Announcing my next book : Big Time Rush!

Big Time Rush is a popular singing group with a show on Nickelodeon channel

Big Time Rush is a popular singing group with a show on Nickelodeon channel

I’m excited to announce the publication of my 2 newest books for children! I’ll give them each their proper due by announcing them separately. Look for the other book’s announcement in a few days! You’ll love it!

Big Time Rush—Beacon Biography

This is a 32-page chapter book that is full-color, library-bound and gorgeous! As a middle school librarian, I ordered it for my school and encourage it as a book for reluctant readers.

It is produced by Purple Toad Publishing. This is a new publisher that really knows what it’s doing!

I’m proud to promote this singing group which makes me laugh during its show on Nickelodeon channel by the same name. Yes, I know I’m an adult but I like innocent screwball comedy!

My goal is to promote good role models with my writing. That’s what I’ve found with the members of Big Time Rush. I won’t write about someone who is not a good role model.

Big Time Rush is a popular singing group with a show on Nickelodeon channel

Big Time Rush is a popular singing group with a show on Nickelodeon channel

You may have seen James Maslow on Dancing with the Stars (he’s on the right in the top row on the cover). Good moves!

Several people – including students! — have complimented this book. I’ve already sold several during book talks and am arranging more speaking engagements for children and adults. If you’d be interested in arranging an author visit with me for your school or library or club, please contact me.

That’s not all! The books are also available in ebook format as well as hard copy! You can order them through most distributors (Amazon, Baker & Taylor, etc) and through the publisher.

Purple Toad Publishing

Here is ordering information:
Big Time Rush
ISBN 9781624690105
Ebook ISBN 9781624690297
Big Time Rush is offered as part of a 7-book series.

This and my other 10 books are educational tools that will entice your child/student to read and learn more about the world – and hopefully read more!

If you have questions about these books or my other titles, please let me know. Information about my 3 Greek gods books, biographies on Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and my Recipe and Craft Guide to Indonesia is available throughout this blog.

I love providing fascinating reading material for kids! Woo hoo!


Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Twila Paris Share Views of Contemporary Christian Music

Does Contemporary Christian music meet needs of today's church?

Does Contemporary Christian music meet needs of today’s church?


“Contemporary Christian music lacks depth. The words repeat too many times.”


“I don’t like contemporary Christian music at all. It’s too fast and too loud.”


“Contemporary Christian music is all I listen to and I listen to a lot of different artists.”



If there is one subject the evangelistic Church seems to be divided on, it is the subject of contemporary Christian music (we’ll refer to it as CCM for brevity).


Most church members have some opinion on the subject, and depending on one’s location, background, personal tastes, the responses will vary.


Part of CCM’s popularity may be due to the down-to-earth subject matter in many of the lyrics.


Christian contemporary music groupZoegirl.

Christian contemporary music groupZoegirl.

When Kristin Swinford and the other two members of ZOEgirl took a missions trip to Ecuador with a group of teenage girls in 2004, they discovered a well-spring of gritty subject matter. “There were poignant evenings as the girls shared their struggles, pains, joys, and sorrows,” recalls Swinford. “We knew if they had gone through these sad situations, other girls around the world had too.” The trio then recorded songs to address those needs (no names were used so the teens’ privacy was protected).


Christian contemporary music songwriter and singer Chris Tomlin.

Christian contemporary music songwriter and singer Chris Tomlin.

Some CCM artists prefer to deliver a softer message of love and hope. Chris Tomlin ( is considered one of this era’s top songwriters for the church. His string of popular choruses — “Forever,” “How Great is our God,” “We Fall Down,” and “The Wonderful Cross” — are sung by millions weekly.


During an interview, Tomlin said his songwriting technique was nothing complex. “I try to write songs in a clear way that people can understand and they can sing to after hearing once or twice,” he says.


Other times Tomlin has used the Bible for inspiration. When writing Arriving, Tomlin used the words of Isaiah 40: “Thunder in the desert! Prepare for God’s arrival!” Isaiah 40 (The Message)


“We’re like this landing strip in the desert for our great incredible God to arrive on,” says Tomlin. “(We’re) a way for Him to come into people’s lives.”


Christian contemporary music songwriter and singer Phil Joel, former guitarist for The Newsboys.

Christian contemporary music songwriter and singer Phil Joel, former guitarist for The Newsboys.

Still other CCM artists prefer to reach listeners with a rock sound and lyrics that focus on Jesus Christ. While growing up in New Zealand, Phil Joel, former guitarist for popular contemporary Christian music group The Newsboys (, listened  to pioneers in the contemporary Christian music movement — Keith Green, Altar Boys, Petra, Whiteheart.


Joel acknowledged the positive influence those early bands had on him as a young Christian. “They helped me know the difference between what to put in my mind and what not,” he recalls. “They filled my mind with good things.” Today, Joel ministers to Christians around the world with a call to pursue one-on-one relationships with the Lord (


Christian contemporary music songwriter and singer Steven Curtis Chapman.

Christian contemporary music songwriter and singer Steven Curtis Chapman.

Steven Curtis Chapman (, another popular Christian music songwriter and singer, has used his CCM performer status to advance the cause of international adoption (


While the question of how music should be played differs among CCM artists, ultimately it comes down to the message.


Christian contemporary music songwriter and singer Twila Paris.

Christian contemporary music songwriter and singer Twila Paris.

Twila Paris (, who penned 22 No. 1 singles, some of which have been included in modern-day hymnals, believes there is a place in church for different types of music. “Sometimes at my church 20-year-olds will lead worship using alternative Christian music. I say to myself, ‘Wow, here is the next generation joyfully praising God. They’re responding to that music in their hearts. Am I open to what God is doing through this?’”


With the diversity of CCM artists and music available, the dilemma of trying to satisfy everyone with the style and content of contemporary Christian music may never be resolved.


Chris Tomlin may have summed it up when he said: “Since I was 13, I’ve felt called to write songs for the church. I look back at the years since I started recording and see how I’ve grown. It’s incredible. It has all been God.”


What’s your opinion of the CCM? Do you listen to it? Who is your favorite CCM artist and why?


The End


Note: Parts of this article were featured in The Lookout Magazine, published by Standard Publishing.














Ossian Church of the Nazarene Moves Into the Future

OCN 10-12 (2)

In December 2012 the editor of the Bluffton News-Banner asked me to begin a weekly column of stories about churches in Wells County (IN). It’s been a delight talking with pastors from the 65 (yes 65!) churches in this county. Since talking with Pastor Bob Miller of the Ossian Church of the Nazarene, I’ve run into several people who attend his church. Everyone is a delight and I can see this church growing as it continues to offer so many services and helps to people in the Ossian area. If you live in Ossian, please visit. My grandparents, Edna and John Archbold, used to attend here and my cousin Marilyn Lindquist was married here. It’s a great place.


According to an essay printed in an Ossian Church of the Nazarene newsletter, the congregation began as the result of a tent revival in Ossian in 1927. As the congregation grew, it moved to a house, post office, and finally to its own building built by church members. Betty Yaney, author of the essay, added that the congregation has been led by 26 ministers and several members have chosen ministry as a profession.

For 85 years the town of Ossian has had a Nazarene Church in its midst—sometimes in a tent, house, upstairs hall, or brick building. In November 2012 the congregation located at 302 N. Metts St. conducted a Celebrational Service at the church building.

Pastor Bob Miller hosted the event with former members and pastors in attendance. Reverend Frank Garton who preached at the church from 1965 through 1974 and who now lives in Illinois offered a closing prayer. Dr. David Roland, Wesleyan Church District Superintendent from Marion, Indiana, also attended.

Miller estimated 200 people attended the event. The congregation currently averages 80 in attendance. A catered lunch and concert by the Northmen from Fort Wayne rounded out the day’s activities.

Visitors could inspect historic items from the church’s history. “We dug up the time capsule buried outside the church when this building was constructed in 1975,” said Miller. Items in the time capsule included photos of church members and Ossian community and other memorabilia.

On the day of the Celebrational Service church leaders re-buried the time capsule with photos of the current congregation and building, landmarks around Ossian, current church directory and a CD of the Celebrational Service.

Miller was excited not only about the opportunity to delve into the church’s history but to create a new presence in the community. “We are moving to a blended worship service with old and new tunes during Sunday worship service,” he said. “We’re incorporating drums, guitars, and keyboard and using a 65-inch screen with lyrics during the song time.” Normal worship time each Sunday is 10:30 a.m. Sunday School for adults and children is held at 9:30 a.m. with a Sunday Night Bible Study and Wednesday night services for all ages. Steve Jones is Assistant Pastor.

For more information about the Ossian Church of the Nazarene go to or call the church office at 260.622.7449, or email the church at The church is on Facebook at ocn.

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Interview with Christian band Third Day’s David Carr

As a Features reporter I have the opportunity to interview musical groups to come to the Fort Wayne (IN) area. Here is a story for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper with David Carr from the well-established and totally-sold-out-to-God Christian band Third Day. Let me know if you’re a fan of this group.   I know I am!




“The perspective of a performance is different for the fan than for the performer,” said David Carr, drummer for the Christian musical group Third Day. “My personal goal in performing is to glorify God through my playing of the drums. If I do my part of the machine and do it well, I know someone will be touched and blessed in the name of Jesus Christ. Our band’s goal is to present people with the hope, grace, mercy, and blessing of being in God’s presence. People have told us they experience that at our shows.”



For 20 years Carr and other members of Third Day, a Grammy-award winning group, includes lead singer Mac Powell, acoustic guitarist Mark Lee, bassist Tai Anderson. They have traveled throughout the country playing music that emphasizes God’s love for people. With their longevity Carr and the other members of Third Day now see generations of followers at each concert. “In the beginning our music catered more to youth,” said Carr. “Today we see people from age four to 84 years old at our concerts. It fees good to have that much appeal.”


With thousands of performances behind them Carr admitted the band focuses on keeping its music and message fresh at each concert. “We strive to remember our worst night of performing might be a fan’s best night,” he said. “Even though we’ve played some songs a thousand times, we pray every night God would make them fresh and bless our audiences. We never know what God will do with our music.”


A native of Atlanta, Carr began drumming at age 11 on a neighbor’s drum set. After receiving a set of his own, Carr played top hits and hard metal until becoming a Christian in high school. From that point Carr said he pursued music that glorified God. During a missions trip to Mexico, he saw people in need of a faith in God. “It was appealing to me,” he recalled. “I was hungry for God and began to feel a deeper need for Him.”


As a college student, Carr considered using his interest in music to become a music producer. Strangely enough, he also thought of being a Spanish teacher. When he and the other Third Day members dropped out of college to pursue their music, they had no idea they would someday release eleven albums (their latest is Revelation) and win an American Music Award (2008). Carr takes no credit for the band’s success. “As a person of faith, I feel God is in control,” he said. “We have choices, but He’s sovereign. I give Him credit. He’s continued to pour opportunities on us. The direction our careers have gone was not something we could have done.”


For more information on Third Day go to


The End

This article appeared in the News-Sentinel 10/19/11.




Joan Swartz- pianist extraordinaire

Joan Swartz is one of the best piano players in the world — at least in my opinion. She can play hymns and other songs that make you cry with the emotion she puts into each stanza. She’s a lovely lady inside and out. This article appeared in the last issue of Sr. Living/ News-Banner.

Joan Swartz has played piano at the First Church of Christ for 70 years.

Joan Swartz of Bluffton has played the piano at the First Church of Christ in Bluffton for 70 years. Born in Garrett, Indiana, in 1929, she began playing at age 12 when her parents, Tressie and Ralph Zimmerman, moved to Wells County for employment.

 “The congregation wanted to sing the hymn ‘Living for Jesus’ and their pianist could not play it,” she said. “Someone told them I could play it. I’ve been playing the piano for church services ever since.”

At that time the First Church of Christ, founded in 1921, was located in the 100 block of West Cherry. The Zimmermans were among the handful of members who attended regularly. Today, the church is located at the corner of Spring Street and Clark Avenue.

Even though Joan Swartz’s public musical talent began at age 12, she had exhibited a natural desire to play at age five by creating songs on her family’s piano. “People told Mom I needed lessons,” said Swartz. During the next 12 years, she took piano and accordion lessons, the latter being another musical instrument she enjoyed playing. “One week I had a lesson on the piano, the next was a lesson on the accordion,” she said. Later, after taking four organ lessons, she added that musical instrument to her repertoire. With no organ at home to practice, Swartz practiced on the one belonging to the  church.

Even at a young age Swartz was unafraid of playing for groups. “I have always loved to play piano,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing it for God.”

At age 17 Swartz graduated from high school and married Ervin Jr. (“Tootie”) Swartz whom she had met on a blind date. They lived in Bluffton and became parents to three daughters. Ervin worked at Bluffton Grocery on West Cherry Street (this later became Food Marketing in Fort Wayne, then SuperValu). Joan stayed home with the children until the last one started school. Then she worked at Caylor-Nickel Clinic as a receptionist for 34 years. She retired at age 62. Joan and Ervin had four granddaughters and several great-grandchildren. Sadly, Ervin died in May 2011.

Joan continues to use her musical talent for weddings, funerals, community events and church services. At the last she plays the organ while Evelyn Sprinkle plays piano.

She also plays in area nursing homes. “That has brought me more joy than playing the piano in church,” she said. She plays songs from the 1930s and 1940s, as well as gospel. “It seems to bring a small amount of joy to the lives of the residents,” she said. “They really like old hymns.”

Some of Swartz’s favorite hymns to play are ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’, and ‘I Don’t Know about Tomorrow’. “Sometimes I’ll get up to play a song in the middle of the night and that will be my favorite song for a while,” she said. “I love songs with beautiful melodies and words.”

While Swartz doesn’t feel her talent is great, she does feel she has a responsibility to use it to serve others. “I think God gave me this talent and it gives me joy to use it for what he created me. Everyone should use their talents for the Lord.”

Joan Swartz has created three CDs of her piano music that are available for purchase. ‘Heart and Soul’ and ‘Love and Joy’ contain music from the 1930s through 1950s and gospel. The third is a 2-disc set, comprised of one CD of gospel and one CD of 1930s through 1950s tunes. The CDs sell for $7.00 or 2/$10.00. Contact Swartz at 824.3669.

The End

Mandy & I Present Demonstration of the Culture of Indonesia

Last night my daughter Mandy & I presented a talk/demo about Indonesia to patrons of the Wells County Public Library. We showed Indonesian items Mandy has brought home and talked about the importance of crafts in that culture. I then showed some of the crafts middle school students made with me for my book, Recipe and Craft Guide to Indonesia.

Mandy showed a vid of her performing Balinese dancing

We also had samples of authentic Indonesian snacks like mini- mango puddings for students to try. Some of the spicy-hot peanuts were intimidating, but the packaging of the snacks was beautiful!

This student loved the thick, green avocado juice! It was like a smoothie.

The wonderful library staff helped us set up and advertise our presentation. We appreciate their support and smiling faces!

Wells Co Public Library staff made the Avocado Juice, a drink popular in Indonesia.

It was so much fun showing students how to play an angklung, and watch them try new things like the avocado juice. We ended the evening by making shadow puppets.

These sisters loved making the shadow puppet which is a part of Indonesian culture in several villages.

My friend Cathy Shouse and her daughter Katelyn and friends drove an hour to attend our presentation. I'm touched!

My good friend Cathy Shouse brought her daughter Katelyn and some of her special friends  from Fairmount. Long trip but thanks for coming!

Thanks to everyone who attended!

Mandy & I stand behind an angklung. Projects from 'Recipe & Craft Guide to Indonesia' book are to the side.

Jordan Steffen dances to a new level

Bluffton resident Jordan Steffen is quite the celebrity. As a ballroom dancer, he has been featured in two magazines, including the cover! I’m not a dancer but I think he could make me look good! Keep it up, Jordan! Those of you who know Jordan may feel free to leave encouraging messages for him here to read.

Dance partners Jessica Gallmyer and Jordan Steffen


Nearly everyone in the US is familiar with the TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’. Well-known for more than a decade, the show pairs celebrities with professional dancers. Each couple competes against the others for judges’ points. The audience votes for their favorite couple and based on the combined total of points and votes, couples are eliminated, leaving one winning dance pair.

One Bluffton resident, Jordan Steffen, got a small taste of what it would be like to be on the show while   participating in a ballroom dancing event in summer 2010. Steffen was one of more than 100 Special Olympics dancers to compete in the Special Olympics Indiana Ballroom Championships held in Fort Wayne on July 31 and August 1 at the Grand Wayne Center. The event, the third of its kind to be held annually in Fort Wayne, was part of the USA Dance Competition. Dancers from Special Olympics and the USA Dance Competition took turns throughout the two-day event dancing for judges on the competition dance floor. Approximately 500 people from various counties in Indiana watched the dancers and cheered after each dance.

Steffen, wearing a black shirt and white tie, alternated between dances with two female partners, Sabrina Hart and Jessica Gallmyer. Each pair took first place, earning ribbons in recognition for their participation.

That was not all of Steffen’s recognition as a dancer. His status was elevated when the Fort Wayne event was featured in the September/October issue of American Dancer magazine and Steffen was photographed on the cover.

Jordan Steffen displays American Dancer magazine and Senior Life magazine. Both feature photos of him

Steffen, 26, was further acknowledged as a proficient dancer when he was photographed in a recent issue of Senior Life magazine at Renaissance Ballroom Dance Studio in Ossian. The article was a profile about Vivian Hans, President of USA Dance Fort Wayne Dancesport #2046. “Vivian asked Jordan to be featured in the magazine article about her,” said Marlise Steffen, Jordan’s mother.

Jordan Steffen began taking ballroom dancing lessons as part of a class for special needs students at Renaissance in 2008. During his first year of classes, Marlise was his partner. As the only mother and son combo, the pair competed in 2009 in the Special Olympics Indiana Ballroom Championships and earned a second place rating.  

Marlise Steffen praises Dave Cowdrey of Renaissance for his exceptional teaching ability of ballroom dancing to the class of special needs adults. “He was very positive in teaching them this activity which is great physical exercise and good for the memory,” she said.

Steffen with (l-r)Amy Isch, Bree Simonovic, and Tifany Jackson during Special Olympics Indiana Ballroom Championships

Others from Wells County who participate in the dance lessons at Renaissance with Jordan are Amy Isch, Tifany Jackson, and Bree Simonovic.

Steffen, who was a member of the JV show choir at Bluffton High School and managed the basketball team for five years, can dance the rumba, cha cha, foxtrot and waltz. “My favorite is the waltz,” he said. “I like the rhythm.”

One can guess his favorite TV show. “I never miss ‘Dancing with the stars’,” he confessed. He has taken a break from lessons since the summer competition. Soon he will be back to the Renaissance Studio for more lessons later this year. “It was a lot of fun and I love to dance,” he said.

The End