GrowingForChrist

Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

Tyndale: "Does God Exist? Kit"


From the Tyndale Media Center:

In this first DVD set of the TrueU series, Dr. Stephen Meyer plays a “philosophical survival game,” pitting four worldviews against one another in the quest to decide which one gives the best answers. Dr. Meyer examines the evidence and provides the tools needed for students to defend their faith and make it their own. This is the perfect resource for students preparing to enter college and a culture that may be hostile to their faith. Additional discussion guides can be purchased separately, either in singles (978-1-58997-115-8) or in a 10-pack (978-1-58997-116-5).

My Opinion:

If you have teens who are wondering how to defend their Faith in the midst of being questioned and in the age of New Atheists then this set will definitely help them formulate their answers. In conjunction with Focus on the Family this DVD set is well laid out and actually fun to watch – even if you not a teen or young adult. Dr. Meyer is presenting the facts in a classroom setting, much like college, complete with young people and dialogue between them. Words superimposed on the screen and images highlighting main points add more to the discussion, especially if you’re a visual learner, some of these images are also included in the 64 page study guide.

The host of Drive Through History is also on the DVD sort of like an emcee for the next segment, he gives a bit of a introduction into what will be talked about. There are ten 30-minute lessons on two DVD’s covering things from faith and reason, The Big Bang Cosmology (3 parts), DNA, The return of the God Hypothesis and a few more. In a culture that is more and more accepting of all things scientific and immoral these DVDs will give the tools to help defend our faith in God and His Holy Word. The two DVDs each come packaged in their own case and both them and the study guide all fit nicely into a slipcase for easy storage.

I can see this being a much needed item in churches across this country, especially those who are becoming seeker friendly instead of relying on God’s Word to lead them, but any church can use this. As more children and young adults are leaving Christianity behind this will give them a solid foundation in why believing in our Creator is of utmost importance. While this would be good for churches to keep on hand this would also provide a well grounded apologetics/Bible curriculum for middle school and high schooled children both in homeschooling or in traditional schools. The culture today is hostile to genuine Christians and anything that can be of an aid and Biblical is what’s needed for our children today.

**I was provided a copy of this kit in exchange for my honest review,no other compensation was given. For full disclosure see my disclosure tab above.

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FIRST tour: "Asking for Trouble" (London Confidential) by Sandra Byrd


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:

Sandra Byrd

and the book:

Asking for Trouble (London Confidential)

Tyndale House Publishers (March 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Christy Wong of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Best-selling author Sandra Byrd has published nearly three dozen books in the Christian market, including her latest series, French Twist, which includes the Christy Award finalist Let Them Eat Cake (WaterBrook Press, 2007) and its sequel, Bon Appétit (WaterBrook Press, 2008). Many of her acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books target the tween and young adult markets. She has also published a book for new moms entitled Heartbeats. Several of Sandra’s shorter works have appeared in periodicals such as Relevant, Clubhouse, Pockets, Decision, and Guideposts. For the past seven years, she has shared her secrets with the many students she mentors through the Christian Writers Guild. Before turning to full-time writing, Sandra was an acquisitions editor in the ABA market. She lives in the Seattle, Washington, area with her husband and two children.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (March 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414325975
ISBN-13: 978-1414325972

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I hung back at the doorway to the cafeteria of my new supercool British school, Wexburg Academy. Most of the lunch tables were already packed, and the room was buzzing with chatter. The populars, whom I’d secretly nicknamed the Aristocats, commanded an entire table right in the center of the room. Their good looks and posh accents made up the sun around which all other tables orbited. The normal kids were in the second circle, arranged by friends or clubs or activities. The drama table was on the outer edge of the room, and so were the geeks, the nerds, and the punk wannabes–way out there like Neptune, but still planets. Most everyone had a group. I didn’t.

Okay, so there was one table with lots of room. The leftovers table. It might as well have been the dark side of the moon.

No way.

I skipped lunch–again–and headed to the library. One of the computers was available and I logged on, desperately hoping for an e-mail from Seattle.

There was an e-mail from my grandmother reminding me to floss because British dentists only cleaned adult teeth.

Spam from Teen Vogue.

An invitation to join the Prince Harry fan club–​I opened it and gave it a quick scan. I’d consider it more later.

And . . . one from Jen!

I clicked open the e-mail from my best friend at home–well, it had been my home till a couple of months ago–hoping for a lunch full of juicy news served alongside tasty comments about how she missed me and was planning stuff for my next visit home. I craved something that would take me the whole lunch period to read and respond to and remind me that I did have a place somewhere in this universe.

From: Jen
To: Savannah

Hey, Fortune Cookie, so how’s it going? Met the Queen yet? LOL. Sorry I haven’t written too much. It’s been so busy. Samantha took the position you’d been promised on the newspaper staff. She’s brand new, but then again you would have been too. It seemed strange without you at first, but I think she’ll do okay–maybe even better than okay. And hey, life has changed for everyone, right? Things are crazy busy at school, home, and church. We hang out a lot more now that a bunch of us are driving. Will write again in a few weeks.

Miss you!
Jen

A few weeks! My lungs filled with air, and I let it out slowly, deflating like a balloon with a slow leak. I poised my hands over the keyboard to write a response but just . . . couldn’t. What would I say? It had already been weeks since we’d last e-mailed. Most of my friends texted instead of e-mailing anyway, but texting across the Atlantic Ocean cost way too much. And the truth was . . .

I’d moved, and they’d moved on.

I logged off the computer and sat there for a minute, blinking back tears. Jen hadn’t meant to forget me. I was simply out of her orbit now.

I pretended to read Sugar magazine online, but mostly I was staring at the clock, passing the time till I could respectably head to my next class.

Five minutes before class I swung my book bag onto my shoulder and headed down the hall. Someone was stapling flyers to the wall. “Hi, Hazelle.”

“Hullo, Savannah.” She breezed by me, stapling another pink flyer farther down the wall. We had math class together–oh yeah, maths, as the Brits called it–first period. I’d tried to make friends with her; I’d even asked her if she’d like to sit together in lunch, but she’d crisply informed me that she sat at the table with the other members of the newspaper staff.

She didn’t bother with small talk now either, but went on stapling down the hall. I glanced at one of the flyers, and one sentence caught my eye right away: Looking for one experienced journalist to join the newspaper staff.

I yanked the flyer off the wall and jammed it into my bag. I was experienced. Wasn’t I?

A nub of doubt rose inside me–the kind that popped up, unwelcome, anytime I tried to rationalize something that wasn’t exactly true or right.

This time I swallowed it back. I thought back to Jen’s e-mail that kind of felt like a polite dismissal. I lived in London now.

It was time to take matters into my own hands.

My Opinion:

I will post my review once my daughter and I finish reading it.

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Waterbrook tour: "Forget Me Not" by Vicki Hinze


About the book:

THEIR ELUSIVE ENEMIES TOOK EVERYTHING.  NOW THEY WANT MORE.
 
Crossroads Crisis Center owner Benjamin Brandt was a content man—in his faith, his work, and his family.  Then in a flash, everything he loved was snatched away.  His wife and son were murdered, and grief-stricken Ben lost faith.  Determination to find their killers keeps him going, but after three years of dead ends and torment, his hope is dying too.  Why had he survived?  He’d failed to protect his family.  
 
Now, a mysterious woman appears at Crossroads seeking answers and help—a victim who eerily resembles Ben’s deceased wife, Susan.  A woman robbed of her identity, her life, of everything except her faith—and Susan’s necklace.  
 
The connections between the two women mount, exceeding coincidence, and to keep the truth hidden, someone is willing to kill.  Finding out who and why turns Ben and the mystery woman’s situation from dangerous to deadly.  Their only hope for survival is to work together, trust each other, and face whatever they discover head on, no matter how painful. But will that be enough to save their lives and heal their tattered hearts?

About the Author:

Vicki Hinze is an award-winning author of twenty-three novels, three nonfiction books, and hundreds of articles. Selected for Who’s Who in America in 2004 as a writer and educator, Hinze is active in Romance Writers of America and serves as a Vice President on the International Thriller Writers Board of Directors. Vicki lives in Florida with her artist husband, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. Visit www.vickihinze.com to learn more about Vicki’s books, blogs, and writing programs.

My Opinion:

Edge of your seat suspense and faith in God makes for one great book and one that took me hardly anytime to read at all.  From the first page I was pulled in, even though some things were confusing – they all got ironed out in the end and made for a great and exciting read.  Vicki Hinze gave the characters such depth that one could feel that they knew them – which helped to pull you into the story and keep you engaged.

A man whose faith has faltered after losing his wife and son and a woman whose faith stays strong even as she suffers amensia.  They both work together to get answers that are needed and eventually the man rededicates himself back to God and the faith of his wife.  While the ending is a happy ever after ending, it doesn’t seem fake or forced which makes the storyline seem more plausible. 

** This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

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Waterbrook tour: "This Little Prayer of Mine" by Anthony DeStefano


About the book: Author Anthony DeStefano’s adult books, The Prayers God Always Says Yes To and A Travel Guide to Heaven, have sold a quarter-million copies. Illustrator Mark Elliott’s cherished artwork has appeared in popular picture books and novels for young readers, including Gail Carson Levine’s ever-popular Princess Tales series.

About the Author:  Anthony DeStefano is the author of The Prayers God Always Says Yes To and A Travel Guide to Heaven. He has received prestigious awards from religious organizations worldwide for his efforts to advance Christian beliefs in modern culture.

About the Illustrator:  Mark Elliot’s brilliant illustrations have appeared in popular picture books and novels for young readers, including Gail Carson Levine’s Princess Tales series. His acclaimed artwork delivers inspiration, wonder, and timeless beauty on every page.

My Opinion: 

This is an adorable children’s book, all three of my children ages 3, 5, and 8 enjoyed having me read this book to them as well as listening to their big sister read it.  Appropriate for anytime of the day, this makes a very nice book to read to prepare for unwinding before bed and reminding the children to pray.

The beautiful illustrations really are a beneficial addition to the story line and demonstrates what the author is poetically trying to convey to the children.  With the way it is written any Christian can use this book with their child(ren), no mention of Santa with Christmas makes it especially beneficial if your family does not carry out the Santa part of celebrating Christmas.

I can see this being a treasured part of our bedtime routine for years to come and as it easily became a favorite for my children hopefully it will for your children as well.  Children of any age benefit from being read to and learning all they can about our Lord and this is perfect for a joint gift for a family of children with different ages.

If you’d like more information on ordering please visit Random House’s website. 

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

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FIRST tour: "Deadly Disclosures" by Julie Cave


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:

Julie Cave

and the book:

Deadly Disclosures

New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (February 15, 2010)

***Special thanks to Stacey Drake of New Leaf Press for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Julie first heard a creation science speaker at her church when she was just 15, igniting her interest in creation science and sparking an enthusiasm for defending the Bible’s account of creation. She has obtained a degree in health science, and is currently completing a degree in law. Julie is married with one daughter and lives on the east coast of Australia.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (February 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0890515840
ISBN-13: 978-0890515846

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Thomas Whitfield climbed out of the Lincoln Towncar and stood in the snappy, early morning fall air, breathing deeply. The temperature had fallen a few more degrees overnight, signaling that winter was truly on its way.

Thomas glanced up and down the wide street. There was nobody around at this early hour, and he took a moment to drink in the sights of his beloved city. The graceful willows, their branches arching over the street, were turning gold and red and, in the gentle yellow morning light, threw off highlights like burnished copper. This street was like many others in the center of DC — wide and tree-lined, with magnificent government buildings standing one after the other. That was another thing that Thomas found so delicious about this city — so much of it hinted at the enormous wealth and prosperity of the country, and yet only a few streets behind these world-famous landmarks, the seedier side of American poverty flourished. It was a city of contradictions, Thomas thought.

His gaze fell finally to the building right in front of him — the main complex of the Smithsonian Institution. Enormous stone pillars flanked the entryway into a marble lobby, and behind that were laid out the evidence of mankind’s brilliance. Everything about the institution was testament to the scientific and anthropological advances of man over the pages of history — the inventions, the discoveries, the deductions, the sheer radiance of a human being’s intelligence at its finest.

Thomas Whitfield had always been immensely proud of this place, and everything it showcased. He had boasted about it, defended it, nourished it, and protected it, the way a proud father would his prodigious child.

He was the secretary of the Smithsonian, after all, and he felt a strange kind of paternal relationship with the buildings and their contents.

He stood for a moment longer, a slender whippet of a man dressed immaculately, with highly polished shoes gleaming, thinning dark hair cut short, and a gray cashmere scarf to ward off the cold. Then he purposefully strode down the path and into the main building, scarf fluttering behind him.

To the malevolent eyes watching him through high-powered binoculars down the street in a non-descript Chevy, he presented a painfully easy target.

Thomas settled in his large office with the door shut, turned on the computer, and shut his eyes briefly as he contemplated what he would do next. The course of events he had planned for this day would change everything, and the impact would be felt right up to the president himself. Courage, Thomas, he told himself silently. What you are about to do is the right thing to do.

He began to type, slowly and decisively, feeling within himself a great sense of conviction and purpose. He was so lost in concentration that he was startled by the door suddenly swinging open.

“What are . . . ?” he exclaimed, almost jumping off his seat. Then he recognized his visitor and he glanced at his watch.

“What are you doing here?” Thomas asked. “It’s a little early for you, isn’t it?”

“I wanted to be sure I caught you,” his visitor replied, moving closer to the desk. “Without any interruptions.”

“I see. What can I do for you then?” Thomas asked, trying to hide his irritation. He hadn’t wanted to be interrupted during this most important task.

“What are you working on?” the unannounced guest asked, ignoring him and moving around the side of the desk and trying to look at Thomas’s computer screen.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Thomas answered with a falsely airy tone. “It’s just a family project. Nothing to do with work. Is there something I can help you with?”

Thomas was suddenly aware that his visitor was standing close by him. He felt uncomfortable, and tried to roll his chair away to maintain some space.

“You see,” his visitor said in a quiet voice, “there are people out there who don’t agree with you. They think the project you are working on could be very dangerous. In fact, I believe they have already tried to warn you about continuing with this project.”

Thomas now felt distinctly uncomfortable and a little afraid. He decided to assert his authority. “Listen here,” he said, in a voice that betrayed his anxiety. “What I am working on is none of your business. The subject is certainly not up for discussion with somebody like you. I suggest you leave my office immediately.”

The visitor managed to fuse sorrow and menace into his words as he said, “I’m afraid I can’t do that. You will have to come with me.”

Thomas retorted, “I’m not going anywhere with you. In fact, I. . . .” He broke off abruptly as he saw the small handgun in the visitor’s hand, pointing directly at him. There was no sorrow or pity on his face — only menace.

“Do I need to force you to come with me?” the visitor wondered, his tone like flint.

Thomas leapt to his feet, his eyes darting about wildly. He needed to get out of here, to try to get away from this situation that had so rapidly gotten out of hand. A hand shot out and grabbed Thomas by the collar with surprising strength. Thomas was shocked as he strained to get away from the man, who was intently staring at the computer screen.

“You traitor!” Thomas spat. “I should’ve known you were nothing more than a trained monkey!”

The visitor chuckled heartily. “That’s ironic, Thomas.”

The visitor, much younger and stronger than Thomas, began to drag him out of the room. Thomas was determined not to go down without a fight, and drove his heel backward into the visitor’s shin. There was a yelp of pain, but the unrelenting grip did not lessen around Thomas’s arm. Instead, a thick arm curled around Thomas’s throat and squeezed, applying pressure to the carotid artery. It took only a few seconds for Thomas to fall limply into the arms of his abductor as the blood supply to his brain was cut off.

That was the last anyone saw of the secretary of the Smithsonian Institute.

• • • •

Dinah Harris woke with a scream dying in her throat, the sheets twisted hopelessly around her legs. Her nightgown was damp with panicked sweat, her heart galloping like a runaway horse. She stared, blinking, at the pale dawn light streaming through the window, while the shadowy vestiges of her nightmare slithered from her memory.

As she lay in bed, joining the waking world from sleep, the familiar blanket of depression settled over her, dark and heavy as the Atlantic winter. The dread she felt at facing another day was almost palpable in the small bedroom. Dinah glanced across at her alarm clock, where the flashing numbers showed 6 a.m.

She threw aside the sheets and stumbled into the tiny bathroom, where she purposefully avoided looking at herself in the mirror. She was only in her mid-thirties and had once been relatively attractive. Certainly not beautiful, but with what her first boyfriend had once told her — a pleasant face and athletic body. Now her eyes were always underscored by dark bags, her skin pale and paper-thin, and the weight fell off her in slow degrees without ceasing. She dressed in her trademark dark pants suit, pulled her black hair from her face in a severe ponytail, and washed her face.

She made strong coffee and sat in the kitchen as she drank the bitter liquid. The dining alcove was still stacked with moving cartons, filled with books and music that she couldn’t face opening. The gray light of morning lent no color to the apartment, which suited Dinah just fine. Her world didn’t contain color anymore.

Though traffic often seemed at a standstill in the mornings, Dinah always arrived early to the J. Edgar Hoover building. She turned directly to the teaching wing, avoiding the eye contact and morning greetings of many she knew in the building. She knew what they whispered about during after-work drinks and at the water cooler. Her fall from grace would go down as one of the most spectacular in FBI history.

So she kept up the ice-cool veneer until she arrived at her desk, checking her e-mails and teaching schedule for the week.

She didn’t look up as an imposing shadow fell across her desk.

“Special Agent Harris, how are you?” boomed the voice of her former colleague, David Ferguson. He was a big man, six-four and two hundred pounds, with a loud, booming voice and a penchant for pork rinds. He stood above her, his hand resting easily on the holstered gun at his hip; the twin of a gun Dinah no longer wore but kept underneath her pillow.

“Ferguson,” she replied. “Fine, how are you?”

“Feel like a coffee?” he asked.

“Don’t you have a killer to catch?” Dinah asked, dryly.

He waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, they can wait. Come on.”

He took her to a tiny Italian café a block away from the FBI headquarters. While they ordered, Dinah wondered at his ulterior motive for bringing her here. It certainly isn’t for my sparkling wit and charm, she thought. Rumor had it that the freshman criminology classes were afraid of her.

“So I’m just wondering if I could get your opinion on something,” Ferguson began, tentatively testing the water.

She scowled at him. “You know I don’t get involved in cases.”

He held up his hands in mock surrender. “Okay, calm down, Harris. I just want your opinion. I know you’ve given up your real talents to teach some snotty freshmen.”

His comment stung her, but she narrowed her eyes at him and pretended she hadn’t even noticed. “So get on with it already.”

“I don’t remember you always being this prickly,” complained Ferguson, draining his macchiato. “Anyway. What would you say if I told you the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution had gone missing?”

“Missing?” Dinah raised her eyebrows and slurped her latte. “In what context?”

“As in, turned up for work at six this morning and disappeared off the face of the earth shortly thereafter.”

“How do you know he turned up for work at six?” Dinah asked.

“Security cameras have him arriving in the lobby and heading for his office. After that, who knows?”

“So he’s an adult, maybe he took a trip to get away from work stress or his wife has been giving him grief or his kid is in trouble.” Dinah frowned. “Why are we even involved at this early stage?”

Ferguson paused. “It’s due mostly to his rather prestigious position. It wouldn’t do for the secretary of the Smithsonian to simply disappear. Congress is rather anxious.”

Dinah knew of political influence that ran high in this city but didn’t press the issue. “Is there evidence of homicide?”

“Not really, although I haven’t been to his office yet.” Ferguson made it sound like a confession, and he looked at her sheepishly.

Dinah stared at him. “What do you really want, Ferguson?”

He gathered up his courage. “I need you to work this case with me, Harris.”

Dinah opened her mouth to respond indignantly, but Ferguson held up his hand and continued with a rush. “You know I’m not good with sensitive cases. I. . . .”

“Or complex ones,” interjected Dinah, bad-temperedly.

“I’m operating on a hunch that this is a bad case, that it involves people in the White House.” Ferguson must have needed her very badly to allow her comment to go unheeded.

“Well, I’m sorry, but I have a heavy teaching workload,” she said. “So I’ll have to limit my involvement to opinions only.”

Ferguson didn’t say anything but looked even guiltier.

“What have you done?” Dinah demanded.

“I may have cleared your schedule so you could work with me.” Ferguson examined his fingernails with great concentration.

Dinah waited for a beat. “I see. You’ve spoken to my superiors?”

He nodded. “They’ve agreed to lend you to me for as long as the case takes.”

Dinah stood abruptly. “Thanks for the coffee.” She walked angrily from the café.

Ferguson stared at her as she walked off, then slapped down some crumpled notes and heaved his bulk out of the chair. “Where are you going?” Ferguson asked, struggling to keep up with her.

She wheeled around and glared directly at him. “Who do you think you are? Do you think I’m lesser than you so you can sneak around behind my back?”

“Dinah, we really need you back in the field. You were — are — brilliant.” Ferguson spoke softly, hoping to calm her down.

“My field days are behind me, with very good reason,” snapped Dinah. I can’t see a dead body anymore. I can’t feel desire to catch the person who did it. I just want to lie down beside the body and feel the same endless peace of sleep.

“Please, I’m begging you. I need you back,” Ferguson said. Then it hit her. Dinah realized that this situation was very serious. Ferguson was the last person on the planet to beg anybody.

“I don’t really have a choice, do I?” she said dully. She knew that this case could break her.

Ferguson didn’t reply, and his answer was in his silence.

• • • •

The Smithsonian Institution was bustling with tourists and school kids as if nothing had gone wrong. Dinah and David strode into the main lobby, trying unsuccessfully to look casual. When they flashed their badges discreetly, they were allowed into the inner sanctum, where Thomas Whitfield’s personal assistant was fielding phone calls.

The secretary was young and pretty, with thick, dark hair waving gracefully to her shoulders, startlingly blue eyes, and a creamy olive complexion. Her only downfall was the thick eye makeup, applied to make her eyes stand out but which had the effect of making her look like a scared raccoon. “I’m afraid Mr. Whitfield simply cannot be interrupted at present,” she snapped into the phone. “I’ll have him call you back if you’d leave a message.”

She glanced up and saw the two agents standing at her desk. She gave them a wave to acknowledge their presence, repeated the details of the caller, scribbled furiously, and then hung up.

“Good morning,” she said, jumping to her feet. “If you caught the end of that conversation, you’ll know that Mr. Whitfield is in an extremely important meeting and. . . .”

“Save it,” interrupted Dinah, showing the secretary her badge. The young woman blushed. “We’re here to investigate the disappearance of Mr. Whitfield. What is your name?”

The secretary sat down hard, looking relieved. “I’m Lara Southall. I’m so worried about Mr. Whitfield.”

Ferguson flashed his partner a frown and took charge. “I’m Special Agent David Ferguson and this is Special Agent Dinah Harris. You’ll have to excuse her; she’s been out of the field for some time and has forgotten how to relate to people.”

Dinah opened her mouth to reply with outrage, but Ferguson continued, “Can you tell us about this morning?”

Lara Southall regarded Dinah with a mixture of amusement and fear, which Dinah filed away for future reference. “I got to work at eight o’clock as usual,” she replied. “Mr. Whitfield always arrives before me. I usually turn on my computer, get settled, and then get us both a coffee. When I opened his office door to give him the coffee, the room was empty.” As the girl spoke, she tapped perfectly manicured fingernails together absently. Dinah hated manicured fingernails: they reminded her of her distinctly unattractive, chewed-to-the-quick fingertips.

“Mr. Whitfield was due to give a presentation at eleven o’clock,” Lara continued. “So I didn’t really start worrying until about ten-thirty. He hates to be late, and he had to come back to get his presentation and make it uptown in less than half an hour. At eleven, I started to make some calls.”

“Has he ever been absent from the office before?” Ferguson asked.

“Sure, he often has meetings or goes out into the museum to talk to visitors. The thing is, I always know what he’s doing. That’s part of my job. He never goes anywhere during the day without letting me know.”

“So you started making calls at eleven. Who did you call?” Dinah asked impatiently.

Lara ticked off her fingers as she remembered. “I called his cell phone, and I called the other museums. I thought maybe he’d just forgotten to tell me he had a meeting. Nobody had seen him and his cell just rang out. So I called his home. His wife told me he’d left for work at about five-thirty and she hadn’t seen him since. Then I called some of the senior executives. I thought they might’ve had an emergency. But nobody had seen him.”

“Did the people you called — his wife, the executives — seem concerned about his whereabouts?” Ferguson asked.

“Yes, they did. It’s so unusual for Mr. Whitfield to act this way that everyone I spoke to was concerned. I think his wife is actually here somewhere at the moment.”

“So then you called the police?” Dinah said.

“No, one of the directors came over to look at the security tapes. She specifically told me not to call anyone until she’d viewed the footage. I thought that Mr. Whitfield might’ve had an accident on the way to work. Mrs. Whitfield was calling the hospitals when Ms. Biscelli — the director — came back from security.”

“What did the tapes show?” Dinah asked.

“They showed him arriving at six-thirty or so. That’s all I know.”

“Did any of the tapes show him leaving?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Right. So what then?”

“I called the police.”

Ferguson nodded. “What did they tell you?”

“Basically they won’t do anything until he’s been missing 24 hours.” Lara stopped clicking her nails together and started twisting her hair with one finger. “So I told Ms. Biscelli, and she wasn’t happy with that. I think she must’ve pulled some strings, because here you are.”

Dinah and Ferguson both raised their eyebrows at her in confusion.

“The FBI,” explained Lara. “You guys wouldn’t normally get involved, would you?” She may have been a very pretty secretary, but Lara Southall was an intelligent girl. She’d asked the very question Dinah had been mulling over all morning.

“We’re going to look in his office,” Ferguson said, ignoring the question. He handed her his card. “Please call me if you think of anything else that might be helpful.”

She nodded and picked up the ringing phone. “No,” she said, sounding very weary. “Mr. Whitfield is in a meeting at the moment and can’t be disturbed.”

• • • •

Ferguson opened the door to the office while Dinah waited to get the log-on details for Thomas Whitfield’s computer. Dinah stood in the doorway, looking into the impressive room, and felt the thrill of the chase wash over her like a wave. It had been a long time since she had felt anything.

The office was furnished with heavy cedar furniture that consisted of a large desk, a leather-bound chair, a couch, and two armchairs grouped around a glass-topped coffee table and one entire wall of built-in bookcases. The floor was covered with thick burgundy carpet, and the drapes at the picture window were also burgundy. The walls contained portraits of several great scientists and inventors — Dinah recognized Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers — as well as photos of the secretary with the president, the queen of England, and other dignitaries. The room itself was clean and uncluttered, likely symbolic of the man himself, Dinah thought.

Ferguson was moving around the room, muttering to himself, as was his habit. Dinah had forgotten how intensely annoying she found this habit. She preferred silence so that she could concentrate.

Having received the log-on details from Lara, Dinah strode to the desk and pulled on her latex gloves. The top of the desk was shiny and would be a great medium to obtain fingerprints. She was careful not to allow herself to touch the desktop while she turned on the laptop.

“By the way, Harris,” Ferguson said from the wall of bookcases, “I forgot to mention that if something has happened to Mr. Whitfield, the media scrutiny is likely to be intense.”

Dinah scowled at the screen of the laptop. She hated the media, and it was a long-term grudge she held from the last case she’d been involved in. “You can handle it,” she said. “I want nothing to do with those vultures.”

Ferguson glanced over at her. “Of course I’ll handle it. But I can’t guarantee that they’ll leave you alone.”

Dinah tapped her foot against the leg of the desk impatiently as the laptop struggled to come to life. “Sticks and stones, Ferguson,” she said tightly. “Words can never hurt me.”

She could see that Ferguson didn’t buy the lie, but he’d decided to let it go. He at least knew not to push too far.

“This whole office is giving me a weird vibe,” he said after a moment. “It’s too . . . organized.”

Dinah logged onto the laptop. “I’m listening.”

“Look at the desk,” Ferguson mused. “No files or paperwork. Not even a pen or a Post-It note. No diary.”

“Maybe he’s just really neat,” Dinah said, opening Outlook on the laptop.

Ferguson went back to his muttering as he continued drifting around the room. Dinah frowned as she clicked through the folders in Outlook. Then she opened the other programs on the computer and looked through the folders there.

“That’s odd,” she commented at last. Ferguson looked up and came over to her.

She clicked through the inbox, sent items, and calendar of the e-mail program. There were no entries in any of them. “They’re completely clean,” she said. “The calendar is the strangest. You’d think the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution would have at least a couple of meetings a week.”

“Maybe he uses a paper diary,” suggested Ferguson.

“Certainly a possibility,” agreed Dinah. “But couple the empty calendar with the fact that he’s neither received nor sent an e-mail from this computer and something isn’t right.”

Ferguson opened the desk drawers and started looking through them.

“Also,” added Dinah, “there is not one single saved document in any other program — no letters, articles, presentations, anything. The entire computer is as if it’s never been used.”

Ferguson sat back on his heels. “You think someone has wiped his computer?”

“Well, the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: did Thomas Whitfield wipe his own computer before disappearing or did someone else wipe his computer before abducting him?” Dinah began to shut down the programs. “After all, there is no evidence to suggest that he has been abducted. There’s no sign of a struggle in here or blood stains, is there?”

Ferguson shook his head. “No, there isn’t. But there is something off about this office. Nobody, least of all a man in his position, can get through a working day without sending an e-mail or doing paperwork of some kind.” He gestured at the desk drawers. “There’s absolutely nothing in them.”

“I agree,” Dinah said. She closed the laptop and picked it up. “I’m going to have the lab look at the hard drive. What else?”

“I’ll call in crime scene to lift some fingerprints and check for blood.” Ferguson paused, thinking. “I’d like to talk to Ms. Biscelli, and I’d like to talk to his wife.”

Dinah nodded. “If Mr. Whitfield has been abducted, what do you suppose is the motive?”

Ferguson considered. “I don’t know. Money? Fame? Half the time I think these loonies go around killing people just so they can get their name in the news.”

Dinah stared at him. “Do you think Thomas Whitfield is dead?”

He shrugged. “Right now, Harris, I know nine-tenths of absolutely nothing. Let’s talk to Ms. Biscelli. Maybe she’ll know what happened and we can solve this case before dinner time and I’ll get a decent night’s sleep.”

Flippancy, Dinah remembered, was just Ferguson’s way of dealing with the intensity of this job and the horror they’d witnessed over the years.

My Opinion:

WOW! I could not put this book down, I read through it in almost 1 day – I did have to put it down but believe I didn’t want to! Full of Biblical (and scientific) statistics for a Biblical account of Creation (AKA Young Earth Creationism), this book makes a fascinating read for Christians who alreday believe in YEC or for those who are skeptical. While the factual information is put into a fictional book the information is nonetheless true and well researched I might add. Julie Cave has a wonderful book in Deadly Disclosures and I find myself looking forward to the fall of 2010 so that I can read the next book.

With well developed characters and plot this book makes for a fascinating read. Intrigue and suspicion abound but so does faith in God and a leaning on Him – the read will find this especially true with Dinah Harris as she struggles with her inner demons before allowing God to take control of her life. I have found Master Books (who has published Julie’s book) only puts out the finest in Christian literature and this book is no different – it will definitely be a book you’ll want to put on your list for this year!

Yes, there are murders – unfortunately we live in a fallen world and those who live in darkness and evil will set out to destroy those who promote the Truth and Light of the Lord and this at times, will include murder. If you want to stay away from things like this then don’t read this book but if knowing that in the end, Truth wins, then pick up this book and get reading (you may want to wait closer to fall so you don’t have to wait as long!) – I don’t think you’ll regret it.

**See my full disclosure policy at the top of my blog page.

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"How Should a Christian Live?" devotional and journal by Brenda Noel


Information from the BookSneeze (Thomas Nelson) site:

Going deep into The Word of Promise Next Generation . . . the audio Bible for the “wired generation!” You’ve heard the dramatized New Testament featuring the voice talents of many of today’s top young Hollywood stars. Now dig deeper and embrace the truths and knowledge of the Bible like never before. This new devotional study guide series is available in four volumes. Each volume includes an MP3 CD, a devotional guide, and journaling section. The devotional guide is presented in 13 lessons with topical articles, exciting and fun 2-color graphic design, and creative interactive games and activities for youth to enjoy! Also included is a journaling section at the end of each lesson of the each book.

Volume Three – the “How” focuses on the study of how Jesus’ continued presence can and should impact our lives. It is based on the books of 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

Features include: GET-IT (help to understand difficult concepts); GRAB-IT (how does this look in your own life); HOLD-IT (how to maintain in everyday life); GIVE-IT (how does this affect others in your life); DEFINE-IT (in-depth look at key words); and LIVE-IT (presentation of ideas, questions, challenges to support each session’s content).

My Opinion:

I was impressed with this devotional and journal set, this is something that I can would bring teens to God and closer to Him. This softcover book with a MP3 CD has 176 pages and it is chock full of how to live a Christian life without compromising the Bible. Topics include Promised by God, All Good Things, Live in His Love, Enjoy Expectant Life and much more – there are a total of 12 sessions. The MP3 CD has the book of the Bible that correlates to the respective reading. Sean Astin, Jordin Sparks, Corbin Bleu and Emily Osment are just a few names that will be easily recognizable to the teens today. I can’t say I agree with what goes on in each lives but I will say the audio recordings are well done and makes for a wonderful listening experience.

The format of the book will be enticing for a teen to journey into God’s Word and learn more about Him and how He says we should live as His followers. There are define it sections throughout each session which gives definitions of words that some may not know as they read. Games in each session helps to retain the information read and listened to such as word finds, unscrambles and cross words are just a few of what games will be found. Each session also includes an 8 page lined spread for the teen to journal in, perfect for a teen who wants a place to record their thoughts as they go through the study and not have to remember a separate notebook or journal each time.

I’m even thinking of letting my 8 year old daughter use this, she would get a lot of great information and it be a great learning tool for both parents and children to share God’s love with each other and keep lines of communication open. While this does teach how a Christian should live I didn’t notice a lot of study regarding other aspects such as things I hold dear as a Christian wife and mom such as modest, feminine clothing or head covering (I say this since I Corinthians is studied) but I do think this is a good starting point for teens who feel distanced from God by their church or children who are unchurched and want to find more out on their own about this awesome God!

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review through BookSneeze, no other compensation was given. For full disclosure see my right side bar.

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"Not a Sparrow Falls" by Linda Nichols



About the book from Bethany House’s website:

Mary Bridget Washburn is tired of running, tired of being haunted by the empty shell her life has become. How in the world did the little girl she once was become a woman on the wrong side of the law?

Determined to make a new start, she escapes to the quaint city of Alexandria, Virginia, where she takes on her mother’s identity and finds sanctuary in the shadow of a decades-old church. But a little girl’s plea proves to be her undoing, and the reverend well, someone’s got to open his eyes before disaster comes calling.

Can Mary Bridget and her tainted past stay hidden long enough for her to bring hope to a family falling apart?

My Opinion:

This was a great moving and one that kept up a fast paced plot – which also made for a very easy and fast read! Linda Nichols has a wonderful book in “Not a Sparrow Falls” with well developed characters and a well woven plot this will make for a great book for relaxation or even for a book club read. I could feel each character’s distinct personality, from the need to hide by Mary down to the conniving nature of a church official.

When reading a book that takes you into the character’s life and environment, you know the author has taken great care with her writing – and that is certainly the case with Linda Nichols book. I found myself cheering for the underdog (of which there are a couple) and wanting to berate some of the people who wanted to keep the underdog, well, under. I didn’t want this book to end and would like to see some sequel to it one day, I’d love to know how the family is faring.

**I was provided a copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review, no other compensation was given.

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