Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

How’s This For A Name?

February 16, 2016 Leave a comment

Name BadgeDeciding what to name a child can be challenging. I’ve passed the stage of needing to think about naming babies. Instead, I’m faced with what to name a character in a book, and that too can prove challenging.

When a character enters a scene, the person’s name usually pops in my head at the same time. However, before accepting this moniker as the appropriate tag for the person, I do a little research just to make sure it isn’t the name of a celebrity or a politician or some other famous person.

I also want a villain’s name  to sound . . . well . . . villainous, and a strong character to have a strong sounding name. Think “Rocky” and you get the picture.

The Bible is full of great names for both babies  and characters. These are names that have been around for thousands of years, and have quite literally stood the test of time. But, there are many “one time use” names in the Bible as well.

For instance, in the book of Hosea, God instructs a prophet to name his daughter “No Mercy” (Hosea 1:6). The son who came later was named “Not My People” (Hosea 1:9). The Hebrew names Lo-ruhama and Lo-ammi never quite caught on as popular names for offspring, but those names portrayed the message God was endeavoring to send His people at that time.

In the book of Ruth, a widow named Naomi, who also lost two sons, decided she wanted to be called Bitter. The Hebrew word was mara, and she wanted her name changed to Mara because she said, “the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).

If you wanted a name to reflect how God has dealt with you, what would you call yourself? Mine would be blessed. Just call me Blessed.


New Release: Two Days in Caracas, A Titus Ray Thriller

June 17, 2015 1 comment

3 d smallToday I’m announcing the release of the second book in the Titus Ray Thriller Series, Two Days in Caracas.

My first Christian fiction novel, One Night in Tehran, introduced Titus Alan Ray, a CIA intelligence officer, who is brought to faith in Christ after hiding out with a group of Iranian Christians in Tehran, Iran. Their unwavering faith so touched his heart, he was compelled to make his own commitment to Christ, thus beginning a journey more mystifying, yet more rewarding, than any of his previous missions.

In Book 1, Titus tries taking his first “baby steps” in his faith walk when he attempts to pray before a debriefing on his blown mission to Tehran. He fails miserably, but he doesn’t give up. After he learns he’s been targeted by a Hezbollah assassin and arrives in Norman, Oklahoma (no spoilers here, but his visit to Oklahoma was not his choice), he decides it might be a good idea to start reading the Bible. His venture into a Christian bookstore to purchase a Bible is a nerve-wracking experience for this hardened covert officer. This event is followed by his first visit to a church worship service, where he encounters people who want to shake his hand and other strange phenomenon, including a new type of vocabulary he must learn.

In the midst of figuring out what it means to be a follower of Christ, Titus gets involved in a murder, meets a beautiful, local detective—who is also a believer—and tries to evade Ahmed Al-Amin, the Hezbollah assassin who wants to murder him.

In Book 2, Titus Ray, travels from Costa Rica to Venezuela in an effort to stop Ahmed Al-Amin from assassinating a high-profile government official. Along the way, a family crisis jeopardizes his mission, and an Agency division head threatens to destroy his career. As the danger mounts, he’s forced to partner with an untested operative to complete the mission and bring Ahmed to justice.

In this second book, Titus is thrust into several situations where he’s faced with the need to offer forgiveness for past sins. These are gut-wrenching episodes, and he’s not always successful. Then, when he encounters a physically debilitating crisis in the midst of his mission, he reaches out to God to provide the answer and, what happens next, is something many new believers in Christ often experience for themselves.

Because this blog is mostly devoted to insights into God’s Word, here are some of Titus’ own words after reading his Bible one morning during his latest mission.

My self-analysis did little to lighten my mood, so I opened the drawer of the nightstand and pulled out the hotel’s Bible. It fell open to Psalm 42. After reading a few verses, I realized whoever had written the psalm had experienced the same emotions I was having.

He said his soul was downcast, and that’s exactly how I felt.

Unlike me, though, he had the solution.

He advised, “Put your hope in God.”

Feeling foolish because I hadn’t considered this, I bowed my head. (Titus Ray, Two Days in Caracas, Chapter 20).

Two Days in Caracas will release on Amazon on June 26th. The Kindle copy is available now for preorder, and you can order the print copy on June 26th. Many of my readers have said One Night in Tehran is an non-intimidating way of sharing the gospel with unbelievers. I pray Two Days in Caracas will also open up witnessing opportunities, while, at the same time, providing readers with a fast-paced, pulse-racing thriller full of intrigue, romance and suspense.

Link to Two Days in Caracas on Amazon.




“Look Inside” What’s That All About?

October 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Look Inside 2I recently read a blog post  in which the writer said she never read reviews of the books she was interested in, nor did she read the book blurbs in the descriptions of the book. All she cared about was the free excerpt offered by the author or publication site.

Most books listed on Amazon have this feature. It’s called “Look Inside” and it provides any potential book purchaser the opportunity to read the prologue or first ten percent of a book at no charge. When book buyers are surveyed after making a purchase, the “Look Inside” aspect appears to play a significant role in determining whether the book was added to their cart or not.

In fact, some websites now specialize in creating little gizmos an author can put on websites and blogs that make previewing a book an exciting experience, mimicking the actual turning of pages from a real book. (Both my website and this blog contain one of these widgets.)

In reality, every Sunday morning, pastors and Bible teachers all around the world are trying to entice readers to “Look Inside” when they open up the Bible to teach and preach. For approximately thirty minutes, these men and women are providing excerpts from one or several books in the Bible, hoping their lessons or sermons will serve up an appetizer and their listeners will return to their private lives ready to dive into the main course.

Many who use social media like Facebook and Twitter or who blog do the same thing whenever they share a Bible verse. Such posts say, “Look Inside,” there’s something worth reading here. I believe such practices are Biblically based and will be blessed.

The Bible itself urges potential readers to “Look Inside.” Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good.”

Is It A Real Book If It Doesn’t Have Any Pictures?

October 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Picture Book 1The following question was posed by a young child to his grandmother when she allowed him to hold my recently released Christian fiction novel, One Night in Tehran. He quickly thumbed through the pages, handed it back to her with a note of disgust in his voice, and asked, “How can it be a real book if it doesn’t have any pictures?”

Good question.

My book is  full of words. There are no pictures. Can it be a real book then?

Authors who write books for young children use more images than words in their story because a child hasn’t learned to associate the printed letters on a page with objects, events, people, or emotions,. By “reading” such a book, the maturing child will gradually make the transition to fewer images and more words, eventually ending up with a book with no pictures, just words.

However, more mature readers still enjoy having pictures to help them visualize what they’re reading. I believe Jesus fully understood our innate desire to “picture” a concept through common objects. In fact, he constantly used “word pictures” to illustrate his teachings.

His word pictures—a desperate woman looking for a lost coin, a hungry boy eating corn husks, an ordinary field hiding a buried treasure—all served to mesmerize his listeners, drawing them into a story where, in the end, he could present them with Kingdom truth.

What is true for books—with or without pictures—is also true for the words we speak to one another every day. Our words serve to paint a picture, showing everyone around us, who we are and whom we serve. As we paint ourselves anew every morning, may we be like the Christ we serve and, in the end, present our listeners with Kingdom truth.

Proverbs 25:11 “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

An Author with an Itsy Bitsy Platform

September 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Open BookOne of the most important concepts in the publishing industry today is the notion of “The Platform.” You may not know what that is, but think for a moment about people who’ve recently released a book—people like Hillary Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, and John Grisham. These authors have a built-in platform. The mere suggestion they might write yet another book has readers signed up to buy a copy before one word has been penned.

That’s a platform.

Publishers and literary agents will ask a potential author, “What’s your platform?” If you’re on the news regularly, have already written a best-selling book, have held  a prominent political office, or have even committed some serious offenses against humanity, the publication industry is  willing to sign you up immediately. Thus, platform is less about writing and more about having visibility and authority in the eyes of the world.

When the Son of God came to earth, he had no platform. He lived his life in relative obscurity in a small town that had a bad reputation. Yes, he gathered around himself a group of followers, but they were few in number and mostly considered the riff-raff of society—prostitutes, tax collectors, and a handful of rebels and fishermen.

Jesus, the very Author of Life,  had an itsy bitsy platform.

Yet, He did have something to say. In fact, He had a lot he wanted to tell people—about Himself, about His Father, and about the fact that He was the Word. His Word brought into existence everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will be. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1.

The message he delivered received bad reviews from those in authority, from the people who had developed a platform of their own. At the earliest opportunity, they crucified Him, intending to obliterate his words.

But the words were important; the words were Life, the words brought Life. They were taken up by others who had no platform, but who faithfully wrote down what He had said, who delivered the message he could not deliver because he had no platform.

May all of us with itsy bitsy platforms never fail to deliver His Words. By doing  so, we  provide Him with a platform the world cannot ignore.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation . . .” Isaiah 52:7.

Introducing My New Book

August 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Frontcover-for-webThis will be a different kind of blog entry today. In many ways, it will be shamelessly self-serving because I’m announcing the publication of my new book, One Night in Tehran. However, despite that, I ask for your indulgence as I engage in some self-promotion.

Before I introduce you to One Night in Tehran, I feel it’s only fair to warn my regular blog readers that this book is a work of fiction and bears little resemblance—well, none actually—to any devotional writings I occasionally post on this blog. I should also issue another cautionary note to my former Bible study students who might suppose I’ve written a Bible study or a commentary on Scripture.

One Night in Tehran is neither a devotional book nor a book about the Bible. While I’m a strong advocate of reading and studying God’s Word on a daily basis, and I read devotional books regularly, I’m also an ardent fan of fiction books, especially anything in the mystery/thriller genre. My love for such novels began when, as an eleven-year-old, I asked my dad for permission to read one of his library books. It was an espionage novel about the Cold War. From that moment on, I was hooked.

Not surprisingly, my debut novel is a Christian suspense/thriller.

One Night in Tehran introduces a new series of Christian thrillers featuring Titus Ray, a veteran intelligence officer, who is led to the Lord by Iranian Christians, while hiding out in Tehran after a botched CIA operation. You can read the full description of the book here.

Readers of this blog, who are familiar with Norman, Oklahoma, The University of Oklahoma, and Bethel Baptist Church, will feel right at home when they read One Night in Tehran, because each of these places has a predominate footprint in the book. Some of the book’s fictional characters may even bear a passing resemblance to some of my own personal friends and family—but you’ll never know for sure!

Even so, the plot of the book is as relevant as today’s headlines and includes Islamic terrorists, Hezbollah sleeper cells, and suicide bombers. An underlying question running throughout the story is “What happens when a veteran covert intelligence officer becomes a believer?” “How does his conversion affect his lifestyle and future clandestine operations?” Since most of the action occurs in Oklahoma, there’s even a tornado.

Click here, One Night in Tehran: A Titus Ray Thriller, to  purchase One Night in Tehran on Amazon in either print or on a Kindle device. More information and extra details are on my website, where you can also sign up for my newsletter and receive advance notice of the second book in the series, Two Days in Caracas.

You can view my author page on the Goodreads site, and I would gladly welcome you as a friend on my Facebook page here.

After you’ve read the book, if you’re so inclined, please do me the honor of writing a review on Amazon, and, of course, drop me a line anytime at

Bits and Pieces 1/28/13

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

puzzle%20piecesWebsite Lists All Free Books Available On Amazon:  I love reading books on my Kindle for iPad, and it’s so much better when they’re FREE.  Freebook Sifter is a website which lists all the free books on Amazon.  The link provided here opens to Christian fiction, but if you click on the e-book tab, you’re able to choose any kind of book you like. Click here for Freebook Sifter.

Did Jesus Sing While He Lived Among Us? The answer from several New Testament passages is yes! I’m sure He also laughed, and I suspect what made Him laugh was an inexpressible joy we’ll only know when we see Him face-to-face. Here’s a great article about Jesus and singing by Tony Reinke. 

It Could Have Been Me:  This is such a great reminder that  all our steps are ordered by God. Whatever comes our way (or doesn’t), may we thank Him daily for His grace.  Read Lisa’s blog post on “When It Could Have Been Me” here.

How Much Money Am I Supposed To Give Away? The short answer Tim Challies gives is “enough that it matters.”  His full response is insightful and could serve as a springboard for a family discussion on giving. Read it here.

Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts

January 11, 2013 1 comment

Trusting GodTrusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges is a MUST read if you are hurting, but even if “hurting” is not a label you would pin on yourself right now, it’s still a book you should read.

By exploring God’s Sovereignty, God’s Wisdom, and God’s Love, Bridges not only enables you to understand and know God better, he also provides you with the tools to maintain your house of faith when you go through pain and suffering.

“Why did God let this happen?” is a question Bridges explores in great detail.  His answers are insightful and full of Scripture.  I’ve always believed God is in control at all times and in all ways, but after reading this book, I’ve added a new word to that concept–God’s loving control.

What Is Beauty?

December 3, 2012 3 comments

Eyes Wide OpenAfter receiving several inquiries about why I haven’t blogged in several months, I decided it was time for me to get back online. For the past six months, I’ve been working on another writing project—more about that in a later post. Taking a break from something we routinely do is a good way to get a new perspective. A friend of mine took a vacation from Facebook. She decided it was a waste of time, and it was keeping her from spending time with her family. Now, she occasionally checks it out, but being off for several weeks helped her to reorder her priorities. She says she sees Facebook differently now.

 Seeing things differently is what Steve DeWitt’s book, Eyes Wide Open, is all about. After reading it this summer, I have a different perspective on beauty. This is a book about the beauty of God, but also about why God created beauty in the first place.

 DeWitt says the beauty we experience on this earth—in whatever form it takes—is a whisper, a shadow, of the real Beauty. However, so often, we end up worshipping the shadows instead of the real Beauty.

 Here’s a quote from DeWitt’s book:  “Beauty is both a gift and a map. It is a gift to be enjoyed and a map to be followed back to the source of the beauty with praise and thanksgiving.”

 The following video was both a gift and a map to me.

Birthdays and Books

April 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I just celebrated another birthday (not a milestone, but close) and one thing I do enjoy about having another birthday is that someone usually gives me a book.  Birthdays and books just seem to go together in my life.  This year was no exception when a friend gave me a new devotional book, plus I gave myself a book, or rather downloaded a new fiction book to my iPad. 

From the moment I learned to read, books have played an enormously important role in my life.  In my elementary school years, we lived in a very small town of less than 1,000 people, and the town’s library was located in a tiny, one-room building.  From third grade through sixth grade, I managed to read every biography they had, plus all the Hardy boys and Nancy Drew mysteries in their collection.

From that small Missouri town, our family moved to a large city near Chicago.  Their library was an impressive brick building located downtown, containing stacks upon stacks of books, several reading rooms, an entire room devoted to children and racks of magazines and newspapers.  I was there every week, often taking the city bus from my house in the suburbs to get there.  Sometimes I imagine I can still smell the slightly musty odor of that place.

I read today for both pleasure and entertainment (mysteries and thrillers mainly) and also as a means of spiritual growth. I doubt if I could name five fiction books that have changed my life, but I can easily name the top five non-fiction books that have changed my life.    Besides the Bible, these books have done more to shape my life and draw me closer to the Lord than any other reading material.

1.  Knowing God by J. I. Packer: This book, first published in 1973, has had a resurgence since the 1990’s.  I first read it around 1980, and for several years after that I read it once every year.  Packer is able to do what the title suggests–he helps you to really know God, with each chapter drawing you closer to His majesty and glory.  I know God better because of this book.

2.  Desiring God by John Piper:  Piper opens up a whole new avenue of pleasure–the absolute mind-boggling joy of glorifying God by finding your pleasure in Him.  I read this book again and again and get more out of it each time.  This is Piper’s signature work.

3.  Future Grace by John Piper:  Because I have a sinful tendency toward worry, this is another of Piper’s writings that I return to every few years.  In this book, he urges believers to believe in God’s grace for the future even as we have believed in God’s grace for our past.  There is much insight here on our sinful nature.

4.  The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges:  None of us take holiness seriously even though God said, “Be holy for I am holy.”  In this book, Bridges challenges us to seek after holiness, to recognize our own sinfulness, and to learn the ways of Satan.  Although it was first published in 1978, I didn’t read it until the latter part of the 1980’s, but it still stands today as a classic work, highly recommended by evangelical writers.

5.  Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby:  To know and do God’s will is the core desire of every growing Christian.  How can we know His will and thus do it?  That’s the question Blackaby explores in this study.  His answer is found in a study of Moses and the basic premise is to “join God where He is working.”  I found much practical truth in this study.

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