Saturday, December 19, 2009
I found this book online, the other day, while searching for books about healthy eating & the Mediterranean-style of eating. It just so happened that my local library had a copy (at my branch, nonetheless), so I went and picked it up, and started reading it right away. I didn’t intend to read the whole thing, but it was quick and really interesting!
This book has an absolutely fascinating concept as far as a weight loss plan goes… it has the SlimDown, which is two weeks of more strict adherence to get you off to a good start, and then the FlexPlan to loosen things up a bit while still maintaining control. But, the most interesting part was the “Prep & Practice” week you do before the SlimDown. It’s where you start planning what you’ll do in your SlimDown, and you practice some of the meals & exercises. Very cool!
Now, when I talk about “strict adherence” for the SlimDown part, please don’t misunderstand me… this seems different than other diet books I’ve read where you have to give up all sorts of different foods and/or categories of foods. For this, it’s more about adding in the “superfoods”, and making sure you follow the plan. It’s not difficult, nor does it seem like too much.
Some of the “superfoods” listed are: Oats, Blueberries, Soy, Turkey, Oranges, Tomatoes, Broccoli, and Spinach… and a whole slew of “sidekicks” (other foods that are good for you, that you should add into your new plan).
I also liked that you basically make up your own meal plans, based off the SuperFoods categories (there are 3 main ones), and you can pick and choose what works best for you for exercise.
This plan is very flexible, and has some great ideas! The book even promotes listening to your hunger cues, so that was a big plus for me! (I’m a big fan of that!).
While there are still some points of this book that I don’t really agree with, overall I really like the concept, and think it’s a good thing to try out, especially coming into a new year! (the “Prep & Practice” week could be the last week of the year, and then you start the SlimDown come January 1st!)
Recommended. Rated B+
Thursday, December 3, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Kregel Publications (April 1, 2009)
Marjorie Presten is a native Georgian who has her own fair share of experience juggling career and motherhood. She lives outside of Atlanta with her husband, Tom, and their three children.
Listen to a radio interview about the book HERE.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In a thirty-second phone call, Hamilton Wells would make a decision that would earn him more money than he could spend in his lifetime. Everything was on the line, but he was not nervous, euphoric, or eager with anticipation. In Hamilton’s mind, the matter was not speculative, debatable, or anything less than a sure thing. Hamilton had the gift, and it had never let him down. Yet even before he made the call, he knew money wouldn’t cure the unrelenting pain of his grief. He sat at his desk with only a single orange banker’s lamp for illumination and cried silently.
Her death had been inevitable, but feelings of helplessness still overwhelmed him. His young son’s dependency on him only multiplied his grief and anger. Six-year-old Jack Wells had insisted his father do something to help Mama, but the only thing Hamilton could do was sit at her bedside and try not to cry. Now it was six weeks after her death, and Hamilton knew his son needed him to be strong, to return life to normal. A neighbor had enrolled Jack in the local church baseball league. They played a game every Wednesday afternoon. It will be good for him, they’d said. Life has to go on.
Hamilton cradled his head in his hands and groaned. The enormity of the risk he was about to take didn’t concern him. It was purely mechanical. He would surrender all he owned for just one more blissful afternoon at the lake he and his wife both loved, but now that was impossible. His wife was dead. Nothing he could do would change that.
He remembered the book of Job. Would a loving and caring God do this to the love of my life? Well, he did, Hamilton thought bitterly. Earline had lingered for months. The doctors said it was miraculous that she had endured as long as she had. Be grateful for these last days to say goodbye, they’d said. But for Hamilton, the prolonged end only added anger to his bottomless sorrow. Standing alongside his son as a helpless witness to her slow deterioration and suffering in the final weeks was more than he could bear. It was the worst time of Hamilton’s life. Nothing really mattered anymore, and it seemed he had nothing left to lose.
Under different circumstances, he might have played it safe and put the proceeds away for his son’s education, bought a new house, or perhaps invested in a bit of lake property. He could have become like the rest of the players and worn monograms on his starched cuffs so everyone could remember whose hand they were shaking. Instead, he had gone it alone. His brokerage business had few clients. He was the only big player left. Now he planned to risk everything on something happening on the other side of the world.
Ham couldn’t remember exactly when he had recognized his innate ability to pick the winner out of a crowd. It had always been there, ever since he was conscious of being alive. The talent had blossomed in the military when the card games occasionally got serious. Now, with every dollar he had to his name, Hamilton approached wheat futures with that same instinct. The Russian harvest had been a disaster, and the United States was coming to the rescue. The price of wheat was going to go through the roof, and then through the floor. He was going to make a fortune on both ends.
He picked up the phone and dialed a number on the Chicago Mercantile exchange. He listened for a few moments as the connection was made. Young Jack tugged at his father’s shirtsleeve. “Pop? Can we go now?” Jack held a baseball in his hand and a glove under his arm. Hamilton swiveled his chair, turning his back to his son.
A familiar voice announced his name. “How can I help you?”
“It’s Ham,” he said. “Short the entire position.”
“What? Everything?” the voice asked.
“Everything.” No emotion colored his voice.
Young Jack crept gingerly around the chair to face his father. “Pop,” he whispered, “come on, the game is about to start.” Hamilton shook his head and looked away.
The voice on the phone was still talking. “Most folks are still enjoying the ride, Ham. You could get hurt.”
“It’s not going a penny higher. Short it all.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Warn me? My wife is dead. What else matters?”
The voice mumbled something about her passing.
“She didn’t pass. She’s dead. Just do what I ask.”
“OK, Ham.” The phone disconnected.
Jack was standing there in front of him, shoulders slumped. The ball hung loose at the end of his fingers, and the glove had fallen on the carpet. “Pop, can we go now?”
“Sorry, Son. Not today.”
“It’s not fair!” Jack erupted. Hot tears sprang up in his eyes. “What am I supposed to do now?”
Ham looked down, silent.
Jack hurled the ball to the floor, wiped his tears angrily, and stormed out of the house.
Ten minutes later on the futures board, wheat ticked down.
It ticked down again.
And so it would continue. Ham would be richer than he’d ever imagined. He’d never experience another financial challenge for the rest of his life. It was not really important, though. Scripture came back to him: “what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
He would trade it all to have his love, his life, back again.
But that was not an option.
Out his window, Ham could see young Jack riding his bicycle furiously down the street. He watched with a passive surrender as his son’s small frame shrank into the distance.
** MY REVIEW: **
I'm really, very sorry, but I just couldn't get into this book right now. I tried repeatedly, but slow, descriptive books aren't the kind of thing that I can read at this time of year... I don't have a lot of focus/patience.
I will try this one again, later -- probably in the new year -- and will come back and write a full review then.
Again, my sincerest apologies.
[This book was received through FIRST Wild Card Tours]
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
(contributions from best-selling authors including Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt and more)
and the book:
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)
Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel “Christian” and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and many other beloved authors. All proceeds will benefit MAI, an organization that teaches writing internationally to help provide literature that is culturally relevant.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The Plot Skeleton
Imagine, if you will, that you and I are sitting in a room with one hundred other authors. If you were to ask each person present to describe their plotting process, you’d probably get a hundred different answers. Writers’ methods vary according to their personalities, and we are all different. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.
If, however, those one hundred novelists were to pass behind an X-ray machine, you’d discover that we all possess remarkably similar skeletons. Beneath our disguising skin, hair, and clothing, our skeletons are pretty much identical.
In the same way, though writers vary in their methods, good stories are composed of remarkably comparable skeletons. Stories with “good bones” can be found in picture books and novels, plays and films.
Many fine writers tend to carefully outline their plots before they begin the first chapter. On the other hand, some novelists describe themselves as “seat-of-the-pants” writers. But when the story is finished, a seat-of-the-pants novel will (or should!) contain the same elements as a carefully plotted book. Why? Because whether you plan it from the beginning or find it at the end, novels need structure beneath the story.
After mulling several plot designs and boiling them down to their basic elements, I developed what I call the “plot skeleton.” It combines the spontaneity of seat-of-the-pants writing with the discipline of an outline. It requires a writer to know where he’s going, but it leaves room for lots of discovery on the journey.
When I sit down to plan a new book, the first thing I do is sketch my smiling little skeleton.
To illustrate the plot skeleton in this article, I’m going to refer frequently to The Wizard of Oz and a lovely foreign film you may never have seen, Mostly Martha.
The Skull: A Central Character
The skull represents the main character, the protagonist. A lot of beginning novelists have a hard time deciding who the main character is, so settle that question right away. Even in an ensemble cast, one character should be featured more than the others. Your readers want to place themselves into your story world, and it’s helpful if you can give them a sympathetic character to whom they can relate. Ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” That is your protagonist.
This main character should have two needs or problems—one obvious, one hidden—which I represent by two yawning eye sockets.
Here’s a tip: Hidden needs, which usually involve basic human emotions, are often solved or met by the end of the story. They are at the center of the protagonist’s “inner journey,” or character change, while the “outer journey” is concerned with the main events of the plot. Hidden needs often arise from wounds in a character’s past.
Consider The Wizard of Oz. At the beginning of the film, Dorothy needs to save her dog from Miss Gulch, who has arrived to take Toto because he bit her scrawny leg—a very straightforward and obvious problem. Dorothy’s hidden need is depicted but not directly emphasized when she stands by the pigpen and sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Do children live with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em if all is fine with Mom and Dad? No. Though we are not told what happened to Dorothy’s parents, it’s clear that something has splintered her family and Dorothy’s unhappy. Her hidden need, the object of her inner journey, is to find a place to call home.
Mostly Martha opens with the title character lying on her therapist’s couch and talking about all that is required to cook the perfect pigeon. Since she’s in a therapist’s office, we assume she has a problem, and the therapist addresses this directly: “Martha, why are you here?”
“Because,” she answers, “my boss will fire me if I don’t go to therapy.” Ah—obvious problem at work with the boss. Immediately we also know that Martha is high-strung. She is precise and politely controlling in her kitchen. This woman lives for food, but though she assures us in a voice-over that all a cook needs for a perfectly lovely dinner is “fish and sauce,” we see her venture downstairs to ask her new neighbor if he’d like to join her for dinner. He can’t, but we become aware that Martha needs company. She needs love in her life.
Connect the Skull to the Body: Inciting Action
Usually the first few chapters of a novel are involved with the business of establishing the protagonist in a specific time and place, his world, his needs, and his personality. The story doesn’t kick into gear, though, until you move from the skull to the spine, a connection known as the inciting incident.
Writers are often told to begin the story in medias res, or in the middle of the action. This is not the same as the Big Incident. Save the big event for a few chapters in, after you’ve given us some time to know and understand your character’s needs. Begin your story with an obvious problem—some action that shows how your character copes. In the first fifth of the story we learn that Dorothy loves Toto passionately and that Martha is a perfectionist chef. Yes, start in the middle of something active, but hold off on the big event for a while. Let us get to know your character first . . . because we won’t gasp about their dilemma until we know them.
In a picture book, the inciting incident is often signaled by two words: One day . . . Those two words are a natural way to move from setting the stage to the action. As you plot your novel, ask yourself, “One day, what happens to move my main character into the action of the story?” Your answer will be your inciting incident, the key that turns your story engine.
After Dorothy ran away, if she’d made it home to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em without incident, there would have been no story. The inciting incident? When the tornado picks Dorothy up and drops her, with her house, in the land of Oz.
The inciting incident in Mostly Martha is signaled by a ringing telephone. When Martha takes the call, she learns that her sister, who was a single mother to an eight-year-old girl, has been killed in an auto accident.
Think of your favorite stories—how many feature a hero who’s reluctant to enter the special world? Often—but not always—your protagonist doesn’t want to go where the inciting incident is pushing him or her. Obviously, Martha doesn’t want to hear that her sister is dead, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a mother. She takes Lina, her niece, and offers to cook for her (her way of showing love), but Lina wants her mother, not gourmet food.
Even if your protagonist has actively pursued a change, he or she may have moments of doubt as the entrance to the special world looms ahead. When your character retreats or doubts or refuses to leave the ordinary world, another character should step in to provide encouragement, advice, information, or a special tool. This will help your main character overcome those last-minute doubts and establish the next part of the skeleton: the goal.
The End of the Spine: The Goal
At some point after the inciting incident, your character will establish and state a goal. Shortly after stepping out of her transplanted house, Dorothy looks around Oz and wails, “I want to go back to Kansas!” She’s been transported over the rainbow, but she prefers the tried and true to the unfamiliar and strange. In order to go home, she’ll have to visit the wizard in the Emerald City. As she tries to meet an ever-shifting set of subordinate goals (follow the yellow brick road; overcome the poppies; get in to see the wizard; bring back a broomstick), her main goal keeps viewers glued to the screen.
This overriding concern—will she or won’t she make it home?—is known as the dramatic question. The dramatic question in every murder mystery is, Who committed the crime? The dramatic question in nearly every thriller is, Who will win the inevitable showdown between the hero and the villain? Along the way readers will worry about the subgoals (Will the villain kill his hostage? Will the hero figure out the clues?), but the dramatic question keeps them reading until the last page.
Tip: To keep the reader involved, the dramatic question should be directly related to the character’s ultimate goal. Martha finds herself trying to care for a grieving eight-year-old who doesn’t want another mother. So Martha promises to track down the girl’s father, who lives in Italy. She knows only that his name is Giuseppe, but she’s determined to find him.
The Rib Cage: Complications
Even my youngest students understand that a protagonist who accomplishes everything he or she attempts is a colorless character. As another friend of mine is fond of pointing out, as we tackle the mountain of life, it’s the bumps we climb on! If you’re diagramming, sketch at least three curving ribs over your spine. These represent the complications that must arise to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.
Why at least three ribs? Because even in the shortest of stories—in a picture book, for instance—three complications work better than two or four. I don’t know why three gives us such a feeling of completion, but it does. Maybe it’s because God is a Trinity and we’re hardwired to appreciate that number.
While a short story will have only three complications, a movie or novel may have hundreds. Complications can range from the mundane—John can’t find a pencil to write down Sarah’s number—to life-shattering. As you write down possible complications that could stand between your character and his ultimate goal, place the more serious problems at the bottom of the list.
The stakes—what your protagonist is risking—should increase in significance as the story progresses. In Mostly Martha, the complications center on this uptight woman’s ability to care for a child. Lina hates her babysitter, so Martha has to take Lina to work with her. But the late hours take their toll, and Lina is often late for school. Furthermore, Lina keeps refusing to eat anything Martha cooks for her.
I asked you to make the ribs curve because any character that runs into complication after complication without any breathing space is going to be a weary character . . . and you’ll weary your reader with this frenetic pace. One of the keys to good pacing is to alternate your plot complications with rewards. Like a pendulum that swings on an arc, let your character relax, if only briefly, between disasters.
Along the spiraling yellow brick road, Dorothy soon reaches an intersection (a complication). Fortunately, a friendly scarecrow is willing to help (a reward). They haven’t gone far before Dorothy becomes hungry (a complication). The scarecrow spots an apple orchard ahead (a reward). These apple trees, however, resent being picked (a complication), but the clever scarecrow taunts them until they begin to throw fruit at the hungry travelers (a reward).
See how it works? Every problem is followed by a reward that matches the seriousness of the complication. Let’s fast-forward to the scene where the balloon takes off without Dorothy. This is a severe complication—so severe it deserves a title of its own: the bleakest moment. This is the final rib in the rib cage, the moment when all hope is lost for your protagonist.
The Thighbone: Send in the Cavalry
At the bleakest moment, your character needs help, but be careful how you deliver it. The ancient Greek playwrights had actors representing the Greek gods literally descend from the structure above to bring their complicated plot knots to a satisfying conclusion. This sort of resolution is frowned upon in modern literature. Called deus ex machina (literally “god from the machine”), this device employs some unexpected and improbable incident to bring victory or success. If you find yourself whipping up a coincidence or a miracle after the bleakest moment, chances are you’ve employed deus ex machina. Back up and try again, please.
Avoid using deus ex machina by sending two types of help: external and internal. Your character obviously needs help from outside; if he could solve the problem alone, he would have done it long before the bleakest moment. Having him conveniently remember something or stumble across a hidden resource smacks of coincidence and will leave your reader feeling resentful and cheated.
So send in the cavalry, but remember that they can’t solve the protagonist’s problem. They can give the protagonist a push in the right direction; they can nudge; they can remind; they can inspire. But they shouldn’t wave a magic wand and make everything all right.
For Dorothy, help comes in the form of Glenda the Good Witch, who reveals a secret: The ruby slippers have the power to carry her back to Kansas. All Dorothy has to do is say, “There’s no place like home”—with feeling, mind you—and she’ll be back on the farm with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Dorothy’s problem isn’t resolved, however, until she applies this information internally. At the beginning of the story, she wanted to be anywhere but on the farm. Now she has to affirm that the farm is where she wants to be. Her hidden need—to find a place to call home—has been met.
In Mostly Martha, the bleakest moment arrives with Lina’s father, Giuseppe. He is a good man, and Lina seems to accept him. But after waving good-bye, Martha goes home to an empty apartment and realizes that she is not happy with her controlled, childless life. She goes to Marlo, the Italian chef she has also begun to love, and asks for his help.
The Kneecap and Lower Leg: Make a Decision, Learn a Lesson
Martha realizes that her old life was empty—she needs Lina in her life, and she needs Marlo. So she and Marlo drive from Germany to Italy to fetch Lina and bring her home.
You may be hard-pressed to cite the lesson you learned from the last novel you read, but your protagonist needs to learn something. This lesson is the epiphany, a sudden insight that speaks volumes to your character and brings them to the conclusion of their inner journey.
James Joyce popularized the word epiphany, literally the manifestation of a divine being. (Churches celebrate the festival of Epiphany on January 6 to commemorate the meeting of the Magi and the Christ child.) After receiving help from an outside source, your character should see something—a person, a situation, or an object—in a new light.
When the scarecrow asks why Glinda waited to explain the ruby slippers, the good witch smiles and says, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” The scarecrow then asks, “What’d you learn, Dorothy?” Without hesitation, Dorothy announces that she’s learned a lesson: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard.” She has learned to appreciate her home, so even though she is surrounded by loving friends and an emerald city, Dorothy chooses to return to colorless Kansas. She hugs her friends once more, then grips Toto and clicks her heels.
The Foot: The Resolution
Every story needs the fairy-tale equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Not every story ends happily, of course, though happy endings are undoubtedly popular. Some protagonists are sadder and wiser after the course of their adventure. But a novel should at least leave the reader with hope.
The resolution to Mostly Martha is portrayed during the closing of the film. As the credits roll, we see Marlo and Martha meeting Lina in Italy; we see Martha in a wedding gown (with her hair down!) and Marlo in a tuxedo; we see a wedding feast with Giuseppe, his family, and Martha’s German friends; we see Martha and Marlo and Lina exploring an abandoned restaurant—clearly, they are going to settle in Italy so Lina can be a part of both families. In the delightful final scene, we see Martha with her therapist again, but this time he has cooked for her and she is advising him.
Many movies end with a simple visual image—we see a couple walking away hand in hand, a mother cradling her long-lost son. That’s all we need to realize that our main character has struggled, learned, and come away a better (or wiser) person. As a writer, you’ll have to use words, but you can paint the same sort of reassuring picture without resorting to “and they lived happily ever after.”
Your story should end with a changed protagonist—he or she has gone through a profound experience and is different for it, hopefully for the better. Your protagonist has completed an outer journey (experienced the major plot events) and an inner journey that address some hurt from the past and result in a changed character.
Now that we’ve reached the foot of our story skeleton, we’re finished outlining the basic structure. Take those major points and write them up in paragraph form. Once you’ve outlined your plot and written your synopsis, you’re ready to begin writing scenes. Take a deep breath, glance over your skeleton, and jump in.
Taken from A Novel Idea by ChiLibras. Copyright ©2009 by ChiLibras. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
ChiLibris is a group of over 300 Christian authors. They've gathered together to collaborate and help aspiring writers, by sharing what they know about the art of Writing.
There was/is so much good advice in this book! Favorite chapters ~for me~ included: Angela Hunt's "Plot Skeleton", Deborah Raney's "The Power of the Right Word", Brandilyn Collins' "Do the Twist", and Susan Meissner's "Up Close & Personal" (among others). ;)
This is definitely a very useful book, and I know that I'll be referencing back to it time and time again as I edit my novel-in-progress.
Highly recommended. Rated: A+
[This book was received through FIRST Wild Card Tours]
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Revell (October 1, 2009)
Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.
Visit the author's website.
Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.
Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.
Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.
Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.
An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.
What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.
This is that story . . .
Saturday, July 29, 1944
He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.
Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.
His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of
Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.
Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.
Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.
His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.
Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.
Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.
Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,
the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.
Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.
Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had
to keep reminding himself of that.
Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red
armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.
She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green
uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.
She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was
to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.
“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.
“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.
He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.
Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.
“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”
Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.
A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.
Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.
A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.
“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.
Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.
Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to
One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.
As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.
Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.
The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.
“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.
Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.
What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.
With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.
“Don’t shoot!” one cried.
The sound of a police siren split the air.
“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.
The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.
Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”
Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.
Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.
They needed to find cover—
More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.
The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.
Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.
“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”
She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”
“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.
“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.
“But what if—”
“I’ll join you. Now go!”
Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.
Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping
with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.
I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.
Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.
Suzanne . . .
He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.
“Go,” Suzanne whispered.
“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”
Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.
Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of
black hair from her face.
Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with
He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.
Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.
With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.
Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.
The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.
Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother
Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.
Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.
He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.
Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,
Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission
I have not yet received this book to review.
Monday, November 16, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
David C. Cook; Revised edition (November 1, 2009)
After going through therapy to save their marriage from a devastating affair, Gary and Mona Shriver searched in vain for another couple who could offer them tangible hope that they could heal. Responding to this need in their community, the Shrivers cofounded Hope & Healing Ministries, Inc., an adultery recovery peer support ministry. They are members of the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries (AMFM) and participants of the AMFM ministry team for Reconciling Troubled Marriages. The Shrivers are also members of the Stanislaus County Healthy Marriage Coalition in California.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Revised edition (November 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light. Job 12:22
It must have been about 9:30 p.m. as I pulled into the driveway. Everything looked dark and settled down for the evening. As I stopped the car, my heart pounded in my chest like never before. For a moment I wondered if I might be having a heart attack. I took a deep breath, got out of the car, and headed for the back door. I unlocked it and walked onto the back porch. The house was quiet. The three boys were in bed. The only light was a dim glow from the master bedroom at the end of the hall.
Our bedroom. I wondered if that would be the case in the aftermath of the bomb I was about to drop. I stopped and asked myself, Should I really go through with this? This could be the end of everything I know as my life: my family, my church, my business, my friends. Not one area of my life would be unaffected by the event about to occur. Should I tell her or just keep living the lie?
No, I couldn’t continue deceiving her. I had just spent the last two hours in my senior pastor’s office confessing my sin. I confessed the double life I had been living for the last few years. I couldn’t believe his first response. “Are you serious?” he asked. “I can never tell when you’re kidding me. Are you really serious?” I sat in his office with tears streaming down my face, and he asked if I was serious.
He also didn’t want it to be true.
I just nodded, and he let it sink in. We talked and prayed, and he kept looking at me. I knew what was going through his mind. He was saying great words of spiritual wisdom and offering encouragement, but behind his words, shock and disbelief were apparent. He referred to spiritual leaders who had fallen. He said, “This is happening all around us.”
At that point, I could only think, That doesn’t make this any less ugly. I knew he was trying to encourage and comfort me in my darkest hour, but the darkness that enveloped me was beyond penetration. He and I both knew that everything was not all right and that it wasn’t going to be.
He asked if Mona knew. I shook my head no. He looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Do you intend to tell her?”
“Right now,” I said. “I need to go right now.”
It had taken all I could muster to meet my pastor and confess my dark and horrible behavior. I had to complete my confession. And I had to do it now. On my way home I thought of other men I knew who had committed adultery and who hadn’t said a thing to their wives. They seemed to have gotten away with it. But a Bible verse kept ringing in my ears: “You may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
And that it had. Earlier that afternoon the recording studio engineer at my production company had confronted me with this “problem” he thought I had. He came quoting Matthew 18:15–17, saying that if I didn’t come clean, he would go to my pastor with the affair he believed I was having.
Affair. What a fluffy word. It sounds so cheery and acceptable. Let’s call it what it really is: adultery. Black-hearted, not caring anything about anybody else, completely self-centered, the absolute epitome of selfishness. Adultery. And I was an adulterer. Finally after years of my wrestling with Him, God had brought me to a point of brokenness. I just couldn’t go on like this anymore. I had to tell Mona. The only way I could ever hope to save my marriage was to be totally honest. God was chasing me. I had to deal with it now!
I walked into the bedroom. The lamp on her bedside table glowed. There she lay, leaning back on her pillow propped up against the wall, reading. She looked up and said, “How was your meeting?” Just about then our eyes met. “Honey? What’s wrong?”
I hadn’t rehearsed anything. I didn’t know what to say. I sat down on the bed next to her and looked in her eyes.
“You’re scaring me,” she said.
I started to cry.
“Now you’re really scaring me.”
“I’ve betrayed you,” I whispered.
Her eyes glazed over. She seemed to stare through me. “What?”
“I’ve been unfaithful to you,” I repeated.
She went limp. I thought for a second she was going to pass out. Her stare went from distant to direct and cold.
“Who?” she demanded.
I said the name.
“I knew it,” she said.
But I knew she hadn’t known. I tried to hold her. She started to hold me but then pushed me away. She was shell-shocked.
“How long?” she asked.
I whispered, “A long time.”
“A couple of years.”
“Years? Ever since you started working with her?”
Her lip quivered.
As her world crumbled around her feet, my heart raced again. This time I could feel it in my temples. How could I say more? How can I, Lord? I can’t tell her everything. Yet God was insistent: Tell her!
I felt like Moses must have. I can’t, Lord. I can’t!
Tell her now! God demanded.
I had to tell her everything. God burned into my heart that if our marriage were to have any chance at all, it had to be with a clean slate. No more lies. No more secrets. I had to tell her everything.
“More? What do you mean more?”
“There was a one-night stand with another woman.”
I honestly did think she was going to pass out at that point. Her eyes rolled back into her head, and then things got eerie.
I knew at that moment our lives had changed forever, and I didn’t know what to expect in the aftermath of my horrible revelation. After we sat for what seemed to be an eternity, her blank stare suddenly focused, and the flurry of questions began. “Do you love her?”
“No, I love you.”
“Do you want a divorce?”
“No, I want to stay with you. Do you want a divorce?”
“I don’t know what I want. Why did you do this?”
I didn’t know how to answer that question. I didn’t know how I’d gotten where I was. I explained there had been no pursuit. I said that it was a friendship that had gotten out of control, and that I had felt trapped. I had never stopped loving Mona.
The blank stare was back. I kept trying to explain. She didn’t want to hear—or couldn’t hear—anything more. After a while she started asking me about the second woman.
“It was a one-night thing. Honestly, she threw herself at me. She made up her mind to have me. She set her sights, and she was going to have her way.”
What was I saying? It was all the truth, but what was I trying to do here? Justify my adultery? My second incidence of adultery at that!
I shut my mouth and started to cry again. I didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore. She didn’t want anything from me. I was dying inside. I needed to know what she was thinking. She was in shock. Was she thinking of leaving? Was she going to ask me to leave? What was going on in her head?
It seemed there was nothing more to say. I offered to sleep on the couch, but she declined my offer. She explained that if we were going to try to work this through, she saw no sense in my sleeping on the couch.
If. Such a small word to hold one’s whole future.
It was quiet and still, but I knew the explosion was yet to come. She stared blankly into the corner of the ceiling. I lay there, knowing her mind was whirling. I was sure her thoughts were bouncing from one horrific scenario to another, and all I could do was lie next to her and watch as her entire foundation cracked, crumbled, and fell away. Every now and then I could hear a sob escape her throat.
My God, what have I done? In a matter of seconds I have ripped the heart from the woman I love. The bride of my youth. Will she ever forgive me? Can she ever forgive me? I had no idea how much pain this would cause. If we make it through this, one thing is certain: We will never be the same again.
God, please forgive me.
Mona, if you can find it in your heart, please try to forgive me.
I don’t remember what book I was reading, but I do remember I never finished it. I threw it away. It would always remind me of that night.
I heard the back door open and thought, Gary’s home a little early—must have been a short meeting.
I heard him walk down the hallway. He opened the bedroom door and just stood there, staring at me.
I said something like, “How’d your meeting go?” I watched as my husband of more than nineteen years began to crumble. His body sagged as if under a heavy weight.
His eyes filled with tears and he said, “We have to talk.”
I knew something was terribly wrong and remember thinking someone had died. I wonder if it’s our pastor. He must have found out something horrible at the church meeting. Compassion overwhelmed
my heart, and I reached out my arms, inviting him in. “Oh, honey, what’s wrong?”
He came to the bed, sat down by me, and allowed me to hold him while sobs racked his body. I had never seen him like this. Through his muffled tears I heard, “I have betrayed you.”
I felt my body stiffen. A tragedy had happened, not to someone else, but to me. My mind refused to process his words. “What?”
“I have been having an affair.”
These words penetrated, and I felt my own tears rise. I heard the word come from my mouth before I realized I had even thought it:
Why was there no surprise when he said her name? I remember even then knowing there was really only one true possibility. I also remember other names going through my head, almost hoping he’d say one of
those instead. I had never suspected. I trusted them both implicitly. He was my husband, whom I loved and who I thought loved me. She was his coworker, a fellow church member, and the woman I had considered my best Christian friend for the past three or four years.
“How long?” I asked.
“Awhile,” he mumbled.
I began to feel the first stirring of rage. “How long?”
“A couple of years maybe.”
Not just once or even twice. Not a few weeks or even a few months! Was I a complete idiot? How could something like this go on for so long and I not even have a clue? They must have thought I was so stupid! How many times had they laughed at my naïveté?
I pulled away from him, unable to touch him, unable to do much more than breathe.
Then I heard these words: “There’s more.”
More? More than the destruction of my life, my family, my church, my home? More?
“I also had a one-night stand with another woman.” Then he named her, a twenty-year-old single mother and non-Christian with whom we’d had business dealings.
“She came over one night uninvited when you were gone.”
Here? In my house? Nothing was sacred. Every aspect of my life was involved. My home. The church where I always sat with my best friend. Gary’s production business where I worked part-time. Even the hospital where I worked as a nurse was filled with people who crossed over into these aspects of my life.
I was nauseous. Repulsed. This was something horrible men did. Not my Gary! Not the man I had always jokingly said I’d have to catch in bed naked before I’d ever believe he’d be unfaithful. The man couldn’t lie for beans.
Gary was not the man I had thought he was, but I was no longer sure who I was either. For that matter, who were we as a couple? Were we a couple?
I looked at him and froze. This was the man I’d been married to for almost twenty years. He’d been my lover, my best friend, and my confidant. My family loved him because he was so wonderful. All my friends thought he was wonderful—he did dishes, laundry, and changed diapers. I had lost count of how many times I’d been told how lucky I was.
My body was numb, wooden, overwhelmed. The weight Gary had walked into our bedroom wearing was now being shared.
“Do you love her?”
“Do you want a divorce?”
“Does her husband know?”
“I think she’s waiting to see if I really tell you first.”
“You have to let her go.”
The particulars of our conversation blur in retrospect. He told me he had gone to the church to confess to our pastor. The pastor had called in another pastor, they had all prayed, and then they sent Gary home to tell me.
He told me that the recording studio engineer had confronted him that day. He had suspected what was going on and had gone to his pastor, who advised him to confront Gary. What strength that must have taken for such a young man!
Gary said God had been preparing him for this revelation for a long time. Promise Keepers, meetings, sermons, his conscience. He had felt trapped in the relationship with his coworker for quite a while. If he broke it off, he knew the ramifications and the possibility of losing his family, his business, and his church. They had broken it off many times in the past and yet would find themselves back together. He couldn’t remember when it started, but the last time they’d been together was just three days earlier. I remembered trying to reach him that day. They had gone out of town to see a client and I’d wondered why they were so late getting back.
As I tried to pin down the time period of the affair, it became clear that it had been going on for about three years. It began shortly after she started working with us. Her marriage was in trouble and had been for a very long time. She and I had talked about it often together. I felt like such a fool. Gary and I had even discussed her vulnerability and her attractiveness before they started working together. I knew she envied our relationship, but I hadn’t realized that she had actually been wishing for Gary himself. She, as it turned out, knew better than I what my marriage was really like.
That night my life took on a new timetable: before the affair, during the affair, and after the affair. Everything during was now marred and distorted: our family trip to Disneyland, Gary and I going to
Hawaii. I recalled snippets of conversation with both Gary and my friend and suddenly heard and saw completely different things. He asked me that night if I would come to work for him fulltime at our production company and we’d rebuild our lives and the business. I was furious. How dare he! I told him I wasn’t going to give up any more of me than he’d already ripped away. I was a nurse. I was
a good nurse. I couldn’t lose that, too.
He asked me if I wanted a divorce, and I said no. What would that do to our boys? Where would I go? What would I do? We talked about counseling. To what end? I was so overwhelmed that even counseling seemed senseless. I wanted it never to have happened and a counselor couldn’t do that.
Gary told me about the night the young woman had come over and seduced him. He said it was very intentional on her part. I said that did not exonerate him. He knew that. The story of that one night stand sounded like a despicable movie.
Soon it seemed there was nothing left to talk about. Or maybe it was just that we were incapable of talking anymore. Gary reassured me that he loved me and wished he could take it all away. He asked for my forgiveness and told me he’d do anything I asked. I knew that adultery was biblical grounds for divorce, but I didn’t know if that still applied when the offender repents and asks for forgiveness.
My mind, soul, and body were exhausted by the events of the night. I knew I wanted to follow God in this, no matter where that led. I knew I needed a godly friend and felt again the pain of loss. Who would I call now that my two best friends had betrayed me?
When we went to bed, Gary asked if I wanted him to sleep somewhere else. I said no. I figured he’d been in my bed during the last three years, so what difference would it make now?
And so I clung to my edge of the bed and listened to my husband fall into a deep and restful sleep. Sleep would evade me. I would spend most of what was left of that night in the family room crying.
Gary’s weight had begun to lift. Mine had only just begun to press heavily upon me.
The Story on Revelation
That night happened in 1993. We can now say with absolute sincerity that we have fully healed from the adultery. Our marriage is strong and mutually satisfying. We have love and trust.
We refuse, however, to say that our marriage is better. We had heard “now they have a better marriage” in reference to couples who had gone through serious problems, and it only caused us more pain. We’d thought our marriage was good before the adultery. We loved each other; we were best friends. Certainly we had issues; all couples do. But our marriage prior to the adultery had value and was good. What happened to us happened to a good marriage. Most people have a hard time believing that because if they do, it makes every marriage vulnerable—including their own. Certainly there are those instances when the whys and wherefores are clear, but often all the answers we seek cannot be found. So instead we say we are wiser than we were then. We make better choices now. And we no longer believe we are invulnerable to attack. Our marriage is better only because the two people in it are now better people.
If you have picked up this book, you are probably going through, or love someone going through, the aftermath of finding out about a spouse’s adultery. Our hearts break for you, and we want you to know there is hope. Marriages can heal. We know because ours did. We know because we’ve been able to support other couples facing this anguish. We also know it will be one of the hardest things you will ever go through. We believe it would have been far easier at the time for us to split up. And we would not have been condemned for doing so. That same thing is true for many others.
We know these words seem hard to believe. When you go through this crisis, you feel as if the weight of the world is pressing down on you. Then the fiery darts from hell come faster and faster, and your shield of faith seems to offer little protection. You are fighting for your marriage with every ounce of strength you can muster until you begin to fear you’re going to lose the battle. This is where Satan wants you, and he will be faithful to keep the burners on high. Why? He wants nothing more than to see your marriage fail. He wants you to become another statistic. So let us repeat ourselves: You don’t have to give up! You can make it!
How? We want to share with you what made the difference. We were Christians when the adultery happened. We are still Christians. What we will share with you is definitely from a Christian perspective, but it is also from a practical, real-life perspective.
Is our marriage now perfect? No. We still have issues, and we’ve learned that some will remain until we get to heaven. Perhaps we’ve learned to pick our battles with more grace and wisdom. We have also learned that some battles were due to our own selfish desires and were far removed from the marriage
We are not, nor do we claim to be, experts in anything. We have no educational or professional background to validate us. Those people are out there, and their resources are available to you. You’ll need them, too. But if you seek two ordinary believers to share their extraordinary experience, then here we are. We do not undertake this task lightly. This is not our idea of fun. In the early stages of writing, our emotions often overwhelmed us, and there were times we would leave our desks sobbing. We found ourselves crying over things we hadn’t cried over in years. Our God, however, is a great God and gracious to His people. In time we felt that we were merely observing a sad story, rather than reliving the awful past.
Getting the Most from the Rest of This Book
Before we start sharing with you our own story and healing process, we need to establish a common language. Many have different ways of identifying people and moments in time when talking about adultery. Some are terms we wouldn’t be allowed to print here. So, to get us on the same page, we’ll define some terms and provide you with information that can help you walk through your recovery. Nothing about infidelity recovery is simple or easily explained, but there are definitely areas where, if both of you have the same understanding, you can avoid some common pitfalls.
First, the terminology for the cast of characters will be borrowed from the very practical book Torn Asunder: Recovering from an Extramarital Affair by Dave Carder:
Infidel: the one who strays and gets involved in an illicit relationship—it simply means unfaithful.
Spouse: the one married to the infidel.
Partner: the person with whom the infidel was involved.
A term we use often is revelation. This refers to the event where the infidel admits to the spouse that an illicit relationship has occurred. Sometimes the word is plural, revelations, because the full story takes more than one admission, as parts are revealed over time. Revelation is used throughout the book as a reference point.
Finally, the adulterous relationship will be referred to as an affair with the disclaimer that the word sounds much too playful for the seriousness of this offense.
We also need to agree on what adultery is. That might sound pretty silly to a lot of you, but differing on what comprises adultery can cause some serious problems. In fact, former President Clinton provided us with a classic example of what constituted “sex” when he denied having sex with another woman, yet later admitted to sexual intimacies with that woman. We can only imagine the private conversations he had with his wife when the truth was revealed.
We’ve heard some infidels deny adultery because they didn’t have sexual intercourse even while admitting there was sexual contact. They admit what they did was wrong but do not call it adultery.
As a matter of fact, the dictionary definition of adultery states it just that way: “Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse.” Infidelity is defined as a
lack of loyalty to one’s spouse. By the adultery definition, President Clinton was correct. By the infidelity definition, any number of things could fall into that category—anything a spouse would consider disloyal.
Looking exclusively at either dictionary definition allows one to go to opposing ends of the spectrum of possibilities.
While the dictionary may disagree, for our purposes adultery and infidelity will be equivalent terms. The truth is that there is no one clear and concise definition of infidelity or adultery that everyone agrees on.
We’ll define adultery as unfaithfulness to the covenant (i.e., marriage) vows you made to your spouse. Vows are the promises we make to one another when we stand before God and whomever else to become legally wed. We promise (vow) to love, honor, and cherish the person we are marrying. We promise this person that they are now the number one person in our life, even if our health and wealth and other circumstances change.
We also vow to forsake all others. That means we have reserved the intimacy space of the marriage relationship exclusively for the person we married. Anytime we put another person in that relational space promised to our partner—be it sexual or emotional or both—we have committed adultery. We have violated the intimacy of marriage, we have broken our promise, and we have had an illicit relationship.
We love the description Dr. Shirley Glass gives in Not “Just Friends”:
In a committed relationship [marriage], a couple constructs a wall that shields them from any outside forces that have the power to split them. They look at the world outside their relationship through a
shared window of openness and honesty. The couple is a unit, and they have a united front to deal with children, in-laws, and friends. An affair erodes their carefully constructed security system. It erects an
interior wall of secrecy between the marriage partners, at the same time it opens a window of intimacy between the affair partners. The couple is no longer a unit. The affair partner is on the inside, and the
marital partner is on the outside.
And here is the true acid test. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s three words: Ask your spouse. Explain everything about your other relationship. Be 100 percent honest about every detail, thought, and touch. Then ask your spouse. They’ll be able to tell you if it fits the definition of adultery in a heartbeat.
Time Frame of Chapters
What we are sharing with you is not chronological. Quite frankly, healing isn’t that neat. And often many of us wander in and out of these areas throughout the recovery process. So rather, we have chosen to share with you by topics: those areas we needed to explore and deal with as we healed. We hope all of you will deal with each principle area, but the truth is that none of you will do it at the same time. When you encounter each principle area will be determined by who you are, what type of affair you’re dealing with, and the journey our Lord has you on.
We do, however, believe the first two principle areas, commitment and faith, are foundational. So if you need to camp out there for a while, that is okay. These two areas will provide the sure footing you’ll need to walk through the rest.
We can relate only our experience and a glimpse at others we have known. Yours will be entirely different, but we are certain that you, like the couples in our groups, will find some value in the sharing.
Seek other godly counsel and ask God Himself to help you filter through and apply what is right for your situation.
When we were in the deepest pit of our crisis, we wanted to sit across from a couple whose marriage had survived this horror and who now had a marriage they both cherished. Someone who could look us straight in the eye and tell us we could make it because they had. Someone who could help us understand we weren’t crazy but rather experiencing a horrendous crisis—validating what was normal for the abnormal situation in which we found ourselves. This is what we’ll offer you.
Now, come with us and we’ll take you along through snapshots of our journey of healing. We’ll give you some ideas and concrete suggestions as to how some of these things we’ve talked about can look. We pray you’ll see truth, reality, and hope, and that God will use what we share to help you on your journey.
We have seen the Lord do marvelous things, and we will pray those same marvelous things for you.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so
also through Christ our comfort overflows. —2 Corinthians 1:3–5
©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Unfaithful by Gary and Mona Shriver. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.
I only just received this book a few days ago, and have been working crazy hours at work. I haven't yet had a chance to read through this.
I will post my review later, once I've had a chance to get to this one. My apologies.
[This book was received through FIRST Wild Card Tours]
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Available November 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
This book sets out a 30-day diet plan where you fast off of the “whites” (flour, sugar, corn, potatoes, etc) and all artificial foods & sweeteners. You also make sure to exercise 5 times a week, and get enough water & rest.
There are 30 days of devotions on topics like anger, self-image, forgiveness, divine appointments, etc. And, the back of the book has a bunch of recipes.
I’m no longer a fan of diets (see here for what I am a fan of), especially ones that ask you to cut stuff out. But, this book would certainly be helpful for some. I definitely recommend this one to those dealing with the eating disorder of bulimia, as Sheri has struggled with this, and she shares about overcoming that in this book.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This book started off well enough… it talked about Nehemiah, and used him as an example to set the basis for this book, outlining how we can find hope in the words of Scripture.
But, about half-way through the book, Pastor Wilton shared a story about how he confronted a man in his church with whom he was having difficulty. And, the way that the author dealt with this situation just so completely turned me off that I almost set down the book right then and there. Instead, I decided to press on and see if I could keep reading.
Well, I read a few more chapters, but I just couldn’t get past what I’d encountered. I no longer felt I could trust what this man was saying in his book. And, so I set it aside.
I also found the book to be quite “preachy”, even though –somewhere near the beginning, while talking about prison inmates, and how to approach them with the gospel– Pastor Wilton said he wasn’t going to go that way.
So, unfortuantely, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I may or may not recommend it, depending on the person I’m talking to. But, this one just wasn’t for me.
[Thank you to Debbie Lykins, at Pure Publicity, for sending me a copy of this book.]
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Standard Publishing (July 1, 2009)
Mark Atteberry has been a minister since 1975, serving at Poinciana Christian Church in Kissimmee, Florida, since 1989. He’s been married to his high school sweetheart, Marilyn, for 32 years. Mark is the author of six books including Free Refill, The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel (a Retailers’ Choice Award finalist), The Caleb Quest, and The Samson Syndrome(chosen as a Bible study tool by many NFL teams, including the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Miami Dolphins and used as team Bible study by both 2007 Super Bowl participants, the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears, during their championship seasons). His books have been endorsed by Karen Kingsbury, Donald Miller, Randy Alcorn, John Maxwell, Barbara Johnson, Angela Thomas, Pat Williams, Steve Green, and others.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Standard Publishing (July 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
who make me so much more than happy.
Gene Fowler said, “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”1 A little melodramatic perhaps. On the other hand, there are days when he doesn’t seem that far off base. Because writing is so hard, you need people in your life who make it easier. I am blessed to have a lot of them. Here are a few I would be ashamed not to mention.
Marilyn, my wife, who helps me in so many ways, I couldn’t begin to enumerate them. As the business aspect of my life accelerates, she keeps me organized and pointed in the right direction without ever letting any of it get in the way of our romance.
Lee Hough, my agent, who represents me with integrity and class. Long ago we moved beyond being author and agent and just became friends. We spend as much time laughing, telling stories, and sharing prayer requests as we do talking about my book projects.
Dr. Les Hardin, my friend and “Bible scholar of choice” when I need some deeper insights into a difficult passage of Scripture. He’s forgotten more about the Bible than I will ever know.
Dale Reeves, Lindsay Black, Sarah Felkey, and Lynn Pratt, my friends at Standard Publishing, who are true professionals in every sense of the word . . . and fun too. They somehow plucked a concept out of my head and turned it into something you can hold in your hands.
Diane Stortz, my editor, who blew me away with her keen insights. She understood what I was aiming at in this book and helped me zero in on the target.
Kelsey Kingsbury (yes, that Kingsbury), who wrote the foreword. Kelsey is a beautiful young woman who epitomizes the message of this book. I am so honored that her first published words are in my book. I doubt they’ll be her last.
Karen Kingsbury, a dear friend who gets the credit (or the blame) for my being a published author.
And you, my readers, who always inspire me with your kind e-mails.
I grew up always performing. As a little girl I would gracefully dance across our living room floor while loudly singing a beautiful song to Jesus. I really believed that I would grow up to become a beautiful princess, meet my perfect and handsome prince, and we would live happily ever after. And I still do. The Bible says, “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). My parents gave this verse to me when I was a little girl, and I still cling to the powerful message it holds. God truly has an amazing plan for my future handsome prince and me as long as I keep my eyes toward him.
When I was a freshman in high school, I made the cheerleading team, along with all of my very best friends. I soon realized that others around me considered cheerleaders as uneducated and simply sexy. But I desired to be an example of how a cheerleader—or any woman—really can be so much more than sexy.
Being female isn’t easy. Getting ready in the morning can be a huge battle, and ladies, you know exactly what I am talking about! First we take a shower, then we attempt to blow-dry and style our hair, and last but not least is putting on makeup and choosing an outfit—and don’t forget, we need to complete this mission in warp time. The time it takes a guy to get ready is no time at all (and trust me, I have five brothers!).
Women face a lot of pressure to look a certain way. We live in a celebrity-obsessed world, and we tend to look up to the stick-thin models we read about in gossip magazines. This unhealthy way of thinking is completely damaging to us personally and, in the end, to our society. I have gone through the many ups and downs of being a young woman. I’ve had guy problems, makeup problems, days when I felt fat, clothes problems, cravings for material things, and all of these incidents have left me feeling empty and never good enough.
Mark Atteberry’s book explains the importance of beauty coming not only from the outside but most significantly from inside, from our hearts. (My dad has always called me his precious princess, and I think all Christian women should look at themselves as God’s princesses.) While reading this book, I found that every chapter delivers an amazing truth I needed to hear. The way Mark breaks down these everyday issues of always trying to be sexy is brilliant. He gives us an inside look at a guy’s brain and promises us that there are real godly guys holding out for you and me. This book is a great reminder for all women to always hold a high standard for ourselves when dealing with men, dating, marriage, and especially our self-image. God made us in his perfect image; let’s cling to that truth. Whatever our age, we are so much more than sexy!
In God’s love,
daughter of #1 inspirational fiction author Karen Kingsbury
“All men think about is sex!”
You’ve heard it a thousand times.
If you’re a woman, you’ve probably said it a thousand times.
But I’m here to tell you it isn’t true. My purpose in this book is to slide a stick of dynamite under this long-held misconception and light the fuse. I think it’s high time to explode this lie and let you in on a dynamic, life-changing secret: millions of men in this world are looking for so much more than sex.
Oh, I can understand why you wouldn’t think so. Sadly, there are just enough classless, immature men out there to make it seem true, and pop culture constantly portrays men in the tawdriest terms possible. In the movie Bruce Almighty, for example, Jim Carrey plays an ordinary guy who gets to possess all the powers of God. And what does he do? Wipe out poverty? Put an end to oppression? Bring peace to the Middle East? Of course not! Instead, he sends a perfectly timed gust of wind so he can get a peek under a pretty girl’s skirt. Then with the snickering glee of a hormone-crazed teenager, he has the brilliant idea of making his wife’s breasts larger.
Tacky, you say?
Of course, but what do you expect? He’s a guy!
Or maybe you remember the beer ad that shows two guys sitting in a crowded bar, dreaming up the perfect Miller Lite commercial. Their naughty little minds conjure up a couple of gorgeous women who start arguing about whether the beer is better tasting or less filling. Before you can say bimbo, the two women are pulling hair, ripping clothes, and tumbling nearly naked into a public fountain. As the scene fades, our typical males are shown back in the bar, nodding in hearty approval, hefting their brewskies, and pronouncing their fantasy a true work of art.
Oh yes, I can understand why you would think that sex is all men care about. But speaking as a man—and one who’s met and talked to thousands of other men across the country—I’m convinced there’s a lie being perpetrated here. I believe that Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), has three reasons for working overtime to hoodwink you.
First, he wants to sow seeds of disrespect toward men in the hearts of women of all ages. God has given men great leadership responsibilities in the home, the church, and the world. Therefore, anything Satan can do to make it harder for women and girls to respect men strikes a mighty blow against God’s plan.
Satan also wants to sow seeds of sensuality in our culture. If he can convince you—especially when you’re young—that sex is all men care about, it’s inevitable that talking, acting, and dressing provocatively will seem the thing to do. And I can’t think of a word that better describes our culture than provocative. Bare midriffs, plunging necklines, and low-riding, skin-tight jeans are the order of the day. Even preteen girls dress (and sometimes act) like the pop culture divas they idolize.
Third, Satan wants to sow seeds of hopelessness in marriages. Every time a clueless husband is preoccupied, inattentive, or rude all day long and then suddenly morphs into Prince Charming when he crawls under the covers, he unwittingly reinforces the man-as-insensitive-sex-maniac stereotype that culture has already planted in his wife’s mind. She may give in to his advances, but it will likely be with a halfhearted, let’s-just-hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with attitude. Pile enough of those heartless, robotic exercises on top of each other, and any woman would feel empty and hopeless.
When I started writing books several years ago, I never dreamed I’d write one for women. I’m not into Bath & Body Works, HGTV, or any of the other girlie things I see my wife and daughter enjoying. To be honest, I don’t even pretend to understand women. After being married for more than thirty years, raising a daughter, and being a pastor to thousands of women, I still find them infinitely and wonderfully mysterious. I wholeheartedly agree with author Angela Thomas, who writes, “The woman is a mystery that the man can’t unlock. Her desires seem to him like a moving target.”2
But that doesn’t mean I’m blind.
As a pastor I’ve been observing this devilish lie about men and watching it undermine God’s plan for male-female relationships for a long, long time. I’ve finally come to the place where I have to speak up.
In this book I’m going to challenge you to reconsider some things you may have always believed about men and the best way to interact with them. No, I’m not going to try to sell you on the notion that all men are gentlemen. Clearly, many are not. But I do know without a doubt that there are still a lot of us left who can see beyond the swell of a woman’s breast.
Imagine how this new understanding could profoundly change your life.
For one thing, it would take some pressure off. It would allow you to be more real, to concentrate more on the development of your inner qualities rather than always thinking you have to compete with the pretty blonde in the deep V-neck who works in your boyfriend’s or husband’s office. For another, your relationship with your man could be invigorated if, instead of trying to breathe new life into your wheezing relationship with skimpy outfits and the latest perfumes, you started to build some new, more meaningful bridges from your heart to his.
If you’re skeptical, I’m not surprised. I know that many women have experienced the very worst that testosterone has to offer. If you’ve pretty much lost all respect for men and are thinking this book is a monumental waste of paper, I plead with you to keep an open mind.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being sexy. (Actually, I’m very much in favor of it!) I’m just saying that many women aim too low . . . that there’s something much higher and much more wonderful for you to shoot for.
Something millions of guys would give anything to find.
Something so much more than sexy.
I wouldn’t want to be a woman.
I wouldn’t be able to take the pressure to always look beautiful. A guy can have a paunch, wrinkles, thinning hair, gray hair, or even no hair, and still be cast as the romantic lead in a Hollywood blockbuster, but any woman with the same physical traits will end up playing the senile grandma with an afghan over her lap, spitting out saucy one-liners between slobbers.
And this foolishness all starts at birth.
Just listen to those proud relatives pressing their noses up against the hospital nursery window. If the baby is wrapped in a pink blanket, they’ll call her beautiful, gorgeous, a little doll, or a real heartbreaker one of these days. But if the baby’s wrapped in blue, they’ll likely predict a college scholarship for the little linebacker. I have no doubt that if you wrapped the girl baby in blue and the boy baby in pink, you’d get the same color-coded comments.
And the pressure builds from there.
It isn’t long before a little girl becomes enamored with the Disney princesses, all beautifully and flawlessly rendered, and ends up shrieking with delight when her parents give her princess paraphernalia for Christmas. You can bet that even before the wrapping paper is carted away, she’ll be stylin’—click-clacking through the house in her plastic high heels and sparkly dress, soaking up oohs and aahs from everyone except her bratty little brother, who’s too busy blowing things up on his new computer game to notice.
Then of course, there’s high school, where so much of the popularity pecking order is based on looks. It’s the pretty girls who are the best bets to be cheerleaders, homecoming queens, and Saturday-night dates for quarterbacks and cleanup hitters.
And don’t even get me started on the many doodads women use on a daily basis to ready themselves for public scrutiny. We guys only need five things in our bathrooms: a comb, a razor, a toothbrush, some toilet paper, and the sports page. We can knock off our whiskers with a dull razor, run a comb through our hair (even this is optional nowadays), brush our teeth, and we’re good to go. Ten minutes tops. But you are expected to address the cosmetic needs of every feature, from head to toe.
The hair has to be perfectly mussed.
The eyebrows have to be plucked or waxed.
The eyes themselves have to be lined and shadowed.
The nose has to be powdered so it won’t shine.
The lips have to be glossed so they will.
The ears have to have the proper bangle (or two or three) dangling from them.
The bra has to perform miracles.
The outfit has to coordinate.
And the shoes have to be cute or sexy. (It doesn’t matter if they cause excruciating pain, just so they’re cute or sexy.)
Finally, there’s the weight issue. It’s much easier to be a little overweight if you’re a guy. Among other things, you’ll be called strapping instead of fat (I don’t know what strapping means, but it definitely sounds better than fat), you’ll get to hit cleanup on the softball team, and no one will dare pick a fight with you—because heavy guys are assumed to be tough, whether they are or not.
But if you’re what the fashion mags call curvy or plus size, the pressure’s on . . . to buy a ThighMaster, to eat like a rabbit, to actually use your ThighMaster, to eat like a rabbit, to walk twenty miles a day, to eat like a rabbit, to sweat to the oldies, and to eat like a rabbit. If you fail to do these things with the fervor of an Olympic athlete in training, or—Heaven forbid—if you’re ever seen eating a doughnut in public, someone (probably a woman who’s never had a weight problem) will comment on how sad it is that you’ve given up or let yourself go.
Somebody, somewhere dubbed women the fair sex. I think maybe the unfair sex would be more appropriate because of the outrageous pressure you are under to live up to culture’s current definition of beauty. I say “current definition” because the standard constantly changes.
The very first Miss America, sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman, won her crown in 1921. I assume men back then considered Margaret to be a babe, yet any man looking at her picture today would have a hard time controlling snickers.
In the 1950s, all eyes were on a voluptuous Marilyn Monroe. Ten years later, all the magazine covers featured ninety-five-pound Twiggy. Fifty-year-old women were once considered way over the hill, but now women such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Oprah Winfrey, and Lauren Hutton—all over fifty—epitomize beauty, grace, and style. In fact, in 2005 Big magazine invited Lauren Hutton, at the age of sixty-one, to appear in its pages nude, something that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier.
No one can predict how beauty will be defined by our culture ten or twenty years from now. Who knows? Shaved heads might be the hot new trend. Absolutely nothing will surprise me. The only thing I’ll bet on is that whatever culture is demanding, women will still feel pressure to try and deliver it.
[A head] Mirror Myths
Lest you misunderstand, let me say emphatically that I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with a woman wanting to look and feel attractive. In the musical West Side Story, Maria sings with exuberance about how pretty she feels. It’s a joyous, refreshingly innocent moment in the story. There’s no haughtiness. No panting sexuality. Just a young woman experiencing what every woman seems to long for. “I truly believe that the longing to be known as beautiful is part of our design as women,” Angela Thomas writes. “God put us together this way on purpose. We are wired to long for beauty and to be known as beautiful.”3 Nothing in my experience with women would lead me to disagree.
And yet . . . I know that what you believe when you look in the mirror can be a myth. In fact, there are three spiritually and emotionally debilitating mirror myths I’d like to explode right now.
[B head] Myth #1: What You See Is What You Are
Wicked Queen Jezebel knew her days as the matriarch of Israel were numbered (2 Kings 9). Her idiot husband, Ahab, was dead, and God had chosen a young man named Jehu to replace her son Joram as king. And not only had God chosen Jehu to be king, he instructed Jehu to wipe out Jezebel and her entire family as punishment for their many sins.
Jezebel knew that Jehu and his men were coming. They had killed her sons and she was next. So what did she do? Run for her life? Assemble her bodyguards and batten down the hatches? Drink the Kool-Aid? No. “She painted her eyelids and fixed her hair and sat at a window” (v. 30).
Interesting, don’t you think?
Did she get herself all dolled up in an effort to seduce Jehu and perhaps change his mind about killing her? Possibly, but I doubt it. More likely she simply thought, If I’m going out, I’m going to go out looking good! And keep in mind, she was the queen. She would have owned the finest garments and the most expensive jewels. When she put the finishing touches on her do and pirouetted in front of the mirror, I’m sure she was pleased with what she saw.
But she was still a hag, and everybody knew it.
A beautiful face or body doesn’t make you a beautiful person, because your character is always going to trump your looks. Think about Britney Spears, once considered one of the hottest-looking females in America. There was even a TV commercial that showed a geeky, fast-food burger flipper allowing his burgers to burst into flames while he stared, open mouthed, at an overhead TV monitor where a scantily clad Britney was bumping and grinding like a cheap stripper.
But that was before her life began to unravel.
Britney’s foolish choices and reckless—even brainless—behavior made her a national joke. Her endorsement contracts and public appearances dried up, not because she suddenly became physically ugly, but because her character trumped her looks.
Have you ever wondered why many of the most beautiful Hollywood actors and actresses can’t stay married? You’d think if a guy was fortunate enough to marry a glamorous woman with centerfold looks . . . or if a woman snagged a hunky athlete or matinee idol, they’d never want to let go. Yet many such marriages last only a year or two and often end with much bitterness and hateful mudslinging.
Once again, character trumps looks. The person hasn’t been born who is gorgeous enough to overcome a corrupt heart.
Mark it down: what you see when you look in a mirror is not what you are. What’s in your heart is what you are. That’s why wise King Solomon did not say, “Above all else, make sure your eyeliner isn’t smudged and there’s no lipstick on your teeth.” Instead, he said, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23).
[B head] Myth #2: What You See Is What Others See
Check out these words from plastic surgeon Michelle Copeland. I found them right at the beginning of chapter 1 of her book Change Your Looks, Change Your Life:
What is it, for you? Maybe you’ve caught sight of that wattle that blurs your chin line (or worse, that hangs over your crisp white collar) too many times. Maybe it’s the crow’s-feet that grab makeup and make a spray of fright lines at the corners of your eyes. Maybe it’s your nose or earlobes, both of which sag as we age. Maybe it’s your “Hi Janes” (the fleshy underside of the arm that continues to wiggle after you’ve stopped waving hello to your friend Jane); do they make you avoid wearing your favorite sleeveless blouse or halter top? Maybe it’s your breasts—how far down has gravity pulled them? Maybe it’s your stomach—are you willing to expose your midriff? . . . Maybe it’s your hips: Is there no A-line skirt out there that can hide hips that bear witness to every Krispy Kreme you’ve wolfed down? Maybe it’s those pesky spider veins, crisscrossing the backs of your legs like road maps of the East Coast. I could go on and on. . . .
That’s the bad news. But we’re positive thinkers here, and we’re going to leave harsh reality behind. Instead, let’s conjure that wonderful phrase again: “What if?”4
This does indeed seem to be how many of you look at yourselves. You ignore the big picture (which can be very attractive) and become obsessed with the details (which are never ever going to be perfect). I’ve listened to many beautiful women put themselves down because of this or that flaw. Sometimes I’ve stared and thought, Huh? What are you talking about? I literally could not see what they believed to be so obvious.
I once heard a young woman talking about how fat she was and how she needed to go on a diet. I asked her how much she weighed (yes, she was a good friend or I wouldn’t have dared), and she said, “I’m up to 120.” I shook my head. “Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?” I asked her. “There’s not another person on this planet who would call you fat.” And she began to argue with me, explaining that her clothes were tight and she had flab on her rear end and the backs of her thighs.
Please get this: what you see when you look in a mirror is not what everyone else sees. (Unless, of course, you’re the world’s tallest woman, but that’s another story.) Most people—guys especially—see the big picture. Yes, we are famous for checking out certain parts of the female anatomy, but that’s in our God-given DNA. I still contend that most of us are not looking for or expecting perfection. We’re smart enough to know that the glossy centerfold has had her pimples and moles and cellulite airbrushed into oblivion . . . and without her makeup on looks pretty much like any other woman.
I believe one of the best and healthiest things you could do for yourself would be to give up the microscopic scrutiny of every square inch of your body . . . and the whining and complaining that go along with it. I also believe God would appreciate not having to listen to you dis his handiwork. Remember, that nose you hate is a one-of-a-kind original designed by the master artist himself.
[B head] Myth #3: What You See Makes or Breaks Your Love Life
The movie version of the Tony Award–winning Broadway musical Hairspray released in theaters all across America in July 2007. My wife, Marilyn, loves musicals and so do I, so we were among the first to see it. We enjoyed it, but what really blew us away was how stridently it contradicts the message pop culture tries to hammer into our heads.
Set in 1962, the story focuses on Tracy Turnblad, a high school girl with big hair and even bigger dreams. She fantasizes about being one of the featured dancers on a locally produced American Bandstand–style television show. She also happens to think the lead dancer, Link Larkin, is the hunk to end all hunks. But alas, Tracy is considerably overweight. All the other dancers on the show are slim and trim, especially Link’s girlfriend, a snooty, drop-dead gorgeous blonde who happens to be the lead dancer. Even Tracy’s overweight mother (played hilariously by John Travolta) discourages her from trying out for a spot on the show, because she fears Tracy will only be humiliated. And as far as Tracy’s crush on Link goes, everybody knows a good-looking guy would never be interested in a girl with a weight problem.
But two hours and several production numbers later, the movie closes with Tracy and Link kissing center screen while snooty Miss Drop-Dead Gorgeous pouts in the background. Final score: size 16–1, size 5–0.
Unrealistic, you say?
I beg to differ.
Open your eyes and look around. The world is full of Tracy Turnblads, women who are not prototypical beauties according to society’s standards but who more than make up for it with character and personality. They often end up riding into the sunset with the love of their lives, while more than a few so-called beauties in this world spend their lives bouncing from relationship to relationship and never find true happiness.
The other day Marilyn and I were in a restaurant when a family of four walked in and took a table nearby. Dad was a handsome guy, fit and clean-cut. The kids were preschoolers, cute as they could be. And mom was, well . . . let’s just say she wasn’t going to win the Mrs. America pageant anytime soon. But there she sat, with a handsome husband, two cute kids, and a smile on her face.
I looked at Marilyn and said, “There sits Tracy Turnblad.”
Don’t think for a minute that because you aren’t centerfold material you have no shot at love. It just isn’t true. The next time you’re in a restaurant, at a ball game, or strolling though the mall, just look around at the couples. You’ll see Tracy Turnblads everywhere.
[A head] Drawing the Line
This morning when I signed on to AOL, a link to seven “beauty secrets” for women appeared. With everything you’ve just read fresh on my mind, I had to click on it. What I found were some very interesting products. Among them:
Control-It! Omega3 Nail Biting Cream. It’s odorless, invisible, and will not stain. But it tastes bad. No way you’re going to munch your pinkies with this stuff on. They say it’s guaranteed to give you beautiful nails in no time. No self-discipline required.
Fake Bake, Sunless and Skinny. The name says it all. It’s a cream that promises to tan, firm, and tone you all at the same time while you kick back and relax. Must be the seaweed it contains that does the trick.
But my favorite was Poutrageous Lip Plumper, “the answer to achieving the perfectly plump pout seen in all the magazines.” That claim alone should guarantee millions in sales.
Knowing where to draw the line in the pursuit of beauty and romantic fulfillment is one of the biggest challenges you face as a woman. All kinds of products, treatments, and surgeries promise to work miracles on your appearance, and their suppliers will try everything they can think of (including trashing your self-esteem) to get you to fork over your hard-earned money. Let’s face it. It’s in their interest to keep you believing those mirror myths I just addressed. The uglier you think you are . . . the more desperate you feel . . . the more you believe your looks will determine your happiness . . . the more you feel compelled to compete with that saucy little number in the next cubicle—the better the chance they have of getting into your pocketbook.
You simply must draw a line.
No, I’m not saying your bathroom should look like a man’s. I realize a girl needs her stuff. But at some point you need to slam on the brakes and say, “Enough is enough. I can be happy, feel good about myself, and have an interesting love life whether or not I achieve the perfectly plump pout seen in all the magazines.”
The challenge is knowing where to draw the line.
Allow me to offer three suggestions.
[B head] Suggestion #1: Embrace Reality
Do not, under any circumstances, deny who and what you are. Not long ago MTV created a show called I Want a Famous Face. It featured young people who were willing to undergo plastic surgery in order to look like their favorite celebrities. Ridiculous, you say? Indeed! But before you bang the gavel and pronounce yourself innocent, realize that you can make the same mistake in nonsurgical ways.
In her book God Chicks, Holly Wagner talks about the time she abandoned her God-given nature in an effort to become like a couple of older women who were successful Bible teachers:
It’s not unusual to see both men and women living in denial when it comes to their appearance. The guy who wears a severe comb-over or the woman who’s still squeezing herself into size 8 jeans even though she hasn’t actually been a size 8 since the first Bush became president—both are living in fantasy worlds. So is the sixty-year-old grandma with bleached blonde hair and short shorts. So is the teenage girl with the bare midriff who looks like she just swallowed a football. Holly Wagner says she sensed God laughing as she, a non-panty-hose kind of girl, wrestled her panty hose like a python.
I can buy the notion of him chuckling at some of our fashion misadventures, but I can’t help wondering if there comes a point where he finds it all a little heartbreaking. When we refuse to be ourselves, aren’t we saying something about his handiwork?
I speak for a whole bunch of guys when I say that a woman who recognizes and embraces her reality is far more attractive than a woman who goes around every day wearing what amounts to a Halloween costume.
[B head] Suggestion #2: Build Your Look from the Inside Out
The apostle Peter wrote, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:3, 4). When Peter says not to be concerned about outward beauty, I don’t believe he means you should get up and go to work with bed head and bad breath. He’s simply saying that true beauty flows from the inside out.
Isn’t it true that people get better looking on the outside when you get to know them and realize they are beautiful on the inside? And it works in reverse too. I’ve met many beautiful women who, when I realized they were self-centered or immoral, suddenly started looking very ordinary. I believe this explains how women who might be considered homely or unattractive end up having extraordinary romantic relationships. What they lack in outer beauty, they more than make up for with inner beauty. And because men are spiritual beings as well as physical, we’re powerfully drawn to those beautiful inner qualities.
Sadly, even though good character is the greatest beauty secret of them all, you will probably never see it listed alongside the lip plumpers and tanning creams, online or anywhere else. Oh, and one more thing—I don’t know what a six-month supply of Poutrageous Lip Plumper costs, but I know that good character is free.
[B head] Suggestion #3: Be Modest
I’ll talk more about this in the next chapter, but it bears mentioning here. As you try to decide where to draw the line in your pursuit of beauty and romantic fulfillment, you’re going to be tempted to believe that tighter and skimpier is sexier. Trust me when I tell you that every day we guys see women we wish would put more clothes on.
When I see a woman dressed immodestly, I wonder if she’s trying to fill a void in her life. Is she feeling insignificant and crying out to be noticed? Is loneliness driving her to pull out all the stops in an effort to snag a companion? Do the lustful stares of strangers help her stave off the whispers of tattered self-esteem? Perhaps not in every case, but it isn’t unusual for inner struggles to produce highly visible attitudes and behaviors.
The apostle Paul wrote, “I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do” (1 Timothy 2:9, 10). I once heard a woman who had just read those verses say, “It sounds like God wants us all to be frumpy.” (By frumpy she meant matronly, unattractive, the opposite of sexy.) This is a classic example of how Satan has brainwashed us. The very notion that modesty isn’t sexy has the devil’s fingerprints all over it. I’m convinced that there are millions of men who actually prefer a classy, modestly dressed woman to one who looks cheap and trashy. And the men who don’t aren’t worth your time anyway.
Jesus said, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:19). This business of coming out of the world is the real issue here. It could mean different things to different people, but for a woman in our modern culture it certainly means wrestling with that image in the mirror. And wrestling might even be an understatement if you’ve been plugged into the world’s mind-set your whole life and are just now starting to realize that God has a different plan for you. Breaking free of culture’s grip and adopting a whole new way of thinking, dressing, and acting might be the biggest challenge you’ll ever face. Old habits die kicking and screaming.
But they do die if someone cares enough to kill them.
And they need to die if you want to be free.
As long as you allow the myths in the mirror to dictate the way you dress, act, and feel about yourself, you will be ruling out a world of wonderful possibilities. You might feel that the more you doll yourself up, the more your horizons expand. But I believe the opposite is true. The more makeup you layer on, the shorter your hemline gets, the more risqué your conversations become, the fewer decent men will be interested in you. Oh sure, you’ll grab their attention; but just remember, the monkeys at the zoo grab their attention too. That doesn’t mean they want to take one home.
You have a choice. As a woman, you can work to become what culture says you ought to be or what God says you ought to be. Ultimately, your choice and your future will be determined by what you believe when you stand in front of that mirror.
Do you agree that character is the greatest beauty secret of them all? Can you name people who have become more beautiful in your eyes as you have gotten to know their character? What improvements could you make in your character that might make you more beautiful?
Read 1 Peter 3:3, 4. Up to this point in your life, have you worked harder on your looks or your inner qualities? What are some specific inner qualities you could cultivate that would make you more beautiful?
So Much More Than Sexy
Published by Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Atteberry
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for brief quotations in reviews, without the written permission of the publisher.
Substantive editor: Diane Stortz
Project editor: Lynn Lusby Pratt
Cover design: Susan Koski Zucker
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation second edition. Copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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***PLEASE NOTE:*** I have not yet received a copy of this book to review.