In 2005, Allison starting blogging to track the ups and downs of living life as an artist.
Today, she blogs to share our Infinitely More adventures in music and ministry! 
Read, comment, share! 

Book Review: Where The Blue Sky Begins, by Katie Powner  


January is turning out to be an amazing reading month!
Week #4 and I'm already reading Book #5.
My Goodreads account won't know what hit it!

And, I'm already on Book Review #2:

Where The Blue Sky Begins, by Katie Powner

I can't think of a better description of Where The Blue Sky Begins than Katie's own:

"When a shallow but charming financial advisor from Seattle and an eccentric terminally ill woman in rural Montana are thrown together for the summer, their unconventional friendship will produce surprising results. Eric and Eunice couldn’t be more different, but they each must learn lessons about themselves, what friendship really means, and how to let go. When the end of summer comes, neither of them will ever be the same."

There were a lot of things to love about this book. The characters have rich backstories, woven together in a way only found in tight knit communities. The story unfolds with a great pace, and some unexpected twists. The town and landscape become characters themselves, shaping the people who live in their midst. There are strong themes of redemption, regrets, forgiveness, connection, and purpose. 

Eunice is definitely my favourite character. Her signature personality and sharp dialogue make you feel like she's in the room with her. I really appreciated the unapologetic portrayal of Eunice's health challenges. Nothing is too graphic, but at the same time, nothing is too pretty. It's a realistic picture of this particular character's physical, emotional and spiritual struggles, mixed with her unique humour, as she faces her final days.

I didn't really know what to expect when I requested this book,
but Where The Blue Sky Begins really hooked me in.
I read it quickly, yet it will stay with me for while.

Katie's website includes a section of fun FREE resources for individuals & book clubs,
including trivia sheets and discussion questions. You can find everything here:

www.KatiePowner.com/Book-Club



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Guest Post - 3 Guideposts & 1 Prayer for 2023, by Rev. Hollis Hiscock 


Please welcome my Dad - Rev. Hollis Hiscock - as today's guest blogger!

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3 Guideposts & 1 Prayer for 2023


“Thank God 2022 is over! Hopefully 2023 will be much, much better.”

These sentiments have been echoed by many people in varying situations around the globe.

So, as we journey daily into the evolving future,
may these three guideposts and one prayer
help us navigate our personal, communal, and global life encounters.


Hand of God

The first guidepost comes from Sunday School teacher, poet, and college professor Minnie Haskins. Standing near a second story balcony window at dusk, looking down a long driveway leading to a gate which opened onto the street and the unknown, she compared it with a new year or new journey and wrote:

I said to the one who stood at the gate of the year,
"Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown";
and they replied,
"Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than a light, and safer than a known way."
So, I went forth, and finding the hand of God, trod gladly into the night,
and God led me towards the hills and the breaking of the day.


Never Alone

The second guidepost comes from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. This song of comfort and encouragement was included to help a person coping with a devasting life situation. It is a reminder that we are never walking alone – God and other human beings are by our side.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart,
And you’ll never walk alone.
You’ll never walk alone.


A Divine Perspective 

The third guidepost comes from St. Paul and Jesus Christ. 

In the Bible’s New Testament, Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (8:38-39): 

"I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Similarly, Jesus/God promised (Matthew 28:20): 

“I am with you always.”


A Prayer to Help 

This prayer, with which St. Paul concluded his letter to the Christians living in the city of Corinth (2 Corinthians 13:14) several decades after Jesus’ resurrection, may be a good mantra for us to repeat often as we traverse time and space.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all.”


Amen.
Happy New Year!


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The Reverend Hollis Hiscock 
is Interim Priest-in-Charge of 
St. John’s Church, Burlington, Ontario. 

You can read his 2022 Christmas message 
A "Way" in a "Lodge of Broken Bark"  





This Christmas, Celebrate Differently... 

Friends, it’s been a challenging year for us, rife with illness and struggle, and now we’re wrapping up 2022 with a wicked bout of Covid. We’ve been sick for almost 3 weeks. To date, we’ve cancelled 8 different Christmas concerts. It’s hard to state the toll this has taken on us. 

Frankly, we’re just exhausted - vocally, physically, and emotionally.

So, we’ve decided to celebrate Christmas differently this year.


We’re keeping it simple. 

We’re choosing new priorities.

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is decorating, but the idea of getting a tree and hauling out the tinsel was just more than we could handle.

So, we did something different:

We’d like to share with you our Christmas Card Tree for 2022.

Four feet tall, doesn’t need water, and placed on a table high above the reach of our little puppy, Max.

Last week, my parents dropped by.

We pulled out curling ribbon, pinking shears, and last year’s Christmas cards

Over cups of espresso, we cut the cards into ornaments, and tied them on the tree with ribbon.

Coloured lights and our Victorian glass beads tied the whole look together.

Finally, we tucked our nativity under the tree, surrounded by my collection of angels.


In just a few hours, with a few snips of paper, our home transformed from everyday to extraordinary.

It started as a simple art project, but in the making it became so much more.

It’s covered in cards given to us by people we love.
It was created in an afternoon of laughter and family.
And it’s giving us light in our darkness - something we all need.

Friends, we know we’re not alone. It’s been a tough year for many of us.

If you’re struggling this Christmas, may we encourage you to celebrate differently:


Choose to do less.

Spend time with the people you love.

Find new ways to do things.

Spend a little extra time in prayer.

And however you choose to celebrate,
remember that whatever our personal circumstances,
the Reason for the Season never changes.

From our family to yours,
we wish you a peaceful, joy-filled & healthy Christmas!


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Please enjoy my Dad's Christmas message:

A "Way" in a "Lodge of Broken Bark"





Book Review: The Premonition at Withers Farm, by Jaime Jo Wright 


Well, here's a first: reading a ghost story at Christmas!
(And not a Dickens ghost story!)

Technically, this book came out in the fall, but when your copy arrives in December, whatcha gonna do?

I've already reviewed two of Jaime Jo's books - On The Cliffs Of Foxglove Manor and The Souls Of Lost Lake - and I will jump at any chance to read and review her fantastic stories!

The Premonition at Withers Farm tells the story of a Michigan farm haunted by murders, ghosts, and mystery.

In 1910, we're introduced to self-proclaimed healer, Perliett Van Hilton, and her spiritualist, seance-holding mother. When one of the Withers' daughters is murdered in her own family's corn field, the whole town in swept up in fear and mystery. Is the answer in the field or in the beyond?

In the present day, Molly and Trent Wasziak have suffered greatly in their personal lives. When they move into the Withers Farm, the young couple is forced to confront the unsolved mysteries of the past, a current murder in the present, and how their family's history ties into it all.

I'm hesitant to say much more.
This is a book that must be allowed to unfold on its own terms!

Like any great ghost story, The Premonition at Withers Farm relies on intriguing characters, a killer plot (pun not intended, but kind of perfect!), and copious amounts of tension. Jaime Jo is a Christian writer with a passion for all things Gothic, so you know it's going to get scary without getting too gory or bleak.

I am such a superfan of Jaime Jo Wright! 
Pick up a copy of The Premonition at Withers Farm,
and any other copies of her books you can find... 

Jaime Jo has a great newsletter, a really fun Facebook group, 
and lots of encouragement for writers. 
You can find out more at:

www.JaimeWrightBooks.com



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Book Review: The Blackout Book Club, by Amy Lynn Green  

For the last two weeks, we've been wiped out by Covid. It's the first time we've had it, and despite our vaccines, it's really done a number on us. 

The one perk? Lots of time for reading, 
and this book was the perfect balm for a rough few weeks.

The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green appealed to me from the start. Historical fiction, a library, letters from the front, and a secret backstory - what's not to love?

Avis Montgomery unexpectedly finds herself as a librarian in a privately owned library in small-town Maine. When the owner threatens to close the library, Avis creates a book club in an attempt to save the special place. A disparate group of men and women start to gather on Saturday mornings to read classics and favourites. As their lives weave together, they start to learn the power of story - fictional and real - to save communities and themselves. 

I loved this book! Amy's writing is beautiful, creative, and clear. I could see every person and imagine every corner of the library. Different characters lead different chapters, and each voice was perfectly clear. Amy also mixed in a few letters from the front, as well as "notes" from the book club meetings, all of which made for a fun narrative experience.


And check out this beautiful piece from Amy's Facebook page. Isn't this charming and kind?



I completely recommend getting two copies of this book - 
one for yourself and one to give as a Christmas gift.


You can learn more about Amy's books and writing at 

www.facebook.com/AmyGreenBooks


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.



Book Review: Dangerous Beauty, by Melissa Koslin 

Several reviewers said, "Don't pick up this book unless you have time to read it one sitting" and they weren't kidding!

Dangerous Beauty, by Melissa Koslin,
grips you from the first page. 

Liliana Vela is running for her life in the dark of night. She's in America, not her native Mexico, as a victim of human trafficking. She finds herself sneaking into a gas station, desperately in need of help, and not knowing how to ask for it. 

Meric Toledan is just stopping by the gas station for a drink, when he sees Liliana and quickly assesses the situation. The authorities arrive, but Liliana has no options for safety. They'll have to send her back to Mexico.

Until Meric makes an offer - 
he will marry Liliana to keep her in safely in America.


Okay, here's where I had to raise an eyebrow. I knew this was the premise of the book, but it all happened so quickly and all I could think was "This isn't realistic."

But it was in the moment, my friends, that I learned of a whole new literary genre: 
Marriage by Convenience.

Little did I know that this was an entire, hugely popular sub-genre of romance novels and movies! I guess that shows how few romance books I read...

Well, once I learned that this is an accepted genre (with apologies to all those who already know and love the genre!),  I was able to enjoy the story much more.

Dangerous Beauty is a fast-paced, thriller-romance that is set in the world of human trafficking. Melissa's writing is sharp, with a strong narrative pulse. She found a wonderful way to express the heaviness of the subject matter without ever slowing down the plot or exploiting the topic.

I'll definitely be looking out for more of Melissa's writing in the future!


Melissa offers a free novella to all email subscribers! You can find out more here:

www.MelissaKoslin.com



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


Book Review: The Clutter Fix, by Shannon Acheson 


In 2020, I reviewed Home Made Lovely by Shannon Acheson, and became an instant fan! 

Shannon weaves creativity, practicality, and spirituality 
to create beautiful, comfortable living spaces. 

As an avid follower of her blog, I was super-excited when I learned she was releasing a new book in 2022!

The Clutter Fix is exactly what it sounds like - 
a practical journey for removing clutter from your home.

Anyone who has ever tried to remove or reduce clutter knows it's a challenging and often overwhelming project. 

Shannon starts with giving some some quick, focused projects. These allow you to practice decluttering, while also gaining some easy wins.





She takes time to look at the psychological and spiritual side of clutter. How does it affect our emotions? How often do we carry guilt about throwing things away? And how can we work through those feelings to achieve a calmer home?

Finally, Shannon gives us a whole-house decluttering project, complete with lists, detailed work plans, and worksheets. To top things off, she ends with a section on maintaining your clutter-free home.

I read this book in one sitting, but my plan is to return to it in January for the continuation of my own decluttering journey. Wish me luck!



You can follow Shannon's blog and learn more helpful home-tips at her beautiful site:

www.HomeMadeLovely.com 


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


The Sermon I Wrote But Never Spoke - GUEST POST! 

Please welcome my dad, Rev. Hollis Hiscock, as today's guest blogger!

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INTRODUCTION:


 I prepared my sermon on September 27, 2022  for the following Sunday, October 2nd.
I called it my pre-harvest Thanksgiving sermon because I was not going to be preaching on Canada’s National Thanksgiving Sunday (October 9th).
However, COVID intervened, and my plan was thwarted: 
I tested positive on Thursday – two days after writing my message.
So, from my quarantined cloister, I offer you this written version as you and I prepare for Thanksgiving 2022.  

I call it, “The Sermon I Wrote But Never Spoke”.


As I walked from St. John’s Church in Burlington, Ontario, towards the Parish Hall, somebody said, “They are waiting for you to say grace so people can eat at the BBQ”.

Not wanting to keep people waiting too long, I rushed upstairs and wondered what grace I should say.

In my wallet I carry three graces, two humorous in nature and the third called the World Hunger Grace.

I decided to use the third.

It is attributed to the Girl Guides, initially used in Huron Diocese in Ontario, and repeated often in multiple venues around the world by Archbishop Ted Scott, former Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Here are the words for the World Hunger Grace …

For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear; 
For friends in a world where many walk alone; 
We give you humble thanks, O Lord.

This grace is very fitting for us as we pause and reflect on what we have and who we are as we prepare for our Thanksgiving.

This grace is very fitting in light of the Act passed in Canada’s Parliament on Jan. 31, 1957 – declaring the 2nd Monday in October as: 

"A DAY OF GENERAL THANKSGIVING TO ALMIGHTY GOD
FOR THE BOUNTIFUL HARVEST WITH WHICH CANADA HAS BEEN BLESSED".

This grace is very fitting as it reminds us of what Charles Dickens wrote, “We complain and gripe for 364 days every year and give thanks on one --- it should be the other way around”.


Traditionally HARVEST meant sowing the seeds in the spring and harvesting the crops in the fall, but there are many kinds of harvests in our lives.

Harvest can mean the gathering of crops, as well as the product or results of an action. It can come in the form of financial growth, creative output, or even renewed relationships. 

Think of which harvest applies in your own situation ...


The World Hunger Grace helps us to focus both on what we possess ourselves
and what we can do unto others.

Firstly, FOOD - all we need to live – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual food.

Secondly, FAITH – our value system, our belief in a loving God, our trust in one another’s righteousness.

Thirdly, FRIENDS – who walk with us faithfully, who give us assurance, guidance, compassion, confidence, and encouragement. 

The challenge of the prayer is that while giving thanks for what we have,
we are acknowledging what others do not have and then pledging ourselves to help them.


For those who WALK IN HUNGER - 
We can donate to the food drive, volunteer our services, or send a cheque to help those devasted by floods, hurricanes, fires, droughts, and other dehumanizing conditions.

While stopped at a red light, a man approached my car. As I reached out to give him money, he handed me cards for free coffee from a nearby take out. He said, “I really wasn’t asking for money.” I replied, “I really don’t want the free coffee cards, but I will take them and give them to someone who does.” I think each of us was fulfilling what the prayer is asking us to do.

For those who WALK IN FEAR –
People being bullied, discriminated against for many reasons, forced to choose between heating their homes during winter or proving food for their family, fearful of their job security or the pandemic or wars or the many other situations where people can lose hope and vision - we can be their model and inspiration, showing that that even though we are “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (our worst possible scenario) we are not afraid because we believe in a loving God who is with us at all times, in all places and in every conceivable situation. 

For people who WALK ALONE –
Those living in our city or neighbourhood, those waiting in hospitals, those residing in their own residence or long term care facilities, those coming to church - we can be their friends by welcoming them in person, making a telephone call, sending a card or email, etc. to assure them they are not alone.

Keith decided he would walk with people who were in palliative care facilities. During his visit he would read to them their choice of books, magazines, or papers. Over many years he walked with nearly one hundred people as they walked towards eternity.


This Thanksgiving, as we give thanks for our food, faith, and friends …
let us renew our commitment to help those walking in hunger,
those walking in fear
and those walking alone.

Maybe in your personal prayers, as a grace before your meal or in some other venue,
you can pray silently or aloud or together with others …

For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear; 
For friends in a world where many walk alone; 
We give you humble thanks, O Lord.



(The Reverend Hollis Hiscock is Interim Priest-In-Charge
at St. John’s Church, Burlington, Ontario, Canada.)


Book Review: Joanie, by Elizabeth Deveau 

I always love when I can claim this bias:

I'm friends with this author!

Is there anything more thrilling (and more stressful!)
that being able to review a friend's art?

Gerald and I met Elizabeth Deveau at our first GMA Canada event in Ontario (Gospel Music Association of Canada - the folks who give out the Covenant Awards). Over the years, we've kept in touch, and followed her passionate and prolific music ministry.

Earlier this year, Elizabeth shared that she'd been working on a biography of her mother, Joan. She asked if I could read the book and provide a review.

I jumped at the chance, but yes, there is definitely added stress when you review a friend's work! I've done it a few times over the years. It's both a tremendous honour and responsibility. I know how much time and heart goes into creating art, and I never want to take that effort for granted.

Joanie tells the story of a young girl growing up in troubled times. Joan Crabb and her siblings experience a tumultuous childhood, worthy of any dramatic film script. When Joan is only 6-years-old, the children unexpectedly find themselves living in the orphanage of their home province of Nova Scotia. After several troubled years, they're adopted by a loving couple, only to be ripped away from them years later by the birth-father they barely know.

But Joanie isn't just the story of a troubled childhood.
It's the story of a life redeemed, and the deep love that can grow from a broken heart. 

Joanie is also a love letter. The book is rich with details of Joan's entire life, which must have taken countless hours to collect. As I read, I often imagined Elizabeth sitting with her mother, hearing the stories of her past, and lovingly transcribing them for the ages. 

Reading the comments on the book's Facebook page,
it's clear that Joan had a tremendous impact on her family and her community.
I know this book will be well received, and will celebrate Joan's legacy of love!

You can find out more about Joanie at

www.facebook.com/JoanieBook 


A complimentary e-copy of this book was provided in exchange for an unbiased review.

Book Review: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, by Sara Brunsvold 

I'll admit, the title and cover of this book 
completely pulled me in,
but what I found inside was so worth discovering:

The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip
by Sara Brunsvold
might be one of the most special books
I'll read this year.  

Aidyn Kelly is a young, ambitious reporter looking for her big break. In her enthusiasm, she steps on some toes and is relegated to the menial assignment of interviewing a dying woman and writing her obituary.

But Mrs. Kip is no ordinary woman. Behind her failing body and witty sarcasm beats the heart of spiritual warrior, carrying a story for the ages. This is a woman who's experienced grief, and learned the power of sacrificial love.

I don't want to reveal too much about this book, because I think it's one that really benefits from its own gentle reveal. Like last year's The Nature of Small Birds, it's a book that's driven by character, story, moments, and relationships.

In sharing Mrs. Kip's fictional story, we also delve into a piece of real history. Again, I love the power of historical fiction to shine light on the hidden and lost stories of our past. Strangely enough, it's a story that is still current today.


I highly recommend The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip!

I think it would be a particularly lovely selection for a book club,
especially one open to faith-based discussions.


And, look at all the neat bonus opportunities that come with this book:


Baker Book House is offering a FREE ONLINE AUTHOR'S NIGHT with Sara this Thursday!

You can sign up here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-author-night-with-sara-brunsvold-tickets-374258125127


Signing up for Sara's newsletter gets you some free gifts,
and she even has a neat trailer for the book. 

You can find out more at:

www.SaraBrunsvold.com 


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.