Friday, November 28, 2008


We were in that heady twenty-something time when we were proud of our spiritual humility and confident of our spiritual insights.

So when we sailed into the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians, we knew Paul had crafted this text for one purpose: to give us the material to determine our spiritual gifts. Why else would he write? And, out of the 31 verses in that chapter, he'd dedicated nine verses to gifts. So we spent six weeks studying all the ramifications of those gifts, including analyzing our own giftings.

We came out of the study properly pigeon-holed.

The other 22 verses of 1 Cor 12 did get a quick glance. Pity.

What we missed in our youthful visions of personal grandeur now haunt me, for Paul was talking about unity within diversity - and he'd spent several chapters in his letter to Corinth building to that point. Paul didn't write about how to discover my true potential, but how to value unity while recognizing diversity. It's no easy theme, and our American churches have stumbled badly on this issue.

Paul acknowledged diversity. There are many parts of a body, he said. There are many gifts. But his point wasn't the parts but the whole.

"Look at how the body works together. Don't be thinking you don't need the unsightly parts or the weak parts."

Consider this amazing statement: those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. (1 Cor 12:22). Not many churches that I've known get that statement.

Whether the weaker parts are simply misguided or unable to participate or loudly resistant, they are indispensable, according to Paul. That has changed my thinking.

I have seen believers leave churches over length of the sermon, use of an overhead projector, and distribution of food to the poor. (They said there were no poor in the community and the church was being taken advantage of.)

Because of my early self-centered study of 1 Corinthians, I understand too well how we tend to read scripture to verify our own point of view and bolster our own position. We boast in our diversity.

Oddly, we trumpet just exactly what Paul was writing against. Too often, we champion our diversity while repelling unity as cookie-cutter mentality.

Paul was interested in unity. The unity that brings different parts together into a gracious relationship. As Paul said:
There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
1 Cor 12:25-26

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hard candy at Christmas

"Did you mind?" I asked in surprise to my mother's memory.

She had just told me about a childhood Christmas. Her mother had taken her old doll, washed it, stitched together a new dress, combed its hair, and put it back under the tree as her gift. Her only gift.

"Oh, no, I didn't mind! It had a new dress," she said mildly. "We didn't have much in those days."

My mother grew up on a potato farm along with nine siblings during the 1930's. The experience has changed her life.

"After our Sunday school Christmas program, we each got a bag of candy," she recalled. "There would be hard candy and an orange. That orange was so good! We didn't get fruit in the winter time so it was a special treat."

I sat back in my chair, also remembering. I had grown up with the same tradition, but it's been discontinued today. Too many children dropped their paper bag of treats in a trash can because the bag only contained hard candy and an orange. They demanded chocolate and toys.

They remind me of Solomon, the Bill Gates of his day. Actually, Solomon might have been able to hire Bill Gates. He was that rich.

Yet this man wrote "everything is futile." He'd tried every pleasure in life, for he could afford them all. He'd explored every taste, every song, every amusement. When those proved lacking, he turned to achievements. He built houses and planted vineyards. He tried philosophy and education.

Solomon observed: God gives a man riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. (Eccl 6:2)

Imagine pursuing riches, wealth and honor and then not enjoying them. Imagine having more possessions than you can catalog, ever buying the newest and latest hoping for a new thrill. And then discovering it isn't enough. Hmmm, remember what you got, or gave, for Christmas last year?

The generation of the Great Depression learned something we do not know today, that riches and possessions and achievements and philosophy don't fulfill.

Solomon concluded that one thing counts: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.(Eccl 12:13)

With our current economic stumbles, this Christmas might look a little different than ones in the past. But if we keep an eye on what matters, we'll be OK.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Mission Minded Family

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

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

Let me add a comment here: this is an important book if you influence children. By encouraging a mission focus, we can help the next generation to get outside themselves, to care about those who can't speak for themselves.

I've read this book and it's a valuable reference. I recommend it.

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Mission Minded Family

Authentic (July 1, 2008)


Ann Dunagan lives with a passion for the LORD and the lost. She is a homeschooling mother of seven (ages 7 to 21), an author, and an international minister alongside her husband, Jon Dunagan. In 1986, the Dunagans founded Harvest Ministry, focusing on remote city-wide outreaches, church planting, National Evangelism Team Support (NETS), training orphans, and motivating others for missions. Ann has personally ministered in 29 nations: speaking to women, preaching in villages, training children and youth, and encouraging parents and teachers. She enjoys fervent worship, time with family and friends, and writing. The Dunagan family is based in Hood River, Oregon.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 188 pages
Publisher: Authentic (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068438
ISBN-13: 978-1934068434


Releasing Your Family to God’s Destiny

God has a destiny for your family. He has an individual plan for each member, as well as a “corporate” purpose for you as a family unit. God will help you, as parents, to train each child toward God’s mission for his or her life, and He will help you to focus your family toward making a strong impact for His kingdom—in your community, in your church, in your children’s schools, and in the world.

The Bible says in Psalm 127:4, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” This verse recently “hit” me in a new way as I was attending a graduation party. During the evening, a group of church leaders, led by the graduate’s father, gathered to pray for this young man. He had been raised to have a fervent heart for God and for world missions, and we prayed for God’s purposes to be fulfilled. As I laid my hands on the graduate’s mom (my dear friend Karen), I could sympathize with her mixed feelings: happiness and pride combined with a sad realization that this season in their family’s life was coming to an end. As we prayed, I “saw” (in my mind’s eye) her eighteen-year-old son as a straight arrow in a bow. Afterward, I leaned over and whispered in my friend’s ear, “You know, Karen, it’s not enough just to aim our arrows; to hit the target we’ve got to release the string!”

As our children grow, there will be repeated times of releasing each one to God: letting go of a little hand as a baby takes that first wobbly step . . . letting go of total educational control as a child steps onto that school bus or enrolls in that first college course. Or what about that moment when we let go of the car keys and an eager teenager plops into the driver’s seat of our car and takes control of the steering wheel?

Sometimes it’s very scary.

As I write this chapter, my husband and I have a nearly twenty-year old son climbing a dangerous mountain and then the following week heading to Oxford, England for a summer-long study-abroad program. Our eighteen-year-old son just graduated from high school and will soon be moving to a university two thousand miles from home. Our nearly sixteen-year-old daughter is just about to get her driver’s license.

No matter how many times I have released my children, I continually need to rely on God’s fresh grace for today’s particular moment. Whether it’s dropping off a little one into the arms of a church nursery worker or dropping off a young adult at an international airport, I need to trust God.

Just like Hannah released her little Samuel, I have surrendered each child to the Lord; yet I still have times when God convicts me that I need to rely on Him even more. At a deeper level, I need to continue to trust Him. With faith, I need to trust that God will direct each of my kids to fulfill His purposes (without me pushing them to do what I want). I need to trust that God will bring just the right spouse for each of my sons and daughters (without me trying to make something happen). And I need to trust God that He will protect my children as they begin to step out to fulfill His destiny (without me worrying or trying to figure it out).

As I have thought about this need to totally release each of my children to God’s purposes, I have tried to imagine—in my own finite way—what our heavenly Father must have experienced when He released His Child. God never struggles, but I believe He can relate to my feelings (and yours). He too had to release His Son—His only Son—in order to fulfill His plans for this earth.

Imagine with me:

What if someday God called one of my children . . . let’s just say, for an example, to go on a summer mission trip to Calcutta, India?

Would I be able to send him or her with confidence and joy?

If my husband and I prayed about the particular outreach and God gave us His peace about it, I know I would. My husband and I would uphold our child in prayer, and we would trust God’s direction. And as a mom, I would rely on Him for grace.

But the sacrifice God made was far greater . . .

What if someday a child of ours decided to move to Calcutta, India, for perhaps ten months . . . or ten years . . . or even longer? Could I handle that?

That would be much harder.

Although it would be difficult to live so far apart, I would do my best to support him or her through regular prayer and communication (and I would definitely hope for e-mail access!). If my grown child had a family, I would really miss getting to know my child’s spouse and his or her family; and I can hardly imagine how much I would yearn for time with those future grandchildren. Yet, if God was calling my child, I would let my child go . . . and rely on Him for extra grace.

But God’s sacrifice was still far greater . . .

So, to take the analogy one step further, what if my husband and I, back in time about twenty years ago, were expecting our first child, and God told us that He wanted us to surrender this precious newborn—right from birth? What if God said He had chosen a poor couple in Calcutta, India, to raise our baby? What if He said our little one would grow up in some obscure squatter village . . . would live among filth and poverty . . . would spend his life helping people . . . and, in the end, would be rejected, hated, and brutally killed by the very people he was sent to help?

Would I send my son to do that? How could I?

But (perhaps) that is a glimpse of what God did for us.

If we are going to raise a generation of world changers, it is likely that we will need to surrender our children into areas that may make us uncomfortable. He could call our child to pioneer a megachurch in a crowded inner city or to raise a large, God-fearing family in a quiet rural town. He may want our child to impact a corrupt political system or to redirect a greed-motivated business. He could call our precious son to enlist in the military or our pure daughter to have an effect on the media. He could call our child to Cairo, Egypt . . . or to New York City . . . or maybe even to Calcutta, India.

As mission-minded parents, will we “let go” of those arrows and encourage each child to fulfill the Lord’s plans? Or will we be God’s greatest hindrance?

It’s a heart issue, and it’s big.

Just as God released His Son for us, we need to totally release each of our children—again and again, every day—for His eternal purposes.

Pursuing God’s Purposes

An excerpt from The Missions Addiction, by David Shibley.

We whine, “I just want to know my purpose; I’ve got to reach my destiny.” We race all over the country to attend “destiny conferences,” and we devour tapes and books on “reaching your full potential.” It would be amusing if it were not so appalling. Even cloaking our self-centeredness in Christian garb and jargon cannot cover the nakedness of this cult of self that has infested much of the church. How can we ever hope to discover our purpose in the earth with little or no interest in His purpose? How will we ever know our destiny when we have so little identification with God’s destiny for the nations? It certainly is good to pray, “Lord, what is Your will for my life?” But even this can be a self-absorbed prayer. It is far better to pray, “Lord, what is Your will for my generation? How do You want my life to fit into Your plan for my times?”

Pursuing God’s purposes, not our own, is the path to personal fulfillment.

We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations

A missions hymn, by H. Ernest Nichol (1862–1928)

We’ve a story to tell to the nations,

That shall turn their hearts to the right,

A story of truth and mercy,

A story of peace and light,

A story of peace and light.


For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright,

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.

We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,

That shall lift their hearts to the Lord,

A song that shall conquer evil,

And shatter the spear and sword,

And shatter the spear and sword.

We’ve a message to give to the nations,

That the Lord who reigneth above

Hath sent us His Son to save us,

And show us that God is love,

And show us that God is love.

We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,

Who the path of sorrow hath trod,

That all of the world’s great peoples

May come to the truth of God,

May come to the truth of God!


For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright,

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.

“I have seen the Vision and for self I cannot live;

Life is less than worthless till my all I give.”

Oswald J. Smith

Monday, November 24, 2008


It is extraordinary what an enormous power
there is in simple things
to distract our attention from God

~Oswald Chambers~

Thursday, November 20, 2008


If you haven't seen Fireproof yet and you're married, put it at the top of your date-night list. You have a date-night list, right? If not, go see the movie anyway. You'll get the equivalent of a marriage course in a two-hour story.

If you haven't heard, Fireproof has been storming across America, surprising many with its ticket sales. Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia has issued three movies now. The first, Flywheel, was a small-budget film that was followed by Facing the Giants. Giants did surprisingly well in the theaters, providing some of the capital for a bigger-budget ($500,000) production this time in Fireproof.

But co-producers Stephen and Alex Kendrick see Fireproof as a ministry, just like the earlier movies. And this one is about strengthening a marriage.

Professional actor Kirk Cameron plays Caleb, a firefighter with a marriage about to end. His father begs him to try a series of activities, laid out in a book The Love Dare, in a last-ditch attempt to save his marriage.

Cameron, a committed Christian, is the only professional actor in the movie, although some surprisingly good performances are given, especially by Erin Bethea who plays Caleb's wife, Catherine.

Fireproof is definitely a movie to see.

A few things I didn't care for:
  • The screenplay needed one more edit. It is rather uneven, with some very good dialogue and imagery laid against some cliched-laden conversations.
  • A movie should show but we had to sit through some sermons by Caleb's father. The father gave a strong gospel pitch - which was good - but there was a lot of telling rather than showing in that. I can imagine ways of showing the power of the cross.
  • I was slightly bugged by the fact that The Love Dare was written by the Kendricks. There's the hint of self-promotion in that.

But the value in Fireproof is far greater than the shortcomings. See it soon with your spouse and bring along some tissues. It's an emotional, moving voyage through the dying throes of a marriage.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Who's intolerant?

Even the ancient Romans were more tolerant than these radical Hindus who are strong-arming Christians in India. Read the full story here.

In the Roman Empire, Christians were required to worship the emperor. If they were willing to do that, the Romans didn't care how many gods they worshipped. Rome expected its people to add emperor-worship to their god list - and in return, Rome would add the gods of newly-conquered people to the official god list. It was a political system that helped Rome weaken the rebellion in new regions.

But in India, a radical Hindu group has been reconverting Christians for over a decade. Under threats of death - and in spite of supposed legal protection for Christians - people are shedding their Christian faith in an elaborate ceremony that includes incense, a bonfire, and vows of conversion.

Targeted are the poor, who could lose life or property if they don't convert. Rich Christians are rarely harassed.

This is happening in Orissa, where believers are hiding out in the forests to hide from Hindu bullies.

Ironically, the leader of the radical group declared no tolerance for those people who believe their way is the only way. "Those who indulge in proselytization by force, allurements and inducements have no place in this nation's life," said KS Shudarshan.

I guess these Hindus are intolerant of intolerance. Read the article and pray.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Learning from trees and straw

There was nothing spectacular about the tree but that's why it held his attention. In the midst of winter, the tree was stripped of life. Yet Herman knew that when April rolled around, there would be green buds on the tree. The tree was waiting out the winter.

He hadn't taken time before but this day he knew he was that tree, dead and dry. And in an instant he grasped that God held the same hope for him. He was in the winter of his life but spring was ahead, because of God's grace. What was dead could come back to life.

That realization changed Herman's life. And ours as well.

We know Herman as Brother Lawrence, who provided the wisdom that we find in Practicing the Presence of God.

You can read his story here. Better yet, read his book here.

From the winter tree, Brother Lawrence grasped a love for God that governed his life. The key for Brother Lawrence was serving God in the common business of each day. Whether he was washing dishes or cooking the evening meal, he found God in his duties.

Don't we sometimes assume that God has a splendid task for us and we're disappointed that we haven't uncovered it yet? Brother Lawrence would tell us to look for God, not for the splendid task. And God can be found in our common business.

For Brother Lawrence, a lifetime of serving his fellow monks through kitchen duty was not a waste of time, but a wonderful opportunity to worship. "It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God," he said.

Think what we can learn from a man passionate about his Redeemer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Your Mission

I wanted to share our latest video clip from our summer trip to the Yucatan and Cuba. My daughter did the editing. We are planning another trip to the Yucatan in June so if this clip grips you, email me!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review: Single Sashimi

Venus lost part of the weight because of a persistent stomach bug, but once she got started, she kept going until she was no longer a pudgy computer programmer, but a tall, slender, formidable business executive.

That’s where the rub came, for Venus, the main character in Camy Tang’s Single Sashimi, trusted few. She remembered the sting of rejection from the old days and assumed that those who now wanted to be with her were drawn only by her good looks.

She longed to be seen as the same Venus inside. Those who were intimated by her appearance (she also took to wearing stilettos to go from 5’9” to a strong tower) earned her scorn for not seeing the real her while those who reacted warmly to the new Venus were rejected as being superficial.

Venus painted herself into a corner where very few could be trusted and then mourned the isolation she felt. It even seemed like God had abandoned her.

This book mirrors some of the questions women grapple with. Am I loved for the real me inside? Does my physical appearance matter? But why do I feel better when I lose the weight and do the exercises? If I find a beautiful body, then what?

I was expecting a lightweight read with Single Sashimi but Venus’ struggles with success grabbed me. It made me think – and I like a book that does that.

You can read the first chapter of Single Sashimi here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jamaica opportunity

I have an opportunity to join a team going to Jamaica for a week in February. Bible quizzing is allowed (encouraged) in the public schools there and the team going to Jamaica will be facilitating their national tournament.

I'd appreciate your prayers as I consider this. I don't want my decision to be based on finances or even on my schedule, but on the Lord's plan. God asked me to pray about going but he hasn't made it clear yet if I'm actually to go! Thanks for praying.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Upcoming reviews

I've been in a flurry of reading this fall and will be posting reviews about once a week. Coming soon:

Forsaken by James David Jordan

Trespassers Will Be Baptized by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock

The Hollywood Nobody series by Lisa Samson

The Mission Minded Family by Ann Dunagan

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cuba again

Cuba got pounded last weekend by yet another hurricane. Those crops that had been replanted after Ike and Gustav were ripped apart by Hurricane Paloma. Please keep these people in your prayers. This has been a devastating hurricane season for them, with many many homes destroyed by the storms. Take a look here for a complete report.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Letters, part 2

Yesterday, I told you about a response I wrote to a letter to the editor in a metropolitan newspaper.

I signed my letter and mailed it off, knowing that not many letters are accepted. Chances were not good that it would be published. But mine was.

How do you celebrate that? I did a little fist pump in the quiet of my bedroom and went back to re-finishing the wooden dresser for the new baby.

A couple of weeks later, however, I got a note in the mail from our state representative (a friend whom I had helped in her campaigns), attached to a letter from the Colorado Right to Life Committee. They quoted parts of my letter in their monthly update letter (I even got called "dear lady"). Our representative added, "Did you see this? I'm so proud of you for writing that letter. It said it ALL."

When I get frustrated with rejection notices and failed writing projects, I remember this little exchange and know God was in the writing. If I write for him, he's already used me.

And here's the best part: that bundle of life turns 13 today. (Happy birthday, Timothy!) Every day, as I watch my son grow and run and experiment and learn, I get reminded again that life counts.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Letters, part 1

This pregnancy had a rocky start, begun with weekly hormone shots and sustained with some early bed rest. The memories of two miscarriages hovered like black snakes. Even though I was now coasting in the second trimester, I hadn't fully shaken off the trembling of those early weeks when I read the letter.

It was a short blurb in a city newspaper I sometimes scanned. This letter was only two paragraphs, responding to a recent flurry of articles about the abortion debate. The author cited Ayn Rand, claiming she provided "the definitive response to anti-abortionists. She said, 'If words have any meaning, the unborn are the unliving.'"

After that slam dunk, the author added that those opposed to abortion "will not relent until they succeed in legally redefining 'life' and 'living'."

The water cascaded over my growing belly as I stood in the shower the next morning, still mulling his words. I'm a writer and God gave me words. I penned a response:

I wonder if a political agenda doesn't cloud the simple and obvious.

I am 23 weeks pregnant. Six weeks into my pregnancy, I saw an ultrasound which showed a small bump emitting a heartbeat of 128 beats per minute. Four weeks later, another ultrasound showed a tiny being actively swimming. I could see arms, legs, hands, feet and even a nose.

Now, I can see my abdomen expand with this baby's growth. I can feel prods and pokes.

Ayn Rand may tell me that 'the unborn are the unliving,' but common sense tells me there is life within my womb.

Tomorrow: part 2

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A big ape birthday greeting

I was a oh-so-mature 16-year-old sparring with my 8-year-old sister when it came up. "You are a silly goof," I told her.

She leaned back with all the gusto she could muster. "Don't call me names, you big ape!"

Several years later, she was living with me. "We're having leftovers," I told her one evening. "What do you want?"

"Liver!" she said brightly. Weird, I thought. We were on a very tight budget and we had leftover liver in the fridge but I didn't think she liked it all that much. Well, whatever. I served up a plate of liver. Did you know that re-heating liver in the microwave puts all sorts of little volcanoes on the surface? Even though it didn't look so appetizing to me, I hadn't been the one to order it. I laid the plate in front of her.

In return, I got one of those withering looks that take paint off of cars. She glared at me. "I said anything BUT liver."

Yeah, I had to toss it.

We've weathered a lot together over the years and sparred with great vigor.

My point? Today's her birthday. Happy birthday, Ann!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On election day

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Ps 27:13

No matter which politicians are elected and which initiatives pass or fail, I don't judge the Lord's goodness based on the outcome of this day's voting. No politician is the savior. I simply walk in faith because I know God is good.

PS, If you haven't voted yet, go! Take advantage of the tremendous privilege we have here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reviewing The Shack

Gloria had read The Shack: "It's sooooo good," she told the women at the weekly church ladies' coffee. But Darlene was quick to disagree. "It's a dangerous book," she warned the group. That's why I read The Shack. To find out what all the furor was about.

(Yesterday's post contains the first chapter, and more info, about The Shack by William Young.)

There's a quote on the front cover of The Shack from Eugene Peterson which gushes, "This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress did for his. It's that good!" Let me first reply to that: um, probably not.

In the book, a man embittered by the murder of his six-year-old daughter years earlier, is invited to meet God at the shack where her blood-stained dress was found. What ensues is a long conversation between God and man, culminating in greater spiritual awareness.

If that sounds a bit cliched, well, read on.

What I liked about The Shack:
  • The Trinity is clearly portrayed as Father, Son and Spirit.
  • God is especially fond of each person he discusses, a great reminder of his everlasting love.
  • Forgiveness is a big part of Mack's healing - both with his father and with his children.
What I disliked about The Shack:
  • The cliches. The writing needed a serious editing job. Sentences like "He was doing just fine, thank you, until he reached the place in the driveway..." and "The story of Missy's disappearance is unfortunately not unlike others told too often" appear way too often throughout the book.
  • The long conversations. I'd like a story to show me, not tell me, and The Shack is really more of a long essay or sermon than much of a story. I was told all the points the author wanted to make, not shown.
  • The story was all about Mack. His questions had to do with his perceptions and his pain, and his healing came because he understood the nature of God. But healing doesn't come because we understand, but because we submit to God's sovereignty.
  • Jesus, in the story, comments that he loves people from every system that exists. "I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa." When Mack asks if that means all roads lead to Jesus, Jesus responds, "Not at all....what it means it that I will travel any road to find you." What does that mean? It sounds deep but I think it is confusing and gives permission to the do-it-yourself religions of today.
The Shack gives out a lot of sparkle and emotion but its theology is loose and unfocused. For a book that portends to give a fresh look at God's nature, I expected the theology to be the point.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It was a wonderful day, with the sun shining and music pumping a beautiful melody into my car. I was driving alone, a bit unusual to be without any children along, when I suddenly had one of those little spiritual jolts and I knew in an instant, somebody’s praying for me.

Now I hadn’t asked for a special prayer at any recent meetings and I wasn’t struggling with any physical ailments. No big crisis looming. So who’s praying for me?

I was merely curious. I wasn’t feeling any self-pity knowing that probably nobody was praying.

Isn’t it funny sometimes how a random thought leaps into our brain after a question like that? Well, this time it was a verse.

“...and he always lives to make intercede for them.”(Heb. 7:25)

My heart got to pounding then for I realized, as I drove down a sunflower-lined country road, that I knew who was praying. Jesus, my savior and redeemer, sat right beside the Father always interceding for me.

It was a wonderful day.

The Shack

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Shack

Windblown Media; 1st edition (July 1, 2008)


Wm. Paul Young was born a Canadian and raised among a Stone Age tribe by his missionary parents in the highlands of former New Guinea. He suffered great loss as a child and young adult and now enjoys the "wastefulness of grace" with his family in the Pacific Northwest.

Visit the author's website.

The author will be on the Blog Talk Radio show on on November 4th at 2PM ET. Come and listen!

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1st edition (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0964729237
ISBN-13: 978-0964729230


A Confluence of Paths

Two roads diverged in the middle of my life,
I heard a wise man say
I took the road less traveled by
And that's made the difference every night and every day

—Larry Norman (with apologies to Robert Frost)

March unleashed a torrent of rainfall after an abnormally dry winter. A cold front out of Canada then descended and was held in place by a swirling wind that roared down the Gorge from eastern Oregon. Although spring was surely just around the corner, the god of winter was not about to relinquish its hard-won dominion without a tussle. There was a blanket of new snow in the Cascades, and rain was now freezing on impact with the frigid ground outside the house; enough reason for Mack to snuggle up with a book and a hot cider and wrap up in the warmth of a crackling fire.

But instead, he spent the better part of the morning telecommuting into his downtown desktop. Sitting comfortably in his home office wearing pajama pants and a T-shirt, he made his sales calls, mostly to the East Coast. He paused frequently, listening to the sound of crystalline rain tinging off his window and watching the slow but steady accumulation of frozen ice thickening on everything outside. He was becoming inexorably trapped as an ice—prisoner in his own home—much to his delight.

There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine. Snow or freezing rain suddenly releases you from expectations, performance demands, and the tyranny of appointments and schedules. And unlike illness, it is largely a corporate rather than individual experience. One can almost hear a unified sigh rise from the nearby city and surrounding countryside where Nature has intervened to give respite to the weary humans slogging it out within her purview. All those affected this way are united by a mutual excuse, and the heart is suddenly and unexpectedly a little giddy. There will be no apologies needed for not showing up to some commitment or other. Everyone understands and shares in this singular justification, and the sudden alleviation of the pressure to produce makes the heart merry.

Of course, it is also true that storms interrupt business and, while a few companies make a bit extra, some companies lose money—meaning there are those who find no joy when everything shuts down temporarily. But they can't blame anyone for their loss of production, or for not being able to make it to the office. Even if it's hardly more than a day or two, somehow each person feels like the master of his or her own world, simply because those little droplets of water freeze as they hit the ground.

Even commonplace activities become extraordinary. Routine choices become adventures and are often experienced with a sense of heightened clarity. Late in the afternoon, Mack bundled up and headed outdoors to struggle the hundred or so yards down the long driveway to the mailbox. The ice had magically turned this simple everyday task into a foray against the elements: the raising of his fist in opposition to the brute power of nature and, in an act of defiance, laughing in its face. The fact that no one would notice or care mattered little to him—just the thought made him smile inside.

The icy rain pellets stung his cheeks and hands as he carefully worked his way up and down the slight undulations of the driveway; he looked, he supposed, like a drunken sailor gingerly heading toward the next watering hole. When you face the force of an ice storm, you don't exactly walk boldly forward in a show of unbridled confidence. Bluster will get you battered. Mack had to get up off his knees twice before he was finally hugging the mailbox like some long-lost friend.

He paused to take in the beauty of a world engulfed in crystal. Everything reflected light and contributed to the heightened brilliance of the late afternoon. The trees in the neighbor's field had all donned translucent mantles and each now stood unique but unified in their presentation. It was a glorious world and for a brief moment its blazing splendor almost lifted, even if only for a few seconds, The Great Sadness from Mack's shoulders.

It took almost a minute to knock off the ice that had already sealed shut the door of the mailbox. The reward for his efforts was a single envelope with only his first name typewritten on the outside; no stamp, no postmark, and no return address. Curious, he tore the end off the envelope, which was no easy task with fingers beginning to stiffen from the cold. Turning his back to the breath-snatching wind, he finally coaxed the single small rectangle of unfolded paper out of its nest. The typewritten message simply said:

It's been a while. I've missed you.
I'll be at the shack next weekend if you
want to get together.

Mack stiffened as a wave of nausea rolled over him and then just as quickly mutated into anger. He purposely thought about the shack as little as possible and even when he did his thoughts were neither kind nor good. If this was someone's idea of a bad joke they had truly outdone themselves. And to sign it "Papa" just made it all the more horrifying.

"Idiot," he grunted, thinking about Tony the mailman; an overly friendly Italian with a big heart but little tact. Why would he even deliver such a ridiculous envelope? It wasn't even stamped. Mack angrily stuffed the envelope and note into his coat pocket and turned to start the slide back in the general direction of the house. Buffeting gusts of wind, which had initially slowed him, now shortened the time it took to traverse the mini glacier that was thickening beneath his feet.

He was doing just fine, thank you, until he reached that place in the driveway that sloped a little downward and to the left. Without any effort or intention he began to build up speed, sliding on shoes with soles that had about as much traction as a duck landing on a frozen pond. Arms flailing wildly in hopes of somehow maintaining the potential for balance, Mack found himself careening directly toward the only tree of any substantial size bordering the driveway—the one whose lower limbs he had hacked off only a few short months before. Now it stood eager to embrace him, half naked and seemingly anxious for a little retribution. In a fraction of a thought he chose the chicken's way out and tried to plop himself down by allowing his feet to slip out from under him—which is what they had naturally wanted to do anyway. Better to have a sore butt than pick slivers out of his face.

But the adrenaline rush caused him to over compensate, and in slow motion Mack watched his feet rise up in front of him as if jerked up by some jungle trap. He hit hard, back of the head first, and skidded to a heap at the base of the shimmering tree, which seemed to stand over him with a smug look mixed with disgust and not a little disappointment.

The world went momentarily black, or so it seemed. He lay there dazed and staring up into the sky, squinting as the icy precipitation rapidly cooled his flushed face. For a fleeting pause, everything felt oddly warm and peaceful, his ire momentarily knocked out by the impact. "Now, who's the idiot?" he muttered to himself, hoping that no one had been watching.

Cold was creeping quickly through his coat and sweater and Mack knew the ice rain that was both melting and freezing beneath him would soon become a major discomfort. Groaning and feeling like a much older man, he rolled onto his hands and knees. It was then that he saw the bright red skid mark tracing his journey from point of impact to final destination. As if birthed by the sudden awareness of his injury, a dull pounding began crawling up the back of his head. Instinctively, he reached for the source of the drum beat and brought his hand away bloody.

With rough ice and sharp gravel gouging his hands and knees, Mack half crawled and half slid until he eventually made it to a level part of the driveway. With not a little effort he was finally able to stand and gingerly inch his way toward the house, humbled by the powers of ice and gravity.

Once inside, Mack methodically shed the layers of outerwear as best he could, his half-frozen fingers responding with about as much dexterity as oversized clubs at the ends of his arms. He decided to leave the drizzly bloodstained mess right where he doffed it in the entryway and retreated painfully to the bathroom to examine his wounds. There was no question that the icy driveway had won. The gash on the back of his head was oozing around a few small pebbles still embedded in his scalp. As he had feared, a significant lump had already formed, emerging like a humpbacked whale breaching the wild waves of his thinning hair.

Mack found it a difficult chore to patch himself up by trying to see the back of his head using a small hand-held mirror that reflected a reverse image off the bathroom mirror. A short frustration later he gave up, unable to get his hands to go in the right directions and unsure which of the two mirrors was lying to him. By gingerly probing around the soggy gash he succeeded in picking out the biggest pieces of debris, until it hurt too much to continue. Grabbing some first-aid ointment and plugging the wound as best he could, he then tied a washcloth to the back of his head with some gauze he found in a bathroom drawer. Glancing at himself in the mirror, he thought he looked a little like some rough sailor out of Moby Dick. It made him laugh, then wince.

He would have to wait until Nan made it home before he would get any real medical attention; one of the many benefits of being married to a registered nurse. Anyway, he knew that the worse it looked the more sympathy he would get. There is often some compensation in every trial, if one looked hard enough. He swallowed a couple over-the-counter painkillers to dull the throbbing and limped toward the front entry.

Not for an instant had Mack forgotten about the note. Rummaging through the pile of wet and bloody clothing he finally found it in his coat pocket, glanced at it and then headed back into his office. He located the post office number and dialed it. As expected, Annie, the matronly postmaster and keeper of everyone's secrets, answered the phone. "Hi, is Tony in by chance?"

"Hey, Mack, is that you? Recognized your voice." Of course she did. "Sorry, but Tony ain't back yet. In fact I just talked to him on the radio and he's only made it halfway up Wildcat, not even to your place yet. Do ya need me to have him call ya, or would ya just like to leave a message?"

"Oh, hi. Is that you, Annie?" He couldn't resist, even though her Midwestern accent left no doubt. "Sorry, I was busy for a second there. Didn't hear a word you said."

She laughed. "Now Mack, I know you heard every word. Don't you be goin' and tryin' to kid a kidder. I wasn't born yesterday, ya know. Whaddya want me to tell him if he makes it back alive?"

"Actually, you already answered my question."

There was a pause at the other end. "Actually, I don't remember you askin' a question. What's wrong with you, Mack? Still smoking too much dope or do you just do that on Sunday mornings to make it through the church service?" At this she started to laugh, as if caught off guard by the brilliance of her own sense of humor.

"Now Annie, you know I don't smoke dope—never did, and don't ever want to." Of course Annie knew no such thing, but Mack was taking no chances on how she might remember the conversation in a day or two. Wouldn't be the first time that her sense of humor morphed into a good story that soon became "fact." He could see his name being added to the church prayer chain. "It's okay, I'll just catch Tony some other time, no big deal."

"Okay then, just stay indoors where it's safe. Don't ya know, an old guy like you coulda lost his sense of balance over the years. Wouldn't wanna see ya slip and hurt your pride. Way things are shapin' up, Tony might not make it up to your place at all. We can do snow, sleet, and darkness of night pretty well, but this frozen rain stuff. It's a challenge to be sure."

"Thanks, Annie. I'll try and remember your advice. Talk to you later. Bye now." His head was pounding more than ever; little trip hammers beating to the rhythm of his heart. "That's odd," he thought, "who would dare put something like that in our mailbox?" The painkillers had not yet fully kicked in, but were present enough to dull the edge of worry that he was starting to feel, and he was suddenly very tired. Laying his head down on the desk, he thought he had just dropped off to sleep when the phone startled him awake.

"Uh . . . hello?"

"Hi, love. You sound like you've been asleep." It was Nan, sounding unusually cheery, even though he felt he could hear the underlying sadness that lurked just beneath the surface of every conversation. She loved this kind of weather as much as he usually did. He switched on the desk lamp and glanced at the clock, surprised that he had been out for a couple hours.

"Uh, sorry. I guess I dozed off for a bit."

"Well, you sound a little groggy. Is everything all right?"

"Yup." Even though it was almost dark outside, Mack could see that the storm had not let up. It had even deposited low, and he knew some would eventually break from the weight, especially if the wind kicked up. "I had a little tussle with the driveway when I got the mail, but other than that, everything is fine. Where are you?"

"I'm still at Arlene's, and I think me and the kids'll spend the night here. It's always good for Kate to be around the family . . . seems to restore a little balance." Arlene was Nan's sister who lived across the river in Washington. "Anyway, it's really too slick to go out. Hopefully it'll break up by morning. I wish I had made it home before it got so bad, but oh well." She paused. "How's it up at the house?"

"Well, it's absolutely stunningly beautiful, and a whole lot safer to look at than walk in, trust me. I, for sure, don't want you to try and get up here in this mess. Nothing's moving. I don't even think Tony was able to bring us the mail."

"I thought you already got the mail?" she queried.

"Nope, I didn't actually get the mail. I thought Tony had already come and I went out to get it. There," he hesitated, looking down at the note that lay on the desk where he had placed it, "wasn't any mail yet. I called Annie and she said Tony probably wouldn't be able to make it up the hill, and I'm not going out there again to see if he did.

"Anyway," he quickly changed the subject to avoid more questions, "how is Kate doing over there?"

There was a pause and then a long sigh. When Nan spoke her voice was hushed to a whisper and he could tell she was covering her mouth on the other end. "Mack, I wish I knew. She is just like talking to a rock, and no matter what I do I can't get through. When we're around family she seems to come out of her shell some, but then she disappears again. I just don't know what to do. I've been praying and praying that Papa would help us find a way to reach her, but . . ." she paused again, "it feels like he isn't listening."

There it was. Papa was Nan's favorite name for God and it expressed her delight in the intimate friendship she had with him.

"Honey, I'm sure God knows what he's doing. It will all work out." The words brought him no comfort but he hoped they might ease the worry he could hear in her voice.

"I know," she sighed. "I just wish he'd hurry up."

"Me too," was all Mack could think to say. "Well, you and the kids stay put and stay safe, and tell Arlene and Jimmy hi, and thank them for me. Hopefully I will see you tomorrow."

"Okay, love. I should go and help the others. Everyone's busy looking for candles in case the power goes out. You should probably do the same. There's some above the sink in the basement, and there's leftover stuffed bread dough in the fridge that you can heat up. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, my pride is hurt more than anything."

"Well take it easy, and hopefully we'll see you in the morning."

"All right honey. Be safe and call me if you need anything. Bye."

It was kind of a dumb thing to say, he thought as he hung up the phone. Kind of a manly dumb thing, as if he could help if they needed anything.

Mack sat and stared at the note. It was confusing and painful trying to sort out the swirling cacophony of disturbing emotions and dark images clouding his mind—a million thoughts traveling a million miles an hour. Finally, he gave up, folded the note, slid it into a small tin box he kept on the desk, and switched off the light.

Mack managed to find something to heat up in the microwave, then he grabbed a couple of blankets and pillows and headed for the living room. A quick glance at the clock told him that Bill Moyer's show had just started; a favorite program that he tried never to miss. Moyer was one of a handful of people whom Mack would love to meet; a brilliant and outspoken man, able to express intense compassion for both people and truth with unusual clarity. One of the stories tonight had something to do with oilman Boone Pickens, who was now starting to drill for water, of all things.

Almost without thinking, and without taking his eyes off the television, Mack reached over to the end table, picked up a photo frame holding a picture of a little girl, and clutched it to his chest. With the other hand he pulled the blankets up under his chin and hunkered deeper into the sofa.

Soon the sounds of gentle snoring filled the air as the media tube turned its attention to a piece on a high school senior in Zimbabwe, who had been beaten for speaking out against his government. But Mack had already left the room to wrestle with his dreams; maybe tonight there would be no nightmares, only visions, perhaps, of ice and trees and gravity.

Copyright © 2007 by William P. Young

Saturday, November 1, 2008

FIRST: Forsaken by James David Jordan

It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)


James David Jordan is a business litigation attorney with the prominent Texas law firm of Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C. From 1998 through 2005, he served as the firm's Chairman and CEO. The Dallas Business Journal has named him one of the most influential leaders in the Dallas/Fort Worth legal community and one of the top fifteen business defense attorneys in Dallas/Fort Worth. His peers have voted him one of the Best Lawyers in America in commercial litigation.

A minister's son who grew up in the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois, Jim has a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois, and a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. He lives with his wife and two teenage children in the Dallas suburbs.

Jim grew up playing sports and loves athletics of all kinds. But he especially loves baseball, the sport that is a little bit closer to God than all the others.

His first novel was Something that Lasts . Forsaken is his second novel.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447490
ISBN-13: 978-0805447491


Even in high school I didn’t mind sleeping on the ground. When your father is a retired Special Forces officer, you pick up things that most girls don’t learn. As the years passed I slept in lots of places a good girl shouldn’t sleep. It’s a part of my past I don’t brag about, like ugly wallpaper that won’t come unstuck. No matter how hard I scrape, it just hangs on in big, obscene blotches. I’m twenty-nine years old now, and I’ve done my best to paint over it. But it’s still there under the surface, making everything rougher, less presentable than it should be. Though I want more than anything to be smooth and fresh and clean.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the paint begins to fade. Will the wallpaper show? I thought so for a long time. But I have hope now that it won’t. Simon Mason helped me find that hope. That’s why it’s important for me to tell our story. There must be others who need hope, too. There must be others who are afraid that their ugly wallpaper might bleed through.

What does sleeping on the ground have to do with a world-famous preacher like Simon Mason? The story begins twelve years ago—eleven years before I met Simon. My dad and I packed our camping gear and went fishing. It was mid-May, and the trip was a present for my seventeenth birthday. Not exactly every high school girl’s dream, but my dad wasn’t like most dads. He taught me to camp and fish and, particularly, to shoot. He had trained me in self-defense since I was nine, the year Mom fell apart and left for good. With my long legs, long arms, and Dad’s athletic genes, I could handle myself even back then. I suppose I wasn’t like most other girls.

After what happened on that fishing trip, I know I wasn’t.

Fishing with my dad didn’t mean renting a cane pole and buying bait pellets out of a dispenser at some catfish tank near an RV park. It generally meant tramping miles across a field to a glassy pond on some war buddy’s ranch, or winding through dense woods, pitching a tent, and fly fishing an icy stream far from the nearest telephone. The trips were rough, but they were the bright times of my life—and his, too. They let him forget the things that haunted him and remember how to be happy.

This particular outing was to a ranch in the Texas Panhandle, owned by a former Defense Department bigwig. The ranch bordered one of the few sizeable lakes in a corner of Texas that is brown and rocky and dry. We loaded Dad’s new Chevy pickup with cheese puffs and soft drinks—healthy eat­ing wouldn’t begin until the first fish hit the skillet—and left Dallas just before noon with the bass boat in tow. The drive was long, but we had leather interior, plenty of tunes, and time to talk. Dad and I could always talk.

The heat rose early that year, and the temperature hung in the nineties. Two hours after we left Dallas, the brand-new air conditioner in the brand-new truck rattled and clicked and dropped dead. We drove the rest of the way with the windows down while the high Texas sun tried to burn a hole through the roof.

Around five-thirty we stopped to use the bathroom at a rundown gas station somewhere southeast of Amarillo. The station was nothing but a twisted gray shack dropped in the middle of a hundred square miles of blistering hard pan. It hadn’t rained for a month in that part of Texas, and the place was so baked that even the brittle weeds rolled over on their bellies, as if preparing a last-ditch effort to drag themselves to shade.

The restroom door was on the outside of the station, iso­lated from the rest of the building. There was no hope of cool­ing off until I finished my business and got around to the little store in the front, where a rusty air conditioner chugged in the window. When I walked into the bathroom, I had to cover my nose and mouth with my hand. A mound of rotting trash leaned like a grimy snow drift against a metal garbage can in the corner. Thick, black flies zipped and bounced from floor to wall and ceiling to floor, occasionally smacking my arms and legs as if I were a bumper in a buzzing pinball machine. It was the filthiest place I’d ever been.

Looking back, it was an apt spot to begin the filthiest night of my life.

I had just leaned over the rust-ringed sink to inspect my teeth in the sole remaining corner of a shattered mirror when someone pounded on the door.

“Just a minute!” I turned on the faucet. A soupy liquid dribbled out, followed by the steamy smell of rotten eggs. I turned off the faucet, pulled my sport bottle from the holster on my hip, and squirted water on my face and in my mouth. I wiped my face on the sleeve of my T-shirt.

My blue-jean cutoffs were short and tight, and I pried free a tube of lotion that was wedged into my front pocket. I raised one foot at a time to the edge of the toilet seat and did my best to brush the dust from my legs. Then I spread the lotion over them. The ride may have turned me into a dust ball, but I was determined at least to be a soft dust ball with a coconut scent. Before leaving I took one last look in my little corner of mir­ror. The hair was auburn, the dust was beige. I gave the hair a shake, sending tiny flecks floating through a slash of light that cut the room diagonally from a hole in the roof. Someone pounded on the door again. I turned away from the mirror.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming!”

When I pulled open the door and stepped into the light, I shaded my eyes and blinked to clear away the spots. All that I could think about was the little air conditioner in the front window and how great it would feel when I got inside. That’s probably why I was completely unprepared when a man’s hand reached from beside the door and clamped hard onto my wrist.