Thursday, April 24, 2014

Interview with Land of My Dreams author, Norma Gail

           I had the wonderful honor of being on Norma Gail's book launch team for her debut novel. I learned so much about the writing and publishing process.  Also, I read an early release copy of this fantastic book. If you like Christian fiction or Scotland, you will love this book. Here is an interview Norma Gail did about the book and the writing process.

                                                    Land of My Dreams by Norma Gail

Interview with Land of My Dreams author, Norma Gail

Tell us a little bit about Land of My Dreams.
Land of My Dreams had its earliest roots in a dream I had when my husband and I were preparing for a trip to Scotland for our 30th wedding anniversary. I read so much that one night I dreamed I lived on a sheep farm. I began to write in 2008, when a broken foot and bad knee landed me in a wheelchair for 6 weeks and I needed something to occupy my mind.

Alone and betrayed, American professor, Bonny Bryant longs for a haven of peace. She accepts a position at a small Christian college in Fort William, Scotland, craving escape from her painful past. The passionate love which develops when she meets fellow professor and sheep farmer, Kieran MacDonell, is something she never anticipated.
Kieran harbors a deep anger toward God in the face of his own devastating grief. When Bonny’s former fiancĂ© reenters her life, Kieran’s loneliness draws him to a former student.
How will Bonny decide between her rivals? Can they set aside the past to make way for a future, or will it drive them apart?
Land of My Dreams spans the distance between New Mexico’s high desert mountains and the misty Scottish Highlands with a timeless story of overwhelming grief, undying love, and compelling faith.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I think all writers put some of themselves into their writing. Most of the situations in my writing are things that I or someone close to me has experienced. I am a very serious person, so I have to work to lighten things up. I’m very introspective. I write poetry and love words. I want to make the reader feel the setting—to feel the rain on their face. I want my readers to be better people and better Christians because they read my book.

Of course I want to entertain. As a Bible study leader and devotional writer, I have seen a lot of people struggle with trusting God when hard times come, and I have struggled myself. It is helpful to use real-life situations to illustrate biblical principles.

Good fiction can teach valuable spiritual lessons. People who would never attend a Bible study will read a novel, and they can learn how to live the Christian life. A novel is a very non-threatening way to introduce someone to the gospel or get a spiritual message across. It might open someone open up to talk about things they might not otherwise discuss.

What was the greatest problem you faced in writing this book?
It was challenging to write about a country I had only visited for two weeks and couldn’t return to for more research. It didn’t matter when I was just making up a story, but when I became serious, I needed to be accurate. I watched movies and documentaries, listened to music, and made a screen-saver with over 400 photos, found a Scottish-Gaelic dictionary on-line, and searched sites with slang and common terms. I found a wonderful writer and editor, Amy Drown, who had lived in Scotland to edit my book for accuracy.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I read a lot. I have led women’s Bible studies for eighteen years. I lead two studies a year, and used to lead three. I love living in the mountains, going to my mom’s cabin, and vacationing in the mountains. I enjoy taking my Jeep on 4x4 trails in Colorado. I study, write, and enjoy making my home beautiful and welcoming. I do quite a bit of family history research, which I hope will eventually lead to a book or two. I collect old family photos and love fixing them up in Photoshop. I make my own greeting cards, and enjoy making stationary and cards for gifts.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
They can contact me through my website at

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Heaven is Real

Son of God
God’s Not Dead
Heaven is Real
            There seems to be an unusual amount of faith-based movies these days. Today we saw Heaven is Real. My son says we need to read the book, because the book is always better. It is about a little boy who claims he went to heaven and people have a hard time believing him. The book and movie are based on a true story.
            The question the movie poses, is, if we read about heaven in the Bible, and we believe it is a real place, why do have trouble believing when someone says they have been there?
            Isn’t this the Easter story? We read about Jesus dying on the cross and raising from the dead after three days, but do we really believe it actually happened? Or is it just a story that has become so familiar to us, that we push it aside in favor of decorated eggs and a huge bunny?
            In the movie, someone asked, “If we really believed in Heaven, wouldn’t we live differently?” The same is true for Easter. If we really believe that Jesus raised Himself from the dead, don’t we believe He is powerful enough to do anything? Wouldn’t we live differently, if we really believed?
            I will never forget sitting in an ancient dungeon in Jerusalem. Archeologists unearthed the actual house of Caiaphas, the High Priest during Jesus time. Jealous of Jesus, Caiaphas orchestrated the events that terrible night, wanting to have Jesus killed. Much smaller than I would have thought, we walked down narrow, stone steps to get to the small dungeon, underneath the house. There are indentations, carved out of the stonewall, about the height of where a person’s hands would be if they were chained to the wall, above his head.
Carved out holes where the hands were tied.
           It was eerie, and dank down there. We sat in silence and nobody had to say anything. We were all thinking the same thing. This was the first place Jesus was taken after they arrested Him in the garden. They held an illegal trial at night and the temple guards beat Jesus in that very dungeon. This was before the priests and Jewish leaders turned Jesus over to Herod. The Jews were not allowed to kill a person, only the Romans could do that.
            Even though I had read the story, and had heard sermons on the brutal beatings Jesus endured before He was crucified, I never imagined sitting in the very dungeon where he was held. I wept. It was overwhelming.
It was overwhelming and real to sit in the dungeon where Jesus was held.
            The same feeling came over me when we walked inside a stone cave, carved out of a rock wall. It is said to be the tomb they laid Jesus in after He was crucified. It is so unusual. You duck your head, and walk into the small room, where only a few people can fit at a time, and of course, there is nothing there. There is even a sign that reads, “He is not here. He is risen.” I guess, to remind people why there is nothing inside to see.
            It begs the same question as the movie. If there is so much physical and historical evidence that Jesus lived, performed miracles, was crucified and raised to life after three days, and we say we believe that, and many, many people believe it to be true, why don’t we live differently? Is there no call to action?  It is not like the historical homes and gravesites we can visit of other famous people. This is the Son of God, who died in our place, so that we can go to the very real place called heaven.
             The part I liked best about the movie, (and I hope I am not giving it away, because you should go see it) is when the boy arrives in heaven, he walks to a place and opens a door that is very familiar to him. So, even though he is alone, he is not afraid.
            How like God, isn’t it? He even promises in the Bible, that we will never be alone, because He is always with us. How great, at least for this little boy, that there was a part of heaven that was familiar, so he would not be afraid. God doesn’t want us to be afraid either, especially about where we will go after we die. He wants us to know and trust that He is always with us. That is why there is nothing in the stone tomb, because He is with us.
Happy Easter!  Or better yet, Happy Resurrection Day! And because heaven and Easter are real, hopefully, we will live differently.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gods and Goddesses

            Most years, our family celebrates Passover in our home, with other families. No, we are not Jewish. But, as Believers, the Bible says we have been adopted into the family of Abraham, so we like to keep the family traditions.
            This year we had the privilege of celebrating Passover with our church family. Keeping with the tradition of this being a small, intimate dinner, there were only 400 or so of us.
            Passover is the telling of the story in the book of Exodus, where God used Moses to rescue the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. To do this, God brought ten terrifying plagues on the land of Egypt. After each one, the king of Egypt (Pharaoh) said the people could leave. Then, when the plague stopped, Pharaoh changed his mind and would not let the people go.
            Not only did he and the Egyptian people believe their gods were more powerful than the Hebrew’s God, Pharaoh wanted to be worshipped as the greatest god. Why would Pharaoh believe in the Hebrew God? God’s people had been Egypt’s slaves for 400 years.
            This year at Passover, the teacher (my amazing hubby!) pointed out something I had not known before. Each of the plagues God brought on the land represented a god or goddess that the Egyptians worshipped. By causing the plagues, God was showing, miraculously, that He was the One True God. As Creator of the universe, He was more powerful than any idol the people worshipped.
The plagues came against these gods and goddesses:
Blood – god of the Nile River
Frogs – god of fertility
Lice – god of the earth
Beasts – god of creation and rebirth
Cattle Disease – goddess of love and protection
Boils – goddess of medicine and peace
Hail – goddess of the sky
Locusts – god of storms and disorder
Darkness – Ra, the sun god
Death of the firstborn – Pharaoh, god on earth, the ultimate power

            I wondered what those gods and goddesses would be for us today. What idols, or gods, do we place above our One True God? What plague would the Lord bring about today, to prove, once again, that He is the God of the universe, and can crush any imaginary gods we set up and worship? 
           Although the list is infinite, I came of with ten modern gods that we potentially, put above our God.
Consumerism: stuff, stuff and more stuff
Comforts: easy life, best of everything
Celebrities: in movies, TV, magazines, talk shows, Why do we idolize these people?
Control: my way or the highway, my way is best, don’t mess with my schedule
Criticism: we judge everyone and everything, from our top politicians, to our waitresses
Chemicals: drugs, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, food in general
Careers: positions, prestige, reputation, and accomplishments
Children: we talk about, promote, brag on, worship, plan around and rescue these gifts from God
Cleavage: sex, sexiness, lust, porn, and affairs
Concerns: excessive worry, unfounded fears, obsessions, crippling anxiety

            The list could go on and on; coins, causes, cleaning. These things should not take precedence over our God. These things should not be bigger in our mind and thoughts than the God who created us. We should not spend more time thinking and worshipping these things, than we do thinking about and worshipping our loving Heavenly Father.
            I don’t know what plagues God would have to bring, for us to realize that He is more powerful than these imaginary idols.
            I do know that this Passover and Easter season, I want to put the One True God, above these things. My prayer for myself, my family and you, is that we will all:
“Love the Lord, our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind.” Matthew 22:37 

Passover 2014

What small gods can you add to this list?  They don’t have to start with ‘C’. 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Pickle Predicament

          Getting in a pickle in baseball happens when a runner gets stuck between two bases. The player made it to one base and tried to advance to the next base, but someone threw the ball to that base, before he could make it safely. So, the runner has to make the decision to try to run back to the previous base, but, since the other team can throw a ball faster than a player can run, now the ball is at the original base. There is nothing that the runner can do, but run back and forth, as the opposing team plays a game of Monkey in the Middle, over the runner’s head. All the while the opposing team is taking a step closer toward the runner, until finally, the opposing team is so close they can tag the runner out with the ball. Sometimes, usually in Little League, the opposing team will make a wild throw, or their teammate will fail to catch the ball and as the ball whizzes by the teammate, the runner can advance safely to one base or the other.

In life, we call this situation, being caught between a rock and a hard place. Both ways we could turn in a situation are dreadful options.
The Bible says when we are tempted God always provides a way out for us. We sometimes mistake that verse to say: ‘God does not give us more than we can handle.’ That is not true.
Life is hard. There are many things we cannot handle on our own. That is why we need God. If we never had more than we could handle, we would not need God.
On our own, we cannot handle our child dying, our spouse leaving us, or losing our house. We need God in those situations.
A pickle, however, is when we have a choice to make, and many of life’s choices are hard.
--To move an ailing parent into a nursing home, or care for them full time in your home?
--To turn your teen’s friend in to the authorities when you find out they have drugs, knowing your teen will be mad and won’t trust you again?
--To continue to be miserable in your marriage, or go to marriage counseling?
--To take a new job that offers more money, but requires more out of town travel?
--If we are a pet owner, do we pay $2000 for a pet surgery or have our beloved companion put out of their misery?
Life is full of difficult decisions. What should we do when we find ourselves in a pickle between two tough decisions?
1.     Pray. When life is too difficult God wants us to go to Him. The Bible says if we ask God for wisdom, He will give it to us.
2.     Ask yourself, which decision most lines up with God’s Word? That is our playbook for life. It has all the answers. The question of whether or not we should spend hours talking to an old flame on Facebook, may not directly be in the Bible, but the concept of being faithful to our spouse definitely is.
3.     Seek wise counsel.  Talk to people who have a strong and consistent walk with God. Ask someone who knows the Bible and can point you to Biblical truth.                                                
   Being in a pickle is never easy, not on the baseball field, or in life. Tough decisions are, well, tough to make.
Thankfully, when we find ourselves in a real pickle, we know who we can turn to.  Here’s to wishing you a successful run in your next pickle. You know the heavenly crowd will cheer loudly for you when you land on the base safely.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Out of My League

            Many years ago, while I was at a women’s Bible study, an attractive, professionally dressed woman sat down next to me and started talking. I could tell she came straight from work, as she was wearing high heels with her matching suit and coordinating jewelry. I felt frumpy wearing my stay at home mom clothes, jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes.  The woman was friendly and we instantly hit it off. Sometime during the conversation, she asked me if I had ever played softball. Wanting to stay in the conversation, I told her I played intramural softball in college. She seemed very impressed, “In college? Really?”  Again, I tried to emphasize, that it was intramurals, and not the real college team, but I don’t think she caught that. She told me how she played softball every year while growing up, and played all four years in high school. I had a hard time picturing this meticulously put together woman, with her beautiful acrylic nails playing softball.
            The next thing I knew, she was inviting me to be part of a new team some of her friends were forming. It would be in the women’s church league. She said it was just for fun and not very competitive. Wanting to be her friend, I agreed to play.
            The first meeting of the new team took place in a small office. One of the gals was wearing  spandex softball pants with extra padding on the legs. She had definitely played a lot of softball. She opened the meeting by asking us to go around the room and say our names, what position we played, and if we slide?  Slide, as in laying your body down in the dirt, skidding on your hip to touch the base.

The other women laughed, but it seemed the spokeswoman, who was the coach, was serious. I started sweating in the crowded room. As the other women went around and spoke of their years of playing softball and which position they played, and yes, most of them could slide, I drew a blank as to how I should answer.
             My new friend told the other teammates, that I had played in COLLEGE, leaving out the part about it being INTRAMURALS. Intramurals was like a pick up game for guys and girls from the dorms to hang out and meet each other.  All the training I had was when an upper classman put his arms all the way around me to show me on how to hold the bat. I didn’t know what position I played.  Since it was co-ed, they stuck me in the outfield. Whenever a ball was hit my way, some fast guy would run over and yell, “I GOT IT!”  catching the ball with his glove right in front of my face. I don’t think I ever actually touched a ball, during a real play.  I certainly never slid into a base. 
            The first day of practice, the other women wore professional looking softball pants that they could slide in, and cleats. I wore my running shorts and tennis shoes. I was way out of my league on that team. I struggled through the season, mostly sitting on the bench. As humbling as it was to be the worst player on the team, I learned a lot about how to play softball.
            I admired those women. Not only were they great softball players, but they were very kind to a novice like me. The truth is they had a lot of things I did not have. They were taught how to play the game from a very early age. They had practiced 20 years more than I had. So, at the start of this new season they were prepared to slide, should the opportunity arise.
            Isn’t that how it is with Christianity? Some of us are new to the game. We would not know how to slide, or share our faith, if we had to. Some players are taught from an early age what it means to love God and live for Him. Some players have practiced living out their faith for years. They have learned to rely on the Heavenly Coach. They know how to pray and what the Bible has to say. When called upon to help someone, who is lost and searching, these players are the ones who can share how to have a relationship with God.
On the softball team, the women had
                                                 and Planned
                                                                              to slide.
The Bible says,  “We need to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us.”
We won’t be able to do that unless we
Prepare, by knowing the truths in the Bible.
                       Practice sharing our story and the great things the Lord has done.
                                                        and Plan to share with others about our faith.
            Be ready. Someone needs the hope that we have. We do not want to be caught off guard, not knowing what to say, like me showing up in running shorts when the game required sliding pants.
            I only played one season with that team. I learned a lot, and moved on to a team that was as new to the game as I was. After several years of being taught the game, practicing, and planning, I got better. I only hope in life, I am as prepared to share my faith, as those women were prepared to slide.