Saturday, October 30, 2010

Emily’s Chance by Sharon Gillenwater


Emily Rose may be in the tiny West Texas town of Callahan Crossing for the moment, but it's just a rung on her ladder to success. Her work at the Callahan Crossing Historical Museum will look good on her ever-growing resume as she attempts to break into the prestigious world of a big city museum curator. Little does she know that cowboy and contractor Chance Callahan has decided that he can convince her to stay--both with the town and with him. As he helps Emily restore the town's history after a devastating fire, can he help her uncover the value of love?

Endorsements
"Filled with Texas charm and the healing power of love."--Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"A sweet yet heartbreaking story of hope and healing. Gillenwater's talent for dialogue gives her characters an authentic feel."--Romantic Times, 4 stars, for Jenna's Cowboy


Here is my review of this wonderfully romantic western:

I would like to say “Thank you” to Sharon Gillenwater and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Emily's Chance" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

"Emily's Chance" is book 2 in "The Callahans of Texas" series by Sharon Gillenwater. In this wonderful novel, Chance Callahan has fallen head-over-heels for Emily, a museum curator who has come to Callahan's Crossing to go through articles being put aside to create a museum of the town's history. Chance has even concocted a way to keep Emily in Callahan's Crossing so that he has the opportunity to woo her.

But Chance's reputation as a heartbreaker and Emily's own disfunctional family and love relationships have jaded her ideas about love and romance. Will Chance have the opportunity to prove that he and his intentions are real? Or will Emily run away from true love to pursue the career that she believes will give her all the fulfillment she needs.

This wonderful romance will entertain, encourage, and make the reader examine their own trust issues. This is a terrific novel that I highly recommend.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bible Study: Coming Out Of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 2


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. 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 Exodus Chapter 2. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



2:1 – Moses was born to be a priest. Both parents were Levites. Amram and Jochebed – see 6:20.

Aaron was 3 years old when Moses was born. See 7:7.

Amram was a Kohathite. See 1 Chronicles 23:12.

Jochebed was Amram’s Aunt. See 6:20.

2:2 – When was Moses born? Some scholars believe he was born in 1485 BC.

Moses was a fine child. Acts 7:20 and Hebrews 11:23 calls him “no ordinary” child. The character that God developed in him was extraordinary, too. Moses is noted for his faith, his prayerfulness, his humility and his courage.

2:3 – In a way, Jochebed obeyed Pharaoh’s edict by putting Moses in the river.

2:4 – The sister spoken of in scripture is Miriam. See 15:20. Did her parents have her do this? Or did she do it on her own?

2:6 – How did Pharaoh’s daughter know he was a Hebrew baby? Because he was hidden? Because of the pattern of the cloth around him? Because he was circumcised?

2:7 – Didn’t this work out brilliantly? This is so God! Was this why Miriam was watching? Did the family plan all along to reunite mother and son in this way? Do you think Pharaoh’s daughter suspected that the wet nurse was Moses’ real mother? Would she care? Why wouldn’t she insist on an Egyptian wet nurse so she could watch over Moses? How did she protect him in his Hebrew home?

Moses was nursed and nurtured by his own mother! She probably sang him Hebrew songs, told him Hebrew stories and prayed with and over him. He had a good Hebrew foundation when he went to live in Pharaoh’s house.

2:10-15 – Moses and Jesus both set aside their privileged position to identify with their suffering people. See 2 Corinthians 8:9. (Jews for Jesus newsletter, April 2008)

2:10 – How old was the boy when his mother took him to the palace and Pharaoh’s daughter named him Moses? 3? 4? 12? What was he called before that?

Isn’t God amazing? Pharaoh’s own house was used by God to shelter Moses from the Egyptian king’s death sentence. I adore God’s irony.

2:11 – Moses was 40 years old. See Acts 7:23.

Why would Moses have gone to see his people after all of this time? Regardless, seeing the mistreatment of the Hebrew people was the turning point for Moses. See Hebrews 11:24-25.

Was this Moses’ midlife crisis?

2:12 – Glancing both ways seems sneaky. Doesn’t it? Moses knows this is the wrong thing to do because he hid the body.

2:14 – fear made Moses flee to Midian. What have you done out of fear?

Perhaps he ran to Midian hoping that he would find hospitable relatives. Midian was the son of Abraham and Keturah.

2:15 – Moses was looking to make contacts in Midian. That’s why he sat at the well where he knew shepherds would gather.

2:16 – Reuel had a son. See Numbers 10:29. Why were his daughters driving this flock and not his son?

2:17 – Moses is a champion of the weak. He drives away these bullies that kept Zipporah and her sisters from watering their father’s flock.

2:18 – Why is Moses’ father-in-law referred to by two names? Here, he’s Reuel. In other places, he is Jethro. See 3:1.

2:19 – Why do you think these women thought Moses was Egyptian? Clothes? Hair? Name? Accent?

2:22 – Moses states that he has become an alien in a foreign land. Do you think he ever felt like an alien in Pharaoh’s house?


What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

The God Hater by Bill Myers

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 God Hater

Howard Books; Original edition (September 28, 2010)

***Special thanks to Libby Reed, Publicity Assistant, HOWARD BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Bill Myers is an author, screenwriter, and director whose work has won more than fifty national and international awards, including the C.S. Lewis Honor Award.

Visit the Book Specific Site.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (September 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439153264
ISBN-13: 978-1439153260

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Samuel Preston, a local reporter with bronzed skin and glow-in-the-dark teeth, turned to one of the guests of his TV show, God Talk. “So what’s your take on all of this, Dr. Mackenzie?”

The sixty-something professor stared silently at his wristwatch. He had unruly white hair and wore an outdated sports coat.

“Dr. Mackenzie?”

He glanced up, disoriented, then turned to the host who repeated the question. “What are your feelings about the book?”

Clearing his throat, Mackenzie raised the watch to his ear and gave it a shake. “I was wondering . . .” He dropped off, his bushy eyebrows gathered into a scowl as he listened for a sound.

The second guest, a middle-aged pastor with a shirt collar two sizes too small, smiled, “Yes?”

Mackenzie gave up on the watch and turned to him. “Do you make up this drivel as you go along? Or do you simply parrot others who have equally stunted intellects?”

The pastor, Dr. William Hathaway, blinked. Still smiling, he turned back to the host. “I was under the impression we were going to discuss my new book?”

“Oh, we are,” Preston assured him. “But it’s always good to have a skeptic or two in the midst, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Ah,” Hathaway nodded, “of course.” He turned back to Mackenzie, his smile never wavering. “I am afraid what you term as ‘drivel’ is based upon a faith stretching back thousands of years.”

Mackenzie removed one or two dog hairs from his slacks. “We have fossilized dinosaur feces older than that.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Just because something’s old, doesn’t stop it from being crap.”

Dr. Hathaway’s smile twitched. He turned in his chair so he could more fully address the man. “We’re talking about a time honored religion that millions of —”

“And that’s supposed to be a plus,” Mackenzie said, “that it’s religious? I thought you wanted to support your nonsense.”

“I see. Well it may interest you to know that—“

“Actually, it doesn’t interest me at all.” The old man turned to Preston. “How much longer will we be?”

The host chuckled. “Just a few more minutes, Professor.”

Working harder to maintain his smile, Hathaway replied, “So, if I understand correctly, you’re not a big fan of the benefits of Christianity?”

“Benefits?” Mackenzie pulled a used handkerchief from his pocket and began looking for an unsoiled portion. “Is that what the 30,000 Jews who were tortured and killed during the Inquisition called it? Benefits?”

“That’s not entirely fair.”

“And why is that?”

“For starters, most of them weren’t Jews.”

“I’m sure they’re already feeling better.”

“What I am saying is—”

“What you are saying, Mr . . . Mr—”

“Actually, it’s Doctor.”

“Actually, you’re a liar.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Finding an unused area of his handkerchief, Mackenzie took off his glasses and cleaned them.

The pastor continued. “It may interest you to know that—”

“We’ve already established my lack of interest.”

“It may interest you to know that I hold several honorary doctorates.”

“Honorary doctorates.”

“That’s correct.”

“Honorary, as in unearned, as in good for nothing . . . unless it’s to line the bottom of bird cages.” He held his glasses to the light, checking for any remaining smudges.

Hathaway took a breath and regrouped. “You can malign my character all you wish, but there is no refuting the benefits outlined in my new book.”

“Ah yes, the benefits.” Mackenzie lowered his glasses and worked on the other lens. “Like the million plus lives slaughtered during the Crusades?”

“That figure can be disputed.”

“Correct. It may be higher.”

Hathaway shifted in his seat. “The Crusades were a long time ago and in an entirely different culture.”

“So you’d prefer something closer to home? Perhaps the witch hunts of New England?”

“I’m not here to—”

“Fifteen thousand human beings murdered in Europe and America. Fifteen thousand.”

“Again, that’s history and not a part of today’s—”

“Then let us discuss more recent atrocities—towards the blacks, the gays, the Muslim population. Perhaps a dialogue on the bombing of abortion clinics?”

“Please, if you would allow me—”

Mackenzie turned to Preston. “Are we finished here?”

Fighting to be heard, Hathaway continued. “If people will read my book, they will clearly see—”

“Are we finished?”

“Yes, Professor,” Preston chuckled. “I believe we are.”

“But we’ve not discussed my Seven Steps to Successful—”

“Perhaps another time, Doctor.”

Mackenzie rose, shielding his eyes from the bright studio lights as Hathaway continued. “But there are many issues we need to—”

“I’m sure there are,” Preston agreed while keeping an eye on Mackenzie who stepped from the platform and headed off camera. “And I’m sure it’s all there in your book. Seven Steps to—”


***

Annie Brooks clicked off the remote to her television.

“Mom,” Rusty mumbled, “I was watching . . .” he drifted back to sleep without finishing the protest.

She looked down at the five year old and smiled. He lay in bed beside her, his hands still clutching Horton Hears a Who! Each night he’d been reading it to her, though she suspected it was more reciting from memory than reading. She tenderly kissed the top of his head before absent-mindedly looking back to the TV.

He’d done it again. Her colleague and friend—if Dr. Nicholas Mackenzie could be said to have any friends—had shredded another person of faith. This time a Christian, some mega-church pastor hawking his latest book. Next time it could just as easily be a Jew or Muslim or Buddhist. The point was that Nicholas hated religion. And Heaven help anybody who tried to defend it.

She sighed and looked back down to her son. He was breathing heavily, mouth slightly ajar. She brushed the bangs from his face and gave him another kiss. She’d carry him back to bed soon enough. But for now she would simply savor his presence. Nothing gave her more joy. And for that, with or without Nicholas’ approval, Annie Brooks was grateful to her God.


* * * * *


“Excuse me?” Nicholas called from the back seat of the Lincoln Town Car.

The driver didn’t hear.

He leaned forward and spoke louder. “You just passed the freeway entrance.”

The driver, some black kid with a shaved head, turned on the stereo. It was an urban chant, its beat so powerful Nicholas could feel it pounding in his gut. He unbuckled his seat belt and scooted to the open partition separating them. “Excuse me! You—”

The tinted window slid up, nearly hitting him in the face.

He pulled back in surprise, then banged on the glass. “Excuse me!” The music was fainter but still vibrated the car. “Excuse me!”

No response.

He slumped back into the seat. Stupid kid. And rude. He’d realize his mistake soon enough. And after Nicholas’ call to the TV station tomorrow, he’d be back on the streets looking for another job. Trying to ignore the music, Nicholas stared out the window, watching the Santa Barbara lights soften as fog rolled in. Over the years the station’s drivers had always been polite and courteous. Years, as in Nicholas was a frequent guest on God Talk. Despite his general distain for people, not to mention his reclusive lifestyle, he always accepted the producer’s invitation. Few things gave him more pleasure than exposing the toxic nature of religion. Besides, these outings provided a nice change of pace. Instead of the usual stripping away of naïve college students’ faith in his classroom, the TV guests occasionally provided a challenge.

Occasionally.

Other than his duties at the University of California Santa Barbara, these trips were his only exposure to the outside world. He had abandoned society long ago. Or rather, it had abandoned him. Not that there was any love lost. Today’s culture was an intellectual wasteland—a world of pre-chewed ideas, politically correct causes, sound bite news coverage, and novels that were nothing more than comic books. (He’d given up on movies and television long ago.) Why waste his time on such pabulum when he could surround himself with Sartre, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche—men whose work would provide more meaningful companionship in one evening than most people could in a lifetime.

Nevertheless, he did tolerate Ari, even fought to keep her during the divorce. She was his faithful companion for over fifteen years, though he should have put her down months ago. Deaf and blind, the golden retriever’s hips had begun to fail. But she wasn’t in pain. Not yet. And until that time, he didn’t mind cleaning up after her occasional accidents or calling in the vet for those expensive house calls. He owed her that. Partially because of her years of patient listening, and partially because of the memories.

The car turned right and entered a residential area. He glanced down to the glowing red buttons on the console beside him. One of them was an intercom to the driver. But, like Herbert Marcuse, the great Neo-Marxist of the 20th Century (and, less popularly, Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber of the 1980s) Nicholas mistrusted modern technology as much as he scorned the society that created it. How many times had Annie, a fellow professor, pleaded with him to buy a telephone . . .

“What if there’s an emergency?” she’d insisted. “What if someone needs to call you?”

“Like solicitors?”

“They have Do Not Call lists,” she said. “You can go online and be added to their—”

“Online?”

“Okay, you can write them a letter.”

“And give them what, more personal information?”

“They’d only ask for your phone number.”

“Not if I don’t have one.”

And so the argument continued off and on for years . . . as gift occasions came and went, as his closet gradually filled with an impressive collection of telephones. One thing you could say about Annie Brooks, she was persistent—which may be why he put up with her company, despite the fact she doted over him like he was some old man who couldn’t take care of himself. Besides, she had a good head on her shoulders, when she chose to use it, which meant she occasionally contributed something of worth to their conversations.

Then, of course, there was her boy.

The car slowed. Having no doubt learned the error of his ways, the driver was turning around. Not that it would help him keep his job. That die had already been cast. But the car wasn’t turning. Instead, it pulled to the curb and came to a stop. The locks shot up and the right rear door immediately opened. A man in his early forties appeared—strong jaw, short hair, with a dark suit, white shirt, and black tie.

“Good evening, Doctor.” He slid onto the leather seat beside him.

“Who are you?” Nicholas demanded.

The man closed the door and the car started forward. “I apologize for the cloak and dagger routine, but—”

“Who are you?”

He flipped open an ID badge. “Brad Thompson, HLS.”

“Who?”

“Homeland Security Agent Brad Thompson.” He returned the badge to his coat pocket.

“You’re with the government?”

“Yes sir, Homeland Security.”

“And you’ve chosen to interrupt my ride home because . . .”

“Again, I apologize, but it’s about your brother.”

Nicholas stared at him, giving him no satisfaction of recognition.

“Your brother,” the agent repeated, “Travis Mackenzie?”

Nicholas held his gaze another moment before looking out the window. “Is he in trouble again?”

“Has he contacted you?”

“My brother and I seldom communicate.”

“Yes, sir, about every eighteen months if our information is correct.”

The agent’s knowledge unsettled Nicholas. He turned back to the man. “May I see your identification again?”

“Pardon me?”

“Your identification. You barely allowed me to look at it.”

The agent reached back into his suit coat. “Please understand this is far more serious than his drug conviction, or his computer hacking, or the DUIs.”

Nicholas adjusted his glasses, waiting for the identification.

The agent flipped open his ID holder. “We at HLS are very concerned about his involvement—”

Suddenly, headlights appeared through the back window, their beams on high. The agent looked over his shoulder, then swore under his breath. He reached for the intercom, apparently to give orders to the driver, but the town car was already beginning to accelerate.

“What’s the problem?” Nicholas asked.

The car turned sharply to the left and continued picking up speed.

“I asked you what is happening,” Nicholas repeated.

“Your brother, Professor. Where is he?”

The headlights reappeared behind them, closing in.

“You did not allow me to examine your identification.”

“Please, Doctor—”

“If you do not allow me to examine your identification, I see little—”

“We’ve no time for that!”

The outburst stopped Nicholas as the car took another left, so sharply both men braced themselves against the seat.

The agent turned back to him. “Where is your brother?”

Once again the lights appeared behind them.

Refusing to be bullied, Nicholas repeated, “Unless I’m convinced of your identity, I have little—”

The agent sprang toward him. Grabbing Nicholas’ shirt, he yanked him to his face and shouted, “Where is he?!”

Surprised, but with more pride than common sense, Nicholas answered. “As I said—”

The agent’s fist was a blur as it struck Nicholas’ nose. Nicholas felt the cartilage snap, knew the pain would follow. As would the blood.

“WHERE IS HE?”

The car turned right, tires squealing, tossing the men to the other side. As Nicholas sat up, the agent pulled something from his jacket. There was the black glint of metal and suddenly a cold gun barrel was pressed against his neck. He felt fear rising and instinctively pushed back the emotion. It wasn’t the gun that concerned him, but the fear. That was his enemy. If he could focus, rely on his intellect, he’d have the upper hand. Logic trumped emotion every time. It was a truth that sustained him through childhood, kept him alive in Vietnam, and gave him the strength to survive in today’s world.

The barrel pressed harder.

When he knew he could trust his voice, he answered, “The last time I saw my brother was Thanksgiving.”

The car hit the brakes, skidding to a stop, sliding Nicholas off the seat and onto his knees. The agent caught himself, managing to stay seated. Up ahead, through the glass partition, Nicholas saw a second vehicle racing toward them—a van or truck, its beams also on high.

The agent pounded the partition. “Get us out of here.” he shouted at the driver. “Now!”

The town car lurched backward. It bounced up a curb and onto a front lawn. Tires spun, spitting grass and mud, until they dug in and the vehicle took off. It plowed through a hedge of junipers, branches scraping underneath, then across another lawn. Nicholas looked out his side window as they passed the first vehicle which had been behind them, a late model SUV. They veered back onto the road, snapping off a mailbox. Once again the driver slammed on the brakes, turning hard to the left, throwing the vehicle into a 180 until they were suddenly behind the SUV, facing the opposite direction. Tires screeched as they sped off.

The agent hit the intercom and yelled, “Dump the Professor and get us out of here!”

The car continued to accelerate and made another turn.

Pulling Nicholas into the seat and shoving the gun into his face, the agent shouted, “This is the last time I’m asking!”

Nicholas’ heart pounded, but he kept his voice even. “I have already told you.”

The man chambered a round. But it barely mattered. Nicholas had found his center and would not be moved. “I have not seen him in months.”

“Thanksgiving?”

“Yes.”

The car made another turn.

“And?”

Nicholas turned to face him. “We ate a frozen dinner and I sent him away.”

The agent searched his eyes. Nicholas held his gaze, unblinking. The car took one last turn, bouncing up onto an unlit driveway, then jerked to a stop. There was no sound, except the pounding music.

“Get out,” the agent ordered.

Nicholas looked through the window. “I have no idea where we—”

“Now.”

Nicholas reached for the handle, opened his door and stepped outside. The air was cold and damp.

“Shut the door.”

He obeyed.

The town car lunged backward, lights off. Once it reached the road it slid to a stop, changed gears and sped off. Nicholas watched as it disappeared into the fog, music still throbbing even after it was out of sight. Only then did he appreciate the pain in his nose and the warm copper taste of blood in his mouth. Still, with grim satisfaction, he realized, he had won. As always, logic and intellect had prevailed.




Here is my review of this terrific, suspenseful novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Bill Myers and his publisher for sending me a copy of "The God Hater" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

"The God Hater" by Bill Myers is a terrific work of fiction! Myers weaves together several suspenseful plotlines that tantallize the intellect and cause the heart to skip a beat. 60-something anti-God UCSB Professor Dr. Nicholas Mackenzie antagonizes from page one! Annie and Rusty Brooks are lovely contrasting charaters created to personify true Christian behavior: love.

This book fired me up from the first scene and ignited a fire in my belly to me more like the Bereans - questioning and researching rather than accepting everything I hear as fact! There are several questions at the end of the book for reflection or discussion with a reading group. There is also a mini-interview with the author that is quite enlightening. I would LOVE to sit down with this man and chat for awhile.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Keep the Pigs Out by Don Dickerman

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:


Keep the Pigs Out

Charisma House (October 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Don Dickerman, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, has directed an evangelistic ministry to prisons since 1974. Don received an anointing from the Lord Jesus to minister in the areas of deliverance and healing and has seen many lives transformed through his ministry. Prior to answering God’s call to Minster in prisons, he pastored churches and worked as an evangelist. Don is a graduate from a Baptist seminary and is Spirit-filled and anointed with an exciting ministry both to prisons and churches.



Visit the author's website.

Here's a book trailer for the the first book about keeping the pigs out, When Pigs Move in:



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381396
ISBN-13: 978-1616381394

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



A Vision
Within a Dream

During a nighttime dream, I saw a huge winged creature hovering in the sky. It was more like a vision within a dream than a dream. The sky itself was bright and clear, and there were no clouds. The scene was somewhat tranquil. The bird-looking creature was brilliant in its appearance. It had a neon glow to it. The best way I could describe this creature is that it looked very similar to the mythical griffin—a legendary creature with the body of a lion, the head of an eagle, and the wings of a dragon. It was huge, white with a green-and-gold glowing outline. This was a splendid creature with great beauty, somewhat majestic in its appearance. It was so magnificent that it almost seemed expressive of worship. It appeared that either someone was seated on the creature or was part of his being. He had a bow in his hand.

Now, before I proceed with this vision within a dream, I feel I must qualify what I am sharing with some personal knowledge about myself. I am a conservative Christian. I am a licensed and ordained minister through Southern Baptist churches. I would say that I’m a pretty normal guy. I dream every night, but generally not about spiritual things. I dream about life happenings, you know, just regular stuff—high school, sports, or not being able to find where I parked my car. Like most dreams, that’s all they are, just entertainment as we sleep. I don’t try to figure out if a dream has some significant meaning. I’m a very basic guy, and what qualifies someone to be a dream interpreter anyway?
I proceed with careful forethought and biblical analysis in these areas. I guess I’ve seen and heard too many false prophecies and false words. I would say I am spiritually cautious, and I “try the spirits” to see if they are of God (1 John 4:1, kjv). I desire Holy Spirit discernment, and I despise deception. Often I reverently say, “God, if You are going to speak to me, give me something clear. Don’t ask me to figure it out or to make some kind of spiritual application. Just make it plain for me.”
This particular enlightenment came like a vision within a dream. It was like a flash amidst other things I was dreaming about. I could not tell you what else I dreamed about that night, but I could draw you a picture of this vision—it was so vivid. It is difficult to tell how high in the air this creature was, perhaps fifty feet. It was somewhat low in relation to where clouds may be.
On the ground beneath this celestial creature was a herd of sheep. The sheep were huddled together on the side of a hill. The hillside was a beautiful green color, and the rolling hills somewhat reminded me of Ireland. The sheep were near a fence, and it was as if I were viewing this from across the fence. There seemed to be acres and acres of rolling pasture, almost like a golf course, but it was pasture. The sheep were all together near the fence. It was not a great number of sheep, maybe twenty-five to thirty.
The sheep had the faces of men; I hope I can describe this so that you get a glimpse of it. I realize as I’m sharing this that it may sound like I think I’m Ezekiel or a prophet of God. I am neither. I’m just a regular guy. However, in this vision each one of the sheep had the face of a man. Each face was different; it was like I was gazing into a small crowd of people. All of the sheep seemed very sad, some of the faces were bleeding, and some had tears in their eyes. They just stood there.
The creature from the sky pointed his bow at them and shot what seemed to be hooks or barbs into their flesh. The sheep appeared not to know where this attack was coming from, and they put up no defense. They only looked at each other. They all seemed to be bruised in different ways. They just stood there and took it. Each of them had the countenance of having been beaten and bruised. They seemed to have no leader among them. There was no shepherd in the vision. They were vulnerable and ignorant of the assault. The vision was brief but indelible.

The Dream Come to Life

The following night I was a guest preacher at a church in rural Fort Worth. I had actually forgotten the dream until I made a turn on a country road to get to the church. I saw a small herd of sheep huddled near the roadway fence. Immediately the dream came alive. Tears came to my eyes as I recalled the dream.

As I think about that dream today, I think how difficult it is for our modern society to relate to biblical accounts of sheep and shepherds. I don’t know if I’ve ever even touched a sheep, and I know I’ve never met a real shepherd. It is clear, however, that God’s Word compares believers and true followers as sheep, sheep of His pasture.

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am

the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves

and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If

anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and

find pasture. . . . I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep,

and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I

know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

—John 10:7–9, 14–15

The words of Jesus in John 10 say that believers are the sheep of His pasture and that He is the Good Shepherd. Man can only come to God through a door, and that door is Jesus. Actually, the proper way to enter any place is through a door. God’s Word unmistakably compares believers to sheep. Psalm 95:7 says we are the “people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” Again in Psalm 100:3 it says, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

In my dream all of the sheep were bruised, and the hurt was visible in their painful expressions. That is such a picture of the church today. Virtually all of the sheep in the church today are carrying wounds. Most don’t know how to defend themselves and are really not sure how the wounds got there. Having a shepherd that does not lead is like having no shepherd at all. Sheep know how to follow, but they don’t know how to fight. Jesus did not leave us defenseless. He left us with His Spirit and His Word. It is the call of the shepherd to equip us to stand.

I want to expose some of the “wiles” of the demons and how they access our lives. We cannot responsibly act upon things we do not know. Having no knowledge makes us extremely vulnerable. Ignorance gives great advantage to the demons. For the most part, Christians do not know because the demons have done a good job of keeping the information out of the pulpits and classrooms. It always amazes me at how Christians retreat when the D word is mentioned. Why is deliverance so difficult to discuss?

Why are people so quickly offended or intimidated by the subject of demons? Why can’t you talk about it? Why is the subject so unapproachable? I believe it is because of ignorance, or because of nonteaching and false teaching. Those Christian leaders who do talk about it have often made it to be something it is not, and that does great damage.

It is difficult for me to understand how a preacher can open his Bible and preach fifty-two Sundays in a year and never mention the deliverance and healing message of the Gospels. I don’t see how that can happen. I don’t see how a seminary can instruct their Bible students for three years and never prepare them for dealing with sickness or for engaging demon spirits. I honestly don’t get that. How can you sit in Sunday school and Bible classes most of your life and not be taught the reality of demonic activity in the life of believers? Would you agree that the demons have done a good job of keeping Christians in darkness? How can this be? Is it willing ignorance?

Second Peter 3:5 talks about deceived people who “willfully forget.” Willing ignorance—I believe that is what it is. It is a conscious choice not to preach or teach the scriptural truth concerning the work of demons. What else could it be? Why else would it be? Isn’t that like being dumb on purpose? I don’t mean that in an unkind sense; we have been and are being duped by a message with a lack of truth and power.

In the walk of spiritual freedom, there are things we need to do to remain free. As important, maybe even more important, are things we should not do.



Here is my review of this thought-provoking read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Don Dickerman and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Keep The Pigs Out: Slam the Door on Satan and Keep Your Spiritual House Clean" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

"Keep The Pigs Out: Slam the Door on Satan and Keep Your Spiritual House Clean" by Don Dickerman is an enlightening work of non-fiction about living a life of freedom in Christ and standing strong in the face of spiritual warfare. It is loaded with scripture and full of preventive tactics to keep your life free of evil influence.

It also contains valuable and encouraging information about who we are in Christ as believers. There is also much good information on breaking down strongholds. This is an engaging and potentially life changing read.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Don’t Look Back by Lynette Eason


One man lives to see her dead--the other is fighting to keep her alive.

Twelve years ago, forensic anthropologist Jamie Cash survived a brutal kidnapping. After years of therapy, she has made a life for herself--though one that is haunted by memories of her terrifying past. She finally lets herself believe that she can have a close relationship with a man, when signs start appearing that point to one frightening fact--her attacker is back and ready to finish the job he started all those years ago.

Can she escape his grasp a second time? And will she ever be able to let down her guard enough to find true love?

Filled with heart-stopping suspense, gritty realism, and a touch of romance, Don't Look Back pulls you into its twists and turns to hold you there until the very last page.

Endorsements
Praise for Lynette Eason and the Women of Justice series

"My friend Lynette has a hit on her hands with this romantic suspense. I enjoyed every minute."--Dee Henderson, bestselling author, the O'Malley series

"Nonstop action. No chance to catch your breath!"--Irene Hannon, bestselling author, the Heroes of Quantico series

"An exciting ride with characters you will care about."--Margaret Daley, award-winning Steeple Hill romantic suspense author


Here is my review of this terrific romantic suspense read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Lynette Eason and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Don't Look Back" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

"Don't Look Back" is Lynette Eason's wonderful second novel in the "Women of Justice" Series. Jamie Cash is a gifted forensic anthropologist. She is also the only surviving victim of "the Hero", a serial killer who tortures his victims to rescue them from the pain. Jamie's brother in law, Connor and his partner, Dakota, are working on a case that promises to bring lots of ugly memories back to Jamie. But when it appears that "the Hero" has set his sights on Jamie once again, Dakota shifts his protective instincts into overdrive to shelter the woman he loves.

This novel is an intense page-turner from the beginning to the fever-pitch climax to the end. I cannot wait for the third installment in this wonderfully suspenseful, incredibly romantic series!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Million Ways to Die by Rick James

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:


A Million Ways to Die: The Only Way to Live

David C. Cook (October 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Rick James is a graduate of Syracuse University (BFA) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.Div.). He has served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for more than twenty-one years and is currently responsible for writing, producing, and marketing ministry resources to staff and students. He also serves as an adjunct to Research & Development as well as a major conference speaker. Rick has written most of the ministry’s recent material including Bible study and discipleship curriculum, devotionals, books, magazines, apologetics, and evangelistic tools. A Million Ways to Die is his third project which has been published outside of Campus Crusade. Rick and his wife, Katie, have three children and live in West Chester, Pennsylvania.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702049
ISBN-13: 978-1434702043

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Better Off Dead


As the story goes, in 1972, a young Egyptian businessman lost his wristwatch, valued at roughly $11,000. That’s some wristwatch. It’s amazing that anyone who found it in the rough-and-tumble city of Cairo would have attempted to return it, and it’s shocking who did.


The city of Cairo has its own unique version of poverty called the Garbage City: a city in the sense that an ant farm is a city. The population of this slum lies somewhere between fifteen and thirty thousand people, though no one really knows for sure. Its name comes from the fact that it is both a garbage dump and home for the city’s garbage workers. Each morning at dawn some seven thousand garbage collectors on horse carts leave for Cairo, where they collect the many tons of garbage left behind by the city’s seventeen million waste-producing citizens. After their day’s work they return to the Garbage City, bringing the trash back to their homes, sorting out what’s useful, and living in and among what isn’t. In Muslim countries there are certain religious restrictions on sifting through refuse, so the inhabitants of the Garbage City are either nonreligious or of some kind of Christian heritage, typically Coptic. These are the poorest of the poor—outcasts among outcasts.


As you can imagine, it would be unthinkable to have such a valuable timepiece returned by a member of Garbage City. Yet when the wealthy businessman lost his watch, an old garbageman dressed in rags returned it, saying, “My Christ told me to be honest until death.”


Because of this act of obedience-faith-death-insanity, the Egyptian businessman later told a reporter, “I didn’t know Christ at the time, but I told [the garbageman] that I saw Christ in him. I told [him], ‘Because of what you have done and your great example, I will worship the Christ you are worshiping.’”


The man, true to his word, studied the Bible and grew in his faith. Soon he and his wife began ministering to Egypt’s physically and spiritually poor, leading thousands to Christ. In 1978, he was ordained by the Coptic Orthodox Church and is now known as Father Sama’an. Father Sama’an leads the largest church of believers in the entire Middle East; each week some ten thousand believers meet together in a large cave outside the Garbage City.


For this garbageman, returning the watch was not martyrdom, but it certainly was a kind of death. I’m sure everything in him wanted to keep that watch—everything except his heart, which wanted to keep Christ.1


In John 12:24 Jesus states that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Beginning with his own death, what Jesus is describing here is the secret ingredient of kingdom growth. Death. Death is the fertilizer, the turf builder. The kingdom sprouts out of our daily choices to “die to ourselves.” You plant an $11,000 Rolex in the dirt and out of it grows the largest church in the Middle East. Our willingness to die to ourselves and carry our crosses every day indicates the mechanism of personal transformation and evangelistic growth.


This is not mysticism, poetics, or philosophical abstraction. This is reality. It’s as daily and as tangible as doing the dishes for someone when you don’t feel like doing the dishes for someone. Every act of dying, done in faith, generates life in some way whether we see it, recognize it, or simply take it by faith. And how do we spot the many possible ways that life might emerge through our little deaths? We can find these opportunities in just about anything our flesh tries to resist.


A COSMIC RESTRUCTURING


In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote a book titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it Kuhn describes a fundamental change in basic assumptions, something so significant that it creates a whole new paradigm. Most people don’t remember the book, but for the last fifty years we have been haunted by the phrase Kuhn coined, the ubiquitous “paradigm shift.”


Since then, anything and everything has become a “paradigm shift.” The Gillette Trac II razor was a new paradigm that “revolutionized” shaving; the Clapper changed our paradigm for turning off lights; the Chia Pet changed our gardening paradigm.


Many, many, paradigms; lots and lots of shifting.


Virginia Woolf famously wrote, “On or about December 1910, human character changed.”2 She was heralding a paradigm shift, but as the phrase “paradigm shift” had yet to be invented, she simply uttered the aforementioned phrase.


Woolf referred to the advent of postmodernism, modern claims to the title notwithstanding. Why 1910? In 1910 Einstein debuted his theories of relativity; Nietzsche expounded his philosophy of perspectivism; Picasso painted the multi-perspective cubist masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; and writers like Joyce, Stein, Proust, and Woolf began shattering the objective narrative of literature. Relativism and subjectivism were blooming everywhere.


This truly was a paradigm shift, challenging commonly held notions of objective truth and reality. We certainly don’t view the world the same as those who lived before the turn of the twentieth century or, for that matter, give our children names like Rutledge or dress them like Howard Taft.


There have been many paradigm shifts, real, claimed, and imagined. Even now we are attempting to wrap our minds around globalization, learning to see the flatness of the earth. But no idea, concept, philosophy, or paradigm can deliver on Woolf’s claim. Human nature didn’t change on, about, or anywhere near 1910—only our thoughts about it did. Our paradigm shifted. Reality didn’t budge. What Jesus brought to this world was not simply a new paradigm. Rather, circa 33 AD the very nature of life and death changed, not simply our thoughts about it.


Of course there are a million new paradigms, perspectives, and thoughts that flow from this fact, but this is not a new way of seeing reality. This is a new reality, a total cosmic restructuring.


THE WILD WEST


Here in America we see the new life of the gospel more clearly than most—at least we seem to see more of it. It’s difficult to drive down the freeway or turn on the radio or TV without seeing or hearing an offer for this new and everlasting life. Most American non-believers know at least someone who’s experienced this new life and are, therefore, privy to a personal demonstration. Not so elsewhere.


We are also witnesses of the societal implications of this new life. We can see where politics, human rights, freedoms, social conscience, education, and medicine have been touched by the Christian view of life. Christians might assume there are social implications to the gospel, but if they were to live in a Muslim country, they certainly wouldn’t observe any.


Yet as much as our philosophy on life has been enriched by a Christian worldview, our understanding and apprehension of death has diminished. We live in one of the few places in the world where Christians aren’t persecuted (generally speaking), and martyrdom is as likely as contracting malaria or Ebola. Add to this the unprecedented historical anomaly that since the beginning of recorded time, no people—except this current generation—have ever lived with a mind-set that ninety years of age is the horizon of human life. Not even remotely. Through wealth, medicine, technology, food, and cosmetics, we think of and relate to death in the abstract, as something requiring life insurance. This perspective is alien to Scripture, and it’s alien to the majority of humanity.


And yet the symbol of our faith is a man nailed to a cross. It could have been something happier, like the yellow Walmart smiley face, but it’s not. More than lepers and mustard seeds, death is the dominant New Testament metaphor for the Christian life. We were dead in our transgressions, and death was at work in us, but then Jesus died for us; now we are dead to sin but alive to God, and we must die daily (though we will never die); and yet we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and on and on, as if Sylvia Plath had some hand in the writing.


And all this is just on the level of illustrations and metaphors. If we were to look at the New Testament from a historical or narrative perspective, it’s immediately striking that all the main characters die. We get to know Paul a bit through his letters, but even as he writes, he’s in prison awaiting execution. It seems like we’re just starting to connect with Peter when he’s crucified, and by the end of Christianity’s opening season, John’s the only one remaining of the original cast.


What happens in the New Testament?


Everyone dies.


To those of us living in a civilized superpower, all this talk about death is strangely foreign—something primitive, something out of National Geographic like foot binding, neck stretching, or packing a gourd into the lower lip like a pinch of Skoal.


My daughter is doing missions work in East Asia this summer, and the cultural difference that has struck her the most is the mentality that one simply leaves something—a rat, a cow, a person, whatever—where it dies. It’s like in the rural South, where folks leave their car or tractor to rust in the spot it stopped working. I’m not saying this is a healthy view of death or that throwing a body into the Ganges River is more biblical than hosting an extravagant celebration-of-life ceremony. My point is that death is much more integrated into the fabric of life in almost every other place on the planet—and everyplace else in Scripture.


While we may not need to be tutored on the abundant life of the gospel, we need to be reacquainted with its more than abundant death. But don’t let this scare you; death isn’t quite the same since Christ consumed it. It’s been tamed and domesticated—it’s the bee without the sting. We no longer serve it—it serves us.


REBRANDING


When I think of Bayer aspirin, I think of families, happy babies, the smell of Vicks VapoRub, staying home from school, and watching I Love Lucy reruns. This is quite remarkable considering the fact that the seemingly benign corporation was, at one time, part of the German pharmaceutical company I. G. Farben. Farben was disbanded in 1952 for its close association with the Nazi Party and active participation in war crimes. Farben had manufactured the gas for Nazi gas chambers and was the chief supplier of the toxic gas Zyklon B. Today, Bayer is obviously a different company, a company that seeks to save lives, not exterminate them. But can you imagine the task set before the PR and marketing departments to re-brand and reshape our perceptions of this company? To help us see it as a source of life and not death?


This, I’m afraid, is what we’re up against here. Death has earned quite a bad name for itself—and, I might add, it’s well deserved. What Madison Avenue delivery could possibly change our perspective and make us want to die? Could we say that it’s been reformulated; that it’s not the cold, tasteless, soggy mush we remember; that it’s new and improved; that it’s a heart-healthy, cholesterol-friendly, high-fiber, reduced-fat version of death; that it comes with an extra scoop of raisins in every box?


As you can tell, re-branding death is beyond my powers of persuasion. But it is not beyond the power of Scripture, which makes an outrageous marketing claim: that just as green is the new black, and small is the new big, death is the new life. And this, as you’ll see, is not just a catchy jingle.


DEATH: NOW THE LEADING CAUSE OF LIFE


Hebrews tells us that Jesus suffered death so that by the grace of God He might “taste death for everyone.” The writer of Hebrews defaults to what appears to be Scripture’s metaphor of choice when speaking of death and resurrection—digestion. I will try to follow suit in reviewing the events of Jesus’ resurrection.


There are food chains everywhere in nature: The grasshopper eats the grass; the rat eats the grasshopper; the snake eats the rat; and the hawk eats the snake. What’s true of all food chains is that hawks and people and lions don’t really occupy the top rung. Death is, in fact, at the top of the food chain; death devours everything but is devoured by nothing.


The resurrection changed this. When Jesus rose from the dead, death was “swallowed up in victory” and “swallowed up by life.”


Throughout His ministry, Jesus warned of and predicted the dramatic change coming to the natural order: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). Jonah, if you remember, was swallowed but not digested.


As Jesus was placed inside the open mouth of the tomb, He entered through the jaws of death. Picture “the cords of the grave coiled around [him]” (Ps. 18:5), wrangling him down like a tongue. “The grave enlarges its appetite and opens its mouth” (Isa. 5:14). Death ingests Him, sliding lower and lower to the “lowest pit, in the darkest depths,” to the very bowels of death.


But the Holy One cannot be digested, for “his body will not see decay” (Ps. 16:10). Regurgitation is the only option for that which is inedible. The Son is spit out just as the whale “vomited” Jonah back to the living. The stone rolls back, the mouth of the grave opens, and death forfeits its meal. Death cannot eat life. The empty tomb is death with its teeth kicked out.


In communion, our symbolic celebration of this victory, we swallow Christ (His body and blood), just as His life swallows us. We drink His blood, represented by wine, a fermented drink that was extracted from death and decomposition.


When Scripture declares that death has been swallowed by life, it is declaring a massive reversal of the natural order. Apart from Christ we deteriorate, body and soul. Death picks away at us little by little until the day its appetite swells to consume us whole.


As believers we experience the reverse: “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Cor. 4:11). The Christian life is a progressive march, not to death but to resurrection, where Christ slowly transforms us until the day His resurrection consumes us whole. Christ’s resurrection power animates the life of the believer so that our trials and sufferings are continuously being consumed, metabolized, and transformed into new life. Resurrection—not death—is the reigning power within us so that “though outwardly we are wasting away … inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). The hands of time are moving backward, and the sands in the hourglass pouring upward.


If all this sounds too flowery and poetic, here it is a bit more bluntly: The indwelling of God’s Spirit turned our life into a piñata. Now, the more you beat the thing, the more Christ’s life showers out. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). If life is on the inside, there’s everything to be gained by having our lives turned inside out.


DEATH: NOW AVAILABLE IN FUN SIZE


With the best of intentions, preachers and teachers continue to attempt to inspire us to see the importance and relevance of death to the Christian life. We’ve heard countless stories of persecuted brothers and sisters around the world as well as tales of missionary heroics and sacrifice.


I can recall a sermon I gave once, a sermon laced with quotes from the journal of David Brainerd. Brainerd was a missionary to the Delaware Indians during the eighteenth century. He lived in the wilderness and slept on the ground, all the while dying of tuberculosis. Brainerd was Superman. Brainerd would preach, cough up his lungs, pass out, and then get up and preach another sermon. I tried to cast vision for a cross-bearing commitment to Christ, but it didn’t work. “Remember David Brainerd” had the relevance of “Remember the Alamo” and the triviality of “Remember the Titans.” Those listening to my message shared as much in common with the lifestyle of David Brainerd as they did with the lifestyle of Madonna.


It felt like I was a parent telling his child to eat all the food on his plate because there are children starving in other parts of the world. Has this ever prompted a single child to mop up the remains of his dinner? It seems like this argument should work, but the gap is so big and the cultural distance so far that it cannot be mentally crossed. Now, if you could scrape your plate into a box and next-day ship it to the starving children, well that would be different, wouldn’t it? That would bridge the gap.


I think this is why our stories of martyrs and missionaries sometimes fail to motivate. What we are doing, in effect, is inflating the concept of death, sacrifice, and martyrdom, making them as big, as bold, and as graphic as possible in hopes of shocking people awake. But see, it does the opposite. The more horrible the stories, the more gruesome the deaths, the more courageous the martyrs, the more sacrificial the evangelists—the less like us these martyrs seem. We end up creating more distance between us and them, between us and death.


In focusing on these concepts as macro-events, as monumental moments of extinction, termination, and glory, we wrongly elevate these people as a superior class of Christians.


The creation of a Christian upper class automatically places us in a lower bracket, and we assume the discipleship requirements of such a bracket to be far less. With the lowering of expectations comes the lowering of ambition. Who can compete with a super martyr? They’re the pros, and we can only hope to caddy for them. This makes what should be the normative life of cross-bearing seem unattainable, something for an elite class of ancient Christians, super leaders, and third-world believers.


The Scriptures do not attempt to inflate the concept of death. Rather, they seek to show its relevance to our daily lives and spiritual growth. The Scriptures challenge our cramped and claustrophobic view of the grave and lead us to see death as a process, inviting us to embrace it in its many varieties: death to self, death to the world, death to our pride, and so on. The Scriptures democratize death, requiring everyone to carry a cross and be a martyr. The Bible focuses on the concept, the practice, and the process—the small d of death—far more than on the capitol D of Death—death as termination.


The small d of death is critical to every Christian. While we may never die in our attempts to witness, our reputation might. Everyone has an ego, and the death of pride is a martyrdom to be shared by every Christian. Everyone can experience the death of a dream, a job, a hope, a relationship, an ego, or a reputation. We must all die to ourselves. There is no need to push or shove or wait in line; we will all get a chance to die.


This expanded meaning of death is clearly what’s meant by the Scripture’s rather elastic use of the concept, as we are admonished to “take up our cross,” “die to sin,” “die to the world,” and so many other deaths beyond the funeral variety. The death envisioned is not a single tombstone, it’s Arlington cemetery—row upon row of graves. To see the smaller, daily opportunities to die is as important as seeing the daily tokens of God’s love and faithfulness that He bestows on us.


DEATH: OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME


While neither God nor Scripture ignores or downplays the pain of our suffering and trials, they are unwavering in presenting it to us as an opportunity to be embraced, not a threat from which to hide. A thoughtful examination of a passage in 2 Corinthians explains why: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Cor. 4:10–12).


Let me rephrase this passage with explanation, expansion, and commentary so you can see the concepts in another way:


I endure many hardships. But I think of my trials like “little deaths” because I see how God resurrects, or brings life out of, them. You, Corinthians, are the ones who benefit from this, so I don’t mind if God uses my life and faith as an engine to convert those deaths into life. In fact, once you realize that trials are fuel, or firewood, to be burned and transformed into life, you no longer run from them; you embrace them. This is why I rejoice in the severity of my trials, persevere in them, and embrace them by faith. I never think, “Oh, no … another trial.” I actually think, “Bring it on; it’s just more logs for the fire.”


It is no doubt human nature to avoid pain; it’s definitely my nature. I dare you to spring out of bed every morning like it were Christmas Day, anticipating what new deaths lie ahead and how God will transform them into life. It’s not a normal way of looking at life, but then again neither is returning from a torture session “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).


If Mr. Thomas Kuhn were still alive, I believe he would call this a paradigm shift, a fundamentally different way of viewing life. In fact, when a perspective is so mind-altering and counterintuitive, we do not call it insight, but insanity. It’s not just a different way of thinking, it’s too different—odd different. Apart from faith, James’ sentiment, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), would have to be seen as gibberish, as would the affections expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he said, “Can you sense that I have now a terrible longing for my own suffering?”


However, when you begin to view death as an opportunity for more and greater life, here and now, as well as in the age to come, it changes everything. It reorients us entirely.


In the past year I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel with something like ten thousand college students, with several hundred of those coming to Christ. This outreach to universities was launched from a book I wrote titled Jesus Without Religion. I can’t prove this, but I don’t think the fruitfulness of the book is necessarily tied to the book itself.


The book took me six months to write, and the very day after completing it, my computer crashed. As it turned out, the “heads” on the hard drive were cracked, and nothing was salvageable. This, at least, is what the repairman told me; I know nothing of the heads, hands, or feet of a hard drive, nothing of basic hard drive anatomy at all. This would have been the perfect time to pull out the backup copy that I’d saved—if there had been a backup copy. But I had nothing; the book was gone, dead and buried, its remains sprinkled throughout the cyber universe—from pixels it came and to pixels it returned.


Yet this perspective of death presented in Scripture ultimately led me to a sense of anticipation. Here, in the teaching of Jesus and the disciples, death (the death of a hope, dream, goal, or six months worth of work) doesn’t mean dead—it means the opportunity for resurrection.28 A MILLION WAYS TO DIE


To give thanks and praise in such circumstances is one way in which death is transformed into life. The blackened logs of death consumed by faith’s flame are transformed into wisps of praise drifting upward. Death is a consumable fuel for life, and any experience of death can yield spiritual life if it is embraced by faith. Giving thanks and praise is simply one method of transference.



I do not remember if I gave thanks. I might have sworn. But after regaining my spiritual equilibrium, I did start on page one, with word one, and with considerable anticipation that God would use the resurrected rewrite like Lazarus, drawing many to Himself.


I can’t prove the connection in this particular case, but I know it’s there. I know it’s God’s resurrection power working through a corpse. (Though in my enthusiasm for the metaphor, I have just called my book a corpse, which can’t be good for future sales).


It certainly makes sense to me why an unbeliever would run from death. But for a believer, to run from death is, in reality, to run from life. This is why we embrace death and consider it pure joy in whatever form we encounter it. Death is no longer a dead end or detour to life; it’s a fuel stop. Death, like gasoline, is combusted and converted into mileage, enabling us to get to our destination—the light and life of the great city glowing over the horizon.


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. A Million Ways to Die by Rick James. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.


Here is my review of this terrific non-fiction book:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Rick James and his publisher for sending me a copy of "A Million Ways To Die" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

"A Million Ways To Die: The Only Way To Live" by Rick James is a wonderfully thought-provoking volume on the popular Christian subject of "death to self" equalling life in Christ. Poignant stories from various sources bring to life the Biblical principles being taught in this book.

Written with wit and wisdom, this compelling work will change the way you live for Christ and die to yourself. I highly recommend this book to any believer who wants his or her life to glorify God.

Bible Study: Coming Out Of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 1


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. 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 Exodus Chapter 1. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



1:1-4 – Why are the names of Jacob’s sons listed this way? They are by mother (in the order Jacob “wed” them), then birth order. I know women were insignificant, but what happened to Dinah?

1:1 – Jacob was believed to have entered Egypt in 1875 BC.

1:8-2:2 – represents approximately 400 years of mistreatment and slavery. See Genesis 15:13.

1:8 – How could any Egyptian king not know about Joseph? Is it possible that he didn’t know how God saved them all through Joseph in the time of famine? According to a lecture I heard recently, the Egyptians didn’t record their failures to maintain historical integrity. Perhaps they saw God’s success through Joseph as their own failure.

1:11-14 – This fulfills much of God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 15.

1:15-16 – Moses and Jesus both survived infanticide perpetrated by a ruler who ordered all Hebrew baby boys killed. See Matthew 2:16. (Jews for Jesus newsletter, April 2008)

1:15 – Were these midwives Hebrew? Or were they Egyptians who were midwives to the Hebrews? Their names are Semitic (descendants of Shem - from SW Asia).

1:16 – What is the Hebrew delivery stool like? The online research I’ve done doesn’t turn up much. The sources say that the delivery stool is like a potter’s stool.

1:18-19 – Although this excuse may have been partially true, the midwives lied to Pharaoh. Shouldn’t they have told the truth? God blessed them because He promised to bless those who bless Abram in Genesis 12:3.

1:20 – God rewarded the midwives for their faithfulness to Him. So, does this mean that it is okay to deceive evil? When that choice is made because it blesses the Jews, it absolutely does. See Genesis 12:3 and the stories of these midwives and Rahab.

1:22 – Pharaoh didn’t specify Hebrew boys in this verse. Why not?

Some boys would drown. Others would be eaten by crocodiles. What other fates may have befallen them? The Nile was full of fish and water fowl came there, too. Were these creatures carnivorous?


What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

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:


Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to Ashley Boyer and Staci Carmichael of Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Expertly weaving together fantasy, romance and Biblical truths, Donita K. Paul penned the best-selling, fan-favorite DragonKeeper Chronicles series. After retiring early from teaching, she began a second career as an award-winning author and loves serving as a mentor for new writers of all ages. And when she’s not putting pen to paper, Donita makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys spending time with her grandsons, cooking, beading, stamping, and knitting.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307458997
ISBN-13: 978-0307458995

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Christmas. Cora had been trying to catch it for four years. She scurried down the sidewalk, thankful that streetlights and brightly lit storefronts counteracted the gloom of early nightfall. Somewhere, sometime, she’d get a hold of how to celebrate Christmas. Maybe even tonight.

With snowflakes sticking to her black coat, Christmas lights blinking around shop windows, and incessant bells jingling, Cora should have felt some holiday cheer.

And she did.

Really.

Just not much.

At least she was on a Christmas errand this very minute. One present for a member of the family. Shouldn’t that count for a bit of credit in the Christmas-spirit department?

Cora planned out her Christmas gift giving in a reasonable manner. The execution of her purchasing schedule gave her a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight’s quest was a book for Uncle Eric—something about knights and castles, sword fights, shining armor, and all that.

One or two gifts purchased each week from Labor Day until December 15, and her obligations were discharged efficiently, economically, and without the excruciating last-minute frenzy that descended upon other people…like her three sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her aunts.

Cora refused to behave like her female relatives and had decided not to emulate the male side of the family either. The men didn’t buy gifts. They sometimes exchanged bottles from the liquor store, but more often they drank the spirits themselves.

Her adult ambition had been to develop her own traditions for the season, ones that sprouted from the Christianity she’d discovered in college. The right way to celebrate the birth of Christ. She avoided the chaos that could choke Christmas. Oh dear. Judgmental again. At least now she recognized when she slipped.

She glanced around Sage Street. Not too many shoppers. The quaint old shops were decked out for the holidays, but not with LED bulbs and inflated cartoon figures.

Since discovering Christianity, she’d been confused about the trappings of Christmas—the gift giving, the nativity scenes, the carols, even the Christmas tree. Every year she tried to acquire some historical background on the festivities. She was learning. She had hope. But she hadn’t wrapped her head around all the traditions yet.

The worst part was shopping.

Frenzy undid her. Order sustained her. And that was a good reason to steer clear of any commercialized holiday rush. She’d rather screw red light bulbs into plastic reindeer faces than push through a crowd of shoppers.

Cora examined the paper in her hand and compared it to the address above the nearest shop. Number 483 on the paper and 527 on the building. Close.

When she’d found the bookstore online, she had been amazed that a row of old-fashioned retailers still existed a few blocks from the high-rise office building where she worked. Truthfully, it was more like the bookstore found her. Every time she opened her browser, and on every site she visited, the ad for the old-fashioned new- and used-book store showed up in a banner or sidebar. She’d asked around, but none of her co-workers patronized the Sage Street Shopping District.

“Sounds like a derelict area to me,” said Meg, the receptionist. “Sage Street is near the old railroad station, isn’t it? The one they decided was historic so they wouldn’t tear it down, even though it’s empty and an eyesore?”

An odd desire to explore something other than the mall near her apartment seized Cora. “I’m going to check it out.”

Jake, the security guard, frowned at her. “Take a cab. You don’t want to be out too late over there.”

Cora walked. The brisk air strengthened her lungs, right? The exercise pumped her blood, right? A cab would cost three, maybe four dollars, right?

An old man, sitting on the stoop of a door marked 503, nodded at her. She smiled, and he winked as he gave her a toothless grin. Startled, she quickened her pace and gladly joined the four other pedestrians waiting at the corner for the light to change.

Number 497 emblazoned the window of an ancient shoe store on the opposite corner. She marched on. In this block she’d find the book and check another item off her Christmas list.

Finally! “Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad, Books,” Cora read the sign aloud and then grasped the shiny knob. It didn’t turn. She frowned. Stuck? Locked? The lights were on. She pressed her face against the glass. A man sat at the counter. Reading. How appropriate.

Cora wrenched the knob. A gust of wind pushed with her against the door, and she blew into the room. She stumbled and straightened, and before she could grab the door and close it properly, it swung closed, without the loud bang she expected.

“I don’t like loud noises,” the man said without looking up from his book.

“Neither do I,” said Cora.

He nodded over his book. With one gnarled finger, he pushed his glasses back up his nose.

Must be an interesting book. Cora took a quick look around. The place could use stronger lights. She glanced back at the clerk. His bright lamp cast him and his book in a golden glow.

Should she peruse the stacks or ask?

She decided to browse. She started to enter the aisle between two towering bookcases.

“Not there,” said the old man.

“I beg your pardon?” said Cora.

“How-to books. How to fix a leaky faucet. How to build a bridge. How to mulch tomatoes. How to sing opera. How-to books. You don’t need to know any of that, do you?”

“No.”

“Wrong aisle, then.” He placed the heavy volume on the counter and leaned over it, apparently absorbed once more.

Cora took a step toward him. “I think I saw a movie like this once.”

His head jerked up, his scowl heavier. He glared over the top of his glasses at the books on the shelves as if they had suddenly moved or spoken or turned bright orange.

“A movie? Here? I suppose you mean the backdrop of a bookstore. Not so unusual.” He arched an eyebrow. “You’ve Got Mail and 84 Charing Cross Road.”

“I meant the dialogue. You spoke as if you knew what I needed.”

He hunched his shoulders. The dark suspenders stretched across the faded blue of his shirt. “Reading customers. Been in the business a long time.”

“I’m looking for a book for my uncle. He likes castles, knights, tales of adventure. That sort of thing.”

He sighed, closed his book, and tapped its cover. “This is it.” He stood as Cora came to the desk. “Do you want me to wrap it and send it? We have the service. My grandson’s idea.”

Cora schooled her face and her voice. One of the things she excelled in was not showing her exasperation. She’d been trained by a dysfunctional family, and that had its benefits. She knew how to take guff and not give it back. Maintaining a calm attitude was a good job skill.

She tried a friendly smile and addressed the salesclerk.

“I want to look at it first and find out how much it costs.”

“It’s the book you want, and the price is eleven dollars and thirteen cents.”

Cora rubbed her hand over the cover. It looked and felt like leather, old leather, but in good repair. The book must be ancient.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Which?” the old man barked.

“Which what?”

“Which part of the statement am I sure about? It doesn’t matter because I’m sure about both.”

Cora felt her armor of detachment suffer a dent. The man was impossible. She could probably order a book online and get it wrapped and delivered right to her uncle with less aggravation. But dollar signs blinked in neon red in her mind as she thought how much that would cost. No need to be hasty.

Curtain rings rattled on a rod, and Cora looked up to see a younger version of the curmudgeon step into the area behind the counter.

The younger man smiled. He had the same small, wiry build as the older version, but his smile was warm and genuine. He looked to be about fifty, but his hair was still black, as black as the old man’s hair was white. He stretched out his hand, and Cora shook it.

“I’m Bill Wizbotterdad. This is my granddad, William Wizbotterdad.”

“Let me guess. Your father is named Will?”

Bill grinned, obviously pleased she’d caught on quickly. “Willie Wizbotterdad. He’s off in Europe collecting rare books.”

“He’s not!” said the elder shop owner.

“He is.” Bill cast his granddad a worried look.

“That’s just the reason he gave for not being here.” William shook his head and leaned across the counter. “He doesn’t like Christmas. We have a special job to do at Christmas, and he doesn’t like people and dancing and matrimony.”

Bill put his arm around his grandfather and pulled him back. He let go of his granddad and spun the book on the scarred wooden counter so that Cora could read the contents. “Take a look.” He opened the cover and flipped through the pages. “Colored illustrations.”

A rattling of the door knob was followed by the sound of a shoulder thudding against the wood. Cora turned to see the door fly open with a tall man attached to it. The stranger brushed snow from his sleeves, then looked up at the two shop owners. Cora caught them giving each other a smug smile, a wink, and a nod of the head.

Odd. Lots of oddness in this shop.

She liked the book, and she wanted to leave before more snow accumulated on the streets. Yet something peculiar about this shop and the two men made her curious. Part of her longed to linger. However, smart girls trusted their instincts and didn’t hang around places that oozed mystery. She didn’t feel threatened, just intrigued. But getting to know the peculiar booksellers better was the last thing she wanted, right? She needed to get home and be done with this Christmas shopping business. “I’ll take the book.”

The newcomer stomped his feet on the mat by the door, then took off his hat.

Cora did a double take. “Mr. Derrick!”

He cocked his head and scrunched his face. “Do I know you?” The man was handsome, even wearing that comical lost expression. “Excuse me. Have we met?”

“We work in the same office.”

He studied her a moment, and a look of recognition lifted the frown. “Third desk on the right.” He hesitated, then snapped his fingers. “Cora Crowden.”

“Crowder.”

He jammed his hand in his pocket, moving his jacket aside. His tie hung loosely around his neck. She’d never seen him looking relaxed. The office clerks called him Serious Simon Derrick.

“I drew your name,” she said.

He looked puzzled.

“For the gift exchange. Tomorrow night. Office party.”

“Oh. Of course.” He nodded. “I drew Mrs. Hudson. She’s going to retire, and I heard her say she wanted to redecorate on a shoestring.”

“That’s Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Hudson is taking leave to be with her daughter, who is giving birth to triplets.”

He frowned and began looking at the books.

“You won’t be there, will you?” Cora asked.

“At the party? No, I never come.”

“I know. I mean, I’ve worked at Sorenby’s for five years, and you’ve never been there.”

The puzzled expression returned to Serious Simon’s face. He glanced to the side. “I’m looking for the how-to section.”

Cora grinned. “On your left. Second aisle.”

He turned to stare at her, and she pointed to the shelves Mr. Wizbotterdad had not let her examine. Mr. Derrick took a step in that direction.

Cora looked back at the shop owners and caught them leaning back in identical postures, grins on their faces, and arms crossed over their chests.

Bill jerked away from the wall, grabbed her book, rummaged below the counter, and brought out a bag. He slid the book inside, then looked at her. “You didn’t want the book wrapped and delivered?”

“No, I’ll just pay for it now.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to look around some more?” asked Bill.

“Right,” said William. “No hurry. Look around. Browse. You might find something you like.”

Bill elbowed William.

Simon Derrick had disappeared between the stacks.

William nodded toward the how-to books. “Get a book. We have a copy of How to Choose Gifts for Ungrateful Relatives. Third from the bottom shelf, second case from the wall.”

The statement earned him a “shh” from his grandson.

Cora shifted her attention to the man from her office and walked a few paces to peek around the shelves. “Mr. Derrick, I’m getting ready to leave. If you’re not coming to the party, may I just leave the gift on your desk tomorrow?”

He glanced at her before concentrating again on the many books. “That’s fine. Nice to see you, Miss Crowden.”

“Crowder,” she corrected, but he didn’t answer.

She went to the counter and paid. Mr. Derrick grunted when she said good-bye at the door.

“Come back again,” said Bill.

“Yes,” said William. “We have all your heart’s desires.”

Bill elbowed him, and Cora escaped into the blustering weather.

She hiked back to the office building. Snow sprayed her with tiny crystals, and the sharp wind nipped her nose. Inside the parking garage, warm air helped her thaw a bit as she walked to the spot she leased by the month. It would be a long ride home on slippery roads. But once she arrived, there would be no one there to interrupt her plans. She got in the car, turned the key, pushed the gearshift into reverse, looked over her shoulder, and backed out of her space.

She would get the gift ready to mail off and address a few cards in the quiet of her living room. There would be no yelling. That’s what she liked about living states away from her family. No one would ambush her with complaints and arguments when she walked through the door.

Except Skippy. Skippy waited. One fat, getting fatter, cat to talk to. She did complain at times about her mistress being gone too long, about her dinner being late, about things Cora could not fathom. But Cora never felt condemned by Skippy, just prodded a little.

_

Once inside her second-floor apartment, she pulled off her gloves, blew her nose, and went looking for Skippy.

The cat was not behind the curtain, sitting on the window seat, staring at falling snow. Not in her closet, curled up in a boot she’d knocked over. Not in the linen closet, sleeping on clean towels. She wasn’t in any of her favorite spots. Cora looked around and saw the paper bag that, this morning, had been filled with wadded scraps of Christmas paper. Balls of pretty paper and bits of ribbon littered the floor. There. Cora bent over and spied her calico cat in the bag.

“Did you have fun, Skippy?”

The cat rolled on her back and batted the top of the paper bag. Skippy then jumped from her cave and padded after Cora, as her owner headed for the bedroom.

Thirty minutes later, Cora sat at the dining room table in her cozy pink robe that enveloped her from neck to ankles. She stirred a bowl of soup and eyed the fifteen packages she’d wrapped earlier in the week. Two more sat waiting for their ribbons.

These would cost a lot less to send if some of these people were on speaking terms. She could box them together and ship them off in large boxes.

She spooned chicken and rice into her mouth and swallowed.

The soup was a tad too hot. She kept stirring.

She could send one package with seven gifts inside to Grandma Peterson, who could dispense them to her side of the family. She could send three to Aunt Carol.

She took another sip. Cooler.

Aunt Carol could keep her gift and give two to her kids. She could send five to her mom…

Cora grimaced. She had three much older sisters and one younger. “If Mom were on speaking terms with my sisters, that would help.”

She eyed Skippy, who had lifted a rear leg to clean between her back toes. “You don’t care, do you? Well, I’m trying to. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job with this Christmas thing.”

She reached over and flipped the switch on her radio. A Christmas carol poured out and jarred her nerves. She really should think about Christmas and not who received the presents. Better to think “my uncle” than “Joe, that bar bum and pool shark.”

She finished her dinner, watching her cat wash her front paws.

“You and I need to play. You’re”—she paused as Skippy turned

a meaningful glare at her—“getting a bit rotund, dear kitty.”

Skippy sneezed and commenced licking her chest.

After dinner, Cora curled up on the couch with her Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bag. Skippy came to investigate the rattling paper.

Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric used to recite “You Are Old, Father William.” He said it was about a knight. But Cora wasn’t so sure. She dredged up memories from college English. The poem was by Lewis Carroll, who was really named Dodson, Dogson, Dodgson, or something.

“He wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” she said. “There’s a cat in the story, but not as fine a cat as you. He smiles too much.”

Skippy gave her a squint-eyed look.

Cora eased the leather-bound book out of the bag. “The William I met at the bookstore qualifies for at least ancient.”

She put the book in her lap and ran her fingers over the embossed title: How the Knights Found Their Ladies.

She might have been hasty. She didn’t know if Uncle Eric would like this. She hefted the book, guessing its weight to be around four pounds. She should have found a lighter gift. This would cost a fortune to mail.

Skippy sniffed at the binding, feline curiosity piqued. Cora stroked her fur and pushed her back. She opened the book to have a peek inside. A piece of thick paper fell out. Skippy pounced on it as it twirled to the floor.

“What is it, kitty? A bookmark?” She slipped it out from between Skippy’s paws, then turned the rectangle over in her hands. Not a bookmark. A ticket.


Admit one to the Wizards’ Christmas Ball

Costumes required

Dinner and Dancing

and your Destiny


Never heard of it. She tucked the ticket in between the pages and continued to flip through the book, stopping to read an occasional paragraph.

This book wasn’t for Uncle Eric at all. It was not a history, it was a story. Kind of romantic too. Definitely not Uncle Eric’s preferred reading.

Skippy curled against her thigh and purred.

“You know what, cat? I’m going to keep it.”

Skippy made her approval known by stretching her neck up and rubbing her chin on the edge of the leather cover. Cora put the book on the sofa and picked up Skippy for a cuddle. The cat squirmed out of her arms, batted at the ticket sticking out of the pages, and scampered off.

“I love you too,” called Cora.

She pulled the ticket out and read it again: Wizards’ Christmas Ball. She turned out the light and headed for bed. But as she got ready, her eye caught the computer on her desk. Maybe she could find a bit more information.



Here is my review of this fantastic Christmas novella:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Donita K. Paul and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

Donita K. Paul's latest effort, "Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball: A Novella", is a wonderful departure from her normal science fiction-fantasy tales of dragons. This charming novel is full of the same intelligent characters and rich prose, but this time, the stage is set within a magical book shop where the owners have a knack for guessing what every customer needs - including love.

Co-workers Cora Crowder and "Serious" Simon Derrick find themselves the objects of the book store matchmakers' efforts. But will they agree that they are a match made in heaven?

This beautifully penned Christmastime romance also touches the heart with in-depth spiritual issues. I particularly related to Cora's struggle to reconcile Christmas traditions with the reality of faith. This is a book that can be enjoyed at any time of year, but will bring a bit of Christmas to the heart whenever it is read.