Thursday, May 23, 2013

FIRST Wild Card Tour: The Fearless Passage of Steven Kim

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:

Whitaker House (March 14, 2013)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***


Seung-Whan (Steven) Kim is a South Korean/American businessman and leading human rights advocate described by ABC news as "a face and a voice on behalf of suffering North Koreans." After serving four years in a Chinese prison camp for rescuing North Korean refugees, Kim returned to the U. S. and founded 318 Partners, a humanitarian organization that continues the work he began, focusing especially on the plight of trafficked North Korean women and children being sold into the sex trade. Kim and his wife are the parents of three grown children and live in Huntington, New York.

Carl Herzig, PhD, is a professor of English at St. Ambrose University where he teaches sacred poetry, contemporary fiction, and creative writing. He is a fellow of the National Writing Project and reviewer for a variety of literary and creative arts journals. Dr. Herzig has served as an Iowa Humanities Scholar and evaluator for the Hearst Foundation U.S. Senate Youth Program, the Iowa Humanities Board, and the Illinois Council for the Humanities.

Visit the authors' website.


Seung-Whan (Steven) Kim was a successful but self-absorbed businessman living the American dream as a South Korean-turned-American citizen when he felt God calling him to intervene on behalf of North Korean refugees. In 2003 Kim was arrested in China for harboring and helping refugees escape through an underground railroad. He would serve four years in prison camps where his faith flourished despite the harsh environment. Immersing himself in Scripture and prayer, he secretly lead fellow inmates and their guard to Christ at great personal risk. Today Kim's refugee mission continues and he's known as a powerful voice for human rights, especially North Korean women and children being trafficked for profit. The Fearless Passage of Steven Kim serves as an inspiring reminder of what God can accomplish through one willing and obedient heart.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (March 14, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160374729X
ISBN-13: 978-1603747295


New York

Saturday, May 31, 1975

“Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”
—Job 8:7

Though already twenty-seven, Steven Kim felt like an excited teen as he stepped onto the tarmac at New York’s Kennedy Airport. His heart was bursting with an overwhelming sense of possibility, his head swimming with American-Dream visions of unbridled prosperity. He knew some English, if not as much as he thought, and crossed to the terminal with every assurance that a bright future awaited him around the first corner.

Steven had dreamed of this moment for almost twenty years, ever since he and his classmates in South Korea had studied English as a second language in middle school. For him, the United States had always been a nation of salvation; a champion-state of equality, individualism, and democracy; a bastion of both personal and political freedom. In the late 1960s, he had gone so far as to volunteer to fight alongside American forces in Vietnam.

And the U.S. was a mostly Christian nation, Steven knew. There would even be Korean churches like the ones he’d grown up with back home, established by Korean immigrants generations before, in the early the twentieth century. In South Korea, the number of churches was increasing dramatically, and there were already more Korean Christians than there were adherents to any of the country’s other religions. By this point, Steven figured, there must be tens of thousands of Korean Christians in America, and plenty of churches in New York from which to choose.

Most important for Steven, the American flag had become for him, as it had for Koreans in every walk of life, a banner of unlimited economic promise and business opportunity. For them, the U.S. was the place to go if you wanted to become rich. Wages were higher across the board, even at the lowest level, and one’s earnings, he believed, in the tradition of Horatio Alger, were in direct proportion to how hard you were willing to work. It was simple ingwa Å­ngbo, cause and effect, based on initiative and poram, worthiness. The U.S. economy was less vulnerable to market fluctuations than Korea’s, and, in stark contrast to Korea’s highly politicized atmosphere, family and political connections in the U.S. were not always required for commercial success. All one needed, Steven thought, were initiative and a willingness to work hard—and he was chock-full of both.

The long path that had brought him to America hadn’t been easy, though. He’d been born Kim Seung-Whan to Korean parents in Seoul, South Korea, in 1949, just a year before the outbreak of the Korean War, and had grown up in a world full of violence, poverty, and hunger.

Seung-Whan’s father, Kim Ki-Hong, was from Sineuju, a lumber town on the northwestern border across the Yalu River from China, and had spent his youth in the town of Sariwon. After high school, Ki-Hong went to Japan to study photography, and he later moved to China and opened a studio in Beijing, where he lived for over ten years, earning a respectable income as a well-regarded photographer.

During the Second World War, Ki-Hong joined the Chinese Army to fight the Japanese, whose brutal, genocidal occupation of Korea had lasted thirty-five years, since 1910. When the war ended, he was still relatively young, and his army service earned him the freedom of travel. He chose to return to his “liberated” homeland in the north.

Ki-Hong arrived in Sariwon expecting to help build a new, free Korean society. With the 1945 division of the once-unified country at the 38th parallel, however, he found that one occupying force—the Japanese—had been replaced by another: the Soviets. Conditions were just as repressive as they had been under Japanese rule, in some ways even worse. Many of the Soviet soldiers stationed in North Korea had been criminals and prisoners. Now, disdainful of what they saw as a subhuman foreign populace and free to act on even their grossest desires, they rampaged through the towns and countryside, taking what they liked; raping women and young girls, often in front of their parents, husbands, and children; and pillaging family homes and property. Anyone who protested their behavior was mercilessly beaten or executed on the spot.

Ki-Hong had never considered himself a communist or espoused an overtly political position, but neither had he been averse to the philosophy. Now, however, his hatred of the occupation forces caused him to despise all communists, and he did so with a vengeance, not making a distinction between Soviets and Chinese. He helped organize an underground resistance group called Young Friends against Soviet Soldiers, comprised mostly young North Koreans, whose goal was to protect the citizenry and fight against the new army of foreign invaders. Every night, they went out into the streets to search out isolated Soviet soldiers to kill and confiscate their weapons.

Ki-Hong was one of the leaders of the emerging grassroots resistance, but his position was difficult to keep secret. Other members of the community became aware of his role, and within months, an infiltrator in the Young Friends exposed him publicly and informed the Soviets of his identity. Suddenly Ki-Hong was on the run, a wanted man, facing sure execution if apprehended. Only with the help of a few trusted friends was he was able to disappear, eluding the search and, in 1946, escaping to South Korea.

When he arrived in Seoul, Ki-Hong sought out like-minded activists. Still filled with hatred for the Soviets in the north, he searched for the most anti-communist group he could find and eventually joined the influential West-North Youth League.

As he had in the north, Ki-Hong helped direct the anti-communist campaign. But he no longer needed to conduct his activities underground, since he had the support of the South Korean government. He and his fellow activists searched the country for communist sympathizers and North Korean agents. Eventually, his role was formalized, and after the war he joined the South Korean police. Now it was his job to arrest communists and send them to prison. Fluent in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese, he soon rose to the rank of detective, and he remained there until his retirement.

Ki-Hong soon met and married a South Korean woman, Hong Do-Won. And on April 17, 1949, in Seoul, the couple celebrated the birth of their first child, a son, named Seung-Whan.

One of Seung-Whan’s few early or happy memories of his father was riding on the back of his motorcycle down a dusty city street. But Ki-Hong never really committed to either his wife or his child. They rarely ate or enjoyed activities as a trio, and the family didn’t hold together for very long. In 1956, when Steven was six, his father left to live with another woman.

For the next six years, until Ki-Hong returned for good, Do-Won was without her husband or the benefits of his income; he didn’t send them anything or stay in touch. As a single mother without other means of support, she was forced to work long hours in the nearby textile mills to keep herself and her son housed, clothed, and fed.

Ki-Hong’s mother, Grandma Hong In-Sung, remained a part of their lives. A proud woman of strong Christian faith, she looked after Seung-Whan’s religious upbringing, taking him to church and Sunday school every week. When he was sick, or pretending to be, he might miss school, but he never missed church; his grandmother would go so far as to carry him there on her back, if she had to. After the war, he later remembered, she would always iron paper money for him to place in the offering basket, even when times were lean.

Despite the witness of Grandma In-Sung, church was more a social opportunity than a spiritual experience for Seung-Whan. He had been born into a Christian family and had attended worship services for as long as he could remember, so he didn’t feel as if there was anything more for him to learn; he just practiced without thinking. Unlike the many South Koreans who converted to Christianity during and after the war, Seung-Whan was hardly conscious of the tenets of his faith; being a Christian was just like being a member of a family, in his eyes—a birthright, not a belief. His converted friends had to learn about who Jesus was and what He had taught—for them, a whole new philosophy—but Seung-Whan never really thought about those things. They were automatic, routine.

“I didn’t know Jesus Christ personally,” he said years later. “‘Jesus Christ—oh yeah, I believe in Jesus Christ,’ I always said, but inside I didn’t really know who He was.”

At age fifteen, Seung-Whan sang in the church choir and helped teach Sunday school, but he wasn’t moved by the services or inspired by the knowledge the ministers passed down; he didn’t feel anything inside. As he grew older, he continued to tithe money to the church, but in his life outside, he did whatever he wanted, not treating Sundays—let alone any other day of the week—as God’s.

Like all South Korean children, Seung-Whan learned English in school and developed a steadfast belief in “the land of the free.” He pushed himself hard in his lessons and made friends with American officers serving as volunteer teachers. To him, the United States was both a land of opportunity and a refuge from communist oppression.

In the early 1960s, when the Vietnam conflict had expanded into a full-fledged battle between the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese government and the communist north, South Korea provided the second-largest contingent of foreign troops. Never having left Korea, Seung-Whan was desperate to see the world, but no one could travel abroad without fulfilling his compulsory military duty. And so, immediately upon graduating, Seung-Whan enlisted with the Korean army, along with 320,000 of his compatriots.

Despite having grown up in a war-torn land, his youthful exuberance blinded him to the dangers of fighting. As luck would have it, he landed a job in the Educational Department of the 36th Regiment of the South Korean Army’s Operational Command Post, where he was tasked with preparing annual education timetables for the entire regiment. Although he was safe in his position, he was restless; he wanted to fight. Four times he applied for a transfer to combat duty, hoping to join the American forces on the ground in Vietnam. His job was vital to the regiment, though, and not everyone had the ability do it, so none of his four applications were supported or forwarded by his commanding officer. Seung-Whan was destined to serve his nation from the peaceful security of operational headquarters.

Upon completion of his term of duty, Seung-Whan returned to civilian life and decided that he wanted to go back to school. He’d always excelled in academics, and he knew that a degree could serve as a gateway to a more fulfilling life. To his disappointment, however, he wasn’t able to afford the tuition, nor could he obtain a scholarship to help cover the expenses. So, he accepted a paid position as tour director with church-run cultural youth group.

Seung-Whan enjoyed his job coordinating appearances for the young performers, and it satisfied his appetite for travel, but it still wasn’t what he was looking for in terms of a career. He wanted to succeed financially—to earn “real” money. This, he decided, should be his main focus. And so, after considering the best places in the world to launch a prosperous career, he weighed his options and turned his attention to his capitalist dreamland: the United States.

When Seung-Whan arrived in New York, the Korean and Vietnam wars were over, the last of the American troops having been lifted out of the chaos of Saigon just weeks earlier. The world was entering a new, modern age, based on the evidence all around him, and New York would be the center of global commerce—it was the place to be. He could hardly believe his good fortune as he set foot on U.S. soil for the first time. He had even adopted an English name to fit his new identity—Steven Kim. And he felt sure that nothing could hold him back.

Steven’s most pressing challenge was money—he was practically broke. With just a few bills in his pocket and not a penny more to his name, he needed to find a job immediately, that very day. Whatever work he could find, he told himself—whatever he was offered—he would do. I’ll do anything, he decided as he passed through customs. If I don’t work, I’ll die.

Fortunately, Steven had a contact—a high school friend who had come to the States a few years before and, like so many other Korean immigrants in New York since the beginning of the 1970s, opened a fresh produce store.

In 1960, only around four hundred Koreans lived in New York City, many of them students at Columbia University. By the end of the decade, however, Koreans had become the fastest-growing ethnic group of small-business owners in America’s largest metropolitan area.

Early on, the Koreans mostly sold wigs and other Korean-made goods or subcontracted in the garment industry. Then, first in the poorer minority neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, Koreans began buying up grocery stores from their American owners, who were retiring at an increasing rate. They also set up shop in vacant, abandoned buildings. Many of these entrepreneurs had come from Korea with experience managing or working in small retail outfits. Now, grocery stores, produce shops, and fruit stands owned and run by recent immigrants from Korea were sprouting up weekly on almost every block and street corner in the residential districts of Manhattan. Some of these businesses operated around the clock seven days a week to take full advantage of the “City That Never Sleeps.”

Without question, Steven was ready and willing to do his part. Before the sun had set on his first day in New York, he had a job selling fruit and vegetables in his family friend’s produce shop in Massapequa, on Long Island, just an hour’s train ride east of Manhattan.

The next morning, the owner walked Steven through the shop, pointing out bins and crates brimming with unfamiliar produce. “What’s this long green thing?” Steven asked in Korean. “What do you call that red one?” He was practically bursting with questions and nervous enthusiasm. He could barely wait to start.

“You have your work cut out for you,” the owner said. And he was right. But Steven didn’t mind hard work. Neither did he mind getting up before dawn to prepare the store for opening, nor staying late into the night, long after the last of the evening customers had returned home, to shut it down. He quickly learned almost all of the hundreds of names for the fruits and vegetables for sale in America, and it didn’t take long for his English to improve enough for him to converse comfortably with Korean and American customers alike.

Friday, May 17, 2013

FIRST Wild Card Tour: NIV Real Life Devotional Bible for Women

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 Insight Notes author is:

and the book:

Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)

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


Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and national speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author of 15 books, and encourages nearly 500,000 women worldwide through a daily online devotional. Her remarkable life story has captured audiences across America, including appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five children.

Visit the author's website.


This Bible will help you live up to your God-given potential. Insightful daily devotions written by the women at Proverbs 31 Ministries help you maintain life's balance in spite of today's hectic pace. Dive into the beauty and clarity of the NIV Bible text paired with daily devotions crafted by women just like you---women who want to live authentically and fully grounded in the Word of God.

Product Details:
List Price: $34.99
Hardcover: 1536 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310439361
ISBN-13: 978-0310439363

My Review:
I love reading God's Word and I enjoy reading devotionals. This NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women is such a perfect combo for me! There are 366 insightful devotionals written by the women of Proverbs 31 Ministries such as Lysa Terkeurst, Glynnis Whitwer, Renee Swope, Karen Ehman, and more. The cover is beautiful. Each of the devotionals is one page long and lists extra verses for readers to explore. The devotionals are easy to read and relevant to women's lives and their challenges. If you're looking for a new Bible, check this one out! My copy has already been highlighted and underlined with multiple colors all over the place :).


Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday's Fave Five #83

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

My Fave Five this week:-
1. God answered another important prayer! So very thankful!

2. My children and I have been going through Focus on the Family's The Truth Project DVDs. I highly recommend this excellent apologetics resource!

3. I like this quote by Timothy Keller: "You are more sinful than you could dare imagine and you are more loved and accepted than you could ever dare hope. " God's love and grace are definitely more awesome and amazing than we could ever dare describe!

4. Let's be a voice for the voiceless and defend the defenseless! Please consider giving to Pregnancy Resource Centers by donating through my 11 yo son's Steps for Life page. Please help save lives! Only 8 days left...he still needs $575 to reach his goal! Any amount helps and adds up :)!

5.  I'm having four fantastic giveaways on my blogs right now! 

- You can read my review and enter to win a copy of Break Away (a family-friendly DVD about hope and faith through tough time) here. If you're a cycling enthusiast, you'd enjoy this film :). Ends 5/10 (today at midnight Pacific time). No entries yet!!!
- You can read my review and enter to win a copy of Mother India (an eye-opening documentary about the plight of the orphans in India) here. Ends 5/10
- You can win a free subscription to a magazine of your choice at by entering my giveaway here. Ends 5/11 (in time for giving a subscription as a Mother's Day gift :)).
- You can read my review and enter to win a copy of Ring the Bell (a faith-based, gospel-centered DVD) here. Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Steven Curtis Chapman, and Matthew West play a role in this movie! And if you're a baseball fan, you'll enjoy seeing some former and current Major League Baseball all-stars in the movie, too.

Friday, May 3, 2013

DVD Review and Giveaway: Ring the Bell

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Ring The Bell features a host of well-known Christian music artists, such as Mark Hall along with his band Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Matthew West, all who play a role in this inspirational drama. Several former and current Major League Baseball all-stars are also featured in the film: ESPN analysts John Kruk and Rick Sutcliffe (a former Cy Young Award winner), along with Ben Zobrist.
This family-friendly movie was produced by Mark Miller, Beach Street Records' founder and Casting Crowns’ producer. Miller, who is also the lead singer and founder of country music group Sawyer Brown, co-wrote the script with Thomas Weber and Weber directed the production.

I love Casting Crowns so I was excited to get the opportunity to review this DVD :). Ring the Bell is about a big city sports agent Rob Decker whose life is all about signing clients and making money. While on a mission to sign a high school baseball star, his car problem forces him to spend some time in Middletown, a small town where life is simple and people are friendly. He is surprised and excited to discover another outstanding baseball talent, "Scooter." Danny Cooke (aka "Scooter") and his sister, Daisy, run a ranch for orphan boys. At this ranch, there's a tradition: when someone makes a decision...a commitment to follow Jesus, he rings the bell to let everyone know. Others then rush to celebrate with him.

Ring the Bell shows a journey that leads to Rob's transformation. The Gospel message is clearly presented and repeatedly proclaimed in this film. It's about sharing the love of Jesus, prayer, hope, and priorities in life. It's an enjoyable faith-filled movie. Mark Hall did a fantastic job and he was the only one with no script! I also really liked Pastor Steve (played by Steven Curtis Chapman); he wrote his own script.

DVD Special Features:

The Heart of "Ring the Bell"
Casting Crowns “The Well” Music Video

On Set with Casting Crowns
Famous Faces

A Very Special Movie

Ringing the Bell

The Artists and Music of "Ring The Bell"
GIVEAWAY: You can win a copy of this DVD!

Deadline: 5/17 at midnight (Pacific time)
To Enter: Leave a comment here with your email address. Please share who your favorite Christian musician or band is.
For Extra Entries (please leave a separate comment for each one that you do):  
- Follow this blog via GFC or NetworkedBlogs
- "Like" my page "Christ Alone" on Facebook
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FIRST Wild Card Tour: When God Makes Lemonade

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:

Thomas Nelson (April 9, 2013)

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


Don Jacobson thinks of himself as a walking, talking lemonade story and he has good reason. After being severely injured in a hunting accident in 1980, he not only defied all the medical odds against him, but also marveled at how God used the sourest of circumstances to give him a wonderfully sweet and refreshing new life.

At the age of 24, while alone on an impromptu hunting trip and in no more than the span of time necessary for a shotgun blast, Jacobson's world was turned upside down. In a single instant, his life became lemon-filled. "It took a while for God to change lemons into lemonade," Jacobson now admits, "but in the end it was wonderfully sweet."

In the 25-year interim since the accident, Jacobson has worked tirelessly, first serving as president and owner of Multnomah Publishers, where he oversaw the production of more than one-thousand titles and the sale of more than 100 million books before selling Multnomah to Random House in 2006. More recently, he founded D.C. Jacobson & Associates (DCJA), an author management company, so that he might be able to continue working closely with authors.

Today Jacobson and Brenda, his wife of thirty-five years, live in Portland, Oregon, where they both love sharing their lemonade stories and hearing or reading those of others in return. The couple has four amazing adult children, three of whom are married to equally amazing spouses.

Visit the author's website.


Do you know someone who needs some encouragement? Perhaps that someone is you.

In When God Makes Lemonade, author Don Jacobson has collected real-life stories from around the world that show everyday folks discovering unexpected sweetness in the midst of sour circumstances. Some are funny, others are sobering, and more than a few will bring tears of amazement. But these true stories all have one thing in common: hope.

There's no question that life gives us "lemons," like issues with health, employment, and relationships. But when those lemons become lemonade, it's as refreshing as a cold drink on a hot summer day.

It's true that in life "stuff" happens, but as you'll see in these stories, Lemonade Happens too!

Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 9, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0849964709
ISBN-13: 978-0849964701

Life can get really tough. And we can get really discouraged. When God Makes Lemonade aims to give hope and encouragement to those who are suffering/struggling/going through a difficult time. When life hands you lemons, give the lemons to God and He will make lemonade for you. Take heart and don't ever give up! God can give you sweetness even in the midst of sour circumstances. This book is filled with real-life stories (68) that truly amaze and encourage (I was amazed and encouraged). Each story is unique and inspiring. Rape. War. Abuse. Suicide attempt. Death. Brain damage. Cancer. Car accident. Shooting accident. Divorce. Plane crash. Drug addiction. Miscarriage. Domestic violence. And much much more. My favorite one is titled, "Falling into Grace" by David Waterman. Wow...this must be the epitome of "against all odds" :).

Very enjoyable and refreshing read, indeed! Keep your eyes open for God's sweet surprises in your own life! "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him." (Psalm 34:8) Those who share their stories in this book and I can testify to this truth! Life is sweet because of Christ.

"God can, and does, use life's worse moments to invite us into life's greatest blessings." ~Don Jacobson

"Through God's grace I have experienced true worth, value, and security that will never fade. In fact, it is a light so bright, it is able to banish any hint of shadow or sadness." ~Kasey Van Norman


Roslyn Lake

Don Jacobson

It’s a chilly day in late November, and the clouds are hanging low over the Cascade Mountains. The woods where I am hunting around Roslyn Lake are thick and wild, just like the forest in Canada where I grew up.

Trekking around the boundary of the water, I think back to the endless hours I spent fishing, hunting, and camping as a kid. Some of my friends wanted to fly into space, others dreamed of catching touchdowns in the Super Bowl, but I just wanted to be outside, breathing fresh air, living with a little dirt beneath my nails. I was captivated with the outdoors, so after high school I joined a logging crew. Then I got into construction. The specifics of the job didn’t really matter; as long as I had the sun on my skin, I was a happy man.

I circle the lake, making sure to keep quiet. I don’t want to scare the ducks, but Big Boy, my rambunctious black lab, whines behind me and plunges into the water.

“Big Boy, quiet!” I whisper sharply. He splashes out of the lake and shakes his fur dry. A few more steps and I hear a pair of mallards on the shore behind a thicket of weeds. I freeze. Big Boy stops behind me and whines; the ducks fall silent.

He keeps whimpering, and I know he will scare the ducks away, so I grip the barrel of my shotgun like a tennis racket and swing behind me.

“Quiet,” I say, as the butt of my gun whacks Big Boy’s flank.

Suddenly a deafening burst shatters the stillness, and I’m violently spun around. I tumble into the water and crash, face-first, into the shallows of the lake.

Desperately I gasp for air and try to sit up, but an intense burst of pain thrusts me back into the water. I roll over onto my back and spit the water out of my mouth.

Breathe, breathe, breathe, I say to myself, my ears ringing and my mind scattered.

What was that? There was a noise. Something hit me. I’m hurt.

I look up into the dark, gray clouds, and the unthinkable hovers over me,

God, I shot myself.

* * * * *

“Don!” I hear my buddy shout my name.

I lean over, lay the Sheetrock against the wall, and turn around.

“Phone!” he says, holding it up into the air. “It’s your wife!”

I walk across the dusty floor and pull the glove from my hand one finger at a time.

“Hey babe, how are you?” I ask, pressing the phone up to my ear.

“Doing great. How’s work today?”

“Not bad, we’re moving along really well. Should finish on schedule.”

“That’s great,” she says, “I just wanted to remind you that Eric and Jeri will be here at 6:30.”

“Yep, can’t wait. Need me to pick anything up at the store?”

“Nope, we’re all set. I’ll see you soon?”

“Yep. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Oh wait,” I hear her say, loudly, as I lower the phone. I raise it back up.


“I almost forgot. The gunsmith called, and he said your shotgun is ready and you can pick it up anytime.”

“Really? That’s great. I’ll stop and get it on the way home.”

“Just don’t be late!”

I smile, picturing her shouting the words into the phone.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be there!”

A few hours later I take off early from work and run by the gunsmith. I tuck the stock up firm against my shoulder, look down the barrel, and follow a pair of imaginary ducks across the room.

“Feels good.”

The gunsmith leans on the counter, nodding in agreement. I pay him his fee, jump in my car, and head home.

When I pull into the driveway I check my watch.

I have a few hours until Eric and Jeri show up. Brenda is out running errands. Maybe I have time to try out the gun?

I check my watch one more time, think it through, and head into the garage. I stuff my pockets with shotgun shells, grab a coat, and whistle for Big Boy to jump into the car.

Should I leave a note for Brenda? I ask myself as I pull out of the driveway. Ah, it’s okay. I’ll be home in time.

* * * * *

I run my trembling hand up my right leg and stop when I reach a large, numb knot over my hip. The pain presses deeper into my side, through my gut, and down to my spine.

Oh Lord, I pray, feeling the damage with my fingers, I’m going to need your help on this one.

I look back to the shore and see the stock of my gun resting in the water. Reaching out, I pull it back, close to my chest, and realize the stock is dangling from the double barrel.

Something malfunctioned. It’s broken, I think to myself, sure that I’ve never seen a gun come apart like this.

I examine the damage and discover if I’m going to fire an SOS shot, I’ll have to rip the stock from the barrels; so I grab the barrels in my right hand, the stock in the left, and snap it apart like a twig. The stock comes off easily, and I drop it into the water. Then I spread my fingers into my pockets, fish the shells from my wet jeans, and lay them on my stomach.

Holding the twin barrels in my left hand, I aim them to the sky and rest the bottom on a tree stump coming out of the water. I reach over with my right hand, load each barrel, and then rest my right index finger on the triggers.

Three shots for an SOS call, I remind myself. Then I count:

One, two, fire.


One, two, fire.


I quickly reach back to my chest with my right hand and grab another shell, but already I know I’m moving too slowly to fire a third shot in rhythm. Still, I fumble the shell into the barrel, and fire.

I listen for a moment, hoping for footsteps, or someone shouting, but there is nothing. I reload the gun and perform the same, agonizing task.

Please, I pray, each time I reload, please let there be someone nearby.

I fire sixteen shots and run out of shells. The forest is still quiet, empty. I drop the gun back into the water.

“Help!” I shout as loud as I can. “Can anybody hear me?”

I yell so loudly I lose my breath. I’m light-headed.

“Help! I’m hurt. Help!”

My voice echoes off the water into the woods. I try to remember if I passed any cars parked along the road on the way up or if there were any homes nearby, but I can’t. I’m alone, and I know it—no one can hear me, and nobody knows where I am. The fog resting over the treetops might as well descend and hide me forever.

My mind is hazy, losing hope, and slowly stumbling toward my only option.

If no one is coming I have to get out of here by myself. Get to the car.

I slowly roll onto my abdomen and brace my hands beneath me. Drawing my knees up one at a time, I push up and find my balance.

Okay, good, I encourage myself, wobbly with pain. Get going.

Gripping my wound with both hands, I shuffle my left foot forward through the water. Next I pull my right foot up, but a searing pain paralyzes my leg, and I stumble back into the lake.

I hesitate to try again, but the command compels me: get to the car. I roll over and brace myself on the muddy lake bottom. The pain stabs at my side, but with a deep breath I inch my hands forward, then follow with my knees. Another deep breath, and I crawl an inch further.

Ten minutes later I’m out of the water, crawling on hands and knees down the path toward my car when an intense surge of pain explodes in my chest. It pumps through my heart, burns down into my lungs, and my stomach turns over with nausea. I collapse, moaning, on the path.

God, I plead, if you’re going to take me home, do it quickly because it hurts.

Instantly the fire cools and relief washes through my body. I draw in a long breath and my muscles relax.

Thank you God, thank you! I continue to breathe, thanking God with each exhale, sensing him near, telling me, If you make it until morning, you’ll live.

The light is fading from the sky, and the clouds are reaching down, hiding the forest in fog. I try once more to crawl to the car, but after fifty feet I simply stop moving. I am utterly exhausted and losing blood. I simply cannot go on.

As the day’s last light leaks from the clouds, Big Boy prances up to me with a stick in his mouth and pokes me in the side. He whines, begging me for a game of fetch. I don’t react, and he keeps pushing the stick into my wound.

God, he is going to kill me.

“Big Boy,” I manage to say, “no, boy. Lie down.”

Surprisingly, he obeys, and nestles up next to my cold body. I immediately feel the warmth from his body and once again sense God’s presence.

If you make it until morning, you’ll live.

Dusk slowly fades to black, and the woods grow ever quiet, tucked beneath a blanket of thick Oregon fog.

I start waiting, eyes open, for the break of dawn.

* * * * *

At 6:30 Eric and Jeri pull into our driveway as scheduled, and Brenda welcomes them by herself, excusing me for being late.

Eric, my longtime friend, asks Brenda where I am.

“I’m not sure, but if he doesn’t get here soon he isn’t going to find out who shot J.R.!” replies Brenda, half joking, half concerned.

They eat, clear the dishes, and turn on the TV, but I still haven’t arrived.

“I’m going to call my dad,” Brenda says right before Dallas starts. “Maybe he’s heard from Don.”

“No, sorry, haven’t heard from him,” her father, John, says, “but I wouldn’t be too worried. He has some old tires on that car. Maybe one went flat.”

“I don’t know, Dad. I’m worried. I want to call the police,” Brenda says.

“No, that won’t help. They can’t do anything now. Just wait until after the show. If he’s still not home, call me back.”

“Okay,” Brenda relents. “Thanks, Dad.”

After Dallas is over, Brenda gets back on the phone.

“Dad, he still isn’t home. I have a bad feeling.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. The police still can’t help because he’s only been missing a few hours. I’ll call if I hear anything.”

They hang up, and Brenda sits back down with Eric and Jeri.

“I don’t know what to do,” she confesses. “Where is he?”

Anxious hours pass, and finally, just after 11:00 p.m., the phone rings. Brenda rushes to the receiver and picks it up.

“Hello? Don?”

“No sweetheart, it’s me.” Her father is calling back. “Your brother just got home and said Don called him this afternoon about hunting.”

“Hunting?” Brenda asks.

“Yeah, he said Don called and wanted to go try the new stock on his gun. We are going to look for him now. You stay home and wait by the phone.”

“Dad, I can’t stay home. I have to look too.”

He sighs, and Brenda can hear him thinking on the other end of the line.

Where do I send her? John wonders to himself. He knows it’s important to have as many people out searching as possible, but he can’t send his daughter into the woods with the risk of finding her dead husband. The trauma would be too great.

“Okay,” he finally says, deciding to send Brenda to the least likely hunting spot he can imagine. “You go with Eric and Jeri up to Roslyn Lake; he might be up there.”

* * * * *

“I don’t know why we are looking here. It feels like we are wasting time,” Brenda laments. They have been driving around for over an hour, taking wrong turns, getting lost in the fog, growing frustrated. It is long past midnight, and they have yet to reach Roslyn Lake.

Slowly, Eric steers the car around a bend in the asphalt road and sees something glimmer in the darkness. He slams on the brakes and shouts, “What is that?” as he looks intently in the rearview mirror.

Brenda turns and recognizes it instantly. “It’s Don’s car! The fog is so thick we drove right past it!”

They leap out into the cold and check my car.

“He hasn’t been here recently,” Eric says, feeling his hand to the cold hood. Together, they walk out onto the man-made dike at the end of the lake.

“Don!” Eric shouts. “Can you hear me?”

I open my eyes. Big Boy’s warm body is still against me, keeping me warm, and his ears are up. He whimpers, looking into the dark.

I can hear something.


It’s faint, but I hear it. Is it real? Am I dreaming? I close my eyes and lean forward. I try to listen to every sound in the forest.


I snap my eyes open and turn my head toward the scream.

They found me.

“I’m here!” I try to shout, but my voice is too dry to speak. I swallow, but my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.

Water! Find water!

I look to the lake. Can I crawl down and drink in time? I keep looking, desperate, and see the glimmer of dew on my parka sleeve. Quickly I suck the moisture from the fabric and shout, “I’m here!” I gasp and swallow. “I’m here!”

Eric throws his hands up. “Wait, did you hear that?”

Brenda and Jeri shake their heads.

“Listen,” Eric whispers. A quiet moment passes. “There!” he erupts. “Did you hear that?”

“No!” Brenda says. “What is it?”

“Go wait in the car. I’m going to check it out.” Eric runs down the dike and turns into the forest.

I hear someone coming through the woods, and Big Boy starts barking. Again I feebly try to shout, “I’m here!”

Please, Lord, please let him see me.

On cue Eric steps through the mist and kneels down beside me. “Oh, thank God! Don, what did you do?”

“Eric? Is that you?” I ask, my voice scratchy.

“Yes, Don, it’s me. What are you doing here?” He kneels down next to me. “What happened?”

“I shot myself. It was an accident. How did you find me?”

“Everyone is out driving around.”

“Brenda,” I stammer, “is she here?”

“She is in the car . . . You stay here, and I’ll go get help.” He stands to run back to the car, but I stop him.

“No, Eric, I can walk. Get me up.”

He helps me to my feet. Leaning heavily on his shoulder, I try to step, but everything starts spinning. I collapse, and without hesitating, Eric dashes off into the dark.

“Don’t move! I’ll get help!” he says as he disappears.

Brenda and Jeri are startled when Eric opens the car door.

“What happened?” cries Brenda.

“I found Don. He’s okay, but he shot himself. We have to find a phone.”

Rushing up to the first farmhouse they find, Eric and Brenda pound on the door. A light flickers on, and a young man shuffles to the door.

“Sorry to bother you, sir,” Eric greets him, “but we need to call an ambulance.”

Within the hour I’m surrounded by several members of the Sandy, Oregon, volunteer fire department. The paramedics check my vitals and discover my heart rate and body temperature are dangerously low. I am nearly hypothermic, and my veins have collapsed, keeping the medics from inserting an IV.

They call in another ambulance equipped with inflatable pants, and when they arrive, they strap the pants on my legs, fill them with air, and push the blood back up into my vital organs. Finally, they are able to insert an IV and transport me, but they don’t load me into the ambulance. Instead, they call dispatch and request a medevac.

“Stupid idea calling in the helicopter,” Brenda overhears a police officer say. “They’ll never land it in this fog.”

But a few minutes later, with the air ambulance on its way, the fog pushes back just enough to reveal the night sky. The chop of the rotors starts echoing through the dark surrounding hills, and the helicopter sets down safely.

Eight minutes later, just before we arrive at the hospital landing pad in Gresham, the fog once again peels away for the pilot to land gently on the helipad. As soon as I am wheeled from the helicopter, the fog rolls back in and grounds the flight crew for several hours.

As I’m being pushed down the hospital hallway, the fluorescent lights blurry overhead, a nurse leans down.

“Don, I have some good news for you. Dr. Brose is on call tonight. He’s one of the best trauma surgeons in the city.”

I force a faint smile, and they wheel me to the emergency operating room. People are everywhere, rushing around me, rolling machines across the room, prepping me for surgery.

* * * * *

I survived the three hour-long operation, but Dr. Brose was worried about gas gangrene, so he moved me to a hyperbaric chamber at Providence Portland Medical Center. He told Brenda I’d never walk again, and if I lived, I’d have a colostomy for the rest of my life.

On my eighth day of recovery, Eric came to visit me. His face was long and sad, but we exchanged tired smiles.

“How are you liking ICU?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” I replied, looking at him, confused. “I’m in ICU?”

The smile faded from his face. “You’ve been in critical condition for eight days. You didn’t know?”

“No.” I tried to shake my head. “I just thought I was in the hospital.”

I thought, quietly, for a moment, but my mind was still hazy and scattered. “Are people worried about me?”

He nodded slowly, up and down, and his lips barely parted. “Everyone.”

“Don’t,” I told him confidently. “God showed me the night I was shot that if I lived until morning, I’d make it. Tell everyone I’ll be okay.”

The very next day I was moved from the ICU to a regular hospital room. As the slow, painful days of recovery turned to weeks and months, it became clear I was not only going to live but would enjoy a full recovery.

Thirty-two years later I’m not only walking without a colostomy; I’m still hiking the hills of Central Oregon, wrestling with my kids, and whipping friends at table tennis.

I can say confidently I would not be here if not for Dr. Brose. Because of his unique training in Central Africa, treating trauma victims, he was equipped to save my life. I can also say my rambunctious dog saved my life, lying down beside me, giving me his warmth. My wife’s intuition to call her dad and demand to join the search also saved my life. As did Eric’s keen eyes and ears. And the water on the sleeve of my jacket. Paramedics, pilots, a farmer—they all saved my life.

Even the gunshot saved my life. Despite the close range, the blast failed to create an exit wound; and a month after I was discharged from the hospital, the doctor pulled sixteen pellets from my back, millimeters from the surface of my skin. Had even one BB escaped during the incident, I would have bled to death in the forest. Instead, the mass of lead stuck in my abdomen, tore away muscles, nicked one kidney, and damaged my liver. I later discovered that the intense pain in my chest as I crawled to my car was caused by a BB flowing through the chambers of my heart before depositing in my left lung.

I have often wondered, what stopped the shotgun blast from killing me instantly? And what blew back the fog at the exact right time for the helicopter to land? And whose voice spoke Big Boy into obedience? Who could have planned such an elaborate rescue?

Was it the hand of God? The breath of God? The voice of God? The rescue of God?

I believe so, not just because I survived but because I was transformed.

The accident didn’t just cause the physical pain of a gunshot, traumatic surgery, and slow recovery. It also wounded my soul.

After the accident I spent many sleepless nights, asking God how I was supposed to provide for my family with a crippled body. And if I really couldn’t work doing manual labor, what job would ever give me the satisfaction of working outside with my hands?

I was disoriented and depressed, thankful to be alive yet confused as to what my life was all about. I’d always been the strong guy with calloused hands and flannel shirts. It wasn’t just a job, it was who I was—my very identity. I couldn’t imagine being anyone else. As I grappled with the emotional loss, my father-in-law came to visit.

“Don, all your life you’ve used your body,” he said. “Now God is giving you the opportunity to use your mind.”

Initially I felt his timing to be insensitive, and I was offended that he would trivialize my desire to make a living with my hands. But with time and prayer, I came to see he was right—God had forcefully yet tenderly cleared a new path for me to walk.

I returned to school at Multnomah Bible College, and after graduation I took a job in the publishing industry, where over the past two and a half decades I have experienced the unexpected joy of working with some of the wisest, most encouraging authors in the world. Their friendships have blessed me, given me hope, and taught me to believe in the miraculous power of story—even my own.

All those years ago at Roslyn Lake, I never would have asked for a cross-threaded screw in my gun, but it is the story I was given, and I now can thank God for that malfunction. It started me on a journey that has led me here, to God Makes Lemonade, to share the truth I’ve learned over and over. God can, and does, use life’s worst moments to invite us into life’s greatest blessings.

It is the truth written into my story, the real-life stories collected in this edition, and the greatest story of all: God’s. My prayer is that with a little hope, courage, and time, you, too, will begin to sense God at work, crafting your life into a beautiful story of redemption.

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