Friday, September 26, 2008

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 her book:

Sunset (Sunrise Series-Baxter 3, Book 4)

Tyndale House Publishers (September 23, 2008)


Karen Kingsbury is currently America's best-selling inspirational author. She has written more than 30 of her Life-Changing Fiction titles and has nearly 5 million books in print. Dubbed by Time magazine as the Queen of Christian Fiction. Her fiction has made her one of the country's favorite storytellers, and one of her novels-Gideon's Gift-is under production for an upcoming major motion picture release. Her emotionally gripping titles include the popular Redemption series, the Firstborn series, Divine, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, Oceans Apart, and A Thousand Tomorrows.Karen and her husband, Don, live in the Pacific Northwest and are parents to one girl and five boys, including three adopted from Haiti.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (September 23, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0842387587

ISBN-13: 978-0842387583


John Baxter had dreaded this day with everything in him, but the knock at the door told him the time had come. It was the last Tuesday in January, Christmas far behind them and long past time to take this step. He’d made the decision more than a year ago, and now he needed to carry through with it.

“Coming . . .” He walked from the kitchen to the front door and opened it.

“John.” Verne Pick nodded. He was a friend from church whose kids were involved with CKT, and he had a reputation for being one of the best, most thorough Realtors in Bloomington. His expression told John that he knew this was going to be a rough day. “You ready?”

He steeled himself. “I am.” He opened the heavy wooden door and welcomed the man inside. “Let’s move to the kitchen table.” John had brewed a pot of coffee, and he poured cups for both of them.

They made small talk, and after a few minutes, Verne pulled a folder from his briefcase. “We have a standard questionnaire we need to deal with first.”

John blinked, and a memory came over him. When Elizabeth died, it had taken every bit of his strength to walk through the planning of her service. But he remembered this one detail: The young woman from the funeral home who helped him with the process had presented every question couched in concern, as if she wanted to apologize for each step of the ordeal. That’s exactly how Verne was now, his brow raised as he waited for a response.

John motioned to the two closest chairs. “Let’s get the questions out of the way.”

“Okay.” Verne opened the folder and took out the document on top. He drew a long breath. “I guess we better talk about the fire first. It’s bound to come up.”

“Right. Just a minute.” John went to the next room and found a folder on the desk. He brought it back and set it on the table in front of his friend. “The garage has been completely redone, and all the repair work was signed off. Everything’s in the folder.”

“Good.” Verne lifted his chin and sniffed a few times. “No smell of smoke?”

“Not at all.”

“The place is really something.” Verne’s smile was tentative. “Should have it sold by summer, I’m guessing.”

“Yes.” A bittersweet sense of pride welled in John’s chest. “It’s a great house. Held up well through the years even with the fire.”

Verne settled in over the paperwork. “I’ve got some of this filled out already. Let’s do the basics first.” He lifted his gaze, pen poised over the top sheet. “Number of bedrooms?”

John pictured them the way they’d looked twenty years ago. He and Elizabeth in the large room at one side of the house upstairs. Brooke and Kari across from each other at the south end of the hall, Luke in the next bedroom on the left, and Ashley and Erin sharing a room at the north end. He pushed away the memory. “Five.” He took a quick sip of coffee. “Five bedrooms.”

The interview wore on, each question stirring another set of memories and reasons why he couldn’t believe he was selling the place. When they reached the end of the document, Verne bit his lower lip. “The tour comes next. I need to measure each room, get an official square footage.”

“The tour?” John looked toward the stove, and he could almost see Elizabeth standing near the kettle. “John’ll give you the tour,” she would say when company came over. “He’s so proud of the place—I like to let him do it.”

“Sure.” John gave his friend a smile. “Let’s start in the living room.”

They worked their way from one part of the house to the next, and as they went, Verne pulled out his measuring tape and captured the length of the walls.

John remained quiet. He wasn’t seeing his friend taking matter-of-fact measurements of the house he so loved. He was seeing Elizabeth, rocking their babies, Ashley learning to walk, Brooke bringing in a bird with a broken wing, and Kari screaming because she thought it might attack her. He could hear the piano, filling the house with hour after hour of not-quite-perfect songs during the years when the kids took lessons, and he could see the grandkids gathered around their tree each Christmas.

Whatever the square footage of the house, it couldn’t possibly measure what these walls had seen or the memories housed here.

They finished the final room, and Verne closed the folder. “Well, that’s about it. Just one more thing and I can get back to the office and list it.” He walked toward the front of the house. “I’ll get what I need from the car.”

John followed him into the entryway, and when he was alone, he slumped against the doorframe. For a heartbeat, he felt like he was no longer attached to his body. What was he doing, selling the house? Certainly one of his kids should’ve wanted it, right? He had six of them in the area, after all. But John had already asked each of them. Brooke and Peter liked the house they lived in because it was easy for Hayley and comfortable. “We have our own memories here,” Brooke had told him. “The Baxter place would be much too big for us.”

Kari had felt the same way about having her own memories. Ryan had designed the log house they lived in, and it had a sort of rugged lodge feel both Kari and Ryan loved.

Ashley had been a possibility at first. She had told him a number of times that she would love to raise the boys here, where she’d grown up. But she wasn’t painting enough to bring in regular money, and the mortgage on the house would be far beyond what Landon could afford, especially with their growing boys.

Once John had even considered calling Dayne, because it would’ve been nothing for him to loan Ashley and Landon the money—maybe at a lower rate or for a longer period of time.

But Ashley had begged him not to. “I don’t want Dayne to think of us like that, using him for his money.”

John could’ve argued with her, but there was no point, really. Ashley was right; the situation would have been awkward.

As for his other kids, Luke and Reagan needed to be close to Indianapolis for Luke’s job, and things were still very shaky between them. They’d found a nearby church, and John was encouraging them to get counseling at a local center. There was no way they’d be interested in moving again.

Last there were Erin and Sam. At first, when Erin called to announce that they were moving back to Indiana, John thought he had his answer, a way to keep the house in the family. But Sam worked long days, and Erin was busy with the kids. Upkeep on a house with acreage was more than they were willing to take on even for the sake of nostalgia. So they were out.

John wandered into the front room and peered through the window at Verne out front. Way down at the end of his driveway, his friend had taken a large For Sale sign from the back of his car. John’s heart swelled with frustration and futility as he watched Verne position the sign not far from the road. The Baxter house . . . for sale. John gritted his teeth and looked away. This was where he’d wanted to live out the rest of his days, so maybe he was wrong. Maybe this was all a mistake. He looked out the window again and narrowed his eyes.

No, there was no mistake in what he was doing. Living in this house into his twilight years meant sharing it with Elizabeth, and since she wasn’t here, the house could go. It had to. He and Elaine Denning were moving ahead with their plans to marry, and they needed a new place to begin their life together and—

The echo of a mallet against a stake resonated deep within him. It was barely loud enough to hear, but John knew the sound. He took a few steps closer to the window as Verne hammered the sign into the ground.

Why, God? Isn’t there some way to save the place?

In response there was only the sound of another blow, another strike of the mallet.

John winced as Verne finished the job. Yes, his years in the Baxter house were over. The time had come to move on, and with God’s help that’s what John would do. He gripped the windowsill and breathed in deeply the familiar smell of his home. He would survive letting go of this place, because he had no other choice.

Even if it all but killed him to say good-bye.


Ashley Baxter Blake flung open the bathroom window, braced herself against the sink, and stared at the mirror. Her hands trembled and her heart raced as she glanced at the clock on the bathroom counter—9:31 a.m. Okay, here goes. . . . She marked the second hand and stared at the mirror again. The next minute was bound to drag, and Ashley couldn’t make it go faster by watching the clock.

How could she have lied to herself for so long? She leaned closer, studying her look. Her makeup didn’t cover the dark circles under her eyes. She was dizzy and weary, drained from another morning of dry heaves, and no amount of fresh air staved off the nausea.

Through Christmas she had given herself a dozen reasons why she might be late—busyness and excitement during the holidays, running after Cole and Devin almost constantly, and the heartache of missing baby Sarah. It could take a year after losing a baby before her body found its normal routine of cycles. That’s what her doctor had told her. A year. It hadn’t been nearly that.

But she’d had just one period in the last four months, and finally Ashley had done what she thought about doing weeks ago. She bought a test, and now in less than a minute she’d know the truth. Not that she needed the test at this point. She touched her fingers gently to her abdomen. It wasn’t exactly bulging, but it was slightly rounded and firm, the way she’d always felt when she was in her first few months of pregnancy.

The difference was that every other time she had been ecstatic about maybe being pregnant, ready to rush to the drugstore for a test the moment she suspected she was a day or so late. Even in the weeks after losing Sarah, she and Landon had wanted nothing more than to try for another child. But somewhere along the journey of letting go of her daughter, Ashley had realized something deep within her.

She couldn’t lose another baby.

By God’s grace and with Landon by her side she’d survived losing Sarah, but another child? Ashley wasn’t sure she’d survive. The sound of her too fast heartbeat echoed against her temples, and she blinked at her image in the mirror. Standing here on the verge of having her answer, there was only one way to explain the way Ashley felt. She was terrified.

Her strange and new fears were impacting every area of her life—even her relationship with Landon. By now she should’ve told him about her suspicions, but she’d kept the possibility to herself. Every time she considered telling him, she stopped herself. If she told Landon, then she’d need to visit a doctor and go through the same steps as last time—the tests and ultimately the ultrasound. And that meant she had to be ready to handle the news that something could be wrong again. News she couldn’t face. Not yet anyway.

Besides if she told Landon too soon, he’d get his hopes up and then if . . . if something was wrong, they’d both be crushed. Almost as if by saying something she would instantly open the two of them to all the grim possibilities. Whereas by keeping her concerns to herself, she could avoid giving Landon a false sense of hope, avoid the doctor appointments, and most of all the dreaded ultrasound.

Ashley squinted at the test window. Was it her imagination or was a line forming down the center? The line that would confirm she was carrying another child? She closed her eyes and breathed in sharp through her nose. I can’t do it again, God. I can’t lose another baby. Please walk me through this.

Losing Sarah was the most wrenching pain she’d ever been through. Yes, she and Landon had found the miracle in Sarah’s brief life, and they would treasure forever the few hours they shared with her. But since then, she couldn’t walk past Sarah’s nursery without aching from the loss, couldn’t drive in the direction of the cemetery without seeing her painting, the one of her mother holding Sarah in a field of flowers in heaven.

She leaned hard against the bathroom countertop, her arms shaking. The doctor had said a repeat diagnosis of anencephaly wasn’t likely, but it was possible.

Landon must’ve known she was worried about having future children, because he’d brought up the subject only once since Christmas. “Do you think about it, Ash . . . having another baby?”

“At first. But lately I try not to.” Her voice had been kind, gentle. But fear put a sudden grip on her throat. “I couldn’t do it again. Go through what we went through with Sarah.”

Landon touched her cheek, her forehead. “My grandpa always told me God never gives us more than we can handle.”

“I know.” Ashley smiled, and in that instant she could see Sarah in her arms, feel that warm little body against her chest. She swallowed, trying to find the words. But they both dropped the subject.

Since then she’d talked briefly with Landon about her fears of having more children. But the truth was, somewhere along the days of pain and grief Ashley had formed a mind-set: better not to have more children than to face the possibility of losing another baby.

The thing was, in her life God had sometimes given her things that He must’ve known she’d survive, and she had indeed come through on the other side. God had always brought her closer to Himself through the process. But she was weary of the heartache, tired of the path of pain God sometimes led her down. If she were pregnant now, she would fight the fear of loss every morning, every hour between now and the birth of her baby. So maybe she hadn’t been crazy to deny the evidence of her body for this long. She simply wasn’t ready to face the sorrow that might be around the next corner.

More than a minute had passed, so whatever was in the test window would be visible by now. Ashley picked up the stick and looked at the two straight lines, both dark and pronounced, and the answer was instantly in front of her. No doubt whatsoever—she was pregnant. Fear tap-danced across the moment, but it was joined by an unexpected partner: the flicker of hope and joy. She was pregnant, and for now, no matter what might lay ahead, a brand-new life was growing inside her. The news was terrifying and thrilling at the same time.

Now it was merely a matter of finding the courage to tell Landon.

Copyright© 2008 by Karen Kingsbury. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Encore Effect

The Encore Effect
Mark Sanborn

Summary: Everyone wants to make a difference in the world, but most have no idea how to maximize their impact. In The Encore Effect, best-selling author and leadership expert Mark Sanborn provides the answer. He leads readers in six practices that will move them beyond excellence to distinction and from mundane to memorable. These principles guide readers to draw on their passion and devote themselves to preparation, practice, presentation, polishing, and finally, avoiding pitfalls. When readers follow these principles they will find that people are attracted to them. More importantly, they’ll find that they now have an influence over others that can impact lives for eternity.
By following the six principles of The Encore Effect, readers can:
Deliver a remarkable performance in everything they do
Elevate the performance of the people they lead and influence
Extend and deepen the impact they have on others—even for eternity.
This special edition, distributed through the CBA, will include unique content such as scripture verses, biblical illustrations, and discussion questions.

My Thoughts: This book contains a simple yet profound formula for being the best you can be -- the person God intended you to be. The book is short and would be easy to read through quickly, but is best digested in pieces so you can really contemplate the concepts.

Mark Sanborn helps us remember that everything we do we do for God...whether that is our intent or not. And each action we take can provide glory to Him...even cleaning a toilet! People who follow the principles of this book may be able to improve their standing with their bosses or spouses, but Mark says that is NOT the best way to use the book. The intent is that people who act out of their core convictions will be most successful in the long run. He is also quick to say that this book is not the panacea for all of lifes' difficulties. To change the outcome of our actions will take time, dedication, and appplication.

I have a feeling that I will best understand the impact of this book on my life several years from now. I'm still learning from it and expect to take the rest of my life to fully implement the concepts that maximize God's glory. This one has gone on my 'once a year' reading list...and I may need to read it even more often than that!

Don't read this book unless you are really ready to change your life! And...if you aren't ready, then you probably really need to read it!

About the Author: Mark Sanborn is the best-selling author of The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader. An internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. Having served as president of two national organizations, he regularly keynotes meetings in the United States and abroad—speaking on leadership, team building, customer service, and mastering change. He and his family live near Denver , Colorado

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

White Christmas Pie

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 her book:

White Christmas Pie

Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)


Fascinated by the Amish people during the years of visiting her husband's family in Pennsylvania, WANDA E. BRUNSTETTER combined her interest with her writing and now has eleven novels about the Amish in print, along with numerous other stories and ministry booklets. She lives in Washington State, where her husband is a pastor, but takes every opportunity to visit Amish settlements throughout the states.

Visit her at her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1597899372
ISBN-13: 978-1597899376


Three-Year-Old Girl Abandoned in Small Town Park.

A lump formed in Will Henderson’s throat as he stared  at the headline in the morning newspaper. Not another abandoned child!

The little girl had been left alone on a picnic table in a small Michigan town. She had no identification and couldn’t tell the officials anything more than her first name and the fact that her mommy and daddy were gone. While the police searched for the girl’s parents, she would be put in a foster home.

Will’s fingers gripped the newspaper. How could anyone abandon his own child? Didn’t the little girl’s parents love her? Didn’t they care how their abandonment would affect the child? Didn’t they care about anyone but themselves?

Will dropped the paper to the kitchen table and let his head fall forward into his hands as a rush of memories pulled him back in time. Back to when he was six years old. Back to a day he wished he could forget. . .

Will released a noisy yawn and rolled over. Seeing Pop’s side of the bed was empty, he pushed the heavy quilt aside, scrambled out of bed, and raced over to the window. When he lifted the dark green shade and peeked through the frosty glass, his breath caught in his throat. The ground and trees in the Stoltzfuses’ backyard were covered in white!

“Pop was right; we’ve got ourselves some snow!” Will darted across the room, slipped out of his nightshirt, and hurried to get dressed. He figured Pop must be outside helping Mark Stoltzfus do his chores.

When Will stepped out of the bedroom, his nose twitched, and his stomach rumbled. The tangy smell coming from the kitchen let him know that the Amish woman named Regina was probably making breakfast.

“It didn’t snow on Christmas like Pop said it would, but it’s sure snowin’ now!” Will shouted as he raced into the kitchen.

Regina Stoltzfus turned from the stove and smiled at Will, her dark eyes gleaming in the light of the gas lantern hanging above the table. “Jah, it sure is. It would have been nice if we’d had a white Christmas, but the Lord decided to give us some fluffy white stuff today, instead.”

Will wiggled his bare feet on the cold linoleum floor, hardly able to contain himself. “I can’t wait to play in the snow with Pop. Maybe we can build a snowman.” He rushed to the back door, stood on his toes, and peered out the small window. “Is Pop helpin’ Mark milk the cows?”

Regina came to stand beside Will. “Your dad’s not helping Mark do his chores this morning,” she said, placing one hand on his shoulder.

Will looked up at her and squinted. “He’s not?”

She shook her head.

“How come?”

“Didn’t you find the note he wrote you?”

“Nope, sure didn’t. Why’d Pop write me a note?”

Regina motioned to the table. “Let’s have a seat, shall we?” When she pulled out a chair, he plunked right down.

“After you went to bed last night, your dad had a talk with me and Mark,” she said, taking the seat beside him.

“What’d ya talk about? Did Pop tell ya thanks for lettin’ us stay here and for fixin’ us Christmas dinner yesterday?”

“He did say thanks for those things, but he said something else, too.”

“What’d he say?”

Regina’s eyes seemed to have lost their sparkle. Her face looked kind of sad. “Your dad said he would leave a note for me to read you, Will. Are you sure there wasn’t
a note on your pillow or someplace else in your room?”

“I didn’t see no note. Why would Pop leave a note for me?”

Regina touched his arm. “Your dad left early this morning, Will.”

“Left? Where’d he go?”

“To make his delivery, and then he—”

Will’s eyebrows shot up. “Pop left without me?”

She nodded. “He asked if we’d look after you while he’s trying to find a different job.”

Will shook his head vigorously. “Pop wouldn’t leave without me. I know he wouldn’t.”

“He did, Will. That’s why he planned to leave you a note—so you would understand why.”

Will jumped out of his chair, raced up the stairs, and dashed into the bedroom he and Pop had shared since they’d come to stay with Mark and Regina Stoltzfus a few days ago. There was no note on the pillow. No note on the dresser or nightstand, either. Will ran over to the closet and threw open the door. Pop’s suitcase was gone!

Will’s knee bumped against the table, bringing his thoughts back to the present.

He lifted his head and glanced down at Sandy, his honey-colored cocker spaniel, who stared up at him with soulful brown eyes. “Did you bump my leg, girl?”

Sandy whimpered in response.

Ever since Will had been a boy, he’d wanted a dog of his own, but Pop had said a dog wasn’t a good idea for people who lived in a semitruck as they traveled down the road. Papa Mark had seen the need for a dog, though. A few months after Will had come to live with Mark and Regina, he’d been given a cocker spaniel puppy. He had named the dog Penny because she was the color of a copper penny. Penny had been a good dog, but she’d died two years ago. Will had gotten another cocker spaniel he’d named Sandy. He’d bred the dog with his friend Harley’s male cocker, Rusty. Sandy was due to have her pups in a few weeks.

Sandy nudged Will’s leg again, and he reached down to pat her silky head. “Do you need to go out, girl, or are you just getting anxious for your hundlin to be born?”

Sandy licked his hand then flopped onto the floor with a grunt. Maybe she only wanted to keep him company. Maybe she felt his pain.

The lump in Will’s throat tightened as he fought to keep his emotions under control. A grown man shouldn’t cry over something that happened almost sixteen years ago. He’d shed plenty of tears after Pop had gone, and it had taken him a long time to come to grips with the idea that Pop wasn’t coming back to get him. Tears wouldn’t change the fact that Will had been abandoned just like the little girl in the newspaper. He wished there was a way he could forget the past—take an eraser and wipe it out of his mind. But the memories lingered no matter how hard he tried to blot them out.

Will’s gaze came to rest on the propane-operated stove where Mama Regina did her cooking. At least he had some pleasant memories to think about. Fifteen years ago, he had moved with Papa Mark and Mama Regina from their home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to LaGrange County, Indiana, where they now ran a dairy farm and health food store. On the day of that move, Will had made a decision: He was no longer English. He was happy being Amish, happy being Mama Regina and Papa Mark’s only son.

Now, as a fully grown Amish man, he was in love with Karen Yoder and looked forward to spending the rest of his life with her. They would be getting married in a few months—two weeks before Christmas. Will didn’t need the reminder that he had an English father he hadn’t seen in almost sixteen years. As far as he was concerned, Papa Mark and Mama Regina were his parents, and they would be the ones who would witness his and Karen’s wedding ceremony. Pop was gone from his life, just like Will’s real mother, who had died almost a year before Pop had left. Will’s Amish parents cared about him and had since the first day he’d come to live with them. They’d even invited Will and Karen to live in their house after they were married.

As Will’s thoughts continued to bounce around, he became tenser. Despite his resolve to forget the past, he could still see Pop’s bright smile and hear the optimism in his voice as he tried to convince Will that things would work out for them after Mom had been hit by a car. Pop had made good on his promise, all right. He’d found Will a home with Regina and Mark Stoltzfus. In all the years Pop had been gone, Will hadn’t seen or heard a word from him. It was as though Pop had vanished from the face of the earth.

A sense of bitterness enveloped Will’s soul as he reflected on the years he’d wasted, waiting, hoping for his father’s return. Is Pop still alive? If so, where is he now, and why hasn’t he ever contacted me? If Pop stood before me right now, what would I say? Would I thank him for leaving me with a childless Amish couple who have treated me as if I were their own flesh and blood? Or would I yell at Pop and tell him I’m no longer his son and want nothing to do with him?

Will turned back to the newspaper article about the little girl who’d been abandoned. “It’s not right,” he mumbled when he got to the end of the story. “It’s just not right.”

“What’s not right?”

Will looked up at Mama Regina, who stood by the table with a strange expression. He pointed to the newspaper and shook his head. “This isn’t right. It’s not right at all!”

She took a seat beside him and picked up the paper. As she read the article, her lips compressed into a thin line, causing tiny wrinkles to form around her mouth. “It’s always a sad thing when a child is abandoned,” she murmured.

Will nodded. “I was doing fine until I read that story. I was content, ready to marry Karen, and thought I had put my past to rest. The newspaper article made me think—made me remember things from my past that I’d rather forget.” He groaned. “I don’t want to remember the past. It’s the future that counts—the future with Karen as my wife.”

Mama Regina leaned closer to Will and rested her hand on his arm. “The plans you’ve made for the future are important, but as I’ve told you many times before, you don’t want to forget your past.”

“What would you have me remember—the fact that my real mamm died when I was only five, leaving Pop alone to raise me? Or am I supposed to remember how it felt when I woke up nearly sixteen years ago on the day after Christmas and discovered that Pop had left me at your house and never said good-bye?” As the words rolled off Will’s tongue, he couldn’t keep the bitterness out of his tone or the tears from pooling in his eyes.

“I don’t know the reason your daed didn’t leave you a note when he left that day, and I don’t know why he never came back to get you.” Tears shimmered in Mama Regina’s eyes as she pushed a wisp of dark hair under the side of her white cone-shaped head covering. “There is one thing I do know, however.”

“What’s that?”

“Every day of the sixteen years you’ve lived with us, I have thanked God that your daed read one of the letters I had written to your mamm when she was still alive. I’m also thankful that your daed brought you to us during his time of need and that Mark and I were given the chance to raise you as if you were our own son.” She smiled as she patted Will’s arm in her motherly way. “We’ve had some wonderful times since you came to live with us. I hope you have many pleasant memories of your growing-up years.”

“Jah, of course I do.”

Mama Regina glanced down at Sandy and smiled. “Think of all the fun times you had, first with Penny and now with Sandy.”

Will nodded.

“And think about the time your daed built you a tree house and how the two of you used to sit up there and visit while you munched on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sipped fresh milk from our dairy cows.”

Will clasped her hand. “You and Papa Mark have been good parents to me, and I want you to know that I appreciate all you’ve done.”

“We know you do, and we’ve been glad to do it.”

“Even so, it was Pop’s responsibility to raise me. The least he could have done was to send you some money to help with my expenses.”

Mama Regina shook her head. “We’ve never cared about that. All we’ve ever wanted is for you to be happy.”

“I know.” Will slid his chair away from the table and stood. “I think I’ll get my horse and buggy ready and take a ride over to see Karen. Unless you’re going to need my help in the store, that is.”

Mama Regina shook her head. “An order of vitamins was delivered yesterday afternoon, so it needs to be put on the shelves. But Mary Jane Lambright’s working today, and she can help with that.”

“Guess I’d better check with Papa Mark and see if he needs me for anything before I take off.”

“I think he plans to build some bins for storing bulk food items, but he’ll be fine on his own with that.” Mama Regina smiled. “You go ahead and see Karen. Maybe spending a little time with your bride-to-be will brighten your spirits.”

“Jah, that’s what I’m hoping.”

“Don’t forget your zipple cap,” she called as he grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

“I won’t.” Will smiled as he pulled the cap from the wall peg. He was glad he and Mama Regina had talked—it had made him feel a little better about things. He figured he would feel even better after he spent some time with Karen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Another Tricia Goyer book -- Sweet September!


My Thoughts: As many of you know, Tricia has become one of my favorite authors, and this is her first book set in a contemporary setting! This Sweet September is actually the second book in the Home to Heather Creek series started by Carolyn Aarsen. It is pretty easy to catch up on the story if you haven't had a chance to read the first book, Before the Dawn.
Life on a farm can be difficult, especially during the fall harvest. Emily, Sam, and Christopher have been recently orphaned and have moved in with their grandparents on a farm in Nebraska. This results in a series of major shocks for both the children and the adults. As teenagers, Emily and Sam have very difficult transitions to make, and the grandparents, Charlotte and Bob have to adjust to a houseful of noise and hormones.
In true Tricia Goyer style, history and the present meld together to form a heritage that lives on in word and deed. This is an honest look at the difficulties of relocation, grandparents who are called to be parents again, and the stress of change. I really enjoyed this book and I would highly recommend it for teens and adults.
Blog Tour Contest:
Since Sweet September is all about family, Tricia wants to meet yours. Leave a comment on the Tricia’s blog tour post ( sharing who your favorite family member is and why and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win William-Sonoma’s Pumpkin Harvest Loaf Pan & Quick Bread Set.

About the book: Harvest time at Heather Creek Farm is an exciting time, but the kids don't seem to be getting into the spirit. One day while he's wandering through the fields, Christopher stumbles across an old piece of metal buried in the ground. He doesn't know what it is, but he hides it in the shed.

That night, the garden by the house is uprooted. Who could have done such a thing? Charlotte is determined to find out, but is distracted when she gets news that Sam is failing school. The sullen teen is indifferent and won't study. He starts spending a lot of time with Pete. Though she loves her son dearly, Pete never finished high school, and Charlotte is afraid he'll encourage Sam to do the same. How can she help him get back on track?

A gripping story that examines the Stevenson family's history as well as its shaky future, Sweet September will bring you deeper into the loving community of Bedford and the deep ties of love that bind this broken family together. As they forge new connections, you'll be entertained, inspired, and reminded that God's grace can make all things new.

About Tricia: Tricia Goyer is the author of twelve books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana .

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Road to Lost Innocence

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 her book:

The Road to Lost Innocence

Spiegel & Grau (September 9, 2008)

This is a really intense book, and it's shocking that sexual slavery exists to the extent that it does. We are so sheltered in our world.
Somaly Mam gives an honest portrayal of her experiences as a child sold into slavery. Without being too graphic, she helps the reader understand the level of dehumanization, abuse, and victimization of young women -- even children -- in Cambodia and surrounding countries.
This book, although horrifying, is a story of how one woman was able to overcome an unthinkable situation. In her ability to rise above her past, she has found a way to help others not only escape the world of forced prostitution, but she is rehabilitating the women and children who escape. It is truly a story of tragedy and hope that causes the reader to become outraged and hopefully feel called to action.

Somaly Mam is the cofounder of AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Situations) in Europe and The Somaly Mam Foundation in the United States, whose goal is to save and socially reintegrate victims of sexual slavery in Southeast Asia. She was named Glamour's Woman of theYear in 2006. She lives in Cambodia and France.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $22.95
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (September 9, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385526210
ISBN-13: 978-0385526210


Chapter One

The Forest

My name is Somaly. At least that's the name I have now. Like everyone in Cambodia, I've had several. Names are the result of temporary choices. You change them the way you'd change lives. As a small child, I was called Ya, and sometimes just Non--"Little One." When I was taken away from the forest by the old man, I was called Aya, and once, at a border crossing, he told the guard my name was Viriya--I don't really know why. I got used to people calling me all sorts of names, mostly insults. Then, years later, a kind man who said he was my uncle gave me the name Somaly: "The Necklace of Flowers Lost in the Virgin Forest." I liked it; it seemed to fit the idea of who I felt I really was. When I finally had the choice, I decided to keep that name as my own.

I will never know what my parents called me. But then I have nothing from them, no memories at all. My adoptive father once gave me this typically Khmer advice: "You shouldn't try to discover the past. You shouldn't hurt yourself." I suspect he knows what really happened, but he has never talked to me about it. The little I do know I've had to piece together with vague recollections and some help from history.

I spent my earliest years in the rolling countryside of northeastern Cambodia, surrounded by savanna and forests, not far from the high plains of Vietnam. Even today, when I have the chance to go into the forest, I feel at home. I recognize smells. I recognize plants. I instinctively know what's good to eat and what's poisonous. I remember the waterfalls. The sound of them is still in my ears. We children would bathe naked under the cascading water and play at holding our breath. I remember the smell of the virgin forest. I have a buried memory of this place.

The people of Bou Sra, the village where I was born, are Phnong. They are an old tribe of mountain people, quite unlike the Khmer who dominate the lowlands of Cambodia. I have inherited the typical Phnong dark skin from my mother. Cambodians see it as black and ugly. In Khmer, the word "Phnong" means "savage." Throughout Southeast Asia, people are very sensitive about skin color. The paler you are, the closer to "moon color," the more highly you are prized. A plump woman with white skin is the supreme object of beauty and desire. I was dark and thin and very unattractive.

I was born sometime around 1970 or 1971, when the Troubles began in Cambodia. My parents left me with my maternal grandmother when I was still a small child. Perhaps they were seeking a better life, or perhaps they were forced to leave. Before I turned five, the country had been carpet-bombed by the Americans. Then it was seized by the murderous regime of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. The four years of Khmer Rouge rule, from 1975 to 1979, were responsible for the deaths of about one in five people in Cambodia through execution, starvation, or forced labor. In the storm of events, countless others were simply swept away from their villages and families without leaving a trace. People were displaced to work camps, where they toiled as slaves, or were forced to fight for the regime. There are many reasons why my parents might have left the forest.

The story I like to tell myself is that my parents and grandmother always had my best interests at heart. Among the Phnong, the mother's lineage determines ethnicity. So despite my father being Khmer, when my parents left, my place was with the Phnong in Mondulkiri Province. Not long thereafter my grandmother would also disappear, much too soon for me to have any lasting memory of her. Mountain people up and leave for any old reason, as soon as anything displeases them. No one expected an explanation, especially not during those troubled years. So when my grandmother left the forest, no one knew where she went. I don't think I was abandoned--she probably thought I'd be safest in the village. There was no way she could have known that the forest would not be my home for long.

Our village was nothing more than a dozen round huts clustered in a forest clearing. The huts were made of plaited bamboo, their straw roofs low to the ground. Most families shared a single large hut with no partition between the communal sleeping platform and the cooking area. Other families kept themselves separate. With no parents or other family in the village, I would sleep on my own in a hammock. I lived like a little savage. I slept here or there, and ate where I could. I was at home everywhere and nowhere. I don't remember any other children who slept alone among the trees, as I did. Perhaps I wasn't taken in by anyone because I was of mixed race--part Phnong and part Khmer. Or perhaps I just made a decision to be by myself. Being an orphan in Cambodia is no rare condition. It is frighteningly ordinary.

I wasn't generally unhappy, but I remember feeling cold all the time. On particularly bitter or rainy nights, a kind man, Taman, would make space for me in his home. He was a Cham, a Muslim Khmer, but his wife was Phnong. I can't remember her name, but I thought she was beautiful with her long black hair tied behind her head with a bamboo stick, her high cheekbones, and a necklace made of shiny black wood and animal teeth. She was nice to me. Sometimes she would try to wash my long hair, rubbing the ash of a special herb into it to clean it, and then oiling it with pig fat and combing it with her fingers while she sang. She wore an intricately woven black and red cloth around her waist. Some women would leave their breasts bare, but Taman's wife covered hers.

Taman, like the other men, wore a loincloth that left his buttocks bare. The men wore strings of beads and bows strapped to their backs and had thick cylinders of wood pierced through their earlobes.

We children would be naked most of the time. We would play or help make clothes together out of thick, flat leaves wrapped with vines. Taman's wife would weave for hours on end, sitting on the floor with her legs stretched out in front of her and the bamboo loom tied to her feet.

Her teeth were filed into sharp points. Phnong girls file and blacken their teeth when they become women, but I left the village long before the time for filing teeth.

I was always looking for a mother so that I could be held in her arms, kissed, and stroked, like Taman's wife held her children. I was very unhappy not to have a mother like everyone else. My only confidants were the trees. I talked to them and told them about my sorrow. They listened, understood, and made discreet signs in my direction. They were my only true friends, along with the moon. When things got unbearable, I confessed my secrets to the waterfalls, because the water couldn't reverse its flow and betray me. Even today, I sometimes talk to trees. Other than that, I almost never spoke as a child. There wouldn't have been much point--nobody would have listened.

I found my own food. I would roam the forest and eat what I could find: fruit, wild vegetables, and honey. There were also plenty of insects, such as grasshoppers and ants, to eat. I particularly loved the ants. I still know where to look to find fruits and berries, and I still know that there are bees you can follow to find their honey. And I still know that you should look down because there are mushrooms on the ground, but also snakes.

If I caught an animal I would take it to Taman's wife to cook. She cooked meat under a layer of ash, because ash is naturally salty. Sometimes she dried the little pieces of meat in buffalo dung, mixed them with bitter herbs and rice, and cooked them over the fire. The first time I returned to the village as an adult, almost twenty-five years later, I discovered that dish again and I ate so much I made myself sick.

The mountain land in the Mondulkiri region was ill suited for growing rice, so the entire village had to work together to grow our food. The forest had to be burned to create rice paddies. Every few years, the forest had to be burned so we could grow rice, and we would be forced to go farther and farther afield in search of good soil. The distances were vast, especially for my little legs, and sometimes we'd have to walk for several days. We had no carts or work animals like the Khmer had in their flooded rice paddies. Everything we brought back to the village we had to carry ourselves.

When the rice was harvested, several villages would gather around a fire to celebrate. We would sacrifice a buffalo to the spirits who lived in the forest and dance to the beat of the metal gongs. There'd be endless banqueting and lots of rice wine. I remember the earthenware jars being enormous, almost as tall as I was. We'd drink it straight from the jar, one by one, sipping through a bamboo straw. Even children were allowed to join in. I remember a great deal of kindness toward the children on these occasions. The Phnong people are good to children--not like the Khmer.

Our hills were so remote that probably no doctor or nurse had ever set foot in them. There were certainly no schools. I never saw a Buddhist or Christian preacher. And although my childhood coincided with the Khmer Rouge regime, I also have no recollection of ever seeing soldiers.

The Khmer Rouge had decreed that mountain people like the Phnong were "core people." We were examples for others to follow, because we had no contact with Western habits and lived collectively. Our forest and hills protected us from the suffering that engulfed the rest of Cambodia while I was a small child.

Pol Pot had abolished money throughout the entire country of Cambodia, along with school diplomas, motor vehicles, eyeglasses, books, and any other sign of modern life. But I don't think that's why we had no currency. The Phnong never needed money. If the grown-ups wanted something we couldn't make or grow or hunt, they traded for it. If we wanted a cabbage, we went to ask a neighbor who had planted some. He would give us cabbage without asking for anything in return. Now it's different: the people from Phnom Penh arrive on weekends or during the holidays in their big 4_4s with their pockets full of bills.

One day when I was about nine or ten, Taman called me into his hut and introduced me to a stranger. This man, like Taman, was a Cham Muslim. He was very tall and strongly built, with a thin nose like Taman and pale skin. I suppose he might have been about fifty-five, which is very old in Cambodia. Taman told me that this man was from the same place as my father. He used the word "grandfather" to refer to him, as all Cambodians do to show respect to the elderly. He told me that if I went with this grandfather, he would take me to my father's province and I would find my family.

Perhaps Taman really believed that this grandfather would take care of me. Perhaps he truly thought this old Cham man would help me find my father's relatives. Perhaps he was convinced that I would be better off living in the lowlands, with an adult to look after me. Or perhaps he sold me to this man, knowing full well that, at best, I would become his indentured servant.

I have tried many times to find Taman, to understand his reasoning, but I've since learned it's never possible to know what really motivates people.

At first I really liked this grandfather and was happy to leave with him. In my short life, not many people had offered to look after me. I thought this man was my real grandfather, someone who would adopt and love me. I thought he knew where my parents were. I put together a bundle with a tunic that Taman's wife had made for me, along with a wooden necklace and a short black and red cloth with green embroidery.

We began walking. We walked for a long time, along paths that took us farther and farther from the places I knew. He wasn't talkative, but neither was I. He spoke very little Phnong, and we were forced to communicate through rudimentary gestures.

We came to a place where people were swarming around a giant logging truck. It was the largest, most frightening thing I had ever seen. There was no way I was going to climb on the logs like everyone else--the truck terrified me. I had never even seen a bicycle before, let alone a motorized vehicle.

I backed away, but Grandfather glared at me and raised his hand menacingly. I didn't understand this gesture--I had never been hit--but I saw that his face had changed, that it was rough and angry, and it frightened me even more than the truck did. Then his hand struck me with a hard blow that knocked me to the ground. With my cheek bleeding, he pulled me up and onto the truck.

I knew then that I had made the wrong choice, that this bad man was not my grandfather and would never love me. But it was too late to go back.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pure - A 90-Day Devotional for the Mind, the Body, and the Spirit

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/her book:

Pure: A 90-Day Devotional for the Mind, the Body & the Spirit

FaithWords (September 3, 2008)

My Thoughts:
I have always admired Rebecca St. James. Not only does her music deliver a strong message of God's faith and love, her life reflects the purity and obedience that God asks of us. I was interested to see how this amazing young woman translated her life lessons into devotions that could help each of us move closer to God's heart.
I'm not all the way through the book yet, but I'm impressed with the level of openness and honesty Rebecca has. Her insights into God's word and his will, as a result of her life experiences, provide an intimate guide to dealing with daily issues of the mind, body, and Spirit. Each devotion includes scripture (from The Message), reflection, a deeper look, and a doable daily challenge.
I know this book is opening my heart to receive more from Christ than I was accepting before. I'm excited about this 90-day journey!

Australian born Rebecca St. James is a Grammy Award winner and a multiple Dove Award recipient, with international success that has driven her record sales into the millions. In January 2008, she was named Favorite Female Artist in Contemporary Christian Music by readers of CCM Magazine for the seventh consecutive year. Rebecca also won Best Female Artist of 2007 from fifth consecutive year to be given this honor. She's been involved in several film productions and voiced the character of Hope the Angel in VeggieTales' bestselling DVD production The Easter Carol.

Visit the author's website or her MySpace page.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (September 3, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446500410
ISBN-13: 978-0446500418


Chapter One

Day One
In Tune with God's Purpose

God's love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, his purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks.

—Psalm 36:5–6, The Message


When I was twelve years old, I attended a program at my school that significantly impacted my life's story. A speaker asked people to come forward if they felt God leading them to give their gifts and talents to Him. I felt led by God to respond and ask for His direction in discovering His will and purpose for my life. It was that same year that God began to lead me into music. At age thirteen, I released my first album in Australia. It was a worship album titled Refresh My Heart. I've been asked a number of times, "What do you feel most called to do?" I feel that my God-given purpose is to encourage people to stand for God, to live radically for Him, and to live a life of worship. The roots of this began when I responded to God at age twelve.

This devotional journey is all about seeking purity of mind, body, and spirit. And to seek after purity, we must begin in our minds. One definition for pure, when used in the sense of a musical tone, means "free from harshness or roughness and being in tune."1 God has a purpose for every one of our lives, and He invites us to get in tune with His plan. To be pure is to seek His purpose first and foremost in our lives. If we want our lives to have an impact, that begins and ends with discovering and living out our God-given purpose. Without purpose we have no clear direction, and we may not know which decision to make when we're at a crossroads. Purpose gives us focus to discern what is important. And purpose gives us the strength to do what we need to do. One of this world's greatest tragedies is a life lived without discovering one's God-given purpose. We need to be careful to not just go through the motions without knowing our life purpose. We aren't really living unless we know why we're alive.

Looking Further

Since the beginning of time, God has made everything "on purpose." He created the sky for a reason: to separate the water of the earth from the waters of the heavens (see Gen. 1:6-8). He made the land with a purpose: so there would be dry ground between the seas for us to live on (see Gen. 1:9-12). He designed the sun and the moon with a plan in mind: to mark off seasons, days, and years (see Gen. 1:14-18). And as the crowning glory of creation, He fashioned human beings in His own image (see Gen. 1:26-27). If He thinks highly enough of you and me to put His fingerprint on us, we can be assured that He has a purpose for every one of us. The apostle Paul put it this way:

Everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible . . . everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. (Col. 1:16-17, The Message)

Living It Out

Are you in tune with God's purpose for your life? In order for your dreams and His plan to live in harmony together, you have to cooperate. If you are not on the same page with Him, ask God to show you what He has in mind and to give you the courage to follow His plan. He wants to make the journey with you toward finding the purposeful life for which He destined you.

Day Two
Who Determines Your Worth?

What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.

—Matthew 10:29-31, The Message


Several years ago I embarked on a five-week life-changing experience in Switzerland. I needed spiritual, emotional, and physical recuperation, and I found it at L'Abri (which means "shelter"), a community study center where Christians and non-Christians can seek honest answers about God and His purposes for their lives. It was there that the Lord spoke to me of my God-worth to the point that it began replacing my selfworth. Before this experience I don't think I had ever really discovered the sense of wholeness in God that I felt there.

One of the things I had to confront in my life was the issue of perfectionism. When you are a perfectionist, you tend either to push yourself all the time to be better or to go into failure mode and give up, believing that you'll never succeed. My tendency was to live with a sense that God was disappointed in me—that I was not good enough. Through study and prayer and time alone with Him, the Lord assured me that I am loved and secure. I know that I'm His princess, accepted and cherished.

Because many people spend much of their time trying to please others, they're uncomfortable in their own skin and don't know who they are. Unfortunately, they derive their sense of worth from what they do or don't do for others. It's all based on a false and conditional love. We can get so wrapped up in our selfishness that we can't see beyond ourselves to find our worth in God—who we are in Him.

Looking Further

If you've read The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien, or have seen the movies, you're familiar with the creature Gollum and his obsession with "my precious," the ring. He was willing to do anything to keep it, and went to great lengths in an attempt to reclaim it. Ultimately, his selfish fascination with the treasure cost him his life. Unlike Gollum, God's love for us is purely selfless because He was willing to give up what's most important to Him—His only Son—to redeem you. He cherishes you as His precious creation. The apostle Paul put it this way:

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. (Rom. 5:6-8, The Message)

Living It Out

How much time do you spend in the morning thinking about how others will perceive you based on what you look like each day? How could you spend some of that time contemplating your worth in God's eyes? Look in the mirror and realize how precious you are to Him.

1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., s.v. "pure."

Copyright © 2008 by Rebecca St. James

Monday, September 15, 2008

When Answers Aren't Enough

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:

Zondervan (April 1, 2008)


Matt Rogers is copastor of New Life Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech. Eight hundred students call it home.


On April 16, 2007, the campus of Virginia Tech experienced a collective nightmare when thirty-three students were killed in the worst massacre in modern U.S. history. Following that horrendous event, Virginia Tech campus pastor Matt Rogers found himself asking and being asked, “Where is God in all of this?” The cliché-ridden, pat answers rang hollow.
In this book, Matt approaches the pain of the world with personal perspective—dealing with his hurting community as well as standing over the hospital bed of his own father—and goes beyond answers, beyond theodicy, beyond the mere intellectual. When Answers Aren’t Enough drives deeper, to the heart of our longing, in search of a God we can experience as good when life isn’t.

Product Details

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (April 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310286816
ISBN-13: 978-0310286813


A Heavy,
Sinking Sadness

Embracing the World That Is


Lately I’ve been walking in the evenings. I tend to do that when stuck on a question. Maybe I’m trying to walk it off. On days when I have time, I drive out to Pandapas Pond in Jefferson National Forest to be in nature. Once there, I set off through the woods or slowly stroll along the water’s edge, deep in thought or prayer.

Most days, because of time, I have to settle for the streets around my home. I can quickly climb to the top of Lee Street, turn around, and look out over Blacksburg, the Blue Ridge backlit by the setting sun. From there, I can see much of Virginia Tech. The stately bell tower of Burruss Hall rises proudly above the rest.

On nights like tonight, when I get a late start and the sun is already down, I head for campus. At its center, separating the academic and residential sides of the school, sits the Drill Field, a wide-open grassy space named for the exercises that the Corps of Cadets practices to perfection there. After dark, old iron lampposts, painted black, blanket the ground in overlapping circles of light.

It was here on the Drill Field, the day after the shootings, that students placed thirty-two slabs of gray limestone rock — Hokie stones, as they’re called — in a semicircle in front of Burruss Hall, to commemorate the lives of loved ones lost. Thousands of mourners descended on the place, bearing with them a flood of condolences, a mix of bouquets, balloons, and poster-board sympathies. They came sniffling, clinging to tissues and to one another, and lifting their sunglasses to wipe tears from their tired, red eyes. The world came as well, vicariously through television, watching us, kneeling with us in grief.

I also came, revisiting the stones day after day, and sometimes at night, drawn to them by a need to connect with the dead whom I never knew. Always there was something new here, some trinket that had been added. At times the items seemed odd: a baseball for every victim, an American flag by every stone, though some of the dead were international students.

People took their time passing by this spot. There was no need to rush; there were no classes to attend. It would be days, dark and long, before there would be any distractions from the pain. For a time, there was no world beyond this place.

By day, soft chatter could be heard around the memorial. After sunset, no one spoke a word. During daylight, masses huddled near the stones, peering over shoulders to read the notes left there. At night, however, mourners passed by in a single-file line, waiting their turn, patient with the people in front who wished to pause at every name.

The masses have since receded. The Drill Field now is vacant (except for these stones) and silent. The semester has ended, most of the students are gone, and only the sounds of insects disturb the stillness of the summer evening air. If I close my eyes and take in the quiet, I can almost imagine nothing happened here.

Almost. Except for the stone reminders that lie at my feet. On one is written a simple, anguished note.


We love you.

Mom and Dad

These stones are more than rocks. Each is all that remains of a son, a daughter, a husband who will never come home again. I picture my mom and dad, heartbroken, kneeling by a stone for me, had I been among the dead. Moreover, I imagine myself by a stone for my dad, had he not survived his fall.

This is a summer of mourning. I am grieving the world as it is. And I am asking, “If I embrace the world as it is, in all its sadness — if I refuse to bury my head in the sand, pretending all is well, but rather think and speak of the world as it actually is — can I, then, still know God as good? Can my experience of him be more consistent than my circumstances, which alternate between good and bad?”

Is this too much to expect?

Before I can know, I must face the world at its worst.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Saturdays with Stella


Allison Pittman

My Thoughts: I absolutely loved this little book. I felt like I was hearing hilarious stories directly from Allison while she unconsciously rubbed Stella's head. Anyone who has ever had a dog will be able to relate to the unconditional love she has for her pet and the unreasonable way she put up with chewed up shoes and piddles on the floor. And underlying the story is an amazing link to the way God loves us...regardless of the mistakes we make. Allison uses simple lessons in dog obedience to reflect the simplicity of Godly obedience. This is one of my new favorites!

Sometimes your best four-legged friend is also your best teacher. When you bring a new dog into your home, a wash of great joy can become a trial of perseverance as your furry pal chews, digs, yaps, and yes, piddles her way through every room in the house. Allison Pittman learned this all too well when she adopted a “tiny, shiny puppy of indefinable breed(s).” Stella wasted no time in turning her home upside-down as only a pup can. As could be expected, six weeks of obedience school covered the much needed basics–sit, stay, come, and down. What Allison didn’t expect was the spiritual benefit she would receive as each Saturday lesson revealed a fascinating metaphor. In this heart-warming, thoughtful, and often hilarious tribute to her beloved Stella, Allison Pittman shares how she came to understand what it means to follow the ultimate Master, including how to: Sit!–at the feet of Jesus and listen for His voiceDrop It!–and let go of personal agendas Come!–when it’s time to run in the right directionStay!–in God’s presence In Saturdays with Stella, a slightly neurotic yet curiously adorable canine will not only capture your heart–she’ll show you how captivating you are to God.

Author Bio:
Allison Pittman is the author of the three books in the popular Crossroads of Grace series. Before her life as a novelist, Allison spent sixteen years teaching high school English. A founding member and copresident of the Christian Writer’s Group of the Greater San Antonio area, she devotes her time inspiring other writers to work toward their goals and sharpen their skills. Allison lives in Universal City , Texas with her husband Mike, their three sons, and Stella.

Buy the book on Amazon!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If God Disappears

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 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:

If God Disappears: 9 Faith Wreckers and What to Do about Them

SaltRiver (August 13, 2008)


David and Renée Sanford own Sanford Communications, Inc., which works closely with leading authors, ministries, and publishers to develop life-changing books and other resources. Their professional credentials, life experience, and passion for helping adoptive families make them well-qualified for this project. David, Renée, and their two youngest children live “on the road to Damascus” a few miles from downtown Portland, Oregon.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: SaltRiver (August 13, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414316178


Chapter One


Sometimes it takes the experience of losing someone to shake us out of complacency.

I lost someone when I was eleven. My dad and mom and brother and two sisters and I were near Snoqualmie Pass, about fifty miles east of Seattle.

Waiting in line near the top of the mountain slope was a girl about my age with a new, red snow saucer. Compared to my black, smelly inner tube, it was high tech.

I’d never seen anyone fly so fast down the mountain before. I continued to watch the girl as I made my own way down at less than breakneck speed. Most kids stopped shortly after the slope flattened out. But this girl just kept going and going. And then she disappeared.

I swung around quickly to my left, to my right. Everyone around me was getting up and trudging back up the hill. But I didn’t see the girl. She had been right in front of me. And then she was gone.

No one believed me.

I insisted I had seen her disappear. “We can’t just walk away. Come back. Help me look for her.”

Still no one believed. Except me.

The snow was wet and heavy that day. Off the beaten track, I soon found my boots sinking deeper and deeper into the snowpack. It took a full minute to cover ten yards. But I would not stop. Looking carefully, I could see the slight depression where the girl’s red saucer had flown across the surface of the snow.

Scattered alpine trees stuck out of the snow just ahead of me. I looked back and realized I was well off the beaten track. But I knew I had seen the girl go this far.

My heart stopped when I found the dark hole. There, in front of me, the saucer’s track stopped.

I lay on the snow with my head sticking out over the hole. The second I heard her crying, I started yelling. “Are you all right? Don’t worry. I’ll get help. I promise—I’ll be back right away.”

I didn’t have time to go all the way back up the slope to my parents, so I accosted the first adult I found and breathlessly told him my story. He started yelling, and other adults came running. Someone called up the slope, and within minutes someone else was running toward us with a rope.

I led everyone along the path I had taken earlier. It took a while, but eventually a very wet and cold girl was fished out of the creek fourteen feet below the snowpack. She was reunited with her father, and all was well again.

For a long time afterward I pondered what would have happened if I had been the one riding the red saucer.

I also wondered why it was so hard to get anyone to believe me.

The fact is, sometimes the bottom does fall out from under us, God seems to disappear, and it’s almost impossible to get anyone to believe us.

I believe you.




What’s yours? Have you ever reached a point in your life where God seemed to disappear? Have you ever felt as if things couldn’t get any worse? As if someone has turned out the lights and God just slipped away?

Martin Luther called this Anfechtung. Saint John of the Cross called it the “dark night of the soul.” Only it doesn’t usually last a night. It can last for days. Weeks. Months. Even longer.

And when God steps back into the picture, it often feels too late.

Throughout literature, music, and movies, we see the themes of God’s (or gods’) abandonment, the hero(ine)’s resultant agnosticism, and the immense struggles that ensue. In real life, there’s not always a happy ending.


Remember Superman Returns? By the time our messiah-like superhero shows up, five years after disappearing unexpectedly, Lois Lane has won a Pulitzer for her op-ed piece, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.”

Just when Lois thinks she’s completely processed her pain and suffering, she faces a second crisis: Can she make room in her life for Superman again?

Like the shaken believer who feels that God walked away without even waving good-bye, Lois has to decide: Does she even want him back?

We all need to answer that question at some point. Do I want God back?

This is the central question to those who feel God has walked out on them. Everyone has faced—or will face—such crises of faith. For some reason beyond our human understanding, such crises are part of everyone’s spiritual journey.

Of course, Superman did return to Lois. But for Christians, sometimes it seems impossible to wait when we have no idea whether or not God is ever coming back. In the darkest times—the death of a close friend or loved one, a horrible accident, acts of terrorism and war, natural disasters, and other tragedies—he seems infinitely far away.

When I was nineteen, a close family friend, Darrell, fell victim to intense headaches. A CAT scan technician first spotted the problem: a massive tumor. Brain surgery followed. Darrell was practically my adopted brother, so I visited him every day. The first day he looked pretty roughed up, but the nurses said he was doing fine. As is customary after such surgeries, they were checking on him every thirty minutes, which was reassuring.

The second day Darrell looked about the same.

The third day his bed was empty. His mother stood in the corner of the room, weeping. Two hours earlier, the nurse on duty had been in to check on Darrell, only to discover he had stopped breathing. The hospital staff rushed to revive him, and now was desperately fighting for his life.

Darrell’s mother looked up as I entered the room. Seven years earlier, her first husband and oldest son had died in a tragic boating accident. She then married Darrell’s stepfather, but two years later, he had a fatal heart attack. Now this.

She looked down to her right. I’m not even sure she was talking to me. If she was, she certainly wasn’t expecting me to say anything in reply.

In her anger she demanded, “Doesn’t God know I’ve suffered enough?”

She was absolutely exhausted. The attending physician came into the room and said there was nothing more they could do. Still in shock, Darrell’s mother left.

“Darrell’s situation is serious,” the doctor told me. “It appears he stopped breathing for fifteen, maybe twenty, minutes. We can’t pick up any brain waves. But I don’t want to unplug him until we’ve tried everything we can. Would you sit with Darrell and talk with him? If you get him to respond in any way—a word, a motion, a blink—we’ll keep him alive.”

The doctor took me to Darrell’s room in ICU. For three days, I stayed with Darrell. I talked with him. I stroked his hand. I pleaded with him to let me know he was still there. I desperately looked for any sign of life.


After three days, they turned off life support.

I never realized how powerless I was until that experience. Not only was I unable to save my friend, but I also had nothing to say to his mother in her moment of deepest grief.

Where was God?

Where was anyone when Darrell’s mom and I felt overwhelmed with such intense feelings of loss and grief?

Who could blame her or me for feeling abandoned?

In the face of unspeakable suffering and pain, why would anyone still believe in God? When asked what they would like to ask God if given the opportunity, 44 percent of Americans said they want to know why there is evil or suffering in this world.1

Faith Wrecker: Experiencing evil and suffering


Sarah’s hard-driving husband, Rob, wasn’t a kind man. Twenty-six long years had proved that beyond a doubt. Day after day, night after night, Sarah prayed for Rob to find God and turn his life around.

But the years had taken their toll, and most of the time Sarah found it to be almost a relief when Rob left the house to go to work. She couldn’t remember the last time he had told her goodbye, let alone offered a kiss. That morning was no different, it seemed. Until a knock at the door shortly before lunch. Rob had been headed north on I-5 just outside Sacramento when a semi jackknifed in front of him. A second semi and Rob’s hotel shuttle van hit simultaneously, rocketing him out of the vehicle. Seventy five yards away, he writhed in unimaginable pain. By the time the paramedics arrived, he was almost dead. He officially expired at 10:33, less than two miles from a local hospital.

That day, Sarah experientially lost her faith. She had prayed and prayed for her husband’s salvation. Where was God when her husband needed him most? And where was God in the midst of her piercing sorrow?

A year later, Sarah answered the phone and a woman asked if her husband had been in a terrible accident. Sarah demanded to know who was calling.

The woman said her name was Tammy. She had been driving south when she witnessed the accident. Instinctively, she pulled off the freeway as quickly as she could. In the median someone was dying. She couldn’t bear to look. Gripping her steering wheel, she argued with God.

Go to him, God told her.

I can’t, Tammy argued. My two children are in the backseat, bundled in their car seats.


No! Please, God, no.

Weeping, Tammy pulled the key out of the ignition, looked back at her sleeping children, stepped out of the car, made sure all the doors were locked, saw that traffic was at a complete stop, and started running between cars toward the median. She knelt in the grass amid the broken glass, took the man’s bloody hand, and started talking to him. Immediately, he stopped writhing.

“Look at me,” Tammy pleaded. “You’re hurt very badly. Do you know God?”

He couldn’t speak aloud, but he slowly shook his head no.

“Do you want to know God as your Savior right now?”

He nodded.

“Pray with me,” Tammy told him.

When she finished the prayer, Rob squeezed Tammy’s hand. “Did you pray with me?” He squeezed again.

Only at that point did Tammy realize a group of people were standing in a circle around her and Rob. Tammy stood up and an off-duty paramedic immediately went to work. The next day Tammy learned that Rob had died before reaching the hospital. After Tammy finished her story, Sarah scoffed. “Why didn’t you call me before now? No matter. I don’t even believe in God anymore.”

Tammy protested, but Sarah rebuffed her. “Don’t go quoting Scripture at me. It’s not true. God doesn’t work all things together for good. My life’s ruined.”

Sarah told me the same thing. After all the depression and anxiety and stress she’d experienced, her life felt shattered. To this day, she believes God might as well stay put in heaven. She’s not looking for him anymore. At least not yet. But God hasn’t given up on her. Neither have I.

It’s startling to realize the implications of God’s unconditional love, grace, and mercy. Like the Prodigal Son’s father, God isn’t disillusioned with us. He never had any illusions to begin with.

Of course, even if someone knew God wasn’t angry at her, if she knew beyond a doubt that God had no intention of heaping guilt or shame on her, there’s no guarantee she would turn back to God.

I walked away, didn’t I? I made my choice. My fate is sealed, isn’t it?


The course of your life could change today based on a single decision you’ll make—either to open the door of your heart and invite God to come back in or to consciously lock him out of your life forever.

Maybe you have been taught that it’s impossible to come back to God. You may have felt God wouldn’t take you back anyway. But it’s not too late.

Right before the start of World War I, a young French boy named Jean-Paul Sartre and his widowed mother were living with her parents. The grandfather was a Protestant, the grandmother a lifelong French Catholic. At the dinner table, the family patriarch and matriarch often poked fun at the other’s religious beliefs.

“I concluded from these exchanges that the two faiths were equally valueless,” Jean-Paul later said. “Even though my family saw it as their duty to bring me up as a Catholic, religion never had any weight with me.”

By the time the war ended, Jean-Paul had grown completely disenchanted with the church. By the time he turned twelve, he thoroughly hated to attend Mass and resolved that he would go no more.

To seal his decision, Jean-Paul stood before a mirror, stared at his reflection, and then cursed God. He felt a sense of relief. He was through with God and the church. He decided to become an atheist so he could live the rest of his days as he pleased.

Over the years, Sartre looked back at that event as a defining moment in his life. In Being and Nothingness, writing against certain Christian beliefs, he commented almost as an aside: “We should know for always whether a particular youthful experience had been fruitful or ill-starred, whether a particular crisis of puberty was a caprice or a real pre-formation of my later engagements; the curve of our life would be fixed forever.”

In other words: If I really meant it when I cursed God, I thereby set the course of my entire life and have sealed my fate.

Sartre went on to make a name for himself, of course. His political exploits are legendary, his writings definitive of mid-twentieth century atheistic existentialism. Yet, reviewing his life, Sartre seemed to swing between the extremes of heady pride and sexual liberation on the one hand, and philosophical anguish and personal despair on the other.

On numerous occasions, Sartre stated that there is “no exit” from the human dilemma of trying to live as if God did not exist. “Man is alone,” Sartre claimed, abandoned to his own destiny. “Hell is other people.” Life is hard, and then you die. Period. My friend Tim Barnhart says, “He was trying to experience life on his own terms. His ‘truth,’ though depressing and controversial, was nonetheless an exercise in believing.” I agree.

Shortly before his death, Sartre relented. The Nouvel Observateur records these words: “I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God.”2

How tragic that Sartre allowed a decision in his youth to overshadow any consideration of God’s relevance for nearly six decades.

Although he’s considered one of the greatest twentieth-century philosophers, I believe Sartre committed two of this past century’s most prevalent errors of thinking.

First, Sartre confused his feelings with reality. You see this all the time. A man wakes up one morning, rolls over, sees his wife, and realizes he doesn’t have any loving feelings for her. This lack of feelings of love shocks him so much he decides it must be the truth. So he acts accordingly, forgetting that love is more than a momentary feeling. In reality, to love is a decision we make over and over again.

Second, Sartre confused an event with fate. When he cursed God, he felt he had sealed his destiny. There was no looking back, no recognition that he could choose otherwise.3

I don’t know your particular life story. Yet after talking individually with hundreds of people over the past decade, I find that many people wish, in their heart of hearts, that they could believe God hasn’t abandoned them after all.

Maybe you’ve consciously cursed God. Maybe you’ve rejected only the church. Maybe you’ve simply lacked the confidence to say, “God, if you’re real, please make yourself real to me.”


God wants us to know that even when it’s humanly impossible to see or feel him, he is always there with us. Sometimes that’s hard to believe. But no matter how deeply we bury grief in our souls, it doesn’t go away.

Four years ago, Lisa and her family took a brief but much needed vacation at a beautiful resort outside Phoenix.

During their fifth night there, Lisa was awakened by a horrific nightmare. She dreamed she was a little girl again, just four years old. Her father was tying a gag in her mouth and then binding her hands. While her mother watched, he carried her through the apartment and down the stairway to a waiting car. He put her in the trunk of the car and slammed the lid shut.

Lying in the dark in her hotel room, Lisa trembled in her bed, perspiring all over. Never had she felt such an overwhelming sense of shock, fear, and abandonment. She couldn’t stop the unfolding nightmare. She turned on the light. She wept. She cried out to God for deliverance. Finally, in desperation, she woke her husband, Mark, beating his chest as the nightmare continued to play out in her mind: The four-year-old Lisa was drenched with sweat by the time the trunk lid opened again. She was slapped, then carried into what appeared to be a warehouse. Except for the light from a small wood fire, it was dark inside. Lisa’s captors laid her next to the fire, only inches away. She tried to roll away, but they kept kicking her back. Finally, when her clothes were almost dry, they forced her to stand up and then stripped her. Then they started filming the unspeakable atrocities that happened next.

What Mark didn’t realize that night was that his own nightmare had just begun. It would be months before Lisa was finally diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, and by that time, her four-year-old self was often Lisa’s dominant personality. She no longer knew anything about God, her Christian faith, or even her husband, often emphatically declaring that she wasn’t married to him.

Months later, having no idea what had happened, I sat in Lisa and Mark’s living room, expressing my genuine concern for their welfare. Thirty-year-old Lisa looked at Mark, nodded her head, and then looked down for a minute. I sat quietly. Finally, her story—their story—started coming out. I immediately quit asking questions. When someone tells their story, I’ve learned to listen—just listen. I’m convinced that intertwined within every story you’ll find God’s redemptive presence where you least expect it.

As Lisa told her story that night, she began to see God again for the first time in a long time. She wept tears of joy as she felt his presence. She realized he was in the midst of her story, after all.

The next morning Lisa called to tell me she had slept through the night for the first time in sixteen months. By week’s end, four-year-old Lisa had begun reintegrating with thirty-year-old Lisa. She still had a long road of healing ahead of her, but the process of recovery had begun. Today, her marriage and faith have been fully restored. I say that almost matter-of-factly, but for a long time that was anything but a sure thing.

Lisa said it best: “I discovered there’s always hope.”4

Like Lisa, we all have a story. But unless we’re broken enough to take the terrible risk of telling someone our story, no matter how dark it is, we may never reconnect with God again this side of eternity.

Remarkably, as Lisa learned, if we do tell our stories to someone who knows God—without demanding answers to that blackest of all questions (“Why?”)—guess who shows up, unannounced?

Faith Builder: Telling my story to a friend who knows God


As a teenager, I must have read through the Psalms a dozen times each year after my father’s health fled and poverty pounced upon our once-proud family. I learned firsthand that God indeed cares deeply about the helpless and oppressed, the wounded and despairing.

Perhaps more than any other portion of Scripture, the Psalms tell us about real life.

Over and over again throughout the Psalms we find the psalmist crying out to God in various dire circumstances.

I have so many enemies!

Take away my distress.

Listen to my cry for help.

Go away, all you who do evil.

Save me from my persecutors—rescue me!

In seven out of every ten psalms, the writer is crying out to God for physical salvation, thanking the Lord for sparing his life, reminding himself of the differing fates of the righteous and evildoers, or renewing his allegiance to God and his Word in the face of rampant wickedness.

During my teens, as my dad lost his eyesight and the financial pressures on our family became increasingly severe, I was driven again and again to the Psalms. Over time, I memorized nearly fifty of them. They renewed my faith in the God of the afflicted and suffering.

Maybe you haven’t thought much about the Scriptures for a long time. Yet if the middle of the Bible teaches us anything, it’s how to turn to God in times of trouble and pain. I invite you to consider this brief synopsis with specific examples from various psalms.

■ Call out to the Lord . . .

O God, listen to my cry!

Hear my prayer! Psalm 61:1

. . . and ask for help!

Please, God, rescue me!

Come quickly, Lord, and help me. Psalm 70:1

■ Tell God about your troubles . . .

O God, pagan nations have conquered your land,

your special possession.

They have defiled your holy Temple

and made Jerusalem a heap of ruins. . . .

We are mocked by our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those

around us. Psalm 79:1, 4

. . . and admit if you feel abandoned or forsaken.

O Lord, how long will this go on?

Will you hide yourself forever?

How long will your anger burn like fire? Psalm 89:46

■ Describe what you want God to do . . .

Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!

Replace the evil years with good.

Let us, your servants, see you work again;

let our children see your glory.

And may the Lord our God show us his approval

and make our efforts successful.

Yes, make our efforts successful! Psalm 90:15-17

. . . and explain why God should act on your behalf.

Let this be recorded for future generations,

so that a people not yet born will praise the

Lord. . . .

And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion,

his praises in Jerusalem,

when multitudes gather together

and kingdoms come to worship the Lord. Psalm 102:18, 21-22

■ Give a candid appraisal of your enemy . . .

They surround me with hateful words

and fight against me for no reason.

I love them, but they try to destroy me with accusations

even as I am praying for them!

They repay evil for good,

and hatred for my love. Psalm 109:3-5

. . . and ask God to put that foe in his place.

Arise, O Lord, in anger!

Stand up against the fury of my enemies!

Wake up, my God, and bring justice! Psalm 7:6

■ Honestly evaluate your guilt or innocence . . .

I have chosen to be faithful;

I have determined to live by your regulations.

I cling to your laws.

Lord, don’t let me be put to shame! Psalm 119:30-31

. . . and confess any known sins.

I have wandered away like a lost sheep;

come and find me,

for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalm 119:176

■ Affirm your implicit trust in God . . .

I look up to the mountains—

does my help come from there?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2

. . . and then praise God for his deliverance.

Praise the Lord,

who did not let their teeth tear us apart!

We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap.

The trap is broken, and we are free!

Our help is from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6-8

If we learn anything from the Psalms, it’s that God isn’t afraid of our emotions, our struggles, and our questions. The one mistake we dare not make, Philip Yancey reminds us, is to confuse God (who is good) with life (which is hard).5 God feels the same way we do—and is taking the most radical steps possible (Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and more to come) to redeem the present situation.

I haven’t always believed that. In fact, my father is an atheist. I was raised to not believe in God. When I became a Christian, my dad saw it as an act of rebellion. Later, I studied under a German existentialist philosopher. I dared her to prove there isn’t a God. “If you’re right,” I said, in essence, “I’ll stop being a Christian.” Instead, after studying the writings of the most renowned atheists of the past four centuries, my Christian faith was stronger than ever.

Why is it, I wondered, that these men and women can write brilliantly about any area of philosophy, but they get so angry and irrational when writing about God, the church, and the Christian faith?

After studying their biographies, I discovered the most common reason: Very bad things happened to them or their loved ones, often when they were very young. Many even went on to study in seminary, but they didn’t find the answers they were looking for. So they turned against God with a vengeance. It can happen to any of us.

A decade ago I was hit with a rapid-fire series of crises. Emergency surgery for my oldest daughter, who had just been diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful, cancer-like condition. Unexpected house repairs. Two vehicle breakdowns. Huge unpaid bills. I felt that the hand of God was crushing me—emotionally, physically, financially, and in every other way.

How could God do this to my family?

This isn’t fair!

My love for God, my joy for life, and my peace were shattered. Instead I felt angry, deceived, and desperate for a way out of my family’s nightmare.

In my despair, I doubted God’s character. Finally the day came when I couldn’t read the Bible anymore. Not a single verse. I couldn’t pray, even over a meal. For days and weeks on end.

Experientially, I had lost my faith. Why? Because I had let the circumstances of life temporarily overshadow what I knew to be true. As a result, I couldn’t fall asleep at night. I couldn’t get rid of the stabbing pain in my chest.

Finally, like Peter the apostle at the end of John 6, I realized, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” I dared take the risk of embracing faith again.

Thankfully, God renewed my faith when I started taking several simple (but nonetheless terribly hard) steps of obedience. I forced myself to open my Bible, read a verse—I don’t even remember which one—and honestly answer the question, “Do I believe it?” To my surprise, I said yes. It wasn’t a big yes. But it was enough to prompt me to read another verse, and then another.

At long last, I felt God speaking to me again. I started praying to him as well. To my surprise, he wasn’t angry at me over my crisis of faith. Just the opposite. In time, my faith was renewed in a remarkable way.

Since then, I’ve talked with many people about my experience. Not because it’s dramatic, but because it’s true to life. Every Christian is seriously tempted, at one time or another, to lose his or her faith.

The good news is that God never abandons us. Even in the worst of circumstances, he’s still there, urging us not to lose hope that we will see him again.

What’s your story? Can you see God at work in your life? If not, let’s talk. You can write to me at



1. See (viewed October 25, 2007).

2. This statement originally appeared in French in Nouvel Observateur. It first appeared in English in National Review, June 11, 1982, 677.

3. Luis Palau and David Sanford, God Is Relevant (New York: Doubleday, 1997), xi-xiii, tells Jean-Paul Sartre’s story in more detail.

4. If, like Lisa, you long for healing from the wounds of child sexual abuse, I highly recommend In the Wildflowers produced by Restoring the Heart Ministries,

5. See (viewed June 1, 2008).



Romans 8:28

Luke 15:11-32

Psalm 61:1

Psalm 70:1

Psalm 79:1, 4

Psalm 89:46

Psalm 90:15-17

Psalm 102:18, 21-22

Psalm 109:3-5

Psalm 7:6

Psalm 119:30-31

Psalm 119:176

Psalm 121:1-2

Psalm 124:6-8

John 6:68-69