Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mary's Blessing by Lena Nelson Dooley

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:

Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Lena Nelson Dooley is an award-winning author with more than 650,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers—where she received the Mentor of the Year award in 2006—DFW Ready Writers, and Christian Authors Network. She lives in Hurst, Texas, with her husband of over 45 years.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




Mary Lenora Murray was adopted by parents who had recently lost a child while on the last wagon train west in 1867. When she is thirteen years old, Mary’s mother and her two older sisters die in the cholera pandemic, leaving her the oldest child with four younger siblings to raise. Her father, in his grief, pours himself into keeping the farm going, leaving the running of the home entirely in Mary’s hands.




Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616386177
ISBN-13: 978-1616386177



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


"Pa?” Mary Lenor a Murray shouted back over her shoulder as she picked up the heavy picnic basket. “You ready to go?” Why does he always drag his feet when we’re going to
church?
Her father came through the mud room into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. He smelled of heat, hay, and sunshine, with the strong tang of muck from the barn mingled in. By the looks of his clothes, attending church was the farthest thing from his mind. His ratty trousers held smudges of several dark colors. She didn’t even want to guess what they were. And the long sleeves of his undershirt, the only thing covering his torso, were shoved above his elbows. Grayed and dingy, the shirt would never be white again, no matter how hard she tried to get it clean.
Mary bit her tongue to keep from scolding him as she did her younger brothers and sister when they made such a racket entering the house. No doubt he would give her some excuse about having too much work to go to church. Not a big surprise. She’d heard it all before too many times.
He set a bucket of fresh water beside the dry sink and gripped his fingers around the front straps of his suspenders. That always signaled he was about to tell her something she didn’t want to hear.
“I’m not going today.” This time he didn’t really make any excuses, just this bald-faced comment.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm her anger. She’d give him a sweet answer even if the words tasted bitter in her mouth. “The new pastor is coming today. We’re having dinner on the grounds after the service. Remember, I told you when we got home last Sunday.” She flashed what she hoped was a warm smile at him and prayed he couldn’t tell it
was fake.






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“What happened to the last one? He didn’t last very long, did he?” Pa started washing his hands with the bar of homemade soap she kept in a dish on the shelf. “Don’t understand why that church can’t keep a pastor. Someone musta run him off.”
Mary couldn’t keep from huffing out a breath this time. “I told you about that too.” She clamped her lips closed before she asked the question that often bounced around her mind. Why don’t you ever listen to me? At seventeen she was close enough to being an adult to be treated like one, and she’d carried the load of a woman in this household for years.
“His wife died, and his father-in-law begged him to bring the grandchildren closer to where they live, so he headed back to Ohio. Living in the same community as their grandparents, he’d have a lot of help with the younger ones.”
Mary had never known her own grandparents, none of them. Not her mother’s parents. Not her father’s parents. Not the par- ents of whoever gave birth to her. She didn’t wonder about any of them very often, but today her heart longed for someone who really loved her.
With bright red curly hair and fair skin that freckled more every time she stepped into the sunlight, she didn’t resemble anyone in this family that had adopted her as an infant. Since they were black Irish, they all had dark hair and striking blue eyes, not like her murky green ones. And none of them had ever wanted to know what she thought about anything—except her mother.
“Well, I’ve gotta lot to do today.” Her father reached for the towel she’d made out of feed sacks. “You and the others go ahead. I might come over that way at dinner time.”
No, you won’t. Mary had heard his statement often enough to know he was trying to placate her so she would leave him alone. So she would.
“Frances, George, Bobby, come on. We don’t want to be late.”






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Lena  neL son DooLey


She shifted the handle of the loaded basket to her other arm. “Frances, you grab the jug of spring water. We might get thirsty.” Her father’s icy blue eyes pierced her. “Pretty warm out today.
No sign of rain.”
“We’ll be picnicking in the field between the church and Willamette Falls. It’s cooler there, especially under the trees with the breeze blowing across the water.” She started toward the front door.
“Keep your eyes on the boys.” His harsh command followed her. “Don’t let either of them fall into the river. They could drown. Water’s fast right there.”
She nodded but didn’t answer or look back at him. All he cared about were those boys and getting them raised old enough to really help with the farming. He already worked them harder than any of the neighbors did their sons who were the same ages.
Six long years ago her mother and older sisters contracted diphtheria when they went to help Aunt Miriam and Uncle Leland settle in their house on a farm about five miles from theirs. On the trip to Oregon one of them had contracted the dread disease and didn’t know it until after they arrived. No one knew they were all dead until Pa went looking for Ma, Carrie, and Annette a couple of days later. He saw the quarantine sign someone nailed to a fence post and didn’t go closer until he had help. When he came home, he told Mary she would have to take over the keeping of the house. Six long years ago.
When did my life become such drudgery? Had it ever been any- thing else? At least not since Ma died, which seemed like an
eternity ago.
















16








M a ry ’s Ble s si ng


4 4 4


Daniel Winthrop whistled while he dressed for church. He looked forward with anticipation to the moment when he would lay eyes on Mary Murray. Even her name had a musical ring to it.
He’d been waiting and planning what to say when he approached her. Today he would start his subtle courting. With the situation at the Murray farm, he knew he would have his work cut out for him to convince her she could start a life of her own with him. After he achieved that, he’d ask her father for her hand.
Visions of coming home to her each night and building a family together moved through his head like the slides of photo- graphs in the Holmes stereopticon they had at home. He loved her already, but more than that, he wanted to get her out of that house, where she was loaded down with so much work and responsibility.
Daniel had often gone with his mother when she bought fresh produce from the Murrays, so he knew what her life had been like since her mother died. Their families came to Oregon on the same wagon train, so he’d known her all his life. He was only three years older than she was, and he had watched her over the last few years as she blossomed into a beautiful young woman.
Mary needed to be appreciated and cared for, and he was just the man to do it.
“Daniel, we’re leaving soon.” His father’s voice prodded him from his dreams.
With a final peek into the tall cheval glass, he straightened his necktie before he headed out the door of his room. “I’m on my way.”
He bounded down the stairs and took their picnic basket






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Lena  neL son DooLey


from his mother. “Something really smells good.” He gave a loud sniff. “Do you need me to test and make sure it’s all right?”
He welcomed her playful slap on his hand that crept toward the cover on the basket. Her laughter reminded him of the chimes he had heard in the larger church in Portland.
“Not a single bite until dinner.” Like a queen, she swept out the door Father held open for her.
Their familiar ritual warmed his heart. He looked forward to creating family rituals with Mary. Once more he whistled as he headed toward the brougham. Nothing could cloud his day.
When they pulled up to the Methodist church, his father guided the team toward the back, where a large area paved with fine gravel gave plenty of space for those who arrived in horse- drawn vehicles. While Father helped Mother down from the open carriage, Daniel took the reins and tied them to one of the hitching rails that outlined the space. He chose the rail under
a spreading black cottonwood tree where the limbs were just beginning to show the leaf buds.
He scanned the lot, looking for the Murray wagon. Not there. Disappointed, he stared at the ground. Please, God, let Mary come today.
Clopping hoofs and a jingling harness accompanied a wagon
taking too fast of a turn into the parking area. Daniel cut his eyes toward the advancing disaster. Two of the wheels did indeed lift from the ground. Before he could get a shout out of his mouth, he heard Mary’s sweet voice.
“Lean to the right, boys!”
George and Bobby, Mary’s brothers, scrambled across the seat, followed by Frances. The wagon wheels settled into the gravel, and Mary pulled on the reins.
“Easy. Settle down.” Even though she spoke to the horses, he
heard every word.






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M a ry ’s Ble s si ng


His heart that had almost leapt from his chest also settled down when he realized she was no longer in danger. Thank You, Lord.
The wagon came to a standstill, and Mary put her dainty hand to her chest and released a deep breath. The green cotton fabric, sprigged with white flowers, looked good on her, setting off her red hair, pulled up into a bunch on the top of her head. Without a hat or bonnet covering it, the sun danced across the curls. He loved seeing the wisps frame her face. That’s how he pictured her when he dreamed about their future.
Mary sat a moment without moving. She was probably scared out of her wits. Where was her father? He should have been driving the wagon, not her. How long had it been since the man had attended services? Daniel couldn’t remember the last time. It was not a good thing for a man to neglect his spiritual nature. He’d just have to pray harder for Mr. Murray.
Daniel hurried toward them. “Hi, Mary.”
She looked up, straight into his eyes, fear still flickering in the back of her gaze. “Daniel. Good morning.” Her words came out riding on short breaths.
He took hold of the bridle of the horse nearest him. “I can hitch your team under the trees for you.”
After releasing another deep breath, Mary nodded. “Thank you. I’d like that.” She turned toward her siblings. “Frances, you get the picnic basket, and George, you carry the jug of water. Go find us a pew, perhaps near the back of the sanctuary, and put the things under the bench. I’ll be right in.”
The younger children climbed out of the wagon and followed their sister’s instructions. Mary watched them until they’d gone around the side of the building toward the front. Then she stood up.
Before she could try to climb over the side, Daniel hurried to








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help. He held out his hand to her. She stared at it, then looked at his face.
“I’ll help you down.” He gave her his most beguiling smile. For the first time since she arrived, she smiled back, and pink
bled up her neck into her cheeks. Her blush went straight to his heart. Oh, yes, he loved this woman.
Mary slipped her slim fingers into his hand. Even through the white cotton gloves, he felt the connection as warmth sparked up his arm like fireworks on Independence Day. She glanced down so she could see the step. When she hesitated, he let go of her hand and both of his spanned her tiny waist. With a deft swing, he had her on the ground in seconds. He wished he had the right to pull her into an embrace. Wouldn’t that just set the tongues a-wagging? He couldn’t do that to her. Mary needed to be cherished for the treasure she was. And as far as Daniel could see, her father really didn’t treat her that way.
He watched her walk toward the front of the building, enjoying the way her skirt swayed with each step, barely brushing the tops of her black patent shoes. That is one beau- tiful woman. He turned back to her team. Walking beside the horses, he led them toward the hitching rail where his family’s brougham was parked, hoping it would give him the oppor- tunity to help her back up onto the wagon seat. As he crossed the lot, several other conveyances entered, and he waved and exchanged greetings with each family.
The church was the first one established in Oregon City. At that time, it was the Methodist Mission but grew as the town did. Along the way, members of this body had a great influence on what happened in the burgeoning city. And that was still true today. His Winthrop ancestors, who settled nearby, had been instrumental in both the growth of the church and of the
town. He felt a sense of pride at being a part of something that






20








M a ry ’s Ble s si ng


important, and he wanted to increase the town’s assets, because he planned to raise his own family here. Maybe establish a dynasty of his own, watching his sons and daughters, then his grandchildren, prosper.
His woolgathering slowed the progress of tying the horses to their spot. He needed to hurry so he wouldn’t miss the begin- ning of the service. As he opened the front door, Mrs. Slidell struck the first chord on the new Mason and Hamlin reed organ. The church had ordered the instrument from the manufacturing plant in Buffalo, New York. When it arrived only a couple of weeks before, the music added a special feeling to the worship and helped most people stay on the right tune better than the old piano did. He hummed along with the introduction to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” his favorite hymn.
Glancing around the room, Daniel finally spied Mary and her siblings sitting on the second pew from the back on the right side of the aisle. He squared his shoulders and confidently approached the wooden bench. He asked if he could sit with them, and she scooted over to make room. Just what he wanted. He would be sitting right beside her.
Throughout the service, Daniel had a hard time keeping his mind on the proceedings. Mary sat close enough for him to touch her if he leaned a little to his right. He was so tempted to bump against her arm, but he held back. He imagined clasping her hand in his and holding it for longer than just a few seconds while helping her down from a conveyance or through a doorway, really wrapping his large fingers around hers and intertwining their fingers. Just thinking about it caught his breath.
He whooshed it out, and she turned toward him, her eyes wid- ening with a question. After flashing a smile at her, he glanced up at Rev. Horton. The man’s delivery was smooth, and his words
made a lot of sense. He’d be a good pastor for them, but Daniel






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couldn’t keep a single word of his message in his mind. Not while he could feel Mary’s presence with every cell in his body.
Instead, in his mind he searched up and down the streets of Oregon City, seeking a place to turn into a home for him and his beloved. If the right house wasn’t for sale, he could build her one. She could help him choose the design. That’s what he’d do. Build her the home she’d always dreamed of. His heart squeezed with the knowledge of what he planned to do. He could hardly keep the idea to himself. He hoped it wouldn’t take too long for him to convince her that they should marry.
He’d even hire servants to help her manage their home. Whatever her heart desired, he’d do everything he could to present her with all she wanted. He only hoped it wouldn’t take too long. At twenty years old, he was ready to move on to the next phase of his life—with Mary by his side.
“Now let us bow our heads in prayer.” Rev. Horton raised his hands to bless the whole congregation.
Daniel dropped his head toward his chest. How had the man finished his sermon without Daniel noticing? Next Sunday he’d have to listen more closely. He really did want to get to know the new pastor and his family.
“Amen.” After the pastor pronounced the word, several other men echoed it.
Daniel watched his father rise from the second pew near the front on the left side of the aisle and take his place beside the new preacher. He placed his arm across the man’s shoulders. “Dear friends, on your behalf, I welcome our new pastor. Now let’s all meet his lovely family.” He waved toward a woman sitting on the front pew. “Mrs. Horton?”
The woman stood and turned toward the congregation. She was pretty, but not as young or as pretty as Mary.
“And,” Father’s voice boomed, “these are their children.”






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M a ry ’s Ble s si ng


Four stair-step youngsters stood beside their mother. The tallest, a boy. The next, a girl. Then another boy, and the shortest, a cute little girl. As if they had rehearsed it, they bowed toward the people in unison.
Several women across the sanctuary oooed or aahed before a loud round of applause broke out. The three oldest children gave shy smiles, and the youngest tugged at her mother’s skirts. When Mrs. Horton picked her up, the girl waved to the people, clearly enjoying the attention.
“I hope you all brought your blankets and picnic baskets.” Father beamed at the crowd. “We’re going to spread our food together. I believe there are plenty of sawhorse tables set up near the building. And you can pick a spot under the trees to settle for your meal. Just don’t forget to take the time to greet our new ministerial family while you’re here.” Father led the Horton family down the aisle and out the front door.
Daniel turned back toward Mary. “Perhaps you and your brothers and sister could spread your blanket beside my family’s.” A tiny smile graced Mary’s sweet mouth. “If you’re sure your
mother wouldn’t mind, I’d like that.”
“Oh, yes. I’m sure.” He stepped into the nearly empty aisle and moved back to let Mary and her family precede him, and he quickly followed behind.
His heartbeat accelerated just thinking about spending spe- cial time with the object of his affections. Without thinking, he started whistling a happy tune.
Mary glanced back at him. “I didn’t know you whistled.”
“Oh, yes. I’m a man of many talents.” His heart leapt at the interest he read in her gaze. Things were well on their way to working out just the way he wanted them to.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Wish You Were Here" by Beth K. Vogt @Litfuse

Wish You Were Here
Author: Beth K. Vogt
Publisher: Howard Books
Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN: 9781451659863
To purchase

About the Book:
Allison Denman is supposed to get married in five days, but everything is all wrong. The huge wedding. The frothy dress. And the groom. Still, kissing the groom's brother in an unguarded moment is decidedly not the right thing to do. How could she have made such a mistake? It seems Allison's life is nothing but mistakes at this point. And pulling a "Runaway Bride" complete with stealing, er, borrowing her best friend's car doesn't seem to solve her problems. Can Allison find her way out of this mess? Maybe she just needs to stop orchestrating everything. Allison prefers being the one in control, and giving it up is not going to be easy. But to find her way again, she will have to believe that God has a plan for her and find the strength to let Him lead.

My Thoughts:

When one looks at the cover, one thinks "another runaway bride story", and it is, but, this one has a few surprises. What I thought was going to be a typical runaway bride story ended up being more involved and had a wonderful lesson on keeping secrets, control, and finally faith and healing.

Allison seems like a typical bride-to-be, but she gives in to everyone's wishes when it comes to planning the wedding - even agreeing to wear a gown she hates.  When her future brother-in-law, Daniel, shows up at her apartment to help her move, she finds herself in a situation that causes so much doubt before the wedding, she ends up running away.

This was an enjoyable and captivating story. I enjoyed the characters as they felt quite real and weren't perfect. I adored Daniel, was frustrated with Seth, and wasn't sure at the beginning what I thought of Allison. As the story continued and I "saw" her for what she was, I started to connect with her. I enjoyed Allison's journey as she faced her monsters and discovered the many truths she had ignored because it was the "safe" thing to do and ended up really liking her at the end.

Make sure to add this delightful story to your summer must-read list, you won't be disappointed.

About the Author:

Beth K. Vogt provides her readers with a happily ever after woven through with humor, reality, and God's lavish grace. She's a non-fiction author and editor who said she'd never write fiction. She's the wife of an Air Force physician (now in solo practice) who said she'd never marry a doctor-or anyone in the military. She's a mom of four who said she'd never have kids. Beth has discovered that God's best often waits behind the doors marked "Never." She writes contemporary romance because she believes there's more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us. Beth earned a journalism degree from San Jose State University and met her husband Rob when he knocked her down at a karate studio. They've been married for 31 years. They have four children, ranging in ages from 28, 25, 23 and - thanks to a funny thing happening on their way to the empty nest-a 10-year-old. The Vogt Team, which now includes a "daughter-in-love" and "son-in-love," enjoys hiking and camping in Colorado.

Read more about Beth at her website: http://bethvogt.com

See what others on the tour are saying about "Wish You Were Here".


Win an iPad2 from @BethVogt!

 Celebrate with Beth by entering her Wish You Were Here Giveaway!



One "happy" winner will receive:
  • A brand new iPad with Wi-Fi (The must-have, do-everything gadget!)
  • Wish You Were Here by Beth Vogt (Swoon worthy.)
  • $15 iTunes Gift Card (Music, books, apps, & more.)
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 6/4/12. The winner will be announced 6/6/12 on Beth's website!

Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Beth's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.


Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter




I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher for this tour. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

"Mind Monsters" by Kevin Gerald

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:

Charisma House (May 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kevin Gerald is the founder and lead pastor of Champions Centre in Tacoma and Bellevue, Washington, one of the largest congregations in the Pacific Northwest. Thousands are exposed to Kevin’s practical Bible teaching through his television program, KevinGerald.tv. Kevin is also a nationally recognized author of several books, including: Developing Confidence; Pardon Me, I'm Prospering; The Proving Ground; Raising Champion Children; Forces That Form Your Future; Mind Monsters; and By Design or Default.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Many of us are living beneath our potential because we’ve allowed “mind monsters” to steal our joy and peace, disrupt our relationships, and rob us of contentment. In Mind Monsters, author Kevin Gerald shows us how to combat these negative invaders of the mind.

Gerald explains how we can exterminate mind monsters such as fear, worry, guilt, and shame. People often end up in places they don’t want to be because they boarded the wrong train of thought. Mind Monsters will show readers how to recognize, reject, and replace mind monsters, and retrain their thoughts so they can experience God’s best.




Product Details:
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (May 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616387386
ISBN-13: 978-1616387389

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


NEGATIVE INVADERS OF THE MIND



Have you ever had the wrong thing in mind? Have you ever had one of those moments when it dawned on you, “I haven’t been thinking right ”? It ’s as if a light suddenly comes on, and you realize you’ve been giving a voice to mind monsters, those negative invaders that come and:


•    Steal your joy and peace
•    Disrupt your relationships
•    Take away your contentment in life


They steal your life, one day at a time. As you read this book, you may be thinking, “I attend church. I’ve given my life to Christ. I shouldn’t have to deal with mind monsters, right?” The truth is, a person can be saved and on his way to heaven and still have to battle mind monsters.

So if you want your life experience to be positive, abundant, joyful, and overflowing with peace; if you want to live a successful Christian life with a great marriage and a fantastic relationship with your kids, you have to take a stand against negative invaders of the mind. It’s impossible to live a positive life with a negative mind.

Mind monsters are nothing new. In fact they are at least as old as the Bible, all the way back to the Book of Judges, where we can read about a man named Gideon who had to conquer some mind monsters on his way to defeating the Midianites.

The Israelites  were in trouble. Their land had been taken over by the Midianites, and they were feeling the weight of oppression. In the middle of this was a lowly farmhand named Gideon. In Judges 6:14, God appears to Gideon and tells him, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Pretty strong words to hear directly from God Himself. And yet Gideon immediately let a mind monster jump between him and God. In the very next verse, he replies, “Pardon me, my Lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (v. 15). Can you believe it? God just gave Gideon a job, and Gideon refuses, saying he isn’t strong enough.

Fortunately when God chooses you, you stay chosen. Gideon essentially spends the rest of the chapter disbelieving God, and God spends the rest of the chapter convincing Gideon that he is, in fact, the one chosen to rescue Israel from their captivity. And from then on, Gideon finally accepts his role and kicks the invaders out. (It’s a great story— read Judges 6–8 for all of it.)

There’s also the New Testament story of Joseph, where a mind monster almost kept him from marrying the mother of Jesus. When we read the story of Jesus’s birth, it’s easy to see how close Joseph came to messing up God ’s plan. The Bible records in the first chapter of Matthew that Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married. Back in those days if you were engaged, you were committed; it took a divorce to become unengaged.

But then the unthinkable happened, which we read about in Matthew 1:18: “Before [ Joseph and Mary] came together, she was found to be pregnant [through the power] of the Holy Spirit” (amp). When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he knew it wasn’t his child. He also knew Mary’s penalty could be death—it was a horrible disgrace for a woman to be pregnant out of wedlock. His decision? “He had in mind to divorce her quietly.”1

He had in mind! Notice how his thinking had gone off course. His mind was on a completely different track than the plan of God. An angel came along and pointed this out to Joseph. I imagine the conversation went something like this: “Joseph, you’ve got the wrong thing in mind. God ’s got a plan going on here, and you’re not thinking right. You’ve got to get the right thing in your mind.”2

If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.


WAYWARD THINKING



Have you ever felt sad the moment you woke up? Your mind is whining, “Oh boy, another day! Oh my, a blue Monday! A terrible Tuesday! A weird Wednesday! A tough Thursday! A frightening Friday! A stinking Saturday!”

These way ward thoughts cause you to turn on your country western music and sing, “It’s raining outside, and it’s raining inside too. I’ve got trouble on my mind, and I don’t know
what to do.”

What happened to “This is the day the Lord  has made; [I will] rejoice and be glad in it”?3 It went out when sadness came in. The sadness created way ward thoughts, and the mind monster of sadness started jumping around inside your mind wreaking havoc! It said, “Let’s go claim Monday as a day of sadness. Let’s go ahead and move into Tuesday and call it terrible.”

When the mind monster is at work, everything is sad, everything’s gloomy—but there’s really no reason for it to be that way. The negative invader of your mind came in and created way ward thoughts—thoughts that would get you off course. God had an assignment for you that day. You were supposed to go to work happy. You were supposed to walk in and smile at the folks in the office, greeting them with good
cheer.

You were supposed to let your light shine before men so they could see your good works and then honor and glorify God.4 That was God ’s plan before sadness—the monster—invaded your mind. Now you’re on a completely different track, feeling bad and walking into the office with your head hanging low. When your coworker asks, “Did you have a good weekend?” you can barely respond. You’re moping around and sacrificing influence with your poor attitude.

You’ve just been taken over by a mind monster. Get back on assignment and live out the purpose God has for you by understanding that these way ward thoughts are really mind monsters trying to hijack your day and your destiny.


THE TRAINS OF THOUGHTS



A few years ago my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a trip to Europe. Most of the time we were away we were transported between cities and countries by train. It was an experience that turned out to be much more difficult than we imagined.  The signage was insufficient, and finding someone to help us with directions seemed impossible. We ended up being confused for a good portion of the trip. It wasn’t until the end of our time in Europe that we began to understand the routing system and train-car assignments.

Have you ever taken a train? If so you know you don’t get on one without knowing where it’s going. After all that’s the whole point; you’re on board to get somewhere. In my book Forces That Form Your Future, I wrote about the way thoughts are like trains—they take you somewhere. But so often we jump on these trains of thought without knowing our destination!

So many people end up in places they don’t want to be and then wonder how they got there. But it only makes sense that they boarded a train of thought to Self-Pity City, Anger Town, or Lonesomeville without even realizing it.

Many times they assume God put them there. I’ve heard people say, “You know, God put me in this wilderness. I’m hungry, and I can’t feed my kids, but God put me here.” That usually is not the case. More often than not, God is saying, “I didn’t put you there. You boarded the wrong train of thought.” The wrong train carries:

• Thoughts of worry

• Thoughts that create guilt

• Thoughts that cause you to feel insecure and question yourself

• Thoughts that bring sadness

• Thoughts that cause suspicion of others’ motives

• Thoughts  that bring doubt of God and His Word

• Thoughts of inaccurate assumptions


For example, have you ever met a person who assumed something about you that wasn’t true? I remember a day when I left church quickly to catch a plane for a speaking engage- ment. My assistant had picked up a sandwich from Subway for me because I didn’t have time to eat lunch. I raced to the airport with no time to spare.

When I arrived, I jumped out of the car, hurried to the check-in counter, and said, “Is there any way you can get me on the plane? Can you get my baggage checked through? I have a speaking engagement tonight, and I’ve got to get on this plane.”

I remember watching the attendant work slowly. I was wondering, “What’s bothering him? Why is he treating me this way?”

Finally he blurted out, “The next time you’re running late to the airport, don’t take the time to stop at Subway and pick up a sandwich.”

Now in that moment I didn’t have to be a great man of God to recognize the mind monster of anger that jumped into my thoughts. Longing to leap over the counter and grab the attendant by the neck, I saw a flash, a picture of that negative imagination.

I rebuked that thought. I cast it down. I brought my thoughts into captivity and kindly responded with something like, “I really didn’t get the sandwich myself, but that’s OK. Would you just please let me on the airplane?”


Thoughts are like trains—
they take you somewhere.

Everyone makes inaccurate assumptions from time to time. The man at the ticket counter put two and two together and assumed I stopped and hung out at Subway and as a result was late for my flight.

He concluded that he shouldn’t have had to rush. He probably told himself, “This tardy customer isn’t going to create an emergency for me! I’ve been here all day waiting for him to get here. He obviously stopped at Subway, and now he wants to fire me up and get me going. I’m not hurrying for him, because I know what happened. I see the bag in his hand!”

I have to admit, I’m not immune to making inaccurate assumptions myself. As a Pentecostal preacher’s kid, I grew up assuming certain things about people who weren’t part of our specific brand of Christianity. It seemed to me that those in other denominations were less informed, less sincere, and just all-around less spiritual than those of us in my dad ’s church. I stereotyped them as not being on “our side.”

But then along came Reggie. We met during football camp while we were in high school and hit it off right away. We saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things and had many of the same interests, including several classes together. He was a fun, good- natured guy and a terrific athlete, so we became friends.

Then I discovered the worst: he was not only one of “them”— his dad was the pastor of one of those “other” churches! Yet here we were: two preachers’ kids in a large, secular high school. I began to realize that our commonalities were so great they rendered our differences irrelevant, and I stopped making all those negative, incorrect assumptions.

Looking back I can see that God had a bigger plan for me and that even then He was beginning to free me from false assumptions. He was preparing me for what I enjoy now: friendships and camaraderie with pastors and leaders of var- ious doctrinal and denominational backgrounds. My world is so much bigger today than it ever could have been had I held on to my “us and them” mentality. I had to change my mind to change my world.

Every day you’re going to be bombarded with mind mon- sters coming to steal your joy, take away your confidence, mess up your relationships, tempt you to doubt God’s Word, keep you focused on your flaws and shortcomings, and create chaos and havoc. There’s no condemnation in the fact that mind monsters are lurking in your life—everyone has them. But you have a choice: Will you allow them to stay, affecting who you are and God’s plan for your life, or will you conquer them?


KEYS TO REMEMBER



• Mind monsters are the negative invaders of your mind that come to steal your joy and peace, disrupt your relationships, and take away your contentment in life.

• It’s impossible to live a positive life with a neg- ative mind.

• If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.

• You can overcome the invasion of mind mon- sters and live according to the assignment God has for you each day.

• Thoughts   are  like  trains;  they  take  you somewhere.

• You have a choice of whether or not you will allow mind monsters to stay, affecting who you are and God ’s plan for your life, or if you will conquer them.


THINK ABOUT IT


• What do you think about the statement made in this chapter, “I’ve given my life to Christ. I shouldn’t have to deal with mind monsters, right?” Why do you agree or disagree with that statement?

• What are some ways you have learned to conquer mind monsters by reading this book so far? What kinds of things do you already put into practice that help you overcome mind monsters?

•  What are some examples of different trains of thought? What do those trains look like when they “arrive” in your mind? (For example, the “Lonesomeville Train” begins with thoughts such as, “No one cares about me.”)

• Can you think of a time when you realized, “I haven’t been thinking right”? What did you do when you came to that conclusion? Did you take any steps in that moment to begin thinking better? Will you approach that situation differently in the future?


My Thoughts:

Mind Monsters are those negative thoughts and worries that do nothing but separate us from God. They are the ones that make you look at situations and instead of looking for the positive that can come out of it, they make you wonder why it happened to you.

This small book is a quick read, but filled with positive information to help us keep our eyes focused on God. Author Kevin Gerald uses the acronym F.A.I.T.H. and shows how to rid oneself of those pesky Mind Monsters and see how those situations can be use for God instead.

Written in prose that is both easy to use and understand, Gerald writes with a style that is personal and will have you nodding in agreement and identifying with situations he discusses. At the end of each section, he includes a quick overview of what was discussed in each chapter as well as questions/things to think about. At the end of the book, he includes scripture and other helps to encourage your journey to rid yourself of those Mind Monsters and replace them with uplifting thoughts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Anniversary Waltz by Darrel Nelson

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:

Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Darrel Nelson is a graduate of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, with bachelor’s degrees in English and education. He is a schoolteacher by profession, with thirty-three years of teaching experience, and currently teaches fourth grade at Raymond Elementary School. Nelson has had an article published in Lethbridge Magazine and has written several dramatic plays, two of which won provincial recognition and were showcased at a drama festival. He won the CJOC radio songwriting contest two years running and has had one song receive international airplay. Writing has always been a passion, and over the years he has written four novels intended for the juvenile market. They are unpublished as yet, but he reads them annually to his fourth-grade students. The Anniversary Waltz is his first novel intended for the adult market. Hometown: Raymond, Alberta, Canada

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam Carlson has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. Despite the strained relationship with his father, Adam sets out to revive the dilapidated family farm, neglected since his departure overseas four years ago. After some convincing to take a rest from his labors, he attends the town festival, where he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.





Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616387157
ISBN-13: 978-1616387150



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


July 1946


Adam Carlson shifted in his seat on the Greyhound bus and stared wearily out the window. He couldn’t remember being this tired, not even during the heaviest part of the
fighting in Italy. But he was too excited to close his eyes now. He had finally received his discharge and was almost home. The return voyage across the Atlantic by army transport ship made him seasick, and the four-day journey across the country by train seemed to last forever. But that was all behind him, compartmen- talized in his memory along with a thousand other images he would just as soon forget. All that remained was the thirty-mile bus ride north from Great Falls.
Running a hand through his wavy, brown hair, he studied the landscape he hadn’t seen in four years—except in his dreams. And he had dreamed about his hometown of Reunion, Montana, a great deal, especially while lying under the stars at night and smelling the earthy aroma of freshly dug foxholes. Those were the times he wondered if he would ever see the Great Plains again or feel the wind on his face. He ached to see the Rocky Mountains and gaze at the foothills as they merged with the plains and stretched eastward into infinity. This was the country he loved, the country for which he had fought. Big Sky Country—a corner of heaven.
He noticed a hawk in the distance, riding the invisible current on graceful wings, circling above a stand of cottonwood trees. At that moment, he decided, it had been worth it—all of it.
Even though he had enlisted against his father’s wishes.
As the son of Hector Carlson, dry land farmer, Adam hadn’t needed to enlist. But he wanted to satisfy his sense of adven- ture. He wanted to see the world outside the farm’s boundaries, to answer the call of plain, old-fashioned patriotism. Remember Pearl Harbor! Laborers could be hired to bring in the harvest, he’d told his father, but who was going to go overseas and fight for a cause greater than one family’s run of bad luck?
Hector hadn’t accepted this reasoning, however. He tried to talk Adam into staying and helping run the farm. When his efforts proved futile, he gave up talking to his son at all. He didn’t come to see Adam off, nor did he write once in the four years Adam was away, not even a quick note scribbled at the bottom of the regular letters Adam received from his mother, Maude.
Adam shook the memory away and felt his heart rate quicken as the bus made the last turn leading into Reunion. The anticipa- tion of meeting his parents made him feel strangely nervous. It was dreamlike, as unreal as the world he had just left.
His thoughts went to those who would not be returning. Sixteen of his friends and comrades had fallen in Europe and were now permanent occupants. They would be forever denied the thrill of a homecoming and the anticipation of getting on with their lives. They would never see the mountains again or watch the maturing fields of wheat sway in the wind like a planted ocean. In their memory he closed his eyes, fighting his emotions as the Greyhound turned onto Main Street and headed for the bus stop in front of the Reunion Mercantile.
Several people were waiting on the sidewalk, anxiously craning to see inside the bus. A face appeared in the barbershop window next door to the Mercantile, peering out to study the scene. Two doors down a woman clutching several garments paused before entering Yang’s Dry Cleaners and glanced toward the bus stop. In a small rural community like Reunion, where grain prices and the weather were the main topics of conversation, the arrival of the Greyhound attracted attention.
Inside the bus the driver announced, “Reunion. Please remember to take all your personal belongings. I’ll set your lug- gage on the curb.” He opened the door, and those who were get- ting off made their way forward.
Adam remained in his seat, looking out the window. He watched as each person emerged and was immediately engulfed by waiting arms. It was heartwarming to see people embrace, cry, and laugh all at the same time. He wondered if his father would be this demonstrative, but he already knew the answer to that.
The bus driver reappeared in the doorway a few minutes later. “Isn’t this your stop, soldier?” He smiled sympathetically. “Sometimes it’s as hard coming home as it is leaving, isn’t it?”
Adam nodded and eased his six-foot frame out of the seat. He put on his service cap and adjusted his uniform before making his way up the aisle.
“Good luck,” the driver said, patting him on the shoulder. Adam stood in the door of the bus for a moment, watching
the happy scene. A woman in a blue cotton dress made her way through the crowd. It took Adam a moment to recognize his mother. She had aged during the past four years and looked so frail that he wondered how she got through the crowd without being snapped like a dry twig.
“Adam . . . Adam!” she called, her voice filled with so much emotion she could hardly speak. Tears formed in her eyes and ran down her cheeks as Adam quickly descended the bus steps. She took him in her arms and embraced him with surprising strength. “Oh, my son, God has answered my prayers and brought you back to me.”
Adam held her for a long time, his eyes closed, his lips quiv- ering. Maude silently wept on his shoulder and rubbed the tears with the back of her thin hand. Finally she held him at arm’s length as if unable to believe her eyes. Adam smiled reassuringly and gazed out over the crowd.
“He didn’t come,” she said, in answer to his unspoken question. Adam looked into his mother’s face. “But at least you came.” She reached up and stroked his cheek, her hand trembling.
“Of course I came. Wild horses couldn’t—” She changed the topic abruptly, likely realizing it would only serve to emphasize her husband’s absence if she didn’t. “Where’s your luggage?” she asked. “Let’s get you home so you can rest. You look exhausted.” So do you, he wanted to say, but he just smiled at her. It was obvious that the intervening years had taken their toll on her too. Adam led her toward the passengers who were sorting through the luggage, which was now sitting on the curb. He had no dif- ficulty identifying his two suitcases. They bore little resemblance to the ones he’d purchased four years earlier at the Mercantile. They were now held together by rope and packaging tape, and both of them showed evidence of journeys they’d taken aboard buses, trains, ships, army trucks, jeeps, and, on one occasion, an Italian farmer’s hay cart.
Maude had no difficulty identifying her son’s luggage either. As she reached for one of the suitcases, Adam quickly intercepted her. “I’ve got them, Mom,” he said, picking up the suitcases and adjusting his grip on the sweat-stained leather handles.
“The truck’s parked in front of the dry cleaners,” Maude said, taking hold of his arm and leading him through the crowd.
Adam nodded to the bus driver, who gave him a thumbs-up gesture, and followed his mother down the sidewalk, answering her questions and asking a few of his own. He realized the words of greeting he practiced on the bus were unnecessary. He hoped it would be the same when he finally met his father. But somehow he doubted it.
As the farm came into view, Adam drew in a deep breath. The surrounding fields of wheat and barley, a vibrant green beneath
a robin’s egg sky, were a pastoral setting of majesty and peace- fulness. But in many ways, returning home was like riding into enemy territory. Several times during the war, he had run into an ambush and barely escaped with his life, using every skill possible to survive. Today he felt like there was no refuge. He could only proceed directly into the line of fire and hope for the best.
His mind raced wildly as the pickup truck rattled through the gate and stopped in front of the house. He reached for the door handle but hesitated, taking everything in one more time in case it suddenly vanished . . . like a dream upon awakening.
The farmyard had changed. The two-story, clapboard house looked tired and faded, and several shutters hung at odd angles. The veranda tilted slightly to the south, and the railing was missing several spindles. The pump out in the yard had only a stub of a handle, and the clothesline beside it sagged noticeably. The woodshed and the barn were badly weathered, and the poplar tree near the garden now held only remnants of the tree house that he and his father had built years earlier.
Perhaps the farmyard had always looked like this and he hadn’t noticed. But a fresh coat of paint would do wonders to hide the wrinkles and blemishes, and he resolved to paint every building before winter. He would shore up the clothesline, repair the front step, fix the shutters, replace the handle on the pump . . .
A burst of energy surged through him. He would make it up to his father by getting the farm back in shape. It would be like he had never left. He would show his father that he did care.
Maude put her hand on his. “Before we go in, there’s some- thing I want to say. Despite your father not coming to meet you today, he does love you.”
Exhaling slowly, Adam turned toward her. “He has a funny way of showing it.”
“He has a hard time expressing his feelings sometimes, that’s all.” “He didn’t write once in four years.”
Maude stared out of the truck window, focusing on nothing in particular. She seemed to be searching for the right words. “I can’t say I agree with how he’s handled things, son. And I’m not trying to make excuses for him. But it’s been hard on him too. I just wanted you to know that.” She patted Adam’s hand. “I just hope the two of you can let bygones be bygones.”
Adam leaned over and kissed his mother on the cheek. “You’re a good woman, Maude Carlson.”
She smiled in appreciation, but her smile faded as the barn door opened and her husband stepped out into the sunlight. She glanced over at her son, who squared his shoulders and pulled on the door handle.
Adam was struck by how much his father had aged. His hair was much thinner, and his sun-hardened, wrinkled skin was stretched like tanned hide on a pole frame. His complexion resembled buckskin, rough side out, and his leanness added a sharp edge to his features. A permanent scowl creased his fore- head, and his mouth sagged at the corners.
Hector remained motionless, as though he was a gargoyle guarding the farmyard. His expression looked equally sullen and fierce, and Adam slowly approached him. Staring down the enemy in the fields and streets of Italy had not been this hard.
Maude hurried toward her husband. “Hec, it’s our boy! Adam’s home!”
Adam studied his father’s face, looking for any sign of wel- come . . . or forgiveness. But Hector’s granite-like countenance remained unchanged. Adam stopped several paces away and stood before his father like a disobedient child.
Hector met his son’s eyes momentarily, and then his gaze wan- dered over Adam’s uniform. The silence deepened and Adam felt the tension increase.
Maude narrowed her eyes. “Well, Hec, say something.”
Hector scratched his stubbled chin and cleared his throat. “They treat you okay?”
What a strange question, Adam thought. Was his father refer- ring to the army or the enemy? In all honesty, neither of them had treated him well. The army had removed four years of his life with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, and the Germans had been far less subtle than that. They had tried to kill him.
Adam felt numb as the memories of the past four years flooded his heart, a trickle at first and then a gush. The experience had been more overwhelming than he ever expected. And with one question his father had reduced it to insignificance.

“You know I don’t agree with what you did,” Hector said. “But
I’m glad you didn’t go and get yourself killed.” Adam forced a smiled. “I’m glad I didn’t either.”
Maude looked anxiously from one to the other. “Hec, this calls for a feast of the fatted calf. Get some beet greens from the garden, and I’ll cook a roast with all the trimmings.”
Hector remained motionless.
She shooed him away from the barn. “You go on, now.” Embracing Adam, she said, “Go have a bath and get some rest, son. I’ll call you for dinner. There’s so much to talk about.”
Adam glanced at the retreating figure of his father and returned to the truck to get his luggage, aware that his mother was reverting to her proven formula for restoring peace on earth, good will toward men: a delicious meal. In the past, good food had settled more arguments in the family than had any line of reasoning, logic, or argument. The way to a man’s heart . . .


Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Thule Crossover TCBP-117 Backpack for 17-Inch MacBook Pro

Although advertised for the 17" MacBook Pro, other 17" and under laptops will fit with no problem. The laptop compartment is well padded and is much nicer than the previous backpacks I've purchased in the past. The main compartment easily carries many books with ease and depending on how full you have your pack, can be adjusted on the sides creating a snug fit for the items inside. No more books shifting!

The top has a protected compartment - a nice hard-shelled case to keep breakable items in (glasses, phone, etc.) and if you don't want or like it, the hard shell is removable, creating a soft compartment. This compartment is also lockable, so no more lost items falling out.


There are so many compartments in this back and they were made for easy access. You don't have to open your whole bag to get your books or your laptop out. On the sides are two pockets that have mesh that folds out, and were designed to carry water bottles. When not in use, just zip them closed and no worries about getting them snagged on anything.


The backpack is made of a lightweight but sturdy fabric, and is water-resistant. The handles and straps are stitched on and do not appear that they would easily come apart. The straps are solid and well padded and are comfortable.


The Case Logic Thule Crossover Backpack is perfect for the college student. It's very nicely designed and designed to be well used (and probably abused). I have been VERY pleased with my pack so far!






Click here to find out more about the pack and where to purchase.




I received this product through the Vine program to test and review. I was not required to write a favorable review, but instead one that reflects my honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Beckon" by Tom Pawlik - CSSF Tour

Beckon
Author: Tom Pawlik
Publisher: Tyndale House
ISBN: 9781414338736
Paperback: 416 pages

About the Book:
Some things weren't meant to be discovered.

Beneath the town of Beckon, a terror hides, lurking in the darkness. Waiting.

Three people are drawn to the small Wyoming town for very different reasons. Anthropologist Jack Kendrick comes to explore the surrounding caves - the last place his father was seen alive twelve years ago. Police officer Elina Gutierrez follows the trail of her missing cousin from L.A. until it goes cold in the near-deserted town. And George Wilcox, a wealthy businessman, is lured to a lodge on the bluff by the promise of a cure for his wife's illness.

All are looking for answers. But as they draw closer to discovering the town's chilling secret, the real question becomes . . . will any of them make it out alive?

Jump in. Hang on.
My Thoughts:

Native American legends are just legends... or are they? Get ready to go on a heart-stopping adventure with Jack Kendrick as he learns how much of a legend the one his father was investigating before his disappearance really was.

This chilling and downright creepy novel will have you on the edge of your seat and turning pages faster than you ever imagined as you find yourself urgently needing to know what happens next. Full of fast-paced action and interesting species, I promise you won't be bored, nor will you want to put the book down until the very end. One warning - I started this before bedtime and read until I couldn't read any longer and found it gave me nightmares influenced my dreams somewhat. (Nothing like a good bedtime story!)

I had never read anything by Tom Pawlik before and after this one, I'm going to be hunting down Vanish and Valley of the Shadow. He has a style that puts him up on my list with Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti and Stephen King.

If you love books that are suspenseful and can scare the daylights out of you, make sure to put this one on your list of must reads for this summer!

About the Author:

Tom Pawlik is the highly imaginative, Christy Award winning author of Vanish, Valley of the Shadow, Beckon, and the novella Recollection from the 7 Hours anthology. His thought-provoking, edge-of-your-seat thrillers are infused with nonstop suspense that grabs you on the first page and won't let go until the last.

Tom's fascination with the weird... Click here to finish

You can purchase the book from: http://www.amazon.com/Beckon-Tom-Pawlik/dp/1414338732/
Author’s Web site - http://www.tompawlik.com/
Author Blog - http://tompawlik.blogspot.com/
Author Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tom-Pawlik/42692434035
Author Twitter account - https://twitter.com/#!/TomPawlik




Make sure to visit the other bloggers who are participating in this month's CSFF Tour:

Noah Arsenault
Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Theresa Dunlap
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Janeen Ippolito
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Leighton
Rebekah Loper
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Karen McSpadden
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Joan Nienhuis
Faye Oygard
Crista Richey
Kathleen Smith
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Shane Werlinger

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"I Didn’t Sign Up for This!" by Aaron Sharp

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:

Discovery House Publishers (April 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to  Susan Otis, Creative Resources  for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Aaron Sharp lives in Little Elm, Texas, with his wife, Elaina, and their son, Micah.  He is a Master of Theology graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently employed in the Information Technology department of the ministry Insight for Living.

I Didn’t Sign Up for This is Aaron’s first book.  Previously his writing has been seen in The Odessa American newspaper and the magazines Learning Through History, Discipleship Journal, Leben, Marriage Partnership, In Touch Magazine, and multiple issues of The Lookout Magazine.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Without the least bit of notice, life can take a sudden turn down a road we never anticipated or never would have chosen to travel. I Didn't Sign Up for This! Navigating Life Detours offers insights from the life and times of the prophet Elijah to encourage readers who have suddenly veered off the road into a wilderness experience. It provides guidelines and tools to help readers align their expectations with God's plan, fuel their lives with faith to overcome their fears, and find their way home. It offers fresh perspective on the need for God's direction throughout life's journey.



Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Discovery House Publishers (April 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1572935138
ISBN-13: 978-1572935136



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Story of Elijah
Late Ninth Century B.C.
Mount Carmel, Israel
Three groups of people made their way up the mountain.
In the first group were thousands of regular, everyday people.
They were making the short trek, ready to see one of the ancient
world’s greatest pieces of theater—a showdown between rival
prophets. Many of them were trying to decide exactly what to
believe and just who to worship. These people were not royalty,
nor were they priests. They were shepherds, farmers, and fishermen.
If nothing else, these Israelites anticipated a good show.
Interspersed within the first group was another group, this
one numbering 450 strong. The colorfully adorned men in this
second group were prophets of the Canaanite fertility god Baal.
Worship of Baal, who was typically pictured as a bull, had been
practiced in this area long before the Israelites had conquered the
Promised Land. Now with the worship of the one true God at
an all-time low in Israel, these priests had done much to lead the
Israelites astray.
Worship of this pagan god revolved around fulfilling the
desires of the worshipper. The ultimate act of worship was when
the worshippers worked themselves into a frenzy of passion, with
didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 9 2/1/12 11:33 AM
10 / AARON SHARP
the prophets and priests functioning as sacred prostitutes. Worshipping
Baal meant excitement, thrill, and feeding one’s own
appetites and desires.
The third group of people was not really a group at all. It was
one single, solitary man. As was his custom, the man wore a hairy
garment and a leather belt. He was not only the underdog in that
day’s contest, he was also the reason for the gathering. Every step
that his sandals took crackled on parched ground. And every
crackle reminded him and everyone else that he was the one who
had caused all of this trouble. He had prophesied that it would
not rain in the land of Israel until he said that it would. Then
God commanded him to leave the land of Israel. Now, three
years later, he had returned, and the dry and barren mountain
was testament to the authenticity of his prophecy.
The prophet Elijah made his way up the formerly beautiful
Mount Carmel to take on the prophets of Baal, one versus four
hundred fifty. So much had changed during the three years that
Elijah had been gone. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had murdered
God’s prophets, and the drought had brought on a severe
famine that was felt heavily in Ahab’s capital city of Samaria.
When the prophet had reappeared, King Ahab had called him
the “Troubler of Israel.” Elijah challenged Ahab to gather the
nation and the priests of Baal to meet him on Mount Carmel.
The meeting would show, once and for all, that God was allpowerful
and that Baal was an empty shell of a dead and uncaring
idol.
Once Elijah, the king, the prophets of Baal, and the assembled
crowd had settled in on a plain just below the mountain’s
peak, Elijah began to speak. The prophet’s voice bellowed across
the natural amphitheater created by the mountain’s features as he
didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 10 2/1/12 11:33 AM
The Story of Elijah / 11
challenged the people of Israel to choose whom to follow, Baal
or the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He directed that two
oxen be brought and that the 450 prophets of Baal be given their
choice of cattle to sacrifice. Each would prepare their own ox for
sacrifice. Then whichever deity sent fire from heaven to consume
the sacrifice would be the one true God.
The prophets of Baal went first. A careful observer of the
priests slaughtering the bull and placing it upon the altar would
realize that they already had a major problem. They worshipped
a god of fertility, the one responsible for thunder, rain, and agriculture.
Yet the priests were performing their sacrifice after three
years of drought and famine. In fact, the very mountain on which
they now stood had been a national symbol of vibrant beauty
(Song of Solomon 7:5; see also Isaiah 35:2), but now, after three
years without rain, it was an icon of futility. The prophets performed
their rituals with much music, dancing, and gyrations,
but the entire morning passed without any word from Baal, or so
much as a spark from heaven.
By noontime, with the act of Baal’s prophets growing tiresome
for the assembled crowd, the lone prophet of Yahweh
became more and more openly adversarial. Despite the fact that
this large contingent of colorfully adorned priests had continuously
chanted, “O Baal, answer us” for several hours, they had
seen no evidence of their deity. Elijah heckled them, saying, “Call
out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or
gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs
to be awakened.” Elijah had the audacity to suggest that Baal was
asleep, or possibly even away on a trip. No doubt this taunting of
the prophet’s theological nemesis both shocked and delighted the
crowd that was by this point bored.
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12 / AARON SHARP
The priests of Baal responded to the eccentric prophet’s ridicule
by taking their worship to extreme measures. Since their
deity was not responding to their chants and calls for actions, the
prophets now began to slash and cut themselves. Cries rang out
and blood gushed over their vividly colored outfits as the prophets
grew more and more desperate for Baal to act. This disturbing
behavior continued until the middle of the afternoon when Elijah
finally had had enough.
Against a backdrop of his opponents’ pitiful cries for action,
bloody and beaten by their own desperate hands, Elijah called
the people to gather around. He took the time to choose twelve
stones and to construct an altar, which he promptly surrounded
with a trench. After the painstaking process of constructing his
altar and digging the trench, Elijah killed the ox. After the animal
had breathed its last, he cut the ox into pieces and laid the
bloody pieces on the altar to be sacrificed. Then, in a move that
shocked the crowd as much as his earlier taunting, Elijah commanded
that twelve pitchers of water be poured on top of the
ox and the altar. After a three-year drought, the spectators must
have gasped when so much water was used that it even filled up
the trench.
Then Elijah prayed. Though his prayer was relatively short, it
must have felt like he prayed for an eternity. There was no delay
in what happened next. Unlike Baal, whose priests had sought his
help for hours, Elijah’s God saw no reason to delay.
Fire exploded from heaven and streaked across the evening
sky. The fire blazed closer and closer until it impacted Elijah’s
makeshift altar as if God had punched the earth with a fiery fist.
The fire completely consumed the ox, the water, and even the
stones. Where once had stood an altar, was now just a smolder.
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The Story of Elijah / 13
The solitary man in the hairy garment wasted no time in
completing the triumph. Elijah turned from the smoking ashes
that proclaimed his God’s victory and commanded the people to
seize the bloody and defeated prophets of Baal. He then meted
out the punishment God had decreed for false prophets—all 450
prophets were slain. There was no trial. They were all guilty and
they paid the price.
As an encore, Elijah told King Ahab, the most prominent
worshipper of Baal, to take his chariot down the mountain
because it was about to rain, for the first time in a very long time.
A great rain did come, but not before the prophet outran Ahab’s
chariot down the mountain.
Few human beings in history have ever had a better day than
Elijah did on Mount Carmel. Words such as legendary, historic,
and awesome only begin to tell the story of the showdown on
Mount Carmel. Had newspapers existed at the time, editors
would have had strokes trying to come up with a headline that
would do it justice. With apologies to a young shepherd boy who
one day slew a giant and eventually became king, the feat brought
about by Elijah was only rivaled in Israelite history by Moses’
parting of the Red Sea. Years later young Jewish boys would urge
their fathers, “Tell me about the day with Elijah on the mountain
again!”
But the prophet’s great day quickly turned into a very dark
night. In a stunning turn of events, fire from heaven became a
distant memory for the prophet almost before the embers of that
blaze had grown cold.
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15
Introduc tion
A few years ago my girlfriend (now wife) and I spent a Fourth
of July weekend with her family at their lake house on Eagle
Mountain Lake. We had not been dating long, and it was my
first time to visit them at the lake. Much of the weekend was
spent on WaveRunners, objects almost as unfamiliar to me as the
members of my wife’s family. We were out on the WaveRunners
one morning when I was told to take the WaveRunner I was on
and follow someone else, also on a WaveRunner, to a dock across
the lake.
At the time I was more than a little distracted talking to my
girlfriend, and so I did not pay close attention to the person I was
supposed to follow, or even where my destination was. After a
minute or so I took off across the lake, chasing the person to the
dock. I could see him in the distance, and so I followed, and followed,
and followed, until finally, after having crossed the width
of the lake, I arrived at a marina and realized, much too late, that
I had followed the wrong person.
I was now alone on an unexpected detour on a lake as unfamiliar
to me as the Sea of Galilee. Actually, I might have known
the Sea of Galilee better, because I had at least seen pictures of
it in the back of my Bible. I did not know even the basic shape
of Eagle Mountain Lake. I had no cell phone, and I had not
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16 / AARON SHARP
memorized my girlfriend’s phone number on the off chance I
could find a phone.
Despite the predicament in which I found myself, I thought
that I could find my way home. I remembered that I could see
the lights of a baseball field from their back porch. Surely I could
find a baseball field along the shore somewhere. Once I found
that, it would be a breeze to navigate the rest of the way. Besides,
this was Texas—how big could the lake be, anyway?
Minutes turned into hours. I traversed the lake trying to find
my way back with little success. At one point I ran out of gas and
had to dock my vessel at the home of a nice couple who helped
me as much as they could. I did not know what city my girlfriend’s
family house was in, as several bordered the lake, so they
gave me a full tank of gas and I headed back out onto the lake.
The hot July Texas sun had turned my usually pale skin into a
shade of tomato red. My sunburn hurt, I was exhausted, I was
embarrassed, I was frustrated, and with the sun slowly beginning
to descend, I had no idea where I was or what lay in front of me.
Eventually, however, I found my way home. They had sent a
search party out for me, but I managed to find my way back on
my own, saving a tiny (very, very tiny) sliver of self-respect. To
this day, her family still talks about my afternoon on the lake,
and I laugh about it now, telling everyone that I know the lake
better than all of them put together. But, if I am honest, that is
not the only time in my life that I have been on a detour. The
other times did not involve lakes, WaveRunners, or sunburn, but
the change in my course was just as unexpected, just as fearful,
and just as frustrating.
There was the time that I got the call from my parents telling
me that my mother had cancer. There was the year after coldidn'tsignup_
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Introduc tion / 17
lege when I struggled to discern God’s will for my future. There
was the time in seminary when I hurt my knee, requiring a surgery
that took all of my savings for school and then some. There
was the huge conflict in my extended family that may never be
resolved, my graduation from seminary with no job prospects,
my wife’s miscarriage, and the unexpected loss of a close friend.
There was my layoff, then my wife’s, and then mine again.
All of these circumstances left me feeling much the same as
I did that day on the lake. At least with my aquatic adventure I
can look back on it and laugh, but I cannot say that about all
the other detours. Nor can I explain why these difficult times
occurred, or what God was doing in my life through them. Some
of them are, at least this side of heaven, unexplainable. I could
make up a reason for their happening, but I do not truly know.
If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we all
end up on these unexpected detours from time to time. Maybe
it is bad news from the doctor, a pink slip, an argument, or any
number of things, but we can easily find ourselves in situations
where we feel like I did that day on the lake. Often we begin to
question ourselves, God, and life itself when our planned course
changes direction. We wonder why our problems seem to get bigger
by the minute and worry about how long it will be before we
can find our way home.
Fortunately for us, the characters of the Bible are no strangers
to detours. Job’s detour—the sudden loss of his children, possessions,
and health—was quite possibly unlike any before or since.
Abraham’s detour of being unable to produce children left him
feeling so out of sorts that he slept with his wife’s servant in an
attempt to accomplish God’s will on his own. Joseph went from
being his father’s favorite child to a slave, sold into slavery by his
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18 / AARON SHARP
brothers, and then to a falsely accused prisoner. David experienced
detours that left him so exacerbated that he exclaimed:
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
(Psalm 13:1–2)
The list of detoured lives that grace the pages of Scripture
could go on and on. It includes men and women, Jew and Gentile,
old and young. This is important for us to note because often
when we are in the midst of a detour we feel like we are the only
one who has experienced anything like the heavy fog in which
we are living. If you are not careful, you can conclude that you
must be the only person who has ever felt like life is closing in
on you and nothing is going right. The question of the prophet
Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will
not hear?” (1:2), will be on your lips, and it is important to know
that you are not the first person to have thought those thoughts
and said those words.
Perhaps no biblical figure has taken a more disappointing
detour than the prophet Elijah. Elijah bursts onto the stage of
biblical literature from out of nowhere. After the death of Solomon,
the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms, with the
northern nation of ten tribes going by the name of Israel and the
southern two tribes, Benjamin and Judah, going by the name of
Judah. As you read about these events in the book of 1 Kings, you
see a pattern develop in Israel. The kings “did evil in the sight
of the Lord,” and they got progressively worse. By the time you
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Introduc tion / 19
read about King Omri, who “did evil in the sight of the Lord,
and acted more wickedly than all who were before him” (1 Kings
16:25), you are convinced that this nation must have hit rock
bottom. Then you read about Omri’s son, Ahab:
Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the
thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son
of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.
Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more
than all who were before him. It came about, as though
it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of
Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the
daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve
Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal
in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also
made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord
God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before
him. (1 Kings 16:29–33)
Chapter 16 of 1 Kings ends with a summary of the depravity
of King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel. Between the two of them,
they were the most wicked monarchy in Israel. They openly
defied God and His laws for the nation.
Chapter 17 then begins with an unexpected contrast: “Now
Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to
Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand,
surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by
my word’” (1 Kings 17:1). From out of nowhere, in the midst of
deep wickedness, Elijah storms into the story proclaiming that
there will be no rain for three years. His appearance is sudden.
We had no evidence that anyone was willing to stand for God,
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20 / AARON SHARP
much less openly oppose the most wicked of kings, but that is
exactly what Elijah does.
Elijah follows up this prophecy by obeying God’s directions
to live near a stream, with ravens bringing him bread and meat to
eat each morning and evening. After this he travels to the town
of Zarephath where he works miracles, including the raising of a
widow’s son from the dead. Then, when the drought is in its third
year, God instructs Elijah to go back to Israel and confront King
Ahab. Elijah obeys God and what results is a famous confrontation
between Elijah and 450 prophets of the false god Baal. By
the end of the confrontation, Elijah has called down fire from
heaven, the 450 prophets of Baal have been executed, Elijah has
outraced Ahab’s chariot down the mountain, and the storms are
rolling in.
One would expect after such powerful acts that Elijah’s
encore would be out of this world. Yet, in the words of A. W.
Pink, “In passing from 1 Kings 18 to 1 Kings 19 we meet with a
sudden and strange transition. It is as though the sun was shining
brilliantly out of a clear sky and the next moment, without any
warning, black clouds drape the heavens and crashes of thunder
shake the earth. The contrasts presented by these chapters are
sharp and startling.”1
Chapter 18 is a tremendous victory. The sun is shining, birds
are singing, and God has shown himself to be powerful and
mighty. It looks as though Elijah, through God’s power, can do
anything. Chapter 19 is a hasty retreat. Storm clouds litter the
sky, and suddenly God seems to have disappeared. It looks as
though Elijah, God’s formerly powerful servant, is weak and vulnerable.
It is in the black clouds that drape the heavens, the story
of Elijah’s detour in 1 Kings 19, that this book resides.
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Introduc tion / 21
It is important to understand that this book is not a howto
manual. It is not “Seven Steps to Finding Your Way Home.”
As anyone who has been on one of life’s detours will tell you,
formulas do not always work. Our culture is fascinated with formulas
and programs, but God doesn’t work that way. His Bible
isn’t filled with steps to follow to solve every problem, and this
incident in Elijah’s life is not a road map for getting to your destination.
I cannot guarantee that by reading his story, things in
your life will get better. Instead picture Elijah, and his troubles,
as a friendly couple at the lake giving someone in the midst of an
unexpected detour an extra tank of gas—and sometimes a tank
of gas is all you need to find your way home.
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23
ONE
Detours
and Unmet
Expectations
I was in my third year of seminary when I met the woman of
my dreams. I still remember what she was wearing the first
day we met. We did not even speak that day when we both sat
at the same cafeteria table with a group of mutual friends, but I
was determined to find out more about her. Over the next few
months I slowly got to know this beautiful lady, taking careful
mental notes of what kind of a person she was, how she acted,
and what she liked. The more I got to know her, the more I found
to like. Thankfully, she did not seem repulsed by my presence,
so I finally decided the time had come to ask her out on a date.
Despite accidentally hitting her in the face with a door earlier in
the evening, her answer was yes!
My friends were sure that this was a match made in heaven.
She seemed to enjoy my presence, we flirted constantly, and we
had much in common. All signs pointed to this being the first of
many dates. My friends and I agreed: if there was ever a man whose
success on a first date was assured, it was on this date for me.
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Once she agreed to go on the date, the work began in earnest.
I carefully chose a restaurant for dinner that would be fun, not
cheap but not too expensive, with an excellent variety of dishes.
I then came up with after-dinner activities that would allow us
to talk and get to know each other. The plan was flawless unless
I did something stupid, which, let’s face it, is always a possibility
with me.
I picked her up that evening and we headed to the restaurant
for a fantastic dinner. I had pasta while she had crab cakes. At
some point in the meal she suggested I try the crab cakes, which
I did despite my complete aversion to eating just about anything
that comes out of the ocean. To this day she remembers the agonized
look on my face as I got my first and last taste of crab cakes.
Our dinner conversation was smooth and we discussed one
of the classes we had together—Old Testament History. I mentioned
a project that I was considering for the class, and before
I knew it we were discussing the possibility of undertaking the
project as a team. There could not have been a clearer sign that
this date was a home run. Surely, if we were talking about spending
dozens of hours together on a project, then she must like me
too. I was most definitely on my way to having a girlfriend soon.
After dinner we went to a bookstore where we each picked out
books that we would like to read and told the other person why
we found those particular books interesting. From the bookstore
we made our way to another restaurant where we each ordered
a piece of cheesecake and continued our lively conversation. All
night long I was the consummate gentleman, opening doors and
being attentive. As our night drew to a close, I prepared to return
to the dorm to tell all my buddies how I was such a thoughtful,
romantic guy and that we would soon be going on a second date.
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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 25
We pulled up to her apartment building and I walked her
to her door. On the way, I casually told my date how much fun
I had and how much I would enjoy being able to take her out
again. I uttered these words and then waited for the “Sure, that
would be great” that I was sure was coming. Instead of agreeing
to a second date, however, this lovely woman told me that she was
not interested in going on a second date and would really prefer
to remain friends.
We arrived at her door. I thanked her for the evening, and
then made my way back to my car. Once inside I looked in
the mirror—did I have something in my teeth, or something
hanging out my nose the whole night? I checked my breath and
my armpits—did I smell bad? I mentally replayed the night’s
events—did she not have fun? I started reviewing our entire history.
Did she ever really like me? Was there something wrong
with me? Was I a bad date? These and many more questions
flew through my mind as I drove back to my dorm. Despite the
fact that everything had seemed to go so well, my expectations
proved to be the exact opposite of what came to pass. I expected
a second date, but instead I found myself watching basketball in
the men’s dorm by myself. A little less than two and a half years
later I would marry that same girl, but at the time I knew nothing
of that. All I knew was that real life had veered far off course of
my expectations.
Pretty much every human being who is old enough to walk
has experienced the disconcerting feeling of unmet expectations.
From the first time that another child played with the toy that
you wanted, you began to get the concept. You may have been in
a room full of toys, but that other kid had the one toy you desperately
wanted. You asked for the toy, you demanded the toy, and
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26 / AARON SHARP
finally you tried to just take the toy. But instead of getting the toy
that you so prized, you got in trouble with an adult.
These first few experiences prepared us for the realization
that the world does not revolve around us and that more often
than not our expectations will be unmet. Yet, even as adults, we
still struggle mightily to remember this concept. This concept is
particularly foreign when we are, in our minds, living rightly. We
understand that if we live outside of the will of God, bad things
will happen to us. Those who choose to live a life of sin will
pay the consequences of that sin, and at times their lives will be
full of nothing but despair and tragedy. That part of life makes
sense to us rationally. Expressions such as “Garbage in, garbage
out,” “You play, you pay,” and “You get what you pay for” are all
evidence that humans comprehend the concept that if you live
dangerously, then dangerous things can and will happen to you.
We have the same expectation for living rightly—we expect
that good living will give us good results. Most of us operate as if
the number-one rule for living the Christian life is to do our best
to do the right things in the right way. Our to-do lists look like
this: go to church, read the Bible, pray, try to be a nice person,
love your family, pet the dog, put some money in the plate, pay
your taxes, buy lemonade from the little girl on the corner, and
try not to get too angry at other drivers (although the occasional
scream is perfectly acceptable). We do all of these things and
expect that because we have stayed on the straight and narrow
path, we will be okay and our good expectations for our life will
be fulfilled.
Unfortunately this “play it safe” philosophy does not protect
us from disappointment over unmet expectations (nor does it
necessarily equate to a healthy, vibrant life for a believer in Jesus
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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 27
Christ). It may make perfect sense rationally: good life = good
expectations fulfilled; bad life = good expectations not fulfilled,
but the path that the Bible presents to us is a far more rugged.
For instance, take the events that befell the prophet Elijah in the
beginning of 1 Kings 19:
Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how
he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel
sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me
and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of
them by tomorrow about this time.” (vv. 1–2)
Chapter 18 of 1 Kings closed with Elijah as God’s ultimate
champion. He was victorious over the idolatrous prophets of
Baal, outran a chariot down a mountain, and even kept running
seventeen more miles to the town of Jezreel. The biblical record
does not tell us what his thoughts were as he ran well over half
a marathon, but judging by his reaction beginning in verse 3 of
chapter 19, it is probably safe to assume that he did not expect
what came next.
Elijah was not the only one to return to the fortress city of
Jezreel. King Ahab also returned and was quick to inform Queen
Jezebel about the day’s events on Mount Carmel. Unlike Ahab,
who seemed to be in fear and awe of God’s prophet, Jezebel sends
a message to Elijah saying, “So may the gods do to me and even
more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by
tomorrow about this time.” To the modern reader this was the
equivalent of Elijah coming home and finding a severed horse’s
head in his bed, or seeing his face on Israel’s most wanted list.
Instead of being a hero, Elijah found himself as public enemy
number one, at least as far as the queen was concerned.
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One would expect that the man who just killed 450 prophets
of a false god would laugh at the threat of one woman. Elijah had
just called down fire from heaven; surely he feared no one and
nothing. If anything, we would expect more fire from heaven,
but the exact opposite happens. Before we get to Elijah’s reaction,
we must first consider one of the most frequent beginnings of a
detour—unmet expectations. Most scholars agree that Elijah’s
reaction is due to events not playing out as he had envisioned
them. Consider a summary of the situation by Ron Allen:
There are indications in the Elijah narrative that he
hoped to eradicate Baal worship and reestablish a united
monarchy under the pure Yahwism of Moses. The celebrated
contest on Carmel (1 Kings 18) actually began
three-and-one-half years earlier in the palace of Ahab,
when Elijah said there would be no more rain (17:1). Baal,
the fertility god of Canaan, was principally pictured as
the deity responsible for rain . . . Surely by all [Elijah’s]
actions an utter defeat of Baalism had been anticipated.
The extermination of the prophets of Baal in mock and
grisly sacrifice at the Wadi Kishon (v. 40) seemed to be
the final stroke . . . But when Ahab witnessed it and
returned to his palace at Jezreel, did he depose his wicked
queen? No! He told her of Elijah’s victory and did not
prevent her from ordering Elijah’s execution in reprisal.1
Elijah had anticipated that the incredible force with which
Yahweh, the one true God, had shown himself to be would bring
forth a true and long-awaited revival among God’s people and
their wicked leaders. After all, had not people fallen on their
faces and shouted, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God”
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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 29
(18:39)? Surely Elijah expected that the northern kingdom of
Israel would turn to God, and possibly the kingdoms of Judah
and Israel would be reunited.
Sadly, Elijah’s expectation of what was to come could not
have been more different from what actually happened. Instead
of revival, Jezebel declared vengeance. Instead of becoming a
national hero, Elijah became a hunted man. Instead of a king and
a queen turning to the one true God in repentance, they stubbornly,
rebelliously, and violently lashed out at God’s prophet.
Like the prophet Elijah, often our unexpected detours start
with unmet expectations. Life takes us in a direction that we did
not anticipate and did not desire. The more we look around and
try to find somewhere familiar, somewhere that we thought we
would be had things been different, the more despairing we can
become. Our best attempts to solve the problem of a detour often
leave us with a bigger problem rather than a solution.
Understanding that unmet expectations may play a role in
our detour is not a solution to our problems. Just knowing this
fact will not help you see the situation clearly, but for the fog to
lift even a little, we must spend some time thinking about our
expectations.
The Problem with Ou r Expectations
There are three problems with our expectations. First, our
expectations are uninformed, if for no other reason than because
they involve the future. It is not that we should never consider the
future, but that we must realize and anticipate that our expectations
may not, and likely will not, be met. Consider the following
people and their expectations of the future:
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30 / AARON SHARP
• In 1969 a little known member of the British Parliament
named Margaret Thatcher said, “It will be years—
not in my time—before a woman will become prime
minister.” Yes, this is the same Margaret Thatcher who
was elected prime minister ten years later.
• In 1943 Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM
said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five
computers.”
• In casting for the 1964 movie The Best Man, about
two leading candidates for the presidency of the
United States, a young enterprising actor named Ronald
Reagan was rejected for the part. Reportedly he
was rejected for “not having the presidential look.”
This is the same Ronald Reagan who took the real
oath of office in 1980.
• In 1918 Tris Speaker, a baseball Hall of Famer, felt the
need to comment on a move by the rival Boston Red
Sox, telling anyone who would listen that, “Taking
the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting
him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things
I ever heard.” The player Speaker was referring to—
George Herman “Babe” Ruth—finished his career
with 714 home runs, a record that stood for nearly
four decades.
• Lieutenant Joseph Ives, tasked with studying the
Grand Canyon by the U.S. War Department,
reported, “Ours has been the first [expedition], and
doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.”
Today nearly five million people visit the Grand
Canyon every year.
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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 31
We may laugh at these obviously far-off predictions, but if
we are honest with ourselves, our expectations for our own lives
are just about as inaccurate. Take these expectations, for example:
• I will not have health problems.
• All of my loved ones will live long and fruitful lives.
• I will know when to make a career change.
• I will meet my spouse and fall madly in love by the
time I am twenty-four.
• We will have four children.
• My spouse and I will always see eye to eye.
Now some of these expectations may seem a bit silly, and
some may be a little more serious, but any one of them can go
unmet. Those with some spiritual maturity or life experience will
look at the list and say, “Well, obviously those things may or may
not happen.” And it is definitely true that most of us understand
that bad things might happen to us, but the point is that even
those of us who are not new to the faith or how the world works
do not expect them to happen. Our expectations are for good
health, vibrant relationships, and sunshine in our lives. So, when
God allows something tragic or disappointing to come into our
lives, most of us are knocked off our feet by it. Our expectations
deal with the future, and the future is the one thing that we know
very little about.
Second, our expectations are selfish. Pause for a moment and
think about your perfect world and what the future would be like
if that world happened. Next think of not your perfect world,
but a reasonable expectation of life in five to ten years. Now consider
how many of your expectations revolved around yourself.
Odds are 100 percent of them. Even if you were thinking of the
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perfect
marriage partner, you were thinking of the perfect marriage
partner for you. You might have thought of the future for
your children or grandchildren, but you thought of the future for
your children and your grandchildren. More than likely, nowhere
in your imaginings of your perfect world did you think about
what life would be like for your friends, much less acquaintances
or total strangers. This is a big area where our expectations fail—
our expectations revolve around ourselves, but God’s plans do
not. Our expectations are so often frustrated because while we are
focused on ourselves, God is focused on His purposes.
Third, often our expectations are unmet because we have a
false perception of who God really is. Our failure to understand
exactly who God is and what His priorities include is often one
of the biggest factors in our unmet expectations. Consider the
following popular, but false, ideas of God and His attributes:
• God is a slot machine whose sole purpose is to give me
what I need or want. How often do we become frustrated
with God because He has not given us what
we believe He should have? On this issue, it is easy
to point the finger at others, particularly those whose
theology disagrees with ours, but all too often this
view of God is a problem for all of us. God does desire
to give His sincere children the desires of their hearts
(Psalm 37:4), but He is not a genie granting our every
wish.
• God is (only) love. Now, the Bible very clearly states
that God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is not simply an
attribute of God; it is also part of His essence. Yet we
err when we look at God as being only love. Theolodidn'tsignup_
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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 33
gian D. A. Carson explains, “Our culture has been
purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable.
The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and
above all sentimentalized . . . Today most people seem
to have little difficulty believing in the love of God;
they have far more difficulty believing in the justice
of God, the wrath of God, and the noncontradictory
truthfulness of an omniscient God.”2 The prevailing
view today is that God is a kind, gentle, grandfatherly
being who delights in handing out candy and blessings
to people. Unfortunately this is not the God of
the Bible. The God of the Bible is love, but He is also
holy, righteous, and just.
• God wants me to be happy. Happiness is a funny thing.
It can come and go so easily. People today, particularly
Americans, live their lives in pursuit of happiness.
After all, are not we guaranteed the right of doing just
that by the Declaration of Independence? Yet God has
more important things to accomplish in and through
us than mere happiness. God’s purpose of using the
apostle Paul to spread the gospel was more important
than his happiness when he was executed by
the Romans (2 Timothy 4:1–8). God’s desire to provide
for His chosen people was more important than
Joseph’s happiness when he was sold into slavery and
falsely imprisoned (Genesis 45:1–8; Psalm 105:17–19).
God’s desire to proclaim the truth to His people was
more important than Jeremiah’s happiness when the
king became angry and threw him in a muddy pit
(Jeremiah 1:1–10; 38:1–13).
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• God will not give me more than I can bear (alone). Often
when we feel like life has taken a detour it is because
we are completely overwhelmed by circumstances. So
we cling to the idea that we can make it through these
trying times all by ourselves because God would not
put more on our shoulders than we can carry. That
sounds right, but it misses a large part of God’s truth.
God routinely puts more on our shoulders than we
can carry alone, which is how we realize just how deep
our need for God and other people truly is.3 If we were
able to bear the weight ourselves we might never properly
acknowledge God, or our brothers and sisters in
Christ who are able to bear our burdens with us (Galatians
6:2).
• God wants Christians to be happy and joyful (always).
This is similar to “God wants me to be happy,” but
with a slight twist. Some people are under the mistaken
impression that God requires that we always
present ourselves as happy and joyful, without exception.
It is true that we should be full of God’s love and
the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge of God should give
us noticeable joy (Philippians 4:4). However, everyone
will experience times of sadness, fear, doubt, and
depression, and hiding these emotions is not spiritual.
The Word of God reveals that plenty of God’s servants
had hard times, not the least of which is the instance
in Elijah’s life about which this book is written. Job
experienced severe trials, and his reaction to them was
what one would expect: pain, frustration, and anger.
We might anticipate that God would respond to Job’s
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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 35
negative emotions with a fireball like the one that
consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. However, the Scriptures
tell us that even after Job’s emotional outpouring God
still accepted him (Job 42:7–9).
Dealing with Unmet Expectations
We have learned that when life takes an unexpected detour,
our first step should be to check our expectations. At this point
you may be thinking, “If that is true, then what is the solution
for dealing with these unmet expectations?” This is an excellent
question and one we will discuss, but first let’s change the question
around just a bit.
People on detours tend to look for directions and answers,
and what they really want is a map that shows the way back
home. But I would suggest that God’s primary purpose in allowing
your journey to take an unexpected detour is not just a lesson
in finding your way back to the interstate. As we progress
through 1 Kings 19, we will see that this was true of Elijah, and
I believe that it is true for most of us as well. Having said that,
let’s answer a different question: “If it is true that detours are
about more than simply finding our way back to our desired
path, then what are some guidelines for dealing with these unmet
expectations?”
The difference in that question and the one posed previously
may seem slight to you, but it is important. On a detour we
tend to become even more frustrated and disillusioned looking
for solutions. We are focused on the conclusion of the journey,
rather than the journey itself. In this circumstance, rather than
directions to our final destination, what we really need is extra
fuel to continue the journey.
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We are unique individuals, and what God is attempting to
do in our detours will never be exactly the same from one person
to another. Rather than a one-size-fits-all answer, the following
principles are meant to function much as additional fuel to keep
you going even if your unexpected journey is a lengthy one.
First, when you find yourself on a detour and dealing with
unmet expectations, take the time to look for God’s purposes
instead of your best interests. As fallen creatures, we are inherently
selfish, and we live in a world that caters to our desire to
fulfill our own desires. So the idea that we should put God’s
purposes at the forefront is not one that comes easily to us. Certainly
it is not our first inclination, but the truth is that what we
think are our best interests are not God’s top priority. Anyone
who has been on a detour for any amount of time has probably
gotten tired of having sincere people quote Romans 8:28 to them:
“We know that God causes all things to work together for good
to those who love God, to those who are called according to His
purpose.” The verse can be a great encouragement, but often we
misread it. The verse says that God “causes” everything to work
for good, but it does not mean that only good things will happen
to us. Very bad things will happen to us, but God has a purpose
and at times my best interests, at least as I understand them, must
take a back seat to that greater purpose.
Consider the story of the blind man in John 9. Jesus and His
disciples were walking together, and they passed a blind man on
the road. The disciples asked what they thought was an insightful
question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he
would be born blind?” (v. 2). They thought his physical impairment
must have been tied to a sin, and they wanted to know
whose sin it was that caused the blindness. Jesus’ answer to His
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Detours and Unmet Expectations / 37
followers, however, turned their theology upside down: “It was
neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that
the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3).
Imagine, if you will, the disciples’ shock. This man had been
unable to see for his entire life (that is one whale of a detour).
He had never looked into his mother’s or father’s faces, or seen a
sunset. He had been unable to play with other children as a boy
and had struggled with his lack of vision into adulthood. This all
happened solely so that God might perform a miracle in His life
for all to see. He had done nothing wrong, and his parents had
done nothing wrong, yet God allowed this disability so that He
could show everyone His power and glory.
If you are on a detour today, you are probably asking yourself
and God the most simple of questions: “Why?” You may receive
an answer to that question, and you may not. One sure thing is
that sometimes God allows our life’s path to take tremendous
detours so that He can be glorified and we can be equipped to
minister to others. If your detour has to do with sickness, it may
well be that God wants you to know and understand sickness to
minister to others experiencing the same pain. Maybe God has
allowed you to feel the pain of depression to help others who
struggle with depression. Or it may be that the relational conflict
that is causing you such angst may enable you to counsel and
minister to others who are going through or will go through similar
circumstances. Whatever it is that you are going through, do
not discount the impact that your experience can have on others.
Second, even when you are in the midst of a detour, keep
your expectations flexible. Too often our expectations are firmer
in our minds than is realistic. The apostle James stresses this
point in the fourth chapter of his epistle:
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Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go
to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage
in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what
your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that
appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead,
you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do
this or that.” (vv. 13–15)
Here, James is not condemning planning for the future, but
he is reproaching the attitude of believers assuming that they
were able to carry out their plans. They were treating their expectations
as if they were a sure thing, when it was all subject to the
mind of God, which no one can know.
Though we all have expectations, we must remember that
we cannot write our expectations in stone. If we are honest with
ourselves, we would have to agree with James’s point that we can
do nothing on our own. The only reason we make it from one
day to the next is because God has provided the breath and life
for us. We must approach our expectations with the understanding
that we have not been promised tomorrow.
In 2010 the United States military released a Joint Operating
Environment report that was commissioned as a look into the
future, an attempt to make educated guesses about environments
and challenges the military would face over the next twenty-five
years. However, the United States Joint Forces Command, which
published the report, placed the following statement at the front
of the study:
The Joint Operating Environment is intended to inform
joint concept development and experimentation throughout
the Department of Defense. It provides a perspective
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My Thoughts:

"I Didn't Sign Up for This!" is an engaging and very informative book that focuses on Elijah and his trials and uses it to teach us about our lives and the trials we face. Written in a style that is easy to understand and relate to, I found myself captivated with Sharp's style and concept.

Using both Elijah and stories of real people, this book shows that what we are handed may seem overwhelming or extremely difficult, but God doesn't just hand it to us and walk away. This book is an excellent study that is not overwhelming, but instead, an enjoyment to use!

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