Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Passion Redeemed

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Passion Redeemed

Revell (September 1, 2008)


Julie Lessman


No man can resist her charms. Or so she thought. Charity O'Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. Her stunning beauty and flirtatious ways have always succeeded with men. Until Mitch Dennehy, that is.

Brilliant and dangerously handsome, Mitch is a no-nonsense newspaperman who wants nothing to do with her. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won't play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants--one way or another.

Or does she? Will her best-laid schemes win his love? Or will her seductive ways drive him away forever? Book 2 in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed will captivate your heart and stir your soul with a story of faith and redemption rising from the ashes of temptation, desire, and shame.


I enjoyed Julie Lessman's first book, A Passion Most Pure, and I've been looking forward to this second book in the series. Julie did not disappoint me! This book takes readers back and forth between a cottage in Ireland and a family home in Boston, allowing us to feel as if we are part of the O'Connor family. It is very helpful if you have read the first book in the series, but it isn't necessary. I was pleased to find that Julie continues the story of Faith and Collin through this book, too. The book is full of beautiful people, manipulation, spiritual struggles, romance, and true love. Please note that it is a little too racy for young readers!

Charity, the main character, is one of those people who is just too beautiful for her own good, and she knows it. She uses her beauty and sex appeal as a tool to chase after the man she has targeted as her future husband, and she will go to any lengths to get her own way. As the story unfolds she faces the consequences of many situations from her past and present, learning to rely on God and to see herself as God sees her. Charity embodies the selfishness and desire for control that hides inside each of us.

Julie keeps the tension level high throughout this book in many ways. She juxtaposes the physical beauty yet shallowness of Charity with the deep spiritual beauty found (with and without the physical aspect) in her friends and family. Despite the way she acts around men, Charity shows a wonderful ability to love and care for others through her relationships with Emma and Mima. Mitch and Colin provide an insight to the male perspective of beauty and lust and the inner struggle men have to stay pure despite their temptations. Through it all is the everyday struggle we face to be obedient to God while we abandon our misguided attempts to control our own lives.

Through it all are wonderful (and tragic) twists that leave the reader wondering about the outcome until the very last pages of the book. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series!


Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. A Passion Most Pure was her first novel.

Praise for the first book in the series:

"Full of romance, humor, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page." --Historical Novels Review "Superb! Incredible!

"I loved Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure from the second I picked it up until the very last moment I stopped reading." --Armchair Interviews

"I devoured this book and loved every single page. . . . This is a thick, juicy read, and one I would pick up again in a heartbeat."

If you would like to read an excerpt from A Passion Redeemed, go HERE.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wild Goose Chase - Contest!

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his book:

Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God

Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)

A Quick Summary:
Most of us have no idea where we’re going most of the time. Perfect. “Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something….Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.” --from the introduction

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger ( He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590527194
ISBN-13: 978-1590527191

Leave a comment and you will be entered in a drawing for a free copy of the book! Be sure to leave a contact address.


Chapter One

Yawning Angels

Living a Life of Spiritual Adventure

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

The Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit that has always intrigued me.They called Him An Geadh-Glas, or “the Wild Goose.” I love the imagery and implications. The name hints at the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger and an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious at first earshot, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to pursue the Spirit’s leading through life than Wild Goose chase. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something that institutionalized Christianity hasmissed out on. And I wonder if we have clipped the wings of theWild Goose and settled for something less—much less—than what God originally intended for us.

I understand that “wild goose chase” typically refers to a purposeless endeavor without a defined destination. But chasing the Wild Goose is different. The promptings of the Holy Spirit can sometimes seem pretty pointless, but rest assured, God is working His plan. And if you chase theWild Goose, He will take you places
you never could have imagined going by paths you never knew existed.

I don’t know a single Christ follower who hasn’t gotten stressed out over trying to figure out the will of God. We want to solve the mystery of the will of God the way we solve a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. But in my experience, intellectual analysis usually results in spiritual paralysis.

We try to make God fit within the confines of our cerebral cortex. We try to reduce the will of God to the logical limits of our left brain. But the will of God is neither logical nor linear. It is downright confusing and complicated.

A part of us feels as if something is spiritually wrong with us when we experience circumstantial uncertainty. But that is precisely what Jesus promised us when we are born of the Spirit and start following Him.1 Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: adventure.

I think it is only fair that I give aWild Goose warning at the outset of this book: nothing is more unnerving or disorienting than passionately pursuing God. And the sooner we come to terms with that spiritual reality, themore we will enjoy the journey. I cannot, in good conscience, promise safety or certainty. But I can promise that chasing the Wild Goose will be anything but boring!


Not long ago I visited what must be the closest thing to the Garden of Eden left on earth. It almost felt wrong arriving in the Galápagos Islands via airplane. Washing ashore on a bamboo raft would have seemed more apropos.

We spent most of our time island hopping in a boat that didn’t seem large enough for the twelve people on board or the twelve-foot ocean waves we encountered. And sure enough, we discovered that the boat had capsized not long before our visit. That tidbit of information would have been nice to know before we climbed aboard—
but it definitely added an element of adventure.

The entire week was full of new experiences. I went snorkeling for the first time and saw some of God’s amazing underwater creations. Where did He come up with those color schemes? In an unscripted and unforgettable moment, my son Parker and I went swimming with some playful sea lions. And I accomplished one of my life goals by jumping off a forty-foot cliff into a narrow river gorge at Las Grietas.What an adrenaline rush!

The trip consisted of one adventure after another. So the saying in Spanish that we saw on a Sprite can that week seemed fitting, and we adopted it as our mantra: Otro día, otra aventura. Translation: “Another day, another adventure.”

I love those four words inspired by Sprite. They capture the essence of what we experienced day in and day out in the Galápagos. I think those words resonate with one of the deepest longings in the human heart—the longing for adventure. And I’m not sure I could come up with a better description of what it’s like to pursue God. Take theHoly Spirit out of the equation of my life, and it would spell b-o-r-i-n-g. Add Him into the equation of your life, and anything can happen. You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll go, or what you’ll do. All bets are off.

If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you’re following the Spirit but have actually settled for something less—something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God’s purposes, we want Him to serve our purposes. And while this may seem like a subtle distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that leaves us feeling empty, it’s also the difference between spiritual boredom and spiritual adventure.


Situated five hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos chain is one of the most primitive places on the planet.While many of the islands in the forty-nine-island archipelago are inhabited, most of them are absolutely undomesticated. When I was there, I felt as if I were as far from civilization as I could get. It was Edenic.

Somehow I felt a new affinity with Adam in the Galápagos environment. It helped me imagine what life must have been like before the Fall. Scripture tells us that one of the first jobs God gave Adam was naming the animals.2 And we read right past it. But it must have taken years of research and exploration to complete the project. I don’t think God paraded the animals past Adam in a single-file line; I’m guessing God let Adam discover them in their natural habitats. Imagine how thrilling it must have been for Adam to catch his first glimpse of wildebeests stampeding, mountain goats climbing, or rhinos charging.

That’s how I felt when I was in the Galápagos. And it was there that I discovered the difference between seeing a caged animal at a local zoo and getting within arm’s length of a mammoth marine iguana or walking a beach with hundreds of barking sea lions or floating above manta rays as they glide along the ocean floor. It’s one
thing to see a caged bird. It’s an altogether different experience to see a pelican that looks like a prehistoric pterodactyl circling fifty feet above your boat, dive-bombing full speed into the ocean, and coming up with breakfast in its oversize beak.

Few things compare to the thrill of seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. There is something so inspiring about a wild animal doing what it was created to do. Uncivilized. Untamed. Uncaged. So a few weeks after returning from the Galápagos, our family spent an afternoon at the National Zoo near our home in Washington DC. It’s a fantastic zoo. But it just wasn’t the same after the Galápagos. I’m ruined for zoos. It’s not the same seeing a caged animal. It’s too safe. It’s too tame. It’s too predictable.

At one point we were walking through the ape house, and I had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas window at a four-hundred-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.

I love the church. I bleed the church. And I’m not saying that the way the church cages people is intentional. In fact, it may be well intentioned. But too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian.

Deep down inside, all of us long for more. Sure, the tamed part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage. But the untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure. And at some point in our spiritual journey, the safety and predictability of the cage no longer satisfies. We have a primal longing to be uncaged. And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the
cross to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.

Praying for protection is fine. I pray for a hedge of protection around my three children all the time. You probably pray that kind of prayer too. But when was the last time you asked God to make you dangerous?

I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction at the end of our church services, I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy.


Every once in a while, I have random thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Here’s a thought that fired across my synapses not long ago: Do angels yawn?

I know it seems like an inane theological question, but I seriously wonder if angels have the capacity to get bored. More important, I wonder if some of us are living such safe lives that not only are we bored, but so are our guardian angels. If they could, would our guardian angels coax us out of our cage and beg us to give them
something dangerous to do?

In the pages that follow you’ll meet some dangerous people. Mind you, they’re ordinary people. They have doubts and fears and problems just like you and me. But their courage to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ will inspire and challenge you to follow them as they follow the Spirit’s leading. I think of Ana Luisa, who used her award miles to fly to India and sacrificially serve some of the poorest of the poor at a medical clinic. I think of Mike, who started a dangerous ministry in a dangerous place—a porn show in Las Vegas. I think of Adam, whose
sensitivity to the Wild Goose resulted in a life-changing encounter on a mission trip half a world away. And I think of Becky, who made a conscious decision to endanger her own life by becoming part of the crusade against human trafficking.

Since when did it become safe to follow Christ? Maybe it’s time to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ.


The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard believed that boredom is the root of all evil. I second the notion. Boredom isn’t just boring; boredom is wrong. You cannot simultaneously live by faith and be bored. Faith and boredom are antithetical. Against that backdrop, consider the gospel story of the rich young ruler. On paper the rich young ruler had it all: youth, wealth, and power. But something was still missing. The rich young ruler was bored with his faith. And I think it is evidenced by the question he asked Jesus: “What do I still lack?”3

I’ll tell you exactly what he was lacking: spiritual adventure. His life was too easy, too predictable, and too comfortable. He kept all the commandments, but those commandments felt like a religious cage. I think there was a deep-seated longing within him for something more than simply not doing anything wrong.

Listen, not breaking the prohibitive commandments is right and good. But simply not breaking the prohibitive commandments isn’t spiritually satisfying. It leaves us feeling caged. And I honestly think that is where many of us find ourselves.

Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of serving as lead pastor of National Community Church inWashington DC. As with every church, our demography and geography are unique. Seventy percent ofNCCers are single twentysomethings navigating the quarterlife crisis. And most of them live or work on Capitol Hill. So the observation I’m about to share is undoubtedly shaped by the life stage of our congregation and the psyche of our city. But I also think human nature is human nature. And here is what I’ve observed: many, if not most, Christians are bored with their faith.

We know our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We know we will spend eternity with God when we cross the boundary of the spacetime continuum. And we are trying our best to live our lives within the guardrails of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. But still we have a gnawing feeling that something is missing.

I think the rich young ruler is representative of a generation that longs to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ. But too many among us end up settling for spiritual mediocrity instead of striving for spiritual maturity. Jesus speaks to that deep-seated longing for adventure by challenging us to come out of the cage. But coming out of the cage means giving up the very thing in which we find our security and identity outside of Christ.

In the case of the rich young ruler, his cage was financial security. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”4

A part of us feels bad for the rich young ruler, right? How could Jesus demand so much? He asked him to give up everything he had! But we fail to appreciate the offer Jesus put on the table.

I live in the internship capital of the world. Every summer tens of thousands of young adults make the pilgrimage to DC to try and land the right internship with the right person because they know it can open the right door. It’s amazing how many members of Congress were once congressional pages and how many Supreme Court justices were once Supreme Court clerks.

I don’t care how much this rich young ruler had to give up—Jesus offered him so much more. This was the opportunity of a lifetime: an internship with none other than the Son of God. Come on, that’s got to look good on your résumé! You can’t put a price tag on that kind of experience. But the rich young ruler turned it down. He opted for the cage. And he made the mistake so many of us make: he chose an accessorized life over a life of adventure, over a life of chasing theWild Goose.

Now juxtapose the rich young ruler with the twelve undomesticated disciples who accepted the unpaid internship. They heard the parables with their own two ears. They drank the water Jesus turned into wine. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish. And they were there when Jesus turned the temple upside down, walked on water, and ascended into heaven.

In a day when the average person never traveled outside a thirtyfive-mile radius of his home, Jesus sent His disciples to the four corners of the ancient world. These ordinary fishermen, who otherwise would have lived and died within sight of the Sea of Galilee, were sent to the ends of the earth as they knew it. What a Wild Goose chase! According to the third-century historian Eusebius, Peter sailed to Italy, John ended up in Asia, James the son of Zebedee traveled as far as Spain, and even doubting Thomas chased the Wild Goose all the way to India.

Just like the rich young ruler, we have a choice to make. The same offer is extended.We can stay in our cage, end up with everything, and realize it amounts to nothing. Or we can come out of our cage and chase theWild Goose.


In the prequel to this book, In a Pit with a Lion on a SnowyDay, I retell the story of an ancient warrior named Benaiah to show how God wants us to chase the five-hundred-pound opportunities that come across our path. And I cite the aphorism “no guts, no glory.” When we lack the guts to step out in faith, we rob God of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.5 In Wild Goose Chase, I want to take it a step further and show you how all of life becomes a grand adventure when we chase the trackless, matchless Goose of heaven.We’ll retrace the steps of sixWild Goose chasers who come right out of the pages of Scripture. And my hope is that their footprints will guide us as we chase theWild Goose. But before the chase begins, I do want to offer one simple reminder.This book is aboutmore than you andme experiencing spiritual adventure. In fact, this book is not about you at all.

It’s a book about the Author and Perfecter of our faith,6 who wants to write His-story through your life. And if you read through Scripture, you’ll discover that His favorite genre is action-adventure.

Sure, you can choose the safety and predictability of the cage, forfeiting the adventure God has destined for you. But you won’t be the only one missing out or losing out. When you lack the courage to chase the Wild Goose, the opportunity costs are staggering. Who might not hear about the love of God if you don’t seize the opportunity to tell them? Who might be stuck in poverty, stuck in ignorance, stuck in pain if you’re not there to help free them? Where might the advance of God’s kingdom in the world stall out because you weren’t there on the front lines?

Jesus’ disciples didn’t just live an exciting life post-Pentecost; they turned the world upside down.7 And that’s what you can be a part of too. Wild Goose Chase is an invitation to be part of something that is bigger than you and more important than you.

Are you in?

In the pages that follow I will identify six cages that keep us from roaming free with theWild Goose and living the spiritual adventure God destined us to. I’m not sure which cages you may find yourself in. But the good news is this: you are only one Wild Goose chase away from the spiritual adventure God has destined for you.

The first cage is the cage of responsibility. Over the course of our lifetime, God-ordained passions tend to get buried beneath day-today responsibilities. Less important responsibilities displace more important ones. And our responsibilities become spiritual excuses that keep us from the adventure God has destined for us. Without even knowing it, we begin to practice what I call irresponsible responsibility. The Wild Goose chase begins when we come to terms with our greatest responsibility: pursuing the passions God has put in our heart.

The second cage, the cage of routine, is almost as subtle as the first. At some point in our spiritual journey, most of us trade adventure for routine. There is nothing wrong with a good routine. In fact, the key to spiritual growth is developing healthy and holy routines known as spiritual disciplines. But once a routine becomes routine, we need to disrupt the routine. Otherwise, sacred routines become empty rituals that keep us caged.

The third cage is the cage of assumptions. Our assumptions keep many of us from chasing theWild Goose. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m underqualified. I’m overqualified. It’s too late. It’s too soon. And the list goes on. As we age, many of us stop believing and start assuming. We stop living out of right-brain imagination and start living out of left-brain memory. And we put eight-foot ceilings on what God can do.

The fourth cage is the cage of guilt. The Enemy’s tactics haven’t changed since the Garden of Eden. He tries to neutralize us spiritually by getting us to focus on what we’ve done wrong in the past. Satan uses guilt to turn us into reactionaries. Jesus came to recondition our spiritual reflexes with His grace and turn us into revolu- tionaries for His cause. As long as you are focused on what you’ve done wrong in the past, you won’t have energy left to dream kingdom dreams.

The fifth cage is the cage of failure. And, ironically, this is where manyWild Goose chases begin.Why? Because sometimes our plans have to fail in order for God’s plans to succeed. Divine detours and divine delays are the ways God gets us where He wants us to go. And the sixth and final cage is the cage of fear. We need to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Instead, we need to start playing offense with our lives. The world needs more daring people with daring plans.Why not you?

I want you to know that before you decided to read this book I started praying for you. I prayed that Wild Goose Chase would get into the right hands at the right time. So I hope this book is more than a casual read for you. It’s a divine appointment waiting to happen. And I believe one chapter, one paragraph, or one sentence can change the trajectory of your life.

Let the chase begin.


O What’s your reaction to the ancient Celtic description of God as the “Wild Goose”—untamed, unpredictable, flying free?

O How have you been living “inverted Christianity,” trying to get God to serve your purposes instead of you serving His purposes?

O Right now, where are you on this spectrum?

O How does the call to spiritual adventure strike you? What is it inside you that resonates with that call?

O Of the six cages described at the end of the chapter, which do you think might apply to you the most and why?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Two More Delightful Children's Books

God Loves Me More Than That
When God Created My Toes
by Dandi Daley Mckall
illustrated by David Hohn

Summary: In two new books from best-selling children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall, clever rhymes and delightful illustrations help young children, ages three and up, understand God’s huge love for them and his joy in creating them. These enchanting picture books from the writer-illustrator team of Dandi Mackall and David Hohn will instill awe in young children as they revel in each page. Parents alike will appreciate the engaging stories that communicate God’s perfect plan and his divine purpose for little hearts.
In God Loves Me More Than That, children learn that God loves them deeper than a wishing well, wider than a semi-truck, louder than thunder, and softer than a kitten’s sneeze. Each question, presented with charming child-like faith will help young ones grasp the great love of God through comparisons and descriptions they can easily understand. In short, they’ll discover that His love is bigger, wider, higher, and deeper than anything they could imagine!

In When God Made My Toes, kids are drawn into the wonder of their creation by God. Their masterful artist who fashioned them just right for amazing and delightful adventures, such as roller skating, finger-painting, doing flips, and drinking cocoa. Children will come to an understanding that God shaped each part of their amazing bodies with joy, delight, and humor.

Author Bio: Dandi Daley Mackall has published more than 400 books for children and adults, with more than 3 million combined copies sold. She is the author of WaterBrook’s two other delightful Dandilion Rhymes books, A Gaggle of Geese & A Clutter of Cats and The Blanket Show. A popular keynote speaker at conferences and Young Author events, Mackall lives in rural Ohio with her husband, three children, and a menagerie of horses, dogs, and cats.

Illustrator Bio: David Hohn is an award-winning illustrator who graduated with honors from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has worked as both a staff artist and an art director for a children’s software company in Portland , Oregon , a position which led to his art directing an award-winning project for Fisher-Price. Hohn’s recent projects include Lisa Tawn Bergren’s God Gave Us Christmas.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beach Dreams

Beach Dreams
Trish Perry

What better book to read in the summer than something with 'beach' in the title? This title takes me right back to the beach we left just a couple of weeks ago -- I could sit and stare at the water forever. The hugeness of the ocean, the crash of the waves, and the children intent on building their sandcastles cause me to think about my life: what I've done, what I should have done, and where I am at the moment. A few hours at the beach always leave me at peace with God and enthusiastic about where he might want me to go in this life.

Beach Dreams examines how God uses mistakes to bring about his divine purposes. Trish is hosting a contest on her blog so we can share our own mistakes (and she shares one of hers in the interview, below).

Write your response to the writing prompt: How has God used a mistake you made - big or small - for his purposes?The example may be serious or funny, complex or simple, and you may or may not have realized he was even using it at the time it occurred. Post your answer on your own blog, or go to the blog tour site.

I have made more than my share of mistakes, and God has somehow used almost all of them for good, although often I didn't realize it for many years. Many of them related to jobs that I took or choices I made while in college.

One of my biggest mistakes, as a Christian on a prodigal journey, was to make fun of and relentlessly challenge Christians. But in most cases, four that I can remember in great detail, the people were amazingly patient with me by explaining the reasons for their choices and by not pushing me or making me feel stupid for my choices. I can't even remember the names of those people (or I would apologize profusely), but each planted seeds that later resulted in my returning to the love of Christ and provided examples for how I can patiently deal with the questions and irreverence of others.

Be sure to write your story! All those who tell of God's wisdom in using our mistakes and who link back to the blog tour spot will be entered into a contest for a cute little beach tote, a signed copy of Beach Dreams, a beautiful necklace (read the book to understand why!), and a few other fun beachy surprises.

About the Book:

Following up on Sally John’s bestselling Beach House series (The Beach House and Castles in the Sand—nearly 45,000 in combined sales) is a brand-new Beach House book from veteran Harvest House novelist Trish Perry.
Tiffany LeBoeuf recently lost her mother to cancer. Still grieving, Tiffany seeks rest for her body and soul at a cozy beach house in San Diego. A scheduling mix-up causes a double booking, and Tiffany ends up sharing the house with a woman named Eve. When Eve’s boyfriend, Jeremy, arrives to surprise Eve, Tiffany is surprised as well. He settles in at the beach house next door, and what happens after that surprises them all.
A fun, contemporary romance about how God uses even our mistakes to bring about His divine purposes. Beach Dreams is the perfect get-away read.

About the Author:

Trish Perry is an award-winning writer of The Guy I’m Not Dating and Too Good to Be True. She served for seven years as the editor of Ink and the Spirit, a quarterly newsletter of the Capital Christian Writers organization in the Washington DC area. She has published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media, and she is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group. Trish lives in Northern Virginia with her son, and has a gorgeous adult daughter and an amazing grandson. You can learn more about Trish at her website,
Beach Dreams:Release: July 1, 2008Soft cover, 325 pp., $12.99, 5 ½” x 8 ½ ”Fiction–Contemporary, ChristianISBN: 978-0-7369-2446-7

An Interview With Trish:
Where did you get the idea for the book? I wanted very much to write a book about Jeremy and Tiffany, who were secondary characters in my first two books (The Guy I’m Not Dating and Too Good to Be True). I started to write the third book with the same setting as my first two, but then Harvest House asked if I would move the setting to fit The Beach House Series, the first two books of which were written by Sally John. So I started over and made my east coast protagonists travel across country to sunny San Diego. It was fun to create that facet of their story—it added quite a few layers to the plot. In fact, the circumstances of their getting together was completely different than what I originally planned.

What are the major themes of the book? The importance of seeking God’s guidance constantly surfaces in my stories—the different circumstances that drive my themes usually fit under that umbrella.
Situations aren’t always as they appear, for example, and we can be fooled or we can misjudge others if we don’t constantly seek God’s wisdom and guidance. And sometimes we can miss out on His blessings if we fail to see situations as He means us to.
Another theme that emerged was how difficult it can be when a believer is drawn romantically to a nonbeliever. I’ve touched on the subject before, but in Beach Dreams, the nonbeliever is someone who feels almost real to me (and many readers) at this point. I feel a renewed empathy for Christians in these circumstances. Again, God’s guidance and strength are so important.With which character do you identify the most and why?Certainly Tiff. I’ve never deliberately been mean, as Tiff was in my first two books, but I identified with her in Beach Dreams. She struggles continually to shrug off her less-than-Christian thoughts and desires, and that’s a constant in my life. Christ gave us a beautiful, one-line prayer in Gethsemane: “Yet not as I will but as You will.” Wow, that’s my daily battle—trying to surrender to His will. And I saw that in Tiffany.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book? I relied on Sally’s first two books for the specific setting (since all of The Beach House Series books are set at the same beach house, with different characters). And, since I’ve never been to San Diego, I spent a great deal of time researching the various places available to tourists and residents of the area.
I also researched Bristol, England and Kings College, London, because both sites figure in Jeremy’s background, and his father visits from Bristol.
Certainly the research tasks were simple compared to those required for historical writing, and for that I’m grateful!

Was it difficult to write a book in a series, following someone else? It was a new challenge, but Harvest House was clear with me that I had significant leeway in my approach. We didn’t want the book to disappoint Sally John’s readers by being wildly different from her style, but we also wanted to maintain a style my readers had come to expect. I think we accomplished a happy medium.

Why did you decide to bring back characters from your previous books? There was such an unfinished feel for me with regard to Jeremy by the time I finished my first draft of Too Good to Be True. He had become so lovable, but he was still alone and spiritually lost. Both my editor and I hoped there would be an opportunity to do a third novel, with Jeremy and someone falling in love and Jeremy getting a clue about Christ. Because Tiffany had been such a pain in The Guy I’m Not Dating and for much of Too Good to Be True, it was fun showing how God could reach even her. So her development became intriguing to me, too. Surprisingly, I received requests from many readers to throw these two characters together. I’m not such a unique thinker after all!

What is a mistake - big or small - that you’ve made that you could later see God used for a specific purpose and how did he use it? I was deeply into adulthood when I went back to school to earn a degree. Rather than fretting over having waited so long, I focused on the fact that now I knew what I really wanted to be. A psychological therapist. You couldn’t have found a more attentive, diligent student, and I did well. So, when I neared graduation and realized I had developed an overwhelming desire to write fiction, I freaked out just a little. How could I switch gears yet again? Had I just wasted years earning a degree I wasn’t going to actually use? That felt like a huge mistake.
But God knew what He was doing. If you want to do an in-depth study of character goals, motivation, and conflict, you go on out there and earn a degree in Psychology. I may not be too quick in the plotting and scene-setting departments, but my psychological training comes in handy when creating characters and walking with them through life. I think that’s why God led me to get that degree, and now I know I didn’t waste a moment learning what I did.

Read a Sample:
Download a sample.

Buy the book!

Monday, August 18, 2008

God Gave Us Heaven

God Gave Us Heaven
Lisa Tawn Bergren
illustrated by
Laura J. Bryant

This is an adorable little book that reminds me of my second daughter, Rebecca. She was SO full of questions that some days my ears would be tired by 10:00! The artwork is beautiful and compelling, and Lisa Tawn Bergren answers many of a child's questions about Heaven.

About the book:
Little Cub awakens one morning with some important questions on her mind: What is heaven like? How do we get there? Will we eat in heaven? Will we be angels?
During a delightful day spent wandering their arctic world, Papa gently answers each question, assuring Little Cub that heaven is a wonderful place, “a million times better” than she can imagine. He explains how God has made a way for those who love him to enter their heavenly home forever after their lives on earth are over.
Reuniting the best-selling author-illustrator team from God Gave Us You, this gentle story provides satisfying answers for a young child’s most difficult questions about heaven. Parents, grandparents, childcare professionals, librarians, Sunday school teachers, and others will appreciate the gentle approach to a topic that’s on the minds of so many “little cubs.”
Through captivating, full-color illustrations and tender, biblically sound storytelling, young readers and those who love them will find reasons to rejoice in knowing that God Gave Us Heaven.

Author Bio:
Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than one million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Heaven is Lisa’s fourth children’s book, following in the tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She makes her home in Colorado , with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

Illustrator Bio:
Laura J. Bryant studied painting, printmaking, and sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore . She has illustrated numerous award-winning children’s books, including God Gave Us You, Smudge Bunny, and If You Were My Baby. Laura lives in Asheville , North Carolina .

To buy this book, go here to get to Amazon.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Finding Stephanie -- And A Contest!


This is the third book in Susan May Warren's Noble Legacy series. While it would be helpful to read the first two books (Reclaiming Nick and Taming Rafe), it isn't necessary. Like the other books, this one is so much more than you might expect by looking at the cover. Don't think this is just another light-hearted chick lit book! Susan develops complex characters who deal with real life issues. She weaves romance, intrigue, and social issues in such a way that I find myself praying for the characters! This book is enjoyable to read and it keeps you locked in your seat until you are finished...definitely NOT the book to read if you are having trouble sleeping and you want something to help you nod off!

Susan is a prolific writer (several of her books have been reviewed here), and she's become one of my favorites. Check this book out! Read through the bottom of this post to find info on a fun contest, too.

About the book: When she put her dreams on hold to help run the family ranch, she never imagined they would slip out of sight. Luckily for Stefanie, those dreams are about to come knocking at her door.
Lincoln Cash has gained fame and fortune on the big screen, but a crippling secret leaves him one last chance to make his mark on the movie industry. With dreams of hosting a new film festival, Lincoln intends to remodel a sprawling ranch in eastern Montana to make it the new Hollywood hot spot.
Unfortunately, a house fire threatens his plans. So does opposition from his new neighbor Stefanie Noble, who's not thrilled about his Tinseltown changes. What Lincoln and Stefanie don't know is that the fire won't be the last disaster to threaten Lincoln or his future. Someone is out for revenge... but who? And who is the real target?
Read an excerpt:

About Susan: Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia , was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia , Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota .

Link to buy the book:

Link to Susan’s website:

Link for blog tour schedule:

Contest: Grab your magnifying glass and join me on a Fact-o-Find!
Answer these questions about the bloggers on the tour and be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to the movie theater of your choice (you know so you can see some of Cash's great movies *G*)! Email your answers to Ready, get set, giddy-up!

1. Which blogger is adopting a girl from China ?
2. This word 'featherbunkle' is found on which blog?
3. Which blogger is supporting the 'Pickens Plan'?
4. Which blog is "The Cutest Blog on the Block"?
5. Which blogger is a S@HM and also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, nursery director, and woman that is just trying to keep it all together?
6. Which blogger is taking the Southern Reading Challenge?
7. Which blog asks 'How may we serve you'?
8. Which blogger refers to her son as 'super good big guy'?
9. Which blogger is a self-proclaimed 'Starbucks Addict'?
10. Which blogger is a big Trekkie?

Martha at Our Family’s Adventures

Trish at Books for Moms

Sunny at Life in the Estrogen Ocean

Deborah at A Cup of Joy

Julie at Waves of Grace

Camy at Camy’s Loft

Amy at Amy’s Random Thoughts

Gina at Portrait of a Writer

Lena a Christian Writer’s World

Leticia at My Daily Trek

Laura at Lighthouse Academy

Melissa at Breath of Life

Lori at Laurel Wreath’s

Ronie at Supernatural Craving

Erica at On the Right Path

Deborah at Books, Movies, and Chinese Food

Heather at Fresh Sweet Peas

Christy at Christy’s Book Blog

Beth at The Writing Road

Cee Cee at Book Splurge

Kate at A Simple Walk

Dineen at Kittens Come From Eggs

Joy at Five J's

Paula at Grace Reign

Rel at Relz Reviewz

Deena at A Peek At My Bookshelf

Patty at Girlfriends in God

Peg at Sips & Cups Cafeteria

Cara at Cara’s Musings

Pattie at Fresh Brewed Writer

Amy at My Friend Amy

AnnMarie at More Than Just A Mom

Janis at The Nearsighted Bookworm

Kelli at The Zen of Motherhood

Teresa at Joy In the Journey

Lynetta at Open Book

Betsy at Betsy Ann…Writer At Large

Susan at His Reading List

Tiffany at A Fiction Filled Life

Pamela at Pammer’s Ramblins

Lauren at Baseballs and Bows

Brittanie at A book Lover Forever

I'm Not Crazy, But I Might Be a Carrier

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)


Charles Marshall began his career onstage as a singer/songwriter. When his singing voice gave out, he turned to stand-up comedy and was much more successful. He is now a nationally syndicated Christian humor columnist and has contributed to Focus on the Family magazine. He is the author of Shattering the Glass Slipper: Destroying Fairy Tale Thinking Before It Destroys You and has filmed two stand-up comedy videos, I'm Just Sayin' and Fully Animated.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 082543419X
ISBN-13: 978-0825434198


Chapter 1 Going to the Dogs

My wife and I have been thinking about getting a dog, lately, and discussing what type we might get. For me, there is really only one possibility—and that, of course, is a real dog.

For the uninitiated, there are three basic types of dogs:

1] Real dogs. These are dogs as God originally made them—monstrous, made-for-the-outdoors hunting machines that are perfect for intimidating neighbors and attracting lawsuits.

The ownership rule for guys and dogs is simple: the bigger the dog, the cooler you look. Walk down the street with a Pekingese and you might as well be wearing a tutu.

When you observe a man walking down the street with a massive real-dog, his message to you is clear. “Yes, I’m overcompensating for my insecurities and lack of masculinity but I’ve got a really big dog.”

Now that’s the kind of attitude I can get behind.

2] Mutant rat-dogs, otherwise known as Chihuahuas. These poor creatures are the unintentional result of secret experiments conducted by the Mexican army in a failed attempt to create the ultimate weapon by cross-breeding bats and Great Danes. The only surviving result of these experiments is a group of nervous, angry little rat-dogs that decided to take their revenge on humanity by being annoying on just about every level known to mankind.

If you are approached by one of these aberrations of nature, know that it despises you with a hatred rarely seen outside the Middle East, and that it won’t hesitate to tear your ankles to shreds. These dogs are the piranhas of the canine world and would nuke

mankind tomorrow if they thought they could get away with it. Under no circumstance should one of these animals be allowed to run for public office.

3] Kitty-dogs, which is every kind of dog that does not fall into one of the first two categories. I’m all in favor of this type of dog because, hey, girls have to have dogs, too.

The curse of the kitty-dog is that there are those who take a warped delight in dressing them up like people. Most dogs would rather be subjected to Mexican weapons experiments than go through this type of torture.

I cannot say this in strong enough terms: You should never, ever dress up your dog for any reason whatsoever. Take it from me—even if it were thirty below outside, your dog would rather die with dignity in his own fur coat than live while being seen in a little poochie parka.

If you dress your dog, you need to know two things:

1] The rest of us are making fun of you behind your back.

2] Every day your dog prays for a heaven where he gets to dress you up in humiliating costumes while he and his doggie friends point at you and laugh for all eternity.

If you feel you absolutely must dress an animal, go dress one that at least has a chance of defending itself like a cougar or a wolverine or a Chihuahua.

One of the most amazing things about the three dog types is that for every one of them, there is someone that likes that kind of dog. At this very moment, there are people risking the loss of fingers and eyes while they stroke their vicious little rat-dogs, all for the sake of love.

That’s a mysterious kind of love, isn’t it—the kind that embraces the unlovely, that sees through the imperfect and loves without regard?

Let’s face it, the human heart isn’t very attractive either. Every thought we have is consumed with self. If you peel away the layers of even our most noble deeds and acts of kindness, you will find thoughts that circle back to ourselves like homing pigeons. In our hearts, we are all mutant rat-dogs.

And yet God loves us.

In the Bible, you find that same theme of an indefatigable, undefeatable love reaching out to a vicious, ungrateful humanity over and over again. I’ve found it’s a love well worth pursuing.

And so the great dog debate rages in my household, and I think my wife is coming around to my point of view. But, if by chance, you happen to see me in the neighborhood walking a Pekingese that is wearing a teeny hat and sundress, you may safely assume things did not go my way.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

That's (Not Exactly) Amore

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

That's (Not Exactly) Amore

FaithWords (August 14, 2008)


Tracey Bateman

Tracey Bateman published her first novel in 2000 and has been busy ever since. There are two other books in the Drama Queen Series, Catch A Rising Star (#1) and You Had Me At Goodbye (#2)

She learned to write by writing, and improved by listening to critique partners and editors. She has sold over 30 books in six years.
She became a member of American Christian Fiction Writers in the early months of its inception in 2000 and served as president for a year.

Tracey loves Sci-fi, Lifetime movies, and Days of Our Lives (this is out of a 21 year habit of watching, rather than enjoyment of current storylines.

She has been married to her husband Rusty for 18 years, has four kids, and lives in Lebanon, Missouri.


When Laini Sullivan lands a job designing Nick Pantalone's coffee shop, there are two problems: one, Nick's nephew Joe hates all of her ideas and two, Laini has to admit he's right--she's a disaster at design. Still, she can't risk losing the job. To compromise, Joe brings in help on the project, while Laini continues to bake the goodies that keep his customers lining up.
Their relationship is moving along, so when new guy Officer Mark Hall implies that Joe's family is tied to the mob, Laini doesn't want to believe it. But things spin out of control when she meets the family, including "the uncles," who seem to confirm Mark's suspicions. To make things worse, Nana Pantalone makes it clear Laini isn't the kind of girl she has in mind for her grandson. Laini's not sure if she should give Joe the benefit of the doubt or just set her sites on Mark and fuhgetaboutit.

"Tracey draws us into the world of family and friendship with a few surprising twists along the way Bravo!"
~RACHEL HAUCK, author of Diva NashVegas and Sweet Caroline

If you would like to read the first chapter of That's (Not Exactly) Amore, go HERE

Friday, August 8, 2008

All Through The Night

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

All Through The Night

(Bethany House - July 1, 2008)


Davis Bunn


Davis Bunn is an internationally acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in fifteen languages. His audiences span reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include My Soul To Keep, and Full Circle . A sought-after lecturer in the art of writing, Bunn was named Novelist in Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University.

He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write.


A loner, trying to forget. A community--and a woman--who need for him to remember...
Broken relationships and unfulfilled promises scatter themselves across Wayne's past like burned-out craters. His background in military special-ops is something he's trying to forget. But when he gets himself sweet-talked into helping a quirky group of seniors who've been scammed, he discovers it will take a lot more than muscle and nerve. Breach a conman's high-security estate to recover stolen money? No problem. Become part of the community? Love again? Not on your life.

A lawyer with her own painful past is intrigued by Wayne and asks him to take on another unusual case--Tatanya's wealthy employer believes he's been visited angel? Did a messenger from God in a pinstripe suit truly bring a divine warning, or is this merely another cruel hoax? Tatanya is willing to trust Wayne with her boss's life, but she's not sure she's ready to trust him with her own wounded heart.

With a financial analyst's skills and a warrior's tenacity, Wayne races to unmask dangerous forces hiding behind a corporate veil. But he will need all his resources--and then some--against an unseen enemy bent on destroying his fragile bid for a second chance at life...and love.

All he wanted was to put his past behind him. But now it's the only thing that will save them...

If you would like to read the first chapter of All Through The Night, go HERE

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Birth or Rebirth?

Today's Wild Card author is:
Ravi Zacharius

and his book:
New Birth or Rebirth?: Jesus Talks with Krishna
Multnomah Books (June 17, 2008)

Born in India, Ravi Zacharias earned a master of divinity degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School before he began an international speaking ministry as a recognized authority on comparative religions, cults, and philosophy. Zacharias holds three doctoral degrees and is the author of numerous award-winning books, including Can Man Live without God? He also hosts a weekly international radio program called Let My People Think. Zacharias lives with his wife, Margaret, in Atlanta. They have three grown children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (June 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590527259
ISBN-13: 978-1590527252


Excerpt used with permission of Multnomah Books © 2008


Richard: Subra—look out! That car is coming straight at us!

Subramaniam: Relax, my friend. This is how people here drive all the time.

Richard: Ooooh! Here comes another one—watch out! Is that guy drunk or something?

Subra: Just hang on. We will be there shortly.

Richard: I thought this was a divided highway… Where did all these cars come from all of a sudden? There are more coming!

Subra: It is a divided highway. I’m sure that guy is just dropping off workers who live on this side of the village. To drive another several kilometers to turn around is a waste of money and time. You see, in England they drive on the left, in America on the right. But here in India we drive in the shade…or wherever else is convenient.

Richard: I don’t believe it! I simply don’t believe it! This could kill a fellow…

Subra: [Laughing] Now you know why we don’t need a Disneyland in India. Driving provides all the scary rides we could ever want. What were we talking about a few minutes ago anyway?

Richard: Uh…let me unclench my fists first. You were telling me about your background. It’s hard to pray and listen at the same time, but I’ll try. Please carry on with what you were saying…

Subra: Ah yes, now I remember. It was the hardest thing I ever did, Richard—to question what was so deeply ingrained in my family’s faith. Everything in my family was built around our faith. On the most important day of my childhood, it was hard to see my mother absent from the ceremony.

Richard: The most important day of your childhood? I think in such Western terms that I hesitate to even ask what you mean. What day are you talking about? You certainly don’t mean the day you were born.

Subra: Well almost, but not quite. Let me explain…

As you know, society in India is built on the caste system. There are four main castes: Brahmans (priests); Kshatriyas (warriors); Vaisyas (merchants); and Sudras (servants). Beyond these four castes is actually a fifth, the Panchamas, the outcasts.

I was born in the south of India into the highest caste, the Brahmans. But until the defining day I am referring to, I was considered the lowest caste, a Sudra. On this day—a day that is as auspicious as auspicious can be—an initiation ceremony called the Upanayana was performed with the investiture of the sacred thread. It was only at this point that I formally became a Brahman.

Richard: Sacred thread? Why would a piece of string be considered sacred?

Subra: Hmm. This might be tougher than I thought. Let me back up for a moment. How much do you really want to know?

Richard: Well, everything, Subra. How am I ever going to understand Hinduism unless we go deeper?

Subra: Ah, wisely spoken.

You see, Richard, it’s like this: every Brahman longs for a son. We believe that unless there is a son to perform the annual ceremonies in honor of our ancestors, all six previous generations will fall into infernal misery, or hell. That’s what I had always been taught anyway.

So when I was born, my father was very happy. But my mother, like every Hindu woman who gives birth, was considered defiled.

On the eleventh day after my birth, a time of purification began for my mother. She was allowed to bathe for the first time since I was born, and at a formal ceremony I was given a name.

It is a very important ceremony. In it, an object is brought to the ceremony that symbolizes the boy’s future. In my case, it was a silver plate holding some palm leaves. This was to suggest that my life was to be devoted to sacred studies. My mother couldn’t even attend the ceremony because she was considered unclean for another thirty days.

I had been considered impure also until this eleventh day. And it was not until this ceremony that my father could hold or touch me for the first time.

Richard: You know, I’m fascinated by custom and ceremony. Sometimes I think that we in the West have lost out by having so little ceremony and custom in our culture. At the same time, these customs create a lot of questions. But that’s an aside.

You didn’t have a name until you were eleven days old? What did they call you until then? And your mother wasn’t even present at your naming? That seems quite chauvinistic…

Subra: Please, Richard. Let me finish before you jump to conclusions. Few things are ever as straightforward as they first appear.

According to tradition, my name was actually chosen by my aunt, my father’s eldest sister. It had to include the name of a god, and the first letter needed to belong to the constellation under which I was born. The ceremony itself was performed by a priest who had the power to change my name if he felt the astrological charts indicated that he should do so.

Richard: Wow! That’s quite a process.

Subra: Indeed—it’s quite a ceremony. Relatives brought me gifts and sweets, and we had a big celebration.

Richard: Does every family follow that?

Subra: The devout do. Anyway, the ceremony was to commemorate my first birth. Then I had my second birth. Or actually…let me correct that. Really it was considered my first and second birth in this incarnation…

Richard: First and second birth in this incarnation? This conversation is beginning to sound a bit like a Hindu version of the American “Who’s on First?” comedy routine. Hey, there’s a shop up ahead. Let’s stop and have a cup of coffee, Subra.

Subra: Sounds good. [Slowing car down] Would you like American coffee, Richard, South Indian coffee, or masala tea?

Richard: Mmm, it’s hard to decide. You’ve spoiled me here on my visit to your country, Subra. Coffee and tea back home lack imagination unless you’re willing to pay three dollars for something foreign sounding. You know what sounds good is some chai tea—would they have that here?

Subra: Funny you should ask, Richard.

Chai tea is really only a term marketers have chosen to make tea sound fancy. Chai is actually the Hindi word for “tea.” So saying chai tea is like saying tea tea.

Richard: Oh. Well, maybe we should have some masala chai then…I love the spicy taste. And, oh… Let’s have some of that…what do you call that dessert we had awhile back? Pukey?

Subra: [Laughing] Not pukey, Richard! But close. It’s called barfi ! Remember? I can’t tell you exactly why it is named as it is, but it’s delicious—delicately made with milk, sugar, saffron, pistachios, and silver paper.

Richard: Sorry, I tried to remember it by making a word association. Barfi it is, but why don’t they change the name? Barfi just doesn’t sound appetizing.

Subra: You’re right. But think about it, my friend. I could list all the American food that does not sound appetizing to an Indian—hot dogs, chicken fingers, hush puppies.

Richard: Okay, I get your point. Let’s just keep this conversation to names and customs. So back to the second birth of your first incarnation…

Subra: Yes, the second birth of the… You know, Richard, this really is very good pukey… Ah, now you’ve got me saying it! Honestly! So we come to my second birth, called Upanayana, which is really the thread investiture ceremony. It is a very sacred ritual, even more so than the naming ceremony. Indeed, no Brahman can get married without this installation.

Richard: Upanayana, is it? An American would have a hard time even pronouncing that word.

Subra: It’s not easy for a twelve-year-old Indian boy either.

You see, the night before the ceremony, total silence is in effect. The young boy has to be absolutely, totally silent. Have you ever tried to be completely silent for any length of time?

Richard: Not really. But come to think of it, total silence sounds like a good thing for some of the kids I know…

Subra: It was very hard for me. I could not utter a sound.

In the morning my parents took me to a special booth prepared for the occasion. A sacrificial fire was burning on an altar. I was completely clean-shaven—totally bald—which is never fun for a young boy. Then I was bathed. Then they gave me some sweet food to eat—I liked that part just fine—rice, clarified butter (we call it ghee), sugar, milk, and fruit.

Richard: Hmm, butter, sugar, milk—a real cholesterol booster shot.

Subra: It is considered food in its very purest form. My mother ate with me, which is an important point to note because this was the last time I would ever eat with her.

Richard: You mean she died shortly after?

Subra: No, no, no—nothing like that. In my strict orthodox upbringing, I was considered a man from this point on. As such, I would only eat with the men of the family, separate from all women, even my mother.

After we ate, the formal ceremony commenced. A teacher who conducted the ceremony called on the nine planets to be witnesses then questioned me as to my desire to become an initiate.

Once the teacher was satisfied with my answers, he entrusted me to the gods of water, herbs, sky, and earth. Then he prayed to all the gods and demons to protect me from every kind of evil. He then commanded me to walk as a Brahman from then on. That was now my new identity.

Richard: That ceremony sounds amazing! It’s almost like an Indian version of a bar mitzvah, when a Jewish boy officially becomes a “son of the commandment.”

Subra: Yes, it is, isn’t it?

The climax of my ceremony involved a liturgical spell, or prayer, that was whispered by the priest to my father, who whispered it into my right ear. This prayer was so sacred that my right ear, into which it was breathed, was now considered sacred. And whenever I repeated that prayer, I was cleansed from sin. No woman and no low-caste person were ever to hear it. I repeated this mantra to myself every day. I was instructed to do so for the rest of my life.

Richard: So do you still?

Subra: Do I what?

Richard: Do you repeat your mantra every day?

Subra: Oh, Richard… It’s a long story. Yes, I did. For quite some time anyway. But I don’t anymore. But I am ahead of myself in the story. Look, we are finished with our tea. Let’s get back in the car and keep driving. We are almost at Mathura, the holy city. Sometimes I think all of this is too complicated to understand…

Richard: I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how emotional a subject this is to you.

Subra: It is. It has always been, Richard. Hinduism used to be my life. The memories and emotional attachments of Indian family life are very strong. It’s what keeps us together. It’s part of our rich heritage…

[The two fall silent for some time as the car hurtles down the road.]

Subra: Ah…here we are at last in Mathura, Richard. Let me just pay a few rupees to this fellow to keep an eye on the car while we are gone. If we don’t, I fear the hubcaps will be gone by the time we return.

Richard: Stolen hubcaps here? Even in a sacred city—the birthplace of Krishna?

Subra: Yes, and then down the road they will be sold back to us by the fellow’s father. Indians are born capitalists!

Richard: Sounds to me like exploitation. That seems to happen quite a bit in any religious city. Have you ever seen all the haggling that goes on in Rome or Jerusalem?

Subra: Never been there myself. Mathura was always held out to me as the place to be. “Mathura, Mathura, fair Mathura.” Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna, so it is believed.

Before Mathura was regarded as Krishna’s birthplace, it was sacred to the Buddhists also. It was actually a Buddhist monastic center at one time, comprised of twenty Buddhist monasteries and about three thousand monks who resided here. But as Buddhism declined in India, Mathura became a sacred spot to the Hindus.

Richard: You don’t see many traces of Buddhism here today?

Subra: Funny you should ask. Courtesy of an Afghan warlord, most all of the Buddhist and Hindu shrines were leveled sometime around AD 1018. Within the next few centuries, the city was determined to be Krishna’s birthplace, and then the Muslim Mughal Aurangzeb flattened the Hindu temple that had been built here and put up a mosque in its place.

So over the actual birthplace, there is now a mosque. A parcel of ground protruding from the barrier of the mosque is now revered as the spot of Krishna’s birth. It is a situation a little similar to the mosque that exists on the site of the temple in Jerusalem—the only place the Jews have to worship is at the Western Wall of the temple.

And like Jerusalem, this has not been a place of peace. Even now, we will be searched as we enter the main temple. And by the way, there are over five thousand temples in this small city.

Richard: Human nature is the same everywhere, isn’t it? Who are these women here chanting?

Subra: This is a worship center for widows. There are about two thousand widows who come here every day to chant “Hare Ram, Hare Krishna” for four hours each morning and four hours each evening. In exchange, they are given a cup of rice at noon with some lentils and two rupees, which is about five cents, and a cup of rice and lentils at dinner. If they also chant in the evening, they are paid five rupees. Four times a year they are given a change of clothes.

Richard: Sounds like quite a life. Where do these widows live?

Subra: They have a threadbare existence, Richard. But that’s considered their karmic debt being paid. You know about karma, yes? It’s the belief that all of one’s actions in life, both good and bad, determine one’s next rebirth after death. It’s too much to go into in depth right now.

Richard: Yes, I’ve heard of karma before. Hey…what the…? Stop that!

Subra: Watch out, Richard! I warned you not to pull out your sunglasses!

Richard: Holy cow! That monkey just snatched the sunglasses right off my face. Oh, I’m sorry…maybe I shouldn’t have said “holy cow.”

Subra: Well, I suppose this is the right place to say those words. Here’s my handkerchief—the monkey scratched you.

Richard: Any chance of getting my sunglasses back?

Subra: I doubt it. Your glasses are probably on the roof of the temple now. The monkey is looking at his reflection in the lenses. You just have to be careful here. There are monkeys by the hundreds, cows by the thousands, and, as you see, donkeys as well. They all wander freely.

Richard: Monkeys, cows, donkeys—without religion, there would be no businesses here.

Subra: [Laughing] You might be right about that. By the way, the tastiest barfis in the country are also made here. They are called pedas. It is the same basic recipe but just a little bit sweeter and richer. You can’t eat too many—it’s a sure mouthful on the road to diabetes. But I could think of worse ways to go!

Richard: Hmm, sounds inviting, but I think I’ll pass this time.

Back to what we were talking about. How was your religious thinking shaped, Subra? You seem to know so much about Hinduism from an insider’s point of view.

Subra: Richard, it’s hard to tell the whole story. It cost me so much. As you know, my family does not talk to me anymore, and it has been so painful.

When I was in college, I started to question what I had always believed. I asked simple questions at first: Why? Who said so? Where is it written?

But simple questions have a way of leading to much greater things. Religion is so important in our cultural experience—India is the most religious country in the world. And you don’t easily question what everybody around you believes.

Richard: Religion just seems to be everywhere here.

Subra: Yes. In more ways than you might think. We commonly use many words and expressions that come from our religion, seldom asking where they originated.

For example, the word avatar, which means a divine manifestation, is not even used in the Gita, one of the scriptures of Hinduism. Yet the idea of avatar is fondly believed throughout India because of its implications.

An avatar is a bodily manifestation of a higher being, even the supreme being, on planet Earth. The term is primarily used for incarnations of Vishnu, the preserver god, but it’s also used of highly influential teachers in other religions, including Jesus and Mohammed. Oh! I can say so much.

Richard: The Gita? I know I’ve heard of that before. What is it exactly, and how does it differ from the Vedas?

Subra: The Bhagavad Gita, or “Song of God,” is the most sacred book of the Hindus. It’s a long narrative poem, about seven hundred verses, that tells the story of a discussion between Krishna and the warrior Arjuna, who is about to fight his cousins. The flow of the Gita revolves around man’s duty, which if carried out will bring nothing but sorrow. But the poem also offers hope through the way of devotion.

The Vedas, or wisdom books, are the oldest scriptures we possess—they contain everything from teachings to ceremonial instructions in detail. The Vedas are actually a collection of four books. Each book has three parts: mantras, hymns of praise to the gods; Brahmanas, a guide for practicing rituals; and the Upanishads, the most important part, which deals with teaching on religious truth and doctrines.

In a different category to them are the Epics—two major tales of India. The principal one is the Mahabharata, which contains the famed Ramayana, and the Gita. Technically, these are not considered to be on the same philosophical plane as the Vedas, but practically, they are the books most loved by Hindus. It all sounds confusing at first. The Hindu scriptures are voluminous indeed.

Here, let’s sit down awhile in the shade and look at the temple.

Richard: Sounds complicated. I don’t know how you ever keep all the scriptures straight. Hey, did you see that?

Subra: What?

Richard: When that cow wandered into the temple, the pilgrim over there touched it and then touched his own forehead and his heart.

Subra: That practice comes right out of the Gita. From early times, the Hindus have revered cows because of their alleged great power. There’s also a verse in the Atharva Veda that identifies the cow with the entire visible universe:

Worship, O Cow, to thy tail-hair, and to thy hooves, and to thy form!… The Cow is Heaven, the Cow is Earth, the Cow is Vishnu, Lord of Life.

Anyhow, let me continue with my story. When I started to question what I had been taught, I decided to leave home. I had no money and no place to go, so I wandered for days and weeks, finally ending up in front of a cave.

I couldn’t see anything inside the cave—it was all dark and shadowy—but as I began to walk into the cave I could feel a presence there. I walked farther and farther. Some time later I was shocked to stumble upon an emaciated swami, a mystic clad in a saffron robe, sitting in silence.

The swami had taken a vow of silence and had been there a long time. There was just enough light to see that his eyes were shut. He was reflecting. Seeing him there turned my heart toward the ultimate questions as nothing else had.

Richard: How did the swami survive inside the cave?

Subra: Barely. Every now and then the villagers who lived nearby brought him meager rations.

I stayed with the swami for several weeks, and we developed a close relationship. I kept his living quarters clean and spent many hours with him just sitting and meditating.

Finally, for my sake, he wrote a few brief words, telling me that I must leave him and that I would find the answers I was seeking elsewhere. I was devastated, but he was leaving to go on a trip himself, so I couldn’t stay with him.

Weeks later I returned to the cave, still seeking spiritual illumination, and I heard a voice in the night—but it wasn’t the swami’s voice this time.

The voice was clear and calm, breathtaking and true. It said simply, “Follow me.” I heard it, Richard. I really heard it.

I didn’t know exactly where to go after that, but somehow I knew that the same voice that spoke to me there in the cave would guide me along my way.

I left the cave and met a man walking down the road who shared with me the strange and beautiful story of a babe born in a straw manger. The babe was the incarnation of the true God and had come to connect us to the true Supreme Being.

It was the first time I had ever heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had always been taught that there is no such thing as sin against a holy God. I always thought that acts of wrongdoing were mainly a result of ignorance and that these evils could be overcome by following the guidelines of one’s caste and way of salvation.

But there on the road I saw my sin as a real act of rebellion against a perfect and holy God. And, surprisingly, I discovered who it was I was searching for—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. My life…has never been the same.

Richard: And your family?

Subra: They would have nothing to do with me after that. Neither would my community.

Richard: I’m so sorry for you.

Subra: Converting to another belief system is never easy—even when you convert to the truth. With my new faith, I had a deep and lasting joy I had never known before, but I was also troubled for my family and country—so many who had grown up believing exactly as I had believed.

I sometimes imagined what it would be like for Jesus to simply sit down with Krishna so they could hash it all out between them. Others would hear of the conversation and decide for themselves where truth lay.

It wouldn’t be that far-fetched, you know. What I heard in the cave was a real voice. If Jesus has a voice, perhaps the historic Krishna has a voice also.

Perhaps if I leaned hard enough—you know, leaned into the curtain behind time—I could hear what Jesus and Krishna would say to each other.

Can you imagine that, Richard—Jesus and Krishna talking? What would each say to the other?

The image of these two great figures deep in conversation stayed with me for some time. I could not shake the picture no matter how hard I tried.

So one day I gave in. I sat down in a cow pasture and leaned in.

Richard: You “leaned in”?

Subra: As I sat in the pasture and closed my eyes, it was like a new world became visible to me. Suddenly I could see things I had never seen before.

In the distance I saw a few saffron robes hanging from a tree and two figures standing in shadows talking. It was noon, already very hot and humid for the day—one of those steamy days you encounter only in India.

As I strained to glimpse the men’s faces, their identities became apparent. It was Jesus, clothed in a white robe, with sandaled feet and scars on his hands; and Krishna, the youthful prince with his ever-present flute. Can you see them, Richard, in your own mind’s eye?

Let me tell you in detail about the conversation. Listen! I strained to hear what was being said…