Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Soldier's Devotion

Slam! Before he can even react, Vince Reardon found himself catapulted off his Harley and into the rain-sodden intersection. Inside he is seething with rage at the stupid lady driver who hit him. She was too distracted on her cell phone to notice him in time to stop, and now his precious bike was splattered all over the road. If he wasn't in so much pain, Vince would have probably exploded in anger, but instead the woman saw a vulnerable part of him that he kept hidden. Worse yet, she was one of those praying Christians who insisted on praying over him unti the paramedics came. She pitied him, something he couldn't stand. Even worse still, she turned out to be a lawyer, the lowest form of life in Vince's opinion.

Cheryl Wyatt's latest novel, A Soldier's Devotion, starts off with a van-motorcycle wreck, promising action and tension from the very first sentence. In the sixth story of the Wings of Refuge series published by Love Inspired Books, the most cynical and crusty member of the Pararescue Jumpers is featured. Vince Reardon has already shown himself to be antagonistic to God, church, and Christians. He's a hard-drinking, sarcastic, biker dude who likes easy women and parties hard. Ironically, though, Vince is totally dedicated to his special ops team and their rescue work, belying a tender heart underneath all that grump and gruffness. He bemoans the fact that more and more of his team members are going "over to the enemy" by becoming Christian, yet he has a high level of respect for all these guys. His team members understand him better than he supposes: they know he has some deep hurts that have turned him bitter and hard.

Enter Valerie Russo, the van-wielding attorney who makes a bad--and painful--first impression on Vince. She believes God has brought her across his path for a purpose, in spite of the bad beginning, and she is determined to get through to him. So begins a battle of wills and stubbornness, with occasional misunderstandings alons the way.

Vince is the toughest of the team addressed so far, but as the story unfolds we learn what made him the way he is; the hardships of his life have served to both toughen him  for his job and to insulate him from human contact. He cares for others, as he shows with the teens, but he is afraid to open up with peers.

In a secondary story, a group of at-risk teenagers are introduced. They serve to bring Val and Vince together, but through them a serious social issue is addressed. This time it's abuse. Each one of Cheryl's books has included some issue like this, real issues that teens and adults deal with every day.

Cheryl Wyatt has a strong grasp on scripture and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus, and once again it shines through her writing. Her Christian characters live their faith in their daily lives; this is what makes a difference in each of her stories. Two of the guys have been praying for Vince for five years; patiently being real in front of him and not pouncing. There is an understanding here about  things happening in God's time and in God's way.

While A Soldier's Devotion is a part of a series, it definitely can stand alone. The characters from other books walk in and out of the story, but each novel is independent. It is a romance novel, so certain developments are fairly obvious from the beginning, but it still has nuances, turns, and humor that make it lively. Teens (at least 14 or so, anyway) will enjoy it as well as adults.

The way Love Inspired Books work, this will only be on shelves until the end of January in many stores. I found it at a large Kroger Store; I found Cheryl's other books at Target, Meijer's and Walmart. But since I got this review up so late, you can get it online after January ends at such sites as, Barnes  and Noble, and

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Steeple Hill (June 1, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0373875320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373875320

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Literary Lapses 101 #5: Peeked, Peaked, or Piqued?

Thanks to Grace Bridges for reminding me about this one. This confusion is one I see often enough, but I had forgotten about it, and since Grace brought it up a few days ago, I have seen two glaring mix-ups in online magazines.

Easiest one first: PEEKED. When a guy glanced quickly at something he wasn't supposed to see, he peeked. If a girl was blindfolded for pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and could see under the bottom of the blindfold, she peeked. The game babies love to play is peek-a-boo.

The incidents we notice most often with book and other reviews come about when someone writes about interest or curiosity being aroused by something. My personal theory: it is so widely confused because people have often heard the phrases but not seen them written out.

This review has piqued my interest.
Her curiosity was piqued by his bizarre behavior.
My interest peaked a couple of days ago, but now it bores me.
Alice's curiosity peaked when the rabbit popped into a hole; she had to follow him. 

PIQUED comes from Old  French for pricked. It's a synonym for incited, aroused, goaded, stimulated, stirred. It can also mean vexed or irritated, as in Margo was piqued when the governor ignored her. It seems to go in two different directions, but the core meaning goes back to the origin.

PEAKED has to do with a point, an apex, the summit or highest or maximum degree. So, your interest in something or someone may peak, reaching a climax or high point, and then plateau or decrease. However,  your interest is piqued when you first feel excited about something (or someone). Notice the difference in how peaked and piqued are used with curiosity or interest.

And while I'm at it, I thought about this phrase I heard all my life but didn't know how to spell--until I looked it up this morning. If someone looks pale and sickly, my Kentucky relatives always said "he  looks a little [peekid]." It doesn't follow the meanings of any of the three words, so which one do you think is the right word? (No peeking ahead now)

He looks a little peaked is correct. Go figure. (Actually, my aunt would say "a might peaked")

Sunday, January 24, 2010

THICKER THAN BLOOD--It All Comes Back to Relationships

Today is the last day of a week long blog tour for C. J. Darlington's award-winning novel Thicker Than Blood, and I found myself still thinking about the book. In particular, I've been thinking about the themes, the spiritual content, the major issues and just what it is that appeals to me. By and large, it seems to come around to relationships.  The more I ruminated, the more I realized that it's all about relationships--various and sundry relationships--and God's way of running them.

In the review posted earlier I dealt with other, more exciting matters, but I also brought up this issue a bit. How could I ignore it with that title? In most novels, authors tend to gravitate to the easiest relationship to write about, a romantic or dating relationship. C. J. starts her story with one of these, but it doesn't lead to the usual path. In fact, Christy's unhealthy relationship with Vince serves as a cautionary tale: this is NOT God's will for your life! While there are some undertones of other possible romantic interests, I applaud the author's decision to steer away from the easy and often-trod trail, instead focusing on other types of relationships.

What relationships? Let's start with the less obvious.First, there are right and wrong examples of how an employer-employee relationship should be. Vince and his employer = wrong. Vince is a cheating, lying person with no loyalty to his boss. The hired hand at the ranch and May and her partner = a healthy business relationship. He takes nothing from them beyond his wage, shows proper respect and gives much more than a minimum amount of work. Christy has some from both sides, but she wants to be a good and trustworthy employee. In her we see the struggle. Relationship two: partnership. May and Ruth have a healthy partnership at the ranch, based on God's principles. It doesn't mean that they have no problems, but their consciences are clear and they know God will meet their needs one way or another. Some of the practices of certain booksellers contrast with them. Third is friendship, mainly represented by May and the vet. This is an example of "a friend who sticks closer than a brother," er, sister (Proverbs 18:24).

Then there are the blood relationships. Vince and his father had a very unhealthy relationship; the bookstore owner and his son are strained (the father prefers Vince's company to his loyal son). May grew up with her aunt in a very loving relationship in a house where God was honored. Before they died, Christy and May's parents provided a loving home for the girls, although there were some problems. And of course, the big one is the relationship between Christy and May. May has yearned for a reconnection to her sister, never understanding why she had abandoned her. Christy just knows that something is missing.

Of course the biggest relationship is the one that gave rise to the title. What could be thicker than blood? A relationship with God, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the relationship that can turn all others right. If a person seeks God first, all else shall be added. Now, this novel doesn't suggest that once a person turns her life over to Christ all her troubles disappear. No, it is obvious that the trials and struggles are still there, even worse sometimes. But following God's path is the only way to get all the relationships straight. Blood means a lot, but Jesus' blood means everything.

You can read the first chapter here.

For more about C. J. Darlington and her writing, check out her website.

 Thicker Than Blood is available at many Christian and regular bookstores. Online, you can purchase it from Christianbook, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (Dec. 3, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1414334486
ISBN-13: 978-1414334486 

My thanks to Tyndale House for sending me a review copy of Thicker Than Blood. My opinions and thoughts are my own and not influenced by anyone else.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland

It was a long wait for me before I could buy and read Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland. It was published in the UK a year before the United States release, and I saw a copy back in 2008 when I first met the author, Cindy Thomson. Finally, I was able to sit down to really enjoy this precious gem this past week. Well, the wait was long, but I feel like it was worth it.

Celtic Wisdom  wasn't exactly what I expected. For some reason I had it in my mind that this was a collection of quotes and sayings. There are many quotes, sayings, and traditional blessings scattered throughout the book, but those are just a small portion of it. And they are an important part, as are the wonderful photographs of Ireland that appear on nearly every other page. More properly, though, this is a brief history of Early Christianity in Ireland, a history that I was far more ignorant about than I realized. It begins with the three most important figures in Irish Christianity: Patrick, Brigid, and Columcille (also known as Columba). I thought I knew a fair amount about Patrick, but I was astounded at how much more is actually known about him. Brigid and Columcille were only names to me up until now, and it's a little embarrassing that someone who proudly tells people she has Irish ancestors would know so little about these heroes of Irish faith. After covering the top three, Cindy introduces us to several other people who were notable in the early Irish church. She also gives great insight to the culture of the time, a culture which seemed to be ready to accept true Christianity at a time when the Roman world was being overrun by pagan ideas  in that wave that plunged Europe into the Dark Ages.

What did I learn from this brief, 95 page package stuffed full of treasures? Plenty. I didn't realize the role Ireland played in preserving scripture and true Christianity during the Dark Ages; it was further isolated from the rest of Europe, even England, than I had considered. I learned that the monastic life in Ireland was a far cry from anywhere else, and that the Roman rules didn't apply. Did you know that there were married priests in Ireland? And women clergy? Neither did I. Many of us knew that Patrick was a missionary from England, but maybe others are as ignorant as I was of how Ireland then returned the favor, sending out missionaries to other countries to  re-introduce the fundamentals and truths of the Bible. Patrick's Confession  was a far larger and more important document than I knew before, and after reading the translated excerpts in Celtic Wisdom, I am determined to seek a translated copy of the whole thing. The whole culture of the early Irish Christians appears to be much closer to the New Testament church than I ever imagined. It was reassuring to know, yet it left a feeling of sadness as I wondered at the changes over time. But this can be said of the state of the church everywhere today.

Celtic Wisdom  is a rather scholarly work, complete with bibliography (as it should be). Since much of what is known of that time is based on oral tradition and legends, those are included. Often Cindy Thomson recounts  traditional stories and legends without any comment as to their veracity, leaving it to the reader to decide what to accept and what to take with a grain of salt. On occasion she offers plausible alternatives, as in the true origin of the legend that Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. She also provides insight into the shamrock legend and the importance of Three in Old Ireland (I noted to myself that three has great significance throughout the Bible as well). Some of the legends I found amusing, but all of them lead to a better understanding to that early group of Christians.

I wish my printer was working so I could give you an idea of the pictures that grace this book. The publisher or editor chose them, not Cindy, but they do add significantly to the value (and, I suppose, to the price). For some reason, the publisher didn't write any information directly under the photos, so you have to look in the back of he book if you want to know what you're looking at. A minor flaw, and one that has no bearing on Mrs. Thomson's marvelous work.

Make Celtic Wisdom a part of your library, but leave it on the coffee table for others to pick up and enjoy as well. Only 95 pages--small, but that actually makes it more accessible for those of us who are always too hurried to sit down to a longer scholarly work. Well researched and enlightening, Celtic Wisdom  is a real treasure.

You can learn more about Cindy Thomson and her writings at her website, Cindy's Writing and her blog, Celtic Voices. She also has a page on Shoutlife and Facebook.

Celtic Wisdom should be available through most bookstores, Christian emphasis or otherwise. Online, you may order it through Christianbook (best price I found at $7.99), Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland by Cindy Thomson
Publisher: Lion Hudson ( (2008 UK printing; Sept., 2009 USA)
ISBN-10: 0745953255
ISBN-13: 978-0745953250

This review was completely unsolicited with no compensation given to me. I actually bought the book myself!

Friday, January 22, 2010

BE AUTHENTIC by Dr. Warren Wiersbe--an Excerpt

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review!  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:

Warren Wiersbe

and the book:

Be Authentic

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

David C. Cook is releasing revised, updated editions of several of Dr. Warren Wiersbe's popular Bible studies.
Be Authentic (A Study of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph from Genesis 25 - 50) shares how we can pursue authentic relationships with others and God.


A man who has given his life to a deep examination of the Word of God, Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher, former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago and the author of more than 150 books. For over thirty years, millions have come to rely on the timeless wisdom of Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s “Be” Commentary series. Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary and insights on Scripture have helped readers understand and apply God’s Word with the goal of life transformation. Dubbed by many as the “pastor’s pastor,” Dr. Wiersbe skillfully weaves Scripture with historical explanations and thought-provoking questions, communicating the Word in such a way that the masses grasp its relevance for today.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (January 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1434766306

ISBN-13: 978-1434766304


Like Father , Like Son—Almost

(Genesis 25—26)

Isaac was the son of a famous father (Abraham) and the father of a famous son (Jacob), and for those reasons he is sometimes considered a lightweight among the patriarchs. Compared to the exploits of Abraham and Jacob, Isaac’s life does seem conventional and commonplace. Although he lived longer than either Abraham or Jacob, only six chapters are devoted to Isaac’s life in the Genesis record, and only one verse in Hebrews 11 (v. 9).

Isaac was a quiet, meditative man (Gen. 24:63), who would rather pack up and leave than confront his enemies. During his long life, he didn’t travel far from home. Abraham had made the long journey from Haran to Canaan, and had even visited Egypt, and Jacob went to Haran to get a wife, but Isaac spent his entire adult life moving around in the land of Canaan. If there had been an ancient Middle East equivalent to our contemporary “jet set,” Isaac wouldn’t have joined it.

However, there are more Isaacs in this world than there are Abrahams or Jacobs, and these people make important contributions to society and to the church, even if they don’t see their names in lights or even in the church bulletin. Furthermore, Isaac was a living part of the divine plan that eventually produced the Jewish nation, gave us the Bible, and brought Jesus Christ into the world, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Isaac wasn’t a failure; he was just different. After all, the people in each generation have to find themselves and be themselves and not spend their lives slavishly trying to imitate their ancestors. “Men are born equal,” wrote psychiatrist Erich Fromm in Escape from Freedom, “but they are also born different.” Discovering our uniqueness and using it to the glory of God is the challenge that makes life what it is. Why be a cheap imitation when you can be a valuable original?

No generation stands alone, because each new generation is bound to previous generations whether we like it or not. Isaac was bound to Abraham and Sarah by ties that couldn’t be ignored or easily broken. Let’s look at some of those ties and discover what they teach us about our own life of faith today.


Abraham recognized his other children by giving them gifts and sending them away, thereby making sure they couldn’t supplant Isaac as the rightful heir. Along with his father’s immense wealth (13:2; 23:6), Isaac also inherited the covenant blessings that God had given Abraham and Sarah (12:1–3; 13:14–18; 15:1–6). Isaac had parents who believed God and, in spite of occasional mistakes, tried to please Him.

Abraham’s firstborn son, Ishmael (chap. 16), wasn’t chosen to be the child of promise and the heir of the covenant blessings. God promised to bless Ishmael and make him a great nation, and He kept His promise (17:20–21; 25:12–16); “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac” (17:21;

Rom. 9:6–13). Ishmael was on hand for his father’s funeral (Gen. 25:9), but he wasn’t included in the reading of his father’s will.

Ishmael pictures the “natural” or unsaved person (1 Cor. 2:14), who is outside the faith and hostile to the things of God. But Isaac pictures those who have trusted Jesus Christ and experienced the miraculous new birth by the power of God (1 Peter 1:22–23). “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). Ishmael was born a slave, but Isaac was born free (4:21–31; 5:1–2); and Ishmael was born poor, but Isaac was born rich. Every believer in Jesus Christ shares all the blessings of the Spirit in Christ (Eph. 1:3) and is part of Christ’s glorious inheritance (vv. 11, 18).

From the moment of birth, we’re all dependent on the older generation to care for us until we can care for ourselves. We’re also indebted to previous generations for guarding and handing down to us the knowledge, skills, traditions, and culture that are extremely important to daily life. Imagine what life would be like if each new generation had to devise the alphabet, invent printing, discover electricity, or design the wheel!

The most important part of Isaac’s legacy wasn’t the great material wealth his father had left him. Isaac’s most important legacy was the spiritual wealth from his father and mother: knowing and trusting the true and living God and being a part of the covenant blessings that God had graciously bestowed upon Abraham and Sarah and their descendants. How tragic it is when the children of devout Christian believers turn their backs on their priceless spiritual heritage and, like Ishmael and Esau, live for the world and the flesh instead of for the Lord!


Genesis is a record of ten successive “generations.” Generations come and go, but the Lord remains and never changes. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Ps. 90:1 NKJV).

A devoted home (vv. 19–20). When Isaac was forty years old, God selected Rebekah to be his wife (chap. 24; 25:20), and we have every reason to believe that they were both devoted to the Lord and to each other. The record indicates that Rebekah was the more aggressive of the two when it came to family matters, but perhaps that’s just the kind of wife Isaac needed. Whatever mistakes Isaac may have made as a husband and father, this much is true: As a young man, he willingly put himself on the altar to obey his father and to please the Lord (chap. 22; Rom. 12:1–2).

A disappointed home (v. 21). Isaac and Rebekah waited twenty years for a family, but no children came. The entire book of Genesis emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the wisdom of His “delays.” Abraham and Sarah had to wait twenty-five years for Isaac to be born; Jacob had to labor fourteen years to obtain his two wives; and Joseph had to wait over twenty years before he was reconciled to his brothers. Our times are in His hands (Ps. 31:15), and His timing is never wrong.

Like Abraham, Isaac was a man of prayer, so he interceded with the Lord on behalf of his barren wife. Isaac had every right to ask God for children because of the covenant promises the Lord had made to his father and mother, promises Isaac had heard repeated in the family circle and that he believed. If Rebekah remained barren, how could Abraham’s seed multiply as the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens? How could Abraham’s seed become a blessing to the whole world (Gen. 12:1–3; 13:16; 15:5; 17:6)?

It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get our will done in heaven but to get God’s will done on earth. Even though every Jewish couple wanted children, Isaac wasn’t praying selfishly. He was concerned about God’s plan for fulfilling His covenant and blessing the whole world through the promised Messiah (3:15; 12:1–3). True prayer means being concerned about God’s will, not our own wants, and claiming God’s promises in the Word. The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer and enabled Rebekah to conceive.

A distressed home (vv. 22–23). One problem soon led to another, because Rebekah’s pregnancy was a difficult one: The babies in her womb were struggling with each other. The Hebrew word means “to crush or oppress,” suggesting that the fetal movements were not normal. Since Rebekah wondered if the Lord was trying to say something to her, she went to inquire. Isaac was fortunate to have a wife who not only knew how to pray, but who also wanted to understand God’s will for herself and her children.

In salvation history, the conception and birth of children is a divinely ordained event that has significant consequences. This was true of the birth of Isaac (chaps. 18, 21), the twelve sons of Jacob (29:30—30:24), Moses (Ex. 1—2), Samuel (1 Sam. 1—2), David (Ruth 4:17–22), and our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:4–5). Conception, birth, and death are divine appointments, not human accidents, a part of God’s wise and loving plan for His own people (Ps. 116:15; 139:13–16).

Imagine Rebekah’s surprise when she learned that the two children would struggle with each other all their lives! Each child would produce a nation, and these two nations (Edom and Israel) would compete, but the younger would master the older. Just as God had chosen Isaac, the second-born, and not Ishmael, the firstborn, so He chose Jacob, the second-born, and not Esau, the firstborn. That the younger son should rule the elder was contrary to human tradition and logic, but the sovereign God made the choice (Rom. 9:10–12), and God never makes a mistake.

A divided home (vv. 24–28). Esau probably means “hairy.” He also had the nickname “Edom,” which means “red,” referring to his red hair and the red lentil soup Jacob sold him (vv. 25, 30). The twin boys not only looked different but they also were different in personality. Esau

was a robust outdoorsman, who was a successful hunter, while Jacob was a “home boy.” You would think that Isaac would have favored Jacob, since both of them enjoyed domestic pursuits, but Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. Rebekah was a hands-on mother who knew what was going on in the home and could contrive ways to get what she thought was best.

It’s unfortunate when homes are divided because parents and children put their own personal desires ahead of the will of God. Isaac enjoyed eating the tasty game that Esau brought home, a fact that would be important in later family history (chap. 27). Isaac, the quiet man, fulfilled his dreams in Esau, the courageous man, and apparently ignored the fact that his elder son was also a worldly man. Did Isaac know that Esau had forfeited his birthright? The record doesn’t tell us. But he did know that God had chosen the younger son over the elder son.

A friend of mine kept a card under the glass on his office desk that read: “Faith is living without scheming.” Jacob could have used that card. Before his birth, he had been divinely chosen to receive the birthright and the blessing; thus there was no need for him to scheme and take advantage of his brother. It’s likely that Jacob had already seen plenty of evidence that Esau didn’t care about spiritual things, an attitude that made Esau unfit to receive the blessing and accomplish God’s will. Perhaps Jacob and his mother had even discussed the matter.

The name “Jacob” comes from a Hebrew word (yaaqob) that means “may God protect,” but because it sounds like the words aqeb (“heel”) and aqab (“watch from behind” or “overtake”), his name became a nickname: “he grasps the heel” or “he deceives.” Before birth, Jacob and Esau had contended, and at birth, Jacob grasped his brother’s heel. This latter action was interpreted to mean that Jacob would trip up his brother and take advantage of him. The prediction proved true.

The fact that God had already determined to give the covenant blessings to Jacob didn’t absolve anybody in the family from their obligations to the Lord. They were all responsible for their actions, because divine sovereignty doesn’t destroy human responsibility. In fact, knowing that we’re the chosen of God means we have a greater responsibility to do His will.


True faith is always tested, either by temptations within us or trials around us (James 1:1–18), because a faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. God tests us to bring out the best in us, but Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us. In one form or another, each new generation must experience the same tests as previous generations, if only to discover that the enemy doesn’t change and that human nature doesn’t improve. Abraham is mentioned eight times in this chapter, and you find the word “father” six times. Isaac was very much his father’s son. Abraham Lincoln was right: “We can not escape history.”

The temptation to run (vv. 1–6). When Abraham arrived in Canaan, he found a famine in the land and faced his first serious test of faith (12:10—13:4). His solution was to abandon the place God had chosen for him, the place of obedience, and to run to Egypt, thus establishing a bad example for his descendants who were prone to imitate him.5 The safest place in the world is in the will of God, for the will of God will never lead us where His grace can’t provide for us. Unbelief asks, “How can I get out of this,” while faith asks, “What can I get out of this?”

When Isaac faced the problem of a famine, he decided to go to Gerar, the capital city of the Philistines, and get help from Abimelech.6 Isaac and Rebekah were probably living at Beer Lahai Roi at that time (25:11), which means they traveled about seventy-five miles northeast to get to Gerar. Even after arriving in Gerar, Isaac and Rebekah may have been tempted to go south to Egypt, though God had warned them not to consider that possibility.

God permitted Isaac to remain in Philistia and promised to bless him. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be greatly multiplied and one day would possess all those lands. Thus Isaac had a right to be there as long as God approved (12:2–3; 13:16; 15:5; 17:3–8; 22:15–18). God blessed Isaac for Abraham’s sake (25:5, 24), just as He has blessed believers today for the sake of Jesus Christ.

We can never successfully run away from trials, because God sees to it that His children learn the lessons of faith regardless of where they go. We can never grow in faith by running from difficulty, because “tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character” (Rom.

5:3–4 NKJV). Like David, we may wish we had “wings like a dove” so we could “fly away and be at rest” (Ps. 55:6 NKJV), but if we did, we’d always be doves when God wants us to “mount up with wings as eagles” (Isa. 40:31).

The temptation to lie (vv. 7–11). Isaac could flee from famine, but when he put himself into a situation that offered no escape, he had to turn to deception to protect himself. Abraham committed this same sin twice, once in Egypt (Gen. 12:14–20) and once in Philistia (chap. 20). Remember, faith is living without scheming, and telling lies seems to be one of humanity’s favorite ways to escape responsibility.

Isaac was asked about the woman who was with him and, like his father Abraham before him, he said she was his sister. But when Abimelech saw Isaac caressing Rebekah, he knew she was his wife. Why did Isaac lie? Because he was afraid his pagan host would kill him in order to obtain his beautiful wife. His lie was evidence of his unbelief, for if he had claimed the covenant promise when he prayed for children (25:21), why couldn’t he claim that same covenant promise to protect himself and his wife?

The English poet John Dryden wrote, “Truth is the foundation of all knowledge and the cement of all societies.” When people don’t keep their word, the foundations of society begin to shake and things start to fall apart. Happy homes, lasting friendships, thriving businesses, stable governments, and effective churches all depend on truth for their success. The American preacher Phillips Brooks said, “Truth is always strong, no matter how weak it looks; and falsehood is always weak, no matter how strong it looks.” Truth is cement; falsehood is whitewash.

When he found himself in difficulty, Isaac was tempted to run and to lie, and we face these same temptations today. Isaac succumbed to temptation and was found out. It’s a sad day when unconverted people like Abimelech publicly expose God’s servants for telling lies. What an embarrassment to the cause of truth!


Isaac inherited flocks and herds from his father, who had lived a nomadic life, but now the wealthy heir settled down and became a farmer, remaining in Gerar “a long time” (v. 8).

The blessing (vv. 12–14). Isaac and his neighbors had access to the same soil, and they depended on the same sunshine and rain, but Isaac’s harvests were greater than theirs, and his flocks and herds multiplied more abundantly. The secret? God kept His promise and blessed Isaac in all that he did (vv. 3–5). God would give a similar blessing to Jacob years later (chap. 31).

But Isaac was a deceiver! How could the Lord bless somebody who claimed to be a believer and yet deliberately lied to his unbelieving neighbors? Because God is always faithful to His covenant and keeps His promises (2 Tim. 2:11–13), and the only condition God attached to His promise of blessing was that Isaac remain in the land and not go to Egypt.

God also blessed Isaac because of Abraham’s life and faith (Gen. 26:5), just as He blesses us for the sake of Jesus Christ. We’ll never know until we get to heaven how many of our blessings have been “dividends” from the spiritual investments made by godly friends and family who have gone before.

The conflict (vv. 14–17). In spite of his material blessings, Isaac still suffered because of his lie, because the blessings he received brought burdens and battles to his life. Seeing his great wealth, the Philistines envied him and decided he was a threat to their safety. (A similar

situation would occur when the Jews multiplied in Egypt. See Ex. 1:8ff.)

“The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Prov. 10:22 NKJV). Had Isaac not lied about his wife, God would not have disciplined him but would have given him peace with his neighbors (Prov. 16:7). Because of his sin, however, Isaac’s material blessings

caused him trouble.

The Philistines tried to get Isaac to leave their land and settle elsewhere, and to encourage this they stopped up Abraham’s wells and deprived Isaac’s flocks and herds of the water they desperately needed. Water was a precious commodity in the Near East, and adequate wells were necessary if you were to succeed in the land. The crisis came when the king commanded Isaac to move away, and Isaac obeyed.

The search (vv. 18–22). No matter where Isaac journeyed, the enemy followed him and confiscated his father’s wells and also the new wells that Isaac’s servants dug. To find a well of “springing water” (v. 19) was a special blessing, for it guaranteed fresh water at all times, but the Philistines took that well, too. The names of the new wells that Isaac’s men dug reveal the

problems that he had with his neighbors, for Esek means “contention,” and Sitnah means “hatred.” But Rehoboth means “enlargement” because Isaac finally found a place where he was left alone and had room enough for his camp and his flocks and herds.

Whenever Abraham had a problem with people, he boldly confronted them and got the matter settled, whether it was his nephew Lot (13:5–18), the invading kings (chap. 14), Hagar and Ishmael (21:9ff.), or the Philistines (vv. 22ff.). But Isaac was a retiring man who wanted to avoid confrontation. Since he was a pilgrim, he could move his camp and be a peacemaker.

In every difficult situation of life, we must use discernment to know whether God wants us to be confronters like Abraham or peacemakers like Isaac, for God can bless and use both approaches. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18 NKJV). Sometimes it isn’t possible, but at least we should try, and we must depend on the wisdom from above that is “pure” and “peaceable” (James 3:17).

Looking at Isaac’s experience from a spiritual point of view, we can learn an important lesson. In the Bible, wells sometimes symbolize blessings from the hand of the Lord (Gen. 16:14; 21:19; 49:22; Ex. 15:27; Num. 21:16–18; Prov. 5:15; 16:22; 18:4; Song 4:15; Isa. 12:3; John 4:14).9 The church keeps looking for something new, when all we need is to dig again the old wells of spiritual life that God’s people have depended on from the beginning—the Word of God, prayer, worship, faith, the power of the Spirit, sacrifice, and service—wells that we’ve allowed the enemy to fill up. Whenever there’s been a revival of spiritual power in the history of the church, it’s been because somebody has dug again the old wells so that God’s life-giving Spirit can be free to work.

The assurance (vv. 23–25). Beersheba was a very special place for Isaac, because there his father had entered into a covenant with the Philistine leaders (21:22ff.). Beersheba means “the well of the oath.” The Lord comes to us with His assuring Word just when we need encouragement (Acts 18:9–11; 23:11; 27:23–24; 2 Tim. 2:19). No matter who is against us, God is with us and for us (Gen. 28:15; 31:3; Rom. 8:31–39), and there’s no need for us to be afraid. In response to God’s gracious word of promise, Isaac built an altar and worshipped the Lord. He was ready to meet his adversaries.

Like his father Abraham, Isaac was identified by his tent and altar (Gen. 26:25; see also 12:7–8; 13:3–4, 18). Isaac was wealthy enough to be able to build himself a fine house, but his tent identified him as a pilgrim and stranger in the land (Heb. 11:8–10, 13–16). A fugitive is fleeing from home; a vagabond has no home; a stranger is away from home; but a pilgrim is heading home. The tent identified Isaac as a pilgrim, and the altar announced that he worshipped Jehovah and was heading to the heavenly kingdom.

Like Isaac, all who have trusted Jesus Christ are strangers in this world and pilgrims heading for a better world (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). The body we live in is our tent; one day it will be taken down and we’ll go to the heavenly city (2 Cor. 5:1–8). Life here is brief and temporary, because this tent is fragile, but our glorified body will be ours for eternity (Phil. 3:20–21; 1 John 3:1–3). While we’re here on earth, let’s be sure we build the altar and give our witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.

The agreement (vv. 26–33). Isaac’s strategy paid off, because the Philistine leaders came to him to settle the matter of the property rights (21:22ff.). Fortified by God’s promises, Isaac was much bolder in his approach, and he confronted the Philistines with their misdeeds. It’s worth noting that Isaac’s conduct during this conflict made a great impression on them, and they could tell that the Lord was richly blessing him. More important than possessing his wells was the privilege Isaac had of sharing his witness with his pagan neighbors. (For a contrasting situation, see 1 Cor. 6:1–8.)

Isaac and the leaders were able to reach an agreement. To seal the treaty, Isaac hosted a feast, for in that culture, to eat with others was to forge strong links of friendship and mutual support. That same day, Isaac’s servants found one of Abraham’s wells (Gen. 21:25–31) and opened it, and Isaac gave it the original name, Beersheba. “The well of the oath” now referred to Isaac’s treaty as well as Abraham’s.

More conflict (vv. 34–35). Isaac was at peace with his neighbors, but he had war at home. His worldly son Esau had married two heathen wives who caused grief to Isaac and Rebekah. (Later, just to provoke his parents, he married a third heathen wife. See 28:8–9.) In view of Esau’s sinful lifestyle, we wonder that Isaac wanted to give him the patriarchal blessing (chap. 27).

All of us would like to find our Rehoboth (enlargement) where we have plenty of room and no contention, but Isaac’s Rehoboth was found only after he endured conflict. It’s through difficulties that God enlarges us for the larger places He prepares for us. “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Ps. 4:1). When the troubles of our hearts are enlarged and we trust God, then the Lord can enlarge us (25:17) and bring us “into a large place” (18:19). If we want room, we have to suffer, because that’s the only way we can grow and feel at home in the larger place God gives us when we’re ready for it.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Be Authentic by Warren Wiersbe. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Save a Life--Movie Release January 22

To Save a Life is a story about the real-life challenges of teens and their choices. For anyone who has struggled with regret, loneliness or pain, it is a story of hope. For all of us, To Save A Life is a story about living a life of significance. Through Jake's journey, readers are challenged to answer the question: what's your life going to be about? Jake and Roger grew up as best friends. But in high school, Jake becomes a star athlete who has it all: a college scholarship and the perfect girl, an ideal life that comes at the exclusion of his childhood friend. Meanwhile, Roger no longer fits in anywhere and becomes tired of always being pushed aside. He makes a tragic move that spins Jake's world out of control. As Jake searches for answers, he begins a journey that will change his life forever. More resources at

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Sisters--THICKER THAN BLOOD

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Oops, wrong book! And yet it fits in many ways. Two sisters followed separate paths, both doing the work they love, but they were both facing great difficulties that threatened to turn their worlds upside-down. Sadder still, their bond from youth had long ago been deliberately broken by the older sister, so they didn't have each other to lean on when they most needed each other.

In her debut novel, C. J. Darlington writes as if  she's been a best-seller for years. No doubt her experience as a book seller/broker and book lover have aided her, but so have many years of honing her skills in other writing opportunities. Many of you may know her from her blog or from her work at Title Trakk, in which case you already know that C. J. is handy with words. It has all come together  nicely with Thicker Than Blood, winner of the 2008 Christian Writers' Guild 'Operation First Novel' Contest. That contest meant being published by Tyndale House and all that goes with it.

Christy Williams has had one mess after another in her life, and just when things seem to be coming together for her, it all unravels. She loves her job at the bookstore, and the manager is entrusting her to more and more responsibilities with book auctions and estate sales. But  Vince, her ex and a co-worker, doesn't intend to let her go. Not because of great love but for power and control. When Christy refuses to do as he commands, he makes life impossible for her. She needs an escape.

Her younger sister May has been living her dream life as a partner on a ranch surrounded by horses. Hard work but the only life she really wants. Her problem is that they are so far behind in the ranch mortgage that the bank has given final notice. It looks hopeless, but May has a source of strength that Christy doesn't: she has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and has learned to depend on Him. Still, she doesn't see a way out.

The stage is set for circumstance and 'happenstance' to develop in ways to bring the sisters together again and become enmeshed in each other's lives.

There are heroes/heroines and villains, chase scenes, fire, threats, gunshots, injuries, internal and external conflict, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, hatred, moments of enlightenment, moments of despair. All the elements are here to make a great story, and C. J. combines them deftly. Her timing is well-paced and the build-up to the climax is maddening! The beginning seems to lag a bit, but that really is normal in setting up the story and the characters. Before long, though, it picks up amd moves quickly.

I found myself thinking about the story while  was doing other things (when I wanted to get to the end but had to do the mundane stuff); I was even imagining possible ways for it all to work out. Some of my ideas were right, but others were really off in left field, out in the cow pasture. Now that I've finished, I want to go back and revisit a few places. For me, this means it's a good book.

This is not your run-of-the-mill average Christian romance novel, and I'm relieved to pass that on because there are so many romance novels following  a set, predictable fomula. I kept looking for romances that didn't happen. I think the romance-gone-bad with Vince help set me up for that. And yet...Not going to spoil it any further. Let's just say it is an excellent Christian fiction novel that doesn't really fit into one of the normal genre cubbyholes, at least as far as I can see.

My thanks to Tyndale House for sending me a review copy of Thicker Than Blood. I have no copies to give away; if I could afford another giveaway this month, I would gladly draw for a copy of this book.  Since I can't, I just exhort you to get a copy youself!

You can read the first chapter here.

For more about C. J. Darlington and her writing, check out her website.

Thicker Than Blood is available at many Christian and regular bookstores. Online, you can purchase it from Christianbook, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (December 3, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1414334486
ISBN-13: 978-1414334486

Monday, January 18, 2010

MaryLu Tyndall Talks About THE RAVEN SAINT

MaryLu Tyndall gave us some in-depth reflections on her new book, The Raven Saint.

Q: Remind us of the parable that inspired the Charles Towne Belles series and who your heroine, Grace Westcott symbolizes.

The series is based on the parable of the seed and the sower found in Matthew 13. Familiar to most Christians, it is the story Jesus tells of a farmer who sows seed (the gospel message) for a harvest. Some of the seed falls on the road and is immediately taken away by birds that represent Satan. Some of it falls among the rocks where it does not take root and is scorched by the sun, which represents tribulations and problems. Some falls among the thorns, which represent the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, and these thorns rise to choke out the new seedling so they cannot become fruitful. Lastly some seed falls on good soil where they grow and produce much fruit. 

Grace Westcott represents this last seed. She loves God. She longs to serve Him. She has devoted her entire life to doing His will. But lest you think that’s the end of the story, rest assured that this saint has some deeper issues that God needs to deal with before she can truly bear fruit!

Q: In today’s Christian culture, there is prevalent belief, like that of heroine Grace Westcott, that if you’re a good Christian, love God with all your heart, and serve Him faithfully, God will bless you and nothing terrible will happen to you and your family. What is your opinion of this doctrine?

It is a false doctrine that if left unchecked will cause many to fall away from the Lord. The Bible is full of verses that describe the Christian life as one filled with struggles and trials and persecutions. All you need to do is examine the lives of the apostles or any of the great men and women of God to see that much pain was required of them. But what about those verses in the Bible that speak of God’s blessing, His protection, His goodness? I believe in those too. The problem is, people only select certain verses out of God’s Word that appeal to them. You have to take all of Scripture together to get the real picture. God does love us! He does want to bless us! But He has bigger things in mind than your personal happiness. He’s fighting a battle for the lost souls of men and women, and when He calls you into His Kingdom, He’s calling you to join the battle and help Him. Like soldiers, we must all go through boot camp. We must be trained. Our hearts must change to be more like Jesus, and that isn’t always a pleasant experience. Afterward, He wants to use us to fight the enemy and to save souls. It’s not always going to be easy. That’s why they call it a battle! But I can guarantee you that if you submit to the Lord and love Him with all your heart, He has great and amazing things for you to do. Not easy things. But things that you would never have dreamed you could do.

Q: Grace Westcott seems to have one major flaw. What advice do you have for identifying flaws in ourselves and not being so quick to point out flaws in others?

It’s so easy to not see our own inadequacies, isn’t it? How quick we all are to find fault with others, when most of the time, we have that same flaw ourselves! The best way I have found to identify my own failings and weaknesses is by spending time in the Word of God. God tells us that the Bible is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit. . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In other words, the Bible has the power to show us what is deep within us, if we approach it with a humble and submissive heart. Secondly, at least once a week, I ask God to reveal to me any hidden sins or weaknesses that I’m unaware of. And believe me, He does!

Q: What would you say to someone who, like the hero Rafe in the story, have turned away from God because of the example of certain people?

I cannot tell you how many people I run into who have turned away from Christianity because of Christians! It seems to be an epidemic in this country. That’s why we can’t look to any one person or any group of people to find the truth. We humans are terribly flawed. There’s not a day that goes by that we all don’t commit some sin. Hopefully, by the grace of God, we are all growing more like Him, but it is a process—a long, difficult process. Some Christians never grow up from babies. Some get stuck along the way, while others who call themselves Christians really aren’t Christians at all. They are the wolves among the sheep and they are the worst examples of Jesus. Quit searching for God among people. Search for God in His Word and in your heart. That’s where you’re going to find Him if you truly wish to find Him.

Q: Often Christians want desperately to lead others to God, yet they feel they have no success in their evangelistic efforts, just like Grace. What do you think is important to keep in mind in a situation like this?

The Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians come to mind where he says that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” In other words, we each play a part in the winning of souls for Jesus. Some of us simply plant a seed, then someone else comes along later in that person’s life and waters that seed. We may never see the fruits of our labor. We may never know in this life the influence we’ve had over people for God’s glory. All we are required to do is follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and be the best example of Jesus on this earth that we can. Leave the rest up to God. 

Q: What do you hope your readers learn from The Raven Saint, especially from both Rafe and Grace’s characters?

Grace is such a perfect example of many Christians today. She loves the Lord and she’s busy about His work. The problem is, she’s so busy doing what she thinks He wants her to do, that she’s lost sight of who He really is. In other words, she has become entangled in good works and has forsaken her first Love. Because she measures her own worthiness on her good works, she measures others on theirs, and when she finds them lacking, she judges them. My hope through Grace’s story is that people will stop and take a good long look at their own hearts and ask themselves if perhaps they have fallen into the same trap as Grace. Do they have a heart like Jesus had, that loves everyone and doesn’t judge those who come to Him with open hearts? Or do they avoid and even snub those whose sins are out in the open? Jesus was able to separate the sin from the sinner and see the root cause of it in a person’s life. We can do that too, by getting to know someone and loving them, regardless of their sin. In reality, Grace’s sin of a judgmental heart was far worse in God’s eyes than the sins of those she judged. Don’t believe me? Just read what Jesus had to say to the Pharisees of his day.

Rafe turned his back on God at an early age due to the bad example of his so-called Christian father. Rejected by the pious man as well as by a woman he loved, Rafe is filled with heartache and rage. I believe rejection is one of our culture’s biggest problems. Rejection by a parent or by a close friend or spouse wounds the heart like nothing else can. It causes insecurity and rage and sets a person on a very dangerous path. The last thing Rafe should have done is reject God based on the example of Christians. As I said above, you can’t base your faith on the actions of so called godly people. You must seek God on your own and seek Him with all your heart. By rejecting God, Rafe ran away from the only One who could truly heal his own rejection. Through Rafe’s story, I hope people who suffer from deep-seated rejection can see a bit of themselves in Rafe, and like him, go to the only One whose love can heal that painful wound.

M. L. (MaryLu) Tyndall dreamed of seafaring adventures during her childhood days in Florida. Her love of history and passion for story drew her to create the popular Legacy of the King’s Pirates series. Writing for more than twenty years, she lives on California’s coast with her husband and six children, where her imagination still surges with the sea.

You can learn more about MaryLu and her writings at her website,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Raven Saint; Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Setting: around 1718, Charles Towne, Carolina Colonies. Soon moves to the Atlantic Ocean, Haiti, other islands, and Colombia.

Miss Grace Westcott was a pious young lady who was known for her good works and her most upright comportment.  Many times she put herself in harm's way in order to carry out what she believed was God's work, certain that He would keep her safe because she was serving Him. One stormy afternoon, however, that sense of security was broken when a French mercenary and his henchmen snatched her on the outskirts of town. Suddenly  Grace found herself in a living nightmare, in close proximity with some of the dredges of society, sinners more depraved than she could have ever imagined rubbing elbows with. Where was God in the midst of all this? Why didn't He deliver her from her predicament?

Capitaine Rafe Dubois was a hard-drinking, hard-driving French mercenary, which is often not much better than a pirate. He had to be tough to keep a crew in line, but those who had been with him for a long time knew there was a story behind his behavior. Since God had disappointed him, he chose to ignore God, or at least that was his claim. Yet he was giving the lion's share of his earnings and plunder to a Catholic priest back home in Haiti in order to care for the poor. In fact, he had agreed to kidnap Admiral Westcott's daughter because of the large sum of money the Colombian Don would pay. It never occurred to him that this little lady would turn his world upside-down and cause him so much trouble. 

As with all her books so far, MaryLu Tyndall's writing exquisitely creates the world of her story, bringing to life all the stench and grimy underbelly of life on the ocean as well as the opulence of the Caribbean plantation. The steamy jungle of Colombia is palpable (and not unwelcome on a snowy January evening). Her words involve all five senses to a greater degree than nearly any other books I have ever read.

Until this week, I thought that many of the places were made up, but then I saw a map of Haiti with Port de Paix clearly labeled. Looking closer at the same map, I found Ile de la Tortue close by, and even the Canal de la Tortue that is mentioned in the story. Her research has dug deeply into history, geography, and ships of the period as well. To me, this is significant in a historical novel. Ever since I was young, I liked to delve deeper into the real history behind stories I read, and all too often I have been disappointed with stories that play fast  and loose with facts. From all I have seen so far, Mrs. Tyndall is not guilty of such shortcuts. That adds a great deal to the entire tale in my opinion.

Another trademark of all of her novels has been sound doctrine throughout, and of  course this is true when the title is The Raven Saint. The 'saint' is named Grace, an important element of the story. As with her sisters Faith and Hope, her name holds a certain irony. The verses that came to my mind were Ephesians 2:8,9 (NIV)--"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."  Grace really does her good works as service to God, as her Christian duty, but the love is lacking, as is an understanding of true grace that God extends to all people no matter where they are. This is part of the lesson she has to learn. And she is going to be lambasted by that lesson in many ways before the adventure ends.

But grace isn't the only issue. Hypocrisy, greed, prejudices, slavery, deception, pride, revenge, and immorality are all dealt with as the story unfolds, and the Biblical standards are projected as a natural progression, not as little sermonettes (although Grace, in keeping with her character, does deliver a certain number of sermonettes and dicta along the way. Few of those take root.)  The real fruit of the Holy Spirit is exalted, yet the characters remain real. The work of the Holy Spirit flows throughout without going deux ex machina on us. It might seem a bit far-fetched or unbelievable at times, but, honestly, when we look at the way God has worked in our own lives and the lives of those we know who serve Him closely, doesn't it seemed incredible by 'normal' standards? It all works together in the story, not without some loss, but for the most part quite satisfactorily.

One of the good things about the final book in a series is that sometimes all the little pieces that have been floating free are pulled together at the end. This is one of those books, but don't peek! In fact, if you try reading the last page ahead of time, chances are it won't make sense. This book can stand alone, as can either of the other books in the Charles Towne Belle series, but the ending brings it all into a nice package. So The Raven Saint can stand alone, but it's better not to read it ahead of The Red Siren and The Blue Enchantress.

Do I recommend The Raven Saint? Absolument, oui! er, Absolutely, yes! It's definitely an adult book, but I know older teens will enjoy it just as well. Even guys may like it, with all the gritty seamen and reality involved.

While I received a copy of the book free for review purposes, I am under no agreement to give a positive review. The review above is most heartily and freely written from my own opinions.

To learn more about MaryLu Tyndall and her writings, you can visit her website at and her blog at The Cross and The Cutlass.

The Raven Saint is currently being sold in most Christian bookstores in the U.S. and Canada as well as many other fine book stores. Online it's available through, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Amazon Canada, and Amazon UK. I don't know about other countries.

The Raven Saint by MaryLu Tyndall
Publisher: Barbour Books (January 1, 2010)

320 pages
ISBN-10: 1602601585
ISBN-13: 978-1602601581

Friday, January 15, 2010

Author Gil Ahrens Donates to Haiti Relief

{Note: I am receiving no type of remuneration, not even a copy of the book, for reprinting this announcement from B&B Media Group. It simply appears to be a very helpful book, one I plan to buy in the future, and I know B&B is a reputable publishing group}

Author Gil Ahrens, who shares his personal story of loss and adversity in the new book Shattered, Shaken and Stirred, is reaching out to the thousands that are suffering in Haiti. In response to the horrific earthquake in Haiti, Gil has created a special promotion to raise funds for earthquake relief.   Enter the Promo Code GSAHAITI upon checkout at Amazon and receive 10% off any version of Shattered, Shaken and Stirred. Gil will donate 25% of book sales to Food for the Hungry, which is providing food and relief to Haitians in need.  

Author Gil Ahrens Reaches Out to the Suffering in Haiti
Personal experience with loss and adversity leads Author to help others

During a weekend trip to attend his cousin’s wedding in Denver, Gilbert Ahrens’s world changed forever.  His wife, Kim, had just given birth to their first (and only) child, and although she was still recovering from her C-section, they used the occasion to introduce their daughter to Gil’s extended family.  After leaving the reception early, the Ahrens’ car was hit head-on by a drunk driver traveling 95 mph.  Gil’s first book, Shattered, Shaken and Stirred: Reconnecting with What Matters Most After Loss and Adversity, is his account of the aftermath of the collision that left his wife paralyzed but their three-week-old daughter miraculously unscathed. 

“People who go through challenges often think they are alone and that their struggle is uniquely incapacitating,” says Gil.  “Part of my intent in writing this book was to say that they—we—are not alone.  That the journey of hardship, no matter the form, is not an isolated trek.  It is on a road shared by many others.  And it is a road everyone travels on eventually.  In fact, it is a foundational element of life, dating back to Adam and Eve and carrying through to the greatest example:  Jesus.  It’s incredibly na├»ve and selfish of us, really, to believe that we should be somehow immune from hardship and suffering, that somehow we are entitled to a blissful life, free of profound suffering.”
Gil holds degrees from New York University and Boston University and briefly studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music.  Early in his business career, he co-founded a consumer electronics start-up and worked in Japan in strategic planning for a large global manufacturing company.  Subsequently, Gil was an investment banker for several years, most recently as Managing Director at J.P. Morgan.  He has also been an elder at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and is currently on the board of directors at Abilities United, a non-profit in Palo Alto, California, that helps champion those with developmental or physical challenges. 

Gil now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is married to Kim, an amazing woman with whom he shares the joy of raising a charming, brilliant, and utterly wonderful daughter.  Together, they all succumb to the whims of Sparky, their domineering Jack Russell Terrier, and Bella, a demur Scottish Terrier determined to dominate every inanimate object.  Passionate about ice hockey, Formula 1 racing, University of Texas football, and cigars (a vice he acknowledges freely), Gil often wishes that he could be more Italian in mind, matter, or the spoken hand. 

Samaritan's Purse to Haiti--CNN Report

I happened across this video concerning the work of Samaritan's Purse in Haiti. CNN reporter interviewed Franklin Graham, founder and president of Samaritan's Purse, about the Haiti team.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


By now, everyone is aware of the horrific tragedy in Haiti after the devastating earthquake on January 12. Most of you are also aware that Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, just barely struggling to exist. Many mission and relief efforts were already under way before this disaster; in fact, many of those ministries have suffered great losses as well. On the news yesterday it was reported that the Red Cross has run out of supplies in country although more is on its way. Relief is on its way, as a matter of fact, from all over the world, but it will take extreme amounts of volunteers and supplies of all kinds. Speed is of the essence to save as many people as possible. Beware of fraudulent agencies that tend to feed off of such tragedies, but give in any way you can, as much as God directs you to give, to those agences who are legitimate and well-seasoned in disaster relief.

Everyone is aware of the Red Cross, and your church may be involved in some other ministries involved in Haiti.

Matthew 25 Ministries, headquartered here in Cincinnati and playing a large part in many disaster relief efforts in the past, has responded quickly and is ready to go as soon as the cranes have reopened the ports. They are accepting the following items:
1. Cash donations
2. Canned and nonperishable food
3. Personal care products
4. Cleaning products
5. First Aid Supplies

World Vision has a long reputation for its aid work; there were 370 staff in Haiti before the earthquake; cash donations are requested.

Compassion International is another well-known ministry with staff already at work in Haiti for a long time. They have broken down the approximate costs for relief measures as follows:
  • $35 helps provide a relief pack filled with enough food and water to sustain a family for one week.
  • $70 gift helps care for their needs for two weeks.
  • $105 helps provide relief packs filled with enough food and water to sustain two families for two weeks.
  • $210 gift helps care for two families' needs.
  • $525 provides relief packs filled with enough food and water to sustain 10 families for two weeks.
  • $1,050 gift cares for 10 families' needs.
  • $1,500 helps rebuild a home.
  • $2,100 supplies 20 families with the basics for three weeks.
Samaritan's Purse, founded by Franklin Graham, is another ministry already on the ground in Haiti and with a long track record in disaster relief.

Of course, there are many other good agencies and ministries. In any case, help is needed as soon as possible.

Our first line of assistance, no matter what else we may or may not be able to do, is prayer. Pray:
  • for the people in Haiti, of course, that the greatest number possible will be saved from death and further suffering
  • for family members of the dead
  • for all the aid workers, that they may do the greatest good possible
  • for wisdom for those in charge as they assess the most urgent needs and the best way to proceed
  • that rescue teams will soon find survivors and bring them to safety
  • that the cranes sent to open the ports get there in a timely fashion, are able to quickly and efficiently clear the wreckage at the ports, fish the cargo cranes out of the water and get them open for business. Otherwise, chances of unloading precious cargo are slim to none.
  • for good weather so that the thousands, maybe millions, who are now without shelter have a better chance of health, and so relief workers have a better chance to make headway
  • for health workers and provisions; many of the hospitals have also crumbled
  • for the spiritual and emotional needs of the people
  • for rebuilding everything

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cornhusker Janna Wins Book

Congratulations to Janna of Cornhusker Academy, who has won the drawing for The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux. Sadly, there wasn't much competition, even including the other places I blog and other CFRB sites. I only hope more people wll consider this book than those who responded. It is well worth your while.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Wordsmith Revisited: Names and Pictures Mean Something

Once again,  I found myself paralyzed before the computer because there were too many thoughts competing to be written down. So, I apologize for this blog surfacing so late in the day. I just wish, when I read a book that I enjoy, I could maneuver words well enough to express the spirit of those books. And "spirit" is exactly what I mean about The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux by Clifford Leigh. You might figure that out sooner than I did if you read the book. I was a little dense.

The entire time that I was reading this unusual book, I was struck by two elements in particular: Mr. Leigh's choice of words--especially names--and all the pictures. Therefore, I've decided to focus on these devices.

Ah, what's in a name? Depends. Sometimes names are chosen for heritage, for their sound, and sometimes for their meaning. All three are true in The Wordsmith. At times I was reminded of the fun names in Charles Dickens' books. For example, when Corey has to go to the dentist, Dr. Worell K. Riesen. His nurse has the outstanding name of Pedifoot. Perfectly upside-down for a dentist's assistant. At first I thought the doctor's name was just fuuny, until I said it out loud. Then I heard whirl (like a drill) and caries. 7th graders, fresh from Health classes, will probably pick up on that faster than I did. (Aside: the whole dentist scene reminded me of Dickens for more than the names. It is so funny, very cleverly written. The descriptions of the characters bring them and the situation to clarity in all their ridiculousness, especially the germaphobic, overstuffed, pompous Dr. Riesen. Ah! Just aas I was writing this I realized his name is also a type of candy--more irony?).

For those who are as dense as I am, a character named Ben helps point the way. Corey meets Ben and Benjamin Endben inside The Land Under The Tree, and Ben is quick to snicker at names, even his own. He made me realize the meaning behind Fern and Kosmo Kreechur. Funny names, ridiculous people, but symbolic of much more. See, these two enter the shop of the Wordsmith while Corey, Ben and Benjamin are there. Corey is duly impressed as he watches the Wordsmith's words create something living from nothingness (sound familiar?). The Kreechurs enter the shop and never even see the Wordsmith, yet they are enamored by the creation. Fern is a nature-lover who gives homage to Mother Nature for her own creation while Kosmo calculates (scientifically, of course) that this living creation is 365 days old. To these two, the creature, or creation, was greater than the creator. In fact, they don't even see the creator when He's right in front of them. Sound like anyone you know or have heard about in the real world?

A game filled with children provides all kinds of creativity with names--the game that everyone in New Dragenstoy ( a fun name in itself) played or followed--Darbol. The game itself made me think of the Spanish word for tree--arbol. And, after all, this place is under The Tree. The game was invented by the founder of this city, Coyle Dragenstoy. Think about it. It isn't a nice game, and it doesn't encourage godly behavior. Heritage names show up here, I think, with nods to the founder: Doyle, Boyle, Hoykin, Royzin, etc. Other names have meaning. Benjamin tells Corian that his name meant "some of my right hand", and any of us who have read the Old Testament know the story of Benjamin and of his name. It fits.  I think Corian means something in another language, but I'm not sure. I know a Griffin (his last name) is a mythological beast befitting a fantasy such as this one. Then there are the names Pavo and Cigna (Latin for 'turkey' and 'swan,' repectively) and Loyal that show up later in the tale. You'll probaby notice more that I did. I am a bit dense, after all.

Wow; I haven't even started on the pictures yet, and they are essential to the novel. It is only fitting that a man who is a visual artist and an architect by trade should incorporate art and architecture so heavily into his written artwork. (Oh, and by the way, Cliff Leigh is the very apt illustrator as well as author. All the pictures you have seen--other than our logo--on the blogs for the tour are his work.) The weird trip begins when Corey finds some family picture albums, and falls into one of them,  a tree that is decorated with framed pictures of many, many people. It turns out to be an impossibly large tree. But, after all, it is Corey's family tree in a rather literal sense, covered with images of the people who are literally in his family tree. And it is  a very large tree, including all the human race (we all can trace our heritage back to Noah, after all.) In the land under The Great Tree, there  were pictures everywhere. pictures that Corey and the others could step into, become part of, become lost in. Sometimes the picture up front was a facade for what was really happening. For example, one of the pictures shows a family frozen in a family portrait, all smiles and love.Yet when the boys stepped in, they found that only the front was there, like cardboard props. The real family situation was far from the happy scene out front.

Pictures abound throughout, pictures of people, images that recall scenes from scripture, and images that remind us of ourselves and the condition of the world. Then there are some very special pictures that Benjamin carried with him and showed to anyone who would look. Near the end of the book (a tiny spoiler here), someone identifies them as "The Lambskin Pictures." They include a picture of  the kid, but I'm not going to  describe that one. Or the others. The fact is, though, that everyone who saw those pictures were somehow affected by them, and the affect depended on whether or not that person decided to accept what they saw.  For any readers familiar with the Bible, the images of the book and the images portrayed through the words will make you think about The Word and the One who spoke The Word, the one who is The Word.

So much more I could say, but I think I'll end with Clifford Leigh's own words about words, pictures, and his book:
Just one more thing on the use of  pictures: It is said, “A picture is worth a thousand words” but which words?
  As a professional artist I have learned the limitation of pictures and the absolute supremacy of the Word over images. I have exhibited pictures that I labored to express a particular meaning only to have viewers decipher wholly different interpretations from them. Words are a more specific tool to convey meaning. There fore, I opted to write a book of words describing things that no one is viewing, instead of filling a gallery with paintings of these things." (For the rest of this deep explanation about the book, check it out at "Orgins and Meanings" on his website blog.)

Once again, I urge you to find out more about the book and the Renaissance-man-author, Cliff Leigh, by visiting his website at .

Don't forget, someone who comments on the CFRB blogs (including mine) this week will win a copy of The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux. Since I'm getting this blog up so late in the day, I'm extending the deadline until noon on Monday, January 11.

Purchase The Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux at,,
Amazon, Amazon Kindle, or Barnes and Noble.

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