Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Man in the Making by Rick Johnson - REVIEWED

About the Book:  (from Baker Publishing)
How does a boy become a man of character?
As your son grows toward manhood, you can instill in him the values and character traits he will need to succeed. Highlighting famous men throughout history and the character trait that made each an outstanding model of manhood, parenting expert Rick Johnson gives you strategies to help mold your son into an honorable man. Johnson describes the lives of men such as

· Martin Luther King Jr.
· George Washington
· John Wooden
· Abraham Lincoln
· Jedediah Smith
· Benjamin Franklin
· Leonardo da Vinci
· and more

With the understanding gleaned from this insightful book, you can positively influence your son's life--in a way that will last him a lifetime.

My Thoughts:
Throughout this book I used men of history to define certain character traits that I believe to be important in developing healthy male leadership.”  (p.193)

Courage.  Honor and Nobility.  Duty.  Integrity and Loyalty.  These are only a few of the many character traits  the Rick Johnson addresses in his book, A Man in the Making.  Using models from history ranging from George Washington to Martin Luther King, Jr., Johnson makes a strong case that boys in particular stand in great need of people in their lives who can teach them to be effective leaders.  Johnson has chosen this method, I think, according to the prologue, so that everyone, regardless of their faith or lack thereof will be convinced of the importance of sowing the seeds of leadership into the lives of young men.

Johnson himself is a believer, and that shows through in his writing.  Not in an off-putting way, but in a way that draws other to consider the truth that has transformed his own life.  This is not a book to be read lightly or quickly.  This book must be digested in small portions so that you do not become overwhelmed with the responsibility that lies at your own front door to teach leadership to the young men that you know and care for.

This is an excellent resource for parents, teachers, pastors and anyone who wants to know more about the importance of teaching the traits of leadership to the next generation.  I am happy to recommend this book!

About the Author:

Rick Johnson is a bestselling author of That's My SonThat's My Teenage SonThat's My GirlBetter Dads, Stronger Sons; and Becoming Your Spouse's Better Half. He is the founder of Better Dads and is a sought-after speaker at many large parenting and marriage conferences across the United States and Canada. Rick, his wife, Suzanne, and their grown children live in Oregon. To find out more about Rick Johnson, visit

Friday, August 30, 2013

A View from Karen Jensen's Window - Why God Why?

To speak with Karen Jensen is as refreshing as anything I've ever experienced in life!  She is a warm, encouraging person that laughs easily and often.  She is very solidly grounded in God's Word, and she speaks with authority and with a realistic and practical perspective on life and living it to the full!

I hope you will join me as we discuss her book, Why God Why?  I know you will be challenged and blessed as you "press into God."

Me: “Ask your questions, put them on the back burner and then keep cooking of the front burners of your life by doing what you know to do.  Keep moving forward with God because He never changes even when everything else does.”  (p. 44)

Karen, tell me, was this “front burner” idea original or was is suggested to you as you began to work on this book?

Karen: I was asked to fill in for a church whose pastor had died suddenly.  I guess they thought I would understand because of the sudden loss of my husband.  I decided to speak about the questions people have in the face of sudden and tragic loss.  I think people are afraid to ask the hard questions, but they shouldn’t be afraid, because He’s your Father.  He has the answers anyway, so He is the one you should ask.  These questions don’t  come between you and your Father.

When things like this happen, and they do, you must put your questions aside and focus on the things you know to do.  You must become the CFO of your thoughts.  You can choose what you think about and what you focus on.  Your mind can’t just stop thinking about something and start thinking about something else.  You must purpose what you focus on.  There is no plan B, you just choose to go with God’s other plan A.  The Scripture says everything that happens in the life of God’s children of for our good and His glory.
We must wait in faith, and we can’t do that without the Word!  Read John 10:10, read 2 Corinthians 2:14.  Draw strength from God’s Word.

Me: How did God work through your husband’s unexpected death?

Karen:  My children benefitted academically and financially because of the job God provided for me, writing for a Christian College.  This was His provision, but it was still very hard at times.

Me: Let me quote from page 44 of your book: “When prayers get answered differently can you trust Him?  Does He still have purpose for you?  I believe He does, but if you quit you will never find out what it is.  If you camp out in the land of hurt and questions you will never get to your promised land.”
Can you expound on this thought?

Karen: You simply must break camp and move out of that camp.  God doesn’t mean for us to live there.

Me: You share a story about your friend, Jeff, who suffered a tragic accident at 18 years of age and lost his right arm.  He went on to graduate college and bible school and has been an encouragement to others throughout his life.  You quote him on page 46: “No matter what is happening in your life today, there are plenty of great tomorrows in your future.”  How has Jeff inspired you?

Karen: I am always amazed and encouraged by what God is doing in Jeff’s life.   He just won another golf tournament!  He chooses to live life to the fullest.  Yes, he has some down days, but he always returns to God’s Word.   And I cannot stress how important this is! I always want to direct readers back to God’s Word!  You need to speak the Word, keep it ever before you, write it down in your own words.  Choose to believe God and not your circumstances.

Me: There is another statement on page 64 that I want to ask you to expound on:  “Oh, I’m not alone.  The Holy Spirit and all the angels go with me every step of the way.  It’s a crowd everywhere I go!”  I love this!! I actually said something similar to my mom just the other day!

Karen: It is the truth! You are never alone if you belong to God.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you, and you have others praying for you and seeking God on your behalf.  It is a great place to rest in and feel safe in.  And when you go to the Word, you should meditate on it until it becomes more real than any loneliness you face.  Allow God to work His supernatural strength in you through His Word.

Me:  On page 76 you ask a very scary question: “I was a wife.  What am I now?”  Can you speak to women whose circumstances and roles in life have changed dramatically?

Karen:  It is a scary question, because women spend their lives thinking of and caring for others.  When you find yourself asking this question, I would encourage women to do something they love every day.  You will have to develop a new vision.  You get that vision by going to God’s Word.  All of us face seasons in life, so just hang on!  If you don’t like the season you are it, it will change.  If you do like the season of life you are in, it will change!  Everyone has to re-evaluate life for each season.  The good news is, that the Bible has the instructions we need for every season!

Me: On page 89 you tell readers: “You press into God because you’re in trouble, and He answers.  But of course you could have learned the lesson at hand without being sick or in trouble.”  Can you explain how to “press into God?”

Karen: God’s Word is alive and active.  I can’t really convince anyone of anything.  People can’t really argue with my story and the loss I’ve experienced.  So I start by telling them that God loves them and that He has given them His Word as a lamp to their feet and a light to their path.  None of us should be surprised then trouble comes.  We should just live ready by staying full of God’s Word.

And don’t let people steal my joy and peace.  I can’t allow my circumstances or what others say steal my joy.  And if I’m holding fast to the Word of God, I won’t sink down into that temptation.

Karen and I ended our time together in prayer, and I have to say to you, that you will never know how much our time together meant to me!  Her book is filled with truth from God’s Word, real life experiences and Key Front-Burner truths that will strengthen and encourage you!  I hope you will consider getting to know this precious lady and pick up your own copy of Why God Why?  Today!  You will be blessed!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Death By Living by N.D. Wilson - REVIEWED

About the Book:  (from Thomas Nelson)
A poetic portrait of faith, futility, and the joy of this mortal life.
In this astoundingly unique book, bestselling author N.D. Wilson reminds each of us that to truly live we must recognize that we are dying. Every second we create more of our past—more decisions, more breathing, more love and more loathing, all of it slides by into the gone as we race to grab at more moments, at more memories made and already fading.
We are all authors, creators of our own pasts, of the books that will be our lives. We stare at the future or obsess about the present, but only the past has been set in stone, and we are the ones setting it. When we race across the wet concrete of time without purpose, without goals, without laughter and love and sacrifice, then we fail in our mortal moment. We race toward our inevitable ends without artistry and without beauty. 
All of us must pause and breathe. See the past, see your life as the fruit of providence and thousands of personal narratives. What led to you? You did not choose where to set your feet in time. You choose where to set them next.
Then, we must see the future, not just to stare into the fog of distant years but to see the crystal choices as they race toward us in this sharp foreground we call the present. We stand in the now.  God says create. Live. Choose. Shape the past. Etch your life in stone, and what you make will be forever. 

My Thoughts:
 “Take up your life and follow Him.  Face trouble. Pursue it.  Climb it.  Smile at its roar like a tree planted by cool water even when your branches groan, when your golden leaves are stripped and the frost bites deep, every when your grip on this earth is torn loose and you fall among mourning saplings.” (p. 83)

Don’t resent the moments simply because they cannot be frozen.  Taste them. Savor them.  Give thanks for that daily bread.  Manna doesn’t keep overnight.  More will come in the morning.” 
(p. 107)

Death by Living is prose at its finest and life recorded in its sweetest and most painful moments.  It’s like nothing I’ve ever read.  It’s bold, blunt, funny and tragic.  It’s poignant, philosophical and spiritually challenging.  It is a book to be read and savored.  Not to be rushed. To be experienced.

This is a book written by someone who paints word pictures with clarity and emotional impact. If you take the time to ponder and consider the truth of this book, you will better understand how much you are loved and cherished by your Creator.  A beautiful book!! Thank you N.D. Wilson!

About the Author:
N. D. Wilson is the author of Leepike Ridge, a children's adventure story, and 100 Cupboards, the first installment in a multi-world fantasy series. He enjoys high winds, milk, and night-time. He received his Masters degree from Saint John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, is the managing editor of Credenda/Agenda magazine and is also a Fellow of Literature at New Saint Andrews College. His writing has appeared in Books & Culture, The Chattahoochee Review, and Esquire

Shattered by Rita by Rita L. Schulte

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:

Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***


 Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is the host of Heartline Podcast and Consider This radio programs. Her show airs on several radio stations as well as the Internet. Rita writes for numerous publications and blogs. She resides in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


Shattered explores how unidentified or unresolved loss impacts every area of life, especially our relationship with God. The long-range impact of these losses is often obscured, buried beneath the conscious surface in an attempt to avoid pain. This book calls the reader to “notice” the losses of life, and fight the battle to reclaim and reinvest our hearts after loss through faith-based strategies.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.11
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891123822
ISBN-13: 978-0891123828


The Necessity
of Brokenness

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?
—Tina Turner

I have come to bind up the brokenhearted.

The Winds of Change

It was a rainy Virginia day, warm enough to sit outside with a cup of tea but  too dark and dreary to really enjoy it. Just the kind of day that surrounds  one in melancholy. And that morning I had a reason to be sad. My faithful  companion—my dog Spanky—had died the week before. Wait . . . Am I really going to open a book about grief and loss by talking about my dog? I am. In the pages that follow, I will share more of my story, about the seasons of heartbreaking loss that led me to write this book. But loss comes in many forms, and that morning on the porch, my sadness was about more than the loss of a pet. Spanky’s death represented the loss of an era, a snapshot of my life that I would never fully reclaim.

Sometimes we don’t notice how loss affects our hearts. It can happen slowly; yet before we realize it, the effects of our grief have become catastrophic and the death of our hearts inevitable. Loss throws us offbalance, sometimes causing us to lose our way. If too much time goes by before we repair the distance between what we know intellectually about our grief and what we feel deep within our souls, we’ll find that along the journey we will have sacrificed something precious in order to protect ourselves from pain. That something is our heart.

The closing of one chapter of life gives way to the birth of another, offering us hope and promise—but not without cost and certainly not without a glance backward and a twinge of sorrow. Which brings me back to Spanky.

We brought Spanky home as a puppy, a gift to our son on his seventh birthday to comfort him after the death of his grandmother. Michael is grown now, a young man beginning his own journey. Our home is quiet, void of the cacophony of children’s voices and the sense of security provided by my parents’ presence. Another twinge of sadness. There was a time not so long ago when my soul was in mortal agony over the very thought of losing them. Where did the years go, and how could the pages of my life turn so swiftly?

Telling the Story

Everyone loves a good story. Stories are full of adventure, passion, love, and mystery. But the stories of grief and suffering aren’t usually happy, and they are not always easy to tell. So we don’t. We bottle them up, push them down, and close up shop. And our pain sits, sometimes for decades. We don’t pull it out or look at it, and so we miss the opportunity to really understand the event or series of events that were responsible for breaking our hearts.

Yet we must tell the story to walk the healing path. That is why I wrote this book—to help you understand your own story where loss and grief have affected your journey and, more importantly, to show you where those losses will help you find and connect with the heart of God. The choices you make will be difficult ones, but if you stay the course, freedom is possible.

How do I know? Because I have walked a journey of loss myself that has spanned twenty years.

The first real tragedy in my life, the one event that broke my heart, started one morning when my children were still young. The day started as usual with my morning devotions. I opened my Bible randomly, as busy moms are prone to do, and I read John 11:25–26, where Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” For some reason, I kept thinking about it all day.

The phone rang late that night—always a bad sign. My dad said something was wrong with Mom; it seemed like she had had a heartattack. At the hospital, the doctors said it was a massive seizure brought on by a malignant brain tumor; she wouldn’t live through the night. My mother had been battling cancer for four years at that point. There was nothing else they could do. So we prayed.

My mom didn’t die that night in the hospital. God granted us two months with her, calling her home on my son’s birthday. Holding her in my arms as she lay dying felt like someone was pouring boiling acid over my soul. Tragic events do that. Try as we may to come up for air, we often find ourselves drowning in fear and overwhelming sorrow, questioning everything we believe.

That verse in John 11 haunted me, gnawing at my soul and pushing me to find answers. Did I really trust that “he who believes in me will never see death” (John 8:51)? I thought I knew the answer—but this loss brought me to a crisis of belief, hammering me to the core of my faith.

Over the next twelve years, the losses piled up. My children suffered a near-fatal parasail accident. Close friends and family died—eight in just one painful year. My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. And then my dad was diagnosed with bone cancer—and that was when the bottom dropped out.

My parents were a secure and comforting presence in my life. After my mom’s death, my dad became an idol. And God will have no idols in our lives. He would use my loss to begin a process that would ultimately shape and redirect my life, but not without even greater suffering.

Caring for my dad in our home for two years was difficult—not because he was difficult, but because so much happened to him. I couldn’t ever leave him alone. His illness consumed my life, and as I watched him stripped of what he once was, it broke my heart. My world became very narrow and isolated. So many dear friends and relatives I loved were dying, and in the process I was losing heart.

The Place of Brokenness

If we are honest, we know that suffering and sorrow are inevitable parts of life. Loved ones die. Dreams crumble. We lose things that were once important to us. The happily-ever-after life we dreamed of is often a far cry from the reality we live.

How we respond to loss and change determines what happens to our hearts. It also determines if we live—really live—the life that Christ has called us to. If I am honest, I will admit I let a lot of living go by trying to make life work, struggling to figure out, make sense of, and answer all the questions. Perhaps loss was a necessary part of my journey; it certainly caused me to see suffering as a necessary ingredient in my life, whether
I had all the answers or not.

As I mentioned, God will have no idols in my life. The place I tried to avoid—the place of suffering—was the very place he led me to so that he could evidence himself right in the midst of it all.

Brokenness must have its way in each of our lives in order to move us from death to life. Every spring, tree leaves come to life as tiny new shoots; they grow and flourish, showing us signs of life and hope, only to die each fall. Life gives way to death, but from death something wondrous occurs. The leaves produce a majestic display of bold and resplendent color. They become most vibrant as they are dying.

Jesus makes a similar analogy in the Gospel of John when he says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24; italics mine). This is the power of rebirth through the process of death and dying. Jesus, the immortal seed of the Father, chose to take on mortality. His glory, hidden and buried beneath the earth, like the seed, breaks forth from the dust of death to display a bold and resplendent life.

Shall we expect the Master to work any differently in our own lives?

While most of us won’t be fighting for a place in the suffering line, I hope there is comfort in knowing we can move through this journey of brokenness to find healing and wholeness. We need only to change our perspective on loss and suffering. If we are willing to allow them to become our tutors, they can and will produce in us that same bold and resplendent life that Jesus is calling us to. If we have the eyes to see, we will come to know and understand that brokenness purifies our vision and chisels away all that keeps us from fully knowing the heart of God.

Brokenness is not only a necessary process in the life of the believer—it is a gift. I bet that’s not an easy line to swallow, as you read this book ravaged by the effects of loss. I certainly didn’t accept it easily. Early in my Christian walk, surrounded by pain, the idea that God was offering me gifts through my suffering made me angry. Maybe there was something wrong with me, I reasoned, because I didn’t have enough faith to want to walk through a towering inferno with a smile on my face and a song of praise in my heart.

But somewhere along the journey of loss, I began to consider that if God was good, he was not out to break me. Instead, he was out to break my confidence in all the ways I was trying to make my life work apart from him. Loss was simply the vehicle he used to get my attention.

It was then that I began to see suffering and pain in a new light. I could accept this process of brokenness as a gift from my heavenly Father, much like adults who grow to appreciate the discipline they received as children from their parents. Discipline is not pleasant at the time it’s received, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, but it is necessary in the molding and shaping of character, producing righteousness in all who are trained by it (Heb. 12:11).

If you and I want to recover from the losses of life, we must catch a vision for the greater role that we were designed to play and see a bigger purpose beyond ourselves and our losses. In other words, we must slowly begin to see with eternal eyes that which is so difficult to see when loss first assaults our hearts—the story isn’t finished yet. This is a journey, not a race.

How to Use This Book

In many ways, the chapters in this book have written themselves, as the pages of my own life and the stories of others around me have unfolded. To live again, really live, we all had to find the courage to reinvest our hearts into what stirs our passions. The heart of that passion flows from our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is not a traditional book on grief. Our time together will focus on the heart and the phases it must traverse through this journey. We won’t explore the process of dying, nor will we formally address the traditional stages of grief. I won’t list tasks the griever must accomplish to achieve closure or provide a nice, neat formula for recovery. That’s all important information, but “stages” can suggest a sequential order to our movement through life and loss that for many is not experientially true.

The heart can’t always follow rules, so instead many find themselves revisiting these stages or experiencing them in a random order. My own journey with loss has shown me that still, many years later, I have not moved beyond the struggle with some of these feelings. In fact, there are some days I actually feel as if I am falling backward. I don’t understand the “whys” of some of the things that have happened, and some days

I still find it hard to accept them. But through the years, the stages of grief have helped guide me toward the path of acceptance. Anger has thankfully given way to forgiveness, and depression is now an infrequent guest. Sadness, however, still remains, forever standing guard at the doorway of my soul and reminding me that to love deeply always requires something of the heart.

But in order to experience healing, we must be willing to pass through these stages of grief. We must be careful that our work doesn’t become intellectual, mechanical, or task-driven. This is a very real possibility if we are not willing to examine what lies beneath—how loss affects our hearts.

Being sensible or practical about loss will not accomplish this. Attending to the matters of the heart is elusive and abstract, sometimes barely visible even to the griever. Therefore, somewhere along this journey we must develop an awareness of the heart by learning to notice it. We must shift our focus from being rational and intellectual about our losses to practices that will sustain long-term healing. For such healing to be accomplished, we must be willing to crack open the hard shell we have built around our hearts, explore our brokenness, and expose our wounds. Only after that difficult work is complete can we allow Christ to revive our hearts through his healing power. Just as the sculptor carefully chisels through layers and layers of stone to uncover a precious form, so the griever must lend careful time and attention to rediscover the music of the heart buried under the weight of grief.

Our work will not be without task or toil. In the following chapters, we will attempt to find strength and meaning in the midst of our pain.

Part One of the book will help you identify your losses, consider their affect on your heart, look at the defenses you’ve built to protect yourself from pain, and evaluate your concept of God. Part Two will help you fight the battle to reclaim your heart by exploring the healing tasks necessary to move forward: dealing with anger and unfinished business and learning how to surrender. Part Three will help you to rekindle the desires of your heart and reinvest them into the grander redemptive story God is telling.

You will find various exercises throughout the book to help you uncover and process your losses so that through thought, prayer, and meditation you can press into the heart of the Savior.

Be intentional and deliberate with your work, and set aside a time each day to be alone with God, for it will be in those intimate moments that the real healing work of grief will be accomplished.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pattern for Romance by Carla Gade - REVIEWED!

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Pattern for Romance
Abingdon Press (August 20, 2013)
Carla Gade


Carla Olson Gade has been imaging stories most of her life. Her love for writing and eras gone by turned her attention to writing Inspirational Historical Romance. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Writers, and the Maine Fellowship of Christian Writers. She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary.

Her publishing credits also include a variety of newspaper articles, newsletters, and web content. She also enjoys developing discipleship materials for women. She has been a book judge for the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest (RWA), and ACFW's Genesis Contest.

In addition to writing, Carla is a freelance website designer and webhost and an advocate for adult literacy. An experienced event and program planner/promoter, Carla designs marketing materials for her writing group, women's ministry, and other functions. Carla has also spoken at several women's events and facilitated many workshops and classes through the years.

An autodidact, creative thinker, and avid reader, Carla also enjoys genealogy, web design, and photography. A native New Englander, she lives in beautiful rural Maine with her "hero" husband and two young adult sons, and a new grandson.


Honour Metcalf’s quilting needlework is admired by a wealthy customer of the Boston Mantua-maker for whom she works. In need of increasing her earnings, she agrees to create an elaborate white work bridal quilt for the dowager’s niece. A beautiful design emerges as she carefully stitches the intricate patterns and she begins to dream of fashioning a wedding quilt of her own. When Honour is falsely accused of thievery and finds herself in a perilous position, merchant tailor Joshua Sutton comes to her aid. As he risks his relationships, reputation, and livelihood to prove her innocence, the two discover a grander plan—a design for love.

My Thoughts:
Each stitch was but naught, yet strung together, part of a unique pattern.  Her stitches were purposeful, sometimes pleasant and other times tedious, yet, one stitch at a time she pressed on.”       (pg . 210)

I think this quote captures the heart of Carla Olson Gade’s novel, Pattern for Romance.  This book totally captured my imagination in a very unique way, and when the intrigue began to be revealed….I couldn’t read fast enough!  Truly, this is a book that contains unexpected and very satisfying surprises.  By the time you reach page 210 and read Honour Metcalf’s thoughts about her quilt work, you honestly feel the strength with which she has had to press through some very trying circumstances!

However, the pages from that point on are filled with so many twists and turns you are almost relieved to get to the final page of the story!!  I love a good surprise, and Pattern for Romance contains several!!  I won’t give anything away, but I will tell you that the bad guy is hidden well and you will be picking your jaw off the floor when you finally figure out how everything is connected! 

I loved this book!  I loved the characters, I loved the community, I even loved Joshua’s crusty old dad by the end!  Romance abounds right alongside the intrigue, so your heart received quite the workout!  A perfect balance if you ask me!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Pattern for Romance, go HERE.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shades of Mercy by Anity Lustrea and Caryn Rivadeneira Review & Give Away!!!

About the Book:  (from River North)
It’s 1954 and the world-even the far Northwoods of Maine-is about to change. But that change can’t happen soon enough for fourteen-year-old Mercy Millar. Long tired of being the “son” her father never had, Mercy’s ready for the world to embrace her as the young woman she is-as well as embrace the forbidden love she feels.
 When childhood playmates grow up and fall in love, the whole community celebrates. But in the case of Mercy and Mick, there would be no celebration. Instead their relationship must stay hidden. Good girls do not date young men from the Maliseet tribe. At least, not in Watsonville, Maine. When racial tensions escalate and Mick is thrown in jail under suspicion of murder, Mercy nearly loses all hope-in love, in her father, and in God himself.
My Thoughts:
When so much hate fills your heart, you can make a leap to any conclusion.  You don’t need the truth because you are above the truth.”  (p. 95)

Mercy is fifteen and deeply in love with her lifelong friend, Mick.  Mick is a Maliseet Indian, and the romance that buds between these two characters must remain hidden – at least for now.  Mick keeps promising Mercy “someday” things will be different, and then when a young lady from the community elopes with a Maliseet the true colors of the community’s racism is revealed.  The firestorm that descends on the small community in Maine’s Northwoods in 1954 is the beginning of fundamental change, but the price it exacts on the people is both profound and very painful.

I am tempted to classify this as young adult fiction because of the ages of the main characters in the story.  It is definitely a coming of age story for Mercy, and Mick even states her naivety on page 42 when he says, “For a smart girl, you don’t understand much about the world, do you?”  Racism and its winds of change were blowing through the country around the Black and White community.  However, the Maliseet tribe in Maine was forced to face its own crisis and make some changes that they had remained resistant to for generations.  The nuances of those changes are reflected in all of the character’s lives, and the reader looks upon all of those changes through the eyes of Mercy.  (that name is, indeed purposeful!)

You will grow to love the people of Mercy’s family and her extended community.  You will see mercy and grace lived out by her parents and through her own life choices.  You will ache for all of the community when the trials grow severe and urgently press upon their hearts and minds.  The end of the story is both satisfying and abrupt.  I say that because I would have enjoyed the journey from where Shades of Mercy ends and where the epilogue picks up. (Okay, I love a good series!) But as a stand- alone novel, this story is beautifully and thoughtfully written.  I am happy to recommend this book to everyone!!

** Leave your name and contact information on this post and the publisher will send one lucky reader a FREE copy of this fabulous book!!

About the Authors:
ANITA (LUSTREA) MURPHY is on a mission to communicate freedom to women. She does it through the avenues of speaking, writing, and art. Anita has worked for Moody Radio for 26 years, the last 11 hosting Midday Connection, a radio talk show for women, where she gets to teach, learn and grow along with the rest of the Midday community from across the country. Anita released her first book in 2010, What Women Tell Me: Finding Freedom From the Secrets We Keep(Zondervan). It is her personal story woven in with the stories of women she's heard from through her years hosting Midday Connection. Anita has been the general editor and writer on 3 other projects, Daily Seeds from Women Who Walk in Faith , Come to Our Table, and Tending the Soul (Moody Publishers). Anita is wife to Mike Murphy, a Pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook, and Director of Spiritual Transformation at Breakthrough Urban Ministries on the west side of Chicago. Mike makes Anita laugh and is the anchor in her life. Her son John is one of the brightest spots in her world. He's heading to college to study history. Anita is originally from Maine, the most beautiful state in the union according to her! If she can't be in Maine, her second choice is Chicago. Reading, writing, bird watching, and drinking hot tea are some of her favorite pastimes. For more information or to connect with Anita find her, on facebook, or twitter @anitalustrea.

CARYN DAHLSTRAND RIVADENEIRA is a writer, speaker, and works on the worship staff at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church. She's the author ofKnown and Loved: 52 Devotions from the Psalms (Revell, 2013), Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Life When It Lets You Down (Tyndale House, 2011) and Mama's Got a Fake I.D.: How to Reveal the Real You Behind All that Mom (Waterbrook, 2009), as well as hundreds of blog posts and magazine articles. Caryn is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Her.Meneutics and to Re:Frame Media's Think Christian. Her work also regularly appears in Relevant and FullFill, along with several other media outlets.Caryn lives outside of Chicago with her husband, three kids and one pit bull. Visit her at Find her on Facebook at ( and on Twitter @CarynRivadeneir

Monday, August 26, 2013

A View from Clay Crosse's Window - Rededication!

Clay Crosse was an unexpected God-appointment in my life.  When I listened to the words from songs off his latest album - Rededication - I knew without a doubt that this would be an interview that would impact my life in significant ways.  I was right.  God is faithful to bring us His message in a variety of ways, and I think He takes joy when He surprises His children with a fresh message from an unexpected source.

Clay Crosse humbly yet boldly declared God's faithfulness in his life, and it is my privilege to share his thoughts with you here today.  Join me as I welcome Clay Crosse and share a view from his world.

Me:  How did God direct the timing of the release of your latest project, Rededication

Clay:  Since I am an independent artist there are several elements that must come together to release a new recording project – finances, people to help produce the songs, people willing to help with the music – when all of those elements come together like they did for this album, I know it was anointed by God and He made the way clear and possible for the message of Rededication to be released to the public.

Me:  You also recently released a book entitled Dashboard Jesus.  Was Rededication timed to release alongside this book?

Clay:  Both projects did release in quick succession.  I believe God  will use both of these projects to reach people with the message He needs them to hear.

Me:  You’ve written both songs and books.  How are these processes different for you?

Clay:  Music is a gift from God in my life, and to me it is second nature – like breathing.  Writing a book requires more muscle on my part.  The message is just as powerful and it is an opportunity to reach others that I don’t take lightly.  God gives me His message and whether I write music or words I have to release the message God has given me. 

Me:  In addition to your songwriting and book releases, you and your wife also direct Holy Homes ministry.  Tell us briefly about your work with Holy Homes.

Clay:  We travel to church services and conferences encouraging Christian couples to keep God on the throne of your life and at the center of your marriage.  We want to break down the walls between ourselves and others, and we want to share what God has done in our marriage.

Me:  I’m a fan of old hymns, and when I listened to the title track – Rededication – I couldn’t help but
remember the words to the hymn “Come Thou Fount.”  “Prone to wander Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”  Why is it so easy for Christians to wander when it is possible to find all we need in Christ and His word?

Clay:  It’s called faith for a reason – the world is right in our faces all of the time with TV and social media.  We have to be purposeful in seeking God.  We all get busy and that business crowds out God’s voice and directionout of our lives.  We need to be purposeful in seeking God daily and never allow ourselves to get out of touch with God.

Me:  Here is a phase from the song entitled, “I Rest In You" :  “Every moment, every minute, Oh God I know you’re in it.  Even when the way’s unclear, I know  You’ll see my through.  I rest in You.”  Again, you beautifully illustrate the direction and strength found in Christ alone.  Why do Christians remain so resistant to surrendering their lives to God’s will? What would you say to encourage other believers to stay the course?
Clay:  I think people have a wrong view of surrender.  Instead of looking at surrender as something negative and weak, believers should look at surrender as something positive and strengthening.  Surrender means victory for the Christian!  We surrender to follow Christ and accept His strength.

Me:  I’d like to share some thoughts from a few other songs on the album:
Vessel:  “You always overflow this empty well.  I’ll be yours.  I’ll be your vessel.”
Waving a White Flag:  “I’m waving a whit flag – It’s gonna be different this time – It’s gonna be Your way not mine.”
When I Lift My Hands: "When I lift my hands, I'm reaching for heaven and I call out Your name.  I surrender everything and all that I do when I lift my hand to You." 

Surrender remains the beautiful theme that ties the songs together and bring people fully into worship.  Why do you think that it is difficult for believers to enter fully into worship and submit when they find it so easy to scream and shout and fist pump at a sports event?

Clay:  You can’t worship without becoming vulnerable.  You have to be able to cry out to God and you can only do that when you are willing to be honest and open before Him.  You can’t worry what people will think.  You have to push pride out of the way – uncertainty out of the way – and become honest and open before God.

Me:  Do you have any closing words of encouragement to share with fans of your music and your books?

Clay:  God has changed my life and He will change your life too.  God is part of every moment of our lives and if you will rededicate your life to Christ He will become the central focus of your life.  Your relationship with Him is the most important relationship you will ever have.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Into the Whirlwind
Baker Publishing Group (August 15, 2013)
Elizabeth Camden


A research librarian and associate professor, Elizabeth Camden has a master’s in history from the University of Virginia and a master’s in library science from Indiana University. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband in central Florida.


After her father's death, Mollie Knox takes over his watchmaking company and uses her head for business to solidify the good name of the 57th Illinois Watch Company. Her future looks bright until the night her beloved city is destroyed in the legendary Great Chicago Fire. With her world crumbling around her, Molly must do whatever it takes to save her company in the aftermath of the devastating fire.

Zack Kazmarek is an influential attorney with powerful ties to the political, mercantile, and ethnic roots of Chicago. His only weakness is Mollie Knox, a woman who has always been just beyond his reach. However, all bets are off after the fire destroys Chicago, and Mollie is in desperate need of assistance. Just as Zack finally begins to pursue the woman he loves, competition arises in the form of a hero from her past who can provide the help she needs to rise from the ashes.

While Mollie struggles to rebuild, the two men battle for her heart. One has always loved her, but the other has the power to save her. In the race to rebuild the city, can she survive with her business and her heart intact?

My Thoughts:
This fire would not be the end of her.”  (p. 85)

Mollie Knox is a very, very, very determined woman.  When the Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the only thing she’d ever been sure of – her ability to successfully operate 57th Illinois Watch company -  she had to dig pretty deep to find the strength to declare war against the loss she was facing.  Funny thing, she was already contemplating making a profound change in her livelihood when the fire struck.  And afterward, during the struggles everyone in the city faced after such devastating loss, she had to carefully consider where her true security was found.  She had to consider the price she placed on a security that really wasn’t – well, secure.

Zack Kazmarek is another character who must struggle with issues of self-worth and security.  He has placed his security into the promises of others and his faith in his own mental prowess.  Ultimately he must gamble on letting go and trusting in things beyond his control.  He must battle a fierce desire to make promises he cannot keep

Elizabeth Camden has written a very dramatic story that will sweep you up into its embrace and hold you tightly from first page to last.  There are many twists and turns along the way, and one minute you want to throttle Mollie, and the next you want to throttle Zack.  As a reader, you must exercise restraint and not flip to the end of the book to see how things work out for the characters you come to love.  There are many taut story lines that are woven throughout the pages of this novel, and Camden masterfully brings them together into a masterpiece of trust, love, and ultimately faith.  This is a great historical romance that you will be ever so glad you took the time to read.  I am happy to recommend this novel!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Into the Whirlwind, go HERE.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

First Hired, Last Fired: How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market by Anita Agers-Brooks

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:

Leafwood Publishers (August 13, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***


Anita Agers-Brooks is a business and inspirational coach, certified personality trainer, productivity specialist, certified team training facilitator, marketing specialist, and national speaker. She is a member of the Christian Writer’s Guild; graduate of Christian Leaders, Authors, and Speakers Seminars; co-founder of The StoryWriting Studio; and speaker on circuit for Stonecroft International Ministries. As a founding partner in The Zenith Zone, she’s dedicated to helping business owners, managers, and employees grow and thrive. She travels the country teaching others from her personal experiences and research.

Visit the author's website.


First Hired, Last Fired shows readers how to use the valuable wisdom found in the ancient text of the Bible to avoid becoming disposable in this challenging marketplace. Through timeless wisdom, simple solutions, and easy-to-apply principles, readers will find meaning in their work lives, and deep satisfaction from committing to a job well done. Through practice, the reader will learn to look deeper into the Bible for relevant help with current issues.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (August 13, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891123202
ISBN-13: 978-0891123200


The Joseph Factor

“Anyone can be replaced.” Often quoted, but is this an irrefutable truth? Or can someone become so valuable at work it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing the job? I asked these questions in a two-year investigation to find out why some employees are favored and why others are easily discarded.

As part of my search, I considered my own experience as a manager. I’ve encountered a few rare employees who demonstrated integrity to such a degree they became irreplaceable to me as a supervisor. I’ve fought to keep these people in my workforce, and, when they left, things weren’t the same. Whether they knew it or not, these savvy folks set themselves apart by following centuries-old patterns.

There are formulas for success proven through millennia of practice.
Irreplaceable employees dare to be different in a systematic way.

My examination of facts took me deep into the heart of the Bible. Whether you believe in this ancient text or not, it’s hard to argue against its time-proven wisdoms. In my research, I discovered more than eight hundred passages related to work or labor. I believe if we studied and applied them today, a powerful and united workforce could result.

Where debt buries us, untold riches await our unearthing. Instead of giving jobs away, nations would rise to a place of leadership in the world’s commerce. Pride would fall prey to humility rooted in a commitment of integrity. But it starts with the individual.

Let’s face it, many people believe they work smarter, harder, and better than their peers. But do their ethics, their productivity, and their attitudes support this belief? In today’s cynical world, can individuals still impact their job, family, community, nation, and the globe for a greater good? Can you become irreplaceable? I’ve seen the difference when people work God’s way and when they don’t. You get what you give.

Gary’s story is a prime example. For this book, I interviewed more than one hundred employees in various fields. The following fictionalized account portrays a compilation of a sad reality played out in businesses around the world. Let’s peek inside the mind of a man who believes he’s underappreciated and justifies his weak behavior.


The powerful scent of imitation leather and sandalwood caused Gary to sneeze. First Capital Mortgage Company’s board members were meeting tomorrow, which meant someone overdid the commercial air fresheners. Gary didn’t need cologne today. His clothes would smell of the earthy concoction by lunch.

He tried to smooth his rumpled shirt while he clocked in. The sound of male laughter caught his ear, so Gary made his way to the small group of huddled coworkers. He circled the group with a few friendly back-slapping and how-are-you greetings. Each man rewarded him with a varying degree of smile.

“Hey, are you putting money in the football pool or not? Everyone else is in, and the big game’s tonight,” Tom said.

  “Yeah, I’ll stop by your desk before I leave today, I promise,” Gary said.

“As usual, a man of many words, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Gary’s hazel eyes sparkled and he cocked his right eyebrow, “Hey, I keep my promises.”

Tom opened his mouth to respond but shut it just as quickly. Their chief financial officer, Mark, stormed up the hall wearing a focused frown. The huddled mass broke, and most of the men scurried to their posts, hoping Mark wouldn’t note the inactivity. Gary wasn’t fast enough and stood frozen in position, waiting for the assault.

When Mark caught you doing anything but work, punishment followed. It might not be formal, and Mark might not address the situation directly, but his reactions said you were on his blacklist.

Sensing danger, Gary offered Mark a verbal to do list.

Red-faced, Mark said, “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, just do it. I’ve been waiting on that report for three days now, and it had better be on my desk by 3 p.m. No excuses this time.” He barely broke stride as he marched off to find his next victim.

After Mark left, Gary shrugged his shoulders. He muttered while he walked, “If Mark would just listen and treat me like a human being I might be able to finish that report. Every time I try to tell him my plans he gets annoyed. He should appreciate me. I try a lot harder than some of the people who work here. He doesn’t have to be such a jerk. If I were running this company, I’d listen to people.”

For months, Gary had tried. Small talk about the family, flattering comments, and even gifts hadn’t worked with Mark. Every attempt met a terse, “Don’t you have work to do?”

“No matter what I say, he just doesn’t like me.” Disappointed but determined not to give up, Gary stopped muttering and whistled as he headed to his desk.

Once there, he grabbed his coffee cup and fell in step with Christy. They chatted briefly on the way to and from the office lounge. Fifteen minutes later, Christy headed to her own desk as Gary sat down to work. His mind wandered while he popped his earplugs in. He scrolled to the new album he’d downloaded last night. He needed to focus; Mark would have his head if he missed another deadline.

Gary started his daily routine. He checked e-mail, updated his Facebook status, checked the activities of his friends, and tweeted. Then he added charges to the expense voucher from his recent business trip, before preparing to get into the report Mark needed.

Gary typed two sentences when his iPhone vibrated. His wife, Denise, said, “Hi, honey, I just spoke with the plumber and he’ll be at the house tomorrow, can you take off?”

“I’m not sure. Mark’s really on me today. Can’t you do it?”

Denise sighed, “I’ll see, but if I’m gone tomorrow, I can’t leave in time to pick Emma up from practice tonight. Can you get her at five?”

“Yeah, I’m sure I can sneak out a few minutes early. Do you want me to get something for supper?”

A heavy breath signaled Denise’s relief, “That would be great. Oh, I’ve gotta go, here comes my manager. Love you.” The line went dead.

Gary put his phone back in his shirt pocket, clicked on Mark’s report, and then stopped. He realized he needed to check his bank balance. He pulled up the online information and got his checkbook out. He hoped there was enough to pay the plumber. A few minutes later, an assistant manager walked by, so Gary clicked on the overdue report until the coast was clear. He pulled his account back up and after a quick reconciliation was relieved to find there was enough money for the house repairs.

He looked at his watch and gasped. It was almost time for lunch, and he hadn’t even started that report. Beating back a twinge of guilt, Gary pushed hard for the next hour and twenty minutes. He even worked ten minutes into lunch to make up for the time he’d wasted in the morning.

The afternoon passed uneventfully. Gary finally put the last touches on his report just before two thirty. He sent a text to share the good news with his wife, and breathed deep with satisfaction. He wondered aloud, “Why do I put things off? It’s not so bad once I get started.”

Gary smiled sheepishly as Tonya walked by his cubicle and gave him a puzzled look. His outspoken musing must have been louder than he thought.

He celebrated the report completion by walking across the office to see Tom. They bantered about the upcoming play-offs. Tom challenged Gary with, “Put your money where your mouth is buddy, and give me five bucks for the pool.”

Gary chuckled as he dug the money out of his wallet. They were still laughing when Mark walked up behind Gary. The cloud on his face promised bad news.

“Th-tha-a-at report’s on m-my desk and ready to go.”

“Grab it and bring it to my office, I need to talk to you.”

Gary felt queasy as he walked the hall toward Mark’s office. He knocked on the door and entered at Mark’s terse invitation. As Gary sat down, he saw Connie, the human resource manager. Gary flinched when Mark shut the door behind them.

“Gary, we have to make cuts. There’s no way around it. The banking industry is suffering along with the rest of the nation in this recession. Positions must be eliminated, and yours is the first to go. Connie will help you clean out your desk. The necessary paperwork is done.
You will get two weeks of severance pay, and we certainly wish you the best of luck. I’m sorry.” Mark’s tone of voice wasn’t as soft as his final words.

With that Gary was dismissed, shocked into speechlessness. The report lay untouched on Mark’s desk.

Connie escorted Gary to his desk. He numbly filled a box with all his personal items. When he was done he took a last look at a piece of furniture he no longer recognized. Now empty of possessions and personality, it looked as bare as his soul felt.

Security came and walked beside Gary as he shuffled out the employee entrance for the last time. Head down, tears dangerously close to spilling, he noticed the door that had become invisible to him. Not since his early days of employment had his enthusiasm prompted him to push hard and prove himself. As his comfort in the company grew, his ambition waned. Soon, his routine mirrored that of fellow employees.

Now, however, he realized he would never cross this threshold again. Like many other people, he joined the ranks of the unemployed. Nausea punched him in the stomach as he stepped into the sunlight, and Gary wondered how any of this happened.


Whether your job is hidden behind the scenes or you stand in front of the public saying, “May I help you?” meaningful work makes life worth living. Some are tasked with juggling the people and work processes as a manager, knowing full well they won’t please everyone. Some try to keep up with ever-changing demands of bosses, who can’t seem to make up their minds.

Many employees simply don’t realize they have the power of choice in determining their outcomes. Without realizing it, they often give their own jobs away. It’s as if an invisible thief sneaks around the corner and picks their pockets, plucking all but the lint. They never see it coming.

Most workers don’t consider lost time theft. However, there is no difference between stealing time and stealing cash. Managers often meet people who wouldn’t steal twenty dollars from their employer but take hundreds in time wasted.

Often, employees avoid personal responsibility by casting blame on each other. Factories, offices, construction sites, restaurants, service industries, and more are susceptible to attack. When employees engage in personal e-mails, Internet play, text messages, phone calls, inappropriate personal conversations, or other non-work-related activity, the risk is significant. Consider the following equation as an example:

• 2 employees paid $10.00 per hour × 6 inappropriate 15-minute distractions = $30.00 the thief has stolen
• 3 hours per day × 5 days = $150.00 per week stolen
• 3 hours per day × 20 work days = $600.00 stolen monthly
• Multiply this figure by 260 work days per year and the annual cost = $7,800.00

But the employer is not the only one to suffer. As procrastination rises and motivation decreases, individual employees lose inner satisfaction and peace. Employee raises, benefits, and sometimes the job itself are forfeited when a business struggles to make ends meet. The bottom line: everyone suffers.

I’ve employed people with college degrees whose behavior made them an employee I could do without. By the same token, I’ve hired folks with no credentials but who were teachable and acted on their desire to do more. It isn’t a matter of intelligence—people can learn—it’s a matter of what you do with what you learn. The difference is simple: study God’s word and do something positive with the information inside.

In the book of Genesis, a man named Joseph put his heart into his work. His actions caused him to receive favor. He treated other people’s property like his own. He worked as if he owned the business.
If today’s employee invested like Joseph, I believe the world we live in might look different. The change could start with you.

You have more power than you think. With intent, you can influence the world around you for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.

In its simplest form, integrity is doing the same thing whether you think someone can see you or not. At a deeper level, the power of extraordinary integrity shocks others to pay closer attention. Try it.

The next time you’re sitting with other employees and gossip ensues, especially if you take part in any way, go back and apologize for your participation. Even if you simply listened but didn’t speak.

Listening alone gives the impression that you condone the words of complaint and back stabbing.

Later, when you walk up and say, “I need to apologize,” most people will automatically ask, “What for?” This is your opportunity to say something like this, “I shouldn’t have talked about Nancy behind her back. I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Leave it at that—period.

Excuses, blame, or qualifiers, like the word but, can negate anything else you say. It also shifts blame to someone else. For example, “I shouldn’t have talked about Nancy behind her back, but when I heard all of you, it slipped out.”

You must confess in purity and honesty with genuine remorse for this to work. Don’t say anything about others—stick to what you did.

Take courage and become a hero in the workplace. The world needs more heroes. Since many of us spend more time with people at work than we do with our own families, what greater place to witness by our actions the life of Jesus Christ? Can you imagine him gossiping?

Don’t worry about what others think, whether they laugh at you, or even turn on you. What’s the worst thing someone might say behind your back, “I don’t really like her, but I have to admit, she gets the job done.”

Or do you prefer, “I thought he was supposed to be a Christian, but he spends more time talking than working”? The results depend on the pattern of your work habits. The choice is yours.

The model of Joseph shows us a secret to success in the workplace. Applying his wisdom can make you different. Joseph stands out as a man who not only impacted his immediate surroundings, but, because of his consistency, he saved individuals, families, commerce, and nations from destruction. His life made a huge difference. I can’t imagine anyone else doing what Joseph did. He was irreplaceable.

Several factors point to the reason why.

• Joseph believed in his God-given dreams. Though he was hated and others were jealous, he accepted his circumstances. Even when he was mocked and his brothers plotted to destroy him, Joseph submitted while he waited for his dreams to become reality (Gen. 37:5–20).

• Joseph endured torment at the hands of those with evil intent. He required mercy so he could be rescued from the clutches of disaster (Gen. 37:21–22).

• Joseph knew his limitations and went willingly when his brothers sold him out for their own personal gain (Gen. 37:26–28).

• Joseph needed blind faith. He didn’t realize a rescue attempt was made after he was gone (Gen. 37:29).

• Joseph’s dreams took him to foreign places, and he was put in relationship with strange people. Because he believed God and followed with his whole heart, Joseph was favored by the Lord. God blessed those Joseph served, and he influenced many others (Gen. 39:1–5).

• Joseph proved himself trustworthy by his common patterns of integrity. He conducted himself the same way whether anyone else could see or not. Even when there was an appearance of impropriety, Joseph did not make excuses or blame others. He waited in the darkest place for God’s favor to shine (Gen. 39:6–23).

• Joseph helped those in need. He cared enough to ask why they were sad and interpreted their God-given dreams for them. Then he clearly communicated the request on his own heart (Gen. 40:1–15).

• Joseph spoke the truth, even when it wasn’t what the other person wanted to hear. Even though it must have been painful (Gen. 40:16–22).

• Joseph held on when hope seemed to be lost to the selfishness of others. Over the passing of years, he fulfilled his duties and took care of everyday business (Gen. 40:23, 41:1–8).

• Joseph was ready for the task when he was finally called back to service. Prepared by practice and pattern, he did not, however, take credit when it wasn’t his due (Gen. 41:40).

• Joseph didn’t slouch, play, or waste time when times were easy. Instead, like the ant, he took advantage of the opportunity. He worked hard and saved from the bounty. He prospered both professionally and personally because he was a wise steward over the blessings he and his master received. He trained others to do the same (Gen. 41:41–54).

• Joseph didn’t hoard his abundance. He shared with those in need. Even those who had hurt him in the past. He remembered his dreams and trusted that the hardship was part of the plan to make him better (Gen. 41:55–57; 42:1–6).

• As a man of integrity, Joseph wasn’t afraid to be bold in making his point. He demonstrated his authority and showed strength as the man in charge (Gen. 42:7–38; 43; 44).

• Joseph showered mercy on those who mistreated him, and the truth finally came out. He accepted the larger plan at work and blessed those who had cursed him. He shared his wealth with his former enemies (Gen. 45).

• Joseph didn’t steal from his employer. He turned everything he collected over to the one who owned it. Joseph was content with what he had been given. He didn’t resent not having more (Gen. 47:13–26).

If it hadn’t been for Joseph’s practice of integrity, many would have suffered and died.

Every company you work for, or with, affords you the honor of being a Joseph to them. Ask God to bless the work of your hands and that the overflow of those blessings would spill onto those around you.
Treat the business as if you owned it.

Ask that your company would affect the county, state, and federal, and global governments in positive ways. And keep your eyes open for opportunities to take action in accordance with the examples of those who obeyed God’s formula for successful living.

I wonder how Gary’s life might look had he chosen to practice integrity like Joseph.


Music filtered into Gary’s fuzzy mind. Praise music, energetic and uplifting. He twisted onto his side, tempted to hit the snooze, until the aroma of Maxwell House Breakfast Blend rousted him from the last vestige of sleep. He palmed the off button on the clock, leaned over, kissed his wife lightly, and got up. He scuffed to the kitchen.

“Thank goodness for automatic timers,” Gary said to himself while he poured a steaming cup of dark brew and settled at the table with his Bible. He bowed his head and prayed for wisdom, then dug into his study of Joseph.

A page of notes, two cups of coffee, and thirty minutes later, Gary closed his Bible and put everything away. He headed to the bedroom to wake his wife and get ready for work.

Gary listened to a message on the radio as he drove to the office. The speaker hit many of the same points he’d found in his personal study earlier. He chuckled and shook his head, “I hear you. Thanks for setting me straight.”

When he walked inside the building whistling, John, one of his coworkers said, “What are you so happy about?”

“I’m just rejoicing in this day the Lord has made,” Gary said.

“You’re nuts, you know that? Didn’t you hear about Mike? He’s the fourth one in two days they’ve let go. Who knows, we might be next.”

  “I heard, but I’m not going to let it keep me from doing my job.
This is where my faith meets the road. I trust God more than my fears.”

“Like I said, you’re nuts.” John shook his head and skulked down the hall.

Gary clocked in and walked toward the growing pitch of men’s laughter. As he approached, Tom said, “Hey buddy, do you want in on the football pool?”

“I appreciate it, but no thanks. I’d better stick with earning my money.”

“Is a measly five bucks going to break you?” Tom elbowed the guy standing next to him.

Gary chuckled, “It isn’t that. My convictions simply won’t let me waste it. Five dollars could go into my children’s college fund, or even better, could help feed someone who’s starving. I appreciate the invite, but I need to get to work. I already clocked in.”

“Suit yourself. Always gotta be the do-gooder.” Tom turned his back to Gary, signaling disdain.

As Gary continued toward his office, he heard snickers and a few loud guffaws echo from the group of men. He prayed silently as he walked, “Lord, give me strength to do what will honor you and help others.”

Christy fell in step beside him as he finished the prayer. “Do you want to grab a cup of coffee with me?”

“Thanks, but I drank some at home.”

They arrived at the desk, but Christy hesitated while Gary settled
in. “I’ve been meaning to ask if you want to have lunch sometime?”

Gary’s fingers froze on the keyboard where he’d entered his password.
His thoughts jumped into hyperdrive. “Stay calm. It’s an innocent request. Lunch won’t hurt anyone; it’s harmless. But be honest, you do think she’s cute. Besides, what would Denise think? How would you feel if your wife had lunch with a guy she thought was cute? And remember Joseph. Look at the trouble Potiphar’s wife caused him.”

  “I appreciate the offer Christy, but my wife and I have an agreement.
Thanks for asking though.”

Christy’s face turned red, and she flounced away.

Gary pulled up the report he needed to finish and wiped unhealthy guilt from his mind. Though he didn’t want to embarrass her, Christy’s heart wasn’t the one he vowed to protect. Denise held that honor.

Forty minutes later, Gary e-mailed the finished report to Mark, the CFO of First Capital Mortgage. Two days early. He helped one of the guys finish up a big project, then started the research for a presentation Mark wanted him to work on next. Engrossed, Gary worked five minutes into his break. The vibration of his iPhone alerted him Denise was calling.

Gary pulled the phone from his pocket, “Hi honey, what’s up?”

“I got a hold of the plumber, and he can be at the house tomorrow. Can you take off?”

“I don’t think it will be a problem. I’ll talk to Mark and make sure. I’ve got a presentation to prepare, but I can work on it from the house. I’ll call you at lunch and let you know.”

“How much do you think it will cost?”

“Probably not more than a couple of hundred, but don’t worry, we can always pull from our emergency fund if necessary.”

“Good. Don’t forget, Emma’s got practice until five, so I’ll be home shortly after. I’d appreciate it if you could start supper. There’s a casserole and the makings of a salad in the fridge.”

“No worries. I’ll see you at home. Love you.”

“Me too. Bye.” The line went dead.

Gary stretched his legs, stepped out to breathe some fresh air, then went back and jumped into the research again. He hardly noticed when Mark walked up to his desk.

“Can I see you in my office?”

Adrenalin coursed through Gary’s veins, “Sure. Do I need to bring anything?”

  “No. I’ll meet you there in five.”

Mark walked away and dread caused Gary’s racing heart to skip a couple of beats. He rattled a mental list of projects to himself and found everything either finished or well on its way. He double checked the planner on his phone to make sure he didn’t miss anything, but again, all seemed in order. But Gary knew deep cuts were in the making. Their business suffered from the financial barrage of
a nation in distress.

Like a man walking death row, Gary made his way to Mark’s office. Outside the door, he tapped.

“Come in,” Mark said in his matter-of-fact manner.

Gary entered and sucked air when he saw Connie, the human resource manager, sitting next to an empty chair. Without uttering a sound, he walked into the room, noting a lack of oxygen around him.
Connie nodded toward him in silence while he held the armrests and eased into the seat.

“Gary, we have to make cuts. There’s no way around it. Positions must be eliminated.”

Gary squirmed, and the chair squeaked beneath him.

“I understand.”

“I’m not sure you do. I asked Connie to bring your personnel file.” Mark patted a manila folder lying on his desk. “Your record is spotless. From my own observation, you keep your head down and do whatever I ask. I can count on you to get any job done well and on time. You take initiative, but don’t step beyond your authority level. Most notably, I don’t see evidence of money or time wasted, especially with office gossip. Even your travel expenses come in thirty percent lower than others. This company could use more employees like you.”

Instant heat caused Gary’s face to flush. “Thank you, sir.”

Mark continued, “In the last three years, we’ve only had two complaints about you.”

“You did? What for?” The words slipped from Gary’s mouth of their own accord.

“Nothing to worry about. Trivial and unfounded claims. It turns out both were driven by the same individual. He was misguided enough to think the way to get ahead was by making you look bad. It backfired. He’s no longer with us.

“For a time, the accusations made me question you, but your actions proved you’re a man I can count on.”

Gary’s thoughts flew to the man Mark referred to. He was a game player. As a result, Mark rode Gary hard for several months, but when Gary thought he’d reached breaking point, it stopped. The other man ended up losing his job. Suddenly, Gary realized Mark was talking again.

“. . . sorry about that. But it taught me a lesson. There’s something different about you, and we’d like to tap into that potential. We can’t know what the future holds, but if someone of your caliber would teach your secrets to our other employees, we might flip this downturn up. You’ve proven yourself trustworthy. We need help. And I think you’re the right man for the job. What do you say?”

Gary wrestled with how to answer. He wasn’t sure of the question.
He decided on straightforward. “Pardon me, but I don’t understand
what you’re asking.”

Mark chuckled and leaned forward, his fingers interlocked over Gary’s employment file. “That’s one of the things I like, you’re not afraid to clarify. I’m offering you a promotion of sorts. I can’t give you a raise at this time, but where others are let go, you still have your job. I’d like you to work with human resources to retrain those we keep and start new hires off on the right track. Are you interested?”

Gary’s shoulders softened and he expelled air he didn’t realize he’d held. “Yes sir, I am interested. You can count on me.”

“Great. Connie, can you get things rolling?”

“Yes sir.”

Mark stood, signaling dismissal of the meeting. He extended his hand across the desk. “I expect good things. Don’t let me down. And one of these days, I’d like to find out what makes you different.”

Gary kept his eyes on Mark’s while he lowered his head slightly, pursed his lips, and shrugged his shoulders. “I try to be a Joseph. I ask God to bless our company through the work of my hands.”

“Hmm, interesting. Maybe we can schedule lunch and you can tell me more.”

Gary pumped his boss’s hand, “It would be my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity,” then walked out behind Connie. Gary couldn’t wait to tell his wife. He missed Connie’s small talk as he followed her to her office, distracted in a silent prayer of thanks.


Today’s job market is tough. With heroic effort, employees who choose God’s way refuse to justify inappropriate behavior. Heroes don’t offer excuses, and they’re not blinded by entitlement. Heroes remember they were hired to earn a paycheck, not simply collect one. Heroes don’t waste their employer’s money; instead, with integrity, they work the same whether someone can see them or not.

As you read on, I urge you to conduct your own fact-finding missions. At the end of each chapter, you will answer three investigative questions designed to help you decide whether you are taking every precaution to protect your job, your family, your employer, and our economy. Can the Joseph Factor improve your life?

Follow your dreams and leave justification behind. Answer the investigative questions and dare to be different. Become irreplaceable. Become a leader. But remember, great men and women first learn to follow in humility.

Investigative Questions

1. Do you labor for profit or does mere talk lead you to poverty?
(Prov. 14:23).

2. Do you work as working for the Lord, not for men, since
you know that you will receive an inheritance from the
Lord as a reward? (Col. 3:23–24).

3. Is your behavior excellent among your coworkers so that
because of your good deeds, as they observe them, you glorify
God? (1 Pet. 2:12).