Monthly Archives: April 2010

Sing by Lisa Bergren

My Review: i was somewhat at a loss the first half of this book as I had not read the first one in the series. It took me awhile to get all the different characters sorted out and i could never understand why Reid was so angry at them in the first place. But, the characters were wonderful people. Odessa, was a lady of character and grace…..she faces temptation and is the better person and responds correctly. Moira ignores her conscience that sounds like her mother and ends up paying for it in her quest for gold and fame. Bryce struggles to provide for his family, protect his family and feels like a failure, yet continues to encourage his wife to trust in God as they build one another up. Nic- forced as a slave of sorts on a ship, learns to control his temper, not because he wants to, but because the price is too high not to.
Ms. Bergren has been a favorite author of mine from long ago and I know if I read this trilogy all together, i would get the full picture! It is an amazing picture of life lessons learned…..i would have liked a few more details about things at the end, but maybe they will be in the next book! This trilogy is one for you to look up! – Martha

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:

Sing: A Novel of Colorado (The Homeward Trilogy)

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

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings – Senior Media Specialist – The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lisa T. Bergren is an author who offers a wide array of reading opportunities ranging from children’s books (God Gave Us Love and God Found Us You) and women’s nonfiction (Life on Planet Mom), to suspense-filled intrigue (The Gifted Trilogy) and historical drama. With more than thirty titles among her published works and a deep faith that has weathered dramatic career and personal challenges, Bergren is excited to add the Homeward Trilogy to her resume as she follows God’s direction in her writing career. Bergren lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband Tim (a graphic design artist and musician) and their three children.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767078
ISBN-13: 978-1434767073

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

15 March 1887

Paris

Surely she hadn’t heard him right. Moira stared with disbelief at the ledger the bank manager turned toward her. “What do you mean I cannot withdraw this much? I have thousands of francs here.”

“You did, Mademoiselle. Until this morning, when Monsieur Foster came and extracted all but the last thousand.”

“Max? Mr. Max Foster came and withdrew these funds?”

“Oui. It was his biggest withdrawal yet. But as you know, he has full access to your bank account. He makes withdrawals all the time. I assumed this was no, as you say … different.”

“Different?” The word emerged from her mouth in a high-pitched squeak. She swallowed hard and looked above that final ledger entry–10,000 francs–to other withdrawals. A thousand. Fifteen hundred. Sometimes twice a week. Her mind raced. Max, her manager of almost three years, paid her servants, the landlord. He paid for the groceries delivered each day. The oilman for the oil that filled her lamps. It took money, a lot of money to pay for all those things. But this much?

“Mademoiselle,” the bank manager said carefully, peering over tiny spectacles at her, “has something transpired here that causes you alarm?”

“Non, non,” she said, gathering herself. “Monsieur Foster and I merely need to converse. I am certain there is good reason for him to withdraw funds today. I simply have forgotten. Forgive me, Monsieur. My run at the Opera Comiqué has left me a bit … weary.”

“I understand,” he said, rising with her. “And may I say that your performance has been unparalleled in this city for some time? Paris is fortunate to have you, Mademoiselle St. Clair.”

“You are too kind,” she said. “Bon jour.” “Bon jour,” he said with a nod. But his dark eyes still held the same concern that flooded Moira’s heart.

Max Foster would be at Madame Toissette’s tea later today–she would speak with him then. But before he took a sip of her fine Earl Gray, he would explain to Moira where her money had gone.

Colorado

15 March 1887

Hoarfrost covers every branch and every bit of every tree within sight. It is beautiful, a sight I always favor, but in this instance, it makes me more fearful than ever. For below it is more snow than I’ve ever seen. More snow than Bryce or Tabito have ever seen. And while it has ceased for the moment, leaving behind a brilliant blue sky that showcases mountains in bridal white, Tabito believes more is on the way. Tonight? Tomorrow? It would take weeks to melt the snow already here. The men–

Samuel’s cry brought Odessa’s head up, and she set her pen aside and went to the babe in the next room. Now seven months old, the child quieted when he spotted his mother, gurgling a pleased coo and wiggling his arms and legs in vigorous excitement. She lifted him and cradled him close for a moment, running her lips over his sweet, soft cheek. She reached for another blanket, frowning at the chill in the room, and returned to the window over her desk, one of only two in the house that were not either frosted or sealed over by the vast snowbanks.

Her eyes traced the channel the men had dug from the bunkhouse to the main house and then over the hill to where the stables and shelters stood. She’d watched them taking turns with the digging until the bank on either side was shoulder high. Against the house, where the wind had driven into drifts, the white piles had been as high as the second-story windows on the western side and not much lower to the south and north. The men had dug them out each day, but each night as they slept through the high, dry wail of the wind, the drifts returned.

“Never, ever, have I seen this much snow,” Bryce had said, staring out a whitewashed window as if he could somehow bore through it and see his horses. That had been yesterday, when they wondered if the snow would ever stop. And then this morning it had.

The men were immediately at it, attempting to get to the hundred horses that had been left to battle the elements on their own. Only fifty could be in the stables at a time or sheltered in the corrals that lined it. They had found food and water throughout the storm. But the others? Those who had naught but the small snow breaks that dotted the fields? Odessa shook her head. Judging from the house, they might have all long been buried. Please, God, please … please let them be all right.

The passageway through which the men had disappeared remained silent and empty, a yawning chasm of doubt and fear. After a couple brutal years of drought, much of Odessa’s inheritance had gone into an extension of acreage that gained the Circle M increased water rights. Could the horses out there even get to water? Were they pawing and digging their way down to streams that were frozen solid?

Odessa blinked twice and turned, deciding to do something rather than stand there and fret. Bread, six loaves, she’d bake. A thick and hearty beef stew the men would love after their bone-chilling, hard work. An apple cobbler from her stash of summer preserves. “Come, Samuel,” she whispered, drawing comfort from the weight of him in her arms. She carried him down the stairs and into the kitchen, then set him on the floor atop a thick blanket, near the stove, which she blocked off by turning a chair on its side. It was so dark with the snow that embalmed the windows–despite the bright sun outside–she lit a couple of lamps, stoked the fire, handed Samuel a tin cup to play with, and turned to pull out flour and sugar.

Later, with the bread rising by the stove, she fed Samuel while she sat in her rocker, wondering how much longer it would take for Bryce, anyone, to return to her. She was desperate for word. By now they had surely made it to the snow breaks, assessed the losses–

It was then that she heard the stomping on the front porch, the low murmur of voices. She hurriedly pulled Samuel from her breast. She ignored his indignant cry, her eyes only on the front door as she rushed to meet her husband. He turned to her, and she could see the men walking away with stooped shoulders. But it was Bryce, her dear, sweet Bryce, who captured her whole attention. It was as if he had aged a decade, or suffered from consumption again, so weary and ill did he appear.

“Bryce,” she said.

He stepped forward and slowly closed the door behind him, then gradually raised his eyes to meet hers. Tears welled and threatened to roll down his cheeks.

“Oh!” she said, clamping her lips shut, feeling tears clench her throat. “All of them, Bryce? Are they all dead?” She moved forward to wrap one arm around him. Samuel wailed louder than ever, infuriated by the crush of his parents. But the two adults remained there as each gave way to the tremors of sobs.

Her husband wiped his cheeks with the palms and then the backs of his hands, trying to regain control. “Best we can tell, the storm took many of them.” He took another deep breath. “Some might have made it to the far side, instinctively heading for the shelter of the trees. But we’ll need a week of melt before we can make it across to see. And we can’t–” his voice broke and he wept for a moment–“we can’t even be sure how many are there, by the snow breaks. They’re buried, Dess. Buried. Stood there, waiting for us to save them.”

She moved back in to hold him, crying with him again. Dear God … Please. Please. The mere idea of it, the overwhelming vision of a hundred horses now dead.… No, no, no. Savior, please! What would become of them? The ranch depended on the income of the sale of a hundred and fifty horses each summer. One hundred already dead? And with more snow coming? Her eyes went to the front parlor window, a dark bank of dense snow. Show us, Lord. Show us what to do. We need You. We need You!

15 March 1887

Rio de Janeiro

“Come, Son, we have need of your services,” said a man gruffly, hauling Dominic to his feet.

Nic winced, both at the rapid motion and the bright light of morning. His stomach roiled and his head spun. Whatever they were pouring last night at the bar was hard on a man’s gut, even one used to liquor. He squinted, trying to see the men who were on either side of him as they rushed him down the stairs, out the door, and through a crowded market plaza. “Stop!” he yelled. “Unhand me! What’s this about?”

The two men paused, tightening their grip on his arms as he fought back. Two others arrived and lifted his feet from the cobblestones. “Wait! Where are you taking me?” Nic cried, battling both fear and fury now. He writhed and pulled, but to no avail. By the look of them, these four men were hardened seamen.

The leader motioned for the others to halt, and he was once again on his feet. A crowd of curious onlookers gathered, staring at them, but Nic was struggling to steady his eyes on the man. “Where are you taking me?” he repeated. The first relinquished Nic’s arm to another’s care and turned to face him. “You cost my cap’n a large sum of money last night with your poor fighting.”

“The man was twice my size!” Nic snarled, feeling the man’s complaint as if it were a sucker punch.

“Yes, well, the cap’n had high hopes for you. Your reputation, up to last night, was … unequaled. He put a fair sum down on you.”

“That’s a gambler’s risk.” He pulled again, hoping to get free, but the men still held stubbornly to his arms. If he could get even one fist free.…

The leader grinned, showing a mouthful of decaying teeth. “Too bad you didn’t win last night. He believes you owe him the money he lost.”

“That’s preposterous!” The man shrugged and smiled again. “Be that as it may, we are only obliged to follow our cap’n’s orders. And our cap’n is now yours as well.”

Nic paused and swallowed hard. So that was it. These men intended to shanghai him–force him to serve aboard their ship. “You’re nothing but a crimp! There are laws against–”

“For American ships, sailing under American laws,” said the man. He motioned to the others and turned to walk toward the docks, the others following behind, dragging Nic along. “We lost a dozen men here in port to the fever,” he said, turning partially toward Nic to speak while they walked. “Now the cap’n is not only cantankerous over losin’ them, but also losin’ his heavy purse over you. It’s your bum luck. Best to accept it and embrace it, man. Six months from now, you’ll be set free, in whatever port you wish.”

“If I’m not already dead.”

The man laughed, a slow, deep guffaw that eventually built into laughter that spread among the others. “Aye, that’s the risk of any sailor’s life, especially in the waters where we are headed.” He looked over his shoulder at his prisoner. “Come along, St. Clair. Cease your struggle. It is of no use. You’ll take to the water, you’ll see. Yes’sir, gamblers and fighters–they make the best of seamen. You might find you love it as much as the ring.”

Cañon City, Colorado

Reid Bannock straightened, groaning at the ache in the small of his back and between his shoulders. He set the pickax against his leg and gestured to the water boy to come his way. He casually met the gaze of the deputy, who watched over the prison chain gang with an armed shotgun resting across his arms. The man gave him a slight nod. They got on, the two of them. Reid fancied the idea that the younger man felt sorry for him even, though the two had never shared more than a few words. Undoubtedly, Deputy Johnson knew Reid’s story, passed along more from lawman to lawman than within his files.

The blue-lipped, shivering water boy finally reached him and offered up a grubby ladle full of water. The boy’s hand trembled violently, not out of fear but from exposure. In the cold, the top of his bucket kept frosting over and encased the whole thing in ice. He had to break through the top to fetch Reid the water, and it was so cold, it made Reid’s teeth hurt as he drank.

It stayed cold, even within him, making him feel as if he swallowed a chunk of ice rather than liquid. He coughed, thumped his chest, and gazed up at the mountains, finally clear after the blizzard. It mattered little, this trial. In a few months he’d be free. Regardless of the sentence, he’d be free. Every morning, he was up and dressed, awaiting the deputy who would chain him to others for the work on the new prison building, whatever the weather. Only the blizzard had allowed them a few days’ respite. Each mornin’, he greeted the deputy with a friendly word, knowing that consistent good behavior could knock months off a man’s sentence.

By his calculations, the county was drawing too many new people, and therefore too many new criminals. The general’s propaganda was doing its good work, and Colorado Springs, Pueblo, even Cañon City were seeing pioneers arrive by the thousands, all hoping to make a new life for themselves. After a winter like they’d had, many of them were liable to be desperate, driven to desperate decisions, not all of them on the right side of the law. Already, Reid shared his tiny cell with five other men. Word had it that a sixth would be brought in soon, left to sleep on the narrow space that was currently the only flooring between the two bunks, each with three levels. How long until a seventh arrived? Yes, when number seven arrived, tough decisions would have to be made; the prison warden would have to speak with judges, finding a means to alleviate the pressure before the prisoners exploded.

“Get back to work, Bannock,” the deputy barked.

“Yes sir, right away, sir,” Reid called back, immediately picking up his ax. He lifted it up over his left shoulder and then let it arc down toward the boulder in front of him, imagining faces upon it, as he had every day on every rock he had destroyed over the last three years.

Moira St. Clair. The woman who had stolen his heart, and then crushed it.

Dominic St. Clair. The man who had stood between Moira and him.

Odessa and Bryce McAllan, the people who refused to give up what was destined to be his.

A chunk of granite fell away with his next strike, revealing a tiny, crooked line of gold that glittered in the sun, too small to warrant the work of extraction, but tantalizing. It was common, these tiny remnants, teasing their discoverers with the idea about where the rock had once stood and what vein had once connected to this small one.… In spite of himself, he leaned forward and traced the line with his finger. Gold. Silver. Treasure untold. Sam O’Toole or his parents had discovered something, up near his mine. Something beyond the few sweet silver nuggets he’d brought out to Westcliffe and sold. Had the McAllans discovered it yet? Had they squired it away for a rainy day?

“The Spaniards, they came up this way, ya know,” said an old man, chained to his right leg. He was a chatty fellow, and Reid glanced at him before striking with the pickax again.

“That so?” he said casually.

“Yep. My great-granddaddy, he was a trapper. Ran with Kit Carson and the like for a time. Knew a lot of Injuns.”

“And the Spaniards?” Reid asked lowly.

“My great-granddaddy, he was chased right up into the Sangres by the Ute who didn’t take kindly to him being–”

“You two!” barked the deputy, frowning in their direction. “Less talking, more work!”

Reid frowned too and doubled his efforts against the boulder. But with each strike, he wondered more about what the old man had to say. A few minutes later, he dared to glance at the old man.

I’ll tell you later, his eyes said.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Sing by Lisa Bergren. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Book Reviews

Fear to freedom by Rosemary Trible

My Review:
Rosemary was successful woman, a TV talk show host, her husband was on his way to becoming a political leader, when she was raped at gunpoint and her attacker was never found. The fear that engulfed her life and threatened to take over from the aftermath of the attack was a normal and natural response. It stole her joy and filled her with fear and depression. In this book, you will read how Rosemary, in spite of really never catching the guy who hurt her, was able to regain her joy, and break loose of the fear that while natural, was crippling her. You can read this story of an amazing woman who instead reaches out to other women now who have been in similar situations and how her life became victorious over fear. This book deals with sexual assault, terror, forgiveness and healing. It is not a fun to read story, but if you have experienced a trauma in your life, it is a very helpful book. I found her story incredible, that you can rise above a trauma and be healed, although you may still bear the “scars”. – Martha

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:

Fear to Freedom: Victim to Victory – What if you did not have to be so afraid?

VMI Publishers (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Paula Krapf – Chief Operating Officer – Author Marketing Experts, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rosemary Trible’s experiences as the wife of former United States Congressman and Senator Paul Trible provide fascinating insights into the challenges and opportunities of public life. During their twelve years in Congress, Rosemary’s involvement in the inner city of Washington gave her a fresh perspective of the need for reconciliation and the importance of the “power of love” over the “love of power.” Rosemary’s compassion for the poor led her to travel widely hosting mission trips around the world to places such as Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and India. While in Calcutta she was greatly impacted by the opportunity to work with The Sisters of Charity. Mother Teresa challenged Rosemary to “be a woman of prayer,” which continues to inspire her today.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: VMI Publishers (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935265091
ISBN-13: 978-1935265092

AND NOW…AN EXCERPT:

Chapter 18

Abiding In God’s Presence

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). These words invited me to draw near to God in my everyday life. I had felt such an incredible closeness to the Lord during my near-life experience and now my passion for living in God’s presence is greater than ever.

Jesus certainly knew the importance of dwelling in God’s presence. For him, prayer was a priority. Jesus taught, healed, preached, and then went away to spend time with his Father. Here he received the guidance, strength, and comfort he needed for each day. Likewise prayer strengthens our faith, helps us appreciate the joys of life, and brings us into the delightful presence of God.

St Augustine said, “For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”1 What a difference prayer can make in our lives! Only here can our hearts find the true rest we long for.

I want to know God’s purpose for me and my family. To do this, I need to spend time with Jesus in the Word and in prayer. After all, the most strategic person I need to reach with the love of God is me. I have called my time of prayer an Appointment with the King since I heard Becky Tiarabassi use that expression at a woman’s retreat years ago. The pace of life today is full speed ahead, and the noise of life is so loud it can distract us from God, who is wooing us—inviting us to slow down, to sit and be still. What if we made an Appointment with the King for twenty minutes each day? We would still have twenty-three hours and forty minutes of our day left! We are so busy running and doing that we have lost what it means to just be still—to know that God is holy, faithful, and unfailing.

Elijah on the mountaintop did not find God in the storm or the wind or the fire but in a small whisper. God often whispers his love to us: “Come to me. Enter into my presence, and find rest for your soul. Come with no agenda but to be with me for you are my heart’s delight.”

I have come to believe that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. God is not concerned about our past except for the grace he gives to cover it. Today we can have a relationship through his son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. I am the way, the truth and the life, I am the good shepherd.” This is true for us today not in the past tense. I want to know Jesus now—I want to learn to walk like him, and forgive like him, and love like him.

Jesus is alive today. He is healing, forgiving, restoring, and loving today. I believe he wants us to be part of his transforming work, but this flows out of our time with him. Instead of being with Jesus to develop this intimacy, and seek his vision, we seem often to focus on the doing instead of being. If what we do is who we are, then who are we when we stop doing it?

I am comforted that Jesus did not run through Jerusalem! If we are always running throughout every day, checking off our to-do lists and responding to our e-mail and text messages, we become exhausted. We must find balance by spending time alone with the Lord. On my calendar there are many entries for every day, but my prayer time, my Appointment with the King, is my highest priority.

Find a time of prayer that works for you. After I went back to work, it was difficult to continue my regular morning time of prayer. God let me know, “That’s no problem. We’ll just meet in the middle of the night when we can be quiet together.” For the past eight years I am awakened sometime between three and four o’clock and have found this time to be the most precious part of the day. I enter into God’s presence when my mind is not already focusing on the days’ activities. If your heart’s desire is to be with God, you can find a time that is best for you.

A revelation from my near-life experience is the importance of living in his presence now. Jesus’ spirit lives in us and therefore we are never alone. Moment by moment, step by step, day by day, we can be one in Jesus as we open our lives to this transforming relationship. We are the ones who must open our hearts to the fullness of this love.

Billy Graham once said, “Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.”2 Sometimes we do not know how to ask, what to seek, and how to begin to knock. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7–8). So keep knocking!

Moments With Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is a great example of this kind of radical devotion to love and prayer. Her life epitomized love, for she reached out to everyone who crossed her path—the rich and the poor, the powerful and those who were dying in poverty and filth. When people asked her how they could make a difference, she would often suggest to them, “Simply respond to what is right before you—love the person in front of you. You are called not to be successful but to be faithful.”

I first had an opportunity to meet Mother Teresa in February of 1994 when she was the speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast. Because I was helping with logistics that year, I visited with Susan Mendies, who traveled with Mother Teresa and helped make her arrangements. She indicated Mother Teresa would rather not sit at the head table, but have a simple chair placed for her behind the dignitaries.

While others were eating their breakfast, President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and his wife, Tipper, came behind the curtain to spend time with Mother Teresa. I watched from the wings of the stage as Mother Teresa reached her arms around these two couples while she prayed for them. The program was about to begin, but the most important event seemed to be the scene I was witnessing. Five people sitting in folding chairs as this humble woman prayed for them—the leaders of our nation and the world.

Mother Teresa was so small that we placed a box behind the podium so she could be seen when it was time for her keynote address. When she spoke, however, the authority of God seemed to come through her, and you could hear a pin drop in this crowd of five thousand who listened intently. She challenged the audience that represented some 146 nations to “Love until it hurts.” She said:

And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.

You too must bring that presence of God into your family, for the family that prays together, stays together. There is so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer, with our sacrifice, are beginning at home. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do.

We can keep the joy of loving Jesus in our hearts, and share that joy with all we come in contact with. If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world.

If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless you!3

I had another wonderful opportunity to be with Mother Teresa in the spring before her death September 5, 1997, when I traveled to Calcutta to work in the House of the Dying and the Orphanage of the Missionaries of Charity along with Susan Mendies. There I experienced Jesus as never before among the poorest of the poor.

Morning worship was in the Mother House at 6:00 a.m. Mother Teresa was in her wheelchair, and beside her was Sister Agnes in her wheelchair in the back of the crowded room. Sister Agnes was the first nun to join Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She was the contemplative nun who prayed while Mother Teresa was out serving. They were devoted friends who were paired in their lives in Christ. As Mother Teresa worked in the streets, her friend for forty-two years, Sister Agnes, kept a prayer vigil. Every morning the sisters repeated this prayer called “Radiating Jesus”:

Dear Jesus, help us to spread

Your fragrance everywhere we go.

Flood our souls with your spirit and life.

Penetrate and possess our whole being, so utterly,

That our lives may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through us, and be so in us,

That every soul we come in contact with

May feel Your presence in our soul. . . .4

After morning prayer, I knelt by Mother Teresa’s wheelchair and felt I was beholding Jesus face-to-face. Her dancing eyes twinkled with joy as her warm wrinkled hands, leathered from years of serving and loving, held mine. It was if I were looking into the eyes of unconditional love. Her challenge has stayed with me ever since: “Rosemary, be a woman of prayer.”

I love what she said about prayer: “Perfect prayer does not consist in many words, but the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus. Love to pray. Feel the need to pray often during the day. Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of Himself. Ask and seek and your heart will grow big enough to receive Him and keep Him as your own.” Another of her favorite sayings I have engraved on a rock by my bed: “Do no great things, only small things with great love.”5

I thought often of Mother Teresa’s words as I worked in the House of the Dying. I saw all around me great love and felt blessed, in a small way, to care for those on the threshold of death. The hurt and pain was evident, but God’s peace and love was even more present.

On this weekend nuns from across the world had gathered to determine who would follow Mother Teresa as head of the Missionaries of Charity. To help with the daily jobs, teenage novices had come from another province to work that weekend. That made me the oldest person serving in the House of the Dying. The doctor asked if I would give out the medications to each woman. He paired me with one of the novices, who checked the name on the individual cups of pills and bottles of liquid to determine the medicine was going to the right woman.

My mother had recently died, so my heart was particularly tender when I was with these women in their last days. I held each woman in my arms and spoke softly about my own mother’s dying and how she had said, “Jesus is coming. He is coming for me.” I will never know if any of these dying women could understand what I was saying, but I felt a deep peace in the midst of this the dying. As I told them about my own experience in the vision of heaven, I looked into their eyes and felt somehow they at least knew they were loved and cared for.

I asked one of the nuns later, “How is this unusual peace possible?” She replied, “The peace comes from love. These women, many who have been picked up out of the gutters, now know they are loved. God loves them. They have been forgiven and may soon be free from their pain. She told me how one person had said, “I lived my life in filth, but I will die as an angel.”

The next day I was not expecting to see Mother Teresa. Then I heard tiny footsteps coming from behind me and there she was. Her eyes sparkled as she asked, “Do you have one of my business cards?” “No, I’d love to have one!” I replied in total surprise. I told her about my time at the House of the Dying and how the next day I was going to spend time in the orphanage. She asked, “Do you love children?” I replied, “Oh yes, I have two children who I adore.” “I’ll give you one!” Mother Teresa exclaimed!

My jaw must have dropped open. But before I could speak, the nuns had come for Mother Teresa and whisked her away. Her business card read:

The fruit of Silence is prayer.

The fruit of Prayer is faith,

The fruit of Faith is love,

The fruit of Love is service,

And the fruit of Service is peace.

Mother Teresa changed the world through her life of loving everyone. Whether a leper everyone despised, an abandoned baby, the pope or the president, each person was special to her and to God. She is buried, as was her request, in a simple pine box. This tireless and compassionate woman was loved by the poor and powerful alike. She lies in the Mother House where her last simple message reads, “From Mother—Love one another as I have loved you.”

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52 Things to do this year- updated

Seeing as one year is almost up, i needed to update this and see how far i have come….i don’t think I actually completed it, but hey,  I think I have a week still!!! It was alot of fun! I think I will make another one this next year! <p>
1. Plant Seeds in the house
2. See a homeless person and give him/her some hot food- I could not find one when I was able to get hot food,  but I gave them food and he seemed appreciative
3. Smile all day at everyone you see
4. Find two out of the ordinary things you can do for two people
5. Read an entire book out loud to your children in one day (more than 3 chapters)-almost, started this one..I did get much better at reading aloud this year.
6. Eat something you have never eaten before
7. Invite a friend to lunch
8. Go swimming-did not do this one…I just couldn’t make myself. i took the boys swimming, I stuck my feet in.
9. Ride bike to a friends house- I rode bike and walked, but  not to a friends house
10. Bake cookies to give away
11. Call three people to see how they are doing
12. Write three real letters and mail them
13. Volunteer at the Battered Women’s shelter (I tried to do this one, you have to do alot of stuff to do it, so it is in the process)
14. Decorate a cake- i am planning on taking a class still, working on that one still.
15. Read an old classic book
16. Invite someone over for dinner
17. Make an emergency kit for the house- on the list for this week
18. Check all safety devices in house for good batteries etc. Smoke alarms, CO detectors etc.
19. Buy a bag of food for a family in need
20. Send off a box of cheer to someone who needs it- I am trying to remember if I did this, or if i just meant to. I think it will be something I will do this week.
21. Invite a single mom over for tea
22. Spend a day fasting, use the time to do something for someone else
23. Share my testimony of how God worked in my life
24. Make a de-clutter inventory list- 70% of our time can be spent on clutter
25. Plan a day to raise money for missions
26. Plan a mini retreat and go on it
27. Go camping
28. Volunteer on a Habitat for humanity project
29. Sew a blanket, an apron or something and give it away
30.  Take part in a community church outreach event– I spoke at Teen MOPS
31. Visit a church you have never been to before
32. Write 3 birthday cards and send them to people
33.  Visit three people who have not had visitors at a nursing home
34. Visit a friend you have not visited in awhile
35. Invite someone over for tea or coffee
36. Take your children swimming
37. Take your children to the park
38. Think of a person who looked discouraged last week, and do something you think will encourage the
39. Buy flowers and enjoy them
40. Give a plant to a friend
41. Be Brave, call someone and ask if they want to share a meal with you. If they cannot, call someone else until you find someone. Don’t be hurt if they cannot, keep trying.
42. Get my passport- got the application, I have some pictures too.
43. Pick up a plastic bag of garbage outside, on the side of the road etc.
44. Start a compost pile- as soon as I get the box built, it is there this spring
45.  Shovel someone’s sidewalk  the boys did this one
46.  Give a jar of jam to a neighbor
47.  Send out three thinking of you cards
48.  Visit someone who is ill
49.  Donate a bag of diapers to the pregnancy center
50.  Check and see if there is a community event you can attend  that the money you spend goes to a good cause
51. Read a book about missions with your family
52. Bring a box of stuff you are getting rid of to the second hand store or Freecycle

<p> So hey, that is not too bad!!! The others are in the process mostly, except for a few…

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Whirlwind of a weekend…

I ended up going to a Shonda Parker conference all weekend, which was good, tons of information that I am trying to remember and digest. It was long and while there were people i know there, I did not have anyone with me, so it was a bit lonely. My sister was going to come, but forgot to sign up at the last minute and so only came the first night. It was interesting to me how to use herbs for medication, for prevention and to help our bodies work better. I am eager to place an order of some dry herbs. I think I will start with capsules as I hate tinctures!!!<p>
This is the last week of our preschool/kindergarten co-op we did this year, mostly for fun, but it has been a bit stressful. Like tomorrow, i am trying to figure out, how on earth I am going to do all of this…as at the last minute i found out I am supposed to have a planned out game for a half hour tomorrow….i saw this version in Old Schoolhouse today of a cake walk of some kind with prizes…I am going to have to go and look at that again for ideas. <p> Other than that, I am so tired out, I realized tonight I am going so much it is hard for me to relax. i am always trying to think of the next thing. So, tonight, I still have a mess in the kitchen….i mean it is covered in jam and dirty dishes, which I do not usually do, but  it is okay. I forgot my secret sister gift for MOPS tomorrow and I feel like there is not enough time in the day, but I will hopefully find good in this someday? Or not?  The hard thing is it seems like all these things we put in our life end up really taking away from the things I wish I could do or other people have other things they have that are important and all together it adds up with we rush from one thing to the next and never have time to really care about people. <p> Well, I am so tired I am probably not making sense, plus I got soap in my eye while showering and it has been giving me fits all day, I think I did not rinse it well or something. But I guess, take the time to stop for a minute to say "Hi" to someone or maybe say thank you. i know I am thankful  for so many things, but I don’t tell people that enough. <p>
Today, since the soap incident my eye wanted to  close on me, I was tired so in church, i wanted to close my eyes alot, not a good thing, especially when they are singing soothing music….not good, so I had to think of all kinds of things to keep my eyes open during the singing. During the sermons, i just work on staying on my toes, translating in my head and making sure I got the bible reference right. It is usually something like "Was that 11 or was it 21?" I  try looking it up and listen to the words to make sure I got in the right spot….oh it keeps me awake, but during the singing, they sing beautifully and it is so soothing, I had to resort to other means and so I kept myself guessing if someone was pregnant or not…One of my friend’s there is pregnant, with her 8th child I think.  They are a really wonderful family and are so excited, they were wishing it could be twins!!! She asked the doctor if there was two heartbeats and the doctor laughed she said! I am very blessed to be able to go there.

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Maybe i am slightly crazy…..

I am standing in the bookstore browsing and I  watch and listen as people are looking and talking. Then they start discussing  how they can’t find this book or that one and what books are good and me….I can’t help myself….I join in and start recommending books and pointing out good ones…..<p> i just can’t help myself! I made myself walk away before driving any more customers nuts by recommending any more books they should buy. <p> Hey, I figure if I can’t buy them myself, I should get other people to buy them? <p>
It is funny how when topics you are passionate about come up how shyness flees and I can sit and really talk about it!!! <p>
What are your passions? What can you talk about? <p>

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A Corpse at St Andrews

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:

A Corpse at St. Andrew’s Chapel

Monarch Books (February 19, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort – Trade Marketing Manager – Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melvin R. Starr has spent many years teaching history, and has studied medieval surgery and medieval English. He lives in Michigan.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (February 19, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1854249541
ISBN-13: 978-1854249548

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I awoke at dawn the ninth day of April, 1365. Unlike French Malmsey, the day did not improve with age.

There have been many days I awoke at dawn but remembered not the circumstances three weeks hence. I remember this day not because of when I awoke, but why, and what I was compelled to do after. Odd, is it not, how one extraordinary event will burn even the mundane surrounding it into a man’s memory.

I have seen other memorable days in my twenty-five years. I recall the day my brother Henry died of plague. I was a child, but I remember well Father Aymer administering extreme unction. Father Aymer wore a spice bag about his neck to protect him from the malady. It did not, and he also succumbed within a fortnight. I can see the pouch yet, in my mind’s eye, swinging from the priest’s neck on a hempen cord as he bent over my stricken brother.

I remember clearly the day in 1361 when William of Garstang died. William and I and two others shared a room on St. Michael’s Street, Oxford, while we studied at Baliol College. I comforted William as the returning plague covered his body with erupting buboes. For my small service he gave me, with his last breaths, his three books. One of these volumes was, Surgery, by Henry de Mondeville. How William came by this clumes I know not. But I see now in this gift the hand of God, for I read de Mondeville’s work and changed my vocation.

Was it then God’s will that William die a miserable death so that I might find God’s vision for my life? This I cannot accept, for I saw William’s body covered with oozing pustules. I will not believe such a death is God’s choice for any man. Here I must admit a disagreement with Master Wyclif, who believes that all is foreordained. But out of evil God may draw good, as I believe He did when he introduced me to the practice of surgery. Perhaps the good I have done with my skills balances the torment William suffered in his death. But not for William.

I remember well the day I met Lord Gilbert Talbot. I stitched him up after his leg was opened by a kick from a groom’s horse on Oxford High Street. This needlework opened my life to service to Lord Gilbert and the townsmen of Bampton, and brought me also the post of bailiff on Lord Gilbert’s manor at Bampton.

Other days return to my mind with less pleasure. I will not soon forget Christmas Day, 1363, and the feast that day at Lord Gilbert’s Goodrich Castle hall. I had traveled there from Bampton to attend Lord Gilbert’s sister, the Lady Joan. The fair Joan had broken a wrist in a fall from a horse. I was summoned to set the break. It was foolish of me to think I might win this lady, but love has hoped more foolishness than that. A few days before Christmas a guest, Sir Thomas de Burgh, arrived at Goodrich. Lord Gilbert invited him knowing well he might be a thief. Indeed, he stole Lady Joan’s heart. Between the second and third removes of the Christmas feast he stood and for all in the hall to see offered Lady Joan a clove-studded pear. She took the fruit and with a smile delicately drew a clove from the pear with her teeth. They married in September, a few days before Michealmas, last year.

But I digress.

I awoke at dawn to thumping on my chamber door. I blinked sleep from my eyes, crawled from my bed, and stumbled to the door. I opened it as William the porter was about to rap on it again.

“It’s Alan . . . . the beadle. He’s found.”

Alan had left his home to seek those who would violate curfew two days earlier. He never returned. His young wife came to me in alarm the morning of the next day. I sent John Holcutt, the reeve, to gather a party of searchers, but they found no trace of the man. John was not pleased to lose a day of work from six men. Plowing of fallow fields was not yet finished. Before I retired Wednesday evening John sought me out and begged not to resume the search next day. I agreed. If Alan could not be found with the entire town aware of his absence another day of poking into haymows and barns seemed likely also to be fruitless. It was not necessary.

“Has he come home?” I asked..

“Nay. An’ not likely to, but on a hurdle.”

“He’s dead?”

“Aye.”

“Where was he found?”

“Aside t’way near to St. Andrew’s Chapel.”

It was no wonder the searchers had not found him. St. Andrew’s Chapel was near half a mile to the east. What, I wondered, drew him away from the town on his duties?

“Hubert Shillside has been told. He would have you accompany him to the place.”

“Send word I will see him straightaway.”

I suppose I was suspicious already that this death was not natural. I believe it to be a character flaw if a man be too mistrustful. But there are occasions in my professions – surgery and bailiff – when it is good to doubt a first impression. Alan was not yet thirty years old. He had a half-yardland of Lord Gilbert Talbot and was so well thought of that despite his youth Lord Gilbert’s tenants had at hallmote chosen him beadle these three years. He worked diligently, and bragged all winter that his four acres of oats had brought him nearly five bushels for every bushel of seed. A remarkable accomplishment, for his land was no better than any other surrounding Bampton. This success brought also some envy, I think, and perhaps there were wives who contrasted his achievement to the work of their husbands. But this, I thought, was no reason to kill a man.

I suppose a man may have enemies which even his friends know not of. I did consider Alan a friend, as did most others of the town. On my walk from Bampton Castle to Hubert Shillside’s shop and house on Church View Street I persuaded myself that this must be a natural death. Of course, when a corpse is found in open country, the hue and cry must be raised even if the body be stiff and cold. So Hubert, the town coroner, and I, bailiff and surgeon, must do our work.

Alan was found but a few minutes from the town. Down Rosemary Lane to the High Street, then left on Bushey Row to the path to St. Andrew’s Chapel. We saw – Hubert and I, and John Holcutt, who came also – where the body lay while we were yet far off. As we passed the last house on the lane east from Bampton to the chapel we saw a group of men standing in the track at a place where last year’s fallow was being plowed for spring planting. They saw us approach, and stepped back respectfully as we reached them.

A hedgerow had grown up among rocks between the lane and the field. New leaves of pale green decorated stalks of nettles, thistles, and wild roses. Had the foliage matured for another fortnight Alan might have gone undiscovered. But two plowmen, getting an early start on their day’s labor, found the corpse as they turned the oxen at the end of their first furrow. It had been barely light enough to see the white foot protruding from the hedgerow. The plowman who goaded the team saw it as he prodded the lead beasts to turn them.

Alan’s body was invisible from the road, but by pushing back nettles and thorns – carefully – we could see him curled as if asleep amongst the brambles. I directed two onlookers to retrieve the body. Rank has its privileges. Better they be nettle-stung than we. A few minutes later Alan the beadle lay stretched out on the path.

Laying in the open, on the road, the beadle did not seem so at peace as in the hedgerow. Deep scratches lacerated his face, hands, and forearms. His clothes were torn, and a great wound bloodied his neck where flesh had been torn away. The coroner bent to examine this injury more closely.

“Some beast has done this, I think,” he muttered as he stood. “See how his surcoat is torn at the arms, as if he tried to defend himself from fangs.

I knelt on the opposite side of the corpse to view in my turn the wound which took the life of Alan the beadle. It seemed as Hubert Shillside said. Puncture wounds spread across neck and arms, and rips on surcoat and flesh indicated where claws and fangs had made their mark. I sent the reeve back to the Bampton Castle for a horse on which to transport Alan back to the town and to his wife. The others who stood in the path began to drift away. The plowmen who found him returned to their team. Soon only the coroner and I remained to guard the corpse. It needed guarding. Already a vulture floated high above the path.

I could not put my unease into words, so spoke nothing of my suspicion to Shillside. But I was not satisfied that some wild beast had done this thing. I believe the coroner was apprehensive of his explanation as well, for it was he who broke the silence.

“There have been no wolves hereabouts in my lifetime,” he mused, “nor wild dogs, I think.”

“I have heard,” I replied, “Lord Gilbert speak of wolves near Goodrich. And Pembroke. Those castles are near to the Forest of Dean and the Welsh mountains. But even there in such wild country they are seldom seen.”

Shillside was silent again as we studied the body at our feet. My eyes wandered to the path where Alan lay. When I did not find what I sought I walked a few paces toward the town, then reversed my path and inspected the track in the direction of St. Andrew’s Chapel. My search was fruitless.

Hubert watched my movements with growing interest. “What do you seek?” He finally asked. It was clear to him I looked for something in the road.

“Tracks. If an animal did this there should be some sign, I think. The mud is soft.”

“Perhaps,” the coroner replied. “But we and many others have stood about near an hour. Any marks a beast might have made have surely been trampled underfoot.”

I agreed that might be. But another thought also troubled me. “There should be much blood,” I said, “but I see little.”

“Why so?” Shillside asked.

“When a man’s neck is torn as Alan’s is there is much blood lost. It is the cause of death. Do you see much blood hereabouts?”

“Perhaps the ground absorbed it?”

“Perhaps . . . . let us look in the hedgerow, where we found him.”

We did, carefully prying the nettles apart. The foliage was depressed where Alan lay, but only a trace of blood could be seen on the occasional new leaf or rock or blade of grass.

“There is blood here,” I announced, “but not much. Not enough.”

“Enough for what?” the coroner asked with furrowed brow.

“Enough that the loss of blood would kill a man.”

Shillside was silent for a moment. “Your words trouble me,” he said finally. “If this wound,” he looked to Alan’s neck, “did not kill him, what did?”

“T’is a puzzle,” I agreed.

“And see how we found him amongst the nettles. Perhaps he dragged himself there to escape the beasts, if more than one set upon him.”

“Or perhaps the animal dragged him there,” I added. But I did not believe this for reasons I could not explain.

It was the coroner’s turn to cast his eyes about. “His staff,” Shillside mused, “I wonder where it might be?”

I remembered the staff. Whenever the beadle went out of an evening to watch and warn he carried with him a yew pole taller than himself and thick as a man’s forearm. I spoke to him of this weapon once. A whack from it, he said, would convince the most unruly drunk to leave the streets and seek his bed.

“He was proud of that cudgel,” Hubert remarked as we combed the hedgerow in search of it. “He carved an ‘A’ on it so all would know t’was his.”

“I didn’t know he could write.”

“Oh . . . . he could not,” Shillside explained. “Father Thomas showed him the mark and Alan inscribed it. Right proud of it, he was.”

We found the staff far off the path, where some waste land verged on to a wood just behind St. Andrew’s Chapel. It lay thirty paces or more from the place where Alan’s body had lain in the hedgerow.

“How did it come to be here?” Shillside asked. As if I would know. He examined the club; “there is his mark . . . . see.” He pointed to the “A” inscribed with some artistry into the tough wood.

As the coroner held the staff before me I inspected it closely and was troubled. Shillside saw my frown.

“What perplexes you, Hugh?”

“The staff is unmarked. Were I carrying such a weapon and a wolf set upon me I would flail it about to defend myself; perhaps hold it before me so the beast caught it in his teeth rather than my arm.”

Shillside peered at the pole and turned it to view all sides. Its surface was smooth and unmarred. “Perhaps,” he said thoughtfully, “Alan swung it at the beast and lost his grip. See how polished smooth it is . . . . and it flew from his grasp to land here.”

“That might be how it was,” I agreed, for I had no better explanation.

As we returned to the path we saw the reeve approach with Bruce, the old horse who saw me about the countryside when I found it necessary to travel. He would be a calm and dignified platform on which to transport a corpse.

We bent to lift Alan to Bruce’s back, John at the feet and Shillside and me at the shoulders. As we swung him up Alan’s head fell back. So much of his neck was shredded that it provided little support. I reached out a hand to steady the head and felt a thing which made my hackles rise.

“Wait,” I said, rather sharply, for my companions started and gazed in wonder at me. “Set him back on the road.”

I turned the beadle’s head and felt the place on the skull which had startled me. There was a soft lump on the skull, just behind Alan’s right ear. This swelling was invisible for the thick shock of hair which covered it. I spread the thatch and inspected Alan’s scalp, then showed my discovery to reeve and coroner.

John Holcutt was silent, but Shillside, after running his fingers across the swelling looked at me and asked, “How could a wolf do this?”

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One Million arrows by Julie Ferwerda

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:

One Million Arrows: Raising Your Children to Change the World

Winepress Publishing (September 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Julie Ferwerda for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Julie Ferwerda is recognized for making the Bible exciting and relevant to everyday life through her writing and speaking. Her articles are featured in many Christian magazines and websites for both adults and teens, and she frequently volunteers her time and talents to international orphan ministry.

Visit the author’s website.
Visit the book’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.95
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Winepress Publishing (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606150111
ISBN-13: 978-1606150115

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter 1: Determine Your Course
And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children…Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5–9

_______________________________

Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. –William Jennings Bryan1

_______________________________

What were you doing on 9/11?

I’d just cranked up the tunes and hopped on my Nordic Track as part of my normal morning routine, when my husband called from work to tell me to turn on the TV. Watching the events unfold, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as helpless or as horrified as I did that day. The world no longer seemed like the safe, secure place I thought it was only one day before. In the worst way, I wanted to keep my two girls, ages seven and ten, out of school that day to protect them and reassure them until the danger had passed.

For the rest of that day, and many more to come, the surreal sights on TV haunted me. The planes striking the buildings; massive explosions; the sudden, momentary collapse—twice—of 110 floors of elaborately constructed concrete, steel, and glass that took years to erect; and the mountains of debris that smoked and smoldered for many days. But nothing shook me as much as the unforgettable images of human bodies spilling out of the buildings like grains of rice. Neither those who lived through it, nor those of us who watched the shocking events unfold on TV will ever forget.

One young man I read about, Cary Sheih, a technical consultant from New York, barely made it out alive. Working on a project for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at his 72nd floor desk, he’d just finished his usual mid-morning PB&J, when he heard an explosion, followed by tremendous building sways and vibrations. At first, he thought it might be an earthquake, so he dashed to the stairwell, where a quick, but calm, evacuation was underway. As people made their way down, some received messages on their cell phones that an airplane had accidentally crashed into the building, but there was no mention of a terrorist attack.

With the heavy, choking stench of jet fuel, descending the tower proved difficult. But if it was difficult for him, he couldn’t imagine how difficult it was for the rescue crews he passed, huffing their way up an endless corkscrew of stairs and then hurrying back down, carrying badly injured and burned victims. He recalls, “Sometime around the 30th or 40th floor, we passed the first firefighters coming up the stairs. They reassured people that we were safe and that we would all get out fine. By this point, they were absolutely breathless, but still pushing upward, slowly and unyieldingly, one step at a time. I could only imagine how tired they were, carrying their axes, hoses, and heavy outfits, climbing up all those stairs. Young men started offering [to help] the firemen to carry up their gear for a few flights, but they all refused. Each and every one of them.”2

As Cary neared the bottom, the building began to shake and sway again, the lights flickered out, and eerie sounds of buckling steel accompanied screams of people falling down the stairwell. After being assisted by firemen through darkness to a different stairwell, a panicked Cary somehow made it down the last few flights to safety, where his wildest imagination couldn’t have prepared him for what he encountered. The burning trees, wreckage, fireballs, and dust resembled a war zone.

While reading through this and other accounts concerning 9/11, I noticed an inspiring, recurrent theme. While there were many, many heroes and selfless individuals working tirelessly to assist throughout this tragic period, it was the firemen who undoubtedly made some of the greatest sacrifices of all, and whose ultimate acts of bravery impacted lives worldwide. While most everyone else scrambled for the exit signs to save themselves (which I’m positive I would have done, too), these rescue workers fearlessly headed up into the towering infernos that day, many likely aware that they might not make it out alive.

Most kids see firefighters as larger than life heroes, which is probably why many of them want to be one when they grow up. Who wouldn’t want to be thought of as a hero, especially one that saved lives? I came across a touching book report that was written about 9/11 by three kids: “The firefighters of 9/11 are heroes because they have saved the lives of hundreds of people, while they knew the building could collapse. While you go up a burning, 110-story building you would be very scared, because you’ll think of your own life. When you are a firefighter you mustn’t think too much about your own life or you may not be able to save lives. Being a hero means saving lives. That’s the difference between being a celebrity and being a hero. Why would a celebrity be important to you? It is just someone with a well-paying job. You’ll be someone’s hero if you help him with his or her life.”3

As I think about what these insightful kids have so magnificently articulated about the qualities of firemen, particularly the 9/11 firemen, I’m deeply moved with admiration and respect. In an emergency, firemen are:

First responders, well-trained, and ready to save lives, even at the expense of their own.
Purposeful and deliberate, aware that lives are at stake and time is short.
Doggedly determined, knowing that the more lives they can save the better.
Regarded in both life and death as the heroes of this world.
No one involved in 9/11 could disagree with this assessment. Remembering the expressions of both courage and fear etched on rescue workers’ faces as they spoke reassuringly to guide many people to safety, Cary Sheih said, “I am so grateful for the courage of the firemen and policemen who gave up their lives to help us down the burning tower. As I relive this moment over and over in my mind, I can’t help but think that these courageous firemen already knew in their minds that they would not make it out of the building alive, and that they didn’t want to endanger any more civilians or prevent one less person from making it to safety.”4

While they will undoubtedly go down in history as larger than life heroes, we can’t forget how human and vulnerable they were, too. I have looked through their pictures online. Most of them were young family men, with their whole lives ahead of them—men who kissed their own babies goodnight on Monday for the last time so that those they helped to safety could kiss their kids goodnight many more nights to come. They unknowingly said final goodbyes to their own families Tuesday morning so that many others could come home to their families that night.

In the moment of the realization of the grave danger, it had to be a dilemma for the firemen, choosing between lion-hearted courage and paralyzing, self-protective fear. How were they able to do it? Was it because it was their job? Because their buddies were doing it? Because their captain told them to do it? What exactly is it that leads a person to choose a profession where courage must prevail when all pretenses and rewards are stripped away in the face of death?

More than a job identity or a paycheck, more than an obligation or a hope of any kind of recognition, firemen are willing to risk their lives and to face their fears because they are motivated by something far greater than fear.

The Bible refers to this motivating force as love! Authentic, selfless love drives away fear (1 John 4:18). And it was the love—not the duty—of those firemen and emergency workers that truly made them heroes of the day, both the ones who died and the ones who worked doggedly through the wreckage, many suffering permanent damage to their lungs and bodies. And that kind of sacrifice, according to Jesus Christ, is love at its very best. “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:12–13, emphasis mine).

Firemen of Life

So what does all this talk about 9/11 and firemen have to do with parenting? If you’re a follower of Christ and you want to raise children who are also followers of Christ, quite a lot. And if you want to entertain the possibility of raising children who will change the world around them, and even the world at large, everything!

It’s no secret that every day on this earth, countless lives are at stake. People are dying every day who do not know Jesus, and almost just as bad, people are living every day who do not know Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine struggling through the hardships, losses, disappointments, and sorrows of this world without the comfort and peace of knowing Jesus and His love. And we know that someday soon, this world, with all its carefully planned designs and elaborate structures, along with all the people who have not put their faith in Christ, will collapse in a catastrophic fire (Zephaniah 1:18).

In other words, time is running out.

The seriousness of that reality raises some questions: What is my family here for? As believers, is parenting a more significant and eternity-impacting role than we’ve given it credit for? Are we satisfied with happy, well-adjusted, even ambitious kids who happen to love God, or is there something more? When we consider the possibilities, we find that we’ve been given an invitation into a divine story—into His-story. As this story unfolds throughout the space of our lives, which role will our family accept in this cosmic emergency? Hopefully not the victims. Hopefully not the ones running scared to save ourselves (and I am absolutely not criticizing those who made it out on 9/11—this is for spiritual application only). Hopefully not uninvolved bystanders who are disinterested, unable, or ill equipped to do anything but watch.

I’ve realized that, in the grand scheme of life, more than just raising my kids to “keep the faith,” I want to raise my kids to save lives. I want to raise firemen. Not necessarily the earthly fire-fighting kind, but the heavenly fire-fighting kind. Kids who are well-trained and ready to help save as many lives as possible. Kids who grow up, remembering at the forefront of everything they do, that time is short and lives are at stake, and who will one day be seen as spiritual heroes for helping many to safety.

I want to raise kids who love like Jesus.

Just think what it would be like to have kids who grow up in this self-destructing world with brave faces and hope in their voices, carrying within their hearts the ambition of bringing as many people as possible safely into the Kingdom. I believe that this kind of holy ambition is the secret to life at its best, and I want my kids to experience this kind of life. Jesus said, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matthew 16:25). And therein, we hear the invitation: Will you raise your kids to be firemen? Will you be a fireman for God’s sake? We may never be called to die for Jesus like so many others in our world today, but we are still called to a holy rescue mission—to live sacrificially for God so that others will be led to safety through our loving assistance.

I recently met two brothers, both firemen of the Kingdom variety, who understand about saving lives by choosing to deliberately head into burning buildings. For them, the rescue mission all started with a small idea and a heart to snatch their fellow teens from a dangerous culture.

At age sixteen, twins Alex and Brett Harris decided to start a little blog in their spare time over the summer called TheRebelution.com, with the intent of starting a teenage rebellion. “The word ‘rebelution’ is a combination of the words ‘rebellion’ and ‘revolution,’” explains Brett. “So it carries a sense of an uprising against social norms. But in this case, it’s not a rebellion against God-established authority, but against the low expectations of our society. It’s a refusal to be defined by our ungodly, rebellious culture.” To their astonishment, within a couple years, their site had received over 14 million hits, becoming the most popular Christian teen blog on the web.

As a follow up, they decided to write a book for teens called Do Hard Things, exhorting young people not to take the easy way out, but to do those things that seem harder now but have a bigger payoff in the end (as in “delayed gratification”). Since then, God has opened doors for them to speak to thousands of teens nationwide through conferences that are planned, organized, and run primarily by youth.

More than just a website, The Rebelution is both a mindset and a movement. “Our goal,” according to the brothers, “is to create a community of young people where thinking deeply is the norm, and where achieving excellence is ‘cool.’ History says young people can be doing big things right now! Don’t let the culture’s expectations toward teenagers dictate what you think is possible. The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility. They are the training ground of future leaders who dare to be responsible now.”5

Whether from media, parents, authority figures, or peers, low expectations have become the rule for this generation, rather than the exception. Not only are kids expected not to possess admirable character or useful competence, but also they are expected to do the opposite. The Rebelution defies this kind of thinking by calling out youth to return to biblical and historical levels of character and competence as exhorted by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

Their message, based on their belief that God is raising up their generation for global change, is a passionate call back to excellence, purpose, and significance for young people. It’s not about doing more things, or inflicting oneself with toilsome chores; it’s about lifestyle choices that will often take you out of your comfort zone and into places where you are focused on using your abilities and resources to encourage and benefit others…ultimately to save lives.

“Brett and I firmly believe we are living in historic times,” Alex says. “We further believe that God is raising up a generation of young people who will one day assume positions of leadership in all spheres of life: social, political, and spiritual. This is not a call for the complacent or the lackadaisical. This is not a call to those who are willing to lower their standards to meet the expectations of their culture. This is a call to the rebelutionary.”

Initially I wondered how two kids could possibly have achieved so many bold and bright accomplishments, not to mention how they’ve acquired more wisdom than many adults. Was it handed to them? Do they harbor a special gene pool (their parents might agree with that notion)? Did they turn out like this by chance?

Actually, Alex and Brett would probably be ordinary kids, except for one thing. They had parents who believed in making the sacrifices necessary to raise their kids to make a difference. Kids who, in turn, learned to make sacrifices in order to serve others. They had parents who devoted themselves to raising firemen. Keeping this at the forefront of their parenting strategy, Mom and Dad Harris raised kids who understood and accepted the fact that it was going to take a lot of hard work for everyone in order to succeed in this goal. As a result of this mentality, these young men have literally started a Rebelution across our nation…and our world.

There are actually two other grown children from the Harris home. One of them, Joshua, became a best-selling author at the age of twenty, with the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Multnomah 1997). He went on to write more bestsellers, developed purity seminars for young people, and toured as a national conference speaker in front of hundreds of thousands of young people, calling them out of their culture to a lifestyle of purity. At age twenty-seven, he became the senior pastor of a large church, where he still serves today.

In 2002, another brother, Joel, launched the Northwest Academy of Worship Music to help raise up worship leaders and worship teams for local churches in the Portland area, where over 150 students of all ages have been successfully trained. Since 2007, he’s also been using his music skills to lead worship for The Rebelution Tour.

As I got to know the Harris family, I saw that “chance” and “opportunity” had nothing to do with their parenting success. “If our teen years have been different than most,” says Alex, “it’s not because we are somehow better than other teens, but because we’ve been motivated by that simple but very big idea filtering down from our parents’ example and training: Do hard things.”

With four out of four grown children serving the Lord and significantly impacting their world, it’s obvious that the Harrises are doing something right. And I’ve discovered that this “something” is available to all parents. Throughout this book, we’re going to visit with more parents like these to find out exactly what they are doing to shape godly kids who are ready and able to help save lives, no matter what their limitations or circumstances. Turning out kids like these is not just possible—it’s possible for you and your family with just a few moderate but important lifestyle changes.

Parenting is, really, at the heart of Jesus’ command for discipleship. It’s teaching our kids to live with Jesus and to love like Jesus. It does require a cost, as anything worthwhile does, but that cost will be far outweighed by the benefits and rewards. God has created our kids with unique abilities, gifts, and desires for a very special purpose. All they need now is to be trained and ready, available for divinely appointed opportunities.

So now it’s time to ask: Do we truly want to give our kids the best of everything we have to offer in the short time we have to impact their lives? Do we want our kids to live—and someday die—the spiritual heroes of this world? If we have answered “yes,” then it’s time to learn about a vision for our families that’s so amazing; it will change the course of history.

My discovery all started on a little trip I took to northwest India.

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A letter of thought….

I wrote this as I read letter after letter from women letting other women know how they found it when women gathered together to pray together or meet to study even women’s topics of bible study as they said it was often a time of gossip or women encouraging them to go against their husbands…

I have to admit I am surprised by this topic. i see this as a sin issue, when women cannot get together to pray together without gossiping or falling into sin, something is wrong, not something to be avoided.
i think it can lead to sin, sometimes, but i do not think that is a reason it should always be avoided. Instead, I could tell you sad stories on the other side.

I think in the bible, women are commanded to teach other women on certain topics and they should use the scriptures to teach this. It takes the fruit of the spirit to love our husbands, love our children and if we cannot connect scripture in our lives and learn how to be like Sarah, Ruth, Esther and others whom we see as examples through the scripture, I am not sure what use we will be as women.

We do see examples in scripture of women speaking of holy things,
“It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” Luke 24:10, 11, KJV.
“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” Acts 1:14, KJV.

But of course mainly this verse….
“The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,” Titus 2:3, 4, KJV.
Teachers of good things……I think we need to go back to the bible and if women are not able to teach others how to learn the scripture without gossip, turning against ones husband and not be encouraging us how to be better mothers, wives etc. We have a sin issue we need to deal with.

I have been part of a bible study that did that very thing, we did study the scripture, how it encouraged us to be better wives and mothers, we were able to lift one another up in prayer as one young mother struggled with her temper with her children as they made messes, another wife….as she struggled as her husband looked for a job that fit him, how to support him in his search….
I believe by discounting the power of women in prayer for their families, to be better wives and mothers you are missing a great blessing. Yes, it can lead to sin, but so can cooking (overeating) or sewing (vanity)….but I think we need to look in our hearts and see how to follow these commands, instead of leaving so many young wives and mothers without mentors and watching marriages fall apart from lack of encouragement.

I have watched as older women who are very godly, are not doing as they are commanded, they are focusing on their children only and not reaching out at all to other young mothers around them. I have watched as people almost lost their faith because of lack of encouragement and i think there is a huge reason why we are commanded in the scripture for the older women to do this.

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The point of overwhelming frantic……

chaos!!! <p> I think I am there!!! I am not sure how to stop the point of no return, but I am soaking in a quiet minute, but overwhelmed by the daily grind of things. Of course, my daily grind has been a bit more busy than most people’s. <p> Today we went on a field trip with 10 children and a baby. i had two other moms there to help me, and it went well. We went to the recycling center to learn about recycling and the kids were excited about it when we left.  I woke up with a headache though, one of those it hurts to talk headaches. It felt like it generated from the base of my spine, which reminded me that i think i may still need a chiropractor. So, I was really in no mood to  be dealing with the said 10 children…..consider most of them were under the age of 5. i survived, they did too…..thanks to ibuprofen and lots of tea. <p>
Monday was a non stop day of MOPS first, then teaching preschool, then piano lessons, then book club and i made dinner in there somewhere. i am supposed to go grocery shopping, but i wish i could just breathe for a minute!!! <p> Right now, the three youngest are at church and  P. is in his room reading or playing with legos or something and i am trying to regroup for the rest of the week. <p>
I think it is times like these though that i realize I can get caught up in my own daily struggles i forget to look around me and see how blessed I am. I have seen or heard of so many little children dying lately of cancer, fathers passing away or going away, marriages breaking up and  being  not always the type of person who "looks on the bright side", I hear it and think "It will probably be me next." But really, I am learning to  give thanks for today. I am thankful that all our boys are healthy today, my husband has a job today, we have food I can cook (If I do not attempt a strike in that dept.) and that we are healthy enough to scream, yell, run and play! <p. Yesterday, in the middle of a hard morning, i took some time to play a game of catch with my son and my husband. It was fun and it brightened my day. Hopefully, in the days to come if more trials come upon us, I can still look up and praise God for  something and say it  hurts, but God is still on the throne.

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A Strangers Wish Gayle Roper

My Review: Either these books were growing on me, or Gayle Roper is just such an incredible author she can take a story line I hate and make me like the book! Even if you are not a fan of Amish fiction, you should check this short story out.

When a stranger rents a room from an Amish family, her first day there is disrupted when their dog bites her. While she is waiting to be treated a total stranger having a heart attack, gives her a key to keep safe and to tell no one about.

Gayle does a great job of weaving mystery and a romantic story through story set in a peaceful Amish community. It mentions the Amish, but does not really focus on them as much as some authors. This was a very enjoyable light read!- Martha

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:

A Stranger’s Wish (The Amish Farm Trilogy)

Harvest House Publishers; Original edition (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to David P. Bartlett – Print & Internet Publicist – Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Gayle Roper is the award-winning author of more than forty books and has been a Christy finalist three times. Gayle enjoys speaking at women’s events across the nation and loves sharing the powerful truths of Scripture with humor and practicality. She lives with her husband in southeastern Pennsylvania where Gayle enjoys reading, gardening, and her family.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Original edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925864
ISBN-13: 978-0736925860

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

By the time Jon Clarke What’s-his-name drove me to the hospital, my terrible inner trembling had stopped. My hands were still cold, and the towel pressed to my cheek was still sopping up blood, but I was almost in control again. If I could only stop shaking, I’d be fine.

I’d been so sure I’d lost my face. My stomach still curdled at the memory. All I’d done was bend down to pet Hawk, the sable-and-tan German shepherd sleeping contentedly in the mid-August sun. How was I to know he had a nasty cut hiding under that sleek hot fur?

I was horrified when he lashed out, startled by the pain I had inadvertently caused him. He got me in the cheek with a fang, but despite the blood, the wound was mostly superficial. The thought of what would have happened if he’d closed his mouth made me break out in a fine sweat.

How dumb to touch a sleeping dog. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I knew better. Everyone knew better.

As we entered the emergency room, I rearranged my towel to find an area not stained with blood. I went to the desk and signed in with a woman whose jet black hair stuck out in spikes to rival a hedgehog. When she had my life’s history, she patted my paperwork with a proprietary air that made me wonder if she was willing to share the information with the people I’d come to see.

“Have a seat.” She gave me a warm smile. “They’ll be with you shortly.”

Hoping shortly really meant shortly, I took my seat.

“You don’t have to wait,” I told Jon Clarke as he took the bright orange plastic chair beside me in the otherwise empty emergency room. He smiled slightly and stretched his long legs out before him, the picture of long-suffering
and quiet accommodation. His posture said it didn’t matter how long things took. He was prepared to be gallant and wait it out.

“Really,” I said. “I’ll be all right. You can go.”

I was embarrassed to have inflicted myself upon this man I didn’t know, this man whose last name I couldn’t even remember. He’d pulled into the drive at the Zooks’ Amish farm just as I bent over Hawk. While Mary Zook plied me with towels and bemoaned my possible disfigurement when she wasn’t yelling at the innocent Hawk, John Clarke Whoever climbed out of his car, took me by the elbow, put me in his passenger seat, and drove me here.

What would I have done if he hadn’t come along at just the right moment? Gone to the hospital in a buggy? Certainly that wouldn’t have worked if I’d had a life-threatening injury. I guess if that were the case, someone would run to the phone down on the road and dial 911 or run to a neighbor with a car. Hmm. Peace and serenity of the Amish variety had a definite downside.

Jon Clarke smiled at me now, looking comfortable in his very uncomfortable chair. “Of course I’ll wait for you. I’d never run out on a lady in distress. Besides, you need a way home.”

“I could call a cab.”

“Bird-in-Hand is too far from Lancaster for that. It would cost a fortune.” He smiled at me again, politely patient.

“It’s only fifteen minutes max.”

“That’s a lot when the fare indicator goes ca-ching, ca-ching. It’s better if I just wait.”

I gritted my teeth. Just what I needed, a shining knight when I was in no condition to play the lady. I smiled ungraciously and winced.

“Hurt much?”

Of course it hurt. What did he think? “The strange thing is that my tongue can push into the wound from the inside of my mouth. Only a thin piece of skin on my inner cheek keeps the puncture from going all the way through.” I pushed against my cheek with my tongue. It was a creepy sensation to feel the hole, but I couldn’t resist the need to fiddle.

He looked suitably impressed and apparently decided to keep talking to distract me from my pain and injury. I must say he shouldered the burden with stoic determination and great charm.

“Have you lived in the Lancaster area long?” he asked, and I could have sworn he actually cared.

“Three years. I love it here.”

“Were you at the Zooks’ to visit Jake too?”

Too. So he had come to see Jake. I shook my head. “I live there.”

That stopped him. “Really? On the farm?” He raised an eyebrow at me, an improbably dark eyebrow considering the light brown of his hair. “Have you been living there long?”

I glanced at the clock on the wall. “About four hours.”

The eyebrow rose once again. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Great beginning, isn’t it? Todd spent the morning and early afternoon helping me move, and he’d just left. I was on my way into the house when I stopped to pet Hawk.” I sighed. “They’ll probably decide I’m too much trouble to have around.”

I pulled the towel from my cheek and studied the bloody patterns on the white terry cloth. They looked like abstract art. I was an artist myself, but I never painted compositions like these. I liked more realism—which meant my work would probably never hang in important galleries.

Uptight and unimaginative, according to certain professors and fellow students from my college days. “Flex,” they said. “Soar! Paint where your spirit leads.”

I flexed and soared with the best of them, but the finished work still looked like what it was.

I refolded the towel, burying the modern art, reapplied a clean area, and pressed.

“Who’s Todd?” Jon Clarke asked.

I shrugged. Good question. “Todd Reasoner. A friend.”

“Ah.”

Would that Todd were as easily explained as the conclusion Jon Clarke had apparently leaped to.

“Don’t do that,” Jon Clarke said.

I blinked. “Do what?”

“Don’t push against your cheek like that.”

I hadn’t even realized I was doing it.

“What if that thin piece of skin ruptures? Scarring. Infection. MRSA. Who knows?”

I frowned. Talk about Worst Case Scenario Man. I wanted to tell him I’d play with the inside of my cheek if I felt like it, but he was probably right about all the dire possibilities. I didn’t want to rupture that thin membrane so delicately protecting the inside of my mouth. And I certainly didn’t want to do anything to encourage the possibility of scarring. I looked in the mirror enough to know my face didn’t need that kind of help.

“Not many people get to stay on an Amish farm.” He paused. “Because of their closed society,” he added as if I wouldn’t understand his point. “You’re very fortunate to get the opportunity.”

“I know. I consider this chance a gift straight from God. One day my principal mentioned that he had Amish friends who were willing to take in a boarder. I got the Zooks’ name and contacted them immediately.”

I didn’t tell him that when I first went to the farm, I wore one of my conservative suits, a gift from my parents when they were still hoping to quell my tendency toward bright colors and what they considered the instability of the art community, not that they actually knew any artists but me.

“If you’re too artsy, Kristina,” they said almost daily, as if being “artsy” was the equivalent of having a single digit IQ, “people won’t take you seriously.”

What they meant was that their people, all high-powered corporate lawyers who earned high six figures or even seven annually, wouldn’t take me seriously. They were a group that had no time for business casual, let alone colorful artsy.

On that first visit to the Zooks, I hadn’t been certain what cultural landmines I’d have to navigate, so I determined to at least defuse the clothing issue, the one I knew about and could somewhat mitigate. I’d straightened my navy lapels and smoothed my cream silk blouse before I got out of the car, another cultural difference that I wasn’t willing to yield on, not if I wanted to get to work.

To my delight, I found Mary and John Zook gracious, respectful, and kind. Mary sat there in her pinned-together dress and dark stockings, her organdy kapp crisp in spite of the humidity. John wore a white shirt and black broadfall trousers. His beard was full with only a hint of gray, and his straw hat hung on a peg by the door. They might demand the simple life of themselves and their family, but it was immediately obvious they would not demand the same of me.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if I had more freedom to be myself here in the midst of this highly structured society than in my own parents’ home?

“Your principal?” Jon Clarke asked from his seat beside me. “You teach?”

I nodded. “Elementary art.”

“When I first pulled into the drive, I thought you must be Jake’s visiting nurse.”

“Not me. I’d be a terrible nurse.”

“But a good teacher.”

“Adequate, anyway. And I get the summers off to study and paint. How do you know the Zooks?”

“I’ve known them forever. My aunt and uncle live down the road from them. But I haven’t seen them in several years. In fact, I haven’t been in Lancaster for a long time.”

So I’d bled all over his first visit in years. Great. “Was it a job that kept you away?”

“Yes and no. Yes, when I was a youth pastor at a church in Michigan. No, when I went to seminary and graduate school. I just finished my doctorate in counseling.”

“Really?” I was impressed.

“No. I confess. I’m lying. I just thought it sounded like a wonderful way to astonish and amaze a pretty girl.”

I blinked at him, and he smiled impudently back. “Really?” he said in a dead-on imitation of me.

Flustered, I looked away from his laughing eyes. “I was just trying to make decent conversation.”

His smile deepened. It was, I couldn’t help noticing, a most wonderful smile, crinkling his eyes almost shut and inviting me to smile along, which I was careful not to do because of my cheek.

“Kristina Matthews?” called the woman at the desk. Her nameplate said she was Harriet. She scanned the empty room as though there might be several Kristinas lurking about, and I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder to see who might have sneaked in while I wasn’t looking.

When I stood, Harriet smiled brightly. “There you are. Right through here, please.”

As I entered the treatment area, I passed a teenage boy staggering out on crutches and a lady in a bathing suit with her arm in a bright pink cast. The walking wounded. I wondered what my battle scars would be.

Ten minutes later I looked away as a nurse stabbed me efficiently with a needle.

“This tetanus shot may cause your arm to swell or stiffen,” she said, her voice filled with sorrow over my possible plight. I couldn’t decide whether she was sorry I might swell or sorry I mightn’t. “If it swells or stiffens, don’t worry. Take aspirin or Tylenol and call your personal physician if the pain persists.” She turned away with a great sigh and began cleaning up the treatment area.

I slid off the examination table and looked at my wobbly reflection in the glass doors of the supply cabinet. The flesh-colored butterfly bandage stuck in the middle of my left cheek distorted my face slightly, but I didn’t mind. There had been no need for stitches.

“Any scarring will be minimal,” the doctor said absentmindedly as he wrote something on the forms Harriet had passed to him. He was a good match for the nurse. I doubted he even noticed her melancholia. “Just keep the wound dry and check with your regular doctor next week to have it redressed.” He ripped off the top copy of the paperwork and handed it to me. “It tells you here. And you’re certain the dog had his shots?”

I nodded, took the paper, and hurried to the waiting room. At least Jon Clarke hadn’t had to wait long once I was seen.

But the waiting room was empty. My angel of mercy had flown the coop. I was standing there wondering what to do next when Harriet at the desk called to me.

“Don’t worry, honey. He’ll be right back. He said he had to run a quick errand.”

I nodded with disproportionate relief.

“Men,” she said sympathetically. “You never know what they’re going to do, do you? Sometimes they take off, and you never see them again.” The edge that had crept into her voice made me think she was speaking from experience. She gave herself a little shake. “But yours looked nice enough to me. I think you can trust him, don’t you?”

Her guess was as good as mine. We’d both known him for about the same length of time.

She got up from her desk. “Listen. I’ve got to go to the ladies’ room. I’m talking emergency here, believe me. Stay by the desk and watch things for me, will you?”

Yikes. “What if someone comes in?”

“Tell them I’ll be back in a minute. But don’t worry,” she called over her shoulder as she disappeared through a door. “Nothing big ever happens on Saturday afternoon.”

Taking no comfort from those words, I looked at the quiet waiting room.

No one, Lord, okay? Not till she gets back, okay?

The prayer was barely formed when the waiting room door slid open and an older man in khaki work clothes entered. His face, damp with perspiration, matched the color of the white envelopes sticking out of his shirt pocket, and he was rubbing his left arm. He stopped beside me at the desk.

“I think I’m having a heart attack,” he said as he might say he was going to sneeze.

I felt my own heart stop beating and my mouth go dry.

He staggered, and I reached out instinctively, taking his arm and lowering him into Harriet’s chair.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t apologize!” Now my heart was beating so loudly I could scarcely
hear myself talk. “Don’t worry. Someone will be here to help you in a moment.”

Suddenly he stopped kneading his arm and pressed his hand against his chest. His face contorted and I froze. He was going to die right here while Harriet was in the ladies’ room!

After a minute he relaxed, and I began to breathe again. I ran to the door of the treatment area. “Help, somebody! Help!”

The sad-faced nurse leaned out of a cubicle. “Is anyone bleeding?” She was so intent on what was going on behind that curtain that she didn’t even look at me.

“No, but—”

“Then we’ll be there as soon as we can.” And she disappeared.

I could see several pairs of feet below the curtain and hear several voices,
including that of my doctor, who was barking orders with impressive authority. Through a door down the hall I could see an ambulance with its back doors still open.

“But he needs you now,” I called desperately. “He really does! It’s his—”

“We’ll be there in a minute,” she yelled as a great cascade of blood flowed onto the floor.

Pushing down panic and not knowing what else to do, I went back to the man.

“They’ll be here in a minute,” I told him with all the confidence I could muster.

“Had one before,” he whispered to me. “Don’t worry. It’ll be all right. I’m not ready to die yet. I’ve got stuff to do.”

I tried to smile to encourage him, but between my punctured cheek and my fear, I think it was more of a grimace. The man seemed to appreciate my effort anyway.

Dear God, I screamed in silent prayer, where’s Harriet? Send her out here fast, Lord! Please!

The man rested his head against the wall. “What’s your name? Are you Harriet?”

“I’m Kristie Matthews. Should you be talking?”

“I drove myself here. You don’t think talking’s any worse than that, do you?”

“You drove yourself here? With a heart attack?”

He smiled faintly. “I had to get here somehow. And I didn’t think you were Harriet. You don’t look like a Harriet.”

I didn’t look like this Harriet. Plain old straight brown hair cut to bend at my chin instead of too-black spikes and the electrified look. Five seven and slim instead of short and a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts, if Harriet’s figure and the box in the trash receptacle were any indication. A hole in my cheek instead of an abundance of blusher.

Suddenly he raised his head and looked at me with an intensity that made me blink. “Will you do me a favor, Kristie Matthews?”

I leaned close to hear his weak voice. “Of course.”

“Keep this for me.” He fumbled in his shirt pocket, reaching behind the envelopes. “But tell no one—no one—that you have it.” He slipped a key into my cold hand and folded my fingers over it.

I heard a gasp from behind me. Harriet was finally back.

“Heart attack,” I said, but Harriet was three steps ahead of me.

Her voice boomed over the PA. “Dr. Michaels, Dr, Michaels, stat. Dr. Michaels, code!” Harriet disappeared back into the treatment area yelling, “Marie! Charles! Where are you? Get yourselves out here fast!”

An arthritic finger tapped my closed fist. “Remember, tell no one,” the old man managed to whisper. “Promise?”

“I promise.” What else could I say?

He stared at my face as if searching my soul. He must have been satisfied with what he saw because his hand relaxed on mine and his eyes closed. “Don’t forget. I’m counting on you.” He gave a deep sigh, and I froze. Was that his last breath? “I’m counting on you.”

The room came alive with people. Medical personnel converged on the sick man, and I stepped back with relief.

“Don’t you ever go to the bathroom again,” I hissed at Harriet, who probably never would if she valued her job.

When the doors to the treatment area slid shut and I could no longer see the man, I collapsed in one of the orange chairs, struggling with tears.

This is ridiculous. Why am I crying? I don’t even know the man.

I gave myself a shake and stared at the small piece of metal in my hand. Why had he given his precious key to me, a total stranger? Why hadn’t he let the hospital personnel keep it for him? Or asked them to hold it for a family member?

What could it possibly open that no one—no one—must know of it?

And what in the world should I do with it?

It was a relief when Jon Clarke finally returned.

“I’m sorry,” he said with that winning smile. “I got held up in traffic. I hope you didn’t think I’d deserted you.”

“Of course not,” I said as I slipped the key into my pocket. I hastened to correct my lie. “At least, not after Harriet told me you’d be back.”

He cocked that dark, heavy brow at me again, saying as clearly as if I’d spoken aloud that he knew all too well what I’d thought.

I flushed and began talking to cover my embarrassment. “This old man came in and had a heart attack. He scared me to death! I was the only one in the room—Harriet had gone to the ladies’ room. I had to be with him until help came. He gave me—”

I stopped abruptly. “No one,” he’d said, he’d insisted. “Promise.” And I had.

Did I owe him my silence? I didn’t even know him.

But I didn’t know this sandy-haired, dark-browed man standing beside me, either. I only met him an hour or so ago. I couldn’t bleed all over him anymore.

“He gave me quite a scare,” I said, decision made. I gave a short laugh. “I’m not used to anything more serious than the common cold or one of my students throwing up.”

But what would I do if he died?

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