Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: More Than A Bucket List by Toni Birdsong

 More Than A Bucket List: Living a Life That's Bigger Than You  -

More Than A Bucket List: Making Your Dreams, Passions, And Faith A Reality by Toni Birdsong was a book I enjoyed. It was so easy to read that I read the whole book in one day!

At times the book felt like it was written for super rich people with advice such as to visit Germany, Ireland, and Belgium.

Here's a sample of a more down to earth section: Live with strength
"Don't say yes when you mean no. Buy a blender and start making healthy smoothies. Spend your time on the real problems, not the imaginary ones. Determine to live an outrageously creative life. Learn to ask for help when you need it. Understand and overcome the fear of death. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Surrender "that one thing" to God. Read the book Boundaries. Only keep healthy relationships. Right a wrong. Don't major in the minors. Let the small stuff go."

There are some good ideas/advice. On the other hand, some advice/ideas seem pretty meaningless and worldly to me. "Eat a Dodger Dog at Dodger Stadium", "Attend a U2 concert", "Visit Graceland in Memphis. As you walk around, try for just 1 percent of Elvis's swagger", "See the Rose Bowl Parade in person", etc. Even though lots of the ideas are silly, it was a fun book to read. One of my favorite ideas is to make a reverse bucket list (listing things you have already done rather than what you haven't yet done) which I did.

My advice? Take this book with a grain of salt. Know your own dreams and passions. By the grace of God, work as hard as you can to achieve them. And be thankful even if you never "take a surfing lesson" or "go horseback riding on the beach of an exotic island at sunset" or "fly first-class just once".

Note: I received this book from Thomas Nelson/Booksneeze for free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Did you know that 30,000 people starve to death every day?

Did you know that 350 million people do not have access to the Gospel?!?

Have you let it sink into your heart that a child dies every three seconds?

That means dozens of children around the world will have died by the time I finish this post. What are we doing about it?

It's easy to let our eyes glaze over as we read statistic after statistic--especially if we've heard them before. But these are not numbers; they are PEOPLE.

Human beings that are just as precious and valuable as you and me.  We were just born in different places. Helpless children-think of their little faces, tiny fingers and toes, and brown eyes-are dying of preventable diseases and starvation. 25,000 a day.

Is the image still in your mind? Or is it fading away?

It's not that we don't have enough resources. The problem is that we're not distributing it correctly to the people who actually need it. Just a fraction of the church's (the body of Christ) resources would reach the world with the Gospel and eliminate poverty.

You want to know the hard truth?

We. Are. Selfish.

As a group. As individuals. We were born selfish and it takes a love from God to break us free from it and give us the heart to love like He does.

I'm forced to wonder if thousands of churches (not all...but a lot) believe that the world is limited to the U.S.A. Limited to their large buildings and new programs and nice sound system. What has happened to obeying the commands of God?

The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40)

Do we take that seriously? Do we really think we can live in our own little comfort bubble and then say to God on judgment day, "Oh, I didn't know." We do know and we have a responsibility to act. It is our privilege to alleviate the suffering of millions around the world and most importantly, tell them about Christ.

Where does your money go? When you give away money...where does it go? To your local church? Why?Are they actually sending 90-100% to reach the unreached, giving people clean drinking water, and feeding the starving millions? I highly doubt it. There is an explicit command in Scripture to reach the nations with the Gospel (the Great Commission) and there are hundreds of verses about caring for the needy. There is no "Thou shalt give to thy local church building." (The Old Testament tithe was to care for the tabernacle in which GOD Himself dwelt. There is a new command in the New Testament--the Great Commission.) Instead of giving directly to the people Jesus commanded us to reach and care for, thousands of believers give all their firstfruits to their local church. Again, I ask "WHY?". Because it's the culturally acceptable thing to do? Because *gasp* what if the offering bag came around and someone you know saw that you didn't give? To please your pastor? Those are completely wrong motives for giving. (I'm not saying that everyone who gives to their local church has these motives. I just want us to be wise stewards and think of the best way we can use the limited time and resources we have been given.)

We are supposed to give in secret so that our left hand doesn't know what our right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3). We are supposed to follow the example of the believers in Acts who supported missionaries and preachers/pastors who were actively reaching unreached peoples (yes, some of those unreached peoples were "local" because nearly the whole world back then was unreached). Nowadays, all affluent countries (North America and Europe) have access to the Gospel. They can read a book, go to a church, watch TV, listen to the radio, search the web, etc. There is plenty of readily accessible information about Christianity.
The body of Christ is worldwide. Yet there are believers (pastors included) whose families are starving to death in India and other countries (I have read the real stories!). There are thousands of communities and tribes who have never heard the Gospel! Native missionaries with a passion for God are already in the countries ready to preach the Good News...but they are hampered by a lack of support.

Are you beginning to see why I do not recommend giving all or most or even any of your money to your local church? I know I am saying things for which lots of people will hate me. I wish everyone could understand my heart for the lost and the passion God has graciously given me for the needs of the world. But that's not going to happen and that's okay. If nobody hates me in this world, I'm doing something wrong...I'd be following the crowd in everything no matter how wrong I know it to be.

There will always be people who do the normal thing and give every week to their local congregation. Churches across America receive billions of dollars every single year. We don't need to worry about them. Most give only 1% to missions and of that 1% only one percent of that is given to the unreached for a total of 0.01% being given to reach the unreached.  Is it any wonder millions have yet to hear and are going to hell every day? What the world needs is those who will be different. Those who will take a stand for Christ and care deeply about all believers and not simply those within a hundred mile radius from their home.

My heart is burdened with the knowledge that people are going to hell as I type. This generation (and the ones before and after) must step up and bring the Good News to those who have never heard of the name of Jesus either by sending or by going. (If you're rich enough, then both!)

Please take a few minutes to watch this video. I didn't create it but it is my heartcry. 

"Having seen all this you can choose to look the other way, but you can never say again, 'I did not know'." ~William Wilberforce

You know. I know. What are we doing about the needs of the world?

Note: I recommend checking out The Jesus Film Project ( and Beyond (

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Review: Imagination Station Books #8 & #9

Adventures in Odyssey The Imagination Station® Series #9: Escape to the Hiding Place  -     
        By: Marianne Hering
 Adventures in Odyssey The Imagination Station® Series #8: Battle for Cannibal Island  -     
        By: Marianne Hering, Wayne Batson
Battle for Cannibal Island and Escape to the Hiding Place are fun, easy to read books for children ages 7 & up. The dialogue and descriptions are simple but the plot for each book is interesting. The main characters are 7-year-old cousins named Patrick and Beth. I like how they introduce a historical figure and time period in the books. In Battle for Cannibal Island, it is the 1850s in Fiji and they meet missionary James Calvert. Escape to the Hiding Place, not surprisingly, introduces Corrie ten Boom and is set during World War II. The illustrations (especially of Whit) are not what I am used to but they’re not bad. At the end of each story, the children learn a lesson that they can apply to their modern day lives. I think it’s cool to see a Christian historical fiction book series for young kids. 

Note: I received these books for free through Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Review: The New Recruit by Jill Williamson

Official Book Description:  The Mission League--Mission 1: Moscow Forced to choose between military school and a Christian spy organization, skeptic Spencer Garmond signs on with the Bible geeks. But before he even boards the plane for Moscow, Spencer realizes this is no Bible club. These guys mean business. Stumbling onto a case involving a gang of homeless boys, a chilling tattoo, and the always beautiful Anya Vseveloda, Spencer struggles to find the faith needed to save the Mission League from enemy infiltration.

My Review: The New Recruit (Mission 1: Moscow) by Jill Williamson is a unique twist on the spy genre. A Christian spy organization where spies memorize Bible verses, do mission work, help the homeless, etc. is a very creative idea.

My favorite character is Beth because she’s one tough girl. I do think she shouldn’t be punching the guys on her team (in the shoulder)–even if she doesn’t mean it in a bad way–it’s good for girls to know they can be tough without throwing their weight around/being aggressive unnecessarily (i.e. just because you can kick someone’s butt to Mars doesn’t mean you should :)). I understand that in books, to show a character’s personality, actions like hitting guys in the shoulder may be necessary and don’t get me wrong, I love that there’s a Christian girl in a book who can fight. It’s awesome! I just wanted to make a “real life” note to girls who want to be seen as tough; it’s enough that you know you are don’t need to flaunt your skills :). And by the way, I would love to take League Combat Training (LCT)!

I sympathized with the main character, Spencer Garmond, most of the time. (*spoiler alert* As a nitpicky note, I was disappointed in Spencer because as a 6'3'' athlete, he didn’t do a good job (in my opinion) of fighting back against his teammates when they tried to kidnap him for the drill. And in reality, a team leader would have to have a few screws lose to send students to kidnap teammates. If I didn’t know they were my teammates, I’d have fought back to the death–literally. If someone tried to kidnap me, I’d break their bones and/or hurt any other part of their body I had to. So unless the “attacking” teammates wear thick (preferably knife proof) padded clothing (and a cup), they really shouldn’t be sent on a drill like that. This is another “real life” doesn’t mean the writing is bad. It actually made for a very interesting scene in the book! And we find out Spencer is not a great fighter. *end of spoiler*)

My opinion on the other Mission League teens? Gabe and Arianna are nice and very missions-minded. Isabel comes across as very nice but terribly naive. I don’t think I ever quite figured out Jensina, Isaac, or Jake. And Nick is a certifiable jerk. And I would’ve sent him packing in a minute if I was in charge. Just saying.

Speaking of the leadership of the Mission League, I personally don’t like that they recruited Spencer since he’s not a Christian. I mean, it’s explained in the book but a real-life mission organization would (hopefully) not send a non-believer to do mission work so it still doesn’t quite sit right with me. It does make for an interesting book seeing the Mission League through the eyes of a skeptic, though. And as a side note, I wish there was a Mission League in real life.

These are all life principle things. The only critical thing I have to say about the actual writing is that there were several typos (missing letters/words/etc.) throughout the book that were distracting and sometimes jolted me out of the book as I tried to understand what the sentence meant.

I don’t know how much I can say about the plot without giving things away. The villains are very creepy, dark characters. I think it’s great how this book gives a glimpse into how cults try to lure people into their organization and then keep them in bondage. They make it sound appealing to join and then they don’t let people leave. That part of the book is very realistic. I think it’s cool that most of The New Recruit takes place in Moscow, Russia. It’s interesting to see Russian words/phrases sprinkled into the dialogue.

Wow, I don’t normally write reviews even close to this long which means this book made me think a lot. I thought about the characters and what I would do if I were in their shoes which is why there are the three “real life” notes above.

If you read The New Recruit, I’m sure you’ll have some thoughts of your own!

You can buy The New Recruit from Amazon, B&N, CBD, or directly from the publisher.

Note: I received this book for free from Team Novel Teen in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: NIV Rock Solid Study Bible for Teens

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 is:

Zondervan; Special edition (August 21, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


This all-new, full-featured NIV Bible is great for teens looking to grow their faith, increase meaning in their lives, and find hope for their future. The Rock Solid Bible for Teens is a timely guide for teens grappling with big questions about the world, their future, and their faith. Featuring the complete New International Version text, apologetics helps, hundreds of call-outs, and concrete promises for the future, the Rock Solid Bible provides firm traction for the development of beliefs and behavior rooted in the unchanging love, guidance, and promises of God.

Product Details:
List Price: $29.99

Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Hardcover: 1664 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; Special edition (August 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310723302
ISBN-13: 978-0310723301

My Review: The NIV Rock Solid Study Bible for Teens has features which include the following (taken from back cover):

Rock Solid TRUTHS: Examines Christian beliefs and explorations of other religions
Rock Solid PRINCIPLES: Applies the Bible to daily decisions and challenlges
Rock Solid PROMISES: Calls out what is (and is not) promised in the Bible
Rock Solid PLANS: Explores God's plan and will for your life
Unshaken PEOPLE: Provide scriptural examples of overcoming difficulties
Unshaken GOD: Points out God's unyielding attributes

The features can help make reading/studying the Bible more interesting. From what I have read so far, those who wrote the features know what they are talking about and are pretty "rock solid" themselves. My favorite feature is probably Rock Solid Principles because it applies the Bible to real-life situations (using fictional people).


Chapter will be placed up here soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

5 Ways to Have a NOT Boring Summer: #5--Hang Out With Your Siblings

From flickrCC    

#5: Hang Out With Your Siblings

This may take being creative or not being picky if you have wildly different interests from your siblings. I have two younger brothers and we generally like to do different things. However, we all enjoy playing video games and watching movies. So we do those things together. We quote movie lines often :). Also, most brothers like sports/being active outside. I'm normally happier reading a book or at a computer editing video. However, even if I'm not really into sports, I can watch my brothers play and join in sometimes.

For Intel's "A Momentary Lapse" video contest, both of our interests collided--in a good way! I was able to film my older younger brother playing basketball for the slow motion contest. You can view the video here:

(Please vote, too! You can vote once per day through Sept. 11th. Thank you!)

Did you like the video :)? What do you like to do with your siblings? Any fun ideas to share?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

5 Ways to Have a NOT Boring Summer: #4--Learn a New Skill

#4--Learn a new skill.

I've learned a couple of new skills this summer:

1. I have begun learning martial arts. I have always wanted to learn self defense and I am so happy to be able to take lessons now. It's great exercise, it's fun, and it may save my life some day. I definitely recommend Krav Maga as an effective martial art for real-life situations. It is not for children, though!

2. I learned how to create interactive photo albums/slideshows using My Memories Suite. By "interactive", I mean that viewers can click on a photo and a specific video or document or web page will pop up. I hope to share an interactive photo album I've made on my blog in the future. 

What new skill(s) have you learned? What skill(s) do you want to learn? 

And just for fun, what is your most prized skill?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

5 Ways to Have a NOT Boring Summer: #3--Volunteer

#3: Volunteer

This actually applies year round. We do generally have more time available to volunteer during the summer, though :).

Here are a few ideas:

1. Volunteer at your church. Most churches have a list of opportunities for volunteers (i.e. places they need more help). This could range from assisting the audiovisual department to playing with kids in children's ministry (I have learned a lot about toddlers :)). These are most likely year round positions. Volunteering with VBS would be a temporary position.

2. Become a Global Media Outreach (GMO) online missionary. This is a wonderful opportunity for mature Christians who have a solid foundation in God's Word and hopefully, apologetics as well. I'm not saying that the online missionaries know everything but they should have a firm grasp of correct theology. GMO will put you in a training community when you first join and will teach you how to use their email system and respond to contacts. In addition, there are great resources available to help with answering tough questions such as I love being able to mentor/disciple/encourage people all over the world...from my home!

3. Search for volunteer opportunities on a website such as Volunteer Match. There are even virtual volunteering opportunities. I was able to assemble a video for a small non-profit in a different state through this website. (Note: I do not necessarily endorse the information posted on this website and/or opportunities you may find on it.)

What about you? Are you interested in volunteering? If you already are volunteering, where/how do you volunteer? Do you have any ideas to add? I'd love to hear them!

Feel free to check out the introduction, first post, and second post of this series. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Hide And Seek by Major (Ret) Jeff Struecker and Alton Gansky

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 authors are:

and the book:

B&H Books (July 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group, Inc for sending me a review copy.***

Jeff Struecker was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa. At age 18, he enlisted the US Army as an infantryman and retired as a Chaplain with over 22 years of active federal service. He currently serves as Associate Pastor of Ministry Development at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, GA. Throughout his career Jeff has attended numerous professional military schools and has received many awards and commendations. His combat experience includes participation in Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Iris Gold in Kuwait, Operation Gothic Serpent, in Mogadishu, Somalia, and multiple tours in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jeff holds a Master of Divinity Degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, a Bachelor of Science Degree and Associate of Science Degree from Troy University in Alabama. Jeff and his wife, Dawn, have five children: Aaron, Jacob, Joseph, Abigail and Lydia.
Visit the author's website.

Alton L. Gansky is the author of 23 novels and 7 nonfiction works, as well as principle writer of 7 novels and 2 nonfiction books. He has been a Christie Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies. He lives in central California with his wife.

Visit the author's website.


Amelia Lennon no longer wears a uniform or carries a weapon. An Army trained Foreign Affairs Officer, she's negotiating a dispute with the Kyrgyzstan government that threatens to leave the U.S. without an airbase in that region. She traded her gun for the power of words, but now she needs both. While following her government contact-Jildiz Oskonbaeva, the lawyer daughter of Kyrgyzstan's president-Amelia witnesses an attempt to abduct her. She manages to prevent the kidnapping, but now the two women are on the run in a city that's erupting into chaos.

Master Sergeant J.J. Bartley is the Special Operations team leader tasked to rescue Amelia and Jildiz. With two new members in his unit-one with a secret that could endanger everyone's life-J.J. must soldier his unit through crazed mobs intent on overthrowing the government. Back home, his pregnant wife is misinformed that her husband and the team have been killed. But before this is over, Bartley will find out that's the least of his problems.

My Review:

Hide and Seek by Major (Ret) Jeff Struecker and Alton Gansky is an awesome novel!

This book is exciting. It involves the military (special operations!). I can tell it was written by a Christian but it’s not preachy. What’s not to like?

I have nothing negative to say about this novel except that the writers need a better proofreader/editor because there were some obvious typos and those can jolt you out of the story but that is easily forgiven when the book is so great :).

I especially loved the chemistry between the team members and I “get” their sense of humor. I looked forward to the scenes with J.J.’s team.

There is a list of military acronyms/abbreviations at the beginning of the book. I was familiar with a few but was happy to learn what the others stood for. I am so glad that one of the authors of this book actually served in the Army Rangers. It gives the book a “real” feeling.

If you like books in the thriller and/or military genre, I think you’ll really like Hide And Seek.

Here is the cool trailer:

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Books (July 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433671425
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433671425 


    43.050278°N 74.469444°E
    Transit Center at Manas (formerly Manas Air Base), outside
    Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
    June 6

    The mess hall was deserted. Master Sergeant J.J. Bartley sat alone at a long, well-worn table that had seen thousands of airmen, soldiers, and marines pause from their work long enough to pound down some grub before returning to their duties. On the table rested a chipped plastic coffee cup and two file folders. The expansive room seemed twice the size J.J. remembered the last time he passed through the air base. Of course the room was full of hungry service men then, many headed to Afghanistan. That was Manass primary role over the last decade: the jumping-off spot for troops headed to hostile country.
    As an Army ranger he did two tours of duty in Afghanistan before being hand-selected by Sergeant Major Eric Moyer to be part of a unique spec ops team. He made several other missions into the country as part of that squad, including one he was sure would be his last moment on earth. As it turned out, a pair of F-18s came to the rescue of the six-man unit as they fought off overwhelming numbers of Taliban fighters advanc- ing on their position. The jet jockeys saved their lives by drop- ping a pair of ICM bombs on their location. The (Improved Conventional Munition) bombs exploded fifteen feet above their heads leaving the ground littered with dead Taliban and a ringing in J.J.s ears that took a week to go away.
    That seemed a lifetime ago. Since then, as the sniper and explosives expert for his team, he traveled to a dozen different places on the planet, none of which he was allowed to name and carried out missions he was forbidden to speak about.
    Stare all you want, Boss, but that coffee ain’t going to do any tricks.
    J.J. didn’t have to look up to know Jose Doc Medina was approaching. He raised his gaze anyway and returned the med- ic’s smile. Jose was a solid man with a keen mind, quick humor, and a admirable steadiness. If the sky were to rip in half and a million aliens ships from another dimension appeared ready to take over the world, J.J. was sure Jose would look up and say, Well, look at that. A man doesn’t see that every day. J.J. liked the man for another reason. In addition to his being a superior soldier he also saved J.J.s life after a gun battle. He owed the man several pizza’s for that.
    Hey Doc, where you been?”
    They have a great rec. hall here. I was shooting pool with the Air Force guys. He pulled out a chair and sat.
    All in the name of inter-service fun, no doubt. J.J. lifted his cup. The coffee was cold.
    Of course. You know I believe we should respect all branches of the military, even the inferior, less skilled ones.
    How much?”

    You heard me.
    Jose shrugged. Maybe a couple of twenties.
    “Each. Jose pretended to look guilty. “How many airmen did you fleece?”
    Oh, who keeps track of such things? I was just killing time.
    J.J. narrowed his eyes. Okay, just four. My conscious was beginning to bother me.
    Lucky for them. He put the cup down. Seen Pete and
    Not since Crispin gave his little demonstration. He did a good job. I was impressed and I’ve seen his tech kung-fu in the field. All those itty-bitty surveillance drones were a hit. Left the local tech boys drooling.
    Yeah, I was there, but I haven’t seen them since.
    Do you need them. Ill go round em up.
    Nah. Just as long as theyre front-and-center when the new guys arrive.
    Ah, thats it.
    J.J. cocked his head. Whats it?”
    You look down, Boss, like you’ve lost your favorite girl friend.
    My favorite girlfriend. You know Im married. Tess won’t let me have girlfriends.
    Jose slumped in his chair. Wives are funny that way. My wife won’t let me date either. He paused to let the quip die before establishing a more somber tone. “I miss them too.
    “I didn’t say anything about missing anyone.” “I was listening to your face.
    Sometimes you confuse me, Doc.

    Jose chuckled. You know what they say about Hispanics: were inscrutable.
    “I thought that referred to Asians in old movies.
    Eh, Asians, Hispanics, whatever. Another pause. Youre thinking about Boss and Shaq.
    Theyre home safe and sound. Im not worried about them. Images of the team’s former leader and second-in-com- mand strobed in his mind. Last he saw them, they looked well and happy. He could hardly tell both were severely wounded and the latter lost an eye. Both retired shortly after the mission in eastern Siberia and took jobs with a civilian security firm.
    “I didn’t say you were worried about them. I think youre worried because theyre not here. You went from team mem- ber to Boss in short order. Theres gotta be some psychological whiplash in that.
    Psychological whiplash? They teach you that at Fort Sam Houston?”
    Nope. Medic training taught me many things but not much psychology. Life, on the other hand, has taught me a ton.
    Okay, Doc. Whats eating me?”
    Jose sat up and leaned forward on the table. Nothing bad, Boss. Youre just being human.
    “I don’t think Ill ever get used to being called Boss. Every time someone calls me that I think of Moyer.
    You’ll get the hang of it. Jose paused. “Can we talk like a couple of old buddies?”
    Thats what we are, Jose.
    Well, at least in here. Anyone else walks in this room and
    Ill go back to being formal.
    The corner of J.J.s mouth inched up. You have a formal side?”
    “Im nothing if not a model of Army decorum. He inched closer to the table as if he were about to whisper a secret. His volume remained the same. “Okay, heres how I see it. We are creatures of training. We enlist and start at the lowest rank. Time in service and experience lead to promotions. We have a good idea how thats going to progress. You’ve just been pushed up the ladder faster than expected. The view is different up there.
    So now you’ve be selected to take over for a man we admire and respect. Hes a one in a million. Hes got it all: brains, courage, loyalty, and a soldiers sixth sense. He left under tough circumstances. Nearly lost his daughter to kidnappers trying to sway him in his mission. Took a beating. Nearly died. To hear him tell it, he did die and came back. His cover was blown so his usefulness as field operative was gone and thats all he ever wanted to do.
    He is a great man. Taught me more about soldiering than basic, AIT, and Ranger training combined. A wave of sadness ran over J.J. “I can’t be Eric Moyer, Doc. In my mind, he will always be Boss.
    But hes not J.J. He was team leader. Now youre the man. No one is asking you to be Eric Moyer. The Army—the team—wants you to be you.
    Is that enough?”
    Jose straightened and stared into J.J.s eyes. It is in my book.
    Its not that Im afraid—”
    Youd better be afraid. I don’t trust a man who says hes not afraid. Such men are either liars or lunatics.
    J.J. raised an eyebrow. Really? And which am I?”
    Youre neither. I’ve seen you afraid and you’ve never been braver. You can do this, J.J. I got your six. You know that. Pete danced a jig when he heard of your promotion. At least I think it was a jig. The man has no rhythm.

    J.J. laughed. You got that right. First time I saw him bust a move I thought he was being electrocuted.
    Jose chuckled then the grin evaporated. Seriously J.J., Im proud to follow you into battle. Don’t doubt yourself and don’t doubt us. Besides, if you screw up, Moyer will kick your butt then turn on me for not straightening you out.
    Theres a terrifying thought. J.J. gazed into the black fluid in his cup. More than self doubt was eating at him but he endured all the pep talk he could. Jose seemed to sense it.
    You happy with the new guys?” The medic motioned to the personnel jackets.
    Yeah, as much as I can be. Its hard to judge a man’s char- acter from notes on evaluation forms. Both are experienced and decorated. Seen lots of action, mostly in the last half of Iraq and in the wind down of Afghanistan. Both Rangers. One comes in at the same rank as me: Master Sergeant. Hes got six months on me as well.
    Doesn’t matter, J.J., youre team leader. He’ll know that.
    He’ll also know that I was frocked. I have the extra stripe
    but not the official promotion and pay.
    Its just a matter of time, J.J. You know once theres some head room, you’ll get the full promotion and maybe more. Its all a numbers game. There are scores of soldiers work- ing at a higher rank than the Army is allowed to give them. Functionally, youre the man, and Ill fight with any man who disagrees.
    Youre a pal, but you may want to hold on to the boast for awhile.
    You’ll see.
    The door to the mess hall opened and a skinny airman stepped into the dim space, saw them, then walked to the table. Master Sergeant Bartley. I’ve been asked to tell you the transport plane you’ve been waiting for has touched down. Its pulling to the tarmac now.
    J.J. glanced at the rank insignia on the man’s upper sleeve: one strip and an Air Force star in a circle. Thank you, Airman. I would like to meet the plane. Can you get me there?”
    “I was told to have a vehicle waiting.
    J.J. stood, lifted the cold coffee to his lips and drank. He grimaced.Where did the Air Force learn to make coffee?”
    The young airman remained straight-faced: From the navy.
    Figures. He set the cup down. Gather the team, Doc.