Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TOUR: Licensed for Trouble by Susan May Warren

Welcome to the blog tour (see schedule HERE) for the third and final installment of Susan May Warren's PJ Sugar series! She's wrapped up the series with what many have called, "the best book in the series'!

About Licensed for Trouble: PJ Sugar receives shocking news that she's inherited the Kellogg family mansion. Though she has no idea why, the timing is perfect-PJ has clearly worn out her welcome at her sister's house. Unfortunately, the mansion is in shambles, and PJ is short on cash. Rescue comes in the form of Max Smith, a mysterious handyman willing to trade his services for PJ's investigative skills. But PJ already has a full docket with cramming for her PI license and nurturing a growing romance with her boss, Jeremy Kane. Can she take on Max's case without dropping the ball?

Find out more about book one, Nothing But Trouble and book two, Double Trouble.

((If you care to, you can also read my reviews for "Nothing But Trouble", and "Double Trouble".))

About Susan May Warren: Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year.

Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at:


I'm actually still reading this book, but so far it's very good -- I'm liking it as much as I have the rest of the series.

I love the bits about the old house, and am still really curious to see how things are going to work out between P.J., Jeremy, and Boone. The house stuff is making me crave acquiring a big ol' house that I could fix up, myself! LOL

Susan's writing is always a pleasure to read. Her books are like a cup of comfort to me -- I know I will always find a great story waiting for me inside the covers of her work. This book was/is no different. My only (small) qualm with this one was that there were a few too many flowery descriptives, and that kept pulling me out of the story, to an extent. Otherwise, though, this is still a great book, and I'll recommend this --and the rest of the series-- to just about anyone. ;)
This book was received via LitFuse Publicity

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TOUR: "John: Get to Know the Living Savior" by Warren Wiersbe

*** MY REVIEW: ***
This is a good study book based on the biblical book of John.

The book relies heavily on the commentaries that Wiersbe has written on the book of John. But, it's not mandatory that you own those, as there are snippets from the commentaries throughout this study book.

There are twelve lessons inside, and each lesson takes you through several focus points: Going Deeper, Looking Inward, Going Forward, and Seeking Help.

I liked how the questions get you to look at your own life and how the study is applicable to it. I also liked how the "Seeking Help" section reminds you to keep God as your focus so that doing the study is not just fulfilling an "obligation" in your day.

This study can be used either for individual use, or in small groups.

Overall, I found it to be very thorough.

[This book was received through FIRST Wild Card Tours]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Please Note...

Just a small heads’ up… In the very near future, I am going to be starting to post my FIRST blog tours over at my Should Be Reading blog, instead of here at MizB’s Book Reviews.

They will get more readability there, and my readers will be able to see all of my reviews, instead of just some of them. Basically, it streamlines my reviewing, instead of having it in two different places.

Sorry to cause any trouble, but I hope to see you (my followers) over at my Should Be Reading blog in the near future!

Thank you for your continued support!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

REVIEW: "My Formerly Hot Life" by Stephanie Dolgoff

There was a lot in this book that I could definitely relate to, and lots of good advice, too.

The book was depressing, yet encouraging... depressing because Stephanie pointed out some aspects of "formerly-dom" I'd not yet realized/noticed in myself, and encouraging because she makes you realize you're definitely not alone in all of the changes taking place. ;)

Overall, Stephanie seems to be letting us know that "hotness" comes from within, not from any external appearances.

A decent, quick read, if not entirely what I'd expected.

Rated: C
[This book was received via Random House, Canada, and the author, herself.]

Monday, July 5, 2010

TOUR: "The Unshakable Truth" by Josh and Sean McDowell

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:

The Unshakable Truth: How You Can Experience the 12 Essentials of a Relevant Faith

Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Over 40-plus years, Josh McDowell has spoken to more than 10 million people in 115 countries about the evidence for Christianity and the difference the Christian faith makes in the world. He has authored or coauthored more than 110 books (with more than 51 million copies in print), including such classics as More Than a Carpenter and New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Visit the author's website.

Sean McDowell is an educator and a popular speaker at schools, churches, and conferences nationwide. He is the author of Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World, the coauthor of Understanding Intelligent Design and Evidence for the Resurrection, and general editor of The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. He is currently pursuing a PhD in apologetics and worldview studies.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736928707
ISBN-13: 978-0736928700


What We All Want out of Life

It was a beautiful fall day. The car windows were all rolled down. I (Josh) was in my first year of college, and I was driving some of my friends from campus to downtown. We were laughing and just having a lot of fun. A woman pulled up beside us at the traffic light, rolled down her window, and with a scowl on her face said, “What right do you kids have to be so happy!”

Our Desire for Deep Happiness

Deep down all of us want to be happy. We want to live a satisfying life, a life of joy and contentment. Actually, God wants us to enjoy that as well. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11 niv). Yet the quest for deep happiness often eludes us. Webster’s dictionary defines happiness as “a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” Happiness is often equated with pleasurable feelings. And of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with pleasurable satisfaction, except in how we pursue it.

Focusing on Self

I (Sean, Josh’s son and co-author) work as an educator. When I ask my students what they want most in their lives, their typical response is “happiness.” I ask them to define happiness, and most of them tell me that happiness is people feeling good and having fun. Many of us would define it that way. If happiness is about a pleasurable feeling or experience of fun, then it should follow that the greater number of fun experiences we have, the happier we become.

But somehow, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. For example, the earning power of the baby boomers increased dramatically over that of any previous generation in history. They have had more money, more leisure time, more access to sports, travel, and entertainment than any society has ever experienced. And yet according to happiness expert Dr. Martin Seligman, baby boomers experienced a tenfold increase in depression over any previous generation. The reason for the depression, Dr. Seligman concludes, was that people began a shift toward a focus on self.

When one’s mission in life is to pursue pleasure, the result is to become “me” focused. And “me”-focused happiness is generally short-lived. Sooner or later, and for most people it is later, when we focus primarily on our own pleasure, our lives tend to become empty, depressed, and void of any real meaning. We come to experience the reality that a self-centered focus doesn’t produce lasting satisfaction, joy, or real happiness. Christian philosopher and apologist J.P. Moreland suggests a conclusion to a self-absorbed life:

If happiness is having an internal feeling of fun or pleasurable satisfaction, and if it is our main goal, where will we place our focus all day long? The focus will be on us, and the result will be a culture of self-absorbed individuals who can’t live for something larger than we are.

Yet this is the current life philosophy that most people have bought into: The individual always comes first, with the number-one virtue being to feel good about yourself. The culture tells you to “be yourself, believe in yourself, express yourself.” That’s why we have YouTube and MySpace. Self, self, self. The prevailing view is that you do what it takes to feel good about yourself because that’s the most important thing in the world. That is the way to find happiness.

To some degree or another most of us have bought into that viewpoint. And it’s easy to understand why. If the goal is happiness, then why shouldn’t we pursue the things that will give us pleasure and thus make us happy?

Focusing on Jesus and His Worldview

Jesus, however, has another view on achieving genuine happiness and joy—one that encompasses a whole different set of priorities. Instead of seeking our happiness first, Jesus tells us to put him and his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). He says we must die to ourselves; that to find our life we must lose it; essentially, that we must look beyond ourselves and pursue him first. In reading such things, many people wonder how we can expect to be happy if we set aside our quest for what gives us pleasure and follow someone who asks us for our total commitment. As a result, they think Christianity might spoil all their fun.

This is emphatically not the case. Jesus said he was “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and our source of genuine happiness. According to Jesus, happiness is not based upon a certain feeling. Instead, it is a sense of contentment, peace, and joy that transcends our circumstances and feelings. When Jesus said that his joy would be in us and our joy would be complete, he was defining the true way to happiness—a happiness that does not fade, but grows and expands into true and lasting joy.

He was saying to focus on him and his way—his view of the world. And by doing this we would understand who we are, and thus we would experience our identity as a person of value and worth. We would realize why we are here, and thus we would experience our purpose and meaning in life. We would know where we are going, and thus we would experience our destiny and mission in a life larger than ourselves.

And in this process we will find we have attained something much bigger and better than the way our culture understands happiness, which is based on the pleasure of the moment. We will find true, deep, satisfying, and lasting joy. It will be a joy that remains intact through all of life, with or without pleasures, through ups and downs, through pains, sorrows, and losses. That is something we all want.

The way to achieve this lasting joy is to buy into Jesus’ idea of life—that is, his worldview. A worldview is what we assume to be true about the basic makeup of our world. A worldview is like a mental map of reality. We believe certain things about ourselves and God and life, and then we interpret our experiences through them. Everyone has a worldview, even though not everyone realizes they have one.

Jesus’ worldview—his view of life—is called a biblical worldview. Embracing a biblical worldview means understanding and living life from God’s perspective. It means understanding what we were meant to know and be and how we were meant to live. This biblical worldview works because it explains the truth about God and about us. That is what Jesus and the whole of Scripture does—it gives us the truth about life and happiness, and the power to live according to the kingdom of God. As J.P.
Moreland says,

This is why truth is so powerful. It allows us to cooperate with reality, whether spiritual or physical, and tap into its power. As we learn to think correctly about God, specific scriptural teachings, the soul, or other important aspects of a Christian worldview, we are placed in touch with God and those realities.

Nothing works right unless it conforms to reality. A plane flies because engineers design its shape to conform to the realities of airflow and gravity. A boat floats because its designers shaped it to conform to the realities of water displacement. Try to fly a boat or float a plane and the results will be disastrous. It’s the same with your life. If you want a significant life, you must run your life in accordance with what it was designed to do. Your life was created to work properly when it conforms to the reality of its purpose. And God has gone to great lengths to show us the reality of our purpose, which is diametrically opposed to how our culture understands happiness. He tells us that when we abandon self-absorption we will find significance. When we seek first His kingdom, all these things will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). When we find the meaning he intends for our lives, we will gain a deep contentment even in the middle of the pain, loss, and abandonment that characterizes our fallen world. This is why it is vitally important to adopt God’s perspective on life. This, and only this, is the path to genuine happiness and deep, lasting joy.

My (Josh’s) Path

As a teenager, I (Josh) began my quest for happiness down the wrong path. Yet I sincerely wanted the answers to Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? So I started searching for answers. I certainly didn’t find answers at home. My father was the town drunk. I grew up watching in fear and horror as my father beat my mother and wreaked havoc at home. I experienced sexual abuse from a man named Wayne, whom my parents hired as a part-time cook and housekeeper. As I got older I eventually told my mother about what Wayne was doing, but she didn’t believe me. I can’t describe to you the pain of abandonment I felt when my mother refused to believe me. Also, growing up I never remember my father saying that he loved me. The only love I ever felt was from a struggling, abused mother who died suddenly when I was a teenager. So my home was not a place to find answers or happiness.

In the small Michigan community in which I grew up, everyone seemed to be into religion, so my search started there. I really got into the church scene. But I must have picked the wrong church, because I felt worse inside the church than I did outside. So I gave up on the church to provide me any answers.

Then I thought that education might have the answers, so I enrolled in a university. I soon became unpopular with my professors because I hounded them with so many questions. But I learned that my professors had just as many problems, frustrations, and unanswered questions as I did.

I remember seeing a student wearing a T-shirt that read, Don’t follow me, I’m lost. That’s how everyone at the university seemed to me. I concluded education wasn’t the answer.

Next, I tried prestige. I thought I could find a noble cause, commit to it, and in the process become well known. So I ran for various student offices. It was great at first. People got to know me and I enjoyed spending the university’s money getting the speakers I wanted. I also liked the idea of spending the students’ money for throwing parties.

But the prestige thing soon wore off. I would wake up on Monday morning, usually with a headache from the night before, dreading the next five days. I endured Monday through Friday just to experience the party nights on the weekend. But every Monday brought the meaningless cycle all over again.

About that time I noticed a small group of people who seemed different from the others. They appeared to know who they were and where they were going. They had a clear set of convictions about what they believed. And what really stood out was that they appeared to be genuinely happy. Their happiness and joy wasn’t like mine, which was dependent on my circumstances. I was happy only when things were going great—when I was having “fun.” But they seemed to possess an inner source of joy that I longed for, and I wondered where it came from.

I befriended these people and tried to figure out what they knew that I didn’t. One day I asked one of these students (a good-looking woman in the group) what made her so different, so happy. She had told me before she hadn’t always been that way but she had changed. So I asked her, “What changed your life?”

Her answer shocked me. She used two words as a solution, two words I never thought I’d hear at the university. She simply said, “Jesus Christ.” I immediately told her I was fed up with religion and the church and was certain it wasn’t a solution. Again, this woman had convictions and she knew what she believed. She shot back and said, “I didn’t say religion, I said Jesus Christ.”

She and her friends went on to explain that a relationship with God through Jesus Christ offered what I would come to know as a biblical worldview. They told me it was Christ and his worldview—seeing everything from a biblical perspective—that would answer all the questions I had. They didn’t offer to walk me through a shallow prayer or get me to go to “church meetings.” What they did was challenge me to intellectually examine the claims of Jesus and to determine, in essence, whether God’s worldview written in Scripture was credible. I accepted their challenge out of pride. I wanted to prove Christianity was a farce.

What I discovered was that I was the farce. My quest for happiness and meaning was found in Christ.

Most people who know my testimony know I set out to disprove Christianity, and they assume I came to Christ through the intellectual route. They think my examination of the evidence of Christ’s deity, his resurrection, and the reliability of Scripture convinced me that God had spoken and that it offered me a worldview that would establish my identity, purpose, and meaning in life—and therefore I trusted in Christ. Truth is, all the evidence I have documented in my books did not bring me into a relationship with Christ. The convincing evidence certainly got my attention, but it was God’s love that drew me to him. I saw love between a group of Jesus-followers who devoted themselves to God and one another. And God demonstrated his love to me through them. Through the power of the Holy Spirit my life was transformed through a relationship with God. I discovered a whole new way of thinking and living that brought pure joy. This new way of thinking and living was possible as God empowered me to live out truth from his perspective—a biblical worldview.

Most Christians believe Jesus’ worldview is what we need to follow, yet we encounter many who seem to have trouble making it work in their lives. Our experience tells us that the following quote represents untold numbers of people:

“I’m a Christian and I want to find real joy. I do believe I can find it in following Christ, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be happening. I do my best to live out my faith. But to be honest, I really don’t know a lot about why I believe what I believe. And when it comes to a biblical worldview, there are so many conflicting claims floating around about what that means, I’m not sure I’m forming the right one. How can I be sure?”

Answering these questions that we find on the lips of so many Christians is our first purpose in writing this handbook. We want to demonstrate a way to experience the happiness and joy that every person desires and that God wants us to have. We also have a second purpose in writing this handbook.

Our Desire to Pass the Faith to the Next Generation

We run across hundreds of Christians who tell us something like this:

“I’m a Christian and want to pass my faith on to my kids. Yet I don’t feel very equipped to do that. But I definitely don’t want to lose my kids to a godless culture. What can I do?”

The fear of the culture capturing our kids is real. This handbook is designed to better ground you in the essentials of the faith in a way that provides a greater understanding of what you believe, why you believe it, and how it brings you a deeper joy in life. That understanding in and of itself will serve as a platform to successfully instill a robust and active Christianity in the lives of the next generation. We know that passing on the faith is a real and vital need. And it doesn’t happen automatically.

Captured by the Culture

Many times we have heard stories similar to the following scenario:

Marsha hugged her son as he prepared to leave. “It’s been nice having you home again, honey,” she said.

“Yeah, Greg,” his father, Mike, echoed. “It really has been good.” He stepped in for a hug. “I miss the weekends as a family, going to church and all. But I assume you’ve found a church home there in the college area by now, haven’t you, son?”

Greg swung his backpack onto his shoulder. “Well, Dad, not really,” he said hesitantly. “Being a freshman is tough, so I’ve been really busy.”

Sarah, Greg’s 16-year-old sister, handed him his duffel bag. “Is college really that hard?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say hard, really. You just keep busy, you know?”

Mike gently gripped Greg’s shoulder. “If you’re too busy to be in church, son, I think you might be too busy.”

“Well,” Greg responded, “your kind of church just isn’t my thing anymore, Dad. I’ve got some friends and we do a group study once a week and that’s enough for me.”

“I’d rather do things with my friends too,” Sarah added. “Church is a bore.”

“Sarah!” Marsha said. “That’s a terrible thing to say!”

“Well, it’s true!” Sarah said.

“She’s right, Mom,” Greg said. “Church just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.”

“Honey, don’t say that.” Marsha touched her son on the arm. “That college isn’t turning you against God, is it?”

“No, Mom,” Greg chuckled, “I’m just rethinking a lot of things. God is still important to me, I just believe some different things from you guys, that’s all.” He adjusted the weight of the backpack. “Hey, I’ve got to get going.”

Greg moved on out the door as Sarah helped him with his things. Marsha and Mike stepped onto the porch and watched their son walk toward the car.

“We’ll be praying for you, son,” Mike called.

“Thanks, Dad,” Greg responded with a chuckle.

Marsha and Mike watched in silence as he backed down the drive and waved to them as he drove away. “I hope we’re not losing our son,” Marsha said.

Mike nodded. “I hope we’re not losing our son and our daughter.” 

If we hear one dominating and recurring theme among the many church leaders and families we come in contact with, it’s the fear that Mike expresses above. There is a deep, abiding fear among Christian parents that their kids, having been raised in a Christian family and having spent their childhood and teenage years in the church, will nonetheless walk away from God.

A Generation Gap

The problem is, this fear is becoming a reality. Presently, within ten years of entering adulthood, most teens professing to be Christians will walk away from the church and put whatever commitment they made to Christ on the shelf. This doesn’t mean all our young people are rejecting God outright and becoming atheists. That’s not the case. It’s that they are adopting beliefs and a worldview that are definitely not “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3 nasb). A large portion of young people today would echo Greg’s remark to his dad: “God is still important to me, I just believe some different things than you.” These differences, often referred to as the generation gap, are wider and deeper today than ever before. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, almost 80 percent of adults see a difference between the beliefs and points of view of young people and themselves. Asked to identify where older and younger people differ the most, 47 percent pinpointed the areas of social values and morality.

Consider just some of what today’s Christian young people believe:

23 percent are not assured of the existence of miracles;
33 percent either “definitely” or “maybe” believe in reincarnation;
42 percent are not assured of the existence of evil as an entity;
48 percent believe that many religions are true.
It is difficult to lead a young person to adopt a Christian worldview when nearly one out of two can’t say that Jesus is definitively “the way, the truth, and the life.”

And even when our young people do begin to embrace a Christian worldview they are under intense assault from their high school years and up. According to a 2006 study by professors from Harvard and George Mason Universities, the percentage of agnostics and atheists teaching at American colleges is three times greater than in the general population. More than half of college professors today believe the Bible is “an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts.” 

Students are continually told by today’s culture that the Bible is unreliable, that Jesus was no different than any other religious figure, and that anyone who asserts there is an objective truth that shapes a worldview is intolerant and a bigot. It is very hard for young people to stand up against such pressures unless they are fully equipped, as the apostle Peter said, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15 nasb). The truth is, few are equipped and ready to face a world that is increasingly hostile to Christianity.

If you have children or work with young people, you know how difficult it can be to get through to them. And it seems at times that all the advantages communication technology has brought us haven’t helped a bit. In fact, the pervasiveness of modern electronic communication may be one of the obstacles we must overcome. In his book Handoff     Dr. Jeff Myers says:

The young people our organization has studied spend between 27 and 33 hours per week using communication technology—gaming, watching television and movies, text messaging, instant messaging, and surfing the internet. In short, they’re overwhelmed with information.

Information overload breaks down a person’s capacity for discernment. For example, C. John Sommerville argued that the 24-hour news cycle actually makes us dumber, not smarter. It presents so much information that we find it impossible to figure out what is truly important.

Then Jeff goes on to say:

With shopping and surfing available 24 hours a day young adults believe they can have whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want, and with whomever they want to have it. Nothing is more than a few clicks away.

Here’s the paradox: when there is nothing more to see or do, there is nothing more to look forward to. It’s easy to see why surveys of young adults pick up high levels of hopelessness, distrust, cynicism, and boredom.

The unceasing access to pleasure and the consequent unhappiness led evangelist Ravi Zacharias to reference G.K. Chesterton in saying that “meaninglessness ultimately comes not from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure.”

The task may not be easy, but if ever there was a time to make a concerted effort to instill a biblical worldview into the next generation—a way to think from a biblical perspective—it’s now. Their misconceptions and distorted views of what is important in life and what brings happiness and joy must be addressed. The consequences of failing to tackle this problem head-on are disheartening.

Young people must be led to align their beliefs and behavior with ultimate reality, which means, in essence, to adopt the biblical view of the world as their guiding principle. In The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, author Ron Sider concludes that people who have a biblical worldview live differently—in ways that are highly significant to the temptations today’s youth face. They are nine times more likely to avoid “adult only” material on the Internet, three times as likely not to use tobacco products, and twice as likely to volunteer to help the poor. What people believe about God, truth, and the world around them (for example, a biblical worldview), makes a tangible difference in the way they live.

Equipping the Mind

Some might think their young people won’t respond positively to addressing their beliefs and challenging them to examine why they believe what they believe. Some think that all today’s kids want is to deal with relationships and what they can experience emotionally. This simply is not the case. In the recent “National Study of Youth and Religion,” thousands of nonreligious teenagers said they were raised to be “religious” but had become “nonreligious.” These teenagers were asked, “Why did you fall away from the faith in which you were raised?” They were given no set of answers to pick from; it was simply an open-ended question. The most common answer—given by 32 percent of the respondents—was intellectual skepticism. That is a very high percentage given the fact that this was an open-ended question. Their answers included such statements as “It didn’t make sense to me”; “Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe in”; “I think scientifically there is no real proof”; and “There were too many questions that can’t be answered.” Our kids want answers they can grapple with in their minds as well as in their hearts.

When it comes to spiritual and character formation, Scripture attaches great importance to training the mind. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” Paul states. “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 niv).

All of us want our kids to be equipped in mind, spirit, and character, able to resist the pressures of this increasingly godless culture so that no matter what temptations and opposition they face, they will live lives we can be proud of—lives that are pleasing to God and others. We want our kids to live out a biblical worldview. Yet actually living out a biblical worldview is impossible apart from a transformed relationship through Jesus Christ. Neither our young people nor any of us have the natural inclination or power in our human strength to live out “the way” of Jesus—his worldview. That means each of us and our young people must place our trust in Christ and surrender our lives to him so we all can stand strong with deep convictions for the unshakable truths of God.

This handbook will provide guidance to lead your young people to such a faith in Christ. Because through a transformed relationship with God they “will no longer be like children, forever changing [their] minds about what [they] believe because someone has told [them] something different or because someone has cleverly lied to [them] and made the lie sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4:13-14). You want to teach and mentor and empower them to think and live as “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which [they] shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15 niv).

There is probably nothing more rewarding to us (Josh and Sean) than being able to pass the baton of the Christian faith to our children. Jeff Myers said it well in Handoff:

The universe is designed in such a way that passing the baton is the only way I can truly experience blessing, fullness, meaning, satisfaction, and joy in life. I may want to believe that serving myself leads to happiness, but my heart knows better. No matter how much stuff I buy, or what kind of house I live in, or where I travel, life only takes on meaning when I live for something bigger than myself.

Use This Handbook as Your Guide

Some books are designed for you to curl up on a couch with them and enjoy a “good read.” Others are reference texts from which you glean specific information. This book is a handbook. The best way to use it is first to absorb it, and then to engage in a long-term process of applying its content incrementally in your own life and in the lives of your children, grandchildren, youth group, or others to whom you wish to impart the faith.

This book will present the essentials of the biblical worldview by exploring what we have identified as the 12 basic truths of the faith, which are noted in the 12 sections of this work. The next two chapters will give you an overview of these 12 truths, and then the following 48 chapters will delve into each truth thoroughly.

Each foundational truth will be given four chapters. Some chapters will be short and succinct. The first chapter in each section will identify a particular truth and what we as Christians believe about it. The second chapter will examine why you can believe it with confidence. The third chapter in each section will explore how that truth is relevant to your life. The fourth chapter will offer practical ways to live that truth out in the presence of those around you. As you live these truths out more and more in front of your family and friends you will be better equipped to impart them to others.

It is not necessary to read each truth and its chapters in order. There is no problem jumping ahead to a particular truth of interest or to one that applies to an immediate situation in your life. For example, if you are nearing the Easter season you might want to skip to Truth Eight: “Jesus’ Bodily Resurrection.” Or if Christmas is around the corner you might want to go to Truth Four: “God Became Human.” The point is, while each truth of the Christian faith builds off the other, each stands on its own merits. So if a particular time of year makes it more appropriate to address certain truths, or if those around you are raising a certain question that makes focusing on a particular truth more timely, go for it. Eventually, however, we urge you to cover all the truths in this handbook—and to review them more than once.

There is a reason God instructed his people to “repeat [God’s truth] again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home…away on a journey…lying down…getting up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). No matter how young or how old we are, we will never exhaustively understand the depths and riches of God and his truth. The truths of the faith can become fresh and alive to you again each time you go over them. Absorbing them repeatedly can give them deeper relevance because in the process of filling ourselves with knowledge of his truth we are actually deepening our relationship with a relational, infinite God. We would not mislead you—the McDowells, this father-and-son team, do not claim to understand all the deep truths we present here. Nor have we mastered the Christian life. Far from it. It is important that you realize that we too are on a journey of constantly uncovering the richness of God and applying these truths to our daily lives.

Experience an Enriching Celebration with Your Family

The 12 unshakable truths you will discover throughout this handbook are rooted in the Old Testament, even though most of the passages we refer to are in the New Testament. And to help you instill these truths in your family we have adapted three Old Testament Jewish festivals and made them into mealtime celebrations.

For centuries Jewish families have gathered around the dinner table to celebrate those festivals God had ordained for them. Many Christians today are realizing the benefits and richness of these festivals in aiding us to better understand the meaning of God’s plan for each of us. So to help you impart the truths of the faith to your family and friends, you will find in the appendixes to this handbook a Judeo-Christian Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), Feast of Harvest (Pentecost), and Feast of Tabernacles. These three mealtime events focus on celebrating the God of relationship, redemption, and restoration, which are all found in the sweeping story from creation to God taking on humanity to Christ’s return. We have provided you detailed instructions on how to plan and execute these mealtime celebrations. Take advantage of them.

The development of these festivals has been greatly aided by the help of Harvey Diamond and his “Pathways to Glory” interactive devotional. Harvey has done a phenomenal job of explaining all the feasts of the Old Testament and their relevance to today and to the Christian life. Visit and click on “Pathways to Glory Relational Devotional.” You will benefit greatly from Harvey’s teachings and insights.

Our Prayer for You

As you begin your journey, we pray that you will come to know God more deeply, understand your place within him and the world more clearly. And above all, we pray that God will empower you more fully to live out your biblical worldview so you can more effectively impart the living truth of Jesus Christ to your family and those around you. We live in a scary world dominated by pain and suffering, sin and heartache, war and death. But we are not to fear the evils of this world. The only one we are to fear is God himself (see Matthew 10:28). We serve a conquering God who is working in you and me to transform the present kingdom of this world into the future kingdom of God. It is an honor to engage in this mission with you. Let the journey of unlocking the unshakable truth of God begin.

***MY REVIEW:***
I'm still reading this book, so this review is based on what I've read so far...

This is a great resource for people wanting to give a defense of their faith, for those wanting to strengthen their faith, and especially for Christian parents who want to instill a biblical worldview in their kids.

I like that the book doesn't get too bogged down in the scientific details, even though it does give some. Compared to other apologetics books I've read, this one is much easier to read, and not nearly as "heavy".

And, I especially like that the authors frequently give tips for parents on how to help their kids develop a Christian worldview. The examples from Josh & Sean's personal lives are great, and make this book ultimately more readable.

Lastly, I am finding much in this book that stands out to me and makes me think, or makes me nod my head in agreement.


[This book was received through FIRST Wild Card Tours]

Monday, June 28, 2010

TOUR: "The Mailbox" by Marybeth Whalen

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:

The Mailbox

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)

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


Marybeth Whalen is the general editor of For the Write Reason and The Reason We Speakas well as co-author of the book Learning to Live Financially Free. She serves as a speaker for the Proverbs 31 Ministry Team and directs a fiction book club, She Reads, through this same outreach. Most importantly, Marybeth is the wife of Curt Whalen and mother to their six children. She is passionate about sharing God with all the women God places in her path. She has been visiting the mailbox for years.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403693
ISBN-13: 978-0781403696


Sunset Beach, NC

Summer 1985

Campbell held back a teasing smile as he led Lindsey across the warm sand toward the mailbox. Leaning her head on Campbell’s shoulder, her steps slowed. She looked up at him, observing the mischievous curling at the corners of his mouth. “There really is no mailbox, is there?” she said, playfully offended. “If you wanted to get me alone on a deserted stretch of beach, all you had to do was ask.” She elbowed him in the side.

A grin spread across his flawless face. “You caught me.” He threw his hands up in the air in surrender.

“I gotta stop for a sec,” Lindsey said and bent at the waist, stretching the backs of her aching legs. She stood up and put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes at him. “So, have you actually been to the mailbox? Maybe the other kids at the pier were just pulling your leg.”

Campbell nodded his head. “I promise I’ve been there before. It’ll be worth it. You’ll see.” He pressed his forehead to hers and looked intently into her eyes before continuing down the beach.

“If you say so …” she said, following him. He slipped his arm around her bare tanned shoulder and squeezed it, pulling her closer to him. Lindsey looked ahead of them at the vast expanse of raw

coastline. She could make out a jetty of rocks in the distance that jutted into the ocean like a finish line.

As they walked, she looked down at the pairs of footprints they left in the sand. She knew that soon the tide would wash them away, and she realized that just like those footprints, the time she had left

with Campbell would soon vanish. A refrain ran through her mind: Enjoy the time you have left. She planned to remember every moment of this walk so she could replay it later, when she was back at home, without him. Memories would be her most precious commodity. How else would she feel him near her?

“I don’t know how we’re going to make this work,” she said as they walked. “I mean, how are we going to stay close when we’re so far away from each other?”

He pressed his lips into a line and ran a hand through his hair. “We just will,” he said. He exhaled loudly, a punctuation.

“But how?” she asked, wishing she didn’t sound so desperate.

He smiled. “We’ll write. And we’ll call. I’ll pay for the longdistance bills. My parents already said I could.” He paused. “And we’ll count the days until next summer. Your aunt and uncle already said you could come back and stay for most of the summer. And you know your mom will let you.”

“Yeah, she’ll be glad to get rid of me for sure.” She pushed images of home from her mind: the menthol odor of her mother’s cigarettes, their closet-sized apartment with parchment walls you could hear the neighbors through, her mom’s embarrassing “delicates” dangling from the shower rod in the tiny bathroom they shared. She wished that her aunt and uncle didn’t have to leave the beach house after

the summer was over and that she could just stay with them forever.

The beach house had become her favorite place in the world. At the beach house, she felt like a part of a real family with her aunt and uncle and cousins. This summer had been an escape from the reality of her life at home. And it had been a chance to discover true love. But tomorrow, her aunt and uncle would leave for their home and send her back to her mother.

“I don’t want to leave!” she suddenly yelled into the open air, causing a few startled birds to take flight.

Campbell didn’t flinch when she yelled. She bit her lip and closed her eyes as he pulled her to him and hugged her.

“Shhh,” he said. “I don’t want you to leave either.” He cupped her chin with his hand. “If I could reverse time for you, I would. And we would go back and do this whole summer over.”

She nodded and wished for the hundredth time that she could stand on the beach with Campbell forever, listening to the hypnotic sound of his voice, so much deeper and more mature than the boys at school. She thought about the pictures they had taken earlier that day, a last-ditch effort to have something of him to take with her. But it was a pitiful substitute, a cheap counterfeit for the real thing.

Campbell pointed ahead of them. “Come on,” he said and tugged on her hand. “I think I see it.” He grinned like a little boy. They crested the dune and there, without pomp or circumstance,

just as he had promised, stood an ordinary mailbox with gold letters spelling out “Kindred Spirit.”

“I told you it was here!” he said as they waded through the deep sand. “The mailbox has been here a couple of years,” he said, his tone changing to something close to reverence as he laid his hand on top

of it. “No one knows who started it or why, but word has traveled and now people come all the way out here to leave letters for the Kindred Spirit—the mystery person who reads them. People come from all over the world.”

“So does anybody know who gets the letters?” Lindsey asked. She ran her fingers over the gold, peeling letter decals. The bottom half of the n and e were missing.

“I don’t think so. But that’s part of what draws people here— they come here because this place is private, special.” He looked down at his bare feet, digging his toes into the sand. “So … I wanted to bring you here. So it could be our special place too.” He looked over at her out of the corner of his eye. “I hope you don’t think that’s lame.”

She put her arms around him and looked into his eyes. “Not lame at all,” she said.

As he kissed her, she willed her mind to record it all: the roar of the waves and the cry of the seagulls, the powdery softness of the warm sand under her feet, the briny smell of the ocean mixed with the scent of Campbell’s sun-kissed skin. Later, when she was back at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, she would come right back to this moment. Again and again. Especially when her mother sent her to her room with the paper-thin walls while she entertained her newest boyfriend.

Lindsey opened the mailbox, the hinges creaking as she did. She looked to him, almost for approval. “Look inside,” he invited her.

She saw some loose paper as well as spiral-bound notebooks, the kind she bought at the drugstore for school. The pages were crinkly from the sea air and water. There were pens in the mailbox too, some

with their caps missing.

Campbell pointed. “You should write a letter,” he said. “Take a pen and some paper and just sit down and write what you are feeling.” He shrugged. “It seemed like something you would really get into.”

How well he had come to know her in such a short time. “Okay,” she said. “I love it.” She reached inside and pulled out a purple notebook, flipping it open to read a random page. Someone had written about a wonderful family vacation spent at Sunset and the special time she had spent with her daughter.

She closed the notebook. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She couldn’t imagine her own mother ever wanting to spend time with her, much less being so grateful about it. Reading the notebook made her feel worse, not better. She didn’t need reminding about what she didn’t have waiting for her back home.

Campbell moved in closer. “What is it?” he said, his body lining up perfectly with hers as he pulled her close.

She laid the notebook back inside the mailbox. “I just don’t want to go home,” she said. “I wish my uncle didn’t have to return to his stupid job. How can I go back to … her? She doesn’t want me there any more than I want to be there.” This time she didn’t fight the tears that had been threatening all day.

Campbell pulled her down to sit beside him in the sand and said nothing as she cried, rocking her slightly in his arms.

With her head buried in his shoulder, her words came out muffled. “You are so lucky you live here.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I guess I am.” He said nothing for a while.

“But you have to know that this place won’t be the same for me without you in it.”

She looked up at him, her eyes red from crying. “So you’re saying I’ve ruined it for you?”

He laughed, and she recorded the sound of his laugh in her memory too. “Well, if you want to put it that way, then, yes.”

“Well, that just makes me feel worse!” She laid her head on his shoulder and concentrated on the nearness of him, inhaled the sea scent of his skin and the smell of earth that clung to him from working

outside with his dad.

“Everywhere I go from now on I will have the memory of you with me. Of me and you together. The Island Market, the beach, the arcade, the deck on my house, the pier …” He raised his eyebrows as

he remembered the place where he first kissed her. “And now here. It will always remind me of you.”

“And I am going home to a place without a trace of you in it. I don’t know which is worse, constant reminders or no reminders at all.” She laced her narrow fingers through his.

“So are you glad we met?” She sounded pitiful, but she had to hear his answer.

“I would still have wanted to meet you,” he said. “Even though it’s going to break my heart to watch you go. What we have is worth it.” He kissed her, his hands reaching up to stroke her hair. She heard his words echoing in her mind: worth it, worth it, worth it. She knew that they were young, that they had their whole lives ahead of them, at least that’s what her aunt and uncle had told her. But she also knew

that what she had with Campbell was beyond age.

Campbell stood up and pulled her to her feet, attempting to keep kissing her as he did. She giggled as the pull of gravity parted them. He pointed her toward the mailbox. “Now, go write it all down for the Kindred Spirit. Write everything you feel about us and how unfair it is that we have to be apart.” He squinted his eyes at her. “And I promise not to read over your shoulder.”

She poked him. “You can read it if you want. I have no secrets from you.”

He shook his head. “No, no. This is your deal. Your private world—just between you and the Kindred Spirit. And next year,” he said, smiling down at her, “I promise to bring you back here, and you can write about the amazing summer we’re going to have.”

“And what about the summer after that?” she asked, teasing him.

“That summer too.” He kissed her. “And the next.” He kissed her again. “And the next.” He kissed her again, smiling down at her through his kisses. “Get the point?

“This will be our special place,” he said as they stood together in front of the mailbox.

“Always?” she asked.

“Always,” he said.

Summer 1985

Dear Kindred Spirit,

I have no clue who you are, and yet that doesn’t stop me from writing to you anyway. I hope one day I will discover your identity. I wonder if you are nearby even as I put pen to paper. It’s a little weird to think that I could have passed you on the street this summer and not know you would be reading my

deepest thoughts and feelings. Campbell won’t even read this, though I would let him if he asked me.

As I write, Campbell is down at the water’s edge, throwing shells. He is really good at making the shells skip across the water—I guess that’s proof that this place is his home.

Let me ask you, Kindred Spirit: Do you think it’s silly for me to assume that I have found my soul mate at the age of fifteen? My mom would laugh. She would tell me that the likelihood of anyone finding a soul mate—ever—is zero. She would tell me that I need to not go around giving my heart away like a hopeless romantic. She laughs when I read romance novels or see sappy movies that make me cry. She says that I will learn the truth about love someday.

But, honestly, I feel like I did learn the truth about love this summer. It’s like what they say: It can happen when you least expect it, and it can knock you flat on your back with its power. I didn’t come here expecting to fall in love. The truth is I didn’t want to come here at all. I came here feeling pushed aside and unwanted. I can still remember when my mom said that she had arranged for my aunt and uncle to bring me here, smiling at me like she was doing me some kind of favor when we both knew she just wanted me out of the picture so she could live her life without me cramping her style.

I tried to tell her that I didn’t want to come—who would want to spend their summer with bratty cousins? I was so mad, I didn’t speak to my mom for days. I begged, plotted, and even got my best friend Holly’s parents to say I could stay with them instead. But in the end, as always, my mother ruled, and I got packed off for a summer at the beach. On the car ride down, I sat squished in the backseat beside Bobby and Stephanie. Bobby elbowed me and stuck his tongue out at me the whole way to the beach. When his parents weren’t looking, of course. I stared out the window and pretended to be anywhere but in that car.

But now, I can’t believe how wonderful this summer has turned out. I made some new friends. I read a lot of books and even got to where I could tolerate my little cousins. They became like the younger siblings I never had. Most of all, I met Campbell.

I know what Holly will say. She will say that it was God’s plan. I am working on believing that there is a God and that he has a plan for my life like Holly says. But most of the time it feels like God is not aware I exist. If he was aware of me, you’d think he’d have given me a mom who actually cared about me.

Ugh—I can’t believe I have to leave tomorrow. Now that I have found Campbell, I don’t know what I will do without him. We have promised to write a lot of letters. And we have promised not to date other people.

A word about him asking me not to date other people: This was totally funny to me. Two nights ago we were walking on the beach and he stopped me, pulling me to him and looking at me really seriously. “Please,” he said, “I would really like it if you wouldn’t see other people. Is that crazy for me to ask that of you when we are going to be so far apart?”

I was like, “Are you kidding? No one asks me out. No one at my school even looks at me twice!” At school I am known for being quiet and studious—a brain, not a girl to call for a good time. Holly says that men will discover my beauty later in life. But until this summer I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t admit that no one notices me at school because, obviously, he believes I am sought after. And I knew enough to let him believe it. So I very coyly answered back, “Only if you promise me the same thing.”

And he smiled in that lazy way of his and said, “How could I even look at another girl when I’ve got the best one in the world?”

And so now you see why I just can’t bear the thought of leaving him. But the clock is ticking. When I get home, I swear I will cry myself to sleep every night and write letters to Campbell every day. The only thing I have to look forward to is hanging out with Holly again. Thank goodness for Holly, the one constant in my life. In math class we learned that a constant is something that has one value all the time and it never changes.

That’s what Holly is for me: my best friend, no matter what.

I wonder if Campbell will be a constant in my life. I guess it’s too soon to tell, but I do hope so. I’m already counting down the days until I can come back and be with Campbell. Because this summer—I don’t care how lame it sounds—I found my purpose. And that purpose is loving Campbell with all my

heart. Always.

Until next summer,


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

*** MY REVIEW: ***
I absolutely loved this book, and couldn’t put it down from the very first page! I literally finished it in 2 days!

I could relate to so much throughout this book ~ not just from Lindsey’s viewpoint, but also from Campbell’s.

I was a bit disappointed, mind you, with how things played out with the mailbox’s Kindred Spirit. I guessed who the real Kindred Spirit was by chapter 14 (of 36). But, I still wish that things would have played out with her, rather than the way they did.

Regardless, I still found the ending satisfying, and I still totally loved this book. I’ll be keeping it to reread, later.

Rated: A+
(and going on my Top 10 List, for this year!)

[This book was received through FIRST Wild Card Tours]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TOUR: "Claim" by Lisa T. Bergren

*** NOTE: I do not yet have a copy of this book, as I didn't sign up to tour it -- but I will be getting a copy for review, later this month, so I'm posting the tour, anyway. Thank you. ***
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:

Claim: A Novel of Colorado (The Homeward Trilogy)

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)

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


Lisa T. Bergren is a best-selling author who offers a wide array of reading opportunities ranging from children’s books (God Gave Us Love and God Found Us You) and women’s nonfiction (Life on Planet Mom) to suspense-filled intrigue (The Gifted Trilogy) and historical drama. With more than thirty titles among her published works and a deep faith that has weathered dramatic career and personal challenges, Bergren is excited to add the Homeward Trilogy to her resume as she follows God’s direction in her writing career. Bergren lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband Tim (a graphic design artist and musician) and their three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143476706X
ISBN-13: 978-1434767066


1 August 1888

Gunnison, Colorado

“Keep doing that you’ll get yourself killed,” Nic said to the boy. Panting, Nic paused and wiped his forehead of sweat. For an hour now, as he moved sacks of grain from a wagon to a wheelbarrow and into the warehouse, he’d glimpsed the boy daring fate as he ran across the busy street, narrowly escaping horse hooves and wagon wheels.

“Where’s your mother?”

The brown-haired boy paused. “Don’t have a mother.”

“Well then, where’s your father?”

The boy cast him an impish grin and shrugged one shoulder.


“Is he coming back soon?” Nic persisted.

“Soon enough. You won’t tell ’im, will ya?”

“Tell him what?” Nic tossed back with a small smile. “Long as you stop doing whatever you’re not supposed to be doing.”

The boy wandered closer and climbed up to perch on the wagon’s edge, watching Nic with eyes that were as dark as his hair. Nic relaxed a bit, relieved that the kid wasn’t in imminent danger.

Nic hefted a sack onto his shoulder and carried it to the cart. It felt good to be working again. He liked this sort of heavy labor, the feel of muscles straining, the way he had to suck in his breath to heave a sack, then release it with a long whoosh. A full day of this sort of work allowed him to drop off into dreamless sleep—something he hungered for more than anything else these days.

The boy was silent, but Nic could feel him staring, watching his every move like an artist studying a subject he was about to paint. “How’d you get so strong?” the boy said at last.

“Always been pretty strong,” Nic said, pulling the next sack across the wooden planks of the wagon, positioning it. “How’d you get so fast?”

“Always been pretty fast,” said the boy, in the same measured tone Nic had used.

Nic smiled again, heaved the sack to his shoulder, hauled it five steps to the cart, and then dropped it.

“This your job?” the boy asked.

“For today,” Nic said.

Nic loaded another sack, and the boy was silent for a moment. “My dad’s looking for help. At our mine.”

“Hmm,” Nic said.

“Needs a partner to help haul rock. He’s been asking around here for days.”

“Miner, huh? I don’t care much for mining.”

“Why not? You could be rich.”

“More miners turn out dead than rich.” He winced inwardly, as a shadow crossed the boy’s face. It’d been a while since he’d been around a kid this age. He was maybe ten or eleven max, all wiry muscle and sinew. Reminded him of a boy he knew in Brazil.

Nic carried the next sack over to the wagon, remembering the heat there, so different from what Colorado’s summer held. Here it was bone dry. He was sweating now, after the morning’s work, but not a lot. In Brazil a man soaked his sheets as he slept.

“Listen, kid,” he said, turning back around to the wagon, intending to apologize for upsetting him. But the boy was gone.

Nic sighed and set to finishing his work. As the sun climbed high in the sky, he paused to take a drink from his canteen and eat a hunk of bread and cheese, watching the busy street at the end of the alleyway. He wondered if he’d see the boy again, back to his antics of racing teams of horses. The child was probably letting off steam, just as Nic had done all his life—he’d been about the child’s age when he’d first starting scrapping with others.

But that was in the past. Not since his voyage aboard the Mirabella had Nic indulged the need, succumbed to the desire to enter a fight. Several times now, he’d had the opportunity—and enough cause—to take another man down. But he had walked away. He knew, deep down he knew, that if he was ever to face his sisters, Odessa and Moira, again, if he was to come to them and admit he was penniless, everything would somehow be all right if he was settled inside. If he could come to a place of peace within, the kind of peace Manuel had known. It was the kind of thing that allowed a man to stand up straight, shoulders back, the kind of thing that gave a man’s gut peace. Regardless of what he accomplished, or had in the past. Thing was, he hadn’t found that place of comfort inside, and he didn’t want what Manuel tried to sell him—God.

There had to be another way, another path. Something like this work. Hard manual labor. That might be what he needed most.

Nic heard a man calling, his voice a loud whisper, and his eyes narrowed as the man came limping around the corner, obviously in pain, his arm in a sling. “You, there!” he called to Nic. “Seen a boy around? About yea big?” he said, gesturing to about chest height.

“Yeah, he was here,” Nic called back. He set his canteen inside the empty wagon and walked to the end of the alleyway.

“Where’d he go?” the man said. Nic could see the same widow’s peak in the man’s brown hair that the boy had, the same curve of the eyes … the boy’s father, clearly.

“Not sure. One minute he was watching me at work, the next he was gone.”

“That’s my boy, all right.”

“I’ll help you find him.”

The man glanced back at him and then gave him a small smile. He stuck out his good arm and offered his hand. “I’d appreciate that. Name’s Vaughn. Peter Vaughn.”

“Dominic St. Clair,” he replied. “You can call me Nic.”

Peter smiled. His dimples were in the exact same spot as the boy’s. “Sure you can leave your work?”

“I’m nearly done. Let’s find your boy.”

“Go on,” Moira’s sister urged, gazing out the window. “He’s been waiting on you for a good bit now.”

“I don’t know what he sees in me,” Moira said, wrapping the veil around her head and across her shoulder again. It left most of her face visible but covered the burns at her neck, ear, and scalp. Did it cover them enough? She nervously patted it, making sure it was in place.

Odessa stepped away from washing dishes and joined her. “He might wonder what you see in him. Do you know what his story is? He seems wary.” Their eyes met and Odessa backtracked. “Daniel’s a good man, Moira. I think highly of him. But I’d like to know what has burdened him so. Besides you.” She nudged her sister with her hip.

Moira wiped her hands on the dish towel and glanced out at him as he strode across the lawn with Bryce, Odessa’s husband. He was striking in profile, reminding her of the statues of Greek gods the French favored in their lovely tailored gardens. Far too handsome for her—since the fire, anyway. She shook her head a little.


Irritated at being caught in thought, Moira looked at Odessa again.

“Trust him, Moira. He’s a good man. I can sense it.”

She nodded, but inwardly she sighed as she turned away and wrapped a scarf around her veiled head and shoulders. A good man. After Reid and Max and Gavin—could she really trust her choice in men? Odessa was fortunate to have fallen for her husband, Bryce, a good man through and through. Moira’s experiences with men had been less than successful. What made Odessa think this one was trustworthy?

But as Daniel ducked his head through the door and inclined it to one side in silent invitation to walk with him, Moira thought about how he had physically saved her more than once. And how his gentle pursuit both bewildered and calmed her. Daniel had done nothing to deserve her suspicions.

She moved over to the door. He glanced at her, and she noticed how his thick lashes made his brown eyes more pronounced. He shuffled his feet as if he were nervous. “You busy?” he asked.

“No.” Moira felt a nervous tension tighten her stomach muscles.

“Can we, uh …” His gaze shifted to Odessa, who quickly returned to her dishes. “Go for a walk?” he finally finished.

Moira smoothed her skirts and said, “I’d like that.” Then, meeting her sister’s surreptitious gaze, she followed him outside. It was a lovely day on the Circle M. The horses pranced in the distance. She could see her brother-in-law riding out with Tabito, the ranch’s foreman.

“So, you wanted to talk,” she ventured.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t want to talk to you, Moira,” he said.

She looked up at him and then, when she saw the ardor in his gaze, she turned with a sigh.

“Don’t look away,” he whispered gently, pulling her to face him. He reached to touch her veil, as if he longed to cradle her cheek instead.

“No, Daniel, don’t,” she said and ran a nervous hand over the cover. He was tall and broad, and she did not feel physically menaced—it was her heart that threatened to pound directly out of her chest. Perhaps she wasn’t ready for this … the intimacies that a courtship brought.

She’d been dreaming about what it would be like to be kissed by him, held by him, but he never made such advances before. Never took the opportunity, leaving her to think that he was repulsed by her burns, her hair, singed to just a few inches long, her past relationship with Gavin, or her pregnancy—despite what he claimed. Her hand moved to the gentle roundness of her belly, still small yet making itself more and more prominent each day. “I … I’m not even certain why you pursue me at all. Why you consider me worthy. ”

He seemed stunned by her words. “Worthy?” he breathed. He let out a hollow, breathy laugh and then looked to the sky, running a hand through his hair. He shook his head and then slowly brought his brown eyes down to meet hers again. “Moira,” he said, lifting a hand to cradle her cheek and jaw, this time without hesitation. She froze, wondering if he intended to kiss her at last. “I only hesitate because I am afraid,” he whispered.

“Afraid? You think I am not? I come to you scarred in so many ways, when you, you, Daniel, deserve perfection.…”

“No,” he said, shaking his head too. “It is I who carry the scars. You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am. Who I once was. What I’ve done …”

“So tell me,” she pleaded. “Tell me.”

He stared at her a moment longer, as if wondering if she was ready, wondering if she could bear it, and Moira’s heart pounded again. Then, “No. I can’t,” he said with a small shake of his head. He sighed heavily and moved up the hill. “Not yet.”

An hour after they began their search for Everett Vaughn, Peter sat down on the edge of the boardwalk and looked up to the sky. His face was a mask of pain. “That boy was hard to track when I wasn’t hurt.”

“He’ll turn up,” Nic reassured.

Peter nodded and lifted his gaze to the street.

“What happened to you?” Nic said gently, sitting down beside the man. His eyes scanned the crowds for the boy even as he waited for Peter’s response.

“Cave-in, at my mine. That’s why I’m here. Looking for a good man to partner with me. I’m onto a nice vein, but I’m livin’ proof that a man’s a fool to mine alone.” He looked at Nic and waited until he met his gaze. “You lookin’ for work?” He cocked his head to the side. “I’m offering a handsome deal. Fifty fifty.”

Nic let a small smile tug at the corners of his mouth. He glanced at the man, who had to be about his own age. There was an easy way about him that drew Nic, despite the pain evident in the lines of his face. “That is a handsome offer.” He cocked his own head. “But I don’t see you doing half the work, laid up like you are.”

“No, not quite. But I’ve already put a lot of work into it in the past three years, and I’m still good for about a quarter of the labor. To say nothing of the fact that my name’s on the claim.”

Nic paused, thinking about it, feeling drawn to help this man, but then shook his head. “I’m not very fond of small dark spaces.”

“So … make it bigger. Light a lamp.”

Nic shook his head, more firmly this time. “No. I’d rather find another line of work.”

Just then he spotted the boy, running the street again. “There he is,” Nic said, nodding outward. The boy’s father followed his gaze and with a grimace, rose to his feet. As they watched, the boy ran under a wagon that had temporarily pulled to a stop. Then he jumped up on the back of another, riding it for about twenty feet until he was passing by them. His face was a mask of elation.

“Everett! Ev! Come on over here!”

Everett’s eyes widened in surprise. He jumped down and ran over to them, causing a man on horseback to pull back hard on his reins and swear.

“Sorry, friend,” Peter said, raising his good arm up to the rider. The horseman shook his head and then rode on.

Peter grabbed his son’s arm and, limping, hauled him over to the boardwalk. “I’ve told you to stay out of the street.”

“So did I,” Nic said, meeting the boy’s gaze. The child flushed red and glanced away.

“We’d best be on our way,” Peter said. “Thanks for helpin’ me find my boy.” He reached out a hand and Nic rose to shake it. Peter paused. “It’s not often a man has a chance at entering a claim agreement once a miner has found a vein that is guaranteed to pay.”

Nic hesitated as he dropped Peter’s hand. “I’ve narrowly escaped with my life on more than one occasion, friend. I’m aiming to look up my sisters, but not from a casket.”

Peter lifted his chin, but his eyes betrayed his weariness and disappointment. What would it mean for him? For his boy, not to find a willing partner? Would they have to give up the mine just as they were finally on the edge of success? And what of the boy’s mother? His unkempt, too-small clothes told him Everett had been without a mother for some time.

He hesitated again, feeling a pang of compassion for them both. “Should I change my mind … where would I find you?”

A glimmer of hope entered Peter’s eyes. “A couple miles out of St. Elmo. Just ask around for the Vaughn claim up in the Gulch and someone’ll point you in our direction.” He reached out a hand. “I’d be much obliged, Nic. And I’m not half bad at cookin’ either. I’d keep you in grub. Give it some thought. But don’t be too put out if you get there, and I’ve found someone else.”

“Understood,” Nic said with a smile. “Safe journey.”

“And to you.” He turned away, tugging at his boy’s shoulder, but the child looked back at Nic, all big pleading eyes.

Hurriedly, Nic walked away in the opposite direction. He fought the desire to turn and call out to them. Wasn’t he looking for work? Something that would allow him to ride on to Bryce and Odessa’s ranch without his tail tucked between his legs? The man had said the mine was sure to pay.… I’m onto a nice vein.…

Was that a miner’s optimism or the truth?

Not yet?” Moira sputtered, following him. She frowned in confusion. He had been coaxing her forward, outward, steadily healing her with his kind attentions these last two months. But now it was as if they were at some strange impasse. What was he talking about? What had happened to him?

She hurried forward and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop and turn again to face her. Her veil clung to her face in the early evening breeze. “Daniel.”

He slowly lifted his dark eyes to meet hers.

“This is about me, isn’t it?” she asked. “You attempt to spare my feelings but find me repulsive. I can hardly fault you, but—”

“No,” he said, with another hollow laugh. “Contrary to what you believe, Moira St. Clair, not everything boils down to you. You are braver than you think and more beautiful than you dare to believe. I believe we’re destined to be together.”

Moira held her breath. Then what—

“No,” he went on. “This is about something I need to resolve. Something that needs to be done, or at least settled in my mind, my heart, before I can properly court you.”

“What? What is it, Daniel?” she tried once more.

He only looked at her helplessly, mouth half open, but mute.

She crossed her arms and turned her back to him, staring out across the pristine valley, the land of the Circle M. It hurt her that he felt he couldn’t confide in her as she had with him. She stiffened when he laid his big hands on her shoulders. “I don’t need to be rescued, Daniel,” she said in a monotone. “God has seen me to this place, this time. He’ll see me through to the next … with or without you.”

“You don’t understand.”

“No. I don’t. We’ve been courting all summer, whether you realize it or not. And now you say that there is something else that needs to be resolved? You assume much, Daniel Adams. You think that I’ll wait forever?” She let out a scoffing laugh. “It’s clear you do not fear that any other man might pursue me. Not that I blame you …” She turned partly away and stared into the distance. “Please. Don’t let this linger on. I cannot bear it. Not if you do not intend to claim me as your own.”

He was silent for a long minute. Oh, that he would but turn her and meet her lips at last …

But he didn’t. “We both have a lot to think through, pray through, Moira,” he said quietly.

“Yes, well, let me know when that is accomplished,” she said over her shoulder, walking away as fast as she could, lest he see the tears that were already rolling down her cheeks.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Claim by Lisa Bergren. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.