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The NKJV American Patriot’s Bible

541538: The NKJV American Patriot"s Bible, Hardcover The NKJV American Patriot’s Bible, Hardcover
By Dr. Richard Lee
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

A You Tube video featuring  The American Patriot’s Bible and Sample PDF .

First and foremost, this is not your typical study Bible as it’s main focuses is on America’s Godly heritage. I am glad that someone decided to make a Bible that is intertwined with American History as that is what this country was founded on. Throughout this book, you’ll find 48 full-color insert pages presented in 12 for-page sections discussing different point in U.S. History.

I enjoyed reading about the leaders, and statesman; seeing the colorful illustrations and photos; being reminded of patriotic songs and poems by famous Americans. You’ll  find many great leaders mentioned in history from George Washington to our newly elected President Barack Obama. I was so encouraged to be reminded and learn a few new things in using this wonderful resource that reminds us how godly qualities in people made America the great nation that is is today.

The Large Print is a wonderful addition as is the family record section of this Bible. I know for years and years to come in my household this Bible will not only used by me but by my children and their children as well.   The American Patriot’s Bible is an ideal gift for veterans,  students of American history, and families in any christian home.

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Blood Bayou by Karen Young

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:

Blood Bayou

Howard Books (May 5, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karen Young is the author of thirty-four novels with more than ten million copies in print. Romantic Times magazine and the Romance Writers of America have given her fiction numerous awards. She is a frequent public speaker and lecturer who lives in Houston. This is her first Christian novel.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416587500
ISBN-13: 978-1416587507

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

PROLOGUE

Luanne Richard opened the door to her killer wearing a smile and little else. With a drink in one hand and invitation and mischief dancing in her eyes, she sensed no danger. After several martinis, her instinct for danger was hazy at best.

She’d been lounging on the patio in her bikini when the doorbell rang. It had occurred to her that a cover-up might be the proper thing, but she wasn’t much into doing the proper thing. Never had been. It got really boring trying to live life properly. Now, glancing through the peephole, she saw he was alone and thought it might be fun to tease him a little. No one

around, as far as she could tell. So she let him in, closed the door, and turned to face him.

That is when she saw the knife.

She sobered instantly. And when he raised it and lunged, aiming for her throat, she recoiled on instinct alone, tossed her drink at his face and somehow—miraculously—managed to

evade that first vicious slash. While he cursed and blinked gin from his eyes, she turned and ran on bare feet.

She raced through the huge house wondering frantically how to escape. She cursed her carelessness in leaving the gate open when she drove home from the club. It came to her that

she stood no chance while inside, so she flew through the living room and made for the den and beyond—the patio. She prayed the door was open, that she’d failed to close it when she got up

and came back in.

Please, oh, please . . .

Halfway there, she took a quick look over her shoulder and screamed. He was close and gaining. He would be on her if she didn’t do something. As she streaked past a very expensive Chinese vase, she gave it a push to tip it over, thinking to trip him. He stumbled but didn’t go down. He picked it up, tossed it aside, and laughed. Laughed!

This couldn’t be real. This kind of craziness happened in nightmares to other people, not to her. Hadn’t she had enough grief in her life? Hadn’t she tried her best to fight the demons that tormented her? Hadn’t she often resisted temptation? Was she to be damned for the times she didn’t?

I’m sorry, God. I’m sorry. I’m sorry . . .

No! She wasn’t going to let this happen. She had a lot of life to live yet. She would change. She had changed. Nobody understood how hard it was for her to keep to the straight and narrow. She kept to the path. Almost always.

Once out on the lawn, she realized she couldn’t make it to the front. It was too far away. He’d overtake her before she got halfway there. And there was no time to punch in the security

code to open the gate. She was trapped. Mad with fear, she ducked around lush landscaping, making for the walk that led to the pier and boathouse. She veered to avoid the cherub fountain and stumbled, twisting her ankle painfully. She flung out a hand for balance only to have it slashed on the lethal thorns of a pyracantha. Sobbing now, she dashed through a grove of wax myrtles, wincing at the slap and sting of limbs before finally reaching the pier jutting over the bayou. It was her only chance.

She looked again over her shoulder. He’d slowed, knowing she had no place else to run. The knife blade glinted brightly in the sun. She whimpered, trying to think. Blood dripped from

the gash on her hand and her ankle throbbed. Scalding tears ran down her cheeks. What to do?

“Gotcha now, Luanne,” he taunted. “The boathouse or the bayou, babe. What’s it gonna be?”

Not the bayou. Never the bayou.

She had a fear of Blood Bayou. It had almost claimed her once. None of the romantic legends spun about it held any charm for her. The water was too dark, too still, too deep, too alive with slimy things, predatory things. The bayou was death.

She was out of breath and in pain when she remembered the telephone in the boathouse only a few feet away. Checking behind her, she saw that he was still coming, but moving almost

leisurely, as if enjoying the chase, savoring her fear. Anticipating the kill?

The thought made her leap onto the pier. Hot from the August sun, the wooden planks burned the soles of her bare feet. Below the pier, black water slapped against the pilings, disorienting her. Don’t look down! Eyes straight ahead, she finally reached the boathouse door, grabbing at the latch, fingers clawing. Panic and blood from her wounded hand made her clumsy,

all thumbs, as she worked at the strange fastener. But at last she got it, wrenched it open.

Inside it was dark and dank and, like the bayou, smelled of rotting vegetation and decaying fish. But it was sanctuary and she scrambled inside, slammed the door shut, and set the bolt. It would not keep him out for long, but it offered a few precious seconds. Her eyes struggled with the dark. It was her only chance. But one thing nagged: Why was he giving her this chance? No time to worry about that. She flew to the wall-mounted phone, grabbed the receiver, and punched in 911.

He was at the boathouse now, rattling the door. Terror leaped in her chest. With her heart in her throat, she strained to hear the ring connecting her to 911. But nothing. In a panic, she jiggled the button up and down. Listened for a dial tone. Nothing. She frantically pressed the button up and down again. And again nothing. She gave an anguished cry and slammed the receiver against the wall. The phone line was dead!

She screamed at the thunderous crash. He kicked the door open. It slammed against the wall, shaking the boathouse to its foundation. As she watched, petrified, he took an unhurried step inside, filling the doorway. With the sun behind him, he loomed as large as a truck. He paused, no doubt to let his eyes adjust to the dark interior. He took his time. Then he began to move slowly toward her. “I’ve got you now, sugar,” he taunted, his smile grotesque.

Incoherent with terror, all she saw was the knife. She scrambled backward, desperate to get out of his reach. But he kept coming. With a bump, she backed against the sleek hull of a

boat. Trapped! Below was bottomless, black water. Sobbing, she looked at him piteously. She was going to die. The bayou was going to claim her after all.

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Memory’s Gate 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:

Memory’s Gate by Paul McCusker (Time Thriller series)

Zondervan (May 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: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714389
ISBN-13: 978-0310714385

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter One

What in the world am I doing here? Elizabeth Forde asked herself as she followed a silver-haired woman down the main hallway of the Fawlt Line Retirement Center.

Of all the things I could have spent the rest of my summer doing, why this? Yes, she had agreed to volunteer at the retirement center. She had even felt enthusiastic about the idea at the time. But walking down the cold, clinical, pale green hallway with the smell of pine disinfectant in the air, Elizabeth wondered if she had made a mistake.

She’d been swept along by Reverend Armstrong’s passionate call to the young people of the church. He had exuberantly insisted that they get involved in the community. They must be a generation of givers rather than takers, he’d said. His words were powerful and persuasive, and before she knew what she was doing she had joined a line of other young people to sign up for volunteer service. Just a few hours a day, three or four days a week, for a couple of weeks. It hadn’t sounded like much.

An old man, bent like a question-mark, stepped out of his room and smiled toothlessly at her.

It’s too much, she thought. Let me out of here.

“I know what you’re thinking,” said her guide, Mrs. Kottler, with a smile. “You’re thinking that a few hours a day simply won’t be enough. You’ll want more time. Everyone feels that way. But if you do the best you can with the hours you have, you’ll be just fine. I promise. Maybe later, once you’ve proven yourself, we’ll let you come in longer.”

Elizabeth smiled noncommittally.

Mrs. Kottler wore masterfully applied makeup, discreet gold jewelry, and a fashionable dark blue dress. She smelled of expensive perfume. Elizabeth thought she looked more like a real estate agent than the administrator of an old folks’ home.

“We don’t call it an ‘old folks’ home,’ by the way,” Mrs. Kottler said, as if she’d read Elizabeth’s mind, “or a ‘sanitarium’ or any of those other outdated names. It’s just what the sign says: it’s a retirement center. People have productive and active lives here. Being a senior citizen doesn’t mean you have one foot in the grave. People who retire at sixty-five often have another twenty or thirty years to enjoy their lives. We’re here to help them do it as well as it can be done.”

Elizabeth noted a couple of productive and active people staring blankly at the television sets in their rooms.

“Of course, we do have older residents who have gone beyond their mental or physical capacity to jog around the center six times a day, if you know what I mean,” Mrs. Kottler added as they rounded a corner and walked briskly down a short corridor toward two large doors. “For the rest of them, there’s a full schedule of activities throughout the day. Most take place here in the recreation room.”

She pushed on the two doors. They swung open grandly to reveal a large room filled with game tables, easels, bookcases filled with hundreds of books and magazines, and a large-screen television. Unlike the main halls and cafeteria Elizabeth had just seen, this room was decorated warmly with wooden end-tables, lace doilies, and the kinds of chairs and sofas found in showcase living rooms. Tastefully painted scenes of sunlit hills, lush green valleys, and golden rivers adorned the walls.

“Pretty, huh? I decorated this one myself,” Mrs. Kottler said. “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that they should have let me decorate the entire center. Well, that wasn’t my decision to make. The residents are responsible for decorating their own rooms any way they like. Most of the other assembly areas were done before I joined the staff.”

“How long have you been working here?” Elizabeth asked politely.

“Five years,” Mrs. Kottler answered, then added wistfully, “Time. It goes by so quickly, don’t you find?”

For Elizabeth, who had been only eleven years old when Mrs. Kottler started her job, the last five years hadn’t gone by quickly at all. She had traveled from the carefree days of Barbie dolls to the insecurities of middle school to the early stages of womanhood and wide-eyed wonder over her future. And she had also traveled to a parallel time, not that she’d be inclined to mention such a thing to Mrs. Kottler. No, it hasn’t gone by very quickly, she thought. And as she considered the residents of the center and realized that one day she might have to live in a place like this, she hoped life would never go by that quickly. She shuddered at the thought.

A tall, handsome young man entered through a door at the opposite end of the recreation room. “Mrs. K., I was wondering—”

“Doug Hall, come meet Elizabeth Forde,” Mrs. Kottler said, waving her arms as if she might create enough of a breeze to sail Doug over to them.

Doug strode across the room with a smile that showed off the deep dimples in his cheeks. He’s a movie star, Elizabeth thought. His curly brown hair, perfectly formed face, large brown eyes, and painstakingly sculpted physique that was enhanced, not hidden, by the white clinical coat made her certain. He’s a movie star playing a doctor, she amended.

Doug outstretched a hand and said, “Well, my enjoyment of this place just increased by a hundred percent.”

She shook his hand and blushed. “Hi.”

“Doug is our maintenance engineer,” Mrs. Kottler explained.

Doug smiled again. “She means I’m the main janitor. But I’m more like a bouncer, in case these old madcap merrymakers get out of control with their wild partying and carousing.”

“Stop it, Doug,” Mrs. Kottler giggled. Then she turned to Elizabeth. “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, what’s a good-looking and charming young man like him doing in a place like this?”

For once, Mrs. Kottler had it right. He’s a movie star playing a janitor? It didn’t seem appropriate somehow. She waited for the answer.

“Well, if you can find out, please let me know,” Mrs. Kottler said with another giggle. “He won’t tell anyone. I assume he has a deep, dark secret. Perhaps he was involved in some sort of intrigue in France and barely escaped from the police on his yacht. Why else would he be hiding in a retirement center in a small town?”

“If you have to know the truth, I ran off with the church funds,” Doug said. He and Mrs. Kottler chuckled as if this little exchange had been their own private joke for a long time.

Doug rested his gaze on Elizabeth, making her feel self-conscious about how she appeared to him. How did she look in her freshly-issued white-and-pink clinic jacket—frumpy or professional? Had she taken pains with her makeup? Were her large brown eyes properly accented? Did her smile look natural? Her skin was freshly tanned, no unsightly pimples, which made her glad. She had tied back her long brown hair, but now she wished she had let it fall loose. It looked better that way, Jeff always said.

Jeff.

Thinking of her boyfriend at that moment gave her pause—as if her self-conscious vanity was, in and of itself, an act of infidelity to him. She glanced away from Doug self-consciously.

“Well, back to business,” Doug said pleasantly, as if he’d picked up on her feelings and wanted to spare her any embarrassment. “I was wondering if now would be a good time to adjust the settings on the Jacuzzi. You don’t have any plans to let the kids in this afternoon, right?”

“No, Doug, the ‘kids’ won’t be going in today,” Mrs. Kottler replied. “Do whatever you need to do.”

He nodded. “Maybe Elizabeth will want to test it later when I’m finished.” He gave her a coy grin.

“I think Elizabeth will be too busy getting acclimated to her new duties,” Mrs. Kottler replied.

Doug tipped a finger against his brow as a farewell. “If there’s anything I can do to help …”

Mrs. Kottler watched him go. “He’s such a flirt. A charming, good-looking flirt, but a flirt nonetheless.” Elizabeth detected a hint of jealousy in her voice.

The tour of the center eventually led Elizabeth and Mrs. Kottler outside to the five acres of manicured grounds, landscaped into gentle green slopes that ultimately rolled down to a small manmade lake called Richards Pond. It was enclosed on one side by a natural forest that extended off to the horizon. Elizabeth walked alongside Mrs. Kottler, feeling oppressed by the humidity of the August afternoon. She swatted at the occasional mosquito that wanted to make a meal of her arms.

“The heat and mosquitoes tend to keep everyone inside on days like this,” Mrs. Kottler said.

“Except those two,” Elizabeth said, gesturing to two people in a white Victorian-style gazebo near the lake.

“That’s Sheriff Hounslow and his father,” Mrs. Kottler said, with just enough annoyance to betray her usual professional detachment. “I suppose we should say a quick hello.”

As they got closer, Elizabeth saw that the sheriff, a large man in a light gray uniform, was pacing in an agitated way. His father, a shadow from this distance, was sitting on one of the benches that lined the gazebo. Sheriff Hounslow saw them coming and waved.

Mrs. Kottler spoke to Elizabeth in a low voice, “Adam Hounslow joined us just a couple of days ago. Like many new residents, he’s having a hard time adjusting. Hello, Sheriff!”

Mrs. Kottler and Elizabeth mounted the steps to the shade of the round white roof covering the gazebo. The heat and humidity were not relieved there.

“Look who’s here,” Sheriff Hounslow announced. “Mrs. Kottler and—well, well—Elizabeth Forde.”

“Oh, you know my new volunteer. Elizabeth will be with us a few hours a day for the next couple of weeks.”

“How nice. You be sure to take special care of my father,” the sheriff said. “His name is Adam.”

Elizabeth could see the old man clearly now. He was bent over from some sort of arthritis and had a pale wrinkled face with hazel eyes encased in deep, worried frowns—in them, she could see the resemblance between the father and the son. Wisps of thin white hair sprayed out from a spotted crown.

“Wouldn’t you like a pretty girl like Elizabeth to help take care of you, Dad?” the sheriff asked.

“I don’t need to be taken care of,” the old man growled. He tucked his head down against his chest.

Sheriff Hounslow ignored the remark and continued, “I’m surprised to see you here, Elizabeth. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for the grand opening of that historical amusement park, or whatever Malcolm calls it?”

“It’s not an amusement park,” Elizabeth corrected him. “It’s called the Historical Village.”

“I didn’t know you were connected to Malcolm Dubbs!” Mrs. Kottler said, impressed. Malcolm Dubbs was the closest thing Fawlt Line had to royalty, a member of the English branch of the Dubbs family who’d been in the area for nearly 300 years. Malcolm came to manage the estate after the last American adult member of the Dubbs family was killed in a car accident.

“She’s also dating Jeff Dubbs,” the sheriff informed her.

“Are you? Doug will be very disappointed,” Mrs. Kottler teased, then said earnestly, “Jeff’s parents died in that terrible accident awhile back, didn’t they? That was so sad.”

Elizabeth nodded without responding. Jeff’s parents—Malcolm’s cousin and his wife—had died in a plane crash a couple of years before. That’s why Jeff lived with Malcolm.

Mrs. Kottler fluttered her eyes as if she might cry. “I think Malcolm Dubbs is a remarkable man. Imagine taking in that boy.”

“That boy is the true heir to the estate,” Sheriff interjected sarcastically. “If I were him, I’d have a lot of trouble with Malcolm using the family money to build that park.”

“It’s not Jeff’s money unless Malcolm dies,” Elizabeth corrected him. “He’s entitled to do whatever he wants with it. And Jeff is very proud of Malcolm.”

Mrs. Kottler nodded. “After all, Malcolm is using it to create something everyone will learn from. It’s not as if he’s wasting it.” She turned to Elizabeth. “Is it true that he’s brought in authentic buildings, displays, and artifacts from all over the world?”

“Whatever he can find. From picture frames and hairbrushes to school houses and church ruins, as much as he could find from the past few hundred years is represented.” She covered a smile, realizing she was reciting one of Malcolm’s brochures. “Phase One opens on Saturday.”

“Phase One?”

“Malcolm says the village is a work in progress. He’ll open various sections of it as they’re ready.”

“As I said, it’s a Disneyland of history,” the sheriff said derisively.

Elizabeth frowned at Sheriff Hounslow, knowing better than most the adversarial relationship the two men had. Elizabeth suspected that the sheriff was jealous of Malcolm’s wealth and the respect he commanded from the townspeople. But whatever the reason, Hounslow never missed an opportunity to poke fun at Malcolm’s projects or eccentricities.

“I can’t wait to go on the rides!” he added.

“Are there rides?” Mrs. Kottler asked, amazed.

Elizabeth shook her head. “No. Just buildings and displays.”

Sheriff Hounslow grinned. “There’s going to be a big celebration. The mayor will be there and a special assistant to the governor, and there’ll be a telegram from the president and maybe even world peace—all thanks to Malcolm Dubbs.”

“Don’t be such a pompous fool, Richard,” Adam Hounslow barked at his son. “I’m looking forward to seeing the village.”

“I’m glad you’re looking forward to something,” the sheriff remarked.

“Living in a place like this, I’m lucky to look forward to anything,” Adam snapped.

“Oh, I’m sure you don’t mean that,” Mrs. Kottler said. “The Fawlt Line Retirement Center will be like home to you in no time at all, I promise.”

Adam scowled at her. “This will never be my home. My home has been sold right out from under me by my thoughtful and compassionate son.”

“I’m not getting into this argument with you again, Dad,” Hounslow said irritably.

“Yes you will,” Adam replied. “As long as you force me to live in places where I don’t want to live, we’ll have this argument.”

The sheriff turned on his father. “Where else are you going to live? You couldn’t stay in that big old place alone. You can barely take care of yourself, let alone keep up with a big house.”

The old man snorted and turned away.

Sheriff Hounslow wouldn’t let it go. “Do I have to remind you of what led up to this? Do I have to announce to the whole world how you nearly burnt the house down—twice—by forgetting to turn the stove burners off? Or the time you flooded the house by wandering off to the store while the bath water was running?”

Mrs. Kottler caught Elizabeth’s eyes and jerked her head towards the center, signaling that they should leave. Heading across the grounds, Elizabeth could still hear the voices of the two men arguing behind her.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Mrs. Kottler said. “You’re thinking that Adam must be crazy not to like our center. Well, I agree. But he’ll get used to it. They always do.”

They approached the building from the back, where a stone patio had been added to the recreation room. It was congested with plants and flowers of all kinds. A man in a wheelchair was pruning the plants, meticulously spraying the leaves and wiping them with a water bottle. He had long gray hair that poured out from under a large baseball cap. Beneath the brim of the cap he wore sunglasses so dark that she couldn’t see his eyes at all. A bushy mustache and beard flowed downward. It struck Elizabeth that, apart from his cheeks, his face couldn’t be seen at all. He wore a baggy jogging suit that, to Elizabeth’s thinking, must have been unbearably hot in the heat and humidity.

“That’s Mr. Betterman, another new resident,” Mrs. Kottler said. “Come meet him.”

They crossed the patio where Mrs. Kottler introduced them.

Mr. Betterman didn’t speak, but grunted and held a carnation out to her.

“Very nice,” Elizabeth said.

“Take it,” Mrs. Kottler whispered.

Elizabeth reached out to take the flower. For a second he didn’t let go, but used the moment to lean closer to her and whisper, “I know who you are.” He gave her a slight smile then turned away to fiddle with the planter.

Disconcerted, Elizabeth looked to Mrs. Kottler again, who gently shrugged. They walked inside.

“What did he mean by that?” Mrs. Kottler asked once they were inside and clear of Betterman’s hearing.

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth replied. She didn’t say so, but something about the man’s half-smile and voice seemed familiar to her.

“Still, That’s quite an honor,” Mrs. Kottler said. “He doesn’t usually talk to anyone. He’s a little eccentric.”

No kidding, Elizabeth thought.

As they drifted through the recreation room, Elizabeth found herself looking for Doug. She wasn’t a flirtatious person—nor was she interested in anyone but Jeff—and yet she was drawn to him. Maybe because he was someone else in the building who was young and sympathetic, like her.

Mrs. Kottler smiled contentedly. “Well, that’s most of it. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this is more like a beautiful hotel than a retirement center. We do our best. Now, let me show you where the storage closets are and introduce you to your new responsibilities.”

Chapter Two

Malcolm Dubbs lived in a cottage on the edge of the Dubbs family’s vast estate bordering the north edge of Fawlt Line. It had a manor house, built in the 17th century, which was now part of the Historical Village. The cottage, which he said suited him perfectly and reminded him of England, seemed to fit him perfectly. It seemed to suit Jeff, who lived there with him. Elizabeth thought that the two were remarkably happy, considering the tragedy that had brought them together.

Tall and slender, Malcolm sat at the large desk in his den when Elizabeth and Jeff arrived. The sun was soon to set, and a dim yellow light washed the cluttered room. Thanks to the oak tree just beyond the French doors leading out to the patio, drops of cooler, green light filtered into the room. They highlighted the old-fashioned furniture and skimmed along the dark wood paneling, the classic paintings, the shelves sagging under too many books. Jeff smiled and turned on the banker’s lamp at the head of the desk.

Malcolm looked up and blinked at Jeff. “Oh, hi,” then, “And good evening, Elizabeth,” he said wearily, his British accent making him sound intelligent and genteel.

“Good evening,” Elizabeth said, remembering why so many young girls in Fawlt Line had a crush on the man.

“Are you all right?” Jeff asked.

Malcolm sighed. “All the preparations for the grand opening have left me with too much to do and too little time.”

Jeff gestured to the papers on the desk. “What are you working on now?”

He pushed the papers away disdainfully. “These are daily reports of completed projects within the village, and this is another report discussing the security system and inherent weaknesses that might leave some areas vulnerable to theft.”

“Vulnerable?” Elizabeth asked.

“The security cameras still aren’t working.” Malcolm leaned back in his chair and shoved his hands into the pockets of his tweed sports coat. He stretched his long legs as far as they would go.

“It’s not all doom and gloom, I hope,” Elizabeth said.

“No. The eighteenth-century windmill from Holland is working perfectly. And we wrapped up the construction on the miners’ row houses from southwest Pennsylvania. I’m particularly proud of that exhibit.”

“Why that one?”

Malcolm smiled. “Because it shows the chronology of change better than most of the displays. You start at one end of the row houses, and as you walk through each one you’ll see exactly how the miners lived during the last 180 years. Go in the first door, and you’ll see how it was in 1820. Move on to the next door and you’re looking at 1840, then 1860 and 1880 and so on until you come to the present day. We spent a lot of time getting every detail just right.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “I don’t know how you pulled it all together.”

“Sometimes I wonder myself,” Malcolm admitted. “It’s been a long time in the making.”

“Hundreds of years, I figure,” Jeff said.

Malcolm waved his hand as if brushing away the subject. “Forget about the village for now. How was your first day as a volunteer, Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth was pleased that he even remembered, considering all the other demands on his mind. She said, “It was mostly just a chance to look around. I only met a couple of people. The center is nice, I guess, if you have to live in a place like that.”

Malcolm chuckled. “Your faint praise is overwhelming.”

Jeff dropped himself onto the sofa opposite the desk and ran his hands through his wavy dark hair. “She’s sorry she ever volunteered.”

Elizabeth rebuked him with a sharp look. “Jeff.”

“What?” Jeff asked innocently. “Did I say something wrong?”

Malcolm stood up and smiled sympathetically. “If it’s any consolation, Elizabeth, I think volunteering to help out at a retirement center is a noble and difficult thing to do. Many retirement homes are downright depressing, and elderly people can be very unpredictable, depending on their states of minds. But if you remember that they’re people, and not just old people, you have the opportunity to do them a world of good.”

Elizabeth thought of how Doug Hall called them ‘kids’ and probably charmed the socks off them, if only because he didn’t treat them differently from anyone else.

“As quirky as your parents are, you should feel right at home,” Jeff said with a laugh. Elizabeth kicked at his ankle before sitting next to him on the sofa.

Malcolm tugged at his ear thoughtfully. “I haven’t been out to the center since they renovated it. When I was a kid, it wasn’t a retirement home. It was just a house on a farm owned by someone the two of you know.”

Elizabeth and Jeff looked at each other blankly.

“That’s where the Richards property is,” Malcolm said. “It’s where Charles Richards disappeared.”

Elizabeth’s and Jeff’s faces lit up with the realization.

“You mean the Charles Richards?” Jeff asked.

“My Charles Richards?” Elizabeth added in disbelief.

Malcolm nodded. The three of them looked at each other silently as the story and the memories came back.

**********

For years the remarkable case of Charles Richards was whispered about around Fawlt Line, but treated as an unsolved mystery by those who investigate such things. Most people considered it one of those small-town myths that make their way into the consciousness of the locals—like haunted houses and boogy-men—particularly by parents who want to scare their kids into behaving. But Malcolm, Elizabeth, and Jeff knew this particular story was more than a myth. They believed every word of it, and for very good reason.

The story went that over thirty years ago; Charles Richards, the son of a wealthy merchant, settled with his wife and two children on a modest farm outside of Fawlt Line. One morning, the two children were playing next to the sidewalk leading from the house to the front gate. Charles and his wife, Julia, stepped out of the front door, where Charles kissed his wife good-bye. He was leaving to run a few errands in Fawlt Line. Charles walked down the steps toward his children and patted them on their heads as he passed. As he reached the front gate, a car came up the road toward the house. In it was Dr. Hezekiah Beckett, the local veterinarian, and a young boy who was helping the doctor that summer. Charles waved at the doctor, paused to check the time on his wristwatch, then turned as if he might head along the fence to greet the approaching car. He took three steps and, in full view of his wife, his children, Dr. Beckett, and the boy, he disappeared.

Horrified, the five of them raced to the spot and looked around. They saw only the fence and the grass. There were no bushes or trees for him to hide behind, no holes to fall into, nothing to explain how he could simply vanish into thin air.

Dr. Beckett and Julia Richards searched everywhere. Then the townspeople helped. They even dug up the ground where Charles had disappeared, in the belief that he’d fallen into a sinkhole or underground cavern and was trapped below. The ground was solid. Charles was gone. An investigation over the next few weeks failed to establish any clues. There was no explanation for it. Julia was bedridden for months, lost in the hope that her husband would return. No funeral or memorial service was ever held. Later, the family sold the farm and moved away.

The story would have been easy for Elizabeth to dismiss, had it not been told to her by Malcolm, who was the young boy in the car, working with Dr. Beckett during one of his summer vacations to America. And that was only the beginning. Malcolm spent years studying theories of time travel, parallel universes, and alternative dimensions in the belief that he’d find an explanation. All he wound up with were theories and a deep suspicion about the town of Fawlt Line itself. There had been enough weird occurrences in the area—Malcolm had chronicled and investigated them all—for him to determine that Fawlt Line wasn’t so named because it was on a geographical fault, but a time fault.

Then, a few months ago, Elizabeth herself became a victim of the time fault.

While taking a bath one night, she had slipped through a fracture in time and wound up in a parallel Fawlt Line where everyone knew her as a girl named Sarah. As she insisted that she was really Elizabeth and didn’t know anyone there, she was taken to the hospital and treated as an amnesiac. The understandable pressure on her to become Sarah—and to accept this new and different Fawlt Line—was intense. There was no point in arguing against the reality directly in front of her, even though her memories told her otherwise. Alienated and confused, she very nearly gave in to the pressure to be Sarah.

But the circumstances of her disappearance caused Malcolm to think that they weren’t dealing with a normal disappearance. Too much didn’t add up. And the arrival of someone in this Fawlt Line who looked exactly like Elizabeth but wasn’t Elizabeth led Malcolm to work out a theory that she was some sort of “time twin” who had switched places with Elizabeth.

In that other time Elizabeth met a man who gave her hope that she wasn’t an amnesiac after all: Charles Richards. He claimed he knew how she felt because he had made the same switch from one time to the other. He helped her and, ultimately, saved her life from a couple of people who wanted her dead. It was a nightmarish experience.

Elizabeth eventually made it back thanks to Jeff and Malcolm. But Charles remained trapped in the parallel time.

**********

Elizabeth still got upset when she thought of Charles stuck in a time that wasn’t his own. She hardly talked about her time-travel experience because of the sadness it brought to her. Even now, as she sat in the security of Malcolm’s study, it made her uneasy to discuss it again. In the deepest part of her heart, she feared that the nightmare might return just by invoking its name.

“They tore down Charles’s house and built a gaudy mansion on the site,” Malcolm went on to say. “It was the kind of place kids liked to throw rocks at. Then they tore that down and put up the new building a couple of years ago. How does it look inside?”

Elizabeth didn’t answer, her mind still on Charles Richards and her own nightmarish adventure.

“Bits?” Jeff asked, concerned.

Elizabeth lifted her head, catching up with Malcolm’s question. “Huh? It’s … modern. Just one story with a lot of hallways. More like a hospital than a home.”

Jeff and Malcolm glanced warily at each other.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Maybe you should take her home,” Malcolm suggested. “She’s probably tired from her first day there.”

“No, really—I’m all right,” she said.

Jeff stood up and held out his hand. “Come on.”

She took his hand and he helped pull her to her feet.

***

Jeff brought his Volkswagen to a squeaky stop in front of Elizabeth’s house and turned off the headlights. They both looked up and saw through the front window Alan Forde pacing in the living room. He was waving his hands and talking animatedly.

“Is he lecturing someone?” Jeff asked.

Elizabeth shook her head. “Sort of. He’s been recording a series of talks about the legends of King Arthur.”

“Recording them for whom?”

“Whoever wants them,” she answered. “He’s been obsessed with Arthur ever since … well, you know.”

The ‘you know’ was a reference to yet another adventure—this one shared by Jeff, Malcolm, and Alan Forde—with a man who showed up in Fawlt Line one night claiming to be King Arthur himself. The adventure resolved itself in England where, according to Malcolm and Jeff who witnessed it all, the man really was King Arthur.

“I’d like to hear what he has to say,” Jeff said.

Elizabeth glanced at Jeff gratefully. “He’d be happy if you asked.”

“I’ll wait for some other time. Meanwhile, I want you to tell me what’s going on with you.”

Elizabeth hadn’t expected such a direct question, though she should have. Jeff could always tell when something was wrong. Sometimes it was a comfort to her. At other times it made her feel uneasy, particularly when she didn’t have an answer—like tonight. “I don’t know,” she said after a long pause.

“You must have a clue,” he probed.

She turned in the seat to face him. “I really don’t know, Jeff. Maybe it’s just volunteering at the center. It was so … strange. At first I thought it was because I don’t know anything about helping old people. But …”

“But what?”

She struggled over what to say next. “Sheriff Hounslow’s father is a resident there, and the two of them were arguing and it was embarrassing … and then I met a guy in a wheelchair who gave me a carnation, and he said he knew me.”

Jeff grimaced. “He knows you? How?”

“He didn’t say, and I was too surprised to ask. It was really weird. I had this feeling that I’d seen him before, but I don’t know where.”

Jeff took her hand in his and spoke softly. “Look, Malcolm’s probably right. Old folks can be unpredictable, and that makes you nervous. Do you remember how Grandpa Dubbs was before he died?”

Elizabeth nodded. “He kept accusing the servants of stealing things.”

“Because he kept forgetting where he put them,” Jeff finished. “It used to scare the wits out of me when he launched into one of his tirades. Maybe the guy in the wheelchair really thought he knew you, but he was thinking of someone else. Probably someone from his past.”

Elizabeth agreed silently.

“And I’m just guessing, but it gave you the creeps to find out that the retirement center was built on Charles Richards’ place, right?”

“It brought back a lot more than I wanted to remember.”

“That’s what I figured.” Jeff was quiet for a moment. His expression told Elizabeth that he was forming his words carefully before speaking. “Maybe … you should get some counseling about what happened to you. Maybe we all should.”

“Oh, right,” Elizabeth said with an unamused laugh. “I can see me now in the first session with the counselor: ‘I’m here because I traveled to a parallel time …’ Yeah, that’ll work. He’ll have me committed just like the doctor in that time wanted to do.”

“I’m just saying that getting bounced around in time and going through what you went through can’t be healthy.”

“You’re right about that.”

“I mean, especially since you don’t like to talk about it.”

“I’m okay,” Elizabeth insisted. “I think it’s just today, volunteering at the center, bumping into some weird people, and then thinking about Charles Richards. I’ll be all right. Really.”

***

Elizabeth had a hard time falling to sleep that night. Images of Charles Richards spun through her mind and mixed with scenes from the Fawlt Line Retirement Center. Mrs. Kottler kept saying, “I know what you’re thinking,” and then Doug Hall offered her flowers carefully pruned by George Betterman in a wheelchair. The floor opened up to expose a dark cavernous time fault that threatened to pull her in. She fell—and never stopped falling.

Elizabeth suddenly sat up in her bed and knew that one way or another she had to take back her offer to volunteer at the center.

Chapter Three
Elizabeth spent most of the next day trying to figure out how to gracefully get out of helping at the retirement center. She knew her parents expected her to be more responsible than to quit without a good reason. The challenge was to find a good and plausible reason. School hadn’t started yet, so she couldn’t blame homework. She had no other jobs or commitments, so she couldn’t say her schedule was too busy. One by one she raised up excuses. One by one her better judgment knocked them down.

Even up to the point when her mother dropped her off at the center, she was thinking of stories she could tell Mrs. Kottler to justify handing in her immediate notice. Despondently, she kissed her mother on the cheek and climbed out of the car. Her only hope was that something might happen during her shift that would provide a solid way out.

Mrs. Kottler gave her a simple assignment to start with: take the cart around and fill the water jugs in all the rooms.

Elizabeth guessed that this was a standard job for new volunteers and a shrewd way to help them get to know the residents. Many were up and about when Elizabeth walked into the various rooms and assembly areas. It was her first full view of the people she would be mingling with. While some were kind and welcoming, others regarded her with wariness or skepticism. Just like kids on the first day of school, she thought. You can’t tell about people until you get to know them better. That was a good way to think about them, she decided. They were just older kids watching a new student.

But these “students” sure looked different from the ones at school. Elizabeth was instantly struck by the crowns of white hair and varying styles of hairpieces worn by both the men and women. Her next impression was that many were quite agile, moving quickly and freely up and down the hallway, in and out of chairs, without the stiff or stooped gait she expected from older people. Some used canes and walkers, others simply steadied themselves against whatever sturdy objects happened to be nearby. They’re people, Elizabeth was reminded as they chatted amiably among themselves or played games in the recreation room or strolled thoughtfully alone. There were others, of course, who were less capable and needed more attention and care. Sharp minds were encased in fragile bodies. Sharp bodies sometimes encased fragile minds. It varied from room to room, person to person.

The most uncomfortable moment came when she reached Adam Hounslow’s room. The door was slightly ajar, and she could see through the crack that the room was dark. The blinds had been drawn, and Adam was talking to someone in a wheelchair. Though his back was to her, Elizabeth recognized the telltale baseball cap and knew it was George Betterman. The men spoke in low voices. Elizabeth was unsure whether to knock, clear her throat, or simply walk in. She paused in her indecision.

Adam handed something to George, who quickly shoved it under his loose-fitting jogging jacket. The hushed voices and quick action told Elizabeth that she wasn’t supposed to be seeing what she was seeing. She turned to sneak away, but banged the four-wheel cart against the wall. The jugs and glasses rattled, and the two men to spun around to face her.

“Sorry to interrupt,” she stammered nervously, “but Mrs. Kottler asked me to bring some fresh water.”

Adam looked particularly guilty. “I don’t need fresh water,” he said with a sneer.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said again and retreated back into the hallway. With shaking hands, she grabbed the handle on the cart. Why was she so nervous? What was it about the men that scared her so?

She heard a soft whirring sound behind her. Seconds later, George Betterman navigated his electric wheelchair past her, pausing to look up at her through the black circles of his sunglasses. I know who you are, she expected him to say again. But he didn’t say a word. He rode away, down the hallway.

Elizabeth closed her eyes, trying to calm the irrational fear that gripped her. A heavy hand fell on her shoulder, and she cried out, nearly jumping out of her skin.

“Whoa, now, calm down,” Sheriff Hounslow said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I’m a little jumpy,” Elizabeth admitted quickly.

“I guess you are. Is everything all right?”

“Yeah,” she said. “First-day jitters.”

“I thought yesterday was your first day.”

“It was. But that was a tour. Today is my first day of work. Excuse me,” she said and raced away with the cart. Before she rounded the next corner, she heard the sheriff greet his father. Adam Hounslow launched the first assault by complaining about his room.

Safe down the next hallway, she stopped again to take a deep breath. This is stupid, she told herself. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It was just two old men talking. She rebuked herself for being so weird and, after a moment, continued her rounds.

The rooms—or apartments, as Mrs. Kottler called them—varied in their looks. A few looked sterile and hospital-like. Others reflected attempts by the residents or their families to liven them up with a few sticks of furniture, knickknacks, mementos, souvenirs, and treasures. If awards were given for the homiest room, Frieda Schultz would have won hands down.

From the moment Elizabeth stepped into Frieda’s room, she felt transported out of the retirement center into a cozy bungalow. The room was colorful, with bright floral-patterned curtains, and lampshades, and the smell of a light perfume that made her think of purple flowers. A chaise-lounge had been placed in the corner, smothered with pillows that Frieda had probably made herself, Elizabeth guessed, and a quilt that looked older than anything or anybody in the center. The windowsill was covered with cards, fashion magazines, catalogues, and books by authors with names like Baroness Orczy and Georgette Heyer and Elswyth Thane—people Elizabeth had never heard of. Victorian tapestries did their best to hide the institutional-white walls. An oak wardrobe with elaborately-carved edging along the top and bottom replaced the plain pressed-wood box the center issued. The matching bureau and vanity table, squeezed in along the opposite wall, were overrun with costume jewelry, evening purses, scarves, gloves, perfume bottles, jars, cold cream, tubes, magnifying mirror, boxes, silver combs, and brushes. It gave Elizabeth the impression that Frieda might suddenly decide to call her chauffeur and go out to the theater for the evening.

“I know, I know, it’s a cluttered mess,” Frieda said from the bathroom door in the corner.

Elizabeth realized she’d been standing in the middle of the room, staring. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

“Well, aren’t you the kind one to say so.” Frieda, a heavyset woman in a silk housecoat, sashayed into the room as if she were making an entrance at a formal ball dressed in chiffon and lace. Her beauty had faded, but she exuded a poise and charm that hadn’t. “Tell me your name, child.”

“I’m Elizabeth. I’m here to give you some fresh water.”

“A new volunteer?”

Elizabeth nodded as she flipped open the top on the copper-colored jug. Empty. She retrieved the large jar from the cart and poured water from one to the other.

“You must be traumatized,” Frieda said. “A pretty young girl like you thrown in with all these fossils. What in the world are you doing here?”

“I volunteered through my church.”

“And regretted it every minute since, I’ll bet,” Frieda laughed.

Elizabeth answered with a guilty smile.

“If it’s any consolation, I’m very happy to meet you,” said Frieda. “I get so tired of old people. And you’re a churchgoer too. All the better. I’d go to church if it weren’t such a major production to do so.”

Elizabeth was surprised. “Production? Why is it a production?”

“I’m not about to bore you with my health problems. We have a chapel here that I can pray in. That’ll do for now.” Frieda pushed aside some of the pillows on the chaise-lounge. “Put down those water jugs and come sit.”

“But Mrs. Kottler wants me to—”

“Forget Mrs. Kottler,” Frieda said. “I want you to sit down right here and tell me all about yourself. I don’t get to meet new people very often and, when I do, I want to know their stories.”

Elizabeth shyly sat down on the lounge.

Frieda placed herself on the opposite end, leaned back and tucked one leg under her large frame. “Comfy? Now … what’s your story?”

Elizabeth began slowly, with a few basic facts about growing up in Fawlt Like, her parents, her school. Soon, she was chatting away as if she couldn’t help it. Any lull, any missing pieces, any evasion, and Frieda asked just the right question to set it straight and keep the conversation going. Elizabeth surprised herself by talking about more personal experiences: how her friendship with Jeff had eventually led to their dating.

“Do you love him?” Frieda asked.

“Yes, I do,” Elizabeth admitted, blushing.

“Childhood sweethearts,” Frieda mused. “My Alexander and I were childhood sweethearts. We were married for forty-seven years. It wasn’t always bliss, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend that time with anyone else.”

They continued to talk for another half-hour. At various points, Frieda would drop in her own memory of a similar experience she’d had when she was Elizabeth’s age. Elizabeth didn’t mind. She found comfort in knowing that her experiences weren’t unique only to her, but that a woman four times her age felt the same.

Elizabeth glanced at her watch and stood up quickly. “Oh! I’ve been here too long. Mrs. Kottler’ll be looking for me.”

“Wait,” Frieda said and placed a soft hand on Elizabeth’s arm. “There’s something you haven’t told me.” Her gaze was penetrating.

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked feebly.

“I have a sense about these things—a gift, in a way. There’s something you haven’t told me. You’re holding something back.”

Elizabeth glanced away nervously. Frieda was right: Elizabeth hadn’t mentioned her time-travel nightmare. Having made a friend in the center, she wasn’t eager to lose her by talking like a lunatic. “Yeah, but it’s too crazy. I can’t talk about it now. Maybe some other time.”

Frieda watched her for a moment, then decided to let the subject drop. “All right. We have time. Other days, other talks, and maybe you’ll tell me about it. I feel that somehow you should tell me. Maybe there are secrets I can tell you too.”

Elizabeth felt such an instant rapport with the older woman that she was tempted to take her invitation and pour out the whole tale on the spot. But just then Mrs. Kottler appeared in the doorway.

“There you are!” she exclaimed. “I’ve been wondering what became of you. I need your help in the recreation room. There aren’t enough judges for the Twister contest!”

***

Frieda insisted that Elizabeth could go only if she escorted her into the recreation room. “My ankles are hurting today,” she complained and sat down in a wheelchair that was folded up behind the door.

Elizabeth happily grabbed the wheelchair, clicked it into place, and whisked Frieda away, the smell of pretty perfume trailing back to her.

“What’s wrong with your ankles?” she asked as she pushed Frieda down the hall.

“I have occasional bouts with arthritis. Not today, actually, but I didn’t want to let you go yet,” Frieda replied.

The recreation room was filled with residents, many of whom Elizabeth had seen on her rounds. They sat at the card tables, on the sofas and chairs, engaged in different games and hobbies. At the opposite end of the room, Elizabeth saw Doug Hall in earnest conversation with George Betterman.

“Oh,” she said, without meaning to.

Frieda turned around to look at Elizabeth’s expression, then followed her gaze over to the two men. “I see,” she said with a smile. “Handsome, isn’t he? But watch out for him.”

“Don’t worry. I’m with Jeff, remember?” she reminded her newfound friend.

“Of course you are. But one can’t help but notice Doug,” Frieda said. “I’m sure he’s already flirted with you. No pretty girl goes through here without him pouring on the charm.”

“I talked to him for a minute yesterday.”

Frieda smiled. “Uh huh. It’s nice, isn’t it—having a handsome young man pay attention to you? Even if you know nothing will come of it.”

“I guess.”

“Just be certain that nothing does come of it, my dear,” Frieda warned.

“What do you mean?”

“I know his type. He’s a charmer, and the charmers are the ones who can hurt you the worst.”

Doug and George Betterman parted, and George wheeled himself out to the patio.

Elizabeth knelt closer to Frieda. The purple perfume lightly tickled her nose. “Do you know Mr. Betterman?” she asked.

Frieda folded her arms across her chest as if she were trying to contain a shiver. “As much as I care to,” she said.

“You don’t like him?”

“I don’t know him well enough to like or dislike him.”

“You’re evading my question,” Elizabeth teased her.

“I don’t know him,” she said carefully, “but I know my impressions.”

“What’re your impressions?”

She thought for a moment. “How can I put it in terms you’ll understand? He gives me the creeps. There’s something about him that seems …” Her voice trailed off.

Elizabeth waited. When Frieda didn’t continue, Elizabeth pressed her. “Seems what?”

“Evil.”

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In the Footsteps of Paul Experience The Journey That Changed The World By Ken Duncan

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In the Footsteps of Paul
Experience The Journey That Changed The World

By Ken Duncan

I had the opportunity to review this book and I must say I’ve taken quite a bit away from it in my own walk with God.  Some may say this is a great coffee table book (of which it is)  filled with majestic pictures taken by renowned photographer Ken Duncan.  It is an easy book just to pick up and flip through taking in the majestic artistic scenes from Paul’s journey in his life.

This books is what the title claims, it’s taking us in the footsteps of Paul as mush as it possibly can.  Filled with beautiful photos to give us a visual of what he saw, each picture is paired with mostly KJV scriptures, powerful quotes from well know pastors and christian leaders, geographical commentary, and notes of explanations of what was going on at the time.

I didn’t want to rush the read on this book, I read a little bit each day to reflect on what he must have been going through.  I think it’s great that I can see myself reading this to my children as they grow older and reflecting on it together.

I would say that this book is ideal  as a reference book if you are studying the life of Paul or any of his writings. This is a book that is a perfect gift for just about anyone. To learn more about The Footsteps of Paul book, visit Thomas Nelson Publishers.

In the Footsteps of Paul is available from Thomas Nelson Publishers for a suggested retail price of $24.99. Christian Book Distributors carries it for $17.99.

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Nana Star and Moon Man Review and Giveaway!

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I recently was given the opportunity to review many of the products associated with Nana Star an award winning series of children books.  These books were written by two sisters, Elizabeth and Elena Sills  and the books were illustrated by their mother Linda Saker. I love when families works together in bringing together something that promotes positive virtues and character-building points and traits that are important for children.

The first book book, “Nana Star” tells the story of Nana Star whom is a little girl venturing out to bring a lost baby star back home.  I find the stories simple enough for young children to understand on their own but challenging enough as well to bring questions to the table.

The second book ” Nana Star and the Moon man” is the next in the series.  It picks up where the last book left off.  Nana is trying to get the little star back home but finds herself lost in the dark and this where the moon man comes in.  He encourages her to know he is there to guide and watch her along the way even if she can’t see him.
books-dolls_new
Each of the books comes with a companion CD witch features sing along songs along with the full story so your kids can listen anytime they want. The  stories that they’ve brought to life are quite simple keeping them geared toward 3-7 year olds.

I wanted to also mention that each book, includes a mistake in the text for young readers to find. When children send Nana Star a note correcting the mistake, they become special members of her Little Twinkles Club. Each member receives an autographed photo of the real Nana Star with a personalized message, as well as a certificate of membership.

I love the plush toys that came along with my books as they are incredibly lovable and hugable.  My daughter loves dragging the Moon man toy around the house with her throughout the day and she dances when I push the star on his stomach and music begins to play. It’s too cute.  The Nana Star rag doll is a wonderful companion for young girls. She’s pose able and soft so she can even become a sleeping companion for your child or even the next guest at her tea parties.

I’m all for companies that give back to the community and Nana Star does just that by giving  a portion of all book and merchandise sales directly to the Nana Star Foundation, which is dedicated to raising funds for terminally ill children and raising awareness of the crippling problems facing children that attend under-resourced, inner-city schools. The Nana Star books are distributed to hospitals and inner-city schools throughout the United States.

Nana Star products can be purchased from NanaStar.com and the books can also be found on Amazon.
Win it!

One of  my  readers will be able to win a Nana Star Book and the Nana Star Doll!

1. Leave a comment below and let me know who this woulds be for if you won! (if this is not followed, no entry will count)

For additional entries:

1. Subscribe to my blog – 1 entries
2. Blog about this giveaway with links back here and to Nana Star – 2 EXTRA
3. Subscribe to my blog by feed burner by e-mail- 1 extra
4. Favorite me on technorati and leave me your url 1 extra
5. Add me on twitter and retweet this, don’t forget to include @erinlowmaster so I know you tweeted. 2 EXTRA
6. Add my button to your site and leave me your link 2 EXTRA
7. Post this at a giveaway listing site and leave the link- 5 extra entries

Please leave separate comments for each additional entry, i.e.: if you blog about it leave 2 separate comments.

Giveaway – running till 05/22/09 and is open to the USA only. Winners will be notified shortly afterward by email. Please respond within 48 hours or you forfeit your prize to another participant

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Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Marriage & Your Money by Marybeth and Curt Whalen

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:

Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Marriage & Your Money

Kregel Publications (February 16, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHORs:

Marybeth Whalen is a speaker and contributing writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. The author of For the Write Reason, Marybeth has also written for Parent Life, Money Matters newsletter, The Old Schoolhouse, Hearts at Home magazine, and Homeschooling Today. She contributes regularly to the daily online devotions of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and Curt are the parents of six children, which has taught them much about how to stretch a dollar.

Curt Whalen is a trained financial counselor through Crown Financial Concepts. He has years of experience helping couples establish budgets, solve financial problems, and learn to communicate more effectively. He has written articles for TEACH Magazine and Money Matters Newsletter and has contributed to books by authors Lysa TerKeurst and Melanie Chitwood.

Visit the authors’ website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.69
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (February 16, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825441889
ISBN-13: 978-0825441882

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Finding Hope

Marybeth

Several years ago, my husband, Curt, and I traveled to Florida to visit my stepsister, Becky, and her husband, Chuck. Curt and I enjoyed a few days away from our kids and reconnected with family members we don’t get to see very often. One evening the four adults snuck away for a nice, leisurely dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s at Pleasure Island in Disney World. The environment was festive and fun, and all of our spirits were light as we sat around the table enjoying the sights, sounds, and delicious smells.

At one point during the conversation, we got on the subject of struggles we’d experienced in marriage. Curious as to the low points of other couples (we’ve certainly had our share!), I asked Becky and Chuck what their lowest point had been. Without even pondering, Becky blurted out, “When we didn’t have any money. Chuck had just taken a job with his dad and wasn’t making much as a starting salary. I can clearly remember one time when I went to the grocery store and my card was declined because it was maxed out. I’ll never forget having to leave my groceries behind. I felt like every eye in the store was watching me. That was the lowest point in the history of our marriage—and it took awhile for it to get better.”

Becky and Chuck’s financial situation did change. They became financially independent and now enjoy a lifestyle few people do. Yet as they sat at dinner that night—years after that difficult time—Becky could easily recall the humiliation of struggling with money. That period still haunted them and still counted as the roughest trouble they had ever faced—beyond the divorce of his parents, issues related to children, cross-country moves, and several health problems. Not having enough money and struggling to pay for basic needs had left an indelible mark on their marriage.

I never forgot that moment with Becky and Chuck. I think of it often, as it is a telling commentary on the power that financial issues can have in a marriage. Marriages break up every day over money. Mismanagement, miscommunication, and misunderstandings drive a wedge between husband and wife. Instead of getting in the ring and fighting for their finances together, many couples throw their hands up and walk away—from the problems, but also from each other. In a study done by Money magazine, 84 percent of those surveyed said that money causes tension in their marriage, and 13 percent said they fight about money several times a month.1 Another study cited that 37 percent of couples say that debt is the number one issue that will spark a fight. “Numerous studies have shown that money is the number one reason why couples argue—and many of the recently divorced say those battles were the main reason why they untied the knot.”2

Curt and I teetered on the edge of throwing in the towel on our marriage many times. We’ll tell our story throughout this book, and we’ll also share the lessons we learned during our time in the ring as we literally fought to get our finances under control. Our prayer is that this book will help other couples find the freedom that can result from living financially sound lives. The truth is, money is not an isolated issue within a marriage—it infiltrates every other area of the marriage. From the kitchen to the bedroom, money problems will follow you. Once you get a handle on this area of your marriage, you’ll find that other problems seem to evaporate into thin air. It’s been our experience that the stress of money problems adds an air of negativity to the marriage as a whole. Working together to eliminate those problems can breathe fresh hope and life into what seemed like a lifeless, hopeless situation.

If you’ve picked up this book, then chances are you need to make some changes in your finances. And you’re not alone. Our country as a whole is in a downward financial spiral that is picking up speed with each turn of the calendar page. “On average, today’s consumer has a total of 13 credit obligations on record at a credit bureau. These include credit cards (such as department store charge cards, gas cards, or bank cards) and installment loans (auto loans, mortgage loans, student loans, etc.). Of these thirteen credit obligations, nine are likely to be credit cards and four are likely to be installment loans.”3 “Revolving consumer debt, almost all from credit cards, now totals $957 billion, compared with $800 billion in 2004, according to the Federal Reserve. Average car loans are up, too, to $27,397, from $24,888 four years ago. Home mortgages total $10.5 trillion, compared with $7.8 trillion in 2004.”4

Our personal financial choices are now being reflected on a national level. As we write these words, our nation is experiencing one of the hardest economic challenges since the Great Depression. For decades we have lived beyond our means, using debt as a tool to obtain our wants. And now our house of cards is crumbling around us. We find ourselves with a national debt that has surpassed the ten-trillion-dollar mark, a banking system that is undergoing radical change, and billions of dollars of value that has been lost on Wall Street as the Dow plummets from over 14,000 down to lows we never thought possible. Economists have stopped asking if we’re going to be in a recession and started asking how bad and how long it will be.

The national climate of anxiety and uncertainty is also the climate of many homes.

A Commitment to Change

The reality of our poor financial choices hit Curt and I one night four years ago, a few days before Christmas. What should have been a time of festivities and celebrating became just another cause for stress. We didn’t know how we were going to afford the expensive presents on the kids’ lists. We didn’t want to tell them no, yet to buy gifts meant adding to our already overwhelming debt load. Because of our faith, we took God at His word when He said that nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37). And yet, from where we sat, our situation looked impossible.

For years, we’d been trying to do something to change our financial picture, to no avail. We desperately wanted to stop using credit cards, yet financial emergencies always cropped up that drove us back to credit card purchases. We wanted to begin tithing and saving, yet there was never any money left over to do that. We wanted to begin chipping away at our debt, and yet we saw no way to do so. We felt trapped at every turn. We’d gotten ourselves into a financial mess. Never before that night had we felt more strongly about getting out of our mess.

As we sat in our parked car at a shopping center near our home. I watched as the other shoppers bustled past us, intent on their lists and last minute errands. I vaguely wondered how many of them were slipping deeper into debt as they charged purchases they couldn’t really afford. Meanwhile, Curt and I talked for over an hour, working through what it would take for us to change our spending habits and take steps toward achieving our dream of being debt free. Though neither of us realized it yet, that night was the beginning of a major change in our lives. We were embarking on a journey that would enable us to escape the bondage of debt and begin to enjoy financial freedom. It would be a journey of many years as we endeavored to live differently from the rest of the culture and swim against the current on money issues.

I’ve often wondered why that night was different than our many other conversations throughout our marriage that had begun, “What are we going to do about our money problems?” Although some of our past efforts had resulted in temporary changes, nothing we did ever stuck. We quickly slipped back into our old ways and debt always seemed to creep back in. Even if we closed a door, debt seemed to find a window. So what made this night—this conversation—different?

First, just a few days before, we’d learned we were expecting a baby. This news had prompted us to evaluate how we could become more financially stable as we prepared for this additional responsibility. In short, it was time to get serious. Second, this impending life change and the urgency we both felt resulted in a unity of purpose that we’d never had before. In the past, our convictions about getting out of debt and making hard changes were usually separate, with one person not as sold on the necessity of the plan. We had never been on board at the same time.

Finally, and most importantly, God met with us that night in the car, allowing Curt and me to feel the same conviction and urgency. God went before us and prepared our hearts, as He is faithful to do. We looked across that car at each other and decided that, not only could we do this, but that together we would do this. Whatever it took. In our ignorance we were actually excited about working together to slay this debt monster and change our financial picture. God created unity where once there had been anger and blaming.

Heart Attitudes

Since that night, I’ve learned that getting out of debt requires allowing several basic attitudes to take root in our hearts. Notice I did not say in our minds. The Bible points to the heart as the center—the very essence—of who we are. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” All of our thoughts and actions flow from our hearts. It’s funny how we seem to relate money to our heads and not our hearts. But we miss the mark when we do that. Without allowing these attitudes to take root in our hearts—at the very center of our being—our plan for debt reduction would have quickly fallen by the wayside as unexpected expenses and “opportunities” came our way. By presenting a united front in our battle with debt and allowing these attitudes to determine our actions, we’ve been able to stick with our plan. Though we’ll go into the specifics of our plan in other chapters, I first want to cover these four heart attitudes.

An Attitude of Commitment

Because we saw the necessity of reducing our debt and were committed in our hearts to doing that at all costs, we were not tossed about by the waves (Eph. 4:14) when real life hit. We set a goal and held each other accountable to reaching that goal. We are committed to God and to each other as a team. Our plan to become debt free was a long-range plan. In a world of fast food, microwaves, and instant access, it’s not easy to walk out every agonizing step in a long-range plan. We knew that results would be long in coming and that we had to fix our eyes on the goal, not the circumstances, and hang onto the Lord to get us through. We’ll spend all of chapter 4 talking about how to become a team.

An Attitude of Obedience

A key to obedience is recognizing God’s ownership of all things. We were both convinced that God would help us get out of debt if we were obedient to Him. This obedience required me especially to obey not only God, but my husband as well. Though submission is a dirty word in most circles, it was essential on our journey. I had to let my husband lead—even when I doubted his decision and even when he made mistakes. I couldn’t step out of the chain of command, and at first I had to continually confess this struggle to the Lord. The good news is, it got easier for me, and my husband became a natural leader for our family. The more power I handed over to him, the more I saw him grow. I am the direct beneficiary of the blessings of obedience. Through this journey, I’ve had many opportunities to show my husband my respect, trust, and honor as our provider and leader of our home.

An Attitude of Surrender

This period of getting out of debt hasn’t been all rosy, as we’ll relate later in this book. Obedience has required sacrifice. I’ve had to surrender my wants and reduce my expectations. I’ve had to learn to go without, to trust God to provide, and to lay down my desires. We’ve both had to make adjustments in our spending and truly “count the cost” of every spending decision. We’ve learned to surrender our desires in the name of honoring God’s plans for our family, trusting Him to continually bring about the best outcome possible—more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

An Attitude of Prayer

As we’ve laid down our wants, we’ve had to go to God and cast all our anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He has shown Himself to be a great listener and comforter. We are learning to go to Him with our specific financial concerns and to give Him all the praise when He meets our needs in miraculous ways. Our time of financial readjustment has truly increased my prayer life as I’ve become more intimately acquainted with Jehovah-Jireh, my provider. I have learned what a detail-oriented, personal God He is. This experience has deepened my faith—a benefit I did not expect.

As we’ve walked through this time of going to God for everything we need, I’ve learned to trust in Him more completely. Though I’ll talk about this in more detail later, I want to share some things that happened just last summer that illustrate how God answers even what most would call silly, insignificant prayers. Know, though, that nothing we pray is silly and insignificant to God!

• In past summers, we’d gone to a farm and picked buckets of blueberries. But it was not cheap to buy the blueberries—and I knew that we didn’t need to spend the money. So I told the Lord about how I wanted blueberries. I didn’t really ask Him for blueberries, per se, I just told my Daddy how I was longing for some blueberries for making pancakes, muffins, cakes, and other dishes. Just a few days later, I was talking with a woman I barely knew, and she mentioned that she and her family would be going out of town for a few weeks. She said that she worried about their large blueberry bushes with no one to pick them—and would we like to come and help ourselves while they were gone? Would we! We were able to pick bags of blueberries—for free!

• My son needed a new bike to ride up to our neighborhood pool because his had been stolen. We simply did not have it in the budget to buy the new bike—and yet the mother’s heart in me broke every time I saw him walking up to the pool while all the other kids rode past him. I told God how much it hurt and asked Him to provide my son with a bike when I could not. Just a few days later I was at a children’s consignment store and there, for a very inexpensive price, was a bike that looked almost new and was the perfect size for my very tall son. Why was this bike at a children’s consignment store that day? Because God orchestrated it so that I would find it. At least that’s what I believe, and that’s why I praised Him that day for answering this mother’s prayer and taking care of yet another detail in my life.

• One day I was craving a good, old southern tomato sandwich, a staple of my summer diet. But we had no tomatoes. I was just about to get in the car and drive to a produce stand to buy the tomatoes when I felt God tell me not to go, but to wait for the tomatoes. What a strange response, I thought. But I obeyed, wondering what God was up to. Within the hour, my son ran in from the neighbor’s house with several large, juicy ripe tomatoes in his hands. “Mom,” he cried. “Miss Joyce had too many tomatoes and I told her you’d love to have some!” I didn’t miss that opportunity to let my son know how God had used him to answer his mom’s prayer.

• A new necklace was all the rage and caught my eye several times as I saw it on the necks of other women. Usually I’m not much of a jewelry person, but there was something different about this particular necklace. I even found one for a reasonable price at a little home jewelry show and had it in my hand to buy it when I felt God nudging me to put it back. “But it’s a great price,” I told God—as if He didn’t know that. Again, I felt Him telling me to put it back. I will provide, I heard Him say. The following month we were visiting my stepsister, Becky, in Florida and I noticed that she was wearing that same necklace. I told her how much I liked it. “Oh,” she replied. “Do you want one? Because I got one for a gift and certainly don’t need two!” And just like that, I was the proud owner of a necklace I really wanted. And I didn’t have to spend a dime.

These are a few just examples of the countless times that God has shown us that He hears our prayers, He cares about the details, and He will move on our behalf. Sometimes we just have to be patient. And sometimes we have to learn to take no for an answer. Because I’ve seen God provide in miraculous ways, I’ve learned that when He says no, there has to be a good reason. And I must accept his no and move on instead of brooding over it. This process has taught me much about holding the things of this earth lightly—and has drawn me closer to the Father’s heart in the process. Through it all, we’ve indeed found hope in what could have been seen as a hopeless situation.

Do you need to find hope for your finances? The God of hope (Rom. 15:13) is waiting to show you the way out of debt and into freedom.

Study

Read Genesis 6:5; Luke 2:19; and Hebrews 4:12. How do these verses relate our thought lives to the condition of our hearts?

Reflect, Discuss, Plan

1. Was it a different concept for you to think of money as being tied to your heart attitude instead of your thought life?

2. What heart attitude do you struggle with the most—commitment, obedience, surrender, or prayer? Is there a part of you that still wants to control the situation and is hesitant about involving your heart in the process?

3. In the car that night prior to Christmas, we took a big step toward getting out of debt, as we verbally committed to each other to do whatever it took to get out of debt. Has there been a time when you’ve taken this step with your spouse? Does there need to be?

4. Have money problems been the lowest point in your marriage? If so, why do you think that is?

Take Action

Are you facing a particular situation that feels hopeless? (A bill that’s due, large amounts of debt to pay off, a purchase that needs to be made but no money to make it, etc.) Write down Romans 15:13 and then spend time praying that verse aloud. If you’re working through this book with your spouse, pray together.

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