Tuesday, March 30, 2004

In honor of my love of Chili's...

My cousin Judy sent me this picture of a Chili's in Doha, Qatar, that her son Clint frequented a few times when he was stationed at Al Udeid Air Base. (I believe Clint is now stationed in England.) Anyway, Judy tells me Clint considered that Chili's a little corner of paradise during his stint in Qatar! Well, if the chips and salsa measure up to U-S quality, I can understand why.

Judy recently visited Clint in England, and she said the food there was...well...different. She ate at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Dover, and she describes the seasoning on the chicken as being "strange."

Judy also took the "Nine Layers" quiz that I took somewhere back in the archives of this blog, and I was amazed at how similar a lot of our answers are, given that we have spent very little time together in our lives. (Judy, thanks for doing that!) I'm hoping to see her and some of my other relatives the next time I visit Sweet Home Texas. :)

What held Him on the cross?

One of the side effects of all the publicity surrounding The Passion of the Christ movie is that songs about the Cross seem to have even more poignancy. Given the fact that respected Christian leaders have said that one weakness of the film is that it fails to answer the "Why?" question--why did Jesus endure such horrendous suffering and pain?--this Michael O'Brien song takes on new meaning. (I heard it on the way to work this morning, and appreciated the lyrics more than ever.)

What Held You on the Cross?
by Michael O'Brien and (?) Hamm

I know you--I've seen you all my life
Figure on a crucifix
Death without a fight
You're hanging there upon a cross just by your hands and feet
The picture's clear, but the story's incomplete

So what was it that led you to that tree?
What made you lay your body down to save someone like me?
So though it's true, I know that you were God inside a man
So I guess sometimes it's hard to understand

What held you on the cross when you could have walked away?
I see what you have done, and I just have to say
What held you on the cross was more than just the nails
With all the pain and suffering, and all that you had lost
Your love for me could only be what held you on the cross.

You saw me--I guess you must have known
My life would be in darkness, so you and you alone would bear the stripes,
The crown of thorns, and all humility
Lord, I see myself, but it's hard for me to see

What held you on the cross when you could have walked away?
I see what you have done, and I just have to say
What held you on the cross was more than just the nails
With all the pain and suffering, and all that you had lost
Your love for me could only be what held you on the cross.

I don't deserve your mercy, still you loved me just the same
You died for me, and yet, and yet it's hard to know

What held you on the cross when you could have walked away?
I see what you have done, and I just have to say
What held you on the cross was more than just the nails
With all the pain and suffering, and all that you had lost
Your love for me could only be what held you on the cross.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Here we go again...MONDAY....

How does it go by so quickly???

It was a good weekend. Friday night, Doug and Elizabeth and I went to Chili's. I had been craving their chips and salsa for weeks! I could practically drink that salsa, I like it so much. (I also ordered chicken tacos, and had quite a bit left over, so boxed it up and Liz ended up having it for lunch the next day.)

Then, it was over to Ray and Teri's where I finally saw a movie that had been highly recommended to me by several people, but I had just never gotten around to watching--Secondhand Lions. Gotta tell you, I loved it. Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment and Michael Caine were all wonderful. It was quirky and entertaining, but gave you some things to really think about as well. There were elements that also strongly reminded me of one of my favorite movies of all time, The Princess Bride. Doug and Elizabeth thought the same thing. Anyone agree?

Saturday morning, I cleaned house and did laundry; Saturday afternoon, went to a baby shower for a little yet-unborn great nephew who is already named Collin. So different from when I was having my babies, and ultrasounds were still s new that they could often be wrong about the baby's sex! I had a friend whose doctor was pretty sure she was having a girl, so my friend decorated the baby's room in feminine pink. Oops! It was a boy. Back then, you tended not to trust the ultrasounds, and could only be sure if you had amniocentesis. Now the technology is so advanced, there's usually no doubt as to whether pink or blue is in order.

Saturday night, another enjoyable evening with friends; Sunday, church morning and night; and here we are on Monday again. And I do the Monday Madness quiz:

1. Describe what you believe is a "good" driver.--Pays attention to what's going on; obeys the rules of the road; is courteous to other drivers; looks out the other guy; doesn't speed excessively or go too slow.

2. Describe a "bad" driver (your opinion of course).--Pretty much the opposite of what I described above! I especially can't stand it when people drive way too fast and show a lack of courtesy for fellow drivers, like cutting you off suddenly and not using blinkers.

3. Which category do you fit in? Please back up your answer. Feel free to use examples!--Well, I think I'm usually a pretty good driver, unless I'm extremely distracted. I've had very few accidents and/or tickets in my driving career. I try to be pretty conscientious, but I sometimes have a tendency to be absent-minded. :( Also, I usually drive 8 to 10 miles over the speed limit! Is that terrible???

Note: I noticed my friend Beth answered the Friday Five in my comments section. Beth, you need your own blog! That would be great. :)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Happy Birthday--a day early--to my son Jonathan

Tomorrow, my son Jonathan will celebrate his 24th birthday. I cannot believe that he will be 24 years old! It seems like just yesterday that I was pregnant with him, two weeks overdue and miserable...but extremely excited about being a mom for the first time. The day that he was born was one of the most joyful in our lives. He has been a wonderful son. He's funny, smart, charming and adorable. This will be his first birthday as a married man! Although we don't get to be with him to celebrate it, we will be traveling to Texas shortly to spend some time with him and his wife and the rest of my family living there.

In honor of Jonny's birthday, I thought I'd post one of his writings, which is on the writing page of my website. This is something Jonathan wrote for a college creative writing class, but I think it shows that he's a terrific writer in his own right.

Mr. Ed, by Jonathan Swanson

When I was young I watched Mr. Ed on Nick at Nite. I could probably still sing you the theme song ("A horse is a horse of course of course*"). The fact that my mom read The Chronicles of Narnia to me every night made me very susceptible to a show about a talking horse. When you are hearing about horses with human torsos, the thought of a plain talking horse is not so farfetched. What I had trouble with was Mr. Ed's living quarters. Ed's stable was always a little too clean, a little too urban. The life of Mr. Ed was nothing like the life of my cousin's horses. Even as a child, I knew that the city and the farm did not go together. Always.

I grew up in Rockford, Illinois. While it may be no Metropolis, it is dense enough to make it the second biggest city in Illinois. Our small yard may have restricted the size of our father-son football field, but we never lacked for close proximity to a Taco Bell. It was pretty standard city life. My cousin lived on the farm and he had the rickety red barns, we had the cable television. It was a fair trade as far as I was concerned. Yeah, life in the city was not much like life on the farm. That is, of course, before the people with the horse moved into the neighborhood. Odd.

They seemed like decent folk. My little sister ran around the neighborhood with their little kids, and they seemed to have a good time. I just could not get over the whole horse thing. I still cannot get over the fact that they had a horse. They really had a horse. Their yard was not big enough for a Great Dane, yet somehow they reasoned that Secretariat could live back there. Ok, so they did not have him there all the time, just on weekends, but the weekend is still a big chunk of the week. Think about it. Two out of seven days is just two days away from being fifty-seven percent of the week. A horse lived at the house across the street almost fifty-seven percent of the time. Crazy.

I referred earlier to Secretariat. This horse was definitely no Secretariat. This horse was the kind of horse that horses on their way to the glue factory would be thinking to themselves, "Man, I'm glad I'm not that guy!" The family would ride him around on the street at a snail's pace. It was almost as if he was one of those ponies at a carnival or fair or something, just without the rope that forces him to walk a circle. Sad.

It turns out the old horse was not as mild-mannered as we all thought. Turns out he may have wanted more than just to walk around really slowly and perform those natural functions that horses tend to perform. One day the old horse jumped the fence and ran through the night like the black stallion, mane flowing beautifully in the wind, eyes shining with the light of the stars, never to return again. Just kidding.

I could say that seeing that horse live in our neighborhood every weekend taught me a great truth. I could say that I learned something, about how urbanization has stripped our country of our beautiful prairies, or about how animals deserve to run free in their natural environment. Actually, the biggest lesson I learned was to watch where you are walking, when you walk around the same places a horse walks. Obvious.--Jonathan Swanson

No Friday Five this week...so I create my own...

Here's my own "Friday Five"...answer in my comments section, or in your own blog and leave your URL here:

1) What's your favorite thing to do when it's raining out?--Snuggle up in a comfortable chair with a really good book!

2) How often do you go to the library?--About once every two weeks; sometimes more.

3) When was the last time you sent an actual letter or card via snail mail, and what was the occasion?--A few weeks ago, I sent a card to encourage my sister-in-law whose father died recently. I'm late sending my son a birthday card! :(

4) What is your favorite radio station?--WQFL and WGSL, of course!

5) What is your favorite kind of hot tea?--Probably a three-way tie between Earl Grey, Constant Comment and Irish Breakfast!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Aunt Sandra responds to the Tabasco memories...

After blogging about Cajun condiments and Louisiana memories the other day, I get this e-mail from my Aunt Sandra...my dad's baby sister who still lives in East Texas:

" Judy [my first cousin, Aunt Sandra's daughter] sent me your website and I really enjoyed reading it. I was going to point out how close you were to La when you were in Vidor,[East Texas] but you mentioned it. Also wanted to tell you they have roux already packaged and a LOT of people who have made gumbo for years are using it.
Ole grandma Sandra wanted to tell you it usually take two rounds of antibiotics to cure a sinus infection.. On the subject of Tabasco, I remember my Daddy used to take a piece of bread and shake La red hot sauce on it and eat it. I don't know why he preferred La hot sauce to Tabasco, maybe the scarcity of the latter, but he was never without it. I don't use it as much as Judy would make you think, but one thing unusual I do like it on is tuna salad. That gumbo recipe sounds really good. I will try to get Joe [Judy's husband] to make it. He and Jamie are our families resident gumbo cookers. Earl [Aunt Sandra's husband] and I always get crawfish ettouffe at the Picadilly Cafeteria. instead of gumbo."

As always when I hear from relatives, that makes me miss my extended "loved ones," as my dad would call them, and dearly miss my Grandma and Grandpa Garrett.

Grandma Garrett was a character! I'll have to tell you more about her sometime.

By the way, thanks for indulging my picture of Russell Crowe. Every once in a while, I just get the urge to post a picture of him. And I figure, it's my blog, so whyever not? :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Hello, my name is Cindy and I'm an incurable...


I think my love affair with reading began from the moment I could visually string words together to make any sort of sense. It continues unabated, now that I'm well into my 40's, and I don't see it diminishing any time soon.

The Rockford Register Star , on the front page of it's Life and Style section today has an article about "the books we've loved for the past 10 years." Of course, it mentions the Harry Potter books (no, I haven't read them), and the Left Behind books (I dropped out somewhere around book 3 or 4 and have just never been motivated to go back.)

The heartening thing, to me, is that despite computers, DVD's and an onslaught of burgeoning technology, reading doesn't seem to be going away.

I'm a big fan of fiction, and I'm pleased to report that Christian fiction is better than ever. Writers like Francine Rivers, B. J. Hoff, Jane Kirkpatrick, Liz Curtis Higgs and a host of others are writing captivating, quality fiction that engrosses the reader while highlighting spiritual and Scriptural truth.

Author Jeri Massi completely blew me away recently with her "Valkyries" series. ( Read my review here) You can also listen to my radio interview with Jeri by clicking on the appropriate spot on the links bar to the right.

You can go to the reading page of my website to read more about some of my favorite authors, as well as check out some of my book reviews.

Cajun food revisited...

Blogging about Cajun food the other day, I mentioned that Tabasco and Lousiana Hot Sauce are a lot alike...and got soundly refuted by Scott McClare in my comments box: "Tabasco sauce is nothing like Louisiana hot sauce. For one thing, Tabasco has heat.

"(Also they are made from two different kinds of peppers: Tabasco sauce is made from tabasco peppers, and Louisiana hot sauce from the relatively milder cayenne pepper.)"

Ah, the ignominy of having to be corrected about Cajun condiments by a Canadian! :) However, I do stand corrected. But take my word for it...they're both spicy.

I'm delighted to have gotten an e-mail from Ashley with her recipe for gumbo. Ashley used to live in Shreveport as well, and she knows whereof she speaks when it comes to Cajun food. The recipe simply involves using a mix called Louisiana Crawfish Man's. This looks easier than Don Elbourne's recipe, so you can bet I'll be giving it a try as soon as I can get my hands on some of this mix! I wonder if they sell it in the Austin area...

Monday, March 22, 2004

Monday, Monday....

I answer the Monday Madness questions:

1. What was your favorite TV show as a child?--Believe it or not--"The Three Stooges." I thought they were hilarious!

2. What show did you hate?--Ironically! the news. I didn't become a news junkie until much later. I also hated soap operas when I was a little kid. In those days, there was nothing on TV during the day except for soap operas...so we WENT OUTSIDE and played...novel concept, huh? :)

3. What show did your family gather around the TV to watch?--Don't know if this counts, but any Dallas Cowboys football game!

4. What show is currently your favorite?--Probably "American Idol"! Not so much because of the "reality" aspect of the show, but because I love music, and I start rooting for various singers. (Right now my favorite is Jennifer Hudson.)

5. What show do you hate now?--MTV's "The Real World." It always pushes an immoral lifestyle and tries to make it look normal and acceptable.

I finally went to the doctor...

I'd been struggling with what I thought was a really bad cold for a few weeks...getting very little sleep at night, and feeling achey and miserable during the day. After a particularly bad night Friday night, I finally broke down and went to a walk-in clinic on Saturday. The diagnosis? A sinus infection. I'm taking an antibiotic now, and already starting to feel better. It makes me really ticked at myself for not going to the doctor earlier!

Citizen Soldiers...

My daughter Elizabeth is fascinated with World War Two--particularly, with the writings of Stephen E. Ambrose. While my mild interest doesn't approach my daughter's fascination, I've picked up and skimmed the Ambrose books on occasion--and been truly impressed by Ambrose's writing.

Most recently, she's been reading "Citizen Soldiers." As he does in many of his books, Ambrose highlights the integrity and unity of the American GI's in World War Two. What motivated mild, wholesome young boys who would have rather been playing baseball or hunting rabbits to become necessary killers and victorious soldiers who "preserved the world for democracy"?

Ambrose reflects on this question in the epilog of Citizen Soldiers: "...there is agreement that patriotism or any other form of idealism had little if anything to do with it. What held them together was not country and flag, but unit cohesion...And yet, there is something more...At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn't want to live in a world where wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful."

"..the American soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn't want to live in a world where wrong prevailed." That statement blew me away. And it also made me sad and, I confess, a little pessimistic...because we now live in a society where wrong is made to appear right, and all the lines are blurred. How many of our children are actually raised now with a sure knowledge of the difference between right and wrong?

And how does that bode for our future?

Friday, March 19, 2004

My old Louisiana home...

An article about a planned Tabasco museum has stirred up a flurry of Louisiana memories in my heart and soul.

I spent four years of my life in Shreveport, Louisiana. My high school years; really, some of the happiest, most pleasant and carefree years of my life. I was sad recently to learn that my neighborhood, which was lovely back in the Brady-Bunch-era 70's, has deteriorated, and that my beloved alma mater, Woodlawn High School, might actually have to close. That school, the wonderful teachers, the awesome pep rallies and exciting football games, were the scene of a lot of happy memories for me.

But back to Tabasco. From my earliest memories, there has been a bottle of Tabasco or the very similar Louisiana Hot Sauce on the table at my home. That's because my dad has always needed a bottle handy to add to whatever he happened to be eating, from breakfast to soup or sandwiches or casseroles...well, just about anything! My dad was born in Louisiana, and fittingly, he's always been called "Pepper"...although that's a whole 'nother story, that has nothing to do with hot sauce.

I've always been able to withstand fairly hot and spicy foods, myself...a trait I apparently inherited from my father, along with many other traits. Some of my favorite food memories (do other people have cherished food memories, or is it just me?!?) revolve around incredibly delicious jambalaya, gumbo and other Cajun dishes our family used to enjoy while living in Louisiana, and before that, nearby East Texas.

I remember once when I was in high school, we went to visit my Aunt Billie, who lived in New Orleans. She and her husband took us out to eat at a restaurant in a place that, if I remember rightly, was called "Bayou Gauche." The restaurant started with an "R"--"Ravenna'" or something like that. I remember, the restaurant didn't look like much, but there were newspaper articles from food critics on the walls, singing its praises to the skies. For good reason. I had the best chicken gumbo there that I've ever had in my life, and may ever have again. Amazing.

I miss Lousiana. I would love to visit there again someday. And as always, any talk of New Orleans, Louisiana, or Tabasco, makes me think of my friend Don Elbourne. Don, who designed my website and taught me what little I know about HTML, lives in New Orleans, pastors Lakeshore Baptist Church in nearby Mississippi, is on the verge of getting his doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and is rumored to be a Cajun chef "par excellence."

Below is Don's recipe for Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, which I actually made (with fear and trembling, because I had never made a "roux" before) and it turned out incredibly delicious! As Don would say, "Bon appetit!"

Don Elbourne's Chicken & Andouille Gumbo

1 Chicken
2 lbs. Andouille Sausage
4 Onions
2 Green Bell Peppers
7 Stalks Celery
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 10 oz cans of Rotel Diced tomatoes and Green Chilies
2 13 oz cans of sliced mushrooms
4 lbs. cut Okra
1 bunch of Green Onions
2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups flour
4 Tablespoons Tabasco Sauce
Creole Seasonings (I use Zatarain's)

Boil chicken with Creole seasonings. De-bone the chicken and set aside the meat and the chicken stock.

The Roux: In a 12 quart pot, heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat and stir in the flour. Stir with flat wooden spoon continually for about 30 minutes, never allowing the roux to sit for longer than a few seconds at a time. Cook until dark brown, but not black! If black specks begin to appear, discard and start over.

Add the chopped onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic to the roux. Stir, allowing the roux to adhere to the vegetables. Allow the roux and the vegetables to get to know each other for a few minutes as you stir. Stir in the rotel tomatoes and the mushrooms. Allow the vegetables to cook down a bit. Add the chicken stock and bring to a low boil. Add the chicken, sausage, okra, hot sauce and about 1/8 cup Creole seasonings. Let simmer at a low rolling boil for about 2 hours. Add water as needed. About 20 minutes before serving add another 2 lbs of cut okra and finely chopped green onions.

Serve in deep bowls over steamed white rice. serve with potato salad.

Friday! YES!!!

This has been a really rough week, because I have been in various stages of being sick for the entire week, but still had to proceed with my schedule pretty much as normal. I'm looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow!

I hereby answer the Friday Five:

If you...

1. ...owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?--I could see myself having one of those Starbucks type places, with really good coffee and yummy pastries and desserts.

2. ...owned a small store, what kind of merchandise would you sell?--Books, candles, potpourri, beautiful cards, pretty things for the home...

3. ...wrote a book, what genre would it be?--Christian fiction, definitely

4. ...ran a school, what would you teach?--Wow...I love and admire teachers (my husband is one, and a wonderful one), but I am so NOT a teacher...I can't even imagine running a school of any kind!

5. ...recorded an album, what kind of music would be on it?--It would be my sister Lisa and I singing Christian music...along the lines of Phillips/Craig/Dean, 4Him, that sort of style. Lisa is an amazing singer!


(On following your dream) "...God plants those desires in our hearts, I think, at a really young age, and wise is the man or woman who listens to that, deep inside them. What would you do for free? What did you do as a child out of sheer joy? And now, could it be, not just an avocation but a vocation?"--Liz Curtis Higgs

(Scroll down to read my interview with Liz)

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The troops still need our support...

A U.S. navy chaplain is urging Americans to continue their support and prayers for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Lieutenant Carey Cash tells AP's "Religion Roundup": "I think perhaps it's even more stressful now than it was when I was there, because now the men aren't having to contend with a known enemy, now it's the civilian that's got a bomb strapped to his back, and more than anything else I think what they need to hear from the American people is we love you, we're supporting you, we are still praying for you, and praying that God would protect you."

Cash is now back home with his family at Camp Pendleton, California. In a soon-to-be-released book, "A Table in the Presence," Cash recounts his experiences with a Marine unit in Kuwait. He rejoices at having baptised 57 new Christians during the war--one of them in Saddam Hussein's palace!

This story serves as a needed reminder to me personally that the troops serving in harm's way still urgently need our prayers and support.

Click here for a Baptist Press story about Carey Cash, and here for an ABC news story about chaplains in the Iraq war.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

My interview with Liz Curtis Higgs

Here is a transcript of excerpts from my radio interview with one of my favorite authors, Liz Curtis Higgs!

CINDY: One of the joys of hosting this interview show is that I get to indulge in one of my favorite things...Christian fiction! I'm especially delighted today because my guest is one of my very favorite authors. I was hooked when I read her book, "Mixed Signals." Since then, I've also read "Book-ends," and now the first two in a historical fiction series "Thorn in My Heart," and "Fair is the Rose." The author is the delightful Liz Curtis Higgs. Liz, welcome to Weekend Magazine.

LIZ: Always a blessing to be with you, Cindy--thank you for being such a faithful reader. 'Course, that "Mixed Signals" was about radio, so I knew you would connect with that one.

CINDY: Exactly, and actually, Liz, you and I have a lot in common...not the least of which is that you actually started out in radio. Tell me a little about your background in the radio business.

LIZ: Well, it now seems like a very long time ago, 'cuz we're talking about last century, but I did radio in college, you know, the old 10-watt station. Somebody came and knocked on the door and said, "You know, you could make a living at this...why don't you take an air check to this guy?" And I did, and he hired me. That's not the kind of story you're supposed to tell, it's supposed to be difficult, but God was very kind.

I did not know the Lord when I started in radio, met him about halfway through...introduced by two great people who worked at my radio station and had a new walk going with the Lord, and took one look at me and said, "Here's a project," (chuckles) and that was in 1982, so I'm celebrating 22 years in the Lord.

Radio led to speaking just because I had such a wild turn-about. You know, I was a "sex-drugs-and- rock'n roll" kind of girl--anybody whose read "Bad Girls of the Bible" already knows this about me, and Cindy, I left work on Friday saying "PAR-TAY!!", came in Monday morning saying, "Praise the Lord, I've been baptized!" ...and people really notice stuff like that. So, a lot of people had a lot of questions, and pretty soon I was being invited to share my testimony. Now, you and I know that being on the radio is one thing... being in front of a live, looking-right-atcha audience is something else again...and I was scared to death. I had no concept of public speaking as being what God would have for me.

But as soon as I got up there a mantle of peace fell on my shoulders, and I haven't stopped talking since!...
segued from radio into full-time speaing in 1987, and then that of course led to writing, because people would say,
"Don't you have any of this material you're speaking about in book form?" And Thomas Nelson Publishers came to me back in 1992, ten years after I was saved, and said, "Do you have any books you'd like to write?" And I said, "Well, I was an English major in college, all I've ever really wanted to is be a writer--yes, I do!" So, here we are now,
21 books later, with many fine publishers, most recently with WaterBrook press, so it's been quite a journey, my dear.

CINDY: I read on your website that you have been writing stories since you were a little girl...yet another thing that you and I have in common. But you said you wrote whole, like Nancy Drew-type mysteries.

LIZ: I did! in those marble notebooks, you know the ones we used to buy. I would decide,as I began the story, now is this a 160 page book or a 240 page book? and I'd buy the Marble notebook in that size, sharpen up my number 2 pencil, and off I went. I still have them all--they're just a hoot--but what it does show me is that God plants those desires in our hearts, I think, at a really young age, and wise is the man or woman who listens to that,deep inside them. What would you do for free? What did you do as a child out of sheer joy? And now, could it be, not just an avocation but a vocation? And so (I came) full cycle, back to writing again ten years ago...and particularly fiction about five years ago.

CINDY: By the way, my mom and my sister asked me to pass this along to you. My mom is a pastor's wife in Round Rock, Texas, of a little Baptist church, but my dad has been very ill and my sister's husband has taken over the pastoring of the church. But they've been doing a ladies' Bible study of "Bad Girls of the Bible," and they just adore you!

LIZ: Well, give them a big hug back for me!

CINDY: They've been doing, I think, a video version of it.

LIZ: Yes, there's a video, there's a book, and then there's a workbook. And so lots of churches have been different things, it just depends what your study style is, how you want to go about it. But it has been a joy to create packages that minister when I can't physically be there.

This has been my radical sabbatical year from speaking. I'm home all of 2004, writing and mothering my two teen-agers, who, believe me, need a mother (chuckles). And it's been just thrilling to step back and to be home full-time
and yet know that because God's so gracious, the ministry still continues--the books are still out there,
the videos are still out there, so I can be home and still minister...it's great.

CINDY: Well, let's talk about your latest book, "Fair is the Rose." I had been looking forward to this book ever since reading the first in this series, "Thorn in my Heart." I enjoyed both of the books VERY very much, Liz. You've taken a familiar story and put it in a unique setting...can you explain?

LIZ: Sure. Well, when I wrote "Bad Girls of the Bible," "Really Bad Girls of the Bible," and "Unveiling Mary Magdalen," I was looking at various women in Scripture, and in the process came across some women who were--mmm,
I don't want to say they were bad, but they weren't exactly good either. Rebekah, Leah and Rachel. The more I studied their stories, the more I thought, "Wow, this is an amazing story!" just as an historical truth. And I thought, "Wouldn't it be exciting to retell that story, to breathe new life into it, but rather than tell it in the Biblical setting, to pick it up and move it to, say, 18th-century Scotland? (chuckles) and I hope that I did that successfully because my goal is merely to make us look afresh at these incredible stories that God has written. Because I believe they're so powerful you could put them in fifth century Ireland or 11th-century Italy, or wherever you wanted to put 'em,
and the power of the story should shine through if the author can stay out of the way.

So that was the goal of "Thorn in My Heart," really talked about Leah's story. She is the most amazing woman in the Old Testament to me, because she has every reason to be miserable, every reason in the world to whine. She's married to a man who does not love her, didn't choose her, doesn't have any time for her, although he does seem to be able to fill her up with babies,(laughs) but not with love, and she keeps crying out to the Lord, "Maybe now my husband will love me, maybe now my husband will cleave to me."

And then she gives birth to this fourth child, and says, "This time I will l praise the Lord." And I think that's incredible. I think most women would say, "This time I want him dead! I want him out of here, I don't want to keep trying to love a man who doesn't love me back." And instead, Leah comes to this incredible place of grace and of praise. And of course, Judah, that fourth son of praise, is the one in the lineage of Christ ...not Rachel's babies; Leah's son, Judah. ...So,
she's just an amazing story to me, and that's what we told in "Thorn in My Heart." But of course, we all know,
Genesis just keeps going and going, so the story wasn't over.

"Fair is the Rose" explores the story of Rachel. Of course, Leah and Jacob--my Leana and Jamie-- are still in the book, but we're focusing a little bit more on the Rachel, or in my case, the Rose character in 18th-century Scotland.

CINDY: Another one of my favorite authors, B. J. Hoff, once told me that one of the things you should do with fiction is
keep asking the question "What if?"

LIZ: That's right.

CINDY: And that's what you've done with this story. "What if Jacob and Rachel and Leah lived in 18th-century Scotland?" Another thing that I'm jealous of you about, Liz, is that you got to spend quite a bit of time in Scotland researching for these books. Tell me about that experience; that must have been amazing.

LIZ: It was incredible, Cindy. And I'm so grateful for all those frequent flier miles; that's how we pulled that off! (chuckles). I have been there six times, most recently in October...spent three weeks there doing a "Heart for Scotland" tour. In the process of researching the books I also fell in love with the country and it's people. And they are so hungry for the truth over there.

Many of the churches are dying, literally closing their doors, or combining congregations because they're so small now;
but people are very, very hungry for the Word, and it was my thrill to teach Bible studies in homes and in hotels or just wherever God opened a door. So I've fallen in love with the people as well as this incredible country and all its history.

I believe in doing all my Biblical homework, so we did 90 commentaries and 14 translations to get the Biblical story right...and then, I'm embarrased to say (laughs) about 650 books on Scotland are up in my library upstairs, in my writing loft...kinda overwhelming, but I keep finding one more gem that I just have to own, and you know, they're used books, so sometimes they're pretty cheap! But, I'm grateful to have those resources so I can get that part of the story right...

...Rose, in "Fair is the Rose," is a very intriguing woman. I'm gonna ask you a quick question, Cindy: did you finally like Rose? Where were you with her?

CINDY: I like her better than I did in the first book...

LIZ (laughing): OK, good!

CINDY: It's really funny, though, because I think I told you the last time I interviewed you about "Thorn in my Heart," is that, in the Biblical story, I've never liked Leah. I've always pulled for Rachel, and thought that she was the one I would more identify with. But in this one, you can't help but love Leana, who is the Leah character. I do like Rachel--I mean, Rose, more in this book, and she's more sympathetic in this book, but she's still not my favorite character, to be honest (laughing).

LIZ: No, I know. And you know,the truth is, all I was trying to do was to recreate the scriptural situation, and the Rose--I mean, the Rachel, rather (I'm doin' it too!) of the Bible is not terribly likable. We begin in "Fair is the Rose" at Genesis 30:1, where Rachel says, "Give me children or I'll die!" She's such a drama queen, for starters, but very selfish. We don't see her caring a great deal about her sister's feelings.

In fact, later in that same section...Leah says to her, "Is it not enough that you've taken my husband? would you also take my son's mandrakes?" And, ooh, it's hard to read, frankly, in the Genesis account. My goal was to make both sisters as sympathetic as I could...also to get poor Jamie to grow up a little bit. The Jacob character frustrates me no end, and so Jamie does as well, but he's growing...it's coming.

CINDY: The fact that, of course, polygamy, or plural marriage, wasn't going on in 18th century Scotland--and I won't reveal exactly how you did this, because I want people to read the book, but you did get around that.

LIZ (sighing): Yeah, and that was a gift from God, of how to do that, because I had a plan, a plot all laid out as I always do for my novels, and then God always has His own plan which is always better (chuckles). But I got deep into this story, probably 50-thousand words into it, and realized that the way I was going to take the story to try and recreate the polygamist experience was simply not going to work. We wouldn't buy it. We'd all be going, "Nah, come on." And so, I was literally on my face before the Lord and I said, "I want to honor Your Word, and I want to recreate this situation in a believable way; please show me how to do that. " And ta-da, here came this plot twist
I hope worked for you and gave us that emotional and spiritual experience of what it must have been like for this little family.

CINDY: It did, and I've got to tell you that felt so strongly for Leana. Rarely has a book so touched me, and just...I don't know, that's what wonderful writing does. I've got to also tell you, Liz, that your writing is just nothing short of beautiful. Your descriptive--just the way that you brought this story to life--is just really, really beautiful, and I just want to commend you for that.

NOTE: Liz tells me that there will be two more books in this series. The next one, "Whence Comes a Prince," resolves the story of Jamie, Leana and Rose. The final one will be a prequel about Alec and Rowenna, the Isaac and Rebekah characters, and it will be set in Scotland during the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

For more information about this wonderful author, visit her website.

Wearin' my green today...

...although it looks more like December 17th than March 17th in my neck of northern Illinois today, thanks to the picturesquely falling snow!

Hey, I made the Rockford Register Star this morning. The paper's "Life and Style"section had asked for comments about why people are proud to be Irish, and they printed this:

"Ireland is a land of poets, story-weavers and dreamers -- all of which I can relate to. The tiny island has gifted us with writers like Jonathan Swift, W.B. Yeats and Maeve Binchy; musicians like U2, Van Morrison and the Chieftains; actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Pierce Brosnan and Richard Harris; and a host of noted Americans of Irish descent, from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan. Thanks to my husband, I have a Swedish surname, but the green in my eyes reflects the green in my soul. I'm proud of whatever Irish flows in my blood."

-- Cindy Swanson, news director, WQFL/WGSL Radio, Rockford

A couple of ironic things about St. Paddy's Day: it's observed in the United States largely as a day to overindulge in alcohol, and although I'm "proud of whatever Irish flows in my blood," I personally don't drink at all. Also, as I understand it, St. Patrick's Day is not that big a deal in Ireland.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A few more things to say about "The Passion..."

The main objection to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is that it would stir anti-Semitism. Well, a new poll suggests the movie has actually had the opposite effect.

A nationwide survey conducted by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research finds that 83 per cent of Americans familiar with the film say it's made them neither more nor less likely to blame todays' Jews for Jesus' crucifixion...in fact, nine per cent say the film has actually made them less likely to blame today's Jews.

Says Gary Tobin, the president of the Institute, "Jews and Christians can talk about these things, and even argue and debate about them, but that's not necessarily going to be a precursor to more prejudice. The bond between Christians and Jews in this country is strong enough that they can actually have this debate, and have it out in the open as well."

J. Mark Bertrand employs a health dollop of sarcasm, commenting on the issue in his blog: "...the message has come through loud and clear: the Passion is a dangerous movie.

"The fear is understandable. Some people will no doubt leave the theater after seeing Gibson's movie livid with rage. Perhaps groups of rowdy youth will roam the theater parking lots in search of unsuspecting legionnaires or high priests upon whom to vent their wrath. Remember the outbreaks of violence after the release of movies like Pearl Harbor and Schindler's List. We can expect a rampage of similar, if not greater scale now. It is a wonder that the hotheads at First Presbyterian did not start torching their Volvos and Hummers after the sneak preview."

Yeah, while anti-Semitism is not funny, I had to snicker at the thought of rowdy youths vainly searching for high priests in parking lots...

And Jeri Massi commented in her blog yesterday on Dr. Bob Jones III's official stance on the movie. Massi decries the fact that Bob Jones University's talented film department has "has never produced anything nearly as compelling or thought provoking as The Passion."

Asks Massi: "Why, I ask, did Mel Gibson have such a determination to show the starkness, horror, and scope of the passion of the Savior that no Christian Fundamentalist has ever equaled?"

Meantime, my personal review of the film is delayed, as I have not yet seen it.

And on a personal note...

I'm still struggling with whatever tenacious germ has gotten ahold of my head and throat and won't let go! Just when I thought I was feeling better, I was hit with aches, pains, sore throat and stuffed-up nose again last night. I think I'm going to take to my bed until I have to get up for an obligation later today. My sympathies to all those of you out there who are suffering from similar maladies...

Friday, March 12, 2004

Crawled in sick, but still answering the Friday Five!

Well, my Friday has gotten off to a less than rousing start. Already suffering from a tenacious head cold, I was seized with horrible stomach pains and nausea during the night! I sent poor Justin (home for spring break) out to get me some Pepto-Bismol in the middle of the night, but it was only minimally helpful. I had a terrible night's sleep, and ended up coming to work an hour and a half later than usual. I'm plugging along now, though my voice sounds pretty creaky and weird...not too cool when one makes one's living by talking.

Anyway...here's the Friday Five. I'd love for you to participate. Either answer them in your own blog or right here on my comments section. Come on, it's fun!!! If I can do it while I'm sick, you can surely do it too. :)

1. What was the last song you heard?--"Landslide" by Seven Places (I work at a Christian radio station, and that's the song that's playing right now)

2. What were the last two movies you saw?--"Best in Show" and "Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star" (note, I didn't say I was proud of those viewing choices!)

3. What were the last three things you purchased?--Pepto Bismol (my son procured it, but it was my money), Giuseppe's pizza, and a bunch of stuff at Wal-Mart including calcium supplements, a magazine and a Vanilla Coke

4. What four things do you need to do this weekend?--Clean house, do laundry, go to church, and at some point hopefully GET SOME SLEEP!

5. Who are the last five people you talked to?--my husband (on the phone just now), Charmel Jacobs, Ron Tietsort, Vance Barrie, and my daughter Elizabeth (before I left for work this morning)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Some different birthday party games...

Got a great chuckle today from this item, from Dr. Bob Griffin's Grif.net humor site:

Games to play at birthday parties for the not-so-young:

1. Sag, You're it

2. Pin the Toupee on the bald guy.

3. 20 questions shouted into your good ear.

4. Kick the bucket

5. Red Rover, Red Rover, the nurse says Bend Over.

6. Doc Doc Goose

7. Simon says something incoherent.

8. Hide and go pee

9. Spin the Bottle of Mylanta

10. Musical recliners

Listening to Twila Paris...

Radio 91 has been playing Twila Paris's lovely praise song, "My Lips Will Praise You," and I've been blessed by the lyrics and serene melody. Twila's clear, bell-like voice is backed up by a boys' choir, which lends a worshipful, classical tone.

Here are some of the words:

"My lips will praise You
For You are holy
My voice will ever
Rise before Your throne
My heart will love You
For You are lovely
And You have called me
To become Your own"

What is your favorite Twila Paris song? Mine would have to be "Lamb of God"...although I confess, my favorite version is not Twila's, but the one by a group called Sunday Drive. In my opinion, "Lamb of God" has the staying power to outlast a lot of today's Christian music, much of which will probably be forgotten 100 years from now, if Jesus tarries His coming. "Lamb of God" is the stuff of hymnals.

"Your gift of Love they crucified
They laughed and scorned Him as He died
The humble King they named a fraud
And sacrificed the Lamb of God"

Monday, March 08, 2004

A good book is a gift...

This is something I posted on a writers' forum I belong to, and thought I'd share it here because I really believe it. Good fiction can bless and enrich us. It really is a gift.


I don't know if I've shared this on this board, but my mom is going
through a really difficult time right now. My dad is dying of cancer
of the liver, and she is in dire need of double knee replacement
surgery, so is in constant pain herself.

She has always been the kind of person who is constantly moving,
constantly on the go, but the pain in her knees has actually forced
her to sit still a little more often. Living in Austin, Texas, she
can take advantage of the almost perenially lovely weather, so she
and my dad will sit out on their patio swing and watch their toy
poodle, Dixie, cavort around and be silly. (I will be forever
grateful to Dixie for making my mom laugh at a time when she doesn't
have a great deal to laugh about.)

The forced "down time" has also meant that my mom is reading for
pleasure a lot more than she used to. I often pass along books to
her that I have really enjoyed, and recently, that included Jane Kirpatrick's
Kinship and Courage Series--All Together in One Place,
No Eye Can See, and What Once We Loved.

I talked to my mom on the phone today, and she said she had just
finished the last book in the series, and was really missing the
characters! She said she would find herself thinking, "I wonder what
Suzanne is doing right now?" She really, really loved the books.

I just thought you authors would like to see one small example of how
a work or works of fiction can bless someone who is in a place of
pain or sadness. Entering the world of those characters lightened my
mom's load for a while--blessed her--made life a little easier. That
is truly a gift.

Thank you, Jane, and all of you who bless us with your gift.


P.S. My mom is a wonderful woman; probably the most admired person
in my life. I wrote a tribute to her several months ago. You can
read it if you like at this link.

This must be a cross of love....

Lately, I've been listening to and reading about the responses and reactions of Christians whose opinions I value and respect, on the subject of the movie, The Passion of the Christ. This includes, not only people whose reactions I've read in the media and in online blogs, but friends, relatives and co-workers who know and love Jesus. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Again, let me stress, these are people who have actually seen the movie. While no one of my acquaintance has claimed that the film is perfect by any means, nevertheless they have been very moved by what they saw. Most claim a greater appreciation for the the cross, and love for Jesus for His sacrifice.

While pondering on these reactions recently, I began to hum a song that my sister Lisa and I have often sung together. It was originally part of a 1994 Easter musical entitled "Saviour--The Story of God's Passion for His People," by Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell.

I first heard "Cross of Love" right here on Radio 91 several years ago, and I was moved by the beauty and integrity of the voices of Steve Green and Twila Paris singing the duet, but even more so by the simple yet profound lyrics:

Cross of Love

Blood and sorrow flow from the languid brow of Jesus dying;
and tears from Heaven's eyes are the anguished drops of a Father crying,
"Oh, why?"

Emblem of his pain, oh splintered wood of my transgression
I'll never comprehend how an act so great gave love expression--"Oh, why?"

And the people jeered at Him and mocked His holy name,
for they knew not who He was, nor why it was He came.
Some had come to offer help to soothe a mother's pain,
but as she watched her wounded Son, the comfort never came,
Oh, why?

This must be a cross of love
for God to bruise His only Son.
Jesus, what a sacrifice to reach us,
it had to be a cross of love!

Although Lisa and I have sung this song many times, it never loses its power for me. It never fails to touch me.

The question--"Oh, why?" rings even stronger now, as people see this film and wonder why Jesus endured such agonizing torture and pain. In an AP story today, Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff points out that the physical suffering was only part of what Christ endured on the cross: "Christ suffered in the sense that he bore our sins in his body on the tree; therefore, there's a metaphysical suffering that place, a suffering that's beyond the physical."

Why? Why did he do it? The only answer can be His love for all mankind--love so strong that it provided for our redemption and reconciliation to Him.

Truly, "this must be a cross of love."

Monday again already???

What a weekend! We went to Schaumburg for the Illinois Association of Christian Schools state basketball tournament. Justin joined us there, since this is his spring break. Friday's game was wonderful...Berean won by some 20 points, paving the way for our participation in the championship game on Saturday.

On Saturday, my sister-in-law Beth, Justin and I headed over to Woodfield Mall for some shopping. We were pleased to find some excellent bargains. The game wasn't so delightful, though. Berean lost in DOUBLE OVERTIME. I haven't been so emotionally involved in a basketball game in a long time!

Back home to Rockford, dinner at Giuseppe's, then church on Sunday, and suddenly it's Monday again. Amazing. BTW, it's wonderful having Justin home! :)

Well, here's the Monday Madness quiz:

Think of words beginning with each letter of your name (real or screen name; you choose) to answer the following question. Using the letters in YOUR name, list words to describe yourself.

Young at heart

*And as a bonus question, using the same letters, make a list of things you would like to do before this calendar year is over. (Sorry--it's Monday and my mind just isn't thinking that well!--Cindy)

Friday, March 05, 2004

I do the Friday Five!

Here are my answers to the Friday Five:

What was...

1. ...your first grade teacher's name?--Mrs. Butner. She was pretty and very nice. I remember once going to the bathroom to cry because I missed my mom...and my teacher handled it so well. She managed to comfort me and cheer me up. I never forgot that!

2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon?--Bullwinkle. I even enjoyed re-runs as a teen-ager, because the quirky humor held up well.

3. ...the name of your very first best friend?--Cindy Aynes. She was a fellow missionaries' kid in Beirut, Lebanon. Later, in junior high, I had a very good friend named Linda Sims...I wish I could find her and contact her now!

4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal?--Back then, it was Lucky Charms (they're magically delicious!)--with Super Sugar Crisp (later changed to "Super Golden Crisp") running a close second. ("Can't get enough of Super Sugar Crisp...")

5. ...your favorite thing to do after school?--play outside with my sister and friends; ride my bike; read. There was very little watching TV during the day when I was a little kid!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The after-effects of "The Passion"?

Usually when a movie is really successful from a financial standpoint, Hollywood jumps on the bandwagon. But USA Today, in an article today, is questioning whether that will happen with "The Passion of the Christ."

While admitting that the movie appears to be touching people deeply, the story says "Hollywood is unlikely to get religion."
Actually, that's fine with me. When Hollywood makes a movie based on anything biblical, they usually get it wrong. "The Passion" seems to be the exception, but apparently there are still things in the movie that one could nitpick about. I would be happy if Hollywood would just get the message that there is an enormous section of the public that would love to have more clean, family-oriented films to choose from. I don't need a glut of Bible-based movies from Hollywood.

Meantime, I continue to read reports from Christians who have been deeply affected by the film. In his blog, Rick talks about listening to a John Piper sermon about the cross and finding it more meaningful after having viewed the film: "Maybe this speaks into me today because of THE PASSION last week. Maybe it's because Piper is calling us to boast in the cross, and that imagery is still so vivid for me - watching Christ not only die, but also interact with real people in their real moments. We are usually so caught up in our own stuff that we don't have real time to pay attention to the needs of folks around us. And here's Christ, in the fullness of time, accomplishing the most incredible thing in history and eternity - and He still reaches out to the people around Him."

On the subject of another movie: I was jazzed yesterday when I realized that one of my favorite books--C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"-- is soon to be a major motion picture...but Jeri Massi has quite a different take on the news in her blog. I've got to admit, she tempered my enthusiasm a bit.

Another thing that concerns Narnia fans like myself and our engineer, Jon Burkholder, is that the movie might be animated rather than live-action (no one seems to know for sure). Jon and I agreed yesterday that the Narnia series deserves the same kind of live-action treatment that Peter Jackson gave "The Lord of the Rings" movies.

I don't necessarily agree that Disney "crapifies" everything it touches. I have serious problems with Disney, but movies like "Finding Nemo" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" have shown that the company can still produce things with charm and appeal.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

I'm in the middle of another really good book!

I was delighted yesterday to receive a copy of Liz Curtis Higgs' "Fair is the Rose," and of course, I wasted no time in delving right into it!

This is the sequel to Higgs' "Thorn in My Heart," which I review on the reading page of my website.

Liz Curtis Higgs has a lovely writing style...gentle, flowing, descriptive and evocative. Before I read "Thorn in My Heart," though, I was a bit leery about setting the Jacob/Leah/Rachel story in 18th-century Scotland. But the idea not only works...it shines. I'm still wondering how Higgs will handle the fact that in ancient Israel, Jacob was married to Leah and Rachel at the same time, because plural marriage was OK then. I guess I'll just have to wait and see how she gets around that.

I'm going to be interviewing Liz for my radio show soon, and I'll be sure to provide at least part of that interview on this blog. She is a delightful person, with a warm and gracious personality, and we have something in common--she used to be a radio announcer. I'm looking forward to talking with her again.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

One of my childhood favorites is coming to the big screen!

I have always loved the Chronicles of Narnia, and I was thrilled several months ago to read that the beloved C. S. Lewis classic, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was being developed into a major motion picture.

Today, I opened the Life section of the USA Today to find a two-page ad declaring: "There are a thousand stories in the land of Narnia...the first is about to be told. Walt Disney pictures and Walden Media proudly present The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe--Christmas 2005."

I've always yearned to see those stories brought to life on the screen, with all the advanced special effects technology available today. If the makers of the movie are as faithful to the story as Peter Jackson was to the Lord of the Rings books, we Narnia fans really have something to look forward to!

The neat thing (and I don't know how much of this will translate into the film) is that the Narnia books are very clear spiritual allegories. If nothing else, we'll have a major motion picture with strong appeal to children coming from a very definite Christian worldview.

I'm excited! :)

More on the upcoming Narnia film here.

"The Passion of the Christ"--a life-changing experience?

Whatever your feelings on the controversial movie, there is no doubt that viewing it is affecting people in a profound way. Many have said that one doesn't just watch this movie...they experience it...sometimes to a life-changing degree.

Now, a website to document responses to the film: My Life After the Passion of the Christ. This from the site: "MyLifeAfter.com is a site dedicated to sharing the experiences that people have had after viewing Mel Gibson's "The Passion Of The Christ". It is intended to collect thoughts, impressions, and accounts of changes in the lives of people from all walks of life.

"MyLifeAfter.com is the definitive portal for media news and personal stories from people like you regarding how the movie has affected you and those around you. The way the world is changing due to this movie is being monitored here at MyLifeAfter. "

Monday, March 01, 2004

A clean sweep for "Return of the King"

OK, I'll admit it...I watched some of the Academy Awards show, although I found much of it (as usual) a vain, shallow and pretentious exercise in self-glorification.

But I have also admit that I was glad to see "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" capture all eleven Oscars it was nominated for, including Best Picture. The entire LOTR trilogy was incredible, and deserves to be thus recognized. The movies had everything you go to a movie to see--adventure, romance, humor, friendship, the ageless battle between good and evil...all on a sweeping visual scale that is nothing short of breathtaking.

I came late to the LOTR bandwagon...both book and movie-wise. Although I've been a lifelong fan of the writings of C.S. Lewis, I had never read anything by his good friend and contemporary J. R. R. Tolkien. When I was a high-schooler in the 70's, the Tolkien books enjoyed a new wave of popularity, but I didn't get on board with it. I thought Frodo was for hippies and the 70's equivalent of New-Agers.

But when the publicity machine for the LOTR movies really started gearing up, I decided reading the books might be a good idea. Although they aren't my favorite books, I really did enjoy them. (Why wouldn't they fall into my favorites? Well, there are times I found Tolkien a bit slow-going. I can understand why a lot of boys and men really love these books; they are heavy on male camaraderie and warfare...kind of the ultimate buddy road-pic.)

Actually, I enjoyed the third book, "The Return of the King," the most. And I definitely saw spiritual parallels. After all, we as Christians are looking forward to the eventual Return and triumphant crowning of our own King.

Also, I have to say that the movies more closely brought to life the pictures I had in my own head than probably any other movie-based-on-a-book that I've ever seen. Movie versions of "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre" have disappointed me. The PBS version of "Pride and Prejudice" was excellent, but still not quite like I pictured the story. I've got to say that director/screenwriter Peter Jackson and his team of writers, actors, cinematographers, special effects experts, sound editors, makeup artists, et al...well, they got it right, and to a vastly entertaining degree.

Ready for yet another QUIZ?

Well, I guess I'm getting kind of a reputation as a Quiz Queen in the blogosphere. But I ran across this one on Stacy's blog today, and of course, couldn't resist it.

This one has a little bit of a twist.

The instructions: Copy this list into your blog and place in bold the things that you have in common with me. For the items that you do NOT bold, replace them with a fact about you. Leave a link in comments.

I love Vanilla Coke.
I was born in December.
I prefer Coke to Pepsi.
I love to read.
I read every day.
I get bummed out if there's nothing in the house to read, and a trip to the library isn't practical at the moment.
I don't smoke.
I can't stand to be around smoke.
I think it would be extremely foolish to START smoking in this day and age, knowing what we know about how bad it is for you.
My current jobs are wife, mom, radio announcer and voice-over artist.
I like broccoli.
I love Chinese food.
One of my favorite game shows is "Jeopardy!".
I live far away from my mom, and wish I lived nearer her.
I have lived in Beirut, Lebanon.
I can't eat puppies because I think they are tooo cute to eat. (Eeeuw! Why on earth would we even think about eating puppies???)
I have no living grandparents.
I have a German Shepherd dog.
I've never been to Jamaica or Bermuda.
My favorite color is soft pink.
I am a James Taylor fan.
I'd rather be the passenger than the driver.
I enjoy a variety of musical styles.
My chief creative outlet is writing.
"Trading Spaces" is one of my favorite TV shows.
I love chocolate.
I'm fine with meeting new people.
I love my family.
Summer is my favorite season.
I'd rather hot than cold (although I'd rather be "just right!")
I don't know how to sew, except for minor mending.
I don't own a digital camera.
Our kitchen walls are tan. (most of them are---part of them are blue now, but I'm going to repaint them sage green.)I
I don't mind trying new foods, as long as they don't involve animals I wouldn't normally eat.
I love learning new things.
I took French in school, but wouldn't be able to carry on a conversation with anyone in it.
I loathe trying to figure out how to work new equipment....just show me how, please.
Heinz Ketchup is by far the best (even IF John Kerry's wife is the Heinz heiress.)
I love a clean house, but don't always enjoy the act of cleaning.
I enjoy blogging.
I hate telemarketing phone calls.
I don't use the word "hate" loosely when it comes to people.
I am curious about people, especially about how other people live.
I'm a pretty traditional person.
I prefer hearing a man sing to hearing a woman sing, generally.
I love to sing in the car! I harmonize with the song on the radio, or just belt it out good and loud.
I have never ice-skated in my life.
I enjoy board games.
I don't like liver.
I really enjoy thoughtful gifts, even if they cost nothing.
I have grown to love canteloupe.
I would never have a pet snake.
I am politically conservative.
I love lying in bed and talking with my husband about life.
I really enjoy having "me time" occasionally.
I use blogging as a creative outlet.
I go to church often.
I believe in God.
I'm smart enough to know that there's lots of smart people and others who just think they are.
I have been known to procrastinate on occasion. (now, there's the understatement of the year! :)
I went to a British school for two years.
I always try to be a good person.
I've gotten better about saying "no" as I've gotten older.
I have three children.
I have been married for over 19 years.
I strive to do what is right. Sometimes I mess up.
I am very good at word games.
I excel at trivia games.
I like to people-watch.
I love getting handwritten letters.
I prefer sending emails.
I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of photographs that aren't labeled or in albums.
I'm a touch-feely person, for the most part.
I enjoy cooking and like trying new recipes.
I love the smell of fresh baked bread.
I like candles more than incense.
I am so not the perfectionist, except in little things.
I have never been arrested.
I don't have any fish.
I love romantic comedies, a la Tom Hanks/ Meg Ryan.
I love to watch movies.
I don't have any learning disablities (other than thick-headedness), and I don't know my IQ.
I love being clean, and adore a good bath.
I wish all the people I love lived close to me.
I rarely add salt to anything at the table (although I will add it in the cooking process).
I am usually pretty easygoing.
I'm not as organized as I'd like to be.
I simply CANNOT go grocery-shopping without a list.
I have hardly any freckles.
I would love to own a PT Cruiser.
I love to shop for other people, even though I rarely know what to get them.
I saw the movie "Moulin Rouge."
I don't speak computer. I need Computing for Morons.
I appreciate honesty.
I am disappointed when someone lies to me.
I have 8 nieces and nephews.(that are blood-related to me...many more if you count my husband's).
I wish I was better about helping people.
I love to give people gifts.
Summer is great.
I would buy more things for people just because ~ if I had more money.
I love to travel.
I love to fly.
I love eating out.
I wish I were more observant.
The smell of Vicks Vap-o-Rub reminds me of being sick as a child.
I like free samples at the grocery store.
I prefer baths to showers, except in hot weather.
A tender, medium-well steak with a fluffy baked potato and big crispy salad is my favorite meal.
Jesus is incomparably wonderful!

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