Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Summerside Press (May 1, 2011)
John Busacker is president of The Inventure Group, a global leadership-consulting firm, and founder of Life-Worth, LLC, a life planning creative resource. He is a member of the Duke Corporate Education Global Learning Resource Network and is on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Carlson School’s Executive Development Center.
In 2009, Busacker released his first book, 8 Questions God Can’t Answer, which unlocks the profound power of Jesus’ timeless questions. He annually teaches in a variety of emerging faith communities and supports the development needs of leaders in Africa through PLI-International.
John is an avid explorer, occasional marathoner, and novice cyclist. He and his wife, Carol, live in Minneapolis and have two adult sons, Brett and Joshua.
Visit the author's website.
Doing less is typically equated with laziness in our culture, but on a recent trip to the Serengeti plain, author John Busacker learned that doing less can actually be a very productive strategy for living. As Busacker and his family realized that they were lost in the wilds of Africa, their guide, Moses, stopped and waited for a new course to emerge. Within moments, the family was back on the right path. What John learned that day was the power of what can happen when he stopped DO-ing in order to focus on BE-ing found.
In the same way, says Busacker, we have to allow our internal GPS to stop and recalculate the direction of our life. As we do so, we’ll find greater abundance, contentment, and peace of mind. If you are like most people who feel lost on the road of life, Busacker’s new book, Fully Engaged: How to Do Less and Be More, is perfect for you. Fully Engaged encourages and equips us to move beyond what Busacker calls an “air guitar life”—a life of furious motion and considerable energy, but in the end one with no sound and little lasting impact. In a world filled with noise and fury, Busacker offers a measured and wise strategy for living that is marked by three key components: 1) Awareness, 2) Alignment, and 3) Action.
· Living with Awareness means that, instead of piecing together random moments, you begin to live intentionally. By doing so, you no longer measure your life worth by your pay check, but by your attitude.
· Living with Alignment ensures that what you have and what you do match what you really want out of life. It means that your job is not simply a means to make money, but a calling to be pursued with vigor.
· Living with Action compels you to move in directions that propel you toward an exhilarating future. This means that you’re not afraid to fail and that setbacks are to be celebrated as progressive steps on the journey of success.
List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (May 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Your life is worth so much more than money.
It seemed like a good plan at the time.
Seven years ago, our family decided to spend spring break in Tanzania, East Africa. One night, we stayed in a quaint African lodge on the edge of the Serengeti Plain. The plan was to wake up at dawn, drive out into the vast national park at first light, and see who was eating whom for breakfast. By noon, we were to have made it to the gate of the Ngorongoro Crater, intending to venture down in for additional afternoon wildlife viewing.
Of course, nothing on an African safari goes exactly according to plan. It rained during the night, so what passes for roads quickly transformed to goo-filled ruts. Our guide, Moses, was forced to navigate by feel, having neither a map nor GPS.
It became increasingly clear that we were driving in circles, making no progress toward the Ngorongoro Crater. Not wanting to sound any alarms, as discreetly as I could I leaned forward and quietly inquired, “Moses, are we lost?”
What followed was a rapid-fire conversation between Moses and Ramos, our driver. Having limited Swahili vocabulary but reading the body language and urgency of tone, I was guessing that this was not good news!
After about a minute, Moses leaned back, looked straight at Carol, and delivered the verdict: “We could be.”
Carol, who is an intensive-care nurse by background and who values both having and then executing an orderly plan, began to envision our imminent death at the mouths of the same lions we had just observed eating a Grant’s gazelle for breakfast.
I knew what our older son, Brett, was thinking by the gleam in his eye. He who has never seen a 50-foot cliff he didn’t want to drop on a snowboard and authentically values adventure, especially accompanied by a little danger, was thinking, This is AWESOME! I’m the fastest guy in the car! So what do I have to worry about anyway?
Humans, it is said, are the only animals that speed up when lost. This is especially true of American humans.
Moses, our guide, did the exact opposite. Rather than speed up, he came to a complete stop and waited for someone else to catch up so he could determine where we were in the Serengeti and then chart a new course to our destination.
He stopped DO-ing in order to focus on BE-ing found.
What we needed that day on the Serengeti Plain was a GPS. What an amazing technological device. Using the broad perspective of three coordinates—latitude, longitude, and altitude—a GPS can find your car amongst the millions of cars on the planet, tell you exactly where you are, and then help you navigate to your desired destination…all in a soothing, patient voice too.
Humans, it is said, are the only animals that speed up when lost. This is especially true of American humans.
When you screw up or are too stubborn to heed its advice, it doesn’t bark, “You moron! Why don’t you ever listen?”
No, it simply says “Recalculating” and calmly charts and then gives you a new route. Now that’s grace!
So why don’t we apply the same broad perspective and grace to our own lives? Our tendency is to zero in on only one coordinate—money—and then ratchet up our speed at all costs to get more money or the stuff that more money can buy (like prestige or power).
Let’s be honest. Too often we value our stuff above our health, relationships, spiritual vitality, or life itself, don’t we? If you don’t think so, take a quick peek at your schedule right now…bet you just winced a bit, didn’t you?
It’s so easy for our personal GPS to get messed up— especially if we’re willing to let a single-minded pursuit of financial assets spin us in circles in the wilderness. After all, we believe, assets and liabilities determine our financial health and overall success…don’t they?
Net worth—what you have minus what you owe—has long been the key scorecard of prosperity and progress. Are you successful? on track? Check your net worth statement.
But is that really an accurate measure of a successful, fully engaged life?
An abundant life is that healthy but elusive blend of play, work, friendship, family, money, spiritual growth, and contribution.
Abundance creates contentment. Contentment inspires gratitude. Your peace of mind, sense of fulfillment, and joy are determined by how well you manage many life dimensions, not just your finances. Intimate relationships, deep spiritual life, right work, good health, a vibrant community, interesting hobbies, and active learning all impact your sense of engagement with life.
Life worth is the investment you make into and the return you receive from all of these dimensions. It is both internal (a deep personal sense of engagement and fulfillment) and external (the ability to bring joy and lasting value to others). And, like a GPS, it takes more than one coordinate to determine your location and direction.
You can be fully engaged with little or no net worth. Here’s what I mean.
Net worth: what you have minus what you owe.
Life worth: the investment you make into and the return you receive from all life dimensions.
The first time I visited Tanzania, I was amazed at how content the people seemed to be, even though they had next to nothing in possessions. I wondered, Is it because they are unencumbered by the shackles of “stuff” that they are fully able to connect with their families and friends? Is that why they are happily able to do the work required to live yet another day? Why they are content, even when they’re not sure sometimes where their next meal is coming from?
Upon further reflection, I couldn’t help but add to these thoughts: And why is this sense of joy sorely lacking in our affluent Western world?
The thought was sobering…and enlightening.
As Os Guinness says:
The trouble is that, as modern people, we have too much to live with, and too little to live for. In the midst of material plenty, we have spiritual poverty.1
Simply stated, material wealth is measured by net worth. Spiritual wealth and engagement are summed up by life worth. So let me ask you: What’s your life worth right now?
Many people decide they must build their net worth first in order to fund life worth later.
But putting life on hold for one more business deal, one more project, a pay increase, a hopeful inheritance upon a relative’s death, or an investment return ensnares the unsuspecting in its grip of “not quite enough.” It can slowly form habits of overwork and selfishness. The focal point is always on what’s next instead of what’s first.
Do you find yourself falling into the trap of thinking, Hey, I’ll just hang in there. What’s coming next has got to be better.
If so, you are in danger of driving in endless circles— and exhausting yourself in the process.
Don’t fall for that kind of thinking. Dreams delayed can become a life unlived. As American journalist and best-selling author Po Bronson put it:
It turns out that having the financial independence to walk away rarely triggers people to do just that. The reality is, making money is such hard work that it changes you. It takes twice as long as anyone plans for. It requires more sacrifice than anyone expects. You become so emotionally invested in that world—and psychologically adapted to it—that you don’t really want to ditch it.2
Dreams delayed can become a life unlived.
Always DO-ing more ultimately causes us to BE less— less of a friend, mother, partner, student, or son.
I know. I’ve experienced it firsthand. I spent 14 years in the financial services industry, sitting at the table with countless people as they discussed their life dreams and financial goals.
What moved me were the life stories of the people with whom I met. Embedded in the discussion of money were the hopes, dreams, fears, regrets, beliefs, and biases of each person. Asking the right questions and then listening with both head and heart got right to the core of the matter with most people. And it was always about so much more than money. Inevitably, meaning trumped money. Life worth always outweighed net worth.
Don’t wait until you have your own “lost in the Serengeti” experience—divorce, death, job loss, a failed semester, or a sick child—in order to enlarge your perspective. Choose to take an accurate reading of your life worth now so you can make a balanced investment in each of your key life dimensions.
To do this, you have to practice a “salmon perspective”—swimming upstream against a rushing torrent of marketing and messaging to the contrary. But nothing wonderful is ever gained by taking it easy. It requires commitment on your part. Let me share something with you. It’s worth it. Your life, thinking, and relationships will be transformed.
Jesus knew all about our natural inclination to fret about our finery and stew about our stuff—to live a one-coordinate life. That’s why He cautioned His closest friends:
Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.3
Leading a fully engaged life begins with a multi-coordinate focus on your life worth—a realization that
Relationships matter more than anything.
Health determines your quality of life.
Work gives voice to your giftedness.
Hobbies engage your energy beyond work.
Learning animates your imagination.
And Faith gives all of your life purpose.
Nothing wonderful is ever gained by taking it easy. It requires commitment on your part.
To determine your current life worth, use the assessment that begins on the following page. There are 10 dimensions of life worth. Measure each one. Your life is worth so much more than money. Are you living like it?
DO less. BE more.
What Is Your Life Worth?
How satisfied are you with each life dimension listed below? How important are these life dimensions to you? Please rate each on a scale of 1–5 (1=low; 3=medium; 5=high).
HEALTH ______ _______
Regular routines that promote healthy energy and vitality
LEARNING ______ _______
People and environments that stimulate growth
FAMILY ______ _______
Interest and involvement in the lives of family members
WORK ______ _______
Work that expresses talents and passion
LOVE RELATIONSHIP ______ _______
Alignment with loved one’s values and dreams
SPIRITUAL LIFE ______ _______
Sense of purpose, relationship with God, and/or service to others
And Now, Our Review:
Fully Engaged is a book that asks some pretty astonishing questions. Want to live an astonishing life? One you feel good about each morning as you awake? One that makes others marvel and say, “Your life is simply amazing”?
Who wouldn’t answer yes? It’s the life we all want, but few us have. John Brusacker presents a plan for balancing life’s demands and pursuing the exciting future of our dreams. The book presents a plan to achieve these goals and, knowing how different we are in talents and outlook, it poses questions then provides space for your personalized answer.
The book is wide-ranging forcing you to examine your hopes and fears, your values, your strengths and weaknesses. In the end, you end up with a life plan suited to you and only you…one which you have developed to achieve the life you’ve wanted to live whether you admitted it or not.
Little tidbits of wisdom are scattered throughout the book. It also contains some Biblical wisdom without getting preachy. Its small size and hard binding make it a perfect travel companion since it easily slips into briefcase, purse or coat pocket.
—E G Lewis
Monday, May 23, 2011
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)
Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned 10 legal thrillers, including his award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.
Visit the author's website.
Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife's life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.
Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor's church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.
Now they're on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.
An adrenaline-laced thrill ride, this retelling of one of Randy Singer's most critically acclaimed novels takes readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and the legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
THE LONGEST THREE DAYS of Clark Shealy’s life began with an expired registration sticker.
That was Clark’s first clue, the reason he followed the jet-black Cadillac Escalade ESV yesterday. The reason he phoned his wife, his partner in both marriage and crime . . . well, not really crime but certainly the dark edge of legality. They were the Bonnie and Clyde of bounty hunters, of repo artists, of anything requiring sham credentials and bold-faced lies. Jessica’s quick search of DMV records, which led to a phone call to the title holder, a Los Angeles credit union, confirmed what Clark had already guessed. The owner wasn’t making payments. The credit union wanted to repo the vehicle but couldn’t find it. They were willing to pay.
“How much?” Clark asked Jessica.
“It’s not worth it,” she replied. “That’s not why you’re there.”
“Sure, honey. But just for grins, how much are we passing up?”
Jessica murmured something.
“You’re breaking up,” Clark said.
“They’d pay a third of Blue Book.”
“About forty-eight four,” Jessica said softly.
“Love you, babe,” Clark replied, doing the math. Sixteen thousand dollars!
He ended the call. She called back. He hit Ignore.
Sixteen thousand dollars! Sure, it wasn’t the main reason he had come to Vegas. But a little bonus couldn’t hurt.
Unfortunately, the vehicle came equipped with the latest in theft protection devices, an electronically coded key supplied to the owner. The engine transmitted an electronic message that had to match the code programmed into the key, or the car wouldn’t turn over.
Clark learned this the hard way during the dead hours of the desert night, at about two thirty. He had broken into the Cadillac, disabled the standard alarm system, removed the cover of the steering column, and hot-wired the vehicle. But without the right key, the car wouldn’t start. Clark knew immediately that he had triggered a remote alarm. Using his hacksaw, he quickly sawed deep into the steering column, disabling the vehicle, and then sprinted down the drive and across the road
He heard a stream of cursing from the front steps of a nearby condo followed by the blast of a gun. To Clark’s trained ears, it sounded like a .350 Magnum, though he didn’t stay around long enough to confirm the make, model, and ATF serial number.
Six hours later, Clark came back.
He bluffed his way past the security guard at the entrance of the gated community and drove his borrowed tow truck into the elegant brick parking lot rimmed by manicured hedges. He parked sideways, immediately behind the Cadillac. These condos, some of Vegas’s finest, probably went for more than a million bucks each.
The Caddy fit right in, screaming elegance and privilege—custom twenty-inch rims, beautiful leather interior, enough leg room for the Lakers’ starting five, digital readouts on the dash, and an onboard computer that allowed its owner to customize all power functions in the vehicle. The surround-sound system, of course, could rattle the windows on a car three blocks away. Cadillac had pimped this ride out fresh from the factory, making it the vehicle of choice for men like Mortavius Johnson, men who lived on the west side of Vegas and supplied “escorts” for the city’s biggest gamblers.
Clark speed-dialed 1 before he stepped out of the tow truck.
“This is stupid, Clark.”
“Good morning to you, too. Are you ready?”
“All right. Let’s do it.” He slid the still-connected phone into a pocket of his coveralls. They were noticeably short, pulling at the crotch. He had bought the outfit on the spot from a mechanic at North Vegas Auto, the same garage where he borrowed the tow truck from the owner, a friend who had helped Clark in some prior repo schemes. A hundred and fifty bucks for the coveralls, complete with oil and grease stains. Clark had ripped off the name tag and rolled up the sleeves. It felt like junior high all over again, growing so fast the clothes couldn’t keep up with the boy.
He popped open the hood of the wrecker, smeared his fingers on some blackened oil grime, and rubbed a little grease on his forearms, with a dab to his face. He closed the hood and walked confidently to the front door of the condo, checking the paper in his hand as if looking for an address. He rang the bell.
Silence. . . . He rang it again.
Eventually, he heard heavy footsteps inside and then the clicking of a lock before the door slowly opened. Mortavius Johnson, looking like he had barely survived a rough night, filled the doorway. Clark was tall and slender—six-three, about one-ninety. But Mortavius was tall and bulky—a brooding presence who dwarfed Clark. He wore jeans and no shirt, exposing rock-solid pecs but also a good-size gut. He didn’t have a gun.
Clark glanced down at his paper while Mortavius surveyed him with bloodshot eyes.
“Are you Mortavius Johnson?”
“You call for a tow?”
Mortavius’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. The big man glanced at the pocket of Clark’s coveralls—no insignia—then around him at the tow truck. Clark had quickly spray-painted over the logo and wondered if Mortavius could tell.
Clark held his breath and considered his options. If the big man caught on, Clark would have to surprise Mortavius, Pearl Harbor–style, with a knee to the groin or a fist to the solar plexus. Even those blows would probably just stun the big man momentarily. Clark would sprint like a bandit to the tow truck, hoping Mortavius’s gun was more than arm’s length away. Clark might be able to outrun Mortavius, but not the man’s bullet.
“I left a message last night with the Cadillac dealer,” Mortavius said.
The Cadillac dealer. Clark was hoping for something a little more specific. “And the Cadillac dealer called me,” Clark said, loudly enough to be heard on the cell phone in his pocket. “You think they’ve got their own tow trucks at that place? It’s not like Caddies break down very often. If everybody could afford a Caddie, I’d go out of business.”
Clark smiled. Mortavius did not.
“What company you with?” he asked.
“Highway Auto Service,” Clark responded, louder still. He pulled out the cell phone, surreptitiously hit the End button with a thumb, then held it out to Mortavius. “You want to call my office? Speed dial 1.”
Mortavius frowned. He still looked groggy. “I’ll get the keys,” he said.
He disappeared from the doorway, and Clark let out a breath. He speed-dialed Jessica again and put the phone back in his pocket. He glanced over his shoulder, then did a double take.
Give me a break!
Another tow truck was pulling past the security guard and heading toward Mortavius’s condo. Things were getting a little dicey.
“I left some papers in the truck you’ll need to sign,” Clark called into the condo. But as soon as the words left Clark’s mouth, Mortavius reappeared in the doorway, keys in hand.
Unfortunately, he glanced past Clark, and his eyes locked on the other tow truck. A glint of understanding sparked, followed by a flash of anger. “Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.
“I told you . . . the Cadillac place.”
“The Cadillac place,” Mortavius repeated sarcastically. “What Cadillac place?”
“Don’t remember. The name’s on the papers in my truck.”
Mortavius took a menacing step forward, and Clark felt the fear crawl up his neck. His fake sheriff’s ID was in the tow truck along with his gun. He was running out of options.
“Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.
Clark stiffened, ready to dodge the big man’s blows. In that instant, Clark thought about the dental work the last incident like this had required. Jessica would shoot him—it wasn’t in the budget.
A hand shot out, and Clark ducked. He lunged forward and brought his knee up with all his might. But the other man was quick, and the knee hit rock-solid thigh, not groin. Clark felt himself being jerked by his collar into the foyer, the way a dog might be yanked inside by an angry owner. Before he could land a blow, Clark was up against the wall, Mortavius in his face, a knife poised against Clark’s stomach.
Where did that come from?
Mortavius kicked the door shut. “Talk fast, con man,” he hissed. “Intruders break into my home, I slice ’em up in self-defense.”
“I’m a deputy sheriff for Orange County, California,” Clark gasped. He tried to sound official, hoping that even Mortavius might think twice before killing a law enforcement officer. “In off hours, I repo vehicles.” He felt the point of the knife pressing against his gut, just below his navel, the perfect spot to start a vivisection.
“But you can keep yours,” Clark continued, talking fast. “I’m only authorized to repo if there’s no breach of the peace. Looks like this situation might not qualify.”
Mortavius inched closer. He shifted his grip from Clark’s collar to his neck, pinning Clark against the wall. “You try to gank my ride at night, then show up the next morning to tow it?”
“Something like that,” Clark admitted. The words came out whispered for lack of air.
“That takes guts,” Mortavius responded. A look that might have passed for admiration flashed across the dark eyes. “But no brains.”
“I’ve got a deal,” Clark whispered, frantic now for breath. His world was starting to cave in, stars and pyrotechnics clouding his vision.
The doorbell rang.
“Let’s hear it,” Mortavius said quietly, relaxing his stranglehold just enough so Clark could breathe.
“They’re paying me six Gs for the car,” Clark explained rapidly. He was thinking just clearly enough to fudge the numbers. “They know where you are now because I called them yesterday. Even if you kill me—” saying the words made Clark shudder a little, especially since Mortavius didn’t flinch—“they’re going to find the car. You let me tow it today and get it fixed. I’ll wire four thousand bucks into your bank account before I leave the Cadillac place. I make two thousand, and you’ve got four thousand for a down payment on your next set of wheels.”
The doorbell rang again, and Mortavius furrowed his brow. “Five Gs,” he said, scowling.
“Forty-five hundred,” Clark countered, “I’ve got a wife and—”
Ughh . . . Clark felt the wind flee his lungs as Mortavius slammed him against the wall. Pain shot from the back of his skull where it bounced off the drywall, probably leaving a dent.
“Five,” Mortavius snarled.
Clark nodded quickly.
The big man released Clark, answered the door, and chased away the other tow truck driver, explaining that there had been a mistake. As Mortavius and Clark finished negotiating deal points, Clark had another brilliant idea.
“Have you got any friends who aren’t making their payments?” he asked. “I could cut them in on the same type of deal. Say . . . fifty-fifty on the repo reward—they could use their cuts as down payments to trade up.”
“Get out of here before I hurt you,” Mortavius said.
Clark glanced at his watch as he left the parking lot. He had less than two hours to return the tow truck and make it to the plastic surgeon’s office. He speed-dialed Jessica.
“Highway Auto Service,” she responded.
“It didn’t work,” Clark said. “I got busted.”
He loved hearing the concern in her voice. He hesitated a second, then, “Not a scratch on me.”
“I told you it was a dumb idea,” Jessica said, though she sounded more relieved than upset. “You never listen. Clark Shealy knows it all.”
And he wasn’t listening now. Instead, he was doing the math again in his head. Sixteen thousand, minus Mortavius’s cut and the repair bill, would leave about ten. He thought about the logistics of making the wire transfers into accounts that Jessica wouldn’t know about.
Pulling a con on pimps like Mortavius was one thing. Getting one by Jessica was quite another.
And Now, Our Review:
If you’re looking for a book to sit down and relax with, this isn’t it. Randy Singer keeps the tension ratcheting up and it never slows. He’s a gifted suspense writer and False Witness kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. After finishing Part I of this five-part novel, I was tempted to set the book aside because of the violent events he successfully depicted. “Not my cup of tea,” I thought. “Give me a sappy romance…”
Okay, so call me a wimp.
However, I kept reading and am happy I did. The complexity of the story is impressive, and when all is said and done, I learned more than I knew before. Randy Singer’s experience as a trial attorney is obvious, and he gives his characters’ moral dilemmas that will make you ponder them too. Such as:
•When, if ever, is torture acceptable?
•Is it acceptable to lie when it’s for the greater good?
•How much control should government(s) have over our personal lives?
•Is enough being done to help those in slavery around the world?
The Christian message in the book was handled well and fits nicely into the story without being intrusive or preachy. The characters’ internal conflicts are realistic and made me wonder what my own choices might be under similar circumstances.
False Witness is exceptionally well-written, and the tension keeps mounting until the satisfying conclusion. If you like suspense, you will like this novel.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Kregel Publications (March 9, 2011)
Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland of American parents and grew up in the south of France. She decided to be a writer at the age of five when her mother read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books aloud, but worried that she couldn’t write about her childhood since she didn’t remember it. When she was young, her favorite time of day was after supper when the family would gather and her father would read a chapter from a novel. Heather went to French school until her teens, and grew up hearing the story of Le Chambonsur-Lignon, only an hour’s drive away. She now lives in rural Illinois with her husband, Paul, where they offer free spiritual retreats to people coming out of homelessness and addiction. She enjoys wandering in the woods, gardening, writing, and splitting wood.
Lydia Munn was homeschooled for five years because there was no school where her family served as missionaries in the savannahs of northern Brazil. There was no public library either, but Lydia read every book she could get her hands on. This led naturally to her choice of an English major at Wheaton College. Her original plan to teach high school English gradually transitioned into a lifelong love of teaching the Bible to both adults and young people as a missionary in France. She and her husband, Jim, have two children: their son, Robin, and their daughter, Heather.
When had God ever stopped a war because a teenager asked him to?
For fifteen-year-old Julien Losier, life will never be the same. His family has relocated to southern France to outrun Hitler’s menace. But Julien doesn’t want to run. He doesn’t want to huddle around the radio at night, waiting to hear news through buzzing static. Julien doesn’t want to wait.
Angry, frustrated, and itching to do something, Julien finds a battle everywhere he turns.
Soon after his family opens their house to a Jewish boy needing refuge, Julien meets Nina, a young Austrian who has fled her home by her father’s dying command. Nina’s situation is grave and Julien suddenly realizes the enormity of having someone’s life or death depend on… him.
Thrown together by a conflict that’s too big for them to understand, these young lives struggle to know what to do, even if it is not enough. Is there a greater purpose in the shadows of this terrible war? Or will their choices put them in greater danger?
“The Munns have written an engrossing historical novel that is faithful to the actual events of World War II in western Europe during the tumultuous year 1940. But How Huge the Night is more than good history; it is particularly refreshing because the reader sees the conflict through the lives of teenagers who are forced to grapple with their honest questions about the existence and goodness of God in the midst of community, family, and ethnic tensions in war-ravaged France.”—Lyle W. Dorsett, Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
“Seldom have the horrors of war upon adolescents—or the heroism of which they are capable—been so clearly portrayed. I loved this coming-of-age story.”—Patricia Sprinkle, author of Hold Up the Sky
“The book expertly weaves together the lives of its characters at a frightening moment in conflicted times. As we read of their moral dilemmas and of their choices, we too wonder, Would I do has these in the story have done?”—Karen Mains, Director, Hungry Souls
List Price: $14.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 9, 2011)
AND NOW...AN EXCERPT:
Thursday the power came back on. They sat in the living room, around the radio that crackled with static; they looked at each other, and then away. The room grew quiet as the announcer began to speak.
“Since Mussolini’s declaration of war on France two days ago, Italian troops are pushing west—”
Mama was on her feet. “The thief!” she hissed. “The backstabber, the coward!” Her face was red. Everyone was staring. She sat down.
Papa looked at her. “Saw his chance, I guess.”
“He’s a shame to his nation,” Mama snapped. Julien stared. Then they heard the shift in the announcer’s voice and turned sharply to the radio.
“German troops are approaching Paris at a rapid pace. As we speak, the vanguard is reported to be fifteen kilometers from Versailles. This will be our last broadcast for a while.”
They did not look at each other. The silence was total.
“Today Paris has been declared an ‘open city.’ Our military will not defend it. This decision was made to avoid bombardment and the great destruction and loss of life that it entails. . . .”
Julien realized he had not been breathing. It was an amazing thing, breathing. Tears shone in Mama’s eyes.
“They won’t bomb Paris,” said Papa quietly.
“They won’t bomb Paris,” Mama whispered.
Benjamin stood, his face very still. He walked slowly to the door and took the stairs.
Julien waited, breathing, seeing Paris; seeing Vincent and his mother look up out of their second-floor window at a clear blue sky. He waited until the news ended, until they had read a psalm that said The Lord has delivered.
Then he followed Benjamin.
Benjamin’s door was closed. Julien hesitated, biting his lip, and went into his own room.
He looked out the window in the fading light. They wouldn’t defend it. This was it, then. What Pastor Alex said was true. German tanks would roll down the Champs-Elysées for real in just a couple days. Then the boches would come here. And they would stay.
He pulled Vincent’s last letter out from under his nightstand. I can’t believe you almost died, it said. That’s crazy. He got up, and went and knocked on Benjamin’s door.
“Benjamin? You all right?”
Julien opened the door. Benjamin turned quickly, scowling.
“Did I say you could come in?”
“Well sorry,” Julien growled. How am I supposed to help when he’s like this? “Just wanted to say good night.”
“Good night then.”
“Look, it’s not as bad as it could have been, okay? They could have bombed the place to shreds like Ro—” He bit his tongue.
“You’re right,” said Benjamin, looking away. “That’s good for your relatives. I’m glad.”
“And your parents!”
“Nothing’s good for my parents.” His voice was toneless. “Look, Julien, we can talk about this in the morning. I need to go to bed.”
Julien knew when to quit. He turned away. “Sleep well.”
But he couldn’t. He turned and turned in his bed, twisting the sheets.
He got up and looked out at the crescent moon and the stars high over Tanieux, so white, so far, always the same; they would still be there when the Germans were here; they would still be there all his life. They were still there over Rotterdam, too. It didn’t make any difference.
When he finally slept, he dreamed: Paris on the fourteenth of July, the fireworks, bursts of blue, of gold, of red above the city. A whirling rocket going up with a hiss and a bang. Then a louder bang. Then a bang that threw up a great shower of dirt and stones, and people screaming, people running as the shells began to fall—
He woke, and lay shivering. He got up to close the window. The stars shone down like cold eyes.
He heard a faint scratching. Mice maybe. A floorboard creaked. He listened.
And he heard it. Very slow, stealthy footsteps going down the stairs.
He sat up slowly. Magali or Benjamin. Tiptoeing down the stairs to the kitchen, wishing there was something to eat. . . . He got out of bed and leaned out the window, watching for the faint light that would come through from the kitchen. No light came.
But on the ground floor, the heavy front door opened, and a dark shape slipped out into the street. A shadow with a suitcase in its hand.
He ran across the hall and threw open Benjamin’s door. A neatly made bed, a letter on the pillow. He grabbed it, ran back to his room, jerked his pants on over his pajamas, and ran downstairs in his socks. He’d catch him. Benjamin was on foot. He had to catch him. He scrawled on the flip side of the note, I’ve gone after him, pulled on his shoes and jacket, and flew down the stairs and into the dark.
He raced down the shadowed street and stopped at the corner, heart pounding, looking both ways. North, over the hill: the road to St. Etienne. A train to Paris, like he’d said? There were no trains now. Or south—south to where? Oh Lord if I choose wrong I’ll never find him.
Think. What would he do if it were him? He’d go south—north was suicide, but—he didn’t know, he didn’t know Benjamin. Who did? Nothing is good for my parents, he’d said—he didn’t seem to even care that Paris wouldn’t be bombed—
Because his parents weren’t in Paris.
Julien turned, suddenly sure, and ran.
The Kellers had left Germany because of Hitler and his people. Would they stay in Paris and wait for them? “Let’s walk south,” Benjamin had said—and that stupid map—he should have guessed.
He ran, breathing hard, his eyes on the dark road ahead. Oh God. Oh Jesus. Don’t let me miss him please—please—
He broke free of the houses; the Tanne gleamed in front of him under the splintered moon, cut by the dark curve of the bridge. He froze. He ducked into the shadows and breathed.
There on the bridge was a slender figure leaning on the parapet, looking down at the dark water.
Oh God. Oh Jesus. Now what?
Benjamin turned and took a long, last look at Tanieux. Then he adjusted his backpack, picked up his suitcase, and walked away.
Julien slipped out of the shadows and up to the bridge, his heart beating help me Jesus help me, his mind searching for words. Come home. And if he said no? Drag him? Help me Jesus. He was across the bridge, ten paces behind Benjamin; he broke into a silent run on the grassy verge of the road. He caught up to him. Laid a hand on his arm.
Benjamin whirled, eyes wild in the moonlight. They stared at each other. “Why.” said Julien. “Tell me why.” His voice was harder than he meant it to be.
“Let me go.”
“No.” He tightened his grip on Benjamin’s arm.
Benjamin tried to pull away. “Julien, let me go. You have no idea. You have no idea what they’re like.”
“The boches?” This time his voice came out small.
“The Nazis, Julien. Ever heard of them? Yeah, you heard they don’t like Jews—I don’t think any of you people understand.” The sweep of his arm took in the school and the sleeping town. “Your parents are great, Julien—offering shelter and all—they really are. But they don’t know. Yet.”
But they do. They know. “Know what? What’ll they—do?”
“I’m not waiting around to find out.” His face was white and deadly serious. “Trust me on this, Julien. They are coming here and when they do, it’s better for you if I’m long gone.” I believe it is very dangerous to be a Jew in Germany. And soon—
Julien stood silent. The night wind touched his face; the hills were shadows on the horizon where they blotted out the stars. Suddenly he felt how large the world was, how huge the night, how small they stood on the road in the light of the waning moon. Ahead, the road bent into the pine woods, and in his mind, Julien saw Benjamin walking away, a small form carrying a suitcase into the darkness under the trees. His fingers bit into Benjamin’s arm.
“I don’t care,” he said savagely. “Where would you go?”
Benjamin said nothing; the moonlight quivered in his eyes as they filled with tears. He turned his head away. “I don’t know.” His voice shook.
Julien caught him by the shoulders, gripped him hard. “Well I do,” he said fiercely. “You’re coming home.”
And Now, Our Review:
Many people watched news reports of the recent tsunamis in Japan with a sense of fright and horror, imagining being trapped behind an approaching wall of water. Julian Losier, the teenage main character in How Huge the Night finds himself in a somewhat similar situation. A tidal wave of evil- Nazism -is sweeping across Europe. Escape seems impossible, disaster inevitable. In a desperate attempt to avoid the German onslaught, his family retreats to southern France.
During a time of global chaos, Julian is thrown into alien surroundings. He must deal with new people, places and customs and rebels against it. The unlikeliest of heroes, Julian starts out sullen, resentful and full of teenage angst. As the story unfolds, he meets Nina and her brother Gustov …orphaned Jews who are following their dying father’s command to escape Austria. The book follows Julian’s struggles, his growthand triumphs as he adapts to his circumstances, matures and, in the process, finds an inner strength he never knew he had.
The book is skillfully written and a joy to read. The author effortlessly captures the nature of the time and place along with the emotions of the characters. The point of view changes at times giving us a chance to see the world not only through Julian’s eyes, but Nina and Gustov’s as well. How Huge the Night is one of those remarkable books that can be enjoyed by both Adult and Young Adult. It’s a great story well told; part coming of age and part World War II adventure that does not disappoint. I highly recommend it.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Publisher: Summerside Press
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Deep River; Reprint edition (March 15, 2011)
Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor Lauri Khodabandehloo has written many stories speaking of the special bond between those who are challenged with a developmental disability and the people who love them. Lauri lives with her husband in Eugene, Oregon and remains active in the autism community.
Visit the author's website.
Embrace this mother's deeply personal account of tragedies and triumphs, along with joys and sorrows of raising a child with the devastating disability of autism.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 266 pages
Publisher: Deep River; Reprint edition (March 15, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
When I found out I was pregnant in July of 1980, it took me completely by surprise. But instead of feeling overjoyed about the news, I dreaded telling my husband. For seven long years, Cody had been working hard to save up enough money to buy his own restaurant, and it looked as if his American dream was finally going to come true. A fourth child would put an additional strain on our finances and might even jeopardize Cody’s plans, which was the last thing I wanted to see happen.
We had also agreed five years earlier, after our daughter Farah was born, that we wouldn’t have any more children. Cody had desperately wanted a son, but he had come to terms with his disappointment and accepted that it wasn’t meant to be. Since then, I had been on birth control and never dreamed I would end up pregnant again.
Now it looked as if Cody might get his boy-child after all, but I wasn’t sure how he’d react, so I decided to put off telling him for a few months—at least until I began to show.
By September, I realized I couldn’t conceal my secret any longer, so I thought up a roundabout way of breaking the news.
After dinner one evening, Cody retreated to the living room and settled into his usual spot on the couch for a little television. I had strategically placed a greeting card on a side table next to the couch so he would be sure to notice it. The card was black and had only one word in gold script across the front: Congratulations! Inside, I had simply written “. . . on number four.”
I watched from the kitchen doorway as Cody checked to see what was on the news and then glanced at the card, just as I’d hoped he would. I held my breath as he reached over and picked it up, read the front, and then opened it to see what was inside.
He stared at the card for a moment and then turned to look at me. I could feel his eyes burning a hole in my head as he waited for me to respond, but I pretended not to notice, fixing my attention on the TV screen.
After a moment, he said in a quiet voice, “For real?”
I nodded silently without looking at him, then turned and retreated to the kitchen to busy myself with cleaning up. I couldn’t bear to see his reaction as the news began to sink in.
Cody didn’t say a word about the pregnancy for several weeks, and I wasn’t about to bring up the subject for discussion. Doing so would only have ignited a conflict I didn’t want to have. It seemed the better part of wisdom to give him plenty of time and space to process things. I knew he’d say something when he was ready.
When Cody finally broke his silence, he told me he wanted to schedule a vasectomy. He seemed just as shocked as I had been that I was pregnant. We couldn’t understand how something like this could have happened when we’d been so careful.
Having another baby was the last thing either of us wanted at this point in our marriage. Cody didn’t want, or need, another mouth to feed as he was preparing to buy his first restaurant, and I had grown weary of the responsibilities of being a mother.
For years I had been longing for a life of my own that would allow me the freedom to experience things I felt I’d missed out on because I had married so young. I had practically been a child when I married my high school sweetheart at eighteen, and by the time I was twenty, I had two baby girls to care for. I wasn’t ready to take on such weighty responsibilities, but ready or not, I had to grow up fast and learn how to meet the needs of the little ones who were depending on me.
At twenty-five, I had gone through a painful divorce and struggled to cope with the demands of caring for two young daughters on my own. Then I met Cody. We both worked at a restaurant in San Jose, he as a busboy and I as a waitress. This handsome, dark-skinned man from Iran had the whitest teeth I’d ever seen and a sparkling personality to match. He spoke very little English, and what he did say was always laced with a thick Middle Eastern accent. He charmed me with his dazzling white smile and wit, and he showered attention on me and my girls.
In just a matter of weeks, I found myself strangely attracted to this man who came from a part of the world I knew nothing about. Even though Cody and I barely knew each other and certainly didn’t love each other, marriage held undeniable benefits for us both. A couple of turbulent years trying to survive as a single mother had taken their toll, and I couldn’t handle the stress anymore. Marrying Cody seemed like the best solution, especially for my girls. Many years later I’d learn that Cody never believed in “falling in love.” In his country, a couple are married first—love and respect come later.
After a whirlwind courtship, Cody and I took a weekend trip to Reno, Nevada, and got married at the county courthouse on June 12, 1972. Before the ceremony, my heart had screamed at me not to go through with it. I even prayed that God would intervene. But the terror of going on alone with two young daughters to care for overpowered common sense, and I ignored any reservations I had.
As Cody and I left the courthouse that day, I told myself that I had married for the sake of my children and would learn to love Cody in time.
Three years later, Farah made her grand entry into the world, and I resigned myself to another long wait before I could spread my wings and fly.
Now, at thirty-three, I was pregnant with my fourth child and knew that I would be stuck in my stay-at-home-mom role for another five or six years. Freedom had been so close, I could taste it. My teenage daughters, Lisa and Lainee, were involved with their own friends and activities, and my six-yearold, Farah, had just started kindergarten. With all of my girls in school, I had been looking forward to time to myself in the mornings to run errands or talk on the phone without interruption, plan a coffee klatch with my girlfriend Randee, or just sit and watch a TV program that didn’t contain the loud and silly antics of colorful cartoon characters. But my wings had been clipped once again, and I was devastated.
Some women in my situation might have considered terminating the pregnancy, but that was never an option for me. I had no right to end a life that God had created. In my heart I knew he had a reason for letting me become pregnant, though I didn’t have a clue what it was. I was also living with the painful memories of a D&C procedure I’d had after Cody and I married. I never knew whether I had actually been pregnant; the doctor said the test was inconclusive but that after seven weeks he’d be unable to proceed with any kind of “remedy.” Though I’d consented to go ahead as planned, I couldn’t bear the thought that I might have naively allowed the doctor to end a life that was a few weeks along. The experience left me devastated and overwhelmed with guilt, nearly plunging me into a breakdown. No, I would never allow that to happen again under any circumstance! Besides, no matter how I felt about having another child, I just couldn’t deprive Cody of one last chance to have a son.
This fourth pregnancy turned out to be the most difficult one I’d ever experienced. Early on, I sensed that something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then, at around five and a half months, the baby started kicking. I thought it would taper off in time, but instead, the jabbing became relentless, making my days miserable and robbing me of the few precious hours of sleep I so desperately needed.
As the weeks passed, the pain and lack of sleep became unbearable, reducing me to tears at all hours of the day and night. I finally pleaded with my obstetrician to take the baby by C-section, but he just shook his head and looked at me as if I had to be kidding.
“It feels like I’m being beat up from the inside!” I pleaded with him, trying to describe the pain. “I can’t take it anymore!”
The doctor responded sympathetically, but I suspected he thought I was overreacting. I also knew that as a devout Catholic, he would never perform a C-section at this stage of the pregnancy if there was even the slightest risk to the baby or me.
When I told him how difficult it was to get even an hour of sleep at night, he showed me how to lie on my side to ease the pain without causing the baby any discomfort. I had already tried that—I had tried everything I could think of to find relief—but I decided it would do no good to argue with him. I had great respect for this man who had taken care of me through all my pregnancies, and I knew he meant well even though he didn’t understand what I was going through. I resigned myself to crying my nights away and coping as best I could until the baby arrived.
At seven months into the pregnancy, I began to feel an overwhelming sense of foreboding. It wasn’t the normal apprehension and fears most women experience during pregnancy as their bodies change and hormone levels fluctuate. It was a deep knowing, an intuition that something was terribly wrong with my unborn child.
One evening at home, I cried out to God, “Please let this baby be okay.” I felt desperately alone as I sobbed and rocked back and forth on the couch. Even though I hadn’t wanted or planned to have another baby, I couldn’t bear the thought that this child might not be normal and healthy.
These ominous feelings hung over me like a storm cloud throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I didn’t understand why I felt this way, but it seemed as if something, or someone, was whispering in my ear, telling me that I needed to accept what was coming.
One afternoon as I was taking a nap, I dreamed that I heard a loud flapping outside the house. When I got up and opened the front door, I saw thousands of angels filling the sky, their white robes shimmering in the sun as they soared heavenward. I stepped out onto the porch, longing to go with them, but an angel with a white beard looked at me and shook his head. I knew immediately that he was telling me I needed to stay put; it wasn’t my time to go.
When I awoke from my nap, the dream seemed so real that I got up and went outside to see if it had actually happened.
Strange dreams are common during pregnancy, but I felt certain that God was speaking to me, telling me that I needed to wait on him no matter how difficult the pregnancy was.
As my delivery date approached, I could hardly wait to be free of the burden I’d been carrying the past nine months. I imagined the relief I would feel when my agony finally came to an end. I mentally ticked off the days, until late in the evening on February 19, I felt my water break and told Cody that it was time to go to the hospital.
We promised our girls that we would call as soon as we had some news, and then we headed for Sacred Heart Hospital. All of my children had been born there, so I knew the baby and I would be in good hands. The familiar surroundings and the kind, upbeat nurses always put me at ease.
Cody and I were lost in our own thoughts on the drive to the hospital. All I could think about was that this war going on inside my belly would be over in a few short hours. I was certain this rambunctious child was a boy and that Cody would be elated. But those thoughts didn’t soften the jarring reality that I would soon be the reluctant mother of four.
When we arrived at the hospital, I waddled into the ER with Cody by my side. The receptionist at the front desk welcomed me with a warm smile and summoned an attendant with a wheelchair. Since I’d already dispensed with the admissions paperwork a few days earlier, I was immediately taken to a large, open room on the maternity floor, where other expectant mothers in various stages of labor were waiting in smaller curtained areas for their turn in the delivery room. I could hear the low hum of private conversations throughout the room, punctuated by loud groans that issued from behind closed curtains.
The attendant wheeled me over to an empty exam area and helped me transfer my big belly onto a rolling gurney that would be whisked down the hall when my time came. As I shifted my weight around to get comfortable, a nurse arrived to examine me and announced that I’d be giving birth in the next few hours. I felt confident that this delivery would be quick and easy since my labors had become shorter with each of my previous deliveries.
After about an hour, I was moved out of the exam area into a private room to wait for my labor to begin. With my other children, labor had started immediately after my water broke, but this time, I felt nothing. Cody kept vigil with me but had trouble staying awake. The long hours he’d been putting in at El Kiosco, his restaurant, were taking their toll, so I convinced him to go home and get some sleep. I assured him I would call as soon as the contractions started.
After Cody left, I decided I might as well get a few precious moments of sleep before the agonies of childbirth began. I had started feeling some intermittent labor pains by this time, but they were so light I could easily ignore them.
I dozed off, grateful for the relative calm and hoping that the rest would give me extra stamina for the work ahead.
All of a sudden, searing jolts of pain in my lower back jarred me awake. I had no idea how long I’d been asleep, but as the pain increased and I struggled to focus on my breathing, I found myself thinking that I was way too old to be doing this again. Somehow I had a feeling that this delivery wasn’t going to be as quick and easy as I’d assumed it would be.
Waves of pain came and went, and I waited for what seemed like hours before a nurse finally appeared and announced, “We’ll take you to the delivery room when we have one available, but for now, we’ll just put you down the hallway. It shouldn’t be too long.”
Before I could ask what she meant, she whisked me out of the room, parked my gurney along the wall, and scurried off to assist a woman who was screaming so loudly I was sure she could be heard for miles. When the nurse finally returned, she examined me right there in the hallway, with hospital personnel and patients passing at will, and wondered aloud whether I could “hold off” until the delivery room was available. By then, my labor pains were so intense, I couldn’t have cared less about privacy. Just get this baby out of me! I silently screamed.
When I heard her say, “Okay, I think we can take you into delivery now!” I breathed a sigh of relief.
Someone grabbed the end of the gurney and sped me through an open door into the delivery room. The doctor immediately positioned himself at my feet, and I heard his familiar urgings, “Okay, now push!”
The nurse placed her hand between my shoulders and helped me raise up enough to give it my all. But nothing happened.
Again I heard the doctor say, “Now, Lauri, give me a good push!” And again my body failed me. I had no strength, no urge to push—nothing.
I could hear the urgency in the nurse’s voice as she came around to the head of the gurney to make sure I understood that I had to help deliver this baby before complications arose. But no matter how hard I tried to force my belly to expel this lingering infant, I had nothing to offer.
Another nurse came over to help out, and as the doctor urged me to try harder, he and both nurses put their hands on my stomach and tried to push the baby out. I kept telling them I didn’t know what was wrong. I couldn’t push. I couldn’t feel anything.
The doctor’s voice betrayed his concern as he firmly instructed his assistants as to what they should do next. I was near panic. Everyone kept assuring me that the baby was coming, but I was alarmed that my body was refusing to respond as it should. This had never happened during my other three births.
Finally the doctor pulled the baby free and quickly placed the newborn in the waiting arms of one of the nurses. As she rushed out of the delivery room, I caught a glimpse of the pale blue form in her hands.
“Is my baby okay?” I called to anyone within earshot. “Do you know if my baby’s okay?”
But no one seemed to hear me. All the attention was focused on the tiny infant, who had been taken to a small window-enclosed area adjoining the delivery room. I lifted my head to see the nurses bustling back and forth in the room and hovering over my newborn. Thankful for the care my little one was receiving, I rested quietly on the gurney, patiently waiting for someone to tell me what had happened. A faint cry reached my ears from the other room. Whatever was wrong, at least my baby was breathing.
Eventually, one of the white-gowned nurses came over and assured me that all was well. Rushing the baby out of the delivery room had been a “precautionary procedure,” she told me. They had just wanted to make sure the baby’s airway was clear so she could get plenty of oxygen.
She? The nurse smiled and announced that I had delivered a little girl—six pounds, five ounces. It really didn’t matter to me whether it was a boy or girl; I was just relieved the baby was all right. Nine months of agony had finally come to a welcome end.
Minutes later, another nurse entered the room carrying my newborn. She lifted the baby into the air so I could get a good look at her and then plopped her down on my chest. While I waited for Cody to arrive, I caressed her feather-soft head and gazed at her tiny body. I was amazed that such a small thing had caused so much turmoil.
When Cody finally entered the room and came over to where I lay, I knew what he was expecting to hear. I had been assuring him for months that he would finally have his boy-child.
“No baby girl ever felt like this!” I had insisted. “I’m positive this one’s a boy!”
I swallowed hard as I glanced at Cody and announced the news with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I hoped he would give me a smile, a reassuring look, any sign that he was happy I had given him another little girl. But instead, a look of bitter disappointment washed over his face. His final hope of having a son had been crushed.
I knew that Cody would eventually get over his disappointment and embrace his youngest daughter with the same fatherly love he had always shown our other girls. But I was sad that I hadn’t been able to give him the baby boy he had wanted so badly.
Later, when I was settled in my hospital room, the nurse brought my newborn to me so I could breastfeed her.
“So you named her Farina—like the cereal?” she asked as she placed the baby in my waiting arms.
“Actually, it’s Fah-ree-mah,” I corrected, emphasizing the m sound. “My husband is Persian, and this name is popular in his country.”
As I held my little one, I noticed that she was having trouble sucking, but I didn’t think there was any need for concern. She had just gone through a traumatic delivery, so I really wasn’t surprised that she’d be too weak to suckle. With a little practice, she’d soon be nursing as well as any hungry newborn.
Farema looked so perfect as she lay fussing in my arms. All my worst fears of the past nine months melted away as I gazed at her angelic face. A baby this beautiful couldn’t possibly have anything wrong with her.
This fourth and last child of mine was already curling her tiny baby fingers around my heart. There was something extraordinary about her, and I sensed that God had something very special planned for her life.
What I didn’t know was that little Fee would turn my world upside down.
And now, our Review:
There are some books that as soon as you hear about them, you know you want to read them. For me, Lonely Girl, Gracious God, was such a book. Since I grew up with a younger brother who was developmentally disabled, I know firsthand what a roller coaster ride dealing with a special needs child can be. Lauri Khodabandehloo, the author of this book, knows as well. From the moment of her birth, Lauri’s daughter, Farema, was different; she suffered from autism.
That’s not to say the book is a downer. Rather, it provides an account of one family moving ahead in faith and finding God there waiting to help. Life didn’t instantly become peaches and cream. Far from it. But our creator maintains a special relationship with these special children, a relationship that sometimes awes and amazes.
Perhaps Psalm 22 says it best. “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, nor has He hidden His Face from them; but when they cried to Him for help, He heard.”
The same holds true for their caregivers. As Lauri’s story amply demonstrates, God provides grace and strength in the face of hardship and confusion. At times, her factual account of the tragedies and triumphs, joys and sorrows she and her family encountered while raising a daughter with autism will leave you teary eyed. This book will strengthen your faith as it illustrates the myriad ways in which God uses adversity to draw us closer.
Lonely Girl, Gracious God is an inspiring book that deserves your consideration regardless of the trials you may, or may not, be currently facing in your life. It goes without saying that it is must read for those dealing with a special needs child. We highly recommend it.
—E G Lewis
Monday, May 9, 2011
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Realms (May 3, 2011)
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He is a regular columnist for AVirtuousWoman.org, was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years, has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets, and has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed websites and e-newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers association, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, and FaithWriters, and plans to join International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master’s Graduate School of Divinity.
Visit the author's website.
Sam Travis lives in a Civil War era farmhouse in Gettysburg, PA, where he awakens one morning to find an old journal with an entry by a Union soldier, Lt. Whiting…written in Sam’s own handwriting. When this happens several more times, both at night and during waking “trances,” Sam begins to question his own sanity while becoming obsessed with Lt. Whiting and his bone-chilling journal entries. As the entries begin to mimic Sam’s own life, he is drawn into an evil plot that could cost many lives, including his own. Can the unconditional love of Sam’s daughter, Eva, break through his hardened heart before a killer on the loose catches up with them and Sam’s past spurs him to do the unthinkable?
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 3, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Captain Samuel Whiting removed his gloves and sat on the cot in his tent. It had been a long, grueling day of battle, and his clothes were soaked through with sweat. He’d lost more men, good men, family men. Men who would never return home to their wives. Boys who would never again cross the thresholds of their parents’ homes.
He leaned forward, removed his boots, and stretched his legs. The air in the tent was still and muggy. At least outside there was a light breeze to carry away the stench of the wounded. In here, the smells hung in the air like a haze. Beyond the canvas walls the sounds of soldiers—heroes—in the throes of agony wandered through the camp like the souls of dead men looking for rest. But there was no rest in a place like this.
A single oil lamp sat on the floor, casting an orange glow about the tent’s interior. Samuel turned the knob on the lamp, giving more wick to the flame. The light brightened and the shadows darkened. From a writing box he removed a leather-bound journal, the one his mother had given him before he left to join Mr. Lincoln’s army. At the time he thought he was doing the right thing, thought he was fighting for a noble cause.
Now he thought differently. There was nothing noble about this war, nothing honorable about the way it was being fought nor the reasons for which it was being waged.
After dipping the tip of his quill into an inkwell, he put the tip to the paper and began to write. The words flowed from his hand, though they were not born of him but of something else, something dark and sinister, something to which he had finally given himself.
In the corner of the tent a shadow moved. He saw it from the corner of his eye. It was a shadow cast not by the oil lamp’s flame but by some other source, a source Samuel did not fully understand but felt.
The shadow glided along the canvas, following the angles of the tent, and came to a stop beside the cot. There it seemed to lurk, to hover, as if curious to see what was being written on the pages of the journal. A chill blew over Samuel, penetrated his clothes and
flesh, and settled into his bones.
The shadow began to throb in rhythm with Samuel’s beating heart. His quill moved across the paper more rapidly now, the point carving words—vitriol—at an alarming pace. His heart rate quickened and, with it, the pulsations of the shadow.
At once a strong wind ruffled the canvas and brought with it a low howl that sounded more like a moan. It did not originate from outside the tent, from wounded and homesick boys, but rather from within, from the shadow. The wind circled the tent’s interior, stirred
the pages of the journal, Samuel’s hair, his clothes, and finally, as if in one final great sigh, extinguished the light of the lamp.
Captain Samuel Whiting was engulfed by darkness.
Sam Travis awoke in the middle of the night, cold and
terrified. The dream had come again. His brother. The shot.
You did what you had to do, son.
He sat up in bed and wiped the sweat from his brow.
Next to him Molly stirred, grunted, and found his arm with her hand. “You OK, babe?”
“Yeah. I’m gonna go get some water.”
He found her forehead in the darkness and kissed it. “Yeah.”
The house was as still and noiseless as a crypt. Sam made his way down the hall to Eva’s room, floorboards popping under his feet. He cracked the door and peeked in. The Tinker Bell night-light cast a soft purple hue over the room, giving it a moonlit glow. Odd-shaped shadows blotted the ceiling, like dark clouds against a darker sky. Eva was curled into a tight ball, head off the pillow, blankets at her feet.
Sam opened the door all the way, tiptoed to the bed, and pulled the covers to his daughter’s shoulders. She didn’t stir even the slightest. For a few hushed moments he stood and listened to her low rhythmic breathing.
The past six months had been hard on them all, but Eva had handled them surprisingly well. She was just a kid, barely seven, yet displayed the maturity of someone much older. Sam had never known that her faith, much like her mother’s, was so strong. His,
on the other hand . . .
He left the door open a few inches. Farther down the hall he entered the bathroom, where another night-light, this one a blue flower, reflected off the porcelain tub, toilet, and sink. He splashed water from the faucet on his face. Remnants of the dream lingered and stuttered like bad cell phone reception. Just images now, faces, twisted and warped.
After toweling off, he studied himself in the mirror. In the muted light the scar running above his ear didn’t look so bad. His hair was growing back and covered most of it. Oddly, the new crop was coming in gray.
From downstairs a voice called Sam’s name. A chill tightened the arc of his scar.
He heard it again.
It was neither haunting nor unnatural, but familiar, conversational. It was the voice of his brother. Tommy. He’d heard it a thousand times in his youth, a hundred ghostly times since the accident that had turned his own brain to mush. The doctor called them auditory hallucinations.
Sam exited the bathroom and stood at the top of the staircase. Dim light from the second floor spilled down the stairs into the foyer below, and the empty space looked like a strange planet, distant and odd. Who knew what bizarre creatures inhabited that land
and what malicious intentions they harbored?
He heard that same voice—Tommy’s—calling to him. “Sammy.”
Sam shivered at the sound of his name.
A dull ache had taken to the length of the scar.
Descending the stairs, Sam felt something dark, ominous, present in the house with him. He stopped and listened. He could almost hear it breathing, and with each breath, each exhalation, he heard his own name, now just a whisper.
He started down the stairs again, taking one at a time, holding the
railing and trying to find the quiet places on the steps.
From the bottom of the stairway he looked at the front door,
half expecting it to fly open and reveal Tommy standing there, with
half his head...
You did what you had to do, son.
He looked left into the dining room, then right into the living room. The voice was coming from the kitchen. Turning a one-eighty, he headed that way down the hall.
At the doorway Sam stopped and listened again. Now he heard nothing. No breathing, no whispers, no Tommy. The kitchen held the aroma of the evening’s meal—fettuccine Alfredo—like a remote memory.
“Tommy?” His own voice sounded too loud and strangely hollow.
He had no idea why he said his brother’s name since he expected no reply. Tommy had been dead for—what?—twenty-one years. Thoughts of his death came to Sam’s mind, images from the dream. And not just his death but how he’d died.
You did what you had to do, son.
From off in the distance Sam heard a cannon blast. Living in Gettysburg, near the battlefields, the sound was common during the month of July when the reenactments were going on. But not in the middle of the night. Not in November. Another blast echoed across the fields, then the percussion of rifle shots followed by a volley of more cannons.
Sam walked back down the hall and opened the front door. He saw only darkness beyond the light of the porch lamp, but the sounds were unmistakable. Guns crackled in rapid succession, cannons boomed, men hollered and screamed, horses whinnied and roared. The sounds of battle were all around him. He expected Eva and Molly to stir from their sleep and come tripping down the stairs at any moment, but that didn’t happen. The house was as still and quiet as ever.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Sam stepped out onto the porch. Three rotting jack-o’-lanterns grinned at him like a gaggle of toothless geezers. The air was cold and damp, the grass wet with dew. Nervously he felt the bandage on his index finger. He’d slipped while carving one of the pumpkins and gouged his finger with the knife. Molly had thought he should get stitches, but he refused. It was still tender, throbbing slightly, healing up well enough on its own. Here, outside, the loamy smell of dead wet leaves surrounded him. Beyond the glow of the porch lamp, the outside world was black and lonely. The sky was moonless.
Across the field and beyond the trees the battle continued but grew no louder. Sam gripped his head and held it with both hands. Was he going crazy? Had the accident triggered some weird psychosis? This couldn’t be real. It had to be a concoction of his damaged brain. An auditory hallucination.
Suddenly the sounds ceased and silence ruled. Dead silence. No whispers of a gentle breeze. No skittering of dry leaves across the driveway. No creak of old, naked branches. Not even the hum of the power lines paralleling the road.
Sam went back inside and shut the door. The dead bolt made a solid thunk as it slid into place. He didn’t want to go back upstairs, didn’t want to sleep in his own bed. Instead he went into the living room, lay on the sofa, and clicked on the TV. The last thing he remembered before falling asleep was watching an old Star Trek rerun.
Sam’s eyes opened slowly and tried to adjust to the soft morning light that seeped through the windows. He rolled to his side and felt something slide from his lap to the floor with a papery flutter. He’d not slept soundly on the sofa.
Pushing himself up, he looked out the window. The sun had not yet cleared the horizon, and the sky was a hundred shades of pink. The house felt damp and chilly. The TV was off. Leaning to his left, he saw that the front door was open. Maybe Molly had gone out
already and not shut it behind her.
“Moll?” But there was no answer. “Eva?” The house was quiet. Sam stood to see if Molly was in the yard and noticed a notebook on the floor, its pages splayed like broken butterfly wings. Bending to pick it up, he recognized it as one of Eva’s notebooks in which she wrote her kid stories, tales of a dog named Max and of horses with wings.
Turning it over, he found a full page of writing. His writing. Before the accident he’d often helped Eva with her stories but had never written one himself. He’d thought about it many times but had never gotten around to doing it. There was always something more pressing, more important. Since his accident he’d had the time, home from work with nothing to do, but his brain just wasn’t working that way. He couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate. His attention span was that of a three-year-old.
Sitting on the sofa, he read the writing on the page, the writing of his own hand.
November 19, 1863
Captain Samuel Whiting
PennsylvanIa Independent Light Artillery, Battery E
I am full of dArkness. It has coMpletely overshadowed me. My heart despairs; my soul swims in murky, colorless waters. I am not my own but a mere puppet in his hanD. My intent is evil, and I loathe what the dAy will bring, what I will accomplish. But I must do it. My feet have been positioned, my couRse has been set, and I amcompelled to follow. Darkness, he is my commander now.
I can already smell the blood on my hands, and it turns my stomach. But, strangely, it excites me as well. I know it is the darKness within me, bloodthirsty devil that it is. It desires death, his death (the president), and I am beginning tounderstand why. He must die. He deserves nothing more than death. So much sufferiNg has come from his words, his policies, his will. He speaksof freedom but has enslaved so many in this cursed war.
See how the pen trEmbles in my hand. I move it,not myself but the darkneSs guides it, as it guides my mind and will. Shadowy figures encircle me. I can see them all about the room, specters moving as lightly as wiSps of smoke. My hand trembles. Iam overcome. I am their slave. His slave.
I am not my own.
I am not my own.
I am notnotnotnotnotnotnotno
Sam let the notebook slip from his hands and scrape across the hardwood floor. Gooseflesh puckered his skin. He thought of last night’s battle sounds, of Tommy’s voice and feeling the darkness around him—the darkness. He remembered the grinning jack-o’lanterns, the click of the sliding dead bolt. He had no memory of turning off the TV and opening the door, nor of finding Eva’s notebook and writing this nonsense.
What was happening to him?
He stood and went to the front door, barely aware of his feet moving under him. With one elbow on the doorjamb he poked his head outside and scanned the front yard, listening.
“Moll?” His voice was weak and broke mid-word. There was no answer. If Molly was out here, she must be around back.
Then, as if last night’s ethereal battle had landed in his front yard, a rifle shot split the morning air, and the living room window exploded in a spray of glass.
And now, our Review—
In Darkness Follows Mike Dellosso captures the father-daughter relationship exceptionally well. With three daughters and another on the way, he should.
As a Christian suspense/thriller, I found the book a mixed bag. There’s violence everywhere, but little affection between Sam and his wife. Why do Christian Publishers allow unlimited amounts of violence, yet blanch at even the smallest amount of tastefully written and appropriate lovemaking between married couples? The main character, Sam Travis, never made me like him. Even his wife, who put up with too much, wasn’t likeable. Perhaps if there had been tender moments between them, I might have related to them in a more positive way.
Their daughter, Eva, was sweet and likeable, but then all children are. My favorite character in this book was Democratic Senator Stephen Lincoln who changed his views on abortion after his daughter went through that awful experience; and who chooses to do something magnanimous. (I can’t explain further without adding a spoiler.)
Thrillers are a popular genre right now and I’ve read and enjoyed my share of them. My sister and I agree when she says, “I avoid Stephen King, but read Dean Koontz because he doesn’t kill kids or dogs in his books.” Darkness Follows dampened my enthusiasm early on with the grisly murder of a stray cat. I could accept the author killing a couple of the same age as my husband and me, but a cat and later a dog? No, no no!
The extreme number of similes became intrusive and threw me out of the story. (They rained down upon me like hailstones and swirled across the pages like a tornado.) Although necessary for a novel, they can be over used and there were more than this novel needed. My editorial instincts asked why the book’s editor didn’t throw out a few.
I don’t want to come across as too critical. I enjoyed the suspense and wanted to know how Mr. Dellosso could possibly make everything turn out all right. In fact, he did and winds things up satisfactorily, even explaining the unlikely situation Sam Travis was in and who Eva’s kidnapper was and why. All in all, Darkness Follows is not a bad yarn, and comes with a good message and a gratifying ending.