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!
Rachel Olsen is a writer, editor, and speaker on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of their online devotions, “Encouragement for Today,” with a readership of more than 375,000. She also writes for and serves on the editorial board of the P31 Woman magazine. Olsen is a national women’s speaker who enjoys interacting with audiences at women’s retreats and conferences from coast to coast.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Revealing the Secret to Responding to God
Everyone has a story. Everyone chooses to ignore God, (re)define God, or search for God and respond to Him as He truly is. I’ve done all three.
When I was growing up, my family attended church in a brown brick building with stained-glass windows and bright red carpet. The sanctuary smelled faintly of wood. I’m surprised I remember the smell; we weren’t there often—a few times a year.
I don’t remember much about going to church other than feeling embarrassed by my mother’s singing. We rarely went, but each time we did Mom sat us front and center, and then she sang as loudly as she could. She sang with passion, but she couldn’t carry a tune with a U-Haul. Being from the South I’m required to follow that criticism with “bless her heart.” (So let it be noted here that I blessed my momma’s can’t-sing-a-lick heart.)26 It’s No Secret
I listened to the pastor’s sermons, but I didn’t understand much about the subject matter. From what I could gather, God was good and He didn’t do bad things. So I concluded that if I wanted God to like me I, too, needed to be good and not do anything bad. Being a proper Southern girl, I very much wanted God to like me.
I thought believing in God and trying to do the right thing was what church was all about. I didn’t realize that—because Jesus lived, died, and rose—I could have a dynamic relationship with the God of the universe and He would delight in empowering me to live well. Instead, I assumed it took willpower. Like a diet or a marathon.
Glimpses of Revelation
When I was twelve, my mother called me into her room and patted the edge of the bed. I sat down beside her. With an unsettled look on her face, she revealed she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. The room started to spin, splintering my carefree world within its centrifugal force.
She explained something about cells and masts. Then she braced me for the likelihood that the treatments would cause her hair to fall out. That did it. I ran from the room crying inconsolably. My momma, sick, without her pretty auburn hair? It was too much for a tweenager to take in. I might have been only twelve at the time, but I understood the importance of big hair to Southern women.
During the months of cancer treatments that followed we went to church more often. About this time our church employed a new minister, and I really liked him. I understood more of his sermons, perhaps because I was desperate, or maybe because I was growing Always RSVP 27
up. All I know is I sensed something stirring in a dormant chamber of my heart.
I asked Mom to buy me a Bible; she did. I sat on the floor one Saturday, sunlight streaming through my window, and read through Genesis. (OK, I might have skimmed a little bit.) Then I skipped to the middle—because I’d never read a book this long—and read through Matthew, Mark, and part of Luke. Then I skipped to Revelation to find out how the book ended.
I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in Revelation, but it isn’t exactly light reading material. Challenging concepts make it difficult to grasp, especially for a clueless tween with no decoder ring. I closed the book, remembering the stories about Jesus. He lived doing good, which reconfirmed my notion that I had to be good and do good to make heaven’s invitation list. I’d finally made a Jesus-sighting, but I was still missing His point. I didn’t hear His message of mercy.
I set out to be and do good. I unloaded the dishwasher without being asked. I invited less-popular kids to sit at my lunch table. I even said “yes ma’am,” and “no sir” to my teachers. But inevitably something would happen to throw me off my good game. Someone would insult me, something would depress me, or some boy would pass a note my way.
After a year or so of mastectomy recovery and radiation treatments, my mother’s cancer went into remission. Things returned to normal around our home. Sadly, the preacher I liked so well left to pastor another church, and my interest in the things of God faded as my interest in the things of my peers grew. I didn’t give God much thought during my high school years, preferring to focus on fashion, sports, boys, and music.28 It’s No Secret
Halfway through my freshman year of college, my brother called to tell me Mom had again been diagnosed with cancer. This time, it was a brain tumor. His words sank into my own brain, creating a mass of stress and fret.
One night, I lay alone in my dorm room trying to sleep when I thought I saw Jesus standing in the corner. He didn’t say anything; He just looked at me, His arms extended toward me. He looked just as He did in the statues you see in old churches—long brown hair and white flowing robe. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or hallucinating, but I decided it meant that my mom was going to be OK.
Turned out, the tumor was inoperable. The doctors resorted to chemotherapy and radiation, but I could tell they didn’t think it’d work. I spent my spring semester driving the two hours back and forth between college and home. By exam week I was sick with a sinus infection, probably stress-induced. I’d take an exam, drag myself back to my room and sleep, then stagger—coughing and sniffling—to the next test. At the end of the week, I lugged myself home.
That Sunday, Mother’s Day, I visited Mom at the cancer center, determined to keep a smile on my face and do my best to cheer her up. I didn’t want her worrying about me. I purchased a sweet card and wrote, “Thank you for being my mom.” When I arrived, the nurse told me I couldn’t enter her room because I was sick.
I still remember the sterile feeling of the cold, hard floor in the hall outside her room, where I sat and cried. But it’s Mother’s Day, my mind protested between sobs, but she’s dying anyway…. Even today, the memory stings my eyes with tears.Always RSVP 29
A few days later I was better, but Mom had worsened. She came home from the cancer center with hospice care. A couple days after that, she couldn’t respond to me beyond raising her eyebrows at the sound of my voice. Panic set in as I realized I was losing contact. She was sliding away, and I was powerless to stop the inevitable.
Later that evening, my dad and I went out to grab dinner, leaving Mom under my grandmother’s watch. As we returned, I spotted a police car parked out front—and I knew. I ran to the bedroom to find my beautiful, vibrant mom lying lifeless.
She was gone. I was seventeen.
That night my life passed before me. Not my history with my mom, but my future without her. Where my prospects once looked promisingly bright, I now saw a haze of uncertainty.
I cried on the shoulder of a family friend. Gasping for breath and wiping away tears, I questioned, “What will I do when it comes time to graduate and my mom isn’t there to pin on my cap and clap? Or when I set out on my own and I don’t have my mom to advise me? What happens when I get married, and have babies, and I don’t have a mom to help me?”
Placing her hands on my trembling shoulders, she stared into my moist eyes. “When those times come, Rachel, God will make sure you are taken care of.” She spoke the words with enough certainty that I resolved to believe her.
Filing that promise away in my heart, I held on to the hope that God would somehow become a mother to me. I had nothing else to cling to. My dad and brothers argued over Mom’s will, then went their separate ways. I didn’t just lose my mom; I lost my whole family that May.30 It’s No Secret
In the fall I headed back to college, where I majored in journalism. I spent weekends trying to drown my sorrows at fraternity parties. I recall stumbling home one evening and walking into my closet, where I caught sight of one of my mom’s sweaters. My knees buckled beneath me as heavy sobs ensued. I realized the party life wasn’t fixing anything; it was an insufficient distraction. But I didn’t know how else to find relief.
My junior year I met a corduroy-clad young professor with uncommon wisdom and peace. He taught two of my classes, scheduled back-to-back. As the weather turned cool and leaves crunched underfoot, we’d walk across campus together from one class to the other. I learned he was a Christian. He felt like a safe place. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that way around anybody.
I found myself telling him about my mom, my fractured family, and my uneasiness about the future. I asked him questions about his faith. He answered convincingly, and when the semester ended, he invited me to his church.
Inside that prefab metal building I witnessed vibrancy. Those people possessed hope, joy, and peace, all of which I coveted. I learned about Jesus and how His shed blood washes away my sin and unites me with God—even though I don’t deserve such kindness.
I discovered God doesn’t just want me to be good, He wants me to be in Him—hand in hand, heart to heart. I realized it isn’t just a matter of willpower and proper performance He’s after, but a growing relationship through which He’ll shoulder most of the burden to make me vibrant. Yahweh so desires that I bear His image, I learned, He will transform me into His likeness through His Spirit. He can Always RSVP 31
make the most tarnished Southern belle glorious. In fact, in Him my purpose is found and fulfilled. In coming to Him I’d become a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a bride. All in Him, and all to Him.
After attending church two Sundays, I responded to this divine truth. I walked to the front, acknowledged my need for Jesus, and handed Him the jumbled mess of my broken heart. I asked Him to forgive me, clear the haze, and untangle my knotted-up hopes and dreams.
Inside a priceless decoder ring, God inscribed my initials with an eternal beam of light. In the instant I responded to Christ’s call, I became a beloved daughter of the Most High God and a member of His Yahweh Sisterhood.
The Favor of a Reply Is Requested
You and I need a jeweler’s loupe of sorts to see the secrets Yahweh wants to reveal to us—indeed to see Yahweh Himself. Our basic eyesight needs some spiritual amplification. We need a divine ointment to anoint our eyes for the task.
Remember that Greek word musterion, meaning a sacred secret revealed by God? Its root word is muo, which means locked up or shut, as in eyes that are closed. In Revelation 3:17–18 Jesus told the people of the church at Laodicea that, although they didn’t realize it, they were spiritually blind. Their eyes were locked shut and could not see God. They were neither seeing nor responding. Jesus counseled them, “Buy from me … salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (v. 18 ESV). Jesus affords us the ability to see, hear, understand, and respond to God. Only Jesus can provide that divine salve we need.32 It’s No Secret
In Matthew 5, we find Jesus perched on the side of a mountain near the ancient city of Capernaum to preach. Massive crowds gathered to watch and hear what He had to say. Some in the crowd followed Jesus; they had already opened themselves to His teaching. Others desperately sought a miracle or healing. A few counted themselves Jesus’ enemies. Others showed up out of curiosity. They’d heard the rumors and came to decide for themselves if Jesus was a fake, a prophet, or a Savior.
Jesus gazed across the mountainside at the congregation of people. Many eyed Him skeptically, wondering if they would see something that proved a connection to God. He told them, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8 NIV). A pure heart; an authentic heart; a humble, believing heart open to Jesus’ teaching—that’s the currency that buys the salve to allow our eyes to see God. That’s what enables us to respond to God. Lacking it, many heard Jesus’ words without understanding Him or watched His moves without realizing they were staring into the face of Yahweh.
God’s gals understand that only Jesus can open the eyes of a woman’s heart, cleansing them pure enough to see and respond to Yahweh. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Did you catch the secret Jesus reveals here? He said He’s the only way to God, the full embodiment of truth, and the only source of vibrant, lasting life. Jesus is the way we want to go, the truth we need to know, and the eternal life that we crave. You just can’t get to God without going through Jesus. Jesus is our way to God, and God’s way to us.
Jesus is who God wants us to respond to.Always RSVP 33
All religions do not lead to heaven, despite popular opinion (John 3:3). God is wise beyond wise and has a purpose for everything He does, and He designed salvation in such a way that believing in God is not sufficient. We must also believe in His Son, who ushers us to Yahweh and shows us how to live His way.
So our membership in the Yahweh Sisterhood—our becoming a daughter of God—happens at Christ’s invitation to follow Him. You cannot buy, earn, or bluff your way in. You must be invited—and you have been. God’s own hand addressed your invitation some two thousand years ago, at the desk of the cross, on the parchment of Christ’s body, in the ink of His blood.
Have you RSVP’d?
A year of high school French enables me to inform you RSVP stands for “répondez s’il vous plaît.” It means “please respond” … don’t put it off … don’t wait and see … say you’ll join me!
If you’ve never responded to Jesus’ invitation to come to God through Him, now is the time. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t put it off until you get your act together—RSVP right now through prayer. Receive the gift of forgiveness offered through Jesus, and ask God to take charge of your life and future. Receive your divine decoder ring. Tomorrow may be too late. Be Jesus’ guest today.
In Jesus’ day, a person throwing a soiree sent out servants to issue invitations to the guests and gather their responses. Invitations noted the day of the gathering but not the hour. The hour depended on when everything was ready. 34 It’s No Secret
Once everything was ready on party day, servants again went out to call in the guests. Those who’d said they’d come were expected to be dressed, ready, and waiting that day. When the servant knocked on their door, they were to head immediately for the banquet room.
This scenario mirrors what happens in the spiritual realm. God sent His Son and Servant Jesus to issue our invitation on the cross. Those who accept are born anew spiritually—then expected and empowered to live in such a way that they are ready for the day Jesus will return, calling us to God’s heavenly banqueting table.
Though we don’t know the day or the hour, we will be ushered to a great wedding feast, the marriage banquet for Jesus and His bride. Jesus’ bride is the church, meaning you and me—all who have RSVP’d to His invitation.
I read about this feast in the book of Revelation that day in my room. What I couldn’t grasp fully back then now sets my heart aflutter in a way that nothing else can. I am loved, chosen, adopted, prepared, and betrothed—to the King of Glory. You are too! The wildest thing about this Yahweh Sisterhood? We’re all engaged to the same Man—Jesus—yet no one seems to mind.
You and I must RSVP and ready ourselves for our heavenly wedding day. The rest of the divine secrets in this book will purify and prepare us to take our Groom’s hand as He replaces our decoder ring with a wedding band. I don’t want to miss it. Nor do I want to get there and find myself underdressed and unprepared.
Understanding and responding to the twelve divine secrets that follow—internalizing and enacting them—will keep us dressed Always RSVP 35
and ready for the future party. While simply responding to the cross secures our seat at the grand banqueting table, keeping these secrets assures us that our heavenly Groom will look on us with utter delight.
My fellow belles, have you saved the date? Because a wedding feast looms on the celestial calendar. It’s part of your story. And savvy Yahweh Sisters are always dressed and ready for a party!
A Garden Wedding
Twenty days after I graduated college, I had my own wedding feast. I married that young professor, Southern style, in a garden surrounded by azalea bushes in full bloom, three-hundred-year-old oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and swans swimming on the lake behind. It was gorgeous.
God not only adopted this lonely girl into His heavenly family, He placed me into Rick’s earthly family. He presented me with three sisters-in-law and countless Sisters-in-Christ. I learned the truthful relevance of Psalm 68; it became the story of my life:
Sing praises to God and to his name!Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.His name is the LORD—rejoice in his presence!
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. (Ps. 68:4–6) 36 It’s No Secret
He’s a Father to the fatherless, and I can testify He’s a mother to the motherless as well. God has guided me, protected me, comforted me, taught me, and provided for me. He also untangled my hopes and fears and brought me the joyful desires of my heart.
So now you’ll find me in church each week, singing praises to Yahweh and His great name. Oh, and I sing rather quietly when I praise Him in public. It’s not that I’m not extremely thankful—I am. It’s not that I don’t like to sing—I do. And it has nothing to do with embarrassing memories from my church past in that brown brick building with the red carpet.
Truth is, I sing every stinkin’ bit as off-key as my momma did.
Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Sisters stick together, right?
But you can go ahead and bless my heart over that vocal deficit. I need all the help I can get.
1. Check out this parable Jesus told about a man throwing a feast:
A man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”
Jesus replied with this illustration: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, Always RSVP 37
he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn’t come.
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was angry and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I invited first will get even the smallest taste of what I had prepared for them.’” (Luke 14:15–24)
What struck you when the people in Jesus’ story made excuses for not being prepared to attend? List the things that preoccupied them.38 It’s No Secret
What excuses do you make for not responding to Christ, or not living “dressed and ready”?
2. Read about the coming wedding feast in Revelation 19:6–10. What does it say about the bride (you) and her wedding dress?
3. Next time you throw a bash at your plantation, Jesus offers this advice for planning the guest list:
Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” (Luke 14:12–14)
That’s precisely what God did when He created the Yahweh Sisterhood. He sent out invitations welcoming every one of us to His supper club. The glass slipper fits each gal here. Everyone gets the rose. The King of Glory doesn’t require Always RSVP 39
designer gowns or shiny black limos for us to dine with Him. What a relief!
In the space below, write a thank-you note to your King.