Thursday, April 30, 2009
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Have a Blessed Day!
I have a Entrecard Blogger friend, Pastor Bruce who is having a contest on his blog. He is offering 60,000 Entrecard Credit give-away.
You can get to his blog by going to: http://www.faithandfacts.com/entrecard-60k-giveaway-contest/ Or, just click above.
Drop by and enter the contest. Most important show him some love!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past ten years, she has published more than a hundred books for children, teens, and adults, with sales totaling more than 2.5 million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List.
Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards including The Gold Medallion, The Christy, and The Rita Award. And most recently she is in the process of optioning some of her books for film rights.
She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
”Is she coming on a later flight?”
DJ hadn’t told her the whole story yet. In fact, she hadn’t said much of anything to Grandmother at all during the past week, except to leave a message saying that she’d changed her flight and planned to be home two days earlier than expected. Obviously, Grandmother had assumed that Taylor had changed her plans as well.
“Taylor’s in LA,” DJ said slowly, wishing she could add something to that, something to deflect further questioning.
“Visiting her father?”
“Touring with Eva?”
“What then?” Grandmother’s voice was getting irritated as she drove away from the terminal. “Where is the girl, Desiree? Speak up.”
“She’s in rehab.”
“Rehab?” Grandmother turned to stare at DJ with widened eyes. “Whatever for?”
“For alcohol treatment.”
Grandmother seemed stunned into speechlessness, which was a relief since DJ didn’t really want to discuss this. She was still trying to grasp the whole strange phenomenon. It was hard to admit, but the past few days of being mostly by herself in Las Vegas had been lonely and depressing and one of the reasons she’d been desperate to change her flight and come home early. She had really missed Taylor. The hardest part was when she discovered that Taylor wasn’t allowed any communication from outside the rehab facility. This concerned DJ. No cell phone calls, email, or anything. It seemed weird. Although DJ was praying for her roommate, she was worried. What if it wasn’t a reputable place? What if Taylor never came back? What if something bad happened to her? Not only would DJ blame herself, she figured everyone else would too.
Finally Grandmother spoke. “Did you girls get into some kind of trouble in Las Vegas, Desiree?”
“I want you to be honest with me. Did something happen to precipitate this?”
“The only thing that happened is that Taylor came to grips with the fact that she has a serious drinking problem. If you’ll remember, I tried to let you in on this some time ago.”
“Yes, I remember the vodka bottle. I simply assumed it was a one-time occurrence.”
“I told you otherwise.”
“Well, I know that girls will be girls, Desiree. You can’t have spent as much time as I in the fashion industry and not know this.”
“Were you ever like that?” asked DJ. “I mean that girls will be girls bit?”
Grandmother cleared her throat. “I wasn’t an angel, Desiree, if that’s what you’re hinting at. However, I did understand the need for manners and decorum. I witnessed numerous young women spinning out of control. Beautiful or not, a model won’t last long if she is unable to work.”
“Isn’t that true with everything?”
“Yes…I suppose. How long is Taylor going to be in…this rehabilitation place?”
“I don’t know. You should probably call her mom.”
“Oh, dear…that’s something else I hadn’t considered. Certainly Eva Perez won’t be blaming me for her daughter’s, well, her drinking problem.”
“Eva is fully aware that Taylor had this drinking problem long before she came to Carter House.”
“Good.” Grandmother sighed and shook her head. “I just hope her treatment won’t prevent her from participating in Fashion Week. That would be a disaster.”
“Seems like it would be a worse disaster if Taylor didn’t get the help she needs.”
“Yes, of course, that goes without saying. But I would think that a week or two should be sufficient. Goodness, just how bad can a problem get when you’re only seventeen?”
DJ shrugged, but didn’t say anything. The truth was she thought it could get pretty bad, and in Taylor’s case it was bad. And it could’ve gotten worse. To think that Taylor had been drinking daily and DJ never even knew it.
“It’s just as well you came home early, Desiree,” said Grandmother as she turned onto the parkway. “Already Casey and Rhiannon are back. And Kriti is supposed to return tomorrow. Eliza will be back on New Year’s Eve.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t want to stay in France for New Year’s.”
“As am I. If I were over there, I’d certainly have booked a room in Paris. Nothing is more spectacular than fireworks over the City of Light. But apparently Eliza has plans with her boyfriend. Imagine—giving up Paris for your boyfriend!”
Of course, DJ knew that Eliza’s life of lavish luxury didn’t mean all that much to her. Like a poor little rich girl, Eliza wanted a slice of “normal.” Well, normal with a few little extras like good shoes, designer bags, and her pretty white Porsche.
“It’s good to be home,” DJ proclaimed as her grandmother turned into the driveway.
“It’s good to hear you say that,” said Grandmother.
And it was the truth. After a week in Vegas, DJ was extremely thankful to be back. Maybe for the first time, Carter House did feel like a home. She couldn’t wait to see Casey and Rhiannon.
“Welcome back,” called Casey as she opened the door, dashed out onto the porch, and hugged DJ. “Need some help with those bags?”
“Thanks.” DJ studied Casey for a moment, trying to figure out what had changed. “Your hair!”
Casey picked up one of DJ’s bags then grinned as she gave her strawberry blond hair a shake. “Like it?”
“It’s the old you—only better.”
“My mom talked me into it. The black was a little dramatic, don’t you think?”
“I think you look fantastic. And that choppy layered cut is very cute.”
“Your grandmother approved it too. And I got highlights.”
DJ touched her own hair. “Taylor had been nagging me to get mine redone. But it was so expensive in Vegas. I figured I’d do it here.”
Casey lowered her voice. “So how’d your grandmother take the news about Taylor?”
DJ stopped at the foot of the stairs and stared at Casey. “Did Rhiannon tell you everything?”
“Yeah, is it supposed to be a big secret?” Casey made a hurt face now. “I was wondering why you told Rhiannon and not me. I thought we were friends, DJ.”
“I didn’t mean to, but I sort of spilled the beans with Rhiannon because I was so desperate and didn’t know what to do at the time. But then I felt bad. I mean it was possible that Taylor wanted to keep it private, you know?”
Casey nodded somberly. “Yeah, I guess I do know.”
“You should.” After all, it had only been a few months since they had intervened with Casey in regard to her pain pill snitching.
“So, are you saying mum’s the word?”
“Until Taylor comes back. Don’t you think it’s up to her to say something or not?”
“Yeah. I can just imagine Eliza with that tasty little morsel of gossip. It’d be all over the school in no time.”
“Speaking of Eliza, that means Kriti too.”
“Kriti just got here about an hour ago.” Casey paused, nodding toward the room that Kriti and Eliza shared. The taxi dropped her and she went straight to her room. But something seems wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure. She just looks different. Kind of unhappy. I mean she didn’t even say hello or anything.”
“Maybe she was missing her family.”
“Maybe, but my guess is it’s something more.”
“We should probably try harder to reach out to her and make her feel at home.”
“You’re here!” Rhiannon burst out of the room and threw her arms around DJ. “Welcome home!”
“Man, it is so good to be back. Vegas—for more than a day or two—is a nightmare.”
“At least you got a tan,” observed Rhiannon. She glanced at Casey. “Both of you, in fact.”
“It’s that California sun.”
“Don’t make me envious,” said Rhiannon.
“Hey, look at you,” said DJ as she noticed that Rhiannon had on a very cool outfit. “Is that new?”
“Old and new. My great aunt gave me some of her old clothes and I’ve been altering them.” She held out her hands and turned around to make the long circular skirt spin out. “Fun, huh?”
“And cool,” said DJ.
“She’s got all kinds of stuff,” said Casey. “Hats and costume jewelry and scarves and things. I told her she should open a retro shop and get rich.”
“Maybe I will someday.”
“Or just sell things here in Carter House,” suggested DJ. “Between Eliza and Taylor’s clothing budget, you could clean up.”
“Oh, yeah, DJ, Conner just called,” said Rhiannon. “They just got back from their ski trip and he said he tried your cell a few times, but it seemed to be turned off.”
“More like dead. My flight was so early this morning, I forgot to charge it.”
“Well, I told him you’d call.”
Casey set DJ’s bag inside her door. “Speaking of boys, I think I’ll check and see how Garrison is doing—find out if he missed me or not.” She touched her hair. “Do you think he’ll like it?”
“How could he not,” said Rhiannon. “It’s so cool.”
“Later,” called Casey as she headed for her room.
“So, how’s Taylor?” asked Rhiannon quietly.
“You didn’t tell Kriti, did you?” whispered DJ, pulling Rhiannon into her room then closing the door.
“No, why would I?”
“I just wanted to be sure. I think we need to respect Taylor’s privacy with this.”
“Absolutely. So, have you talked to her?”
“They won’t let me. They have this no communication policy. No email, cell phones…nothing. It’s like a black hole. Weird.”
Rhiannon nodded. “Yeah, it was like that with my mom at first. I think they wanted to keep her cut off from any bad connections. Then after a while, you earn communication privileges.”
“Oh, that’s a relief. I was really worried.”
“I still can hardly believe Taylor went willingly.”
“Yeah, our strong-willed wild child…putting herself into rehab.” DJ shook her head.
“That remind me, Seth has called a few times too. He wanted to know why Taylor’s cell was off and where she was.”
“What’d you say?”
“That I didn’t know.” She shrugged. “Actually, that was the truth.”
“But nothing else?”
“Good. I mean it’s not like we need to keep it top secret, but until we hear from Taylor, let’s not talk about it.”
“Sure.” Rhiannon put a hand on DJ’s shoulder. “And don’t worry about her, DJ. She’ll be fine.”
“I know.” DJ nodded as she put her bags on her bed and started to unzip them. But as soon as Rhiannon left, DJ wasn’t so sure. What if Taylor wasn’t fine? What if something had gone wrong? And what if it was all DJ’s fault?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Lion UK (April 1, 2009)
Cherie Blair is a human rights lawyer and campaigner on women's rights and empowerment, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and author of Speaking for Myself. Steve Chalke is UN.GIFT special advisor on human trafficking, and founder of Stop the Traffik. He is the author of several books, including Change Agents, Intelligent Church, The Lost Message of Jesus, and Trust.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $16.95
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Lion UK (April 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
One day Sunni and Wihini simply didn’t turn up. Street children often tend to disappear for days, as they try to scrape a living sweeping long-distance trains, but they had been attending the center daily for three months, so when a week or so went by the project staff became worried, and went in search of their parents. The workers found the father lying drunk on the station platform. When they roused him and asked about the children, he admitted that a man had come to him one morning offering money for them. He needed money for alcohol, so he agreed. The trafficker had taken Sunni and Wihini away for the equivalent of just 20 British pounds (currently equivalent to $30 US dollars). The father was angry because he had never received his money. Their mother wouldn’t speak about it. The children were never seen again.
What happened to Sunni and Wihini? Nobody knows. In that area of Mumbai, children often disappeared. They are kidnapped or sold into prostitution, forced labor, adoption, or even child sacrifice. The workers at the Asha Seep center had seen this before. But this was once too often.
Wihini and Sunni’s story proved to be a catalyst. The story was picked up and passed on and as evidence gathered we realized this is happening on a huge scale, around the world—and even on our own doorsteps. Not 200 years ago. Not even fifty years ago. It was—and is—happening today. And so STOP THE TRAFFIK was born.
Human Tafficking—A Definition
Human trafficking is the dislocation of someone by deception or coercion for exploitation, through forced prostitution, forced labor, or other forms of slavery.
-800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year (US State Department)
-It is estimated that two children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation. This amounts to an estimated 1.2 million children trafficked every year (UNICEF)
-In 2004, between 14,500 and 17,500 people were trafficked into the United States (US State Department)
-Human trafficking generates between 10 and 12 billion dollars a year (UNICEF)
-Total profit from human trafficking is second only to the trafficking of drugs (The European Police Office; Eurpol)
The numbers tell you the huge scale of this problem. But behind each number is a sea of faces. Behind the statistics are mothers and father, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, torn apart by trafficking; these are innocent lives ruined by abuse. These are human rights violations on a grotesque scale. And the problem is getting worse.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom For Saving Your Marriage & Your Money by Marybeth and Curt Whalen
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Kregel Publications (February 16, 2009)
Marybeth Whalen is a speaker and contributing writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. The author of For the Write Reason, Marybeth has also written for Parent Life, Money Matters newsletter, The Old Schoolhouse, Hearts at Home magazine, and Homeschooling Today. She contributes regularly to the daily online devotions of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and Curt are the parents of six children, which has taught them much about how to stretch a dollar.
Curt Whalen is a trained financial counselor through Crown Financial Concepts. He has years of experience helping couples establish budgets, solve financial problems, and learn to communicate more effectively. He has written articles for TEACH Magazine and Money Matters Newsletter and has contributed to books by authors Lysa TerKeurst and Melanie Chitwood.
Visit the authors' website.
List Price: $11.69
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (February 16, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Several years ago, my husband, Curt, and I traveled to Florida to visit my stepsister, Becky, and her husband, Chuck. Curt and I enjoyed a few days away from our kids and reconnected with family members we don’t get to see very often. One evening the four adults snuck away for a nice, leisurely dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s at Pleasure Island in Disney World. The environment was festive and fun, and all of our spirits were light as we sat around the table enjoying the sights, sounds, and delicious smells.
At one point during the conversation, we got on the subject of struggles we’d experienced in marriage. Curious as to the low points of other couples (we’ve certainly had our share!), I asked Becky and Chuck what their lowest point had been. Without even pondering, Becky blurted out, “When we didn’t have any money. Chuck had just taken a job with his dad and wasn’t making much as a starting salary. I can clearly remember one time when I went to the grocery store and my card was declined because it was maxed out. I’ll never forget having to leave my groceries behind. I felt like every eye in the store was watching me. That was the lowest point in the history of our marriage—and it took awhile for it to get better.”
Becky and Chuck’s financial situation did change. They became financially independent and now enjoy a lifestyle few people do. Yet as they sat at dinner that night—years after that difficult time—Becky could easily recall the humiliation of struggling with money. That period still haunted them and still counted as the roughest trouble they had ever faced—beyond the divorce of his parents, issues related to children, cross-country moves, and several health problems. Not having enough money and struggling to pay for basic needs had left an indelible mark on their marriage.
I never forgot that moment with Becky and Chuck. I think of it often, as it is a telling commentary on the power that financial issues can have in a marriage. Marriages break up every day over money. Mismanagement, miscommunication, and misunderstandings drive a wedge between husband and wife. Instead of getting in the ring and fighting for their finances together, many couples throw their hands up and walk away—from the problems, but also from each other. In a study done by Money magazine, 84 percent of those surveyed said that money causes tension in their marriage, and 13 percent said they fight about money several times a month.1 Another study cited that 37 percent of couples say that debt is the number one issue that will spark a fight. “Numerous studies have shown that money is the number one reason why couples argue—and many of the recently divorced say those battles were the main reason why they untied the knot.”2
Curt and I teetered on the edge of throwing in the towel on our marriage many times. We’ll tell our story throughout this book, and we’ll also share the lessons we learned during our time in the ring as we literally fought to get our finances under control. Our prayer is that this book will help other couples find the freedom that can result from living financially sound lives. The truth is, money is not an isolated issue within a marriage—it infiltrates every other area of the marriage. From the kitchen to the bedroom, money problems will follow you. Once you get a handle on this area of your marriage, you’ll find that other problems seem to evaporate into thin air. It’s been our experience that the stress of money problems adds an air of negativity to the marriage as a whole. Working together to eliminate those problems can breathe fresh hope and life into what seemed like a lifeless, hopeless situation.
If you’ve picked up this book, then chances are you need to make some changes in your finances. And you’re not alone. Our country as a whole is in a downward financial spiral that is picking up speed with each turn of the calendar page. “On average, today’s consumer has a total of 13 credit obligations on record at a credit bureau. These include credit cards (such as department store charge cards, gas cards, or bank cards) and installment loans (auto loans, mortgage loans, student loans, etc.). Of these thirteen credit obligations, nine are likely to be credit cards and four are likely to be installment loans.”3 “Revolving consumer debt, almost all from credit cards, now totals $957 billion, compared with $800 billion in 2004, according to the Federal Reserve. Average car loans are up, too, to $27,397, from $24,888 four years ago. Home mortgages total $10.5 trillion, compared with $7.8 trillion in 2004.”4
Our personal financial choices are now being reflected on a national level. As we write these words, our nation is experiencing one of the hardest economic challenges since the Great Depression. For decades we have lived beyond our means, using debt as a tool to obtain our wants. And now our house of cards is crumbling around us. We find ourselves with a national debt that has surpassed the ten-trillion-dollar mark, a banking system that is undergoing radical change, and billions of dollars of value that has been lost on Wall Street as the Dow plummets from over 14,000 down to lows we never thought possible. Economists have stopped asking if we’re going to be in a recession and started asking how bad and how long it will be.
The national climate of anxiety and uncertainty is also the climate of many homes.
A Commitment to Change
The reality of our poor financial choices hit Curt and I one night four years ago, a few days before Christmas. What should have been a time of festivities and celebrating became just another cause for stress. We didn’t know how we were going to afford the expensive presents on the kids’ lists. We didn’t want to tell them no, yet to buy gifts meant adding to our already overwhelming debt load. Because of our faith, we took God at His word when He said that nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37). And yet, from where we sat, our situation looked impossible.
For years, we’d been trying to do something to change our financial picture, to no avail. We desperately wanted to stop using credit cards, yet financial emergencies always cropped up that drove us back to credit card purchases. We wanted to begin tithing and saving, yet there was never any money left over to do that. We wanted to begin chipping away at our debt, and yet we saw no way to do so. We felt trapped at every turn. We’d gotten ourselves into a financial mess. Never before that night had we felt more strongly about getting out of our mess.
As we sat in our parked car at a shopping center near our home. I watched as the other shoppers bustled past us, intent on their lists and last minute errands. I vaguely wondered how many of them were slipping deeper into debt as they charged purchases they couldn’t really afford. Meanwhile, Curt and I talked for over an hour, working through what it would take for us to change our spending habits and take steps toward achieving our dream of being debt free. Though neither of us realized it yet, that night was the beginning of a major change in our lives. We were embarking on a journey that would enable us to escape the bondage of debt and begin to enjoy financial freedom. It would be a journey of many years as we endeavored to live differently from the rest of the culture and swim against the current on money issues.
I’ve often wondered why that night was different than our many other conversations throughout our marriage that had begun, “What are we going to do about our money problems?” Although some of our past efforts had resulted in temporary changes, nothing we did ever stuck. We quickly slipped back into our old ways and debt always seemed to creep back in. Even if we closed a door, debt seemed to find a window. So what made this night—this conversation—different?
First, just a few days before, we’d learned we were expecting a baby. This news had prompted us to evaluate how we could become more financially stable as we prepared for this additional responsibility. In short, it was time to get serious. Second, this impending life change and the urgency we both felt resulted in a unity of purpose that we’d never had before. In the past, our convictions about getting out of debt and making hard changes were usually separate, with one person not as sold on the necessity of the plan. We had never been on board at the same time.
Finally, and most importantly, God met with us that night in the car, allowing Curt and me to feel the same conviction and urgency. God went before us and prepared our hearts, as He is faithful to do. We looked across that car at each other and decided that, not only could we do this, but that together we would do this. Whatever it took. In our ignorance we were actually excited about working together to slay this debt monster and change our financial picture. God created unity where once there had been anger and blaming.
Since that night, I’ve learned that getting out of debt requires allowing several basic attitudes to take root in our hearts. Notice I did not say in our minds. The Bible points to the heart as the center—the very essence—of who we are. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” All of our thoughts and actions flow from our hearts. It’s funny how we seem to relate money to our heads and not our hearts. But we miss the mark when we do that. Without allowing these attitudes to take root in our hearts—at the very center of our being—our plan for debt reduction would have quickly fallen by the wayside as unexpected expenses and “opportunities” came our way. By presenting a united front in our battle with debt and allowing these attitudes to determine our actions, we’ve been able to stick with our plan. Though we’ll go into the specifics of our plan in other chapters, I first want to cover these four heart attitudes.
An Attitude of Commitment
Because we saw the necessity of reducing our debt and were committed in our hearts to doing that at all costs, we were not tossed about by the waves (Eph. 4:14) when real life hit. We set a goal and held each other accountable to reaching that goal. We are committed to God and to each other as a team. Our plan to become debt free was a long-range plan. In a world of fast food, microwaves, and instant access, it’s not easy to walk out every agonizing step in a long-range plan. We knew that results would be long in coming and that we had to fix our eyes on the goal, not the circumstances, and hang onto the Lord to get us through. We’ll spend all of chapter 4 talking about how to become a team.
An Attitude of Obedience
A key to obedience is recognizing God’s ownership of all things. We were both convinced that God would help us get out of debt if we were obedient to Him. This obedience required me especially to obey not only God, but my husband as well. Though submission is a dirty word in most circles, it was essential on our journey. I had to let my husband lead—even when I doubted his decision and even when he made mistakes. I couldn’t step out of the chain of command, and at first I had to continually confess this struggle to the Lord. The good news is, it got easier for me, and my husband became a natural leader for our family. The more power I handed over to him, the more I saw him grow. I am the direct beneficiary of the blessings of obedience. Through this journey, I’ve had many opportunities to show my husband my respect, trust, and honor as our provider and leader of our home.
An Attitude of Surrender
This period of getting out of debt hasn’t been all rosy, as we’ll relate later in this book. Obedience has required sacrifice. I’ve had to surrender my wants and reduce my expectations. I’ve had to learn to go without, to trust God to provide, and to lay down my desires. We’ve both had to make adjustments in our spending and truly “count the cost” of every spending decision. We’ve learned to surrender our desires in the name of honoring God’s plans for our family, trusting Him to continually bring about the best outcome possible—more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).
An Attitude of Prayer
As we’ve laid down our wants, we’ve had to go to God and cast all our anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He has shown Himself to be a great listener and comforter. We are learning to go to Him with our specific financial concerns and to give Him all the praise when He meets our needs in miraculous ways. Our time of financial readjustment has truly increased my prayer life as I’ve become more intimately acquainted with Jehovah-Jireh, my provider. I have learned what a detail-oriented, personal God He is. This experience has deepened my faith—a benefit I did not expect.
As we’ve walked through this time of going to God for everything we need, I’ve learned to trust in Him more completely. Though I’ll talk about this in more detail later, I want to share some things that happened just last summer that illustrate how God answers even what most would call silly, insignificant prayers. Know, though, that nothing we pray is silly and insignificant to God!
• In past summers, we’d gone to a farm and picked buckets of blueberries. But it was not cheap to buy the blueberries—and I knew that we didn’t need to spend the money. So I told the Lord about how I wanted blueberries. I didn’t really ask Him for blueberries, per se, I just told my Daddy how I was longing for some blueberries for making pancakes, muffins, cakes, and other dishes. Just a few days later, I was talking with a woman I barely knew, and she mentioned that she and her family would be going out of town for a few weeks. She said that she worried about their large blueberry bushes with no one to pick them—and would we like to come and help ourselves while they were gone? Would we! We were able to pick bags of blueberries—for free!
• My son needed a new bike to ride up to our neighborhood pool because his had been stolen. We simply did not have it in the budget to buy the new bike—and yet the mother’s heart in me broke every time I saw him walking up to the pool while all the other kids rode past him. I told God how much it hurt and asked Him to provide my son with a bike when I could not. Just a few days later I was at a children’s consignment store and there, for a very inexpensive price, was a bike that looked almost new and was the perfect size for my very tall son. Why was this bike at a children’s consignment store that day? Because God orchestrated it so that I would find it. At least that’s what I believe, and that’s why I praised Him that day for answering this mother’s prayer and taking care of yet another detail in my life.
• One day I was craving a good, old southern tomato sandwich, a staple of my summer diet. But we had no tomatoes. I was just about to get in the car and drive to a produce stand to buy the tomatoes when I felt God tell me not to go, but to wait for the tomatoes. What a strange response, I thought. But I obeyed, wondering what God was up to. Within the hour, my son ran in from the neighbor’s house with several large, juicy ripe tomatoes in his hands. “Mom,” he cried. “Miss Joyce had too many tomatoes and I told her you’d love to have some!” I didn’t miss that opportunity to let my son know how God had used him to answer his mom’s prayer.
• A new necklace was all the rage and caught my eye several times as I saw it on the necks of other women. Usually I’m not much of a jewelry person, but there was something different about this particular necklace. I even found one for a reasonable price at a little home jewelry show and had it in my hand to buy it when I felt God nudging me to put it back. “But it’s a great price,” I told God—as if He didn’t know that. Again, I felt Him telling me to put it back. I will provide, I heard Him say. The following month we were visiting my stepsister, Becky, in Florida and I noticed that she was wearing that same necklace. I told her how much I liked it. “Oh,” she replied. “Do you want one? Because I got one for a gift and certainly don’t need two!” And just like that, I was the proud owner of a necklace I really wanted. And I didn’t have to spend a dime.
These are a few just examples of the countless times that God has shown us that He hears our prayers, He cares about the details, and He will move on our behalf. Sometimes we just have to be patient. And sometimes we have to learn to take no for an answer. Because I’ve seen God provide in miraculous ways, I’ve learned that when He says no, there has to be a good reason. And I must accept his no and move on instead of brooding over it. This process has taught me much about holding the things of this earth lightly—and has drawn me closer to the Father’s heart in the process. Through it all, we’ve indeed found hope in what could have been seen as a hopeless situation.
Do you need to find hope for your finances? The God of hope (Rom. 15:13) is waiting to show you the way out of debt and into freedom.
Read Genesis 6:5; Luke 2:19; and Hebrews 4:12. How do these verses relate our thought lives to the condition of our hearts?
Reflect, Discuss, Plan
1. Was it a different concept for you to think of money as being tied to your heart attitude instead of your thought life?
2. What heart attitude do you struggle with the most—commitment, obedience, surrender, or prayer? Is there a part of you that still wants to control the situation and is hesitant about involving your heart in the process?
3. In the car that night prior to Christmas, we took a big step toward getting out of debt, as we verbally committed to each other to do whatever it took to get out of debt. Has there been a time when you’ve taken this step with your spouse? Does there need to be?
4. Have money problems been the lowest point in your marriage? If so, why do you think that is?
Are you facing a particular situation that feels hopeless? (A bill that’s due, large amounts of debt to pay off, a purchase that needs to be made but no money to make it, etc.) Write down Romans 15:13 and then spend time praying that verse aloud. If you’re working through this book with your spouse, pray together.
Monday, April 27, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Multnomah Books (April 14, 2009)
Amy Wallace is the author of Ransomed Dreams and Healing Promises, a homeschool mom, and self-confessed chocoholic. She is a graduate of the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy and a contributing author of several books including God Answers Moms’ Prayers and Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Diabetes. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (April 14, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Hanna Kessler wrapped trembling arms around her waist and stared through the glass door into her parents’ backyard. A place she’d avoided her whole stay. Sunlight danced in the still water of her mother’s koi pond and highlighted all the landscaping changes Dad had made since Mom’s death.
Hanna closed her eyes against warring memories of past and present. As a child, she’d loved feeding the beautiful orange fish and hearing Mom laugh as the koi swarmed to the food. Now the little pond area was the only bit of her mother remaining. Maybe that was why she’d glanced outside and then stood transfixed. She needed her mom now more than ever.
Swallowing hard, she opened her eyes and focused on Mom’s teakwood dolphin statue and the white rocks around the water, glinting in the late afternoon sun. She reached out to touch the warm glass but couldn’t force herself to open the door. Goose bumps trailed her arms and she shivered.
She couldn’t go outside.
But she had to do something. Had to get away. So she stumbled into the rustic living room, her favorite place in the house. The surrounding family snapshots reminded her of simpler times. Boating on Kentucky Lake. Thunder over Louisville. Playing at Iroquois Park. Times when Mom and Dad and her brother, Steven, had wrapped her in their protection and love.
The front door rattled, then creaked open. “Anyone home?” A man’s deep voice carried through the safe place she’d escaped to months ago. It wasn’t safe anymore.
But her frozen feet refused to move. Where could she hide? Footsteps thundered through the front hall, drawing closer. She had to get out.
Choking down the lump of panic in her throat, she ran back to the sliding glass doors and forced her feet to move outside, onto the concrete patio. She could get to her car from there. The keys! Turning back to the house, she focused on the tall form stepping out of the house and walking toward her.
“Hanna-girl, what’s gotten into you?”
Her brain snapped to attention. The man in front of her was no threat.
“Daddy!” She ran into his outstretched arms.
Andrew Kessler kissed the top of her head and chuckled. “You looked like you’d seen a ghost. Didn’t you get the message I left this morning?”
Heartbeat still pounding out of her rib cage, she inhaled a few deep breaths before answering. She hadn’t checked messages today. And no way could she admit she’d listened to most of the messages her family had left, never intending to return the calls. “I…I must have missed it. Sorry, Daddy.”
Try as she might to hide it, calling her father Daddy only happened when she was terrified. Or hiding. And she’d done a lot of hiding.
Dad stepped back and tilted his head, still holding her in his arms. “Well, I’m in Louisville for the weekend and had to see my girl. I miss you. So does everyone back in Alexandria.”
Even Michael? She wouldn’t ask. She had no right. Not after ignoring all the calls and letters he’d sent. The ones declaring his love even though she’d run away from everyone after her brother’s wedding. She couldn’t meet Dad’s eyes.
“Hanna, look at me.” He tilted her chin up. She fought to not pull away. “Steven asks about you every day. I’m surprised your brother and Clint and the rest of their FBI friends haven’t hightailed it up here to drag you home.”
“They wouldn’t.” Especially not Michael. Not after almost two months of her frosty silence.
Dad laughed again. He had no idea the pain his questions, his presence here, caused. “Steven’s planned it. So has Michael. But they’re waiting for you to come back, on your terms.” As if that would happen. “Susannah’s birthday party is a week from Saturday. Clint and the rest of us are praying you’ll come. Take pictures. Let us show you how much we love having you in Alexandria.”
A week from Saturday. The twenty-fifth of August. She wouldn’t be there. Couldn’t face Clint Rollins. Not after her negligence had nearly cost Clint’s son his life.
Tears slipped past her clenched eyes.
“Oh, honey.” Dad gathered her back into his arms. “No one blames you, Hanna. No one. You need to let the past go. Everyone is safe now. All the Rollins clan. Even Conor.”
So Sara’s baby was still alive. Just like Steven’s and Clint’s messages had said. Relief rushed through her, causing her knees to wobble. But other guilt arrows pierced her heart. All the lies she’d told Steven and Michael. Dad too. Clint’s son wasn’t the only reason she’d fled Alexandria.
“You’ll be there for Susannah’s party, right?” His hopeful blue eyes begged.
She pulled out of his arms and walked back into the house. Dad followed. “I…I need a Kleenex.” Searching through the oak cabinets in the kitchen didn’t produce any tissues. So she grabbed a paper towel from the counter. “What brings you in town? During our phone calls last week, you never mentioned coming home.”
“If I had, would you have been here?”
Ouch. “Yes, Daddy.” Another lie. “So are you here to check on the Mall St. Matthews coffee shop? I’ve been working there every day, just like you arranged. It’s going well.” And she was babbling.
“I’m here to meet with some old friends on Friday and talk about upcoming business opportunities.”
Old friends. The memories rushing in unbidden surfaced more tears. And more cracks in the wall of secrecy. She needed to get out of the house, out of the neighborhood. Now. Maybe then she could exhibit some self-control.
“Why don’t we grab a late lunch at the Cheesecake Factory? After your long drive you’re bound to be hungry, right?” She forced a smile.
“Okay, Hanna-girl.” He wiped away one of her stray tears. “On one condition.”
Please don’t ask about the party, Daddy. Please.
He lifted his bushy graying eyebrows. “Promise you’ll come back to us and take pictures at Susannah’s birthday party next week.”
The very thing she couldn’t do. How would she get out of this without telling more lies or spilling everything? She had to avoid that. Maybe one last fib would get her though the weekend with Dad.
Then she could find somewhere else to run.
Excerpted from Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace. Copyright© 2009 by Amy Nicole Wallace. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
http://www.amywallace.com/ej_chapter.html First Two Chapters of Enduring Justice
http://www.amywallace.com/Newsletter.html Dark Chocolate Suspense Newsletter
Friday, April 24, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)
SUSY FLORY grew up on the back of a quarter horse in an outdoorsy family in Northern California and she's not afraid to dive into the trenches to experience firsthand whatever she's writing about. If that means smuggling medical supplies into Cuba on a humanitarian trip or sitting down to coffee to talk about faith with a practicing witch, she's there with a listening ear and notebook in hand.
Susy's creative nonfiction features a first person journalistic style with a backbone of strong research and a dash of dry wit. She attended Biola University and UCLA, where she received degrees in English and psychology. She has a background in journalism, education, and communications. Her first book, Fear Not Da Vinci, released in 2006.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Addicted to comfort
“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside
and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive …
One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt, on her 77th birthday
I love my couch. It’s covered in a squishy soft velvety material the color of oatmeal laced with honey and the cushions are fat. Three big loose pillows rest against the back, the material woven into an exotic, vaguely Eastern pattern of impressionistic flowers and trees in tawny gold and lapis blue. My favorite spot in the entire house is the far end of this couch, with two smaller pillows behind my back and my legs stretched out long ways. I do this every day.
For a while we had an uptight couch. Bright Colonial red with little blue and yellow flowers, it reminded me of the calico dresses Melissa Gilbert used to wear on Little House on the Prairie. The fabric was quilted in the shape of puzzle pieces and the back rose straight up, pierced by a row of buttons. A boxy pleated strip of fabric ran along the bottom. It was really uncomfortable and almost impossible to take a nap in. That couch didn’t want you sitting there very long; it was a little Puritanical, wanting you up and around, taking care of business. We sold it at a garage sale for $20. Good riddance.
But the comfy oatmeal couch—it loves you. It calls you to sink down into comfort, and to stay awhile. A long while.
From the couch I can see the kitchen where my kids are grating cheese for quesadillas or searching the fridge for leftover pizza. I can look out the back window, at the drooping branches of the monstrous eucalyptus tree overhanging the back yard. Or, I can stare at the ceiling fan, slowly circling overhead. But, really, I hardly ever look at anything but words. Books, newspapers, catalogs, magazines, letters from friends—those are the things I look at when I’m stretched out on the couch.
Sundays are my absolutely favorite. After church, we eat lunch at the taqueria, then head home. The newspapers await; I don’t want to waste time changing my clothes so I head straight for the couch. News comes first, then business, travel, entertainment, and the Sunday magazine. Last are the sale papers: Target, Best Buy, Macy’s.
By this time I’m sleepy, melting a bit around the edges. My head grows heavy and I turn, curl up, and snuggle into the cushions. I fall asleep, papers crinkly around me.
A while ago my teenage son, just to aggravate me, staked a claim on the oatmeal couch. He’d race home after church in his little pick-up truck and head in the door, kicking off his shoes and diving into my favorite comfy spot in one gangly flop. He made it his goal to be asleep, limbs a sprawl, before I even made it inside the house. A few times I tried to extricate him but it was useless, like trying to wrestle a wire hanger out of a tangled pile.
I decided to wait him out and so after he slept on the couch a few Sundays, he gave it up. He had better things to do, usually involving his computer.
Things returned to normal, the oatmeal couch remembered the shape of my behind, and I took to snuggling into the tawny-lapis pillows once again.
It was safe, my velvety couch cave.
Just like my life.
In one of my favorite books, A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel writes about her mother, always on the couch with a cardboard box of books by her side. There she was, forever reading a book and waving at her children as they went back and forth, in and out of the house, busily doing whatever kids in a small Indiana town did. She stayed there, curled up on the couch, peacefully reading her books as her husband ran around who-knows-where, maybe coon hunting, gambling away his paycheck, or sleeping with the divorced woman across town. She was comfortable there. Zippy unexpectedly became a bestseller and Kimmel traveled around giving talks and signing books. The one question everyone asked her was, “Did your mother ever get up off the couch?”
I don’t live in Indiana; I live in a suburb of San Francisco. My kids don’t run in and out of the house; they pretty much stay put. My husband is a hard working, non-gambling, faithful guy who pays the bills. And my life is pretty good. But I have lived most of it lodged safely in the corner of my couch.
My secure couch cocoon was really a picture of what I had let my life become. Lethargic, sleepy, with a love for security and for comfort, I lived for self. I avoided suffering at all costs. I didn’t want to ever do anything uncomfortable. I think I was addicted to comfort.
My journey out of my couch-life started years ago when I was a college student on vacation, idly looking around a gift shop. Flicking through a box full of enameled metal signs, I came across one that read “We Can Do It!” Underneath was a portrait of a woman, looking sort of like Lucille Ball in her cleaning garb, hair up in a red bandanna. Glossy lips, a little pouty, with arched eyebrows and thick eyelashes. She wore a blue collared shirt, sleeve rolled up over a flexed bicep, toned and powerful. Her eyes were wide open, focused, determined. Who was she? I hadn’t a clue, but I bought the sign and installed it in a place of honor by my desk.
Later, when I was married, the mother of two small children and too busy changing diapers to sit much on the couch yet, I learned she was called Rosie the Riveter. She, and six million other women who toiled in factories while their men were off fighting in World War II, changed the world. Even now, as I look at the old enamel sign next to my desk, I’m haunted by the determination in the line of her jaw and the resolve in the curl of her fist. I wanted to be like her.
But the couch called. I forgot the sign; it migrated to the back of my bookcase and I took a part time job teaching English at a private high school. My kids were in school, my husband was fighting up the corporate ladder, and with the days sometimes a blur of homework, basketball practice, and ballet class, I hoarded my couch time.
Funny, though. It wasn’t satisfying. I just couldn’t ever seem to get enough.
And then, one day, stretched out reading the Sunday paper, I saw Rosie again. It was a full-page department store ad. Across the top ran a banner: “Help end hunger.” Something had changed. Rosie looked a little more glamorous than I remembered. The “can” in the “We CAN Do It!” was underlined and capitalized to emphasize the can of food in her fist. I unfolded the page and examined it; it was an advertisement for National Hunger Awareness day. If you made a $5 donation to the department store, they would in return give you a 15% coupon for regular, sale and clearance-priced merchandise. It’s our thanks to you for helping to relieve hunger in our communities.
I pondered the page; something didn’t quite make sense. Somehow, by partnering with Rosie to spend money at the department store, you would help to relieve hunger. Rosie and her factory worker sisters had changed the world by serving for low pay and little recognition on factory lines during a war. They had sacrificed personal comfort and convenience for a cause greater than themselves, a cause they believed in and sweated and grew calluses for. Now the department store was asking me to be like Rosie, tie up my hair, bare my biceps and leave my couch, so I could … shop? You’ve got to be kidding.
But my irritation that day over the hijacking of the Rosie the Riveter image piqued my curiosity. Who was Rosie? Was she a real person? Was she still alive? What would she think about the ways her image, once meant to encourage and inspire the Nazi-fighting women of World War II, had been used for merchandising? I was intrigued by her determination and I decided to roll up my sleeves and get to the bottom of her story. So I did. And after Rosie I found eight other women, amazing women, who changed the world. I found women who, with grit and guts, made their lives add up to something much more than just a satisfying Sunday nap. And somehow, in the finding, the oatmeal couch lost its allure.
I wanted to feel alive, to experience something more deep and dangerous than my middle class life. I wanted more than a Ford Expedition SUV with leather seats or a 401K groaning with employer contributions. I craved something beyond Ralph Lauren Suede paint or a giant glossy red Kitchen Aid mixer. I was ready to wake up from a very long nap and do something meaningful.
So this is the story of how, slowly, I began to get up off the couch of my boring, safe, sheltered, vanilla existence to something more real, sharper, in focus. Rosie led the way. Along came Eleanor, and Jane. Then Harriet, Elizabeth, and more. These women became mentors calling me to a different kind of life. Passionate for change, each woman sacrificed money, love, comfort, time, and, ultimately, self, to make a difference to thousands, maybe millions of people.
Living like the women who changed the world is not easy, but it’s good. It feels right. It is satisfying.
This is how I got up off the couch and tried, with much fear and trembling, to make a difference in my world. And I’ll never go back.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Again, thank you for stopping by on THURSDAY for
If this is your first visit here today, I'm so glad you have found us. Each week we gather together, usually on Tuesday and discuss a chapter from a book we are collectively reading.
The book we are currently reading written by Micca Campbell,
CHAPTER 5: FAMILY MATTERS
Anything in blue is a quote from the book.
It seems like in all the studies we have done here that each chapter I read just fits in so well with whatever is happening in my life. This chapter was no different.
Micca starts us off by letting us peek into her journal as she shares a prayer she penned to God about her children. Bible teacher Adrian Rogers once said that prayers starts in heaven. The Holy Spirit finds the desire of God and put that desire in our hearts.
On page 87 Micca calls us to fight for who God has entrusted us with as she proclaimed the battle is on!
Our battle plan? Psalm 127 where we are taught that Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. We must give God complete control of our homes, families and life. That is why the psalmist didn't write Unless Lelia builds the house. No, Unless the LORD. I love that phrase: Unless the LORD
Based on God's Word, Micca helps us out and tell us how it is supposed to be:
Build our homes
Guard and guide us in all wisdom
Teach us through His Word
Counsel us 24/7
Keep our home
Monitor what comes into our home
Lean on God
Teach our children from God's Word
Keep out of God's way & let our kids grow
Trust God and follow His plan for our home
Fear-driven parenting is never a good thing. Our children will make mistakes just as we do. The key is letting our children
You are such a blessing to me. If you have something to share on your blog regarding this chapter, please sign up below so we can come visit you.
Next week: chapter 6: Learning to Trust Again. And don't forget to do the Bible study at the end of each chapter called Know It----Stow It----Show It. Micca really took the time to point us to God's Word throughout each chapter and study. We will get this as we learn and then apply.
Lelia, is the precious Hostess that leads this Bible Study.
If you would like to get to her blog to check out the entire Bible Study (or for many other's as well), you can head over to her blog. It is: http://www.leliachealey.blogspot.com/
Now, my turn about this Awesome Adventure of "An Untroubled Heart"
This is so right on time in my life. God has certiantly heard my prayers. He is so good like that. I am crying as I type this. Our God is so faithful and loves us each so much! He knew I needed this right now, and I do!
My youngest son has moved out and is living on his own (with other young men). At first, I saw myself re-acting out of fear (which I immediately knew not to do). So...I turned my son over to the Lord. If fear ever tries to creep back in, I turn him right back over to the Lord. I realize now that the Lord is doing a owrk on him. Father God wants my son back with him (walking with Him). I just have to keep my hands off and pray!
This chapter on Family Matters is so true. Families do matter to God!My family matters to me. I was determined to have a family that was different than the way I was raised. I love what Micca says in the book, "God is the Master Builder of the home" We just partner with Him. We get get that role messed up (like we are the Master Builder) then our family gets messed up. Boy, is that ever true! I know, I have tried on multiple times to be the master builder. Did I ever mess up! I tend to wat to be a control freak anyway, so that has been a hard lesson for me to learn. So, I trust in the Lord to be The Master Builder.
"Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in HIm and He will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." Psalm 37: 5-6
Micca goes on in the book and talks about parenting out of faith or fear. That really hit me so hard! There has been so many times that I parented out of fear. She said what are we teaching our children? I almost fell off my chair. I said, " Oh, sweet God, what have I taught my sons? Have I, this un-perfect mother taught my sons to fear, instead of have faith?" So, I had to repent. I had done this many times before. So, now, somehow (only with God) can I change this. I will be repenting to my sons! I want to leave a legacy of faith to my 2 Sons snd 3 Grandsons! This has REALLY rocked my world!
Here is an Awesome Bible verse for me (and all of you) to remember:
The Lord will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail. Isa. 58:11
Isn't our God so Awesome to give us those promises to hold on to? I am so ever grateful!
I absolutely love what Micca says in the book that God is ou Counselor. That he is available to us day or night. This is SO TRUE! He is not only our available, but He is willing to guide us every step of the way. All we have to do is ask HIM!
Well, let me tell you, I ASK HIM! I want HIm to be my guide! Amen!
Micca goes on in this chapter and tells about a verse she gave to her own son. I so Love this! Here it is:
"Be Strong and Courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of (fill in the blank)____, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." Deut. 31:6.
This Bible verse is what I am planning on giving to each of my 2 Sons. First, I repent to them, Second, I give them this verse.
Oh, Thank you Jesus for your word!
I will end on that. Be sure to check back next week for chapter 6. Also, don't forget to check out my dear blogger friend, and hostess's blog: http://www.leliachealey.blogspot.com/
Until next time, BE Blessed!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Grand Central Publishing (March 23, 2009)
Xavier Knight is the Christian fiction pen name for C. Kelly Robinson. He is a native of Dayton, Ohio and magna cum laude graduate of Howard University and Washington University in St. Louis. Robinson is a marketing communications manager by day and has a long record of volunteer experience across organizations including United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mentor St. Louis, and Student Venture Ministries. Author of five previous novels including the best-selling No More Mr. Nice Guy and the critically acclaimed Between Brothers (Random House), he lives outside Dayton with his wife and daughter. He is hard at work on his next novel and on a nonfiction project.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 23, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
For the first time she could remember in years, Cassandra Gillette felt like a woman fulfilled. Freshly showered, she sat before the laptop PC in her spacious dressing room, checking email. She had another hour at least before her newly-built luxury home would be overrun by her family; her husband Marcus had gone to pick up their twelve-year-old twins, Heather and Hillary, from a friend’s birthday party out in Middletown. In addition, her seventeen-year-old son, Marcus Jr., was still seven hours away from his midnight curfew.
“There is so much to be thankful for,” Cassie whispered to God, letting her words ring through the quiet of her master suite. This was not the average lazy Saturday afternoon; for the first time in nearly four months, Cassie had made love to her husband.
Their separation had gotten off to a fiery start, but as tempers cooled and nights passed, God had brought Cassie and Marcus back together. Marcus had quickly tired of Veronica, the twenty-something news anchor who had welcomed him into her condo, and Cassie’s eyes had been opened. When her best girlfriend Julia confronted her, she had finally realized how her actions in recent years had starved Marcus of the respect and affirmation that even the strongest man needed.
So it was that after several late-night telephone calls and a Starbucks “date” hidden from their children, Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Gillette had decided to get up off the mat and keep the promises they made before God seventeen years earlier, a few months after M.J.’s arrival. They had agreed to surprise the children with news of their reconciliation tonight, but with the house empty this afternoon, the couple had started a private celebration. The house was new enough that aside from the master bedroom, their frisky activity had “christened” the kitchen’s marble-topped island, the leather couch in the finished basement, and the washing machine in the laundry room.
As she dashed off an email to the staff at her real estate agency, sharing news of the latest deal she had closed – a four hundred twenty thousand dollar sale, their thirtieth property sold for the quarter – Cassie nearly shuddered with delight as she recalled Marcus’ smooth touch. Although she had lost thirty pounds over the past year, she was still nearly twenty pounds heavier than she’d been on their wedding day, and she had been pregnant then. Nevertheless, Cassie’s Marcus knew and loved her body, in exactly the way that frank scriptures like those in Song of Solomon encouraged. Like most everything else in marriage, the Gillettes’ sexual relationship had experienced ups and downs, but Cassie licked her lips unintentionally as she mentally applauded her man: when he’s good, he’s GOOD.
An instant message popped up on her screen: Julia, her best friend. “I heard a rumor,” she IM’d.
Cassie smiled as she typed back, “No idea what you mean.”
Julia’s IM response popped up. “They say a handsome, bulky brother tipped into your crib this afternoon.”
Cassie smiled as she typed, “Girl, I am too old to be kissin’ and tellin’.”
“And I’m too old to be listening to such filth,” Julia typed. As a PhD and superintendent of schools at their shared alma mater, Christian Light Schools, Julia let her words communicate their humor; Cassie’s friend was above the use of those corny emoticons. Julia sent another missive: “You are coming to my Board of Advisors meeting Monday, right? I need help saving this school system, child.”
Cassie stuck her tongue out playfully as she entered her response. “Still not sure how I fit in with this crew. You said you’re pulling together the ‘best and brightest’ Christian Light alumni? Don’t see how I count, given that the school expelled me when they realized why my belly was swollen.”
“Stop it,” came Julia’s response. “Besides, you have what matters most to a struggling school system: Deep pockets!”
Cassie shook her head, her laughter easing any guilt she might have felt about throwing the painful memory of her expulsion – accompanied by the school principal’s labeling her a “girl of loose morals” – in her friend’s face. Julia alone had led a student protest in Cassie’s defense at the time, marching on the school’s front lawn and even calling local media in a vain attempt to embarrass the school into reversing its decision.
Cassie was typing a light-hearted response when her front doorbell rang, the chime filling the house. Changing up, she shot her friend a quick, “Doorbell – call you later,” before taking a second to tuck her blouse into her jeans. Padding downstairs to the foyer, she chuckled to herself. She would have to help Julia save the world later.
When she peered into her front door’s peephole, Cassie’s heart caught for a second at the sight of a tall, blonde-haired gentleman flashing a police badge.
M.J.’s fine, said the voice in Cassie’s head as the badge stirred anxiety over her teen son’s safety. She wasn’t sure whether it was the Lord or simply her own positive coaching. For years now Cassie had combined her faith in God with affirmative self-talk meant to power her through life’s stresses and adversities. In her youth, she had crumpled one time too many in the face of indifference, prejudice, sexism and just plain evil; by the time she and Marcus walked the aisle of Tabernacle Baptist Church, where each had first truly dedicated their respective lives to Christ, Cassie had vowed to never be caught unaware again. That same spirit of resolve propped her up as she confidently unlocked and swung back her wide oak door.
As strong as she felt, Cassie’s knees still flexed involuntarily when she saw M.J. standing beside the plainclothes policeman. At six foot one, her son was every inch as tall as the policeman and stood with his arms crossed, a sneer teasing the corners of his mouth. Though relieved to see he was fine, Cassie sensed an unusually defiant spirit in her boy, so she locked her gaze onto the officer instead. If her man-child had done something worthy of punishment, she wouldn’t give this stranger the pleasure of witnessing the beat-down. She unlocked her screen door and, opening it, let the officer make the first move.
“Mrs. Gillette?” The man held out his right hand and respectfully shook Cassie’s as he spoke in a deep, hoarse voice. “I’m Detective Whitlock with the Dayton PD. I’m really sorry to bother you, but I was hoping we could help each other this evening, ma’am.”
Cassie opened her screen door all the way, one hand raised against the fading sunlight in her eyes. “Please, come in,” she said, focused on editing the airy lilt out of her tone. She didn’t mind letting her naturally fluttery voice out when among family and friends, but now was no time for it. “Why don’t we have a seat in the living room.”
“Again, I apologize for showing up unannounced. A neighborhood this nice, one of those draws a lot of eyebrows probably,” Whitlock said, nodding toward the sleek police car parked out front. “Marcus Jr. and I had an unfortunate confrontation this afternoon. The more I talk to him, I’m convinced we can handle this without a trip downtown.”
Cassie nodded respectfully. Who can argue with that? She thought as she motioned toward the expansive living room. “May I take your suit jacket?”
“Oh, no thank you,” Whitlock replied. He slowed his gait and allowed M.J. to first follow Cassie into the room. The detective stood just inside the doorway, peering at Cassie’s expensive sculptures and paintings as M.J. reluctantly took a seat beside his mother. Once they were settled, Whitlock strode to the middle of the living room, his hands in the pockets of his dress slacks. “Marcus, why don’t you tell your mother how we crossed paths?”
M.J. stared straight ahead, his line of sight veering nowhere near Cassie and shooting over the top of Whitlock’s head of wavy blond hair. “I was minding my business, Mom. Officer Whitlock here–”
“Detective Whitlock, son,” the policeman replied, a testy edge betraying the professional, placid smile on his tanned, leathery face. Cassie found herself admitting he was a relatively handsome man, one who even reminded her of the male cousins on the white side of her family. The policeman was probably her own age, she figured, somewhere between thirty-five and forty.
Grimacing, M.J. continued. “The good detective here pulled me over on 75. Said he clocked me at seventy-eight in a fifty-five.”
“Oh I see,” Cassie said, a wave of relief cleansing her tensed insides. She placed a hand on her son’s shoulder but kept her eyes on the detective. “If that’s all that’s involved, my son should certainly pay whatever fine is required by the law. You’re not doing him any favors giving him a simple talking-to.” She nearly chastised herself for fearing the worst. This was probably just a case of her super-jock son–a varsity star in Chaminade-Julienne football, basketball and track–getting special treatment for his local celebrity, a celebrity nearly as big as the fame that had first attracted her to Marcus Sr. back in the day.
Holding Cassie’s smile with calm blue eyes, Whitlock reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a manila envelope. “Asked and answered. The state trooper wrote this ticket up for your son during the traffic stop.” He walked over to the loveseat and slowly extended the envelope to M.J. “I agree that Marcus needs to pay his speeding ticket, Mrs. Gillette. If that’s all that was involved, I would have never been called to the scene.”
Everything is fine. My son has done nothing illegal. Cassie fingered the gold locket around her neck but prayed she was otherwise masking the dread pulsing back into her. “Then get to the point please, Detective.”
Whitlock paced quickly to the corner of the adjacent couch. When he plopped down, he was less than a foot away from Cassie. “You see,” he said, his elbows on his knees and his faintly yellowed teeth glinting as he seemed to smile despite himself, “I was called in because Marcus had a convicted criminal riding with him, the sort of character who can make even this fine young man look guilty by association.”
“Please tell me,” Cassie said, pivoting rapidly toward M.J., “that you weren’t riding around with him again.” When M.J. bunched his lips tight and shrugged, Cassie couldn’t stop herself from popping him in the shoulder. “Boy! You promised me! You promised me, M.J.!”
Whitlock had removed his cell phone from his suit jacket. His eyes focused on the phone as he punched its buttons, he asked, “By ‘him,’ are you referring to Dante Wayne?”
“Yes,” Cassie said, her forehead so hot with rage it scared her. She wasn’t sure whether to be more upset at this white stranger lounging on her couch, or her increasingly disobedient son.
Whitlock stared straight into Cassie’s eyes. “And you’re familiar with Mr. Wayne how?”
Cassie sucked her teeth angrily. “He’s my cousin’s oldest son.” Donald, Dante’s father, ran a small taxi service and was the first relative on her father’s side of the family – the Black side – who had reached out to Cassie when they were both struggling teen parents trying to figure life out. Though they didn’t talk often these days, Cassie still counted Donald a personal friend, and her loyalty to him through the years had led her to foster M.J. and Dante’s friendship from the time they were toddlers. That was before she realized that Dante would adopt the morals of his mother’s family, nearly all of whom had died in their twenties or spent significant stretches in prison.
“So M.J. was straight with me, they are cousins.” Whitlock stroked his chin playfully as he observed mother and son. “Marcus insisted that was the only reason he was riding around with Dante in tow. Dante took up for him too, insisted there was no way Marcus was hip to the drugs we found in the car.” He nodded toward M.J. “Why don’t we discuss this one adult to another, ma’am. Marcus, based on your exemplary reputation in the community – as well as your parents’ – I’m willing to assume you had no knowledge of your cousin’s activities. If you’ll just excuse us.”
M.J. looked between his mother and the detective, the first signs of a growing son’s protective emotions on his face as he tapped Cassie’s knee. “You okay with him, Mom?”
“Go down to your room,” Cassie said through clenched tooth, “and shut the basement door after you.” As her son rose, she punctuated her words. “Don’t even think about coming up until your father and I come down for you.”
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Howard Books (April 7, 2009)
Kamal Saleem was born under another name into a large Sunni Muslim family in Lebanon. At age seven, he was recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood and immediately entered a Palestinian Liberation Organization terror training camp in Lebanon. After being involved in terror campaigns in Israel, Europe, Afghanistan, and Africa, and finally making radical Islam converts in the United States, Saleem renounced jihad and became an American citizen. He has appeared on CNN, CBS News, and Fox News programs, and has spoken on terrorism and radical Islam at Stanford University, the University of California, the Air Force Academy, and other institutions nationwide.
Collaborator Writer, Lynn Vincent: Lynn Vincent, a U.S. Navy veteran, is features editor at WORLD Magazine, a national news biweekly. She is the author or co-author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller, Same of Kind of Different as Me.
This true story of an ex-terrorist reveals the life and mindset of radical Muslims. Now a US citizen, Kamal heralds a wake-up call to America.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $23.99
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (April 7, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
It was at my mother's kitchen table, surrounded by the smells of herbed olive oils and pomegranates, that I first learned of jihad. Every day, my brothers and I gathered around the low table for madrassa, our lessons in Islam. I always tried to sit facing east, toward the window above the long marble sink where a huge tree with sweet white berries brushed against the window panes. Made of a warm, reddish wood, our table sat in the middle of the kitchen and was surrounded by tesats, small rugs that kept us off the cool tile. Mother sat at the head of the table and read to us from the Koran and also from the hadith, which records the wisdom and instruction of Allah's prophet, Muhammad.
Mother's Koran had a hard black cover etched ornately in gold and scarlet. Her grandfather had given the Book to her father, who had given it her. Even as a small boy I knew my mother and father were devout Sunni Muslims. So devout, in fact, that other Sunnis held themselves a little straighter in our family's presence. My mother never went out without her hijab, only her coffee-colored eyes peering above the cloth that shielded her face, which no man outside our family had ever seen. My father, respected in our mosque, earned an honest living as a blacksmith. He had learned the trade from my grandfather, a slim Turk who wore a red fez, walked with a limp, and cherished thick, cinnamon-laced coffee.
Each day at madrassa, Mother pulled her treasured Koran from a soft bag made of ivory cloth and when she opened it, the breath of its frail, aging pages floated down the table. Mother would read to us about the glory of Islam, about the good Muslims, and about what the Jews did to us. As a four-year-old boy, my favorite parts were the stories of war.
I vividly remember the day in madrassa when we heard the story of a merciless bandit who went about robbing caravans and killing innocent travelers. "This bandit was an evil, evil man," Mother said, spinning the tale as she sketched pictures of swords for us to color.
An evil bandit? She had my attention.
"One day, there was a great battle between the Jews and the sons of Islam," she went on. "The bandit decided to join the fight for the cause of Allah. He charged in on a great, black horse, sweeping his heavy sword left and right, cutting down the infidel warriors."
My eyes grew wider. I held my breath so as not to miss a word.
"The bandit fought bravely for Allah, killing several of the enemy until the sword of an infidel pierced the bandit's heart. He tumbled from his horse and died on the battlefield."
Disappointment deflated my chest. What good is a story like that?
I could hear children outside, shouting and playing. A breeze from the Mediterranean shimmered in the berry tree. Mother's yaknah simmered on the stove — green beans snapped fresh, cooked with olive oil, tomato, onion, and garlic. She would serve it cool that evening with pita bread, fresh mint, and cucumbers. My stomach rumbled.
"After the bandit died," Mother was saying in her storytelling voice, "his mother had a dream. In this dream, she saw her son sitting on the shore of an endless crystal river, surrounded by a multitude of women who were feeding him and tending to him."
I turned back toward Mother. Maybe this story was not so bad after all.
"The bandit's mother was an observant woman, obedient to her husband and to Allah and Muhammad," my mother said. "This woman knew her son was a robber and a murderer. 'How dare you be sitting here in paradise?' she scolded him. 'You don't belong here. You belong in hell!' But her son answered, 'I died for the glory of Allah and when I woke up, He welcomed me into jannah.' "
My mother swept her eyes around the kitchen table. "So you see, my sons, even the most sinful man is able to redeem himself with one drop of an infidel's blood."
The Blood of Lambs © 2009 Arise Enterprises, LLC