GrowingForChrist

Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

FIRST Tour: Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams 1) by Sharlene MacLaren (#grow4christ)


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:
Sharlene MacLaren
and the book:
Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams Book 1)
Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award winning romance author, Sharlene MacLaren has released 13 novels since embarking on a writing career in 2007. After a career teaching second grade “Shar” says she asked God for a new mission “that would bring her as great a sense of purpose” as she’d felt teaching and raising her children. She tried her hand at inspirational romance, releasing Through Every Storm to critical and popular acclaim in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. She quickly became the top selling fiction author for Whitaker House, has accumulated multiple awards, and endeared herself to readers who can’t get enough of her long, luscious and often quirky tales – both historical and contemporary. Her novels include the contemporary romances Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; and three historical series including Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma); The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann) and River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret).

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Mercy Evans has known a great deal of heartache and hardship in her 26 years. She lost her mother at a young age and was only 16 when her father was killed in a brawl sparked by a feud with the Connors family that spans several generations. When a house fire claims the lives of her two best friends, Mercy is devastated, but finds comfort in caring for their two sons, who survived thanks to a heroic rescue by Sam Connors, blacksmith in the small town of Paris, Tennessee. Yet the judge is determined to grant custody only if Mercy is married. Mercy loves the boys as her own, and she’ll go to any lengths to keep them—but what if that means marrying the son of the man who killed her father? Set in the 1880’s, Heart of Mercy is the first book in MacLaren’s new Tennessee Dreams series.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Series: Tennessee Dreams (Book 1)

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603749632

ISBN-13: 978-1603749633

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1890
Paris, Tennessee
“Fire!”
The single word had the power to force a body to drop
his knees and call out to his Maker for leniency. But most took time for
neither, instead racing to the scene of terror with the bucket they kept stored
close to the door, and joining the contingent of citizens determined to battle
the flames of death and destruction. Such was the case tonight when, washing
the dinner dishes in the kitchen sink, Mercy Evans heard the dreaded screams
coming from all directions, even began to smell the sickening fumes of blazing
timber seeping through her open windows. She ran through her house and burst
through the screen door onto the front porch.
“Where’s the fire?” she shouted at the people running
up Wood Street carrying buckets of water.
Without so much as a glance at her, one man hollered
on the run, “Looks to be the Watson place over on Caldwell.”
Her heart thudded to a shattering halt. God, no! “Surely, you don’t mean Herb
and Millie Watson!”
Mercy Evans and Millie Watson, formerly Gifford, had
been fast friends at school and had stuck together like glue in the dimmest of
circumstances, as well as the sweetest. Millie had walked with Mercy through
the loss of both her parents, and Mercy had watched Millie fall wildly in love
with Herb Watson in the twelfth grade. She’d been the maid of honor in their
wedding the following summer.
But her voice was lost to the footsteps thundering
past. Whirling on her heel, she ran back inside, hurried to extinguish all but
one kerosene lamp, snatched her wrap from its hook by the door, and darted back
outside and up the rutted street toward her best friends’ home, dodging horses
and a stampede of citizens. “Lord, please don’t let it be,” she pleaded aloud.
“Oh, God, keep them safe. Jesus, Jesus….” But her cries vanished in the
scramble of bodies crowding her off the street as several made the turn onto
Caldwell in their quest to reach the flaming house, which already looked beyond
saving.
Tongues of fire shot like dragons’ breath out windows
and up through a hole in the roof. Like hungry serpents, flames lapped up the
sides of the house, eating walls and shattering panes, while men heaved their
pathetic little buckets of water at the volcanic monster.
“Back off, everybody. Step back!” ordered Sheriff
Phil Marshall. He and a couple of deputies on horseback spread their arms wide
at the crowd, trying to push them to safety.
Ignoring his orders, Mercy pressed through the
gathering mob until the heat so overwhelmed her that she had no choice but to
stop. Besides, a giant arm reached out and stopped her progress. She shook it
off. “Where are they?” she gasped, breathless. “Where’s the family?”
The sheriff moved his bald head from side to side,
his sad, defeated eyes telling the story. “Don’t know, Miss Evans. No one’s
seen ’em yet. We been scourin’ the crowd”—he gave another shake of the
head—“and it don’t appear anybody got out of that inferno.”
“That can’t be.” A sob caught at the back of her
throat and choked her next words. “They were at my place earlier. I made
supper.”
“Sorry, miss.”
“Someone’s comin’ out!” A man’s ear-splitting shout
rose above the crowd.
Dense smoke enveloped a large figure
emerging—staggering rather like a drunkard—from the open door and onto the
porch, his arms full with two wriggling bundles wrapped in blankets and
screaming in terror. Mercy sucked in a cavernous breath and held it till
weakness overtook her and she forced herself to let it out. Could it be? Had
little John Roy and Joseph survived the fire thanks to this man?
“Who is it?” someone asked.
All stood in rapt silence as he passed through the
cloud of smoke. “Looks to be Sam Connors, the blacksmith,” said the sheriff,
scratching his head and stepping forward.
“Sure ’nough is,” someone confirmed.
Mercy stared in wonder as the man, looking dazed and
almost ethereal, strode down the steps, then wavered and stumbled before
falling flat on his face in a heap of dust and bringing the howling bundles
with him.
Excited chatter erupted as Mercy and several others
ran to their aid. Mercy yanked the blankets off the boys and heaved a sigh of
relief to find them both alert and apparently unharmed, albeit still screeching
louder than a couple of banshees. Through their avalanche of tears, they
recognized her, and they hurled themselves into her arms, knocking her
backward, so that she wound up on her back perpendicular to Mr. Connors, with
both of the boys lying prone across her body. In all the chaos, she felt a hand
grasp her arm and help her up to a sitting position.
“Come on, Miz. You bes’ git yo’self an’ them
chillin’s out of the way o’ them flames fo’ you all gets burned.” She had the
presence of mind to look up at Solomon Turner, a former slave now in the employ
of Mrs. Iris Brockwell, a prominent Paris citizen who’d donated a good deal of
money to the hospital fund.
Mercy took the man’s callused hand and allowed him to
help her to a standing state. By the lines etched in his face from years of
hard work in the sweltering sun, Mercy figured he had to be in his seventies,
yet he lifted her with no apparent effort. “Thank you, Mr. Turner.”
Five-year-old John Roy stretched his arms upward,
pleading with wet eyes to be held, while Joseph, six, took a fistful of her
skirt and clung with all his might. “Come,” she said, hoisting John Roy up into
her arms. “We best do as Mr. Turner says, honey. Follow me.”
“But…Mama and Papa….” Joseph turned and gave his
perishing house a long perusal, tears still spilling down his face. John Roy
buried his wrenching sobs in Mercy’s shoulder, and it was all she could do to
keep from bolting into the house herself to search for Herb and Millie, even
though she knew she’d never come out alive. If the fire and smoke didn’t kill
her, the heat would. Besides, before her eyes, the flames had devoured the very
sides of the house, leaving a skeletal frame with a staircase only somewhat
intact and a freestanding brick fireplace looking like a graveyard monument.
Her heart throbbed in her chest and thundered in her ears, and she wanted to
scream, but the ever-thickening smoke and acrid fumes burned to the bottom of
her lungs.
With her free hand, she hugged Joseph close to her.
“I know, sweetheart, and I’m so, so sorry.” Her words drowned in her own sobs as
the truth slammed against her. Millie and Herb, her most loyal friends. Gone.
Sheriff Marshall and his deputies ordered the crowd
to move away from the blazing house, so she forced herself to obey, dragging a
reluctant Joseph with her. At the same time, she observed three men carrying a
yet unconscious Sam Connors across the street to a grassy patch of ground.
Several others gathered around, trying to decide what sort of care he needed.
Of course, he required medical attention, but Mercy felt too weak and dizzy to
tend to him. Best to let the men put him on a cart and drive him over to Doc
Trumble’s. Besides, she highly doubted he’d welcome her help. He was a Connors,
after all, and she an Evans—two families who had been fighting since as far
back as anyone could remember.
She’d heard only bits and pieces of how the feud had
started, with a dispute between Cornelius Evans, Mercy’s grandfather, and
Eustace Connors over property lines and livestock grazing in the early 1830s.
There had been numerous thefts of horses and cattle, and incidents of barn
burnings, committed by both families, until a judge had stepped in and defined
the property lines—in favor of Eustace Connors. Mercy’s grandfather had gotten
so agitated over the matter that his heart had given out. Mercy’s grandmother,
Margaret, had blamed the Connors family, fueling the feud by passing her hatred
for the entire clan on to her own children, and so the next generation had
carried the grudge, mostly forgetting its origins but not the bad blood. The animosity
had reached a peak six years ago, when Ernest Connors had killed Oscar
Evans—Mercy’s father.
“That man’s a angel,” Joseph mumbled into her skirts.
“What, honey?”
“John Roy was wailin’ real loud, ’cause he saw
somethin’ orange comin’ from upstairs, so he got in bed with me, and after a
while that angel man comed in and took us out of ar’ bed.”
She set John Roy on the ground, then got down on her
knees to meet Joseph’s eyes straight on. His were still red, his cheeks
blotchy. She thought very carefully about her next words. “Where were your
parents?”
Joseph sniffed. “They tucked us in and went upstairs
to their bedroom. John Roy an’ me talked a long time about scary monsters an’
stuff, but then, after a while, he went to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I got up
t’ get a drink o’ water, and that’s when I heard a noise upstairs. I looked
around the corner, and I seed a big round ball o’ orange up there, and smoke
comin’ out of it, and I thought it was a dragon come to eat us up. I runned
back and jumped in bed with Joseph and tol’ him a mean monster was comin’ t’
get us, and I started cryin’ real loud.”
John Roy picked up the story from there. “And so we
waited and waited for the monster to come after us, but instead the angel saved
us. I think Mama and Papa is prolly still sleepin’. Do you think they waked up
yet?”
Mercy’s throat burned as powerfully as if she’d
swallowed a tablespoonful of acid. Her own eyes begged to cut loose a river of
tears, but she warded them off with a shake of her head while gathering both
boys tightly to her. “No, darlings, I don’t believe they woke up in bed. I
believe with all my heart they awoke in heaven and are right now asking Jesus
to keep you safe.”
“And so Jesus tol’ that angel to come in the house
and get us?” Joseph pointed a shaky finger at Sam Connors. The big fellow lay
motionless on his back, with several men bent over him, calling his name and
fanning his face.
Mercy smiled. “He’s not an angel, my sweet, but
that’s not to say that God didn’t have something to do with sending him in to
rescue you.”
“Is he gonna die, like Mama and Papa?” John Roy asked
between frantic sobs.
“Oh, honey, I don’t know.”
She overheard Lyle Phelps suggest they take him over
to Doc Trumble’s house, but then Harold Crew said he’d spotted the doctor about
an hour ago, driving out to the DeLass farm to deliver baby number seven.
A few sets of eyes glanced around until they landed
on Mercy. She knew what folks were thinking. She worked for Doc Trumble, she
had more medical training and experience than the average person, and her house
was closest to the scene. But their gazes also indicated they understood the
awkwardness of the situation, considering the ongoing feud between the two
families. Although the idea of caring for him didn’t appeal, she’d taken an
oath to always do her best to preserve life. Besides, the Lord commanded her to
love her neighbor as herself, making it a sin to walk away from someone in
need, regardless of his family name.
She dropped her shoulders, even as the boys snuggled
close. “Put him on a cart and take him to my place,” she stated.
As if relieved that his care would fall to someone
other than themselves, several men hurried to pick him up and carried him to
Harold Crew’s nearby buggy.
“What about us?” Joseph asked.
The sheriff stepped forward and made a quick study of
each boy. “You can stay out at my sister’s farm. She won’t mind adding a couple
o’ more young’uns to her brood.”
Joseph burst into loud howls upon the sheriff’s
announcement. Mercy hugged him and John Roy possessively. “Their parents were
my closest friends, Sheriff Marshall. I’d like to assume their care.”
He frowned and scratched the back of his head. “Don’t
know as that’s the best solution, you bein’ unwed an’ all.”
“That should have no bearing whatever on where they
go. Their parents were my closest friends. They’re coming home with me.” She
took both boys by the hands, turned, and led them back down Caldwell Street,
away from the still-smoldering house and the sheriff’s disapproving gaze.
Overhead, black smoke filled the skies, obliterating any hope of the night’s
first stars or the crescent moon making an appearance.

My Opinion:

Imagine, you’ve lost your family, you have no hopes of a husband and your family is feuding with another family in town – and then your friends are lost in a fire and their two young sons are given to you – but only if you can marry in 30 days!  Most of us would run the other way – 30 days to find, meet and marry a man you’ll be with the for the rest of your life so you can raise your friend’s boys.  In an uncanny way Mercy meets her new husband and he lays on her couch receiving her nursing care after rescuing the boys from the fire that kills their parents – little do they know what is going to happen.  I don’t want to give spoilers but Mercy has suitors knocking on her door from the toothless men who only want someone who will cook their meals and was their clothes and no real intention of being a dad to the declared bachelor who realizes he is too old to take on two rambunctious boys – until the unlikely candidate comes to her door to give her what she needs, a husband in name only.

Like another book I read recently, the married couple doesn’t know each other and almost barely tolerate one another, but for the good of others sacrifice what they want and bite the bullet.  Marriage in name only is how things are supposed to work but what really happens is only a thing of miracles and of God working through their hearts and their lives to bring peace that has long been absent.  Set in Tennessee in 1890 the book is filled with a life of time gone era, when it was respectable to marry and raise children and when morality was governed by the church and the Bible and was upheld.  The book shows what forgiveness looks like even when we think it should be with held and how reconciliation can bring healing that affects everyone.  I look forward to reading the next book and find it hard to wait until it comes out because I want to visit Paris, Tennessee again – if only in a book.

(c) 2014, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

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FIRST Tour: Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran #grow4christ


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:
Bonnie Doran
and the book:
Dark Biology
Harbourlight Books (October 25, 2013)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Taylor for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bonnie Doran’s debut novel, Dark Biology, released October 25th as a science fiction thriller from Harbourlight of Pelican Book Group. Prior to delving into fiction, she wrote and sold over 60 devotionals. She is represented by Steve Hutson of WordWise Media. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading (mostly science fiction), cooking, Sudoku puzzles, and hanging out with other writers, sci-fi fans, and Mad Scientists. She has a reputation of telling groan-producing puns and volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She’s been married 29 years to an electrical engineer and Mad Scientist who owns a 2,300-pound electromagnet and plays with lasers for a living.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Renowned vaccinologist “Hildi” Hildebrandt has set her sights on beating her brother to a Nobel Prize, and the opportunity to conduct experiments on the International Space Station might just provide the means to obtain that goal.

Chet Hildebrandt should have had that opportunity. But now he’ll teach a lesson to them all: his hot-shot astronaut sister, his philandering hypocritical father, and the CDC for not properly appreciating his work. One vial of a virus purloined from the CDC labs and released at his father’s marriage seminar should do the trick, without hurting anybody. After all, it’s only a mild influenza strain…Or is it?

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99

Paperback: 342 pages

Publisher: Harbourlight Books (October 25, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1611162777

ISBN-13: 978-1611162776

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Infection Minus Ten MonthsHildi’s nose itched.She ignored it. While she waited for her lab partner to emerge from the airlock, she checked the seals of her blue biocontainment suit again. Good habits could save her life.Hildi pulled a coiled yellow air hose suspended from the ceiling and plugged it into a socket near her waist. The deflated suit expanded as air roared past her face. The familiar ballooning sensation saddened her for a moment. She’d miss her work here.

Then she grinned. She’d be wearing a pressure suit in her new job and performing similar cutting-edge work in an even stranger environment.

Her practiced eyes appraised Biosafety Level 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most dangerous lab. Everything “down and cold.” But an adjoining room held liquid-nitrogen freezers filled with hot agents, the deadliest diseases known to man. Francine stepped from the airlock. Hildi’s college friend had never worked in Level 4, but she moved with confidence. Hildi stared into Francine’s faceplate and noted her calm expression. She’d do fine.

Hildi maneuvered past the stainless-steel tables dominating the room. She pulled two-inch test tubes, a push-button micropipette, and other tools from drawers and placed them in the biosafety cabinet, a glorified box with a fume hood and clear front that rested on the work counter. She detached her hose, inhaling the reserved air in her suit.

Humming to herself, she walked into the adjoining room and attached her suit to another hose. Every time Hildi moved in the lab, she repeated the procedure, a necessary inconvenience if she wanted to continue breathing.

She punched a code into the lock of one of the stainless-steel freezers and extracted a vial of the latest X virus that may or may not have killed John Doe.

Returning to the biosafety hood, she slipped her yellow-gloved hands under the clear protective shield, a sneeze guard at a toxic salad bar. She withdrew a tiny sample of the unknown and released it into one of the tubes. After Hildi repeated the protocol many times, she keyed the information into the computer.

Hildi glanced at Francine just as she straightened from a hunched position over a microscope. Francine turned, her movements jerky like a marionette’s. Her suit’s chest zipper gaped, exposing her blue scrubs underneath. She seemed to shrink as her biosuit deflated.

Hildi froze.

“I’ve got a problem here!” Francine yelled, her voice quavering. The rush of air in their ears turned conversations in Level 4 into a shouting match. Francine fumbled for the zipper with trembling fingers.

Hildi’s heart skipped several beats then she zipped the suit shut in one smooth motion. “Zippers get worn. They can pop open.”

Francine’s white-rimmed, dark-chocolate eyes returned to normal. “How bad was that?” Her voice still quavered.

“Your suit had positive pressure the whole time. A hot agent couldn’t get in. You OK?”

Francine gave a nervous chuckle. “Sure gave me the jumpy jitters.” She turned back to the scope.

Hildi released the breath she’d been holding. Risk was part of the job. Zippers failed. Gloves failed. Usually it wasn’t life threatening.

She placed the rack of tubes in the incubator cabinet, maintainedat the ominous temperature of warm blood, and then returned the original sample of hot agent to the freezer. Her mood descended into a gray chasm. She already missed the challenge of Level 4. But she had a job offer that would take her research to a whole new level. She could smell that Nobel Prize. Her brother Chet would never catch up to her now.

Hildi exhaled a heavy sigh that fogged her faceplate. “Done,” she yelled. “Finally I can get out of here and scratch my nose.”

“Thought you’d be used to it after three years.”

“Never. Right now it’s driving me nuts.”

Francine chuckled and headed for the airlock.

Hildi followed. She inhaled the chemical smell as the decontamination shower sprayed disinfectant over her suit. The two of them scrambled out of their blue suits as soon as they reached the changing room. Hildi scratched her tingling nose with ferocity.

Francine grinned at her and walked to the regular showers which contained detergent for washing and a bath of ultraviolet light.

Hildi hung her short suit next to Francine’s long one. She reached up to caress a sleeve of the guardian that protected her against infection. “Thanks for keeping me safe. I’ll be back.”

Hildi stripped and marched naked to the shower. No modesty in this job. Afterward, she tugged on jeans and a mauve T-shirt.

Her lab partner’s perfect complexion glistened as she toweled off. Hildi’s pale skin and red curls contrasted with Francine’s coffee coloring and corn-rowed black hair. Not exactly twins separated at birth.

“When do you get in to Houston?” Francine pulled on black leggings and a flowered tunic then grabbed her tiny purse.

“Around four.” Hildi grimaced. “Rush hour. My favorite time.” She longed for the feel of the afternoon sun on her face, but she wouldn’t enjoy it today.

“I’m surprised Director Hunt gave you such a long leave of absence.”

“It’s a fantastic opportunity.” Her spirits bounced like an acrobat on a trampoline. “But it’s not like I won’t be working.” She grunted as she wrenched her holds-anything-and-hides-everything handbag from her locker.

Francine smiled. “You know, I might just lock you in one of the labs until after your flight leaves.”

Hildi laughed. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Don’t try me. I’m missing you already.” Francine hugged her. “I can’t believe you’ll be gone for a whole year.”

Hildi swallowed to keep her voice from cracking. “I will be back for visits, you know.”

“You’d better be.”

They walked through another airlock into a corridor and less-lethal safety levels. The burning, moist smell of giant autoclaves bid a pungent farewell.

“You just don’t want to work with Chet.” Hildi baited her friend.

“Don’t rub it in.” Francine lowered her voice. “Did you hear? Your brother’s in big trouble.” Francine sounded like she relished the thought.

Hildi groaned. “What did he do this time?”

“Chet worked on that new anthrax sample from England without authorization. Director Hunt turned three shades of purple.”

“Hunt’s a bit paranoid about the paperwork, that’s all.”

Francine shook her head. “Your brother has an attitude.”

“I know.” Hildi frowned. “It’s hard to work in the same building with him when he avoids me like—well—the plague.”

“He’s done a good job at alienating everyone around here, so don’t feel special.”

They drove directly to the airport in Francine’s tired green Altima. The Atlanta traffic, abysmal at any time of the day, choked Hildi with exhaust fumes. She turned up the AC. “Sure you don’t mind caring for my cat?”

“Whiskers will be just fine.”

Francine pulled up to departures, opened the trunk, and hefted the bulky suitcases. “What do you have in here, moon rocks?”

Hildi grabbed her carry-on. They chatted until a security officer ordered, “Clear the lane, please.”

Hildi fished in her purse for a tissue and gave Francine one more tight hug. “Thanks for everything.”

“Vaya con Dios.”

Hildi wheeled her suitcases to the nearest door, her stomach fluttering as if she’d just won the lottery. Maybe she had.

****

Hildi deplaned in Houston after an unremarkable flight. She heaved her suitcases onto their wheels and stepped outside. A tanned man in a polo shirt and jeans held a sign. Dr. Hildebra. Someone hadn’t quite fit her name on the cardboard. Situation normal.

“Evangeline?” He smiled.

“Please call me Hildi.”

“Larry Gomez.”

Hildi stifled a gasp and flung her star-struck feelings aside as she wiped sweaty palms on her jeans. Larry’s exploits in space were the stuff of legend. She shook his hand.

He loaded her luggage into the trunk of his silver Jaguar convertible. More diesel exhaust assaulted Hildi as they headed south on I-45. She’d expected oil fields and cowboy hats when she first came here but instead found apartments, shopping centers, and malls. Same humidity as Atlanta, same traffic. He chatterednonstop.

Hildi interrupted. “So tell me about the rest of the team.”

“You’ll like them. Jasper Reingold and Frank Schotenheimer.”

Hildi nearly jolted out of her seat. “Frank?” If she’d known, would she have volunteered for this assignment?

In a heartbeat.

Larry’s face held a puzzled frown. “You know him?”

She hesitated. How had Larry missed knowing about her relationship with Frank? Would it jeopardize her chance to work in space? No way to hide it now. “We were engaged.”

“Well, things are about to get interesting.” Larry’s mouth quirked. “The director moved him up from a later mission when our pilot shattered his leg yesterday.”

She stared at the scenery. Frank? On her team? Scenes flashed in her mind. Their first kiss that had warmed her to her toes. Her growing suspicions. The night she confronted him about his gotta-work-late excuses, and he confessed his affairs. Trampled dreams.

Lord, I could use a little help here.

Larry must have sensed her mood. He didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip.

An hour later, they pulled up to the employee entrance of a sprawling facility, the salty tang of the Gulf of Mexico perceptible even this far from the ocean. Shimmers of heat rose from the pavement. After the security guard examined their badges, he beamed. “Dr. Hildebrandt? Welcome. Let me page Dan Stockton for you. He asked me to notify him when you arrived.”

Hildi’s mind whirled. First Frank and now Dan? Last time they’d talked, Dan had been training in Alabama. Probably his idea of a romantic surprise. She tried to submerge a surfacing smile. She wanted to jump into his arms when Dan arrived. Instead, she forced herself into neutral pose. He wore a periwinkle silk shirt with coordinating tie. Always a tie, as if he could never relax.Larry whispered in Hildi’s ear. “Now you know why he’s earned the nickname Dandy Dan.”

“Hildi.” Dan stepped toward her with an eager grin, glanced at Larry, and stopped in mid-stride.

“You know him, too?” Larry’s glance bounced back and forth between them like a hyperactive tennis ball.

Dan hesitated. “Uh, yes. We’ve met.” An uncomfortable silence descended. Hildi stared at the polished floor, counting the squares. She didn’t want to tell the mission commander about another relationship, especially when she couldn’t explain it herself. An on-again, off-again, long-distance relationship that was going nowhere.Larry cleared his throat and turned to Hildi. “Another fiancé? Have we ever been engaged?”

Hildi laughed, relieved he didn’t ask any more questions.

Dan smiled. “Would you rather go to your quarters first or eat?”

Her stomach rumbled in response.

“Perry’s Steakhouse?” Larry still eyed them with suspicion.

“Yes, sir.” Dan spread his arms and planted his feet on the emblem emblazoned on the floor, like a barker at the circus. “Welcome to the Johnson Space Center and phase two of astronaut training.”


My Opinion:

 

I regret that it’s taken me so long to read and update this tour with a review because this book was fantastic!  It was suspenseful and also filled with faith which can sometimes be hard to do for some writers but Bonnie pulled it off with great success!  Hildi and Chet are brother and sister, one is estranged from the family and the other finds great success in their personal life and their career – much to the chagrin of the other.  Hildi takes on a new position with NASA but Chet wanted the position so sets the stage for a sibling rivalry that will go horribly wrong – and I know a thing or two about sibling rivalries.

 

It’s hard to write a review about this type of book because I’m always afraid of giving away too much of the story and then it makes it pointless for you to read it.  I so wanted to hate Chet, like the human condition, but then I saw him through his family’s eyes as well as how Christ sees a repentant person – with grace and mercy.  Even though it’s a science fiction, it may have some truth in it with regards to a pandemic and needing a cure so that people can live through it, and that is what intrigued me.  It doesn’t get bogged down with all the science terms and such and for that I’m very grateful – but it gives enough detail that both the lay person and the scientific will more than likely enjoy this fast paced book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

(c) 2013, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran #grow4christ

FIRST Tour: I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins #grow4christ


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:
Jerry B. Jenkins
and the book:
I, Saul
Worthy Publishing (August 27, 2013)
***Special thanks to Leeanna Case for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jerry B. Jenkins is a New York Times best-selling novelist (Left Behind Series) and biographer (Billy Graham, Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Orel Hershiser, Nolan Ryan, Joe Gibbs and many more), with over 70 million books sold. His writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and he has been featured on the cover of Newsweek.
Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A MURDERER who would change the WORLD

From multi-million copy best-selling novelist Jerry Jenkins comes a compelling international thriller that conveys you from present-day Texas to a dank Roman dungeon in A.D. 67, then down the dusty roads of ancient Israel, Asia, and back to Rome.

A young seminary professor, Augustine Knox, is drawn into a deadly race to save priceless parchments from antiquities thieves and discovers a two- thousand-year old connection with another who faced death for the sake of the truth. I, Saul consists of two riveting adventures in one, transporting you between the stories of Augustine Knox and Saul of Tarsus.

Filled with political intrigue, romance, and rich historical detail, I, Saul is a thrilling tale of loyal friendships tested by life-or-death quests, set two millennia apart, told by a master storyteller.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.99

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Worthy Publishing (August 27, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1617950068

ISBN-13: 978-1617950063

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Tor nT E x ASW EDNESDAy, M Ay 7“call now. desper8.”The text appeared on Dr. Augie Knox’s phone at 8:55 a.m., seconds before he was to turn it off—protocol for profs entering a classroom at Arlington Theological Seminary.

Augie could have fired off a “give me a minute,” but the message was not signed and the sending number matched nothing in his contacts. The prefix 011-39-06 meant Rome. He’d traveled extensively in his thirty-eight years and enjoyed many visits to the Eternal City, but such a text could easily portend one of those I’ve-been-mugged-and-need- money scams. Whatever this was could wait until he got the Systematic Theology final exam started and could step into the hall with his phone.

Augie had long been fascinated by his students’ nervous chatter before
final exams. One announced, “I looked you up in Who’s Who, Doc, and I

know your full name.”

“Congratulations for discovering something you could have found in your student handbook four years ago.”

“No! That just says Dr. Augustine A. Knox! I found out what the A

stands for.”

“Good for you. Now, a few instructions . . .”

“Aquinas! Augustine Aquinas Knox! Man, what other career choice did you have?”

“Thank you for revealing the thorn in my flesh. If you must know, that moniker was my father’s idea.” Augie mimicked his dad’s monotone basso. “‘Names are important.They can determine a life’s course.’”

Many students chuckled, having sat under the elder Dr. Knox before he fell ill the year before.

“It also says you were adopted. Sorry, but it’s published.” “No secret,” Augie said.

Another hand shot up.“Was that a hint about the exam? Will we be speculating on Paul’s thorn in the flesh?”

“He’s only mentioned that mystery every class,” another said.

Augie held up a hand. “I trust you’re all prepared for any eventual-

ity.”
“So, what’s your dad’s name?”

“Ed!” someone called out. “Everybody knows that.” “Look it up,” Augie said. “You may find it revealing.”

With blue books distributed, Augie slipped out and turned on his

phone.The plea from Rome had already dropped to third on his message list. At the top was a voice mail from Dr. Moore, who had been filling in as acting department chair since Augie’s father had been hospitalized with a stroke.
Augie would have checked that one first, but next was a voice mail from Sofia Trikoupis, his heart. It was eight hours later in Athens, after five in the afternoon. “Call me at the end of your day,” her message said. “I’ll wait up.” It would be midnight her time by then, but she apparently needed his undivided attention. That would bug him all day. How he longed for them to be together.

His phone vibrated. Rome again. “urgent. call now, pls!” Augie pressed his lips together, thumbing in, “who’s this?” “trust me. begging.”

“not w/out knowing who u r.”

Augie waited more than a minute for a response, then snorted. As I

figured. But as he headed back into the classroom, his phone buzzed again. “zionist.”

Augie stopped, heat rising in his neck. He quickly tapped in, “90 minutes OK?”

“now! critical.”

Few people had been more important in Augie’s life than Roger Michaels, the diminutive fifty-year-old South African with a James Earl Jones voice and a gray beard that seemed to double the size of his pale, gnomish face. Augie would never lead a tour of an ancient city without Roger as the guide.

“2 mins,” Augie texted.

He rushed to his father’s old office, which still bore the senior Dr. Knox’s nameplate on the door. Augie knocked and pushed it open.“Les, I need a favor.”

Dr. Moore took his time looking up from his work. “Number one, Dr. Knox, I did not invite you in.”

“Sorry, but—”

“Number two, I have asked that you refer to me as Dr. Moore.”
“My bad again, but listen—”

“And number three,” the acting chair said, making a show of study- ing his watch, “we both know that at this very moment you are to be conducting—”

“Dr. Moore, I have an emergency call to make and I need you to stand in for me for a few minutes.”

Moore sighed and rose, reaching for his suit coat.“I know what that’s about.Take all the time you need.”

Augie followed him down the hall. “You do?” “You didn’t get my message?”

“Oh, no, sorry. I saw one was there, but I—”

“But you assumed other messages were more important. I said we needed to chat after your first exam.”

“Well, sure, I’ll be here.”

“Part of what we need to discuss is your father. Is that what your call is about?”

“What about my father?” “We’ll talk at ten.”

“But is he—”

“There have been developments, Dr. Knox. But he is still with us.” As Dr. Moore headed for the classroom, Augie ducked into a stair-

well, away from the windows and the relentless sun forecasters were saying would push the temperature at least twenty degrees above normal by 2:00 p.m., threatening the 107° record for the month.

Augie wasn’t getting enough signal strength to complete his call, so he hurried back out to the corridor. Cell coverage was still weak, so he stepped outside. It had to be near 90° already. Scalp burning, he listened as the number rang and rang.

Augie moved back inside for a minute, braced by the air condition-
ing, then ventured out to try again. He waited two minutes, tried once more, and felt he had to get back to class.

On a third attempt, as he neared the entrance, it was clear someone had picked up a receiver and hung up. Augie dialed twice more as he walked back to take over for Dr. Moore. Just before he reached the class- room, his phone came alive again with a text.

“sorry. later. trash ur phone. serious.”

Augie couldn’t make it compute. Had his phone been traced? Tapped? If he got a new one, how would Roger know how to reach him?

Dr. Moore stood just inside the classroom door and emerged imme- diately when he saw Augie. “Talk to your mother?” he said.

“No, should I?”

Moore sighed and opened his palms. “You interrupt my work and don’t check on your father?”

Augie reached for his cell again, but hesitated. If he used it, would he be exposing his mother’s phone too?

“Call her after we’ve talked, Dr. Knox. Now I really must get back to my own responsibilities.”

It was all Augie could do to sit still till the end of class. Before get- ting back to Dr. Moore, he dropped off the stack of blue books in his own office and used the landline to call his contact at Dallas Theolog- ical Seminary, just up the road. Arlington Sem sat equidistant between DTS to the east and the massive Southwestern Baptist Seminary to the west. Arlington was like the stepchild no one ever talked about, a single building for a couple of hundred students, struggling to stay alive in the shadows of those two renowned institutions.When Augie needed some- thing fast, he was more likely to get it from the competition. Such as a new phone.

Like his father before him, Augie was the travel department at
Arlington. No auxiliary staff handled logistics as they did at DTS and Southwestern. The head techie at Dallas was Biff Dyer, a string bean of a man a few years older than Augie with an Adam’s apple that could apply for statehood. He could always be counted on to program Augie’s phone, depending on what country he was traveling to.

“Calling from your office phone, I see,” Biff said. “What happened to the cell I got you?”

“It’s been compromised.”

Biff chuckled. “Like you’d know.What makes you think so?” “I need a new one.Trust me.”

“I’ll just switch out the chip.You’re not gonna find a better phone. How soon you need it?”

“Fast as possible.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I’m not deliverin’ it. Can you come by during normal hours?”

There was a knock at Augie’s door and he wrenched around to see

Les Moore’s scowl. “Gotta go, Biff.”

“Sorry, Les. On my way right now. Or do you want to just meet here?” “Here would not be any more appropriate than your insisting on our being on a first-name basis,” Dr. Moore said, scanning the tiny chamber in which the guest chair was folded in a corner and brought out only

when necessary.

“C’mon, Les. You were only a couple years ahead of me. We hung out, didn’t we?”

“Hardly. You spent most of your free time in the gym with the—

what?—six other jocks who happened to enroll here.”

It was true. And everyone knew the library had been where to find

Les Moore.

Augie looked at his watch. Another final at 11. He followed his interim
boss back to his father’s old office. It wasn’t that much bigger than his, but at least the guest chair didn’t block the door.

“Would you start with my dad?” Augie said as he sat.

“I would have thought you’d have already checked in with your mother, but all right. She called this morning, knowing you were in class. Your father has slipped into a coma.”

Augie nodded slowly. “She okay?”

“Your mother? Sure. It’s not like he’s passed. She just thought you might want to visit this afternoon.”

“Appreciate it.”

“Now then, Dr. Knox, I have some paperwork here that I’m going to need you to sign. Frankly, it’s not pleasant, but we’re all expected to be team players and I’m going to assume you’ll accede to the adminis- tration’s wishes.”

“What’s up?”

“You’re scheduled to teach summer-school Homiletics beginning four days after commencement.”

“A week from today, right.”

“And we have contracted with you for this stipend, correct?”

Why Les felt it necessary to pencil the figure on the back of a business card and dramatically slide it across the desk, Augie could not fathom.

“Yep, that’s the fortune that’s going to let me retire by forty.”

“Um-hm. Humorous. It is my sad duty to ask you to agree to under- take the class for two-thirds that amount.”

“You’re serious.” “Always.”

That was for sure.

“Les—Dr. Moore, you know we do these classes pretty much as gifts to the sem. Now they seriously want us to do them for less?”
“This is entirely up to you.” “I can refuse?”

“We’re not going to force you to teach a class when we have to renege on our agreement.”

“Good, because I just don’t think I can do it for that.”

“I’ll report your decision. We’ll be forced to prevail upon a local adjunct instruct—”

“Like that youth pastor at Arlington Bible—” “He’s a graduate, Dr. Knox.”

“I know! I taught him. And he’s a great kid, but he didn’t do all that well in Homiletics, and there’s a reason they let him preach only a couple of times a year over there.”

“He’ll be happy to do it for this figure—probably even for less.” “And the students be hanged.”

Les cocked his head. “Naturally, we would prefer you . . .”

Augie reached for his pen and signaled with his fingers for the doc- ument.

“I’m glad I can count on you, Dr. Knox. Now, while we’re on the subject, I’m afraid there’s more.You were due for a four percent increase beginning with the fall trimester.”

“Let me guess, that’s not going to happen either.” “It’s worse.”

“What, now it’s a four percent decrease?” “I wish.”

“Oh, no.”

“Dr. Knox, we have seen an alarming downturn in admissions, and the administration is predicting a fall enrollment that puts us at less than breakeven, even with massive budget cuts.We’re all being asked to accept twenty percent reductions in pay.”
Augie slumped. “I was hoping to get married this fall, Les. I can barely afford the payments on my little house as it is.”

“This is across the board, Dr. Knox. The president, the deans, the chairs, all of us. Some departments are actually losing personnel. Mainte- nance will be cut in half, and we’ll all be expected to help out.”

Arlington had been staggering along on a shoestring for decades, but this was dire. “Tell me the truth, Dr. Moore. Is this the beginning of the end? Should I entertain the offers I’ve gotten from Dallas over the years?” “Oh, no! The trustees wish us to weather this storm, redouble our efforts to market our distinctives, and then more than make up for the pay cuts as soon as we’re able. Besides, the way your father bad-mouthed Dallas and Southwestern his whole career, you wouldn’t dream of insult-

ing him by going to either, would you?”

“He bad-mouthed everything and everybody, Les.You know that.” “Not a pleasant man. No offense.”

Augie shrugged. “You worked for him. I lived with him.”

“Do you know, I have heard not one word from your father since the day I was asked to temporarily assume his role? No counsel, no guidelines, no encouragement, nothing. I assumed he was angry that you had not been appointed—”

That made Augie laugh.“He still sees me as a high school kid! Forget all my degrees. Anyway, I wouldn’t want his job, or yours. It’s not me.”

“How well I know. I mean, I’m just saying, you’re not the typical prof, let alone department chair.”

“I’m not arguing.”

Augie couldn’t win. Despite having been at the top of his classes in college and seminary, his having been a high school jock and continu- ing to shoot hoops, play touch football, and follow pro sports made him an outsider among real academics.Too many times he had been asked if
he was merely a seminary prof because that was what his father wanted for him.

Dr. Moore slid the new employment agreement across the desk. “Sorry, Les, but this one I’m going to have to think and pray about.” The interim chair seemed to freeze. “Don’t take too long. If they

aren’t sure they can count on you for the fall, they’ll want to consider the many out-of-work professors who would be thrilled, in the current econ- omy, to accept.”

“Yeah, that would help. Stock the faculty with young assistant pas- tors.”

“May I hear from you by the end of the day?”

“Probably not, but you’ll be the first to know what I decide.”

Back in his own office, Augie popped the chip out of his cell phone and put it in a separate pocket. He called his mother from his desk phone to assure her he would see her at the hospital late in the afternoon, then called Biff to tell him he would try to stop by DTS on his way.

“What’s the big emergency?” Biff said.

“Roger Michaels has himself in some kind of trouble.” “Tell me when you get here.”

During his 11:00 a.m. final Augie was summoned to the administra- tive offices for an emergency call. On the way he stopped by to see if Les would stand in for him again, but his office was dark.The final would just have to be unsupervised for a few minutes.

“Do you know who’s calling?” he said to the girl who had fetched him. If it was his mother . . .

“Someone from Greece.”

He finally reached the phone and discovered it was Sofia. “Thought you wanted me to call later, babe.You all right?”

“Roger is frantic to reach you.”
“I know. He—”

“He gave me a new number and needs you to call right now, but not from your cell.” She read it to him.

“Any idea what’s going on, Sof ?” Augie said as he scribbled. “This is not like him.”

“No idea, but, Augie, he sounded petrified.” “That doesn’t sound like him either.”

“You can tell me what it’s about later, but you’d better call him right away.”

Augie rushed to his office and dialed the number in Rome. It rang six times before Roger picked up. “Augie?”

“Yes! What’s—”

“Listen carefully. I’ve got just seconds. I need you in Rome as soon as you can get here.”

“Rog, what’s happening? This is the absolute worst time for me to—” “Give Sofia your new cell number and text me your ETA. I’ll give

you a new number where you can call me from Fiumicino as soon as you get in.”

“I don’t know when I could get there, Rog. I’ve got—” “Augie! You know I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t life or death.”


My Opinion:

I’ve enjoyed other of Jerry B. Jenkins books before, namely the Left Behind series, and this one is no different it was a wonderful read that was quick but very much enjoyable, of course I’ve had time to do a lot of reading since I’m in the hospital with my daughter.  I enjoyed how he wove a modern time mystery together with something that happened in “Bible times” – it couldn’t have been easy, but it was so great to see the the two time periods woven together as Saul’s story comes to life and those who seek to make money off the historical and religious document.  Of course it’s a work of fiction but it is neat to think that Saul/Paul could have written his testimony out and hidden it someone that is yet to be discovered and there are those, today, who would seek to destroy it or make a quick buck off the priceless writing.

If you enjoy a modern mystery but also enjoy a great Christian historical fiction story then this book will have you in it’s grips – I enjoyed reading Saul’s story from young boyhood to the time when he began actively persecuting Christians, because even it it’s fictional, there is still maybe some non-fiction to it  and it also spoke to my heart to read in a modern way about Saul’s conversion.  I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, I, Paul, which comes out in 2014 and should prove to be just as an exciting read as I, Saul is.

 

(c) 2013, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins #grow4christ

FIRST Tour: The Road Home (Apple Creek Dreams Book 2) by Patrick E. Craig #grow4christ


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:
Patrick E. Craig
and the book:
The Road Home
Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. After ministering for a number of years in music and worship to a circuit of small churches, he is now concentrating on writing and publishing both fiction and non-fiction books. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in northern California and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Author Patrick Craig continues the story of Jenny Springer, the child rescued in A Quilt for Jenna. Now an adult, Jenny begins a search for her long-last parents. As she opens doors to her past, she finds the truly surprising answer to her deepest questions.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Series: Apple Creek Dreams Series

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736951075

ISBN-13: 978-0736951074

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Du Schlecht’r!”“Jenny Springer! You should not say such bad words! You should be ashamed.”

Jenny’s face burned as she reached behind the quilting frame with her left hand and pushed the errant needle through the quilt to complete her stitch. The finger of her other hand, showing a tiny red drop where she had pricked herself, went into her mouth. She stared angrily at the quilt she was working on. The design was awkward, and the edges of the pattern pieces were puckered where she had attempted to sew them together.

“Oh, Mama, I will never, ever be a quilter like you. I just can’t do it.”

Her mother’s shocked expression softened somewhat, and she put her arm around the girl’s shoulder. “Quilting is a gift from God, and it’s true that you don’t yet seem to have the eye for it. But you’re gifted in so many other ways. Don’t be disheartened. Sometimes you’re a little eigensinnig und ungeduldig, and these qualities do not fit well with quilting. You must learn to still your heart and calm the stream of thoughts rushing through your head.”

Jenny reached behind her head and rubbed her neck. She took a deep breath and stuck the needle back into the pincushion with finality.

“I need to stop for a bit, Mama. This quilt is making me vereitelt!”

Even in her present state, Jenny was a lovely girl of nearly twenty. Her reddish gold hair framed a strong brow and deep violet eyes that could flash with annoyance in an instant or radiate the most loving kindness a moment later.

Jerusha Springer reached down and enfolded Jenny in her arms. “Sie sind meine geliebte dochter,” Jerusha whispered softly into the curls that refused to be controlled by the heavy hairpins and happily tumbled out from under the slightly askew black kappe on Jenny’s head. Jenny turned on her stool, and her arms crept around her mother’s waist. She held on as though she would never let go.

“Are you ever sorry that you got me instead of Jenna, Mama?” Jenny whispered.

Jerusha paused before replying. “I was given Jenna, and then I was given you, my dearest. Jenna was a wonderful little girl, and your papa and I were blessed beyond measure by having her. When she died, we didn’t know how we would ever go on with our lives. But God in His mercy sent us a wonderful child to fill the emptiness in our hearts. That child was you. Sorry? No, my darling, I will never be sorry that you came to us. There will always be a place in my heart for Jenna, but now I have you to love and hold. I couldn’t hope for a better dochter.”

Jenny clung even tighter to her mother. Her mother’s arms had always been a safe haven for her since the day Jerusha rescued her from the great snowstorm so many years ago. Jerusha had kept Jenny alive by holding the child next to her heart all through the long nights until Papa and Uncle Bobby had rescued them. That was the earliest memory Jenny had of her mother. The calm, steady beat of her mother’s heart comforted her, and it was always in this place of refuge and life that she felt the most secure. But today, even in her mother’s arms, she couldn’t still the turmoil in her heart. She pulled away from Jerusha and began to talk in a rush.

“Mama, don’t you ever wonder where I came from and who my birth mother was? Maybe I’m the daughter of criminals or murderers. Maybe there’s a bad seed in me that will come out someday. It makes me afraid sometimes.”

Jerusha stroked her daughter’s hair. “There are some things we can never know, and you must not worry or fret about them. ‘Be careful for nothing—’ ”

“I know, I know, Mama, but sometimes I do worry. I would never want to do anything that would bring shame on you or Papa. But sometimes I think that I’ll never find real peace until I know…and yet that’s impossible.”

Jenny released her grip on her mother and grabbed up a scrap of material. She wiped another drop of blood from her finger, crumpled the cloth, and threw it down.

Jerusha took a breath and then answered. “You are so standhaft in all your ways. Many times your papa and I have had to pick you up and dust you off when you went too far. But that same quality has helped you to overcome difficulties. The accomplishments in your life are proof of that.”

Jerusha reached over and softly stroked Jenny’s cheek. “You’re a gut student. No one in our community has such a grasp of the history of our people as you do. Someday you will be a teacher who can pass down to your children the things that keep the Amish separate and distinct from the world.”

Jenny looked away and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t think I will ever have children, Mama.”

Jerusha stiffened, and a fleeting frown passed over her face. “Why not, my darling?” she asked quietly.

“I don’t think any man could put up with me, for one thing, and for another, I think I’m just too independent. I’m not sure I could ever submit to a husband ruling over me.”

Jerusha’s mouth tightened slightly. “If I were true to our ordnung, I would tell you what my grandmother told me when I was a girl, and insist that you follow it,” Jerusha said. “She used to say that marriage is not built first on love but on the needs of our community and our faith.”

“But, Mama…” Jenny said.

“Let me finish, dochter,” Jerusha said quietly. “I loved your father very much before we were married, and someday that may happen for you. You’ll meet a man whom you will love so deeply that you will gladly surrender everything of yourself into his care and protection. I used to be so bound up in my quilting that I thought there was no room in my life for love or marriage. But the first time I looked into your father’s eyes, I was lost forever.” Jerusha’s face softened, and she smiled at a secret memory.

“Why, Mama! You’re blushing,” Jenny laughed. “I can understand why you lost your heart to Papa. He’s a handsome man.”

“Did I hear someone talking about me?” Reuben Springer came into the room. His face was stern, but there was a smile behind his eyes.

“Papa!” Jenny broke free from her mother and ran to her daed.

Reuben took the girl into his arms. “This is always the best part of my day, when I come home to my girls,” he said as he kissed his daughter on the forehead. “I used to have to bend down so far to reach you. Now you’re all grown up.”

Jerusha smiled at him, a tinge of pink in her cheeks.

“I can still make you blush, eh, Mrs. Springer?” he asked.

Jerusha turned away with a reluctant smile.

A frown passed over Jenny’s face like a small dark cloud, and her father noticed it.

“What is it, dochter?”

“Jenny was asking me about her birth parents,” Jerusha said. “Not knowing about her past troubles her.”

“Jenny, you mustn’t concern yourself with things that can’t be known,” Reuben said. “When your mother found you, there was no identification or any means to discover who you were. The police found a man’s body in Jepson’s pond the next spring, but he had been in the water far too long to make a clear identification. The car was stolen in New York, so there was no way to trace the man. You must be content with the wisdom of God. He sent you to us because He knew you needed us and we needed you. That’s all we need to know.”

“But, Papa, sometimes I feel like a stranger, as if I don’t really belong here.” Jenny saw the pain in her father’s eyes and stopped. “I’m sorry, Papa. I didn’t mean it exactly that way. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to find out these things, but it is. Sometimes I think I’ll never be who I’m supposed to be until I find out who I really am. It doesn’t help that I’m so stubborn.”

“Your Mama was just as stubborn when I first met her,” Reuben said. “Even twenty-four years later, I feel the sting on my face where she slapped me the first time I kissed her.”

“Husband!” Jerusha exclaimed as her cheeks once again turned rosy pink.

Reuben smiled at his wife and then looked at Jenny. His voice took a sterner tone. “Your mama has changed over the years, and you will change too. For the good of our family, you must put these things out of your mind.”

Jenny felt a small flash of anger at her father’s words. She wanted to speak but wisely stayed silent. Then she decided to take a different approach.

“Papa, maybe if I did know, I could be more peaceful inside and not be so much trouble for you and Mama. Maybe if you helped me to find my birth parents I could be a better dochter to you and—”

Jenny’s papa stiffened at her words. “Jenny, I love you very much, but I am still the head of our home, and until you’re married and under the care of your husband, I will decide what’s best for you. There’s much in the world that you’re too young to understand. God has entrusted me with your care and safety for a good reason. The man you were with may have been your father, or he may not, but judging by what the police found in the car, he was not a good man. There were drugs and alcohol—”

“But what if he wasn’t my father and he just kidnapped me or—”

“Dochter! That’s enough! I know what’s best for you. Asking questions that can’t be answered will only cause you heartache and sorrow. I want you to put these wild ideas behind you. We will not discuss this further!”

Jenny stared at her father, and he stared back at her. She started to speak, but her mother placed her hand on Jenny’s arm and squeezed a warning. “Your father is right, Jenny. You must listen to him and obey. Now, is anyone hungry, or should we go on working on this quilt?”

Jenny took a deep breath, looked at her masterpiece, and smiled ruefully. The star design she had labored over for so many hours was crooked and wrinkled, and the colors she had chosen clashed.

“I think we’d better have dinner, Mama. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to fix this mess.”

“Well, let’s go then,” Reuben said. “I need kindling for the stove, and Jenny can go out and close in the chickens.”

“All right, Papa,” Jenny said, still stinging from Reuben’s rebuke. “Do I need to bring in any milch, Mama?”

“Yes, dear,” Jerusha said, “there’s some fresh in the cooling house.”

When Jenny had banged out the back door, Jerusha turned to Reuben. “She’s so impetuous. I worry there’ll come a time when she crashes into a predicament we can’t get her out of. But you must not be so hard on her. She’s still young.”

“I know. But young or not, her curiosity worries me,” Reuben said. “She’s headed for disappointment if she keeps searching for answers that don’t exist. I want to keep her from that as long as I can.”

Jerusha nodded. “I want her to be happy, but in my heart I’m afraid that if she does somehow find her birth parents, she’ll want to be with them more than with us. And their way would be so different from ours. The world out there is filled with danger, and I don’t know if she would be able to understand it. I’m afraid for her, Reuben.”

“I’m afraid for her too, Jerusha,” he said quietly, taking his wife in his arms. “And that’s why I want her to forget about her past. I’m trying hard not to crush her spirit, but the girl doesn’t think things through. She thinks she’s all grown up, but she still has many kindisch ways about her. There may soon come a day when she goes her own way, and the thought of what she might choose…”

Jerusha felt a momentary chill grip her heart, and she pulled herself deeper into the circle of Reuben’s arms.

 

My Opinion:

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the first book in the Apple Creek Dreams series titled, A Quilt for Jenna by Patrick E. Craig and this one was right up there with it – a second great book from a newer Amish fiction author.  This one picks up several years after Jerusha Springer finds and rescues Jenna from a car during a blizzard, and Jenna is an adult who wonders who she was and who she is.  Not having known who her real parents is something that nags at Jenna every day,no matter how much she loves her parents and her life – she wants to find out why she was in car during the blizzard and who was that strange man?  Of course, her parents don’t agree and Jenna’s job as a local Amish historian doesn’t help her squash her emotions and feelings.

When a young man Johnny enters the small town and almost runs down Jenna in his hippie truck, things begin to twist and weave – some good and some not so good.  Follow Jenna and Johnny as they both long to find out who they are in the world and where their place is supposed to be, including some hard spots when they stop listening to God and follow their hearts.  Whether or not you’ve read book 1 you can leap into this one as Mr. Craig does a great job in weaving in what previously happened so the read remembers what is going on or better yet just read them both and follow the story the beginning – it’s a great one and it’s a quick read.

1 Comment »

FIRST Tour: Awakened Love (Amish of Webster County #3) by Laura V. Hilton #grow4christ


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:
Laura V. Hilton
and the book:
Awakened Love
(Amish of Webster County #3)
Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura V. Hilton, of Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, is a pastor’s wife, mother of five, author and book lover. Her Amish fiction series books have sold thousands of copies and garnered praise from readers and critics for originality and authenticity. This is thanks, in part, to Laura’s Amish grandmother from whom she learned Amish ways, and her husband Steve’s family ties in Webster County, Missouri, who served as invaluable resources in her research. Laura’s previous Whitaker House books include The Amish of Seymour series: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another; and The Amish of Webster County: Healing Love and Surrendered Love. Awakened Love is the final book in the series. Laura is also a homeschooling mother, breast cancer survivor and avid blogger who posts reviews at: www.lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Katie Detweiler is excited when she’s hired to bake for a local bed-and-breakfast, especially because the shy young Amish woman will be able to work alone in the kitchen doing a job she loves. Circumstances change, however, and the job requires she also wait on customers, including a private investigator who tells her she is adopted and has a biological sister in need of a bone marrow transplant. She also meets 22-year-old Abram Hilty, an Amish man who has fled the drama of his community in Shipshewana, Indiana, for Seymour, Missouri, where he’s staying with his cousin Micah Graber. Abram is immediately attracted to Katie, but pursuing a relationship with her would be complicated because he’s come to the Amish of Webster County to hide from a girl he no longer cares about—and also from a cold-blooded killer.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Series: Amish of Webster County (Book 3)

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603745084

ISBN-13: 978-1603745086

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Today I met the bu I’m gonna marry….” Patsy Swartz’s singsongy voice was too chipper. Bracing herself for an afternoon with the bubbly girl, Katie Detweiler climbed out of her daed’s buggy and turned to lift the cooler from the back. Her not-exactly-a-friend bounced up beside her, still singing away.Katie’s heart ached with a stab of envy.

Would she ever marry?

Daed snorted, in apparent disbelief. “Bye, Katie-girl. Have fun at the frolic.” He clicked at the horse and then pulled the buggy around the circle drive.

“The new bu in town!” Patsy squealed, as if Katie had asked. “He is sooooo cute! I’m going to marry him. I’m thinking Valentine’s Day. Will you stand up with me? I’m asking Mandy, too.”

Marriage? The new bu in town? Why was she the last to know these things? Katie hadn’t even known that Patsy had a beau. Wait—she didn’t. Just yesterday, she was bemoaning the lack of interesting men in her life.

Katie shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. “Stand up with you? On Valentine’s Day? Jah, I can do that. What new bu in town?”

Patsy huffed. “Where have you been, Katie? There is a world outside that bed-and-breakfast, ain’t so?”

“When did you two meet? You didn’t mention him yesterday.” She adjusted her grip on the cooler handles and started toward the haus.

“He’s visiting the Grabers…a cousin or something. He’s here, right over—ach, I see Mandy! I’ll tell you about him later.” She turned away and glanced over her shoulder. “You’re still standing up with me. Valentine’s Day. Write that down, Katie.”

Patsy ran across the driveway to where Mandy Hershberger stood by the open barn doors.

Valentine’s Day? Was Patsy serious? Most weddings happened between November and January—never February, when the fields need to be prepared for planting. And wouldn’t the bishop have some reservations about Patsy’s marrying a man she’d known for, what, half an hour?

Valentine’s Day was still a long ways off. It was only August. And Patsy probably would’ve moved on three times by then.

But he was here, this mystery man Patsy planned to wed? Katie turned around and scanned the buwe playing volleyball, looking for a face she didn’t recognize. She didn’t see anyone new. Or maybe he just didn’t stand out. Patsy? Getting married? If Katie knew her at all, she’d be promised to this new bu in a short time. What Patsy wanted, she usually got. Even if they ended up calling it quits several weeks into the relationship.

Katie sighed. It’d be nice if someone noticed her. And wanted her as a permanent part of his future.

She headed for the haus to deliver the food. A long row of tables was set up inside the kitchen, already piled full. Katie set the cooler down next to the door, opened the lid, and took out a plate of chocolate chip cookies. She carried them to the table and set them down among the other desserts, then stepped back and surveyed the array of cookies and fried pies. Maybe she should’ve made something else besides cookies. But Daed wouldn’t mind if she brought the entire plateful back home again.

“Hi, Katie.” Micah Graber’s mamm, Lizzie, came into the room. “Glad you made it. Micah’s playing volleyball, if you want to join in. His cousin Abram is visiting from Indiana.” She smiled. “I’m sure you’ll want an introduction.”

Katie wasn’t so sure, except maybe to see what Patsy found so special about this mystery man. It was probably nothing more than that she hadn’t yet been courted by him, since she had gone with almost every other bu in the district.

Oops. That was unkind. Katie found a smile. “Danki. I’ll find Micah.” Later. Their paths would probably cross sometime that afternoon. He usually made a point to say hi to her.

Katie went to get the rest of the food out of her cooler when the door burst open. She gazed into knock-’em-dead blue eyes belonging to the most handsome someone she’d never seen. She stared at the stranger, her mouth open.

He raked his fingers through his brown hair, dislodging his straw hat, and backed up. “Micah sent me to get the coolers and the big picnic jugs.”

Lizzie Graber laughed. “Ach, you walked right past them. They’re out on the porch.”

His eyes met Katie’s again, and he nodded in greeting. Her heart pounded so loud, she worried he’d hear it. “Sorry, Aenti Lizzie. Don’t know what I was thinking.” He shook his head and backed out of the room, his gaze still locked on Katie, then turned and shut the door.

Lizzie laughed again. “Those buwe are all the same. They see a pretty girl and have to kum check her out.”

Pretty? Lizzie believed he’d kum inside because he thought she was pretty? But he hadn’t stayed long enough to say hi. Or to ask her name. Not that it mattered. She probably would’ve been tongue-tied, anyway. Katie straightened, willing her heart rate to return to normal. A gut-looking bu she didn’t know. Micah’s cousin. He must be Patsy’s…whatever she’d call him. Maybe “her intended,” since she’d said she wanted to marry him. So, why did it matter what he thought?

It didn’t.

Her insides deflated like a popped balloon.

Katie studied the dessert selection again. Disappointingly, other than the chips in her cookies, there wasn’t any chocolate in sight—unless some of the fried pies were filled with the delicious comfort.

***

Abram Hilty shut the door behind him and took a deep breath to calm his pulse. He hadn’t even talked to the girl in the kitchen, didn’t know the sound of her voice, but there was something about her that his heart had recognized.

“She’s pretty, jah?” Micah hoisted a cooler in his arms and started down the steps.

“Very.” Abram lifted one of the big yellow picnic jugs and fell into step beside him. “And you can’t get her to pay attention to you?”

Micah shook his head. “Nein. Not at all. But her best friend, Janna Kauffman, told me Katie’s really shy. Maybe I’ll offer to drive her home tonight. Her daed dropped her off.”

Abram chuckled. “You do that. I’ll ask her out, too, and tell her how wunderbaar you are. Between the two of us, we’ll get her talking.” That would at least give him an opportunity to spend time with her.

Micah raised his eyebrows. “You’d do that for me?”

“That, and I’m currently between girls.” Abram winked. “I told Marianna I want a break.” Sort of. He did owe her some sort of explanation for his silence. After all, they’d been practically engaged—and he’d essentially stood her up.

Of course, he hadn’t revealed where he’d gone. Instead, he’d left a vague note: “Need some time off. Sorry.”

In hindsight, Ouch. But she’d been hounding him to make a commitment, dropping hints he couldn’t help but get. He could do worse, he’d supposed. And yet he’d fled. He needed to think. And that was impossible with her bringing him lunch every day, staying to eat with him, and getting into his buggy after every singing and frolic—without his even asking.

He shook his head. What else could he have done?

“What if she falls in love with you, not me?” Micah’s forehead creased as his eyebrows drew together. “I mean, talking me up is kind of cliché.” He snickered. “And it usually works in reverse.”

Abram shrugged. He wouldn’t complain if it did. “How could she not fall in love with you, with me singing your praises?” Of course, he’d try hard not to sing his own. Not that he had much to sing about. He frowned. How long before he was found out?

Micah set the cooler on the ground next to a table with some stacks of paper cups, then straightened. “I’ll go say hi to her, then, while you get the other picnic jug.”

“Works for me.” Abram set the picnic jug down on the table, then reached for a cup, held it under the spigot, and pressed the handle for a splash of iced tea.

“Hi, Abram,” cooed a feminine voice.

Abram cringed. Not another pushy female. He looked up at not one but two girls—a redhead he’d seen earlier that day, who beamed at him, and another with reddish-brown hair. He preferred Katie and her dark blonde hair.

“Welkum to Missouri!” said the redhead. “I’m Patsy Swartz, and this is Mandy Hershberger.”

He found a smile. “Nice to meet you. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get the other—”

Micah punched his arm. “I’ll get it, after I greet Katie. You stay here and talk.”

“Danki, cousin”—Abram hoped the girls wouldn’t pick up on his sarcastic tone—“but I’ll get the jug myself.”

***

“May I borrow a pair of tongs?” Katie asked Lizzie Graber. “I need to mix up the taco salad I brought.”

“Of course.” Lizzie slid a pan of brownies into the oven and then retrieved the utensil from a drawer.

“Danki.”

Lizzie opened the refrigerator, took out a can of 7-Up, and popped the top. “I need to go check on Emily. She isn’t feeling well.” She poured the fizzy liquid into a glass.

“Sorry to hear that.” She liked Micah’s little sister.

“When the brownies are done, would you take them out, please?”

“Jah.”

“Danki.” Lizzie left the room.

Katie looked around. Maybe she could find some other way to assist. Helping would give her an excuse not to socialize. An alternative to standing beside the barn, ignored.

At this point of her life, she was part of the scenery, the part no one looked at. Patsy said it was because she was too quiet. Because she wouldn’t cross the room to talk to any of the buwe; she waited for them to kum talk to her. And they wouldn’t. They had enough girls willing to chase them that they didn’t need to pursue the quiet ones.

If that was the case, she’d be alone forever. A painful thought.

But her best friend, Janna, had said that if a bu really liked her, it would be obvious, because he’d be hanging around. Janna should know. Her beau, Troy Troyer, hung around her plenty, and he’d even started baptism classes, so he could join the church—for her.

Abram’s handsome face flashed in her mind. His heart-stopping grin. His easy confidence.

Nein. She wouldn’t think of this—of him. It meant nothing. He was in Patsy’s sights.

Katie opened her cooler and lifted out the salad bowl and a big bag of Fritos. She always waited to add the chips so that they wouldn’t get soggy before the salad was served.

Katie set the bowl down on the table and tugged on the top of the Frito bag to open it. A warm breath tickled her ear. Abram? Her heart jumped, and her hands jerked in opposite directions, ripping the bag and sending Fritos high in the air. A few of the chips landed where they were supposed to, in the taco salad, but most of them now decorated the floor and the savory dishes nearby, including the egg salad sandwiches Patsy always brought.

Katie’s face burned. She spun around, the almost-empty bag clasped in her hands.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Micah said. He stood too close. Why couldn’t it have been Abram breathing in her ear? Admittedly, the end result would’ve been the same.

A chatter of voices neared outside, and feet tromped on the porch. The latch clicked on the door, and the hinges squeaked. Katie resisted the urge to run from the room. It seemed everyone was coming inside to witness her humiliation. Abram entered, followed by Patsy and Mandy and a dozen or so others. Everyone looked at her.

“I was hoping you’d be here,” Micah continued.

There was someone who’d wanted to see her? Some member of the male species? Katie stared at him in shock.

Patsy came over to the table and started picking Fritos off of her sandwiches. The hard kick to the shin she gave Katie was all it took to find her voice.

“Ach, I scare easy. It’s okay, really.”

She had spoken to a bu. Using multisyllabic words. Would miracles never cease?

Patsy shook her head, evidently disappointed in her attempt at conversation. If only she would step in and speak on her behalf. But nein luck. With another shake of her head, Patsy dumped the Fritos in the trash and joined the group of females huddled around Abram. His harem.

Katie frowned. She didn’t want to compete with so many for the minute possibility of a relationship with a man. Maybe it’d be better to find someone steady who paid attention to her alone. She glanced at Micah. He stared at her as if she’d sprouted antlers. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the kind of attention she wanted.

“Janna told me you’re shy. She told me not to give up on you. I’d like to get to know you better. Are you seeing someone?” He lowered his voice. “Maybe I could give you a ride home today. We could stop for a milkshake.”

A milkshake? Was he kidding? Katie glanced at the table, laden with the usual assortment of cookies and fried pies. Brownies still baked in the oven. With all these treats, who in his right mind would offer that incentive?

He hadn’t given her a chance to answer the courting question before asking her out. Maybe he figured that someone as tongue-tied as she couldn’t possibly have a beau.

Still, Katie didn’t know how to answer his questions. Would it be easier to talk just one-on-one? Daed would encourage her to accept a ride from him. If that meant downing a milkshake, too, then so be it. She swallowed. “A milkshake sounds gut.”

He grinned. “I’ll look for you afterward. Sorry about your chips. I hope I didn’t ruin your”—he glanced at the bowl—“salad.” He turned away and started talking to Natalie Wagler. At least she could carry on her side of the conversation.

Katie frowned. Were there books available for this disorder? She needed to check at the library. See if they had a section called “Basic Communication with the Opposite Sex.”

A buggy ride with a man who wasn’t Daed…. Sighing, she glanced at Abram. His attention seemed to be focused on Patsy, whose hand rested on his upper arm. Katie swallowed and turned away. Micah wasn’t the Mr. Right of her imagination. But maybe he was the Mr. Right of her reality.

Her very first date. Excitement washed over her.

Maybe her life was about to change.


My Opinion:

 

What can I say?  I enjoy Laura’s writing, I’ve read the first two books in this series, Healing Love and Surrendered Love and have enjoyed both of those – I’m so happy to have read the whole series.  I have to admit I couldn’t believe that Katie would allow Patsy to walk over her and if I’ve ever disliked a character more I can’t remember it because Patsy grated on my last nerve.  Of course Patsy is a bully and she picked up on Katie’s low self worth and fed on that, fortunately, she discovers how to get rid of her but not until the very end of the book.  I could in many ways commiserate with Katie and her low self worth and thankfully she didn’t take to doing immoral things to get her through that, instead she relies on the Lord and is comfortable with either being a maiden for the rest of her life unless the Lord sends the right man.

 

I enjoy an Amish fiction book that isn’t all romance, however I must say there were a couple heavy scenes that depict Katie and and her beau, Abram getting into some risky situations but they always stop before crossing those lines.  I was a tad bit, okay more than a tad, uncomfortable reading those and I did skip the second one.  Finding out what Abram was trying to escape from and then him going back to face the consequences, even if they weren’t by all of his doing, made me like him and made him a good man for Katie.  Overall, I enjoyed this book and read it in one day – I could have done without some of the kissy/touchy stuff but otherwise I really got into it.

 

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Awakened Love (Amish of Webster County #3) by Laura V. Hilton #grow4christ

FIRST Tour: Graced With Orange by Jamie C. Amelio with Adam Snyder


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:
Jamie Amelio
and the book:
Graced With Orange: How Caring For Cambodia Changed Lives, Including My Own
Meadow Lane Publishing (June 15, 2013)
 
***Special thanks to Sharon Farnell for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Texas native Jamie C. Amelio is the founder and CEO of Caring for Cambodia. While vacationing in Cambodia in 2003, she expected to be wowed by the temples of Angkor Wat. Instead it was a little girl panhandling for a few dollars who would change her life. A few weeks later Jamie established Caring for Cambodia, which now supports 6,400 students in sixteen schools in Siem Reap. IN 2005, 2010 and 2012 Jamie was awarded the prestigious Golden Hand Service Award by the Cambodian government. After living in Asia for ten years, Jamie, her husband Bill, and their six children now live in Austin, TX.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

It all began with a dollar.

When Srelin, an eight-year old Cambodian girl approached Jamie Amelio and asked for a dollar so she could afford to go to school, Amelio was skeptical. Was this just another beggar’s ruse? Amelio was visiting Cambodia for the first time, and was shocked at the filth and abject poverty. Entire villages lacked plumbing and electricity. Mothers on the streets pleaded with her to take their babies so they might have a chance at a good life. And this child wanted a dollar for school? A doubtful Amelio nevertheless told Srelin that if she would take her to visit the school, she would give her the dollar.

What Amelio found at the school changed her life.

In Graced with Orange, you’ll read the story of how Amelio discovered 75 hungry, impoverished Cambodian children crowded into a single room with bars on the windows, waiting patiently for a teacher who never showed up. The students shared a pencil they had broken into small pieces, and had few other school supplies. And this was a school that students had to pay to attend! The situation was less surprising when Amelio learned that Cambodia was still reeling from the murder of 2 million people by the Khmer Rouge (The movie, The Killing Fields was based on this) a few decades ago – including anyone who was educated – All teachers, and even anyone with glasses, were ruthlessly disposed of.

Amelio invested herself into making lasting change in a country that cried out for it. She vowed to make a difference and she did. She established “Caring for Cambodia”, that in the next 10 years built 16 life-changing schools, and the opportunity for young people to learn in a safe, nurturing environment with motivated teachers. “I knew that God had put me in this position,” she says.

Equally as inspirational is the story of how Amelio’s life, marriage, and children’s lives were profoundly changed by the children of Cambodia. Or as her eldest son says, “Cambodia saved my life.”

 
 
 

Product Details:

List Price: $18.85

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Meadow Lane Publishing (June 15, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0986025801

ISBN-13: 978-0986025808

 

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter One – Spotting the Orange

Naturally, Virginia was with me in January of 2003 when I stepped off the plane in Siem Reap for the first time, the day that would change my life. As the airplane door banged open, Virginia, Amanda, and I felt the same blast of furnace-like air. When someone asks you what Cambodia is like, if you’re honest, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Cambodia is hot.” Jungle hot. If you start traveling to Cambodia frequently you are bound to hear the joke that everyone seems to tell: Cambodia has three seasons—hot, really hot, and really hot and wet.

Maybe so, but as a Texas girl I wasn’t afraid of the heat or the rain. Having visited other Asian countries, I was also prepared for the chaos of traffic jams, honking horns, and swarms of children asking for, and sometimes demanding, money.

When you become an expatriate living in Singapore your new friends tell you to take the opportunity to explore neighboring countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Hong Kong, all a few hours or fewer away by air.

Map of Singapore in Asia.

During our first year in Singapore Bill and I traveled to a number of different countries, including China when Bill had business there, plus Thailand, Indonesia, and Hong Kong either with friends or our children. On one vacation Bill and I took the kids to Ho Chi Minh City, so I had experienced the ferocity and commercialism of a Southeast Asian capital. The children there were a reflection of this aggressiveness, and as soon as we arrived at the airport we were bombarded with swarms of them crying out to me, “Hey lady! Hey lady!” as they begged for money.

We did have a fascinating few days in Ho Chi Minh City. We visited museums, saw a water puppet show, and toured the incredible C. Chi tunnels, an immense network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong army during the Vietnam War, or “the American War” as the Vietnamese call it.

We also brought clothes to donate to one of the orphanages Christina Noble had created. I had been moved to tears reading Ms. Noble’s book,

Bridge Across My Sorrows, a memoir chronicling her horrific childhood in the slums of Dublin and how she had moved to Vietnam and devoted her life to the bui doi, the street children there. Her book was no doubt one of the inspirations that made me on the lookout for some way to make a positive difference in one of these very poor countries in Southeast Asia, located just a few hours from where I was now living.

I wanted to help, but as Bill and I visited one of the orphanages Ms. Noble had established, I immediately saw I would have to get involved in something very different. Looking at the conditions in which children were living left me dumfounded. We saw horribly deformed young people. Many children, some in diapers, seemed unable to even get out of bed. My most haunting memory is of the silence. We never heard the sounds of children playing or even crying. I greatly admired the people working there, but I left feeling devastated by the experience. I didn’t think I was strong enough to work in that kind of environment.

But right away Siem Reap seemed different. The airport had an unexpected calm. It would be modernized a few years later, but at the time it resembled a Pony Express outpost more than it did the second largest airport in a country of fifteen million people. As Virginia, Amanda, and I deplaned and walked across the runway we saw green vegetation that seemed to go on forever and tall palm trees and grass huts in the distance. It was as if we were walking around someone’s remote backyard.

As we were driven to our hotel, the city seemed to be moving at a slower pace. The streets were certainly crowded, but with motorbikes and bicycles rather than the constant hum of automobiles and twenty-first century neon and without the high-octane energy I had expected.

So this is what a developing country looks like, I thought to myself as I gazed at cows, monkeys, and dogs roaming the streets and at dirt flying everywhere. Driving alongside us, families carried all manner of

things on their bicycles and motorbikes: babies on handlebars, bags of rice strapped to shoulders, pigs being taken to slaughter in cages dangling precariously from saddlebags. Many motorbikes carted three or four people in addition to their various belongings. No one wore helmets.1

We sped past villages with barefoot children playing in the mud, not an electric pole in sight. Somehow the large buildings and modern activity in the other Southeast Asian countries I had visited had managed to mask the impoverishment, at least for the tourist. In Siem Reap, it was all in your face.

I felt like I had been dropped down the rabbit hole, except it was a familiar one, like a vaguely scary dream but one I didn’t fear because I’d had it before and I knew it came out okay on the other side. Instantly I felt comfortable in Siem Reap. My connection to the place went beyond just an empathy for people living in poverty. Even before we arrived at the hotel, well before we visited the temples, something struck a nerve in me. It’s difficult to explain. Some people fall in love at first sight with Paris or New York; others feel a special affinity for the big sky of the American West or even the small towns of Texas where I grew up. Almost immediately I had the powerful feeling that Cambodia was a place that was going to become an important part of my life. Maybe it was the way people greeted us, with a slight bow as they put their hands together up to their chins in a prayer-like motion. It was a salutation I would soon adopt. Or perhaps it was the simplicity of their lives and the feeling that it wouldn’t take much to make a genuine and lasting difference here.

The Raffles Hotel presented a wake-up of a different sort. Today Siem Reap has dozens of quality hotels, but at the time Raffles was the only one of its kind. It is still an oasis of beauty, one of the most elegant hotels I’ve ever stayed in. The employees wear stiffly starched white uniforms with traditional hats and matching knee socks and offer a cold washcloth and a soft “Welcome home” as you walk through the door. The experience, walking out of poverty and into luxury, is surreal and more than a little disconcerting.

1. A few years later the police began to enforce a helmet law for motorbikes, but the law applies only to the driver. You can still routinely see three or four people on the same small bike, with only the driver wearing a helmet

The next morning Samedi, the guide we had hired, picked up Virginia, Amanda, and me in his beat-up Toyota to visit the temple of Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples of Angkor. On the way we passed King Jayaraman Hospital, named for the Khmer emperor who in the twelfth century built his capital city less than a mile from the entrance to the temple.

Outside the hospital a long snaking line of people waited to enter. There must have been several hundred tired, sick-looking men, women, and children waiting in line or on the street corner hoping to see a doctor. Many were parents holding ailing babies or toddlers; others were sick children holding even sicker younger siblings.

I started grilling Samedi, who explained that families travel on foot, by bicycle, and on the backs of trucks from their villages many hours away to see the only doctor for a hundred miles. With the exception of the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, modern healthcare in Cambodia is almost nonexistent, which helps explain why dengue fever and malaria continue to be major health problems.

Healthcare is not free in Cambodia. With an average income of $1,800 per year, many families must fend for themselves, often using ancient remedies of dubious efficacy, like squeezing someone’s ankle if you think he’s having a heart attack, or rubbing heated bottle tops or coins on the skin to “get the sickness out.” It took me years to ask what caused the round marks on people’s foreheads. I have also seen medicine men mix up a “cure your cancer” cocktail made of wood chips, herbs, and magic.

After just a few hours I could see that Cambodia was a country of paradoxes. Something beautiful like the fountains in the Raffles hotel existed just down the road from an entire village lacking plumbing or electricity. Temples built in the twelfth century, truly a wonder of the world, sat next to a hospital full of dying children who would not see a doctor until it was too late. The manmade magnificence of the ancient temples were in stark contrast to the manmade destitution in people’s daily lives; the gentle, soft-spoken people I met during my first 48 hours there lived with the memory of a genocide the rest of the world had all but forgotten.

Even the restaurants demonstrated the yin/yang of the small city. You might enter a dining place with an attractive, modern façade, but a glance next door would reveal dogs and birds rummaging through the restaurant’s burning garbage. Attempts at progress were butting up against years of extreme poverty and political upheaval, preventing people from making real progress.

Only later did I come to understand that Cambodian culture had recently been rebooted. Everywhere, in the eyes of the people and in their halting attempts to improve their lot, were remembrances of the recent past and the genocide they had endured. During my first days in Siem Reap I only had a cursory knowledge of what the Khmer Rouge had done to this beautiful country. I immediately started reading all I could about it, and what I learned was horrifying.

Between 1975 and 1979, in the name of creating an agrarian utopia, the Khmer Rouge had killed an estimated two million Cambodians, a quarter of the population, in a wave of murder, torture, and starvation aimed particularly at the educated and intellectual elite. Ninety percent of Cambodia’s doctors were either killed or fled the country. Small wonder that even today, Cambodia has fewer physicians per capita than all but thirty-seven countries in the world and an infant mortality rate

more than ten times that of the United States and almost six times that of neighboring Vietnam. If a U.S. tourist becomes ill during a vacation to Cambodia, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends airlifting the patient to Bangkok rather than gambling with a Cambodian hospital or doctor.

It wasn’t just modern medicine that the Khmer Rouge leadership considered subversive, antithetical to their rural, “pure” form of communism. In 1976, a year after taking power, the Khmer Rouge, formally the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), abolished the Cambodian currency, the courts, newspapers, the postal system, and telephone communication—in short, the very concept of urban life.

Phnom Phen, a city of three million, was emptied, the people forced to work in the countryside or worse, never heard from again. The “revolution” led by Pol Pot wasn’t just an attempt to eliminate disparities in income, monopolize the media, or limit personal freedoms. Individual thought, initiative, and creativity were also condemned. Anyone who was educated, particularly teachers, were targeted. People were shot simply because they wore glasses.

Angkor wat

Virginia, Amanda, and I weren’t thinking about any of this as we entered the grounds of Angkor Wat, surely one of the wonders of the ancient world. The temple was built during the Khmer Empire between the ninth and thirteenth centuries when Cambodian kings ruled a Southeast Asian empire that stretched from Malaysia to Laos, from Vietnam to Burma.

Sometime during the first half of the twelfth century the emperor Suryavarman II dedicated Angkor Wat to the Hindu God, Vishnu. Every inch of the temple seems to be made with purpose. The intricate statues and sculptures that appear to climb out of the walls and

rock cliffs give reverence to both Hindu and Buddhist deities and emperors, and numerology is interwoven throughout. In Hinduism, the God-like Devas are continually at war with the power-seeking deities called Asuras. The bridge that leads to Angkor Thom, which is part of Angkor Wat, is lined with 54 rivaling Devas and a corresponding 54 Asura statues. Together they add up to 108, a powerful number in Khmer mythology that is linked to the degrees of movement of the sun and moon.

Approaching the temple on foot makes you feel as if you are in a Tolkien land with ancient trees growing in and over the roads and buildings. The jungle heat prints the landscape green and emits a fresh smell of life regenerating. The rhythm and beauty of my first day in Cambodia were almost overpowering.

Seven Amelios at the Angkor Wat South Gate entrance; a tuk-tuk is on the left.

The First orange i See

At one point we were walking around the side of the temples and we could see in the distance four or five Buddhist monks in bright orange robes heading toward a nearby monastery. Just then a little girl of eight or nine came up to us. Throughout the day children had been asking us to buy all sorts of items. Each child seemed to have a specialty. Some sold silk scarves, others postcards and maps, still others books describing local tourist sites.

But there was something different about this girl who offered me a book on Angkor Wat and asked for a dollar. She approached us by herself, surrounded only by a flock of wild puppies running and yelping around her. In a soft clear voice, she asked, “How are you?”

At the time I was surprised at her ability to speak English, but I soon learned that most of the children who work near the temples learn to speak at least a little English so they can converse with the tourists.

“Could I have a dollar?” this sweet small voice asked.

Rather than just give her the money, I asked for her name and what she would do with the dollar. I wanted to understand what was going on in her country. That I didn’t know very much about Cambodia was beginning to dawn on me. It was poor; I could certainly see that after half a day. It had been part of the Vietnam War somehow, I remembered that. And the country had suffered through a genocide of its own making less than thirty years earlier. But what had happened since then, I hadn’t a clue.

The girl told me her name was Srelin and that she wanted the dollar to pay for school.

“What a clever answer,” I thought suspiciously, imagining a street person in a U.S. city standing outside a liquor store asking for money, supposedly for food. Still, something about the girl’s youth and her matter-of-factness captivated me.

“Why do you have to pay to go to school?” I asked her.

“We all have to pay to go to school in Cambodia,” was the response.

“What does your mom do?”

“My mom can’t work. She sick.”

“Where’s your father?”

“Well, he at home.”

“Where do you get your money, here at the temple?”

“Yes.”

I found myself telling Srelin that if she showed me her school I would give her the dollar. I fully expected her to tell me I wasn’t allowed at the school, or to offer some other excuse. Instead she said that school wasn’t in session since it was lunchtime, but that I could visit later that afternoon. Then, very businesslike, we shook hands.

On our way back from Angkor Wat I began pummeling our guide with more questions. Up until that point Samedi had been playing the good tour guide, telling us about the likes of King Jayaraman and the history of the various Hindu and Buddhist temples we would be visiting. Now I began asking him why his country was so poor, why children had to pay to go to school, and why Srelin’s parents weren’t working.

“What is the source of most families’ income?” I asked. “Do they have electricity? Indoor plumbing?”

“Tourism,” “No,” and “No,” I gradually gleaned were the answers to those three questions. A child under the age of ten serving as the family’s breadwinner was not unusual, Samedi told me, and most homes did not have electricity. More than once since then I have seen people use a car battery to fire up a television set. On many nights that is the only light you see in a village.

“But what happened to this country?” I demanded. Vietnam and Thailand had developed into tiger economies. Why had Cambodia lagged seriously behind, with the lowest GDP in Asia?

Poor Samedi. He couldn’t answer most of my questions, but he did talk about the infamous Killing Fields of Cambodia and what had happened to his country during the past thirty years.

“Almost everyone has a family member who was killed,” he told me.

And everyone had a story, I was soon to learn. It was years before Samedi opened up and told me his. Eventually I learned that he was born in 1964, so he was eleven years old when the Khmer Rouge took power. Like millions of other peasants, he was marched out of his village and into forced labor in the countryside. Seven days a week he worked in the fields, from daybreak until ten at night, farming, herding cows, and building dikes. Virtually no one went to school. His was a story that was repeated a million times. All his family’s belongings had to be handed over to the Khmer Rouge, the ruling Cambodian party which became everyone’s mother, father, and big brother. If you were caught hiding jewelry you could be killed. If you tried to escape, you were killed.

In 1980 Samedi was reunited with his mother and other surviving family members, but his father, he learned, had been executed. Two of his siblings had also died. Samedi was then conscripted into the Vietnamese army and later saved himself by becoming a monk before leaving the monastery to make his way as a tour guide.

After lunch Samedi drove Virginia, Amanda, and me to Srelin’s school in the small village of Kravaan. A large, rusty wrought iron fence with yellow columns buttressing a swinging metal gate led to a complex of three buildings, one of which was a small, low-roofed, shack-like structure. Somehow Srelin knew I had arrived because out the door she came running up to us, exclaiming, “Oh, you’re here! You’re here!” like I was a favorite aunt she hadn’t seen in months.

I asked Srelin to show us her classroom, so she walked us back into the building, which up close we could see wasn’t much more than four walls and a ceiling. She opened the door to reveal what must have been seventy- five children of all ages crammed into a small room. They were sitting on benches under narrow tables, three to five kids to a table. The school was so crowded that children were literally sitting on top of one another. Every time a child stood the dust from the dirt floor billowed upwards. I had to force myself to stop thinking about the Peanuts character Pigpen, trailed by a cloud of dirt wherever he went.

Thousands of dust particles sparkled in the rays of sun that shone through the windows, unobstructed except for thick steel bars. I was told the bars were to prevent break-ins, although what someone might want to steal I couldn’t imagine. Even with the bars the building didn’t seem particularly secure. I wondered how children could learn in this jail-like setting and marveled at the irony that they had to pay for it.

The moment I walked into the room the children went completely silent, with all eyes on the three foreigners. I said hello and they bowed their heads, offering polite “Hellos” in return.

Looking around further, I realized there wasn’t a teacher in front of the class. “Where’s the teacher?” I asked Srelin.

“I don’t know if teacher come today. Sometimes don’t come.”

Remarkably, without supervision, the children just sat there, talking quietly, waiting for their teacher to arrive. Srelin explained that they would stay there all day because that’s what they had been told to do.

“Do you have any kind of workbooks to read or lesson plans to follow while the teacher is absent?” I asked Srelin.

She looked at me blankly, but the fact that she didn’t understand the question gave me my answer.

“Where are the school supplies?”

She pointed to the front desk, which had small pieces of broken pencils. “We get one pencil,” she told me. “We break it. We share it.”

The teacher never did show up that day. Virginia, Amanda, and I stayed a few hours, walking the grounds with the school principal. With Samedi as translator, I asked how I could help.

“What do you need the most?” I asked.

“Paper and pencils,” the principal told me. I kept asking him questions, and in return I received my first introduction to the Cambodian public education system. It wasn’t the last time I would learn that the bureaucracy was sorely inefficient and often corrupt. Teachers, I learned, were supposed to receive a salary from the Cambodian government. Sometimes they did, often they did not, and even when they did it only amounted to about $25 a month. That was not a livable wage, even in a country as poor as Cambodia, so the teachers asked the children to supplement their incomes.

By the time we returned to our hotel something in me had changed. My heart and head had been turned topsy-turvy in a single day. I couldn’t sleep that night. Perhaps I was naïve, but I couldn’t get my mind around the idea that I lived two hours away in a country with everything I could possibly need while a mere two hours away children were trying to learn in an environment like the one I had just seen. This was simply not okay with me. People could do better. People like me could do better.

The next day after breakfast Virginia, Amanda, and I visited another top tourist sight, Ta Prohm, the temple made famous by Angelina Jolie’s film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Ta Prohm was built in the twelfth century, toward the end of the Khmer Empire. Although it retains its incredible beauty, it is losing its form to the jungle, crumbling under the weight of the massive trees and roots that snake between the stones, separating and lifting them in odd directions, filling every nook and cranny and giving the temple

a Dali-like quality. Man conquered nature in its construction and now nature is reclaiming her temple.

Just before arriving at Ta Prohm, with Samedi still our guide, we stopped at a small outdoor market. Young girls were selling cold drinks and souvenirs out of a series of stalls protected from the sun by makeshift roofs and awnings stuffed with straw, leaves, and mud. Suddenly we were surrounded by a swarm of girls maybe twelve or thirteen years old. I bought a few souvenirs from them, but after my experience of the day before I had more questions.

“What school do you go to?” I asked. “Does your teacher always show up? Do you use books and pencils and paper at your school?”

Like Srelin, these young girls attended school most days and sold trinkets at Ta Prohm to pay for it. I took a photograph of the girls and wrote down their names so I wouldn’t forget. We sat sipping water, talking for hours, and they told me a little about how they lived and pointed out their houses in a village without electricity. I asked about the sugar canes they were cleaning, and one of the girls pointed to a field full of them. All the girls chewed constantly on the cane, which explained their bad teeth.

Perhaps it was the water, but that night at Raffles both Virginia and I were so sick we had a doctor come and give us shots. The next morning, fighting through the nausea, I managed to meet with Samedi in the hotel lobby. I was obsessed with doing something to help, and I decided to give him $300 in cash, telling him I wanted to start helping the children of Cambodia by sponsoring the schooling of five girls—Srelin and a friend of hers I had met at her school plus the three girls I had sat with across from Ta Prohm.

Samedi was reluctant to take the money. I could see the apprehension on his face, as if to say, “Oh no, another tourist with big ideas who I’ll never see again.”

But I assured him I’d be back. I was adamant about giving this money to the girls and letting them know I’d be returning soon.

I know this sounds crazy as I barely knew Samedi, but a bigger plan was beginning to formulate in my mind. I wanted to establish that if I said I was going to do something I would follow through and do it. If I were truly going to do something in Cambodia I needed to create trust. I had promised each of these five girls the day I met them that I would help them, and I was going to start by making it possible for Srelin and the others to go to school for the next few months without having to pay for it. In the meantime, I was going to figure out a more permanent way to get involved.

That afternoon Virginia, Amanda, and I flew to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. We still didn’t feel well, and after we landed Virginia threw up on our way to the hotel, right in front of the Royal Palace.

I wondered if this was some kind of omen. As time has shown, the answer was a resounding no.

 

 

My Opinion:

When I grabbed Graced with Orange I wasn’t sure what to expect – I knew what the book was about but I don’t didn’t really know much about Cambodia or Singapore.  I’ll say I did think this would have had more of a Christian worldview but it didn’t, there were mentions of a “higher power” and “serendipity” or just “luck” but God wasn’t a part of the big picture.  That might actually prove to be a good thing though so that those who aren’t Christians can find themselves wanting to help with the organization, Caring for Cambodia.  As I read it I can definitely identify the God moments that occurred through out the book and those that are going to continue – keep in mind though that Cambodia is very much steeped in Buddhism.

After finishing the book, which I read in one day, yes one day, I sought out the Caring for Cambodia site and Facebook page to see what I and my children can do to help out with the Caring for Cambodia mission.  Thousands of students rely on the help of those who have been blessed, not only for education but also for dental, health and food.  CFC has developed several programs that give children food at school in the mornings and afternoons as well as feeding siblings who are not school age – and who would starve otherwise.  The program of CFC and their projects are aiming for long term changes through education – not just math, writing and reading but also through education that you cannot use the bathroom, bath and drink all in the same river if you want to stay well.

I don’t want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it’s not a book one should enjoy – this book is hard hitting – imagine being a mom who feels she has no other choice but to sell her younger daughter into prostitution?  Or being a mom who cannot get medication for her child because she must wait hours in line to even get into the hospital, so she must watch her child die?  This book is one that will change your heart, if you let it, it won’t let you sit back and enjoy your comfortable life – and like me, you may even be thinking “how can I help?”.

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Graced With Orange by Jamie C. Amelio with Adam Snyder

FIRST Tour: Love Stays True (The Homeward Journey Book 1) by Martha Rodgers


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:
Martha Rogers
and the book:
Love Stays True
Realms (May 7, 2013)
***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Martha Rogers’ novel Not on the Menu debuted on May 1, 2007, as a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Her series Winds Across the Prairie debuted in 2010 with Becoming Lucy, Morning for Dove, Finding Becky, and Caroline’s Choice. Her other credits include stories in anthologies with Wayne Holmes, Karen Holmes, and Debra White Smith; several articles in Christian magazines; devotionals in six books of devotions; and eight Bible studies. Martha served as editor of a monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, for whom she writes a weekly devotional.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Can Sallie and Manfred overcome the distance that the war has put between them and find love?

In April 1865, the day following the surrender at Appomattox, Manfred McDaniel Whiteman and his brother, Edward, are released in an exchange of prisoners. They are given a few provisions, and they begin a long journey to their home in Bayou Sara, Louisiana.

At home Sallie Dyer is waiting word of her beloved Manfred. Though just a young girl when Manfred left, Sallie has grown into a caring young woman who is determined to wait for her love—despite her father’s worries that she is wasting her life on someone who may never come home.

On their journey Manfred and his brother encounter storms and thieves and are even thrown in jail. Will he make the journey home before someone else claims Sallie’s hand?

Product Details:

List Price: $11.33

PublisherRealms (May 7, 2013)

LanguageEnglish

ISBN-101621362361

ISBN-13978-1621362364

Product Dimensions8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Point Lookout, Maryland, Monday, April 10, 1865Cold air chilled his arms, and a sharp object poked at his cheek. Manfred Whiteman reached down to pull a ragged blanket up over his arms and brushed away the straw scratching his face. A few moments later a sudden brightness aroused him again. His lids opened to a slit. Slivers of sunlight peeked through the tiny windows and dispersed the shadows of the night.

He shut his eyes against the sun’s rays, but sleep would not return. He lay still in the quiet of the new morning and sensed a difference in the air that settled over him like a cloak of peace. Raising his head, he glanced around the room. The same familiar stench of wounds, dirty hay, unwashed bodies, and death permeated the air, but in it all the difference vibrated. Something had happened, he could sense it, but nothing unusual appeared in the confines of the prison barracks.

After being captured in the Battle of Nashville in December, he, his younger brother Edwin, and other prisoners had made the long march from Nashville to Louisville, Kentucky. From there they were transferred to Camp Chase in Ohio. Then, in the first week of February, they had been loaded onto trains like cattle and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland, a prison housing nearly fifty thousand men. Upon their arrival the captured soldiers had been stripped of everything personal, and as the days progressed, hundreds of men died. Manfred mourned the loss of friends but thanked the Lord every day for sparing his life, as well as the life of his brother.

Edwin lay sleeping on the pallet next to him, curled on his side as usual. Others still slept, their snores filling the air with sound. No use in trying to sleep now. Manfred’s stomach rumbled with hunger, but most likely the only breakfast would be hard tack or biscuit.

Several weeks ago an officer with the rank of general had visited. For some reason the general had asked Manfred about the one thing he would most like to have. When Manfred answered he wanted his Bible, the man had been somewhat taken aback. Still, he’d managed to find the Bible and Manfred’s journal, which he returned.

Manfred now pulled that worn journal from beneath his dirty mat. The almost ragged book, his lifeline for the past three years, fell open. Manfred wrote.

April 10, 1865

Three more died the night before last. The nearly full moon shining through the windows gave me light to see. I took one man’s shoes and left him with my holey wornout ones. He won’t need shoes, but I will. Took his socks and another man’s for me and Edwin. God, I never dreamed I would do such a thing, but we are desperately in need. Please forgive me. Help Edwin and me to get out of here and get home safely. I so desperately need to see Sallie and my family.

The scrape of wood against wood echoed in the room. Union soldiers, making their usual morning inspection, checked for any who may have died during the night. Manfred shoved the journal under his mat just before the door thudded against the wall and the guards’ shoes clomped on the wooden floors. He turned on his side once again to feign sleep. The blunt toe of the sergeant’s boot kicked Manfred’s hip and sent a sharp pain through his leg. He grunted in response and raised his head to let the sergeant know he was alive. When the man passed, Manfred sat up on his mat and stretched his legs out in front of him to relieve the usual early-morning stiffness.

Others awakened, and their groans filled the air as they rose to sit on their bedding. Manfred waited for breakfast, not knowing if he would even get rations this morning. The guards exited carrying the bodies of the souls who didn’t make it through the night.

Manfred voiced a silent prayer for the boys and their families who would receive the news of the death of their loved ones. He bit his lip. He and Edwin had to survive. They had too much life to live, but then so had the ones just taken away. What if God chose not to spare him or Edwin? No, he wouldn’t think of that. Instead he filled his mind with Scripture verses memorized as a child. God’s Word stored in his heart gave him the comfort and hope he needed to survive each day.

A little later the guards returned and ordered them to the part of the cookhouse where they would eat what the cooks passed off as food. Manfred accepted the cup of what the men called “slop water” coffee and a hard biscuit that would have to suffice until they brought a lunch of greasy water soup. Weeks ago the putrid smells of death, the filth in the camp, and the lousy food sickened him, but now he barely noticed.

Manfred managed to eat half his biscuit and drink a few sips from his cup then leaned toward the man on his right. “Here, James. You take the rest of mine. You need it more than I do.”

The man clasped a trembling hand around the cup and reached for the biscuit with his other. A few drops sloshed over the rim. “Thank you, Manfred. You’re a true friend.” He stuffed the biscuit into his mouth and lifted the cup to his lips to gulp down the last dregs of liquid. With a nod to Manfred, the young soldier returned the cup.

After they were sent back to their quarters, Manfred breathed deeply and almost choked on the rancid air. What he wouldn’t give for a bath, shave, and haircut. A good meal wouldn’t hurt anything either. His nose had mostly numbed itself to his body odor, but dirt and scum became more visible every day. When he had tried to wash his shirt, the brackish water left stains he couldn’t remove.

When would this nightmare come to an end? A question unanswered for these four long months of marching, fighting, and incarceration. Too many lay ill and dying. The end had to come soon.

He glanced once again at his brother, who cushioned his head on his crossed palms with his eyes closed. Manfred reached over to touch the boy’s shoulder. “You all right, little brother?”

Edwin didn’t open his eyes. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just hungry. I dreamed of home last night and Bessie’s cooking. When I close my eyes, I can see her and Momma in the kitchen, Bessie up to her elbows in flour making biscuits and Momma stirring the fire and making grits.”

“Shh, brother, you’re making me hungry too.” Manfred pulled what was left of his jacket tighter about his thin body. “We’ve been captive four months, but it seems a lifetime. Home, our parents, and Sallie may as well be a million miles away.”

Edwin sat up and pounded his fist into the straw. “Yeah, and sometimes I think we’ll never get back there.” He stretched his legs out on his mat, hugging what passed for a pillow. “I sure pray I’ll get to see Peggy again soon.”

Manfred positioned his body to sit squarely on his mat. “Soon as we’re home, I’m asking Mr. Dyer for Sallie’s hand in marriage, that is, if she still wants me. No telling who she’s met since I’ve been gone.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you, big brother. Sallie loves you.” He smacked his fist into the open palm of his other hand. “I just want to be out of here and out there where the action is, fighting with Lee. They told us the Yanks are fighting Lee in Virginny, and that’s just across the river. Lee has to beat them Yanks. We’ll be hearing about it any day now. I just know it.”

Manfred simply nodded. He didn’t agree with his brother, but Edwin cared more about the war than Manfred. At this point Manfred had resigned himself to waiting out the war.

If only he could somehow communicate with Sallie and let her know he was alive. Almost a year had passed since he’d seen her last summer and six months since he’d been able to send a letter to her or received one. From his Bible he removed her last letter and opened it, being careful to handle it as little as possible. Already small holes appeared in the creases from his folding it so often. She had written from her grandfather’s home last fall before he’d gone to Nashville. He prayed her family was safe there in St. Francisville, Louisiana. He’d been at Port Hudson, Louisiana, two years ago and would have been involved in that skirmish in May, but he’d been among the ones in the brigade deployed elsewhere in March. Major General had been sure he had enough soldiers to turn back the siege, but that had not been the case, and Port Hudson fell into Union hands in early July.

That battle took place too close to his hometown of Bayou Sara and had even damaged Grace Church up at St. Francisville. He’d seen the damage on his furlough home. His two older brothers had been captured at Port Hudson, and Manfred had no idea where they were now.

St. Francisville may have been spared, but it had been a close call for Sallie’s grandparents and the other citizens of the small town. He held the worn paper to his lips. With God’s help he’d get home and claim Sallie for his bride.

The hair on the back of his neck bristled, and goose bumps popped out on his arms. The foreboding feeling from earlier wouldn’t leave and swept over him now even stronger, as though he sat on the edge of something powerful looming in the day ahead.

St. Francisville, Louisiana

Sallie Dyer sat at her dressing table running a brush through her mass of tangled curls. Tears blurred her image in the mirror, and she grimaced as the bristles caught in another snarl. She dropped the brush onto her lap.

“Lettie, what am I to do? Not knowing about Manfred is too painful to bear.” She scrunched a handful of auburn hair against her head. “Nothing’s going right. I can’t even brush my hair. I hate the war and . . . ” Her voice trailed off, and she dropped her gaze to the floor then turned toward Lettie. “What am I to do?”

The housemaid clucked her tongue and fluffed the pillows on the walnut four-poster bed. “I don’t know, Miss Sallie. I hate the war too. Too many are dyin’ out there.”

Lettie’s skirt swished as she crossed the room. She picked up the discarded brush and began smoothing out the mass of curls. “You know, Miss Sallie, you have the prettiest red hair in all of Louisiana.”

Sallie lifted her tear-stained eyes and found Lettie’s reflection in the mirror staring back.

“You got to have courage. God is takin’ care of Mr. Manfred.”

“Oh, but the waiting is so hard.” Sallie swiped her fingers across her wet cheeks. In a letter last fall Manfred had written that he was headed to Nashville. Stories coming back from that area spoke of the volumes of soldiers killed at Franklin and then up at Nashville in December. Reports said the surviving young men had been taken prisoner, but no one knew to which prison.

“Lettie, do you truly believe Manfred will come home?”

“Yes, Miss Sallie, I do, and when he comes, you’ll be ready and waitin’.” In a few minutes Lettie’s skilled fingers had tamed the unruly ringlets and secured them with a silver clasp at Sallie’s neck.

“Thank you. I’m all out of sorts this morning. Here it is April, and I haven’t heard a word since November.” Her fears tumbled back into her mind. “Too many have died, and I don’t want Manfred . . . ” She couldn’t utter the words. Saying them might make them true.

She pressed her lips together and pushed a few stray tendrils from her face. She had to get her fears under control. She once believed God would give her the peace He promised, but no matter how hard she prayed, no answers came. God had abandoned her on that awful day last week when she had killed that young man. He hadn’t protected her that afternoon, and now her prayers fell on deaf ears.

Lettie secured the wayward strands with the others under the clips. “Now, Miss Sallie, I done told you we got to believe they’re alive and comin’ home. We can’t do nothin’ about the war. Your mama and grandma need you to be strong. When Mr. Manfred gets home, he’ll be courtin’ you right proper like. You’ll see.”

Lettie must be more concerned than she let on. She only slipped back to the dialect of her family when worried. Sallie turned and wrapped her arms around the dark-skinned girl’s thin waist. “I want to believe you, I really do, but it’s almost more than I can bear.”

After blinking her eyes to clear them, Sallie stared into the dark brown eyes of her friend. Lettie had been with Sallie since childhood, and they shared so much life with each other. If it had not been for Lettie and her mother, Sallie might never have regained her sanity after the incident in Mississippi that brought them all to St. Francisville.

A chill passed through her body at the memory of the day they had fled from their home. Sallie’s last act of defense would be one that would stay with her the rest of her life. Even now she could see the young soldier with the red oozing from his chest. It was the first time she’d ever seen a dead person, and now, only a week later, the image would not leave her, fresh as the day it happened.

The young servant’s brow furrowed, and she pursed her lips. “Are you thinking about what happened back home?”

How well Lettie knew her. Sallie sniffed and blinked away the tears.

“Then you best stop it. What you did had to be done, and we both know it. You saved all our lives.”

It didn’t matter that Lettie spoke true. The images of war could not be erased from Sallie’s mind. “I just want this war to end.”

“Well now, I want that too, but it’s all in God’s hands. But think how Mr. Charles and Mr. Henry got back from the war only a few weeks ago. Theo’s back home too, so you have to believe the other two will come home before long.”

True. Of the five Whiteman brothers, only Edwin and Manfred remained unaccounted for. Charles and Henry Whiteman had been taken prisoner at Port Hudson but exchanged and sent home. Even Theo now sat safe at home after his last escapade revealed him too young to be in the army. She must have hope for Manfred and Edwin.

Lettie lifted the edge of her white apron and patted Sallie’s cheeks dry. “There now, Miss Sallie. It’s all goin’ to be fine. It’ll all be over soon. I just know it. I feel it in my bones. Besides, Easter’s a comin’, and that means a new season, new life, and new hope.”

“You and Mama, the eternal optimists, but I love you for it. You always know how to make me feel better.” Sallie breathed deeply and reached for a green ribbon to secure in her hair.

She would get through this day just as she had all the ones since Manfred left. Then the memory of what she overheard between her father and mother last night drained away her determination. She peered up at Lettie. “I need to tell you something.” Sallie squeezed the hand now clasped in hers.

At Lettie’s solemn nod Sallie took a deep breath and revealed her worry. “Last night I couldn’t sleep, and I heard Papa come in from his trip back to Woodville. I sneaked downstairs to see him, but he was in the parlor talking to Grandpa.”

Sallie’s lips trembled. “Our house in Woodville is ruined. The Yanks ransacked the place and took all kinds of things from our home. Papa said they’d left it in shambles. Mama’s beautiful things. Oh, Lettie, it’s just terrible.” After Sallie and the other women had fled the land, Papa and her brothers stayed behind until the next day, then joined the rest of the family in St. Francisville. He’d gone back to Woodville a few days ago, a twenty-five mile journey, when he heard the Yankees had moved on north.

Lettie pressed her hand against her cheek, her eyes open wide. “Oh, I’m sorry. Your poor mama. It’s so sad. No wonder you’re feelin’ blue this morning.”

Sallie squeezed Lettie’s hand again and for the next few moments sat in silence. Lettie understood her better than anyone else. The servant girl knew her deepest secrets and could be trusted to keep them.

“You are such a comfort. I don’t know how I’d get through these days without you to share my worries.”

Lettie patted Sallie’s hand. “We’ve been together too long and been through too much for me not to be with you.” She stepped back. “Come, now, let’s get you dressed. Your family will be waitin’, and you know your grandpa doesn’t like cold eggs or tardy children, even if you are his favorite.”

That statement brought a bit of smile. She did love Grandpa Woodruff, but he could be gruff when the occasion arose. She hastened over to a bench by the bed and picked up a green and white print cotton dress. Lettie grasped it and slipped her arms up inside it, and Sallie held up her arms.

“I believe Mama invited the Whiteman family for supper one night soon. I’m anxious to speak to Manfred’s mother. Perhaps she’s heard from him.”

The dress billowed about her as Lettie placed it over Sallie’s shoulders. She pulled the bodice up over arms and let the full skirt fall down over her hips and the myriad number of petticoats. At least Mama and Grandma didn’t require her to wear a corset or hoops with her day dresses. Lettie’s nimble fingers went to work on the buttons lined up the back.

“I think you lost more weight, missy. This dress is looser than it was last week. You sure don’t even need your corset. You have to eat more.” She peered over Sallie’s shoulder into the mirror and shook her head.

Looking over her shoulder, Sallie smoothed the dress around her waist. She gathered the wrinkles from the excess fabric. “It is big, but I’m just not hungry.” At Lettie’s stern gaze she added, “But I’ll try to eat more.”

Lettie sniffed the air. “If that aroma coming from the kitchen is what I think it is, my mammy’s ham and eggs should do the trick. She’ll have biscuits and gravy too.”

Sallie nodded. “I promise I’ll eat some of everything this morning.” A promise she would try to keep, especially with her grandmother’s and Flora’s cooking being so delicious.

The two girls locked arms and walked down the stairs together. At the bottom Lettie headed for the kitchen to help her mother. Sallie forced a smile to her lips and went into the dining room to join her family for breakfast.


My Opinion:

 

One of my favorite areas of study, history in one of my favorite time periods, the Civil War and Martha Rogers had me hooked.  Usually, when I think of a historical romance I think of sappy love stories that just don’t have any depth, but here is a book that puts all those notions to rest.  I also enjoyed after I finished the book, knowing that Mrs. Rogers wove some true life characters and events based on her own genealogy research.  The book begins as the war is winding down and goes up past the time of Lincoln’s assassination so it covers April 1865 to June 1865 – readers will feel the anguish that Sallie feels over a decision she had to made to protect her mother, her sister and their servants, one can almost smell the stench and experience the wretched conditions of a prisoner camp.

 

Now, the book was somewhat slow in areas, Edwin and Manfred aim to help others along the way who give them shelter as they travel back home, while some of the story seemed to be wrapped up too quickly – such as their encounter with a lynch mob.  Most would think that once the war was officially over that all fighting stopped, and indeed that was what I was taught in school – that was so far from the truth and I liked that Martha Rogers included that some in the deep South didn’t know about the surrender or even Lincoln’s assassination until days after.  That being said, this book was one that was quite enjoyable and Mrs. Rogers did a wonderful job in transporting her readers back to the Civil War as the country aims to heal itself and try to make peace.

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FIRST Tour: A Wedding for Julia (Book 3 The Pebble Creek Amish Series) by Vannetta Chapman


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:
Vannetta Chapman
and the book:
A Wedding for Julia
Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Julia Beechy’s dream of opening a café is shattered when her mother says she must marry or move to live with distant family upon her mother’s imminent death. Caleb Zook thought he would never marry, but can he help this beautiful, sad woman? Is this God’s plan for his future?

Product Details:

List Price: $8.79

PublisherHarvest House Publishers (July 1, 2013)

LanguageEnglish

ISBN-100736946160

ISBN-13978-0736946162

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

ProloguePebble Creek, Wisconsin

March

Julia Beechy stood next to the open grave and prayed the wind would stop howling for one moment. Next to her, she could feel her mother trembling. Ada Beechy had turned seventy-eight the previous week, two days before Julia’s father had passed. It would have been perfectly acceptable for her mother to sit, especially in light of the mist, the cold, and the wind.

Ada Beechy had no intention of sitting.

But Julia did shuffle one step closer to her mother, so that their sleeves were touching, as the bishop began to read the words to the hymn Ada had requested—“Where the Roses Never Fade.” Ada had stared out the window of their kitchen, her attention completely focused on the rosebushes, which had yet to bud, while members from their church sat beside Jonathan’s body in the next room. She’d gazed at the bushes and made her request.

Bishop Atlee had nodded, ran his fingers through his beard, and said, “Of course.”

Julia tried to focus on the bishop’s words as the men—the pallbearers—covered the plain coffin with dirt. How many shovelfuls would it take? Would Bishop Atlee have to read the hymn twice? Why was she worrying about such things?

David King stepped back, and Julia realized they were finished. Bishop Atlee bowed his head, signaling it was time for them to silently pray the words from the passage in Matthew, chapter six, verses nine through thirteen—their Lord’s prayer. Julia’s mind formed the words, but her heart remained numb.

“Amen,” Bishop Atlee said, in a voice as gentle as her mother’s hand on her arm.

The large crowd began to move. Words of comfort flowed over and around her. There had been a steady coming and going of people through the house to view her father’s body for the entire three days. Julia had become used to her privacy as she cared for her parents alone. The large amounts of food and the people had surprised her. Some of them she saw at church, but others came from neighboring districts. Those she barely knew.

She and Ada turned to go, for their buggy was marked with a number one on the side. The white chalk against the black buggy caused Julia’s heart to twist. They had led the procession to the cemetery. They would lead the gathering of friends away from the graveside.

But Julia realized she wasn’t ready to leave.

She pulled back, needing to look one more time. Needing to swipe at her tears so she could read the words clearly.

Jonathan Beechy

11-3-1928

3-6-2012

83 years, 4 months, 3 days

Now she and her mother were alone.

Chapter 1

Tuesday morning, six months later

Julia glanced around the kitchen as she waited for her mother’s egg to boil. Everything was clean and orderly. Why wouldn’t it be? It was only the two of them. Except for the days when she baked, there was little to do. Julia was hoping that would change soon, and she meant to talk to Ada about it. Today would be a good day. She’d put it off long enough.

The water started to boil, and she began counting in her mind. Three minutes made for the perfect egg, at least for Ada it did. There were few things her mother could stomach on the days she wasn’t well, but a soft-boiled egg was one.

Julia walked around the kitchen as she counted, and that was when she noticed the calendar. She’d failed to flip the page to September. Where had the last six months gone?

Six months since her father had died.

Six months of Ada’s health continuing to fail.

Six months that Julia had continued to postpone her dream.

She flipped the page, smiled at the photograph of harvested hay, and vowed that today she would speak with her mother. Returning to the stove, she scooped out the egg with a spoon and placed it in a bowl of water to cool. Slicing a piece of bread from the fresh loaf she’d made yesterday, she laid it on a plate and added a dab of butter and apple preserves on the side. She set the plate on a tray, which already held a tall glass of fresh milk. Picking it all up, she turned to walk to her mother’s room and nearly dropped the tray when she saw Ada standing in the doorway.

“I’m not an invalid, and I don’t need to eat in my bedroom.”

She weighed a mere eighty-nine pounds. Julia had brought in the scale from the barn last week and confirmed her fears. Her mother was losing weight. She was also shrinking. Ada now stood a mere five foot four inches.

Why was it that the body shrank as it grew older? It was almost as if it needed to conserve its energy for more important things. Her mother had attempted to braid her hair and tuck it under her kapp, but the arthritis that crippled her hands made the task difficult. The result was snow-white hair sprouting in various directions and a kapp tipped slightly to the back of her head. She also hadn’t been able to correctly pin her dark green dress.

In spite of her appearance, the blue eyes behind her small glasses twinkled with good humor and complete clarity. Her mother’s health might be failing, but today her mind was sharp. Julia was grateful. Some days sporadic bouts of dementia robbed her even of that.

“Mamm, I don’t mind bringing it to you.”

Ada waved her hand, dismissing the notion. “When I’m too feeble to get out of bed, I’ll be praying the Lord sees fit to take me home.”

Julia didn’t think it was a good time to remind her she’d stayed in bed three days last week. Ada remembered well enough. She simply chose to ignore the bad days.

“Let me help you.”

Setting the tray on the kitchen table, Julia was relieved to see that at least her mother was using the cane Dr. Hanson had provided. He’d suggested a walker, but Ada had insisted “the Lord was her strength.” The cane was a compromise.

Julia inwardly winced as she looked at her mother’s hands. Some mornings the crippling arthritis was better than others. This morning her hands—wrinkled, and spotted with age—resembled claws. She wondered how her mother would be able to pick up the utensils to eat. She was tempted to offer to feed her, but the last time she’d suggested that had earned her a twenty-minute lecture on self-sufficiency.

Ada must have noticed her staring. Patting her daughter’s arm, she murmured, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”

“Indeed.”

She bowed her head as her mother prayed over her breakfast. While Ada thanked God for her food, Julia prayed for strength and wisdom.

Was today the right day? And how best to broach the topic? Why were her palms sweating?

She waited until Ada had finished the egg and eaten half the bread. Some part of her wanted to believe that if her dream came true, Ada would improve. Another part knew it was only a matter of time until she’d be left alone in the big two-story house beside Pebble Creek.

“My baked goods have been selling well at Lydia and Aaron’s shop.”

“Ya. That’s wunderbaar.”

Julia nodded but vowed in her heart to push forward with her plan. She’d thought perhaps she should wait until her mother’s health improved, but after the visit with Doc Hanson last week, she knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was imperative she not wait until winter. The tourist crowds came during the summer and stayed through the fall foliage. If she was going to do this, she needed to do it now.

“Mamm, I’d like to expand my cooking business.”

“You don’t have a business.” Ada fumbled with the glass of milk, and they both reached to settle it. “You have a hobby.”

Rising and walking across the room, Julia fetched the herbal ointment the doctor had recommended. When she opened the jar, the smell of mint balm filled the kitchen. Pulling her mother’s left hand across the table, she worked the cream into the skin, rubbing gently with her fingers to massage the muscles until they were straightened.

“I’d like to make it a business, though.” She looked up, peering directly into her mother’s eyes.

Why was this so hard? Why was she so afraid Ada would say no?

She was thirty-seven years old, and she was still worried whether her mother would approve of her plans. “I’d like to open a café here in the house.”

Ada didn’t speak as Julia reached for her right hand and began rubbing the ointment into it. When she’d finished, her mother touched her cheek, leaving the faint scent of mint and summer.

“Dear Julia, how can you open a café in these rooms if you won’t be living here?” Behind the glasses were blue eyes filled with calmness, sadness, and determination.

“I don’t understand—”

“Do you think your dat and I would leave you here after we’ve gone on? Leave you alone?”

“But—”

“Nein, Julia. It wouldn’t be proper. It wouldn’t be right.”

“What…” Julia’s heart was racing so fast she felt as if she’d run from the creek. She didn’t know which question to ask first. “How…”

“We always hoped you might marry. Your father spoke to you about this on several occasions.”

“Ya, but—”

“I know your reasons, and I even understand them. The fact remains that you can’t live here alone once I’m gone, which according to Doc Hanson will be relatively soon.”

Julia jumped up from her chair, walked to the kitchen counter, and glanced outside. Her gaze fell on the rose bushes. They still held some of summer’s blooms—a deep, vibrant red.

“So you’re deciding I have to leave? Just like that? I have no say in it at all?” Her voice rose with each question.

“You’ll go to Pennsylvania. Back to live with my family.”

“I don’t even know those people.”

“They’re family, nonetheless. You’ve exchanged letters with them for years.”

“This is my home, mamm. You would kick me out of my home?”

Ada bowed her head. She didn’t speak for the space of nearly three minutes—long enough to boil another egg. When she looked up, her words were gentle, but they still made Julia want to scream. “God is our refuge and strength, dochder.”

“The Psalms are not the answer to this!”

“Always you can find the answers in Gotte’s Word.”

Julia closed her eyes and forced her emotions to calm down. When she looked at her mother again, she saw the same quiet, loving woman who had been beside her every day of her life. What she recognized, in her mother’s eyes, was kindness—and it confused her as much as the decree she had just issued.

“There’s no changing your mind?”

“Nein. The papers were drawn up before your dat passed. It’s why we agreed to sell the pastureland to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott. This home will be sold when I pass, and the money will be put in a trust for you, to help support you the rest of your life—”

“Support me.”

“On the condition you live in Pennsylvania with my family.”

“Why are you telling me this now?” Julia’s voice was a whisper. How could her life have taken such a catastrophic turn? When she’d slipped out of bed this morning, she never would have imagined that her days in this home, her days living beside Pebble Creek, were numbered.

It was true she hadn’t been overly social. She couldn’t remember the last singing she’d been to, but then she was not a girl. She was a woman.

Instead she’d waited. She’d done what a good daughter should do, followed all the rules, and waited. For what? So she could be turned out of her home. So she could be told once more what to do.

It wasn’t fair.

And she hadn’t seen it coming. She had never expected such an answer. She had never dreamed her mother and her father—she mustn’t forget he had agreed to this plan—would betray her this way.

No, she’d been busy designing a café in the bottom floor of their home. Where should she put the tables she would purchase from David King? What type of sign would best attract customers? What would be the best location for it? Should she advertise in the Budget? What design should she use for the menus?

None of those things mattered if she would be living in Pennsylvania.

“Why now?” she repeated.

“Why? Because you asked.” Her mother stood, gripped her cane, and shuffled out of the room.

Leaving Julia alone, staring out at the last of the crimson roses.

 

 

My Opinion:

I’ve been reading a lot of Amish books, again, but when reading Vannetta Chapman’s series of Pebble Creek Amish, you’re in a for a delight.  At first the book started off somewhat slow and didn’t really grab me like the first two books, A Promise for Miriam and A Home for Lydia.  However, if you stick with it then you will be rewarded with a wonderful gut time.  This book could stand alone, but you’ll ‘see’ some of the characters from the other two books pop up but regardless it is easy to follow but I do recommend reading the other books in the series as they are both wonderful as well.

Vannetta’s writings pull you into the story, where you can feel the breeze or in this case you can almost feel the heat and some cities felt the wrath of F4 and F5 tornadoes then the instant cold of a blizzard like what happened in November 1911.  Julia has a dream that includes her own Plain restaurant, a house, a husband and children – but what if she can’t get married?  Julia’s life takes a strange turn and even the Bishop of her district is a little concerned, but as love often does – it triumphs.

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FIRST Tour: NIV Real Life Devotional Bible for Women, Insights for Everyday Life Notes by Lysa TerKeurst


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 Insight Notes author is:
Lysa TerKeurst
and the book:
NIV Real Life Devotional Bible for Women,
Insights for Everyday Life Notes
Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)
***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and national speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author of 15 books, and encourages nearly 500,000 women worldwide through a daily online devotional. Her remarkable life story has captured audiences across America, including appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five children.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This Bible will help you live up to your God-given potential. Insightful daily devotions written by the women at Proverbs 31 Ministries help you maintain life’s balance in spite of today’s hectic pace. Dive into the beauty and clarity of the NIV Bible text paired with daily devotions crafted by women just like you—women who want to live authentically and fully grounded in the Word of God.

Product Details:

List Price: $34.99

Hardcover: 1536 pages

Publisher: Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0310439361

ISBN-13: 978-0310439363

AND NOW…SOME SAMPLE PAGES (CLICK ON PAGES TO ENLARGE):


My Opinion:

 

Writing a review of a Bible is hard – because one can’t read through the whole Bible in a matter of a week or two – however I am familiar with the NIV translation so that makes it easier, in knowing that I won’t come across any glaring omissions.  The font of this Bible makes it easy to read, although I find it easier to read any Bible or book with my glasses on, however the font size didn’t add to any eye strain.  The cover and dust jacket are beautiful and very feminine – which added to it’s appeal for me, plus it’s in shades of blue.  There are devotions (366 days worth) through the Scriptures written by several different women from the Proverbs 31 Ministries, which means they are relevant for all women.

 

In the back there is the typical table of weights and measures and not so typically are brief bios of the authors (I will admit I haven’t heard of any of the ladies who wrote them) who helped to pen the devotions that are through out the Bible.  You can also find devotions divided by the author, so if you do know some of these women you can look up the devotions they wrote and find them easily.  There is also a topical index so if you’re looking for a devotion for or on children, abortion, death, witnessing, sleeplessness and more it’s easy to find the topic you are needing some inspiration or help with.

 

Of course, you can also work your way through the Bible using a one year plan and reading the devotions as you come across them or do as I prefer and find one in the index that speaks to my needs that day and read that specific one.  As we know the Lord can and does work in mysterious ways so what we think we may not need is something He knows we may absolutely need.  I’ll be using this Bible in conjunction with my daily Bible reading, study and devotional times for a long time.

 

 

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FIRST Tour: Epic Fail by Gordon Dabbs


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:
Gordon Dabbs
and the book:
Epic Fail: Gaining Wisdom from Failures of Biblical Proportion
Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gordon Dabbs currently pastors a large congregation in Dallas, Texas. He holds a PhD in philosophy, advanced degrees in theology and ethics, and has ten years of experience as a church planter in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he hosted a weekly television program.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Why would our loving God choose to forever record the stories of men and women whose lives collapsed in sin and shame? Why share biographies of people like Jezebel and Judas, whose lives didn’t have happy endings? Perhaps the Lord recognized that their stories could powerfully inform and shape us. Their loss can become our gain. Epic Fail: Gaining Wisdom from Failures of Biblical Proportion is God’s invitation to learn and grow from the great collapses of the Bible.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 089112232X

ISBN-13: 978-0891122326

AND NOW…THE SECOND CHAPTER:

Pharaoh

A Problem with Pride
A short time back, my wife and I visited the home of some good friends who are parenting two spirited young boys. Upon our arrival, the oldest boy proceeded to show us the mountain of trophies and medals he had won in Taekwondo tournaments. I made a mental note to stay on this kid’s good side. After their sons had gone back to their room to play, the mother whispered to me, “Don’t be too impressed. At these competitions, all the kids get a trophy regardless of how they perform. They just want all the boys and girls to feel good about themselves.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head.
In America, whatever we’re doing to make us feel better about ourselves seems to be working. A recent survey of high school students revealed seventy percent of them believe they have above-average leadership skills. Only two percent believe they are below average. Back in the 1950s, twelve percent of high school seniors regarded themselves as a “very important person.” Recently, that percentage has risen to eighty percent.
Americans are more self-confident than ever. In a culture that magnifies self and injects children with daily doses of pride, it’s no wonder we’ve been labeled a generation of praise addicts.6 In this climate, we would do well to heed the warning of an ancient proverb, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Prov. 11:2 niv).
Growing Up as a God
What would it be like to grow up believing you were the center of the universe, or to be told by adults you should be worshipped as a god? What kind of a person would be produced by this kind of upbringing? How easy it would be, for pride to overwhelm the heart of a person indoctrinated to believe in their own divinity.
Welcome to Pharaoh’s world. From the elaborate royal protocol that surrounded every meeting with him, to his ornate garments, to the magnificent palace that was his home, everything surrounding the young prince was orchestrated to convince onlookers he was no mere mortal. Those who had dealings with Pharaoh believed that he was special. His people understood that he was a descendent of the gods; yes, this god-man was exceptional. After all, he was the leader of the world’s technological, economic, religious, cultural, and military superpower.
To be sure, there were a lot of Pharaohs during Egypt’s proud history. One, however, came to be remembered as the Pharaoh. This one would gain a unique status because his rule would intersect with the life of a man named Moses, with the multitude of Hebrew slaves he represented, and with the God he worshipped.
Four hundred years earlier, the Hebrews had first migrated to Egypt to escape a massive famine. Since Joseph, one of their own, had risen to become the right-hand man to the Egyptian ruler, the Hebrews were originally viewed as partners and friends of Egypt. Over four centuries, however, their status changed dramatically. The Hebrews came to be viewed as a social underclass; they were drafted into service to build grandiose monuments in honor of the Pharaohs, and mistreated as the miserable slaves of the Egyptian social elite.
Along came Moses with his brother Aaron into the royal court of Pharaoh. Moses claimed to have been sent by a foreign God who demanded that his people, the Hebrews, be released from their bondage in Egypt. As absolute ruler, the decision of how to respond to this demand was entirely up to Pharaoh.
Hard Heart Syndrome
Why would Pharaoh give in to the demand that the Hebrews be released from their enslavement? Well, God, through Moses, made a pretty compelling case. It was a shock and awe display of divine power the likes of which Egypt (and the world) had never seen. One by one, the Hebrew God dueled Pharaoh and his pantheon of Egyptian deities who proved to be no match for his power.
After each devastating plague brought against Egypt by God, after each demonstration of Yahweh’s divine power, Pharaoh was asked to release the slaves. Time after time, the mulish king dug in his heels, closed his heart, and proudly refused to be pushed around by any man or any god. At moments like this, when an individual is convinced they are the center of the universe, all the ingredients for an impending catastrophe are present.
The Bible depicts Pharaoh’s heart as hard. Unchecked ego can strip a person of perspective and wisdom. A pride saturated heart morphs into a closed system that refuses to accept any circumstance or opinion that does not bow its knees to the god of self. The absence of checks and balances that come through humility handicaps a person’s capacity for self-reflection and wise judgment.
Something which troubles many when it comes to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was the role God played in the process. “. . . The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron . . .” (Ex. 9:12 niv). Frankly, it seems wrong for God to do such a thing. Why would God hijack his free will? Shouldn’t Pharaoh be free to make his own choice?
A closer reading of the entire narrative reveals an important nuance of how Pharaoh’s will became closed. In reality, Pharaoh did a bang up job of hardening his own heart before God ever got involved.

The first time his stubbornness is mentioned, the Bible relates, “. . . he hardened his heart and would not listen . . .” (Ex. 8:15 niv). Repeatedly, during the first half of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
So, how exactly did God participate in making Pharaoh’s prideful heart inflexible? For starters, it was God who provided multiple opportunities for Pharaoh to release the Hebrews. Over and over again, God made the exact same request through Moses: “let my people go.” By providing these decision points, God gave Pharaoh opportunities to either humble or harden himself. Pharaoh chose the latter. Just as calluses are formed on the hands of a laborer through repetitive use, a heart becomes callused when the same prideful decision is reconfirmed over and over.
God also became a participant in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart because God ultimately decided to honor the king’s own choices. In his sovereign power, the Lord could have hijacked Pharaoh’s heart and mind and reprogrammed it to say yes instead of no to the demand of

Moses. Yet God, in his love and respect for human beings, preferred to honor Pharaoh’s freedom to make his own decisions. Only after the Egyptian leader had unilaterally chosen to ignore God’s demand, does the Bible say the Lord hardened his heart.
Pharaoh had transformed himself into a self-absorbed man, a closed system, a person unable to interpret the signs of his time and unwilling to listen to wise counsel. Even voices within his own inner circle could not break through his fortress of pride. “The magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is God’s doing.’ But Pharaoh was stubborn and wouldn’t listen” (Ex. 8:19 msg).
A wise person once said, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is six feet.” Every time Pharaoh chose to ignore the pleas of God, Moses, and his own counselors, he was digging a rut. That rut would become a grave for thousands of Egyptians, for his army, for his son, and for his legacy.
The Way of Humility
Hopefully, you were not raised in a home where you were allowed to be the ruler of the household or were worshipped as a god. But whatever our upbringing, a lot of us tend to struggle with pride. I certainly do.
One such struggle took place when I was finishing my master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. My course work was completed and all that was left was for me to take what were known as the General Exams. People around me, many of whom had already passed the exams and were working on their doctorates, told me I need not spend much time studying for the exams; they were really quite easy. The testing, I was told, was more of a rite of passage. Based on their opinions and experiences, and more than that, on an over-inflated estimation of my own knowledge and ability, I didn’t study. I was convinced the exams would be a piece of cake.
Unfortunately, I got a slice of humble pie.
A week after the testing, I received devastating news: I had failed. After all the course work, time, and money that had gone into my graduate studies, I was without a diploma. Suddenly my future plans seemed to be up in the air. My ego, however, came crashing down to earth. Thankfully, the merciful faculty allowed me to retake the exams and, after much study, I passed. Eventually, by the grace of

God, I was able to complete my doctorate in philosophy. To this day, I thank God for that painful and humbling lesson.
Whenever I start thinking too highly of myself, which is far more often than I’d like to admit, it seems God sends something or someone along to deflate my swollen head. One afternoon, I walked into a meeting and strode confidently to shake a fellow’s hand. As we greeted each other, he awkwardly observed I had a plastic toilet freshener suspended from the back of my belt. Ouch. Not cool. Sometimes, I’ve found, humility is pine scented.
A great measuring stick for how open a person is to growing in humility is to recognize how they tend to respond to losses. No one likes to lose, but being gracious in defeat, being able to laugh at yourself, and being open to learn from past mistakes prepares us to handle both future success and failure. Quite simply, Pharaoh didn’t know how to lose. He didn’t know how or when to accept defeat. Since we live in a “win at all cost” culture, this lesson may be difficult for us to learn, but learn it we must. Humility is needed.
While Pharaoh was a self-absorbed pride junkie, another leader in the Exodus story shows us a better way to live. In contrast with the Pharaoh, the Bible says, “Moses was a very humble man” (Num. 12:3 niv).
It is worth noting that, in all likelihood, Moses had been raised in the very same household as Pharaoh. They knew each other before Moses arrived in the palace to appeal for the liberation of the Hebrews. Moses had spent the early years of his life studying with the top teachers, enjoying the finest food and luxury accommodations, and reveling in all the perks and privileges of being a royal in Egypt’s court. Just like Pharaoh, Moses had been raised as a prince of Egypt, yet Moses was not an arrogant person.
When God appeared to him at a burning bush in the desert, inviting Moses to become the leader and liberator of the Hebrew people, Moses politely declined, citing his own inadequacies. “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:11 msg)? Understanding his faults and past failures (which included homicide), Moses basically said, “Lord, surely you can do better than me!”
After the successful exodus from Egypt, Moses found himself overwhelmed with the constant demands of leading a nation of people. Jethro, his father-in-law, challenged him to think about a new leadership structure that delegated authority to other capable leaders: “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Ex. 18:24 niv).
Humility is a vital element of successful and balanced living. Humility is so valuable and necessary that it is the very first quality Jesus listed when he gave his famous description of the blessed life during his Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3 niv).
Cultivating Personal Humility
An important way that people move against their own pride is to admit their limitations, while remaining open to stretching those limitations by embracing new challenges. In Exodus 4, Moses offers to God his own self-appraisal, revealing he does not believe he possesses the requisite public speaking aptitude required to lead. He understood he was never going to dazzle crowds of people with the turn of a well-crafted phrase, or with stirring orations. He was a great leader, but he was keenly aware he was not a great orator.
The lesson for us is this—Moses did not allow his limitations to close his leadership horizons. God had called him to lead. God would equip him with whatever he needed. This calling from the Lord gave him a quiet confidence. The humility of Moses permitted him a balanced, realistic, and faith-oriented appreciation for what God could do with his life. As Gordon Smith writes, “Humility means recognizing both our limitations and our potential. . . . With sober judgment we simply accept who we are.”8 Enormous potential for growth and future accomplishment is unleashed when people tear up their selfadmiration society membership card.
Another way that humility is cultivated is by listening to the wise counsel of others, then making the necessary adjustments. When his father-in-law came with leadership advice in Exodus chapter 18, Moses didn’t scoff and say, “Look old man, I’m the chosen one here! God made me the leader of Israel, not you!” Instead, he humbly considered the counsel of this older, more seasoned man, and decided to tweak his leadership style accordingly.
What a contrast between Pharaoh and Moses. One arrogantly stuck to his guns and paid an incredible price for his hubris, the other listened and learned.
No one is saying that Moses was perfect. He had some failures on his résumé. For starters, most of us can say with confidence that we’ve never committed murder. Moses could not say this. At one point, he disobeyed the explicit instructions of God which were that he speak to a rock so that water would come forth from it to refresh the thirsty people of God. Instead of speaking to the rock, he stuck it with his staff. But even though his initial meeting with God revealed he was well aware of his weaknesses, and even though he had been forced to flee Egypt after committing a capital crime, he still made an impact on the world around him like few others ever had.
Giving a short overview of the life of Moses, a New Testament writer says, “He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25 niv). One thing we learn about Moses is he embraced his identity as one of God’s people. He could have bought into all the pomp and pride of being part of the royal family, but he chose to identify with God and with God’s family.
Like Moses, people also cultivate humility when they prepare themselves for spotlight moments by living their daily life understanding who, and whose, they are. In choosing Moses, the Lord chose to work through a person who was willing to serve a community and a cause greater than himself. Pharaoh’s ego left no room for any agenda but his own.
In an ancient sixth century Christian text, Gregory the Great wrote, “No one can learn humility in a high position unless he ceases to be proud when in a lowly position. No one who learned to long for praise when it was missing knows how to flee from praise when it abounds.”10 Once I humbly accept who I am, and that my value comes from the God I bow my knees to, then I am ready to open my eyes to a new reality. Then I find myself in a world shaped by an acute awareness of the constant movement of God in and around my life.
What about Moses? The Bible reveals that, “He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27 nlt). Whatever obstacle he came up against, he kept right on going.

What about you? An awareness of God’s presence in your life and in your world allows you to have the spiritual and emotional traction needed to pull through difficult and painful seasons of life. Whether in victory or loss, joy or sorrow, Moses kept on going. Why? Because he kept his eyes on the Lord.
This means the cultivation of humility is aided by recognizing the presence of Almighty God in day to day life. Consider this helpful insight of C. S. Lewis: “In God you come up against something, which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself…. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” If you are going to have a balanced and well-informed view of your potential and limitations, then you have to be awake and alert to your own spiritual brokenness, grateful and awestruck in the shadow of the Cross, and acutely aware of the greatness of God Almighty. Truly, if your eyes don’t turn upward to God, you will never have a clear-headed view of your own place in the world.
The more a person grows in the way of humility, the more room they give for God to operate in them and through them. Tender mercies and great strength are unlocked in the life of the humble believer.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5–6 niv).
So, where is your source of perspective? Where are you grounding your identity? Where does your sense of worth come from? Are you a praise addict, clinging to the shiny medals and trinkets of a self-magnifying culture? Or, do you look upward? May God make you secure in his love so you can humble yourself, believing that only then, his grace will be released, and his mighty right hand will lift you up.

 

 

My Opinion:

I think that as Christians we sometimes to forget that even God can and does work through those who are less than stellar and His plan is going to continue to succeed no matter what a messed up human can do.  In Epic Fail we meet some bad boys and girls of the Bible who are often either totally vilified or ignored, but yet, God still worked through them to write HIStory.  You may be thinking, well surely God couldn’t use an evil woman like Jezebel or Simon the Sorcerer to do anything but evil?  Gordon Dabbs doesn’t tell us what they did was okay but that even God can used messed up lives, evil people, and screwy thought processes for His good – which also gives a glimpse into His grace and mercy.

One chapter that really spoke to me was chapter 3 titled Taking God Seriously which was about Nadab and Abihu (if you haven’t heard of them, no worries, neither have I but thankfully Gordon gives you Scripture so you can read their story in the Bible).  I’ve often been asked why do Christian’s have to fear their God, or a God of love shouldn’t have to be feared, or even more sad, I can’t worship a God that wants me to fear them.  Fear isn’t always bad – and I really enjoyed the way Gordon shows us what fear of God means, it isn’t fear of Him but of His power.  Gordon Dabbs tells the reader what the benefits of fearing God are, how the world has distorted this healthy fear, and of course how God used the fearless Nadab and Abihu to work His glory.

The chapters are short and succinct and even engaging, using some modern day names to get his point across while relating it back to those infamous people of the Bible to make it relate to our life today.  Some short questions or thinking statements are included at the end that will get you thinking about some of you preconceived ideas about those who have gone before as well as God.  Best of all, it’s all supported by Scripture – I can see this being a great study for teens in church who are tired of the “God Loves You” mantra and want to dig into God’s Word, a small group study for friends, spouses or Sunday School class for adults and teens.

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