Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It Happened at the Fair by DeeAnn Gist

A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair's Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

About the Author

Deeanne Gist, known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee, has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary romances. Add to this three RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you've got one recipe for success.
To learn more visit http://Iwantherbooks.com

Tempest in the White CityDeeanne Gist’s E-Short gives readers a peek inside the world’s fair. Tempest in the White City is a digital short story available from online retailers for 99 cents.

Deeanne Gist fans won’t have to wait until the April 30 release of It Happened at the Fair to read her latest work! On March 19, readers will be able to purchase the e-short, Tempest in the White City, a 40-page short story prelude to It Happened at the Fair, for 99 cents from all online retailers. While the characters from the short story are not carried over into the full-length release, audiences will get a taste of the awe-inspiring backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and will be anxious to spend more time exploring the exhibition.

In true Gist form, Tempest in the White City combines her trademark humor with romance. Hunter Scott is one of the elite. A Chicago World’s Fair guard specifically chosen for his height, physique, character and ability to serve and protect. When Hunter is overcome with debilitating abdominal pain, he stumbles to an infirmary in the Fair’s Woman’s Building only to discover the doctor is female—which he is none too happy about. But even worse, she has the nerve to diagnose him—the toughest man west of anyplace east—with constipation.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair overflowed with the latest innovations welcomed by a throng of people from all around the globe. This setting replete with history, intrigue and wonder caught Gist’s attention and is sure to draw readers of both releases in as well. “I’m always drawn to events in our country’s past that are strangely absent from our history classes. Why the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition has been left out, I don’t know, especially since it was such a pivotal event for us,” explains Gist. “We were able to wow the world with our scientific innovations, and it gave women their first official board position recognized and approved by an Act of Congress (all before we had the right to vote). But it was technology which claimed the day as it nipped at the heels of horses, buggies and man-powered tools.”

More about It Happened at the Fair: Young inventor Cullen McNamara gambles everything, including the family farm, in order to make his family proud—and earn his father’s entry money to the Fair Expo back—by selling his design for an automatic sprinkler system inspired by his mother’s death in a mill fire. Struggling with hearing loss from his previous life on the farm, McNamara finds it difficult to communicate with potential buyers over the din in the Fair’s Machinery Building. In an act of desperation, he hires attractive Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading. Much like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, Cullen is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground or will he be carried away?

Here is my review of this wonderful novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to DeeAnn Gist and her publisher for sending me a copy of "It Happened at the Fair" 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.
DeeAnn Gist’s “It Happened at the Fair” is another wonderful historical romance from a wonderful author.  Cullen McNamara risks everything when he leaves his North Carolina farm and fiancĂ©e to bring his invention to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.  When excessive noise keeps him from being able to communicate the benefits of his product to potential buyers, his trip appears to be a sure loss until he gets the idea to hire Della Wentworth, a teacher for the deaf, to teach him to read lips to make communication easier.  What he didn’t count on was falling in love with his tutor.

Adelaide Wentworth is a gifted teacher.  Instructing deaf children daily at the World’s Fair to demonstrate to the public that the deaf can learn to read lips and function in society, she finds respite in touring the exhibits in the evening.  When it seems like an ideal bargain to accept Mr. McNamara’s offer to escort her around the fairgrounds in exchange for lessons on how to read lips, Della escapes from the company she’s been keeping but has no idea that she’s agreed to more than she bargained for.

Gist is a masterful storyteller who blends historical fact with the true-to-life characters created by her imagination.  Her plotlines are interesting and her conflict doesn’t feel contrived or forced just to make her tale more emotionally engaging.  The drawings and photos in this book really add credibility to the story and made me hungry to know more about the World’s Fair.  The dialogue of the less educated characters was a bit frustrating at the beginning, until I realized that it wasn’t about less educated characters, but rather an illustration of Mr. McNamara’s hearing issues – BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN.  I was also sparked in the first chapter to consider the question, “what am I destined to do?”  This has modified my prayer life and encouraged me to examine what I am investing my time and talent in as it pertains to what God says in His Word.  Thank you, sister DeeAnn, for several entertaining hours that also impacted my own spiritual life.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bible Study: Meet Jesus, Son of God/Son of Man - John - Chapter 3

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the Gospel of John, 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, fall 2009 through late spring 2010, things are looking increasingly bleak with the economy, health care and unemployment, there is a renewal and increase of racism, and godly principles of living being disregarded, there are floods in India, earthquake and tsunami in Samoa. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Seek His wisdom. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 3 of the book of John. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

3:2 – Nicodemus said, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God.” Who’s “we”?

3:3-4 – According to the study “When The Good News Gets Even Better”, there were at least six ways a man could be born again in the Jewish culture of that time:
When a Gentile converted to Judaism
When a man from a tribe other than Judah becomes king
When a male is circumcised at age 13 – ouch!
When a man marries a Jewish woman
When a man becomes a rabbi around age 30
When a man becomes a leading teacher in a rabbinical school around age 50

3:3 – No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. Only eyes attuned to Him will observe and acknowledge God’s activity.

3:6 – Flesh is the sinful nature.

3:7 – Do you know that you’ve been born of the Spirit? How?

3:8 – What does this wind reference mean? When the Spirit fell upon the masses in the book of Acts, it was like a wind. See Acts 2:14.

3:10 – Teachers are accountable for what they teach. What are you teaching others?

3:11 – Jesus said “we speak of what we know…” – Who’s “we”? The Trinity? The prophets?

3:14-15 – see Numbers 21:8-9.

3:16 – loved – agape.

3:22 – Why do you think some of John’s disciples remained with him? Who would have ministered to him while he was in prison if they left him> In verse 30, John says he must become less, not disappear.

3:36 – belief – acceptance. This verse talks about belief v. rejection.

• The book of John is called the “Love Gospel”. How have you seen God’s love at work in this chapter of scripture and how will you apply it to your life this week?
• 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, April 24, 2013

Learn the Bible in 24 Hours – Hour 12 – The Minor Prophets

The Minor Prophets are so-called because of the size of the books, definitely not because of the insignificance of the content.  In fact this is a 12-pack of Christian prophetic muscle!  Dr. Missler touches on each of these 12 prophetic books:  Hosea, Joes, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.  He offers the key message of each prophet and points much of their message to current day application.

Dr. Missler again talks about the use of rhetorical devices in Scripture, focusing on similes and types.  He spends some time talking about Gog and how this is a title for the king of the demons.  Fascinating.  Actually, this entire course has been fascinating.  The student is given snippets of interesting data from every book of the Bible and challenged to investigate Scripture for himself or herself.

How many of you who have taken this course are really chewing on God’s Word?  Well, prepare yourself because next week we are going to study eight Messianic prophecies and the odds of one man fulfilling them.  Keep in mind that Jesus fulfilled many more than the eight we will examine, and that skyrockets the odds.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bible Study: Meet Jesus, Son of God/Son of Man - John - Chapter 2

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the Gospel of John, 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, fall 2009 through late spring 2010, things are looking increasingly bleak with the economy, health care and unemployment, there is a renewal and increase of racism, and godly principles of living being disregarded, there are floods in India, earthquake and tsunami in Samoa. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Seek His wisdom. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 2 of the book of John. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

2:1-11 – First piece of evidence for Christ – Jesus turns water into wine, the best wine. This shows Jesus as the Master of quality!

This was a private, not a public miracle.

Wine was a symbol of joy among the Jews. To run out at a wedding was a social blunder. According to the study “When The Good News Gets Even Better”, there have been recorded lawsuits of the bride’s parents suing the groom’s for this offense.

Each clay pot held 20-30 gallons of undrinkable water!

Why does John include this miracle? Because it was the first. And it was the first one he witnessed with his own eyes.

John 21:25 says that Jesus did many other things that weren’t included in this gospel. What do we specifically learn about Jesus from this miracle?

What does this encounter teach us?
Jesus is social. He’s attending a wedding, after all.
Jesus is approachable. His mother appeals to Him when the party ran out of wine. Notice that she didn’t tell Jesus how to handle the situation, but merely mentioned what was wrong. Shouldn’t we pray like that?
Jesus can take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. This speaks about the change of water to wine, and the change that He brings about in us when we come to Him.
Jesus is compassionate and concerned for the little things that affect us. This oversight would have embarrassed and damaged the reputation of the bridegroom.
Jesus is responsive to our intercession for others. Mary’s request was for someone else.
Jesus is obedient. His Father laid down the law in the ten commandments, and Jesus honored His mother in acting on her request.

2:1 – The third day – the third day of what? Jesus’ time with the new disciples?

2:2 – Who were Jesus’ disciples at this point?

2:3-5 – We must persist in our belief that Jesus can and will act on our behalf. We must also limit our involvement by bringing a situation to His attention and then letting Him deal with it!

2:5 – Why does Mary tell the servants to do whatever Jesus asks? Why did Mary assume that Jesus would act when He told her that His time had not yet come? The way this account reads, she didn’t even flinch before telling the servants to do whatever Jesus said. Did she rely on His obedience to her?

2:6 – Why did Jesus perform this miracle even though His time had not yet come? Is it that God is flexible in His plan for us? Is it that He can be moved to act? Is it that our firm belief in His ability to act, our faith, encourages Him to act? Perhaps Jesus acted for an even simpler reason: He was honoring His Father and His mother.

2:9-10 – Why was it important to say that the master of the banquet didn’t know where the wine had come from? So that the reader would know this was a real miracle, not a set-up? So the compliment would be considered genuine, not off-handed? Can you think of another reason John would include this information?

2:12 – Why mention the trip to Capernaum? It wasn’t on the way from Cana to Jerusalem.

2:13-17 – See Malachi 3:1-4. How does this moment when Jesus clears the temple seem to be a fulfillment of that passage?

2:14-16 – See Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46. What similarities exist in these parallel accounts? What additional information do you glean from these passages? What does this tell you about the perspective of the writer, John? How does this knowledge enhance your understanding of the event?

2:19 – Jesus’ comment to the Jews about them destroying the temple and Him raising it up in three days will come back to haunt Him at His trials before the crucifixion. First of all, what did Jesus mean by this? (See verse 21 for a hint.) Now read Matthew 26:61, 27:40 and Mark 14:58, 15:29. How was Jesus misquoted? How did those who quoted Him miss His message?

2:24-25 – There is a difference between being a critical person and a critical thinker: judgment and analysis.

2:24 – Jesus wouldn’t entrust Himself to them – what does this mean? I believe that He “entrusts Himself to me” every time He reveals something about Himself to me.

2:25 – Were men trying to tell Jesus how they were? Obviously, He doesn’t need us to do this. He’s God and He knows us better than we know ourselves!

• The book of John is called the “Love Gospel”. How have you seen God’s love at work in this chapter of scripture and how will you apply it to your life this week?
• 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, April 18, 2013

A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

Michigan, 1880
Annalisa Werner's hope for a fairy tale love is over. Her husband failed her in every way and now his death has left her with few options to save the family farm. She needs a plentiful harvest. That, and a husband to help bring it in. Someone strong, dependable. That'll be enough. A marriage for love...that's something she's given up on.
So her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.
Then a man appears: Carl Richards, from their home country of Germany and a former schoolteacher-or so he says. He's looking for work and will serve on the farm until her husband arrives.
With time running out, she accepts his help, but there's more to this man than he's admitting. He's also gentle, kind, charming-unlike any man she's ever known. But even as Carl is shining light into the darkness of her heart, she knows her true groom may arrive any day.

About the Author
Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of The Doctor's Lady and The Preacher's Bride. She won the 2011 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Colorado Romance Writers and was a finalist for Best Debut Novel in the 2011 ACFW Carol Awards. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.
She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog.
Learn more about Jody at http://jodyhedlund.com

Here is my review of this wonderful book:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Jody Hedlund and her publisher for sending me a copy of "A Noble Groom" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

“A Noble Groom” by Jody Hedlund is a charming romantic story that sweeps the reader into the history of German immigrants in Michigan.  Annalisa Werner has more to worry about than being recently widowed.  Her deceased husband had a gambling problem that has left Annalisa nearly penniless, and the time is approaching where Annalisa will need to pay off the note or her farm of forfeit the land.  She is also being harassed to sell her land to a less than scrupulous man who wants to build a sawmill on the property.

Carl Richards has escaped execution only to find himself displaced among the peasants in America.  His aristocratic hands and scientific brain aren’t suited to farming, but his desire to help the lovely widow and her adorable daughter give him the incentive to do all that he can.

This charming romance is an engaging and gripping read that will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your heart.  “A Noble Groom” has it all:  drama, action, romance, humor.  This is a wonderful way to spend a long weekend.

10 Prayers You Can't Live Without by Rick Hamlin

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:

Guideposts Books (April 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


Rick Hamlin's books include his memoir Finding God on the A Train and several novels. He is the Executive Editor of Guideposts Magazine and has been a contributor to Daily Guideposts since 1985 and blogs about prayer at Guideposts.org. He and his wife Carol live in New York City.

Visit the author's website.


Real-life encouragement for a very personal relationship with God.

In 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without, Guideposts executive editor Rick Hamlin shares ten real-life ways of praying to our loving God. It includes the practical insight Hamlin has gained about prayer from the everyday men and women in the pages of Guideposts magazine and from his own lifelong journey in prayer.

Readers will be encouraged that prayer is an ongoing conversation, that God wants them to talk about anything. They'll read about the power of prayers around the dinner table, how to give themselves a time and place for prayer every day, praying in a crisis; asking for forgiveness, praying the Psalms, and how to listen to the spiritual nudges God gives us.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Guideposts Books (April 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0824932188
ISBN-13: 978-0824932183


Pray at Mealtime

“Bless this food to our use, us to your service, and bless the hands that prepared it.”

It all started with a nightly blessing.

My father’s rambling graces were famous in the neighborhood. Whenever one of us invited a friend over for dinner we usually warned, “Dad always starts dinner with a prayer. Just bow your head. Don’t eat anything until Dad says amen.

“And it might take him a while to get there.”

I was one of four kids, each of us two years apart. We lived in an LA suburb that looked like any suburb we saw on TV. Our street was lined with palm trees that wrapped themselves around my kites. We had rosebushes in front, an orange tree and a flowering pear that dropped white petals in January like snow. The flagstone walk was lined with yellow pansies leading to a red front door.

We ate dinner in a room Mom insisted on calling the lanai. It had once been a back porch and had been converted with the help of plate glass, sliding glass doors, screens and a corrugated fiberglass roof that made a tremendous racket when the rain hit it. But this was Southern California so it wasn’t often.

Dad came in from his commute on the freeway, kissed Mom, hung up his jacket, poured himself a drink, checked out the news on TV. One of us kids set the table. Mom took the casserole out of the oven with big orange pot holders and set it on the counter. “Ta-da!” she exclaimed. She tossed the salad in a monkey pod bowl they had picked up on a trip to Hawaii. “Dinner!” she called in her high-pitched, musical voice. “Dinner’s ready.”

We converged on the lanai from different parts of the house, my sisters from their rooms upstairs or the sewing room where my older sister, Gioia, was always re-hemming a skirt in the constant battle of fashion vs. school rules. I seem to remember a three-by-five card being slid between the floor and the bottom of her skirts when she was kneeling. The hem had to touch the card or the girls’ vice principal would send her home. My older brother and I slept in a converted garage, which was convenient for whatever motor vehicle he was working on. Howard could roll the minibike or go-cart right into the room from the driveway. No steps to climb. I slept with the familiar smell of gasoline, and my brother had to put up with the old upright piano next to my bed.

We were as different as two boys could be. He never held a tool he didn’t know how to use. I never heard a Broadway show that I didn’t want to learn the lyrics to. He was physical, mechanical. He could fix anything. He was outdoors racing the minibike up and down the driveway with his neighborhood fan base cheering him on. I was inside, listening to a new LP, learning a song inside my head. I was overly sensitive. He pretended to be thick-skinned.

It’s a wonder we didn’t pummel each other, although as the older brother by twenty-two months, he pummeled me enough. I didn’t circulate in his orbit. Not even close. Howard would wake me up early in the morning to go work on one of his forts and I would find an excuse to return to the house to work on a watercolor. Sometimes we had great talks as we were falling asleep. Most of the time, though, we did our own thing, Howard soaking an engine part in a Folgers coffee can of motor oil, me studying the liner notes for a record album.

Then came the blessing.

Dad’s graces were a call to worship, an effort to pull these disparate family members together, to get us all on the same page. We gathered at the big teak table and the dog was sent outside to bark. We squirmed, we giggled, we kicked each other under the table, we rolled our eyes, but we were forced to see that we were all one and we had to be silent for a minute or two. We scraped our chairs against the linoleum floor (eventually it was covered with a lime- green indoor-outdoor carpet). We left homework, the kite caught in the tree, the news on TV, the seat for the minibike, the Simplicity pattern laid out on the floor, the rolls in the oven. We rushed in from school meetings and play practice and afterschool jobs. My younger sister, Diane, put her hamster Hamdie back in his cage and we could hear the squeak of the animal running to nowhere on his wheel.

“Let us reflect on the day,” Dad began. We closed our eyes.

Then he paused.

There was a whole world in that pause. Silence. Nothing to do but think. I have been in Quaker meetings where we sat in silence waiting for the Spirit to move and it was just like that pause. I have worshipped in churches where the minister was wise enough to be quiet for a moment as soon as we bowed our heads. Every Monday in our office we gather in a conference room at 9:45 and read prayer requests that have come in to us over the past week; then we close our eyes, pausing in silence before we remember those requests.

At first all you hear is ambient noise. The drone of an air conditioner, the hum of a computer, a car passing by, my sister’s hamster squeaking in his cage, your stomach rumbling. You think, “That hamster wheel needs some WD-40. . . . That car needs a new muffler. . . . Boy, I’m hungry.” Then you listen to what’s going on in your head.

Back then my head was spinning with a million thoughts. I was replaying what my best friend and I had talked about under the walnut tree at school or what Miss McGrath had said about my paper in class or what I wished I could say to the cute girl who sat behind me. What I wished she thought about me. Reflect on the day? There was too much noise going on inside. What did that have to do with prayer?

All we had to do was listen to Dad. Like a great preacher warming up, he cleared his throat and began, usually with something he heard on the radio or saw on TV.

“God, I ask you to be with us in the coming election,” he prayed. “May the voters make the right choices in the primary.”

“Remember our president as he makes his State of the Union address.

“Be with our astronauts in tomorrow’s flight. “Remember the Dodgers in tonight’s playoffs.

“We are sorry about those who suffered from the recent tornadoes. “We mourn the death of your servant Dr. Martin Luther King.” “It’s like the six o’clock news,” one of my brother’s friends said. “You

don’t need the radio or the TV. You can get all the headlines from your dad’s grace at dinnertime.” Prayer can be a way of conveying information. It can be the means of processing history, even recent history. Think of all those passages in the Psalms that rehash the Israelites wandering in the desert:

“Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest” (Psalm 95:10, kjv).

A modern-day psalmist in a button-down shirt and a bowtie, Dad prayed us through the 1960s and 1970s, the Watts riots, the flower power of Haight-Ashbury, the turmoil of the Vietnam War, the stock market’s rise and fall, inflation, Kent State, Cambodia, Watergate, Nixon, Agnew, Ford, Carter. Dad dumped everything in his prayers, all the noise in his head, all the stuff he worried about. They were throw-everything-in-but-the-kitchen-sink prayers.

Let me extol the benefit of such prayers. First of all, this is a great way of dealing with the news.

I have friends who get so riled up about what they’ve seen on TV or read on the Internet or in the paper that they can’t sleep at night.

The first moment you see them you have to let them unload, let them chill. “I can’t believe what a terrible trap our president has got us into,” they’ll exclaim, or “Congress is ruining our nation” or “I just read a terrible story about corruption in government.” They’re so anxious that you can’t have a normal conversation until they’ve let go of their worries.

Of course, the news can be devastating. The headline splashed across the front of a newspaper in bold type sends a chill through me. The nightmarish scenario on the TV news has me double-locking the doors and tossing and turning at night. But most of those news stories were crafted to make us scared. Fear sells newspapers and magazines. The cover line about the ten most dangerous toys that can hurt your children makes you want to pick up that parenting magazine at the supermarket checkout. Fear about how your house might have a poisonous noxious gas seeping into it keeps you glued to the TV. Scary Internet headlines are designed to make you click through. You’re supposed to get upset.

I do. All the time. If I read too much bad news it puts me in a foul mood. Talk about controlling my thoughts. I once stared at a provocative headline in a tabloid at a newsstand and screamed right back at it. My nerves were jangled. Something about the wording set me off there at Madison and 34th Street, right around the corner from the office. I was so shocked I slunk away hoping no one had heard me. Who was that jerk making all that noise? What got into me? The tabloid could have winked and smiled back at me: Gotcha!

Bad news can become a dangerous loop in my head. It’s usually about stuff I have no control over: the national debt, the unemployment rate, the decline of the dollar, war, the weather, the poverty level, the stock market, the trade imbalance, the decline of the West, the decline of civility, growing pollution, the polar ice cap melting. It’s essential to be well informed. I’m a junkie for all kinds of news. Good thing all those reporters and columnists keep me up-to-date. But there’s no reason for the bad news to consume me.

If the news pulls you down it can rob you of the creativity you need to get your best work done. A study has shown that getting your blood pressure up by reading a depressing story in the news- paper or watching a disturbing report on television prevents your mind from doing the intuitive wandering it needs to make creative connections. That sounds like the work of prayer to me (and no, the article didn’t put it that way). Save the news for times when your mind doesn’t have to be at its best. Or take it in early and then toss it away.

Dad put the news back into God’s hands. He asked God to intervene in places God was not necessarily considered. What did God know about the Dow and runaway inflation? What would God think about Nixon and Watergate? The point was, if we were thinking about it, the good Lord deserved to hear it. The good Lord would care.

As Dad’s graces continued, he moved on to matters closer to home. “We look forward to seeing our daughter Gioia march in the drill team at the football game tonight, bless her,” he prayed. “Bless Rick at the piano recital on Sunday.”

“We’re grateful for the new minibike Howard bought. We pray that he uses it safely and ask him to receive your blessing.”

“We’re thankful for Diane’s good tennis match today.”

“We look forward to Back to School Night and meeting our children’s teachers. We know you know what good work they do. Bless them.”

What a valuable lesson in prayer and parenting. Dad prayed for us. He noticed what was going on in our lives. Not the secrets that lurked inside, like my crush on the girl who sat behind me in fifth grade, but the events that were on his radar. The football game, the homecoming parade, the senior class musical, a tennis tournament, finals, dance class, the prom. He paid attention. At Back to School Night he graded our teachers and came back home to tell us how they measured up, which was to say how we measured up. He wrote it all down on a piece of paper with letter grades. When he gave my fourth-grade teacher, Miss McCallum, an A, I felt like the luckiest kid on earth. You can never underestimate a child’s need for love and attention from his parents.

Francis McNutt, the great advocate for healing prayer, would often ask when he spoke to groups how many people remembered their parents praying for them. How many had heard their mother or father pray for them when they were sick, for instance? How many remembered a time when a parent had prayed out loud for them? Maybe twenty percent could recall a moment when their moms had prayed for them, but their dads? Only three percent of them.

I read that figure in astonishment, wondering how my father man- aged it, especially for a man of his generation, a buttoned-up World War II submarine veteran, the suffer-in-silence type. How did he ever learn to open up like this to us? How did he get over the natural embarrassment that comes from praying out loud in front of your loved ones? I’m far more the wear-it-on-my-sleeve sort, and even I fumble when I have to pray extemporaneously with my family. For Dad it came as naturally as breathing. There must have been something healing in it for him, blessing us and dinner every night.

I thought of Dad’s graces recently when we ran a story about a dad, Kevin Williamson, who, with his two teenagers, was celebrating his first Thanksgiving after his wife, Bev, had died of cancer.

Kevin didn’t want to get out of bed that morning, let alone celebrate. Long before his children were up, he trudged into the kitchen and got a cup of tea. The only sound was the rumble of the refrigerator. The quiet time reminded him of Bev and the mornings they had spent planning their days and their future, a future that had turned out different from what he’d ever imagined. The phone rang. It was their neighbor who was having them over to dinner. “Can I bring anything?” he asked.

“Just yourselves,” she said. “And bread . . . we could use some bread.” “Sure.” He figured he’d go out and buy some at whatever super- market was open. Then his eye landed on his wife’s recipe box still sitting on the counter. He thought of Bev’s yeast rolls, the same recipe that had been handed down in his own family for generations. His mother had taught Bev to make them. He could remember

the scent of them wafting from the wood-burning stove at his great- grandmother’s home. Kevin found the recipe card, written in his own mother’s handwriting. He put on an apron, got out a mixing bowl and lined up the ingredients on the counter.

“What are you making?” his daughter asked, wandering into the kitchen sleepy-eyed.

“Mom’s yeast rolls.” He stirred the yeast into warm water, beat an egg, added the flour, kneaded the dough and let it rise. He separated the dough in balls and put them on a baking sheet. Perfect for dinner. But there was still some left over.

Bev had always made an early batch just for the family. Maybe he could do the same. With the leftover dough he made a few more rolls and put them in the oven. Soon the kitchen smelled like all those Thanksgivings of the past. He thought of Bev, how she made her family laugh, how she taught them to love and to live. The timer buzzed. He took the pan out of the oven, then called his kids into the kitchen.

“Let’s all have one,” he said, putting the rolls on a plate.

They sat at the kitchen table and joined hands, and he bowed his head to say grace. “God, it’s been a tough year for us. We miss Bev so much. We thank you for the time we had with her. We’re grateful for the little reminders, each day, of her presence in our lives still. And we’re blessed that we have one another.”

The story was from Kevin’s point of view, not the kids’, but I don’t doubt they were suffering the loss of their mom just as acutely and were comforted by their dad’s grace. They knew they had been loved and still were.

My dad’s prayers were filled with his love for us and for Mom. He prayed for President Nixon, the astronauts, Sandy Koufax and us. We were on equal footing with the famous people who dominated the news. We were stars. What he couldn’t always articulate in a conversation he could say in a prayer. He bowed his head and his heart opened up. He told us the good things he thought of us.

Dad was a far more complicated person than my straightforward, sunny-tempered mother. He worried more, hurt more, suffered more and internalized most of it. He smoked, he drank—the clink of ice cubes in a glass was an enduring part of the soundtrack of my child- hood. He could be self-involved. He got angry and didn’t know how to express the anger. He could burst out in a frightening tirade, most often directed against himself. The sound of Dad throwing his tennis racket against the fence and chastising himself—“Thornt!!”—was a familiar feature of Sunday’s mixed doubles with Mom. You could tell which rackets were his in the hall closet because they were usually bent or patched up with tape. But in his prayers he loved and was lovable.

From Dad’s graces I picked up a tool I use almost every day when I pray. It’s one of the most valuable things I know and it was a long time before I recognized how helpful it was. When you close your eyes to pray and start listening to your heart, you’re going to face a slew of distractions. You’ll hear a kid bouncing a basketball down the sidewalk, a radiator will rattle, a bus’s brakes will squeak. You’ll start thinking of all the stuff you need to get accomplished that day, and soon you’ll exclaim, “Geez, what am I doing? I haven’t prayed at all.”

Dad’s graces were frequently interrupted. Our dog Andy barked. The next-door neighbor’s dog barked. The phone rang. A passing car honked. Mom’s kitchen timer went off. We started to giggle.

Dad put the interruptions right into the prayer: “God, be with our dog Andy. Help him protect us.”

“Thank you for our daughter’s popularity. We know that whoever is calling for her will call back.” In case Gioia hadn’t dashed to the phone already.

“Bless Mom’s rolls in the oven. We look forward to eating them.” In case Mom hadn’t gone to get them.

“Bless our children’s high spirits. You know their energy is a good thing.”

If you fight an interruption in a prayer, it becomes much bigger. If you fold it into the prayer loop, it becomes part of the weave of your thoughts, the cord that becomes your lifeline. Even monks who devoted hours to meditation, star athletes in the spiritual life, get distracted in prayer.

Thomas Merton, the brilliant writer and Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, wrote one of the greatest modern prayers of spiritual yearning: “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. . . .”

Reading his journals, you see evidence of how even someone as spiritually focused as Merton could be distracted. In one passage he mentions staring at the pattern of lariats and cowboys on a visitor’s shirt during worship, his mind wandering. If Merton could get distracted like that, so could I. Just because you’re trying to be other- worldly doesn’t mean that the worldly won’t slip right into your head. Don’t fight it. Listen to it. Pray your way through it.

“Praise the Lord from the earth,” goes the psalm, “fire, and hail, snow, and vapors, stormy wind fulfilling his word, mountains, and all hills, fruitful trees, and all cedars, beasts, and all cattle, creeping things, and flying fowl” (Psalm 148:7–10, kjv). You praise God for everything you see and hear, everything on your wavelength. Andy barking, horns honking, the timer buzzing, the phone ringing, the hamster on his squeaking wheel, the kids giggling, praise the Lord.

The end of grace came with the single line that Dad repeated night after night: “Bless this food to our use, us to your service, and bless the hands that prepared it.” There was the blessing.

“Amen,” Dad finally said. “Amen,” we responded. Mom went off to rescue her browning rolls, the mac-and-cheese made the rounds from the cork trivet, we asked Dad about what he heard on the news. Soon dinner would dissolve into a three-ring circus. We got up from the table to demonstrate some exercise we’d learned in phys ed. Diane did a somersault on the lime-green indoor-outdoor carpeting. Howard did a handstand and then showed us how many push-ups he could do. “Not on a full stomach,” Mom exclaimed.

If we failed to appreciate the tomatoes in the salad, Mom would remind us, “These tomatoes cost nineteen cents a pound,” as though that would add to our pleasure. If we wondered why we were getting an unfamiliar brand of cookies or brown-and-serve rolls, she would say sheepishly, “They were on sale,” a holy refrain in a family with four growing children.

Our manners deteriorated. We made a boarding-house reach across the table, grabbing the butter. “No, no, no,” Mom said, tapping the back of a hand with the back of her knife. Dad would go into a lecture on etiquette. “When I was in submarine corps during the war,” he began, “some of the fellows told me I should give up on ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘please pass the rolls.’ Well, I told them I wasn’t planning on spending my life on a submarine. I would say please . . .” We hardly listened. We were in a rush. If there was any light left after dinner we would go back outside for a game of kick the can or freeze tag. There would be baths to take, books to read, bedtime. Still we’d had this quiet moment together when Dad asked God to bless our food and to bless us.

The idea of blessing anything is not that common today. It means stopping and slowing down. We usually like to jump in and do some- thing. We want the car to start right away, we want the computer to be ready to go, we hate delays when we get on the Internet. We want dinner now. But blessing is as ancient as faith and central to it. What did Jesus do before he fed the five thousand? He blessed the bread and broke it. What did he do when all the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room for the Last Supper? “Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took the cup and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.”

This was the opposite of fast food. A nutritionist I know makes the point that saying grace is good for the digestion. It gives us a chance to slow down before we eat. We smell the casserole cooling or the steak waiting to be cut, the gastric juices get going but we don’t start shoveling in immediately. “Bless this food to our use” could be a prescription on the back of the bag of groceries. Thankfulness at the dinner table is good for the body and soul. You certainly enjoy your food more when you season it with gratitude. You’ve thanked God and the cook.

Getting dinner on the table is a nightly miracle and in families it’s so easy to forget the miracle makers or even to acknowledge them, especially if they do their duties well and effortlessly. Efficiency can make the work dangerously invisible. I was a newlywed when I worked on a story from a writer who was listing the reasons for her fifty years of happy marriage. “Tommy has never once forgotten to thank me for a dinner I’ve cooked,” she wrote.

Note to self: thank your wife for dinner. Be like Dad blessing Mom. We are not wholly responsible for the food on our table. Not only are there the “hands that prepared it,” but also the farmers who toiled, the rains that watered, the soil that nurtured, the sunshine that blessed and all that help we got to earn the money we spent at the supermarket. The self-made man is a fiction, the luck we credit for our good for- tune an illusion. Thankfulness reminds us of that. Even the most rudimentary grace has the essential ingredient of gratitude, whether it’s the standard “God is great, God is good. Let us be thankful for our food” or the summer camp classic, “Rub-a-dub-dub. Thanks for the grub. Yeah, God!”

Asking for a blessing means acknowledging that someone has power over you or can give you something you want. Now it’s just a courtesy to ask your future in-laws for their blessing on your marriage, but there was a time when it was a make-or-break conversation. When a minister or priest blesses the congregation it’s a reminder that God is the great source of our well-being: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his countenance to you and grant you peace.” In the Bible, Esau, the firstborn, came in from the fields so hungry that he sold his birthright to his younger twin brother, Jacob, for a bowl of lentil stew. (My wife, Carol, likes to remind me of this every time she serves up her lentil stew.) When Esau was away, Jacob fooled his blind father Isaac by pretending to be Esau. At his mother’s urging, he dressed in his brother’s rough clothes so that he would smell like Esau and put goat hair on his arms so he would be hairy like Esau. (As a kid in Sunday school I thought that Isaac must have been pretty dense to mistake a furry hide for a hairy forearm.) The ruse worked and Jacob won his father’s blessing: “May God give you showers from the sky, olive oil from the earth, plenty of grain and new wine. May the nations serve you, may peoples bow down to you . . . Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed” (Genesis 27:28–29, ceb).

Enigmatic and deceptive as it is, the blessing holds. Jacob becomes the patriarch of a new nation after wrestling with the angel who changes his name to Israel. I think the longing for a parent’s blessing is just as deep and hard-wired in us today, even if we might not use that word. To hear your father bless you night after night is bound to have its effect. Sometimes I wonder why I was never tarred with the brush that turns religion into a dark thing and God into the big scary Father in heaven ready to condemn us for our least faults. If I knew that God loved me, it wasn’t just because I was told so—and I was, countless times—but also because I experienced the love of God through Dad’s prayers.

Monasteries observe the offices of the day, praying at specific times. “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws,” says the psalmist in Psalm 119:164 (niv). Making grace a habit keeps prayer on the agenda.

As brave as I am in writing about prayer, it’s taken me years to be brave about saying grace in public. In a New York restaurant where there are waiters hovering, ready to sprinkle some parmesan cheese on your pasta or grind some fresh pepper, I won’t ask my friends or colleagues to bow their heads before we dig in. When I’m with some holy person in a clerical collar I’ve learned to pause before lifting my fork. “Is he going to say grace?” I wonder. Will we be like that grand- mother and kid in the Norman Rockwell painting who are praying to the rest of the diners’ bemusement? I’m self-conscious. Are all eyes on us, the only two people praying in this restaurant?

I’ve decided it really doesn’t matter. First of all, it’s magnificently self-centered to think that anybody else is looking at me in a restaurant filled with people who all have their own concerns. Second, self-consciousness is often a prelude to prayer. “Who am I to pray this? Why would God be interested?” you wonder and then you jump in. Faith often requires an attitude of “I can’t believe I’m doing this but I’m going to do it anyway.” Be bold. Mighty forces will come to your aid.

At home when we have friends for dinner, I have fewer qualms. I used to wonder, “Should I say grace if they’re not believers?” Will they find it awkward? Will they be bored? I’ve given up that too. Let them see this as my little eccentricity, like people who collect paper- weights or make their dogs do tricks at the table. I say grace at dinner. Who am I to guess what they believe or don’t believe? They won’t mind. I might go a little faster when guests are here or give them a signal so they don’t eat half their salad before I’ve bowed my head, but grace is what we do. It’s the habit of the house.

Carol and I started saying grace at home when our two boys were young, the apple falling not far from the tree. I couldn’t then and I still can’t extemporize a grace as sweet as the ones I heard in my childhood. As the boys grew older, I asked them to participate. We went around the table, each of us in charge for a night, Carol, Tim, Will, me, then back to Carol. If you want to know what’s on your children’s minds, ask them to say grace. Like my father, I could see all those reasons for gratitude.

I remember pausing outside our apartment and looking in one winter night when the boys were young. Carol was boiling water for spaghetti, the steam already fogging up the windows. William was sitting at the kitchen table, writing in a school workbook, his hand curled around his pencil, his mouth forming a word. Timothy was dashing in from the living room, the tuft of his milkweed hair moving across the bottom of the windows like a duck in a shooting gallery. The light was on above the piano and Carol was reaching in the cabinet for the box of pasta. She wouldn’t pour it in until she saw the whites of my eyes.

At once I could see my life from the outside, how fortunate I was, how blessed. Soon I’d be on the inside. A kiss to Carol, put away the briefcase, hug the boys, settle any fraternal disputes. It was always a race. Could we get it all done? Set the table, eat dinner, wash the dishes, read to both boys before bed, hear their prayers, get them to sleep, talk to Carol, pay the bills, get to sleep ourselves. There was hardly a moment. But this. I could see my life from a different view, as others might have seen it, maybe as God saw it. I was the luckiest guy on earth.

It made me understand why Dad would sometimes pause during grace, overwhelmed by emotion. If only we could see how beautiful our lives are. If only we could just reflect on the day. Dad was the weeper in the family. He had what my wife would call “the gift of tears,” a trait that has been passed along to my older son, Will.

Let me not gloss over Dad’s outbursts of anger, but when they occurred at the dinner table we usually found something funny in it. When he threw his fork down after a bite of Mom’s chicken broccoli casserole with a risky teaspoon of curry in it, he barked, “Who put that India stuff in here?” Mom said meekly, “I wanted to try something different.” We giggled, then laughed till tears rolled down our cheeks. Even Dad laughed.

I once provoked Howard into throwing a fork at me—the argument was about Bill Cosby, if you must know. I cried. Then some- one pointed out how funny it was, and we laughed. Even Dad got his chances back. He could come up with a one-liner that put us in stitches. In old age, he moved mighty slow, his joints aching from arthritis, his back bent over from spinal stenosis, his feet in their clunky lace-less white sneakers. He followed several steps behind our energetic tennis-playing mom.

“I just pray and pray for patience,” Mom said.

“That’s one prayer God hasn’t answered yet,” Dad muttered from his walker.

We laughed then and we laughed again when Howard retold that story at Dad’s memorial service. Everybody in the packed church laughed. Mom laughed from the front pew. Laughter is as healing as gratitude, maybe even more so.

When I hear Paul’s extraordinary statement in Romans 8:38–39— “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”—I think of my family. It’s the feeling of safety and security that I grew up with. It’s the satisfying love I find at my own dinner table when I say grace with my wife and my children. Here is love. Nothing can separate me from it.

Dad’s graces continued through his mid-eighties. Wracked with pain, he got to a point where the only place he was comfortable was lying in bed. The neuropathy in his feet made walking downstairs for breakfast a trial. Still, whenever the family got together for dinner or even if it was just him and Mom in the breakfast room, he said grace. The words came haltingly, the thoughts were briefer. There was little of the six o’clock news but more of us, our spouses, his nine grand- children. He always ended by saying, “Bless this food to our use, us to your service, and bless the hands that prepared it.”

Mom and her much-blessed hands took magnificent care of him until the day he simply couldn’t get out of bed. He spent the last five months of his life in a nursing facility on the lush grounds of a home for retired Presbyterian ministers that took in local residents when they had an empty bed. He flirted with his nurses and befriended his roommate. We pushed him in his wheelchair through the gardens of oaks, palms, roses, citrus trees, birds of paradise. He was confused sometimes and he slept for hours, but he wasn’t unhappy.

I flew out to visit every month. Once, our younger son, Timothy, and I drove straight from the airport to his bedside. “We just flew in, Dad,” I said.

“From Puerto Rico?” he asked.

“No, Dad, from New York,” I said.

“Close enough,” he responded, as though it was a nice joke. Why should he have to bother with such geographic details when he was on a larger cosmic journey?

I remember thinking we should have some big profound conversation about the end of things. Perhaps he would want to pass on some advice or share some memory of his childhood. He didn’t. We would sit in the sun by his old convertible that I drove on my visits and he would point to a passing truck or admire the statue of Jesus in one corner of the garden. The last time I saw him still conscious, I kissed him good-bye on his forehead, the same place he kissed me as a boy after my bedtime prayers. “I love you, Dad,” I said.

“Tell your wife,” he said, the cylinders in his brain moving slowing, searching for the right words. “Tell your wife,” he said, “that I am loved.”

He was loved. That much we knew.

Less than a month later my sister Gioia had the last conversation anybody had with him. He was in hospice care and too weak now to go on wheelchair jaunts. He didn’t move from his bed. “Dad,” she said, teary-eyed, “I’m going to miss you so much.”

He looked up at her and asked, “Am I moving?” Yes, sort of. He slipped into a coma or some state of minimal awareness and I flew out to see him for the last time.

We sat by his bed for five days while he slowly left us, his vitals winding down, his hands getting colder, his feet getting bluer. He could squeeze hands, but then his hand became weaker. He had no water, no food, no nourishment. Every day we thought would be his last, but he rallied when we appeared, his four children, our spouses, his grandchildren, their spouses, talking around him and above him like we did at dinner. He waited until four in the morning, when none of us were present, to die. Never the first to leave a party, he wouldn’t go when we were still there.

We all spoke at the funeral, each of us wearing one of his bow ties (the girls wore them on their wrists). Gioia talked about following in Dad’s footsteps in her career, becoming a professional fundraiser and non-profit executive like him. Diane described his generosity of character and his tireless volunteer work. Her husband, Mike, spoke of his submarine service, three war patrols in the Pacific during World War II. Our son Will confessed that when he was eleven and his fifth-grade teacher asked the class what their goals were, Will said that he wanted to have four children and nine grandchildren, just like his grandfather. I sang a song that Dad loved and then reminded the packed church how he had prayed for all of them. “I’ll hold a good thought for you” was how he put it.

But Howard got it just right, Howard who had sat holding his hand at his bedside, hardly letting go.

“When I was sitting with Dad these last few days,” he said, “I tried to think if there were any things that I needed to talk about. Were there any things I still needed to say?

“All I could come up with was thanks. You see, Dad let me be me. That’s what he gave all of us. He let us be ourselves. He encouraged us to do just what we wanted.”

I don’t know what comes to people’s minds when they say, “We were blessed.” But what comes to my mind is a childhood when Dad prayed for us night after night at the dinner table. Such prayers must be called grace because they offer a heaping serving of God’s grace. We were blessed by them, richly blessed.

Here's my review of this amazing book on prayer:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Rick Hamlin and his publisher for sending me a copy of "10 Prayers You Can't Live Without" 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.

“10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without” by Rick Hamlin is a thought-provoking book on prayer. Chapter divisions are based on types of prayer: mealtimes, conversation, supplication, the Lord’s prayer, forgiveness, crisis, singing, focusing your thoughts, thanksgiving and “yes, and…” prayers. Each chapter describes the concept of the prayer being discussed and it’s up to the reader to apply the concept to their prayer life.

There is a section in the back of the book containing questions for reflection and group discussion. These questions will help the reader to apply the concept to their prayer lives by revealing the readers beliefs and methods of prayer. I recommend this book for personal and group study or for use in a prayer ministry to develop kneeling warriors.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Learn the Bible in 24 Hours – Hour 11 – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel

First, let me clarify that the Term “The Major Prophets” refers to the size of the book, not its significance.  Isaiah is called “the Messianic Prophet”.  He is quoted more than any other prophet in the New Testament.  And there are lots of equidistant letter sequences hidden behind the text of Isaiah 53, including the names of 40 people who were present at the crucifixion.  Seeps rather apropos for the passage of Scripture dedicated to “the Suffering Servant”.  What’s even more curious is that the name of Judas (who, statistically should appear) is absent.

I’d never heard about the arguments concerning the two Isaiah’s prior to watching this video, but the way this fallacy is refuted by John the apostle is one of those fascinating things that I love about what’s included in this study.

Jeremiah is known as “the Weeping Prophet” largely because of the book of Lamentations, which he wrote as an addendum to the prophetic book that bears his name.  In studying this prophetic book, we are exposed to the blood curse on Jeconiah, and Dr. Missler offers a wonderful explanation of how this paradox is resolved in the virgin birth of Christ.  This is where we also come across a prediction (Jeremiah 50 and 51 and Isaiah 13 and 14) of the destruction of Babylon that has not yet taken place.  Jeremiah 50:9 also alludes to the use of smart weapons.  Check it out!

Ezekiel is a rather colorful figure.  He was a priest/prophet like Jeremiah who was captured and taken to Babylon.  There is some very strange imagery in the book of Ezekiel, but this leads to the linking of images from Ezekiel with Isaiah and Revelation.  There is a lot of teaching about the origin of Satan in these three books.  Ezekiel also brings us the Valley of Dry Bones, a description of the Millennial Temple and the invasion of Israel by Magog.  The Magogians have been identified as the Scythians.  For all of you “Highlander” movie fans, the Kurgan character was a Scythian from the steppes of Russia.

This week’s lesson was packed!  I’ll probably need to watch this one several times before I can really digest all of what Dr. Missler has presented.  In fact, that is probably true for each of the lessons.

Dr. Missler wrapped up this video teaching with a massive amount of information about how we got the Bible.  There are supplemental notes online for printing.  Sadly, I didn’t go looking for the supplemental notes until after viewing this teaching.  I will have to re-watch the video after reviewing that information packet.

Almost halfway done.  Next week is the last lesson of our Old Testament survey.  I am super-excited to listen to the homework for next time:  The Minor Prophets.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Love at Any Cost by Julie Lessman

Love at Any Cost

By Julie Lessman

The Gilded Age is brought to life in the new Heart of San Francisco Series.  Fans of bestselling author, Julie Lessman, will join her on a journey to the West Coast for romance, passion, and surprising revelations found in Love at Any Cost.

Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassidy McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who would just as soon hogtie a man as look at him. Hoping a summer visit with her wealthy cousins in San Francisco will help her forget her heartache, Cassidy travels west. But no sooner is she settled in beautiful California than Jamie McKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well, captures her heart. When Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than he is, Cassidy finds herself cheated by love a second time. Will Jamie discover that money can't buy love after all? And can Cassidy ever learn to fully trust her heart to a man?

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of "Passion with a Purpose" underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 14 Romance Writers of America awards. Chosen as the #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2011 Readers' Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Series of the Year in that same poll. She resides in Missouri with her family and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series and the Winds of Change series whose first book, A Hope Undaunted, ranked #5 on Booklist's Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010.


Praise for Love at any Cost:


With an artist’s brushstroke, Julie Lessman creates another masterpiece filled with family and love and passion that compares to none in the Christian market today. Interwoven with themes of betrayal, trust, and God’s love, Love at Any Cost will not only soothe your soul, but it will make you laugh, stir your heart, and release a sigh of satisfaction when you turn the last page.  The next book in the series cannot come soon enough!—MaryLu Tyndall, bestselling author of Veil of Pearls
“Available April 15, 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Here is my review of this wonderful novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Julie Lessman and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Love at any Cost" 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.
Julie Lessman’s “Love At Any Cost” is the incredible first novel in her brand new Heart of San Francisco series!  Texas oil heiress Cassie McClare is visiting cousins in San Francisco over the summer.  Hoping to mend a broken heart and possibly secure a position as a teacher, romance is the last thing on her mind.  Jamie McKenna is looking to woo and marry the richest, most politically connected woman possible in order to take care of his family and friends and advance his career in politics.  The sparks fly the moment these two meet and each meeting thereafter is charged with possibilities for their future together.

The advice Cassie receives from her Aunt Cait, who has also been deeply wounded by a man, changes the course of Cassie’s relationship with Jamie.  With the new mission to make sure she marries a man who loves the Lord, she embarks on a courtship with the handsome Irishman.

This tale is superbly written, with lots of the intense brand of romance that you’ve come to expect from Julie Lessman.  The lessons that are woven into the story are valuable life applications that make this novel rich and deep.  Lessman’s characters are fiery and thick with personality.  This is a thoroughly satisfying read from cover to cover!  And it absolutely deserves a place on your keeper shelf!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bible Study: Meet Jesus, Son of God/Son of Man - John - Chapter 1

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the Gospel of John, 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, fall 2009 through late spring 2010, things are looking increasingly bleak with the economy, health care and unemployment, there is a renewal and increase of racism, and godly principles of living being disregarded, there are floods in India, earthquake and tsunami in Samoa. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. And He is very busy these days. Seek His wisdom. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming to deliver His people and judge the wicked…


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 1 of the book of John. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…

The apostle John, one of the “Sons of Thunder”, writes this account of Jesus, focusing on what Jesus said rather than what He did. He seems to have captured the heart of Jesus. This book is written primarily for the non-believer, so it is a fantastic place to start a new believer in relationship with Him.

A Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) lecture I heard in September 2009 set the stage for the Gospel of John as jury duty for the reader. We must hear the witnesses, weigh the evidence and respond. Since this book was written primarily to the non-believer, the response is absolutely crucial.

If you’re already a believer, soak up the brilliant person of Christ that is imprinted throughout this book. If you’re not a believer, prepare to meet the King of Kings because He wants you to get to know Him.

1:1 – Compare this verse with Genesis 1:1. What similarity do you see? I noticed that both books begin the same way: “In the beginning…” What significance does this similarity indicate to you?

Imagine you’re John. Why did you begin your gospel account this way?

1:3 – Take a look at Colossians 1:16. What did Christ make?

1:6-9 – John the Baptist came to testify to the Light, Jesus, pointing men to Him.

John the Baptist is our first witness for Christ.

1:13 – born –

Not of natural descent –

Nor of human decision –

Or a husband’s will –

Born of God –

1:14 – we are saved by His grace and set free by His truth!

God moved into the neighborhood. (Beth Moore)

Christ is the tabernacle! (A Woman’s Heart – Moore)

1:16-17 – The law was a blessing from God through Moses that was made complete by the grace and truth given by Christ.

1:21 – see Deuteronomy 18, particularly v. 15 for a description of the Prophet.

If John wasn’t the Prophet, who was?

1:24-25 – Who was baptizing? Did the Pharisees believe that only the Christ, Elijah and the Prophet would baptize? Why?

1:30 – “because he was before me” – John is acknowledging Jesus’ deity, His God-hood. If you recall, John was actually born first.

1:31 – Is John saying he didn’t realize that his cousin was the Christ?

1:35-47 – Who pointed you to Jesus? Take a few minutes to thank the Lord for them, then contact them (if you can) to say thank you.

1:35-41 – Andrew and John are the second and third witnesses for Christ.

1:38 – When Jesus asked Andrew and John what they wanted, they asked where He was staying. What a ridiculous reply! Until you read v. 41, which says the first thing Andrew did was run and get Peter. I’m convinced that Andrew asked this question because he wanted to get Peter and meet Jesus where He was staying. So, why did Jesus have Andrew follow Him rather than answer his question? My thought is that the Lord wanted time with Andrew, no shortcuts, no rushed encounters. He wanted Andrew to Himself before Peter joined the group. Each of us is that important to Him.

1:40-42 – See Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:2-11. What similarities exist in these parallel accounts? What additional information do you glean from these passages? What does this tell you about the perspective of the writer, John? How does this knowledge enhance your understanding of the event?

1:43-45 – Philip is the fourth witness for Christ.

1:46-49 – Nathanael is the fifth witness for Christ.

1:47 – When Jesus calls Nathanael “a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false”, He is giving a great compliment. He is saying that Nathanael is a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy! He possesses no deceit or hidden agenda. (When the Good News Gets Even Better – Hayden, p.42)

Some scholars believe that Nathanael was meditating on the story of Jacob, the deceitful birthright thief, adding another dimension to Jesus’ comment about there being nothing false in Nathanael.

Also, some fig trees’ branches grew in weeping fashion to the ground, completely shrouding those sitting underneath them. This is thought to be the sort of tree Nathanael sat under, adding a further mystical quality to Jesus’ statement that He saw Nathanael under the fig tree.

1:51 – Jacob’s ladder. See Genesis 28:12. Jesus is the ladder between heaven and earth. Do you think Jesus used this reference because it was the story that Nathanael was meditating on under the fig tree?

• The book of John is called the “Love Gospel”. How have you seen God’s love at work in this chapter of scripture and how will you apply it to your life this week?
• 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?