Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First Place 4 Health by Carole Lewis

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 her book:

First Place 4 Health

Regal Books (June 15, 2008)


Carole Lewis is the national director of First Place 4 Health, the Christ centered health and weight loss program. A warm, transparent and humorous communicator, Carole is a popular speaker at workshops, seminars and conferences around the country. She and her husband, Johnny, have three adult children (one deceased), eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Visit the author's blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Regal Books (June 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0830745238


Chapter One

Get on the Bus

One of my favorite authors and speakers, Patsy Clairmont, tells the story of when her son was about six years old. Because they lived out in the country, she walked her son to the bus stop every morning. One day, early in the school year, before she got back to the house, she heard the footsteps of her son running up behind her.

“What in the world are you doing?” she said to him. “The school bus will be here any minute.”

“I’m quitting school,” he said, looking her straight in the eye.

“You can’t quit school,” she replied. “You’re only in first grade. Why do you want to quit?”

“Well, it’s too long, too hard and too boring,” he said.

“Son, that’s life,” said Patsy. “Get on the bus.”

* * *

Have you ever wanted to give up?

There’s a worthy goal ahead, but to reach the goal takes time, effort and focus. When you run into obstacles, your first inclination might be to quit. That’s when the best thing you can do is square your shoulders, set your lunch kit firmly under your arm and get on the bus—in other words, take one simple step toward your goal.

If you’re reading this book, chances are good that you have a worthy goal in mind—you want your life and health to change for the better. Maybe you haven’t fully articulated the goal, but you know that you can’t stay the same. You know that something has to change in your life because parts of your life—perhaps all parts—aren’t what they could be right now.

What’s the most obvious part of your life that needs to change—is it your weight?

Being overweight is an obvious catalyst that invites you to open the door to positive change. It’s easy to admit to a struggle with weight when the mirrors, the scale and the clothes closets in your house don’t lie. Being overweight is noticeable—to you and to others. You can’t ignore it. It never lets you forget its presence.

• Maybe you feel the extra weight in your heart and lungs. It’s difficult to climb stairs. It’s difficult or impossible to play with your kids or grandchildren. You dread your annual physical checkup because you already know what the doctor is going to tell you.

• Perhaps buying clothes is distressing and embarrassing for you. You see the clothes you’d like to wear, but nothing fits or feels right. You dread wearing shorts. You detest wearing a swimsuit, and you might even refuse to participate in any activity that requires your wearing a swimsuit.

• Maybe you sense a subtle discrimination at work. You are passed over for a promotion and wonder if it has anything to do with your weight. Maybe your sales would be higher if you looked fit. Maybe you’d get more respect if you weren’t packing on the pounds.

• You dread social events, such as a class reunion, where you’re with people who haven’t seen you for a while. You hear people say good things to others, but no positive comments come your way. Maybe people give you pointed stares. Maybe they even joke that your spouse’s cooking must be really good.

• Weight affects your pocketbook. Your grocery bill is higher. Your life insurance premiums are elevated. You spend more on medical deductibles. Maybe you have paid a lot of money for weight-loss programs and related books.

• You fear the severe repercussions of being overweight. One of your grandmothers suffers from diabetes. An uncle died of heart disease. Another had a stroke. You’re about the same age and condition as they were when their bodies became diseased. What will be your fate?

The reasons why you are overweight are numerous. You may have struggled with weight forever. You’ve always been the “fat kid,” the one picked last in gym class, the girl without a date at prom or the tubby guy who’s always good for a joke. You blame the weight on your genes, the way you were raised or the fact that your mother always cooked with butter. But it doesn’t matter—in the end you’re overweight because you’ve always been that way.

Some people struggle with weight only after a major life change—the pounds came on after marriage, after reaching a certain age, during pregnancy. You remember what it was like to be fit, but that was definitely yesterday’s body. You see pictures of yourself taken a few years ago, before you gained weight, and wonder if you’ll ever look like that again.

Some of us wrestle with weight because, in our most honest moments, we know it acts as a cocoon. If this is your reason, perhaps you gained weight because something terrible happened years ago. Maybe your father died when you were young and you’re still grieving his loss; you were date raped as a teenager and it has taken years to overcome the tragedy; you went through an ugly divorce and are still scarred and wounded. The extra pounds feel like a protection. You believe your weight hides you from a hurtful world. Food is a refuge that always seems to make you feel better.

Some people struggle with weight because age or other health conditions hinder ease of movement. If this is your story, you long to be fit and healthy, but most mornings when you wake up you simply feel miserable. It’s hard to get off the couch, much less walk around the block.

Others struggle with weight because life moves too fast. You’ve got to work all day and pick up the kids after soccer practice and get dinner on the table and make phone calls for the committee after dinner and on and on and on—how can you possibly take time to focus on your health?

Whatever the reasons, you know one thing for sure: The pounds are there, and you wish they weren’t. You long for a better life—a vibrant, healthy life. Deep down you long to be the kind of person whose life is characterized by balance and satisfaction.

You can glimpse the better goal of being fit and well, but to reach that goal, you know it will take time, effort and focus. Obstacles will come up—they’ve come up every other time you’ve tried to lose weight, and when this happens, the temptation is always to quit. You know that you need to take one simple step at a time toward your target. But how do you do that?

The Place to Begin

There is hope for your future weight loss, and it’s found in a place you may have never imagined. The easy thing would be for me to give you another diet to follow. But statistics tell us that 95 percent of people who lose weight gain it back again.1 The simple fact is that another diet is not the solution you’re looking for.

I repeat: If all you’re looking for is a quick way to lose weight, then this book will disappoint you. That’s not what First Place 4 Health is all about. Besides, I won’t give you a quick fix that will take the pounds off only to have them come back on a short time later.

I want to give you a lasting solution that addresses not only the number you see on a scale but also your whole person—spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s the plan that helps you lead the life you were meant to live—a good life filled with hope, purpose and health.

If that kind of life is something that interests you, I want to let you in on a little secret. The hope for your future weight loss begins with this simple fact:

God is good.

That’s where the First Place 4 Health program begins. Does that statement sound so simple that you feel like dismissing it? “God is good” is one of the most far-reaching principles of the Bible, and it affects your life in ways that you may never have imagined. Let’s take that one fact and unpack it a bit.

Imagine for a moment that you lived a few thousand years ago. You’re in a community of people loved by God, but you have all made mistakes over a long period of time, and you find yourself conquered, captured and carted off to Babylon by order of King Nebuchadnezzar.

In this new land, nothing feels the same and nothing looks the same. Obstacles are all around you. You’re a stranger in a strange land. But you get a letter from one of your “pastors”—the prophet Jeremiah—and the letter lays out the very words of God.

In the letter, God says that He knows everything there is to know about you, including the events of your life that have led you to this place of exile. God knows the mistakes you have made, but He offers you His grace. The Lord declares these simple yet profound words:

I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).

That’s the simple fact: God has good plans for you, plans to give you a hope and a future. In other words—God is good.

God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Even though He wrote those words through the prophet Jeremiah, to a specific group of people at a specific place and time, His righteous character is still the same toward us today. Whenever we turn to the Lord and ask for His help, He extends His hand of grace to us.

Nahum 1:7 repeats that thought:

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.

He cares for those who trust in Him.

That’s the real answer to your goal of losing weight and becoming healthy. Start with the fact that God is good. He cares for you. The answer you’re looking for encompasses not just taking off pounds, but also living the life of purpose and hope you were meant to live. This is the life God calls you to live. And that life is well within your grasp. This book will show you what it’s all about.

Do the Next Right Thing

To begin learning about this new, healthier lifestyle, you need to start right where you are. That means taking whatever positive step is right in front of you; or, in other words, “do the next right thing.”

I want to share with you part of a letter I received from one of our First Place 4 Health group leaders. She has chosen to show up to life every day. She takes small steps. She makes ordinary decisions for positive change. But she is walking the path of balance that leads to total health.

I have battled depression most of my life. When I became a Christian, that battle did not go away. In 1990, when I weighed 220 pounds, I prayed that God would deliver me from my addiction to food. One week later, I learned about First Place. (First Place has been a lifesaver for me. I have been a First Place leader off and on since 1991.)

When my mother came to live with us, and I became her full-time caregiver, I dropped out of First Place and my weight went up to 273 pounds. I am disabled and live with chronic pain on a daily basis. During this time there were days when I only got out of bed to take care of my mother’s most basic needs.

When she went home to be with the Lord in 2002, I chose to have gastric bypass surgery the next year instead of returning to First Place. I lost 90 pounds the first year and then stopped. I have since realized that there’s no magic cure for weight gain. Even with gastric bypass surgery, the answer is to eat less and exercise more.

I wanted so badly to start leading First Place again, but since I’d had weight-loss surgery, I felt that I couldn’t justify leading the class. I prayed and sought the Lord and called your office and was encouraged to share with the class and go forward. I have done that now for the last two years.

All of this leads up to why I am writing. I have battled depression since I was a very young girl. God has helped me so much since becoming a Christian, but it is a battle every day, and some days I lose the fight. One of my First Place assistants brought a copy of the April 2007 First Place Newsletter to class for each of our members. That newsletter has changed my life.

We all have Aha! moments in life when one word or one Scripture reaches us and the light bulb turns on. For me it was one line from that newsletter. “When there are times when all I can do is the next right thing, then I do the next right thing.” Wow! I thought. Maybe I can do that. So I typed up this saying and placed it on my bathroom mirror. The very next day I woke up in great pain, not knowing how to begin doing all the things

I needed to do, and with no energy and no desire to do anything. Then I remembered the saying—Do the next right thing. I read it out loud, and I read it again. And then, I did the next right thing. All day that day, if I got confused or overwhelmed or sad, I went back to the bathroom and read that statement and then did the next right thing.

My husband can’t believe the things I have gotten accomplished. My house is cleaner; my laundry is done (folded and put away); I go to bed earlier and get up earlier. I have started swimming at the YWCA. I have become interested in reading and doing crafts again. Previously, I just wanted to stay in bed until noon; but now I tell myself to just get up and do the next right thing.

The words “Do the next right thing” have completely changed my life. Do I still battle depression? Yes. Maybe I will for the rest of my life unless the Lord chooses to heal me. Am I still in constant pain? Oh, yes. I need surgery, and maybe now I will find the courage to go ahead with that. But I don’t have to worry about that—I just have to do the next right thing.

In the pages ahead, you will see more specifically what taking positive steps looks like. Together we will examine the model of the foursided person and explore what it means to live a balanced life mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. You are invited to make foundational shifts toward positive habits that will help you along your new journey. Through the power of God, you can decide to live a healthier life, and you can experience lasting positive change.

When I think of a person who has succeeded in this area, I think of my friend Deborah, a woman in my First Place 4 Health group.

Deborah had a number of strikes against her. At 5'8", she weighed more than 200 pounds. She had been in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage and was in the process of getting a divorce. She had custody of her two preteen girls and was tired a lot. After suffering from chronic depression for years, Deborah was on several medications.

When Deborah came to her first meeting, all she did was sit. She sat through an entire 12-week session and didn’t lose a pound. She signed up for another 12-week session. She came and sat, and didn’t lose a pound.

So she signed up for a third 12-week session. On the day the session was to start, she sent me this email: “Carole, please take my name off the roll. I’m just dragging the group down.”

I knew that Deborah wasn’t doing her Bible study. I knew that she had not learned the food plan. I knew that she was convinced that all she was able to do was sit. And I knew that she had reached the point where the pain of not changing was forcing her to move beyond the lies and make a choice. Her choice was that she needed to make a choice.

I replied to her email message with one line: Deborah—just come today.

That day, when Deborah arrived, I hugged her, and she started crying.

That was her moment of choice. From that moment on, she started responding to the program. She began doing her Bible study and memorizing verses. She started walking around her neighborhood with her girls. She started eating according to the Live It plan.

Soon, she had lost 60 pounds.

Previously hidden aspects of Deborah’s personality began to shine through. She was fun! We learned that she was a talented photographer. In fact, in March 2006, she went to Israel with a tour group arranged by First Place 4 Health. She took pictures for the group and walked up and down the rocky terrain. I had never seen her like that—so vibrant and full of action. She had just been so squashed down all of her life.

“Deborah,” I said, a while ago, “tell me what finally happened for you to make a choice.”

“Carole,” she said, “you believed in me. You believed that I could do it. Nobody ever believed in me before.”

What she said is true. I believed in her. And I believe in you. I believe that you can do it. Even if no one has ever believed in you before, know that someone believes in you now. With God’s help, you can change. It’s your choice. And you have the power to do it.

As you take your next steps toward positive change, keep in mind that you must choose to change before change will begin.

First Place 4 Health is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle shift.

People often believe that if they can just get on the right diet, all their weight problems will be solved. That’s an easy mistake to make, because the latest, greatest diets are always marketed as the solution we need. Yet First Place 4 Health is much more than a diet; it’s a change in how to approach life. The good thing about the First Place 4 Health food plan is that it’s not restrictive like a diet would be. We invite you to explore all the wonderful world of food choices the Lord has provided.

• First Place 4 Health is not about rigid rules; it’s about helpful invitations. We used to stress commitments—which is a good concept. We wanted people to be dedicated to pursuing health. But we have found that people sometimes looked at commitments as laws, and if laws were broken, then guilt and rigidity set in. Instead, we are inviting you to make a number of positive changes in your life. No one does them all perfectly, all of the time. So relax. There isn’t just one way to live a healthy life. Develop the plan that works best for you, and give yourself grace to make mistakes and adjustments along the way.

• Get involved at your own pace. When it comes to living a healthy, balanced life, success will look different for different people. Some people lose 100 pounds the first year they’re involved in First Place 4 Health. Other people lose 20 pounds and keep it off for 20 years. For others, success is found in not gaining any more weight. You are welcome in First Place 4 Health regardless of where you are with your current level of health. We encourage you to do no more than what you are ready for. Yet we do encourage you to take a first positive step as soon as possible.

• Your invitation starts right now. Any change requires some sort of adjustment. Your invitation is to jump in to this new life today. Just begin. Get on the bus. Make the choice to give yourself wholeheartedly to this new season in your life—a season that will hopefully stretch into a lifetime of healthy living. Have fun exploring new ways to grow in your faith and in your understanding of health. Develop new friendships by getting involved in something good for you. Don’t be satisfied with standing on the outside—come on in! Be courageous and take the next step in living a balanced life.

What Keeps You Going?

The formula for lasting change:

A worthy goal reached through time + effort + focus

When obstacles to meeting your goal come up, your first inclination may be to quit. That’s when you take the next step toward your goal— just one simple step at a time.

It helps to have a clear idea of what a worthy goal looks like. You may not have articulated more than the words “to lose weight.” While this is a worthy goal, it usually breaks down when obstacles come up, because you need a greater understanding of the motivation behind your goal. When you remember why it is that you wanted to lose weight in the first place, that knowledge keeps you heading toward your goal.

People lose weight for all sorts of reasons. The Bible provides the foundational motivation, and it’s as simple as this: God is interested in your health. The motivations are shown in two passages of Scripture.

Check out Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In other words, you are urged to present your body—your actual flesh and blood and bone and skin—to God as an act of worship. How you take care of your body is a reflection of what you think about God. It’s honoring to the Lord to take care of the body He has given you.

When your body is presented to God, He invites you to use your life in service to Him.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

The benefit here is yours. To live for the Lord God of All is an incredible privilege. God’s invitation is to an abundant life full of purpose and hope. A foundational motivation for weight loss and total lifestyle change is to give your body to God.

It seems strange to think about it, but if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, then you have the actual Spirit of God living inside your body. It doesn’t make you a god. It means that your body houses the spirit of God, and that He works in your life by faith.

So what are the foundational motivations for losing weight and living a life of balance?

First, God wants you to. God is interested in your health.

Second, when your life is in balance, it’s much easier to be a leader in your family and a role model for your children and spouse. It’s difficult to lead people where you have never been yourself. Many children are overweight and need encouragement from their parents. Many of the weight problems of our children would evaporate if we led by example.

I’ve experienced this truth in my own life. When I first started to exercise, my oldest granddaughter, Cara, loved to walk or jog with me. Would she have done it on her own? No way! Yet in a heartbeat, she came with me at my invitation. Children love being with their family members.

Third, weight loss can also expose the true needs in our hearts. I’m talking specifically to those of you who need emotional healing. A weight gain is often a symptom of a deeper issue. For instance, women and men who have been emotionally or sexually abused often attempt to hide their pain by eating.

But whatever motivation is speaking to your heart, just take a moment now to get on the bus.

In the space on the following pages, jot down some ideas about the reasons you want to lose weight. It can be very beneficial to see your goals on paper. When obstacles come (and they will), you can refer back to this to gain encouragement.

Sometimes it helps to record a positive goal as well as its negative extrapolation of what might happen if you don’t do anything. Sometimes it can help to imagine your life in 5, 10 or 15 years. What will happen if something changes? What will happen if nothing changes?

Take some time to think through the following declarations.

I want to lose weight because . . .

I want to lose weight so that I can . . .

and be a good example to . . .

If I lose weight, then in the future I can see myself . . .

If I don’t lose weight, then in the future I can see myself . . .

There is no correct way to word your goal. What matters is that you know your goal, remind yourself of it often and keep in mind that your goal is reachable. With God’s help, you can do it.

Congratulations! You’re on Your Way

God never promised us that life would be rosy and without difficulty. Instead, the Lord promises to carry us through any situation and trial. God already knows your goals. He knows that you desire a better life filled with purpose, health and hope. And He knows the obstacles you will encounter that tempt you to quit the journey. Don’t give up! You can make it!

Remember, you have already taken the first step by reading this chapter. And it wasn’t that hard. Now you’re on the bus! You’re on your way to a whole new you.

Checklist for Success

• Acknowledge the truth that God is good and that He offers you a hope-filled plan for your life and future. Your success begins with this simple fact.

• Run from quick fixes—they never provide you with the lasting change you need. First Place 4 Health is a lifestyle change that affects your whole person—mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically. It will take time, but it’s worth it.

• Accept the invitation to give your life to God. He is interested in everything about you—including your physical health.

• Write down the specific reasons why you want to become healthy. Refer back to your declarations often for motivation. Remind yourself why not doing anything isn’t an option.

• Start today. Obstacles and excuses will come up, but quitting isn’t the answer. Do the next right thing!


1. This statistic is frequently cited in weight-loss journals and health-related articles, for example: http://preventdisease.com/fitness/weightloss/articles/carbs.html (accessed January 23, 2007).

When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued as I'd read the original "First Place" book several years ago. I was curious to see what --if anything-- Ms. Lewis had changed.

As it turns out, quite a bit has changed! The main focus is still on giving Christ "first place" in one's life (Matthew 6:33). But this new program also focuses on acheiving balance in the four main areas of life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Also changed is that they've removed the term "commitments", and instead use the more grace-filled term "invitations". You are "invited" to walk the journey toward living a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.

Like the old "First Place" book, there are many success stories shared throughout the pages, and these are very inspiring.

What I didn't like about this book was the sense that the author just wants more people to buy her program and sign up for the local support groups. She was constantly promoting these groups, and her other books (the Bible studies).

In the original "First Place" book, the whole program was laid out for you so that, even if you couldn't attend a support group, for whatever reason, you could still know how to follow the plan. But, in this newer book, that doesn't happen. She gives you an idea of what you'll find in the support group, and of the kinds of things you can learn there, but she doesn't outline the plan for you. So, I was a bit disappointed in that fact.

Over all, though, I found it to be a really motivational book, and there was a lot of good stuff inside. In fact, some of the new thinking includes things that are very similar to the Intuitive Eating approach (of which I'm terribly fond). For example, on page 174, it says:

"...you'll learn to eat slowly and savor your meals. You'll relearn what hunger really feels like and listen to your internal hunger cues--and stop eating when you are full... Trust your gut -- God made that, too!"

The author encourages you to give this plan a full year -- that way you're not looking for a quick fix (that doesn't exist), and the plan has a chance to work, and you have a chance to be changed from the inside-out. Also encouraged are "baby steps" -- doing as much as you can to start, even if it's not a lot, and continuing to work at it, because eventually you'll get stronger, and will be able to do more. :)

A good book.

Rated: B-

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God by Mark Batterson

((Please Note: I don't actually have a copy of this book to review, nor will I be receiving one, but this is a book I want to read some day, so I'm posting the information for it ~ and participating in this blog tour!))


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 his book:

Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God

Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)


Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger (http://evotional.com/). He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590527194
ISBN-13: 978-1590527191


Chapter One

Yawning Angels

Living a Life of Spiritual Adventure

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

The Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit that has always intrigued me.They called Him An Geadh-Glas, or “the Wild Goose.” I love the imagery and implications. The name hints at the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger and an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious at first earshot, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to pursue the Spirit’s leading through life than Wild Goose chase. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something that institutionalized Christianity hasmissed out on. And I wonder if we have clipped the wings of theWild Goose and settled for something less—much less—than what God originally intended for us.

I understand that “wild goose chase” typically refers to a purposeless endeavor without a defined destination. But chasing the Wild Goose is different. The promptings of the Holy Spirit can sometimes seem pretty pointless, but rest assured, God is working His plan. And if you chase theWild Goose, He will take you places
you never could have imagined going by paths you never knew existed.

I don’t know a single Christ follower who hasn’t gotten stressed out over trying to figure out the will of God. We want to solve the mystery of the will of God the way we solve a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. But in my experience, intellectual analysis usually results in spiritual paralysis.

We try to make God fit within the confines of our cerebral cortex. We try to reduce the will of God to the logical limits of our left brain. But the will of God is neither logical nor linear. It is downright confusing and complicated.

A part of us feels as if something is spiritually wrong with us when we experience circumstantial uncertainty. But that is precisely what Jesus promised us when we are born of the Spirit and start following Him.1 Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: adventure.

I think it is only fair that I give aWild Goose warning at the outset of this book: nothing is more unnerving or disorienting than passionately pursuing God. And the sooner we come to terms with that spiritual reality, themore we will enjoy the journey. I cannot, in good conscience, promise safety or certainty. But I can promise that chasing the Wild Goose will be anything but boring!


Not long ago I visited what must be the closest thing to the Garden of Eden left on earth. It almost felt wrong arriving in the Galápagos Islands via airplane. Washing ashore on a bamboo raft would have seemed more apropos.

We spent most of our time island hopping in a boat that didn’t seem large enough for the twelve people on board or the twelve-foot ocean waves we encountered. And sure enough, we discovered that the boat had capsized not long before our visit. That tidbit of information would have been nice to know before we climbed aboard—
but it definitely added an element of adventure.

The entire week was full of new experiences. I went snorkeling for the first time and saw some of God’s amazing underwater creations. Where did He come up with those color schemes? In an unscripted and unforgettable moment, my son Parker and I went swimming with some playful sea lions. And I accomplished one of my life goals by jumping off a forty-foot cliff into a narrow river gorge at Las Grietas.What an adrenaline rush!

The trip consisted of one adventure after another. So the saying in Spanish that we saw on a Sprite can that week seemed fitting, and we adopted it as our mantra: Otro día, otra aventura. Translation: “Another day, another adventure.”

I love those four words inspired by Sprite. They capture the essence of what we experienced day in and day out in the Galápagos. I think those words resonate with one of the deepest longings in the human heart—the longing for adventure. And I’m not sure I could come up with a better description of what it’s like to pursue God. Take theHoly Spirit out of the equation of my life, and it would spell b-o-r-i-n-g. Add Him into the equation of your life, and anything can happen. You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll go, or what you’ll do. All bets are off.

If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you’re following the Spirit but have actually settled for something less—something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God’s purposes, we want Him to serve our purposes. And while this may seem like a subtle distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that leaves us feeling empty, it’s also the difference between spiritual boredom and spiritual adventure.


Situated five hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos chain is one of the most primitive places on the planet.While many of the islands in the forty-nine-island archipelago are inhabited, most of them are absolutely undomesticated. When I was there, I felt as if I were as far from civilization as I could get. It was Edenic.

Somehow I felt a new affinity with Adam in the Galápagos environment. It helped me imagine what life must have been like before the Fall. Scripture tells us that one of the first jobs God gave Adam was naming the animals.2 And we read right past it. But it must have taken years of research and exploration to complete the project. I don’t think God paraded the animals past Adam in a single-file line; I’m guessing God let Adam discover them in their natural habitats. Imagine how thrilling it must have been for Adam to catch his first glimpse of wildebeests stampeding, mountain goats climbing, or rhinos charging.

That’s how I felt when I was in the Galápagos. And it was there that I discovered the difference between seeing a caged animal at a local zoo and getting within arm’s length of a mammoth marine iguana or walking a beach with hundreds of barking sea lions or floating above manta rays as they glide along the ocean floor. It’s one
thing to see a caged bird. It’s an altogether different experience to see a pelican that looks like a prehistoric pterodactyl circling fifty feet above your boat, dive-bombing full speed into the ocean, and coming up with breakfast in its oversize beak.

Few things compare to the thrill of seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. There is something so inspiring about a wild animal doing what it was created to do. Uncivilized. Untamed. Uncaged. So a few weeks after returning from the Galápagos, our family spent an afternoon at the National Zoo near our home in Washington DC. It’s a fantastic zoo. But it just wasn’t the same after the Galápagos. I’m ruined for zoos. It’s not the same seeing a caged animal. It’s too safe. It’s too tame. It’s too predictable.

At one point we were walking through the ape house, and I had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas window at a four-hundred-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.

I love the church. I bleed the church. And I’m not saying that the way the church cages people is intentional. In fact, it may be well intentioned. But too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian.

Deep down inside, all of us long for more. Sure, the tamed part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage. But the untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure. And at some point in our spiritual journey, the safety and predictability of the cage no longer satisfies. We have a primal longing to be uncaged. And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the
cross to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.

Praying for protection is fine. I pray for a hedge of protection around my three children all the time. You probably pray that kind of prayer too. But when was the last time you asked God to make you dangerous?

I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction at the end of our church services, I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy.


Every once in a while, I have random thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Here’s a thought that fired across my synapses not long ago: Do angels yawn?

I know it seems like an inane theological question, but I seriously wonder if angels have the capacity to get bored. More important, I wonder if some of us are living such safe lives that not only are we bored, but so are our guardian angels. If they could, would our guardian angels coax us out of our cage and beg us to give them
something dangerous to do?

In the pages that follow you’ll meet some dangerous people. Mind you, they’re ordinary people. They have doubts and fears and problems just like you and me. But their courage to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ will inspire and challenge you to follow them as they follow the Spirit’s leading. I think of Ana Luisa, who used her award miles to fly to India and sacrificially serve some of the poorest of the poor at a medical clinic. I think of Mike, who started a dangerous ministry in a dangerous place—a porn show in Las Vegas. I think of Adam, whose
sensitivity to the Wild Goose resulted in a life-changing encounter on a mission trip half a world away. And I think of Becky, who made a conscious decision to endanger her own life by becoming part of the crusade against human trafficking.

Since when did it become safe to follow Christ? Maybe it’s time to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ.


The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard believed that boredom is the root of all evil. I second the notion. Boredom isn’t just boring; boredom is wrong. You cannot simultaneously live by faith and be bored. Faith and boredom are antithetical. Against that backdrop, consider the gospel story of the rich young ruler. On paper the rich young ruler had it all: youth, wealth, and power. But something was still missing. The rich young ruler was bored with his faith. And I think it is evidenced by the question he asked Jesus: “What do I still lack?”3

I’ll tell you exactly what he was lacking: spiritual adventure. His life was too easy, too predictable, and too comfortable. He kept all the commandments, but those commandments felt like a religious cage. I think there was a deep-seated longing within him for something more than simply not doing anything wrong.

Listen, not breaking the prohibitive commandments is right and good. But simply not breaking the prohibitive commandments isn’t spiritually satisfying. It leaves us feeling caged. And I honestly think that is where many of us find ourselves.

Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of serving as lead pastor of National Community Church inWashington DC. As with every church, our demography and geography are unique. Seventy percent ofNCCers are single twentysomethings navigating the quarterlife crisis. And most of them live or work on Capitol Hill. So the observation I’m about to share is undoubtedly shaped by the life stage of our congregation and the psyche of our city. But I also think human nature is human nature. And here is what I’ve observed: many, if not most, Christians are bored with their faith.

We know our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We know we will spend eternity with God when we cross the boundary of the spacetime continuum. And we are trying our best to live our lives within the guardrails of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. But still we have a gnawing feeling that something is missing.

I think the rich young ruler is representative of a generation that longs to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ. But too many among us end up settling for spiritual mediocrity instead of striving for spiritual maturity. Jesus speaks to that deep-seated longing for adventure by challenging us to come out of the cage. But coming out of the cage means giving up the very thing in which we find our security and identity outside of Christ.

In the case of the rich young ruler, his cage was financial security. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”4

A part of us feels bad for the rich young ruler, right? How could Jesus demand so much? He asked him to give up everything he had! But we fail to appreciate the offer Jesus put on the table.

I live in the internship capital of the world. Every summer tens of thousands of young adults make the pilgrimage to DC to try and land the right internship with the right person because they know it can open the right door. It’s amazing how many members of Congress were once congressional pages and how many Supreme Court justices were once Supreme Court clerks.

I don’t care how much this rich young ruler had to give up—Jesus offered him so much more. This was the opportunity of a lifetime: an internship with none other than the Son of God. Come on, that’s got to look good on your résumé! You can’t put a price tag on that kind of experience. But the rich young ruler turned it down. He opted for the cage. And he made the mistake so many of us make: he chose an accessorized life over a life of adventure, over a life of chasing theWild Goose.

Now juxtapose the rich young ruler with the twelve undomesticated disciples who accepted the unpaid internship. They heard the parables with their own two ears. They drank the water Jesus turned into wine. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish. And they were there when Jesus turned the temple upside down, walked on water, and ascended into heaven.

In a day when the average person never traveled outside a thirtyfive-mile radius of his home, Jesus sent His disciples to the four corners of the ancient world. These ordinary fishermen, who otherwise would have lived and died within sight of the Sea of Galilee, were sent to the ends of the earth as they knew it. What a Wild Goose chase! According to the third-century historian Eusebius, Peter sailed to Italy, John ended up in Asia, James the son of Zebedee traveled as far as Spain, and even doubting Thomas chased the Wild Goose all the way to India.

Just like the rich young ruler, we have a choice to make. The same offer is extended.We can stay in our cage, end up with everything, and realize it amounts to nothing. Or we can come out of our cage and chase theWild Goose.


In the prequel to this book, In a Pit with a Lion on a SnowyDay, I retell the story of an ancient warrior named Benaiah to show how God wants us to chase the five-hundred-pound opportunities that come across our path. And I cite the aphorism “no guts, no glory.” When we lack the guts to step out in faith, we rob God of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.5 In Wild Goose Chase, I want to take it a step further and show you how all of life becomes a grand adventure when we chase the trackless, matchless Goose of heaven.We’ll retrace the steps of sixWild Goose chasers who come right out of the pages of Scripture. And my hope is that their footprints will guide us as we chase theWild Goose. But before the chase begins, I do want to offer one simple reminder.This book is aboutmore than you andme experiencing spiritual adventure. In fact, this book is not about you at all.

It’s a book about the Author and Perfecter of our faith,6 who wants to write His-story through your life. And if you read through Scripture, you’ll discover that His favorite genre is action-adventure.

Sure, you can choose the safety and predictability of the cage, forfeiting the adventure God has destined for you. But you won’t be the only one missing out or losing out. When you lack the courage to chase the Wild Goose, the opportunity costs are staggering. Who might not hear about the love of God if you don’t seize the opportunity to tell them? Who might be stuck in poverty, stuck in ignorance, stuck in pain if you’re not there to help free them? Where might the advance of God’s kingdom in the world stall out because you weren’t there on the front lines?

Jesus’ disciples didn’t just live an exciting life post-Pentecost; they turned the world upside down.7 And that’s what you can be a part of too. Wild Goose Chase is an invitation to be part of something that is bigger than you and more important than you.

Are you in?

In the pages that follow I will identify six cages that keep us from roaming free with theWild Goose and living the spiritual adventure God destined us to. I’m not sure which cages you may find yourself in. But the good news is this: you are only one Wild Goose chase away from the spiritual adventure God has destined for you.

The first cage is the cage of responsibility. Over the course of our lifetime, God-ordained passions tend to get buried beneath day-today responsibilities. Less important responsibilities displace more important ones. And our responsibilities become spiritual excuses that keep us from the adventure God has destined for us. Without even knowing it, we begin to practice what I call irresponsible responsibility. The Wild Goose chase begins when we come to terms with our greatest responsibility: pursuing the passions God has put in our heart.

The second cage, the cage of routine, is almost as subtle as the first. At some point in our spiritual journey, most of us trade adventure for routine. There is nothing wrong with a good routine. In fact, the key to spiritual growth is developing healthy and holy routines known as spiritual disciplines. But once a routine becomes routine, we need to disrupt the routine. Otherwise, sacred routines become empty rituals that keep us caged.

The third cage is the cage of assumptions. Our assumptions keep many of us from chasing theWild Goose. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m underqualified. I’m overqualified. It’s too late. It’s too soon. And the list goes on. As we age, many of us stop believing and start assuming. We stop living out of right-brain imagination and start living out of left-brain memory. And we put eight-foot ceilings on what God can do.

The fourth cage is the cage of guilt. The Enemy’s tactics haven’t changed since the Garden of Eden. He tries to neutralize us spiritually by getting us to focus on what we’ve done wrong in the past. Satan uses guilt to turn us into reactionaries. Jesus came to recondition our spiritual reflexes with His grace and turn us into revolu- tionaries for His cause. As long as you are focused on what you’ve done wrong in the past, you won’t have energy left to dream kingdom dreams.

The fifth cage is the cage of failure. And, ironically, this is where manyWild Goose chases begin.Why? Because sometimes our plans have to fail in order for God’s plans to succeed. Divine detours and divine delays are the ways God gets us where He wants us to go. And the sixth and final cage is the cage of fear. We need to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Instead, we need to start playing offense with our lives. The world needs more daring people with daring plans.Why not you?

I want you to know that before you decided to read this book I started praying for you. I prayed that Wild Goose Chase would get into the right hands at the right time. So I hope this book is more than a casual read for you. It’s a divine appointment waiting to happen. And I believe one chapter, one paragraph, or one sentence can change the trajectory of your life.

Let the chase begin.


O What’s your reaction to the ancient Celtic description of God as the “Wild Goose”—untamed, unpredictable, flying free?

O How have you been living “inverted Christianity,” trying to get God to serve your purposes instead of you serving His purposes?

O Right now, where are you on this spectrum?

O How does the call to spiritual adventure strike you? What is it inside you that resonates with that call?

O Of the six cages described at the end of the chapter, which do you think might apply to you the most and why?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World by Kathi Macias

New Hope Publishers, 2008

ISBN: 1-59669-220-0

Available from Amazon.com

Book Description:
Living with others in Mind: Beyond Me is an invitation to pursue true discipleship. Using sometimes humorous but always vulnerable and meaningful examples, Beyond Me ties together current, historical, and biblically documented insights and teachings to encourage you to aspire to the higher calling of true discipleship. Beyond Me is appropriate for individual or small-group settings.

Ms. Macias has packed so many wonderful examples, into this book, of living the Christian life of discipleship (following Jesus).

A lot of the book focuses on the fact that without God we can do nothing. It is our responsibility, as His “Bride”, to seek out and grow our relationship with the Lord, and to lean on Him in every circumstance.

I loved how Ms. Macias frequently explained things throughout the book. Not only would she quote passages of Scripture, but she’d break those passages down and explain them bit-by-bit, so that you got a better understanding of what was being presented.

This is a wonderful book about what it means to follow Jesus, day in and day out: It’s about laying down our own selfish, “me-first” ways, and following His “you-first” example.


Rated: B+

Award-winning author Kathi Macias has written more than 15 books, including the best-selling devotional A Moment a Day and the popular “Matthews” mystery novels. She has written commentary for the student edition of the Spirit-Filled Life Bible and was part of the devotional team for the New Women’s Devotional Bible. Kathi has won many awards, including the Angel Award from Excellence in Media, fiction awards from the San Diego Christian Writers Guild, and the grand prize in an international writing contest. With women’s ministry as her primary interest, Kathi is a popular speaker for women’s retreats, conferences, and churches.
Kathi also recently was presented with the 2008 Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the Golden Scrolls Award banquet. The award is given for accomplishments in both writing and speaking, but also in contribution to the approximately 250-member group of professional writing and speaking women.
A mother and grandmother, Kathi and her husband, Al, call California home.

Visit Kathi’s website at: www.KathiMacias.com

Merciless by Robin Parrish

(Dominion Trilogy, book 3)

Grant Borrows is no longer. And, in his place is ‘Oblivion’ - a merciless being who leaves death in his wake.

Alex, Payton, and the other Loci (or Ring-wearers) must find a way to stop the Secretum of Six from accomplishing what they’re determined to do, and restore order to the chaos they’ve caused all over the globe.

Robin Parrish is an amazing storyteller! This book was one very wild ride — definitely comparable to a blockbuster thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat in suspense.

I’d looked forward to reading this third installment in the “Dominion Trilogy” for a year, and I was NOT disappointed! It definitely lived up to my expectations! The only thing I had trouble with was that it took a little while for me to get back into the story, and re-orient myself to the fantastical things taking place. But, once I did, I was once again sucked into the story, and it was a fast-paced read until the very end!

I can’t wait to read more by this fantastic author!

HIGHLY recommended (going on my Top 10 list for the year!)

Rated: A+

A Well-Behaved Woman's Life by Susan McGeown

Pages: 219

Published by: Faith Inspired Books

From the Back of the Book:
What do you do when you discover that your entire adult life has been a lie? What do you do when you realize that all the things that you believed in and trusted in were nothing but illusions painted with deceit and framed in your own stupidity?
At fifty-two, the only fact that she is certain of is that her life is just about over. Standing, looking in the mirror, the ravages of time and The Truth have turned her into a bitter, lonely, hateful, spiteful old woman. The peaceful, proper, well-behaved existence that has defined her entire life has gotten her absolutely nothing except an ocean of tears and a lifetime filled with regrets.
However, despite her best intentions, the painful act of existing continues to intrude on the numbing grayness she prefers to call her life. There is her persistent minister, her outspoken cleaning lady, her loving children, and one tenacious man who can’t seem to take a hint. Whether she likes it or not, Bee must gradually begin to face the fact that perhaps God has not quite finished with her…yet.
Could it be that the possibility of love and happiness and dreams-come-true still might be something that could happen to her? Could it?
A Well Behaved Woman’s Life is a story that reminds us that even in our darkest times, God has anticipated our needs. This is a story that carries the reassurance that anything is possible and it is never too late ~ even for love, dreams, laughter, and happiness.

I have to say, I almost set this book aside after the first chapter. The coarse-language in a supposedly “Christian” book was a bit offensive to me. I was also pretty turned off by the discussion of the main character’s pubic hair!

Luckily, though, I set aside my discomfort and pushed through, determined to at least give the book a 50-page chance like all the others I read.

The Bible “lessons” taught by Bee’s pastor, Pastor Duncan, each Sunday, were what kept me reading. They were very powerful and quite a few of them spoke to issues in my own life. I also enjoyed the relationship between Bee and Peter.

There were quite a few spelling and grammatical mistakes throughout the book. It could’ve used a better editor. For example, in at least two different places, the word “loose” was used instead of “lose”.

Overall, though, it was a cute story of a woman ~ a widow ~ who learns to move on and to love again, despite her bitterness and past hurts.

Rated: B-

Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy

(Lassoed in Texas, book 2)

ISBN: 1597899380

Publisher: Barbour

Publication Date: July 1, 2008

Ms. Connealy has written a heart-warming tale about love, family, and God’s faithfulness. The main character, Grace, has endured much, but she has great strength of spirit which makes her a heroine to root for.

I think I’d have enjoyed this book more had I read the first book in the series (”Petticoat Ranch“). Having not read that, I felt somewhat lost when the book talked about Clay and Sophie McClellan and their brood. I had a hard time picturing the children in that family. This didn’t detract from the story, though.

One qualm I had with this tale was that the Reeves boys didn’t act their age. I kept picturing them as teenagers because of how they spoke, and how they behaved. Then the author would remind the reader that these boys were only five and ten years old! This threw me off every time.

The only other thing that bothered me in this story was that I was left hanging as to what happens with Grace’s sisters, Hannah and Libby. Maybe that will be revealed in a third book, but I kept expecting it to happen sometime in this story. That part of the tale wasn’t wrapped up neatly enough for me.

Overall, I did like this book. The story was very thought-out, and I was drawn into the tale, wondering how things would turn out. I will most likely go back and read book one, and then will be looking forward to trying future books by this author.

Rated: B-

((Thanks to Debbie Lykins of Sidedoor Communications for sending me this book to review!))

Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God by Gary Thomas

The premise of this book is that not everyone was designed to worship God in the same way. The author presents his belief that there are 9 different “spiritual pathways” (or temperaments) that people can fall into, often being strongest in one, but also exhibiting traits of some of the others, too.

The 9 Spiritual Temperaments are:
1. The Naturalist - Loving God Out-of-Doors
2. The Sensate - Loving God with the Senses
3. The Traditionalist - Loving God through Ritual & Symbol
4. The Ascetic - Loving God in Solitude & Simplicity
5. The Activist - Loving God through Confrontation
6. The Caregiver - Loving God by Loving Others
7. The Enthusiast - Loving God with Mystery & Celebration
8. The Contemplative - Loving God through Contemplation
9. The Intellectual - Loving God with the Mind

Each chapter outlines the characteristics of each temperament, mentions some Biblical characters who displayed these characteristics, tells the strengths & weaknesses of each temperament, and gives some examples of how the Christian who is strongest in that particular temperament could “refresh” their faith by applying some new worship practices / styles. The end of each chapter has a “test” of 6 questions to rate whether or not you have a “preference” for that temperament, while the end of the book has a place where you write in your overall scores so that you can see which you’re strongest in.

This book was really enlightening, and I found lots that I can put to use in my life. I’d recommend it, especially for those who feel they’ve “gone flat” in their worship of God / in their faith.

Rated: B-

Talk of the Town by Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate always writes good stories. So, as usual, I was drawn right into this book from the very first page.

From the back cover:
Her show, American Megastar, is TV’s hottest program, but life couldn’t be worse for associate producer Mandalay Florentino. She’s just arrived in the hayseed town of Daily, Texas, to arrange a surprise “reunion concert” for hometown finalist Amber Anderson — only everyone seems to know the secret already.
Plus, she keeps crossing paths with a gorgeous cowboy with blue eyes who may not be the country boy he appears to be.
And the paparazzi are swarming.
And her boss is demanding perfection…or else.
With the faith and future of a young singer on the line, Mandalay and the town of Daily must find the courage –and the creativity– to make sure the reunion concert is unforgettable!

I really enjoyed this story. Imagene Doll and Donetta were hilarious. In fact, parts of this book had me laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes!

Overall, there was only one small “issue” I had with the book, and that was the part where Mandalay spurts some medical jargon about grieving to Imagene ~ it jerked me out of the story, and it sounded only like the author imputting her research into the book.

Otherwise, though, the story was great, and I got caught up in the drama happening in Daily, Texas. I was thoroughly engrossed in the story, and had a hard time putting the book down.

Highly recommended!

Rated: A-

Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen

I love stories set in Regency England, and this one was no different. I was sucked in from the very first page, and couldn’t put the book down!

Ms. Klassen is a great storyteller. All of the characters were well-rounded (I really got a feel for each of their ‘personalities’), and the plot was very detailed.

The main character, Charlotte Lamb, is a brave soul who makes some poor choices in the beginning, but then redeems herself by making some very wise, but difficult, choices later on.

Themes of the book include sacrifice, reunion, selflessness, choices, redemption, and finding oneself.

I loved how the author keeps you guessing, right up until the end, about how the story will play out. And, I was grateful to not find any spelling or grammatical errors throughout the entire book (as is so common in books, lately).

I look forward to reading more by this author. She did a great job with this first novel. =)

Edgy Christian fiction” at its best ~ HIGHLY recommended!

Rated: A+

Revealed by Tamera Alexander

(Fountain Creek Chronicles, book 2)

Annabelle Grayson has had her slate wiped clean, and she’s been given a chance to start over. But, when her new husband dies, Annabelle has to continue with their plans without him.

Matthew Taylor has had a difficult life, partly of his own making. As such, he’s made some poor choices, and is now constantly looking over his shoulder. But, when he’s forced to partner with Annabelle, his life starts to take a different turn.
I enjoyed reading this second installment in Ms. Alexander’s Fountain Creek Chronicles. Many subjects are touched on, such as choices, forgiveness, reconciliation, Alzheimer’s Disease, and more.

Though a bit predictable at times, I still enjoyed seeing the story play out, and there were enough twists to make the book quite enjoyable.

I look forward to reading book three of the series, “Remembered“.

Rated: B+

Fearless by Robin Parrish

(Dominion Trilogy, book 2)

Robin Parrish has an amazing talent ~ he leaves you hanging at the end of every chapter, almost demanding that you turn the page to find out what’s next!
Grant Borrows (introduced to us in the first book, Relentless) is known to the public as “Guardian”. He uses his powers of telekinesis to help out a world being ravaged by natural disasters.

His fellow ring-wearer, Morgan, insists that they need to discover the reason behind their “shift” ~ the reason they wear the “rings of Dominion”. And so, Grant and a team of the most powerful “Loci” are off on a globe-hopping quest for answers.
But the answers may be more than they bargained for!

An amazing book with twists and turns you’d never see coming! I couldn’t put this book down! And, I’m frustrated that I’ll have to wait almost another year to find out how it all ends in “Merciless” (Dominion Trilogy, book 3 — due out from Bethany House Publishers in July 2008!).

Rated: A+

One Little Secret by Allison Bottke

This was an engaging story about a housewife named Ursula who accidently gets thrown into the Hollywood “starlet” life when pop star, Nik Prevel, discovers her amazing singing talent. Forever afterward, Ursula’s life is changed… as is Nik’s!

The only “issue” I had with this book was the author’s constant peppering of brand names of the rich-and-famous… stuff I haven’t a clue about, and couldn’t possibly relate to! (clothing, shoes, furniture, etc). I just couldn’t “picture” most of it.

Otherwise, I really liked Ms. Bottke’s ability to draw you into the story, constantly making you wonder what’s going to happen next, and leaving you wanting to know more.

I think that the character’s lives were portrayed fairly realistically, and the descriptions of the music were so moving that I was almost in tears! I also loved that the family-life portrayed by the author was what everyone –I’m sure– dreams of having, so that is a big pull.

Overall, a very good book that I didn’t want to see end. Highly recommended!

Rated: A

A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin

When I first picked up this book, I didn’t expect to like it because it’s set during war times, and I don’t usually care for those stories.

But, Ms. Austin has a way of writing that draws you deeper & deeper into the story and doesn’t let you go until the end! So I found myself devouring this book, not wanting to put it down!

Ginny, Rosa, Helen, and Jean all lead normal lives until the start of World War II. Then each of the women feel compelled to do their part for the war by signing up to work as electricians at Stockton Shipyard. Over time, working together brings the four women closer as they share their joys & sorrows.

Ms. Austin used each chapter to focus on one of the four women, telling the story from each one’s perspective.

The only problem I had with the book was that some parts of the story seemed unrealistic or rushed (ex. relationships healed/ended too quickly; arguements being, or not being, resolved realistically; etc).

But, I really enjoyed how Ms. Austin weaved Christian truths all throughout the book. And, I found that there were things about each of the four women that I could really relate to ~ things that reminded me of my own life.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable read that I will be happy to recommend to others.

Rated: B+

The Backward Life: In Pursuit of an Uncommon Faith by Jarrod Jones

When I first read the review of this book on the FaithfulReader.com website, I was intrigued. I had to read this book! So, I checked my local library — but they didn’t have a copy. I asked if they’d order one, and (thank the Lord!) they agreed to do so!

After waiting patiently, the book finally arrived, and I brought it home. I started reading right away… and then found that I couldn’t put it down! Right from the very beginning, you are drawn into the stories Jarrod shares from his own life. He then uses those stories to enlighten truths from God’s word. In so doing, Jarrod shows you how you can live a life that is “backward” to the world’s way of doing things… because we serve a “backward” God.

The back of the book says, “Discover how much fuller your life can be when you revel in living as Jesus taught: giving to gain, losing to win, and turning first and last around.

I especially liked the chapter called “Gloriously Ruined”. In it, Jarrod shares a passage from Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, “When God Weeps“, describing Jesus’ crucifixion in a new light. And, let me tell you… I have never been so moved by that story! It really did give me a new perspective!

And, it’s the same with so much of this book … I have come to view a lot of things in a new light, thanks to Mr. Jones!

Some of the other chapter titles are:
Me, Me, Me
Will the Real God Please Stand Up?
God Gone Public
Backward Loving
The Backward Mind

I can’t recommend this book highly enough … especially if you feel like you’re stuck in a spiritual “rut”. It is written in a down-to-earth, friend-to-friend style, with lots of humor thrown in for good measure. But, the truth is powerfully written… you can’t help but be changed! ;o)

Rated: A+

Hidden in Plain Sight by Mark Buchanan

Built on the Bible verse 2 Peter 1:1-9, Buchanan outlines the seven virtues listed by the apostle Peter, and then goes into depth explaining how they unlock the “secret of more” in our lives if we learn to have these qualities “in increasing measure“.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he’s nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he as been cleansed from his past sins.” - 2 Peter 1:1-9

I really soaked this book up. I’ve read this verse in the past, and had a sense of it’s importance, but I never really went on with it from there. It got forgotten. But now I don’t think I’ll look at it the same way ever again! This book was just chock-full of quotes that I’m going to take away from it, and really mull over. ;o)

Some favorite quotes:
p.118 - “Learn to pray before you react…

p.147-8 - “Real love loves us, not just as we are, but so that we can become what we are meant to be.

p.212 - “The only way from here to there is ‘a long obedience in the same direction‘. It’s by making our acts intentional until they become habitual and instinctual.

Rated: B+

The Heir by Paul Robertson

When billionaire Melvin Boyer dies in a car crash, his son Jason inherits his fortune. Jason is now the not-so-proud owner of “half the state” and his father’s wealth. His wife is thrilled, but all Jason can think is “I don’t want this”.

As Jason struggles to decide what to do, more people connected with the Boyer family are dying — are the deaths really just “accidents”, or is someone sending Jason a message?

This book was an excellent, quick-paced read. The only qualms I had with it were that the characters’ dialogue seemed a bit curt / choppy, and the ending seemed to be tied up a little too neatly. Otherwise, though, it was a great mystery… I had an idea of who-dunnit, but I couldn’t figure it out! :o)

This is Robertson’s first novel, and I’d say he did a pretty good job. I’d be willing to try more by him.

Rated: B

Get Out of That Pit!: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance by Beth Moore

Once again, Beth Moore has written a totally God-soaked book of wisdom. Her passion for God just lights up the pages, and I found myself longing to read without stopping.

I loved that Beth’s writing made it seem as if she were right in the room with me, having a girl-to-girl chat. But, she didn’t mince words, either. She told it just like it is, without pussy-footing around issues.

As a result, I feel that I can see “light at the end of the tunnel” (or, should I say, at the top of my pit?!) I am closer to deliverance, praise God!

Throughout the book, Beth stresses that, it doesn’t matter whether you were thrown in the pit, slipped into it, or just plain jumped in … you can be delivered! God wants us all to be free … “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free!” (John 8:32)

Visit Beth’s blog: Living Proof Ministries blog

Rated: A

Scandalous Grace by Julie Ann Barnhill

This was my first book by this author, but you can be guaranteed that I’ll be reading more! I laughed, and I cried, and I did “the hanky wave“!

Ms. Barnhill’s humor is comparable to that of Christian comedian Chonda Pierce — at times just side-splitting funny! But, her life-stories and insights make you nod your head in agreement, or sigh with longing.

I especially liked –and could relate to– the chapter called “Stomach Girl“. Her “horror stories” of visits to the “crypt” will make you cringe in rememberance. ;o)

Amidst all of her humorous tales, Ms. Barnhill makes it abundantly clear that God loves us JUST AS WE ARE, and desires for us to accept His lavish grace. All we have to do is “let go”.

I highly recommend this book!

Rated: B+

The Heart of Christianity by Marcus J. Borg

I almost put this book down after only 32 pages. Borg tries to get you to deconstruct & redo your thinking about major foundations of the Christian faith. But, to suggest changing your thoughts about key points like God and the Bible is just pushing it too far, in my opinion.

I originally picked up this book because I’d heard that Borg was deeply entrenched in the “emerging church” conversation, and I had to see for myself. Now I’m convinced.

There were a few good points/truths that I took from the book, so it wasn’t a complete waste of my time. But, overall, it’s not a book that I’d recommend to anyone.

Rated: C

Blah, Blah, Blah: Making Sense of the World's Spiritual Chatter by Bayard Taylor

This was a very interesting book just packed-full with information! And, it was humorous, too, so not too heavy.

I loved that a lot of chapter titles & subtitles were names of books or movies that’ve been sometimes slightly tweaked: “Goodnight, Moon”, “Where the Wild Things Are”, “The Hitchiker’s Guide to Atheism”, “Clash of the Titans”, etc.

The author talks of 6 commonly held worldviews:
- the Haunted Worldview
- Dueling Yodas
- Omnipresent Supergalactic Oneness
- Designer Religion
- Biblical Worldview

…and outlines each one. He shows how they can be similar to, and how they differ from, the Biblical worldview.

Written for the college-age crowd, this book is easy-to-understand, and would make a great study/discussion tool for Youth groups or Sunday School classes! Too often we’re not taught about other worldviews, and therefore don’t know how to intelligently enter into conversations with people who hold ones different from our own.

Rated: B

Relentless by Robin Parrish

(Dominion Trilogy, book 1)

Grant Borrows has been “Shifted” ~ given a new face & a new name, & some extraordinary abilities! And he immediately finds himself in danger. Someone -for whatever reason- is trying to kill him, and so he’s forced to run.

This is a fast-paced thriller that didn’t let up. There were so many twists & turns that I could never guess what was coming!

My only qualm with this book was that it could’ve used a better proof-reader/editor. There were quite a few instances where things didn’t match up (character sat down on couch, and then three sentences later sat down on the couch…).

What really surprised me about the book was that, it’s a Christian book, and yet God is really not mentioned at all! There’s a brief reference to Him almost at the end, but that’s about it! I looked for an allegory of some sort, and I *may* have found one, but it was *that* difficult to discern, so anybody could read this book and enjoy it for the thriller it is — even those who hate Christian fiction! :o)

Parrish has done an excellent job with this first book in his DOMINION TRILOGY. I certainly look forward to reading the others!

Rated: A

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Manning has written a great book that reminds us that God loves us and accepts us just as we are. God’s gift of grace is for everyone, and all we have to do is show up and accept it. We don’t have to be perfect, or have it all together.

Manning also talks about how we need to be honest with ourselves, with others, and with God. We can admit that we’re “ragamuffins”, that we may be saved, but we still struggle with the same old issues (lust, pride, anger, etc). We’re “sinners saved by grace”.

It was interesting to see that Brennan’s thoughts often line up with those of the “emerging church“, but most of it is put in a way that makes it not seem so bad.

Chapter 9 talked of a “second call”, and to me, this seemed a bit “New Age”… I’m no expert in that, but he just seemed to lose me for a bit in that chapter. It felt a little “off”.

Otherwise, though, this was a great book, and I took lots of notes!

Rated: B

Everything's Coming Up Josey! by Susan May Warren

Josey Berglund knows she needs a change — big time! Her ex has just married her sister, and her best friend has just announced his engagement. So, her friend, H’s, suggestion that she “do something” with her life, coupled with a guest-preacher’s call to service, has Josey packing her bags for … Russia!

The people Josey meets in Moscow are quite the interesting bunch: Caleb, the grunge-boy; Auntie Milla & Vovka - her neighbors; and her roomate, Tracey, who’s got plenty of boy-troubles of her own.

Between teaching ESL for Moscow Bible Church, dealing with her roomate, and trying to figure out why her love-life has gone so horribly wrong, Josey questions God about His plans for her life. She knows He has some, but she’s very confused as to what they might be! Through it all, Josey realizes that she won’t get far in life trying to keep the reins … she has to “let go & let God” before her ride will smooth itself out.

I loved this book — could hardly put it down! Josey is a very loveable character, with very real struggles. Auntie Milla is hilarious … Vovka is persistent. And, Chase will make you drool. ;o)

The only complaint I had with this book (and I hate having complaints about a book by an author whose work I love!) is that it needs a better editor. There were spelling mistakes everywhere, and sometimes complete words were missing!

Otherwise, though, this is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it! Susan’s writing is uplifting, and real. Great stuff! :o)

Rated: A

The Gathering Place by Becca Anderson

Casey Ellis feels unfulfilled in her church. The sermons are used to “guilt” members into service; the members’ prayers are self-seeking. Casey desires a closer walk with the Lord and realizes she won’t find it there.

While browsing in the Christian bookstore, Casey meets Lydia Steele. Over coffee, Lydia describes her church, “The Gathering Place” and its members that call themselves “the Body”. Casey’s hopes rise as she wonders if God is leading her to seek Him through the Bodylife. The more entrenched Casey becomes in the Body, though, the more she realizes it isn’t God calling her there at all!

Much of the book contains unbelievable situations, such as Casey’s immediate trust in Lydia and the Bodylife members’ financial support despite lack of employment. Yet readers will still relate to Casey’s desire to walk closer with God. Those who have experienced spiritual abuse may find strength in reading of how Casey struggles to get free.

Rated: B-

Stolen Lives by Brian Reaves

Robert Whitney has the perfect life until trucker Derek Morrison steals his family with one wrong move. Robert rages at God for the injustice, and is determined to get revenge on his own using his knowledge of hacking and social engineering.

Derek Morrison’s life has never been picture-perfect, but he has his wife and son to make him happy. That is, until Robert steps in and starts to dole out his “justice”. With the help of two private investigators, Derek finds out what Robert is up to and is determined to stop him before he goes too far.

Reaves’ book has all the makings of an excellent suspense / thriller. The multiple viewpoints are handled well and keep the story interesting. The two budding romances add to the excitement, and readers will be kept on the edge of their seats wondering how things will turn out. Aside from a few ends that are tied up a bit too neatly, this book is well crafted and intense!

Highly recommended!

Rated: A+

Rachel's Prayer by Leisha Kelly

Readers who are familiar with the Hammond / Wortham Family saga will be delighted in this latest addition from Leisha Kelly. Ms. Kelly shines a light of hope for those dealing with challenging and difficult circumstances.

Robert Wortham, along with Kirk, Willy and Joe Hammond, have signed up for service during World War II. Both families are proud of their boys’ willingness to fight for their country. Though, as the war wages on, they find that it will take a tremendous amount of faith to wait it out.

A letter from Robert provides a lifeline as it contains a prayer written by his girlfriend, Rachel. As his family prays RACHEL’S PRAYER, they find the strength needed to trust God for His best.

Through hardships and trials, the Hammonds and Worthams come to discover the true value of friendship and family. It is this realization, along with a strong faith in God, which gets them through to the end.

Rated: C

The Hadassah Covenant by Tommy Tenney

The First Lady of Israel, Hadassah ben Yuda, is in danger. Someone wants her killed, but who? And, could it be linked to her family’s story … a story that details the friendship of the first Hadassah (otherwise known as Queen Esther) and her friend, Leah?

Ari Meyer is an undercover agent with the Mossad, a police unit within Iraq. On one of his missions, Ari uncovers a set of documents that could throw the whole nation of Israel into turmoil.

When Hadassah ben Yuda begins a search for her family’s history, she is introduced to Ari Meyer, and the two of them become entwined in a life-threatening search, as well as a race against time!

This sequel to “Hadassah: One Night with the King” was excellent! The tension was high, and the sections of Queen Esther’s journal that were interspersed with the modern-day story, made the book that much more compelling. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen!

Highly recommended!

Rated: A

He Came to Set the Captives Free by Rebecca Brown

This was an amazing book that really put into perspective, for me, the realities of the unseen spiritual warfare that takes place on a daily basis!

Occults are very real, and there is a lot that goes on all around us that most people never realize! The authors of this book give you a vivid insider’s account, and it makes you really sit up and pay attention!


Rated: B+