Showing posts with label first wild card tours. Show all posts
Showing posts with label first wild card tours. Show all posts

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble

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:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 19, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Colleen Coble’s thirty-five novels and novellas have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA, the Holt Medallion, the ACFW Book of the Year, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, the Booksellers Best, and the 2009 Best Books of Indiana-Fiction award. She writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail and love begin with a happy ending. 


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Olivia seems to have it all, but her heart yearns for more.

Olivia Stewart's family is one of the Four Hundred—the highest echelon of society in 1910. When her sister dies under mysterious circumstances, Olivia leaves their New York City home for Mercy Falls, California, to determine what befell Eleanor. She suspects Harrison Bennett, the man Eleanor planned to marry. But the more Olivia gets to know him, the more she doubts his guilt—and the more she is drawn to him herself.

When several attempts are made on her life, Olivia turns to Harrison for help. He takes her on a ride in his aeroplane, but then crashes, and they’re forced to spend two days alone together. With her reputation hanging by a thread, Harrison offers to marry her to make the situation right. As a charity ball to rebuild the Mercy Falls lighthouse draws near, she realizes she wants more than a sham engagement—she wants Harrison in her life forever. But her enemy plans to shatter the happiness she is ready to grasp. If Olivia dares to drop her masquerade, she just might see the path to true happiness.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159554268X
ISBN-13: 978-1595542687

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The New York brownstone was just half a block down from the Astor mansion on Fifth Avenue, the most prestigious address in the country. The carriage, monogrammed with the Stewart emblem, rattled through the iron gates and came to a halt in front of the ornate doors. Assisted by the doorman, Olivia Stewart descended and rushed for the steps of her home. She was late for tea, and her mother would be furious. Mrs. Astor herself had agreed to join them today.

    Olivia handed her hat to the maid, who opened the door. “They’re in the drawing room, Miss Olivia,” Goldia whispered. “Your mama is ready to pace the floor.”

    Olivia patted at her hair, straightened her shoulders, and pinned a smile in place as she forced her stride to a ladylike stroll to join the other women. Two women turned to face her as she entered: her mother and Mrs. Astor. They wore identical expressions of disapproval.

    “Olivia, there you are,” her mother said. “Sit down before your tea gets cold.”

    Olivia pulled off her gloves as she settled into the Queen Anne chair beside Mrs. Astor. “I apologize for my tardiness,” she said. “A lorry filled with tomatoes overturned in the street, and my driver couldn’t get around it.”

    Mrs. Astor’s face cleared. “Of course, my dear.” She sipped her tea from the delicate blue-and-white china. “Your dear mother and I were just discussing your prospects. It’s time you married.”

    Oh dear. She’d hoped to engage in light conversation that had nothing to do with the fact that she was twenty-five and still unmarried. Her unmarried state distressed her if she let it, but every man her father brought to her wanted only her status. She doubted any of them had ever looked into her soul. “I’m honored you would care about my marital status, Mrs. Astor,” Olivia said.

    “Mrs. Astor wants to hold a ball in your honor, Olivia,” her mother gushed. “She has a distant cousin coming to town whom she wants you to meet.”

    Mrs. Astor nodded. “I believe you and Matthew would suit. He owns property just down the street.”

    Olivia didn’t mistake the reference to the man’s money. Wealth would be sure to impact her mother. She opened her mouth to ask if the man was her age, then closed it at the warning glint in her mother’s eyes.

    “He’s been widowed for fifteen years and is long overdue for a suitable wife,” Mrs. Astor said.

    Olivia barely suppressed a sigh. So he was another of the decrepit gentlemen who showed up from time to time. “You’re very kind,” she said.

    “He’s most suitable,” her mother said. “Most suitable.”

    Olivia caught the implication. They spent the next half an hour discussing the date and the location. She tried to enter into the conversation with interest, but all she could do was imagine some gray-whiskered blue blood dancing her around the ballroom. She stifled a sigh of relief when Mrs. Astor took her leave and called for her carriage.

    “I’ll be happy when you’re settled, Olivia,” her mother said when they returned to the drawing room. “Mrs. Astor is most kind.”

    “She is indeed.” Olivia pleated her skirt with her fingers. “Do you ever wish you could go somewhere incognito, Mother? Where no one has expectations of you because you are a Stewart?”

    Her mother put down her saucer with a clatter. “Whatever are you babbling about, my dear?”

    “Haven’t you noticed that people look at us differently because we’re Stewarts? How is a man ever to love me for myself when all he sees is what my name can gain him? Men never see inside to the real me. They notice only that I’m a Stewart.”

    “Have you been reading those novels again?” Her mother sniffed and narrowed her gaze on Olivia. “Marriage is about making suitable connections. You owe it to your future children to consider the life you give them. Love comes from respect. I would find it quite difficult to respect someone who didn’t have the gumption to make his way in the world. Besides, we need you to marry well. You’re twenty-five years old and I’ve indulged your romantic notions long enough. Heaven knows your sister’s marriage isn’t what I had in mind, essential though it may be. Someone has to keep the family name in good standing.”

    Olivia knew what her duty demanded, but she didn’t have to like it. “Do all the suitable men have to be in their dotage?”

    Her mother’s eyes sparked fire but before she spoke, Goldia appeared in the doorway. “Mr. Bennett is here, Mrs. Stewart.”

    Olivia straightened in her chair. “Show him in. He’ll have news of Eleanor.”

    Bennett appeared in the doorway moments later. He shouldn’t have been imposing. He stood only five-foot-three in his shoes, which were always freshly polished. He was slim, nearly gaunt, with a patrician nose and obsidian eyes. He’d always reminded Olivia of a snake about to strike. His expression never betrayed any emotion, and today was no exception. She’d never understood why her father entertained an acquaintance with the man let alone desired their families to be joined.

    “Mr. Bennett.” She rose and extended her hand and tried not to flinch as he brushed his lips across it.

    “Miss Olivia,” he said, releasing her hand. He moved to her mother’s chair and bowed over her extended hand.

    Olivia sank back into her chair. “What do you hear of my sister? I have received no answer to any of my letters.”

    He took a seat, steepled his fingers, and leaned forward. “That’s the reason for our meeting today. I fear I have bad news to impart.”

    Her pulse thumped erratically against her ribcage. She wetted her lips and drew in a deep breath. “What news of Eleanor?” How bad could it be? Eleanor had gone to marry Harrison, a man she hardly knew. But she was in love with the idea of the Wild West, and therefore more than happy to marry the son of her father’s business partner.

    He never blinked. “I shall just have to blurt it out then. I’m sorry to inform you that Eleanor is dead.”

    Her mother moaned. Olivia stared at him. “I don’t believe it,” she said.

    “I know, it’s a shock.”

    There must have been some mistake. She searched his face for some clue that this was a jest. “What happened?”

    He didn’t hold her gaze. “She drowned.”

    “How?”

    “No one knows. I’m sorry.”

    Her mother stood and swayed. “What are you saying?” Her voice rose in a shriek. “Eleanor can’t be dead! Are you quite mad?”

    He stood and took her arm. “I suggest you lie down, Mrs. Stewart. You’re quite pale.”

    Her mother put her hands to her cheeks. “Tell me it isn’t true,” she begged. Then she keeled over in a dead faint. 

#
    Harrison Bennett tugged on his tie, glanced at his shoes to make sure no speck of dirt marred their perfection, then disembarked from his motorcar in front of the mansion. The cab had rolled up Nob Hill much too quickly for him to gather his courage to face the party. Electric lights pushed back the darkness from the curving brick driveway to the porch with its impressive white pillars. Doormen flanked the double doors at the entry. Through the large windows, he saw the ballroom. Ladies in luxurious gowns and gentlemen in tuxedos danced under glittering chandeliers, and their laughter tinkled on the wind.

    His valet, Eugene, exited behind him. “I’ll wait in the kitchen, sir.”

    Harrison adjusted his hat and strode with all the confidence he could muster to the front door. “Mr. Harrison Bennett,” he said to the doorman.

    The man scanned the paper in his hand. “Welcome, Mr. Bennett. Mr. Rothschild is in the ballroom.”

    Harrison thanked him and stepped into the opulent hall papered in gold foil. He went in the direction of the voices with a sense of purpose. This night could change his future. He glanced around the enormous ballroom, and he recognized no one among the glittering gowns and expensive suits. In subtle ways, these nobs would try to keep him in his place. It would take all his gumption not to let them. It was a miracle he’d received an invitation. Only the very wealthy or titled were invited to the Rothschilds’ annual ball in San Francisco. Harrison was determined to do whatever was necessary to secure the contract inside his coat pocket.

    A young woman in an evening gown fluttered her lashes at him over the top of her fan. When she lowered it, she approached with a coaxing smile on her lips. “Mr. Bennett, I’d hoped to see you here tonight.”

    He struggled to remember her name. Miss Kessler. She’d made her interest in him known at Eleanor’s funeral. Hardly a suitable time. He took her gloved hand and bowed over it. “Miss Kessler. I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

    “I came when I heard you were on the guest list.”

    He ignored her brazen remark. “It’s good to see you again. I have some business to attend to. Perhaps later?”

    Her eyes darkened and she withdrew her hand. “I shall watch for you,” she said.

    And he’d do the same, with the intent to avoid her. “If you’ll excuse me.” He didn’t wait for an answer but strolled through the crowd. He finally spied his host standing in front of a marble fireplace. A flame danced in the eight-foot hearth. Harrison stepped through the crowd to join the four men clustered around the wealthy Rothschild.

    The man closest to Harrison was in his fifties and had a curling mustache. “They’ll never get that amendment ratified,” he said. “An income tax! It’s quite ridiculous to expect us to pay something so outrageous.”

    A younger man in a gray suit shook his head. “If it means better roads, I’ll gladly write them a check. The potholes outside of town ruined my front axels.”

    “We can take care of our own roads,” Rothschild said. “I have no need of the government in my affairs. At least until we’re all using flying machines.” He snickered, then glanced at Harrison. “You look familiar, young man. Have we met?”

    Flying machines. Maybe this meeting was something God had arranged. Harrison thrust out his hand. “Harrison Bennett.”

    “Claude’s son?”’

    Was that distaste in the twist of Rothschild’s mouth? Harrison put confidence into his grip. “Yes, sir.”

    “How is your father?”

    “Quite well. He’s back in New York by now.”

    “I heard about your fiancĂ©e’s death. I’m sorry for your loss.”

    Harrison managed not to wince. “Thank you.” He pushed away his memories of that terrible day, the day he’d seen Eleanor Stewart for what she really was.

    “Your father was most insistent I meet you. He seems to think you have a business proposition I might be interested in.”

    Harrison smiled and began to tell the men of the new diamond mines that Bennett and Bennett had found in Africa. A mere week after Mr. Stewart’s passing, Mr. Bennett had renamed the venture to include Harrison. An hour later, he had appointments set up with three of the men as possible investors. His father would be pleased.

    Harrison smiled and retraced his steps to toward the front door but was waylaid by four women in brightly colored silk. They swooped around him, and Miss Kessler took him by the hand and led him to a quiet corner.

    “Let’s not talk about anything boring like work,” she said, her blue eyes sparkling. “Tell me what you love to do most.”

    He glanced at the other women clustered around. “I’m building an aeroplane. I’d like to have it in the air by the time Earth passes through the tail of Halley’s Comet.”

    She gasped. “Do you have a death wish, Mr. Bennett? You would be breathing the poisonous fumes directly. No one even knows if the Earth will survive this.”

    He’d heard this before. “The scientists I’ve discussed this with believe we shall be just fine,” Harrison said.

    “I assume you’ve purchased comet pills?” the blonde closest to him said.

    “I have no fear.”

    The brunette in red silk smiled. “If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings. Or so I’ve heard the minister say.”

    He finally placed the brunette. Her uncle was Rothschild. No wonder she had such contempt for Harrison’s tone. All the nobs cared for were trains and ships. “It’s just a matter of perfecting the machine,” Harrison said. “Someday aeroplanes will be the main mode of transcontinental transportation.”

    The brunette laughed. “Transcontinental? My uncle would call it balderdash.”

    He glanced at his pocket watch without replying. “I fear I must leave you lovely ladies. Thank you for the conversation.”

    He found Eugene in the kitchen and beckoned to his valet.

    Eugene put down his coffee cup and followed. “You didn’t stay long, sir,” he said. “Is everything all right?”

    Harrison stalked out the door and toward the car. “Are there no visionaries left in the country?”

    Eugene followed a step behind. “You spoke of your flying machine?”

    “The world is changing, Eugene, right under their noses—and they don’t see it.”

    Eugene opened the door for Harrison. “You will show them the future, sir.”

    He set his jaw. “I shall indeed.”

    “I have a small savings set aside, Mr. Bennett. I’d like to invest in your company. With your permission, of course.”

    Eugene’s trust bolstered Harrison’s determination. “I’d be honored to partner with you, Eugene. We are going to change the world.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In Grandma's Attic.. Series by Arleta Richardson

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:

David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Arleta Richardson grew up in a Chicago hotel under her grandmother’s care. As they sat overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, her grandmother shared memories of her childhood on a Michigan farm. These treasured family stories became the basis for the Grandma’s Attic Series.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Remember when you were a child, when the entire world was new, and the smallest object a thing of wonder? Arleta Richardson remembered: the funny wearable wire contraption hidden in the dusty attic, the century-old schoolchild’s slate that belonged to Grandma, an ancient trunk filled with quilt pieces—each with its own special story—and the button basket, a miracle of mysteries. But best of all she remembered her remarkable grandmother who made magic of all she touched, bringing the past alive as only a born storyteller could.

So step inside the attic of Richardson’s grandmother. These stories will keep you laughing while teaching you valuable lessons. These marvelous tales faithfully recalled for the delight of young and old alike are a touchstone to another day when life was simpler, perhaps richer, and when the treasures of family life and love were passed from generation to generation by a child’s questions and the legends that followed enlarged our faith. These timeless stories were originally released in 1974 and then revised in 1999. They are being re-released with new artwork that will appeal to a new generation of girls.


Product Details:

In Grandma's Attic:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403790
ISBN-13: 978-0781403795

More Stories from Grandma's Attic:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 3 edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780781403801
ISBN-13: 978-0781403801
ASIN: 0781403804

MY REVIEW:
As with all books for children, I gave this one to my daughter to review as well, and she really enjoyed it. Sometimes I have a hard time finding good books for my 10 year old, so it was nice to find something I was comfortable giving her to read- that she wants to read! I think that can be the biggest challenge for parents- finding something the kids enjoy, but isn't inappropriate. The stories in these books were entertaining, and provided an interesting insight into the past. It's neat to be able to give kids glimpses into a time when they didn't have cell phones, computers, and cable TV to keep them occupied.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

In Grandma’s Attic – Chapter 1


Pride Goes Before a Fall

“Grandma, what is this?”


Grandma looked up from her work. “Good lands, child, where did you find that?”


“In the attic,” I replied. “What is it, Grandma?”


Grandma chuckled and answered, “That’s a hoop. The kind that ladies wore under their skirts when I was a little girl.”


“Did you ever wear one, Grandma?” I asked.


Grandma laughed. “Indeed I did,” she said. “In fact, I wore that very one.”


Here, I decided, must be a story. I pulled up the footstool and prepared to listen. Grandma looked at the old hoop fondly.


“I only wore it once,” she began. “But I kept it to remind me how painful pride can be.”


I was about eight years old when that hoop came into my life. For months I had been begging Ma to let me have a hoopskirt like the big girls wore. Of course that was out of the question. What would a little girl, not even out of calicoes, be doing with a hoopskirt? Nevertheless, I could envision myself walking haughtily to school with the hoopskirt and all the girls watching enviously as I took my seat in the front of the room.


This dream was shared by my best friend and seatmate, Sarah Jane. Together we spent many hours picturing ourselves as fashionable young ladies in ruffles and petticoats. But try as we would, we could not come up with a single plan for getting a hoopskirt of our very own.


Finally, one day in early spring, Sarah Jane met me at the school grounds with exciting news. An older cousin had come to their house to visit, and she had two old hoops that she didn’t want any longer. Sarah Jane and I could have them to play with, she said. Play with, indeed! Little did that cousin know that we didn’t want to play with them. Here was the answer to our dreams. All day, under cover of our books, Sarah Jane and I planned how we would wear those hoops to church on Sunday.


There was a small problem: How would I get that hoop into the house without Ma knowing about it? And how could either of us get out of the house with them on without anyone seeing us? It was finally decided that I would stop by Sarah Jane’s house on Sunday morning. We would have some excuse for walking to church, and after her family had left, we would put on our hoops and prepare to make a grand entrance at the church.


“Be sure to wear your fullest skirt,” Sarah Jane reminded me. “And be here early. They’re all sure to look at us this Sunday!”


If we had only known how true that would be! But of course, we were happily unaware of the disaster that lay ahead.


Sunday morning came at last, and I astonished my family by the speed with which I finished my chores and was ready to leave for church.


“I’m going with Sarah Jane this morning,” I announced, and set out quickly before anyone could protest.


All went according to plan. Sarah Jane’s family went on in the buggy, cautioning us to hurry and not be late for service. We did have a bit of trouble fastening the hoops around our waists and getting our skirts pulled down to cover them. But when we were finally ready, we agreed that there could not be two finer-looking young ladies in the county than us.


Quickly we set out for church, our hoopskirts swinging as we walked. Everyone had gone in when we arrived, so we were assured the grand entry we desired. Proudly, with small noses tipped up, we sauntered to the front of the church and took our seats.


Alas! No one had ever told us the hazards of sitting down in a hoopskirt without careful practice! The gasps we heard were not of admiration as we had anticipated—far from it! For when we sat down, those dreadful hoops flew straight up in the air! Our skirts covered our faces, and the startled minister was treated to the sight of two pairs of white pantalets and flying petticoats.


Sarah Jane and I were too startled to know how to disentangle ourselves, but our mothers were not. Ma quickly snatched me from the seat and marched me out the door.


The trip home was a silent one. My dread grew with each step. What terrible punishment would I receive at the hands of an embarrassed and upset parent? Although I didn’t dare look at her, I knew she was upset because she was shaking. It was to be many years before I learned that Ma was shaking from laughter, and not from anger!


Nevertheless, punishment was in order. My Sunday afternoon was spent with the big Bible and Pa’s concordance. My task was to copy each verse I could find that had to do with being proud. That day I was a sorry little girl who learned a lesson about pride going before a fall.


“And you were never proud again, Grandma?” I asked after she finished the story.


Grandma thought soberly for a moment. “Yes,” she replied. “I was proud again. Many times. It was not until I was a young lady and the Lord saved me that I had the pride taken from my heart. But many times when I am tempted to be proud, I remember that horrid hoopskirt and decide that a proud heart is an abomination to the Lord!”


***************************************

More Stories From Grandma’s Attic

Chapter 1


The Nuisance in Ma’s Kitchen

When Grandma called from the backyard, I knew I was in for it. She was using her would-you-look-at-this voice, which usually meant I was responsible for something.


“What, Grandma?” I asked once I reached the spot where she was hanging up the washing.


“Would you look at this?” she asked. “I just went into the kitchen for more clothespins and came back out to find this.”


I looked where she was pointing. One of my kittens had crawled into the clothes basket and lay sound asleep on a clean sheet.


“If you’re going to have kittens around the house, you’ll have to keep an eye on them. Otherwise leave them in the barn where they belong. It’s hard enough to wash sheets once without doing them over again.”


Grandma headed toward the house with the soiled sheet, and I took the kitten back to the barn. But I didn’t agree that it belonged there. I would much rather have had the whole family of kittens in the house with me. Later I mentioned this to Grandma.


“I know,” she said. “I felt the same way when I was your age. If it had been up to me, I would have moved every animal on the place into the house every time it rained or snowed.”


“Didn’t your folks let any pets in the house?” I asked.


“Most of our animals weren’t pets,” Grandma admitted. “But there were a few times when they were allowed in. If an animal needed special care, it stayed in the kitchen. I really enjoyed those times, especially if it was one I could help with.”


“Tell me about one,” I said, encouraging her to tell me another story about her childhood.


“I remember one cold spring,” she began, “when Pa came in from the barn carrying a tiny goat.”


“I’m not sure we can save this one.” Pa held the baby goat up for us to see. “The nanny had twins last night, and she’ll only let one come near her. I’m afraid this one’s almost gone.”


Ma agreed and hurried to find an old blanket and a box for a bed. She opened the oven door, put the box on it, and gently took the little goat and laid it on the blanket. It didn’t move at all. It just lay there, barely breathing.


“Oh, Ma,” I said. “Do you think it will live? Shouldn’t we give it something to eat?”


“It’s too weak to eat right now,” Ma replied. “Let it rest and get warm. Then we’ll try to feed it.”


Fortunately it was Saturday, and I didn’t have to go to school. I sat on the floor next to the oven and watched the goat. Sometimes it seemed as though it had stopped breathing, and I would call Ma to look.


“It’s still alive,” she assured me. “It just isn’t strong enough to move yet. You wait there and watch if you want to, but don’t call me again unless it opens its eyes.”


When Pa and my brothers came in for dinner, Reuben stopped and looked down at the tiny animal. “Doesn’t look like much, does it?”


I burst into tears. “It does so!” I howled. “It looks just fine! Ma says it’s going to open its eyes. Don’t discourage it!”


Reuben backed off in surprise, and Pa came over to comfort me. “Now, Reuben wasn’t trying to harm that goat. He just meant that it doesn’t … look like a whole lot.”


I started to cry again, and Ma tried to soothe me. “Crying isn’t going to help that goat one bit,” she said. “When it gets stronger, it will want something to eat. I’ll put some milk on to heat while we have dinner.”


I couldn’t leave my post long enough to go to the table, so Ma let me hold my plate in my lap. I ate dinner watching the goat. Suddenly it quivered and opened its mouth. “It’s moving, Ma!” I shouted. “You’d better bring the milk!”


Ma soaked a rag in the milk, and I held it while the little goat sucked it greedily. By the time it had fallen asleep again, I was convinced that it would be just fine.


And it was! By evening the little goat was standing on its wobbly legs and began to baa loudly for more to eat. “Pa, maybe you’d better bring its box into my room,” I suggested at bedtime.


“Whatever for?” Pa asked. “It will keep warm right here by the stove. We’ll look after it during the night. Don’t worry.”


“And we aren’t bringing your bed out here,” Ma added, anticipating my next suggestion. “You’ll have enough to do, watching that goat during the day.”


Of course Ma was right. As the goat got stronger, he began to look for things to do. At first he was content to grab anything within reach and pull it. Dish towels, apron strings, and tablecloth corners all fascinated him. I kept busy trying to move things out of his way.


From the beginning the little goat took a special liking to Ma, but she was not flattered. “I can’t move six inches in this kitchen without stumbling over that animal,” she sputtered. “He can be sound asleep in his box one minute and sitting on my feet the next. I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate him in here.”


As it turned out, it wasn’t much longer. The next Monday, Ma prepared to do the washing in the washtub Pa had placed on two chairs near the woodpile. Ma always soaked the clothes in cold water first, then transferred them to the boiler on the stove.


I was in my room when I heard her shouting, “Now you put that down! Come back here!”


I ran to the kitchen door and watched as the goat circled the table with one of Pa’s shirts in his mouth. Ma was right behind him, but he managed to stay a few feet ahead of her.


“Step on the shirt, Ma!” I shouted as I ran into the room. “Then he’ll have to stop!”


I started around the table the other way, hoping to head him off. But the goat seemed to realize that he was outnumbered, for he suddenly turned and ran toward the chairs that held the washtub.


“Oh, no!” Ma cried. “Not that way!”


But it was too late! Tub, water, and clothes splashed to the floor. The goat danced stiff-legged through the soggy mess with a surprised look on his face.


“That’s enough!” Ma said. “I’ve had all I need of that goat. Take him out and tie him in the yard, Mabel. Then bring me the mop, please.”


I knew better than to say anything, but I was worried about what would happen to the goat. If he couldn’t come back in the kitchen, where would he sleep?


Pa had the answer to that. “He’ll go to the barn tonight.”


“But, Pa,” I protested, “he’s too little to sleep in the barn. Besides, he’ll think we don’t like him anymore!”


“He’ll think right,” Ma said. “He’s a menace, and he’s not staying in my kitchen another day.”


“But I like him,” I replied. “I feel sorry for him out there alone. If he has to sleep in the barn, let me go out and sleep with him!”


My two brothers looked at me in amazement.


“You?” Roy exclaimed. “You won’t even walk past the barn after dark, let alone go in!”


Everyone knew he was right. I had never been very brave about going outside after dark. But I was more concerned about the little goat than I was about myself.


“I don’t care,” I said stubbornly. “He’ll be scared out there, and he’s littler than I am.”


Ma didn’t say anything, probably because she thought I’d change my mind before dark. But I didn’t. When Pa started for the barn that evening, I was ready to go with him. Ma saw that I was determined, so she brought me a blanket.


“You’d better wrap up in this,” she said. “The hay is warm, but it’s pretty scratchy.”


I took the blanket and followed Pa and the goat out to the barn. The more I thought about the long, dark night, the less it seemed like a good idea, but I wasn’t going to give in or admit that I was afraid.


Pa found a good place for me to sleep. “This is nice and soft and out of the draft. You’ll be fine here.”


I rolled up in the blanket, hugging the goat close to me as I watched Pa check the animals. The light from the lantern cast long, scary shadows through the barn, and I thought about asking Pa if he would stay with me. I knew better, though, and all too soon he was ready to leave.


“Good night, Mabel. Sleep well,” he said as he closed the barn door behind him. I doubted that I would sleep at all. If it hadn’t been for the goat and my brothers who would laugh at me, I would have returned to the house at once. Instead I closed my eyes tightly and began to say my prayers. In a few moments the barn door opened, and Reuben’s voice called to me.


“Mabel,” he said, “it’s just me.” He came over to where I lay, and I saw that he had a blanket under his arm. “I thought I’d sleep out here tonight too. I haven’t slept in the barn for a long time. You don’t mind, do you?”


“Oh, no. That’s fine.” I turned over and fell asleep at once.


When I awoke in the morning, the goat and Reuben were both gone. Soon I found the goat curled up by his mother.


“Will you be sleeping in the barn again tonight?” Ma asked me at breakfast.


“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “I’ll take care of the goat during the day, but I guess his mother can watch him at night.”


Grandma laughed at the memory. “After I grew up, I told Reuben how grateful I was that he came out to stay with me. I wonder how my family ever put up with all my foolishness.”


Grandma went back into the house, and I wandered out to the barn to see the little kittens. I decided I wouldn’t be brave enough to spend the night there even if I had a big brother to keep me company!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That's When I Talk to God by Dan and Ali Morrow and Illustrated by Cory Godbey

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 authors are:


and the book:

David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Dan and Ali Morrow are parents of two wonderful daughters. When they’re not writing children’s books, they like to go on adventures around their Colorado home. They are the authors of That’s Where God Is (2010), their first children’s release.

Visit the authors' website.


ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:


Cory Godbey illustrates, animates, and writes for Portland Studios, a creative firm dedicated to telling great stories and pursuing excellence in art.

He has contributed to projects such as Zune Arts, Flight graphic novel anthologies, and has worked with many major publishers.

Recently, Cory was accepted in the acclaimed Society of Illustrators Annual.

Cory seeks to tell stories with his work.

He also likes drawing monsters.

Visit the illustrator'swebsite.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Targeted to children four to eight, That’s When I Talk to God mirrors the day of the typical child, creating an opportunity for readers to put the practices in the story to use in their own lives. Through beautiful illustrations and an engaging, familiar character, readers can relate to That’s When I Talk to God. Children will learn to go to God with their fears, their joys, their questions, and their desires. They will also learn the hows, whens, and whys of praying to the Lord in a way they can easily apply to their own experiences. And adults will be reminded to communicate the benefit, simplicity, and beauty of prayer.



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 36 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434700186
ISBN-13: 978-1434700186


MY REVIEW:
I had the opportunity to read this to my 6yo and her 6yo friend. It was fun seeing how the two little girls got into the story and enjoyed being read to. This was definitely not a book they would have been able to read on their own, but I'm glad for it, because it gives time for mom (or dad) and kiddos to interact. The girls really enjoyed the book, and it was so much fun being able to read together.

Oh, and a cute story to go along with this... my kids and I had met Ali and her kids once, and when I reminded my daughter that she'd met the lady who wrote the book, her eyes got wide, and she said, "wow! That nice lady can really write! Her kids are so lucky!" And I think, for moms who read this book, their kids will be lucky too.


AND NOW...THE FIRST FEW PAGES (Click on the pictures to enlarge them!):







Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

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:

Thomas Nelson (March 29, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too! 


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Wade's ranch home needs a woman's touch. Abigail's life needs a cowboy's touch.

Four years ago, rodeo celebrity Wade Ryan gave up his identity to protect his daughter. Now, settled on a ranch in Big Sky Country, he lives in obscurity, his heart guarded by a high, thick fence.

Abigail Jones isn’t sure how she went from big-city columnist to small-town nanny, but her new charge is growing on her, to say nothing of her ruggedly handsome boss. Love blossoms between Abigail and Wade--despite her better judgment. Will the secrets she brought with her to Moose Creek, Montana separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 29, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548017
ISBN-13: 978-1595548016

MY REVIEW:

Well... for those of you who haven't heard my rants on the topic, let's just begin by reiterating the fact that I. HATE. COWBOYS. They stink. Maybe some people like the smell of horse, but it's really not my thing. However, as some of you know, my husband's midlife crisis is that he's always wanted to be a cowboy, and so yes, he is turning into everything I did not want in a man. Namely, a cowboy.

What does this have to do with Denise's book? Well... I'm trying to embrace the cowboy thing. I'm trying to like cowboys. And I'm trying to read cowboy books to help ease that transition. Since I like Denise's books, I thought I'd give this one a try. And I have to say, I liked it. I liked watching Abigail adapt to the new lifestyle, and I liked watching her struggle with her decisions and falling in love with Wade. It was a great story. The whole cowboy thing didn't bother me a bit.

So... if you like cowboys, you'll like this book. If you hate cowboys, you'll probably still like this book. (Now to convince myself that my world is not ending because my husband is turning into one.)

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Abigail Jones knew the truth. She frowned at the blinking curser on her monitor and tapped her fingers on the keyboard-what next?


Beyond the screen's glow, darkness washed the cubicles. Her computer hummed, and outside the office windows a screech of tires broke the relative stillness ofthe Chicago night.


She shuffled her note cards. The story had been long in coming, but it was finished now, all except the telling. She knew where she wanted to take it next.


Her fingers stirred into motion, dancing across the keys. This was her favorite part, exposingtruth to the world. Well, okay, not the world exactly, not with Viewpoint's paltry circulation. But now, during the writing, it felt like the world.


Four paragraphs later, the office had shrunk away, and all that existed were the words on the monitor and her memory playing in full color on the screen of her mind.


Something dropped onto her desk with a sudden thud. Abigail’s hand flew to her heart, and her chair darted from her desk. She looked up at her boss’s frowning face, then shared a frown of her own. “You scared me.”


“And you’re scaring me. It’s after midnight, Abigail—what are you doing here?” Marilyn Jones’s hand settled on her hip.


The blast of adrenaline settled into Abigail’s bloodstream, though her heart was still in overdrive. “Being an ambitious staffer?”


“You mean an obsessive workaholic.” 


“Something wrong with that?”


“What’s wrong is my twenty-eight-year-old daughter is working all hours on a Saturday night instead of dating an eligible bachelor like all the other single women her age.” Her mom tossed her head, but her short brown hair hardly budged. “You could’ve at least gone out with your sister and me. We had a good time.”


“I’m down to the wire.”


“You’ve been here every night for two weeks.” Her mother rolled up a chair and sank into it. “Your father always thought you’d be a schoolteacher, did I ever tell you that?”


“About a million times.” Abigail settled into the chair, rubbed the ache in her temple. Her heart was still recovering, but she wanted to return to her column. She was just getting to the good part.


“You had a doctor’s appointment yesterday,” Mom said. Abigail sighed hard. 


“Whatever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?”


“Goes out the window when the doctor is your sister. Come on, Abigail, this is your health. Reagan prescribed rest—R-E-S-T—and yet here you are.”


“A couple more days and the story will be put to bed.”


“And then there’ll be another story.”


“That’s what I do, Mother.”


“You’ve had a headache for weeks, and the fact that you made an appointment with your sister is proof you’re not feeling well.”


Abigail pulled her hand from her temple. “I’m fine.”


“That’s what your father said the week before he collapsed.”


Compassion and frustration warred inside Abigail. “He was sixty-two.” And his pork habit hadn’t helped matters. Thin didn’t necessarily mean healthy. She skimmed her own long legs, encased in her favorite jeans . . . exhibit A.


“I’ve been thinking you should go visit your great-aunt.” Abigail already had a story in the works, but maybe her mom had a lead on something else. “New York sounds interesting. What’s the assignment?”


“Rest and relaxation. And I’m not talking about your Aunt Eloise—as if you’d get any rest there—I’m talking about your Aunt Lucy.” 


Abigail’s spirits dropped to the basement. “Aunt Lucy lives in Montana.” Where cattle outnumbered people. She felt for the familiar ring on her right hand and began twisting.


“She seems a bit . . . confused lately.”


Abigail recalled the birthday gifts her great-aunt had sent over the years, and her lips twitched. “Aunt Lucy has always been confused.”


“Someone needs to check on her. Her latest letter was full of comments about some girls who live with her, when I know perfectly well she lives alone. I think it may be time for assisted living or a retirement community.”


Abigail’s eyes flashed to the screen. A series of nonsensical letters showed where she’d stopped in alarm at her mother’s appearance. She hit the delete button. “Let’s invite her to Chicago for a few weeks.” 


“She needs to be observed in her own surroundings. Besides, that woman hasn’t set foot on a plane since Uncle Murray passed, and I sure wouldn’t trust her to travel across the country alone. You know what happened when she came out for your father’s funeral.”


“Dad always said she had a bad sense of direction.”


“Nevertheless, I don’t have time to hunt her down in Canada again. Now, come on, Abigail, it makes perfect sense for you to go. You need a break, and Aunt Lucy was your father’s favorite relative. It’s our job to look after her now, and if she’s incapable of making coherent decisions, we need to help her.”


Abigail’s conscience tweaked her. She had a soft spot for Aunt Lucy, and her mom knew it. Still, that identity theft story called her name, and she had a reliable source who might or might not be willing to talk in a couple weeks.


“Reagan should do it. I’ll need the full month for my column, and we can’t afford to scrap it. Distribution is down enough as it is. Just last month you were concerned—”


Her mother stood abruptly, the chair reeling backward into the aisle. She walked as far as the next cubicle, then turned. “Hypertension is nothing to mess with, Abigail. You’re so . . . rest- less. You need a break—a chance to find some peace in your life.” She cleared her throat, then her face took on that I’ve-made-up- my-mind look. “Whether you go to your aunt’s or not, I’m insisting you take a leave of absence.”


There was no point arguing once her mother took that tone. She could always do research online—and she wouldn’t mind visiting a part of the country she’d never seen. “Fine. I’ll finish this story, then go out to Montana for a week or so.”


“Finish the story, yes. But your leave of absence will last three months.”


“Three months!”



“It may take that long to make a decision about Aunt Lucy.”


“What about my apartment?”


“Reagan will look after it. You’re hardly there anyway. You need a break, and Moose Creek is the perfect place.”


Moose Creek. “I’ll say. Sounds like nothing more than a traffic signal with a gas pump on the corner.”


“Don’t be silly. Moose Creek has no traffic signal. Abigail, you have become wholly obsessed with—”


“So I’m a hard worker . . .” She lifted her shoulders.


Her mom’s lips compressed into a hard line. “Wholly obsessed with your job. Look, you know I admire hard work, but it feels like you’re always chasing something and never quite catching it. I want you to find some contentment, for your health if nothing else. There’s more to life than investigative reporting.”


“I’m the Truthseeker, Mom. That’s who I am.” Her fist found home over her heart.


Her mother shouldered her purse, then zipped her light sweater, her movements irritatingly slow. She tugged down the ribbed hem and smoothed the material of her pants. “Three months, Abigail. Not a day less.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities That Surround Us by Anthony DeStefano

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:

Doubleday Religion (March 15, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Anthony DeStefano, a best-selling author and businessman, was raised in New York City where he attended Stuyvesant High School. He graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University in Staten Island with a degree in Philosophy/Theology and went on to start a successful chain of electronics retail stores in New York. At the same time, he also began his writing career, writing a regular op-ed column for the Staten Island Advance.

While his business success grew, so did his love and skill for writing. In 2003, DeStefano’s first book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, was published. First released by Doubleday, the book became a bestseller and went on to be published in 16 languages and released by Random House Audio, Transworld Publishers in the United Kingdom, as well as major publishing houses in Europe, Asia, and South America. Four years later, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To was published by Doubleday, and, in 2010, This Little Prayer of Mine and Little Star, DeStefano’s highly acclaimed children’s books, were published by WaterBrook Multnomah.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The mystery of a spiritual world has intrigued us for ages. Is there a reality that exists beyond the senses? And can an invisible spiritual world actually become visible? Best-selling author Anthony DeStefano answers yes with certainty. The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities That Surround Us explores the existence and meaning of this unseen, yet very real world.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Religion (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385522231
ISBN-13: 978-0385522236



MY REVIEW:
I thought this was a really interesting book. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of the invisible world and the various powers at work. I definitely believe in the invisible workings that he talks about and really appreciated the reminders that we do need to be aware that there is a lot more going on in the spiritual realm than we're aware of. However, I took issue with some things, like having our own personal angels and the idea of what Heaven and Judgment will look like. Mostly because he didn't really give any reason other than saying "this is so" and I would have been better persuaded by evidence of some sort. Where did he get those ideas? What place in Scripture does it say that?

I'm not saying this is a bad book- I enjoyed it very much. But I do think there are places that don't seem to have evidence to support what he's saying. So I think those are areas where you have to say, "huh, that's a nice idea," and move on. And, it's a great opportunity to take those questions and evaluate them in conversation with God.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. It was an interesting read, and it gave me some good things to think about.
 
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Haunt Detector

Everybody has one. The Reverend Frank Pavone used to call it the Haunt Detector. What is it?


Very simply, it’s the little alarm that goes off in our heads whenever we detect that something mysterious or supernatural has occurred. Science fiction and horror writers have referred

to it by other names— the sixth sense, the shining. But for some reason, I’ve always liked “haunt detector” best.


We actually have all kinds of “detecting”  mechanisms built into our nervous systems. They don’t have fancy scientific names, but they exist nonetheless. For instance, we all have “lie detectors.” When someone who’s not very slick tries to scam us, we’re usually able to tell just from their body language and their voice. We all have “love detectors.” We can just feel it in our bones when someone has deep feelings of attachment for us—or when they don’t. We all have “right and wrong” detectors—better known as consciences. When we do something not quite right, we know it because we feel an unmistakable pang of guilt. And, of course, we all have “sex detectors,” which let us know pretty quickly when we’re physically attracted to another person.


Well, we all have “haunt detectors,”  too. And they let us know whenever something especially eerie or out of the ordinary is happening around us. You know the kind of thing. You could be

sitting around relaxing one day at home, and for no special reason you start thinking about someone. Maybe you haven’t thought about this particular person in years. Then the phone

rings; you pick it up, and, amazingly, it’s that person! Many of us have experienced this phenomenon. What is it?


I’ll never forget something that happened to my mother many years ago. It was the middle of the night and she was sleeping soundly. Suddenly she woke up and bolted upright in bed. She had heard the sound of her own mother’s voice calling out to her in a thick Italian accent: “Laura, Laura, help me.” My mother was startled and her heart was racing; she had clearly heard her name spoken. But it couldn’t be her mother calling; she lived on the other side of Brooklyn, and it was so late. My mother thought that perhaps it was just a bad dream so she went back to sleep. But the next morning she received a phone call from the hospital. Her mother had gotten up to go to the bathroom during the night and had fallen. She was in the hospital with a broken hip. For hours she had been on the floor, moaning for help. How in the world did my mother hear her?

Was it just a coincidence?


Then there are stories that are totally unexplainable. I read a newspaper account a few years ago about a four-year-old girl in upstate New York who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The whole community had been praying fervently for her. All the churches in the neighborhood—Lutheran, Evangelical, Catholic—were all united in prayer that a miracle would take place. The little girl had been through so much: she’d had more than twenty MRIs, and it was decided that the only remaining course of action was brain surgery. She wasn’t even expected to make it through the operation, but it was the only chance she had. The day of the surgery her head was shaved, her blood was taken, she was hooked up to all kinds of machines, and the team of doctors scrubbed and put on their surgical gowns. One final MRI had to be done to determine the exact location of the tumor. Just before the child was wheeled into the testing room, a sweet, pretty young nurse came in and took her hand. She told the little girl not to worry because she was “all better,” that God had “cured” her and that she would be going home soon. The little girl later said that the nurse was so nice to her and so “beautiful” that she felt all warm and peaceful inside.


When the MRI was taken, the lab technicians gasped in disbelief. No matter how hard they searched, they couldn’t locate the tumor. They took more tests, but the results were the same. The tumor was gone. No surgery was performed that day—or any day—because there was nothing to operate on. The little girl was completely healed. What happened? And who was the mysterious woman who came in and told the girl she was cured? None of the other nurses could identify her and no one ever saw her again. Was she an angel, as some in the little girl’s family believed? No one knows for sure. But everyone, from the doctors to the lab technicians to the parents to the people in the community, was aware that something incredible had taken place. Everyone’s haunt detectors went off at once.


Of course, not all mysterious experiences are as strange as this. A person’s haunt detector can begin registering at any time. You can be listening to a powerful piece of music or watching a spectacular sunset; reading a particularly moving piece of literature or worshipping at church. You can be embracing the person you love most in the world or sitting in your home, cozy and warm by the fire. Or you can just be walking down the street thinking about all the things in your life that have brought you to where you are. You can be doing any of these things, and out of nowhere a tingle will suddenly run up your spine, telling you that something more is going on than meets the eye. Something that transcends understanding.


What is it? No one really knows. But it invariably triggers a feeling deep in your soul— a feeling of desire, of yearning, of hope; hope that there is something special about life; that there is some hidden meaning and purpose to all the suffering we have to go through; that there is something beyond science, beyond the senses—something totally invisible yet totally real. In Latin, the experience is called mysterium tremendum et fascinans. And our haunt detectors can sense it.


Of course, we have to be careful when trying to discern the meaning of such feelings and phenomena. Spiritual people are sometimes too quick to attribute the cause of strange occurrences to God; they’re too hasty in coming to the conclusion that just because something seems unexplainable it must have a divine or supernatural origin. That simply isn’t the case. Many amazing things that happen in this world aren’t “miraculous” at all. It’s a fact, for example, that human beings have all kinds of natural abilities that are untapped; abilities that are only now being identified and studied by science. We’ve all heard about mothers and fathers who display superhuman strength when trying to rescue their children from harm. We’ve all seen examples of people with severe learning disabilities who are able to sit down at a piano without any formal training and play the most complicated pieces of classical music. The human brain is

an incredible organ and has many powers that still aren’t fully understood. Because of this, it’s extremely difficult for us to tell what’s natural, what’s supernatural, what’s legitimately from

God, what’s from the devil, and what’s just plain old human imagination. Practically everything that happens in life is subject to misinterpretation. That’s why it’s so dangerous to become fixated on the supernatural. Too often it leads to superstition or belief in the occult or false spirituality or even—in extreme cases—insanity.



We just can’t afford to make blind assumptions. We have to seek the expert guidance of doctors, psychologists, scientists, theologians, and church leaders. But neither can we dismiss all these remarkable experiences as mere fantasy. And that’s what many people do today. Not only do they reject what’s fanciful and frivolous— they reject everything. They throw the baby out

with the bathwater. They claim that there is no reality other than the reality of the senses, the reality of the material world. In many ways this is an even greater mistake. After all, it’s one

thing to be cautious and discerning when it comes to spiritual matters; it’s quite another to deny the existence of the spiritual realm altogether.


If we do that, we risk falling into what has been called the “superstition of materialism,” the myth that this world is made up of physical objects and nothing else; that everything in life—our thoughts, our emotions, our hopes, our ambitions, our passions, our memories, our philosophies, our politics, our beliefs in God and salvation and damnation—that all of this is purely the result of biochemical reactions and the movement of molecules in our brain. What nonsense!


We can’t reduce the whole of reality to what our senses tell us for the simple reason that our senses are notorious for lying to us. Our senses tell us that the world is fl at, yet it’s not. Our

senses tell us that the world is chaotic, yet we know that on both a micro and a macro level, it’s incredibly organized. Our senses tell us that we’re stationary, yet we’re really moving at

dizzying speeds. Right now, for instance, you’re sitting down quietly reading this book; but did you know that you’re actually traveling at twenty thousand miles per hour? That’s the rate at which the earth and the entire galaxy are racing through space. Can you feel or see that motion in any way? Of course not. It’s completely invisible to your senses. In fact, the only reason that you’re not physically hurled into orbit right now is because another invisible force—gravity—is holding you in place. There are all kinds of unseen forces and laws that govern the universe. They’re all invisible—and they’re all very real.


The most important things in life can’t be seen with the eyes. Ideas can’t be seen. Love can’t be seen. Honor can’t be seen. This isn’t a new concept. Judaism and Christianity and Islam and Buddhism and Taoism have all taught for thousands of years that the highest forms of reality are invisible. God is invisible, and he created the universe. Our souls are invisible, and they give life to our bodies. Angels are invisible, and they’re the most powerful of God’s creatures.


Are these unseen realities difficult for us to grasp? Of course. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning and we stumble out of bed to shower and dress and go to work, it’s hard for us to focus on anything so intangible as the spiritual realm. After all, how can we hope to find an invisible God when we sometimes have trouble finding the milk in the refrigerator when it’s staring us right in the face? C. S. Lewis said that human beings find it almost impossible to “believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes.” One of the great psychological obstacles to having a strong faith is the very “ordinariness” of life.


In the first chapter of The Screwtape Letters, Lewis writes about the diabolical strategy that an invisible demon uses on an old, hardened atheist. The atheist, for the first time in his life, is

starting to ask himself questions about the existence of God. The demon naturally wants to prevent this. But rather than waste his time arguing with the man about theology, the demon

plants the suggestion in the atheist’s mind to go out and have some lunch. Once in the street, the atheist sees the newspaper boy and the taxis going by and a thousand other small details. With that healthy dose of “real life” he doesn’t even bother continuing his search for God. After all, in light of all those clear, crisp, ordinary realities, how could there be any such nebulous thing as metaphysical truth?


We face the same danger. Because we’re so familiar with desks and chairs and pots and pans and cell phones and video games, it can be a real challenge for us to think about spiritual matters. Our haunt detectors can become so dulled and rusty from disuse that they hardly register any kind of invisible activity except the most extraordinary. The end result is that, although we may not become full-fledged atheists, we can actually begin behaving as if we were. Without even realizing it, a giant gap can form between what we profess to believe and how we go about acting in our everyday lives.


We all know how true this is. We say we believe in the Bible and the moral law, but then we have trouble going even a few weeks without breaking most of the Ten Commandments. We

say we believe in the power of prayer and God’s grace, but few of us actually turn to God unless we’re in some sort of a jam. We act this way partly because of human nature. But it’s also because the temptations we face seem so real, while the world of the spirit seems so hazy and unreal by comparison. In this hedonistic society of ours, in which we’re confronted every day

by thousands of images designed to appeal to our sensual appetites, it’s very easy to be seduced. When a woman who loves chocolate passes a Godiva shop and sees a window full of delicious

truffles, caramels, and other assorted treats, it’s hard for her to consider the spiritual value of fasting or the Christian belief that the body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” When a man with a healthy libido strolls down the streets of lower Manhattan on a sultry summer afternoon and is confronted by a parade of sexy, scantily clad women, it’s tough for him to think about formless beings like angels. What are visible to him at that moment—the shapely forms enticing his senses—are just too much for him to resist. The spiritual world doesn’t seem to stand a chance.


And that’s where this book comes in. What I’d like to do in the following pages is attempt to render that spiritual world a bit more clearly for you. I’d like to try to make the invisible realities

that surround us just a little more visible. My hope is that, by doing this, these realities won’t seem so unfamiliar in the future. And the more familiar they are, the easier it will be to understand them and to have absolute faith in their existence. Once you’re armed with that kind of certitude, three things will naturally happen: (1) It will be easier for you to act in sync with your moral beliefs; (2) your life will be much fuller, richer, and more exciting than you ever imagined possible; and (3) no amount of suffering—physical, mental, or emotional—will ever be able to destroy the profound inner sense of peace that you’ll experience on a daily basis.


Big promises, I know. But that’s how important this subject is.


So how does one go about making the invisible visible? Well, as I said, there’s an extraordinarily rich theology from which we can draw. The traditional Judeo- Christian view of the invisible

world has been largely displaced by a kind of fortune cookie philosophy of life that’s neither truly believable nor truly remarkable. Just browse through the New Age section of your local bookstore and you’ll see what I mean. This book is not going to be like that. It’s not going to be about vampires or gremlins or ghosts or leprechauns or psychics or poltergeists or palm readers or UFOs or fairies or the “Force.” This book is about reality— cold, hard reality.


In fact, one of the great things about the invisible realm is that you don’t have to be a “religious fanatic” or the follower of some cult to believe in it. You can be a level- headed pragmatist.

You can be a realist. You can even be a cynic. You certainly don’t have to check your brains at the door before entering this world. And you don’t have to be afraid that deep thinking is going to nullify what you learn there. Indeed, everything we’re going to talk about in this book is based on solid theology, informed by common sense and logic, and backed up by biblical scholarship and the universal teaching of the Christian church over the past two thousand years.


No less a genius than Albert Einstein once said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience in life is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: for his eyes are closed.”


Too many people go through life today with their eyes closed. They miss out on the mysterious because they’re so fixated on what they can see and smell and touch and taste and hear. They’re so steeped in the “superstition of materialism” that they’re totally blind to the existence of another world—a world that is radically different from the one they’re familiar with, but a world nonetheless.


What kind of world is it? I’ve said that this book is not about make- believe; it’s not going to be some kind of Peter Pan–style fairy tale. Yet I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that the hidden world God has created for us is more marvelous and exciting than a thousand Neverlands. It’s a world filled with miracles, a world in which all the actions you take and decisions you make have spiritual consequences—consequences that affect the lives of millions of human beings. A world in which the men and women you meet on the street are never “ordinary”—because they all have immortal, everlasting souls and are destined to be either saints in Heaven or the damned of hell. A world in which a deadly, invisible, and diabolical war has been raging for eons—a war infinitely more terrifying than any started by Hitler, Stalin, or Osama bin Laden. A world where the highest values are completely opposite those of our secular society—where weakness equals strength, sacrifice equals salvation, and suffering equals unlimited power. Finally, it’s a world in which you’re never really alone, for even when you’re by yourself watching TV or reading

a book, taking a walk or sitting at the table having breakfast, you have company— because you’re surrounded by angels. Let’s try for a few minutes to “see” this incredible world. Not

with the eyes in your head, but with the eyes in your soul. All you really have to do is take a deep breath, shake off the stresses and cares that normally consume you, find a place where you

can concentrate in quiet stillness, and do your best to keep an open mind. For just a little while, follow the biblical injunction to “walk by faith and not by sight.”


And if—as you’re reading—you happen to feel a tingle up your spine or experience the eerie sensation that something beyond your comprehension is taking place, don’t get alarmed. It’s

just your haunt detector going off—telling you that the veil that has covered God’s hidden creation from time immemorial is being pulled back ever so slightly, allowing you a chance to peek inside.


Don’t be afraid to look. Believe me—you’ll be amazed by what you see.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The 5 Dreams of Every Woman…and How God Wants to Fulfill Them by Sharon Jaynes

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:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Christianne Debysingh, Senior Publicist, Harvest House Publishersfor sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Sharon Jaynes is an international inspirational speaker and Bible teacher for women’s conferences and events. She is also the author of several books, including Becoming the Woman of His Dreams and Becoming Spiritually Beautiful. Sharon and her husband, Steve, have one grown son, Steven, and live in North Carolina.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Popular author Sharon Jaynes shares powerful stories alongside biblical, compassionate guidance to help restore women’s hope in love, marriage, motherhood, purpose, and more. Readers will learn to give their longings and brokenness to God and delight in His renewal and remarkable dreams for them. Study questions included.


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929398
ISBN-13: 978-0736929394



My Review:
 I tend to be mistrustful of any title that talks about "every woman" because I usually don't relate to those books. Then I get mad because an author has put me into an "every woman" basket that I don't fit in. However, this book was different. I definitely related to a lot of what she has written. I'm not quite finished with this book, since it came last week and I read nonfiction a lot slower than fiction. But I have enjoyed the book so far. I love how she takes the idea of a woman's dream, then takes a look at how God fulfills that dream through His word. It's a great perspective, and I think even if someone looks at one of the five dreams and says, "nope, never had that one," there's still a lot of good Biblical teaching that applies.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


To Have a Daddy Who Loves Me


  Once upon a time, not so very long ago or far away, a baby girl was born to parents who could not keep her. While neither parent was willing to release her for adoption, neither was able to care for her. So while the legal system shuffled her case back and forth, the baby girl grew into a toddler in a foster home.

  Her care was adequate. Her physical needs were met, and she never went hungry. Her clothes, though not new, were never dirty. Her toys, though not her own, were always sufficient. This little girl was not mistreated or abused, and yet in her heart was a hollow space. She desperately wanted what she had never had—a mommy and a daddy of her very own.

  Only a few doors down from the foster home lived a kind couple with a teenage son. The little girl needed a family, the family wanted a little girl, and the details of a trying and lengthy adoption were finally settled. And while this little girl received a wonderful mommy and an adoring big brother, it was her daddy and their relationship that was extra special.

  Ashley was two years old when she entered her daddy’s life. She was thin, pale, and clingy. By the time the adoption was finally complete, she was almost three. Ashley had never seen the ocean, eaten a Happy Meal, or slept in a bed in a room of her own.

  A few months after the adoption, Ashley traveled to the beach for her first family reunion. She was overwhelmed with excitement and pride. She had received so much so fast, and it was hard to take it all in. Ashley asked everyone she met if they were part of her family.

  “Are you my aunt?” “Are you my uncle?” “Are you my cousin?” She ran from person to person showering hugs and kisses on her newly acquired family. “I love you!” she told them. “I love you all!”

  When her new daddy took her to McDonald’s for the first time, Ashley couldn’t join in with the other children who played busily on the playground equipment. She was too busy asking important questions. “Do you have a daddy? I have a daddy! See, that’s my daddy over there,” she exclaimed with excitement and wonder. “Isn’t he wonderful?”

  “What’s your name?” she asked. “My name is Ashley Jordan AMBROSE—just like my daddy. I’m named after my daddy!”

  Five years later, tanned, transformed, and confident, Ashley again returned to the annual family reunion. This time she brought a scrapbook of pictures to share with anyone who would sit still long enough to listen.

  “This is my story,” she would say. “See, this is where I lived before Mommy and Daddy adopted me. They picked me out special. See, this is my room now—it’s all my own. And these are my toys, and my own clothes, and here’s a picture of my kitty and one of my dog and…”

  Ashley has love overflowing for just about everyone, but no one is higher on her list than her daddy. He knows how to polish toenails, drip sandcastles, tie hair ribbons, hold her in the night—and he calls her his “little Princess.”**

My Dream

  When I was a little girl, my father spent most of his waking hours working at his building supply company, observing construction sites, or socializing with his colleagues and associates. Even though his place of business was only a few blocks from our home, his heart was miles away in a place I could never find.

  My father didn’t drink alcohol every day, but when he did, it consumed him. Dad was filled with a rage that always seemed to be boiling just beneath the surface of his tough exterior. When he drank, that rage spewed out like hot lava onto those around him. Unfortunately, my mother was the most common target.

  As a child, many nights I crawled into bed, pulled the covers tightly under my chin or even over my head, and prayed that I would quickly fall asleep to shut out the noise of my parents yelling and fighting. Crashing furniture, smashing glass, and fist upon flesh were common sounds that pierced my little girl nights. Occasionally I’d tiptoe over to my pink ballerina jewelry box, wind up the key in the back, open the lid, and try to focus on the tinkling melody that came from the music box as the dancer twirled with hands overhead. I wanted to be wherever she was…anywhere but at home.

  I was afraid of my father. Even when he was sober I kept my distance. At the same time, I observed how other daddies cherished their little girls. I saw daddies snuggle their daughters in their laps, hold their hands while walking in the park, or kiss their cheeks as they dropped them off at school in the mornings. Deep in my heart, a dream was birthed. I dreamed that one day I would have a daddy who loved me like that—not because I was pretty or made good grades or could play the piano well, but just because I was his. I dreamed that one day I would be a cherished daughter and the apple of my daddy’s eye.

A Common Dream

  In talking to women all across the country, I have seen eyes fill with tears when I talk about the dream of having a daddy who loves me. But the tears are not for me. Those tears reveal the longing in their own hearts. “Butterfly Kisses,” a popular song by Bob Carlisle, is about the tender love between a father and his daughter, starting from her birth to her wedding day. Mr. Carlisle said, “I get a lot of mail from young girls who try to get me to marry their moms. That used to be a real chuckle because it’s so cute, but then I realized they didn’t want romance for mom. They want the father that is in that song, and that just kills me.”  

  What did the little girls long for? They wanted a daddy to scoop them up in his strong arms. They wanted to plant butterfly kisses on his scruffy face. They wanted to see tears in his eyes when he walked them down their aisle on their wedding day. Little girls and grown women alike long for a father to protect them, help them, guide them, nurture them, and cheer them on through the struggles of life.

The Invitation

  In the Old Testament, God has many names. He is Elohim, the Creator; El Elyon, God Most High; El Roi, the God who sees; El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One; Adonai, the Lord; Jehovah, the Self-Existent One; Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide; Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord who heals; Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord is peace; Jehovah-Raah, the Lord my Shepherd; and many more. His covenant name with the people of Israel was I am.

  In the New Testament, Jesus introduced a new name for God: Father. In the Gospel of John alone, God is referred to as Father at least 120 times. It is the name Jesus referred to more than any other, and the name He invites us to use to address the Creator of the universe. Just stop and think about that for a moment. The God of the universe, who created the heavens and the earth, who always has been and always will be, who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and present everywhere at once—that same God invites you to call Him Abba Father. He invites you to call Him Daddy!

  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He said:

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:6-9, emphasis added).

  J.I. Packer wrote: “For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new and better than the Old, everything that is distinctly Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the fatherhood of God.   All other religions demand followers to worship created beings, such as Mohammad or Buddha, but God invites us to crawl up in His lap, become His child, and call Him Father. He said, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:18, emphasis added).

The Only Perfect Parent

  For many, the idea of God being their father may not be a pleasant one. We have a human tendency to project our experiences with our earthly fathers onto our perceptions of the fatherhood of God. Some never knew their earthly fathers, some had abusive fathers, and some were deserted by their fathers. Some had loving, endearing fathers, and some lost their fathers to sickness or catastrophe. Those life experiences tend be the lens through which we view God.

  Even the best earthly fathers have feet of clay and will disappoint their children.

  When I was a child, I never had lengthy conversations with my father. As a result, when I became a Christian, it was very difficult for me to have lengthy conversations with my heavenly Father. Prayer was difficult. I had to remove the mask of my earthly father from the face of God.

  No matter what your past experience with your earthly father has been, your heavenly Father is the perfect parent. He loves you unconditionally, cares for you completely, provides for you unceasingly, trains you tenderly, and welcomes you unreservedly. He will never leave you or forsake you. You are the apple of His eye.

The Amazing Grace of Adoption

  One reason Ashley’s story at the beginning of this chapter is so precious to me is because she was adopted by a loving father…so much like you and me. The Bible says we have been adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5). We are His children (1 John 3:1-2). Let’s take a look at how adoption was carried out in Jesus’ day in order to get a better picture of ours.

  In ancient Rome, fathers chose a child for adoption when they weren’t able to have children of their own. They adopted a son in order to have someone to carry on the family name and inherit their property. It was a legally binding relationship. All ties to the child’s natural family were severed. The child was placed in a new family with the same prestige and privileges as a natural child, including becoming an heir. If the child had any debt, it was immediately canceled. The adoption was a sealed process with many witnesses making it official.  

  In modern times, when it comes to adoption, we tend to think of adopting a baby. However, in biblical times adoption usually took place after the child was older and had proved worthy to carry on the family name.   How incredible that our heavenly Father chose us, not because of any merit of our own, but before the beginning of time. He chose us, not because we were worthy, but in spite of the fact that we were not.

He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1:4-6).

  I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of that same verse found in The Message:

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)

  Our adoption takes place the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our debt because of sin is canceled (paid in full), and we are placed in God’s family to carry on His name and become an heir. Paul wrote: “You also were included in Christ [in His family] when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

  Many verses refer to God’s children as “sons.” This does not mean God only has male children or that only male children inherit the kingdom of God. The Hebrew word for “son” does not necessarily mean male offspring. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ben can mean male son or children of both genders, male or female. Genesis 1 says that God created man in His own image. Then the writer goes on to say, “Male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). As the word “man” can mean male or female humans, the word “son” can mean the male or female offspring of a human.

  In the New Testament Greek, the word huios is translated “son.” And like the Hebrew word ben, it can mean a male child or it can refer to offspring, both male and female. “In calling believers His sons, God is communicating that believers find their origin in Him (as offspring) and bear the same nature He does.”   The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

  In J.I. Packer’s words: “Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship, and establishes us as His children and heirs. Closeness, affection, and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the father is greater.”  

  I grew up singing “Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so,” but I really didn’t believe it. I wasn’t sure God even liked me. It wasn’t until I was much older that I caught a glimpse of His unconditional, unfailing, unlimited love for me.

He Loves You Unconditionally

  Most of us live in a world of performance-based acceptance. We make good grades, and Mommy is proud. We look pretty, and Daddy smiles. We do a good job at work, and the boss is pleased. We serve at church, and the congregation thinks we are “good Christians.”

  Unfortunately, that same sense of having to perform well to be accepted by people can easily roll over into our relationship with God. We falsely believe we must perform well to be loved and accepted by Him when nothing could be further from the truth. As a result, we strive to obtain something that we already have…God’s unconditional love.

  Anabel Gillham was a woman who loved God, but she had trouble accepting that God could love her. She knew the Bible verses that talked of God’s unconditional love for her, yet she knew herself and doubted a God who knew her innermost thoughts would approve of her.

  The root of her problem was how she viewed God and how she believed God viewed her. She knew what kind of God He was. She read Exodus 34:6: “Then the Lord passed by in front of him [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth…’ ” (nasb), but she believed she had to earn that love. Then God used a very special person to help Anabel understand the depths of God’s love for her—her second child, Mason David Gillham, who had a profound mental disability. Let’s let Anabel tell you her story as she relates it in her book, The Confident Woman.

Mace could sing one song with great gusto, just one: “Jesus Loves Me.” He would throw his head back and hold on to the first “Yes” in the chorus just as long as he could, and then he would get tickled and almost fall out of his chair. I can still hear him giggle when I think back on those days that seem so distant and so far away. How poignant that memory is to me.

I never doubted for a moment that Jesus loved that profoundly retarded little boy. It didn’t matter that he would never sit with the kids in the back of the church and on a certain special night walk down the aisle, take the pastor by the hand, and invite Jesus into his heart. It was entirely irrelevant that he could not quote a single verse of Scripture, that he would never go to high school, or that he would never be a dad. I knew that Jesus loved Mason.

What I could not comprehend, what I could not accept, was that Jesus could love Mason’s mother, Anabel. You see, I believed that in order for a person to accept me, to love me, I had to perform for him. My standard for getting love was performance based, so I “performed” constantly, perfectly. In fact, I did not allow anyone to see me when I was not performing perfectly. I never had any close friends because I was convinced that if a person ever really got to know me, he wouldn’t like me.  

  Anabel carried that belief into her relationship with God, and she was horrified to learn that He knew her every thought, let alone everything she said or did (Psalm 139:1-4). She realized God knew her completely. He saw when she wasn’t “performing perfectly.” Because of her perception of performance-based acceptance, she concluded without a doubt that God could not possibly love her, that He could never like what He saw in her.

  Mace could never have performed for his parents’ love, or for anyone’s love, but oh, how they loved him. His condition deteriorated to such a degree—and so rapidly—that they had to place him in an institution when he was very young. His parents enrolled him in the Enid State School for Mentally Handicapped Children. They regularly drove the 120 miles to see him, but they occasionally also brought him home for a visit.

  On one particular visit, Mace had been with them since Thursday evening. On the following Saturday afternoon God painted a vivid picture of His great love for Anabel through Mason. She was standing at the kitchen sink, dreading what lay ahead. In just a few moments, she would be gathering Mace’s things together and taking him back to “his house.” She had done this many times before—and it was never easy—but today God had something in mind that would change her life forever.

  As she was washing the dishes, Mason was sitting in his chair watching her, or at least he was looking at her. That’s when it began. Her emotions were spinning. Her stomach started tumbling with the familiar sickening thoughts of packing up Mason’s toys and clothes and taking him away again. She stopped washing the dishes and went down on her knees in front of Mace. Anabel took his dirty little hands in hers and tried desperately to reach him.

  “Mason, I love you. I love you. If only you could understand how much I love you.”

  He just stared. He couldn’t understand; he didn’t comprehend. She stood up and started on the dishes again, but that didn’t last long. This sense of urgency—almost a panic—came over her, and once more she dried her hands and knelt in front of her precious little boy.

  “My dear Mason, if only you could say to me, ‘I love you, Mother.’ I need that, Mace.”

  Nothing.

  “I stood up to the sink again,” she continued. “More dishes, more washing, more crying—and thoughts, foreign to my way of thinking, began filtering into my conscious awareness. I believe God spoke to me that day, and this is what He said: Anabel, you don’t look at your son and turn away in disgust because he’s sitting there with saliva drooling out of his mouth; you don’t shake your head, repulsed because he has dinner all over his shirt or because he’s sitting in a dirty, smelly diaper when he ought to be able to take care of himself. Anabel, you don’t reject Mason because all of the dreams you had for him have been destroyed. You don’t reject him because he doesn’t perform for you. You love him, Anabel, just because he is yours. Mason doesn’t willfully reject your love, but you willfully reject Mine. I love you, Anabel, not because you’re neat or attractive, or because you do things well, not because you perform for Me but just because you’re Mine.  

  And, friend, that’s exactly how God feels about you. He loves you just because you are His.

  The New Testament Greek word for the type of love that God has for us is agape. This is unconditional, unchanging, unfathomable, immeasurable love. Paul wrote, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38). Can I say that again? Nothing can separate us from the unconditional love of our Father—not even our own messiness and mistakes.

  This was what I had longed for all my life—to have a daddy who loved me, not because I was pretty or made good grades or behaved like a little lady in public or could play the piano well or hit a baseball out of the park—but just because I was his.

He Cares for You Unfailingly

  The year 2002 was a time of transition for me. I changed positions at the ministry where I served, my son packed up to go away to college, my thyroid went out of control and had to be purposely destroyed with radioactive iodine, my first book went out of print, the grocery store quit carrying my favorite coffee, and Revlon discontinued the eyeliner I’d been using for ten years. Like a little girl having a hissy fit, I whined, “Doesn’t anything ever stay the same? Isn’t there not one thing I can count on being the same tomorrow as it is today?”

  Then I heard that gentle whisper I’ve grown to love: “ ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).

  Yes, there is one thing that will never change: God’s unfailing love and care for His children. He is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8), and on that we can always depend. Solomon tells us that the one thing each of us longs for is unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22). And that is exactly what we have in the love of our heavenly Father.

  The word “compassion” in Isaiah 54:10 is the Hebrew word racham, which means “to soothe; to cherish; to love deeply like parents; to be compassionate, be tender…This verb usually refers to a strong love which is rooted in some kind of natural bond, often from a superior one to an inferior. (Now here’s the best part.) Small babies evoke this feeling.”  

  When my son, Steven, came into the world, a love was birthed in my heart that I never thought possible. Elizabeth Stone said it well: “To make a decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide to have your heart go walking around outside of your body for the rest of your life.” That is how our heavenly Father feels about His children!

  The beautiful Hebrew word hesed is translated “unfailing love” in Isaiah 54:10. It is often translated loving-kindness, steadfast love, grace, mercy, faithfulness, goodness, and devotion. This word is used 240 times and is considered one of the most important concepts in the vocabulary of the Old Testament.   Why? Because God’s unfailing love is one of the most important themes of the entire Bible. It is who He is and what He does (1 John 4:8).

  How would you like to memorize half a psalm in the next 60 seconds? Want to give it a try? Turn to Psalm 136. After each sentence, there is an echo, “His love endures forever.” Just say that sentence 26 times, and you have quoted half of the psalm! The psalmist begins by reminding us of how God created the universe and all it contains. Then he continues by reminiscing how God led the captive Israelites out of Egypt, across the parted Red Sea, through the arid desert, and into the lush Promised Land, conquering enemies at every turn. And through it all, one thing remained the same—“His love endures forever!”

  There may be times in our lives when we cry, “Where are You, God? Don’t You care about what is happening to me? I can’t hear You. I can’t see Your hand working in my life.” But be assured of this: Even when we can’t sense God’s presence, He is always there. Always. And through it all, one thing remains the same—“His love endures forever!”

He Provides for You Unceasingly

  Cary and Madeline Rivers read about the overcrowded orphanages in Eastern Europe, and God stirred their hearts to look into adoption. Foreign adoptions are very costly, but God had blessed the couple financially, and the cost was not prohibitive for them. They decided to adopt not one, two, or three, but four children. After eleven months and miles of red tape, the adoption process was complete, and the couple traveled across the ocean to gather their new family.

  The trip home took 22 hours, so when they arrived at the Atlanta airport for a two-hour layover, the family decided to let the rambunctious boys run around the terminal to work out some of their pent-up energy. Of course, they never let their new sons out of their sight. After a short while, Madeline noticed one of the boys watching a man drinking at a water fountain. Even though the child could not speak English, he seemed to be using his hands and body language to communicate. To Madeline’s horror, the man reached in his pocket and handed her new son a dollar bill.

  She rushed over to the man and asked, “What are you doing?”

  “Well, I could tell this boy couldn’t speak English, but I could also tell that he was begging. So I gave him a dollar.”

  The parents looked in the boy’s pocket and saw that he had ten one-dollar bills! The little boy had no idea of the riches that came with his adoption. Even though he was now part of a family with great wealth, he continued to do what he had done all his life…beg.

  Oh, dear sister, do you see yourself in the little boy’s eyes? Are you begging for handouts when your daddy owns the “cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10)? Are you scavenging for crumbs when your heavenly Father provides everything you need “for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3)? Are you searching for acceptance and approval from others when God longs to lavish you with His? Are you begging for what is already yours?

  John wrote: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). To “lavish” is to give freely, profusely, extravagantly, and abundantly. He doesn’t give us everything we want when we want it. No father wants spoiled children. Rather, He gives us everything we need to produce well-behaved children who bear His name well. He is our Provider.

He Welcomes You Unreservedly

  One of my favorite people is author and speaker Patsy Clairmont. We were discussing my first book on the telephone one day and trying to set up a time to meet face-to-face when she came to speak at a Women of Faith Conference in my hometown.

  “Patsy, I’d love to spend some time with you before the conference, but I don’t have a backstage pass. I won’t have access to the part of the convention center where you will be.”

  “No problem,” she replied. “Just go to my book table and tell my son who you are. He’ll bring you to me.”

  The day of the conference arrived, and I swam through a sea of women to reach Patsy’s crowded book table. It wasn’t hard to spot her son—a male version of Patsy herself. After proper introductions, Jason and I were off to find his mom. First we passed through heavy mahogany double doors that led to an area called the Crown Room, which was a place for the VIPs who attended professional basketball games and other events.

  Then we entered an elevator that took us to an area where the speakers were tucked away. As soon as we stepped into the elevator, a stern-faced security guard rushed over, pointed his finger in my face, and said, “Where’s your backstage pass? You’re not supposed to be here, young lady. You’re in a lot of trouble.”

  Then he whipped out his walkie-talkie, and he was not afraid to use it. But before I could force one word out of my dry mouth, Patsy’s son stepped forward, showed the guard his credentials, and gallantly stated, “It’s okay. I’m one of the speaker’s sons. I have a backstage pass, and she’s with me.”

  “That’s right,” I agreed after I had found my voice. “He’s Patsy Clairmont’s son, and I’m with him.”

  “Oh. Okay then,” the guard said as he put the walkie-talkie back in its holster. He exited the elevator and was off to seek other dangerous Christian women like myself who were attending the conference.

  I had a wonderful visit with Patsy and left the conference inspired by each one of the speakers. But perhaps the most important lesson I learned was on that elevator ride. Revelation 12:10 says that Satan stands before God accusing us day and night. He questions our credentials as he points his gnarly finger and tells us we’re not good enough to pass through heaven’s doors. But just when we begin to feel unworthy to approach the throne room, God’s Son steps forward and says, “Leave her alone. She’s with me, and I’m all the credentials she needs.”

  In the Old Testament, there is a sense that God was unapproachable because of His holiness and our sinfulness. In the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies, where God resided, from the other areas of the temple, where the priests attended daily. Only the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. Before he could enter, the priest went through a rigorous ceremonial cleansing process. Bells were hemmed to the bottom of his robe, and a rope was tied around his ankle. When the priest entered the Holy of Holies, the men outside listened for the tinkling bells to make sure he was still alive. If God was not pleased, and the sound of the bells ceased, they pulled out the dead priest by the rope.

  But in the New Testament all that changed. God was and is still the holy great I am, but we can enter the Holy of Holies with the confidence of a child approaching her daddy. When Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, God tore the veil of the Holy of Holies from top to bottom, inviting all who believe in His Son as Savior and Lord to enter His presence with assurance and confidence. (Mark 15:38). The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, emphasis added). Paul reminds us, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12, emphasis added). As a child of God, your Father welcomes you into His presence. Not only that…He longs for you to come.

He Calls You by Name

  There have been several people in my life who never seem to remember my name. A few of my more popular aliases are Sarah James, Susan James, Shannon James, and Jane Jaynes. Then there are the people who just can’t remember me altogether and don’t even try to fish a name from their memory pool. To tell you the truth, it never has really bothered me. I’m not that good with names, either.

  But names are important to God. In the Bible, a person’s name revealed a unique quality of his or her character. Moses meant “Drawn out of water.” Ruth meant “woman friend.” Naomi meant “pleasant,” and after her husband died, she changed her name to “Mara,” which meant “bitter.” Her two sons’ names meant “puny” and “pining.” Needless to say, these two fellows weren’t exactly strapping young bucks, and both died at an early age. If a person had an encounter with the living God, many times He changed their name to better fit the experiences He had planned for their futures. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Saul to Paul.

  Yes, names are very important. That’s why when someone very dear to me forgot mine, it broke my heart.

  My father accepted Jesus as his Savior when I was 21 years old. The transformation I saw in him was nothing short of miraculous. One of the benefits I received was that he learned how to love me. In my father’s later years, we had a tender and dear relationship, but it was short lived.

  A few years after Dad committed his life to Christ, I noticed him becoming forgetful. At first it was small matters: forgetting an order at work, misplacing his shoes or keys, not remembering what day it was, drawing a blank on a close friend’s name. Then it progressed to more serious absentminded behavior: forgetting where he parked in a parking deck (and even which parking deck); coming home to take my mother to the market, forgetting he had already taken her an hour before; and becoming confused when taking measurements for cabinets, a task he had been doing for more than 40 years. In 1987 our greatest fears were confirmed. Dad had Alzheimer’s disease. He was 55 years old.

  My dad had been a tough cookie as a young man. From the time he was 55 to 65, I watched a strapping, quick-witted entrepreneur reduced to a man who could not remember how to speak, button his shirt, or move a spoon from his plate to his mouth. But what pained me the most was the day he forgot my name. I still remember holding his face in my hands and saying, “Daddy, it’s me. Do you know who I am?” But I was only met by a childish grin and eyes that seemed to look straight through me.

  Names are important. In Isaiah 43:1, God says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine” (nasb). In Isaiah 49:1, the prophet announces, “Before I was born, the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.”

  As God’s child, He has called you by name, and the Bible promises He will never forget it. Your name is engraved on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16).

  On a Friday morning in May 1996, the Lord graciously came and took my father to his new home in glory. He’s probably up there right now measuring for cabinets and working on all those rooms in God’s mansion we have read so much about. His memory has been restored, and I look forward to the day when my earthly father and my heavenly Father welcome me with open arms and say, “Welcome, Sharon, my daughter, my child.”

  As I mentioned earlier, my earthly father did learn how to love me, but my dream to have a daddy who loved me came true years before that. The moment I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, my adoption was final, and I became a precious, chosen, dearly loved child of God. What a joy to have a Daddy who loves me. It is a dream come true.

Why Is This So Important?

  Like any good father, our heavenly Father has dreams for His daughters, and we’re going to talk more about that as we get deeper into our journey together. However, this is the first step to discovering God’s incredible plan for your life.

  Just before Jesus began His earthly ministry, He traveled to the Jordan River and was baptized by His cousin John. When Jesus came up out of the water, God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Even Jesus needed the assurance that He was God’s dearly loved child before He began to fulfill God’s incredible plan for His life.

  I truly believe women aren’t moving forward in their God-appointed destiny because they don’t understand who they are, what they have, and where they are as a child of God. In order to fulfill God’s dream for your life, just as Jesus fulfilled God’s plan for His life, we must understand His great love for us. You are God’s daughter, whom He loves. With you He is well pleased. You have a Daddy who loves you.