Tag Archive | church

Spatzle Speaks: Root Beer & Roadblocks (Book Review)

My mom (Susan M. Baganz) writes books. In this one, she had a little boy and I love little kids so Root Beer & Roadblocks is a story I enjoyed. Johnny Marshall is a favorite character, but I was sad that at the end of Feta & Freeways, Johnny’s cancer had returned. I knew then that she would write Johnny’s story and make it a great one.

Johnny had a rough time because he endured a bout of cancer in his past and discovered the truth at the same time his wife served him divorce papers. He’d had his chance at fame as a musician and lost any chance to fulfill his dream of having children.

He sold his home and had moved in with his cousin. Partly because he didn’t see any point in keeping it when he figured he’d likely not survive this cancer battle. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to bother with pursuing treatment because he knew it would be brutal with no guarantee of a cure. He serves at church teaching little kids in Sunday school since he can’t have any of his own.

When he saves a little boy from being hit by a car after church, he gets injured instead. The crash reunites him with an old flame from high school. The one woman, Katie, he never really got over and she holds a secret, one that might give him the will to live.

Johnny is not a victim in this story although he suffers terribly. Matter of fact, in spite of his challenges he often emerges the unwitting hero. His journey and struggle seems hopeless at times, defeated by depression, illness, and cancer, he also finds that because of his struggles there are amazing blessings to be had on the other side as God opens the floodgates to fill his heart (and arms) with more than he could have hoped and dreamed for.

Johnny is still a musician and singer with Specific Gravity although they don’t tour in this book as they make time to allow Johnny the opportunity to fight this battle with his family, friends, and Orchard Hill church by his side. If you enjoyed Feta & Freeways you’ll enjoy the continuation of the relationship between Niko and his cousin Johnny in this story. While both books are connected they can be read as stand-alone novels.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

I would suggest that Johnny and Katie get a dog, but given the end of this story, I suspect they’ll need a bigger home and some time to adjust to all their blessings. I’d offer to join them but I love my mommy too much and she needs me. They don’t call me a rescue dog for nothing. I give this book five bones, because I don’t have thumbs and don’t do stars. And I’ll give my mom lots of kisses as long as she keeps rubbing my tummy.

Interview with Renata and Tony

Renate Blake and Antonio (Tony) DeLuca are the main characters in Pesto and Potholes, an inspirational contemporary romance releasing April 24, 2015. We sat down the couple together to ask a few questions about the book and their journey.

PestoandPotholes2What did you think when you first met each other? 

Tony: I thought she was cute but she was definitely a mystery. So quiet and shy. I think if she could have hidden behind Stephanie she would have.

Renata: I really didn’t want to meet anyone. I don’t like meeting strangers–

Tony: And none come stranger than me. (he laughs).

Renata: (playfully slapping his knee). In spite of all that, I thought he was cute. He had nice shoes.

Tony: Shoes? Really? That’s what you remember from our first meeting?

Renata: (shrugs) She asked . . .

What was your first date like? 

Tony: (closes eyes and groans)

Renata: Did we have a first date?

Tony: I think that bonfire thing . . .

Renata: Oh. That. I’d rather not talk about it.

Tony: Me either. I felt so horrible about that night.

Renata: I wasn’t your fault. You really were my hero that night.

Tony: Next question?

When did you first kiss? 

Tony: (blushes) I don’t kiss and tell.

Renata: (giggles)

I heard something about ninjas. What’s that about?

Tony: She has hidden talents.

Renata: You’ll have to read the book to find out.

What are potholes? 

Renata: They are the difficulties in life we fall into. Sometimes it is deep pain we carry with us. Physically or emotionally and it can take time to get out of them and healing is not a straight upward trajectory, but can be kind of rocky.

Tony: Mary Beth told you about that?

Renate: Right. She was a huge blessing in helping me on my way. After all I had been through . . .

Tony: (grabs her hand). You’ve come a long way.

Tell me about Orchard Hill Church.

Renata: A community of imperfect people who are seeking God and filled with grace and forgiveness. Home. My new family.

Tony: I think I had taken for granted all that Orchard Hill is since I’ve been attending a long time. Seeing it from Renata’s perspective though, I’m beyond blessed to be part of such a great church that’s willing to help people grow spiritually and emotionally to be all God has called them to be. It goes beyond Sunday morning into deeper relationships that take place at other times. I wouldn’t have been able to grow up like I have without my accountability group.

Renata: I had been let down by “church” in the past and I’m grateful my roomie encouraged me to try again at Orchard Hill. It wasn’t easy but I’m so glad I stuck around. God is doing great things in the lives of people at this church.

Tony: Amen.

What’s next for you both?

Renata: I don’t want to give spoilers away. Guess you’ll have to read Susan’s book.

Tony: (grabs Renata’s hand). We’re in a good place now. I’m grateful for the journey God took us on.

Renata: (leans over to kiss Tony’s cheek).

Tony: (big grin)

Thanks for taking the time to be with us! Check out Pesto and Potholes for their full story. 

New Pesto facebook with updated pics

Interview with Antonio DeLuca

Tony DeLuca from Pesto and Potholes

Tony DeLuca from Pesto and Potholes

I’d like you to meet Antonio “Tony” DeLuca, whose story is featured in the novel Pesto and Potholes, releasing soon!

Tony, how do you feel about your story being told?

I think the book is really more Ren’s story than mine. I’m a little embarrassed to have my failures broadcast to the world like this, but Susan and Renata convinced me that God could use that struggle to help others. In the end it’s all good so I guess I can’t complain.

What do you hope will be the outcome of your story being shared in this way?

I hope men will be inspired to do several things. 1) Treat women with respect. It’s really worth it. 2) Seek accountability. Not a popular concept in our world right now but I don’t know where I would be without the godly men I’ve been meeting with regularly, and 3) Be involved in a good church.

Tell us about Renata.

Whoa. Where do I begin. She’s hot, she’s modest, she’s got a heart that is even more beautiful than her outward appearance because she loves Jesus. I’m so grateful God brought her into my life even though the beginning of our relationship is shadowed in pain.

Do you still battle ninjas?

I never battled them. It was all Renata. She’s amazing. Her compassion and her strength astound me.

What’s up next for you?

Stephanie gets her story told and I’m glad I made a new friend in Roberto. I admire their courage in sharing their journey. I was honored to be there for them both in the process.

Thank you, Tony, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule. One last question though. What’s your favorite song right now?

Anything Ren sings. *laughs* Okay, this is old school. But when I think of my relationship with Renata I think of “Everything I do (I do it for you)” by Bryan Adams. There are some spiritual themes in there although the metaphor is not complete. Love, sacrifice . . . it’s just like Jesus and us, but also the way our love for someone else should be. You can click below but you’ll have to go to YouTube to watch it there.

Thank you, Tony, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule.

No problem. Glad to help. I hope people enjoy the story. I’m kind of partial to the ending myself. *winks*  Susan just told me that the release day might be pushed off for a little bit, but trust me, it will be worth the wait.

Pesto facebook header 2 PicMonkey Collage

Interview with Renata Blake

Renata from Pesto and Potholes

Renata from Pesto and Potholes

Meet Renata Blake. Her story is featured in the novel Pesto and Potholes releasing March 27, 2015.

Renata, how do you feel about your story being told?

Initially I wasn’t too happy about it. I’ve had plenty of bad press in the past and the last thing I need is my family getting wind of this book. They already hate me enough . . . and they don’t come out looking too good in the retelling. But it is real. This is my life. All the ugliness and the beauty.

What do you hope will be the outcome of your story being shared in this way?

That those who are hurting would find hope. As the book cover says, “The road to healing is filled with potholes.” Also that if someone isn’t involved in a good church, that they would seek one out. The relationships I made at Orchard Hill Church were a significant part of my healing process.

PestoandPotholes2Tell us about Antonio.

*giggles* Tony is sweet and handsome, but more than that, he always respected me. That was so new for me to experience. I heard about that book and movie that came out, Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s not love. Trust me, no woman wants a man who is going to control and abuse her. But Tony, he’s one of the good guys and he loves Jesus which I think made a huge difference.

Do you like Italian food?

I’ve always loved Italian food . . . but I have a far deeper appreciation for it now. *she winks*.

Do you still battle ninjas?

(sly grin). I haven’t had the occasion to lately, but suspect I’m still capable.

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited that my roommate Stephanie gets a chance to tell her amazing story next. I don’t know if I could have made it this far without her love and support and I’m glad I got to return the favor when life became difficult for her. I don’t want to give any spoilers away.

One last question. What’s your favorite song right now?

Oh, wow. I love so many but the one that resonates most with my soul is Broken Hallelujah by the Afters.  If I were a songwriter, I could have written that song. Hallelujah means to “God be praised,” and I’m grateful that even when I was weak and broken He could still hear and accept my shattered heart. I look back now in such gratitude for all He’s done. May all the praise and glory be to Him.

Thank you, Renata, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule.

Thank you for sharing about Susan’s book. I’m so grateful she had the courage to tell my story. Maybe others will find healing and hope in Jesus because of it. Pesto facebook header 2 PicMonkey Collage

 

 

 

A Walk in the Woods (Serial Short Story Romance, Part 4 of 4)

Candy paced by the front window of her condo. Jax hadn’t lied. He had called every night since their woodland adventure. Sometimes for only a few moments as he often worked nights. Ironically, sometimes she did as well. Mick was out of the hospital and recovering at home with his family. In spite of the injury, he had managed to bring down a key player in the drug trafficking in the city. She found out Jax had come that evening because he feared something might happen even though Mick had assured him it was all covered. She was glad he had been there. Would she have had the courage to survive that alone?

The grey sedan pulled up and Jax jumped out and strode to the front door. The bell rang but she had opened it before the last tones were done.

“Hey, beautiful. Are you ready?”

“Sure am.” She grabbed her purse and her Bible and locked the door behind her as they left.

As they drove down the street, she giggled.

“What was that for?”

“I’ve never been asked to go as a date to church before. I kind of like it.”

“You needed to try something new. I thought maybe going with a friend would make it easier for you so you can get out of your rut and back to a new normal.”

“A new normal. I like the sound of that.”

They walked into church together and Candace noted the way other women watched Jax. A surge of confidence roared through her along with the awareness that she was not being welcomed as much as tolerated by any of the single women in the church. She couldn’t blame them. Jax was hot.

Jax, while polite to everyone, was not overly warm to any woman and for the most part maintained a hand at her lower back as he steered her through the crowd.

They left shortly after for lunch.

As they sat at a table at a small crowded diner, he leaned over to whisper, his breath tickling her ear. “So, did you enjoy this morning’s adventure?”

She grinned at the handsome man adjacent to her. “I’m enjoying it even more now.”

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One eyebrow quirked, “Really, why is that?”

She leaned forward to whisper in his ear. “Because my ex just walked in a few minutes ago and has been glaring at us from across the room.”

Jax smiled and kissed her cheek. “Wanna point him out to me?”

She did just that but didn’t expect the smile to fade from his face. “That’s your ex?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Excuse me for a moment.” He pulled out his phone and texted rapidly. The waitress came to take their orders and she tried to wait. A glance at her ex showed him squirming in his seat as the voluptuous, scantily clad woman next to him drooled over the menu.

Jax grinned.

“What’s up?”

“I know something you don’t . . . yet. But justice is on its way.”

“I don’t have much animosity for him anymore. I’ve forgiven and even feel sorry for him.”

“And so you should. He’s a pathetic excuse for a man.”

As they ate their food and talked they were soon disturbed by a commotion on the other side of the room. A woman had approached the table of her ex and Candy watched as the color drained out of his skin. The woman next to him reached across the table and slapped him. Soon he was in handcuffs and being led out the door along with this girlfriend who kept up a stream of insults.

“Your sins will find you out,” Jax mumbled with his mouthful.

“Jax? What was that all about?”

“Your ex has been on a wanted list for some time. He’s been good at keeping himself hidden but he is in fact facing several charges. Be thankful you’ve divorced or you would find any of your own assets at risk with all he’s going to face.”

“So he wronged many more people than me?”

“Yup.” Jax paid the bill and left a tip on the table. They stood to leave.

“Looks like you keep helping me out. I could get used to this.” She enjoyed the touch of her hand in his as they walked out the door.

“Ah, but you helped me out too.” He opened the car door. She waited till he got in on his side

“How so?”

The car started and they drove to a park nearby. “Today was the first Sunday when I didn’t have women chasing me around church trying to finagle a date.”

“I did notice they had their eye on you and weren’t too pleased by me at your side.” She allowed him to help her out and took his hand as they walked down by a small pond.

“Just as your ex-husband now regrets that you were by mine this afternoon.”

“I guess that means we’re good for each other?” Candy tapped him on the nose with her finger.

He grinned. “So far it seems that way, but I look forward to time spent with you. I have a feeling though that ‘normal’ will not be a word that would in any way define our relationship.”

“Hmmm, what other words could there be? Providential?”

“Adventurous?” They sat side by side on a park bench. Ducks squawked nearby as a little boy was trying to feed them. Birds sang in the trees and a squirrel chirrupped as it scampered past.

“God-ordained?” Candace leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I look forward to discovering more words with you.”

Jax wrapped his arm around her and drew her close. He leaned down and she saw the intent in his eyes. “How about—wonderful.”

As his lips touched hers she found she couldn’t agree more. A little voice called out “Ewww, they’re kissing!” Candy started giggling as they pulled apart.

Jax rested his forehead against hers. “Give him about twelve years. He’ll change his mind.”

Candy looked up at Jackson and placed a palm on the side of his face, enjoying the texture of his beard beneath her fingers. “It took me a lot longer than that. I think the best kiss I ever had, was with a dangerous man in the woods just a few days ago.”

He frowned. “Competition, huh? I’ll have to do better.” He leaned down and claimed her lips again.

Candace smiled and kept her eyes closed as the kiss ended. “Hmmm, so glad you are striving for improvement, although how you could improve on that, I don’t know.”

He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her to his side as they looked out on the pond. “You give me something to strive towards. Every man needs a goal.”

“Really, and what’s your goal?”

“Making sure you know how loved, cherished and beautiful you are for the rest of your life.”

Candace let her head rest on his chest, grateful for a fresh start and a new love.

We Do Not Write Alone

I’ve been writing for four years now and it hit me today that God has taught me some cool things on my path to publication.

Photo by Tom Otte Imaging

Photo by Tom Otte Imaging

  1. There is a beautiful group of people out there who love the Lord and are seeking to serve them with their writing. They come in all shapes and sizes and genres. From a worldly perspective they are my competition for the attention and money of the public who would buy my work. But in reality – they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. They have become so dear to me and some I have yet to meet – and hug – face to face.
  2. We all have our own unique voice and if God has gifted us and brought our pen to paper or our fingers to keyboard, our only true audience is Him. I’m not to be anyone else but me as I write.  Other authors are the same. In that sense I do not have to be jealous of them because they are writing as God created them too, with their own unique “voice,” just as I am writing with mine.
  3. Writing is an act of worship to me. Yes, it is hard work and I am constantly learning, but ultimately I want my words to bring honor and glory to Jesus. I write Christian romance. I ultimately want me readers to understand that the greatest romance is between us and Christ.
  4. Writing is a community endeavor. How would I grow without submitting myself and my work to the eyes and wisdom of those who have come before me? I may put my words to paper in solitude but they are honed in community.
  5. Pride is the lure of authors but also hard to hold on to. Let me explain. I can write a book and feel like it’s my best work ever – until I get my line edits and or read it myself a few months later and realize how much it will take to make it better. Whether writing flash-fiction or a novel – the editing process strips away any sense that this is a phenomenal piece of work. I’ve learned to be grateful for the truth-speakers who have helped me grow as a author. I’m not saying that the comments don’t sting at times, after all those words that form a story were given to me by God to put down. It is hard to recognize at times that the failure them to sparkle perfectly lies in my humanness.
  6. Writing cannot be for money. I’m not saying I don’t want to make any. The hours are brutal the work long and hard. I love doing it. But I doubt any amount of money I could earn would truly compensate for the heart and soul and butt in chair time that I put into it. It has to be done because it is what I have been called to do and I cannot imagine doing anything else with as much joy.
  7. I could not be the writer I am without the support and encouragement of special people in my life. Someone said “Don’t forget us little people when you make it big.” Well – that “little person” has been my cheerleader and I hope I never forget the way individuals like him have cheered me on.  See, some people scoff. “Oh, you are a writer. How nice for you.” Or “Enjoy your hobby, you won’t make any money at that.” or this one. “So you publish your novel and you’ll be rich?” That one makes me laugh. Sure I will, after I put you in there. There are many ways to kill off people in my stories but as Arnold Schwarzenegger put it in his character in True Lies, “They were bad, very, very bad.” As another quote on the internet says “If people didn’t want to be put in your books, they should have been nicer to you!”

I feel sorry for authors who do not reach out and engage in the communities of authors that are out there, especially if they are Christians because it is such a delightful group to be a part of! At the conferences, in writing groups and on-line. It’s more than establishing a platform to sell a book – it’s about having people love you when the writing is hard. It’s about people who celebrate with you for even what may seem like the smallest of victories, because they “get you.” They understand. It’s about encouraging each other to follow the calling of God and do it with excellence. It’s about the bigger body of Christ seeking to reach the world and inspire others to faith and wholehearted devotion to our King.

For His Glory Alone – I write.

Going Deep: Becoming a Person of Influence (book review)

I wanted to read Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald because I love the idea of becoming a person of influence. I enjoy reading leadership books. This one, however, was very different, at times frustrating and at times rewarding.

First of all the book is written like a work of fiction. I contains a journey towards developing deep people, but not in a clinical way. It details conversations and meetings and thoughts about the “big idea” of “cultivating deep people” (CDP in the book). SO where does reality begin and where is it end? If you like Patrick Lencioni’s style of elaborating leadership ideas in a fiction format, you may like this as well, although their styles are distinct.

The first part of the book where Pastor Mac comes up with this great idea, moves slowly. As a leader and a person with limited time, it seemed to drag. I wanted to yell, “Get to the point already, will ya?” But I read on. He elaborates the painstaking process of developing the idea and finally bringing it to reality.  The fact is, none of what he is saying is really all that new. The challenge to disciple others has been around since Jesus gave us the command. The methods used may have at times changed but the principles are laid out well in Scripture. Gordon goes through an elaborate process of meeting with business people and an a Rabbi and staff to flesh things out and gain buy in with the leadership of his church.

The actual implementation of the CDP was where the reading was more fun. To see people challenged, lives changed and the methods used and described on the page was good. At times it made me want to cry because I came to like these characters who were being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. To see authentic community develop at such depth made me realize how much of that I am personally missing and longing for as well. How much so many of us are missing out on and longing for in our church communities. I felt more keenly how desperately we all need it. And even if we are not to be leaders in the church we all can become persons of influence.

The church would do well to be more intentional in selecting people and developing to be the leaders for the future. To use specific training and mentoring and the kind of plan Gordon lays out has merit. I still think that parts of this book could have been a bit shorter. The book is 383 pages and most leaders really want to meat to chew on and not all the fluff because we tend to be busy. But for all that it is a book I would recommend if you are trying to figure out a way to help your church prepare the younger generation to be quality “deep” leaders for the future.