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: It's Okay Not To Be Okay, by Sheila Walsh 

Two book reviews in one week!
Looks like my New Year's goal to read 2 books a month is paying off...

Today, we're looking at It's Okay Not To Be Okay, by acclaimed speaker, musician, and author, Sheila Walsh.

"It's easy to fall; it takes courage to rise up and take the next step."

This quote from Sheila's dedication really sets up the heart of this book: taking the next step. We all fall in life, and pretending we won't doesn't fix things; it actually makes them worse. You can't fake yourself well.

Sheila calls for an honest, open-hearted pouring out before God. Only then, can we begin to find healing. And the goal is never to depend on ourselves alone.

This is a process that is God-based, God-centred, and God-filled. 

What I really loved about this book is Sheila's compassionate, authentic voice. While sharing wisdom, she's also sharing her story and her heart. At one point I actually thought, "Yes, I'd love to hang out with this woman!" Her humour and transparency help guide you through a challenging but ultimately uplifting journey.

This is a practical and inspirational book, but it's also an intimate journey of the heart. 

Many years ago, I experienced a long and difficult journey with grief that left me "not okay" for a long time. I think this would have been a great book for me to have read during that time.

Right now, I know there are woman going through a similar time of "not okay." 
I pray this book will find them now...



I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Battle Ready, by Kelly Balarie 

It's been a while since I've reviewed a book!

Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt, and Live Victoriously starts with a bold intention, to "...train our minds to conquer uncertainty, beat insecurity, and step past the tragedies of yesterday."

This book isn't meant for speed reading. It's actually a beautifully laid out, 12-step plan to literally change the way you think and approach the world. Kelly's writing is steeped in Scripture, so you never doubt her source or her focus.

I have to say:
I love a book with a beautiful table of contents! 
There's something about great chapter names 
that gets me excited to read on... 

Kelly lays out her plan using her table of contents, step by step and topic by topic. "Possibility," "Identity," and "Sensitivity" are just your starting points.  Make sure you take a few moments to read these pages and prepare your heart for what's to come. And as you work your way through the book, this table of contents can serve as a reference for quick reminders and recaps of lessons learned.

And I love how at the end of your journey,
after starting with "Possibility," 
your final step is "Impossibility."

Each chapter takes you through the topic, giving you a greater understanding of how to change your negative thinking into a positive, Scripture-strenghtened mindset. You'll be supported in your journey by themed prayers, application questions, and even special activities for group study. Online, you can access videos and other free downloadable resources.

Kelly delivers heavy material in a light and accessible way. Recognizing the weight of the work, she actually gives you several "Intermissions", so you can take a moment to breathe and rest. Like a "selah" in the Psalms.

One quick caveat: this is definitely a book written for a female audience. Although I appreciate the desire for a focused audience, I really feel the material could be applicable for anyone. In some ways, I wish the book had been written in a gender-neutral style.

That said,  Battle Ready is an inspiring book that, when properly digested, could be a powerful force for change in your life.



I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


WORLD PREMIERE of our NEW RADIO SINGLE! 

Monday, we're releasing our new radio single: 
MY SOUL IS SPOKEN FOR


We're so excited about this song!
Gerald cowrote this soulful tune with GRAMMY Nominee, Sue C. Smith, 
and the track has a fantastic guest performance by Juno Nominee, Drew Brown.

For the official release, we're excited to partner with our friends at
Joy 1250 in Toronto for a New Music Monday!

The world broadcast premiere will happen on 
The Drive with James Kurtis.

Tune in at 3:00pm EST to hear Behind The Music
featuring our new album, The Beauty Of The One, 
and the stories behind our latest songs.

Then, catch the single one more time during your afternoon drive 
on The Rush with Davina Japaul.

Joy 1250 is also featuring three CD Giveaways! 
Listen for your chance to call in and win a FREE copy of 
The Beauty Of The one.

Broadcasting in Southern Ontario at 1250 on your radio dial, 
or listen online at JoyRadio.fm

We're releasing worldwide, so please call or email 
your local Christian radio station and request 
My Soul Is Spoken For by Infinitely More!


My Soul Is Spoken For is available for purchase or download at
or iTunes

You can hear a preview of the song HERE

If you're a radio station and would like to play 
My Soul Is Spoken For
please CONTACT us for the official download link.

Thank you for supporting our new music!


Happy Summer! Time To Make Your New Year's Resolutions... 


Happy July! We’re six months into 2018…

Have you broken your New Year’s resolutions yet?



I can hear the collective guffaw. Maybe you lasted 'til just after the ball dropped? Or perhaps you were strong enough to make it to breakfast. After all, how can you give up sweets when your house is still filled with holiday baking?

So many of us start the year with great expectations, only to have them fall by the wayside before we’ve even taken down our Christmas tree.

So let me lay this out there: 

Why do we only make "New Year’s" resolutions?

Yes, I get the power of making a fresh start at the top of the year, but as we all know, this doesn’t guarantee success.

What if, instead, we made 
New Year’s resolutions in the summer?

Here are 3 reasons why I think we should all start 
our New Year’s resolutions in the middle of the year:


#1. No Holiday Craziness.

The holidays are awesome, but let’s be honest: they can be wild! Weeks of parties, shopping, activities, visitors, entertaining, and overeating. Those of us who work in entertainment, ministry, or retail work double time. And then there are days off and vacations and all kinds of other things that knock our standard routines out of whack.

Right now, you’ve got a good sense of your 2018 routine. You’ll probably have some change over the summer, but you should still have a good sense your flow. This is a great time to evaluate what’s working and what’s not.


#2. Six is Easier than Twelve

The idea of creating a 12-month plan is intimidating to most people, so why do we insist on doing it? Tony Robbins famously said that most people will “overestimate what they can accomplish in a year.” Overestimating can leave you feeling discouraged and can shut down your energy.

Instead, just look at the next six months. Even better, break it down into two 3-month periods or three 2-month periods. What are the things that are important in this upcoming season? How can you make goals and resolutions to enhance and support these projects? What is a reasonable change you can implement in this time?


#3. No One is Talking About Goals Right Now

What are we all asking on January 1? “What are your resolutions?” and “Have you broken your resolutions yet?” That's fun fodder for jokes, but let’s be honest - they’re not great questions for serious goal setting.

This is the perfect time to set your goals in quiet. Derek Sivers actually suggests that keeping your goals to yourself will increase your change of success (See his fantastic TED Talk HERE.) Sketch out your ideas and write out a plan (studies also show that writing down your goals gives you a greater chance of success.) Start implementing your changes in private, away from the jokes and discouragement of well-meaning friends. Once you get a few steps made, share your plans with supportive friends and family members who can help you in your success journey.


*BONUS REASON* 
The World is Reborn

January 1st has the power of a new year, and we love harnessing that energy for change. But as we’ve seen, that date alone doesn’t always have the power to help us keep our goals. After the rush of champagne and confetti, it’s still the dead of winter.

Spring and summer is a true time of rebirth. Every day, there are new plants sprouting and blooming. Animals are having babies and teaching them how to thrive. The world is literally birthing and growing all around us.

What an amazing time to grow ourselves!

This month, I encourage you to start a New Year. 
Create some goals and start some positive changes. 
Write them down and share them selectively. 
Take it one step at a time and celebrate your success. 

Now is the time to make 2018 the year you’ve always wanted it to be!



Book Review: I Will Not Fear. By Melba Pattillo Beals 


"You're not doing this for yourself. 
You are doing this for generations yet unborn."

These words of encouragement, spoken directly to Melba Beals by Dr. Martin Luther King, became her mantra, her guiding light for the challenges yet to come.

In 1957, Melba was a young African American student, craving a better education. She bravely volunteered to be one of the Little Rock Nine - a small group of African American students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On the first day of school, the children were met by a mob fuelled by hatred and racism. Over the next few days, the eyes of the nation turned to Little Rock, and to the Little Rock Nine.

The Little Rock integration brought Melba's face into the limelight, but this is just one chapter in this courageous woman's extraordinary journey. I Will Not Fear chronicles her life of challenges and the faith that carried her through it all. She bravely shares her stories of racism - not just the prejudice shown to her, but her own struggles in overcoming her fear of white people.

Despite her rough years in high school, Melba was a passionate learner and earned several degrees. She built a career as an NBC television news reporter, a magazine writer, and a professor. As she narrates the story of her life, she is open and honest about her deep faith in God. Every chapter ends with a prayer or Scripture verse for inspiration. She shares the challenge of finding and trusting God, even in her darkest moments.

My one critique of I Will Not Fear is that it's actually too short! Melba has led a truly inspiring life, and it felt like many of the stories were told too quickly. I know she's written another memoir on her high school years (which I'm hoping to read next), but her adult life is also amazing. I wish she had spent more time telling these stories, and sharing those extraordinary experiences with each of us.

I loved reading Melba's story and hearing her heart for God. I'm so moved by her courage, and I love that she has shared her faith in such an intelligent and heartfelt way.

I wish we could say that the civil rights struggle was simply a chapter in history books, but every day, the news tells us otherwise. Our current North American society still struggles with racism and the ugly rise of white supremacy.

More than ever, we need to hear stories like Melba's. We need to hear about the battles that have been fought if we're ever to understand the weight of the challenges ahead. And we need leaders who are willing to be honest about their faith, and the power it has in creating social change.

As Melba's beloved Grandmother would say, 
God is always present with us, even "as close as your skin."



I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Paul: Apostle of Christ, by Angela Hunt 

A few weeks ago, I shared my review of the film, 


To coincide with the release of the movie, Andrew Hyatt's screenplay has been transformed into a novel by writer, Angela Hunt.

In full disclosure, I have to admit that I've never read a novelization of a screenplay. I've read lots of novels that have been made into films, but never the other way around.

I couldn't help but wonder what it might be like to read a 
novel based on a film based on Scripture

As I started reading the novel, the first difference that struck me was Paul's prison cell. In the movie, it's a dark subterranean room, entered by a narrow staircase, and punctuated by shafts of light from above.

In the novel, the full scope of Paul's desperate situation becomes clear to us. His cell isn't a room, but hole in the ground. Instead of stairs, the only point of entry is a rope, which is raised and lowered only at the will of his guards. We're given vivid descriptions of the darkness, dankness, and sheer torture the room provides.

As with any novel, Hunt is able to investigate the details of the world in ways that film can't do. For example, we learn more about Nero, Rome, and the political tensions of the day.

At the end of the novel, Hunt provides an "interview" with some interesting behind-the-scenes info, including some of the research she poured into the book. As with any artistic interpretation of Scripture, the novel has some stretches of imagination. Hunt also addresses these in her interview, sharing her reasoning behind these choices.

I think, ultimately, there's a real value in creating novelized or filmic versions of Bible stories. Sometimes, we can get so lost in the familiar words that we forget the humanity of the stories. We can lose sight that, just like us, these people had to cook dinner, make a living, care for family, and maybe even have a laugh at the end of the day. Translating these stories through art helps to make these details vivid and real. We are able to see God working in the every day, calling ordinary people to extraordinary things.

It's hard to know whether I'd recommend the film over the novel or visa-versa? I think the advantage of having both is that it makes the story available to so many people. You can approach this story in the vividness and immediacy of a film, or you can curl up with the book and spend hours chewing over every detail.

Both versions remind us that, for all of his legendary reputation, 
Paul was still simply a human being, 
which makes his ministry all the more amazing. 

As the tagline for the novel reminds us, "His story will change the world..." 


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

Movie Review: Paul, Apostle Of Christ 

There's a new tradition in Hollywood - the annual onslaught of Easter Christian movies!

It's brought mixed results artistically speaking, but as a person of faith, it's great to see movie studios recognizing the market potential for such films. In times as divisive and disturbing as these, we need as many stories of hope as we can get.

And that leads to a film opening this weekend: 

Paul, Apostle Of Christ



The story opens in dark and dangerous Rome. Nero has watched the city burn, and blames the Christians for the destruction. It's a precarious time to be a follower of Jesus. To add to the tension, Nero has arrested Paul, leader of the Christian community, and sentenced him to death. His friend, Luke the Physician, has come to Rome to help.

The film is weighted with some great and recognizable talent with James Faulkner (Downton Abbey and Game Of Thrones) as Paul and Jim Caviezel (The Passion Of The Christ) as Luke. The look of the film is beautiful, even when dark, and the locations feel visceral and grounded.

It would be easy for a story like this to fall into the trap of melodrama. And let's be honest, it's what we associate with the worst of Christian movies - the overwrought wailing and gnashing of teeth as actors in old bathrobes play out a timeworn drama.

The filmmakers instead have chosen a more subtle way of telling this story - 
through friendships. 

There's the deep brotherhood of Paul and Luke, two men who have forged a bond through years of protecting each other and growing in faith. There's the loving couple Aquila and Priscilla, who have a shared purpose, but very different ideas on how to live it out. And then there's the unlikely connection between Paul and his captor, Mauritius.

Perhaps most interesting is the relationship between Paul, the imprisoned Christ-loving martyr, and Saul, his former Christian-killing self. Paul is haunted by his past - experienced by recurring dreams and visions - and desperately seeks the forgiveness and peace promised by Jesus.

One of my favourite themes in the film is the counter-cultural nature of the early Christians. Jesus had called them to take a path of peace and forgiveness. This is a city where Christians are openly and brutally persecuted. Any day might be their last. There is no grace or justice for followers of The Way (the early name for the Christian path). As humans, their instincts tell them to respond with more violence, but as followers of Christ, they're called to turn the other cheek and love their neighbour. As Paul is in prison and life for the followers gets more dangerous, we see this struggle playing out and threatening to divide the group.

I can't think of a more pertinent theme for this day and age. As Christians in North America, we are constantly being drawn into the public debate. Are we seen as counter-cultural, or just another group with our screaming, signs, and slogans?

And so the question remains for us today: 
As we gather in the public square - be it real or online - 
will we meet violence with violence or will we respond with forgiveness and grace? 
Will they know we are Christians by our love?

If anything, I think this theme could have been explored even further and more explicitly in the firm. It's really a debate we need to be having in our churches and faith communities.

When I watch an overtly Christian film, I always ask myself two questions: 
How will Christians respond? 
How will non-Christians respond? 

I don't know how much this would resonate with a non-Christian? The film lacks obvious tension and drama; it's really more of a character piece. I feel like you need to have some sense of the story to really understand the weight of what's happening.

However, I think a person who knows the story will be deeply moved by the portrayal of Paul and his journey. Paul was subject to years of pain and suffering for his faith, yet his responses are always generous, patient, and loving.

If that's not an Easter challenge, I don't know what is...



There is also a novelization of the film, written by Angela Hunt.
I'll be reviewing this in a few weeks. Stay tuned!


"Film has been provided courtesy of Sony Entertainment Releasing Canada (Affirm Films) and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc." 

Book Review: Free Of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller 

Kicking off the first post of 2018 with a book review!

This year, I've added two things to my Goals List:

#1. READ MORE! 
I was shocked at how few books I read last year! In 2018, my goal will be to read two books a month. I won't review them all, but I'll do my best to share some of my favourites with you.

#2. WRITE MORE! 
Just like with the reading, I let my writing fall by the wayside last year. Yes, it had a lot to do with the massive undertaking of recording a New CD, but there are always excuses not to write. My goal this year: one solo writing date each week. Generally in a cafe, and always with a big mug of foamy caffeine!


Today's book review is Free Of Me, by Sharon Hodde Miller. The premise of this book is pretty simply laid out in the subtitle: "Why Life Is Better When It's NOT ABOUT YOU."

Like many simple ideas, however, the living out of this mantra is a more challenging matter.

Miller breaks the concept down into two basic components. The first are all the things we try to make about us and in the image of us: God, church, our family, our friendships, to name a few. As she details each aspect, there will be things that will seem obvious - yes, we try to make our families about us - but others that will surprise you. How can we make our calling, our passions, or even our physical appearance not about us? There were definitely ideas in these chapters with which I didn't personally agree. However, I think just the process of evaluating these parts of your life in this light could be extremely valuable.

The last part of the book explores practical ways to take the focus off of ourselves. How can we turn our point of view outwards, towards God and towards others? This is a great section to take notes and mark down ideas to integrate into your personal life.

The structure of this book leans towards practical application, and maybe even group discussion. Each chapter ends with a focus Scripture verse, a prayer, and a series of personal questions. The prayers, in particular, are beautiful, and would be a great addition to your personal prayer journal.

In a selfie-obsessed world, we need a message like Free Of Me. 

One of my favourite themes that runs throughout these chapters is the idea that "_____" is created for us, but that doesn't mean it has to be about us. 

Imagine how that one shift alone could change everything...


I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Christmas: Stories & More, by Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship 

The Christmas book reviews continue!

A few days ago, I shared with you my favourite new children's book, 
Beneath That Star, by Sally Meadows.

(Full disclosure, as revealed in my previous review: Sally and I are friends, but I also promised her an honest review. Thank you for trusting me with that, Sally!)

Sally gave me her book when we visited her as part of our latest Infinitely More Western Canada Tour. As we chatted about our recent projects, she showed me a copy of a Christmas anthology that features two of her stories. Of course, my heart leapt when I saw a whole book filled with Christmassy things, so I asked if I might review that one as well!



I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but look at that face!! 
How could I not be excited to read Christmas: Stories & More??? 

Inscribe Christian Writer's Fellowship (ICWF) exists to "stimulate, encourage and support Christians who write, advance effective Christian writing, and promote the influence of all Christians who write." It has members from all provinces, writing at all levels and in all genres.

Christmas: Stories & More features over 40 ICWF writers sharing their thoughts, memories, and dreams for the Christmas season. Because of the range of storytellers, each piece is unique in scope, subject, and voice. The "Stories" include both fiction and real life accounts, giving sweet, and sometimes bittersweet, insight into different festive moments. The "More" is what really makes this anthology special - a collection of devotions, poems, recipes, gift ideas, and even dramatized readings!

What I love most about this anthology is how it's structured and organized. This isn't a book you sit down and read in one sitting. It's a lovely collection of festive bon-bons, designed to be tasted and treasured one at a time. (Of course, if you like to indulge in a whole box of bon-bons in one sitting, be my guest! I'm certainly not the one to judge... )

Each piece is short enough to be read on your afternoon break, or as you take the subway, or just before bed. It would make a lovely book to include in your Advent devotions, or to read one story a day during the 12 Days of Christmas. Even the recipes include a bit of family history to give them a personal perspective.

Sometimes, it can be a challenge to get people excited about reading a book by unknown writers. Let me ask you to get excited! Not only is this a lovely book, but it's so refreshing to read stories about Christmas told by Canadian voices.

Christmas: Stories & More is a charming and beautiful addition to your Christmas reading list.
I hope it finds a spot under your tree this holiday season!




To learn more about ICWF and Christmas: Stories & More, please visit 
https://inscribe.org/press/christmas-anthology-2017/ 





Book Review: Beneath That Star, by Sally Meadows 

Today's book review combines two of my favourite things: 
Christmas and a children's picture book!


I have a long held love of children's literature. As a child, I wore out my parents' car driving back and forth to the Arts & Culture Centre Library. As an adult, I spent many years teaching music and creative arts to young children, and I loved poring over their books to help translate the stories into songs and art projects.

I was thrilled when I received the opportunity to review Beneath That Star
written by Sally Meadows and illustrated by Sarah E. Nickel.

In full disclosure, I have to confess that Sally is a good friend of mine. I offered to review her book because I believe in her talents. That said, I wouldn't have made the offer if I didn't feel I could offer an honest review!

Beneath That Star has an interesting origin story. When the idea first came to Sally, she wrote it into a song, which she recorded on her Christmas album. Sally shares, "It was when I was in the studio recording my Christmas CD, Red & White, when the idea of expanding on the song’s story through a children’s picture book came to me."

I love this idea! In song form, the story can reach the adults who bought the CD, but in book form, we have the chance to inspire young readers with a new Christmas tale.

The heroine of our tale is Saray - a young girl living in Biblical times with her loving family. Saray has big dreams, but her family sees only her limitations. A tragic accident has left her dependent on a cane, and as a girl, her path in life is firmly set.

But Saray loves God and seeks his presence in her life. One night, she hears a strange voice calling to her. Was is God or a dream? Then, she sees a star in the sky and dares to follow it. What happens next changes her life forever.

Sally's attention to detail paints a engaging portrait of what happens when the divine enters the everyday. Sarah's beautiful illustrations highlight the story, and would easily allow even the non-reading child to follow along.

There are two added bonuses at the end of the book. One is a set of questions, designed to spark conversation and allow you apply the themes of the book to real life. The second is a Sally's behind-the-scenes account of creating Saray and Beneath That Star. (The keen reader will also notice that she includes the inspiration behind our Infinitely More name!)

Beneath That Star is an uplifting and inspiring story for any child (or adult) who has felt invisible to God. I hope you'll consider sharing it with a child you love this Christmas!








To learn more about Sally Meadows' books and music, please visit www.SallyMeadows.com