Murder at the Courthouse


*post publishing disclaimer:  I’ve tried to get this so the spacing is correct, and it doesn’t seem to matter what I do, it won’t put spaces between my paragraphs.  If you’re seeing this, too, please know I didn’t do it on purpose and I tried to fix it.  Anyway, here’s the book review….

I just finished reading “Murder at the Courthouse” by A. H. Gabhart.  Ann Gabhart has crafted a wonderful mystery here, which will have you guessing throughout the entire novel.

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When Miss Willadean finds a body on the steps of the Courthouse — the body of a stranger, no less — nothing in Hidden Springs will ever be the same.  Everyone tries to come up with a theory for the deputy, Michael Keane, but they’re all as far-fetched as the one before.  The man was a stranger, and no one knew why he was in Hidden Springs or why he ended up dead.
But when more tragedies strike the sleepy town of Hidden Springs, it all gets a little too personal, and the quest to find the killer leads our deputy on a quest for information you won’t see coming.
Well, I thought I saw it coming…. about half way through the book.  But Gabhart did such a great job of casting suspicion in so many places that I second-guessed myself right out of my theory.  It turned out that one of my theories ended up being correct, but I sure won’t tell you which one.  You’ll have to read it.
This book features a crime you don’t envy Deputy Keane for having to solve, as well as excellent character development and back stories — releasing just the right details at just the right times.
If you’re looking for a wholesome and well-written mystery to keep you on your toes, Ann Gabhart has given that for your reading pleasure.
I highly recommend that you pick up a copy today…. though I also recommend that you not start if you have somewhere important to be in the couple hours that follow.  Especially toward the end of the book, it’s gripping and you won’t want to stop.
I received this book as part of a review blogger program with Graf-Martin Communications, in conjunction with Baker Publishing Group, and I was not required to give a positive review.
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Duck and Cover


It seems to me that every generation has one…. a ridiculous way to placate the masses that they’re all going to be ok when it seems that everything’s absolutely falling to pieces.

When I was in University, I took a course toward my degree called History of the Cold War.  If memory serves correctly, it covered the years 1940-1970.  The range sounds right… anyway, that’s not the point.  I found the course interesting, despite a professor who lacked the ability to hold the attention of a room full of young History majors.

I don’t remember a lot from the course anymore — it’s been a shockingly long time since I sat in a History lecture.  I do remember one afternoon though, when we walked into class and there was a video on the screen, paused and ready to start once lecture started.  Trust me, you think little kids get excited when they find out they’re watching a movie in class?  So do University students.

Especially movies that are going to have them laughing uncontrollably for 9ish minutes.

We’d been talking about the fear that was pervasive about being bombed.  Air raids were a very real threat, and since the world had fairly recently discovered how to go nuclear, it was even more of a fear-inducing possibility.  People built bomb shelters in their yards and basements, ready to run and lock themselves in lead-lined concrete to hide out nuclear winter at a moment’s notice.

Do you remember doing tornado, lock down, and fire drills when you were a kid in elementary school, so that you knew what to do in case of those emergencies?  I know I did, but if you were a kid in 1950s America, you might also remember Duck and Cover drills.

I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  Maybe this wasn’t a real thing.  But that day that we got so excited about a movie in a 3rd year university lecture, we were given the impression that kids in 1950s America did Duck and Cover drills.

If you have 9 spare minutes, prepare to chuckle at the absurdity of the idea that ducking under your desk and covering your head would save you from a nuclear warhead dropping on your school.

Duck and Cover

But what we talked about in that lecture that day was the false sense of security that this PSA (Public Service Announcement) could offer to those who were panic-stricken.  What if?!?!?!?!?!!?

I went out for dinner with my Grandparents this evening, and they said they remember being concerned about being bombed, and Grandma said she doesn’t feel like it’s much different from the fear of refugees not being safe to let into our countries.

But what my Grandma and I talked about next is what drove me to write this post.  Governments and politicians are always looking for ways to convince people that they’re going to be ok in the face of conflict.  Without that skill, there would likely be chaos.  What gets said to try to instill that confidence depends on the politician.  Justin Trudeau (my Prime Minister) is saying he wants to bring in 10,000 properly vetted and secured refugees by the end of 2015 and another 15,000 throughout 2016.  Donald Trump (hopefully not the President of the US) is saying we shouldn’t take refugees at all, though he’d consider it if they were Christians………. This from the man who thinks Starbucks should be boycotted because their holiday cups are red this year, and not Christmasy enough.  For the love.  Really?  That’s another post entirely.

In the face of this, my grandmother has gone to Chapters and bought an Arabic-English visual dictionary, so that when her church is able to interact with the refugee family they’re sponsoring, she can try to communicate with them.  Even in the face of uncertainty, because what if?  Instead of ducking and covering, she’s stretching out her hands.

I want to be my Grandma when I grow up.  For real.  Through the whole conversation, I was so encouraged that there are still people in this world who want to be the hands, feet, and face of Jesus.  People who don’t want to slam the doors of the safety of this country closed because some extremists did some terrible, horrible things.

I’m reminded many times daily lately of the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus talks about feeding the hungry and caring for strangers, those who are sick, and those who are in prison.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

Now, hear me.  I’m not saying fling the doors wide open, don’t do background checks, and leave the due diligence behind.  I’m not saying that.  I don’t believe that would be wise.

But what I am saying — loudly, and as clearly as I can — is that I refuse to let fear tell me to ignore the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the one needing clothes, the sick, or the imprisoned.  I refuse to let fear tell me that because there are risks, I shouldn’t welcome the chance to help a family of refugees start over.  Would I want the same treatment if I were in their position?  Yes.  Do I believe it’s what I’m called to?  Yes.

Is there reason to be fearful?  Probably.  But because I know I’m a child of the King, and because I know fear is not from God, I can safely acknowledge that God isn’t calling me to fear helping those in need.

Am I going to let fear dictate my actions?

No.  The cost of doing so is far too great this time.

Fear can not win.

This bothers me a latte…..


Alright, Western Christian World, please hear me.

The rest of the Western World thinks we’re insane right now.  INSANE.  Now, I say we very loosely, and ONLY because I know that there are many people out there right now shaking their heads because all the crazy Christians are at it again.  You see, the only interest I have in a Starbucks boycott is one that makes my preferred poison a little cheaper.  I have grown up things to buy, and in September I realized I spent 70.00 at Starbucks, and I freaked out a little.  The only good reason I have for a boycott is that my Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte, Soy, No Whip (with Laura written on the cup) costs $6.38 and that’s just crazy.

Not because the cups are red.

Certainly not because the cups are red.

But a pastor in Arizona has decided that it’s a fight worth fighting.

Let me ask a question:  When did Starbucks begin to define our relationship with Jesus?  Because Starbucks sure doesn’t define mine.  In my world, the only place where Jesus and Starbucks intersect is the place where I want to be able to be generous and helpful with the money I’m blessed with, and I can’t do that very well when I dump $70.00 in 30 days on coffee.  The end.

I typically like to stay out of these discussions — the ones where, as a culture, we seem to get all bent out of shape because someone said Happy Holidays to us instead of Merry Christmas, or because Starbucks didn’t put the appropriate number of Snowflakes and Reindeer on their cups this year.  Or maybe it’s because “O Holy Night” isn’t allowed to be sung as widely as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”  I don’t even care.  None of that gets in the way of my relationship with Jesus.  I’ve never been a “Keep Christ in Christmas” kind of person, because none of it ever will.  Christ has always been in my Christmas, and always will be.

And quite frankly, the fact that Christ is not the focus of Starbucks when they plan their November-December advertising campaigns does not surprise me.  You know what would?  A Nativity Scene on a Starbucks cup.  Because Starbucks is not a Christian organization, claiming to believe in or support the message of Jesus.  For the same reason that I don’t expect my politicians to deliver policies and laws that all line up with Biblical principles, I don’t expect Starbucks to advertise with Jesus in mind.  Not Starbucks, not Wal Mart, not anything.  Not unless somewhere in their mission statement they claim to be believers and supporters of the message of Jesus Christ would I expect advertising to reflect that.

Never mind that by very definition, those out there who are freaking out can’t even seem to figure out how to boycott…. I mean, honestly, go to Starbucks and tell the barista your name is “Merry Christmas” so they’ll have to write that on the cup?  The barista doesn’t care!  He or she makes minimum wage to serve you your coffee.  He is not the one who designed the red cup, nor is she the one who makes marketing decisions.  The very fact that you’re STILL BUYING THE COFFEE makes it not a boycott.

I’ve boycotted a few things in my day.  Starbucks happens to be one of them.  You see, last year, of all the atrocities, Starbucks decided not to run the Egg Nog Latte in Ontario.  I joined the #wewantboth Twitter movement.  I wrote angry emails.  And I never once gave in and bought a Gingerbread Latte.  I was done with Starbucks.  Until, of course, they caved under the #wewantboth pressure and released the egg nog latte in late November, and then I drank like 4 a week until Christmas.  #Confessiontime.

I boycotted Boston Pizza once because they charged me 2.00 for a little cup of mayonnaise for my fries when they wouldn’t have charged me at all if I used a whole bottle of ketchup.  They also didn’t tell me that was going to happen when I asked for it.  Granted, I didn’t like Boston Pizza that much to begin with, so I like to use that as a good reason not to go ever again, but it’s mostly because I just don’t want to.

I also boycotted Subway because the Sandwich Artist wouldn’t give me extra green pepper on my egg salad sub when that was the only vegetable I wanted, and said she’d have to charge me double vegetables.  That lasted until the next time I wanted a sub — and the next time I had a different sandwich artist and she seemed to be ok with me wanting extra green peppers instead of anything else.

All this to say — I’m guilty of boycotting restaurants and establishments for unbelievably stupid reasons.

But boycotting Starbucks because they’re waging a war on Christmas?  That’s absurd.  Donald Trump suggested a Starbucks boycott over it, so…. count me out.

However, Ellen DeGeneres did get in on it, and the result was, as usual, awesome.  If you’re not an Ellen fan, just don’t watch the clip… but… satire at its finest.

I am genuinely concerned that we all look crazy.  Can I wave a “I’m not crazy” flag?  There is one portion of Christians who seem to see a war on Christmas everywhere, and may even genuinely believe that they are being persecuted.  Well…. they’re not.

So if you’re one of the people who believes that Starbucks has personally affronted you in some way this season, please keep reading — because I have compiled a wide variety of sources that show just what people think of us right now.

If you’re one of the people who think that believing in Jesus means I am in with the Starbucks boycott — please understand that for a large, huge, giant number of us… this is not true.  Even Candace Cameron Bure got in on the posting action this morning — to confirm that red Starbucks cups have nothing to do with the Christian worldview of Christmas, and that Starbucks is delicious.

Starbucks War on Christmas?

It’s a red cup, folks.

Until Starbucks puts a baby Jesus or nativity scene on the cup while saying Merry Christmas, then pulls it because they say it’s offensive, let’s talk. I don’t remember Starbucks ever being a Christian company, do you?

A Santa, a snowflake, some holly, a polar bear, some jingle bells or plain red cup don’t define Christmas for me as a Christian. My relationship with Jesus does.

So, I will joyfully sip on my Starbucks coffee, in a plain red cup, and instead of complaining about the lack of decorations, I will lovingly share the good news of Jesus Christ with friends and co-workers or anyone who’s willing to engage in conversation.

Merry Christmas to all!

Just…. don’t we have better things to worry about?


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Another Facebook user (Austin Blood) says:

This morning I saw something on The Today Show that absolutely blew my brain. Apparently Starbucks has redesigned the look of their annual holiday cup and people are up in arms over the change. Like, REALLY up in arms. As in folks are so furious that it’s become national news.

Seriously?

Over a cup?

I guess these stiffs are angry because they feel this year’s cup doesn’t accurately represent the holiday season. Gone are the snowflakes, snowmen, and mistletoe from years past and in their place is a simple red cup with a green Starbucks logo. As a result, Starbucks now stands accused of waging a war on Christmas.

ARE YOU PEOPLE FOR REAL?

We’ve got ISIS planting on bombs on passenger planes, children being sold into sexual slavery, millions of Syrian refugees wondering where their next meal will come from and you folks are screaming about a cup?

If that isn’t absurd, I don’t know what is.

Tell me something…

How does this even begin to compare to the REAL problems we face? Like the single mother who struggles to put food on her table? Or the grief-stricken father who’s losing his son to cancer?

There’s absolutely NO comparison.

And it’s only because your life is so blessed and carefree that you even have the luxury of getting your Rudolph the Reindeer knickers in a twist over something so petty. So Starbucks redesigned their cup with a minimalist theme. So what? It’s not a war on Christmas, an assault on your belief system or an attack on traditional values. It’s a cup. Plain and simple.

So here’s a thought for you…

Instead of trying to change the cup, be thankful you can afford the cup. Trust me, the fact that you’re even standing in line at a Starbucks means your life is pretty damn good. So focus on that instead. Life is way too short to get your panties in a wad over something so petty and insignificant.

So now that we’re clear, won’t you join me for a Starbucks coffee with a side of holiday cheer? I certainly hope so. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your shiny red cup.

All the best,

Austin Blood

and while I don’t like the way words like “you people” are thrown around, I have to say, I agree with everything he said… including the picture he posted with his post. #areyouserious?


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So, all this to say:  I’ve been trying to avoid Starbucks because of the cost, but just to satisfy some innate longing to not fall victim to this madness, I’d like to offer anyone who wants to join me in having a Chestnut Praline Latte this week, for no other reason than they’re delicious.

That’s all.

’til you kiss me quiet


oh, this song….. I sing this song at the top of my lungs in the car every time it comes on.

Have you heard this song?  To me, it means a lot.  I don’t know if this is the song’s intent, but it’s like an anthem for every girl who’s every been told she talks too much, and it gives me hope that some day I’ll find someone who will think it’s adorable, and who will shut me up by kissing me instead of rolling his eyes at me and asking if I ever stop talking.

Check it:

Footnote:  Jess Moskaluke has an unbelievable voice.  This isn’t even going to be a humble brag — just a brag — but I don’t normally find that I struggle to sing along with much that I listen to.  There are only two female artists I can think of in the country market that I really struggle to belt with.  One is Carrie Underwood, and the other is Jess Moskaluke.  Huge respect.

Here are the lyrics.