Thursday, April 29, 2010

Looking for relationship advice?

Thank you to everyone who participated in today's blog tour!

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:

The Barnabas Agency (February 14, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings - Senior Media Specialist - The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Maybe it’s because his dad was a lawyer and state legislator, or maybe it’s because he grew up in Alabama with something to prove, or maybe he just found a good use for his self-proclaimed ADHD, but whatever the cause, Fred Lybrand has become a careful thinker in a number of disciplines. If you are looking at a topic with Dr. Lybrand, then you are guaranteed to see things like you never have before. “I finally discovered that I’m one of those unfocused students that just likes to learn everything. I guess God made me to be a knowledge broker—I learn some hopefully useful information and then give it to others who need it,” Lybrand describes of his own love for learning and teaching.

Lybrand attended the University of Alabama and majored in English Literature, with a double-minor emphasis in speech communication and fiction writing. He went on to teach the introductory speech communications class while also attending law school at Alabama. A hunger to understand the Word of God, however, led him to withdraw in order to pursue theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Lybrand graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1989 and received a doctorate from Phoenix Seminary, 2007.

In January 2010, Dr. Lybrand retired from a 24-year career as a pastor of two churches in Texas. At Midland Bible Church he helped build a church which has launched ministries in several continents (including successful church-planting efforts in Uganda), as well as serving as a founding board (and faculty) member for Midland Classical Academy, a Socratic-method based high school. The school provides a “classical education” focused on teaching students through the Socratic Method using classical books, interactive science and math, logic, fine arts, and the creative process—all built on the foundation of the Bible. At Northeast Bible Church (Evangelical Free Church) in the San Antonio area, Dr. Lybrand helped redesign the church to grow as a disciple-making center for promoting the grace of God. Teaching and counseling in the church context has been a long-term focus of Lybrand’s labors.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: The Barnabas Agency (February 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0578046520
ISBN-13: 978-0578046525

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Mother called the week before I met Glaen Breuch.


“So, that's it?” I said with a tinge of anger.


“I'm afraid it is, dear,” a soft and matter-of-fact voice responded.


“Mom, you just want a divorce? You don't want to work at it or get some counseling or something?” I pleaded.


“No Annie, it's over. I've tried and tried, but your father just isn't what I want for the rest of my life. Can't you just be happy for me?” Mother asked.


Suddenly Annie found herself floating, feather-like, away from the phone and experiencing what most people think a drowning person experiences; a life full of joy and promise, in the last moments of gasping for air, she sees a replay of that life. Annie saw the day her baby sister came home from the hospital. Mom and Dad were so happy, and Annie as a little girl couldn't find her sister's feet; she kept looking under the baby-carrier instead of under the blanket. They all laughed for days.


Next, Annie remembered her granddaddy's death and how her mother was so kind to her dad, and how her dad praised mother to everyone in the small town where he grew up. Other memories flooded her mind, moving from ancient black-and-white scenes to vivid full-color images. Most recently she had been in church, seated between her parents, and basking in the wonder of family; hoping for a marriage like theirs. But Annie snapped awake.


“Be happy for you?” I said with amazement. “How can I be happy for you? You are running away to ruin your relationship with Dad and mess up our family forever. You seem happy enough. I don't think you need my help.”


“Annie, my relationship with your dad is already ruined. Honey, the one way I've failed you was to not really help you understand about love. You were always your Daddy's girl anyway, so I never could really tell you how I felt. I don't think I understand relationships, but I'm going to learn about them. Honey, I know you don't understand relationships; just look at what's happened with your boyfriends.”


“Boyfriends?” Annie thought to herself. There were just two; one in high school and one in college. Both of the boys were nice guys who doted, and spent, on Annie. She just wanted to have fun, and she did, for a while. In the same six month period with each guy, Rodney and Pierre, they both turned to the same serious conversation with her about “dating just each other.” Annie could still feel the panic as her stomach tightened and her lungs closed off from the air in the room. She had mysteriously decided she didn't like either of them; and in time she believed it deeply. The only hint she had that perhaps a mistake lived on, was that she saved the letter from Pierre in her dresser drawer back home. Both guys were married now, at least she had heard about their engagements. But now the thought of her past brought Annie back to the room, and to the moment. “Mother, what about your relationship with God? What about your marriage vow before Him?” I asked as a sincere question.


“God wants us happy, dear. I've been miserable for years. I love you children, and now that you're grown, I can follow my dreams. I felt dead, but now I feel alive. Annie, I know it is hard to understand, but I just know God is in this because I'm so wonderfully happy now.”


“Mom…I love you, but what you're doing can't be right. I'm not going to do this to my family,” I said.


“Well, good luck, Honey. I'm going out to dinner and I haven't finished dressing,” she said in a mother-knows-best way.


“Could I give you one piece of advice that would have changed all of this for me?”


“Sure Mom,” I said.


“Annie dear, be sure you marry the right person; don't stand in your wedding dress with doubts in your bouquet.”


We hung up, and I cried for a long time before I could pray. “God, my mother says she doesn't understand relationships, and she's my mom! Then she says I don't understand them either. Please help me to understand.”


Back then I had no idea that prayer was the sort of thing God took seriously.

___________________________________________________


Glaen Breuch was unusual, even for a college professor.


It was only two weeks before that I had signed up for his Masters class called, “Original Non-Fiction.” Jennah and I had been sitting at Polmier's Coffee Shoppe, a little place with hardwood floors full of serious students and a few silly girls. “What are you going to take for your last class?” Jennah asked. I was irritated. “Gee, Jennah, I just decided now to take classes at all.” She knew how upset I was about Mom and Dad's sudden divorce announcement, so she ignored it and asked again.


“I've prayed all week about it. I wish I could take a class on how relationships really work, but nothing in school is ever practical.” I still remember saying those words when Glaen walked in the Shoppe. He had striking white hair that made a great wave until it crashed above his right eye. Wire-rimmed glasses, herringbone jacket, too many books; all these made Glaen look like the ideal professor. He insisted on being called Glaen rather than “professor” or “mister,” but I didn't know why until months later.


Exactly fifteen years ago I saw Glaen in the Shoppe. Now I am about to see him again. I bet he hasn't changed a bit, but of course how could he?


That day in Polmier's, Glaen walked up to us as an answer to prayer. “Hi ladies,” he said. “I couldn't help overhearing your conversation about classes. I'm a new instructor here at St. Michael's, but I'm a bit late in arriving.” Suddenly his awkward grasp gave way and all of his books and papers clamored to the wood floor. Only one pink sheet remained in his hand. “Oh, here it is,” ignoring the pile at his feet. “I'm teaching this class over the next two semesters. If you're interested, just show up as it says here.” With that Glaen gathered his books and left the Shoppe, cluttered but unembarrassed. From that moment on, all I could think about was how curious both the class and the professor seemed. I was in!


“Welcome class. My name is Glaen, pronounced with a long 'a' as in 'gain.'” He started the Original Non-Fiction class, ONF101 as the flier labeled it, right on time. Without skipping a beat he handed out the syllabus and asked with eyes that swept the room, “Are there any questions before we begin?”


I looked around totally bewildered as I raised my hand. “Yes, and your name is Anne?” he asked. “Well, they call me Annie, but I do have a question,” I said.


“OK Annie, what's your question?” I was still in a self-absorbed mood, so I put a little “dumb blonde” in my voice. “Like…ah…I'm the only student in the room…and, ah…is the class going to make or something?” I wanted to ask why in heaven's name he was acting like the room was full, but it seemed like a dumb move on the first day.


“Well Annie, since it's a new class the powers-that-be have given me permission to teach it even if you're the only one. Ready to start?” he asked, taking my silence for a “yes.”


Glaen wrote the following on the board and asked, “What do you think?”


“JUST DEFINITIONS EITHER PREVENT OR PUT AN END TO DISPUTES”

- Emmons


“Who's Emmons?” I said.


“Does it matter? What if I said it was written by Poe, or Shelley, or Whitman? Would it make a difference? Is it what is said or who said it?” suddenly Glaen had me thinking.


“I guess it doesn't matter,” I said.


“Then what do you think?” he returned.


“I think it sounds reasonable,” I admitted.


“Great!” Glaen took off with a quick lecture on the importance of words and their meanings. He finally got to the point.


“Annie, I've watched conflict for a long time. Seldom is there a conflict that can withstand agreed-to definitions. The reason is pretty simple: Truth still wins out. It's bad enough when two people disagree about what is expected in a relationship. It's even worse when they aren't using the same language. A dictionary or the question, 'What do you mean?' can do more to end conflict than almost anything else on the planet. One of my favorite authors once wrote, 'Truth is the lifeblood of real relationships.'”


“Why?” I asked.


“Well, let me ask you a question. If you change your behavior from how you really are to what they want; is it you relating, or is it the character you're playing?”


With that Glaen started to put his books in a much-needed satchel.


“Is that it?” I asked.


“There's nothing else to know for today,” he said.


“Nothing else to know! What about non-fiction? What about writing? What's the assignment?” I said with a little contempt.


“Oh, that,” he said flatly.


“Well, you need to write an original work of non-fiction, offering original insights on a useful topic. It doesn't matter what the topic is, but I would suggest you write about something you care about, something you'd like to understand. I'll be in this room every week at this same moment. I'm available to help you when you want it.”


Glaen looked at me for a long time, staring right through me with his steady blue eyes, framed by his white hair and white button-down shirt.


“Annie,” he added. “Decide on your topic by next week and I'll show you the secret of good non-fiction. There's a book in your future, and I want to show it to you.” Glaen turned and moved out of the room with the grace of a ballet dancer. I just sat there for a long time before I left. The Coffee Shoppe was finally calling.



SUMMARY

Truth is the lifeblood of real relationships.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kruse shares his journey down Restoration Road

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 authors are:


and the book:

Credo House Publishers; 1 edition (March 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Dr. Mitchell Kruse is an author, speaker, and the driving force behind The Restoration Road, a ministry movement that equips believers to live authentically where culture connects with Christ. Kruse is best known for his contribution to the auction arena, especially in the area of collector cars and real estate. For seventeen years, Kruse was owner, CEO, and auctioneer of Kruse International, the world’s largest collector car sales organization. Kruse was the youngest licensed Realtor in the nation and the first person to sell a vehicle for a documented one million dollars cash, while he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Indiana University.

For more than a decade, Derek Williams has worked with those who have a heart for compassion. His experiences in both church ministry and the entertainment industry have allowed him to build a company that combines media with compassion efforts. A few of his credits include: Executive Producer on Break Through with Tommy Walker: Live At Saddleback, in partnership with Purpose Driven Ministries. He was also writer and producer for The Invitation, a short-film and music project that captured the lives of 14,000 families living in a city landfill in the Philippines. Over the last decade, he has been a leader and producer for independent projects that have generated over $1 million for compassion efforts.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $17.50
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Credo House Publishers; 1 edition (March 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935391313
ISBN-13: 978-1935391319

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


sanD, stone, anD clay


In the small French town of Molsheim, a mystery remained unearthed inside the estate of famed automobile designer Ettore Bugatti. A vision, first shaped in a clay mold, was later transformed into seven of the most magnificent vehicles ever crafted--the Bugatti Royales.


These breathtaking vehicles were launched just as the world economy began to sour on the verge of the Great Depression. All seven had been built by 1933. They were enormous, with a 169.3 inch wheelbase and an overall length up to twenty-one feet--five feet longer than today's average car length of sixteen feet. They sported the first true “bling,” with twenty-four inch rims to support their 7,000 pound body. The 12.7 L “straight 8” engine produced up to 300 horsepower, with cylinders bored 5.1 inches, each discharging more horsepower than the entire engine of a contemporary Type 40 touring car of its day.


The Bugattis were rolling sculptures. And one man, now driving through Molsheim's Nouveau Quartier, was nearing the end of his quest to uncover these works of art.


Briggs knew that four of the Bugattis had already been sold, and the seventh one made had been destroyed by fire. But the remaining two were still missing. He slowed the truck along a dirt road as two refrigerators bounced back and forth in the back, and stopped at a wrought iron gate just outside of Bugatti's estate.


Ten minutes later Briggs stood in the main hall, surrounded by paintings and photos of Ettore's grand accomplishments. One piece of sculpture struck Briggs as unique. It was a statue of a boy kneeling before his father. Etched into the stone were the words, The Prodigal Son Returns. It was a beautiful work of art by Rembrandt himself--Rembrandt Bugatti, that is. Ettore's brother was a world-renowned sculptor who had added his considerable talent to the designs of the famed Bugatti Royales.


A woman's voice echoed through the hall.


“Good afternoon, Mr. Cunningham.”


“Therese, it's so good to see you again,” Briggs replied.


Therese was all business.


“As I mentioned to you yesterday, I'm not sure how much help I can be. However, you are welcome to take a look around.”


“Great! I'd like to start in your father's study.”


“Very well.”


Briggs followed Therese down several corridors. He glanced into the rooms as they passed by and noticed all of them were empty. It seemed that the cost of the war had wounded even those whom society had previously deemed untouchable.


Therese stopped at a mahogany door and reached for a key. Years had passed since anyone had entered this forgotten place--until now. As she swung the door open, Briggs noticed that this room was still fully furnished. Inside was a beautiful wooden desk and two leather chairs facing an old, red-brick fireplace. In the far corner, a sledgehammer stood propped next to a gas lantern.


Therese waited in the doorway as Briggs stepped inside. It had been years since her father had passed, and this unexpected visit had flooded her with forgotten memories, none of which had occurred in this room.


“Mr. Cunningham, what is it you do?”


“I build race cars,” Briggs replied. “And I've been captivated by the beautiful automobiles your father built for quite some time.”


He ran his fingers over the aged brick and wondered if he was about to unlock a piece of history. Could the stories he'd heard possibly be true?


“Whether I find what I'm looking for or not,” Briggs said as he reached into his pocket and handed Therese an envelope, “this is for you. And, as promised, the refrigerators are outside.”


“Thank you,” she replied.


Briggs' eyes gleamed with excitement as he glanced back toward the brick wall at the south corner. He was here to find an authentic original. Without another word, he picked up the sledgehammer and pounded into the center of the wall. As he did so, pieces of brick scattered in all directions.


Therese was stunned by this sudden burst of destructive energy, but she continued to watch, a bit bewildered by what unfolded before her. Even though reluctant to admit it, she was captivated by what this American might find hidden after all these years. All the while she told herself that her memories of her father and the legacy he had left behind were greater than any artifact that might now be uncovered.


Sweat poured down Briggs' face as he swung the hammer again and again. Thirty minutes later, Briggs and Therese stood in front of a small black hole. With one final grunt, he pulled a pile of bricks out of the opening. As the bricks tumbled at his feet, he grinned and turned toward Therese.


The moment of truth.


She lit a flame and handed the lantern to Briggs. Now she stood by his side and followed the glow that illuminated what was behind the wall. What they unveiled was a forgotten garage, built to protect two pieces of art that no one believed still existed. Briggs had found a lost treasure--Ettore's personal Bugattis, one of which was the prized Bugatti Royale Kellner.


“I knew you'd keep them close,” he whispered.


“Fou d'Amérique” Therese muttered. Crazy American.


What a day this had been! Briggs Cunningham had passed through a gate to Ettore Bugatti's estate, traveled up an unassuming dirt road, and arrived at a destination where he discovered two of the most sought-after, most valuable automobiles in the world--the rarest of Ettore Bugatti's priceless works of art. It had cost him a mere fifty thousand dollars and two refrigerators. Now that he had found them, he knew he must restore the automobiles to their original, authentic condition.


Briggs Cunningham was an American adventurer, a risk taker, whose heart beat to build the fastest cars on the planet. He was also a treasured acquaintance of mine who shared his love for rare automobiles with me. I remember strolling through his museum as he shared the Bugatti story. (I've taken the liberty to fill in the missing pieces as I imagined them.)


What always remained true about Mr. Cunningham was his heart's desire to find the rarest pieces of Bugatti's collection and restore them to their authentic, original condition. It was a dream that he believed one day would come true. He never gave up, using every resource at his disposal to fuel his treasure hunt until he found what was needed to complete the authentic restoration.


Maybe you too are an adventurer, a risk taker, in search of your heart's desire; someone who is searching for a hidden treasure to restore your authentic life. Perhaps you have repeatedly asked yourself, “How can I make what's old in my life shine like new again? How can I restore the truest desires of my heart?”


Whether we are CEO's, blue collar workers, stay-at-home moms, college graduates or freshmen in high school, we all have old patterns in our lives that we would like to change so that we can be restored to new. The challenge we face is answering the question, “How do we restore what's old in our lives--the rust that has formed on our purer motivations, the dings that have appeared in our passion for the good, the faded paint of our resolve to love God with all our hearts--to its authentic, original state?”


By definition, something that is authentic reflects the design of the designer. As in the case of Ettore Bugatti and his magnificent creations, an authentic collector car reflects the design of its designer. This is the design that Briggs Cunningham worked so tirelessly to restore, the same design that the Designer desires to restore in us.


The Desire of the Designer


Each collector vehicle begins life as a clay mold that carries the handprints of the designer who fashioned it. That design flows from the heart of its creator. Later, the design comes to life through a community of engineers, manufacturers, and executives who work together to carry out the inspiration, or the “breath,” of the designer. When it comes to automotive restoration, there is no greater value than a restoration that is carried out by a car's original designer.


Like a collector car, we also began as clay molds in the hands of the Designer who breathed life into us (Genesis 2:7), the same Designer who desires to restore us to the original creation that He intended. Our deep, inborn desire for authenticity originates from the One who designed us from the inside out.


Authenticity, one of the highest values in our postmodern culture, aligns our lives from the inside out. As postmoderns we deconstruct the layers of every person we encounter to discover whether he or she is someone who is the same, someone who is truly “authentic,” all the way through to the core of his or her being.


Pretense, the opposite of authenticity, misaligns our lives from the outside in. Pretense focuses on the outside at the expense of the inside. In the collector car world, we call this a cosmetic restoration--a vehicle is spruced up on the outside just enough to fool others that it is restored. It is only a matter of time before the concealed truth about the vehicle's cancerous undercarriage is revealed, followed by another outside in attempt at restoration.

This process never satisfies.


When we are uninformed, unaware, or unbelieving, we often pretend that we are the ultimate designers in our lives. Consequently, we pretend with ourselves, with God, and with others that we do not need inside out restoration. Those of us who continue on this path live our lives trapped in continual, progressive pretense that leaves us dissatisfied.


In life, our desire to be restored comes as a result of the damage, the dings, the rust and the corrosion that comes from trying to live lives our own way. And such a desire is not new to us today--we find the desire to be restored to authenticity scattered in writings throughout history, in religious texts, in those we love, and even in today's news headlines. And when we're honest, we also find it hidden in the darkest places within ourselves. We hear it in the countless whispers of anyone who longs to be brought back to a life that restores him from the pride-filled addictions that leave him destroyed. Restoration is truly humanity's deepest desire.


The Restoration Process


A life of pretense keeps us unrestored; therefore, a life of authenticity is impossible without restoration.


To be restored means “to be made new again.” When an auto enthusiast finds the car of his dreams buried under tarps in an old barn or chicken coop, he has a vision of what the car was and what the car could be again. He has a firm belief that this dusty, rusty, dinged-up old crate can be remade to the specifications of the designer.


This optimist, this visionary, surrenders his old basket-case of a car to a restorer so that the restoration process can begin. During the process, the car is disassembled and the individual parts are restored, piece by piece. After each part of the car is restored, it is carefully reassembled. After all the work is done, it's finally time for a test drive.



As the owner displays his pride and joy, others learn from his experience and dedication. However, even the most detailed, correct restorations lose their luster over time. The car gets dinged again, the paint fades, the interior tears, the tires wear, the engine grows tired and the metal rusts. But the true restorer's passion is to make these things new again.


The same is true for our lives.


First, the old is surrendered. Like a classic car that needs restoration, each one of us must surrender our old basket case of a life to the Restorer. Second, the pieces are surrendered. The Restorer begins to disassemble and renovate the components of our lives, piece by piece, whether they be unrestored or self-restored. Third, the new is surrendered. As the restoration process unfolds, we learn that we are designed to bring authentic restoration to others. We surrender the new for this purpose and continue to surrender any old parts that corrode again over time.


On our restoration journey our resolve can fade, tear, wear, grow tired, and become rusty as we occasionally turn from the Restorer in an attempt to restore the individual pieces ourselves. Pride deceives us into either believing that our self-restoration attempts are working, or thinking that we cannot bring a particular piece to the Restorer more than once. Consequently, pride leaves us questioning how we are supposed to surrender that one last piece of our lives.


Pride is the Lock on the Human Heart; Humility is the Key


Imagine the inner workings of a lock fashioned with two concentric cylinders that are held together by four spring-loaded pins. A key is the perfect combination for each respective lock. It pushes up the spring-loaded pins high enough so that the innermost cylinder can turn freely inside the outermost cylinder, unlocking the door. If by inserting the key we say we are surrendering the key to the lock, then partially surrendering the key into that lock will never open any door. Only fully surrendering the key will unlock it.


The same is true for our lives. In order to be restored to authenticity, we must humbly and fully surrender our hearts, desires, and lives to the Restorer.


Let's look into this metaphor a little more deeply. The inner cylinder represents our spiritual heart. The four pins are indicative of its four chambers. The outer cylinder illustrates our four primary, God-given desires (both the chambers of the heart and the four primary God-given desires are defined later in this chapter).


When the key is fully surrendered into the lock, all four pins pass through the inner cylinder, representing the heart, and the outer cylinder that encompasses our four primary desires. The lock is opened, which allows us to open the gate to the three key resources of our life: our time, talent, and treasure. When we unlock this gate, our lives are unlocked and opened to a restored life of authenticity. This newly surrendered life is measured on the basis of godly wisdom, not by any temporal measure of success.


Jesus spoke of similar keys when he said to his disciple Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). When paired with our current metaphor, this kingdom perspective comes into clearer view. The kingdom of heaven is God's divine reign, rule, and order in the hearts and lives of people on this earth, both now and in the future. It is one of the most profound expressions of Christ living within us. When we fully surrender the key of humility into the lock of our human heart, we open wide the gate to the kingdom of heaven in our lives. When we partially surrender the key of humility into our prideful heart, the gate to the kingdom of heaven remains locked--both in this life and the next.


The Sand and Stone of Pride


Pride is a hard heart, one that makes itself higher than others. We find it in two forms: a heart of sand or a heart of stone.


A sand heart partially surrenders the horizontal at the expense of the vertical. It focuses on people and tasks rather than on God. This is license. A heart of sand is loose and scattered; it requires a storm to be shaped and restored.


A stone heart partially surrenders the vertical at the expense of the horizontal. It focuses on God rather than on others. This is legalism--the thought that one can manipulate the deity of the universe through the actions and activities of our lives. A stone heart is hard. It requires tooling by a sharp instrument to be shaped and restored.


Ironically, both sand and stone are the same substance, just a different aggregate. In its essence, sand is just tiny pieces of crumbled up stone. However, neither a heart of sand or a heart of stone reflect the design of the Designer who is also our Restorer. Sand hearts and stone hearts break apart the vertical from the horizontal, creating four walls that form a prison. The result is the incarceration of pride.


The Master Key of Full Surrender


The Master Key that fully surrenders our hearts, desires, and lives to the Restorer is cross-shaped; this is the perfect picture of the vertical intersecting with the horizontal. The vertical axis is our relationship with God. The horizontal axis is our relationship with people. In order to fully surrender the Master Key into the lock of pride on the human heart, one must humble his heart vertically to God, and horizontally to others.


Christ the Designer (Colossians 1:16) and Restorer (Colossians 1:19) holds the restoring key of David that unlocks the kingdom of heaven. What he opens, no one can shut; what he shuts, no one can open (Revelation 3:7). He has unlocked the door to abundant and eternal restoration to those who humble their hearts, desires, and the three resources of life to Him. For those who choose to live in their pride and reject Him, the door will remain closed on this side of life and the next. In order to discover who God created us to be, we must gather the courage to travel into the mystery that God will reveal to us as He unlocks the condition of our hearts, our desires, and our three resources of life for the advancement of His kingdom.


A Clay Heart


A clay heart lives in the sweet spot where the vertical intersects with the horizontal--where our relationship with God intersects with our relationships with others. A heart of clay is a humble heart. The words “humility” and “humanity” come from the same Latin word, humus, which means “from the ground.” Humility involves bending the knee. It means “to make ourselves lower than.” Consequently, humility always has an object.


Whereas a sand heart is a picture of license, requiring a storm to be fashioned, and a stone heart is a picture of legalism requiring a severe tool to be shaped, a heart of clay is a picture of love. It's a heart that is malleable in the hands of its gracious Designer. While all three substances come from the ground, the heart of clay is void of meaning unless it is shaped and restored by the heart and hands of the Designer.


CLAY is an acronym that helps us remember how to live with a humble heart. First, we confess to God our proud sinful hearts of sand or stone. Second, we learn His design for our lives from the Bible. Third, we apply what we learn from the Scriptures to our daily tasks and relationships. Fourth, we yield the outcomes to God. A clay heart experiences the design of the Designer through full surrender.


The heart of the Designer, the One we desire to emulate, is clay. His deep desire is to restore all that He has designed. As the Designer, he understands the pattern that he has built into humanity--the pattern that has been damaged by sin. As the Restorer, He is the embodiment of a clay heart, of the vertical axis intersecting with the horizontal axis. He walked the earth as fully God and fully man. He is the authentic picture of a humble heart that fully surrenders everything in communion with the Father and at the same time humbly surrenders everything in community with others. He has restored the vertical (God with man) and the horizontal (man with man). He invites each of us to be restored to authenticity, to the unique expression of the Designer in us.


Outside in Versus Inside Out Living


On Restoration Road, we are reminded that the Restorer is Jesus Christ. He fully surrendered His heart, His desires, and His life to the Father. His heart was humble (Matthew 11:29). All of Jesus' time, talent, and treasure were completely surrendered to the promptings of His heavenly Father. Jesus glorified the Father in coming to earth as a sacrifice for sin, and in return, the Father restored Jesus to the glory of heaven (John 17:1-4). He came to inaugurate the kingdom of heaven, the biggest restoration project in the universe, because He came to restore the unique expression of the Designer in each one of us.


But we turn away from that design. Often times, our hearts of sand and stone sign up for self-restoration--that which takes place from the outside in. We think that if we go somewhere, we can do something, and then we will be somebody. This pattern attempts to restore our three resources of life (time, talent, and treasure) without first addressing our hearts or desires.


But living restored to authenticity occurs from the inside out. This is the be-do-go of full surrender. Who we are designed to be determines what we are designed to do, which determines where we are designed to go. This is the individual design of the Designer in each of our lives. Consequently, Restoration Road transforms our hearts, then our desires, and finally our three resources of life for the advancement of God's kingdom.


Let's unpack this a little more thoroughly. As we established earlier, Restoration Road is the road we travel in our journey of life. Remember, Jesus is the Restorer. First, Restoration Road transforms our hearts, the identity of who we are designed to be. When a vertical line intersects with a horizontal line, four chambers result. These represent the four chambers of the spiritual heart. We can remember them with the acronym, WISE.


The first chamber is the will. This is the chamber of our choices. The second chamber is the intellect, or the mind. This is the chamber of our thoughts. The third chamber is the spirit. This is the lead chamber of our prayers. The fourth chamber is the emotions. This is the chamber of our feelings.


In order to be restored to authenticity, we must fully surrender each of the four chambers of our hearts to the Restorer. We must choose, think, pray, and want to make this surrender. This is the prerequisite to unlocking wisdom's gate (Proverbs 1:7; 11:2).


Second, Restoration Road transforms our desires, or what we are designed to do. This is the heartbeat that connects our hearts with our three resources of life--our time, our talent, and our treasure. As we travel the road of life, we can see the desires of our hearts in three different ways, depending on the condition of our hearts. Whereas sand hearts see desires for their gratification, and stone hearts see desires often in terms of negation, clay hearts see desires for their transformation. The last one is what we were designed to do with our desires.


God created us with at least four primary desires, each coming from his being, or his identity.

Desire 1: Significance from being created in God's image (Genesis 1:27).

Desire 2: Contentment from being blessed by God to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue (bring contentment to) the earth (Genesis 1:28).

Desire 3: Control from being empowered by God to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28).

Desire 4: Security from being given every seed-bearing plant and fruit-bearing tree (Genesis1:29-30).


These desires flow vertically from the heart of God into each one of our hearts. They flow horizontally into our relationships with others (Genesis 2:18).


So the next question is, what happened to these pure desires? How did they become corrupted? The answer to this question is summed up in one word that we focused on earlier in this chapter: pride. This original sin came into play when humans searched for the satisfaction of their desires apart from God (Genesis 3:5-6).


God had created Adam and Eve with humble hearts. In the perfected Garden, God was the object of their desires. Consequently, He satisfied their desires. However, pride made humans the object of their own desires and created the need for restoration. This is a pattern that each of us repeats both by birth and by choice (Genesis 8:21).


The first sin was followed by the world's first self-restoration program. I call it “sin's trifecta”: (1) Adam and Eve were ashamed because they had been swayed (Genesis 3:7), (2) they hid because they were afraid (Genesis 3:12-13), (3) they blamed because they had disobeyed (Genesis 3:12-13). Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and from that point, humans have determined for ourselves what is right and wrong (Genesis 3:1-6). This is our heritage; this is our legacy.


In essence, we take God's gift of life and continually attempt to satisfy our desires by setting ourselves up as gods in our own self-made kingdoms. We trust in our giftedness rather than our godliness. We follow our will rather than surrendering willingly. We rely on our own decisions rather than submitting them to the Decider. However, God the Designer responds by offering us the opportunity to be restored to authenticity (Genesis 3:15, 22).


Restoration Road transforms our three resources of life, or where we are designed to go. Time is fully surrendered to the Restorer, and our calendars are transformed. Talent is fully surrendered to the Restorer, and our business cards are transformed. Treasure is fully surrendered to the Restorer, and our investments are transformed. When we surrender all three resources of our lives to the Restorer, He leads us down Restoration Road to reflect the design of the Designer.


The Pursuit of Wisdom


Money is pride's measurement of our giftedness (time, talent, and treasure). Wisdom is humility's measurement of our godliness (Christ in us). Although the Bible often comments on money, it is the latter commodity that we are advised to pursue repeatedly throughout Scripture.


Wisdom is the intersection of the vertical with the horizontal. It is God's heart (vertical) combined with street smarts (horizontal). Wisdom applies one's relationship with God to one's relationships with others, including the tasks to be achieved. We were designed to have a heart for wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6; 22:17-18). We were designed to desire wisdom (Proverbs 3:15). We were designed to pursue wisdom with our three resources of life (Proverbs 4:7). Wisdom begins with a humble, malleable, clay-like heart toward God (Proverbs 1:7; 11:2; 22:4).


Thousands of years ago, Jewish Rabbis searched for the ultimate word to describe God. They chose “wisdom.” Wisdom resides in a person in whom the vertical perfectly intersects with the horizontal. Christ the Restorer is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Christ is the authenticity of God (Hebrews 1:3). He is humble in heart (Matthew 11:29). Humility toward him is the beginning of His wisdom in our lives (Proverbs 11:2).


Foolishness is the opposite of wisdom. It is derived from a proud heart. It begins as wet cement and progressively hardens like cured concrete. A stone heart is foolish. A sand heart is foolish. The two substances added together form a concrete mix that imprisons us in lives filled with pride instead of humility, and foolishness instead of wisdom. In our pride, we foolishly pretend that the satisfaction of our desires will occur through the pursuit of more time, talent, and treasure apart from God. The result is a life of pride, pretense, and foolishness that leaves us unrestored and dissatisfied.


The Gate, the Road, the Destination


So what happens as we move down Restoration Road? What are the mile markers, the signposts, the points of interest that we should be looking for? When we surrender our hearts, we know that Jesus is the voice on our GPS device directing our paths. But why are we on this road, and what is the goal?


The gate represents our hearts. On Restoration Road, we learn to shift the gates of our hearts, or who we were designed to be, from us to the Restorer. We move from a heart for our position to passion for His grace and His provision in our lives. We transition from a heart for our purpose to a passion for His vision. We change from a heart for our contentment to a passion for His peace. We journey from a heart for our competence to a passion for His character of wisdom. We travel from a heart for our control to a passion for trusting His power relationally manifested in our lives. We leave a heart for our security for a passion for His authentic truth. We give up a heart for our significance in exchange for a passion for His love. We let go of a heart for false liberty apart from the Restorer in lieu of a passion for the freedom found in the Restorer.


The road is imagery for our desires. Restoration Road leads us to change our perspective, or what we were designed to do for our satisfaction, from us to the Restorer. As Jesus leads us away from what was done in the Garden of Eden, we move from a desire that is closed to open. We go from a desire of hiding to seeking. We travel from a desire of protecting our pride and disobeying to praying and obeying. We change from a desire that is stubborn to one that is teachable. We cease our desire to trust ourselves and begin trusting the Restorer. We transition from our desire of denying truth to recognizing and acknowledging truth. We leave a desire of rejecting others and begin to accept others. We stop our sand-and stone-hearted desires of resisting and withholding forgiveness to surrendering to receiving and offering forgiveness.


The destination is where we go with our three resources of life (time, talent, and treasure). Restoration Road is a dirt-road journey into the secret places of our lives, places still filled with sand and stone, to a place that brings us to authenticity. As we travel this road, we gain the wisdom needed to live restored. Our time, talent, and treasure moves from the lock of death to the key of life. We go from the darkness of detouring from God to the light of His vision for our lives. We transition from living off-line, deaf to God, to living online, listening to Him. We travel from damming His river of wisdom to opening the flow of His wisdom in our lives, learning from Him. We no longer go through life as slaves, dividing ourselves from God, but now we live as sons and daughters, leaning into Him. We give up going through this journey with a heart of stone or sand that is deceived and have it replaced with a heart of clay that can lead others to the Restorer. We stop building walls in relationships where we are detached, and build bridges through love. We no longer live in the dungeon of unforgiveness for our wrongs and those of others, but we live waving the white flag of full surrender to freedom in Christ that allows us to let Jesus take the wheel of our lives. This is the goal of our journey down Restoration Road.


Briggs Cunningham unlocked the key to restoring the Bugattis when he broke through that brick wall. What brick wall in your life needs to be torn down so that you can travel Restoration Road? Will you allow the Restorer to unlock the chambers of your heart, your desires, and the three resources of your life?


Imagine how your life might be different than it is today if you traveled Restoration Road. As you surrender your life to Jesus, every activity, every relationship, every task, every decision in your life will come down to this: have you unlocked the door to a restored life with the Master Key that guides your journey? Are you working with the Restorer to help you choose between humility and pride, authenticity and pretense, wisdom and foolishness? As you travel Restoration Road, do you do so with a teachable, moldable heart of clay rather than one of sand or stone? If so, then you're venturing, with the help of the Holy Spirit, toward a life that is truly priceless.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A sneak peek at Mark Matlock's Real World Parents

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:

Zondervan/Youth Specialties (February 23, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mark Matlock has been working with youth pastors, students, and parents for two decades. He speaks to hundreds of thousands of students around the world each year, and presents biblical truths in ways that motivate people to change. Mark is the vice president of event content at Youth Specialties and the founder of WisdomWorks Ministries and PlanetWisdom. He’s the author of several books including The Wisdom On - series, Living a Life That Matters, Don’t Buy The Lie, Freshman, and Smart Faith. Mark lives in Texas with his wife Jade and their two children.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Zondervan/Youth Specialties (February 23, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310669367
ISBN-13: 978-0310669364

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


What Are Real World Parents?

I have a vivid memory of being a teenager and sitting at the dinner table with my family, rolling my eyes and pretending to gag behind my dad's back.

Why?

He was trying to do family devotions with us. But my three younger brothers and I just weren't buying it.

Every four or five months my dad would hear some program on Christian radio about family devotions, and he'd come home with another new idea for making it work with our family. After all, that's what Christian families are supposed to do, right? But it just never worked in our house. It felt completely forced and unnatural.

Still, somehow all four of us Matlock boys ended up in ministry. My youngest brother, Jonathan, helped me start WisdomWorks Ministries, and now we both do pretty much the same kind of youth ministry and youth minister support through Youth Specialties. Our brother Josh is a senior pastor in Southern California, and our brother Jeremy is a missionary in Russia. And still to this day, whenever Dad tries to bring us together for Òfamily devotionsÓ during the holidays, we mock him a little. It's become a kind of tradition because it isn't genuine for who we are as a family.

Now, I'm not saying that having kids who serve in some area of ministry means you're a successful parent. The point I'm making is that all four of my dad's sons grew into men with a real passion and appreciation for God's Word--even though he couldn't get us to sit still and take the reading of the Word seriously during repeated failed attempts at family devotions.

Why? Because we knew he had a real passion and appreciation for God's Word. We saw Dad reading the Bible. We saw him struggle to apply it to his life. We saw both of our parents base their decisions on their understanding of what the Bible teaches.

Ultimately we were convinced of the worldview contained in the pages of Scripture because we saw our parents openly endorsing it, talking about it, learning from it, and living it out day after day, year after year. That was enough for us--despite the failed attempts at family devotions.

That's what this book is about. We're not interested in presenting more artificial techniques and methodology to ÒfixÓ our kids or do what Christian families are Òsupposed to do.Ó Rather we want to help you discover how to live for God in a real way, right in front of your kids, so they can't help but catch the big picture that God and his Word mean the world to us and that living for Jesus really works in the Real World.

Don't get me wrong. Not all families are built to the same specifications. We each have our own family DNA. So if family devotions fit who you are, more power to you! Organized, structured, traditional family devotions are a great tool for some families. Now that my wife, Jade, and I have two kids of our own--our son Dax is in middle school, and our daughter Skye is 10--we've tried to have a family Bible hour around the table. It kind of worked off and on when the kids were younger, but we eventually realized it wasn't a good fit for the natural rhythm of our lives. It's not who we are right now. So instead we've found ways to talk about God's Word that are a better fit for us.

As we work together through the concepts in this book, one thing we'll discover is that Real World Parents are real in the sense that they do what best fits their families, and they genuinely adjust their own lives to fit into God's story.

Is God Happy with My Family?

In the church today, there's some really good teaching on parenting. My wife and I have benefited from writers, conference speakers, and pastors who've opened God's Word and helped us connect with what it means to raise up our children in the way they should go, how to provide godly discipline, and ideas for reinforcing good behavior. But again, that's not what this book is about.

And, honestly, over the years I've been frustrated with some teaching on parenting that's built around making parents feel guilty. These teachers, authors, books, and programs build parenting models based on our common fear that we're going to mess up our kids--or that we've already messed up our kids. That's an easy road that plays on our fears and our guilt over the areas in which we struggle as parents. Then they suggest that their programs or perspectives are our final hope to Òget it rightÓ or, worse, to do it the only way God wants it done.

That's not what this book is about, either. I promise not to use your parenting fears and anxieties against you. And we all have those feelings. I know I have them. If you could spend a little time with my family, you'd quickly see that we have issues, too. Those prone to critiquing parents would have no trouble criticizing my wife and me. So, no, I'm not interested in beating up other parents in order to somehow make them feel better or more motivated in their parenting.

In fact, I'd like to communicate exactly the opposite.

In our Real World Parent seminars, held around the United States, our teachers use a self-diagnostic tool to help attendees identify what they believe God thinks of their families.

It goes something like this:

What do you think God sees when he looks at your family? Do you think God grins or grimaces? (Place an X on the line.)


God Grins God Grimaces

This can be a challenging question if you take it seriously. On one hand, those of us who've grown up in Christian churches understand the idea of God's grace. We understand that our relationship with God isn't based on our performance. God sacrificed his only Son--the Son whom God loves so deeply--to pay for our sins on a cross. And God did this long before we even knew we wanted that gift from God. Thus, we'd always check the box that says God's love is unconditional for those of us in Christ.

Still, we have trouble carrying the idea of God's grace into our parenting. We can talk ourselves into believing that failing our kids is an unforgivable sin, that God could never be pleased with us if we've been guilty of sloppy or harsh or inconsistent or selfish or fearful or overprotective or neglectful parenting.

We may wonder how God could ever look at our families and grin. And the problem is that, as parents, we sometimes forget that we're also children--that our God is our Father, and that God is more lovingly inclined to smile at us than we are to smile at our own kids. Our Father loves us, and he forgives our parenting shortcomings and our family failings.

I will say this more than once: Nothing you read in this book will make God the Father love you and your family any more than he does right now, no matter what's going on with your family today.

I made this statement at one of our Real World Parent seminars, and I noticed that one of the women began to cry. She came up to me later and explained how inferior she's felt as a mother in her local church. Her husband isn't a believer, her kids get into trouble, and she just felt like such a failure--like a second-class parent in a church where most of the other parents were both Christians, still married, and raising such ÒniceÓ children.

I tried to assure her that God's grace applies to us as parents, and that in Christ she is forgiven and fully accepted as a beloved daughter (and mom!). The idea that God loved her family right now--in its present condition--was a reality she wasn't living in. She felt she was ÒunderperformingÓ as a parent and couldn't keep up. So she said the idea that she's forgiven, accepted, and loved as a parent gave her immense comfort.

Ernest Hemingway's short story called ÒThe Capital of the WorldÓ begins with an anecdote about a man in Madrid who put an ad in the newspaper to contact his estranged son. The ad read, PACO, MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY. ALL IS FORGIVEN. PAPA. The story then describes how at noon on Tuesday, 800 young men arrived at the hotel to make peace with their fathers.

The joke was that there are lots of guys in Spain named Paco. But the other message is that wanting our dads' approval, specifically, is a universal human experience. Taking nothing away from the indispensable role of our mothers, we all long to have our fathers sign off on who we are and what we're doing.

It's what psychologists call Òfather hunger.Ó

As Christians, followers of Jesus, we have that hunger even in our roles as parents, even if we've made mistakes along the way. Our Father has forgiven us. We live in God's grace. God approves of us in Christ. And, yes, God loves us.

I want to make it perfectly clear--again--that you'll find no directives in this book that will make God love you or your family even a little bit more than he already does. God's unconditional love for your family was established long ago. It is full. It cannot grow. Romans 8:1 declares, ÒTherefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Ó And that includes Christian parents.

I hope you've heard that. But I also hope you aren't satisfied to leave your family where it is today. Because while I'm convinced that God will never love or accept you any more than he does right now, I'm also convinced that God loves you so much that he won't leave you where you are right now, either.

No matter how good or bad you believe your family is, God has plans for you that will unfold in the Real World. God will continue to move your family along in the journey he has in store for you. Which is why this book is designed to help Real World Parents understand that journey--or story--and communicate it to our kids.

ÒHow Will This Book Fix My Kids?Ó 

As long as we're talking about things this book isn't, I should mention again that in the following pages you won't find any tips or tricks or techniques to fix your children's bad behavior. (We'd probably sell more copies if that's what we were promising, but we're not.)

In my experience, books full of tips, techniques, and tricks succeed at making readers feel good for a while. They make us feel hopeful. They make us feel as though we're doing something about the problem. But they often fail in the long run because we just can't keep it up. We can't change the personalities of our families to fit the models of the new programs on an ongoing basis.

When my kids came along, though, and I started making my way through all the different kinds of Christian parenting books, I noticed that a lot of them focused on helping me raise well-behaved, well-mannered kids. And while that's an important element, there wasn't much focus on raising kids to have hearts that seek after Christ. Of course we can't force that kind of spiritual openness and connectedness with God onto our kids--but in our Real World homes, we can create environments that promote such growth.

In a sense we become gardeners tending the spiritual development of our kids. God places the spark of life in the seed. We can't control that or how the plant eventually matures. But we can make sure the soil is rich, the ground is generously watered, the weeds are kept at bay, and the opportunity for sunlight is freely available. We can raise our children in environments where having a heart for God is the norm and not the exception.

What we don't want to generate are well-behaved kids who mindlessly follow our directions without ever willfully owning the faith in Jesus that they see in us. In the long run, the goal of parenting isn't for our kids to be known for how well-behaved they are, but for how well they know and respond to God.

Part of our challenge is to communicate to our kids a worldview that supports right actions. It's true that we (and they) will be held accountable for our behavior based on God's instructions to us. But whether or not we obey those instructions has a lot to do with whether or not we really believe God's story--a biblical worldview--and whether or not we walk in God's power.

In that way, our children's behavior is kind of like the tip of an iceberg. From countless illustrations we all know that the part of the iceberg that rises above the waterline is just a fraction of its total size. As such, you could conceivably make all kinds of alterations to the exposed part of the iceberg--in other words, the outward stuff (behaviors)--without significantly altering the iceberg itself.


What we've got to get at--in our own lives and in the lives of our kids--is the 80 percent of the berg that's under the waterline. In our illustration that represents one's worldview. We believe our behavior is ultimately driven by our understanding of the way the world works, of what we believe to be true and false about the universe, of our perception of reality.

And that's what we want to focus on as Real World Parents. How can we communicate God's worldview to our kids? What story are we telling them about the universe, both intentionally and--more importantly--in the way we live with and for God over time?

Before you move on to the next chapter, ask yourself these questions: 

1. When you imagine God looking at your family, what do you think God sees? What do you believe God's desire for your family is?



2. When you look at the world your children are living in, do you believe it's better or worse compared to when you were growing up? Why?



3. Which matters more to you--that your children demonstrate good behavior, or that your children understand and believe in a biblical worldview? Why?



4. In your own life, what has mattered more in the long run--your behavior on any given day or your foundational beliefs about God and the world?

Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm just sayin'...

And tonight's feature is:

I'm just sayin'...

...I can now watch Dancing with the Stars again. Not that I'm really that into it this season.

...on Survivor last night, J.T. got exactly what he deserved for being stupid. How does it feel that Rupert was right and you were WRONG? As much as I depise Parvati (what kind of name is that anyway?), that was a genious move handing off the two immunity idols. Way to show up Russell Hantz (why does he have to talk about himself in the third person using his full name?). Heroes... you better figure out how to bring Sandra on over.

...no one should reasonably have Lady Gaga as your ringtone on your phone. This is especially true if you are over 55 years old.

...Vladimir Gurerro isn't so awesome now that he plays for the Rangers, is he Dad? Two words... Nelson Cruz.

...there is no telling what time I will get up tomorrow. I've been tired for a week and didn't sleep last night. Pretty sure that loud train and the cat I heard sometime in the night screeching didn't help. The birds better not be back in the morning.

...crap. I said what I did about Vlad because he was batting. Now Vlad hit a home run and I have to take back what I said for the moment.

...I'm not getting out of the house and heading towards a certain section of town tomorrow. Derrick Days is more of a pain than anything positive, in my opinion.

...is it time for Say Yes to the Dress to come on? Those crazy brides just puzzle me, but are highly entertaining.

...I will turn over the Ranger game if Jim Sundberg and the Elvis impersonator start singing again.

...all Elvis impersonators are cheezy.

...that's all I got because I'ma bout to fall asleep. Please add your own comments. That should be fun.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Greater Love by Robert Whitlow

If the FTC must know, I purchased this book at Barnes and Noble and am posting a review by choice.

Greater Love
A Tides of Truth Novel
by Robert Whitlow

About the book... aka the back cover:

The Tides of Truth series follows one lawyer's passionate pursuit of truth--in matters of life and the law.

As the storm clouds gather, Tami does her best to weather the growing turbulence in every area of her life.

She's just accepted a job with a law firm but now wonders if she made the right decision. She has two strong men vying for her heart--and is about to lose them both if she can't determine which one is right for her.

And Tami's new case is anything but simple. When she first meets her prospective client, she immediately knows the rough young teen is lying, guilty...and utterly terrified of something beyond the charges she's facing. What she doesn't realize is just how far reaching the effects of the case will go. Or how close to home the deadly results will hit. For by the time the storm breaks, someone close to Tami will have paid the ultimate price.

Through it all, Tami will experience greater sacrifice, greater friendship, and greater love than she's ever known.

My take:

Sometimes there are series that you can pick up the third book in the series to read and be okay because you don't necessarily have to read the first two books in the series to be able to keep up. Sometimes you can't.  I don't mean that in a bad way - that's why you have a series.

If you haven't read the first two books in the series Deeper Water and Higher Hope, don't start by reading Greater Love because you won't enjoy it. There's no way to understand the characters and the background if you didn't start from the beginning. I had read the other two, so I did enjoy it.

Tami had a very strict upbringing. (Think the Duggars without the antics of doing everything for a TV show - and 14 fewer kids.) Every decision she makes about everything is very considered and very prayer centered. (I could use a lot more of that in my life.) As she is graduating from law school, Tami has some important decisions about her future to make - and she may not go the direction you think she will. How will she be able to practice law and not be caught in situations that will compromise her convictions?

I have to say, I'm not so sure I'd become a lawyer because you know that's going to be a problem at some point. One of her first assignments as a new lawyer is to defend Jessie, who is charged with theft and won't tell the truth for anything.

Throw in a prophetic woman preacher (who readers met in book 2 - and she's not really likeable), a loud and obnoxious Jewish lawyer with her daddy's money, an old lady with some dementia issues at times, the old lady's hyper chihuahua, and TWO men vying for Tami's affection, and you have the most of the cast of characters in Greater Love.

Here's one of the things I like most about the book and series. Tami doesn't fall in love in five days like the last book I read. We're talking no-kissing-until-wedding-day-courtship. (Not that I'm a big supporter of that, but it beats lovey-dovey love at first sight. I'm into the more realistic.) Deciding between Zach and Vince takes three books and and a time span of at least a year and a half. Who will she choose?

The whole theme of the book is based on John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this, than to lay own one's life for his friends.

Visit the author's website at www.robertwhitlow.com.

You can check out the first three chapters from the publishers website by clicking below.


Buy

Read

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I have to be on my best behavior

This week, I have to be on my best behavior at the t-ball fields. I yelled too much on Friday night.

No, I didn't yell at the umpire, even though she didn't know a foul ball from a fair most of the time. And, no, my brother didn't get after me for yelling. And, no, my parents didn't tell me that I was yelling too much either. The people around me weren't annoyed either.

I was just trying to help out the team by saying, "touch any orange or any base." Sound advice - even my dad thought so. But, I made Peyton nervous.

Brian usually does the telling her where the play is. (He can be rough in his instruction.) I was just trying to be the friendly voice of where to get the out. I usually have a scorebook in my hands and am focused that way. Or running the scoreboard and the scorebook and don't have a chance to yell.

We'll my advice was not well received. I wish I had pictures of the look Miss Peyton gave me the look from the pitcher's circle telling me be quiet or gesturing that she knew what to do. During the last inning, I changed where I was standing - the game was going past time limit because of a tie. Brian had to go over to get ready for Paige's game and the other coaches weren't very vocal.

"The play's at the plate."

Peyton looks at me. Stern look on her face. Points my direction. Then, puts her finger to her lips.

WHOOPS!

She told me later what made her nervous. I promised to do not do it next time. Come Thursday night when she plays again, I have to be on my best behavior.

I'll save it for Paige's game - I have permission to yell over at that field. :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why is it?

Why is it that I always run out of contact solution, shampoo, shower gel and toothpaste at the same time?

After work, I had to hit the grocery store for a bit of a shopping spree. I felt sort of paranoid seeing as people probably thought I had cleanliness issues. (I had to get hand soap for the bathroom too.) Hopefully, they thought I was more like Monk instead.

So, this whole "only buy things that bubble" spree wouldn't be so bad except that they can be some of the most expensive things to buy all at one time. I spent a small fortune.

OK, that's my randomness for the day. Does this happen to anyone else?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Forget Me Not by Vicki Hinze

This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

About this book:

Their elusive enemies took everything. Now they want more.

Crossroads Crisis Center owner Benjamin Brandt was a content man—in his faith, his work, and his family. Then in a flash, everything he loved was snatched away. His wife and son were murdered, and grief-stricken Ben lost faith. Determination to find their killers keeps him going, but after three years of dead ends and torment, his hope is dying too. Why had he survived? He’d failed to protect his family.

Now, a mysterious woman appears at Crossroads seeking answers and help—a victim who eerily resembles Ben’s deceased wife, Susan. A woman robbed of her identity, her life, of everything except her faith—and Susan’s necklace.

The connections between the two women mount, exceeding coincidence, and to keep the truth hidden, someone is willing to kill. Finding out who and why turns Ben and the mystery woman’s situation from dangerous to deadly. Their only hope for survival is to work together, trust each other, and face whatever they discover head on, no matter how painful. But will that be enough to save their lives and heal their tattered hearts?

About the author:
Vicki Hinze is an award-winning author of twenty-three novels, three nonfiction books, and hundreds of articles. Selected for Who’s Who in America in 2004 as a writer and educator, Hinze is active in Romance Writers of America and serves as a Vice President on the International Thriller Writers Board of Directors. Vicki lives in Florida with her artist husband, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. Visit http://www.vickihinze.com/ to learn more about Vicki’s books, blogs, and writing programs.



My take:

I'm beginning to feel more like a critic (you know, the bad connotation) than a reader/reviewer. I can't decide for sure if I liked Forget Me Not or not. Most of the reviews for this book have been positive, and it has a number of good endorsements.

I like the suspense genre, so that wasn't the problem. To me though, the book wasn't suspenseful in the way it should/could have been. Let me explain. You know who the bad guy is from the very get go (we're talking page 3), though granted, you don't know why. There's a disconnect though with why the group of terrorist is terrorizing anyone. I never got what their "beef" was and who their problem was with. I guess that wasn't really all that important. It did get confusing at times as the group of bad guys starting turning on each other and it really made zero difference to the story itself.

Then, I think it would have been more suspenseful if the mystery woman (who goes through 3 different names by the time all is said and done) gradually got her memory back instead of one day waking up knowing what was going on. Of course, the entire book takes place over 5 days time, so I guess there wasn't time for gradual.

Speaking of not so gradual, this book had one of my pet peeves, and this is probably what made everyone else love the book. Ben and Mystery Woman start to fall in love immediately. Seriously? Give me a break. I get attraction at first site, of course, but you know me, the love cynic. I think the tension dissipates to quickly. But, that's just me.

I am interested in the second book in the series - which looks at two other characters in the book. If I thought the book was bad, I wouldn't be interested in the next book in the series, so that's a good sign. Check out the first chapter excerpt on the publisher's website where you can also purchase the book. The link is below.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's softball season

Both games were won on Monday night, the first game of the season.

Here is Peyton pitching and Madison at third.


Here is Peyton trying to recreate her sour face that was just too good to be recreated.


And Paige playing first base.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My week in pictures

Did I just do something different to my Blogger settings for it to go psycho on me? There's a new compose window and I'm not having the easiest of times arranging photos. (AND where is spell check?) Sooooo... let's see how this works.

On Tuesday morning, we set out to get away. For those of you who live around here, have you wondered about all the Buc-ees signs down I-45 on the way home from Dallas? Well, we gave in and stopped in Madisonville to figure out what Buc-ees was all about. (Mental reminder to self... must tell Tonda that I did this.)


No, we did not get any homemade sausage in whatever variety, beaver or otherwise, they were selling. I can tell you they had the world's biggest restrooms.

In order to be officially on vacation, we must stop at a Cracker Barrel, which we did around Conroe. I do not have a picture of that because I believe most readers of this blog know what that looks like.

We stopped in The Woodlands to see what was going on there. Not much, but we did take a waterway tour (not impressive) where our boat driver had a toothache and was almost impossible to understand. I did pick up that the people who worked in one building walked over a bridge to get their coffee every morning because the other building had a Starbucks. Every time the guide started talking, this man across from us started talking loudly in Spanish to his wife and son with him, making it even harder to understand the guide.

Oh, and the guy also was on the boat one night and all the people that live in these new condos have flat screen TVs on the wall and everyone was watching American Idol at the same time.
I also took some pictures of ducks, but those weren't too interesting.

We went on down to Houston and stayed the night. On Wednesday, we had Astros tickets. Before the game, we wondered around downtown to a park that had art installations. I do not know what this is supposed to be, but here are Mom and I in front of this thing.


As for the game, while we were on the 22nd row again (like the Ranger game Monday), this was 22 rows from the field rather one row from the top. A much better view.


The older couple that had seats next to us brought their 50-something son. He was deaf, so they had some communication issues with him. Other than that, he had some other issues as well. Such as a lack of understanding personal space of others sitting next to you. He also dumped a cup of relish on his hot dog and the smell of sweet pickles about made me sick. Thankfully, he decided to move down a row while I took a trip to the restroom for some space.


The Rangers have the Ozarka dot race. The Astros have the Taco Bell hot sauce race. Hot beat Mild and Fire. The Giants beat the Astros 10-4.

In the search for a wild flower trail that Mom wanted to see, after the game, we headed towards San Antonio enroute to the Hill Country. (We skipped the Buc-ees stop on I-10.)

Since I had never actually been down on the Riverwalk (it's been a long time since I've been to SA), we rode on the Riverwalk which, of course, was much more impressive than whatever that was in The Woodlands.



Wherever there are palm trees, I must take a picture.


And this building is an optical illusion if the picture is taken at the exact right angle - sort of difficult while moving. It looks like it is flat.


And this building was built to look like the bow of a boat, but I uploaded the wrong picture. I've had so much trouble adjusting my images that I give up on changing it out.


Then, we walked on down to the Alamo. It's very unimpressive really, especially with all the modern buildings and such around it. And, it's pretty small. BUT, as Texans, we must "Remember the Alamo!"


So, upon leaving San Antonio, we wandered out further west to winding roads and big hills in our search for wild flowers. We'd heard people talk about Gardner State Park, and I wanted my parents to see the Frio River.

I pulled over to roll down my window and take a picture of the bluebonnets. Basically the only wild flower picture we got since it's hard to roll down the window and snap pictures at 70 miles an hour. This was the most impressive patch anyway.


We finally made it to the state park which was smaller than I figured and honestly less impressive than I thought it would be. I got a picture of a small squirrel - I have a thing about squirrel pictures too.


The Frio River is beautiful - and of course cold. Fed from cold springs, the water is clear all the way to the bottom. These pictures aren't as awesome as the ones I took 9 years ago, but we never did figure out how to get to the overlook I remembered being up above the place we stayed when I chaperoned the youth retreat at church.



We drove back a very "scenic" route in order to try to find where the retreat had been and ended up on the hilliest, curviest road ever (and that says a lot given the corkscrews between Custer State Park and Mt. Rushmore we went on last year). I was more than a bit queasy after all that.

We decided against going all the way up to where one of the trails that Texas Highways had outlined. If we hadn't seen flowers the way we went, we weren't going to see any more. I mean, if passing by the Johnson Ranch and the place wasn't coated in all varieties, where were you going to find flowers?

After stopping north of Austin Thursday night, we were home by 11 AM on Friday. You don't get any pictures of Austin becaue it was dark.