Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thunder in the Morning Calm by Don Brown - REVIEWED




This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Thunder in the Morning Calm



Zondervan (August 2, 2011)



by



Don Brown

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



DON BROWN, a former U.S. Navy JAG Officer, is the author of Zondervan’s riveting NAVY JUSTICE SERIES, a dynamic storyline chronicling the life and adventures of JAG officer ZACK BREWER. After TREASON, his first novel in the NAVY JUSTICE SERIES, was published to rave reviews in 2005, drawing comparisons to the writing style of John Grisham, Don Brown was named as co-chairman of national I LOVE TO WRITE DAY, an event recognized by the governors of nine states to promote writing throughout the nation, and especially among the nation’s schools.



Paying no homage to political correctness, Don's writing style is described as “gripping,” casting an entertaining and educational spin on a wide-range of current issues, from radical Islamic infiltration of the military, to the explosive issue of gays in the military, to the modern day issues of presidential politics in the early 21st Century.



Don graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1982, and after finishing law school, continued his post-graduate studies through the Naval War College, earning the Navy’s nonresident certificate in International Law.



During his five years on active duty in the Navy, Don served in the Pentagon, was published in the Naval Law Review, and was also a recipient of the Navy Achievement Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.



ABOUT THE BOOK




Lieutenant Commander 'Gunner' McCormick is assigned as an intelligence officer to Carrier Strike Force 10, being deployed to the Yellow Sea at the invitation of South Korea for joint exercises with the US Navy. During his pre-deployment briefing, he discovers a TOP-SECRET MEMO revealing rumors that the North Koreans may still be holding a handful of elderly Americans from the Korean War in secret prison camps.


As it happens, Gunner's grandfather, who was a young marine officer in the Korean War, disappeared at Chosin Reservoir over 60 years ago and is still listed as MIA in North Korea. Sworn to silence about what he has read, the top-secret memo eats at him. Gunner decides to spend all his inheritance and break every military regulation in the book to finance his own three-man commando squad on a suicide mission north of the DMZ to search for clues about the fate of his grandfather.

Risking his career, his fortune, and his life, Gunner will get his answers, or he will die trying.


Don Brown is building a loyal fan base by writing what he knows best: thrillers with heart. A former Navy JAG officer and action officer in the Pentagon, Brown pens action-packed plots and finely-drawn characters that are credible and compelling. Thunder in the Morning Calm is a novel of bravery, duty, and family love that will keep readers of all ages reading straight through to the last page.




My Thoughts:


What a premise for a suspense novel! WOW! I don't think I've ever read anything from this point of view before. And what's so neat about it, is it is entirely plausible given the world situation. So, you let Don Brown engage your imagination and you are off on a grand and exciting adventure! Yes, the pages will turn and quickly from beginning to end!


My 17-year-old actually read this before me, so it was fun to share the story and get his take on things. He thought the fight scenes were exceptionally exciting, and he liked the fact that the protagonist joined with "underground" Christians to help facilitate his mission. He thougt is was a great read, and he will add Don Brown to his list of authors to watch for in the mail!


So there you have it! If you need a special story to end your Summer with a BANG! This is it! Buy a copy today!


If you would like to read the first chapter of Thunder in the Morning Calm , go HERE


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A View from Steve Arterburn's Window

It was a true priviledge to be able to sit down with Stephen Arterburn in Atlanta last month and listen as he shared his heart about the many facets of his life and ministry. Walking Into Walls is his latest release, but he has many other projects that we as readers can eagerly anticipate.

I hope you will give a warm welcome to Steve Arterburn and we catch a view from his Window!



What projects are you currently working on?

My current project is Walking Into Walls by Worthy Publishing. Next will be the release of The Encounter, a novella by Thomas Nelson, and as all of that is taking place I will be working on another project with Zondervan about the things you need to address before you get married. I forget the exact title, but it’s something like Last Days Before I Do or Is This The One? There are a lot of projects going on right now.


Can you tell us a little about the novella?

The Encounter is about a mother who has abandoned her son, and the son discovers she is not as evil as she was once portrayed to him. The story is based on two true stories that are included at the back of the book. Non-fiction is much easier for me to write, so I had some help on this project. I’m pleased with the end results.


You are a teaching pastor, writer, radio-show host, counselor – how do you balance the many roles of ministry that God has called you to?


I have a lot of great people who help me. God has really brought some very talented people to manage a lot of facets of the ministry, and that frees me to write, speak and teach. The radio show is live for one hour a day, five days a week, and we have to pray and depend on God to provide the answers people need. My teaching pastorship gives me opportunity to meet scriptural challenges and grow in my knowledge of the Word.


What would you consider to be the most prominent ministry need today?


I think that pornography and sexual addiction is a very dangerous problem. The internet has created a private and easy-to-keep-secret problem that people struggle with for a long time before the problem becomes evident. The results of these addictions are devastating, and without a transformation program it is almost impossible for people to recover.


What’s the most exciting thing God is doing in your life right now?


He has allowed me an opportunity to tape an episode of Wheel of Fortune with my daughter. This will be a great memory that we will always share, and I’m really excited about it!


How many children do you have?


I have a 20-year-old daughter, 13 and 12 year old sons from my wife’s previous marriage, a 4-year old son and a 2-year old daughter. And I have a t-shirt that I like to wear that says, “No, I’m not the grandfather.”

Steve was a very delightful person to talk to, and he leads a life that is blessed with God's leadership. He had a real heart for all those whom he serves in ministry, and it was a true honor to be able to spend some time together.





Monday, August 29, 2011

Walking Into Walls By Stephen Arterburn - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Worthy Publishing)



Stephen Arterburn identifies five blind spots that cause us to make poor choices – stubborn resistance, self-centered entitlement, justifiable resentment, blind ignorance, disconnected isolation. He then offers life-changing advice to help us conquer these self-defeating reactions – and make the changes permanent.


All of us crash into self-constructed walls and bloody our noses from time to time. These walls block growth, healthy relationships and overall contentment and happiness. Most of us are blind to our own self-defeating behaviors and attitudes, so we repeatedly walk into the same walls again and again. Best-selling author Stephen Arterburn leads us through the process of deconstructing the issues that built those walls as well as find the permanent healing that frees us to live the joyful life we were meant to live .




My Thoughts:

Once again, God has sent a book to my life for a specific purpose and during a specific time in my life in which a specific need exists and for which need the message is perfect. As I face a particularly difficult trial in my life, it is easy for me to place the blame on everyone involved but me. Yet when I'm honest with God and myself, I know that some of the blame lies at my feet, and I'm left asking myself , "How did I let myself get to this point?"





Stephen Arterburn's book sheds a huge amount of light on areas of life at which we all stumble at some point. If we take a careful and honest look at our hearts, we will easily recognize the "walls" of Stubborn Resistance, Arrogant Entitlement. Justifiable Resentment, (this hit me suqare between the eyes) Desconnected Isolation, and Blind Ignorance. Arterburn uses personal examples from his life and some from the lives of others he has encountered in ministry to illustrate the walls which he names in this book. He also uses a lot of Scripture to teach readers what God has to say about each area of our lives that blind and block our way to a healthy, productive life lived as God intended us to live.




I have been deeply touched by this book, and I am happy to reccommend it to others! I had the opportunity to interview Steve Arterburn while I attended the International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta last month, so come back tomorrow and enjoy a view from Stephen Arterburn's Window!




About the Author:

Stephen Arterburn is an award-winning author with over 8 million books in print, including the bestsellers Every Man’s Battle and Healing Is a Choice. He has also been editor of 10 Bible projects, including the Life Recovery Bible. Steve founded New Life Treatment Centers in 1988 and is currently host of the radio and television show “New Life Live.” In 1996 he started the most successful traveling conference, Women of Faith – attended by over 4 million women. He and his wife live with their 5 kids in Fishers, Indiana.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Sifted: God's Scandalous Response to Satan's Outrageous Demand - REVIEWED

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



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





Today's Wild Card author is:





and the book:



Sifted: God's Scandalous Response to Satan's Outrageous Demand

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2011)



***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Rick Lawrence has been editor of GROUP Magazine, the world’s most widely read resource for Christian youth leaders, for 23 years and is the co-leader of The Simply Youth Ministry Conference. In his role as “Youth Ministry Champion” at Group Publishing, he leads the organization’s expeditionary efforts to challenge, encourage, and equip youth pastors. Lawrence has authored hundreds of magazine articles and is the author, co-author, or editor of 31 books, including JCQ’s: 150 Jesus-Centered Discussion Questions, Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, and the adult/teenager small-group curricula Make Their Day and Ten Tough Things. He’s a consultant to national research organizations and a frequent conference and workshop speaker. Lawrence and his wife, Beverly Rose, live with their two daughters in Denver, CO.



Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:








Worn down by the troubles in your life? Overwhelmed by piled-up problems? Worried about others who are hurting? In his book, Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand, Rick Lawrence offers fresh biblical perspective on pain, based on a single Scripture snapshot: Luke 22:31-32.



My Thoughts:

This book has come to me in the midst of my own personal "sifting." God's timing is oh so perfect, and this book has been both thought-provoking and comforting in the midst of a sore trial in my own life.

The author puts trials in a very modern context. He obviously loves movies, because he references them a lot. Some might think, as I did when I read too quickly, that Lawrence is giving God human qualities that really don't apply, negating or ignoring God's holiness. But read carefully. He doesn't do that. What Lawrence does is give a very thorough and easily related to definition of why and how God allows trials to come into the believer's life. He does an excellent job of breaking down the process by using the literal sifting of wheat as the foundation.

I think this book is a great teaching tool, a great devotional reference, and a great gift for a fellow believer who has had their world turned upside down. We serve and awesome God my friends, and He has gone before us in every event of our life. He will not give us more than we are able to bear.

I highly recommend this book!


Product Details:



List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 272 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1434700747

ISBN-13: 978-1434700742



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Introduction



“Show me a hero and I’ll show you a tragedy.”



—F. Scott Fitzgerald

For my birthday one year my wife gave me a book about Sir Ernest Shackleton, the legendary explorer who in 1914 attempted to be the first to circumnavigate Antarctica from sea to sea, only to endure epic hardships after his ship (prophetically named the Endurance) got stuck in pack ice.1 For most of the ensuing year the Endurance slowly morphed from a seagoing icebreaker to a ghostly frozen outpost, with its rigging sheathed in ice and its desperate crew counting on the spring thaw to set them free again. But instead the thaw sent hulking blocks of bluish ice crashing into the ship’s thick hull. And after a month spent bracing themselves against the pummeling, the twenty-seven men of the Endurance abandoned ship, camping on the pack ice as the sea’s frozen incisors slowly chewed and swallowed its timbers. The last to slip below the surface was the mast, a barren tree on the frozen expanse. And in the eerie aftermath Shackleton’s men knew that catastrophe was about to accelerate into tragedy. They were almost a thousand miles from help, with dwindling provisions, subzero weather, no means of communication, grinding ice behind them, and treacherous waters in front of them. And no Endurance.



One thing they had going for them—some historians would say the only thing they had going for them—was the remarkable will of Ernest Shackleton, a man whose capacity for hope seems borrowed from heroic fiction. By the following summer he had willed the entire party—every last man who’d been on that ship—safely home. They had to eat their beloved sled dogs to survive. They had to fit up salvaged lifeboats for a harrowing five-day journey over open water to the temporary safety of Elephant Island. They had to fashion a makeshift sail for Shackleton and five of his men, then point the largest of their lifeboats toward a distant whaling station on South Georgia Island, across the widow-making Southern Ocean. Along the way they had to survive twenty-foot swells that often engulfed their twenty-two-foot boat, a kind of sleepless dementia that reduced some of the men to a catatonic fetal position, frostbitten fingers encased in ice and frozen to the oars, and navigational challenges akin to sinking a basket from the upper deck (historians call it the single greatest feat of open-boat navigating ever). Once the men were in sight of South Georgia’s craggy shores, hurricane-force winds threatened to smash the boat on outlying rock formations. Finally, the half-dead men hauled their little boat onto the shore of a tiny rock cove. And then Shackleton and two of his men had to cross the width of the island’s forbidding, unmapped, mountainous interior in one thirty-six-hour all-or-nothing death march to the whaling station on the leeward side of the island.



The men, determined apparitions, stumbled out of the frozen mist of the mountains and shuffled into the Stromness station, where the shocked workers at first insisted their story couldn’t be true. From that moment, Shackleton’s name was legend.



Apsley Cherry-Garrar, writing about his experiences with the great Antarctic explorer Robert Scott in his book, The Worst Journey in the World, says: “For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott; for a Winter Journey, Wilson; for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen: and if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time.”2

Now, that’s some kind of a man.



It’s an understatement to say Shackleton’s story captured me— the effect was more like addiction. I took the book with me on a four-day vacation, and every morning I’d get up at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. and eat through its pages like a starving man. Shackleton’s courage romanced me—his capacity for swallowing pain and then persevering mesmerized me. It was hard to resist the lure to worship him as if he were a kind of god.

But the final scenes in Shackleton’s life are unbearably and heartbreakingly human.

Away from the heroic challenges of his Antarctic explorations, he was ill equipped for the normal life of a husband and father. He grew restless for the financial security that had eluded him all his life, so he launched many wrongheaded and failed business ventures, ultimately descending into alcoholism and dying of a heart attack more than $1 million in debt.

The story’s end bashes hard against the soul.



How is it possible that the same kind of everyday frustrations and failures common to you and me should cut the legs out from under a man of this magnitude? How could he survive the harshest conditions on earth but crumple under the weight of his mortgage?



The thought of a transcendent figure like Shackleton disintegrating because of the assaults of his day-to-day disillusionments fueled a kind of outrage in me. I turned the last page then snapped the book shut to punctuate my frustration and dissonance. If the drip drip-drip of our everyday pains, those familiar discouragements and imploded hopes, can eat away the soul of a giant, then what chance do we relative midgets have? Titanic resolve compressed Shackleton’s soul into granite; then a thousand tiny pains consumed it, like rock eating termites.



Later that year I read about a similar dismantling at work in the story of Meriwether Lewis, the incomparable leader of the greatest expedition in North American history.3 He, like Shackleton, led a handpicked group of brave men in one of the most improbable feats of survival ever recorded, returning from his explorations of the western frontier with every last man (save for one who died of an unknown illness) safely home. But forced to merge back into the flow of normal life, Lewis tried and failed to handle its challenges, slowly disintegrating into a shell of his former self and ultimately committing suicide.

In my soul something dark and dreadful grows. How am I to beat back the rock-eating termites when they swarm? In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction Eugene Peterson writes: “Unpleasant things happen to us. We lose what we think we cannot live without. Pain comes to those we love, and we conclude that there is no justice. Why does God permit this? Anxiety seeps into our hearts. We have the precarious feeling of living under a Damoclean sword. When will the ax fall on me? If such a terrible thing could happen to my friend who is good, how long until I get mine?”4

The Damoclean sword (“the threat of imminent harm”) that is Shackleton’s story reminds me that it’s so often not the big things that bring us down; even we midgets somehow summon the courage to face obvious life-threatening challenges. Rather, it’s the everyday holocausts that carry the leverage to take us out—the sucker punches that buffet us when all we’re trying to do is raise our kids, work our jobs, and make sure we have perpetual access to a good four-dollar cup of coffee.

The Attack of the Termites



In an email response to a close friend who’d written to encourage us, my wife chronicled our own infestation of termites after a church leader blindsided us with a painful accusation, leaving us feeling



pummeled and crushed:

Life has simply been overwhelming for me. I



received your emails after a very trying and exhausting



time. I haven’t had the energy to respond. Your



words were nourishing for my soul. Actually, it was



hard to really take them in. I wanted to dismiss



them in light of what recently happened to Rick



and me. On top of [the accusation], in the last ten



days:



• Both of our cars have needed expensive



repairs—Rick’s just suddenly stopped



on the street and could have led to a



catastrophic accident if it had been on



the highway where he does most of his



driving.



• We have mounting financial pressures



from my extraordinary medical care, and



we’re scrambling to find ways to address



them.



• Emma broke two bones in her wrist the



night before we were to leave for Seattle for



a friend’s wedding—we spent the night in



the emergency room with her, wondering



if we should simply cancel the trip.



• A copper water pipe broke in our crawl



space, pouring water into our basement



area an hour before we were to leave for



the airport.



• I reached a tipping point in my parenting



challenges, and we went to meet with a



family therapist this week to deal with our



issues.



• Our garage door broke, leaving us stranded



in our house an hour before Rick was to go



and teach a new class at church.



• I started on an antidepressant drug because



things just became too overwhelming for



me.

No, there are no capital-T tragedies on this list—they are simply the vanguard of the army of rock-eating termites. And, as you might suspect from your own termite infestations, a little over a month after my wife wrote this note we’d already fumigated most of them.…



• We’d met face-to-face with the person who’d



accused us and had started down the path toward



reconciliation.



• We’d somehow found a way to fix both cars.



• We’d refinanced our house to put ourselves in a



better financial situation.



• My six-year-old daughter, Emma, was out of her



cast and somersaulting around the house again.



• We’d met twice with a family counselor, and our



home environment was much more peaceful and



kind.



• A plumber fixed our water pipe while we were



away in Seattle.



• The garage door is as good as new.



• The mild antidepressant Bev took helped stabilize



a downward spiral of emotions.



No one died. No one was abducted by aliens or Richard Simmons. No one gave up or gave in. But for a long while we wondered how much we could handle before the walls crumbled around us, as Aragorn and his warrior companions must have felt defending the gates of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers. So we survived the swarm … again. And the wizard Gandalf thunders down the mountain with his army of horsemen to save the fighters at Helm’s Deep—a day-late rescue that smells a lot like most of our own rescues.5 But what’s left of our ramparts after the assault? Smashed walls. The dead. The traumatized survivors. I’ve always heard that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”—well, it might also be true that “whatever doesn’t kill you maims you.” We walk with limps, but we hide them well behind our stiff upper lips.

Max Lucado writes: “Many live their lives in the shadows. Many never return. Some dismiss…. ‘Well, everybody has a little slip now and then.’ Some deny…. ‘These aren’t bruises. These aren’t cuts. I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been. Me and Jesus? We are tight.’ Some distort…. ‘I’m not to blame. It’s his fault. It’s society’s responsibility…. Don’t point the finger at me.’ When we fall, we can dismiss it. We can deny it. We can distort it. Or we can deal with it.”6



We know this truth about following Christ: Pain abounds, but grace abounds more. But is this alchemy mutually dependent? Has God decreed that we gorge on one to taste the other? And why is it such a certainty that pain abounds?

One of my favorite songs is Tonio K.’s “You Will Go Free”—the first stanza perfectly sums up what C. S. Lewis called “the problem of pain”:

You’ve been a prisoner …



Been a prisoner all your life



Held captive in an alien world



Where they hold your need for love to your throat like a knife



And they make you jump



And they make you do tricks



They take what started off such an innocent heart



And they break it and break it and break it



Until it almost can’t be fixed 7



Pain breaks and breaks and breaks. It’s as if we stumbled into the middle of the gods at batting practice, our heads repeatedly mistaken for the ball. And in the devastated emotional landscape that remains after our breaking, these questions sit in the rubble:



• “Who are the ‘they’ that are ‘breaking and breaking



and breaking’ my heart?”



• “Why are ‘they’ doing this to me?”



• “Why does God feel like such a fickle ally—if



He’s supposed to be for me, why does it so often



seem that He’s against me?”



• “Where can I find relief, and what will it cost me



to get it?”



• “What can I do to stop this from happening



again, and who will show me the secret formula?”



• “How will I go on, now that I know this can and



will happen to me?”

Our False GPS



Our questions about the pummeling we experience seem scandalous— we know we’re not supposed to ask them out loud in polite company. Our job is to be good soldiers, keeping our noses to life’s grindstone



even when God seems terribly unconcerned about the rock-eating termites chewing away at us. So we stumble our way around in the dark, trusting a kind of false GPS for our souls—the fundamental belief that the universe rewards good people with a good life and punishes bad people with their just deserts. When bad things happen to good people our first reaction is disbelief and amazement—it’s a sucker punch—because “it doesn’t make sense.” Right? Our GPS is no help here. And even though we wouldn’t phrase it just this way, we treat the universe of non-good people as if it were as tiny as a mustard seed—Hitler, for sure, and Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and Pol Pot and child sexual abusers and the DMV in general. But pretty much all the people we know consider themselves “good” and therefore fundamentally undeserving of the beating they’re taking from the pain actually meant for the tiny secret society of “bad people.”



Peterson writes:

We have been told the lie ever since we can



remember: human beings are basically nice and



good. Everyone is born equal and innocent and



self-sufficient. The world is a pleasant, harmless



place. We are born free. If we are in chains now, it



is someone’s fault, and we can correct it with just a



little more intelligence or effort or time.



How we can keep on believing this after so



many centuries of evidence to the contrary is



difficult to comprehend, but nothing we do and



nothing anyone else does to us seems to disenchant



us from the spell of the lie. We keep expecting



things to get better somehow. And when they



don’t, we whine like spoiled children who don’t



get their way.8

Several years ago I surveyed almost ten thousand Christian teenagers and adults serving together in a summer outreach program and asked them this question: “Can a good person earn eternal salvation through good deeds?”9 One out of five Christian adults answered yes, and twice that percentage of teenagers agreed. And, I have to say, I think these were just the honest ones. After decades spent asking



Christian people questions like this one and comparing their answers to how they—and I—actually live, I’m positive that most of those who answered with the theologically correct no are functionally living



their lives in contradiction to their beliefs. I mean, we say it’s God’s goodness, not ours, that saves us. But you’ll understand your own “functional theology” when you realize how quickly you get defensive when someone hints that all is not “well with your soul” or how quickly you think ill of someone who’s going through repeated hardships.

As an elder at my church I’m on the list to receive a weekly report of all the prayer requests that have been formally submitted to us. I’ve noticed that there are a handful of people who always show up on the list, and I’ve also noticed that I must fight the temptation to agree with a subtle-but-brazen judgment that whispers in my head: “That person must be messed up.” Can you relate? If you can, we’re both in the company of Job’s friends, who were pretty sure the great man was hiding his festering sins under a legendary veneer of goodness. And they were even more sure that God had pointed a sewer pipe of catastrophic circumstances at their friend and opened wide the valve, essentially blasting away at him with the brown stuff until he admitted what had to be true—that he deserved what he was getting. In the functional theology of Job’s friends—and, as it turns out, our own—God is well qualified to work as an interrogator at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib. He will surface what we’re hiding by torturing it out of us….

This is exactly why the book of Job is known by most but studied by few—its premise frightens and confuses us. Good thing the outcome is a fairy-tale ending, or the whole thing would be unendurable—an even less likely choice for the midweek women’s Bible study. Job’s friends, later discredited and lambasted by God, believe exactly what we believe: that no matter what we tell ourselves to the contrary, good people are rewarded in life and bad people are punished. The certainty of this equation means that Job, because of his kitchen sink full of tragedies, must assuredly be hiding some secret (and whopper) sins. His friends’ approach to counseling makes logical sense—reveal what you’ve done wrong, repent of it, and maybe God will turn off the spigot.



So some of us, following the advice of Job’s friends, respond by repeatedly begging for God’s blanket forgiveness for the vaguest of sins or by finding someone or something to blame for our catastrophes.



Many more of us respond by determining to work ever harder to be good, or by keeping our bad carefully camouflaged, or by vowing to trudge on under an ever-increasing burden of doubt and guilt—or by metaphorically jabbing our finger at God and threatening to outwit and outlast Him, as if we were the last two competitors on Survivor. In the seasons of our lives when we feel as if we can relate to Job, we often struggle with shame. It’s the shame of our failure to measure up to God’s exacting standards of goodness, the same unreasonable shame that Job’s friends “gifted” their friend with.



We Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For



One Saturday afternoon, I was running errands in my car and listening to National Public Radio’s award-winning show This American Life. Host Ira Glass is the medium for the life stories of average people



who’ve experienced extraordinary moments. On this day, I was captured by the story of a young woman, Trisha Sebastian, whose best friend had died suddenly from an aggressive cancer. She told Glass that



her friend was “such a good person,” and, therefore, her death was all the more a tragedy. Why, she asked, would God allow “someone like me to still be here when someone like Kelly … who spread so much good throughout the world, in her own little way … it just doesn’t make sense.” This was the reason, she told Glass, that she no longer believed in God. Soon after her friend’s death, Sebastian decided on a whim to contact a Christian football coach who’d been in the news recently. The coach had encouraged his school’s fans to root for their opponent, a team made up of kids from a juvenile detention center. Sebastian was looking for answers about her friend’s death, for a pathway back to God, and she admired what this man had done. “I’d been struggling with this grief that I feel over my friend’s death, and I thought that he would be able to counsel me and console me,” she told Glass. “And what happened instead was that he basically brought out argument after argument, like, saying that the theory of evolution is contradicted by a seventh-grader’s textbook, and—” Glass broke in to say, “Oh, I see—he was trying to argue with you about the existence of God instead of trying to comfort you.” Sebastian responded, “Yeah, I think that was it.… And that completely turned me off towards him. And now I’m left with all of these questions…. Deep down, I really want to believe again.” So Glass suggested she call the coach again, with him on the line, so that her real questions about her friend’s death could be addressed.

But instead of directly focusing on her fears and confusion, the coach tried to explain the ramifications of original sin to her. And that left the desperate, grieving woman full of angst and unanswered questions. I listened to the whole interchange and could feel my own tension mount as the coach tried to answer this disconsolate woman with an earnest lesson in apologetics. When she asked the coach to, instead, help her understand a God who would do this kind of thing, he responded: “This is the most common question that folks who are anti-God ask—this is the most common objection to God. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? You have to understand that sin entered the world through one person: Adam.



Now, if you read what the Bible says happened as a result of sin, every single person who’s ever been born was born into sin—” And at this point Sebastian interrupted him with this: “So, I’m sorry to break in, but you’re saying cancer is caused by sin?”



As earnest and good-hearted as the coach was, his explanations did nothing to bring peace to Sebastian’s soul. We, like her, just don’t understand the basic unfairness of pain. Even though we’ve prayed and read books and listened to sermons and talked to wise friends, we agree with Bono’s wail—“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”



Ultimately, the “Why this pain?” question haunts us because we’re profoundly unsatisfied with the answers we get. I’m inexorably drawn to Shackleton’s story at the same time I’m haunted by it, like a moth circling a bug light at night. It’s a mystery, and the solutions our theological Sherlocks offer us don’t seem to solve it for us. They explain it, it makes sense, and it does nothing to calm our souls. That’s because the Job story hints at something that is simply unacceptable—that not only does God Himself not intervene in all of our tragedies, He’s actually a coconspirator in some of them. If our good God, like a double agent, can unpredictably join in the destructive schemes of our enemy, “how great is the darkness” (Matt. 6:23)? In the wake of his twenty-five-year old son’s death in a climbing accident, philosopher and Yale University professor Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of



heaven and earth and resurrecter of Jesus Christ. I



also believe that my son’s life was cut off in its prime.



I cannot fit these pieces together. I am at a loss. I have



read the theodices produced to justify the ways of



God to man. I find them unconvincing. To the most



agonized question I have ever asked I do not know



the answer. I do not know why God would watch



him fall. I do not know why God would watch me



wounded. I cannot even guess.11



These are not entertaining mysteries—they are mysteries that wound and pummel and empty us. We can’t help ourselves; we’re driven to extremes just as King David was in the Psalms: “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1). This is why the conspiracy embedded in Job’s story is so unnerving to us, and it would be even more so if it wasn’t relegated to the Old Testament where, we tell ourselves, the stories seem so distant and over the top that they’re really more like moralistic fairy tales than actual accounts of actual people and their actual dealings with God. So we put stories like this not on the back burner of our lives but hidden under the stove where we don’t have to really look at them … ever.

But these stories, like cockroaches, keep creeping out from under the stove—especially at night, when the lights go out. We’re reading along in the comfortable environment of the Jesus-loves-me New Testament and we ram right into a story about Him that, finally, makes it nearly impossible to avoid the scary truth. It happens at the end of the Last Supper, right before Jesus is betrayed, stripped, scourged, paraded through the streets, and nailed to a cross:



In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,



saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,



which is poured out for you. But the hand of him



who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.



The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but



woe to that man who betrays him.” They began to



question among themselves which of them it might



be who would do this.

Also a dispute arose among them as to which



of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said



to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over



them; and those who exercise authority over them



call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be



like that. Instead, the greatest among you should



be like the youngest, and the one who rules like



the one who serves. For who is greater, the one



who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not



the one who is at the table? But I am among you as



one who serves. You are those who have stood by



me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom,



just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you



may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and



sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.



“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as



wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your



faith may not fail. And when you have turned back,



strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with



you to prison and to death.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the



rooster crows today, you will deny three times that



you know me.” (Luke 22:20–34 NIV)

Here we are at the Last Supper, with the cross shading every interaction, and Jesus turns to Peter and reveals something that’s most certainly happening behind the scenes, right then at history’s crossroads.



He confides in Peter, like a friend who whispers in your ear what the neighbors really think of you, that Satan has asked to “sift [him] like wheat.” And, even more disturbing than this revelation, Jesus doesn’t reassure Peter that He will not allow this terrible thing to happen—instead, He tells him that He has prayed that his “faith may not fail” and “when you have turned back, [that you would] strengthen your brothers.” This “sifting” is going to happen, it’s going to happen with Jesus’ permission, and it’s going to happen for a reason.



You Will Go Free



Is it possible that God is a coconspirator in our own stories of sifting?

And if so, what is He really after in us?

And however I answer this question, can anything be worth the price of the pain I’ve experienced, or will soon?



In this story—in these three sentences uttered by Jesus to Peter— He pulls back the curtain on what’s happening, all the time, in an unseen spiritual world where the forces of darkness demand entrĂ©e into our lives. He also bares His goodness. I know this makes no sense on the face of it—our realities are too cruel and the pain too central for the shallow and offensive formulas that are pandered to us. But this is no formula—it’s a journey into the deeper recesses of the heart of God, a path well stumbled by the saints of God throughout history and in the lives of those who’ve had the biggest impact for good in our own lives.

All of the people and books and music and films you and I love the most are encrusted, like priceless jewels, with pain. Name something that captures your heart that was not formed by pain. It’s ironic, of course, that pain repels us more fundamentally than anything else in life but it produces things that are magnetic to us. Why do we live in fear of pain while, at the same time, we find ourselves drawn to its “produce” in the people and stories of our lives? And why does all great art, and why do all truly great people, seem positively marinated in pain?

The mystery of our sifting is a trek into the kind of raw intimacy God once shared with His beloved Adam and Eve—it is the brutal outworking of redemption, hope, and joy in our lives. But the journey



is no stroll—it’s an epic and terrible adventure. A treasure hunt.

And that treasure is our freedom.



Paul reminds us of the fundamentals: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1 NIV). And, it turns out, the “epic and terrible adventure” that is the story of our journey from bondage to freedom is fraught with danger and heartbreak. Danger is an essential aspect of any adventure; without danger, it’s not really an adventure. Stopping to buy a cup of coffee does not qualify as an adventure, but it might if you’re in Baghdad. Landing an airplane on a runway is usually no adventure, but it is if your runway is the Hudson River. The danger we must face down in our own adventures is the threat of the rock-eating termites—it’s the pain that eats away at us and the terrible offense of our sifting. But the point of our lives is not the pain—we are not pawns of a capricious deity or the collateral damage of an ancient metaphysical feud. We are prisoners—freedom is our only hope and sifting is its currency.



While the first stanza in Tonio K.’s song “You Will Go Free” describes the “breaking and breaking and breaking” we experience in life, his refrain is the counterpoint—it exactly describes the promise that carries us through the tunnel of our darkness:



Well, I don’t know when



And I don’t know how



I don’t know how long it’s gonna take



I don’t know how hard it will be



But I know



You will go free12




Copyright 2011 Rick Lawrence. Sifted published by David C Cook.



Publisher permission required to reproduce in any format or quantity. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Young Man's Guide to Making Right Choices by Jim George

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



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





Today's Wild Card author is:





and the book:



A Young Man's Guide to Making Right Choices

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Jim George and his wife, Elizabeth George, are Christian authors and speakers. Jim, author of A Husband After God’s Own Heart (a Gold Medallion finalist) and The Bare Bones Bible Handbook, has MDiv and ThM degrees from Talbot Theological Seminary. He has served in various pastoral roles for 25 years and on The Master’s Seminary staff for ten years. Jim and Elizabeth have two married daughters and are grandparents.



Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Guiding a young man toward making right choices will equip him to think carefully about his decisions, assuring a more fulfilling and successful life. Help boys to gain the skills they need for facing all life’s challenges.





In this book, Jim George focuses on all the high points of a young man’s life—the things that matter most. Teen guys will learn…







  • why prayer and Bible reading are so essential


  • what makes for the best kinds of friendships


  • how school and social skills contribute to a strong future


  • how to stand strong against temptation and peer pressure


  • what contributes to healthy and biblical perspectives on dating and purity


Young men will enjoy Jim’s balance of biblical insight, personal anecdotes, and candid forthrightness. And they’ll gain the skills they need for making right choices in response to all the challenges that come their way.







Product Details:



List Price: $10.99

Reading level: Young Adult

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736930256

ISBN-13: 978-0736930253



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Making the Right Choices



Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.  —  Joshua 24:15

Jason, a typical teen guy, was suddenly jolted out of a deep sleep by the clamor of trash cans being rolled to the street curb. At first he was mad, wondering,     Just who do they think they are making all that racket so early in the morning? Don’t they know a busy guy needs his sleep? Then a second wave of adrenalin hit, this time with fear, as Jason rolled over and looked out his window. Oh, no!   That’s Dad doing my chores…again!   I’m really in for it this time!



What time was it anyway?   Jason thought as he looked at his alarm clock. Oh, no, I’m late  —  way late! Did I forget to set my alarm?   He had planned to get up early to finish his English paper, which was due today! Drat and double drat! There were a lot of things he had planned to do last night — finish his English essay, work ahead on his history paper, maybe catch up on his Bible-reading schedule for his church youth group, and finally get around to writing a thank-you note to his aunt for the birthday money she sent several months ago. (That was his mom’s Number One assignment for last night, and he had thought to himself,   No worries; it’s waited this long. Maybe tonight, right?   On and on…and on…Jason’s “Things I Meant to Do” list went.



But Jason had ended up getting a little sidetracked. And why not? The money his aunt gave him had been well spent…on a new DS game. Well, one challenge level led to another, and before long Jason had battled the “forces of evil” so long on his game (a full hour past the bedtime curfew his parents had sent) that his mom had forcefully interrupted and made him end his simulated life-and-death struggles and turn out his light.





Life Is Full of Choices



Jason had begun his evening with great intentions of making right choices. But something pulled him away from those good intentions. And in the end — actually, the next morning — he began to suffer a landslide of consequences due to those bad choices.



As the section title says above, life is full of choices. And the funny thing about choices is that sometimes the same exact choice might be bad for one guy but okay for another. Take, for example, the simple choice of breakfast food. Jason’s friend Marty is trying to make the basketball team. He’s a great shot, but he has a problem keeping his weight down, so he needs to be more disciplined about what he eats. Eating several bowls of a certain cereal each morning with lots of milk and sugar would be a huge caloric problem for Marty, but it wouldn’t be a problem for Jason because he’s as thin as a rail!



Do you realize your choices for each day begin at the end of the previous day, when you decide what time you need to get up and then set your alarm? And the next big choice is actually getting up when you hear the alarm clock…which then leads to getting dressed, doing your chores, eating breakfast, and getting to school on time. Your choices continue right on through your day and include doing your homework and being a good family member when you get home, until you set the alarm again at the end of the day.



Yes, life is full of choices. Someone said it well:



My life is not made by the dreams I dream but by the choices I make.1





Choices Through the Rearview Mirror



You’ve probably been to a camp or retreat or youth meeting where there was a “guys’ sharing time,” a time when those who were brave enough recounted some of the choices they made in their past. It’s as if they’re looking at their past in a rearview mirror. (If you drive, you know all about looking into the rearview mirror to see what’s going on behind you, and if you don’t drive, you will one day!) Now, the guys who shared were no longer living back in their past, but they could still see, remember, and taste the consequences of their choices — both the good and the bad. Their sharing may have included phrases like…



I wandered off the path…



I became like the prodigal son…



I fell away from the Lord…



I got sidetracked in sin…



I lost my first love…



I strayed from the truth…



I made some wrong decisions…



I went off the deep end…



I got in with the wrong crowd…



I’ve sat in on a few of these sharing sessions myself, and I couldn’t help but wonder, What happened? How does someone wander off the path, lose their first love for Jesus, stray from the truth, fall off the deep end, or get involved with the wrong crowd?



Well, we both know what happened, don’t we? Somehow, at some time, for some reason, a wrong choice was made. Maybe it was just a little lie. Just a little shading of what’s right. Just a little bending of a rule. Eventually, as this happens again and again, there comes a day when making wrong choices became all too easy. And it’s usually not until then that a guy realizes his life has become a mess.



Checking Out God’s Word



It’s one thing to read a book written by an author about a subject, but it’s quite another to read the Book — the Bible — written by the Author of all things, God Himself. In this book, I’ll share a lot of thoughts and tips with you. Most of them are things I’ve learned over the years. I’ll pass them on to you as a young man who’s in the process of making decisions that will shape your future. But the things you should definitely make sure you take to heart and pay the most attention to are the things God Himself tells you in His Word, His Book, the Bible.



When you get to this section in each chapter — entitled “Checking Out God’s Word” — you’ll find a number of Bible verses. I’ve included the text of the verses for you so you can read them without having to grab your Bible. I also invite you to mark up the verses and make notes. You don’t have to do that if you prefer not to. But don’t hesitate to circle certain words and underline things you want to remember. Put a question mark beside anything you wonder about or want to know more about. You can even draw in the margins. I’ve tried to leave enough space for you to write out your thoughts about what God is saying. Do whatever will help you understand the verses and make them your own. (And of course, it would be a good idea at some time to look up the verses in your Bible.) Here we go, from God’s Word to you.



The Israelites made a choice — Joshua, the leader of God’s people, asked them to do exactly what we’ve been talking about — to make a choice. Listen in as Joshua speaks to the people about choosing between serving God and serving false gods. According to the verses below, what choice did Joshua give to the people? And praise God, if you read further in the book of Joshua you will discover that the people made the right choice, choosing to serve God.



Fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).

Lot made a choice — Lot was the nephew of Abraham. Because of the large number of cattle the two men possessed, Abraham asked Lot to choose between two parts of the land. One part was green and with plenty of water — perfect for grazing cattle. The other part was dry hill country and not so perfect. In fact, it was a desert. According to the verses that follow, what was Lot’s choice?



Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered…So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east (Genesis 13:10-11).



Sadly, Lot did not choose wisely. He chose the grassy green pastures — which just happened to be near the two most wicked cities of his day, Sodom and Gomorrah. His choice was based on what looked good. Unfortunately, the consequences of that choice were devastating for Lot and his family.

Joseph made a choice — Joseph was a teenager when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. There, in a strange land, Joseph was all alone without family. In time, his master’s wife flirted with him and wanted him to sin with her. After all, nobody was around, she explained. Who would ever know?



How should Joseph respond? Note his choice and the reason for his choice.



He refused…[and] told her…“How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9).



Joseph chose to live his life God’s way. He honored God. God then honored Joseph’s choice and made him a leader of the land of Egypt and the savior of his family.



Daniel made a choice — Can you imagine being taken prisoner and forcefully moved to a foreign land as a teenager? And once you got there, you were told to turn away from your religious beliefs and to follow instead the ways of those who lived in the pagan land? Well, that’s what happened to Daniel. In the place where he was taken, Daniel was told to eat foods that were forbidden by his Jewish background. What pressure! What did he do?



Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way (Daniel 1:8).



Daniel chose to live life God’s way — not only on this one occasion, but also numerous times during his many years in this foreign land. At every step and every day, God blessed Daniel and promoted him to high positions of leadership.



Things to Remember About Choices



 — Attractive choices sometimes lead to sin.



 — Good choices have positive long-term results.



 — Right choices are sometimes difficult.





Making the Tough Choices





I’m sure you already know your actions are a matter of choice. Sure, some choices are made for you. They are out of your control, and are made by those who are responsible for you…like your parents, your teachers, your coaches, and your youth leaders. But many choices each day — and almost each minute of the day — are yours to make. Do you yet realize that these choices are a matter of your will? You get to decide what you will or won’t do, how you will or won’t act. You make the choices, which means you can’t blame anyone else for what happens next.



As you prepare to make the tough choices, the choices that must be made, can you think of one tough choice you need to make right now? What’s holding you back? Peer pressure? Fear? Pride?



Pray young Solomon’s prayer right now. He asked God, “Give me wisdom and knowledge” and “Give your servant a discerning heart…to distinguish between right and wrong” (2 Chronicles 1:10 and 1 Kings 3:9). Then make that choice — the one that’s keeping you from living your life God’s way. Make the right choice, however tough it is to do so.





Things to Do Today to Make Right Choices





Read again the section “Choices Through the Rearview Mirror.” Do any of the comments mentioned in the guys’ sharing time fit your life today? If so, talk it over with God. Admit to God any wrong choices you’ve made. Then ask Him for the wisdom to make the right choices starting right now.



Read again Joshua 24:14-15 (see “Checking Out God’s Word”). As you look at your life today, do you think you are making the kind of choice Joshua and the people made, the choice to serve God and God alone? Why or why not? What first right choice will you make to begin choosing to serve God, to live for Him? Is there something you should be doing, but aren’t? Something you know God wants you to do, but you’re not? Be honest. The king and warrior David was brutally honest with God. He asked God to…

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).



As you have already read, choices are a matter of your will. You get to decide what you will or won’t do, how you will or won’t act. Think of two or three things you can do daily that will better prepare you to make right choices. Then, of course, begin doing them.

Guy to Guy





Jot down three things Jason failed to do that started his day down the road to chaos.





What could you tell Jason to do differently tomorrow?





Of all the verses shared in this chapter, which one meant the most to you, and why?





In what ways are you like Jason, and what new choices do you need to start making?



Would You Like to Know More?



Check It Out





Read Proverbs 1:10-19. What warning is given to the young man in verse 10?





What is the advice given to this teen guy in verse 15?





What is the end result for those who make the choice to participate in evil deeds (verse 19)?





It’s your turn to read about Lot’s choice. Read Genesis 13:5-11. How is the situation described that made a decision necessary (verses 5-7)?





What did Abraham propose as a solution (verses 8-9)?





What choice did Lot make, and why (verses 10-11)?





Now quickly scan Genesis 19:12-29. What were some of the results of Lot’s choice?





What choice was made by two brothers in Matthew 4:18-20?





What choice was made in Matthew 9:9?





Have you made this choice, or do you need to? Be sure to think about it.





God’s Guidelines for Making Right Choices





Treat each day as being important. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Admit your need for wisdom…and ask for it!    “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)

Work at developing a deep respect for God.    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

Make sure you have a vital relationship with Jesus.    “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17).

Be willing to pay any price for the truth. “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).





God’s Guidelines for

Making Right Choices



Treat each day as being important. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).



Admit your need for wisdom…and ask for it!    “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)



Work at developing a deep respect for God.    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).



Make sure you have a vital relationship with Jesus.    “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17).



Be willing to pay any price for the truth. “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Queen Video

The Queen Video



GUESS WHAT CAME IN THE MAIL TODAY!!!!?????


YAHOO!!!!

Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic and Treasure's from Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



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





Today's Wild Card author is:





and the books:



Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic

and

Treasures from Grandma’s Attic


David C. Cook; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




The late Arleta Richardson grew up an only child in Chicago, living in a hotel on the shores of Lake Michigan. Under the care of her maternal grandmother, she listened for hours to stories from her grandmother’s childhood. With unusual recall, Arleta began to write these stories for an audience that now numbers over two million. “My grandmother would be amazed to know her stories have gone around the world,” Arleta said.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




Grandma did what? You might be surprised. Back in the 1880’s, when she was a young girl named Mabel, trouble seemed to follow her everywhere. She and her best friend, Sarah Jane, had the best intentions at home and at school, but somehow clumsiness and mischief always seemed to intrude. Whether getting into a sticky mess with face cream, traveling to the big city, sneaking out to a birthday party or studying for the spelling bee, Mabel’s brilliant ideas only seemed to show how much she had to learn. And each of her mishaps turned into lessons in honesty, patience and responsibility.



Arleta Richardson’s beloved series, Grandma’s Attic, returns with Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic and Treasures from Grandma’s Attic, the third and fourth books in the refreshed classic collection for girls ages 8 to 12. These compilations of tales recount humorous and poignant memories from Grandma Mabel’s childhood on a Michigan farm in the late 1800’s. Combining the warmth and spirit of Little House on the Prairie with a Christian focus, these books transport readers back to a simpler time to learn lessons surprisingly relevant in today’s world.



Even though these stories took place over a hundred years ago, there are some things about being a girl that never change. Just like Mabel, girls still want to be prettier or more independent. It’s all part of growing up. But the amazing thing is—Grandma felt the same way! Sometimes your brother teases you or someone you thought was a friend turns out to be insincere. Sometimes you’re certain you know better than your parents, only to discover to your horror that they might have been right. It’s all part of growing up.



Richardson’s wholesome stories have reached more than two million readers worldwide. Parents appreciate the godly values and character they promote while children love the captivating storytelling that recounts childhood memories of mischief and joy. These books are ideal for homes, schools, libraries or gifts and are certain to be treasured. So return to Grandma’s attic, where true tales of yesteryear bring timeless lessons for today, combining the appeal of historical fiction for girls with the truth of God’s Word. Each captivating story promotes godly character and values with humor, understanding and warmth.



Product Details:



Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic
:



List Price: $6.99

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 160 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0781403812

ISBN-13: 978-0781403818





Treasures from Grandma’s Attic:



Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 160 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0781403820

ISBN-13: 978-0781403825



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERS:





Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic



When Grandma Was a Little Girl



One hundred years! What a long, long time ago that is! Not very many people are still alive who can remember that far back. But through the magic of stories, we can be right there again.



When I was a little girl, I thought no one could tell a story like my grandma.



“Tell me about when you were a little girl,” I would say. Soon I would be back on the farm in northern Michigan with young Mabel—who became my grandmother—her mother and father, and her brothers, Reuben and Roy.



The old kitchen where I sat to hear many of Grandma’s stories didn’t look the same as when she was a little girl. Then there was no electricity nor running water. But my grandma still lived in the house she grew up in. I had no trouble imagining all the funny jams that Grandma and her best friend, Sarah Jane, got into. Or how it felt to wear long flannel stockings and high-buttoned shoes.



From the dusty old attic to the front parlor with its slippery furniture, Grandma’s old house was a storybook just waiting to be opened. I was fortunate to have a grandma who knew just how to open it. She loved to tell a story just as much as I loved to hear one.



Come with me now, back to the old kitchen in that Michigan farmhouse, and enjoy the laughter and tears of many years ago....



1



Face Cream from Godey’s Lady’s Book



Receiving mail always excited me. I never had to be told to get the mail for Grandma on my way home from school. But sometimes the mail became even more important. Like the time I was watching for something I had ordered from Woman’s Home Companion.



When the small package finally arrived, my face revealed how excited I was.



“What did you get a sample of this time?” Grandma asked as I came in proudly carrying the precious box.



“You’ll see. Just wait till I show you,” I said, promising Grandma the box held something special.



Quickly I tore the wrapping paper off the small box. Inside was a jar of skin cream for wrinkles.



Grandma laughed when she saw it. “You certainly don’t need that,” she said. “Now it might do me some good if those things ever really worked.”



“You aren’t wrinkled, Grandma,” I protested. “Your face is nice and smooth.”



“Perhaps so. But not because of what I’ve rubbed on it. More than likely I’ve inherited a smooth skin.”



She took the jar of cream and looked at the ingredients “This doesn’t look quite as dangerous as some stuff Sarah Jane and I mixed up one day. Did I ever tell you about that?”



“No, I’m sure you didn’t,” I replied. “Tell me now.”



Grandma picked up her crocheting, and I settled back to listen to a story about Grandma and her friend, Sarah Jane, when they were my age.



***



Sarah Jane had a cousin who lived in the city. This cousin often came to stay at Sarah Jane’s for a few days. She brought things with her that we were not accustomed to seeing.



One morning as Sarah Jane and I were walking to school together, Sarah Jane told me some very exciting news. “My cousin Laura will be here tomorrow. She’s going to stay all next week. Won’t that be fun?”



“Yes,” I agreed. “I’m glad she’s coming. What do you think she’ll bring this time?”



“Probably some pretty new dresses and hats,” Sarah Jane guessed. “She might even let us try them on.”



“Oh, I’m sure she wouldn’t want us to try on her dresses. But maybe she wouldn’t mind if we peeked at ourselves in the mirror to see how the hats looked.”



Laura arrived the next day with several new hats. She amiably agreed that we might try them on.



They were too big, and had a tendency to slide down over our noses. But to us, they were the latest fashion.



As we laid the hats back on the bed, Sarah Jane spied something else that interested her. It was a magazine for ladies. We had not seen more than half a dozen magazines in our lives, so this was exciting.



“Oh, Laura,” Sarah Jane cried, “may we look at your magazine? We’ll be very careful.”



“Why, yes. I’m not going to be reading it right away. Go ahead.”



Eagerly we snatched the magazine and ran out to the porch. The cover pictured a lady with a very fashionable dress and hat, carrying a frilly parasol. The name of the magazine was Godey’s Lady’s Book.



“Ooh! Look at the ruffles on her dress!” Sarah Jane exclaimed. “Wouldn’t you just love to have one dress with all those ribbons and things?”



“Yes, but there’s little chance I’ll ever have it,” I replied. “Ma wouldn’t iron that many ruffles for anything. Besides, we’re not grown up enough to have dresses like that. It looks like it might be organdy, doesn’t it?”



“Mmm-hum,” Sarah Jane agreed. “It looks like something soft, all right. And look at her hair. It must be long to make that big a roll around her head.”



We spread the magazine across our laps and studied each page carefully. Nothing escaped our notice. “I sure wish we were grown up,” Sarah Jane sighed. “Think how much prettier we’d be.”



“Yes, and how much more fun we could have. These ladies don’t spend all their time going to school and doing chores. They just get all dressed up and sit around looking pretty.”



We looked for a moment in silence; then Sarah Jane noticed something interesting. “Look here, Mabel. Here’s something you can make to get rid of wrinkles on your face.”



I looked where she was reading.



Guaranteed to remove wrinkles. Melt together a quantity of white wax and honey. When it becomes liquid, add the juice of several lemons. Spread the mixture liberally on your face and allow it to dry. In addition to smoothing out your wrinkles, this formula will leave your skin soft, smooth, and freckle free.



“But we don’t have any wrinkles,” I pointed out.



“That doesn’t matter,” Sarah Jane replied. “If it takes wrinkles away, it should keep us from getting them too. Besides,” she added critically, “it says it takes away freckles. And you have plenty of those.”



I rubbed my nose reflectively. “I sure do. Do you suppose that stuff really would take them off?”



“We can try it and see. I’ll put some on if you will. Where shall we mix it up?”



This would be a problem, since Sarah Jane’s mother was baking in her kitchen. It would be better to work where we wouldn’t have to answer questions about what we were doing.



“Let’s go to your house and see what your mother is doing,” Sarah Jane suggested.



We hurriedly returned the magazine to Laura’s bedroom and dashed back outdoors.



“Do you have all the things we need to put in it?” Sarah Jane asked.



“I know we have wax left over from Ma’s jelly glasses. And I’m sure we have lemons. But I don’t know how much honey is left.



“I know where we can get some, though.” I continued. “Remember that hollow tree in the woods? We found honey there last week.”



Soon we were on our way to collect it in a small pail.



“This is sure going to be messy and sticky to put on our faces,” I commented as we filled the pail.



“Probably the wax takes the sticky out,” Sarah Jane replied. “Anyway, if it takes away your freckles and makes our skin smooth, it won’t matter if it is a little gooey. I wonder how long we leave it on.”



“The directions said to let it dry,” I reminded her. “I suppose the longer you leave it there, the more good it does. We’ll have to take it off before we go in to supper, I guess.”



“I guess so,” Sarah Jane exclaimed. “I don’t know what your brothers would say. But I’m not going to give Caleb a chance to make fun of me.”



I knew what Reuben and Roy would say, too, and I was pretty sure I could predict what Ma would say. There seemed to be no reason to let them know about it.



Fortune was with us, for the kitchen was empty when we cautiously opened the back door. Ma heard us come in and called down from upstairs, “Do you need something, Mabel?”



“No, Ma’am,” I answered. “But we might like a cookie.”



“Help yourself,” Ma replied. “I’m too busy tearing rags to come down right now. You can pour yourselves some milk too.”



I assured her that we could. With a sigh of relief, we went to the pantry for a kettle in which to melt the wax and honey.



“This looks big enough,” Sarah Jane said. “You start that getting hot, and I’ll squeeze the lemons. Do you think two will be enough?”



“I guess two is ‘several.’ Maybe we can tell by the way it looks whether we need more or not.”



“I don’t see how,” Sarah Jane argued. “We never saw any of this stuff before. But we’ll start with two, anyway.”



I placed the pan containing the wax and honey on the hottest part of the stove and pulled up a chair to sit on. “Do you suppose I ought to stir it?” I inquired. “It doesn’t look as though it’s mixing very fast.”



“Give it time,” Sarah Jane advised. “Once the wax melts down, it will mix.”



After a short time, the mixture began to bubble.



“There, see?” she said, stirring it with a spoon. “You can’t tell which is wax and which is honey. I think it’s time to put in the lemon juice.” She picked up the juice, but I stopped her.



“You have to take the seeds out, first, silly. You don’t want knobs all over your face, do you?”



“I guess you’re right. That wouldn’t look too good, would it?”



She dug the seeds out, and we carefully stirred the lemon juice into the pan.



“Umm, it smells good,” I observed.



Sarah Jane agreed. “In fact, it smells a little like Ma’s cough syrup. Do you want to taste it?”



“Sure, I’ll take a little taste.” I licked some off the spoon and smacked my lips. “It’s fine,” I reported. “If it tastes that good, it will certainly be safe to use. Let’s take it to my room and try it.”



We carefully lifted the kettle from the stove. Together we carried the kettle upstairs and set it on my dresser.



“It will have to cool a little before we put it on,” I said.



“What if the wax gets hard again? We’ll have to take it downstairs and heat it all over.”



“It won’t,” I assured her. “The honey will keep it from getting too hard.” By the time the mixture was cool enough to use, it was thick and gooey—but still spreadable.



“Well, here goes,” Sarah Jane said. She dipped a big blob out and spread it on her face. I did the same. Soon our faces were covered with the sticky mess.



“Don’t get it in your hair,” I warned. “It looks like it would be awfully hard to get out. I wonder how long it will take to dry?”



“The magazine didn’t say that. It would probably dry faster outside in the sun. But someone is sure to see us out there. We’d better stay here.... I wish we had brought the magazine to look at.”



“We can look at the Sears catalog,” I suggested. “Let’s play like we’re ordering things for our own house.”



We sat down on the floor and spread the catalog out in front of us. After several minutes, Sarah Jane felt her face.



“I think it’s dry, Mabel,” she announced, hardly moving her lips. “It doesn’t bend or anything.”



I touched mine and discovered the same thing. The mask was solid and hard. It was impossible to move my mouth to speak, so my voice had a funny sound when I answered her.



“So’s mine. Maybe we’d better start taking it off now.”



We ran to the mirror and looked at ourselves.



“We sure look funny.” Sarah Jane laughed the best she could without moving her face. “How did the magazine say to get it off?”



Suddenly we looked at each other in dismay. The magazine hadn’t said anything about removing the mixture, only how to fix and spread it on.



“Well, we’ve done it again,” I said. “How come everything we try works until we’re ready to undo it? We’ll just have to figure some way to get rid of it.”



We certainly did try. We pushed the heavy masks that covered our faces. We pulled them, knocked on them, and tried to soak them off. They would not budge.



“I think we used too much wax and not enough honey,” Sarah Jane puffed as she flopped back down on the bed.



“That’s certainly a great thing to think of now,” I answered crossly. “The only way to move wax is to melt it. And we certainly can’t stick our faces in the fire!”



“Mine feels like it’s already on fire. I don’t think this stuff is good for your skin.”



“You’re going to have to think about more than that,” I told her. “Or this stuff will be your skin. There has to be some way to get it off.”



“We’ve tried everything we can think of. We’ll just have to go down and let your rna help us.”



That was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. But I could see no other alternative. Slowly we trudged down to the kitchen.



Ma was working at the stove, and she said cheerfully, “Are you girls hungry again? It won’t be long until suppertime, so you’d better not eat ....”



She turned around as she spoke. When she spotted us standing in the doorway, her eyes widened in disbelief.



“What on earth? ... What have you done to yourselves?”



I burst into tears. The sight of drops of tears running down that ridiculous mask must have been more than Ma could stand. Suddenly she began to laugh. She laughed until she had to sit down.



“It’s not funny, Ma. We can’t get it off! We’ll have to wear it the rest of our lives!”



Ma controlled herself long enough to come over and feel my face. “What did you put in it?” she asked. “That will help me know how to take it off.”



We told her.



“If you two ever live to grow up, it will only be the Lord’s good mercy. The only thing we can do is apply something hot enough to melt the wax,” Ma told us quickly.



“But we boiled the wax, Ma,” I cried. “You can’t boil our faces!”



“No, 1won’t try anything as drastic as that. I’ll just use hot towels until it gets soft enough to pull away.”



After several applications, we were finally able to start peeling the mixture off. As it came loose, our skin came with it.



“Ouch! That hurts,” I cried.



But Ma could not stop. By the time the last bits of wax and honey were removed, our faces were fiery red and raw.



“What did we do wrong?” Sarah Jane wailed. “We made it just like the magazine said.”



“You may have used the wrong quantities, or left it on too long,” Ma said. “At any rate, I don’t think you’ll try it again.”



“I know I won’t,” Sarah Jane moaned. “I’m going to tell Laura she should ignore that page in her magazine.” She looked at me. “The stuff did one thing they said it would, Mabel. I don’t see any freckles.”



“There’s no skin left, either,” I retorted. “I’d rather have freckles than a face like this.”



“Never mind.” Ma tried to soothe us. “Your faces will be all right in a couple of days.”



“A couple of days!” I howled. “We can’t go to school looking like this!”



***



“We did, though.” Grandma laughed as she finished the story. “After a while we were able to laugh with the others over our foolishness.”



I looked at the little jar of cream that had come in the mail.



“I don’t think I’ll use this, Grandma. I guess I’ll just let my face get wrinkled if it wants to!”




************************************************



Treasures from Grandma's Attic



Cousin Agatha



My best friend, Sarah Jane, and I were walking home from school on a cold November afternoon.



“Do you realize, Mabel, that 1886 is almost over? Another year of nothing important ever happening is nearly gone.”



“Well, we still have a good bit of life ahead of us,” I replied.



“You don’t know that,” Sarah Jane said darkly, “We’re thirteen and a half. We may already have lived nearly a third of our allotted time.”



“The O’Dells live to be awfully old,” I told her. “So, unless I get run down by a horse and buggy, I’ll probably be around awhile.”



We walked along in silence. Then suddenly Sarah Jane pulled me to the side of the road.



“Here’s the horse and buggy that could keep you from becoming an old lady,” she kidded. We turned to see my pa coming down the road.



“Want to ride the rest of the way, girls?” he called. We clambered into the buggy, and Pa clucked to Nellie.



“What did you get in town?” I asked.



“Some things for the farm and a letter for your ma.” Around the next bend, Pa slowed Nellie to a halt. “Your stop, Sarah Jane.”



“Thanks, Mr. O’Dell.” Sarah Jane jumped down. “I’ll be over to study later, Mabel. ‘Bye.”



“Who’s the letter from?” I asked Pa.



“Can’t tell from the handwriting. We’ll have to wait for Ma to tell us.”



When Ma opened the letter, she looked puzzled. “This is from your cousin Agatha,” she said to Pa. “Why didn’t she address it to you, too?”



“If I know Aggie, she wants something,” Pa declared. “And she figured you’d be more likely to listen to her sad story.”



Ma read the letter and shook her head at Pa. “She just wants to come for Thanksgiving. Now aren’t you ashamed of talking that way?”



“No, I’m not. That’s what Aggie says she wants. You can be sure there’s more there than meets the eye. Are you going to tell her to come ahead?”



“Why, of course!” Ma exclaimed. “If I were a widowed lady up in years, I’d want to be with family on Thanksgiving. Why shouldn’t I tell her to come?”



Pa took his hat from the peg by the door and started for the barn, where my older brothers were already at work. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he remarked as he left.



“What did Pa warn you about?” I asked as soon as the door closed behind him. “What does Cousin Agatha want?”



“I don’t believe Pa was talking to you,” Ma replied. “You heard me say that she wants to come for Thanksgiving.”



“Yes, but Pa said—”



“That’s enough, Mabel. We won’t discuss it further.”



I watched silently as Ma sat down at the kitchen table and answered Cousin Agatha’s letter.



Snow began to fall two days before the holiday, and Pa had to hitch up the sleigh to go into town and meet the train.



“It will be just our misfortune to have a real blizzard and be snowed in with that woman for a week,” he grumbled.



“Having Aggie here a few days won’t hurt you,” Ma said. “The way you carry on, you’d think she was coming to stay forever!”



Pa’s look said he considered that a distinct possibility. As I helped Ma with the pies, I questioned her about Cousin Agatha.



“Has she been here before? I can’t remember seeing her.”



“I guess you were pretty small last time Agatha visited,” Ma replied. “I expect she gets lonely in that big house in the city.”



“What do you suppose she wants besides dinner?” I ventured.



“Friendly company,” Ma snapped. “And we’re going to give it to her.”



When the pies were in the oven, I hung around the window, watching for the sleigh. It was nearly dark when I heard the bells on Nellie’s harness ring out across the snow.



“They’re coming, Ma,” I called, and Ma hurried to the door with the lamp held high over her head. The boys and I crowded behind her. Pa jumped down from the sleigh and turned to help Cousin Agatha.



“I don’t need any assistance from you, James,” a firm voice spoke. “I’m perfectly capable of leaving any conveyance under my own power.”



“She talks like a book!” Roy whispered, and Reuben poked him. I watched in awe as a tall, unbending figure sailed into the kitchen.



“Well, Maryanne,” she said, “it’s good to see you.” She removed her big hat, jabbed a long hat pin into it, and handed the hat to me. “You must be Mabel.”



I nodded wordlessly.



“What’s the matter? Can’t you speak?” she boomed.



“Yes, ma’am,” I gulped nervously.



“Then don’t stand there bobbing your head like a monkey on a stick. People will think you have no sense. You can put that hat in my room.”



I stared openmouthed at this unusual person until a gentle push from Ma sent me in the direction of the guest room.



After dinner and prayers, Pa rose with the intention of going to the barn.



“James!” Cousin Agatha’s voice stopped him. “Surely you aren’t going to do the chores with these two great hulking fellows sitting here, are you?”



The two great hulking fellows leaped for the door with a speed I didn’t know they had.



“I should guess so,” Cousin Agatha exclaimed with satisfaction. “If there’s anything I can’t abide, it’s a lazy child.”



As she spoke, Cousin Agatha pulled Ma’s rocker to the stove and lowered herself into it. “This chair would be more comfortable if there were something to put my feet on,” she said, “but I suppose one can’t expect the amenities in a place like this.”



I looked at Ma for some clue as to what “amenities” might be. This was not a word we had encountered in our speller.



“Run into the parlor and get the footstool, Mabel,” Ma directed.



When Cousin Agatha was settled with her hands in her lap and her feet off the cold floor, I started the dishes.



“Maryanne, don’t you think Mabel’s dress is a mite too short?”



Startled, I looked down at my dress.



“No,” Ma’s calm voice replied. “She’s only thirteen, you know. I don’t want her to be grown up too soon.”



“There is such a thing as modesty, you know.” Cousin Agatha sniffed.



Pa and the boys returned just then, so Ma didn’t answer. I steered an uneasy path around Cousin Agatha all evening. For the first time I could remember, I was glad when bedtime came.



The next day was Thanksgiving, and the house was filled with the aroma of good things to eat. From her rocker, Cousin Agatha offered suggestions as Ma scurried about the kitchen.



“Isn’t it time to baste the turkey, Maryanne? I don’t care for dry fowl.”



“I see the boys running around out there with that mangy dog as though they had nothing to do. Shouldn’t they be chopping wood or something?”



“I should think Mabel could be helping you instead of reading a book. If there’s one thing I can’t abide . . . “



“Mabel will set the table when it’s time,” Ma put in. “Maybe you’d like to peel some potatoes?”



The horrified look on Cousin Agatha’s face said she wouldn’t consider it, so Ma withdrew her offer.



A bump on the door indicated that the “mangy dog” was tired of the cold. I laid down my book and let Pep in. He made straight for the stove and his rug.



“Mercy!” Cousin Agatha cried. “Do you let that—that animal in the kitchen?”



“Yes,” Ma replied. “He’s not a young dog any longer. He isn’t any bother, and he does enjoy the heat.”



“Humph.” Agatha pulled her skirts around her. “I wouldn’t allow any livestock in my kitchen. Can’t think what earthly good a dog can be.” She glared at Pep, who responded with a thump of his tail and a sigh of contentment.



“Dumb creature,” Cousin Agatha muttered.



“Pep isn’t dumb, Cousin Agatha,” I said. “He’s really the smartest dog I know.”



“I was not referring to his intellect or lack of it,” she told me, “‘Dumb’ indicates an inability to speak. You will have to concede that he is unable to carry on a conversation.”



I was ready to dispute that, too, but Ma shook her head. Cousin Agatha continued to give Pep disparaging glances.



“Didn’t you ever have any pets at your house, Cousin Agatha?” I asked.



“Pets? I should say not! Where in the Bible does it say that God made animals for man’s playthings? They’re meant to earn their keep, not sprawl out around the house absorbing heat.”



“Oh, Pep works,” I assured her. “He’s been taking the cows out and bringing them back for years now.”



Cousin Agatha was not impressed. She sat back in the rocker and eyed Pep with disfavor. “The one thing I can’t abide, next to a lazy child, is a useless animal—and in the house!”



I began to look nervously at Ma, thinking she might send Pep to the barn to keep the peace. But she went on about her work, serenely ignoring Cousin Agatha’s hints. I was glad when it was time to set the table.



After we had eaten, Pa took the Bible down from the cupboard and read our Thanksgiving chapter, Psalm 100. Then he prayed, thanking the Lord for Cousin Agatha and asking the Lord’s blessing on her just as he did on the rest of us. When he had finished, Cousin Agatha spoke up.



“I believe that I will stay here until Christmas, James. Then, if I find it to my liking, I could sell the house in the city and continue on with you. Maryanne could use some help in teaching these children how to be useful.”



In the stunned silence that followed, I looked at Pa and Ma to see how this news had affected them. Ma looked pale. Before Pa could open his mouth to answer, Cousin Agatha rose from the table. “I’ll just go to my room for a bit of rest,” she said. “We’ll discuss this later.”



When she had left, we gazed at each other helplessly.



“Is there anything in the Bible that tells you what to do now?” I asked Pa.



“Well, it says if we don’t love our brother whom we can see, how can we love God whom we can’t see? I think that probably applies to cousins as well.”



“I’d love her better if I couldn’t see her.” Reuben declared. “We don’t have to let her stay, do we, Pa?”



“No, we don’t have to,” Pa replied. “We could ask her to leave tomorrow as planned. But I’m not sure that would be right. What do you think, Ma?”



“I wouldn’t want to live alone in the city,” Ma said slowly. “I can see that she would prefer the company of a family. I suppose we should ask her to stay until Christmas.”



“I think she already asked herself,” Roy ventured. “But she did say if she found things to her liking. . . .”



We all looked at Roy. Pa said, “You’re not planning something that wouldn’t be to her liking, are you?”



“Oh, no, sir!” Roy quickly answered. “Not me.”



Pa signed. “I’m not sure I’d blame you. She’s not an easy person to live with. We’ll all have to be especially patient with her.”



There wasn’t much Thanksgiving atmosphere in the kitchen as we did the dishes.



“How can we possibly stand it for another whole month?” I moaned.



“The Lord only sends us one day at a time,” Ma informed me. “Don’t worry about more than that. When the other days arrive, you’ll probably find out you worried about all the wrong things.”



As soon as the work was finished, I put on my coat and walked over to Sarah Jane’s.



“What will you do if she stays on after Christmas?” she asked.



“I’ll just die.”



“I thought you were going to be a long-living O’Dell.”



“I changed my mind,” I retorted. “What would you do if you were in my place?”



“I’d probably make her life miserable so she’d want to leave.”



“You know I couldn’t get away with that. Pa believes that Christian love is the best solution.”



“All right, then,” Sarah Jane said with a shrug. “Love her to death.”



As though to fulfill Pa’s prediction, snow began to fall heavily that night. By morning we were snowed in.



“Snowed in?” Cousin Agatha repeated. “You mean unable to leave the house at all?”



“That’s right,” Pa replied. “This one is coming straight down from Canada.”



Cousin Agatha looked troubled. “I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all.”



“We’ll be all right,” Ma reassured her. “We have plenty of wood and all the food we need.”



But Cousin Agatha was not to be reassured. I watched her stare into the fire and twist her handkerchief around her fingers. Why, she’s frightened! I thought. This old lady had been directing things all her life, and here was something she couldn’t control. Suddenly I felt sorry for her.



“Cousin Agatha,” I said, “we have fun when we’re snowed in. We play games and pop corn and tell stories. You’ll enjoy it. I know you will!”



I ran over and put my arms around her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. She looked at me in surprise.



“That’s the first time anyone has hugged me since I can remember,” she said. “Do you really like me, Mabel?”



Right then I knew that I did like Cousin Agatha a whole lot. Behind her stern front was another person who needed to be loved and wanted.



“Oh, yes, Cousin Agatha,” I replied. “I really do. You’ll see what a good time we’ll have together.”



The smile that lighted her face was bright enough to chase away any gloom that had settled over the kitchen. And deep down inside, I felt real good.