Friday, July 31, 2009

"Any Minute" Book Review


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Any Minute

FaithWords (June 30, 2009)

by

Joyce Meyer and Deborah Bedford



MY REVIEW:
Joyce Meyer may be known for her non-fiction books filled with inspiration and spiritual insight, but she might just have something to offer the fictional world as well. Together with Deborah Bedford they have presented us with the book "Any Minute". What happens when a wife and mother obsessed with her career has a brush with death (maybe more than a brush, more like a punch)? Can she get her priorities straight? Can she salvage her relationship with her children? Her husband? Is it too late or not?
I really enjoyed seeing how this story unfolded and I think my favorite part is that while Sarah may have changed, it didn't magically make everything perfect. Very real life, but still with a happy ending. Very good book!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Joyce Meyer is one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. A #1 New York Times bestselling author, she has written more than seventy inspirational books, including The Confident Woman, I Dare You, the entire Battlefield of the Mind family of books, her first venture into fiction with The Penny, and many others. She has also released thousands of audio teachings as well as a complete video library. Joyce's Enjoying Everyday Life® radio and television programs are broadcast around the world, and she travels extensively conducting conferences. Joyce and her husband, Dave, are the parents of four grown children and make their home in St. Louis, Missouri.


Deborah Bedford is a career fiction writer who began her professional life as a journalist in a Colorado mountain town.

A Rose By The Door, Deborah's first with Warner Book (name changed to FaithWords in 2006), hit bookstores in November 2001. A Morning Like This was released by Warner Books in 2002. Deborah's short story, “Connor Sapp's Baseball Summer,” is included in Multnomah Publisher's The Storytellers' Collection, Tales From Home, alongside stories by Chuck Colson, Terri Blackstock, Randy Alcorn and Karen Kingsbury.

Deborah and Jack have two children, Jeff and Avery. When she isn't writing, Deborah spends her time fly-fishing, cheering at American Legion baseball games, shopping with her daughter, singing praise songs while she walks along the banks of Flat Creek, and taking her dachshund Annie for hikes in the Tetons where they live.


ABOUT THE BOOK


Sarah Harper is driven to achieve success no matter what the cost. She wants to do good and not hurt the people she loves--especially children and her husband, Joe--but her desire to succeed in her career too often leaves little time for family.

One cold, autumn afternoon, all of that changes when Sarah's car plunges off a bridge and into a river. She is presumed dead by those on the "outside," but Sarah's spirit is still very much alive. What she discovers on the other side transforms everything about Sarah's view of life--past, present, and future.

When Sarah is revived, she is a changed woman. And the unsuspecting world around her will never be the same again.


If you would like to read the first chapter of Any Minute, go here!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Maggie Rose" Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!




MY REVIEW:
Yahoo! Sharlane MacLaren has a new book out! I absolutely loved her first series (with Loving Liza Jane, Sarah My Beloved and Courting Emma) and when Hannah Grace came out as the start of a new series I was so happy. Now we have the 2nd book in this series, Maggie Rose, and I am loving it! I am not quite finished, but will be in the next 24 hours and I can't hardly wait. I purposefully went into this book without reading the back of the book so I would know as little as possible about it so I would be surprised by everything and I have been eating up every tidbit of info that comes my way as I am reading... Maggie Rose leaves family and friends behind in Sandy Shores, Michigan and heads to NYC where she feels led by the Lord to work in one of the orphanages. Here she meets the orphans there and learns their heartbreaking stories and then enters Luke Madison, the newpaper man who has been sent to do a human interest story on the orphanage but who is dealing with his own tragedy and heartbreak. At this point in the story the orphans are getting ready to board one of the orphan trains to take them West to new families (hopefully) and both Maggie and Luke will be going along - I can not wait to see how this is going to go and end up, even though I'm pretty sure I have the romantic interest aspect all figured out . The only problem with Maggie Rose is that when I'm done reading it, I'll have to wait for "Abbie Ann" to come out so I can follow the exploits of the Daughters of Jacob Kane series even farther!

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Maggie Rose – 2nd in the Daughters of Jacob Kane series

Whitaker House (June 8, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Born and raised in west Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren graduated from Spring Arbor University, married her husband Cecil, and raised two daughters. She worked as a school teacher for over 30 years, then upon retirement began writing fiction, and now has six successful novels under her belt. The acclaimed Through Every Storm was Shar’s first novel to be published by Whitaker House; in 2007, the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) named it a finalist for Book of the Year. The beloved Little Hickman Creek series consisted of Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma. Faith, Hope, and Love, the Inspirational Outreach Chapter of Romance Writers of America, announced Sarah, My Beloved as a finalist in its 2008 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest in the category of long historical fiction. Her other books include Long Journey Home, and Hannah Grace, the first in her Daughters of Jacob Kane series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 429 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (June 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603740759
ISBN-13: 978-1603740753

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Maggie Rose Kane settled her temple against the smudged window, blinked hard, and fought back another wave of nausea as the smoke from her seatmate’s cigar formed cloud-like ringlets before her eyes and floated past her nose. Why, her lungs fairly burned from the stench of it, as if she’d been the one chain-smoking the stogies for the past five hours instead of the bulbous, gray-haired giant next to her. Even as he was dozing this afternoon, slumped with one shoulder sagging against her petite frame, the vile object hung out the side of his mouth as if permanently attached. She couldn’t even count the number of times she’d wanted to snatch it from him and snuff it out with the sole of her black patent leather shoe.

“Next stop, Albany,” announced the train conductor, making his way up the aisle.

With a quick intake of air, Maggie lifted a finger and leaned forward. “Excuse me, sir.”

The conductor stopped, turned, and tipped his hat to her in a formal manner. “Yes?”

“Is this where I should disembark in order to change over to the New York Central?”

Tilting his head to one side and slanting a reddish eyebrow, he released a mild sigh that conveyed slight annoyance. “If that’s what your ticket says. You’re goin’ to New York, aren’t you?”

She gave a hasty shake of her head and adjusted the plume hat that had barely moved in all these many hours. Surely, by now, the slight wave in her hair, as well as the tight little bun at the back of her head, would be flatter than a well-done pancake. “Someone’s to meet me at Grand Central,” she explained.

He nodded curtly. “Get off here then and go to the red line, then put yourself on the 442.” This he said with a matter-of-fact tone, as if anyone with a scrap of common sense ought to know about the 442.

Sweaty fingers clutched the satchel in her lap as she peered up at him, debating whether or not to admit her ignorance. “Oh, the 442.” She might have asked him at least to point her in the right direction once she disembarked, but he hurried down the aisle and pushed through the back door that led to the next car before giving her a chance. The train whistle blew another ear-splitting shriek, either indicating that the train was approaching an intersection or announcing its scheduled stopover in Albany.

“What’s a pretty little miss like you doin’ going to the big city all by yourself?” asked the man beside her. Not wanting to invite conversation with the galoot, especially for all the smoke he’d blow in her face, she had maintained silence for the duration of the trip. Still, it was her Christian duty to show him respect, so she pulled back her slender shoulders and tried to appear pleasant—and confident. After all, it wouldn’t do to let on how the combination of her taut nerves and his rancid cigar smoke had stirred up bile at the back of her throat. For the twentieth time since her departure on the five a.m. that very morning—when her entire family, including her new brother-in-law and adopted nephew, had bid her a tearful farewell—she asked herself, and the Lord Himself, if she hadn’t misinterpreted His divine call.

“I’ve accepted a position at the Sheltering Arms Refuge,” she replied with a steady voice. “I’m to assist in the home, and also to work as a placing-out agent whenever trips are arranged.”

He quirked a questioning brow and blew a cloud of smoke directly at her. She waved her arm to ward off the worst of it. “It’s a charitable organization for homeless children. Using the U.S. railway system, we stop in various parts of the Middle West and place children in decent families and homes, mostly farms. Surely you’ve heard announcements about trains of orphans coming through?”

He looked slightly put out. “’Course I heard of ’em, miss, just haven’t never run across anyone actually involved in the process of cartin’ them wild little hooligans clear across the country.” He took another long drag and, fortunate for Maggie Rose, blew it out the other side of his mouth so that, this time, it drifted into the face of the man across the aisle. Apparently unruffled, he merely lifted his newspaper higher to shield his face.

“Where you from, anyways?”

“Sandy Shores, Michigan.” Just saying the name of the blessed lakeshore town made her miss her home and family more than she’d imagined possible. Goodness, she’d left only this morning. If she was feeling homesick already, what depths of loneliness would the next several months bring?

“Ah, that near Benton Harbor?”

“Quite a ways north of it, sir.”

He seemed to ponder that thought only briefly. “What made you leave? You got home problems?”

“Certainly not!” she replied with extra fervor, offended he should think so. In fact, she might have chosen to stay behind and continued life as usual, helping her dear father and beloved sisters at Kane’s Whatnot, the family’s general store. But God’s poignant tug on her heart would not allow her to stay. I sincerely doubt Mr.—Mr. Smokestack—would follow such reasoning, though, so why waste my breath explaining? she thought.

“Well, you can see why I asked, cain’t you? It’s not every day some young thing like yourself up and moves to a big place like New York, specially when she don’t even know her way around.”

“I’m sure I’ll learn quickly enough,” she said, trying to put confidence in her tone. “I hear there’s to be a big subway system opening soon, which should help in moving folks around the city at great speeds.”

He nodded and took another long drag from his dwindling cheroot. “Sometime in the next month or two, is what I hear,” he said, blowing out a ring of smoke. “That’ll be somethin’, all right. Before you know it, there’ll be no need for any four-legged creatures.” He chuckled to himself, although the sound held no mirth.

As they approached the station, the train’s brakes squawked and sputtered, and the mighty whistle blew one last time. Outside, steam was rising from the tracks, and Maggie Rose noticed a couple of scrawny dogs picking through a pile of garbage. Folks stood in clusters, perhaps anxious to welcome home loved ones or to usher in long-awaited guests. A tiny pang of worry nestled in her chest at the sight of such unfamiliar surroundings.

When the train came to a screeching halt, the passengers scrambled for their belongings, holding onto their hats as they snatched up satchels and crates bound in twine. Some of them were dressed formally; others looked shoddy, at best, like her seatmate with his week-old beard and soiled attire. Another puff of smoke circled the air above her, and it was all she could do to keep from giving him a piece of her mind—until the Lord reminded her of a verse she’d read the night before in the book of Proverbs: “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor” (Proverbs 14:31).

Was she not traveling to New York out of a sense of great compassion for the city’s poor, lost children? And if so, what made her think the Lord exempted her from caring for people of all ages? Moreover, why had she spent the better share of the past several hours judging this man about whom she knew so little?

My child, you are tempted to look on his countenance and stature, whereas I look on the heart. The verse from 1 Samuel came to mind—oh, how the truth of it struck her to the core. Without ado, she looked directly at her seatmate, smoke and all. “And where might you be headed, sir?”

“Me?” A look of surprise washed over him. “My sister just passed. I’m goin’ to her funeral in Philly.”

A gasp escaped. “Oh, my, I’m…I’m sorry to hear that.” Silently, she prayed, Lord, give me the proper words, and forgive me all these many hours I might have had the chance to speak comfort to this poor soul.

He dropped what remained of his cigar on the floor and ground it out with his heel, stood to his feet, and retrieved his duffle from under the seat with a loud sniff. “Yeah, well, we weren’t that close. She quit speakin’ to me after I married my wife, her bein’ a Protestant and us Catholics.” He followed that up with a snort. “My brother died last year, and she still refused to acknowledge me at his funeral, even though my wife passed on three years ago.”

Blended odors of sweat, tobacco, and acrid breath nearly knocked her over as she stood up and hefted the strap of her heavy leather satchel over one shoulder, but newfound compassion welled up in her heart, lending her fortitude. The line of people in the aisle was moving at a snail’s pace, and she decided to make use of their extra seconds together.

“But you’re going to her funeral anyway?”

He nodded halfheartedly. “It’s my duty to pay my respects. She won’t know it, but I will.”

“Yes, and you’ll feel better afterward for doing so.” Suddenly, she had more to say to the man, but the line of anxious passengers was picking up speed, and he squeezed into the tight line. She followed in his wake, doing her best to keep her footing as folks shoved and jabbed. My, such an impetuous, peevish lot, she thought, then quickly acknowledged her own impatience.

“Watch your step, ladies and gentlemen,” the conductor said. One by one, folks stepped down from the train. Her fellow rider took the stairs with ease, then turned abruptly and offered her his hand. Another time, she might have pretended not to notice and used the steel hand railing instead. Now, however, she smiled and accepted his grimy, calloused palm.

“Thank you.”

Drooping eyes looked down at her. “New York, eh? You sure you don’t want to purchase your ticket back home? Ticket booth’s right over there.” He hooked a thumb over his shoulder, and for the first time, she sensed that he was toying with her.

“Absolutely not!” Pulling back her shoulders, she gave her head a hard shake, losing a feather from her hat in the process. She watched it float away, carried by the breeze of passengers rushing by. “When the Lord tells a body to do something, you best do it, if you want to know true peace,” she said, lifting her eyes to meet his. “This is something He told me to do—to come to New York and see what I can do about helping the deprived, dispossessed children, just as I’m sure He prompted you to attend your sister’s funeral.”

Surprisingly, he chuckled and bobbed his head a couple of times. “Can’t say for sure it was the Good Lord Hisself or Father Carlson, but one of ’em convinced me to come, and now that I think on it, I’m glad.”

Out the corner of her eye, Maggie Rose sought to read the myriad signs pointing this way and that, hoping to find one to point her in the right direction. Slight queasiness churned in her stomach. Dear Lord, please erase my worries about finding my next train, she prayed silently. The man ran four grimy fingers through his greasy hair. Absently, she wondered if he intended to clean himself up before attending his sister’s burial service.

“You take care of yourself, little lady. It’s a mighty big world out there for one so fine and dainty as you.”

A smile formed on her lips. Fine and dainty. Had he made a similar remark to one of her sisters, Hannah Grace or Abbie Ann, an indignant look would have been his return. She extended her hand. “I’ll do my best, Mr.….”

He clasped her hand and gave it a gentle shake. “Dempsey. Mort Dempsey. And you are?”

“Maggie Rose Kane.”

He gave a thoughtful nod. “Has a nice ring to it.” Then, tipping his head to one side, he scratched his temple and raised his bushy brows. “At first glimpse, you look a bit fragile, but I’d guess you got some spunk under that feathery hat o’ yours.”

Now she laughed outright. “I suppose that’s the Kane blood running through me.

We Kane sisters are known for our stubborn streak. It runs clear to our bones.”

Several seconds ticked by. Mr. Dempsey glanced around. “You got any more baggage, miss?”

“My trunk’s due to arrive at the children’s home the day after tomorrow.” She gave her black satchel a pat. “I’ll make do with what I have till then.”

In the next silent pause that passed between them, a pigeon swept down to steal a crumb, a stray dog loped past, and in the distance, a mother hushed her crying babe. Mr. Dempsey removed his pocket watch. “Well, listen, little lady, my train for Philly don’t leave for another hour yet. What say I take you over to the red line? Number 442, was it?”

“Oh, but you needn’t….”

He’d already looped his arm for her to take. The man’s stench remained strong, yes, but Maggie Rose found that, somehow, in the course of the past few minutes, her nose had miraculously adjusted.

My, but the Lord did work in wondrously mysterious ways! Why, just this very morning, Jacob Kane, her dear father, had prayed that God might send His angels of protection to lead and guide her on her way, and now look: Mort Dempsey was taking her to her next connection.

Imagine that—Mort Dempsey, God’s appointed “angel.”

They parted ways at the Albany platform where she could board Number 442.



When she arrived at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Maggie Rose saw a confusing mass of railroad lines converged in a place that also contained more people than she thought inhabited the earth.

Mr. Dempsey may have been an unlikely angel, but her next escort fit the bill with utmost perfection. She scanned the crowd and saw a pleasant-looking man, probably not much older than she, standing to one side and holding up a hand-printed sign that read: “Miss M. Kane.” Dressed in an evening suit, a bowler cap, and a bright-red bow tie that was almost blinding, he was searching the crowd with expectant eyes. When their gazes met, a broad smile formed on his face.

“Miss Kane?” he asked, greeting her with the warmth of a clear summer morning.

“Yes!” She had to tell her feet to walk in ladylike strides, even though her travel-worn body wanted to slump into the nearest bench with relief. They shook hands, and he introduced himself as Stanley Barrett, an employee—but more of a lifelong resident—at the children’s home. The Binghams had welcomed him through their doors many years ago when he’d lost both his parents in a fire.

“You must be tired,” he said, freeing her of her satchel without a moment’s hesitation, which suited her just fine. As it was, her shoulder ached from the weight of the bag, which held important papers, several personal possessions, some toiletry items, and the changes of clothing she would need until her trunk arrived.

Dusk had settled on New York City, so, without ado, Mr. Barrett led her like a pro through the throngs and straight to their carriage, waiting with numerous sets of nearly identical horses and black carriages lined up in long rows outside the terminal. Such efficiency impressed Maggie Rose, and she told him so. “I grew up here, so getting around is easy for me,” he explained, helping her onto the carriage. “You’ll catch on, especially once the subway station opens. But don’t worry; we usually travel in pairs or larger groups, anyway.”

Driving the carriage, he kept up his constant prattle as he dodged fast-moving streetcars, stray dogs, scurrying pedestrians, and the occasional motorcar. Even at this late hour, the city buzzed with activity such as Maggie had never seen. Why, in Sandy Shores, everything closes up tighter than a drum at five-thirty, she thought—that is, everything but the several saloons and restaurants. Here, though, people of all genders, races, sizes, and ages roamed the streets. Some were selling wares, others begging for quarters; some were huddled on street corners, others sitting on crates or boxes, perhaps looking for a place to lay their heads for the night.

“I can imagine what you’re thinking,” Stanley said as he maneuvered the carriage onto Park Avenue, heading north, and clicked his horse into a slow trot. “You’ve probably never seen anything like this place. Mrs. Bingham says you hail from some little town in Michigan. What part?”

“The west side, smack on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, about halfway up the state. The town is small, yes, but thriving. We have one main street running east and west—Water Street—with lots of little stores and businesses on either side. Don’t be running your horse too fast going west, though, or you’ll fall into the harbor,” she joked. “’Course, the railroad docks and barges would stop you first, I suppose.”

He chuckled, and she decided she liked the smooth tenor of his quiet laughter. “Of all the orphanages in the city, how’d you decide on the Sheltering Arms Refuge?” he asked. “We’re a lot smaller than the Foundling Hospital and the Children’s Aid Society.”

“Someone seeking financial support for your fine organization spoke at our church more than a year ago. I believe his name was Mr. Wiley.”

“That’d be Uncle Herbie—Mrs. Bingham’s brother.”

“He showed us a few pictures and talked a great deal about the destitute children wandering the city—‘street Arabs,’ he called them. Ever since then, the Lord has kept up His constant nudging, so after much correspondence back and forth, not to mention the process of convincing my father to let me loose, I’ve finally arrived!”

Stanley glanced casually in both directions before urging his horse through the intersection at East 50th and Park Streets, crossing streetcar tracks and skirting a good-sized pothole. Their amiable conversation continued, but she had to concentrate to drown out all the commotion going on around her, not to mention the smells—a blend of fried food, gasoline, manure, and rancid garbage. And the sounds! Why, the very streets seemed to reverberate with the clamor of loud conversations, tinny barroom music, thudding horses’ hooves, barking dogs, and the occasional baby’s cry from some upstairs flat.

Stanley Barrett veered the carriage onto East 65th Street, crossed Lexington, 3rd, and 2nd, and made a right on Dover, driving another couple of blocks before directing the horse up a long drive to a stately three-story brick structure. Maggie’s very senses seemed to stand on end. “Is this it?” she asked, feasting her eyes on the edifice, which appeared bigger than what she’d imagined from looking at the few photos she’d received.

Stanley guided his horse to a stop, breathed a sigh, and tossed the reins over the brake handle, turning to her with a smile. She decided he had a pleasant one, tainted only partially by a set of crooked teeth. “This is it. What do you think?”

She gazed at her surroundings—a brick house situated on a sprawling plot of land and surrounded by numerous trees, a stable, and several outbuildings. Who would believe that just blocks from this serene setting lay a whole different world? “I think—it’s beautiful.” Unexpected emotion clogged her throat. She looked up to see a head poke through the curtains of one of the upstairs windows. One of the orphans?

“Beautiful? Well, it’s old, I’ll give you that. Ginny, er, Mrs. Bingham inherited the historic place from her wealthy grandfather back in the 1880s. She and the Mr. have been operating it as an orphanage for the past seventeen or so years. In fact, I was one of their first residents. But I’m sure you’ll get the whole story, if you haven’t already, when you’re more rested.” He winked, gave another low chuckle, and jumped from the rig with ease. “Come on, I’ll help you down.”

With his assistance, her feet soon landed on solid ground. She lifted her long skirts and stepped away from the carriage, eyes fastened on the three-story structure and the aging brick fence that surrounded the property’s borders and was covered by lush blankets of ivy.

Stanley allowed her a moment’s peace as she stood before her new “home” and tried to picture its interior. Suddenly, the front door swung open. In its glow stood a portly woman with an apron tied about her waist; grayish hair hung haphazardly about her oval face, and a smile stretched from cheek to cheek as she lifted her hand to wave.

“Well, glory be, come and look who’s here, Henry. It’s the little miss from Michigan!”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Offworld" Book Review


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Offworld

Bethany House (July 1, 2009)

by

Robin Parrish



MY REVIEW:

I have not read Robin Parrish's other series of books (Relentless, Fearless, Merciless) but have heard such good things about them (and they are on my TBR list) that I was thrilled to see he had a stand alone book coming out that I could get my hands on. So "Offworld" comes in and I start reading and by the end of chapter 1, I can not put it down! The style is intense and pressing and I just kept turning the pages... 2:00 in the morning - who cares! I'm reading "Offworld" here people! I wasn't sure how he could make an interesting book with only really 4 characters, but boy did he. And all may not be as it seems anyway... or is it???

The first manned mission to Mars comes home after 2 1/2 years excepting lots of hoopla and celebration... only one problem, no one is there to greet them. No one. Anywhere. Period. So the four astronauts set out to figure out what happened and where everyone is. The most obvious destination for answers is in Houston where an enormous shaft of light is emanating.

Along the way they run into a few issues, but what will they find, and will they make it? I was absolutely sucked into the world of "Offworld". There were only two places where I was kind of like, okay already - the tornado and Chris Burke's flashbacks to Mars. Otherwise this book is a roller coaster that shoots out of the starting gate and doesn't stop til the last page! I can't wait to read more by Robin Parrish!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Robin Parrish had two great ambitions in his life: to have a family, and to be a published novelist. In March of 2005, he proposed to his future wife the same week he signed his first book contract with Bethany House Publishers. They contracted him for the rights to not only that first book, Relentless -- but two sequels including Fearless and Merciless. A trilogy that unfolded in the consecutive summers of 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Robin Parrish is a journalist who's written about pop culture for more than a decade. Currently he serves as Senior Editor at XZOOSIA.com, a community portal that fuses social networking with magazine-style features about entertainment and culture. He and his wife, Karen and son live in North Carolina.



ABOUT THE BOOK

"Every Person on This Planet Has Disappeared."

Commander Christopher Burke and his crew are humanity's greatest explorers. They've finished their mission on the red dirt of Mars and now they just want to get back to Earth. To see friends, family, and loved ones. To be home. But even with communication to ground control cut and a perilous landing, nothing could prepare the crew for what they discover when they step foot back on planet Earth.

Everyone...everywhere...is gone.

It's not a dream. It's not a trick. Now Burke and his team have one mission:find out who or what is behind the disappearance of all mankind.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Offworld, go HERE

Watch the book trailer:


Monday, July 27, 2009

New writing program that looks really good...

Grammar Made Easy, Writing Made Great

Faulty modern educational approach to writing is REVOLUTIONIZED by

The Writing Course-Educator’s Version created for home schoolers, high schoolers,

parents, and college students,

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—Did you know that you can learn to write with correct grammar and proper punctuation without learning the rules? This summer, author, pastor, and teacher Fred Lybrand introduces a radically different way of thinking—and learning—about grammar in his simple, yet revolutionary, new curriculum, The Writing Course-Educator’s Version. He straightforwardly offers twelve basic writing “secrets” that virtually anyone can master and that will transform “grammar-challenged” students, parents, and even professional adults into excellent writers. “We are losing a generation of writers to email, IM, and instruction that doesn’t show students how English really works,” says Lybrand.
The Writing Course-Educator’s Version is not only designed for those who constantly struggle with the difficulty of writing, but also for those who just want to write better. Lybrand’s proven approach to writing and grammar solves the problems of what to say, how to say it grammatically, and how to make sure the punctuation is correct. And, the course also shows the sure-cure for poor spelling!
“When a student is not worried about grammar or punctuation, he can learn to write in his own uniquely powerful and effective style; which is the current emphasis placed on writing by the recently modified TAKS test (Texas) and on the SAT college exams,” says Lybrand. “Something more is required than just throwing grammar rules at our students. Instead, our goal should be to teach our children ‘to learn how to learn for themselves.’”

While history has clearly demonstrated the value of the principles taught in The Writing Course-Educator’s Version, there is no writing course even remotely similar to what Lybrand teaches. With a methodology that teaches parents or students how to get engaged in the process of learning the elements that go into writing correctly and effectively, The Writing Course-Educator’s Version immerses students in twelve secrets all truly great writers finally discover (and sometimes aren’t aware of themselves).

“For anyone who likes (or even dislikes!) writing, this course can totally release him or her from the constraints of grammar and punctuation rules and regulations,” says Lybrand. “It also allows parents to become more involved in the schooling process of their own children, whether they attend public, private, or home school.”

Working as either a full curriculum or a supplement (kids in public or private schools can use this training after school to improve their own writing), The Writing Course-Educator’s Version comes as a combination of audio lessons, a printable workbook, and a full transcript of Lybrand’s writing seminar. In sessions of about 30 minutes each, over 21 lessons, students will experience the instruction and exercises necessary to learn the strategic principles which are the building blocks of great writing.

For more information or to order The Writing Course-Educator’s Version, please visit http://advanced-writing-resources.com/cmd.php?af=1012599

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

"The Enclave" Book Review


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Enclave

Bethany House (August 1, 2009)

by

Karen Hancock




MY REVIEW:

This is such a hard book to review. I love fantasy / speculative fiction and I love a good mystery, suspense as well. Put the two together and I am usually in 7th heaven! This time I ended the book just a little confused. It will be hard to explain without giving anything away, but I'll try.

In the first two chapters we are introduced to Lacey and Cameron. Cameron is a genius scientist with an emphasis in genetics and Lacey is the new intern at this amazing science facility Kendall-Jakes where the owner, Parker Swain, is trying to change the world. Everything is present day and starts getting edgy when a very odd stranger breaks into the facility and attempts to assault Lacey. Cameron helps her but then mysteriously the next day, Lacey is being told that what she thinks happened is just her delusions and she stands back as everything that happened is covered up.

In the next two chapters we are thrust forward as we enter "New Eden" and find a community of people that are living in a post-apocalyptic world underground. Here they are not allowed to go above ground because of the toxins and the Enforcers are given a third eye (literally). Zowan, Terra and Parthos are trying to make sense of life below the surface.

We switch back and forth between the two scenes every couple chapters and the whole time I'm trying to figure out what they are both doing in the same book. Cameron starts having flashbacks to his military days involving ancient things. He is hearing voices and Parker Swain is looking suspicious.

Karen ties it all together beautifully and really weaves an amazing story. It just went a little over the top for me with the ancient stuff (which I can't name), without that the story would've been great. That of course is just my opinion, but that is why I review for you :-)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karen Hancock has won Christy Awards for each of her first four novels--Arena and the first three books in the Legends of the Guardian-King series, The Light of Eidon, The Shadow Within, and Shadow over Kiriath. She graduated from the University of Arizona with bachelor's degrees in biology and wildlife biology. Along with writing, she is a semi-professional watercolorist and has exhibited her work in a number of national juried shows. She and her family reside in Arizona.


ABOUT THE BOOK

When Lacey McHenry accepts a prestigious research fellowship at the world-renowned Kendell-Jakes Longevity Institute, she sees it as a new start on life. But a disturbing late-night encounter with an intruder leads to an unexpected cover-up by Institute authorities, and she soon realizes there's more going on than she ever imagined.

She finds a supporter in genetics researcher Cameron Reinhardt. However, Reinhardt is a favorite of the Institute's director, and she can't help wondering if he, too, is in on the cover-up. The brilliant but absentminded researcher turns out to have his own secrets, some of them dark and deadly. The Enclave is characterized by adventure, intrigue, spiritual analogy, and romance, all set in an unusual but fully realized world--one that may have its foundations on earth but which, the more one learns of it, doesn't seem much like the earth we know at all.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of The Enclave, go HERE

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Matterhorn the Brave" Book Review and Giveaways!

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1)

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


MY REVIEW:
Yes! Here we have a series of books designed for young readers (and old too!) that will keep them on the edge of their seats without scaring their pants off! The Matterhorn the Brave Series is full of mystery and danger but is family friendly and great for reading aloud like I did for my kids. We loved the characters - Matthew Horn (aka Matterhorn), Aaron the Baron, Queen Bea... come on, isn't that too cool :-) And in addition to being totally unique and inspired (Four young people are recruited to keep an eye on the portals of earth that connect all space and time), Mike Hamel is gifted in the art form of leaving the reader gasping for more! The chapters are just the right length to give lots of info and adventure, but not too long that my kids would start losing their focus and then all of a sudden - BAM! He drops the perfect cliffhanger to the chapter and you just have to read on to the next chapter - sheer genius! My kids were always saying... "Just one more chapter!?!"

We still have to get the rest of the series, but with such a great start, my kids are begging for more Matterhorn adventures! Check out the great deal that Mike is offering too...
*****************************
While we are at it... would you like to check out Matterhorn for your own family, or know a family that might like it? Then leave a comment telling me your favorite family read aloud series and I will enter you to win a copy! Mike has kindly offered to give away 3-5 copies! I know! Isn't that awesome! Here's the thing - I want to really get the word out about this series, so you can earn some extra entries....

1) Leave your answer to the above stated question (1 entry)
2) Blog about this contest and book and link back to this post (2 entries)
3) Facebook or Twitter about this contest and book (2 entries)
4) Refer anyone back here and when they mention you in their entry, you get entered again (3 entries)

Leave a separate comment for each of the items you do (I'll take care of #4 for you, if someone mentions you, I'll add 3 entries automatically!) and July 31st I'll pull some lucky winners! For every 10 entries I'll add another book until we pass 50 entries and then all 5 books will go to lucky winners! Come on everyone, let's get the word out about Mike's great series and be sure to read the first chapter (below) and get pulled in to the world of Matterhorn!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


From Mike's Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with over a dozen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed, Executive Influence and Giving Back.

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 35 years, Susan.

In July of 2008 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer—Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma of the Diffuse Large B-Cell kind. I started this blog to chronicle my journey toward the valley of the shadow of death. I wanted to de-mystify the disease by sharing what I was learning and experiencing.

After several rounds of chemo I was tumor free for the first few months of 2009, but the cancer has returned so the adventure continues.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of introspective writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.


Mike's Blog, OPEN Mike, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please email the author at emtcom@comcast.net.

His website: Matterhorn the Brave Website is temporarily down.




AUTHOR'S SALE!


ALL BOOKS 30% OFF

Personalized Autographs
















Matterhorn Readers – In addition to lowering the price on the six books in print, I am making the last two volumes available as e-books for the same low price of $7.

AMG is not going to publish books 7 and 8 but I will no longer keep my readers in suspense while I look for a new publisher.

E-books of volumes 7 and 8 are now available at www.MatterhornTheBrave.com.

#7 – Tunguska Event

Matterhorn and his friends travel to Siberia to try and prevent the largest natural disaster in history: The Tunguska Event! But despite help from a legion of fairy folk, they fail to stop the blast, which hurtles Matterhorn and Nate into the distant past.

The Baron, Jewel, Sara, Kyl, and Elok search through the centuries for their missing friends, taking incredible risks that will leave two of them dead! Queen Bea and Rylan return to First Realm to persuade the Curia to send the elite Praetorian Guard to Earth.

The inevitable showdown comes inside the sealed tomb of the Chinese Emperor Zheng. The future of the human race will be determined by what happens inside this eight wonder of the ancient world.


#8 – The Book of Stories

The thrilling conclusion of the struggle to control Earth’s destiny between the heretics from First Realm and the human Travelers: Matterhorn, the Baron, Nate the Great, and Princess Jewel.

The year is 1983. The setting is Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois; location of the most powerful machine in the world, the Tevatron particle accelerator. The heretics plan to use the Tevatron to make Carik the unchallenged ruler of the planet! Learning of this plot, Matterhorn and his friends must save themselves before they can save the world.

The Book of Stories is full of surprises, including the most important revelation of all—the identity of the Tenth Talis!

Order copies of all eight books by emailing the author at emtcom@comcast.net as his website, www.MatterhornTheBrave.com, is temporarily down.

And spread the word!

~Mike Hamel


Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Emerald Isle


Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

"GodStories" Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


GodStories

David C. Cook; New edition edition (July 1, 2009)


MY REVIEW:
Finally! The kind of devotional book I've always wanted to see. Andrew Wilson has a fresh perspective on many passages and verses of scripture. He starts off with one of them and then he expounds upon it in such a way as to entertain the reader and get you to think all at the same time. Some of the chapters have endnotes that allow you to go a little deeper. And then about every 3 chapters there are "coffee breaks" that are different short things like "stop and study" or "pause and pray" that break the flow nicely and give you a chance to ponder and reflect. Andrew's outlook on life, the Bible and God are thoughtful, insightful and a joy to delve into. This book is perfect on my bedside table next to my alarm clock where I can pick it up and read a chapter or two anytime I need a break, or where I can read the book start to finish. I've waited a long time for someone to write a devotional that doesn't feel like a devotional!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Andrew Wilson holds degrees in theology from Cambridge University and London School of Theology. His passion is to communicate the extraordinary truths of God. Andrew teaches internationally and is an elder at Kings Church Eastbourne in the UK, where he leads training and development. Andrew is also the author of Incomparable: Explorations in the Character of God, and lives with his wife Rachel and their newborn baby Ezekiel in the UK.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765393
ISBN-13: 978-1434765390

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


PROLOGUE

Several years ago in Northern Nigeria, Emily was strung up on a tree and left for dead because she had epilepsy.1 Her tribal village had no idea what epilepsy was, let alone how to cope with it, so they tied her up and left her there, waiting for her to die from starvation or exposure. Just before she did, Daniel arrived with a small team to preach the gospel and plant a church. Horrified, he immediately cut down the young girl from the tree and put her under a doctor’s care. Then he and his team began explaining the gospel to the villagers.



Daniel has paid a price for his zeal. He, his wife, and his children have experienced pretty much every suffering you can have for preaching the good news: robbery, rape, physical beatings, death threats, the lot. But that hasn’t stopped him. In fact, from the little I have seen, his sufferings have increased his determination to establish churches and train leaders.


But as people in the village started responding to the gospel, Daniel and his team were able to plant a small church, and then build a school to educate the children. Daniel understood GodStories, you see. He had gone to the village in the first place because he knew the GodStory of world mission. He knew that he would face serious persecution for preaching the gospel, but he knew the GodStory of Christ’s suffering and was prepared to share it. When he got there, he preached GodStories about the gospel of God concerning his Son, victory over demons, and the death of death. He started bringing healthcare and education to the community because he knew GodStories about God’s kingdom, man in his image, and the renewal of creation. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the results firsthand: There is a thriving church in the village, nearly two hundred children at school every day (their English grammar is better than mine!), and Emily is still alive. Because of Daniel’s conviction that the gospel story is amazing, hope has conquered despair in that community.


And he certainly won’t stop preaching GodStories. Maybe it’s because he knows how they all end.


The Greatest Story Ever Told


The point of this book is to convince you that the gospel is amazing. It’s aimed at anyone who wants to understand the good news of what God has done: teenagers, caretakers, businesspeople, full-time mothers, artists. Knowing the gospel is the foundation for worship and mission, so the only thing we’re going to do in this book is explore the beautiful, triumphant, often-heartbreaking, and always-glorious stories that make up the gospel of God. I call them GodStories.


It’s a funny word, and you won’t find it in the dictionary. But my guess is that the idea of looking at a gospel through stories will excite lots of people. Perhaps you see theology as a rabbit warren of concepts without narratives, a series of points and principles and theories that take all the best bits (like characters and plot twists and heroism) out of the Bible, and leave behind a slightly inedible result, like eating cereal without milk or playing Scrabble without vowels. To you, the fact that this book is made up of stories—and, far more importantly, the fact that God’s gospel is made up largely of stories—should be encouraging. It will certainly increase your enjoyment of theology.


You see, just as we have one God in three persons and one church made up of many people, so in Scripture we have one gospel made up of many stories. We have one gospel, for sure: a single, unifying, big story about God and creation, man and sin, Jesus and rescue. But we also have many different ways of telling that big story because it is too large for us to grasp all at once. Even the quick summaries in the Bible itself—“your God reigns,” “the kingdom of God is near,” “God raised Jesus from the dead,” and “Christ died for our sins”—give different angles on the one big story. So seeing the many GodStories in the one gospel does not reduce that gospel in glory or splendor. Quite the opposite—it dramatically increases it.


This is true of all sorts of big stories, not just the gospel. Imagine that, instead of writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien decided to simplify things into a sentence: “Frodo and Sam left the Shire with the ring, faced a number of setbacks, and finally destroyed it in Mount Doom to save Middle Earth.” His summary would, in one sense, tell the same story, but it would be dramatically reduced in power and impact, and would probably not have sold millions of copies and been turned into three blockbuster films. The Lord of the Rings is about two hobbits and a ring, but it is also about the flight of the elves, the destruction of the forests, the corruption of mankind, the battles for Rohan and Gondor, the return of the king, and the influence the ring has on all of them. So when we read all those other stories, it adds to our understanding of the plot with Frodo and the ring, because it shows us the significance of the main story through its impact on all the others. The same is true of the gospel. But the process is far more important, for three reasons.


GodStories and the Glory of God


The first and biggest reason we must read these stories is because the glory of God is at stake. This is vital. If the Bible is stuffed full of GodStories but we tell only one of them, we lose much of the depth and wonder of the gospel, and that diminishes our view of God, just as it would diminish my view of Gordon Ramsay’s cooking if I ate only his steamed vegetables.


If, for example, we saw the gospel simply as a story of personal salvation, we would limit its scope enormously and rob God of the praise that is due to him. Such a view would miss out on the salvation of a corporate people and would find very little place for the history of Israel, which so much of the Bible is about. It would marginalize God’s faithfulness to his covenant and his multicolored wisdom in the church. And it would ignore the fact that Scripture speaks of the whole of creation, not just human souls, being made new. So reducing the gospel to only a story of personal salvation is like playing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the recorder. The melody might be the same, but much of the music’s power is lost, and the brilliance of the composer is missed.


Yet, as with music, God’s excellence is shown not just in creating new storylines, but in fusing them together so that they enhance one another. Queen brings two melodies together to form a harmony, but Yahweh weaves dozens of GodStories—Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and many others—into one another so intricately that when Jesus finally arrives on the scene, you want to stand amazed and applaud with excitement. Composers frequently write notes that clash with one another to present an unusual sound, but God allows entire plotlines to clash for generations and then get explained with a twist you would never have predicted (a servant king, for instance). Queen leaves their final chord sequence unresolved for several seconds, but God leaves Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 unresolved for several centuries before uniting them at the cross with unimaginable power and beauty. So to grasp more of the glory of God, we need to appreciate the range and depth of the gospel, by studying as many of its component stories as possible. More than anything else, the reason for writing a book full of GodStories is to remind us how astonishing and faithful and glorious and worthy of worship is the God who wrote them.


This could not be more important. If God’s glory is infinite, and my concept of him is not, then I never stop needing an increased understanding of his greatness. Furthermore, that greatness is many-sided, like a massive mountain; there is nowhere in creation I could stand and see the whole of Mount Kilimanjaro at once, far less the glory of Yahweh. So I need there to be a whole host of pictures to reveal different angles of what he has done and how it fits together. Fortunately, by his grace, this is exactly the sort of Bible he has inspired.


Scripture contains something to inspire worship in everyone. To the philosopher, there are GodStories of riddles and revelation, inquiry and truth. To the historian, there is an array of events covering thousands of years and numerous civilizations. To the architect, there are descriptions of temples being established and cities being rebuilt. To the artist, there are GodStories of beauty triumphing over ugliness, order over chaos, new creation over stagnation. For the romantic, there is a tale of a complicated relationship with a wonderful man that ends happily ever after; for the action-film fanatic, a story of a hero rescuing the love of his life and saving the world against impossible odds.2 There are genealogies for the tribesman, visions for the mystics, and arguments for the intellectuals. And displaying his glory in every one of these GodStories is Yahweh, the I AM, the maker of heaven, and earth and the rescuer of all things. Reading all of these stories will give us a bigger and better view of him.


GodStories and the Rescue of People


The second reason that we need to know these GodStories is because people’s eternal destinies are at stake. After all, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16), and preaching the gospel remains one of the highest callings of every Christian. Without the gospel, people cannot be saved. So it is vital that we know what the gospel actually is and how to communicate it in ways people understand.


Everyone agrees with that sentence, I’m sure. But read it again, because it is more difficult than it sounds: It is vital to know what the gospel is and how to communicate it in ways people understand. Many churches are great at half of this but neglect the other half. Some churches know the gospel inside out but put a lot of religious or cultural baggage on it, and are therefore not very effective at communicating it to a pluralist and largely pagan culture. On the other hand, there are churches who have gotten very good at using culture to communicate the gospel but have in the process lost sight of what they were supposed to be communicating. To be effective missionaries to our culture, we need to have fixed theology and flexible culture—strong on what the gospel is, but communicating it without adding religious clutter to it—or, more eloquently, “reaching out without selling out.”3


Paul is a great model. No one could accuse Paul of not knowing the gospel or of being scared to preach it. The scars on his back and welts on his face from being stoned and flogged would see to that. Yet he used a wide range of GodStories to communicate the gospel, depending on his setting.


To the Jews in Damascus, he proved that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 9:22). To the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, he preached forgiveness of sins and freedom from the law through Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:16–41). To the pagans in Lystra, he spoke of the creator God who showed his presence by giving them crops and good weather (Acts 14:14–17). To the pagans in Athens, he proclaimed an independent God who did not need serving and who would one day judge the world (Acts 17:22–31). To King Agrippa and Festus, he shared his personal testimony (Acts 26:1–23). So, although we know from Romans that Paul was utterly convinced of justification by faith, redemption, and being in Christ, we know from Acts that these weren’t always the GodStories he started with or stuck to when preaching to unbelievers. Others, equally true, were often more appropriate to his audience.


In none of this are we saying the gospel needs to change. That would be a terrible mistake because it puts the desires of man above the desires of God, which is idolatry. What we are saying is that there are numerous GodStories in Scripture, and it might be that the best way of saving some of God’s image-bearers is to start our preaching with a slightly different GodStory to the ones we are used to. The main planks of the gospel—a loving God, fallen humanity, rescue through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and so on—will never alter. But how we nail the planks together might.


GodStories and the Health of the Church


The third and final reason for writing GodStories is partly a product of the first two: The health of the church is on the line. At one level, this is obvious: If the church isn’t worshipping God properly or reaching the world with the gospel, then it is a waste of space and time. There is more to it than that, however. Again and again, in the pages of the New Testament, we find writers contending for the gospel because they care about the church.


To the Galatians, Paul reinforces GodStories about being justified by faith apart from the law, and about Jews and Gentiles being one in Christ.4 The Corinthians, on the other hand, seem to understand that, but need a strong reminder about Christ being crucified, their sanctification, and the bodily resurrection. First John focuses on the incarnation GodStory more than others. Hebrews tells us about the priesthood of Jesus and the superiority of Christ to the major Jewish symbols. In none of these cases is evangelism the point. Instead, a failure to understand these various GodStories leads to division and sexual immorality and false teaching and backsliding, respectively. So the health of the church depends on understanding the fullness of the gospel.


The gospel is not just for guest meetings or open airs, as you would think to hear us sometimes, but for the people of God. The outstanding explanation of the gospel in Romans, remember, was written to Christians; Paul tells Timothy to preach the word to his church until he’s blue in the face (2 Tim. 4:2); and Paul’s aim to visit the capital of the world was generated by a desire to preach the gospel amongst the church there (Rom. 1:15). If preaching the gospel to the church means simply reiterating the call to repent and be saved every week, then it is no wonder that so many preachers (and listeners) struggle. But if it means explaining to the church the full extent and scope of the GodStories in Scripture, then you could preach for a lifetime and never repeat yourself.


Thank God that there are so many to go round. If you’re in an introverted community of mature Christians, you can study the mission of God. If you love seeing people saved but you aren’t quite sure what to do with them when they are, you can look at freedom from sin. Frustrated artists can look at God’s beauty; frustrated activists, his justice. If you don’t get the Old Testament, then you can look under every verse and every rock until you find Christ. If you get only the Old Testament, then see how all of God’s promises are now yes and amen. Whoever you are, wherever you’re reading this, you can find a GodStory that will expand your view of God and revel in it. Then you can experience the joy of sharing it, in a culturally appropriate way, with someone who doesn’t know it yet. The world has nothing in comparison.


So we need to know and preach and live the gospel. The good news that shines through every GodStory will bring us closer into worship, push us further into mission, and draw us closer into community—face down, flat out, all in. This book is just an introduction to a few of them. But they might change your life all the same.


GodStories usually do.


Endnotes

1. The names of the people in this story have been changed.

2. Adapted from David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2005), 15.

3. This phrase is the subtitle of Mark Driscoll’s excellent book on the subject, Radical Reformission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

4. If, that is, we recognize that Galatians might tell more than one GodStory at once, rather than (as sometimes happens) playing them off against each other. For an excellent explanation of how we can and should embrace both these GodStories together, see Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Blue Like Play Dough"

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Blue Like Play Dough

Multnomah Books (July 21, 2009


MY REVIEW:
I was looking forward to reading and reviewing this book, but never got a copy, so I will just say that I think this book looks wonderful and I will read it at some point in the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana.

Visit the author's website.

Tricia Goyer's Go-Go Campaign!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 21, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421524
ISBN-13: 978-1601421524

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter 1


In the Middle

of My Mess

I never thought I could meet God here. In my home. In my mess. In the midst of my ordinary suburban life. To me, God was someone you met at church or connected with at weekly Bible study. I knew deep down it was possible to have mountaintop moments, but I believed they came during weeklong spiritual retreats, hour long morning Quiet Times, and a once-a year women’s conference.

Instead, I found God in surprising places. I found Him as I sat on the couch cuddling with my three-year-old and reading Goodnight Moon for the 2,345th time. He spoke to me as I made dinner and even as I stuffed laundry into rickety dresser drawers. I heard Him in the midst of my untidy, desperately-in-need of-a-reorg life. I found God, experienced Him…well…while mixing Kool-Aid and playing with play dough.

And it’s a good thing God allowed Himself to be found there, because as a mom my opportunities for solitude, contemplation, and three hymns and a prayer are few and far between.

I used to think the ones who knew God best were nuns and monks who lived high in the hills. I imagined it must be hard for such people to separate themselves and to give up so much. What they had, I believed, was true devotion and an ultimate connection with God. Everyone else—those of us who lived ordinary lives—missed out. Well, I don’t think that anymore.

Yes, I still think nuns and monks are devoted people, but in a way they have it easy. They find God in routines and rituals. They talk to God because there is no one else around. They don’t have to deal with bad drivers cutting them off and then flipping them off. Or with grass stains on a new pair of capris that actually fit and don’t make their butts look too big. Or with a child practicing her name one hundred times on the bathroom floor in permanent marker. Sure, their prayers sound eloquent, but a mom’s prayers for a sick baby are just as pious and maybe more passionate.

In my way of thinking, the most devoted people are moms who whisper prayers for their neighbor, their friend, and their brother (who’s messing up yet again) while watching their kids play in the sandbox. Moms who try to read their Bibles while Dora the Explorer is blaring on the TV in the next room. Moms who stop to talk with an elderly man at the grocery store about the creamed corn, not because they even like creamed corn, but because they want to show a lonely person the love of Jesus.

I think God would agree. I believe He sees the challenges and the effort. He appreciates the smallest turning of our attention to Him or to others for Him.

Even though seeking God is worthy, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or natural. In fact, it almost seems wrong to squeeze God into the middle of a busy, ordinary life. God is BIG. My pursuits are small. God is GLORIOUS. Scrubbing sinks and changing poopy diapers is not. Nor is pushing a shopping cart filled with teetering toiletries, humming “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” as the song plays through the store speakers.

I’ve read many books written by people who “went away with God.” The authors often write about how God speaks to people in solitary, beautiful places. But not all the places He visits are beautiful. Or solitary. My life is proof of that.

Truth be told, it wasn’t I who discovered God. He came down and met me where I was. It doesn’t matter to Him that I can hardly see my desk under the piles of mail and bills and kids’ craft projects. He doesn’t care that I’m twenty pounds overweight (or maybe thirty, no matter what my driver’s license says). He loves me just as I am. He knows my to-do list and that I’ll never get to the end of it. Ever. God sees my heart. He understands that I’m trying to get my life in order so I can focus on family dinners and Bible reading times. He knows I’m working at not feeling envious that my neighbor is thinner than I am and has a better flower garden. My flaws neither surprise Him nor dissuade Him from entering my life.

It’s not as if God says, “I was going to visit you today, but I think I’ll wait until you balance that checkbook, clean out your fridge, and start that Bible study you’ve been meaning to get around to.” God’s not like that. He walked with dirty, smelly shepherds and hung out with jailed prophets, so I don’t think my waist-high laundry pile is going to scare Him off.

Still, I struggle with feeling as if I have to clean up before I approach God. Organize my closets. Transform my kids. Rearrange my priorities. Renew my heart. I forget that God wants me just as I am. That belonging to Him is enough.

Like the prodigal son in Luke 15:11–32, I need to remember who my Father is. The kid had it all, and he threw it away. He was broke. He was hungry. He was dirty. He was a mess. Then he remembered his father and his home.

For the prodigal son, it wasn’t just about going back to his home. It was also about letting his dad take care of him. I need to do the same. And if I took two minutes to think about it— as I’m doing now—I’d realize the perfection I long for will never be found in the place I live and parent and strive. It’s found in who I turn to. In who is waiting for me with open arms.

The problem isn’t whether God will show up. It’s all about me not being aware that God is already here…that He has been in my life all along. And that He doesn’t care about my mess. Sometimes I do better at remembering. And other times, well… I live in a house with my husband, my grandma, my three teens, and a foreign exchange student we invited into our home just so we could make sure life didn’t get too boring. That’s seven people, each involved in numerous activities, each with his or her own schedule. Circles and scribbles and arrows fill my desk calendar. White spaces are few and far between. Daily life keeps me running. Add in volunteering at church and my work projects, and I wonder if it’s possible to think, let alone contemplate.

While I’m no longer potty training and all my kids have learned to write and read and say please and thank you, I’ve discovered that every season comes with challenges of its own. Right now I’m in a season where little messes sprout up around me like dandelions on a manicured lawn. As soon as I try to cut one down, the seeds scatter and weeds sprout up in a dozen more places.

In the last two months, my nineteen-year-old son, Cory, had two knee surgeries (due to basketball injuries). And my daughter, Leslie, celebrated her sixteenth birthday with a “Never Been Kissed Party,” which means that my years of lectures about abstinence and purity have paid off thus far. My youngest son, Nathan, has been helping me housebreak a dog that, for the past year, has assumed the downstairs bathroom was his potty spot too.

I used to think stumbling over LEGO blocks was irritating. Now I live with a teen driver, a social butterfly, and a child who must believe that showers spray acid, judging by the lengths he goes to avoid them. On a daily basis, I’m not sure who is going where with whom…or if any of my kids are clean enough to be going out at all!

When I read the familiar Scripture verse, “Be still, and know that I am God,” my stomach knots and my thoughts bounce around like a Ping-Pong ball on steroids. Even as I try to focus on the words, my mind wanders to the phone calls I need to return. I find myself trying to stack and restack the piles in order to make them seem more appealing and not quite so overwhelming.

Yet I know this verse doesn’t necessarily mean I have to still my body in order to connect with God. In the middle of my busy life, I can refocus my thoughts and my mind and my heart on Him. I can be fixed on God, even when my feet are hustling. I can look for Him, listen for Him, even if the looking and listening happen in the short drive I take to pick my daughter up from her job at a fast-food restaurant. Or in the prayers I offer up as I shave my legs in the shower.

Being still is trusting that when I do fill the white space with some quiet moments (which I try to do daily), God will have something better in store for me and my kids than what I could’ve come up with on my own. (Like the afternoon when, instead of cleaning off my desk, I took my daughter for coffee. That inner urging led to great conversation about issues I didn’t realize Leslie was dealing with.)

Being still is realizing that even though the world is traveling around me at breakneck speed, sometimes—most times— God’s schedule is in the horse-and-buggy mode. Just because life is moving faster and my needs are growing like kernels of popcorn in the microwave, it doesn’t mean that God has to answer my urgent prayers in the next .287 seconds. In fact, sometimes I think He holds off on purpose, because the greater my need, the more I seek Him. In the end the seeking and waiting and trusting may be more important than the answer.

The mess isn’t going to get cleaned up today, but that doesn’t mean I need to hold God at bay. He loves joining me, even if I’m placing Him into my chaos. In fact, if God had His way, I’m sure He’d write Himself into all parts of my life, using permanent marker, reminding me of where He wants to be—everywhere. In all of my life. And if I close my eyes, I can see His message in my day, in my life:

Insert God here.