Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After: ~ Book Review

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:

Kregel Publications (October 31, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***


PeggySue Wells is the author or coauthor of a dozen books and her articles appear nationally in newspapers and magazines. A supporter of Remedy FM, she is a member of the Christian Performing Arts Fellowship and the Christian Writers Guild. A national and international speaker, PeggySue writes curriculum and screenplays and conducts workshops at schools, colleges, and national conferences, including the Evangelical Press Association and Write to Publish. She resides in South Carolina.

Visit the author's website.


Rewrite your fairy tale

Welcome to your new beginning. Finding yourself as a single mom with children that depend on you is probably not the future you anticipated. Standing in the shattered pieces of your hoped for happily ever after, it’s time to rise from the ashes, Cinderella, and start living your new fairy tale.

Writing with the empathy of someone who has seen and survived divorce, PeggySue Wells offers a practical and encouraging resource for the newly divorced mother. With inspiring Scripture passages, light humor, and sage advice, she offers a grounded, biblical perspective and answers your many questions, including:

Who am I now that I’m no longer Mrs.?
Do I have to forgive?
Is there a love story for me?
How do I help my family survive and thrive despite the circumstances?

Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After gives vital steps to reestablish emotional and spiritual health and nurture children even when you feel more like a damsel in distress than a fairy princess. Discover the steps to move forward by replacing old patterns with new habits that bring hope, adventure, and significance.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (October 31, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825439302
ISBN-13: 978-0825439308



Once Upon A Time

Note to self:
Wheels on luggage do not work on sand.

It stinks. Standing at ground zero, mourning the loss of a marriage stinks. God designed marriage to be a lifelong covenant. A cord of three strands: you, your spouse, and the Lord. That’s plan A. There is no plan B.

But many find themselves here. Statistics tell us that over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. The numbers are staggering enough and when you put the faces of men, women, and precious children in place of those numbers, the heartbreak and devastation is criminal.

Countless books describe how to save troubled marriages. I have read many of them. Plenty of books debate when and if separation and divorce are permitted in the eyes of God. I’ll leave those topics to those experts. This book is for people who, like it or not—and none of us like it—find themselves in the debris, mourning the death of our marriages.

Singer Stevie Nix said in her song titled Landslide that she was afraid of making life changes because she’d built her life around one key person. Many of us can relate. Suddenly, the person we orbited is no longer the center of our universe. Dazed and confused, we looked around wondering how to put the world back together and felt pretty clueless about how to begin. Shell shocked, it was difficult to focus when we most need to. We may not have wanted to change but now change has been thrust upon us. It is time for a course adjustment.

And in the midst of this life-altering upheaval, I felt like I was abandoned by God. My heavenly bridegroom, my heavenly father. Moving from being an us to being me, and a new me at that was confusing, frustrating, and frightening. When I most needed to know God was beside me, holding my hand and leading me through the dark, I felt like he had deserted me, too.

The good news is God is still God of all creation. He created you and you are valued. In the midst of unbelievable betrayal, God promised to use even this horrific chapter of our lives. In his unequaled economy, nothing, not even this, goes to waste. He’ll help navigate this huge upheaval. Though it feels like an eternity, the emotional agony is for a season. As absurd as it may sound, joy will return if you are willing to move forward.

This book is an extra large scoop of hope. You’ll discover, as I did, that whatever is over our heads is under God’s feet. Whatever seems impossible is actually Himpossible.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Chapter One

Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole

How do I find my way?

I hate the conflict that shadows my house.
I hate the suffocating smog of lies.
I hate the hate that reigns in power.
I hate the heat that scorches the life out of everything.
I wish one breath of sweet, fresh air would just once brush my cheek
And such would be just one thought of honesty.

My daughter

“Where’s dad’s car?”

Peering out the windows of our fifteen-passenger van, my daughter searched the driveway. In the back, the chatter of the other children abruptly quieted. At the end of the long gravel lane, our house was strangely dark.

I parked and turned off the engine. The children piled out and in the anxious silence made their way into the house while I unstrapped the toddler from her car seat. Inside, the older children turned on lights. Taking the steps two at a time, my son raced upstairs to the master bedroom. With the baby on my hip, I followed.

He met me at the top of the stairs. The light from my bathroom was still on behind him. “Dad’s toothbrush isn’t here.”

“He left.” My daughter leaned against the wall and slid to the floor.

Another daughter went to her father’s medicine chest to look inside. Then she went to the clothes closet. “He’s gone,” she said.

I dropped onto the edge of the bed and the younger children buried themselves in my lap. We held each other while my oldest children collapsed on the carpet and sobbed.

Weeks earlier, following years of counseling that failed to curtail an escalating situation, our family had gathered in the family room. “You either have to stop being abusive or find another place to live,” I told my husband. “It’s not good for you to treat me this way. It’s not good for me to be treated this way. It isn’t good for my son to think this is how men treat women and it’s not good for the girls to think this is how men treat women.”

He chose to leave.

Now I looked at my beloved children, their lovely faces reflecting the wrenching pain of their broken hearts. How could I ease their devastation? Where does the wounded caretaker go to be cared for? Where was God? What do I do now?

Years later, for my birthday my teenage son gave me a George Strait CD. This multi–award winning country singer recorded a song titled She Let Herself Go that my son wanted me to hear. The words he penned on the accompanying card read, “Sometimes you just gotta let yourself go and get a life.”

Initially after their dad left, the children and I felt marked relief. The tension was gone. We could relax and eat again. The first six months I did double duty trying to keep all of life’s many plates spinning, provide stability for the children and their understandably confused emotions, all the while holding hope that he’d get himself together and return home.

The children and I were humiliated that we were now what society termed a broken home. We were embarrassed that we had not been enough to inspire him to love us and make the effort to be a family with us.

“Why don’t you just start over? Start the relationship fresh and build it,” one child had suggested a year earlier.

“You don’t understand,” he replied. “It’s too hard.”

It was six months before each of the children tentatively told someone in their circle that their dad was no longer part of our household.

The following years I had operated in a crisis mode, working overtime to help the children adjust while dodging the unkind behavior of the man who once promised before God, family, and friends to love and cherish me. The principles our family was built on were torn away like a storm tossed ship whose ties to the dock were severed. I kept waiting for things to settle down. But they never did.

When this birthday arrived, I was a long way from thriving. Barely surviving was a more accurate description. This situation was not good for me or for my children. Like the song said, it was time to let myself go and get a life. For all of our sakes. It was time to make changes and make them right away.

Welcome to your new beginning. Finding yourself unintentionally single is doubtless not the life you had expected. Standing in the shattered pieces of your hoped for happily ever after, it’s time to rise like a phoenix bird from the relationship ashes and begin living again.

You have a huge hole in your heart. People say that time heals all wounds. While waiting for my gaping wound to heal, I discovered that God often prefers not to eliminate the hole but teaches us to live with it. And then he artfully, beautifully weaves it into the fabric of life. In his economy, he will use even this.

We can facilitate the process. When we are wounded, it is tempting to cocoon. To draw a tight circle and stay inside the safety of that comfortable, familiar, and controlled zone. To become the incredible shrinking violet. But healing and life exist outside the walls we built around our hearts. I dare you to plug your nose and dive head first into the rushing river of God’s grace, forgiveness, and love.

Five steps took me forward. These were simple acts I could incorporate by noon. Each one was a shift in my outlook. A simple attitude adjustment that reaps a lifetime of benefits. For me and for those dear to me. Surprisingly, these steps also helped me look more beautiful—inside and out. Even my posture improved.

You are not big steps away from anything,

you are small shifts away from everything.

Keith Kochner

It was time to make some shifts. I was ready to have some shifty days.

1. Stop blaming.

As long as I continued to blame others for the situation, I stayed stuck. Whether I blamed my husband, my parents, or myself, the blame only kept me cemented in the same spot.

The same is true for all of us. Are we blaming a husband, in-laws, or the other woman? Blame cripples only one person. Me. It has no effect on the target of my blame. That other person is not sitting at home wringing their hands because I am convinced that my circumstances are all his or her fault. The other person is living life while I resemble Winnie the Pooh’s gloomy gray, albeit cute, friend Eeyore.

Does that mean my spouse is no longer responsible for his behavior? Does it mean that you or I were not treated abysmally? Or that I wasn’t hurt?

Certainly not. The hurt, pain, betrayal, and devastation are real. Fact.

A man can fail many times

but he isn’t a failure

until he begins to blame someone else.

John Burroughs

However, by playing the blame game, those facts became my excuses for not moving forward. Freedom came when I acknowledged the truth of the situation. People made choices. I made choices. He made choices. Some of those choices hurt me deeply. Some of those choices made a Grand Canyon sized impact on my life.

Now, what choices was I going to make today?

A friend or counselor who allows us to vent, to cry and scream about our pain is a gift. Initially when all we feel is the pain a tender listening ear can help us express our grief and verbally process.

“How are you?” My brother telephoned from out of state. His question was rooted in common courtesy and he expected the customary, “Fine thanks, and you?”

“Some days it hurts so bad I can’t breathe,” I confided.

Curled in a fetal position and crying for days is a common experience for those in this situation. But camping there, the pain became my identity. When I spoke at a national conference, an attendee asked me to look at her resume before she submitted it to a potential boss. Rather than listing her education and professional experience, she spent paragraphs explaining that she was divorced but had since made peace with her ex-spouse. Being divorced and the pain surrounding that chapter in her life had become her resume.

I’ve seen the same in women’s groups, both professional and social. For many women, it doesn’t take long before they share they are abandoned by their husbands, divorced, rejected, and now struggling to be a single parent. Ironically, men in similar situations rarely confide such details. Just picturing it is laughable. It may be part of their history, but it is not their address.

In many breakups, one spouse is eager to move on to a new life. For that person who emotionally left the relationship some time before, the divorce is a tedious hindrance. For those of us who dreamed of living happily ever after, we can stumble through the process quite wounded. For me, this was not how I thought my life or my wedding vows would turn out. Nor could I accept that the person I gave my life, love, body, and future to could treat me so callously. I got stuck in my pain. And bitterness.

Recovery began when I limited the amount of time I spent in this place. A day of crying. Ten minutes of venting on the phone. A lunch date with a friend. An hour with a counselor. World champion golfer Tiger Woods says that whether he hits a good shot or a bad one, he allows himself seven paces. Seven paces to pat himself on the back or seven paces to mentally beat himself up. This principle allows us to grieve, to cry, and to feel our broken heart. To blame myself or someone else for the situation.

Then we must begin to step out of it. Give up your hope for a better past. It is time to face the reality of the present and make choices that move our lives forward. I’d rather be traveling through the sand on my way to the Promised Land than be perpetually camped in the stinking desert.

It happened.

So what?

Now what?

Be not a slave to your own past–
Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep,
and swim far, so that you shall come back
with self-respect, with new power,
with an advanced experience, that shall
explain and overlook the old.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Looking Glass: Do I regularly offer excuses? If I show up late at a place and waste further time by blaming my lateness on the kids—mine or someone else’s—the dog, or the traffic, I am playing the blame game. I am blaming someone or something else for my situation.

The only person who believes my excuse is me. No one else does. When I am late, it is apparent that I did not plan my time to arrive at least 15 minutes early in case I was delayed by life.

In the military, soldiers quickly learn that there are only three acceptable responses—yes, sir; no, sir; and I don’t understand, sir. When I dropped making excuses, my days and relationships streamlined. Free from cumbersome excuses, my conversations improved. People are attracted to those who fully live life without excuses.

2. Release others from your expectations.

Repeatedly doing the same thing but each time expecting different results is the description of insanity. Expecting someone who has continually treated me poorly to suddenly treat me with honor and respect is going to disappoint only one person. Me.

Expecting an irresponsible individual to act responsible today is sure to prove frustrating. Certainly, people can choose to make good choices. We hope and pray that they will. It was the expectation that tripped me up. I had to allow other people the freedom to be who they are by releasing them from my expectations. It’s what I want them to do for me.

I had a neighbor who telephoned only to complain. Initially, I greeted each call with enthusiasm, looking forward to building a neighborly relationship. But every encounter was a tirade of criticism. No matter how often I adjusted our lifestyle to please my neighbor, the disapproval continued. After several months of this pattern, I no longer expected us to become friends. I released my neighbor from my expectations.

Surprisingly, I spent years expecting that this time my spouse would treat me honorably. Even after he left, I held high hopes that he would reverse his choices. Though I only invested months in expecting my neighbor to be a pleasant addition to my life, I held onto higher expectations for my spouse for decades. Long after patterns showed me he was not going to be what I anticipated him to be, I continued to clutch my expectations close. I created excuses for his actions and denied reality.

Letting go of my assumptions of how I thought he should behave, of how I thought he should treat me, was a healthy step forward. Stepping back and taking an honest look at who this person really was based on his consistent behavior was a vigorous dose of honesty. When I finally took off my rose-colored expectation spectacles, I no longer left each phone call and encounter perpetually hurt because my high hopes were not fulfilled.

If someone in your life has a history of being inconsiderate, don’t look for him or her to be concerned about your feelings. If your aunt is consistently surly, I doubt she will suddenly morph into miss personality plus at the next family reunion. If your spouse withheld money, affection, or respect before, he’s sure to do the same now. If he didn’t treat you well before, don’t think he will do so now.

Release your spouse from your dream of happily ever after. When you release others, you are set free from unhealthy patterns, disappointments, excuse making, and the exhausting effort of living in denial. The person you set free is you.

Looking Glass: If I am thinking maybe this time about anyone, it is a signal that I am clutching onto expectations I have about that person. Expectations regarding how I believe that person should act, behave, or feel.

If I am regularly offended, it is a sure sign that I’m harboring rigid assumptions. It is time to release that person from my expectations and allow them the freedom to be who they truly are.

3. Channel your anger constructively.

One woman said she smashed her husband’s windshield. Carrie Underwood sang a song in a minor key about a woman who destroyed her lover’s new souped-up four-wheel drive when she caught him cheating. Could I relate? Yeah!

I actually chastised myself for being too cowardly to vent my anger toward him. But there was no lack of anger and the associated adrenaline. Being livid at being hurt and betrayed is normal. Anger is not a sin. Ephesians 4:26 instructs, “In your anger do not sin.” Marcus Aurelius said, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

Anger is a gift from God. It is an emotion that recognizes a wrong and empowers us to do something about it. What we choose to do with our anger makes a big difference in our ability to move forward. What we do with the anger can be either sinful or productive. “No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched,” said George Jean Nathan.

When Cari Lightner was killed by a drunk driver with a record for driving while drunk, her mother was angry. Candace Lightner channeled her fury in a healthy direction. Candace founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD has had a positive impact nationwide. Candace will never know this side of heaven how many lives she saved by channeling her anger constructively and initiating stronger laws against drunk driving and repeat offenders. You and I may have been positively affected by this mother’s diligent efforts.

“For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’” (Heb. 10:30). The Lord has given us instructions in the face of mistreatment:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer, you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:6–10)

One woman rolled up her sleeves, harnessed her adrenaline and tackled all the neglected chores around the house. She replaced a leaky window, fixed a shower, changed out old carpet, updated paint, and hauled away trash. She created a lovely environment.

Another woman started a support group for single moms. She compiled a list of agencies that offered services for mothers and children. She planned monthly meetings where the ladies studied the Bible. These women traded skills. One traded babysitting with another who knew how to wallpaper. They helped do each other’s taxes. They spruced up each other’s yards, cried on each other’s shoulders, and cheered for each other’s children.

Many women channel their energy into completing a college degree. When I returned to college, half the class consisted of traditional students working on their degree right after high school. The other half was made up of vintage women my age. Though a few were empty nesters, most were equipping themselves to take care of themselves and their children.

Plenty of single women decide to dust off old dreams. They start businesses, go to work in their field of interest, partner with philanthropic organizations, and hone their hobbies from painting to music to writing. One lady opened a stylish interior design shop. Two ladies opened an upscale bakeshop serving the community and shipping delicious treats nationwide. Three gals became family physicians. Another woman organized mission trips to third world countries where teams of women brought medical clinics and support to poor women and their children. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

In my experience, women who continue to blame and vent their anger in non-constructive manners become bitter and contentious individuals. “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman,” warns Proverbs 19:21 (kjv). I can be bitter and contentious or I can be gentle, gracious, and productive. The choice is mine.

Looking Glass: Am I laughing or am I a fun-sucker? Angry people who are not using their anger and adrenaline to create something positive suck the fun right out of any room or group they enter. Despite the anger that pain and betrayal generates, am I creating something worthy of my time and energy? If I’m not laughing frequently, I am a fun-sucker.

4. Embrace healthy relationships and maintain a distance from toxic ones.

Are you collecting ministry projects? If your circle of friends consists solely of people who need to be rescued, and individuals who join you in poor-me pity parties, it’s time to expand your circle.

My relationships are healthiest when they include someone I mentor, my peers, and someone who mentors me. Healthy relationships do not allow me to perpetually be the victim, nor do they drain me dry with their own insatiable needs.

I sometimes fear becoming too vulnerable in a friendship because I fear being rejected. I fear competition. I don’t want to appear to be needy.

Completeness comes first through our relationship with God. Good friends encourage us to be the best we can be. They don’t buy our excuses for staying stuck. Develop a plan with the counsel of those who hold a similar heart. Begin with God and wisely add others with unselfish motivations. That’s how change happens.

Healthy friendships can say no to each other and remain strong. Healthy friendships share feelings honestly and can trust each other to honor confidences. These associations are accountable, available, and give each other freedom to fail—as we all will on occasion. Healthy friendships are built on equal footing and ask each other about progress on their goals.

Healthy friendships are not always there or everlasting. They can be seasonal. Only Jesus Christ is our forever friend. Healthy friendships are not competitive, envious, exclusive, rescuing, smothering, or testing.

Never approach a bull from the front,

a horse from the rear,

or a fool from any direction.

Cowboy wisdom

Looking Glass: What motivates me to be someone’s friend? Do I like myself for who God created me to be? Or am I seeking fulfillment from another? Am I drawn to this person because of our common pain? Or do I relate to their greatness, potential, and the opportunity to participate together in society?

When I like myself, rejection will still be disappointing, but not overpowering. Scripture tells me that God loves and accepts me. You and I are beautiful in the eyes of the Lord. When I choose to believe God’s word, rejection from others no longer devastates or destroys me.

Accepting myself includes . . .

Accepting that Christ loves me enough to die for me

Being content with my age

Being content with my weight

Developing my talents

Not sabotaging my potential

Working with my limitations and not taking on more than I am able


The comfort—

The inexpressible comfort

Of feeling safe with a person,

Having neither to weigh thoughts,

Nor measure words,

but pouring them all right out,

just as they are,

chaff and grain together,

Certain that a faithful hand

will take and sift them,

keep what is worth keeping—

And with a breath of kindness,

Blow the rest away.


Dinah Craik

I am involved with healthy relationships when my friends and I both dream big and accomplish our goals. We support and encourage each other to be our best.

5. Take responsibility for yourself.

This is the single most important step toward positive change.

For too long I relied on others to care for me. I relied on my parents and my husband for emotional and financial support. Even when it was substandard, I expected these emotional and physical needs to be supplied by another person. Like a character in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, or Pride and Prejudice, I viewed a husband as my financial plan.

Often, after the breakup of a marriage, women settle for second best in life because that is what is left to them. Financial support may be minimal but we make do with it. I was expert at receiving lemons and turning them into lemonade. I was expert at being a victim.

Victims have an excuse and a story for everything. The conversation of a victim is focused on how bad things are, how someone else has done them wrong, and the unending list of reasons why they can’t do something. They sound like a bad country western song.

The victim mentality is easy to put on. There are generous perks to being a victim. We wouldn’t adopt the victim mentality if there weren’t benefits.

Ouch. I hated discovering that being a victim was not something someone else did to me but something I did to myself.

When I’m a victim, I can be self-centered, focusing on all the hard things that happened in my life. I get to recite my ever-lengthening list of wrongs that have been perpetrated on me to gain sympathy from others subjected to my tale of woe. Occasionally, a codependent type will respond by helping me in some way and I feel validated.

Being a victim means I don’t have to succeed or achieve my full potential. I can carve out a mediocre comfort level similar to the dip in an old mattress and stay there. I always have justification for sabotaging my dreams, dropping out of programs and projects, and not quite becoming a professional or succeeding at anything. I run a lot of 99-yard dashes instead of the winning 100-yard finishing runs.

Best of all, being a victim means I place responsibility for myself on someone else. I can expect others to take care of me and then whine about how my needs have not been met. It becomes a perpetuating cycle of being a victim so I am victimized so I am a victim so I am victimized.

The victim mentality is tough to take off because it’s self-inflicted. It’s the single greatest contributor to staying stuck and living below the abundant life God promised. To stop being a victim, I had to stop blaming others and genuinely face myself. I had to acknowledge the ways I participated in the situation. Certainly some situations clearly have one party who violated major agreements in a relationship. But how I contributed, ignored, denied, enabled, and responded are entirely mine to own. If I complain that I had no voice in the financial arena, I also have to acknowledge that I allowed that occur.

Larry Burkett said men abuse because they can. The message here is that people—male and female—will do what others allow them to do.

The only one who makes me a victim is me. The only one who can change that in me is me. I had to look at myself and see what I’ve denied about myself. It was time to see what others have seen all along. I had to put on surgical gloves, dig deep, and make repairs.

The terrifying aspect of this step was accepting responsibility for the results. Accepting that success was up to me. I also own my failures. Me. Not anyone else. I chose to no longer accept lemons from others. I chose to no longer accept lemons from myself. Moving from victim to personally responsible meant, like the sign President Truman posted on his desk when he made the decision to drop the nuclear bomb, “The buck stops here.”

But it’s more than worth the effort to move from victim to victorious. It’s worth it to face our fears about being personally responsible and plunge into the abundant life that God promised. Even if you’ve never done it before, you can become a big girl, a mature woman who is responsible for yourself.

It’s not terribly difficult. The change in attitude can be implemented in moments. The Lord frees us when we partner with him to become personally responsible for our spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, sexual, and financial well-being. Suddenly the world is transformed from a series of all the things we can’t have or can’t do to a vast universe overflowing with potential and possibilities. We can make choices. We can find solutions. We can make mistakes and learn from them. We can suffer legitimate victimization without remaining a victim. No longer a ball and chain, the past becomes a stepping stone to a promising future.

Our faith grows when we stop relying on another human being, or the government, to take care of our needs. No other person will ever be our Savior. When we embrace responsibility for our own happiness, health, future, and provision, we lean more on Jehovah Jirah, our God who declares that he is our provision. Our conversation is positive, centered on others, ideas, and possibilities. People enjoy our company and partnering with us because we bring optimism, steadfastness, and faithfulness to relationships and projects. We attract friends who make a lasting impact on the world.

My happiness and situation in life, in large part,

are determined by my own choices.


There are benefits and prices to every action that I choose. It is vital that I weigh the cost and the perk of each decision and then take action. When I find myself making poor choices, the truth is that I am receiving some benefit from this decision that presently outweighs making a different option. Ouch again.

Perpetual frustration is a sign that I’m out of sync with God’s plan. A personal retreat is a vehicle getting on track with what the Lord has already created for me to do. An hour from my home is a conference center that offers one-day opportunities for people like me to come apart with the Lord. If I don’t regularly come apart, I will come apart.

It is necessary to get alone with God. Away from the phone, the never-ending household responsibilities, the noise of the radio, television, computer, and cell phone. To pray. Read Scripture. Journal. Listen. Mostly listen. I set a goal and move towards it. If the Lord has a course adjustment in my settings, it’s far easier to steer the direction of a flying plane than one that is parked with the engine turned off.

When guilt holds me back, I can pour out my regrets to the Lord. Accept his forgiveness. If there is sin you or I need to turn away from, then by all means quit. Now. Guilt from the Lord is guilt unto life as a result of legitimate sin. Repent, accept Christ’s gift of forgiveness, and move on. Guilt that is not a result of sin is false guilt. It is a burden that serves only to cripple. An excuse. A sign that I am not taking personal responsibility.

We can gently and honestly take stock of ourselves. Give up comparing yourself to others. God is head over heels, crazy in love with you and me. God is not standing there, hands on hips, hollering, “Come on. You can do better than that. Try harder.” The very idea is laughable. He stands with his arms outstretched, encouraging us to run into his inviting and accepting embrace.

I do not try to dance better than anyone else.

I only try to dance better than myself.”

Mikhail Baryshnikov

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matt. 11:29–30).

Looking Glass: I reflect personal responsibility when I take responsibility for my emotions. No one makes me feel a certain way any more than I can control how another feels and reacts. I chose my emotions and behavior.

All the art of living

lies in a fine mingling

of letting go and holding on.

Henry Ellis

Look Back

What is it like to live with you?

What habits and characteristics benefit you?

What habits and characteristics don’t benefit you?

Move Ahead

This week, refuse to blame anyone, including yourself. Each time you are tempted to criticize, condemn, or complain, instead give thanks to God. One friend gave up the three C’s from her vocabulary by paying a dollar each time she criticized, condemned, or complained. She put the money toward a charity. It was a win for her and the group she supported.

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words;
it is expressed in the choices one makes.
In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves.
The process never ends until we die.
And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential ~ Book Review

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years LaterSweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I saw that Francine Pascal had wrote another book about the Wakefield twins. I was SO EXCITED! I grew up reading these books. And I honestly think I've read them all...including the Sweet Valley Twins and SVU...ALL OF THEM. They were a big part of my youth. I wanted to be these girls. Elizabeth and Jessica were popular and gorgeous. What more could you want?

When the book started off I didn't know what to expect. I wanted it to feel familiar and was scared it would be too far away from what it was years ago. But I was not to be disappointed. As the story continued I felt myself slipping back into youth - I knew these people.

Now don't get me wrong. A LOT has changed in ten years. There are surprises you aren't going to expect. But I have to say that this story absolutely made my day.

I just hope that we will have another story later on. I really missed these people. :)

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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God's Healing Words ~ Book Review

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:

Siloam (March 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***


With more than four million books sold, Siloam is the undisputed leader in Christian health publishing with over two hundred published books. The combined experience of Siloam’s authors represents more than three hundred years of experience, research, and wealth of knowledge. Now we are pleased to offer you this inspirational book on healing.


This insightful little book provides you with what the Bible has to say about healing, allowing you to meditate on healing scriptures, and then pray for yourself and your loved ones to receive the precious promise of healing God has given us in the Bible.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Siloam (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781616381554
ISBN-13: 978-1616381554
ASIN: 1616381558


I am the Lord who heals you.

—Exodus 15:26

The three-year-old girl was asked by the reporter to tell him her father’s name. She looked bewildered, grasped her father’s hand more tightly, and then replied softly, “Daddy.” Her father—a five-star army general and highly decorated, powerfully influential man—smiled tenderly at his daughter upon hearing her response. To her young mind, he was not a man in her life with auspicious titles, honors, or even a first and last name. He was only a very special person she called “Daddy.” In that title resided all she needed in her young life: love, provision, protection, fun, security, and comfort. To others he might be “General” or “Sir”; to this little girl he was simply “Daddy.” What’s in a name? According to Webster’s dictionary, a name is a “designated distinction of a person or thing.” It describes the character, quality, status, location, and significance of whatever it is attached to. Names of persons in biblical cultures had much greater significance of meaning than they do in our modern culture. They reflected an aspect of the nature of the person. Often a child was named “prophetically” according to a defining characteristic, divine destiny, or a significant event surrounding his or her birth.

The better we know Jesus, the more we are convinced of the magnitude of His redemption! We have done nothing to deserve it, and we can do nothing to repay Him for it. [His redemption] was born in Love, cradled in Mercy, and imparted in Grace. It covers body, soul, and spirit! It touches every part of man. It permeates his will. It transforms his nature. It converts his disposition. So wonderful is it in its operation that not in doctrine, but in actuality, we are made new creations in Christ Jesus! —Charles S. Price

For example, Jacob, which means “supplanter or cheat,”2 characterized the deceitful nature of this son of Isaac who stole the birthright from his brother and tricked his father into giving him the patriarchal blessing that belonged to his twin. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (“God rules” or “a prince of God”) after Jacob’s redemptive encounter with God.

A son of Phinehas the priest was born when the ark of the covenant was being stolen from backslidden Israel in their defeat at the hands of their enemies. The ark was the habitation for the glory of God’s presence to live among them. So his mother named the baby Ichabod, which means “no glory.” His name characterized the tragic event that occurred at the time of his birth.

Joseph was a follower of Christ whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement or consolation” (Acts 4:36). He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need (v. 37). And he was the first to befriend Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) when the other apostles were afraid of him.

Barnabas defended Saul and helped convince the churches that he had truly been converted and was no longer a danger to believers. Barnabas’s life reflected the meaning of his name; he was known for encouraging and consoling those in need.

In that same way, God reveals His character by the names He designates to Himself. His predominant name is Jehovah, which occurs more than six thousand times in the Bible.4 Jehovah signifies one supreme God and Lord, the one true God, the “existing One.”

When God told Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, He instructed Moses to tell the people, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exod. 3:14). To our minds, “I AM” begs for a qualifier, a limiting description to follow the present tense of the “to be” verb: I am . . . what? Without that qualifier, we must understand that God has no limits; He is supreme over all—Creator, God, Lord, ruler of the universe, and a thousand other “qualifiers”

that reveal to us His character and nature.

Awesome is the only word that describes this great, infinite, all-powerful Lord God, Jehovah. As finite creatures we feel insignificant and powerless before such infinite greatness. Though God is the great I AM, without limitations, it may seem astounding that He prefers to be known to us as “Daddy.”

This revelation of God as our Father is the greatest insight we can receive into the nature of the loving heart of God. His entire premise for creating mankind, according to the Scriptures, was to have a family—sons and daughters who would learn to know Him as “Abba Father”:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

—Romans 8:15–16, kjv

What caring parent does not suffer when they see their child in pain, sick, or distressed? Many have said they would rather be enduring what their child is enduring than to see their little one suffer. How much more does love Himself (“God is love”—1 John 4:8) suffer when He sees one of His children in distress? It stands to reason that the I AM would have a solution to the misery of His children. He desires to fill our hearts with His joy.

One of those wonderful qualifiers of I AM that God gave to His people Israel is Jehovah Rapha, which means “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exod. 15:26). Rapha’ means “to heal” in a broad sense and can refer to being the physician of men literally, as He meant it here when He first revealed His healing nature. It also refers to healing individual distresses, hurts of nations, restored favor, healing bitter waters, and any other situation that requires restoration to wholeness.

F. F. Bosworth explains the significance of the healing name of God: “Jehovah-Rapha is the name given to reveal to us our redemptive privilege of being healed. This privilege is purchased by the Atonement. . . . This is as sacred and binding on every church today as the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Christian baptism. Jehovah-Rapha is one of His redemptive names, sealing the covenant of healing.”7 Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. —Corrie ten Boom 8 You cannot divorce God from His names and expect to know the living God, the I AM. He is who He says He is, or He is not God. And God never changes. This principle of His unchangeableness repudiates any false claim that He is one kind of God in the Old Testament and another in the New Testament.

Rather, we understand that God’s unfolding revelation of His person, character, and nature were partially revealed in the Old Testament. God’s nature was revealed perfectly through His Son, Jesus, in the New Testament. Jesus taught His disciples that He came to reveal the Father. He said, “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (John 14:7).

We can only conclude that since the time God revealed Himself to Israel as Jehovah Rapha—“the Lord that heals”— He has continued to be the healer to His children. He has not changed His name. Jesus confirmed that fact by performing wonderful miracles of healing when He walked on the earth.

As our loving heavenly Father, God offers us His very nature, the divine attribute of His healing love. He cannot change His character. He declared through His prophet, “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not a human, so he does not change his mind” (Num. 23:19). Today God says to you, “I AM Jehovah Rapha—the Lord, your healer.”

Smith Wigglesworth, world-renowned British evangelist known for his powerful healing ministry, is credited with raising at least fourteen people from the dead. He and his wife founded a mission in the poor part of town and reached out to needy people all their lives. Wigglesworth’s ministry took him to many nations, where the blind would see, the deaf were healed, people came out of wheelchairs, and cancers were destroyed.

As a believer, you will receive your ultimate healing in the context of being prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2). You will be fully satisfied with the greatest intimacy with your blessed Savior that is possible. —James P. Gills, MD

Wigglesworth, known as the apostle of faith, placed all his faith in the power of the name of Jesus. In his book, Smith Wigglesworth on Healing, he tells the story of a church leader who was very ill; he was bedfast and too weak to walk. The minister sent for friends to come and pray “the prayer of faith” for him (James 5:14–15). They came and anointed him with oil according to the scriptural pattern, but nothing happened. When they left, sadly, their leader’s condition was unchanged.

Once outside, one of the six said, “There is one thing we could have done. I wish you would all go back with me and try it.” They all went back and began to whisper the name of Jesus over this clergyman. At first, nothing seemed to happen. But as they continued to whisper “Jesus,” they saw that God was beginning to work. In a few minutes, the man rose from his bed and dressed himself, completely healed. Their faith grasped the power in His name. Smith Wigglesworth exclaimed, “Oh, if people would only appreciate the power in this name, there is no telling what would happen.”

As you rejoice in the fact that healing is available in the name of God and that His desire to heal is reflected in His very nature, you can live life as a recipient of God’s covenant of healing.

Principles for Your Healing

[God’s name, Jehovah Rapha, reveals His identity as the God who heals:] I am the Lord who heals you.

—Exodus 15:26

God is not a man, so he does not lie.

—Numbers 23:19

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

—Proverbs 18:10, kjv

Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord—rejoice in his presence!

—Psalm 68:4

Promises for Your Healing

I am the Lord [Jehovah], and I do not change.

—Malachi 3:6

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

—John 14:13–14

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

—Hebrews 13:8

Prayers for Your Healing

You are my refuge, O God, and I rejoice in You. I will sing joyful praises to You forever. Protect me, so that I will be filled with joy. I will love Your name forever!

—From Psalm 5:11

Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my body is in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until You restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of Your unfailing love. Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my

body is in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until You restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of Your unfailing love.

—Psalm 6:2–4

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but I will remember the name of the Lord my God. Save me, Lord: let the king hear me when I call.

—From Psalm 20:7, 9

Blessed be the name of the Lord forever and ever. Who can be compared with the Lord my God who is enthroned on high? He lifts the poor from the dirt and the needy from the garbage dump.

—From Psalm 113:2, 5, 7

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

—Mark 10:47

Praise for Your Healing

The Lord reigns, let the peoples tremble; He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake! The Lord is great in Zion, and He is exalted above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name; holy is He!

—Psalm 99:1–3, nas

I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I will praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness, for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.

—Psalm 138:1–2

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pretty Neat Book Winner

The winner of the Pretty Neat Book Giveaway is comment #2 -



Friday, March 25, 2011

86400: Making Every Second of Every Day Count ~ Book Review

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:

FaithWords (March 25, 2011)
***Special thanks to Sarah Reck, Web Publicist, Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***


Lavaille Lavette has worked as a schoolteacher, school district administrator, speechwriter, marketing executive, columnist and Co- Host on Radio One's Christian Radio Station, 92.1 FM. From 2001-2005, she served as special advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Rod Page.

Visit the author's website.


Have you ever gotten to the point in your life where one day is like all the rest? Where the individuality, excitement and purpose of every moment is drained of its promising complexion? Through work, school, family and routine, people strive more and more to "get by" rather than "get going." But God didn't intend for it to be like this. Every precious second in a day, all 86,400 of them, is a gift from Him to us. Our lives, that we whittle away with routine and complacency, are meant for so much more.

86,400 is the instigator for a renewed life of intention and relevance-ultimately making the most out of every single day. By showcasing how she and Christians who carry either celebrity or inspirational significance manage their daily gift, Lavaille effectively teaches readers how they can fulfill God's intended purpose.

Product Details:

List Price: $21.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (March 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446571474
ISBN-13: 978-0446571470

Press the Browse Button to View the Chapter:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Invisible World ~ Book Review

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:

Doubleday Religion (March 15, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Anthony DeStefano, a best-selling author and businessman, was raised in New York City where he attended Stuyvesant High School. He graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University in Staten Island with a degree in Philosophy/Theology and went on to start a successful chain of electronics retail stores in New York. At the same time, he also began his writing career, writing a regular op-ed column for the Staten Island Advance.

While his business success grew, so did his love and skill for writing. In 2003, DeStefano’s first book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, was published. First released by Doubleday, the book became a bestseller and went on to be published in 16 languages and released by Random House Audio, Transworld Publishers in the United Kingdom, as well as major publishing houses in Europe, Asia, and South America. Four years later, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To was published by Doubleday, and, in 2010, This Little Prayer of Mine and Little Star, DeStefano’s highly acclaimed children’s books, were published by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Visit the author's website.


The mystery of a spiritual world has intrigued us for ages. Is there a reality that exists beyond the senses? And can an invisible spiritual world actually become visible? Best-selling author Anthony DeStefano answers yes with certainty. The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities That Surround Us explores the existence and meaning of this unseen, yet very real world.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Religion (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385522231
ISBN-13: 978-0385522236


The Haunt Detector

Everybody has one. The Reverend Frank Pavone used to call it the Haunt Detector. What is it?

Very simply, it’s the little alarm that goes off in our heads whenever we detect that something mysterious or supernatural has occurred. Science fiction and horror writers have referred

to it by other names— the sixth sense, the shining. But for some reason, I’ve always liked “haunt detector” best.

We actually have all kinds of “detecting” mechanisms built into our nervous systems. They don’t have fancy scientific names, but they exist nonetheless. For instance, we all have “lie detectors.” When someone who’s not very slick tries to scam us, we’re usually able to tell just from their body language and their voice. We all have “love detectors.” We can just feel it in our bones when someone has deep feelings of attachment for us—or when they don’t. We all have “right and wrong” detectors—better known as consciences. When we do something not quite right, we know it because we feel an unmistakable pang of guilt. And, of course, we all have “sex detectors,” which let us know pretty quickly when we’re physically attracted to another person.

Well, we all have “haunt detectors,” too. And they let us know whenever something especially eerie or out of the ordinary is happening around us. You know the kind of thing. You could be

sitting around relaxing one day at home, and for no special reason you start thinking about someone. Maybe you haven’t thought about this particular person in years. Then the phone

rings; you pick it up, and, amazingly, it’s that person! Many of us have experienced this phenomenon. What is it?

I’ll never forget something that happened to my mother many years ago. It was the middle of the night and she was sleeping soundly. Suddenly she woke up and bolted upright in bed. She had heard the sound of her own mother’s voice calling out to her in a thick Italian accent: “Laura, Laura, help me.” My mother was startled and her heart was racing; she had clearly heard her name spoken. But it couldn’t be her mother calling; she lived on the other side of Brooklyn, and it was so late. My mother thought that perhaps it was just a bad dream so she went back to sleep. But the next morning she received a phone call from the hospital. Her mother had gotten up to go to the bathroom during the night and had fallen. She was in the hospital with a broken hip. For hours she had been on the floor, moaning for help. How in the world did my mother hear her?

Was it just a coincidence?

Then there are stories that are totally unexplainable. I read a newspaper account a few years ago about a four-year-old girl in upstate New York who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The whole community had been praying fervently for her. All the churches in the neighborhood—Lutheran, Evangelical, Catholic—were all united in prayer that a miracle would take place. The little girl had been through so much: she’d had more than twenty MRIs, and it was decided that the only remaining course of action was brain surgery. She wasn’t even expected to make it through the operation, but it was the only chance she had. The day of the surgery her head was shaved, her blood was taken, she was hooked up to all kinds of machines, and the team of doctors scrubbed and put on their surgical gowns. One final MRI had to be done to determine the exact location of the tumor. Just before the child was wheeled into the testing room, a sweet, pretty young nurse came in and took her hand. She told the little girl not to worry because she was “all better,” that God had “cured” her and that she would be going home soon. The little girl later said that the nurse was so nice to her and so “beautiful” that she felt all warm and peaceful inside.

When the MRI was taken, the lab technicians gasped in disbelief. No matter how hard they searched, they couldn’t locate the tumor. They took more tests, but the results were the same. The tumor was gone. No surgery was performed that day—or any day—because there was nothing to operate on. The little girl was completely healed. What happened? And who was the mysterious woman who came in and told the girl she was cured? None of the other nurses could identify her and no one ever saw her again. Was she an angel, as some in the little girl’s family believed? No one knows for sure. But everyone, from the doctors to the lab technicians to the parents to the people in the community, was aware that something incredible had taken place. Everyone’s haunt detectors went off at once.

Of course, not all mysterious experiences are as strange as this. A person’s haunt detector can begin registering at any time. You can be listening to a powerful piece of music or watching a spectacular sunset; reading a particularly moving piece of literature or worshipping at church. You can be embracing the person you love most in the world or sitting in your home, cozy and warm by the fire. Or you can just be walking down the street thinking about all the things in your life that have brought you to where you are. You can be doing any of these things, and out of nowhere a tingle will suddenly run up your spine, telling you that something more is going on than meets the eye. Something that transcends understanding.

What is it? No one really knows. But it invariably triggers a feeling deep in your soul— a feeling of desire, of yearning, of hope; hope that there is something special about life; that there is some hidden meaning and purpose to all the suffering we have to go through; that there is something beyond science, beyond the senses—something totally invisible yet totally real. In Latin, the experience is called mysterium tremendum et fascinans. And our haunt detectors can sense it.

Of course, we have to be careful when trying to discern the meaning of such feelings and phenomena. Spiritual people are sometimes too quick to attribute the cause of strange occurrences to God; they’re too hasty in coming to the conclusion that just because something seems unexplainable it must have a divine or supernatural origin. That simply isn’t the case. Many amazing things that happen in this world aren’t “miraculous” at all. It’s a fact, for example, that human beings have all kinds of natural abilities that are untapped; abilities that are only now being identified and studied by science. We’ve all heard about mothers and fathers who display superhuman strength when trying to rescue their children from harm. We’ve all seen examples of people with severe learning disabilities who are able to sit down at a piano without any formal training and play the most complicated pieces of classical music. The human brain is

an incredible organ and has many powers that still aren’t fully understood. Because of this, it’s extremely difficult for us to tell what’s natural, what’s supernatural, what’s legitimately from

God, what’s from the devil, and what’s just plain old human imagination. Practically everything that happens in life is subject to misinterpretation. That’s why it’s so dangerous to become fixated on the supernatural. Too often it leads to superstition or belief in the occult or false spirituality or even—in extreme cases—insanity.

We just can’t afford to make blind assumptions. We have to seek the expert guidance of doctors, psychologists, scientists, theologians, and church leaders. But neither can we dismiss all these remarkable experiences as mere fantasy. And that’s what many people do today. Not only do they reject what’s fanciful and frivolous— they reject everything. They throw the baby out

with the bathwater. They claim that there is no reality other than the reality of the senses, the reality of the material world. In many ways this is an even greater mistake. After all, it’s one

thing to be cautious and discerning when it comes to spiritual matters; it’s quite another to deny the existence of the spiritual realm altogether.

If we do that, we risk falling into what has been called the “superstition of materialism,” the myth that this world is made up of physical objects and nothing else; that everything in life—our thoughts, our emotions, our hopes, our ambitions, our passions, our memories, our philosophies, our politics, our beliefs in God and salvation and damnation—that all of this is purely the result of biochemical reactions and the movement of molecules in our brain. What nonsense!

We can’t reduce the whole of reality to what our senses tell us for the simple reason that our senses are notorious for lying to us. Our senses tell us that the world is fl at, yet it’s not. Our

senses tell us that the world is chaotic, yet we know that on both a micro and a macro level, it’s incredibly organized. Our senses tell us that we’re stationary, yet we’re really moving at

dizzying speeds. Right now, for instance, you’re sitting down quietly reading this book; but did you know that you’re actually traveling at twenty thousand miles per hour? That’s the rate at which the earth and the entire galaxy are racing through space. Can you feel or see that motion in any way? Of course not. It’s completely invisible to your senses. In fact, the only reason that you’re not physically hurled into orbit right now is because another invisible force—gravity—is holding you in place. There are all kinds of unseen forces and laws that govern the universe. They’re all invisible—and they’re all very real.

The most important things in life can’t be seen with the eyes. Ideas can’t be seen. Love can’t be seen. Honor can’t be seen. This isn’t a new concept. Judaism and Christianity and Islam and Buddhism and Taoism have all taught for thousands of years that the highest forms of reality are invisible. God is invisible, and he created the universe. Our souls are invisible, and they give life to our bodies. Angels are invisible, and they’re the most powerful of God’s creatures.

Are these unseen realities difficult for us to grasp? Of course. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning and we stumble out of bed to shower and dress and go to work, it’s hard for us to focus on anything so intangible as the spiritual realm. After all, how can we hope to find an invisible God when we sometimes have trouble finding the milk in the refrigerator when it’s staring us right in the face? C. S. Lewis said that human beings find it almost impossible to “believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes.” One of the great psychological obstacles to having a strong faith is the very “ordinariness” of life.

In the first chapter of The Screwtape Letters, Lewis writes about the diabolical strategy that an invisible demon uses on an old, hardened atheist. The atheist, for the first time in his life, is

starting to ask himself questions about the existence of God. The demon naturally wants to prevent this. But rather than waste his time arguing with the man about theology, the demon

plants the suggestion in the atheist’s mind to go out and have some lunch. Once in the street, the atheist sees the newspaper boy and the taxis going by and a thousand other small details. With that healthy dose of “real life” he doesn’t even bother continuing his search for God. After all, in light of all those clear, crisp, ordinary realities, how could there be any such nebulous thing as metaphysical truth?

We face the same danger. Because we’re so familiar with desks and chairs and pots and pans and cell phones and video games, it can be a real challenge for us to think about spiritual matters. Our haunt detectors can become so dulled and rusty from disuse that they hardly register any kind of invisible activity except the most extraordinary. The end result is that, although we may not become full-fledged atheists, we can actually begin behaving as if we were. Without even realizing it, a giant gap can form between what we profess to believe and how we go about acting in our everyday lives.

We all know how true this is. We say we believe in the Bible and the moral law, but then we have trouble going even a few weeks without breaking most of the Ten Commandments. We

say we believe in the power of prayer and God’s grace, but few of us actually turn to God unless we’re in some sort of a jam. We act this way partly because of human nature. But it’s also because the temptations we face seem so real, while the world of the spirit seems so hazy and unreal by comparison. In this hedonistic society of ours, in which we’re confronted every day

by thousands of images designed to appeal to our sensual appetites, it’s very easy to be seduced. When a woman who loves chocolate passes a Godiva shop and sees a window full of delicious

truffles, caramels, and other assorted treats, it’s hard for her to consider the spiritual value of fasting or the Christian belief that the body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” When a man with a healthy libido strolls down the streets of lower Manhattan on a sultry summer afternoon and is confronted by a parade of sexy, scantily clad women, it’s tough for him to think about formless beings like angels. What are visible to him at that moment—the shapely forms enticing his senses—are just too much for him to resist. The spiritual world doesn’t seem to stand a chance.

And that’s where this book comes in. What I’d like to do in the following pages is attempt to render that spiritual world a bit more clearly for you. I’d like to try to make the invisible realities

that surround us just a little more visible. My hope is that, by doing this, these realities won’t seem so unfamiliar in the future. And the more familiar they are, the easier it will be to understand them and to have absolute faith in their existence. Once you’re armed with that kind of certitude, three things will naturally happen: (1) It will be easier for you to act in sync with your moral beliefs; (2) your life will be much fuller, richer, and more exciting than you ever imagined possible; and (3) no amount of suffering—physical, mental, or emotional—will ever be able to destroy the profound inner sense of peace that you’ll experience on a daily basis.

Big promises, I know. But that’s how important this subject is.

So how does one go about making the invisible visible? Well, as I said, there’s an extraordinarily rich theology from which we can draw. The traditional Judeo- Christian view of the invisible

world has been largely displaced by a kind of fortune cookie philosophy of life that’s neither truly believable nor truly remarkable. Just browse through the New Age section of your local bookstore and you’ll see what I mean. This book is not going to be like that. It’s not going to be about vampires or gremlins or ghosts or leprechauns or psychics or poltergeists or palm readers or UFOs or fairies or the “Force.” This book is about reality— cold, hard reality.

In fact, one of the great things about the invisible realm is that you don’t have to be a “religious fanatic” or the follower of some cult to believe in it. You can be a level- headed pragmatist.

You can be a realist. You can even be a cynic. You certainly don’t have to check your brains at the door before entering this world. And you don’t have to be afraid that deep thinking is going to nullify what you learn there. Indeed, everything we’re going to talk about in this book is based on solid theology, informed by common sense and logic, and backed up by biblical scholarship and the universal teaching of the Christian church over the past two thousand years.

No less a genius than Albert Einstein once said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience in life is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: for his eyes are closed.”

Too many people go through life today with their eyes closed. They miss out on the mysterious because they’re so fixated on what they can see and smell and touch and taste and hear. They’re so steeped in the “superstition of materialism” that they’re totally blind to the existence of another world—a world that is radically different from the one they’re familiar with, but a world nonetheless.

What kind of world is it? I’ve said that this book is not about make- believe; it’s not going to be some kind of Peter Pan–style fairy tale. Yet I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that the hidden world God has created for us is more marvelous and exciting than a thousand Neverlands. It’s a world filled with miracles, a world in which all the actions you take and decisions you make have spiritual consequences—consequences that affect the lives of millions of human beings. A world in which the men and women you meet on the street are never “ordinary”—because they all have immortal, everlasting souls and are destined to be either saints in Heaven or the damned of hell. A world in which a deadly, invisible, and diabolical war has been raging for eons—a war infinitely more terrifying than any started by Hitler, Stalin, or Osama bin Laden. A world where the highest values are completely opposite those of our secular society—where weakness equals strength, sacrifice equals salvation, and suffering equals unlimited power. Finally, it’s a world in which you’re never really alone, for even when you’re by yourself watching TV or reading

a book, taking a walk or sitting at the table having breakfast, you have company— because you’re surrounded by angels. Let’s try for a few minutes to “see” this incredible world. Not

with the eyes in your head, but with the eyes in your soul. All you really have to do is take a deep breath, shake off the stresses and cares that normally consume you, find a place where you

can concentrate in quiet stillness, and do your best to keep an open mind. For just a little while, follow the biblical injunction to “walk by faith and not by sight.”

And if—as you’re reading—you happen to feel a tingle up your spine or experience the eerie sensation that something beyond your comprehension is taking place, don’t get alarmed. It’s

just your haunt detector going off—telling you that the veil that has covered God’s hidden creation from time immemorial is being pulled back ever so slightly, allowing you a chance to peek inside.

Don’t be afraid to look. Believe me—you’ll be amazed by what you see.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Icreasing the Odds as You Climb Towards Your Writing Destination

by Jennifer Slattery

Writing is definitely not for the thin-skinned, nor for those seeking instant gratification. It is one of the few jobs where the applicant can spend years, decades even, doing all the right things with nothing to show for it. So much of the writing industry is beyond the writer's control, at times it may appear to be an endless upward climb with a perpetually elusive destination. And although it is true there will be much that forever remains beyond our control, there are concrete steps a writer can take to increase their chance of success.

The first thing a writer needs to do is develop a long-term focus. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact, quite the opposite. If you want to be successful as an author, expect years of sweat and tears and start by focusing on the foundation.

This is where contests come in. At the American Christian Fiction Writers conference last September, I reported on one of the late night agent panels, and something Kathy Helmers from Creative Trust, Inc (, said really resonated. When discussing the importance of developing a platform she said it was easier for an unpublished author to land a contract than it was for a published author with low or diminishing sales. What this means is, before you sell that first novel, make sure you have a wide reader-base to support it.

That's where Clash of the Titles comes in. Each week, we draw readers from over nine different countries, including the Ukraine, Peru, India and Germany. Competing authors point readers to our site and search-engine friendly key-words draw even more. This ensures a great deal of exposure for all participants, which in turn, offers the potential for an increased reader-base.

We also offer authors valuable reader feedback. All contests provide great feedback, but Clash of the Titles is unique in that we provide unbiased, authentic reader feedback. Let's face it, you can do everything right technically and still pen a dud. If your characters don't grab the reader and your plot falls flat, so will your book. And although editors, agents, and traditional contest judges have learned to "read the market" so to speak, they'll never be able to dive in the reader's head. But we can, in a way. By inviting readers to choose their favorite excerpt and leave comments in our survey, we get a glimpse into their psyche. We learn what they like and what they don't.

So why would an unpubb'ed author subject themselves to a contest on Clash--one where their work will be read by thousands and perhaps even dissected line by line? Because we offer great exposure, the potential for an increased reader-base, and honest feedback.

Yep, it's a win-win. (And remember, we're not just for the unpubb'ed. In fact, most of our competitors are published, but every once in awhile, we open our clash to the unpubb'ed, giving our audience a chance to get to know emerging authors before they make it big.)

So, hop on over to our submissions page ( to find out how you can throw your excerpt into the ring. Remember, every tweet, fb share and comment enters you in our drawing to win a free book and builds up an author who very well may be in need of encouragement.

Bio: Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, columnist and freelance writer living in the midwest with her husband of fifteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World, the Christian Pulse, Samie Sisters, and Reflections in Hindsight, reviews for Novel Reviews and is the marketing manager for Clash of the Titles. Find out more about her and her writing at