Monday, December 22, 2008

WILD CARD! Before the Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Before the Season Ends

Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2008)


Linore Rose Burkard lives with her husband, five children, and ninety-year-old grandmother in southeastern Ohio. She homeschooled her children for ten years. Raised in New York, she graduated magna cum laude from the City University of New York (Queens College) with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature. Ms. Burkard wrote Before the Season Ends because she could not find a book like it anywhere. "There are Christian books that approach this genre," she says, "but they fall short of being a genuine Regency. I finally gave up looking and wrote the book myself." She has begun four other works of fiction in the category.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 12.99
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925511
ISBN-13: 978-0736925518


Chesterton, Hertfordshire



Something would have to be done about Ariana.

All winter Miss Ariana Forsythe, aged nineteen, had been going about the house sighing.

“Mr. Hathaway is my lot in life!”

She spoke as though the prospect of that life was a great burden to bear, but one which she had properly reconciled herself to. When her declarations met with exasperation or reproach from her family—for no one else was convinced Mr. Hathaway, the rector, was her lot—she usually responded in a perplexed manner. Hadn't they understood for an age that her calling was to wed a man of the cloth? Was there another man of God, other than their rector, available to her? No. It only stood to reason, therefore, that Mr. Hathaway was her lot in life. Their cold reception to the thought of the marriage was unfathomable.

When she was seventeen, (a perfectly respectable marrying age) she had romantic hopes about a young and brilliant assistant to the rector, one Mr. Stresham. It was shortly after meeting him, in fact, that she had formed the opinion the Almighty was calling her to marry a man of God. Mr. Stresham even had the approval of her parents. But the man took a situation in another parish without asking Ariana to accompany him as his wife. She was disappointed, but not one to give up easily, continued to speak of “the calling,” waiting in hope for another Mr. Stresham of sorts. But no man came. And now she had reached the conclusion that Mr. Hathaway--Mr. Hathaway, the rector, (approaching the age of sixty!) would have to do.

Her parents, Charles and Julia Forsythe, were sitting in their comfortably furnished morning room, Julia with a cup of tea before her, and Charles with his newspaper. A steady warmth was emanating from the hearth.

“What shall we do about Ariana?” Mrs. Forsythe, being an observant mama, had been growing in her conviction that the situation called for some action.

“What do you suggest, my dear?” Her husband reluctantly folded his paper; he knew his wife wanted a discussion of the matter and that he would get precious little reading done until she had got it.

She held up a folded piece of foolscap: the annual letter from Agatha Bentley, Charles’s sister, asking for Alberta, the eldest Forsythe daughter, for the season in London. It had arrived the day before.

Aunt Bentley was a childless wealthy widow and a hopeless socialite. For the past three years she had written annually to tell her brother and his wife why they ought to let her sponsor their eldest daughter for a London season. She owned a house in Mayfair (could anything be more respectable than that?) and knew a great deal of the big-wigs in society. She had, in fact, that most important of commodities which the Forsythes completely lacked: connexions. And as Charles’s family were her only living relatives, she was prepared--even anxious--to serve as chaperon for her niece.

Much to the lady's frustration, Julia and Charles had annually extinguished her hopes, replying to her letters graciously but with the inevitable, “We cannot countenance a separation from our child at this time,” and so on. Charles was unflinching on this point, never doubting his girls would reap a greater benefit by remaining beneath his own roof. They knew full well, moreover, that Aunt Agatha could not hope, with all her money and connexions to find as suitable a husband for their offspring as was possible right in Chesterton.

Why not? For the profound reason that Aunt Bentley had no religion whatsoever.

And yet, due to the distressing state of affairs with Ariana, Julia wished to consider her latest offer. With the letter waving in her hand she said, “I think we ought to oblige your sister this year. She must be lonely, poor thing, and besides removing Ariana from the parish, a visit to the city could prove beneficial for her education.”

Ariana’s father silently considered the matter. His eldest daughter Alberta was as good as wed, having recently accepted an offer of marriage--to no one’s surprise--from John Norledge. Ariana, his second eldest, had been irksome in regard to the rector, but to pack her off to London? Surely the situation was not so dire as to warrant such a move.

“I think there is nothing else for it,” Mrs. Forsythe said emphatically. “Ariana is determined about Mr. Hathaway and, even though we can forbid her to speak to the man, she will pine and sigh and like as not drive me to distraction!”

Taking a pipe out of his waistcoat pocket (though he never smoked), Mr. Forsythe absently rubbed the polished wood in his fingers.

“I recall other fanciful notions of our daughter’s,” he said finally, “and they slipped away in time. Recall, if you will, when she was above certain her destiny was to be a missionary--to America. That desire faded. She fancies this, she fancies that; soon she will fancy another thing entirely, and we shan’t hear another word about the ‘wonderful rector’ again.”

Mrs. Forsythe’s countenance, still attractive in her forties, became fretful.

“I grant that she has had strong…affections before. But this time, my dear, it is a complicated affection for in this case it is the heart of the ah, affected, which we must consider. It has ideas of its own.”

“Of its own?”

Mrs. Forsythe looked about the room to be certain no one else had entered. The servants were so practiced at coming and going quietly, their presence might not be marked. But no, there was only the two of them. She lowered her voice anyway.

“The rector! I do not think he intends to lose her! What could delight him more than a young, healthy wife who might fill his table with offspring?”

Mr. Forsythe shook his head.”Our rector is not the man to think only of himself; he must agree with us on the obvious unsuitability of the match.”

The rector was Thaddeus Admonicus Hathaway, of the Church in the Village Square. Mr. Hathaway was a good man. His sermons were grounded in sound religion, which meant they were based on orthodox Christian teaching. He was clever, and a popular dinner guest of the gentry, including the Forsythes. If these had not been true of him, Mr. Forsythe might have been as concerned as his wife. Knowing Mr. Hathaway, however, Charles Forsythe did not think a drastic action such as sending his daughter to the bustling metropolis of London, was necessary.

Mrs. Forsythe chose not to argue with her spouse. She would simply commit the matter to prayer. If the Almighty decided that Ariana must be removed to Agatha’s house, then He would make it clear to her husband. In her years of marriage she had discovered that God was the Great Communicator, and she had no right to try and usurp that power. Her part was to pray, sincerely and earnestly.

Mr. Forsythe gave his judgment: “I fear that rather than exerting a godly influence upon her aunt, Ariana would be drawn astray by the ungodliness of London society.”

“Do you doubt her so much, Charles? This infatuation with Mr. Hathaway merely results from her youth, her admiration for his superior learning, and especially,” she said, leaning forward and giving him a meaningful look, “for lack of a young man who has your approval! Have you not frowned upon every male who has approached her in the past? Why, Mr. Hathaway is the first whom you have failed to frighten off and only because he is our rector! 'Tis little wonder a young girl takes a fanciful notion into her head!”

When he made no answer, she added, while adjusting the frilly morning cap on her head, “Mr. Hathaway causes me concern!”

Mr. Forsythe’s countenance was sober. “’Tis my sister who warrants the concern. She will wish to make a match for our daughter--and she will not be content with just any mister I assure you. In addition to which, a girl as pretty as our daughter will undoubtedly attract attention of the wrong sort.”

Julia was flustered for a second, but countered, “Agatha is no threat to our child. We shall say we are sending Ariana to see the sights, take in the museums and so forth. Surely there is no harm in that. A dinner party here or there should not be of concern. And Ariana is too intelligent to allow herself to be foisted upon an unsuitable man for a fortune or title.”

Too intelligent? He thought of the aging minister that no one had had to “foist” her upon. Aloud he merely said, “I shall speak with her tonight. She shall be brought to reason, depend upon it. There will be no need to pack her off to London.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

statistic the rightside of the blog....please place your vote! and maybe comment too

I'm currently running the poll to the righthand side of this blog to see what the majority of people who were kicked from FIRST fell under....a statistic if you will.

I'm a very curious person by nature so this opportunity is too good to pass up.

this is the post where you can comment and say which category you fell under if you like.
oh and I apologize to anybody I got to join if they got kicked....I did too so I don't feel as bad as I would if I had somehow managed to 'qualify'.

TEENFIRST! The Sword and the Flute by Mike Hamel

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! This is the very last Teen FIRST tour as Teen FIRST has merged with FIRST Wild Card Tours. If you wish to learn more about FIRST Wild Card, please go HERE.

and his book:

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


Mike Hamel is a seasoned storyteller who has honed his skill over theyears by telling tall tales to his four children. He is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles.

Mike and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado Springs, CO. Their four children are now grown and their two grand children will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

From His Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with sixteen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed (Broadman, 2001), Executive Influence (NavPress, 2003), and Giving Back (NavPress, 2003). I also edited Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by Bill Pollard (Collins, 2006).

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 34 years, Susan.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

BTW – I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive but treatable form of cancer.

Mike's Blog, Cells Behaving Badly, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please visit the Matterhorn the Brave Website!

Product Details

List Price: 9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.

Monday, December 15, 2008

NONFIRST! The Jesus Who Never Lived by H. Wayne House

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)

The feature author is:

and his book:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)


H. Wayne House (ThD, JD) is a Distinguished Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Faith Evangelical Seminary (Tacoma, WA). and Adjunct Professor of Law, Trinity Law School of Trinity International University. He is the New Testament editor of the Nelson Study Bible and Nelson Illustrated Bible Commentary, and the General Editor of Nelson Exegetical Commentary (42 vols), Israel: the Land and the People, and Charts of Bible Prophecy, among the 30 books that he has authored, co-authored, or edited.

Dr. House has been a professor of biblical studies, theology or law for more than thirty years at such places as Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon; Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas; Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim, California; Michigan Theological Seminary, Plymouth, Michigan, and Trinity Graduate School and Trinity Law School, Santa Ana, California, California campus of Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL. Through this internet office we hope to help those who are interested in several topics within apologetics, including Christianity and culture, law, science, cultism, philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. Dr. House also leads Bible study tours to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Turkey.

Visit his

What’s It All About?

In the Broadway play and later film Jesus Christ Superstar, Mary Magdalene asks, “What’s it all about?” as she tries to figure out who this man called Jesus really is. Certainly there are aspects about the song she sings, and suggestions made in the play, contrary to what we know from the canonical Gospels about the relationship of Mary and Jesus. But she does pose some important issues. She is puzzled about how to relate to Jesus as she has with other men, and this association with Him has made major changes in her emotions, actions, and thoughts. The reason she struggles is her perception that “he’s just a man.” If Jesus is just a man, then why does He captivate her so and cause her to evaluate herself to the depths of her soul? Such questions about Jesus and the impact of His ministry, death, and resurrection have been asked for two millennia.

Every year around Christmas and Easter the news media show an interest in Jesus. Rarely do they speak to people who believe in the Jesus who has been worshipped by the church since its earliest period until now. Rather, the fascination is with a Jesus re-imaged by people who have little interest in the historical record preserved in the New Testament.

This interest in Jesus, unconnected to the earliest tradition and history we have of Him, is not a new phenomenon. Toward the end of the first century of the Christian era, perceptions of Jesus began to arise that were different from what He said about Himself as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and proclaimed by the apostle Paul. Jesus has become the favorite of ancient heretics, founders of various world religions, modern novelists, Hollywood and documentary filmmakers, New Age teachers, adherents of popular religion, and over-the-edge liberal scholars. He is by far the most popular, and possibly most distorted, figure of history.

When Christianity was less than a hundred years old, we find two groups at different ends of the spectrum in their views of Jesus. One Jewish group, known as the Ebionites (late first century), accepted Jesus as the Messiah from God, acknowledged His humanity, but rejected His deity. On the other side were the Gnostics (early second century), who accepted Jesus as a divine figure but denied His true humanity. This rise of Gnosticism coincides with the demise, though not extinction, of Jewish Christianity, toward the end of the first century and beginning of the second century. Such views of the Christ were rejected by the apostolic church, and the view supported by the New Testament was finally put in creedal form, in a number of creeds, by the end of the fifth century.

Since those early centuries various religions have been enamored of Jesus. Eastern religions see Jesus as one of the avatars, or manifestations of God, and Islam considers Him a prophet (see chapter 8 for both topics). In the former, Jesus is an Eastern mystic, sometimes even viewed as having been trained in India, and in the latter as one who promoted Islam.

Muhammad was a pagan who had contact with Jews and Christians from Arabia and finally became monotheistic, in the first quarter of the seventh century after Christ embracing one of the over 300 Arabian deities: Allah, the moon god. In his limited investigation into Christianity, he came to believe, as is recorded in the Qur’an, that Jesus was born of a virgin, was sinless throughout His life, performed miracles, ascended to God, and will come again in judgment. He acknowledged all of these things about Jesus, considering none of these to be true of himself. Nonetheless, Jesus is never considered more than one of the prophets of Islam; He is not God in the flesh. Inside the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the walls are inscribed with statements that God does not have a Son, specifically addressed against the Christian doctrines of the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. As we shall see in a later chapter, Muhammad and his followers misunderstood the Christian doctrine of God.

In the eighteenth century, with the Enlightenment came skepticism about Christianity and absolute truth in religion. Biblical scholars and philosophers began to scrutinize claims that Jesus was more than human, and for over 200 years a search, or “quest,” for the historical Jesus has been pursued. We have now entered the third quest. While many within the second quest remain skeptical, there is growing support among some in the third quest for the credibility of the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament. In contrast to those who have little regard for biblical and extrabiblical history, scholars of both liberal and conservative persuasion now agree that within a couple of years following the death of Christ, the church preached a consistent message about His death and resurrection. Christ’s followers considered Him both God and man, Lord and Savior. And those who became believers in the latter part of the first century and early second century continued to accept Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels. The church’s belief in Jesus’ deity and humanity did not begin with the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, as encouraged by the Emperor Constantine; that belief was present from the church’s very beginning.

The Importance of Jesus

Though contemporary novelists and media sensationalists never tire of trying to find some new angle on Jesus to attract an audience, most serious historians and biblical scholars are impressed with the evidence in the Gospels for the Jesus who lived, taught, performed miracles, died, was buried, and rose again from the dead. An early twentieth-century composition by a devoted believer captures the wonder of Jesus:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.

But believers in the divine Jesus aren’t the only ones who admire Him. Marcus Borg, a member of the Jesus Seminar and distinguished professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at Oregon State University, speaks as a skeptical historian about the significance and uniqueness of Jesus:

The historical Jesus is of interest for many reasons. Not least of these is his towering cultural significance in the nearly two thousand years since his death. No other figure in the history of the West has ever been accorded such extraordinary status. Within a few decades of his death, stories were told about his miraculous birth. By the end of the first century, he was extolled with the most exalted titles known within the religious tradition out of which he came: Son of God, one with the Father, the Word become flesh, the bread of life, the light of the world, the one who would come again as cosmic judge and Lord. Within a few centuries he had become Lord of the empire that had crucified him.

For over a thousand years, thereafter, he dominated the culture of the West: its religion and devotion, its art, music, and architecture, its intellectual thought and ethical norms, even its politics. Our calendar affirms his life as a dividing point in world history. On historical grounds alone, with no convictions of faith shaping the verdict, Jesus is the most important figure in Western (and perhaps human) history.

These words of exuberant praise from a historian who does not accept Jesus as God in the flesh further indicates the amazing manner in which a human being was able to draw devoted followers by the magnetism of His life and teachings. Jaroslav Pelikan, noted historian of Yale University, has said of Jesus,

Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of supermagnet, to pull up of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left? It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that millions pray.

The world would be a considerably different place, with far less progress, peace, and hope than we possess today, had He not lived.

Liking Jesus Without Knowing Him

Just about everyone likes Jesus. How could they not, in view of the outstanding reception He has received throughout history, right? Not really. Much of the fascination with Jesus comes from those who really don’t know much about Him. Were He to confront them with His teachings and call them to a life of obedience to His will, they might be part of the recalcitrant crowd crying out, “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21).

Today a large number of people say they are attracted to Jesus but dislike His church. They see within the church people who are inconsistent in their practice of Christian ethics and fail to follow what they understand to be the teachings of Jesus. The church is viewed as judgmental, whereas Jesus said not to judge. The church speaks against sins such as homosexual relationships, whereas Jesus loved all people regardless of their sin, such as the woman caught in adultery. The church has interest in political matters, but Jesus did not involve Himself in politics and worked only to ease people’s burdens. (Whether these notions are true or not will be briefly discussed in chapter 12.)

This attempt to understand Jesus is often done without any reference to what we really know about Him. We simply guess who He is and how He acted—most often, how we think He ought to be and act to be acceptable to the twenty-first-century mind. Apart from the appeal to divine revelation, this is the manner in which He has been viewed over the centuries, including the century in which He lived on earth.

“Who Do People Say That I Am?”

As Jesus traveled with His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, He posed an important question: “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). The response to this question divides light and darkness, death and life. The disciples said that some believed Him to be an important prophet, but the apostles—specifically Peter—proclaimed His deity, a truth revealed to him by the Father. It is this authentic Christ, based on credible biblical and extrabiblical sources, whom we must encounter.

Each of us is confronted with important questions and priorities in this life. Some are of minor importance, but others have lasting, even eternal significance. The most important issue we must squarely confront is our relationship with God and, consequently, our final destiny. This is true not only for people today, it was also important in the first century when Jesus the Messiah came to earth. This is evident in the words of Christ that if people did not believe that He was “from above” (heaven), they would die in their sins (John 8:21-24).

Jesus the Prophet of God

In general, people liked Jesus Christ, as is true even today. The Scripture says that “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Saying this, however, does not mean they always understood His message (Matthew 13:10-17) or understood who He was:

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17).

The people during that time enjoyed what so many of us greatly desire—personal communication with the Son of God—yet they failed to understand Him. Many of them were miraculously fed and healed by Him. They heard His word with their own ears and saw Him with their own eyes. No doubt many also touched Him with their hands. To have the opportunity these people enjoyed seems too wonderful to imagine.

But when Jesus asked the disciples who the people thought He was, they cited many important figures of Jewish history, from John the Baptist (apparently thought to have been raised from the dead) to Elijah, who was to be forerunner of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5), to Jeremiah, who confronted the Northern Kingdom of Israel for its sins, or to some other prophet, as seen below:

John the Baptist. John the Baptist would have been a natural choice for the identification of Jesus, particularly by those who had not encountered John personally and maybe hadn’t heard the news of his death. John spent his ministry in the desert, baptizing in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, whereas the people in view here are in Galilee or maybe the Golan. Otherwise it seems unlikely they would have made such a connection, unless they believed that Jesus was the resurrected John, which is what Herod Antipas thought: “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him’” (Matthew 14:1-2). In the words of D.A. Carson:

His conclusion, that this was John the Baptist, risen from the dead (v. 2), is of great interest. It reflects an eclectic set of beliefs, one of them the Pharisaic understanding of resurrection. During his ministry John had performed no miracles (John 10:41); therefore Herod ascribes the miracles in Jesus’ ministry, not to John, but to John “risen from the dead.” Herod’s guilty conscience apparently combined with a superstitious view of miracles to generate this theory.

Though Herod’s superstition may be the cause for his comments, such a view is not unheard of in literature that precedes the New Testament. Albright and Mann say, “)The reappearance of dead heroes was a well-known theme in contemporary Jewish thought…[Second Maccabees 15:12-16] speaks of Jeremiah and Onias appearing to Judas Maccabaeus, and [2 Esdras 2:18-19] refers to the coming of Isaiah and Jeremiah.”

Elijah. Identifying Jesus as Elijah may appear surprising, except that Jesus’ ability to do miracles and the expectation of Messiah’s coming might have caused the people to believe He was preparing the way for the Messiah in agreement with Malachi’s prophecy:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet

Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

—Malachi 4:5 nkjv

The disciples had similar expectations about Elijah, whom Jesus connected to John the Baptist as His forerunner (Matthew 17:10-12).

There are indeed many similarities between Elijah and Jesus. Elijah exercised control over the forces of nature, telling Ahab his land would have no precipitation for several years (1 Kings 17:1-2).

In the midst of this judgment against Israel, God sent Elijah to the Phoenician city of Zarephath of Sidon, to a widow and her son who were facing starvation. To test her faith, Elijah asked her to make him some bread from the handful of flour and the little oil she had left. After she complied with Elijah’s request, the jar of flour and the jug of oil did not become empty until the famine ended (17:14-16).

Later, the woman’s son died, and the prophet of God brought him back to life (17:17-24). These spectacular miracles performed for a non-Israelite mother and her son reveal not only the power of God but also the love of God for all people.

Those people who saw the ministry and attitude of Jesus no doubt considered Him to be like Elijah because He also controlled the forces of nature. On the mountain near the shore of the Lake of Galilee He multiplied bread and fish (Matthew 15:29-38), and He raised a widow’s son who had died (Luke 7:11-17).

Jeremiah. The last prophet to whom Jesus is likened is Jeremiah. What in the life and character of Jeremiah served as a basis for comparison with Jesus?

Donald Hagner says there are a “number of obvious parallels between Jesus and Jeremiah, such as the preaching of judgment against the people and the temple, and especially in suffering and martyrdom.” The message of Jeremiah was God’s judgment against an unfaithful people (Jeremiah 1:16). Jesus presented a similar kind of message when He pronounced woe against Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:20-24).

Jesus offered healing and solace to the sick and downtrodden, but to the proud and rebellious, the words of this “prophet from Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11) were sharp and powerful. Another point of similarity may be Jesus’ cleansing of the temple and His indictment of those there (Matthew 21:10-13), and Jeremiah’s rebuke in his famous temple sermon (Jeremiah 7:1-15). Both texts even accuse the unfaithful of making God’s house a “den of robbers.”

One of the prophets. Even if there was disagreement among the people about Jesus’ identity, one thing is certain: They knew He was special, for He was viewed at minimum as a prophet. Just listening and watching Jesus revealed that He was powerful and insightful. This testimony—that the people identified Jesus with the prophets—demonstrates they held diverse eschatological expectations but there was no mass acknowledgment of Him as Messiah. The occasional reference to Jesus as the Son of David, found several times before Matthew 16, does not contradict the lack of recognition of Him as Messiah.

Fortunately, we also see among some non-Jews a different response. The Samaritan woman at the well first viewed Jesus as a Jewish man, then a prophet, then the Messiah, and finally the Savior (John 4:4-42).

Whether they believed He was God’s Messiah or one of the great prophets of Israel, all thought He was a person of great importance with divine authority and a powerful presence and message.

Messiah, Son of God

After the disciples responded to Jesus’ question about how the people viewed Him, He asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Would the disciples have a more accurate perception of their master than the general populace? You would think that their intimate relationship with Jesus would have made His identity clear in their minds. Yet this is not what we find. Though Peter correctly says that Jesus is the Messiah (christos, Greek translation of Hebrew mashiach, “anointed one”), the Son of the living God (16:16), Jesus says that the knowledge that gave rise to this confession came from heaven rather than from human insight (Matthew 16:13-17).

Is this confession true? Or is Jesus no more than a man, as the character of Mary sings in Jesus Christ Superstar? The Jesus who came to earth 2000 years ago has spawned a myriad of ideas about who He was and is. No more important subject than this confronts us today. Even among those who do not embrace the bodily resurrection of the crucified Messiah and His claims to deity, there is considerable praise. As Borg said of Him, “On historical grounds alone, with no convictions of faith shaping the verdict, Jesus is the most important figure in Western (and perhaps human) history.”

But is He only this—or is He, as Peter confessed, the Messiah, the Son of the living God? Our crucial quest in this book is to discover the true Jesus among the various visions of Him that have been constructed since His death and resurrection.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

WILD CARD! The Christmas Edition by Robin Shope

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Christmas Edition – first book in The Turtle Creek Edition series

The Wild Rose Press (November 21, 2008)


In Robin's words:

I am the Special Education Coordinator for Denton County Juvenile Justice Alternative Program. I work with at risk teens from fifth grade through high school. My husband and I have been married for thirty-one years and we have two grown children. The first two years of marriage, Rick and I traveled overseas as missionaries. Afterwards we served as pastors of a church in Illinois. Presently we live near Dallas, Texas. He is in business and I work for the school system. (My husband still makes yearly mission trips to India.)

To date, my literary works include approximately two hundred articles in magazines such as: Guideposts, Live, Lookout, Mennonite, Christian Reader, Decision, Breakthrough and Christianity Today. Other short stories appear in the books: A Match Made in Heaven, Stories from the Heart, The Evolving Woman, and the New York Times bestseller, In The Arms of Angels by Joan Wester-Anderson. Ann Spangler also used one of my stories in her book, Help! I Can’t Stop Laughing. Another two-dozen stories have been published in the Chicken Soup books. One story, Mom’s Last Laugh, was re-enacted for a PAX-TV program: It’s a Miracle. I co-authored a thriller, The Chase, for Revell. My second book, The Replacement, was released in June 2006. The Candidate was released July, 2007. I continue to publish short stories in magazines. Wildcard, a mystery, will be a spring 2009 release. The Christmas Edition releases Nov. 20. The Valentine Edition releases in January 2009.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 11.99
Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press (November 21, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601543301
ISBN-13: 978-1601543301


December 1

The usual winter blizzard blew into southern


Lucy Collins carefully maneuvered her car

through the snow that grew deeper with every gust

of wind. She parked directly in front of her family

owned business, The Turtle Creek Newspaper, just

as her brother, Mike, was making his second pass at

clearing away the snow from the drive with the

snow blower.

“Hey, Mike! Help me carry these inside, will

you?” Lucy called to him as she got out of her heated

car. A sharp wind sucked up her words and nearly

knocked her off balance.

Mike turned off the blower and cupped his hand

around his ear. “What did you say?” His breath

circled around his face in the frigid air.

“Help!” Lucy hollered. She popped the trunk and

pivoted her body in an exaggerated fashion-the way

models do when showcasing prizes on a game show.

She stepped to the other side and waved her hands,

palms up, along the food trays and her mother’s

crystal punch bowl set. Then she flashed her

younger brother her biggest smile.

Mike galloped up to the car just as another gust

of wind, hammered snow at them. “It’s freezing out

here! Even my nose hairs are frozen solid. You go on

in. I’ll get these as soon as I’m finished shoveling the


“Thanks.” Lucy gave him a kiss on the cheek. To

keep her balance, she gingerly walked across the

crunchy ice crystals and into the warm building.

Once inside, she tugged off one boot and then the

other, dropping them under her desk. She hung her

coat and scarf on the back of her swivel chair as she

looked around at the decorations of wreaths and

holly. A sprig of mistletoe hung over the empty desk

at the back. That would surely go to waste. Music

played loudly from her dad’s old stereo inside his


Christmas used to be her favorite holiday, but

after a disastrous end to her engagement, a couple of

years ago, this particular holiday now only served as

a dark reminder of broken promises. With prayer

and a loving family, Lucy was ready to start her life

again, which meant buying her own place right after

the first of the year. Working and living with the

same people was often stifling, especially when

they’re her parents.

Lucy’s mom was the cheerleader as well as the

gopher, making sure everyone had what they

needed, whereas Lucy’s father focused persistently

on getting the next edition out and on time.

Each year at Christmastime, however, Harold

Collins took off his publisher hat and donned

something completely different. The weeks wedged

between Thanksgiving and Christmas became about

assisting others. She loved it all and nothing could

ever take her away from this life.

The employees had finished packing up the last

of the boxes from the food drive which were now

stacked neatly, ready to be dropped off at area

shelters. Lucy wanted to acknowledge all the work

they’d done. “For a small cluster of people, we sure

accomplish a truckload of work, fast! These

donations will help many people down and out this

holiday season. Like all the other years we’ve

worked closely together and done a great job.”

Christmas was about unbridled joy but today, try as

she may, she still wasn’t feeling it. Maybe she could

fake it for everyone’s sake. Lucy lowered her head in

modesty and stated, “This is going to be a Christmas

of miracles.”

As if releasing faith into the air, everyone began

to punctuate her words with applause. Right on cue,

Harold Collins stepped out of his office wearing a hat

something like one of the elves might wear. He even

bobbed his head up and down to show off the cluster

of bells that dangled at the tip of the loopy crown.

Lucy couldn’t help but have her first laugh of the

day, along with the other employees.

“I know it’s still over a month until Christmas

but I thought you could use this now,” Harold said as

he produced a fan of festive red and green envelopes.

Squeals of delight resonated as they opened the

envelopes and saw the amount written on the checks

but none was as loud as Ulilla Langston. Lucy’s dad

had inherited her along with the paper when her

grandpa died. Ulilla was a beautiful, black woman

with hair swept close to her head in a French twist.

She carried weight around the place both literally

and figuratively.

“Harold and Margaret Collins,” she crowed, as

her hand fluttered to her chest. “No way can you

afford to give us this.”

“Nonsense!” Harold blustered, and politely

dismissed her words of protest with a wave. “It

should be three times this and you know it! You all

have worked effortlessly and clocked in many

overtime hours in order to get the newspaper out

each week. I am the one who is grateful. Merry


The bell above the front door jingled as Mike

walked in balancing the punch bowl along with the

holiday trays. “Where do you want these, sis?”

“Let me help with that.” Lucy took the top two

trays. “Take the rest into the break room. I’ll follow

you in.”

Margaret touched the sleeve of Lucy’s cardigan.

“Have you finished our Christmas cards yet?”

“I started a month ago and finally finished them

last night. Not only did I hand write each one, but

the envelopes are addressed and stamped.”

“Which of the photographs did you decide on?”

“I thought I told you that all ready. Never mind,

there’s one in my desk I’ll show you.” Lucy set down

the trays. From the desk drawer, she took a single

envelope and handed it to her mother. “Here, I was

looking for something that would embody a perfect

form of truth when it comes to Christianity.”

Margaret stared at the card. A country church

was nestled into a hillside surrounded on all sides by

fresh snowfall. Above, the sky was brilliant blue.

Lucy looked over her mother’s shoulder. She

scrunched her face, second-guessing her

photographic choice. “Does it look okay?”

“It’s a whole lot more than okay. This is simply

breathtaking and looks professionally done. Lucy,

you should have put your logo somewhere on this

card so people would be aware that you are the one

who took this photograph of our church.” Margaret’s

eyes glistened.

“Not this time. I want people to focus on the

birth of our Savior and the hope He gives for our

lives. Mom, in the past year, I have become more

appreciative of the upbringing you and Dad gave

Mike and me and how you shared your faith which

has now become mine.” Lucy choked back her tears

and touched the silver cross she always wore at her


“Those words are the best gift you could ever

give to me.” Margaret hugged her daughter. “I want

nothing more this season than to see you happy.”

Lucy hugged back tightly. “I’m working hard on


“Lucy!” Mike called from the break room. “I

thought you said you were following me in. I’m

making a mess of things trying to get the food set


“Ah, I better go rescue the food from Mike and

start the punch.” Lucy picked up the trays. “By the

way, it’s getting worse outside so could you suggest

to Dad that we better let everyone go home early.”

“I will, but right now, I want to lend you a


Lucy and Mike uncovered the trays of fruit,

cheese, and crackers. Margaret took her home baked

pastries from the refrigerator and arranged them on

top of doilies set on antique dessert plates. Mike

dumped plastic forks from the box into a basket and

then tore open the plates while Lucy poured the

punch into the bowl and added scoops of sherbet. “I

think we’re ready.”

Once everyone had gathered in the break room,

Harold asked one and all to join hands. Together

they asked for the Lord’s blessing. Then they dug in;

plates were quickly filled with condiments, the

routine appetizers, rolled pieces of meat, decorated

sugar cookies, and cinnamon rolls. That was just for

starters. Margaret kept laying out more and more


Lucy sat at the edge of her chair and sipped her

cup of punch. It was fun watching everyone enjoy

themselves. She closed her eyes and drank in their

laughter. This is what she needed, to be surrounded

by such love and acceptance.

The employees had all worked for her father for

years, so she not only knew their names but their

spouses and children. This is what she loved about

the business. It wasn’t work. It was family. At times

they even squabbled like it, too.

When there were only a few squares of

cantaloupe and crumbs of her mother’s cake left,

Lucy suggested, “Before we go home for the

weekend, let’s go around the room and name one gift

we want for Christmas. No limitations on the gift.

Miss Ulilla, would you like to start?”

The society column woman was clearly pleased

to go first. In her world, this was the correct order of

the universe and she didn’t even try to suppress her

smile. Instead she brushed crumbs from her bosom,

cleared her throat and stood to her feet. “Since Lucy

removed the limitations, what I really want for

Christmas are tickets for a Caribbean cruise under

my tree this year.”

“That’s sounds exciting. I feel pretty confident

you can talk Abe here into going along with you.”

Lucy gave the elderly custodian a wink. It was no

secret Abe had been after Ulilla for as long as she

could remember, but Ulilla always put him off.

Abe stepped right in without being asked, “The

gift I am wishing for is that I can buy those tickets

for Ulilla. One for her and one for me. Separate

cabins, of course.” He turned beet red.

After the laughter died down, Lucy went on to

ask her best friend, “What about you, Monica?”

“I’m hoping for money. Lots and lots of money.”

“Here I thought you’d ask for perfume. The

French kind,” Mike said. His lips curled into a

slow smile. For the first time, Lucy caught

something in the air between her best friend and her

brother and it wasn’t perfume. French or otherwise.

Harold set down his plastic plate with a hollow

thump. “The gift I want this year cannot be found

under my tree.”

“Harold.” Margaret touched his arm. “This isn’t

the time.”

“I think it is, Maggie. After being a family

owned business for the last fifty years, first with my

Papa and now on my own, it’s no secret I want to

keep that other newspaper from coming here. Living

in a small town like Turtle Creek, we can’t

withstand the extra competition. Heck, we can

barely make it as it is. We need to come up with

some ideas of how we’re going to generate more

sales, increase our advertisers and get more

subscribers.” He pulled off his elf hat and lowered

his eyes. His thumb rubbed a finger as he spoke “Or

this might just be the last time we stand together

like this for Christmas.” To everyone’s dismay,

Harold had spit out his worrying words. They spread

across the room.

Lucy frowned. Everything her dad said was the

truth. They all knew it.

“My turn!” Lucy picked up her father’s hat and

pulled it down over her ears. Everyone laughed. “My

Christmas gift is to hire a new editor who will knock

the socks off our readers with his fresh ideas and


“And how will you know this editor when he

comes through the front door?” Carol from

advertising asked.

“Because…” Lucy tapped her chin in thought.

“The man I have prayed for will write with heart.”

Unexpected tears gathered along the edges of her

eyes. The end of her nose tingled. “Anyone who can

move an audience with words is going to increase

circulation which will attract businesses to grab ad

space and make readers buy our paper.” She touched

her cross. I have my faith in you, Lord.

The front door jingled. Monica looked out into

the office. “Hey, guys, there’s an awesome looking

guy standing at the front counter. I believe Lucy’s

gift just arrived. Quick Lucy, say another prayer

while you have God’s attention.”

Lucy walked out of the break room with

shoulders squared, back straight. There he stood.

Tall, with sandy brown hair and wickedly wonderful

eyes. Cherry cheeks, too, thanks to the frosty

weather. His gray eyes were unsettling. He stood on

one foot and tapped one shoe against the other to

knock off the snow. Then he repeated the process

with the other shoe. Monica was right. He was a


“How may I help you?” Lucy folded her hands

together and placed them on the counter.

“I’m looking for Lucy Collins.” He stared her in

the eyes.

“You’ve found her.” Lucy heard laughter. She

turned around to see the doorway to the break room

was crowded with faces. All eyes were pinned on

them. Of course, she had to put on a good show for

them. Lucy turned back around and faced him.

Feeling cocky, she said, “I know why you’re here.”

“You do?” he seemed startled.

“Yes, you’re here about the ad I placed in this

week’s paper for an editor.”

His chin dropped and he was speechless for a

moment. “You’re…absolutely right. I did see it

advertised.” The man set his briefcase down and

popped it open. He started shuffling around the

inside of it. Papers rustled. Finally, he looked up

sheepishly. He had worried eyes. “I seem to have

forgotten my resume. Not a good way to start a job

interview. By the way, I’m Joe McNamara.”

Lucy shook his hand and then reached under

the counter for an application. She clamped it down

on a clipboard, slipped a pen underneath and

handed it to him. “I don’t need your resume but I do

need to know if you can write. When you’re done

filling this out, I want you to write an editorial for

me.” She slid a blank piece of paper toward him.

“On what subject?” he scratched the end of his


“You’re the editor so you get to decide.” She

slapped her hand down on the paper.

Joe nodded and then looked around for a place

to sit. He chose a chair from the waiting area. Lucy

watched him as he read the application and then

thoughtfully filled in the blanks. Every now and

then he looked up and caught her staring at him. He

smiled but she quickly looked away.

The Turtle Creek Newspaper employees began

to quickly leave. “Don’t stay too long, Lucy, or you’ll

be trapped in here for the weekend,” Abe warned her

on the way out. For the first time ever, Ulilla was on

his arm.

“I won’t be much longer. I am dreaming of a cozy

fire with hot chocolate.”

“That’s only one of the things I’m dreaming of!”

Ulilla gushed as she plunged through the doorway.

Shocked over Ulilla’s sudden change of heart, Lucy

couldn’t help but stare.

Finally Joe stood to his feet and handed the

clipboard back to her, the pen returned to the same

position as when she had handed it to him. Now it

was Joe’s turn to slide the paper across the counter

to her. Lucy looked at it. Maybe she missed

something. She flipped it over. Both sides were

blank. She looked at Joe quizzically.

“May I?” he asked nodding toward one of the


“Be my guest.” Lucy granted permission and

then caught her reflection in a window. She quickly

pulled off the Santa hat. Static electricity popped

around her head like a lightening rod. She knew she

was blushing and really hoped he wouldn’t notice.

Lucy watched as his long fingers flew across the

keyboard. Her keyboard. The tips of the fingers hit

the center of the keys with great accuracy. Tap-tap tap

the keys sank and rose again. She was close

enough to see the words without her glasses and

didn’t see any red squiggly lines. At least the fella

could spell.

“Psst!” Monica called from the break room.

Lucy turned around. “What?” she mouthed


With frantic movements, Monica motioned for

Lucy to come talk to her. When Lucy walked into the

room, everyone huddled around. “We need details.”

Lucy gave a deep sigh happy to oblige. “His

name is Joe McNamara. According to his

application, he’s from Chicago, so I guess he must be

relocating. He’s trying out for our paper by writing

an editorial for me.”

“Good idea,” Harold said while cramming the

last sugar cookie into his mouth.

“Why would he want to apply for a job with us?”

Mike asked suspiciously as he tied the top of a

plastic garbage bag closed.

“That’s easy to answer. We are the best

newspaper in the entire southern lakes region,”

Harold answered shooting bits of cookie from his

mouth like falling stars.

“Yea, right,” Mike panned as he tossed the bag

on top of the other bags.

“You have to start at a small paper and work

your way up to get into a big city paper,” Monica

explained as she slipped on her winter coat. Then

she winked at Mike. “He’s getting his start right

here with us.”

“Whoa, first I have to hire him, and once he

hears what the pay is, he may just hop back on the


“Finished,” a male voice spoke.

Everyone turned to look. Joe stood just feet

away, holding his paper out.

Lucy hoped he hadn’t heard everything. She

snatched the paper from him and furrowed her brow.

“That was fast.”

“Not when you have something burning inside

that you feel passionately about.”

She held it between her fingers and read aloud.

Saying Goodbye

by Joseph McNamara

What will I ever do without Cafe Books?

Ever since the announcement that the

independent bookseller was going out of business,

I've been a mess. The big chain stores serve a

purpose, sure, but they don't contain the atmosphere

and warmth that emulates from the owners of Cafe

Books. When I walk into their shop, it's like visiting

family. Mr. and Mrs. Myers always greet me and

everyone, with a genuine smile, and when are they

not armed with a recommendation for a new title

they know I'll enjoy? Just for me. They notice me. Me.

Cafe Books is where I first went whale hunting

with Melville and frog collecting with Steinbeck. How

can I forget all the murderous adventures I shared

with my good friend, Mike Hammer, or faced a scary,

yet Brave New World with Huxley? I’ve read more

than books on the leather sofa at Cafe Books. I've

made friends. Lived a million different lives. Cried

countless tears. And have laughed out loud so often,

and so hard, that my stomach still aches from the

memories alone.

How does one say good bye to such a place?

I started patronizing Café Books just off Kenzie

Avenue in Chicago about two years ago. And so when

the owners announced suddenly it would be going out

of business and closing its door yesterday, I made it a

point to stop by.

The room was busy with faithful shoppers who

felt this place was a stabilizing source in their

community. Lexie Jacobson, a 28-year-old hairstylist

scooped up discount novels and a couple of CDs. “I’m

sure going to miss this place,” she said with a shake

of her head. She was not alone with this feeling.

“It’s hard to find bookstores that are not part of a

national chain,” 35-year-old school teacher

Samantha Jones said with a sigh.

The sentiment was expressed again and again by

dozens of patrons.

In the never ending search for bigger and better,

give me the small and unique. Meet me at Café

Books. Help me say goodbye.

No one spoke. Lucy couldn’t take her eyes from

the page. The words evoked warmth and sentiment.

It was more than she had hoped for. He was it. This

was her Christmas gift.

It wasn’t the first sight of him that did it. It

wasn’t the endearing way he drummed his thigh

with the pen when he was nervously trying to figure

out what to write down on his application that

formed her opinion. Nor even his calm manner as he

slid his fingers across her keyboard that made the

difference. It was his words. These words. They were

simple and brilliant. Words that had taken the

breath from her soul. She looked up at him with new

eyes. He got her—yet how could that happen when

they only met minutes ago.

“Wow,” she gulped.

“Well, it was spontaneous.” Joe uneasily tugged

at his collar. “If I had more time, I could have done

much better.”

They smiled at each other as if there was more

to the words that hung in the air. Her mind was

wandering where it shouldn’t. “I need to clarify


“Clarify away, Ms. Collins.”


“Lucy,” he repeated in a sweet tone.

“Um, we can’t afford to pay you much. It’s

obvious you’re quite gifted so I’m not sure we’re what

you’re looking for in a newspaper.”

“The experience is what is valuable here.”

“How much notice do you need to give your old

place?” Harold stepped forward to ask. “The sooner

you can start the better.”

“Dad!” Lucy cut in as blood rushed to her face.

“Ah, my schedule is pretty well wide open, Sir. I

can start as soon as I’m needed, that is if I am hired.

I really don’t need much—a roof over my head

and...a new start.”

Lucy saw it in his eyes. He wasn’t kidding.

“You know, Harold, there is the small apartment

above our garage. Mr. McNamara could stay there

until he finds another place,” Margaret reminded


“I’ll take it,” Joe was quick to accept.

A gust of wind whipped through the building

when Monica opened the door. “Better get a move

on, people. I just heard on the radio that the

Interstate is closed down. The town is pretty well

socked in. It’s time for us to lock up and head for our

homes. I love you all but no way do I want to be

stuck in here with you.”

Everyone went for their coats.

“I better take you home, so I know you made it

safely,” Mike told Monica.

“If you shovel my walk too, there might be a

reward in it for you,” Monica winked as she nudged

his side with her elbow.

“I love rewards.”

“Mike, don’t be long. There are Christmas boxes

in the attic I need for you to get down for me,”

Margaret said following her son out to the parking

lot. “We’re decorating the tree tonight and you can’t

miss it.” She shut the door behind them.

“Ah, is there something you want me to sign? A

contract or something?” Joe asked, quickly looking

from Harold to Lucy.

“I never thought about a contract,” Lucy said,

wondering if they had anything the resembled a


“We don’t do contracts here. A shake of my hand

is how I operate.” Harold slid his arm down through

his winter jacket and out the opening. “You better

come along with us. You’ll never get back to the city


With a simple handshake, Lucy Collins’ day took

a new direction.

Friday, December 5, 2008

WILD CARD! Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family by David & Renee S. Sanford

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family

Focus (October 15, 2008)


David and Renée own Sanford Communications, Inc., which works closely with leading authors, ministries, and publishers to develop life-changing books and other resources. Their professional credentials, life experience, and passion for helping adoptive families make them well qualified for this project. David and Renée were trained and served as foster parents to two sisters in 1996. They were then trained as adoptive parents in 2002 and adopted their daughter Annalise through the Oregon State Child Welfare system in 2004.

David and Renée have been married twenty-five years and are the parents of five children. David, Renée, and their two youngest children live in Portland, Oregon.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Focus (October 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589973380
ISBN-13: 978-1589973381


Chapter 1:

Welcome Home

by Paul Batura

To God be the glory

great things He hath done.


The light of the long day was fading just as the clouds began to clear. Turning into our neighborhood, we saw that a typical late summer thunderstorm had soaked and saturated the blacktop streets. To the west, the sky was ablaze in an orange glow as the sun settled just beyond the summit of Pikes Peak. We were at the end of a 10-hour drive and two-week trip. Pulling within sight of our home, we spotted a giant blue banner draped across the front of the house. Large white lettering proclaimed the warmest greeting of our lives:


7 Lbs 10 Ounces

Our 10-day-old adopted son stirred in the backseat of a borrowed green Subaru station wagon. In the blink of an eye, the hopes and dreams of all our years were beginning to be fulfilled. Like many couples, we had desired children for a long time, only to be met with a series of disappointments. “Just be patient,” physician after physician counseled. Of course, this is always easier said than done. We lost our first baby at 12 weeks in utero. Then after two invasive surgeries over the course of a year, our doctor informed us that “success” was very likely. Yet, one month later, my wife inexplicably suffered a grand-mal seizure and we were thrown once again into a cycle of tests, procedures, and consultations. More months passed. More disappointment. We would lose two more preborn babies at only two weeks gestation.

Meanwhile, our young couples Sunday school class continued to celebrate the announcements of expectant mothers almost on a bimonthly basis. At one point, nine of the women in class were pregnant at the same time, eliciting a crack from a father that “there must be something in the water!”

We laughed, but unfortunately, Julie and I weren’t drinking from the same tap.

And so, for four long years, our house remained quiet.

“Have you ever considered adoption?” asked my friend Marlen, just two weeks after the latest disappointment.

The fact is that we had—but the costs associated with adoption, both emotional and financial, intimidated us. “My wife and I know a family whose daughter is thinking about placing her

baby up for adoption,” said Marlen.

That evening, I arrived home and shared the news with Julie. “Are you kidding?” she said, wide-eyed. “This is just what we have long fantasized about . . . remember? We’ve said, ‘If only we knew someone who knew someone who wanted to give us their child!’” I remembered.

“For this to happen,” she said, “we’re going to need a miracle.”

For us, the miracle—our son, Riley—safely secured in his car seat for the long drive home, now seemed so obvious.


Congratulations! You’ve made it. Can you believe it? It’s happened. You’re now an adoptive parent. Really! Truly. After years or months of waiting and the seemingly countless hours of painstaking preparations—the forms and files, the background checks and baby classes, the scrimping and saving, the travel, and yes, even the tears borne of joy and sadness, you’ve finally arrived home with junior in tow!

If you feel as though you’ve just emerged from weeks in the wilderness, your feelings and emotions are well placed. Are you worn out? The fatigue of parenting will often manifest itself on various levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual, to name just a few. Now would be a good time to catch your breath and assess your condition. Enjoying the luxury of hours of uninterrupted rest might not be an option, but the book you now hold in your hands is a good place to start!

The paradox of parenting by adoption is now your story. At once, it’s been both exhausting and exhilarating. It’s been joyous and heartbreaking. You’ve given everything you’ve had to give, yet your cup is now overflowing with much more than you ever knew you had to offer. And it’s only just begun. It’s critically important to consider the adoption journey much like the many miles of a circuitous mountainous marathon. The journey is long. It’ll take your breath away. It can be unpredictable or maybe even frustrating and fascinating all at the same time. Eager as you are to finish, you can run only one mile at a time. You’ve already covered a lot of ground and exerted a significant amount of energy. Don’t lose sight of your commendable progress thus far, but don’t rest comfortably on your laurels either. It’s time to keep moving, and you should be applauded for considering how best to approach and run the miles that lie ahead.

Let’s get started.


The 33-year-old couple stood alone at the front of Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, on a hot midsummer evening. Their eyes gazed out at the hundreds of empty seats in the cavernous auditorium. Never had they felt so alone and small and unprepared for what was about to take place. The back center door of the church swung open. In a silent, somber, and slow procession, the birth family of the boy they planned to adopt made their way down the aisle to the front of the sanctuary.

Three-day-old Konipher James was swaddled in a yellow and white blanket in his bassinet. His birthmother placed him beside the hesitant couple and knelt down to adjust his jumper. He was sound asleep, seemingly oblivious to the significance of the moment. The tears of the young woman who had given birth to him just two nights earlier fell softly on his tiny pink cheek. The only sounds in the air were the quiet sobs of those gathered in a small circle just beyond the first row.

The transfer and transition of an infant from his birthparent(s) to the adoptive family is likely to be a trail watered with tears and swollen with emotion almost beyond human comprehension. What is a gain for one family is a loss for someone else. An entrustment or relinquishment ceremony as described above might sound like an awkward and emotionally laden step. Many adoptive couples would prefer to receive their child in a far more private setting. And each

situation is unique, of course. But if given the opportunity, you might want to consider planning and holding such an event. Over time, the process appears to increase the likelihood of long-term adoptive success for several key reasons:

1. Though it’s a potentially awkward and heart-wrenching occasion, it actually helps to ease the transition for both the birthmother and the adoptive couple. The birthmother is less likely to feel as if she is abandoning her baby.

2. It personalizes adoption and removes the impersonal and sometimes offensive influence of the law on the process. It’s no longer simply a legal transaction but a heartfelt, personal decision.

3. It provides a significant event for both parties and an opportunity to state publicly their respective intentions, hopes, and plans for the years that lie ahead.

As it would turn out, the specific ceremony noted above played a key role two days later in reminding the heartbroken birthmother that her original selfless decision was a good choice made in the best interest of her child. “I reread the letter I read to my son on that dark night,” the birthmother reflected, “and realized that if I meant what I said—that adoption was the best thing for him—then I couldn’t change my mind and call the whole thing off.”


Circumstances might not allow for such a ceremony, but it will be important to plan ahead and consider how best to ease the transition between caregivers. In some states, it’s illegal for a birthmother to relinquish a baby to the parents in a hospital. As such, transfers have been known to occur in hospital parking lots, adding insult to injury. Consult with your agency or attorney, but remember that the method utilized may be more important to the birthmother and child than to you.

In the event of a closed adoption, ask the social worker (or placement agency) as many questions about the birthparents as possible. Even if you get few answers, you may receive something your child will cling to later as information you otherwise would not have to share.

In a semi-closed adoption, you might want to consider exchanging letters to be read in private and later shared with your child at an age-appropriate time.

Again, the ultimate goal is to help mitigate the pain the birthmother will experience. If she is able to communicate her thoughts and feelings at the time of relinquishment, the chances of her changing her mind will be significantly reduced.


Whether you’re adopting an infant shortly after birth or receiving a child who has spent some time in either foster care or a traditional orphanage, the transition to your home can be a difficult time in a young person’s life. Here are a few suggestions to help ease this transition if you’re adopting an infant (you’ll find more help on this subject in chapter 6):

Clear your calendar: Be careful not to consider the arrival of your newly adopted child as clearance to return to your normally hectic schedule. Take time and allow the child to familiarize himself with your eyes, touch, scent, and sound.

Establish yourself as the primary caregiver: At the outset, at least for the first month if at all possible, it’s best to limit the circle of care to only parents when it comes to bathing, diapering, feeding, and comforting. There will be plenty of time to introduce your newest family member to other adults.

Don’t underestimate the value of soothing music: Classical music has been shown not only to reduce anxiety but also to contribute to intellectual and cultural development.

If possible, consult with the previous caregiver: Ask for documentation/notes the foster family may have kept (e.g., feeding records, sleeping habits, and baby’s “firsts”). This should be available even if the foster family needs to be contacted to obtain it. It’s worth asking and waiting for. Typically, the foster family returns all notes along with the child so this should not be difficult. While you shouldn’t feel bound by the old traditions and habits of a previous foster family, changing everything all at once can be incredibly tough for a young child to handle. Incremental adjustments tend to work best.

Establish your home as a place of grace: Regardless of how well you plan and how many experts you consult with, transitioning a child into a new home can still be a volatile and unpredictable season of great challenge. Do the best you can and prepare yourself for the inevitability of falling short from time to time.

And here are some general guidelines if you’re adopting an older child:

1. Unlike the adoption of an infant or toddler, an older child is likely to be far more observant to the physical and practical order of the home. For example, if you already have children in the family and they each have their own room, it’s a good idea to try and provide a similar level of accommodation for your new arrival. Be very deliberate about making the new child feel welcome and avoid signs of favoritism.

2. It’s also a good idea to consult with the new child on room décor; older boys may be less inclined to participate in paint and furniture selection but if you’re looking to maximize the new child’s comfort and “buy-in” to the family, involving him or her in personal decisions is well advised.

3. Adoption experts warn, however, that when establishing the routines and rhythms of the household, don’t necessarily expect a 13-year-old adopted child to act like a typical child of his or her age. It’s not uncommon for an older adopted child to be developmentally challenged. In other words, be prepared to expect the unexpected.

4. Tracey Gee, a home study coordinator with Chicago’s Finally Family adoption agency, stresses the need to tackle the safety issues. “You have to put yourself in the mind-set of an exploring five-year-old or eight-year-old,” she said. “Put dangerous cleaning supplies out of reach. You should keep prescription medications up and out of the way. You have to look at safety issues as you would with any child, but you have to keep in mind the child’s mental age as well as his or her physical age.”

5. The seemingly simple matter of food choices can be an incredibly frustrating issue when adopting an older child. Going well beyond the matter of picky eating, some older children might come from orphanages where food was so scarce that they grew accustomed to hoarding whatever they were able to get hold of. Still others may have developed hard-to-break bad habits. It’s wise to keep healthy snacks handy and above all, exercise patience in the kitchen and at the table. Even the most vexing dietary “demand” can be adjusted over time.

In such a short space, it’s impossible to address the obstacles you might encounter during the initial period of transition of life with an older child. We’ll look at more possibilities in chapters 7–9. You can, however, take comfort in knowing that an important decision on your part has forever changed your destiny and the destiny of your newly adopted son or daughter.

We cannot change a child’s past, but we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit and help to affect the years to come with God’s grace and guidance.


If you’ve already arrived home with your child, the chances are good you’ve encountered some of the most common awkward questions along with some very sincere and legitimate inquiries. Some of them might have touched on your initial motivations surrounding this entire adventure and maybe caused you to cringe when they were first posed: Why don’t you just have your own? What kind are you getting? Maybe many were purely factual: How much does it cost? How long

will it take? Those are fairly easy ones to answer, yet can still be insensitive or inappropriate. Once your child is home, you’ve now crossed a bridge and such questions are no longer theoretical or hypothetical. Some of them may be asked in the presence of your son or daughter. It’s good to be prepared with appropriate and pithy answers when faced with some of the uncomfortable queries well-meaning people will inevitably ask.

Before we tackle a few of the most common questions, consider again the words of King Solomon: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” It should be your goal to extend grace to the person asking a given question.

Where applicable, consider the following commonly asked questions and suggested answers:

Q: Do you know his real mother or father?

A: Jimmy’s birthparents have offered us an opportunity to be his mom and dad. We are grateful for the privilege.

Q: Do you have any children of your own?

A: Including our newest one, we have _____.

Q: I didn’t even know you were pregnant.

A: The Lord had something else in mind. We were given an opportunity

to adopt!

Q: It must have been nice not to endure nine months of pregnancy and give


A: Adoption is a labor of the heart.

It’s important to maintain a sense of humor along the way. One newly adoptive mother said she used to fantasize about strolling through a store with her newborn child and having people ask her how she was able to get back into shape so quickly after the birth. The moment arrived in aisle four of the local supermarket, but she couldn’t pull it off. She was just so proud of her newly adopted son.

An adoptive father is often asked if his son gets his eyes from him or his mother. He might reply, “God gave him his beautiful eyes.”

Sometimes the easiest way to respond to questions or comments that have complicated answers is to simply respond with two words: Thank you or Good question.


Remember that if you’re going to treat the newest member of your family just as you would a child born to you, don’t forget to allow other people to do likewise. Some couples, nervous about the instability and uncertainty of a pending adoption, will decline invitations to participate in baby showers or other celebratory events. But once home and settled in, hope and expect your family and friends will treat you as they would any other new parents and welcome your newest family member with as much fanfare and joy as they deem appropriate.

Depending upon your schedules and the proximity of loved ones, some couples enjoy holding a dedicatory service at their church or they might host amore intimate gathering in their home. Whatever your approach, keep this in mind: There is no right or wrong way to celebrate!


Each family will have to decide for themselves how and when to celebrate the anniversary of their child’s entry into the family. Some will simply mark the child’s actual birthday as the date to set aside to give thanks and remember. Others will often remember the actual day they received their child from his or her birthmother or from the orphanage. If it was an international adoption, some will mark the day their child first stepped foot on American soil. Whenever you decide to remember this historic milestone, it’s wise to make it special. Here are a few suggestions:

Tell them their story. In an age-appropriate fashion, tell them about the day your family grew and your life changed forever. Children love detail and will latch on to things that might surprise you, such as the name of their first teddy bear or the flavor of their first ice cream cake. If you have video footage of the day you received your child, you might watch this together.

Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, tells the story of how he and his wife, Shirley, used to tell their son, Ryan, in great detail about the day they brought him home from the orphanage. For years, little Ryan would say, “Daddy, tell me again about the big white building . . .”

Many families create a “life storybook,” chronicling their adopted child’s journey in becoming a part of their family. This might be a scrapbook or an album where you write an age-appropriate account or story version of your child’s adoption journey and keep pictures and unique facts about your child, special details about the adoption, information regarding his or her birthparents, and letters or mementos from the birth family.

You can continue to add to the life storybook over the years and enjoy going through it together from time to time. Pull the book out on the day you celebrate and remember all the special milestones that you and your child have reached together. (You might consider making two copies—one for Mom and Dad to keep safe and protected, and another version for your child to keep.)

Treat it like a birthday. Make a big deal out of it; buy some balloons and make his or her favorite meal.

Make it a family day. Incorporate the whole clan into the mix by setting aside time to go to an amusement or a local park.

“Gotcha Day” by Kelly Bard

Our daughter Lydia’s “Gotcha Day” is November 16, 1999. On

that day, our seven-month-old baby was carried off a plane from

Korea and into our arms for the first time. Every year we celebrate

that day by watching video clips of the first “Gotcha Day,” enjoying

Korean or Thai food with the family, and eating a “Happy Gotcha

Day” cake, complete with candles representing each year.

“Gotcha Day” gives us the opportunity to continue celebrating

the wonder of adoption—the day our daughter became a part of our

family. We might not have video of my pregnant tummy or of her

birth, but we do have photos, videos, and wonderful memories that

we renew each year—the day we gained a daughter and new member

of our family to love.


At the Lord Mayor’s Luncheon on November 10, 1942, the dishes from the main entrée were being cleared from the tables when Great Britain’s prime-minister, Winston Churchill, strolled to the podium. World War II had been raging in Europe for over two years and victories had been few and far between. But on this day, there was good news to celebrate. The Allies had achieved a significant victory over the Germans at El Alamein in North Africa. The prime minister’s remarks were cautious but precise: “Now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The arrival home and subsequent first year as parents is a season to celebrate. But as noted earlier, it’s not the end of a long race, but rather the start of a lifelong love affair with your precious child. As Sir Winston urged the faithful, the first year is merely the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

Paul Batura and his wife, Julie, are delighted to be adoptive parents and live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with their three-year-old son, Riley Hamilton, along with his adopted dog, R. H. Macy. Paul serves as the senior assistant for research to Dr. James Dobson at Focus on the Family. He is the author of Gadzooks! The Highly Practical Life and Leadership Principles of Dr. James Dobson, in addition to numerous award-winning essays and short stories.

Phoebe’s Story

by Greg Hartman

Guo Qiao Hong was born somewhere in China’s Hunan Province. Two

weeks later, she was abandoned in Zhuzhou City square—no note or

anything—she was simply left on a bench in a basket.

I do not know if her birthparents ever named her, much less why

they abandoned her. Maybe they desperately wanted a boy; maybe Guo

was an accidental pregnancy, and they chose abandonment over abortion.

Guo Qiao Hong spent most of her first year in Zhuzhou Social Work

Institute, an orphanage that named her and added her name to a very

long waiting list. The orphanage is a modest four-story building with

tiled floors and walls. Wooden high chairs surround big buckets of toys;

the babies sit in chairs most of the day and play with the toys as overworked

nannies run around wiping runny noses and changing diapers.

I have a photo of Guo’s crib—it is about as big as a case of soda, with

spotless sheets and a teddy bear comforter. Just like baby beds you have

seen before, except this one shares a room with 50 more just like it.

Zhuzhou Social Work Institute is nothing fancy—the babies are clean

and well fed, but Guo Qiao Hong was only one out of hundreds of thousands

of babies China can’t afford to feed.

On April 8, 2002, one of Guo’s nannies bundled her up and took

her on a 90-minute bus ride to Changsha, Hunan Province’s capitol city.

The nanny carried Guo through the lobby of the Grand Sun Hotel, took

an elevator to the 21st floor, and handed her to me and my wife, Sarah.

Nothing fancy, just a simple, unceremonious moment that changed all of our lives forever.

From Changsha, we took Guo to the American consulate in

Ghuangzho, changed her name to Phoebe Ruth Qiao Hartman, finalized

the adoption, then took Phoebe home to her new family.

Ever notice that God’s most exciting work is, on the surface, nothing

fancy? A shepherd boy, anointed Israel’s greatest king with no one but his

brothers in attendance (1 Samuel 16:13); the blind, healed with mud

and spit (John 9:11). Our Savior, entering the world in a manger and

paying the whole world’s debt upon a cross. Sinners, saved by grace

with nothing more than a humble prayer.

Adoption is nothing fancy, either. We complicate it with paperwork,

but it boils down to this: A child has no family; a family opens its arms.

The Bible says that God adopts us into His family when we are born again (Ephesians 1:5).

When we adopted Phoebe, I caught a glimpse of what it must be

like for God when someone asks Jesus into his or her heart. Think about

it: Someone spends everything he has to save a person the world was

ready to throw away. A life everyone thinks worthless is suddenly worth

everything. No wonder there is joy in the presence of the angels when sinners repent!

Now that God has given Phoebe a family, I am looking forward to

seeing what He will do with her. I suspect it will be nothing fancy—but glorious.