Legal Property

* * * * * * * * * * * * * This blog is the intellectual property of Anne Baxter Campbell, and any quotation of part or all of it without her approval is illegal. * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book Review - CHASING HAPPY by Ann Lee Miller

I knew when I began this book that it would be something to test my faith and beliefs, but among my faith and beliefs is in regard to those whose writings I've read and trusted before, growing in faith and belief in God's love as I read. Ann Lee Miller is one of the authors who tackle difficult subjects and use them to teach us how much God loves even me.

Chasing Happy has a couple of difficult subjects in it. You might be tempted to toss it out at the close of the first chapter--but I encourage you to follow the story to its conclusion. You'll find a piece of laughter or two and maybe need a box or two of tissues. It's the story of a young man (Zack) struggling with who he is and a young woman (Samma) who isn't sure if she wants to run to or away from the future that owns her. Both want to know better the Lord of Lords and what He wants of them.

Zack and Samma had been best friends as children, but both of them had grown up. Zack has sought her out, but she doesn't recognize him, at least not at first. It isn't long, though, before they're remembering their childhood games of truth or dare, the baseball games they loved to attend, and the long hikes.

And maybe while they're remembering, they'll learn of something old and something new.

Chasing Happy is available from Amazon,  Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

I received a copy of this book free in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Guest Blog - Ann Lee Miller,

Anne: Today's guest blog is by a writer I greatly admire, Ann Lee Miller. She dares to write fiction about the subjects most Christian writers won't touch. She faces life exactly as it is, and so her characters come through exactly as they are: flawed humans who want to be better than they are. Just like us.
Her book, Chasing Happy, releases tomorrow, September 2. My blog tomorrow will review her book.
Take it away, Ann.


Ann: Chasing Happy, set in two towns I’ve called home—Gilbert, Arizona, and New Smyrna Beach, Florida—took three years to write. The story springs from a deep well of emotion that early readers say they sense in Ash’s tale.

A young man in my life struggled with same sex attraction throughout his teens. He dabbled in gay porn and felt he’d disappointed God.

Another man, long married to a woman, also struggled with this issue. He, too, was a deeply spiritual man.

I hurt for these guys and the battles they fought to obey the Bible. I ached for the guilt and shame they felt when they failed—all played out in solitary or anonymous secrecy. I admired them for bothering to fight what they believed was sin. Society all around them shifted and said they didn’t have to struggle anymore.

I prayed for them. Every day. For years.

And because I invent imaginary people and write their stories, Ash was born. I believe in my gut that God birthed his story in me to do good.

Though I studied a stack of books on homosexuality and interviewed a slate of gay men, I’m an unlikely candidate to write a book about a guy who wrestles with same sex attraction. I am female. As early in my teens as I can remember, I had boys stamped across my pupils. I do not have a best friend or family member who is gay. I think I got the job because I’m pretty good at listening to God and I empathize with my friends who face this issue.

I care because my lovely lesbian next-door neighbors are wounded and broken in so many of the same ways I am. If Jesus lived on my street, He would love to hang out with them like I do.

In the end, we are all just fractured people trying to find our way.

Not one of the men I interviewed for Chasing Happy, if given the choice, would have chosen to be attracted to his own sex. Most of them participated in the gay lifestyle. They talked about being ostracized or estranged from religious loved ones, feeling rejected by the churches they had been raised in or belonged to. They hungered for faith, but it slipped through their fingers. Some of them threw themselves into humanitarian causes instead. The men longed for an intimate, committed emotional relationship—something scarce among gay males, they said. While they did not regret choosing to act on their same sex attraction, I sensed men who had walked away from a wreck dazed, their personal damages yet unassessed—even years after coming out.

They are lovable, likable guys, people I want for friends. Pieces of each of them inhabit the gay characters of Chasing Happy.

A number of my single girlfriends live with their boyfriends—also considered sin in the Bible. I still care about them—like the men I interviewed—even if I don’t believe they’ve chosen a healthy lifestyle. I see God as a pure-hearted daddy who loves people. His rules are to protect us, not to prohibit pleasure. I don’t pretend to know how that works out for those with same sex attraction.

I have not walked a mile attracted to women. I cannot fathom how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to change one’s sexual orientation. Nor would I choose celibacy. How can I not have compassion for people whose choices appear so much more arduous than mine?

Sometimes God steps into people’s lives and does spectacular, impossible things like He did for one of the men I prayed for. He was able to shift his orientation toward the straight side of the scale. Today, he exudes joy.

His joy bubbles over and douses me with hope that others may find the way—though it appears difficult or impossible—to live in harmony with their convictions.

Author Bio: Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t muddling through some crisis-real or imagined-you’ll find her blogging memoir at Over 100,000 copies of Miller’s debut novel, Kicking Eternity, have been downloaded from Amazon.

Ann's links:
Barnes & Noble
Ann's Facebook
Ann's Website

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Morning Devo - Tests

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40 NKJV

I believe there's a pretty fine line between temptations and tests. God will NEVER lead you into temptation. He doesn't have to--we find it all too easily on our own. I have flunked both tests and temptations more times than I can count, and I still do, so please don't ever think I'm pointing at any of you who read my posts. If I sound judgmental, I judge myself most harshly.

A temptation comes when something or someone you want presents the opportunity to do something you know is wrong. A test is a checkup to see if you learned to rely on God to get through or if you didn't.

We don't have to rely on ourselves to get through the trials we face. We have a Helper. He can guide our steps--if we let Him, anyway. He can give us strength--again, if we rely on Him.

My current trial? Leaving a sore alone so it can heal. When do I scratch at it? When I'm busy doing something that occupies my mind. I am not thinking, and my body acts without my permission. That might not sound all that horrible to you, but it's sure bugging me! I know, pretty mild compared to temptations and tests in bygone years. Still--I don't like this small part of me that refuses to yield to my Maker.

(Check with me again next week--I'll let you know if I'm learning my lessons....)

Lord, we all need the Helper, and thank You for sending Him into our lives to guide us through small tests and huge ones. Help us remember to grab His hand when temptations and tests come. Thank You, Lord.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday Sermonette - Count It All Joy

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NKJV

God never promised us a pain-free life of ease. He didn’t say we would be without illness, insult, or injury, nor even death in this world. We will all die unless the Lord returns before our time, and most of us will endure pain on the way there. We will all have sicknesses—some severe, some mild.

It’s up to us how we face our tribulations. I’ve been there a few times, and I can tell you, God did comfort me. He’s listened to me rant and rave, cry, groan, and grind my teeth. He’s been patient and loving when I deserved time out in the corner or a good paddling.

Still He asks us to pray, mostly for others, but even for ourselves. I’ve seen some miracles, but mostly I’ve seen people who are amazing in the midst of their sufferings. I’ve heard people pray for others who are sick when they themselves were enduring worse than the ones they prayed for. I see the most empathy from people who’ve been through the worst experiences.

Paul said we should rejoice in our tribulations, because tribulations produced resolution (Romans Chapter 5). If anyone could have complained about his aches and pains, Paul could have, but he didn’t. Instead he continued his work for God, and he continued praying for others.

I hope I will have his courage and generosity when I’m going through that pain. I haven’t always been all that strong. It will take God’s strength.

Lord, please help me when I’m weak. I want to bring honor to You no matter what circumstances I find myself in. Keep me close, Lord. I can’t do it without You. In Jesus’s Name and for His sake. Amen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review - AFTER A FASHION by Jen Turano

Oh, my goodness--Jen Turano is at it again. Another rollickingly humorous historical romance. Ms. Turano definitely loves the twists and turns in life and throws them hither, thither, and yon into her books. The experts tell authors to give their heroes and heroines a few faults--but Jen, you need to remember--only a few. It seems Harriet Peabody and Oliver Addleshaw wound up with more than their fair share.

Due to circumstances beyond her control, Harriet winds up agreeing to be Mr. Addleshaw's temporary fiance'e in order to impress the Duke of Westmoore, but all the problems to overcome might instead overwhelm them. A temperamental former almost-fiance'e, a conniving parental aunt, a disgruntled fired employee, and a cowardly dog might just undo the whole plan. Not to mention Oliver's slightly shady past business dealings is making Jen's touchy temper get away from her.

It could take a miracle or two to get our characters through this mess.

I chortled and smirked my way through this book, and I think you will too. Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.

I received this book free in return for an honest review.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Morning Devo - Life Crises

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5, NKJV

Everyone I know has gone through crises in their lives. Much as we'd like to live carefree lives, it just doesn't happen.

Crises can destroy you if you let them. They won't if you can turn to God to get you through them.

I don't subscribe to the idea that God causes terrible things to happen--car wrecks, severe illnesses, loss of spouse or child or parent, or that type of thing. I don't believe, either, that they're punishment. It just doesn't fit God's character.

However--if we let Him, if we will cling to Him, He will be right at our sides. Sometimes He heals the way we want, sometimes He offers comfort and peace beyond all logic.

In one of the readings last week from the Streams in the Desert devotional, there was a phrase that caught my attention: "God knows how to lead us up to this crisis, and He knows how to lead us through." Does he cause the crisis? No. So why do we have to go through this? Why did He lead us here? (Or why did we lead ourselves here, or why did someone else?)

The most compassionate people I know are ones who have gone through tragedy after misfortune after trouble. Also some of the most bitter people I know. What's the difference? Why does one person come through strong and another crumble?

I believe the answer is faith in God. When we cling to Him, He holds us up and gets us through. He brings people to us who know what we're going through. Then one day down the road, we get to help someone else.

One of the most gracious people I've had the pleasure of encountering was Diann Hunt, a well-known author who died of cancer almost two years ago. She was dying and knew it, but she clung to God and her family and the friends who knew how she felt and what to say. She left this earth, but she left behind comfort and peace for the ones who loved her.

There's a time for trouble, and there's a time to recover. Hang in there. God's got your back.

Father God, help us remember to turn to You and not to the circumstances. You alone are the author and finisher of our faith. You provide all that we will need to take us through. Thank You. Amen.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Sermonette - No Looking Back

Photo by Hans Christiansson

When I go to bed at night, I like to read devotionals, among other things. It makes for better sleeping than bloody movies or psycho books. A couple of days ago, one thing really struck me--a passage from God Calling for your perusal:

  • You must be as one who runs a race, stumbles and falls, rises and presses on to the goal. What avails it if he stays to examine the spot where he fell, to weep over the delay, over the shortsightedness that prevented his anticipating and avoiding the obstacles?
  • So with you, and I lay it on you as a command--no looking back. Give yourself, and all you have ever met a fresh start from today. Remember no more their sins and failures, or your own.

This so applies to me, and I'll bet it also does to some who are reading this today--right? I tend to want to rehash things, wanting to change the past. If only I had done this or that differently, I wouldn't have made such a mess of things.

I was like that woman lying there in the mud wishing I hadn't fallen, wishing for a do-over, wishing for absolution. Then one day when I was asking Jesus for forgiveness once again for the same thing I had before, and I hear this nearly audible sigh. "How many more times are you going to do this?" Jesus asked.


A video took place in my head. I was scooping up dirt and loading it on Jesus again and again. "Oh. That."

His chuckle sounds in my heart.

I chuckled too. "Okay, Lord, I get the picture."

You know, we know Jesus forgives and forgets, but maybe sometimes we aren't convinced He knows how really, really sorry we are--so we tell him again.

Ever done that? Well, quit it. He took that dirt to the cross the first time you told Him about it. Stop looking back.

Dear Lord, Thanks for forgiving and forgetting. Thanks for reminding me You heard me the first time. You're the best. Amen.