Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I've been busy - in more ways than one

You know me, I am always busy. I have taken a couple of opportunities in the past week to enjoy myself.


Paige's birthday a week ago at the ballpark was a blast in several ways. Maybe I can blog about that this weekend. I have some funny pictures to post too.

And do you know what Jenny and I did Sunday? Jenny and I go so far backthat we first saw New Kids on the Block together 21 years ago. This was our third time to see them together.


Best seats I have ever had at a concert.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Inspiration for your young athelete

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 and illustrator are:


and their books:

Cross Training Publishing (2008)
and
The Spirit in Sports (2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR and ILLUSTRATOR:


Kathryn Nixon was born in the small town of Rockingham, NC. She grew up involved in many sports including cheerleading, cross country and dance. After graduating high school, she attended Peace College and North Carolina State University where she received her BA with a major in communications and a minor in journalism. She went on to work as an associate producer for ESPN.

She met Trot Nixon when one of the coaches who recruited him to play baseball at NC State introduced them. They were married, and he was drafted by the Red Sox, where he became a 2004 World Series champion. While her husband was playing ball, Kathryn collaborated with the other wives on two children’s books: Fenway Park from A to Z and Fenway Park 1 2 3.

Her greatest desire is to touch the lives of children with the knowledge and experience of Christ’s love. Her passion is to gather children into the kingdom of God by planting His word in their hearts at an early age. Nixon and her husband, Trot, reside in Wilmington, NC, with their two sons, Chase and Luke.

Ana Boudreau was born in Williamsburg, VA, and grew up with the dream of being an artist and an illustrator. Her grandmother was a professional artist, and she passed down all of her supplies to her granddaughter. She was also involved in cheerleading and gymnastics as a girl, helping her further connect to the Spirit in Sports series.

Boudreau attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with a BA in English literature. She met Kathryn Nixon when she was commissioned to paint murals in the preschool department of Nixon’s church. They struck up a friendship and began meeting to plan a series of books that would attract young children involved in sports. Boudreau treasured the opportunity to co-author children’s books that had the power to instill God’s values in the day-to-day lives of families, including her own.

Boudreau is an artist, muralist and an art teacher at Myrtle Grove Christian School. She has illustrated both The Spirit in Baseball and The Spirit in Football, along with a third book, How Bernie Madoff Saved My Life by Valorie Stackpole. She is married to Mark Boudreau, and they are blessed with three wonderfully athletic girls—Lauren is a cheerleader, Julia is a skater and Katherine is a tennis player. She and her family reside in Wilmington, NC.

Visit the author and illustrator's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Sometimes, when we think about little league sports, the first thing that comes to mind are pushy coaches and over-competitive parents. However, there are many positive character qualities that children can develop while playing team sports. Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau help to instill these virtues in their two books, The Spirit in Baseball and The Spirit in Football. Their books are based on the fruits of the Spirit as seen in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”


The Spirit in Baseball applies the fruits of the Spirit to each aspect of playing the game of baseball, such as:

I LOVE my teammates. They are my friends. We spend a lot of time in the dugout together!

I am PATIENT and happy to wait until it is my turn to bat.

I do my best to be GOOD to others. I congratulate the other team if they win the game.

Each of the fruits is introduced by a Scripture verse, followed by the application. The colorful illustrations will draw in young readers, and a tiny fruit has been hidden on every page for the children to seek out. The book also includes words of encouragement from Kathryn’s husband, Trot Nixon, a 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series champion. The Spanish translation, El Espiritu en Beisbol, is also available.


The Spirit in Football focuses on the same virtues and format, but applies the fruits of the Spirit to football. Some examples include:

The fans cheered with excitement and JOY as our team scored the first touchdown of the game.

If we are upset about a penalty, instead of acting out in anger, God calls us to react with GENTLENESS and respect.

We must show SELF-CONTROL by not losing our temper when we are tackled aggressively by the other team.

The Spirit in Football includes a forward by Matt Hasselbeck, NFL quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, encouraging children that “drive and competitiveness should never come before obeying the rules and being a good sport.”

Both books are great gifts for little league teams or any child who participates in sports. The books include a page for autographs, so parents can buy a copy for every team member and the children can sign each other’s books as a keepsake for years to come. The Spirit in Baseball and The Spirit in Football provide a practical way for any parent or coach to apply the fruits of the Spirit in the everyday lives of their children.



Product Details:

The Spirit in Baseball:

List Price: $10.00
Hardcover
Publisher: Cross Training Publishing (2008)
ISBN-10: 1450776256
ISBN-13: 978-1450776257

The Spirit in Football:

List Price: $10.00
Hardcover
Publisher: The Spirit in Sports (2010)
ISBN-10: 0615386695
ISBN-13: 978-0615386690

AND NOW...THE FIRST FEW PAGES (Click on images to see them better):

The Spirit in Baseball:








The Spirit in Football:









Monday, June 27, 2011

A look at how God will change your life

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:


Let God Change Your Life

David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Best-selling author Greg Laurie (Gold Medallion winner for The Upside-Down Church, Lost Boy, and more) is senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, one of the largest churches in America. Founder of the Harvest Crusade, Laurie’s nationally syndicated radio program, A New Beginning, is broadcast on more than 500 radio outlets around the world. Along with his work at Harvest Ministries, Laurie serves on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, among others.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The first-century believers who followed Jesus Christ were men and women who turned their worlds upside down to follow the Messiah, and they lived the Christian life as Jesus presented it to them personally. They didn’t have the luxury of a passive and lukewarm existence. Instead, they had to draw clear lines in the sand about what following Christ really looked like. The good news is that, even in our current culture, we too can participate in this kind of lifestyle.

In Let God Change Your Life: How to Know and Follow Jesus, evangelist Greg Laurie describes the factors that impact true life change in clear, practical, and thoroughly biblical terms. His conclusions will challenge Christians to trade in their passive preconceptions about God for an active faith that reflects the image of Christ. A call to shed the skin of cultural Christianity, Let God Change Your Life details the transformation that occurs when we take what Christ really said and live as if His words were actually true.

What we often perceive as the Christian life is, in many ways, not what the Bible teaches. Imagine what it would have been like to be a follower of Jesus; first-century Christians walked away from their old lives just to be where He was. What they learned, sitting at His feet, was discipleship. And when His work on earth was done, first-century Christians took His words and example and spread out, teaching the gospel to everyone.

We need to ask ourselves whether we are living the Christian life as Jesus meant for us to live it. Are our lives challenging? Exciting? Do they have purpose and direction? Or do we find ourselves depressed and afraid? If your Christian experience is dull, unfulfilling, or boring, then it’s time to seriously examine the statements of Jesus regarding discipleship. What you’ll find is that the call of Christ on your life was never meant to be half-hearted and partially powerful. The natural outworking of a Christ-transformed life is a vibrant and revolutionary desire to know God, learn His ways, and lead others to Him.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702073
ISBN-13: 978-1434702074

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


GOD’S CURE FOR

HEAR T TROUBLE

Have you ever felt so stressed out that it seemed like everything was going wrong—all at once? Then, when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, they did? Or, let me put it another way: Do you have kids? And more specifically, do you have teenagers? If so, you know what I’m talking about.


One of the downsides of the information age, in which we have our iPhones, BlackBerrys, Treos, and other devices that can send and receive the latest data, is that we are constantly barraged by information. This information gives us even more to stress out about. And stress is serious stuff. Studies have suggested that high levels of stress can lead to obesity and trigger a raft of diseases, from heart attacks to ulcers. Depression, nervous breakdowns, and even cancer can be stress related. In the United States, up to 90 percent of visits to physicians may be triggered by a stress related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


We all stress out about the many frightening things in our world today. Since 9/11, there are certain fears all Americans share. A March 2005 Associated Press article stated, “Though the Soviet Union is gone, the nuclear fears that fueled the Cold War haven’t disappeared. Most Americans think nuclear weapons are so dangerous that no country should have them.”


North Korea claims to possess nuclear weapons and to be manufacturing more. Iran is widely believed to be within months of developing such weapons. And lurking in the background is the threat that worries U.S. officials the most: the desire on the part of terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons. Fifty-three percent of Americans think a nuclear attack by terrorists is at least somewhat likely.


That brings us stress, worry, and fear.


You may know someone who has a fear of heights, small spaces, or flying. But according to a Time magazine cover article on the topic of fear, people have phobias for just about everything imaginable.

According to the article, over fifty million people in the U.S. have some kind of fear or phobia. Some are pretty unusual, if not slightly humorous. For example, there is kathisophobia, the fear of sitting; ablutophobia, the fear of bathing; dentophobia, the fear of dentists; allodoxaphobia, the fear of opinions; and cyclophobia, the fear of bicycles.

And they get even weirder. There is alektorophobia, the fear of chickens; anuptaphobia, the fear of staying single; arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth; automatonophobia, the fear of ventriloquist dummies; ecclesiophobia, the fear of church; ouranophobia, the fear of heaven; and peladophobia, the the fear of baldness and/or bald people.



Finally, there is my personal favorite: phobophobia, which is the fear of phobias.


Perhaps your life is filled with fear, worry, and intense stress of some kind right now. Without a doubt, life is certainly filled with troubles. The book of Job tells us, “Man is born to trouble” (Job 5:7).

Disappointment is a trouble, and in life there are many disappointments. We are disappointed with ourselves, because we are not always what we want to be. We want to be strong, but we are weak. We want to be successful, yet we experience many failures. We want to be loved, but people are often indifferent toward us.


Circumstances can also be a source of trouble: the loss of a job, relationship issues, events not going the way we want them to, or even uncertainty about the future. All these things can cause us stress and fear.

But my intention here is not to add to your stress. Instead, I want to share with you the words of Jesus to a stressed-out, agitated people.


This is God’s cure for heart trouble:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in

God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are

many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told

you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go

and prepare a place for you, I will come again and

receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you

may be also. And where I go you know, and the

way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we

do not know where You are going, and how can we

know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way,

the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father

except through Me.” (John 14:1–6)


When Jesus spoke these words, His disciples were afraid.


He had just revealed that Judas Iscariot would betray Him, and that Simon Peter would deny Him. Then He dropped the bombshell: He was going to leave them! They didn’t understand that He would die on the cross for them and that He would soon live in their hearts. They only heard the part about Him leaving.


And that caused stress, worry, and fear. So the phrase He utters, let not your heart be troubled, in verse 1 could be translated, “Don’t be agitated, disturbed, or thrown into confusion.” Or, “Don’t let your heart shudder!” Or even more casually, “Relax!” Troubled is a strong word. Jesus told the disciples, in light of the imminent cross, “It may look like your world is falling apart and that darkness will overtake you, but don’t let your heart be troubled!” Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Mull over your problems a bit.” Instead, He said, “Don’t be troubled.” And then He laid out three reasons why.

As Christians, regardless of what cause we may have to be troubled, there is greater cause not to be.


This brings us to God’s first cure for heart trouble: His Word is true. Jesus said, “Believe also in Me” (John 14:1). In the original Greek, this is a command. Jesus tells them, “Believe that I know what I’m doing here! My Word is true. You will see that in time.”


God has given us a user’s manual for life called the Bible. Now, I don’t know about you, but I hate to read user’s manuals. This is a problem, because I also love electronic gadgets. If you’re like me, you try out your gadgets first and read the directions later (and usually end up doing the first thing the user’s manual told you not to do!).

While many products come with user’s manuals, some products also come with warning labels. Some warning labels are helpful, others seem just plain ridiculous. But we all know those ridiculous labels are there because someone, somewhere, did what the label warns you not to do.

Consider these goofy but real warning labels. A cardboard sunshade for windshields had this warning: “Do not drive with sun shield in place.” This warning came with a hair dryer: “Do not use while sleeping.” An electric rotary tool included the caution, “This product not intended for use as a dental drill.” A warning on a bathroom heater stated, “This product is not to be used in bathrooms.” A manual for a microwave oven contained this warning: “Do not use for drying pets.” This statement was found on a box of rat poison: “Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.” A warning label on children’s cough medicine cautions, “Do not drive or operate machinery.” A string of Christmas lights was intended “For indoor or outdoor use only.” A child-sized Superman costume came with this warning: “Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.” A sign at a railroad station declared, “Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted.” A shipment of hammers came with the notice, “May be harmful if swallowed.” And a bottle of sleeping pills forewarned, “May cause drowsiness.”


Think of the people who tried to blow dry their hair while they were asleep, swallow a hammer, or fly because they wore S on their chests. If only they had read the directions and warning labels first!


The same is true of life. The Bible gives us directions and warnings to guide us. In 2 Timothy 3:16–17 we read, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (NLT).

This passage reminds me of a story I heard about a young man who was graduating from college. His father hoped to give his son a new car for his graduation present. Many of the other graduates were getting new cars from their dads, so this young man wanted one too. He had even picked out the car he wanted and told his father about it.


When the day of his graduation finally arrived, his dad shocked the young man when he did not hand him car keys, but rather, a brand-new Bible. The son was so outraged that he turned and walked away, leaving his father holding the Bible. In fact, he was so bitter, he cut off all contact with his father and never spoke to him again.


When the father died, the young man went to his house to prepare for the funeral and to help get his father’s affairs in order. There, sitting on a shelf, he noticed the Bible his father had given him for his graduation years before. He blew off the dust and, with tears in his eyes, opened it for the first time. Much to his astonishment, he found an envelope tucked inside the Bible with his name on it. Inside was a cashier’s check, made out to him, for the exact price of the car he had picked out. The check was dated the day of his graduation.


His father gave him the car he wanted, but he had to open the Bible to get it. He never realized what his father had done for him, because he did not open his Bible.


As sad as that story is, we essentially do the same thing when we never open the Book our heavenly Father gave to us. Inside this book is something far more valuable than a cashier’s check. The Bible contains the words of life. In it we find the truth about how to get to heaven.

What could be more valuable than that?


God’s second cure for heart trouble is this: We are going to heaven. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). This is only true for the people who put their faith in Christ. The unbeliever does not have the promise of heaven. No matter what happens to you on this earth, it pales in comparison to this great hope.

As 2 Corinthians 4:17–18 tells us,


For our present troubles are small and won’t last

very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly

outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t

look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix

our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the

things we see now will soon be gone, but the things

we cannot see will last forever. (NLT)

Deep inside, we all long for this place we have never been. C. S. Lewis called this “the inconsolable longing.” He said, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”5 We all have a longing for heaven, whetherwe know it or not.


Heaven is waiting for the children of God; you have His word on it. And there is only one thing that God cannot do, and that is lie. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). And this is a key element of our comfort. When you have guests stay in your home, you prepare the room for them. You might know they like certain books or treats, so maybe you customize the room. You do this so that when your guests arrive, they will feel at home.


In the same way, God prepares a place for you.


I heard about an eighty-five-year-old couple who had been married for almost sixty years before they were killed in a car accident. They were in good health over the last ten years of their lives, mainly as a result of her interest in healthy food and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and a master suite, complete with a sauna and Jacuzzi. As they ooh’ed and aah’ed over their new residence, the man asked Peter how much all this would cost.


“It’s free,” Peter replied. “This is heaven.”


Next, they went outside to survey the championship golf course behind their new home. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week, the course would change, allowing members to play one of the great golf courses on earth.


The man asked, “What are the green fees?” “This is heaven,” said Peter. “You play for free!”

Then, they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the finest cuisines of the world laid out.

“How much to eat?” asked the man.

“Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven,” Peter replied, withsome exasperation. “It’s free!”

“Well, where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?” the

man asked.
“That’s the best part,” Peter replied. “You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like, and you never get fat, and you never get sick. This is heaven!”
With that, the man threw down his hat, stomped on it, and screamed wildly. Both his wife and Peter tried to calm him down, asking what was wrong.


The man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault! If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!”


I don’t believe that the description of mansions in heaven is literal in the sense of a Beverly Hills–type mansion. Rather, I think the mansions we hear spoken about in the Bible refer to the new bodies God will give to us when we get to heaven.


The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:1–2, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing” (NLT).

Our hearts should not be troubled because His Word is true and we are going to heaven. God’s final cure for heart trouble is this: He is coming back for us. We read in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” In our fallen world, we find relief for our troubled hearts in the promise that Jesus will come back to receive us unto Himself.


When General Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines in the early months of World War II, he fled Corregidor in apparent defeat. Upon reaching Australia, he sent back the now-famous declaration, “I shall return!” And he kept his promise. Three years later, he stood on Philippine soil and made his second historic statement, “I have returned!”


Jesus told us that He will come again, and someday, in the nottoo- distant future, He will set foot on planet earth once again and say, “I have returned.”


And it may be sooner than we think. The Lord Jesus will not merely send for us, but will come in person to escort us to HisFather’s house.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 we read,

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven

with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and

with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ

will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain

shall be caught up together with them in the clouds

to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always

be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another

with these words.


Notice that Jesus does not say that He will take us to Himself, rather He will “receive us” (John 14:3). It is not something that He will do against our will. He will return for those who are watching and waiting. Not just the place, heaven, but the person, Jesus, will be ours!

These three reasons, or three cures for heart trouble, that Jesus offered can comfort and strengthen you:

1. His Word is true.

2. We are going to heaven.

3. He is coming back for us.


These promises were made only to the children of God who have received Christ.


Jesus revealed these truths to His disciples with this somewhat mysterious statement: “‘And where I go you know, and the way you know’” (John 14:4). I think Jesus wanted them to ask what He meant. But Thomas was the only one bold enough to do so.


Thomas has been given the title “Doubting Thomas,” but he was really more of a skeptic. The doubter doubts, even when the facts are clear, while the skeptic looks carefully, wanting to see the truth for himself or herself. Thomas wasn’t one to let others do his thinking for him. He behaved more like “Honest Thomas” when he said, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).


It seems to me that the disciples acted as though they understood when they did not. Thomas was honest enough to speak out and say, “But I don’t know where You are going!”


Aren’t you glad Thomas said that? Thomas didn’t understand and said so, causing Jesus to utter this incredible statement, one of His most famous and profound statements in all of Scripture. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas, but rather took his question as an opportunity to expand His revelation.


Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).


This statement is one of the most, if not the most, controversial aspects of our faith. By believing this, we are saying that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. The majority of Americans today do not hold this belief.


But if you believe the words of Jesus and think and act biblically, then you must believe that Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross is the reason you will get to heaven.


As Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” And Acts 4:12 tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Then in 1 Timothy 2:5 we read, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” “But that is being so narrow-minded!” some would say. “As long as people are sincere in their beliefs, they can follow any path they want.”


What would you think of an airline pilot who announced just before takeoff, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to flight 293 bound for Honolulu. Our cruising altitude today will be thirty-two thousand feet, and we will be showing an in-flight movie. By the way, I am not sure about this whole fuel thing. I see the gauge is indicating that we don’t have enough fuel to reach our destination. But I feel good about this, so don’t panic.


“Also, I am not really using our navigation devices or any maps today, because I feel that is too narrow a mind-set. We’ll just flow with it, because after all, all roads lead to Hawaii. “One last thing, folks. Don’t worry, because I’m very sincere!”


All I would want to know at that point is, “How can I get off this plane? There is a psycho in the cockpit.” Of course, we know it is serious business to pilot a plane. Yet how much more serious is our eternal destiny?


God has the cure for your heart trouble. He has the answer to all your questions. He is the way for you to get to heaven. So, what do you need to do to know with certainty that you’re going there?


First, realize that you are a sinner. Every one of us has broken God’s commandments. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The Greek word translated as sin means “to fall short of a standard” or “to miss the mark.” We have all fallen short of God’s standards, because the Bible says, “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Who is perfect? Not one of us.


It also means no more excuses. Stop blaming your parents, addictive behavior, or someone or something else. Like one man in the Bible, you need to say, “God, be merciful to me!” (Luke 18:13).


Second, recognize that Jesus died on the cross for you. When the movie The Passion of the Christ was released, there was considerable controversy over who was responsible for the death of Jesus. Newsweek

magazine ran a cover article entitled “Who Killed Jesus?” The debate raged. Who was really responsible? Do we put the blame on the Romans? Do we put the blame on the Jewish people? I thought the debate was absurd, because I will tell you who killed Jesus: I did. You did. Our sins did. And more to the point, Jesus did not go to the cross against His will. He willingly went, because there was no other way to satisfy the demands of a righteous God, whom we offended. Nails did not hold Jesus to the cross of Calvary. Love did—love for you and love for me.


Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). No one forced Him to go to that cross. Christ willingly died for our sins.


Third, repent of your sin. The Bible says that God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 NIV). This is missing in many people’s so-called conversions. It is not enough to be sorry for doing something wrong. We must also be sorry enough to change our ways.


So if you want to get right with God, let go of your sins. You need to be willing to follow Him and do what He has called you to do.

Fourth, receive Christ into your life. Salvation comes not just by believing that He is the Son of God, but by receiving Him into your life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). And John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” You see, there has to come a moment when you say, “Lord, forgive me of my sin. Come into my life.” I can’t do that for you. Another Christian can’t do that for you. You have to say, “Lord, I need Your forgiveness.” You must receive Him.


Fifth, do it publicly. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). But He also said, “Whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). The point is this: If you want to be a true follower of Jesus, you need to do it in a public way.


Sixth, do it now. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2), reflecting the earlier command, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6).


The Lord is here with us right now. He is calling us to Himself. There are some of you who need to get right with God, and I am going to give you an opportunity to do that as we continue. There are some of you who have fallen away from the Lord and need to come back to Him. Later, I will give you an opportunity to return to Christ, if you haven’t already.


Permission line: ©2011 Greg Laurie. Let God Change Your Life published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All right reserved.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A look inside Young and In Love


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:

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri, and the co-founder of Two Ignite, a local church movement created to strengthen marriage through adventure. He has co-authored four books with Dr. Gary Smalley: The Language of Sex, From Anger to Intimacy, As Long As We Both Shall Live, and Great Parents, Lousy Lovers. He is a speaker with the Smalley Relationship Center, speaking on college campuses and at marriage conferences while working with Smalley on projects such as The DNA of Relationships, Your Relationship with God, Food and Love and their latest work called I Promise, which is a partnership with Purpose Driven Ministries. As a regular guest on Focus on the Family, Life Today and Moody Radio, Cunningham enjoys teaching on marriage and family straight from Scripture. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary.

Having met his wife Amy on a blind date at Liberty University, Cunningham determined to marry her that night. Although he didn’t ask her then, she said “yes” to his proposal one year later. Now married for 15 years, they both love taking road trips and boating on Table Rock Lake with their children, Corynn and Carson, near their Branson, MO home.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Early marriage might not be a problem; instead, it might just be a solution. In Young and in Love: Challenging the Unnecessary Delay of Marriage, Pastor Ted Cunningham suggests that early marriage is not as harmful as many believe and even offers it as the solution to staying sexually pure. He guides young adults through the arguments against early marriage and then reveals the secrets to creating a healthy, successful and life-long relationship in early adulthood.

Over the last century, statistics show that the average age for marriage is increasing and many couples are choosing not to marry at all. According to Cunningham, the message being taught is to “delay marriage, be independent, finish college, build your career, save up your money and have sex outside of marriage.” Couples are being told to wait until they have it all figured out, but they are paying the price of their purity with this delay.


Cunningham believes that young love should be celebrated, even promoted. Early marriages can be God’s will and often provide the key to sexual purity. When young adults fall in love, they develop intense desires to be with one another emotionally, relationally and, yes, sexually. He validates this early relationship and chases the foxes that seek to delay or destroy the bud before it can turn into a blossoming marriage (Song of Solomon 2:15). He praises this budding love, calling family and friends to recognize it with a wedding, and challenges all unnecessary delays to marrying in one’s early twenties.

Explaining where the arguments against young marriage often go wrong, Cunningham offers wisdom on how to know if you are making the right choice including the Four C’s: Character, Chemistry, Competency and Calling. He’ll help readers understand what it takes to be ready for marriage. And along the way he’ll show that the answer to staying pure might be to prepare for marriage. Because it’s often easier to say “Let’s wait” when “I do” isn’t so far away.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781404479
ISBN-13: 978-0781404471

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chase the Foxes

Catch for us the foxes.

the little foxes that ruin the vineyards ,

our vineyards that are in bloom.

—Song of Songs 2 : 1 5


I am a promarriage pastor. I believe God created marriage to be enjoyed between a man and woman for a lifetime. The only part of creation that God declared as “not good” was man’s singleness, and throughout Scripture marriage is normative, while singleness is the exception. So young men need to start approaching young women, falling in love, and getting married—it’s biblical. I believe Satan has duped our culture into believing the lie that says, “Marriage is the problem, not man.” He has convinced us that one of the best ways to prosper in life is to abstain from marriage or at least delay it as long as possible.

Young people have fallen for the lie. Delay marriage, be independent, finish college, build your career, save up your money, and have sex outside of marriage. You’ve been told to wait until you have it all figured out and have found someone who has done the same. That’s why you keep hearing the words, “You’re too young.”

I believe that young age is an unnecessary delay of marriage. If you and your fiancé(e) walked into our church today, with budding love in your hearts, we would rejoice with you, even if you were only twenty years old. We would walk you through biblical qualifications for marriage, and if you were ready, we’d give you the pastoral nod. Then we would set a date and throw a raging party.
Once upon a time, a single Shullamite woman desired the love of a shepherd king. Her desire was intensely sexual when she shared,

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—

for your love is more delightful than wine.

Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;

your name is like perfume poured out.

No wonder the maidens love you!

Take me away with you—let us hurry!

Let the king bring me into his chambers. (Song

1:2–4)
Have you experienced such love, and if so, how old were you? Do you have an intense desire to be with that person forever? Do you feel God could be knitting the two of you together? Now, have you ever been invalidated in that love by a friend or family member? Has anyone ever told you, “You’ll get over it,” “There are lots of options,” “You don’t know what you need,” or “There’s time for that later”?

I want to validate your love, help you discern whether God is knitting your hearts together, and then encourage you not to let age stop you. If your parents are listening in, I hope they hear my challenge to you. Remember, you are called to honor Mom and Dad. They in turn must guard their hearts from becoming foxes and destroying the buds of your young love. Solomon pictured young marriage as a blossoming vineyard (Song 2:15). There are many foxes that seek to destroy the bud before it can bloom. Some foxes are intentional, and some are not. Some are vicious, while some are simply misinformed.
My daughter, Corynn, is seven years old, and she is my princess. I write this book to give myself plenty of time to prepare her, her mom, and her future husband. But I do not want to be an overreacting, overprotective parent. Today we use the terms hovering and helicopter to describe parents who give their children no room to breathe, suppressing their emotions. One day, years from now, Corynn will come home and tell me she has met the man she will marry. At that moment, my plan is to pause, take a breath, load a small firearm, and praise what God may be forming in them.

Last year Corynn started kindergarten. The best part of my day was dropping her off at school each morning at eight thirty. The second best part of my day was picking her up from school in the afternoon. I’ll never forget the day she told me about a little boy we’ll call “Jason.”

“He likes me, Dad,” she said.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yep, and I think I like him,” she said with one eye closed and head slightly tilted, waiting for my response.

I’d prepared for this day. I told myself I would validate her and not overreact. Too many parents freak out at the signs of young love, and I was not going to be one of them. I would avoid statements like “You’re too young!” “What! You don’t need to have a boyfriend at this age!” “You can’t like him!” or “Boys are evil!”

What we’re thinking and want to say is, “I wish you didn’t have these feelings at such an early age,” “Stop feeling that way,” or “You’ll get over it and I hope pretty quick!” I rebuke all of those responses in the name of Jesus. Send them back to the pit where they belong!

Corynn was not prepared for my response.

“Well, honey, do you think he is the one?” I asked her.

“DAD!” was her reply.
I was prepared to go further. Inspired by my friend Greg Smalley, I was ready to help her work on her first family budget and start looking for their first place. Greg allowed his elementary-school-aged daughter to go so far as to plan where she and her boyfriend would live after they wed, how they would make a living, and even set the date of the wedding. But once they crunched the numbers, it did not seem feasible. He’s a great dad.

I’m sure you have a young-love story. It may be the story you are writing at this very moment. You may be asking, “Have I found the right one?” “How long should we date before talking marriage?” “Will my parents approve?” “What will I be missing out on if I marry now?” “Do I need some time to discover more of life on my own?” “Will my friends think I’m insecure for marrying so young?” “Maybe some will think I fear being alone?” Great questions! A quick Internet search can give you both the good and bad answers to all of those questions.

I hope to give you answers that are first and foremost biblical and Christ honoring. However, the answers you find in the Scriptures are the complete opposite of what you’ll find through Google. With so many different answers out there, it’s no surprise that people are uncertain and fearful of marriage.
Before we answer the obvious questions, let’s get one thing out on the table: Marrying young is not the problem. Love is from our Lord. Being in love is a blessing. If God is arousing love in you for another and you plan to get married, we should be praising what He is doing, not telling you to wait unnecessarily.
Contrary to what you may have been told, marriage is not the reason people divorce. While I am an advocate for marrying young, I’m an even bigger advocate for helping you grow up. Experts call it “eradicating prolonged adolescence.” And the Young and in Love message screams, “Take personal responsibility for your life!” Entering adulthood doesn’t require that you wait until you’re twenty five years old, the age some researchers now believe is the milestone for adulthood. I don’t want that for you because frankly it’s unnecessary. Satan wants you to stay a little boy or girl because it leads you to focus on yourself and results in prolonged adolescence. But God wants you to press on to maturity.

I am blessed that I met my wife, Amy, at Liberty University, a school that was over-the-top pro-love and pro-dating. The founder of Liberty, Dr. Jerry Falwell, taught in chapel every Wednesday and regularly encouraged us not to kiss dating good-bye but to say hello and start asking girls out. Dr. Falwell went so far with this idea that he would often say, “If you’re interested in a girl on this campus and she is dating someone else, but not yet engaged, then by all means ask her out.” On one occasion he even said, “If the guy she is dating isn’t committed enough to put a ring on her finger, he doesn’t deserve her. Ask her out!” Thank You, Jesus, and thank you, Jerry. Jerry was not only an advocate for young marriage; he believed in a competitive dating scene.

So I did exactly as I was told!
Amy was twenty when we met, and I was twenty-one. She was in a serious relationship with a young ministry major. I knew it would be a challenge, but I tried to play it smooth. Now, this next part may cause you to stop reading and throw the book away, and I am okay with that. I didn’t have the guts to ask her out myself, so I had my friend Austin Deloach set it up.
Austin was the senior-class president, and he didn’t seem to enjoy the details that came with his office. I was the junior-class president, and I thrived on the organization and administration that came with mine. So in the spring of 1995, Austin asked me what he could do to help with the junior-senior cruise.
“Get me a date for the cruise with Amy Freitag,” I said to him. “Will do,” he said. And that was that. He set me up on a blind date with Amy on Smith Mountain Lake outside of Lynchburg, Virginia.

That night I decided she was the one. Later, I told Austin that I would one day ask Amy to marry me, and I did. Twelve months later, in Fremont, Nebraska, after I asked for permission from Amy’s dad, I presented Amy with a marquise-cut diamond ring. The karat size is an unnecessary detail, but keep in mind, I’d just graduated college. We were married on October 19, 1996. She was twenty-one, and I was twenty-two.

Never once did we think we were too young. Unprepared? Yes. Too young? No. Our parents blessed it. So did both of our churches. The idea that we needed to wait another five or even seven years, get good jobs, learn to be independent, and then settle down never once crossed our minds. For us, marriage was a milestone at the front end of adulthood, not the back end, and we genuinely looked forward to marriage and figuring out our lives together.
Shannon Fox, a marriage and family therapist and mom to my son’s best friend, recently wrote a book called Last One Down the Aisle Wins. In her book, Shannon encourages young people to wait until at least age twenty-five before they marry. In her book, she writes:

What if we told you that we know the key to more

than doubling your chances of staying married? And

what if we told you that this key was something you

can use right now, whether you’re single without

a prospect in sight, in a serious relationship, or

engaged to the love of your life and knee-deep in

Brides magazines? How much would it be worth

to you? Would it be worth five easy payments of

$29.99 plus shipping and handling? Or how about

just the price of this book?

Here’s the key: Don’t marry young. In fact,

don’t get married until you’re thirty. According

to the National Center for Health Statistics, your

chances of staying married more than double if you

get married after the age of twenty-five.1

Shannon is not alone in her advocacy for delayed marriage. Campus pastors are challenging students to neglect young budding love in order to focus on their relationship with Christ. Parents push the delay with bribes and the “you’ve got your whole life ahead of you” argument. Friends encourage the delay for fear of losing their buddies. Churches teach the delay as an antidote to divorce. Young lovers delay marriage in order to give cohabitation a shot. Young women delay in hopes of finding the perfect guy. Young men delay to give themselves a few more years to party and “sow their wild oats.” Researchers give us their studies that show the delay is best for your marital longevity and happiness.
I hate the delay, and I firmly believe it is unnecessary. My heart is to validate young love and provide a framework to make sure you are ready and the one you have chosen is wedable. Ultimately, Young and in Love honors marriage and encourages marriages in the making. This is not another purity book teaching you how to suppress any and all feelings of love. No way! I want you to express your love and then enjoy marriage.

So if you kissed dating good-bye, it’s time to say hello! If you have kept true love waiting, I tell you now, wait no more. Get married!

The Young and in Love message comes with a warning label. You are reading Young and in Love, not Young and Looking for Love or Young and Not Looking for Love. Reader discretion is advised.
This book is not for the intentional single, the guy or gal who has decided not to marry. You will get extremely frustrated with this book. This is not a dating book covering the how-tos of dating or courting.

This is not a book to give to your single friends and say, “Read this, find someone, and get married.”
This is not a book about cohabitation.
This is not a book about the woes of society.

This book will not help you find a soul mate.

This book is not for the single person who wants to be married but can’t find someone.
This is not an abstinence book with a purity message for your youth group.

This book is not intended to teach singles how to be content and productive while they wait patiently for God to send them the right person.

Then who is it for?

This book is for the single man or woman who is in love and wants to get married but is being told by everyone around him or her, “You’re too young!” This book is for the person in his or her late teens or early twenties who needs to say “so long” to prolonged adolescence. If you are in love but the one you want to marry feels irresponsible marrying young, then I hope you both will be equipped to chase the foxes and avoid unnecessary delay.
This book is a primer for your premarital counseling. However, I won’t make you sit in a pastor’s office, burdening you with budgets, personality tests, or wedding planning. I want to challenge you to embrace maturity and adulthood at an early age. This book honors Scripture. The Bible honors marriage, prepares us to be adults, and keeps family and friends from becoming foxes. I am a pastor. My heart is to bless your young love, correct, rebuke, and teach through Scripture. My daughter, Corynn, is seven years old, and my son, Carson, is five. She is my princess, and he is my mighty warrior. I advocate for young marriage with both of them in mind, and I do not take that lightly.

And finally, in all honesty, I hope this book starts a movement that honors marriage, eradicates prolonged adolescence, embraces adulthood, and builds lifelong committed marriages.
While there are many valid reasons to delay marriage, your age should not be on that list. Marriages fall apart for all sorts of reasons: unmet expectations, unrealistic expectations, buying into the “soul mate” myth, prolonged adolescence, lack of commitment, and a culture that devalues marriage. But to say those all go away with age is a fallacy. The issue is maturity, not age.
A Special Note to the Frustrated Female Reader

The purpose of this book is to help couples chase away the foxes of young love. Perhaps many single readers will set the book down in frustration. That is completely understandable. Several single women read this book toward the end of the writing process. Janae Bass, a young woman from our church, sent me the following message on

Facebook:

Okay, so I just finished reading your book Young

and in Love. I really liked it a lot, and I agree that

to be “young and in love” would be great. I know

that you said in the book and I’ve heard you say

lots of times at church that men should be men

and ask girls out. So my question is, what do you

suggest for single girls in the meantime? I’m not a

hermit; I’m involved at church and in the community.

I don’t sit in my apartment at night and wait

for Prince Charming to knock on the door—but

still no men.… If you have any advice for us single

women while we wait for men to be men, please let

me know.

When I read this message to my wife, she said, “Girls need to learn how to appropriately flirt.” Her answer did not surprise me.

I get the frustration of waiting for men to initiate. I encouraged the young woman from our church to express her interest. And no, I do not consider showing interest and chasing the same thing. Flirting says, “I’m interested and would like to explore the possibilities.”Chasing says, “I want you and will pursue you.” Big difference! Showing and expressing interest in a guy can be extremely difficult for young women who have been raised to be independent and to allow men to take the lead. You may fear that flirting communicates desperation, weakness, or too much strength.

I believe God can use you in the maturing process of young men. He used Amy in my life to solidify my calling and vocation. It is absolutely permissible for you to begin spending time with a guy, whether you call that dating or something else, and expressing your interest. Don’t allow your frustration over the immaturity of young men to turn your heart cold, aloof, or distant to the prospects of marriage.

Check out www.youngandinlove.com for video podcasts,

articles, and resources to help you prepare for marriage.

Young and in Love Marriage Journal
What are your beliefs about marriage and singleness?

If you are young and in love, when did you know this was the guy/gal you wanted to marry?
What are several good reasons to delay marriage?

What are several bad reasons to delay marriage?



Fox Alerts

Throughout this book, “foxes” are not hot chicks. Foxes are individuals, groups, or things that seek to destroy or delay your blossoming marriage. I have included twenty-four fox alerts in this book. As a pastor, my role is that of shepherd and teacher, and in that role, I will help you identify and protect yourself from these savage beasts. My staff is in hand, and I am ready to go!

©2011 Ted Cunningham. Young and In Love published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All right reserved.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A preview of The Blackberry Bush

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:

Summerside Press (June 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


David Housholder is a philosophical-spiritual influencer, a sponsored snowboarder and a surfing instructor who dreams of making this world a better place. As the senior pastor at Robinwood Church, an indie warehouse church near the beach in California, he can often be found preaching verse by verse in his bare feet. With his increasing desire to change the world around him, he is the director for several non-profit organizations. Housholder loves to travel and is an international conference speaker. He has spoken to groups in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Canada and London and has also been involved with mission trips. He is especially energized by evangelistic work among Muslims.

Housholder is an avid reader and carries an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He received his undergraduate degree from Pacific Lutheran University and went on to receive his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Then he spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Universität-Bonn in Germany. Housholder fluently speaks three languages, English, Dutch and German, and enjoys reading biblical Greek and Hebrew.

Housholder and his wife, Wendy, have one grown son, Lars. They reside in Huntington Beach, California. Some of his hobbies include photography and tinkering on his 1971 VW bug.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The Blackberry Bush begins with two babies, Kati and Josh, who are born on opposite sides of the world at the very moment the Berlin Wall falls. You would think that such a potent freedom metaphor would become the soundtrack for their lives, but nothing could be further from the truth. They will follow a parallel path connected by a mistake their great grandparents made years before.

Despite his flawless image, Josh, an artistic and gifted Californian skateboarder and surfer, struggles to find his true role in the world. He fears that his growing aggression will eventually break him if he can’t find a way to accept his talent and the competition that comes along with it. Kati, a German with a penchant for classic Swiss watches and attic treasure-hunting, is crushed with the disappointment of never being “enough” for anyone—especially her mother. She wonders whether she will ever find the acceptance and love she craves and become comfortable in her own skin.

Craving liberation, Kati and Josh seem destined to claim their birthright of freedom together. With the help of their loving grandparents, they will unlock the secrets of their pasts and find freedom and joy in their futures. Today, like Katie and Josh, our youth often fall into two different cultures. Josh is part of the “bro” culture which is outdoor-oriented, with sports as a focus, and generally more conservative. Whereas Kati is part of the “scene” culture which is more liberal and indoor-oriented, focusing on music. These cultures are apparent in the novel and can aid in a better understanding of the issues today’s 21st century youth are facing as well as the struggles they have in coming to faith.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1609361164
ISBN-13: 978-1609361167

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

~ Behind the Story ~

Angelo

Think for a moment. Isn’t there a splendid randomness to the way your day is coming together today?


After all, it’s not the big, dramatic things we foresee and expect that make all the difference in our lives. It’s the chance, random encounters—the subtle things that surprise us…and change the very course of our individual destinies.


The Blackberry Bush is a story about awakening to the fullness of this reality.


And you will never want to go back to sleep.


You can call me Angelo. I’ll be the one telling this story. As you and I travel together across generations and continents in a journey that will take just a few hours, you’ll discover not only the gripping stories of Kati, Josh, Walter, Nellie, and Janine but also uncover your own compelling back-story that will change you in ways you can never imagine.

And you’ll never be the same again….





PROLOGUE

1989

Berlin, Germany

Occasionally, out of nowhere, history turns on a dime in a way no one sees coming. Listen…do you hear the sound of jackhammers on dirty concrete?


“Wir sind ein Volk (We are one people)!” A large European outdoor crowd chants this over and over into the chilly November night. “Wir sind ein Volk!”


Thousands of hands hold candles high in the darkening night of Berlin. Throngs of young people with brightly colored scarves crowd the open spaces between concrete buildings. !ere are parties—with exuberant celebrants of all ages—even along the actual top of the wall. Flowers are stuffed into once-lethal Kalashnikov rises. Hope is contagious.


It’s November 9, 1989. The first sections of the Berlin Wall are removed, to mass cheers, with heavy machinery. It seems incomprehensible that a small weekly Monday prayer meeting in Pastor Magerius’s Leipzig, Germany, study grew into the pews of the Nicolai Church and eventually out into the Leipzig city square. !en today, this “Peace Prayer,” figuratively speaking, traveled up the Autobahn to Berlin and converged as an army of liberation on that iconic concrete symbol of Cold War division—with world-news cameras whirring.


Little things can make a big difference. Subtle potency. Gentle power.

“Wir sind ein Volk,” the crowd chants as one. The Berlin Wall—a filthy, gravity-based ring of rebar and concrete, tangled with barbed wire and patrolled by German shepherd attack dogs–has encircled and separated West from East for twenty-eight years. Now it is irreparably pierced.


Unthinkable. No one saw this coming.


Walls are real, you see, yet they always come down. Creation and nature never favor walls. They start to crumble, even before the mortar dries.



*

Elisabeth Hospital

Bonn, Germany

A day’s Autobahn drive from the festivities in Berlin


That same instant, a severely pregnant woman’s water breaks in the tall-windowed birthing room of the Elisabeth Hospital in Bonn, Germany.


Hours later: “Ein Mädchen (a girl)!” Een meisje, translates the exhausted mother with silently moving lips into her native Dutch. Linda, a sojourner in Germany, was born a generation ago in Holland.


Mere blocks away from the birth scene, the mighty Rhine River flows past Bonn on its way downstream to the massive industrial port city of Rotterdam, Linda’s hometown. Only a few hours away by river barge, Rotterdam, Holland, couldn’t be farther from Germany—on so many levels.

The labor has been long and brutally hard. !e father, Konrad, takes little newborn, black-haired Katarina up the elevator to the nursery. On the way up, an old woman in a wheelchair spontaneously

pronounces God’s blessing over baby “Kati” (pronounced “KAH-tee,” in the German way) with the sign of the cross. Kati focuses her glassy little eyes on the woman’s wristwatch.


Konrad is concerned about how pale Katarina is. Was her older sister, Johanna, this porcelain-skinned at birth? Perhaps it’s the thick shock of black hair that sharpens the contrast with her complexion. How will Kati and Johanna get along? he wonders. I guess that will all

start to unfold soon, when they meet each other for the first time.


I won’t be able to protect her, thinks Konrad. Parental anxiety starts creeping up his spine in ways it never did when Johanna, now two, was born.


Perhaps little Kati will need that elevator blessing, he muses uncomfortably.


*

Zarzamora, California

1989

Another Woman With Rotterdam Bloodlines, across the planet in sunny Zarzamora, California, is giving birth at the very same moment (although earlier in the day because of the time difference) to a boy. !e tiny $at-roofed hospital up in the mountains of the Los Padres forest is the port of entry for little baby Joshua.


Janine smiles up at husband, Michael, and takes a first look at Josh, expecting, for whatever reason, to see a pale baby girl. Genuinely surprised—after all, this is in the days before ultrasound was universal—to see a vibrant, reddish-hued boy, she suppresses a giggle of delight, a catharsis of joy after so many miscarriages. What fun they will have together! Will he lighten up her melancholy

disposition, perhaps?


Janine sighs in relief as she confirms to herself, We’re not going to have to take care of him much. He’s going to be okay. I’m sure of it. I can tell.


The trumpets of the practicing local high school marching band waft through the open windows as German-born father Michael washes his son off in the sink of the delivery room. The piercing eyes of baby Josh, almost white-blue, glisten in the overhead lights. They stop to focus on Michael for a fleeting minute, then zero in on some yet unseen reality behind his father’s shoulder.


Shouldn’t I be saying some ancient German words, a blessing or something, while I’m doing this? Michael asks himself.


But he can’t think of any. He is adrift in the flowing current of this new experience.


The marching band plays on outside. Are they really circling the hospital, or does it just sound like that? the new father thinks… .



~ Behind the Story ~

Angelo
I can watch both births as I pick and eat blackberries from the thicket back in rainy Bonn. I smile. Joshua looks so happy to be here. He radiates physical warmth and doesn’t seem to need his blanket. He welcomes the new climate.


But Kati doesn’t like the cold. There’s almost a 30-degree (Fahrenheit) difference in ambient temperature from the womb to the room, and I see her struggle.


And then there’s the brand-new “breathing” thing. How can breathing go from unnecessary to essential in a few seconds? Yet some days we don’t even think about breathing, not even once. Amazing. Joshua’s American birth certificate reads 11-09-1989. Kati’s European one reads 09-11-1989.

How much of their lives are preprogrammed? How much of their minds will be stamped with the thoughts of others? Is life a roll of the dice, or is it a script we just read out to the end? Don’t we all

wonder that same thing sometimes?


As Kati and Joshua start to adjust to life outside the womb, the Berlin Wall continues to crumble to shouts of joy.


I write the names Linda and Konrad in Germany, Janine and Michael in California on the inside of the book cover I’m holding. I always do that, so I don’t get confused about who’s who as I travel

through their stories.


Both fathers, Konrad and Michael, have roots in the Germany that was rebuilding after World War II. Both are self-doubting, somewhat weak Rheinlanders married to practical, sober, very Protestant Dutch women.


Katarina and Joshua are on parallel paths. But only perfectly parallel paths never meet as they stretch into infinity. And since these paths, like ours, aren’t perfect…well, you can guess what might happen in this story.


Kati and Josh, born on one of the greatest days of freedom for all human kind, will grow up snared in the blackberry bush…like you.


But if you dare to engage their story at a heart level, a fresh new freedom might just be birthed in you.


So why not listen to that subtle twitter of conception inside your soul? !e one that says, !is year something exciting is going to happen that I can’t anticipate. And I’ll never be the same….




PART ONE
1999

Oberwinter am Rhein, Germany

Just south of Bonn


Kati

I love looking out our back picture window at the rolling farms. I’m watching for Opa, my dear grandfather Harald, who said he’d be home by 4 p.m. We live at the top of the road that winds uphill from the ancient Rhine River town of Oberwinter, just upstream from Bonn. That’s how everybody here writes it, but they say “Ova-venta.” I walk up and down the sidewalk along the switchback road almost every day.


Our home is perched at the top of the hill with the front of the house facing the street that skirts the skyline of the ridge and the back looking away from the river, out at the plateau of peaceful farms, which Opa says the ancient Romans probably worked.


Opa knows a lot of secrets. If he told me what he knows every day for the rest of my life, he’d never run out of things to say. But sometimes he gets sad. He never likes to talk about how things were when he was my age. His voice starts to sound shaky, and that makes me sad too. I stopped asking him about his wartime childhood a long time ago.

My watch says it’s another hour to wait. Really, it’s his watch, big on my wrist. The leather band smells like Opa. I’m very careful with it since it’s a Glashütte, which is infinitely special.


Sometimes Opa shows me his watch collection from the big mahogany box that’s a lot like Mutti’s (that’s what I call my mother) silverware holder. But the Glashütte was always my favorite, and one day he gave it to me. I’ve worn it ever since.


Mutti was angry at Opa for giving it to me. “It’s worth as much as a car!” she said. But Opa simply smiled. He never minds when people are upset with him.


Opa’s study is a magical place. In the corner is the totem pole he brought home from Alaska. !e wooden desk is covered with a sheet hands with people in suits and, right in the middle, a recent picture of me. !e books on his shelves are in English and German. He has me read aloud from the chair across the desk from his and tells me that I speak English without an accent, just as they speak it in Seattle, Washington, where he worked for a few years. We’re on our second time through Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Opa says it’s a very important book, so I believe him.


Opa is the only one who doesn’t seem worried about me. He never seems worried about anything. I can’t remember seeing him angry. Ever.


I hope he takes me out to his workshop in the shed this evening. It’s my favorite place. My big sister, Johanna, says it’s not fun for girls, but she’s wrong. Opa has hand tools and power tools, and all of them are perfectly hung and positioned. !e shed is as clean as Mutti’s kitchen.


Opa tells me that the Bible says all people have “gifts” from God and that all the gifts are open to girls as well as boys. He tells me I have the gifts of craftsmanship and interpretation. Those are big words, but they make me feel good.

We’ve made and fixed so many things together there. I have my own safety glasses. He lets me run the band saw all by myself. I can tell by looking at his eyes that he knows I’ll be safe. Mutti doesn’t have the same look in her eyes, no matter what I’m doing.


Mutti cuts my hair really short because she’s afraid it’s going to get caught in one of the power tools. I hate how it looks. She also tries, continually, to get me to eat more. She doesn’t like how skinny I am.


Papa works in Berlin. He got transferred there when the German government moved from Bonn after the Wall fell, when I was little. He comes home on the train most weekends. He works for the foreign

diplomatic service, and he told me this month that he might get transferred again soon, and that we might have to move to America. He and Mutti have been arguing a lot about it while I try to get to sleep at night.

I can tell the arguments are bad, because Mutti slips back into Dutch when she gets angry and also when she talks to me and Johanna. Anger and parenting seem to come out of the same place inside her.


Mutti, unlike Opa, loves to talk about growing up, and how wonderful everything was then. It’s fun to hear the stories—and to see her smile while she tells them. We take the train to visit her Dutch parents often. It takes only a few hours to reach Rotterdam. I love riding through Cologne, past the blackened dual-spired cathedral. I have another grandfather in Holland who is kind of funny and crabby at the same time. I only have one grandmother, because my German Oma died of cancer before I was born.


I love Rotterdam. My Dutch grandfather (my other Opa) takes me on bike rides through the tunnel, under the big river, and to my favorite place—the Hotel New York in the heart of the port. He buys

me a chocolate milk every time, and we watch the big ships come and go. He doesn’t like to talk about Germans, even though he reminds me that they built the bike tunnel and highway under the river. Every now and then someone mentions the War. I’ve always known my Dutch grandparents don’t like my father. They say it’s not because Papa’s German, but I think it is. He never comes along on our visits to Rotterdam.

Now I’m looking out the farm-facing window, still waiting for Opa. At the end of our backyard, the blackberry bushes start and wander off into the countryside in lots of directions. I could swear

they get bigger every year. I love to play back there—especially with Johanna. I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t have a few scrapes on my arms and legs from the thorns. !e farmers in the fields work so hard to raise crops, but blackberry bushes grow all by themselves without any help.


I’m getting impatient, so I enter Opa’s study to wait there. In his le" second drawer is his drawing kit. Precise instruments to make perfect circles and angles. Papa tells me Opa designed this house with that kit.


Opa lets me play with everything in his desk. Using the compass, I draw a perfect circle. !en I draw myself in it. I’ve done this so many times. But I’m older in the picture than in real life. And my hair isn’t short. But I can’t stop drawing circles with slightly different sizes. Once I caught myself drawing dozens of overlapping circles around the picture of me. I’m not smiling in any of these pictures. I think a lot when I’m drawing the circles.


To me, getting older just means harder jobs. Johanna works harder than I do, and I know I’ll have to be like her soon. She evenmakes dinner sometimes. Math problems get harder. Books lose their pictures and are more challenging to read. I learn so much better with Opa, because there’s no pressure.


My parents fight about me when they think I’m asleep. Papa was angry with Mutti because she yelled at me about my school grades. Mutti shot back with, “She has to get good grades because she’s not pretty.” My whole body froze in bed when I heard that. I’m not really sure what grades have to do with being pretty, but it’s very bad somehow. I think Papa would like to be more like Opa, but he can’t make it happen.


They don’t know how good I am at English. I speak it a lot better than they do. I have to keep from laughing when they try. There’s an American couple down in the village with a new baby, living in an

old, crooked apartment. I heard them speaking English and jumped in to their conversation. They asked me where in America I was from.

I fibbed and said, “Seattle.”


I think about America a lot. Maybe I could be a different person there.

Johanna’s pretty; even I can see that. It makes people, all kinds of people, happy to look at her, and they look at her longer than they mean to. I, on the other hand, make people nervous. Except for Opa, people don’t like to look right at me.


And everyone always wants me to do better than I am doing. They say it’s because they want the best for me. But it doesn’t feel good. The older I get, the further behind I am. I don’t have enough

friends. I haven’t finished enough homework. My room is not clean enough. I wasn’t polite enough to my parents’ guests. And the hardest of all: people don’t like me enough. It’s really hard work to get people to like you. Or maybe I’m especially easy to dislike.


Opa’s study has a big mirror on the door. Standing in front of it, I’m surprised by how white my skin is. My hair is black, and I have a big nose. Opa says that’s because most of the families in town have Roman heritage, and that I must have ended up with the local hair and nose. Opa tells me this town has been around for at least a hundred generations. We go for walks in the hills around the village, and he shows me where the Roman roads, walls, and vineyards were. How can anyone know so much?


Even better, Opa is the one person who knows me. Last week he brought me a present from Bonn. I opened up the long, little box and removed a black, elegant Pelikan fountain pen. It came with a bottle of ink.


He then pulled out a fresh new ledger. I had to laugh. Opa knows how much I hate math at school. It doesn’t feel real—like somebody got paid to think up a bunch of problems to drive kids like me crazy.

But Opa keeps telling me how important math is for real life, even if I don’t think so now.


For the rest of that afternoon, Opa taught me double-entry bookkeeping in ink. Real-life stuff I can actually use even now, when I’m nine years old, to keep track of the little money I earn and spend. He told me that reckoning in German marks was only for practice, because they were going to disappear in a few years, replaced by the euro.


He also taught me that money is magic, and that if you give a lot of it away to improve the world, you’ll always have more left over than you started with. That’s not what my teacher says about

subtraction, but I know, without a doubt, that Opa is right, as usual. He showed me his accounting books, going back to the 1940s. The numbers got bigger and bigger over the years.


“How does that work?” I asked

.

He showed me the number in a special column telling how much he gave away last year. I gasped, and my hand came to my mouth.


“That’s how,” he answered.


I asked him what I would do if I made a bookkeeping mistake with the pen.

“You won’t,” he said and smiled.


Opa believes in God. My parents are not so sure. !is confusesme all the time. Opa takes me to church on Sundays. We walk down the hill together. He and I are evangelisch—Protestant or Evangelical. It’s hard to translate the term into English. Most of our neighbors in Oberwinter are Catholic. Our stone Protestant church is very small, very old, and musty smelling. !e temperature is always cooler inside than outside. I sometimes fall asleep there on Opa’s shoulder, and he likes that.


The organist is amazing. She plays on national radio. And the organ is very old: 1722 is painted on the pipes. For the rest of my life, I’m going to make sure I can listen to organ music. My imagination

can go almost anywhere when she’s playing. After every Sunday service, the organist gives a little concert from the rear balcony where she sits. We stand, lean on the pews behind us, and watch her. We always clap when she’s done.


Johanna comes with us sometimes, but Opa says it’s important to go to church only when you want to. For whatever reason, Opa and I always want to. Maybe it’s just so we can spend Sundays together, but I know Opa would go even if I didn’t exist. It seems to help him be happy all the time and everywhere. I hope he’ll teach me this magic when I’m old enough.


I don’t understand much about what goes on in church, but I love it when they read the Bible stories for children’s worship, and the littler kids come and plop right down on my lap, as if they belong there. !is Sunday was the story about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. The German Bible says the Israelites were blowing trombones, and Opa’s English Bible says trumpets. Things like that make me think.


I hear the door.

Opa’s home.