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First (Fiction in Rather Short Takes) Spring of Candy Apples by Debbie Viguié (A Sweet Seasons Novel)

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:

Spring of Candy Apples (A Sweet Seasons Novel)

Zondervan (February 1, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Debbie Viguié has been writing for most of her life. She has experimented with poetry and nonfiction, but her true passion lies in writing novels.

She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing from UC Davis. While at Davis she met her husband, Scott, at auditions for a play. It was love at first sight.

Debbie and Scott now live on the island of Kauai. When Debbie is not writing and Scott has time off they love to indulge their passion for theme parks.

The Sweet Seasons Novels:

The Summer of Cotton Candy
The Fall of Candy Corn
The Winter of Candy Canes
The Spring of Candy Apples

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310717531
ISBN-13: 978-0310717539
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Once again Candace found herself seated across from a Zone executive. Only this time it wasn’t Lloyd Peterson, the hiring manager; it was John Hanson, owner of the theme park. She tried hard not to squirm in her seat. He was smiling and friendly, but there was so much more at stake this time than a part-time job.

“So, Candace, as one of the five finalists for The Zone Game Master Scholarship, you must be pretty excited,” he said.

Excited. Bewildered. Nervous. So many to choose from. Excited because the winner got a full scholarship to a college in Florida. Bewildered because she still couldn’t believe her Balloon Races doodle could be taken seriously by anyone. Nervous because she didn’t want to blow it.

She’d finally forgiven her friend Josh for secretly entering her in the competition.

“Yes, I’m very excited and pretty nervous,” she admitted.

“Just try to relax,” he urged.

“I’ll try.”

“Now, as you know, there are many stages in the competition and you’ve passed them all to get this far. During the first stage contestants who don’t meet the qualifications are weeded out. Every year I’m surprised to hear how many of those there are. Next the Game Masters take a look at the attraction concepts for viability. Then they announce the top twenty candidates.”

Candace vaguely remembered that and how shocked she had been. She had just doodled her Balloon Races idea for a new them park ride on a napkin. She had been about to throw it away but gave it to Josh instead and he had secretly entered it in the scholarship competition.

“At that point we announce the candidates and give everyone who works for The Zone a chance to submit a recommendation for a candidate. Now, this isn’t just some sort of popularity vote. Recommendations are serious things. The person filling it out has to take the time to submit a ten-page form evaluating your strengths and telling the search committee exactly why they believe you should have the position. Based on the strength and numbers of those recommendations, the group of twenty is narrowed to five.”

“Wow! I can’t believe enough people recommended me,” Candace said, humbled at the amount of work it sounded like that would take.

“Several people here think quite highly of you. You had enough recommendations to just beat out a another young man for the fifth spot.”

“So, I’m here because I had one more recommendation?”

“Basically, yes. It’s policy that we don’t allow contestants to see their recommendations. However, since you are in the top five, I can tell you the people who recommended you.”

Suddenly, Candace realized her heart was in her throat. This somehow made her more nervous than the interview itself. It was a reflection of what people thought of her and how they had chosen to support her. She found herself holding her breath as she waited for the names.

“You had eight recommendations. The first seven came from your supervisor, Martha, Kowabunga referee Josh, Muffin Mansion’s Becca and Gib, Sue from janitorial, Roger from The Dug Out, and Pete the train operator.

None of those came as a great surprise, but Candace was touched and flattered that they would all spend the time and effort on her. She made a mental note to thank them later. That had to mean that the final recommendation that had put her over the top had to come from her boyfriend Kurt. She felt a warm glow as she thought about him.

“And the last one to come in was from Lisa in food carts.”

Candace was stunned. It wasn’t Kurt, who had written a recommendation for her, but rather Lisa, the girl who hated her? “Are you sure about that?” she burst out.

John looked surprised. “Yes. Why?”

“Nothing,” Candace mumbled, dropping her eyes.

The owner of the park chuckled. “Sometimes it’s a surprise when we discover who has actually noticed and thought we’ve done a good job.”

She nodded.

“And so, here you are—one of the final five contestants.”

“What happens now,” Candace asked, still a little unsure about the entire process.

“This is it. I stay out of the selection process until the very end. Now I interview the five candidates and choose the winner.”

Candace had suspected that might be the case but actually knowing it made her even more nervous

“You’ve been doing seasonal work for us, is that right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You know, I think it’s time to upgrade you. How would you like to work part-time at The Candy Counter?”

“In the Home Stretch?” she asked.

“That would be the one.”

“That would be great,” she said, not sure what else to say at the moment. She hadn’t really had a chance to think about working during the spring. There was a part of her that was instantly excited, though. Working at The Candy Counter meant she wouldn’t be working at a cart.

“So, shall we begin the interview?” he asked, the smile leaving his face.

She nodded mutely.

After the interview, Candace headed straight for the Muffin Mansion. There were no customers inside and Candace made a beeline for Becca, who was manning the cash register. Candace walked around the counter and gave Becca a big hug.

“What was that for?” Becca asked.

“For recommending me! I’ve got a hug for Gib too. Is he here?”

“He should be back from break in a minute.”

“I’ll wait.”

“So, how did the interview go?” Becca asked.

“I’m not sure. I feel like I totally blew it,” Candace confessed.

“Everyone probably felt that way.”

“I don’t know. I’m still not even sure how I’ve gotten this far in the competition.”

“Are you kidding? Balloon Races looks awesome.”

“How do you know?”

Becca smiled. “Josh has been showing a copy of your drawing to everyone.”

Candace rolled her eyes. “Great, one more thing I’ve gotta kill him for.”

“Hey, go easy on the guy. If you get that scholarship you’ll owe him big time for entering you.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Candace admitted.

“What’s with the frown face,” Becca said.

“Kurt didn’t recommend me for the competition,” Candace admitted.

“Ouch,” Becca said, wincing.

“And Lisa did. Isn’t that weird?”

“Definitely freaky.”

“How did your interview go?” a deep voice asked.

Candace jumped off the counter and hugged a surprised Gib. He patted her back awkwardly.

“Thank you for nominating me,” she said.

“No problem. Glad to do it.”

“Kurt didn’t nominate her,” Becca said.

“Knave!” Gib said, his face darkening.

Before Candace could respond, customers streamed through the door. She gave Becca and Gib a little wave and headed out. Once in the clear she headed for the Splash Zone, hoping to catch Josh who had started again a couple of days earlier in anticipation of summer. She saw him in his tank top and shorts in front of the Kowabunga ride.

“You’ve gotta be cold,” she said as she walked up.

“It’s worth it for not sweating through the summer,” he said with his customary grin. “So, how’d it go?”

“I don’t know,” she confessed as she gave him a hug. “But thank you for nominating me. Thank you for entering me,” she said, laughing a little.

“Told you the Balloon Races was cool,” he said.

She stepped back with a laugh. “Remind me to listen to you more.”

“That’s an easy one.”

“So, do you think I have a shot?” she asked.

He grew serious for a moment. “I hope so, but I don’t know. I entered you and I nominated you. That was really all I could do. It’s out of my hands.”

“I know. I’m just nervous.”

She was about to tell him who had nominated her when she remembered she had other news. “I did get a part-time job out of it,” she said.

His eyes widened. “Seriously? Part-time, not seasonal?”

She nodded. “I’m going to be working at The Candy Counter.”

“That’s great! Congratulations. I’m going to miss seeing you on the carts, though.”

She shrugged. “We can still hang on breaks.”

“Absolutely! Well, that is, after the Talent Show. My team and I are practicing a lot.”

Candace blinked at him. “Talent Show? What Talent Show?”

Josh laughed. “Same old Candace.”

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FIRST (Fiction in Rather Short Takes) Wild Card Tours: Finding God in the Shack by Randal Rauser

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:

Finding God in the Shack

Authentic (February 3, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Randal Rauser is associate professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Canada and was granted Taylor’s first annual teaching award for Outstanding Service to Students in 2005. Dr. Rauser’s career as both professor and author has been shaped by his passion for developing a biblically sound apologetic theology that meets the challenges of secular western culture. He is a popular speaker and gifted communicator who seeks to bring the truth of Scripture to bear on the real-life issues of today.

Rauser received his master’s degree in Christian studies at Regent College, later earning a PhD at King’s College London, where he focused on studying the doctrine of the Trinity. Dr. Rauser is the coauthor (with Daniel Hill) of Christian Philosophy A-Z (Edinburgh University Press, 2006) and author of Faith Lacking Understanding (Paternoster) and Theology in Search of Foundations (Oxford University Press, Forthcoming). He has also authored several articles which have appeared in International Journal of Systematic Theology, Heythrop Journal, and Christian Scholars Review. In keeping with his interest in the crossroads of theology and popular culture, Dr. Rauser’s newest book, Finding God in The Shack, explores the theology set forth in The Shack.

Dr. Rauser’s approach to controversial novels like The Shack and The Da Vinci Code distinguishes him from many other evangelical thinkers. “Sometimes we evangelicals possess a certain flatness; we can’t see the beauty of a story. In my opinion, a book like The Shack is not an end in itself. It is part of a conversation,” Dr. Rauser muses. “When a book becomes a catalyst for us to engage people in conversations about who God is instead of the latest update on ‘Brangelina’ or the status of our 401(k)s, we should not miss that opportunity simply because we’re afraid we might make a theological mistake. After all, what work or discourse on theology gets everything right?”

Rauser met his wife, Jasper, a native of Korea, while she was studying English in Vancouver. They have been married since 1999 and have a six-year-old daughter named Jamie and a Lhasa Apso named Sonny. The Rausers currently attend Greenfield Baptist Church in Edmonton, where Dr. Rauser teaches Sunday school and has presented a seminar on the theology of The Shack.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Authentic (February 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606570323
ISBN-13: 978-1606570326

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Why This Theologian Is Especially Fond of The Shack

As a theologian, I have one big reason to be especially fond of The Shack. To appreciate the source of my gratitude, I need to say a few words about academic theology over the last forty years. (Trust me, this will not be as painful as it sounds!) Our story begins back in the year 1967 when Catholic theologian

Karl Rahner published a little book called The Trinity. There, Rahner observed, “Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists.’ We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.”1

By calling Christians “almost mere monotheists” Rahner meant that their beliefs about God do not differ significantly from other forms of monotheism like Judaism and Islam. But how can this be if, as Christians claim, the very foundation of their belief in God is found in the doctrine of the Trinity? Rahner’s striking claim really shook up theologians as they pondered how it could be that the doctrine which is supposed to be at the heart of our faith was actually somewhere out on the periphery.

Does the Trinity Matter?

Rather than simply take Rahner’s word for it, I would suggest that we test his thesis by way of a little thought experiment. Imagine that the pastor of a typical Baptist church became convinced that the Trinity was false. Instead of believing that God is three persons, he came to believe that God is one person who plays three roles: sometimes he acts as the Father, other times he acts as the Son, and yet other times as the Holy Spirit. This view is called modalism, and it has been considered a heresy by the Christian church since the third century.

Now if the doctrine of the Trinity really is important, we would expect that the pastor’s rejection of it in favor of modalism would send shockwaves throughout the church. But is this really what would happen? I doubt it! On the contrary, I suspect that as long as he continued to mention the Father, Son and Spirit, it wouldn’t matter if he believed they were all the same person. The church would continue on as it always had with its weekly services, Christmas pageants, potlucks, and various ministries. In contrast to this, if our Baptist pastor baptized an infant on Sunday, I bet you would have a church split by Monday! But surely this is strange: why would a peripheral question concerning the practice of baptism be in practice more important for the church’s identity than the supposedly essential doctrine of the Trinity?

Theologians knew that Rahner was right. Although we claim to be trinitarian Christians, this doctrine does not make a difference to the life of the church. But then the theologians faced the challenge of making the Trinity relevant again. They took up this challenge by doing what theologians do best: they wrote books. Lots of books. Lots and lots of books. Some were about the biblical basis of the Trinity. Others talked about the theological or philosophical dimensions of the Trinity. Still others discussed the historical development of the Trinity. And still others talked about the practical and pastoral implications of the Trinity.2

Many of these books were well worth reading. Indeed, some were good enough to qualify as modern classics. And yet, most were only ever read by other theologians which meant that had virtually no impact on the neighborhood church. As a result, we remain stalled in the same place where we were forty years ago: few pastors know how to preach the Trinity, fewer church goers know how to pray the Trinity, and almost no one knows what it would mean to live the Trinity.

At this point you might be wondering whether the doctrine of the Trinity ever made a difference to the church. The answer is yes, it did: the burning torch of Christian truth has burned much brighter in the past. To take one example, if we could hop in a time machine and travel back to the fourth century Roman Empire, we would have encountered a society that debated theology with the same vigor that Canadians today debate hockey. At that time, big questions were at stake as Christians debated a heretical view called Arianism which said that Jesus was God’s greatest creation.

The fierce public debate between orthodox Christianity and Arianism so consumed the general public that average people would jump into theological debates at the slightest provocation. Strangers in the streets would get into fierce debates over various scriptural passages: for instance, how should we understand the claim that Jesus is God’s “only begotten son” (John 3:16)? Did the text mean, as the Arians claimed, that Jesus was God’s first creation? Or, as the orthodox Christians argued, was Jesus eternally begotten by and equal to God the Father? People of the time were passionate about these questions, for they recognized that the heart of Christianity was at stake.

We have a snapshot of the debate from Gregory of Nyssa, a bishop of the time. He wrote: “If in this city you ask anyone for change, he will discuss with you whether the Son is begotten or unbegotten. If you ask about the quality of bread, you will receive the answer that ‘the Father is greater, the Son is less.’ If you suggest that a bath is desirable, you will be told that ‘there was nothing before the Son was created.’ ”3 In other words, theology was to be found everywhere. It found its way into every conversation, every situation. So prevalent was theological discussion that, as Gregory’s weary tone suggests, even the bishops were getting worn out by the debate!

If Christians in the past could wear out their bishops with their theological bravado, why is it that today many Christians think theology is about as exciting as watching paint dry or attending a life insurance seminar? Or to turn the question around, how can we reignite that lost passion? And how can we get average Christians excited about the doctrine of the Trinity, so that it again returns to coffee shop conversations, morning devotions, and the heart of Christian worship?

Rediscovering the Trinity in The Shack

While the answer to our question is surely complex, recently theology has been given a tremendous boost by, of all things, a novel. Not just any novel mind you, for William Paul Young’s The Shack tells a most unlikely story! Not content simply to

reintroduce the Trinity as a doctrine of mere peripheral interest,

the book weaves the triune God into an engaging narrative. Along the way, it goes to the heart of the most horrifying case of evil and then makes the truly bold claim that God as triune is crucial to the process by which healing is coming to this world.

First, let’s say a word about the story itself. The Shack opens with the narrator “Willie” reporting that he has recorded everything as his close friend Mack had instructed him. (Since the name Willie is an obvious reference to author William Young, some readers have assumed that the book is claiming to be a factual account. But Young has made it clear that the book is fictional, albeit with a significant portion of autobiography thrown in.) We then learn that a few years prior to Willie’s writing Mack took three of his children camping. At the end of a wonderful weekend, his son was in a canoeing accident, and in the melee that ensued, his youngest daughter Missy disappeared. Within hours it became clear that she had been abducted by a serial killer known as the Little Lady-Killer. In a matter of hours, the FBI investigation converged on a remote shack where Missy’s bloody dress was discovered, though her body was never found.

Fast-forward three-and-a-half years and Mack continues to struggle with “the Great Sadness.” Then one day he receives an invitation in his mailbox to meet Papa (his wife’s name for God) at the shack. Perplexed and intrigued, Mack secretly travels to the shack on a Friday evening and is met by an African-American woman named Papa, an Asian woman named Sarayu, and a Jewish man named Jesus: all told, a rather unconventional Trinity! Over the next two days Mack communes with the three as he comes to terms with the Great Sadness and embarks on the road to healing and reconciliation.

The book climaxes on Sunday morning when Papa (now in male form) takes Mack on a journey to the place where the killer buried Missy. Together they return her body to the shack for a proper burial, complete with an unforgettable memorial ceremony. After Mack shares a special communion service with Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu, he falls asleep, only to wake up in the dark, cold cabin. Mack then travels back down the mountain where he gets into a serious car accident. As he slowly recovers in the hospital the memories of the weekend gradually return, prompting the question of whether it was just a dream.

Yet when he has recovered, Mack confirms the truth of the weekend by taking Nan and the police to the grave where the Little Lady-Killer had buried Missy. (Apparently Mack’s experience of relocating and burying Missy’s body did not really occur.) This discovery ultimately provides forensic evidence which leads to the Little Lady-Killer’s arrest and trial. The book ends with Mack transformed and transforming: having been reconciled with his children, wife, and abusive father, he now seeks to extend forgiveness to Missy’s killer.

In the short time since its publication, The Shack has ignited the church’s interest in the doctrine of the Trinity more than the dozens of theology books that have been published by academic theologians over the last forty years. It is wonderful (and a bit humbling) for the theologian to witness a doctrine that has long been locked in the seminary classroom now emerging as a topic of lively conversations at the local coffee shop, and all because of a novel! But while those conversations have not typically lacked for enthusiasm and conviction, many of them would benefit from some deeper background as to the theological issues at stake. It is to this end that the present book is aimed.

Conversations on The Shack: An Overview

We will begin in chapter two of this book with one of the most controversial aspects of The Shack: the manifestation of God the Father as “Papa”, a large African-American woman, and of the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman named Sarayu. This portrayal has yielded some startling, even fantastic charges (including the frenzied charge that The Shack promotes goddess worship!). But even if those charges are overblown, one might still wonder whether the depiction is appropriate and what it implies about our knowledge of God. In this chapter we shall explore these questions by inquiring into the way that the infinite God accommodates himself to our limited human minds, so that we can know him.

Shift to another table in the coffee shop and one might hear an impassioned discussion on how the three persons constitute the one God. On this point some critics have argued that The Shack’s depiction of God is seriously flawed, for it fails to distinguish the three persons. We shall enter into the center of this debate in chapter three as we explore the intriguing way that the book wrestles with the unity and distinction of the Trinity, and ultimately how it distinguishes Sarayu and Jesus in accord with their particular missions as revealed in Scripture.

Turn to another conversation and one finds a heated debate in progress concerning questions of authority and submission. The question here concerns whether the Father is ultimately in charge of the Trinity so that the Son and Spirit eternally submit to him. Or could it be that the Father is as submitted to the Son and Spirit as they are to him? This is not a pointless question, for deciding whether there is authority and submission or mutual submission within God could have radical implications for how we organize our relationships here on earth. After all, don’t we want to be more like God? The view of The Shack is that all the divine persons are submitted to one another and to the creation, and so all human persons should also be so submitted. We shall wade into the midst of this debate in chapter four.

While the conversations thus far are important, it is those that we shall consider in the final three chapters which become for many people critical. In chapter five we will turn to ask how a God who is all-loving and all-powerful would allow the horrific murder of young Missy, a child of whom he says he is especially fond. The reason, it would seem, is that God allows Missy’s death so that he can achieve some kind of greater good out of it. But what kind of “greater goods” would justify the murder of a little girl? Could it be that God allows evil for the sake of free will? And could it be that he allows evil to draw us to him while developing our moral character? Even if these answers provide a plausible general response to evil, we will feel the painful tension when we apply them to the specific death of young Missy.

Turn to another table wrestling with the problem of evil, and the life and death of Jesus Christ moves to center stage. Ultimately there is evil because creation is fallen and we are sick with sin. And so as a response, God has sent his Son to bring healing to this fallen creation. In chapter six we will consider how The Shack explains the atoning work of Christ, noting both what it does and does not affirm about the atonement. In particular, we will note how the book ignores (or bypasses) the language of God’s wrath against sin. Indeed, in its place, it describes the Father as suffering with the Son. We will also consider the controversial question of how far Christ’s atoning work extends, and specifically whether it might save some who have never heard of Christ.

As we said, the world is sick with sin and in need of the Great Physician. However, with a view of salvation as God rescuing souls for heaven, many Christians have missed the fullness of God’s healing intent. And so in our final conversation we will consider the fullness of biblical salvation as extending to all creation. This vision is captured in the subtle way that the book depicts the renewal of the shack and the surrounding environs on Mack’s unforgettable weekend. Evidently it is not only Mack that is being made new, but the entire creation as well.

One final word before we begin. Most people who have read or heard about The Shack are aware of the controversies that swirl around the book. Although I appreciate the passion of the critics, I have been saddened by a frequent lack of charity that has been shown to the book’s author and its fans. And I have been especially disheartened by the advice of some influential Christian leaders not to read the book. It is true that The Shack asks some hard questions and occasionally takes positions with which we might well disagree. But surely the answer is not found in shielding people from the conversation, but rather in leading them through it.

After all, it is through wrestling with new ideas that one learns to deal with the nuance and complexity that characterizes an intellectually mature faith. The Shack will not answer all our questions, nor does it aspire to. But we can be thankful that it has started a great conversation.

1. The Trinity, trans. Joseph Donceel (Tunbridge Wells: Burns and Oates, 1970), 10-11.

2. For some examples of more practically oriented and accessible treatments see Millard Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000); Robin Parry, Worshipping Trinity (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2005); Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005).

3. Cited in W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 174-5.

My Thoughts:

This book provides helpful information for a better realization of the theological aspects found in The Shack. This book would be a helping stepping stone to the setting up a discussion group or to just enhance your reading of “The Shack”.

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FIRST (Fiction in Rather Short Takes) Out of Time by Paul McCusker (Time Thriller Series)

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:

Out of Time (Time Thriller Series #2)

Zondervan (February 1, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Paul McCusker is the author of The Mill House, Epiphany, The Faded Flower and several Adventures in Odyssey programs. Winner of the Peabody Award for his radio drama on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Focus on the Family, he lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two children.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714370
ISBN-13: 978-0310714378

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Quid est ergo tempus? si nemo ex me quaerat, scio; si quaerenti explicare velim, nescio.”

[Translation: “What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to someone who does ask me, I do not know.”]

-St. Augustine

Prologue

A tall gray old man stepped to the pinnacle of Glastonbury Tor, an unusual cone-like hill with a tower named after a saint. In the wet English twilight, the wind whipped the old man’s long gray hair and beard and the ragged brown monk’s robe he wore like a flag in a gale. The dark clouds above moved and gathered around him. Chalice and Wearyall Hills sat nearby, their shoulders hunched. A battered Abbey beyond listened in silence.

The old man cast a sad eye to the green landscape, spread like a quilt, adorned with small houses and shops. He prayed silently for a moment, then pulled an ancient curved horn from under his habit. He placed it to his lips and blew once, then twice, then a final time. The three muted blasts were caught by the wind and carried away.

It was a summons.

PART ONE: The Stranger

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

“Look at that,” Ben Hearn said to his wife Kathryn. “It’s crazy, I tell you. Crazy.”

They were in Ben’s pick-up truck rattling for the Fawlt Line High School to help chaperone the sophomore class end-of-the-year school dance. Mr. and Mrs. Hearn weren’t keen on dances themselves, at least not the modern kind, but their daughter Chelsea would be there for her first real dance in her formal dress and flowers and carefully permed hair. She was escorted by Tommy Daughtry who showed up tonight at their front door in an ill-fitting tuxedo and an awkward blush on his cheeks. Kathryn thought they were an adorable couple, and said so again and again with every photograph she insisted on taking next to the fireplace and on the patio and by Tommy’s dad’s car. Kathryn even took a picture as they drove away.

“Kathryn, are you listening to me?”

“What’s crazy, Ben?” Kathryn suddenly asked, peering through the unusual fog.

“Didn’t you see the sign for Malcolm Dubb’s village?”

Kathryn hadn’t. But since they were on one of the roads bordering Malcolm Dubb’s vast estate, she remembered what sign her husband was talking about. It was the one that announced the construction of Malcolm Dubb’s Historical Village.

“I don’t know what the town council was thinking when they agreed to it,” Ben said. Malcolm was the wealthiest citizen of their little town of Fawlt Line. In fact, his family had been there for close to two centuries. Malcolm, a history buff, had designated a large portion of his property for the village.

Kathryn squinted at the fog ahead. “Don’t you think you should slow down?”

The truck engine whined as Ben heeded his wife. “You know what he’s doing with the village, right? He’s shipping in buildings, Kathryn. Brick by brick and stone by stone from all over the world. Have you ever heard of such a thing? A museum with a few trinkets and artifacts I could understand, but buildings?”

Kathryn smiled. “Malcolm always was obsessed with history. I remember when we were in school together—”

Ben wasn’t listening. “Do you know what they’ve been working on for the past few weeks? Some kind of a ruin from England. A monastery or castle or cathedral or something.”

“From England?” Kathryn asked. “Did he ship in this fog too?”

Ben grunted, “I just don’t understand Malcolm’s fascination with something that’s ruined. What’s the point?”

Kathryn was about to answer—and would have—if a man on horseback hadn’t suddenly appeared on the road in front of them. The fog cleared just in time for Ben to see him. He swore out loud as he hit the brakes and jerked the steering wheel to the right. The horse reared wildly. The man flew backwards to the ground. Kathryn cried out as the truck skidded into a ditch on the side of the road and came to a gravel-spraying stop.

Ben and Kathryn looked at each other shakily.

“You all right?” Ben asked.

Kathryn nodded.

“Of all the stupid things to do—” Ben growled and angrily pushed his door open. “Stay here,” he said before the door slammed shut again.

Kathryn reached over and turned on the emergency flashers.

Ben made his way cautiously down the road. “Fool,” Ben muttered to himself, then called out. “Hello? Are you all right?”

The fog parted like a curtain, as if to present the man lying on the side of the road to Ben.

“Oh no,” Ben said, rushing forward. He crouched down next to the figure, a very large man. Whoever it was seemed to be wrapped in a dark blanket. The man was perfectly still and his face was hidden in the fog and shadows.

“Hey,” Ben said, hoping the man would stir. He didn’t. Ben looked him over for any sign of blood. Nothing was obvious around his head. But what could he expect to see in that fog? “Kathryn! Call 911 on the mobile phone. And bring me the flashlight from the glove compartment!” he called out.

He peered closely at the shadowed form of the man as he heard Kathryn open her door. She was already talking into the phone, gasping instructions to an emergency operator. The shaft of light from the flashlight bounced around eerily in the ever-moving fog. “Ben?”

“Here,” Ben said.

Kathryn joined him. “Ambulance is on its way. But they’re on the line and want to know his condition.”

He took the flashlight from her and got his first full look at the stranger. He had long dark salt-and-peppery hair, beard, and moustache and a rugged, outdoorsy kind of face. Ben couldn’t guess an age for the man. Anywhere from 40 to 60, he figured. He wore a peaceful expression. He could’ve been sleeping. “I can’t tell. There’s no blood.”

Kathryn reported Ben’s findings to the emergency operator, then asked Ben, “He’s not dead is he?”

“I don’t think so.” Ben reached down, separating the blanket to check the man’s vital signs. The feel of the cloth told him it wasn’t a blanket at all. And as he pushed the fabric aside, he realized that it was a cape made of a thick course material, clasped at the neck by a dragon brooch. “What in the world—?”

Kathryn gasped.

They expected to see a shirt or a sweater or a coat of some sort. Instead he wore a long vest with the symbol of a dragon stitched on to the front, a gold belt, brown leggings, and soft leather footwear that looked more like slippers than shoes. The whole outfit reminded Ben of the kind of costume he’d seen in a Robin Hood movie. At his side was a sword in a sheath.

“Is it Halloween?” Kathryn asked.

***

At the high school, the sophomore dance was just getting under way. The Starliners, a rock and jazz band from nearby Hancock, warmed up for their first number as the sound engineer tried to get the volume just right.

Jeff Dubbs, dressed in a tux and looking all the more uncomfortable for it, stepped into the converted gymnasium and looked around. Streamers and balloons blew gently in the rafters above. A banner wishing the class a good summer rustled over the scoreboard.

A couple of dozen kids mingled in the middle of the dance floor and along the walls. Jeff tugged at his collar and wished he was somewhere else. Anywhere else.

Elizabeth Forde, Jeff’s girlfriend, slipped her hand into the crook of Jeff’s arm. She kissed him on the cheek. “Tell me you like it. We were here all afternoon getting the room decorated.”

“It’s nice,” Jeff said. You’re nicer, he thought as he looked Elizabeth over for the umpteenth time. She was wearing a stunning pink gown with lots of lacy things around the neck and sleeves. The white corsage he had bought for her was pinned to the strap. She looked out over the gathering students and he took in her profile: the delicate nose, large brown eyes and full lips, all framed by the long brown hair that she’d taken extra care with earlier that evening. He had to admit it, she was beautiful.

She glanced at him and caught him looking at her. He blushed.

“What’s wrong?” she asked self-consciously.

A loud metallic crash behind them saved Jeff from answering. Elizabeth’s father, Alan Forde, an eccentric man at the best of times, had dropped a tray of paper cups filled with drinks. Elizabeth’s mother rolled her eyes. “I told you to be careful,” she lectured.

“Too many cups to one side,” he answered quickly as he knelt to clean up the mess. “I misjudged the balance.”

“Oh, Daddy,” said Elizabeth bemused, and went to his side to help.

Jeff grinned. There was a time when Elizabeth would have raced from the room in embarrassment over her father. Not any more. Not since she’d had an adventure that, in part, made her realize how much she loved her parents, quirks and all.

“Hello, Jeff,” Malcolm Dubbs said. Malcolm was an English relative who’d become Jeff’s guardian—and the head of the Dubbs family’s vast American estate—after Jeff’s parents had died in a car accident.

“Hi, Malcolm,” Jeff said. “Nice suit.”

Malcolm tugged at bottom of his jacket. “It doesn’t smell musty, does it?”

Jeff sniffed the air. “Nope.”

“Good.”

The lead singer for the band stepped up to the microphone. “How’re you doing?” We’re the Starliners and we hope you’re ready to dance!” The three-piece brass section started an up-tempo song with the rest of the band joining in a few bars later. A handful of dancers wiggled their way onto the floor. Again, Jeff wished he was somewhere else. He didn’t like to dance.

Elizabeth left her father and mother to finish cleaning up the spilled drinks and rejoined Jeff.

“You look exquisite, Elizabeth,” Malcolm said.

Elizabeth curtseyed. “Thank you, Malcolm. You look pretty nice yourself.”

He smiled at her, then at Jeff. “Why don’t you two dance?”

“Malcolm,” Jeff said through clenched teeth. Malcolm knew full well that Jeff didn’t like to dance.

Elizabeth feigned a melodramatic tone, “I’ve resigned myself to an evening as a wallflower.”

“Will you dance with me?” Malcolm asked, with a slight bow.

“I’d love to,” she said and offered him her hand.

He took it and winked at Jeff as he lead her onto the dance floor. Jeff leaned against the door post, his arms folded. Upstaged by his cousin once again. But he didn’t mind at all.

A tap on the shoulder took his gaze from the dance floor and into the round boyish face of Sheriff Richard Hounslow. The Sheriff was in his uniform—Fawlt Line Police Department’s traditional beige shirt and trousers. The shirt was unbuttoned at the collar. He didn’t wear a gun unless he had to. His only official equipment was his badge and a walkie-talkie strapped to his belt. “Is your cousin here?”

Jeff tipped his head towards the dance floor. “Out there with Elizabeth. Is something wrong?”

“Kinda.”

“You want me to go get him?”

Hounslow shook his head. “Nah, I’ll wait until the song’s over.”

They stood silently for a moment and watched Malcolm and Elizabeth play Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers amidst the wild gyrations of the dancers around them.

“He’s not bad,” Hounslow said.

The song ended. Malcolm and Elizabeth, pleasantly breathless, returned to Jeff.

“Uh oh,” Malcolm said when he saw Hounslow. “What’s wrong?”

Hounslow straightened up. “I need you to come to the hospital. Apparently one of the workers from your so-called historical village was knocked down by Ben Hearn’s truck.”

“One of my workers?” Malcolm said, surprised. “But they’re off for the weekend. Are you certain he’s from my village?”

Hounslow shrugged. “He came racing off of your property on a horse—right in front of Ben. Worse, he doesn’t speak a word of English, just some gibberish. That’s why I need you to come.”

“Is he seriously hurt?”

“No. But Doc McConnell wants to keep him in overnight for observation.” Hounslow gestured to the dance. “Sorry to take you away from all your fun.”

“Hmm.” Malcolm turned to Jeff. “My dear boy, I leave Elizabeth in your capable hands. Dance with her.”

Jeff hung his head.

“You heard your cousin,” Elizabeth said, and dragged Jeff onto the dance floor.

***

The stranger had caused such a ruckus at the hospital—shouting, trying to get away—that the doctor had had to sedate him and strap him into the bed. He lay sleeping as Malcolm, Sheriff Hounslow, and Dr. McConnell approached the bed.

“We had to give him three times the normal dose because of his size,” Dr. McConnell said softly, as if he was afraid of waking the man.

Malcolm looked closely at the unconscious figure. He was big, all right, stretching the length of the bed. “I’ve never seen him before,” Malcolm said.

“He was riding one of your horses,” Hounslow stated.

Malcolm cocked an eyebrow. “I’ll have to talk to Mr. Farrar, my groundskeeper. He lives in the cottage next to the stables.”

“Already done,” Hounslow said. “He was watching television. Didn’t hear a thing. He was surprised that one of your horses was gone. So, if nothing else, you could press charges against the man for horse-thievery.”

Malcolm shook his head. “I’d like to find out more about him first.”

“Well, good luck. We couldn’t get anything out of him. He kept yakking away in some gibberish. Kept pounding his chest and calling himself Rex or Regis or something like that.”

Dr. McConnell interjected. “It’s strange, but he spoke words and phrases that reminded me of the Latin I picked up in medical school.”

“Latin?” Malcolm asked.

“Could’ve been,” Dr. McConnell said. “But I’m no expert.”

Hounslow pulled at his belt. “I called the asylum in Grantsville to see if they’ve had any escapes. None.”

“Just because he speaks Latin doesn’t mean he’s mentally disturbed,” Malcolm said.

“Agreed,” Hounslow answered, “but how about that.” He pointed to the stranger’s clothes, now draped across a visitor’s chair.

Malcolm walked to the chair. “This is what he had on?” he asked, surprised.

Hounslow nodded. “That’s another reason we figured he was from your village. You haven’t started hiring character actors, have you?”

“The construction workers are still building,” Malcolm said. “I haven’t hired any staff yet.” He fingered the fabric of the robe and tunic, making a mental note of the dragon insignias. He picked up the soft leather shoes and looked them over. “Amazing. The outfit looks so authentic. And I don’t mean authentic like a well-done replica, I mean it looks worn like they’re real clothes.”

“Maybe he’s one of those homeless fruitcakes who just happened to wander into town,” Hounslow offered.

Dr. McConnell folded his arms, “It’s hard to imagine this guy being homeless and just wandering anywhere with that sword.”

“Sword?” asked Malcolm.

“Here,” Hounslow said and opened the door to the large wardrobe in the corner. With both hands he pulled out a long sword encased in an ornate golden scabbard. He cradled it in his arms for Malcolm to inspect.

“Good grief,” Malcolm gasped, running his hand along the golden scabbard. “Is that real gold?”

“Looks like it,” Hounslow said.

Malcolm examined the handle of the sword, also golden, with a row of unfamiliar jewels imbedded along the length of the stem. Even in the washed-out fluorescent light of the room, it sparkled as if it reflected the sun. “Can I take it out?”

“Yeah,” Hounslow said, “but be careful. It’s heavy and sharp.”

Malcolm grabbed the handle with both hands and withdrew the sword from the scabbard. It was heavy, as Hounslow said, and Malcolm imagined it would take a man the size of the stranger to weald it with any effect. It was a strain to hold it up. The blade was made of thick, shiny steel with an elaborate engraving of what looked like thin vines and blossoms along the edges. “It must be worth a fortune,” Malcolm said as he slid the sword back into the sheath.

Dr. McConnell agreed. “So what’s a derelict doing with a Latin vocabulary and a valuable sword?”

“That’s what I’d like to find out when he wakes up,” Malcolm answered.

Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Within two hours the stranger was awake and pulling at the restraining straps on the bed. He shouted at the nurse, Dr. McConnell, Sheriff Hounslow and Malcolm in a tone that was unmistakably belligerent. When he realized it didn’t help, he resigned himself to watch the flashing lights and electronic graphs on the medical equipment around him.

After hearing a few of the phrases he yelled—like rex, regis, libertas, stultus—Malcolm was certain about the Latin and phoned a friend of his from the University at Frostburg to come. Dr. Camilla Ashe was so intrigued by Malcolm’s description that she decided not to wait until morning and drove the forty-five minutes to Fawlt Line that night. She arrived a little after ten. By that time the group in the room included Jerry Anderson, editor of Fawlt Line’s Daily Gazette. He had heard the news about the mystery man on his police scanner.

Dr. Ashe, a prim scholarly woman dressed from head to toe in tweed, approached the side of the bed warily. The stranger was once again transfixed by the lights on the equipment and only seemed to realize she was there when she cleared her throat. He looked at her with an expression of impatience. She spoke to him in Latin and he gawked at her. Then, realizing he finally had someone who understood him, he bombarded her with words. She tried to interject, but the stranger kept talking. His voice rose to a shout and she seemed to lose patience and responded in kind.

Malcolm watched them, astounded that they seemed to be arguing and wished he had taken the time to learn Latin in college. Jeff and Elizabeth quietly slipped into the room, still dressed in their clothes from the dance, and leaned against the far wall to stay out of the way.

The stranger continued his assault with words. Finally, Dr. Ashe put her hands on her hips and spoke in a tone that was withering in any language. The stranger turned his head away from her as if to say that the conversation was over. He didn’t look at her again. She spun around to the expectant group, growled loudly and stormed out of the room.

“What was that all about?” Malcolm asked her in the hall.

Her hands trembled as she unwrapped a piece of gum and tossed it into her mouth. “I’ve given up smoking, but I’d love to have a cigarette now.”

“Sorry,” Malcolm said, then waited politely for her to compose herself.

“He said he didn’t want to talk to a woman,” she said. “He resented a woman being sent to him by his captors.”

“Captors!”

Dr. Ashe chewed her gum forcefully. “I don’t mind saying that that man should be certified. He’s not sane.”

“Why? What did he say?”

“He said that, as a king, he should be treated with more respect. He wants to speak with whichever baron or duke is holding him captive. He wants to know where he’s being held and if there’s a ransom. He demands to be told how he got here and where his knights are. And, finally, he wants someone to tell him about the magic boxes with the flashing lights.” Dr. Ashe groaned.

“I told you he’s a fruitcake,” Sheriff Hounslow said from behind Malcolm.

“Or it’s a very tiresome joke,” Dr. Ashe added and wagged a finger at Malcolm. “You wouldn’t be pulling a prank on me, would you?”

“No,” Malcolm said simply.

“Then you should get him some psychiatric help,” she said.

“I still don’t understand,” Malcolm said. “He said he’s a king. But King who—and king of what”

Dr. Ashe grinned irritably. “He says he’s King Arthur.”

Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Dr. Ashe left. She wanted nothing more to do with the Latin-speaking lunatic.

“What are you going to do now?” Jerry Anderson asked Malcolm.

Before Malcolm could answer, Hounslow jumped in. “Let’s get something straight. Doc McConnell and I are making the decisions here. Not Malcolm.”

“Sorry,” Jerry said. “What are you going to do now, Sheriff Hounslow?”

Hounslow shrugged, “I don’t know yet.”

Malcolm smiled politely. “In my humble opinion, we should find someone else who knows enough Latin to communicate with him. A man this time.”

Elizabeth raised her hand and wiggled her fingers. “I know someone.”

All eyes fell to her.

“My Dad,” she said. “He studied Latin when he was in college and sometimes uses it for his research.” Elizabeth’s father was a teacher at the middle school, though some said he should have been teaching at a major university.

“Of course,” Malcolm said and went to the phone.

Alan Forde was quite tall himself and his size, combined with his knowledge of Latin, obviously impressed the stranger. The stranger seemed more patient and spoke in calmer tones. Alan pulled up a chair next to the bed. After a brief spurt of conversation, he turned to Dr. McConnell. “Can we free his hands please?”

Dr. McConnell looked skeptically at Alan and the stranger. “You’re kidding.”

“He promises not to resort to physical violence or even to attempt an escape. But it’s offensive to his honor to be tied up.”

“Well … “ Dr. McConnell began, then looked to Sheriff Hounslow and Malcolm for help.

“I think you should do it,” Malcolm suggested.

Sheriff Hounslow unclipped the walkie-talkie from his belt and called to one of his officers on the other end. “Bring me my gun,” he said.

“Okay,” Dr. McConnell said. He undid the restraining straps.

The stranger rubbed his wrists then sat up in the bed. He spoke to Alan.

“Thank you,” Alan translated, then added: “I think he’ll be more agreeable to talk now.”

“Does he really think he’s King Arthur?” Hounslow asked.

“Yes.”

“Then what’s he doing here?” Malcolm asked. “What was he doing on my property? Why did he take my horse?”

Alan posed the questions to the stranger.

Through Alan, the stranger explained, “My nephew Sir Mordred, that traitorous and wicked knight, attempted to usurp my throne whilst I was pursuing Sir Lancelot north to his castle at Joyous Gard. Verily, I loved Lancelot as my own, even whilst he coveted my queen and betrayed me. While I was gone, Mordred enticed many weak-willed nobles to join his army to overthrow my rule. My army met and routed his forces on Barham Down, but my nephew fled to other parts. We made chase but did not battle them again, choosing instead to negotiate a peace. I desired not the terrible bloodshed that would ensue if we were to engage in combat. And so it is that we have come here to this plain to meet and discuss terms.”

“What’s this got to do with anything?” Hounslow growled.

Malcolm ignored him. “So tonight is the eve of your meeting with Mordred to make a truce,” he said to Alan while looking at the stranger. “What happened?”

The stranger answered through Alan, “As I lay upon my bed in my pavilion, I dreamed an incredible dream. I sat upon a chair which was fastened to a wheel in the sky. I was adorned in a garment of finest woven gold. Far below me I saw deep black water wherein was contained all manner of serpents and worms and the most foul and horrible wild beasts. Suddenly, it was as if the wheel turned upside-down and I fell among the serpents and wild beasts and they pounced upon me. I cried out in a loud voice and awoke upon a cold slab of stone in the midst of a vast field. Troubled by this vision, I rose, determined to find my knights. I espied glowing torches in the distance and approached them. I found there not my army but a stable of horses. I mounted one and made haste in the direction of my knights. I spurred the horse ever-faster and faster until I was attacked by the armored cart that was drawn by neither man nor beast. Frightened, my horse reared and I fell to the ground.” He turned to Malcolm, “Now, speak knave, am I a prisoner or is a dream?”

Malcolm tugged gently at his ear and said to the others, “He woke up on one of the stone slabs in my historical village. Probably in the church ruins I bought from England. Very interesting.”

“You don’t believe any of this nonsense, do you?” Hounslow asked.

Malcolm answered in a guarded tone, “For the moment, I believe that he’s confused and found himself on my property.”

The stranger folded his arms and muttered the same phrase over and over.

“He says Merlin is responsible,” Alan said. “He doesn’t know how, but he’s sure it is some trickery of Merlin’s.”

“That’s it,” Hounslow said. “Everybody out. It’s now past midnight and I’ve had enough of this. We’re going to transfer this nutcase to the Hancock Sanitarium. Let them decide what to do with him.” With that said, he marched out of the room.

Dr. McConnell looked at Malcolm apologetically. “What else can I do with him?”

Malcolm didn’t know. “I wish I could take him back to my cottage.”

The stranger spoke again and Alan translated, “Answer me! Am I to be ransomed or is this a dream?”

Malcolm spoke as soothingly as he could. “Tell him that we are not his captors and, if it’ll help, to consider this a bizarre dream.” As an afterthought, he added, “Also ask him if he’ll give us his word as King not to try to escape tonight. Otherwise, the doctor will have to strap his arms again.”

The stranger gave his word.

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First Book Tour -“Lost in Las Vegas by Melody Carlson (Carter House Girls Series)”

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:

Scrapping Plans

B&H Books (February 1, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rebeca Seitz, in addition to her own literary work, is founder and president of Glass Road Public Relations, a company dedicated solely to representing novelists who write from a Christian worldview. She has previously worked with authors including Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, Robin Jones Gunn, and Brandilyn Collins. Seitz lives with her husband and son in Fulton, Kentucky.

In 2007, Rebeca published her first novel, Prints Charming , with Thomas Nelson Publishers. Two thousand eight saw the release of her next two novels, Sister’s Ink and Coming Unglued , from B&H Publishing Group, the publishing division of LifeWay. Just released from B&H is Scrapping Plans. Her next book, Perfect Piece , will release in 2009 from B&H.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805446923
ISBN-13: 978-0805446920

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I’ve tried to be happy. I try so very hard. Yet the frigid granite beneath my fingertips is a blazing desert compared to the barren iceberg of my womb. What woman could be happy with a monolith of ice blocking her very female essence?

This kitchen is perfectly planned. If Martha Stewart visited, she’d be envious of my exquisite arrangement of pears and apricots, dusted with the slightest coating of glaze and balanced artfully in Mother’s old bowl. She’d gasp at the coordination of stripe to check, plaid to French country print, that draws the eye around the room. Her Tod-slippered feet can sweep across my stone floor and arrive unspecked at their destination.

And, if the Great Martha were to stop there, I would measure up. My life would hold a semblance of value, of worthiness.

Most stop there.

Thank God.

I don’t mean that irreverently. How can I be irreverent? I’m the grateful adoptee of an upright preacher man and his loving wife. I’m the epitome of grateful recipient. All of Stars Hill would tell you that.

They don’t look past my kitchen.

Thank God.

But I don’t have much time to stand here, staring at a House Beautiful workspace. Scott will be home in two hours. And duck l’orange is not an easy dish for even one so seasoned as I.

Is it odd that I love French food yet Chinese blood runs through my veins? Hmm. Perhaps if I’d been raised on the soil my mother trod, I would know more of the cuisine of the Asian world. I might even be privy to which province most suits me.

I should visit China.

Did I just think that?

I can’t visit China. Daddy, that blessed preacher man, would be hurt if I went in search of a mother who was never Momma. Of a woman who took one look at me, then left me bawling on a doorstep in the dead of night.

Then again, Daddy has Zelda these days.

Now, Zelda, there’s a woman who follows every fancy. What a strange little bird she is. Those fiery red spikes in her hair make me think of either a surprised woodpecker or the recipient of an errant lightning bolt. When she smiles, her whole face turns upward. I hear we have that in common. I wish I could remember seeing a smile on my face. But when I’m alone, with a mirror reflecting the mystery of me, it isn’t a smile that comes to bear. Besides, what kind of lady wears spurs on her cowboy boots? Honestly, spurs! Why, one of these days she will rip a gash in Daddy’s ankle while they’re do-si-doing and twirling around the Heartland dance floor.

I assume that’s what happens inside that wretched place. How Kendra and Tandy spend Friday nights there is beyond me. To each her own, I suppose. Though my own will never involve cowboy boots and a twanging fiddle.

Do fiddles twang?

Maybe I meant guitar.

No matter. I have a duck to prepare.

* * *

“Did you see her?” Kendra tripped over the uneven sidewalk and grabbed Tandy’s arm. Cold gusts of wind beat at them, bringing snatches of icy rain below the sidewalk’s covering.

“Hey, watch it, sister!”

“Sorry.” She kept walking, shooting a murderous look back at the beguiling concrete. “We need to bring up sidewalk maintenance at the next town meeting.”

Tandy patted the coffee-colored hand still crooked in her elbow. “Now, Kendra, don’t be getting all drastic on me. Can you imagine what poor Tanner would do if we dared question the maintenance of our fair Stars Hill?”

“Huh.” Kendra huffed and let go of Tandy to stuff her hands in her pockets. “Probably remind us of all he’s done to keep this town in antique replica street lights and ten o’clock curfews.”

“At least the curfews are gone.”

They pulled their hoods up and stepped down from the sidewalk to cross College Street.

“I wonder how many times Daddy would have had to bail us out if they had that curfew when we were in high school?”

Tandy tucked a curl behind her ear and took long strides toward Clay’s Diner. “I seem to recall a certain sister needing bailed out anyway.”

“There was no bail involved. Just a minor misunderstanding.”

“That the whole town talked about for months.” Tandy grinned and pulled open the door of the diner. Heated air billowed out a welcome. “After you, Con Woman.”

“Yeah, keep it up, sis. I can always bring up improper car racing at the next town meeting.” Kendra sailed through the entry, ignoring Tandy’s, “You wouldn’t!” and hung her dripping coat on one of the hooks by the door.

Tandy sloughed off her own navy pea coat and stamped her yellow rain boots. “Would you?”

Kendra spun on a heel and walked off toward “their” booth in the back corner. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“There’s my darling wife!” Clay Kelner came around the counter toward them.

Kendra rolled her eyes and snatched up a menu. “Oh, spare me. Shouldn’t the newlywed bliss have worn off by now?”

“What are you upset about?” Clay allowed a quick glance for his sister-in-law, then bent and dropped a peck on Tandy’s upturned lips. “Are you and Darin fighting?”

“No.”

“Yes.” Tandy leveled a gaze at her sister. “Because Kendra is too busy spying on Joy to pay attention to her man and get their wedding planned.”

“Joy? The perfect one? Mrs. Plan-Everything-to-Death?” Clay’s eyebrows rose. “Why are you spying on Joy?”

“Because something’s wrong and I’m the only one in this family paying attention, that’s why.” Kendra slapped the menu on the table top. “And wedding plans are coming along fine, thank you very much.”

“Sure you’re not being your dramatic self?” Clay fast-stepped back before Kendra could swat him. “Lovable dramatic self, I meant!”

“Ha ha. Very funny.” Kendra pointed the menu at Clay, then Tandy. “You laugh now, but something’s up and we need to find out what before it gets so bad we can’t fix it.”

1“Well, can we at least get some food first?” Tandy snatched the menu and put it back in its holder. “I can’t think on an empty stomach.”

“The usual?”

Both girls nodded and Clay turned back toward the kitchen.

When he’d gone, Kendra studied her sister. “Tandy, I know you think I’m nuts. But did you not see her at Darnell’s? I mean, she stood over that display of oranges for at least a full minute, just staring into space!”

“Yeah, I saw her, Ken.” Tandy sighed. “But you know Joy. She’s not going to appreciate us marching up into her house and demanding to know what’s wrong.”

“She wouldn’t care if Meg did it.” Kendra sniffed.

“Yes, she would. And she’s closer to Meg because this is exactly the kind of thing Meg wouldn’t do.”

Kendra huffed and turned away. Rain sluiced down the windows, making the streetlights outside sparkle. Inside, every table was filled with Stars Hill townfolk happily spooning up chili and vegetable soup. If we don’t figure this out soon, they will. And then Joy will be the talk of the town2. She pulled out her cell phone and punched buttons.

“Who are you calling?”

“Meg.” Her faux ruby ring glinted in the light when she held up a finger to stop Tandy’s objection. “Hey, Meg, it’s Kendra. Tandy and I are at the diner and wondered if you could drop by. Call me as soon as you get this.” She snapped the phone closed and dropped it back in her giant suede bag, now splashed with raindrops.

“And what will that accomplish?”

“We’re going to have Meg talk to Joy about this.”

“Since when can we get Meg to do anything? Did you discover some magic wand I don’t know about?”

Kendra pushed her mahogany-colored spirals back into the burgundy headwrap from which they’d escaped. “She’s been wanting me to paint a mural on Hannah’s wall for a month. I think she’ll do just about anything to get it done.”

Tandy leaned back in the seat and whistled low. “Remind me never to underestimate you, sister.”

Kendra stopped fixing her hair and leveled a stare at Tandy. “You better believe it.”

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FIRST Book Tour: Scrapping Plans

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:

Scrapping Plans

B&H Books (February 1, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rebeca Seitz, in addition to her own literary work, is founder and president of Glass Road Public Relations, a company dedicated solely to representing novelists who write from a Christian worldview. She has previously worked with authors including Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, Robin Jones Gunn, and Brandilyn Collins. Seitz lives with her husband and son in Fulton, Kentucky.

In 2007, Rebeca published her first novel, Prints Charming , with Thomas Nelson Publishers. Two thousand eight saw the release of her next two novels, Sister’s Ink and Coming Unglued , from B&H Publishing Group, the publishing division of LifeWay. Just released from B&H is Scrapping Plans. Her next book, Perfect Piece , will release in 2009 from B&H.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805446923
ISBN-13: 978-0805446920

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I’ve tried to be happy. I try so very hard. Yet the frigid granite beneath my fingertips is a blazing desert compared to the barren iceberg of my womb. What woman could be happy with a monolith of ice blocking her very female essence?

This kitchen is perfectly planned. If Martha Stewart visited, she’d be envious of my exquisite arrangement of pears and apricots, dusted with the slightest coating of glaze and balanced artfully in Mother’s old bowl. She’d gasp at the coordination of stripe to check, plaid to French country print, that draws the eye around the room. Her Tod-slippered feet can sweep across my stone floor and arrive unspecked at their destination.

And, if the Great Martha were to stop there, I would measure up. My life would hold a semblance of value, of worthiness.

Most stop there.

Thank God.

I don’t mean that irreverently. How can I be irreverent? I’m the grateful adoptee of an upright preacher man and his loving wife. I’m the epitome of grateful recipient. All of Stars Hill would tell you that.

They don’t look past my kitchen.

Thank God.

But I don’t have much time to stand here, staring at a House Beautiful workspace. Scott will be home in two hours. And duck l’orange is not an easy dish for even one so seasoned as I.

Is it odd that I love French food yet Chinese blood runs through my veins? Hmm. Perhaps if I’d been raised on the soil my mother trod, I would know more of the cuisine of the Asian world. I might even be privy to which province most suits me.

I should visit China.

Did I just think that?

I can’t visit China. Daddy, that blessed preacher man, would be hurt if I went in search of a mother who was never Momma. Of a woman who took one look at me, then left me bawling on a doorstep in the dead of night.

Then again, Daddy has Zelda these days.

Now, Zelda, there’s a woman who follows every fancy. What a strange little bird she is. Those fiery red spikes in her hair make me think of either a surprised woodpecker or the recipient of an errant lightning bolt. When she smiles, her whole face turns upward. I hear we have that in common. I wish I could remember seeing a smile on my face. But when I’m alone, with a mirror reflecting the mystery of me, it isn’t a smile that comes to bear. Besides, what kind of lady wears spurs on her cowboy boots? Honestly, spurs! Why, one of these days she will rip a gash in Daddy’s ankle while they’re do-si-doing and twirling around the Heartland dance floor.

I assume that’s what happens inside that wretched place. How Kendra and Tandy spend Friday nights there is beyond me. To each her own, I suppose. Though my own will never involve cowboy boots and a twanging fiddle.

Do fiddles twang?

Maybe I meant guitar.

No matter. I have a duck to prepare.

* * *

“Did you see her?” Kendra tripped over the uneven sidewalk and grabbed Tandy’s arm. Cold gusts of wind beat at them, bringing snatches of icy rain below the sidewalk’s covering.

“Hey, watch it, sister!”

“Sorry.” She kept walking, shooting a murderous look back at the beguiling concrete. “We need to bring up sidewalk maintenance at the next town meeting.”

Tandy patted the coffee-colored hand still crooked in her elbow. “Now, Kendra, don’t be getting all drastic on me. Can you imagine what poor Tanner would do if we dared question the maintenance of our fair Stars Hill?”

“Huh.” Kendra huffed and let go of Tandy to stuff her hands in her pockets. “Probably remind us of all he’s done to keep this town in antique replica street lights and ten o’clock curfews.”

“At least the curfews are gone.”

They pulled their hoods up and stepped down from the sidewalk to cross College Street.

“I wonder how many times Daddy would have had to bail us out if they had that curfew when we were in high school?”

Tandy tucked a curl behind her ear and took long strides toward Clay’s Diner. “I seem to recall a certain sister needing bailed out anyway.”

“There was no bail involved. Just a minor misunderstanding.”

“That the whole town talked about for months.” Tandy grinned and pulled open the door of the diner. Heated air billowed out a welcome. “After you, Con Woman.”

“Yeah, keep it up, sis. I can always bring up improper car racing at the next town meeting.” Kendra sailed through the entry, ignoring Tandy’s, “You wouldn’t!” and hung her dripping coat on one of the hooks by the door.

Tandy sloughed off her own navy pea coat and stamped her yellow rain boots. “Would you?”

Kendra spun on a heel and walked off toward “their” booth in the back corner. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“There’s my darling wife!” Clay Kelner came around the counter toward them.

Kendra rolled her eyes and snatched up a menu. “Oh, spare me. Shouldn’t the newlywed bliss have worn off by now?”

“What are you upset about?” Clay allowed a quick glance for his sister-in-law, then bent and dropped a peck on Tandy’s upturned lips. “Are you and Darin fighting?”

“No.”

“Yes.” Tandy leveled a gaze at her sister. “Because Kendra is too busy spying on Joy to pay attention to her man and get their wedding planned.”

“Joy? The perfect one? Mrs. Plan-Everything-to-Death?” Clay’s eyebrows rose. “Why are you spying on Joy?”

“Because something’s wrong and I’m the only one in this family paying attention, that’s why.” Kendra slapped the menu on the table top. “And wedding plans are coming along fine, thank you very much.”

“Sure you’re not being your dramatic self?” Clay fast-stepped back before Kendra could swat him. “Lovable dramatic self, I meant!”

“Ha ha. Very funny.” Kendra pointed the menu at Clay, then Tandy. “You laugh now, but something’s up and we need to find out what before it gets so bad we can’t fix it.”

1“Well, can we at least get some food first?” Tandy snatched the menu and put it back in its holder. “I can’t think on an empty stomach.”

“The usual?”

Both girls nodded and Clay turned back toward the kitchen.

When he’d gone, Kendra studied her sister. “Tandy, I know you think I’m nuts. But did you not see her at Darnell’s? I mean, she stood over that display of oranges for at least a full minute, just staring into space!”

“Yeah, I saw her, Ken.” Tandy sighed. “But you know Joy. She’s not going to appreciate us marching up into her house and demanding to know what’s wrong.”

“She wouldn’t care if Meg did it.” Kendra sniffed.

“Yes, she would. And she’s closer to Meg because this is exactly the kind of thing Meg wouldn’t do.”

Kendra huffed and turned away. Rain sluiced down the windows, making the streetlights outside sparkle. Inside, every table was filled with Stars Hill townfolk happily spooning up chili and vegetable soup. If we don’t figure this out soon, they will. And then Joy will be the talk of the town2. She pulled out her cell phone and punched buttons.

“Who are you calling?”

“Meg.” Her faux ruby ring glinted in the light when she held up a finger to stop Tandy’s objection. “Hey, Meg, it’s Kendra. Tandy and I are at the diner and wondered if you could drop by. Call me as soon as you get this.” She snapped the phone closed and dropped it back in her giant suede bag, now splashed with raindrops.

“And what will that accomplish?”

“We’re going to have Meg talk to Joy about this.”

“Since when can we get Meg to do anything? Did you discover some magic wand I don’t know about?”

Kendra pushed her mahogany-colored spirals back into the burgundy headwrap from which they’d escaped. “She’s been wanting me to paint a mural on Hannah’s wall for a month. I think she’ll do just about anything to get it done.”

Tandy leaned back in the seat and whistled low. “Remind me never to underestimate you, sister.”

Kendra stopped fixing her hair and leveled a stare at Tandy. “You better believe it.”

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Chronologically Reading

Since January 1st of this year, I’ve been reading “The One Year Chronologial Bible” as to keep up with spending time in God’s word everyday. I’ve been really enjoying it! But that is not all I am doing. I take part in a reviewers group for christian books and I am reading those on the side too.  Right now I am reading “Losing Control and Liking It” & Market Place Memos and future books I’ll be reading are: Following God with All Your Heart, Grace for the Afflicted, The Shack, The Red Siren, Gatekeepers and many more.

In my chronological reading, I’m currently reading through Job. Job is basically a book that ask and answers the question ” Why Do Good People Suffer?” The biggest thing for me right now as with Job is to be patient because God does care about me and the situations I’m suffering with.

Today’s Bible reading is: Job 27:1 through Job 29:25

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