Saturday, January 31, 2009

Plagues - Old Testament? New? NOW!

In light of the promises listed in Exodus 5:6-8, why was all of the plaguing of Egypt necessary? God certainly could have softened pharaoh’s heart and freed Israel before the staff of God first touched the ground at pharaoh’s feet and began writhing like a serpent!

Ultimately, we need to know that Our Lord is NOT frivolous! There is purpose and passionate love for His creation in everything He does! We need to take that on faith, and He will give us experience to back it up!

So, what was His purpose? That is a tough question. I believe the answer has facets beyond human comprehension, but here are some of my thoughts:

God won’t manipulate us. He gave us free will, and He expects us to use it! Preferably to choose Him!

Each plague demonstrated God’s supremacy over an Egyptian deity. He wanted Egypt and Israel alike to know that HE IS GOD!!!!!

If this period of history weren’t a major struggle, would it have been documented? Would Moses have been chosen and trained to work with God to deliver Israel? Would we have the pyramid on the back of our $1 bill?

Those are just a few of my thoughts. I’d be interested to read yours. But here’s a question, first: Is there a counterpart to this story in the New Testament? Certainly. Scholars agree that Moses is a Christ figure…a deliverer…one who faced the enemy and didn’t back down.

And personally, I see applications in today’s newspaper! The economy worsens. Unemployment is on the rise. The world financial market is failing. People are losing hope and taking their lives. Some think it’s acceptable to take huge bonuses in the midst of this crisis. The polar ice cap is melting. Natural disasters continue. Terrorism is a reality. These newsworthy items are like those Old Testament plagues. Those of us who are awaiting the second coming of Christ, call them “birth pains.”

God has already sent Christ just as He sent Moses to prophesy to pharaoh that the death of the firstborn was upon the land of Egypt. One last chance. Very soon, Jesus will come – joyfully to embrace and deliver those who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior; solemnly that there will be some left behind.

Make no mistake, though. HE IS COMING! He doesn’t tarry. He isn’t frivolous. He wants all men to repent and be saved. That is why He plagued Egypt. That is why He plagues the world, today.


Have you been tarrying? Do you need to pray? Do it now! Say,

Father, I come to you now to say I believe You. I believe in You. I want to know You. I recognize that Jesus came to earth to die for my sins and that He rose again to conquer death for me. I ask You, Jesus, to come into my heart and lead my life from now on. In Your name. Amen.

Now, please let me know - or let a Pastor or Christian friend know that you've come to Christ. God bless you.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bible Study: Revelation - What Was, What Is, What Is To Come - Chapter 5

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Revelation Chapter 5. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations.

5:1 — scroll — see Ezekiel 2:9-10 and Isaiah 29:11. Right hand — where we put the tools we use.

Writing on both sides — Why do you think there's writing on both sides? A lot to say?

Seven seals — remember the number "7" means completeness and perfection. The seven seals indicate the importance of the scroll's contents. This is also an indication that this is a legal document according to Roman law.

See Isaiah 29:11; Ezekiel 2:9-10; Daniel 12:4 (AMP)

Only Jesus can open the scroll because God has given Him all rights to judgment.

5:2 — mighty angel — Is this the same angel as in 10:1? Is it Michael? NLT, KJV, AMP and NAS say "strong angel".

5:5, 6 — in verse 5, the elder tells John to look upon the Lion of Judah. But when John looks in verse 6, he sees the Lamb of God. WOW! What does this mean? The lion symbolizes authority and power. The lamb symbolizes gentleness, obedience and submission to God's will. Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb! This goes to prove once again that spiritual vision (how the elder saw Christ) and human vision (how John saw Christ) are different. This reminds me of how the Jews expected the Messiah to be a warrior, but Jesus came to earth as a sacrificial lamb!

5:5 — "Do not weep" — John was weeping because no one was found worthy to open the scroll. Was he simply so curious that it upset him?

Lion of the tribe of Judah, Root of David — These are two titles for the Messiah. See Genesis 49:9 and Isaiah 11:10.

Only Jesus can open the scroll because God has given Him all rights to judgment. See Genesis 49:9-10; Isaiah 11:1, 10; Revelation 22:6 (AMP)

5:6 — Lamb — John is the only author who applies this title to Christ. Is this further support of the apostle's authorship?

seven horns, seven eyes — all-powerful, all-seeing. The text also indicates that this is the Holy Spirit (seven spirits). Even though a gentle Lamb, the Lord is all-powerful!

See Isaiah 53:7; Zechariah 3:8-9; 4:10 (AMP)

5:8 — had a harp, holding bowls of incense which are the prayers of the saints — the elders perform priestly functions in heaven.

5:8-10 — KJV implies that the 24 elders (and the 4 living creatures) are men of every tribe, language, people and nation.

5:9 — See Psalms 33:3 (AMP)

5:10 — made us kings and priests — see 1 Peter 2:5-9. Reign on the earth — see Luke 22: 29-30.

See Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6 (AMP)

5:11 —See Daniel 7:10 (AMP)

5:13 — creature — ktisma — the product of the created act.

"Blessing and honor and glory and power... forever and ever." I LOVE THAT! See Daniel 7:13-14 (AMP)


  • Remember that the main message of the book of Revelation is the infinite love, power and justice of the Lord Jesus Christ. How is this evident in today’s text?
  • What attributes of God do you see in this chapter?
  • What scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Questions for personal Bible study

When you get ready to do some Bible study on your own, what do you do? Buy a study guide? Pick up a blank notebook to write down questions and thoughts and make notes about what you learn?

Or are you too intimidated to do Bible study on your own? Do you think that you're not disciplined enough...not knowledgable enough...don't have enough resources to succeed at this task?

Grab a pen and some paper and your Bible. Take a seat. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you sit down to study the Bible:


  • What patterns do you observe in the passage?

  • How does this book relate to other books of the Bible? Other literary works?

  • What cultural information relates to this passage? What similar experience have you had in your life? How can you personally relate to the passage?

  • What life lessons are found in this passage?

  • What is God telling you through this passage?

  • What attributes of God do you see in the passage? How does this discovery change your relationship with Him?

REVIEW: Stepping Up by Beth Moore

What a wonderful Bible Study this is!

Beth Moore’s “Stepping Up – a journey through the Psalms of Ascent” is a wonderful 7-week Bible study of Psalms 120 through 134. This workbook is an educational journey tying the Old Testament to the New by relating events of prophetic fulfillment from Jesus’ life with the ancient pilgrims who would sing these Psalms on the way to worship during the Jewish feasts of the Lord in Jerusalem. Then, through daily study and Beth’s wonderful lecture, these passages are linked to us modern day pilgrims who are journeying to the New Jerusalem (heaven).

Two days worth of study is spent on each Psalm, offering a decent and rich overview. The video teaching is quintessential Beth – her loving, yet humorous delivery of the Word’s truth changes lives – and accompanies the written material beautifully. This should be on every women’s Bible study group calendar!

Monday, January 26, 2009

We're in This Boat Together by Dr. Camille Bishop

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:


We’re in This Boat Together

Authentic (August 14, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


In her thirty-year teaching career, Dr. Camille Bishop’s love for students and her penchant for adventure have taken her to classrooms all over the world. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a degree in math, Dr. Bishop began her career in the trenches as a secondary mathematics instructor in the North Carolina public school system. This first taste of teaching convinced her that she had found her calling, so she enrolled in graduate school, earning a master’s degree in education at North Carolina State University. Since 1988, she has been on the faculty of the University of the Nations, a non-profit educational institution with a global network of locations.

Through her work with the University of the Nations, Dr. Bishop has visited sixty nations of the world, interacting with educators, government officials, and other non-profit agencies. While leading an educational development project in Albania, Dr. Bishop sensed the need for more training. She returned to the U.S. and received her Ph.D. in education from Trinity International University, where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on leadership transition between the generations. This research became the focus of her unique new book, We’re in This Boat Together.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Authentic (August 14, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068373
ISBN-13: 978-1934068373

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Preface


Raging, white-foamed water surrounded our black rubber craft. The raft seemed like a bathtub toy compared to the expanse of the river. The noise was deafening. My stomach lurched as we sank into another unexpected drop. Menacing boulders poked up through the water. Why had I selected Class IV and Class V rapids for my first white-water experience?


My first white-water rafting expedition was with a group on the New River in West Virginia, with rapids that have special names attached to them. Paddling the tranquil water before the first rapid, I found it hard to believe that we would hit rough waters. But the rafting guide’s instructions kept pounding in my head: “Don’t lose your cookies.” She had informed us that we should navigate that rapid before lunch! I was nervous. Suddenly the raft several hundred feet ahead of me disappeared. It simply dropped out of sight. All my senses came to attention.


Fear seized me. My stomach churned. I clutched the oar tightly, preparing myself for the precipitous drop just ahead of me. There was no turning back. We had miles to go and numerous rapids to ford before the adventure would end. I wondered if I would survive. Hours later, exhausted from all the adrenalin that had pumped through my body, we arrived at the end of our journey. I had lived to tell the tale. And I even had a photo to prove it!


Similar thoughts, feelings, and reactions emerge when people are faced with transition in an organization, especially when the change involves leadership. And let’s face it—in the life of an organization the time to transfer leadership will come if the group hopes to continue. The first question becomes What will the transition look like? Is it possible to prepare for transition in ways that allow for tranquil waters or at least smaller rapids? Does transition have to be tumultuous, wrenching, and as terrifying as Class IV and Class V rapids? How can we pull together to make leadership succession work between generations?


In today’s workforce no one is exempt from the fact that four generations are currently represented. From the worlds of business and education to nonprofit organizations and churches, a similar scenario exists. One might find in the same company a seventy-year-old working alongside a twenty-two year- old. Down the hall, a Gen Xer might be consulting with a Baby Boomer. What are the defining qualities of each of these generations? Many questions come to the surface:


• Are there generational differences in work ethic—and if so, what are they?

• How does each generation relate and respond to authority figures?

• How does each generation perceive women in leadership?

• What are their expectations in the workplace?

• How do they balance the demands of work and home?

• What are their views about money and fiscal responsibility?

• How does each generation view the role of leadership in an organization?


These questions reflect the need to better understand the values and behaviors of each of these four generations. Research indicates that our perception of leadership is linked to the particular generation in which we grew up. Without that knowledge, transitions in leadership can be very messy. Insight and appreciation of generational differences can prepare a workplace for a much smoother changeover.


The Silent Generation consists of those born between 1925 and 1942. They are the children born during the Great Depression and the generation sandwiched between the first and second world wars. Boomers followed the Silent Generation (1943–1960) and were raised in an era of opportunity, progress, and optimism. They also experienced a radically changing society marked by rebellion, shifting social norms, and outward challenges of authority. Growing up in the shadow of the Boomers, Gen Xers were born between 1961 and 1981. They are technologically savvy and were raised in the age of dual-career families. Finally, Millennials, some of the newest members of the workforce, were born between 1982 and twenty years thereafter. A “plugged-in” generation, they have been around technology since birth. The Internet world of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and ever-present e-mail is as natural to them as breathing.


Each of these distinct groups of people see life differently because of the times in which they grew up. Just consider the differences that might exist in financial matters between those who grew up during the Great Depression and those who were raised in the “instant credit, no-payment-until-next year” society.

Might there be a clash between Henry, a member of the Silent Generation who sees leadership as the general who goes to the helm, and Jason, an Xer who is distrustful of leaders and prefers collaboration? You can almost feel the white water forming.


How can we navigate the rapids of transition? The answer to that question is the reason for this book. So grab your oar, don’t forget your life jacket, and push off into the white water. It is going to be quite a ride!



Prologue

Meet the Rafting Team


Rumbling down the dirt path to the launch site, the aging yellow bus that once served public schools came to a creaking halt. Daniella, the guide, stood stoically on the riverbank to meet the latest group, their company having paid good money for a white-water adventure. Medium height, bronzed from the sun, and rippling muscles, she has encountered all types. Nothing would surprise her.


The bus door opened. Only four brave souls stepped off—a small band of rafters today. They are a departmental task force from Handover Corp., (* Handover Corp. and all of its “employees” are fictitious.) a medium-sized company that was founded in the 1950s in the local area. The company rep told her this was a team-building exercise. Daniella, a Swiss-German, sized them up.


Nate, a tall and lean young man in his early twenties, appears to be in his own world. His black special-edition iPod matches his long dark shorts and is blaring tunes into his ears. A plain white tank shirt exposes a solid tan and well-etched muscles. A simple, black, lattice-looking tattoo circles his right bicep. His head is shaved. Nate hung out at Starbucks last night, researching this rafting expedition. The GPS software on his laptop allowed him a virtual tour of the river, with close-ups of each rapid. He Skyped a buddy of his in the Ukraine who had gone white-water rafting a few months ago, and then he eased into a chatroom to get some more input. He can hardly wait to blog the experience. Hired fresh out of college with a degree in computer security, Nate has been with Handover only a year. He blocks the hackers.

Nate has no idea how long he will be with Handover. Maybe he will start his own business in a few years.


Brianna, a blond who just turned thirty-two, looks distracted. She barely made it to the bus on time after dropping off her only child, Abby, at preschool. Her husband, Kyle, owns his own business, and they both work hard, juggling the demands of home and work. At least they share the load equally and have some flextime in their schedules. Handover even allows her to work from home one day a week. She designs webpages and has been with the company for five years. Brianna is short and a little thick in the hips. Too much fast food. But her turquoise-blue tank suit with matching sarong covers most of the overindulgence.

She IM’ed a bunch of friends the day before to talk about this trip and was feeling better about it. A team-building experience would look good on her resume. Who knows how long she will be at Handover? Opportunities abound, and experienced webpage designers are in demand.


Brad is in his late forties and wonders if he can actually do this. Although stocky and athletic, he has suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and a frozen shoulder in the past year. Besides that, his desk is piled with a backlog of work. He really doesn’t have time for this. He sincerely hopes that extra compensation is coming his way for his participation and that he will survive it unscathed. Brad designs software and works extra hours, trying hard to please. Handover is going through some transitions, and he wants to avoid any downsizing. He has twenty years with the firm; but software design could be outsourced. He would like to retire early, at age fifty-five, with a solid pension and then explore other options—like the local golf course. He is expecting a sizeable inheritance. At least he looks good in his Eddie Bauer rafting outfit and Ray-Ban sunglasses. A Nike baseball cap covers his head.


George, though the oldest member, is spunky. At sixtyeight his wrinkled face reflects his years, but he stands tall and confident. He could stand to lose a few pounds, but they are mostly concentrated in his paunch. A pork-pie hat sits squarely on his balding head. A navy blue T-shirt hangs loosely over his torso, with the white Handover Corp. logo squarely over his chest. He has worked at Handover his entire career and is proud to be part of the organization. He maintains the computer hardware. George wants to keep working as long as he can. Handover hadn’t focused much on team building in the past. But times—they are a-changin’. He can adapt. He is a survivor.


“Good morning,” Daniella said rather flatly to the foursome. How many times have I given this spiel? “Welcome to the Black River Rafting Expedition. Everyone needs a life jacket, oar, and helmet. Please suit up.”


As she observed the foursome rummaging through the bin of life jackets and helmets, a question jogged through her mind: How do these four folks work together in the same department?


A totally different question ran through the minds of the Handover group: Can this tough lady get us safely down the river?


“Where do you want us to sit in the raft?” asked George, his comment dragging her back to the present. “I’d like to sit in the front, if you don’t mind,” he said.


Brad rolled his eyes and shot a quick glance at Brianna, who mouthed, “What’s new?” Nate was just unplugging his iPod.


Daniella rasped, “Just get in. We’ll sort it out in a few minutes. I’ve got the rudder position.”


As the raft slid into the river, George was perched in the front, Brad was on the right side, Brianna was on the left side, and Nate was in the back with Daniella. The inky water was like glass, smooth and tranquil.


“Okay, let’s review a few things,” said Daniella. “First, I’m guiding this raft. If you don’t listen to me, you could put all of us at risk. Until it gets rough, you are free to sit on the sides of the raft. But when I say to get down and sit low, do it. At some places in the rapids we’ll have to pull strongly to one side or the other. And sometimes the roar of the water will be deafening. You’ll have to strain to hear me. Everyone needs to repeat my instructions out loud so we are all on the same page. Questions, anyone?”


“Got it,” replied George. Just follow the directions.


“Sounds logical to me,” said Brad. Let’s get this show on the road; I’ve got work to do. Sure hope my shoulder doesn’t flare up again.


“I’m with the team,” responded Brianna, her voice a little shaky. This could be riskier than I thought. I have Abby to think about.


“Yo, I’m in,” chimed Nate. This looked awesome on the GPS.


“All right, let’s practice a few maneuvers,” commanded Daniella. “Nate, take a position behind Brianna. And George, move back in front of Brad.”


“Okay, we’ve got two on the right and two on the left. When I say ‘Paddle left,’ George and Brad stop paddling; and Brianna and Nate, you guys paddle like your lives depended on it. Reverse it for ‘Paddle right.’”


“Paddle right,” shouted Daniella. “And remember to repeat the command.”


“Paddle right,” Nate, Brad, Brianna, and George said in unison. It was a little anemic.


“Shout it loud!” yelled Daniella from the back of the raft.


“PADDLE RIGHT!” screamed the foursome. George and Brad paddled furiously, moving the rubber raft significantly to the right.


“Low in the boat,” commanded Daniella.


“Low in the boat!” came the reply, and all four of them slid off the sides and sat down.


“Okay, one last maneuver,” said Daniella. “All of you need to be able to get back in the boat if you go overboard. Brianna, let’s start with you. Slide out, and I’ll show you how to get back in.”

Before she could protest, Daniella gave Brianna a little nudge, and over she went with a splash.


“Dang, it’s cold!” Brianna exclaimed, trying to catch her breath from the shock of the chill. Grabbing the side of the raft, she tried to pull herself up; but her legs slid under the boat, and she looked helpless.


Daniella chuckled. “Okay, good try. Grab onto the raft, and put one leg over. The rest of us will help you roll back inside.”


Brianna placed her short, hefty leg on the side of the raft; and, sure enough, it worked—Brad and Nate pulled her in.


George, Brad, and Nate all took turns getting into the water and maneuvering back into the boat. Nate was the only one with enough upper body strength to pull himself in without assistance.


“One final thing,” said Daniella. She reached beneath her life jacket, unsnapped a sheath, and pulled out a menacing six inch hunting knife. “If someone goes overboard and gets trapped under the raft, I have to act quickly. I’ll slash the raft and try to pull the person up. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I’ve had to do it before. Questions, anyone?”


Brianna’s face was ashen. All of this for a team-building exercise?


“All right, let’s go!”


Daniella dug her oar strongly in the water and pushed out to the center of the river. What a motley crew. Oh well, we’re in this boat together. Time to experience the real thing.


Not too far ahead lay the first rapid, “Big Mama,” a steep drop and blazing ride through white water, shifting currents, and a challenging obstacle. The team would soon be tested.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bible Study: Revelation - What Was, What Is, What Is To Come - Chapter 4

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Revelation Chapter 4. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations.

4 — see Isaiah 6:1-4 and Daniel 7 for other visions of the throne.

4:1 — after this — meta tauta — translates as "these things". see Revelation 1:19 "later". See also Revelation 7:1, 9; 9:12; 19:1.

Door — Is Jesus the door to the kingdom since we can only get into heaven by going through Him?

standing open — see Matthew 3:16 — heaven is opened after Jesus' baptism. Cool!!! See Revelation 3:7-8.

Voice like a trumpet — there's that angel again. See Revelation 1:10-11. The words are again in red, indicating that this is Jesus speaking. Once again, AMP calls this a war trumpet.

4:2 — See Ezekiel 1:26 (AMP)

4:3 — see Psalm 104:1-2a. See Ezekiel 1:28 (AMP)

4:4 — 24 elders — Could they be the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles? Would John have recognized them? (See notes on 5:8-10)
see Psalm 89:7-8.

Life App SB says they represent all of the redeemed, both before and after Christ.

4:5 — lampstand — see Exodus 25:31-40.

Fire — pyr — fire, flames (Strong's 4442/KWSB 4786). Describing seven lamps blazing before the throne.

What do you think the fire represents? Does this appear to represent judgment due to sin? Can you see the fire destroy what has been corrupted by sin?

Seven spirits — the Holy Spirit. Remember the number "7" means completeness or perfection.

4:6 — 4 living creatures — seraphim? NIVSB says they are a cross between seraphs and cherubim.

Covered with eyes — they see everything.

See Ezekiel 1:5, 18 (AMP)

4:7 — see Ezekiel 1:1-10 for a view of the creatures.

See Ezekiel 1:10 (AMP)

4:8 — six wings — like the seraphim of Isaiah 6:2.

day and night they never stop saying — see Isaiah 6:3.

See Isaiah 6:1-3 (AMP)

4:9 — See Psalms 47:8 (AMP)

4:11 — will — thelema — for pleasure.

See Psalms 19:1 (AMP)


  • Remember that the main message of the book of Revelation is the infinite love, power and justice of the Lord Jesus Christ. How is this evident in today’s text?
  • What attributes of God do you see in this chapter?
  • What scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Red Siren by M.L. Tyndall

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:


The Red Siren

Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Best-selling author of The Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, MaryLu Tyndall writes full time and makes her home with her husband, six children, and four cats on California’s coast. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but expose Christians to their full potential in Christ.

For more information on MaryLu and her upcoming releases, please visit her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 318 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601569
ISBN-13: 978-1602601567

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Matthew 13: 20-21

Chapter 1


August 1713, English Channel off Portsmouth, England


This was Dajon Waite’s last chance. If he didn’t sail his father’s merchant ship and the cargo she held safely into harbor, his future would be tossed to the wind. With his head held high, he marched across the deck of the Lady Em and gazed over the choppy seas of the channel, expecting at any minute to see the lights of Portsmouth pierce the gray shroud of dusk. Another hour and his mission would be completed with success. It had taken two years before his father had trusted him to captain the most prized vessel in his merchant fleet, the Lady Em—named after Dajon’s mother, Emily—especially on a journey that had taken him past hostile France and Spain and then far into the pirate-infested waters off the African coast.

Fisting his hands on his hips, Dajon puffed out his chest and drew a deep breath of salty air and musky earth—the smell of home. Returning with a shipload of ivory, gold, and pepper from the Gold Coast, Dajon could almost see the beaming approval on his father’s sea-weathered face. Finally Dajon would prove himself an equal to his older brother, Theodore—obedient, perfect Theodore—who never let his father down. Dajon, however, had been labeled naught but capricious and unruly, the son who possessed neither the courage for command nor the brains for business.

Fog rolled in from the sea, obscuring the sunset into a dull blend of muted colors as it stole the remaining light of what had been a glorious day. Bowing his head, Dajon thanked God for His blessing and protection on the voyage.

“A sail, a sail!” a coarse voice blared from above.

Plucking the spyglass from his belt, Dajon held it to his eye. “Where away, Mules?”

“Directly off our lee, Captain.”

Dajon swerved the glass to the port and adjusted it as Cudney, his first mate, halted beside him.

“She seems to be foundering, Captain,” Mules shouted.

Through the glass, the dark outline of a ship came into focus, the whites of her sails stark against the encroaching night. Gray smoke spiraled up from her quarterdeck as sailors scrambled across her in a frenzy. The British flag flapped a harried plea from her mainmast.

“Hard to larboard,” he yelled aft, lowering the glass. “Head straight for her, Mr. Nelson.”

“Straight for her, sir.”

“Beggin’ your pardon, Captain.” Cudney gave him a sideways glance. “But didn’t your father give explicit orders never to approach an unknown vessel?”

“My father is not the captain of this ship, and I’ll thank you to obey my orders without question.” Dajon stiffened his lips, tired of having his decisions challenged. True, he had failed on two of his father’s prior ventures—one to the West Indies where a hurricane sunk his ship, and the other where he ran aground on the shoals off Portugal. Neither had been his fault. But this time, things would be different. Perhaps his father would even promote Dajon to head overseer of his affairs.

With a nod, Cudney turned. “Mr. Blake, Mr. Gibes, prepare to luff, if you please.” His bellowing voice echoed over the decks, sending the men up the shrouds.

“Who is she?” Cudney held out his hand for the glass.

“A merchant ship, perhaps.” Dajon handed him the telescope then gripped the railing as the Lady Em veered to larboard, sending a spray of seawater over her decks. “But she’s British, and she’s in trouble.”

The ship lumbered over the agitated waves. Dajon watched Cudney as he steadied the glass on his eye and his boots on the sodden deck. He’d been a good first mate and a trusted friend. A low whistle spilled from his mouth as he twisted the glass for a better look.

“Pray tell, Mr. Cudney, what has caught your eye, one of those new ship’s wheels you’ve been coveting?”

“Nay, Captain. But something nearly as beautiful—a lady.”

Dajon snatched the glass back as the Lady Em climbed a rising swell and then tromped down the other side. Sails snapped in the rising wind above him. Bracing his boots on the deck, he focused the glass on the merchant ship. A woman clung to the foremast, terror distorting her lovely features. She raised a delicate hand to her forehead as if she were going to faint. Red curls fluttered in the wind behind her. Heat flooded Dajon despite the chill of the channel. Lowering the glass, he tapped it into the palm of his hand, loathing himself for his shameless reaction. Hadn’t his weakness for the female gender already caused enough pain?

Yet clearly the vessel was in trouble.

“We shall come along side her,” Dajon ordered.

Cudney glared at the ship. “Something is not right. I can feel it in my gut.”

“Nonsense. Where is your chivalry?” Dajon smiled grimly at his friend, ignoring the hair bristling on the back of his own neck.

Cudney’s dark eyes shot to Dajon. “But your father—”

“Enough!” Dajon snapped. “My father did not intend for me to allow a lady to drown. Besides, pirates would not dare sail so close to England—especially to Portsmouth, where so many of His Majesty’s warships are anchored.” Dajon glanced back at the foundering ship, now only half a knot off their bow. Smoke poured from her waist, curling like a snake into the dark sky. Left to burn, the fire would sink her within an hour. “Surely you do not suspect a woman of piracy?”

Cudney cocked one brow. “Begging your pardon, Captain, but I have seen stranger things on these seas.”

***

Faith Louise Westcott flung her red curls behind her and held a quivering hand to her breast, nausea rising in her throat at her idiotic display. How did women feign such weakness without losing the contents of their stomachs?

“They ’ave taken the bait, mistress.” A sinister chuckle filled the breeze.

“Oh, thank heavens.” Faith released the mast. Planting a hand on her hip, she gave Lucas a mischievous grin. “Well, what are you waiting for? Ready the men.”

“Aye, aye.” The bulky first mate winked, and then scuttled across the deck, his bald head gleaming in the light from the lantern hanging on the mainmast.

After checking the pistol stuffed in the sash of her gown and the one strapped to her calf, Faith sauntered to the railing to get a better look at her latest victim, a sleek, two-masted brigantine. The orange, white, and blue of the Dutch flag fluttered from her mizzen. A very nice prize indeed. One that would bring her even closer to winning the private war she waged—a war for the survival of her and her sisters.

The oncoming ship sat low in the water, its hold no doubt packed with valuable cargo. Faith grinned. With this ship and the one she had plundered earlier, loaded with precious spices and silks, she was well on her way to amassing the fortune that would provide for her independence and that of her sisters—at least the two of them that were left unfettered by matrimony.

She allowed her thoughts to drift for a moment to Charity, the oldest. Last year their father had forced her into a union with Lord Villement, a vile, perverse man who had oppressed and mistreated her beyond what a woman should endure. Faith feared for her sister’s safety and prayed for God to deliver Charity, but to no avail.

Then, of course, there was the incident with Hope, their younger sister.

That was when Faith had stopped praying.

She would rather die than see her two younger sisters fettered to abusive men, and the only way to avoid that fate was to shield them with their own fortune. Cringing, she stifled the fury bubbling in her stomach. She mustn’t think of it now. She had a ship to plunder, and this was as much for Charity as it was for any of them.

The bowsprit of the brigantine bowed in obedience to her as it plunged over the white-capped swells. Gazing into the hazy mist, Faith longed to get a peek at the ninnies who had been so easily duped by her ruse but dared not raise the spyglass to her eye. Women didn’t know how to use such contraptions, after all.

Putting on her most flirtatious smile, she waved at her prey, beckoning the fools onward, then she scanned the deck as her crew rushed to their stations. Aboard her ship, she was in control; she was master of her life, her future—here and nowhere else. And oh how she loved it!

Lucas’s large frame appeared beside her. “The rest of the men be waitin’ yer command below hatches, mistress.” He smacked his oversized lips together in a sound Faith had become accustomed to before a battle. Nodding, she scanned her ship. Wilson manned the helm, Grayson and Lambert hovered over the fire, pretending to put it out, and Kane and Mac clambered up the ratlines in a pretense of terror. She spotted Morgan pacing the special perch Faith had nailed into the mainmast just for him. She whistled and the red macaw halted, bobbed his head up and down, and squawked, “Man the guns, man the guns!”

Faith chuckled. She had purchased the bird from a trader off Morocco and named him after Captain Henry Morgan, the greatest pirate of all time. The feisty parrot had been a fine addition to her crew.

Bates, her master gunner, hobbled to her side, wringing his thick hands together in anticipation. “Can I just fire one shot at ’em, Cap’n? The guns grow cold from lack of use.” His expression twisted into a pout that reminded her of Hope, her younger sister. “I won’t hurt ’em none, ye have me word.”

“I cannot take that chance, Bates. You know the rules,” Faith said as the gunner’s soot-blackened face fell in disappointment. “No one gets hurt, or we abandon the prize. But I promise we shall test the guns soon enough.”

With a grunt, Bates wobbled away and disappeared below.

Returning her gaze to her unsuspecting prey, Faith inhaled a breath of the crisp air. Smoke bit her throat and nose, but she stifled a cough as the thrill of her impending victory charged through her, setting every nerve aflame. The merchant ship was nigh upon them. She could already make out the worried expressions upon the crew’s faces as they charged to her rescue.

This is for you, Charity, and for you, Mother.

Heavy fog blanketed the two ships in gray that darkened with each passing minute. Faith tugged her shawl tighter against her body, both to ward off the chill and to hide the pistol in her sash. A vision of her mother’s pale face formed in the fog before her, blood marring the sheets on the birthing bed where she lay.

Take care of your sisters, Faith.

A burst of wind chilled Faith’s moist cheeks. A tear splattered onto the deck by her shoes before she brushed the rest from her face. “I will, Mother. I promise.”

“Ahoy there!” A booming voice shattered her memories.

She raised her hand in greeting toward the brigantine as it heaved ten yards off their starboard beam. “Ahoy, kind sir. Thank God you have arrived in time,” she yelled back, sending the sailors scurrying across the deck. Soon, they lowered a cockboat, filled it with men, and shoved off.

A twinge of guilt poked at Faith’s resolve. These men had come to her aid with kind intentions. She swallowed hard, trying to drown her nagging conscience. They were naught but rich merchants, she told herself, and she, merely a Robin Hood of the seas, taking from the rich to feed the poor. She had exhausted all legal means of acquiring the money she needed, and present society offered her no other choice.

The boat thumped against her hull, and she nodded at Kane and Mac, who had jumped down from the shrouds and tossed the rope ladder over the side.

“Permission to come aboard?” The man who appeared to be the captain shouted toward Lucas as he swung his legs over the bulwarks, but his eyes were upon Faith.

By all means. Faith shoved a floppy fisherman’s hat atop her head, obscuring her features from his view, and smiled sweetly.

***

“Aye, I beg ye, be quick about it afore our ship burns to a cinder,” the massive bald man beckoned to Dajon.

Dajon hesitated. He knew he should obey his father’s instructions, he knew he shouldn’t risk the hoard of goods in his hold, he knew he should pay heed to the foreboding of dread that now sank like a anchor in his stomach, but all he could see was the admiring smile of the red-haired beauty, and he led his men over the bulwarks.

After directing them to assist in putting out the fire, he marched toward the dark, bald man and bowed.

“Captain Dajon Waite at your service.”

When his gaze drifted to the lady, she slunk into the shadows by the foremast, her features lost beneath the cover of her hat. Odd. Somehow he had envisioned a much warmer reception. At the very least, some display of feminine appreciation.

“Give ’em no quarter! Give ’em no quarter!” a shrill voice shrieked, drawing Dajon’s attention behind him to a large red parrot perched on a peg jutting from the mainmast.

A pinprick of fear stabbed him.

“Captain,” one of his crew called from the quarterdeck. “The ship ain’t on fire. It’s just a barrel with flaming rubbish inside it!”

The anchor that had sunk in Dajon’s stomach dropped into his boots with an ominous clank.

He spun back around, hoping for an explanation, but all he received was a sinister grin on the bald man’s mouth.

Tentacles of alarm seized Dajon, sucking away his confidence, his reason, his pride. Surely he could not have been this daft. He glanced back at the Lady Em, bobbing in the sea beside them—the pride of his father’s fleet.

“To battle, men!” The woman roared in a voice belying her gender—a voice that pummeled Dajon’s heart to dust.

Dozens of armed pirates spat from the hatches onto the deck. Brandishing weapons, they hurtled toward his startled crew. One by one, his men dropped their buckets to the wooden planks with hollow thuds and slowly raised their hands. Their anxious gazes shot to Dajon, seeking his command. The pirates chortled. Dajon’s fear exploded into a searing rage. They were surrounded.

The woman drew a pistol from her sash. Dajon could barely make out the tilted lift of her lips. He wiped the sweat from his brow and prayed to God that he would wake up from this nightmare.

“I thank you, Captain, for your chivalrous rescue.” The woman pointed her pistol at him and cocked it with a snap. “But I believe I’ll be taking over your ship.”


Here is my review of this wonderful novel from one of my favorite authors!

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to M.L. Tyndall and her publisher for sending me a copy of "The Red Siren" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, but haven’t been very consistent in taking the time to thank them in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

"The Red Siren" does not disappoint! Although this novel begins a bit slower than M.L. Tyndall's other swashbuckling efforts, the pace steadily pushes forward to reveal a wonderful romantic adventure. I eagerly await future novels in this series!

Faith is leading a double life. She is the self-appointed caregiver to her two younger sisters and a confirmed bachelorette as well as an infamous pirate known as "The Red Siren". When Dajon's life is destroyed by this beautiful buccaneer, he vows to bring her to justice. But this may become difficult if he falls in love with her.

January CSFF Tour: D. Barkley Briggs, The Book of Names, first in the Legends of Karac Tor series








Check out the author's blog, too.




Here is my review of this amazing novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to D. Barkley Briggs and his publisher for sending me a copy of The Book of Names to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, but haven’t been very consistent in taking the time to thank them in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Here is the review I posted for the blog tour back in August 2008.



“The Book of Names” by D. Barkley Briggs is not what I expected. I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I cracked the cover. The title reminded me of one of those books you pick up when you’re expecting a baby so you can try to choose a name for your child that has some meaning. However, what I got was a wonderfully crafted fantasy read that transported me through a present-day portal into another world. By the side of teenaged hero brothers, Hadyn and Ewan Barlow, this easily readable adventure brought to life the meticulously crafted land of Karac Tor.

My biggest gripe is that this is the first in a series. I don’t want to be hooked on another series. Unfortunately, that is impossible with this book. It is a thoroughly enjoyable novel for young adults as well as the young at heart.




Please visit these other Blog Tour Participant websites:

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bible Study: Revelation - What Was, What Is, What Is To Come - Chapter 3

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Revelation Chapter 3. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations.

3:1 — Jesus signs this letter "from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars" because they knew what the sevenfold Spirit of God is!

What other reason might Jesus have for addressing the church in this way?

Sardis, the magnificent capital of Lydia, was a wealthy city that began at a strategic mountaintop location, but when the population outgrew the area, they expanded to the valley below. The city was known for its dying and wool industry. They also had a flourishing carpet trade. Gold and silver coins were first minted here in the 6th century BC. Croesus, their king, was once the richest man alive. He was captured by Cyrus the Great in 546 BC, and Lydia became a Persian satrapy. This nearly impregnable citadel was captured in 499 BC by the Ionians during the Persian Wars. In 133 it passed to the Romans. After being destroyed by an earthquake in AD 17, it was rebuilt by the Romans. Excavations of the city have uncovered Roman baths and a gymnasium, as well as the Greek Temple of Artemis (dating from the 4th century BC).

3:1 — the problem in the Sardis church was spiritual death.

3:2 — the reality of our faith will be known by how we live our lives. Empty words will not save us. see Matthew 7:21.

3:5 — See Psalm 69:28; Daniel 12:1 (AMP)

3:7 — Jesus signs this letter "from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open" because Christ has the authority to open the door of invitation to salvation. No one can close that door. If we reject Him, He closes that door and we become subject to His judgment. He is holy and true, unlike the pagan (Dionysus) worship practices of the area. Also, the concept of the door may speak to the fact that the city was built as a gateway to Asia Minor.

What other reason might Jesus have for addressing the church in this way?

Philadelphia was founded by the citizens of Pergamos. Built in a frontier area as a gateway to Asia Minor, residents kept barbarians out of the region and brought in Greek culture and language. Philadelphia, which means “brotherly love”, was the center of the wine-making industry and engaged in Dionysus worship. Destroyed by earthquake in AD 17, Philadelphia was rebuilt by Tiberias Caesar. But the aftershocks kept the people so worried that most lived outside the city limits.

key of David — since keys unlock doors and Christ is the supreme authority to open doors, Jesus is the one who holds the key of David.

What door do you think the key unlocks?


Phladelphia was built in a volcanic area located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis. It was completely rebuilt after being destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17. This is probably the same earthquake that damaged Sardis. How would it have affected the other churches?

See Isaiah 22:22 (AMP)

3:8 — What is the open door that no one can shut? Context suggests the door to the kingdom. (NIVSB) See 4:1.

3:9 — synagogue of Satan — see 2:9. See Isaiah 43:4; 49:23; 60:14 (AMP)

3:10 – this passage is used as evidence that believers will be spared the tribulation.

"keep you from the hour of trial" — the word 'from' is the Greek word ek, which can mean either 'keep you from undergoing' or 'keep you as you undergo'.

3:11 — hold onto what you have... - implies that our crowns can be taken away. Not salvation, but rewards.

3:12 — see Isaiah 62:2; Ezekiel 48:35 (AMP)

3:14 — Jesus signs this letter "from the one who is the Amen — the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's new creation" because He is the Last, the First, and the Witness of everything in between. My Pastor said it like this in a sermon, once. "Amen — His words are final; Ideal Witness — His testimony is inexplicably true; Beginning — He sees things clearly from the earliest motives.”

What other reason might Jesus have for addressing the church in this way?

Founded by Antiochus (remember him? One of Alexander the Great’s generals spoken of in Daniel.) who named it for his wife, Laodicea was the wealthiest of the cities, known for banking, manufacture and trade of expensive, black wool garments, and a well-known medical school famous for the eye salve it produced. It was a major East-West trade route. The city’s problem was that there was no water supply. They built aqueducts to bring cold water from mountains and hot water from mineral springs, but when water arrived in town, it was lukewarm. It was located about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia and 100 miles east of Ephesus. Laodicea often suffered from earthquakes and was completely destroyed by an earthquake in AD 60.

The church of Laodicea is mentioned in Colossians 4:15-16. This city was already destroyed by the time John wrote the book of Revelation. Was the purpose to allow the city to serve as a "living" example of what it meant to be spit out of the Lord's mouth?
See Isaiah 55:4; Proverbs 8:22 (AMP)

The comments about the Jews of Laodicea embracing Greek ideals reminds me of the explanation my Pastor gave about the Saducees being the Jews who embraced Greek culture.

3:14 — ruler of God's creation — refers to Jesus as the originator of creation.

3:15-16 — lukewarmness = indifference led to idleness, which meant doing nothing for Christ.

3:16 — The Laodiceans were comfortable. They liked attention. They desired acceptance. They were spiritual "fat cats." They were nauseating to Christ. They had become like stagnant water.

3:17 — "... you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." — Christ hits them right where they think their strengths are.

See Hosea 12:8 (AMP) — "Ephraim boasts, 'I am very rich; I have become wealthy. With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin."

3:18 — Fire — pyr — fire, flames (Strong's 4442/KWSB 4786). Describing gold refined in the fire. (see 1 Peter 1:7)

What do you think the fire represents? Does this appear to represent judgment due to sin? Can you see the fire destroy what has been corrupted by sin?

3:19 — See Proverbs 3:12 (AMP)

3:20 — The Laodicean church is so comfortable that it is totally blind about the reality of its true condition. Jesus is outside of this church, knocking to get in. This is NOT where Jesus belongs!

3:22 — seven churches — although a literal number of churches, "seven" is representative of all.


  • Remember that the main message of the book of Revelation is the infinite love, power and justice of the Lord Jesus Christ. How is this evident in today’s text?
  • What attributes of God do you see in this chapter?
  • What scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Never Say Diet (TP Conv.) and The NSD Personal Fitness Trainer by

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 books:


Never Say Diet

WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)

and


The Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Trainer

WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Chantel Hobbs is a personal trainer, certified spinning instructor, and motivational speaker whose no-excuses approach to fitness has won her a grateful following across the country. The author of Never Say Diet, Chantel hosts a weekly fitness program on Reach FM radio and is a regular guest on Way FM. Her “Ditch the Diet, Do the Weekend” bootcamp takes place several times a year in a variety of locations. She has presented her unique approach to lasting fitness in People magazine and on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, The 700 Club, Living the Life, and Paula White Today. Chantel enjoys life with her husband and their four children in South Florida.

Visit the author's website.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERs:


Never Say Diet Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307444937
ISBN-13: 978-0307444936

The Night That

Changed My Life

How to Choose

to Do the Best

Job of Living

It should have been a scene of American family bliss. A Sunday afternoon in our home on a beautiful fall day in South Florida. My husband, Keith, was watching the Dolphins game in the living room with some friends. He’d waited all week for this. Our girls, six-year-old Ashley and four-year-old Kayla, were helping me in the kitchen. Well, kind of. Our six month-old, Jake, was jumping and laughing in his Jolly Jumper. I was baking Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, our favorite, and everybody could smell the cinnamon and butter and couldn’t wait for the cookies to come out of the oven. Especially me. As I worked in the kitchen, I could hear the football game coming from the living room. The announcers were talking about a player who had arrived at training camp completely out of shape. He was six foot four and weighed 320 pounds. “That is a big boy,” they said. “Wow! He is huge.” “Would you look at that guy,” I heard my husband say with disgust. “I can’t believe he got so fat! What a lazy bum.” Those words cut me to the heart. I had created a happy home, with a

happy husband and happy kids. But at that moment I wanted to die, because I outweighed that player by at least 10 pounds. I was bigger than anyone playing for the Miami Dolphins. And I knew I was anything but lazy. I pulled the cookies out of the oven and felt nauseous. I was pathetic. I’d been overweight my entire adult life, but I was bigger than I had ever been. I was miserable but doing an excellent job of faking out everyone who knew me. I was five foot nine and weighed 330 pounds, maybe more. I didn’t know for sure because it had been months since I’d dared to step on a scale. Besides, the only one in the house was a conveniently inaccurate discount-store model with a wheel underneath that calibrated the scale. I had adjusted it to register the lowest weight possible. I was in denial, but I was also without hope. It was the autumn of 2000. I was twenty-eight years old and was starting to believe I would never live a long and fulfilled life. Not this way. If an angel had landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear that, in less than two years, Oprah Winfrey would have me on her show to tell a feel good weight-loss story, I’d have sent that angel packing and gone back to my cookies. I wasn’t Oprah material. And there was absolutely nothing feel-good about my life. Call me when you want a feel-bad story. That was me. If that angel had whispered that I would one day run a marathon, I’d have checked him in to an insane asylum. I couldn’t run around the block. Even in high school I hadn’t been able to run the required twenty-minute mile. My knees hurt all the time. I was morbidly obese—a term that I knew meant an early death. If one thing was clear about my life in the fall of 2000, it was that

I could never, ever run a marathon. But I did. I finished my first one in 2005 and after that ran four more— in less than a year. I went from weighing nearly 350 pounds to less than 150 pounds. And I have appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America and the cover of People magazine as one of America’s great weight-loss successes. Getting fit wasn’t easy—there was plenty of pain, deprivation, tears, and hungeralong the way. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I won’t try to sugarcoat any of that. But, honestly, I didn’t give myself a choice. Once I made the unconditional decision that I was going to lose weight and get healthy, nothing could stop me. And nothing will stop you if you make the Five Decisions to break the fat habit for good. That’s a guarantee. Here is the secret I learned—the same secret I want to share with you. I realized I had to change my mind before I could change my body, my health, and my life. I discovered the Five Decisions, which brought about an unconditional commitment to getting healthy and fit. Once I started, I treated it like a job so that no matter what else was going on in my life, I did what I had to do to achieve daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, and eventually the target weight and fitness that I desired. After making the Five Decisions, getting fit was a matter of showing up for work each day. The process developed from the inside out, which was a new concept for me.


FIRST, YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND

People constantly ask me how I lost 200 pounds and started running marathons. When I explain that it took several years to achieve those goals, they wonder how I was able to stick to the plan when so many others can’t. I ask myself the same question. I had failed plenty of times before. I’d tried a few diets and failed, including a bit of foolishness called the chocolate-wafer diet, which I’ll tell you about later. I’d resolved so many times not to eat the entire package of Oreos, without success. So how did I lose all that weight and keep it off reclaiming my health and gaining a new life in the process? Here’s the simple answer: my brain changed. I decided to first become a different person in my mind and then learned patience as my body followed. My success wasn’t measured only by a declining number on a scale; it was much deeper. I had to change on the inside. I needed to change my mind before I could change my body. It will work the same way for you. First you must get to the right place in your head, and then you can create the lifestyle to go along with that. Your body reflects your daily choices, so stop confusing it by the way you think. The mistake so many people make is to focus on weight loss and how long it will take. In fact, the multibillion-dollar diet industry banks on people thinking this way. Don’t get stuck in the weight loss weight gain cycle. What you should focus on is the person you want to be. Set your sights very high, and keep your commitment level even higher. In this book I’ll explain how I did that. I went from being someone who weighed more than a Miami Dolphins lineman to someone who is strong and trim and can run twenty-six miles. I went from a state of hopelessness to a life of incredible confidence. And I want to help you achieve something great in your life. If you change your mind before attempting to change your body, you can do this.


HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

While I was learning how to lose weight and regain my health, I faced setback after setback. My husband lost his job, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer—and those were only two of the crises that came along. Changing your life will never be easy, and that’s why in order to succeed, you first need to be ready to succeed. It’s a choice you make. In the fall of 2000, when I was baking cookies and overhearing my husband’s criticism of an overweight NFL lineman, I fell into despair. I realized my life was out of control and I was headed for an early grave if I didn’t change. But even then, I wasn’t yet ready to make the commitment that was necessary to change my life. The truth is, on that dark day I still wasn’t miserable enough to change. I hit rock bottom about six months later. I was at my heaviest ever—349 pounds, I think. Though I was still mostly in denial, I was starting to see myself clearly, and I hated what I saw. I’d look in the mirror and say, “You are pitiful! How could you have let this happen?” My appearance started to affect my family life. We live in South Florida, where every weekend is a pool party. My daughters were young, but they were being invited to a few parties, and I was horribly uncomfortable in a bathing suit. I knew it wouldn’t be long before my girls would be embarrassed by their mother, and that made me want to cry. It did make me cry. But that was the least of it. I was more worried that their mom would die young. I’d seen fat people, and I’d seen old people, but rarely had I seen fat, old people. If I couldn’t change for myself, maybe I could do it for my kids. One night I was driving home alone from an event at church. I felt trapped in despair. At age twenty-nine, my body felt old. I had recently had an emergency gallbladder operation, and the doctor had told me he was afraid to cut through all my layers of fat because of the risk of infection. Imagine being worried about your diseased gallbladder and experiencing anxiety about surgery. And then you learn that your weight problem makes you more prone to infection. That night in the car I felt like the most pathetic person who had ever lived. I believed that God had made me and put me on earth for a purpose, and I was not living the life He intended for me. I knew I had to change. As I drove, drowning in self-pity, I began to envision what my life would be if I weren’t fat. I thought of all the things I could do—even simple things, such as walking down an airplane aisle without having to turn sideways. I’d be able to board a flight without getting fearful stares from people hoping I wouldn’t sit next to them. And there were deeper things, such as being able to go down a slide at a playground with my kids. And I wanted never again to feel as if I was embarrassing my husband when he introduced me to business associates. I was tired of feeling prejudged by every server in every restaurant for what I ordered. I wanted to be able to shop in the same clothing stores as all my friends. I wanted a normal life. As I drove home from church, I came to the realization that I absolutely could not go on with my life as it was. I pulled over, sobbing. In total despair I cried out to God. I remember every word. “This is it!” I said. “I can’t live like this anymore. I’m done. I give all this pain to You. I surrender this battle. I need You to take over and give me a plan. Otherwise, I don’t want to live anymore.” Almost immediately a sense of inner peace filled me, and I calmed down. I had gone to church all my life and had a relationship with God, but I had certainly never felt anything like that before. The peace was real, and in my mind I heard from God. I clearly heard these words: You are not being the best you can be. It wasn’t a booming voice like in a movie, but it also wasn’t a voice coming from me. The words were a jolt to my soul. And that moment would change my life forever. Again, with crystal clarity, I “heard” a whisper: You are not being the best you can be. And for the first time in my life, I understood that this was a choice. I could choose to be the best I could be or not. We all have the same choice. We can’t choose our natural talents or what opportunities life is going to throw our way, but we can choose to do this one thing: we can do the best job of living that we are capable of. After praying alone in my car, I knew I could do better.


THE CHOICE IS YOURS

No matter how overweight and out of shape we are, our bodies and minds are capable of much more than we think. No matter what battles we face in life, we can have victory. The amazing thing is that so many of us choose not to. I know this is true because I was as guilty as anyone. For years I’d made poor choices and come up with excuses for why I really didn’t have a choice at all. I was big boned. I let myself overeat because I was pregnant. I skipped exercise because I didn’t have the time. I was too far gone to ever recover. I told myself whatever it took to hide the truth that I was not doing the best job of living. I was also being scammed by the diet industry. We all have been taken in by the hype. “We’ll give you your eating points,” the industry tells us, “and let you spend them on any food you want. And we’ll love you when you get on that scale, whether you’ve lost weight or not. We’ll keep hugging you for the next twenty-three years if need be.” Counting my points was not going to save me. Choosing the right frozen entrée and having it delivered to my home for the next two years was not going to save me. I didn’t need the unconditional love of strangers; I needed unconditional commitment from myself. I was also scammed by the “fat gene” scientists who insisted that my weight problem was out of my hands. They were wrong; it was in my hands. Chantel, I told myself, this is not cancer. I knew, because my mother had leukemia, and I had spent more tearful nights than I could count praying for her recovery something I couldn’t do anything about. I prayed that chemotherapy would work and that God would heal her. But I realized that I’d been thinking of my obesity in the same way, as an illness. I’d even been told by experts that drastic surgery might be my only option. But that was another lie. The way I lived my life and how I contributed to my health were completely in my hands. Every one of us knows what we should do, but we don’t always do it. Instead, we pretend it’s out of our control. We take the easy way out and let ourselves down. Gaining weight doesn’t come about by accident, and it’s not forced on us. We gain weight through a series of poor choices made on a regular basis over a long period of time.


We gain weight

through a series of poor choices

made on a regular basis

over a long period of time.


The same process holds true for achieving a goal related to your health and fitness. Whether it’s weight loss, athletic accomplishment, or any other personal or business goal, you achieve what you seek by learning to make the right choices and not being scared of self-sacrifice. I began wondering what my life would be like and what I would be capable of if I simply started being the best me I could. It was time to find out. After hearing God tell me, You are not being the best you can be, I made my decision, and I said it out loud: “I can do this. I will do this.” I repeated it, and I meant it. At that moment by the side of Cypress Creek Road, my life turned around.


DO IT, THEN TALK

Having made the commitment, I knew I was going to change my life, but I didn’t have a specific plan. I knew I’d have to start exercising, no matter how much I dreaded it. I knew I would have to change the way I ate, and I would need to learn more about nutrition. And to become a different person, I knew I would have to start thinking like the person I wanted to be and not the person I had allowed myself to become. I didn’t know how I was going to do all this, but I knew I would have God by my side. He might not make it easy, but He’d give me the strength to do everything that was needed. When I got home that night, Keith was already in bed. He had never criticized my weight, for which I was incredibly grateful, but I knew how he must have felt. I looked into my husband’s eyes, told him that God had spoken to me in the car, and announced that the next morning I would begin losing weight and getting healthy. (I even mentioned that one day I would write a book to reach others in my situation.) I made it clear that I was totally committed to being the best I could be. Keith smiled at me and quoted one of his favorite sources of inspiration, the self-made billionaire Art Williams: “Do it, then talk.” He was right. I shut up. Keith fell asleep, but I had a burning passion that kept me awake that night and has kept me up many nights since. Making the unconditional decision to change—the complete commitment with no turning back—had to be followed by action. First you change your mind. But to change your body and your life, you have to get moving. You have to do things and do them differently from the past. Do it. How incredibly simple—yet how long it had taken me to get to a place where I could see that clearly. Getting fit and accomplishing my dreams was simply a matter of choosing to do it, following through every single day, and understanding that failure was not an option. I could do it. I would do it. And I did.


w

Keep reading, and you’ll find out how to change your life through five crucial decisions. The Five Decisions change your brain, giving you a new way of thinking about yourself, your life, your health, and your future. As long as you keep thinking the same way you always have, you will keep doing the things you have always done—including the unhealthy habits you have developed. Join me in the next chapter as we explore the past—including all the influences that worked together to bring us to where we are today. Understanding the messages that influence our self-perception and the way we respond to obstacles enables us to make the new decisions that are necessary for permanent change.



What Do You Want to Change, and Why?

As you prepare to make the mental changes that will lead to permanent life change, think through the reasons you want to change. What is motivating your desire to lose weight and reclaim your health? Use the questions that follow to think in detail about your life, your goals for the future, and what you’re willing to do to make this happen finally and forever.


1. Beyond losing weight, what do you most want to change about your life?


2. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see certain areas of your life undergo radical change? If you’re not yet willing, what is holding you back?


3. When in your life have you felt the most hopeless? Are you now ready to move past those scars and never look back?


4. When you gained weight in the past, what factors caused you to lose your focus on health?


5. Identify three reasons or influences from the past that convinced you that you couldn’t achieve permanent life change. After considering these reasons, can you now admit they were merely excuses?


6. Think about the necessity of changing your mind before you attempt to change your body. Do you agree that lasting change begins on the inside? As you consider being the best you can be, are you ready to work from the inside out?


7. A total life change involves your mind, body, and spirit. Think about the spiritual aspect for a moment. Do you accept the role that faith plays in the process of changing your life for good?


8. When have you been held back by a fear of failure? Write down your biggest fears in this regard. As you face your fears, can you decide to let them go and give your all to permanent life change?


Never Say Diet Personal Trainer Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446425
ISBN-13: 978-0307446428

Week 1 Training Plan

The Perfect Body Type: Yours!

You Are Lovely Today


Scripture for the week: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.… When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”

—PSALM 139:14–16


Quote for the week: “Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”

—A. W. TOZER


As you begin the journey to never say diet, remember that your value is based on who you are in Christ, not what the number on the scale says. God created everything about you, and He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows which foods are your weaknesses, and He is there whenever the temptation to overeat or consume unhealthy food seems overwhelming. The Lord knows the tears you have shed out of desperation. He was there to comfort you when it seemed like no one understood your pain. Trust me, on days when I feel the most flawed, I need the verses from Psalm 139 to remind me of what is true. The living God formed every part of my body, even the parts I would like to change. Although I used to struggle and fail in caring for my body, God always knew it best. When I finally cried out to my Creator and invited Him to help with the repair, I knew I could succeed. He wants you to succeed too. Start this week by thanking the Lord for the gifts of your life and your body. By focusing on making some improvements, you will ultimately be honoring Him more and more each day. Find a recent photo of yourself, or take one, and tape it in the space that follows. This picture will be a powerful reference for you in the coming weeks as you begin your transformation.


THE MIND FACTOR: CHANGE YOUR BRAIN

In Never Say Diet, I make a big deal about the Five Decisions—and for good reason. You will fail in this new attempt to change your life unless you first change your brain. To succeed, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes—unconditionally. I want to be your cheerleader and your friend. And for us to get going, you need to commit to the five Brain Change decisions found on pages 76–82 of Never Say Diet. Think about how each of the Five Decisions applies to your life. Also, try to memorize them. They will form the backbone you need to stand up to and overcome every area of weakness in your life. Create your personal surrender statement.


THE EXERCISE EQUATION: ARE YOU WILLING?

This week your first assignment is to start building a foundation of discipline. You will be successful over the next month if you show up for exercise thirty minutes a day, five days in a row, every week—no matter what. There are many choices for your cardiovascular exercise. Below is a list of suggestions. Even if your week gets hectic, finding the time to make this happen is imperative.


Cardio Exercise Suggestions

Basketball

Bike riding

Cross-country skiing machine

Dancing

Elliptical machine

Jogging/running

Kick boxing

Racquetball

Spinning class

Stair climber

Stair stepper

Stationary bike/recumbent bike

Step aerobics

Swimming

Tennis

Walking


How to Take Your Measurements

Taking your measurements at the beginning of each month is an important part of the process of losing weight. You will begin to see precisely where you are losing fat. As you start building more muscle, there will be months where your progress is more evident in your measurements than on the scale, because muscle is denser than fat. You will begin by taking six measurements. You should be able to do them by yourself, with the exception of your upper arm. (Ask a friend or your spouse to help you.) For instructions on taking accurate measurements, see pages 97–98 of Never Say Diet. Record your measurements below.


Bust: ______________

Chest: ______________

Waist: ______________

Hips: ______________

Thighs: ______________

Arms: ______________


Be sure that you consistently measure in the same spots each month. I also recommend taking your measurements before your workouts.


Weigh Yourself

Weigh yourself, and record your weight at the beginning of each week.

Week 1 starting weight: ________


WEEK 1 CARDIO TRAINING

Complete your cardio exercise five days in a row, for at least thirty minutes per day. In the space provided, write down the day, the date, the exercise you completed, and the duration of each exercise period. This serves as a reminder that you always found a way to get the exercise done, whether you felt like it or not.


Day 1 date/exercise/duration:

________________________________________________


How did it go?

________________________________________________



Day 2 date/exercise/duration:

________________________________________________


How did it go?

________________________________________________



Day 3 date/exercise/duration:

________________________________________________


How did it go?

________________________________________________



Day 4 date/exercise/duration:

________________________________________________


How did it go?

________________________________________________



Day 5 date/exercise/duration:

________________________________________________


How did it go?

________________________________________________


THE FOOD FACTOR: BREAKFAST IS

WHERE IT’S AT

This week you must place your nutritional focus on the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Plan to eat every day within two hours of waking up. Listed below are some fresh food ideas. Each one is about three hundred calories, which is perfect!


• Quaker Weight Control oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of raisins, cinnamon to taste, 2 slices of turkey bacon.


• One slice of whole-wheat toast, light spread of peanut butter (natural is best), and ½ grapefruit.


• Chocolate strawberry shake. Blend the following: 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 10 small frozen strawberries, 1 packet sugar substitute, ½ cup low-fat milk, a few ice cubes.


• Egg white omelet. In a skillet with nonstick spray, cook veggies you like, 3 lightly beaten egg whites, and 1 tablespoon fat-free cheese. Accompany with half an English muffin with a dab of peanut butter.


Each of these breakfast meals provides a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat. This ensures your day gets off to a good start; it is igniting your source of energy. Find a few meals that you enjoy, and keep repeating them. This way you won’t stress out over deciding what to have.


Week 1 Breakfast Log

Using the space provided, record each day’s breakfast menu and the portions.


Day 1 date/time: ___________________________________ ________________________________________________


Day 2 date/time: ___________________________________

________________________________________________


Day 3 date/time: ___________________________________

________________________________________________


Day 4 date/time: ___________________________________

________________________________________________


Day 5 date/time: ___________________________________

________________________________________________


Day 6 date/time: ___________________________________

________________________________________________


Day 7 date/time: ___________________________________

________________________________________________


Here is my review of these incredibly helpful books:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to the author and publisher for sending me a copy of these books to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, but haven’t been very consistent in taking the time to thank them in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Chantel Hobbs creates a wonderful reading experience considering the subject matter of her book, "Never Say Diet". This is an uplifting and encouraging book written by a real-life health and fitness success story. I recommend taking it with you to the gym to read on the treadmill!

The interactive Personal Fitness Trainer book is an incredibly valuable resource for customizing your experience on the road to a healthier and happier you!



Monday, January 12, 2009

The Bishop's Daughter by Tiffany L. Warren

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:


The Bishop's Daughter

Grand Central Publishing (January 9, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Tiffany L. Warren is a technology manager who lives in suburban Cleveland, Ohio with her husband and four children. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel, Farther Than I Meant to Go, Longer Than I Meant to Stay.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 9, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446195146
ISBN-13: 978-0446195140

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Darrin

I'm snatched from my sleep by voices.

They're coming from the living room. The first voice is Shayna, my lover, although she likes to be called my girlfriend. She is not my girlfriend. Haven't had one of those since high school.

The other voice is coming from the television. It's way too loud, but not unfamiliar. I concentrate for a moment until familiarity becomes recognition. The voice belongs to that preacher Shayna likes to watch every Sunday morning.

Is it Sunday already?

I start a mental rewind in an attempt to recapture my weekend. Friday was standard. Edited a short story for a girl in my writer's group. She's entering a romance writer's contest, and wanted my opinion.

I didn't give it to her, because I'm possibly interested in sleeping with her. I told her that the uninspired farce was poetic prose. She won't win the contest, but she won't blame it on me. She'll accuse the judges of being amateurs and then come cry on my shoulder. I'll have tissues on hand – right along with the strawberries and champagne.

Also had lunch with Priscilla. My mother. The obligatory "good son" lunch that keeps me on the family payroll. I call her Priscilla behind her back, but never to her face. She's petite, cultured and polished but not above going upside a brotha's head.

We had the same conversation we have every week.

"Darrin, when are you coming to work for your father?"

"The day after never."

"You always say that."

"And I always mean it."

I love my mother, but I hate this conversation.

My father, Mathis Bainbridge, wants me to work in an office at Bainbridge Transports, shuffling papers, giving orders, and hiring overqualified people at ridiculously insulting rates of pay. He calls his company the 'family business' but only one person in our three person familia is interested in shuttling elderly people to doctor's appointments and on shopping trips.

It's not Priscilla and it's not me.

"You coming to church with me on Sunday?" Mother had also asked.

I'd let out a frustrated sigh. "I'll see."

My sporadic church attendance is Priscilla's other favorite topic.

"Don't you love Jesus?"

"Yes, Mother. I love Jesus."

That wasn't a lie. I do love Jesus. I just cannot say no to a woman who wants me to take her to bed and I have yet to hear a preacher tell me how.

Priscilla was extra irritated at our lunch date. She got borderline vulgar. "But you're willing to go to hell over some girl's dirty panties?"

I'd laughed then, and I'm still laughing. In Priscilla speak 'dirty panties' was tantamount to cursing me out.

I'd replied, "Mother, please watch your language."

Saturday was worse. I'd spent the entire muggy and rainy afternoon at a 10K marathon to benefit cancer research. Put on a fake smile and interviewed the sweaty first-place winner, asking him questions that no one wanted answers to, all the while thinking to myself, 'Why am I doing this?'

There was a time when I was excited to have comma writer after my name. You know, Darrin Bainbridge, writer. But the glamour that I'd envisioned has not yet materialized, and the less money I make with freelance journalism, the more my father threatens to chain me to a desk.

Then, when I should have been winding down for the weekend I blogged. Blogging is what narcissistic writers do when they don't have a book deal. Yeah, I'm just a bit narcissistic. Besides, people like to read what I think about social injustice, celebrities and whatever else. Ten thousand hits a day on my blogsite can't be wrong.

The thing I love about blogging is that I'm anonymous. Like, last week I wrote a piece on Jesse Jackson and how he's more of a threat to African American progress than the KKK. Then, I chilled with him at a networking function the same night. No harm, no foul.

Since I can no longer drown out the television or Shayna's 'Hallelujahs', I open my eyes and concede to starting the day. I stretch, take a deep breath, and grin at the memory of last night. Shayna's perfume lingers in the air. A fruity Victoria's Secret fragrance purchased by me for my benefit, but disguised as a spur-of-the-moment romantic and thoughtful gift. Yeah…I don't do those. But Shayna was pleased. So pleased that she stayed the night in my den of iniquity and is now watching church on television instead of getting her shout on in a pew.

I jump out of the bed in one motion, landing on the ice cold ceramic tiles. My pedicured toes curl from the drastic temperature change. Yes, a brotha likes his feet smooth. Hands too. What?

My apartment is slamming, and the furniture baller style – especially for someone with such a low income. If it wasn't for the deep pockets of my parents, blogging and freelance writing would pretty much have me living in semi-poverty. But my mother makes sure that I have the best of the best, and a monthly allowance. I keep thinking that at twenty-eight, I might be too old for a $6000 a month allowance. I'd be satisfied with less, but I'm not turning anything down. Priscilla's generosity (behind my father's back, of course) allows me to pursue my dreams, whatever they might be.

I pull on a pair of silk boxer shorts and walk up the hallway to the living room. Silently, I observe Shayna. She is rocking back and forth on the couch, her hands wrapped around her own torso. Embracing herself.

"You better preach, preacher!" she shouts at the face on the screen.

I mimic her movements and hug myself too, but not because I feel the love. It's freezing in here. Shayna likes to turn the thermostat on sixty no matter what the temperature is outside. Freon laced air rushes out of every vent.

"If you got breath in your lungs and strength in your body, you need to shout Hallelujah!" shouts the preacher.

"Hallelujah!Hallelujah!Hallelujah!Hallelujah!" Shayna's four-alarm Hallelujah sounds like one word.

I am amazed. How can Shayna feel so worshipful this morning when she just rolled out of my bed a few hours ago?

I'm curious. "Do you send this guy money? He's in Atlanta, right?"

Shayna looks up from the program and smiles seductively. Can she be any more blasphemous?

"Yes, Freedom of Life is in Atlanta and yes I do send in my tithe and offering on the regular. I'm a partner." She motions for me to come join her on the couch. I don't.

"About how many members do you think he has?" I ask as the television camera pans to what looks like the crowd at a Destiny's Child concert.

"The sanctuary holds ten thousand," she declares proudly as if it was her own accomplishment, "but there are about twenty thousand members and partners worldwide."

I'm in writer mode now. I can feel the wheels in my mind spinning. Probably something scandalous going on in a church that size. Pastor either skimming money off the top or sleeping with half the choir. Maybe blogging about a dirty Pastor will attract some sponsors. Exposing rich Black men pays well, and if he's truly grimy I won't have a problem spending the money.

Shayna asks suspiciously, "Since when did you get interested in church?"

"Since just now. I could feel the spirit oozing into the bedroom and I had to come investigate."

"I know you better than that. What's the real?"

Shayna doesn't know me at all, but she thinks she does. She assumes that we have a deep bond just because we've shared bodily fluids. There is more to me than my sex drive, but she'll never know that. She's not the wife type.

I humor her and reply, "Well, I just think that there has got to be a story here."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, this guy can't be more than forty five," I'm half-explaining, half-forming the story in my mind. "And he's got twenty thousand offering paying members? I bet he's living large."

Shayna frowns. "What's your point?"

"You don't think there's anything wrong with that?"

"Uh, no. Your daddy lives large."

I chuckle with disbelief. Didn't know she was one of those people. The ones who try to compare pastoring a church to running a business.

Just for the fun of it, I quip, "Jesus preached for free."

"He didn't have a car note," she shoots right back.

"Okay, I see this might be hitting a little close to home, but I bet if I go down there to Atlanta I can dig up a juicy story."

The thought became even more appealing as I put words to it. Atlanta is uncharted territory for me. Fresh stories, different scenery and untapped women. The more I wrap my arms around the notion, the more it turns into a need.

I need to get my butt down to Atlanta and break this story wide open. Blogging on location. Most definitely liking the sound of that.

Shayna leans over the back of the couch pointing her polished fingernail at me for emphasis. "Whatever. Bishop Kumal Prentiss is a man of God and he preaches the Word."

"Kumal Prentiss? That sounds like a hustler's name. And what do you know about the Word?"

"I grew up in church sweetie. I'm not a heathen like you."

"You're not the only one who was raised in church."

I'd had so much church growing up, that if church was food I could feed every one of those starving Ethiopian children who convince me every week to be their sponsor. If church was talent, I'd be singing like R. Kelly and dancing like Usher. If church was candy…let's just say I went to a lot of church.

Every Sunday Priscilla dragged me, unwillingly, into the huge stone building. Me always screaming, "But Daddy doesn't have to go!" Her always replying, "Daddy's going to hell." She'd give me money for my Sunday school offering and send me on my way.

I went through a phase where I enjoyed the services. I was thirteen and my first crush, Alexandra, was fifteen and fully developed. I joined the junior ushers, youth choir and youth department trying to get at that girl.

Then one Sunday morning, old Pastor Davis preached on lust and hell fire. He'd said that if we didn't repent of our lusts and get baptized, then we'd spend an eternity fighting fire. Since I had been drooling over Alexandra and her tight sweater for the entire service, I was terrified. Walked down that center aisle out of fear while Priscilla shouted, stomped and danced. Went down a dry devil, came up a wet devil.

At age sixteen, I just got tired of pretending that I could walk the narrow road. I prayed about it. Told God that I would come to church when I knew I could live right.

Priscilla wasn't having it. I think she literally had a nervous breakdown when I told her I wasn't going back to church. She cried for days; walked around praying out loud, lifting God up and putting the devil under her feet.

I didn't budge. And for the first time ever, my father defended me. He'd stopped Priscilla dead in her tracks.

He'd said, "Priscilla, you will not make my son go to church if he doesn't want to. Church is for women anyway, it's about time he found a more productive way of spending his time."

The memory brings a smile to my face, makes me want to taunt Shayna about her hypocrisy. "And since you know so much about the Word, what does it say about fornication?"

She must be done talking to me, because she turns back to Bishop Prentiss who has worked his congregation into a frenzy. Had to give it to him. The man had skills.

"You want something to eat?" I ask Shayna, ignoring her attitude.

Her face softens. "You know I do."

In minutes I've prepared a small breakfast feast. French toast on fresh French bread and garnished with powdered sugar, strawberries and carmelized bananas and a three cheese omelet, browned to perfection.

I can cook my butt off.

I arrange everything on the china my mother bought me for a housewarming gift. For me, it's not just the taste of the food, it's the look of it. Presentation is everything. I can make a grill cheesed sandwich look like a gourmet entrée.

Shayna's smile returns as she approaches the table. She tosses her red curls out of her honey colored face as she sashays barefoot over to the table. She looks as delicious as the breakfast wearing her baby t-shirt and boy shorts. I feel a hunger starting inside me that has nothing to do with breakfast food.

Shayna's a cute girl, not stunning, but standing there at my kitchen table, with her disheveled sexiness, she's irresistible. But then again, I have the same motto about women that I have about food. Presentation is everything.

"Why can't you be like the average guy and put everything on paper plates? This looks better than at the restaurant."

"For one, I'm not the average guy and two you wouldn't be so sprung if I was."

Shayna sits down and takes a bite before responding. Closes her eyes and chews slowly. I love the way she savors my culinary creations. She sounds just like a baby relishing the first sips of a warm bottle.

"Is that good?" It's real hard to hide the cockiness in my tone.

"You already know it is!" she exclaims, smacking her lips thoughtfully. "What is it that I taste? There's a different flavor in this."

Her observation fills me with pleasure. "Oh, you've been around me much too long if you are noticing flavor nuances. I'm proud."

She licks her fingers, one at a time. "Mmm-hmm. Maybe I have been around you too long, but baby I am not sprung."

This woman is hilarious. Shayna is not only sprung; she's 'in love'. I'm flattered, even if I don't feel the same way. She's been hinting that she wants to move in with me, but that is not going to happen. Rule number one of my cardinal rules is: never turn a bed mate into a roommate.

"Okay, you're not sprung. I believe you. That's actually a good thing, because then you won't miss me when I go to Atlanta."

"So you're serious about this?"

I fold my arms across my chest and nod my head emphatically. "It is my duty as a journalist to expose the charlatans and inform the people."

"You better be careful. The bible says 'touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm'."

"Look at you quoting scriptures. I'm impressed. And don't worry about me. If your precious pastor is everything that he says he is then he has nothing to worry about."



Here is my review of this refreshing novel:

First of all, I’d like to get into a new habit. I learned from a fellow blogger an act of kindness and humility that I’ve been overlooking: thanking the author and publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, but have never taken the time to thank them in a public forum. Thank you so much!

“The Bishop’s Daughter” by Tiffany L. Warren is written from a refreshing male perspective! Darren is a self-serving playboy who wants to expose a well-known preacher as a charlatan to get ahead in his career as a journalist. This is a terrific novel with great conflict between the characters and within Darren. The writing is quite sensory! Miss Warren makes you feel, taste and smell the story. I was educated in some new terminology, too. This was an overall enjoyable read with a spiritual message.