Monday, December 27, 2010


Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic has made a huge success of his life. His faith gave him the courage to become a successful entrepreneur, speaking and evangelizing all over the world. Yet, before he began his successful career, he overcame obstacles that most of us will never face, or even imagine.

You will be surprised at the number of things this man without limbs can do. Does he need help sometimes, or even often? Of course. He talks about the speaking engagements he’s been on and some of the trials and tribulations involved. Primarily, however, he encourages and inspires throughout this book, constantly reminding the reader to stretch and reach for whatever they want to accomplish, never giving up.

Even as a child, Nick had courage. One of my favorite stories is of when he was in second grade in Australia. The school bully, two years older and much bigger, bet Nick he couldn’t fight. Not wanting to appear afraid, Nick said, “Yes, I can,” and agreed to fight him! How could he possibly defeat a bigger child who had all his limbs? Amazingly, he did. Nick made me laugh when he relates how he felt so guilty about it that he confessed to his parents and they didn’t believe him. After all, how could a child two years younger, in a wheelchair, do any such thing? Yet, he did—by the way, he did it out of his wheelchair. Want to know how? Read the book.

Nick swims, has scuba dived, surfed and earned a University Degree, among other things. Perhaps you’ve seen videos of Nick on You Tube, visited his website “Life Without Limbs,” or watched “The Butterfly Circus” that Nick stars in. They’re all good, but this book, Life Without Limits, delves much deeper into who Nick Vujicic is and, in spite of a rocky start, how he became the happy bloke he is today.

In Life Without Limits, Nick relates heart-warming stories about himself and about others who have accomplished amazing things in spite of various handicaps. He wants everyone to believe in themselves and know that God created them for a purpose, and that every human life is extraordinary, including his own. He doesn’t hesitate to recommend and give full credit to faith in God.

The book shares photos of Nick as a youngster, with his family and some of him at his speaking engagements. Born and raised in Australia, he currently resides in California. I can’t recommend this book more highly. It’s not just a fascinating read, it’s immensely inspiring. We are grateful to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing us with a free review copy.
—Gail Lewis

Product Details:
Hardback: 238 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978-0-307-58973-6

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


This is a keeper.

Ms. Rog skillfully blends coming-of-age, social inequity and tested faith into a delightful, heart-rending tale of courage, failure and redemption. Sound exhausting? Not in the least.

Alethea's father is executed by his own father for confessing faith in Yeshua. Her mother, brother, and she move into grandfather's villa, where Alethea meets David, a house slave. She becomes attracted to David, who views her as the younger sister he failed to protect when he was forced into slavery. As Alethea and David stumble into and through adolescence, their fumbling relationship travels an equally rough road to maturity. That maturity presents its own problems, as there is no socially acceptable resolution to their blossoming love for each other.

Finally, confronted with Alethea's forced betrothal to arrogant Demetri, the plot reaches critical mass and they must act--and quickly. But what can they possibly do to resolve an impossible dilemma such as this? Hmmm.

Ms. Rog has done her homework on the physical and social environment in 1st-century Rome. The reader learns a lot about a coarse society that, while successfully imposing Pax Romana onto the known world of that day, fails to deliver inner peace to its own citizenry. More wonderful, though, is her ability to capture this world through the eyes of a naive, immature girl growing up through issues no one of her age should have to face. The result is a humorous, frustrating, painfully realistic portrayal of emotional growth and spiritual awakening. One moment you want to hug Alethea to death, the next moment you want to turn her over your knee. So does David.

Delightful also is Ms. Rog's prose. She has a gift for subtle word painting that raises the reading experience to a new level. Just read her rendering of Aletha's betrothal ceremony. If you don't chuckle aloud, you've missed something.

The Master's Wall is the first in the "Iron and the Stone" series. Looking forward to number two!
— Bruce Judisch

Product Details:
Trade Paperback: 302 pages
Language: English
Publisher: DeWard Publishing
ISBN-10: 1936341026
ISBN-13: 978-1936341023

Thursday, December 16, 2010


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:

The Lamb’s Supper Study Guide

Image; Stg edition (November 2, 2010)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator
Doubleday Religion / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc., for sending me a review copy.***


SCOTT HAHN was recently appointed as the inaugural Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation at Saint Vincent Seminary (Latrobe, Pennsylvania). He is also professor of theology and Scripture at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. An internationally renowned lecturer, Scott is founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and editor of the Center's academic journal, Letter & Spirit. He is the author of a dozen books, including The Lamb's Supper; Hail, Holy Queen; Swear to God; and Understanding the Scriptures. His scholarly articles have appeared in various academic journals, including the Journal of Biblical Literature, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and Currents in Biblical Research. He lives with his wife, Kimberly, and their six children in Steubenville, Ohio.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Image; Stg edition (November 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307589056
ISBN-13: 978-0307589057


How to Use This Book

You may use the book in any way you wish. For each session I have indicated a chapter of the book for advance reading. I have supplemented this “assignment” with pointers to other supplementary material—from the Bible, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and from other Church documents. I have also chosen, for each session, a hymn whose text is related to the discussion at hand. Singing sometimes loosens up the voices of discussion group members. And these traditional hymns will certainly give you something to talk about.

But my outline here is not intended to be a ritual. You’re free to use the elements that appeal to you and your group, in whatever order you please. You may skip whatever doesn’t work for you.

Session 1

Foreword by Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.


• This book brings together several powerful spiritual realities.

• Eschatology is the study of “last things.”

• It is important that we conduct our study with a proper sense of the sacraments.

At my invitation, Father Benedict Groeschel wrote a foreword to The Lamb’s Supper. Father Benedict approaches the subject of the book from a very different perspective. He is a priest and I’m a layman. Father Benedict is a “cradle Catholic” and I’m a convert. Yet we converge upon a common faith; and, for very different reasons, we see a clear relationship between three realities that many people see as distinct or even unrelated: the Mass, the end times, and the Book of Revelation.

Father Benedict emphasizes the contrast between his own experience and mine. For me, the book is all about exciting “discoveries” I made in my studies. For him, the book is about an everyday reality he has known since he was an altar boy. These elucidations are not a novelty to him, but rather what he has “thought about the Eucharist for decades.”

Father Benedict also emphasizes certain things that are distinctive about Catholic doctrine and practice. He refuses, for example, to classify the Mass as a religious “service,” preferring terms such as “Divine Liturgy” instead. Similarly, he speaks of his own priesthood as a share in the priesthood of Christ, who is our only true priest.

He is especially concerned with the “sacramental” quality of the Church’s worship. According to tradition, a sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church. Through signs that can be perceived by the senses, the sacraments bestow divine grace.

Father Benedict notes that many people are disturbed by the prospect of the end of time, but he is himself at ease with the possibility of its fulfillment in his lifetime or its indefinite delay.

Along the way, he introduces us to certain key terms, such as eschatology, a theological term that refers to the study of last things. He encourages us to study “carefully” and “learn.”


Revelation 4:8–11; 5:9–14; 7:10–12; 19:1–8


Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2642: The Revelation of “what must soon take place,” the Apocalypse, is borne along by the songs of the heavenly liturgy but also by the intercession of the “witnesses” (martyrs). The prophets and the saints, all those who were slain on earth for their witness to Jesus, the vast throng of those who, having come through the great tribulation, have gone before us into the Kingdom, all sing the praise and glory of him who sits on the throne, and of the Lamb. In communion with them, the Church on earth also sings these songs with faith in the midst of trial. By means of petition and intercession, faith hopes against all hope and gives thanks to the “Father of lights,” from whom “every perfect gift” comes down. Thus faith is pure praise.


Come, Divine Interpreter

By Charles Wesley

(To the tune of “For the Beauty of the Earth”)

Come, divine Interpreter,

Bring me eyes your book to read,

Ears the mystic words to hear,

Words which did from you proceed,

Words that endless bliss impart,

Kept in an obedient heart.

All who read, or hear, are blessed,

If your plain commands we do;

Of your kingdom here possessed,

You we shall in glory view

When you come on earth to abide,

Reign triumphant at your side.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Before reading this book, had you ever connected the Mass with the end times and the Book of Revelation? Had anyone ever made the connection for you?

2. How, do you think (or would you guess), are these three things related?

3. Is your own experience of the Mass closer to that of Father Benedict Groeschel or that of the author of this book? Or does your experience share elements of both? Explain your answer.

4. How do you feel about the possibility of the world ending? What hopes or fears does it arouse in you?

5. What, do you think, separates a sacrament from a mere “service” of the sort Father Benedict mentions?

6. What will you look for in your study of “the end times”—your study of eschatology? What are your interests, concerns, expectations, or worries about the climax of history?

7. Have you ever had an experience at Mass that you considered a glimpse or foretaste of heaven? Has anyone you know had such an experience?

And Now Our Review:
New for 2010, the Study Guide makes a wonderful compliment to Dr. Hahn's The Lamb's Supper. This guide is designed to be used by individuals, reading groups, or an Adult Learning Class at Church. Moving through the book chapter-by-chapter, it opens with prayer and song followed by probing, thought-provoking questions that lead participants into the nuances of both the liturgy and the Book of Revelation while encouraging sharing and discussion. To contemplate the Eucharistic liturgy is to contemplate a deep mystery. Working through this guide as you read will surely make for a more fruitful reading experience.
-E G Lewis

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


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:

The Lamb’s Supper

Doubleday Religion; First Edition edition (November 9, 1999)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator
Doubleday Religion / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc., for sending me a review copy.***


SCOTT HAHN was recently appointed as the inaugural Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation at Saint Vincent Seminary (Latrobe, Pennsylvania). He is also professor of theology and Scripture at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. An internationally renowned lecturer, Scott is founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and editor of the Center's academic journal, Letter & Spirit. He is the author of a dozen books, including The Lamb's Supper; Hail, Holy Queen; Swear to God; and Understanding the Scriptures. His scholarly articles have appeared in various academic journals, including the Journal of Biblical Literature, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and Currents in Biblical Research. He lives with his wife, Kimberly, and their six children in Steubenville, Ohio.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $21.95
Hardcover: 174 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Religion; First Edition edition (November 9, 1999)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385496591
ISBN-13: 978-0385496599
Product Dimensions: 8.5 x


In Heaven Right Now



THERE I STOOD, a man incognito, a Protestant minister in plainclothes, slipping into the back of a Catholic chapel in Milwaukee to witness my first Mass. Curiosity had driven me there, and I still didn’t feel sure that it was healthy curiosity. Studying the writings of the earliest Christians, I’d found countless references to ‘‘the liturgy,’’ ‘‘the Eucharist,’’ ‘‘the sacrifice.’’ For those first Christians, the Bible—the book I loved above all—was incomprehensible apart from the event that today’s Catholics called ‘‘the Mass.’’

I wanted to understand the early Christians; yet I’d had no experience of liturgy. So I persuaded myself to go and see, as a sort of academic exercise, but vowing all along that I would neither kneel nor take part in idolatry.

I took my seat in the shadows, in a pew at the very back of that basement chapel. Before me were a goodly number of worshipers, men and women of all ages. Their genuflections impressed me, as did their apparent concentration in prayer. Then a bell rang, and they all stood as the priest emerged from a door beside the altar.

Unsure of myself, I remained seated. For years, as an evangelical Calvinist, I’d been trained to believe that the Mass was the ultimate sacrilege a human could commit. The Mass, I had been taught, was a ritual that purported to ‘‘resacrifice Jesus Christ.’’ So I would remain an observer. I would stay seated, with my Bible open beside me.


As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn’t just beside me. It was before me—in the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from the Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, ‘‘Hey, can I explain what’s happening from Scripture? This is great!’’ Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: ‘‘This is My body . . . This is the cup of My blood.’’

Then I felt all my doubt drain away. As I saw the priest raise that white host, I felt a prayer surge from my heart in a whisper: ‘‘My Lord and my God. That’s really you!’’

I was what you might call a basket case from that point. I couldn’t imagine a greater excitement than what those words had worked upon me. Yet the experience was intensified just a moment later, when I heard the congregation recite: ‘‘Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God,’’ and the priest respond, ‘‘This is the Lamb of God . . .’’ as he raised the host.

In less than a minute, the phrase ‘‘Lamb of God’’ had rung out four times. From long years of studying the Bible, I immediately knew where I was. I was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less than twenty-eight times in twenty-two chapters. I was at the marriage feast that John describes at the end of that very last book of the Bible. I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever as the Lamb. I wasn’t ready for this, though—I was at Mass!


I would return to Mass the next day, and the next day, and the next. Each time I went back, I would ‘‘discover’’ more of the Scriptures fulfilled before my eyes. Yet no book was as visible to me, in that dark chapel, as the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, which describes the worship of the angels and saints in heaven. As in that book, so in that chapel, I saw robed priests, an altar, a congregation chanting ‘‘holy, holy, holy.’’ I saw the smoke of incense; I heard the invocation of angels and saints; I myself sang the alleluias, for I was drawn ever more into this worship. I continued to sit in the back pew with my Bible, and I hardly knew which way to turn—toward the action in the Apocalypse or the action at the altar. More and more, they seemed to be the very same action.

I plunged with renewed vigor into my study of ancient Christianity and found that the earliest bishops, the Fathers of the Church, had made the same ‘‘discovery’’ I was making every morning. They considered the Book of Revelation the key to the liturgy, and the liturgy the key to the Book of Revelation. Something powerful was happening to me as a scholar and a believer. The book of the Bible that I had found most perplexing—the Book of Revelation—was now illuminating the ideas that were most foundational to my faith: the idea of the covenant as the sacred bond of the family of God. Moreover, the action that I had considered the supreme blasphemy—the Mass—now turned out to be the event that sealed God’s covenant. ‘‘This is the cup of My blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.’’

I was giddy with the newness of it all. For years I had been trying to make sense of the Book of Revelation as some kind of encoded message about the end of the world, about worship in faraway heaven, about something most Christians couldn’t experience while still on earth. Now, after two weeks of daily Mass attendance, I found myself wanting to stand up during the liturgy and say, ‘‘Hey, everybody. Let me show you where you are in the Apocalypse! Turn to chapter four, verse eight. You’re in heaven right now.’’


In heaven right now! The Fathers of the Church showed me that this wasn’t my discovery. They had preached about it more than a thousand years ago. I was, however, convinced I deserved credit for the rediscovery of the relationship between the Mass and the Book of Revelation. Then I discovered that the Second Vatican Council had stolen my thunder. Consider the following words from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:

In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that

heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of

Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where

Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the

sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors

of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the

Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for

some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the

Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear

and we too will appear with Him in glory.

Wait a minute. That’s heaven. No, it’s the Mass. No, it’s the Book of Revelation. Wait a minute: it’s all of the above.

I found myself trying hard to go slowly, cautiously, careful to avoid the dangers to which converts are susceptible; for I was fast becoming a convert to the Catholic faith. Yet this discovery was not the product of an overwrought imagination; it was the solemn teaching of a council of the Catholic Church. In time, I would discover that it was also the inevitable conclusion of the most rigorous and honest Protestant scholars. One of them, Leonard Thompson, has written that ‘‘Even a cursory reading of the Book of Revelation shows the presence of liturgical language set in worship. . . . [T]he language of worship plays an important role in unifying the book.’’ The images of liturgy alone can make that strange book make sense. Liturgical figures are central to its message, Thompson writes, revealing ‘‘something more than visions of ‘things to come.’ ’’


The Book of Revelation was about Someone Who was to come. It was about Jesus Christ and His ‘‘Second Coming,’’ which is the way Christians have commonly translated the Greek word Parousia. Through hour after hour in that chapel in Milwaukee in 1985, I came to know that that Someone was the same Jesus Christ Whom the Catholic priest lifted up in the host. If the early Christians were correct, I knew that, in that very moment, heaven touched down on earth. ‘‘My Lord and my God. That’s really You!’’

Still, serious questions remained in my mind and heart—about the nature of sacrifice, about the biblical foundations of the Mass, about the continuity of Catholic tradition, about many of the small details of liturgical worship. These questions would define my investigations through the months leading up to my reception into the Catholic Church. In a sense, they continue to define my work today. These days, however, I ask not as an accuser or a curiosity seeker, but as a son who approaches his father, asking the impossible, asking to hold a bright and distant star in the palm of his hand.

I don’t believe Our Father will refuse me, or you, the wisdom we seek regarding His Mass. It is, after all, the event in which He seals His covenant with us and makes us His children. This book is more or less a record of what I have found while investigating the riches of our Catholic tradition. Our heritage includes the whole of the Bible, the uninterrupted witness of the Mass, the constant teachings of the saints, the research of the schools, the methods of contemplative prayer, and the pastoral care of the popes and bishops. In the Mass, you and I have heaven on earth. The evidence is overwhelming. The experience is a revelation.

And now our review:
I cannot say enough about The Lamb’s Supper, Scott Hahn’s book on the Eucharistic Liturgy, or as it is commonly called, the Mass. Writing from personal experience and drawing upon his extensive knowledge of the Early Church and the Patristic Fathers, Dr. Hahn delves deeply into the ancient mystery of the Eucharist.

The book is divided into two sections. The first, and shorter segment, deals with his conversion experience and an overview of the Eucharistic Liturgy as it is practiced in both the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches. Having equipped his reader with a solid understanding of the parts of the Mass, its history and import, he then turns his focus to the Book of Revelation as an allegory to the Mass.

His many insightful observations are both educational and enlightening. Tapping into the writings of the Early Church Fathers, he connects seemingly disparate portions of John’s Revelation and shows how the Lamb’s Supper, or the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, is occurring right before our eyes right here on earth every day of the week.

I recently had the privilege of teaching a class for recent converts and when I concluded my talk by suggesting that they strengthen their new faith through meditation and study. Of the the books I recommended to them, The Lamb’s Supper was number one on the list. Before Dr. Hahn converted to Catholicism, he was a well-respected Protestant scholar. Though he now writes from a Catholic perspective, The Lamb’s Supper is Biblically based and would make interesting reading for any believer.

Tomorrow we will be looking at Scott Hahn’s companion volume The Lamb’s Supper Study Guide.
-E G Lewis

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Classic "1984" by George Orwell

Did you know that George Orwell's real name was Eric Blair? I didn't until I read it in the copy of 1984 I checked out at our local library. An Englishman, he was a political writer who "hated totalitarianism" and was very concerned about the advance of Communism and other cruelties throughout the world. Published in 1949, the futuristic novel 1984 was written as a warning. Despite the fact that 1984 is well behind us, this novelwhich has become a classicis still relevant today.

Protagonist Winston Smith is employed by the Party and always under surveillance by a "telescreen" at work and at home. It shouts out daily propaganda that can't be switched off, and is always transmitting his actions back to "Big Brother is Watching." Hate and war are constants in his life and that of others. Yet, he begins to question whether it has to be this way.

In rebellion, he and a co-worker strike up a relationship and risk their lives to sneak away to be together. She, too, has come to believe that Big Brother is evil and not the way people should be required to live. You may already know the story, as I did, and that they are found out and "converted" over many years of cruel tortures. But, the real story is in the details ... how and why civilization was converted into hate and war, worshiping no religion except "Big Brother." 

Amazingly, today some of Big Brother's "doublethink" has invaded our society. The most obvious is that babies before birth aren't really babies, only blobs of tissue that don't feel pain. They do, by the way. That is a perfect example of 1984's "doublethink" where two plus two can equal five and the slogans "War is Peace," or "Freedom is Slavery," and "Ignorance is Strength" are promoted as true. In our own time, terrorist acts are being termed "man caused disasters," and class envy is encouraged through making the wealthy scapegoats, rather than the government admitting to its failures.

Instead of the values once held by America, many young people now think America is somehow evil in spite of all the wonderful achievements of the generations who came before us. The inventions, the medical accomplishments, the help given to third world nations, are all overlooked and our positive history is seldom taught any longer.

An Afterword in this book was written by Erich Fromm, copyrighted in 1961. He couldn't see ahead to the dangers of Socialism, but warned against individuals acting like machines and losing their humanity. We must always question our leadership and remain truly human, which means caring for one another and valuing life at all stages, from conception to an elderly death. Let's not allow our government or anyone else to inflict "doublethink" on us.
Gail Lewis

Product Details:
Trade Paperback: 267 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
ISBN: 0-452-26293-0

Saturday, December 4, 2010

DECEIVE ME ONCE by Valerie Massey Goree

Maricella "Chella" McDonough has a secret, one that's been eating at her for her entire adult life. Her husband Tom is none the wiser, nor are their two grown sons Jóse and Mike. But it's time for the secret to come out--prodded into the open by the body of a young woman that mysteriously ends up on Chella's property. A body linked to her past.

So begins a tale of intrigue and suspense, aptly entitled Deceive Me Once, for, indeed, once is all it takes. Once to bare one's soul, once to risk one's life and once to seek forgiveness.

Ms. Goree sets her story in the Hill Country of south-central Texas, not far from San Antonio. The land is rugged, in its own way beautiful, and often unforgiving. So is the tale she tells.

When Chella embarks on a covert mission to uncover the mystery surrounding a half-heart necklace found on the girl's body, more than solving a crime is at stake. She forces herself back in time to a horrific event she not only witnessed, but believes she caused: the death of her parents and the destruction of life she knew as a teenager. Aided by her godly and faithful daughter-in-law Teresa, Chella begins step by step to unravel the true circumstances surrounding the childhood tragedy and begins healing those wounds self inflicted so long ago. But there's more to Ms. Goree's story.

As is so true with deceit, Chella is not the only one affected by it. Her unconfessed sin has created a rift in the areas that matter the most: her marriage, her family and her faith. The question is whether she can untangle herself from the spiritual-emotional tentacles that have embedded themselves in her mind and her heart over the past 25 years. The answer to that question does not lie in this review, it lies between the covers of Deceive Me Once. Look there for it. You'll be glad you did.
— Bruce Judisch

Thursday, December 2, 2010


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:

Baby Bible Christmas Storybook

David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Rev. Dr. Robin Currie is the Early Childhood Librarian/Preschool Liaison for the Glen Ellyn Public Library and serves on the staff of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She is also the retired pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. Before and during seminary she was a children’s librarian for public libraries in Illinois and Iowa. She holds master’s degrees in Library Science from the University of Iowa and in Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, as well as a Doctor of Ministry in preaching from LSTC. Her published books include seven resource collections for librarians and over a dozen children’s Bible story collections.

Visit the author's blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Board book: 36 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403685
ISBN-13: 978-0781403689

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER (Click on pictures to see them larger):

And now our Review:

Most of us lament the increasing secularization of Christmas, yet search as we might we struggle to find a way to counter the merchandising onslaught directed at our children. No longer. The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook provides parents a way to communicate the true meaning of Christmas to their youngsters in an interactive and fun way.

These books are made with thick cardboard pages and built to last. Filled with inviting illustrations, each page encourages participation with suggestions such as close your eyes…hold up a finger…pretend to open a door. And each page ends with a short prayer. As I flipped through the pages I imagined a toddler examining the pictures, going through the motions, and ending their story time with a heartfelt bedtime prayer.

If you act quickly, there’s still time to get one for this year’s Christmas season.
— E. G. Lewis

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


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:

Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship

Acu/Leafwood Publishing (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Jon Walker has worked closely with Rick Warren for many years, first as a writer/editor at, later as vice president of communications at Purpose Driven Ministries, and then as a pastor at Saddleback Church. He's also served as editor-in-chief of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine and is founding editor of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox. His articles have appeared in publications and web sites around the world. He is also the author of Growing with Purpose. Jon currently lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Acu/Leafwood Publishing (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891126767
ISBN-13: 978-0891126768


Grace and Discipleship

What shall we say, then? Should we continue to live in sin so that God’s grace will increase? Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it?
Romans 6:1-2

Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared cheap grace the deadly enemy of our church in 1937. “We are fighting today for costly grace,” he said. We are in that same fight today.

By cheap grace, Bonhoeffer means the arrogant presumption that we can receive forgiveness for our sins, yet never abandon our lives to Jesus. We assume, since grace is free, there is no cost associated with the free gift. We assume we can go on living the way we have been because our sins are now forgiven.

The gift is free, but Jesus paid a bloody price to offer us the gift; the gift is free, but that doesn’t mean there is no cost to following Jesus once we step into his grace.

Costly grace justifies the sinner: Go and sin no more. Cheap grace justifies the sin: Everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession,” says Bonhoeffer. “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

And this means cheap grace is “a denial of the incarnation of the Word of God,” says Bonhoeffer. Did Jesus die so we could follow a doctrine? Did he suffer a cruel and bloody crucifixion to give us a code of conduct? Did he give up all he had, take on the nature of a servant and walk through Palestine as a human being so we could give an intellectual assent to the grace he freely gives? Did he humble himself and walk the path of obedience all the way to death so we could live in disobedience to him? (based on Philippians 2:8)

When the forgiveness of sin is proclaimed as a general truth and the love of God taught as an abstract concept, we depersonalize the incarnation; yet, it can’t be anything but personal: the God of the universe launching a rescue mission for you, his beloved creation, at the expense of Jesus, his only begotten son. Jesus didn’t come in the abstract, as a nebulous idea of love, grace, and forgiveness; rather, “he became like a human being and appeared in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7b).

You can’t get more personal than that.

The Incarnation is totally personal. When Jesus calls you it is absolutely personal; and the cost of grace is personal. Jesus paid personally to provide us with free grace and we must pay personally to live within that grace. Why do you think Jesus died for you, if not for the personal? What do you think he expects from you, if not something personal?


We too easily slip into a corporate concept that Jesus died for sins in general and so he becomes to us something like a huge corporation: we don’t really expect to get personal, individualized attention. And because everything, in our thinking, is impersonal, it is easier for us to dodge responsibility.

In the case of the cross, it is the difference between “Jesus died for the sins of mankind” or “Jesus died to pay for my lie last week at work.”

This is how we rationalize our way into cheap grace. But we are called—in truth, we are designed— to come face-to-face with Jesus, which allows us get to know him and the Father as we are know by them: “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

On the one hand, costly grace cost Jesus his life and he gives it to us as a gift of righteousness that includes the forgiveness of sin; it is something we can never earn and it comes to us as we open our hearts in repentance: “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me” (Psalms 51:1-4, 10 NLT).

On the other hand, Bonhoeffer says cheap grace requires no contrition; we need not even have a desire to be delivered from our sins, just forgiven. He says, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.” It’s okay, God will forgive me.

“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has,” says Bonhoeffer. “It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which auses him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.” Costly grace comes when we come to the end of ourselves, ready to abandon our current lives in order to give our lives whole-heartedly to Jesus. It comes when it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). It comes when we submit ourselves to the will of Jesus, doing what he tells us to do day-in-and-day-out, altering our lives in obedience to him.

Costly grace means we change our habits, thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, and relationships according to the will of Jesus. Nothing can remain the same because we are no longer the same. We are uniquely connected to the divine nature through Jesus and we no longer “live under law but under God’s grace” (Romans 6:14; see also Colossians 2:9-10).

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ,” says Bonhoeffer. “It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.”


“When he spoke of grace, [Martin] Luther always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was now for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ,” says Bonhoeffer. Costly grace does not exempt us from discipleship or give us a pass on obeying the commands of Jesus. In fact, it demands “we take the call to discipleship more seriously than ever before.”

And grace doesn’t make our sanctification automatic; Jesus transforms us into his image as we follow him down the hard path through the narrow gate into the kingdom of heaven. Luther quickly understood that discipleship must be tested in the world, outside the cloister, as Jesus pushes us from self-centered to other-centered.

While it is true Luther said, “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still,” Bonhoeffer notes his intent was not to teach cheap grace but to help us understand our position in Christ. When we get serious about discipleship, we will want to be obedient to God. This is why Jesus said the way we show our love for him is by being obedient to his commands. Our obedience brings us in line with the will of God; we become one with his agenda. And that’s the essence of love: when we love we want to do the things the people we love want to do; we become one with our loved one’s wishes.

Yet, our obedience will never make us perfect. The only way we can approach the throne of grace boldly is by stepping into the costly grace of Christ, where he becomes our righteousness before God; he acts as our mediator. Luther’s point, then, was when we sin we need not despair. Jesus covers all our sins. He died for the sins you’ve already committed and he died for the sins you will commit tomorrow. Luther means we can stop being afraid of ourselves; stop being afraid that we may make mistakes. Just love God and live your life—and when you stumble, fall into the grace of Jesus Christ.

By trusting the grace of God, we can be courageous in following Jesus and equally courageous in confessing our sins before him. There is no need to hide our sins or to posture as if we have not sinned. We can just admit it and keep on following Jesus, even if we have to confess sins to Jesus every day.

But if we don’t have a clear understanding of costly grace, we’re more likely to play games with God, pretending we haven’t sinned, maintaining the delusion that we’re not that bad, and that leaves us stuck in immaturity right at the threshold of discipleship. And our posturing is part of how we undermine grace. If we’re so cheaply forgiven, then we never have to face the ugliness of our sin. It doesn’t seem so bad. The bloody work and resurrection of Jesus become a generic work, a blanket forgiving of sins, a prettified passion meant to God bless us, everyone.

Cheap grace flips Luther’s sin without fear upside-down, recreating it as a justification of sin instead of the justification of the sinner. Bonhoeffer says the real “outcome of the Reformation was the victory, not of Luther’s perception of grace in all its purity and costliness, but of the vigilant religious instinct of man for the place where grace is to be obtained at the cheapest price.” “The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world,” Bonhoeffer says. “Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.”

This is exactly what Paul addresses with the church in Rome, where the religious instinct of man—that desire for self-justification—was in full assault against the sovereignty of God, attempting to prove God wrong in his bloody sacrifice of Jesus.


“So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?” asks Paul. I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means” (Romans 6:1-3 MSG). The costly grace of Jesus means to take us into a new land, the kingdom of heaven. We follow Jesus obediently along a difficult path through a narrow gate into his kingdom.

A simple glance across the evangelical landscape reveals that we’ve overwhelmingly embraced the lesser grace. We’re barely willing to adjust our schedules let alone our lifestyles. We make decisions based on common sense, robbing the Holy Spirit of his role of counsel. We stash away our 401k’s and plan for when we will do kingdom work in the future, never trusting God to provide. We take the risk out of ministry by always leaning on our own understanding and then we wonder why our faith is weak. When do we exercise our faith?

We’re glad to follow Jesus. His yoke does seem easy: a few hours each week in worship, a Bible study, a small group, a bit of service at the church and perhaps a mission trip each year. We try to be good people, to help others, and to thank God for our blessings. When things are going well, we don’t want to bother God and, when things are going badly, we can camp out with God and say a holy “Amen” that he’s always there in our darkest times.

But a peculiar people? A royal priesthood set apart? What? Does Jesus really mean I’m supposed to abandon my ________ (fill in the blank)?

We preach, we teach, we publish. We have the internet and Christian radio. “We poured forth unending streams of grace,” says Bonhoeffer. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way is hardly ever heard. Have we presented the gospel in such a way that we’ve left people feeling secure in their ungodly living?

Cheap grace has been “disastrous to our own spiritual lives,” says Bonhoeffer. “Instead of opening up the way to Christ, it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience.”

We’ve settled for cheap grace for so long that we’ve allowed it to become the norm for Christian living. We know there must be something more but life just gets in the way. We’ve taught people to live disconnected from Jesus and we wonder why they struggle in their Christian walk, why they are so tired all the time.

Bonhoeffer says, “To put it quite simply, we must undertake this task because we are now ready to admit that we no longer stand in the path of true discipleship. We confess that, although our Church is orthodox as far as her doctrine of grace is concerned, we are no longer sure that we are members of a Church which follows its Lord. We must therefore attempt to recover a true understanding of the mutual relation between grace and discipleship. The issue can no longer be evaded. It is becoming clearer every day that the most urgent problem besetting our Church is this: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?”


Grace is a restaurant where you can eat anything on the menu for free. The cost for you to dine is hefty, but your whole bill has been paid by Jesus.

“You mean, I can eat anything I want here? Then I’ll have a lust burger with a side of lies.”

I’m sorry. We don’t serve lust burgers or lies here. But you are welcome to anything on the menu. Everything here is hand-made by the Father and all of it is specifically designed to keep you healthy.

“I thought you said I could eat anything I wanted if I came into this grace restaurant?”

You can eat anything you want, but we only serve what is on the menu. If you look, you will see there are thousands of choices we’ve prepared specifically for your taste buds.

“But not a lust burger? No lie fries. What kind of restaurant are you running here? Don’t you want me to be happy, to feel good?”

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

“What if I go outside the restaurant, get a lust burger and some lie fries, and bring them back in here to eat?”

That would be cheap grace.


If you asked most evangelical Christians about the meaning of grace, they’d probably tell you it’s the unmerited favor of God. Not a bad answer, but one that’s just academic enough to keep you distracted from the truly transformational nature of costly grace.

Grace is powerful, audacious, and dangerous, and if it ever got free reign in our churches, it would begin a transformation so rapid and radical that it would cause skeptics to beat a path to our door.

What is grace? Consider this illustration from Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s timeless tale about a peasant who is sentenced to hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. Released from jail, Jean Valjean is offered brief sanctuary in the home of a priest.

Despite being treated with dignity for the first time in years, Valjean, steals the bishop’s valuable silverware and runs away. The next day, Valjean is brought back to the priest’s home by the police, who tell the priest that Valjean has claimed the silver as a gift. The police obviously expect the priest to deny the claim.

The priest immediately addresses Valjean, saying, “Ah, there you are! I am glad to see you. But I gave you the candlesticks also, which are silver like the rest, and would bring two hundred francs. Why did you not take them along with your plates?” When he hands the candlesticks to Valjean privately, he tells him, ”Jean Valjean, my brother, you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you.”

It’s a Christ-like moment—and one that shows the tremendous cost of grace, both for the giver and the receiver. Valjean goes on to live a life of grace, supporting the poor and adopting a young orphan whom he must ransom out of servitude.

Do you suppose for a minute that a harsher approach by the priest could have gotten a better response from Jean Valjean? Then why do we expect people to behave better when we “Tsk, tsk, tsk” and shame them into behaving properly rather than modeling the kind of grace that will change them radically and permanently. Grace allows people to make choices and assumes they’ll make the best choice. Grace is free and flowing and unencumbered by guilt or shame or fear, for true grace says, “I know all about you, and I still love you with a godly acceptance.”

We see this in John 4, when Jesus meets the woman at the well. When she offers to give him a drink, he says, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh living water” (John 4:10 MSG).

Note that he talks about how gracious God can be. Yet most of us, if we were gut honest, function as if God were stingy with his grace. We fear his punishment, in the sense that we think he’s the high school principal walking the halls, taking down names. Who did what and who’s to blame?

But God already knows who did what and who’s to blame, and he still loves us anyway. His interest is in redeeming us, not in keeping us on the hook for our sins.

Unfortunately, many of us—Christians—live our lives as if we’re still on the hook, and as if we have to keep everyone else on the hook. We use weapons of the flesh—the sarcastic comment, the angry stare—all designed to get people to straighten up and live right.

In contrast, when the woman at the well goes back to her village, she says, “Come see a man . . . who knows me inside and out” (John 4:29 MSG). Nothing is hidden from him, and yet he communicates with her in such a fashion that she leaves feeling loved and accepted. That’s the aroma of grace.

Did she get away with her sins? No. They cost Jesus plenty, yet you don’t see him lording it over her, or putting a guilt trip on her, or even using the time for a lecture on sexual ethics. Jesus trusts that once she is confronted with God’s generosity—his grace—that she will be eager to change and conform to God’s commands.

It’s a classic Christian paradox, isn’t it? Just when you think it’s time to pull out the Law and read someone the riot act, Jesus shows by his behavior that it’s better to embrace that person with a costly love.

And grace does cost. It obviously cost the Son of God everything, and for you to extend grace will cost you, just as it cost the priest his silver. In fact, one way to distinguish the difference between grace and mercy is that grace costs while mercy does not. Mercy says, “I won’t press charges.” Grace says, “I not only won’t press charges, I’ll pay for your rehab program.”


Grace is powerfully other-focused. It gives without fear of depletion. Love, forgiveness, and mercy are handed out with no thought of exhausting the supply. Someone enveloped by grace is rooted deeply in soil next to a river that never knows drought.

The prodigal’s father offers a picture of the paradox of grace. The story begins with a self-centered, younger son. He requests his inheritance and then squanders all his father’s hard earned money, ending up working for a pig farmer. Every time he touched a pig, the young Hebrew boy was reminded how far he was from the will of God. In a state of horrible desperation, he remembers his father and decides to return home as a slave.

What was going through his mind as he headed home? Maybe he realized what a failure he was. Or maybe he thought about the money his father gave him that he had foolishly thrown away. Possibly he feared a harsh rejection, one he was sure he deserved.

Whatever he thought, he was not prepared for his father’s response!

Imagine: He sees his father’s house in the distance as he shamefully shuffles home. Then he sees an unidentifiable person running toward him. Then he recognizes his father and he prepares himself for the worst.

The prodigal was probably bewildered by his father’s loving embrace. The father’s love faces off against the son’s self-degradation. After a few minutes of wrestling, the son’s heart is finally overcome by the father’s passionate embrace. He goes limp in his father’s arms unable to hold back the tears.

The father is overjoyed at the son’s return. This is too much for the son. He only hopes for a job as a slave, and yet he is treated as a son despite all his filthiness. The father’s extraordinary grace continues as he places a ring on his son’s hand and sandals on his feet and then wraps him in an extravagant robe. Each gift is a visible sign of full son-ship.

The father completes his bountiful behaviors of grace by inviting the community to a joyous celebration of his son’s return. Rather than being embarrassed at the wayward son, the father responds with merriment. The father’s response to a rebellious son is a beautiful picture of transforming grace.

Each of us has had our prodigal experiences. Prodigal behavior is common because our heart’s default setting is trust yourself at all cost. Self-trust is rooted in the belief that I will be more gracious to myself than God will. Who are we kidding anyway?

We must go to Jesus to be personally tutored in Grace 101. As we receive his grace, we can then pass his grace to others.

And now, Our Review:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, like C. S. Lewis, was one of the great Christian minds of the Twentieth Century. His work is less well known than that of Lewis because he didn’t write for the popular audience and his life was tragically cut short in one of Hitler’s concentration camps.

Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship, takes the costly grace available to those willing to step up and truly follow the path blazed by Jesus Christ and contrasts it to the cheap grace of lukewarm faith and half-hearted effort so many seem to have accepted.

By re-interpreting Bonheoffer’s work in light of Evangelical principles, Jon Walker does a great service to contemporary Christians. Costly Grace deserves to carefully read and its call to action heeded. Making these powerful ideas accessible to a new generation of believers can’t help but alter lives in unbelievable and exciting ways.
— E. G. Lewis

Monday, November 8, 2010


City of Tranquil Light chronicles the lives of Mennonite missionaries to China in the early 1900’s. Will and Katherine Kiehn come to life as you follow their remarkable lives. Will’s first-person remembrances and Katherine’s current diary pages seem very real. The love and support they give each other is tender and appealing, as is their love for China which grows despite hardships and violence.

The people they minister to, both through their religious faith and with medical assistance, learn to love them too. After reading this novel, China, its history and people came alive for me, giving me even more respect for missionaries. It is a genuine page-turner, yet if you're forced to read in fits and starts like me, then the alternating entries from Will and Katherine lend themselves nicely to that format.

This story carries you through miracles and heartbreaks. It is a well-written novel that is both inspiring and satisfying. The only criticism I can make of this delightful book might be its cover. After reading it, I understand the cover choice, but think it deserves a more appealing dust jacket that would attract readers at first glance.

Bo Caldwell is also the author of the national bestseller The Distant Land of My Father. I’ve not read that one yet, but now plan to. I highly recommend her brand new novel City of Tranquil Light.  Special thanks to B&B Media for providing a review copy.
—Gail Lewis

Product Details:
Trade Paperback: 287 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, LLC
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9228-8

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


In May, 1945, advance elements of the 11th Armored Division rolled into St. Georgen, Austria. What awaited them there would be gouged into the soldiers' memories for the rest of their lives: the Gusen concentration camp.

Sergeant Peter Scott is among the first to arrive at the front gates. The skeletal remnants of men and women cling to the fence and clutter the main entrance to glimpse their liberators and beg for even a morsel to eat. He encounters the gaunt figure of Michaela, a Polish Christian, standing erect among the dead and dying, intent on thanking the saviors of the camp with her final vestige of dignity. He also encounters Helene, the recalcitrant wife of a former SS guard bringing soup and whatever comfort she can to the emaciated prisoners. The lives of the three are inextricably bound together from this point forward.

Sgt. Scott has fought the European war from the Normandy beaches to the Rhine River, his once-strong faith now smothered under too much carnage and destruction. Michaela fights her own war of physical and emotional restoration from years of internment, her faith still vibrant, but confusing in where it's leading her. Helene must deal with her own conscience at too many years of silence, if not acceptance, over the atrocities her husband has committed. Each leans on and learns from the others in winning their own personal battles.

From Dust to Ashes is a tender story of love, faith and redemption overlying a background of indescribable horror and brutality. It may not be the most recent work by Ms. Goyer (released in 2003), but it has to be one of the best. The book is not for the faint of heart, but neither is it overly graphic in its depiction of reality. Meticuloulsy researched and skillfully presented, From Dust to Ashes is an entrancing read. Highly recommended.
— Bruce Judisch

Product Details:
Trade Paperback: 480 Pages
Language: English
Publisher: Moody
ISBN: 978-0-80241-554-7

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The FAITH and VALUES of SARAH PALIN by Stephen Mansfield and David A. Holland

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin

Frontline Pub Inc (September 21, 2010)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Stephen Mansfield is the New York Times best-selling author of The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of Barack Obama, Benedict XVI: His Life and Mission, and Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, among other works of history and biography. Founder of both The Mansfield Group, a consulting and communications firm, and Chartwell Literary Group, which creates and manages literary projects, Stephen is also in wide demand as a lecturer and speaker.

Visit the Stephen's website.

David A. Holland is an author, speaker, media consultant, and award-winning copywriter who writes the popular blog and the satirical He is the co-author of Paul Harvey’s America, as well as numerous articles, essays, and opinion pieces. David makes his home with his wife and daughters in Dallas, Texas.

Visit the David's blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $22.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Frontline Pub Inc (September 21, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381647
ISBN-13: 978-1616381646


Roots of Faith and Daring

Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.1

—Robert A. Heinlein

It is a warm summer day in June of 1964, and at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Richland, Washington, a tender moment is unfolding. A small group of the faithful has gathered before a candled altar and a patiently waiting priest. Though the church is spare, it is transformed into regal splendor by the color of deep green evidenced in the vestments of the priest and in the cloth that adorns the altar. This is the color that the Christian church has used for centuries to signify the liturgical season of Pentecost, in which the coming of God’s Spirit is celebrated, in which refreshing and new birth are the themes. It is a fitting symbolism for today’s event, for a child is soon to be baptized. When all are settled, the priest steps to the fore and nods his head to a young family. They move, solemnly, to the baptismal font—a father, a mother, a two-year-old boy, a one-year-old girl, and the infant who is the object of today’s attention. “Peace be with you,” the good priest begins.“And also with you,” those gathered respond.“And what is the child’s name?” the priest asks. “Sarah Louise Heath,” comes the answer.

“And what is your name?” the priest asks the parents.

The answer comes, but it is obvious to all that the energetic part of that answer, the one filled with eagerness and faith, has come from the child’s mother. She is a striking figure. Slightly taller than her husband, she is lean and feminine, possessing a sinewy strength that is unusual for a mother of three. Her eyes are intelligent, slightly wearied but quick to flash into joy. Her mouth is wise, reflecting a sense of the irony in the world and yet disarmingly sweet.

It is her voice, though, that her children and her friends will comment upon most throughout her life. It has a musical lilt that rises and falls with meaning and emotion. It makes the most mundane statement a song, transforming a book read to children before bed or a prayer said before a family meal into a work of art.

This young mother was born Sally Ann Sheeran in 1940 and so took her place in a large, proud, well-educated Irish Catholic family in Utah. As would become the pattern of her life, she would not be there long. When she was three, her family moved to Richland, Washington. Her father, known to friends as Clem, had taken a job as a labor relations manager at the Washington branch of the Manhattan Project, whose task it was to perfect the atomic bomb sure to be needed before the Second World War, then well underway, was over. From her father, Sally acquired a passion for doing things well, a love of sports, and unswerving devotion to Notre Dame, a loyalty questioned in the Sheeran home only at great peril.

It was Sally’s mother, Helen, who taught her the domestic skills and devotion to community that would become her mainstays in the years ahead. Helen was widely known as a genius with a sewing machine and made clothes not only for her own family but also for dozens of others in her town. She also had an uncanny ability to upholster furniture. Neighbors remember the astonishing quality of her work and how she refused payment, though her fingers were often swollen and bleeding from the hours she spent stretching leather over wooden frames or forcing brass tacks into hardened surfaces. Helen taught her children the joy of the simple task done well, that the workbench and the desk are also altars of God not too unlike the altar at the Catholic church they attended every week.

Sally came of age, then, in a raucous, busy family of overachievers. There were piano lessons and sports and pep squads and sock hops. Achievement was emphasized. All the Sheeran children did well. Sally’s brother even earned a doctorate degree and became a judge. Sally herself finished high school and then began training as a dental assistant at Columbia Basin College.

“What are you asking of God’s church?” the priest intones from the ancient Latin text.
“Faith,” respond the child’s parents.
“What does faith hold out to you?” he asks.
“Everlasting life,” they answer.
“If, then, you wish to inherit everlasting life, keep the commandments, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’”

At this moment the priest leans over young Sarah, still in her mother’s arms, and breathes upon her three times. “Depart from her, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.” It is then that he traces the sign of the cross upon the child’s forehead and prays, “Lord, if it please you, hear our prayer, and by your inexhaustible power protect your chosen one, Sarah, now marked with the sign of our Savior’s holy cross. Let her treasure this first sharing of your sovereign glory, and by keeping your commandments deserve to attain the glory of heaven to which those born anew are destined; through Christ our Lord.”

At these words, some who have gathered shift their eyes to the young father of the child being baptized. His name is Chuck. He is a good man, all agree, and he loves his family, but he is only tolerant of his wife’s faith. He does not share it. He keeps a distance from formal religion, and those who know his story understand why.

He was born in the Los Angeles of 1938 to a photographer father and a schoolteacher mother. His father, it seems, had gained some notoriety for his work, and there are photographs of young Chuck with luminaries of the Hollywood smart set and even with sports stars like boxer Joe Louis. Something went wrong, though—this is the first of several unexplained secrets in the Heath story—and when Chuck was ten, his father moved the family to Hope, Idaho. His mother taught school again, and his father drove a bus and freelanced.

As often happens after a move to a new place, the Heath family was thrown in upon itself. And here is where the tensions likely arose. Chuck’s mother was a devoted Christian Scientist. She believed that sin and sickness and even death were manifestations of the mind. If one simply learned to perceive the world through the Divine Mind, one would live free from such mortal forces. It likely seemed foolishness to a teenaged Chuck, who was not only discovering the great outdoors and finding it the only church he would ever need but also discovering his own gift for science, for decoding the wonders of nature. There was tension in the home, then, between this budding naturalist and his mystic mother. Arguments were frequent, and from this point on, young Chuck seemed intent upon escaping his parent’s presence as much as possible.

He soon discovered his athletic gifts too, and, though his parents thought such pursuits were a waste of time, he chose to ride the bus fifteen miles every day to Sandpoint High School and then hitchhike home again just so he could play nearly every sport his school offered. He found gridiron glory as a fullback behind later Green Bay Packers legend Jerry Kramer.

These were agonizing years, though. He routinely slept on friends’ couches when he just couldn’t face hitchhiking home. He was nearly adopted by several families of his fellow players. Everyone knew his home life was torturous and tried to help, but for a boy in high school to have no meaningful place to belong, no parents who loved him for who he was without demanding a faith he could not accept—it was, as Sarah Palin herself later wrote, “painful and lonely.”

After graduation from high school and a brief season in the Army, Chuck enrolled in Columbia Basin College. Now he could give himself fully to learning the ways of nature, long his passion and his hope. He collected rocks and bones, found the insides of animals and plants a fascinating other world, and thrilled to his newly acquired knowledge of geology and the life of a cell. He was a geek, but a handsome, athletic geek whom girls liked. It was during this time that he enrolled in a college biology lab and found himself paired with that lanky beauty Sally Sheeran.

“Almighty, everlasting God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the minister implores, “look with favor on your servant, Sarah, whom it has pleased you to call to this first step in the faith. Rid her of all inward blindness. Sever all snares of Satan, which heretofore bound her. Open wide for her, Lord, the door to your fatherly love. May the seal of your wisdom so penetrate her as to cast out all tainted and foul inclinations, and let in the fragrance of your lofty teachings. Thus shall she serve you gladly in your church and grow daily more perfect through Christ our Lord.”

It says a great deal about Chuck and Sally Heath that after they had married—after they had brought three children into the world and begun working in their professions and coached sports and enjoyed their outdoor, adventurous lives—there was still something missing. Sandpoint simply wasn’t enough. Chuck, ever the romantic, had begun reading the works of Jack London—The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea Wolf—and through these the great land in the north—Alaska—began calling to him. As a neighbor later reported, “The call of the wild got to him.” This neighbor did not mean the London novel, but rather that mysterious draw to the raw and untamed that has lured men to Alaska for centuries. It did not hurt that Alaska was in desperate need of science teachers like Chuck, and that the school systems there were offering $6,000 a year, twice what Chuck was making in Sandpoint. With a growing family and dreams that Idaho could not contain, Chuck Heath turned to his wife and said, “Let’s try it for one year and see what happens.” Sally should have known better. They would never come back to Idaho again. Alaska was the land of Chuck’s dreams and always would be.

It also says a great deal about Chuck and Sally Heath that they ventured north to Alaska just days after the state had been rocked by one of the worst earthquakes in history. On March 27, 1964, what became known as the Good Friday Earthquake shook Alaska at a 9.2 Richter scale magnitude for nearly five minutes. The quake was felt as far away as eight hundred miles from the epicenter.2 Experts compared it to the 1812 New Madrid earthquake that was so powerful it caused the Mississippi River to run backward, stampeded buffalo on the prairie, and awakened President James Madison from a sound sleep in the White House. The Good Friday Earthquake did hundreds of millions dollars in damage, cost dozens of lives, and vanquished entire communities in Alaska, but even this devastation could not keep the Heath family away.

They would live first in Skagway, then in Anchorage, and finally they would be able to afford their own home in the little valley town of Wasilla. Chuck would teach sciences and coach, and Sally would do whatever paid—work in the cafeteria, serve as the school secretary, even coach some of the athletic teams.

This is what they did. Who they were is the more interesting tale.

The Heaths were determined to create an outpost of love, learning, and adventure in their snowy valley in the north. Their lives were very nearly a frontier existence, as we shall see, but their learning and their hunger to explore lifted them from mere survival. Chuck found Alaska an Elysium for scientific inquiry, and as he hunted and served as a trail guide, he collected. The Heath children would grow up in a home that might elsewhere have passed for a small natural history museum. Years after first arriving in Alaska, when their famous daughter had forced their lives into the international spotlight, the Heaths would welcome reporters who sat at their kitchen counter and marveled at the skins and pelts and mounts—dozens of them—that adorned the house. There were fossils and stuffed alligators and hoofs from some long-ago-killed game and samples of rock formations and Eskimo artifacts. The reporters had been warned. In the front yard of the Heath house stood a fifteen-foot-tall mountain of antlers, most all from game shot by Chuck Heath.

Yet what distinguished the Heath home was its elevated vision, its expectations for character and knowledge. There would come a day when Sally’s spiritual search would lead her in a different direction than her husband had chosen—his conflicts with his Christian Science mother distancing him from traditional faith—and this would have to be managed. But there was complete agreement about the other essentials. Work was sacred. Everyone was expected to labor for the good of the family. Knowledge was paramount. Theirs was a home filled with books, and nearly each one was read aloud more than once. Since both Chuck and Sally were teachers, dinner-times were often occasions of debate or discussion, which Chuck frequently began by reading from a Paul Harvey newspaper column or by quoting from a radio broadcast he had heard during the day. So intent upon the primacy of learning were Chuck and Sally that when a television finally did make its way into their home, it lived in a room over the unheated garage where a potential viewer had to have a death wish to brave the cold. Rather than what Chuck and Sally called the boob tube, in the warmth of the house were the poetry of Ogden Nash and Robert Service, the works of C. S. Lewis, and most of the great books of the American experience.

There was also love. It was deep, transforming, and infectious in the Heath home. When friends of the Heath children missed their school bus home, they routinely made their way to the Heaths’ house. Their parents knew and understood. It was the place where strangers were always welcome, where a story was always being told, and where you merged seamlessly into the family mayhem the moment you stepped through the door. Some of those friends of the Heath children, now adults, recall that the closest thing they ever experienced to a healthy family was in Chuck and Sally’s home.

And so the Heaths did it. They carved out the life they had dreamed in the frozen wilds of Alaska. They took the best of their family lines and, refusing the worst, built a family culture of courage and learning and industry and joy. And this was the family soil from which Sarah Palin grew.

Thus, the reverend father comes to an end:

Holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, source of light and truth, I appeal to your sacred and boundless compassion on behalf of this servant of yours, Sarah. Be pleased to enlighten her by the light of your eternal wisdom. Cleanse, sanctify, and endow her with truth and knowledge. For thus will she be made ready for your grace and ever remain steadfast, never losing hope, never faltering in duty, never straying from sacred truth, through Christ our Lord.3

The service concluded, the Heath family and their near relatives walk out into the northwestern sun. It is June 7. Already there are tears, and they are not tears of joy. The Heaths’ presence in Richland is not just for the sake of the baptism. They have come to say good-bye. Alaska calls to them, and they will leave in a few short days to make the nineteen-hundred-mile drive to their new home in the land of the north. Their relatives grieve, but the Heaths, particularly Chuck, cannot hide their joy at the looming adventure. Nor can they hide the sense that they will be changed by their new land, that somehow they will become one with it, and that it will become mystically intertwined with their destiny in ways they could never imagine.

In a matter of few days then, attended by the tears of their loved ones, the Heath family step toward the great land of their dreams.

Our Review:
I’ll admit it was the name of this book that caught my attention and made me want to read it. Sadly, the title of this small, strange book is a misleading and inappropriate effort to trade on Sarah Palin’s popularity. The portions of the book most about Sarah are the profusion of quotes taken from her book, Going Rogue. I suggest reading it instead of this one.

In the beginning the authors maintain a pretense of advocating for Sarah, however, as the book progresses, their arrogance grows and their thinly disguised criticisms become more obvious. Their tone strikes me as arrogant and superficial. Instead of focusing on Sarah Palin’s countless positive accomplishments, these men chose to note anything and everything they perceive as weaknesses and offer recommendations on how t0 improve herself. I hardly see them as qualified to judge her. “…first cast the beam out of thine own eye.”

I can come to only one conclusion regarding this pitiful little book; it’s agenda driven and nothing more than a crass attempt at character assassination. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, when they quote Obama, it’s done in a positive fashion.

This is the first totally bad review I’ve ever given, but in good conscience I can’t justify anything else. I give this book a failing grade. There are plenty of better places one can go to learn the truth about Sarah Palin. My copy’s going into the fire barrel. That’s where it belongs.
— Gail Lewis