Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Machine by Bill Myers

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:

B&H Kids (September 1, 2013)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bill Myers is an accomplished writer and film director whose work has won more than sixty national and international awards including the C. S. Lewis Honor Award. Among his best-selling
releases for kids are The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle and The Forbidden Door. He has sold more than eight million books and videos and lives with two cats, two kids, one dog, and one
wife near Hollywood, California.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

For ages 10 to 14, Truth Seekers is a fast-paced, thoughtful, and funny new series using a 21st century approach to sharing ancient Bible truths.

In book one, The Machine, twin siblings Jake and Jennifer have just lost their mother and are not thrilled about moving to Israel to stay with their seldom seen archaeologist dad. They don't yet understand how "all things work together for good to those who love God." But they will when a machine their father invented points them to the Truth.


Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Age Range: 10 - 14 years
Series: Truth Seekers
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: B&H Kids (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433690802
ISBN-13: 978-1433690808


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

It was like a dream, but not really. I mean it was a dream but there were parts that seemed so real—besides the parts where Mom had actually died in real life. Does that make sense? I get those every once in a while, dreams that are more real than real, ever since I was a kid.



Anyway, in the dream Mom was driving our SUV up the steep, winding road to our home in Malibu Canyon.



Jake and I were in the back, sitting in our clearly designated seating areas . . .



Jake in his WARNING: Biological Hazard Zone, complete with empty Cheetos bags, crumpled McDonald wrappers (which had last seen action months ago), his wadded up T-shirt and crusty socks (which had last seen a washer longer than that), and don’t even get me started on the last time he shampooed his hair.



I, on the other hand, sat in the WELCOME: This is How Normal People Live Zone, complete with breathable air and a place to sit without catching some deadly disease. (Jake accuses me of being a Neat Freak. Maybe, but it’s better than being a toxic waste site.)



And where was our dear father in all of this? To be honest, he seldom shows up in my dreams—just like he seldom shows up in our real lives. Oh, he says he loves us and all, but what’s the saying? Actions are louder than words. Anyway, I’ll get to him a little later.



It was the same dream I’d had a hundred times before . . .



I was busy doing homework when I glanced up to see a monster truck coming around the corner in our lane.



“Mom!” I shouted. “Look out!”



“What’s that?” She reached over to turn down the radio—one of her silly Country-Western songs about some girl breaking some guy’s heart.



“Up ahead! Look out!”



But she didn’t look out. And, just like all the other times, I saw the truck heading towards us, blasting its horn. I’m guessing his brakes had failed by the way he was scraping along the mountainside to slow himself. A good idea, except the mountainside was on our side!



Mom had nowhere to go. She swerved to the outer lane then tried to turn back, but she’d run out of road. We crashed through the guardrail and sailed out over the can- yon floor, which was a good two hundred feet below. There was no sound. I could see Mom screaming but heard only silence—except for that Country-Western singer going on about his broken heart.



I spun to Jake but he didn’t even glance up. He was too busy playing his stupid computer game. Then, just when the singer reached the line, Why you stompin’ on my achin’ heart with your high heel boots, we hit the water with a huge splash.



And this is where things get interesting . . .

In the real world, on the day Mom died, there was no water at the bottom of the canyon. It was September and the stream had dried up. And while we’re doing a reality check, Jake and I weren’t even in the car that day. Jake had been at the beach being Mr. Cool with a bunch of girls, and I was at home doing my algebra. (I know I’m only seventh grade, but besides being a neat freak, I’m kind of a workaholic.)



But in the dream there was plenty of water and the SUV kept sinking deeper and deeper with all three of us inside. Well, actually four, if you count the Country- Western singer who was now sitting in the front passenger seat, strumming his guitar!



Water poured in and quickly rose. Mom tried opening her door, but it wouldn’t budge. She hit it with her shoulder over and over again, but the pressure of the water outside was too much. It began swirling around our waists and rising to our chests.



“Jenny,” Mom shouted, “roll down your window!” “It’ll flood us worse!” I yelled.



“It’s the only way. Roll down your window and swim out!”



“But—”



“Hurry!”



I threw a look to Jake who had conveniently disappeared. (Even in my dreams, he’s a slacker.)

“Hurry!”



I rolled down the window. More water roared in, pounding against my chest and face. I had to turn my head just to breathe. Then I grabbed the sides of the open window with my hands, turned my head away for another quick breath, and pulled myself out into the water.



I kicked and swam until I grabbed the SUV and pulled myself over to Mom’s door. By now the car was completely filled. Our faces were inches apart, separated only by her window. I yanked at the door handle. It didn’t budge. I tried again. Nothing. My lungs started aching for air, but I kept pulling and tugging as Mom kept pushing and banging.



Still, nothing.



My heart pounded in my ears. My lungs felt like they were on fire. The outside edges of my vision started going white. Mom pounded on the glass. I joined in and hit the window with my fists. When that didn’t work, I tucked in my feet, raised my legs and kicked it. Still nothing. My lungs were screaming for air. My vision grew whiter. I had to get a breath. I pointed to the surface and shouted, “I’ll be back!”



She nodded and I pushed off, my lungs ready to explode. Sparkly lights danced through my head. I was losing consciousness, I was going to pass out, I was—



Then I broke through the surface, coughing and gasping. Cool air soothed my lungs as I gulped in two, three, maybe four breaths. I forced my head to clear, then took one more breath and ducked back down into the water.



It was dark and murky but I could follow the bubbles. The SUV had settled to the bottom of the river. When I reached the roof, I pulled myself over to Mom’s side. She wasn’t moving.



“MOM!”



I yanked at the door. I slammed it. I kicked it. I had to get her out. The door gave, ever so slightly. I pulled harder. It moved some more, then it opened with a groaning CREAK.



I grabbed Mom’s arm and pulled, but she was stuck. I spotted her seat belt and reached down to unbuckle it. My lungs were crying out for air again as I pulled her from the car. But we’d barely started before we were jerked to a stop. I turned and saw that something like a shadow had grabbed her other arm. At first I thought it was the Country-Western singer. I pulled but it held her tight. It was like a tug of war game, me on one arm, the shadow man on the other. And the harder I pulled—this was even weirder—but the harder I pulled, the more he started turning into this shadowy creature that kept growing bigger and bigger with huge, bat-like wings.



This is a dream, I kept telling myself, this is only a dream!



But my lungs were on fire. My vision was going all white again. This time I would not leave. I’d stay here and die with her if I had to, but I would not leave.



The pounding in my ears grew louder, filling my head . . . along with the song. That’s right, the singer or shadow or whatever it was, had begun singing again. Maybe it had never stopped:



I’ll never let you go . . . you will always be mine . . . always be mine . . . always be mine.



Well, Mr. Shadow could guess again. Dream or no dream, he could not have her.



Always be mine . . . always be mine . . .



My vision was totally white now. My mind shutting down. I could no longer feel my hands or my legs. I knew I was dying, but I would not let go. I loved her too much, I would never let go. The shadow thing may have won, but—



And then I heard a shout. “Augh!”



It sounded like Jake. But that was impossible. What would Jake be doing down here? I heard him again, even louder.



“AUGH!”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Review: NIV College Bible


I was excited to get the chance to review the NIV College Devotional Bible. I'm leaving for college this month and taking this with me!

Its features include:
222 school-year devotions with daily insights on and applications to relevant topics
Devotions use a unique storytelling approach to connect God's Word with your real-life questions, struggles, and decisions as a student
Subject index for looking up topics of interest
Etc.

In the back, there are different reading plans including: One Year Through The Bible, 60-Day Overview Of The Bible, 30 Days For Beginning Your Walk With Christ, 30 Days With Jesus, 20 Not-So-Famous Bible Stories, 30 Days With Paul, 30 Days Of Promises, 30 Days Of Leadership, 30 Days Of Knowing God, and 30 Stories Of Great Faith.

I personally miss the 1984 NIV version because I memorized lots of verses from it and the new version doesn't sound the same. But I still plan to take this College Bible with me because of its interesting devotionals that I can read throughout the school year.

Obviously, I'm not reviewing the Bible itself, I'm simply reviewing the version/extra features. I give the NIV College Devotional Bible four stars.

~I received a copy of this Bible for free through Booksneeze/Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 6, 2013

College!


In less than 3 weeks, I will be living on this campus as a freshman. I was actually accepted to go to Oregon State University back in October 2012 but I didn't get around to posting about it :). I am really looking forward to studying Digital Communication Arts (with a production specialty)!


I am very excited. After two gap years, I am ready to hit the books full-time! The library on campus (part of it is shown in the picture above) has 2 million books!


I was able to tour OSU in January of this year (when the pictures were taken) and then I attended START orientation in June so I've been on campus twice so far. It was fun to get to look around and learn more about different buildings.


Go Beavs!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review: Whispers from the Shadows by Roseanna M. White

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:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Roseanna M. White is the author of several novels, as well as the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, and the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When Gwyneth Fairchild flees London to save her life, she ends up under the care of Thaddeus Lane in Baltimore. Though their hearts turn to each other, Gwyn and Thad are on opposite sides of the War of 1812. What is God’s plan for them when the war is over?


Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Culper Ring Series (Book 2)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736951016
ISBN-13: 978-0736951012

My Review:
Whispers from the Shadows by Roseanna M. White is a sweet love story. I like how each character has his or her own distinct personality. I like being inspired all over again by the spirit and patriotism of the American people. There were a couple twists in the story that totally took me by surprise! Whispers from the Shadows is a wonderful sequel to Ring of Secrets.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

London, England

April 1814

The servants hefting her trunks onto the carriage might as well have been loading her coffin. Gwyneth Fairchild pulled her pelisse close and gazed across Hanover Square with a sick feeling in her stomach. Surely she would awaken from this nightmare and walk down to the breakfast room to find Papa smiling at her. He would speak and say something that actually made sense.

Not like yesterday.

She shut her eyes against the image of all that was familiar, all that she might never see again. What if the Scribe went down? Was attacked by a renegade French ship or those dreadful American pirates? What if, assuming she made it to Annapolis, they killed her the moment she stepped ashore?

Annapolis. Had Papa not looked so sorrowful, so determined when he said that word yesterday, she would have thought he had gone mad.

His hand settled on her shoulder now, warm and large. Those hands had steadied her all her life. Capable, that was what General Isaac Fairchild had always been. Capable and steady and so very noble. All that was worthy of love and respect. So surely she could trust him now when logic and reason said she couldn’t.

“I know it makes little sense to you, dear heart.” He touched her chin, a silent bid for her to look at him. She found his eyes gleaming with moisture he would never shed. Not when anyone could see him, though she had heard his heartrending sobs when Mama died last fall. “I wish there were another way, but there is not.”

Another way for what? He hadn’t said, wouldn’t say. Gwyneth drew in a tremulous breath and tried to stand tall and proud, the way Mama had taught her, the way Papa himself had instilled. To convey with her posture that she was the great-granddaughter of a duke, the granddaughter of two earls, the daughter of a general.

A daughter sent into exile for no apparent reason. Separated from all those she loved, the only people left in the world who mattered. “Papa—”

“I know.” He leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I do. But I cannot entrust you to anyone but the Lanes.”

A light mist descended, heavier than fog but too tame to be called rain. At this moment, a thunderstorm would have better matched her confusion. “Please tell me what is happening. Why must you entrust me to anyone? And if you must, why not Aunt Poole or Aunt Gates?”

His jaw moved for a moment but no words came. Nay, he simply looked past her, his eyes searching for something unseen. Then he sighed. “The Lanes will welcome you and take care of you, Gwyn. I will follow as quickly as I can. A month at the outside. No more.”

Exactly what he said yesterday too. He would give no explanation as to why he was sending her to a nation with whom they were at war, across the Atlantic to a family she had met only once, when she was but a tot.

“Papa, your words hint at danger, but what could threaten me here more than the sea and its pirates? The French, the Americans?”

“The French ought to pose no threat now that we’ve subdued them.” He reached inside his coat of blazing red and pulled out an envelope. “In all likelihood your ship will reach harbor safely, but if by chance you do encounter American privateers, offer them this.”

She frowned as she took the envelope. It was too thin to contain anything but a single sheet of paper. “What—”

“Trust me. ’Twill suffice.” Chatter from the house grew louder, and Papa looked away again, to the nearing housekeeper and gardener. “There are the Wesleys. Time to go.”

A million arguments sprang to her tongue. She didn’t want to leave. Not her home, not him, not all she held dear. Not her first Season, the one that had been put off because of Mama’s illness last year. Not her friends.

And what about Sir Arthur? She hadn’t even spoken to him to tell him she was leaving, hadn’t dared send a note. “Papa, Sir Arthur…”

“It isn’t to be, Gwyn, not now. Perhaps when this has passed, when it is safe for you to return.”

Tears burned, begging to be set loose, but she clenched her teeth and blinked. How had it come to this? Promise had finally shone its light again. Shopping with Aunt Gates had made it feel as though Mama were with her still. Making the rounds with her friends had finally distracted her from the loss. Getting vouchers for Almack’s, and then Sir Arthur’s court—she had, at long last, looked forward to the future.

“Please don’t cry, dear heart.” Papa thumbed away a wily tear that escaped her blockade and kissed her forehead again. “Up with you, now. You must be at the docks soon.”

Instead, she surged forward and wrapped her arms around him. “I don’t want to leave you, Papa. I can’t. Don’t make me go. Or come with me.”

He held her close. “Would that I could. Would that I didn’t have to bid goodbye, yet again, to the one who matters most.” He gave her another squeeze, another kiss, and then he set her back. His eyes were rimmed with red. “I love you, Gwyneth. Go with God.”

He let her go and pivoted on his heel, all but charging back into the house. She almost wished she could resent him, but how could she, seeing his struggle? Whatever his reasons, they must be valid.

And whatever his reasons, they must be dire. A shiver coursed up her spine and made the mist seem colder. Isaac Fairchild was a respected general, a man loved by all. A man of considerable sway in London and beyond. If there were something frightening enough that he must send her away, was planning on leaving himself—

And for America, no less. Would he be going there to take command of troops? Possibly. Though why would he be secretive about it? But then, there was much about Papa’s work he could not discuss. Secrets, always secrets.

“All’s secure, Miss Fairchild,” the driver called down from the bench.

She slipped the envelope into her reticule and took a step toward the Wesleys. They, at least, would provide familiar faces for the journey. They would be an anchor on the foreign seas.

Quick hoofbeats snagged her attention. “Miss Fairchild!”

Her eyes went wide when she saw the dashing figure astride the horse. Sir Arthur reined to a halt beside the carriage and leaped down, fervor ablaze in his eyes.

“Miss Fairchild.” He gripped her hands as he searched her face with his gaze. He had the loveliest brown eyes, so warm and beckoning, the perfect fit to his straight nose and sculpted mouth. “Is it true, then? Broffield just told me that Miss Gregory said you were leaving Town.”

“I…” He was holding her hands. Sir Arthur Hart, Knight of the Order of Saint Patrick, presumed heir to a viscountcy, the most sought-after bachelor in England, grasped her fingers as if he never intended to let go. The mass of confusion inside twisted. “Yes, it is true. My father…”

He eased closer, his gaze so compelling she feared she might drown in it. “Something to do with military business, then? You will return soon?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think Papa knows.”

“Dear Miss Fairchild. Gwyneth.” His fingers tightened around hers, much like the band around her chest. Never before had he spoken her given name. Hearing it in his rich tenor, spoken with such affection, made her fear her tears would overcome her after all. “Why must you go with him? Can you not stay here with your aunt?”

Her attempt at swallowing got stuck in her throat. “I am all Papa has now since my mother passed away, and he is loath to be separated.” True, so true. Why, then, was he sending her an ocean away to a hostile land?

“But surely there is a way to convince him. What if…” He paused and then swallowed before using their joined hands to pull her closer. “What if you were betrothed?”

Her heart quickened inside her, beating a desperate tattoo against her ribs. Would that change anything? Could it? “I…don’t know.”

“Gwyneth.” Oh, he made her name into music. The breeze toyed with his honey-colored hair under the brim of his hat, making her itch to touch the curls. “My darling, I have such a love and admiration for you. If you would feel inclined toward accepting my hand, I will speak with your father this very moment.”

At first all she could think was He proposed! Then she drew in a quick breath and nodded with too much enthusiasm. “Of course I am inclined if he agrees. Only…” She drew away when he moved closer still, recalling Papa’s discomposure mere minutes before. “Let me speak with him first, as he was out of countenance.”

“Certainly. Yes. Anything.” He laughed and raised her hands to kiss her knuckles. As if surprised she had said yes. “I will take a turn through your garden to try to calm myself.”

“Perfect.” If only she could be sure Papa would agree. If only she could be sure that, if not, Sir Arthur would wait for her. She pulled away, but he snagged her hand again.

“Gwyneth. Darling.” He smiled, so bright and handsome it made her doubt trouble could exist. “I will make you very happy.”

A smile stole onto her lips. It melted away again in a moment, but he had turned toward the garden by then.

Mrs. Wesley snagged her attention with a shooing motion toward the door. “You had better hurry, love. If the general does not change his mind, we must hasten on our way.”

Gwyneth flew through the mist up the steps to the door and back into the house. For a moment she paused to breathe in home, but she hadn’t time to savor it. If her mission went well, she needn’t say goodbye to it at all.

Please, Lord. Please let him relent.

She sped down the hallway and around the corner toward Papa’s study. He always ended up there, either busy at work or staring at the picture of Mama she’d painted for him. A professional portrait hung in the drawing room, but he said she had done the better job. Praise which always made her heart expand.

The study door was before her by the time she realized voices spilled out. Two of them—though when had anyone else arrived? Surely no servant would dare speak over Papa like this.

“Isaac, listen to yourself!”

Gwyneth froze a step from the door. It was open a crack, letting her look in, though only the corner of the desk was visible, and just behind it, where Papa stood. But she recognized Uncle Gates’s voice.

“‘Isaac’ now, is it?” Papa’s laugh sounded dry. “Odd how you only remember our familial ties when we disagree. Otherwise it is always my rank to which you appeal.”

A loud bang made Gwyneth jump. Uncle’s fist connecting with wood, perhaps? “Blast it, Fairchild, it’s your rank you are abusing!”

“No! ’Tis my rank I honor. Someone, Gates, must do what is right. Someone must stand for justice rather than—”

“Hang all that noble rot.” A nasty curse spilled from Uncle Gates’s lips as glass shattered. Gwyneth recoiled, staring in horror at the sliver of room. What keepsake had he destroyed? The vase Mama had chosen two years ago? The small porcelain figure Gwyneth had given Papa for his birthday when she was fifteen? Something precious, for only the most special pieces gained a place of honor on Papa’s shelves.

And why? Why would Mama’s own brother do such a thing?

He sent something else toppling. “You are undermining years of careful work! The Home Office—”

“The Home Office, you say?” Papa leaned forward onto his desk, a look of deathly calm upon his face. “Nay. The Home Office has decent men in it yet. A few, at least, though you are not one of them. This evil must be stopped, Gates. You must be stopped.”

There came a shuffling sound, one Gwyneth couldn’t comprehend but which made Papa snap upright. Made him lift his hands, palms out, and make a placating motion. “Gates—”

“I am through reasoning with you, Fairchild. Tell me where they are. Now.”

One of Papa’s hands lowered toward his desk drawer, but another shuffle made him pause. “I am only—”

“You think me so great a fool? I already removed that, dear brother.” More curses exploded from Uncle Gates. Closer now, as though he were rounding the desk, just out of her view. “Tell me where they are!”

Papa’s sharp inhalation was clearly audible. “Gone.”

“Gone? Gone? What do you mean, gone?”

“Just that. Out of my hands and on their way to those who can put a stop to this before you destroy two nations in the name of avarice.”

A cry tore through the room, guttural and animalistic. Light flashed on something metallic as her uncle charged into view, the gleaming length held before him. Still, she had no idea what he wielded until she saw the silver stained red.

She pressed her hands to her mouth to hold back the scream, hold back the horror, but it didn’t help. Uncle still hissed words of hatred. Papa still staggered back, away from the blade. Then he crumpled and fell.

Gates followed him down, muttering, “You couldn’t have, not yet. You must have it.” His hands shoved into Papa’s jacket and searched.

Papa, fight back! But he didn’t. He gasped, seemed to struggle for a moment, and then went lax. No. No, no, no, no, no!

Did she bleed too? She must. She couldn’t move, couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t be. Not anymore.

When Papa’s head lolled to the side, he blinked and his gaze focused on her. There was life yet in those familiar depths, but it flickered. Sputtered. “Gwyneth.”

She didn’t hear it. She just saw the movement of his lips. But her uncle, tossing Papa’s case of calling cards into the wall, snarled. “Now you worry about your darling daughter? Oh, have no fear, Fairchild. Dear Uncle Gates will take care of our precious girl.”

Bile burned her throat.

Papa blinked again as he tried to pull in a breath that choked him. Again his gaze sharpened, caught hers. This time when his lips moved, he made no sound whatsoever. Run!

Then it was gone, all the light in his eyes. Extinguished like a flame left before an open window.

And she ran. She turned on silent slippers and fled back around the corner and down the hall. Out the doors and straight into the waiting carriage.

“Gwyneth? Miss Fairchild?”

All she noted of the voice was that it wasn’t Uncle Gates’s. Nothing
else mattered. Seeing that the Wesleys were already seated, their eyes now wide, Gwyneth pulled the door shut herself. “Go!”

An eternal second later, the driver’s “Yah!” reached her ears, and the carriage jolted forward.

When she closed her eyes, all she could see was darkness yawning before her.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Movie Review: Planes

 
Planes was a really fun movie to watch! It's about a crop dusting plane named Dusty who wants to race in an around-the-world flying competition. It is set "above the world of Cars". In my opinion, it blew both Cars and Cars 2 out of the water. I loved the humor in Planes. The characters were interesting. The score fit well. And it was cute to see Disney's representation of different countries around the world.  

The short scenes with fighter jets and an aircraft carrier were really cool. I want a military themed Disney movie. Who's with me on that :)?

Planes was an all-around enjoyable underdog story. I recommend it!

To check out trailers, clips, and more, go to http://disney.com/FlewTuben

You can also...

“Like” Disney’s PLANES on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DisneyPlanes
 
"Follow" Disney’s PLANES on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DisneyPictures
 
Visit the website: www.disney.com/Planes
 
Special thanks to Allied-THA for the chance to attend an advance screening of Planes for free in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Book Review: What's Your Mark? by Jeremy Cowart

 

What's Your Mark? by Jeremy Cowart and Annie F. Downs (she's the one who did the interviews) is a neat little book with pictures and short stories about different real-life people and how they are making their mark on the world. I had not heard of most of them but I was very familiar with Katie Davis and the amazing work God has been doing through her in Uganda. "What mark am I leaving on the world?" is a question I think everyone should ask themselves. God has given us one life to live...how are we living it? What's Your Mark? is a nice little read but I don't think the author(s) needed to include the Gospel of Mark. We can read the Gospel of Mark in our Bibles. I would have preferred ideas for readers to implement in their own lives, websites to check out, etc. Still, I think this book would make a great graduation gift.

~I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson/Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review: 7 Steps To Knowing, Doing and Experiencing The Will of God For Teens

7 Steps To Knowing, Doing and Experiencing The Will of God For Teens by Tom, Mike, and Daniel Blackaby is based on the Experiencing God teachings. They're trying to help teens experience a personal loving relationship with God, know His will, and do His will.

The 7 Steps are:
1. God Is Always at Work around You
2. God Pursues a Love Relationship with You
3. God Invites You to Become Involved with Him In His Work
4. God Speaks by the Holy Spirit
5. God's Invitation Leads to a Crisis of Belief
6. Adjustments
7. You Come to Know God by Experience as You Obey Him, and He Accomplishes His Work through You

The personal stories by Tom, Mike, and Dan were interesting. Sprinkled throughout the book are several one page stories about different people such as George Mueller and The Great Blondin which are used to illustrate a lesson. At the end of each chapter, there are a few questions with space for you to write down your answers. Examples include "Is there something you are passionate about that God may want to use for His purposes?" and "Have you bought into the lie of TV love? What things in your life need to change if you desire to exchange that love for real love?" Overall, it's a nice book that will make you think and hopefully want to experience God more!


~I received a free copy of this book from Shelton Interactive in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Movie Review: Monsters University

    (My brothers have this poster taped up in their room.)

Monsters University is the fun prequel to Monsters, Inc. I watched Monsters, Inc. as a kid and now I was given the chance to watch Monsters University as I'm about to head out to university this fall...pretty cool! Disney Pixar is not only extremely talented in animation but they are also known for their storytelling abilities and their movies are a pleasure to watch. Now I don't want to give away any spoilers but from the trailer(s), you can tell that Mike and Sulley did not get along at first. Throw in a group of misfits and it's an underdog story for sure. Who doesn't like to root for the underdog?

Fun fact: My university's main indoor meeting place is the Memorial Union which is abbreviated MU. And the main outdoor meeting place is the MU Quad. As I was watching the movie and things around the Monsters University campus were labeled "MU", I thought of OSU. I wonder what other Oregon State students think about that :).

There is a Pixar short film that plays before Monsters University. It's called The Blue Umbrella and I loved it! It was so creative and the music fit really well with it. Wonderfully done silent storytelling!

For cool Monsters University downloads, photos, and videos, check out:
http://www.wdsmediafile.com/disney/monstersuniversity/.

You can also...

“Like” MONSTERS UNIVERSITY on Facebook: http://facebook.com/PixarMonstersUniversity 
 
"Follow" Disney/Pixar on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DisneyPixar
 
And visit the website: http://www.Disney.com/MonstersU

Special thanks to Allied-THA for the chance to attend an advance screening of Monsters University for free in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 27, 2013

AFROTC



Today is Memorial Day. A day set aside to remember all the soldiers who have died for our freedom. May we never take our freedom for granted.

On a much lesser note, this time of the year is also a personal anniversary of sorts.

A year ago, on Memorial Day weekend, I finally made a decision. I decided to pursue my childhood dream of joining the U.S. Military. The path I chose to take is Air Force ROTC (AFROTC). I'll begin my time as an AF cadet this fall. I know the journey to becoming an Air Force officer will have ups and downs. I know it will not be easy. I am very thankful for my supportive family and friends and I know that most importantly, God will never leave or forsake me.

"If we maintain our faith in God, love of freedom, and superior global air power, the future [of the US] looks good." ~General Curtis Lemay

Monday, May 6, 2013

Launch Your Life by Kenny Silva


 
Launch Your Life (A Guide to Growing Up for the Almost Grown Up) by Kenny Silva is...well, the subtitle pretty much explains what it is :). There are five main sections: Identity, Career, Finances, Home, and Growth. The author starts with explaining that we need to find our identity in Christ. This reminds me of what my mom tells me and it's an important reminder for everyone. He then talks about dealing with changing relationships/friendships, dealing with fear, and dealing with failure. In the career section, there are tips for networking, interviewing, negotiating, and writing a good resume. In the finances section, he covers saving, giving, and budgeting. I was inspired to put together a sample budget for when I someday have a steady income. This section also made me think about how it'll be wise to start investing in retirement once I have a regular job...the sooner, the better. In the home section, the author helps readers decide whether buying a home or renting is right for them and how to go about doing either one. The last section is about personal and spiritual growth. While those in their twenties should probably already know most of the stuff in this book, it's nice that there is an easy-to-read guide written by a Christian which they can refer to :).

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

Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: What Happens When Young Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst and Hope TerKeurst

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:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and a national speaker who helps women live an adventure of faith. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and an author of 15 books, including Unglued, Made to Crave, and What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. Her daily online devotional encourages more than 600,000 women, and her remarkable life story has captivated national audiences on Oprah and Good Morning America. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five children.

Hope TerKeurst finds fulfillment in serving through missions trips to
places like Ethiopia and Nicaragua. During a trip to Nicaragua, Hope led a team that provided shoes for children to enable them to go to school. When she is at home, Hope spends time with her family and friends. She has a passion for building relationships with others and loves to travel. She is currently a college student in North Carolina.

Visit the authors' website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst invites young women on the unforgettable adventure of saying yes to God as she shares real-life illustrations, biblical guidance, humor, and inspiring special sections: “Living Y.E.S.” (Your Extraordinary Story); “YES in Action” stories from Lysa’s teen daughter, Hope, about faith in motion; chapter Bible study questions.



Product Details:
List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736954554
ISBN-13: 978-0736954556



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


As You Set Out on Your
Yes Journey

We are about to discover how God’s love shapes our hearts and our individual paths of purpose. It’s an amazing journey. We won’t want to miss any of the messages He has for us. In this book you will discover the following features. Each is created to make the truths and wonders of faith more three-dimensional in your life.



Yes Factor

The gifts of the yes journey are plentiful. The Yes Factors highlight some of the most amazing treasures you’ll discover along the way. They are ready to tweet so you can share with your friends, classmates, and online communities to encourage them.



You’re Invited

Each chapter has a special invitation to say yes to God in a new way. Take time with these and pray about how you’ll respond to the call to embrace God’s best.



God’s Word for You

God speaks to us through the Bible. Scripture is not a gathering of material meant for people ages ago. It was written for you. This feature includes questions for group or personal study, reflection points, and verse explorations to get God’s Word from the page to your heart.

Living Y.E.S. (Your Extraordinary Story)

Only you can live your extraordinary story. No one else is designed by God to live this moment and all of your tomorrows. These insights and journal questions will help you understand the uniqueness, incredible value, and power of having a yes heart for God.



Yes in Action: A Note from Hope’s Yes Journey

My teenage daughter Hope shares four personal accounts of listening to God and following His lead. My prayer is that these glimpses of another young woman facing the difficulties and delights of obedience will encourage you to put your yes into action daily.



My Yes Journey Notes

At the back of this book are several note pages so you have a convenient place to write down the ideas, challenges, special verses, prayer needs, and discoveries you experience while starting your yes journey.







Ready for Something Better

Most of us long for something better. Different. Special.

Extraordinary.

We desire something more meaningful than day-to-day survival.

And the amazing thing is that even before we can name this desire, God has placed it within us and is drawing us closer to Him through that desire. Our hunger to be special and to do special things is our spiritual hunger to have an extraordinary relationship with God.

But how do we leave normal behind and head toward extraordinary?

We start a journey! It’s the amazing, transforming, anything-but-normal journey you’ll begin the day you say yes to God and to the amazing faith life He has planned for you.



Let’s begin at the starting place—right here, right now. Imagine with me that this is your day.

Beep. Beep. The notification of a text message wakes you up before your alarm. It’s a friend reminding you to bring money for the school fund-raiser and asking if you will make signs during lunch. As you sneak into the kitchen hoping to grab a bagel and glass of cranberry juice without being spoken to, your parents greet you with good-mornings and then insist you walk the dog before school.

You get to school with only a second to wave to friends. You settle into the assigned seat of the first class and do a mental happy dance because you finished your project early. The celebration is squelched because the teacher asks you to help a student who doesn’t understand yesterday’s assignment.

During lunch you finally get a chance to catch up with your best friend, but she still wants to talk through every event leading to her breakup with her boyfriend—five months ago. You listen for a while and pat her on the back for consolation, but you’re thinking, At least you had a boyfriend. My parents won’t even let me date.

The list goes on, right? A regular, ordinary day includes a lot of requests from a lot of people in your life. There are expectations. And even when you know the right thing to do, you don’t have much joy when you follow through. What’s the point? you think. It’s all so ordinary and leading nowhere.

Even if people want good things from you and of you, it’s tempting to say no. Nope. Uh-uh. No, thank you. I helped yesterday. Ask so-and-so. The dog ate my homework and my backpack and my computer.

There are lots of ways to say no.



When God asks you to do something, it can spark the desire to act as if you didn’t hear Him. It’s tempting to rattle off your memorized top five excuses for getting out of something that might be challenging, humbling, or out of your comfort zone.

In fact, sometimes God asks us to do things that seem a bit crazy at the time. We can’t see the big picture the way He does. We can’t imagine how our one yes during an ordinary day can become something extraordinary when He uses it for His purposes.

But, you see, this is where we get confused. When we say yes to God, our days are no longer ordinary or normal. In fact, there is no such thing as a typical day. Once you make the leap of faith to say yes to God, you will discover the power that answer holds in your relationship with Him, others, and yourself. There’s nothing ordinary about what’s ahead for you. Are you nervous? Are you looking around you and thinking, Maybe normal is okay? What is God going to ask of me when I say yes?

Believe me, I understand this as well as anyone. I can be stubborn. I can be resistant to being told what to do. And I’ve had plenty of times when I wanted to do anything but what God was asking me to do. In fact, I was someone who never left home without having my top five excuses list handy. This was me…that is, until God opened my eyes to the incredible, blow-my-socks-off power of saying yes to Him.

It all started the day He told me to give away my Bible.



My ministry as a writer and a speaker gives me the chance to visit churches, women’s groups, and conferences. On this particular day, I was heading home after a long schedule of speaking and I was wiped out. All I wanted was to get to my assigned seat on the plane and settle in for a nap. Imagine my absolute delight at being the only person seated in my row. I was just about to close my eyes when two last-minute passengers made their way to my row and took their seats.

Reluctantly, I decided to skip my nap. The last thing I wanted was to fall asleep and snore, drool, or, worse yet, wake up with my head resting on the guy’s shoulder beside me. I did not need another most embarrassing moment, so I pulled a manuscript out of my bag and started reading.

“What are you working on?” the guy asked. I told him I was a Christian writer. He smiled and said he thought God was a very interesting topic. I agreed and asked him a few questions about his beliefs. Before long I found myself reaching into my bag and pulling out my Bible, walking him through some key verses that dealt with the issues he was facing. He kept asking questions, and I kept praying God would give me answers.

All of a sudden I felt God tugging at my heart to give this man my Bible. Now, this was not just any Bible. This was my everyday, highlighted, underlined, written in, and tearstained Bible. I hesitated, but God’s message was clear. I was to give away my Bible.

I pulled out old church bulletins and other papers I had tucked inside the covers, took a deep breath, sighed, and placed it in the man’s hands. “I’d like for you to have my Bible,” I said.

Astonished, he started to hand it back to me, saying he couldn’t possibly accept such a gift. “God told me to give it to you,” I insisted. “Sometimes the God of the universe pauses in the midst of all His creation to touch the heart of one person. Today, He paused for you.”

The man took my Bible and made two promises. First, he said he would read it, and, second, someday he would pass it on, doing for someone else what I’d done for him.

Before I knew it, the plane landed and we were saying our goodbyes. As I stepped into the aisle preparing to disembark, the women on the other side of the businessman reached out and grabbed my arm. She’d been staring out the window the entire time we were flying, and I thought she’d been ignoring us. But her tearstained face told a different story. In a tone so hushed I could barely hear her, she whispered, “Thank you. What you shared today has changed my life.” I put my hand on hers and whispered back, “You’re welcome.” Then a knot caught in my throat as tears welled up in my eyes. I didn’t have another Bible to give away, so I gave her one of my books and hugged her goodbye. It has been said that we are to tell the whole world about Jesus, using words only if necessary. I saw this powerful truth come to life. Though I never spoke to this lady about Jesus, she saw Him through my obedience. How humbling. How profound.

As I got off the plane that day, I could barely hold back my tears. Three people’s hearts were radically changed. I believe the businessman came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I believe the same is true for the lady. But my heart was changed in a dramatic way as well. I was overjoyed at what God had done, but I was also brokenhearted by the flood of thoughts that came to mind recounting times I’d told God no. How tragic to miss His divine appointments.





Yes Factor

Open your heart to God’s love. Open your life to His calling. Open your mouth to praise Him.







I kept wondering, How many times have I told You no, God? How many times have I walked right past an extraordinary moment You had shaped for me because I was too tired, too insecure, too caught up in drama, or too selfish? How often do I miss out on experiencing You? I lifted up my heart to the Lord and whispered, “Please forgive me for all those noes. Right now I say yes, Lord. I say yes to You before I even know what You might ask me to do. I simply want You to see a yes-heart in me.”

Several minutes after exiting the plane, I was heading toward my connecting gate when I spotted the businessman again. He stopped me to tell me he’d been praying and thanking God for what happened on the plane. We swapped business cards, and, though we lived several states apart, I knew we’d stay in touch.

About a month later he called to tell me his life had totally changed. He’d taken a week off from work to read the Bible, and he’d already shared his testimony with numerous people. God was definitely pursuing this man in a serious way! When I asked him what his favorite verse was, he said it was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” I thought to myself, Wow! Look at how God has already answered that for my new friend.

He also told me that after reading the Bible he knew he needed to get involved in a church, so he’d decided to visit a large church in his town. On his way there he passed another church, and a strong feeling came over him to turn his car around and go back. So he did. When he got to his seat in the sanctuary, he opened up his bulletin and gasped. Inside the bulletin he saw an announcement that I was to be the speaker at an upcoming women’s conference. He said he felt as though, once again, God was confirming His active presence.

That day on the plane, when God impressed on my heart to give this man my Bible, I did not know what would happen. This man might have thrown my Bible into the nearest airport trash can for all I knew. Normally, I would’ve come up with a hundred reasons not to give my Bible away, but that day something changed in me. That day, for the first time, I truly heard the call of a woman who says yes to God: “Live your extraordinary story of faith.”

This journey we are taking together is life changing.

1

An Extraordinary Life Awaits

The amazing adventure of living your life and faith in extraordinary ways is up ahead. Here is the most wonderful truth: God designed it for you. And this journey cannot be lived out by anyone else. God made you as a special, nobody-else-like-you young woman, and He has a plan for your life. Do you feel it? Do you believe it? When you get up in the morning, do you think about how your day can only be lived out by the incredible you? Your family knows you and your quirky habits, and your friends share common interests, but nobody else is taking your steps through your day.

The extraordinary faith journey begins the moment you say yes to God and yes to the story He is creating through your heart, abilities, dreams, and faithfulness. It’s not just a special story—it’s an extraordinary one you and God experience together.

When we feel a tug on our heart and a stirring in our soul for more, we are often afraid to venture past our comfort zone. Outside our comfort zone, however, is where we experience the true awesomeness of God. But you have to take the plunge. How ready are you?

Notice that I didn’t ask “How perfect are you?” Perfection is highly overrated. I think at this point it is important for me to paint an accurate picture of what my life looks like before you imagine me as this super calm, amazingly organized and disciplined person who spends hours on her knees in prayer. Truth? My to-do list rarely gets accomplished. My emotions have been known to run wild, and my patience can run thin. I get pushed to the limit by everyday aggravations, such as a summer’s worth of pictures getting erased from my digital camera. Or a dog who runs away at the most inconvenient times. And I’ve had times when I step outside my comfort zone and fear causes me to second-guess myself and God’s plan.

Can you relate? Great! No matter what your life is like, you’re a young woman made to say yes to God. Even if you’re juggling all the craziness life can throw your way, when you simply whisper yes, you are equipped to start your extraordinary story of following God. “Yes, Lord. I want Your patience to override my desire to fly off the handle.” “Yes, Lord. I want Your strength to keep my emotions in check when my family and friends drive me nuts.” “Yes, Lord. I want Your courage to accept challenges that intimidate me.” “Yes, Lord. I want to see my great value as Your daughter so I don’t worry about what other people think.”

You don’t need perfect circumstances to say yes to God. You don’t need the perfect religious attitude or all the answers to religious questions. You simply have to give to God all of the thoughts, worries, people, drama, and struggles that occupy your attention and your heart. You simply have to speak the answer God is longing to hear spill from your lips. “Yes, God.”

The Daily Yes Prayer
Each day when I wake up, I pray a very simple prayer before my feet even hit the floor. I encourage you to write your own or use this prayer so you can experience your extraordinary God in extraordinary ways.

God, I want to see You.

God, I want to hear You.

God, I want to know You.

God, I want to follow hard after You.

And even before I know what I will face today, I say yes to You.

This simple act of surrender each morning will prepare your eyes to see Him, your ears to hear Him, your mind to perceive Him, and your heart to receive Him. This is how to live expecting to experience God.

You see, we have become so familiar with God and yet still so unaware of Him. We turn the mysterious into something ordinary, even boring. We construct careful reasons for our rules and sensible whys for our behavior. All the while our soul is longing for a richer experience—one that allows us to escape the limits of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell and journey to a place of wild, wonder, and passion.

Young women who say yes to God will see life like few others.

And you will be drawn in and embraced by a love like no other. You don’t have to wait until the next time you’re in church to experience God because you can sense God’s presence all around you, all through your day. Instead of going through the motions of life, you’ll pursue the adventure of the moment-by-moment divine story and lessons God is unfolding.

When you say yes, you can expect to see God, to hear from Him, and to be absolutely filled by His peace and joy.

The Holy and the Ordinary
Embracing a holy God in the middle of life’s everyday activities will change your life. God’s surprises of good and wondrous experiences will take your breath away, but you might not always feel happy about the changes. I can’t let you think that being a young woman who says yes to God means everything is always easy. There will be times when you experience the sting of heartache, frustration, uncertainty, failure, and loss, but now there will be new ways of dealing with those hard times. A holy way.

I had one of those experiences recently. I simply wanted to throw my hands in the air, throw my computer out the window, and cry out to God, “You have hurt my feelings, and I’m just a little unnerved and upset!”

I was at a friend’s lake house to devote three days to a writing project. After the first night of working hard, I had gone to bed excited about all I’d accomplished. I awakened the next morning ready to have the same kind of success. But as I opened up my docu-ment folder with great anticipation, I saw…nothing. Nothing! The project was nowhere to be found.

Refusing to panic, I asked for my friends’ help. After two hours of searching, one of my friends gently looked at me and verbalized the truth we’d all come to know. “It’s gone, Lysa. You are going to have to start over.”

What!

Wait a minute, I thought. I have said yes to God today and had a great quiet time. I just know He can and will help me find this. But for whatever reason, my document was gone and God had chosen not to bring it back. Tears filled my eyes as bitterness started to creep in my heart. Why would He allow this? My friend could sense my despair and gently replied, “Lysa, recently when something like this happened to me, someone told me to look at my loss as a sacrifice of praise to God. It is so hard in today’s abundance to give God a true sacrifice, but losing two thousand words and a whole day’s work would qualify. Give this to Him without feeling bitter.”

I resisted slapping my well-meaning friend as she then broke into singing praise songs. By the second stanza, I actually found myself joining in with a lighter heart and a resilient spirit.

Have you ever lost something that had required great effort and care on your part? Sometimes it isn’t a school project or a writing assignment we’ve invested in; rather, it’s a relationship. If you’ve ever said goodbye to a friend because of a move or because you find yourself taking a different path, you’ve experienced what felt like an unfair loss of time, effort, and heart. The loss of “what could’ve been” can be very disappointing. When you care about anything, it makes you more vulnerable. The risk is higher because more of your heart and soul is vested in the outcome. This is exactly why these times can be lifted up as a praise offering.



Yes Factor

Saying yes to God isn’t about perfect performance, but rather perfect surrender to Him.



Being a young woman who says yes to God is about trusting Him even when you can’t understand why He requires some of the things He does. It also means that once you’ve said yes to God, you refuse to turn back, even when things get hard.

This kind of obedience invites you to embrace a bigger vision for your life. When you look at your everyday circumstances with God’s perspective, everything changes. You realize that He uses each circumstance, each person who crosses your path, and each encounter you have with Him as a divine appointment. Each day counts, and every action and reaction matters. God absolutely loves to take ordinary people and do extraordinary things in them, through them, and with them.

It’s a Party
Imagine that you’ve planned a wonderful surprise party for your best friend. The guests have all arrived. You’ve loaded the deco--rated dining room table with her favorite junk food and healthy preferences. Everything is ready for the guest of honor. You can barely wait for the big moment of “Surprise!” because you know your friend will feel so loved and celebrated.

Finally, the time has come. And gone. Your friend is late. Your other friends are whispering in the darkened living room and trying unsuccessfully to hold back waves of laughter. Suddenly, your cell phone rings. Your friend’s image appears on the screen. “Shhh!” you say to the others just before answering the call.

“Hey, where are you?” you ask casually.

Instead of saying she’s on her way, your friend says she’s too tired to come over and has decided to watch the last two episodes of her favorite show online. She’s already in her pajamas and will check out whatever you wanted to show her tomorrow. You try to convince her that tonight is so much better and you really want to share something with her. But with a friendly “See you tomorrow, I promise,” she hangs up.

But by tomorrow the guests will be gone, the leftover food will be stored away, and the party that never started will be over.

How sad for the guest of honor, who missed her own surprise party! And how disappointing for you, the party planner who orchestrated the event with the hope of showing a friend how much she is loved.

God must feel the same way when we miss the “surprise parties” that await us each day. These are the divine appointments sprinkled throughout our day for us to experience when we pay attention to God’s leading. He must be so disappointed when we don’t hear or don’t listen to Him redirecting us to hang up the phone and show up at the event He has planned with great care. It must break His heart when we brush aside something that not only would make us feel special and noticed by God, but also would allow us to join Him in making life a little sweeter for others.

Which Invitation Will You Accept?
How many times have you missed your own surprise party?

God reveals Himself and His activity to all of us, but it takes a desire for the extraordinary to embrace these encounters because they can cause extreme changes in our plans, our perspectives, and our passions. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of change.

Yet, when we protect ourselves from change, we’re saying no to God and yes to a life that leaves us unmotivated and directionless. Let’s pause for a second and give that another look. You are accepting an invitation at any given moment, but are you saying yes to whims, desires, and random paths? Or are you accepting God’s invitation to your purposed, powerful faith story?

I can think of several times when I let fear override my faith. I said yes to my insecurities and worries instead of God’s strength and certainty. Has this happened to you? Maybe you felt God leading you to say yes to Him, yet you didn’t go out for a play, you held back from introducing yourself to a new girl at school, or you resisted telling a guy you like about your faith. Every day has chances like these to step forward in God’s leading, but we have to be prepared and ready to notice these opportunities from Him. When we are prepared and we do step out in faith, He will bless our yes!

You’re Invited…
to Attend God’s Surprise Party for You

WHAT:

The party you don’t want to miss! This is a gathering of God’s best for you…love, grace, hope, promises, and the joy of His wonder and will. All the great surprises of faith.

WHEN:

This moment. Forget the excuses. Get ready for something extraordinary.

WHERE:

On the other side of the door. Don’t hesitate. Open the door. God and the incredible surprises of the yes journey are waiting for you.

WHAT TO BRING:

Everything is provided…so leave behind all that is ordinary. You’ll want to be able to receive the extraordinary gifts God has chosen just for you.



How to Make HIStory
I love the word “history” because when we break it down we see that it means “His story.” Your personal history might have times of pain or trouble. There might be moments of sadness or loneliness. And your past might be littered with some mistakes, but God is a God of transformation. He uses each and every part of your history and present to make an extraordinary new story.

As I’ve spoken to a lot of young women from around the country, I’ve been saddened to discover how many miss out on the most exciting part of being a Christian—experiencing God and experiencing their extraordinary story through Him. This is the great gift of being a Christian. The gift isn’t about perfection or becoming the most popular person in school because you are blessed. The gift is being able to live out your extraordinary story with and through God’s amazing love. It’s incredible.

Those who say they want more in their Christian life are often looking outside of their personal relationship with God for the secret. They want their church, their pastor, or someone or something else to be the missing piece. These supports can make your faith stronger, but it is your one-on-one experience with God that changes everything.

You and I are on our way to recognizing and experiencing what that “more” can look like. It’s a relationship with God that allows us to

know His voice
live in expectation of His activity
embrace a life totally sold out for Him

I suspect you desire such closeness with God. This fulfillment of this desire is real and amazing. And this incredible adventure starts with the wild willingness to say yes.

In today’s world, it is radical to obey God’s commands, listen to the Holy Spirit’s convictions, and walk in Jesus’ character. And we’ll experience the amazing blessings God has in store for us when we speak that big, freeing “Yes, Lord.” This response to God’s call, His requests, and His hope for us will lead to a great, unforgettable faith story.

Don’t stumble over the fear you won’t be perfect and you’ll likely mess up. Saying yes to God isn’t about perfect performance, but rather perfect surrender to the Lord day by day. It’s about experiencing the full blessing of God by giving your full attention to God when He asks you to trust Him. It’s having the overwhelming desire to walk in the center of His will at every moment. The life of yes happens when you hear God, feel His nudges, participate in His activity, and experience His blessings in ways few people ever do.

The God of the universe wants to use you in great ways. Are you ready?

There is only one requirement for this adventure. We have to set our rules and agendas aside—our dos and don’ts—and follow God’s command. His one requirement is so simple and yet so profound: Say yes to Me. That’s it. That is the entire Bible, Old Testament and New, hundreds of pages, thousands of verses, all wrapped up in those four words.

God’s Word for You

Psalm 19:7-10 says,

The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree. God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds. You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries (msg).

What does this passage tell you about God’s nature?

Which of these promises are ones you really needed to hear right now? Why?

Read Deuteronomy 6:5. What might loving God with your heart, soul, and strength look like in your daily life?



Psalm 16:7-9 says,

I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.

Describe how these verses ease your worries or concerns.

Living Y.E.S. (Your Extraordinary Story)

Have you ever felt God leading you to do something? How did you respond?

What holds you back from going deeper in your relationship with God? Time? Intimidation? Doubt about the Bible’s relevance to life? Worry about what others will say? Fear that God will let you down like people have? Write down which of these or other barriers come between you and an extraordinary faith right now.

How might God’s love counter these obstacles?

Why are you ready now to experience God’s great surprises for you?

In this chapter we read, “Being a young woman who says yes to God is about trusting Him even when you can’t understand why He requires some of the things He does. It also means that once you’ve said yes to God, you refuse to turn back, even when things get hard.”

List two ways you want to trust God by saying yes to Him this week.

1.

2.

What title would you give your extraordinary story?

Yes Prayer

Your extraordinary story unfolds each time you listen to God and follow His leading. Here is a prayer to lead you to each of God’s sweet surprises for you.

Dear God, I am putting away all my excuses so I can fully celebrate who You are and who I am in You. Thank You for adopting me as Your child and loving me unconditionally. I want to grow closer to You as I trust You more completely. I know You will ask me to grow and to move outside of my comfort zone, but with Your strength and help, I’m ready to experience my extraordinary story. I say yes to You with great joy. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: Unglued Devotional by Lysa Terkeurst

 


The Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress by Lysa Terkeurst is a companion to her bestselling book, Unglued. I have not read Unglued but I don't think you need to read it to understand the devotional. The devotional's purpose is to help keep women from becoming emotionally unglued. The author tries to encourage women to refrain from stuffing their emotions or exploding. Each day begins with a Bible verse and "Thought for the Day" then progresses to whatever she has to say for the day (a.k.a. the devotion) and it ends with a prayer. My favorite part was the personal stories. Some that had to do with being a wife and mom didn't directly apply to me but were still fun to read. I like that each day is short and easy to read. I read through the book in way less than 60 days. The Unglued Devotional is different than most devotionals in that the emphasis is on how not to become unglued in your life rather than learning more about the attributes of God or a specific book of the Bible.

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

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Review: Ring of Secrets by Roseanna M. White

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:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Roseanna M. White grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, the beauty of which inspired her to begin writing as soon as she learned to pair subjects with verbs. She spent her middle and high school days penning novels in class, and her love of books took her to a school renowned for them. After graduating from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, she and her husband moved back to the Maryland side of the same mountains they equate with home.

Roseanna is the author of two biblical novels, A Stray Drop of Blood and Jewel of Persia, both from WhiteFire Publishing (www.WhiteFire-Publishing.com), and Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, a historical romance, with Summerside Press. She is the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded, the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing, and a member of ACFW, HisWriters, HEWN Marketing, and Colonial Christian Fiction Writers.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Winter Reeves is an aristocrat…and a Patriot. Bennet Lane is a Yale professor on temporary assignment in New York…to find General Washington’s spy among the elite.


This exciting romantic spy novel from Roseanna M. White combines fascinating cloak-and-dagger secrets with a tale of love and intrigue during the Revolutionary War.

Winter Reeves is an aristocratic Patriot forced to hide her heart amid the Loyalists of the City of New York. She has learned to keep her ears open so she can pass information on British movements to Robbie Townsend, her childhood friend, and his spy ring. If she's caught, if she's hung for espionage...well, she won't be. Robbie has taught her the tools of the trade: the wonders of invisible ink, drop locations and, most importantly, a good cover.

Bennet Lane returns to New York from his Yale professorship with one goal: to find General Washington's spy hidden among the ranks of the elite. Searching for a wife was supposed to be nothing more than a convenient cover story for his mission, but when he meets Winter, with her too-intelligent eyes in her too-blank face, he finds a mystery that can't be ignored.

Both believers...and both committed to a separate cause. Will their faith in God lead them to a shared destiny or lives lived apart?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736950990
ISBN-13: 978-0736950992

My review: 
Ring of Secrets by Roseanna M. White is a well-written story about espionage during the Revolutionary War. I enjoy spy stories and this book was no exception! It is very different than the modern spy story. There are no technological gadgets or foreign passports (though they do have invisible ink and secret codes). It was interesting to take a peek back into a time when there was no CIA, no bugs, and no video surveillance yet spies accomplished a lot. The story is told from the point of view of Winter Reeves and Bennet Lane (each chapter it switches between them). The author does a good job of letting us into each of their heads. Poor Winter is living with two horrid grandparents who are trying to force her to marry someone soon. Bennet has his own struggles. Though there is tension and occasionally sadness, it’s not a depressing book and I love the ending!


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


City of New York

November 1779

Let innocence be your mask.

Winter Reeves swished her ivory lace fan and gave Colonel Fairchild the same practiced smile she always did. She squelched the response that wanted to escape, forbade her eyes from so much as flashing. Perhaps her gaze wandered, but he would only think her bored.

He thought her very easily bored.

“A stroke of luck, do you not agree, my dear?”

Despite the racing of her heart at the pearl of information he had just let slip, she made her nod a half-second later than it ought to have been. As if she were inattentive, paying no heed to his endless prattle. Why, after all, would she care about such a boring matter as paper? In his eyes—in the eyes of everyone here—she was naught but the pretty, brainless granddaughter of the Hamptons.

Let your beauty hide your heart.

Winter’s gaze snagged on Robbie’s, though she looked past him quickly. A successful business owner and newspaperman for the Royal Gazette, Robert Townsend was deemed acceptable company on a day-to-day basis, but Grandmother had higher hopes for her. At social occasions, she was not permitted to speak to him.

She didn’t have to speak to him. A mere glance showed her his waistcoat tonight bore seven silver buttons. Seven—that meant he had slid a note into the bottom, middle drawer of the chest in the drawing room.

Feigning a yawn partially hidden behind her fan, Winter blinked. Slowly.

Colonel Fairchild interrupted his monologue with drawn brows. “Forgive me, my dear. You must be in need of refreshment by now. Allow me to fetch you a cup of spiced tea.”

“That would be lovely, thank you.” Winter injected her tone with relief and made her smile sheepish. “I shall just slip out for a moment while you get it, Colonel.”

Fairchild bowed, though he kept his head erect. No doubt to stop his new powdered wig, more heavily curled than his old one, from slipping.

Winter dipped a short curtsy and headed for the ballroom’s exit, her palms damp.

“Winnie!”

She forced pleasure into her face as she turned toward her grandmother. “Yes, ma’am? Can I get you anything?”

Grandmother narrowed her ice blue eyes. “Where are you going? The ball has barely started, and there is someone I want you to meet.”

Winter lowered her gaze. “I will only be a moment, Grandmother. I must attend to a personal need.”

The matron lifted her chin. No one would doubt Phillippa Hampton was the queen of this particular event. Her hair was an extravagant tower of whitened curls, ribbons, and gems. Her gown was a creation so exquisite, King George himself would have envied the craftsmanship.

Her glare could shrivel a thriving oak tree. “Return posthaste. Mr. Lane is awaiting an introduction.”

Let your enemies count you a friend.

She pasted on an obedient, docile smile. “I will be quick.”

“I should think so, knowing who awaits your return.” The snap of Grandmother’s fan of Spanish lace all but forced Winter’s eyes to the right.

As if Mr. Lane were different from any other guest here. As if he were anything but another haughty, arrogant Loyalist. As if he were...

She drew in a sharp breath when her gaze collided with the stranger’s. He stood beside her grandfather, his eyes locked on her. ’Twas nothing unusual, given the gilding her grandmother poured upon her. But the way he looked at her, the eyes that did the looking...

He was only passably handsome, if one examined his nose, his mouth, his jaw. Strong features, and sandy hair he hadn’t bothered to powder or cover in a wig. Pleasant, not exceptional. But those eyes—they seemed to pierce right through her facade, down to the heart she’d been forbidden to have.

Penetrating. Stirring. Tugging.

No. She couldn’t afford to let a man turn her head, and she certainly couldn’t let one see her heart. No matter that a single gaze from him made her yearn for someone who might understand her.

God of my end, help me to focus upon Your will for me. Winter tore her gaze free and curtsied to her grandmother. “I shall be glad to meet him in a moment, ma’am.”

Perhaps some other enterprising young lady would have laid claim to him by the time she returned. Eyes like that were far too dangerous.

Grandmother kept her a moment more. “You have heard of the recent fortune of the Manhattan Lanes, I presume.”

If one could call it fortune when one’s uncle’s son died and one’s father returned to England to learn to manage the family estates. Which Grandmother certainly did, being ever loyal to the Crown—no matter how hard the heel of His Majesty’s army crushed the city.

Winter nodded.

Her grandmother pursed her lips. “Go, child. But hurry back before Mrs. Parks snatches him and forces him to dance with Theodosia.”

To God’s ear. Somehow she suspected Mr. Lane’s gaze wouldn’t unnerve Dosia at all. Her friend had no secrets to be discovered.

Winter made her escape from the ballroom. Guests filled the hallway too, and they would be in and out of all the main rooms in her grandparents’ first floor. She followed a bewigged couple into the drawing room and traced a path along the chamber’s edge until she came to the polished maple of the high chest of drawers.

The bottom, center drawer was open a bit. Not so much as to be noticeable to anyone not looking, but enough that Winter could catch her sleeve on the knob as she walked by and make a show of looking irritated before freeing it.

She folded the slip of paper she’d recovered into her fan, shut the drawer with a scowl, and then headed out of the room, inspecting her sleeve as if the lace had torn.

No one stopped her as she darted up the stairs and headed for her bedchamber. That didn’t keep a relieved breath from seeping out as she threw the bolt on the door.

Winter strode to the banked fire and stirred it enough to light a taper. She set the candle upon a table and pulled the slip of paper out. The message written upon it made her smile.

My dearest lady, flame of my heart,

How you make my day burn bright!

With the smallest turn of your reddest lips,

You are all that is beauty and light...

Winter snorted a laugh and checked the right top corner of the page. An “H” marked it. The real message, then, would appear with the application of heat.

Hands steady, Winter held the page close, then closer to the flame. Closer still until the smell of scorching paper filled her nostrils, until a faint sizzle reached her ears. Until the invisible ink filling the space between the lines of terrible poetry turned a golden brown.

Eleven o’clock tonight. The tulip tree behind the stable.

Eleven. She pulled the paper away from the flame and squinted to read the darkened face of the mantel clock. One hour more. Time enough to appease Grandmother, to bat her lashes and act the part of witless society lady for Mr. Lane. Then she could slip outside. She hoped Robbie would be there to meet her, and she could tell him what Fairchild had said. Though there remained the possibility that he had simply left another message for her.

This one could bring her trouble enough. If her grandparents saw it, they would place her under lock and key to keep her from eloping as Mother had.

Or worse, if Grandfather had meant the threat that still made her shiver. And she had no reason to doubt his sincerity, given the hatred he had never tried to hide from her.

Time nipped at the back of her throat, each tick of the clock telling her to hurry downstairs. But first she tossed the page into the fire. As the flames licked over the wisp of paper and then smoldered into glowing ash, Winter held her spot, watching the last ember die out. In her mind’s eye, she saw another letter, another fire.

Why had she burned it? Why? The last word she had from her father, the last thing her mother had given her before she passed away.

A cloud must have raced over the moon, for deeper shadows cloaked her room. Winter spun for the door. Best to lock away the memories of Oyster Bay, of life before the war. Best to remember who she was now. Best to push down the longing to go back, even for one day, to the life she once knew.

That life was gone. She had come to terms with that.

Better a life among enemies than a noose around her neck.

§

Bennet Lane buried his terror in a glass of cordial and silently recited some Latin to calm his nerves. How had he ended up once more in a ballroom lit with crystal chandeliers, surrounded by batting lashes and swishing fans?

George jabbed him with an elbow—not exactly subtly—and smirked. “You look like I felt when expected to recite the opening of Hippolytus.”

“Give me Euripides above this any day.” Ben forced a smile and stiff bow when a set of well-dressed young women glided by, simpering looks partially hidden by their fans.

His friend’s chuckle held no sympathy. “You garner admiring gazes from them all.”

“Because they all know my father just became the heir to considerable property. But the moment I try to talk to any of them... Women are baffling, George. Baffling. They complain if you treat them as pets but grow bored if you treat them as equals.”

Placing his empty glass on the tray of a passing servant, George snorted. “Your idea of an ‘equal’ is a fellow from Yale. They are lost and bored with your constant references to Latin and Greek, but that does not mean they have no brains at all. Well, most of them.”

Ben grunted a laugh and sent his gaze over the gathering. Young ladies abounded, all in imported silk and lace. Some had beauty to their faces that couldn’t be hidden by the mountain of curls atop their heads; others relied on the fuss to bolster what nature had withheld.

“I have spent too many years in Connecticut, with its boycotts and homespun. All this luxury is confounding.” He took another sip of his drink and let his gaze linger upon a young lady with pink powdered hair. She was pretty, but when they had been introduced, it had taken only a stuttered sentence from him for her eyes to glaze over. Perhaps she would be amenable to a suit, but he’d rather find a woman to court with whom he could have a full conversation every now and again.

George narrowed his gaze upon Ben’s hair, tied back but otherwise unadorned. “You had better get accustomed to fashion again quickly, old boy. Gentlemen of Hampton’s ilk expect you to dress appropriately when you come to their houses. Even I know that, and I would never have been invited if not for your request.”

“Hmm.” He hated powdered wigs—itchy and hot. But he would do what he must. Ben scanned the room again, looking for the angel in pale blue and gold he had seen leaving a quarter-hour earlier. Hampton’s granddaughter, and hence the highest-bred young lady here. With her on his arm, he could secure invitations to all the elite’s functions. His family’s heritage gave him the proper pedigree for them, but he had been too long away from New York to know from where the invitations would come.

Access was crucial. Somewhere in this ballroom, or another as exclusive, a spy might lurk. Someone undermining the British cause, feeding information to the rebel army that they could only have learned from high-ranking associations. Either an elite themselves, or one of the bottom-feeders who catered to them.

He would find that someone, eventually. He must. And he was prepared to do whatever was necessary to achieve it.

Even if that “whatever” meant attaching himself to one of these terrifying, lace-bedecked creatures.

His expression must have shifted to betray his panic. George laughed. “If they befuddle you so, why are you determined to make a match?”

Ben shook himself and grinned. “It is like chemistry, George. You know well that combining certain elements might explode in your face, but you cannot resist pouring them together on the chance they will create something spectacular.”

“’Tis talk like that which sends them running.” George clapped a hand to Ben’s shoulder and nodded toward the corner. “Now, look at that one—Miss Parks. She bears a striking resemblance to our old friend Charlie Mason, does she not?”

“Parks.” Ben frowned. “Are they not cousins to the Masons?”

“Probably. Hence the resemblance, I suppose. Irrelevant. My point is, you could always carry on a conversation with Charlie, who lacked your excellent education, without confusing him. Do the same with Dosia. Talk of the weather, of the latest news, of anything not straight from your laboratory at Yale. Pretend she is Charlie.”

Ben folded his arms over his chest and nodded decisively. “Charlie in a dress.” An excellent plan.

“Right,” George said on another snort of laughter. “Or, if you can wrest her from Colonel Fairchild, you might set your sights on Miss Reeves. She hasn’t a spare thought in her head anyway, so she is well used to giving an absent nod of assent. Well, from what I have seen. I’ve never been introduced, mind you.”

Bennet’s gaze followed George’s gesture toward the doorway, filled by the vision of beauty herself. Hampton’s granddaughter—Miss Reeves, apparently.

Empty headed? That dug a furrow into his brow. When he had caught her gaze a bit ago, she had struck him as many things, but thoughtless was not one of them. Hers were not eyes that covered an idle mind.

Were they? He was not the type to be so blinded by beauty as to attribute to a lovely face nonexistent qualities, was he?

Well, time would tell. Hampton was even now striding toward Bennet, undoubtedly to make the promised introduction since his ward had returned. Which Georger apparently took as his cue to leave with a mumble about another drink.

Miss Reeves held her place in the doorway for a moment more, looking out at the ballroom as if taking stock of everyone there. A princess surveying her kingdom? Perhaps. Certainly she put all the other young women to shame, from the details of her gown to the powdered tower of hair, to her face, exquisite in its detail.

His pulse hammered. She was too beautiful for him. His tongue would twist into knots if he dared to open his mouth in her company. She would dismiss him in a moment, as every other girl did. He’d do better to find a more approachable lady to court, one common enough that she wouldn’t actually distract him from his true motive for returning to New York.

Miss Reeves turned her head to her left and then moved toward Mrs. Hampton. Her every step was a dance, each gesture the epitome of grace.

Ben would be lucky to secure a minuet with her, much less any other sign of favor. And because he was not so superficial as to think a pretty face was all one needed, he certainly wouldn’t mourn the loss of what would never be.

She kept her gaze down as Mrs. Hampton ushered her forward. Seemingly demure, but there was something else in the tension of her neck. Something that spoke of anxiety, perhaps conflict.

Interesting.

Hampton stopped at Ben’s side and nodded at the approaching ladies. “My granddaughter has returned.”

“Excellent, sir.” He should have stayed home tonight. Settled in with a text. Montesquieu, perhaps. Montesquieu would be a fine companion for this blustery November night, far better than this present company—George excluded.

Hampton glared at the women when they arrived. “There you are.”

Miss Reeves curtsied, her gaze on her grandfather now, though his granite face didn’t soften in the slightest. “I trust you are enjoying your birthday celebration, Grandfather?”

“Quite.” He looked as though enjoying wasn’t a word in his vocabulary. “Allow me to introduce Mr. Bennet Lane, of the Manhattan Lanes. Mr. Lane, my granddaughter and ward, Miss Winter Reeves.”

She didn’t look at him, though she turned her face his way. When he held out a hand, she settled her fingers on his so lightly as to barely touch him at all.

Still, awareness coursed through him. She was even lovelier up close than from afar. A narrow bridge of a nose, lips of a perfect rose, brows that bespoke hair the color of his favorite mahogany chair—if one could see beneath the powder coating each lock, anyway.

He bowed over her hand. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Reeves.” Ah, not so much as a stutter. He would do his debate professor proud.

She drew in a breath too short, too sharp. And finally she lifted her eyes to his.

They were green. Deep as an emerald and not just in color. So many thoughts, so many needs seemed to swirl within those jewel-like irises for one fraction of a second—then it was as if a door slammed shut and they were only eyes. Pretty, empty eyes.

The strain was gone from her posture, and the turn of her lips looked half bored. “Likewise, Mr. Lane.”

He let her fingers go but couldn’t convince himself to look away from her perfect countenance. Not so much as a twitch revealed any thought at all, but he knew well he hadn’t imagined it.

Winter Reeves was more than the face she showed this crowded ballroom. Why did she feel she must hide it? And what, exactly, was it that she hid? Puzzling.

One corner of his mouth tugged up. Ben loved nothing so much as a puzzle. “Mr. Hampton, may I have the honor of dancing with your granddaughter when the next set begins?”

Hampton glowered. “She would be delighted.” Another word that seemed foreign to his frowning mouth.

Mrs. Hampton, however, beamed. As for Miss Reeves...if he weren’t mistaken, that look of ennui upon her face was designed specifically to put him off.

Well, they would see about that. Any philosopher, be he political or scientific or abstract, knew that sometimes one must revise one’s stated mission. His may have to become twofold.

Find the Patriot spy in New York.

And unravel the mystery that was Winter Reeves.