Monday, November 30, 2009

Touching Wonder:Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

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:

Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

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


John Blase’s work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children’s Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764656
ISBN-13: 978-1434764652

AND excerpt:


Angelic Visitor

Luke 1.26–38

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning!

You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,

be called ‘Son of the Highest.’

The Lord God will give him

the throne of his father David;

He will rule Jacob’s house forever—

no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

the power of the Highest hover over you;

Therefore, the child you bring to birth

will be called Holy, Son of God.

“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now:

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.

Let it be with me

just as you say.

Then the angel left her.


The theologians have rendered us mindless God-slaves, wisps of cloudy wings, doing nothing but the bidding of the Mighty One. Theologians. There is so much they do not know.

I found her just as He said she would be found: sitting on her bedding, barefooted, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her knee-tops. I saw why she had gained the favor of the Mighty One. I liked this daughter-of-Eve-to-bethe-mother-of-God.

“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

I expected this. But unlike that old priest’s, hers was not the doubting of a skeptic but rather the wondering of a child.

“But how? I can’t see it.”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. Mary, you have nothing to fear.” The Mighty One had expressly said, “Herald the news, Gabriel. Don’t report it.” I would have liked to elaborate further, but Mary would have to live out the details of my news in days to come. Truths unlived are not truths.

Then she paused and looked away. I have spoken to many of God’s children, and their eyes are always transfixed on me. They should be. I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God. But Mary’s gaze wandered for a moment. But what I initially took for a distracted mind was rather a devoted heart.

Her eyes returned to me. “Let it be with me.” Ah, the Mighty One had chosen well. Her words were not

resigned, but faith-full. The faith of a child. Of such is the Mighty One’s kingdom.

“Cousin Elizabeth? Really? Old Elizabeth? But how?”

I laughed.

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God. Mary, you have nothing to fear. I have told you all you need to know for now. You are more ready than you realize, stronger than you know. God is with you. Now I must go.”

But I did not want to go. Faith is rare, at least true faith. Yes, the word is often used, but the reality is hard

to find. Yet here I found it, in an earthen vessel surrounded by an earthen room. I liked Mary.

I left her just as He said I would: barefooted, sitting on her bedding, knees pulled up to her chest, arms

wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her kneetops. She looked older now. Human eyes would not

recognize this, but mine have seen much.

The Mighty One had revealed glimpses to me, what days ahead would hold for this glorious girl. Her cousin’s leaping womb. Joseph’s broad shoulders. The back of a borrowed burro. Herod’s jealous-red face. The cries of the innocent. The breath of stable animals. The agony of pushing the Mighty One out into this world.

I found myself praying for the favored one. Mary had so much to carry.

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Touching Wonder by John Blase. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Literary Lapses 101: Part 3--Accept or Except

Today's diatribe concerns another extremely common confusion--whether to use accept or except. Probably part of the confusion is due to the way these words are pronounced. I pronounce them differently, but in some dialects they sound like homophones.

To accept something is to agree to something, to believe something is true, or to willingly receive something. Accept is a verb.

I accept this contract.

Do you accept the Bible as God's Word?

Maria didn't feel like she could accept the extravagant gift.

Except (usually a preposition or conjunction) means with the exception of, excluding, but or otherwise than.

Everyone was going to the ball except Cinderella.

I'm okay except for a headache.

It was a good plan except we didn't have enough money to carry it out.

It may help to think of the ex (X) in except as crossing something out. It's left out, excluded. Just like an ex-boyfriend is out of the picture. Accept, on the other hand, starts with an A like agree. Like a-okay. Tricks like these often help people remember troublesome words: I have to use a few memory jabbers as well.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Greetings: The Official Beginning

The First Thanksgiving by Jennie Brownscombe

So we Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture
Will give thanks to Thee forever;
To all generations we will tell of Thy praise. (Psalm 79:13)

Although the idea of our Thanksgiving Day is attributed to the early Pilgrims, the actual beginnings of the official celebration on the last Thursday of November dates back to a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863. To be honest, I don't think I ever read it until recently when I came across the text while looking for something else. It amazes me, first of all, that during the horrors of the Civil War a day was set aside to thank God and give Him praise. Today we're more likely to go into emergency pleading than praising when we face adversity. Here's the text of that great proclamation (from

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day
October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interview with Mike Mason, author of The Blue Umbrella

Q&A with Mike Mason, author of The Blue Umbrella

Where did you get your inspiration for The Blue Umbrella?

I live at the top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill, a couple of blocks down, is the real Porter’s Store. A few years ago I awoke in the middle of the night to a flash of insight. I recalled that when I was a little boy, many years ago and many miles away, I also lived at the top of a hill and at the bottom was an old store. How interesting! With this strange convergence of my present and past lives, the whole geography of a children’s fantasy novel flowed into my mind. I could set the story right in my own neighborhood! But it would really be the neighborhood of my childhood, which is the deepest source of all writerly inspiration.

There was also a third old store, Foster’s, which I knew as a young man living in a small prairie town. Old Mr. Foster was always talking about the weather and he even made up little poems about it. In winter he might say:
Snow, snow, the lovely snow,
You step on a bit and down you go.
Or on a rainy day he’d say:
Sun, sun, the beautiful sun,
It never shines, the son-of-a-gun!

Listening to Mr. Foster recite his silly poems, one day my imagination got to wondering what might really be going on in that store …

Which character is most like you?

There is quite a bit of me in Zac Sparks—in two ways. Firstly, as a little boy I was very active and excitable and I got into a fair amount of trouble. I used to climb on top of the piano and shout, “Jump, Mommy, jump!” and from wherever she was in the house my mother would have to come running to catch me. And I once pushed the neighborhood bully off a high stone wall into a big tub of water! I picture Zac, under normal circumstances, as being like that.

This story, however, does not take place under normal circumstances. Zac’s mother has died and he’s been plunged into a dark situation, so for most of the book he struggles with grief, shock, fear, and confusion. This changes him. While he still has “sparks” of mischief and excitability, on the whole his behavior is much subdued, his natural character repressed. Interestingly I think this side of him reflects, to some extent, my adult self. Life has a lot of hard experiences that can knock you sideways. At some level aren’t adults trying to get back to the fully alive children they once were?

So yes, I identify with Zac. But to say which character is most like me, I have to admit it’s Ches. I like Ches a lot—so much that I decided to write book two in the series from Ches’s point of view. Talk about repressed! Due to his background he has so many problems. But precisely because of that, he has a great journey to make from darkness to light.

Who is your favorite character?

Chelsea! I love her because she is the one who has most retained her childlikeness. Through her connection with Eldy, she has resisted all pressure to conform to the evil that has Five Corners in its grip. Book three in the series will be from Chelsea’s point of view and I can hardly wait to write it!

This story seems to be an allegory. Did you start out intending to write an allegory or did it just happen?

For years I’d written nonfiction books with a message, and I was tired of that. I had nothing more to tell anyone; instead I just wanted to tell a good story. I had just turned fifty and I realized that fiction is what I’d really wanted to write all along. Somehow I’d gotten away from that, and it was time to return to my original dream.

So with The Blue Umbrella I set out with no message in mind, no allegory, just a story. As I went along, I myself was very surprised at the spiritual depth that developed. But I don’t think this makes my book an allegory, so much as a work of literature with an allegorical dimension. An allegory tends to feel wooden because there is a clear one-to-one correspondence between all the elements of the story and some other reality. An allegory is so linked to what it represents that it cannot really stand on its own, whereas a good literary story, while it always points beyond itself, is fully alive in its own right.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from The Blue Umbrella?

Weather: how it looks and feels, and how it suggests something much more than meets the eye. I want readers to remember Zac in his room at the Aunties’ house, listening to the wind as it moves tree branches against his windowpane like someone tapping to be let in.

Have you ever wondered why weather is the number one topic of conversation? It seems like the smallest sort of small talk, but I think weather is really a very BIG topic. This is obvious in our own time, when the world is heading for climate disaster and everyone’s talking about it. But even just normal chitchat about weather is, I believe, far more significant than it appears. I think it’s a safe way for people to acknowledge something very important. We all have a deep yearning to discuss the big questions in life (such as “Why are we here?” and “What’s it all about?”), but often we cannot talk freely because there are so many different beliefs and it just gets really awkward. Weather, however, is something right in our faces that both deeply affects us and that we can all agree on. It’s perfectly obvious if it’s raining or snowing or the sun is shining, and it’s also perfectly obvious that such magnificent phenomena reflect a greater reality. Weather is the ultimate metaphor.

The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason
David C Cook/October 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6526-0/425 pages/softcover/$14.99

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Good Look at Bo's Cafe

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:

Bo's Café

Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)


High-powered executive Steven Kerner is living the dream in southern California. But when his bottled pain ignites in anger one night, his wife kicks him out. Then an eccentric mystery man named Andy Monroe befriends Steven and begins unravelling his tightly wound world. Andy leads Steven through a series of frustrating and revealing encounters to repair his life through genuine friendship and the grace and love of a God who has been waiting for him to accept it. A story to challenge and encourage, BO'S CAFE is a model for all who struggle with unresolved problems and a performance-based life. Those who desire a fuller, more authentic way of living will find this journey of healing a restorative exploration of God's unbridled grace.

I didn't get a review copy, so I haven't actually read the book myself...yet. The first chapter really got my attention, though, and it's now on my wish list. The publisher has set up a very interesting way to enter the excerpt as wwell. You'll see. Oh, and if you have the time, check out the website. Really cool.


Bruce McNicol is president of Leadership Catalyst, Inc. and an international speaker and consultant. He holds a master's in theology and a doctorate in organizational and leadership development. Previously he served for ten years as president of the international church planting organization Interest Associates.

Bill Thrall serves as vice-chair of Leadership Catalyst, mentor, and coauthor of the bestselling TrueFaced resources (, The Ascent of a Leader, andBeyond Your Best.

John Lynch is a national conference speaker and writer for LCI, holds a master's of theoology from Talbot Seminary, and has twenty years' experience as a teaching pastor of Open Door Fellowship. He's also cofounder and playwright of a theater troupe in Phoenix.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193517004X
ISBN-13: 978-1935170044


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Literary Lapses 101: Part 2--Possessive Perils

Today's pitfalls are more that most of us really know if we think about them, but we are either in too much of a hurry or content to let spellcheck take care of it all. Since these are all valid words, spellcheck doesn't help, and such elementary goofs look very unprofessional. The three sets of words today all include a possessive form, hence the title.


When you see them together, no doubt you know which is which. Your is a possessive adjective, something belongs to you.
This is your fault.
Your flowers are lovely.
Where did you leave your keys?

You're is a contraction for the two words you are.
You're stepping on my foot!
Where did you say you're going?
I hope you're picking up
your kids soon.


Again, when you see them together, you probably know which is which.

Their is the possessive for they: something belongs to them.
Their dog is barking again.
Isn't it their turn to buy?

There has several meanings, but it is most often either used as a pronoun or an adverb for location.
There is a better way.
There are five cats hanging around the bird feeder.
Put the sofa over there and the chair right here.
There he goes again!

They're is a contraction for they are.
They're coming for dinner.
Do you know what they're bringing?

The fun starts when more than one of the words is in the same sentence.
They're taking their kids over there after school.


These are often confused, and many of us need to think about which one to use before writing. It's easy to choose the wrong one because of the normal uses of an apostrophe.

ITS is the possessive when something belongs to it.
The bear protected its cubs.
The storm unleashed its full fury.

IT'S is the contraction for it is.
It's not easy being green.
Do you think it's time?
It's still licking its wounds.

Apostrophes are usually used for two reasons: 1) to take the place of dropped letters in a contraction. So it is becomes it's, we will becomes we'll. 2) in the possessive form of NOUNS, but not pronouns. Steve's car, the teachers' lounge, the dog's bone, Monday's child.

More on apostrophes in a later blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A FIRST Look at THE SWISS COURIER by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

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

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

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

The Swiss Courier

Revell (October 1, 2009)

{Although I haven't read this book, Tricia's past works were quite well-written and enjoyable. I hope to get a copy soon}


Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.

Visit the author's website.

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733363
ISBN-13: 978-0800733360


Working as a Swiss transcriptionist for the Americans during WWII, Gabi Mueller's life changes overnight when she's recruited as a spy for the precursor of the CIA.

Asked to safely courier a German physicist working on the budding Nazi atomic bomb project to the Swiss border, Gabi feels the weight of the war on her shoulders. But who can she trust?


To the Reader

In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.

Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.

Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.

Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.

An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.

What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.

This is that story . . .


Waldshut, Germany

Saturday, July 29, 1944

4 p.m.

He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.

Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.

His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of

Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.

Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.

Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.

His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.

Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.

Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.

Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,

the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.

Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.

Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had

to keep reminding himself of that.

Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red

armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.

She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green

uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.

She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was

to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.

“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.

“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.

He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.

Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.

“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”

Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.

A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.

Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.

A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.

“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.

Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.

Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to

know well.

One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.

As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.

Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.

The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.

“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.

Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.

What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.

With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.

“Don’t shoot!” one cried.

The sound of a police siren split the air.

“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.

The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.

Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”

Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.

Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.

They needed to find cover—

More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.

The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.

Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.

“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”

She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”

“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.

“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.

“But what if—”

“I’ll join you. Now go!”

Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.


Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping

with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.

I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.

Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.

Suzanne . . .

He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.

“Go,” Suzanne whispered.

“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”

Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.

Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of

black hair from her face.

Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with

the prisoner.

He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.

Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.

With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.

Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.

The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.

Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother

Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.

Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.

He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.

Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,

Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Okay. This has been weighing on my mind for quite some time now, and I just can't take it any more! Hardly anyone reads my blogs, I know, but I've got to let it out even if no one else sees it or benefits from it. What is this? The murder of the English language being carried out in published books and blogs that are written by people who consider themselves some sort of experts. The language is dying a slow death, but it seems to have sped up in recent years as people seem to be less and less aware that words really DO have meaning!

I know that everyone makes typographical errors; in fact, I am one of the worst for that because my fingers are terribly clumsy. Anyone who blogs or writes something for others to read should proofread before sending it, or publishing it, of course, but it's easy to miss things. After all, I know what I meant to write, so I may not notice a wrongly typed letter or two, and spellcheck doesn't always catch it.

But I'm not talking about typos. This isn't about email, chats, or dialog, either. Dialog should be conversational, so the non-standard English is fine. The problem is in blogs and, worse yet, articles and stories that are published. Not the dialog and conversational parts, but in narration. The narrative needs to adhere to the rules of accepted standard English or we don't communicate as well as we should. And as Christians, we are told, "whatsoever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men." (Col. 3:23) Yet so much of what is done in the name of Christ is just so-so, not our best, and non-believers don't expect anything Christian to be much good.

In the last two weeks, I read two books, already published, that look as if no one did any editing to them at all. If someone edited these two books, they didn't earn their pay.

So I'm going to try some weekly lessons on common goofs that I have seen in books, articles, professional blogs, and even the news! Today I'm picking on three error I have seen way too often.


This so messed up! THEN refers to time, the opposite of now. I went to the bank, and then I went to the mall. THAN is a word for comparison. This is more than enough. I like coffee more than tea. Your brother is nicer than mine.

Probably everyone reading this will agree and wonder why I even mentioned it, but I see it over and over again in blogs, articles, and even in the published novel I just read. The mistake is usually using then instead of than. I think most of the problems could be solved if the writer just thinks about what he or she already knows when proofing the writing.


This is one I have seen in four or five published novels in the past year--something I wouldn't have imagined before. It has appeared in lots of other writing as well.

LOOSE can mean to set free when used as a verb; in its more common use as an adjective, it means something that is not tight. A loose pair of pants might fall off. A loose woman or loose morals has to do with a tendency to be immoral. Loose rhymes with goose, moose, and noose. A goose on the loose needs to be caught. A loose noose might mean that the guy getting hung will live another day and even slip out.

LOSE, on the other hand, is pronounced with a -z- sound. None of the words spelled like it--at least none that I can think of--sound like it. Perhaps part of the confusion in spelling is because it rhymes with choose. Lose is the opposite of find or gain. I want to lose weight. Lose the attitude, mister. John knew that if he told Mary the truth, he would lose her forever.

Some of the sentences I read made humorous confusions (samples are not exact quotes):

-He had to loose that detective and fast. Is the detective bound and needs to be set free, or is he hot on the trail?

-Go on; let her loose. Is she chained up or in handcuffs, or does it looks like her gambling isn't going to pay off?

Other times it just doesn't make sense, but I was seriously confused sometimes and had to backtrack in my reading.


Snuck might be used commonly in everyday speech, but according to the dictionaries and grammar guides I consulted, it is NOT the accepted standard past tense for SNEAK (There was one exception that called it acceptable as an alternative in American English ). Now this is one mistake I started slipping into myself; when we hear and read something often enough, it starts to confuse the inner editor. That's why I looked it up several times now.

They like to sneak up on their dad when he's sleeping. But when they sneaked up on him this morning, they scared him.

When you write dialog or conversation, feel free to use snuck or brung or swang. If it fits your character, that is. In another lesson, I'll get into some other past tense puzzlers.

Friday, November 13, 2009

LIVE Michael W. Smith Online Sunday, Nov. 15

Michael W. Smith and Present

the "New Hallelujah Word Tour" Live from Wichita Sunday, November 15.

Before wrapping up the fall leg of the "New Hallelujah World Tour," Michael W. Smith and bring the show live to your home on Sunday, November 15 at 10pm eastern.

For the first time ever, Smith's "New Hallelujah Tour" will be broadcast online live at
( Fans can tune in before the show to watch exclusive video interviews with Michael W. Smith and the tour's special guests Matt Maher, Phil Stacey, and Meredith Andrews. Smith's tour mates will all be joining him on stage during his performance Sunday.
Previously, Smith has shared his enthusiasm about his tour mates, saying, "I'm excited about the artists traveling with me. Matt Maher, Phil Stacey and Meredith Andrews are all artists whose music I really enjoy personally, but they're also artists I respect because they each have something special to share. I'm thrilled to be sharing the stage with them."The "New Hallelujah Tour" kicked off October 22 in Orlando, Fla. and will wrap up in Albany, NY on November 21.
Michael W. Smith has toured extensively this year both on the "United Tour" with Steven Curtis Chapman and the "New Hallelujah World Tour" which took Smith's live show to Europe this summer.After multiple successful broadcasts, including a live interview with Michael W. Smith in support of his CD A New Hallelujah last fall, is thrilled to partner again with Smith to bring this unique opportunity to the fans.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day Memorial: My Personal Veteran Hero

I have a soft place in my heart for one special veteran of the US Armed Forces, an old soldier from World War II, one Sergeant George Thomas King. You won't find him in a history book or listed for heroic deeds above and beyond the call of duty. Yet he was a soldier and patriot through and through, one of the vast number who were proud to do their part for country and family. What makes him special? If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here. George Thomas King was my father.

Born in Kentucky in 1921, George Thomas King was not that different from many farm boys of the times. He did, however, lie about his age and join the cavalry while still a teenager. Back then the cavalry still rode horses. So it was that he was already quite experienced with the Kentucky National Guard--pulling duty at coal miners' strikes and natural disasters like floods-when the Kentucky Guard was nationalized for service during World War II. He traded in his horse for a ship. He was army all the way, but his job was mainly as a gunnery sergeant on transport ships that took men and supplies between Australia and the islands, sometimes arriving just hours after the Allies took control from the Japanese. It wasn't really as safe as it might sound, since he wasn't fighting on the front lines, because the Japanese soldiers and ships were still in the area many times. Friends and mates were sometimes shot around him, but I am thankful that he survived to come home and meet my mother after the War was over.

Every year when it was possible, my father would make a trip down to Monticello, Kentucky for the annual reunion of his old army buddies. Just before and after the reunion was about the only time he would reminisce, but it was so obvious how much that time and those buddies meant to him. I think it must have been the highlight of his life, really; it certainly had a profound effect on him. During the last part of his life, Alzheimer's began an attack that made it dangerous for him to try driving that familiar road, so my brother went with him one year and I took him the next. I had never been with him at the meetings before, and I discovered he wasn't the only one with a son or daughter there. It was a good experience for me to see these other men interacting with him. They all cared so much about him and had a great deal of respect for him. And it was amazing how much he remembered, in detail, of those long-ago days when he couldn't remember the road to take anymore.

That reunion was in September, a few weeks before he suffered a heart attack. The day he died was Veterans' Day--a most appropriate way to go for this proud old soldier. So Veterans' Day always makes me think about my dad most of all, and I remember the special bond between him and his comrades-in-arms. I still miss him tremendously, but the day doesn't bring sad memories so much as a feeling of pride and love.

Now to our veterans still here from many years of service, thank you for your gift to us and your country. God bless you all.

Veterans Day 2009 Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, November 6, 2009


Now--a sneak peek at Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Groves:

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Kevin was dead and the people in my house wouldn’t go home. They mingled after the funeral, eating sandwiches, drinking tea, and speaking in muffled tones. I didn’t feel grateful for their presence. I felt exactly nothing.

Funerals exist so we can close doors we’d rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake? I refused to pick at dainties and sip hot drinks. Instead, I wandered into the back yard.

I knew if I turned my head I’d see my mother’s back as she guarded the patio doors. Mom would let no one pass. As a recent widow herself, she knew my need to stare into my loss alone.

I sat on the porch swing and closed my eyes, letting the June sun warm my bare arms. Instead of closing the door on my pain, I wanted it to swing from its hinges so the searing winds of grief could scorch my face and body. Maybe I hoped to die from exposure.

Kevin had been dead three hours before I had arrived at the hospital. A long time for my husband to be dead without me knowing. He was so altered, so permanently changed without my being aware.

I had stood in the emergency room, surrounded by faded blue cotton curtains, looking at the naked remains of my husband while nurses talked in hushed tones around me. A sheet covered Kevin from his hips to his knees. Tubes, which had either carried something into or away from his body, hung disconnected and useless from his arms. The twisted remains of what I assumed to be some sort of breathing mask lay on the floor. “What happened?” I said in a whisper so faint I knew no one could hear. Maybe I never said it at all. A short doctor with a pronounced lisp and quiet manner told me Kevin’s heart killed him. He used difficult phrases; medical terms I didn’t know, couldn’t understand. He called it an episode and said it was massive. When he said the word massive, spit flew from his mouth, landing on my jacket’s lapel. We had both stared at it.

When my mother and sister, Heather, arrived at the hospital, they gazed speechlessly at Kevin for a time, and then took me home. Heather had whispered with the doctor, their heads close together, before taking a firm hold on my arm and walking me out to her car. We drove in silence to my house. The three of us sat around my kitchen table looking at each other.

Several times my mother opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Our words had turned to cotton, thick and dry. We couldn’t work them out of our throats. I had no words for my abandonment. Like everything I knew to be true had slipped out the back door when I wasn’t looking.

“What happened?” I said again. This time I knew I had said it out loud. My voice echoed back to me off the kitchen table.

“Remember how John Ritter died? His heart, remember?” This from Heather, my younger, smarter sister. Kevin had died a celebrity’s death.

From the moment I had received the call from the hospital until now, I had allowed other people to make all of my bereavement decisions. My mother and mother-in-law chose the casket and placed the obituary in the paper. Kevin’s boss at the bank, Donna Walsh, arranged for the funeral parlor and even called the pastor from the church that Kevin had attended until he was sixteen to come and speak. Heather silently held my hand through it all. I didn’t feel grateful for their help.

I sat on the porch swing, and my right foot rocked on the grass, pushing and pulling the swing. My head hurt. I tipped it back and rested it on the cold, inflexible metal that made up the frame for the swing. It dug into my skull. I invited the pain. I sat with it; supped with it.

I opened my eyes and looked up into the early June sky. The clouds were an unmade bed. Layers of white moved rumpled and languid past the azure heavens. Their shapes morphed and faded before my eyes. A Pegasus with the face of a dog; a veiled woman fleeing; a villain; an elf. The shapes were strange and unreliable, like dreams. A monster, a baby—I wanted to reach up to touch its soft, wrinkled face. I was too tired. Everything was gone, lost, emptied out.

I had arrived home from the hospital empty handed. No Kevin. No car—we left it in the hospital parking lot for my sister to pick up later. “No condition to drive,” my mother had said. She meant me.

Empty handed. The thought, incomplete and vague, crept closer to consciousness. There should have been something. I should have brought his things home with me. Where were his clothes? His wallet? Watch? Somehow, they’d fled the scene.

“How far could they have gotten?” I said to myself. Without realizing it, I had stood and walked to the patio doors. “Mom?” I said as I walked into the house.

She turned quickly, but said nothing. My mother didn’t just understand what was happening to me. She knew. She knew it like the ticking of a clock, the wind through the windows, like everything a person gets used to in life. It had only been eight months since Dad died. She knew there was little to be said. Little that should be said. Once, after Dad’s funeral, she looked at Heather and me and said, “Don’t talk. Everyone has said enough words to last for eternity.”

I noticed how tall and straight she stood in her black dress and sensible shoes. How long must the dead be buried before you can stand straight again? “What happened to Kevin’s stuff?” Mom glanced around as if checking to see if a guest had made off with the silverware.

I swallowed hard and clarified. “At the hospital. He was naked.” A picture of him lying motionless, breathless on the white sheets filled my mind. “They never gave me his things. His, whatever, belongings. Effects.”

“I don’t know, Kate,” she said. Like it didn’t matter. Like I should stop thinking about it. I moved past her, careful not to touch her, and went in search of my sister.

Heather sat on my secondhand couch in my living room, a two seater with the pattern of autumn leaves. She held an empty cup and a napkin; dark crumbs tumbling off onto the carpet. Her long brown hair, usually left down, was pulled up into a bun. She looked pretty and sad. She saw me coming, her brown eyes widening in recognition. Recognition that she should do something. Meet my needs, help me, make time stand still. She quickly ended the conversation she was having with Kevin’s boss, and met me in the middle of the living room.

“Hey,” she said, touching my arm. I took a small step back, avoiding her warm fingers.

“Where would his stuff go?” I blurted out. Heather’s eyebrows snapped together in confusion. “Kevin’s things,” I said. “They never gave me his things. I want to go and get them. Will you come?”

Heather stood very still for a moment, straight backed like she was made of wood, then relaxed. “You mean at the hospital. Right, Kate? Kevin’s things at the hospital?” Tears welled in my eyes. “There was nothing. You were there. When we left, they never gave e anything of his.” I realized I was trembling.

Heather bit her lower lip, and looked into my eyes. “Let me do that for you. I’ll call the hospital—” I stood on my tiptoes and opened my mouth. “I’ll go,” she corrected before I could say anything. “I’ll go and ask around. I’ll get his stuff and bring it here.”

“I need his things.”

Heather cupped my elbow with her hand. “You need to lie down. Let me get you upstairs, and as soon as you’re settled, I’ll go to the hospital and find out what happened to Kevin’s clothes, okay?”

Fatigue filled the small spaces between my bones. “Okay.” She led me upstairs. I crawled under the covers as Heather closed the door, blocking the sounds of the people below.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Observations on Grief

A major theme in Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove is how people deal with grief. The fact is, in spite of the steps of grieving outlined by psychologists, the individual reactions and timelines for this process are as varied and individual as people are in all other ways. C. S. Lewis wrote two books about suffering loss and grieving. The first, The Problem of Pain (1940) was a scholarly and scripturally sound offering that gave readers pat answers for coping with grief. At the time of its writing, Lewis was a confirmed bachelor and the quintessential Oxford Don. Then he married Joy Gresham and watched her struggle with painful bone cancer until her death. In 1961 he wrote a new book, A Grief Observed, now with the experience of the overwhelming specter of personal grief, experience that is more than the 'answers' really addressed. I am also reminded of a song title--"When Answers Aren't Enough, There is Jesus" (Scott Wesley Brown). True, the only answer that really counts in the end is Jesus, but when a spouse, daughter, or parent has died, we usually aren't looking for answers as much as solace. Like I heard in another song, some of us have heard all the answers and even quote the verses to others, but when grief becomes personal, that isn't enough.

There is a time in the book when Kate asks her mother, "Is it going to get better?" Her mother's answer is profoundly accurate. "It's going to get different...I'm referring to the way you're feeling. About losing Kevin. About grief and loss and sadness. It changes...It seems to me that feelings are the most unreliable things."

I couldn't count the number of times that I've heard someone say, "I don't know how people make it if they don't know the Lord" (or words to that effect). I usually nod in agreement. During our times of grief and sorrow, we really can cry out to Jesus and let Him hold us. In a spiritual sense, anyway; there is still a yearning for flesh-and-blood contact, though, like a person's shoulder to cry on. Kate, the main character in Talking to the Dead, is one of those people who doesn't know the Lord. The book does an in-depth study of her paralyzing grief that overtakes her when her husband dies quite suddenly. Most of us have known cases similar enough to this that we feel empathy for this poor widow. To make it worse, her father died suddenly just a short time before the story began, and her mother is still working through her own deep grief. Emptiness. A great aching void. Haunting loneliness. Then she starts hearing Kevin talk to her.

In the book, Kate's mother found help by reading books about coping with grief. Maggie decided to change her life and get busy with lots of stuff. I know in my own case it helped doing things to benefit others, and I got super-involved with ministries at my church. Some people need to talk it all out and cry with a friend or two, but others don't want to talk at all.

Then there is the reaction of other people. So often it seems that they expect everyone to get over it, buck up, and get on with life after a few days. The truth is, even for those who deal with grief in the best ways, life is never going to go on exactly like it did before. Kate is an extreme example of this, perhaps, but as it turns out, she has a lot more baggage than it appears at first glance. She is a true case if someone who needs special assistance to plug in to life again. Unfortunately, she is also an example of what can happen when the helpers she finds are bad news. The good news is that God reaches out to the seeker and the lost, and this very lost young woman 'accidentally' runs into the one person God has chosen to give her the help she needs. It still isn't an instant solution--real life doesn't find resolution in an hour like on television. But with patience and care, the Holy Spirit draws her in. The love of God finally fills the deep void in her soul. Now I know I'm giving away a big part of the story (You probably expected it anyway), but it's important for us to dwell on the power of God's love over everything else. And when people we know are in the depths of grief, we need to embody the love of God as we are in contact with them. Patient, loving, drawing back at times, but ready to lend a shoulder for their tears as needed. I believe, as in any other case, really, it's important to bathe our actions and conversations with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide. One size doesn't fit all.

Although this was more a rambling of my thoughts than a book review, it was triggered by reading Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. It has been well received by all the readers that I know and appeals to a wide audience. You can read an excerpt here tomorrow.

To learn more about Bonnie Grove and her books, check out her website.

Purchase Talking to the Dead at
Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

TALKING TO THE DEAD--Ghosts in a Christian Book?

My first thoughts when I started reading Talking to the Dead were, "What kind of Christian book is this? Christians don't believe in ghosts, other than the Holy Ghost." In other words, I was skeptical at best as I tackled the story.

Happily, it soon became apparent that Bonnie Grove wasn't writing a script for Ghost Whisperer. It does get a little creepy for a while, though, and I don't want to spoil the story by saying too much. Actually, there isn't ever a full explanation of the phenomenon of Kate hearing her dead husband talking to her.

Whoa--I guess I'm getting ahead of myself here, jumping right into the middle of the story. It seems that Kevin Davis, a young, upwardly mobile bank employee, has died quite suddenly while away from home. He was already dead and in the hospital before his wife, Kate, was even notified. The devoted wife was understandably in shock and stayed there for days. Her mother, sister, and Kevin's best friend Blair all stepped in to take care of the arrangements while Kate remained in a zombie-like state. It was too much to register; how could her husband of only seven years be gone like that?

The first time Kate hears Kevin talking to her is that night after the funeral. She was upstairs in the bedroom, and it freaked her out enough that she didn't go back upstairs for several days. Instead, she camped out on the living room floor, more or less in a fetal position. She wasn't coping with life after his death well at all, but she also wasn't letting others help her out. Her mother, who had just been widowed a few months earlier, brought over a bunch of books that had helped her get through her grief, but Kate just pushed them aside. When her sister Heather tried to clean up the dishes for her, she woke up a bit from her catatonic state and screamed at Heather to go away and leave her alone. It's hard to help someone who refuses to be helped, but as days passed this way, everyone become increasingly alarmed. Enter eccentric Maggie, an older lady, an acquaintance of Kate's mother, who has a pushy way of putting her two cents' worth in. By this time, though, Kate was starting to realize she might be grieving in an unhealthy way, and after mulling it over a bit, calls Maggie back to get the list of counselors from her. Slowly, Kate begins a journey through her grief, trying to find her sanity, but some of the counselors she runs into make it worse. All the while, Kevin pops up unexpectedly talking to her about things, even yelling at her, which was uncharacteristic. Of course, his appearances and conversations, things she doesn't dare tell anyone else, eventually convince Kate that she must be losing her mind. But it seems so real! And why does he tell her things she wouldn't otherwise know, like the location of his important papers, if it isn't real?

Kate spends a lot of time reminiscing-- her wedding, an anniversary, different moments of life with Kevin. It appears that they were madly in love, one of those nearly perfect couples. And yet...before too long there is a little crack developing. Something was amiss, but what? I don't want to give away any clues before you read it for yourselves, but Kevin had some secrets. And Kate had lost memories of the most recent times--she didn't remember the last time she saw Kevin alive--which slowly come back to her in flashes.

Oh, by the way, neither Kate nor her mother know anything about God. He hasn't come into the picture at all, and when Kate first thinks about Him, it's in a negative way: if there is a God, how could He let such horrible things happen? She even talks to a famous preacher called a 'miracle man' who makes her feel worse than ever. Forget this angry God. Then, quite by accident, she meets a really unconventional preacher while he's playing basketball with some young punks. Little by little, he introduces her to the love of God and the idea of a God who actually cares about her. This 'chance' meeting takes Kate in a new direction, one he didn't even know was there.

Talking to the Dead is a powerful piece of writing. Even the style changes as Kate herself changes: short, staccato sentence and fragments in the beginning emphasize the grief and shock that Kate undergoes. It's hard to breath or feel, and those of us who have known grief can identify. As her story unfolds and she seeks help, however, the style become more fluid and flowing. It's very much psychological suspense, but that doesn't exclude action. In fact, Kate's actions get pretty out-of-control before it's all over--it isn't a case of total recovery and peace once she hears about a loving God. I found myself surprised more than once by the events whenever Kate turned a corner. For me, the most powerful thing was the expression of how grief plays out with different people. I'll write more about that tomorrow. Mrs. Grove also skillfully dropped new hints to the 'whole' story little by little as the tale grew. As it turned out, there was so much more going on than just tragic death and widowhood. The writing evoked lots of different emotions for me, even made me laugh a little bit with the unsinkable Maggie.

The only thing that disappointed me, really, was that I didn't see any mention of Jesus. The love of God is key, but the sacrificial love doesn't enter the picture, unless I missed it. However, not every book written from a Christian worldview has to go through the entire plan of salvation, so I'm not going to dwell on this. It leads in that direction, and it is obvious that God's love was a crucial missing ingredient in Kate' life.

Overall, I can truly recommend Talking to the Dead. It is most definitely an adult book although older teens would also enjoy it. I tend to think of it as a suspense story, although it is also the story of a romance and much, much more. The intensity builds in such a way that the reader doesn't want to put it down until reaching the end. It isn't a romance novel, although that's a part of it, so I guess I'd have to recommend it for a general audience.


Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a manual typewriter, and she hasn’t stopped since. Trained in Christian Counseling (Emmanuel Bible College, Kitchener, ON), and secular psychology (University of Alberta), she developed and wrote social programs for families at risk while landing articles and stories in anthologies. She is the author of Working Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You; Talking to the Dead is her first novel. Grove and her pastor husband, Steve, have two children; they live in Saskatchewan.

You can learn more about her at her website, ( I love the subtitle: "Life is messy. God is love.")

Purchase Talking to the Dead at
Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.