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!
and the book:
Whitaker House (April 5, 2011)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***
Vanessa Miller is a best-selling author, playwright, and motivational speaker. She started writing as a child, spending countless hours either reading or writing poetry, short stories, stage plays and novels. Vanessas creative endeavors took on new meaning in 1994 when she became a Christian. Since then, her writing has been centered on themes of redemption, often focusing on characters facing multi-dimensional struggles. Readers and critics alike have responded with overwhelming affirmation with her work topping several bestsellers lists and receiving numerous awards including Best Christian Fiction Mahogany Award and the Red Rose Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction. The first two books in her Second Chance at Love Series, Yesterdays Promise and A Love for Tomorrow, debuted at #1 on the Black Christian News Networks Bestsellers List.
Visit the author’s website.
Since her husbands death two years ago, Yvonne Milner has been serving as sole pastor of the church they pastored together, but shes embroiled in a battle with the church board who wants to fire her. Just before a pivotal meeting, her husbands former best friend Thomas Reed, a handsome and world-renowned motivational speaker, steps back into her life. Thomas is a widower and understands the pain shes going through on many levels. When a different kind of threat targets both the church and her daughter, Yvonne turns to Thomas and long-buried emotions arise between them. Yvonne is hesitant to get involved, not wanting to break her promise to her husband to love him forever
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (April 5, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
On days like this, Yvonne Milner wondered why she even bothered to pray. She had yelled, screamed, begged, and cajoled, yet the doctors still couldnt make eye contact with her when they came into her husbands hospital room. There were no more talks of surgery or chemotherapy. Theyd told her that nothing more could be done for David. But, as far as Yvonne was concerned, the doctors didnt know diddly. David Milner was the senior pastor of one of the most notable churches in Detroit. He was the father of two beautiful daughters, and he was her beloved husband. So, she wasnt just going to throw in the towel and believe the doctors doom-and-gloom predictions. She and David had been married for thirty-four years, and he had promised her a fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. Weve got sixteen more years to go, David, she urged him. Dont give up now.
A vicious cough shook his fragile, cancer-racked body as he attempted to sit up in his hospital bed.
Dont, sweetheart. Just lie down.
No I need to tell you something. David labored to get each word out.
It was killing Yvonne to see her husband weak and bedridden like this. He had always been so strong, had always been her hero. She had admired this man, even when they hadnt seen eye-to-eye about her role in the ministry. Early in their marriage, Yvonne had known that she was destined to preach the gospel. However, David wouldnt hear of it. They had fought, and Yvonne had prayed for years that God would change her husbands mind. Finally, David had accepted the fact that his wife had been called by God to be a preacher. Yet, even through those tough years, Yvonne couldnt have imagined being anywhere else but with the man she loved. You can say what you need to while lying down, honey. You need your strength to get better.
David shook his head. Im going home, baby.
I know that, David. You just need to regain your strength so they will let you out of this hospital.
He shook his head again and then pointed heavenward. Home with Jesus.
Yvonnes eyes filled with tears. Dont say that, David. You and I have a lot more living to do.
He patted her hand. Call Thomas.
Thomas Reed was Davids best friend. The man traveled the world building churches and ministering to Gods people. Hed recently lost his wife to the same evil disease that was threatening to take Davids life. Call Thomas right now? Why? What do you want me to tell him?
If you need help, call Thomas. He promised me A coughing fit cut him off.
Yvonne took the cup from Davids bedside table and filled it with water from the pitcher, then held the glass to his lips for him to drink once the coughing subsided. Here, baby, drink this. When he had taken a few sips, she said, Now, just lie here and rest. Our girls will be here soon, and you need to save your energy for them. Toya, twenty-nine years old, was their firstborn, a self-assured attorney with political aspirations. Tia was their twenty-six-year-old baby. Whereas Toya was analytical and ambitious, Tias strength was creativity, yet she was introspective and reserved. She could paint and write poetry from sunup till sundown and be perfectly at peace.
It had been difficult for Yvonne to manage her daughters very different personalities while raising them, but David had convinced her to relax and let God work out His perfect plan for each girls life. If it hadnt been for Davids wisdom and prayers, Yvonne was sure that she would have broken Tias spirit. She had needed more time than David to understand their daughters passion for writing and painting. What was she going to do if he didnt survive this illness?
No sooner had the thought crossed her mind than Yvonne tried to banish it. But that was also the moment when she noticed that Davids breathing sounded funny. And then she understood why none of the medical professionals who had come into the room today had been able to look her in the eye. They had heard it, toothe death rattle.
No, baby, nodont leave me! she begged him.
Remember Thomas promised love you.
Tears were running down Yvonnes face as she heard her husbands last words. She put her arms around the man she had loved for a lifetimeand yet not long enoughand whispered, I love you, too, baby. Always and forever.
Eighteen months later
Yvonne Milner collapsed into her office chair and heaved a sigh. Pastoring Christ-Life Sanctuary by herself was far from easy, and it seemed that her situation was only getting worse. For years, the church had grown and thrived, even reaching megachurch status with more than five thousand members. But since Davids death, two thousand of their You can count on me members had left the ministry. The head elder, Ron Thompson, had broken away to start his own ministry, taking another two hundred church members with him. Tithing was down, charity fund expenditures were up, and Yvonne knew that the churchs board of directors blamed it all on her.
Several of the board members had challenged her authority to her face and as good as said that they wouldnt be having those problems if David were still around or if their senior pastor wasnt a woman. Yvonne acknowledged that some people could not accept having a female in the highest position of church leadership, but she also knew that not all twenty-two hundred members had left for that reason.
Sighing again, she stood up and stepped over to the bay window to gaze out at the new Family Life Centeror, rather, what was supposed to be the new Family Life Center, the final phase of their latest building project. The Family Life Center had been Yvonnes vision. After the sanctuary had been expanded to make room for their growing congregation, Yvonne had convinced David that they still needed to do more. She envisioned a brand-new facility that would provide space for recreational activities, especially for the children and young adults, as well as a café and a bookstore. In addition, she intended for one of the rooms to be set up theater-style, with tiered seats and a movie screen, where they could organize movie nights or perform stage plays.
Five years ago, when Yvonne and David had first proposed the building project to the board, they had developed a financial plan based on the churchs finances and projected that they would have more than enough funds to cover each phase of the project. But Yvonne hadnt foreseen the death of her husband or the annihilation of Detroits economy. How could she have known that General Motors and Chrysler would go crying to the government for a bail-out and then lay off thousands upon thousands of workers, many of whom attended church at Christ-Life Sanctuary?
Now Yvonne was stuck staring at a half finished Family Life Center, as it would probably remain. After all, the coffers were empty. She really couldnt blame the board of directors for asking for her resignation. When her husband was alive, Yvonne stood side by side with him as they built this church from the ground up. She had installed three of their seven board members herself. And she knew that God wasnt finished with her yet. The work He had begun in herand in the church through her ministrywas far from over, and she would be dead and buried before anyone took her out of the pulpit permanently. She just needed a plan, needed to pray about knowing the right things to say at the board meeting tomorrow in order to convince the members to give her more time to turn things around.
A knock at her door drew Yvonnes eyes away from the window. She turned toward the door. Come in.
The door opened, and in walked Thomas Reed. Actually, he didnt walk; he swaggered like a man who had the keys to the kingdom. If she hadnt known Thomas for almost thirty years, Yvonne would have thought he swaggered so confidently because he was a millionaire several times over. But Thomas had strutted like that even when he had been as poor as a man carrying a Will work for food sign.
Thomas had a way about him that caused men and women to stop and stare. He was one of those fine, chocolate, Denzel-Washington-types of brothers, with wavy black hair and heavenly hazel eyes.
David had met Thomas thirty years ago in seminary and had joked about marrying Yvonne to keep her away from pretty boys like Thomas so that he didnt have to worry about her running off. But David never had reason to worry; he had always been her prince, and shed never wanted anyone but him.
When Thomas got married, David became less worried about his friends captivating charm. The four of themDavid and Yvonne, Thomas and Brendahad settled into their own ministries yet maintained a lasting friendship. David and Yvonne opened Christ-Life Sanctuary a year after David graduated from seminary, and the church had thrived from its inception. Thomas, on the other hand, was forced to close the doors to his church after struggling for five years to make a go of it. He hadnt let that stop him, though. Thomas became a Christ-centered motivational speaker and took his ministry on the road. He now pulled in fifty thousand dollars per speaking engagement and had written nearly a dozen New York Times best-selling books.
Thomas! Yvonne gave him a hug and stepped back to admire his suit. Look at you, dapper as ever on this hot summer day.
You dont look so bad, yourself, he said with a grin.
I cant believe you came all this way.
I wouldnt miss this board meeting for anything in the world. And besides, I have a promise to make good on.
Just before David died, he had told Yvonne to call Thomas if ever she needed help. Shed seen Thomas at the funeral, where he had asked if she needed anything. No, shed said, and for eighteen months, she hadnt bothered her husbands best friend for assistance, even though hed called her from time to time to check in. But today, she was finally calling in a favor. Thomas had been installed as a board member of Christ-Life Sanctuary about ten years ago but rarely showed up for meetings. The board had always been in accord with David, so hed never needed to rely on his friend for a tie-breaking vote.
Yvonne had no such luck, and so shed asked for Thomass help on this vote. Yet she hadnt expected him to make an appearancenot when he could have simply phoned in with his vote.
Please, sit down, Yvonne said, gesturing to the couch. Before we talk about church business, I want to know how youve been doing. It had been months since theyd caught up, and she was eager to hear about his speaking ministry and his family.
Thomas unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat down on the couch next to Yvonne. So, what do you want to know?
For starters, you havent been traveling as much lately. Has the world received all the motivation it needs?
Thomas laughed. Im still getting more speaking engagements than I can accept, but I guess Ive kind of lost my wanderlust.
Yvonne knew that for years, Brenda had asked Thomas to spend less time on the road and more time at home. It seemed strange that now, more than two years after Brendas death, he was finally willing to limit his travels. What brought this on? she asked.
Since Brenda died, Ive spent a lot of time putting things into perspective. I want to spend some time reconnecting with my son, which is going to be hard since he has his own career now.
Yvonne understood exactly where Thomas was coming from. She and David had spent many years on the preaching circuit, and then, one day, they looked up and saw that Toya and Tia were grown. She wished she could take credit for the woman Toya had become, and she definitely wished that she had spent more time helping Tia mature. If life didnt turn out right for Tia, Yvonne knew shed be tempted to blame herself. I should have spent more time with my girls as they were growing up, too. She slapped her hand against her thigh as she sat up a bit straighter. But, hey, I figure Ill get a second chance when they give me some grandchildren.
Speak for yourself, Granny, Thomas said, nudging her arm. Im not trying to become a poppa for at least another five years. We didnt have Jarrod until I was thirty, so I figure he can at least return the favor and not have his first kid until hes at least thirty, maybe even thirty-five.
Yvonne chuckled, then laughed outright, so hard that she doubled over. When she finally regained composure, she sat up again and wiped the tears from her eyes. Okay, maybe I dont want to be a granny so soon, either.
You certainly dont look like any granny I know. I mean, look at you. Youre fifty-two, but you dont look a day over forty.
Yvonne had been told that her looks were what Olay would want to advertise its facial products. Fifty was definitely the new forty where she was concerned. With her long, coal-black hair, light skin, and eyes that sparkled and danced, she could have passed for a relative of Lena Horne. Weve known each other entirely too long. Theres no way you should know my real age.
Thomas lifted his hands in surrender. Dont worry about it. Ill take your secrets to the grave with me.
Yvonne felt her droll mood depart. I dont want to hear anything about you going to your grave.
Thomas put an arm around Yvonnes shoulder and gave her a squeeze. I shouldnt have said that. Im sorry.
With his arm still wrapped around her, Yvonne took a deep breath to steady her nerves. She had seen two deaths too many in the past two years, and she didnt know if she could make it through funeral number three so soon. With David and Brenda gone, Yvonne felt that she should have fulfilled her quota of homegoings for a lifetime. Dont say stuff like that. I dont consider it funny.
Again, Im sorry, Thomas said as he stood up. Are you ready for the meeting tomorrow morning?
Yvonne shook her head and leaned back in the couch. Ive been in ministry for thirty years, copastored Christ-Life for twenty, and now some board that my husband and I formed wants to vote me out. I dont know how to get ready for something like that.
But Im here to cast my vote in favor of you staying senior pastor of Christ-Life, Thomas reminded her. And I believe several others will vote in your favor, also.
Yvonne pushed herself to her feet and planted a kiss on Thomass cheek. God love you for what youre doing, Thomas. But I dont know how much good its going to do. If Deacon Brown has his way, I might need to take on a few of those speaking engagements youve cancelled.
Dont worry, Thomas said. This meeting is in the Lords hands. He knows that youre meant to pastor this church, and I plan to do everything in my power to make the other board members realize that.