Friday, February 26, 2010

Feelin' Groovy

Several decades ago, when I was a teen, one of the cool sayings was “groovy.” If I remember right, it originated with the surfing community. But even we landlubbers used it. “Look at that cute guy over there—he’s so groovy.” (Nowadays the term would be applied to me, but only when talking about the deeply etched lines on my face!) Groovy connoted fun and youth, a carefree time of life.

I’ve recently reconnected with feelin’ groovy. I attended a recent writers conference and the key-note speaker, Robin Jones Gunn, talked of the necessity of a schedule. Since I don’t work outside the home, it’s easy for me to think I have all the time in the world. Yes, I have a writing project I need to work on, but first Iread the newspaper. Answer e-mails. Check Facebook. Get a cup of coffee. Look through a magazine. Wander over to Facebook again. Before I realize it, I’ve frittered the day away and have little to show for it. I needed to find my groove.

I contrasted two words in the dictionary—groove and rut. I tend to think of them as being very similar, and it’s true. Some of their definitions could be interchangeable. But in reading through the possible meanings of both words, I believe groove carries a more positive connotation.

Groove is defined by Webster as “a situation suited to one’s abilities or interests; top form.” (I find it interesting that groove is squeezed between groomsman and grope!) Rut, on the other hand, is “a monotonous routine.”

We talk about cars driven on a rutted road, trapped and unable to go anywhere but in the predetermined tracks. We get in a rut when it comes to cooking, making only the simple meals we always turn to, afraid of trying new recipes. Our relationships can get in a rut when we only hang out with the same people all the time, or do the same ol’ activities with our families. Let’s try something new. Jump out of the rut and into a groove!

How much better to live in a situation designed for our unique abilities and interests, where we can work in top form. Where there is a purpose to what we do, rather than just existence and going through the motions, frustrated with the emptiness of life.

Jesus (if He spoke in the words of The Message) says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

He’s telling us to get out of the rut and into the groove—the unforced rhythms of grace. So next time you see me, feel free to ask if I’m bogged down in a rut or feelin’ groovy. (And while you’re at it, get me some of that expensive wrinkle cream!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oregon Sunshine

These past four days have felt and looked like spring. Birds jostle one another for the best spot on the bird feeder, kind of like when you show up at Olive Garden without being able to make a reservation. Bird songs from the surrounding fir trees are a beautiful accompaniment to the blue sky and sunshine. (Yes, I said sunshine!) Bulbs are poking their joyous heads up to take a look at their surroundings.

And people feel the difference too. Yesterday the grandkids were outside on their bikes and skateboards, with "Angel" learning how to go down our steep driveway from the upstairs house to our downstairs house on her tricycle. Then the three of them headed down to the lower meadow to play Hide-n-Seek with the cat. Christina even got away from her computer and mowed the lawn.

Enjoy these glimpses of happy faces in the Oregon sunshine. We'll savor it while we have it, as we're aware we usually get one last snowstorm in March.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Review of The Pastor's Wife, by Jennifer AlLee

This friendly, smiling face belongs to Jennifer AlLee,
author of The Pastor's Wife, which was published by
Abingdon Press this month. I first met her on line, then in person at an ACFW conference. I remember her excitement when she was able to post what her book cover would look like. And no wonder--it's a beautiful cover! I love the way the "i" in "Wife" was supplanted by a church steeple, foretelling the feelings of Maura, the pastor's wife in the story. I'm a former pastor's wife, so was immediately drawn to the title.

Jennifer, can you give us a little preview of The Pastor’s Wife?

Maura Sullivan never thought she’d see Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind; a husband that ignored her, a congregation she couldn’t please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved.Nick Shepherd had put the past behind him. At least he thought he had, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick discovers his feeling for her never died. Now, he must face the mistakes he made and find a way to give and receive forgiveness.

As God works in both their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more thing to tell Nick before they can move forward. It’s the thing that finally drove her to leave six years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they’ve managed to rebuild.

What made you want to write this book?

I served as a church secretary for many years which definitely gave me a unique perspective on the lives of a pastoral family. I worked at two different churches. One was a large denominational church, the other much smaller and non-denominational. But the lives of the pastors were quite similar. There’s always another meeting to go to, or one more person that needs counseling. People feel very possessive about their pastors. This usually manifests itself in positive ways, but sometimes it crosses a line. You have to watch out for that. And the pastoral family faces challenges no one really thinks about. They basically live in a glass house and are expected to be active members of every church activity, whether they’re interested in it or not.

When I was working on the original concept for this novel, I thought about the pastors’ wives I’ve known over the years. They’ve handled themselves with amazing grace under pressure. But what if another woman couldn’t? What if a young woman thinks she knows what she’s getting into, but the reality of losing who she is and becoming a “pastor’s wife” is more than she can handle? What if some other tragedy pushes her over the edge? Would she run? And what would happen if she had to return to the scene of her heartbreak years later? All those questions eventually became The Pastor’s Wife.

You grew up in Hollywood. How did that happen?

My grandparents met on the vaudeville circuit. Grandma was a dancer and my grandfather was a concert violinist from Hungary: Duci deKerekjarto (how’s that for a last name?) Duci immigrated to make his mark in Hollywood, which is how our family ended up there. He remained friends with another Hungarian performer, a Shakespearean actor named Bela Lugosi. (Yes, the original Dracula.) Bela died before I was born, but my mom remembers sitting on his lap and calling him Uncle Bela.

My own minor brush with fame came on the day I was born. Michael Landon Jr. and I were in the same hospital nursery in neighboring bassinets. My Aunt Karen nearly passed out when she realized proud father Michael Sr. was standing at the window next to her!

Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! The Pastor's Wife is an entertaining read, full of clean romance and restoration. It might even give you a new appreciation for what your pastor and his wife face!

Jennifer's next scheduled blog tours can be found at:

Christine Cain - http://liztolsma.blogspot.comFebruary 17 - D'Ann Mateer/Five Bazillion and One - http://fivebazillionandone.blogspot.comFebruary 19 - Miralee Ferrell - www.miraleeferrell.comFebruary 20 - Edwina Cowgill/Musings of Edwina - http://musingsofedwina.blogspot.comFebruary 22 - Pam Meyers/A Writer’s Journey - http://www.pammeyerswrites.blogspot.comFebruary 23 - Debra Vogts/Country at Heart - http://deborahvogts.blogspot.comFebruary 24 - Ane Mulligan/Novel Journey - http://www.noveljourney.blogspot.comFebruary 25 - Christa Allan - 26 - Peg Phifer/Sips 'n' Cups Cafe - http://www.sipsncupscafe.comFebruary 27 - Jeannie Campbell/The Character Therapist -

Contact Jennifer in cyberspace:
website -
personal blog -
group blog -
Facebook -
Twitter -

You can purchase The Pastor's Wife online at: - -

Monday, February 8, 2010

Review of Thin Places, by Mary DeMuth

I'd like to give a warm welcome to Mary DeMuth, author of a new book entitled Thin Places, published by Zondervan. Reading the title you might think this was a diet book, but believe me, it's a book rich in experiences, language, lessons, and forgiveness. No diet for the soul in this book!

Mary is a successful novelist and has written many articles for various publications. But I believe her true depth has come out in this brilliant rendition of her experiences from early in life.

I was excited to receive a copy to review, as I just had a feeling this memoir would be different from the few others I've read. That's not a genre that usually captivates my interest, even if written by a movie star or political figure. Could a true story by a "regular" person grip me?

The answer to that question turned out to be very simple--yes! I crawled into bed with Thin Places the night I got the book, and read 3/4 of it before forcing myself to go to sleep. I finished it the next night, and hated to turn the last page.

I am a huge believer in honesty and transparency, and that's what Ms. DeMuth brings to her book. With gut-wrenching reality she shares the life-path she has walked. It's not an easy read,or a feel-good book, due to the various subjects she deals with. But it's a healthy look at how God can use even the horrible times of life to bring about a beautiful product. Ms. DeMuth doesn't sugar-coat things, but shares what she has learned about God and herself as she's worked through the process of not being a victim, but a victor. She doesn't leave one with the false hope that her life is perfect now, but she can look back over the years and appreciate all the changes.

My life has been nothing like that of Ms. DeMuth, so one may think I wouldn't find anything meaningful in the book. Though the causes may not be the same, emotions resonate within each of us. Truths she has learned through her experiences can still be applied to different situations I'm dealing with.

As I read, I thought of the life-stories of several of my friends and of how they can benefit from reading Thin Places. I was reminded of women in my Bible study who have experienced similar things to Ms. DeMuth. I know of a ranch for abused women not far from my home. I'm going to take copies of this book to place in their library.

I heartily recommend reading this book and benefiting from the wisdom within. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If You Loved Me Enough

A couple of years ago my granddaughter, Andrea, was traumatized. No, she wasn’t kidnapped. She didn’t witness a brutal event. She didn’t even get hurt—physically. But she cried, with all the angst of a drama queen, when her parents left for a concert without taking her. “I want to go! I’ll be really good! It’s not fair!”

I was in the kitchen fixing dinner for those of us who were left behind when Andrea came in and asked to use the sidewalk chalk. Her eyes were swollen, her skin blotchy.

When I went outside to call her for dinner, she asked me to come see what she’d done with the chalk. In the middle of the driveway, where they were bound to see it when they returned, Andrea had left a message for her parents. Under a large pink heart she had written: “Dear Mom and Dad, if you loved me enough you would come back and get me. Love, Andrea.”

Are there times when you say that to your Heavenly Father? “Lord, if You loved me enough You would get me a job. Sell my house. End the chaos in my life.” Is that how love is shown—by making everything perfect? That’s what we tend to think, isn’t it? If things are going well and there’s no major problem confronting us, the Lord must really love us.

But when real life happens and those unexpected events blow in like a winter storm on the Pacific coast, we run for cover. “Help,” we yell to our friends. “My teenagers have become mutants and I have no idea what to do with them.” Or “What can I do about my crumbling marriage?” we ask as we turn on the TV to take advantage of Dr. Phil’s insights. “Dear Lord, if you loved me enough You would come back and get me out of here. Love, _____(fill in the blank with your name.)

I John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” We don’t have to wonder if God loves us enough—He’s already proved it. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son …” (John 3:16a) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The next time you’re tempted to question God’s love for you, take a few moments to write down all the things He’s done for you. You’ll have writer’s cramp long before you exhaust His riches and care. He loves you more than enough!