Tiffany Stockton
Davalynn Spencer

Davalynn Spencer

Welcome, readers. Davalynn Spencer here, warming by the wood stove as I wait for spring to arrive in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Please join me in welcoming author Tiffany Amber Stockton who will tell us about her featured book for today, A Grand Design.

Tiffany – thank you for joining us. Please give us the 50-word thumbnail for your book.

Tiffany Stockton

Tiffany Stockton

When Alyssa Denham and her best friend embark on a getaway to Mackinac Island, they also agree to help Alyssa’s grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest unlocks amazing insight into her grandmother’s life … and attracts the attention of Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go, or will that past bring healing to her entire family?

Did you have specific reasons for writing this story?

My agent actually asked me to write it. She had been shopping a collection of proposals and book ideas from me when she heard about the Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press. Although I had only written historical up to that point, she thought one of my stories would fit perfectly with this line . . . as long as I could weave in the story of a quilt and make that the focal point of the book. I’m often up for a challenge, so I agreed. After reworking the synopsis and sending it back to her, I waited to hear the publisher’s response. When it was accepted the next day, I considered that a pretty strong confirmation that this particular story needed to be told. Read More →

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A Strategic Act of an Apostle

by Dr. Craig von Buseck

Luke, the writer of Acts, shows us an amazing transformation in the life of Saul of Tarsus. This metamorphosis takes place in one single chapter – Acts 13 – though the preparation for it happened over many years.

Verse 2: While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Verse 9: But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him…

Verse 43: And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas…

In ancient times, the most prominent person was named first in all literature. The chapter begins with the introduction of Barnabas and Saul. By the end of the chapter, not only was Paul named first, but also his name had changed.

We see in Scripture that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (Genesis 17:5) and Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 35:10). But nowhere do we see an explicit statement that God changed Saul’s name to Paul.

So why was his name changed at the same time that he emerged as the preeminent apostle to the Gentiles?

I believe that Saul himself changed his name from the Jewish name “Saul” to the Gentile name “Paul.”

The reason was two-fold:

  1. For the purpose of building a bridge of communication and trust with the people God had assigned to him to reach, the Gentiles.
  2. Saul so identified with his calling that he went so far as to change his name.

Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul makes the famous declaration: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). In this significant step of changing his name from Jewish to Gentile, he is signaling his commitment to his calling – but also to those he is called to reach.

As you ponder this significant act of an apostle, I encourage you to prayerfully consider your calling and what you have done – or are willing to do – to “become all things to all…” that you might save some.

 

Craig von Buseck

Craig von Buseck

Dr. Craig von Buseck is manager of digital content for Inspiration.org. His most recent book is I Am Cyrus: Harry S. Truman and the Rebirth of Israel from Iron Stream Media. To order, visit IAmCyrusBook.com. Learn more at vonbuseck.com and inspiration.org.

I Am Cyrus book cover

I Am Cyrus by Dr. Craig von Buseck

 

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My recent retirement prompted a personal move from Illinois to my home state of Wisconsin—which meant my awesome nine-year-old quarter horse mare and I also moved to a new barn and horse trainer. All of these changes resulted in prepping, practicing, and praying for success on a brand-new horse show circuit this year. We agreed to an aggressive schedule of shows that would take us from Wisconsin to Oklahoma City for our first event; onto Las Vegas for our second show—The Silver Dollar Circuit—and then to Scottsdale, AZ for our final event, the Sun Circuit. This was my first series of horse shows with my new trainer and new barn mates.

Catherine Finger

Catherine Finger

In preparation for our training and showing debut, my friends and family lit candles for the poor guy and wished him all the best from afar. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mare, and everything about the showing process, and I appreciate and respect my trainer—but he hadn’t yet experienced me at a horse show. And by that, I mean he hadn’t seen me after too many late nights and early mornings in a row, jacked up on extra strength Excedrin and French Roast coffee, limping around the show pen (me, not my horse) waiting for my next event.

Willie Nelson lyrics rang through my mind as I packed up Cosmo, my 2016 RV built by Pleasure Way—a Canadian company making great use of the Mercedes Sprinter to create a small but mighty road warrior. With nearly 4,000 miles and six weeks to cover together, every aspect of packing was carefully considered. Mostly. Until that critical 24-hour window where a few things may have slipped past me. And definitely around that 10 hours to go mark when I may have accidently thrown in two coffee makers but not one pair of spurs. Oops.

The interesting antics and chance encounters with strangers falling into and out of my life on this journey are already making their way into my latest novel. As I write tonight, melancholy tunes from a country western band staged across the parking lot seep into my little camper, spurring me to write on.

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Aaron M. Zook, Jr.
Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin

Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the honor of interviewing one of CAN’s newest members, Aaron M. Zook, Jr. A retired Army colonel, Aaron now uses his skills to write action-packed stories for teen boys.

Welcome, Aaron! Please tell us about your book The Crashin’ Coaster Mystery.

A mysterious man wrecks the Zanadu brother’s summer and their Crashin’ Coaster ride at a Texas park. Repeated disasters drag Gabe, Alex, their dogs, Thunder and Lightning, and friends into a cross-state chase for the criminal. The villain frames Alex. The FBI gets involved. Can the boys solve the case?

Aaron M. Zook, Jr.

Aaron M. Zook, Jr.

Sounds exciting! What inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration for The Crashin’ Coaster Mystery came from my desire to write exciting, fast-paced, action-packed adventures that were clean, fun, and showed the growth in every way of two boys, Gabriel and Alexander Zanadu, and their dogs, Thunder and Lightning, for Young Adults ranging from twelve-years-old to sixteen-years-old. Alex and Gabe age six months in each book, starting at ages twelve and fourteen in book #1. This particular book shows Alex Zanadu, the oldest boy, gaining knowledge and experiences that will bring him close to becoming a Christian by surrendering his life to Christ.

We raised two boys through home-school and eventually high school as we traveled around the world due to my military career as an officer. Finding good reading material that was based on a Christian worldview and upbringing was hard to do. Since I told stories to our boys when they were teens as we traveled around Europe, I’ve been fascinated with turning those stories, or stories similar to that, into a twelve-book series that chronicled the lives of these boys.

The Crashin’ Coaster Mystery by Aaron M. Zook, Jr.

The Crashin’ Coaster Mystery by Aaron M. Zook, Jr.

What surprised you the most during the research or writing of your book?

What I enjoyed most in the research of this book was talking with a retired FBI agent, Steve, to get the details straight about how the FBI works and what types of investigative work they did. FBI agents work very long hours and when Steve was an FBI agent, he often spent a lot of time in his car or changing location to get the information needed to solve a case. I was also amazed at how quickly the FBI can crack a case using informants and other individuals to find out the details surrounding a crime.

The FBI agent I interviewed let me know that in no way would children be used the way I use them in my book to capture criminals. We both laughed when I said, “That’s why they call it fiction.” He told me that some of the FBI characters I used in my book did resemble actual mannerisms or attitudes of FBI agents he had known. Steve also let me know that since the FBI investigated cross-state crimes, the crimes I was using in my book had to take place in more than one state. He was a tremendous help in successfully authoring the book!

I love how willing experts are to share with us authors. How has God used the message of your book in your own life?

While I was writing The Crashin’ Coaster Mystery, I taught a youth group class on The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. I made the course I taught a writing course to link the two together. I decided to use the principles Lee Strobel investigated in my book to help Alex better understand the strong case for Christ that we have as Christians.

In this book, the principles I use will also be the springboard in the next book for Alex to make a final decision for Christ himself. In The Crashin’ Coaster Mystery, the boys are involved in a youth group, and a mature teenager friend who’s part of the youth group lays out the evidence that Alex and the others in their investigative group should use to make decisions for Christ and the methodology they should use to solve the crime they are working on.

I was able to strengthen the youth who came to the class, my own faith, and with God’s blessing, the faith of those who read this book or are interested in making a decision for Christ.

What would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?

My ideal writing place is one that is a resort, tucked away from others, yet close to my current home. The reasons are that in order to write and stay focused on a long-term project like a book, I need space away from others and my normal responsibilities to focus on the writing project.

I currently take a five-day work-vacation once a month to write at a time-share that we own that’s relatively close to our house. I seclude myself from all distractions while still having some ways to relax and have fun to take a break now and then. I like to play mini-golf, walk, or go for a swim to clear my mind, and then I’m ready to get back to writing.

How nice to get away to write! When did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?

I realized as I was ending my military career that I would need to look for future employment. I went through a process we have in the U.S. Army, then called the Alumni and Career Program (ACAP). In this process, I talked with a coach who tested me on aptitude and skill. He went through my history and also my desires, which were to serve the Lord in some full-time capacity when I left the military.

In a private session afterward, he let me know that God wanted me to use my creative side. I am a musician, which is one area of artistry, and the other was that I had told my boys stories for years. He recommended that I use these talents for the Lord.

I began writing even as I transitioned from the military. I went to a writers conference with CLASSeminars (Christian Leaders And Seminar Speakers Seminars) and found my passion and calling to write the twelve-book Thunder and Lightning Series. This occurred in 2009, shortly after my full retirement from the U.S. Army. I have seen God confirm this calling again and again over the years. What a blessing!

What ministries are you involved in, and why?

I pray for Officer’s Christian Fellowship and contribute to them as I was totally involved as a volunteer and staff member for the organization through my U.S. Army career. I stay in touch with what’s happening and continue to follow their work.

I’m a praise and worship leader, singer, and guitarist. Currently, I am a rhythm guitarist for our praise band on a rotating basis. I love to worship and lead others in worship of our Lord.

I lead a small group Bible study for our church, currently teaching in the book of Ephesians. I believe we need a steady flow of God’s word to renew our mind and spirit throughout the week.

I volunteer as a youth leader to assist our youth pastor. There are few men who will come out on a Wednesday night and help with the youth.

I volunteer as a worker in the Love One Ministry, a ministry where we give out thousands of pounds of meat to homeless shelters and other Christian caring organizations that meet some of the requirements of the needy population in the area.

With such a busy schedule and so many activities, how do you stay disciplined and meet your deadlines?

In order to meet the high demand for output, I have found that I need to make schedules and plan a year in advance for my writing and other activities, to include wife, family, grandkids, extended relatives, book sales, book signings, vacations, and other factors.

My wife and I have a weekly calendar date to discuss our schedules (she is also self-employed as a speaker, writer, and life coach). We discuss in detail where we are going and what our plans are. Once a year we take a vacation where we discuss long-range goals.

In the short term, I manage my calendar and requirements in order to keep up with the daily load of taking care of cars, housework, lawn work, relaxation time, ministry, and other items. If I find that I have not allotted enough preparation time for a project, I notify any involved person early and see if it can be moved. I am not perfect at keeping everything in line, but most times I’ve met my suspenses on time or ahead of schedule.

With an efficient system like that, you must have something new in the works. Tell us about it.

The Olympic Enigma (working title)—At the 1992 Olympics, Alex and Gabe Zanadu, with their dogs, Thunder and Lightning, and friends, discover a covert doping operation. With their friend and Australian cop, Willie, they search for evidence to nail the drug lords. But the leaders of the drug ring track down the boys first, chasing them on skis and snowmobiles throughout the picturesque French countryside. As Gabe and Alex try to evade capture, they struggle with difficult moral decisions and the fight to stay alive.

What a fun read for boys! Thanks for sharing with us, Aaron!

To learn more about Aaron and his books, please visit Aaron’s website.

Writing for Him,

Sarah Sundin

Sarah’s website

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“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 NIV).

Recently, I attended a gathering in our village to remember the life of a church member who died unexpectedly. Arriving late, I sat in the back. Everyone wore black and wiped tears that fell profusely. The lady was a friend of mine also––my husband and I bought land from her.

Everyone in the crowd hailed from our village or nearby––all friends and neighbors. We sat on wooden benches and huddled together as the winds whipped around us; our winter was near. The sound of children playing in the distance soothed our hurting hearts.

After the ceremony, we sipped hot soup to warm our bones. The aroma of wood burning in a mud oven and the chicken baking in it filled the air. Then, the delicious chicken dinner arrived on clay plates served by beautiful Quechua ladies dressed in their typical polleras (skirts.) We talked, laughed, ate, and enjoyed being together. There was sadness—but joy also because of the hope we have in Christ that we will be reunited one day.

Visiting a cemetery anywhere gives the impression that all ended for the people buried in the graves. But, for those who trust Jesus as Savior, there is hope beyond the grave because we have eternal life. Whether we are dead or alive when Christ returns, we will all rise to be with Him forever.

Peggy Cunningham and her husband are missionaries in Bolivia, South America. They work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also an author of children’s books and devotionals for women, including her latest book, Shape Your Soul, 31 Exercises for Faith that Moves Mountains. www.PeggyCunningham.com

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