Sunday, February 28, 2010

All Things Hidden

I love Tricia Goyer! I can sit down and read a book by her in one sitting because the stories capture me and I fall in love with her characters.

I just had the opportunity to read her newest installment in the Home to Heather Creek series from Guideposts. In this 18 book series Tricia has written 4 books. I have not read any other the other books in this series, but I think not I need to go back and check them all out. But, I didn't need to read the other books to thoroughly enjoy this one.

Thanks Tricia for another wonderful book and thank you Litfuse Publicity Group for the opportunity to read this book.


Don't miss your chance to win the entire 18 book series of Home to Heather Creek!

Tweet THIS: (must use hashtag #AllThingsHidden to be entered - no limit on entries! Tweet away!)
Read #AllThingsHidden by @triciagoyer http://ow.ly/14nNd! RT for a chance to win all 18 books in the Home to Heather Creek series!


Here is a little more about the book:
The past is brought to light…

Charlotte is cleaning out the basement of Bedford Community Church when she comes across a tattered and yellowed newspaper article. The clipping, published more than a century ago, implicates her great-great-grandfather in the loss of funds intended to help finish building the church. Charlotte has heard stories about the incident through the years, but now it seems the past has come back to haunt her. Is it just her imagination or are people treating her differently now that they think she’s descended from a crook? Will Charlotte be able to clear her family’s name once and for all?

Meanwhile, Sam is spending time with a new girl in town—and is keeping secrets from his grandparents about where they go. Christopher is trying to get an article published in the local paper, and Emily reluctantly partners with a foreign exchange student on a class project and eventually comes to see that they’re not that different after all. As old secrets are brought to light, the whole family is reminded that the truth is often more complicated than it seems.

A little more about Tricia:
About Tricia: Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-three 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. www.triciagoyer.com

Friday, February 26, 2010

Double Trouble Review and Giveaway

Ever since I read Susan May Warren's The Great Christmas Bowl I was hooked on her as an author. I laughed out loud while I read it and I couldn't wait to read more of her books. When I had the opportunity to review two of her books from her PJ Sugar series I jumped at the chance. And I have a copy of Double Trouble ready to giveaway to one of you! Just leave a comment by Monday, March 1st, 2010 for a chance to win.


It was great to be able to read the first book in the series, Nothing But Trouble before jumping into the second book, Double Trouble. I fell in love with the character PJ Sugar from the beginning as she struggled to find her place.

I love a good mystery book and these books are light mystery's that keep you guessing, plus they add an element of fun and laughter. In her newest book, you will have trouble figuring out who the villain is until the very end. Plus, it adds an element of romance to make the book even more fun to read.

You know I love to find a good series and a good mystery. These books give you both. If you have never read anything by Susan May Warren, you will not be disappointed.

Here is a little more about the book.
With one solved case under her belt, PJ Sugar is ready to dive into her career as a private investigator. Or at least a PI's assistant until she can prove herself to Jeremy Kane, her new boss. Suddenly PJ's seeing crime everywhere. But is it just in her head, or can she trust her instincts? When she takes on her first official case-house-sitting for a witness in protective custody-Jeremy assures her there's no danger involved. But it soon becomes clear that there is someone after the witness . . . and now they're after PJ, too.

And here is a little more about one of my new favorite authors:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. Her larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of http://www.mybooktherapy.com/, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/


Thank you so much to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to read these two books. I can't wait to see what happens next. You can find out more info on purchasing the book here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wake Up Amy

I finished a book yesterday and tears started streaming down my face. The book was good and I would recommend it, but I could tell it was deeper than just the content of the book that had me reeling.

You can read the first chapter of the book and read my review here. The book titled Desert Fire by Shannon Van Roekel is a fictional story of a journalist in Sudan. The intensity of the writing and the circumstances in the book grabbed me until I got to the very last page.

I was in tears thinking about the tragedy that is happening in so many countries all over the world that do not have the freedoms we have here in America when it comes to our faith. The last pages of the book left me at peace with the ending. And the book itself didn't have me in tears while I was reading all the tragedy. . .so why was I such a mess?!

I think that God was giving me a little wake-up call. I am still trying to sort it all out. I will share more with you on it later. For today I leave you with this verse.

"...for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever." 1 Chronicles 28:9

I am examining my motives and my heart today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Building Up or Tearing Down

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29


My daughter is having some friendship issues at school. It is hard as a parent to stay on the sidelines and let them work it out, but I know that she can handle it.

Last night when she was talking to her dad and I about the situation she had this attitude of I am never talking to her again. We had a long talk about not causing division within her friends. All we accomplished last night was causing a lot of tears. Not exactly a teachable moment. (My husband didn't ever go through years with girl drama. . .I had my fair share. He doesn't quite understand girl dynamics)

This morning I read her the verse above from Ephesians. She looked at me and said, "What does it mean?" I told her that we are supposed to focus on building others up and not tearing them down. She needs to focus on being kind and forgiving. No matter what. Even if someone else is saying words that hurt, she needs to say words that build that person up.

I said, really you need to kill her with kindness. That is her goal today. We'll see how it goes. Luckily girl drama doesn't last long. What is amazing is how hurtful just a few words can be and they so easily slip from our mouths.

The remainder of this verse is this, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 5:30-32

When I think about the tears that fell last night with my daughter and how hurt she was from words that were said, it makes me think of grieving the Holy Spirit. The words that come from my mouth at times must grieve the Holy Spirit deeply. Today I am focusing on building up not tearing down.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Unwrapping Motherhood

I am on a mission.

I am starting my spring cleaning a little early this year. I am sorting, dumping, giving, and rearranging everything in my path. On Sunday afternoon I was buried in clothes and toys. My girls tried to help, I really wanted them to help, but when they start digging things out of the garbage I realized it might take forever to get it done.

Yesterday I thought that I would continue where I left off when my older girls went to school and my husband left for work. I got my little one settled in with Dora the Explorer and her chocolate milk. It wasn't long and I heard a little voice from behind me, "Mama will you play with me?"

I tried to keep her busy for a little longer, but I heard her little voice again, "Mama will you play with me?"

My mission was delayed and we played, and played and played.

Last night as my husband and I were settled in to watch the Olympics in a quiet house I heard a thump, thump, thump on the stairs. Nadia crawled up on my lap and wanted to cuddle. She said, "I love you Mama." My husband looked at her and said, "Can you believe we moved here when she was only 6 months old. She couldn't even crawl yet."

I stopped and thought about the last 4 years. A lot of my plans and missions are often delayed. My to do list is often left undone. But I have been home with this little one to see all of her first moments. I was here when she crawled and when she walked. I was here when she said Mommy. I am the one that gets to sit and play Go Fish with her over and over again.


This little face is pretty hard to resist.

So today, as I look at my long list of tasks and then glance over at a little girl just wiping the sleep from her eyes, I realize that today is going to be a great day. I am unwrapping the gift that my husband gave me the day that he said, "The only way we are moving is if you can be a stay at home mom." I am joining Emily over at Chatting at the Sky for Tuesdays Unwrapped. I can't wait to read about the other gifts that are being unwrapped today.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Starting Over. . .

Well, I didn't even post last Monday. I haven't been to the gym since the Wednesday before that. I decided that I need to get back on track and start over.

I am holding steady at my weight. I know that I am an emotional eater and when I get a little stressed, I eat. So not only have I been eating horribly, I haven't been able to get to the gym.

We had a Dinner Theatre at church that I did the decorating for on Valentine's Day. 150 decorated sugar cookies later and I was off the healthy wagon for a whole week.

My hubby was out of town part of the week so I let myself get away with no trips to the gym. (Not sure why I didn't just do my EA Sports Active, that is why I got it. For those days I can't get to the gym).

So, I am not beating myself up about it. I know that I just need to get back into the groove this week. The gym is calling my name. No excuses.

Next week hopefully I will come back and have another successful week.

So here are a few of my goals. I think I need to see them in writing:
1. No Soda
2. Eat Breakfast every day (something healthy. . .)
3. Drink more water. (the past couple of weeks I think I have had coffee running through my veins)
4. Get to the gym at least 5 days this week

I can't wait to check in on all of the other Mamavation Moms. I can celebrate their successes and motivate myself to get moving!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Books, Books, Books

I love books. All kinds of books. From children's books to fiction books to non-fiction books. I love books.

I get just as excited as my kids when they bring home a book order. I love it when the mailman brings me a new book to read. I just got an email from my hubby saying, "Is this credit card charge fraudulent? There seems to be a lot of online purchases lately?" (he is a banker and is just being cautious. . )

So, I decided that it is time to create a separate place to post all of my book reviews, book obsessions, etc. I am going to write about my journey to become a published writer and all of the resources that I use to get there. I hope to have guest posts from some amazing authors.

So you can check out the new blog here. I will give you teasers on this blog to let you know what new books are over there so you can check them out, too.

I realized that I have so many books that I am reviewing and I don't want them to overtake this blog. This blog is all about my journey to become closer to Christ. I don't want those posts to become buried in the reviews.

The newest post over at Get Real Girl's Bookshelf is Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports. You can hop over and read the first chapter.

Enjoy!

Friday, February 19, 2010

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes

One of my best friends is a Pastor's wife so I laughed out loud at this new book from Lisa McKay. I especially loved the parts that she talked about friendships and how we should have friends that make us run harder for God. If you know a Pastor's wife, this book would make a great gift. Even if you are not a Pastor's wife, check out the first chapter below for a good laugh. It also makes you really think about what you expect from your Pastor's wife. . .

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:


You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes

David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Lisa McKay and her husband, Luke, serve at a thriving church in Alabama. Together they are happily – if not always properly—raising three rowdy boys and one dramatic girl. In addition to being a wife and mom, Lisa is also a popular conference speaker.



Visit the author's website.

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes, by Lisa McKay from David C. Cook on Vimeo.



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767264
ISBN-13: 978-1434767264

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


My Husband’s Calling is My Calling Too

Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.—Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)


I once had an interesting conversation with a woman whose husband had enrolled in seminary to prepare for ministry. “He can take classes all he wants, but I didn’t sign up for the preacher’s wife thing,” she said. Since she didn’t believe her husband would actually follow through, she went on to tell me she planned on humoring him until the day his calling affected her. And if that day ever came? Well, she’d just cross that bridge when she came to it.


He is still in school. She is still in denial.


Around that same time I attended a pastor’s wife conference that included a panel discussion at the end. Lined across the stage, five women in different seasons of ministry shared the thing they found most difficult about being married to a minister.


I’ll never forget the response of the youngest woman. She was the mom of toddlers and was obviously distressed. “The hardest thing for me is everyone wanting a piece of my husband and not acknowledging me in the least,” she said. “I feel like the person in the background who is only here to take care of the kids so he can be free to take care of everyone else.”


I was grieved by her raw response. All I wanted to do was wrap my arms around that girl and assure her she had it all wrong. That she was an integral part of her husband’s ministry. That her calling in that season was her children. That no amount of public success possibly mattered if her heart and home were in shambles. The sad thing is that I’ve met many more like her in the past fifteen years during my own life as a minister’s wife. If anything, this has intensified my desire to embrace and encourage women whom God has charged with supporting the men He has ordained to proclaim His Word.


The fact that I just typed that last sentence still baffles me. You have no idea how surreal it is for me to be writing this book. There are many of you reading who have been Christians as long as you can remember and always knew you would marry a preacher. Many more of you grew up as the child of a minister and swore you would never marry one yourself, only to find yourself eating your words. Some of you have pursued callings to various vocational ministries and met your mate in college, seminary, etc. Some of you married men who were already serving in the church. However, based on my blog surveys, a lot of your serene lives were turned inside out when your husband experienced God’s call to ministry some point after you were married.


And then on the lunatic fringe are girls like me whose life and marital background weren’t exactly résumé worthy.

A Match Made In Heaven?


My husband, Luke, and I married young. I was a mere eighteen and he a strapping twenty-one. Can I just be honest and tell you there were never two individuals any more needy or any less likely to be serving behind a pulpit?


I always cringe when we run into old high school friends. The question of what we’re doing now always comes up, and there is one response that we can count on when we share that Luke is a pastor—after the laughter dies down, that is.


“Luke, you are a preacher? And Lisa? You are a preacher’s wife?! Okay, joke’s over. Now what are you really doing?”


We would be offended if we weren’t just as baffled.


I forgive our flabbergasted friends because I can’t hold their excellent recall against them. They remember the dangerous combination of the wild boy and the bitter girl whose marriage was tumultuous at best. Surely, the future they envisioned for us was set in a divorce court rather than a sanctuary. They were within days of being absolutely correct.


There is no human reason why Luke and I should still be wed today, much less serving the body of Christ. Even though we were not yet believers, our union started off well enough. But we soon faced the heartbreaking yet all too common reality of many young couples: The stress of working different shifts, having more month than money, and living the separate lives that developed in the midst of it resulted in our parting ways and filing for divorce two short years after the ceremony.


I despised the not-yet-preacher, and the truth is I loathed myself as much as him. We had hurt each other in a million ways, and all I could think of was getting away and starting over. We were within a week of our divorce being final when one night I received a bizarre phone call from him. He told me he had started going to church and wanted us to rethink what we were doing.


I went off the deep end! I spewed, “So you are turning into a religious fanatic—and you think that is going to fix everything?” I was so full of hate and bitterness, and it still makes me blush to think of all the horrible things I said to him about his newfound religion. He continued, very patiently, to call and tell me he was asking God for a miracle as the clock ticked toward the day our marriage would be legally over.


One night during the critical week before the divorce was final, I had gone to bed, still convinced divorce was the only answer. For some reason, I woke up around two a.m. and the tears began to flow. I missed my husband so badly I could barely lay there. I remember thinking, “What is wrong with you? You cannot stand him! It’s almost over, just hang in there.” I realize now that voice was Satan’s, bent on thwarting God’s plan for us. If you ask me how I know prayer works, or how I know God can turn a cold, black heart into one that can feel love, laughter, and joy (Ezek. 11:19), I will point you to that night because it is the one that changed everything.


I called Luke the next day. One conversation led to another, and we called the lawyer to stop the divorce proceedings. I tentatively moved back home with him, and we began visiting churches. I was still not very thrilled about the “God thing,” but I knew for some reason I wanted my husband back and this would play a part. Would it ever!


One night soon afterward, my hubby came to me in our living room and told me he had just prayed for salvation. He’d gone to church his whole life, but it was only at that time he truly accepted Christ as his Savior. I grew up in a totally different denomination, so this Baptist way of doing things was a little traumatic for me. I was glad for him, but I still wasn’t so sure what that meant for me. For personal reasons, organized religion held no real appeal, so I was very afraid of how having my husband become so radically different was going to affect me and our life together. Seemingly out of the blue, I began having feelings of not being good enough for this new man, and shame over my own sin slowly entered my heart.


For me, salvation was not a lightning-bolt experience but rather an intellectual process at first. I needed to understand it. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the Cross is foolishness for those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” I know the Spirit of God enabled me to believe what I was hearing because obviously I could have still walked away a scoffer. We were attending my husband’s childhood church, and the pastor became a dear friend and mentor to us both. He started a small group in his home, and I was able to ask all my questions in a very nonthreatening environment. That man was very patient with me as I asked everything from “What does ‘once saved, always saved’ mean?” to “When do you think the rapture will happen?” Sometime in the midst of those sessions, I realized I had already made a decision. That decision was for life—both for Jesus Christ and until-death-do-us-part with my husband. I asked the Lord to “officially” save me and soon afterward made that public in the body of people who had prayed so faithfully for us both.


If this had been the end of the story I would have been happily-ever-after indeed. Little did I know our tale was only beginning.

The Call


Over the next weeks, I watched Luke transform in front of my eyes. Where once stood a rough-around-the-edges construction worker, I now found a softened gentleman. Where turmoil had churned, peace now reigned. A thirst for the world was replaced by an unquenchable longing to drink up every bit of the Word that he’d neglected for the past years.


I’m in no way suggesting that a called minister is on a plane above any other Christian, but what I will say is that even in my own spiritually immature state, what I saw happening in Luke seemed to be so much more fervent than what I saw in other men. And as for my own walk, Luke’s desire made me long for more. If I can be so biased, Luke was special—an opinion I still hold.


I tell you this because I want you to understand that after Luke finally told me he believed God was calling him to minister, my head was shocked, but my heart wasn’t. Something in me perceived our life had taken a twist that surpassed simply returning to our old lives a renewed version of our previous selves. We both were experiencing intense restlessness in our jobs. I had just left an entire career on a lark. And Luke, who had always loved his trade and coworkers, began dreading the alarm clock every morning.


Have you ever read the book The Return of the King in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy? In the end Frodo the hobbit leaves his home, the Shire, after risking his life to save it. When explaining to his best friend, Sam, why he has to go, he says, “There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same.” In much the same way, the dailiness of our lives had taken on a sense of not-quite-belonging in the place that had always been familiar. Accepting the fact that God was calling us to serve Him in some capacity was like turning a dial to the last number on a combination lock. The “rightness” of it clicked, and suddenly the future was wide open.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign


Luke and I began to pray and seek God for what He wanted us to do—definitely a first in our married lives. I have no biblical basis for what I am going to say next, but I believe God answers the prayers of baby Christians with a shout instead of a whisper. God has taught us how to discern Him more through prayer and His Word now, but in those early days He had to throw out the flashing neon signs before our own lightbulbs lit up.


The first two of those signs were named Al and Doyle. Both of these men mentioned the name of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College within two days of one another. Al had just returned from a Constructors for Christ project, during which they had built new one-bedroom duplexes for married students without children. Doyle was a longtime supporter of the school. These days I call that type of communication from God a double affirmation, but then we were still thinking, “Hmmm.… That’s odd. I wonder if we are supposed to look into this?”


And God was saying, “Ya think?” while restraining Himself from knocking our foolish heads together.


Luke hesitated contacting the school to request information because he had no hopes of getting in. What I’ve not yet told you is that he didn’t graduate high school. What dropout had any kind of chance to go to college? He finally mustered the nerve to call, and we scheduled a visit. We still didn’t know for what. Both of us realized we wouldn’t be able to go right away but thought maybe the school could give some pointers on what Luke could do to become a student someday.


We traveled to the college and were in love at first sight. The campus was set in the mountains and was absolute lush, peaceful perfection. Arriving there felt like coming home, which at the time was heartbreaking because we knew this place couldn’t possibly be in our near future.


The following day we met the director of admissions, Jay. He was and remains one of the most boisterous, joyful, encouraging people we have ever known. Luke explained his full situation—particularly the part about not having a diploma. Luke expected to hear, “Sorry, son, but you don’t belong here. Come back in a year or two when you are good enough.” Instead Jay chuckled and said, “No problem!!”


No problem? How is not having a high school diploma not a problem?!


Brother Jay enthusiastically went on to explain there was a special program in this college for men who did not have a high-school degree. They would take regular college courses and also be tutored for high school in the freshman year. Students had two semesters to pass the GED, at which point they would have official student status and all classes would count toward a fully accredited degree.


And just like that, there was Neon Sign Three, and it blinked wildly, “Road Open!”


One patient, gracious God gave us three signs in an overwhelming answer to our many prayers—and they all pointed toward our new home. (One of the homes Al built, no less!)

Absolutely Certain (I Think)


Well, enough about us—for now anyway! Since I’ve shared a little backstory with you, I’d like to talk about what I believe is one of the foundational principles of our lives as ministry wives: the nature of our own call.


I realize each of our inductions into a life of ministry was met with different levels of enthusiasm. It’s not every woman who looks forward to low salaries and high expectations. Of frequent moves and misunderstood children. Of criticism and conflict. These are just a few stereotypical pitfalls that can understandably cause a woman to put the skids on any plans her man has for serving in vocational ministry.


As Luke was processing the call God placed on his life, I was blessedly ignorant of all the things I just listed. My church experience was limited to a few years of attendance as a child, so I really had no comprehension of the chew-’em-up-and-spit-’em-out reputation of churches where ministers are concerned. Naïveté is not always a bad thing—especially when knowing all the details could result in being too fearful to take the leap into God’s plan for your future.


But what part do you play in what God is asking your husband to do? Has God called you in the same manner as him? My short answer is to state plainly that every wife has the God-given role of being a faithful helpmeet no matter if her husband is a banker, a mechanic, or a schoolteacher. However, there are unique challenges and more assured uncertainties for the wife who has the high charge of supporting a man directed to leave the familiar behind and follow God’s call into the unknown. What are some of those challenges, and how should we who find ourselves in this situation react? Let’s learn from someone who has gone before us—Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

A Woman Out of Control


We meet Sarah in Genesis 11:30 and are told simply, “[She] was barren; she had no children.” In the Middle Eastern culture, Sarah’s dignity was directly tied to her being married and having babies. Since she was childless, she would not have risked staying behind without her husband, no matter how unsure she may have been about Abraham asking her to leave Ur. There was nothing but shame for Sarah in Ur without Abraham.


And conversely, there was nothing in Canaan for Abraham without Sarah. It was out of Sarah’s infertility that God would perform one of His most awesome works—the miraculous birth of a nation consecrated to Himself. Abraham could have found any number of women who weren’t suffering from the heartbreak of barrenness to be his wife. However, the supernatural birth of Isaac was the requirement for properly illustrating God’s glory through human hopelessness.


Long before Abraham met Sarah, God purposed for the two of them to be the human agents through whom He would bless the nations. Neither of them could have participated in God’s plan alone—each needed the other. That concept is no different for those God continues to call today to spread the good news throughout the world.


When I think of all the quirks and hang-ups that Luke and I both have, it is amazing to realize that for the most part we do not have the same ones. Luke is painfully shy; I’m the social extrovert. Luke is compassionate to a fault where I am more critical. Luke doesn’t understand drama, and I am a master of it; therefore, I am able to help him comprehend the underlying issues women have when he has no clue how to proceed. God placed us together as a team to complement one another’s weaknesses and to nurture the spiritual children He has entrusted to our care. I have total and complete faith in Luke’s ability and he in mine, and yet neither of us believes for a second we could have any measure of ministry success without the support of the other.


To the reluctant ministry wife, I understand your fear. I know your need to have some input on how and where you are going to raise your family. Even the wondrous event of God entering into covenant with Abraham on the assurance of an heir was not enough to keep Sarah from trying to control the way in which the promised child would come into the world. And thirteen years later, Sarah laughed when they were told once again she would have a son. Abraham’s seed could only be reckoned through Sarah, and that required a separate faith on her part—a willing participation in what God purposed to accomplish through their son, Isaac. Sarah wasn’t perfect. She could be harsh and unbelieving and manipulative. However, Hebrews 11:11 tells us God gave her strength to participate in the creation and blessing of nations because “she considered Him faithful who had promised” (NASB).


My personal feeling is that we can make the idea of serving in ministry way more complex than God ever intended. In the case of Abraham, God promised children more numerous than the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore, but He didn’t ask him to birth them all! He gave Abraham charge over one piece of that promise—beloved Isaac. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the enormity of what God is asking us to do that we forget the Big Picture is composed of individual frames of obedience. I’m guilty of shutting down physically and mentally when the job seems way too big—and all God has asked of me is to trust Him one day at a time. It’s much easier to walk into the unknown if we can focus on being faithful with what is required of us today, trusting God for His faithfulness in all our tomorrows.

It’s Simple, Really


Are we called alongside our husbands? Absolutely. Is the life we are called to complex? You bet. But, based on my personal experience and the example of Sarah, I believe we are asked to do three things that will simplify our thinking and therefore help us to not only accept but look forward to a certain future.

We are called to trust.


1 Peter 3:6 says, “Just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, … you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear” (NASB).


This verse is found in a passage describing how a woman’s beauty is to be found internally instead of externally (verses 1–5). Among other things, Peter describes how a woman should be in willing subjection to her husband, even if he is not a believer. Dread shouldn’t motivate her in yielding to him, but rather a healthy fear of God’s mandate to honor her husband. Sarah’s singular obedience was dually blessed. She wanted to obey God by following Abraham. God’s laws are not arbitrary and are not given without benefit attached. Sarah’s reward was the gift of inclusion into the blessing of the nations that God had intended through Abraham. If we seek to surrender our lives to God’s will through His call on our husbands, we will be given the blessed distinction of being a daughter of Sarah.


So what does this type of obedience look like in a minister’s wife? Certainly the amount of reluctance you are feeling towards this role will dictate the type of faith it will take to accompany your husband into the unknown. Hear me well when I say that no matter how much initial trepidation I feel when God asks something of our family, He has yet to call Luke to a task without also piercing my own heart. It is always heartbreaking for me to talk to ministry wives who do not express any sense of calling toward their husband’s work. The reasons are endless, but most often the wife incorrectly believes that his ministry is just another vocation and has nothing to do with her, or she absolutely wants nothing to do with a life with trappings holding no obvious appeal.


You may ask, “Is it wrong if I don’t want my husband to be a preacher? Can anyone blame me if I don’t want to leave what is comfortable and predictable? What if I don’t want to move away from my extended family?” And bigger still, “What if I don’t trust my husband to discern God’s voice?”


If you find yourself feeling this way, then it is time to look past your wants and even those of your husband and straight to the face of God. Ask Him what He requires of you. Are you willing to trust Him with your unknown? Are you willing to obey even if you believe your man has some static in his radio? I wish I had an easy answer here, but in reality these questions can only be hashed out in some sincere facedown time with the Father. Because I continually remember the comfort and reassurance He has offered me with these same fears, I can promise you He’ll invade your heart with a much-needed peace in the midst of the pain that often goes along with hard-fought obedience.


Luke and I had no idea in the beginning what our exact ministry would look like. Would we be missionaries? Would he be behind a pulpit? Would we work in a parachurch organization? We had no clue. In the same way, be assured you won’t always know every detail of what God is asking of you. However, though the what may be unclear, we can always trust the motivation of the Who. Our faith in His promises and the assurance of His continual blessing upon the nations through our obedience in spreading His Word is enough to follow our man wherever God leads.

We are called to participate.


Hebrews 11:11–12 says, “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore” (NASB).


I can identify with Sarah on so many levels. Though she is heralded as a model of faithfulness, we know she behaved badly in her doubt. Just think about her side for a bit. God made these covenant promises to Abraham but never mentioned Sarah’s name once until she was ninety years old—some twenty-five years after God first appeared to her husband. She knew God promised Abraham an heir, and when the plan she hatched to speed that along resulted in Hagar’s pregnancy, Sarah may have felt left out by God entirely.


Are you like the girl in the beginning of this chapter who felt no one needed her? Do you ever feel left behind to cook, clean, and take care of babies while your husband spends the better part of his days ministering to everyone but you? Are you convinced he is having a blast crusading for the kingdom while you are stuck at home in the castle—as Cinderella no less?


Obviously the season of life you are in dictates to what degree you are able to participate in the work of the church. Listen closely, young mothers! Your ministry in this stage of life is to those precious babies in your care. If you have your own desires to serve in things such as women’s ministry, Bible study, administration, etc., your day will come. Some of you are able to soldier on and do these things in addition to caring for your toddlers, but many are just not able to do it all. And you know what? You aren’t supposed to. If you find your home is suffering and your kids are begging for your attention, then they—not church ministry—take absolute precedence. Never, ever apologize for making your family first!


My children are no longer babies, but I am just as busy with them in other ways. Diaper changing and bottle feeding have given way to homework and taxi service to whatever sport they are playing at the moment. Though I consider myself active in ministry, there are many things I don’t do. For example, I don’t always make it to the funeral home every time someone passes, due to the simple fact that I would have to bring my kids and I don’t particularly think they enjoy going any more than I enjoy having to get them dressed and wrangling them once there. I do have a tradeoff, however—I help with the meal if we are hosting one for the grieving family. The kids can hang out in a back room, and the stress is greatly relieved for them and for me. Not to mention our darling church ladies always fix the kids a plate from the leftovers. This is my way of letting the family know I love them, I care, and I am taking part to the best of my current ability without making myself crazy.


No matter if you are a seasoned ministry wife or a relative newbie, there is always one thing your congregation will pick up on loud and clear—your willingness to serve despite your inability. Do you work outside the home but do your best to participate in the body when possible? The church knows this and for the most part will understand. (Oh, there will always be exceptions!)


However, what they will not easily forgive is when you take a seat in the back and refuse to play a part—able or not. There are many women who are embittered by the demands the church has placed on their family’s life and time, therefore they refuse to support their husband’s ministry or the church body in any way, shape, or form. We’ll discuss in a later chapter the delicate balance between home and church life, but let’s just say for now that this attitude is extremely unhealthy and can be a huge detriment to your husband’s relationship with the church. The support the congregation perceives your husband receiving from you and your willingness to care for them even if you aren’t able to do all that you’d like is a bridge between their hearts and your man’s. Just like Sarah, your participation in his call is not only nice but necessary for him to effectively live out what God will do through him, whether you realize it now or not.

We are called to hope.


A life in ministry ultimately calls us to one thing: a hope for a greater glory than current circumstances reveal. I can’t think of a higher charge than the invitation to participate in God’s good intentions toward His creation. Sarah considered God faithful in His promises towards her, and because of that, she was able to look past the difficult years of childlessness and hold the manifestation of God’s blessing in her own arms.


Many years ago I watched a mafia movie (I don’t have any idea what it is called) where a gangster was teaching his young son about trust. The boy was on a ladder, and the father repeatedly told him to fall backward into his arms: “Don’t worry! I’m your father. Do you really think I’d let you be hurt?” The boy was more frightened of his dad than the fall, so he let go of the ladder. As he fell the dad stepped to the side and let him crash to the ground. His son stared up in surprised pain as the father said, “Never trust anyone.”


I think many of us have the mindset that God is the father who is setting us up for a huge fall and that we can’t trust Him to keep something painful from happening to us. The difference is He is standing in your unknown saying, “You can ALWAYS trust me!”


He never promises our lives won’t hurt, but you know what? He will always cushion us. Certainly there are hard days but in the midst of them you will find laughter, just like Abraham and Sarah. Sometimes those giggles you share will be born out of pure joy and at other times from incredulous unbelief. The thing to always remember is that you and your husband are in this thing together. There is no part of what God intends to do through either of you that isn’t intimately intertwined with the love and support of the other. God has appointed your husband according to his gifts, and your first priority as his wife is to affirm him in this role. However, many of you have desires for ministry that will involve taking off in your own direction. That doesn’t mean you supplant your hubby, but in the appropriate season, there will be many ways in which your own talents will broaden the scope of what he is able to do alongside you versus going it alone.

If You Say So


One of the coolest things about this book is the fact that these are not just my own observations! I mentioned in the introduction that I have a blog called The Preacher’s Wife (www.apreacherswife.com). Blogs are explained in greater detail in Appendix A of this book.


As part of the research for this project I asked a series of survey questions to the ministry wives who hang out with me online. (I’m excited to tell you there are a lot of them!) These Round Table discussions provide advice and encouragement from women who are serving in the trenches just like you. More than anything, I pray this book confirms the fact you are not alone in your circumstances, your joys, your struggles, or your opinions. I am so thrilled to introduce you to an online community of women who absolutely understand where you are coming from. I’ve also gathered comments from laypeople. I think it is imperative that we hear from both perspectives in order to understand one another’s hearts and hopefully build stronger relationships.


Now let me be clear: I am in no way saying that “virtual” friends should replace your flesh and blood ones. What I can tell you is that I have met many women in person that I’ve first made contact with online through my blog and they’ve become my dearest confidants. Blogs are but one fresh and relevant way to establish connections with women who will support you in your role as a ministry wife. We’ll discuss those various avenues in a later chapter centered on friendships.


For ease of identification (and to show off my excessive-texting-abbreviation skills), my blog friends will be known as the M2M Girls (as in, Married to Ministry Girls). Make sense? Let’s see what they had to share about their perspectives on calling.

Round Table

“I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife. When my husband felt called (before we got engaged) I had doubts. But, what God wanted and had planned was far greater than I knew at the time. He eventually convinced my heart to follow Him.”—Sarah @ Life in the Parsonage
“I feel like my highest calling is to be my husband’s supporter, his encourager, his helpmate. I believe that my service in the home, especially at this season in our lives with small children, is the biggest call in that ministry. He could not focus on doing the greatest part of his calling—preaching the gospel—if I didn’t do mine.”—Crystal @ Life Is Nothing Without Him
“As a layperson, I think it is obvious when a wife doesn’t share her husband’s passion for ministry. I don’t believe a pastor’s wife has to be everyone’s friend or attend every church event. But I do think you can tell by her general demeanor if she is ministry-minded. And, rightly or wrongly, the vibe I get from her reflects on her husband.”—Lori (layperson)
“I felt a call to ministry years before I met my husband, and deep down I hoped that call meant I would marry a minister. My challenge came several years later when he started thinking about leaving the ministry and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. I married you as a minister, so you have to stay one!’ I came to realize that I was married to him—a person, not his title—and I would love him no matter what.”—Kecia @ Kecia’s Journey
“I don’t know of any other occupation that my husband could have that would require me to be a part of the ‘package deal’ (for free) except the ministry. That took some getting used to!”—Sherry @ Life at the Parsonage
“It’s easy to spot a woman who’s happy for and proud of her husband’s life/accomplishments/calling. It may not be easy for her to ‘follow’ when she is in the background with young children (early on), but she is proud of her man’s walk and character. That is a beautiful thing to see.”—Darnelle (layperson) @ All Things Work Together


Now That You Know:


How are you responding to God’s call on your husband? Seek out a seasoned pastor’s wife and ask her to share her experience with you for reassurance.
Take the power away from the vague fears Satan will give you about the uncertainties you face by writing down what scares you. Search out the truth of God’s Word to apply to each. Afraid of moving away from family? Claim Matthew 19:29. Worried your family will not be provided for? Pray Psalm 37:25.
Laypeople: Has a man in your congregation announced a call to ministry? He is often congratulated and much is made over his decision, but his wife may be struggling in his shadow. Take the time to encourage her by pointing out the gifts she has that will be an asset to him. If there isn’t a new minister in your midst, consider writing a note of encouragement to your existing pastor’s wife to let her know what a vital part she plays in her husband’s work.

Do You Observe Lent?

I grew up in the Methodist denomination. We did not make a practice of ash on our foreheads like my Catholic friends or "giving something up" for the 40 days of lent. We also were able to eat meat on Fridays. We did have church services on Wednesday nights celebrating Lent. I also remember my parents always having a folder to fill up with quarters every day leading up to Easter.

In the Methodist Church we attended prior to this move every Easter season they had a Maundy Thursday service. It was one of my favorite services all year. It is a service that was solemn and very reflective. It has been a few years so I don't remember a lot of the details, but it always had an impact on me.

In our current Evangelical church, we do not observe Lent. There are no Wednesday services or a sermon series on Christ's road to the cross. I agree that a lot of it has to do with tradition and a lot of the meaning is lost in the midst of it. However, I think that as a family we can celebrate Lent at home.

I was inspired by a post I read by Megan over at Sorta Crunchy. She led me to a few different articles that were about Lent and activities to do with my family. One of the articles written by Steven R Harmon had this statement, "Baptists not only can but should observe Lent, because it will help them take up the cross and follow Christ in the midst of a suffering world."

Take up the cross and follow Christ in the midst of a suffering world. . .I am not going to debate rather celebrating Lent is necessary or not necessary. My point is that if we can take some time out of our busy family schedule and focus the next 38 days (Lent started with 40 days on Wednesday) on taking up the cross and following Christ, we will all benefit.

Megan also sent me over to Kate's blog Momopoly to read this wonderful article about Living Lent by the Beatitudes. This article really has me thinking about trusting God and finding pure joy during this Lenten season.

One scripture comes to my mind that may be my focus this Lenten Season. It is all about praising God.

Psalm 150
Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.


I will start posting later today over at Unforgettable Childhood the activities we are going to do during the next 38 days. I need to find my tote that has my Easter books, and our Resurrection Eggs, then I need to make a plan.

Do you celebrate Lent? I would love to hear your thoughts on this season.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You Are

I need a little Thursday pick me up. I thought maybe you did, too.

Did you know that you are:

Wonderfully Made


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14

Accepted


Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Romans 15:7


Loved


The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17


Chosen


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9

Beautiful


Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
1 Peter 3:4


Gifted


But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Ephesians 4:7

Valued


Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Luke 12:7


Have a Wonderful Day!

Desperate Hope

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:


Desperate Hope

David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Candi Pearson-Shelton is a worship leader, songwriter and independent artist. Known for her involvement with the Passion worship movement, she also wrote and performed the title track on the Dove-award-winning album, Glory Revealed. She and her husband Jonathan live in Southern California with their son, Elias.

Visit the author's website.

Desperate Hope, by Candi Pearson-Shelton from David C. Cook on Vimeo.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766144
ISBN-13: 978-1434766144

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Substance of Hope


Oh blessed hope, sole boon of man, whereby on his straight prison walls are painted beautiful, far-reaching landscapes, and stretched into the night of very doom is spread holiest dawn. —Thomas Carlyle


If you could hope for just one thing, what would it be? What is that one hope that causes you to wake every morning and trudge through these days? Something, something in the fiber of an existence fuels each breath. If not, then what good is living? Lost hope is lost meaning, and lost meaning is void—dull, still, black. This is no life. This is more like what I imagine hell would be.


We need a marvelous hope because we need purpose. We pray for what we hope for because our entire being screams out a deep longing for it, and to lose this would be to lose ourselves. So what can be the object of this kind of hope? What is the single greatest imaginable hope?


The substance of such a worthy hope, the kind that gives purpose and meaning to this life, is recorded in the gospel of John, tucked inside one of Jesus’ prayers. Chapter 17 records what Jesus thought important enough to pray for. This was His deep longing, and in His perfect marriage of deity and humanity, He offered us a glimpse of His object of great hope. In this chapter we find Jesus praying a remarkably simple prayer that can be broken into three distinct parts.


First, He prays for Himself. In the few beginning sentences, He establishes with His father the importance of their reciprocated glory, praying that God would glorify Him so that He could in turn glorify God. He confidently confesses the beautiful fulfillment of His mission, acknowledging the work He had been sent to do was done. His primary concern for Himself, His worthy and God-centered hope, was that in the time approaching—His betrayal, arrest, and death—He would continue in the reciprocal glory between Father and Son, and God would bring Him back into the glory they shared before the beginning of the world (verses 1-5). His desire for Himself? To reveal the glory of His Father and get back to Him as soon as possible.


The second part of the prayer is for His disciples. This piece of His prayer is especially moving because it reveals His genuine affection for these men, these friends and brothers, to whom He’d grown so close. The first part reads like a proud papa spouting off a list of the things His children have accomplished. They kept His word, they accepted it as truth, and believed Jesus to be the Son of God, and they glorified the Father because of it. Jesus’ tender love is revealed as He prays according to His great hope for these men. He asks for a bond of unity, the same brand He enjoys with God His Father. He asks for His own joy to be fulfilled—literally crammed—in them. He prays that God would keep them protected from the enemy as they carry out the tasks that were entrusted to them. His great hope for His friends, His disciples? That they would exist joyfully in unity as they spread the beauty of the gospel, which is the hope of glory and the promise of being with Jesus the Savior forever in His Father’s kingdom.


The third part of this prayer is my favorite because it puts an exclamation point on Jesus’ great hope. It happens to be where we come in, too. Jesus actually prays for us—you and me—in John 17! Isn’t that an amazing discovery? Before we were even given an earthly thought, He divinely prayed for us, and we have the proof of His thoughts toward us in this chapter. His prayer for us sounds very much like those for Himself and His disciples. He prays that we, those of us to come who would believe in Him, would also enjoy the same unity that He has with His Father. He set His glory on us so that we would fully know the unity He desires for us, and so the world would see how much we are loved by the Father. Then he adds the icing:

Father, I want these whom you’ve given me to be with me, so they can see my glory. (John 17:24)


There it is: Jesus’ great hope is for us to be with Him so we can relish His supreme grandness—to see His glory. In the three-part prayer for us all, He illuminated the hope that fueled His words, His actions, His life, and His death. He wants us all to see His glory, and He desperately wants us all with Him.


This incredible truth is far easier to read and accept with eager willingness, easier to apply to our own lives, when we haven’t found ourselves in the precarious position of praying against Jesus. Trying to reconcile our hopes with the hope that is evidenced in Jesus’ prayer means that we will no doubt find ourselves pleading against the very thing Christ has already prayed for. Rick’s sickness highlighted the opposing prayers God hears, as well as the wide contrast between our sometimes selfish hope and the pure and perfect hope of Jesus. We prayed for more time here, for healing, for miraculous things, but things that ultimately kept Rick physically intact and in close proximity.


And Ricky died.


And Jesus prayed for this!


I find it hard to say anything more eloquently and God-breathed than the words Charles Spurgeon has already penned:

Thus the disciple is at cross—purposes with his Lord. The soul cannot be in both places: the beloved one cannot be with Christ and with you too. Now, which pleader shall win the day? If you had your choice; if the King should step from His throne, and say, “Here are two supplicants praying in opposition to one another, which shall be answered?” Oh! I am sure, though it were agony, you would start from your feet, and say, “Jesus, not my will, but Thine be done.” You would give up your prayer for your loved one’s life, if you could realize the thoughts that Christ is praying in the opposite direction——”Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.” Lord, Thou shalt have them. By faith we let them go.


Understanding the deep ramifications of an answered prayer, one way or another, is to consider all its facets. For me, it is an astonishingly brighter mourning when a child of God returns to Him because Christ’s prayers were answered rather than my own … that the death wasn’t just a blip on the radar screen of life, or a chance occurrence among the other random happenings here on earth. This was an event that has been prayed for over the course of history. Our prayers would have only recently joined in with that of Christ’s, which continues to ring out through time for each of us who believes. He loves us more than understanding can allow us to think upon, and sometimes God grants His Son’s prayer with a “yes” answer, at the expense of our mortal but temporary wounds, and to the blissful delight of all the beings in heaven. He did with Rick, and we continue to turn the diamond of an answered prayer in order to see more facets when the Light touches them.


Now I stand with the diamond in hand—His answer to our prayers. I stand in the aftermath of hope. To say that a journey of hope can have an aftermath is fiercely accurate, as only one who has been on such a journey can know. What a mere day looks like after such a grueling journey; how small moments suddenly inflict enormous emotion; how a lifetime feels in the wake of crushing sorrow and miraculous graces intertwined—all are a part of the full experience of the aftermath.


There is more to an aftermath than a simple time of felt consequences left from the disaster that brings it about. Instead, it is more akin to a second growth from the season of pain, the harvest of our grief bringing about a second crop. The aftermath of hope is about wandering around in the rubble, finding the green mingled in with the char, picking up the pieces that aren’t burned or completely shattered, and finding in the new growth a collection of new ideas, new vision, new character, and a new, more certain hope.


And whether from talent or compulsion of the soul, there is great value in recording the gentle whispers and hard-learned faith lessons that make up the aftermath, springing up like tender shoots of vivid green grass through the contrasting blackened dry soot. These are my blades of grass, the lessons in the aftermath, told with the heart of an explorer fresh from the adventure, brimming with tales of terror and scars, of beauty and redemption.


The aftermath of hope. Hope in all its glory.



©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Desperate Hope by Candi Pearson-Shelton. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Listen

Here is a page turner for you from Rene Gutteridge. Check out the first chapter below. How would you feel if none of your private conversations were kept private? I bet you would think twice about what comes from your mouth. . .

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:


Listen

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Rene Gutteridge is the critically acclaimed author of more than fifteen novels, including the Storm series, the Boo series, the Occupational Hazards series, and the novelization of the motion picture The Ultimate Gift. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414324332
ISBN-13: 978-1414324333

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Present Day

Damien Underwood tapped his pencil against his desk and spun twice in his chair. But once he was facing his computer again, the digital clock still hadn’t changed.

In front of him on a clean white piece of paper was a box, and inside that box was a bunch of other tiny boxes. Some of those boxes he’d neatly scribbled in. And above the large box he wrote, Time to go.

This particular day was stretching beyond his normal capacity of tolerance, and when that happened, he found himself constructing word puzzles. He’d sold three to the New York Times, two published on Monday and one on Wednesday. They were all framed and hanging in his cubicle. He’d sent in over thirty to be considered.

He’d easily convinced his boss years ago to let him start publishing crosswords in the paper, and since then he’d been the crossword editor, occasionally publishing some of his own, a few from local residents, and some in syndication.

The puzzle clues were coming harder today. He wanted to use a lot of plays on words, and he also enjoyed putting in a few specific clues that were just for Marlo residents. Those were almost always published on Fridays.

A nine-letter word for “predictable and smooth.”

Yes, good clue. He smiled and wrote the answer going down. Clockwork.

He glanced over to the bulletin board, which happened to be on the only piece of north wall he could see from his desk at the Marlo Sentinel. Tacked in the center, still hanging there after three years, was an article from Lifestyles Magazine. Marlo, of all the places in the United States, was voted Best Place to Raise a Child. It was still the town’s shining moment of glory. Every restaurant and business had this article framed and hanging somewhere on their walls.

The community boasted its own police force, five separate and unique playgrounds for the kids, including a spray ground put in last summer, where kids could dash through all kinds of water sprays without the fear of anyone drowning.

Potholes were nonexistent. The trash was picked up by shiny, blue, state-of-the-art trash trucks, by men wearing pressed light blue shirts and matching pants, dressed slightly better than the mail carriers.

Two dozen neighborhood watch programs were responsible for nineteen arrests in the last decade, mostly petty thieves and a couple of vandals. There hadn’t been a violent crime in Marlo since 1971, and even then the only one that got shot was a dog. A bank robbery twenty years ago ended with the robber asking to talk to a priest, where he confessed a gambling addiction and a fondness for teller number three.

Damien’s mind lit up, which it often did when words were involved. He penciled it in. An eight-letter word for “a linear stretch of dates.” Timeline. Perfect for 45 across.

So this was Marlo, where society and family joined in marriage. It was safe enough for kids to play in the front yards. It was clean enough that asthmatics were paying top dollar for the real estate. It was good enough, period.

Damien was a second-generation Marlo resident. His mother and father moved here long before it was the Best Place to Raise a Child. Then it had just been cheap land and a good drive from the city. His father had been the manager of a plant now gone because it caused too much pollution. His mother, a stay-at-home mom, had taken great pride in raising a son who shared her maiden name, Damien, and her fondness for reading the dictionary.

Both his parents died the same year from different causes, the same year Damien had met Kay, his wife-to-be. They’d wed nine months after they met and waited the customary five years to have children. Kay managed a real estate company. She loved her job as much as she had the first day she started. And it was a good way to keep up with the Joneses.

Until recently, when the housing market started slumping like his ever-irritated teenage daughter.

The beast’s red eyes declared it was finally time to leave. Damien grabbed his briefcase and walked the long hallway to the door, just to make sure his boss and sometimes friend, Edgar, remembered he was leaving a little early. He gave Edgar a wave, and today, because he was in a good mood, Edgar waved back.

Damien drove through the Elephant’s Foot and picked up two lemonades, one for himself and one for Jenna, his sixteen-year-old daughter who had all at once turned from beautiful princess or ballerina or whatever it was she wanted to be to some weird Jekyll and Hyde science experiment. With blue eye shadow. She never hugged him. She never giggled. Oh, how he missed the giggling. She slouched and grunted like a gorilla, her knuckles nearly dragging the ground if anyone said anything to her. A mild suggestion of any kind, from “grab a jacket” to “don’t do drugs” evoked eyes rolling into the back of her head as if she were having a grand mal seizure.

So the lemonade was the best gesture of kindness he could make. Besides offering to pick her up because her car was in the shop.

He pulled to the curb outside the school, fully aware he was the only car among the full-bodied SUVs idling alongside one another. It was a complete embarrassment to Jenna, who begged to have Kay pick her up in the Navigator. Some lessons were learned the hard way. But his car was perfectly fine, perfectly reliable, and it wasn’t going to cause the ozone to collapse.

She got in, noticed the lemonade, asked if it was sugar-free, then sipped it and stared out the window for the rest of the ride home. It wasn’t sugar-free, but the girl needed a little meat on her bones.

“Your car’s ready.”

Finally, a small smile.

***

“Have a seat.”

Frank Merret shoved his holster and belt downward to make room for the roll of belly fat that had permanently attached itself to his midsection. He slowly sat down in the old vinyl chair across from Captain Lou Grayson’s cluttered desk.

“You got a rookie coming in this morning.”

“I thought we had an agreement about rookies.”

“You ticketed Principal MaLue. We had an agreement about that too.”

Frank sighed. “He was speeding in a school zone.”

“He’s the principal. If he wants to hit Mach speed in the school zone, so be it. The rookie’s file is in your box.” Grayson’s irritated expression said the rest.

Frank left the captain’s office and killed time in the break room until lineup, where the rookie stood next to him, fresh-faced and wide-eyed. He was short, kind of stocky, with white blond hair and baby pink cheeks like a von Trapp kid. There was not a hard-bitten bone in this kid’s body.

Frank cut his gaze sideways. “This is Marlo. The most you can hope for is someone driving under the influence of pot.”

Lineup was dismissed, and the kid followed him out. “That’s not true. I heard about that bank robbery.”

“That was twenty years ago.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the rookie said. “I’m on patrol. That’s cool. I’m Gavin Jenkins, by the way.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Did you read my stats from the academy?”

“Not even one word.”

Gavin stopped midstride, falling behind Frank as he made his way outside to the patrol car. Gavin hurried to catch up. “Where are we going? Aren’t we a little early?”

Frank continued to his car. Gavin hopped into the passenger side. Frank turned west onto Bledsoe.

“Listen, Officer Merret, I just want you to know that I’m glad they paired me with you. I’ve heard great things about you, and I think it’s—”

“I don’t normally talk in the morning.”

“Okay.”

So they drove in silence mostly, checking on a few of the elderly citizens and their resident homeless man, Douglas, until lunchtime, when they stopped at Pizza Hut. The kid couldn’t help but talk, so Frank let him and learned the entire history of how he came to be a Marlo police officer.

Gavin was two bites into his second piece and hadn’t touched his salad when Frank rose. “Stay here.”

Gavin stared at him, his cheek full of cheese and pepperoni. “What? Why?”

“I’ve got something I need to do.”

Gavin stood, trying to gather his things. “Wait. I’ll come.”

Frank held out a firm hand. “Just stay here, okay? I’ll come back to get you in about forty minutes.”

Gavin slowly sat down.

Frank walked out. He knew it already. This rookie was going to be a thorn in his side.

Excerpted from Listen by Rene Gutteridge. Copyright ©2010 by Rene Gutteridge. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On the Road to Relevant

I have never had the opportunity to go to a Blogging Conference before. I have been researching the different alternatives and options. I really wish that I could afford to go to all of the different ones that are available. It would be awesome to find sponsorship to represent a company I believe in at a future conference. The conference I am getting ready to purchase tickets for is the Relevant Conference in Harrisburg, PA in October.

Tonight I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best at a #GetaSponsor party on Twitter with @sarahmaeblogs, @eCelebrating and @TommyNelson. It was great to listen to some of the ideas and tips for securing sponsorship.

One of the first questions was as a blogger, what is your brand, what do you represent. My response was as a blogger I share my story, my struggle and my journey as a follower of Christ.

My brand as a blogger will not appeal to everyone. But it is who I am, what I stand for and I wouldn't want it to be any different.

Tonight @TommyNelson wanted to know what we could do to represent them as a company. If you are unfamiliar, Tommy Nelson is the children's division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. Some of the products that they represent that you may be familiar with are Max Lucado's Hermie & Friends, and Sheila Walsh's Gigi: God's Little Princess.

My kids have a number of Tommy Nelson products in our home library. I have used their books in a variety of different lessons at home with my girls and at church in our kids programs. I think that the reason why I enjoyed the evening so much is that I am passionate about what Tommy Nelson represents. Number 1: Reading to your kids and Number 2: Building a foundation on Jesus Christ. One of the most important things in my life is to raise my children in Christ so that they have an authentic relationship with Jesus.

I am really excited to share some of my ideas with you on this blog and over at Unforgettable Childhood. I am actually in the process of sorting through our children's books so I am going to set aside all of the Tommy Nelson books and tell you about how you can incorporate them into your children's lives.

Stay tuned for more details. . .

Which Road Do You Choose?

You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Acts 2:28


I have this picture in my mind of two paths. One of the paths is straight and you can see for miles. It is a beautiful path.

The other path is bumpy and curvy with twists and turns. This path looks like a lot of work.

When I get to the crossroads, I can choose which path I am going take. But, I have to make a choice.

A lot of people will choose the path that they think is beautiful, the path that seems clear and easy. They may see some of their friends and family on this path. It will be really tempting to follow this path.

The other path may seem lonely at times, people will question why you chose this path. There will be times when you will be tempted to turn around and take the easy road.

Lately there are days that I feel like I am on the easy path. I am following others when I should be following Christ. I have discovered along the way that following Christ is not easy. He sacrificed His life for us. And following Him takes sacrifice from us in return.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14


Have you found the narrow road? Have you entered through the small gate? How do you keep yourself focused on the road that leads to life?

Horse Whisperer

Until I moved four years ago I didn't give much thought to horses. In fact, I had never even been on one. A couple of summers ago, my kids had the opportunity to ride. Last summer, I got up the courage to get on one myself. I climbed on to the saddle and then my friend handed me the reigns. I was scared to death.

At first I started out really slow. Then I started to trot a little bit. Before I was done with the ride I was galloping with the horse. I loved it. It was amazing to ride through that beautiful pasture. I can't wait for all of this snow to go away so I can ride again.

Yesterday I got the opportunity from Litfuse Publicity to read the book Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer by Dr. Lew Sterrett.


I really enjoyed this book. It was fun to read about his experiences with the horses he trained and how he has been able to use those experiences in life as well. I would love to see one of his Sermon on the Mount presentations some day.

He gives a lot of credit to his success in life to the time others invested in him. He says, "I know that any success I have in life, I owe to the many people who invested their lives in me when I was growing up." That really made me stop and think of some the people in my own life that have helped shape me into the person that I am today. It also makes me think about the children that I have the opportunity to touch.

He also talks about the power of small successes. I think that sometimes in life we focus on an ultimate goal and we don't celebrate all of the steps it takes to get there. Or we get overwhelmed by the end goal and we give up.

In the book he talks about leadership. Although it has been years since I have been in the workforce in a management position, I still think about how to become a better leader in the volunteer realm. He had one statement that I have never really thought about in leadership. "Being a leader often involves disappointing people. It goes with the territory. But honest disappointment beats false hope any day." Leadership is hard. I am a people pleaser. I don't want anyone to be upset with the decisions that are made. However, you can never please everyone. It is better to be honest.

This is a great book on leadership and faith. Below is a little more information on the book and the author from Litfuse.

About Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer:
A champion trainer and true horse whisperer, Dr. Lew Sterrett has used patience and a firm but gentle hand to earn the trust of more than 3,500 horses. In this book, Lew tells the stories of his work with these horses and the lessons each one has taught him. Sometimes heartbreaking and often uplifting, Lew has condensed his lifetime of learning into messages for the Christian life. Today, Lew shares these messages with more than 50,000 people each year through horse training presentations at Miracle Mountain Ranch and nationally through his Sermon on the Mount Ministry.

The author's engaging style and adroit mixture of well-tested anecdotes and thoughtful instruction make this a winning read-and not just for horse lovers.

About Lew:
Lew Street (Ph. D) had little idea that his boyhood interest in horses would open doors internationally for speaking and training. During his years in 4-H, he savored many opportunities to train and show horses and earn national recognition. As a student leader at Penn State University he benefited from many mentoring relationships from which he received valuable training, experience and honors. This foundation provided a basis for an extensive horse career with a unique emphasis on training youth and community leaders.

Lew has served as the Executive Director of Miracle Mountain Ranch Missions, Inc. (MMRM) since 1977. MMRM, located in northwestern Pennsylvania, is home for a summer youth camp, and a leadership training center for youth, adult, and family groups. He has also promoted safety in public riding programs, serving as President of the Certified Horse Association for 7 years. A licensed pastor, certified Youth, Marriage and Family Counselor, he earned his PhD from North Tennessee Seminary in 2007.

It is from this broad perspective of training and experience, that Dr. Street has readily gained a hearing from audiences internationally teaching lessons for life and leadership from the language of the horse.
In addition to a host of published resources and regular T.V. programs, Lew travels extensively presenting his horse training messages under the banners of Principle Based Training, Leaders by Heart, and Sermon on the Mount.

Raven's Ladder

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:


Raven's Ladder

WaterBrook Press (February 16, 2010)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jeffrey Overstreet is the skilled author of Auralia’s Colors, twice-nominated for a Christy Award, and Cyndere’s Midnight. His award-winning film reviews have appeared in Image, Books and Culture, Paste, and Christianity Today, and his “moviegoer’s memoir” Through a Screen Darkly is a popular exploration of faith and film in the U.S. and Europe. His website––LookingCloser.org––draws many thousands of readers each month. Jeffrey has recently spoken to large audiences in bookstores and universities across the U.S. and The Netherlands, including recent appearances at the Calvin Festival of Faith & Writing. Jeffrey and his wife Anne live in Shoreline, Washington.


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (February 16, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400074673
ISBN-13: 978-1400074679

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


CAL-RAVEN IN FOUR

KINDS OF TROUBLE

Auralia reached out to Cal-raven. As he approached, the flame of the candle he carried flapped like a flag in a hard wind.

Her smile was mysterious, just as he remembered it. That detail had proved most difficult. Other aspects had come easier as his hands sculpted the stone. Her humble stature. The tiny knob of her chin. Her feet—ten small toes emerging like a row of beads beneath a leafy skirt.

Cal-raven was not a tall man, and yet Auralia, slight for sixteen, had stood only to his shoulder. He could see her open hands pressing through the span of fabric that she offered to any visitor.

Almost a year had passed since he’d found her in the Abascar dungeon, wrapped in a magnificent cloak. Their fleeting conversation was burned in his memory more vividly than yesterday. Unflinching, Auralia had voiced her faith in phantoms dreamed and legends whispered––like the Keeper, that benevolent creature who haunted dreams, a silent guardian, a listener.

Cal-raven had sculpted, erased, and then reshaped Auralia’s lips, her eyebrows with their question pinched between them, her whole face filled with trembling hope that others would receive and understand her vision. She had been more than human. Or better, she had been more fully human than anyone around her.

The king’s hunting hound, his golden tail wagging, sniffed at the statue’s ankles. “Hagah.” The dog slumped down to the floor and sighed, resigned to wait.

That fabric the statue held––Cal-raven had not even tried to give it the textures and colors of Auralia’s cloak. How could he? Its threads had glimmered with colors no eyes in Abascar had ever seen.

“Tell the Keeper,” he whispered, “that I don’t know where to go from here.” He ran his fingertips along the span that spilled like a waterfall from her upturned hands. “When I was a child, I’d have called out myself. It was easier then to believe.”

Auralia’s expression did not change; it would not unless he changed it. Her polished eyes would not return his gaze for, in the tradition of House Abascar portraiture, they lacked detail. While each statue in the cavern was distinct––the beloved and the burdensome, the wise and the foolish, the soldiers and the miscreants––they shared that same indecipherable gaze, an affirmation of something altogether unnamable, inimitable. The mystery of the heart.

Embarrassed at his habit of addressing this likeness, he knuckle-knocked Auralia’s forehead. “Last visit. Watch over these worn-out people for me, will you?”

Something shifted in the cavern behind him. Hagah lifted his head and followed his master’s gaze through the long rows of statues.

“Wynn?” Cal-raven waited.

Hagah’s huge black nose emerged from flabby rolls of fur and sniffed. Then the dog set his chin back down on the ground.

“You’ll catch our pesky shadow in a dream, won’t you?” Cal-raven said, but he gave another look back.

Why am I so agitated tonight? he wondered.

Because some of them are turning against you, replied his father’s ghostly voice. It’s been almost a year. You’ve mentioned New Abascar, but you still haven’t shown them a plan.

The statues that crowded the Hall of Remembering listened. These extravagant stone monuments gave shape to Cal-raven’s promise that he would never let his people forget the lessons they’d learned and that they would build a new house to honor those lost in Abascar’s cataclysm.

But the name grudgers, once given to those who had rebelled against their previous king’s oppressive ways, now applied to people distrustful of Cal-raven. Grudgers objected to his embrace of the foolish along with the wise; his equal concern for the weak and the strong; his insistence that every person, no matter how “useful,” be fed and shown the care of their healer. Moreover, grudgers grumbled about the way Cal-raven gambled their futures on possibilities revealed to him in dreams.

Tonight Cal-raven had taken the fire walk. Lesyl’s turn had come, but he had offered to patrol the passages for her. He wanted to hear her sing the Evening Verse one last time before his departure the next sundown.

“I’ve written a piece that can only be played by two, ”Lesyl had said when the fire walk brought him to the chamber of Auralia’s gallery. Sitting against the wall decorated by an array of colorful weavings, she tuned the twelve stringed tharpe, a formidable, sonorous instrument. She seemed relaxed, even happy, and oblivious that this was a farewell.

“Here.” She picked up a wooden spiral. “You remember how to play the hewson-pipe, don’t you? Oh, come now, don’t tell me you lack the time. You need the practice. ”When he did not approach, she persisted. “Scared?”

“No,” he laughed. Yes, he thought.

He had torn himself away from that conversation to continue the fire walk for fear of losing his fragile restraint. Not now. Not yet.

So while she sang, he paced that routine progress, ensuring that torches would not spark any mishaps, that candles burned within the spheres prescribed, that everything was in its right place.

He had led these survivors through a hostile winter and a dispiriting spring. Just as they had begun to define a possible departure, a visit from the mage sent him scrambling in another direction. Tomorrow he would slip away and venture north to pursue the vision his teacher had given him.

The day will come, Cal-raven, when you’ll have no choice but to leave Scharr ben Fray’s imagination behind and live in the real world. His father’s fury buzzed in his ear like a skeeter-fly. If you don’t, the ground will crumble beneath you.

Facing his father’s likeness, Cal-raven felt his throat tighten. “Whose inventions plunged into the earth?”

Listen to me, boy!You’re too old for toys.Who will lead the people when I’m gone? Someone whose head is full of children’s stories?

“Show me someone better prepared for the task,” he said. “I do not enjoy the burdens you’ve left me. ”He took the shield from where it was draped over the shoulder of the king’s likeness.

The statue’s lips were parted, and a strange feeling of discomfort crept up Cal-raven’s spine. He did not know what scared him more—the thought of the stone speaking or the thought that his dreams might prove false.

Hagah’s inquisitive nose bumped the edge of Cal-marcus’s shield, and he woofed.

“You’re not waiting for him anymore, are you?”

A rough tongue exploded from the hound’s expansive smile, and his tail thumped against the floor.

“You’ve given up on them both.” Cal-raven’s gaze strayed to the statue of his mother. The runaway.

It was a good likeness, or so he’d been told. Jaralaine’s appearance seemed an echo lost in time’s clamor. But troubled scowls from older folk told him that they recognized this imperious beauty. He did remember occasional tenderness and sighs of insatiable loneliness before her disappearance. He also remembered a fury against any suggestion of a will greater than her own.

He found himself suspended between the gravity of these statues and the forested world beyond, which called to him like a feast to a starving man.

“We’re all ready to be runaways now, Mother. If we don’t leave soon, the bonds that bind us will break.”

Hagah sniffed the base of the queen’s statue.

“No!” Cal-raven shouted.

Disappointed, the dog lumbered off through the rows to settle on the lanky figure of a hunter known by his nickname—Arrowhead.

Go ahead, Cal-raven thought. Arrowhead was a grudger. He threatened my father’s life. Wouldn’t hurt him to take some abuse for a change.

Hagah would have merrily complied, but the sound of something slithering sent him bounding back to Cal-raven’s boots, fangs shining beneath his retracting lip. Cal-raven blew out and dropped the candle, held his father’s shield close, and knelt to withdraw the throwing knife at his ankle.

There was only silence. Cal-raven tiptoed through the statues, Hagah stalking low before him.

The dog led him to the western wall, where a corridor ran along the inside of the cliff. Hagah put his snout down to a crack in the floor, noisily drawing in air. His tail stopped wagging.

“What have you found, boy?”

Hagah stiffened. Then he began to back away from the fissure, a low, rolling growl changing into a worried squeal.

“Something nasty?” Scars like burns from rivulets of hot oil marked the floor all about the break. “Let’s go. This place is giving me jitters tonight.”

A puff of wind touched his ear and then––thung! He turned to see an arrow embedded in the wall beside his head.

He sprang forward, leaping over the dog, and ran through the corridor. Down the stairs. Through tiers of tunnels.

In the distance Lesyl sang the Evening Verse. But his pursuer—pursuers, he could hear their footsteps now—did not falter.

Hagah turned around snarling. “No!” Cal-raven knew the dog was no match for an arrow. “Run, boy!” He pointed, and the dog bolted ahead just as he had been trained.

Cal-raven did not follow. He faced the rugged wall, placing his hands against the rock. His fingertips sought hidden inconsistencies, and finding those points, he applied pressure and heat in a way he could never explain.

The stone awakened, rippling in a sudden wind.

Cal-raven’s body clenched like a fist, forcing energy out through his hands. Then he pressed himself through the wavering curtain.

A midsummer evening’s breeze cooled his burning face as the sand sealed itself behind him.

The grudgers are out of patience. He brushed grit from his garments. It would not take long for his hunters to find their own exit. They were watching.Waiting for me to be alone.

“Keeper, protect me,” he murmured. Crouching, he moved away from the cliffs into narrow paths through thorn-barbed thickets that blanketed the plains.

Several turns into that maze, he sat down to catch his breath. I must get back inside where it’s crowded.

He thought about standing up and calling for the guards on the tiers above. But they would not see him here in the brake. And what else might come in answer?

A strange wind moved through the shallow sea of thorns. Bramble bugs skrritch-skrritched across the plains. Something wriggled under his foot. He set his father’s shield aside, tugged off his boot, and shook loose a rock spider.

He looked up through the brambled frame. A shooting star scratched a line across the night’s black dome. As if excited by the mysterious sign, faraway wood dogs shrieked in song.

When he jerked his sleeve free of a bramble and stood, his rustling stirred up a cloud of twilight-suckers. These insects were always a help to hunters, for they uttered tiny shrieks of delight as they descended on fresh dung or carrion.

Sure enough, as the pest cloud dissipated, he saw two copper coins. He knew that reflective stare from a hundred hunts. A lurkdasher. A year ago the sight of this swift, bushy-tailed creature would not have surprised Cal-raven. Lurkdashers were common burrowers in beds of brush. But Abascar’s best hunters had been catching little more than weakened scavengers, rodents lean for lack of prey. Across the Expanse the land had gone quiet, as if emptied by some mass migration.

If Cal-raven had been out for any other purpose, he’d have thrown his knife so fast the dasher would have fallen mid sprint. But he stayed still. Something wasn’t right.

The lurkdasher vanished. Cal-raven stood in the quiet, just another secret in this complicated night.

Then he felt a chill. He could sense a presence, fierce and intent.

He turned his head slightly and drew in a deep breath. Only a stone’s throw to his right an enormous animal, many legged, lurked in the thick web of boughs. He held that breath and waited, eyes slowly translating the contours of darkness and deeper darkness all around him.

Like a mighty hand, the creature clutched the ground, tensing knuckled legs. The bushes around it shivered as the lurkdasher stole away, and like a spider the creature raised two of its front legs from the brambles, bracing the other five against the ground. It was as big as a fang bear. Cal-raven felt a faint tremor. Then he heard a hiss, and the creature shifted its weight slightly, turning those raised limbs toward him.

Considering the sword at his side, he flexed his hand.

A crush of branches sounded to his left. His heart fluttered, a trapped bird, frantic. He turned and saw the second creature—the very same kind—with its feet planted as if it might pounce. In terrified confusion he saw the wind disturb a canvas that the creature drew behind it, a dark black sheet covering the thorns.

He did not know these monstrosities. They looked like they could outrun a viscorcat. And the forest was a long, long run ahead of him through a narrow, winding passage that he could not see clearly. But the cliffs—he might just make it back to the wall. The solid stone wall.

Ever so slowly he planted his hand on the hilt of his sword. He stepped backward, placing his foot down soundlessly.

The creatures stood as still as sculpted metal.

He took another step, drawing his sword half out of its scabbard. No, he thought. The starlight. They’ll see the reflection.

At his third step the creature on the right planted its two raised feet down on the ground, digging in as if it might spring.

He heard movement behind him and felt a blast of air like a bellows. His feeble hopes went out. But something deeper than his mind, stronger than his will, unleashed a cry. He called out, as he had so many times in nightmares, for the Keeper.

The creatures leapt from the brambles and seized him. His sword never escaped the scabbard.

He had a moment to think of Lesyl, interrupted in her song, looking up to receive unexpected news, the hewson-pipe coiled beside her.

Hot limbs wrapped around him, and his feet left the ground. The creatures were shelled, bone-tough, their bellies cushioned with bundles of hair. He struggled, limbs flailing. He was falling skyward, upside down. The pressure did not increase. Nothing pierced or stung or bit. The ground, faintly chalked in moonlight, spread like the sky over his head, and beyond his feet the heavens glittered like Deep Lake at midnight. The creatures held him suspended, their vast canvases snapping in the wind as if they were wings.

And then he saw that they were wings, spread out from a towering creature.

His captors were not animals at all but hands. He hung unharmed in the clawed clutches of a monster and was carried up toward its massive equine head.

Its eyes, glassy spheres full of stars, were fixed upon the northern horizon. Flames lined its nostrils. Its mane wavered as if it were creating, not surrendering to, the night wind. And the scales on its golden neck caught more than moonlight.

A helpless toy in its hands, he watched its attention turn to him, and his fear turned to confusion.

He recognized this creature. This shape had been fixed in his mind since he first drew breath. It had moved at the edges of his dreams. In nightmares it had come when he cried out for help, and sometimes when he could not call at all. During the long days of learning, he had pillaged his father’s history scrolls and hunting journals for evidence.

Nothing had prepared him for this. The creature drew in a cavernful of air, the shield-plates of its chest separating to reveal a soft lacework beneath. It held that breath. He knew it was reading him, reading the night, the skies. Then the curtains of its eyelids came down.

Are you kind? he thought. Dreams…speak true. Let the Keeper be kind.

The creature was stranger than anything he had sculpted when imagining its shape and dimensions. He felt embarrassed by his simplistic appeals, his feeble prayers. He was a mouse in the talons of a brascle, and as the creature reared up on the pillars of its hind legs, wing upon wing upon wing unfolding from its sides like sails on a great ship, he waited for judgment.

A sound like deep recognition ran tremulous through its form. Calraven thought it spoke his name––not the name given by his mother, but the name given by the powers that had crafted him—and every thread of his being burned with attention. As the eyes opened again, the stars within were moving.

It exhaled a scattering of sparks, but gently. The sound was like the Mystery Sea, roaring as it received the river flowing out through the Rushtide Inlet.

The air about the creature shuddered. A wave of noise beyond the range of Cal-raven’s hearing stunned him, conveying a word as clearly as if the creature had spoken. He would not, in the aftermath, know how to translate such a word. But it provoked in him an immediate resolve, a reverent promise.

He would follow. What else could one do when commanded by the Keeper?

Smoke and spice clouded the air and dizzied him. He was passed from clawed hands at the edges of the creature’s wings to one of its enormous, rough-fleshed feet, which held him like a woman’s hand cradling a bird. The creature set him down within a footprint on the path, and a wind whirled fiercely about him. Squinting up through the storm, he saw that the creature had taken flight.

In the space of a sigh, it was gone, a succession of lights darkening across the sky, northward over the Cragavar forest. Cal-raven lay helpless and numb like a discarded doll in the Keeper’s footprint.

Breath burst back into his lungs. He heaved, folding and fighting, a bird shaking away the shards of a shell.

It came when I called.

Never more invigorated, never more single-minded in purpose, he smiled back toward the cliffs. He had been changed.

In that moment everything changed for House Abascar as well. It began with a jolt, not a tremor.

Tabor Jan had been yawning as he reclined atop a boulder and counted the brightening stars. Sleep, out of reach for many nights, had seemed almost possible.

But then the ground beneath him bucked like a furious steed.He scrambled to the path, unsheathing his sword as if he might smite the earth in reprimand. From deep within Barnashum came a sound like hundreds of drums. The shaking intensified. The refuge exhaled clouds of dust through shielded entryways.

“Not part of the plan,” he muttered.

Rubble spilled down the cliffs in the quiet that followed, dust sighing into the thickets below.

“Cal-raven,” he said. Another name came to mind. Brevolo.

Then came a distant cacophony of voices. Rivers of people were rushing out onto the open ledges.

Even as he scanned the scene for the woman he loved, Tabor Jan pushed his way through the crowds, shouting to soldiers that their first priority was to find Cal-raven.

Hagah bounded suddenly into Tabor Jan’s path. The soldier seized the dog’s flabby neck. “Hagah—Cal-raven!”

Thrilled by the command, the dog turned as if jerked by a chain and almost threw himself off the cliffs. It was all the captain could do to keep up with him.

He found himself running toward the sound of triumphant yelps beyond the base of the cliffs. Dog had found master. The king was alive.

Kneeling among the brambles, Cal-raven embraced Hagah, blinking as if he’d been knocked silly by a falling stone.

“Are you hurt?” Tabor Jan scanned the shadowed ground.

“Didn’t you see it?” Cal-raven pointed north toward the Cragavar.

“See it? I felt it. I think they may have felt it in Bel Amica. We may have cave-ins. I’m taking you back.”

“No, not the quake,” said Cal-raven, exhilarated. “Didn’t you see it?”

Tabor Jan braced himself. “See…what?”Then the exuberance of Calraven’s

expression triggered a spasm of alarm. “No! Don’t say it!”

“But Tabor Jan, I saw—”

“Swallow that story, my lord!” He would have preferred a beast man sighting. “Don’t speak of it to the people. Especially not tonight.”

“Not tonight! What could bring them more comfort than to hear—”

“If the grudgers hear you respond to this quake with some wild description of a phantom on our doorstep—”

“Grudgers attacked me tonight.”

“Did you see their faces?”

“No, but I became acquainted with their arrows.” He laughed. “I also became quite familiar with the Keeper. Nose-to-nose, in fact.”

Tabor Jan scowled. “I haven’t slept for so long I’m having nightmares while I’m awake.”

“It pointed me north, Tabor Jan! We’ve got to ride—”

“We’ll ride tomorrow, Cal-raven. Just as you planned.” He urged Cal-raven back toward the cliffs, and they clambered over piles of rubble newly shaken from the heights. A tumult of voices filled the sky.

Hurrying down a steep ridge, an enormous guard came stumbling to meet them.

“Bowlder, how many are hurt?”

“Cave-in!” he wheezed. “Must…dig out…three people.”

“I assume you’ve called for Say-ressa. Without her healing hands we…” Tabor Jan stopped, stricken as he read Bowlder’s expression.

He turned to Cal-raven, but the king was strangely preoccupied with the moon above the northern horizon.