Thursday, June 30, 2011

God And Stephen Hawking Book Review

I recently received a small book that had a very big impact. God and Stephen Hawking is a very small book, almost enough to be a booklet, that I think many people should read. Whether it be the Christian who witnesses or the college student, etc. This is a must-read book!!


Eminent scientist Stephen Hawking's latest contribution to the so-called New Atheist debate The Grand Design claims that the laws of physics themselves brought the universe into being, rather than God. In this swift and forthright reply, John C. Lennox, Oxford mathematician and author of God's Undertaker, exposes the flaws in Hawking's logic in his latest book, God and Stephen Hawking (Kregel Publishers, September 2011,ISBN: 9780745955490, $5.99).

Science has immense cultural and intellectual authority in our sophisticated modern world. With this kind of cache, it must nevertheless be pointed out that not all statements by scientists are statements of science. Therefore such statements do not carry the authority of authentic science, even though it is often erroneously ascribed to them.
God and Stephen HawkingCommonly written off as the inevitable clash between science and religion, the God debate is actually one between theism and atheism, where there are scientists on both sides. With a remarkable surge of interest in God that defies the so-called secularization hypothesis, it could well be that it is precisely the perceived failure of secularization that is driving the God question ever higher on the agenda. Book after book is being published on the subject by prominent scientists, as Francis Collins, Richard Dawkins, Robert Winston, etc. But were Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Maxwell, to name a few, really all wrong on the God question?

With such a lot at stake we surely need to ask Hawking to produce evidence to establish his claim. Do his arguments really stand up to close scrutiny? Has the Grand Master of Physics checkmated the Grand Designer of the Universe?

In lively, layman's terms, Lennox guides us through the key points in Hawking's arguments-with clear explanations of the latest scientific and philosophical methods and theories-and demonstrates that, far from disproving a Creator God, they make His existence seem all the more probable. Lennox's book is a great resource for Christians, churches and those in ministry who seek to educate themselves and open authentic dialog with those who question.


I am not really all that knowledgeable about creation vs. evolution. I know the basics about these things but getting into the scientific areas are not my thing. But I have to tell you, I learned a lot from this book. It was very down to earth and the language was easy to understand. I now have several points I will be using when I meet the college student out on the street. If you regularly witness and run into high school students or others that want to get into the scientific area, you have to get this book. It is not expensive at all and I couldn't believe all the information in this little book.

You can purchase this book from the author, John Lennox, or from Amazon. It does not release until September so you will not be able to get it until then.

I received a copy of this book for review purposes. I did not receive any monetary compensation. All thoughts are 100% mine.

Martha Book Review Author Diana Wallis Taylor

She has spent her life caring for others--will she ever find someone who will cherish her?

Martha's entire life is marked by her responsibilities to her family. In the absence of her mother, she runs the household, makes the meals, cares for her father, and attempts to keep her absentminded younger sister on task. In the midst of her duties, will she ever find time to live her own life--or find her own love?

This touching, well-researched portrayal of Martha of Bethany, sister of Mary and Lazarus, unveils the woman within the Bible character. Through Diana Wallis Taylor's lush descriptions and inspired fusion of imagined and recorded dialogue, Martha's world--her trials, triumphs, and loves--vibrantly comes to life.

Follow Martha as she navigates the complicated worlds of family, faith, and love . . . and you'll never read her story the same way again.



MY REVIEW-There are some times when a Biblical novel is not to my liking. I hate when there is a lot of liberty taken and the story does not follow Bible or when it has so much written into it that I have a totally different look at that story than I used to. But every so often a really good book comes along that I just love. And this is one of those times! Martha is a somewhat smaller book but I loved it! I think it shows that the author kept more to the facts given in the Bible and history.

This novel shows many different aspects to Martha that I never thought of before. We always think of her as being the stingy sister who wanted Mary to help her instead of listening to the Lord. But this book shows a unique side to her, that I don't think goes against Scripture. My favorite part was when Lazarus was raised from the dead. Wow! So much goes into this that I was amazed. It definitely opened my eyes to what went on. I will never read the factual account in the Bible the same way any more. It really goes to show the miracle and how much we take for granted.

This was a great book and I would definitely suggest it for any Church library. I will be on the lookout for the next books from this author.

I received a copy of this book for review purposes. I did not receive any monetary compensation. All thoughts are 100% mine.
Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

FIRST WildCard Blog Tour Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Dug Down Deep

Multnomah Books (May 17, 2011)

MY REVIEW-Wow! I was sooo amazed at this book!! I have heard of Joshua Harris before and read his other book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but I wasn't sure how this one was going to be. Kind of a different book than the norm.

I would really suggest this book for young people who have grown up in a Christian home. This really digs deep into what we think and why we think that way. Do we have just a superficial relationship with Christ, or a deep one built on the rock? Wonderful ideas and thoughts I will be pondering for a while.

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Associate, Image Books/ / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. He is the author of Why Church Matters and several books on relationships, including the run-away bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Dug Down Deep shows a new generation of Christians why words like theology and doctrine are the “pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of knowing the living Jesus Christ.” Joshua Harris enthusiastically reminds readers that orthodoxy isn’t just for scholars. It is for anyone who longs to know and love God.





Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (May 17, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601423713
ISBN-13: 978-1601423719

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


MY RUMSPRINGA

“We’re all theologians. The question is

whether what we know about God is true.”


IT’S STRANGE TO SEE an Amish girl drunk. The pairing of a bonnet and a can of beer is awkward. If she were stumbling along with a jug of moonshine, it would at least match her long, dowdy dress. But right now she can’t worry about that. She is flat-out wasted. Welcome to rumspringa.

-

The Amish, people who belong to a Christian religious sect with roots in

Europe, practice a radical form of separation from the modern world. They live and dress with simplicity. Amish women wear bonnets and long, old fashioned dresses and never touch makeup. The men wear wide-rimmed straw hats, sport bowl cuts, and grow chin curtains—full beards with the mustaches shaved off.

My wife, Shannon, sometimes says she wants to be Amish, but I know this isn’t true. Shannon entertains her Amish fantasy when life feels too complicated or when she’s tired of doing laundry. She thinks life would be easier if she had only two dresses to choose from and both looked the same. I tell her that if she ever tried to be Amish, she would buy a pair of jeans and ditch her head covering about ten minutes into the experiment. Besides, she would never let me grow a beard like that.

Once Shannon and her girlfriend Shelley drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a weekend of furniture and quilt shopping in Amish country. They stayed at a bed-and-breakfast located next door to an Amish farm. One morning Shannon struck up a conversation with the inn’s owner, who had lived among the Amish his entire life. She asked him questions, hoping for romantic details about the simple, buggy-driven life. But instead he complained about having to pick up beer cans every weekend.

Beer cans?

“Yes,” he said, “the Amish kids leave them everywhere. ”That’s when he told her about rumspringa. The Amish believe that before a young person chooses to commit to the Amish church as an adult, he or she should have the chance to freely explore the forbidden delights of the outside world. So at age sixteen everything changes for Amish teenagers. They go from milking cows and singing hymns to living like debauched rock stars.

In the Pennsylvania Dutch language, rumspringa literally means “running around.” It’s a season of doing anything and everything you want with zero rules. During this time—which can last from a few months to several years—all the restrictions of the Amish church are lifted. Teens are free to shop at malls, have sex, wear makeup, play video games, do drugs, use cell phones, dress however they want, and buy and drive cars. But what they seem to enjoy most during rumspringa is gathering at someone’s barn, blasting music, and then drinking themselves into the ground. Every weekend, the man told Shannon, he had to clean up beer cans littered around his property following the raucous, all-night Amish parties.

When Shannon came home from her Lancaster weekend, her Amish aspirations had diminished considerably. The picture of cute little Amish girls binge drinking took the sheen off her idealistic vision of Amish life. We completed her disillusionment when we rented a documentary about the rite of rumspringa called Devil’s Playground. Filmmaker Lucy Walker spent three years befriending, interviewing, and filming Amish teens as they explored the outside world. That’s where we saw the drunk Amish girl tripping along at a barn party. We learned that most girls continue to dress Amish even as they party—as though their clothes are a lifeline back to safety while they explore life on the wild side.

In the documentary Faron, an outgoing, skinny eighteen-year-old sells and is addicted to the drug crystal meth. After Faron is busted by the cops, he turns in rival drug dealers. When his life is threatened, Faron moves back to his parents’ home and tries to start over. The Amish faith is a good religion, he says. He wants to be Amish, but his old habits keep tugging on him.

A girl named Velda struggles with depression. During rumspringa she finds the partying empty, but after joining the church she can’t imagine living the rest of her life as an Amish woman. “God talks to me in one ear, Satan in the other,” Velda says. “Part of me wants to be like my parents, but the other part wants the jeans, the haircut, to do what I want to do.”1When she fails to convince her Amish fiancé to leave the church with her, she breaks off her engagement a month before the wedding and leaves the Amish faith for good. As a result Velda is shunned by her family and the entire community. Alone but determined, she begins to attend college.

Velda’s story is the exception. Eighty to 90 percent of Amish teens decide to return to the Amish church after rumspringa.2 At one point in the film, Faron insightfully comments that rumspringa is like a vaccination for Amish teens. They binge on all the worst aspects of the modern world long enough to make themselves sick of it. Then, weary and disgusted, they turn back to the comforting, familiar, and safe world of Amish life.

But as I watched, I wondered, What are they really going back to? Are they choosing God or just a safe and simple way of life?

I know what it means to wrestle with questions of faith. I know what it’s like for faith to be so mixed up with family tradition that it’s hard to distinguish between a genuine knowledge of God and comfort in a familiar way of life.

I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. One that was on the more conservative end of the spectrum. I’m the oldest of seven children. Our parents homeschooled us, raised us without television, and believed that old fashioned courtship was better than modern dating. Friends in our neighborhood probably thought our family was Amish, but that’s only because they didn’t know some of the really conservative Christian homeschool families. The truth was that our family was more culturally liberal than many homeschoolers. We watched movies, could listen to rock music (as long as it was Christian or the Beatles), and were allowed to have Star Wars and Transformers toys.

But even so, during high school I bucked my parents’ restrictions. That’s not to say my spiritual waywardness was very shocking. I doubt Amish kids would be impressed by my teenage dabbling in worldly pleasure. I never did drugs. Never got drunk. The worst things I ever did were to steal porn magazines, sneak out of the house at night with a kid from church, and date various girls behind my parents’ backs. Although my rebellion was tame in comparison, it was never virtue that held me back from sin. It was lack of opportunity. I shudder to think what I would have done with a parent sanctioned season of rumspringa.

The bottom line is that my parents’ faith wasn’t really my faith. I knew how to work the system, I knew the Christian lingo, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was set on enjoying the moment.

Recently a friend of mine met someone who knew me in early high school. “What did she remember about me?” I asked.

“She said you were girl crazy, full of yourself, and immature,” my friend told me.

Yeah, she knew me, I thought. It wasn’t nice to hear, but I couldn’t argue.

I didn’t know or fear God. I didn’t have any driving desire to know him.

For me, the Christian faith was more about a set of moral standards than belief and trust in Jesus Christ.

During my early twenties I went through a phase of blaming the church I had attended in high school for all my spiritual deficiencies. Evangelical mega churches make good punching bags.

My reasoning went something like this: I was spiritually shallow because the pastors’ teaching had been shallow. I wasn’t fully engaged because they hadn’t done enough to grab my attention. I was a hypocrite because everyone else had been a hypocrite. I didn’t know God because they hadn’t provided enough programs. Or they hadn’t provided the right programs. Or maybe they’d had too many programs.

All I knew was that it was someone else’s fault.

Blaming the church for our problems is second only to the popular and easy course of blaming our parents for everything that’s wrong with us. But the older I get, the less I do of both. I hope that’s partly due to the wisdom that comes with age. But I’m sure it’s also because I am now both a parent and a pastor. Suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for my dad and mom and the pastors at my old church. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

At the church where I now pastor (which I love), some young adults remind me of myself when I was in high school. They are church kids who know so much about Christian religion and yet so little about God. Some are passive, completely ambivalent toward spiritual things. Others are actively straying from their faith—ticked off about their parents’ authority, bitter over a rule or guideline, and counting the minutes until they turn eighteen and can disappear. Others aren’t going anywhere, but they stay just to go through the motions. For them, church is a social group.

It’s strange being on the other side now. When I pray for specific young men and women who are wandering from God, when I stand to preach and feel powerless to change a single heart, when I sit and counsel people and it seems nothing I can say will draw them away from sin, I remember the pastors from my teenage years. I realize they must have felt like this too. They must have prayed and cried over me. They must have labored over sermons with students like me in mind.

I see now that they were doing the best they knew how. But a lot of the time, I wasn’t listening.

During high school I spent most Sunday sermons doodling, passing notes, checking out girls, and wishing I were two years older and five inches taller so a redhead named Jenny would stop thinking of me as her “little brother.” That never happened.

I mostly floated through grown-up church. Like a lot of teenagers in evangelical churches, I found my sense of identity and community in the parallel universe of the youth ministry. Our youth group was geared to being loud, fast paced, and fun. It was modeled on the massive and influential, seeker-sensitive Willow Creek Community Church located outside Chicago. The goal was simple: put on a show, get kids in the building, and let them see that Christians are cool, thus Jesus is cool. We had to prove that being a Christian is, contrary to popular opinion and even a few annoying passages of the Bible, loads of fun. Admittedly it’s not as much fun as partying and having sex but pretty fun nonetheless.

Every Wednesday night our group of four-hundred-plus students divided into teams. We competed against each other in games and won points by bringing guests. As a homeschooler, of course I was completely worthless in the “bring friends from school” category. So I tried to make up for that by working on the drama and video team. My buddy Matt and I wrote, performed, and directed skits to complement our youth pastor’s messages. Unfortunately, our idea of complementing was to deliver skits that were not even remotely connected to the message. The fact that Matt was a Brad Pitt look-alike assured that our skits were well received (at least by the girls).

The high point of my youth-group performing career came when the pastor found out I could dance and asked me to do a Michael Jackson impersonation.

The album Bad had just come out. I bought it, learned all the dance moves, and then when I performed—how do I say this humbly?—I blew everyone away. I was bad (and I mean that in the good sense of the word bad ). The crowd went absolutely nuts. The music pulsed, and girls were screaming and grabbing at me in mock adulation as I moon walked and lip-synced my way through one of the most inane pop songs ever written. I loved every minute of it.

Looking back, I’m not real proud of that performance. I would feel better about my bad moment if the sermon that night had been about the depravity of man or something else that was even slightly related. But there was no connection. It had nothing to do with anything.

For me, dancing like Michael Jackson that night has come to embody my experience in a big, evangelical, seeker-oriented youth group. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was culturally savvy (at the time), and it had very little to do with God. Sad to say, I spent more time studying Michael’s dance moves for that drama assignment than I was ever asked to invest in studying about God.

Of course, this was primarily my own fault. I was doing what I wanted to do. There were other kids in the youth group who were more mature and who grew more spiritually during their youth-group stint. And I don’t doubt the good intentions of my youth pastor. He was trying to strike the balance between getting kids to attend and teaching them.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been interested in youth group if it hadn’t been packaged in fun and games and a good band. But I still wish someone had expected more of me—of all of us.

Would I have listened? I can’t know. But I do know that a clear vision of God and the power of his Word and the purpose of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection were lost on me in the midst of all the flash and fun.

There’s a story in the Bible of a young king named Josiah, who lived about 640 years before Christ. I think Josiah could have related tome—being religious but ignorant of God. Josiah’s generation had lost God’s Word. And I don’t mean that figuratively. They literally lost God’s Word. It sounds ridiculous, but they essentially misplaced the Bible.

If you think about it, this was a pretty big deal. We’re not talking about a pair of sunglasses or a set of keys. The Creator of the universe had communicated with mankind through the prophet Moses. He gave his law. He revealed what he was like and what he wanted. He told his people what it meant for them to be his people and how they were to live. All this was dutifully recorded on a scroll. Then this scroll, which was precious beyond measure, was stored in the holy temple. But later it was misplaced. No one knows how. Maybe a clumsy priest dropped it and it rolled into a dark corner.

But here’s the really sad thing: nobody noticed it was missing. No search was made. Nobody checked under the couch. It was gone and no one cared. For decades those who wore the label “God’s people” actually had no communication with him.

They wore their priestly robes, they carried on their traditions in their beautiful temple, and they taught their messages that were so wise, so insightful, so inspirational.

But it was all a bunch of hot air—nothing but their own opinions. Empty ritual. Their robes were costumes, and their temple was an empty shell.

This story scares me because it shows that it’s possible for a whole generation to go happily about the business of religion, all the while having lost a true knowledge of God.

When we talk about knowledge of God, we’re talking about theology. Simply put, theology is the study of the nature of God—who he is and how he thinks and acts. But theology isn’t high on many people’s list of daily concerns.

My friend Curtis says that most people today think only of themselves. He calls this “me-ology.” I guess that’s true. I know it was true of me and still can be. It’s a lot easier to be an expert on what I think and feel and want than to give myself to knowing an invisible, universe-creating God.

Others view theology as something only scholars or pastors should worry about. I used to think that way. I viewed theology as an excuse for all the intellectual types in the world to add homework to Christianity.

But I’ve learned that this isn’t the case. Theology isn’t for a certain group of people. In fact, it’s impossible for anyone to escape theology. It’s everywhere. All of us are constantly “doing” theology. In other words, all of us have some idea or opinion about what God is like. Oprah does theology. The person who says, “I can’t believe in a God who sends people to hell” is doing theology.

We all have some level of knowledge. This knowledge can be much or little, informed or uninformed, true or false, but we all have some concept of God (even if it’s that he doesn’t exist). And we all base our lives on what we think God is like.

So when I was spinning around like Michael Jackson at youth group, I was a theologian. Even though I wasn’t paying attention in church. Even though I wasn’t very concerned with Jesus or pleasing him. Even though I was more preoccupied with my girlfriend and with being popular. Granted I was a really bad theologian—my thoughts about God were unclear and often ignorant. But I had a concept of God that directed how I lived.

I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God’s nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life.

Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.

I know the idea of “studying” God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.

But studying God doesn’t have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?

We’re either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.

We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.

In the days of King Josiah, theology was completely messed up. This isn’t really surprising. People had lost God’s words and then quickly forgot what the true God was like.

King Josiah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. People call Jeremiah the weeping prophet, and there was a lot to weep about in those days. “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land,” Jeremiah said. “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NIV).

As people learned to love their lies about God, they lost their ability to recognize his voice. “To whom can I speak and give warning?” God asked. “Who will listen tome? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it” (Jeremiah 6:10, NIV).

People forgot God. They lost their taste for his words. They forgot what he had done for them, what he commanded of them, and what he threatened if they disobeyed. So they started inventing gods for themselves. They started borrowing ideas about God from the pagan cults. Their made-up gods let them live however they wanted. It was “me-ology” masquerading as theology.

The results were not pretty.

Messed-up theology leads to messed-up living. The nation of Judah resembled one of those skanky reality television shows where a houseful of barely dressed singles sleep around, stab each other in the back, and try to win cash. Immorality and injustice were everywhere. The rich trampled the poor. People replaced the worship of God with the worship of pagan deities that demanded religious orgies and child sacrifice. Every level of society, from marriage and the legal system to religion and politics, was corrupt.

The surprising part of Josiah’s story is that in the midst of all the distortion and corruption, he chose to seek and obey God. And he did this as a young man (probably no older than his late teens or early twenties). Scripture gives this description of Josiah: “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2, NIV).

The prophet Jeremiah called people to the same straight path of true theology and humble obedience:

Thus says the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

In Jeremiah’s words you see a description of King Josiah’s life. His generation was rushing past him, flooding down the easy paths of man-made religion, injustice, and immorality.

They didn’t stop to look for a different path.

They didn’t pause to consider where the easy path ended.

They didn’t ask if there was a better way.

But Josiah stopped. He stood at a crossroads, and he looked. And then he asked for something that an entire generation had neglected, even completely forgotten. He asked for the ancient paths.

What are the ancient paths? When the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah used the phrase, he was describing obedience to the Law of Moses. But today the ancient paths have been transformed by the coming of Jesus Christ. Now we see that those ancient paths ultimately led to Jesus. We have not only truth to obey but a person to trust in—a person who perfectly obeyed the Law and who died on the cross in our place.

But just as in the days of Jeremiah, the ancient paths still represent life based on a true knowledge of God—a God who is holy, a God who is just, a God who is full of mercy toward sinners. Walking in the ancient paths still means relating to God on his terms. It still means receiving and obeying his self-revelation with humility and awe.

Just as he did with Josiah and Jeremiah and every generation after them, God calls us to the ancient paths. He beckons us to return to theology that is true. He calls us, as Jeremiah called God’s people, to recommit ourselves to orthodoxy.

The word orthodoxy literally means “right opinion.” In the context of Christian faith, orthodoxy is shorthand for getting your opinion or thoughts about God right. It is teaching and beliefs based on the established, proven, cherished truths of the faith. These are the truths that don’t budge. They’re clearly taught in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the Christian faith:
There is one God who created all things.

God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Bible is God’s inerrant word to humanity.

Jesus is the virgin-born, eternal Son of God.

Jesus died as a substitute for sinners so they could be forgiven.

Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus will one day return to judge the world.

Orthodox beliefs are ones that genuine followers of Jesus have acknowledged From the beginning and then handed down through the ages. Take one of them away, and you’re left with something less than historic Christian belief.

When I watched the documentary about the Amish rite of rumspringa, what stood out to me was the way the Amish teenagers processed the decision of whether or not to join the Amish church. With few exceptions the decision seemed to have very little to do with God. They weren’t searching Scripture to see if what their church taught about the world, the human heart, and salvation was true. They weren’t wrestling with theology. I’m not implying that the Amish don’t have a genuine faith and trust in Jesus. But for the teens in the documentary, the decision was mostly a matter of choosing a culture and a lifestyle. It gave them a sense of belonging. In some cases it gave them a steady job or allowed them to marry the person they wanted.

I wonder how many evangelical church kids are like the Amish in this regard. Many of us are not theologically informed. Truth about God doesn’t define us and shape us. We have grown up in our own religious culture. And often this culture, with its own rituals and music and moral values, comes to represent Christianity far more than specific beliefs about God do.

Every new generation of Christians has to ask the question, what are we actually choosing when we choose to be Christians? Watching the stories of the Amish teenagers helped me realize that a return to orthodoxy has to be more than a return to a way of life or to cherished traditions. Of course the Christian faith leads to living in specific ways. And it does join us to a specific community. And it does involve tradition. All this is good. It’s important. But it has to be more than tradition. It has to be about a person—the historical and living person of Jesus Christ.

Orthodoxy matters because the Christian faith is not just a cultural tradition or moral code. Orthodoxy is the irreducible truths about God and his work in the world. Our faith is not just a state of mind, a mystical experience, or concepts on a page. Theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy matter because God is real, and he has acted in our world, and his actions have meaning today and for all eternity.

For many people, words like theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy are almost completely meaningless. Maybe they’re unappealing, even repellent.

Theology sounds stuffy.

Doctrine is something unkind people fight over.

And orthodoxy? Many Christians would have trouble saying what it is other than it calls to mind images of musty churches guarded by old men with comb-overs who hush and scold.

I can relate to that perspective. I’ve been there. But I’ve also discovered that my prejudice, my “theology allergy,” was unfounded.

This book is the story of how I first glimpsed the beauty of Christian theology. These pages hold the journal entries of my own spiritual journey—a journey that led to the realization that sound doctrine is at the center of loving Jesus with passion and authenticity. I want to share how I learned that orthodoxy isn’t just for old men but is for anyone who longs to behold a God who is bigger and more real and glorious than the human mind can imagine.

The irony of my story—and I suppose it often works this way—is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn’t understand that such seemingly worn-out words as theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ.

They told the story of the Person I longed to know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser

I have had Elizabeth Musser before on my blog as a guest so I was overjoyed when she asked if I wanted to review her new book, The Sweetest Thing. It has just released and I loved the plot so I quickly said yes! Check it out and then I will let you know what I thought of it.

The Singleton family's fortunes seem unaffected by the Great Depression, and Perri--along with the other girls at Atlanta's elite Washington Seminary--lives a carefree life of tea dances with college boys, matinees at the cinema, and debut parties. But when tragedies strike, Perri is confronted with a world far different from the one she has always known.

At the insistence of her parents, Mary "Dobbs" Dillard, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, is sent from inner-city Chicago to live with her aunt and attend Washington Seminary, bringing confrontation and radical ideas. Her arrival intersects at the point of Perri's ultimate crisis, and the tragedy forges an unlikely friendship.

The Sweetest Thing tells the story of two remarkable young women--opposites in every way--fighting for the same goal: surviving tumultuous change.

MY REVIEW-I love a book that has southern flair. And this one definitely had it!! I feel like I was back home with all the southern charm in this book! It is set in the depression era and you can tell the author has done her research on this.

This novel is done jumping from one character to another. I don't really care for books done this way but I had no trouble following the storyline in this book. Most of the time it gets difficult trying to keep everything straight and in line. My favorite character was Dobbs. She is very likable and I felt a kinship to her. She is thrust out into a different world than she has been used to. I liked Perri but I didn't fell the same way about her that I did with Mary Dobbs.

Overall this book is one I enjoyed. I will be watching for Elizabeth's next book so long as it has the same flair. This is not a jump-at-you romance or a thrilling novel, but the nice, gentle writing is very nice for a change. This book is available from Amazon at a pretty good price and I suggest you picking it up.

I received a copy if this book for review purposes. I did not receive any monetary compensation. All thoughts are 100% mine.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review of Futurecast by George Barna

Today I have two book reviews. One is for a fiction book and this one is for a non-fiction book. I found this one quite interesting. I love doing research and that is what this one is all about! Futurecast has a wonderful title and even more wonderful information!!
The world and culture are changing at a pace beyond anything ever seen in history. But where will all these changes lead? What’s in store for our government, economy, families, and churches? Between the Internet and other news media, we’re getting a lot of opinions, but the challenge is finding accurate facts that give us a real sense of what’s happening—and what’s likely to come. In Futurecast, bestselling author and renowned researcher George Barna presents a timely look at the world we’re creating every day, and offers solid data to show the path our country is on and the emerging trends that will shape our world—and change each of our lives.

George Barna is known by many for the surveys they do. This one takes the answers given by the American people and then takes a look at our future and what it holds. I have read many other books written by Mr. Barna and they were very intriguing so I knew I would love this one.

Barna goes through many different areas of the American life and lifestyle including our internet, media, etc. I found these quite interesting as I have seen changes in my life from the impact of media. I don't want to give too much information out but it was amazing how things have changed.

The thing I liked most was how he gave ideas in the back for how to change things in the future. We don't have to let things just go with the flow! We can change some things. I don't think it will be anything major but some minor changes are what can be looked for. This book really goes to show how our society has changed and what we can do about it.

Overall I loved this book. It isn't just about information, but what we can do to change it. I would suggest this book for anyone who is interested in where we are heading as a nation. This book is available from the publisher, Tyndale House Publishing, or from Amazon.

I received a copy of this book for review purposes. I did not receive any monetary compensation. All thoughts are 100% mine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Forever After by Deb Raney Blog Tour

FOREVER AFTER BY DEBORAH RANEY



Jenna Morgan mourned the loss of her husband, Zach, in the fire that destroyed the Hanover Falls homeless shelter and claimed the lives of three other firefighters. A year later, her ability to keep up the charade of prosperity she and Zach lived is at an end. Even with financial help from Zach's parents, she can't make the mortgage and credit card payments. But Jenna Morgan refuses to go back to the trailer home life from which she escaped. She's come so far. She just can't go back to that.

Lucas Vermontez has endured physical therapy for a year, but the legs crushed while he fought the homeless shelter fire are nowhere near 100% yet. Will his dream of returning to the fire station ever become reality? And can he conquer these feelings he has for his best buddy's widow?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR-DEBORAH RANEY
Deborah Raney is the award-winning author of several novels, including A Nest of Sparrows and the RITA award winning Beneath a Southern Sky and its sequel, After the Rains. Deborah's first novel,

A Vow to Cherish, was the inspiration for World Wide Pictures' highly acclaimed film of the same title, which in December 2004 aired on prime time network TV for the second time.

Deb's novella, Playing by Heart, was a National Readers Choice Award winner and a 2004 Christy Award finalist. Her most recent novel for Howard/Simon & Schuster, Yesterday's Embers, appeared on the ECPA Christian fiction bestseller list.

Deb has also written nonfiction books and articles and often speaks at women's retreats and writers' conferences around the country. She and her husband, illustrator/ author Ken Raney, have four children and make their home in Kansas.




MY REVIEW-This was quite a heart-breaking story. Yet peace and joy are still mingled throughout this novel. Deb Raney does an excellent job as always at writing a beautiful yet thought provoking story. I had the privilege of reading the book before this one and you see what a writer Deb is!

I have always loved stories about our heroes and Lucas is just such an one. Firefighters face daily battles and even in his despair, it still comes through. He has to fight to deal with his guilt and I especially found this interesting. He knows it is not his fault that it happened and yet he still feels guilty. How often this happens in real life.

Overall this is a book I would recommend to anyone. Even guys:) I think they will enjoy the story setting and Lucas is a mans man.

I received a copy of this book for review purposes. I did not receive any monetary compensation. All thoughts are 100% mine.

Book Review of The Evidence For the Historical Jesus by McDowell/Wilson

I have to admit, most of the time I don't like reading the new theology type books. I have a hard time understanding most of them and they tend to be on the higher learning level. So I was a little hesitant to request this book for review. The only thing that made me want to try it was that I have read several of Josh McDowell's other books and thoroughly enjoyed them. The book, Evidence for the Historical Jesus is something I also thought would be good as I witness a lot and tend to get some different arguments:)

Josh McDowell, bestselling author and one of the most recognized Christian apologists, teams up with researcher Bill Wilson in this classic apologetics book, now with a new title, new cover, and new opportunity to connect with readers.

This accessible resource explores historical evidence about Jesus so seekers, skeptics, and Christians can understand more about Christ, His claims, His impact, and the evidence for His life. Revealing material includes:

  • surprising information from ancient secular writings about Jesus
  • insights and errors from the post-apostolic writers
  • how to test the New Testament evidence and material outside of the gospels
  • details of the geography, culture, and other religions at the time of Christ
  • findings about Jesus’ miracles, death, resurrection, and identity

Packed with fascinating, relevant, and intriguing information about Christ and His purpose, this is an ideal resource for individuals, groups, churches, as well as personal and academic libraries.


I plunged right into this book when it first came in. I like to read a non-fiction book as I am reading my other fiction books. It helps me to read through them and I want to read things that really help me in my daily life. I gotta tell you, it has taken me a while to finish this one! There is so much good stuff packed into it it was amazing. I read pretty fast but with this book I had to go slow to take everything in. I made sure to have my Bible with me to go to the references that were given. I took notes and wrote my thoughts in the side pages.

The author's do a great job in bringing things down to the level of a normal reader. I had a couple times that I had to go online to research what something meant but overall I had no trouble understanding this book. They break everything down into groups and I took key parts from each group so I can use these when I witness. I will be going back to this book over and over.

I would suggest this book to people who witness a lot or for a Church library. It is very relevant to today's society and for the Christian today. I loved reading it and have finally finished it:) A book to go back to again and again! It is available from the publisher, Harvest House Publishers, or from Amazon. Take a look! You won't want to miss it!

I received a copy of this book for review purposes. I did not receive any monetary compensation. All thoughts are 100% mine.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beside Still Waters By Tricia Goyer Blog Tour

I was really happy when I found out I was going to be able to review this next book. It is written by Tricia Goyer and is somewhat different than what she normally writes. Tricia is well-known for her war series and this one is set in the Amish culture. Beside Still Waters is her first departure from her main settings.

Marianna Sommer believes she knows where her life is headed. Nineteen years old and Amish, her plan is to get baptized into the church, marry Aaron Zook, and live in the only community she's ever known.

When Marianna's family moves from Indiana to Montana she discovers life and faith will never be the same. As she builds an easy friendship with local guy, Ben Stone, Ben not only draws her heart, he also gets her thinking about what loving God and living in community is all about.

As Marianna struggles to find "home", she also encounters God in intimate ways.


I have to tell you, I am not a big fan of the normal Amish book. They seem to have a lot of the same plots and the same characteristics. But I sometimes find a new or different one that really catches my eye or jumps out at me. This one did it for me. I thought the setting was new and the plot sounded neat. Not many books portray Amish in Montana so I wanted to see about this.

The setting is a young lady who wants to marry a young man in Indiana where she lives. But her parents are wanting to move somewhere different as they are having trouble with some of their children. They think a new setting will get them back on the right path and away from their troublesome friends. But Marianna doesn't want to move and the only reason she does is because her parents need help. She plans on moving back to her young man once they are settled in. But you never know how plans can change:)

I personally loved Ben! This is the young man that catches Marianna's interest in Montana. He was very sweet and seemed like a likable guy. And Trapper the dog added a lot of interest in this book. I liked Marianna and thought that she was happy in her life but she wanted what everyone does. To be loved and to fit in. For a Christian, it is to be in God's will. But I don't want to give away too much of the book. You will have to purchase it if you want to find out what happens and how Aaron, Marianna and Ben all end up.

Beside Still Waters was a great book and a wonderful plot! Shows a wonderful way of life that many people wonder about. I personally like how Tricia came up with this story and I hope you find out about it.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of the Beside Still Waters Campaign and received a copy of the book and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mistaken Identity by K. Dawn Byrd + Giveaway!

I am not sure you all remember but soon after I first started my blog, I had an interview with K. Dawn Byrd and her new release. Well, it is time for her new one and this is a YA title but I think people of any age will enjoy it. I wanted to let you all know about this new book, Mistaken Identity, and then make sure to enter for the giveaway at the end. It is for a code for the eBook. Even if you do not have a Kindle or an eReader, you can download the Kindle for PC and read books on there. I was able to read her first book that was a mystery and I really enjoyed it. Quite an interesting book so I am sure you all will enjoy this one.
Eden Morgan makes a list of six goals to accomplish in order to have the best summer ever. Getting a boyfriend, which is perhaps the most important goal, becomes complicated when she and her best friend, Lexi, fall for the same guy. Since Lexi is popular, gorgeous, and always gets her guy, Eden thinks she doesn't have a chance.

Channing Johnson is everything Eden's ever dreamed of and she can't believe he just moved in next door. When he starts showing interest in her, she's overjoyed...until she sees him out on a date with Lexi. He says Lexi talked him into it to repay her for tutoring him. Lexi says they're in love.

Eden doesn't know who to believe and is forced to choose between her best friend and the guy of her dreams. Nothing is as it seems and no matter who she chooses, someone will get hurt.


ABOUT K. DAWN BYRD

K. Dawn Byrd is an author of inspirational romance. She holds a masters degree in professional counseling from Liberty University that she believes gives her better insight into the minds, feelings and emotions of individuals, which helps her to better understand her characters and develop them more fully. Queen of Hearts, a WWII romantic suspense released April 1, 2010 and Killing Time, a contemporary romantic suspense released August 1, 2010 both with Desert Breeze Publishing.

Mistaken Identity, K. Dawn's first inspirational young adult romance released on June 15, 2011. This Time for Keeps, an inspirational WWII romance will release on October 15, 2011. Both of these titles will be published in ebook form through Desert Breeze Publishing.

READERS-K. has offered a code for this new book. Please follow directions below to get your entries in. You won't want to miss this book!!

MANDATORY ENTRY-
Leave an encouraging comment for K. These authors need all the encouragement they can get and they often don't get it:) If you love their books, let them know! This comment is mandatory and must be done or the extra entries do not count. You MUST leave an email in one of your comments so I can reach you if you are the winner.

INTERNATIONAL IF YOU CAN READ AN EBOOK!!

EXTRA ENTRIES-Please leave a comment for each entry.

1.Blog or post about this on Facebook. Get 3 entries for each.
2.Follow my blog via GFC, subscribe through RSS Feed or email or follow me on Twitter. Get one entry for each you do.
3.Enter any of my other currently running giveaways. Let me know which ones.
4.Leave a comment on any of my review only posts. This must be for reviews only! Leave a comment for each.
5.Tweet about this giveaway. Can be done three times a day

6.Follow K. Dawn Byrd on Twitter.
7.Fan K. Dawn Byrd on Facebook.
8.Follow K. Dawn Byrd's blog. She has lots of great book giveaways! Get 2 entries for this so leave 2 comments.

This giveaway will end 7/4. Winner will be chosen through Random.org. They will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

FIRST WildCard The Blackberry Bush Blog Tour

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Blackberry Bush

Summerside Press (June 1, 2011)

MY REVIEW-This book is one I was not too sure about reading but I am always open to new authors. I did not fall in love with this book nor do I think I will be reading any others by this author. I am not saying it will be bad for other readers, but I could not get into it. There were a couple things I didn't care for and the whole story line was just really different. The book cover and the way the edges were jagged made the book look real nice. If you are into this type of book, especially one written in first person POV, I suggest you try this one.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


David Housholder is a philosophical-spiritual influencer, a sponsored snowboarder and a surfing instructor who dreams of making this world a better place. As the senior pastor at Robinwood Church, an indie warehouse church near the beach in California, he can often be found preaching verse by verse in his bare feet. With his increasing desire to change the world around him, he is the director for several non-profit organizations. Housholder loves to travel and is an international conference speaker. He has spoken to groups in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Canada and London and has also been involved with mission trips. He is especially energized by evangelistic work among Muslims.

Housholder is an avid reader and carries an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He received his undergraduate degree from Pacific Lutheran University and went on to receive his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Then he spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Universität-Bonn in Germany. Housholder fluently speaks three languages, English, Dutch and German, and enjoys reading biblical Greek and Hebrew.

Housholder and his wife, Wendy, have one grown son, Lars. They reside in Huntington Beach, California. Some of his hobbies include photography and tinkering on his 1971 VW bug.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The Blackberry Bush begins with two babies, Kati and Josh, who are born on opposite sides of the world at the very moment the Berlin Wall falls. You would think that such a potent freedom metaphor would become the soundtrack for their lives, but nothing could be further from the truth. They will follow a parallel path connected by a mistake their great grandparents made years before.

Despite his flawless image, Josh, an artistic and gifted Californian skateboarder and surfer, struggles to find his true role in the world. He fears that his growing aggression will eventually break him if he can’t find a way to accept his talent and the competition that comes along with it. Kati, a German with a penchant for classic Swiss watches and attic treasure-hunting, is crushed with the disappointment of never being “enough” for anyone—especially her mother. She wonders whether she will ever find the acceptance and love she craves and become comfortable in her own skin.

Craving liberation, Kati and Josh seem destined to claim their birthright of freedom together. With the help of their loving grandparents, they will unlock the secrets of their pasts and find freedom and joy in their futures. Today, like Katie and Josh, our youth often fall into two different cultures. Josh is part of the “bro” culture which is outdoor-oriented, with sports as a focus, and generally more conservative. Whereas Kati is part of the “scene” culture which is more liberal and indoor-oriented, focusing on music. These cultures are apparent in the novel and can aid in a better understanding of the issues today’s 21st century youth are facing as well as the struggles they have in coming to faith.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1609361164
ISBN-13: 978-1609361167

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


~ Behind the Story ~

Angelo

Think for a moment. Isn’t there a splendid randomness to the way your day is coming together today?


After all, it’s not the big, dramatic things we foresee and expect that make all the difference in our lives. It’s the chance, random encounters—the subtle things that surprise us…and change the very course of our individual destinies.


The Blackberry Bush is a story about awakening to the fullness of this reality.


And you will never want to go back to sleep.


You can call me Angelo. I’ll be the one telling this story. As you and I travel together across generations and continents in a journey that will take just a few hours, you’ll discover not only the gripping stories of Kati, Josh, Walter, Nellie, and Janine but also uncover your own compelling back-story that will change you in ways you can never imagine.

And you’ll never be the same again….





PROLOGUE

1989

Berlin, Germany

Occasionally, out of nowhere, history turns on a dime in a way no one sees coming. Listen…do you hear the sound of jackhammers on dirty concrete?


“Wir sind ein Volk (We are one people)!” A large European outdoor crowd chants this over and over into the chilly November night. “Wir sind ein Volk!”


Thousands of hands hold candles high in the darkening night of Berlin. Throngs of young people with brightly colored scarves crowd the open spaces between concrete buildings. !ere are parties—with exuberant celebrants of all ages—even along the actual top of the wall. Flowers are stuffed into once-lethal Kalashnikov rises. Hope is contagious.


It’s November 9, 1989. The first sections of the Berlin Wall are removed, to mass cheers, with heavy machinery. It seems incomprehensible that a small weekly Monday prayer meeting in Pastor Magerius’s Leipzig, Germany, study grew into the pews of the Nicolai Church and eventually out into the Leipzig city square. !en today, this “Peace Prayer,” figuratively speaking, traveled up the Autobahn to Berlin and converged as an army of liberation on that iconic concrete symbol of Cold War division—with world-news cameras whirring.


Little things can make a big difference. Subtle potency. Gentle power.

“Wir sind ein Volk,” the crowd chants as one. The Berlin Wall—a filthy, gravity-based ring of rebar and concrete, tangled with barbed wire and patrolled by German shepherd attack dogs–has encircled and separated West from East for twenty-eight years. Now it is irreparably pierced.


Unthinkable. No one saw this coming.


Walls are real, you see, yet they always come down. Creation and nature never favor walls. They start to crumble, even before the mortar dries.



*

Elisabeth Hospital

Bonn, Germany

A day’s Autobahn drive from the festivities in Berlin


That same instant, a severely pregnant woman’s water breaks in the tall-windowed birthing room of the Elisabeth Hospital in Bonn, Germany.


Hours later: “Ein Mädchen (a girl)!” Een meisje, translates the exhausted mother with silently moving lips into her native Dutch. Linda, a sojourner in Germany, was born a generation ago in Holland.


Mere blocks away from the birth scene, the mighty Rhine River flows past Bonn on its way downstream to the massive industrial port city of Rotterdam, Linda’s hometown. Only a few hours away by river barge, Rotterdam, Holland, couldn’t be farther from Germany—on so many levels.

The labor has been long and brutally hard. !e father, Konrad, takes little newborn, black-haired Katarina up the elevator to the nursery. On the way up, an old woman in a wheelchair spontaneously

pronounces God’s blessing over baby “Kati” (pronounced “KAH-tee,” in the German way) with the sign of the cross. Kati focuses her glassy little eyes on the woman’s wristwatch.


Konrad is concerned about how pale Katarina is. Was her older sister, Johanna, this porcelain-skinned at birth? Perhaps it’s the thick shock of black hair that sharpens the contrast with her complexion. How will Kati and Johanna get along? he wonders. I guess that will all

start to unfold soon, when they meet each other for the first time.


I won’t be able to protect her, thinks Konrad. Parental anxiety starts creeping up his spine in ways it never did when Johanna, now two, was born.


Perhaps little Kati will need that elevator blessing, he muses uncomfortably.


*

Zarzamora, California

1989

Another Woman With Rotterdam Bloodlines, across the planet in sunny Zarzamora, California, is giving birth at the very same moment (although earlier in the day because of the time difference) to a boy. !e tiny $at-roofed hospital up in the mountains of the Los Padres forest is the port of entry for little baby Joshua.


Janine smiles up at husband, Michael, and takes a first look at Josh, expecting, for whatever reason, to see a pale baby girl. Genuinely surprised—after all, this is in the days before ultrasound was universal—to see a vibrant, reddish-hued boy, she suppresses a giggle of delight, a catharsis of joy after so many miscarriages. What fun they will have together! Will he lighten up her melancholy

disposition, perhaps?


Janine sighs in relief as she confirms to herself, We’re not going to have to take care of him much. He’s going to be okay. I’m sure of it. I can tell.


The trumpets of the practicing local high school marching band waft through the open windows as German-born father Michael washes his son off in the sink of the delivery room. The piercing eyes of baby Josh, almost white-blue, glisten in the overhead lights. They stop to focus on Michael for a fleeting minute, then zero in on some yet unseen reality behind his father’s shoulder.


Shouldn’t I be saying some ancient German words, a blessing or something, while I’m doing this? Michael asks himself.


But he can’t think of any. He is adrift in the flowing current of this new experience.


The marching band plays on outside. Are they really circling the hospital, or does it just sound like that? the new father thinks… .



~ Behind the Story ~

Angelo
I can watch both births as I pick and eat blackberries from the thicket back in rainy Bonn. I smile. Joshua looks so happy to be here. He radiates physical warmth and doesn’t seem to need his blanket. He welcomes the new climate.


But Kati doesn’t like the cold. There’s almost a 30-degree (Fahrenheit) difference in ambient temperature from the womb to the room, and I see her struggle.


And then there’s the brand-new “breathing” thing. How can breathing go from unnecessary to essential in a few seconds? Yet some days we don’t even think about breathing, not even once. Amazing. Joshua’s American birth certificate reads 11-09-1989. Kati’s European one reads 09-11-1989.

How much of their lives are preprogrammed? How much of their minds will be stamped with the thoughts of others? Is life a roll of the dice, or is it a script we just read out to the end? Don’t we all

wonder that same thing sometimes?


As Kati and Joshua start to adjust to life outside the womb, the Berlin Wall continues to crumble to shouts of joy.


I write the names Linda and Konrad in Germany, Janine and Michael in California on the inside of the book cover I’m holding. I always do that, so I don’t get confused about who’s who as I travel

through their stories.


Both fathers, Konrad and Michael, have roots in the Germany that was rebuilding after World War II. Both are self-doubting, somewhat weak Rheinlanders married to practical, sober, very Protestant Dutch women.


Katarina and Joshua are on parallel paths. But only perfectly parallel paths never meet as they stretch into infinity. And since these paths, like ours, aren’t perfect…well, you can guess what might happen in this story.


Kati and Josh, born on one of the greatest days of freedom for all human kind, will grow up snared in the blackberry bush…like you.


But if you dare to engage their story at a heart level, a fresh new freedom might just be birthed in you.


So why not listen to that subtle twitter of conception inside your soul? !e one that says, !is year something exciting is going to happen that I can’t anticipate. And I’ll never be the same….




PART ONE
1999

Oberwinter am Rhein, Germany

Just south of Bonn


Kati

I love looking out our back picture window at the rolling farms. I’m watching for Opa, my dear grandfather Harald, who said he’d be home by 4 p.m. We live at the top of the road that winds uphill from the ancient Rhine River town of Oberwinter, just upstream from Bonn. That’s how everybody here writes it, but they say “Ova-venta.” I walk up and down the sidewalk along the switchback road almost every day.


Our home is perched at the top of the hill with the front of the house facing the street that skirts the skyline of the ridge and the back looking away from the river, out at the plateau of peaceful farms, which Opa says the ancient Romans probably worked.


Opa knows a lot of secrets. If he told me what he knows every day for the rest of my life, he’d never run out of things to say. But sometimes he gets sad. He never likes to talk about how things were when he was my age. His voice starts to sound shaky, and that makes me sad too. I stopped asking him about his wartime childhood a long time ago.

My watch says it’s another hour to wait. Really, it’s his watch, big on my wrist. The leather band smells like Opa. I’m very careful with it since it’s a Glashütte, which is infinitely special.


Sometimes Opa shows me his watch collection from the big mahogany box that’s a lot like Mutti’s (that’s what I call my mother) silverware holder. But the Glashütte was always my favorite, and one day he gave it to me. I’ve worn it ever since.


Mutti was angry at Opa for giving it to me. “It’s worth as much as a car!” she said. But Opa simply smiled. He never minds when people are upset with him.


Opa’s study is a magical place. In the corner is the totem pole he brought home from Alaska. !e wooden desk is covered with a sheet hands with people in suits and, right in the middle, a recent picture of me. !e books on his shelves are in English and German. He has me read aloud from the chair across the desk from his and tells me that I speak English without an accent, just as they speak it in Seattle, Washington, where he worked for a few years. We’re on our second time through Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Opa says it’s a very important book, so I believe him.


Opa is the only one who doesn’t seem worried about me. He never seems worried about anything. I can’t remember seeing him angry. Ever.


I hope he takes me out to his workshop in the shed this evening. It’s my favorite place. My big sister, Johanna, says it’s not fun for girls, but she’s wrong. Opa has hand tools and power tools, and all of them are perfectly hung and positioned. !e shed is as clean as Mutti’s kitchen.


Opa tells me that the Bible says all people have “gifts” from God and that all the gifts are open to girls as well as boys. He tells me I have the gifts of craftsmanship and interpretation. Those are big words, but they make me feel good.

We’ve made and fixed so many things together there. I have my own safety glasses. He lets me run the band saw all by myself. I can tell by looking at his eyes that he knows I’ll be safe. Mutti doesn’t have the same look in her eyes, no matter what I’m doing.


Mutti cuts my hair really short because she’s afraid it’s going to get caught in one of the power tools. I hate how it looks. She also tries, continually, to get me to eat more. She doesn’t like how skinny I am.


Papa works in Berlin. He got transferred there when the German government moved from Bonn after the Wall fell, when I was little. He comes home on the train most weekends. He works for the foreign

diplomatic service, and he told me this month that he might get transferred again soon, and that we might have to move to America. He and Mutti have been arguing a lot about it while I try to get to sleep at night.

I can tell the arguments are bad, because Mutti slips back into Dutch when she gets angry and also when she talks to me and Johanna. Anger and parenting seem to come out of the same place inside her.


Mutti, unlike Opa, loves to talk about growing up, and how wonderful everything was then. It’s fun to hear the stories—and to see her smile while she tells them. We take the train to visit her Dutch parents often. It takes only a few hours to reach Rotterdam. I love riding through Cologne, past the blackened dual-spired cathedral. I have another grandfather in Holland who is kind of funny and crabby at the same time. I only have one grandmother, because my German Oma died of cancer before I was born.


I love Rotterdam. My Dutch grandfather (my other Opa) takes me on bike rides through the tunnel, under the big river, and to my favorite place—the Hotel New York in the heart of the port. He buys

me a chocolate milk every time, and we watch the big ships come and go. He doesn’t like to talk about Germans, even though he reminds me that they built the bike tunnel and highway under the river. Every now and then someone mentions the War. I’ve always known my Dutch grandparents don’t like my father. They say it’s not because Papa’s German, but I think it is. He never comes along on our visits to Rotterdam.

Now I’m looking out the farm-facing window, still waiting for Opa. At the end of our backyard, the blackberry bushes start and wander off into the countryside in lots of directions. I could swear

they get bigger every year. I love to play back there—especially with Johanna. I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t have a few scrapes on my arms and legs from the thorns. !e farmers in the fields work so hard to raise crops, but blackberry bushes grow all by themselves without any help.


I’m getting impatient, so I enter Opa’s study to wait there. In his le" second drawer is his drawing kit. Precise instruments to make perfect circles and angles. Papa tells me Opa designed this house with that kit.


Opa lets me play with everything in his desk. Using the compass, I draw a perfect circle. !en I draw myself in it. I’ve done this so many times. But I’m older in the picture than in real life. And my hair isn’t short. But I can’t stop drawing circles with slightly different sizes. Once I caught myself drawing dozens of overlapping circles around the picture of me. I’m not smiling in any of these pictures. I think a lot when I’m drawing the circles.


To me, getting older just means harder jobs. Johanna works harder than I do, and I know I’ll have to be like her soon. She evenmakes dinner sometimes. Math problems get harder. Books lose their pictures and are more challenging to read. I learn so much better with Opa, because there’s no pressure.


My parents fight about me when they think I’m asleep. Papa was angry with Mutti because she yelled at me about my school grades. Mutti shot back with, “She has to get good grades because she’s not pretty.” My whole body froze in bed when I heard that. I’m not really sure what grades have to do with being pretty, but it’s very bad somehow. I think Papa would like to be more like Opa, but he can’t make it happen.


They don’t know how good I am at English. I speak it a lot better than they do. I have to keep from laughing when they try. There’s an American couple down in the village with a new baby, living in an

old, crooked apartment. I heard them speaking English and jumped in to their conversation. They asked me where in America I was from.

I fibbed and said, “Seattle.”


I think about America a lot. Maybe I could be a different person there.

Johanna’s pretty; even I can see that. It makes people, all kinds of people, happy to look at her, and they look at her longer than they mean to. I, on the other hand, make people nervous. Except for Opa, people don’t like to look right at me.


And everyone always wants me to do better than I am doing. They say it’s because they want the best for me. But it doesn’t feel good. The older I get, the further behind I am. I don’t have enough

friends. I haven’t finished enough homework. My room is not clean enough. I wasn’t polite enough to my parents’ guests. And the hardest of all: people don’t like me enough. It’s really hard work to get people to like you. Or maybe I’m especially easy to dislike.


Opa’s study has a big mirror on the door. Standing in front of it, I’m surprised by how white my skin is. My hair is black, and I have a big nose. Opa says that’s because most of the families in town have Roman heritage, and that I must have ended up with the local hair and nose. Opa tells me this town has been around for at least a hundred generations. We go for walks in the hills around the village, and he shows me where the Roman roads, walls, and vineyards were. How can anyone know so much?


Even better, Opa is the one person who knows me. Last week he brought me a present from Bonn. I opened up the long, little box and removed a black, elegant Pelikan fountain pen. It came with a bottle of ink.


He then pulled out a fresh new ledger. I had to laugh. Opa knows how much I hate math at school. It doesn’t feel real—like somebody got paid to think up a bunch of problems to drive kids like me crazy.

But Opa keeps telling me how important math is for real life, even if I don’t think so now.


For the rest of that afternoon, Opa taught me double-entry bookkeeping in ink. Real-life stuff I can actually use even now, when I’m nine years old, to keep track of the little money I earn and spend. He told me that reckoning in German marks was only for practice, because they were going to disappear in a few years, replaced by the euro.


He also taught me that money is magic, and that if you give a lot of it away to improve the world, you’ll always have more left over than you started with. That’s not what my teacher says about

subtraction, but I know, without a doubt, that Opa is right, as usual. He showed me his accounting books, going back to the 1940s. The numbers got bigger and bigger over the years.


“How does that work?” I asked

.

He showed me the number in a special column telling how much he gave away last year. I gasped, and my hand came to my mouth.


“That’s how,” he answered.


I asked him what I would do if I made a bookkeeping mistake with the pen.

“You won’t,” he said and smiled.


Opa believes in God. My parents are not so sure. !is confusesme all the time. Opa takes me to church on Sundays. We walk down the hill together. He and I are evangelisch—Protestant or Evangelical. It’s hard to translate the term into English. Most of our neighbors in Oberwinter are Catholic. Our stone Protestant church is very small, very old, and musty smelling. !e temperature is always cooler inside than outside. I sometimes fall asleep there on Opa’s shoulder, and he likes that.


The organist is amazing. She plays on national radio. And the organ is very old: 1722 is painted on the pipes. For the rest of my life, I’m going to make sure I can listen to organ music. My imagination

can go almost anywhere when she’s playing. After every Sunday service, the organist gives a little concert from the rear balcony where she sits. We stand, lean on the pews behind us, and watch her. We always clap when she’s done.


Johanna comes with us sometimes, but Opa says it’s important to go to church only when you want to. For whatever reason, Opa and I always want to. Maybe it’s just so we can spend Sundays together, but I know Opa would go even if I didn’t exist. It seems to help him be happy all the time and everywhere. I hope he’ll teach me this magic when I’m old enough.


I don’t understand much about what goes on in church, but I love it when they read the Bible stories for children’s worship, and the littler kids come and plop right down on my lap, as if they belong there. !is Sunday was the story about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. The German Bible says the Israelites were blowing trombones, and Opa’s English Bible says trumpets. Things like that make me think.


I hear the door.

Opa’s home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ten Time-Saving Tips to Make Your Life as a Busy Mom Easier

Hello all! I have been somewhat infrequent here but it has been crazy busy around my house! But, you know I could never turn down a writing post from Social Moms:) This time they have teamed up with Starbucks and I am going to let you all know about some tips I have to make our busy life a little less busy:D

1.Organize.
This is my top tip. It is somewhat simple and I know it is often over-looked, but it will really help save time and keep your day going better. Whether it is the night before or in the morning before breakfast, it helps to sit down and write out a schedule.

2.Cook Extra's.
Cooking meals ahead of time or cooking extra is a big way to save time. I often cook extra hamburger and then use it for two meals. Even make an extra meal when you are cooking and freeze one. Helps out a lot!

3.Get the Children's Help.
Make sure your children help in the chores, etc. Setting the table, folding laundry, or cleaning can all be helped out by the children. And this leaves you a little bit more free time. Even if you have to check and make sure everything is done, it will still take less time than going and doing everything by yourself.

4.Take the Little Things.
When you go from one area to another, take something that needs put away. I like to have a basket or bin in the living room to put small things in for my other rooms. Always helps to put them in the bin and then put things away from there.

5.Pay Bills Online.
This helps in not having a lot of mail to go through. Get all your bank statements, bills, etc sent online so you don't have all the little bulk mail.

6.Order Your Days.
I like to do my big cleaning on one day of the week, laundry on another. Set down your days like that and then do little extra's on the other days if you need to. It will help to have one big cleaning day and then just sweep and neaten on the others.

7.Take Notes.
Make a list near our door of things you need to do when you leave the house. It always helps to have those things written down so when you leave to run errands you don't forget something and have to run out again. Even if it is the smallest thing such as running a book back to the library, picking up milk from the store, etc. write it down! Then take it with you when you head out the door.

8.Shopping List.
Again, write down all your shopping needs. It never hurts and it will always help. Make sure you don't forget those little things needed for your meal or the simple staples. We used to know a friend that was always running out for little things she forgot for the meal. And this was right before fixing the meal! Make sure to write them down and you won't be at the store trying to remember what you needed for the meal that night:)

9.Assign Tasks.
This kind of goes with one of my earlier tips but in a different way. If you can assign tasks and get others to help with things, it will go much easier. Even ask a friend to help. If they are going to the library, ask if they can drop your book off. Then be willing to help them at a later time. But if you have someone assigned to taking the laundry from the bathroom or bedroom to the wash room, it is something you don't have to do before you start the washer.

10.Do Tasks Online.
Whether it is checking a credit card, your bank account, paying a bill or the grocery ads, do it online. So much can be done online now a days that it is so easy. You can find help anywhere on the internet and most things can be done on here. It is amazing! I can make my grocery list, print the coupons I will need and then print my grocery list. Wonderful, fast and efficient!

So these are some of my tips. There are many others and I know I did not come up with them all, that is for sure:) Leave a comment and let me know what you would give as your top tip for saving time. We all could use a little help in this!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Starbucks blogging program, for a gift card worth $30. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Want Cheap Skirts for the Summer! Check out Down East Basics!


I love wearing skirts during the summer. They are so fresh and light that you don't have to worry about the heat. Skirts are very versatile and can be worn with just about anything. Whether you want to dress it up or play it down. I also love that they are modest clothing. One problem I have though is finding them online. Well, guess what! Not any more:) I recently found that Down East Basics carries some really cute cheap skirts and other clothing as well for that matter. Below are some of my summer tips for dressing classy and cheap while taking off the heat:)

I like to take a modest skirt and then add a lace camisole, one of the ones that has lace at the bottom and top, and then add a cute top. With only having a camisole, it really takes the heat off and still manages to look modest. Another way is to add a sweater instead of a blouse or top. This is one of my favorite ways to dress up an outfit. So long as the sweater is dressy, I will wear it for Church events, etc.

I personally love wearing modest skirts and they are great for summer wear. Please check out Down East Basics for lots of cute and modest clothing!!

I am participating in a blogger campaign by Bucks2Blog and was compensated. However, the views and opinions are my own.
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