Wednesday, December 31, 2008

REVIEW: Havah by Tosca Lee

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Havah: The Story of Eve

NavPress Publishing Group (October 10, 2008)


Tosca Lee is the author of the critically acclaimed Demon: A Memoir (2007), a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Silver Award winner, American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year nominee, and Christy award finalist. Her eagerly-awaited second novel, Havah: The Story of Eve, released October 2008 to high praise, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

A sought-after speaker and first runner-up to Mrs. United States 1998, Tosca works as a Senior Consultant for the Gallup Organization. She received her B.A. in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She also studied at Oxford University.

In her spare time, Tosca enjoys travel, cooking, history and theology. She currently resides in Nebraska.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (October 10, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1600061249

ISBN-13: 978-1600061240



I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.

I have walked with God.

And I know that God made the heart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one mortal chamber.

I still recall my first moment of consciousness—an awareness I’ve never seen in the eyes of any of my own children at birth: the sheer ignorance and genius of consciousness, when we know nothing and accept everything.

Of course, the memory of that waking moment is fainter now, like the smell of the soil of that garden, like the leaves of the fig tree in Eden after dawn—dew and leaf green. It fades with that sense of something once tasted on the tip of the tongue, savored now in memory, replaced by the taste of something similar but never quite the same.

His breath a lost sough, the scent of earth and leaf mold that was his sweaty skin has faded too quickly. So like an Eden dawn—dew on fig leaves.

His eyes were blue, my Adam’s.

How I celebrated that color, shrouded now in shriveled eyelids—he who was never intended to have even a wrinkle! But even as I bend to smooth his cheek, my hair has become a white waterfall upon his Eden—flesh and loins that gave life to so many.

I think for a moment that I hear the One and that he is weeping. It is the first time I have heard him in so long, and my heart cries out: He is dead! My father, my brother, my love!

I envy the earth that envelopes him. I envy the dust that comes of him and my children who sow and eat of it.

This language of Adam’s—the word that meant merely “man” before it was his name—given him by God himself, is now mine. And this is my love song. I will craft these words into the likeness of the man before I, too, return to the earth of Adam’s bosom.

My story has been told in only the barest of terms. It is time you heard it all. It is my testament to the strength of the heart, which has such capacity for joy, such space for sorrow, like a vessel that fills and fills without bursting.

My seasons are nearly as many as a thousand. So now listen, sons, and hear me, daughters. I, Havah, fashioned by God of Adam say this:

In the beginning, there was God . . .

But for me, there was Adam.

The Garden

Chapter 1

A whisper in my ear: Wake!

Blue. A sea awash with nothing but a drifting bit of down, flotsam on an invisible current. I closed my eyes. Light illuminated the thin tissues of my eyelids.

A bird trilled. Near my ear: the percussive buzz of an insect. Overhead, tree boughs stirred in the warming air.

I lay on a soft bed of herbs and grass that tickled my cheek, my shoulders, and the arch of my foot, whispering sibilant secrets up to the trees.

From here, I felt the thrum of the sap in the stem; the pulsing veins of the vine; the beat of my heart in euphony with hundreds more around me; the movement of the earth a thousand miles beneath.

I sighed as one returning to sleep, to retreat to the place I had been before, the realm of silence and bliss—wherever that is.


I opened my eyes again upon the milling blue, saw it spliced by the flight of a bird, chevron in the sky.

This time, the voice came not to my ear, but directly to my stirring mind: Wake!

There was amusement in it.

I knew nothing of where or what I was, did not understand the polyphony around me or the wide expanse like a blue eternity before me.

But I woke and knew I was alive.

A rustle, a groan practically in my ear. I twitched at a stirring against my hip. A moment later, a touch drifted across a belly I did not yet know I owned, soft as a leaf skittering along the ground.

A face obscured my vision. I screamed. Not with fear—I was no acquaintance of fear—nor with startlement, because I had been aware of the presence already, but because it was the only statement that came to lips as artless as mine.

The face disappeared and returned, blinking into my own, the blue above captured in twin pools . Then, like a gush of water from a rock, gladness thrilled my heart. But its source was not me.

At last! It came, unspoken—a different source than the voice before—the words thrust jubilantly to the sky: “At last!”

He was up on legs like the trunks of sturdy saplings, beating at the earth with his feet. He thumped his chest and shouted to the sun and clapped his hands. “At last!” he cried, his laughter like warm clay between the toes. He shook his shoulders and stomped the grass, slapping his chest as he shouted again and again. Though I did not understand the utterance, I knew its meaning at once: joy and exultation at something longed for suddenly found.

I tried to mimic his sound; it came out as a squawk and then a panting laugh. Overhead, a lark chattered an extravagant address. I squeaked a shrill reply. The face lowered to mine, and the man’s arms wrapped, womb-tight, around me.

“Flesh of my flesh,” he whispered, hot against my ear. His fingers drifted from my hair to my body, roaming like the goat on the hills of the Sacred Mount. I sighed, expelling the last remnants of that first air from my lungs—the last of the breath in them not drawn by me alone.

He was high-cheeked, this adam, his lower lip dipping down like a folded leaf that drips sweet water to thirsty mouths. His brow was a hawk, soaring above the high cliffs, his eyes blue lusters beneath the fan of his lashes. But it was his mouth that I always came back to, where my eyes liked best to fasten after taking in the shock of those eyes. Shadow ran along his jaw, obsidian dust clinging to the curve of it, drawing my eye to the plush flesh of his lips, again, again, again.

He touched my face and traced my mouth. I bit his finger. He gathered my hands and studied them, turning them over and back. He smelled my hair and lingered at my breasts and gazed curiously at the rest of me. When he was finished, he began all over again, tasting my cheek and the salt of my neck, tracing the instep of my foot with a fingertip.

Finally, he gathered me up, and my vision tilted to involve an altogether new realm: the earth and my brown legs upon it. I clutched at him. I seemed a giant, towering above the earth—a giant as tall as he. My first steps stuttered across the ground as the deer in the hour of its birth, but then I pushed his hands away. My legs, coltish and lean, found their vigor as he urged me, walking far too fast, to keep up. He made for the orchard, and I bolted after him with a surge of strength and another of my squawking sounds. Then we were running—through grasses and over fledgling sloes, the dark wool of my hair flying behind me.

We raced across the valley floor, and my new world blurred around me: hyssop and poppy, anemone, narcissus, and lily. Roses grew on the foothills amidst the caper and myrtle.

A blur beside me: the long-bodied great cat. I slowed, distracted by her fluidity, the smooth curve of her head as she tilted it to my outstretched hand. I fell to the ground, twining my arms around her, fingers sliding along her pelt. Her tongue was rough—unlike the adam’s—and she rumbled as she rolled against me.

Far ahead, the adam called. Overhead, a hawk circled for a closer look. The fallow deer at a nearby stream lifted her head.

The adam called again, wordlessly: longing and exuberance. I got up and began to run, the lioness at my heels. I was fast—nearly as fast as she. Exhilaration rose from my lungs in quick pants—in laughter. Then, with a burst, she was beyond me.

She was gone by the time the adam caught me up in his arms. His hands stroked my back, his lips, my shoulder. I marveled at his skin—how smooth, how very warm it was.

“You are magnificent,” he said, burying his face against me. “Ah, Isha—woman, taken from man!”

I said nothing; although I understood his meaning, I did not know his words. I knew with certainty and no notion of conceit, though, that he was right.

At the river he showed me how he cupped his hands to drink, and then cupped them again for me. I lowered my head and drank as a carp peered baldy from the shallows up at me.

We entered the water. I gasped as it tickled the backs of my knees and hot hairs under my arms, swirling about my waist as though around a staunch rock as our toes skimmed a multitude of pebbles. I wrapped my arm around his shoulders.

“All of this: water,” he said, grunting a little bit as he swam toward the middle of the river where it widened into a broad swath across the valley floor. “Here—the current.”

“Water,” I said, understanding in the moment I spoke it the element in all its forms—from the lake fed by the river to the high springs that flow from the abyss of the Mount. I felt the pull of it as though it had a gravity all its own—as though it could sweep me out to the cold depths of the lake and lull me by the tides of the moon.

From the river I could see the high walls of our cradle: the great southern Mount rising to heaven, and to the north, the foothills that became the long spine of a range that arched toward the great lake to the west.

I knew even then that this was a place set apart from the unseen lands to the north, the alluvial plain to the south, the great waters to the east and far to the west.

It was set apart solely because we dwelt in it.

But we were not alone. I could see them, after a time, even as we left the river and lay upon its banks. I saw them in sidelong glances when I looked at something else: a sunspot caught in the eye, a ripple in the air, a shock of light where there should be only shadow. And so I knew there were other beings, too.

The adam, who studied me, said nothing. We did not know their names.

The first voice I heard urging me to wake had not been the man’s. Now I felt the presence of it near me, closer than the air, than even the adam’s arms around me.

I returned the man’s strange amazement, taken by his smooth, dark skin, the narrowness of his hips, his strange sex. He was warmer than I, as though he had absorbed the heat of the sun, and I laid my cheek against his flat breasts and listened to the changeling beat of his heart. My limbs, so fresh to me, grew heavy. As languor overtook me, I retreated from the sight of my lovely, alien world.

Perhaps in closing my eyes, I would return to the place I had been before.

For the first time since waking, I hoped not.

I slept to the familiar thrum of his heart as insects made sounds like sleepy twitches through the waning day.

When I woke, his cheek was resting against the top of my head. Emotion streamed from his heart, though his lips were silent.


I am the treasure mined from the rock, the gem prized from the mount.

He stirred only when I did and released me with great reluctance. By then the sun had moved along the length of our valley. My stomach murmured.

He led me to the orchard and fed me the firm flesh of plums, biting carefully around the pits and feeding the pieces to me until juice ran down our chins and bees came to sample it. He kissed my fingers and hands and laid his cheek against my palms.

That evening we lay in a bower of hyssop and rushes—a bower, I realized, that he must have made it on a day before this one.

A day before I existed.

We observed together the changing sky as it cooled gold and russet and purple, finally anointing the clay earth red.

Taken from me. Flesh of my flesh. At last. I heard the timbre of his voice in my head in my last waking moment. Marvel and wonder were upon his lips as he kissed my closing eyes.

I knew then he would do anything for me.

That night I dreamed of blackness. Black, greater than the depths of the river or the great abyss beneath the lake.

From within that nothingness there came a voice that was not a voice, that was neither sound nor word but volition and command and genesis. And from the voice, a word that was no word but the language of power and genesis and fruition.

There! A mote spark—a light first so small as the tip of a pine needle. It exploded past the periphery of my dreaming vision, obliterating the dark. The heavens were vast in an instant, stretching without cease to the edges of eternity.

I careened past new bodies that tugged me in every direction; even the tiniest particles possessed their own gravity. From each of them came the same concert, that symphony of energy and light.

I came to stand upon the earth. It was a great welter of water, the surface of it ablaze with the refracted light of heavens upon heavens. It shook my every fiber, like a string that is plucked and allowed to resonate forever.

I was galvanized, made anew, thrumming that inaugural sound: the yawning of eternity.

Amidst it all came the unmistakable command:


I haven't gotten further than 1/2 way through this book, yet, as the Christmas holidays derailed my reading time. So, this is just a partial review...
But, from what I've read of the book so far, I love the beautiful description, and I love imagining what it must have been like right from the very beginning of creation. The author presumes that Eve would have been friends with the animals, so close that she could even put her face up against the female lion's neck and pet her like a big fluffy kitty... I love that! (makes me jealous of Eve! LOL). This, and other instances like it, make this book one that really gets you thinking...

Another thing I'm enjoying about this one is that the author does such a good job of description that you can actually FEEL the love of God for Adam & Eve, and their love for Him. That's really cool!

So, so far I'd recommend this one... even if just for the fact that it gets you to think about the creation story. ;)

MORE OF MY REVIEW TO COME... check back in a couple of weeks! ;)

Monday, December 22, 2008

REVIEW: Before The Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Before the Season Ends

Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2008)


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

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

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


Chesterton, Hertfordshire



Something would have to be done about Ariana.

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

“Mr. Hathaway is my lot in life!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of its own?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTE: I am supposed to be receiving this book to review, but it has not yet arrived. I will post my review once the book has come, and I've had a chance to read it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

REVIEW: Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

"REGENCY BUCK" by Georgette Heyer

Description (from
An altogether unsatisfactory arrangement

After their father's death, Miss Judith Taverner and her brother Peregrine travel to London to meet their guardian, Lord Worth, expecting an elderly gentleman. To their surprise and utter disgust, their guardian is not much older than they are, doesn't want the office of guardian any more than they want him, and is determined to thwart all their interests and return them to the country.

With altogether too many complications

But when Miss Taverner and Peregrine begin to move in the highest social circles, Lord Worth cannot help but entangle himself with his adventuresome wards...

At first I thought I wasn't going to like this book. First off, because I'm apparently biased -- Gaelen Foley has spoiled me with her excellently-written Regency romances, and it's hard to find anything that lives up to those. ;)

But, Ms. Heyer has a loyal following, so I made sure to give her book a fair chance. Sure enough, the story got better once it got going, and I ended up enjoying it.

I really found Ms.Taverner/Judith to be very 'prissy' in the beginning, and I didn't like her much. But, as the story progressed, the gal grew on me, and I ended up rooting for her.

Lord Worth was just the right amounts of annoying, and yet mysterious. ;)

Overall, this was a good book, and I would recommend it to others. I'm not sure if I'll try another book by this author, though. I have one in my collection, so we'll see.

Rated: B+

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

REVIEW: "A Song In Stone" by Walter H. Hunt

"A Song In Stone" by Walter H. Hunt
Publication Date: November 4, 2008

Book Description (from
There is a mystery in a chapel, and a man who must find the answer.

A Song in Stone begins with the premise that Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland is part of an unfinished larger church - and that it contains a mystery, one clue of which is found in the intricate stonework of the chapel. It goes from there to the Middle Ages, taking Ian Graham, currently-unemployed television personality, with it, literally, as he tries to learn the chapel's secret before it is too late to return to his own time, his own life.

Before he goes, he must find the music that the stone points to.

My Thoughts:
This book was very well written! I loved all the twists and turns, and how you sometimes had to really pay attention to get what was going on. There was lots of suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I couldn't put the book down!

The facts and such were very interesting, too. Fans of mathematics will find this book intriguing, as there's lots of that included. But, even those NOT a fan of such (like me) will still really enjoy this one. ;)

I look forward to more by this author!

Rated: A-
(highly recommended!)

Monday, December 15, 2008

"The Jesus Who Never Lived: Exposing False Christs and Finding the Real Jesus" by H. Wayne House

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

The feature author is:

and his book:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)


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

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

Visit his Website:

Product Details

List Price: 13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736923217
ISBN-13: 978-0736923217


What’s It All About?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liking Jesus Without Knowing Him

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

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

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

“Who Do People Say That I Am?”

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

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

Jesus the Prophet of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet

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

—Malachi 4:5 nkjv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Messiah, Son of God

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

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

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

*** PLEASE NOTE: I have not yet received this book in the mail (it hasn't shown up, yet), so my review will be posted at a later date. My apologies. :-?

Monday, December 1, 2008

REVIEW: Leave It To Chance by Sheri Sand

It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his/her book:

Leave it to Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)


Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799883
ISBN-13: 978-1434799883


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”


The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.

After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.


“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”


“She’s noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.”

He shrugged again. “Can I have my game back?”

“You lied to me, son. Again.”


“You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?”

His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. “No.”

She touched his leg. “What’s bothering you, honey?”

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasn’t it. “You can have it tomorrow.”

But would tomorrow be any different?

My Review:
This was a great book. There were even parts where I laughed so hard that I was crying! I was in fits of giggles! :P

There were also parts, though, where I really resonated with the characters. As a child of divorce myself, I understood what Sierra's kids were going through, being torn between two parents. And, I think Ms. Sand did a great job of portraying the kids' feelings (especially Braden's).

The only thing I didn't care for in this one was the fact that some bits were a tad unbelievable (Sierra's feelings about God, for instance, especially nearer the end of the book). Otherwise, though, it was still a good story.

I'd definitely recommend this book. ;)

Rated: B+