Thursday, September 29, 2011

What I am looking forward to

You know what I'm looking forward to next week?

  • Sleeping in (except for Sunday morning when we are leaving at 6 AM - that's just wrong) or being able to take a nap (which won't happen Sunday afternoon at it's regular time while I'm driving -- I hope I can stay awake).
  • Doing a jigsaw puzzle. When is the last one you just sit down and did one?
  • It not being 100 degrees and actually getting some fall weather.
  • Reading books for the fun of it. I already have two picked out to take.
  • Fishing. I don't touch worms or fish, but I'm going to stick a hook in the water because I can.
  • Being about to get out and walk around. I'm tired of being glued to my office chair and when I leave it, it's been 100 degrees outside.
  • Playing mini golf.
  • Sitting around and watching the new TV season without interruptions.
  • Not answering questions non-stop all day long.
  • Not doing weekly reports.
  • Not checking email.
  • A change of scenery.
  • Chicken and Dumplins at Cracker Barell
  • Shopping
  • Going to a Ranger playoff game if they make it to the next round.
Any one of those things is worth looking forward to.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A look inside Cherished

Thanks to everyone who took part in today's 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:

Thomas Nelson (August 30, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B and B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Kim Cash Tate was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. Her mother, a manager with AT&T, and her father, an educator, divorced when she was young. Even after the divorce, one thing her parents agreed on was the importance of education. She attended both public and private Catholic schools, and college was a given. Tate chose the University of Maryland.

After completing her undergraduate degree, she distinguished herself as a law student at George Washington University. She was invited to join the Journal staff, and a summer job at a respected law firm in her beloved Washington, D.C. followed by a one-year clerkship with a federal judge in Madison.

Tate’s law career took off in Madison. Once the clerkship ended, she was hired on at a large firm. In spite of her success, she was plagued by constant feelings of discontentment and loneliness for the racially diverse environment she left behind in D.C. She began seeking faith, simply as a means of maintaining sanity. After she and Bill married, the couple began attending a local AME church, and they both felt Jesus calling.

When her children were young, Tate left her thriving law career to stay home. A passionate and persuasive communicator, she tried her hand at writing. More Christian than African-American shares her story of finding her identity in Christ rather than in her race, which had been a major focus for her. Her first novel was Heavenly Places, followed by Faithful and her newest release, Cherished. Tate was a speaker for Women of Faith in both 2010 and 2011.

Visit the author's website.


As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Kim Cash Tate explores Psalm 103:12 as she takes her readers down the path to God’s forgiveness and reconciliation in her newest novel, Cherished. Readers will discover that God can still use them in spite of their worst choices. And He doesn’t just forgive them, but they are truly cherished!

Tate’s story will show her readers how God can bring beauty from ashes. She has a unique way of weaving her characters’ lives together, leading back to one great point—God’s tremendous mercy and grace. In the words of one of her characters, “I wasn’t sure what to expect. I felt like it would take a while to work my way back into God’s good graces, but it was like…”—she flung wide her arms—“…He just embraced me.” We too can be embraced by the same great love when we learn that true forgiveness for ALL of our sins is right before us.

Growing up in Saint Louis, Kelli London dreamed of becoming a songwriter and glorifying God with her songs of praise. But after falling into sin, she walks away from her dreams. Heather Anderson’s life has spun out of control—first an affair with a married man and then a one-night stand with the drummer of a popular Christian band. Broken and alone, she discovers the only one who can save her. Brian Howard grew up as a science geek. But after making the worst mistake of his life after high school, he finds forgiveness in Christ and is being led down a completely different path. Now he must choose whether to continue pursuing his PhD in biochemistry or to become a full time Christian rapper.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 30, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548556
ISBN-13: 978-1595548559


Kelli London took her place on the piano bench and waited for her cue, grateful that her jittery hands were hidden from the crowd. She shouldn’t have agreed to do this, but she loved her brother and had never seen him happier. How could she say no to singing at his wedding?

But it was the song Cedric had asked her to sing, one he’d heard only by chance. He had no idea what it meant to her. He didn’t know that singing it would unleash memories of the last person she ever wanted to think about.
Laughter rose from the pews, and Kelli looked up, wondering what she’d missed.
“. . . and I’m sure Cedric wants me to get to the vows ASAP,” Pastor Lyles was saying, “so they can get to that kiss they’ve been waiting for.”
Kelli had only met the pastor once before, at her brother Lindell’s wedding last fall, but it didn’t take long to love his spirit and his style. A black man in his late fifties, he’d started Living Word Community Church decades ago and watched it grow into a multi-ethnic megachurch. At least a couple hundred members were here today. Kelli guessed none of them thought twice about the various hues and accents that had gathered to see this black couple wed. She loved that spirit too.

Cedric was shaking his head with a shamefaced grin as the pastor called him out. Cyd was smiling up at him, gorgeous, beaming like the bright light she’d become in Cedric’s life.

Pastor Lyles continued. “But I don’t think he’ll mind one last song, and it’s a special one, written by his sister.”

Kelli drew a deep breath as Cedric and Cyd smiled over at her, Lindell and Stephanie too—the flip side of last fall. Then Stephanie and Lindell were the bride and groom, and Cyd and Cedric were maid of honor and best man, which was how they met. Kelli loved the story, how Cyd turned forty on her younger sister’s wedding day, thinking she’d never marry herself. Now here she was—a June bride. It was romantic that her brothers would now be married to sisters, but it somehow added to her melancholy, that each of them had found the love of his life.

Kelli gazed at the piano keys, and knowing they had to, her fingers tapped the first notes. She fought to stay in the moment, in the church. Her eyes swept Cyd and Cedric, imagined the lyrics were just for them . . .
I will love you till the stars don’t shine

And I will love you till the oceans run dry

I will love you till you know every why

I will, I will

Her eyes closed, and he was there. A shiver of remembrance danced down her arms. She could still see that distant look in his eyes, could even hear him, that tone of indifference that echoed forever in her head. Kelli opened her eyes to capture another image—any image—but he was everywhere now. And her heart allowed itself to be crushed all over again.
I will love you like an endless stream

A million miles won’t take your heart from me

I will love you every breath you breathe

I will, I will

Almost to the bridge, Kelli could feel her emotions cresting with the song. She closed her eyes again as they took over, filling her voice, magnifying her range, powering her through. She played the final chords with the salt of tears on her lips and bowed her head at the last note . . . and heard—applause? She looked out and saw the guests on their feet and Cedric and Cyd fully turned, facing her—Cyd wiping tears from her cheeks. With her own anxiety about singing it, Kelli hadn’t given thought to whether people might actually like the song.

She pulled a tissue from the box atop the piano, dabbed her cheeks, and blew her nose, then muscled a heart-heavy smile to acknowledge everyone’s kindness. When she moved back to the front pew beside her mother, only then did the guests stop clapping and sit.

“When did you write that?” her mother asked, patting her thigh. “That was beautiful.”
“Thanks, Mom. I wrote it . . . a long time ago.”

She turned her gaze to the ceremony, her heart beating a little faster still, puzzled by the response to the song. It coaxed a different memory to the surface, and as Cyd and Cedric exchanged vows, Kelli thought about her long-ago dream of writing music that God would somehow use. Then the better part of her brain kicked in,

reminding her that she’d left songwriting behind, that she knew better than to dream.
That all those dreams had turned to dust.

“Kelli! Girrrl . . .”
Kelli looked up—midpivot in the Electric Slide—and saw Stephanie threading her way through the line dancers in her champagne-colored dress. Soon as the song started, it seemed everybody left tables and mingled to claim a spot on the parquet floor. Kelli waved her sister-in-law over.

“I’ve been looking for you.” Stephanie scooted between Kelli and Devin, a nine-year-old cousin, as rows of people sidestepped to the right. “I haven’t had a chance to tell you . . . girl, you sang that song. I had no idea—hold up, am I doing this right?” She was headed a different direction from everyone else. “Why am I even

out here? I hate this stupid dance.”

Kelli laughed. “Back, Steph. We’re going back.”

“Oh.” Stephanie checked Devin to get in sync, then leaned her head Kelli’s way again, her voice elevated. “Anyway, I told Lindell I couldn’t believe he didn’t tell me about that song, ’cause I would’ve had you sing it at our wedding. And he said he’d never heard it . . . and then I couldn’t believe that.”
“I know. Crazy, right? This way, Steph. Pivot left.”

Stephanie was behind her now, and Kelli turned to make sure she was following, but Devin had it under control.

Like a traffic cop, he moved his hands left, then right to direct her which way to go next. “And pivot,” he announced, to the amusement of those around them.
Side by side with Stephanie again, Kelli continued. “Lindell and Cedric had already moved out of the house by the time I started writing songs in high school, so it was easy to kind of keep my music to myself.” She shrugged. “Cedric overheard it because I didn’t know he was there.”
“Hmph,” Stephanie said. “If I had that kind of talent, everybody would know about it. They’d have to tell me to be quiet.”

The music switched, and they could hear people near the center of the floor cheering, “Go, Cyd! Go, Cedric! Go, Cyd! Go, Cedric!”

Kelli and Stephanie craned their necks, moving toward the action.

“Oh, goodness,” Stephanie said, laughing. “Look at your brother. He’s at it again.”
Kelli laughed too, remembering Cedric and Cyd on the dance floor at Stephanie and Lindell’s reception. Now the two had cut a wide swath in the middle of the floor with a different line dance, this one a little livelier.

Kelli and Stephanie worked their way to a spot in the inner circle.

“Have you seen this version?” Stephanie asked.

Kelli nodded. “But you know Cedric’s gonna add his own twist.”

Instead of a simple sidestep, Cedric led Cyd in bouncy moves to the left, with a slide before going right. And instead of a normal pivot, they did some kind of kick, kick, turn—with Cedric twirling Cyd into a two-step before moving back to the line dance, all of it seamless. The crowd was fired up.
After a couple of rounds, Cedric spotted Kelli and pulled her to the center.
“I don’t know if you can hang with a twenty-five-year-old, big brother.” Although Cedric was a fit forty-two, Kelli didn’t miss an opportunity to tease him about his age. “I’d hate to embarrass you in front of your guests.”
“Oh, you got jokes? We’ll see about that, baby sis.”

Cyd led the cheers this time as Kelli whipped some different moves on him. Cedric paused, then mimicked every last one to let her know she couldn’t show him up. Lindell dragged Stephanie out there—literally—and Kelli was in stitches watching them try to copy what she and Cedric were doing. Soon everyone on the

floor had joined in again, and then the music switched to Motown, which got its own cheers.
Cedric draped one arm around Kelli and the other around Cyd and led them off the floor. They stopped at the bridal party table, which had emptied of all but Dana, one of Cyd’s bridesmaids.

“Why aren’t you on the dance floor?” Cedric asked. “We need all the forty-and-over folk representing.”

Dana glared at him. “Let’s see how well you ‘represent’ with some heels on. My feet are killing me.” Then she nodded toward the dance floor. “My husband left me. He’s out there with the kids. And last I saw, Scott wasn’t representing too well either. He looked almost as bad as Stephanie with that Electric Slide.”

“I heard that, Dana,” Stephanie said, walking up with Lindell. “I could learn the dumb dance if I cared to. And since you’re trying to clown me, I might do it just to keep my black rhythm points. Can’t have a white guy showing me up.”

Dana got a kick out of that, laughing as auburn wisps fell about her face. “How about a white girl? Let’s tell the deejay to play it again and see who’s got it.”
Stephanie eased into a seat. “Uh, no thanks. I always told you, you’re one of those black white girls. You can go on the dance floor.”

Dana eyed the dancers out there. “Well, pray for Mackenzie. I think the poor thing takes after Scott. Look at them.”

Kelli’s heart was smiling. Because she lived out of state, she didn’t know these women well—not even her sisters-in-law—but from her brief interactions, including last night’s rehearsal dinner, she could tell she would like them.
Cyd pulled out a chair and sat, her beautiful gown, passed down from her mother, swishing over the sides. “Ahh . . . think I can get away with sitting like this for maybe five minutes?”

Cedric massaged her shoulders. “You’re good. The Jackson Five’s got everybody occupied.”
Dana touched Kelli’s arm. “The bridal table was talking about you earlier.”
“Me? Why?” Kelli took a seat.

“Are you kidding? That song. It was beautiful.”

Kelli blushed. “Thank you.”
“That’s my little sister.” Cedric beamed.

“Mine too!” Lindell said, giving her shoulder a squeeze. “So proud of you, girl.” He looked at the others. “Just got her master’s too, from UT–Austin.”
“I heard,” Dana said. “Is your degree in music?”

Kelli shook her head. “One’s in communications and the other’s in public relations.”
“Wow, two?” Dana nodded. “That’s awesome.”

“Well . . . not really. Just means I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” Kelli didn’t mind admitting it. “But I’m done being a professional student. I’m looking for a job now—”

“—in Texas.” Cedric’s tone made clear what he thought of that. “What part of Texas?” Stephanie asked. “Are you trying to stay in Austin?”

“I’ve been looking at possibilities in Austin and Houston . . .and Dallas.”
“Mostly Dallas, I’d bet,” Cedric said. “That’s where her boyfriend is.” He looked around playfully. “Where is he anyway? I wanted to meet him, see if he measures up. What’s his name? Miller?”

Kelli smirked at her big brother. “Miles. Miles Reed. He wanted to meet you all too, but he had a conflict.”

“I’m sure we’ll get another opportunity,” Cedric said, “if I can get you to move back to St. Louis.”

Cyd perked up. “Ooh, Kelli, I’d love that. Any chance?”

“I . . . doubt it.” Kelli hedged to be polite; her mind had said a fast no. She hadn’t lived in St. Louis since she left for college, and the distance had been good. Her mother had relocated to Little Rock to care for her mother, so Kelli had gone there on school breaks.

“How’s the job market in Texas?” Cedric asked. “Improved any?”

Cedric knew the answer perfectly well. He was a VP at a head-hunting firm. He’d made some calls for her, but nothing had materialized.

“Not exactly,” Kelli admitted. “I’ve been looking since early in the year, and, well . . . it’s nearing the end of June.”

Lindell rubbed his chin. “I’m thinking you can be unemployed in St. Louis just as well as in Austin.”

Cedric gave a big nod to his brother. “Better than in Austin. In St. Louis, you can be unemployed and hang out with your brothers.”
Cyd raised a hand. “And sisters. Don’t forget about us.”

“All of us,” Dana said. “We’d love to plug you into Daughters’ Fellowship.”

“What’s that?” Kelli asked.

“It started years ago with Dana, Phyllis, and me.” Cyd pointed toward the dance floor at her other bridesmaid. “Real informal. We’d do potluck and talk about—sometimes cry about—what God was doing in our lives. Stephanie crashed the party last year.” Cyd smiled at her younger sister. “It’s evolved into kind of a Bible study/gabfest.”

“Emphasis on gab,” Cedric said. “Amazing how two hours can turn into five—every single time. You’d think you’d run out of things to talk about.”
“Now, now, brother,” Lindell said, “don’t exaggerate. I think it was four and a half hours last time.”

Cedric and Lindell shared a laugh as the women pounced.

“We’re praying too, you know,” Dana said. “Getting that fuel we need to be the best we can be.”

“Lindell knows.” Stephanie gave him the eye. “I left the house with an attitude before that last meeting. Came back changed. Didn’t I?”

Lindell threw up his hands. “Hey, I’m not complaining. I might be the biggest DF fan at the table. Stephanie’s not the same woman I married.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Babe, that’s a good thing! I’m just sayin’.”

Kelli laughed as Lindell backpedaled. For years her brothers had been busy with their careers, living the bachelor life. Hadn’t occurred to them or her that they should live near one another, be a part of each other's lives. But now they were both settled down, with wives Kelli would love to know better. She’d always wanted sisters. And it was strange that she, Cyd, and Stephanie kind of looked alike—all of them tall with honey brown skin and long brown hair.

And Daughters’ Fellowship sounded great. Her own relationship with God wasn’t where it should be. She’d known that for some time. Just wasn’t sure how to get it back on the right track. The thought of getting together with these women, talking and learning from them, felt like water to her parched soul.

If only it were in another city . . .

Kelli sighed as she looked around the table at the laughter, the ribbing, the love. Did she really want to stay in Austin, away from all of this?

And what about Miles? They’d been dating almost a year. Although he’d graduated from UT–Austin last December and moved back to Dallas, the distance didn’t seem so great with them both in Texas. Still, they were already several hours apart. Would a few more make a huge difference?

Kelli looked up as her mother stopped at their table.

“Hey, it’s my gorgeous mother,” Cedric said, placing an arm around her.
“No, it’s my gorgeous mother,” Lindell said, hugging her other side.

Francine London glowed with pride. “You boys are something else,” she said. “And I didn’t come to see y’all. I came to see how my daughters-in-law are doing.”
“Oh, it’s like that now?” Cedric asked. “I get married, and I get kicked to the curb?”
Francine laughed, keeping her arms around her sons’ waists. “I’m wondering what’s gonna happen when you all start having my grandchildren. I’m not gonna like being all the way in Little Rock.”

“You need to move back too,” Lindell said.

Francine dismissed it with a shake of the head. “Your grandmother’s not doing well, can’t get around, so we’re better off staying put.”
“Well, help us convince your daughter to move back,” Cedric said. “We’ve been working on her.”

Francine looked at Kelli, nodding. “I was thinking about that today, how nice it would be if you could be around your brothers and their wives. You know I’m big on family.”

“Yes, I know, Mom.” Kelli cut them off at the pass. “So . . . which one of you would be willing to let your little sister move in?”

Monday, September 26, 2011

The online premiere of 180

180 Film Turns Opinions
Around Regarding Abortion
New award-winning documentary is
changing minds and saving lives

What would you do if…? Thus begins the question being asked by author and film producer Ray Comfort in his new documentary, 180. Titled to reflect the complete turnaround in the mindsets of all to whom the question is posed, the award-winning film shows eight pro-choice people (mostly college students) changing their stance to pro-life just moments after the question is asked in its entirety. It is Comfort’s hope that the documentary, releasing online September 26th, will go viral.

While skeptics of 180 (Living Waters Publications) say they can’t believe anyone would change his or her mind so quickly, Comfort accepts and even understands their disbelief, stating that he could hardly believe it himself when he first viewed the footage in the editing room. Initially, 180 was not the film he meant to produce. At the time, Comfort was taping interviews for a DVD to go along with a book on Hitler and the holocaust. In the course of the interviews, one question led to another, and the discussion led to abortion. Comfort explains, “It began with two male university students completely changing their minds about abortion when we asked them this one question. We realized it wouldn’t be convincing to have only males speaking on the subject, so we took to the streets, asking that one particular question, and found that six women changed their minds from pro-abortion to pro-life in a matter of seconds. It was amazing!”

Though it was not Comfort’s original intention to create a documentary specifically about the abortion issue, when he saw the direction the film was taking, he quickly recognized its potential to open the doors of discussion. “I have held up pro-life signs. I have printed pro-life literature and spoken against abortion in pulpits and in my books, but I have felt that all my efforts were almost futile—that is, up until now. In 180 we have a nation changer.”

A spokesperson for Living Waters, the production company behind the documentary, further explains the abrupt change this way: “There really isn’t that much to debunk because there is no argument against it. Its message is very powerful, eye-opening and watertight. It leaves no room for a comeback.”

Comfort adds, “Most of us know that we should be doing something to stop this horror, but the thought of protesting is a little unnerving, especially with the demonization of those who do so. But here is something each of us can easily do—we can give this DVD out. We can pass them out on the streets, leave copies on park benches or on seats in malls or give it to the checkout lady at the supermarket. This isn’t hard to do, and it will save lives—perhaps millions of lives.”

As to the rest of the question Comfort asks in 180? You’ll have to wait to watch the video to find out what it is. “For me to tell you what the question is,” he explains, “would be cheating you. You’ve got to see the facial expressions change. You’ve got to see the people, when they are asked that one question, change from one of a hard look in their facial expressions to one of a light going off, as they change their minds and realize how evil abortion is. Their thinking makes an abrupt 180 degree turn, all because of that one game-changing question.”

Although the film is just now being released to the public, an early edit of 180 was submitted for consideration and won a 2011 Telly Award.

The documentary is now available
for free viewing online at

For interview information, contact:
Audra Jennings - 800-927-0517 x104

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm too old for this

That's what I was thinking last night about 10:30 on the green hill of the Gexa Energy pavilion at a concert. It's not that the crowds were large or the music was too loud or that my left leg had gone to sleep earlier while sitting on the ground. It was because I was so very tired. Getting about 5 hours or less of sleep the night before didn't help. That was a combination of problems I won't go into.

Oh, but it was good for me. A normal Friday night consists of coming home and turning the TV to see the ridiculous women shell out thousands of dollars for a wedding dress on Say Yes to the Dress on TLC. It usually does not take long before I fall asleep and take a two hour nap on the couch or love seat before getting up, taking a shower and going to bed.

My friends Jenny, Rakia, Courtney and I went to Train and Maroon 5 to drool over Adam Levine. We would have drooled more if we had binoculars. We were way out on the lawn hill to which I have to say they did a great job of watering it and keeping it growing over this hot summer. It's amazing we weren't sitting on hay and dirt, but in fact, they must have watered it earlier in the day because I could have used a blanket for sure.

Anyway, great show. I'm not even trying to explain to my mother who either group is. I do think I inhaled too much of what the crowd was smoking though. It's amazing that it still happens in public places. Especially given that security guards were threatening certain people with breathalyzers just because they had a drink in their hand. Even if the guy was joking just because he could tell who was the life of the party. (And goodness, no, it wasn't me!)

There was a couple in front of us that dropped something on the ground and could not find it for anything. The guy was as Rakia described him, "the smallest full grown man I have ever seen." After my experience of dropping my contact a couple of weeks ago, I should have suggested they look on the bottom of their shoes. I thought about asking them what they lost.

I never paid attention to the guitar player for Train until last night, and every time he came up on the screen, Rakia and commented about him looking like Howie Mandel. Also, Maroon 5 last night was 6 and Rakia had me convince for a second that the keyboard player was Twitch from So You Think You Can Dance. I'm still not convinced it was not, actually. Just kidding.

I have to say that singing "She Will Be Loved" as we left wasn't as bad as singing "Larger than Life" by the Backstreet Boys for 2 days after I left my last concert.

As the concert wound down, the Rangers clinched their playoff spot. I actually was able to buy tickets for the American League Championship series Home Game 1. I hate to tell all you Ranger fans that read my blog, but that right their jinxed them from getting past the first round. Back 15 years ago, the first two seasons they made the playoffs, I had tickets in hand for games that never happened. I hope the third time to have playoff tickets is the charm. I'll just have to watch from Branson to make sure they make it. I hope to be going to the playoffs the day after I get back from vacation. (Which I will need after next week. I won't even tell you all the reasons why. Work is going to be CRAZY!)

Speaking of concerts, I need to look out my window. I don't know what is going on, but I hear music and singing. And it's out front, so it can't be Train (that runs on the tracks out back). And Adam's voice may sound like a girl (he admitted on The Voice), but that is a woman out there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What does it mean to be Cherished?

God Redeems.
God Restores.
We Are Cherished!

Kim Cash Tate and Da’T.R.U.T.H. share how God’s amazing love restores.

When Kim Cash Tate began writing Cherished, she had no idea that a real life story paralleling that in her book was about to unfold. In 2009, Christian rapper Da’T.R.U.T.H. released this statement, “In light of a moral indiscretion in my personal life, I will be taking a sabbatical from music ministry and teaching. I have repented first to God and then to my wife and family. It is my prayer that my family, supporters and the brethren in Christ will collectively be able to forgive me.”

When Tate read his public statement in its entirety, including how God had shown him the power of forgiveness and restoration, she said, “That’s what Cherished is about. That God is a God who redeems and a God who restores. That no matter where you’ve been and no matter what you’ve done, God redeems. God restores. He loves with a steadfast love. You are cherished!”

Da’T.R.U.T.H. had followed the same path as one of Tate’s characters by committing adultery. Just like the character in her novel, he felt hopeless and lifeless. Yet God was not finished with him. “I got to that place where my hope was in God and God didn’t leave me there. He totally restored me and provided me with everything I needed. It was a hard, difficult and rough journey and the terrain was rocky, but the Lord was with me,” Da’T.R.U.T.H. said. Two years have passed, he and his wife Nicole have worked through the pain and on September 13, 2011 he released a new album titled The Whole Truth

The main male character in Cherished is a Christian rapper. Tate had felt moved from the very beginning to include this character. During the writing process, she contacted Gessie Thompson, Da’T.R.U.T.H.’s manager, in order to learn more about the life of a rapper from a manager’s perspective. When the book was finished, Tate asked Thompson to read it and see if Da’T.R.U.T.H. would be willing to endorse the book. Thompson loved the story and how it coincided with that of her client, so she forwarded the book to him. Da’T.R.U.T.H. had been wanting to write a song for his wife but nothing had been quite right. But he was so touched by the story that he chose to write a bonus track to be included on his album—a song for his wife to let her know how much she was cherished. And as an additional gift, he asked their dear friend and mentor Ce Ce Winans to sing with him. Nicole heard the song for the first time during a video shoot with her husband and Tate. You can see her reaction in the video, posted below.

Through Tate’s book and the real life story of Da’T.R.U.T.H., readers will see how amazing God truly is. They will come to realize that there really is nothing that can separate them from His love. God can still use them in spite of their worst choices. And He doesn’t just forgive them; they are truly cherished!
Cherished by Kim Cash Tate
Thomas Nelson/September 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59554-855-9/336 pages/paperback/$15.99

For review copy and interview
information, contact:

AudraJennings - 800-927-0517 x104

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A sneak peek at The Fulfillment Principle

Thanks to everyone who took part in today's 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:

Leafwood Publishers (July 5, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, The B and B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Bob Westfall is president of the Westfall Group which serves charities and Christian ministries in financial stewardship and communications. He frequently speaks at national conferences and to charity boards, philanthropists, churches and other groups. Previously he served as the director of development for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries (WTB). He currently lives in Suwanee, Georgia, with his wife, Kim, and is the parent of four children.

Visit the author's website.


Bob Westfall asks readers, “Are you ready to dream God’s Dream?” in his new book The Fulfillment Principle: Experiencing a Life of Pure Joy and Fulfillment. He invites those who are overwhelmed and unfulfilled to realize this simple but profound truth: “When you use the gifts God gives you to live out the dream He has birthed in you, then you experience the joy of fulfillment that comes straight from heaven.”

Drawing on the challenge from Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, Westfall shows readers how the creator of the universe hands his children a clear, concise blueprint for pure joy. They will see the extraordinary impact individuals can have when they choose to use their gifts and not bury them. They will learn:

How to discover their God given talents
How to invest the talents God has given them and
How to realize a life of joy and fulfillment

The Fulfillment Principle is packed with stories, encouragement, and motivation to help readers pursue their God given gifts in order to experience the joy of a lifetime—for a lifetime. Fulfillment isn’t impossible or unreachable. It starts with the understanding that God created each of us with a glorious dream for who we are. Westfall encourages, “It is not up to you and me to worry about results. It is up to you and me to figure out what God wants us to do—and to do it. If he is with you in the dream he has placed in your heart, nothing can stop it from unfolding the way he wants it to, no matter how impossible it may seem.”

“The Fulfillment Principle will find you wherever you are on the path to joy, meet you there, continue on the journey with you, and lend some remarkable energy and inspiration along the way. Whether your joy has been wearied from circumstances, disappointments, waylaid dreams—or if you are simply searching for a way to expand the broad shoulders of already-present joy in your life - this book is for you,” says Bruce Wilkinson, a New York Times #1 bestselling author.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (July 5, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891122877
ISBN-13: 978-0891122876



God wants you to “enter in”

It is vanity to love that which passeth away, and not to hasten where eternal joy abideth.

— The Imitation of Christ 1:4, Thomas รก Kempis

There’s something you want, we all want. In fact, our hearts ache for it. Some of us realize it sooner than others. Unfortunately, some of us never realize it at all.

It’s joy. It’s fulfillment.
It’s a pleasure and contentment and peace—an unending spring of living water—that runs deep within our very being.

Do you have it?
Books have been written about going from “good to great” and from “success to significance.” But this little book is different. It’s intentionally written not to give you a temporary high or take you on a mountaintop experience, only to let you fall back to reality again, unchanged, trying in your flesh to cling to the concepts you read in some manual.
The 100-proof fulfillment principle conveyed through the stories and scriptures in this book is bulletproof. Fears arise, uncertainty looms, storms hit, but the joy is there, inside you—a rock that can’t be rolled, a fire that can’t be quenched, a contentment that can’t be contaminated.
Many people have heard the story of the talents in the Bible. A man—who is a picture of Jesus—is about

to go on a journey. Before he leaves, he calls his servants— a picture of us—and doles out his possessions

to them. One servant is given five talents, one is given two talents, another is given one talent.
Before I get further into the details of the parable, however, allow me to jump to a segment of the story that most people overlook. I did, until the winter of 2001 when a life-changing nugget from this tale hit me like a semi-truck sent from heaven, proverbially altering the way I live and move and have my being.

You see, at the time I was experiencing some incredible personal challenges with my life feeling unfulfilled. I was successful at work, but feeling as though I had missed my mark and my calling.

The words I’m referring to—the ones that changed the landscape of my life once and for all—are those of the man who went on the journey, the man who represents Jesus in the parable.

When that man returns from his long trip, he sees that the men who were given five talents and two talents had invested the money, each making double what he’d left them. In response, the master says: “‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master’” (Matt. 25:21, emphasis mine).
Hold it right there.
“Enter into the joy of your master?”

Where did that come from?
Everyone knows the part that says, “Well done, good and faithful slave.” And some people know about the, “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” But how many people realize that in this oft-repeated text, the creator of the universe hands his children a clear, concise blueprint for pure joy?

And we’re talking about you and me, entering in to his joy—a joy unspeakable and unending—right now.

Not tomorrow.
Not next week or month.
But today.
Not only pastors or missionaries.
Not only scholars and saints.
But you and me. School teachers and business people, housewives and home school moms, mechanics and mill workers, computer geeks and career women.

How many people realize that in this oft-repeated text, the creator of the universe hands his children a clear, concise blueprint for pure joy?
How do you get to that place where you can almost see God smiling as he whispers those words: “Enter

into the joy of your master”?
Perhaps the easiest way to get you there is by going in the opposite direction. . . .
Discussion Questions

1) Do you believe God wants you to have joy here on earth?

2) Read the parable of the talents in Mathew 25: 14-30. What, in your opinion, is the main overall message in this passage?

3) In the parable of the talents, what do you think the Master means when he says, “Enter into the joy of your Master?” Is it meant for you, today? How do you attain it?

4) Are you fulfilled in your current work or occupation?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A look inside Megan's Secrets

Thanks to all who participated in today's 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:

Leafwood Publishers (June 14, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Mike Cope is an author, blogger, professor, minister and magazine editor. He has written four books, including What Would Jesus Do Today? and One Holy Hunger. He was a minister for many years at the Highland Church in Abilene and now works with Heartbeat Ministries. He and his wife, Diane, live in Abilene, Texas, and have two surviving children: Matt, a resident in internal medicine at Duke University, and Chris, a junior in high school.


Mike Cope’s best teacher was his mentally disabled daughter—Megan. In her ten years of life, she taught her father secrets more profound than anything he’d learned in college or seminary. In his moving remembrance, Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me about Life, Cope shares those secrets in a way that will make readers laugh, cry and find new hope.
Megan was a beautiful pint-sized girl whose only spoken words were “I’m Megan!” Although a child of few words, the best scholars in the world could not teach what she did in her brief life. Her life exposed some of the insanities of the world and revealed some life-giving secrets such as:

We are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God.What really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need and living with courage, joy and unconditional love.
God uses our brokenness to His glory.

This unique inspirational book wraps these secrets and more into stories that will restore hope to those grieving. All readers who long to see modern-day examples of the “little ones” Jesus held on his lap and loved will be inspired and moved to exult in God’s incredible wisdom. What Mike discovers is that life with Megan, who slept only three hours a night, was exhausting, challenging, and even disappointing but also filled with joy and truths.
Max Lucado, best-selling author and minister, says, “The world would look at Megan Cope and her brief little life and see limitations. Imperfections. Inabilities. Her dad, just like her heavenly Father, saw something else entirely. Joy. Big heart. Love. Wisdom. Raising a disabled daughter, and then saying goodbye after a brief ten years of life, Mike knows the struggles, triumphs, pain, everyday miracles. . . and the secrets. Secrets God shares with those who care for the least among us. In Megan’s Secrets, my friend Mike shares the wisdom he learned from loving Megan.”

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (June 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891122869
ISBN-13: 978-0891122869


Looking for a Few Good Eggs

I gave this mite a gift I denied to all of you—eternal innocence. . . . She will never offend me, as all of you have done. She will never pervert or destroy the works of my Father’s hands. She is necessary to you. She will evoke the kindness that will keep you human. . . . This little one is my sign to you. Treasure her!1

MR. ATHA (the returned Christ) speaking of a child with Down Syndrome in Morris West’s The Clowns of God
A while back, I read an essay in Atlantic Monthly by Jessica Cohen, a Yale University student. She told about spotting a classified ad in the Yale Daily News: EGG DONOR NEEDED.
The couple placing the ad was looking for an egg from just the right donor, and they were willing to pay big bucks, to the tune of twenty-five thousand dollars. She learned that they wanted an Ivy League university student who was over 5 feet 5 inches tall, of Jewish heritage, athletic, and attractive and who had a minimum combined SAT score of 1500.

Being a bit short on cash, Cohen thought she might follow the lead. Cohen began corresponding with the anonymous couple. And as she did, she was introduced to a whole world of online ads by such desperate couples. She found one website with five hundred classifieds posted. An eBay for genetic material, she thought. Plus, there were ads like the following from young women wanting to sell their eggs:

Hi! My name is Kimberly. I am 24 years old, 5’11” with

blonde hair and green eyes. I previously donated eggs and

the couple was blessed with BIG twin boys! The doctor told

me I have perky ovaries! . . . The doctor told me I had the

most perfect eggs he had ever seen.

Cohen’s e-mails with the husband were strange. He and his wife were concerned about her scores in science and math. Then she sent a few pictures they had requested. The husband responded: “I showed the pictures to [my wife] this a.m. Personally, I think you look great. She said ho-hum.”
After that, Cohen’s correspondence with the couple abruptly ended.2
What kind of bizarre world is this? Our culture is fascinated with the “accidents” of birth: looks, athletic ability, and IQ. What if volcanic ash suddenly covered the United States, and it wasn’t until centuries later that archaeologists dug down to uncover our civilization, but the only written material they could locate were magazines from the checkout counters of grocery stores? What would those archaeologists assume about us? Maybe that we were the most shallow group of people ever?

This world of genetic engineering would favor my sons. But who—in our success-driven world—would want my daughter’s genetic makeup? She was, after all, mentally disabled. She would never take the SAT test, she wasn’t headed toward an Ivy League school, and chances were really good she wasn’t going to be over 5’5”! She couldn’t produce anything, had no fame to be proud of, and couldn’t brag of any trophies. We have classes in schools for “gifted and talented” students. By that standard, my daughter

wasn’t very successful.
And yet she was the most radical witness to the love of God I’ve ever met. She changed our world. I wonder: What if our society awarded friendliness, forgiveness, endurance, joyfulness, and unconditional love?

Megan was a quiet, loving witness to the gospel. She was an incarnation of God’s love. She received whatever gifts of service we offered to her without expecting more. She embodied the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Let the world search for “the perfect egg.” But our eyes have been opened by the breaking through of the kingdom in Jesus Christ. We’ve heard him say, “God bless you—you who are poor in spirit. God bless you—you who mourn. And God bless you—you who are meek.”

One of Megan’s much older friends was inspired by her life and wrote the following about her:

Megan proclaimed her message in her life. She was a

walking icon of Christ’s admonition to take no thought for

tomorrow, but simply, in faith, to let each day unfold on

its own. I doubt it ever occurred to Megan to make long-range

plans or to fear what the next five minutes might

bring. Megan, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the

field, trusted in the Creator, through his human agents,

to supply whatever requirements she might have. She

knew no other way to live. And in that respect, she sits in

judgment on us all, and leads us toward a more primitive

and perfect trust.

So many people were drawn to Megan. I think many college students in particular were drawn to her because they were being constantly bombarded everywhere else with messages about who they were supposed to be in order to be successful in this life. And the powerful reminder they always received from being with Megan was that success has more to do with internal qualities of the heart than with external circumstances and accidents of birth.
A society reveals a lot about itself by what it esteems and rewards. Apparently, we tend to value accidents of birth that we chisel and hone into perfection, then put on display—and even then we airbrush out the imperfections: how you look in a swimsuit, what you score on your SAT, how fast you can run a forty-yard dash.

No wonder so many people end up feeling bad about themselves. Some express this in self-loathing, others in arrogance. We watch anorexic models on television who’ve had surgical assistance with their shape, and we start feeling bad about ourselves. We often feel we’re too short, too tall, too wide, too skinny, hips too big, hips too small, curve too much, don’t curve enough. No wonder plastic surgery is such a booming business. Convince enough people that they are a mess as they are now, and you have an endless supply of business.

Megan had a way of exposing the insanity of all this craziness. As my friend Thom Lemmons said:

Megan was a flesh-and-blood display of the topsyturvy

economy of the kingdom of heaven. She was one

of the least of us, yet she occupied the apex of our care,

absorbing all the loving service we could offer, and able

to absorb still more. Without any thank you, without any

false reticence, without even seeming to notice, she took all

that we could give her, and still we were left with the sense

that it was not enough.

And yet, to anyone who held her down for a breathing

treatment, or marched with her through the church

parking lot, singing, “I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes, sir!” or

changed her soiled undergarments, or tried in vain to

rescue some semi-edible artifact from her unbelievably

quick hands, or held her as she gasped for breath—to

anyone who ever poured a minute’s worth of love down

the bottomless pit that was Megan, the blessing that

followed beggared any other reward.

Megan taught us all the difference in value between

receiving and giving. We only wished we could have done

more: there was no question of doing less. And all the

while, we were the ones being made over—by her innocent

carelessness and her shattering need—into a closer

imitation of the One who poured out his life as a ransom

for many.

One day, Thom and Cheryl Lemmons were taking care of Megan at a time when she needed oxygen to survive. Thom describes how he thought he’d figured out a secret to Megan’s care.

The trick was to keep Megan within a short enough

radius of her oxygen tank to permit the tubes to stay in

her nostrils and simultaneously remain connected to the

hose. She was also prone to seizures then, but I didn’t

know that. At one point, I remember having her in my lap

on the floor of the living room, and I may have even been

singing to her. For a few moments, the ceaseless thrashing

stopped, the grasping fingers were still, and she stared up

into my face with what appeared to me as a beatific half smile.

Then, after a minute or two, we resumed the Greco-

Roman wrestling match. “What a wonderful, peaceful,

very brief interlude,” I thought, as I put her oxygen tubes

back in place for the 5,357th time, “no doubt, made

possible by my instinctive gentleness and boundless

patience. Surely, even Megan is not immune to my gifts.”

Later, over lunch, I was relating to the Copes and

Cheryl my moment of epiphany with Megan, there on the

living room floor. Diane got a slightly embarrassed look

as I described the scene. Cheryl leaned over to me and

whispered, “Thom, she wasn’t listening to you sing; she

was having a seizure.”

Classic Megan: if ever your sense of “Christian duty”

became self-congratulatory or the least bit inflated by

a sense of its own worth, Megan would simply leave you

holding the punctured bag, and allow you to deal with

your own deflated ego. Megan, how could we ever repay

all that you taught us?

Megan’s simple-yet-profound life reminded us that God is a heart specialist who looks deeper than accidents of birth.

On the day she died, Diane and I were leaning over her praying for her, telling her we loved her, and assuring her it was all right to go. We almost forgot that anyone else was in the room. But the moment she took her last breath in the pediatric intensive care unit, my mother stood up from her chair behind us and began singing Megan’s favorite song:

I may never march in the infantry,

ride in the cavalry,

shoot the artillery.

I may never fly o’er the enemy,

but I’m in the Lord’s army.

Later it hit me: Megan had been preparing us her whole life with her simple little song. It’s like she’d been telling us that there were many things she’d never do, but we shouldn’t worry, because she’s in the Lord’s army. There’s a little grave just outside Abilene that bears her name, the dates of her abbreviated life, and then the words “I’m in the Lord’s army.”

This tiny minister taught me more than I learned in ninety hours of graduate school. She taught me that God will use my brokenness to his glory. She reminded me that the power is God’s, not mine. She made me remember we are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God. She taught me that what really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need, and living with courage, joy, and unconditional love.

Now, years later, my diminutive instructor-daughter is still guiding me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What to blog when you don't know what to blog

I cannot blog worth a flip from my phone with Blogger's new interface, so I will have to ramble later. This drives me bonkers!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Young and the Breathless

In case you haven't noticed, my family is crazy.

I forgot - did I blog that I thought I had killed Princess Fish the other day? I don't think that I did. Princess had been more vertical than horizontal, gulping for air, over the past week or so. I had delayed changing out the water in the fish bowls thinking that the girls were going to come pick up the fish for a few days when they went to their mom's.

As a total side note, has any one else ever had custody exchanges with goldfish? Only me, I'm sure.

Anyway, I decided, ok, this water needs to be changed. So, I put the net in try to catch the lethargic fish - and the net wasn't floating out either. Finally, I scoop her and put her into a cup of water. The fish goes into the cup nose down, and pretty much stays in the cup that way and doesn't bother to swish around.

I pour out the smelly old water, fill it with clean water, and pour the cup of water into the bowl. The fish sure doesn't do much to swim back into the bowl. I pretty much had to empty the cup before she came out.

The fish is still lethargic, and I nudge her with the net to see if she'll move. At one time, the fish is at the bottom of the bowl lying still, with neither her mouth nor gills moving. "Good grief, I've killed Peyton's fish," is what I am thinking. I nudge her again with the net, trying to see if she'll go back towards the top to gulp air since that is what she had been doing. This evidently knocks air into her, but I've never seen a fish labor so hard to breathe while floating in water. I went to bed thinking, "well, when I get up to go to church tomorrow, I guess once I get there, I'm going to have to tell Peyton her fish is dead." Luckily, she survived the night.

So, the girls picked up Princess and Floppy Jr. on Monday. On Tuesday, Paige called that they were tired of shuffling the fish back and forth and that they were going to look into getting a feeder that would keep the fish fed while they are at their dad's which is most of the time.

Last night, on my way home from church, I get a phone call.


"Oh my goodness, we think Princess is pregnant!"



"Are you sure she's preganant? Becuase the other day, I thought she was dead."

"Yeah, we think that's why she was acting like that, but there's something coming out of her."

I'm thinking - poop? Maybe she's just been constipated and that's why she was acting like that. Besides, how long can the gestation period be for a fish. She had Floppy have been in their own bowls for weeks.

"Maybe she's laying eggs..." Paige continues.

"Well yeah, she might be laying eggs, but she actually can't be pregnant because fish lay eggs."

"Maybe that's it..."

"Let me talk to your mom a minute."

"Hey!," Joni replies.

"Uh, the fish might be laying eggs, but can't be pregnant. Some fish give live birth, but when I was looking up to see if the fish were male or female, I read that goldfish lay eggs and spawn. But I don't really want to give your 10 year old daughter a sex ed lesson over the phone."

She laughs, and says, "oh, ok, I can handle the laying eggs part. I think she's ok now."

I called my mom to relay the story, but she was too busy trying to fix the VCR because she ran out of tape while recording America's Got Talent. The show wasn't over and everyone knows all you have to do is watch the last 5 minutes of a result show. That's all I watched of it.

The reason why she ran out of tape was because A) she's the only person I know that still records anything on a VCR and B) how could she possibly live without watching a day of Young and the Restless. She has to be the only person that still records it daily.

What she needs is a new cable service that has Tivo or the Soap Opera Network so that she can watch it at night when it comes on. Or, while she is doing her ancestry, she can watch it online.

Speaking of Ancestry, she discovered back on my Dad's side, down the same line branch that was related to the Harrison presidents, I'm also the 26th cousin 5 times removed to Jimmy Carter. Actually, she has not counted how far out he was yet because she ran out of time before going to church last night.

You know what? Noah was my some number grandfather. After all, we're all related somehow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9th cousin 3 times removed?

My mother finally has a hobby. Well, at one time she did cross stitch, but that was many, many years ago. 

She is all into this ancestry thing and this weekend she tracked down a tidbit of information that she has gotten the most excited about.

She found that President George H. W. Bush's mother was a 7th cousin twice removed on her paternal grandfather's side. Now, I still don't know the rules of removal, and I think that was to her rather than her grandfather, but I am not sure why she stopped at the mother instead of George Sr.

And I am not sure if that makes me and "W" ninth cousins twice removed or something four times removed or just two people living this life here on the planet Earth. I lean towards the latter.

Between both sides of my family, mom has found four US presidents in my ancestry. She even called her aunt on her mother's side to brag and/or rub it in that it wasn't on that side of the family.

Maybe the next time I am at the Rangers game I will make my way over to the owners box where W is sitting with Nolan Ryan and introduce myself as his cousin. I somehow doubt that will get me prime seats to watch the game.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wishy-washy old me

Now I'm back to going on vacation. Dad told me he wanted to beg me. So, we're going in two cars now which will help me have freedom to actually do my own thing and not be stranded.

That will be good since I do want to and need to actually leave the house and leave this town for a week.

Here's a total side note to anything. As I was working on the lesson I am teaching, I came across a question in the student workbook. This curriculum must be somewhat lacking on updates going back to before the cold war.

The lesson is on Acts 2 and Pentecost. One of the questions is, "were the first Christians communists?" WHAT? WHY? HUH?

A) Where did that come from?

B) What does it have to do with the rest of the lesson?

C) How would these 5th graders know anything about Communism or living in a commune which more the direction of where the teacher's book had it going than the government of China.

Another total side note to anything that has anything to do with anything... It didn't thunderstorm last night. I had a 4 Advil day and a headache that was terrible. I usually only get those at work when the weather is about to do something different. The moral of this story is that my headaches do not predict the weather. I guess it was just a migraine.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Read the first chapter of Passion to Action

Thanks to everyone who took part in today's 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:

Guideposts (September 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Jay Loecken grew up on an eighty-acre hobby farm in Minnesota as the youngest of three boys. His upbringing was solid with loving parents who were always encouraging him to try new things. He grew up in a Christian home, but his faith really began to develop during his sophomore year at Northwestern College while living in Dublin, Ireland for the summer and working with Greater Europe Mission. That’s when the Bible began to come to life for him and he began developing his own convictions.

Beth Loecken’s upbringing could not have been any more different. She grew up in Kansas City in a Catholic home as the youngest of six children. Her mother battled depression and eventually committed suicide when Beth was only five. Beth’s father retreated into alcoholism, leaving her in a chaotic and unstable environment where she was often abused. After graduating from high school, she moved to New York where she discovered her first true love—Jesus. He offered her a love and redemption she had craved her entire life.

Visit the author's website.


Jay and Beth Loecken were an ordinary family searching for meaning in their lives while living the American Dream. They owned their dream house, drove nice cars, and from the outside seemed to have all they needed. Yet something kept pulling at them—a stirring, a sense that they were being called to a greater purpose in life. They couldn’t escape the feeling that there was more to life than the relentless pursuit of material possessions.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 238 pages
Publisher: Guideposts (September 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0824948572
ISBN-13: 978-0824948573



BETH» Something unsettling had been stirring in our hearts for a very long time. We both knew we wanted—no, make that needed—something more out of life than what we had already achieved. By all definitions, we were living the good life: privileged and full of prosperity. Jay’s business as a mortgage broker had afforded us a very comfortable lifestyle. We owned a forty-five-hundred-square-foot house in Alpharetta, Georgia, that was our dream home—right down to the perfect and beautifully landscaped backyard we had just finished putting the final touches on.

Although we weren’t wealthy, we were quite comfortable. We were actively involved in our church, had a great family life, and were living a pretty good existence. Our four children didn’t have to wear secondhand clothes. We were able to take the entire family to the movies and out to dinner whenever we wanted to without thinking about the cost. We pretty much had the ability to have whatever we wanted at the drop of a hat.

Along with our home, we owned two cars, a motorcycle, and were close to purchasing a new boat and convertible BMW. For years we gave ourselves almost every luxury a family like ours could hope for.

Our lifestyle had become what you might think of as ideal—the American dream personified. Yet with all of the success we had achieved, and although we were generally happy, we were not feeling fulfilled. There was a void in us—an emptiness that living only for oneself brings. We weren’t comfortable living caught up in what other people thought of us.

While Jay was making loads of money, we trusted in our finances instead of God. If or when we had a need, it was taken care of without a thought.

We were living the dream—right?

The only problem was that we no longer needed to depend on God. It was easy to stop trusting in Him for provision and relying on Him for our needs. Our relationship with Jesus became less desperate and, at times, stagnant.

Four years of living the dream and still, we couldn’t shake an ever-present feeling that kept tugging at Jay and me.

Simply said, we knew there had to be more; but we had absolutely no idea what it was we were looking for.

There was a void, a longing, an empty place deep inside of us that seemed to quietly whisper that our lives were missing “something.” We thought the something was more stuff. We had struggled financially for years prior to coming to Atlanta, and the fact that we could buy new furniture and make all the updates to our home without a thought felt good. We thought the something that was missing from our previous financially strapped life was things: a comfortable lifestyle, kids in sports, nice clothes, a nice neighborhood, and a settled life. The only problem was that once those things were all purchased or attained, they seemed to breed more discontent. One purchase or update led to another and it went on and on. The something was never filled; in fact, material things seemed to make the ache grow deeper because they caused us to realize that we would never be filled that way.

When our life would finally quiet down (typically on a Sunday), and after hearing a great message at church, we would follow the thousands of others who filed out of church, jump in our nice car, and head home. But we began to notice a deep loneliness and hollowness. We felt sadly alone, empty, and purposeless. We never felt this way when our life was hurried and chaotic. In fact, when we noticed the emptiness creeping in, we would busy ourselves around the house, cleaning, organizing, “doing” so that we didn’t have to answer the ever-noticeable voice we both heard calling to us. In many ways, we didn’t want to face the questions that were rising up inside of us.

Did our lives matter?

What were our goals?

Is this really the abundant life?

What are we craving?

The ache was not there in the beginning; but as our dream life ended up not being the big deal that we thought it would be, it began to grow and grow in our hearts. I think we glamorized what having money would be like. I believe we thought that all of our financial worries would be over, all of our longings would be fulfilled, our hearts would be content, and our relationships would be rich. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. The more we owned, the more stress and responsibility we had. The more things we filled our life up with, the less time we had for deep relationships.

Once we had money, we stopped praying about whether to purchase items.

It was simple, did we want it? Check.

Did we have the perfect location in our house for it? Check.

Could we afford it? Check.

Our evaluation process did not involve God in any way. Our needs were met simply by Jay working harder and longer hours. The harder he worked, the bigger his paycheck was. We made sacrifices and began to place money and material things in front of family time and our marriage. I didn’t get upset or nag him when he would come home at eight o’clock when the kids were slipping into bed—because, selfishly, I wanted to live the life we were living. I wanted to be able to finish our basement and drive a nice car. It was a vicious cycle, and it slowly began to chip away at the foundation of our marriage and family. When times are good, you think they will always be good and you often don’t or can’t see what’s around the corner.

But something clicked when we started to think about the dreams for authentic living that we had given up. We somehow saw that what was happening was the complete opposite. We realized that we had let the deceitfulness of money creep into our lives. We knew we needed a change.

In an effort to clearly understand what was missing, we decided to spend a weekend alone at our friends’ condo in downtown Atlanta. We needed a change of atmosphere to focus on figuring out our next move. The friends who offered us their condominium agreed to watch our children for the weekend up at our house. A weekend in the suburbs sounded pretty good to them—even with four kids who were not theirs!

While most couples would take a weekend away from their kids to enjoy each other’s company, check out the newest trendy restaurant or nightclub, or just blow off a little steam, we chose to do none of those things.


Our weekend was devoted to figuring out what it was we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. We went on long walks and shared our deepest thoughts and feelings about life, fulfillment, and our discontent. As we spoke, we both realized that we no longer wanted our lives to be about ourselves. It’s hard to imagine that the parents of four young children could possibly feel selfish in any way—but we did. We were always present as parents, but our thoughts rarely extended beyond the white picket fence that surrounded our peaceful and sheltered existence. We had a deep desire to make our lives about something so much bigger than our tiny little bubble we’d been living in.

We talked about all of the friends we’d made over the years and how we each craved deeper relationships than we shared with most of them. I look back on the early years of our marriage when we had very deep, rich relationships. What was different back then? Why didn’t we have that now with couples in Atlanta? I think the number-one factor was time or the lack thereof. It takes time to build a friendship and to grow close to people. When we were first married, we had time. Looking back, I can’t believe how much time we had! Now, years later, we had four kids, a busy family, and a hectic lifestyle. Free time was a thing of the past.

We often reminisced about the “good ol’ days” when life was simple and relationships and time with other couples came easy. We began to realize that we wanted a different version of our old life. We wanted simplicity, deeper relationships, and time.

The other obstacle to forming deep friendships was our willingness to be vulnerable and open with our lives. Jay and I have always been open people who lay everything out on the table. Some people simply don’t like that. It makes them uncomfortable to talk about their feelings, mistakes, or marital disagreements. We find it refreshing because—let’s face it—we all have struggles. We have never really enjoyed being around people who give the impression that they have it all together. This type of phoniness leads to artificial relationships that never seem to go anywhere.

We had a hard time finding like-minded people we meshed with in Atlanta too. We are very simple, down-to-earth people, and we felt a little out of place living the “big lifestyle.” We would go to events and parties and feel like we didn’t fit in. Jay doesn’t wear penny loafers, and I don’t wear designer clothes. We prefer Converse sneakers, Target, and knock-offs.

Often we would find ourselves gravitating to the members of the band performing at the parties. At the time, hearing about their broken marriages and past drug addictions, they were the only ones we could see who seemed real. That was more real to us than trying to keep up with shallow small talk that seemed to inundate the events we attended.

We tried to fit in, wear the right clothes, say the right things, rub shoulders with the right people; but at the end of the day we were empty. We realized that we are really just who we are—simple, average people—and we will never be happy being people we are not.

We were created to be in relationships: first and foremost with God and then with people. Most human beings crave love and desire to be known. Some of us may not admit it, but it’s real. We need each other. Although we did not find the depth of relationships we were seeking in Atlanta, I personally found that connection with two close women friends. Jay, however, did not; and that took a toll on him. Yes, we have each other and we are best friends, but sometimes a guy just needs to be with “the guys.” They need to play golf, talk about work, and relate on a man-to-man level. I couldn’t offer Jay what he could only get from someone who walks in his shoes. He did stay in contact with other close, out-of-town friends, and that seemed to fill the void.

After two days and endless hours of dialogue, we knew there was a higher calling reaching out to us. We wanted to somehow give back for all of the good fortune and blessings God had bestowed upon us. Our decision was to find a mission trip through our church that would give us the opportunity to do something for those in need and the poor.


We had both seen images on television with the beautiful and innocent faces of African children in need. Who among us can honestly say those unforgettable photos don’t move you or tug at your heartstrings?

Not us!

We can’t explain our attraction and the heart we had for Africa other than just knowing in the deepest part of our souls that this was where we wanted to go to be of service. We knew seeing those faces live and in person would make their plight all too real; and, therefore, it would be a life-changing experience. Of course, at the time, we had no way of knowing just how far it would take us away from the only life we had ever known.

When we started looking into mission trip options, the only destination our church was currently offering that allowed families was to China. No offense to China, but we didn’t want to go there. Frustrated and unsure of what to do next, we prayed about our desire to serve in Africa until one day, not long after we made the decision to do this type of mission work, we spoke to Jenny Strange. She was one of several people responsible for mission trips at North Point, our church. North Point Community Church is a large church in Alpharetta, Georgia led by Pastor Andy Stanley, the son of Charles Stanley. Andy started this church in 1995 not because Atlanta needed another church, but because he wanted to create a safe place where people who were seeking the truth about Jesus Christ would feel comfortable attending. I think he was successful because North Point now has over twenty thousand people who attend their weekend services.

The missions department decided to open up a trip for families to Africa. The mission was going to be a joint effort between North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, and 410 Bridge, an organization that partners people and groups with communities in Kenya.


This was exactly what we hoped to find.

As we continued to discuss the opportunity, Jenny told us she was still looking for someone to actually lead the trip.

“I think you’d be perfect for it,” she said, as she and Jay spoke over the phone.

We hadn’t thought about the responsibility that comes with leading such a trip, but we also knew God works in very mysterious ways. Everything happens for a reason. If being a leader was what she was asking from us, then who were we to turn her down?

We spent the next six months preparing for our trip. We were headed to a tiny village two hours north of Nairobi called Kiu. When the word spread that there was a missions trip to Africa, several local families reached out to express their interest in participating with us. We had the rare and fortunate opportunity to handpick the people we thought would comprise the very best team. After many hours of meetings and deliberations, we decided on six families who would join us on this journey, with a total of twenty-two of us altogether.

We planned to take our three oldest children—Ben, Bekah, and Abigail—with us. It was difficult to leave Noah, our youngest son, behind; but he was only four years old at the time, which we felt was too young to make this type of trip.

Working closely with 410 Bridge, we were able to assess exactly what the community we were going to serve wanted from our group so we could work together with the locals when we arrived. We discovered that these types of trips are highly organized. There was a tremendous amount of communication with the village prior to our arrival. After months of dialogue and preparation, the people in Kiu decided that our goal for the ten days we would be there was to build a chicken coop that would house twenty-five hundred chickens.

Undertaking this type of project had several benefits to the locals. First, it would provide a steady source of nourishment. Second, involving the locals meant there would be a common project aimed at getting their troubled youth off the streets. Third, building the chicken coop would provide them with some sort of a business enterprise so they could sell the eggs and, eventually, the chickens.

As the mission trip grew closer, we tried to imagine the journey that was ahead. We counted our blessings for the opportunity we had—not just ours, but also for the experience we were about to give to our children.

When we first signed up for the trip, we thought our group would go to Kiu and help the people with their project in a tangible way while building some new relationships. This experience was the first time we realized the importance of working alongside a community instead of coming in and imposing on them what we think or how we live.

The people from 410 Bridge did an excellent job preparing us for the trip. They gave us a very strict list of dos and don’ts so we didn’t make any colossal errors in judgment. They explained to us that no matter how badly we desired to make things better for the people we were about to meet, our mission was to go in and build a chicken coop—working alongside and developing relationships with the African people.

They told us not to give the children shoes because their feet had toughened up from years of surviving barefoot. Once they start to wear shoes, their feet can no longer take the extreme conditions because they soften up. What we would have perceived as doing something to help them would actually hurt them in the long run.

Helping them adjust to our contemporary lifestyle wasn’t the reason we were there. Our Western mentality and mindset is to fix things, throw money at the problem until it is no longer of concern, and basically make it all better. It’s hard to come up with a solution when we don’t necessarily have a full understanding of the problem or their way of life. We quickly discovered that our way of thinking doesn’t solve their problems. Long-term change comes with time, perseverance, education, and dedication. The people we were endeavoring to meet had the same drive, initiative, desire, and ultimate goals we did but lacked the resources to facilitate those ideas. Helping provide those resources was the main purpose of our presence in their community.