Sunday, November 30, 2008


If you look on my sidebar you'll note (if you look carefully enough, it's not exactly huge) a Stat Counter link. It tells me how many many people have visited this blog, and to some degree, how they got here. Lately, I've been getting 15-20 people per day, and then trend has been up, but slowly so. Well, today I've had over 300 visitors! The stat counter says most of them got here searching for children's advent activities. I guess if I want more people to read this blog, that's what I need to write about. Wow!

As Fluffy as a Snowflake

The Snow Bride The Snow Bride by Debbie Macomber

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Fluffy as snowflakes. Sensible executive assistant who has been in love with her boss for years decides to quit her job and move to Alaska to meet a guy she has been emailing for months. She gets there and he is not there to meet her-he was delayed in a bar and with another woman. She meets another guy, who just happens to have a sister who was used and dumped by Mr. Internet. Guess what happens. Typical Macomber--no more sex than a Christian romance but no religion either. I read it in a couple of hours sitting in the library watching the little one play.

View all my reviews.

Advent Calendar

The Advent calendar at the top of my blog is a cooperative effort of several bloggers. Check in daily for an Advent-themed post. If the graphic above doesn't work, check out this link.

Advent Links for Children

This is a slight re-working of something I wrote for the blog I keep for my third grade religion class.

Children love to celebrate and love to make things. To make Advent a family celebration and to give the kids preparation for Christmas beyond buying and wrapping gifts, check out these links. If you have favorite Advent sites for kids which are not listed, leave them in the comments section.

Many of the publishers of religion texts have websites with further activities. Catechetical Resources, put out by the publishers of the Faith and Life religion books, has activities for all grade levels, including instructions for making Advent Wreaths, coloring sheets and study guides.

Sadlier, publisher of the We Believe religion series has Advent activities for all ages. has art projects, coloring sheets, games and even some recipes. They have more under lesson plans. Catholic Advent is an old site and most of the links are bad, so skip them, but try the activities. This site, filled with preschool activities, gives instructions for an Advent Wreath craft and lesson. Here is another Advent Wreath craft, with prayers, and here are different directions for a traditional Advent Wreath.

Most kids love to help in the kitchen and the Catholic Cuisine blog has recipes that carry you through the liturgical year. See what they are cooking up for Advent.

Part of a large site by a Passionist, here are Advent prayers for children.

Sign up for Holy Heros and your kids can get daily emails of Advent activities.

Creighton University reminds parents that the most important thing to do to prepare children for Advent is for parents to prepare themselves. However, they provide several family Advent activities.

Here is the Jesse Tree my family and I are using. We got if via the Advent Calendar featured at the top of my blog.

Of course the most necessary part of celebrating Advent is celebrating Sunday mass with the community. The web gives us lots of resources to help children understand the weekly readings. The publishers of the Faith First religion texts have weekly summaries, discussion topics and activities based on the readings. Sadlier has a similar site. Catholic has coloring pages, worksheets, lesson plans, and more for each week. Open Wednesday has a variety of activities as well.

Shadow of Colossus


It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Shadow of Colossus

Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)


T.L. Higley holds a degree in English Literature and has written three previous novels, including Fallen from Babel, and more than fifty drama productions for church ministry. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece and other myth systems, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and four children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080544730X
ISBN-13: 978-0805447309


Rhodes, 227 bc

Seven Days Before the Great Quake

In the deceitful calm of the days preceding disaster, while Rhodes still glittered like a white jewel in the Aegean, Tessa of Delos planned to open her wrists.

The death of her body was long overdue. Her soul had died ten years ago.

Ten years this day.

Tessa took in a breath of salty air and shivered. From her lofty position outside Glaucus's hillside home, she watched the populace's torches flicker to life in the dusk. Across the city the day's tumult at the docks slowed. The massive statue of Helios at the harbor's frothy mouth caught the sun's last rays as it slipped into a cobalt sea. The torch he thrust skyward seem to burst aflame, as though lit by the sun god himself.

He had been her only constant these ten years, this giant in the likeness of Helios. A silent sentinel who kept vigil as life ripped freedom and hope from her. Painful as it was, tonight she wanted only to remember. To be alone, to remember, and to mourn.

"Tessa!" A wine-sodden voice erupted from the open door behind her.

The symposium had begun only minutes ago, but Glaucus was already deep into his cups. Bad form in any company, thought Tessa, but Glaucus rarely cared. Tessa inhaled the tang of sea air again and placed a steadying hand against the smooth alabaster column supporting the roof. She did not answer, nor turn, when she heard her fat master shuffle onto the portico.

"Get yourself back into the house!" Glaucus punctuated his command with a substantial belch.

"Soon," she said. "I wish to watch the sun god take his leave."

A household servant crept out and set two torches blazing. An oily smell surged, then dissipated. From the house floated harsh laughter mingled with the tinny sound of a flute.

Glaucus pushed his belly against her back and grabbed her arm. The linen chitôn she'd taken care to arrange perfectly fell away, exposing her shoulder. She reached to replace it, but Glaucus caught her hand. He brought his mouth close to her ear, and she could smell his breath, foul as days-old fish.

"The others are asking for you. `Where is your hetaera?' they say. `The one with more opinions than Carthage has ships.'"

Tessa closed her eyes. She had long entertained Glaucus's political friends with her outspoken thoughts on government and power. While his wife remained hidden away in the women's quarters, Glaucus's hetaera was displayed like an expensive pet with sharp teeth. Tessa had once believed she led an enviable life, but the years had stripped her of her illusions.

She stroked the polished filigree of the gold necklace encircling her throat and remembered when Glaucus fastened it there, a gilding for his personal figure of bronze.

"Now, Tessa." Glaucus pulled her toward the door.

Her heart reached for the statue, clinging to her first memory of it, when Delos had been home and innocence had still been hers.

When I open my wrists, I will do it there.


The andrôn, central room of the men’s quarters, smelled of roasted meat and burning olive oil. Glaucus paused in the doorway, awaiting the attention of those who had curried enough of his favor to be invited tonight. When the small crowd lounging on low couches at the room’s perimeter turned his way, he pushed her into the lamp-lit center. “Tessa, everyone,” he shouted. “Making a grand entrance!”

The room laughed and clapped, then returned their attention to the food and wine on the low tables beside them. In the corner, a young girl dressed in gauzy fabric blew thin streams of air into a small flute. Tessa’s eyes locked onto the girl’s for a moment. A private understanding passed between them that they were both objects of entertainment, and the girl looked away, as though ashamed to be seen so clearly. A desire to protect the girl surfaced in Tessa, a maternal feeling that of late seemed only a breath away.

Glaucus pulled her to a couch and forced her down onto the gold-trimmed red cushions. He lowered himself at her right and leaned against her possessively. A black bowl with gold designs waited in the center of their table, and Glaucus ladled wine from it into a goblet for her. To the room he said, “To Tessa—always the center of attention!” He raised his own cup, and his guests did the same.

Tessa’s gaze swept the room, taking in the majority of men and the few women reclining against them. The moment was suspended, with cups raised toward her, drunken and insincere smiles affixed to faces, lamplight flickering across tables piled with grapes and almonds and figs, and the flute’s lament behind it all.

Will I remember this night, even in the afterlife?

“To Tessa!” Shouts went round the room, cups were drained and thumped back to tables, and the party quickened around her.

Glaucus reached for her, but she pushed him away. He laughed. “It would appear my Tessa is a bit high-spirited tonight,” he said to the others. “And what shall be done with a mischievous hetaera?” His thick-lipped smile and raised eyebrow took in the room and elicited another round of laughter. He nodded, then turned his attention to the man on his right, resuming a conversation whose beginning she must have missed.

“Your objections earlier to the naturalization of the Jews are noted, Spiro. But to extend citizenship to the foreigners among us can often be expedient.” Tessa could not see Spiro, his frame completely blocked by the bulk of Glaucus beside her, but his voice poured like warm oil. Yet underneath his smooth tones, Tessa heard the cold iron of anger. He was one of few among the strategoi to contradict Glaucus publicly.

“Like-minded foreigners, perhaps,” Spiro said. “But the Jews make it no secret that they despise our Greek ways. They disdain even our proudest achievement, our Helios of the harbor. They must be expunged, not embraced by weak-willed politicians who—”

Glaucus raised a pudgy hand. “You presume an authority not yours, Spiro.”

“Only a matter of time, Glaucus.”

Glaucus snorted. “Again you presume. The people of this island are too clever to choose seductive charm over solid leadership.”

Spiro laughed quietly. “Why, Glaucus, seductive charm? I didn’t realize you had noticed.”

Glaucus shook his head. “Perhaps the women are affected, but it is the men who vote.”

Tessa sensed Spiro lean forward, his eyes now on her. “And we both know where men find their opinions.”

Glaucus snorted again and swung his legs to the floor. It took several tries to raise his ponderous body from the cushions. “Get drunk, Spiro. Enjoy your delusions for one more night. But next week I sail to Crete, and I expect them to fully support my efforts.”

He nudged Tessa with a sandaled toe. “Don’t go anywhere. I will be back.”

Tessa watched him leave the room, relief at his temporary absence flooding her. She was to travel to Crete with him next week, though she had no intention of ever stepping onto the ship.

The previously unseen Spiro slid to her couch now, an elbow on the cushion Glaucus had just vacated. He was older than she, perhaps thirty, clean-shaven like most of the others but wore his jetblack hair longer, braided away from his face and falling just above his shoulders. His eyes, deep set and darker than the night sea, studied hers. A smile played at his lips. “What are you still doing with that bore, Tessa? You could do better.”

“One slave master is as another. To have something better is only to be free.” She was not truly Glaucus’s slave in the usual sense, and Spiro knew it, but it made little difference.

Spiro smiled fully now, and his gaze traveled from her eyes, slowly down to her waist. He took liberties, but Tessa had long ago become heedless of offense.

“That is what I like about you, Tessa. One never meets a hetaera who speaks of freedom; they are resolved to their place. But you are a woman like no other in Rhodes.”

“Why should I not be free?”

Spiro chuckled softly and inched closer. “Why, indeed? Ask the gods, who make some women wives and give others as slaves.”

Spiro’s hand skimmed the cushions and came to rest on her thigh. “If you were mine, Tessa, I would treat you as the equal you deserve to be. Glaucus acts as though he owns you, but we all know he pays dearly for your favors. Perhaps it is you who owns him.” Spiro’s fingers dug into her leg, and his eyes roamed her face and body again. Tessa felt neither pleasure nor disgust, a reminder that her heart had been cast from bronze. But a flicker of fear challenged her composure. Spiro, she knew, was like one of the mighty Median horses: raw power held in check, capable of trampling the innocent if unleashed.

A shadow loomed above them, but Spiro did not remove his hand. Instead, he arched a perfect eyebrow at Glaucus and smiled. Tessa expected a flash of anger, but Glaucus laughed. “First, you think to rule the island, Spiro, and now you think to steal Tessa from me, as though she has the free will to choose whom she wants?” Spiro shrugged and moved to the next couch.

Glaucus plopped down between them again. “She will never be yours, Spiro. Even when I am dead, her owner will only hand her to the next man in line to have paid for her.” He waggled a finger at Tessa. “She is worth waiting for, though, I can tell you.” Another coarse laugh.

Something broke loose in Tessa then. Caused perhaps by the vow taken while drinking in the sight of the harbor’s bronze statue, and the assurance that soon nothing she did now would hold consequence for her. Or perhaps it was ten years of bondage, commemorated this night with nothing more than continued abuse.

Whatever the reason, she rose to her feet. The room silenced, as though a goddess had ascended a pedestal. She lifted her voice. “May the gods deal with you as you have mistreated me, Glaucus of Rhodes. I will have no part of you.”

Glaucus grabbed her arm. “Your heart is not in the festivities tonight, my dear. I understand. I will meet you in the inner courtyard later.”

He did this to save face, they both knew. Tessa wrenched her arm free of his clutches, glanced at Spiro, and felt a chill at the look in his eyes. She raised her chin and glided from the room.

In the hall outside the andrôn, she looked both directions. She had no desire to stay, yet the world outside the house was no more pleasant or safe for her. She turned from the front door and moved deeper into the house.

The hallway opened to a courtyard, with rooms branching in many directions. Along the back wall, a colonnaded walkway, its roof covered with terra-cotta tiles, stretched the length of the courtyard. A large cistern gaped in the center. Beside it stood a large birdcage; its lone inhabitant, a black mynah with an orange beak, chirped in greeting.

Glaucus had said he would meet her here later, but from the sounds of the laughter behind her, the party raged without her. She should be safe for a few minutes at least. She crossed to the bird she had adopted as her own and simply named Mynah. Tessa put a finger through the iron bars and let Mynah peck a hello.

Her head throbbed, as it always did when she wore her hair pulled back. She reached above her, found the pin that cinched her dark ringlets together, and yanked it. Hair loosed and fell around her, and she ran her fingers through it in relief.

A sharp intake of breath from across the room startled her. She whirled at the sound. “Who’s there?”

A soft voice in the darkness said, “I am sorry, mistress. I did not mean to startle you.”

Tessa’s heart grasped at the kindness and respect in the voice, the first she had encountered this evening. She put a hand to her unfastened hair. Somehow she still found it within herself to be embarrassed by this small impropriety.

The man took hesitant steps toward her. “Are you ill, mistress? Can I help you in some way?” He was clean-shaven and quite tall, with a lanky build and craggy face, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant, Simeon.

“No, Simeon. No, I am not ill. Thank you.” She sank to a bench.

The older man dipped his head and backed away. Tessa reached out a hand. “Perhaps—perhaps some water?”

He smiled. “I’ll only be a moment.”

She had disgraced Glaucus tonight, in spite of his effort to laugh off her comments. How would he repay the damage she had done him? His position as a strategos of the polis of Rhodes outranked all other concerns in his life, and he would consider her disrespect in the presence of other city leaders as treasonous.

In the three years since Glaucus had paid her owner the hetaera price and she had become his full-time companion, they had developed an unusual relationship. While he would not allow her to forget that she was not free, he had also discovered her aptitude for grasping the intricacies of politics, the maneuvering necessary to keep Rhodes the strong trading nation that it was, and to maintain Glaucus’s hold on leadership within this democratic society. Power was a game played shrewdly in Rhodes, as in all the Greek world, and Glaucus had gained a competitive edge when he gained Tessa.

Rhodian society had declared her to be a rarity: beautiful, brilliant, and enslaved. But the extent to which the decisions of the city-state passed through her slave-bound fingers was unknown to most. And in this she held a measure of power over Glaucus. She recalled Spiro’s astute comment earlier: Perhaps it is you who owns him.

Simeon returned with a stone mug in his hands. He held it out to her and covered her fingers with his own gnarled hand as she reached for it. His eyes returned to her hair. “I—I have never seen you with your hair down,” he said. He lowered his gray head again but did not back away, and his voice was soft. “It is beautiful.”

Tessa tried to smile, but her heart retreated from the small kindness. “Thank you.”

He didn’t look up. “If you are not ill, Tessa, perhaps you should return to the symposium. I should not like to see Glaucus angry with you.”

Tessa exhaled. “Glaucus can wait.”

Another noise at the courtyard’s edge. They both turned at the rustle of fabric. A girl glided into the room, dressed in an elegant yellow chitôn, her dark hair flowing around her shoulders. She stopped suddenly when she saw them.

“Simeon? Tessa? What are you doing here?”

Simeon bent at the waist, his eyes on the floor. “The lady was feeling ill. She requested water.” His eyes flicked up at Tessa, their expression unreadable, and he left the room.

Tessa turned her attention to the girl, inhaling the resolve to survive this encounter. At fourteen, Persephone hovered on the delicate balance between girl and woman. Glowing pale skin framed by dark hair gave her the look of an ivory doll, but it was her startlingly blue eyes that drew one’s attention. In recent months, as she had gained understanding of Tessa’s position in her father’s life, Persephone had grown more hostile toward her.

She raised her chin and studied Tessa. “Does my father know you’re out here?” Her tone contradicted the delicacy of her features.

Tessa nodded.

“So he let his plaything out of her cage?”

Tessa’s eyes closed in pity for the girl, whose mother had abandoned her for the comfort of madness.

The girl flitted to where Mynah cheeped inside its bars. She picked a leaf from a potted tree and held it out to the bird. “But who am I to speak of cages?” she said. She raised her eyes to Tessa. “We are all trapped here in some way. You. Me. Mother.”

“Cages can be escaped,” Tessa said, surprising herself. She had never dared to offer Persephone wisdom, though her heart ached for the girl.

Persephone turned toward her, studying her. “When you find the key, let me know.”

"Tessa!" Glaucus's voice was thick with wine and demanding.

Tessa turned toward the doorway. The girl beside her took a step backward.

"There you are," he said. "I've sent them all away." He waddled toward them. "I am sick of their company." He seemed to notice the girl for the first time. "Persephone, why are you not in bed? Get yourself to the women's quarters."

Tessa could feel the hate course through the girl as if it were her own body.

"I am not tired. I wished to see the stars." She pointed upward.

Glaucus stood before them now, and he sneered. "Well, the stars have no wish to see you. Remove yourself."

"And will you say goodnight to Mother?" Persephone asked. The words were spoken with sarcasm, tossed to Glaucus like raw bait. Tessa silently cheered the girl's audacity.

Glaucus was not so kind. "Get out!"

"And leave you to your harlot?" Persephone said.

In a quick motion belying his obesity, Glaucus raised the back of his hand to the girl and struck her against the face. She reeled backward a step or two, her hand against her cheek.

Tessa moved between them. "Leave her alone!"

Glaucus turned on Tessa and laughed. "And when did you two become friends?"

Persephone glared into her father's corpulent face. "I despise you both," she said.

Glaucus raised his arm again, his hand a fist this time, but Tessa was faster. She caught the lowering arm by the wrist and pushed it backward. Glaucus rocked back on his heels and turned his hatred on her.

Tessa kept her eyes trained on Glaucus but spoke to the girl, her voice low and commanding. "Go to bed, Persephone." She sensed the girl back away, heard her stomp from the room.

The anger on Glaucus's face melted into something else. A chuckle, sickening in its condescension, rumbled from him.

"High-spirited is one thing, Tessa. But be careful you do not go too far. Remember who keeps you in those fine clothes and wraps your ankles and wrists in jewels. You are not your own."

But I soon will be.

Glaucus reached for her, and she used her forearm to swat him away like a noisome insect. "Don't touch me. Don't touch her. Take your fat, drunken self out of here."

The amusement on Glaucus's face played itself out. The anger returned, but Tessa was ready.

Glaucus's words hissed between clenched teeth. "I don't know what has come over you tonight, Tessa, but I will teach you your place. You belong to me, body and spirit, and I will have you!" His heavy hands clutched her shoulders, and his alcohol-soaked breath blew hot in her face. Every part of Tessa's inner being rose up to defend herself.

It would all end tonight.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Faith n Fiction Saturday

Amy is again hosting Faith n Fiction Saturday. Her question this week:

Today's question is: As you may know, I launched a campaign to encourage people to buy books for the holidays (you can visit that site here) and there are some fantastic blogger who have really contributed a lot of great ideas into the blog. I hope you check it out.But now it's your turn to share some ideas! What books should be others be buying for Christmas? Do you need any gift help? You can handle this topic in two ways....either make a list of recommended books to give as gifts this year OR ask a question about what book you should get someone. (for whom you have been unable to think of a book gift for).Keep it about books!

My answer:

I almost always buy books for Christmas. I don't tend to buy novels, unless someone specifically asks for one for a couple of reasons. First, for me, most novels are a one-time read, and I'd rather give people something they'll keep around for a while. Secondly, for me, novels are a like it or hate it thing, and I'd hate to waste money buying something that the receipient doesn't get to enjoy.

I am reading a book now, The Apostles by Pope Benedict XVI (check back in the next week or so for a full review) that is the type of book I look for. It is beautiful (if you click the title it will take you to a page where you can see some of the illustrations), and illustrated with great works of art. I'd buy this book for someone for whom faith was important, or someone who liked art. It is a "coffee table" type book but has substantial content. Basically the Pope takes each of the twelve apostles and summarizes what we know about them from scripture (which is cited), non-scriptural writings and tradition. With a book like this, I figure that even if the recipient doesn't like the writing style or topic of the book, it is pretty to look at.

I always buy my kids books for Christmas. This year my four year old is getting God Bless the Moon which Thomas Nelson Publishers was kind enough to send me. My thirteen year old wanted the Twilight books, so she is getting three of them. I'm still debating about whether to give her Me Myself and I Am. Read this post and give me your opinion.

For people at work I buy books about favorite sports or teams, cookbooks, or "Chicken-Soup"-type heartwarming stories.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Consequence of Sin

As you've no doubt noticed if you've been reading my blog, I've been reading a lot of books lately that are written for and by Evangelical Protestants. One big difference between their beliefs and Catholic belief is the concept of "once saved, always saved", which, as I understand it, means that at some point in his/her life, a person has to make an affirmative decision to follow Christ, but that, if sincere, once that has been done, future sins are irrelevant to salvation. Before you accept Christ, if over the age of reason, you are condemned to hell; after you accept Him, heaven is yours, no matter what your future sins.

Catholics baptize infants; we believe God's grace is a gift freely given, but a gift that can be rejected. In other words, instead of believing that at some point we have to affirmatively accept Christ, we believe that we are always free to reject Him. That rejection takes the form of what we call "mortal sin". We do not agree with Evangelicals who say that all sins are equal; that, for example, God sees me being impatient with my husband as being the same as cheating on him. In order for a sin to be mortal, it has to be serious, you have to know it is serious and you have to freely choose to do it anyway. That being said, redeption is always possible. Repent of mortal sin and God will forgive you.

Why am I thinking of this now? Well lately I've read a couple of books in which the difference in the way Evangelicals and Catholics see serious sin came up. In one book the main character was separated, but not yet divorced and dating a preacher. She questioned whether she would sin by getting a divorce. Her husband was abusive. The preacher's response was that yes, it would be a sin to get divorce, but that she should go ahead and do it, and then repent so that God could forgive her. After all, God wouldn't want her to be unhappy, would He? If you read the author interview in my post on Forsaken, you'll see that the author says that martyrdom is not necessary for salvation. Now, given that freedom of choice is an integral part of mortal sin, saying "give up your faith, or I'll kill you" does limit your freedom, so may limit whether a sin is mortal, but we are also warned against the sin of presumption--the sin of presuming God will forgive you, so figuring it is ok to sin.

Forsaken: My Review

Forsaken Forsaken by James David Jordan

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I was asked to review this book, I almost passed. Suspense novels aren't usually my choice of reading material and I don't know why I chose to read this one. However, I really enjoyed it. The story is told by Taylor Pasbury, a former Secret Service agent who now does private security work. She was hired to protect Simon Mason, a famous televangelist, who has been the subject of terroist threats. Simon's daughter is kidnapped, and the rasom demanded is that he deny Christ on national television. Simon has to decide whether to "pay" the ransom or allow his daughter to be killed. In the rest of the book he has to live with the consequences of this choice.

The book wa a page-turner and because the central conflict was having to choose between family and Christ, the religous content was at the forefront. However it wasn't a preachy novel. My only complaint about the religous aspects of the book is that at one point Simon goes to Lebanon and is helped by Christians there. Those Christians are not outsiders, but very involved in the power structure in Lebanon. While the precise nature of their Christianity is not discussed, I find it hard to believe than Maronite Catholics or Greek Orthodox Christians (who make up the overwhelming majority of Christians in Lebanon) would have invited and supported a Protestant evangelist.

View all my reviews.

An interview with James David Jordan, author of Forsaken

Q: Before you became an author, you were (and still are!) a very successful business attorney. Tell us how and why you began to write novels.

I was a journalism major before I went to law school, and I have always enjoyed writing. A few years back, I set out to write a book of Sunday school lessons for a class I was teaching, but I struggled with a strong urge to change the stories to suit my teaching purposes. I concluded that God might not look favorably on my editing of his work, so I decided to write a novel instead. My goal was to weave a biblical theme seamlessly into a page-turning story. The result was my first novel, Something That Lasts, which was very well received, both critically and by the public. I’m only interested in writing novels with faith-based themes, because in my mind issues of faith are the big issues in life.

Q: In Forsaken, your main characters are presented with what seems an almost impossible dilemma. Why did you choose to address this thought-provoking topic for your book?

I always start my books with a biblical theme in mind and weave the plot around that theme. The idea for Forsaken came from Matthew 10:37: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” I pictured what it would be like to have to choose between God and my own child’s life. That dilemma is the central plot point of Forsaken.

Q: This is actually the first of a two-book series revolving around Taylor Pasbury. Tell us about her.

Taylor Pasbury is my favorite character ever. She is enticingly flawed. By that, I mean that she is nearly a complete wreck on a personal level—drinks too much and sleeps around, for example—but there is so much that is good and courageous and vulnerable about her that it’s impossible not to root for her. She needs faith desperately, and her relationship with Simon Mason is her first step.

Q: Why did you choose a televangelist as a protagonist in this story? What makes Simon different from the stereotypical televangelist?

For the full impact of the central dilemma to play out, I thought it was necessary to make the decision—my faith or my child—to be very public. That raises the stakes, for the characters and the reader. Simon is nearly as flawed as Taylor. Together they learn to live with what they’ve done in the past, and they do the best they can under impossible circumstances. There’s a great life lesson for all of us in that. There are no religious superheroes in Forsaken.

Q: Forsaken raises challenging questions. By the end of the book, do you answer those questions, or do you leave readers to find the answers for themselves?

I try never to answer the questions for the reader. That would insult the reader’s intelligence. I try to tell a page-turning story that stimulates thought about specific issues of faith. I’m very careful not to make my stories into evangelical bludgeonings.

Q: In Matthew 10:37 it says, “He who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Are we to take that verse literally?

Readers will have a better understanding of their personal answer to that question after reading Forsaken.
Q: Were you able to come up with an answer to what you would do if you found yourself in Simon’s situation?

I don’t know what I would do. I don’t know if I could watch one of my children die.

Q: Forsaken addresses martyrdom—its motivations and its results. What was the point you were trying to make?

In both of the Taylor Pasbury books (the sequel, Double-Cross, will be released in the fall of 2009), there is an underlying theme: Grace is a gift, and we can’t earn it. So that raises the question of why there have been so many martyrs. What motivates a person to die for faith, when it’s not necessary to salvation? Love is obviously the most important motivator, but there are other, more subtle motivations also. For example, would the Apostle Peter have been as motivated to die for his faith if he did not suffer from the guilt of denying Jesus three times? Would Paul have been as motivated to suffer for his faith if he was not wracked with guilt over his persecution of Christians before his conversion? Martyrdom is not necessary to salvation, but in some instances it may be something a person feels he owes. No human sacrifice can be as pure as Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

Q: Your characters are not religious superheroes. In fact, they are very obviously flawed. Why have you chosen to present a message of faith through characters whose faith is so readily assailable?

My goal is to write entertaining stories first, and to weave the Christian message into the stories naturally. I’m hoping that many readers who would never consider picking up a “Christian” book will read Forsaken because it’s a page-turning story with well-developed characters. Cookie cutter characters with no depth bore me, and I never want to create shallow characters for my readers.

Q: What do you have planned for Taylor in the next book of the series?

Taylor’s mother, who ran out when Taylor was nine, reappears in Double-Cross. She has her own set of flaws and quirks. Together they get themselves into some serious scrapes as they try to unravel the mystery of a suicide that just doesn’t add up.

Forsaken by James David Jordan
B&H Publishing Group October 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8054-4749-1/softcover/387 pages/$14.99

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Christian Book Carnival

Pop on over to the Christian Book Carnival and see what folks are reading this week. If you came here to see my post, welcome!

Thanksgiving Dinner

My dad joined us for Thanksgiving dinner and took our picture right before we ate, so if you are wondering what my crew looks like now, here we are.

Desire and Deceit: My Review

Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance by R. Albert Mohler Jr

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Desire and Deceit is an easy to read engaging discussion of how "sexual tolerance" has made itself the primary moral issue in our society. The author, R. Alber Mohler, is president of a Baptist seminary, and while he footnotes the book, it is not an academic tome but rather a very readable text. while he claims to present the Biblical view of sexuality, he does not reference or quote much scripture.

The book begin with a look at some letters JRR Tolkien wrote to his son, a man in his early twenties, about marriage and human sexuality. "The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject. He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones" Mohler quotes Tolkien as saying. Mohler further points out that Tolkien understood that those who give themselves most unreservedly to sexual pleasure will derive the least pleasure and fulfillment in the end.

Next, Mohler looks at lust from both a secular and Christian perspective. From a secular perspective, it is defined as "the enthusiastic desire, the desire that infuses the body, for sexual activity and its pleasures for their own sake.", though from the secular perspective, there is nothing wrong with that. From a Christian perspective, "Lust goes beyond attraction, and appreciation of beauty, or even a healthy desire for sex--it makes these desires more important than God. Lust wants to go outside God's guidelines to find satisfaction." About the human sex drive he says "we need the guiding assistance of the sex drive to pull us out of lethargy and self-centeredness into a fruitful and faithful relationship with a spouse."

Pornography is also addressed, including its mainstreaming into advertising and entertainment and points out that increased exposure to erotic stimulation creates the need for ever-increasing stimulation in order to demand notice, arouse sexual interest and retain attention. Mohler draws a contrast between the man who seeks sexual fulfillment through porn, with its lack of contact, lack of relationship, and lack of demands, with the faithful husband who has to make himself worthy of his wife's attention and desire.

Quite a bit of the book is devoted to discussion homosexuality. He points out that defining homosexuality as "who you are" rather than "what you do" is a recent phenomenon. He discusses the efforts of those within the church who would legitimize homosexual behavior. They make one of two arguments when faced with the Biblical proscriptions--they either claim they only refer to those who are of a heterosexual orientation, and therefore not being true to their nature or they claim that those proscriptions need to be viewed as reflections of the hierarchical patriarchal culture that we can safely reject as not applying to us. Kohler describes the process by which the homosexual activists have changed the way America views homosexual behavior. He looks at some of the big names in the study of sex and discusses how much of their "research" has been discredited.

I find it interesting that one aspect of modern sexual behavior was not addressed at all in this book--birth control.

I've read about Theology of the Body. I'm going to have to read it, and I think comparing it to this book would be an interesting exercise.

This is a First Wildcard book. Check back December 14 to read the first chapter (which is about Tolkien).

View all my reviews.

Culture Shock?

The Bishop's Daughter The Bishop's Daughter by Tiffany L. Warren

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This Catholic woman of German heritage was definitely reading about another culture in this book. The Bishop's Daughter is about the daughter of the pastor of an African-American mega-church and her relationship not only with her family but also with a freelance reporter/blogger who is trying to break a big story. The big story he is trying to break is about her father. The reporter, a young, handsome "brother" from a wealthy family, learns about the church when his latest squeeze gets up on Sunday morning to watch it on TV. He is sure there is something wrong, some dirt than can be dug, so he moves from Cleveland, where his family lives to Atlanta, where the church is. At his first service at the church he is so moved by the pastor's words that he answers the altar call and is baptized. He is still looking for dirt, but he has already found the bishop's (pastor's) daugher and through her learns more about the bishop. During the course of the investigation, Darrin keeps readers informed through a blog, written by the Mad Black Blogger--but he doesn't tell them where the church is.

In some ways the story is universal. The woman doesn't believe she is beautiful and able to attract men, so the only one, until the reporter comes along, who is attracted to her is one she doesn't love. The reporter is following a career path with which his father disapproves, but he is doing it with Dad's money. It isn't until he decides to accept being cut off the dole that he is able to make the decisions on how to run his life. It is a story of sin and redeption and love conquering sin.

In other ways, like I said earlier, this German Catholic was clearly not reading about herself. As a kid I used to watch Sanford and Son and Goodtimes, and while they made me laugh, I found it hard to believe there were really people like that. This book was saturated with sex. No, it didn't have steamy descriptive sex scenes, but Darrin, before his baptism was far more interested in sex than in love. When he first notices the bishop's daughter, it is her body he notices. When another woman with whom he is keeping company comes over, they kiss briefly, then he reaches for her crotch. Darrin is the absolute characture of the hypersexual Black man.

A certain familiarity with the African American church is assumed. One male character is the bishop's "armor bearer"; a female character is his wife's armor bearer. Another female character is the church's "nurse" but while the job was never defined, for some reason I don't think the reference was to medical nursing. The pastor was called the bishop and his wife, the First Lady.

The book was an easy read and interesting. It wasn't just a predictable formula romance, though it had romantic elements. There was a lot of religious content but it was well integrated into the story, and fankly pretty essential to it.

This is a First Wildcard book, so check back January 12 to read the first chapter and learn about the author.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Beautiful Children's Book

The Moon Shines Down The Moon Shines Down by Margaret Wise Brown

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you are looking for a Christmas present for a young child, this may be the book for you. Once upon a time, Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnite Moon started this book, which is based on the childhood rhyme "I see the Moon, And the Moon sees me. God Bless the Moon and God bless me". She didn't finish it, and the manuscript was recently found tucked in a trunk. Laura Minchew continued the story, writing in the same style as Brown. We see the moon shining down on children from Holland, Switzerland, the Far East, Mexico, France, Australia, England, Africa, an American city at Christmas and under the ocean. Each of these places is given two two-page spreads, and the second of those always included "I see the Moon and the Moon sees Me" or "God bless the Moon and God bless me" or both. For example, the spread on Mexico says:

I see the Moon
And the Moon sees me,
And the Moon sees the kids in Mexico.
God bless the Moon
And God bless me,
And God bless the Toucan with her funny nose.

The illustrations, drawn by Linda Bleck, remind you of Goodnite Moon without being clones of them. Each spread includes a large yellow moon. There is a bear (maybe a koala?) which is in every scene, along with drawings of the country he is visiting. The children shown in the drawings are wearing ethnic clothes and you can often find a child tucked in bed somewhere in the drawing.

This is a beautiful book and I'm sure my little one is going to like it.

Click here to buy at
View all my reviews.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Got an Award!

Carrie gave me the Premio Dardos award, and as many of these bloggy awards do, it comes with strings attached. Not only do I have to thank Carrie, author of Quite the Normal Life, who not only writes about her family in Normal IL, but also about book she reads, but I have to pass the award on to fifteen other bloggers. I’m supposed to name them here, and tell why they qualify for the Premio Dardos award. What is the Premio Dardos?

The award says:This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.The rules to follow are :1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.2) Pass the award to other 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Well, Carrie already awarded many of the folks I would have chosen, especially Renee’, who reads and reviews many of the same books I do and Janette whose values mirror mine, even if her politics do not. Of course I would have given the award to Carrie if she hadn’t given it to me first. I too like Judy’s blog and keeping up with Caroline and her growing family and Michelle and her children.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of book blogs, so I’ll pass this award to some of my fellow First Wildcard folks. Mimi at Mimi’s Pixie Corner runs First Wildcard, which is an alliance of bloggers who blog about Christian books. Amy is one of my favorite book bloggers and she runs Faith n Fiction Saturdays. Bibliophile’s Retreat is great too. Jennifer at Quiverfull Family started a Christian Book Review Carnival, hats off to her. I also enjoy Ms. B’s Book Reviews.

I’ve become a semi-regular participant in the Catholic Carnival, where I’ve enjoyed reading people like this weeks hostess, Sarah who, among other things, blogs about books. Ebeth is another frequent hostess, and I enjoy her political posts as well as her religious ones. I’m going to award Dante Explorer because basing a blog on one literary work is a concept I’ve never seen before.

I don't know where I ran into Catholic Cuisine, but it made it onto my sidebar. What better way to celebrate the liturgical year than with food?

Finally, I’d like to recognize some new bloggers. I figure that anyone who submits her blog to a directory like Catholic Blogs probably wants to attract readers--and they probably haven’t been “blessed” by getting too many of these awards! A couple of new ones you may enjoy are Beautiful Chaos, by a Catholic mom and photographer from Houston Tx A Catholic Cappuccino is a little on the political side, but makes some good points. La Bella Vita! Makes me hungry just to read! Okie Booklady is another Catholic book blogger--and I like that! . Witnessing Hope is by a Catholic lay missionary in Honduras. Praising Our Lady is beautiful and dedicated to the best Lady of them all.

Shearing the Sheep

Taking off on the sheep and goats theme of Sunday's readings, Sarah leads us through this week's Catholic Carnival. Next week I'm hosting. I doubt I'll be as creative.

Win a Cake Decorating Book

Click here to enter a contest to win a cake decorating book.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hannah Grace: My Review

Hannah Grace (Daughters of Jacob Kane, book #1) Hannah Grace by Sharlene Maclaren

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you like Christian fiction and you like romance novels, you will probably like this story, set in 1903 in Sandy Shores, a Michigan town on the Lake. Hannah Grace, the oldest of three sisters (I guess there are going to be two more books in the series), has been keeping company with the town's doctor. She is fond of him and believes they are headed toward marriage, yet she thinks something is missing. Then the new sheriff comes to town, and with him, an orphan boy who stowed away in his wagon. As she and the sheriff work together to care for the boy, guess what happens? There is another plot thread about the boy's origin and the criminal activity he witnessed, so the book is a little more than a standard romance novel.

This book is on the more religious end of the Christian fiction spectrum. Both Hannah and the sheriff pray often and mull over scripture. However it is not one of those "get saved and live happily ever after" books either -- though it does have a happy ending.

This is a First Wildcard book and if you check back December 12, you will be able to read the first chapter.

Click here to read the first chapter.
Buy this book from Amazon

View all my reviews.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christmas Promises: My Review

This is a sweet gifty type book. It is small and hard cover. The paper is a buff color and the typeface is pretty. Most of the pages have borders on them. It is not really a book to sit down and read through, but rather one to pick up and savor as part of your prayer time. The sections include pages of beautifully scripted scripture quotes on a theme, written sort of like a letter from God. Those pages are decorated with a Christmas theme. They are followed by a poem or some heart-warming story that illustates the theme. The book is a nice reminder to slow down, to remember the reason for the season and to savor it.

Available from

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?
Encouragement for the Christmas Season

For some, the Christmas season is a marathon—a month of parties, decorating, shuffling through crowded malls, and family gatherings. For the last-minute types among us, Christmas is a sprint—a dizzying, fruitcake-fueled race to the finish line. For others, the season dredges up painful memories of lost loved ones or dreams deferred. Amid both the commotion and the emotion, it’s easy for anyone, even the most devoted Christian, to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

In her inspirational new book, Christmas Promises: Heavenly Gifts for the Holiday Season (Regal, 2008), author and speaker LeAnn Weiss encourages readers to embrace the deepest significance of the Christmas season, a time to celebrate the keeping of God’s greatest promise—His Son, Emmanuel…God with us. In a popular culture in which guarantees are nullified by the fine print and marriage vows have lost their durability, it comes as no surprise that so many have lost the wonder they once felt at Christmastime. Weiss believes that God’s enduring faithfulness shines all the brighter during the Christmas season.

“Somewhere over time, the meaning of ‘promise’ has eroded from being a binding pledge (at least bound by honor) to merely a possible expectation or hopeful feeling. No wonder we’re cynical when someone says, ‘I promise.’ And maybe that sense of disillusionment unconsciously spills over into our spiritual life,” says Weiss. “When God says that He’s faithful to all of His promises, we can fully trust Him that all means all. No exceptions. We can take His promises to the bank. Christmas Promises: Heavenly Gifts for the Holiday Season is about these promises of His peace, presence, provision, and rest.”

Weiss is best known for her personalized paraphrased scriptures which are featured in over seven million books in Howard Publishing’s (a division of Simon & Schuster) popular Hugs™ series. She is also coauthor of the successful Heartlifters series. Christmas Promises is a collection of heartwarming true stories of God’s faithfulness. Each story takes place in a Christmas setting and is communicated with Weiss’s characteristic tenderness and insight, concluding with her trademark personalized paraphrases of scripture that have encouraged so many.

The Bible is packed with hundreds of promises concerning daily life issues that are closest to our hearts. Through this collection of stories and the scriptural reflections that follow, Weiss encourages readers to discover God’s faithfulness in their own lives. Some of the most moving moments in the book are the accounts from her own life, including a story of heartache and new beginnings for her and her husband (the couple wed on July 4, 2008). Christmas Promises would make an excellent gift for anyone who is overwhelmed by the “to-do’s” of the Christmas season or for anyone who simply enjoys getting into the Christmas spirit. Because the stories are universally engaging, the book would also be an ideal gift for Christians to share with non-believers.

“Unfortunately, we sometimes get so caught up in the routine and rush of life that we forget to seek the illumination of the Bible,” Weiss reflects. “It’s my prayer that Christmas Promises: Heavenly Gifts for the Holiday Season will help personalize the timeless promises of God’s Word to readers’ everyday lives. I pray that they will experience the refreshment of God’s one-on-one love as His Word comes alive in their daily circumstances.”

Christmas Promises by LeAnn Weiss
Regal Books September 2, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0830746972/hardcover/$14.99

A Good Recipe but That's About It

Esther's Gift: A Mitford Christmas Story (Christmas in Mitford Gift) Esther's" Gift: A Mitford Christmas Story by Jan Karon

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book is nothing but a shameless attempt to make more money off what I would assume is an already profitable series of books--The Mitford Series of books. This tiny hardcover is the short story of Esther computing one Christmas, how much her famed Orange Marmalade cakes cost, deciding that most people weren't worth that, but then changing her mind. The only reason I gave the book two stars is that it is pretty and it does have the Orange Marmalade cake recipe in it.

View all my reviews.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fireflies In December: My Review

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
"What difference does race make in our relationships with people?" is the question explored in this book, sent in the early 1930s in a small town in Virginia. The main character is a Jessilyn, a White thirteen year old who doesn't really fit in with her peers. She likes to read, she is independent and sees boys as a nuisance. Her only real friend is a neighbor a few years older than she is. That girl's parents work for her parents--and they are African-American. A storm strikes and her friend Gemma's parents are killed in a fire. Against all convention, her parents take her friend in as a foster-daugher, rather than a servant. This decision alienates them from both the White and Black communities. The Klan gets involved. First love is involved. In the end there is betrayal, redemption, and a new chance at love. It is Christian fiction, but not heavy-handed. It is a story of separate and unequal justice, a justice that unfortunately has not been unknown in our country's history.

While one character in the book shows that he is not all bad, unfortunately most of the others are either all good (and treat all races equally and with respect) or all bad (and are Klan members). I think this would have been a perfect story in which to show that good people could be products of their culture. In some ways Jessilyn's mother is like that--she likes her daughter's friend, but isn't comfortable taking her into their home, but later comes to accept it.

This is a First Wildcard book. Check back January 7 to read the first chapter.

View all my reviews.

Me, Myself, and I Am: My Review

I won a copy of this book on Window to My World. When I got it, at first I thought I'd give it to my teen daughter as a Christmas gift. I may still, but I need to think about it. Basically the book is a collection of themed questions which lead the reader/writer to examine his/her life and relationship with God. The reader/journaller is asked questions about faith, religious practice, life experience, family and more. In some ways the book does take into account the Catholic experience of faith. There is a series of questions about the reader's experience with confessing sins, and besides mentioning confessing to God, one does mention confessing to a priest and receiveing absolution. Another question gives mass as one of the religous functions in which the reader could participate. There is a series of questions about your belief about the Bible, but I don't think any of the responses really capture the Catholic belief about the Bible.

Why do I hesitate to give it to my teen daughter? She is well-aware that there are other Christian faiths and non-Christian faiths. She also knows that people don't always do a good job of practicing thier faith. However, I'm not sure I'm ready to put a book in her hand (and thereby seeming to endorse it) that presents faith as a series of options rather than a series of facts. Also there is a section about "after you became Christian". Well, she became a Christian when she was six weeks old, when she was baptized. I know "accepting Christ" is seen as an affirmative and necessary step in some faith traditions, but as Catholics, we see His grace as a gift freely bestowed on us in baptism. It is a gift we can always reject, but rather than seeing our children as not Christian until they accept Him, we see them as Christian until they reject Him. I guess it is a matter of how much I'm willing to expose her to different Christian beliefs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be Not Afraid

"If you pass through raging waters, in the sea, you shall not drown, if you walk amist the burning flames, you shall not be harmed. If wicked tongues insult and hate you all because of Me, know that I am with you, through it all.
Be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow me, and I will give you life."

"Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya, Oh, Lord, Kumbaya"

What do those two songs have in common? Well both are often panned by Catholic bloggers, especially those leaning toward the traditional. Kumbaya was popularly sung in churches in the early 1970's when everyone was experimenting with everything and throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Both the tune and the lyrics are really more appropriate for a campfire than mass. Be Not Afraid earns the wrath of bloggers for using the "voice of God" (and for not being classical music but I won't go there--too much). Another thing both songs do is bring back vivid memories of tears at mass; tears brought on because they were what I needed to hear at that time in my life.

I started first grade in a Catholic school in Wisconsin. One day Monsignor A, the pastor (who I adored) came in our room and taught us to sign Kumbaya (this was 1967). That afternoon Sister said we could sing it as our closing prayer. Eleven years later I was a couple of weeks from high school graduation, in Mississippi. I was at mass by myself that night. Kumbaya was the communion meditation song, and it brought back memories of first grade. My high school years hadn't been the greatest and I was ready to move on and out of that town, but I also knew a part of my life was over. I was excited, but scared. I was praying and I heard that song, and it brought forth emotions that I really couldn't describe, but which expressed themselves in tears.

Almost 25 years later, I was attending daily mass. I had become a regular at that mass for over a year; it fit perfectly into my schedule and I really liked it. It was the early spring and things just weren't right. My mom kept feeling awful and no one could figure out why. About the time she'd start to feel better, things would get worse. Also, I was having chest palpitations and my cycles were getting wacky. I'd been to a couple of doctors and had a bunch of tests. No one could tell me why I was having the palpitations. My gyn. found a strangely-shaped cyst on one of my ovaries. He said we would watch it for a another month but that if it didn't go way, he was going to do surgery. I was scared to death. I was afraid I'd lose my mom, and I was afraid for my own health and that maybe it was cancer and that maybe I was going to die and leave my two kids without a mom, and fufill one of my husband's greatest fears, that like his mom did, one of us will die before the kids are grown. I always got to that mass early because of my schedule and that was my prayer time. I was ok until Fr. announced the opening hymn and walked out singing "Be Not Afraid". At that point the tears started to flow and it took forever for me to get off my knees and onto my feet.

Those of you who know my know the rest of the story. A couple of months later my mom was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, and about three years later, she died of it. I did not end up having surgery for that cyst, it went away bythe next ultrasound. The doctor diagnosed PCOS and given my age, that diagnosis (which often leads to infertility) and my wacky cycles, we gave up charting figuring that it wasn't likely that I'd end up pregnant. We were wrong, and ever so blessed.

Why this post tonite? We had a special Thanksgiving mass tonite in Religious Education. Be Not Afraid was one of the songs. I guess our new pastor doesn't hate it. :)

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival is now up. Check it out here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Do Know the Difference

I do know the difference between real life and fiction, especially romance novels, but I have a question for my non-Catholic readers: What is required to get married in your church? The reason I ask is that I've read a few Christian romance novels where the couple ends up at the altar just weeks after meeting each other, or just days after seeing the minister for the first time. If you look at my review below of Holiday Blessings, you'll note that I didn't care for Debbie Macomber's story. Since I've already told you it is a romance novel, I'm sure tellling you that the two main characters get together in the end, isn't a a spoiler. The main characters meet which the literally bump into each other. They have coffee, talk, and end up seeing a lot of each other for about a week, at which time he proposes. He wants her to leave her friends, family and school and move to Alaska with him. He said God told him it was time to get married and showed him that she was to be his bride. Quite sensibly, in my opinion, she says no, and suggests they get to know each other better. They write for a while, he visits once more (and almost tries to bed her to win her but his conscience gets the best of him) and, when she refuses to return with him, calls it quits. After being miserable for some time she decides to quit school and move to Alaska, but when she gets there he won't have anything to do with her. She gets a job helping the doctor, and ends up nursing him through a nasty infection. At that time she learns he is engaged. Not long thereafter everything works out and they are married.

As I said, I know this is a junky romance novel and not real life, however, I also know that if that couple had showed up at a Catholic rectory just about anywhere in the country, their wedding would have been scheduled no sooner than six months from that date. I've also read other Christian romances that get the people to the altar in an awful hurry. While I don't think there is anything magical about a six month engagement, rather than 5 or 7 or 3, I find it surprising that ministers would officiate at the marriage of people who haven't known each other very long. On the other hand, my parents told me that at the time they got married (late '50s), the Catholic church considered engagement to be a "near occassion of sin", meaning something that wasn't sinful in and of itself, but which put you in a position where sin is likely--kind of like Baskin Robbins doesn't make you fat--but going in there makes you want to eat ice cream, which is fattening. Because of that, at that time, long engagements were discouraged. It was felt that the couple had made their decision, and that every day the temptation to engage in premarital sex would grow stronger.

So, non-Catholics, what does your church require for marriage?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Review: Shadow of Colossus

Shadow of Colossus: A Seven Wonders Novel (Seven Wonders) Shadow of Colossus: A Seven Wonders Novel by T. L. Higley

My review

Click here to read the first chapter and learn about the author

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shadow of Colussus takes us into the life of Tessa, a courtesan and slave on the Island of Rhodes in the year 227 BC, the week before an earthquake that topples the Colossus. It is a story of political intrigue and the story of how a women who had taught herself to be as unfeeling as a statue learns to trust and love. The author adds a lot of historical detail--we learn about the interior of homes, the public baths and the aquaduct system and the religous practices of the people. My criticisms deal with the faith aspects of the book. Jewish characters refer to God as Yahweh and I know that is against their religion. Also one of the Jewish characters is an old man name Simeon. He tells Tessa that God has revealed that he will not die until he sees his Redeemer. Of course we don't know how old Simeon in the Bible was, but I don't think he was over 200 years old.

This is a First Wildcard book. Check back on November 30 to read the first chapter.

View all my reviews.

See these other reviews of Shadow of the Colossus:

Holiday Blessings

Holiday Blessings (Love Inspired Promo) Holiday Blessings by Jane Peart

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
When I picked up this book I figured it would be three heartwarming easy to read though probably predictable stories. I was not disappointed in that regard. However, I was disappointed in the first of the three stories, Debbie Macomber's "Thanksgiving Prayer". While Macomber now writes general market romance and women's fiction, this story is Christian Fiction but almost seems like general market romance with a heavy overlay of Christianity. For all the God talk in the story, faith doesn't seem to play a major part in the character's lives. It is like it is there just to make it meet some checklist of things to include in a Christian novel. The other two stories are mildly Christian--they mention churchgoing and prayer, but they are clearly love stories and not stories about faith.

View all my reviews.

Another Giveaway

Look here for another giveaway. Most (maybe all) of the books are FWC titles, so if you saw something reviewed that you wanted, go over and enter her contest. She is picking winners Monday morning.

Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays

Amy's question this week is:
Do you receive review copies of Christian books? If so, do you review them honestly? How do you handle it when you don't like a book but are obligated to provide a review? Who do you see your first commitment being to in book reviewing (besides God)? Yourself? The author? Your readers? Does your review change based on the spiritual content of the book or is it solely based on technical or artistic merit? Have you ever had a negative experience with an author after giving them a negative review? (please don't name names)
Yes, I receive review copies of Christian books (and I'll take them from whomever else wants to send them). I'd say the basic difference between the way I deal with a review copy and the way I deal with the book I bought or mooched or received as a gift is that I feel more obligated to read/finish review copies. If I really hate a book I mooched, if I just can't get into it, I toss it in the giveaway box and don't mention it, because I probably didn't read enough to make intelligent comments.
I realize that review copies are sent for the purpose of selling books and that, in come ways, the publishers are paying me with books to write about them. Given that understanding, I don't request or accept books I don't think I'm going to like. For example, I don't request "thrillers" because they don't thrill me. I do try to find something nice to say about the book, perhaps to lead its intended audience to it. That being said, I also don't gush. I write most of my reviews on Goodreads and post their html on my blog. They use a five star rating system and I rate most of the books I read as three star books, meaning "I liked it". I've only read a few five star books. I do point out the weaknesses in a story because I believe it is almost as bad for the author for someone to think they are buying one thing while getting another. Harleqin-type romances (whether secular or Christian) certainly have their place in the book market, as shown by sales figures, but if I'm expecting a complex plot with well-developed characters dealing with novel situations, I'm going to be disappointed if I read one.
I've had interaction with three authors. One offered me a review copy of his book based on something I'd written elsewhere. I had just ordered it. My review was on the critical side. He said he appreciated the tough balanced review--because I did point out the good points in the book. Another author author specifically asked me to look at a particular aspect of her book so I did, and found it wanting. After emailing her I re-phrased a little, and posted the review--which did have a lot of positives in it. That author has asked me if she could consult with me about that subject in the future. I emailed the final author because, while I liked the book, I found a lot of typos and other mistakes. I wanted to know whether I had an ARC (it wasn't labelled as such). If this was a copy for sale, I was going to blast it, but she said it wasn't and that they were working on corrections, so I didn't mention the problems.
In short, I try to avoid gushingly sweet reviews--sorry not every book is five-star material; most are pretty average--they have an audience and I'd like to help them find it, but they aren't for everyone, nor are they classics that will be around for years. If I percieve a weak point, I'll note it. For example, I hate preachy stories. If I get a Christian novel that "treats" me to lots of sermon excerpts, I'm going to mention that. On the other hand, you may like those sermons, and buy the book to read them. On the other hand, I do try to say something nice or at least point out the general topic in neutral terms so it may find an audience.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do You Like Romance Novels?

Amy has a contest where you can win one. Check it out.

The Church as a Safe Place

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Here is my review

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Church as a Safe Place

Authentic (January 1, 2008)


Peter Holmes has combined a career in business and management consultancy with service in the church and international missions. He holds an MA in pastoral psychology and a doctorate in therapeutic faith community and is a lead reviewer with the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ therapeutic community program.

Since his late teens, Dr. Holmes has been helping people grow in their intimacy with Christ. This passion has prompted his involvement in Christian missions in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and Africa, including war-torn Rwanda. He is co-author of the book Christ Walks Where Evil Reigned, a social commentary, in a Rwandan setting, focusing on how darkness can consume a nation and how hope and transformation can be released. He has developed a therapeutic discipleship program available in seminars and in books such as Letting God Heal, Changed Lives, and Becoming More Like Christ. Among the nine books he has authored, Becoming More Human, Trinity in Human Community, and Church as a Safe Place describe the extension of his ideas in local churches. Dr. Holmes has joint responsibility for teaching, preaching, and pastoral care at Christ Church Deal, Kent, UK, the fifth church he has helped to plant.

His latest book, Church as a Safe Place, co-authored with his friend and colleague Susan B. Williams, delves into a subject he knows all too well—the many forms of abuse that are often perpetrated in and through the church. “Writing a book like this would be a challenge for any person. No one is exempt from abuse or from being abusive,” he states. “We may like to think that we have never been that bad or done such things, but we probably have. As I wrote the book, I remained mindful that I have been both the abuser and the abused, that I have been on both sides of the relationship.”

Dr. Holmes is a qualified trainer (business coach) and business psychologist, specializing in emotional intelligence, leadership, and team-building. He provides expertise in business start-ups and change management and leads conflict management and reconciliation initiatives. He also offers these skills in local church contexts. Dr. Holmes has worked with international aid programs to develop business initiatives overseas. He is a member of the Tyndale Fellowship and a fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.

Dr. Holmes is married to Mary, an American. The couple splits their time between Dr. Holmes’s native Kent, England and Tiki Island, a small community on the Texas coast. Though his single-minded dedication to helping others find wholeness in Christ is his greatest hobby, he is also a fan of classic cars and has rarely been without one over the last thirty years.

Susan B. Williams is driven by a passion for promoting positive change, a passion reflected in every area of life—her education, her profession, and her ministry. As a specialist in personal, relational, and organizational change, she holds an MPhil and PhD in the personal and social dynamics of transformative change. Williams has authored several books, including Changed Lives, Becoming More Like Christ, and Church as a Safe Place with co-author Peter R. Holmes, with whom she also wrote Passion for Purity. She specializes in working with local churches and church members as they pursue transformative change, particularly in the therapeutic community of her home church, Christ Church Deal, Kent, UK.

As she approached the topic for her latest book, Church as a Safe Place, Williams experienced some transformative change in her own life. “I had known of mistakes I had made in my ministry. I could recall times when I had spoken without love, times when something I had done had felt hurtful to others. In the past, I would have excused myself or assumed that those people were overreacting,” she recalls. “Apparently, this book has been the Lord’s opportunity to teach me something I wish I’d learned many years ago—that when someone feels hurt by me I must allow myself to meet them in their pain.”

In the business world, Williams has earned the reputation of a savvy management consultant with extensive experience in diagnostics and problem solving, as she regularly draws on the wisdom she has gained from her experience managing change in both the public and private sector. She is a veteran business trainer and holds a diploma in Learning and Development. She is also a licensed assessor and quality systems verifier and a Fellow of the Institute of Learning.

Williams has been a financial director and managing director in companies in the education and training sector, in biotechnology, in property management, and in other fields. She is also a director of several businesses and charities. Her teaching and training are also informed by her remarkable personal journey, outlined in her autobiography, Letting God Heal.

Williams is developing some of her ideas regarding the dynamics of transformative change with the Royal College of Psychiatrists as Deputy Chairperson of the Advisory Group in Therapeutic Environments and as a Lead Reviewer of therapeutic communities.

Though Williams’ busy schedule includes little free time, she does find opportunities to play the clarinet in a local symphonic band and her church worship team. She resides in Deal, Kent, UK.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 330 pages
Publisher: Authentic (January 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1860246036
ISBN-13: 978-1860246036


Life in an Unsafe World

In this chapter we take an overview of our society and conclude that abuse is more common than we might imagine or admit. Many people feel unsafe today. Which begs the question: Where abuse is concerned, is the Church an exception or is it like other institutions? We end the chapter by suggesting that society is continuing to fragment, with more and more people living alone or in broken, damaged relationships.

Nelson Mandela, writing the foreword to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Violence and Health, suggests that the twentieth century will be remembered as a century marked by violence and abuse. There has been more abuse,1 violence, death, and even genocide than ever before. The statistics speak for themselves. More recently, Mandela’s views have been endorsed by Niall Ferguson in his exhaustive work The War of the World, in which he asks why the twentieth century has been the bloodiest century yet.2

As authors, we have been directly engaged in this violence, not only in our pastoral counseling, but specifically in our efforts to develop a model of dealing with the post traumatic stress suffered by victims of the genocide in Rwanda.3 This has proven a huge challenge. Most Western people have little awareness of the difficulties facing the people of Rwanda. With physical and sexual abuse, torture, murder, and loss, come a range of dehumanizing feelings that make us less able to be human and more able to hurt because we have been hurt.

Mandela observes that one of the tragedies of this legacy is the way that abuse reproduces itself. Instead of developing an aversion to abuse, victims learn abuse from victimizers and, perhaps unintentionally, begin to perpetuate it. He believes that our only hope for breaking these cycles is our willingness to expose such abuse through the democratic process. “Safety and security don’t just happen,” he says, “they are the result of collective consensus and public investment.”4 Collective consensus in this field is focused on the area of human rights, be they the right of the mentally ill to be treated with dignity, the right of children to be protected or of a divorced mother to have the same standard of living as her professional ex-husband. Outside the Church the contemporary human rights agenda is moving fast and furious.

So what is the response of the Church to these twentieth century developments? In our local congregations, how can we respond to the pain, betrayal, fear, and loss being experienced in the culture around us? Also, how effective are we at engaging in public debate on these issues? The answer we are proposing in this book is that the Church needs to intentionally become a “safe place,” where those who are hurting can find comfort and healing in restorative relationships, and where people with no Church background can feel that their personal rights are being respected. But achieving this is a daunting task. Let us look at some of the reasons why.

Abuse is Normal

Mandela points out that those who live with violence and its abuse day in and day out begin to assume that it is an intrinsic part of the human condition. People not only resign themselves to it, they accept it as normal. So abuse becomes deeply rooted in the social, cultural, and economic fabric of human life. Today, whether through personal experience, the eye of television and other news media, or by means of video games and films, assault by one individual against another is part of our daily experience. Most video games, for instance, are violent. They are not programs teaching us ethical love. And once abuse and violence become “normal,” it is very hard to change.

But it is not only individuals who learn to abuse. Institutions do, too. It is particularly disturbing when the systems and organizations that are intended to stand against such abuse themselves become the abusers. As Mandela knew well, governments can be abusive. During the last century, whole countries, even, practiced democide—the eradication of entire ethnic groups—under leaders such as Stalin, Hitler, and Idi Amin. Such crime is now a major concern to modern society.5 We have seen it repeated over and over in recent history, from Hiroshima through to Mao, the genocide of Rwanda, the abuse of the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, and the stateless Palestinians.

Modern Europe is not exempt. Note the second-class citizenship of the Turkish and Algerian gastarbeiters (guest workers) or the illegal white Russian, Eastern European, Vietnamese, and Thai sex-slave victims being imported into our countries for our gratification. Likewise, consider the treatment of the native Indian, the damage from the Vietnam War, and human rights abuses by the military in Iraq. Some would even point to the retaliatory imperialism of the American government. All of these, along with numerous other forms of abuse, are allowed freedom to exist here, in and on behalf of our “civilized” society.

Behind such extreme abuse lies the issue of power, which, like that of abuse, is a vast and complex subject.6 When given power, some people sometimes change for the worse. Power by people over people becomes the power to abuse. What is becoming evident from “power” research is that when people have the power or opportunity to abuse, some always will. This will become a key theme of this book.

But the world of dictators is not the only arena in which power is abusively used. Here in the UK, the Macpherson report, published following an enquiry into the murder of a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, documented institutional racism in the London Metropolitan Police Force. It distinguishes between abuse by individual policemen and an organizational structure that allows racism to exist.7 Societal abuse is widespread. Even the most mundane access to power creates the opportunity for misuse and abuse. There will always be some who abuse simply because they have the opportunity. Whether it is driving above the speed limit, using the “black economy” to avoid paying tax, pilfering pens and paper from an employer or fudging one’s tax returns, abuse of power is endemic in our Western society. At one time or another we have all misused the power we have.

Whenever someone sets a standard or lays down the law, some of us will have a tendency to lean against it, pushing out the boundaries a bit farther. Toddlers do it: “I wish you were dead!” Teenagers do it: “I hate him!” It is rife in many supposedly adult environments, too: “I’d love to teach her a thing or two!” Many of us perceive the “institution,” political leaders and even our bosses as the enemy so we deviously challenge or disobey their wishes. We wouldn’t think that we were being abusive, of course. We merely take a few “liberties” from time to time.

Feeling Unsafe

The misuse of power is so prevalent in our society that it raises the question of whether anyone can ever feel safe. Have we all been abused? Are we all abusers? Do we all feel unsafe at one time or another? The huge growth in security systems, personal alarms, tinted windows on cars, expensive locks, and closed circuit TV in both public places and homes is clear testimony that many of us do not feel safe and are afraid of abuse.

Most of us have had the experience of feeling unsafe, vulnerable, and many of us will be able to recite a range of times when we have been abused or have not felt safe. Our examples may include standing in a bus queue, traveling with someone who is not a “safe” driver or no longer being able to trust someone we once relied on. When we say that we live in an abusive society, we are saying that most of us, at one time or another, have felt the lingering aftertaste of hurt or abuse.

The reaction of some of you reading this book may be that feeling unsafe is not your own personal experience. Perhaps you cannot recall ever having been abused by others. Nor do you feel that you are at risk of being abused. If this is the case, then we are pleased for you. But think of those you know, friends and family, who do feel unsafe. Most of those close to you will at one time or another have felt vulnerable or abused, though many have coping mechanisms that help repress or deny the harm.

Having met many hundreds of people, Christian and non-Christian, in a pastoral capacity, we have noticed an interesting trend. Many people are becoming aware that something is not “right,” but they are unable to identify what that something is. What they will then often come to realize is that they have been or are being abused. Or perhaps they are abusing themselves. Maybe the word “abuse” seems a bit too strong, but they realize they are feeling hurt. For instance, many people are in abusive personal relationships or have bosses who are abusing them. Or they have been abused in the past, but have been denying how deeply it has hurt them.

Some of these people may be seeking Christ in a deeper way or trying to live more responsible lives, but their circumstances and history are standing against this. Good is not something that happens to us unless we are able to imagine it. Likewise, until we admit the truth, it is hard to change. So in our ministry we frequently find ourselves asking, “Do you realize that is abusive?” Or, “Why are you allowing them to do this to you?” Until a solution is found, human nature will often be reluctant to admit how bad bad really is. To admit to abuse, or to be honest about what took place, is only possible when one knows that others can help resolve it. This understandable reluctance to own up to abuse, or to feelings of being unsafe, is sadly very common.

Is the Church a Safe Place?

If abuse and not feeling safe is part of modern society, how do we feel about our churches? Is being part of a local church a safe experience for us or are churches also places that are not safe? Maybe the fellowship or support group is not safe? Or the youth work we help with? Or are we part of the choir and feel unsafe? Again, the same principle seems to apply. Some of us will be in abusive or unsafe situations in our congregations, but will not be willing to admit this unless someone else gives us permission. It is often not until we are with a safe friend, pastor or counselor that we begin to admit that we do not have a way of dealing with this. They may be able to help us but only if we are honest with ourselves and them.

We are not suggesting that every church is unsafe. Neither are we giving everyone permission to accuse others unjustly. But our congregations are part of our Western society, and can be as abusive as the society they are part of. One consequence is that when congregations become abusive or hurtful environments, it is all too easy for the organization and its members to develop a tolerance to it. It becomes normal. Whether the abuse starts with a leader or a powerful person or group, it will often spread until even the victims become abusive, either to themselves or to someone else. Numerous incidents of abuse that result in situations where we have been hurt or feel unsafe are never addressed. We either deny them or pretend they are not as bad as they really are. Or perhaps we try to raise the problem but no one listens so we give up or quietly leave.

The Church has an historic problem to contend with. Many of us have grown up in congregations with traditions that for centuries have been helpful in establishing the uniqueness of the Church. Yet today the unchurched would consider them a breach of human rights—that is, abusive. Teaching that seems safe or “normal” to us because of its familiarity might be considered unsafe by newcomers, outsiders or those who are postmodern in their ideas. Perhaps we think it is normal to be told we are sinners. Or to be told we must forgive seventy times seven as the leader in his sermon mocks us publicly yet again. Cruciform theology (dying to self) is sound Biblical teaching but can be interpreted in ways that postmodern people (and perhaps even God) find unacceptable. For instance, being “dead to self” can mean we no longer have any rights. We agree with such teaching, but to the unchurched it can all sound too (self-) abusive.

From 1850 to 1900 Evangelicalism ruled in Europe. The Church had enormous influence and prestige, establishing values and ideals for itself and society as a whole. This was not dissimilar to the growth of the Wesleyan movement in North America.8 Many of these cultural values survive today and are part of the warp and weft of church life.9 In this book we will be suggesting that not all these beliefs, values, and associated practices are of benefit in the way they may have been in the past. For instance, in North America, when the topic of abuse in the Church is raised, people tend to think immediately of the scandals and cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. We will be making reference to this. And we will also be suggesting that the Protestant Church is not immune. In this book we will be suggesting that in reviewing what is safe or harmful, we must consider more carefully the perspective of the unchurched newcomer. In our work with many unchurched we have learned that this is one of the main reasons why they never want to go near a church. Or, along similar lines, it is why some Christians leave the Church, becoming post-Evangelical.10

For many of us, of course, local church life is an enjoyable and safe experience. But you may be in a congregation where it could improve. In this book we will be suggesting that a great deal of “soft” abuse goes on un-checked in local church life, for instance, the subtle control of others in influencing who we should be friends with or a theology that penalizes those who are suffering—“You’re sick because you lack faith.” There can also be an exclusivity that makes an outsider feel unwelcome or pressure to attend more meetings than are healthy for family life or a family feeling judged because the parents are not married. This book draws on over a hundred experiences and illustrations of such harm and abuse in church settings, which we hope we can all learn from.

What we will be noting is that much of this damage never surfaces, both because of cover-ups by leadership and denial by members. It is often so much easier to walk away than confront an issue. Newcomers will also leave because they concede that congregational life will not change to accommodate their needs. Perhaps it is time for us to listen more carefully to those who are on the fringe or who are leaving?

As Christians, many of us have no illusions about the kind of society that we live in. We are pragmatic, and even cynical, while campaigning for human rights. Yet we are in danger of attributing messianic qualities to our church leaders. Sometimes we refuse to see that they struggle to handle power with integrity, and we are unable to accept that, because they are not safe people they cannot create a safe environment for us. We are often passionately loyal to our congregation and its leaders, and this can be a good thing. But sometimes it isn’t.

In this book we are suggesting that it is unrealistic to think that people who make others feel unsafe in one setting, say, in business life, are somehow transformed into qualitatively different people when they are in a church environment, that they somehow become safe when they are being “Christian.” Rather than clinging to the illusion that the Church is free from abuse, it is more helpful for us to assume that the harm prevalent in society as a whole is also present in the Church. Instead of thinking that the damage that we do hear about in our churches is an exception to the rule, it is more realistic to accept that unsafe behavior prevails in the Church, too, albeit in a variety of ways.

In his summary of the violence of the twentieth century, Mandela suggests that we should take national as well as corporate initiatives to stop such violence and abuse. Surely the Church should lead the way in creating structures and guidelines that minimize the potential for abuse and harm, and should be seen to be responding healthily when and where damage has been identified?

We are suggesting that making congregational life a safer place is a learning journey. While creating what is safe for people, we must retain the ability to speak the truth to one another. Holding this balance is a real challenge. The large number of abused people suggests we have a long way to go.

Preferring Isolation?

Returning to the broad picture, we cannot avoid the fact that social relations in our Western society are breaking down. Around 25 per cent of people in the UK now live alone, while a growing number “live together apart.”11 This phrase refers to two people who spend some time together, perhaps a few nights a week, while maintaining separate homes that they can retreat into.12 Any property developer will tell you that one bed units and bedsits are the biggest area of demand in the housing market. The “family home” is not the prized property it used to be, either side of the Atlantic.

This trend is part of a complex social change that is taking place in our society. It is driven by a number of factors, including greater economic wealth, social welfare support, and selfism—a selfishness that puts “number one” at the center of our lives. But more disturbing is the fact that many of us feel safer when we are in control. So living alone is an obvious preference. We have learned over the years that other people are unsafe. We may need others, but are more guarded toward them than we would have been in the past, evoking echoes of Sartre’s, “hell is other people.” It is essential that the Church buck this trend if churches are to be authentic faith “communities.” But in an age where being safe increasingly equates to being alone, offering people persuasive reasons for being together and staying together is a much stiffer challenge than it used to be.

Most people will say that a safe place is where they feel safe. For many men safety is their car when they are driving! Or their garage, workshop, greenhouse, garden shed or golf course. For some women this safe place will be their kitchen or (hopefully) their bedroom. For other women being safe is being with a man they love, being with their children and grandchildren or behind locked doors in their one-bed apartment. Is this what safety really means? Do we have to avoid other people and create highly controlled environments in order to feel secure and protected? In the next chapter we will explore God’s idea of what is safe—something contrasting to the norm in our society today.

Questions to Ponder

1. What do you think about Mandela’s statement that the twentieth century has been the most violent so far?

2. In what ways does our contemporary culture impact our congregations?

3. In what ways, if any, is the Church different from the world around it?

4. If there has been a time when you have been abused in the Church, how do you now feel about it?

5. If you know of a newcomer who has come to your church having been hurt, how can you help that person to feel safe?

6. How would you describe a “safe place?”


1 E. Krug, et al., World Report on Violence and Health (Geneva: World Health Organization, 2002).

2 N. Ferguson, The War of the World (London: Allen Lane, 2006).

3 I (Peter) am currently writing a book with the Archbishop of Rwanda, His Grace Emmanuel Kolini, on the subject of violence and genocide. Hopefully, it will be published early 2008.

4 Foreword—Krug, et al., World Report.

5 S. Tombs and D. Whyte, Unmasking the Crimes of the Powerful: Scrutinizing states and corporations (Oxford: Pater Lang, 2003).

6 K. Dowding, Power (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1996), 1ff.

7 W. Macpherson, et al., The Stephen Lawrence Enquiry (London: The Stationery Office, 1999).

8 R. Finke and R. Stark, “How the Upstart Sects Won America: 1776–1850,” Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion 28 (1989), 1:27–44.

9 D.W. Bebbington, The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The age of Spurgeon and Moody (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006).

10 G. Lynch, After Religion: “Generation X” and the search for meaning (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2002).

11 Martin noted in Sickening Mind that “if present trends continue over one third of British homes will be occupied by a solitary person by the year 2106.”

12 A. Milan and A. Peters, “Couples living apart,” Canadian Social Trends (Summer 2003), Office for National Statistics, “First estimates of the number of people ’Living Apart Together’ in Britain” (2005, online). Available from (accessed 10 June 2006.

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