#MusicLove: Laura Story’s newest album gives you ‘open hands’ before the Lord

Laura Story has just that, quite a story, but in the church world, we call it a testimony. The Grammy winner’s fifth album already holds a number one single with the title track, featuring a collaboration with her friend and fellow GRAMMY® winner Mac Powell of Third Day. PR 1 Laura Story 2016.jpg

GRAMMY® award winning artist, speaker, songwriter, author and worship leader Laura Story has a gift for penning songs that connect with people all around the world. Among her successes as a solo artist with her smash hits “Mighty To Save” and “Blessings,” Laura has also penned hit songs for other renowned artists including Chris Tomlin’s “Indescribable.” Her solo artist music debut in 2008 with Great God Who Saves led to four Dove nominations and the award for “Inspirational Album of the Year.”


In 2011, Laura released her sophomore project Blessings. The album and the emotionally powerful title was inspired by her real life trials and adversities, primarily her husband Martin’s diagnosis of a brain tumor. The album resonated with a huge audience and led to whirlwind career highlights for Laura, peaking at the No. 1 album spot for three consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Contemporary Christian Overall chart, topping the iTunes® Christian/Gospel Top Songs chart and holding the No. 1 spot for an impressive 28 consecutive weeks on the Christian charts. The success of the single “Blessings,” which was certified RIAA Gold, includes the GRAMMY® Award for Best Contemporary Christian Song, the Billboard Music Award for Top Christian Song and the Dove Awards for Song of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. The song inspired Laura’s first book, “What If Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops?” in 2012. A follow-up book, “When God Doesn’t Fix It, Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn; Truths You Can’t Live Without” and companion bible study DVD and study guide, released last year. God Of Every Story released in 2013 to much acclaim, and her first ever Christmas project God With Us, debuted in October 2015.


Open Hands will debut on Mar. 3, 2017 (although the pre-order began Feb.3). Laura is a worship leader at Perimeter Church outside of Atlanta, GA and lives with her husband Martin and three children.

Open Hands

Laura Story

Rating: Five Out of Five Cookies

Song by Song Review

Awake My Soul (1000 Tongues): A strong percussive musicality carry this worship song along with emphasis on God’s worthiness of all the praise “forever you are worthy.” It reminds me of one of my favorite worship singers, Sarah Pearsons, who has a song of the same name but has different lyrical content.

Open Hands: Featuring Third day lead singer Mac Powell, it is based off Psalm 51. Easy to see why this is the title track because it is gorgeous and definitely puts the listener’s focus on Jesus.

Take it all
Every hope, every dream, every plan
Take it all
Every weight, all the shame and brokenness
Jesus, I surrender all
Every victory and loss
Take it all, take it all
Till all I have is open hands

You Came Running: My favorite off the album, this third track reminds me of another great singer-songwriter in Christian music, Francesca Batistelli. It is my favorite because my personal testimony of faith is God chasing me down with relentless mercy, love, loyalty, and goodness. It’s what makes God’s love unfathomable to the human mind.

Give You Faith: Written to her child, it’s a faith dedication song that is an act of prayer in intercession for the child who is still a newborn. It’s beautifully both lyrically and musically. The piano backtrack carries the song nicely.

For The Love of My King: Soft guitar introduce the ear to this love letter to the King of Kings. It’s another favorite off the album because my love for Jesus knows no bounds.

Death Was Arrested: A song worshipping Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice and based on 1 Corinthians 15:55-56, we know life begins with Him.


Whisper: Psalm 46:10 is the foundation of this praise song because it is about the still, small voice of our Almighty Creater. Soft musicality creates the atmospheric element of a “whisper” throughout the track.

Every Word You Breathe: Taking us back to the Garden of Eden, we visualize God breathing life into Adam and Eve, and with the same notion, God’s word brings life, breathes life.

Extraordinary: Another favorite of mine because it talks about God’s great love being “extraordinary.” Exquisite musicality and vocal usage throughout this praise song.

Grace Abounds: Perfect conclusion to the album, it’s a great song for the times we are living in. It reminds us that no matter the fear-inducing news headlines, we stand on the rock of God’s love for us and how it carries us when we can no longer walk, move, or stand.

Need another music review? Look no further.

#MusicLove Love @alessiacara? Then, you’ll enjoy my review of #Knowitall

I usually write here but the fact is, I don’t get paid for the writing I do here other than the little commission I get from advertisers and donations from kind souls.

Therefore, I ventured out and wrote a review for Beat Media which you can read here.

#AuthorInterview: The Door Keeper’s Keeper, @SteenJones

Today I welcome Steen Jones, author of The Door Keeper Trilogy to be my debut author interview.


The Smart Cookie asks: How Did the idea of The Door Keeper come to fruition?

Steen: That’s actually an interesting story! About 7 or 8 years ago, I noticed a door on the edge of a field close to where I lived at the time. It was a freestanding door that lead seemingly nowhere, but of course with my imagination, I immediately decided it went to Narnia. Every time I drove by it, I’d add a little something to the story in my mind, then would forget about it again. Finally, I jotted some notes in my phone and over the next few years, the story developed into a different version than what it is today. Finally, almost exactly 2 years ago, bored one day, I wrote an outline. After that, I simply couldn’t stop. FYI, the door is no longer where it originally was, because it now is in my backyard! (Great story for another time.)

The Smart Cookie asks: Wow. So there was really a door in a field? That’s awesome. How long have you been writing despite this being your debut novel?

Steen: This is an interesting question because I’ve been writing in a different way my whole life, but this is the first time I’ve attempted writing a story. Over the past ten years, I have blogged and journaled off and on as a form of therapy. Both of my kids were diagnosed with special needs while still young, and I learned early on that journaling and writing my prayers helped me manage my emotions and the issues I faced. For whatever reason, it was only a couple of years ago that I thought about actually putting my writing to a different use and writing fiction.

The Smart Cookie asks: Yes, I enjoy prayer journaling as well. Very therapeutic. Is fantasy your favorite genre to write?

Steen:  Absolutely. I love fantasy because of the grand, epic story lines. I adore all things magic and the escape that fantasy provides. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting lost in another world and my imagination being stimulated. There are no rules in fantasy, unless you want there to be. My entire life, I’ve daydreamed, and this gave me an opportunity to actually call it work.

The Smart Cookie asks: The Door Keeper definitely provided me with an escape. I read it in one day. When not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Steen:  In the winter, you’ll find me cuddled on the couch with the dogs and my husband drinking wine and binge watching shows on Netflix. That’s about it for winter, I tend to go into hibernation. But in the summer, I’ll be outside at the pool soaking up the sun and relaxing by our pool. I love to garden, growing vegetables and colorful flowers. I’ve recently taken to cooking and baking, sometimes getting lost in the kitchen for hours.

The Smart Cookie asks: Who are some of your favorite authors?

Steen: I love C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. (I’m obsessed that these two were friends.) I also like Rick Riordan, he is so gifted with intertwining mythology and the modern world. I am currently reading the Harry Potter series for the first time, so J.K. Rowling is blowing my mind.

The Smart Cookie asks: Wow, I didn’t know J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were friends. Very fascinating! What other genres do you enjoy reading?

Steen: I love contemporary fiction, romance, and certain Christian books that challenge me.

The Smart Cookie: Good to know we have similar tastes in books. Any advice for aspiring authors or creatives?

Steen: It’s difficult, because my road to being an author is so different than the usual path traveled. But, having experience in life, mothering special needs kids, and running a small business, I definitely have advice in general.

Patience in pursuing your dreams is invaluable. If you are not patient, you will never see your dream come to fruition. It’s the hardest thing to learn, and the most important. Once you do, the world is yours.

Missed my review of The Door Keeper? Check it out here.

#MusicLove: ‘The Shack’ soundtrack builds a fort of encouraging uplifting sounds

Recently, I was in the movies and a trailer came on that really shook me in an inspirational way.  Starring a cast of big names and with Octavia Spencer in the lead, I knew I couldn’t wait to see that movie. Based on the best-selling novel, The Shack takes us on a father’s uplifting spiritual journey. After suffering a family tragedy, Mack Phillips spirals into a deep depression causing him to question his innermost beliefs. Facing a crisis of faith, he receives a mysterious letter urging him to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Despite his doubts, Mack journeys to the shack and encounters an enigmatic trio of strangers led by a woman named Papa. Through this meeting, Mack finds important truths that will transform his understanding of his tragedy and change his life forever.

“The Shack: Music From And Inspired By The Original Motion Picture,” the companion to the film based on The New York Times best-seller, starring Sam Worthington and Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer with Grammy Award-winner Tim McGraw.

The album features music from top Christian artists Skillet, We Are Messengers, Hillsong UNITED, NEEDTOBREATHE, Lauren Daigle, for KING & Country, Francesca Battistelli and Lecrae, plus other A-list acts including Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Brett Eldredge, Kelly Clarkson, Aloe Blacc, Dan + Shay and Devin Dawson.

“THE SHACK: MUSIC FROM AND INSPIRED BY THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE” is out February 24th, and “The Shack” opens in theatres nationwide Friday, March 3.

We hope this music serves as a reminder of the truths in Romans 8 – that nothing can separate us from God’s extraordinary love.

Song by Song Review

When I Pray For You: Performed by country duo and expert lyricists Dan and Shay, this track has country style musicality with the vocal stylings of Rascal Flatts. It puts to music praying for your child even before he or she is born.

Keep Your Eyes On Me: The song heard in the movie trailer to promote “The Shack,” performed by Faith and Tim McGraw, it’s a beautiful ballad performed by the star of the film and his infamous wife. It’s about having something to focus on or someone to call “home” in times of trial and tribulation.

Lay Our Flowers Down: Performed by powerhouse country group Lady Antebellum, it shares the simple message: “Lift our voices up, lay our flowers down.” The track boasts country musicality throughout.

Heaven Knows: Christian group Hillsong United greets us with a slow tempo worship ballad about love based on Romans 8.

Where Were You: Christian music solace Francesca Batistelli inspires the listener with a musical track based off the famous Christian poem “Footprints.”

Love Goes On: Bluesy ballad performed by vocal powerhouse Kelly Clarkson & Aloe Blacc that boasts “nothings really gone, we bring the past along, and love goes on.”

River of Jordan: Christian hip-hop anomaly Lecrae raps a track rejecting the religious idea of God to pursue a genuine relationship with God.

Hard Love: Christian band NEEDTOBREATHE and female singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle offer a musical message about God’s unfailing love. This is my favorite off the album because of the pop musicality and inspirational lyrics.

Days of Dark: Banjo backtrack keeps the rhythm of this country-style track by Dierks Bentley, making this another favorite of mine off the album.

Phone Call To God: Country singer-songwriter Brett Elridge has a slow-tempo song that sounds similar in musicality to “Hallelujah,” and may be inspired musically by it.

Honest To God: Devin Dawson performs another slow tempo song about being honest with yourself that we all need someone to lean on, and it’s best when that’s God.

Amazing Grace: Note-worthy is my favorite Christian band For King & Country’s of old church hymn “Amazing Grace,” because of it’s percussive musicality and vocal blendings.

The Smart Cookie rates it: Five Out of Five Cookies because It is an incredible musical compilation of so many of my favorite artists both Christian and secular.

Enter my YA Giveaway. Ends 3.15 at midnight


#BookReview: Do you have the key to unlock the secret that makes the Door Keeper a must read?

Fantasy is probably my least favorite genre. I can’t really tell you why but all I can say is blame Harry Potter and the hoopla with it.

Title: The Door Keeper

Author: Steen Jones

Rating: Five out of five cookies

That’s why I am as surprised as you are that I finished this book in one day. One day, people. This book follows Eden Saunders who lives an ordinary life as a widowed mother to ten year old Gabby, until she notices a door in the trees near her house. This leads to her finding out that she though she was adopted, there is a lot that her adopted parents knew about her birth mother. Once her first visit to Italy, where she was born, Eden finds out that she’s not at all who she thought she was but instead a greater destiny awaits her: her lineage as a door keeper.

I hope there is a sequel to this book in the works because the book itself ended in a bit of a cliff hanger. All in all, don’t open this book hoping to read it and forget it because Eden’s adventure will open the door to a fantastical world of romance, adventure, and butterfairies.16319042

There is a giveaway that the publisher is holding where winners can receive a signed copy of The Door Keeper.  It ends on release day or February 20, 2017. May the butterfairies be with you!

#MusicLove: Tampa Local KB uses second album to preach life

Not a stranger to the 116 clique and a huge supporter of Lecrae since he was my introduction to Christian hip-hop ( you mean I can turn up for Jesus?!), KB’s album came on my radar after listening to Derek Minor and Lecrae stations on Pandora.

I prefer Christian hip-hop anyway because the content is stronger and less offensive as well as the beats are blessed by the Lord ( chances are your hips will catch the rhythm before you even realize what is happening).

KB is from Tampa, FL as I am and that only made me jump at the chance to review his second album even more.

From whoiskb.com:

Kevin Burgess, now better known by his stage name KB, is a hip-hop artist based in Tampa, FL heading up HGA. He’s found redemption in what was once the forbidden music of his youth.

His latest EP 100 debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Christian Album Chart. Tomorrow We Live has brought both critical acclaim and commercial success, debuting on the Billboard charts at No. 1 on Top Christian Albums, No. 4 on Top Rap Albums, and in the top 20 on the iconic Billboard 200. Tomorrow We Live  was released on April 21, 2015.


Song by Song review:

Rich Forever: The album opens with a slow-tempo piano accompanied track based on Matthew 6:19-21 about treasure stored up in heaven once you become a believer of Christ.

Sideways: Featuring Lecrae, this is all about being persecuted because of your faith. A street phrase popular in all hip-hop music today is “sideways” meaning Someone coming at you in disrespect. This is my favorite track because it’s a banging track and Lecrae’s verse is fiyah:

ou ain’t never seen us cause you ain’t lookin’
And if I say Jesus everybody start bookin’
Get out the kitchen when I’m cookin’

I BelieveFeaturing Mattie Montgomery, this is a fire up your faith, we are victorious in Christ type jam. Matter of fact, I used it to further my faith in the most recent election, I believed America would win!  “I Believe” is an anthem of perseverance for those struggling in their faith with God. With this song, KB wants those people to know that they will win against every form of sin and the evil.

9 AM: An adlib track of KB’s daily morning as a husband and father.

Fall In Love With You: This is a lullaby KB is singing to his son. This song is set at 9:02 AM, continuing from the previous skit “9AM”. After he’s finished his morning workout and greeted his wife he comes into his son’s room to check on him and let him know how much he loves him. Although his son cannot yet understand what he’s saying, it’s a touching ballad for his baby boy that all fathers can relate to, and anyone who has someone that they love can relate to. Similar to Lecrae’s “All I ”Need Is You, this song can be dedicated to that “special someone” in your life. I like the breakdown part with the horns.

Always and Forever: KB wrote this song trying to encapsulate the feeling of the atmosphere at a wedding, and the love that the bride and groom have for each other. It has a disco vibe to it because that’s known as the greatest era for weddings still to this day.

I don’t know what holds tomorrow but I know who holds tomorrow

Matthew 6:34 (ESV) “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Ima Just Do It: This is for all those all-talk no action people. This is a song that instead of describes how things are done it’s about taking action in your faith. It’s said to be slightly inspired by Nike’s slogan: “Just Do It.” This is another favorite of mine because it’s another TURN-UP anthem.

Cruising: This song is the ride home after the wedding as KB’s about to sleep. On his way home KB is cruising through the city and is engaging in introspective throught.

Calling You: This song is a based on the true story of KB’s friend who came back from Iraq and killed himself. Suicide is something that occurs way too often as many people decide to kill themselves over major personal issues, and is considered a “permanent solution for a temporary problem”. The song goes through what KB would have said if he had been there to talk to his friend.

Save Me: The second interlude on the album that allows the listener to breathe and take in all the events of the previous track.

Drowning: KB finds himself in a place of helplessness that can only be solved by Jesus Christ or in other words, no matter the problem Jesus is the answer.

Lights Go Out: a song of hope that directs listeners to the love of Jesus Christ. Cece in this song is a metaphor for Christ’s Church (CC). Throughout the song he expresses his love for the church and the community around it and features Blanca and Justin Ebach.

Crowns & Thorns (Oceans): A rap over the famed Hillsong worship hit ” Oceans,” I actually prefer this track to the original because I love the “I am yours and your are mine” line that opens the rap.

Find Your Way: Prior to “Scars” by Alessia Cara, woman have little tracks that tell them they don’t have to be anything but what God made them to be and all that they are is enough. This track speaks to that and is another favorite of mine off the album despite it being a bonus track. This is KB’s advice to women to not worry about their bodies and how they look, and to instead see themselves as beautiful creatures created by God.


#BookReview: Romance in Paradise, yes please.

Romance is a tricky genre to write. You can’t let the two lovers get together too soon or it comes off cliche. All I knew about this book was that it was a historical romantic fiction set on fictitious island and the main character was a child of a missionary.

Title: Guardian of Paradise

Author: W.E. Lawrence

Rating: Four Out of Five Cookies

Turns out, I was not prepared for all this book has to offer, and I’m not just talking about your greatest fantasy island getaway (aqua clear water; lush green landscape; wild animals hidden in the depths).

As you read (if your female), you automatically identify with beautiful, strong-willed twenty six year old main character Kira Wall, who’s parents died during her youth when they first came to the island as missionaries from Australia. Her strong-will is immediately seen in the faith she was raised in, knowing that God has a great plan for all that have faith in him and his desire to be good to those that diligently seek him, and heaven is the ultimate reward and all it offers for such faith.

As you read (if your male), you automatically identify with handsome, lady’s man Doctor Trevor Marshall, a botanist who hopes to find a natural ingredient on the island that will help humans live longer and stronger while on Earth.

Neither male nor female reader will be able to stop reading the instant Kira and Trevor appear on the same page, and lock eyes for the first time.

The author has graciously offered me one Kindle copy of the book to offer one winner.

Interested in winning? You have until 2/22/17 at midnight to enter.

Tweet @TSCPhiles the book you are currently reading or about to start reading.

Extra entries will be given to those who share the review and tag @TSCPhiles and use the hashtag: #EspressoYourself

Open to all entrants who have a Kindle device or Kindle app.


About The author: W. E. Lawrence graduated in 1978 from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a BS in business administration. Despite wishing he had taken more courses in journalism and communications, he has run a successful home health care supplies distributorship for the past twenty-three years.

Passionate about God, writing, reading, family, sports, politics, and America, Lawrence currently lives in Davidson, North Carolina, with his lovely wife and their two wonderful children.

#BlogAffiliates: From The Desk of The Smart Cookie, News about my affiliates


I got an email from Amazon affiliates stating that they found my site to be not a unique enough business opportunity so any posts you find amazon links in no longer work to contribute fiscally to The Smart Cookie Philes.

I forgive Amazon for their decision as I have recently become a brand ambassador for Alice’s Table.

More on that soon, yet if you would like to become an event host or a brand ambassador please send me an email at wittywriterpoet26@gmail.com

For now, scan0002

If you happen to purchase via Amazon, use smile.amazon.com and enter KCM in the support box.

A portion of your purchase will be donated to a ministry that is now celebrating it’s 50th year.

You can find all my other affiliates here.

If interested in advertising on The Smart Cookie Philes site and social platform, email me at wittywriterpoet26@gmail.com

Espresso Yourself,

The Smart Cookie





#BookReview: Live Forever by reading a book (Live Long, Finish Strong by Gloria Copeland review)

Title: Live Long, Finish Strong

Author: Gloria Copeland

Rating: Five Out of Five Cookies

Buy the Kindle version for $9.99

This book came out forever ago but I was an immature Christian then. I didn’t want to face the truth. In Christ, I can live forever and never die.

Did you know God intends for the lifespan of all who believe in Jesus to live 120 years?

Did you know that God doesn’t appoint a day for anyone to die?

You can learn more about this based on biblical knowledge by reading Live Long, Finish Strong.

#TVReview: Where Have All The Good Shows Gone? #BeyondReview

I don’t know about you but I hate when I get into a show only to get the report that it wasn’t renewed. You ask yourself, Why not? and wonder why some shows make the cut despite  low-intelligence content (Mistresses got renewed, ugh).

Thankfully, Netflix has stepped up as the saving grace for deceased television network projects.

Before I get to my review of Beyond, let’s all take a moment of silent reminiscing shows that I’ve fallen head over heels for, and had to watch them be wheeled off set in a white sheet.


i was stoked for this show because it had a lot of potential. Starring Dean Cain (Superman), Kirsten Storms (Zenon Disney Channel Movies, GH), and Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan), it only aired about two episodes before ending shortly and abruptly and could never hope to be saved by Netflix because it aired in 2004 (pre-Netflix streaming days).


Starring Rachel Bilson (The O.C.), this project from tv great Josh Schwartz (O.C., Gossip Girl) had a four year run following the story of Zoe Hart and how she went from big time emergency room doctor in the Big Apple, and how she finds out her biological father lives in Alabama. When she finds out he has passed away and reads his will, her Big Apple life gets a bit of a taste of Southern hospitality. I loved how wholesome it was, the romantic story lines, the relateable characters (even Lemon turns out to make you tear up as you continue to watch). Thankfully! I caught up with the show on Netflix in order to watch the fourth and final season when it aired live on  the CW. Rumor has it, the show ended because Bilson got pregnant and they could find no one to hold a candle to her portrayal of the role of Zoe Hart. Either way, I was sad to see it go. I could have lived vicariously through Zoe, George, Lemon, and Wade until the end of time.


When this show first aired, I didn’t really know if it was going to make it. Yet, I watched the episode titled, “Nugget of Wisdom,” and laughed my butt off. It was genuinely funny!

Plot-wise, the show follows  the life of Eliza Dooley, a woman obsessed with the idea of achieving fame through the use of social media platforms, including Instagram, where she regularly posts selfies. She begins to worry that “friending” people online is not a substitute for real friendship, and she seeks help from Henry Higgs, a marketing image guru.

Thankfully, the whole series is now available for streaming via Hulu.


No!!! Not the spin-off to Boy Meets World! Dang. Both my mother and I sobbed like babies when the last episode aired on January 20, 2017. I very much appreciate how they ended it but I don’t appreciate that Disney Channel has stopped making shows that last for at least four years. Boy Meets World lasted for seven seasons, people. I blame the higher percentage of young kids with mobile devices. It’s causing for an epidemic of short attention-itis.


This show, focused around a NYPD detective named Laura Diamond, lasted two seasons before it was canceled. Debra Messing was amazing in this, and I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode. Thankfully, you can now stream the entire series via Netflix.

Beyond Review


FreeForm did something different with this show. They released all ten episodes of the first season to encourage binge watching. Well, thank you, FREEFORM! It worked. From the first scene until the last scene of the tenth episode, I was hooked. Right away, I happened upon the trailer, I could tell it had a spiritual theme and sensed that it was about a near-death experience. Yet, this show was even more than I anticipated. It had romance, steamy hook-ups, science fiction elements, and the infamous “realm.”


After 12 years, Post-Coma Holden (played by Burkely Duffield) sure woke up looking like a damn dreamboat.

The Smart Cookie hopes that this show Beyond never dies a short, abrupt cancellation death.

Good news among the fandom is that it was already renewed for Season 2. tumblr_lxz93dxv5x1r3lt5ho1_250

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