. So when I write, I want my novels to say something. Something about what it means to human, what we lose when we ignore the past, what it takes to forgive, what we gain when we love each other anyway.

I don’t regret getting a degree in a language I already spoke. Because all the while it was allowing me to speak to countless people I would never have the chance to meet. And those people have become some of my closest friends and greatest teachers.


Erin Bartels has been a publishing professional for more than fifteen years. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. A freelance writer and editor, she is a member of Capital City Writers and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son, Calvin, and can be found online at www.erinbartels.com. We Hope for Better Things is her first novel.

The Ultimate Happily Ever After

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Romance is a funny thing. Christian romance can be even funnier. Questions about ‘how far is too far’ and ‘is this (historically) appropriate’ and even ‘should Christians read fiction’ crop up every now and again, making this author pause, reflect—and keep on writing.

I write Christian romance. I hope my stories entertain, and that people enjoy the historical details and the elements of romance I include. Most of all I hope people respond to the faith message. Because I believe ‘Christian’ and ‘romance’ aren’t mutually exclusive, and that Christian romance should be the epitome of romance stories.

The Bible is full of romance, with stories of marriages, stories of wooing. God Himself is depicted as a bridegroom, longing for His bride (the church). Here in Australia I grew up singing about Jesus, the ‘Lover of My Soul.’ God is into love. Hello, God IS love!

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But more than the thudding hearts and scorching kisses we so often see portrayed in today’s world, I enjoy (and endeavor to write) stories that show the reality of love. The practicing of forgiveness. The need for patience. Choosing to trust and not fear. Sacrificing selfish ambitions. These are the godly components for love, aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and those qualities often read at weddings from 1 Corinthians 13. These are the real drivers of ‘true love,’ far more than how passionate a kiss might be.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been married for over 21 years now, and with four children, I believe in passion :) . But more important than that, our marriage has meant learning to love in a way that means swallowing pride, keeping anger checked, learning to compromise. My husband and I are definitely not perfect, we’re still learning what real love looks like.

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In this Instagram-perfect, happiness-hungry, disposable world such things can seem peculiar. In a world of TV bachelors and ‘social experiment marriages’ and celebrity divorce, people who live promises of ‘until death do us part’ can seem extreme. Our world needs stories that reflect God’s ways, that hint of the Divine Romance, and show God’s principles, principles that may at first seem counter-intuitive, but ultimately lead to peace and joy and hope.

I love how God can use fiction to draw people to His truth, how these godly principles can make people pause, reflect, and maybe even repent. My books have been called ‘defiantly Christian,’ so it surprises me when non-Christian friends tell me they have enjoyed my novels. I hope (and pray) that God will continue to use my fictional romances to wash away the dirt of the world and help people see Him just a little bit more. Not that I have all the answers, but I know that God does.

Romance might be a funny thing, something that evokes a wide range of responses from Christians and not-yet Christians, but I think it’s wonderful that God can use our stories to woo readers to Himself. I pray my readers may find the ultimate Love of their life, the Lover of their soul, the One who demonstrates what true love looks and feels and sounds like, the One whose story never ends, and in whom is found the ultimate happily-ever-after.


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Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Visit her website for more information.

Carolyn’s books, The Making of Mrs. Hale (a Gold Star review) and A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh, are featured in the Launch & Spring issues of Hope By The Book magazine.

When You Fear That the One Who Has Swept You Off Your Feet Has Dropped You

I returned to the critical care waiting room on the neurosurgery floor and saw, through the glass, my mother-in-law’s smile and thumbs-up. My heart flooded with relief as a smile broke across my face. I knew my husband had survived his second brain surgery in four years.

In that moment, I did not think of our starkly different personalities or the fact that my love language is quality time and his love language is hunting. Really, I didn’t think of anything but the fact that I love my man.

In that moment, he could do no wrong.

Two days later, I was so grateful that his severe post-craniotomy headaches had eased, and his appetite returned, that I offered to get him cold-pressed juice, omelets . . . coffee. He teased me and said I would flip the breaker to the whole hospital just to dim the lights in his room, or I would pay $3,000 and walk through snow to purchase the fizzy drink he craved. It was true (well, maybe not the snow part). I would have done anything for my husband because the trial of brain surgery had blurred everything but love.

The day after we returned home, however, my vision returned to normal.

My husband is a minimalist except when it comes to undershirts and camouflage. He likes smooth surfaces and clean, white lines. I like color and texture and plants.

This morning, I ate breakfast and left the plate on the table. The leftover yolk would have congealed, but my husband was so kind and rinsed it off. At lunch, I ate a salad and left the container on the counter. I also left a wet diaper on the living room floor, which I forgot to take back to the diaper genie in the nursery.

My husband commented on these things, and I snapped out the fitted sheet and began folding it (which you probably shouldn’t do if you’re already frustrated). I snapped out the pillowcases. I began folding towels. And then I took off, cleaning baseboards and wiping down walls. If he wanted a clean house, by George, he was going to get it.

My husband, in his recliner while recovering from brain surgery, started laughing.

“Can’t there be a balance?” he said.

But he knew the answer to his own question. Part of the reason he married me is because I am an all or nothing kind of gal. Part of the reason I married him is because he is an all or nothing kind of man. When we’re all in, even the harshest of trials cannot stop us. And here we were, getting annoyed with each other because we had different ways of keeping house.

Marriages are often formed between starkly different personalities because we’re drawn to strengths that offset the places where we’re weak. But over time, those stark differences can clash instead of complement, and you find yourself wondering if the one who swept you off your feet really wishes he would have dropped you.

But then, when we focus on love, every perceived “fault” or difference blurs. Did I care about our differences when I saw my mother-in-law’s thumbs-up through the waiting room window? No. Did I wish he liked my red gingham tablecloth instead of surreptitiously stuffing it into the storage cupboard? No.

In that moment, all I cared about was him: my dryly funny man, who drives me up the (very clean) wall and makes me laugh till my sides hurt.

Let’s focus on love, my friends. Love is the greatest commandment because, when we focus on it, every surface fault blurs.


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Jolina Petersheim is the highly acclaimed author of The Divide, The Alliance, The Midwife, and The Outcast, which Library Journal called “outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational” in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. That book also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Tennessean. CBA Retailers + Resources called her second book, The Midwife, “an excellent read [that] will be hard to put down,” and Booklist selected The Alliance as one of their Top 10 Inspirational Fiction Titles for 2016. The Alliance was also a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award in the Visionary category. The sequel to The Alliance, The Divide, won the 2018 INSPY Award for Speculative Fiction. Jolina’s non-fiction writing has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest, Today’s Christian Woman, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but they now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their three young daughters. Jolina’s next novel, How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of Ruth set in a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, releases March 2019.

Soul Care: Making a Personalized Discipleship Plan

We’ve been talking about self-care here on HBTB this week. Did you catch the Feeding The Temple and Bookish Pampering Essentials articles? Today, author Dana Allin is here to chat about his new book SIMPLE DISCIPLESHIP (NavPress, Jan 8) and how we can personalize our own discipleship.

4 Elements of a Personalized Discipleship Plan

by Dana Allin

I was regularly meeting with a man who wanted to grow in his own discipleship. He had taken our Discipleship 360° Assessment and felt that he needed to grow in the area of generosity. This included being generous with his finances, but he also wanted to be generous in the way he related to others; for example, being more willing to give of his time and to forgive. The challenge he faced was how to grow in this area. He knew he needed more than simply sermons on the topic—he had heard plenty of those. He needed a more comprehensive approach to growth. I introduced him to the four dimensions of developing a discipleship plan that I learned from LeaderSource SGA (www.leadersource.org). In my book I call these the four directions to look when developing a personalized discipleship plan.

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Look up to God: We need to rely on the Lord to develop in our discipleship. This probably seems obvious, but it is easy to think that we can simply grow in our own power and ability to execute our plans. The reality, however, is that we need to look to the Lord for His example and strength. This young disciple who wanted to become more generous needed to do more than budget to give of his finances and his time. He needed to engage with the Lord in such a way as to experience the depth of the Lord’s generosity in his life. As part of his discipleship plan, he scheduled time in the morning and evening to reflect on the Lord’s provision and love during that day and within his life as a whole. He took some personal retreat time to fast and rely on the Lord’s provision and to immerse himself in Scriptures about the Lord’s generosity. He also prayed daily for strength to recognize opportunities to be gracious toward others.

Look down to truth: When we read Scripture, we are looking down. First and foremost we look down to God’s Word to give us guidance and instruction. We might also look to other books or resources, which, while not the ultimate truth, give helpful insight in the areas where we are trying to grow. The man who wanted to grow in generosity planned to read the Gospels over a two-month period and reflect upon the ways in which Jesus was generous or called us to be generous. He also picked up a devotional book that focused on living a sacrificial life.

Look right to others: God has not called us to walk the path of discipleship alone but has given us the community of believers to support, nurture, and challenge us to grow. We need to involve others in our plans of discipleship. The man seeking to grow in generosity enlisted the help of people close to him. They prayed for him to mature in this area, and they had permission to call him out when they saw him not living generously and to ask him questions on how his plan was progressing. One of the greatest benefits for this man was to have his wife and others lovingly give him real-time feedback and support. 

Look left to experience: God gives us experiences that help develop the qualities and characteristics that we need. Many of these experiences happen to us unexpectedly, and we need to be ready for them. We can also actively plan experiences that will help us develop in our discipleship. This man built in a few experiences that would help him grow. He first made sure that he intentionally gave of his time and attention to others every week. This may have meant engaging with a talkative, needy person at work or within his extended family. He also built in opportunities to give financially: Not only did he commit to tithing, but he also sometimes skipped going out to eat or to the movies and used those finances to bless others.

It takes significant time to make and follow a plan that will help you grow, but it is absolutely crucial to have such a plan. Growth in discipleship doesn’t happen quickly or by accident, but with a personal and comprehensive plan, you can see tremendous growth.


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Rev. Dr. Dana Allin is synod executive for the Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). Dana formerly served as the president of the board of ECO, the pastor of Indian River Presbyterian Church in Fort Pierce, FL, and the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, CA. He is an associate certified coach with the International Coach Federation. He lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Beth, and their three children, Micah, Peyton, and Piper.

Merry Christmas

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This Christmas, as lovers of words, may you know THE Word, the Hope of the world

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.

The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

So the Word became human and made his home among us.
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John 1:1, 5, 14 (NLT)

War-Torn During The Holiday Season

Since I was a kid, I have always loved Christmas—not just the day, but the whole season. Even before I really knew God on a personal level, it was still about more for me than gifts and treats and a big dinner—it was family and fun and togetherness and laughter. For me, even now on a closer walk with God where I am intimately aware that we are celebrating the birth of the Savior, it’s still about those things. I really love the music, and the lights, and the excitement, and with four kids still at home, the magic. It is my very favorite time of the year.

But now, as with so many veterans, there is a darkness that can descend over the season if I let it. It wasn’t that long ago that Christmas, more than any other holiday, brought painful memories and images I’d worked hard to forget. For me, it brought thoughts of brothers I’ve lost, who aren’t home anymore with the wives and children they’ve left behind. I think of them every day, but I imagine the loss their families feel at this time of year and it tugs at me harder. For families still on active duty, it can be a very difficult time indeed. I say families, because it’s important to remember that it is not just the warfighter who sacrifices. In many ways it is so much harder a struggle to be the spouse or the children left behind during a deployment. Unlike other types of family separation, the family of a warfighter has the stress of worry and fear added to the loneliness and longing. While it is simple enough to pray about these fears, it is another thing all together to surrender them to God completely. And in the face of real tragedy and loss associated with wartime military service, it can be hard to find God in your situation at all. The horrors of war can bring questions hard to answer to warfighter and families alike. Where is God in all of this death and destruction? Why would He “let” this happen? Why can’t God bring us back together? How can God love me, after I’ve been asked to do the things I’ve done, and where was God in the horror I’ve witnessed?

Those were the feelings I was dealing with a few years ago when I decided that I felt called to write War Torn. I was already having much success with my writing, but I felt strongly that God was calling me to use the gift He has grown in me to serve Him and touch others. At the time, to be honest, I was still probably a long way from home myself. Writing this book was a journey of healing right along side my young protagonist Jake. And I later learned, my wife, Wendy, shared much in common with Rachel, his wife in the novel. Struggling with how to put it all together (in my mind I convinced myself I meant the book, not my own life) I approached Pastor Chris Bonham, the Senior Executive Pastor at Grace Family Church, where we had been attending for a few years by then. His friendship has proven to be such a blessing in my own journey, but his impact on the book was immeasurable. I’ve written before about the important message he shared with me in that meeting—about the loss of hope that occurred at the crucifixion and how those present with Jesus on the at day must have felt torn apart, full of hopelessness, perhaps even betrayed by God on that day. Because they didn’t have what we have now going into Easter—the knowledge that the resurrection was just around the corner and that through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we can now have a personal, intimate relationship with God—they felt only the pain and loss and horror of that day. That conversation with Pastor Chris changed me and it also changed the framework of War Torn. Instead of writing about unanswerable questions, I learned that it is about surrender of those questions, along with the hurt and loss, to God. It is about finding our way to family and to our faith. It’s about hope.

So, what is Christmas, if not a celebration of the birth of that hope? War Torn is about redemption, and true redemption—and the marvelous release of pain that comes with it—was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. When God decided to come to us in the flesh, to take our failures on himself and sacrifice himself on a cross so that we could be in relationship with Him, our redemption was born.

It still hurts to know that there is grief in this season for the families my brothers left behind. It turns out, unlike my naïve interpretation of the scripture early in my walk, Romans Eight does not promise us freedom from pain or suffering. But it does promise us that, through the hope brought by a relationship with Jesus Christ, we can surrender our suffering and burdens to God and he will ease them—that he will even bring good from them. That is the hope that was born in that manger.

Christmas presents a unique opportunity to share that hope with others—those in desperate need of the hope found in the message of Jesus’ birth and life as well as his death and resurrection. If there are service members and their families in your community, reach out to them this season with that hope. If there are veterans in your community—and with nearly eighteen years of continuous war fighting that is nearly every community in our nation—Celebrate Christmas by bringing the hope of the risen Christ to those who have served and live near you. If your church doesn’t have a support group for these warfighters and their families, ask why. Maybe even help get one launched. If you don’t know how to start, that’s okay. Find us at www.wartornnovel.com and let us help you.

It is a season for giving, so give what matters most.

Merry Christmas.


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Navy veteran and Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestselling thriller author Jeffrey Wilson is a vascular surgeon who was completing his training when terrorists attacked America on 9/11. Already having served, Jeff immediately rejoined the active duty Navy and served as a combat surgeon with the Marines and then with an East Coast–based SEAL team and a Joint Special Operations Task Force, making multiple deployments. His experiences there—seeing things that cannot be unseen—sent him on his own journey exploring, and at times questioning, his faith, and are the inspiration for this novel. Jeff has also worked as an actor, a firefighter, a paramedic, a jet pilot, and a diving instructor.

Together with fellow Navy veteran Brian Andrews, Jeff writes the Amazon #1 bestselling Tier One series of military thrillers and (under the pseudonym Alex Ryan) the Nick Foley thriller series. Jeff is also the author of three award-winning supernatural thrillers.

Jeff and his wife, Wendy, are Virginia natives who, with their four children, Ashley, Emma, Jack, and Connor, call southwest Florida home. When not writing his next novel, Jeff still practices medicine and leads the Men’s Military Ministry at his church, where Wendy leads the Beautiful Moms Ministry, Emma sings on the praise and worship team, Jack works on the AV team, and Connor has volunteered in the children’s ministry.

Learn more at www.wartornnovel.com and www.andrews-wilson.com.

It's Not Supposed to Be This Way with author Lysa TerKeurst

New York Times bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst unveils her heart amid shattering circumstances and shows readers how to live assured when life doesn't turn out like they expected.


About the Book

What do you do when God’s timing seems questionable, His lack of intervention hurtful, and His promises doubtful?

Life often looks so very different than we hoped or expected. Some events may simply catch us off guard for a moment, but others shatter us completely. We feel disappointed and disillusioned, and we quietly start to wonder about the reality of God’s goodness.

Lysa TerKeurst understands this deeply. But she's also discovered that our disappointments can be the divine appointments our souls need to radically encounter God. In It's Not Supposed to Be This Way, Lysa invites us into her own journey of faith and, with grit, vulnerability, and honest humor, helps us to:

  • Stop being pulled into the anxiety of disappointment by discovering how to better process unmet expectations and other painful situations.

  • Train ourselves to recognize the three strategies of the enemy so we can stand strong and persevere through unsettling relationships and uncertain outcomes.

  • Discover the secret of being steadfast and not panicking when God actually does give us more than we can handle.

  • Shift our suspicion that God is cruel or unfair to the biblical assurance that God is protecting and preparing us.

  • Know how to encourage a friend and help her navigate hard realities with real help from God's truth.


Q&A with Lysa TerKeurst

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Lysa TerKeurst

Q. Why did you write It’s Not Supposed to be This Way?

LT: Life often looks so very different than we hoped or expected. We have this feeling that things should be better than they are. People should be better than they are. Circumstances should be better than they are. Finances should be better than they are. Relationships should be better than they are. Some events may simply catch us off guard for a moment, but others shatter us completely. And underneath it all, we’re disappointed. I deeply and personally understand that ache of disappointment. That's why I wrote It's Not Supposed to Be This Way. This is so much more than a book for me. If I could only give one life message, this would be it. I want to help others find the hope God has given me in the midst of the most heartbreaking season of my life. I want them to be able to find unexpected strength when disappointments leave them shattered. I want them to know how to wrestle well between faith and feelings when their life gets turned completely upside down.

Q: You say we have to wrestle between two perspectives: feelings and faith.

LT: I have honest feelings where I want to throw my hands up in utter frustration and yell about the unfairness of it all. To deny my feelings any voice is to rob me of being human. But to let my feelings be the only voice will rob my soul of healing perspectives with which God wants to comfort me and carry me forward.

My feelings and my faith will almost certainly come into conflict with each other. My feelings see rotten situations as absolutely unnecessary hurt that stinks. My soul sees it as fertilizer for a better future. Both these perspectives are real. And they yank me in different directions with never-ending wrestling. To wrestle well means acknowledging my feelings but moving forward, letting my faith lead the way.

Q: How do you define hope – especially when reality is extremely painful?

LT: Hoping doesn’t mean I put myself in harm’s way. It doesn’t mean I ignore reality. No, hoping means I acknowledge reality in the very same breath that I acknowledge God’s sovereignty.

And, I’ve learned one more important fact: my hope isn’t tied to my expectations finally being met in my way and in my timing. No. My hope isn’t tied to whether or not a circumstance or another person changes. My hope is tied to the unchanging promise of God. I hope for the good I know God will ultimately bring from this, whether the good turns out to match my desires or not. And, sometimes, that takes a while.

Q: What is the first step toward healing?

LT: Feeling the pain is the first step toward healing the pain. The longer we avoid the feeling, the more we delay our healing. We can numb it, ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist, but all those options lead to an eventual breakdown, not a breakthrough.

The feeling of the pain is like a warning light on the dashboard of a car. The light comes on to indicate something is wrong. We can deny it. We can ignore it. We can assume it’s a little glitch in the operating panel. We can even go to the mechanic and ask him to turn off that annoying little light. But if he’s a good mechanic, he would tell you it’s foolish not to pay attention to it. Because if you don’t attend to it, you will soon experience a breakdown. The warning light isn’t trying to annoy you. It’s trying to protect you. And pain is much the same. It’s the pain we feel that finally demands we slow down enough to address what’s really going on below the surface.

. . .if you get desperate enough you’ll go all in with living slow for a while. You’ll quiet down all the outside noise so God’s voice can become the loudest voice in your life.
— Lysa TerKeurst, It's Not Supposed to Be This Way

Q: How do we get confused about God’s best for our lives?

LT: I want to assume that my definition of best should be God’s definition of best. And that my definition of good should be God’s definition of good. I want to write the story of my life according to all my assumptions. Therefore, it’s impossible to escape the truth that I don’t want to relinquish control to God. I want to take control from God. And then I make the most dangerous assumption of all: I could surely do all of this better than God.

We may be afraid of all the disappointment of this broken world. But God isn’t afraid. He’s aware. So very aware of His ultimate plans and purposes. It isn’t to keep us from getting shattered. It’s to keep our souls connected, so deeply connected to Himself. And let’s be honest, if we weren’t ever disappointed, we’d settle for the shallow pleasures of this world rather than addressing the spiritual desperation of our souls.

Q: We’ve heard people say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Is that in the Bible?

LT: No, that’s not actually in the Bible. And it’s simply not true. I know I’m not the only one who feels they’ve been given more than they can handle. I see the wide-eyed expressions on people all the time. The world is filled with people who are dealt more than they can handle. And, surprisingly, the Bible is also filled with people who were given more than they could handle.

God doesn’t expect us to handle this. He wants us to hand this over to Him. He doesn’t want us to rally more of our own strength. He wants us to rely solely on His strength. If we keep walking around, thinking that God won’t give us more than we can handle, we set ourselves up to be suspicious of God. We know we are facing things that are too much for us. We are bombarded with burdens. We are weighed down with wondering. And we are all trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense. Before we can move forward in a healthy way, we must first acknowledge the truth about our insufficiency.

God doesn’t expect us to handle this. He wants us to hand this over to Him.
— Lysa TerKeurst, It's Not Supposed to Be This Way

Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (Thomas Nelson). Connect with Lysa at www.LysaTerKeurst.com.


Our Reviewer’s Take

Gold Star Review

(Originally posted in our November 24, 2018 In Review section)

Lysa TerKeurst, the New York Times bestselling author of Uninvited, has yet again written a heartfelt recounting of shattering disappointments and painful circumstances while also framing them for readers from God’s perspective. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way touches on the life-long question of the whys, matched with the innate desire to know all the answers and be in control. Challenging, engaging and insightful, the author’s easy and friendly style of writing will draw you in like close friends sharing their most intimate struggles. Additionally, the end-of-chapter reminders, Biblical references and reflections to ponder, make this book the perfect choice for individual use or small group study. More than a devotional or self-help book, readers will find personally relevant themes as well as encouragement to trust God in His promises, learn to let go and let Jesus “take the wheel” in their own lives. (THOMAS NELSON, Nov., 272 pp., $22.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt

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Tis The Season: An Advent Devotional Roundup

The Thanksgiving turkey is either in the trash or the freezer (hopefully) at this point, and we’ve officially entered the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Christmas music plays 24-7, Santa is ringing bells at every Walmart and mall entrance, and even the Hallmark Mysteries channel has been taken over by non-mystery Christmas movies. (I’m a little bitter about that one, in case you couldn’t tell haha!)

IT’S CHRISTMASTIME!!!

My favorite season, but also one of the toughest holidays for many people. Even if you’re not hit by stress, anxiety or depression as some are this season, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the shopping and baking and wrapping and decorating - to the point that we lose sight of the Reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

The devotionals in today’s roundup are especially designed to keep our eyes on Jesus and the Gift the world was given when He came to earth as a baby - the Son of God coming to redeem His children.

The first place we have to start is Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift series of books for personal reading and for family advent devotions.

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (Tyndale, Sept. 2013) - The popular blogger/author introduces readers to The Jesse Tree tradition, tracing the lineage of Jesus with each day’s gorgeously profound devotional reading.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (Tyndale, Nov 2014) - Beautifully illustrated, this 2016 ECPA Christian Book Award winner involves the whole family in The Jesse Tree advent tradition with Scripture, activities, and daily devotionals - all with children especially in mind. SEE INSIDE

The Wonder of the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (Tyndale, Nov 2017) - Voskamp takes ‘the greatest gift’ series one step further with this darling pop-up Jesse Tree book. Behind the twenty-five doors at the tree’s base are exquisitely designed ornaments that coordinate with the previous two books’ devotionals (though it also includes its own devotional booklet)

Continuing on with resources for families and kids, here are some of the best books out now:

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (Zonderkidz, Mar 2007) - While not specifically an advent devotional, this IS a must-read for adults and children alike. Specific to this holiday season, the publishers have provided a free, downloadable advent reading plan for this precious book. You can grab that HERE

Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski (New Growth Press, Sept 2014) - Machowski guides families through advent with activities, songs, and stories that encompass the gospel message from Biblical prophecies to Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and anticipated return.

The Way to the Manger by Jeff & Abbey Land (B&H Kids, Oct 2018) - Beautiful, appealing illustrations accompany the Advent devotions that point to our Savior. Space is provided for families to keep a record of their answers to questions, to create a journal keepsake of sorts for years to come.

When Will It Be Christmas? by Carol Garborg (Worthy, Sept 2016) - Bright & colorful, this advent devotional provides daily Scripture, discussion questions, stories, and activities for families to keep their focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

More interested in something for your own personal quiet time? Check out these great devotionals!

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah Ciuciu (Moody, Oct 2017) - This is a great book geared for either personal or family devotional time. Through 4 weeks of advent, she focuses on a different name of Jesus each week and provides daily reflections as well as suggested activities and service projects.

Jesus Calling for Christmas by Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson, Sept 2018) - With 50 selections from Young’s Jesus Calling devotionals, this beautiful collection keeps readers’ hearts in tune with Jesus during the busy holiday season. Also contains gorgeous seasonal images & Scripture.

Sacred Questions by Kellye Fabian (NavPress, Nov 2018) - While not strictly an advent devotional (it goes all year), it also provides a fabulous selection of devotions just for Advent (in a separate section) to help readers truly reflect on the meaning of Christmas.

21 Days of Christmas compiled by Kathy Ide (Broadstreet, Sept 2015) - Daily readings crafted by various authors specifically for fiction lovers, this is a lighter read than most on the list but provides a quick, refreshing reminder of our Savior and His birth.

Are you an adult who still loves to color? (Who isn’t?!? Bring me some colored pencils!) These devotional coloring books may be more your cup of tea…

All is Bright by Nancy Guthrie (Tyndale Momentum, Oct 2016) - This coloring book comes with 31 days of devotional insight from Guthrie, as well as bonus activities and even some kid-friendly coloring pages too!

Drawn into Christmas by Lisa Bogart (Worthy, Oct 2016) - Color your way through Christmas as you absorb these meaningful devotionals, Scriptures, hymns, carols, traditions, and personal stories!

A Storyteller's Heritage

Pull up a chair. Maybe by the flickering firelight or cozied up on the couch, knees covered by a multi-colored quilt. The sound of a crackling fire or the quiet hum of a coffee pot (no Keurig here) percolates in the background, wafting its warm scent through the room to mix with the smell of peppermint and the residual aroma of a recently cooked meal.

Now, we’re ready.

It’s time to hear a story.

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I grew up surrounded by stories – one of the wonderful biproducts of an Appalachian heritage. We love stories. The closer I get to the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it brings back such wonderful memories of sitting by my granny’s side and listening to her unravel centuries of stories passed down through the generations to the next.

It was remarkable to hear her trace lives back to some of the first people who found their way into the valleys and ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina. I know many of us can look up ancestry online, but this was different. Granny didn’t just have a name and a date of death, she had these people’s stories. From horse thieves to Irish lore to war sacrifices all the way down to a simple shop keeper in a small town nearby. Story creates a connectivity that spans years because it binds us in our humanity, but also in our search for hope and beauty in world that can leave us in want of both.

In Appalachian, family story meant something. It bound you to the culture and the people, beyond the names. It gave you a sense of identity. Even now, when I travel back home, people will know me as “Oh, you’re Peggy’s grand young’un or “Oh, your Jay and Ginger’s girl.”

It’s a sense of belonging, a connectivity that weaves me to the people in the past through a shared legacy of pain, fears, struggles, triumphs...and people. History is drawn into the present as a reminder and a guide.

The beauty of this is that it creates a deep understanding of belonging and a fierce loyalty of family and heritage. It helps us recognize our small part in a bigger story. We are one piece in a grand unraveling of family through time.

Interestingly enough, whether we’re Appalachian or not, we are all part of a great story. God’s bigger story of redemption. And we can read about our family history in the Bible – the pain, fears, failures, and triumphs. We can see how God’s fingerprints of salvation create a grand legacy of which we are a part. Our spiritual heritage places us into a family story of eternity.

Just like the stories of my ancestors, both good and bad, create in me a sense of belonging to my Appalachian culture, the tales of men and women in the Bible tie us to our godly culture. The Hope Dwellers. The Mountain Movers. The Faith Finders. The Healed Broken. The Wall Climbers and Truth Speakers.

We’re often defined by our culture…and what a culture we have.

Your story matters because it’s one piece of God’s beautiful book of redemption and you have a part to play that He’s uniquely designed you to play in the greater span of eternity.

What a legacy! What a hope!


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As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.

Jerry Jenkins's new book 'Dead Sea Rising' may be his best yet

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With 195 books and over 70 million copies sold (including the blockbuster Left Behind series), Jerry B. Jenkins is no stranger to the publishing industry - or to readers.

Twenty-one of his titles have reached the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists. Jenkins has been featured on the cover of Newsweek and his writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Guideposts, and dozens of other periodicals. He and his wife, Dianna, have three grown sons and live in Colorado. He also owns the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild which coaches thousands of aspiring writers in both fiction and nonfiction.

His new series - The Dead Sea Chronicles - promises to be a ‘heart-stopping adventure of historical proportions’. The first book - Dead Sea Rising - releases November 13th from Worthy Publishing, and we at Hope By The Book are excited to have the opportunity to chat with Jerry today.


About the Book

Nicole Berman is an archaeologist on the brink of a world-changing discovery. During her first dig in Jordan, she believes she has found concrete evidence of a biblical patriarch that could change history books forever. But someone doesn’t want the truth revealed. While urgently trying to connect pieces of an ancient puzzle, a dangerous enemy is out to stop her.

“Jerry Jenkins’ dialogue is equal to the best of Nelson DeMille, his storylines equal to the best of John Grisham. And now Dead Sea Rising . . . this book may be Jerry’s best.”
—ANDY ANDREWS, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE TRAVELER’S GIFT AND THE NOTICER

“Jumping back and forth in time at a breakneck pace, Dead Sea Rising is a thriller as only Jerry B. Jenkins can tell it. Biblical history combines with gripping contemporary mystery. Just be aware—you’ll be hooked.”
—JAMES SCOTT BELL, INTERNATIONAL THRILLER WRITERS AWARD WINNER


Q: Just for fun: If you were an archaeologist, which city or artifact would you most love to find?

Jerry: I’ve long been fascinated by the time of Jesus, First Century Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and great strides have been made between our first and most recent trips to the Holy Land (about 30 years apart). We’re seeing more and more of the archaeological level where Jesus actually walked. A dream dig would uncover artifacts directly tied to Him.

Q: You are a prolific writer, with 195 books to your name, including 21 New York Times bestsellers (seven of those debuting at #1). What is the best advice you would give to aspiring authors?

Jerry: Two things: First, don’t start your career with a book. That would be like 5-year-olds beginning their education in graduate school. Write and sell shorter stuff as you learn the craft—getting a quarter million clichés out of your system, collaborating with editors, polishing your prose. And second, never set out to write a bestseller. Write from your passion and give yourself to the things you can control: your work ethic, thinking reader-first, and hitting your deadline. Leave sales and reviews to the marketplace.

Q: What can readers expect from your book, Dead Sea Rising? What is your favorite aspect of the book?

Jerry: I worked hard to infuse the novel with lots of setups and payoffs designed to keep readers turning the pages. My favorite aspect is the alternating chapters that weave a contemporary story with one from four thousand years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. Archaeologist and biblical consultant, Dr. Craig Evans, keeps me on track in areas not in my wheelhouse. He’s been a joy to work with, as he has the ability to keep the cookies on the lower shelf where I can reach them.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Dead Sea Rising and its heroine, archaeologist Nicole Berman?

Jerry: It was truly a collaborative effort with Worthy Publishers and editors I’ve long worked with. Having families face similar pressures four thousand years apart came to me during the writing process.

Q: Why do you think readers continue to find this type of Biblical history/contemporary thriller so irresistible and compelling?

Jerry: Well, I hope they do! Readers are becoming increasingly discerning, and no author dares just assume their interest and, in essence, mail it in. The more I write, the more I want each book to be better than the last, so I give it my all and hope readers like it.

Q: Which books have helped you find hope lately?

Jerry: I’m reading Jim Watkins’s modernization of Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. And while this may seem dichotomous, I’m also reading the multi-volume biography of Winston Churchill. Strangely, though he lived through some of the most tumultuous times in world history, I find hope between the lines.


Jerry, thank you so much for chatting with us today! It’s such an honor to have you at Hope By The Book!

Preorder the Book

Shining Brightly for Jesus on Halloween - Becky Kiser

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Excerpted with permission from Sacred Holidays by Becky Kiser. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.

Some people grow up with moms who make their homes into Christmas villages. Back in the day, when I was a kid, Christmas sweaters were something the super Christmas moms actually wore and not as a joke. My mom wasn’t exactly like that. My mom’s jam was Halloween.

Beginning October 1, she would begin only talking in her witch voice, complete with a believable cackle. We would string cobwebs in the windows and wait for the day with as much anticipation as kids at Christmas. There was nothing pagan or anything like that rooted in our obsession with the day. Like most people who get into this day, it was just a day about make-believe and lots of candy, and for those reasons it was one of my most favorite days of the year. This particular Halloween I was eight and I only wanted to be one thing that year—the lead character from my very favorite movie that had released that year. Many good movies released in 1990 like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Home Alone, Kindergarten Cop, 3 Men and a Little Lady, Problem Child, and Captain America. Like any good ’90s child, I could’ve dressed as my favorite turtle that year, but no, that wasn’t my favorite movie. Neither were any of those others. My favorite movie was Pretty Woman. Yes, for some reason I was allowed to watch that movie and that year all I wanted to be was Vivian. But not Vivian post Rodeo Drive, but Vivian at the beginning of the movie. And somehow, that same mom who began cackling on October 1 also thought it was okay for me to be Vivian for Halloween. So I borrowed her knee-high boots, that came up to my thighs and rolled up my shortest skirt, flipped my shirt into that loopy thing we used to do back in those days to make our shirts crop tops, crimped my hair because it was the ’90s, and put on my mom’s brightest lipstick. I looked every bit of the eight-year-old version of Vivian. Please, dear friend, tell me you are laughing at this scene. 

This night was the night I still remember; and now that I’m a believer, I’ll never forget the love I experienced. That year we weren’t able to go trick-or-treating because it was storming so bad. So my mom took us to the mall because the stores used to hand out candy.

But it was pretty boring. So we piled back into our little Plymouth Horizon in search of some kid-friendly Halloween fun. Driving around our neighborhood, we saw in bright lights: “Rain or Shine! Fall Festival. Lots of Candy!” We screeched into the parking lot and ran into that church’s gym ready to redeem this dreary day. And it was wonderful—games everywhere and tons of candy. But the best part of all was at every single booth those sweet Baptist volunteers would lean down and ask me, “And who are you, sweetie?” I would straighten up proudly and say with the confidence of Vivian herself, “I am Pretty Woman!” The look—a mix of shock and sweetness. I can see it now and it just makes me laugh so very hard. They loved me well. A girl, her brother, and a single mom who didn’t go to church were loved that day, dressed as a hooker and all!

This is why I love Halloween and love for Christians to open their doors on this day: it is the one day of the year your neighbors knock on your door! Let’s be there to open it! One of our greatest commandments is to love our neighbors (Mark 12:30–31). Obviously, you can still love your neighbors and not participate in Halloween. But what other day of the year do your neighbors knock on your door and walk around your street in groups? Let’s be there to greet them. Let’s love them right where they are, even if they have costumes we aren’t comfortable with. This holiday is whatever you choose to make it. The day is already set aside; it’s up to us to make it sacred—holy and set apart.

WHY DO WE CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN?

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If you look into the history of Halloween, its origin has actually been disputed for quite some time. Believe it or not, Halloween has been historically celebrated on various liturgical calendars over the course of Christian history as a day to either remember the dead, or in the Catholic tradition, to pray for souls thought to be in purgatory. I know, still morbid. The belief that this holiday is a satanic one comes from the widely held belief that Halloween came out of the Celtic harvest festivals, and those festivals may, or may not, have some pagan roots. Did you know that the word Halloween actually means “holy evening” and is of Christian origin? I’m not trying to baptize this day into become an overtly Christian holiday. I’m just trying to help break a stereotype that was created and has kept many, out of fear of being supporters of anything related to Satan, from being a part of Halloween. 

Today, the reason people celebrate Halloween has very little to do with its Christian or Celtic origins. Now it is simply a day of dressing up and eating a ridiculous amount of candy. Yes, some still like to get into the scary and spooky of the day, but it is very rarely done in a demonic way. 

For Christians, I think it’s an important time for us to love others well. As I’ve already shared, it’s the one day of the year that our neighbors knock on our doors. On top of that, the Christian community has, unintentionally, done a lot of damage making unbelievers feel judged during this time of year with their “shame for celebrating a demonic holiday” comments and attitudes. Let’s redeem some of the fear and hate that has been wrongly spread. This holiday, like so many others, is simply whatever you choose to make it.

I hear people say often that we are called to be “in the world but not of the world” and this phrase confuses me so much. It’s not a verse in the Bible; did you know that? We quote it so much in the church that many of us believe it must be somewhere. It originates from Jesus’ prayer in John 17. In this prayer Jesus proclaims that He came to them (the disciples) and that He was not of the world, and that His disciples weren’t of the world either (vv. 14 and 16). Then verse 18 says, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Hence the saying: in the world, not of the world. However, we’ve somehow interpreted this to mean that we are in this world, but we aren’t to have anything to do with it. If we draw this conclusion, then we’ve missed verse 15, which states, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” Jesus’ desire wasn’t our removal from the world or those in it. He didn’t commission us to be isolated in our safe Christian bubbles. He sent us into the world, and He prayed for our protection from the evil one. We wouldn’t need a prayer of protection if we weren’t stepping into places where evil was. Let’s not step out of this world; it wasn’t Jesus’ heart. 

I commission you into this next section with Matthew 5:14– 16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” My hope for every single woman reading this book is that you would see this day, that has so much darkness associated with it, and you would use it to shine brightly for the name of Jesus. My prayer for you is that Jesus would use the light you shine to bring great glory to Him and draw many to Him. They notice your good works. May faith come from them in Jesus’ name!


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Becky Kiser is intent that women would fall in love with God’s Word, then feel equipped and empowered to live it out. She believes that women can live out their own wild story, just like the ones we see of God’s chosen in His Word, as they love Jesus and love people. She is the founder and CEO of Sacred Holidays—a ministry dedicated to helping women find less chaos and more Jesus during holidays through Bible study, community, resources, and lots of fun! She is determined to help women keep all the whimsy of the holidays, but help make them sacred—holy and set apart.

Becky has a background in marketing and ministry, and is a certified Myers-Briggs life coach, bringing each of those experiences into her writing. Becky and her husband, Chris, live in Houston, TX with their three girls.

Discovering the Awesomest Daddy Ever with Lisa & Missy Harper's new book for kids

“God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Psalm 68:6a (NLT)

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If you haven’t already become acquainted with author & Bible teacher/speaker Lisa Harper, you are really missing out!

“Hilarious storyteller” and “theological scholar” are rarely used to describe the same person, but Lisa Harper is anything but stereotypical! A gifted communicator, she writes and speaks using colorful pop culture references that connect the dots between the Bible era and modern life. Lisa holds a Masters of Theological Studies with honors from Covenant Seminary.

If you follow Lisa Harper on social media (@lisadharper) , you are already acquainted with her precious daughter Missy. Her joy is effervescent and you can’t help but smile along as she dances with delight over Mexican food or praise music or just life itself.

The mother-daughter duo have a lot to dance about! Their journey to becoming a family was not easy - Lisa fought for over two years to adopt the little girl. Missy’s own health journey has also been a tough road - when Lisa adopted her, she was dying of HIV, tuberculosis and cholera. But today her progress is ‘nothing short of a miracle’. You can learn more of their touching and inspiring story through the video below.

Their new children’s book Who’s Your Daddy is based on a real-life conversation that Lisa had with her daughter, after a little boy at school asked Missy that very question.

Missy has lived with her new mommy ever since she was adopted from Haiti. But when someone asks little Missy a BIG question—"Who's your daddy?"—she starts thinking and learning a lot about daddies.

Missy could be sad that she doesn't have a "skin" daddy who can make her pancakes and take her to soccer practice. But through lots of talks with Mommy, Missy realizes that she DOES have a Daddy! In fact, no matter what our family looks like, we all have the same amazing Daddy; and Missy can't wait to tell everyone about the Daddy who loves us more than all the stars in the sky.

Told mostly through a mother-daughter conversation, this sweet story is careful to affirm relationships with the good, strong daddies here on earth, but it is also comforting for children who might be struggling due to divorce or the loss of a father.


What inspired you to write this sweet story?

Lisa: I was inspired to write “Who’s Your Daddy?” after an experience Missy had in kindergarten. Not long after I’d brought her home from Haiti, a little boy in her class innocently asked her that very question after noticing I was the only parent who came to parents’ day at their school. Since I'm a single parent, my parents divorced when I was five years old, and my dad was missing from a big chunk of my childhood, I’m especially aware of potential bruises on the tender hearts of children who experience the absence of an earthly father, whom we call “skin daddies” in the book.

Who is this book for? What need does it meet?

Lisa: First of all I have to confess that asking an author who their book is for is like asking an essential oils rep who should slather on their wares! EVERYBODY! Seriously, I do think Missy’s story will appeal to and encourage all kids because even if they’re blessed with a present and engaged dad, no parent is infallible (I had to apologize to Missy for raising my voice yesterday and have to send myself to timeout on a regular basis!). Therefore, I believe ensuring every child’s emotional scaffolding is built on the perfect love and permanence of our Heavenly Father is critical for their identity and emotional security.

Have you always wanted to write a book for kids? How was the process of writing it the same and also different from Bible studies and trade books?

Lisa: While I read voraciously and habitually perused children’s classics like “A Wrinkle in Time” long before becoming Missy’s mom, it wasn’t until I began reading to her that I considered attempting a project for a younger audience. And frankly, I knew I was in over my head before typing the first word because children’s books typically contain less than 1,000 words while an adult non-fiction work is typically more than 40,000, and brevity has never been one of my strong suits! Thankfully, my daughter/co-author is not nearly as verbose, and we had an incredible editor who helped tame my tendency to be a total windbag.

How did you chose the illustrator? (Olivia Duchess)

Lisa: I told our editor that my stylistic preference was whimsical yet realistic and while I liked the work of every artist she suggested, I was especially fond of Olivia’s work. She’s very gifted and is based in London, which also happens to be one of my favorite cities in the world!

What do you hope kids learn from the story?

Lisa: That they are never alone because Daddy God is always with them, and His love for them will never fade or fail, no matter what.

How do you hope parents, grandparents, and other adults use it with their kids?

Lisa: I hope this book will help facilitate safe conversations between kids and adults about topics that often seem to be, at least from a child’s perspective, scary and/or off-limits. Hopefully, this tiny tome will not only help kids lean further into the waiting arms of their Daddy God, but it will also help deepen their relationships with their parents, grandparents, extended family, or caretakers through honest and loving dialogue.

Off the Page & On The Walls: Fearless Edition

Sometimes, we need a little help to be fearless. And sometimes, that help comes through the pages of a book. If you’re like me, you jot down favorite book quotes to remember later. But what better way to remember these ‘fearless’ quotes than to incorporate them into your home decor!

Check out these ready-for-your-home quotes on being brave, having courage, and conquering fear straight from the pages of your fave reads!

Courage, dear heart
— The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Lewis)

One of my personal favorite ‘fearless’ quotes - and one that most touches my heart - is the above snippet from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. This seems to be a favorite among other booklovers too, as evidenced by the sheer volume of options on Etsy.

photo credit: Letters and Luster

photo credit: Letters and Luster

Wood slice, $25.00 - This hand painted wood slice from Letters and Luster is so cheerful and cozy looking, isn’t it? A great reminder to brighten your day and strengthen your heart. It’s about 8 inches in length, and it can come with a sawtooth hanger on the back if you specify that you want one (for an extra $2.00) Cost without sawtooth hanger is $25.00 plus shipping.

Not your style? Check out the many other variations on Etsy here!


There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.
— The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Baum)
photo credit: Peter Pan Prints

photo credit: Peter Pan Prints

Wizard of Oz quotes (set of 4 prints), $27.50 - These bright and cheery prints from Peter Pan Prints are just adorable. I want them all. They also come in a few different colors, including a really pretty grey with light pink accents. The prices range from $27.50-$240.00, depending on what size you want the prints to be, and they come unframed.


Courage is found in unlikely places.
— The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
photo credit: Sweet Sequels

photo credit: Sweet Sequels

Tapestry, $80.00 - This beautiful tapestry from Sweet Sequels is printed on a heavyweight sateen fabric (100% cotton) from the artist’s original paintings. She does beautiful work on a variety of bookish subjects, which you can see on her website. This is a great reminder that courage does appear in the most unlikely places - even when we don’t feel courageous.


Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
— To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)
photo credit Echo Literary Arts

photo credit Echo Literary Arts

Art print, $10.00+ - I love the bright color and the minimalist art work that really makes this print (and the quote) pop. From Echo Literary Arts, it’s the perfect choice to motivate us to keep going even when we’d rather turn back. You can also order it laminated or framed and in a variety of sizes. Prices range from $10 (8x10) to $55.00 (18x24, framed).


When I am afraid, I put my trust in You
— Psalm 56:3

No list of quotes on bravery, courage and fearlessness would be complete without heading straight to the Bible.

photo credit: Esther Dorotik Shop

photo credit: Esther Dorotik Shop

Fearless Scripture card set, $8.50 - These beautiful prints with 10 different Scripture verses are ideal for laminating & carrying with you, writing a note on the back & giving to a friend, or displaying in your own home as a mini art print. Come printed on heavy cardstock from Esther Dorotik Shop, in 4x4 size. Shop has a wide variety of other decor/apparel/accessory ideas, as well as other Scripture card collections.

(Not) Overcoming

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Rachel McMillan is the author of Murder at the Flamingo, a Jazz Age novel in which the hero has anxiety. Hamish’s struggles with anxiety were birthed directly from McMillan’s own experience. Today she is sharing with us about (not) overcoming anxiety.


When I was asked to write an article on Overcoming in regards to anxiety, I was of course happy to continue an open dialogue about an illness I have suffered from since childhood. But, I was also a bit apprehensive. I haven’t overcome anxiety. While I have an incredible doctor, a supportive family and access to the cognitive therapy and medicine I need, I have only learned to control it and live with it.  I may never overcome it this side of eternity. And what a gift that is.

Yesterday, an advertisement for a diet and recipe book for coping with Anxiety popped up on Netgalley.  On Facebook, I see memes advising sufferers to turn to prayer and scripture for overcoming. A comment chain recently on a friend’s Facebook admonished anxiety as an illness plaguing those who had merely not submitted enough.

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I believe in Jesus’ power of healing. I believe in miracles. I believe that many sufferers of mental illness find many different ways of coping, controlling and even overcoming; but I do not believe that those who may not overcome in their earthly bodies have done something wrong or are undeserving of prayer and church support. Jesus is not Robin Williams popping out of a lamp in Aladdin and dancing and singing His way through many wishes granted.  He allows us to suffer.  There is beauty, I believe, in overcoming doubt and clinging to faith, in recognizing His grace. But also, I believe, in acceptance that during our time on earth, we may not wholly overcome in a way that meshes with our ideal earthly plan.

Everyone is going to find a different path to controlling their anxiety. Or, to broaden this, any other physical or [cognitive] ailment you suffer from in your earthly body.  You may be able to prevent it or anticipate it and find a way to minimalize it, but you may not overcome it.

Friend, you do not have to overcome it. Someone higher than you overcame it all: sickness, disease, sin and iniquity. He overcame every last human frailty and limitation with his interception of our earthly paths with his sacrifice on the Cross.

What you can overcome is your idea that your worth is somehow connected to human frailty. Your belief that you are designed with a great flaw or weakness. That not overcoming is a sign of your own weak faith or sin or disfavour in God’s eyes. 

Anxiety can lead to incredible empathy toward other sufferers.  Anxiety can allow you a sensitivity to the person on the subway hunched over and breathing irregularly, to the exam taker whose pencil is barely held in a shaking hand.

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We are advised to remember to cast our cares upon Him and we are encouraged to recognize that He sees the sparrow and He holds our tomorrows.  I confess, in the middle of a panic attack, I cannot always remember my middle name let alone these words of comfort. In my soul and in my core, I believe them; but often I am in such a dark, drowning place, merely focusing on a corner in the wall is all I can accomplish.  God is in that corner: even when I don’t see him. In the midst of my not overcoming.  And when, eventually, the darkness subsides and the shakes and tremors and stabs at my chest give way to streams of relief, I turn to Romans.  Where I am reminded: “Therefore there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”  No condemnation, whether we have overcome or not. And where I learn that “All things work together for good to them that love God.”

To me, overcoming is the blessed recognition that God gives us our supposed weaknesses as a gift from Him for His greater good. We may not see how our suffering sews into the tapestry of His plan as a whole but I guarantee when we meet Him, the entire picture will be revealed and every last thread of our pain, our suffering, our feelings of inadequacy will help display a picture of ineffable beauty.


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Rachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music and theater. Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Pinterest // Website

Overcoming Misconceptions about Diversity in Fiction

Reader, reviewer, and author Toni Shiloh graciously accepted our invitation to kick off “overcomer week” by sharing her multifaceted perspective on a subject she has patiently and lovingly encouraged numerous online and face-to-face group discussions…

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Diverse fiction. It’s something you may have heard a lot lately if you follow bookish news. There has been a big push to shine the light on minority writers and the minority characters that star in their books.

Some believe that it’s not necessary. After all, it’s 2018 and we’re a much more progressive society. We see minorities leading in all forefronts of the entertainment industry. Yet when we take a look at the publishing industry, it seems minority characters are still…well, the minority.

Sure there are household names like Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple), Maya Angelou (author of I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings), and Toni Morrison (author of Beloved). But those ladies—who are definitely pioneers—aren’t representative of the time we live in.

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If you walk in the bookstore and head to your favorite genre, you may not find a single minority. It may lead you to assume there is no diverse fiction or writers who are delving into these genres. You would be incorrect. Often books written by authors of color and featuring minorities are shelved in their ethnicity group (Asian, African American, Latin American, etc).

And for those who wish to read these diverse voices, they may be hesitant to pick up the books. Surely if they are shelved that way, it’s for a reason. Well, yes, but it may not be the reason you think. It’s simply a code that was selected when the publishers began the process to publish the books, landing them in the ethnic shelving versus more specific ones (i.e., mystery, romance, etc). This often gives some readers a misconception that these books are not for them.

That they can’t delve into the world of an African American police detective or fall in love alongside a Latina American woman. But that would be incorrect. Most books written by authors of color celebrate the diversity but tell the story that is genre specific.

Reader friends, let’s overcome our misconceptions of diversity in fiction. I urge you to intentionally seek out the books that feature characters of colors and discover a whole new world. It may expand your knowledge to a struggle you know nothing about. It could help you realize that at our core, we all have the same hopes and dreams. And a huge benefit could be adding more and more favorite authors to your must-read list, because let’s face it, sometimes it seems there’s not enough books to sate our avid reading.

Let’s embrace a reading life that mirrors the diverse world around us. Our empathy and compassion for our fellow man will increase and our perspective will widen. We already know that reading has many benefits, lets allow it to improve our relationships with others who may not look like us or come from similar cultural backgrounds.

Overcome your fear of reading a book that’s not your cup of tea and celebrate the diverse world we live in. Let fiction do its perfect work of transporting us to a different life.

Looking for a few author recommendations? Pick up a story penned by Piper Huguley or Vanessa Riley in the historical genre. Give books by Kim Cash Tate or Belle Calhoune a read for a contemporary setting. Visit the Diversity Between the Pages book blog for more!

Editor’s Note: Make sure you check out Toni Shiloh’s books too! :)


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Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian contemporary romance author. Once she understood the powerful saving grace, thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

Ted Dekker on his new book & the power of story

Author Ted Dekker is well-known for his masterful and unique storytelling - with over ten million copies sold and bestseller lists galore. But it’s the symbolism and underlying spiritual truths in his stories that he most wants readers to connect with.

His new release, Rise of the Mystics (Oct 2018) is the follow-up novel to The 49th Mystic (May 2018) and concludes Dekker’s Beyond The Circle series. He says the two books in this duology are “without a doubt the most important novels I have ever written” and based them on the spiritual insights he gleaned from writing The Forgotten Way and The Way of Love, his nonfiction books.


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Some say that the gateway to a greater reality and the mystery of how one can live in two worlds is only the stuff of dreams. They are wrong. Rachelle Matthews discovered just how wrong when she dreamed and awoke in another world. There she learned that she is the 49th Mystic, the prophesied one, tasked with finding five ancient seals before powerful enemies destroy her.

In The 49th Mystic, Rachelle found the first three of those five seals through great peril and mind-altering adventure. But two seals remain hidden, and the fate of both worlds hangs in the balance.

Rise of the Mystics begins the final volume of high stakes in Rachelle’s quest to find an ancient path that will save humanity. If she succeeds, peace will reign. If she fails, the world will forever be locked in darkness.


Our Reviewer’s Take

Ted Dekker spins a story of good versus evil in a way that will grip readers from the first page.  Dreams, prophesies, and ancient seals lead to twists and turns never expected, all while keeping vital Biblical aspects at the core. One girl's life altering journey is the only thing keeping two worlds from the dark, overwhelming shadow of fear. Love might be the only saving grace. (REVELL, Oct., 416 pp, $24.99)

Reviewer - Alysha Worthen


Q&A with Ted Dekker

The 49th Mystic and Rise of The Mystics are both much more than an entertaining story. What was your purpose in writing them?

TD: With even a cursory look at the world of faith, it becomes clear that Christians are really no different from people of other faiths or of no faith. This defies Jesus’s announcement that those in his way will be known for a radical kind of love that holds no record of wrong. So the question we ask is, What does it mean to be in his way? And are we in it now? I wrote these novels to plumb the depths of those questions.

HBTB: ‘a radical kind of love’ - we certainly need more of that these days!

You have some very dynamic characters in both The 49th Mystic and Rise of the Mystics. Which character has made the biggest impact on you?

TD: Without a doubt, Rachelle. She really is all of us—certainly me—journeying through wild adventure to know herself in the midst of great change and challenge.

HBTB: A place we all find ourselves in eventually …

In the Circle series, you introduced readers to Thomas Hunter. In Rise of the Mystics, Thomas makes another appearance. Why does he play such an important role in this finale?

TD: Although this is Rachelle’s story, and although she is tasked with saving Thomas, she can only do so if he helps her in her role. They have a symbiotic relationship. Both are critical and interdependent.

HBTB: So much truth there to ponder on, particularly as we interact in community.

You have alluded to the fact that story is a great tool for understanding truth. Why do you think that novels can convey truths so effectively?

TD: We live and think in a story that we each call “my life.” Everything we think is really a story of what something is. Thus, story is paramount to our human experience, which is why Jesus used it as his primary mode of teaching. We are all looking to change the story of our lives. In fiction, we take that journey of change through a series of events involving worthy characters who change as a result of those events. And we are invited to change with them.

HBTB: Yes! We love this answer!

What do you hope readers gain from reading Rise of the Mystics?

TD: An addictive read and a shift in thinking about their own purpose for existence, whatever that shift might be. And for Christians, a whole new way to think of what it means to be in the way of Jesus.


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Ted Dekker is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of more than forty novels, with over ten million copies sold worldwide. He was born in the jungles of Indonesia to missionary parents, and his upbringing as a stranger in a fascinating and sometimes frightening culture fueled his imagination. Dekker’s passion is simple—to explore truth through mind-bending stories that invite readers to see the world through a different lens. His fiction has been honored with numerous awards, including two Christy Awards, two Inspy Awards, an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, and an ECPA Gold Medallion. In 2013, NPR readers nationwide put him in the Top 50 Thriller Authors of All Time. Dekker lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Lee Ann.

Hope By the Book - a magazine for avid readers by avid readers

Welcome!

We are super excited to welcome you to our home on the web for Hope By The Book, a brand new magazine for avid readers by avid readers!

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Hope By The Book is doing what has never quite been done before - creating a magazine to celebrate books (across multiple genres, fiction and nonfiction) AND the reading life for the avid reader, as well as offering smart reviews from industry professionals to industry professionals.

Each issue will have new articles for every reader seeking useful, fun, and inspiring content all about books and the reading life! It will be packed with top notch articles and images that feed your inner bookworm and arm you with great books to grab at the bookstore.

Each post on our website will do the same!

We love books. We live books. In fact, to us, books and lifestyle are interchangeable. Books inspire us to change our lives, to refine our souls, to stretch our imaginations, and to deepen our faith. We are avid readers and book ambassadors, and we invite you to join us as we find HOPE by the book.

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Fearless Readers: Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

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We readers are creatures of habit and some of us are downright compulsive when it comes to our books (and that’s okay, this is a safe space) but don’t allow your comfort zone to become a reading rut! Let’s walk through a few options for revitalizing your reading routine. Be brave, friend, the reward is worth the risk for fearless readers!

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Are you a one-genre loyalist? Try something new! If you’re a little nervous, choose an author you enjoy who consistently writes in multiple genres or one who has crossed over from your favorite genre to something new. Another way to diversify your reading is to pick up a time slip (books with more than one timeline, usually featuring both a contemporary and a historical plot which are somehow intertwined) or a book from a different subgenre (ex. romantic comedy or Amish suspense).

Does size really matter? It shouldn’t! There are excellent, well-crafted stories in all lengths and formats. Big books, short stories, novellas, multi-author collections, flash fiction, multi-book series, and of course, individual standalone titles. Plus, there’s the consideration between mass paperback dimensions versus the larger trade versions. Sure, there’s something for everyone but why not try a new size? You may find it’s the perfect fit for your mood or time frame.

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Not to start a debate here because we all know die-hard readers in each camp but for those of us who want to maximize our story time, it makes sense to utilize all available mediums. Traditionalists will continue to cling to (and sniff) their print copies but why not add an ebook app on your smartphone or tablet or pick up an ereader to streamline your library? Audiobooks make multitasking a breeze and stories while traveling are no longer limited by motion sickness.

We all have our favorite authors but finding a new favorite is a special kind of bookish delight. Risking your reading time on an unknown author can be scary but there are a few ways to make an informed decision. Let someone else do the heavy lifting for you! Ask your local librarian, find a book blogger or professional review source (tah-dah, you found us!) and get to know some hard-core reviewers. If they like books you like, chances are their picks will be a good fit for you!

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When it comes to enriching your reading experience, there’s a special bond among readers so connect with your fellow book lovers on social media or in person! Share reading recommendations, discuss books, authors, and trends. Consider attending a book club, many authors are even happy to video chat if your group reads one of their books. Find a book signing or reader event and meet your favorite author face-to-face!

Break free, reader friends! Be fearless and fabulous! Happy reading!


Beth is an Associate Editor of Hope By The Book, a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, and the blogger behind FaithfullyBookish.com. She is passionate about encouraging authors and fellow readers everywhere.