Content from this blog has moved to www.michellerayburn.com.

11.29.2011

Advent Calendar Idea

As we begin unpacking the boxes of Christmas decorations and getting ready for the holidays. I found a sweet project for an magnetic Advent calendar that you might want to try with your family. It uses decorative papers and little candy favor tins (found at most craft stores in the cake decorations). The idea I found online at Makoodle has a free download for the number papers as well as instructions. It also has a download for papers for little activities to have inside the tins.

If you don't have the metal 12 by 12 sheet the tutorial mentions, an old cookie sheet or a metal serving tray can easily be spray painted and it will work great!

11.22.2011

Muppet Movie Celebration - Fun Everyday Ideas

Tomorrow, the latest Muppet Movie hits theaters and our family has always liked the Muppets. I was born the year Sesame Street started, and I grew up watching that and the Muppet Show. I can't wait to see the new movie! I couldn't resist sharing this practical and fun idea for a muppet party. 

Aren't these cakes and cookies from Amy at Living Locurto adorable?
The post from Amy includes free printables, decoration ideas, lots more snack ideas, and lots of fun. See the full post for tutorials.

11.09.2011

Author Interview and Free Chapter from Davis Bunn

About Book of Dreams   
For Dr. Elena Burroughs, life is divided into two chapters—before and after the death of her husband. Today marks the point that her span of being a wife is equal to her span of being a widow. Even her success as a psychologist and her worldwide acclaim for a book on the interpretation of dreams is dimmed by an unspoken “If only.”
Then a new patient arrives, one so private only her first name is given. Impeccably dressed and escorted by two bodyguards, Sandra recounts a frightening series of recurrent nightmares. Elena agrees to consider her case more carefully, convinced that something ominous may be at work here.
Elena's interpretation of Sandra’s dreams confirms that, indeed, the new patient and her family confront a powerful global network of dangerous forces. As the story unfolds, they face a key question of the Christian life: How do you understand and fulfill the will of God?

Read the first chapter of the book online for FREE: Chapter 1

About the Author 
Davis Bunn did his undergraduate studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where he earned honors degrees in both economics and psychology. He then travelled to London, where he continued this dual approach, earning a Master of Science degree in both industrial psychology and international economics. After teaching at a Swiss university for a year, he entered into a business career that took him to more than 40 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Davis came to faith at age 28, and began writing two weeks later. Before that point, he had never written anything longer than a business report. He wrote for nine years and completed seven novels before the first was accepted for publication. That book was The Presence, released by Bethany House in 1991. Davis and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write. Visit Davis at www.davisbunn.com

Q & A with Davis Bunn
Your novels usually have a very strong sense of place, and Book of Dreams is no exception. Why did you set this story in Oxford? 

When it became possible for us to live from the writing, Isabella and I moved to Oxford. She had been offered a position to do her doctorate here in Christian ethics and law.
I did not particularly want to come, but she was so instrumental in making my own dreams of becoming a writer take wing and fly. Her dream for years had been to obtain her PhD and teach. That’s just the kind of mind she has.
The city and the university have become a true gift to us both, with amazing opportunities for service and personal growth. I have wanted to place a story here for a long time.

In Book of Dreams, you revisit a theme from one of your earlier books, The Warning. Why did you write about the crisis in the banking industry?

The Warning, published in 2003, focused on the then-current financial crisis. It was about a man who felt called by God to warn people that financial upheaval was coming, and the difficulties he had in getting his message across. That book was in the top five on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) best-seller list for 14 months.
 The week I started writing Book of Dreams, the news broke that not one single banker responsible for the mortgage crisis and bank crisis had been convicted of a crime. The banking industry came out of this crisis relatively unscathed while 3 million American families lost their homes — that’s almost 15 percent of all homeowners in America. That, to me, is just not right.
The banking industry is all about self-interest and making money. The American banking industry spends $1 million a day lobbying Congress, while the international banking industry spends another million per day lobbying the American political system. With that much money on the table, there’s a potential for huge profits – the banking industry wouldn’t invest that much money for any other reason.
The question became: “What could happen that would stymie this self-absorbed lobbying?”
The answer: An independent commission that would oversee these transactions so there’d be nowhere for these people to hide. I built Book of Dreams around that premise.

Book of Dreams explores the question: “Where does the human psyche end and God begin?” Why did you choose that question as the framework for your story?

Psychology has always fascinated me; so much so that it almost became my profession. One question I love to explore is why so many psychologists are vehemently opposed to the idea of a personal faith.
Those in the camp opposed to faith and religion say that psychology is about wrestling with and identifying personal issues, emotions, and things from the past that block one from being happy. Opponents believe that when you insert faith into the situation, it serves as an excuse for not looking at the past, not being honest about one’s emotions, and not taking control of one’s life.
On the other side, there is a deepening within a group of psychologists and psychiatrists who are strong in their faith. Rather than trying to convince the larger group about the value of faith, their goal is to look at things honestly, with God and prayer as components of the healing process.
In my story, the main character, Elena Burroughs, is the world’s foremost authority on dreams. A psychologist who is deeply involved in current trends in human psychology, Elena is also a devoted believer. She is in the process of discovering that the barrier between God and the human psyche does not exist.

Your story explores how God uses dreams and visions to communicate with people. What inspired that idea?

My wife and I did a wonderful Bible study on the book of Daniel, in which we explored how dreams were one component of Daniel’s gift of prophecy.
When I wrote the book, I tried to build in two key components about communicating with God through dreams or visions. The first is humility. Rather than using a vision or dream for one’s own aggrandizement, I believe that the less the person is involved, the more God can shine through.
The second component is, “How does this vision tie in to the scriptures?” When I was in the Middle East, I saw beautiful cryptograms of the Lord’s Prayer. It was so telling to see the Lord’s Prayer in terms of artwork. This inspired the idea of a book written in Aramaic – the language Jesus spoke – with each verse of Lord’s Prayer on one page of the book.
As I drafted the story, I looked at the Lord’s Prayer one verse at a time and that became my prayer time. It took three months to write the book and I did not finish the Lord’s Prayer in three months. It was a beautiful experience for me.

When the character of Elena follows God’s lead, her life takes a different path than the one she planned or expected. Davis, in what ways does your own dependence on God’s leading take you in surprising directions? 


It’s remarkable how this question comes up now, because it seems like this entire year has been one of being open to God’s OTHER direction. This has been true both in my creative work and in my walk of service.
Obviously I had no idea what was in store for us when I wrote the Book of Dreams (remember, the story is completed between nine and twelve months before its publication). But this really has been a reflection of what the story has tried to reveal – that sometimes the most important gift is what at first is what we fear.
Change often feels threatening, but so long as we struggle, we can’t see the true divine intention. To arrive at this point, where our prayer becomes one of genuinely seeking God’s call and His illumination, we must first embrace the change that is there in front of us.
 
Is a sequel for Book of Dreams planned? If so, when can we expect it?

I am this very moment completing the sequel, which is entitled Hidden in Dreams. Howard/Simon and Schuster have this slated for release in July 2012.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

My website, blog, and interactive discussion group are at www.davisbunn.com
I update my blog at least three times per week. To subscribe to my latest posts via your feed reader or via email, click http://feeds.feedburner.com/DavisBunn
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Davis-Bunn-author/134762129885578
Twitter: @davisbunn - http://twitter.com/davisbunn

11.08.2011

Book Review - Book of Dreams by Davis Bunn

Have you ever had a recurring dream? Imagine if you shared a dream with another person whom you had never met? The world of dreams is mysterious and difficult to comprehend, but there are some who attempt to interpret dreams.

In Book of Dreams, Dr. Elena Burroughs, a young widow who is a psychologist at Oxford University, was known as a foremost authority on dreams. Her best-selling book titled The Book of Dreams had sold millions of copies and she made numerous speaking appearances at sold-out events until she lost her husband.


Elena hides in the mundane work of clinical appointments until she receives a referral for a high profile client with an unusual recurring dream. Around the same time, she received a set of copies of a book that is hundreds of years old. The instruction with the books—study one page until it speaks to you. The gilded vellum pages of the books, or plates, contained the words of the Lords Prayer in Aramaic. 

Through the divine power revealed in the ancient book, Elena begins an exciting journey that puts her at the center of an international conspiracy. When she begins to share the dream of several others, their worlds collide in such a way to bring them together for the sake of a cause that will forever bond them.

Davis Bunn has once again created an action-packed fantasy that weaves together scriptural principles with the art of fiction to create a moving story of God’s power. It’s the story of emotional healing for a women consumed by grief as well as a demonstration of how God can work all things out for his glory. At the cost of losing it all, one American Ambassador and a financial advisor to Rome hold fast to their integrity. And they nearly do lose it all. I like how this book can inspire leaders and politicians to take risks to stand up for what is right. It inspires with the message that God is still in control, even when it seems like all is lost.

Some readers might have a difficult time with the fantasy aspects of the book. As with many authors in this genre, Davis Bunn has a fantastic imagination and he takes the reader on an adventure of the mind. It’s important to remember that it’s fiction. If there is any lesson to be learned from the book, it isn’t about any theology related to these supernatural events. It’s from the idea that readers, like Elena, can discover that a life fully surrendered to the will of God is a life worth living.

I think both men and women will enjoy this book, and I can totally see it as a movie.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from the publicist.

Watch for Q&A with the author plus a free sample chapter from the book on tomorrow's post.

11.04.2011

Surpassing the Kardashians - Hot Topics Friday

My husband's grandparents have been married for 74 years. Kim Kardashian was married for 72 days.

I've never watched the show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" but the family is featured on the news a lot. Mom of the crew, Kris Kardashian-Jenner is married to former Olympian Bruce Jenner. Yeah, the guy who used to be on the Wheaties box when I was in third grade. I looked at him in his moment of victory every morning.

The Kardashian/ Jenner family tree is complicated. Kris has 4 children with her late first husband. Jenner has 4 children from two previous marriages. And together, they have two children. Whew! That's a lot to keep up with.

This week, the news headlines have gone crazy over Kris Jenner's daughter Kim Kardashian. Are you thinking, who cares? Well I do. Because if I'm supposed to keep up with these Kardashians, I want to know where they're headed. 

You know I'm not serious about keeping up, right? It's Hollywood, even if it's called reality TV, there's nothing real about it. But we can learn something from the news headlines.  After 72 days of marriage, Kim Kardashian announced this week that she is divorcing famous husband, Kris Humphries, a player for the NBA's New Jersey Nets.

I want to challenge people all over America, not to keep up with the Kardashians, but to surpass them. 

The Challenge
  • For the married, commit to your marriage and take that commitment seriously. Marriage is a complicated thing and it takes work.
  • For the unmarried, remember that a million dollar wedding can't fix a cheap relationship. There's no way a relationship goes sour in only 72 days. The problem had to have been there on the day they said their vows.
  • For the young girls, and women who watch the show, forget about keeping up. Set the bar higher and aspire to a relationship with someone who respects you and treats you like a princess daughter of Jesus. Anything less is a waste of your time.
  • For the men who care about the Kardashian story, remember a woman's beauty doesn't come from fashion, hair or fake eyelashes. It comes from a pure heart that loves the Lord.
Forget about reality TV. Let's make our reality something that surpasses the Kardashians.

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