Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Urban Homestead: A Book Review

Spring has sprung, the spring grass is sprouting, and the Purple Martins flew in last week. That means a woman’s fancies now turn to digging up the yard so she can plant a garden. But if you don’t have a yard, no problem. There’s a book available that tells you all about “self-sufficient living in the heart of the city,” namely, The Urban Homestead, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.

I loved this book. The minute I glanced through it, I received about six different ideas for planting up our yard with good things to eat. There are dozens of ideas in here, some of which I have yet to get to. If you’re into sustainable living, or becoming a tad more self-sufficient in light of the coming collapse of the dollar and all the attendant troubles, this book will instruct you in many of the basic techniques of food production in your own yard.

The major idea I gained from the book was the concept of raised beds. You buy treated 2 x 6’s, or 2 x 8’s, nail them together to form a rectangular box, and fill it with topsoil. You don’t even have to dig up the ground beneath it, which is a huge plus! I got so excited, I rushed out and bought lumber and hundreds of pounds of topsoil, so much topsoil that the tires of my pickup truck were flattened considerably. I built a grand total of 6 raised beds, all in my front yard, because our backyard is too shady and none of the trees shading it belong to us. I filled those beds to the brim with soil, to the detriment of my back and knees, and grew bumper crops in those beds for the past two years. That idea worked!

This book covers a lot more than growing crops where you never thought you could grow them before. They cover alternative sources of power and transportation as well, not to mention alternate sources of water. If you are worried about possible shortages and chaos when the government and the Fed finally destroy the dollar, you can learn a lot about homegrown survival techniques, besides how to compost and other organic gardening techniques.

The Urban Homestead is a great book to have on your shelves, especially if you enjoy saving money by not having to buy your fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jesus Heals A Demon-Possessed Man

Luke 8:26-39

Today, I took the liberty of posting a bit of a different blog entry on Writers' Rest. I felt compelled to talk about Jesus. When I read the New Testament, I am amazed at the power of our Lord as he went about the earth, healing others.

Luke 8:26-39 is a powerful scripture, and I've copied and pasted it below if you wish to read it. Everytime I read this, it stays in my mind for a long time. It kind of reminds me of a Peretti novel. I could imagine Frank Peretti doing a biblical fiction piece about this demon-possessed man.

Plus, the fact that Jesus made those evil spirits to come out of the demon-possessed man, and then allowed them to go into the swine, thus causing the swine to drown in the water, just proves what God can do.

I can't imagine being possessed by a legion of demons, so much so that one can't even live among society, but up in the tombs, separated from others....

Just makes me stop and think, and be a little afraid, but to come to appreciate God's power...

What thoughts come to your mind when you read this scripture?

~Cecelia Dowdy~

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” 29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.
30 Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?”
And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.
32 Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. 33 Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.
34 When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. 37 Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.
38 Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Where's your passion?

Today an aspiring writer asked me for advice on submitting articles to magazines. Besides writing a few short stories for national magazines and entertaining the idea of breaking into the market, I have little experience. Yet I wondered how different writing for magazines can be than writing for any market.

While every writing media has its own little nuances, there is usually one similarity, regardless of what market a writer chooses to write for. To attract the attention of an editor of publisher, you must write something that sparks your own passions.

Before you head out to the library or local newsstand to buy the latest copies of every magazine you dream to write for, you need to decide what exactly it is that you want to write. Define your passion. What do you love? What topics interest you most? What are your hobbies? What do you like to talk about at parties? Topics that are fascinating to you will be a pleasure to research and write. But you are wasting your time if you try to write on a subject just because it's hot and has a large market.

You can't fake your way through a piece on the NFL draft to please Sports Illustrated if you don't care for football. Readers will see right through you. Just because cooking is all the rage, you can't market yourself as the next Paula Dean if you hate to cook. It's so simple, it's amazing that many writers still miss it.

I write--or desire to write--romantic suspense. I was recently told at a writers' conference that many publishers aren't buying romantic suspense right now. Editors are looking for historicals or anything--and I mean anything--with an Amish theme. Sadly, that's not what I want to write. Instead of beating my head against a wall until an Amish romance fall out onto the page, I need to produce the best romantic suspense I can and keep honing my craft until the right editor at the right time decides to give my story a chance.

Regardless of what writing medium you write for, sit down and make a list of your passions. Then think of ways you can broaden that scope. What new spin can you put on your topic? Can you make your topic more appealing to women? Or pet owners? Or parents? Continue to broaden your list of possibilites. Chances are you will come up with more angles to the original story that will result in several articles. I know writers who've sold the same article over and over just by making a few alterations and adjustments to suit different markets.

But stay true to your passions. Be who you are. Don't apologize. You are interested in certain subjects for a reason. Chances are there are a lot more people out there interested in the same thing and a magazine or magazines willing to buy your articles to sell to those readers.

There's a lot more to writing for magazines or breaking into any publishing medium, for that matter. But for now we'll stick with the basics. You are an expert at something. Take your knowledge, your interest, your passion, and turn it into the fuel that will create an endless supply of articles.

Happy writing.

Monday, February 14, 2011


 by Molly Noble Bull

Today I am interviewing Joel Chernoff who first appeared on the music scene some years ago as lead singer for a Messianic music group called Lamb—as in The Lamb of God.

Above is a recent photo of Joel in concert. Notice that people are dancing in the Lord as he sings. 

Click below to hear two of his songs-- The Sacrifice Lamb and I Will Talk To My Brothers

.   The Sacrifice Lamb

 .   I Will Talk to My Brothers

Wow! That music we just heard was fantastic. Made me want to clap my hands, if not get up and dance in the Lord. Welcome, Joel. It’s so great to have you here and meet you after all this time.

Shalom Molly. It’s great to be with you and to have been selected as your Favorite singer. 

Messianic Jewish music sounds a lot like Jewish music but with a huge difference. Would you please explain what Messianic Jewish music is and how it is different from Jewish music as well as Christian Gospel that we hear so often today? 

Messianic music as I developed it in 1970 and recorded it on our first Lamb album in 1972 is a combination of ancient Jewish musical motifs and (at the time) the contemporary top 40 folk rock sound of the day. I sprinkled in a little Hebrew as well as adding to that a Messianic Jewish perspective of life and Scripture and you have something new and fresh. Of course and most importantly, the message centers around a vibrant relationship with the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).

I would like you to fill in the blanks for us by telling a little about your history. Just hearing the words to your songs is enough to convince me that you are a follower of the Lord, Jesus Christ—or Yeshua as Jesus is called in Hebrew. So, where were you born? Where do you live now? And please tell about your salvation experience and as much about your family and personal life as you feel comfortable telling.

I was born in Atlanta Georgia, raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and have spent the last 35 years in Philadelphia, PA. I came to faith in Messiah through the witness of my parents, Rabbi Martin and Yohanna Chernoff., They were real pioneers in the modern day Jewish revival called Messianic Judaism. I graduated the University of Cincinnati with a BA in political science but was called to full time music ministry with Lamb in 1973.
 I have two siblings, David and Hope. David is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Yeshua in Philadelphia (one of the largest Messianic synagogues in the US) and has also served the Messianic community in national and international leadership roles. My sister Hope Edelstein has also served the Messianic community in national leadership roles most of her adult life.
I was married to Mindy (Tatz) Chernoff in 1979 and have three children, Sharon (28) Aron (25) and Elisha (21). I am truly blessed and deeply thankful for the family that God has given to me.  .
We all reside in the Philadelphia area and attend Beth Yeshua.

Now, tell us when the first Lamb album came out—when the group broke up and when you started cutting albums on your own. Please include all your contact information and the names of all your past and future albums. And in your opinion, where is Messianic music headed in these end times? 

The first Lamb album came out in 1972. We produced 12 recordings which are all available on our web site We recorded and ministered for almost 20 years until we felt God calling us to other things in 1992. Lamb sold several hundred thousand recordings and spent the decade of the 1970’s in the top five contemporary Religious/Christian artists in the US. Our recordings frequented the tops of the Christian charts.
In 1992 Lamb retired and Rick Coghill eventually moved back to his hometown of Cincinnati. I put music down for a few years while the Lord called and established me as the General Secretary/CEO of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA, The MJAA is the largest single organization representing the Messianic Jewish community in the world today. I have been very active in creating a funding base in the US to resource our many humanitarian projects in Israel, Ethiopia and Eastern Europe, besides the programs happening in the US.
In 1999, Galilee of the Nations (a Messianic recording company) contacted me to record a new project as a solo artist. This eventually led to the recording of The Restoration of Israel and then to a second solo album, Come Dance With Me.
In 2005 Galilee of the Nations commissioned a new Lamb recording called The Sacrifice. This was collaboration between myself and Ted Pierce.
The future of Messianic music really lies with the next generation of young artist. They are few and far between at this time. However, my daughter, Sharon (Chernoff) Wilbur is beginning to make her mark. Sharon married Paul Wilbur’s son Joel thus bringing two well known Messianic musical families together.
Two years ago, Sharon was an American Idol contestant that made it pretty far. She got a lot of face time for weeks on their commercials advertising the main show. She parlayed that into a contemporary musical career with her first release Mercy Calling. She is a wonderful songwriter and vocalist. Look for her. She is on the rise.
In addition to the music, she also has a burgeoning TV career with Fox TV. She is currently the Face of Fox 30 in Jacksonville Florida and has just recently created and produced an entertainment feature that is being utilized twice a day in several markets outside of Jacksonville. You can see her work by Googling Fox30Jax. You can’t miss her.
In addition to Sharon, Beckah Shae, is also a new Messianic artist from Nashville who currently has two top ten hits on Contemporary Christian Hit Radio. She sings in Hebrew and English and is building a huge fan base.
I pray many more like Beckah and Sharon Wilbur emerge to carry the message of the restoration of Israel and the Messiah’s soon return forward. Each of these artists has their own web sites. Just google them for the correct address.
I am also still ministering in music and do about 30-40 concerts a year in churches, conferences and messianic synagogues. If  anyone is interested in contacting me for a concert please contact:
New Hope Management: 972-862-6160 or

Thank you Joel, for stopping by today. Please come back again and again.

Thank you for finding me, Molly. God bless you and shalom!

I cannot say goodbye without telling how to find Year of Jubilee, if you shop at Amazon.
To find Joel Chernoff in music shops and bookstores, write Joel Chernoff in the search slot.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chick-U-Bator Blues

When I was 11 years old, I had a serious fascination with chickens. I’m told it’s a disease, one you never quite recover from or outgrow, especially if you keep doing things to keep the infecting organism alive. So for Christmas in 1961, I wanted a small, tabletop egg incubator from the Sears catalog. I would hatch my own baby chicks.

The Chick-U-Bator arrived, and my next project was to acquire some eggs to set. I was all for taking a few eggs out of the refrigerator, but according to my chicken books, that would not do. I had to find a chicken-owner who had fertile eggs and buy them fresh, or I would have no success on hatching day. My mother took me to a chicken farm and bought me a grand total of 3 white eggs, which was all that would fit into my Chick-U-Bator.

By now, I had pretty much memorized the Chick-U-Bator’s instructions. The device relied on a Christmas tree light bulb for heat, and its three legs were hollow so you could add water, because heat and humidity both must be exactly right for the developing baby chicks. Anything going wrong, such as a power outage or a failure to turn the eggs sufficiently would result failure to hatch.

The eggs had to be turned several times a day, and preferably several times at night as well. The incubation period was exactly 21 days, stopping the turning process on day 18. By day 19 or 20, I should start hearing little peeps coming from the eggs if they were going to hatch.

I must have been really assiduous, as by day 19, one of the eggs peeped when I went to check the temperature. Fortunately, it was a weekend, because I sat in front of the Chick-U-Bator for a couple of days solid, waiting for action. On day 20, a tiny chip appeared in one of the eggs. Then nothing for several hours. Then a second tiny chip appeared, right beside the first chip. And the second egg began to peep!

By day 21, two of my three eggs were chipped halfway around the eggshell. Then, one of the baby chicks made a mighty heave and the two halves of the eggshell broke apart. The little pink chick lay on the incubator floor, wet and awkward and exhausted. By the next morning, the second little naked chick had burst from his shell, but the first chick was no longer naked. He had dried out into a downy, yellow fuzzball.

By that afternoon after school, I had two tiny yellow fuzzballs, which I named Peeper and Cheeper. They grew into a pair of fine, White Leghorn roosters, fit guardians of the next batch of baby chicks, which yielded three tiny banty hens of unknown parentage.

By the time I was twelve, I had a small flock of mixed chickens, some bantams and some standards, although the bantams were far more fun, because I could fit 6 banty eggs into my Chick-U-Bator. I should mention that these chickens thought I was their mother, and they gave me great respect and attention whenever I appeared.

I mention the above because the urge to witness the miracle of hatching day struck again recently. Although I still have my Chick-U-Bator and have no doubt it will still perform, I have decided to go big-time. I ordered a device called a Hova-Bator, which will hold something on the order of 40 standard breed chicken eggs, and which will turn those eggs at regular intervals. It’s all automated now, folks, and all I have to do is wait for hatching day to arrive.

During the past 15 years, I’ve been buying day-old pullet chicks every spring, since I live in town and can’t have a rooster without a lot of complaints from the neighbors. Every now and them, one of the hens will go broody, and I will manage to buy the year’s allotment of day-old chicks and place them under the hen during the night. This evades a lot of work in brooding the chicks and caring for them.

So this year, instead of buying day-old pullets, I’ll be buying fertile, rare-breed eggs and firing up my new Hova-Bator. And looking forward to hatching day, all while praying that a hen will go broody about a week before hatching day arrives. I'll keep everyone informed of my progress.
In the meantime, click on this link for a preview of a wonderful Messianic singer, Joel Chernoff, who will be interviewed by Molly Bull in a few more days. In this clip, Joel is singing "Comfort Ye My People."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Writers' Conferences

Have you ever been to a writers' conference?

I found the publisher for my first book through a direct contact at a writers' conference. I used to attend the Romance Writers of America Conference every year and I met Tracie Peterson (the former editor of Barbour Publishing's Heartsong Presents line). Although Tracie didn't offer me a contract for my story, when her former colleague, Stephen Reginald, was looking for an African American Christian Fiction author to write a novel for a special 3-in-1 collection for Crossings Book Club, he contacted Tracie for suggestions and she gave him my name. As a result, I landed the contract for Someone For Toni, my first book in the novel collection entitled Promises To Keep that was released back in 2002.

My second romance was sold through the direct contact at a conference hosted by a local Romance Writers of America Chapter (Washington Romance Writers). I met with a Harlequin editor who referred me to Krista Stroever, who was a new editor for Love Inspired at the time. I submitted and made a sale to Love Inspired three weeks later.

I now attend conferences sponsored by American Christian Fiction Writers. I've sold three more romance novels since I've begun fellowshipping with this wonderful group of writers and they have a conference each year that is totally awesome! I recommend attending this event if you're serious about pursuing commercial publication.

Also, at writers' conferences, you have the luxury of forming new friendships with fellow writers and you'll get to meet some best-selling authors that you may have admired for years, and meeting these authors is a treat!

So, have you been to a writers' conference before? Which one did you attend? Was it a positive experience? Tell us about it in the comments section!

~Cecelia Dowdy~

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


by Molly Noble Bull

My late mother was legally blind in her old age, and before she died, I ordered audio books to be read to her via cassettes from the Texas Talking Book Program—a service of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. I was so impressed with the program that I sent two copies of my western romance, The Rogue’s Daughter, to the talking book program in Austin, and it was made into an audio book. Recently, I discovered that a recording of my western romance novel is still available via the Texas Talking Book program.

The Rogue’s Daughter was published by Zondervan Publishing House in 1986 and later came out from Guideposts, the Book Division, as a Promise Romance. Set in San Antonio and a South Texas ranch in 1890, The Rogue’s Daughter is about a young schoolteacher with a secret who is hired by a handsome South Texas rancher as governess to his three motherless children, and they end up getting married to save her reputation—a situation that appears to be inconvenient for both of them.

In order to be eligible to enter books in this program as I did, you must be a resident of the state of Texas or have a book set in Texas. Here are the addresses and phone numbers..
1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas)
If you live in or near Austin, Texas, you might be interested in volunteering to orally read a book or a magazine story for this worthy project. They are always looking for people willing to take the time to read books orally as a sort of ministry. I was unable to drive into Austin and read my book for the program, and they had The Rogue’s Daughter two years before they found someone to read it. Should you decide to read your own book as a volunteer, you can be sure that your book would jump to the head of the stack.
My mother was an avid reader before she lost her sight, and I know what a blessing it was that she was able to hear novels read to her after she could no longer read them for herself. And I will always be thankful to the people of Austin and the surrounding area who made that blessing possible.
The mother of the Texas Talking Book Program is the Library of Congress. If you are interested in the talking book program and don't live in Texas, visit the web site below.
You will be glad you did.