As someone who is not typically a fan of fiction that is in any way outer worldly or supernatural, I cannot get enough of this Wars of the Realm Trilogy by Chuck Black. When the first one, "The Cloak of Light", came out last year, I read it in record speed. When this one came, I read it in ONE DAY. That in itself is a HUGE compliment since I wasn't laying around sick or bored.
Similar to the first book, the first four chapters of this one had me wondering, "Hmm, maybe this isn't the style for me after all." Keep at it. If you make it through chapter 6 (there are 38 short chapters), you will be hooked. The imagination of the author and the detail with which he can describe scenery and battles, human emotions and idiosyncrasies are incredible.
Unlike "The Cloak of Light", however, this book starts off with heavy "religious" terms, mentioning Heaven, Elohim, and specific references to Biblical passages are even put in bold text. I worried that this book would be too heavily Christian or religious for someone who doesn't share my faith to want to read, but the plot is so intense and suspenseful that as long as a reader isn't phobic of Christianity, religion, or the Bible, they should easily be able to look past the Biblical components and inspirations and still admire a fantastic work of fiction.
One thing Chuck Black does well is switching between time frames without causing confusion with the reader. Many times I have given up on books that switch between multiple plot lines or time frames because it was too much work for me to try read the book that was supposed to be for entertainment. I didn't find that to be the case with these books at all. The movement from one aspect of the story to another was always clear (at chapter breaks) and placed strategically to keep things moving and interesting. There is no wasted space, no fluff, in this series. The words and sentences are rich in imagery and rapid in plot development and action.
While the first book details the life of a person, Drew Carter, and eventually reveals the presence of supernatural beings, this book does the inverse, starting with the very same supernatural beings. The main character of this book is Validus, an angel. "Rise of the Fallen" tells his life story up until the point where we see it intersecting with Drew Carter. Since Validus and Drew Carter weren't together since birth, they are two separate life stories, intersecting in Drew's adulthood. Since Validus is an angel, his story is told having spanned literally thousands of years- and it isn't boring. There's no sitting around strumming harps on the clouds- it's about history unfolding, mysterious motives, friendships forming and taking unexpected turns, grappling with questions that should not be asked and will not be answered...
I think it would be possible to read these books out of order, starting with this one and then going back and reading the first one, since their story lines parallel but aren't heavily overlapping. Whichever order you read them in, you will probably end up like me- anxiously awaiting to see when the next book in the series will be published!!
**In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book courtesy of Blogging for Books for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review; my opinions are authentic.
Meat & Veggies:
3 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
1 T. sesame seed oil
2 T. coconut oil
2 large cloves garlic, (crush first with side of blade to bruise it & release the oils, then mince)
1/2 of a small green cabbage, chopped to small pieces
3 carrots, julienned or diced (I sliced mine in thin slices and then chopped into 1" lengths)
1 medium onion, diced (I used a white onion)
1 1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced (optional)
Sauce & Noodles:
1/2 cup chicken broth (I dissolve a GF, DF bullion cube in 1 cup water, let cool & use half)
1/3 cup of GF soy sauce (at the time of this post, La Choy soy sauce is GF)
1 T. + 1 tsp. cornstarch
6.75 oz package of rice sticks (I used Dynasty's Maifun Rice Sticks)
Mix sauce ingredients together; set aside. I cook the chicken while dicing and prepping the veggies. Once chicken is done, remove from pan. Add oils to pan over medium heat & stir fry veggies, adding to pan in the following order: onion, garlic, carrots, mushrooms (if desired) and cabbage. Prepare your noodles according to packaged directions to soften them. (I cheated here and had heated water to boiling while chopping my veggies & when it came to a boil I shut off the heat. I was able to drop all the rice sticks in and allow them to soak 3 minutes and removed them to drain & they were perfect.) No matter how you prepare your noodles, you need to rinse them with hot water after cooking to rinse off the extra starch. If you skip this step, you will have very sticky noodles... unpleasant sticky, like someone added a 1/2 cup of cornstarch while you weren't looking. When your veggies are tender-crisp, add in chopped chicken & sauce. Cook a few minutes until sauce begins to thicken, stir in drained, softened rice sticks & heat through. Serve and ENJOY!
UPDATE: I found that the noodles (rice sticks) have a better consistency if you use the following method in leu of the package directions: Bring enough water to cover noodles to rapid boil, set noodles in, turn off heat and allow to sit 3 minutes. Drain promptly. Preparing them this way is faster and I have had success without rinsing them in hot water.
One of the most beautiful themes I saw in this movie was encouragement. Far too often I think we as parents fail to encourage our children to follow God's calling for their lives. I think we often do well encouraging our children to be obedient to God and encouraging our children to be obedient to our perceived calling on their lives. (I.E.But you're so good at piano, Emma, it would be a shame for you to quit now when you could use this talent for God's glory some day!) There is a gentle encouragement toward individuality and creativity that lines up with God's will in the way Shem is interacted with throughout the story, and it is beautiful.
True to Veggie Tale style, a lot of creative license is taken in retelling this Biblical account. If you, like me, believe a worldwide flood truly did happen in Noah's time, please do NOT look to this or any other animated video to give you an accurate account. The ark was in the shape of a giant orange slice. The moral of this movie is clearly marked "A Lesson in Trusting God," not "A Historical and Scientific Documentary Proving the Bible's Accuracy." One thing worthy of commending, however, was that the flood was shown as being caused by both water coming up from the ground and rain falling down from the sky, which is consistent with the fountains of the deep opening up as mentioned in Genesis.
The backgrounds and visual effects seemed to be a higher quality, or perhaps just a more modern touch has brought them up-to-speed. If you haven't given Veggie Tales a thought since Dave and the Giant Pickle came out, or you're kids were a bit bored with them, give Noah's Ark a shot, and it just may surprise you. Christian cartoons can keep up with the times, and you won't have to worry about any questionable or unwholesome content. That's a good value in today's entertainment society!
In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to publicly thank Grace Hill Media for providing me a copy of the Veggie Tale's Noah's Ark DVD in return for providing a review. I was not in any way required to provide a positive review, my opinions are authentic. Since this IS a product I am happy to recommend, I am also excited to offer a copy as a giveaway for one of my readers!
***Sorry, this giveaway has ended. **********
If you are the winner, I will send you an email at the address you provided on Wednesday, February 25, notifying you that you've won and requesting your mailing address or PO Box so that I can mail the DVD to you. The subject line of the email will be "YOU WON A VEGGIE TALES DVD!" If the winner does not respond via email by Tuesday, March 3, they will forfeit the prize, and another winner will be chosen at random.
How can I feel so lonely
When I know You are right here?
How can I be so isolated
With so many people near?
These old struggles of mine
Are starting to creep
Back up to the surface
Stirring pain so deep.
Why aren’t they gone?
I thought they were conquered in Christ?
What happened to being a new creation?
What happened to a new life?
I don’t feel victorious,
I don’t even feel okay
I thought this was behind me
I feel shackled again today.
Where is my freedom
That You died to provide?
I want to give You my burden
But I am so confused inside.
How do I do that,
Take Your yoke which is light?
If You were physically here and it was literal,
That would help my plight.
Sometimes I just don’t get the symbolic stuff,
How can that help me right now?
I want to obey You
But I don’t always know how.
What would Jesus do?
So simple to say,
But how could I be so pompous as to guess
How You’d behave if you were in my shoes today?
I know Your characteristics,
Like being gentle and kind,
But that doesn’t always help with
The specific decisions I find
Along this road called life
That seems to be dragging me
At a speed I cannot control
To a destination I cannot see.
I’m thankful for Your Spirit
That lifts my requests up in a groan
Because I used up my strength
Falling on my face at Your throne.
I don’t have it all together,
This Christian life isn’t a walk in the park
Right now in this battle
I feel like it’s a shot in the dark.
I know You are there,
The solid ground beneath my feet,
But I don’t know which way to turn
To crawl to the mercy seat.
The war is real
And though I know You’ve already won
The injuries are painful
And my job is no fun.
The description is vague and specific
All at the same time
Believe it or not I get sick of being looked at
Like expressing my belief system is a crime.
This world is not friendly to Your ways
And to be quite frank,
I had a moment last month
When my heart just sank.
I got so heavy
That praying and praising
That’s not what I want
And I will always call on You to talk,
But I’m scared that this dry spell
Will be too far for me to walk.
Time to talk my thoughts captive,
Starting with this one.
It’s not about my strength
It’s about serving Christ, God’s Son.
Enough about me,
This whining session has now ended.
Time to repent for my self pity
So my heart can be mended.
Looking inward at my woes
Didn’t get me anywhere at all.
Time to focus on Jesus
And listen quietly for His call.
And if I don’t hear it,
Or I can’t make it out,
I’ll find His will in the Bible,
That’s what prayer should be about.
Seeking God’s heart
And asking His direction
So my life can have more meaning
Than a hopeless reflection.
I don’t want to mirror
My past or my peers,
I want to be a fool for Christ
And abandon my fears.
I may stumble, but He holds my hand
So I will not fall.
Nice try distracting me, Satan,
But you don’t get us all.
You can read more poems about faith or about struggling with depression, or browse poems by clicking the "Read Poems" tab at the top of this page.
Great for tacos, dunking chips or in salads- easy to customize to suit your personal tastes!
2 avocados (I get them when they yield to slightly firm pressure, I do NOT like them when they are soft/dark as I feel the taste becomes overpowering. That's just my PERSONAL taste, though!)
1 T. lemon juice (or lime juice)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or 1 clove garlic, minced)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder (or 1/4 cup chopped onion-this will taste stronger than the powder)
1 tsp. dried parsley or cilantro (or 1 T. fresh snipped)
1/4 of a 4 oz. can of diced green chilies, drained (OR several drops of red hot pepper sauce)
2/3 c. finely chopped tomato
Combine all except tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Stir in tomatoes if desired. Eat immediately or keep in fridge up to 24 hours.
Having read Leonard Sweet's What Matters Most, I was excited to review his writing regarding the importance of family, church, friend and faith relationships sharing fellowship around good food. Some of our best memories and strongest friendships within the church were cultivated at potlucks and have grown to sharing meals with each other in our own homes on a regular basis.
I was rather disappointed in this book. I held high expectations and this book didn't come anywhere near them. It lacks the drive, passion and urgency I was anticipating. In the introduction, Sweet states, "This book grew from a sermon I first preached..." and that sums it up. I am not trying to be harsh, but blunt- I feel if you reduced the length of this book back to the length of the average sermon, you would have a much more powerful, memorable mark made in terms of communicating a message. As it is written, it feels as though someone has gone through great efforts to expound, expand and keep alive the metaphor and symbolism to reach a book-length writing. The print/text is larger & more spacious than I had expected for a book of its size. I cannot recommend this book be purchased at its suggested retail price, but if someone passed it along to you, you will gleam some truths from it and it does weave encouragement throughout its pages.
**In the interest of full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. A positive review was not required of me; the opinions are my own.
Biscuits made from Wild Roots Ancient Grain Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix- gluten, dairy, egg free recipe
My mom made a variation on this by using the leftover dark turkey meat after Thanksgiving instead of salt pork. She added a handful or more of frozen peas and a touch of nutmeg. She typically served it over toast or baking powder biscuits (drop biscuits that aren't sweet or fluffy- they are dense, dry and do have a hint of baking powder taste if you forget to mix them thoroughly enough!). The dry crunch of toast or the biscuits soaks up some of the gravy and softens as you eat and it is a dish I knew I would always miss when our family went gluten & dairy free due to my kids' dietary sensitivities.
With the help of other moms who've been treading the grain free path and are generous with sharing their recipes and tips, I have been able to recreate this childhood comfort food. I caught wind of using cashews to make a gravy base, tasted it and KNEW it was possible! Here you go:
3 cups leftover turkey meat, chopped (mostly dark meat)
3 T. vegetable shortening (for frying)
salt & pepper
2 cups cashews
1 chicken bullion cube (equal to 1 tsp. granules, make sure it is dairy, gluten free)
~ 1/2 cup frozen peas
1/8 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika (I added this mostly for color since the cashew gravy is VERY white/pale, if you have standard paprika and think it would be too strong or if you're out of paprika, feel free to omit this)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg to taste
1. Put the cashews into a bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak for 1-2 hours and then drain. You CAN make this without soaking the nuts, but I would only recommend doing so if you have a Vitamix. Using a food processor and nuts soaked for 1 hour, my gravy didn't have a perfectly smooth texture, but with the other ingredients added in and served over rice it wasn't distracting for us.
2. Fry the chopped turkey meat on medium to low in vegetable shortening in a large frying pan with high sides (you'll be adding the gravy to this pan later). You don't want to fry the meat until it is crisp or browned, you want to heat it well enough that the fat/oils come out of the dark meat and the aroma of turkey fills your kitchen. Salt & pepper heavily and stir occasionally. If you're worried it's drying the meat out, add a little more shortening and turn it on low while you prep the gravy.
3. Drain the water off the soaking cashews, and put the nuts into your food processor (or Vitamix) with 1 cup water and 1 bullion cube. Process very well, checking consistency every minute or so. The smoother the better, but I couldn't achieve a perfectly smooth texture and it worked fine for us anyway. I think I processed mine around 4 minutes total, scraping down the sides a couple times.
4. Add 1 1/2 cups of water to the turkey, and then stir in the cashew mixture. Stir in frozen peas, paprika (optional), and nutmeg. If you would like a thinner gravy, stir in a bit more water gradually to achieve desired thickness. Now you are just cooking the peas and heating the gravy through. Serve over rice, biscuits, bread or toast.
*Note: I have heard from a friend that this cashew gravy freezes well, but I will warn you from experience that it doesn't taste very good cold ;) Also, I have never tried soaking the nuts for over 2 hours and heard from a little birdie that they may gain an undesirable texture (cashews in particular), so try that at your own risk!
Free Homeschooling Curriculum from Sonlight- A chance to win & a real blessing for those operating on a tight budget!
Click on the image above to enter to win free curriculum from Sonlight, a leading reputable Christian homeschool curricula, for both you and a friend! It doesn't cost anything to enter the contest, and the more you share your personal link, the more chances you have to win. This could be a huge blessing to someone who is operating their homeschool on a tight budget this year. :)
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I am not much of a blog reader. There's only a couple I check on occasion:
Love this girl's writing... feels like she's a long distance friend. Well, her sister is my long-distance friend, so that probably helps. Either way, what an inspiration and encouragement- you just need to check out some of the places life has taken Leah and be strengthened and inspired by the love that oozes (yes, oooozes) from her heart for Jesus, His people and His creation!
If you like nummy recipes, or have special dietary needs (or both!) check it out. ALL of her recipes are Vegan, and many can be made gluten-free. I stumbled upon it when searching for dairy/egg free treats to make for my kiddo and have gotten hooked on several recipes. Okay, "hooked on" doesn't portray it well enough. How about "addicted to"? That's more fitting. Will definitely be going back for more!