Friday, December 17, 2010

Review of "Code Blue" by Dr. Richard L. Mabry

Code Blue: Prescription for Trouble Series (Book 1)
Author: Dr. Richard L. Mabry
Publisher: Abingdon Press
ISBN: 9781426702365
Genre: Fiction, Medical Thriller, Thriller, Suspense

About the Book (from Shelfari):

In the first book of the Prescription for Trouble series, Code Blue means more to Dr. Cathy Sewell than the cardiac emergency she has to face. It describes her mental state as she finds that coming back to her hometown hasn t brought her the peace she so desperately needs. Instead, it s clear that someone there wants her gone...or dead. Cathy returns to her hometown seeking healing after a broken relationship, but discovers that among her friends and acquaintances is someone who wants her out of town...or dead. Lawyer Will Kennedy, her high school sweetheart, offers help, but does it carry a price tag? Is hospital chief of staff Dr. Marcus Bell really on her side in her fight to get hospital privileges? Is Will s father, Pastor Matthew Kennedy, interested in advising her or just trying to get her back to the church she left years ago? When one of Cathy s prescriptions almost kills the town banker, it sets the stage for a malpractice suit that could end her time in town, if not her career. It s soon clear that this return home was a prescription for trouble.

My Thoughts:

I added "Code Blue" to my library after reading Dr. Mabry's book "Medical Error back in September (see my review here). This is one book that I put all my others aside for, as I've been dying to read it. I found it to be a real page turner and really enjoyed it. I did find myself a bit frustrated with the main character at times. I found Dr. Sewell, to be somewhat "air-headed" at times. She is a medical doctor, yet she does some pretty silly things by not thinking things through. It did make the story though, and I found it enjoyable and a great read. This book really kept me on the edge of my seat and if I could have, I would have read it straight through in one sitting!

I do recommend this series and cannot wait for the next one to come out next year!

About the Author:

Dr. Richard Mabry built a worldwide reputation as a clinician, researcher, author, and teacher before retiring from medicine. He entered the field of non-medical writing after the death of his first wife, with the publication of his book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse.

Richard describes his work as "medical suspense with heart." Medical Error is his second novel. His first novel, Code Blue, was published by Abingdon Press in April of 2010, and will be followed next spring by the third book in the Prescription For Trouble series, Diagnosis Death.

He and his wife, Kay, live in North Texas.

Visit the author's website.
Visit the author's blog.

This book is from my own personal library.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Red Ink" by Kathi Macias Virtual Book Tour with Review



Red Ink coverRed Ink
Author: Kathy Macias
Publisher: New Hope Publishers
IBSN: 9781596692794
Genre: Fiction, Christian

About the Book: (from PUYB):

Yang Zhen-Li defies not only her Communist parents but the government as well when she marries a poor Christian peasant and converts to his faith. When she begins to distribute Christian materials, particularly to children, she is arrested and sentenced to ten years of hard labor. Will her husband and son wait for her and support her throughout their long separation? Will she even survive to return to them once again? Or will the evil guard Tai Tong, who has taken a personal dislike to Zhen-Li, convince her to deny her faith? Two elderly saints halfway around the world are determined to pray her through, though they’ve never met her and don’t even know her name. God’s faithfulness in the midst of unimaginable trials will bring about an ending that could never be anticipated—but will never be forgotten.





My Thoughts:

Kathi Macias has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I have read the first two books in her Extreme Devotion Series and was astounded by her prose and heart-tugging stories. When the third book became available, I was eager to read it, but also was expecting nothing but quality and a story that would stay with me for a long, long time after reading it. This book didn't let me down!

"Red Ink" is based on the life of Li Ying, a Christian magazine editor who is serving a 10 year prison sentence in China. The main character, Zhen-Li, is a remarkable woman whose faith and courage left me wondering if I could ever be that strong in the situation she had to deal with. She is truly an inspirational character that tugged on my heart and mind countless times.

Kathi Macia's prose is nothing short of amazing. She has a way of drawing me in, transporting me to another place, and keeping me there, making it impossible to want to put the book down. She writes with such passion and a realism to her stories, that they are guaranteed to make you feel like you are there, feeling the cold in the prison, smelling the dank air, and feeling both fear and wonder as you "walk" alongside Zhen-Li.

Don't miss out on this third book of Kathi's inspirational series. Since each book is based on a different person, this can be read as a stand-alone. After reading this one, though, you will definitely want to pick up the other two in the series: "No Greater Love" (see my review) and "More than Conquerors" (see my review).

About the Author:

Kathi Macias is a blogtalkradio host and an award-winning author of more than 30 books, including her popular Extreme Devotion series from New Hope Publishers and Valeria’s Cross from Abingdon Press. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their spare time riding Al’s Harley—hence, Kathi’s “road name” of Easy Writer! Her latest release is Red Ink, the third book in her popular Extreme Devotion series.

You can find out more about Kathi and her writing/speaking at www.kathimacias.com or her blog at http://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com.

This book was supplied through Pump Up Your Book for me to honestly review.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"The 60-Minute Money Workout: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Finances into Shape" by Ellie Kay

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:

WaterBrook Press (December 14, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky and Staci Carmichael of Doubleday Religion/ Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc., for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


ELLIE KAY is a financial expert on Good Money (ABC NEWS) and best-selling author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of magazine articles. She’s a regular media guest on CNBC, CNN, and Fox News, and has been featured on ABC Nightline, Your World with Neil Cavuto, and Fox and Friends. Her radio commentary for Focus on the Family airs on more than two thousand radio outlets around the world. She and her husband are the parents of seven children and live in Southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446034
ISBN-13: 978-0307446039

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


60 Minutes to

Financial Freedom


Thirty years.

That’s how long it took to achieve the dream.

When I was at the ripe old age of ten, my parents won a trip to Germany because my dad bought a certain number of air conditioners for his part-time building business. They promised to bring me back “something special.” I imagined a Bavarian costume, a crown that belonged to a real princess, or maybe even a china teacup. Instead, they brought me a book and a rock. The rock came from the lake where King Ludwig allegedly killed himself, and the book was a compilation of his castles and treasures. They were a little odd, but those gifts ended up serving me well.

At school, I used the book to write a report on King Ludwig that earned an A+. And the rock inspired a dream to one day see Neuschwanstein, also known as “the Disneyland Castle.”

Three decades later I was able to fulfill those travel dreams, thanks to my international work with military families. As I walked through the castle’s gilded hall, my imagination wandered to what life must have been like for people such as King Ludwig, who had only known a life of wealth and privilege, then to have that life cut short through suicide or murder. I decided that my life as a mother of seven wasn’t that bad after all. I may not have been at the pinnacle of wealth and privilege, but I was fulfilling my dream, which also happened to be squarely in the path of another of my dreams: helping military families achieve their financial dreams.

Along the road to a dream fulfilled, there was hope deferred, justice denied, and paradise lost. But one thing remained true: there was a plan and purpose for the ten-year-old version of me, and my dreams—some material, some personal, and some spiritual—were worth keeping.

What were some of your childhood dreams?

Do you still dream, or did you stop dreaming a long time ago?

Would I trade my dream trip to see Neuschwanstein for anything else? Of course I would! There are boatloads of things in life that carry far greater value than a trip: my husband, kids, friends, health, and an entire host of far more meaningful things than the material ones. But the point is that if we are purposeful, principled, and proactive about money matters, then we can still hang on to those longtime dreams and watch them come to pass.

Maybe your dream is to stop fighting about money with your mate.

Maybe you want to buy a home or go to Paris.

You might dream of putting your babies through college without a mountain of student-loan debt.

Or you might want to be able to sponsor a third-world child and give her a life she couldn’t have without your help.

While many people know they need to be proactive about money matters, few know the secret to putting feet to fiscal concepts. Knowledge alone is not enough to make a difference in a person’s financial picture. This knowledge has to be put into action regularly in order to reach your goals.

So move over money “makeovers,” it’s time for the money workout.

Makeovers fall short of truly revitalizing your financial picture. While they address the problem and suggest solutions, implementing those concepts on a day-to-day basis can feel like driving a Honda when you were dreaming of a roadster. Another challenge of a makeover is that you don’t know how to do it on your own after the experts leave.

But my money workout method will teach you how to have self sufficiency once this book is closed.

Maybe you’ve tried to work on money issues but instead ended up fighting with your spouse. It might be that the thought of sitting down with all your bills is so overwhelming that it falls into the realm of impossible. Maybe you’re convinced that you will never get out of debt, live in financial harmony, or own a home. It’s not about how much time you spend working on money issues; it’s about the quality of that time. So let’s get started with your own money workout.

It’s time to do our first pre workout quiz. It will only take ten minutes. The quizzes throughout this book serve to prepare you for the main workout, and you’ll get a lot more out of your sixty-minute money workout if you take the time to prepare. While our dream quiz seems to be a lifestyle quiz rather than a money quiz, it’s important to understand that almost every area of our lives is impacted by some financially related area. For example, an educational goal or dream coming true is often related to a work ethic, which is a financial skill. Personal goals that deal with family, marriage, and kids are definitely related to finances because of the impact that money matters have on families. Spiritual goals highly influence us in the way we use or view money. So try to fill out these dreams with that financial element in mind, and you’ll get more out of the quiz. Once you’ve finished this exercise, it will help you focus on past dreams or expectations, current realities, and future possibilities.


Pre-workout Quiz


1. What are some dreams you had as a much younger version of yourself? List a dream for each category:

Personal

Professional

Spiritual

Material

Educational


2. If you were to rank these “dreams come true” from 1 to 10, with 1 meaning that it did not get fulfilled in any way and 10 meaning it came to pass as you dreamed it or better, then how would you rank the dreams in question 1?

For example, maybe you always wanted a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California; instead you earned a master’s from the University of Texas. If you are satisfied with the fact that you received a better degree from a different college, you could indicate a 10 for that dream. Or maybe you always wanted to be a pilot in the air force but didn’t have the requisite eyesight. So you got rated in a Cessna and went on to have a fulfilling career in real estate. You might give that dream a 5. This is your test. Although it’s subjective, it represents your life and your level of contentment with your dreams.


3. Go back and add up your dream scores from questions 1 and 2.


4. Repeat the exercise, but instead of listing childhood dreams, list your current financial dreams for your future and/or your family’s. For example, buying a house, helping third-world children, putting your kids through college with minimal debt, building an adequate retirement fund, going to Paris, having a zero balance on all your credit cards, being in a position to help others in need. You get the idea.


5. If you can, put a “dreams come true” ranking next to your current dreams using the same scale as in question 2, but base it on how likely you think it is that your current dreams will come true.


Quiz Results

In step 3, you added your scores for the dreams of your youth. See below to determine where you are with those.

25 points or less: You’ve had a severely average life as opposed to the life you dreamed of having as a child. Or maybe you just had a very creative imagination and dreamed of becoming a dinosaur—talk about an impossible dream(unless you’re an archaeologist and you dig up dinosaurs, thus finding fulfillment by working in the same category of that childhood dream).

Another interpretation of this score can indicate an absence of exposure to key elements in your life. For example, maybe your family didn’t value education, so you didn’t have educational dreams. Consequently, you’ve either had to made adjustments and become a better person in the process of some dream-shattering realities, or you may have given up on the whole idea of dreaming and emptied your pockets of hope.

26–35 points: Either you weren’t very imaginative as a child and didn’t day dream about life in the future, or you had an above average culmination of your dreams coming true. This score could also indicate that you were purposeful and realistic in ways to make your dreams come true, even though you fell short of the youthful version of yourself. It might be that you’ve had some challenging life-changing events, but you’ve recovered from them enough to be able to take the second chance this world has given you.

36–45 points: You might be a lot like my husband, Bob, whose dad took him to a Blue Angels air show when he was a child. After the show Bob told his dad, “When I grow up I want to fly those jets with the funny noses.” He grew up to fly the F-4 Phantom, the same jet he saw at the air show. You have had most of your dreams come true and/or you’ve been very satisfied with a different interpretation of your childhood dream. Even if your real dream came true almost exactly the way you imagined it, you still may not be content, because contentment is often a choice. But it appears you have had every opportunity to be satisfied with the results of your childhood dreams.

45–50 points: You might be one of those people we know as someone who is “living the dream.” You were prescient or intuitive as a child, and it seems you followed your passions to see these dreams to fulfillment. Very few people can say that they’ve had most of their dreams come true, but you are one of that minority. With great privilege comes great responsibility, so you are now in a position to help others set goals and make their dreams come true. You can’t do everything for others, but you can help and give them hope. Congratulations on living the dream.

In step 5, you were to rank how likely you believe your new dreams will come true. This exercise measures the realistic nature of your goals and expectations as well as your optimism about your future. So add up those results and then go back and read the result descriptions above to see what areas may need to be adjusted in order to set yourself up for success in your financial life.


Boundaries for the 60-Minute Money Workout

As we prepare for the workout, it’s important to establish boundaries and do a little mental preparation as well. Some of the workouts in this book will be done alone, but other chapters will involve your mate, an accountability partner, or your family. The guidelines, however, are the same whether there’s one or ten people involved. Here are some boundaries to keep in mind:

No condescension or negativity. Don’t talk down to anyone who’s involved in the process, and if you’re alone, do not allow your mind to entertain any negative self-talk. It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed in the past, lack knowledge about certain aspects of finances, or have a bad self-image. For one hour, you are going to be focused on learning, keeping a positive mind-set, and making progress in the workout. In fact, that’s why it’s called a “workout,” because you are working out some of these things in your life to have a positive result.

No interrupting others when they are talking. If you have trouble with interrupting others, then sit on your hands. It will serve as a reminder that you are to listen in an active manner and not spend the time thinking about what you’re going to say next. If sitting on your hands fails to keep you from interrupting, then get a tennis ball and pass it back and forth. If the ball isn’t in your hands, then your lips should be still. And if you are talking and the other person starts to interrupt, just wave the ball and smile.

No name-calling. For one hour you are going to be part of the southern genteel class, an aristocrat born and bred with good manners. For a measly hour, you’re going to say nice things and not throw around labels.

No throwing food. Okay, this may seem like a funny and random boundary—it is. During my husband’s military service, a formal dinner could turn into a food fight if one wayward roll got out of control. So if you are prone to this kind of behavior, then maybe you shouldn’t do your money workouts over a meal.

If you truly have a problem with throwing golf clubs or Scrabble boards when you are frustrated, then you will need to do your money workouts with another mature person (or couple) or even a professional counselor.

Begin each workout by saying one positive thing. Most of us have negative self-talk tapes that run through our heads, and sometimes we just need to destroy those. I haven’t ever been able to stick to a budget. You’re such an idiot, how can you possibly get it together at your age? These are trash talk negative statements that should be thrown out. Instead, tell yourself something positive about yourself. Or tell your partner one positive thing that you like about him or her. It will be more beneficial if these positive things are financially related, such as, “You have a good work ethic” or “You really saved a lot when you bought that new notebook after shopping around.”

End each workout by saying one positive thing. You started on a positive note, and now you’re going to end on a positive note. If your positive statement can relate to the workout, that would be ideal. For example, “I didn’t quit. I stayed and finished the entire thing.” Or if you’re talking to another family member, “You really did a great job of listening, and I appreciate that you didn’t interrupt.”

Create an environment that encourages comfort and success. If you hate Mondays, then maybe you shouldn’t make Monday your money workout day. You want your workout to be set up for success, which means you should do it at a time when you feel rested, the kids are not underfoot, and you are in a place that is conducive to conversation. Part of this boundary point is to put this money workout on your calendar at a time and in a place that promotes a relaxed yet purposeful atmosphere.

Gather workout folders. One major positive about these money workouts is that you don’t have to purchase any journals, financial kits, or other expensive materials to make this work for you. The basic supplies you need are minimal and inexpensive. You will need to invest in a dozen pocket folders from a local office supply store (less than $10) and label them for the different workouts. For example, if you are working on a spending plan, then when you are finished for the hour, you can place the notes you made into the folder and later easily pick up where you left off.

Keeping your working materials separate also allows you to put other related materials into the folders and keep them organized, which makes your workouts easier. For example, if there’s a new Web site you want to check out for “The 60-Minute Travel and Fun Guide Workout,” then throw it into the appropriate pocket folder, and you’ll have it at the ready when you need it. If you have a college scholarship application you want to help your student complete, then place it in “The 60-Minute College Plan Workout” folder. This is all very low tech and simple.

Have a timer on hand. You need to stick to the times listed, even if you’re “on a roll” and want to keep going beyond the hour. Do not go overtime. It’s the same as a too-long workout at the beginning of a physical fitness routine. An extended workout will do you in and make you sore the next day, and a workout marathon defeats the purpose of the exercise. If your “money talks” have an established start time and a set finish time, they are going to be a lot less painful. Realize that you won’t get all the problems solved in just one hour. That’s okay. You still will make progress in that hour. Then you can come back to it and either make a little more progress or finish it. Part of the benefit of The 60-Minute Money Workout is that you’ll make the best, most productive use of those sixty minutes. A set hour is a wonderful motivation to stay on topic and move through each section quickly, without getting bogged down by any of the negatives listed above in the boundaries section. The regular part of the workout will keep you busy enough, because there’s no time for squabbling, condescension, or negativity.


The 60-Minute Money Workout

This is how the sixty-minute money workout works: every chapter has a different goal for the workout, such as retirement planning, vacation trips, or paying down consumer debt. You will have a timer and specific materials for each workout (such as calculators, Internet access, bills, etc.).The prep work for each exercise will list the materials you need. At the end of each chapter, you will find a tip sheet that will serve as an outline when you have the weekly topical workouts.

As with a physical workout, the keys to your success are consistency and intensity. For this workout to facilitate the miraculous in your life and revolutionize your finances, you have to practice it regularly (at least once a week) and you have to abide by the boundaries. So let’s get started.

Pick the goal you want to work on. Then grab a timer. You can set it for one hour and watch the time for each section. Or you can set the timer for the minutes available in each section, and when it goes off, it’s time to move on to the next section.

Here is how the times are broken down and what you do within each section.


1. Make-Up-Your-Mind Warm up (5 minutes)

This part of the exercise is listed in the boundary section as “Begin each workout by saying one positive thing.” There’s a proverb that says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” This is where you are going to begin to get focused on good things. If you are alone, then you will begin by closing your eyes and breathing deeply to relax your body and to get rid of any distracting thoughts from a busy day. If you are in the habit of praying, this would be a good time to meditate in order to think about what you want to accomplish during the next hour.

If you are with a family member or your mate, begin by saying something positive to him. For example, you could take your spouse’s hands, look into his eyes, and say something affirming. Then you will make a commitment to work on the issue in the session in order to get back into good financial shape. For example, “During this hour I want to work on a plan to have a debt-free vacation for our family.”


2. Strength Training (10 minutes)

It usually takes more than one mistake or circumstance to get into financial trouble. Whether you are working out alone or with someone else, you need to realize that this is the part of the workout where you move from being a victim of your choices or circumstances to taking the necessary steps toward having victory over them.

While step 1 was to start with affirming words and a commitment to work on your money topic, this section is a time to write down your goals so that you will have a tangible and objective standard to work toward. This gives both of you a temporary focus for today and a long-term focus for the next few months, as well as a big-picture view for the future.

Your goals will depend on your topic of the day. For example, if you are discussing a budget, your goals might include (a) setting up a budget that is real and workable, (b) staying on that budget for the next six months in order to learn how to spend less than what you make, and (c) establishing a budget habit that is a financial vehicle that will get your family out of consumer debt, help you pay for your kids’ college, and fund your retirement. Each chapter will guide you specifically through each section of the workout.

This is also the time for you to jot down any obstacles that have come up in the past and to plan how you can overcome them. For example, you may want to budget, but you keep going off budget, which is an obstacle. You could add, “Have accountability about budget” as a means of overcoming that obstacle. Or you could write, “Review budget monthly to stay on task.”


3. Cardio Burn (20 minutes)

In this step, you give feet to your goals. Basically, underneath where you wrote out your goals in step 2, you will write down the steps involved in how you plan to get there from where you are now as well as delegate who is going to be responsible for what, specifically. For example, if you’re setting up a budget, write down the specifics of what your budget needs to include, how you plan to implement your budget, and how often you’ll check in on your progress toward this goal. This may not seem like a lot of time to do all this during this section, but realize that you may not accomplish your goal during your first workout.

You can also carry the work from this section over to the next section— if you don’t have extra work to do in the next session. The key is to keep your discussion moving and to work on what you can. Whatever you don’t finish, you can get to the next time around. There are tools for every chapter in the “Tool Center” link on my Web site, www.elliekay.com.

Discuss and work on a plan for your topic of the day. Yes, this section and the next are the two hardest sections, but they are also the “fat burning” phases where you get the most benefit. When you write down the step-by-step plan for your topic, make sure your approach is realistic, and be sure to give and take when it comes to discussing this topic with your mate.

If you find the discussion stalls or otherwise gets bogged down, then you may want to table a particular point and get back to it later, or you may even need to agree to disagree.


4. Take Your Heart Rate (20 minutes)

This is the point where you do any of the specific work after you’ve written out the step-by-step plan from the previous section. It’s also a time to crunch the numbers and fill in the details (facts and figures) on any tools or work sheets you are using. For example, if you need to get the facts on your credit and debt information, this would be the time to do it. That means you may need to have a computer and Internet access. Don’t worry about the specifics now; this chapter is just an overview of how the program works. Each chapter will list the specifics of what you will need to do for this section. The examples I use here are just to familiarize you with the concept.

If your topic concerns credit and debt, then this would be the time to order a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Or if the workout is about saving money, you could use this time to set up an automatic allotment from your paycheck or from your checking to savings accounts. If your plan for the day is debt reduction, you may decide to cut up all but two or three credit cards and cancel some of your open credit accounts (be sure to cancel the most recent cards first and keep the cards you’ve had for five years or longer in order to maintain the longevity part of your FICO—Fair Isaac credit score).

Don’t procrastinate. Do this during this “work” part of the workout. This will help minimize the temptation to procrastinate on the practical aspects of your workout and also keep you on track with your goal for the day. If you don’t have any outside work to do during this time, then feel free to expand your discussion from step 3 in order to reach closure on your topic of the day.


5. Congratulations Cool Down (5 minutes)

Sit back and grab a glass of something cool to drink and reflect on all you’ve accomplished in just one hour! You started on a positive note, and you’re going to end on a positive one as well. If this is an individual workout, tell yourself something that is truthful and encouraging. For example, “I finished the first hour, and if I continue to do this workout, I will master this topic.”

If you are working out with someone else, then take this time to tell your partner one thing that you appreciate about today’s workout to end the discussion on a positive note. For example, you can say, “I noticed you gave my ideas a lot of respect. I appreciate that.” Or, “When I got upset and started to cry, I appreciate the way you weren’t condescending. Thank you.”

Keep in mind that just as you don’t get physically buff after one workout, your finances aren’t going to be in perfect shape after this first effort either. So during this step you will set the topic and the time for your next workout. Maybe you’ll have a continuation of today’s workout, or maybe you’ll look at a new area. Whatever the case, decide what you’re going to cover next time and put it in writing. After you and your mate have exercised with this money workout a half dozen times, you’ll find yourself stronger, smarter, and sweeter.


Workout
Tip Sheet

At the end of every chapter is a “Workout Tip Sheet” that you have on hand to help facilitate the workout and keep it flowing, without wasting time to look back and forth in the chapter. Here’s a sample Workout Tip Sheet.


1. Make-Up-Your-Mind Warm up (5 minutes)

• Say something positive.

• Commit to work on the topic.


2. Strength Training (10 minutes)

• Write down realistic short-term and long-term goals.

• List means of overcoming obstacles.


3. Cardio Burn (20 minutes)

• List specific steps to accomplish each goal and delegate

responsibility.

• Research topical tools at www.elliekay.com.


4. Take Your Heart Rate (20 minutes)

• Implement work on each specific step.

• Fill in facts and figures.


5. Congratulations Cool Down (5 minutes)

• Say something positive.

• Set topic for next workout.

My Thoughts:

As the new year approaches, we look at what we can change in our lives. I have a list of things I want to accomplish during the year, and in the last week of December I go over that list and reflect on what I did, and those things that I didn't do and the reason why. This is a fantastic way to keep track of all my accomplishments - a great pick-me-up when I think I haven't done much.

Finances are a place that one can always use help in. I always put it on my list every year, because I look to where my family and I can cut back and improve. "The 60 Minute Money Workout" is a fantastic book that will be seriously used next year. I have read through the book, visited the websites and considered the sensibility of what is being stated, and this book is a true keeper!

Ellie Kay takes one through a 60 minute "workout" using the following steps:
  • Warm Up - Here's where you prepare
  • Strength Training - set goals
  • Cardio Burn - doing those goals
  • Heart Rate - how did you you do?
  • Cool Down - the best part - rewarding yourself!!
I'll be honest - at first I thought the workout setup was somewhat "weird", but in all actuality, it really does make sense. Breaking the process down into understandable and easy to use segments is really a great idea!

In 2011, we'll have 2 children in college, and although we are seasoned, very money conscience, and have learned to stretch our income quite well, this book has brought to light a few places we can "tone" our finances. I was thrilled to find a chapter on college with really good advice. It covered all aspects from preparing when your children are small to having a child currently attending and what you can do now.

This book will work for everyone - a singe young person, a married couple without children, with children, as well as the more seasoned folks (like me). I have found that no matter what your financial situation is, this book will help if you work it.

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing how much we can truly save this coming year by using this book!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

INSPIRED DESIGN Blog Tour with Roxanne Hughes Packham and Hannah Packham

I feel very lucky to have been able to join in this tour with Roxanne Hughes Packham and Hanna Packham! Their book, "Inspired Design" is not only gorgeous, but very, very helpful in creating a beautiful home to live in.

Below, you will find an very interesting interview with the authors as well as information about the book and how to get your own copy. Feeling lucky? There's also information on how to enter to win a copy of this beautiful book.

Why did you write Inspired Design with your daughter? My grandfather (Silversmith Allan Adler) passed this love of design to me, so it just seemed a natural, alongside a book about the design and subsequent use of our homes, infused with family heritage that my daughter who lives along side me take a large part the powerful subject of "the home". I also wanted to create a place where we could initiate, create, and complete a project where my daughter, Hannah, could learn along side me both the practical and the ethical implications of a project this size, where all the profits go to a charity that is dear to our hearts, Heart of Hope Ministries, Intl. I wanted show her an example of using our talents and gifts for the enjoyment of others, while benefiting others, not ourselves. It wasn't to be pious, but just a fun way to give back and truly make a difference while doing something together that we loved!

What is Inspired Design?
A book about three aspects of the home and how it's power to touch the souls of those within. Those three aspects are Designing for warmth and beauty to nurture others, meaningful touches and gestures to celebrate and honor your loved ones on special occasions and ordinary days, and lastly that it is not what we have or do not have that blesses others, and changes lives, but how we use what we have. It is about incorporating YOUR family heritage, and your unique gifts, into making a beautiful, family home.

Inspired Design has had such a wonderful response, without a traditional publisher, distributor, or agent why do you think that is?
It resonates in the spirit of women, who want to make a positive impact on their families and loved ones. The blessing of word of mouth publicity has really caused this book to sell and touch the hearts of every woman that has read it. They tell one friend, and so on and so on. For example, Jill Foster, Author of Creative Cakes Anyone Can Make, raves, "Your Inspired Design is amazing. I have devoured it, sipping coffee as I have enjoyed reading each page. Your family legacy is depicted in beautiful illustration. Having Hannah's words throughout the book is wonderful.”

We heard that one customer in Coronado, California has reordered about 10 books, each one as a gift for friends birthday, what is it that she find so touching?
She is someone I have never met, but she said she found it so real, beautiful, uplifting and from such a realistic perspective on touching others with the bonus of spectacular homes and photography the combination makes her want to give it to all her friends for their birthdays. She loves the blog that goes alongside it as well, with weekly tips and suggestions to make others feel special. http://www.inspireddesignpublications.blogspot.com

I know that a mother-daughter ministry, "Inspired 31", has begun along side of Inspired Design, why do you think it has resonated so powerfully?
Especially in this economic climate so many women are more resolute than ever that their families are the most important thing in their lives and their daughters, or close friends, should be celebrated and cherished. Without exception our gatherings (3 so far, in it's first 3 months) have attracted hundreds of mother/daughter/sister/friend combinations wanting to come, for 2 hours, and celebrate what is good, pure, worthy of praise especially each other. Inspired 31's mission is to teach girls (and now even woman of all ages) to find and follow God's unique path for their lives. We have inspiring speakers, and a wonderful positive/uplifting program. We have people inquiring about beginning a chapter in their area, in many cities.

Where can we purchase a copy of Inspired Design? Also, we heard this book is helping orphans and teenage girls as well.
Inspired Design makes a perfect gift with so many ideas for making Christmas, or any holiday, more special with all kinds of thoughtful little details.
100% of the profits go to Heart of Hope, which benefits orphans in Romania, and Inspired 31, a Mother-teenage girl ministry. With each purchase you are helping all kinds of different children.
Please visit my web site at http://inspireddesignpublications.com/.


About the Book
Hannah & Roxanne Packham
Inspired Design by Roxanne Hughes Packham and Hannah Packham (Inspired Designs Publications, 2010)
Drawing from the highly-published designs she's created for hundreds of clients, Packham will inspire you to create a home that touches the souls of those within. Amid Stunning photography, stories of treasured family traditions and poignant observations by 16 year old daughter Hannah, she shares ideas that will help you create beauty, warmth and passion in your home, and make it an inspired design. "Do not underestimate the power of your home, nor its ability to change lives," writes designer Roxanne Hughes Packham. "A cup of hot tea and an hour in a cozy nook spent listening to a friend can be life-altering. "Sending well-loved, cared for children into the world to contribute to our society in positive meaningful ways is one of the most significant contributions, if not the most significant contribution, you will ever make, and your home is a major part of this endeavor.

100% of the profits of this book go to charity: Heart of Hope, Local Food Pantry, Inspired 31 and more Produced and made 100% in America.
Written by Granddaughter of Allan Adler, noted American silversmith, and Great Granddaughter of Porter George Blanchard, also known as "silversmith to the stars", Packham's history and knowledge of silver and flair for table settings prove to be a winning combo. Ideas for Sentimental Parties, and occassions for teenage girls, and mothers & others, Celebrating friends & friendship. Inspirational for incorporating family history, talents, and passions into the design of the family home.

About the Authors
Roxanne Hughes Packham is an acclaimed interior designer whose classic designs grace hundreds of California homes from San Francisco to San Diego. She comes from a long line of gifted artisans, including world-renowned silversmiths Allan Adler (her grandfather) and Porter Blanchard (her great-grandfather). Roxanne is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles; she studied design at Paris Fashion Institute and the Sorbonne. Her work has been featured in numerous design publications, including Life: Beautiful, California Homes, Dream Homes of Coastal California, Kitchen Style & Design, Dream Log Homes, Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, Kitchen Ideas That Work, Bath Ideas That Work, The Smart Approach to Kitchen Design, The Smart Approach to Bath Design, The Color Idea Book, The Window Treatment Idea Book, and more. She makes her home in Southern California, with her husband Scott, and their children, Hannah and Justin.

Hannah Packham is continuing her family’s long tradition of design excellence. Last summer, Hannah studied design at the University of Southern California. Hannah is a top scholar, and has been named to the Headmaster & Deans List at Oaks Christian High School, where she is currently a student. She was selected to represent OCHS as a member of the “Lion’s Voice,” a school-selected tour guide program. She is also a varsity athlete in pole-vaulting and studied pole-vaulting at the University of California Los Angeles during the summer 2009. Her interests include Classical ballet dancing, skiing and modern dance. She has made mission trips to Costa Rica (2009) and Romania (2010). She has been selected to participate in Rotary Leadership Conference 2010.

Mark Lohman is a southern California-based photographer whose specialties include interior, garden and architectural photography. His distinctive photographs have appeared in numerous design and architectural publications, including Veranda, Architectural Record, Luxe, Coastal Living, House Beautiful, California Homes, and many more. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Brooks Photography Institute.


Contest Information

For a chance to win a copy of "Inspired Design", all you need to do is go to the Inspired Design Tour Facebook page located at: http://www.facebook.com/CSSVBT.RoxanneHughesPackham.InspiredDesign

and follow the instructions. Good Luck!!!



A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by Inspired Design Publications in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com for more information about blog tour management services.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Contest for 2 Mend Marks - Keep One and Give The Other For Christmas!!

The Mend Mark tells a powerful story in two words

Mend Mark open packageHave you been “Marked?” The Mend Mark is a mission, a movement, an entire revolution. It is a bracelet meant to remind its wearers of Christ’s love and sacrifice, and its message is the passion of its creator, Hunter Harrison. 

The Mend Mark is an innovative and distinctive bracelet that is designed to reflect the scars and nail holes of Jesus. When worn, the band resembles the deep holes of the nail driven into the wrists of Jesus during his crucifixion. By bringing the story of Jesus’ life and death to constant awareness by wearing a bracelet, Mend Mark is meant to powerfully remind wearers of the ultimate act of love Jesus made for all of humankind.  One circle is imprinted with the word “love,” and the other says “remember.”

Harrison’s mission is to remind all to remember Christ’s love in both his life and death. But more than only a poignant recollection, the Mend Mark is meant to inspire and motivate wearers to live a life of service. Harrison strives to bring people together around the simplicity and power of love as lived by Jesus. But this is no example of passive love. The Mend Mark calls individuals in all walks of life to love with a profound sincerity and commitment great enough to change a neighborhood, a community, a world.

Harrison leads this call to love and sacrifice by example and joins hands with each Mend Mark bracelet purchaser to take the first step in global change. A portion of each bracelet sold goes to support Living Water International, an organization combating the clean water crisis victimizing over one billion people worldwide. Each $5,000 given will result in one well drilled, providing a community with clean water.

But wearers should be prepared to be seen. Unique in its design, the Mend Mark is sure to be noticed and gives wearers an opportunity to share the story of the profound love of Jesus for each and every person. “It was important to me that the design was simple and generic enough that the observer had to ask about it to know what it meant. But I also wanted it to appear distinctive enough that it sparked curiosity,” reveals creator Hunter Harrison. “I wanted it to require the wearer of the product to engage in conversation about the love of Christ (and hopefully show that love to others) instead of just letting the product talk for them.”

Launched in late 2009 after a year and a half of packaging, material, and design development by Harrison, the bracelet has been sold across the United States, Canada, and the UK and has been featured in retail stores as well. The Mend Mark bracelet movement has grown to further fame after being worn during performances by American Idol winner Lee Dewyze, Idol runner up Siobhan Magnus, Decyfer Down, Israel Houghton & New Breed, Pillar, and Finding Favour, to name a few. Says Harrison, “I want it to be more than just another bracelet; I want it to represent a movement.” Based on the way things are going, a movement is exactly what it is becoming.
Mend Mark logo color.jpg
$9.99
Become a fan of Mend Mark on Facebook – Follow Mend Mark on Twitter (mendmark)

A huge thank you to Audra for supplying these 2 lovely Mend Marks to be given away to my readers. These lovely bracelets will make a statement of both love and faith and are great conversation starters!

Please visit the above links and find out more about these bracelets and what they stand for and the mission behind them.

Want to win two of these for yourself? You can keep on as a present for yourself and give the other away. They make beautiful Christmas or anytime gifts. Just follow the rules below, and you may be the happy recipient of these lovely bracelets.

CONTEST RULES:

Please fill out the form below. You must be a resident of the US. I'm package will be mailed Priority through USPS to arrive in time to receive by Christmas.

Drawing ends Thursday December 16th at 11:59pm.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"The Remains" by Vincent Zandri - Book Tour & Review

  

The Remains
Author: Vincent Zandri
Publisher: StoneHouse Ink
ISBN: 9780982770535
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Horror

About the Book (from Amazon):

"Thirty years ago, teenager Rebecca Underhill and her twin sister Molly were abducted by a man who lived in a house in the woods behind their upstate New York farm. They were held inside that house for three horrifying hours, until making their daring escape.


Vowing to keep their terrifying experience a secret in order to protect their mother and father, the girls tried to put the past behind them. And when their attacker was hunted down by police and sent to prison, they believed he was as good as dead.


Now, it’s 30 years later, and with Molly having passed away from cancer, Rebecca, a painter and art teacher, is left alone to bear the burden of a secret that has only gotten heavier and more painful with each passing year.


But when Rebecca begins receiving some strange anonymous text messages, she begins to realize that the monster who attacked her all those years ago is not dead after all. He’s back, and this time, he wants to do more than just haunt her. He wants her dead."





My Thoughts:

Vincent Zandri is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I had read "Moonlight Falls" (see my review here) and loved it. My expectations were high for this book, but Mr. Zandri left me breathless when he surpassed all my expectations with "The Remains"!

"The Remains" is a suspenseful and downright chilling tale that absolutely captivated me from the beginning. When I picked the book up, my intention was only to read a chapter or two, and go to sleep. Half way through the book, I discovered how very late it was, and forced myself to put it aside to get a couple of hours of sleep. As soon as I could, I was back to reading, and finished the book. No putting this one aside. I HAD to know what happened next. I HAD to keep turning those pages. Mr. Zandri's prose not only wove a heart-stopping tale, but it placed a spell over me that demanded my complete attention!!

Mr. Zandri's books are amazing, and I found his books are offered at an extremely reasonable price - especially the e-books. At the time of this posting, "The Remains" is offered at both Amazon (Kindle format) and Barnes & Noble (NOOK format) for less than the price of a small Starbuck's latte! If you've never read a Vincent Zandri book, now is your chance to treat yourself. If you enjoy Stephen King, I know you are going to love Mr. Zandri. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Now I'm off to download Mr. Zandri's "The Innocent". I can't wait to add this to my personal to-read pile!

About the Author:

Vincent ZandriVincent Zandri is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include the bestselling, Moonlight Falls,Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

His latest book is the bestselling thriller novel, The Remains.

You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com.


This book was provided by the author through "Pump Up Your Book" for me to honestly review.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"City of Tranquil Light" by Bo Caldwell - FIRST Tour with 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:

Henry Holt and Co. (September 28, 2010
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Bo Caldwell’s short fiction has been published in Ploughshares, Story, Epoch, and other literary journals. Born in Oklahoma City in 1955, she grew up in Los Angeles and attended Stanford University, where she later held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing and a Jones Lectureship in Creative Writing. She has received a fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council of Santa Clara County, and the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from the San Francisco Foundation. Her personal essays have appeared in O Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, and America Magazine. Her first novel, The Distant Land of My Father, was one of The Los Angeles Times’ Best Books of 2001, and was selected for community reading programs in Pasadena, Santa Clara County, and Claremont. She lives in Northern California with her husband, the writer Ron Hansen.



Product Details:

List Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (September 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805092285
ISBN-13: 978-0805092288

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Shepherd-Teacher

Suppose it is an autumn day, fine and clear and cool. Late afternoon, when the sun nears the horizon and turns the sky into a watercolor of pastels. It is beautiful, as though God is showing off. As you approach the city you first see its wall, an immense gray brick structure that is as solid as it is imposing, nearly as wide as it is high, some thirty feet. If you are coming from the east, it will be in sharp silhouette against the lovely changing sky. Near the city the air begins to smell of smoke, but mostly it has the sweet, clean scent of the ripening winter wheat in the surrounding fields.

From a distance the city may not look like much; only that dark wall is visible, and what can that tell you? Some say the cities in the North China Plain are by and large alike, one indistinguishable from another; to them this one might look like any other. But it is not; I can testify to this, for it is the place on this earth that I love the most, the city in which my wife and I lived for nearly twenty-five years among beggars and bandits and farmers and scholars and peasants, people whom we deeply loved. The name of the city is Kuang P'ing Ch'eng—City of Tranquil Light—and although I now reside in southern California and have for many years, that faraway place remains my home.

And it is often in my thoughts. Above my bed hang three Chinese scrolls depicting New Testament scenes, painted by our most improbable convert and given to me when we left China. In the first, the prodigal son kneels at his father's feet as the father rests his hands on the young man's head. The son's pigtail is disheveled and his blue peasant's tunic and trousers are dirty and torn, while the father's violet silk robe is immaculate. In the second, an oriental woman lovingly washes our Lord's feet with her tears and dries them with her long black hair, her own bound feet tucked beneath her, and in the third, a slight but sturdy Zacchaeus, wearing a gray scholar's robe and with his long braided queue hanging down his back, climbs a persimmon tree for a glimpse of Yeh-Su, Jesus. A Chinese lantern of bright red silk—red is the color of happiness—hangs over my writing table, and a small carved chest made of camphor wood holds my woolen sweaters. My Chinese New Testament, its spine soft and its pages worn, sits on the table by my reading chair, with a strip of faded red paper, a calling card given to me long ago, marking my place. I still read the Scriptures in Chinese; I find I am more at home in it than I am in English, just as my Chinese name, Kung P'ei Te, given to me at the beginning of this century, seems more a part of me than my legal name, Will Kiehn.

On my dresser is the photograph taken on our wedding day, November 4, 1908. Katherine and I were married at the American Consulate in Shanghai, and we are wearing Chinese clothes in the picture; our western clothes were too shabby for the occasion, and by then we had dressed in Chinese clothes for two years. Next to the photograph is my wife's diary, a thin volume I never read while she was alive but whose pages I now know by heart. Reading her sporadic entries is bittersweet, for while they bring our years together to life, they also show me my flaws and the ways in which I hurt her, unintentional though they were. But her pages make it seem that she is near, and if the price I pay for that closeness is regret it is a bargain still, albeit a painful one. I was her husband for over thirty-seven years, during which the longest we were apart was thirty-one days. She taught me the self-discipline I lacked, believed I was capable of far more than I did, and loved me as a young man as well as an old one. She was the one and only love of my life.

When I was twenty-one and on my way to China, I tried to envision my life there. I saw myself preaching to huge gatherings of people, baptizing eager new converts, working with my brothers in Christ to improve their lives. I did not foresee the hardships and dangers that lay ahead: the loss of one so precious, the slow and painful deprivation of drought and famine, the continual peril of violence, the devastation of war, the threat to my own dear wife. Again and again we were saved by the people we had come to help and carried through by the Lord we had come to serve. I am amazed at His faithfulness; even now our lives there fill me with awe.

Last week when I was sitting in the small reading room of the retirement home in which I live, a man selling Fuller brushes visited. It was a hot day, and the man was invited in for a glass of water. He looked to be about fifty years old. There were several of us in the reading room, and as the salesman approached and awkwardly began to show us his great variety of brushes—nailbrushes, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, scrub brushes, whisk brooms—I heard his difficulty with English, and because he was oriental I asked if he spoke the standard language, Mandarin. He nodded and I began to speak in our shared tongue, and when he asked my Chinese name and I gave it, he stared at me in wonder.

"Mu shih," he said urgently, Mandarin for shepherd-teacher—pastor—"you baptized me and took me into church fellowship when I was a young man. I am your son."

I am retired now, and while at the age of eighty-one I know this is as it must be, it is strange not to be involved in active ministry; gone are the responsibilities that filled my life for so many years. I continue my work by praying for those who still serve, which I am able to do as my mind is sound. My physical health is also good; my nephew, John, a medical doctor, keeps careful watch over me, and I am well taken care of in these years, measured and monitored as never before. My niece, Madeleine, and my great-nieces and -nephews and their children also visit, and I am doted on by these younger generations.

I am also in the good company of many who have placed the Great Commission foremost in their lives. I live at Glenwood Manor, a home for retired missionaries in Claremont, California, a small town some thirty miles east of Los Angeles. With its parades on the Fourth of July and Homecoming Weekend, its parks, and its tidy downtown, Claremont is wholesome and wholly American. From my room I look out on a small vegetable garden that thrives despite my come-and-go attention. Beyond the garden are the city's eucalyptus-lined streets, and beyond them citrus groves and the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Baldy. Each morning I walk to Memorial Park and the Public Library, and afterward I answer letters and read a daily Chinese newspaper and books to which I had no access during my years in China. Once a week I read a newspaper in German, the language of my parents and my childhood. At the start of the day when I read the Scriptures, I see truths I have never seen before, even after several decades of preaching the Gospel. And I dream of Chung-Kuo, the Middle Kingdom: China.

I am an ordinary man and an unlikely missionary. The talents I have been able to offer my Lord are small and few and far outnumbered by my faults. I am often slow in getting things done, and at times I exhibit a marked willingness to avoid work. I have never considered myself an intuitive person, and I am inexperienced in many of the ways of modern life. I have, for example, never learned how to drive—I gave up after twice failing the required test—and I know little about the world of finance. I am absentminded and I often misplace things, and while I struggle with pride, I am rarely angry. Nor am I greedy, for which I have my heritage to thank; I am the son and grandson of Mennonite farmers who came to America for religious freedom, and I was raised to aspire to a simple life of farming the land and following Christ. But despite my ordinariness and the smallness of my talents, I have led an extraordinary life. This is God's grace, His unearned favor.

When I was twelve years old, a missionary spoke at the small schoolhouse in Washita County, Oklahoma, where my three brothers and two sisters and I were taught weekdays for six months of the year. We spoke English at school, but at home and in church we still spoke the mother tongue, low German, though our parents had been in America for more than twenty years. German must be God's language, my uncle told me with great seriousness, because that's what the Bible was written in. He did not see the humor in this.

The missionary was from India and he said he was returning there the following month, which I found startling, for he was old and frail. He told our class that in foreign lands the need for those to share the Good News and to care for people's bodies and souls was great, and that a missionary could be a doctor in the mission field as long as he had a good strong brush and plenty of soap and water. "A missionary brings light to the darkness," he said. "We are called to go where there is little light, and where there are people in need of help."

It seemed he was speaking directly to me; my face grew hot and I felt a pull somewhere inside. At the end of class when the offering was taken, I gave all I had—the quarter I had earned for work on the farm, plus six pennies.

At that time, I had not yet been baptized. As Mennonites we believed that faith comes not as an inheritance but as a personal decision; it is a gift freely offered and up to each individual to accept. My parents worked hard to help their children be ready to receive that gift; my mother knelt and prayed with us each morning, and in the evening my father read to us from Scripture. I was taught that faith should be apparent in every area of one's life, and I saw evidence of my parents' faith in their actions. They shared what they had with those who had less, they never turned a stranger away, and they showed me that loving our neighbor often meant feeding and clothing him, even if that involved less comfort for us. These things were as much a given in our home as taking your hat off when you were spoken to.

While faith was not my inheritance, it was my heritage. My German ancestors were people who lived apart from the world and much to themselves in Prussia, preferring not to unite with the state and its church. They wanted no part in government affairs and refused to take up firearms, for doing so would violate the commandment Thou shalt not kill. Czarina Catherine II of Russia, hearing that the community was skilled in building dikes, offered its members a deal: she would give them large tracts of virgin farmland in Polish Russia and the freedom to practice their beliefs, in return for which the people would improve the land.

Mennonites believe in the dignity of labor, and they accepted Catherine's offer. Six thousand souls left Prussia for Polish Russia, where they built their own churches and schools and were exempted from military service. They were allowed to substitute an affirmation for an oath—swearing of any kind was forbidden by God—and they were allowed to bury their own dead. They began to work the swampland along the Vistula River, where they built dikes high enough to keep the river's overflow from the lowlands, eventually transforming vast expanses of swampland into thousands of acres of wheat. They continued to speak German and they thrived for many years.

Until 1873, when Alexander II, Catherine's great-grandson, revoked their special privileges, causing the community to look once more for a place where they would be free of the demands of an aristocratic government. The United States seemed to be the answer; its Constitution promised equal rights to all, and Congress had passed a bill that excused conscientious objectors from bearing arms. The community sent a delegation to America to spy out the land, and they returned with good news: fertile farmland could be had for very little, and the state of Kansas exempted Mennonites from military service. The Santa Fe railroad sent an agent to Russia to offer free transportation on a chartered steamer.

Thus in October of 1874, after selling their land for a fraction of its value, it was to America that everyone went. With their families and friends, my parents traveled by rail to Antwerp and from there to New York on the Netherland. The group settled in Kansas, but my parents soon found that their one-hundred-and-sixty-acre farm was too small to support a family of six. In 1885, the year I was born, they traveled to the western part of Oklahoma territory and leased a section of land that had never been cultivated.

Again and again, my ancestors said yes to God, and as I grew I saw those around me say yes as well. Over the months then years I watched one person after another in our community walk forward at Sunday services. At times I looked wistfully, even enviously, at the new church members and wished that I, too, could say the words, could produce the faith. But I could not; I was suspicious of God and was afraid that, if I said yes to Him, He would change me in ways I would not like and ask of me things I did not want to do. I thought of the visiting missionary, and of what I had felt as he spoke. What if God should ask me to leave home? That I could never do. So I tolerated the restlessness that dwelt in my heart and decided that faith could wait.

Which it did, for four years, until early one morning in late summer when I was in the fields. I was sixteen years old and farming was what I loved. I knew how to prepare seedbeds, plow the fields, plant and tend our crops, and harvest wheat and fruit at the optimal time, and I felt a deep satisfaction in watching things grow. Our property was bound by a creek to the north and a line of dogwood trees to the south, with the Washita River running through the center of our land. To the south of the river we grew wheat and to the north was grassland for cattle, with orchards on either side. We harvested more grain and fruit than we could haul to market, and nearly everything on our table came from our farm: cheese and sausage, bread and eggs and jam, apples and peaches and corn.

That morning I fell to my knees behind the plow to pray before I began the day's work, just as I did every morning, for while I was unable to surrender myself to God, I was equally unable to turn my back on Him, and I could not discard my habit of cautious prayer. The day was already hot and the sun warmed my back as I knelt in the cool red dirt and thanked God for my life and asked Him to help me plow a straight line.

I was about to stand when something stopped me. It was the quiet, a deep calm that I did not want to leave or disturb. I stayed very still, and as I gazed out at the wide expanse of rich red earth, my mind and heart grew still as well. I felt a Presence that seemed to surround me and pursue me at the same time, a Presence that I knew was God, and I had the sense that I was deeply loved and cared for. I had been told of this love since I was small, but on that morning it seemed to move from my head into my heart; knowledge became belief. As I remained kneeling in the red soil, it seemed that the gift of faith was being offered to me. I whispered, "Help me to believe," and a feeling of great relief came over me as I realized how I had been longing for enough faith to give myself over. From somewhere inside I felt a yes, and an unfamiliar peace replaced the restlessness in my soul.

Two weeks later, I gave my testimony at our meetinghouse. As I looked out at the congregation, my face grew hot and my voice trembled and I felt myself perspire, but I persevered. Four Sundays later, with our congregation gathered around me, I walked into the clear rushing water of the Washita River. As I knelt, our pastor cupped his hands behind my head and I lay back in the water and felt it rush over me. Then I was up, gasping and wet and cold, and I felt new.

When I finished school three years later, my father sent me to the Gemeinde Schule—community school—a small Bible academy established by the church in nearby Corn, Oklahoma. The younger members of our church community were trained to take on the work of the older ones; my father hoped that when I finished at the academy I would attend the church's Bible College in Hutchinson, Kansas, then return home to become superintendent of our Sunday school.

But that is not what happened. On a Saturday afternoon in late summer of 1906, a few weeks before I was to leave for Kansas, we had a visitor. His name was Edward Geisler, and he and my father greeted each other with a holy kiss, the custom among members of our faith. He was nearly family, my father said; Edward had left Russia in the same group as our family, and he had given himself to God's service. He had traveled to China in 1901 with five other young volunteers as part of the South Chihli Mission, and a few years later he and his wife and another Mennonite, the first Mennonite missionaries in China, had formed the China Mennonite Missionary Society. Now he had come home from China's interior to seek an increase in support for their work and to take new recruits back with him to China. "Our friend is following the Great Commission," my father said. " 'Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation.' "

The next morning Edward spoke at our church. What God asked of us, he said, was nothing less than absolute surrender. "The Gospel tells us this clearly: 'Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.' The question we must ask ourselves is, What are we holding back? What is it that we will not give up?"

I felt found out, as thoroughly convicted as if Edward had addressed me by name. Something tightened in my center, a tense feeling that stayed with me the rest of the day, and at dinner that night I did not speak. My mother asked if I was ill and whether I wanted to leave the table. A part of me did, but I stayed where I was.

I was sitting next to Edward, who seemed to single me out from my siblings. He asked me kindly about school and farming and my baptism, and he said he could see that I loved God and that my faith would bless me all my life. I said no more than what was required, not because I disliked Edward but because I was so drawn to him. He was tall and thin and awkward and not handsome—unexceptional, like me, I thought—but when he spoke of China, I could not look away.

He talked of Keng-Tze Nien, the Boxer Year six years earlier when thousands of Chinese Christians and 186 missionaries and their children had been murdered for following Christ by members of the secret Society of Righteous Harmonious Fists. But Christ's message would not be stopped, Edward said; the people's needs were too immense. They suffered from ignorance about hygiene and lack of medical care. Many infants died at birth, and fewer than half of those who lived survived to their first birthday. Mothers fed their children rat feces to cure them of stomach ailments, men applied the bile from the gallbladders of bears to heal their children's eyes, and opium addicts and beggars slept in the streets.

Yet Edward made no capital of what he had seen. "The suffering is great, as is the need for help, physical and spiritual." He paused, and his expression softened. "But the rewards are also great. The people are the kindest and most generous I have known. They are wise in many ways, and there is much to learn from them and to admire. They have the right to hear the Gospel."

Toward the end of the meal, Edward turned to me. "I return to China in a few weeks. My wife is there, caring for our children and carrying on our work. We need helpers, for the harvest is great, the laborers few. Why don't you come with me, Will? The Chinese language is difficult, but far easier when you are young. Perhaps this is your calling."

I saw my siblings trying to stifle their laughter. Of all our family, I was the least likely to leave. I wasn't good at speaking in front of people; I became nervous and I stammered. I was quiet and shy, I wasn't a good student, and I disliked being away from home.

"I'm needed here," I said, my voice cracking. "I haven't any training or gifts of that kind."

Edward said, "The Giver of those gifts may feel otherwise," and he looked at me, his blue eyes bright. "A torch's one qualification is that it be fitted to the master's hand. God's chosen are often not talented or wise or gifted as the world judges. Our Lord sees what is inside"—Edward touched his chest—"and that is why He calls whom He does." Then he turned to my father and they began to talk about wheat.

In the morning Edward left to visit other churches; he would return in a week. During those days I struggled, for while I felt pulled toward Edward's work, the idea seemed too foolish to even consider. I couldn't imagine leaving home; I suspected I was unfit for anything but farming, and I thought surely God would want me to remain where I had been planted. I decided I was being proud to think I might be remotely capable of meeting the challenges that must face a man like Edward every day, for in the few years that had passed since I joined the church, I did not feel I had made much progress spiritually. I yearned to walk more closely with God, and while I did experience moments of joy, they were often followed by days of despair. I told myself that surely God would not ask me to do work that was so clearly beyond me, and I fervently prayed that China was not my calling.

The night before Edward was to return, I woke suddenly in the night. When I couldn't fall back to sleep, I crept out of bed and down the ladder that led from the attic bedroom I shared with my brothers. I sat down at the table my father had made from the elm trees that edged our land, and for a while I just listened to the nighttime sounds of our home—the even rhythm of my father's snoring in the next room, the soft rush of the wind outside, the neat ticking of the kitchen clock—sounds as familiar as my own heartbeat.

As I sat there, I suddenly knew I would go to China. The realization was as simple and definite as the plunk of a small stone in the deep well of my soul, and despite the fact that it would mean leaving what I loved most in the world, I felt not the sadness and dread I had expected but a sense of freedom and release. The tightness in me loosened like cut cord, and I was joyful.

The next morning I stood nervously in our kitchen, my hands gripping the rough wood that framed the door, as I waited to tell my father of my decision. I was worried about his reaction; I expected disappointment and anger and dreaded them equally. I had not disobeyed my parents since I was a small boy, and the thought that God might ask me to do so now made my heart clench.

I saw my father coming toward me from the chicken house. He had barely entered the yard before I hurried to meet him.

"I have something to tell you," I said. "I feel that God is calling me to serve Him in China. I know it makes no sense; I know I'm unqualified and I'm needed here and my decision must seem all wrong to you. But yes seems the only answer I can give."

I had braced myself for my father's objections, but none came. He stared at me without speaking for a long moment; then he put his arms around me and embraced me tightly. "Will," he said, "you have chosen the better part. How could I refuse you?"

Edward was to leave for Seattle from his family's home in French Creek near Hillsboro, Kansas, in two weeks. My parents went with me to the farewell meeting, which was held at the home of fellow Mennonites, where, with the friends and relatives who were able to join us, Edward, myself, and three other recruits sat outside at rough tables and benches under shade trees while Edward read Scripture and prayed for us and led us in the four-part singing of a few hymns. A few of the group gave their testimonies; then we shared a fellowship meal, and our families and friends wished us well.

At the end of the meeting, my mother took me aside. "Will, do you have money to travel?"

I felt instantly foolish and ashamed, for I hadn't even thought about money; I had somehow thought Edward would take care of it. Out of pride and embarrassment, I said, "I hadn't worked it out. Edward invited me. He'll pay the bills."

My mother shook her head. "Here," she said, and she took my hand and pressed a roll of bills into it, more money than I had ever seen. She smiled at my amazement. "It's my inheritance from my parents, two hundred dollars. Edward says it will cover the train to Seattle and the steamship across the ocean." She held me close for moment. Then she said, "My sweet boy—I will miss you more than you know."

At the railway station, my parents and I stood together awkwardly. When it was time to board, my heart pounded and I suddenly wanted to change my mind; it seemed that doing something right shouldn't hurt so much. But the conductor called out and waved his small flag, and I knew I had to go.

I embraced my mother and father a last time. None of us could speak. I walked to the train and climbed aboard, then hurried back to the last car and watched my parents until I could no longer make them out in the distance; even my father waving his broad-brimmed felt hat was gone. I worked at committing this last sight of them to memory, so I could call it up at will, and I tried to console myself with the idea that I would return in five years. But it did not ease the ache in my chest.

My mother had never sent me off anywhere without food, and this departure was no exception. Packed in a small basket were homemade sausage and biscuits, apples from our orchard, spice cake, and tea, all of which I shared with Edward and the three other recruits, whom I found intimidating, for at twenty-one I knew I was the youngest and least experienced. Jacob and Agnes Schmidt were a married couple who had met at the Salvation Army, and Ruth Ehren was a deaconess, which meant, Edward explained, that she had completed a two-year nurse's training program at an orphanage and hospital in Berne, Indiana, so that she could devote herself to the care of the poor and sick. The long black dress and black bonnet she wore signified her training and position. A fourth recruit, another deaconess, would join us in Seattle.

After three days on the train we reached Seattle, where we would spend our last night in America with friends of Edward's. At the railway station Edward asked me to stay with the luggage while he took the others to our hosts' home. While I was sitting on the trunks, a young woman passed by. She wore the same type of black dress and bonnet that Ruth did, and when Edward returned for me, he brought this young woman with him and introduced her as Katherine Friesen, from the Deaconess Hospital in Cleveland. "She's also my wife's sister," Edward added, and I heard the pride in his voice. She smiled fondly at him but seemed to ignore me, which was fine by me, for I could not speak. Although slight, she was so sure of herself and so imposing in her black dress that I was in awe of her from the start.

October 3, 1906

I am far away from home tonight, the farthest I have ever been, sitting in the comfortable parlor in the home of strangers in a rainy city I do not know on the edge of this continent. Tomorrow at this time I will be even farther away, miles out to sea—I, Katherine Friesen, who have spent my life in the middle of this country with not so much as a glimpse of the ocean, will be in the middle of it! I have surprised myself this evening, for while I thought I would be anxious or afraid, I am neither. Although I love my family and will miss them, and although I have no idea what to expect of the days, weeks, and months ahead, here is my secret: I am happy. My heart beats strangely; I feel more like I am returning home than leaving it.

These giddy feelings seem wrong. Shouldn't a good daughter, a good sister, a good deaconess, be ambivalent about leaving home? But I'm not, which amazes me. I'm amazed that I've made it to Seattle, amazed at my good health, amazed that one obstacle after another concerning money and the details of the journey has been overcome. Here I am, sitting at this cherrywood table by a warm fire, "en route to the Far East," as our hosts put it; how glamorous it sounds!

The other recruits don't seem to share my high spirits; they already look homesick. The married couple appears to be aware only of each other; I haven't seen them more than two feet apart all evening. Young love, I suppose. Ruth Ehren, the other deaconess, is as somber as if our journey were a punishment. She's what people often envision when they hear the word missionary—a serious soul who travels to faraway lands to turn heathens into Westerners. I don't understand her; being morose seems like such a loss.

Then there is Will Kiehn, who strikes me as awkward and dreamy, but Edward certainly sees something in him; his strong encouragement is the reason Will is going to China. I can see that Edward loves this clumsy boy, for he already favors him every chance he gets; tonight at dinner he passed Will extra crescent rolls (the boy seemed ravenous—I kept wanting to ask if anyone had been feeding him) and afterward he made sure Will wrote a letter to his parents. Edward says Will reminds him of his younger self, that when he talked to Will about China, Will's expression of wonder mirrored his own feelings when he was starting out. That's how I felt too when I began to sense the idea of China in my soul, a kind of irrational certainty that I would go, even though it made no sense. Edward says that when Will told him of his decision to go with him to China he felt a bounce of joy inside; he was certain he'd met a like-minded soul. This is high praise, for while my brother-in-law can be impetuous and unorthodox in his ways, he is as wise as he is kind, which makes me believe there must be more to this Will than I see. Perhaps he isn't as bothersome as he seems.

Edward's excitement is a dramatic contrast to the somber mood of the others. His eyes are bright as he talks of leaving in the morning, and I see the energy in his step and his movements, as though this tidy home in which we are guests constrains him. Of course he really is returning home—to Naomi and the boys and the new baby, all of whom I'm eager to see—so there is reason for his joy. But I think it is more than a homecoming. He is excited about the work.

As am I. I have no idea what this life will be like, nor can I guess whether I'll be gone for five years or fifty. I know only that I am happy—in my heart and mind and soul and even my body, which feels strong and sturdy and healthy. I'm weary too, but I don't mind the fatigue; I am on my way to China, and that is enough.

Early the next morning we left for the Seattle docks and for the S.S. Minnesota, which was to depart shortly before noon. Edward settled us on board then went to secondhand stores to purchase a few last supplies he knew he couldn't get in China. Noon came and he hadn't returned, a problem because he had the tickets. The whistle blew once, then a second time, and finally Edward came charging up the gangplank, awkwardly carrying a load of folding chairs he'd bought at what he excitedly said was a most reasonable price.

The thick ropes tethering the ship to the dock were untied and we were under way. I stayed on deck, and in my mind I said goodbye to my family once again as I watched Seattle and America recede.

Edward joined me, and for a while we were silent. Then he said, "Perhaps it's time to learn your first Mandarin phrase."

I was immediately anxious; I did not feel at all up to tackling a new language. But when he spoke again, I was so drawn to the sound of what he said that I couldn't help asking its meaning.

He smiled and repeated it. "Tsaichien mei-kuo," he said. "Tsaichien is goodbye, mei is beautiful, kuo is country. That's the name for America: Beautiful Country."

I tried to repeat it. Then I asked him the word for China.

"Chung-Kuo," he said. "It means Middle Kingdom, because of the people's ancient belief that their country was at the center of a vast square earth, surrounded by the Four Seas, beyond which lay islands inhabited by barbarians. That's us." Edward turned and faced the front of the ship, and the expanse of ocean spread before us, so that America was behind us. "The strange part," he said softly, "is that after you've been there for a while, it truly does feel like the center of the world. It becomes a place you never want to leave."

I nodded, willing to be convinced. For at that moment, despite the homesickness that had accompanied me like a stowaway since I'd left home, I had a dim hope that, given time, I might come to feel the same.


My Thoughts:

December is a time to pull out those heartwarming books that tug on your heartstrings. There's just something about the season that makes one want to get cozy with a book that is inspiring and makes you say to yourself, "I'm really glad I read that". "City of Tranquil Light" is one of those books.

Bo Caldwell writes a fictional tale based on her maternal Mennonite grandparents. She brings to life both their conviction to bring the Word to China, as well as weaving a beautiful love story throughout. The story is written from two points of view and from two different periods of time. The tale is told by Will Kiehn when he is 81 years old and by his wife Katherine through her diary entries as things were actually taking place. The story spans about 60 years of Will and Katherine's life, and is beautifully told.

This book brings to life the lifestyle of the Chinese people, the beliefs of both Chinese and Mennonite, and an amazing story of conviction and love. This will be a book that stays with me for a very, very long time!!

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