Friday, July 31, 2009

Not So Fast by Ann Kroeker


Life’s Too Short to Live in Fast Forward
Ann Kroeker’s new book offers readers simple solutions for a slower, saner lifestyle

Today’s frenzied families find themselves fragmented in this high-speed, fast-paced, goal-oriented society. Even while racing to second jobs, appointments, lessons, practices, games, and clubs, we crave an antidote. How do we counteract the effects of our overcommitted culture? Replenish our depleted selves? Restore our rushed relationships?

For those readers whose every hour is rush hour, author Ann Kroeker explores the jarring effects of our overbusy culture and offers refreshing alternatives. Bypassing the fast lane, Kroeker’s new book, Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families (David C Cook, August 2009), urges families to discover how simplifying and slowing down can help restore strained relationships…and souls.

“We’re raising our kids in a high-speed, high-pressured, 24/7 world,” says Kroeker. “Pushing children to get ahead, we cram everything possible into our days to maximize their chance at success. We’re overloaded, overextended, overcommitted, and over-caffeinated. And we’re paying a price: Our relationships are anemic; our health, in jeopardy. Half-awake and half-hearted, we can’t sustain this pace.”

In Not So Fast, Kroeker relates her own story of how embracing a slower everyday pace has resulted in a richer, fuller, and more meaningful family and spiritual life. With practical ideas and insight that will spark creativity and personal reflection, Kroeker offers hope that families struggling with hurried hearts and frantic souls can discover the rejuvenating power of an unrushed life.

Not So Fast includes two practical features for those moving toward a more reflective and peaceful life—a life that makes room for knowing and loving God and people. At the close of each chapter, the “Slow Notes” section offers slow-down solutions to apply immediately. In “Live from the Slow Zone,” readers will hear inspirational stories from those who have learned to reap the rewards of life in the slow lane.

“For everyone who yearns for the benefits of a slower life, I want to point to Jesus and say, ‘Start here. Start with the One who offers true and lasting peace. Look to His Word. Meditate on that. Learn from Him, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light,’” writes Kroeker. “I wish we could see that the root of meaning and peace that we’re seeking is found not in a yoga pose or a mind-emptying meditation session, but in a rich relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Author Bio: Author of The Contemplative Mom, Ann Kroeker is an acclaimed writer and speaker committed to encouraging and inspiring families as they face the demands of daily living. A contributor to the award-winning Experiencing the Passion of Jesus, she has written for numerous corporations and her articles have appeared in a variety of publications including Decision, The Student, Christian Home and School, and Indianapolis Woman. Ann and her husband, Philippe, have been married 18 years and have four children.

Not So Fast by Ann Kroeker
David C Cook/August 2009/ISBN: 978-1-434768-88-9/240 pages/softcover/$14.99
http://www.davidccook.com/ http://www.annkroeker.com/

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oz wouldn't be so bad

Just before 6:30 this morning, the tornado sirens blared. In middle of the night, I can normally sleep through the train horn blaring yards behind my duplex. Maybe it's because it was close to around the time I usually have to get up, but the sirens woke me. Peachy. I'm awake before I have to be this morning, and there's severe weather.

I knew that if I didn't call my dad to confirm, yes, I did indeed hear the sirens, he would call me. It's just the way it is. Trust me. I beat him to it. He turned on the TV. I figured he would turn on the local radar since he has local cable. No, he turns it on channel 4 or something, which I could have done myself via Dish Network.

The National Weather Service announces that they are cancelling the tornado warning as the sirens start to wind down. But before they do, my dad tells me that I could get dress and come over to their house though he does not know if their house is any safer.

No, thanks, Dad, I think I can hunker down in my bathroom just fine. Driving through a tornado doesn't sound too wise, and didn't look like all that much fun on Twister. I'm pretty sure I can be taken to Oz just as easily in one place as another.

Dad says he will check back in with me before he leaves for work. "No, please don't. I'm going back to sleep."

At 6:41, the phone rings. "Yes?... Hello?"

"This is the Navarro County Emergency Management... blah, blah, blah... the National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning in effect until 6:30... take cover..."

If it weren't a recording, I would have informed the NCEM that the warning passed 11 minutes prior to their phone call, and the only cover I was taking was the ones on my bed.

At 6:45, the phone rings. "Hello."

"This is the Navarro County Emergency Management... blah, blah, blah... the National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning in effect until 6:30... take cover..."

#1 I think their warning system is a little late.

#2 Is it really necessary to call twice? I don't think they knew that I had not grabbed my flashlight and retreated to the closet in my bathroom that is the most intermost place I could get.

I finally got back to sleep and remained in that state until 9:50 when my mom calls to ask me a question. As I said yesterday, I'm trying to catch up on some lost sleep. I went to bed late anyway, and why am I trying to justify myself here? I don't feel guilty for it.

I would say that I would unplug my phone as to not be awaken tomorrow morning in that way, but the girls are coming over for the day, and will be over here earlier than what I have gotten up the last two days. I do, however, plan to answer the door in my pajamas.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't hold your breath

If you are looking for exciting reports of what I am doing with my three days off this week, don't hold your breath.

I did absolutely nothing of real value today, and didn't turn on my computer until I got back from church tonight so that I could write a blog.

IT WAS WONDERFUL!

I didn't get out of bed until 10 this morning. Granted, I didn't get to sleep until like 1 AM because I was working on something late last night.

I took a nap this afternoon too because I needed to catch up on more sleep since I got up too early yesterday. I haven't been sleeping wonderfully lately.

It was great.

I did get an old piece of furniture out to the curb. I had a four drawer dresser thing that I had gotten when I went off to college that held clothes in my first apartment, stuff in my bathroom in my last duplex and craft stuff in a closet in my current one. The drawers were coming unglued and stayed off whack of their wheel runners. So I trashed it.

That was the most active part of my day. Oh, and I vacuumed the living room and my bedroom. Washed 2 loads of clothes. (One is in the dryer, the other laying on my bed and will probably just get thrown in the clean basket I always dig towels out of.)

That's really about it. I said I was going to work on the scrapbooks of our South Dakota trip, but I haven't made it over to that side of the room yet. Maybe when I finish this post.

I talked to both Misha and Jenny on the phone. One on one line when the other called. I guess I can search for another ring tone since Misha didn't really approve of my current one for me. (The flying witch song from the Wizard of Oz.)

I texted my brother last night that I would watch his daughters tomorrow. I've not heard from him today except via text to confirm that my insurance draft was set up. Thankfully, my phone was on silent so that it didn't wake me up this morning. :)

Now, if my door bell rings at 7:30 AM tomorrow, we may have an issue. I'll let you know. Maybe I will actually do more than watch portions of way too many episodes of NCIS and finishing the book I've been reading. Or maybe not. Nothing is kind of nice.

Christianish by Mark Steele

Suffering from Christianish?
In his new book, author Mark Steele transforms middle-ground, Christianish faith into a passionate, authentic pursuit of Christ

Modern evangelicalism has lost its balance. A lukewarm spirituality, somewhere between cold faith and hot pursuit, has taken hold and found many believers in the median between the wide path and the narrow road of the spiritual walk. The efforts of many have become more centered on how to cope with their own dysfunctional lives, and less concentrated on what it really means to follow Jesus. It’s something not quite Christian. It’s more like…Christianish.

In his new book, Christianish: What if We’re Not Really Following Jesus at All? (David C Cook, August 2009), author Mark Steele tells the story of his own personal journey from living in the “in-between” to a life that’s centered on Christ. “Somewhere along the road, I stopped being a ‘little Christ’ and instead began filling out the application that I had labeled ‘Christian.’ It was not a definition based on the actual namesake but, rather, on those who frequent the clubhouse. I allowed Jesus to seep into my church world—but not my relational world, my romance world, my business world, my creative world, my habits, my mouth. I had become Christianish.”

Christianish may feel like authentic faith. It may even look like the real deal. Yet it’s often easy to settle for the souvenir t-shirt—the appearance of a transformed heart—instead of taking the actual trip through true life-change. We find ourselves being contented with a personal faith that’s been polluted by culture and diluted by other people’s take on spirituality.

In Christianish, Mark revisits the words and life of Christ to find just what it means to be a Christian. Through stories and insights that are sometimes profound, often hilarious, and always honest, he delivers a compelling look at what authentic faith is all about. While carefully detailing the tell tale symptoms of being Christianish, Mark encourages readers to ditch the “ish” to become true Christ-followers.

“We have trained ourselves to cope well on a Christianish path: a path where we please the right godly people and don’t feel the guilt when our failings are seen by the world at large. But this is not the approach to Jesus that we were created to take. There is only one way for us to discover the right way to travel the right road. The way is not church. The way is not an ideology. The way is not Christian. The way is Jesus.”

Author Bio: Mark Steele is the president and executive creative of Steelehouse Productions, a group that creates art for business and ministry through the mediums of film, stage, and animation. He is also the author of Flashbang: How I Got Over Myself and Half-Life/Die Already and is a regular contributor to Collide Magazine and Relevant Magazine. Mark and his wife, Kaysie, reside in Oklahoma with their three greatest productions: Morgan, Jackson, and Charlie.

Christianish: What if We’re Not Really Following Jesus at All?
by Mark Steele
David C Cook/August 2009/ISBN 978-1-434766-92-2/320 pages/softcover/$14.99
http://www.davidccook.com/

Monday, July 27, 2009

Make Love, Make War by Brian Doerksen


Living a Life of Radical Worship
Award-winning songwriter Brian Doerksen shares insights behind some of the most beloved songs of our time as he provokes readers to love and war

What is true worship? It can elevate us into the presence of God, renew and refresh our spirits, and offer the deepest expression of love for our Savior. Yet worship can also be a call to arms, a battle cry, a salvo in an ancient spiritual war that continues today. In his first book, Make Love, Make War: Now Is the Time to Worship (David C Cook, August 2009), award-winning songwriter Brian Doerksen challenges Christians to make their lives an offering of radical worship.

An acclaimed songwriter, recording artist, author, conference speaker, and pastor, Doerksen believes God is calling us to love and to battle—to spread peace and wage spiritual warfare. “Each is essential to our daily spiritual walk,” writes Doerksen. “We do this through how we live, how we serve Him, and how we protect and fight for what matters most. One of the ways I make love and war is through music.”

In Make Love, Make War, Doerksen shares the stories and inspirations behind some of today’s most influential songs of worship, including “Come, Now Is the Time to Worship,” “Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing),” and “Refiner’s Fire.” While offering special tips for aspiring songwriters, Doerksen also reveals rich truths and insights about the nature of God, His calling for us, and how we can wage spiritual war and share His love through a life of radical worship.

“I believe that we know love and war are at the heart of everything inside us, and everything going on all around us,” says Doerksen. “We sense that there is nothing that Satan hates more than the worship of Yahweh by those who are faithful to the Lamb. He spends more than a little energy convincing us that there really is no war going on, and that the sum total of our lives’ calling is to be nice. But God is provoking us to rise up and fight. The war He calls us to make is always for the sake of love!”

Beginning August through September, the “Hear It First, Read It First” contest and promotion for Make Love, Make War will be sponsored by David C Cook, Integrity Music, HearItFirst.com, and Gibson/Epiphone Guitars. By visiting HearItFirst.com, fans and readers will be able to enter to win prizes, as well as download free music video performances of Brian Doerksen (i.e., “It’s Time” and “Holy God”) and free sample chapters from Make Love, Make War.



"It's Time," by Brian Doerksen from David C. Cook on Vimeo.

Author Bio: Brian Doerksen has always had a passion for expressing worship through music. He is an award-winning songwriter of some of today’s most popular songs of worship. He is currently developing a musical of hope based on Luke 15 called “Prodigal God.” Brian, his wife, Joyce, and their six children reside in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.
Make Love, Make War: Now Is the Time to Worship
by Brian Doerksen
David C Cook/August 2009/ISBN 978-1-434766-82-3/224 pages/softcover/$14.99
http://www.davidccook.com/

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Being Talented is Tough Work

Being a blogger with original content is tough work. I don't feel so original today. I would say that would be one of the reasons you should never expect me to be a New York Times bestselling author.

Actually, scratch the best selling part. I don't expect you to ever see me write a book. Believe it or not, I don't really like to write. Well, as readers of my blog, you might be yelling, "DUH!" at your computer screen because I'm not much of a writer most of the time.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't have a great appreciation for those who do write. I work with many prolific authors. I read many others as well. Wow. I just can't imagine sitting down and coming up with a book of any kind. That's truly an amazing talent.

Speaking of talents, while I was working on some posts for this blog and the Business as UNusual blog for the next couple of weeks, I've had repeats of "America's Got Talent" playing in the background. There is a marathon on Oxygen, and nothing else much is on while I'm waiting to watch "The Next Food Network Star".

As usual, I'm going to get off track before I get back on track. I sure watch a LOT of the Food Network to never cook anything. My mom agreed with me when I made that statement yesterday to her. She loves to point out how much I don't cook.

Anyway, back to talent. Some of these poor schmoes on the TV show are so delusional for thinking that they have a million dollar talent. They don't. They really, really don't. There is some bad singing going on for certain.

Speaking of bad singing, whew, heard some of that at church this morning. I'm certainly not going to go stand on the X and let Piers and the Hoff buzz me because I don't have that talent either. But... poor Paige, Hannah Montana, she is not.

This morning she had even more gusto than usual. My parents even got tickled at her this morning. She was singing quite loudly. And neither on tune or on the right words. She would either loudly mumble something or say words after the rest of us sung words.

At one point I looked down and whispered, "sing it right."

She replied back, "I don't know this song."

I shoved a songbook in her face. She's eight years old and can read.

Actually, I tried that more than once, but it didn't much help.

Oh, I know, God appreciates her singing, and she sounded like an angel to Him anyway. That's all that really counts. But you weren't standing next to her trying to sing the right words to the right tune.

That's about all I have to share. I'm going to go make me some quesadillas - about the only thing I do cook. They will be good though!

Friday, July 24, 2009

You have the wrong girl

I don't accept every friend request on Facebook, but I do accept most. I accepted this person named Debi a few weeks ago, not knowing how I knew her, but said OK this time around. Debi is quite the friendly sort and has commented several times on my posts.

I keep thinking, "who is this woman?" Yet, I didn't ask. At first I thought maybe she was a friend of a friend.

In the meantime, last week, a man asked if I was the Audra Jennings that lived on such and such street in Arlington and was their neighbor. Nope, it's not me.

Well, this week Debi sent me a message saying that in going through her address book she saw that I had moved from Arlington and changed jobs -- that my new one looked interesting. Uh, Debi, you have the wrong Audra.

Evidently, this is quite strange because I look like this other Audra - and am about the same age. I was even told that everyone has a twin, and mine even has the same name.

Interesting.

A month or so at work, I received an email from a publisher saying that this person had read my (Audra Jennings') thesis and wanted to publish it. "My" thesis had a title about 25 words long and if I remember correctly, the words "liberal", "history", "women" and "1860-1940" were all a part of the title. This publisher was very academic, specializing in history and science textbooks.

I replied back, "you have the wrong Audra."

In return, this publisher asked me if I (the wrong Audra) had written anything that I wanted published. Nah, I don't think so. Thank you though.

What I would or could possibly write that would be a fit for this particular publisher, I have no idea.

I wonder if any other Audra gets inquiries about me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Scape goat

As Paige pointed out to me on Friday before she left, it was all my fault that I wasn't going to where they were going. Well, yeah...

(I am no longer saying the name of the locale because every time I do, the tourist department finds me and makes comments on my blog or someone on Facebook tells me where to stay the next time I go. Have these people been reading what I have said? I'm not going back if I can help it.)

It was probably a mistake to spend a couple of hours with them Friday before they left because it made me wish that I was going with them in a way. To spend time with them, not spend time in the state of Missouri aka Misery in my book.

When they arrived at their destination, Mom called to say they had arrived. She also said that the girls wanted to take the helicopter ride, but Dad told them that I would be mad if they did.

Well, true, but I don't think that they are going to let a 5 year old and an 8 year old on the helicopter without adult supervision. Don't blame this on me being mad, blame this on the fact that there's no way either one of you would take them. Oh, wait, it's all my fault anyway because I'm not there and if I were...

Truth be known, without actual parental consent, we probably wouldn't be flying over Table Rock Lake or wherever the helicopter flies.

Which at this current point, I'm going to go off on a side discussion and come back to the one I was on. Table Rock Lake is nice, but what kind of site seeing are you going to see on this helicopter excursion? A view of the strip -- I don't think that two lane road that is packed when the shows let out -- is going to be all that impressive from the air. Well, it might be four lane in places. I guess you might be a glimpse of some Ozarks.

Certainly not like flying over the Badlands or the Grand Canyon or the Vegas strip.

OK, back to scapegoatness. The girls are going to want to do go-karts. There is a kiddie place where they can drive small ones themselves. When they can't do the big ones because Mom and Dad won't drive them (Dad had already told me that he wouldn't be doing it with them), those girls better not hear, "well, if Audra were here." They might even say it since I drove them in Brenham, but what they ought to be saying is, "if Daddy were here." You know, their daddy chose not to go as well, lest we forget.

I hope they are having a great time. And I hope I don't hear, "you should have gone," repeatedly when they get back.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Andrew Wilson's GodStories

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:


GodStories

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Andrew Wilson holds degrees in theology from Cambridge University and London School of Theology. His passion is to communicate the extraordinary truths of God. Andrew teaches internationally and is an elder at Kings Church Eastbourne in the UK, where he leads training and development. Andrew is also the author of Incomparable: Explorations in the Character of God, and lives with his wife Rachel and their newborn baby Ezekiel in the UK.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765393
ISBN-13: 978-1434765390

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


PROLOGUE

Several years ago in Northern Nigeria, Emily was strung up on a tree and left for dead because she had epilepsy.1 Her tribal village had no idea what epilepsy was, let alone how to cope with it, so they tied her up and left her there, waiting for her to die from starvation or exposure. Just before she did, Daniel arrived with a small team to preach the gospel and plant a church. Horrified, he immediately cut down the young girl from the tree and put her under a doctor’s care. Then he and his team began explaining the gospel to the villagers.



Daniel has paid a price for his zeal. He, his wife, and his children have experienced pretty much every suffering you can have for preaching the good news: robbery, rape, physical beatings, death threats, the lot. But that hasn’t stopped him. In fact, from the little I have seen, his sufferings have increased his determination to establish churches and train leaders.


But as people in the village started responding to the gospel, Daniel and his team were able to plant a small church, and then build a school to educate the children. Daniel understood GodStories, you see. He had gone to the village in the first place because he knew the GodStory of world mission. He knew that he would face serious persecution for preaching the gospel, but he knew the GodStory of Christ’s suffering and was prepared to share it. When he got there, he preached GodStories about the gospel of God concerning his Son, victory over demons, and the death of death. He started bringing healthcare and education to the community because he knew GodStories about God’s kingdom, man in his image, and the renewal of creation. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the results firsthand: There is a thriving church in the village, nearly two hundred children at school every day (their English grammar is better than mine!), and Emily is still alive. Because of Daniel’s conviction that the gospel story is amazing, hope has conquered despair in that community.


And he certainly won’t stop preaching GodStories. Maybe it’s because he knows how they all end.


The Greatest Story Ever Told


The point of this book is to convince you that the gospel is amazing. It’s aimed at anyone who wants to understand the good news of what God has done: teenagers, caretakers, businesspeople, full-time mothers, artists. Knowing the gospel is the foundation for worship and mission, so the only thing we’re going to do in this book is explore the beautiful, triumphant, often-heartbreaking, and always-glorious stories that make up the gospel of God. I call them GodStories.


It’s a funny word, and you won’t find it in the dictionary. But my guess is that the idea of looking at a gospel through stories will excite lots of people. Perhaps you see theology as a rabbit warren of concepts without narratives, a series of points and principles and theories that take all the best bits (like characters and plot twists and heroism) out of the Bible, and leave behind a slightly inedible result, like eating cereal without milk or playing Scrabble without vowels. To you, the fact that this book is made up of stories—and, far more importantly, the fact that God’s gospel is made up largely of stories—should be encouraging. It will certainly increase your enjoyment of theology.


You see, just as we have one God in three persons and one church made up of many people, so in Scripture we have one gospel made up of many stories. We have one gospel, for sure: a single, unifying, big story about God and creation, man and sin, Jesus and rescue. But we also have many different ways of telling that big story because it is too large for us to grasp all at once. Even the quick summaries in the Bible itself—“your God reigns,” “the kingdom of God is near,” “God raised Jesus from the dead,” and “Christ died for our sins”—give different angles on the one big story. So seeing the many GodStories in the one gospel does not reduce that gospel in glory or splendor. Quite the opposite—it dramatically increases it.


This is true of all sorts of big stories, not just the gospel. Imagine that, instead of writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien decided to simplify things into a sentence: “Frodo and Sam left the Shire with the ring, faced a number of setbacks, and finally destroyed it in Mount Doom to save Middle Earth.” His summary would, in one sense, tell the same story, but it would be dramatically reduced in power and impact, and would probably not have sold millions of copies and been turned into three blockbuster films. The Lord of the Rings is about two hobbits and a ring, but it is also about the flight of the elves, the destruction of the forests, the corruption of mankind, the battles for Rohan and Gondor, the return of the king, and the influence the ring has on all of them. So when we read all those other stories, it adds to our understanding of the plot with Frodo and the ring, because it shows us the significance of the main story through its impact on all the others. The same is true of the gospel. But the process is far more important, for three reasons.


GodStories and the Glory of God


The first and biggest reason we must read these stories is because the glory of God is at stake. This is vital. If the Bible is stuffed full of GodStories but we tell only one of them, we lose much of the depth and wonder of the gospel, and that diminishes our view of God, just as it would diminish my view of Gordon Ramsay’s cooking if I ate only his steamed vegetables.


If, for example, we saw the gospel simply as a story of personal salvation, we would limit its scope enormously and rob God of the praise that is due to him. Such a view would miss out on the salvation of a corporate people and would find very little place for the history of Israel, which so much of the Bible is about. It would marginalize God’s faithfulness to his covenant and his multicolored wisdom in the church. And it would ignore the fact that Scripture speaks of the whole of creation, not just human souls, being made new. So reducing the gospel to only a story of personal salvation is like playing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the recorder. The melody might be the same, but much of the music’s power is lost, and the brilliance of the composer is missed.


Yet, as with music, God’s excellence is shown not just in creating new storylines, but in fusing them together so that they enhance one another. Queen brings two melodies together to form a harmony, but Yahweh weaves dozens of GodStories—Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and many others—into one another so intricately that when Jesus finally arrives on the scene, you want to stand amazed and applaud with excitement. Composers frequently write notes that clash with one another to present an unusual sound, but God allows entire plotlines to clash for generations and then get explained with a twist you would never have predicted (a servant king, for instance). Queen leaves their final chord sequence unresolved for several seconds, but God leaves Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 unresolved for several centuries before uniting them at the cross with unimaginable power and beauty. So to grasp more of the glory of God, we need to appreciate the range and depth of the gospel, by studying as many of its component stories as possible. More than anything else, the reason for writing a book full of GodStories is to remind us how astonishing and faithful and glorious and worthy of worship is the God who wrote them.


This could not be more important. If God’s glory is infinite, and my concept of him is not, then I never stop needing an increased understanding of his greatness. Furthermore, that greatness is many-sided, like a massive mountain; there is nowhere in creation I could stand and see the whole of Mount Kilimanjaro at once, far less the glory of Yahweh. So I need there to be a whole host of pictures to reveal different angles of what he has done and how it fits together. Fortunately, by his grace, this is exactly the sort of Bible he has inspired.


Scripture contains something to inspire worship in everyone. To the philosopher, there are GodStories of riddles and revelation, inquiry and truth. To the historian, there is an array of events covering thousands of years and numerous civilizations. To the architect, there are descriptions of temples being established and cities being rebuilt. To the artist, there are GodStories of beauty triumphing over ugliness, order over chaos, new creation over stagnation. For the romantic, there is a tale of a complicated relationship with a wonderful man that ends happily ever after; for the action-film fanatic, a story of a hero rescuing the love of his life and saving the world against impossible odds.2 There are genealogies for the tribesman, visions for the mystics, and arguments for the intellectuals. And displaying his glory in every one of these GodStories is Yahweh, the I AM, the maker of heaven, and earth and the rescuer of all things. Reading all of these stories will give us a bigger and better view of him.


GodStories and the Rescue of People


The second reason that we need to know these GodStories is because people’s eternal destinies are at stake. After all, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16), and preaching the gospel remains one of the highest callings of every Christian. Without the gospel, people cannot be saved. So it is vital that we know what the gospel actually is and how to communicate it in ways people understand.


Everyone agrees with that sentence, I’m sure. But read it again, because it is more difficult than it sounds: It is vital to know what the gospel is and how to communicate it in ways people understand. Many churches are great at half of this but neglect the other half. Some churches know the gospel inside out but put a lot of religious or cultural baggage on it, and are therefore not very effective at communicating it to a pluralist and largely pagan culture. On the other hand, there are churches who have gotten very good at using culture to communicate the gospel but have in the process lost sight of what they were supposed to be communicating. To be effective missionaries to our culture, we need to have fixed theology and flexible culture—strong on what the gospel is, but communicating it without adding religious clutter to it—or, more eloquently, “reaching out without selling out.”3


Paul is a great model. No one could accuse Paul of not knowing the gospel or of being scared to preach it. The scars on his back and welts on his face from being stoned and flogged would see to that. Yet he used a wide range of GodStories to communicate the gospel, depending on his setting.


To the Jews in Damascus, he proved that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 9:22). To the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, he preached forgiveness of sins and freedom from the law through Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:16–41). To the pagans in Lystra, he spoke of the creator God who showed his presence by giving them crops and good weather (Acts 14:14–17). To the pagans in Athens, he proclaimed an independent God who did not need serving and who would one day judge the world (Acts 17:22–31). To King Agrippa and Festus, he shared his personal testimony (Acts 26:1–23). So, although we know from Romans that Paul was utterly convinced of justification by faith, redemption, and being in Christ, we know from Acts that these weren’t always the GodStories he started with or stuck to when preaching to unbelievers. Others, equally true, were often more appropriate to his audience.


In none of this are we saying the gospel needs to change. That would be a terrible mistake because it puts the desires of man above the desires of God, which is idolatry. What we are saying is that there are numerous GodStories in Scripture, and it might be that the best way of saving some of God’s image-bearers is to start our preaching with a slightly different GodStory to the ones we are used to. The main planks of the gospel—a loving God, fallen humanity, rescue through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and so on—will never alter. But how we nail the planks together might.


GodStories and the Health of the Church


The third and final reason for writing GodStories is partly a product of the first two: The health of the church is on the line. At one level, this is obvious: If the church isn’t worshipping God properly or reaching the world with the gospel, then it is a waste of space and time. There is more to it than that, however. Again and again, in the pages of the New Testament, we find writers contending for the gospel because they care about the church.


To the Galatians, Paul reinforces GodStories about being justified by faith apart from the law, and about Jews and Gentiles being one in Christ.4 The Corinthians, on the other hand, seem to understand that, but need a strong reminder about Christ being crucified, their sanctification, and the bodily resurrection. First John focuses on the incarnation GodStory more than others. Hebrews tells us about the priesthood of Jesus and the superiority of Christ to the major Jewish symbols. In none of these cases is evangelism the point. Instead, a failure to understand these various GodStories leads to division and sexual immorality and false teaching and backsliding, respectively. So the health of the church depends on understanding the fullness of the gospel.


The gospel is not just for guest meetings or open airs, as you would think to hear us sometimes, but for the people of God. The outstanding explanation of the gospel in Romans, remember, was written to Christians; Paul tells Timothy to preach the word to his church until he’s blue in the face (2 Tim. 4:2); and Paul’s aim to visit the capital of the world was generated by a desire to preach the gospel amongst the church there (Rom. 1:15). If preaching the gospel to the church means simply reiterating the call to repent and be saved every week, then it is no wonder that so many preachers (and listeners) struggle. But if it means explaining to the church the full extent and scope of the GodStories in Scripture, then you could preach for a lifetime and never repeat yourself.


Thank God that there are so many to go round. If you’re in an introverted community of mature Christians, you can study the mission of God. If you love seeing people saved but you aren’t quite sure what to do with them when they are, you can look at freedom from sin. Frustrated artists can look at God’s beauty; frustrated activists, his justice. If you don’t get the Old Testament, then you can look under every verse and every rock until you find Christ. If you get only the Old Testament, then see how all of God’s promises are now yes and amen. Whoever you are, wherever you’re reading this, you can find a GodStory that will expand your view of God and revel in it. Then you can experience the joy of sharing it, in a culturally appropriate way, with someone who doesn’t know it yet. The world has nothing in comparison.


So we need to know and preach and live the gospel. The good news that shines through every GodStory will bring us closer into worship, push us further into mission, and draw us closer into community—face down, flat out, all in. This book is just an introduction to a few of them. But they might change your life all the same.


GodStories usually do.


Endnotes

1. The names of the people in this story have been changed.

2. Adapted from David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2005), 15.

3. This phrase is the subtitle of Mark Driscoll’s excellent book on the subject, Radical Reformission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

4. If, that is, we recognize that Galatians might tell more than one GodStory at once, rather than (as sometimes happens) playing them off against each other. For an excellent explanation of how we can and should embrace both these GodStories together, see Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn

Congrats to fellow publicist Liz Johnson on her first book, The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn. (Don't expect me to write a book anytime soon!)

Liz has written a fast-paced enjoyable read. As I said last week in a review, I am a "love skeptic," but Liz has done a great job of making the romance aspect of the book believable and not make me want to gag at the sappiness. (That is high praise, Liz!)

The characters have great personalities that you can really root for. And as for the suspense, there were a couple of twists and turns I wasn't really expecting. While I'm not big on romance as a rule, I love suspense.

Here is more information about the book itself and the author. Be sure to check out Liz's website.


Summary:

Myles Parsons is just another inmate in Kenzie Thorn’s GED course until he kidnaps her, offering only a feeble explanation–that he’s actually FBI Special Agent Myles Borden. Terrified, Kenzie doesn’t want to believe his story of being undercover to protect her. Moreover, she can’t believe that someone might really want her dead.

But just when Myles thinks he has her out of harm’s way, his plans start to fall apart. He attempts to take Kenzie to a safe house—but the stubborn woman won’t go! So together they must uncover the clues that will reveal a most shocking perpetrator. All the while Myles tries to keep his distance from Kenzie … but finds himself falling in love.

About the Author:

Liz Johnson grew up reading Christian fiction, and always dreamed of being part of the publishing industry. After graduating from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public relations, she set out to fulfill her dream. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working as a publicist in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream-becoming an author. Along the way to having her novel published, she completed the Christian Writers Guild apprentice course and wrote articles for several magazines.

Liz lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she enjoys theater, ice skating, volunteering in her church's bookstore and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nephew and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings. The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn is her first novel. Keep up with Liz's adventures in writing at http://www.lizjohnsonbooks.com/.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You all should be proud

You all should be proud of me. My parents and nieces are headed to Branson on Friday night, and I am not going on the trip.

Some people thought I would give in, but I didn't. And there was a much higher likelihood in the end than there was in the beginning.

Now, I just need to win the lottery - a scratch off would do - so that I can get some $ for me and Jenny to go do something. Both of us single ladies don't have enough saved up right now for a trip.

Monday, July 13, 2009

David C Cook Novel Receives 2009 Christy Award


Jordan-Lake’s Blue Hole Back Home wins the First Novel category

Publisher David C Cook is pleased to announce that author Joy Jordan-Lake has received 2009 Christy Award for excellence in Christian Fiction. The award was presented on July 11, 2009 at the tenth annual Christy Awards presentation preceding this year’s International Christian Retailers Show in Denver, Colorado. Jordan-Lake’s Blue Hole Back Home took home honors in the First Novel category.

Every year, The Christy Award invites publishers to submit novels written from a Christian worldview and copyrighted in the year preceding the awards. Each novel is entered in one of several genre categories and/or the first novel category. The novels are then read and evaluated against a ten-point criteria by a panel of seven judges composed of librarians, reviewers, academicians, literary critics, and other qualified readers, none of whom have a direct affiliation with a publishing company. David C Cook received three nominations this year across two categories.

Blue Hole Back Home tells the story of the summer of 1979 when 15-year-old Turtle hung in a mangy pack with her brother, his friends, a couple of dogs, and the New Girl—the one with the deeply colored skin whose father prayed on a rug facing East. That was the summer hearts and minds—and lives—changed forever in a small Appalachian mountain town. The novel is a burning story of racial hatred, cowardice, faith and redemption. Jordan-Lake explores the innocence of a young friendship and the prejudice that will tear it apart.

Author Joy Jordan-Lake is also the author of Grit & Grace: Portraits of a Woman's Life (Harold Shaw); Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin (Vanderbilt University Press); Working Families (WaterBrook Press), and Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous (Paraclete Press).

Founded in 1875, David C Cook is a leading nonprofit discipleship resource provider based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For more than 130 years, David C Cook has served the Global Church with life transforming materials from best-selling books and curriculum, to toys and games and small group resources. With additional offices in Elgin, Illinois, as well as Paris, Ontario, Canada, and Eastbourne, UK, David C Cook is a global organization whose resources are published in more than 150 languages, distributed in more than 80 countries, and sold worldwide through retail stores, catalogs, and online. Through David C Cook’s music division, Kingsway, over 30% of the top 500 praise and worship songs are written by Kingsway artists and sung in churches around the world. For more information, visit David C Cook on the Internet at www.davidccook.com.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Trying to flourish like the palm

I have an obsession with taking pictures of palm trees. My living room is filled with palm tree decor as well. Oh, and my bathroom.

So, when I came across this verse this week, I decided I needed to post some of my favorite palm tree pictures:

Psalm 92:12(a):
The righteous flourish like the palm tree


Friday, July 10, 2009

Critical Care - review revisited

Last week, when I posted the tour for Candace Calvert's Critical Care, I promised a more lengthy review for it once I finished the book (and then had a chance).

First of all, I am going to put in a disclaimer. My opinion is not the popular opinion because I've seen a number of good reviews about this book. It just wasn't one of my favorites.

I have to give credit to the publisher's team of writers and publicists for back cover copy and press releases for getting me interested in the book. I had said that the book started out slow, and it did, but it did pick up the pace the further in you got. To me, however, it didn't live up to what I expected from the teasers.

From the back cover:
After her brother dies in a trauma room, nurse Claire Avery can no longer face the ER. She's determined to make a fresh start--new hospital, new career in nursing education--move forward, no turning back. But her plans fall apart when she's called to offer stress counseling for medical staff after a heart-breaking day care center explosion. Worse, she's forced back to the ER, where she clashes with Logan Caldwell, a doctor who believes touchy-feely counseling is a waste of time. He demands his staff be as tough as he is. Yet he finds himself drawn to this nurse educator ... who just might teach him the true meaning of healing.

The medical drama wasn't as dramatic as I expected. The love connection seemed a too quick. BUT, I that could just be because I'm "Audra, the love skeptic."

Claire, the main character was just too wishy-washy about Logan for me. I like him, but I don't want to like him. He's a jerk, but he's not a jerk.

(Here comes my humorous take on it because you know I have to say something funny.) Something that stood out to me was that throughout the book, the characters were always holding their breath about something or the phrase "her breath caught" or "his breath caught". I thought the the medical drama was going to be all the characters turning blue and passing out and having to be rushed to the emergency room themselves.

This is the first book in Calvert's Mercy Hospital Series and the series does have potential.

Back a few months ago, every novel that I picked up The main verse of book was Jeremiah 29:11.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare (or peace) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

In the book, Claire was really struggling to remember to focus on God's plans for her rather than her own plans for herself. Who doesn't need to be reminded of that from time to time? I was even sharing that with a friend today that was having a bad day.

So dear blog readers, that's the thought I leave you with for tonight.

For more information about Candace Calvert and Critical Care, visit her website.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Another one bites the dust

Thankfully, I survived another year of running the craft room for Vacation Bible School. It was actually pretty uneventful. I had hoped to post pictures of the "What Would Martha Fix Jesus to Eat" craft, but honestly, it wasn't all that interesting after all.

The children lacked the creativity I had envisioned. I did make a cupcake at the request of one of the children, and I do believe that the macaroni was pretty cute. I didn't have a picture of the macaroni though.

With the leftover model magic, I now owe all the moms that were helping with the classes strawberries. I will post you a picture of that once I do them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How was I supposed to know?

Evidently, this is the week for me to get myself into trouble.

Tonight we got together to eat at Don Jose's (pronounced Hoe-say's) in honor of Peyton's birthday. A girl after my own heart, she loves cheeze in-chill-ah-duhs. (Her pronunciations.)

Peyton's pronunciations really aren't the point though. But, I will get there in a minute.

Julie had a card for Paige to sign for Peyton, so she did so. When Peyton went to open it, she had me, sitting next to her, to read the card for her.

Before I tell you what the card did and DID NOT say, I have to tell you about Paige. Paige has a few tendencies and traits like her daddy. The most obvious one, at least to me, his her spelling abilities. Both Brian and Paige learned to read and spell very differently than I did. Their brains work very differently than mine. They are phonetic to the extreme. Which is not their fault - just the way they were taught.

Mom and I vividly remember always trying to decipher what Brian was writing in notes he left around the house growing up. We could usually figure out what he meant without too much trouble, but Paige, bless her heart, has a bit more trouble with us understanding.

(That's not to say that I don't have spelling problems, but most of the time these days, it's because I am typing too fast and get letters out of order and don't catch it - like on Facebook or IM which has been pointed out a couple of times lately, but I digress.)

Not only is Paige phonetic, but she has her own brand of Hooked on Phonics. It's more like Whoked on Fontics. For example, she spells "Grandma" as "Gramol" or "Granmol" - with an L at the end either way. All that to say, Precious Paigey makes reading interesting part.

So, back to Paige's card. The first sentence is what she wrote, the second part is a general idea.

"Happy Birtday best butte." Something blah, blah in the po po. (Po po is something Madison says, and I don't know exactly what she means by it.) She may have gotten birthday right, but I'm not sure. That wasn't what I stumbled on.

Butte - now the dictionary definition of that word would be a hill or a mountain. However, I don't think she thinks her sister is her best rise in the landscape.

I assume this is beauty or booty and give both options, but after I pass the po po part. I say, "Paige, that's kind of mean."

At this point, Peyton decides Paige is mean and gets mad at her. Peyton shuts down and gets upset.

YES, this really is all my fault, and I have to convince Peyton of this because I TOTALLY missed what Paige meant.

It wasn't booty. It wasn't beauty. It wasn't butt. Are you ready? Drumroll...

B-U-D-D-Y.

Had I really thought it out, I would have remembered that one of Peyton's things is "love you best buddy."

However, I didn't think of this. The whole table was dying laughing when we passed around the card and explained. Well, except Brian because he understood what Paige wrote evidently. I totally admit it's all my fault and had to keep telling Peyton that Paige wasn't being mean, that it was all on me because I couldn't read. I had to apologize to Paige because Peyton was mad at her for no reason. Dad, Julie and I were laughing so hard, I couldn't feel bad about it.

I have promised that I will never read anything Paige writes again, and wouldn't read Peyton's next card to her. Julie had to do that.

Between my parents and I, we'll be calling each other butt-tees for weeks.

So, blog buttes, I'll share a feeyou pitchures from Peyton's 5th birtday at Don Hoe-say's witch you. I coodn't find a zeebruh strip shirt to match mine like she wanted, so I had to bye a orange strip one.

Monday, July 6, 2009

So maybe I'm slow...

...in more ways than one.

Today, I think I was supposed to learn more than one personal life lesson. While one is certainly more important as far as the big picture is concerned, one is making a bigger impression on me right this second.

There's a reason why every other female in the church building at VBS tonight was wearing flip flops.

After work, I had something I needed to take care of, and then went on out to the church to get things ready for the craft room. Therefore, I didn't go home and change clothes.

On Monday meeting days, we normally dress better than casual Fridays. Well, I knew not to wear my pair of wedges. Knew it. But my flat slide on shoes are pathetic, and I decided against wearing those with the pants I had on. Why? Well, I'm a little slow, I suppose.

I was very slow by the end of the night. I could barely walk, my feet hurt so bad from standing up for two hours doing crafts.

Suffice it to say, tomorrow night while we are molding model magic clay for the craft that I am calling "what would Martha make Jesus for dinner?" I will not, repeat, I will not be wearing shoes with a heel.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

So, I read an article online about taking pictures of fireworks using certain camera settings and a tripod. I think I struck out. Happy 4th of July anyway!




Friday, July 3, 2009

I'm more of a recluse and boring person that I thought

For the life of me, I can't think of anything to blog. I have decided that I've become a recluse too.

Wednesday, I thought about blogging about what a lonely day it was. Christi was sick 3 out of 4 work days, so officially I was downstairs at the office by myself. At times Nancy was working on mailings, but she was in and out. Jenny was supposed to meet me for lunch, but she had insomnia and overslept, so I ate my cheap enchiladas in solitude. That was really pretty lonely.

I'm working on some stuff for VBS which starts on Sunday. Admittedly, I'm just not into it this year. Since we are making up our own material this year, I dragged all the leftovers out of the craft closet, and we are having craft room leftovers. I spent $100 (a fraction of years past) on crafts this year to fill in and go with something else I had. And, I've put less effort into it than I have in years.

I just thought of something, and then forgot it. I've had brain overload for a period of time, so now, my brain seems to not function at all. I know my shoulder and neck hurts from napping on my chaise and holding my arm wrong. See how boring I've become?

Maybe I'll come up with something exciting for tomorrow. In the meantime, I have to get back to cutting the eyes out smoother on these cow masks that have been in the closet for a few years. The theme is Jesus, and he was born in a stable, so I'm tying these farm animal masks that I had left to that. (Maybe it's not an insult to ask someone if they were born in a barn.) I can tie lots of things to Jesus when it comes to reusing stuff. The night we are doing Mary and Martha, I'm using the leftover Model Magic for the kids to make what they thought Martha would make Jesus to eat. That should be funny. Spaghetti? Pizza? Hamburgers? That should be a blast. I'll have to remember to take pictures.

I better find something more exciting than working on my scrapbook for tomorrow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Warren Wiersbe's Be Hopeful

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:


Be Hopeful (1 Peter): How to Make the Best of Times Out of Your Worst of Times (The BE Series Commentary)

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. For ten years he was associated with the Back to the Bible radio broadcast, first as Bible teacher and then as general director. Dr. Wiersbe has written more than 150 books, including the popular “BE” series of Bible commentaries, which has sold more than four million copies. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767434
ISBN-13: 978-1434767431

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Copyright 2009 David C Cook. Be Hopeful by Warren Wiersbe. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.



WHERE THERE’S CHRIST, THERE’S HOPE

(1 Peter 1:1; 5:12–14)


While there’s life, there’s hope!” That ancient Roman saying is still quoted today and, like most adages, it has an element of truth but no guarantee of certainty. It is not the fact of life that determines hope, but the faith of life. A Christian believer has a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3 NASB) because his faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:21). This “living hope” is the major theme of Peter’s first letter. He is saying to all believers, “Be hopeful!”


Before we study the details of this fascinating letter, let’s get acquainted with the man who wrote it, the people to whom he sent it, and the particular situation that prompted him to write.


THE WRITER (1:1)


He identified himself as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1). Some liberals have questioned whether a common fisherman could have penned this letter, especially since Peter and John were both called “unlearned and ignorant men” (Acts 4:13). However, this phrase only means “laymen without formal schooling”; that is, they were not professional religious leaders. We must never underestimate the training Peter had for three years with the Lord Jesus, nor should we minimize the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. Peter is a perfect illustration of the truth expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:26–31.


His given name was Simon, but Jesus changed it to Peter, which means “a stone” (John 1:35–42). The Aramaic equivalent of “Peter” is “Cephas,” so Peter was a man with three names. Nearly fifty times in the New Testament, he is called “Simon,” and often he is called “Simon Peter.” Perhaps the two names suggest a Christian’s two natures: an old nature (Simon) that is prone to fail, and a new nature (Peter) that can give victory. As Simon, he was only another human piece of clay, but Jesus Christ made a rock out of him!



Peter and Paul were the two leading apostles in the early church. Paul was assigned especially to minister to the Gentiles, and Peter to the Jews (Gal. 2:1–10). The Lord had commanded Peter to strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32) and to tend the flock (John 21:15–17; also see 1 Peter 5:1–4), and the writing of this letter was a part of that ministry. Peter told his readers that this was a letter of encouragement and personal witness (1 Peter 5:12). Some writings are manufactured out of books, the way freshmen students write term papers, but this letter grew out of a life lived to the glory of God. A number of events in Peter’s life are woven into the fabric of this epistle.


This letter is also associated with Silas (Silvanus, 1 Peter 5:12). He was one of the “chief men” in the early church (Acts 15:22) and a prophet (Acts 15:32). This means that he communicated God’s messages to the congregations as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 14). The apostles and prophets worked together to lay the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20), and, once that foundation was laid, they passed off the scene. There are no apostles and prophets in the New Testament sense in the church today.


It is interesting that Silas was associated with Peter’s ministry, because originally he went with Paul as a replacement for Barnabas (Acts 15:36–41). Peter also mentioned John Mark (1 Peter 5:13) whose failure on the mission field helped to cause the rupture between Paul and Barnabas. Peter had led Mark to faith in Christ (“Mark, my son”) and certainly would maintain a concern for him. No doubt one of the early assemblies met in John Mark’s home in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). In the end, Paul forgave and accepted Mark as a valued helper in the work (2 Tim. 4:11).


Peter indicated that he wrote this letter “at Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13) where there was an assembly of believers. There is no evidence either from church history or tradition that Peter ministered in ancient Babylon which, at that time, did have a large community of Jews. There was another town called “Babylon” in Egypt, but we have no proof that Peter ever visited it. “Babylon” is probably another name for the city of Rome, and we do have reason to believe that Peter ministered in Rome and was probably martyred there. Rome is called “Babylon” in Revelation 17:5 and 18:10. It was not unusual for persecuted believers during those days to write or speak in “code.”


In saying this, however, we must not assign more to Peter than is due him. He did not found the church in Rome nor serve as its first bishop. It was Paul’s policy not to minister where any other apostle had gone (Rom. 15:20); so Paul would not have ministered in Rome had Peter arrived there first. Peter probably arrived in Rome after Paul was released from his first imprisonment, about the year AD 62. First Peter was written about the year 63. Paul was martyred about 64, and perhaps that same year, or shortly after, Peter laid down his life for Christ.


THE RECIPIENTS (1:1)


Peter called them “strangers” (1 Peter 1:1), which means “resident aliens, sojourners.” They are called “strangers and pilgrims” in 1 Peter 2:11. These people were citizens of heaven through faith in Christ (Phil. 3:20), and therefore were not permanent residents on earth. Like Abraham, they had their eyes of faith centered on the future city of God (Heb. 11:8–16). They were in the world, but not of the world (John 17:16).


Because Christians are “strangers” in the world, they are considered to be “strange” in the eyes of the world (1 Peter 4:4). Christians have standards and values different from those of the world, and this gives opportunity both for witness and for warfare. We will discover in this epistle that some of the readers were experiencing suffering because of their different lifestyle.



These believers were a “scattered” people as well as a “strange” people. The word translated “scattered” (diaspora) was a technical term for the Jews who lived outside of Palestine. It is used this way in John 7:35 and James 1:1. However, Peter’s use of this word does not imply that he was writing only to Jewish Christians, because some statements in his letter suggest that some of his readers were converted out of Gentile paganism (1 Peter 1:14, 18; 2:9–10; 4:1–4). There was undoubtedly a mixture of both Jews and Gentiles in the churches that received this letter. We will notice a number of Old Testament references and allusions in these chapters.


These Christians were scattered in five different parts of the Roman Empire, all of them in northern Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The Holy Spirit did not permit Paul to minister in Bithynia (Acts 16:7), so he did not begin this work. There were Jews at Pentecost from Pontus and Cappadocia (Acts 2:9), and perhaps they carried the gospel to their neighboring province. Possibly Jewish believers who had been under Peter’s ministry in other places had migrated to towns in these provinces. People were “on the move” in those days, and dedicated believers shared the Word wherever they went (Acts 8:4).


The important thing for us to know about these “scattered strangers” is that they were going through a time of suffering and persecution. At least fifteen times in this letter Peter referred to suffering, and he used eight different Greek words to do so. Some of these Christians were suffering because they were living godly lives and doing what was good and right (1 Peter 2:19–23; 3:14–18; 4:1–4, 15–19). Others were suffering reproach for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:14) and being railed at by unsaved people (1 Peter 3:9–10). Peter wrote to encourage them to be good witnesses to their persecutors, and to remember that their suffering would lead to glory

(1 Peter 1:6–7; 4:13–14; 5:10).


But Peter had another purpose in mind. He knew that a “fiery trial” was about to begin—official persecution from the Roman Empire (1 Peter 4:12). When the church began in Jerusalem, it was looked on as a “sect” of the traditional Jewish faith. The first Christians were Jews, and they met in the temple precincts. The Roman government took no official action against the Christians since the Jewish religion was accepted and approved. But when it became clear that Christianity was not a “sect” of Judaism, Rome had to take official steps.


Several events occurred that helped to precipitate this “fiery trial.” To begin with, Paul had defended the Christian faith before the official court in Rome (Phil. 1:12–24). He had been released but then was arrested again. This second defense failed, and he was martyred (2 Tim. 4:16–18). Second, the deranged emperor, Nero, blamed the fire of Rome (July AD 64) on the Christians, using them as a scapegoat. Peter was probably in Rome about that time and was slain by Nero, who had also killed Paul. Nero’s persecution of Christians was local at first, but it probably spread. At any rate, Peter wanted to prepare the churches.


We must not get the idea that all Christians in every part of the empire were going through the same trials to the same degree at the same time. It varied from place to place, though suffering and opposition were pretty general (1 Peter 5:9). Nero introduced official persecution of the church, and other emperors followed his example in later years. Peter’s letter must have been a tremendous help to Christians who suffered during the reigns of Trajan (98–117), Hadrian (117–138), and Diocletian (284–305). Christians in the world today may yet learn the value of Peter’s letter when their own “fiery trials” of persecution begin. While I personally believe that the church will not go through the tribulation, I do believe that these latter days will bring much suffering and persecution to the people of God.


It is possible that Silas was the bearer of this letter to the believers in the provinces, and also the secretary who wrote the epistle.


THE MESSAGE (5:12)


First Peter is a letter of encouragement (1 Peter 5:12). We have noted that the theme of suffering runs throughout the letter, but so also does the theme of glory (see 1 Peter 1:7–8, 11, 21; 2:12; 4:11–16; 5:1, 4, 10–11). One of the encouragements that Peter gives suffering saints is the assurance that their suffering will one day be transformed into glory (1 Peter 1:6–7; 4:13–14; 5:10). This is possible only because the Savior suffered for us and then entered into His glory (1 Peter 1:11; 5:1). The sufferings of Christ are mentioned often in this letter (1 Peter 1:11; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1).


Peter is preeminently the apostle of hope, as Paul is the apostle of faith and John of love. As believers, we have a “living hope” because we trust a living Christ (1 Peter 1:3). This hope enables us to keep our minds under control and “hope to the end” (1 Peter 1:13 NIV) when Jesus shall return. We must not be ashamed of our hope but be ready to explain and defend

it (1 Peter 3:15). Like Sarah, Christian wives can hope in God (1 Peter 3:5, where “trusted” should be translated “hoped”). Since suffering brings glory, and because Jesus is coming again, we can indeed be hopeful!


But suffering does not automatically bring glory to God and blessing to God’s people. Some believers have fainted and fallen in times of trial and have brought shame to the name of Christ. It is only when we depend on the grace of God that we can glorify God in times of suffering. Peter also emphasized God’s grace in this letter. “I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it” (1 Peter 5:12 NIV).


The word grace is used in every chapter of 1 Peter: 1:2, 10, 13; 2:19 (“thankworthy”), 20 (“acceptable”); 3:7; 4:10; 5:5, 10, 12. Grace is God’s generous favor to undeserving sinners and needy saints. When we depend on God’s grace, we can endure suffering and turn trials into triumphs. It is grace alone that saves us (Eph. 2:8–10). God’s grace can give us strength in times of trial (2 Cor. 12:1–10). Grace enables us to serve God in spite of difficulties (1 Cor. 15:9–10). Whatever begins with God’s grace will always lead to glory (Ps. 84:11; 1 Peter 5:10).


As we study 1 Peter, we will see how the three themes of suffering, grace, and glory unite to form an encouraging message for believers experiencing times of trial and persecution. These themes are summarized in 1 Peter 5:10, a verse we would do well to memorize.


The cynical editor and writer H. L. Mencken once defined hope as “a pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible.” But that definition does not agree with the New Testament meaning of the word. True Christian hope is more than “hope so.” It is confident assurance of future glory and blessing.


An Old Testament believer called God “the hope of Israel” (Jer. 14:8). A New Testament believer affirms that Jesus Christ is his hope (1 Tim. 1:1; see Col. 1:27). The unsaved sinner is “without hope” (Eph. 2:12 NIV), and if he dies without Christ, he will be hopeless forever. The Italian poet Dante, in his Divine Comedy, put this inscription over the world of the dead: “Abandon all hope, you who enter here!”


This confident hope gives us the encouragement and enablement we need for daily living. It does not put us in a rocking chair where we complacently await the return of Jesus Christ. Instead, it puts us in the marketplace, on the battlefield, where we keep on going when the burdens are heavy and the battles are hard. Hope is not a sedative; it is a shot of adrenaline, a blood transfusion. Like an anchor, our hope in Christ stabilizes us in the storms of life (Heb. 6:18–19), but unlike an anchor, our hope moves us forward, it does not hold us back.


It is not difficult to follow Peter’s train of thought. Everything begins with salvation, our personal relationship to God through Jesus Christ. If we know Christ as Savior, then we have hope! If we have hope, then we can walk in holiness and in harmony. There should be no problem submitting to those around us in society, the home, and the church family. Salvation and submission are preparation for suffering; but if we focus on Christ, we can overcome, and God will transform suffering into glory.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

GodStories by Andrew Wilson


An Epic of Eternal Proportions
In his latest release, Andrew Wilson explores fifty-six of the glorious stories that make up the gospel of God and will change the way we live and worship

Today, multitudes see theology as a rabbit warren of concepts without narratives, a series of points, principles, and theories that take all the best bits (like characters, plot twists, and heroism) out of the Bible and leave behind a slightly inedible result—like eating cereal without milk or playing Scrabble without vowels. But in his new book, GodStories: Explorations in the Gospel of God (David C Cook, July 2009), author of the best-selling Incomparable brings Scripture to life with fresh and relevant insights on how its stories can profoundly affect our faith.

Just as we have one God in three persons, and one church made up of many people, so in Scripture we have one gospel made up of many stories. In fifty-six short narratives, Andrew Wilson examines these beautiful, triumphant, often heartbreaking, and always magnificent stories that make up the gospel of God—GodStories. Inside readers will rediscover the glorious mission of God, freedom from sin, and how the promises of God never fail.

“We have one gospel, for sure: a single, unifying, big story about God and creation, man and sin, Jesus and rescue,” says Wilson. “But we also have many different ways of telling that big story because it is too large for us to grasp all at once. Seeing the many GodStories in the one gospel does not reduce that gospel in glory or splendour. Quite the opposite—it dramatically increases it.”

Written in a devotional-style perfect for morning or evening reading, GodStories includes reflection sections that will give additional food for thought in the form of questions, scriptures and psalms, hymns, quotes from important church figures, prayers, etc. With winsome language and a solid biblical foundation, Wilson also introduces and walks through, in layman’s terms, some heavier points of theology, such as atonement, justification by faith, penal substitution, open theism, and the new covenant.

“We need to know, and preach, and live the gospel,” writes Wilson. “The good news that shines through every GodStory will bring us closer into worship, push us further into mission, and draw us closer into community—face down, flat out, all in. Prepare to be stunned and in total amazement at the many-faceted gospel story, the greatest story ever told.”

Author Bio
Andrew Wilson holds degrees in theology from Cambridge University and London School of Theology. His passion is to communicate the extraordinary truths of God. Andrew teaches internationally and is an elder at Kings Church Eastbourne in the UK, where he leads training and development. He is also the author of Incomparable: Explorations in the Character of God and lives with his wife, Rachel, and their newborn baby, Ezekiel, in the UK.

GodStories: Explorations in the Gospel of God by Andrew Wilson
David C Cook/July 2009/ISBN 978-1-434765-39-0/302 pages/softcover/$14.99
http://www.davidccook.com/explore/godstories

Critical Care by Candace Calvert

My review: I'm still working my way through this one. To me, this book started off slow or I would have had it read by now. At about 60 pages in, it was still slow, but finally picked up some. I've been reading through in slow motion. I'm around page 90 now, and it's moving better. So far, the medical drama aspect has not been all that dramatic, and Claire has been a little too wishy washy as to her opinion of Logan. I'll give a full review once I finish the book.

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:



Critical Care (Mercy Hospital Series #1)

Tyndale House Publishers (May 6, 2009)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



CANDACE CALVERT is a writer and ER nurse who believes that love, laughter, and faith are the very best medicines of all. After an equestrian accident broke her neck, she shared the inspirational account of her accident and recovery in Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, and her writing career was launched. Born in Northern California and the mother of two, Candace lives in the hill country of Texas.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (May 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414325436
ISBN-13: 978-1414325439

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Don’t die, little girl.

Dr. Logan Caldwell pressed the heel of his hand against Amy Hester’s chest, taking over heart compressions in a last attempt to save the child’s life. Her small sternum hollowed and recoiled under his palm at a rate of one hundred times per minute, the best he could do to mimic her natural heartbeat. A respiratory therapist forced air into her lungs.

Don’t die. Logan glanced up at the ER resuscitation clock, ticking on without mercy. Twenty-seven minutes since they’d begun the code. No heartbeat. Not once. Time to quit but . . .

He turned to his charge nurse, Erin Quinn, very aware of the insistent wail of sirens in the distance. “Last dose of epi?”

“Three minutes ago.”

“Give another.” Logan halted compressions, his motionless hand easily spanning the width of the two-year-old’s chest. He watched until satisfied with the proficiency of the therapist’s ventilations, then turned back to the cardiac monitor and frowned. Asystole—flatline. Flogging this young heart with atropine and repeated doses of epinephrine wasn’t going to do it. A pacemaker, pointless. She’d been deprived of oxygen far too long before rescue.

Logan pushed his palm into Amy’s sternum again and gritted his teeth against images of a terrified little girl hiding in a toy cupboard as her day care burned in a suffocating cloud of smoke, amid the chaos of two dozen other burned and panicking children.

“Epi’s on board,” Erin reported, sweeping an errant strand of coppery hair away from her face. She pressed two fingers against the child’s arm to locate the brachial pulse and raised her gaze to the doctor’s. “You’re generating a good pulse with compressions, but . . .”

But she’s dead. With reluctance, Logan lifted his hand from the child’s chest. He studied the monitor display and then nodded at the blonde nurse standing beside the crash cart. “Run me rhythm strips in three leads, Sarah.” After he drew in a slow breath of air still acrid with the residue of smoke, he glanced down at Amy Hester, her cheeks unnaturally rosy from the effects of carbon monoxide, glossy brown curls splayed against the starched hospital linen. Dainty purple flower earrings. Blue eyes, glazed and half-lidded. Tiny chin. And lips—pink as a Valentine cupid—pursed around the rigid breathing tube, as if it were a straw in a snack-time juice box. Picture-perfect . . . and gone.

He signaled for the ventilations to stop and checked the code clock again. “Time of death—9:47.”

There was a long stretch of silence, and Logan used it to make his exit, turning his back to avoid another glance at the child on the gurney . . . and the expressions on the faces of his team. No good came from dwelling on tragedy. He knew that too well. Best to move on with what he had to do. He’d almost reached the doorway when Erin caught his arm.

“We’ve put Amy’s parents and grandmother in the quiet room the way you asked,” she confirmed, her green eyes conveying empathy for him as well. “I can send Sarah with you, if—”

“No. I’ll handle it myself,” Logan said, cutting her off. His tone was brusquer than he’d intended, but he just wanted this over with. “We need Sarah here.” He tensed at a child’s shrill cry in the trauma room beyond, followed by the squawk of the base station radio announcing an ambulance. “There are at least five more kids coming in from the propane explosion. We’ll need extra staff to do more than pass out boxes of Kleenex. I want nurses who know what they’re doing. Get them for me.”

***

Why am I here?

Claire Avery winced as a child’s painful cry echoed up the Sierra Mercy emergency department corridor and blended with the wail of sirens. Almost an hour after the Little Nugget Day Care explosion, ambulances still raced in. Fire. Burns. Like my brother. No, please, I can’t be part of this again.

She leaned against the cool corridor wall, her mouth dry and thoughts stuttering. Being called to the ER was a mistake. Had to be. The message to meet the director of nursing didn’t make sense. Claire hadn’t done critical care nursing since Kevin’s death. Couldn’t. She wiped a clammy palm on her freshly pressed lab coat and stepped away from the wall to peer down the corridor into the ER. Then jumped, heart pounding, at the thud of heavy footfalls directly behind her.

She whirled to catch a glimpse of a man barreling toward her with his gaze on the ambulance entrance some dozen yards away. He looked a few years older than she was, maybe thirty-five, tall and wide shouldered, with curly dark hair and faded blue scrubs. He leveled a forbidding scowl at Claire like a weapon and slowed to a jog before stopping a few paces from her.

“What are you doing?” he asked, grabbing his stethoscope before it could slide from his neck.

“I’m . . . waiting,” Claire explained, awkwardly defensive. “I was paged to the ER.”

“Good. Then don’t just stand there holding up the wall. Let’s go. The charge nurse will show you where to start.”

“But I—,” she choked, her confusion complete.

“But what?” He glanced toward sounds at the ambulance bay and then back at her.

Claire cleared her throat. “I don’t know why I’m here.”

He shook his head, his low groan sounding far too much like a smothered curse. “If that question’s existential, I don’t have time for it. But if you’re here to work, follow me. Erin Quinn will tell you everything you need to know.” He pointed toward a crew of paramedics racing through the ambulance doors with a stretcher. A toddler, his tiny, terrified face raw and blistered behind an oxygen mask, sat bolt upright partially covered by a layer of sterile sheets. “See that boy? That’s why I’m here. So either help me or get out of the way.” He turned and began jogging.

Speechless, Claire stared at the man’s retreating back and the nightmarish scene beyond: burned child, hustling medics, a flurry of scrubs, and a hysterically screaming parent. Help or get out of the way? What was she supposed to do with that ultimatum? And what gave this rude man the right to issue it?

Then, with a rush of relief, Claire spotted the Jamaican nursing director striding toward her. This awful mistake was about to be cleared up.

“I’m sorry for the delay,” Merlene Hibbert said, her molasses-rich voice breathless. “As you can imagine, there have been many things to attend to.” She slid her tortoiseshell glasses low on her nose, squinting down the corridor. “I see you already met our Dr. Caldwell.”

Claire’s eyes widened. Logan Caldwell? Sierra Mercy Hospital’s ER director?

Merlene sighed. “I’d planned to introduce you myself. I hope he wasn’t . . . difficult.”

“No, not exactly,” she hedged, refusing to imagine a reason she’d need an introduction. “But I think there’s been a mistake. He thought I’d been sent down here to work in the ER.” Tell me he’s mistaken.

“Of course. A natural mistake. He’s expecting two more agency nurses.”

Claire’s knees nearly buckled with relief. “Thank goodness. They need help. I can see that from here.” She glanced at the ER, where patients on gurneys overflowed into the hallway. A nurse’s aide held a sobbing woman in her arms, her face etched with fatigue. Styrofoam coffee cups, discarded cardboard splints, and scraps of cut-away clothing littered the floor. All the while, the distant cries of that poor child continued relentlessly.

“Yes, they do,” Merlene agreed. “And that’s exactly why I called you.”

“But I’ve been at Sierra Mercy only a few months, and my hours are promised to the education department—to train the students, write policies, and demonstrate new equipment.” Claire floundered ahead as if grasping for a life preserver. “I’ve interviewed to replace Renee Baxter as clinical educator. And I haven’t done any critical care nursing in two years, so working in the ER would be out of the—”

“That’s not why you’re here,” Merlene said. Her dark eyes pinned Claire like a butterfly specimen on corkboard. “I need you to assess my staff to see how they’re coping emotionally. I don’t have to tell you this has been one miserable morning.” She studied Claire’s face and then raised her brows. “You listed that in your résumé. That you’ve been recently trained in Critical Incident Stress Management?”

CISM? Oh no. She’d forgotten. Why on earth had she included that? “Yes, I’m certified, but . . .” How could she explain? Merlene had no clue that Claire’s entire future—maybe even her sanity—depended on never setting foot in an ER again. It was the only answer to the single prayer she’d clung to since her firefighter brother’s death in a Sacramento trauma room two years ago. Being helpless to save him left her with crippling doubts, sleep-stealing nightmares, and . . . She’d mapped her future out meticulously. The move to Placerville, a new hospital, a new career path, no going back. Everything depended on her plan.

Claire brushed away a long strand of her dark hair and forced herself to stand tall, squaring her shoulders. “I understand what you’re asking. But you should know that I haven’t done any disaster counseling beyond classroom practice. I’m familiar with the principles, but . . .” What could she possibly offer these people? “Wouldn’t the chaplain be a better choice?”

“He’s going to be delayed for several hours. Erin Quinn’s my strongest charge nurse, so if she tells me her ER team is at risk, I believe it. They received six children from that explosion at the day care. Four are in serious condition, and a two-year-old died.” Merlene touched the amber and silver cross resting at the neckline of her uniform. She continued, frowning. “Dr. Caldwell’s working them ragged. An agency nurse threatened to walk out. Security’s got their hands full with the media. . . . You’re all I can offer them right now.”

Claire’s heart pounded in her throat. With every fiber of her being, she wanted to sprint into the northern California sunshine; fill her lungs with mountain air; cleanse away the suffocating scents of fear, pain, and death; keep on running and not look back. It would be so easy. Except that these were fellow nurses in that ER; she’d walked in their shoes. More than most people, Claire understood the awful toll this work could take. The staff needed help. How could she refuse? She took a breath and let it out slowly. “Okay. I’ll do it.”

“Good.” Relief flooded into Merlene’s eyes. She handed Claire a dog-eared sheaf of papers. “Here’s our hospital policy for staff support interventions. Probably nothing new there.” She gestured toward her office a few yards away. “Why don’t you sit down and review it for a few minutes before you go in? You can report to me later after I make my rounds.”

Before Claire could respond, the ambulance bay doors slammed open at the far end of the corridor. There was an answering thunder of footsteps, rubber-soled shoes squeaking across the faded vinyl flooring.

Logan Caldwell reappeared, shoving past a clutch of reporters to direct incoming paramedics. He raked his fingers through his hair and bellowed orders. “Faster! Get that stretcher moving. Give me something to work with, guys. And you—yeah, you, buddy—get the camera out of my face! Who let you in here?” The ER director whirled, stethoscope swinging across his broad chest, to shout at a tall nurse who’d appeared at the entrance to the ER. “Where are those extra nurses, Erin? Call the evening crew in early; a double shift won’t kill anyone. We’re working a disaster case here. Get me some decent staff!”

Claire gritted her teeth. Though she still hadn’t officially met him, there was no doubt in her mind that Logan Caldwell deserved his notorious reputation. Dr. McSnarly. The nickname fit like a surgical glove. Thank heaven she didn’t have to actually work with him—the man looked like he ate chaos for breakfast.

Claire turned to Merlene. “I’ll do the best I can,” she said, then drew a self-protective line. “But only for today. Just until the chaplain comes.”

“Of course. Very short-term.” Merlene began walking away, then stopped to glance over her shoulder. “Oh, a word of caution: Dr. Caldwell hates the idea of counseling. I’d watch my back if I were you.”

Claire hesitated outside the doors to the emergency department. She’d reviewed the summary of steps for an initial critical stress intervention and was as ready as she’d ever be. Considering she’d never done any peer counseling before. I’m a fraud. Why am I here?

She shut her eyes for a moment, hearing the din of the department beyond. It had been stupid to put the CISM training on her résumé. She’d taken the course last fall and participated reluctantly in the mock crisis situations, mostly because it would look impressive on her application for the clinical educator position. But afterward Claire knew that she could never volunteer as a peer counselor. Never. It felt too personal, too painful.

Healing the healers, they called it, the basis for the work of volunteer teams that waded into horror zones after events like 9/11, the killer tsunami in Indonesia, and the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And a Sacramento, California, trauma room after a warehouse fire that killed seven firefighters.

Claire fought the memories. Yes, the counseling teams made sure that caregivers took care of themselves too, assessing them for burnout and signs of post-traumatic stress. Like difficulty making decisions, sleeplessness, nightmares, and relationship failures. Claire knew the symptoms only too well. She’d struggled with most of them herself these past two years, exactly the reason she’d run away from that Sacramento hospital—after refusing its offer of stress counseling—and never looked back.

But here she was at another ER door, peeking inside through a narrow panel of bulletproof glass. And now she was responsible for helping these people deal with everything she was trying so hard to forget and expected to offer the kind of counseling she’d never accepted herself. Beyond ironic—impossible and completely at odds with her plan.

Claire raised her palm and pushed the door inward.

Heal my heart and move me forward. She’d prayed it every single day.

So why was her life slamming into reverse?

The essence of Sierra Mercy ER hit Claire’s senses like an assault. Sounds: anxious chatter, a burst from the overhead PA speakers, beeping of electronic monitors, inconsolable crying, and painful screams. Smells: nervous perspiration, stale coffee, surgical soap, bandaging adhesive, the scorched scent of sterile surgical packs . . . and of burned hair and flesh.

No, no. Claire’s stomach lurched as she clutched her briefcase like a shield and scanned the crowded room for the charge nurse. Find Erin Quinn. Concentrate on that.

She took a slow breath and walked farther into the room, searching among the eddy of staff in multicolored scrubs—technicians, nurses, and registration clerks. She forced herself to note the glassed-in code room, a small central nurses’ station and its large dry-erase assignment board, the semicircular arrangement of curtained exam cubicles with wall-mounted equipment at the head of each gurney, and the huge surgical exam lights overhead.

Claire tried to avoid the anxious faces of the family members huddled close to the tiny victims. Because she knew intimately how much they were suffering. No, much worse than that. I feel it. I still feel it.

When she’d agreed to do this for Merlene, she’d hoped this smaller ER—miles from the Sacramento trauma center and two years later—would be somehow different, but nothing had changed. Especially how it made Claire feel, the same way it had in those weeks after Kevin’s death. Unsure of herself for the first time in her nursing career, she’d been antsy, queasy, and clammy with doubt. Dreading the wail of approaching sirens and jumping at each squawk of the emergency radio. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t shake the irrational certainty that the very next ambulance stretcher would be carrying someone she loved, someone she’d be unable to save, and . . .

A cry in the distance made Claire turn. Her breath caught as the young charge nurse opened a curtain shielding a gurney.

A child, maybe three years old, rested upright in a nest of blue sterile sheets, tufts of his wispy blond hair blackened at the tips—some missing in spots—reddened scalp glistening with blisters. One eye had swollen closed, and his nose was skewed a little to one side by the clear plastic tape securing a bandage to his cheek. The other blue eye blinked slowly as if mesmerized by the drip chamber of the IV setup taped to his arm. An oxygen cannula stretched across his puffy, tear-streaked face.

Beside him, a stainless steel basin, bottles of sterile saline, and stacks of gauze squares sat assembled on a draped table. Burn care: control pain, cool the burn to stop it from going deeper, monitor for dehydration, and prevent tetanus and infection. All the bases covered. Unless the burns are horrific and complicated, like Kevin’s. Unless there is profound shock, heart failure, and . . . No, don’t think of it.

Claire exhaled, watching as Erin Quinn pressed the button on a blood pressure monitor and efficiently readjusted the finger probe measuring the child’s lung status. She made a note on a chart and moved back to the bedside as the child stirred and cried out.

“Mommy?”

“Mom’s getting a bandage on her leg, Jamie, remember?” she explained gently, then caught sight of Claire and acknowledged her with a wave. She called to another nurse across the room. “Sarah, can you finish the ointment on Jamie’s scalp? watch him for few minutes?” After giving a brief report to the petite blonde nurse, she crossed to where Claire stood.

“Good, you found me,” Erin said, noting Claire’s name badge and offering a firm handshake. Strands of coppery hair had escaped from her ponytail, and her blue scrubs were splotched with snowy white burn ointment. She nodded as Claire glanced once more at the injured boy. “Second-degree burns. No explosion trauma, otherwise he’d be on a chopper ride to Sacramento. But Jamie’s got asthma, and the smoke stirred things up. So . . .”

“He needs close observation,” Claire finished. “I understand.”

Erin smiled. “Hey, I really appreciate your coming here. We’ve had a horrible shift, and my staff are workhorses, but the Hester child was a real heartbreaker. We worked a long time to save her, but it didn’t happen. And only last weekend we had the first drowning of the season. Junior high boy fishing on the river. Overall my crew seems to be coping fairly well, but today might be that last straw, you know? So I have a couple of issues I’d like to discuss with you. I can spare about ten minutes to fill you in. Will that be enough to get you started?”

“Yes . . . okay.” Claire tried to recall the details of her review. How much could she offer here? One person couldn’t do more than a brief assessment and let the staff know more assistance was available. At least she’d found the self-help pamphlets. “But first I should tell you that I left a message for the hospital social worker because if an actual debriefing is needed, then a mental health professional is required. That’s policy.” She swallowed, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt. “The debriefing should be done tomorrow or the next day.”

“What?” Erin shot her a look that clearly implied Claire was the one who needed mental help. “Tomorrow? I called you here because we need help now. Didn’t Merlene tell you that?” She pressed her fist to her lips. “Look, I’ve had a lab tech faint, the media’s harassing family members in the waiting room, and an agency nurse threatened to walk out. Walk out, when I’m short-staffed already! I’m sorry if I seem testy, but I’m responsible for the quality of nursing care here. My team needs help, and I’ll do everything it takes to make that happen. Merlene told me you were a trained peer counselor. Aren’t you?”

She hated herself. Erin Quinn was right. Claire needed to do whatever she could for these people. Somehow. She reached into her briefcase and grabbed a sheaf of glossy pamphlets. “Yes, I’ve been trained. And I can start an initial assessment, get things going in the process. I promise I’ll do as much as I can to help, and . . .” Her voice faltered as heavy footsteps came to a stop behind her. She fought an unnerving sense of déjà vu and impending doom.

“Help?” A man’s voice, thick with sarcasm, prodded her back like the devil’s pitchfork.

Claire turned, several pamphlets slipping from her fingers.

It was time to officially meet the newest threat to her plan, Dr. Logan Caldwell.


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