Monday, February 28, 2011

The Weirsbe Bible Study Series - Nehemiah

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:


Wiersbe Bible Study Series Nehemiah

David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. For ten years he was associated with the “Back to the Bible” radio broadcast, first as Bible teacher and then as general director. Dr. Wiersbe has written more than 160 books. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Nehemiah was an ordinary man given an impossible task: to rebuild the war-torn city of Jerusalem. This Bible study examines the life, legacy, and perseverance of Nehemiah.


Product Details:

List Price: $8.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 078140455X
ISBN-13: 978-0781404556

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


A Caring Attitude

(NEHEMIAH 1—2)

Before you begin …

• Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

• Read Nehemiah 1—2. This lesson references chapters 1 and 2 in Be Determined. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.


Getting Started

From the Commentary

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.” George Bernard Shaw put those words into the mouth of the Rev. Anthony Anderson in the second act of his play The Devil’s Disciple. The statement certainly summarizes what Jesus taught in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37), and it rebukes all those who fold their arms complacently, smile benignly, and say somewhat sarcastically, “Ask me if I care!”



1. What are some of the evidences in Nehemiah 1 that Nehemiah was a person who cared? Why are care and concern important traits for leaders? How might the lack of care and concern affect a leader’s ability to lead?


More to Consider: Nehemiah was a layman, cupbearer to the great Artaxerxes Longimanus, who ruled Persia from 464 to 423 BC. Nehemiah’s name means “The Lord has comforted.” What is the significance of Nehemiah’s name in relation to the task God has for him? Why do you think he mentions abruptly that he was the cupbearer to the king (Neh. 1:11)?


2. Choose one verse or phrase from Nehemiah 1—2 that stands out to you. This could be something you’re intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.


Going Deeper

From the Commentary

Nehemiah asked about Jerusalem and the Jews living there because he had a caring heart. When we truly care about people, we want the facts, no matter how painful they may be. “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts,” American historian Henry Adams said, but Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Closing our eyes and ears to the truth could be the first step toward tragedy for ourselves as well as for others.



3. Go through Nehemiah 1 and underline what Nehemiah learns about Jerusalem. What does this tell us about Nehemiah? About the Jews living in Jerusalem? About Jerusalem itself?


From the Commentary

The prayer in Nehemiah 1:5–10 is the first of twelve instances of prayer recorded in this book. (See 2:4; 4:4, 9; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 9:5ff.; 13:14, 22, 29, 31.) The book of Nehemiah opens and closes with prayer. It is obvious that Nehemiah was a man of faith who depended wholly on the Lord to help him accomplish the work He had called him to do. The Scottish novelist George MacDonald said, “In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably.” Nehemiah succeeded because he depended on God. Speaking about the church’s ministry today, the late Alan Redpath said, “There is too much working before men and too little waiting before God.” This prayer begins with ascription of praise to God (1:5). “God of heaven” is the title Cyrus used for the Lord when he announced that the Jews could return to their land (2 Chron. 36:22–23; Ezra 1:1–2). The heathen gods were but idols on the earth, but the God of the Jews was Lord in heaven. Ezra often used this divine title (5:11–12; 6:9; 7:12, 21, 23), and it is found four times in Nehemiah (1:4–5; 2:4, 20) and three times in Daniel (2:18–19, 44). Nehemiah began his prayer as we should begin our prayers: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9).


4. What’s the significance of addressing a prayer to “the God of heaven”? Why does Nehemiah begin his prayer this way? (See Neh. 1:5; see also 4:14; 8:6; 9:32.) What is the focus of Nehemiah’s prayer?


From Today’s World

Every few years, the church suffers through “media scandals” prompted by public revelations of leaders’ misconduct. Though the focus is usually on a single individual—or a tightly knit group of people in positions of influence— these media scandals can have a lasting effect on the church. Long after the details of the scandal have faded into the past, people with an axe to grind continue to point to these events as evidence that the church is at worst, corrupt, and at best, a place for hypocrites and fools.


5. Why does the media give so much screen time to church-related scandals? What makes scandals newsworthy? What impact does this sort of event have on the local churches? Church leaders? Believers in general? What are some positive ways to respond to such scandals?


It has well been said that prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven but getting God’s will done on earth. However, for God’s will to be done on earth, He needs people to be available for Him to use. God does “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20 NKJV). If God is going to answer prayer, He must start by working in the one doing the praying! He works in us and through us to help us see our prayers answered. While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision of what needed to be done became clearer. Real prayer keeps your heart and your head in balance so your burden doesn’t make you impatient to run ahead of the Lord and ruin everything. As we pray, God tells us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, and all are important to the accomplishing of the will of God. Some Christian workers are like Lord Ronald in one of Stephen Leacock’s short stories who “flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”


Nehemiah planned to volunteer to go to Jerusalem to supervise the rebuilding of the walls. He didn’t pray for God to send somebody else, nor did he argue that he was ill-equipped for such a difficult task. He simply said, “Here am I—send me!”


6. What are some of the lessons we can glean from Nehemiah’s prayer? What is significant about his use of “we” in the prayer? What does this say about Nehemiah as a person? As a leader?


From the Commentary

Unknown to him, Nehemiah was about to join the glorious ranks of the “champions of faith,” and in the centuries to follow, his name would be included with heroes like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Deborah, and David. One person can make a big difference in this world, if that person knows God and really trusts in Him. Because faith makes a difference, we can make a difference in our world to the glory of God. “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace,” said Martin Luther. “It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”



7. Read Mark 9:23–24 and Matthew 17:20. How do these verses apply to Nehemiah’s faith? How can they help inspire church leaders today?


From the Commentary

The king asked him, “What is it you want?” What an opportunity for Nehemiah! All the power and wealth of the kingdom were wrapped up in that question! As he was accustomed to do, Nehemiah sent one of his quick “telegraph prayers” to the Lord (4:4; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31). But keep in mind that these “emergency prayers” were backed up by four months of fasting and praying. If Nehemiah had not been diligent to pray in private, his “telegraph prayers” might have gone unanswered. “He had only an instant for that prayer,” wrote George Morrison. “Silence would have been misinterpreted. Had he closed his eyes and lingered in devotion, the king immediately would have suspected treason” (Morning Sermons, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931, p. 243).


8. Review Nehemiah 2:4–8. Why is it significant that Nehemiah took a moment to pray before answering? What lessons can we learn from this small action? How did God answer his prayer?


More to Consider: Jewish rabbis often answer a question with a question, and Nehemiah followed that example. Instead of telling the king what he planned to do, he aroused the king’s sympathy and interest with a question regarding how he should feel about the sad plight of his ancestral city and the graves of his forefathers. Why do you think he chose this approach?


From the Commentary

Nehemiah is a good example of how believers should relate to unsaved officials as they seek to do the work of God. Nehemiah respected the king and sought to work within the lines of authority that existed in the empire. He didn’t say, “I have a commission from the Lord to go to Jerusalem, and I’m going whether you like it or not!” When it comes to matters of conscience, we must always obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), but even then, we must show respect for authority (see Rom. 13 and 1 Peter 2:11–25). Daniel and his friends took the same approach as did Nehemiah, and God honored them as well (Dan. 1).


9. How might the king’s reaction have been different if Nehemiah had spoken in more “religious” terms about his commission? What are some examples in today’s church where leaders have related well to nonbelievers in positions of authority? What are some bad examples of this? How can believers today apply Nehemiah’s wisdom in their dealings with non- Christian bosses or other authority figures they relate to in daily life?


From the Commentary

After his long, difficult journey, Nehemiah took time to rest, for leaders must take care of themselves if they are going to be able to serve the Lord (Mark 6:31). He also took time to get “the lay of the land” without arousing the concern of the enemy. A good leader doesn’t rush into his work but patiently gathers the facts firsthand and then plans his strategy (Prov. 18:13). We must be “wise as serpents” because the Enemy is always watching and waiting to attack. Leaders are often awake when others are asleep, and

working when others are resting. Nehemiah didn’t want the enemy to know what he was doing, so he investigated the ruins by night. By keeping his counsel to himself, Nehemiah prevented Tobiah’s friends from getting information they could pass along to Sanballat.…


As he surveyed the situation, he moved from west to south to east, concentrating on the southern section of the city. It was just as his brother had reported: The walls were broken down and the gates were burned (Neh. 2:13; 1:3).


10. Review Nehemiah 2:11–16. Why did Nehemiah not want the enemy to know what he was doing? In what ways was Nehemiah practicing what it means to be a good leader? What role did his “secret survey” play in his plan to rebuild the city?


Looking Inward

Take a moment to reflect on all that you’ve explored thus far in this study of Nehemiah 1—2. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.


Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all,

be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don’t press for people to speak if they’re uncomfortable doing so.


11. What are some ways you show your care and concern for your local church? How do you show respect for tradition while also being sensitive to today’s needs? Are you more of an encourager or a complainer? If the latter, why? How can you be more constructive in your relationship with your church?


12. Nehemiah puts a great deal of emphasis on prayer from the very outset of his plan to rebuild the city. What role does prayer play in your plans? How much emphasis do you place on the importance of prayer before, during, and after a plan is put into effect in your life?


13. What aspects of Nehemiah’s leadership appeal to you most? In what ways are you like him? What are some things you’d like to work on in order to be a better servant leader?


Going Forward

14. Think of one or two things that you have learned that you’d like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It’s better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don’t try). Do you need to work on expanding your prayer life? Is there a particular matter you need to pray about, perhaps for an extended period of time? Be specific. Go back through Nehemiah 1—2 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.


Real-Life Application Ideas: One of the key features of Nehemiah’s leadership was his deliberate prayer life. Take a few minutes to consider the various plans you have for your own life (and your family’s life). This could be anything from plans for a summer vacation to educational goals to career plans for you and every other family member. Now, think about how your prayer life intersects with these plans. What are some ways you can be more deliberate in your prayer life about these things? Make practical plans for how to become more prayerful, then commit to those plans.


Seeking Help

15. Write a prayer below (or simply pray one in silence), inviting God to work on your mind and heart in those areas you’ve previously noted. Be honest about your desires and fears.


Notes for Small Groups:

• Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section. Talk with other group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.

• During the coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal truth to you from what you’ve read

and studied.

• Before you start the next lesson, read Nehemiah 3—4. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapters 3 and 4, “Wall-to-Wall Workers” and “Workers and Warriors,” in Be Determined.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Rollercoaster called Life

Well, I have an update to the last non-book related post. On Wednesday morning, about 2 minutes after my alarm went off, my phone rang. I don't know if it's the phone, the jack in my room or what, but it's a bad connection.

Upon answering, I hear someone say, "this is _____ _____ from _____." For a split second, I thought it might have really been, but remembered I had told "Fu Ming" (that's his Chinese name that he uses over there) that if he ever called and said that as a joke, he'd be sure to get hung up on. Instead, I laughed and got the other phone.

I got a few sentences in early in the call. I know those of you who know me really don't believe that he does most of the talking on the phone. However, it is true.

So, about 20 minutes into the call, my bladder was screaming and I really thought about putting the phone on speaker and seeing if he noticed I left for two minutes and came back. I started trying to interject that I was enjoying talking to him, but I sure wasn't going to make it to work on time at this rate.

Fifteen minutes after that, I finally said, "I hate to cut you off, but I really have to get ready for work."

Pause.

"Huh? What time is it there?"

"7:35 AM."

"WHAT? I remembered the two hours behind, but forgot about the other 12 hours. I've never called anyone at 7 in the morning."

Needless to say, I got my good laugh in before going to work that morning. As it turned out, I needed that laugh by the time the day was over.

When I got home from church late Wednesday night, my back gate was open, and one of my screens was completely off a window and leaning against another window on another wall.

I called the police so that they could be patrolling the area. After 30 minutes they finally got there and the police officer shines his flashlight in the peep hole when I'm trying to make sure it's the police at the door. He didn't seem to concerned about anything whatsoever.

I was pretty wired to end my day, needless to say. When I relayed part of my story to Fu Ming via email, the question of the day was, "do you carry?" The answer to that was no.

Since I didn't get drawn for the Rangers Opening Day lottery, I decided I was going to get tickets anyway. I refuse to break my streak of going to Opening Day. I've been 11 of the past 12 years. The only year I missed was when my dad told me we couldn't go because I might have a new job since I was job hunting at the time. Sure enough, I started work at my current job that year on Opening Day. They called me that morning to come in.

My dad decided he could not/would not pay about 10x face value for tickets off Stub Hub, so I found a friend willing to go and I won an Ebay auction today. I didn't expect to shell out that much, so now I am debating spending money on a ticket to go visit friends in Colorado Springs. I need to make a decision quickly, especially with the rising cost of gas. I'm sure it's going to impact that ticket price soon. I got gas Wednesday morning for $3.12 a gallon, and at lunch it was $3.25.

So, today, it took me most of the afternoon, but I finally flip flopped my two closets to make room for some more stuff after I rearranged my house. I still have some stuff I'm trying to get put away from the great bedroom to office swap. I had to buy some command strips to hang stuff on the closet doors since I'm running out of wall space from all the photos I have hung. I'll try to post pictures in the coming week.

I need to get this other stuff put away before I have a couple of friends over for a Not Watching the Oscars party. Actually, I just invited a couple of friends over after church and realized the Oscars were coming on which I don't care anything about anyway.

I better finish this post off. It's late and I have to put sheets on my bed before I can sleep in it. I hate having to do that. :(

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Billion Reasons Why - check out the first chapter!

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:


A Billion Reasons Why

Thomas Nelson; Original edition (February 1, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kristin Billerbeck was born in California to an Italian father and a strong Norwegian/German mother. Her mother tried to teach her to do things right, how to cook, clean, sew, and budget accordingly—all the things a proper girl should know in order to be a contributing member of society. Yet Billerbeck said she “failed miserably,” although her grandmother must still hold some hope since she gave her a cookie gun for her 40th birthday.

Billerbeck has authored more than 30 novels, including the Ashley Stockingdale series and the Spa Girls series. She is a leader in the Chick Lit movement, a Christy Award finalist, and a two-time winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award. She has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. She lives with her family in northern California.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

There are a billion reasons Kate should marry her current boyfriend.

Will she trade them all to be madly in love?

Katie McKenna leads a perfect life. Or so she thinks. She has a fulfilling job, a cute apartment, and a wedding to plan with her soon-to-be fiance, Dexter.

She can think of a billion reasons why she should marry Dexter…but nowhere on that list is love.

And then in walks Luc DeForges, her bold, breathtaking ex-boyfriend. Only now he's a millionaire. And he wants her to go home to New Orleans to sing for her childhood friend's wedding. As his date.

But Katie made up her mind about Luc eight years ago, when she fled their hometown after a very public breakup. Yet there's a magnetism between them she can't deny.

Katie thought her predictable relationship with Dexter would be the bedrock of a lasting, Christian marriage. But what if there's more? What if God's desire for her is a heart full of life? And what if that's what Luc has offered all along?


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595547916
ISBN-13: 978-1595547910

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


A Fine Romance


Katie McKenna had dreamed of this moment at least a thousand times. Luc would walk back into her life filled with remorse. He’d be wearing jeans, a worn T-shirt, and humility. He’d be dripping with humility.


That should have been her first clue that such a scenario had no bearing on reality.


“Katie,” a voice said.


The sound sent a surge of adrenaline through her frame. She’d forgotten the power and the warmth of his baritone. A quick glance around her classroom assured her that she must be imagining things. Everything was in order: the posters of colorful curriculum, the daily schedule of activities printed on the whiteboard, and, of course, the children. All six of them were mentally disabled, most of them on the severe side of the autism spectrum, but three had added handicaps that required sturdy, head-stabilizing wheelchairs. The bulk of the chairs overwhelmed the room and blocked much of the happy yellow walls and part of the large rainbow mural the kids had helped to paint. The room, with its cluttered order, comforted her and reminded her of all she’d accomplished. There was no need to think about the past. That was a waste of time and energy.


Her eyes stopped on her aides, Carrie and Selena. The two women, so boisterous in personality, were usually animated. But at the moment they stood huddled in the corner behind Austin’s wheelchair.


Carrie, the heavyset one in the Ed Hardy T-shirt, motioned at her.


“What?” Katie pulled at her white shirt with the delicate pink flowers embroidered along the hem and surveyed the stains. “I know, I’m a mess. But did you see how wonderfully the kids did on their art projects? It was worth it. Never thought of the oil on the dough staining. Next time I’ll wear an apron.”


Selena and Carrie looked as though there was something more they wanted.


“Maddie, you’re a born artist.” Katie smiled at the little girl sitting behind a mound of colorful clay. Then to the aides: “What is the matter with you two?”



Selena, a slight Latina woman, shook her head and pointed toward the door.


Katie rotated toward the front of the classroom and caught her breath. Luc, so tall and gorgeous, completely out of place in his fine European suit and a wristwatch probably worth more than her annual salary, stood in the doorway. He wore a fedora, his trademark since college, but hardly one he needed to stand out in a crowd.


As she stared across the space between them, suddenly the classroom she took such pride in appeared shabby and soiled. When she inhaled, it reeked of sour milk and baby food. Her muddled brain searched for words.


“Luc?” She blinked several times, as if his film-star good looks might evaporate into the annals of her mind. “What are you doing here?”


“Didn’t you get my brother’s wedding invitation?” he asked coolly, as if they’d only seen each other yesterday.


“I did. I sent my regrets.”


“That’s what I’m doing here. You can’t miss Ryan’s wedding. I thought the problem might be money.”


She watched as his blue eyes came to rest on her stained shirt. Instinctively she crossed her arms in front of her.


“I came to invite you to go back with me next week, on my plane.”


“Ah.” She nodded and waited for something intelligible to come out of her mouth. “It’s not money.”


“Come home with me, Katie.” He reached out his arms, and she moved to the countertop and shuffled some papers together.


If he touches me, I don’t stand a chance. She knew Luc well enough to know if he’d made the trip to her classroom, he didn’t intend to leave without what he came for. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.” She stacked the same papers again.


“Give me one reason.”


She faced him. “I could give you a billion reasons.”


Luc’s chiseled features didn’t wear humility well. The cross-shaped scar beneath his cheekbone added to his severity. If he weren’t so dreaded handsome, he’d make a good spy in a Bond movie. His looks belied his soft Uptown New Orleans upbringing, the kind filled with celebrations and warm family events with backyard tennis and long days in the swimming pool.


He pushed through the swiveled half door that separated them and strode toward her.


“That gate is there for a reason. The classroom is for teachers and students only.”


Luc opened his hand and beckoned to her, and despite herself, she took it. Her heart pounded in her throat, and its roar was so thunderous it blocked her thoughts. He pulled her into a clutch, then pushed her away with all the grace of Astaire. “Will you dance with me?” he asked.


He began to hum a Cole Porter tune clumsily in her ear, and instinctively she followed his lead until everything around them disappeared and they were alone in their personal ballroom. For a moment she dropped her head back and giggled from her stomach; a laugh so genuine and pure, it seemed completely foreign—as if it came from a place within that was no longer a part of her. Then the dance halted suddenly, and his cheek was against hers. She took in the roughness of his face, and the thought flitted through her mind that she could die a happy woman in those arms.


The sound of applause woke her from her reverie.


“You two are amazing!” Carrie said.


The children all murmured their approval, some with screams of delight and others with loud banging.

Luc’s hand clutched her own in the small space between them, and she laughed again.


“Not me,” Luc said. “I have the grace of a bull. It’s Katie. She’s like Ginger Rogers. She makes anybody she dances with look good.” He appealed to the two aides. “Which is why I’m here. She must go to my brother’s wedding with me.”


“I didn’t even know you danced, Katie,” Selena said. “Why don’t you ever come dancing with us on Friday nights?”


“What? Katie dances like a dream. She and my brother were partners onstage in college. They were like a mist, the way they moved together. It’s like her feet don’t touch the ground.”


“That was a long time ago.” She pulled away from him and showed him her shirt. “I’m a mess. I hope I didn’t ruin your suit.”


“It would be worth it,” Luc growled.


“Katie, where’d you learn to dance like that?” Carrie asked.


“Too many old movies, I suppose.” She shrugged.


“You could be on Dancing with the Stars with moves like that.”


“Except I’m not a star or a dancer, but other than that, I guess—” She giggled again. It kept bubbling out of her, and for one blissful moment she remembered what it felt like to be the old Katie McKenna. Not the current version, staid schoolmarm and church soloist in Northern California, but the Katie people in New Orleans knew, the one who danced and sang.


Luc interrupted her thoughts. “She’s being modest. She learned those moves from Ginger and Fred themselves, just by watching them over and over again. This was before YouTube, so she was dedicated.”


Katie shrugged. “I was a weird kid. Only child, you know?” But inside she swelled with pride that Luc remembered her devotion to a craft so woefully out-of-date and useless. “Anyway, I don’t have much use for swing dancing or forties torch songs now. Luc, meet Carrie and Selena. Carrie and Selena, Luc.”


“I don’t have any ‘use’ for salsa dancing,” Selena said. “I do it because it’s part of who I am.”


“Tell her she has to come with me, ladies. My brother is having a 1940s-themed wedding in New Orleans. He’d be crushed if Katie didn’t come, and I’ll look like a hopeless clod without her to dance with.”


Katie watched the two aides. She saw the way Luc’s powerful presence intoxicated them. Were they really naive enough to believe that Luc DeForges could ever appear like a clod, in any circumstance or setting? Luc, with his skilled charm and roguish good looks, made one believe whatever he wanted one to believe. The two women were putty in his hands.


“Katie, you have to go to this wedding!” Selena stepped toward her. “I can’t believe you can dance like that and never told us. You’d let this opportunity slip by? For what?” She looked around the room and frowned. “This place?”


The cacophony of pounding and low groans rose audibly, as if in agreement.


“This may be just a classroom to you, but to me, it’s the hope and future of these kids. I used to dance. I used to sing. It paid my way through college. Now I’m a teacher.”


“You can’t be a teacher and a dancer?” Selena pressed. “It’s like walking and chewing gum. You can do both. The question is, why don’t you?”


“Maybe I should bring more music and dancing into the classroom. Look how the kids are joining in the noise of our voices, not bothered by it. I have to think about ways we could make the most of this.”


But she hadn’t succeeded in changing the subject; everyone’s attention stayed focused on her.


“You should dance for the kids, Katie. You possess all the grace of an artist’s muse. Who knows how you might encourage them?”


Katie laughed. “That’s laying it on a bit thick, Luc, even for you. I do believe if there was a snake in that basket over there, it would be rising to the charmer’s voice at this very minute.”


Luc’s very presence brought her into another time. Maybe it was the fedora or the classic cut of his suit, but it ran deeper than how he looked. He possessed a sense of virility and take-no-prisoners attitude that couldn’t be further from his blue-blood upbringing. He made her, in a word, feel safe . . . but there was nothing safe about Luc and there never had been. She straightened and walked over to her open folder to check her schedule for the day.


Tapping a pencil on the binder, she focused on getting the day back on track. The students were involved in free playtime at the moment. While they were all situated in a circle, they played individually, their own favorite tasks in front of them.


“Carrie, would you get Austin and Maddie ready for lunch?”


“I’ll do it,” Selena said. “And, Katie . . . you really should go to the wedding.”


“I can’t go to the wedding because it’s right in the middle of summer school.”


“You could get a substitute,” Carrie said. “What would you be gone for, a week at most? Jenna could probably fill in. She took the summer off this year.”


“Thanks for the suggestions, ladies,” Katie said through clenched teeth. “But I’ve already told the groom I can’t attend the wedding for professional reasons.”


The women laughed. “I’m sorry, what reasons?” Carrie asked, raising a bedpan to imply that anyone could do Katie’s job.


It was no use. The two women were thoroughly under Luc’s spell, and who could blame them?


“Maybe we should talk privately,” Luc said. He clasped her wrist and led her to the glass doors at the front of the classroom. “It’s beautiful out here. The way you’re nestled in the hills, you’d never know there’s a city nearby.”


She nodded. “That’s Crystal Springs Reservoir on the other side of the freeway. It’s protected property, the drinking water for this entire area, so it’s stayed pristine.”


“I’m not going back to New Orleans without you,” he said.


Apparently the small talk had ended.


“My mother would have a fit if I brought one of the women I’d take to a Hollywood event to a family wedding.”


Katie felt a twinge of jealousy, then a stab of anger for her own weakness. Of course he dated beautiful women. He was a billionaire. A billionaire who looked like Luc DeForges! Granted, he was actually a multimillionaire, but it had been a long-standing joke between the two of them. Did it matter, once you made your first ten million, how much came after that? He may as well be called a gazillionaire. His finances were too foreign for her to contemplate.


“And who you date is my problem, how?”


“If my date tries to swing dance and kicks one of my mother’s friends in the teeth, I’ll be disinherited.”


“So what, would that make you the fifth richest man in the United States, instead of the fourth?”


“Katie, how many times do I have to explain to you I’m nowhere near those kinds of numbers?” He grinned. “Yet.” He touched his finger to her nose lightly. “My fate is much worse than losing status if you don’t come. My mother might set me up to ensure I have a proper date. A chorus line of Southern belles. And I guarantee you at least one will have the proverbial glass slipper and think her idea is so utterly unique, I’ll succumb to the fantasy.”


“Wow! What a terrible life you must lead.” She pulled a Keds slide from her foot and emptied sand out of her shoe. A few grains landed on Luc’s shiny black loafer. “To think, with courtship skills like that, that any woman wouldn’t be swept off her feet—it’s unfathomable.” She patted his arm. “I wish you luck, Luc. I’m sure your mother will have some very nice choices for you, so go enjoy yourself. Perk up, there’re billions

more to be made when you get back.”


“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Katie.”


e was right, but she didn’t trust herself around him. She’d taken leave of her senses too many times in that weakened state. Since moving to California, she’d made it her goal to live life logically and for the Lord. She hadn’t fallen victim to her emotions since leaving New Orleans, and she’d invested too much to give into them now.


“I’m sorry,” she said. “I only meant that I’m sure there are other nice girls willing to go home and pretend for your mother. I’ve already done that, only you forgot to tell me we were pretending. Remember?”


He flinched. “Below the belt.”


A pencil fell from behind her ear, and she stooped to pick it up, careful not to meet his glance as she rose. “I’m sorry, but I’m busy here. Maybe we could catch up another time? I’d like that and won’t be so sidetracked.” She looked across the room toward Austin, an angelic but severely autistic child in a wheelchair. He pounded against his tray. “The kids are getting hungry. It’s lunchtime.” She pointed to the schedule.


Luc scooped a hand under her chin and forced her to look at him. “Where else am I going to find a gorgeous redhead who knows who Glenn Miller is?”


“Don’t, Luc. Don’t charm me. It’s beneath you. Buy one of your bubble-headed blondes a box of dye and send her to iTunes to do research. Problem solved.”


He didn’t let go. “Ryan wants you to sing at the wedding, Katie. He sent me personally to make sure you’d be there and sing ‘Someone to Watch Over Me.’ I’m not a man who quits because something’s difficult.”


“Anyone worth her salt on Bourbon Street can sing that. Excuse me—”


“Katie-bug.”


“Luc, I asked you kindly. Don’t. I’m not one of your sophisticated girls who knows how to play games. I’m not going to the wedding. That part of my life is over.”


“That part of your life? What about that part of you? Where is she?”


She ignored his question. “I cannot be the only woman you know capable of being your date. You’re not familiar with anyone else who isn’t an actress-slash-waitress?” She cupped his hand in her own and allowed herself to experience the surge of energy. “I have to go.” She dropped his hands and pushed back through the half door. “I’m sure you have a meeting to get to. Am I right?”


“It’s true,” he admitted. “I had business in San Francisco today, a merger. We bought a small chain of health food stores to expand the brand. But I was planning the trip to see you anyway and ask you personally.”


“Uh-huh.”


“We’ll be doing specialty outlets in smaller locations where real estate prices are too high for a full grocery outlet. Having the natural concept already in these locations makes my job that much easier.”



“To take over the free world with organics, you mean?”


That made him smile, and she warmed at the sparkle in his eye. When Luc was in his element, there was nothing like it. His excitement was contagious and spread like a classroom virus, infecting those around him with a false sense of security. She inhaled deeply and reminded herself that the man sold inspiration by the pound. His power over her was universal. It did not make her special.


“Name your price,” he said. “I’m here to end this rift between us, whatever it is, and I’ll do the time. Tell me what it is you want.”


“There is no price, Luc. I don’t want anything from you. I’m not going to Ryan’s wedding. My life is here.”


“Day and night . . . night and day,” he crooned and then his voice was beside her ear. “One last swing dance at my brother’s wedding. One last song and I’ll leave you alone. I promise.”


She crossed the room to the sink against the far wall, but she felt him follow. She hated how he could make every nerve in her body come to life, while he seemingly felt nothing in return. She closed her eyes and searched for inner strength. He didn’t want me. Not in a way that mattered. He wanted her when it suited him to have her at his side.


“Even if I were able to get the time off work, Luc, it wouldn’t be right to go to your brother’s wedding as your date. I’m about to get engaged.”


“Engaged?” He stepped away.


She squeezed hand sanitizer onto her hands and rubbed thoroughly.


“I’ll give a call to your fiancĂ© and let him know the benefits.” He pulled a small leather pad of paper from his coat pocket. “I’ll arrange everything. You get a free trip home, I get a Christian date my mother is proud to know, and then your life goes back to normal. Everyone’s happy.” He took off his fedora as though to plead his case in true gentlemanly fashion. “My mother is still very proud to have led you from

your . . .” He choked back a word. “From your previous life and to Jesus.”


The announcement of her engagement seemed to have had little effect on Luc, and Katie felt as if her heart shattered all over again. “My previous life was you. She was proud to lead me away from her son’s life.” She leaned on the countertop, trying to remember why she’d come to the kitchen area.


“You know what I meant.”


“I wasn’t exactly a streetwalker, Luc. I was a late-night bar singer in the Central District, and the only one who ever led my reputation into question was you. So I’m failing to see the mutual benefit here. Your mother. Your date. And I get a free trip to a place I worked my tail off to get out of.”


She struggled with a giant jar of applesauce, which Luc took from her and opened easily. He passed the jar back to her and let his fingers brush hers.


“My mother would be out of her head to see you. And the entire town could see what they lost when they let their prettiest belle go. Come help me remind them. Don’t you want to show them that you’re thriving? That you didn’t curl up and die after that awful night?”


“I really don’t need to prove anything, Luc.” She pulled her apron, with its child-size handprints in primary colors, over her head. “I’m not your fallback, and I really don’t care if people continue to see me that way. They don’t know me.”


“Which you? The one who lives a colorless existence and calls it holy? Or the one who danced on air and inspired an entire theater troupe to rediscover swing and raise money for a new stage?” Luc bent down, took her out at the knees, and hoisted her up over his shoulder.


“What are you doing? Do you think you’re Tarzan? Put me down.” She pounded on his back, and she could hear the chaos he’d created in the classroom. “These kids need structure. What do you think you’re doing? I demand you put me down!”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Catch a preview of Meet Mrs. Smith

Thanks to everyone 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:

David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Anna Smith is a wife and mother of six children. Her husband Martin was the lead singer for the band Delirious? for over sixteen years. Smith and her husband founded CompassionArt, a nonprofit organization built to raise money through art and music to help orphans and the poor around the world. Meet Mrs. Smith is Smith’s first book. She and her family reside in the seaside village of Rustington, England.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Are you tired of just feeling bogged down by your daily life? Do you wonder if your life will have an impact on your family or, even yet, the world? Come join Anna Smith as she encourages you to live a life of abandoned love for Christ.

Meet Mrs. Smith is Anna Smith’s life story—the story of how God used her, alongside her husband Martin, to raise a family, live a wild life for God, launch the worldwide phenomenon that is Delirious?, and start a ministry to orphans around the world. With a good dose of spiritual insight, parenting advice, and wry humor, Anna shares the hard lessons she’s learned. She also shares stories from behind some of Delirious?’s most popular songs while encouraging readers with her warm authentic voice.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702030
ISBN-13: 978-1434702036

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Introduction


The phone rings just as I’m straining the potatoes and promising the waiting tribe that supper’s nearly ready.


“Indi, get back to the table.… Noah, try not to spill the water, my love.… Elle, can you encourage Levi not to arch his back in the high chair?”


Chaos.


I’m feeling slightly nauseous, and I wish the pregnancy hormones would take mealtimes into consideration—it’s far too inconvenient for me to have my head down over the toilet right now. I hear ringing from the other room.


I rush to pick up the phone.


“Helloooo, Anna here.”


“Hi, love, how are you?” Martin says.


“Yeah, good … general supper-time craziness, but we’re all fine. How’s your day been? What’ve you been up to?”


As he replies, I sense something different in Martin’s voice tonight. I don’t know, he seems bothered or troubled … just different. But there’s no time to chat.


“Can’t you phone in a couple of hours?” I ask him.


“Probably not,” he replies. Later I guess that he’ll be onstage or fast asleep in his hotel—I don’t know; I get confused with the time zones. He starts to talk about everything he’s experienced in India and how his heart’s caving in at the poverty he’s seeing.


What can I say?


“Sorry, honey, must be awful,” I say. “Right, got to go, the broccoli’s disintegrating.”


My words sound pathetic. And I can’t quite hear him anyway as the line is breaking up.


“Bye, I’ll call again soon, I love you.”


What horrible timing! As Martin wrestles with the impact of this great poverty he’s seeing and experiencing, I’m here trying to hold down the fort. He’s getting “all emotional” about someone else’s kids, but all I can think of in that moment is how I need him here. Our children miss their daddy.


But every trip to India seems to ratchet up the intensity inside Martin—something’s breaking his heart: He’s moved, challenged, and provoked by everything around him there. What’s God saying? What’s shifting? Martin’s seen poverty before, but this is something else altogether. It’s another telephone call we’ll have to resume later when the kids are in bed and my head’s clearer.


The thing is, I want him in the kitchen with me now, pouring out his heart to me, like a proper married couple going on this journey of discovery together.


Not tonight though. He’s somewhere in India, and I’m watching Pop Idol on TV.


~~~~~


We have been on a journey of so many paradoxes.


I’m on this adventure with my kids and my husband, Martin, who toured the world with the band Delirious? On this path I discovered both the joys and the chaos of family, but along the way, we

found that our chaos was little compared to the chaos of the poverty in the world.


The clash of emotions and heartbreaking stories led my children and me to a rubbish dump, a slum where people live, outside Hyderabad, India.


What am I doing here? I thought as I stood there in the refuse and dirt. Why did I bring my children to this place? Then I saw the children run up to us with huge smiles on their beautiful faces—and I wept when they sang to us.


As I said before, this has been a journey of paradoxes.


The book in your hands is about this exhilarating, enriching, exciting, and downright exhausting journey. It’s about being a wife, mother, friend, auntie, and sister. I’m a mother to six children, and due to that fact, it’s a miracle that this book has actually been published and that I’m not yet wearing a hairnet to bed and putting my dentures in a plastic cup! Rather than wait until my life calms down, I want to tell someone my story while I am right in the middle of it.


This book is about not wishing away the time or waiting until the house is empty before we look out to the world beyond our own. It’s about seeking God in all of the mess and exhaustion.


On this path, we look back on key events as turning points. For me, one of those moments came fifteen years ago. That moment accelerated my passion to embrace life to the fullest and birthed a band that played to hundreds of thousands of people around the world and spread a powerful message to the nations.


After three house moves, seven pregnancies, numerous flights with children in tow, many trips to India and Africa, dozens of tour buses, hundreds of gigs, thousands of earplugs in little ears, and too many dirty nappies (some might call them diapers!) to mention, I’m here to share a little of my story, from the sublime to the ridiculous.


Thanks for coming along!


—Anna



Chapter 1: The Longest Night


Little did I know that one moment would change everything.


I sit motionless in the passenger seat. Frightened and disorientated, my muddled brain tries to make sense of my surroundings. Slowly I turn my head and look across at Martin lying semiconscious, his inert body collapsed in a heap next to me. His head is slumped against the steering wheel, his foot in perfect synchrony, pressed down flat on the accelerator.


I don’t know what to do.


My head feels fuzzy and my thoughts move in slow motion.


~~~~~

At the time it seemed like a great idea to drive through the night. Waking up at home sounded sweet. There’s nothing like your own bed, and after spending a week cooped up in a leaky caravan, sleeping under what I can only describe as soft cardboard, my bed called to me.


The green Ford Sierra did us proud, and the thought of seeing my sister’s baby, Abigail, who’d been born ten days early (which was the motivation for our early departure), gave Martin and me lots to chat about on the way. My brother Jon fell asleep as soon as we left the campsite, so we had the whole journey to talk while eighties classics pumped out of our dilapidated stereo.


The A1 motorway continued on forever.


Martin had endured a hectic week, as part of his job was recording live music and seminars at conferences around the country, and this week we’d been at Grapevine in Lincolnshire. So it wasn’t long before we’d exhausted all conversation and stared at the road, willing the journey to come to an end. Jon snoozed away in the back of the car—he looked peaceful, albeit a tad uncomfortable, curled up next to a load of musical equipment, trying to muster up an agreeable position with the seat belt across his face.


Five hours later we drove onto the A259 to Littlehampton. Waves of excitement came over me at the thought of seeing baby Abigail. I remember the delight of seeing the familiar Windmill Pub with the patrons long gone and the feeling that we were the only ones awake in this sleepy village. We were so nearly home.


The next few moments would change our lives forever, but the God who does not slumber watched over us.


~~~~~


My eyes photograph the scene. One by one, images develop to make sense of things: a green car turned the wrong way round; a crushed and crumbling brick wall; smoke swirling in the foreground; the driver motionless, covered in blood. My other senses start to kick into gear: Intoxicating fumes creep into my nostrils; the hiss and crackle of the engine whisper in my ear.


These impressions become clearer, and my thoughts accelerate—I need to get Martin and Jon out of the car. I desperately kick my chair back, but it stubbornly refuses to move. Every part of me clambers and scrambles to escape, but I can’t get free.


“Someone call for help!” The words tumble out of my mouth and race into the cold night air, frantically searching for help.


Finally, I manage to force open my door. I tentatively step out of the car. My two-inch plastic heels crunch underfoot as fragments of glass break like icicles with every step.


I nervously survey the scene, but the dark gives nothing away. A ten-minute eternity passes. I wait, a thousand thoughts sparking a thousand fears. Suddenly, two fire engines and an ambulance careen around the corner, and the stillness is swallowed by a voracious urgency: lights and people, questions and confusion.


~~~~~


I’m ushered into the ambulance, the paramedics buzzing around me, assaulting my weary brain with questions. Jon somehow managed to get himself out of the car, but now he’s dressed in a green surgical

gown, hallucinating and singing “Yellow Submarine,” the shock of it all messing with his reality.


But what about Martin—what about my husband?


Their answer is a constant, unsatisfying repetition: “We are doing all that we can.”


The firefighters cut the roof off the car, the harsh grinding of metal against metal, battling to free the fragile body inside. I’m riveted to the action but can’t watch—my heart needs protection, but my head doesn’t want to miss any important detail. Fear and panic and emptiness and shock wrap around me like an oppressive shelter. Then in the midst of all the craziness, I see my dad running toward me, abandoned in panic. All I can think is that I need to tell him it’s going to be all right. He holds me; he’s shaking with fear, a thousand questions falling from his trembling lips.


The hours drag on heavily. People move around me in a haze, and nothing seems to change. I feel exhausted, confused, scared, and numb. The firefighters finally cut Martin free from the wreckage,

and they are relieved to find that his feet are still attached to the legs that have been hidden from sight for two hours. Now that he’s free, the paramedics are desperate to get him to the surgeon to repair his

broken and battered body.


Blood is everywhere.


As we’re leaving I hear one of the firefighters asking about the fourth passenger. Where is she? he asks. The blonde girl in the backseat?


To this day no one knows who she was. Either Jon had smuggled a new girlfriend home, or heaven made sure we weren’t alone on this night.


Maybe she was our angel.


©2011 Cook Communications Ministries. Meet Mrs. Smith by Anna Smith. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A look into the life of Delirious' Martin Smith

Thank you 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:

David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Martin Smith is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter from England. He was the front man for the Christian rock and worship band Delirious? for seventeen years. Delirious? released numerous records, with some of their songs hitting the top twenty UK charts. In their career, Delirious? played many major conferences, festivals, events, and crusades. They won numerous Dove Awards, were nominated for a Grammy Award, and produced songs such as “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” and “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” Smith collaborated with the other members of Delirious? for the book I Could Sing of Your Love Forever and with other artists to complete The Art of Compassion book and the CompassionArt CD and DVD.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Martin Smith, one of the men behind the modern Christian worship movement, challenges readers in his autobiography, Delirious: My Life, Mission, and Reflections on the Global Worship Movement. Martin Smith fell in love with God early in his life. By his teen years, he was captivated by songs that expressed true intimacy with God. As he grew, he married a pastor’s daughter and became involved in his church’s outreach events. He began playing his own songs with a band at the events. Then, in 1995, Smith was involved in a near-fatal car accident. During his weeks of recovery, he decided to become a full-time musician. His new career quickly took off and he became the lead singer for the band Delirious?. Touring with groups such as Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Matchbox Twenty, and Switchfoot, Smith’s life became a whirlwind of balancing work and family.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702375
ISBN-13: 978-1434702371

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


PARADOX


I never really knew what people meant when they said that their hearts had been broken. It had always seemed to me that people were exaggerating, that the description was all a bit too over the top. But on January 10, 2007, I found out exactly what it feels like to have your heart so comprehensively messed with that you know beyond all doubt, the rest of your life will be different as a result.


For me, though, it wasn’t that my heart broke. It was still beating—and faster than ever. It felt more like my heart had been ripped out. My head, on the other hand—now that was well and truly broken. Thoughts flew out like water from a broken pipe, and nothing made sense anymore.


I was a mess.


I sat in a hotel, waiting in the room for someone to take us to dinner. Nothing new there. But nothing could ever be the same. After what I’d seen that afternoon, I knew that if my world as Martin Smith carried on without any change, I’d be making the biggest mistake of my life.


We’d been in India for a day or so. In Hyderabad the band and I played to a crowd made up of four hundred thousand people, quite a few cows, and a whole lot of duct tape holding the PA system together.


Delirious? had toured India before, and we’d seen poverty around the world: We’d visited slums in Mexico and seen it from car windows on numerous drives to and from airports, but in India we always felt the greatest impact. Knowing that even our suitcases—not including the stuff inside them—cost more than a year’s wages for some of these people was enough to wipe the smiles off our faces.


Mumbai was different. The sounds, smells, and general chaos overwhelmed the senses, and somehow the children’s begging felt more intense and disturbing there than anywhere else. Every time we stopped at a red light and children approached the airtight windows of our cars, I wanted to empty my wallet and hand the contents over to them. It would have made the kids’ pimps happy, I suppose, and

I knew it was a bad idea.


So perhaps I should have known that I’d find it emotionally charged when we visited Prem Kiran, a project supported by Joyce Meyer Ministries that provides the children of prostitutes with food, education, and support. I should have known that their smiles and effervescent singing would lift my smile higher than the clouds, and I should have guessed that when we fed the children their lunch I would be fighting back tears.


But nothing could have prepared me for Farin.


You pronounce her name fa-REEN. For some reason she couldn’t stop looking at me all the time that she and the rest of the children sang.


I suppose I’m a little bit used to the “strangeness” of people looking at me, but this was different. At the same time that she was looking, God’s Spirit prodded me deep inside, taking my guts and wringing them out.


Once they finished singing and eating lunch, we spoke with the pastor. He told us that this project worked with more than seventy children, helping their mothers and families as well. He shared that Farin’s mum—like so many of the others there—worked as a prostitute.


I felt the air leak from my lungs.


Pastor Umale went on talking. This was a red-light district, and the chances were good that, yes, Farin would end up working as a prostitute just like her mother. Seeing as she was eleven years old then, that day might not be far off.


I looked back at Farin. She was so much like my eldest daughter, Elle: same age, same height, same way of moving, same big eyes, and a similar smile. But Elle’s future is one of possibilities and peace. Farin’s is a parent’s worst nightmare that never ends.


Pastor Umale invited us to walk across the street and visit the homes of some of the children and their mothers. We trod over the open sewer that ran between the brick and tin buildings; we wandered inside when invited and stood around looking like fools. There we were, a rock band that shouted about our faith in Jesus, standing in one room where the whole of life was played out: sleeping, feeding, playing, and working.


What did our faith mean in that place? We could take to the stage in front of hundreds of thousands, but what did our faith mean as we stood next to a bed on which a prostitute sold herself for a few rupees, and beneath which her children hid, in fear and silence, sometimes even drugged so that they would sleep? What did our faith mean, and what impact could it make? Were we out of our depth, or was that just the sort of place—and were those just the sort of people—that Jesus would have been found amongst, dealing in compassion, transformation, and restoration?


Our trip ended, and we got back on the bus. But it wasn’t enough to drive off and forget about it. It wasn’t enough for life to go on as before.


Back in the hotel all I know for sure is this: I am dying inside. Something has happened and I cannot find peace. All I can think of is Farin and the horrors that lie ahead unless some minor miracle takes place.


What would I do if she were mine?


The question makes me stop. What do I mean if she were mine? I realise the truth in that moment: There is no if in this scenario—I feel like I am Farin’s father and I am as responsible for her future as

I am for my own daughter’s.


——


That day we spent as a band in Mumbai changed things for me, though perhaps not in the way that I first thought it would. As I grabbed a few snatched phone conversations with my wife over the coming days, all I could tell her was that something amazing, disturbing, and beautiful had happened. I tried to tell her about Farin, but the words came out all wrong.


It wasn’t until the band and I got home that I had any sort of plan in place and the time and words to convey it to Anna.


“We need to adopt her,” I said. “We need to bring her back here to live with us, to be a part of our family.”


Anna was very good with me. She knows me well enough to let me talk and get the ideas out before those become actual plans, but she also knew that something different was going on. This wasn’t just

another case of Martin getting excited by someone he met at the end of a long tour.


But as I thought about it more and more, I grew even more convinced. We needed to adopt this girl. And the more I thought about it, the more I missed her. It was as if my heart—so blatantly ripped out from my chest upon seeing Farin for the first time—had now been put back but was wired up all wrong. I was constantly aware of the fact that she was still back there, living in a slum, surrounded by poverty and danger. This little girl was at risk, and I was doing nothing about it, other than looking at the photo of her that I’d placed on my piano while failing to put these feelings into song.


Eventually Anna laid it all out for me. My kids—the five we had then, sharing the house I’d been floating around in ever since I’d returned from India—needed me, but I wasn’t there. Physically I might have been in the room, but that was about it. I was drifting away, and it was starting to become a problem.


I wondered if I was having a breakdown. I struggled to concentrate and found it hard to connect with my loved ones, and all I could think about was this girl I’d only ever met once. What was going on?


Within a couple of weeks the air began to clear. The songs started to come—one about Farin herself and the other about her mother and her friends—and the adoption forms that I had ordered remained unopened on our kitchen table. Bit by bit I was starting to return to my body, to reconnect with the family, to come back to “normal,” whatever that meant. Being in a band means that life is a strange dance. You travel a lot and develop a life made up of stages, studios, and interviews that is far removed from the realities of family life. You have to work hard to smooth the transition between these two parts of life.


But coming back from India the landing was even bumpier.


Part of me liked that idea of everything getting back to how it had been. Part of me thought it was the most frightening thing that could ever happen.


Six weeks after meeting Farin, I found out that Farin’s mother had changed her mind. At the start she had been happy for Farin to leave India, for us to adopt her and bring her to England with us. Then she changed her mind. She couldn’t let Farin go.


How could I blame her? Honestly, I felt partly relieved, partly upset and sad. But then, finally, something like progress presented itself to Anna and me: If we can’t adopt Farin, then let’s take care of her and the other children in her neighbourhood. The pastor told me what the project in India cost to run, and we decided to contribute: We wanted to help with the care and education of all seventy children. After all, if we couldn’t bring Farin home, we could certainly help care for her along with all of her friends.


——


That is not the end of the story.


And it certainly isn’t the beginning either.


The day I met Farin was one of those points in life when so many threads come together. It was a junction box, with so many different experiences and influences colliding, and so many outcomes blossoming as a result. And part of the reason I wanted to write this book was to share a little of that bigger story.


But before we jump in, I need to do some confessing. Starting with a story like meeting Farin can sound impressive. That line about having my heart ripped out and my head broken makes it sound like I’m halfway towards being a saint. Don’t get me wrong—the feelings were absolutely genuine, but those were rare. On so many of the other trips our band made to projects that worked amongst the poorest people, life often went back to normal after a while.


I know lots of people who have experienced the same thing. Maybe you have too. After seeing the firsthand reality of what life is really like for so many of our neighbours here on the planet, you feel stirred up. You try your best, you try to respond to the compassion stirring within you. Most artists and creative people are by nature sensitive to suffering, and we often want to jump in and help, without thinking about whether there’s a lifeline. And even if you’re not a creative type, having faith in Christ more than sets us in line with compassion as a way of life.


Well, that’s the theory. Or, at least, that’s the start. What comes after the outpouring of emotion or the awkward feeling when you look in your wallet, that’s where I think we make the hard choices.


For those of us living in the West, when we come face-to-face with poverty it can be a problem. Especially when a trip feels more like a holiday romance than a blinding light on the road to Damascus.


For example, we fly into India, stay in a nice hotel, go visit these projects, go back to the hotel, have a shower, and eat a nice meal in a restaurant, and then, if we’re lucky, we get an upgrade on the flight home. In our culture, where selfishness is at worst a character quirk and at best a sign of inner strength, there is a real disconnect between head and heart, between passion and lifestyle. So we can be engaged in an issue, we can use our voices as our currency, and we can give cash. But the greatest tragedy is that we can come home from the short-term mission trip and get straight back into our everyday life and forget.


Not that there’s anything wrong with everyday life. For me that might range from driving one of the kids to a dance lesson today and piano lessons tomorrow, to taking out the rubbish bins; from getting the car fixed, to thinking about where we want to go on holiday next summer. Everyday life for me might be planning what I’m going to be doing this time next year or thinking about how to release these songs within me for others to hear. You can forget the pain, and you can forget the faces. That breathless feeling you get when you’re surrounded by life-and-death poverty can evaporate like the vapour trail left by the jet as you fly home.


I found this all to be true after my early trips to India. I didn’t like the way I, like the Israelites, could so quickly forget about what God had done just days before. It might not have been a miracle like the parting of the Red Sea, but facing children whose lives were on course for abuse, neglect, and horror stirred my compassion in powerful—but sadly, kind of temporary—ways.


Eventually I found what I thought was a perfect remedy for my wandering heart. Taking photos, and lots of them. All around my house now are pictures of many of the children—God’s children—through whom I have glimpsed more of life than I had known. As I sit at the piano or eat breakfast, all I have to do is look up to be reminded of their faces and to reconnect with their stories.


The truth is, though, that while the photos are a neat little device that I came up with, God had a better plan for helping me hold on to the sense of purpose that rose up after those days of seeing poverty up close. And that plan was Farin.


In one of those wonderful, God-only ways that showed how well my Father in heaven knows me, God broke into my heart and left it in pieces. Through Farin God made it all personal. And once that happened, there was no way I could ignore His call.


I’m not trying to sound like a saint again, but it’s true that one day in Mumbai back in January 2007 made the rest of my life different. Of course I still have one foot in my everyday life—the world in which I find myself getting more excited about the World Cup than about rescuing kids from sex trafficking. There are many, many times when I feel as though I just don’t know how to do this thing called compassion when there’s so much geography in the way. All those old temptations to go back to normal. But Anna and I have come so far down a new track that I’m not so sure I remember what “normal” looks like. I don’t think we can ever really go back to life being our own again.


So here we are, at the start of this book. Read it, and you’ll see that I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve tried to be honest with you throughout—honest about the good as well as the bad.


But, thanks to the grace of God, this book is about more than just my failings. It’s about an amazing journey that I’ve been on. I’ve seen miracles, heard armies of Christians cry out in faith, and seen what happens when ordinary men and women decide to live their faith out loud.


And I hope that this book helps you unleash more of the same.


©2011 Cook Communications Ministries. Delirious by Martin Smith. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Enquiring minds want to know

Anyone remember when the National Enquirer had TV commercials? Their tagline was "enquiring minds want to know." forgot about those until I started typing up this entry.

My grandmother used to read the National Enquirer. She may have even had a subscription. That really has nothing to do with anything.

I have had people ask via direct message on Facebook "so how is the guy in China?" They did not know if I wanted anything posted on my wall. I posted on my blog that I had a "pen pal" China. My blog posts on my Facebook, so it's not like he is a top secret friend. And after all, we are just talking in the first place. :)

The truth is, I don't know the answer to that question. He was away at a conference for a week without internet access, then when he got back had things to tend to. The Chinese holiday season is now over and school started back this week. Add in a 14 hour time difference when two people are working, and you don't get much of a chance to talk.

What's really weird is that unless we can ever banter via email in the morning for me, we  are always on a different day when we talk to each other. It makes me realize how confusing it is going to be scheduling interviews for an author is Australia. Karen has to be looking forward to that challenge.

Here's what I don't get about some time zones around the world. There are some locations that have half hour differences. How confusing can that get when you live on a border? That is what my enquiring mind wants to know!

Monday, February 21, 2011

One hot date

No, I do not have anything to report from this weekend. I think the hottest date ever on the Bachelor is when Shawntel took Brad to the crematorium and asked him if he wanted to be cremated. I mean, she did have the fire going at the time. If you watched it, you would have to admit that was just bizarre. Think that not giving her the rose may have been the wisest decision. Her dad was even creepy in a sense yet did finally give his blessing though he really wanted her succeed him in the family business and moving to Austin with Brad could wreck the plan.

Here may be an interesting topic of conversation... If I were to ever find Mr. Right, I would not want him to ask for my dad's approval. I don't find it sweet. I feel like my parents have a thumb on me that I don't really want, and I feel I don't need anyone's permission. So that is my side note for the day.

Speaking of asking my dad's permission, the guy after all the single women at church asked my dad's permission to sit two rows in front of us yesterday. It was strange. I don't know why he decided to move back a few rows.

I had something else I was going to say yet I do not know what it was. Eh, if I remember, I will talk about it tomorrow.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What a mess

Thankfully, Paige's basketball games were rearranged to both be this afternoon. I got some shopping in cuz goodness knows I'm tired of wearing the same thing all the time. And all you Target fans, I got to go to the one in the Waxahachie and got me a new lamp for me newly rearranged office (and some sunglasses).

I am still in the midst of getting all my books back on my shelves since I've been in middle of the house rearranging. I do obviously have my computer set back up. And my new keyboard came in. It's so much better than my old one. I decided I needed this after I got a new one at work. I had to get one there because my space bar was sticking from using it so much. I love this wave board.

I need to have a garage sale or partner up with someone who is having one because I have some stuff I need to get rid of. Seriously.

The chances of me getting my other weekend projects finished are pretty nil. I don't think the flip flop of closets is going to happen even though I do need to do that so I can see if I can get my drafting table put away. And I'm running out of wall space for the pictures I had to move. hmmm.... I always seem to create more work for myself. Anyone want to come help me?

Friday, February 18, 2011

This weekend...

I am going to try to reclaim this weekend for myself. I've not done that in a while. Though I skipped the basketball games last weekend, I tried to make myself do some catch up with work and made myself miserable and accomplished not much of anything.

There's only two basketball games tomorrow, and I'll make at least the later one. Not promising anything for the first because I have gotten 6 hours of sleep or less the past three nights and I need to sleep in.

Two nights I stayed up trying to finish my fall scrapbook on Shutterfly to get it 50% off. I failed miserably. So, I hope to get it close to finished this weekend so that the next time they go on sale, I'll have it ready. I won't commit to having it completely finished though because that's too much self-imposed pressure.

I also have to buy a birthday gift for work that I've been putting off for 2 weeks.

I also need to go to the grocery store which might as well be against my religion. I did get milk at Braum's after church Wednesday night to avoid going to the store. I need toothpaste now, so...

And I sold the bed in my spare bedroom this week so that I can move my computer back out of my living room. I'm going to put my bookshelves that are in the dining area in the spare room too and have an office/library instead of an extra bedroom. I also need to flip flop two closets too. That should keep me busy. in taking all my books to the other room alone.

Regardless of what does and doesn't get done, I'm already looking forward to my Sunday nap.

I kind of want to go shopping though. Don't know that I'll get to fit that in. I'll give up any of these activities (other than the nap) if anyone wants to do anything this weekend. Just let me know!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's wrong with you people?

I guess no one wanted to contribute to my random question blog. I have no new random questions to ask. And I am running out of originality when it comes to the random question of the day for my friend in China. The good news is that you still have several days to chime in since he is at a convention and does not have access to the Internet right now.

In other news, there is no other news. About anything. I have just been busy. For those of you who ready my blog because you are bloggers, I have a bunch of books coming up. Lots of work stuff swarming around my head making it difficult to come up with stuff to blog about.

I feel like such a dull girl. Sad, huh?

For those of you that live in Colorado Springs, I'm looking at coming on a trip your way in April. Who wants to do something when I come, and what are we going to do when I get there? I want to see a bunch of people (even if I do work with all of them in some way - yeah, all work friends), but I have nothing set as far as what I want to see and do. I'll leave it up to my tour guides. Be thinking about that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ready for some Boston Rob?

Just watching the commercials for the upcoming Celebrity Apprentice are enough for me. I've never been into The Apprentice, but it would take serious cash to watch LaToya Jackson, Jose Canseco and Gary Busey. The only person I'm somewhat curious about is Richard Hatch from Survivor, but I would rather watch that show about target shooting on the History Channel that has Colby Donaldson. But even Colby isn't enough to make me watch that. I do have some reality TV standards.

I'm ready for Wednesday when Boston Rob comes back to Survivor for the fourth time to take on Russel who gets his third shot. I don't have any false illusions that Boston Rob is going to win, but please, oh please, just let him last longer than Russel. I can't believe that man has made it to the end twice. Logically, they probably took him to the end so that they could easily beat him.

Glad that Boston Rob has his sass back this time. He was a little too mellow last time.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Is it spring yet?

Normally, I like the cold,
but this winter weather is getting old!
I do not like it when it's one hundred and three,
But the snow last week was made for a ski.

I don't care what studies say,
when it's 70, then 17 the next day,
People are bound to get sick,
cough or sneeze, take your pick.

Right now I'm about to freeze,
through a crack in my door comes a breeze.
My arms are covered in goose bumps,
I take it back, they're more like lumps.

At work no hot water in the sink,
is about as cold as a skating rink.
My hands are in need of major lotion,
but the cracks scream at that notion.

My lips are so very chapped,
they feel like they have been zapped.
And being cooped up with lots of ice,
doesn't make any of us very nice.

I don't see how the Yankees do it,
I can handle only a little bit.
Oh, the snow, it was pretty for a day,
but for long it did not stay.

In the land of the Lone Star,
you need not go very far,
nor do you have wait very long,
a change in weather will come on strong.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I need some new material

I need some new random questions to ask. I'll explain more over the weekend, but I just need you all to post some random questions here for me. Anyone in?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The bad bad blogger strikes again

Last week's blogs were work focused and I did not get around to blogging this weekend. I am due for a new post. But I refuse to turn on the computer, so it is a BlackBerry blog tonight. That means it will not be too long tonight.

If I were on my computer at work, it could be a long one because I got a new keyboard that is great and the space bar does not stick like the old one.

If I had taken photos of the snow with my phone, could upload them here tonight. I did not take pictures with my phone though. And there was like 6 inches. And the camera at my parents house had pictures of my snow ball fight with the girls about an hour before all the snow melted off. was it not amazing how it was there one hour and gone the next?

Now for some randomness...

It is annoying me on The Biggest Loser how they are talking about Valentine's Day. it was probably actually Halloween when they filmed this.

On the Bachelor, I believe the producers placed psycho Michele in the show and will not let Brad get rid of her. if she is not faking, that woman is certifiable.

I forgot what was going to say next.

Tonight I may have to up the heat because the ceiling fan is coming back on. Last night I left it off because I got cold the night before. However, it messed up my head and throat to sleep with it off. Boo hiss!

I am too old to stay on the phone until 2 am. I am too old to be up at that time period.

I found out the magic word that got the guy in China to talk to me is that his sister told him I was OPINIONATED. I really did not think that was one of my better qualities.

Jenny has asked me out for Valentine's. That is what single women do to pass the holiday by. It is our annual joke. She hates the big V day more than I do. I told her she was scaring me how very date-like she was actually making the whole thing sound. She better not get me chocolate though because I am about to go on a chocolate fast again.

Here is my bit of advice for all... never call me before 7 am ever. You will meet very grumpy Audra on the other end.

I am so glad the Super Bowl is over and everyone has gone home. All that the news people talked about last week was the SB and the weather. I did not even turn the channel in the direction as a form of rebellion. The bad weather caused a cancellation of a Super Bowl related appearance by the Village People. Wasn't that a shame?