Thursday, August 25, 2011

Destiny's Dream: Discussion #4

Your book club hostess is Michelle Massaro

Wow, I can't believe it. Our last discussion! Have you enjoyed your read? I know I sure have, and I'm totally wanting to read Kylie's Kiss now, too. We'll be drawing one lucky winner to receive a copy of the sequel. If you haven't already put in your request for your free bookmark and bookplate, make sure you do that before it's too late.

We've discussed Destiny's use of annointing oil, and the angelic beings that watch over her. As we close out the book, there is one subject I'd like to talk about: Forgiveness.

Destiny is able to forgive her attacker, not just in word but in heart. She feels for him and longs to see him find the Lord. That's faith. That's a woman after God's own heart! Have you been in a situation that called for that kind of grace? Please jump in and share.

Toward the end of the book we see Claire finding new spark in her life. How often do we relegate "older" people to passing their days sitting in rockers and baking cookies, as though their time to really live has passed? I put "older" in quotes because I don't think Claire was even that old. But her sons (like most children) had trouble seeing her as vibrant person. Clay couldn't at first fathom that his mother would want to find a soulmate through Solomon's Gate, and everybody is later startled by her interest in sleuthing. But the truth is, many retired people need new interests to make them feel useful and we don't always acknowledge that need. Have you seen this for yourself?

Finally, one of the most precious aspects of this story, to me, is the love between Destiny and her mother. Destiny inherited a legacy of faith  from her mother, who prayed for her and thought continually of her spiritual well-being. I've been on both ends of that kind of relationship, having been raised by a godly woman and now doing my best to raise my kids to know the Lord. The responsibility of a parent to be good stewards of the children God places in their lap, is a great and heavy one, not to be taken lightly. And the resulting relationship between parent child, as demonstrated in this book, is so strong and so moving. Does this inspire you to intercede more on behalf of your children, or motivate you to be more proactive in imparting spiritual truths to them? What have you gleaned about this special relationship while reading Destiny's Dream?

Don't forget, we also meet on facebook for those who "live" over there and find it easier not to venture out of the house. That link is: 

Thank you so much for being part of our book club this summer. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers and questions! Leave a comment to be entered to win Kylie's Kiss. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Destiny's Dream: Discussion #3

Your book club hostess is Michelle Massaro

Hi everyone! Have you all finished reading Destiny's Dream yet? We still have one week left so don't despair.

One of the things I liked was seeing how God used Destiny's scary ordeal to "wake up" other around her, causing them to do some serious soul-searching (or should I say "God searching").
Have you ever experienced something like this in your life? Whether you were the one with the difficult circumstance, or the one brought to your knees in the wake of someone else's crisis, if you are comfortable, please share your experience.

One of the characters we see affected is Destiny's sister Jenna, who has so immersed herself in being the perfect society wife that she allowed God to take a back seat. Many people do this, for various reasons. What is meant by putting God first? How can we make sure God is at the top of our to-do list?

Destiny was attacked, and her life threatened, by a creepy psycho. If it'd been me, I'm not sure I'd have been as calm as Destiny was. She knew God was with her and even though she felt fear, her faith gave her a steady assurance so that she was able to speak peace to her assistant Julie, and even to the crazy gunman. We've all probably read countless real-life stories of people receiving supernatural boldness in the face of death. Have you thought of what you'd do or how you'd feel in that situation?

After the villain threatened and physically injured people, Destiny had to decide whether or not to heed his demands and close Solomon's Gate. Do you think her hesitancy to do so was selfish? Should she have closed her business, even though she strongly felt God's guidance in opening it?

Before I hand you the mic, let me remind you that Delia has offered to send each of our participants a free bookmark and signed bookplate. She is also generously giving away a copy of Kylie's Kiss--book 2 in this series. All who join in our discussions will have their name put into the hat to win that book, and I'm positive that after reading Destiny's Dream, you'll want the sequel. So don't be shy, jump on in and share your thoughts, answer a question, or pose one of your own. Our lovely author will be around to interact with us all. Woo hoo!

Don't forget, we also meet on facebook for those who "live" over there and find it easier not to venture out of the house. That link is: Please share it (and this blog) with your friends.

Tweet it, link it, honk if you love us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Destiny's Dream: Discussion #2

Your book club hostess is Michelle Massaro

Welcome, clubbies! Real quick, don't forget Delia will send each of you a free bookmark and signed bookplate (just let us know you're in our bookclub and would like one.) She is also generously giving away a copy of Kylie's Kiss at the end of the month, to one lucky reader. So make sure to join the conversation. Delia will be very available all month long for us to interact with. What a treat!

Also, you can let your friends know they can find us on facebook:  

Okay, it's time to jump back into our story. How are you enjoying it so far? As I read, I remember at first wondering how the author was going to pull off a deeply spiritual book about a dating service. Hey, I'm just keeping it real! But I quickly realized that not only was she capable of doing so, but she went deeper into territory not often touched by other authors. The annointing with oil for one. For some reason this makes a lot of us squirm, even though it was put into practice by the Lord Himself, and has such rich meaning once we get past the "weirdness" it makes some of us feel.

We had comments last week touching off a conversation about angels watching over us. It reminded me of Elisha's prayer for God to open the eyes of his servant, and when He did, the hillside was filled with spiritual warriors ready to go to battle on behalf of God's people. The idea of angels surrounding us, of an unseen world, is not just an abstract concept. It's fact. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Those messengers still exist and they are still serving God the way they were created to. We just tend to have difficulty living in that truth. But when we are reminded of it. . . wow. Kinda makes you remember what an all-consuming, powerful God we serve, doesn't it? So let's talk about that. . .

Q: A couple of times during the storyline, Destiny experienced supernatural occurrences—not overtly dramatic things, but small miracles completely outside the realm of the "everyday."
Would you like to experience such things, or does the idea frighten you, take you outside your comfort zone? What can you do to make yourself more at ease with God's supernatural side?

Q: Not everyone in the novel witnessed the signs that Destiny had divine guardians. Only two people actually saw the angels.
Why do you think that happens? If one person can see them, why not all?

Q: Destiny owned a beautiful bottle of anointing oil, which she used during her daily prayer time to anoint the applications turned in by her Seekers.
Did this practice make Destiny seem eccentric or fanatical? What purpose do you think it served?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Destiny's Dream: Discussion #1

Your book club hostess is Michelle Massaro

Welcome, readers! I am so excited to host this month's club selection, Destiny's Dream by Delia Latham. If you don't already know, Delia has offered to send each of our participants a free bookmark and signed bookplate. She is also generously giving away a copy of Kylie's Kiss. All who join in our discussions will have their name put into the hat to win that book, and I'm positive that after reading Destiny's Dream, you'll want the sequel. So don't be shy, jump on in and share your thoughts, answer a question, or pose one of your own. Our lovely author will be around to interact with us all. Woo hoo!

Don't forget, we also meet on facebook for those who "live" over there and find it easier not to venture out of the house. That link is: Please share it (and this blog) with your friends.

Tweet it, link it, honk if you love us.

Ready to dive into the final club selection of the year? I am! You know, I'm never sure what I'm going to think of a new book or author I've never read. So I always crack open the first page with a bit of apprehension. Especially when I've met the author and really really want to love their work. Well, I knew immediately that I had no need to worry about Delia's story or her prose. It's right up my alley and I was thrilled that I'd get to be her hostess. So here we go:

Q: The story opens with a very difficult scene where Destiny's mother is dying. Anyone who has lost someone close to them will no doubt feel those emotions stirred up again while reading this scene. I know I did.
Was this passage at all difficult for you to read?

Q: Destiny's mother leaves her a scripture, a promise she says Jesus specifically told her to give Destiny. Psalm 91:11's promise: "He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
How do you feel about the idea of angels around you? Does it comfort you? If not, why not?

Q: Destiny and her siblings decided not to conduct a "death watch" over their dying mother.
Do you think having her children hovering near, dreading and anticipating her death, would have been a comfort or a discomfort to Miss Margie? How would you feel under that same circumstance?

Q: Destiny's behavior at her mother's funeral was not typical for her character.
Have you ever been in a situation where emotions/nerves caused you to behave in a manner not normal for you? Were there repercussions, and if so, how did you handle them?

Q: Clay's relationship with God has taken a back seat over the years. He has a bit of difficulty understanding Destiny's very personal relationship with Him, wherein she speaks about and to God as if He is her close Friend and Confidante.
Have you reached that place in your relationship with Him? If not, what's holding you back?

Q: Clay tends to look at Destiny's career choice as a frivolous occupation, while Destiny considers matchmaking a ministry.
Have you ever felt the sting of someone's less-than-appreciative opinion of something you consider important? How did you handle it, especially if that someone's opinion really mattered to you?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Conclusion of The Stones by Eleanor Gustafson

--by COTT Sr. Editor, April Gardner

As I finished the last pages of this epic biblical novel, I asked myself what had impacted me most. What truth would I carry away with me? I found my own thoughts summed up on one of the last pages.

David is laying on his deathbed. Asaph has discovered a sack of five smooth stones under David’s pillow and asks the reason for them. “My Lord, are they connected with…Goliath?...David answers, No…small stones…to remind me…God uses weak things—stones…half-grown he-goats…broken, wayward kings—to conquer giants, vast armies. What was I against  Absalom? Only Hushai’s wit saved me. I hold the stones, feel…not my power…but God’s. Keep them Asaph. The power is there, but only for those who know their own weakness.”

Powerful words. Makes me want to run outdoors to collect my own stones, to carry them in my purse for rubbing when I’m feeling weak…or prideful. Either way, there is nothing we can do without God.
In a day when the Holy Spirit descended only occasionally upon men, Ellie says her in Study Guide, “when Samuel anointed David to replace Saul, we’re told that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily from that day on.” What a gift!

It was that Spirit that led David to be the king that he was. Ellie states in her Study Guide, “He sinned fervently, but he also repented fervently, which set him apart…” Aren’t you glad David sinned? Pride, disobedience, adultery, murder--to name a few. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had a chance to see God’s mercy and love toward a truly repentant heart. “A man’s heart—that’s where the sum of his life rests…And Yahweh knows me, everything about me, yet…love me still. Asaph, what can I do? What can I say? Who can bear such love?” (David, The Stones)

Imagine what it will be like to stand before the Great White Throne and an Almighty God? We’ll be aware of every black sin we committed against him, but He will see nothing but the blood of his Son covering us from head to foot. Who can bear even the thought of such love?

Thank you, Ellie, for driving that truth home for me, for your countless hours of dedication toward this amazing work of biblical fiction. Do you care to give us a peek into your next project? Will it be biblical, or are you trying your hand at something new?

Here’s a question Ellie has for her readers. It, along with many others, can be found in her Study Guide, which I highly recommend. Even without the novel, it makes an excellent Bible study.

How can a person’s sin ultimately bring pleasure and even glory to God?

Ellie, it's been such a pleasure getting to know you this month! I've learned so much through reading The Stones. Thank you for taking part in our COTT Book Club!

Next week, we'll be diving into Delia Latham's, Destiny's Dream. Here's a little about the book. Get your copy here!

Is a little respect too much to ask at a parent’s funeral?

Apparently it is for Destiny May. Clay Gallagher is built like a small mountain and far more vocal than is fitting when he shows up late to her mother’s “going away party.” When it turns out he’s not even at the right funeral, Destiny demands retribution in the form of an escape from the day’s dreary proceedings. Spending time with a handsome stranger who makes her laugh is more therapeutic than fighting with her overbearing family.

Clay finds Destiny beautiful, charming...and intelligent. So why is she stubbornly determined to open a Christian dating service? Clay has little respect for such a frivolous profession, and doesn’t think the small, conservative town of Castle Creek will welcome such a progressive business. But when Destiny is threatened by an anonymous caller who deeply resents her and what she does for a living, Clay makes it his business to keep the saucy redhead out of harm’s way.

Trouble is, spending time in her company weakens his defenses, and Destiny may be the one thing Clay can’t escape...if he even wants to.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Stones--David's Bathsheba

We’re on to Week Three of our look at Eleanor Gustafson’s The Stones

As a missionaries, while Stateside, my family and I traveled all over the nation visiting churches. This equaled many long, boring miles in the car with two siblings just as grumpy as I was. Like it was yesterday, I remember the day one of us grew desperate and asked Dad for a story we had never heard before. He took off on a tale of a king who had many wives but “hugged and kissed” that of another man. I remember my  horror at the thought, but it was compounded when I learned how this king covered his sin—by murdering her husband. At the end of this fascinating (yet rather embarrassing--Dad was talking about kissing. Yuck!) story, Dad told us that this king was none other than King David.

My little heart was completely broken. King David? No way! He was the lowly shepherd boy that killed lions and bears and mean giants. He was my hero. Isn’t he every kid’s? A tiny part of my innocence died that day.
I hated the story, but today, I look at in a different light—with gratitude. If David can behave in such a despicable way and still be called “a man after God’s own heart”, maybe there’s hope for me.

In The Stones, Ellie handles this portion of David’s life with brutal clarity and truth, and I thank her for it. Uriah is a sharp contrast to the king, who, at the height of his power, had become self-indulgent. In the voice of Asaph, Ellie writes:

I meditated, too, on the supreme irony of Uriah, flame of Yahweh. Had he known or guessed his wife was pregnant? He was certainly intelligent enough to put two and two together. Yet he would not do the one thing that would get David off the hook, and his very bravery and zeal became David’s weapon to destroy him. A man of gallantry, ready to die for his prince’s honor, died instead by his prince’s hand. 

Poor guy.

In her study guide, Ellie asks a couple of questions, which I thought I’d put to you, as well.

Why do you think God chose Bathsheba rather than a more “acceptable” wife (such as Abigail) to establish the House of David and the long line leading to the birth of Jesus?

In The Stones, Asaph was greatly affected by David’s colossal sin. (See Scroll Two, chapter 18). What, beyond the armband and scroll that David brought to him, restored his relationship with David?

And my question for Ellie—What first made you consider writing David’s life in the form of biblical fiction?

If you haven’t gotten it yet, make sure you pick up your copy of COTT champ, Delia Latham's,Destiny's Dream. We'll be discussing this fun romance next month!

--April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles
and the award-winning author of Wounded Spirits

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Stones--A Glimpse of Jersualem

Welcome back to our discussion of The Stones
by Eleanor (Ellie) Gustafson!
by April W Gardner

I’ve just reached chapter six, which doesn’t seem like much, but it’s actually very close to the half-way point. Each chapter is jammed packed, filled to brimming with historical events recorded in the Bible. Much of it is narrative, but when Ellie pens dialog, she does it with expertise.  The things her characters say either crack me up or sober me with their depth of wisdom. Ellie, you are indeed a master crafter of engaging dialog.

The event that stood out to me the most during this quarter of the book was David’s move from Hebron to Jebus (which he renamed Jerusalem). I’m not sure if I've just glanced over it every time I’ve read the account in Scripture or if there just isn’t much there, but it was practically all new information for me. Ellie, did you fill in details from other historical sources? If so, how much? 

Ellie wrote a nail-biting account of the take-over of the city from the Jebusites. I'd never thought about who occupied Jerusalem before David or for how long. For those who haven’t read the book, the Jebusites had control of the city for hundreds of years before David decided he wanted it for his capitol. But that’s all I’m saying! You’ll have to buy the book if you want to find out exactly how David entered the highly-defended and, up to that point, unconquerable fortress. Hint: God had something to do with it.

Before the battle David addressed the troops. This is what he said:
“Look up, all of you, to the hill above Jebus. Mt. Moriah, Abraham brought his son Isaac from Beersheba to this place to sacrifice him in obedience to God’s command. He stood right where you’re standing now. He looked up in dread, yet set food to the mountain, confident that God—somehow, in some way—would provide. And he did. As Abraham raised his knife, the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. So shaken he could hardly stand, Abraham looked around, and there in the thicket, caught by its horns, was the sacrifice God provided in place of Isaac.
“Abraham called the mountain, ‘The Lord will provid,’” David continued, “and we’ll hold to that word today. We’ll climb Mt. Moriah, and there Yaweh will provide. Here, in the name of the Lord, we claim that miserable shelf called Zion. It shall be cleansed of Jebusites and be forever known as Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the Holy City of God.”

Eleanor Gustafson
That passage deeply impacted me. Having grown up reading the Thoene’s  work, I’ve always been fascinated with Jerusalem, but Ellie, you took me back to the beginning and drew a thread through the centuries, through David and all the way to Christ. Although you didn’t mention it, the reader easily draws the thread the rest of the way through to present-day and the ongoing struggle for God’s Holy City.

Our God is an awesome God! (Made you sing it. Wink.) History is already written, and He sees the big picture with perfect clarity. (Aren't you glad?) We can only hope to catch a glimpse.

Ellie, have you been privileged to visit Israel? If so, tell us your favorite part of the experience. If not, tell us what the first place is you’d want to see if you were told you’d be flying there tomorrow.

I pose the same question to our readers as well as the following—Was there a particular passage that stood out to you in this quarter of the book?

If you haven’t gotten it yet, make sure you pick up your copy of COTT champ, Delia Latham's, Destiny's Dream. We'll be discussing this fun romance next month!

--April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles
and the award-winning author of Wounded Spirits

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