Monday, November 30, 2009

Touching Wonder

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; New edition (September 1, 2009)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of the The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


John Blase’s work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children’s Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764656
ISBN-13: 978-1434764652

AND excerpt:


Angelic Visitor

Luke 1.26–38

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning!

You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,

be called ‘Son of the Highest.’

The Lord God will give him

the throne of his father David;

He will rule Jacob’s house forever—

no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

the power of the Highest hover over you;

Therefore, the child you bring to birth

will be called Holy, Son of God.

“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now:

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.

Let it be with me

just as you say.

Then the angel left her.


The theologians have rendered us mindless God-slaves, wisps of cloudy wings, doing nothing but the bidding of the Mighty One. Theologians. There is so much they do not know.

I found her just as He said she would be found: sitting on her bedding, barefooted, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her knee-tops. I saw why she had gained the favor of the Mighty One. I liked this daughter-of-Eve-to-bethe-mother-of-God.

“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

I expected this. But unlike that old priest’s, hers was not the doubting of a skeptic but rather the wondering of a child.

“But how? I can’t see it.”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. Mary, you have nothing to fear.” The Mighty One had expressly said, “Herald the news, Gabriel. Don’t report it.” I would have liked to elaborate further, but Mary would have to live out the details of my news in days to come. Truths unlived are not truths.

Then she paused and looked away. I have spoken to many of God’s children, and their eyes are always transfixed on me. They should be. I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God. But Mary’s gaze wandered for a moment. But what I initially took for a distracted mind was rather a devoted heart.

Her eyes returned to me. “Let it be with me.” Ah, the Mighty One had chosen well. Her words were not

resigned, but faith-full. The faith of a child. Of such is the Mighty One’s kingdom.

“Cousin Elizabeth? Really? Old Elizabeth? But how?”

I laughed.

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God. Mary, you have nothing to fear. I have told you all you need to know for now. You are more ready than you realize, stronger than you know. God is with you. Now I must go.”

But I did not want to go. Faith is rare, at least true faith. Yes, the word is often used, but the reality is hard

to find. Yet here I found it, in an earthen vessel surrounded by an earthen room. I liked Mary.

I left her just as He said I would: barefooted, sitting on her bedding, knees pulled up to her chest, arms

wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her kneetops. She looked older now. Human eyes would not

recognize this, but mine have seen much.

The Mighty One had revealed glimpses to me, what days ahead would hold for this glorious girl. Her cousin’s leaping womb. Joseph’s broad shoulders. The back of a borrowed burro. Herod’s jealous-red face. The cries of the innocent. The breath of stable animals. The agony of pushing the Mighty One out into this world.

I found myself praying for the favored one. Mary had so much to carry.

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Touching Wonder by John Blase. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

CFBA- Saint's Roost

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Saint's Roost

Sundowners (September 20, 2009)


Terry Burns


Terry has over 30 books in print, including work in a dozen short story collections and four non-fiction books plus numerous articles and short stories.

His last book Beyond the Smoke is a 2009 winner of the Will Rogers Medallion for best youth fiction and a nominee for the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. He has a three book Mysterious Ways series out from David C Cook, and Trails of the Dime Novel from Echelon Press.

A graduate of West Texas State he did post graduate work at Southern Methodist University. Terry plans to continue writing inspirational fiction as well as working as an agent for Hartline Literary Agency. Terry is a native Texan Living in Amarillo, Texas with his lovely wife Saundra.


Terry Burns has written a novel rich in Texan drawl and old western authenticity.

Saint’s Roost opens with a determined couple leaving a wagon train to set off on their own, only to be set upon by savages. Patrick, an eager evangelizing preacher, steps out to share the Good Book with the savages and meets an untimely demise, leaving his wife, Janie, alone on a trail to nowhere with no one to help her survive.

She makes her way across the frontier determined to follow her husband’s calling, but she doesn’t know where to begin, or even how to take care of herself. When her travels bring her into the lives of two cowhands, an ex-prostitute, a young boy and his drunken grandfather, and towns filled with cowboys waiting to be saved, she discovers there’s more than one way to spread God’s word.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Saint's Roost, go HERE

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Unexplainable- press release

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

ISAIAH 55:8–9

Excerpt adapted from Unexplainable by Don Cousins
©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Unexplainable by Don Cousins. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.
God is beyond us—able to think and act in ways that defy human logic and surpass human understanding. He’s limitless in power and He’s infinite in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

For the sake of relationship, He lowers Himself to our level in many ways. Yet He often chooses to express Himself in ways that are, well, unexplainable—apart from Him. And He does this to point us to Him.

His Ways Point to Him

If who you are, and the unfolding of your life, are seen as something understandable, expected, common, and explainable in human terms, then your life merely points to you. Like Frank Sinatra, you can sing, “I did it my way.” But if the best and perhaps only explanation for your life is God, then you point to Him and your life plays to the lyric, “I did it His way.”

This is the purpose for which you were created. In fact, to be unexplainable apart from God is completely normal for the Christian. This is the way life ought to be. You, and the unfolding of your life, should be unexplainable apart from God.

Perhaps in moments of quiet reflection you’ve wondered, Is this all there is to life? You have a sense within that there must be more to life than you’re experiencing. Though you’re probably busier than you want to be, you can’t figure out why you’re bored. You think there must be more to life than this.

Well, there is!

God is issuing an invitation to each and every one of us to join Him in the realm of the unexplainable. God wants to take your life beyond you. This is the kind of life He created you for, the life He designed you to experience. He wants it to be unexplainable apart from Him, so that you point to Him.

For Superstars Only?

At this point you may be thinking, But the Bible tells the stories of the superstars of the faith, and I’m no superstar. While this is certainly a common perception, a closer look reveals that the vast majority of the Bible’s primary figures were very common and ordinary folk. They were shepherds, like Moses and David, or ranchers like Abraham, or fishermen like Peter, James, and John, or carpenters like Joseph in the New Testament. They were slaves like the Old Testament Joseph and Daniel, or tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus. Some were even prostitutes like Rahab, and social outcasts like Elijah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist.

These people lived extraordinary lives, becoming the “Superstars” we perceive them to be only as a result of following God’s leading into the realm of the unexplainable. And this is what God desires to do with you as well. Common people become everything but common when God gets involved.

In most cases and on most days, the results of following God’s guidance will not be dramatic. While we tend to focus on Daniel’s dramatic rescue one night in the lion’s den, what’s even far more unexplainable is how Daniel chose earlier to continue “kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously” (Dan. 6:10), despite the king’s edict that made such prayer a capital offense.

While we focus on David’s unexplainable ability with a slingshot, it’s even more unexplainable that for ten years he served faithfully under Saul, a king gone mad who even tried to kill David on numerous occasions. When the tables turned, and David had a chance to kill Saul, he refused to do so—a decision explainable only by God’s influence in David’s life.

Then there’s Joseph, revered as the dreamer who rose from a pit to a palace. While his ascent is clearly unexplainable apart from God, it was Joseph’s ability to forgive his brothers and to care abundantly for them and their families that truly defies the common and begs for explanation.

Following God into the realm of the unexplainable may produce some dramatic moments, like those experienced by Daniel, David, and Joseph. In most cases, however, you’ll find yourself living the unexplainable in the midst of very common circumstances and ordinary days. To embrace life in God, to experience His presence, and to follow His lead will inevitably place you in the realm of the unexplainable. You’ll find yourself feeling, thinking, speaking, acting, and relating in ways leading unquestionably to the conclusion that “God did it.” This is how it should be in every Christian’s life.
But How?

The question then becomes, How do I get there?

For this to happen, you’ll need to see and approach life differently. Paul makes this truth abundantly clear when he commands our complete makeover in thought and behavior: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Living in conformity to the world can’t get you into this new realm. You’ll need to undergo a transformation—one that begins with the “renewing of your mind,” and results in conformity to the will of God.

This transformation from explainable to unexplainable is what this book is about. Specifically, I want to encourage and challenge you to make three major shifts in the way you see and approach life. I call them lifeshifts. They’re the sort of thing I believe Paul had in mind when he told us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” These lifeshifts will dramatically alter the way we seek to fulfill three of the deepest longings of the human heart—contentment, success, and significance.

The first lifeshift is from outside-in to inside-out—and it opens the door to experiencing the kind of contentment that is unattainable and unexplainable apart from God.

So, if you’re ready, turn the page … and begin your journey into the realm of the unexplainable.

Unexplainable: Pursuing a Life Only God Can Make Possible by Don Cousins
David C Cook/September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6805-6/softcover/256 pages/$16.99

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Penny & Rio GIVEAWAY!!

This giveaway is now CLOSED! Congratulations to Jaime for winning (chosen using

Product Description

The crime-fighting dog duo of Penny and Rio are on the case again! Squeaky the mouse desperately needs their help to recover his precious belongings from a locked doghouse next door. But will Hobbes, the Great Dane, who lives in the yard object? Through an inventive plan, the resourceful pair strive to solve this mystery. Can they recover Squeaky's belongings before the doghouse is destroyed? Follow along as the dynamic detectives, Penny and Rio, discover that they can do anything, as long as they work together.


This is an adorably fun book. I think this would be perfect for kids who are just starting to read chapter books. My boys really enjoyed listening to the story and even my daughter listened most of the time! The pictures are cute, bright and colourful and nicely complement the story.

Here is an interview with the author- Jennifer Swanson...

- Tell me a little about yourself and your family.    

I am a wife to Jon and mother of three very active children ages 10, 14 & 15.

-What do you do in your non-writing time?  
Let's see, I drive kids all over the place, for the most part.  But I am also an online middle school instructor for Johns Hopkins University.  I science to gifted students all over the world. When I have free time, I love to go the beach with my husband and take our dogs for a walk.

-When you are writing what are the things you must have... quiet? music? chocolate? chips? pens in 6 different colours? a clean desk? a messy desk? a desk at all? Do you prefer to write at a certain time of day? During a certain season? 
Quiet is so nice to have when I'm writing, but I rarely get that in my active household.  I write when I can fit it into my schedule, usually while the kids are at school, the dishwasher is running and the clothes are washing  (that is my background noise). 

- What is the oddest thing about you?
People find it funny that I was a cheerleader in high school.  I guess it doesn't really fit my personality these days, since I am a science teacher and children's author.  But I loved being a cheerleader it was great fun. 

-If you had access to a time machine where would you go? If you could live in another era when would it be? Why?
I wouldn't use a time machine, but give me a transporter like they had on Star Trek and I'd be thrilled.  Put one kid in and send them off to soccer, another to lacrosse practice, and the third to school.  I'd be in heaven!  

-What is the best book you've ever read (other than yours of course!) or best movie you've seen?
My favorite books are the Harry Potter series.  I think I've read them at least four times all the way through. The intricate plot is enough to allow me to discover new things every time I read them.  My favorite movie is a toss up.  I love Star Wars, the original ones, but the kid in me loves Toy Story 2. 
- If you could be any fictional character who would you be?
Well, that's a toss up between Samantha from Bewitched.  (yes, I know she was from a tv show, but who wouldn't want her powers?)  and Nancy Drew.  She was such an awesome detective.  I read every single one of her books as a child, probably more than once. 

- If you could be a superhero what would your special powers be? 
I would fly.  I think it would be so neat to be able to soar through the clouds and look down on people, of course, I'd have to get over my fear of heights, first.  But to be able to fly around and get things done, that would be great.

- Who is your favourite writer and have you met them yet? 
I have so many, both children's authors and adult authors. I would love to meet J.K.Rowling, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, or adult authors, Anne Perry, Elizabeth Peters or JoAnn Fluke.  Unfortunately, I have not met any of them yet, but I hope to some day. 

- What is the worst job you have ever had? 
Detasseling corn.  I grew up in a small town in Illinois and as a teenager, my first job was detasseling corn.  You had to walk through the corn fields that were 1- 1/2 miles long and pull the tassels out of the top of the 5-6 foot tall corn stalks.  You caught the bus at 4:30 am and then worked until 2:30pm.  It was very hot,because it was August and you had to wear long sleeves and pants so the corn leaves wouldn't give you a rash.  Dirty, smelly, hot work.  I lasted four days before deciding I wanted to be a lifeguard and went to lifeguard training.  Now that was the better job, sitting in the sun, getting a tan and watching kids in a pool. Who wouldn't like that?

- Did you know you wanted to write as a child? 
I actually started writing when I was five.  I used to write and illustrate my own books.  (of course, back then you could get away with stick figures.)  I would beg the teacher to let me read them to the class.  When I was in second grade, I wrote my own version of Beauty and the Beast and coerced my friends into putting it on.  I must not have been a great director, though, since they all quit before the performance, something about me being too bossy.  :) After that, I wrote for myself.  When I was at home with my young ones, I wrote to keep my sanity.  It's become a lifelong habit. 

Thanks so much to Jennifer Swanson for sending me a review copy of this book and for sponsoring this giveaway.

Would you like to win a copy of Penny & Rio?

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This giveaway is open to readers in Canada and the USA. I will choose a winner on December 9, 2009.

Winner will be chosen with and notified by email so please leave me a way to contact you. Winner will have 48 hours to reply to my email or I will choose a new winner.

Don't forget to enter my other great because Christmas is coming giveaways. You can find over 25 different giveaways listed HERE.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bo's Cafe

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:

Bo's Café

Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)

***Special thanks to Miriam Parker of Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***


Bruce McNicol is president of Leadership Catalyst, Inc. and an international speaker and consultant. He holds a master's in theology and a doctorate in organizational and leadership development. Previously he served for ten years as president of the international church planting organization Interest Associates.

Bill Thrall serves as vice-chair of Leadership Catalyst, mentor, and coauthor of the bestselling TrueFaced resources (, The Ascent of a Leader, andBeyond Your Best.

John Lynch is a national conference speaker and writer for LCI, holds a master's of theoology from Talbot Seminary, and has twenty years' experience as a teaching pastor of Open Door Fellowship. He's also cofounder and playwright of a theater troupe in Phoenix.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193517004X
ISBN-13: 978-1935170044


You can read my review of this book HERE.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pearl Girls

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:

Pearl Girls

Moody Publishers (July 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the Litfuse Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Margaret lives with her husband and two daughters in a Chicago suburb. Her book, A Mother’s Heart Knows was published by Thomas Nelson in 2005. Go Back and Be Happy, a co-authored book will be published by Lion Hudson in July 2008. Margaret has been featured on Greg Wheatly’s “Prime Time America,” TLN’s “Aspiring Women,” and LeSea’s “The Harvest Show.” Margaret writes freelance articles for The Daily Herald, the largest suburban Chicago newspaper. Notable interviews include Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Kinkade, Susan Branch and Dr. John Gottman. Margaret also wrote a feature article for With a master’s degree in international business, Margaret became a vice president in the corporate finance division of a New York City bank and worked there from 1986-1993. Supporting charitable causes is important to Margaret. For the past five years, she has served on the board of directors for WINGS, an organization that helps abused women and their children get a new start in life. Margaret would love to meet you too.

Visit the author's website.

Pearl Girls from Michael J Garvey on Vimeo.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802458629
ISBN-13: 978-0802458629



By Susan May Warren

Ephesians 4:32: (ESV): Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Angels of Forgiveness

I felt as if I had been slapped. I gaped in horror as I stared at the empty storage room and tried to comprehend my mother-in-law’s words, “ . . . and we even made $200!” She had sold all my worldly possessions without my permission. She was trying to be kind, but in doing so, she plowed a cavernous furrow through the garden of our friendship. I knew it would never bloom again.

Our family had just returned home after serving as missionaries for four years in Russia. We still hadn’t found a place to live, and my mother-in-law wanted to help by clearing out room for us in her unfinished basement—in the space our hundred boxes of lifetime treasures once occupied. She’d sold everything from hand-knit sweaters to homemade

quilts. Only a forlorn crate of John Denver records and a bag of used mittens remained.

The money she handed me from the proceeds of the sale felt like blood money. I had waited for four years to unwrap my wedding china, greet my books and knick-knacks, and slip back into my fine dresses. I couldn’t believe I had put so much value on possessions, but I had, and now I was stripped.

Then I discovered she’d sold my Christmas ornaments. Every year since childhood my mother had given me a special gift at Christmas, a new and unique tree decoration that symbolized my life for that year, as well as her love for me. The box of heirloom ornaments I had so carefully packed had been sold for a dollar; my memories traded for the price of two cheeseburgers.

A ball of anger swelled in my heart. As I curled in my bed, sobbing out my grief, the ball gained momentum and became an avalanche, burying any tendril of love I had left for the mother of my husband.

Christmas loomed close and everywhere I saw beautiful, glittering Christmas trees. My tree was naked, its arms bare against the white lights. Where was the golden star with my name etched on it, or my tiny porcelain piano? How could she have done this? I felt entombed by my anger.

Sometime in January I realized I had missed the joy that came with the advent season. It couldn’t penetrate my icy heart. I could barely look at my mother-in-law, despite the fact she begged my forgiveness. “I didn’t know how much this would hurt you,” she said, weeping. “I was just trying to help.” I turned a stone heart to her plea. Frost laced the edges of our conversations and although I said the words, “I forgive you,” my soul

was an iceberg and I knew I had not.

In the past, my mother-in-law had been my greatest supporter, encouraging me, helping me pack, babysitting, and stuffing thousands of newsletters. She had cried with me, prayed for me, and tolerated me living in her home. I missed her and knew that if I wanted warmth to reenter my heart, I had to forgive her. But nothing could ease the ache of losing my memories. I avoided her and resolved to live with the pain.

When we moved away in February, I slammed the door on our relationship and didn’t talk to her again. Three days before the following Christmas, a parcel arrived at our

front door, my name etched on the front. Mystified, I opened it. Then, surrounded by my family’s astonished gasps, I unwrapped, one by one, a collection of angel ornaments.

From bears with wings and halos to gilded crystal angels holding trumpets, I hung a choir of heavenly hosts on my tree. Finally, I sank into the sofa as my children examined the

decorations, oohing and aahing.

“Who’s it from?” my husband asked. I retrieved the box, dug through the tissue, and unearthed a small card. Merry Christmas—Love, Mom was scrawled out in my mother-in-law’s script. Tears burned my eyes and, as I let them free, my icy tomb of anger began to melt. My mother-in-law was not able to retrieve the past she had so carelessly discarded, but she was hoping to build a future, our future. And it would start with these angels, proclaiming the love and forgiveness that entered our world. If God could forgive me, who stole His Son’s life, certainly I could forgive my mother-in-law for stealing my . . . stuff.

Easter arrived and with it forgiveness finally flowered in my heart. We descended upon the in-laws for a visit and I wrapped my husband’s mother in a teary embrace. I had lost the little stuffed bunnies my grandmother had knit for me, but I had gained something better—the fragrance of forgiveness, and the everlasting hope that love can warm the coldest heart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author's website.

Ocieanna Fleissis a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer's historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296


The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lessons from a Broken Chopstick

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:

Lessons from a Broken Chopstick

Hannibal Books (September 30, 2009)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson of Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***


Mary Anne Phemister is a nurse, author, mother, grandmother and wife of noted concert pianist Bill Phemister. The Phemisters live in Wheaton, IL. She has also co-authored Mere Christians: Inspiring Stories of Encounters with C.S. Lewis.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (September 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749621
ISBN-13: 978-1934749623


The Chinese Chest

A large, beautifully carved Chinese chest rests on curved wooden legs in my kitchen. Long-legged cranes decorate the top and sides in various poses. One bird in the background looking wide-eyed and perplexed, I’ve come to call “the bewildered one.” She reminds me of my mother, full of questions she dare not ask.

A furniture maker in Hong Kong sold this beautiful chest to my parents during their early, happier years of married life. Being practical and resourceful, they knew that this fragrant, camphor-lined vault could store and preserve the many curios and keepsakes that they would be collecting over the years to ship back home, someday. A skilled Chinese woodcarver had chiseled these revered birds into the outer teak frame, knowing full well its commercial appeal. Throughout Asia, red-crested cranes are symbols of long life and good luck.

My parents, however, believed in divine providence rather than in lady luck. To them, the force that operates for good or ill in a person’s life is not as capricious and precarious as luck. Good fortune is not the result of mere chance; it is part of God’s plan. Unfortunate circumstances, like the time my father almost died of food poisoning, are blamed on the enemy of our souls—Satan, the devil or the evil one. Hence, even when God allows bad things to happen to good people, it is not without some purpose. God is teaching us something or testing our faith. Our job on earth is to trust God, who has clearly instructed us not to lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt. Nevertheless, the few curios they brought home in this chest, fortified with camphor against pesky moths, could not be considered real treasures, merely mementos to display at missionary meetings.

My parents firmly believed that one should not—must not—expect to reap the rewards of living a virtuous life here on earth. However, in the life to come, all would turn out right. Then, all life’s troubling questions would be answered to our satisfaction. “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” was a bible verse I had memorized at a very early age. Thus, I have always known that life has meaning and purpose. I have never doubted God’s goodness, although I have often questioned His methods.

This core belief, that all will turn out well in the end, that good will triumph over evil, that God rewards the faithful, was the force that enabled my mother to endure the countless challenges in her life. Her unshakable faith held her fast after the death of her infant son, Johnny, the puzzling alienation of her brother, Andy, and throughout her unhappy marriage to my father, notwithstanding all her attempts at being the good wife.

My parents’ acquaintance began at the suggestion of my father’s sister, Agnes. She had met Violet in Buffalo, New York and knew of her intent to go to Tibet as a missionary. Agnes suggested to her brother, Al, who was living in Shanghai at the time, that Violet would make him a good helpmeet. My father, who was on the lookout for a wife, then began a correspondence with this devout woman with a winsome smile, recently graduated from the Nyack Missionary College. Al eventually succeeded through his letters in persuading Violet to join him in China. Thus, Violet Anna Agnes Gibson and Alexander George Kowles were married on the very day the steamer docked in Shanghai harbor, September 6, 1938. She was just six days shy of turning thirty. Al, two years younger and two inches shorter, regretted these facts most of his life.

Why my parents went to China was never a mystery to me. In church service after church service they told of how God had laid on their hearts the burden for the lost. They were dedicated to answering the Master’s call for reapers to work in the harvest field for lost souls, as they would express it. They were merely obeying the great commission to go into all the world to bring the message of God’s love and salvation to people in heathen darkness. These words and phrases I heard often. I have never doubted their sincerity and resolve. They were more committed to their duty to obey Jesus’ imperative to preach the Gospel than to any other obligations, even to each other. Their marriage, based on their sincere desire to serve God, seemed to them at the beginning, to be God’s will. But before long, my mother began to recognize the smoldering notion that she had made a grave mistake. Where was God in this? How was God going to work this marriage out to his good?

“But you’re here,” my mother would say, dodging my question whenever I asked her why she stayed with my father for all those painful years. So, it was my existence and that of her other three children that enabled her to endure and be faithful. To her, the ever self-sacrificing handmaiden of the Lord and Al, divorce was unthinkable. God must have some purpose in it for her, she often reasoned throughout her prolonged heartache. It was her duty to persevere, to keep up family appearances for the sake of us children and “the ministry.”

I’m sure now that it was her strong sense of duty, her belief that marriages are made in heaven, her determination to endure to the end, bound and kept her locked in that disappointing marriage. Like the flight plans imprinted in those cranes’ brains, the mechanisms that steered the course of my mother’s life were those strongly implanted religious beliefs. I have inherited some of my mother’s sense of adventure, her perseverance, as well as strong religious beliefs, but for me, marriages cannot possibly be made in heaven. Where does it say that in the Bible? People make those choices, some good, some unhealthy. Somewhere along the line I have learned, contrary to family maxims, that if you make your bed, you don’t necessarily have to lie in it. You can get up and move, especially when one encounters, emotional, physical, sexual or even spiritual abuse.

Never once did I hear my mother question God’s sovereignty. To her, that would imply that the God whom she trusted with all her heart had led her down the wrong path. In her theology, and reinforced by my father with quotes from the Bible, that it was God’s will that she submit to her husband. She was committed (and coerced) to love, honor, and obey him until death intervened. “I accepted the future in simple faith that the Lord was leading me all the way,” she said. Simple faith did not permit her to question. A professional Christian counselor was out of the question, even if there were any around to be consulted a half century ago. Seeing a counselor pre-supposed that intense prayer and fasting and Bible reading were inadequate remedies to life’s problems. She told very few about her anguish, and never to her children while we were growing up.

During the time my mother kept the Chinese chest in her small apartment, it lay shrouded under a heavy, black brocade cloth. Stacked on top of the chest sat her phonograph player, her photo memory books, and piles of assorted record albums. Out of sight, the noble cranes lay hidden for decades until my mother moved into an assisted living residence. I remember her broad smile when I told her that I would take good care of her beautiful camphor chest, this lovely thing she bequeathed to me. She had begun to distribute her “things,” as she called them, to her four children. My mother lived to be eighty-nine. Clues to her life had been locked away in that Chinese chest for most of those years. In time, it was my joy to unearth some of the mementos and letters she had penned to her mother when she first sailed to Shanghai on the Empress of Japan to marry “by faith” a man she barely knew.

As I look at those cranes now, embedded in that chest that has come down to me, the bewildered one in particular seems to encapsulate much of my mother’s fascinating, woeful life. She, like the cranes, had mated for life, despite the unhappiness she endured. I suppose that if we children had all turned out to be preachers or missionaries to a foreign country, she would have felt some recompense, but none of us did. Throughout her lonely migrations to strange and foreign lands she kept searching for a resolution to the sadness she was feeling but could not verbalize. God did not provide the reconciliation to her husband and brother that she had so desperately prayed for. To bolster herself, she often took comfort in the words of the old hymn: “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus; life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.” I am sure that now she has found the answers in heaven and has found peace--the peace that passes understanding. What has she learned over there? What have I learned from her life experiences? How does one resolve the problem of pain in a Christian worldview? C. S. Lewis has helped me understand what my mother knew and quietly bore: many questions in this life are left unanswered. Life in Christ is a faith journey indeed. The Bible reminds us that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” (Rom. 8:18 NIV) Trust and Obey were the three little words that guided the choices my mother made throughout the bewildered maze of her life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


This giveaway is now CLOSED! Congratulations to roxxyroller for winning. Winner chosen using

Information taken from the Zondervan website...

From the Back Cover

Tiny feet of Jesus, kicking up a storm. Angels circling round his bed keep him safe and warm. Now those feet are bigger, walking on the sea, Leaving us his footstep, saying, "Come and follow me!" Celebrate the gift of Jesus from head to tiny toes. Discover the wonder of hands that develop into those of a carpenter and swaddled shoulders that grow to carry the weight of all mankind. Share in the humble birth of tiny baby Jesus while remembering the life and teachings of the grown savior.

Ages 4-7

You can browse inside the book HERE.

Dandi Daley Mackall is the author of over 400 books and still can’t believe she gets to write for a living, helping children of all ages grow spiritually. She and her husband, Joe, both write from rural Ohio, where they’re blessed with three children and a variety of horses, dogs, and cats.

Author Website:

Julia Noonan wrote and illustrated her first children’s book within a year of graduating with honors from Pratt Institute. She has illustrated the work of outstanding authors such as Jane Yolen, Laurence Yep and Jacquelyn Mitchard, and has published over a half dozen books of her own. She enjoys living near the beach and being with her family, as well as painting and writing.

Author Website:


Tiny Baby Jesus is a sweet story. I really like how the book alternates between the tiny baby Jesus and adult Jesus. I love the illustrations- I love how Jesus actually LOOKS like a person born in Bethlehem as opposed to some inauthentic white blond Jesus. I read this story to my 3 kids ( ages 7, 6, and almost 3) and they enjoyed it. Olivia loved pointing out the baby and my boys were able to really follow the story.


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