Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation by Adrian Plass

What I Thought:

I wanted this book a while ago. We were supposed to tour it on Non~FIRST when it was still going, but something happened to the publication date. Anyway, I have it now! And it is HYSTERICAL. This may sound a bit gross, but it is the perfect book to put beside the toilet. It is one of those books that you don't read in one sitting. It is meant to be read a little at a time. My 14 year old son snatched it from me and has hogged it ever since. His favorite part was the definition 'Damnation: (1) condemnation to eternal punishment; (2) Holland.'

Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation
Adrian Plass’ new book is a hilarious A to Z guide to all things Christian

With the comfortable knowledge of a church insider and the leery insight of a seeker, Plass shines a sometimes sarcastic, often times profound, and all the time witty light on the Christian experience. With thoughts on everything from the afterlife (“a place where God will chew a straw and fill us in on how things really are.”) to Zacchaeus (“… [he] looked like Danny DeVito in a dish towel”), Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation is a raucous glossary of biblical characters, church catch phrases and pop-Christian personalities.

The inspiration for Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation came from a situation Plass shared with a dear friend in church one day. When asked what the most important thing in the world was, both Plass and his friend responded very differently. “Salvation!” cried Plass. “Bacon sandwiches!” suggested his friend. Writes Plass, “That just about sums it up. A God who can create the indescribable tastiness of a bacon sandwich must be planning something pretty incredible in the salvation line.” Somewhere within the pages of this quirky little guide one begins to find just such a God.

Adrian Plass is a writer and speaker who has produced over thirty books in the last twenty years. The best known of these is probably The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, a gentle satire on the modern church, which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide. Other books include a biography, novels, short stories, a fictionalized account of the author's experiences as a residential childcare worker, and collections of poems and sketches. Adrian lives with his wife and daughter in a small market town near the Sussex South Downs, England.

Adrian has been in demand as a speaker in venues as varied as prisons, schools, churches, festivals, literary dinners and theatrical settings. His work also includes contribution to national and local radio and television. Live presentations combine humor, poetry, and story telling, largely revolving around his own inadequacies and struggles as a Christian and a human being.
In recent years his wife, Bridget, has joined Adrian in presenting a more varied and dramatic style of performance. Adrian and Bridget met at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and have found particular satisfaction in being allowed to “do a bit of acting.” They have also been privileged to work alongside World Vision on several occasions, visiting Bangladesh and Zambia, writing two books and touring both in the UK and abroad with the aim of encouraging people to take up child sponsorship.

Adrian's latest books include Jesus Safe, Tender and Extreme, Blind Spots in the Bible, and most recently, Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation, published by Authentic Media. He and Bridget have also collaborated with friends in Canada to produce a CD of his favorite sketches from the last 20 years called “Preaching to the Converted.”

Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation
by Adrian Plass
Authentic Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-934068-76-2/251 pages/softcover/$16.99

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Transformation Study Bible

What I Thought:

The way that this bible is laid out is easy to follow. It has hundreds of interesting facts that go along with the scripture called
Catalyst notes. The reference section is top-notch. The Study Notes are also very in-depth. I also like this translation; it's the first time that I've used the NLT. I highly recommend this bible to anyone serious about gaining scriptural understanding.

Dallas/Fort Worth, TX—

As pastors seek to make the Word of God more understandable in an age that is unfamiliar with the Bible, and as growing disciples seek to discover the truth of Scripture in a skeptical culture, there is a great need for guidance in both the preaching and study of God’s Word. Whether you’re a pastor, a seminary student, or a truth-seeking disciple, an understanding of the Bible can be made clear to you with the help of one of the most influential, in-depth, and practical Bible scholars in modern history.

For over thirty years, millions have come to rely on the timeless wisdom of Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s “Be” Commentary series. Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary and insights on Scripture have helped readers understand and apply God’s Word with the goal of life transformation. According to Dr. Wiersbe, “It isn’t enough for us simply to read assigned portions of the Bible each day, as helpful as that is. A truly transforming experience involves meditating on what we read (Ps. 1:2), studying it carefully in the light of other verses, and then obeying what God tells us to do (Josh. 1:8).” Now available for the first time, The Transformation Study Bible offers the full text of the highly readable New Living Translation with accompanying notes and commentary from the 50 books in Dr. Wiersbe’s “Be” series.

The Transformation Study Bible will better enable readers to appreciate, appropriate, and apply the Word of God, which will result in ‘purity, joy, right values, hope, comfort, freedom, new life, peace, guidance, wisdom, integrity, encouragement, and effective prayer,’” states Wiersbe. In other words, if you want to be a new person, knowing and obeying the will of God and becoming more like Jesus Christ, there is perhaps no finer tool to encourage that process than The Transformation Study Bible.

One of the most anticipated and comprehensive study Bibles of the year, The Transformation Study Bible has been a lifetime in the making by a man who is widely known as a prolific and trusted writer and theologian. The former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago, an internationally known Bible teacher, and someone who has given his life to a deep examination of the Word of God, Dr. Wiersbe lends his vast experience and scholarly insight to the most beloved and revered book of all time. This effort is to encourage believers of all levels to know and love the Bible and to experience the same transformation that has radically changed his life. The result is a Bible that is clear, understandable, and applicable to the lives of its readers.

Dr. Wiersbe writes, “The remedy for discouragement is the Word of God. When you feed your heart and mind with its truth, you regain your perspective and find renewed strength.” By providing a new set of tools for Bible students of all levels, David C Cook and Warren Wiersbe have partnered to provide an essential tool to help bring the “perspective” and “renewed strength” that comes from a life transforming study of God’s Word. This fantastic and long awaited resource will bring more clarity than ever before to the study of God’s Word.

The Transformation Study Bible with General Editor Warren Wiersbe
David C Cook September 1, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1434765307/2100 pages/$24.99

Since 1987, The B & B Media Group, Inc. has used its broadcasting, marketing and advertising experience to provide the specialized and strategic publicity necessary to achieve the public relations goals of each client. The Barnabas Agency, a division of The B & B Media Group, Inc., is a proven provider of exceptional public relations and personal management services for authors, speakers, ministries and organizations.

Community Chaplains of America

Q&A with Mark Cress, Founder and President of
Community Chaplains of America

Q: Why do you think chaplains are able to win so many people to Christ?

A: According to some of the research we’ve done, most adults who come to Christ (80%) do so during a time of crisis. When those times of crisis come, many people don’t have a relationship with a clergy member. They may not want to go to a church, but they still need to talk to somebody. A chaplain has the opportunity to be present with someone during that crisis, to be a listening ear and a support system, and to gain permission to talk with them about Christ.

Q: Where and how are Community Chaplains already serving?

A: Several hundred people have completed the Community Chaplains training. There are commissioned chaplains now serving in 35 states and a variety of settings. We have one chaplain in Atlanta, Georgia, who is serving a local swim team. A church in Raleigh, North Carolina, has a strong chaplain program and encourages its leaders to take advantage of our continuing education services. We also have a college professor who will soon be the first official chaplain for her university. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. One of our Corporate Chaplains of America clients who owns a storage facility has requested someone to whom he can refer his clients, since people often rent storage space during times of personal upheaval. These are just a few examples of places where chaplains can—and do—serve.

Q: Describe the process of becoming a Community Chaplain.

A: The process is simple, and you can get started today! Community Chaplains training is available online at www.commchap.com. If you prefer, the materials are also available in hard copy form and can be mailed to you. Our training materials will prepare you to minister to people in crisis and approach every encounter as an opportunity to intentionally show God’s love and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Once you have worked through the materials and received the approval of your pastor, you’re ready to start serving as a commissioned Community Chaplain.

Q: I would like to introduce the principles of caregiving as a church elective or discipleship course. Does Community Chaplains offer any materials for group study?

A: Absolutely. We offer a Community Chaplain group study kit with enough materials to facilitate a ten member small group class. This course offers an overview of caregiving ministry (less intense than the course designed for commissioned chaplains) and is a great way for churches to extend their reach within their communities.

Q: Who should explore the possibility of becoming a Community Chaplain?

A: Anyone who wants to minister to others, who wants to take advantage of their everyday interactions with people as opportunities to build relationships that allow you to be granted permission to share the gospel should train to become a chaplain. If you are already volunteering in your community in some way (i.e. room parent, coach, hospital volunteer, etc), you are perfectly positioned to transform that volunteer role into your ministry role. Our training materials were written by experienced Corporate Chaplains of America, and they contain everything you need to become a qualified Community Chaplain. No special background is necessary. If you want to be salt and light to a lost and dying world, this is the program for you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors

I received Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors by Carolyn Rubenstein in the mail for review a few weeks ago. This was a bittersweet moment. You see, my father-in-law passed away this year due to cancer. I also have a writer friend, Mike Hamel, battling cancer right now. As I read through the miracles, inner strength, and enormous scientific strides, it heartened me to see that people are truly being healed. The best thing about this book is that it encourages the old adage of Carpe Diem. Seize the Day! Make every moment count. Amen!

Below is a little more about the book and its writer. Please do buy this book if you have anyone suffering with cancer. It is an enormous encouragement.


The 20 college and graduate students profiled in the book, including Christians such as Caleb Scoville and Pamela Ledbetter, acquired a remarkable amount of wisdom in fighting cancer. They learned lessons such as:

Every life has a purpose, and we shouldn’t wait for a crisis to live life to the fullest.

Wise people know when they need help, and aren’t afraid to ask for it.
Our trials are critical to our self-fulfillment.

When we struggle with cancer or some other trial, our struggle gains meaning when we can share the lessons we learn with others.

Rubenstein, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, noted that all of the survivors profiled said they had benefited from having cancer and a number of them said their faith grew stronger. Jamie Saunders, diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in her freshman year of high school, learned to make God the cornerstone of her life. “I know I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for the fact that I had cancer,” she said.

This remarkable book is sure to touch your heart and mind.

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Forge Books; 1st edition (August 18, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765317788
ISBN-13: 978-0765317780

Friday, September 11, 2009

Forever Richard by Sue Dent

What I Thought:

Sue's writing just keeps getting better. Forever Richard delighted me. I read it in just two days...a miracle for me. I am a very slow reader. The only negative thing I will say is that the prologue was too jumpy. I'm glad that I have the first chapter for you to read because it will hook you. Never Ceese, the first book in the Thirsting for Blood series, must be read prior to Forever Richard as Sue eludes to many of the events of Never Ceese. I highly recommend this series to you. Even if you don't like the usual vampire and werewolf stuff out there, the plot is so wonderful that you will be sucked into the story!

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:

Forever Richard

The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)


Sue Dent hails from Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi College in 1983. Since graduating she’s sold computers, taught computer classes and has worked as a Technical Specialist IV for the Mississippi Department of Natural Resources.

Forever Richard is the second book in the Thirsting for Blood series. The prequel, Never Ceese was short-listed for a Bram Stoker Award and also voted the ACFW’s book club choice for April 2007. Ms Dent is currently working on the third book in the series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934284033
ISBN-13: 978-1934284032


The blazing mid-morning sun laid a haze over the southwestern landscape. José squinted at the distant horizon. “Mirada que está viniendo,” he said. “It’s him.”

The day laborers loitered on corners hoping for work in the fields—backbreaking work that paid little. Not the type of work they wanted but because most of them lived in the country illegally, they hadn’t a lot of choice. The laborers worked long hours for little pay, which was attractive to employers—so attractive they’d risk breaking the law to hire them.

The men had to watch for Border Patrol agents, so they scrutinized every gringo with a careful eye.

José’s buddies squinted in the direction he’d indicated. Raul pushed himself off the wall where they sat. “I thought you saw him leave town—for good.”

“Yeah,” Antonio seconded. “Qué tal? You can’t see good or something? Maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

For several weeks they’d watched this stranger. No one knew when he’d arrived or how long he planned on staying. They did know they wanted him gone. Both a gringo and an outsider—the combination usually meant trouble.

José watched the giant of a man approach. His long black duster billowed; his boots stirred up a dust storm around him. José boldly took a step forward. Raul watched and his lips curled into a smirk. Who did José think he was kidding anyway?

“What you gonna do, hombrecito? The little man gonna take the big man on? He’ll squash you like that little bug.”

José, desperate to earn respect among his peers, ignored the comment and squared his shoulders.

* * *

The small immigrant town of Rio Lobos could have easily been a mirage. Surrounded by dry, flat desert, like the desert he’d spent the past two days walking through, he considered this possibility. Not until he stepped onto solid pavement did he believe otherwise.

Heavy boots marked each step as he moved along. His long duster no longer billowed but flapped freely. He’d tucked his left sleeve into a front coat pocket to prevent it from blowing about but with no left arm inside, the sleeve hung slack.

In town, he stepped onto a sidewalk. Worn and beaten by the elements, sections of it were in dire need of repair—the curbs, crumbling chunks of concrete. The entire town needed a facelift. Colorful pennants, strung about and flapping in the hot, arid breeze did little to disguise this.

The most modern building was the bank. It sat on the adjacent corner and boasted a display below the bank name that alternated time and temperature: 9:47 AM and a scorching 97 degrees. Sweat beaded and rolled down into his thick beard. He scratched at it but stopped short of complaining. After all, the beard had offered his face some protection against the stark rays of the blazing desert sun. Yet, a curse for the one responsible for his present condition was never far from his lips.

Blasted werewolf! If it hadn’t been for the creature, he wouldn’t have to worry about hair that grew twice as fast as normal. The bite wasn’t the only thing to worry about when battling a werewolf.

His stomach growled. Two days had passed since he’d eaten anything. The five young migrant workers on the corner watched him arrive and stared belligerently as he drew near. One of the five took an aggressive step forward. The stranger slowed when he saw the young worker but walked on by. No one followed.

La Tienda sat next to the laundromat. The tantalizing aroma of authentic Mexican cuisine lured him across the street.

Those standing around the entrance scattered. Startled patrons inside moved as far away as possible as he stood between them and the door. Mothers gathered their small children. The young lady who worked the counter wore a nametag, Maria. She stifled a scream and backed up against the wall. Someone hissed the word gringo and he understood.

“Aye, gringo,” he said, his Scottish accent strong. “I get that. I’m different. But I don’t want any trouble.”

Trapped in bodies that wanted to run, a dozen pairs of eyes watched him go about his business. Careful not to make any sudden moves and frighten the patrons further, he walked slowly to the counter and gathered up foil-wrapped burritos from beneath a heat lamp. One by one, he placed them in a deep pocket of his coat.

“See,” he told them. “I just want to eat . . . and now I’m going to pay.” He reached into his pocket for cash but had to guess at what he owed. Maria wasn’t talking. He laid down a ten, grabbed a styrofoam cup and filled it with coffee, then headed to a group of tables and chairs near the back of the store and sat. A mass exodus followed as anxious patrons darted out. Maria disappeared into the back.

A ceiling fan warbled overhead and kept the hot air circulating. He set his coffee down and took the burritos from his pocket. He devoured the first one in no time. After a few more bites of another, he could finally think about more than his next meal—like the events of the previous evening.

Tobias had eluded him for years, but he hadn’t given up looking. The werewolf had information and he was desperate to hear it. After nearly a century of traipsing across continents—Europe, Asia and now North America—he’d finally found him.

Tobias knelt and drank from a stream, his shirt beside him. The moon’s glow heightened the appearance of well-defined muscle. Tobias could easily overtake him. He had to move with care.

He took a cautious step closer, pushed the fabric of his duster back giving him easy access to the pistol-grip sawed-off shotgun holstered on his thigh.

Tobias tensed; he sniffed the air—his cupped hands froze in mid-drink. His head turned a sliver to stare at the abstract reflection in the stream. The stranger drew his weapon and in one fluid motion Tobias stood and turned. Eyes black and narrowed, his nose wrinkled at the odor of silver.

“Aye, did ye think I’d come unprepared?” When Tobias didn’t answer he asked, “Do ye speak English, lad?”

Tobias tilted his head, his thick brows furrowed in confusion. Maybe his accent confused, so he worked to tame it before speaking again. This time Tobias nodded.

“Then tell me why ye have run from me all these years.” He kept the shotgun level. “All I ever wanted was to ask some questions.” Why had Tobias let me sneak up on him tonight? Maybe it’s a trap? He pressed the gun barrel against the chest of the werewolf. “Ye don’t have friends around waiting to pick me off, do ye? If so, then ye should know—I’ll kill ye first.”

The breath of the werewolf turned to vapor in the cooler night air. “Tobias alone.” Stilted werewolf English, but still English. “Tobias wait for you. Tobias need—help. Help Tobias.”

Stunned eyes stared back. “Help Tobias? Away with ye! Why should I help when ye have been running from me for so long?”

Tobias glanced over his shoulder and found the moon where it hung, crescent in shape. “Tobias forget.”

“Tobias forget?” He followed Tobias’s gaze then nodded. “Ahh, Tobias forget—forgotten how to become the wolf. Ye have gone too long without transforming.” They never saw the danger until it was too late. “Yet ye remember ye need the moon, don’t ye . . . to draw the blood up, to get things going.”

Tobias turned back to face him. “You help Tobias remember more.”

As a subtle reminder, he shoved the gun barrel against Tobias’ chest. “Tell me what I want to know. Besides, what makes ye think I can help?” He could help, of course. But he didn’t give this information away freely. He didn’t need every werewolf who’d forgotten tracking him down.

“You help Gideon.”

His expression fell. “Great. Gideon shared.” Even after he promised that he wouldn’t.

“Help Tobias like you help Gideon.”

His eyes narrowed. “Aye, but first, ye pay my price. Tell me. You know the werewolf Joachim. Ye ran with his pack. What became of him? Where is he now?”

“Joachim? Joachim is no more.”

The words hit him hard. All these years of waiting, hoping—it couldn’t be true. “Ye lie!” he growled. He had to be. He moved in closer to Tobias and forced the end of the gun under his chin. “Ye’ll tell me the truth or I’ll blow your head clean off!”

“Tobias show you.”

“All right.” He brought the gun back down to chest level and allowed Tobias to put an open palm to his forehead.

The first image: two wolves thrashing it out, teeth bared and bloodied, eyes blazing with intent. It ended when one of the wolves went down and she rushed forward. He gasped and Tobias removed his hand.

“She killed Joachim,” Tobias spat out. “She the reason he is no more.”

“Ye will not speak of her like that. Ye won’t!”

“Joachim is no more because of her! He fight Zade for her.”

“Where is she now? Ye have to know.”

Tobias reached into a pocket, took out a trinket on a thin chain and held it up.

A lump formed in his throat; moisture played in the corner of each eye. “Where’d ye get that, lad? Where in the world did ye get that?”

“Tobias take it from Joachim.”

He batted back the moisture to regain some composure. “Doesn’t prove anything. Ye still haven’t told me where she is or if she is.”

“Hold tight. If she is, you know. If she isn’t, you know too.”

He considered this. “Aye, but I’ll need my hand for that and I canna say I trust ye enough to holster my weapon. But—” he said, “if ye hold the locket—maybe that will work.”

Tobias placed his left palm back to the stranger’s forehead and held the trinket tight in his other hand.

Images flashed. A castle, a feeling. “Aye, I see her. She’s alive.” He furrowed his brow. “. . . sort of.” Tobias took his hand away. “Now put that necklace in my breast pocket.”

“You help Tobias?” the werewolf replied.

“Aye, of course.” After all, that was the deal. He couldn’t use the information himself. He wasn’t cursed. But, having the information and the ability to share it—on occasion there had been a definite advantage to that.

He’d have to holster the shotgun to free up his hand to initiate the action. “This is going to be bit tricky,” he admitted, not certain he wanted to risk putting his weapon away and give up the advantage. But Tobias seemed ready to cooperate. He put his apprehension aside and slid the gun back into its holster.

With his hand on Tobias’ forehead, the flow of information could begin. Several attempts to get things going ended in failure. What was wrong?

“Ye block me. I canna help if ye block me.”

With no more coercion than that, Tobias let his mental guard down.

“Aye, that’s better.” He’d helped several other werewolves remember the way. Some took the information quickly. Some didn’t. Often he could help speed things up by focusing. He closed his eyes but they shot back open when he felt sharp claws dig into his wrist. Tobias had already begun the transformation.

“Aahh!” He fought the instinct to pull away. Tobias could take his only arm if he wasn’t careful. The pressure increased. “For the love of God,” he exclaimed.

Tobias stiffened and his hand jerked before he fell backwards onto the ground. The stranger ratcheted his shotgun from his holster. “Aye. That’d be a word ye canna tolerate.”

On the ground, Tobias continued the rapid transformation—the human form faded further until the new looked at home on all fours. Soon, it sprinted off into the woods.

“Good riddance,” he yelled out after him, “you ungrateful beast.”

* * *

The migrant workers still loitered. The same young man who’d shown aggression the first time moved directly in his path.

When he angled to go around, the guy matched him step for step. Dark intimidating eyes met his. “I don’t want any trouble,” he said. “I just want to get by.” He searched the young man’s face for any sign of compromise.

“You gotta pay to get by, gringo.”

That word again. “I can’t give ye what I don’t have.”

A quick look over his shoulder to the others and the young man tensed his forearms. “Well, you better come up with something or you’ll have to deal with us, right, muchachos?”

Arms crossed, they nodded.

“All right,” he said. “I do have one thing.” He reached into a pocket and drew out his hand, closed. Slowly, he opened it to reveal—nothing. In another instant, his palm covered the young man’s forehead and the ringleader sank to the ground, unconscious.

The others backed away. “¡Él lo mató!” he heard one say before they all broke and ran.

“Nay,” he yelled after them. “He’s not hurt. It’s not what ye think.”

It was pointless to explain further. They’d disappeared around the corner. He sighed deep and pulled the young man along by an arm. He left him to rest under the shade of an awning.

* * *

On the outskirts of town sat the Alamo Plaza Apartments, remnants of a not-so-successful motel chain that dared defy the odds. No traveler would stop here now, only locals. You could pay by the week or ten dollars an hour, maximum two. His third prepaid week at the motel. He headed straight back to his unit.

When the stranger saw another tenant leafing through mail, he quickened his pace. He was expecting something. Perhaps it had arrived. The mail had come, but no package waited. A notice stuck to his door, the “Attempted Delivery” box marked. Tomorrow the post office would try again. He pushed past disappointment and went inside. Calling the post office did little good. The mail truck with his package was still out making deliveries and wouldn’t return until after the post office closed.

He removed his duster and let it fall across a chair near the door. He placed his shotgun on a table next to the unmade bed and lay down. Two days of walking through the desert had taken its toll. He needed to rest.

Sleep came easily enough. He recalled waking up once to find the room dark. The sun had set. The next time he awoke, it was morning, 9:45 according to the digital clock on the small bedside table. He sat up and rubbed the back of his neck. He felt rested but antsy. How would he kill time until his package came? A long shower helped, as did shaving his thick beard. But he still had at least an hour.

He settled onto the end of his bed, television remote in hand, and began channel surfing. Jeopardy. He stopped to watch. The category: Famous Wars.

The unyielding presence of this single Highland regiment caused the Russians to abandon their intention of taking Balaclava.

The contestants jumped all around the correct response. “What is the Charge of the Light Brigade?” one said. “Who fought the Crimean War?” another chimed in. The third contestant merely shrugged.

His deep-set eyes misted over in remembrance. “Aye, the thin red line—what was the thin red line.”

The thunder of hooves, the smell of death, he remembered it all. To die like they did. That would be an honor. Yet dying wasn’t an option for him. Neither was aging in a timely manner. It had something to do with the battle he had with that werewolf. He did age, though much more slowly—about a year for every fifty he’d lived, but death never came. He’d been run clean through during the battle at Balaclava, an injury that left more than a few men dead where they fell. Not something he understood—in fact, quite frustrating. He switched the television off to avoid further memories.

A solid thump against his door and then a knock. “Aye. I’m here,” he said jumping to his feet. A short sprint to the door and—no one there. He looked down to see a package at his feet.

He checked the box and brought it inside. The postage showed it had come all the way from New Delhi, India. He carefully opened it. The seller had done such a fine job of packing that it took him more than a minute to reveal the knife inside.

Its pitted blade and wooden handle reinforced with bone plates attested its authenticity. He ran his fingers over the traces of Aramaic and Hebrew inscription. “Aye,” came his breathless whisper. This had to be it, the knife of the Aqedah, the very one used by Abraham on Mount Moriah. The one he’d been searching for. He’d combed sacred parchments for any mention of the knife past Abraham, looked around at Djebel Thebeyr, where a granite block, purportedly split in two by the touch of this knife, drew tourists. Still the knife had eluded him . . . until now.

“Finally.” He stared at what he held in reverent awe.

“Finally I can end this madness.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Abide With Me by John H. Parker and Paul Seawright

What I Thought:

This is a gorgeous book. If you are at all interested in the history of some of the best hymns every created, you should get this book. It includes a compilation cd of the hymns covered in the book as well. Wonderful photography!

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:

Abide With Me (Includes a CD of 20 wonderful, favorite British hymns.)

New Leaf Publishing Group/New Leaf Press; Har/Com edition (May 1, 2009)


John Parker, Professor of English at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, has taught Shakespeare and other literary classes there for twenty-eight years. He holds the M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Tennessee, and also the Master of Arts in Religion from Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis. At Lipscomb and previously at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, he has also taught classes in the Bible.

Paul Seawright is currently Chair of Photography at the University of Ulster. Previously he was Dean of Art Media and Design at the University of Wales, Newport, and the Director of the Centre for Photographic Research. His photographs have been exhibited worldwide and are held in many museum collections including The Tate London, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, International Centre of Photography New York, Portland Art Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Paul has a Ph.D. in Photography from the University of Wales and was awarded a personal chair in 2002. He is an honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, currently chairing their Fellowship panel. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. He has published six books.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 112 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/New Leaf Press; Har/Com edition (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892216905
ISBN-13: 978-0892216901


Abide With Me
A Photographic Journey Through Great British Hymns

Text by John H. Parker

Photography by Paul Seawright


The focus of Abide with Me is place—the places in England and Wales where the great Britishhymns were written and where the stories of the men and women who wrote them unfolded: Olney (“Amazing Grace”), Brighton (“Just As I Am”), Stoke Newington (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”), Broadhembury (“Rock of Ages”), and many others. This book shows and tells about those places and what you would see if you visited them.

On the north coast of England, silhouetted against the gray sky and the dark sea, stand the ruins of Whitby Abbey. There in the sixth century a common sheep herder named Caedmon wrote the earliest surviving hymn written in English. In the centuries following—Middle Ages, Renaissance, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century—men

and women devoted to Christ and blessed with the gift of poetry composed the words of the English hymns sung in Britain, in America, and across the globe, generation after generation—sung in times of happiness, grief, joy, fear, and wonder. Here are the places those writers lived and their life stories.

Join us now for a stroll through the quaint Cotswolds, the beautiful Lake District, bustling

London, and the glorious poppy-bedecked English countryside as you meet the great minds whose works have inspired, uplifted, and carried us through the tragedies and triumphs of our lives. It’s a journey of the heart and soul—a meandering through your own spirituality.

Speaking to one another in psalms

and hymns and spiritual songs.

Ephesians 5:19

Lost & Found

Olney, on the Ouse River in Northampton, England, not far from Cambridge, was a small farming and crafts village in the late eighteenth century. As we drive into the market square this Sunday afternoon, we find a bustling and cheerful town with two popular claims. One is the annual pancake race on Shrove Tuesday when housewives run 415 yards from the marketplace to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, each carrying a pan holding a pancake, which she flips on crossing the finish line. The other is the curate and preacher for that church from 1764–1780, John Newton (1725–1807), and the vicarage, where he wrote perhaps the most popular hymn of all time, “Amazing Grace.”

The church was expanded during those years to accommodate the crowds who came to hear John, and its square tower still rises over the Ouse River. The sanctuary is large and impressive, and a stained-glass window commemorates the preacher and his hymn. Still, time has encroached a bit. His pulpit is now somewhat pushed back into a corner, though John Newton’s Pulpit is proudly displayed along one edge. John’s rather smallish portrait hangs on the stone buttress of one wall, sharing space between a fire extinguisher and a bulletin board where his name promotes a ministry in Sierra Leone. But after 230 years, it’s still John Newton whose story and hymn live on here.

John was born to a master mariner, who was often away at sea, and a mother who taught him Bible lessons and the hymns of Isaac Watts (see pages 38-41). But she died

when he was only six years old. At age eleven, after a few years of living with relatives or attending boarding school, he began sailing with his father.

In time John fell in love with Mary Catlett, daughter of friends of his mother, but in 1744 he was forced to serve on a naval ship. He records that while watching England’s coast fade as the ship sailed away, he would have killed either himself or the captain except for his love of Mary.

Later John managed to join the crew of a slave trade ship, the brutal traffic he so much regretted in later years. This life blotted out his early religious training and led him into bad behavior. Finally, though, when a fierce March storm one night in 1748 threatened to sink his ship, he prayed for the first time in years. And for the rest of his life he regarded every March 21 as the anniversary of his conversion. Relapses occurred, but after a serious illness he committed himself to God, returned to England, and married

Mary in 1750.

John worked for a while in civil service in the region of Yorkshire. But soon he became popular as a lay preacher, developing friendships with George Whitefield and John

Wesley, and began to consider the ministry. Although he studied biblical languages and theology privately, he received ordination in the Church of England only after completing

his autobiography, Authentic Narrative, in 1764, an account that caused influential religious leaders to recognize his spiritual commitment. The book was soon translated into several languages.

John’s principal sponsor for priesthood, Lord William Dartmouth, helped arrange the station for John in Olney, and for the next sixteen years he lived in the vicarage and

preached at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s and in surrounding parishes. His religious devotion, remarkable personal history, and natural poetic skills gave John the gifts and preparation for writing hymns—especially one great hymn—but he needed a circumstance to prompt him. That came in 1767 when William Cowper moved to Olney.

William was one of England’s fine eighteenth-century poets, producing The Task (1784) and translations of Homer. He received an excellent literary education at Westminster

School in London and, at his father’s wish, studied for the bar. But he lived an often-miserable life. Depression, his distaste for the law, poverty, and an ill-fated romance with his cousin Theadora Cowper ruined any chances of happiness. More than once he attempted suicide.

During this trauma William found relief in the home of friends first made in Huntingdon—Morley and Mary Unwin, a religious and wealthy couple. When Morley died from a fall from his horse in April of 1767, Mary moved to Olney with her daughter Susanna to be near the renowned preacher John Newton. In fact, only an orchard stood between the rear yard of their house, Orchard Side, and John’s vicarage. Soon, William also came to Olney and moved in with them. The two poets became close friends, and by 1771 they were collaborating on what became one of England’s most successful hymnals, The Olney Hymns.

On a bright June afternoon we stroll with Elizabeth Knight in the garden of Orchard Side, now the Cowper & Newton museum, where she has been curator for more than thirty years. Nestled in the rows of flowers is an odd little summerhouse in which William gazed through its side and rear windows. Here he wrote most of the hymns in his part of the collection. After another lapse into depression, he wrote few others, but by that time he had composed his great hymns, “There is a Fountain” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”

Leaving the Orchard Side garden, we walk through the site of the original orchard, to the back of the two-story brick vicarage, and look up to the last dormer window on the top right. Here, in this room, during the last two weeks of December 1772, John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace.”

In his book Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Hymn (Harper Collins, 2002), music historian Steve Turner records that John routinely wrote hymns to accompany his sermons and composed “Amazing Grace” in preparation for a New Year’s Day sermon on January 1, 1773. He also observes that the words of the hymn evidently paraphrase entries from John’s notebook. For example, the entry “Millions of unseen dangers” is rendered “through many dangers, toils, and snares” in the song. Turner gives these illustrations of Newton’s use of the Scriptures in the hymn:

Newton embroidered biblical phrases

and allusions into all his writing.

The image of being lost and found alludes to the parable

of the prodigal son, where the father

is quoted as saying in Luke 15:24,

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again;

he was lost, and is found.”

His confession of wretchedness may have been drawn

from Paul’s exclamation in Rom. 7:24,

“O wretched man that I am!

Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

The contrast of blindness and sight refers directly

to John 9:25, when a man healed by Jesus says,

“One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind,

now I see.”

Newton had used this phrase in his diary

during his seafaring days when he wrote on

August 9, 1752,

“The reason [for God’s mercy] is unknown to

me, but one thing I know, that whereas

I was blind, now I see.”

Turner observes that this day of the introduction of “Amazing Grace,” in Lord Dartmouth’s Great House in Olney, was also the last that the despondent William Cowper came to church.

John and William published The Olney Hymns in 1779. The following year, 1880, William Cowper died, and John accepted a pulpit position at St. Mary Woolnoth Church in London. Audiences continued large here as well. Visitors today can pass through a wrought-iron gate and coffee shop at the entrance, walk through the church doors into the sanctuary, and view the ornate pulpit where the slave-trader turned preacher delivered sermons for the next twenty-seven years, becoming a major figure in the

evangelical portion of the Anglican Church. He died on December 21, 1807, and was buried with Mary at St. Mary Woolchurch in London. They were re-interred at the Church

of St. Peter and St. Paul in Olney in 1893. And he is primarily remembered for these touching words:

Amazing Grace (1772)

Ephesians 2:8-9

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found;

Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

The Lord has promised good to me,

His Word my hope secures;

He will my Shield and Portion be,

As long as life endures.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who called me here below,

Will be forever mine.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Never the Bride by Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge

What I Thought:

This was a different kind of chick-lit book. I enjoyed it a lot. It was a bit surreal, and I did get frustrated at the main character for being such a girly girl, but it has stayed with me for over a month now. I don't want to spoil any of the unique things that happen, so I won't say too much. If you don't mind an 'outside the box' kind of story, you should read this one. It is definitely not an average romance!

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 authors are:

and the book:

Never the Bride

WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)


Cheryl McKay is the co-author (with Frank Peretti) of the Wild and Wacky, Totally True Bible Stories series, which has sold nearly 200,000 copies, and the screenwriter of the award-winning film The Ultimate Gift.

Visit the author's website.

Rene Gutteridge has published thirteen novels including Ghost Writer, My Life as a Doormat, the Boo Series, the Occupational Hazards Series, and the Storm Series. Together, McKay and Gutteridge are the authors of The Ultimate Gift, a novelization based on the feature film and popular book by the same title.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307444988
ISBN-13: 978-0307444981


You don’t know me yet, so there is no reason you should care that I’m stuck on a highway with a blowout. But maybe we can relate to each other. Maybe you can understand that when I say, “Everything goes my way,” I’m being sarcastic. Not that I’m usually dependent on such a primitive form of communication. I’m actually not very cynical at all. I’m more of a glass-half-full-of-vitamin-infused-water person. Sometimes I even believe that if I dream something, or at least journal it, it will happen. But today, at eight forty-five in the morning, as the sun bakes me like a cod against the blacktop of the Pacific Coast Highway, I’m feeling a bit sarcastic.

It’s February but hotter than normal, which means a long, hot California summer is ahead—the kind that seems to bring out the beauty in blondes and the sweat glands in brunettes. I am a brunette. Not at all troubled by it. I don’t even have my hair highlighted. I own my brunetteness and always have, even when Sun-In was all the rage. And it can’t be overstated that chlorine doesn’t turn my medium chestnut hair green. Actually, it’s the copper, not the chlorine, that turns hair green—but that’s a useless trivia fact I try to save for speed dating.

I’m squatting next to my flat tire, examining the small rip. Holding my hair back and off my neck with one hand, I stand and look up and down the road, hoping to appear mildly distressed. Inside, I’ll admit it, I’m feeling moderately hysterical. My boss flips out when I’m late. It wouldn’t matter if my appendix burst, he doesn’t want to hear excuses. I wish he were the kind of guy who would just turn red in the face and yell, like Clark Kent’s newspaper boss. But no. He likes to lecture as if he’s an intellectual, except he’s weird and redundant and cliché, so it’s painful and boring.

A few cars zoom by, and I suddenly realize this could be my moment. Part of me says not to be ridiculous, because this kind of thing happens only on shows with a ZIP code or county name in the title. But still, you can’t help wondering, hoping, that maybe this is the moment when your life will change. When you meet your soul mate.

Like I said, I enjoy my glass/life half full.

Even as an optimist, I see no harm in being a little aggressive to achieve my goals. So with my free hand, I do a little wave, throw a little smile, and attempt to lock eyes with people going fifty miles an hour.

And then I see him. He’s in a red convertible, the top down, the black sunglasses shiny and tight against his tan skin. He’s wearing pink silk the way only a man with a good, measured amount of confidence can. At least that’s the way I see it from where I’m standing.

As he gets closer, his head turns and he notices me. I do a little wave, flirtatious with a slight hint of unintentional taxi hailing. I decide to smile widely, because he is going fast and I might look blurry. He smiles back. My hand falls to my side. I step back, lean against my car, and try to make my conservative business suit seem flattering. There’s nothing I can do about my upper lip sweating except hope my sweat proof department-store makeup is holding up its end of the bargain better than my blowout-proof tire did.

He seems to be slowing down.

Live in the moment, I instruct myself. Don’t think about what I should say or what I could say. Just let it roll, Jessie, let it roll. Don’t over think it.

This thought repeats itself when the convertible zooms by. I think he actually accelerated.


My makeup is failing, along with whatever charm I thought I had. I just can’t imagine what kind of guy wouldn’t stop and help a woman.

Maybe I’d have more hits if I were elderly.

I do what I have to do. What I know how to do. I change my own stupid tire. Yes, I can, and have been able to since I was eighteen. I can also change my own oil but don’t because then I appear capable of taking care of myself. And I’m really not. Practically, yes, I can take care of myself. I make decent money. I drive myself home from root canals. I open cans without a can opener. I’m able to survive for three days in the forest without food or water, and I never lost sleep over Y2K.

But I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about being taken care of in an emotional way. Maybe it’s a genetic problem. I don’t know. Somehow I became a hopeless romantic. A friend tried the exorcism equivalent of purging me of this demon when she made me watch The War of the Roses two times in a row, all under the guise of a girls’ night, complete with popcorn and fuzzy slippers.

That didn’t cure me.

I want to be married. I hate being alone.

I lift the blown-out tire and throw it in my trunk, slamming it closed. My skin looks like condensation off a plastic cup. I can’t believe nobody has stopped. Not even a creepy guy. I stand there trying to breathe, trying to get a hold of my anger. I’m going to be late, I’m going to be sweaty, and I’m on the side of a highway alone.

“You need some help?”

I whirl around because I realize that I’ve just been hoping that even a creepy guy would stop, and since my world works in a way that Only my negative thoughts seem to come to pass, you can see why the glass-half-full is so important.

The morning sun blinds me, and all I see is a silhouette. The voice is deep, kind of mature.

“Well, I did need some help,” I say, fully aware that acting cute is not going to undo the sweat rings that have actually burst through three layers of fabric, so I don’t bother. I dramatically gesture to my car and try a smile. “But as you can see, I don’t now.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. But thank you very much,” I say, for stopping after I’m completely finished. I trudge back to my car and start the air conditioner. Glancing back in my rearview mirror, I study the silhouette. He sort of has the same shape as the guy in my dream last night. My night-mare. It was actually a dream after my nightmare, where you feel awake but you’re not. It wasn’t the nocturnal version of Chainsaw Massacre, but it did involve taffeta.

He doesn’t wave. He doesn’t move. He just stands there, exactly like the guy in my dream. It’s very déjà vu–like and I lock my doors. I put my blinker on, pull onto the highway, and leave him behind, driving below the speed limit on my flimsy spare tire all the way to work.

I work at Coston Real Estate. We’re squeezed between a wireless store and a Pizza Hut. We stand out a little because of our two huge dark wood doors, ten feet tall and adorned with silver handles.

I push open one of the doors and walk in. Mine is the front desk. It’s tall, almost Berlin Wall–like. People have to peer over it to see me, and I look very small on the other side. When I’m sitting, I can barely see over the top of it.

I walk toward the break room, past nine square cubicles, all tan and otherwise colorless. Even the carpet is tan. On my left are the real offices with walls.

Nicole, inside her cubicle, sees me. “What happened to you?”

We’ve been good friends ever since I started working here, ten years ago. She’s African American, two years younger than I am. She has that kind of expression I wish I could wear. Her eyebrows slant upward toward each other, like a bridge that’s opening to let a boat through. It’s part You’re weird and part I’m worried. She has sass and I love it. She’s working her way up to senior agent and is one of Mr. Coston’s favorites, but I don’t hold that against her.

I don’t answer because I’m busy staring at her new eight-by-ten framed family picture. It’s very Picture People: white background, casual body language, all four wearing identical polo’s and jeans. I love that kind of husband, who will wear matching clothes with his family. They’re so adorable.

“Jessie, seriously girl, you okay? You’ve got black smeared across

your forehead.”

I tear my eyes away from the photo. “Blowout on the highway.”

The eyebrow bridge is lowered, and she chuckles. “Honey, you look like you changed your own tire.”

I put my forehead against the edge of her cube wall. “I did.”

“Oh. Wow. I wish I knew how to change a tire.”

“No, you don’t. Trust me.”

She reaches under her desk and pulls out a neatly wrapped gift. “For you.”

I smile. I love gifts. I drop my things and tear it open even though I already know what it is. “Nicole, it’s beautiful!” It’s a leather-bound journal with gold embossed lettering and heavy lined paper inside. “What’s the occasion?”

“It’s February. I know how much this month…Well, it tends to be a long month for you, that’s all.” She points to the spine of it. “It sort of reminds me of the one I brought you back from Italy four years ago. Remember?”

“Yes, it does.”

“So, my friend, happy February. May this month bring you—”

“Love.” From my bag, I pull out a folder and slap it on her desk.

“What is this?” She says it like a mom who has just been handed a disappointing report card.

“Just look.”

Carefully, like something might jump out and insult her, she opens the folder. She picks up three glossy photos of several potential loves of my life.

“They’re hot, aren’t they?” I ask.

“Too hot,” she says.

“There’s no such thing as too hot.”

“Suspiciously too hot, like an airbrush might be involved.”

I grab the photos from her and turn them around for her to see. With my finger, I underline each of their names: Cute Bootsie Boo, Suave One You Want, One Of A Kind Man.

“Jessie Cute Bootsie Boo. Mmm. Doesn’t have a good ring to it.”

“It’s their instant message names, Nicole.”

“Yes. And that makes it better?”

I sigh. “You have got to get into the twenty-first century, you know. This is the best way to meet a guy.”

“You can tell a lot about a man by what he names himself.” She looks up at me and shakes her head. “Seriously. You set up a date with one of these and they’ll show up with a beer gut, a walker, or a rap sheet.”

“None of them rap.”

Nicole stands, grabs my arm with one hand and my stuff with the other, and whisks me to my desk. She nearly pushes me into my chair and drops everything in front of me.

“Chill out,” I say as she walks away. “This service guarantees background checks. But if you happen to end up needing a restraining order, they’ll pay for it.”

Nicole gasps and whirls around.

“I’m kidding.” But I have her attention now. I lean back in my chair, looking at the ceiling as my hands feel the leather on my new journal. “This’ll be the year, Nicole.”

“You say that every year. Especially in February, which is why I got you the--”

I snap forward. “But I’ve never taken control like this before. Three online match sites, one dating service. They find what you want or your money back.”

Nicole walks back toward me and leans over the counter. “I didn’t realize QVC sold dates. If you order in the next ten minutes, do you get two for the price of one, plus an eight-piece Tupperware set?” She reaches for my chocolate bowl.

I scowl at her but lift the bowl up so she can reach it. “What do you know about it? You got married right out of college.”

“Don’t remind me.” She carefully unwraps her candy and takes a mini-bite.

“You never even had to try.” I grab a piece of dark chocolate out of my candy bowl and get the whole thing in my mouth before she takes another bite of hers.

Nicole shrugs and leans against the counter. “Sometimes you just gotta leave these things up to fate.” She goes back to nibbling on her chocolate.

I swirl my hands in the air. “Fate, God, the universe. They’ve all been asleep on the job of setting up a love story for me.” I stand up. “No. I am going to make this happen myself.”

Nicole doesn’t look up from her candy. “Do you even know what it means to be married? To be chained to another person for the rest of your life? To pick up socks and wash underwear and care for a grown man like he’s just popped out of infancy? Huh?”

I glare at her even though she’s got eyes only for her candy. “It’s got to be better than being alone. Or being a bridesmaid eleven times.”

She bites her lip and finally glances at me. “But you know how…you kind of need everything to be a certain way.”

I nudge my stapler so it isn’t perfectly perpendicular to my sticky notes, just to show her I’m able to handle disorder. I try not to stare at it because now it’s really bugging me. “Are you saying I’m a control freak?”

“With OCD tendencies. You can’t expect everything to be exactly how you want it if you want to live through a marriage.”

I stand and start walking slowly toward the bathroom. “I know what ‘compromise’ means.”

Nicole follows. “Then why do you get mad when I have to check with my husband before we go out? That’s what marriage is. You can’t even poop without someone else knowing.”

I glance at her to see if she’s serious. She is. Part of me wants to tell her about my dream last night. I always tell her about my dreams. But she’s really pooping on my parade today. We get to her desk and she sits down. I walk on.

I have these dreams. I’m talking nocturnal, not journal. Yeah, I dream in my journal. I admit it. I’ve written in one since I was fourteen, when I found a strange delight every time I drew a heart with a boy’s name attached in squiggly letters.

But back to my nightmare. It started with me in a wedding dress. That’s not the nightmare. That part was actually cool because I was in a dress I designed in my journal when I was twenty-two.

The march was playing. I love the “Bridal March.” Nothing can replace it. I cringe every time I hear a country song or bagpipes or something. My wedding, it’s got to be traditional.

I was making my way down the aisle, rhythmically elegant, one foot in front of the other. My shoulders were thrown back, my chin lifted, and my bouquet held right at my waist. I once saw a bride carry her bouquet all the way down the aisle holding it at her chest. I shudder just talking about it.

The train fluttered behind me, like it’s weightless or maybe there’s an ocean breeze not too far away. It was long, bright white, and caused people to nod their approval.

I smiled.

Then the “Bridal March” stopped, halting like a scratched record. I looked up to find another bride in my place, wearing my dress, standing next to my guy. I couldn’t see what he looked like; he was facing the pastor. But the bride, she looked back at me with menacing eyes, overdone with teal eye shadow and fake lashes.

I screamed. I couldn’t help it. I closed my eyes and screamed again. When I opened them, I could hardly believe what I was looking at. A church full of people, looking at her. And what was I doing? Standing next to her in a bridesmaid dress.

Gasping, I looked down. Hot pink! With dyed-to-match shoes! I glanced next to me and covered my mouth. It was me again, standing next to me, in green. Dyed footwear.

And there I was again, standing next to my lime self, this time in canary yellow. On and on it goes. I counted ten of me before I woke up, gasping for air, clutching myself to make sure I was wearing cotton pajamas.

“Thank God,” I said, but as I looked up, I saw a man in my room. He was backlit against my window, like the moon was shining in on him, but I don’t think the moon was out. A scream started forming in my throat, but I recognized that he was not in a stance that indicated he was going to stab me to death. There was no knife. Nothing but an easy, casual lean against my windowsill. Truly, no less scary.

The scream arrived as I clamored for my lamp. I yanked the string three or four times before it turned on, but when it did, the man was gone.

I realize I am standing in the middle of the hallway near Nicole’s desk. She is gabbing on the phone but looking at me funny. I go to the coat closet next to the bathroom. I always, always keep a spare change of clothes at work, just in case I have to do something like change my tire. Or someone else’s. It’s happened. I take out my least favorite suit, which is why I keep it here. It’s lilac with a boxy neckline that makes me feel like I should be a nanny. I head toward the bathroom.

“Stone, get me the ad copy for the new Hope Ranch listings.”

This is my boss, Mr. Coston, dragging me back to reality. He pops his head out the door as I pass by but yells at me like I’m down the hall. I don’t think he even remembers my first name.

“Already on your desk, sir,” I say.

He’s in his sixties, with a loud but raspy voice and shiny silver hair that tops a permanent look of disappointment. “What happened to you?”

“Blown tire.” I hold up my suit. “I was just going to change.”

“Fine. Then get me a latte. Lighten up on the sugar, will you?”

“Right,” I mumble as he disappears. “Lighten up on life, will you?”

I’m the office equivalent of a bat boy. I’m the coffee girl. It’s this one thing that sort of drives me crazy about my job. I do a lot of important things, but when I have to run get coffee, I feel like I’m falling down the rungs of the occupational ladder. It makes me wonder. If I had a job I could get passionate about, would I be so desperate for a husband? I could drown myself in work rather than my dreams.

Well, either way, I’m drowning, and that’s never good.

After I change and decide I really, really dislike the color lilac, I grab my purse and head for the neighborhood Starbucks. It’s five blocks away and I like that. It gives me time to walk and think on such things as to why Mr. Coston has been married for thirty-four years, the exact number of years I haven’t been married. He doesn’t mention his wife much and doesn’t even have a picture of her in his office. He doesn’t wear a wedding band, and when he does take a vacation, it’s with his buddies to golf resorts.

It just seems like the world could better balance itself out, that’s all.

I’m nearly to Starbucks. People are leaving with their white and green cups of bliss. The putrid smell of coffee will soon replace the putrid smell of old rainwater evaporating underneath the sun. I’m not a coffee fan. I’m high strung. The feeling everyone wants by drinking coffee I have naturally, just like my chestnut hair.

I’m about to open the door, and then I see him, in all his glory.