Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When God Makes Lemonade by Don Jacobson - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Thomas Nelson)
Do you know someone who needs some encouragement?  Perhaps that someone is you.

In When God Makes Lemonade, author Don Jacobson has collected real-life stories from around the world that show everyday folks discovering unexpected sweetness in the midst of sour circumstances.  Some are funny, others are sobering, and more than a few will bring tears of amazement.  But these true stories all have one thing in common: hope.

There's no question that life gives us "lemons," like issues with health, employment, and relationships.  But when those lemons become lemonade, it's as refreshing as a cold drink on a hot summer day.

It's true that in life "stuff" happens, but as you'll see in these stories, Lemonade Happens too!

My Thoughts:

“My prayer is that with a little hope, courage, and time, you, too, will begin to sense God at work, crafting your life into a beautiful story of redemption.”  (p. 14)

Reading Don Jacobson’s story and the resulting collection of “Lemonade” stories,  is the most encouraging thing that has happened to me in quite some time!  When life circumstances are sifted through God’s hands and His purposes, truly…something amazing happens!  What happens mystifies and astounds the world that intersects with God through the life story of the transformed believer.  If you are like me, and grew up in church, you have often heard Romans 8:28 spoken in the aftermath of tragedy and thought, “What a senseless thing to say at a time like this!”  When, in fact, the truth of those words were being worked out in a heart and life in ways that only God could orchestrate.  Perhaps you were never able to be refreshed by the lemonade that resulted from the tragedy.  Well, now, through the pages of this remarkable book, you can!  I daresay you won’t be so quick to dismiss this refreshing truth next time you hear it! You might even begin to look for the evidence that lemonade is in the making!

Lemonade is a book that can be sipped or gulped, depending on your thirst for encouragement.  I have done both, and my heart and soul have, indeed, been refreshed in a lasting way.  This is the perfect book to give as a gift of encouragement!  And if you have your own lemonade story, you can go to Jacobson’s website and share it!  This is a gift that keeps on giving!!  Start reading today and be refreshed!!

About the Author:

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Soft Place to Fall by Liz Flaherty - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Pelican Group)
Early McGrath didn’t want freedom from her thirty-year marriage to Nash, but when it was forced upon her, she did the only thing she knew to do—she went home to the Ridge to reinvent herself. Only what is someone who’s taken care of people her whole life supposed to do when no one needs her anymore? Even as the threads of her life unravel, she finds new ones— reconnecting with the church of her childhood, building the quilt shop that has been a long-time dream, and forging a new friendship with her former husband. 

The definition of freedom changes when it’s combined with faith. Can Early and Nash find a Soft Place to Fall?

My Thoughts:

He’d been a soft place to fall long before it had become wither a popular phrase of the name of a quilt shop.” 

Liz Flaherty has written a tender story that will rock your heart to the core and cause you to consider the soft place to fall in your own life.  The story of the McGrath family begins at a very broken point.  Divorce after many years of marriage becomes rather like trying to untangle the threads of – well, of a quilt for instance.  The stitches of your life are so blended that its hard to determine a good or right place to begin pulling it apart.  Early and Nash McGrath have grown children, grandchildren and aging parents to care for, and they are finding it difficult to move in separate directions with so many threads binding their hearts and minds.  Nash has declared his intent, and Early finds herself in a home of her own, running a business and caring for her parents.  Is this the new direction of her life?

Direction is something that both Nash and Early are seeking, and both of them can’t seem to find anyone to point the way.  And then….life takes unexpected and alarming twists and turns, and the entire McGrath family must make profound decisions that will change the course of their lives forever.

Flaherty’s novel is a magnificent portrait of family, mercy and unfailing grace.  This novel kept me glued to each page, and left me challenged and changed.  It has mounting tension, realistic emotion and family dynamics that will make your heart ache.  I laughed. I cried. I was left a different person than when I began the journey.  I enthusiastically recommend this novel!!

About the Author:
Liz Flaherty stays active in her retirement from her day job by quilting, traveling, and volunteering to do things she didn’t used to have time for. She spends time with Duane, her husband of forever, and devotes 15 minutes a day to housework whether she needs to or not. She’d love to hear from you at lizkflaherty@gmail.com

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Landmarks by Bill Delvaux - 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!

I am late with this post, but God's timing is always perfect!  This book was a healing balm to my soul and my life has been changed in a profound way by reading this book!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

 B&H Books (March 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


 Bill Delvaux taught Men of the Bible classes for two decades at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. He holds degrees from Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is now a full-time speaker and retreat minister. Landmarks is his first book.

*         A fresh new voice in contemplative Christian writing sets out nine spiritual markers -- letting go of idols, overcoming scars, grasping your identity, etc. -- that we must encounter if we are to truly come alive.

*         As a respected teacher, Bill Delvaux shows a proven ability to connect with a broad audience ranging from children of well-known musicians (Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman) and pastors to NFL players and coaches.

Visit the author's website.


The well-worn rut that most of us live in is safe, comfortable . . . some would call it dead. By contrast, coming alive requires a willingness to journey into the unknown. Following Jesus is just such a path -- one that takes us deep into His death and then lifts us up into His resurrection.

There are some risks involved, and there are no point A to point B maps. But there are landmarks, places we must pass along the way if we are to keep following Christ into real life.

Landmarks describes these breakthrough places of the heart and mind in the general order in which they tend to show up. Long-time teacher and first-time author Bill Delvaux shares his landmark story and takes readers through nine different spiritual markers that must be encountered in order to live the full life that Jesus has planned for us.

Some of the landmarks include letting go of idols, overcoming scars, walking away from sexual sin, grasping your identity, fighting your battle, bonding with Christ, and choosing God first.

So, if you feel stuck out there on the highway of humanity and need some tried and true spiritual direction, look for Landmarks.

My Thoughts:

“We must now take whatever stop is in front of us.”  (p. 185)

Taking a step.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Well, I’d venture to say that the ease of that step depends entirely on the stage of your journey and what landmark you are approaching! Bill Delvaux’s book, Landmarks, is a journey within your own heart and one that takes you into the heart of God your creator, Savior, Father, friend.  What a precious journey of healing this has been for me!

The premise of the book is honest and straightforward.  Life isn’t meant to be lived in a vacuous black hole, it’s not meant to be lived in isolation allowing sorrow and despair to overwhelm, you must face your marred self-identity  in order to discover a new way of living.  Bill Delvaux took this journey in his own life journey and has been transformed in significant and profound ways.  God has allowed him to share what he has learned, and I am only one of many lives that will be forever changed.

The author uses examples from his own life, the lives of others he has met along the way, and Biblical examples and truths that take the reader back to the true source of the love, acceptance, strength and guidance that we all need to find our way into a relationship with Christ that transforms us into the likeness of His Son throughout our lifetimes. 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough!! It is a God-send in my life and I encourage everyone to begin steps toward the man or woman that God is calling you to be!!

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433679221
ISBN-13: 978-1433679223



“Midway along the journey of our life, I woke to find myself in a dark wood For I had wandered off from the straight path.”


“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.”

—Psalm 130:1

It was a just another typical afternoon on a typical summer day. But not for me. Everything in my life was about to change.

It was my turn to feed our infant daughter. She had been born with some physical issues that made each feeding an hour-long affair, so I had lots of time for thinking and praying. And I needed it. Shortly before her birth, I had resigned as the pastor of a church I had planted a few years earlier, and I was unsure of the next step. But this was no momentary bump in my ministry career. This was a cataclysmic quake. I was falling apart.

Like most young ministers, I had dreamed of a successful church, both in terms of numbers and impact. I was convinced that God had called me to it, but now the dream was crushed. And with the crushing appeared a larger foe, one that I had kept at bay for years, depression. It was beginning to swallow me whole. I became morose, aloof, and angry. My marriage was struggling as well, for my depression put Heidi on edge, and she felt she had to prop me up all the time. I was also furious with God. I had given my life to do his work, and my reward for such obedience appeared to be failure and now despair.

At the time of my resignation, I had graciously been given six months of severance pay. It was supposed to allow me some time to heal and get redirected. But I was now three months in, and there was no healing, nor was there any redirection.

Instead that afternoon I reached a level of darkness that began to unravel me. As I continued to feed my daughter, I thought briefly about suicide. But I brushed that thought away. I understood only too well the devastation brought on for those who are close to a suicide victim. I could never inflict that kind of sadness on Heidi or my children. So I continued to unravel in the depths of the darkness, and out of that abyss I cried, “God, I don’t care what it takes. I want out of this!”

It was the moment that would change everything. My journey out of the abyss began.

For the next seventeen years, I wandered frequently and wondered at times exactly where I was heading. Sometimes I ended up circling back and revisiting places I thought I had moved past. At other times, with no clear bearings to orient myself, I just felt lost. But at many unexpected points along the way, God appeared and gently guided me forward.

During those years, I took a job as a teacher and coach at a Christian high school where I had to find a way to connect the Bible to the hearts of students. In the process, I found my own heart connecting to Scripture in new ways. I was slowly climbing out of the abyss.

One day as I was talking with my good friend Daniel, the high school counselor, I began to describe some of the places I had traveled in my journey. He asked me to write them down and send the list to him. I first entitled it “Mile Markers,” like the ones posted along the interstate. Heidi objected to the name because she thought it made the journey sound too safe and predictable. She was right. This was no leisurely drive; this was a trek through the wilderness.

About the same time I was reading Undaunted Courage, the harrowing account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. These two men and their crew oared upstream for months to find the source of the Missouri River, hoping to discover a waterway across America to the Pacific. All along the way, they kept mentioning certain landmarks they had to reach, even if the exact path wasn’t known. Then it clicked. That’s exactly what I had felt in my journey, an awareness of certain landmarks I had to reach even if I didn’t know how I was going to get there. And so the “Landmarks” idea was born.

What exactly are the landmarks? Everyone knows at some level that life is a journey. It is a deep-seated feeling born out of the experience of change and growth. We are not what we were ten years ago, nor will we be the same ten years from now. But therein lies the problem. What kind of journey is this? Where am I going? How do I even know if this is the right direction? What if I’m lost? Not only do we have a sense that life is a journey, we also sense that we’re missing the map and some basic orienteering skills.

Here is where the landmarks come in to play. Think of them as points that chart out a journey we all need to take if we want to live well. It’s like looking at a topographical map, one that has the mountains and streams and forests marked on it, but little else. We have enough to get started on the hike, but there are still many unknowns ahead. Or imagine driving a car across America on some of the old highways with only a roadmap and no available Internet. We may know the general direction forward, but there are still many questions. What will we encounter on the road? Where will we stay each night? That’s the feel for the landmarks.

The Bible also speaks of life as a journey. Jesus himself laid out the general direction of the path ahead: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). We are immediately struck by the thought that something needs to die in order to take this journey. Interestingly, the apostle Paul marked out the same trail: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). It seems that the key to finding the life we long for is submitting to the death we fear. For what we most desire is hidden underneath our deepest terror. This is the course set by the nine landmarks in this book. The first four chart a downward descent into what feels like death. It’s a crucifixion, agonizing at times. The fifth landmark is a pivot in the journey, turning us in the opposite direction. The final four describe the resurrection we can now enter into, an ascent into real life. We are finally becoming what we were meant to be.

As I have spoken about these landmarks to many, I have had to be painfully honest. After all, they trace out my own journey. They represent my climb out of the abyss. But the feedback has surprised me. So many have spoken of a deep connection to what I have experienced.

A wise counselor once told me, “What is most personal is most universal.” And so what is written here is offered in the hope that this journey can be yours also.

Friday, April 26, 2013

When The Morning Glory Booms by Cynthia Ruchi - Reviewed

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
When The Morning Glory Blooms
Abingdon Press (April 1, 2013)
Cynthia Ruchti


Cynthia writes stories of hope that glows in the dark, merging her love for storytelling with inextinguishable hope for inexpressible hurts.

Cynthia spends her days diving into words, worship, and wonder and celebrating 40 years of marriage, three grown children, and five outrageously adorable grandchildren. One of her greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. To that end, she served as the assistant director and a faculty member of the Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference, has served as worship and devotions staff for the Write-to-Publish conference, and teaches at other conferences as opportunities arise. She speaks to women’s groups, at mother-daughter banquets, and for women’s refresher days and retreats. It is her delight to serve on her church’s worship team. Rather than “busy,” she likes the term “active.”

For 33 years, Cynthia wrote and produced the radio broadcast The Heartbeat of the Home. The scripted radio drama/devotional broadcast aired on as many as 50 radio stations and two cable/digital television stations over the years. Cynthia was the editor of the ministry’s Backyard Friends magazine, a twenty-page, twice annual publication that reached 5,000 homes, churches, and parachurch outreaches.


Becky rocks a baby that rocked her world. Sixty years earlier, with her fiancé Drew in the middle of the Korean Conflict, Ivy throws herself into her work at a nursing home to keep her sanity and provide for the child Drew doesn't know is coming. Ivy cares for Anna, an elderly patient who taxes Ivy's listening ear until the day she suspects Anna's tall tales are not the ramblings of dementia. They're fragments of Anna's disjointed memories of a remarkable life. Finding a faint thread of hope she can't resist tugging, Ivy records Anna's memoir, scribbling furiously after hours to keep up with the woman's emotion-packed, grace-hemmed stories. Is Ivy's answer buried in Anna's past? Becky, Ivy, Anna--three women fight a tangled vine of deception in search of the blossoming simplicity of truth.

My Thoughts:

“Quiet grace speaks louder than noisy blame.”  (p.270)

Oh my! What truth is packed into that statement! Cynthia Rushti’s When the Morning Glory Blooms embodies grace in its purest, and sometimes rarest form.  Taking readers on a journey that spans generations of choices, sacrifices and acts of mercy, she reveals that there is really nothing new under the sun.  Choices, consequences, friendship, family, mercy, grace there is such a beautiful picture of God moving in the lives of this myriad of characters!! It’s like you are watching God paint a picture over time.  The situations aren’t always pretty – correction, they are pretty messy most of the time – but there are moments of joy and beauty that bring such hope to the reader’s heart!

I really don’t want to spoil a moment of this story. This is a book that has to be experienced. Truly. There are so many timeless lessons of truth in this one story that you are really unable to soak it all in at times.  I daresay, for me at least, there is a re-read in my future! I was fascinated that there was such a variety of characters to enjoy.  I was totally amazed at how the different stories ultimately related to one another in very profound ways.  And once again, I was reminded that I serve a very faithful God who loves me in spite of my questions and sometimes uncertain trust in His promises.

This story will make your heart ache. It will make your tears flow. It will make your heart soar with hope! I enthusiastically recommend this book to everyone!!

If you would like to read the first chapter of When The Morning Glory Blooms, go HERE.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Singer/Songwriter Lands Performance Slots At Popular Texas Live Event
Along with Newsboys, Plumb, Building 429 and More
Julie Elias Performs at Cornerstone 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 24, 2013) - Singer/songwriter Julie Elias will share the stage with the likes of Building 429, Newsboys, Plumb and others at the LifeLight Texas Festival, scheduled for May 24-26 at Willowood Ranch, Sherman, Texas, in the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth area. The free festival, which has sister events throughout the world—and is coming to Texas for the first time—gathers top Christian music acts for a weekend of family entertainment. Elias, who will be performing songs from her debut CD, A Wild Rose, will be featured on the Triple Shot Café Stage Friday night and the Main Stage Saturday afternoon for the Memorial Day Weekend festival.
"When I met the LifeLight organization—I should say, the LifeLight family, as they seem to be a close-knit team—I knew they were joined by a common love for God's people and a heart for worship," Elias says. "They do amazing festivals across the country and missions internationally. What is so especially cool is that the festival offers free admission. I hope this brings a ton of people who might not otherwise come to such an event! I am blessed and excited to be a part of the festival's debut in Texas!"
Elias has strong ties to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, where she currently is serving as Artist-in-Residence at White's Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas, in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, one of the 10 largest Methodist congregations in the nation, with an average attendance of 3,400 on Sundays.
"What a blessing to have the LifeLight Festival come to our area and bring thousands and thousands of people to hear God's message through music," Elias says. "I am hopeful that the entire Dallas-Ft. Worth area will be impacted by this event."
LifeLight Communications has been producing free Christian music festivals since 1998, when its anchor event, LifeLight South Dakota Festival, was founded. By offering free admission, LifeLight's goal is that all may come and all may hear the Gospel message. The South Dakota event, held in Sioux Falls, S.D., now draws hundreds of thousands of people each year during the Labor Day weekend. The organization has expanded through the years to host festivals in Bethany, Mo., Texas, Guatemala, and Haiti.
For more information about LifeLight and the festivals, visit lifelight.org/festival.
Photo caption, top: Julie Elias performs songs from her debut CD, A Wild Rose, to thousands of fans at Creation Festival 2012, the largest Christian music festival in the U.S., held annually in Pennsylvania. (Denise Blanton photo)
About Julie Elias:
After making the networking rounds in Hollywood, Elias was well on her way to becoming an up-and-coming actress thanks to various extra roles on Grey's Anatomy (where she was a regular for two seasons), CSI: New YorkBonesParks and RecreationWeeds and other shows, as well as several films, including Due Date, starring Robert Downey Jr., and Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
A Christmas trip to her hometown in 2010 caused Elias to reexamine her career options after she performed in her home church's praise and worship band and sang in some local concerts.
"It took a seemingly routine Christmas concert that year for me to realize what I've been called to do. In fact, Christmas of that year was the most clear-cut, obvious message I've ever received from God, period! It was as if He said 'I am spelling it out for you, in bold caps: PAY ATTENTION,'" Elias says.
At the beginning of 2011, Elias began making regular pilgrimages to Nashville to collaborate with Music City's top songwriters and producers. The trips resulted in her national debut CD, A Wild Rose, produced by acclaimed producer Robert White Johnson, whose body of work includes songwriting and production credits with such artists as Celine Dion, Faith Hill, Larnelle Harris, Johnny Van Zant and Michael Bolton.
"I've always believed you can hear words, but you can feel music," says Elias. "What is a relationship with God without feeling His presence through your entire being? Sometimes songs can touch you in a way that words cannot."
The release of A Wild Rose marks the culmination of a whirlwind year that has seen the singer/songwriter sharing the stage with some of Christian music's top artists at major festivals including Spirit West Coast, AtlantaFest, Ichthus, Creation NE, Cornerstone, Lifest, Sonshine and Creation NW. She also was chosen to perform on the Talent Spotlight Stage at Walt Disney World's popular Night of Joy and was selected for a soloist role in Ruth Graham's musical, Fear Not Tomorrow.
For more information about Elias and A Wild Rose, visit julieeliasmusic.com, or follow her on Facebook (facebook.com/julieeliasmusic) or Twitter (@julieeliasmusic).
About LifeLight Communications:
LifeLight Communications, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Evangelistic Proclamation Organization. Those people associated with the company view themselves as missionaries, and base their work from Acts 1:8, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." LifeLight exists to proclaim the Gospel through music and the message.
LifeLight's founding principle is to offer all festivals free of admission so that all may come and all may hear the Gospel message. The LifeLight South Dakota Festival, while the most visible area, is one of three areas of LifeLight's ministry: Festivals, Missions and Outreach. Yet LifeLight is one ministry with one mission, "Taking the Church outside the walls, bringing Light into the darkness with the life-changing message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
In everything LifeLight does, they must answer one question, "How is the Gospel going to be presented?" That is the common denominator, plain and simple.
LifeLight's first international outreach was in Karachi and Hyderabad, Pakistan. LifeLight's first expansion festival is being held in Bethany, Mo. New festival additions include Haiti, Guatemala and Texas.
For more information, visit lifelight.org.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Healing Heart by Angelo Beridenbach - Reviewed

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Healing Heart
Abingdon Press (April 1, 2013)
Angela Breidenbach


Angela Breidenbach is a speaker/coach in mental and physical health, author of A Healing Heart April 2013 from Abingdon Press in the Quilts of Love series, Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life, Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance, and Creative Cooking for Colitis. Other works by Angela include compilation books and devotionals from Guidepost, Group, and articles in magazines, ezines, and newspapers. She is certified in mentor/peer counseling as a CTA life coach, as a Stephen Minister, and a weight loss/nutrition coach. Angela serves as an assisting minister (worship/prayer leader) for her congregation in Missoula, MT. Not only did she walk the hard line of deciding to donate her mom’s brain for the study of schizophrenia, but she’s also on the brain donation list at the Brain Bank-Harvard McLean Hospital.


Mara Keegan is an uber-successful mother and a widow of three years. She's been chasing success and all the "good things in life" for her family to make up for the cruel whim God played on them by taking her husband. In an effort to be the perfect mom, she decides to make a photo memory quilt, a graduation present for her daughter, Cadence.

She’s not yet finished when she experiences a heart attack. While Mara recuperates, she revisits the choices she's made that led to this physically and spiritually broken heart. The memory quilt must be finished in time for Cadence's big day, but Mara struggles with her burgeoning feelings for the man who must keep Mara's business going during her recovery, Joel Ryan. Can Joel find his way into Mara's heart and onto Cadence's quilt?

My Thoughts:
Angela Breidenbach has written a very relevant story of family, friends, faith and God's carefully designed plan for our lives.  This book gives clear and poignant meaning to the biblical truth that God does indeed work all things for our good and His glory if we believe on Him. 

Mara Keegan is in a very difficult time of life.  She is having to deal with profound loss without slowing down to grieve.  She pours herself out for her children and into her business to meet the ever changing needs of her family. And then....the author changes her circumstance in dramatic ways. The results aren't always easy nor pleasant, but what Mara learns through the process is priceless.  She isn't searching for the healing she needs, but God brings it to her in a way that she accepts (for the most part), and she is transformed by this!  Her whole entire family is transformed in big and small ways - all of this significant to the restoration of each life represented in this story.

I really relate to Mara's character and many of the ways that God sort of walks into the backdoor of her heart and recaptures her attention.  These times of drawing near to God - especially when we're kicking and screaming - are so very necessary.  I am thankful to God every day that He does that - even in fiction - to woo me to Him.  A Healing Heart - I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Healing Heart, go HERE

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rescuing Hope by Susan Norris - Reveiwed

About the Book:

Did you know 100,000 American children were sex-trafficked in 2009? The number is thought to have increased to 200,000-300,000 by now, according to the State Department and FBI.
When unassuming mom Susan Norris heard this was going on right there, in her quiet suburban Atlanta neighborhood, she resolved to act. After spending countless hours with victims, detectives, and a former pimp, Susan combined what she'd learned and wrote the novel, RESCUING HOPE

My Thoughts:

Human Trafficking is real and relevant! Susan Norris has written a first person narrative about a girl, a normal teenage girl with family and friends who care about her, who is abducted into the slave trade as a sex slave.  This book will haunt your heart and mind.  This story brings the reader an “in your face” story that is both heart-breaking and terrifying! To begin to think that such an industry can survive and thrive in the 21st century is mind-boggling to say the least!  You would easily think to yourself, “My child would never be that gullible or vulnerable!”  Think again!  From a teen’s perspective, the thought process made 100% sense to her!  To be threatened with the life of your parent – I can’t imagine!  What I can understand is why she felt she had no other choice.

I can also understand the never-give-up attitude of her mom, extended family, friends and co-workers.  I will warn you, your heart will ache for this young girl and the thousands of others just like her.  The sex trafficking industry is REAL and it’s IN YOUR BACKYARD!!!  Find a voice and join the movement to END this industry once and for all!!!

About the Author:
Susan raises her voice on behalf of all the “Hopes” across our nation and champions the cause of organizations such as Resolution Hope, Not for Sale, and Out of Darkness. She lobbies for stronger laws to protect victims, walks alongside rescued girls as they piece together shattered lives and invites all she speaks with to join her in the fight for freedom.
A CLASS certified speaker, Susan graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Master’s of Education, taught in public and private schools and served as a leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes before being called to full time ministry. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and children and considers them to be her highest calling.

What's Your Mark by Jeremy Cowart

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:

 Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


Award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart has traveled the globe photographing some of the biggest names in the music and entertainment industries. With boundless energy, indomitable faith and a mind ever-flowing with creative ideas, Cowart appears utterly tireless and rarely stops. There is always something unique and interesting going on in his world, whether it's starring in an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, raising money to fight poverty through his Twitter feed, teaching photography online or taking the cover shot for Tim Tebow's best-selling autobiography.
Born in Nashville, Cowart continues to make Music City his home. Here in the comfort of familiar surroundings he draws continual inspiration from his wife, Shannon, and their two beautiful children, Aidler and Eisley, ages five and seven. Though he clearly considers his craft a labor of joy, when not holding a camera he has time for his favorite pastime which is doing anything that involves his children, and much to his delight, joy around the Cowart home is about to increase as the family is in the process of adopting two children from Haiti.

Visit the author's website.


What do an actor, a TV producer, a businessman, and a leader in social justice causes have in common? They're all making their mark on the world because their lives have been eternally marked by Jesus. You'll be captivated, challenged, and changed as you read their stories in this full-color, fully illustrated softcover book created by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. With text from the Gospel of Mark, you are invited to ask---and answer---the question "What mark am I making?"

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310411092
ISBN-13: 978-0310411093


Sunday, April 21, 2013

When Jesus Wept by Bodie & Brock Thoene - REVEIEWED

About the Book:

Book 1 in the Thoene's new Jerusalem Chronicles.
 Lazarus occupies a surprising position in the Gospel accounts. Widely known as the man Jesus raised from the dead, his story is actually much broader and richer than that. Living as he did at Bethany, near Jerusalem, Lazarus was uniquely placed to witness the swirl of events around Jesus. When Jesus Wept, the first novel in The Jerusalem Chronicles series by bestselling authors Bodie and Brock Thoene, unfolds the turbulent times in Judea during Jesus' ministry, centering on the friendship between Jesus and Lazarus. With rich insights from vineyard owners and vine dressers, the Thoenes explore the metaphor of Jesus as the True Vine, harvesting the ancient secrets found in the Old Testament. Weaving the life of Lazarus, who owned a vineyard, into the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ will help you understand it is the hand of Love Divine that holds the knife, that cuts and breaks with such tender and loving touch, and that we who have born some fruit, after the pruning, can bear much more. 
Buy a copy of the book HERE       

My Thoughts:
 David ben Lazarus – or Lazarus as he is known from the famous passage in John – is one of the central characters in Brock and Bodie Thoene’s latest novel, When Jesus Wept.  I had forgotten how real the Thoene’s create New Testament lifestyle – the nuances of sight, smell and culture.  The reader is totally transported across the boundaries of time and space and becomes immersed it New Testament living.  You literally feel you become a part of Lazaurus’ life and family.
Through Lazarus’ eyes, you experience Jesus entry into His earthly ministry.  At times, you observe as part of the crowd, and at other times you walk by Jesus’ side and engage in intimate conversation.   For instance, I don’t think I’ll ever view a vineyard and faith the same way again after Jesus explains faith through the eyes of a vine dresser in chapter 23!  So profound, yet so personal and relevant!! (I actually used it in a Sunday School illustration today! ) Many familiar New Testament passages leap to brilliant life under the creative duet of Brock and Bodie Thoene’s pen!  Depth and richness are added when poured through the sieve of historical accuracy!

There are those, I am sure, who will feel that some passages take great liberty with the unknown.  I felt a bit that way at first.  But when I saw the transformation that came through Lazurus’ death and resurrection experience, suddenly I had a mere glimpse into Christ’s sadness at the tomb of His friend.  I understood  - as far as the Holy Spirit allows me to understand - why Jesus wept over both Lazarus and Jerusalem. 

I only hope that the eternal direction of the lost around me moves me to weep over their condition and reach out to them in love as Jesus’ did.  This is indeed a rich and moving story for everyone to enjoy! You will weep – and be transformed!

About the Authors:
Bodie and Brock Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee) are bestselling authors of over sixty-five works of historical fiction. Their timeless classics have sold more than thirty-five million copies and won eight ECPA Gold Medallion Awards. The Thoenes have four grown children and eight grandchildren. They divide their time between Hawaii, London, and Nevada.

Find out more about Bodie and Brock HERE!
Celebrate the release of When Jesus Wept with the Thoenes by entering their iPad Mini giveaway and RSVPing to their {4/23} Facebook Author Chat party!


One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A brand new iPad Mini
  • A book club kit - 10 copies of When Jesus Wept
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 22nd. Winner will be announced at the "When Jesus Wept" Author Chat Party on 4/23. Connect with the Thoenes, get a sneak peek of the next book in the Jerusalem Chronicles series, try your hand at a trivia contest, and chat with readers just like yourself. There will also be fun giveaways - gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of When Jesus Wept and join Bodie and Brock on the evening of the April 23rd for a chance to connect with the authors and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fisher of Men by Pam Rhodes

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:

Lion Fiction (2013)

***Special thanks to Noelle Pedersen for sending me a review copy.***


For many years Pam Rhodes has presented the world's number one religious television program, Songs of Praise. She writes for the Daily Mail's Femail section, and is also a successful novelist, author of With Hearts and Hands and Voices and four other novels, as well as a number of other books.

Visit the author's website.


The country church of St Stephen's, Dunbridge, under the leadership of the formidable Rev. Margaret Prowse, is getting a new curate. The whole congregation is abuzz as the shy but earnest Neil Fisher arrives to take up his very first post.

Though intimidated by Margaret, he is determined to overcome his shyness and immediately sets out to meet the congregation. As often occurs when a man of the cloth is single, his mission becomes somewhat sidetracked when his attention is first drawn to Ros, the spiky single mum who looks after the vicarage garden, and then commandeered by Wendy, leader of the church music group, who is determined to bag herself a vicar for a husband. And if that isn't enough, he also has to contend with his opinionated mother, who strongly disapproves of her son's vocation.

Product Details:

Pages: 256
Size: 5 x 7.75 inches
Published: 2013
Rights: NA
Imprint: Lion Fiction
Price: $14.99
ISBN:  978-1-78264-000-4


It was the spire of St Stephen’s that Neil noticed first. In fact, if it weren’t for the spire standing head and shoulders above every other roof in the town, he might have needed to keep a closer eye on the map he had balanced on his lap as he navigated round the one-way system which seemed intent on taking him out of rather than into the market town of Dunbridge. Actually, to describe this cluster of houses and shops, some very old, some alarmingly new, as a “town” might suggest more than Dunbridge really delivered. Neil had read that 6,000 people lived here. As he rounded the last corner, he wondered where Dunbridge put them all.

He felt his chest tighten with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation at the sight of the grand old church which stood solidly at the end of the square, looking for all the world as if it were peering down the High Street keeping a benign, unblinking eye on its faltering flock. Neil swallowed hard as he felt beads of sweat spring up on his top lip. Wiping his finger sharply across his face, he firmly reminded himself he had absolutely nothing to worry about. After all, this was just a first visit – to see if the Reverend Margaret Prowse thought he might make a suitable curate in this parish, and to decide if he felt Dunbridge could be a place to call home for three years during his training as a curate.

And wasn’t this exactly the moment he’d been working towards for so long? As a soon-to-be-ordained deacon (the ceremony was less than two months away now), those years of longing, of recognizing his call, of study and preparation, had surely all been leading up to this moment – when he finally settled on the parish in which he would start his ministry. Was this the place? Would he become the Reverend Neil Fisher of the Parish of St Stephen in Dunbridge? He rolled the words over in his mind. They had a nice ring to them.

He glanced at the notepad on the seat beside him. “Drive up towards the church, then follow the road round to the right,”  Margaret had instructed. “You’ll find the Vicarage down the first turning on the left. You can’t miss it!”

He hated it when people said that. It always made him feel even more of a failure when he proved them wrong.

On this occasion, though, the directions were spot on. A sign on the well-worn gate proudly announced that this was indeed The Vicarage, a large sprawling Edwardian house whose faded glory was camouflaged by a huge wisteria on one side, and a scarlet Virginia creeper on the other. Uncertain whether he should pull into the drive, he decided that it would be more polite to park a bit further up the street, just round the corner from the house, under the arch of a huge horse chestnut. Neil grabbed his briefcase, clambered out and locked the door.

The gate squeaked as he opened it.

“Come round the back!”

The voice came from somewhere above his head. Neil shaded his eyes as he squinted up into the low morning sun.

“Take the path down the side of the house!” came the command again. “The kitchen door’s always on the latch. Daft, really, but I like the idea of an open house.”

Neil could just make out the silhouette of a round, female face surrounded by thick, neat curls leaning out of the upstairs bay window.

“You must be Neil. You’re early! I’ll be down in just a sec. Put the kettle on! Mine’s a coffee…”

And the head abruptly disappeared.

Getting to the back was quite a challenge. Neil clambered over two bikes, a trailer and a hawthorn bush which had very nearly succeeded in its attempt to straddle the narrow path alongside the house. Finally, he made it to what seemed to be the back door, which was not just ajar, but wide open. Closing the door tidily behind him (he just couldn’t help himself), he stepped into a large, alarmingly muddled kitchen in which the table, the worktops and even the hob were piled up with everything from stacks of plates and cutlery to columns of letters, newspapers and magazines. On top of the cooker was a Holy Bible on which was precariously balanced an open copy of the Book of Common Prayer. Neil grinned. Not much doubt a vicar lived here!

Something brushed his trouser leg. He looked down into the calculating gaze of the biggest, fluffiest ginger tom he’d ever seen. He was on the point of leaning down to give the little dear a tickle under the chin when he found himself staring into yellow eyes that gleamed with malevolence. Plainly this four-legged resident didn’t take kindly to visitors, as it did a slow reconnaissance figure of eight around Neil’s legs. He grabbed hold of a nearby stool and sat on it hastily, clasping his briefcase to him and pulling his knees up as high as he could.


The same voice, sounding twice as loud, rang through the house from somewhere upstairs.

“Tell him where the tea is, there’s a love! I think we’re out of biscuits.”

Intrigued, Neil looked towards the open kitchen door as the sound of slippered feet padded in his direction. Round the corner came a dapper little man with grey hair but, surprisingly, bushy dark brows. Taking stock of the positions of both man and cat before him, there was a sympathetic gleam of understanding in his eyes as he smiled at Neil.

“Sorry,” he said, “my wife’s only just got back from an unexpected hospital visit. She’ll be down shortly. I’m Frank, by the way. And that’s Archie. Quite harmless really, even if he does look a bit fierce. What can I get you? Tea?”

“No, thanks all the same,” gulped Neil, not taking his eyes off the feline predator below him. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”

“Oh, the kettle’s always hot in our house,” smiled Frank. “You’ll need to learn that if you’re joining the ranks. Your first appointment as a curate, eh? Well, you’ll be all right here. Margaret will look after you.”

“Frank, have you found him?” That voice again.

“Yes, dear, he’s fine. Archie’s got him cornered…”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, give the poor man room to breathe, Archie!”

The Reverend Margaret Prowse strode into the room, her arms clasped around a large box full of collecting tins.

“Take these, dear, before I drop them. Why Peter left them here when they should be at the Church Centre, I really don’t know!”

There were seconds of confusion while the box was handed over, almost dwarfing Frank, who staggered over to deposit the lot on top of the one pile of papers which was flat enough to perch it on.

“Margaret Prowse!”

Pushing her spectacles further up her nose so that she could peer at Neil a little more closely, she moved towards him, her expression warm and welcoming, her hand stretched out to clasp his.

“How nice to meet you, Neil! Did you have a good journey?”

“Not bad at all. Most of the traffic was going the other way. And I’m very pleased to meet you too!”

Neil became aware that Margaret’s attention had diverted from him, as she suddenly stared at the clock on the wall behind him.

“Heavens! Is that the time?” She grimaced towards Neil. “Look, I know this isn’t ideal, but you’ll soon realize that parish life is never predictable. I hope you won’t think me rude, but I do need to pop out for a short while. I won’t be long, but I had a call early this morning from Violet, one of our regular congregation members. She’s in a dreadful state – bereavement, you know.”

“Oh,” said Neil, “has she lost a family member?”

“Yes – and no. It’s her budgie, Poppet. When you’re nearly ninety and your bird is your only companion, then losing that friend is a dreadful shock. Her daughter is coming over at half ten for the ceremony…”

Neil felt his eyebrows shoot up with curiosity.

“Nothing formal. Not even consecrated ground, although a bit of holy water will soon put that right. No, Poppet is destined to rest in peace in the shade of Violet’s magnolia tree.”

“Have you worked out just what you’ll say, dear?” enquired Frank.

“Not really. I’ll play it by ear. That’s why I was looking in the Book of Common Prayer earlier on, to see if there’s anything that might fit the bill. Nothing quite right, I’m afraid. Any ideas, Neil?”

“For the burial of a budgie?” Neil loosened his grip on his briefcase, then lowered it to the ground behind his stool as he watched Archie wander away in boredom. “It’s difficult, really, when you can’t even give a potted history of the life and achievements of the dear departed, as you would for a normal funeral.”

“Quite!” agreed Margaret. “But Violet tells me she’s written a poem. That might do the trick. And perhaps a hymn? What do you think?”

“‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’,” suggested Neil. “That’s got a line about God making their tiny wings, if I remember rightly…”

Margaret grinned with approval. “Great minds think alike! Exactly what I came up with. And that reminds me. I’ve downloaded the accompaniment for ‘All Things’ on to my iPod. A bit of music might add a touch of atmosphere. Where are those speakers we take on holiday, Frank? You know, the ones that work on batteries?”

“In the upstairs cupboard, I think. I’ll go and look.”

“Great! Meet me with them at the front door. And you…” Margaret turned her gaze towards Neil, “… might like to take a look around the church while you’re waiting. I really won’t be long. Sorry I can’t take you with me, but I don’t think Violet could cope with new faces just at the moment.”

“I quite understand. And I’d welcome the chance to take a look around the church while you’re gone.”

“Go straight out the gate at the end of our garden. You can’t miss it.”

Not again!

“The door’s open, but it’s a tight fit. Just watch it doesn’t slam shut because it’s the devil to open again! Back soon. We can get down to business then. OK?”

Neil nodded, not quite sure which part of the deluge of words he was agreeing to.

But Margaret was already out of the room.

“Frank! Frank, I’m leaving! Where are those speakers? Oh, there you are.”

Surprisingly, Neil heard the unmistakable sound of a kiss being planted firmly on a cheek.

“Remember to get those chops out of the freezer. And don’t forget you’ve got to rearrange your dental appointment on Friday. Oh, and the recycling bin needs to go out today. Bye, dear. Bye!”

There was a sudden draught as the door opened, then slammed shut – and she was gone.

“Right,” said Frank as he came back into the kitchen. “I’ve got my marching orders and so have you. The church is that way. Down the garden, through the gate, up the lane a bit – and you’re there!”

This time Neil really couldn’t miss it. St Stephen’s loomed ahead of him the moment he stepped beyond the garden gate. He caught his breath. He’d always loved old buildings, and churches had been a particular favourite even when he was a small boy. That was probably because old churches had been a passion for his father too. There was nothing he’d liked more than coming across a church which he had never visited before. Story books – that’s what Dad had called them. Neil remembered so many happy hours when the two of them had wandered around and inside an ancient church, noting a Norman carving here or a Gothic arch there. They would discover masonry marks left by the builders, faces carved in the wooden screen or the christening font, or even at the top of pillars – faces which probably looked very like some of the congregation members in the artist’s time; towers hung with bells which had been rung every Sunday for countless generations (except during the Second World War, so his Dad had explained); tapestries and fading medieval paintings telling the Bible stories to congregations who couldn’t read or write; even swallows nesting in the eaves, just as they had done for as long as anyone could recall.

Young Neil had listened, mesmerized, imagining the stonemason, picturing worshippers of times gone by, looking up at the great bells which had called the faithful to worship down the years. And to that small boy, it did seem that his father could read the story of each church as if it were a book, noticing details, large and small, which revealed so much of those who’d known the building before them.

“If these walls could only speak…”

Neil could still picture the softening of his Dad’s face as he’d said those words.

“… drenched in all that’s happened here, those walls are. That’s why old churches have such a wonderful atmosphere. They’ve seen it all and felt every emotion. All the worries, hopes, joys and sorrows of the people who’ve come here down the years – these walls have absorbed the lot. What a tale they could tell!”

Neil found his pace slowing as he thought again of his Dad. Fifteen years on, and he still missed him. That final illness had robbed him of his zest for life and his dignity too. At least he was at peace now. Neil gave a wry smile. Well, at peace from Mum’s sharp tongue, at the very least!

It was often said that Neil looked like his Dad –  and he could see the likeness in the thick, wiry hair he’d inherited from his father. Nowadays Neil kept his cropped short, so the tight curls were hardly noticeable – unlike his Dad, who had let his hair grow quite long towards the end, much to his Mum’s annoyance, especially as it turned grey. Father and son had also had the same lopsided grin when they laughed, which was often, because they shared a similar sense of humour – but beyond that, Neil could recognize little of his Dad in himself. His broad shoulders and stocky frame came from his Mum’s side of the family. Her brothers had both been rugby players “for the county!”, as she never tired of telling anyone who’d listen. Physically, Neil was perfect for a scrum half. Actually, the thought of getting anywhere near a scrum was his idea of a nightmare.

The graveyard was nice. A strange thing to think about a graveyard, but he’d always found them fascinating since he’d spent hours wandering around them reading epitaphs as a kid. Taking a quick look at the stones immediately near the path as he walked, Neil was vaguely aware of the church clock chiming noon as he reached the imposing Gothic-arched porch door. In spite of Margaret’s warning, one twist of the round metal handle was enough to release the latch, so that Neil could easily push the door wide enough to slip inside.

He hadn’t realized how much warmth there had been outside in the late Spring sunshine until he stood for a moment breathing in the essence of the building as he walked along the back pew, then turned to make his way up the centre aisle. There was a quiet coolness about the church, an oasis of tranquillity which didn’t entirely cut out the bustle of the surrounding market town. He could still hear traffic noise, children’s voices from a nearby school and even gentle birdsong, but it felt as if a blanket had enfolded the building, filtering everything until it seemed distant and removed from him.

Could this church become his spiritual home? He considered the thought as he walked towards the rail and looked up at the huge carved wooden cross suspended above the altar.

Was this it? Would he be able to bring something worthwhile to this community? Would his contribution as a curate in this church make a difference that was beneficial? Could he be happy and fulfilled here?

Like a sigh, he felt a sweep of cold air brush past him – and at that exact moment, caught by the same sudden draught, the heavy church door slammed shut, shattering the peace and shaking the rafters as it echoed round the old building.

* * *

Frank picked up the phone almost immediately it rang.

“Oh, Frank dear, I’m glad I caught you!” Margaret didn’t bother to wait for any greeting from her husband before she continued:

“This budgie thing is proving to be a bit more complicated than I thought. Violet lives in sheltered housing run by the council, as you know, and because she wants this ceremony to take place as the body is buried, some ‘jobsworth’ is saying we need written permission before the budgie can be interred anywhere on council land! Can you believe it? Well, of course you can! Anyway, Violet is bereft, her daughter is threatening to call the local newspaper – and I need to be here for a while to pour oil on troubled waters.”

“And perhaps even pour holy water on council land sometime this afternoon!” chuckled Frank. “Oh, you poor old thing. Still, if anyone can get things sorted out, you can.”

“It’s just Neil, that new curate – well, hopefully our new curate, if I can persuade him to join us – must think I’m dreadful to be so tied up when he’s come all this way…”

“Well, he’ll be getting a measure of how busy it is here, and how much he’s needed, won’t he!” replied Frank.

“Can you explain and ask him to bear with me? Do you think he’d mind holding on for a bit? Tell him to have a look at the minutes of the last few parish council meetings. Give Peter a ring and see if he’ll pop round to talk to him about how involved the churchwardens are at St Stephen’s…”

“But he’s not here! He went over to the church, as you instructed, around twelve o’clock, and although I know I was out for a while, I really don’t think he came back. Just to be sure, I did pop down to the church about two to check if he was there. I stuck my head round the door and called out a few times, but there was no sign of him, so I suppose he must have taken himself off home again.”

“How strange! From his letter, it sounded as if he was more interested than that. Oh well, he must have taken one look at the church – and us – and decided it wasn’t for him, then!”

“His loss.”


“Odd, though.”

“Certainly is.”

“Right, I must get on. Good luck with the budgie, dear.”

“Oh, I can handle the budgie. It’s the council officials who need to be handled with care.”

“They’ve not met you yet, have they? You’ll knock them into shape.”

Frank could almost hear her smiling at the other end of the line.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can. Bye, dear!”

And the line went dead.

* * *

The main relief was that he’d found the loo. It was now three hours since the door had slammed shut on him, and in spite of shouting, thumping, kicking – and a lot of praying –  the door refused to budge, and he was well and truly stuck. Worst of all was the moment about five minutes after the door slammed when he first realized that his briefcase was still stashed behind the stool where he’d been cornered by Archie in Margaret’s kitchen earlier that day. In that briefcase was his mobile. Without his mobile, he was lost.

For one hopeful moment about an hour before, he thought he’d heard someone trying the door. He’d been closeted in the vestry at the time, idly looking through papers on the desk and books on the shelves, for lack of anything else to do. He was just opening a hymn-book, thinking that perhaps a verse of “How Great Thou Art” might make him feel better, when he heard something. The sound of footsteps, perhaps – and was it a voice calling his name? He rushed out into the main body of the church and ran back down the aisle, yelling at the top of his voice, then banged his fists for all he was worth on the unmoving old door which had imprisoned him – but there was nothing. No voice from outside filled with relief to have found him. No sound of a key turning in the lock or a shoulder thumping against the door. No sound at all. Zilch.

Exhausted with frustration, Neil staggered back to lean against the old stone font. How come they hadn’t missed him? Why weren’t they searching for him? Where was Margaret? Hadn’t Frank wondered about him not calling back to the house?

What was it Margaret had said about that door? A tight fit? Something about it being the devil to open? Neil slumped down into the back pew, exasperated and exhausted by another bout of trying to pull, prise, cajole, punch or even kick the door open. It simply wouldn’t budge.

He ran his fingers through his hair and sat for a while with his head cupped in his hands. He just couldn’t understand why no one had come looking for him. Could that have been Margaret or Frank he thought he’d heard earlier? Did they just think he’d taken himself off again without even saying goodbye? Surely they’d see his briefcase? An image slipped into his mind of the Vicarage kitchen piled high with bits and pieces on every available surface. He’d tucked his briefcase behind the stool he was perching on. Would they see it there? Surely they’d find it! He frowned as he wondered if they ever found anything in that muddle. But then there was his car! He groaned out loud when he realized how he’d parked it up the road a bit so that it didn’t block their driveway. Margaret and Frank didn’t even know that car was his, so why would they take any notice of it?

When might the church be opened again? Perhaps for evening prayers? What time would Margaret think about doing that? Mind you, in a small parish like this one, with only one incumbent, evening prayers were often missed because the vicar was just not available to say the office at the right time. Margaret was tied up this afternoon at the budgie’s funeral service. How long would that take? Would she find time to fit in evening prayers tonight?

Neil became aware of a deep rumbling noise, then realized it came from his stomach. He was not a man to miss meals without noticing. He remembered longingly his boiled egg and toast soldiers eaten at eight that morning, and glanced at his watch. He’d been imprisoned in the church for nearly four hours. No wonder his tummy was complaining. He needed food – now! Like a fox out on a night raid, he decided to search every possible nook and cranny for something to munch. There must be some biscuits here, surely. All churches ran on tea and biscuits!

He set off towards the vestry, a man on a mission.

* * *

It was gone six o’clock before Frank heard Margaret’s key in the door.

“Mission accomplished,” she grinned. “Poppet had a very good send-off quietly after five o’clock, when the council official had knocked off for the day. We sang the hymn and said a few words in Violet’s flat, then nipped down and did the deed when he wasn’t there to see us.”

“Oh, well done, dear. I knew you’d think of something.”

“No sign of Neil, then?”

“None at all.”



“Can I smell those chops in the oven?”

“With baked apple, just the way you like them.”

“And roast potatoes?”

“What else?”

“I’m starving! Give me five minutes to sort myself out, and I’ll come and set the table.”

“How about, as a special treat, having it on our knees in the living room?” suggested Frank. “We can watch the news as we eat.”

“Perfect,” agreed Margaret, heading upstairs.

Minutes later, when she joined Frank in the kitchen, her nose twitched at the aroma of apples as he dished up the chops and gave the gravy a final stir. Margaret reached down beside the dresser to grab the padded knee-trays which they could balance on their laps as they ate. Suddenly, she stopped.

“Frank, look!”

Following her gaze, his eyes opened with horror.

“His briefcase! Neil left it here!”

“But why didn’t he come back to collect it?” asked Margaret.

“Perhaps he just forgot.”

The two of them stared at each other for several seconds, obviously registering the same thought.

“Or perhaps,” said Margaret slowly, “perhaps he didn’t leave.”

“He couldn’t still be in the church… I went there. I shouted. There was no reply.”

“Did you look in the vestry?”

“Why would he be in there?”

“Why not? He might have got cold. Or bored. Or needed the loo. Oh, Frank, he can’t still be in there, can he?”

“That blasted door!”

The two of them moved as one, out of the kitchen and down the garden path. It was as they were running through the graveyard towards the church that Frank spotted the light.

“I didn’t leave that on!” wailed Margaret. “It must be him!”

Within seconds they ran into the porch, and Frank grabbed hold of the iron ring which turned the latch on the ancient door. Funnily enough, it worked very easily from the outside. Making it work from the inside, however, was a quite different story. It took practice, a lot of practice, to get the knack just right. Why on earth hadn’t they made that clearer to Neil?

Practically falling through the door, their calls were greeted by absolute silence. Neil was nowhere to be seen. One small light was on, but the church was quiet and empty.

“Maybe he’s in the vestry?” suggested Frank. “I’ll go and check.”

“Frank.” Margaret’s voice was practically a whisper. “What’s that noise?”

He stopped in his tracks, his head tilted to one side as he listened.

“Whatever it is, it’s coming from in here,” gestured Frank, looking around the main body of the church. “Down the front there, I think.”

“Be careful, dear. It may not be him.”

Frank hushed her by putting his finger to his lips, then he began to tiptoe down the aisle, stopping suddenly as he drew level with the row of seating second from the front. Moving silently along the pew, he slowly leaned over to peer down on the seat in front of him.

“Come and take a look at this!” He turned to her with a smile.

What she saw when she joined him made her smile too. They looked down on a peacefully slumbering Neil, snoring loudly, his mouth wide open, his legs curled up along the seat, and his head resting comfortably on a hassock. On the floor below him was an open box of Communion wafers – or at least, what was left of them. He’d apparently found the Communion wine too, because the silver goblet they used in Sunday services stood beside his dangling arm with just a mouthful of red liquid still in the bottom.

“He didn’t starve, then,” said Frank. “That’s a relief.”

At the sound of their voices, Neil’s eyes shot open, and for a second it was plain he was struggling to remember just where he was.

“Right, then,” said Margaret in that no-nonsense tone he would later come to know so well. “It’s pork chops for tea. Coming?”