Monday, December 31, 2012

REVIEW: Submerged by Dani Pettrey


Dani Pettrey’s freshman novel and the first in the “Alaskan Courage” series, “Submerged”, is a phenomenal work of fiction!  A thrilling and suspenseful mystery and a solid romance, this novel has it all!  Bailey Craig escaped her past and everyone connected with it when she left Yancey, Alaska.  When she must return for her Aunt Agnes’ funeral, she is forced to face the mistakes of her youth and the true love she left behind.  Cole McKenna thought he was over Bailey until she showed up back in Yancey.  Now he wonders if he can go back to life without her when she leaves.

These characters are supremely likable.  The plot is solidly crafted.  The dialogue is genuine, not contrived.  This was a completely enjoyable book!

I am so glad I was able to take a little break from my normally strained blog tour schedule to read this wonderful book that has been sitting in my “to be read” pile for months!  I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of her second book in the series, “Shattered”, to come out in the new year.  If there are any publicists out there looking for bloggers to tour the next book, I’d be happy to oblige!

The author also has a terrific packet of discussion questions, recipes, trivia and games that can be used in your book discussion group that you can download from her website:  www.danipettrey.com.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bible Study: Be Strong and Courageous - Joshua Chapter 19

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Joshua, although they are a bit better formatted than former efforts. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, summer 2009, things are looking increasingly bleak with the economy and unemployment, there is a renewal and increase of racism, and godly principles of living being disregarded. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Stay strong and very courageous. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 19 of the Old Testament book of Joshua. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

19:1 – Simeon received his inheritance second.

19:9 – Simeon’s inheritance is within Judah’s lands.

19:10 – Zebulun received his inheritance third.

19:17 – Issachar received his inheritance fourth.

19:24 – Asher received his inheritance fifth.

19:32 – Naphtali was chosen sixth to receive his inheritance.

19:40 – Dan received his inheritance seventh.

19:47 – Dan lost their land to the Philistines, traveled north, fought Leshem and took their land.

19:49-50 – Israel gave Joshua an inheritance as God commanded.

19:50 – Joshua asked for, and received, the town of Timnath-Serah (“remaining portion”) in the hill country of Ephraim. Why did he choose this town?

19:51 – The division of the land was finished.




• The book of Joshua teaches us many things including the fact that we must pursue a relationship with the Lord for ourselves rather than leaning on others’ relationships with Him. Joshua followed Moses as leader of Israel, after all. What have you learned and applied to your life from today’s reading that will help you persevere in your relationship with Christ?
• How do you observe God proving to Israel that He is with Joshua as He was with Moses in today’s text? How does it apply to your own life and relationship with Him?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of 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, December 26, 2012

Crown Financial Bible Study – Week Five – Honesty


What I learned from the homework – This week was pivotal for me.  I am not the person I perceived myself to be.  I have lots to work on in this area.  I don’t like confrontation, so when honesty will cause a disagreement, I have sinned by avoidance.

Proverbs 29:12 says that one of the consequences of dishonesty in leadership is that the leader’s officials become wicked.  I felt like that corrupted official this week.  I have served under a few leaders who have been closed-minded at times.  Rather than confronting the areas where we have a difference of opinion, I’ve kept silent and done things my own way (and encouraged others to do the same).  Not only is this behavior disrespectful to the leadership God has placed over me, it doesn’t give my leader the opportunity to change his or her behavior.  I need to pray for courage to live honorably in this area.

What I learned from our class discussion – We must be honest in EVERY LITTLE THING!  There is no such thing as a “white lie”.

Memorizing Scripture – Leviticus 19:11 teaches us that lying is serious business.  In this verse, both stealing and lying are deterred.  Since stealing is a serious crime and this verse associates these two detrimental practices, I think we should work hard to avoid lying.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bible Study: Be Strong and Courageous - Joshua Chapter 18

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Joshua, although they are a bit better formatted than former efforts. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, summer 2009, things are looking increasingly bleak with the economy and unemployment, there is a renewal and increase of racism, and godly principles of living being disregarded. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Stay strong and very courageous. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 18 of the Old Testament book of Joshua. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

18:1 – Israel sets up the tent of meeting at Shiloh. Were they inviting God to dwell among them?

Shiloh was the religious center for over a century.

18:2-3 – Joshua reprimands the seven remaining tribes for delaying their possession of the land. Why would they delay? Which tribes were they? Simeon, Benjamin, Dan, Issachar, Zebulun, Asher and Naphtali.

18:4-6 – A scouting party would survey and divide the land and Joshua would distribute by lot.

18:8-10 – The scouting party completes their mission.

18:11-28 – Benjamin’s inheritance is detailed.

What are we going to inherit from the Lord? How does that make you feel?




• The book of Joshua teaches us many things including the fact that we must pursue a relationship with the Lord for ourselves rather than leaning on others’ relationships with Him. Joshua followed Moses as leader of Israel, after all. What have you learned and applied to your life from today’s reading that will help you persevere in your relationship with Christ?
• How do you observe God proving to Israel that He is with Joshua as He was with Moses in today’s text? How does it apply to your own life and relationship with Him?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of 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, December 19, 2012

Crown Financial Bible Study – Week Four – Counsel


What I learned from the homework – Having a variety of counselors can help you make decisions by offering a perspective that’s different from your own.  But your primary source of counsel is the Word of God!

What I learned from our class discussion – Pride and mistrust keep people from seeking out counsel – especially in financial matters.  We should seek our spouse’s opinion as a primary source of counsel.  Our parents should also be on our list of counselors.  Non-believers can also be our counselors if they are the subject matter experts who are educating us.

Changes I have made/need to make – I need to broaden the base of people I count as counselors.  I need to seek God’s direction to identify the people He wants me to include in that group.

Memorizing Scripture – Proverbs 12:15 is a wonderful verse!  I don’t want to be wise in my own eyes.  I do want to obey God’s Word and seek the counsel of the people He puts in my path.  I don’t want to forget that I should be seeking the Lord’s counsel first and foremost.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bible Study: Be Strong and Courageous - Joshua Chapter 17

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Joshua, although they are a bit better formatted than former efforts. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, summer 2009, things are looking increasingly bleak with the economy and unemployment, there is a renewal and increase of racism, and godly principles of living being disregarded. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Stay strong and very courageous. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 17 of the Old Testament book of Joshua. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

17:1 – Why did the firstborn of Manasseh (Machir) get allotted Gilead & Bashan? What is significant about Machir (his name means “sold”) being a man of war? His entire family had a reputation for being expert warriors.

17:2 – Manasseh’s other male descendants were Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher and Shemida.

17:3 – Take a minute to sketch this piece of Manasseh’s family tree.

A girl named Noah (this name means “rest”)? Named after “the Noah”?

17:4 – When did the Lord say these girls should get an inheritance? See Numbers 36.

17:7-10 – Manasseh’s land boundaries.

17:11-13 – The cities that Manasseh couldn’t possess because the Canaanites lived there. But when Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to hard labor.

17:14-18 – The people of Joseph – Ephraim and Manasseh.

17:15 – Clear ground in the forest? How could Joshua give them more land? Why was Manasseh involved since they received several tribal allotments? Were they involved?

17:18 – Apparently, the hill country was vast and would be Canaanite-free.




• The book of Joshua teaches us many things including the fact that we must pursue a relationship with the Lord for ourselves rather than leaning on others’ relationships with Him. Joshua followed Moses as leader of Israel, after all. What have you learned and applied to your life from today’s reading that will help you persevere in your relationship with Christ?
• How do you observe God proving to Israel that He is with Joshua as He was with Moses in today’s text? How does it apply to your own life and relationship with Him?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of 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, December 12, 2012

Crown Financial Bible Study – Week Three – Debt


What I learned from the homework – Debt is slavery.  I am not promised tomorrow, so I shouldn’t manage God’s resources as if I am.

What I learned from our class discussion – As His child, God wants me to be out of debt so that I may live gloriously for Him.  I don’t know if He will help me to achieve this lifestyle right away like He multiplied the oil for the widow or if the change will happen more gradually, but I know it will happen.  Hallelujah!

I can sell what I’m not using!  Oh, my!  We tend to overlook the obvious, don’t we?  I want to get started on this idea right away.

Changes I have made/need to make – I need to quit procrastinating and cancel the credit card that my husband and I agreed to get rid of.  I need to keep meditating on 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 and reminding myself that everything I have – including what I’m buying now – belongs to God.  I am continuing to be careful about the use of possessive pronouns like “my”.  And I’m praying that God will continue to make me aware of His ownership.

Memorizing Scripture – Proverbs 22:7 has brought me to the point where I don’t want to be a servant to a lender.  If I’m serving a lender, how can I serve the Lord?  I think this is at least part of what the Scriptures mean when it talks about not being able to serve both God and money.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Bible Study: Be Strong and Courageous - Joshua Chapter 16

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Joshua, although they are a bit better formatted than former efforts. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, summer 2009, things are looking increasingly bleak with the economy and unemployment, there is a renewal and increase of racism, and godly principles of living being disregarded. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Stay strong and very courageous. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 16 of the Old Testament book of Joshua. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

16:1-10 – This is the land that went to the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. How can their lands be lumped together if Manasseh elected to take his land on the other side of the river? Manasseh’s inheritance was split, remember.

16:1 – The people of Joseph – I believe this is the first time these tribes are put together since Israel blessed them in Genesis. I wonder why…

16:9 – There were towns set aside for Ephraim within the territory of Manasseh. Why? Weren’t their lands on opposite sides of the river? No. Manasseh had land on both sides of the Jordan River and Ephraim’s land was right next to Manasseh’s in the west.

16:10 – They didn’t drive out the Canaanites. Why is this important to note?




• The book of Joshua teaches us many things including the fact that we must pursue a relationship with the Lord for ourselves rather than leaning on others’ relationships with Him. Joshua followed Moses as leader of Israel, after all. What have you learned and applied to your life from today’s reading that will help you persevere in your relationship with Christ?
• How do you observe God proving to Israel that He is with Joshua as He was with Moses in today’s text? How does it apply to your own life and relationship with Him?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of 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, December 05, 2012

Crown Financial Bible Study – Week Two – God’s Part/Our Part


What I learned from the homework – God owns everything!

I have completed Destination 1 on the Crown Money Map!  Hallelujah!  Then the evidence of that disappeared when an unforeseen expense popped up.  Then, a week later, God provided the funds to complete that destination again.  Thank You, Jesus!

Changes I have made/need to make – I need to get to work on paying off credit card debt and increasing my savings.  I have begun to think of everything I have as belonging to God.  I still need to remind myself of this at times.

Understanding that God owns everything has given me a desire to get rid of some old habits:  like tolerating my kids’ lack of church attendance.  In the coming weeks, my husband and I plan to sit them down and explain that our home belongs to God, and as long as they live under His roof, they WILL attend church!  I’ll try to remember to let you know how that goes.

My youngest daughter has already agreed to attend a Bible study at our church that is starting in a few weeks.

Memorizing Scripture – 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 is awe-inspiring!  Now that we’ve memorized it, we’ve been challenged with meditating on it in the morning and the evening.  This is a wonderful exercise to keep the perspective that everything I have belongs to God.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

THE WAY OF GRACE BY CATHY BRYANT

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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:






WordVessel Press (September 25, 2012)




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




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






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" width="154" />
 Cathy Bryant is the author of the Miller’s Creek Novels—Texas Roads, A Path Less Traveled, and The Way of Grace. Her desire is to write heart-stirring stories about God’s life-changing grace. Though Texas-born, she currently resides in the beautiful Ozark mountains of northwest Arkansas with her husband of thirty years and near the world’s cutest grandson.



You can learn more about her and her books at http://www.CatBryant.comhttp://www.catbryant.com/">http://www.CatBryant.com> and http://WordVessel.blogspot.com.
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SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:





http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-YBt00OVBVbg/ULrMtnWMl9I/AAAAAAAAJj8/fU84wWSjANY/s1600/TheWayOfGraceFCsmall.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;">http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-YBt00OVBVbg/ULrMtnWMl9I/AAAAAAAAJj8/fU84wWSjANY/s200/TheWayOfGraceFCsmall.jpg" width="134" />In pursuit of justice, in need of grace . . .



A justice-seeking perfectionist pursues her dream of a perfect life in her hometown of Miller’s Creek, Texas. Sidetracked by the desire to be a prosecuting attorney, Grace Soldano launches into uncharted waters, making herself over to please her boss and mentor. Then a disheveled free spirit turns her perfectly ordered world upside down, challenging the concept of personal goodness. A fall from perfection leaves Grace teetering between vengeance and grace, caught in a deadly crossfire that leaves her dreams in a heap of ashes. Can she learn to joyfully accept the life God has given her–far from perfect–but one completely immersed in His grace?







Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 318 pages

Publisher: WordVessel Press (September 25, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0984431144

ISBN-13: 978-0984431144







AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:







A car horn blasted through the summer evening air, followed by tires screeching against pavement and the rancid smell of burning rubber. Grace yanked her head in Mama’s direction. The noisy blast continued as a car bore down on them. Everything went pitch black as Mama’s piercing scream joined her own, followed by a deadly thud.



Heart racing, Grace jerked awake, forcing herself to a sitting position. The same old nightmare. She brought both hands to her face and gulped in air to slow her pounding pulse. Why now? She’d endured the last year of law school and the bar exam without memories of that awful night plaguing her. But now that she was back in Miller’s Creek to work for Tyler, Dent, and Snodgrass as a full-fledged attorney, the dream shattered her sleep for the fourth time in a week.



Grace pulled her hands away from her face—almost afraid to find them dripping with blood—then glanced at the alarm clock on her makeshift nightstand. 5:15 in the morning. She flopped back on the bed and stared at the dark nothingness above her head. There was no way she’d get back to sleep now. Might as well get an early start.



A sudden rush of excitement coursed through her veins. All her hard work had finally paid off. Now it was time to enjoy herself for a change  and initiate her life plan,  which included a stellar career, new house, Mr. Right, and of course, children.



She removed the band that confined her hair and gave her head a shake. Better to just focus on her career at this point, her best chance at proving her worth—to Papa, to the people of Miller’s Creek, and to Mr. Right, whoever he was.



The cold floor beneath her bare feet sent shivers rippling through her body as she raced down the hallway to the tiny kitchen to make a pot of coffee for Papa. Within a few minutes the coffee machine gurgled and the fresh-brewed aroma permeated every square inch of the house. She was just about to head for a shower when Papa entered.



“You’re up early.” His eyes held questions.



There was no way she’d tell him about the nightmare. No need to cause him worry or pain. “Just excited about this being my first day as an attorney.”



He wandered past her to pull a coffee cup from the cabinet. “It’s all you’ve talked about for weeks.” He droned the words, his voice flat.



Grace rolled her lips between her teeth. It would be nice to have a word of congratulations--anything to recognize her hard work and achievement--but wishing for it wouldn’t make it happen. Instead she sent a sad smile. “I’d better get ready for work.”



She hurried down the hall to the only bathroom in the house and turned on the lights and the little space heater Papa had hung from a nail protruding from the paneled walls. The power cord snaked behind the sink faucet before finding the overloaded outlet—an electrical disaster waiting to happen, but Papa’s way of making do with what he had.



The pipes groaned in protest when she turned on the faucet and waited for the water to get warm. Living with Papa and his stony silence would definitely be the hardest part of her plan, but it would have to do for now.  With her brothers and their families now in South Texas, it was her only option.



An hour later, she stepped once more into the kitchen, dressed and ready for work. Grace reached for the spiral notebook that served as her daily planner and checked off the tasks she’d already completed. Start laundry. Check. Make bed. Check. Bible study and prayer. Check.



Millie, the stray cat she’d taken in years ago, butted her head against Grace’s leg, begging for attention. She squatted to scratch the fluffy feline behind the ears. “How’s my kitty?”  Grace scooped the cat into her arms and hugged her close. How would she have survived Mama’s death without the perky ears always willing to listen?



The back door swung open. Dressed in his heavy brown coveralls, Papa entered, and brought with him a gust of cold air and the smell of cows. He didn’t say a word, but ambled past her to the kitchen sink to wash his hands, his dirty work boots clomping against the old wooden floor, his face devoid of a smile.



She wrinkled her nose, dropped Millie to the floor, and brushed cat hair from her black skirt. Long gone were the hopes that her father would be proud of her for becoming an attorney. “Through with the chores?”



He continued to wash his hands without looking her way.



Grace forced her hurt feelings aside, her mouth suddenly dry. She should be used to his emotional distance by now. “Papa, I know you don’t approve of me being an attorney, but—”



He held up one hand for silence, his back still to her, water dripping down his sleeve. “Enough, Graciela. I don’t want to discuss this anymore. You made up your mind to disrespect my wishes long ago.”



His displeasure hanging like dead weight around her neck, Grace blinked back tears and picked up her old book bag. It was way too early, but she might as well go to work. She’d grab a pastry at Granny’s Kitchen on the way. No, on second thought, it wouldn’t hurt to skip breakfast. That way she’d save money and inch toward losing those last few pounds she’d gained while studying for the bar. Without another word to Papa, she slipped out of the house, climbed in the battered old farm truck, and headed to the office.



A late autumn fog engulfed downtown Miller’s Creek, and the two- and three-story hewn-stone buildings rose above the mist, silent sentinels observing the march of time. The buildings had seen over a century of use, and thanks to the grant bestowed on the town while she was in high school, had been lovingly restored to their former glory.



Though early November was a little early for Christmas decorations, Miller’s Creek had them up well ahead of time for the tourists who would pour into the historic town square for shopping. Already the old-timey street lamps were festooned with lighted wreaths, while greenery draped the Victorian gazebo and lights twinkled from Christmas trees placed throughout the square.



Gravel crunched beneath the pickup tires as she pulled into the parking lot of Tyler, Dent, and Snodgrass and turned off the headlights. She let herself in the back door and flipped the switch. As the fluorescent fixture flickered on and hummed, her earlier joy dissipated. This should be a celebration—the day for which she’d toiled to bring purpose from her pain—but somehow it felt common and ordinary. No balloons or flowers. No party. No pat on the back or word of congratulations.



She shook of the self-pity and moved to her cubicle to make sure everything was in its place, then instinctively pulled a Bible from her bag and ran her hand over the well-worn cover.



Lord, You know how my heart hurts this morning. I miss Mama and I don’t know what to say to Papa. Help me be all You want me to be. Lead me in Your Way. Give me an open heart and mind to receive Your truth.



As she thumbed through the whispering onion-skin pages, her Bible fell open to Romans. A verse she’d underlined some time before caught her attention. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.



Enough grace to stand in. Was it even humanly possible to be a person of grace? She slanted her lips as she pondered the question, but finally gave her head a shake. True grace was motivated by the purest love, and maybe it was just her, but she doubted she could ever love someone that much.



The thought troubled her. God commanded her to love others as she loved herself, but some people made that seem impossible. Maybe something inside her was broken and malfunctioning. Perhaps her childhood left her incapable of loving like she was supposed to.



Thump!



She jumped at the unexpected noise then sat motionless, her ears tuned to the tiniest noise. More thumps sounded from the basement.



Her pulse raced at the possibility of an intruder. In Miller’s Creek at this hour of the morning? Not likely. Maybe Andy had spent the night in the basement apartment because of working late. She stood and tiptoed to the narrow stairs leading to the basement. That wasn’t likely either, especially with a newborn at home.



The noise continued. “Andy?” Grace made her way down the darkened steps. If it wasn’t him, at least maybe her voice would scare away a potential burglar.



She glided noiselessly across the large carpeted room. “Andy? Is that you?” Grace jiggled the door knob of the small studio apartment. Locked. Now what?



Perhaps she should call the ranch to see what Andy wanted her to do. She started back across the open space toward the staircase to place the call. But before she’d made it even halfway, the overhead lights sputtered on.



“Well, well, if it isn’t Gracie Mae.”



She spun around, one hand to her pounding heart, a tinny taste in her mouth. Matt?



He leaned against a wall, one stout leg crossed casually over the other, his arms overlapped. An enigmatic expression rested in his sandy brown eyes, and though his hair was damp from a recent washing, his rumpled T-shirt and jeans looked as if he’d slept in them. In the time since she’d seen him last, he’d cut his hair so short there was no evidence of the curls she’d always admired, and he’d buffed up, more muscular and lean than before.



Grace squashed the motherly instincts that rose within her at the sight of his wrinkled clothes. That’s what landed her in trouble with him the first time, and she wouldn’t fall for it again. A man like Matt, one with wanderlust in his blood, wasn’t the one for her. “What are you doing here?”



He released a short laugh. “Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that question?”



“I passed the bar and—”



“Yeah, Andy told me. Congrats.” He made his way to where she stood and came to a stop a few uncomfortable feet away. “But that still doesn’t explain why you’re here so early.”



She shrugged and turned toward the stairs. “Couldn’t sleep. See you around.”



Before she reached the first step, Matt blocked her way, the soft scent of shampoo clinging to his damp hair.



“Still running away from me?” Though he spoke the words softly, his tawny eyes held a challenge.



Her hands balled into fists. A million retorts built up behind her clenched lips, but she held them at bay. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing that his words affected her in the least. With great effort, she uncurled her fingers. “Nope. Just going back to my desk to get started on some work.”



His posture went slack, and he sent an apologetic grin. “Sorry. Let me start over. Had breakfast yet?”



A rumble sounded from her stomach. “If that’s an invitation, I accept.” The reckless words were out before she had time to reconsider. What was she thinking? She’d shut this door over two years ago, a door that needed to stay shut. Nonetheless, she’d agreed to breakfast, and she’d follow through to prove she wasn’t running away.



They crossed the room together, and Grace threw out a question to fill the silence. “Have you been working out?”



“Yep. Even joined the wrestling team at school. It’s been good for me.”



Grace followed Matt into the apartment and glanced around. In characteristic messy-Matt style, a spread-out newspaper, microwave popcorn bag, and an almost-empty glass sat on the coffee table, while a pillow and blanket hung off the couch. A duffel bag on the floor spewed its contents, bringing an odd rush of disappointment. “Just in town for one night?” Typical.



“Don’t really know at this point.” He offered no further explanation, but moved to the kitchenette fridge and removed the makings for an omelet. “So what’s next for you?” With deft movements, he prepared the meal, the chopped onions burning her eyes. “Last I heard you were going to get your career going before looking for your soul mate. Still searching for Mr. Perfect?” His voice held a hint of bitterness.



She lowered her gaze. “Look, Matt, about our conversation two years ago. It wasn’t personal. I just needed to focus on one thing at a time. My law school had to come first.”



“Agreed. As I recall, I never tried to suggest otherwise.”



“No, but I sensed you wanted more from me than I was prepared to give at the time.”



He seemed to accept the answer. “But you have to admit, I don’t exactly fit the image in your head.”



Grace froze. How was she supposed to answer that? “And what image is that?”



“Smart, well-groomed, wealthy, professional, handsome.”



Her eyebrows rose. He’d pretty much nailed her must-have list on the head. In fact, he’d perfectly described one of Andy’s new partners, Jason Dent. The only problem was that guys like Jason didn’t give girls like her a second glance.



A knowing smile touched the corners of Matt’s mouth, but to his credit, he dropped the subject. “So you still haven’t told me why you’re here at such an early hour.”



“That’s because you didn’t ask nicely.”



His boyish chortle took her by surprise and set off unexplainable emotions. He glanced up from the cutting board. “True. How’s this? Nice to see you again, Gracie. What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this so early?”



To her chagrin, a traitorous laugh bubbled out. She cut it short and shrugged. “I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I decided to come to work.”



A frown wrinkled his brow. “How come you couldn’t sleep?”



She hesitated, considering how best to answer his question. Might as well tell him the truth. He’d always been good at dragging it out of her anyway. “Nightmare.”



The lines on his forehead grew deeper. “Same one?”



She averted her gaze and nodded.



“Have it often?”



“Not as often as I used to, but for some reason it’s woken me up several times this week.”



He whisked the eggs into a frothy mixture and poured it into the sizzling skillet, but didn’t speak for a moment, as if thinking through her comment. “Might be the stress of starting a new job.”



“But it’s not really a new job. I’ve worked for Andy off and on since I graduated from high school. You, of all people, should know that.”



A wry grin curled one corner of his mouth. “Yeah, but now you’re an attorney. That worrying you any?”



She deliberated on the question. Drat! He’d done it again. How could he always discern what was bothering her?



“That’s it, isn’t it?”



The self-satisfied smirk on his face gave Grace the urge to whop him upside the head. “So what? That’s what you’re learning how to do, isn’t it? Figure out what’s eating people?”



“Yep.” He added the omelet toppings, and folded it over effortlessly. “Now the next question. Why does it bother you so much that I figured it out?”



Grace seethed inwardly. Why indeed? Maybe because it made her feel like she needed him, and she didn’t want to need him.



He moved next to her, the hot skillet out in front, and stopped, his face inches from hers, his eyelids half-closed. “Don’t worry, Gracie Mae. It’s okay that someone has you figured out. Trust me, it’s a good thing.”



“I don’t think anyone has ever been able to make me as angry as you do, Matt Tyler. Ever!” Grace pelted the words through tight lips then moved toward the door.



Once more, he blocked her way, holding the simmering omelet, the tantalizing aroma teasing her nostrils. “There you go again, running away.”



Rage exploded within, but no way would she dare give him the privilege of being right. She sent a close-mouthed smile she didn’t feel and turned to take a seat at the small table.



Matt tossed a pot holder to the table and set the pan on it, then procured two plates and glasses from the cabinet. “Still like chocolate in your milk?”



Yes, but he didn’t have to know it. “No. I’ve outgrown that childish habit.”



He cocked one eyebrow and poured two glasses of milk, dousing his with a healthy dose of chocolate syrup.



Grace turned her head and looked the other way, fighting her chocolate craving by reminding herself how much she hated her thunder thighs.



Matt took a long slurp from his glass, then released a satisfied sigh and licked his lips. “Man, there’s nothing better than ice-cold chocolate milk.” He sat his glass on the table and divided the omelet before delivering a portion to each plate. “Mind if I bless the food?”



“Not at all.” She bowed her head. At least one part of his life seemed headed in the right direction.



After he finished the prayer, Grace pulled a napkin from the holder and laid it in her lap, then forked into the omelet, cheese squeezing out from between the fluffy layers. A few minutes later she wiped her mouth and glanced up to see Matt staring at her with the same indecipherable look in his eyes.



“So if you woke up early, why didn’t you eat breakfast at your house?” Matt took another swig of milk, his eyes never leaving her face.



“No reason, really.” She shifted in her seat. At least none she wanted him to know.



“Your dad still pressuring you?”



“What do you mean?” Grace scooted her chair away from the table and stood with her plate to carry it to the sink.



Matt took hold of her arm as she whisked by. “Running away again?”



She jerked her elbow away. “No. Just cleaning up my dishes.”



“I’ll take care of it later. Have a seat.”



Grace unwillingly acquiesced. “Papa means well. We just have different opinions of what I should do with my life.”



He studied her face for a long, uncomfortable minute, like he wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure he should say it. Finally, he widened his eyes and changed the subject. “So back to the attorney thing. Any thoughts on why it’s bothering you?”



“Matt, you’re not a therapist yet, and I’m certainly not your client. Don’t feel like you have to analyze me and figure out all my issues. Nor should you feel obliged to fix me.”



His eyes widened again, registering hurt. “Just trying to help.”



She took in the sincerity inscribed on his face. Why did he have to be so darn likeable? Grace raised her gaze momentarily, focused on a cobweb dangling from the ceiling. And how was she supposed to talk about this with the brother of her boss? “It’s not easy to explain.”



“Try me.”



“Okay, but you’d better not breathe a word of this to Andy.”



A teasing light flickered in his eyes. “If you’re not a client, then you have no client privileges.”



Grace wadded her napkin and tossed it at him.



He caught it effortlessly in mid-air and laughed.



She pointed a finger at him. “I mean it, Matt. Promise.”



“Okay, okay.” He waved his hands, chest high, in surrender.



She inhaled a deep breath, the lingering smell of breakfast still in the air, and rubbed her arms. “You know I’ve wanted to be an attorney ever since Mama died.”



“Yeah. Go on.”



“I just didn’t see it working out this way. I thought I’d be a prosecutor.”



“So you feel like you’re working for the wrong side of the law?”



Grace nodded. “I love Andy like a brother, and owe him so much. I wouldn’t be an attorney if it weren’t for him.”



“But you feel obligated to work for him when your passion is to put the bad guys behind bars.”



“Exactly.” She gave her head a shake at the conundrum. “And I don’t know what to do about it.”



Matt placed his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his laced fingers. “Maybe you’re looking at it all wrong, Gracie. You’re focused on the situation rather than why you feel the way you do. Have you stopped to think about why you want to be a prosecutor?”



The reason flew into her brain instantly, and she straightened. “I guess for Mama, to keep someone else from going through this, and to achieve justice for others.”



“To avenge her death?” The question was half-whispered, but even then sounded cold, almost un-Christian. “Don’t overthink it, Gracie.” Matt’s tone held warning. “I see your brain spinning from here. Don’t try to assign meaning and morality to your motivation. Just accept it and move on from there.”



“But it does explain my nightmare.” The agitation in her voice surprised her. “Don’t you see? It’s as if Mama’s trying to remind me of that night so I’ll make the right decision. Maybe I need to look for a different position, one that’ll put me on the prosecution. Maybe I’m not cut out to defend guys I don’t completely trust.”



“Whoa, girl, you’re gonna strip some gears bouncing around that fast.” He stood and moved to the sink with his plate, nabbing hers as he passed. “When it comes to life, A plus B doesn’t always equal C. It’s just a jumping off place. Give it some time.”



There it was again. Matt and his “lo que será, sera”-approach to life. “You would say that. You want me to work for Andy. He’s your brother.”



The dishes Matt carried crashed into the sink, and he made a quick trip back to the table. “That’s not at all why I said what I did. Just think through things a little more carefully. I don’t believe your mother’s trying to communicate with you from the grave, and neither do if you think through it.” He softened his demeanor. “But the dilemma you’re facing is enough to make you dream about the accident.”



“Think through it? That’s the best advice you can give? A minute ago you were telling me not to overthink.”



An exasperated sigh fell from his lips. He squatted near her chair, enclosed her hands with his own, and gazed up into her eyes. “Gracie. It’s me, remember? I know you. Don’t stress and worry about making the right decision. Pray about it. You belong to God. He’ll put you where He wants you.” His smile grew tender. “And I have no doubt that you’ll be an awesome attorney, no matter which side of the courtroom you sit on.”



Tears stung her eyes, and she blinked furiously to keep them at bay. How good it felt to have someone offer encouragement—to remind her God was in control—even if it were Matt. She lowered her gaze to collect herself before glancing back up at him. “Thanks.”



He helped her to her feet and moved close to embrace her in a hug, the scent of his cologne toying with her frazzled emotions.



Grace sidestepped and reached for her glass. There was no way she’d let this move past a friendly level. He was more than likely here for a short time. Then he’d be off chasing his fantasies once more.



She deposited the glass in the stainless steel sink with a clunk. Besides, she had her life plan to think of—a plan that didn’t include a gypsy like Matt.


Here is my review of this enjoyable novel:


First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Cathy Bryant and her publisher for sending me a copy of "The Way of Grace" 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.
Cathy Bryant’s third installment in the Miller’s Creek Series, “The Way of Grace” is an enjoyable read.  I haven’t read the first two books in the series, so I cannot compare them.  I can say that this reads well as a standalone novel and reunites the reader with characters they have come to love in the first two books.  Grace Soldano has just passed the bar, but she is still doing secretarial work at Andy Tyler’s law firm.  She dreams of being a prosecutor so she can see to it that guilty people are punished for their crimes – unlike the person who killed her mother in an automobile accident.  As a mystery unfolds, Grace finds herself making some difficult choices, including whether to pursue a relationship with a handsome attorney or a disheveled romance from her past.

My absolute favorite thing about this novel is that it paints the most complete picture I have ever seen regarding the difference between grace and mercy.  If the reader absorbs just a fraction of what the author presents in this tale of romantic suspense, this novel will be life-changing.  One bothersome “feature” of the book was a peppering of misspellings and missing words that could be rather distracting.  But, to Cathy Bryant’s credit, the story she tells is so engaging, I was willing to re-read paragraphs until they made sense because I wanted to know what happened to these characters.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bible Study: Be Strong and Courageous - Joshua Chapter 15

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Joshua, although they are a bit better formatted than former efforts. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. But at the time of its writing, summer 2009, things are looking increasingly bleak with the economy and unemployment, there is a renewal and increase of racism, and godly principles of living being disregarded. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Stay strong and very courageous. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 15 of the Old Testament book of Joshua. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

15:1-4 – This is Judah’s Southern land boundary.

15:5-11 – Judah’s Eastern and Northern land boundaries are defined.

15:6 – The stone of Bohan the son of Reuben – what is that?

15:12 – The Western boundary of Judah’s lands.

15:13-19 – Caleb secures his land inheritance and a husband for his daughter.

15:14 – Caleb drove the sons of Anak out of his land. So all of the people weren’t driven out of the land.

Does the name Anak sound familiar? Look it up. Who was Anak and how do his descendants factor into scripture?

15:16 – I wonder why Caleb gave his daughter as a battle prize? Was she a great beauty or a good cook that would motivate a man to take a city? Was Kiriath-sepher (“city of book” aka Debir aka Kiriath-Sannah – “city of bronze”) a strong city? Did Caleb want a fearless man for his little girl? A warrior to protect him in his old age? He’s already old and drove the Anakites out of his land, so it doesn’t seem like he needs protecting.

15:17 – Othniel (“God is powerful”), Caleb’s nephew, defeated the city and won Caleb’s daughter, Achsah (“bangle, ankle ornament”), for his wife. Othniel was the first judge of Israel. See Judges 1:11-15; 3:7-11.

15:18-19 – Caleb gave Achsah springs of water. How is this significant? Consider the value of water and the value of women in this culture…

15:20-32 – The cities in the Southern boundary of Judah are named in greater detail. Why might the author do this? Can you find a map, enlarge it and mark out the boundary?




• The book of Joshua teaches us many things including the fact that we must pursue a relationship with the Lord for ourselves rather than leaning on others’ relationships with Him. Joshua followed Moses as leader of Israel, after all. What have you learned and applied to your life from today’s reading that will help you persevere in your relationship with Christ?
• How do you observe God proving to Israel that He is with Joshua as He was with Moses in today’s text? How does it apply to your own life and relationship with Him?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spring Meadow Sanctuary by Lynette Bonner

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:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990.

That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


He broke her heart.

Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.

Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.

Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.
Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….

Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.

Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.



Product Details:
List Price: $14.77
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1480156949
ISBN-13: 978-1480156944



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.

Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.

She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.

The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.

For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.

Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.

A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.

Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.

Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.

All her life she’d wanted only one thing.

Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.

Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.

Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.

She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”

Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!

Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.

Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.

“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.

“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”

He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”

“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”

“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”

“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”

“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.

Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?

She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.

Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.

Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”

The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.

A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.

UV



Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.

The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.

He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.

“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.

“Whiskey. Make it a double.”

The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.

Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.

The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.

Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”

Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”

Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.

Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”

Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.

Good. He had the man’s attention.

“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”

Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”

The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.

Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.

Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.

One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”

No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.

Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”

Judd cleared his throat loudly.

Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”

Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.

Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”

"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”

Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.

The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.

Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.

They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.

Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.

Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.

Lord I hope we were right on that count.

He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”

Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”

Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”

“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.

Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”

Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”

Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.

Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”

Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”

Judd glowered at him.

Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.

Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”

Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”

Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.

Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.

“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.

Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.

Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.” He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.

“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”

Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.

The report was a little loud, but about right.

Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.

Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.

Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”

Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.

Rocky’s eyes narrowed.

“Four… three…”

“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.

This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.

He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”

Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”

Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.

Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”

Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.

Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”

Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.

Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”

With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.

A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.


Here is my review of this enjoyable romantic suspense novel:


First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Lynette Bonner and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Spring Meadow Sanctuary" 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.
Lynnette Bonner’s latest and fourth novel in the Shepherd’s Heart Series, “Spring Meadow Sanctuary”, is a romantic action adventure that takes the reader captive from the very first page!  Cascade “Cade” Bennett has a history with Sharya Jordan.  As childhood friends, Cade has always seen her as a “little sister” and this fact broke Shar’s heart last summer when he told her so.  Now, Shar’s unexpected appearance when Cade is working undercover to bring criminals to justice puts her in danger and brings Cade to the brink of his true feelings for this beautiful teacher.

This engaging novel reunites the reader with characters that have become friends in Bonner’s other novels.  The story is full of romance and suspense and moves quickly.  It can be read with great enjoyment without having read the other books in the series.  However, I now want to go back and read the two books I missed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Crown Financial Bible Study – Week One – Introduction


I felt the call upon my life last year to sign up for the Crown Financial Bible Study.  So, even though this is a seemingly chaotic season of new beginnings where I will begin teaching Sunday School and start back up with Bible Study Fellowship and continue my mid-week Bible study while still trying to fit in time to get to the gym, I signed up for Crown at its first offering after I felt the call.  I know that my obedience is key.  Because of the season, I am expecting God to show up mightily and teach me just how I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!  (Including memorizing all of the Scripture required to complete the course.)  Hallelujah!

The first meeting is for record-keeping, passing out the books and getting introduced to the study.  You receive your first homework assignment at this preliminary meeting.  After two weeks pass to complete the assignment, the first meeting of the study takes place.  And I am anticipating a life-changing experience.

What I learned from the homework – Reading the Book “Your Money Counts” by Howard Dayton was a thoroughly convicting experience!  I discovered that, in areas of my life where I thought I was doing okay, I was tolerating evil behavior and engaging in it by not confronting it.  This book gives a solid overview of the course and is an incredible read.  I have studied personal finance from several secular sources and I learned a few things from this book besides what God thinks about how we should manage His money.

Filling out the beginning of the Financial Road Map was enlightening.  I enjoyed setting short- and long-term goals and evaluating where I currently am.  It was challenging to come up with a verse to describe my life purpose.

What I learned from our class discussion – I am not alone.  And I’m better off than many others I know.  I would have liked to have the wisdom displayed by one of my classmates who just graduated college and wants to learn good money management skills while she’s young!  Praise Jesus.

This study is about relationship with God.

What I learned from watching the video – What ministries could I be funding if I weren’t paying off debt?  Better still:  what ministries will I fund once my debt is paid off?

Changes I have made/need to make – pray about God’s will for my mortgage, pray about canceling cable, stop engaging in bad behavior because it casts a bad light on my Savior, my attitude about possessions has to change from “it’s mine” to “it’s God’s”, pay off my debt and not create new debt.

Based on what I read in “Your Money Counts”, I was convicted about some of my behaviors at work.  I’ve understood for a long time that I work for the Lord, but that hasn’t kept me from doing the wrong thing while I’m on the clock!  If I don’t have enough work to do, it is not permissible to prepare my Sunday School lesson or write a blog post about a Bible study.  I need to be looking for work-related activities to occupy me time while I’m at work.  I’ve begun this process.  I haven’t completely cut myself off from this behavior, yet, but I have reduced it.  Praise the Lord!

Memorizing Scripture – Luke 16:11 is a convicting verse.  I want to be faithful.  Not just to be rewarded.  I want to honor Jesus more than I ever have before.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The 13: Fall by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed

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:

Barbour Books (September 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Sharon Farnell for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Robbie Cheuvront is the worship/associate pastor and an elder of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN, and cofounder of C&R Ministries with Erik Reed. He is also a songwriter and formerly tour with BNA recording artists, Lonestar who is best known for their crossover smash, “Amazed”, which was #1 on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100. The band also won 1999 ACM’s Single of the Year” for “Amazed” as well as ACM’s Song of the Year award. Robbie is married to Tiffany and has two children, Cason and Hadyn, and is currently pursuing a theology degree.

Visit the author's website.

Erik Reed is the lead pastor and an elder of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He graduated from Western Kentucky University with a BA in Religion Studies. He also graduated with his MDiv from Southern Seminary. Erik is married to Katrina, with two children, Kaleb and Kaleigh.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When former black ops specialist turned CIA operative Jonathan Keene is summoned to the White House, he’s not sure what to expect. And neither does FBI agent Megan Taylor. Together they learn they’ll be working with a former military chaplain Boz Hamilton to track down a man claiming to bear a message from God about the imminent downfall of the United States. As the three of them traverse the country and the globe in search of the Prophet, they’re led deeper down a path of deception and dead ends. Suddenly they’re called to join a battle against an enemy no one saw coming. As the US is pushed into a situation it hasn’t seen since its inception, a conflict awaits that will test the foundations of the country…and force Keene to face a past and faith he’d rather leave buried. Can Keene—and America—survive?



Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616267690
ISBN-13: 978-1616267698



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


THE CLOCK ON THE WALL TICKED DOWN THE SECONDS
AS HE STARED INTO THE CAMERA.

This was it. In a matter of minutes, his life would change. Everyone’s life
would change.
He rehearsed his lines, though he knew them by heart. There would be
no teleprompter. There would be no script. There would only be him. And
the camera, of course. And the person who would receive this message.
A small television sat off to the side, monitoring the feed. He could see
his image staring back at him. He watched as the second hand ticked off
the final seconds. Tick. Tick. And then it was time.
The red light above the lens flicked on. With the remote in his hand,
he zoomed in and watched the monitor. This was it. No turning back.
He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath and let it out
again. His heart was pounding through his chest. He opened his eyes and
set his jaw firm. And then he began.
“Good evening, Mr. President. I am the Prophet. And I have been
commanded to give you a message.”






Prologue
H i d a l g o C o u n t y S h e r i f f ’ s D e p a r t m e n t
E d i n b u r g , Te x a s , J u l y 2 , 2 0 2 5 ; 1 0 : 3 0 a . m .


Becky Sayers looked at the discolored, flat-screen plasma TV and silently
cursed her boss. “You’d think in this world of technology, we could find a
TV that wasn’t made before I was born,” she mumbled to no one. “I mean,
this thing’s not even in 3-D.” A rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond was
playing—the one in which Raymond fakes going to the doctor so he can
play golf. She’d seen it at least four times, but it was one of her favorites.


She pushed back from her desk and stretched her legs. The switchboard
had been quiet most of the afternoon. A few drunk-and-disorderlies and a
domestic dispute. The holiday weekend usually meant a boring few days
at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. But even though Hidalgo
County seemed like half a world away from Washington, DC, the impact of
the last two weeks’ events were being felt. It seemed that everyone was waiting
to see what would happen next.


The green light flashed on her board. She placed the earpiece in
her ear and said, “Thank you for calling the Hidalgo County Sheriff ’s
Department. This is Becky. . . .”


The caller made her complaint and hung up abruptly. Her neighbors
were setting off illegal fireworks; could a deputy come by and take care of it?
All of south Texas had experienced a horrible drought these last few months.
The governor had issued a decree, suspending all fireworks throughout the
entire state. Residents weren’t happy, but they understood. Brushfires this
time of year were common and could lead to damage in the billions of dollars.


Becky keyed her microphone. “Roy, this is Becky. I need you to go out
to Ms. Dobson’s farm, out on Highway 83. Neighbor kids are shootin’ off
sparklers or something.”
She waited for the grumpy complaint that was sure to come. Roy
hated dealing with neighborly disputes. He always tried to pawn them off
on one of the other deputies.
Nothing.
“Roy, this is Becky—come in.”
Nothing.
“Roy! I ain’t playing! Pick up that radio or else!”
Still nothing.
She switched over to another channel. She couldn’t figure why one
of her deputies would switch channels, but she was starting to get a little
worried. Roy was dependable, if nothing else. He’d never not answered a
call while he was out in the field.
“Roy, this is Becky. You change channels on me to try and get some
R and R?”
Nothing.
Now she was getting worried. She switched the channel back. “Clay,
this is dispatch. Check in—over.”
Nothing.
“Marcus, check in—over.”
Nothing.
She walked down the hall and found her boss, told him what was
going on, and waited for a response. He told her not to worry. It was probably
just weather related. “Probably a sunspot or something, messin’ with
the radios,” he said. “Try again in a few minutes.”
Back at her desk, she waited, watching the end of the show. As the
credits rolled she picked up her microphone. After five minutes of going
through the motions again, she decided this was no sunspot.
She grabbed the phone and called the Cameron County Sheriff ’s
office—the next county over. She told them what was going on and asked
if they were having any trouble. Gina, the dispatcher over there, said none
of her deputies had checked in or returned back to HQ either.
Becky hung up and called Star, Zapata, and Webb Counties. All three
reported the same goings-on. At that point, she dismissed paranoia and
called the state police. She was told that they, too, had a few officers who
weren’t responding, but all of the state police vehicles were equipped with
GPS and were being located as they spoke. The young man at state police
HQ offered to send a few officers her way to check on her deputies as well.
She thanked him and told him where her deputies were last known to be.


July 4, 2025; 12:00 p.m.
Becky stood in front of her fourth TV camera in the last hour and told
her story again. This time it was Fox. NBC and CBS had already been by.


The mysterious disappearance of her deputies two days ago was making
national news. Several sheriff ’s deputies, border patrol agents, and state
and local police officers had all turned up dead, all across the border towns
in Texas. Over the last two days, New Mexico and Arizona had reported
similar tragedies.
Becky was one of the first to discover the disappearances across the
border, therefore she was a hot commodity with the news anchors.
The pretty, blond reporter smiled and nodded as Becky told her story.
She opened her mouth—Becky figured she was about to ask another
question—and then slapped her hand over her left earbud. Her smiled
faded and gave way to a look of disbelief, shock, then horror. Tears filled
her eyes and her face turned ashen. Her arm dropped to her side, taking
the microphone with it.
“What’s wrong?” Becky had never seen a television personality act like
this.
The reporter turned to her, eyes wide. She moved her mouth but
nothing came out.
Becky grabbed the woman by her shoulders and shook her. “Hey,
what’s wrong?”
The reporter looked at Becky blankly and said, “Bomb. . . They’re all
dead.” Her knees gave out, and she slumped to the hard, dry ground.
Becky ran back inside to the flat-screen TV.


Hidalgo County, Texas
July 4, 2025; 11:30 a.m.
Jonathan Keene pulled his car off the road onto the dirt path, according
to the directions he’d been given. After a mile, he came to the fork in the
road. Up ahead, on the left, there stood the house.
He parked the car, got out, and surveyed the area. Nothing. No sign
of anyone. The house was a typical single-family home. It needed a coat
of paint, and the railing on the front porch had seen better days. The lawn
was unkempt, but a somewhat new-looking satellite dish sat mounted on
the corner of the roof.
Walking into the house, he noticed the reflection of light coming
from the hillside off to his left. He waited ten minutes. Then, as per his
instructions, he left through the back door and walked slowly up the hill
toward the reflection.
Once at the top, he got to his knees, placed his hands behind his head,
and interlocked his fingers. This was the unsettling part. Out in the open.
No cover. The sun blazing in his eyes. The wind blowing dust everywhere.
It was hard to see anything past twenty feet. He did feel better, though,
knowing that strapped to his back, under his loose shirt, was his Glock
9mm. It lay inches from his fingertips.
After nothing for five minutes, he heard the faint hum of motorcycle
engines. Within seconds he was surrounded by a half dozen, armed
Mexicans. One, covered with tattoos and a scar across his left cheek,
moved toward him. According to the description he’d been given, this was
his informant.
“Hola,” the young man said. “Welcome to Mexico.”
Though the walk uphill had been a short one, Keene knew that in
doing so, he’d illegally crossed the invisible border into the gangbanger’s
country.
“Gracias.” Keene shifted uncomfortably and squinted upward. “You
must be Hector.”
“Do I need to search you?”
“Not unless you want to find the nine mil I got strapped to my back,”
Keene said.
Hector laughed. “Stand up.”
“So what’s so important that you need to talk to the CIA?”
“Follow me.” Hector began walking down the hill toward the house.
Keene followed the men back into the house, thankful to be back on
sovereign US soil.
“I know what happened to those sheriff ’s deputies,” Hector said.
“Yeah, so. Call the police.”
“Nah, CIA, la policía don’t want none of this.”
“None of what?”
“That’s a nice watch. Where was that made? China?”
“Yeah,” Keene said. “What’s that have to do with anything?”
“Lots of stuff in your country made by China.”
“Yeah, so?”
“Funny thing. In the last two months, I been seeing lots of Chinese
people ’round here.”
“Maybe they like the food.”
“Maybe,” Hector answered. “But these Chinese been coming in
droves. In big military trucks. From down south.”
“Interesting.” Keene gave this some thought.
“You want to know what’s really interesting?”
Keene shrugged.
“These Chinese, they got guns.”
“So?”
“And tanks. And airplanes.”
“What?”
“You heard me. They got an army down here. They been bringing it
up here to the border for the last two months.”
“Impossible. We would’ve known about it,” Keene said. This guy was
unnerving him.
“You wanna know what happened to your cops? About three hundred
Chinese foot soldiers, with automatic weapons, crossed your border and
took them out. I got boys all up and down the border saying they see it,
man. Now, I don’t know what’s up with a hundred thousand Chinese
being in my—”
“What did you say? How many?”
“From what I hear, about a hundred thousand.”
Keene’s jaw went slack. There was no way a hundred thousand Chinese
soldiers were living across the border without the United States knowing
about it. Something was wrong.
“You look like you seen a ghost.”
“Why are you telling me this? Why now? Why not two months ago?”
“ ’Cause two months ago, I couldn’ta cared less. You Americans don’t
know what goes on down here. You come to your vacation spots and get
treated like kings. Then you go back home and don’t care what happens
to the rest of us. Well, guess what? These Chinese start showing up and
doing nice things for our communities. Nobody says anything ’cause they
like it. Then, without warning, they start taking over. And our policía don’t
care. They getting paid off. Next thing I know, I start seeing guns, tanks,
and fighter planes. And then they come into town and line up five men
and shoot them in the head. They say, anyone talks or tries to do anything,
they kill the whole town.”
“This is—this is ridiculous!” Keene said. “I don’t know what your
game is, but this isn’t funny. You could get into a lot of trouble—”
“I ain’t playin’!” Hector shouted angrily. “They kill my little brother,
man! And something bad is about to happen! I’m telling you as a favor.”
He hung his head and wiped his eyes. “I don’t know why your government
don’t know about this, CIA, but I’m telling you. Someone had to mess up
big to miss this.”
Keene stood there dumbfounded. There was no way this could be
true. An entire army couldn’t march on the United States’ border and not
be detected. He had to call Jennings. He reached for his phone and felt the
buzz against his leg. He looked at the display. Funny, he thought.
“I was just getting ready to call you,” he spoke into the mouthpiece.
“Get back here immediately,” his boss, Kevin Jennings, ordered.
“Yeah, about that,” Keene said, “I think I need to stay here awhile.
I need to check something out.”
“No, you need to get back here immediately. Turn on the TV.”
“What’s happened?”
“Just do it!” came the reply.
Keene pushed past the group of men and pushed the button on the
television sitting on a makeshift stand. It only took a few moments for him
and the others to see what was happening.
Every channel had interrupted programming, now covering the
breaking news. Plumes of black smoke rose into the sky from devastated
buildings. Bridges and highways melted into a pile of searing red metal.
Ash and debris covered the entire landscape. Cars were turned over and
blown to bits. Then the camera changed. A new city. Same result. Then
another. Then another. Finally the images ended. The cameras returned
to the news station. A disheveled-looking man in blue jeans and a sweater
sat in front of the camera. He opened his mouth and said the words that
would change the course of history.
“Ladies and gentlemen, less than ten minutes ago, the entire West
Coast of the United States of America was attacked. It appears to be a
nuclear strike. Every major city from San Diego to Seattle. The death toll
has to be in the millions. . . .”



Chapter 1
Two Weeks Earlier
The man sat in front of the small camera, rehearsing what he was about to
say. Behind him, the wall was dotted with computer monitors, all displaying
different news websites, with the screens zoomed in showing today’s
date. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his cheek as he bit into his
lower lip, trying to calm himself. He was moments away from doing something
that couldn’t be undone.
He’d wrestled with himself the last three days, knowing what would
happen if he didn’t do as he was instructed. He’d cried out in desperation,
begging that he wouldn’t have to be the one. He’d even tried to bargain his
way out of it. But it was no use. This would be done. If not him then someone
else. But no. It was his charge. Given to him with explicit instructions.
He would be obedient and do as he was instructed.
The clock on the wall ticked down the seconds as he stared into
the camera. This was it. In a matter of minutes, his life would change.
Everyone’s life would change.
He rehearsed his lines, though he knew them by heart. There would be
no teleprompter. There would be no script. There would only be him. And
the camera, of course. And the person who would receive this message.
A small television sat off to the side, monitoring the feed. He could
see his image staring back at him. He watched as the second hand ticked
off the final seconds. Tick. Tick. And then it was time.
The red light above the lens flicked on. With the remote in his hand,
he zoomed in and watched the monitor. This was it. No turning back.
He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath and let it out
again. His heart was pounding through his chest. He opened his eyes and
set his jaw firm. And then he began.
“Good evening, Mr. President. I am the Prophet. And I have been
commanded to give you a message.”


Chapter 2
The sun had begun to set over Washington, DC, as the streets bustled
with the commuters going home from work. Slivering rays of light pierced
their way through the buildings, making way for the cool early summer
breeze that wound its way off the Potomac and into the city streets. Soon
the breeze would give way to the hot midsummer. Soon you would be able
to see, as well as feel, the heat wafting up from the pavement, making DC
inhabitants wistful for the pleasantries of June.
The president was just a few minutes away from giving his highly anticipated
speech on health-care reform. Rarely did a president call together both
chambers of Congress for the purpose of an address to the nation outside of
the State of the Union address. But since President Calvin Grant had taken
office, it had been one of his major priorities to put an end to all of the
infighting with the health-care industry once and for all. This speech was
to be the exclamation point at the end of a three-year, grueling bipartisan
reform effort. Though it was no secret that the president had been working
on the new policy, details of it were. The only thing that had been leaked
so far had been the fact that President Grant had successfully achieved what
none of his three predecessors could, a comprehensive bill with regulation
that all parties agreed upon. Outside of that, not even a hint of what was
to come had been available, which had every news anchor and pundit both
frustrated and in anticipation.
The news anchors outside the Capitol seemed to be in deep conversation
with their cameras, floating their ideas and predictions of what was to
come. And then, as if being led by a conductor, they all nodded in unison,
each to his respective camera, signifying the president’s speech was about
to begin.
Inside the chamber of the House of Representatives, significant leaders,
from both parties, lined the aisleway, hoping to get a photo opportunity
with President Grant as he passed by. The room, as was typical for this
sort of event, was a cacophony of noise as everyone continued conversations
and settled in. Finally the outer doors to the House chamber swung
open, and the sergeant at arms entered. Immediately the room quieted, as
if someone flipped a switch. Then came the announcement.
“Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States!”
As was traditional, the room was again flooded with noise as the members
of the Senate and House, along with everyone else in attendance,
stood and applauded as the president slowly made his way to the floor of
the chamber, shaking hands, signing autographs, and posing for pictures
along the way. Finally, with the business of being sociable behind him,
President Grant held his hands up to quiet the almost eight-minute opening
ovation.
Only a few moments later and the speech was in full swing, and the
president had wasted no time in commanding the attention of the entire
nation. So far, the speech had lived up to its expectations. With the news
of his wife being diagnosed with cancer only a few weeks earlier, he was
expected to deliver a stunning blow to the health-care reformers. And with
the content of the speech being perhaps the closest-kept secret in all of
Washington, the entire room, as well as the rest of the country waited
on bated breath to hear what the president had to say. That and the fact
that President Grant was thought of as perhaps one of the most beloved
presidents in recent history, it was a sure bet that this address would go on
record as being one of the most viewed events in all of television history,
not just presidential history.
Homes all across the country were tuning in to hear what the president
would say. Ratings were already pouring in from all over the country.
Indeed, this was already a record-setting event. Within the first ten minutes,
the reports were already surpassing the collective quarterly ratings.
President Calvin Grant had the nation waiting on bated breath for his
next thought.
The speech was just over forty-five minutes when, just as promised,
President Grant landed his final blow. The news was simple. He had already
been working with members of Congress and had the support needed to
change the health-care system. His plan would strip away the potential for
many of the frivolous lawsuits that plagued the industry. New law was being
introduced to allow Americans unprecedented access to good health insurance.
And there were major stipulations being put on the insurance companies,
regulating how they underwrote policies and collected revenue. No
longer would there be massive abuses, deterioration of services, and rising
costs. The message was simple. There was about to be a complete overhaul
of the American medical system. An overhaul that would eliminate the
government-run policies of previous administrations and give the medical
field back to the private sector, but with some “seat belts,” as President Grant
liked to call it.
The speech ended in thunderous applause. And though there had
been some lines drawn previously in the speech between parties, the final
five minutes brought both sides of the chamber to their feet in rousing
cheers.
After the speech, President Grant made his way through the chamber,
once again pausing for photos and signing autographs. He tried to be as
pleasant as he could, but there were bigger things on his mind right now.
Tess, his wife, was at home, lying in bed. He wanted nothing more than to
get home and see how she felt.
After another fifteen minutes of meet-and-greet obligations, he finally
excused himself, reminding everyone where he really needed to be right
now. He asked the Secret Service agent in charge of his detail to make
ready the motorcade. He wanted to leave in the next few minutes.
The drive back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was quiet. He waved to
the guard as the car passed through the security entrance. Once inside, he
headed straight upstairs to the private residence.
Tess was lying in bed and greeted him with a huge smile.
“You were amazing, Calvin. I’m so proud of you.”
“Nah,” he brushed it off. “Just a bunch of no-good politicians trying
to make things worse is all we are!”
“I wish I could’ve been there.”
“Me, too, Tess,” he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He took
her hand in his and kissed it gently. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she said.
“I’ll leave you to rest,” he said, standing back up. “Besides, I’m going
to go surf the net and see all the good stuff they’re saying about me!” He
winked.
Tess smiled back at him and said, “Don’t stay up too late. You need
your rest.”
“Look who’s talking.”
He left her to sleep and stepped into his private office. He sat down and
turned on the monitor to wake up the computer. In just a few moments,
the desktop came alive. He opened a browser window and typed in his
search. Already, there were over twenty-five thousand results for his speech.
He was looking down the list when he heard a ding. His private e-mail.
He assumed it was one of his staff, congratulating him on a successful
speech. He decided to check it because, well, he thought at least one
positive response would be nice before he started sifting through all the
negative ones.
Opening the mail server he saw the new message. There was no
subject. There was no return address. He didn’t think much of it, so he
double-clicked the icon and watched it open. It was a video. And it definitely
wasn’t from one of his staff. But he was afraid that he knew who this
was. And what this was about. He had heard from this man before. Just
not like this. How did you get into my private e-mail? he thought. He stared
at the still image of the man on the screen. Should he call for Agent Green?
Should he just step away from the computer and not touch anything? No,
he decided. He wanted to see it. He pushed Play.
The man sat still on a stool and stared into the camera. A bead of sweat
rolled down his forehead and clung to the top of the bandana that covered
every inch of his face below the eyes. He wore a plain, long-sleeved, white
T-shirt and blue jeans. His shoes were everyday work boots. All in all, a
very nondescript, average-looking man—with the exception of the face, of
course. Behind him stood a white wall with what appeared to be computer
monitors with websites showing today’s date.
A few seconds, which might as well have been hours, passed as the
strange man closed his eyes and took a deep breath. As he opened his eyes
again, he began to speak.
“Good evening, Mr. President. I am the Prophet. And I have been
commanded to give you a message.”
The man swallowed hard and then continued, “I am a servant of the
Lord Most High. And I have been instructed to warn you. Since the days
of our forefathers, the United States has become a prosperous nation,
strong in her defenses. She has done great moral things in the name of
peace and freedom. She has been an open door for those who are in search
of something greater. And she has brought stability to the world.”
The man blinked hard and wiped the sweat from his brow.
“But,” he continued, “‘I have this against you,’ says the Lord. ‘That
you have abandoned the love you had at first.’
“Therefore, thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to
destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the
moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the
wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. I will make people more
rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will
make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at
the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. Behold, my
anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast,
upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not
be quenched.’
“Yet fourteen days, and the United States shall be overthrown!”


Here is my review of this intriguing suspense read:


First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Robbie Cheuvront, Eric Reed and Shawn Allen and their publisher for sending me a copy of "The 13:  Fall" 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 13: Fall” by Robbie Cheuvront and Eric Reed with Shawn Allen is an exciting roller coaster ride from page one!  When the President of the United States receives a message from The Prophet, he calls together a crack team to locate the terrorist.

CIA Operative Jonathan Keene, FBI Agent Megan Taylor and former military chaplain Boz Hamilton reluctantly work together to locate “The Prophet” at the request of the President.  Each operative has an agenda, whether worldly or righteous in nature.  Battling against themselves, each other and an external seemingly terrorist threat, they race against the clock that appears to be counting down to the demise of the United States.

In spite of a narrative that is peppered with spelling errors – a pet peeve of mine – the character and plot development of this first novel in the series is strong and engaging.  This book ends on a cliffhanger and leaves the reader hungry for book two.