Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dawn of the Golden Promise by B. J. Hoff First Chapter Peak

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Dawn of the Golden Promise

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


BJ Hoff’s bestselling historical novels continue to cross the boundaries of religion, language, and culture to capture a worldwide reading audience. Her books include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoff’s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.

Visit the author's website.


In the fifth and concluding volume of her bestselling The Emerald Ballad Series, BJ Hoff brings the exciting Irish-American historical drama to a climax with all the passion and power readers have come to expect from her.

The saga finds Morgan Fitzgerald adapting to life in a wheelchair as a result of an assailant’s bullet to his spine. Meanwhile, his wife, Finola, must face the dark memories and guarded secrets of her past. In New York City, policeman Michael Burke is caught in a conflict between his faith and his determination to bring a dangerous enemy to justice.

This unforgettable series began with the promise of an epic love story and an inspiring journey of faith. The finale delivers on that promise.

About This Series: BJ Hoff’s Emerald Ballad series was one of the most memorable series published in the 1990s. With combined sales of 300,000 copies, these beloved books found a place in the hearts of BJ’s many fans. Now redesigned and freshly covered the saga is available again to a new generation of readers—and BJ’s many new fans due to her highly successful Amish series, The Riverhaven Years—The Emerald Ballad series will once again find an enthusiastic audience.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736927964
ISBN-13: 978-0736927963


Dark Terror

For hope will expire
As the terror draws nigher,
And, with it, the Shame…

James Clarence Mangan (1803–1849)

Near the coast of Portugal
Late June 1850

A little before midnight, Rook Mooney left his card game and went on deck. The starless night sky churned with low-hanging clouds, and although the wind was only beginning to blow up, Mooney knew the storm would be on them within the hour.

He hated sea storms at night, especially the ones that came up all of a sudden. The Atlantic was bad-tempered and unpredictable; she could turn vicious as a wounded witch without warning. Even the most seasoned sailor never took her for granted, and many a callow youth had been turned away from the sea forever by a particularly savage gale.

Had it not been for the brewing storm, Mooney would have been glad for the wind. Lisbon had been sultry, too warm for his liking. He was ready for Ireland’s mild skies.

Hunched over the rail, he stared into the darkness. Although they were another night closer to Ireland, his mood was nearly as black as the sky. He had thought to see Dublin long before now, but instead he had spent three months in a filthy Tangier cell for breaking an innkeeper’s skull.

The darkness deep within him rose up and began to spread. It was her fault. The Innocent. His hands tightened on the rail, his mouth twisting at the memory of her. All these months—more than a year now—and he still couldn’t get her out of his mind. She was like a fire in his brain, boiling in him, tormenting him, driving him half mad.

Nothing had gone right for him since that night at Gemma’s Place. He spent his days with a drumming headache, his nights in a fog of whiskey and fever. His temper was a powder keg, ignited by the smallest spark. Even women were no good for him now. He could scarcely bear the sight of the used, worn-out strumpets who haunted the foreign ports. They all seemed dirty after her. Her, with her ivory skin and golden hair and fine clean scent.

Like some shadowy, infernal sea siren, she seemed to call to him. He was never free of her, could find no peace from her.

His grip on the rail increased. Soon, in only a few days now, they would reach Dublin. He would go back to Gemma’s Place. This time he wouldn’t go so easy on her. This time when he was finished with her, he would put an end to her witchery. He’d snuff out her life…and be free.

All at once rain drenched him. Waves churned up like rolling dunes, pitching the ship as if it were a flimsy child’s toy. Angry and relentless, the gale whipped the deck. Salt from the sea mixed with the rain, burning Mooney’s eyes and stinging his skin as the downpour slashed his face.

He swore into the raging night, anchoring himself to the rail. He felt no terror of the storm, only a feral kind of elation, as if the wildness of the wind had stirred a dark, waiting beast somewhere in the depths of his being.


The small cottage in the field seemed to sway in the wind. Frank Cassidy resisted the urge to duck his head against the thunder that shook the walls and the fierce lightning that streaked outside the window.

After months of following a maze of wrong turns, Cassidy could scarcely believe that he now sat across from the one person who might finally bring his search to an end. It had been a long, frustrating quest, and up until now a futile one. But tonight, in this small, barren cottage outside the old city where Black Cromwell had unleashed his obscene rage, his hopes were rising by the moment.

Friendship had motivated him to undertake the search for Finola Fitzgerald’s past, but nothing more than the unwillingness to disappoint Morgan had kept him going. He owed his old friend a great deal—indeed, he would have done most anything the Fitzgerald had asked of him. But in recent months he had wondered more than once if this entire venture might not end in total defeat. Every road he had taken led only to failure. Every clue he had followed proved worthless.

Until now.

The possibility of finding his answers in Drogheda had first occurred to Cassidy months ago. A Dublin street musician’s vague remark about an unsolved murder in the ancient city—a tragic mystery involving a young girl—had fired his interest and sent him on his way that same week.

According to the musician, a woman named Sally Kelly and her son Peter were likely to have information about the incident. Cassidy had wasted several days in Drogheda trying to locate the pair, only to discover that they had gone north some years past.

He started on to Cavan, eventually traveling as far west as Roscommon, but found no trace, not even a hint, of the Kellys. He started back to Drogheda, discouraged and uncertain about what to do next. To his astonishment, a casual conversation with a tinker on the road revealed that a youth named Peter Kelly had taken up a small tenant farm just outside the old city only weeks before.

Now, sitting across from the lad himself, Cassidy could barely contain his excitement. Even the brief, fragmented story he had managed to glean so far told him that this time he would not leave Drogheda empty-handed.

“If only you could have talked with me mum before she passed on,” Peter Kelly was saying. “She more than likely could have told you all you want to know. There’s so much I can’t remember, don’t you see.”

Kelly was a strapping young man, with shirt sleeves rolled over muscled arms. His face was sunburned and freckled, his rusty hair crisp with tight curls.

“Still, I’d be grateful to hear what you do remember,” Cassidy told him. “Anything at all.”

Dipping one hand into the crock on the table, Kelly retrieved a small potato, still in its jacket, and began to peel it with his thumbnail. Motioning toward the crock, he indicated that Cassidy should help himself.

For a short time they sat in silence, perched on stools at the deal table eating their potatoes. The cottage was old, with but one room and a rough-hewn fireplace. Boxes pegged to the wall held crockery and plates. A straw mattress was draped with a frayed brown blanket. There were no other furnishings.

Peter Kelly had a friendly, honest face and intelligent eyes. “I don’t mind telling you what I recall,” he said, “but I fear it isn’t much. ’ Twas a good seven years ago, or more. I couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven at the time, if that.”

“And your mother was employed as cook?” prompted Cassidy.

The youth nodded. “Aye, she had been in service for Mr. Moran since I was but a wee wane. It was just the two of us. Me da had already passed on long before then.”

“Tell me about Moran,” Cassidy prompted. “Was he a wealthy man?”

Kelly took another bite of potato and shrugged. “Not wealthy and not poor,” he said. “He had an apothecary, but he also acted as a physician of sorts. His father before him left the business and the property. The land was fine, but not exceedingly large. There were some small crops and a few trees—and a lake.”

“And Moran himself? What sort of a man was he?”

Again the lad shrugged. “I recall he was an elderly gentleman. All alone, except for the daughter. His wife died in childbirth, I believe. As best I remember, he treated Mum and me fine.” He paused. “Mum said Mr. Moran doted on the daughter.”

“You mentioned the day of the shooting,” Cassidy urged. “I’d be grateful if you’d tell me about it.”

Peter Kelly licked his fingers before reaching for another potato. “I recall it was a warm day. Spring or summer it must have been, for the trees were in leaf and the sun was bright. I was in the woods when I heard all the commotion. I wasn’t supposed to go in the woods at all,” he explained, glancing up, “for Mum was always fearful of the place. But I played there every chance I got, all the same.”

Rubbing his big hands on his trouser legs, he went on. “But didn’t I go flying out of there fast enough when I heard the screaming? Took off as if the devil himself was after me, I did.”

Cassidy leaned forward, his muscles tensed. “What screaming would that have been?”

“Why, it sounded for all the world like a mountain cat in a trap! ’ Twas too far away for me to see, but I could tell the ruckus was coming from near the lake, at the far end of the property. I took off running for the house.”

He glanced at Cassidy, his expression slightly shamefaced. “I was but a lad,” he muttered. “All I could think of was to get away from the terrible screaming without me mum finding out I’d been playing in the woods again. She was a stern woman.”

“So you saw nothing at all?”

The boy shook his head, and Cassidy felt a shroud of familiar disappointment settle over him. Still, he wasn’t about to give up. “And what happened then, lad?”

“Mum hauled me into the kitchen, then went for Mr. Moran. He told us to stay put while he went to investigate.” He paused. “I saw a pistol in his hand, and I remember me mum was shaking something fierce. We heard the shots not long after Mr. Moran left the house with the gun.”

Cassidy’s interest piqued. He leaned forward. “Shots, did you say?”

Kelly nodded. “Mr. Moran was shot and killed that day.” After a moment he added, “Everyone said it was the teacher who murdered him.”

Curbing his impatience, Cassidy knotted his hands. “What teacher, Peter?”

Young Kelly scratched his head. “Why, I can’t recall his name—it’s been so long—but I do remember he was a Frenchman. Mr. Moran was determined his daughter would be educated, you see, and not in no hedge school, either. He hired the Frenchman as a tutor, and to coach her in the voice lessons. She was musical, you know.”

Cassidy’s mind raced. “This teacher—he lived with the family, did he?”

“He did. It seems to me he had a room upstairs in the house.”

“But what reason would he have had to shoot James Moran?”

Peter Kelly met Cassidy’s eyes across the table. “The story went that Mr. Moran must have been trying to save his daughter from the man’s advances, but the Frenchman got the best of him. Mr. Moran was elderly, mind, and would have been no match for the teacher.”

As Cassidy struggled to piece together what Kelly had told him, the youth went on. “I’m afraid I don’t know much else, sir. Only that Mr. Moran died from the shooting, and the daughter disappeared.”

Cassidy looked at him. “Disappeared?”

“She was never seen after that day,” said Kelly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Mum went looking for her after she found Mr. Moran dead, but there wasn’t a trace of her, not a trace. Nothing but her tin whistle, which they found lying near the lake. No, they never found her nor the Frenchman.” He drew in a long breath, adding, “Mum always said she didn’t believe they tried any too hard, either.”

Cassidy frowned. “Why would she think that?”

Peter Kelly twisted his mouth. “The police didn’t care all that much, don’t you see. The Morans weren’t important enough for them to bother with, Mum said. They didn’t know where to look, so they simply pretended to search.”

Cassidy drummed his finger on the table. “Could the girl simply have run off with the Frenchman, do you think?”

The other shook his head forcefully. “No, sir, I’m certain it was nothing of the sort. Mum was convinced the Frenchman had done something terrible to the lass, and that was why Mr. Moran went after him. But Mr. Moran, he was that frail; a younger man would outmatch him easy enough, she said. Mum was convinced until the day she died that the Frenchman murdered Mr. Moran and then ran off.”

Cassidy rubbed his chin. “But that doesn’t account for the girl,” he said, thinking aloud. “What of her?”

“It pained me mum to think so, but she always believed the Frenchman took the lass with him.”

“Abducted her, d’you mean?”

Peter nodded. “Aye, and perhaps murdered her as well.” He seemed to reminisce for a moment. “Mum never liked that Frenchman, you see. Not a bit. He gave himself airs, she said, and had a devious eye.”

Cassidy’s every instinct proclaimed that at last he had found what he was searching for, but he had been thwarted too many times not to be cautious. Getting to his feet, he untied the pouch at his waist and withdrew the small portrait Morgan had sent him some months past.

He unfolded it, then handed it to Peter Kelly. “Would this be the girl?” he asked, his pulse pounding like the thunder outside. “Would the Moran lass resemble this portrait today, do you think?”

As Kelly studied the portrait, his eyes widened. “Why, ’tis her,” he said, nodding slowly. “Sure, ’tis Miss Finola herself.”

Cassidy stared at him. “Finola?” he said, his voice cracking. “That was her name—Finola?    ”

“It was indeed,” the lad said. “And didn’t it suit her well, at that? Tall and lovely, she was, and several years older than myself. Wee lad that I was, I thought her an enchanted creature. A princess…with golden hair.”

A wave of exhilaration swept over Cassidy. He had all he could do not to shout. According to Morgan, the one thing Finola Fitzgerald had seemed to remember about her past was her given name.

“You’re quite sure, lad?” he said, his voice none too steady. “It’s been many a year since you last saw the lass, after all.”

Kelly nodded, still studying the portrait. “ ’ Tis her. Sure, and she’s a woman grown, but a face is not easily forgotten, no matter the years.”

“Now that is the truth,” agreed Cassidy, smiling at the boy.

“Is she found then, sir, after all this time?” Kelly asked, returning the portrait to Cassidy.

Still smiling, Cassidy stared at the portrait. “Aye, lad,” he said after a moment, his voice hoarse with excitement. “She is found. She is safe, and a married woman now.”

“Ah…thanks be to God!” said Peter Kelly.

“Indeed,” Cassidy echoed. “Thanks be to God.”

Nelson Hall, Dublin

For the second time in a week, Finola’s screams pierced the late night silence of the bedroom. Instantly awake, Morgan reached for her, then stopped. He had learned not to touch her until she was fully awake and had recognized him.

“Finola?” Leaning over her, he repeated her name softly. “Finola, ’tis Morgan. You’re dreaming, macushla. You are safe. Safe with me.”

Her body was rigid, her arms crossed in front of her face as if to ward off an attack. She thrashed, moaning and sobbing, her eyes still closed.

Outside, thunder rumbled in the distance and the lightning flared halfheartedly, then strengthened. As if sensing the approaching storm, Finola gave a startled cry.

Morgan continued to soothe her with his voice, speaking softly in the Irish. It was all he could do not to gather her in his arms. But when the nightmare had first begun, months ago, he had made the mistake of trying to rouse her from it. She had gone after him like a wild thing, pummeling him with her fists, scraping his face with her nails as she fought him off.

Whatever went on in that dark, secret place of the dream must be an encounter of such dread, such horror, as to temporarily seize her sanity. The Finola trapped in that nightmare world was not in the least like the gentle, soft-voiced Finola he knew as his wife. In the throes of the dream she was a woman bound, terrorized by something too hideous to be endured.

No matter how he ached to rescue her, he could do nothing…nothing but wait.
In the netherworld of the dream, Finola stood in a dark and windswept cavern.

Seized by terror, she cupped her hands over her ears to shut out the howling of the wind.

The wind. She knew it was coming for her, could hear the angry, thunderous roar, feel the trembling of the ground beneath her feet as the storm raced toward her.

Faster now…a fury of a wind, gathering speed as it came, raging and swooping down upon her like a terrible bird of prey, gathering momentum as it hurled toward her…closing in, seizing her.

Black and fierce, it seemed alive as it dragged her closer…closer into its eye, as if trying to swallow her whole. As she struggled to break free, she heard in the farthest recesses of the darkness a strange, indefinable sound, a sound of sorrow, as if all the trees in the universe were sighing their grief.

She tried to run but was held captive by the force of the wind. It pounded her, squeezing the breath from her, dragging her into a darkness so dense it filled her eyes, her mouth, her lungs…oh, dear Jesus, it was crushing her…crushing her to nothing—

Finola sat straight up in bed, as if propelled by some raw force of terror. She gasped, as always, fighting for her breath.

Soaked in perspiration, Finola stared at Morgan, her gaze filled with horror.

Still he did not touch her. “You are safe, Finola aroon. ’      Twas only a bad dream. You are here with me.”

She put a hand to her throat and opened her mouth as if to speak, but made no sound. Finally…finally, she made a small whimper, like that of a frightened animal sprung free from a trap.

At last Morgan saw a glint of recognition. Finola moaned, then sagged into his waiting arms.

Stroking her hair, Morgan held her, crooning to her as he would a frightened child. “There’s nothing to harm you, my treasure. Nothing at all.”

“Hold me…hold me…”

Tightening his arms about her still more, he began to rock her gently back and forth. “Shhh, now, macushla…everything is well. You are safe.”

He felt her shudder against him, and he went on, lulling her with his voice, stroking her hair until at last he felt her grow still. “Was it the same as before?” he asked.

Her head nodded against his chest.

He knew it might be hours before she would be able to sleep again. So great was the dream’s terror that she dreaded closing her eyes afterward. Sometimes she lay awake until dawn.

Her description of the nightmare never failed to chill Morgan. It had begun not long after their first physical union. Although he could scarcely bring himself to face the possibility, he could not help but wonder if their intimacy, though postponed, might not somehow be responsible.

At the outer fringes of his mind lurked a growing dread that by marrying her and taking her into his bed, he had somehow invoked the nightmare. He prayed it was not so, but if it continued, he would eventually have to admit his fear to Finola. They would have to speak of it.

But not yet. Not tonight. Tonight he would simply hold her until she no longer trembled, until she no longer clung to him as if he alone could banish the horror.
Unwilling to forsake the comforting warmth of Morgan’s embrace, Finola lay, unmoving. Gradually she felt her own pulse slow to the steady rhythm of his heartbeat. “I’m sorry I woke you,” she whispered.

He silenced her with a finger on her lips. “There is nothing to be sorry for. Hush, now, and let me hold you.”

Something was coming. Something dark. Something cold and dark and sinister…

Thunder boomed like distant cannon, and Finola shivered. Wrapped safely in Morgan’s arms, she struggled to resist the dark weight of foreboding that threatened to smother her.

It was always like this after the nightmare, as if the black wind in the dream still hovered oppressively near, waiting to overtake her after she was fully awake. Sometimes hours passed before she could completely banish the nightmare’s terror.

Were it not for the safe wall of Morgan’s presence to soothe and shield her, she thought she might go mad in the aftermath of the horror. But always he was there, his sturdy arms and quiet voice her stronghold of protection. Her haven.

“Better now, macushla   ?” he murmured against her hair.

Finola nodded, and he gently eased her back against the pillows, settling her snugly beside him, her head on his shoulder.

“Try to sleep,” he said, brushing a kiss over the top of her head. “Nothing will hurt you this night. Nothing will ever hurt you again, I promise you.”

Finola closed her eyes and forced herself to lie still. She knew Morgan would not allow himself to sleep until she did, so after a few moments she pretended to drift off; in a short while, she heard his breathing grow even and shallow.

After he fell asleep, she lay staring at the window, trying not to jump when lightning streaked and sliced the night. She hugged her arms to herself as the thunder groaned. In the shelter of Morgan’s embrace, it was almost possible to believe that he was right, that nothing would hurt her ever again. She knew that with the first light of the morning, the nightmare would seem far distant, almost as if it had never happened.

But just as surely, she knew night would come again, and with the night would come the dream, with its dark wind and evil hidden somewhere deep within.

After a long time, Finola began to doze. But just as she sank toward the edge of unconsciousness, the wind shrieked. Like the sudden convulsion of a wren’s wings, panic shook her and she jolted awake.

Feeling irrationally exposed and vulnerable, she listened to the storm play out its fury. Thunder hammered with such force that the great house seemed to shudder and groan, while the wind went howling as if demanding entrance.

Again she closed her eyes, this time to pray.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Life Changing Bible Verses You Should Know by Erwin and Rebecca Lutzer First\ Chapter Peak

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor of The Moody Church since 1980, is an award-winning author of more than 20 books including Walking with God. He’s a celebrated international conference speaker and the featured speaker on three radio programs that are heard around the world. Rebecca Lutzer has used her gifts of hospitality, mercy, and teaching to minister to many women. She is an RN and enjoyed working as a surgical nurse for several years. They coauthored a book on the women in the life of Jesus and how He changed their worlds titled Jesus, Lover of a Woman’s Soul. They have been married for 35 years, live in the Chicago area, and are the parents of three married children.


Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of the Moody Church, and his wife, Rebecca, encourage readers to reap the blessings of memorizing Scripture in this gathering of relevant verses, 35 topics, insightful explanations, and engaging questions. This foundation of wisdom inspires readers to experience God’s Word in powerful ways.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736939520
ISBN-13: 978-0736939522



Psalm 46:1—God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

1 Peter 1:6-7—In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

When we think back to the devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed nearly 200,000 people, many images come to mind, but one image that stands out well above the others is that of a young mother being interviewed on television as she held a baby in her arms.

“I lost my son…he died in the rubble.”

“Did you get to bury him?”

“No, no chance; his body was crushed in the rubble; I just had to throw him away.”

Just then the camera zeroed in on her backpack as she prepared to board a bus. Stuffed in a side pocket was a Bible. As she boarded the bus she could be heard, speaking to no one in particular, saying, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…” Her voice trailed off as she disappeared from view.

When the report was over we just kept staring at the television for a while, pushing back tears and letting what we’d just seen sink into our souls. A dead child with no chance to plan a funeral and pay respects to her precious little one, a baby in her arms, and she was boarding a bus that was going she knew not where. Yet she still expressed belief; she still trusted that God is her refuge and strength.

Faith in adversity!

This mother—God bless her—began quoting Psalm 46, which was written as a praise song after God spared the city of Jerusalem from an invasion by Assyrians who were threatening to annihilate the inhabitants. In the midst of a harrowing escape, the Israelites found God to be an unshakable pillar.

God is our refuge. A refuge is a safe place you can run to for shelter when life’s storms are swirling around you. No wonder this dear mother found solace in this psalm, which continues, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (verses 2-3).

Yes, the mountains did give way and fall into the heart of the sea, but God is unaffected by the fluctuation on events of earth; He is always there, solid, unmoved. When the mountains are shaking and the ground beneath you is quaking, run to God, and He will meet you. Yes, even when our world falls apart in the aftermath of a horrendous natural disaster, God is unchanging and remains with us.

In the midst of the devastation, God is our source of supply. The psalm continues, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (verse 4). Most likely that refers to a tunnel that had been built some time earlier to bring water into the city in case it was ever besieged. The people of Jerusalem saw this provision as God giving them specific help at their time of their need.

Then the psalm gives us a command: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (verse 10). Let us cease striving and let God be God. Even in adversity He is there; or perhaps we should say especially in adversity He is there!

Adversity should not drive us away from God; rather, it should drive us into His arms. He is there for the grieving mother, and for the family that has experienced indescribable loss. The psalm ends, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (verse 11).

God wants to be believed. And our faith is more precious to Him than gold, which perishes. When we continue to trust Him even when there appears to be no reason to do so—and we go on believing God’s bare Word, our faith will “result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).

Reverend Henry F. Lyte was a pastor in Scotland who battled tuberculosis most of his life. On his final Sunday, September 4, 1847, amid many tears the congregation sang a song he himself had composed, “Abide with Me.” It spoke of the unchanging God in an ever-changing world:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

The young mother in Haiti—who was clutching an undernourished baby in her arms and had no time to mourn the tragic death of her son—found solace in the God who was still beside her when the earth gave way. “God is our refuge and strength,” she said amid her grief and uncertainty of the future.

In times of adversity, our faith can hold fast. And God is both honored and pleased.

Taking God’s Word to Heart

Reflect on the account of the Haitian mother who tragically lost her son. How has Psalm 46 been a source of strength for you during adversity? What other Scripture passages do you turn to for help in difficult times?
What does it mean to you that God is your refuge? In life’s journey, why is God’s unchangeable nature a source of strength for us?
Recall an instance when God provided timely help for a specific need. What did that experience teach or confirm for you about God’s character?
What are some ways God has used adversity to shape your life?
Why is God honored and pleased when we exercise faith in times of adversity?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer Audio Book of the week

Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer read by Nicole Poole

From  Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.

When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America's wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn't uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon--and intrigues him at the same time. But he can't afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.
When Isabella's uncle comes to claim the child--and her inheritance--Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man's evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?

My Take:  I really enjoyed this book once I got into the second half of the book.  The narrator did a really good job and used different voices for all the characters.  I saw the romance aspect of the book coming and was not surprised.  Some of the book caught me a bit off guard in a good way.  The last half of th book was definetly the climax. I thought the the very end was a bit anticlimatic and I was a bit disappointed. 
I do recommend the book but will say that it may take a bit before you get into the book but once you are ou will enoy the ride.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Route 66: A Crash Course in Navigating Life with the Bible by Kris Kandiah


Route 66: A Crash Course on Navigating Life with the Bible by Kris Kandiah

Welcome to Route 66, a journey to discover how the 66 books of the Bible help us to know God—and know how to live for Him. This book is packed with practical help to live your whole life guided by the whole of the Bible. Route 66 unfolds how different passages of the Bible can help us travel through different passages of our life. Route 66 works with the idea that there are eight identifiable genres within the Bible: narrative, law, psalm, prophecy, wisdom, gospel, epistle, and apocalyptic. Krish Kandiah introduces each in turn, explaining how to read them and how to apply their teaching to your life. He then provides five studies for each. There are three ways you can use this book: on your own, with 40 daily Bible studies and a "travel journal" to record what God is teaching you; in a small group, with weekly study questions to supplement your personal reading; and with your church, using the eight sections of the book as a great sermon series (there are some free downloadable slides and service outlines available on About the Author: Dr. Krish Kandiah is Director of Churches in Mission for the Evangelical Alliance in London. Previously he has worked as a tutor in theology at Oxford University, a church pastor in London, a missionary in Albania, and will be a guest lecturer at Regent College in May 2011. He is a film buff, a sports fan, a husband, a father, and a foster parent. $13.99 978-0-85721-018-0 Paperback 192 pages
Trim Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Publisher: Monarch

Except from Route 66:

, distributed by Kregel Publications

Week 1: Living faithfully 1
The narrative literature and its application to life

Day 1: The ride of our lives
Luke is funny. He is clever. He is 145 cm tall and has brown eyes.
     What is your mental image of Luke from that description? Are you imagining a
small clown turning cartwheels? Are you thinking geeky and peculiar? Awkward
and studious? Scheming and tricking? I’m afraid all of these are way off mark.
Describing anyone in terms of a few physical features and personality traits falls
seriously short. So let me introduce you to my son Luke another way – with a story.
     Yesterday Luke brought his schoolwork home. When we asked why he hadn’t
completed the work at school, he explained crossly that he had been waiting in
the queue to get the materials from the teacher when he saw one of his friends
struggling. He went over to help him out and rejoined the queue. Just as he was
almost at the front he spotted a girl crying, so he went over to give her a hand and
by the time he rejoined the queue again, she was smiling. By the end of the lesson
he had helped half the class in one way or another, but had hardly started his
project. When his teacher saw his work, she told him off for “doing nothing” and
gave him a warning.
     Just from this one short story, we gain an insight into the way Luke relates
to others, his selflessness, and his sense of justice. We read “clever” as mentally
resourceful, and “funny” as good at making other people smile. But more than just
picturing him, you are probably beginning to relate to Luke. You may even have
begun to think about what you would do in his shoes or what you would say to
him if you were his teacher, his friend or his parent.
     Statements like “Luke is 145 cm tall” are important. But they are merely the
bones of a skeleton when it comes to getting to know somebody. A story fleshes
out the description, giving us a clearer picture of the person and offering us the
possibility of intimacy and relationship. When God introduces himself to us in the
beginning of the Bible, he does so through story after story after story. This has a
number of effects:

1. Stories reveal God’s character12
Not just in terms of abstract concepts that could be misconstrued, but also in terms
of concrete examples. For the most part the story of the Bible is a retelling of how
God has connected characters, communities, continents and the cosmos itself in his
great big story for all of creation, making the character of the invisible God visible
to us.

2. Stories draw us into the story
Stories abduct our emotions, stealing them away into the drama as we recognize
the dilemmas and empathize with the characters.13 By experiencing the stories God
has given us in this way, our imagination, our ambition and our lives are drawn into
the captivating narrative of the Bible.

3. Stories draw us into relationship
As we see God’s character in action, we get to know different aspects of his
personality and foundations for a relationship are built as we share his hopes and

4. Stories make us who we are
“In order to make sense of our lives and to make our most important decisions,
we depend on some story.”14 In a world of competing stories the Bible tells us true
stories about the way things really happened so that we can be caught up into
God’s ultimate story of the grand sweep of history. Sometimes we zoom in and see
the fine detail – like in the story of Joseph and his jealous brothers. Other times we
zoom out to see the genealogies that summarize generations of stories where God
was faithful to his people. It has been said that history is His Story, but it is also
our story, as we too belong somewhere in the sweep of history described between
Genesis 1 and Revelation 21.

5. Stories change our lives
One sweltering summer’s day my wife and I heard a story about a beautiful
newborn baby girl who had no home to go to, as her birth mother was unable
to care for her. She was lying in the hospital that hot afternoon, oblivious to the
uncertainties of her future as social workers phoned around possible placements.
We were newly approved foster carers. On hearing this story we faced a choice.
Our decision to get involved in the story of this little girl had life-changing
consequences as we first fostered her, then adopted her, loving her as our own
daughter. Reading the stories of the Old Testament comes with a health warning:
the more we get to know God, and the more we get drawn into the Bible story,
the harder it will be to ignore the invitation to join the ride of our lives in God’s big
plan for the universe.

TRAVEL JOURNAL: Genesis 1:1–31
1. God is introduced as the lead character in the story of the Bible.
How does this story seek to inspire awe in you as you read?
(See verses 1, 3 and 16.)

2. The story of the beginning of the universe is told with great
artistry. Where do you notice repetitions, poetry or unusual turns
of phrase?

3. The hinge-point of the story seems to be the creation of human
beings (verses 27–31). Find four differences compared to the
rest of creation. Why are they significant?

4. Use the five points about how stories help us to engage with
Genesis 1. How does this story:

reveal God’s character?
draw us into relationship?
draw us into the story?
make us who we are?
change our lives?

Day 2: Mirror, signal, manoeuvre
Of the 4,000 or more volumes that my wife and I own, there is one that I
particularly treasure. It is one of my smallest and scruffiest books and even the
letters on its spine have been rubbed away. But every time I see it, I remember the
romance of a day twenty years earlier. I was in Shakespeare’s Stratford with my
soon-to-be fiancée when we discovered this compact copy of Romeo and Juliet in
a second-hand shop. Sitting by the river in view of the Swan Theatre, I gave that
book as a farewell present to my girlfriend as she left to spend a year working in
Germany. Somehow we survived the long-distance relationship and that copy of
Romeo and Juliet now sits on our shelf reminding us of young love, of the pain of
separation, and of the hope of return.
     If I were to tell you that some recent visitors to my home spotted that famous
romantic tragedy on my bookshelf, and had never heard of it before, I guess you
would be surprised. But imagine your shock if I then added that I could summarize
the play in just thirteen words:
Hate destroys families.
Love is stronger than hate.
Love is stronger than death.
The statements are true enough, but the story has been stripped of its plot, its
suspense, its beauty, its emotions, its characters, and its context. My summary may
have left my visitors a little more informed, but I doubt I would have inspired them
to go away and discover the play for themselves.
     Many of the sermons I hear, and even many I have preached, easily end up
as a bland set of bullet-points, often handily beginning with the same letter!
For example, you could go away from a sermon based on the story of the call of
Abraham in Genesis 12 with these lessons:
God is patient.
God is generous.
God is missionary.
Here are three true statements,15 but the Bible passage, which started out as a
story, has ended up as systematic theology. This is as dissatisfying as going into
a restaurant and ordering their best soup, and being given instead a list of the
ingredients. Or visiting the Louvre to see a Renaissance masterpiece, only to
discover that scientists had immortalized the exhibits by distilling the paints into
test-tubes arranged in alphabetical order of their chemical composition. Sometimes
we are in danger of reducing the Bible so much, that although we may find a truth,
we lose the sensation and the impact that the story was supposed to produce.16
     It is the basic assumption in this book that God in his wisdom inspired the
Scriptures and gave us just the kind of book that we needed. It is no accident or
mistake that God inspired so much of the Bible to be in story form and preserved
those stories over the millennia so they would be handed down in the format we
see in front of us. Of course God could have sent us bullet-points instead, but he
chose not to. God’s aim was not that we boil these stories down to their bare
minimum ingredients. God’s aim was the opposite – that the stories could boil over
into the messy reality of our lives.
     In order to understand Romeo and Juliet, we need to understand the language
and the culture that Shakespeare was writing in. But that tragic play set in the
fifteenth century, with its rigid conventions of marriage, still has an impact in our
more liberal society. The stories of the Bible are not human works of fiction, like
Shakespearean plays, but divine accounts of history and therefore have endless
potential to impact our own lives. Nevertheless, we still need to acknowledge the
presence of the two worlds, whichever part of the Bible narrative we are reading:
the world of the Bible text with its language, culture and time in history, and our
world with its very different language, culture and time in history.17 The following
tool of narrative Bible study is adapted from that vital all-terrain habit I learned in
my driving lessons: “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre”.

MIRROR: Look back and try to understand how the original audience would
have experienced the Bible passage.

SIGNAL: Ask God to help you to understand the passage’s significance
today. How is the story used elsewhere in the Bible? How does the story set
the course for our lives today?

MANOEUVRE: What are you going to do now to change your actions,
attitude or understanding as a result of this Bible passage?
Looking back to what a story meant to its first hearers before we look to our own
situation may take some getting used to. However awkward and time-consuming it
may feel to first look back, and then look around before looking forward, this art
of time travel will protect us from the dangers of misapplying the Bible, and will
resource us to move forward confidently.

TRAVEL JOURNAL: Genesis 12:1–9
1. Flick back through chapters 9–12. What do we learn about the
world as Abram saw it? How do you imagine Abram felt about
God’s call in verse 1, and the promises in verses 2–3 and 7?
From Abram’s perspective, how does the story work out for him?
(Scan through Genesis 12–25.)

2. How does Abram’s call set the direction for how we understand
the life of faith? (See Galatians 3 and Romans 4.)

3. Ultimately God’s promise will be fulfilled at the end of time. How
is Abram’s call therefore still applicable to those of us who are
his spiritual descendants? (See especially Genesis 12:2–3.)

4. How does Hebrews 11:8–12 help us to live out this story? What
are you going to do about this?

12 See Newbigin, L., 1989, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, SPCK, p. 99.

13 See Sweet, L., McLaren, B. & Hasselmayer, J., 2003, A is for Abductive: The Language of the Emergent Church, Zondervan, pp. 31–33.

14 See Bartholomew, C. & Goheen, M., 2006, The Drama of Scripture: Finding our place in the biblical story, SPCK, p. 1.

15 Kevin Vanhoozer puts it well: “The gospel is informative: ‘he is risen.’ Without some propositional core, the church would lose its raison
d’être, leaving only programs and pot-lucks. At the same time, to reduce the truth of Scripture to a set of propositions is unnecessarily reductionist.”
Vanhoozer, K., 2005, “Lost in Interpretation? Truth, Scripture and Hermeneutics”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 48/1, March 2005,
p. 100.

16 For more on this theme see Arthurs, J. D., 2007, Preaching with Variety: How to recreate the Dynamics of Biblical Genres, Kregel.

17 Stott, J., 1998, I Believe in Preaching, Hodder & Stoughton.

My Take:

I am always looking for any tools that will help me in my personal study of the Bible.  This book si a great way to start out on studying the Bible expecially if you haven't done so before although it is helpful for even the most seasoned Bible Student. 

The chapters by the except above are broken into Weekly segments each taking on a different genre  of the Bible and each weekly segment if further broken up into 5 daily readings.  The daily readings have a section at the end called the Travel Journal which has questions that help you narrow down what was discussed in that days reading. 

The only thing I found difficult at times about this book was that the author is from England and uses phrases and talks about places that I had no idea what he was talking about because I am an American.  I was able to figure most things out. 

Highly recommended for everyone but would be very helpful for someone just starting out in their study of the Bible.

I received a review copy from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.