Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Touching Wonder

Touching Wonder -- Recapturing the Awe of Christmas
John Blase

You are invited to visit to listen to this new Christmas audio special!

uReadBooks presents:

Touching Wonder -
A Christmas Radio Special

Does it seem like you have heard the Christmas story a few too many times for it to still hold the wonder that it once had? With his instant classic, Touching Wonder, author John Blase breathes new life into the story of the Nativity. Just in time for the holiday season, presents a half hour Christmas special featuring excerpts from this new book.

About the book:

Little children understand how amazing the Nativity story is. But, sometimes, as we become men and women, we put away the childlike with the childish. The result? We lose something vital—the wonder of it all. When author John Blase went looking for the lost wonder of Christmas, he went back to the place he’d last seen it—the stories from Luke 1-2. What he found fills the pages of his new book, Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas (David C Cook, September 2009), with flesh and bone and dust and night and a baby’s cry; the intimate union of human and divine—the Incarnation.

By boldly imagining the first two chapters of the gospel of Luke, writer, editor, and former pastor John Blase has created an instant classic for Christmastime. In a tale that reads like a novel parallel parked by the record of Scripture, Blase beckons those who could use a little wonder in their lives to step onto the stage of history and witness the long awaited coming of the Messiah. With Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible translation as his backdrop, Blase adds his own voice and commentary to the historic events, exploring the renowned drama from an array of viewpoints.

In Touching Wonder, readers will meet a cast of unruly unlikelies—a frightened teenaged girl, a worried carpenter, a collection of senior citizens, a disillusioned young shepherd, even an angel or two—moving toward the realization that the little one just born is the One. This imaginative retelling of the grand miracle will leave readers wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and heart-full. The Lord is come!

In this lovely and distinctive book to be read…and re-read…and pondered in the heart, young and old will recapture the wonder of the Christmas story by seeing through the eyes of those who lived it. The book’s graceful design and Amanda Jolman’s beautiful line drawings combine to make this a thoughtful Christmas gift as well as a wonder that families will treasure for years to come.


This is a powerful little book to help bring the true spirit of Christmas back to your family. In twelve short chapters, easily read daily at dinnertime with the family, Touching Wonder brings together familiar scriptures and manger reality so lifelike that you'll swear you hear the bleating of sheep. It's as if you are closer than a fly on the wall -- you become a true participant in the world changing birth of Jesus the Christ. This book will become a treasured tradition for our family.
Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

by John Blase

David C Cook/September 2009
A copy of this book was provided for review by David C. Cook.

To listen to or download the program, visit

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Live Deeply and Live Relationally

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the books:

Live Deeply: A Study in the Parables of Jesus

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Live Relationally: Lessons from the Women of Genesis

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Lenya Heitzig is an award-winning author and popular Bible teacher. After beginning her ministry as a single women’s counselor with Youth With a Mission, Lenya married Skip and together they started Calvary of Albuquerque, one of the fast growing churches in the country. The author of Holy Moments and coauthor of the Gold Medallion-winning, Pathways to God’s Treasures, Lenya currently serves as Director of Women at Calvary, overseeing weekly Bible studies and yearly retreats. Lenya and Skip live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Visit the author's website.

Penny Pierce Rose is the award-winning author/coauthor of several books and Bible studies, including the ECPA Gold Medallion winner, Pathways to God’s Treasures. She has served on the board of directors for the Southwest Women’s Festival and develops Bible study curriculum for the women’s programs at Calvary of Albuquerque. Penny, her husband, Kerry, and their three children, Erin, Kristian, and Ryan, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

Live Deeply:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799867
ISBN-13: 978-1434799869

Live Relationally:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767485
ISBN-13: 978-1434767486



Root Determines Fruit

Matthew 13:1–23

Lenya adored Mrs. Johnson, her elementary school teacher, because she had the ability to bring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to life. Lenya’s sister would anxiously wait for her to arrive home to retell the story in every detail. Penny loved nothing more than spooky bedtime tales from her granddaddy. She’d lie awake at night, jumping at every sound, wondering whether the boogeyman was real. All our kids loved trips to the library for story hour.

Since ancient times, storytellers have enthralled audiences with tales both entertaining and instructive. In 300 BC, Aesop, the Greek storyteller, featured animals like the tortoise and the hare in his fables vividly illustrating how to solve problems. The Brothers Grimm gathered fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel in nineteenth-century Germany to teach children valuable moral lessons. Baby boomers were mesmerized when Walt Disney animated their favorite stories in amazing Technicolor.

However, throughout history no one has compared to Jesus Christ as a storyteller. Rather than telling fables or fairy tales, He told parables. A parable is a short, simple story designed to communicate a spiritual truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. It is a figure of speech in which truth is illustrated by a comparison or example drawn from everyday experiences. Warren Wiersbe simply says, “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”1 Throughout this study we’ll learn from the stories Jesus told, comparing them to our lives and putting His eternal truths into practice.

Day 1: Matthew 13:1–3 Floating Pulpit Day 2: Matthew 13:3–9 Fertile Parable Day 3: Matthew 13:10–13 Few Perceive Day 4: Matthew 13:14–17 Fulfilled Prophecy Day 5: Matthew 13:18–23 Four Possibilities


Floating Pulpit

Lift up…

Lord, I love to gather with Your people and listen to Your Word. Help me to be a faithful hearer, not only listening to what You say but obeying Your commands. Thank You for being in our midst. Amen.

Look at…

Jesus proved Himself to be the promised King—the Messiah of Israel—through His impeccable birthright, powerful words, and supernatural deeds. Despite His amazing miracles and the many ways He fulfilled prophecy, the religious leaders rejected His lordship. Knowing the religious leaders had turned on Him, Jesus directed His attention to the common people. Matthew 13 tells how Jesus stepped onto a floating pulpit on the Sea of Galilee and spoke in parables to explain how the gospel—the good news of salvation—would inaugurate the kingdom of heaven on earth.

The parable of the Sower is one of seven parables Jesus taught to describe what His kingdom would look like as a result of the religious establishment rejecting Him. This parable was a precursor to the Great Commission that Jesus would give His disciples after His death, burial, and resurrection: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). There is no evidence that the religious leaders stayed to listen to Jesus’ simple stories. Yet after this teaching session, the resentment of the religious leaders only deepened.

Read Matthew 13:1–3.

On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. Matthew 13:1

Explain what Jesus did on this day in His ministry.

Matthew 13:1 is the continuation of a critical day in Jesus’ ministry. Briefly scan Matthew 12; then answer the following questions to learn more about this “same day.”
What day of the week is referred to here?
What miracles did Jesus perform on this day?
Describe Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders.
What did He teach about becoming a member of His family?

According to Mark 3:6, what did the Pharisees begin to do on this fateful day?

And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow.” Matthew 13:2–3

Explain why Jesus got into the boat.
How many people stayed to hear Jesus’ message?
What method of teaching did Jesus use in speaking to the
What types of things did He teach in parables?
Galilee was an important region to Jesus. Fill in the following table to learn more.

Scripture Galilee’s Significance

Matthew 4:18–21
Matthew 17:22–23
Matthew 26:31–32
Luke 1:26–28
Luke 2:39–40
Acts 10:36–38

We’ve learned that many people came to know Jesus in Galilee. Journal about the place where you encountered Jesus and how meeting Him affected your feelings about that location.

Jesus was “moved with compassion” for the multitudes that followed Him. Circle below to indicate how you respond to the many people who are lost and looking for a shepherd.

Eager to share the gospel

Impatient with their ignorance

Anxious to get away

Concerned for their eternity

Frightened by their unruliness

Other __________________

Journal a prayer asking God to supernaturally fill you with compassion for the multitudes that don’t know Him.

The multitudes crowded around Jesus, so He turned a boat on the Sea of Galilee into a floating pulpit. In his book Fully Human, Fully Alive, John Powell tells about a friend vacationing in the Bahamas who was drawn to a noisy crowd gathered toward the end of a pier:

Upon investigation he discovered that the object of all the attention was a young man making the last-minute preparations for a solo journey around the world in a homemade boat. Without exception everyone on the pier was vocally pessimistic. All were actively volunteering to tell the ambitious sailor all the things that could possibly go wrong. “The sun will broil you! … You won’t have enough food! … That boat of yours won’t withstand the waves in a storm! … You’ll never make it!”

When my friend heard all these discouraging warnings to the adventurous young man, he felt an irresistible desire to offer some optimism and encouragement. As the little craft began drifting away from the pier towards the horizon, my friend went to the end of the pier, waving both arms wildly like semaphores spelling confidence. He kept shouting: “Bon Voyage! You’re really something! We’re with you! We’re proud of you!”2

If you had been there as the boat was leaving, which group on the pier would you have been among: the optimists or the pessimists? More importantly, if you had been in the crowds along the Sea of Galilee, would you have joined the Pharisees seeking to harm Jesus or the crowd eagerly listening to the stories Jesus told?

Listen to …

The best leaders … almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols.

—Tom Peters


Eve--Trouble in Paradise

Genesis 2:18-3:24

The first trouble in paradise was man's aloneness. For six consecutive days--as God created light, the cosmos, the land and sea, the stars and planets, the creatures in the sea and sky, and every living thing that moves, including the ultimate creation of man--God declared, “It is good.” But there was one thing that wasn't good: Man did not have a companion. So God created the perfect mate for Adam. She would be the counterpart for him physically, spiritually, intellectually, and socially. She was intended to complete him. She was more than a mate--she was a soul mate.

We know this woman as Eve. Although the Bible does not describe her, there is no doubt that she was the most beautiful woman who ever lived. Why? She was God's masterpiece. The Divine dipped His paintbrush into the palette of dust and clay and breathed life from His wellspring of inspiration to form a portrait of perfection. Just imagine a woman with a face more beautiful than Helen of Troy, a body more statuesque than the Venus de Milo, a personality more captivating than Cleopatra, and a smile more mysterious than the Mona Lisa. She ate a perfect diet, so her figure was probably flawless. Because of an untainted gene pool, she was undoubtedly without physical defect. Due to the antediluvian atmosphere, her complexion was age-defying perfection. She was never a child, daughter, or sister. She was the first wife, the first mother, and the first woman to encounter evil incarnate. That's when real trouble in paradise began.

Day 1: Genesis 2:18-25 Paradise Found

Day 2: Genesis 3:1-6 Innocence Lost

Day 3: Genesis 3:7-13 Hiding Out

Day 4: Genesis 3:14-19 Judgment Pronounced

Day 5: Genesis 3:20-24 East of Eden


Paradise Found

Lift up …

Thank You, Lord, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You have created me in Your image to glorify Your name. May I fulfill Your will in my heart and home. Amen.

Look at …

We begin our study when God made man and woman. Though God created both humans and animals, this does not mean that they are on equal footing. People are made in God's image, setting us apart from animals in a profound way. We possess a soul. The soul refers to a person's inner life. It is the center of our emotions and personality. The word soul is first used in Genesis: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [soul]” (Gen. 2:7). In other words, humans possess intellect, emotion, and will.

For instance, dogs aren't bright enough to realize they'll never catch their own tails; cows don't weep over the beauty of a sunset; and a female praying mantis can't keep herself from chewing her spouse's head off. People, on the other hand, have the ability to acquire knowledge and experience deep feelings. They also have the capacity for self-control. While animals act instinctively, we as humans should behave transcendently. We are God's special creation endowed with the gift of “soul-power.”

Read Genesis 2:18-25.

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:18-25

Explain the problem and solution God first spoke about in this passage.

Describe in detail the task God assigned to Adam.

Compare and contrast Adam to the rest of the living beings.

In your own words describe how God created woman.

a. When Adam met his mate he made a proclamation. What do you think “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” signified for Adam?

b. What did he call his mate and why?

Here we find the first mention of marriage in Scripture. Explain God's intent for marriage.

a. What else do you learn about the man and wife in this passage?

b. Why do you think this is relevant?

Live out …

a. God declared that man needs companionship. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and explain some of the reasons why it is better to have a mate to come alongside you.

Read the sidebar concerning “Threefold Strength” and talk about how you have experienced God's supernatural strength in your life and/or marriage.

Many women today struggle with the way they look, think, and feel. But when God made Eve from Adam's rib, this was not His intent. When He made you, He made you to be the person you are too. With this in mind, journal Psalm 139:13-14 into a personal psalm praising God for making you just as you are.

For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother's womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works. Ps. 139:13-14

Before the fall, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. It's probably difficult to imagine being unashamed about our looks, actions, or thoughts. But Jesus came to free us from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Read the following Scriptures and talk about how we can either stand ashamed or unashamed before God.

Psalm 119:5-6

Isaiah 41:11

Isaiah 49:23

Jeremiah 8:9

It's safe to say that none of us is perfectly content with our frame. We all wish we were better, thinner, richer, healthier, smarter, or younger. We may think that if we were different in some way people would accept us, respect us, or love us more. Maybe we'd even love and respect ourselves more. Like Eve, we would walk in this world unashamed.

A recent University of Waterloo study determined that people's self-esteem is linked to such traits as physical appearance, social skills, and popularity. Research associate Danu Anthony noted that acceptance from others is strongly tied to appearances. Furthermore, the study found that self-esteem is connected to traits that earn acceptance from other people. “People state emphatically that it is 'what's inside' that counts and encourage their children not to judge others based on appearances, yet they revere attractive people to an astonishing degree,” Anthony says. “They say they value communal qualities such as kindness and understanding more than any other traits, but seem to be exceptionally interested in achieving good looks and popularity.” The bottom line is that people's looks and behavior are intimately linked to being accepted by others.3

As women of faith, we know that acceptance from others is not nearly as important as our acceptance of One Man--the God/Man Jesus Christ, the second Adam. Only by accepting Jesus Christ's sacrificial death will you be made whole: “You are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).

Listen to…

The woman was formed out of man--not out of his head to rule over him; not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him; but out of his side to be his equal, from beneath his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved.

--Matthew Henry

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Embrace the Struggle

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Embrace the Struggle

Howard Books (October 27, 2009)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Willingham of HOWARD BOOKS (SIMON & SCHUSTER) for sending me a review copy.***


Zig Ziglar is the president of Zig Ziglar Corporation and has motivated the sales forces of multinational corporations and thousands of individuals. One of the leading stars of the “positive thinking” movement, he is the author of bestsellers See You at the Top, Secrets of Closing the Sale, Success and Self-Image, 5 Steps to Successful Selling, How to Be a Winner, and How to Get What You Want.

Visit the author's website.

Julie Ziglar Norman is the overly proud mother and grandmother of one son, three daughters, and twelve grandchildren. She lives in Alvord, Texas, with her husband of twenty-six years, Jim Norman; three horses, three rescued dogs and three rescued cats, and she is currently writing her first solo book to be published by Brown Books in 2010.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $23.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (October 27, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143914219X
ISBN-13: 978-1439142196



Zig Ziglar, my father, is in a struggle right now. A struggle so profound and so real that by sharing it with you I believe you will be filled with hope and encouragement. The gift that God has given Dad is the gift of encouragement and the ability to transfer hope to others so that they can rise above whatever circumstance they are in. As Dad has always said, “Getting knocked down in life is a given. Getting up, starting from where you are and moving forward, is a choice.”

On March 7, 2007, our family experienced what Dr. James Dobson calls “a suddenly.” I was out of town when I got the call. I went numb as I listened to my sister Cindy’s voice, “Dad fell down the stairs. He has a serious head injury.” Suddenly, our family joined millions of other families facing similar circumstances and life was very different. Dad, at eighty years of age, lost the vitality he was renowned for; he no longer moved with the energy and agility of a sixty-five-year-old man. Almost overnight he aged fifteen plus years, and thus began his struggle to live with and overcome the effects of a brain injury.

The next weeks were very anxious as we figured out the impact of the accident and the possibilities for recovery. The calendar became filled with doctors and more doctors. Life was changing fast. But the amazing thing was that Dad’s attitude never changed. I knew that he hurt all over from falling down a sixteen step staircase onto a marble floor. I could see that his balance was impaired and that his short-term memory was “really short,” as he likes to say, but still he was as optimistic and, if possible, even more loving than before the fall. As usual, he was more concerned for us than he was for himself.

“Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.” I have heard Dad say that hundreds of times. “It isn’t what happens to you, but how you respond to what happens to you that makes the difference.” “Go as far as you can see, then you can see farther.” These are words my father has taught and words he lives by daily. And that is why I’m so excited about this book. Once again my father is using his circumstances, as unfortunate as they may be, to encourage others in their own struggles. As my sister Julie says, he is willing to be transparent, and he continues to write and speak because he wants to show his audiences that life on life’s terms is well worth living. Life may never be the same again but that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as wonderful and fulfilling in an entirely new and different way.

My wish for you as you journey through this book is that you will count your blessings until your gratitude bucket is full, and if you or someone you love is in a struggle, take courage and press on, because, as the Ziglar family has learned, it is in the depths of the struggle that God reveals His eternal blessings.

Embrace the Struggle,

Tom Ziglar

Proud Son of Zig Ziglar


I’m convinced that in the last year the overwhelming majority of people have been struggling with some kind of concern—personal, family, business, health, relationships—you name it. I know I certainly have! It seems these are things that just happen over the course of time. The question is how do you handle struggle?

Through the years I’ve spoken about and written often on how to overcome negative situations, but as a motivational/inspirational speaker and author, I have to admit that I personally have spent the majority of my time focused on how to accomplish the next positive achievement. I believe I have given an honest and realistic picture of how to address struggles in the past but as you know, what we know is a result of what we’ve learned. The things we learn firsthand have a much greater impact on us and better position us to help others deal with similar circumstances. In fact, the Bible tells us this is so; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of our mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NKJV).

Until now, my greatest life struggle has been dealing with the death of my forty-six-year-old daughter, Suzan. I wrote extensively in Confessions of a Grieving Christian about how I grappled with my grief and how God comforted me. Not surprisingly, that book has been the one of mine that has generated the most letters from readers. Why? Because that topic directly addresses an emotional struggle all of us eventually face in our lives. Generally, you don’t read a book about grief unless you are grieving. And you typically won’t gravitate toward a book on overcoming struggles unless you, or someone you love, are in the midst of a struggle. If you find this to be your case, you my friend, are reading the right book!

I know without a doubt that the personal struggle I’ve been going through since my fall has given me insight that I could not have had otherwise. I’ve been overwhelmed time and time again as I have discovered that the principles I’ve taught through the years apply to my present circumstances more completely than they ever have at any other time in my life. And, amazingly, the simplest concepts of all have proven to be the most applicable life buoys for me.

The pages that follow this introduction are full of inspiring stories of individuals who have faced struggles and not only survived, but live a life far more fulfilling than they ever experienced before their struggle began. Many of the stories come from individuals who, upon hearing about my brain injury, sought to encourage and comfort me with the comfort that God had extended to them during their struggle.

I will share with you the principles and scriptures that have served as lifelines for me and explain how I have applied them to my struggle. You will hear how my struggle has impacted and influenced the lives of my wife, the Redhead (When I’m talking about her, I call her the Redhead. When I’m talking to her, I call her Sugar Baby. Her name is Jean.), my son Tom, my daughters, Cindy and Julie, and my granddaughter Katherine. You’ll also learn how this has impacted my speaking career, my writing and the wonderful staff I’m blessed to have at our company, Ziglar, Inc.

My personal struggle is health related but this book deals with not only the struggle physical limitations create, but also financial, spiritual, family and relationship struggles. This book is about living life on life’s terms. It is about knowing what you can change and what you can’t change and learning how to live your life with an enthusiastic expectation for what is yet to come. Where there is a struggle there is life. For that we can be grateful!



I get lots of ideas when the lights go out at night and it gets very quiet. Sometimes they come when I first lie down to sleep, other times I wake up with an idea racing through my mind, but regardless of when an idea comes, I have made it a habit to get out of bed and write the idea down before it disappears into my dreams. You should do the same. (This book is not really about me and my accident . . . it’s about you having the benefit of my experience, good or bad!)

I’ve also made it a habit not to disturb the Redhead if I can possibly help it and that night was no exception. I quietly slid out of bed and hurried toward my office which is across the hall and to the right of the head of the staircase. As usual, I did not turn on a light. I had traveled that particular path thousands of times in the twenty-two years we’d lived in our home. However, in all of those years I had never accidentally put my left foot down where the second floor ended and the first step down our staircase began! Let’s just say that misstep more than disturbed the Redhead!

Most of what I am writing at this point is information my family filled me in on after the accident. Since I was unconscious for several minutes I have absolutely no recall of what happened after I fell but from what the Redhead tells me she grabbed the phone and dialed 911 as soon as she realized I was tumbling down the stairs. An ambulance was dispatched and help was at the house within a few minutes of my fall.


While the paramedics attended to me the Redhead called our children. By then it was about 10:30 p.m. so seeing our name come up on Caller ID at that hour struck fear into our children’s hearts. And this time, I’m sorry to say, their fear was not unfounded. My son Tom refers to that night as the night he got “the call.” I’m quite sure each of you has had “the call” at one time or another and can relate to what our children were experiencing. I’m grateful that all three of them, including Tom who was out of town, hurried to the hospital to help their “elderly parents”—that is what I call us when I’m about half-teasing and about half-relieved that our kids are hovering around us, willing and eager to help.

Over the next several hours it became apparent that my left side took the brunt of my fall. When I landed at the bottom of the stairs I hit my head on the marble floor and then slammed it against the front door. Please don’t ask for a reenactment—you get the picture! I had to spend a few nights at the hospital so the doctors could monitor the two areas where my brain had a bleed, and I needed some time to get used to the positional vertigo that I began to experience about twelve hours after I fell. Amazingly, I suffered no broken bones, but I can testify that I was one sore and dizzy guy!

What we didn’t know when I finally left the hospital was how seriously my short-term memory had been affected. Sometimes it is nice to be a little clueless. Everyone in the family has had ample time to adjust to the fact that my short-term memory is very, very, short. Now we are all learning how to live with that fact.

Life is change. On March 7, 2007, my life changed completely with one, simple, misplaced step. Some would say it changed for the worse, and by man’s standards they would be entirely right. Fortunately, and I can assure you this is not by chance, the one verse that I’ve written in the majority of books I’ve been asked to autograph, the verse that I believe encourages people most in the midst of their troubles, Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (KJV), is the verse that allows me to know that God will use this season of my life, difficult though it may be, for His glory and my ultimate benefit.

By man’s standards my fall down the stairs and the vertigo and the brain injury that resulted in my short-term memory loss would seem to dictate an end to my long and much loved career, but I’m here to tell you that even with its problems, life is more inspiring, more intriguing, and more fulfilling than ever. For me, when life does take an unexpected turn, it is somewhat like taking a hike on a new trail; I can’t wait to see what is around the next bend. If the going gets really rocky, I might start hoping smoother ground is just ahead, or that I’m close to the end of the trail where I can take a long desired break from the grueling journey. But my enthusiastic expectation for what is yet to come, for what God has planned for me and my life, never wavers. I trust Him.

I also trust my family. Many years ago I told my family that I was concerned that I might not be able to realize it myself if I started to lose my edge and my speeches were no longer as effective as they should be. I did not want to embarrass myself so I asked them to promise that they would tell me if they ever thought it was time for me to step down from the stage. As I got older and started experiencing some of what I’d call the usual memory loss that happens when we pass the ages of fifty, sixty, and then seventy, the children often checked on me to be sure I was still able to deliver. Thankfully, they were discreet and until after the accident I didn’t even know they had already begun checking me out periodically. They took their assignment seriously and I’m glad they did.

It is true that as I neared the age of eighty, I began to rely on notes to help me keep my place as I was speaking. But I figured that most folks rely on notes by the time they are eighty so I wasn’t at all concerned about how my audience would perceive my occasional pass by the podium to reference my outline. My daughter Julie reviewed the DVD of the Get Motivated Seminar engagement I did in San Bernardino, California on March 6, 2007, the day before my accident and she assures me that I was still completely stage worthy at that point. Unfortunately, my brain injury had such a profound effect on my short-term memory that the ability to reference an outline was beyond me. I could look at the outline but I couldn’t remember the last point that I had made. To add insult to injury, the vertigo I was experiencing made it virtually impossible for me to even walk around the stage safely.


Obviously, I had a real dilemma. I book engagements months and years in advance and there were several engagements pending when I fell. I know companies and individuals alike are negatively impacted if I can’t keep an engagement, so I have always done everything in my power to be where I’m expected. I’ve missed the funerals of my siblings and friends and I’ve spoken when I probably should not have due to illness, but I always felt like my responsibility to show up according to plan was paramount. I can still hear my mother saying, “If a man’s word is no good—he is no good.” I had given my word.

Situations like the one I’m in create circumstances that make a fellow really grateful to have good family relationships. I knew I could count on the help of my family and I got it in spades! The Redhead, Tom, Cindy and Julie enlisted the help of my doctors who were working with me after my accident, as well as the help of my friends and associates, to determine if I should find a way to continue speaking or stay home and concentrate on my writing.

My family was open to seeing how I would progress, but they were concerned about the very real possibility that my vertigo might cause another fall and that traveling would put me in more vulnerable positions than staying close to home would. When they discussed the idea that it might be time for me to retire from public speaking, it was quickly followed by a concern that God might not be done with using me on the stage and none of them wanted to be responsible for suggesting I stop if that was, in fact, the case. However, it was crystal clear that short of an outright miracle I would not be giving the kind of speeches my audiences had come to expect.

The doctors had said that I might recover more of my short-term memory with time as my brain healed but they couldn’t be sure of what the ultimate outcome was going to be. More than a year has passed since my fall and it seems that I have good days and other days. (You know there are no bad days. After all, some people didn’t wake up today and compared to them I’m having a better than good day!) Since I am over eighty years of age we are taking the conservative approach to my medical options. We’re taking our time and applying the good old Ben Franklin approach I’ve taught all these years; divide a page from top to bottom, put positive benefits of procedures/therapies in one column and possible negative outcomes in the other, and we’ll let the obvious, as well as prayer, determine our decisions.

I’ll go into more detail later about some of the therapies, supplements, exercises and medical treatments friends and even clients have suggested and that we’ve tried, but for now I want you to know that we’ve never stopped looking at possible treatments for what ails me. We pray about the treatments and supplements we are told about and if we feel God is leading me to try them, I try them. My doctors remain supportive and encouraging about the possibilities the future holds.

My associates, particularly those who also speak on public platforms, were and still are concerned about me retaining my dignity and going out on top. The thought of me, in many cases, their mentor, performing differently and faltering here and there before an audience is almost unthinkable. I love them for wanting to help me be remembered as I was before the accident. And I love them for personally helping me move ahead, to do what God puts in front of me to the best of my ability.


Thankfully, the only speaking engagement that I had to miss immediately after my fall was for my friends and business associates Peter and Tamara Lowe at one of their big Get Motivated Seminars in Houston, Texas on March 13, 2007. After a lot of in-depth examination by no less than five doctors, it was determined that I had retained almost all of the information I have taught over my many years as a speaker and author, and that I was totally “present” when being spoken to. The only new memory problem I had was with the most immediate short-term. When questioned I could answer without any hesitation, but if you asked me what you had asked me when I finished answering the question I could not tell you. Yes, my memory about current events is that short! (You’re probably wondering how this book got written and I’ll tell you—we are both the beneficiaries of the good help I have. Between my executive assistant, Laurie Magers, my editor/daughter Julie Norman and others on my staff, we got it done!)

Since I could recall information when asked, Peter Lowe came up with the idea of changing my speaking format. For years I have been known for my energetic, highly physical speaking style. Some people have even accused me of being more than enthusiastic during presentations. I liked to somewhat live out the stories while I was telling them, and I thought standing stock still behind a podium might block or slow down the words that came flying out of my mouth at the rate of 250 per minute with gusts up to 450. You would naturally assume that it was my vertigo that put an end to all my physical onstage activity, but it really had more to do with the fact that we couldn’t find anyone who felt comfortable chasing me around the stage to ask the next question in our new interview format! Sorry, I couldn’t contain myself.

Sitting down for one-on-one interviews on stage came about through a combination of me being unsteady on my feet and my mind not keeping track of what I’d already said. Peter Lowe interviewed me for the first time in Boise, Idaho on March 27, 2007, just twenty days after my fall but after a few engagements it occurred to him that my associates, Bryan Flanagan and Krish Dhanam, both of whom have shared the Get Motivated Seminar platforms with me on many occasions, might be a better fit for the job. They have both taught my material and they’ve studied it in order to apply it to their lives. They can tell most of my stories almost word for word, and in the event I had trouble recalling any answer to their questions they could help out by prompting me toward the answer or outright supplying the answer if it still eluded me. It made perfect sense to ask them to interview me at the Get Motivated Seminars. Fortunately, they both agreed and with great faith we pressed forward to keep my commitments.


Both Krish and Bryan did an excellent job of interviewing me on stage. They carefully laid out their questions so that we could cover several different areas of interest such as the mental, physical, spiritual, financial and relational sides of life. Their goal and mine was to continue to give the audience valuable, applicable, life improving information in an entertaining way.

I cannot express fully the gratitude I have for these two men. Engagement after engagement, they tweaked their questions as they learned better how to deal with my short-term memory. They spent hours and hours working on how to make me look my very best. They learned how to highlight the good and minimize the imperfections that were bound to happen with the kind of brain injury I suffered.

We continued on this course with the public seminars but we had to address what we, as a company, would do about my corporate engagements and about my two day Born to Win seminar that I had hosted since the 1970s. My son Tom was the president of our company at that time (now he is the CEO) and I sorely wish that all the weight of this problem hadn’t fallen squarely on his shoulders, but he handled and continues to handle the business beautifully.

Tom decided that we’d notify the corporations I was scheduled to speak for about my accident and the change to an interview format and let them decide if they wanted to keep their engagement or cancel, and that we would not book anymore corporate events for the foreseeable future. He also decided we would promote the upcoming Born to Win seminar as the final one.


I know rock stars have farewell tours, sometimes they have one every four or five years, but I had never considered that I might actually “plan” to do any of the things I do for the last time. I’ve always planned to die while I’m still doing what I love doing. When folks say they’ve heard I’m retired, I say with mock surprise, “Retired! Friend, you weren’t listening! I said I was reFIRED! I’m not gonna ease up, shut up, let up or give up, until I’m taken up! Matter of fact, I’m just getting’ warmed up!”

Some people might think that’s reaching a little far for a man who has celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of his twenty-first birthday. (For those of you who are mathematically challenged that means I’m eighty-one years old.) But I am truly the kind of guy who goes after Moby Dick in a rowboat and takes the tartar sauce with him! Which will help you understand that it was with a bit of trepidation that I agreed to the “last” Born to Win seminar.

It wasn’t long before I understood why rock stars have so many farewell tours. They sell out—fast! I was overwhelmed at the immediate response to the announcement. Many who attended Born to Win did so several times through the years. Some brought their employees; others came with their whole family in tow. Larry Carpenter particularly stands out in my mind. He attended forty-five times over twenty-seven consecutive years. His beautiful wife Lisa and their three sons participated more times than I can remember. Larry also financially sponsored nearly 200 people down through the years because he wanted the people he cares about to experience what he experienced there. The last Born to Win was no exception. He brought his whole family and as we’d say down home, a passel of friends to boot! That event was like old home week for the Redhead and me. We got to see so many people whom we’d come to know and love. We were in “tall cotton” the whole time.

Because of my accident, my involvement had been scaled down a great deal but I was scheduled to have three different interview sessions with Krish Dhanam and a great deal of time mixing and mingling with the participants. Krish did the interview the first evening and later fell ill so another long time associate and friend Jill Tibbels agreed to do the Saturday morning interview, which went off exceptionally well. Jill always does an incredible job of anything we ask her to do. That’s just one of the reasons we’re so grateful her association with us spans more than twenty-five years.

Tom came up with the idea of making this final BTW more intimate and special by having a “family” session where the Redhead, Tom, Cindy and Julie joined me on the stage in a living room setting to tell stories about what it was like having me for a husband and father. I often tell people that if I’d known how much fun grandkids were going to be I would have been a whole lot nicer to their parents! I’d like to add that had I known my wife and children would be taking the stage to talk about me . . .

We all had a marvelous time but I suspect my jaw was dropped open most of the time. I had no idea that I had raised so many hams! All three of my children had the audience holding on to their sides. Honestly, I didn’t know that growing up and working with me had provided them with so much funny material! And then the Redhead chimed in and people were almost rolling on the floor. It was as if my family had been saving up for this one occasion. It was all in good, loving fun and the ones I love most in this world did get around to saying that they loved AND respected me, so all’s well that ends well.


Except, as is often the case, what appears to be an ending is anything but. That afternoon of August 25, 2007, was another beginning for me with my daughter and long-time editor, Julie Norman. I love seeing the hand of Providence in my life. Julie became my editor as a result of having won a place at the bi-annual Writer’s Workshop that Guideposts hosts to develop new talent for their magazine. John and Elizabeth Sherrill, long-time roving editors for Guideposts and well-known co-authors of Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, as well as Brother Andrew’s, The Cross and the Switchblade, noted that Julie was a natural at editing. When Julie told me they, and a few others who were leading the workshop, had commented on her editing ability, I immediately knew I needed her to help me with my books. Fifteen years and twenty-one books later we’re still writing away. This book is our first effort as co-authors. With my short term memory loss, the kind of help I needed was more in-depth than the usual editing Julie has done in the past.

And now we’re speaking together as well! Jay Hellwig, my driver and personal assistant and the husband of Jill Hellwig, our number one salesperson for more than thirteen years, noticed that the Born to Win attendees responded enthusiastically to what Julie had to say from the stage. He told Tom that he thought it would be a more natural fit to have Julie interview me at the Peter Lowe Get Motivated Seminars. He pointed out that because of our father/daughter relationship she could more comfortably interrupt me if I started to repeat myself and, after all, she had been editing everything I’d said in print for years, she knew all of my material. It was such an obvious fit I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself! Julie, it seems, had been being prepared all along to help me at this time in my life.

It made sense to Tom, too, and when he asked Julie if she would travel with me and her mother and interview me on stage, she agreed without hesitation.






Howard Books

West Monroe, Louisiana


To the Redhead,

My bride of sixty-one years, the only woman I’ve ever loved

and the most important person in my life.

Sure do love you, Sweetheart!

Our purpose at Howard Books is to:

Increase faith in the hearts of growing Christians
Inspire holiness in the lives of believers
Instill hope in the hearts of struggling people everywhere
Because He’s coming again!

[Howard Logo]Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Embrace the Struggle © 2009 Zig Ziglar

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Howard Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

[Add agent line here, if applicable]

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data TK

ISBN-13: 978-1-4391-4219-6

ISBN-10: 1-4391-4219-X

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

HOWARD and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Manufactured in the United States of America

For information regarding special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact: Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-800-456-6798 or

Edited by Denny Boultinghouse

Cover design by TK

Interior design by TK

Photography/illustrations by TK

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked AMP are from the Amplified Bible®, copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission ( Scripture quotations marked ESV are taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the Holy Bible, Authorized King James Version. Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. Scripture quotations marked TNIV are taken from the Holy Bible, Today’s New International Version®. TNIV®. Copyright© 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scriptures marked LITV are taken from the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible. Copyright © 1976 - 2000 by Jay P. Green, Sr. Used by permission of the copyright holder. Courtesy of Sovereign Grace Publishers and Christian Literature World.

Monday, October 19, 2009

No Idea

No Idea -- Entrusting Your Journey to a God Who Knows


Greg Garrett

I received a copy of this book for review purposes from David C. Cook Publishers. I haven't had a chance to finish it yet and I'll return to update this posting when I do. I'm excited about the book because it gives a down to earth life story about listening to God's call on your life.

“Once you’ve decided that you’re going to live—no mean feat for some of us—how do you figure out what you’re supposed to do with that life?” --Greg Garrett

NO IDEA 3D COVER for printing

One thing is guaranteed: life on this earth is unpredictable—and sometimes frighteningly so. How can we as Christians live faithfully when we’re not quite sure where the path ahead is taking us? How do we find joy and purpose in the midst of the uncertain, the unfinished, the uneasy? In the stirring follow-up to his critically acclaimed spiritual autobiography Crossing Myself, author Greg Garrett explores the universal journey of life by tackling these questions with thoughtfulness, transparent honesty, and humor.

In this spiritual memoir that’s automatically distinct, Garrett appeals to young Christians and seekers in the edgy, transparent style of Anne Lamott, Don Miller, and Cathleen Falsani. A candid and stimulating look at discipleship, discernment, and joy, No Idea is perfect for anyone who has ever wanted to walk the right path but has no idea what step to take next.

Author Bio

Greg Garrett is a popular writer, teacher, speaker, workshop/retreat leader, and meadia guest. The critically acclaimed author of thenovels Free Bird, Cycling, and Shame, the memoir Crossing Myself, numerous nonfiction books on faith, culture, and narrative, and an array of essays, articles, reviews, and lessons, Greg is also a primary writer for the Scripture project The Voice. An award-winning professor of English at Baylor University, Greg serves the church as Writer in Residence for the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Sourthwest as a lay preacher at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fear Not Tomorrow

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Fear Not Tomorrow, God is Already There: Trusting Him in Uncertain Times

Howard Books (September 29, 2009)


Ruth Graham is the daughter of the revered American pastor Billy Graham. She has appeared on a variety of radio and television shows and is the author of the bestselling In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $22.99
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (September 29, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416558438
ISBN-13: 978-1416558439


Trust at My Doorstep

Chapter 1

It had been a difficult few months. One of my children was struggling, and I didn’t know how things would play out. I was anxious, frightened, and continually preoccupied. I could imagine what might be ahead. The questions were relentless: What could I have done differently? Was it my fault? What could I do to change it? How could I protect my child? Was there another step I could take? I felt as if I were being sucked under by a whirlpool of scenes, conversations, and hypothetical outcomes. I lost weight. I battled headaches. I felt like I was constantly vibrating. The fear was overwhelming.

This particular day, the postman arrived at my door with a padded envelope. It was addressed to me in familiar back-slanted handwriting—something from Mother. Feeling the envelope, I knew it was too light to contain a book. What could it be? My birthday was still a long way off. As I tore at the flap and reached inside, I took hold of what felt like a long, narrow picture frame. Pulling it out, I stopped for a moment and stared. It was the framed print from the wall in front of Mother’s desk. In black calligraphy bordered by a flowering vine I read the familiar words: “Fear not tomorrow, God is already there.”

Instantly, I was transported back to the mountain home of my childhood in Montreat, North Carolina. My mother’s plain wooden desk flanked by a tall chest of drawers and a bookcase took up much of one wall in her room. Always lying open on the desk, surrounded by various reference materials, was her well-marked, dog-eared Bible. On the wall facing the desk hung a collection of precious photographs and artifacts: a crown of thorns woven for Mother by the head of the Jerusalem police, a slave collar given to her by Johnny Cash, a rude wooden cross fashioned by my brother Franklin, photographs of loved ones and of those for whom she was praying. Centered above these artifacts was the print I now held. I’m not sure where Mother got it or who gave it to her, only that I cannot remember a time when it wasn’t hanging there like a banner.

I imagined my mother standing on a chair in front of the desk, reaching to take the print off the wall. Sending me such a gift was just like Mother. All my life, since I left home for boarding school in the ninth grade, she had been sending me letters filled with encouragement from the Scriptures—bits of what she was learning in her own study time or wisdom for some situation I might be facing. Now here she was identifying with my mother’s heart, sending me a poignant reassurance. We had not talked much about the circumstances of my struggle. Mother just intuitively knew I might need something like this—a reminder that God was working in our lives and that he cared about our future. I appreciated her sensitivity. She didn’t blame or condemn me; she didn’t unload a lot of advice. She just sent me something that had been of value to her, something that had reassured her, no doubt, as she had mothered us. Standing on my doorstep, holding that print, I felt the words penetrate my heart and mind, almost as if I had never seen them before, as if they were a message written directly to me. I read them again slowly: “Fear not tomorrow, God is already there.”

Little Foxes

Since that day on my doorstep, I have faced quite a few threatening tomorrows, and I have battled fear and anxiety as resilient foes. Perhaps you have fought this same battle. We may experience moments of clarity, as I did reading my mother’s framed print, but then we return to daily life and to the struggle. We wonder how we’re supposed to “fear not tomorrow” in the worst-case scenarios of our lives: a frightening diagnosis, betrayal, separation from a child who has gone off to war, the loss of a job, the evaporation of our retirement, the drug addiction of a loved one, abandonment by a spouse, failure at our workplace, the loss of a home, a legal verdict that changes our lives, the death of a loved one, the exposure of a secret, the loss of our possessions to flood, earthquake, tornado, or financial disaster.

Fear not tomorrow? It is easy to say it but another thing to live it out. We drown in our questions: But what about . . . ? How will I . . . ? What if . . . ? But if I can’t even . . . ? Who will . . . ? And what does it mean that God is already there? Where? In our crises, God can seem silent, remote, or worse, even imaginary. You may feel as I have at times. I have real problems, and they are too big, too hard, too painful for me to solve. I don’t have time for theology. I’m in trouble here! I’m inadequate, and I need something real. Something practical. Something secure. Give me some solutions, some guarantees. Can’t you see that I’m terrified of tomorrow?

Fear and anxiety can exhaust us. King Solomon writes about the “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV). Fear and anxiety are like that. Fear can wipe us out, burn up whatever energy we have, and hinder us from entering into the full experience of life that God desires for us. Certainly, fear and anxiety can become so severe they incapacitate us. But the majority of us live with fear and still function. I have heard fear compared to a jack hammer buzzing just outside the window. The noise is constantly there. When you sleep, the jack hammer quits, but when you wake up, it starts again, sapping your strength and attention until you’re no longer really living—just enduring.

Fear takes the air out of life. When we live with fear, we lose our capacity for fun and spontaneity. We can’t love others wholeheartedly. We become like that frog being boiled slowly. The water gets steadily hotter until we realize, “I’m not having any fun. I have no joy. I’m not alive. I’ve forgotten how to laugh.” During the difficult period with my child that I described above, I experienced fear in different ways. At times, I would have trouble functioning; at other times, I would be able to get up in the morning and do what was necessary. Up and down. Fear was that steady buzz or hum. I wasn’t able to hear the music of life clearly. Everything was filtered through that fear.

My mother was a master at finding ways to enjoy life despite the intense pressures she faced. She knew how to move fear out of the way and keep joy alive. Stories of her antics and pranks have become the stuff of legend in our family. As a young parent, for instance, I would tell my children, “Now don’t draw on yourselves.” Then I would leave the kids with Mother, only to find them covered in inky smiley faces that Mother herself had drawn! Once Mother made a mudslide for the grandchildren on the side of a steep embankment near our Montreat house. She turned on the hose and then promptly took her turn as the first one down. When much older, she accidently drove her car down that same steep embankment. Thinking she was stepping on the brake, she had stepped on the accelerator instead. She and her friend escaped unscathed, but afterward, Mother arranged for a stop sign to be staked at the bottom of the incline, lest other wayward drivers be tempted to take the same route!

Life is a gift from God to be enjoyed. Fear suffocates our spirits and robs us of that gift. It is human to experience the emotion of fear. Fear entered the human experience in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rebelled against God and hid themselves from Him. But Peter describes Satan as a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” and I believe fear is also Satan’s paw print (1 Peter 5:8). It is true that some kinds fear can help us—the kind that keeps us from stepping into oncoming traffic, for instance, or putting our hand on a hot stove. At times, God may use fear to keep us from making wrong choices or wrong decisions in life. But these moments of fear are different from what the Bible calls the “spirit of fear,” which I might describe as the condition or attitude that takes hold when our emotion of fear consumes us (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). As Paul writes, the spirit of fear does not come from God.

Shifting Our Focus

God is concerned about the way fear affects our lives. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (1 John 4:18 NKJV). Fear involves torment. Torment is not God’s will for us. God is committed to our peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you” (John 14:27 NKJV). We read of Jesus, “He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14 NKJV). God has ordained peace for us (Isaiah 26:12). He did not design us to live in fear and anxiety but in peace. In Scripture, we find God repeatedly urging, commanding, people not to be afraid. God is not condemning us for feeling the emotion of fear, but He doesn’t want us to get stuck there or to set up camp in torment. The question is when we are at our wit’s end, how do we “fear not”? At such moments, peace can seem nothing more than an abstraction. We struggle even to imagine the experience.

Often, when we experience fear, we have allowed our circumstances to overwhelm or alter our perspective. Our perspective has become skewed. I have discovered that defeating fear in my life begins with shifting my focus. I take my eyes off the circumstances, off the source of my fear, and put my focus on God. Instead of mulling over the “what ifs” in my future—instead of looking ahead with anxiety, trepidation, dread, or even horror—I make the choice to look at God, to consider His character, and to trust that the One who loves me is “already there.” The message on Mother’s framed print helped me to make that kind of shift as I faced uncertainty with my child. I had been focusing on tomorrow; the words on the print brought my focus back to God.

Shifting our focus is first a decision, then a process. When we turn to God, our decision opens a door for peace and reassurance to enter our hearts. The Bible says of God, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You” (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV, emphasis added). When we focus on God, peace follows. I find that as I concentrate on God, as I examine facets of His character, as I spend time with Him in prayer, sharing my heart and quieting myself to listen, as I meditate on what His Word says about Him, as I read about Jesus and observe the way He handled life—as I “stay” my mind on God—my problems begin to lose their power over me. Instead, I become absorbed in the power, the beauty, and the love of God. He is my focus now. I am learning about Him and getting to know Him. And the more I learn, the more I discover I can trust Him.

In the coming chapters, we will be doing just what the verse above from Isaiah says—staying, or fixing, our minds on God. We will examine some of God’s attributes and consider His ways. We will study the character of Jesus, for in learning about Jesus, we learn about God. Scripture calls Jesus the “express image” of God (Hebrews 1:3 NKJV). Jesus Himself told His disciples, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NKJV). If we want to know what God is like, we can look at Jesus. We can ask: How did Jesus deal with people? What were His relationships like? How did He respond to people’s distress? As we focus on God this way, we can expect God’s peace to crowd out the fear in our hearts.

For some of us, focusing on God, or considering that He is “already there” in our tomorrow, is not exactly a comfort. We may be afraid of God. What little we know of Him, or what we don’t know of Him, frightens us. We fear He is out to lower the boom on us, that He is looking for our faults and eager to point out our failings. We are afraid of His power. Afraid of His judgment. Afraid of being overwhelmed by Him. It is our human nature to fear what we don’t understand, and we don’t understand God. He is unfathomable. He is so much more than we can imagine—far more. He is not accountable to us. He is mysterious, and mystery can be frightening. On seeing the Lord on the throne, Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” (Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah saw his frailty in light of God’s almightiness; he was awed by God’s holiness and glory.

But Scripture also calls God “Abba,” an intimate word for Father that we would translate “Daddy” (Romans 8:15). While God is overwhelming, He is also tender with us. In the New Testament, we see Jesus touching, healing, and relating intimately with people. Bette Midler recorded a song with the lyric, “God is watching us from a distance.” That line is only half-true. God is watching us. But not from a distance. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23 NKJV). God comes close. He makes His home with us. He longs for us as a lover for his bride. We take God for granted, we don’t develop the relationship, we ignore Him, we don’t spend time with Him, and yet He stays with us, longing for that intimacy. God makes covenant with us, and He keeps it. To me, that is one of the most reassuring truths about God. He will never give me up. Never desert me. Never leave me alone. Never (Hebrews 13:5).

As we learn more about God in these pages and spend time focusing our attention on Him, our relationship with Him will deepen. The Bible promises that when we draw near to God, he will draw near to us (James 4:8). As our relationship with God grows, so will our trust in Him. We will discover His constancy. When everything around us is unstable, God is stable. His character is consistent, unchanging. His love is secure. My prayer is that the more you learn of God and the closer you get to Him, the more you will be able not only to trust Him with your tomorrow but also to take comfort in the fact that He is the One who is already there.

Overcoming Our Misperceptions

Part of our challenge in learning to trust God involves overcoming misperceptions we may have of Him. If my view of God is not accurate, then my trust in Him will be more hesitant than hopeful. Often our picture of God is colored by our experiences with our own fathers or with other figures of authority in our lives. If your father was cold and demanding, then you may see God that way. If your father was gone, as mine often was, then you may see God as far away or busy with other things. If an authority figure was angry or abusive, then you may see God the same way and want nothing to do with Him. We are relational beings, and as such, we are hardwired to measure God by our experiences with significant people.

I did not always view God as someone with whom I could be comfortable. As I shared, my father was gone much of the time, fulfilling his calling to preach the gospel. I knew my father loved me; I knew I was important to him. But I also knew the world needed him, and for many years, I saw God as being similarly occupied with others and unreachable. I have since learned that God is not like that.

In my book In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart, I share in detail about my life, my failures, and some of the ways God met me in my brokenness and redeemed it. I tell the story of what it was like to go home to Montreat after a major personal failure. Driving up the mountain to my parents’ home was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I had no idea what they would say to me or how they would respond. I had gone against everyone’s advice. As I saw it, I had failed myself, my family, my children, and God. I felt deserving of condemnation and rejection. What would my parents do? Would they say they had told me so? That I had made my bed and now would have to lie in it?

As I approached the top of the mountain, I saw my father standing there in the driveway. I parked the car and opened the door to get out, but before I could as much as set my feet on the asphalt, my father was at my side. He wrapped his arms around me, and I heard him say, “Welcome home.” His acceptance instantly silenced my shame. I was broken, but I no longer feared. My father had embraced me at my worst and loved me anyway. I experienced grace. I would not compare my father with God, but that day my father showed me in a very practical, gracious way what God is like.

Through that experience, I was able to get a glimpse of the unconditional love God has for me. It has taken me a while to get to a point where I finally see God as “Abba,” as Daddy. Learning to know God intimately has been a process. But through the fog of doubt, anxiety, and fear, I do see Him now as warm and embracing. He loves me, enjoys me, and wants me to know His joy. He will do anything to draw me in. He wants my heart. He wants my trust.

Many years ago I taught a Bible study entitled “Enjoying God” for the women at my home church. I was convinced most of us did not enjoy God. Even the title of the study made us a bit uncomfortable. Was it sacrilegious to “enjoy” God? Wasn’t He austere and stern? Holy and unapproachable? I wanted to explore the possibilities.

The first week’s homework was to imagine crawling into God’s lap and calling him Daddy. I think many were slightly put off by the assignment. Some had to deal with the damaged image of an earthly father. Some had difficulty seeing God in such an intimate way. Each week the assignment was the same. Gradually, I began to hear reports of breakthroughs. Some people took longer than others to connect with God, but we sensed God doing something profound in the group. My own life changed over the course of that study as I too began to see God intimately—as a secure place of comfort and peace. As I focused on Him, God was chipping away at my misperceptions, helping me to open my heart to His love. And He can do the same for you.

Why, God?

Our misperceptions of God can also be formed in the trials and heartaches of life. You may have a long scar of pain running through your life—a spouse leaving, the loss of a child, bankruptcy, illness, addiction, things that take the breath out of you. Perhaps you feel that God abandoned you in those experiences. That He must not care about you. That if He loved you, He wouldn’t have let you go through all that hurt. You wonder, “Why should I trust Him now?”

Why, God? This is a real question we ask when life happens and things seem to go badly. Why are You letting my life unravel? Don’t You love me? Didn’t You promise to protect me? How could You let this happen? In the valleys of life, we can feel as if God has betrayed us. That He isn’t trustworthy, as we once thought. That we’ll never again have a stable or secure place to stand. When devastation occurs and we can’t see God anywhere, our trust in Him can crumble to dust. We may even reject Him for a time.

I’ve lived through personal events that have left me reeling. I have written about suffering in a broken marriage. As the marriage began to come apart I couldn’t “feel” God. I couldn’t hold myself together. I described the way I felt back then: “Raw. Lonely. Exposed. Like an egg without a shell.” I wanted to know why those circumstances were happening to me. Perhaps you have felt this way too.

I’ve seen loved ones suffer through crushing experiences, and I’ve asked God why. Why did my friend’s first grandchild die just hours after birth? Why did a young missionary couple’s two-year-old child drown in the backyard? Why was my friend diagnosed with lung cancer though she never smoked a day in her life? We witness or live through destruction caused by tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes. We call them “acts-of-God,” and we wonder why God would allow them. Fear not tomorrow? How can we do anything but fear after all the devastation we’ve already seen?

God is not threatened by our why. People say we can’t ask why, but we can—we should. We’re in good company when we ask why. Jesus, Job, David, Jeremiah, and many others we would call “heroes of the faith” have asked why. Asking why is part of the human experience. When we ask God why, we are expressing our innermost emotions, our hurt and disappointment, and God wants us to do that. He works with honesty. He is not threatened by our questions and doubts. He invites us to express our feelings. We’re in a relationship with Him—He doesn’t want us to shut our emotions down. While God already knows how we feel, we need to know; and often we discover what is in our hearts as we express ourselves freely to Him.

But we can also get stuck at why. While asking why can be a stimulus for further exploration, understanding, and honest grappling, sometimes it can become a defense—a way to keep God out and to keep intimacy with Him at bay. We can go round and round in circles with why, never really intending to get anywhere. We can get comfortable with why. We would rather stay where we are than do the hard work of learning how to trust God again. And if we’re not careful, some people will keep us there. They will feed our why as long as we let them. At a certain point, what we actually may need is someone to pull us forward and say, “Hey, let’s explore why you feel this way. Let’s not give up on God.”

God invites us to wrestle with our why, our questions. He wrestles with us, as He wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32:24–32). But finally the angel of God touched Jacob’s thigh and put it out of socket. I can hear the angel saying, “It’s enough now. Let’s go forward.” My Uncle Clayton Bell, my mother’s brother, died suddenly of a heart attack at age sixty-eight. He loved God passionately and was pastoring a thriving church. Those who loved him asked God why. Why take this dynamic man at his prime? Why not leave him here to serve You? Aunt Peggy, my uncle’s wife, suffered greatly, but there came a time when I remember her saying, “I’m going to lean into the pain.” Whatever her questions, she was going to “lean,” trusting God and expecting Him to be there.

At some point, trusting God becomes a step of faith. No one can prove God. You will have to make the choice to trust Him for yourself. Making that choice doesn’t mean you have settled your questions; you may not see those questions resolved in this life. But you can make the decision to try trusting God again. You can take a step forward with all your unresolved questions and invite God to reveal Himself. It’s okay to live with what I call “unfinishedness.” I think about my mother and how “finished” she looked in her relationship with God—as if everything were settled, everything clear. But when you read Mother’s poetry, you discover she was anything but finished. She simply learned to live with her questions and to trust God anyway.

Walking Forward

Why not bring your questions along as you walk forward to discover more about God in this book? You can invite God to work with you as you read. Ask Him to help you in your battle with fear. Ask Him to help you overcome your misperceptions of Him so you can trust Him for tomorrow. God longs to reveal Himself to you. Jesus said about those who love God, “I too will love them and show myself to them” (John 14:21 TNIV). God wants us to see Him for who He really is.

We don’t have to get it all at once. Trusting God is a process. Just as there are stages of life, there are stages of faith. Trust comes bit by bit. Our part is to be willing—willing to move, willing to try. God wants our willingness. Someone once said you can’t steer a car that isn’t moving. If we can just make the choice to move, God will meet us. I want to challenge you. Open yourself up to the possibility of what God can do in your life. Let Him show Himself worthy of your trust. Walk forward into these pages and decide for yourself about God. See if His intimate love is real. See for yourself. Don’t let your questions or misperceptions be hindrances. They don’t have to stop you from moving. Let’s get to know God better. Let’s discover Him. We can bring our baggage, our questions, our “why” right along with us.


Fear Not Tomorrow, God is Already There:

Trusting Him in Uncertain Times

Ruth Graham

Howard Books

West Monroe, Louisiana

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