Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday's Fave Five #16

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story).

My fave five this week include:
1. Hiking.  Our family enjoys hiking.  Last Saturday, we went hiking at Champoeg State Park.

2. Time Changer DVD.  It's a wholesome, Christ-honoring movie made by Rich Christiano.

3. Free book, God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life by Ray Comfort.  I received my free copy yesterday and is looking forward to reading it.

4. Free books by John MacArthur: Our Sufficiency in Christ (offer expires 6/10) and Anxious for Nothing (offer expires 6/6).

5. Creation Conversations: Connecting Christians who believe in Biblical creation.  This is a new social media site I just joined.  I'm "Urailak (LivingforGod)" there.  Please pray for me.  I've been asked by an administrator of Creation Education Ministries of Thailand if I would be interested in translating creation-related articles/information from English into Thai (my native language).  I would like to use my skills/abilities to serve God in any way I can; I just need God's wisdom and guidance.  Please pray that everything will work out according to His will and that He will use me for His purpose and glory.

FIRST Wild Card Tour: A Woman's Walk in Grace

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:


A Woman’s Walk in Grace

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Catherine Martin is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary, the founder of Quiet Time Ministries, the director of her church’s women’s ministries, and an adjunct faculty member of Biola University. Her many books include Six Secrets to a Powerful Quiet Time, Set My Heart on Fire, and A Woman’s Heart That Dances.


Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736923802
ISBN-13: 978-0736923804

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


In the Garden of Grace



She stood behind the open door, her eyes fixed on the English missionaries who had come to visit her in-laws. Hidden from view, she stared at their gentle faces and felt deep sobs welling up from a place inside she did not care to reveal, not even to herself. No, I can’t entertain the hope I see in these people. How could I have possibly arrived at such a despicable life, with no way of escape? Trapped in this house, forever doomed. At 19, she was already a widow with a child—a most desperate position for any woman in India in the late 1800s.

Buried in her memories were earlier years of tender love from parents who regarded her as their greatest treasure, naming her Ponnamal, meaning “gold.” Her parents showered her with every possible advantage, blessing their bright young daughter with a good education. Then, as was the custom, she was given in marriage to an older man. Clothed in silk, decorated with beautiful jewelry, high-spirited and gentle Ponnamal left the warmth of her father’s house to marry a professor at the mission college. Her marriage brought disillusionment, but the birth of a child brought her joy. And then came the sudden, shocking death of her husband only a year after their wedding. Ponnamal had journeyed from safety to sorrow and now to despair. Widows were outcasts in India. What would she do? Where would she go?

“We’ll take you in,” responded her in-laws with disdain and resignation ringing in their voices. Ponnamal realized her place in their home. They never let her forget. “You’re only here because of the child. No, you can’t change your clothes. You’re a widow. Only soiled things become you. No, you can’t have a comb. You are no good. You’re a burden on us. Even if you work all day, it won’t be enough to repay all we have done for you.”

At first Ponnamal thought, Surely they don’t know me. When they see how hard I work and how much I want to help, they’ll be kind. They’ll change. But the more she tried, the worse her situation became. Sinking into despair, she began to believe their lies.

One night she thought, I cannot endure my lot in life. I hear the well calling me as it has called others in the past. I can end my suffering with death. She waited for her mother-in-law to fall asleep and then grasped the door’s iron bolts and slipped out into the darkness of the night. She felt relieved to escape as the open air and vast starry sky soothed her heart. She stood by the well, ready to throw herself over the edge.

But then she remembered something she had read long ago. Wasn’t there an Indian widow who actually accomplished a great deed for her country? I know I read that somewhere. If she could accomplish something worthwhile, then why can’t I do the same? Maybe there is hope for me yet. Fleeting excitement simmered within and drove her back to her bed, where she lay for hours, thinking wishful thoughts until dawn.

The next morning her eyes sparkled with anticipation of unknown adventure. And now, only days later, standing behind a door, invisible to all but God, she listened intently to Mr. and Mrs. Walker, missionaries committed to sharing Jesus with others in India. They asked about the wild-eyed young girl they had noticed. “Who is the young woman living with you?”

“She is the widow of our son,” replied Ponnamal’s in-laws.

“We’d like to invite all of you to attend church,” replied the Walkers.

Surprisingly, Ponnamal was allowed to attend church on Sundays. The preacher gave deep, vibrant, Spirit-filled messages with rapid sentences in the complicated Tamil language. He may have thought only the men were understanding and hearing the message. But Ponnamal discerned the meaning of those words better than all others in attendance. This Jesus is the one I have been longing for all my life. I never have to feel alone again. Transformed, Ponnamal entered into new life in Christ and was filled with a supernatural joy and peace. Outwardly, she endured the same trapped, hopeless existence, but with newfound serenity, she performed the drudgery of duties in a strength and triumph no amount of reproach could weaken.

One day, Mrs. Walker, with characteristic gentleness, asked, “Could Ponnamal stay an extra hour after the Sunday service to teach Sunday school?”

Again, surprisingly, her father-in-law responded, “Yes, she may.”

Ponnamal excitedly thought, I can hardly believe I have this open door. But I will walk through it. And walk through it she did, teaching women of all ages.

Ponnamal was teaching one Sunday when she noticed a slight, gentle-faced, dark-haired English woman watching her. I wonder who she is? She seems like someone with whom I could pour out my soul.

The English woman watched Ponnamal teach and thought, What strikes me is her power over them. There is something quite unusual about her. Ponnamal is a woman set apart. Later that morning, the woman walked up to her and said, “I’m Amy Carmichael.” Ponnamal could have never guessed how one meeting would alter the course of her life.

Amy intently watched Ponnamal’s in-laws at church. One Sunday, she saw the father-in-law crush a butterfly against the church wall during the service. She thought with disgust, How symbolic the crushing of that insect seems. The only one he has within his power to crush is Ponnamal. Amy began wondering, What can I do? and then What must I do?

Amy knocked on the in-laws’ door, determined in her purpose. Winsomely, knowingly, she approached in the way God had shown her, finally asking permission for Ponammal to come with her for just one afternoon. “I would like Ponnamal to accompany me on visits out on the mission field.”

The father-in-law assured her, “Name the afternoon, and she may go.”

Ponnamal, on hearing those words, felt the prison doors open. This is the day of Jubilee for me. Life will never be the same. And she was right.

When Amy arrived at the in-laws’ house, she scanned Ponnamal’s face, looking into eager yet powerfully controlled eyes intent on answering God’s call. Amy thought, Yes, Ponnamal, we will serve the Lord together in His love and power. Together they walked out of that oppressive house into an afternoon of service for the Lord.

Some time later, Amy boldly asked the in-laws, “I would like Ponnamal to join me in ministry and travel throughout India, serving the Lord.” Miraculously, they agreed. Thus began the adventures of Amy Carmichael and Ponnamal, coworkers in the missionary work of Dohnavur Fellowship in India.


In Ponnamal’s story we see a tremendous rescue and restoration of a soul. What made her rescue possible? Grace—God’s pure and powerful grace. Ponnamal was helpless, unable to save herself in her life situation. She seemed to be doomed to a life of drudgery and despair. Then, amazingly, she experienced spiritual transformation. She was given a life of ministry with one of the greatest missionaries of all time. Grace benefits the least likely and showers the unfortunate with unimaginable gifts, producing results that are almost too good to be true. God, because of His grace, finds invisible people and pours out His gifts of grace: new identity, beauty, strength, provision, new life, forgiveness of sins, and more. Ponnamal received the touch of God’s grace and lived forever after in its warm embrace. And you and I must do the same.

Grace is seemingly a mystery. To many, grace is a theological term, not an experiential reality. When asked to define it, most cannot find adequate words. But you and I need the grace of God. Without God’s grace we cannot be saved, thrive, grow, or live. We depend on God’s grace every waking moment. More often than we care to admit, we don’t realize the miraculous work and wonder of God’s grace.

A number of years ago, during a busy time of ministry, I remarked to myself, I want to grow deeper in my relationship with God. I wonder what God wants to do in my life? A phrase came to mind then that I could not stop thinking about: Grow in the grace… I thought, That must be part of a verse in the Bible, but I have no idea where it is. Finally, when I dimly began to wonder if God might be trying to speak to my heart, I pulled out my trusty concordance to see if I could find it. Sure enough, I found 2 Peter 3:18: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” I read that verse as though for the first time. Although I had not yet plumbed the depths of it, I felt I had discovered one of God’s secrets in the Bible, a truth reserved for those who will open the pages of His Word and regard seriously what He says. I knew the secret was related to grace, but I also knew I couldn’t give a good definition beyond what I’d heard others say about it.

Since my college years, I’ve known grace as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. This acronym helps me remember part of what God’s grace does for me, but I wanted to know more. What is grace, really? And more importantly, how relevant is grace to me? Why do I need grace, and how can I get it? So I began living in this one simple verse, thinking about its meaning for my own life with the Lord.

The lessons I’ve been learning about growing in the garden of grace and receiving God’s gifts of grace form the substance of this book. Grace grabbed my heart and enlarged it, enabling me to powerfully experience more of the presence and person of God Himself. The more I realized the truth about grace, the more I experienced true freedom in life. What Jesus says is true—the truth will make you free (John 8:32). More than anything, we need to know the truth about grace, for grace unlocks the door to blessed freedom in Christ.

Grace is the free, unmerited favor of God. You can’t earn it. You don’t deserve it. Grace is at the heart of all God does toward you, for you, and in you. Grace finds you, saves you, and keeps you. Grace gives you everything you need, more than you could ever want, and places you in an eternal, secure, favorable position forever. You stand in grace, according to Paul the apostle (Romans 5:2).

A.W. Tozer writes in The Knowledge of the Holy that grace is the “good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving.” Chuck Swindoll, in his book The Grace Awakening, points out that “God helps the helpless, the undeserving, those who don’t measure up, those who fail to achieve the standard.” 

The foundation of grace is the New Covenant, an unchanging, binding agreement made by God, ratified by the blood of Christ, and guaranteed by promises that can never be broken (Hebrews 8:7-13). The Old Covenant was based on the law, which could be broken (James 2:10). When we receive Christ, we are forever under grace (Romans 6:14), and our future is secure, for the covenant can never be broken because Christ guarantees its fulfillment. The fulfillment of the New Covenant of grace never depends on us, only on God.

The apostle Paul is the perfect New Testament expositor of the grace (Greek, charis) of God, for he knew grace perhaps better than most in the first-century church. He was a Pharisee and knew the finer points of God’s law. He hated the church and persecuted those who loved and followed Christ. And yet Jesus met him on the Damascus road, loved him, saved him, forgave him, and gave him everlasting life. Paul knew he did not deserve salvation, yet he could not deny his experience on the road to Damascus that day. He met Jesus. He personally knew the manifold grace of God. Grace became one of Paul’s favorite words. In fact, he loved describing grace with additional words like much more grace, abundant grace, superabundant grace, abounding grace, reigning grace, exceeding grace, exceeding abundant grace, glorious grace, and sufficient grace.

John Newton, the slave trader turned preacher, joined in Paul’s practice of elaborating on God’s grace gift. For Newton, the free, unmerited favor of God was “Amazing Grace.” And grace is amazing! Here’s why. Paul explained that salvation is not possible any other way but by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Again, you can’t earn what God freely gives. You can only receive God’s grace-filled gift. Paul referred to “the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Throughout the New Testament, Paul constantly attached grace to every aspect of our experience with God.

The effects of God’s grace in our lives are endless. Joseph Cooke, in his book Celebration of Grace, describes grace as “nothing more or less than the face that love wears when it meets imperfection, weakness, failure, sin. Grace is what love is and does when it meets the sinful and the undeserving.”  Donald Grey Barnhouse, a twentieth-century expositor and preacher, explained the relationship between God’s unmerited favor and love when he said, “Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.”

I like to think of grace as God’s love in action. When you think of grace, think of God’s arms open wide to you, regardless of what you have done. Grace opens the floodgates and allows God’s endless love to pour into our lives, moment by moment, on into eternity. You have grace for today, grace for tomorrow, and grace forever. Now that’s an extravagant, outrageous grace. Cathleen Falsani, in her book Sin Boldly, describes grace as “audacious, unwarranted, and unlimited.” 

At the heart of grace is a gift. I recently read a friend’s Facebook page, and he mentioned his own thankfulness for his son’s recent university scholarship. He wrote, “We are thankful to God, for it is a gift of grace.” My friend earned a doctoral degree in theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, so his words are highly credible. He understands, in the deepest theological sense from God’s Word, that everything we receive from God is a gift of His grace. God gives and gives and gives some more. His gifts are the overflow of His grace because giving is what grace does. In understanding grace, we need to imagine a huge box wrapped in a big beautiful bow. And when we pull the bow off and unwrap the gift, we find infinite, unending riches from God.

The greatest gift the God of all grace gave you is Christ, who is full of grace. Brian Edwards says, “Grace is not merely God’s attitude towards undeserving rebels, it is ultimately and above all God giving himself to us and for us—as the Man on a cross.” Christ’s death on the cross opens the floodgates of grace in your life. He died in your place, paid the penalty for your sin, and cleared the way for you to live with Him forever. In Christ, you are given manifold grace, riches, and an eternal inheritance. When you believe and receive God’s grace, you realize the best news imaginable is true—you are no longer alienated from God, but accepted and loved by Him forever.

The power of grace in our lives is seen in Peter’s words, “Grow in the grace…” That little word in points to the place where we truly live once we enter into a life-changing relationship with Jesus. It’s one thing to believe grace or even receive grace. But it is quite another thing to live in grace. Living in grace means being planted in the environment, breathing in the air, and thriving in the atmosphere of grace. Grace is like a beautiful garden where we may grow and flourish.

When I was a little girl, I enjoyed walking in my grandmother’s garden. My grandmother would spend many hours in her garden, caring for the flowers and vegetables she had planted. And so it is in the garden of grace. There in God’s wondrous garden, we meet with the Lord Himself and receive from Him everything we need for renewal and restoration. The garden of God’s grace is a place of security, abundance, provision, joy, and hope. Grace gives you what you need when you need it. Grace can make you grow into the woman God wants you to be.

God is the God of all grace. He wants to shower you with every grace-filled gift you need to grow—His provision for your needs, His perspective for your circumstances, and His presence for your journey from time to eternity. And so the most important aspect of grace is learning to receive all the gifts God’s grace-filled heart gives you. In fact, we are actually stewards of grace, which means we are entrusted with the responsibility of receiving and sharing God’s gracious gifts (1 Peter 4:10).

We often struggle to believe God’s grace is really extended toward us. We think, No, God can’t really love me. Not after all I’ve done. I think about the day I first surrendered my life to the Lord. I immediately remarked to my college roommate, “How can God possibly forgive me?” God’s grace is usually a surprise for the sinner, an undeserved gift waiting to be unwrapped and enjoyed.

We are trained to earn what we have. And if an undeserved, unmerited gift is given to us, we often turn it down, reeling from the sting of our own guilt and pain. Many spend their lifetimes trying to earn or pay for what God has already given by His manifold grace. Many are pursuing something they believe is elusive, trying desperately to find God. What an eye-opening day when we discover that God is the initiator who seeks us out and extends the gift of His grace.

In God’s land of grace, we discover grace is received, not earned. David Jeremiah describes the discovery of the intoxicating light of grace as “finding a knothole in the high gates of heaven.”  Grace washes away our guilt and shame and gives us forgiveness and eternal life. Eventually, God’s grace opens our eyes to our future and a blessed hope. Most importantly, we experience God’s plan and purpose in our lives when we recognize, receive, and enjoy the gifts God gives us out of His heart of grace. And so, let’s resolve together that we will no longer try to earn or work for God’s grace. Instead, believe it, knowing that what God says is truer than what we feel. Receive it, daily unwrapping God’s abundant gifts of grace. And live it—growing deep and thriving in God’s garden of grace.


A young man grew tired of living at home. When would his father die so he could receive his inheritance? All he could think about was the money he would receive and the freedom such wealth would afford. Finally, he could wait no longer. “Father, give me my share of what will come to me at your death,” he demanded.

Such a request was insulting, and the father could rightly have chosen out of anger to disown the son. But then he would have no hope of reconciliation. And so the father, with a broken heart, said, “Here is your portion.” His older brother clearly resented his brother’s actions and responded with silence.

Normally the eldest son would step in and plead with a rebellious brother on behalf of the father. He would remind the young man of the father’s love. But in this case, the older brother could say nothing, for he was in rebellion of another kind. And so the father’s heart ached for two lost sons. They both rejected their father’s grace, mercy, and love.

The younger son took his inheritance and left town in a hurry, not wishing to face the scorn of the entire community because of his actions. I’m out of here. Now I’m free to do what I want! he may have thought. He left his own country for a foreign land.

In a short time, he squandered all his money. Now what will I do? I can’t go home. My brother hates me. And I cannot endure the reproach of the people in my village because of what I’ve done to my father. And I have insulted my father, so he has surely disowned me. The young man’s bad situation worsened, and he became desperate because of the famine in the land. I’m starving. I’ve got to find something to eat! I’ll see if I can hire on with one of the wealthy landowners here in this country.

The landowner looked at this beggar asking for work. Who does this young man think he is? I know how to get rid of him—I’ll offer him a job he would never even consider. I’ll let him feed the pigs.

“I’ll take it!” replied the desperate young man. As he offered the food to the pigs, he thought, I wish I could stomach what these swine are eating. I’m so hungry. Even the pigs eat better than me. There is no mercy for me. Not a drop of kindness from anyone. Only disgust.

Suddenly, in his weakened state, he came to his senses with a new thought. What am I doing? Even my father’s hired hands eat better than this. I can earn my way and eat enough by hiring on with my own father as one of his hired hands. He planned his words carefully. I’ll say, “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” Yes, that will work, he thought as he began the long journey home.

The young man fully expected reproach from the community and a long wait before he would be granted an audience with an angry, estranged father. What the young man had not counted on was his father’s heart. He thought his father was like all people. He didn’t yet know his father was unlike all others in the world. His father did outrageous, out-of-this-world things because of one quality—extravagant grace.

Walking on the dusty road, approaching town, the young son grew more fearful, dreading the impending confrontation. What will happen when I enter the village? he thought. His head was down, his eyes on his feet as he trudged along.

But then he looked up. What is this? Who are these people running toward me? And then his heart lifted. What he saw was more than he could bring himself to believe. Could it be? No way—but it is! My father! Running toward me with his arms wide open!

The father, setting aside the cultural rights of estrangement and throwing himself into one act of humiliation, left the comfort of his home and raced out to receive the young man, not as a hired hand, but as his beloved son. The father would have nothing less than the very best for his recovered child. He paid the price of humiliation and loss of face and raced out to his son, thus settling forever in front of the entire town the nature of their relationship and full reconciliation.

Stunned by the outpouring of his father’s love, the young son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Now he knew, as never before, what he had in his father—the relationship, the love, the grace, and the greatness of his father. How could I have been so ignorant of my father’s great love for me?

The father gave him no time for further thought. “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.” The father restored their relationship in the presence of all. The robe signified restoration to sonship, the ring entrusted him with power, and the shoes symbolized his rank as a son, not a servant. Only the father could restore these things through his own gracious favor. The result of extravagant grace was reconciliation between father and son and the fulfillment of the father’s steadfast, unchanging desire.

But the father had yet another son who needed his grace. This son had troubles of a different kind. He did not know his father’s love any better than the son who left home. The older son had rejected the father in perhaps a deeper way, having refused intimate fellowship while living in the same house. Equally estranged, he was aloof and distant from the father. He didn’t understand that he had broken his father’s heart as much as the younger son had. Standing outside the house, the older son asked one of the young servants, “What is going on? Why is there music and dancing?”

The servant quickly responded with excitement. “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.”

“Of course! Typical. My father throws a party for a worthless son but has never thrown one celebration for me. What has he ever done for me? I have done everything right and yet received nothing for it. I’m infuriated that my father wouldn’t make such a terrible son pay for all he has done against the family.”

Standing outside the house, the older son’s anger rose to a boiling point. He refused to enter the house or engage in the celebration. In their culture, his aloofness and absence from the party would have been considered an insult to the father and the guests. Once again, the father could have chosen to reject and disown a rebellious son. But again, he responded with extravagant and outrageous grace.

Just as the son was thinking about the celebration, he looked up to find himself face-to-face with his father. Not afraid to lose face with his guests and suffer the humiliation of lowering himself to quell unjust rebellion, the father left the party to reach out to his son.

When the older son saw the father, he became more obstinate. “Look! I’ve been serving you for a long time, and I’ve done everything you told me to. It’s not fair. Your younger son doesn’t deserve the party—I do. But you’ve never thrown a party for me!”

The father loved this son and wanted him for his own, not estranged, but in fellowship. And so he did what no other would do. He did not walk away, but reached out in grace-filled love. “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live and was lost and has been found.”

How did the older son respond? What did he say to such grace offered in the face of callous hatred?


A hush most likely moved across the crowd of listeners, and palpable tension may have filled the air when Jesus told this story. Through the windows and rooms of every detail and character, hard-hearted Pharisees were encouraged to see themselves and others anew—with eyes of grace. Jesus invited them to enter into a relationship with God and share His heart of love expressed in grace-covered actions. When He heard them say, “This man receives sinners and eats with them,” He was compelled to show them God’s magnificent grace through the art of a pointed, passionate story. He gave them this parable of the prodigal son, a beloved tale of hope for every sinner saved by grace.

But really, this grace story encompasses two sons who desperately needed God’s unconditional love and unmerited favor. Both were in a hopeless state, unable to help themselves in any way, completely reliant on their father’s mercy. We know the rest of the story for the younger son. But what about the end result for the older son? That part of the story is unfinished. God seems to leave all who listen, including the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, with a question: “Will you set aside your prejudices, resentments, sins, despair, and despondency, and step into the garden of My grace? Live here in My grace and share in My heart of love.”

The highlight of Jesus’ story, looming larger than any of the details, is the father’s heart. His actions were unexpected, nothing like human responses to sin and rebellion. And that was His point. God seemingly says to us at every turn, “Know Me. Understand My heart. I love you and want you in close relationship with Me.” He wants us to know Him not as we think He is or want Him to be, but as He really is. He is always more than we think He is and more than we know Him to be. There is always more to know of God and His infinite, eternal, magnificent grace.

God’s grace is outrageous and a huge surprise for all who receive it. We can relate to the younger son, who squandered opportunities and needed forgiveness for willful sin. Sometimes we are like the older son, caught up in pride and arrogance, stepping out of the grateful appreciation of God’s grace-covered gifts in our lives. Often, we don’t even realize God’s grace and mercy acting on our behalf because we are so focused on ourselves. Through a poignant word-woven picture, Jesus extends the invitation to enter into the land of grace and enjoy an intimate relationship with the Father.

Jesus shows us the Father’s heart. If you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus, for He explains God (John 1:18). The more you watch Jesus in relationship with others in the Gospels, the greater you will realize, experience, and understand His grace.

Jesus, in telling the parable of the prodigal son, confronts legalism with love and grace. We can know by looking at Jesus that we cannot earn favor; we can only receive His grace. We can receive God’s grace because Jesus died in our place on the cross, receiving the full penalty for every one of our sins. His death was enough for every sin.

Legalism places the burden of performance on man, not God. But if we could do anything to earn God’s love and acceptance, then Jesus died needlessly on the cross. Bill Bright used to say that legalism is the greatest heresy of Christianity. You can’t earn God’s favor or love, but you can receive it. Stepping off of the performance treadmill is a challenge for any child of God. And sometimes, even in the church, grace is a missing element. There are always those who pull you into a legalistic way of approaching God. Philip Yancey says, “Oddly, I sometimes find a shortage of grace within the church, an institution founded to proclaim, in Paul’s phrase, ‘the gospel of grace.’ ”


I grew up wanting desperately to be accepted by my classmates in grade school. Without a doubt, I was one of the great people pleasers of all time. I would often think, If only I have the right clothes and get the best grades, I will be part of the in crowd. Meeting Jesus changed my whole approach to life because I became assured of His love and acceptance. He pulled me into a whole new environment with Him—the garden of grace. And living in the grace garden, breathing its atmosphere, walking and talking with Him, I realized God loves to bestow gifts of grace on undeserving sinners. His love changes us as He transforms us on the inside, makes us beautiful, provides for our needs, and sets us free to love, worship, and serve Him. In the garden of grace, we find ourselves in the perfect environment to thrive and grow.

Have you ever traveled to another country? I remember my first trip to Europe. My husband chose Italy for our destination. I thought, Oh, I can’t wait to get off the plane and visit this new place I’ve heard about but never seen! I studied books about Italy and learned about various tourist attractions. But nothing prepared me for that first moment when we boarded the vaporetto (a boat) and traveled on the water to the Hotel Danieli in Venice. I had never been to a place where people traveled by boat to reach their destination. With time in Italy, I grew familiar with the ways of the people and their customs, and I even learned some of their language.

The garden of grace is like a new country, a place unlike any you have known before. We need to learn the ways and language of grace because grace has a unique vocabulary unlike what you will hear in the world. Here’s how Joseph Cooke describes it:

Grace is not the kind of thing that you can study once, and then conclude that you have it nailed down…Grace needs to permeate deeper and deeper and deeper into our minds, attitudes, feelings, relationships, behavior, service for God and others. It needs to go on and on changing us. It needs to become an ever more vital, motivating force in our lives.

You can always spot those who know life in the garden of grace, for they act with unusual mercy and love, and they speak out of kindness and compassion rather than resentment and vengeance. They are selfless and are filled with loving, compassionate actions. And those who have never known grace are touched and moved by it. And if their hearts are open, they are changed forever.

One day while D.L. Moody was preaching, a homeless man, starving and bitterly cold, wandered into the meeting room. Moody’s message that day encompassed the grace of God. Afterward, the man walked up to Moody and said, “I didn’t come to hear you. I came to get warm. But my heart is broken. Do you think the grace of God can save me—a poor, miserable, vile wretch like me?”

Moody assured him, “Yes, definitely!” Moody later remarked, “It was refreshing to preach the gospel of the Son of God to that poor man.”

Moody prayed with the man and found him a place to stay for the night. But Moody didn’t stop there, for grace gives and gives and then gives some more. The next day, Moody arranged for someone to retrieve the man’s coat from the pawnshop. This man, without a hope in the world, wandered into a warm meeting hall for protection and found the secure love of Jesus in the garden of God’s grace.

Moody, one of the greatest evangelists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, influenced thousands of men and women and understood grace better than most people. He used to tell his audiences, “I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I’ve met.”

Ponnamal certainly discovered the power of God’s grace when God found her tucked away in a far corner of India. Who could have guessed that God would give her the gift of ministry with Amy Carmichael? And the story of God’s grace continues through your life and mine.

Friend, as I write these words, I wonder if you have discovered the magnificence of life in the garden of God’s grace? Do you hear God’s invitation to come and live in His garden? Do you know His love and acceptance as a reality in your own life? Do you realize you can do nothing to earn His favor? If so, it’s time to throw a party for those who are lost have been found. And the adventure has only just begun. Let’s step into the garden and discover the lifelong, always-new, incredible experience of growing in God’s amazing grace.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Making Money from Home

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:


Making Money from Home

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Maggie Rowe of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Donna Partow is a bestselling Christian author whose books have sold almost a million copies. She has travelled in ministry on six continents and has been featured on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including the Focus on the Family daily broadcast. Donna has operated her own home-based business since being laid off as an investment banker in 1988, routinely generating a six-figure annual sales volume. She has spoken nationwide on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship, including two engagements at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Donna also appeared three years in a row at Senator John McCain’s conference for Arizona women. She attended the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts & Sciences, and Wharton Business School. She holds a B.A. in English from Rutgers University. Donna and her family live in Arizona.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589976088
ISBN-13: 978-1589976085

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Part I

Foundations for a

Home-Based Business


Seven years ago, Kimber King was a busy stay-at-home mom with three boys, ages six, four, and two. She wasn’t looking for a way to make money from home, but when she began using a line of products that dramatically impacted her health; she couldn’t help telling everyone she knew about it. Kimber recalls, “The products were sold through a network marketing company and I actually had a very negative view of the industry. But the results I had with my own health far outweighed all the negative things I felt about the business.” So she quickly signed up enough family and friends to reach the top rank level in her company in the first six weeks. Within ninety days, her monthly earnings matched the full-time income she had previously been paid in the corporate world.

Kimber soon began reaching beyond her immediate circle of contacts through social networking on the Internet. She recalls, “One night I stumbled upon a site on the Internet that described itself as a business networking site. It was free and on the site you had the opportunity to create a profile page for yourself. I dove right in and started connecting with a ton of people. I did some things very naturally that literally launched my business on the Internet and to this day, from this one site I have an organization of six thousand plus members. Then I started branching out onto other sites like message boards and forums. I began cultivating online relationships mostly focusing on other stay-at-home moms.”

Another of Kimber’s success secrets is working with a personal business coach. Although she was earning a great income from home, she was working long hours on the computer and her income had remained the same for nearly two and a half years. “It was a very lucrative income for a stay-at-home mom of three,” she says, “But I began to have great goals for my family and helping others, and I was frankly stuck.”

Within eight weeks of working with the network marketing coach, Kimber was earning a monthly five-figure income and an annual six figure income while reducing her workload to less than twenty hours per week.

Kimber also credits her parents for much of her success. “My dad instilled a spirit of excellence in me. By watching my mother work in her own hair salon, I learned how to treat customers.” Kimber says the key is focusing on others. “It’s always about them and not me! What are their needs? What are their goals? What are their strengths? What are their desires? It’s never been about me and my income goals or rank advancements. If you focus on others, all that will come! One of my mentors says it like this: ‘If you focus on the mission, you get the commission!’ ”

Trust in God is also central to her business approach. As she explains, “When I start a dialogue with someone, my main intention is to discover how I can bless them. It might not be about business at all. It’s all about relationships first and then anything that flows out of it from there I leave up to God! I trust Him completely with my business and that He will also put those in front of me that I am supposed to serve. When people ask what I do to create success in my home business, I tell them two simple things: Pray and take action. I pray for those who are looking for me and for those I can serve. Then I pick up that phone

or connect with someone. “Faith without works is dead!” I have faith in my heavenly Father to provide the way but I also know that I have to step out on that path in faith.”

Kimber has stepped out in faith knowing that God is the provider in her home business and that’s made all the difference. Now seven years later, she earns a six-figure income from home, working part-time, raising her sons, and modeling the same entrepreneurial spirit she saw in her own mother.











































1

Discover the

Advantages of

Working from Home


Let me begin with a brief look at the “why ” of running a home-based business to show you the benefits, because your motivation and belief in the benefits are what keep you going when the going gets tough. But then we’ll quickly shift gears to the more essential and practical how-to suggestions on the following pages.

Like any job, working at home offers both advantages and disadvantages. In the days and months ahead, times of discouragement will come. You may struggle with prioritization and time management. In addition to those burdens, the physical and emotional demands of promoting your business can drain you. You may begin to wonder if all your hard work is worthwhile, and you may even be tempted to give up your plans. In those moments, turn back to this chapter, reexamine the many benefits of working at home, and redouble your efforts to succeed. Remember, anything worth having is worth fighting for.


Your Home Can Be the Center of Your Life

There’s no place like home. I believe that with all my heart. Home can be the center of our lives, not just the place we come to recover from our lives. We can create an environment that fosters creativity and launch not just one narrow home business but a broad range of income-generating activities.

My first home-based business was in marketing communications: writing press releases, brochures, and ad campaigns. It was hard to get people to take me seriously as I tried to compete with the big-city advertising agencies. But I had a talent for writing and was absolutely determined to be a stay-at-home mother. I landed my largest client when I walked into his office wearing a dark pinstriped business suit and pushing my newborn in her stroller. Thisman said he was impressed with my motivation and touched by my priorities.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve launched countless different moneymaking enterprises. Some were dismal failures; others were wildly successful. Most were somewhere in between. As of this writing, I have a dozen income sources. Granted, some provide only $20 here and there. But hey, $20 is $20!

Let me illustrate. While away on a recent missions trip to Mozambique, I received checks from three businesses, totaling $800.The amazing part is that it was all passive income from businesses I had set up on autopilot on the Internet.

How would you like to earn $800 a week? Would you be thrilled with $800 a month? Maybe you plan to become a business tycoon and earn $800 a day. It’s up to you! But whatever your financial goals, I’m here to tell you that anyone can make extra money or have a full-time career from home if he or she is willing to work smart.

For almost twenty years, I’ve been a leader in promoting home-based businesses for women. I have spoken around the country on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship, including two events at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and three conferences hosted by Senator John McCain. I have loudly proclaimed my firm conviction that every man and woman in America should develop some creative way to make extra money from home. And, under appropriate learning conditions, children, too, should develop those skills.


You Can Be Available for Your Children and Others

By working from home, you can avoid the hassles and costs of day care (which are far more substantial than most people realize) and enjoy spending time with your children. Even if you have to hire a babysitter to watch your kids in your home while you work, you’ll be available at a moment’s notice if needed. And you can keep a watchful eye on all that

goes on throughout the day rather than sitting at a desk wondering if your children are okay.

My older daughter, Leah, is now in college. She was homeschooled much of her life, and I was a stay-at-home mom throughout her entire childhood. Although I was often extremely busy working forty hours a week, and even more on my businesses, I was always available when she truly needed me. Won’t it be nice, when your children reach adulthood, to look back and say the same?

Perhaps you have a disabled family member or are caring for elderly parents. Maybe someone in your home has a chronic illness, and you need to be available for doctor and other appointments. Working from home allows you to be there to care for them and gives you the flexibility to take time off during the day, setting your own schedule.


You Can Be a Positive Role Model for Your Children

Some would argue, “I’m too busy raising my children to run a home business.”

I counter, “Don’t you think it just makes sense to include your children in your business so they learn to be entrepreneurial and self sufficient under God’s sufficiency? Don’t you think that training them to run their own businesses might prove to be more significant than running them around to various afterschool activities?”

Fortunately neither of my daughters has the mind-set that some corporation is going to give her a paycheck and job security for the rest of her life. That is an absolute delusion. We need to train our children for the real world, where wise people use the gifts God has given them to mind their own businesses—even if they also have careers. Both of my daughters, who are now nineteen and thirteen, have already had many moneymaking businesses. They’ve done everything from making bookmarks and jewelry to running my book table and processing credit-card orders from my Web site.

When my oldest daughter was fifteen, she organized a teen missions conference that attracted seven hundred people. I had very little involvement. How did she know how to do that? She’s been working at Christian conferences since she was two years old! Leah has also raised thousands of dollars for her various missions trips by making and selling

crystal bracelets

In addition to being able to watch my children grow while I worked from home, they also watched me grow as a businesswoman. By observing me model entrepreneurship, both ofmy daughters learned valuable business skills.


You Can Help Shoulder the Financial Load

Not only can you work from home; you should. With few exceptions, it’s unwise to rely solely on one income source in today’s unstable economy. Now more than ever, I thank God that I have multiple streams of income from my various home-based enterprises. All over the world, mothers not only nurture their families, but they also play a vital role in ensuring the economic survival of their families. I’ve seen this with my own eyes as I’ve traveled worldwide—from the subsistence farmer in Africa bent over her crops with a baby slung on her back to the Asian mother selling items in the local market while children sit nearby, often working as well.

Women throughout history have contributed to the economic survival of their families. We can do the same, and if we exercise wisdom, we can do so in a way that won’t detract from our role as nurturers. In fact, working from home will enhance all of the roles we play and increase our stature in the eyes of our family members. My children not only love me, but they also openly admire me. How can you put a price tag on that?


You Can Enjoy a Sense of Accomplishment

One of the most important things I hope my children have learned from observing me making money from home is that productive work is not a punishment; in fact, it’s inherently rewarding. Many of us have experienced that exhilarating feeling of working hard to complete a project or the joy of beholding something we’ve made with our own hands. A home business will provide abundant opportunities for you to enjoy that exhilaration.

As the old saying goes, “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s equally true that when Mamma is happily enjoying a sense of accomplishment, everyone around her benefits. I think I’ve modeled a wonderful lifestyle for my daughters. It’s a lifestyle I’m quite certain they’ll choose to replicate.


You Can Be Your Own Boss

Many people fear dependence on a corporation because they have had the rug pulled out from under them or have seen it happen to so many of their colleagues. The days when you could rely on a company to look out for your best interests are long gone. While you’re working diligently for XYZ Corporation, it’s entirely possible they’re filling out your pink slip. Once you establish your own home-based business, you’ll have the pleasure of signing your own paycheck. And when you think you deserve a raise, you can give yourself one.

When you work for an employer, you’re required to work when, where, and how they choose. When you have your own home business, you have more control over when, where, and how you work. Of course, you’re still responsible to your customers, and there will be crunch times when you don’t have a choice about how many hours you put in. But there is usually much more time flexibility when you are your own boss.

Once in a while when I’m struggling with some aspect of my home business, one of my relatives will joke, “Donna, you should go back to banking.” But we all know I’m completely unemployable! I’ve been my own boss for too long, and I don’t think I could ever go back to having someone else tell me what to do with my time.


You Can Continue Your Career

Many women spend years training for a career before their children arrive on the scene. Teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and many other professionals can quite easily transfer their hard-earned skills to a home-based business. Knowing that your career isn’t on hold will give you satisfaction, even though the majority of your time may be spent with family. This is especially important if you want to resume your before children career after the children have grown.

The amazing thing about the Internet is how easy it now is for a woman to stay current and relevant in her field while mothering and earning money from home. These types of opportunities were hard to come by when I wrote my first home-based business book. Now they abound. Let’s hear it for technology!


There Are Opportunities for Tremendous Success

When you work nine to five for someone else’s company, to a large extent your boss controls how well you do. But when you work for yourself, only your ability and determination set the limits, assuming you start with a great product or service people want. Maybe there’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Now is your chance to do it! You

may aspire only to make a little extra money, but there’s always the chance that your “silly idea” will catch on, and you’ll find yourself transformed into a very successful entrepreneur. Someone has to think up those great ideas. Why not you?

I know a number of Christian women who earn six-figure incomes thanks to their home businesses. Yes, you read that right. Six figures! I even know women who’ve earned more than a million dollars, and one woman who has earned several million. With few exceptions, these women did not set out to achieve such tremendous success. They were just doing what they loved, and the success followed. Put another way, they were walking in obedience, and God’s blessings chased them down the street and overtook them. It could happen to you!


The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Scams

1. Surf with caution. Understand that the mainstreaming of the Internet has created both good news and bad news for aspiring home-based business entrepreneurs. Good news: Opportunities abound. Bad news: Scams abound.

2. Beware advertisements. No legitimate company on the planet will advertise to hire an employee to work from home. Not gonna happen. Never. No, not ever. Why? Very simple: If a company had a legitimate interest in hiring employees to work from home, there would be an instantaneous pileup of current employees and their circles of influence. The very fact that a company is advertising work from home is your first clue that it’s a scam.

3. Never buy a list or directory of companies that supposedly hire people to work from home. These are phony! Once and for all: The answer to the question of who will hire you, keep you secure, pay you lots of money, and grant you the freedom to set your own hours from home is no one. You don’t need a list or directory of no one.

4. Choose freedom or security. I constantly hear from people who want the freedom of working from home as well as the perceived security of a job. Freedom and security are always a trade. Will you give up some of your freedom for security? Or will you give up some of your security in return for freedom? You’ll never have both in full measure. Accept reality: You cannot ha e your cake and eat it too.

5. Understand the role of oDesk and similar outsourcing Web sites. In the introduction, I mentioned the emergence of Web sites like oDesk and, in one sense, this is an example of companies looking for people to work from home. And yes, many Americans are trying to capitalize on this new trend. Some are e en succeeding. Howe er, for the most part, companies who post on oDesk aren’t “hiring”; they’re simply outsourcing on a project-by-project basis for the express purpose of not hiring employees. So although some opportunities exist, I belie e sites like oDesk are actually bad news for any North American woman who wants to work from home and is hoping she might find someone to hire her. If you thought the competition was fierce when millions of Americans were looking to work from home, now millions more people around the globe are in the mix. You’ll ha e to compete with people who are willing to work for a few dollars an hour, and it’s nearly impossible to build a successful North American business like that. Now, if you’re willing to move overseas, that’s a whole new ball game, and oDesk can become your very best friend. That’s well beyond the scope of this book, but if it’s something you’re interested in pursuing, read The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss.

6. Know the code. As soon as you hear phrases like “more work than I can handle” or “looking to train someone” or “just want to help others duplicate my success,” run for the door. Or click the mouse. It’s a scam. If these people really had more work than they could handle, their relatives and friends would be beating down the door to get in on it. But since it’s a scam and they’ e already driven away all their friends and relatives, they’re on the Internet trying to scam you. Don’t be fooled. . Beware whirlwind friendships. There are some unethical people whose entire marketing strategy consists of befriending people just to recruit them for this, that, or the other “business opportunity.” Over the years a number of people have swept into my life with a friendship that felt more like a whirlwind romance. In every instance it turned out they were in a network marketing business. As soon as they discovered I wasn’t interested, the whirlwind friendship ended, and they moved on to the next person.

8. Check it out. Don’t rely on information provided by the person trying to sell you. Turn to Google, the Better Business Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to verify the claims and promises.

9. Take your time. Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision on the spot. If it’s a great opportunity today, it will be a great opportunity a week from today.

10 . Big dollars should raise a big red flag. It shouldn’t cost more than $500 to $1,000 to launch a business from home.


Review:
This book offers solid, practical advice on how to begin making money from home. I like entrepreneurship and the idea of using our God-given talents to produce an income without having to work for someone else. This book provides valuable information for those who want to start their own home business–no matter what kind. There is so much to learn but the author keeps it from being too overwhelming. She guides you through everything from setting up a home office to time management to legal and financial issues to marketing and more.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Rooms

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 Books; Original edition (April 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn of B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



James L. Rubart is a professional marketer whose Jr2 Marketing company clientele has included ABC, AT&T/Cingular, and Clear Channel Radio. He is also a professional speaker, writes recurring columns for Christian Fiction Online Magazine and Christian Women Online, and is on the board of the Northwest Christian Writers Association.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books; Original edition (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805448888
ISBN-13: 978-0805448887

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Micah Taylor tapped an edge of the cryptic letter against his palm as he stared out the massive windows of his corner office overlooking Puget Sound.

Why would a great uncle he'd never known build a home for him? Oregon coast. Cannon Beach. Right on the ocean; at least that's what the letter claimed. Probably some joke his VP's cooked up, inspired by the picture he'd hung in the conference room a few months ago of Ecola State Park. Great kid memories from that slice of paradise. Was it only fifteen years ago? Felt longer.

Micah smiled. This was exactly the kind of prank his team might try to pull off. No one would ever accuse RimSoft's culture of being stoic.

But if the letter was real—

"Time to go boss."

Shannon stood in the doorway, eyes bright behind her Versace glasses, short-cropped salt and pepper hair outlining her china doll face. She'd been Micah’s administrative assistant for three years. Smart and not easily intimidated, what bubbled in her five-foot-four frame made her one of the strongest links in his company's chain.

“I hate being called boss.”

“Yes, I know.” She pulled her glasses down and gave him her pirate look over the top of them.

Micah laughed and glanced once more at the letter announcing his inheritance.

He grabbed his notebook and wagged his finger at Shannon as they walked out of his office. “You shouldn’t call someone boss when you’re almost old enough to be their m—"

"—much older sister.”

“Right,” Micah said as they fell into step and marched down the halls of RimSoft.

Friday morning. He loved Fridays; not just because they launched the weekend like a blast of summer morning sun, but because of his weekly team meeting. The creativity his team pumped out astounded him. He might not get hired at his own company if he applied. If employing people better than yourself were an Olympic event Micah would be swimming in gold.

As they turned the final corner on the way to the conference room, Kelli Kay, one of Micah’s more talented programmers, approached. “Want to hear something really cool?” Her red curls bounced like a slinky.

“Absolutely.” Micah kept walking—now backward—his Nike’s scuffing lightly on the teal carpet. Single mom until four months ago, Kelli put herself through computer school, while working forty hours a week and taking care of her ten-year-old kid. Never complained about fifty hour weeks. Never complained about sixty hour weeks.

“My kid won that art contest I told you about last week; he’s headed to LA this summer to compete in the national—"

“You serious? Listen, if he places, let’s fly him, and you, and that new husband of yours to New York to see the MET. I'll bring Julie and we'll all go check out the art with him and time it so we catch a Mariner’s Yankees game.”

“Really?” Kelli half-jogged to keep up with Micah.

“Absolutely. RimSoft's already made $2 million off that little anti-virus program you developed last year. You're amazing," Micah said.

He turned and picked up his pace. Shannon picked up hers too, her white Adidas running shoes helping in the effort. He couldn't believe this was the same women who showed up her first day wearing three-inch heals and a business suit straight out of Uptight Dresses for Corporate America. Micah told her to get rid of the heels and put on whatever she loved wearing and felt comfortable in.

“You could actually stop when you talk to people," Shannon said.

Micah laughed. "We have a meeting. You know, the company? Work to do. Software programs to develop. Lots of sales. Happy stockholders. Make money. All that stuff.” He brushed past a lush, broad leafed Dracaena plan and walked faster.

“They just want more time with you, to know you like them."

“I like everyone. But, to be sure, let's get out an e-mail that says ‘From Micah Taylor. To you. I like you. I really, really like you.’ ” He turned, pushed open the conference room door and held it for Shannon. He returned her glare with an impish grin.

The conference room was small but comfortable. No vaulted ceiling, no massive table, just two light tan leather couches and six overstuffed espresso brown chairs all circling the center of the room. RimSoft's version of Camelot. The room wasn't designed for ego, it was crafted for efficiency.

The couches held two people each. On one couch sat Micah's head of legal with his jet-black hair and John Lennon glasses. Next to him slumped his VP of mergers and acquisitions; thirty-one years old but looked fifty with his premature gray hair. On the other couch perched his VP of marketing, looking more every day like a young Oprah. Next to her sat his Chief Financial officer. Two of Micah's software development VP's sat in the chairs.

Shannon sat in a chair, Micah paced in front of his.

On a table in the center of the room sat a steaming pot filling the air with the aroma of Starbuck's coffee. Clumped next to it were mugs from Disneyland, the University of Washington Huskies, and cups with RimSoft's logo on them.

Good. All the pieces were in place. Time to check out the condition of the chess board.

“All right,” Micah said, a slice above his normal volume. “Let's roll. Where are we at with the i2-Rock alliance?”

“Done," his mergers VP said.

"We love their hardware; they still love our software, right?"

"Madly."

“Excellent, great work.” Micah focused on Oprah's twin. “Is the ad layout done for Wired?"

"Yep."

"Last one you did was a home run into the rafters so let’s keep the hits coming.” He turned to his right. “Beta testing on version four is done, right?”

“Finished Wednesday.”

“Very nice work, I can’t believe you already have it almost bug free.” Micah looked at the head of his legal team. “You’ve finished the docs for the merger with Reeda?”

“Not quite." The man glanced up at Micah. "We’re almost there.”

Micah whipped his pen around on his yellow note pad like a poor man's Picasso. “This is a sketch of underwear. But not just ordinary underwear, its asbestos underwear. You need a pair.”

“Why?” asked the head of legal.

“Well, you said your team would be done on Tuesday. It’s now Friday. So since it isn’t done, your team falls into the category of ‘liar, liar, pants on fire.’ I would think the asbestos underwear would help squelch the flames a bit.”

The head of legal flushed and mumbled, “We’ll get it done by the end of the day.”

“You’re excellent at law but this is the third time you’ve delayed us this quarter. Unacceptable.”

One of his team cleared their throat. The rest glued their eyes to the agenda.

"Deep breath everyone. Relax. Let's move on," Micah said.

A half-hour later Micah glanced at each member of his team. “Thank you. For two things. First, for being good enough at what you do that this company could no doubt survive without me. Second, for not being so good there’s no room left for my input.” He smiled, grabbed his notebook, and strode toward the door.

Too harsh in there on Mr. Always-Late-Legal? Probably. But why couldn't the guy just do his job on time? Did Micah have to do every job at RimSoft? If there was time he would. He doubted any of them believed his 'good enough that the company could run without me' speech. RimSoft couldn't. Always picking up the broken pieces was part of running a company. But it exhausted him. There had to be a way to get free of it. Trusting other people to come through? Wouldn't happen in this lifetime.

Shannon stepped into the hallway just ahead of him and clipped toward her desk like an Olympic speed walker.

In two bounds Micah, caught up to her. “Hey, slow down.”

She walked faster and didn’t respond.

“You’ve got that ‘Micah was a jerk’ look again.”

“Hmm.” She looked up at him with a thin lipped smile.

They walked seven paces in silence. “That’s not who I really am."

“Oh?”

Four more paces.

“You’re right, I was a royal jerk in there,” he whispered. His face grew warm as he fingered the scar on his left palm. “It’s just … some realities about life have stuck with me whether I wanted them to or not.”

“So you weren’t this way from birth?”

He hoped the tiny shake of his head was imperceptible. “Only since I was eight.”

"Zero! Zilch! Nada! That's what you'll always be, kid!"

The rest of the scene—the blood, the abandonment—tried to surface but Micah

slammed the vault to his heart shut and the memory faded.

By the time he arrived at his office, his breathing had steadied and his focus shifted to the letter from his great uncle sitting on his teak desk. Micah picked it up. The yellowed paper was probably white once, though the fluid cursive writing looked as crisp as if it had been scrawled yesterday.

The envelope it came in had been sealed with wax, the outline of a lion’s head distinct in the dark-blue paraffin. Micah settled into his black leather chair and stared at the name above the return address on the envelope. Archie Taylor. Definitely strange.

Archie was his great uncle whom he knew less than a paragraph about. He’d been dead since the early ‘90s, and Micah had never met him. He knew Archie had made quite a bit of money and hadn’t married, but the rest had always been a mystery. Until Micah’s late teens, he hadn’t known Archie existed. When he asked, his dad would only say Archie was a strange man. A man to stay away from. He opened the letter and wondered once more if what it promised was real.


September 27, 1989


Dear Micah,

You are likely shocked to have received this letter as we never had the opportunity to know each other. The reason for the letter will surprise you more.

I have asked a friend to mail it when you turn thirty-five or when you acquire enough financial resources that you no longer need to labor. Consequently, if you are reading this letter before reaching your 35th birthday you have already made a significant amount of money, which is sometimes a beneficial occurrence at a young age, but usually is not.

If my instructions have been carried out, a home was built during the past five months on the Oregon coast, four miles south of Cannon Beach. I designed it for you.

My great desire is that you enjoy the house, and if the builder followed my directives I believe you will. It will certainly—if you'll forgive the cliché—upset your apple cart if you allow it. The home is all you.

Your great uncle,

Archie.


P.S. There should be a key enclosed with this letter as well as a card with the address.


Micah reread the last line and frowned. 'The home is all you?' Typo. Must mean all yours.

Intriguing. One of his fave places in another life. If there was a home on the northern Oregon coast with his name on it, it was an adventure worth checking out. Soon. Micah read the letter for the third time that morning. Definitely soon.

***

A noise in the hall made him look up. Julie. Perfect business partner. Recent romantic partner. Tenacious tennis partner.

Her shoulder-length blond hair bounced as she pranced through the door of his office, crisp beige suit complementing her gleaming pearly whites.

“Hey!" Micah rose from his desk and opened his arms.

When she reached him, she ruffled his dark brown hair and kissed him softly.

The faint scent of Safari floated up to him. She never wore too much, almost not enough. Julie. Powerful yet could be tender. Driven and radiant. Nice to have her back.

“How was the trip?” he asked.

“We’re richer. But glad it’s over.” Julie slid out of her blazer, flicked a piece of lint off the lapel, and laid the coat across the back of Micah’s milk chocolate brown chair and patted it once. “I did find the perfect SLR digital camera to add to my collection. You’ll model for me, please? Your baby-blue eyes are worth taking up seventy or eighty megs on my laptop."

When they’d started RimSoft five years ago he never imagined they’d strike such a rich vein in the software gold rush. Of course he’d never imagined their long-term platonic relationship budding into romance either.

Micah sat down and stared at Archie's letter.

“You with me here?" Julie said, leaning against Micah's desk.

"Huh?"

“I asked about Monday's board meeting and I think waiting five seconds for a response is long enough." She laughed.

“Sorry, didn't hear you. Brain freeze. I got a bizarre letter from a long lost relative. In fact this weekend I might go—“

Julie pressed two fingers against his lips. “We cannot allow those thoughts to escape.”

“What thoughts?”

“Of nixing our Whistler trip this weekend. You and me and snow and spring skiing and fireplaces and old, old bottles of cabernet. Ring any bells?”

“Hmm.” He grinned sheepishly.

“You better have a really, really good reason if you're canceling.” She straightened the collar of his olive-green polo shirt.

"Apparently I’ve inherited a house right on the ocean, just south of Cannon Beach."

"Cannon Beach?" A scowl flashed across her face.

"What?" Micah said.

"Nothing. Let me see something." Julie leaned over him as her red fingernails danced over his keyboard until a sampling of Cannon Beach homes for sale flashed on screen. "Take a look at these prices." She tapped on his monitor. "You're little gift could be worth $3 million plus. Throw a sign on it, make some quick cash."

"It's probably just a shack. Or maybe the letter's a hoax."

"Where did this mystery shack come from?"

He picked up the letter and bounced it up and down on his palm. "My great-uncle, whom I never met, had it built for me."

"You never met him and he gives you a house at Cannon Beach?"

"Weird huh?" Micah opened his palms. "So, this weekend, want to come check it out with me?"

Julies shoulders sagged. "Instead of Whistler?"

"You're right." He ran his finger over the surface of the letter. "Let's go skiing."

"Wow. You're really curious aren't you?"

Julie didn’t wait for an answer. A few seconds later Google Earth splashed onto Micah's monitor.

"Address?" Julie said.

Micah read it to her off the letter. A few seconds later they gazed at a patch of dirt overlooking the ocean.

"Not even a shack," Julie said.

"Maybe, maybe not." Micah punched a few keys. "Look. That satellite image is seven months old. Archie's letter says the home was built by somebody during the past five months." Micah gaze stayed riveted on his screen. "There could be—"

"How 'bout I make you a deal so you can go to the beach, Mr. Break-My-Heart.”

Hey, it’s not that important for—“

“No, no, stay with me here. If you switch out our weekend at Whistler for a week in the Alps, we have a deal.”

“So you'll come with me this weekend?"

"No."

"What?"

Julie sighed and looked out the window. " The ocean and I don't get along."

"Interesting. Another fascinating secret about my fascinating partner is revealed." Micah leaned back with his hands behind his head. "This is a story I need to know."

"No, you don't. That story has no admittance stamped on it in blood red letters."

My Thoughts and Review:
This is an outstanding book!  Very interesting, intriguing, and inspiring!  I usually don't enjoy fiction but this one grabbed and held my attention.  Freedom, forgiveness, soul-searching, surrender, supernatural realm, choices and consequences, God's truth vs. Satan's lies, and more... It is cleverly and creatively written.  One problem I have with this book is when the author suggested that the Lord recommends Braveheart saying, "That's a good one." (page 216)  In my opinion, it is a powerful movie but it does contain inappropriate scenes and some immorality.  I doubt if the Lord would approve of it, much less recommend it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday's Fave Five #15

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story).

My fave five this week include:
1. Work Fair.  My husband took the kids and me to his annual Work Fair on Saturday.  My husband is a City Civil Engineer.  We enjoyed visiting booths from different departments in the city.  They offered informational pamphlets, books, games, candies, and prizes.  My husband's booth gave out gazebo-making kits (using toothpicks and gumdrops), city maps, golf tees, and lots of candies :).  We also saw a Lifeflight helicopter landing.  That was cool!  My 8 yo son got to go inside the helicopter.




























2. Running water.  Last weekend we had a bad leak in our water pipe that made us not able to have running water for quite some time.  The Lord helped us find the leak. My husband fixed it; it was wonderful to have running water again.   We're so thankful.

3. Habanero BBQ almonds.  Very yummy.

4. Keith Green movie.  I'm really excited about a new movie about Keith Green, my all-time favorite musician (you probably can tell if you regularly visit my blog :)). I hope and pray that it will stay true to his life with no compromise.

5. My 16 year old daughter got her driving permit yesterday.  As I've been saying, she will probably be driving before me :).  (I don't drive.)

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Refuge on Crescent Hill

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:

Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregal Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Melanie Dobson is an author as well as the owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media. A former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family, Melanie has worked in the fields of journalism and publicity for more than twelve years. Her first book is Together for Good. Melanie lives in Oregon with her husband, Jon, and their two adopted daughters, Karly and Kinzel.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825425905
ISBN-13: 978-0825425905

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The glass door was locked, but that didn’t stop Camden Bristow from yanking on the handle. The imposing desk on the other side of the glass was vacant, and the receptionist who usually waved her inside had disappeared. Behind the desk, the Fount Magazine logo mocked her, whispering that the money she so desperately needed had disappeared as well.

She pounded on the glass one last time, but no one came to the door.

Turning, she moved to a row of windows on the far side of the elevator. Sixteen stories below, swarms of people bustled toward their next appointment. Someplace they needed to be. Not long ago, she’d been rushing too, up and down Park Avenue to attend meetings at ad agencies and various magazines . . . including the suite of offices behind her.

Human rights. Natural disasters. Labor disputes. Whenever the photo editor at Fount needed the most poignant pictures for news articles, he called her, and nothing had stopped her from capturing what he needed for the next edition. She’d dedicated the past five years to responding to Grant Haussen’s calls, but after she came back from Indonesia two months ago, he stopped calling her.

She’d e-mailed him the pictures of the earthquake’s aftermath along with her regular invoice of fees and expenses. He’d used the pictures in the next issue, but apparently discarded the invoice. She never received a check, and he didn’t return even one of her many calls.

A few years ago, she wouldn’t have worried as much about the money—those days her phone rang at all hours with freelance assignments to shoot pictures around the world—but her clients had slashed their budgets and were using stock photos or buying photographs from locals. The current results weren’t as compelling as sending a professional, but keeping the lights on—the rent paid—trumped paying for the best photography.

Her clients may be making rent, but she hadn’t been able to pay hers for two months. Her savings account was depleted. The income from her Indonesia shoot was supposed to appease her landlord and credit card company. Even though she hadn’t heard from Grant Haussen, she held out hope that she might at least recoup the expenses for her trip so she could pay off the whopping flight and hotel charges on her credit card.

All hope shattered when she read the morning’s headline.

Fount Magazine Declares Bankruptcy

Others may have skimmed past this article, but the news stunned her. Three hours ago, she left her studio apartment and started walking until she found herself in Midtown, in the lobby of the Reinhold Building. A few staff members might remain at the Fount office, packing things up. Or if there were some sort of bankruptcy proceedings . . . maybe she could collect a few thousand dollars. Just enough to pay a portion of her bills while she tried to find more work.

It appeared that no one had stuck around to say goodbye.

The elevator dinged behind her, and she turned away from the windows and watched a skinny man in overalls push a mop and bucket into the hallway. He was at least two inches shorter than her five foot six.

She forced herself to smile, but he didn’t smile back. She pointed at the offices. “I need to find someone at the magazine.”

He grunted as he dipped his mop into the gray water and wrung it out. Shoving her fists into the pockets of her long jacket, she stepped toward him. “They owe me money.”

“You and half this dadgum town.”

“Yes, but—”

“They ran outta here so fast last night that the rubber on their shoes was smokin’.” He flopped the mop onto the tile floor and water spread toward his boots. “I’d bet good money that they ain’t comin’ back.”

Camden slumped against the window. Even if she were able to track down Grant, it wasn’t like he would personally write her a check for money the magazine owed. He was probably out hunting for a job already, or maybe he was stretched out on his couch watching Oprah, enjoying the luxury of not having to report for duty. He could collect unemployment while he slowly perused for a new gig.

Unfortunately, there was no unemployment for freelancers.

The janitor swabbed the mop across the tile in straight brushstrokes like he was painting instead of cleaning it, taking pride in his work.

She understood. At one time she had been proud of her work too. There was nothing more exhilarating than flying off to a country rocked by tragedy and immersing herself into an event that most people only read about. She was onsite to see the trauma, feel the aftershocks, though she never allowed herself to get personally involved. It was her job to record the crisis so others could help with the recovery. All she needed to do her job was her camera equipment and laptop.

Because of all her travels, she hadn’t accumulated much stuff over the years. Her landlord had furnished her flat before she moved in, but for almost five years, the apartment and everything in it had felt like hers. It was the longest she’d lived in one place her entire life.

But tonight, her landlord was changing the locks. Her home had been rented by someone else.

The man pushed his mop by her, ignoring her. She couldn’t blame him for his indifference. This city was full of people who needed a job—he was probably trying as hard as he could to keep his.

She would mop floors if she had to. Or scrub toilets. It wouldn’t pay enough for her to make rent, but maybe it would keep her from having to call her mom and beg for cash. If she called, her mother would pass the phone to her latest boyfriend—a retired executive living outside Madrid. Camden would rather sleep in a shelter than grovel to him.

She hopped over the wet trail left by the mop and stepped into the elevator.

Her landlord said she had until five o’clock to pack her stuff and vacate the building. The little credit she had left on her card wouldn’t pay for a week in a Manhattan hotel. And the few friends she’d made when she wasn’t traveling were struggling as much as she was. One of them might let her sleep on a couch, but she’d be expected to help with rent.

The elevator doors shut, and she punched the button for the lobby.

Where was she supposed to go from here?



The basement of the town hall smelled like burnt coffee and tobacco. The navy carpet had faded to a dull gray, and the dais at the front of the room was scuffed with shoe marks. Five men and two women sat behind a table on the platform—the bimonthly summit of Etherton’s City Council.

As the town mayor, Louise Danner presided over the city council from the middle chair. Her hoop earrings jangled below the signature Bic pen she propped behind her left ear. Copper-colored bangs veiled her smudged eyebrows.

Three steps below Louise’s chair, Alex Yates drummed his fingers on a stack of proposals and tried to listen as Evan Harper begged the councilors to let him tear down the barn on his property and replace it with a guesthouse.

In the eight months since he’d moved to Etherton, he learned that Louise Danner was almost as permanent a fixture in Etherton as the town hall. Within days of him taking this job, she told him exactly how she became mayor over the eleven thousand people in their town.

She had been born in a small house off Main Street and reigned as valedictorian over Etherton High’s Class of ’67. Armed with a degree from Marietta, she returned home after graduation and worked in several businesses across town until she secured the job of hospital administrator. Louise served on almost every town committee for the next thirty years, from historical preservation to the garden club, but when she landed the mayorship almost eight years ago, she dropped anchor.

She’d spent a boatload of money to retain her position during the last election, and with the state of the town’s economy, she would be fighting to keep her job when voters went to the polls in five months.

Alex rechecked his watch. It was almost lunchtime, and Evan Harper was still pleading his case. Alex saw the dilapidated barn every morning on the short drive to his office. Guesthouse or no guesthouse, he agreed with Evan—someone needed to put the structure out of its misery. A hearty gust of wind would end its life if the council wouldn’t approve demolition.

Alex stifled a yawn as Evan named all the people who could stay in the guesthouse including his wife’s elderly parents and his daughter’s college friends. Apparently, no one had told the man he couldn’t filibuster city council. If the mayor didn’t curtail Evan’s speech, he’d probably pull out the local phone book and read until the councilors adjourned for lunch. And once they walked out of the room, they may not reconvene in time.

Alex couldn’t wait for approval. He needed an answer today.

For the past month, he’d been quietly courting the owner of the ten-acre property at the edge of town—part of the old Truman farm. If the council concurred, the owner was ready to sell the land and farmhouse for a pittance. The town could buy it and use the property to help with their plans to revitalize the local economy.

Alex caught the mayor’s eye and tapped his watch.

“Thank you.” Louise interrupted Evan before he finished listing off every construction supply he’d purchased for the guesthouse. “I think that is all the information we need to make a decision.”

Evan plucked another piece of paper from his stack. “But I haven’t read the neighborhood petition.”

“We appreciate all the time and thought you’ve put into this, Evan.” Louise propped her chin up with her knuckles. “We’ll let you know if we have any other questions.”

Evan sat down on the wooden folding chair at the end of the row, and Alex leaned back as the council began discussing the hot issue of preservation versus progress.

Most of the councilors were successful business leaders and attorneys, passionate in either their pro-growth or anti-development stance. Today he needed to convince them that voting “yes” on his proposal would commemorate the town’s history and lay the foundation for their legacy while generating new revenue and development for the town.

Alex glanced at his watch and sighed. If it took the councilors forty minutes to decide the fate of a rickety barn, how long would it take them to make a decision on his proposal?

When he parted ways with corporate mania last year, he thought he’d left behind the constricting strands of red tape that kept him from doing his job, but he’d learned that Etherton’s residents, along with the city council, rode the high of debate until they were forced to vote. Sometimes the debate lasted weeks, or even months.

Edward Paxton led the charge against development. He didn’t want his town to change nor did he want Alex involved with any of the town’s business. Rumor had it that he wanted his grandson, Jake, to take the economic development position that Louise had created last spring to solicit new business. The only problem was that no one else on the council wanted Jake Paxton to be involved. Edward seemed to hold a personal vendetta against Alex for stealing his grandson’s job.

At least the mayor was on his team. She’d gambled when she hired him, but he assured her and the council that he’d deliver. On their terms.

After almost an hour of discussion, Louise called for a vote, and Evan smacked his knees when they approved his guesthouse with a 4–3 vote. He saluted the row of councilors as he rushed out, probably on his way to rent an excavator. Alex guessed the barn would be in a heap when he drove home tonight.

He sighed. If only getting the council to approve a project was always this easy . . .

Etherton needed the tax revenue from new businesses to fix its brick streets, increase the police force, and build a high school. The city’s officials expected Alex to find a way to merge their small town charm with big city business.

Blending these two ideals was no small feat. Not long after he moved to Etherton, he worked a deal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter on a piece of farm property at the edge of town. Some towns didn’t want a Wal-Mart, but since their local economy had tanked, he thought most of the locals would welcome the store. After all, most of them drove forty-five minutes each week to visit the Wal-Mart in Mansfield, and this would bring discount clothes, groceries, car care, and—most importantly—jobs to their back door.

He was wrong.

When the council voted last December, residents of Etherton packed City Hall, a chorus of dissension over why their town couldn’t bear the weight of a conglomerate. The icy room turned hot as tempers flared. Small business owners threatened to overthrow the seats of every council member who supported the proposal.

In the end, the council rejected his plan. The town desperately needed the revenue and the jobs, but apparently not enough to put out the welcome mat for a mega store. A local farmer bought the field to plant corn, and Etherton missed out on the much-needed sales tax that would flood into Fredericktown when Wal-Mart opened its doors there this fall.

The council told him they wanted new business, but they wanted something quaint that would fit the town’s celebration of all things old. It was a hard task—but he’d found the perfect solution. If the residents were willing to risk a little, he was ready to deliver both quaint and classy . . . wrapped up in a pretty package and tied together with a sound financial bow.

Louise slid the pen out from behind her ear and tapped it on the table. She dismissed the few people in the audience, explaining that the rest of the meeting was a closed session, and then she pointed at him. “You’re up, Alex.”

He straightened his tie and stood to face the councilors. It was about to get hot again.

Review:
It’s a fascinating history...it’s a tragic murder...it’s an adventurous treasure hunt...it’s a sweet romance....it’s Refuge on Cresent Hill. I don’t think the name or cover of this novel does it justice. There are many characters which can be a bit much to keep up with but it keeps things exciting. Many lives are interwoven. The novel is quite complex and intriguing while containing good messages as well. Love others. Forgive others. Help others. Amazing beauty can come from ashes. A God-fearing legacy can be a blessing for generations.  This book is a good read.

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