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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How do you pluck a chicken?

I have a confession to make.

I am a great big fat chicken.

The reason I am confessing my sin today is that I finally decided to do something about it. Of course, I'm such a big fat chicken that I can't get rid of my chickenness all at once. So I'm doing it the old fashioned way.

One feather at a time.

A few days ago, while working on the great clean out my office and find the missing tax folder project, I came across a slew of rejection letters. And contest entries. All testimony to my great writing suckage. And to the fact that I almost, but not quite, had it. "While the story and writing had great promise, blah blah blah blah blah blah... we are sorry to inform you that because of the aforementioned reasons, we are opting not to publish this book. We would, however, be pleased to consider another synopsis."

And then there were the contest entries... "You're such a fabulous writer, I don't know why you're not published." Um, you obviously didn't get the memo from the editors that I did. Even better, same contest, same manuscript even, a less polite version of "don't quit the day job." Really. Or, my favorite (on an inspirational manuscript): "you need to make this sexier." And on the same line of the same manuscript, "this is way too sexy and risque for the inspirational market."

As I pawed through this stash of writing shame, I realized that I used to submit with wild abandon. I'd enter contests, send out manuscripts, and throw it all out for the world to see. These days, not so much.

For a long time, I've been justifying my lack of submissions with my favorite badge of honor, "I have an agent. I submit to him. He submits to publishers. So there."

A while back, one of my CPs made a comment about me entering the Genesis contest. What? Me? Enter a contest? Why would I do that? I have an agent. The publishers I want to read my work are reading my work. Plus, I'm broke. So yeah, nice idea. Not for me.

But as I pawed through the old files, reading rejection letters and comments from contests I did not fare well in, I started to think. Granted, I have an agent, so I no longer need to flood the universe with my submissions. But there's other stuff I could submit, like articles, which was something el agento suggested I do even before he became my agent. I've done a few. Just enough to say, "see, I did it," but certainly not with the abandon I used to have in sending it out there, believing that this one would be it.

My ego would tell you it's because I've gotten smarter. I've learned to study the market. Hone my craft. Submit wisely.

Does anyone else smell a lot of BS?

Sitting on my office floor, surrounded by dust and evidence that I've been pursuing a dream for a really long time with seemingly little show for it, I had to own up to the fact that the truth is, I'm a big fat chicken. I'm tired of having holes blown in my ego. I'm tired of working as hard as I know how and being told that my best is simply not good enough. I'm tired of wondering if I'm actually not doing my best because I'm afraid that it still won't be good enough. I'm scared to keep getting the feedback that I still can't cut it.

I stopped taking risks. I started only submitting where it was safe. I stopped entering contests. I wrote book after book and let them sit in a file on my computer where no one would read them.

I started writing as a child because no one heard me. I was the loud obnoxious kid who never felt like anyone heard anything underneath my words. I was alone and scared and created worlds where people were able to survive the toughest odds and heartbreaking challenges. I wanted to believe there was something better.

In college, I stopped writing. Too many people told me I wasn't nearly as smart as I thought I was. They said I wasn't as talented as I'd always been led to believe. And they made my life a living hell. When I finally chose to break free from their influence, I began writing again. Small things. Secret things. Things I never dared share with anyone for fear of having it taken away again. And I promised myself, one day, I'd write a book.

I wrote that book. And lots of others. I finally found the courage to share my dream. I realized that as an adult, I wrote for a lot of the same reasons I wrote as a child, except for one key difference. I learned that a lot of people feel the same things I do, and they need the same hope I do. One of the writers I admire, Lisa Samson, says that she writes "so that people will know they're not alone." When I read that, I knew at the very core, that's why I write too.

It totally sucks to be rejected. And I'm still really bummed that a few good stories (at least I think they are) didn't make it. Because I think they have things that will speak to the hearts of others and help heal something that's hurting inside. Fortunately, I've got a lot of other stories to tell. A lot of other things I want to say that I'm not so good at saying in any other way. But my stories can't help anyone if I don't have the courage to share them.

So even though I really didn't have the money, my agent has the book already, and it probably will not change much in my writing career...

I entered the Genesis.

Not because I care about the prestige of winning. Not because I hope it'll finally get me noticed. Not because I need additional connections in the industry. But because I have to stop being a chicken.

This doesn't end my battle with chickenness. Because there are still a lot of things I'm scared to do. Scared to write. Scared to submit. But if my fear wins, then so does evil. So I'm going to reach in, and find those chicken feathers, and pluck every last one of them out.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My bizarre Toby Mac dream

To set the stage of the dream, you need to understand, I don't listen to much Toby Mac other than what's on the radio. I have no idea what the guy looks like. I actually don't want to know what he looks like because I think it'll make the dream less funny.

Last night, I had the craziest dream. I was having a party and there was an eclectic group of people there. I can't remember who all was there, but it was the sort of gathering where people you'd never think would have anything to say to each other in a million years were acting like best friends. Then, everyone left and my house was trashed. And of course, I was stressed out.

I turned to start picking up, and I see this guy. And I say to him, "who are you and what are you doing in my house?"

He looks at me like I'm an idiot and says, "I'm Toby Mac. I'm cleaning your house."

And then I woke up.

I don't know why, but that has had me laughing all day. Just the thought of this crazy looking guy washing dishes in my sink, suds up to his elbows, acting like it's no big deal that he's in my house, cleaning. Plus, I just keep hearing the voice: "I'm Toby Mac. I'm cleaning your house."

I have no idea why my subconscious chose Toby Mac to be the guy cleaning my house. Like I said, I'm not a fan (I don't dislike him, so don't send me hate mail), and I can't even remember the last time I heard one of his songs. But you know, God is funny that way. Obviously He knew it would be a stressful day, and I'd be at life overload, and the best cure for what ails me would be Toby Mac, cleaning my house. (Hahaha... I bet it would also cure what ails his wife. He's got a wife, right? Probably. All the Christian singers get married at like 13, have 7 kids, and all that. Anyway. I bet she dreams of him cleaning her house too!)

Although, I have to say, I came home to hubby cleaning my house. With bleach. It did not excite me. It made me want to vomit. I hate the smell of bleach. Maybe next time, if he cleans the house with something that smells good...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Characterization Conundrum

A few days ago, I was talking with one of my CPs about entering one of my books in the Genesis. I asked if she thought it would do well. She paused. A loooooooong time. And then she said, "well, if you fixed your first chapter, then I think you'd do fine."

Insert kick to the gut. Let's be clear here. I love and respect her a lot. But I've been at this writing thing for a long time, so it's frustrating to get this sort of feedback. Especially because most people who read my stuff think it's perfectly fine, don't know why I haven't sold, yada yada yada.

I've been mulling her opinion and asking myself, "what can I do better?" I read a few books to see what they had that mine don't. And I came away really depressed. All the stuff that's supposedly missing from mine? Also missing from the published books I've read lately.

So what is wrong with my writing?

I have tons of writing books, so I thought I should probably go back to those to see what I'm missing. To see what I can do to ramp it up and get it that much closer to catching a publisher's eye. I picked up Writing the Breakout Novel and corresponding workbook by Donald Maas.

At chapter one, I found my problem. Here are the questions and my answers:

1. Who are your personal heroes? Write down the name of one.
Um, I don't have any. There's no one I really look up to and think, "I want to be like him or her."

2. What makes the person a hero or heroine to you? What is his or her greatest heroic quality? Write that down.
Again, drawing a blank.

3. What was the moment in time in which you first became aware of that this quality in your hero/heroine?
Um, yeah. Stupid question. See above.

4. Assign that quality to your protagonist. Find a way for he or she actively to demonstrate that quality, even in a small way, in his or her first scene.
Crap. Is this why I don't write good characters? Am I such a negative Nellie that my inability to make people into heroes is translating into sucky writing?

Okay fine. So let me analyze why I don't have heroes... My questions and my answers:

1. Why don't you have heroes?
Because to have a hero is to risk putting them on a pedestal, which is unhealthy for them and you. You can never be that person, and that person can never live up to your expectations. Plus, because every person is flawed, if you build up that person too much, they will inevitably let you down.

2. Let's go with that letting you down thing... what's with that?
I generally have too high of expectations of people and when I encounter the reality of who they are, I find myself disappointed.

3. Can you give an example?
I used to go to church with this person, we'll say the name is Bob, and I very much admired him for his knowledge and depth of Bible study. He appeared to have a great relationship with God. I admired that. However, for whatever reason (was never shared with me), Bob did not like me and was very cold, rude, and demeaning to me when we spoke. I wondered how such an admired man of God could make me feel so small and seem to feel good about it.

4. How do you think this translates into your writing?
Even though I try to write positive, uplifting things, I wonder if my distrust of people sneaks in. Because I don't really believe what I'm writing about people, rather it's what I want to believe, it probably comes across as fake. Conversely, when I write things that are more true to how I view people, it tends to be too dark and people end up hating the characters. This people hating my characters issue is one I've struggled with for a long time. The very things people hate about my characters are, in fact, the very truest pieces of me.

I admit, I've struggled with this one from day one. Years ago, a CP picked apart a character and told me exactly why she wanted to kill her. All things that I'd snatched up from my own life. I cried for days. I still mourn that story. Oh, I accept that there were a lot of flaws in the writing, and yes, if I am to be completely honest, it's probably not publishable quality.

5. So, because we hate it when you cry in your Wheaties, how can you use this knowledge to make your characters better?
Personally, I think most people overglorify their characters by not making them flawed enough. If I read one more sickeningly sappy sally church girl, I am going to do something really really bad. That said, no one is completely evil. I do have friends and I do like them. They have qualities I like, but I also know that they have bad qualities. The qualities I like are greater than the bad qualities. I just try not to put them on pedestals because that's usually where I get burned. With my characters, because I try so hard to show the flaws to avoid the overly happy character that makes me want to hurl, I need to spend more time showing the positive qualities. Rather than asking, "why is this person a hero," I think I need to ask, why is this person my friend?

Maybe, if I change the semantics of the question, I might be able to come up with more satisfying answers. And hopefully, more satisfying characters.

Anyone else want to take a stab at the questions?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Digging through the piles

We're in the middle of a lovely spring blizzard here in CO, and I decided to use our snow day productively. Because after all, why would I act like a reasonable person and spend it sipping cocoa by the fire with a good book?

I'm headed for the home stretch on getting our taxes done. We usually are done by now, but I'm still trying to get my business info in order. I'm missing my records for the first three months of the year. I distinctly remember putting them all... somewhere. As in, last year, I had a great plan for organization, put them in a really smart place, and now have no clue what it was. Welcome to my world.

What does this have to do with the blizzard?

Since I had nothing better to do, except maybe laundry, and we all know how I love that task, I decided to hunt for the missing papers.

Allow me to introduce you to Danica Organization 101. I keep everything. Mostly because I honestly don't know what to keep for how long (except tax stuff). And because I've had nasty run-ins with would-be creditors who claim I owe them money (but don't and have proven it with my dinosaur records), I'm terrified of throwing anything away.

In the past, I've been a big believer in the "throw it in a box and it no longer exists" method of organization. However, I can't deal with the boxes, and to tell the truth, it drives me nuts. I really can't deal with chaos and clutter. So boxing it makes me feel good temporarily, but in the end, it makes it worse.

So today... because I needed to find those records, and I probably accidentally put them in one of the other boxes by mistake, I started to go through said boxes. I tossed, I shredded, and I came across a lot of old memories. Some good, some bad, but mostly, I realized just how much of my life I've spent focused on the wrong things. It felt really good to shred some of the reminders of how stupid I've been.

The exercise reminded me of something I did at our silent retreat. We confess our sins by writing them on a piece of paper, then shred them. Because that's what our sins are to God. I realized as I was shredding and tossing a lot of old papers that even though they represented a lot of the mistakes I've made, they're not who I am now. It also made me realize the extravagant grace I've been given.

I'm amazed at the progress I've made. Both in cleaning out my office (a whole ROW of boxes is now GONE!) and in the growth I've made as a person. At times I feel like I'm still that same person, and today I actually saw the evidence that I'm not. Of course, I also saw the areas in which I've definitely got a LONG way to grow, but I guess if we didn't have room to grow, we'd be up in heaven or something. :)

Lots of progress today. While the rest of the city dug out of the snow, I dug out of the piles of paper I've had boxed up over the years. Funny thing is, I didn't find the information I was looking for. (Yes, I still have more boxes. *sigh*) But I honestly don't care. I feel like a weight has been taken off me and I'm free from a lot of the things from my past.

Even though I don't recommend keeping the past 10-15 years of your life in a box and having to sort through it, I think it's good to be able to take an accounting to see what's worked, what hasn't, and what I still need to work on. Hopefully, 10-15 years from now I'll be able to look at this time and see that I've grown as a person and I'm not making the same stupid mistakes I do now. And even if I do, I'm so glad there's grace to cover it.

Deadly Charm by Claudia Mair Burney

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Deadly Charm (Amanda Bell Brown Mystery Series, Book 3)

Howard Books (March 24, 2009)


Claudia Mair Burney is the author of numerous novels and the popular Ragamuffin Diva blog. She lives with her husband and their seven children in Michigan.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (March 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416551956
ISBN-13: 978-1416551959


Rocky showed up at my apartment door with an offer that, in his words, I “no coulda refuse.” Or maybe those were Marlon Brando’s words. I couldn’t be sure. My blond, dreadlocked former pastor slash ex-boyfriend locked me into a stare with those big, brown puppy eyes. He’d puffed out his jowls to utter the Godfather’s most famous line, while grazing his cheek with the back of his fingers—an excruciatingly amiss imitation. I’ve seen newborn babies’ smiles more intimidating.

“You look more like a hamster than a mobster, Rock.”

“Hamsters are cool.”

“But less compelling, you must admit.”

Rocky grinned and wagged his finger at me, “Never underestimate the power of a furry little creature.” He twitched his nose and started making hamster noises.

“Amen!” I said.

I thought of my vicious, former pet sugar glider, Amos. Although he’d become my friend and hero, I had to give him away to another nocturnal creature—otherwise, I’d never sleep again. My husband’s best friend, Souldier, had taken the murderous marsupial. Now Amos happily shreds his drapes.

“Come on in, my not-so-furry friend,” I told Rocky, mostly so he would stop making weird rodent sounds.

I moved aside so he could enter my little slice of paradise: shabby chic meets Africa is what Jazz, my husband called it. Rocky loved my funky, eclectically furnished place, too. He just didn’t describe it as aptly as Jazz did.

Who was I kidding? Rocky didn’t do anything as aptly as Jazz did. I had lost them both six weeks ago, and now here was Rocky, surprising me by showing up at my door like unexpected grace.

“Welcome back, Rocky,” I said. I know how lame I sounded, but I wanted him to know I was glad he’d come no matter what the reason.

He muttered a shy, “Thanks.”

We stood in my foyer exchanging reticent glances until I got bold enough to take a long look at him. I’d missed him so. He wore a typical Rockyesque uniform underneath his white down jacket—khaki pants and a long-sleeved Batman T-shirt. A cupid earring dangled in his right ear. Every year about this time he wore it to remind me to come to the Saint Valentine’s Day feast.

Without thinking I blurted out. “I see you and Cupid are still advertising our—” I bit my tongue. There’d be no “our” Saint Valentine’s Day feast this year for prodigal Bell. “Sorry,” I muttered.

“No problem,” he rushed to say, and then an awful silence descended on us like a cold, grey fog.

When I was still a member of his church, aptly named the Rock House, I never missed the event. Rocky would tell stories of the historical Saint Valentine; we’d eat candy conversation hearts, listen to live music, and share abundant amounts of food and laughter. It was Rocky’s way of making sure the lonely hearts wouldn’t spend the evening alone. There with my church family, not only did I get heaps of love, I could give out some from my meager supply.

That and we always had a chocolate fountain.

What was I going to do now?

I tried not to think about the sting of Rocky kicking me out of his church. I didn’t want to think about anything that had happened six weeks ago. Still, I figured whatever brought him to my door had an olive branch attached to it, and whatever he asked, short of sin, I’d be willing to do to reconcile with him.

Rocky hung up his jacket, kicked out of his Birkenstocks, and headed over to my rose-colored velvet sofa and sat. I followed, plopping down beside him.

“So, what’s the offer, Godfather?”

He stared at me. “Did you gain weight?”

Because I know it’s rude to kill your loved ones, I let that one slide and gave him a polite smile, but I did grab a mudcloth throw pillow and cover my expanding waistline.

“So, what’s the offer, Rocky?”

He gushed in a most un-Godfatherly like way. “I want you to go to a meeting with me. It’s only going to be the way-coolest event you’ve been to in forever.”

I cuddled the pillow and eyed him cautiously. He didn’t mean the Valentine’s Day feast. I braced myself. Rocky’s idea of way cool could get scary. “Can you be a little more specific?”

He didn’t answer. Just reached out and touched my hand, rubbing his thumb across my knuckles. “I really missed you.”

Oh, man. That small gesture—him touching the hand nobody held anymore—that tiny movement had the effect of a pebble in a pond, creating ripples of unexpected sadness that circled out of my soul. Lord, have mercy. I didn’t fling myself at him, begging like a rhythm-and-blues singer for him to keep loving me, to not give up on me, but something in me wished I could.

I didn’t want to marry Rocky, or even date him. He had never been the love of my life. In that moment I simply wanted to banish the nearly incarnate loneliness that had been dogging my heels as a solemn, maddening companion, shuffling me through all those days with no best-friend Rocky.

And with no husband Jazz.

I gazed up at him with my own version of puppy eyes. “I missed you too, Rocky.”

We let a bit of silence sit between us on the sofa like a third and very quiet presence. Our heads hung low. Apparently we both still smarted over our mutual pain of separation.

Minutes passed, our hands still clasped together, but Rocky’s merciful presence soothed my dry soul patches like olive oil.

Thank God. Thank God for every kind soul I don’t deserve in my life who loves me anyway.

“Rocky.” I made my voice as soft and small as a baby’s blankie.

He turned to me, his face as open and vulnerable as that blankie’s little owner.

I squeezed his hand. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

Those puppy eyes shone with the compassion I knew like the backs of my freckled hands.

“I’m sorry for the things I did, too, babe. For the things I said that night.”

“Don’t call me babe.”

He chuckled. “Some things never change.” Again, those gentle peepers bore into me. “Why didn’t you tell me you married Jazz?”

“At the time I didn’t seem too clear on it myself. Things happened pretty fast, and the next thing I knew, I was a wife.” I paused, the weight of that statement shifting just a bit since Rocky had shown up to help bear my burden. “He’s mad at me.”

“Duh-uh. You were kissing your blond boy toy.” He nudged me with his tattooed arm. “What’s going on with the two of you now?”

“I’ve seen corpses on Carly’s autopsy tables more involved than our marriage.”

I wondered if I’d ever get over what I’d lost with Jazz.

“I can only imagine what his parents think of me. I guess they’d say I’m the nightmare that took his ex Kate’s place.”

He regarded me with the care and concern I’ve seen him lavish on the fortunate souls he counseled as a pastor. Rocky may be only twenty-seven years old, but he’d been a pastor for two years. Two good years. He didn’t have the life experience an older pastor would, but God had given him an extraordinary shepherd’s heart.

“You’re not a nightmare,” he said. “You jumped into a marriage with no spiritual or emotional preparation.”

Like I, the clinician, needed him to tell me that.

I sighed. “Yet another psychologist heal thyself thing.” I looked away from him, guilt gnawing at me. “Maybe Jazz and I just aren’t meant to be, Rocky.”

“Have you talked to him?”

I shrugged. “Just once. He came over for a few minutes on Christmas Eve. I let him know I wanted him in a way I knew he’d understand. And then I waited. He never came back.”

“Why didn’t you go to him?”

“The same reason I didn’t come to you. I wanted to give him some space to feel whatever he felt and then to decide on his own.”

“But, maybe he’s not like me, babe.”

“Ya, think? And don’t call me babe.”

“Maybe he needs you to help him decide. Like, some extra reassurance or something.”

“That’s crazy, Rock.”

“It’s not so crazy, babe.”

I took back every nice thing I’d just thought about him. What did he know? Yes, he pastors a church of more than two-hundred members. He did missions work. He had a shepherd’s heart. He took pastoral counseling classes in seminary, but, honestly! His voice sounded just like Patrick’s on Sponge Bob.

Rocky glared at me. “Babe. . . .”

“Don’t call me babe.”

“Babe! You gotta go to him.”

“But he yells. Sometimes he cusses like a fish wife.”

“What’s a fish wife?”

“I don’t know, but my great-grandmother used to say that and it stuck with me. Maybe only females cuss like fish wives. Maybe he cusses like the fish.” Now I sounded like Patrick!

“Fish don’t cuss.”

“Okay, I know I should have reassured him.”

He sighed. Looked at me with those eyes. Squeezed my hand. “Will you ever let anyone love you?”

“People love me, Rocky. My sister. My secretary. Sasha.”

“I have doubts about Sasha.”

I thought about that and chuckled with him. “You may be right. My mother has done a few things that make me wonder. Now I’m really depressed.”

“I want to see you happy.”

“I want to see you happy, too. Speaking of which, how are you and Elisa?”

He grinned, reddened, looked away.

“What? Did you marry her in six weeks? My goodness!” For the first time, I didn’t feel jealous that someone was interested in Rocky. Well, not much.

“No. I’m not married. I’m . . . .”

“You’re what?”

“She’s really special, but it hasn’t been that long since she left creepy cult dude. I’m not sure I should be involved.”

“How involved are you?”

“I’m involved, babe.”

“You’re in love?”

He wouldn’t say anything, but his goofy grin spoke for him.


He nudged me, “Cut it out, babe.”

So, Rocky was really in love. Wow. I always knew it would happen, but I didn’t realize I’d still have the teensiest bit of pain knowing he’d moved on from me for good. I could see a flower of astonishing beauty blossoming between them when I saw them together, even though it nearly killed me at the moment. But God knows Rocky deserved the biggest, juiciest love he could find. He needed to look beyond the non-existent us. And he still calls me babe.

“Just take it slow, Rock. Trust me. The cost of moving too fast is astronomical, even if you are in love.”

I could tell he didn’t feel comfortable talking to me about Elisa. I decided to let their love blossom without my tending, pruning, or pulling up weeds. I got back to the business at hand. “Are you ever going to tell me what your offer is?” I eased into the lush upholstery of my sofa.

Rocky’s face lit up. Honestly, if that guy had a tail to go with those puppy eyes, it’d be thumping my sofa with joy.

“It’s gonna be awesome, ba— I mean, Bell.”

Apparently our little chat about Elisa made him correct himself.

“You think everything is awesome, Rocky.”

“I don’t think everything is awesome.”

“You said my Love Bug is awesome. You said Switchfoot’s new CD is awesome. You said my new zillions braids are awesome, and you said the ice-cream at Cold Stone Creamery is awesome.” Okay, the ice-cream at Cold Stone happened to be awesome for real. Lately I’d craved it like the blind crave sight.

“But, babe . . . ”

There he goes again. Honestly! A holy war couldn’t make that man stop calling me babe.

He went on. “Those things are awesome.”

“God is awesome, Rock. Awesome meaning the subject inspires awe, as in reverence, respect, dread.”

“You reverence your tricked-out VW Beetle,” he said, “And I respect Switchfoot, especially Jon Foreman, and your way-cool, African-goddess hair inspired me to get dreads.”

I stared at him. Comments like these coming from Rocky tended to render me temporarily speechless.

He filled the silence with his proposal. “I want you to go see Ezekiel Thunder with me.”

My eyes widened. Electroshock therapy wouldn’t have given me such a jolt. “Ezekiel Thunder?” I screeched. I jerked up from my slouch. I’d heard the un-right reverend wanted to hit the comeback trail, taking his miracle crusade with him.

Rocky gave me a wicked grin and settled himself smugly into the soft folds of my sofa. He knew I’d left Thunder’s particular brand of Pentecostal fire many years ago and had no desire to go back.

Rocky bobble-head nodded, as if his physical movement would affect a change in my attitude.

“Stop all that nodding!”

“I’m just trying to encourage you.”

I did not feel encouraged.

“It’ll be fun,” he said, blasting me with the full puppy-eyes arsenal. Oh, those eyes. Powerful! Mesmerizing! Like a basket full of cocker spaniel puppies wearing red ribbons. I could feel myself weakening.

“Rocky, that meeting will torture me. It will torture you!”

“No, it won’t. Ezekiel is my friend.”

“Your friend?”

“He led me to Christ.”

“Ezekiel Thunder led you to Christ?”

“I told you I came to Christ at a Bible camp.”

“Yes? And?”

“It was a Sons of Thunder Bible camp. I’m a Thunder Kid!” He beamed with what I hoped wasn’t pride.

“You never told me that!”

Honestly! You think you know somebody! He was my ex-boyfriend for goodness’ sake. We’d talked about marriage. I couldn’t believe I had no idea he was close friends with the infamous Ezekiel Thunder!

“You can be kinda judgmental about guys like Ezekiel.” He went on. “I didn’t mean to upset you or trigger bad memories of your tongues-talking days.”

“Then don’t ask me to go see him.”

“He’s a different man. He and his family want to buy a house in Ann Arbor. He’s living at the Rock House house until one comes through for him. ”

“God forbid!”

“He needs support. People to show up and cheer him on.”

“Cheer him on? We should stop him!” Had Rocky forgotten that Ezekiel Thunder had fallen as hard as many of his televangelist contemporaries in the eighties—and for a tawdry little tryst with a young intern? May it never be!

“How hard would it be for you to sit there and listen? Maybe say a few prayers for him.”

“God bless you as you do that for him.”

“I was there for you, supporting Great Lakes Seminary when they were struggling and going to lose their building. I did it because of how much you love Mason May.”

“Rocky! That’s not even comparable. Mason is a fine theologian training good men and women for powerful, effective ministries. He’s not a snake-oil peddler.”

“It’s not snake oil. It’s miracle prosperity oil.”

I stared at him. He’d stunned me to silence once again. I waited for Rocky to fill the silence with testimonies about the healing properties of miracle prosperity oil. Thankfully, he refrained. But he didn’t look like he’d let me off the hook.

I tried to reason with him. “You shouldn’t ask me to do this. You’re Emergent, Rocky, not a dyed-in-the-wool charismatic.”

“You don’t like post-modern, post-denominational, Emergent folks either.”

“I like them more than Ezekiel Thunders.”

“What’s that thing you say about the Emergent Church?”

“This is not about the Emergent Church. I’d go to an Emergent meeting with you anytime. You name the place: Mars Hill, Ann Arbor Vineyard. How ‘bout Frontline Church? ”

He didn’t budge. “Come on, babe. He’s like a dad to me.”

“A dad?”

“You always say Mason is like a dad to you.”

“But Mason has a PhD. He doesn’t sell ‘miracle prosperity oil’.”

“Ezekiel doesn’t sell it, either. He gives it away for a love offering.”

“A considerable love offering, if I remember! It’s plain olive oil he’s pushing to gullible babes in the faith who don’t know any better. How can I support his money-lusting schemes?”

“Ummm. By going with me?” Hope burgeoned in his voice as if I hadn’t just accused his mentor of being a hustler.

“Did you hear what I said, Rock? Ezekiel Thunder is everything I walked away from.”

“You walked away from a lot more than that, babe. And you’ve been known to hang out with people with worse theology than his. People way more dangerous.”

He had a point.

“Rocky . . . .” I didn’t want to go. Please, God, don’t make me go.

“He’s changed, babe. Give him a chance. For me.”

The eyes again, and a smile with an invisible tail wag.

I grumbled.

He grinned.

I gave him a dramatic sigh. “What time are we leaving?”

“If you’re not busy, and you’re not, we can leave in a few hours. I’ll pick you up at six.”

“How do you know I don’t have plans?”

“Because you have antisocial tendencies.”

“Don’t hold back, Rock. What do you really think about me?”

“Don’t worry,” he said, ignoring my insolence. “You’re gonna fall in love with Ezekiel.”

I rolled my eyes. “Not likely.”

He put his face right in front of mine until we were eye to eye. “You are feeling veeeeeery tired. You’re getting sleepy. You’re going to enjoy yourself at the crusade.”

“No fair,” I said, “Those eyes of yours are potent hypnotizers.”

“You are going to love Ezekiel Thunder.”

“I am going to love Ezekiel Thunder.”

Rocky got out of my face. “You’ve gotta admit, babe. This will be safer than sleuthing.”

No, it won’t, a disembodied voice--also known as the still, small voice of God--informed me.

I tried to ignore it. Maybe this Spirit prompting was speaking figuratively.

Couldn’t ignore it.

What, Lord, am I some kind of trouble magnet?

Don’t answer that, God.

I started rationalizing immediately to take the edge off what I truly hoped was not a prophetic warning. Maybe I could fall in love with the guy and respect him. Maybe he could even heal the egg-sized growth on my lower abdomen that scared me to death each time I ran my index finger across it. Maybe I could even find the keys to unlock the little room inside my heart where all the Ezekiel Thunders I’ve ever known were locked. I’d stored them there to keep me safe from the particular brand of harm only they could inflict.

I could feel my defenses shoot up as if a rocket propelled them.

Fall in love with Ezekiel Thunder?

I wished.

I shouldn’t have wished. My great-grandmother and namesake Amanda Bell Brown use to say, “Be careful what you wish for, baby. You just might get it.”

She ain’t never lied.

Monday, March 23, 2009

One foot in front of the other

I've been out of touch for the past few days. I went on our church's annual forty hours silent retreat. Not for the faint of heart. And certainly not for anyone uncomfortable with God getting in there and dealing with their junk. So, for about 48 hours from Friday-Sunday, I had no internet access, no phone, no connection to the outside world. For forty of those hours, I didn't speak, and no one (but God) spoke to me. And it was so refreshing.

God shared a lot of things with me, and in time, I will probably share them. Some were things I wanted to hear about, others were things I wasn't expecting. The most surprising thing, not so much because I didn't think this of God, but because I didn't realize how badly I needed to hear it, was hearing how deeply God cares for the deepest places of our hearts.

Of course, for me, the bad news about getting away for a few days without Internet is that work is waiting. My to-do list has grown. My house is a mess. Life rolled right on by me without thinking that I'd have to dig out of it. And I have to admit, I woke up pretty darn depressed about it. Overwhelmed because I have so much to do and honestly no idea how to get it done or where to start.

Then God reminded me in that sweet voice that I came to feel so intimately while I was away that it'll be okay. He's carried me thus far, and He'll be there through everything else. One of the fun reminders He gave me this weekend was how He used a silly song to help me push through. During the darkest moments of my life, it's given me strange comfort. And today, I'm singing it.

The song is from a classic Christmas movie, Santa Claus is coming to town. Yeah, I know, so not about Jesus, but God can use just about anything. So if you're faced with a tough task or are overwhelmed with catching up, pop this baby in and give it a whirl:

Put One Foot In Front of the Other
by Jules Bass

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule be the exception
A good way to start is to stand

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If I want to change the reflection
I see in the mirror each morn
You mean that it's just my election
To vote for a chance to be reborn

(repeat chorus twice)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My letter to the President and Congress on the economy

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to speak for the people your administration has seemingly ignored. I am an average middle class woman who wants the best for my family. However, because we are not currently in dire straits, many of the plans to help stimulate the economy do not apply to us.

For example, while we are among the lucky ones whose jobs were not eliminated, my husband’s hours were cut from 40+ hours per week to 10-15 hours a week. As a family depending on those 40+ hours per week, we’re struggling to make ends meet on such decreased hours. Though I count my blessings that we still have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, it seems unfair that we will see little to no benefit from your stimulus package.

If we were the only family in this situation, perhaps I would be a little less resentful. However, I work as a tax preparer and I hear the same story from other hard-working families. They still have jobs, but not nearly the same number of hours they need to make their house payments or other necessary bills. As I go over the implications of the stimulus bill with them, one thing is glaringly obvious: there is next to nothing in that package for them.

One of the solutions we have looked at is refinancing our home. But like so many in this economy, the value of our home has gone down. Because my husband’s income is greatly reduced and we can’t get our home to appraise for the value we need, the two-percentage point drop in mortgage rates does not help us. Nor does it help many other families. I’ve spoken with several people in the same situation. What good is bailing out the banks and creating programs to help people with their mortgages when the people who are working hard to keep their payments current do not qualify?

I am amazed at the number of people who’ve told me that they’ve called their banks, asking for assistance with refinancing. The answer is the same: until you’re in default, there is nothing we can do to help you.

Until we’re in default? Really? So basically, in order to qualify for help, we first have to be in deep trouble? Wouldn’t it be in the best interests of the banking industry, and the country, to help the folks who want to stay out of a financial mess?

I am disgusted that the only solutions people are being offered is to default on their home loans or declare bankruptcy. Believe it or not, there are still people in this country who want to pay their bills on time. We want to get out of debt. We want to do the right thing.

But you, your administration, and Congress, won’t let us.

Do my husband and his friends have to beg their employers to lay them off so they’ll be counted in the unemployment numbers and get some extra tax-free income that we desperately need? Should I stop paying my mortgage so that the bank will see that we’re in trouble, so they’d better go ahead and refinance our loan?

I hope this sounds as ludicrous to you as it does to me. Because maybe it will give you a moment to pause and think about the people you are overlooking. The people who do not appear on the unemployment lists. The ones who are not defaulting on their loans. We do not fit in any of the statistics, but let me assure you, life is still hard for us. We’re just easier to ignore because our numbers are more difficult to quantify and we don’t make up your pretty charts and graphs.

The truth is, we will get through this recession. This country will get through this recession. And I’m extremely saddened to say, it will be on the backs of people like us. We will keep making our mortgage payments, financing everyone else because our interest rates are higher. We will keep working the measly hours our employers offer. We will also do our best to pick up whatever side work we can find. All of this you will tax at ridiculous levels because we were determined enough to find work.

The sickest part of this tale is that during this time, and even after it’s over, you and all of your political interest buddies will be doing just fine. Your families will not have to make the heartbreaking determination of what things are necessities and what aren’t. You will not lie in bed at night praying for a miracle, except maybe for the miracle of re-election. If only our problems were so simple.

I do not want a hand out from you or the rest of the government. Thus far, the handouts you’ve given don’t seem to have done much to improve the situation you were trying to fix. It would, however, be nice to get a little recognition for those of us who are clinging to our lives with every ounce of strength we have. When you look at implementing the many plans you have, please remember that your statistics do not even begin to shed light on the full picture of our country’s economic crisis. Because the people paying for your stimulus package are having a hard enough time paying their own bills.


A Hard-Working Taxpayer

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Diamonds in the Shadow

WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (March 17, 2009)


Caroline B. Cooney is the author of A Friend at Midnight; The Face on the Milk Carton (an IRA-CBC Children’s Choice book); its companions, Whatever Happened to Janie and The Voice on the Radio(each of them an ALA Best Book for Young Adults); and many other award-winning novels. Caroline divides her time between Madison, Connecticut, and New York City.

Product Details:

List Price: $8.95
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (March 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 140007424X
ISBN-13: 978-1400074242


Jared Finch could not care less where some refugee family lived.

“Drew and Kara Finch have generously volunteered to take the family in,” said Dr. Nickerson. The room applauded. Jared stared at his parents in horror. The refugees were coming here? His little sister, a mindlessly happy puppy of a kid, cried out in delight. If Mopsy had ever had an intelligent thought in her life, she kept it to herself.

“Yay!” cried Mopsy. “It’ll be like sleepovers every night.”

Jared gagged.

“You see, Jared, we have a lovely guest suite,” said his mother, as if he didn’t live here and wouldn’t know, “where the parents can stay and have their own bathroom.”

This implied that there were kids who would not be staying in the guest suite. So they would be staying where, exactly?

“Your room and Mopsy’s are so spacious, Jared darling,” his mother went on. “And you each have two beds, for when your friends spend the night. And your own bathrooms! It’s just perfect, isn’t it?”

Jared’s mother and father had volunteered his bedroom for a bunch of African refugees? And not even asked him? “I’m supposed to share my bedroom with some stranger?” he demanded. Jared did not share well. It had been a problem since nursery school. Mrs. Lane, a woman Jared especially loathed, because he was fearful that Mopsy would grow up to be just like her—stout and still giggling—said excitedly,

“That’s why your family’s offer is so magnificent, Jared.” Jared figured her last name was actually Lame.

“You will guide and direct young people who would otherwise be confused and frightened by the new world in which they find themselves,” cried Mrs. Lame. She definitely had somebody else in mind. Jared did not plan to guide and direct anybody. Jared’s bedroom was his fortress. It had his music, his video games, his television and his computer. It was where he made his phone calls. As for Africa, Jared knew nothing about the entire continent except what he’d seen on nature shows, where wild animals were always migrating or else eating each other. But about Africans themselves, aside from the occasional Jeep driver, TV had nothing to say. And there was always more important stuff on the news than Africa, like weather or celebrities. Jared would be forced to hang out with some needy non-English-speaking person in clothes that didn’t fit? Escort that person into his own school? Act glad?

“I decline,” said Jared.

“The church signed a contract, Jared,” said Dr. Nickerson.

“We are responsible for this family.” “I didn’t sign anything,” said Jared. “I don’t have a responsibility.” The committee glared at Jared. Jared glared right back. They weren’t volunteering to share their bedrooms. No, they could force two handy kids to do it. “My sister and I are the only ones who actually have to do any sharing? You guys get to contribute your old furniture or worthless televisions that you didn’t want anyway for when these guys get their own place, but meanwhile Mopsy and I have to take them in?” He hoped to make the committee feel guilty. Everybody did look guilty but also really relieved, because of course they didn’t want to share a bedroom either.

“It’ll be so wonderful!” cried Mopsy, hugging herself. “Is there going to be a girl who can be my best friend?” It was getting worse. People would expect Jared to be best friends with this person who would invade his life.

“What went wrong with the rental?” asked Jared, thinking he would just kill whoever was getting the apartment, thus freeing it up again for these refugees.

“The owner’s eighty-year-old grandmother, who’s blind, is moving in with her caregiver.”

Oh, please. That was such a lie. How many eighty-year-old blind grandmothers suddenly had to move in with their caregiver? The owners were probably remodeling so they could sell the place for a million dollars instead.

“What are we supposed to do, Jared?” asked Dr. Nickerson in his most religious voice. “Abandon four people on the sidewalk?” They’d been abandoned anyway; that was what it meant to be a refugee. Jared opened his mouth to say so, but a movement from his father caught his eye. Dad was sagging in his chair, deaf and blind to the meeting. Having a family of refugees in the house probably wasn’t his choice either; Mom had saddled him with it. He wasn’t on this committee, and the last committee on which Dad had served had gone bad. His co-chairman had turned out to be a felon and a bum. But Jared had more important things to worry about right now. “How long are these guys supposed to live here?” he demanded.

“We don’t know,” admitted the minister. “This is an expensive town. We’re going to have trouble finding a low-cost rent for people earning minimum wage. We probably found the only place there is, and now it’s gone. We’ll have to look in the cities nearby—New London, New Haven. And probably in bad neighborhoods. It’s a problem we didn’t anticipate.”

Jared never prayed, because the idea of a loving God seemed out of sync with the facts of the world. Nevertheless, Jared prayed now. Please, God, don’t let there be a boy in this family. Make Mopsy do all the sharing. I can squeeze my extra twin bed into her room. I’ll even move it cheerfully. “What do we know about these guys?” he said.

“Very little.” Dr. Nickerson waved a single sheet of paper. He handed it to the person sitting farthest away from Jared, ensuring that Jared would be the last to know the grim truth. “That’s why we’ve gathered here tonight. Let me introduce our representative from the Refugee Aid Society, Kirk Crick.”

What kind of name was that? It sounded like a doll Mopsy would collect. And what was up with Kirk Crick that he couldn’t even photocopy enough pages for everybody to have one? It didn’t exactly give Jared faith in the guy’s organizational skills.

“He’s going to discuss the work ahead of us and some of the difficulties and joys we can expect,” said the minister. Like there could be joy with four total strangers in your house for an unknown period of time. The guy didn’t smile, which Jared appreciated, since it was easy to overdose on good cheer. Just look at Mopsy.

“I find that my name annoys people,” said Kirk Crick, “but it’s memorable. You can call me either one—or neither.”

This worked for Jared, who hoped to have nothing to do with the man or his refugees. Kirk Crick launched into a long, tedious description. It seemed that the African family to be foisted off on Jared might never have been in a grocery store, never used an indoor stove or a computer, maybe never driven a car or heard of credit cards, never taken a hot shower or encountered cold weather, never seen a shopping mall. In their entire country, there was not a single ATM. There had not been reliable electricity for a decade.

“They probably can’t drive,” said Kirk Crick, “a problem here in suburbia. They’ll be used to buses, and maybe taxis, but mostly if they have to go somewhere, they walk. Or run. Remember, they fled a civil war. They’ve lived in a refugee camp in Nigeria for several years, with little shelter of any kind—six thousand people in an outdoor pen.” This was an obvious exaggeration intended to make Jared feel sorry for people who were going to trespass on his life. “The good news is that they speak English, the official language in Liberia, where native tribal languages are used mostly at home. Their accent will be difficult to understand, but they won’t have difficulty understanding you. “According to this, the parents finished eighth grade. The kids probably attended school at the refugee camp, although those schools usually have no paper, pencils or books. Sometimes no teachers either. The children are fifteen and sixteen, but we can’t tell from their names whether they’re boys or girls. We’ll just run with it when we meet them at the airport. We weren’t expecting this family to arrive for another month, so it’s just great that you people are so flexible.” Nobody here has to be flexible but me, thought Jared. Mrs. Lame suddenly decided that everybody needed coffee. Right in the middle of the guy’s talk, off she went into the kitchen, which meant Jared’s mom had to go with her, and then the two of them circulated, offering regular and decaf, whole milk and skim and sugar or sweetener in yellow, pink or blue packets. Brand preference was one of the million things this African family was going to have to learn. As long as Jared didn’t have to do the teaching—whatever. Kirk Crick droned on. Basically nobody except Jared even knew he was up there; certainly not Jared’s parents. They were such bad listeners that Jared didn’t see how they’d ever gotten through college. They multitasked to the max. When they watched television, they were also cooking, leafing through the newspaper, talking on the phone and balancing their checkbooks. Here was information that would change their lives and they were thinking about ten other things instead. The Finches’ beautiful yellow and cream family room was a huge space, with three soft, welcoming sofas and four large armchairs. As the sun went down beyond the wall of glass, people nestled into cushions and got sleepy. “Refugees,” said Kirk Crick, “have nothing, and that also means no paperwork. People racing out of villages only inches ahead of madmen with machetes or AK-47s don’t pause to collect birth certificates or vaccination papers.” Mom was arranging desserts, something church ladies did well. Jared wondered what Mrs. Wall had brought, because she was a great cook.

Then he remembered. Mrs. Wall wasn’t here. It was her husband, Brady, who had co-chaired the fund-raising committee with Dad. Over two years they had raised seven hundred fifty thousand dollars for the new church building. They’d had fairs, auctions, pledge campaigns, concerts and dinners. And three days earlier, the church had found out that Brady Wall had been siphoning off that money and gambling it away at Foxwoods. It wasn’t just stolen. It was gone. Jared’s mom was friends with Emmy, Brady Wall’s wife. Jared had a bad feeling that one day soon Emmy would be in the kitchen sobbing all over Mom. It was going to be a very crowded kitchen, since it would also be full of Africans sobbing all over Mom. Jared hoped she was up to it, because he had just decided to sign up for every school-sponsored ski trip in order to be out of town Fridays through Sundays. The less sharing, the better. “One problem getting refugees to America is just finding seats on a plane,” said Kirk Crick. “There aren’t many flights. Probably something opened up very suddenly, or four other people couldn’t go after all, so your four moved to the head of the line. Your family is flying to London, where they’ll change planes for Kennedy Airport. Now, you’ll need subcommittees. Who will be handling medical needs and doctors?”

“Wait,” said Jared. “What medical needs? Are these people planning to show up complete with typhoid and malaria?”

“No. They get checked in Africa for that stuff. But the kids can’t start school until they’ve been inoculated for tetanus and all. Just like any other kid starting school. They’ll be spending a bunch of time at the doctor’s. Your family’s background has been screened as well. African civil war consists of people butchering each other. Our task force makes sure you’re not getting some mass murderer responsible for destroying whole villages, or a dealer in blood diamonds, or some vicious boy soldier.”

“I’ve heard about boy soldiers,” said Mr. Lane. (Jared was always surprised that anybody had married Mrs. Lane and even more surprised that such a person ever had a chance to talk.) “Ten-year-olds who chop people’s arms off and walk away,” explained Mr. Lane. No kid would do that. It was the kind of hype spewed on satellite radio—anything to make the world sound even more violent than it was. The whole idea of screening people struck Jared as useless. Being screened would be like taking an essay test where you wrote whatever your teacher wanted to hear. We’re kind and gentle, the refugees would say. We didn’t hurt anybody. Goodness, no. We were the victims.

“What are blood diamonds?” asked Mopsy.

“Diamonds that are mined in West Africa and used to pay for war,” said Kirk Crick. He seemed ready to expound on this, but

Jared didn’t care about mines. He cared about the strangers soon to be under his roof.

“If the family doesn’t have any papers to start with, how does the Refugee Aid Society even know for sure who they are?” Jared asked.

“We’re very, very, very careful,” said Kirk Crick.

Jared was suspicious. Right in their own church they had been careful and they’d still ended up with a major-league thief on the fund-raising committee. “Is there really such a thing as a boy soldier?”

“Yes. Often when a village is attacked, the boys are out in the fields watching the cattle. So parents get caught, killed or maimed, girls get raped and killed, villages get burned to the ground, but young boys get rounded up. They’re forced to use machine guns and machetes on their own neighbors.”

Nice. Jared decided to e-mail everyone he’d ever met and find someone to live with until this was over. “A boy who spends the day out in some field with cows won’t exactly fit in with suburban America in the twenty-first century,” he pointed out.

“You have your work cut out for you,” agreed Kirk Crick.

“Now, your African family may not wish to discuss their past. They want to look ahead, not back. You’re getting an intact family, which is unusual. Four people who struggled and suffered and now hope to put terror behind them. Your church signed on to cover housing and food for three months and to find jobs for the parents. After three months, the family is on its own. If they can’t function—and that’s rare, because refugees are fighters—the Society takes over.”

Three months? thought Jared. Three months? Nobody but Jared seemed to think this was insane.

“You are doing a good deed,” said Crick.

The committee loved hearing how good and generous they were. They sat tall. They took lemon bars as well as double-chocolate brownies. Jared’s dad began talking softly to one of the husbands, undoubtedly about Brady Wall, because that was now Dad’s only topic of conversation. Mom was asking Mrs. Lame for her toasted almond cake recipe. The rest of the crowd was finding car keys. Jared was the only person listening to Kirk Crick.

“In a civil war,” Crick said, “there are no good guys. They’re all guilty of something. You are probably not saving the innocent, because in a civil war, nobody is innocent.”

Jared had never seen a refugee; the Society had seen thousands. Maybe tens of thousands. And that was the summary? There are no good guys? This made the refugee scene quite exciting. Jared’s roommate would have a history of fighting and killing. On the other hand . . . how much fighting and killing did Jared really want in his own bedroom? The piece of paper describing this family finally circulated to Jared. On it were four black-and-white photographs that had probably been grainy and unfocused to start with. After much copying or downloading, they were so blurred that the four faces hardly had features. The photos were from the shoulders up, and everybody’s hair was pulled tightly back, or else cut close, and as far as Jared could tell, these guys could be anybody. These could even be four photographs of the same person. There were dates below each photo, possibly dates of birth, but they were smudged and only partially legible. After close scrutiny, he decided that the two on top looked older. Probably the parents. The names typed under those photos (Typed! Not even done on a computer!) were Celestine Amabo and Andre Amabo. It seemed odd that they had French-sounding names. The photo in the lower left was labeled “Mattu” and the one on the lower right, “Alake.” No clues how to pronounce those names or whether the people were male or female. We are taking people under our roof for months at a stretch, thought Jared Finch. We can’t read their dates of birth. We can’t tell what gender they are. We can’t recognize them from their photographs. We know in advance that they are not good guys.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Time to tell the truth....

Last week, I posted Two Truths and a Lie...

I am either a good liar or the others are bad guessers, because the truth is, I did not write in my journal. Been really slacking off on it. Trying to be disciplined about the Bible study and about my writing. With as crazy busy as I am, I haven't written in my journal lately. But maybe I should, you know, get rid of all those homicidal thoughts. ;) Or maybe I should just do a little more Bible reading.

This was a fun game!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Filling the well

Thursday is my favorite day of the week. It's the only day I consciously keep free. Well, sort of. The only things I allow to be scheduled on my Thursdays are things that make me happy. So I'll meet with my best friend, have my critique group over, etc. But mostly, I just hang out. Be lazy. And rejuvenate. Sometimes, I even sleep in.

The worst part of tax season is how "taxing" it is on my "me time." Because I am an introvert, I find the energy of having to deal with so many people and actually be nice to them trying. Not that I'm not a nice person. Well, maybe that's debatable. But to me, giving good customer service that's heartfelt and not being fake about it takes a lot of energy when what I'd rather be doing is sitting somewhere curled up with a good book.

During tax season, I am a ball of stress. I commented to one of my friends yesterday that I cry at every stupid little thing because I can't do anything about the big things. However, it's gotten a lot better now that I recognize the need for "me time" and I work hard to keep it that way. Instead of feeling stressed all the time, I have one day for decompression. Granted, I still have too many things I try to accomplish in that day, but I also make sure I take time out for one selfish "me" thing. Even though I call it selfish, the reality is that it is the time I need to rejuvenate and be a better me so that I can take care of others and do all the other things I need to do.

Last year, I also tried something new. I went on a silent retreat with my church. Wow! I wasn't sure how I'd do going 48 hours without speaking, but it was such a blessing. I went 48 hours without noise and input from all directions. It was just me and God. The one direction that mattered. And, if I'm really honest, the direction I probably ignore the most since it's not always the loudest voice vying for my attention.

If you are exhausted, like I am, and you feel like everything is tugging at you and pulling you in a million directions at once, like I do, then I'd like to suggest taking out your calendar, moving things around, and giving yourself a little space. Take that space and use it to rejuvenate. Do something nice for yourself. Maybe you don't yet have time to really do it right, but do something. Take that time, and while you're resting, invite the Lord to join you, and spend that time hanging out.

And if you're like me, and think you don't have the time to do it, trust me when I say you don't have the time not to do it.

Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly world

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World

New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (September 2, 2008)


Ken Ham is the founder and executive director of Answers in Genesis in the USA and one of the most sought-after Christian speakers in North America. He is also the author or co-author of many books, including The Lie: Evolution, The Genesis Solution, Genesis and the Decay of the Nations, What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?, A is for Adam, D is for Dinosaur, Creation Evangelism for the New Millennium (now called Why Won't They Listen?), and One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism.

Visit the author's website.

Steve Ham, brother of Ken Ham and the youngest of six Ham children, is the founder and director of Growth Point Financial Ministries, an Australian charitable organization. Steve is married to his wife, Trisha, and is the father of two. He is also coauthor of Answers for Life.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (September 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0890515425
ISBN-13: 978-0890515426


dead men

do tell tales

with Ken Ham

. . . the righteous shall be in

everlasting remembrance

(Ps. 112:6; NKJV).

legacy (lěg´e-sē) n. Something handed down, by one who has gone before in the past, and left to those in the present and future.

There is a saying, one that we have gathered from the legends of the Wild West, which says “Dead men tell no tales.” The saying implies that the knowledge and influence of the deceased goes with them to the grave, never to be heard from again. I find that not to be the case! Dead men do tell tales. If you ever take a walk around the small English town of Bedford, as I have, you will quickly see what I mean.

Bedford was the hometown of John Bunyan, author of the still very popular Pilgrim’s Progress, now in its 400th year of printing.1 The day I walked around the town, I saw reminders of John Bunyan everywhere — the site of the jail where he spent many years imprisoned, the site of the house in which he was raised, his statue in the town square, the church he preached at in later life with a museum of many of his personal items, and the church where he was baptized in 1628. Bedford even has a pub called “Pilgrim’s Progress Pub!” (I’m sure John Bunyan would love to know he had a pub named after his famous book!)

Something really hit me as I walked around Bedford. As I thought about the life of John Bunyan and how he was persecuted and jailed for preaching the Word of God, I wondered about what happened to those responsible for his persecution and jailing. There was no mention of any of Bunyan’s enemies in Bedford. In fact, in the large graveyard of the church where Bunyan rang the church bell as a child, I saw many very old gravestones. It is certainly possible that some of these gravestones stand on the graves of Bunyan’s persecutors. However, these gravestones were so eroded that the names had disappeared. Whoever these people were, their memory has all but gone. As I looked at these nameless gravestones, Proverbs 10:7 came to mind:

The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.

Certainly, this is the case in Bedford. The man who stood for the authority of the Word of God is remembered. The memory of those who opposed Bunyan has disappeared into oblivion. Bunyan and his books (particularly Pilgrim’s Progress) live on in the memories of people all over the world and in the printed pages that still come off the printing presses today. Yes, “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.”

A very similar type of situation exists in the town of Worms, Germany. My wife, Mally, and I walked around this town, finding many memorials to the memory of Martin Luther, the great reformer who started the Reformation in 1517.2 There were various statues, plaques, and other markers that told the story of Martin Luther. I even had the awesome opportunity to stand at the very place where it is believed Luther stood when he was purported to have uttered these now famous words:

Here I stand [on Scripture]. I can do no other.

God help me! Amen.

I must admit, tingles went down my spine as I stood there and contemplated the life of a man who started a movement that has affected the world for the Lord to this day.

Again, I didn’t see any memorials to all of those who opposed Luther. They aren’t remembered in Worms; the memory of those who persecuted him is all but lost. Luther — the man who stood for the authority of the Word of God — is remembered, and his legacy continues to have great impact on the world today . . . even among those who don’t know his name. The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance; but unfortunately, the unrighteous can still make an everlasting impact as they forge legacies of an entirely different kind.

If you walk the streets of Shrewsbury, England, you will find memorials to another man of great influence — memorials quite similar to those left for Bunyan and Luther. There is a statue outside his school and a sign outside of the home of his birth, noting the date of February 12, 1809. This is the birthdate of Charles Darwin, who at the age of 50 would publish On the Origin of Species. Throughout the town a similar pride is felt and is reflected in the names of many locations: Darwin Gardens, Darwin Terrace, Darwin Street, and Darwin Shopping Center.

There are similarities in the memorials to these three men, but the legacies they left behind could not be more different. Darwin proposed that “life” can be explained without God. By concluding that a supposed link between ape and man meant that there is no God (as detailed in his subsequent book, The Descent of Man), his ideas left humanity to decide right or wrong on their own, to write their own rules and do their own thing, following whatever seems best in their own eyes.

The implications of Darwin’s legacy are far-reaching. He paved the way for moral relativism, and fueled racism (claiming that blacks, aborigines, and others are inferior, less-evolved races.) His ideas have also fueled the abortion industry, leading to the conclusion that an unborn child is nothing more than a lump of cells (or just an animal) and that a woman has the right to kill it if she so chooses. The ideas of Darwin even paved the way for Hitler, who used them to justify the extermination of those he considered less than ideal — resulting in the mass murder of millions of Jews, gypsies, and others. His ideas have contributed to the erosion of the family, educational institutions, the decay of the legal system, and have led to great compromise in the Church.

To see evolutionary measures and

tribal morality being applied rigorously

to the affairs of a great modern nation

we must turn again to Germany of 1942.

We see Hitler devoutly convinced that

evolution provides the only real

basis for a national policy.3

One of the students involved in the Columbine (Colorado) school shootings wore a T-shirt with “natural selection” written on it. The more students are told they are just animals, and have evolved by natural processes — the more they will begin to act consistently with this view of origins. As generations are trained to believe there is no God, thus no absolute authority, then there is no basis for determining right and wrong — moral relativism will pervade the culture.

The late Dr. Carl Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan wrote an article that appeared in Parade Magazine, April 22, 1990, using the fraudulent idea of emybronic recapitulation popularized by Ernst Haeckel (the false idea that when an embryo develops in its mother’s womb it goes through a fish stage, etc., reflecting its evolutionary history, until it becomes human) to justify abortion. They claimed the embryo wasn’t really human until about the sixth month.

I’ve heard of girls who were told by an abortion clinic that what was in their womb was in the fish stage of evolution, thus they could abort it. A false view of origins leads to terrible consequences.

For example, families are breaking apart due to evolutionary views of unborn children as nothing but animals, and subsequent abortions that result. School shootings such as those at Columbine High School are prevalent among secular schools, because students view other students as animals. The ideas of Darwin are having an effect throughout the culture.

This is the Darwinian legacy: A false idea that has led to the destruction of the authority of the Word of God in our modern age. He popularized a philosophy that has convinced others that the Bible is not true, that everything is the result of random natural process, and that we are little more than animals; free to decide as we are bidden to decide.

Two signs outside of the Shrewsbury Unitarian Church speak for themselves. The first proudly proclaims:

Charles Darwin worshiped here

when he was young.

The second church sign, permanently etched as a motto to be seen by all who pass by, gives a clear indication of the legacy behind which the legacy of Darwin emerged:

No one has the only truth, this we believe.

Not a Question of “If”

Luther, Bunyan, and Darwin; these three men left two entirely different kinds of legacy. Each legacy continues to impact the world in different ways. Let there be no doubt: A legacy is a very, very powerful thing. Let there be no doubt about this either: You too will leave a legacy. Truly, it’s not a question of if you will leave a legacy, it is only a matter of what kind. Long after your body is laid to rest, the impact of your life will continue to spread throughout your community and your world. Never forget that your legacy will be felt most strongly by those closest to you: your family.

Your family desperately needs you to stand up and lead, because the world is drawing them in all the wrong directions. Statistics indicate that around 90 percent4 of the children from church homes attend public schools in America. Sadly, statistics indicate that seven out of ten of such students will walk away from the church after their senior high years.5

America is said to have been the greatest Christian nation on earth. This country has the world’s greatest number of Christian bookshops, Christian radio stations, churches, seminaries, and Christian and Bible colleges. It is inundated with all of the best Christian resources available, yet America is becoming less Christian every day . . . and many Christian parents are heartbroken to see their children move toward the world and away from the church.

Dads and moms are crying out for answers, and teachers are becoming increasingly concerned by the rebellious attitudes, lack of politeness, and vanishing Christian morals they see, even in “church kids.” Barna Research found that only nine percent of teens who call themselves “born-again Christians” believe in absolute moral truth.6 Family breakups, even among those calling themselves Christian, are startlingly common.7

What are the problems? What are the solutions? Are there answers that will deal with the heart of the problems and provide real solutions? Christian and secular books about the family and raising children abound, yet the questions continue. How should children be raised in today’s world? How can a family produce godly offspring dedicated to the Lord? What methods of discipline should be used in bringing up children? Should Christian children be kept in public schools to witness to others, or is Christian or home schooling a necessity? How can Christianity be made relevant to the younger generations?

The list of questions goes on and on, and the Christian family of today is deeply struggling to find answers. I believe there are answers — but I want to warn you that they may challenge your comfort zone, and they may go contrary to what is “acceptable” in your community. The answers may be labeled as “offensive” to those who are more worried about political correctness than righteousness.

Before you can even begin to search out and apply the answers, an even more fundamental question must be answered:

What kind of legacy do you intend to leave?

What type of memorials might be

left in your remembrance?

Can I humbly suggest that you can leave a memorial that can affect the world as Luther and Bunyan did? Many of you reading this might be saying, “Give me a break! They were great and now very famous men. They deserve such memorials, but I’ll never have statues or other memorials built in my memory. I’m not going to be famous like them.”

I disagree with that kind of thinking. You have no idea how God might choose to use you or your children or your children’s children. You must understand that God’s Word gives us the foundation from which we can do our best to build the right structure in our families. God’s Word (not your own wisdom or strength) is the basis of a godly legacy. The Bible alone is living and active, and able to divide and judge correctly, and its principles can lead to astounding results.

If you are going to leave a legacy like Bunyan or Luther, you are going to have to decide to go against the flow, because the flow of the world today is leading to decay, death, and even hell. Each of us has a personal choice to make regarding the future of our family. Will we lead into a legacy of life and freedom based on the Word of God, or will we lead our families into a legacy of relativism and death, as did Darwin?

The question is not rhetorical, but immensely practical, affecting everything that you might do and everything you might be. The type of legacy you choose will most likely have great impact on your community, your world, and, most graphically, your family. Which will it be? Will you lead your family into a legacy of truth, life, and freedom based on the Word of God, or will you lead your family into a legacy of relativism, bondage, and death, as did Darwin? It’s a decision each one of us must make. I know, I had to do it myself and it was a critical decision in my ongoing journey for truth and answers.

When I started high school, I eagerly looked forward to my science lessons. However, I was perplexed when the teacher taught that humans evolved from “ape-men,” and that animals had evolved over millions of years. My textbooks laid out what claimed to be convincing proof that we progressed from molecules to man without any outside influence. I was further taught ideas on how the universe had formed — but they all involved naturalistic processes. God wasn’t involved at all. They claimed that everything somehow exploded out of nothing all by itself, and they made it all sound so “scientific.” Everything I was taught about the origin of matter, life, and man conflicted with what my parents had taught me from the Bible. How was I to resolve this?

I sat down with my father and asked him to help me sort this out. Sadly, at that time there were no books or other resources that we were aware of that dealt with the creation/evolution issue. Certainly, none were readily available to us in Australia at that time. (When I look at all the resources available today, I often think back to this time in my life and realize how blessed people are today.)

From a scientific perspective, my father could not refute the supposed ape-men fossils, or the billions of years of evolution, or the supposed “big-bang” history of the universe. He wasn’t a scientist and he didn’t understand where these ideas had come from. Although my father had lots of answers in many areas where secular ideas contradicted Scripture, in this area of origins, he just didn’t have a defense — he didn’t even know where to start.

I completed high school, rejecting molecules-to-man evolution as a philosophy, but I didn’t have any solid scientific answers to defend my position. I was concerned about this, but my father’s words kept ringing in my ears:

Even if we can’t find an answer to explain why

the secular idea is wrong, we need to continue

to search and wait for the answer.

During my college years while studying for my science degree, I was bombarded with evolutionary ideas in biology, geology, and other subject areas. I still had no scientific response to what I was being taught, so I just lived with the dilemma — though I recognized that sooner or later I had to sort this out in some way. As I studied, however, I did observe that my textbooks and professors did not have convincing evidence for Darwinian evolution or the supposed billions of years for the age of the earth. I recognized there were numerous assumptions behind the various interpretations of fossil bones and the supposed long ages attributed to them, but I really wanted some answers.

Somehow, a little booklet that dealt with the creation/evolution issue from a biblical perspective came into my possession. As I read through this booklet, one particular section stood out from all the others. The author stated that from a biblical perspective, there could not have been death and bloodshed of animals and man before sin, since this would destroy the foundations of the gospel. As I thought about this something really hit me between the eyes: A Christian can’t consistently accept the idea of an earth that is billions of years old (with its supposed millions of years of layers of fossils that we know contain evidence of cancer and other diseases in bones), and accept the statements concerning sin and death in the Bible. Over the years, we have certainly developed such arguments to a much more sophisticated level, but the respect I had for the authority of the Word as instilled in me by my father caused me to recognize the vital importance of this death issue.

This small booklet gave me a number of biblical arguments about why Christians can’t accept molecules-to-man evolution and the Bible’s record of origins at the same time. For example, Darwinian evolution teaches man evolved from ape-like ancestors, but the Bible teaches Adam was created from dust and Eve was created from his side. Thus, there is no way one can consistently reconcile the Genesis account of the creation of man (if one takes it at face value) with the Darwinian account. These explanations sustained me for some time.

As the years progressed, the Lord confirmed in my thinking that it was important to wait for answers, just as my father had trained me. I learned to continue in heartfelt faith, based on what God said in His Word, in spite of a lack of understanding. Passages from Job have helped me considerably in dealing with secular ideas and secular interpretations of evidence when they conflict with what the Word of God says:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding (Job 38:4).

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1–6; NKJV).

God aggressively quizzes Job through chapters 38 to 42, asking him questions about various animals and other aspects of the earth and universe that Job cannot possibly answer. “Job, were you there when I made the earth? Do you know this? What about this, Job? Do you understand that? How much do you know about this?” At the end of God’s inquisition, Job falls down in dust and ashes, basically saying, “I give up Lord — compared to You I know nothing.”

Psalm 147:5 reminds us that “Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.” It is absolutely impossible that we should understand everything . . . yet God does, and for the time being, He has given us all the answers we need for a big-picture understanding of life and the universe in His holy and perfect Bible.

My father’s words echoed the truth of the Job passages. To this day, I often remember one of the things my father taught me: If the Bible can’t be trusted in one area, how can it be trusted anywhere else? Dad clearly understood the importance of not compromising God’s Word with man’s fallible ideas . . . and he taught me to do the same. Looking back on this time, I can’t help but think of Proverbs 2:3–6:

Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding (NKJV).

So, as I prayed for answers, I held to my faith in a vacuum of scientific evidence. Still, I felt the conflict between what I thought was “science” and my faith. (I found out later that there is a big difference between “observational science” which we all agree with, and “historical science” which involves the scientist’s beliefs about the past.) I really wanted to honor God’s Word and find the answers that would validate what I believed to be true. I needed some scientific answers to sort this out; but where would I find them? While I didn’t know it at the time, God was working in a special way to provide them for me.

God heard my earnest prayers. In 1974, during my post-graduate year, I mentioned the creation/evolution issue and my dilemma to a friend. He told me about a book that had been published in America which gave lots of scientific answers concerning geology and Noah’s flood. Where would I obtain such a book? I traveled into the city of Brisbane to visit the only Christian bookstore I was aware of. It was on the second floor of an old building — not very easy to find. When I described this book on the Flood to the woman looking after the store, she immediately went and found a copy of The Genesis Flood by Morris and Whitcomb. (I still have this first major creation book that began my creation library.)

As I read the book, I found so many answers to questions about dating methods, rock layers, fossils, and many other aspects of the creation/evolution issue. I was so excited! They were answers that made sense and clearly showed that observational science confirmed the Bible’s account of creation and the Flood. (Even though some of the arguments in this book are now out of date, subsequent research built on this publication has only reinforced the overwhelming evidence that confirms the Bible’s account of history in Genesis.) My eyes were opened and I began to understand the nature of the scientific arguments concerning the origins issue for the first time. I clearly remember smiling and thinking, Once again my father’s stand on the Scripture has been vindicated — and once again God’s infallible Word has judged the pretense of the evolutionists and the compromise of liberal theologians.

Almost 30 years later, while visiting a particular tourist attraction in Brisbane, an elderly lady recognized me and approached me. As we talked, I realized that she and her husband had owned the Christian bookstore where I purchased The Genesis Flood. I explained to her that this was the first major creation book I had obtained, and that it was an integral part of my journey through life. I shared with her that the Lord used that one book to begin a creation ministry in Australia, then Answers in Genesis in the United States, and now many other parts of the world.

She became very excited and told me that her husband had had a real interest in science, the Bible, and the creation/evolution issue. He had such a burden that he made sure he had a copy of The Genesis Flood in his bookshop after he found out about it. That book was there on the shelf waiting for me to purchase it.

Soon, I took the book to my father saying, “Dad, I’ve found many answers to the creation/evolution issue! Observational science does confirm the Genesis account!” To this day, I can still picture that smile on his face as he flipped through the pages. He so loved the Word of God and was so thrilled to have adequate answers to uphold God’s Word in Genesis. If my father had compromised his stand on the Word before he had the evidence to confirm its authority, I don’t believe I would be writing this book or be involved in active ministry today. Thankfully, my father’s faith held, and he chose to act on it. In the process, he began a legacy of worldwide influence that neither of us dreamed possible — not from a no-name bunch of outback Australians at least!


In a public cemetery in the city of Brisbane, Australia, stands a particular gravestone. The marker is not outstanding in any sense; it is not in any prominent place, nor do tourists gather at this spot. Throughout the city of Brisbane there are neither statues nor memorials in memory of the man whose body rests below the marker.

As one among the thousands of other gravestones, this marker is not easy to find. Unless you were specifically looking for it, there would be no reason to even think about searching for it, or to think it should be noteworthy from all the others, but it is noteworthy to me — even more than those of Luther and Bunyan. The words on this gravestone are few and simple:

In loving memory of HAM, Mervyn Alfred

who passed into the presence of the Lord on 9th June, 1995

Aged 66 years

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”

Forever Loved

No signs, no statues, no museum. Our dad, together with our precious and godly mother, will be remembered by memorials of a different kind . . . memorials that will stand into eternity, long after the plaques and portraits of others have fallen. Mum and Dad produced six living memorials in their children, and we, in turn, are now creating a godly inheritance to leave to our children. By the grace of God it will be a godly legacy that will teach and remind people for generations to come about the authority of the Word of God and the saving mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A rag-tag bunch we are, dented and tainted by our own sin. We all have our struggles and battles with the old nature, but we praise the Lord for the godly parents to whom we were entrusted to be trained for our ministries in this world and the next.

Understanding the sovereignty of God, I know I would not be in this ministry if it wasn’t for the upbringing my parents gave me. They set the example as dedicated and humble Christians who intentionally sought to raise a godly family that would evangelize the lost in an ungodly world. The Answers in Genesis ministry is itself a memorial to my parents and the legacy they began in our lives and in our world.

Please understand that you too will leave a legacy to the generations to follow. They may not build memorials to you and it’s unlikely that they will place signs outside of the place of your birth . . . but what you leave behind will forever impact the hearts and souls of those in your family and beyond. You will leave a legacy; the only question is what kind of legacy will it be. May you recognize from this day forward one certain thing: The foundation of a legacy worth leaving is made up of a faith in God, and a trust in His Holy Word. All we have to build will either stand or fall on this foundation.

Consider this question: What will your children say about you when you die? When your days are done, what kind of legacy will live on in those you touched? Most importantly, will the Lord say “Well done, good and faithful servant”? (Matt. 25:21;NKJV).

Key thoughts from this chapter:

1. Everyone leaves a legacy. The only question is what kind of legacy it will be.

2. A godly legacy is built on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

3. A godly legacy begins with a decision, and may require waiting for answers to certain questions.

4. Leaving a legacy is a big deal. Our children, grandchildren, and the world will be eternally impacted by it.

Questions to consider:

1. Has your community been more influenced by legacies like Bunyan’s and Luther’s, or have the people around you been more influenced by legacies like the one left by Darwin?

2. What type of legacy did you inherit from your family?

3. Have you ever made a firm decision to leave a godly legacy for your family and your world? If not, please consider doing so now. Your decision will make an eternal difference.

Resources and tools:

John C. Whitcomb Jr., and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1961).

Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993).

Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2004).

Brian Edwards, Nothing but the Truth (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2006).


1. The Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678.

2. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

3. Arthur Keith, Evolution and Ethics (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1947), p. 28.

4. Daniel J. Smithwick, “Teachers, Curriculum, Control: A ‘World’ of Difference in Public and Private Schools,” Nehemiah Institute, Inc., Lexington, KY, 1999, p. 11.

5. T.C. Pinckney, “We Are Losing Our Children,” Remarks to Southern Baptists Convention Executive Committee, September 18, 2001.

George Barna, Real Teens (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2001), p. 136, states: “If we apply a ‘correction factor’ to these responses, we would estimate that about one out of three [nearly 30%] teenagers is likely to attend a Christian church after they leave home.”

Barna Research Online, “Teenagers Embrace Religion but Are Not Excited About Christianity,” January 10, 2000, www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=45&Reference=D – states: “When asked to estimate the likelihood that they will continue to participate in church life once they are living on their own, levels dip precipitously to only about one of every three teens.”

6. Barna Research Online, “The Year’s Most Intriguing Findings, from Barna Research Studies,” December 12, 2000, www.barna.org/cgibin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=77&Reference=E&Key=moral%20truth.

7. Barna Research Online, “The Year’s Most Intriguing Findings, from Barna Research Studies,’ December 12, 2000, www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=77&Reference=E&Key=divorce. “Born-again adults are more likely to experience a divorce than are non-born again adults (27% vs. 24%).”