Books, Books, & More Books

Elizabeth Bennet
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when I didn’t read much.

As a child, I always enjoyed reading, but during my early teen years I lost interest. Children’s books were behind me, young adult books didn’t interest me, and adult books were too mature for me, so I just didn’t read.

And then I discovered the venerable Jane Austen. After watching the five hour long movie rendition of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” I read the classic. It was my first large novel, and I was captivated.

I also discovered the Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke . She became one of my favorite authors as I delved into the genres of historical and Christian fiction.

Since attending Summit last year, I’ve also started reading many non-fiction books. Now my “to read” list  is overflowing. I generally add at least one new title a week. For someone who’s not a fast reader, that means I’ve got plenty of happy page-turning hours ahead of me.

Here are some of my favorite books this year, along with short reviews:

Tactics, Gregory Koukl–An excellent handbook to logical thinking and apologetic tactics for defending biblical convictions.

Strawberry Point, Florence Roe Wiggins–A delightfully quaint collection of memoir vignettes celebrating old-fashioned America. Loved it.

Me & Georgette, D.B. Schaefer–A fun, unusual romance combining time travel, Judaism, and Regency England. It’s similar to Jane Austen, so yes, I liked it.

Structuring Your Novel, K.M. Weiland–Informative and easy to read, this book has been a great resource while writing my novel.

What are some books that you’ve enjoyed lately?

The Writer’s Manifesto

photo by amandahantas
photo by amandahantas

There’s something impressive about holding a nine hundred page novel in your hands. You feel its weight and think, how could anyone write something so big? Our natural response is to consider it a masterpiece, even if we never read past the first chapter.

But sometimes a masterpiece can be something small. Sometimes a few words can say so much. Sometimes it only takes one sentence to change someone’s life.

That’s why I consider Jeff Goins’ e-book “The Writer’s Manifesto” a small masterpiece. It can be read in five minutes, but taken to heart, it can revolutionize a writer’s perspective on writing.

“Real writers don’t write for recognition. They don’t do it for fame, accolades, or notoriety. They do it because they cannot not write.”

–The Writer’s Manifesto

If you love to write, I’d encourage you to head over to Jeff’s blog Goins, Writer and get a free copy of “The Writer’s Manifesto” by subscribing to the newsletter. (I’ve just begun to explore this blog, but what I’ve seen so far has been amazing.)

Sara Bareilles: Brave

Sara Bareilles: Brave

On my flight home from Israel, I listened to a generous helping of music. During one of my many searches through Delta’s selection of albums, I stumbled across Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave.” It caught me from the start:

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Words are truly powerful. Forget the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s a lie.

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you:

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Bravery. That’s what I needed in my writing endeavors–the bravery to say what I wanted to say, instead of struggling with words and thoughts and phrases and fears. I needed to simply let the words fall out and watch them fill up the blank pages.

But the song wasn’t over yet:

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Empty words. Those are the worst. 

Anybody who has anything to share (which is everyone) has to tap into that bravery of being honest with their words. It takes bravery to let the words fall out–the honest ones, not the empty ones–but it’s worth it. 

So my prayer is for bravery.

The will to create comes from the Creator Himself.

And even though I still get scared and my words don’t always fall out easily, He helps me to rise above the fears.

He gives me my brave.

Now it’s your turn. What’s a song that has inspired you?

Writing Isn’t the Only School Subject

Pencil by jay Williams (

I suppose I don’t post many fictional stories on this blog. But I write fiction almost every day. In fact, I’m writing a fiction novel right now.

Yes, I just told you a big secret.

I’m going to title it “Don’t Write a Book in High School.”

Just kidding.

Actually, I’m thrilled to be writing a book. It’s an exciting, challenging, frustrating, and encouraging, roller-coaster-like experience. One of the problems I face is that writing is not my only school subject. If it was, then my high school education would be much easier, and I would have more time to write. But it isn’t. I have a list of subjects and courses to complete before I graduate high school next year. It’s a good thing. I’m thankful for that long list. I strive for a well-rounded education. But my mind still seems to struggle with the concept that writing isn’t the only school subject.

Sitting down and reading my senior year “to do list” is overwhelming. But I’m going to get through it, and I’m planning on writing my way through it too. I’ve just got to remember that writing isn’t the only school subject. Maybe if I keep typing that, my brain will finally register it. Maybe then it will be easier to break free from my long sessions of maniac typing to study astronomy and delve into a book on ancient history.

So the future for me looks like a long list of assignments, but I’m excited. I’m taking deep breaths. I can’t get stressed. This is fine. I am fine. And I will graduate next spring. I will. It’s just a matter of realizing that writing isn’t the only school subject.

There. Maybe I’ve hammered it into my head by now.

(photo by Jay Williams,

Life is an Ocean (Short Story)

Life is an ocean. Vast. Deep. And powerful.

You float along this ocean, sunning yourself on the deck of your little boat on blissful days, and hiding for cover when storms rage.

Slowly the strip of land that marked the beginning of your passage slips from view. You become better acquainted with your vessel, learning how to ride the waves of life and survive the storms.

You sail further and further into the heart of this vast ocean of life. And then one day a startling question whispers to you as you sit alone on the deck of your boat. “Where am I headed?”

You hadn’t considered that when you set sail. You had only dreamed of adventure. You had only wanted to sail. To be free. To live.

You tell the question to leave you alone. But it haunts you, flitting through your mind at the oddest of times. And you still can’t answer it. You don’t know what lies beyond. You don’t even know where you are. You can’t go back to the shore you launched from. You’re on your own. You’re scared.

The sky begins to darken and a low rumble pierces the salty air. As the fiercest storm you’ve ever fought rages against you, the answer to the question strikes your heart like the bolts of lighting in the sky. “Where am I headed?”

Fear grips you as you realize that you are headed down. The waves are forcing your vessel lower and lower into the encompassing ocean. Yet you fight. Fight for the sake of life. Fight until your strength is all but gone, your boat all but sunk. Then you call for help.

The storm still rages, but an unexplained peace wraps around your heart as you feel strength returning to your limp body. You continue to fight. Fight for the sake of life. And slowly the waves begin to calm. The lightening stops, and you discover that the morning has come. It dawns in brilliant hues against the clear sky above.

The storm of the night before seems like a nightmare from your sleep. You almost excuse it as such. Yet you know it was real. You shudder at the thought of it. You remember your call for help and realize that something beyond yourself helped you survive the storm.

Your eyes spot something on the horizon. Your heart skips a beat as you realize what it is. It’s a shore. A vast shore glistening in the sunlight. You wouldn’t have discovered it if you hadn’t survived the storm. The miracle of it all overwhelms you. You are headed somewhere. Somewhere beautiful. All you must do now is continue to sail toward that distant shore–your destination.


Some say there is no distant shore, that life is simply an ocean we sail on until death parts us forever. Many never question this worldview. Many fear to question it. Yet it haunts each one of us. “Where am I headed?”

For the believer of the biblical account of redemption, the answer is simple. We are sailing along this ocean of life toward another life–toward a heavenly shore. We don’t fight the storms alone. We don’t drift along aimlessly. We have our course set. And though we wander, we strive to sail straight toward that ever-fixed mark. Toward that glistening shore. Toward our Heavenly Father.

Words can’t capture the majesty of this truth. Neither can music, yet I believe that Phil Wickham struck along this line of thought when he wrote his song Sailing on a Ship. It’s vivid. It’s real. It’s a reminder that we are sailing–closer and closer every day–to that golden shore.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Book Review: Ten P’s in a Pod


The book Ten P’s in a Pod tells the story of the Arnold Pent family. Written by the third child in the family of ten, Arnold Pent III, the book gives readers a close-up view into the life of this not-so-average American family in the 40s and 50s. Dubbed the “most unusual family in the world,” the Pents traveled nearly a million miles across North America preaching the gospel and performing as a family band. They also became one of America’s first modern homeschool families and memorized much of the Bible as a family. Ten P’s in a Pod is a humorous, insightful, and encouraging book for all ages that emphasizes the importance of the gospel, family, and daily Bible reading. It holds to the motto: “the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.”

Amusing Ourselves to Death


“Television does not ban books, it simply displaces them,” states Neil Postman in his insightful book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Written in 1985, Amusing Ourselves to Death shows the negative side of media and technology, and how it is sculpting and redefining society. Postman argues that it is not George Orwell’s “control of the State” made infamous in his book 1984 that should be feared in America so much as Aldous Huxley’s proposition represented in Brave New World–that people would not have to be enslaved, that they would enslave themselves. Postman warns that by allowing media to infiltrate our reasoning, we enslave ourselves in a world of show business, becoming victims of a culture that is amusing itself to death.

Postman claims that television has placed us in a “peek-a-boo world” where “now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment, than vanishes again.” It is “a world without much coherence or sense; a world that does not ask us, indeed, does not permit us to do anything: a world that is, like the child’s game of peek-a-boo, entirely self-containing. But like peek-a-boo, it is also endlessly entertaining.” Postman, however, is not opposed to the idea of entertainment as long as it does not define our world, as he he quotes someone who said: “we all build castles in the air. The problem is when we try to live in them.”

“Public consciousness has not yet assimilated the point that technology is ideology,” says Postman, “This, in spite of the fact that before our very eyes technology has altered every aspect of life in America during the past eighty years.” Postman argues that media has taken our focus away from reason, has diminished our attention span, and has turned us into an image-centered society, obsessed with amusement. Everything has become a form of entertainment, including education, news reports, elections, and religion.

As Postman says, “we rarely talk about television, only what is on television.” The same can be said about media and technology today. We rarely talk beyond the content of media to discuss the influence that it is making on our society. If you are interested in deeper research on the effects of media and technology, I recommend Neil Postman’s thought-provoking book Amusing Ourselves to Death.

A World Without Music (Short Story)


I awakened to the obnoxious beep of my alarm clock instead of the usual cheery wake-up song. I could tell it was an odd morning. Not only was my alarm clock beeping, but I also couldn’t hear the customary sound of my sister playing piano in the other room. I stumbled out of my bedroom and glanced in the direction of the piano. It was gone. Panicked, I inspected where the piano had stood and found not a single music book laying around. I dashed back to my bedroom and discovered that my guitar was gone and my CD’s were missing.

I ran upstairs and found my mom in the kitchen. “Mom! There was a music thief in our house!”

She stared at me blankly. “What?”

“A music thief! He stole the piano and my guitar and the songbooks and–and–we’ve got to call the police!” I exclaimed.

“Alli, maybe you should go back to bed. There was no thief in our house, and I don’t even know what music is or piano or guitar. You need more sleep.”

“What do you mean you don’t know what music is? We had a piano downstairs, and I had a guitar in my room, and–Oh, I almost forgot!–I have a guitar lesson today, and I don’t even have my guitar.”

“Guitar lesson? What’s that?” she queried with a concerned look on her face. ”Alli, I think you need to go back to bed. You aren’t making any sense.”

I was convinced there had not only been a music thief in the house but also a brain thief. I ran to the living room where I found my dad watching TV.

“Dad, the piano, guitar, songbooks, and everything musical is gone.”

He gave me a puzzled look, “Well, I’ve never heard of those things before, so they must not be too important. Probably time we got rid of them anyway.”

I was not in the mood for a joke. “Oh, don’t tell me the thief took your brain too,” I muttered under my breath.

“What’d you say?” he asked.

“Come on, Dad, is this some big joke or something? Where’s the piano?”

He chuckled and said, “Honey, I’ve never heard of a piano before in my life, so I can’t tell you where it is. Why don’t you go back to bed? I think you need some more sleep.”

This was pathetic. I went on a search for my older sister, Kara. I knew she would have an answer for me. “Kara, do you know where the piano is?”

“The what?” she asked.

“The piano,” I said emphatically.

“Huh? What’s a piano?” she asked, giving me a puzzled look.

I stared back at her. She was an amazing pianist. She played piano for hours each day. But this was no joke! She was being serious.

“Kara, I don’t know what’s going on. I think I might be–well–I don’t know–I–“

“Alli,” she stopped and looked me in the eyes. “I think you should get out of the house. I’m about to head out shopping. Why don’t you join me?”

“Maybe I do need to get out. Are you shopping for a dress for your recital?”

“For my what?” she asked.

“Never mind,” I replied as I went to grab a snack and hurriedly got ready to leave.

We had almost reached the store when I realized that Kara didn’t have the radio on like normal. “Kara, it is not like you to be driving somewhere without music,” I teased.

“Huh?” she said, giving me that puzzled look again.

Had everyone else lost their minds, or was I going crazy? I wasn’t sure, but I definitely needed to hear some music. I turned on the radio. No music. I switched through all the stations. No music. “There’s nothing but talk shows on here,” I complained.

“Yeah, that’s what’s on a radio,” Kara retorted in that older sister you-should-know-that-by-now voice.

I stared at her, then the radio. Something was seriously wrong. When we finally arrived at the store, I leaped out of the car and bolted inside. Just as I had feared, no music was playing. I asked an employee, “Do you know what music is?”

After some thought the lady replied, “No, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe we have that here.”

“Well, have you at least heard of music?” I pleaded.

“No, I can’t say that I have. What is it?” she asked.

Describe music? Was this lady crazy? “Well,” I began, “music is made with instruments and it sounds really cool. There are lots of different styles of music and lots of different instruments. Music is something you can dance to and sing along with. Music can be happy or sad or loud or quiet and–and–” I was running out of descriptions, “it’s an art.”

“Hmm. That sounds really amazing. I wonder why I’ve never heard of that before,” the lady said.

By then, Kara had entered the store, and I needed some fresh air. “Kara, I’m going to stay outside.”

“Okay,”she said, looking about as puzzled as I felt, but there’s no way that was possible.

I sat down outside the building, pulled out my phone, and scoured the internet for any trace of music. Nothing. I searched for my favorite songs. Nothing. Music didn’t exist.

I had never felt so frustrated and confused in my life. I needed to hear something besides voices and beeps and car noises. I needed to hear music. I tried to sing a song, but I couldn’t sing. I tried to clap my hands, but I couldn’t keep a rhythm. I tried to imagine living the rest of my life in a world without music. What would my life be like without playing my guitar or listening to my sister’s elegant piano pieces or hearing my mom’s cheerful humming in the kitchen? What would movies be like without the music? What would football games be like without the bands? The more I thought about music, the more I realized how special and important it was and how much I had taken it for granted.

Suddenly, I heard the distant sound of a song playing. I opened my eyes and found myself staring at my alarm clock. I closed my eyes, and then I opened them again. Yes, it was playing my wake-up song.  I leaped out of bed and started to sing. I glanced around the room. Sure enough, my guitar was in the corner by my CD’s. I walked into the other room where Kara was playing one of her stunning piano pieces. “Sounds beautiful as always, Kara!” I called over my shoulder.

I dashed upstairs and stood in the kitchen reveling in the sound of my mom humming. “Good morning, Alli,” she greeted me.

“Good morning, Mom. I have a guitar lesson today, right? I asked.

“Yes, you do,” she responded.

“Okay, good, just checking,” I said and then I began to chuckle. Mom looked at me quizzically. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, nothing. I just had the craziest dream last night. That’s all.”



Writers are painters with a palette of words. Writers are travelers, traveling across the world and through time on pages of black and white. Writers are thinkers. Writers are dreamers. But most importantly, writers capture the most troublesome, powerful, wonderful, exhilarating, and confusing aspects of life using one of the most troublesome, powerful, wonderful, exhilarating, and confusing things given to us–words–and create something beautiful.


Peach Tree Blossom

I love the energy, warmth, and beauty of spring. As the biting, winter winds blow away and the balmy days of spring begin to reside, the whole world comes alive. Slowly, the dead winter soil resurrects green and lush; bushes protrude their foliage, and daffodils and tulips burst forth their faithful blossoms. Wafting through the fresh air, the sweet scent of roses infuses the senses. Mockingbirds sing from the blossoming branches of trees. Chattering squirrels leap from branch to branch, and buzzing bees dutifully pollinate the rejuvenating world. The dogwood produces its dainty, yellow blossoms, the tulip tree its dark purple tulips, and the cherry its snow white clusters, all heralding the arrival of spring.

 June, 2013