Restructuring

I eat out and read more than I realized. So I am splitting up the two blogs again. I will be back soon. But right now, I am focusing on how to raise awareness of Parsley Mediterranean Grille’s gross misuse of styrofoam. The quality of food in this city is not at question. The issue lately has been customer service. Too many restaurant owners and managers have walked away when a customer complains in person. So much for not being passive aggressive, the owner and managers of places like Blue Water Grille and Parsley would rather walk away than improve themselves.  Anyway, more on these recent events on the new blog. Stay tuned and may you enjoy your dining experience.

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My Two Worlds

I wrote  a blog post for another book reviewer blogger, Deborah, for her blog Books, Movies, and Chinese Food. This is Asian-American Heritage Month and she has been educating her readers on the Asian-American experience and all things Asian. Please read about my experience here.

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Stop the Traffik: FIRST Wild Card Tours

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:

 

Stop the Traffik: People Shouldn’t Be Bought & Sold

Lion UK (April 1, 2009)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Cherie Blair is a human rights lawyer and campaigner on women’s rights and empowerment, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and author of Speaking for Myself. Steve Chalke is UN.GIFT special advisor on human trafficking, and founder of Stop the Traffik. He is the author of several books, including Change Agents, Intelligent Church, The Lost Message of Jesus, and Trust.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.95
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Lion UK (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0745953603
ISBN-13: 978-0745953601

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Wihini, aged nine, and her brother Sunni, aged seven, loved on Thane train station in Mumbai, India with their parents—both alcoholics. Wihini and Sunni went to a day centre where they learned to read and write and were given the chance to play.
One day Sunni and Wihini simply didn’t turn up. Street children often tend to disappear for days, as they try to scrape a living sweeping long-distance trains, but they had been attending the center daily for three months, so when a week or so went by the project staff became worried, and went in search of their parents. The workers found the father lying drunk on the station platform. When they roused him and asked about the children, he admitted that a man had come to him one morning offering money for them. He needed money for alcohol, so he agreed. The trafficker had taken Sunni and Wihini away for the equivalent of just 20 British pounds (currently equivalent to $30 US dollars). The father was angry because he had never received his money. Their mother wouldn’t speak about it. The children were never seen again.

What happened to Sunni and Wihini? Nobody knows. In that area of Mumbai, children often disappeared. They are kidnapped or sold into prostitution, forced labor, adoption, or even child sacrifice. The workers at the Asha Seep center had seen this before. But this was once too often.
Wihini and Sunni’s story proved to be a catalyst. The story was picked up and passed on and as evidence gathered we realized this is happening on a huge scale, around the world—and even on our own doorsteps. Not 200 years ago. Not even fifty years ago. It was—and is—happening today. And so STOP THE TRAFFIK was born.
Human Tafficking—A Definition

Human trafficking is the dislocation of someone by deception or coercion for exploitation, through forced prostitution, forced labor, or other forms of slavery.

-800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year (US State Department)

-It is estimated that two children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation. This amounts to an estimated 1.2 million children trafficked every year (UNICEF)

-In 2004, between 14,500 and 17,500 people were trafficked into the United States (US State Department)

-Human trafficking generates between 10 and 12 billion dollars a year (UNICEF)

-Total profit from human trafficking is second only to the trafficking of drugs (The European Police Office; Eurpol)

The numbers tell you the huge scale of this problem. But behind each number is a sea of faces. Behind the statistics are mothers and father, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, torn apart by trafficking; these are innocent lives ruined by abuse. These are human rights violations on a grotesque scale. And the problem is getting worse.

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Learning to Live Financially Free: FIRST Wild Card Tours

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:

 

Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Marriage & Your Money

Kregel Publications (February 16, 2009)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORs:

Marybeth Whalen is a speaker and contributing writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. The author of For the Write Reason, Marybeth has also written for Parent Life, Money Matters newsletter, The Old Schoolhouse, Hearts at Home magazine, and Homeschooling Today. She contributes regularly to the daily online devotions of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and Curt are the parents of six children, which has taught them much about how to stretch a dollar.

Curt Whalen is a trained financial counselor through Crown Financial Concepts. He has years of experience helping couples establish budgets, solve financial problems, and learn to communicate more effectively. He has written articles for TEACH Magazine and Money Matters Newsletter and has contributed to books by authors Lysa TerKeurst and Melanie Chitwood.

Visit the authors’ website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.69
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (February 16, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825441889
ISBN-13: 978-0825441882

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Finding Hope 

Marybeth

Several years ago, my husband, Curt, and I traveled to Florida to visit my stepsister, Becky, and her husband, Chuck. Curt and I enjoyed a few days away from our kids and reconnected with family members we don’t get to see very often. One evening the four adults snuck away for a nice, leisurely dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s at Pleasure Island in Disney World. The environment was festive and fun, and all of our spirits were light as we sat around the table enjoying the sights, sounds, and delicious smells.

At one point during the conversation, we got on the subject of struggles we’d experienced in marriage. Curious as to the low points of other couples (we’ve certainly had our share!), I asked Becky and Chuck what their lowest point had been. Without even pondering, Becky blurted out, “When we didn’t have any money. Chuck had just taken a job with his dad and wasn’t making much as a starting salary. I can clearly remember one time when I went to the grocery store and my card was declined because it was maxed out. I’ll never forget having to leave my groceries behind. I felt like every eye in the store was watching me. That was the lowest point in the history of our marriage—and it took awhile for it to get better.”
Becky and Chuck’s financial situation did change. They became financially independent and now enjoy a lifestyle few people do. Yet as they sat at dinner that night—years after that difficult time—Becky could easily recall the humiliation of struggling with money. That period still haunted them and still counted as the roughest trouble they had ever faced—beyond the divorce of his parents, issues related to children, cross-country moves, and several health problems. Not having enough money and struggling to pay for basic needs had left an indelible mark on their marriage.

I never forgot that moment with Becky and Chuck. I think of it often, as it is a telling commentary on the power that financial issues can have in a marriage. Marriages break up every day over money. Mismanagement, miscommunication, and misunderstandings drive a wedge between husband and wife. Instead of getting in the ring and fighting for their finances together, many couples throw their hands up and walk away—from the problems, but also from each other. In a study done by Money magazine, 84 percent of those surveyed said that money causes tension in their marriage, and 13 percent said they fight about money several times a month.1 Another study cited that 37 percent of couples say that debt is the number one issue that will spark a fight. “Numerous studies have shown that money is the number one reason why couples argue—and many of the recently divorced say those battles were the main reason why they untied the knot.”2

Curt and I teetered on the edge of throwing in the towel on our marriage many times. We’ll tell our story throughout this book, and we’ll also share the lessons we learned during our time in the ring as we literally fought to get our finances under control. Our prayer is that this book will help other couples find the freedom that can result from living financially sound lives. The truth is, money is not an isolated issue within a marriage—it infiltrates every other area of the marriage. From the kitchen to the bedroom, money problems will follow you. Once you get a handle on this area of your marriage, you’ll find that other problems seem to evaporate into thin air. It’s been our experience that the stress of money problems adds an air of negativity to the marriage as a whole. Working together to eliminate those problems can breathe fresh hope and life into what seemed like a lifeless, hopeless situation.

If you’ve picked up this book, then chances are you need to make some changes in your finances. And you’re not alone. Our country as a whole is in a downward financial spiral that is picking up speed with each turn of the calendar page. “On average, today’s consumer has a total of 13 credit obligations on record at a credit bureau. These include credit cards (such as department store charge cards, gas cards, or bank cards) and installment loans (auto loans, mortgage loans, student loans, etc.). Of these thirteen credit obligations, nine are likely to be credit cards and four are likely to be installment loans.”3 “Revolving consumer debt, almost all from credit cards, now totals $957 billion, compared with $800 billion in 2004, according to the Federal Reserve. Average car loans are up, too, to $27,397, from $24,888 four years ago. Home mortgages total $10.5 trillion, compared with $7.8 trillion in 2004.”4

Our personal financial choices are now being reflected on a national level. As we write these words, our nation is experiencing one of the hardest economic challenges since the Great Depression. For decades we have lived beyond our means, using debt as a tool to obtain our wants. And now our house of cards is crumbling around us. We find ourselves with a national debt that has surpassed the ten-trillion-dollar mark, a banking system that is undergoing radical change, and billions of dollars of value that has been lost on Wall Street as the Dow plummets from over 14,000 down to lows we never thought possible. Economists have stopped asking if we’re going to be in a recession and started asking how bad and how long it will be.

The national climate of anxiety and uncertainty is also the climate of many homes.

A Commitment to Change

The reality of our poor financial choices hit Curt and I one night four years ago, a few days before Christmas. What should have been a time of festivities and celebrating became just another cause for stress. We didn’t know how we were going to afford the expensive presents on the kids’ lists. We didn’t want to tell them no, yet to buy gifts meant adding to our already overwhelming debt load. Because of our faith, we took God at His word when He said that nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37). And yet, from where we sat, our situation looked impossible.

For years, we’d been trying to do something to change our financial picture, to no avail. We desperately wanted to stop using credit cards, yet financial emergencies always cropped up that drove us back to credit card purchases. We wanted to begin tithing and saving, yet there was never any money left over to do that. We wanted to begin chipping away at our debt, and yet we saw no way to do so. We felt trapped at every turn. We’d gotten ourselves into a financial mess. Never before that night had we felt more strongly about getting out of our mess.

As we sat in our parked car at a shopping center near our home. I watched as the other shoppers bustled past us, intent on their lists and last minute errands. I vaguely wondered how many of them were slipping deeper into debt as they charged purchases they couldn’t really afford. Meanwhile, Curt and I talked for over an hour, working through what it would take for us to change our spending habits and take steps toward achieving our dream of being debt free. Though neither of us realized it yet, that night was the beginning of a major change in our lives. We were embarking on a journey that would enable us to escape the bondage of debt and begin to enjoy financial freedom. It would be a journey of many years as we endeavored to live differently from the rest of the culture and swim against the current on money issues.

I’ve often wondered why that night was different than our many other conversations throughout our marriage that had begun, “What are we going to do about our money problems?” Although some of our past efforts had resulted in temporary changes, nothing we did ever stuck. We quickly slipped back into our old ways and debt always seemed to creep back in. Even if we closed a door, debt seemed to find a window. So what made this night—this conversation—different?

First, just a few days before, we’d learned we were expecting a baby. This news had prompted us to evaluate how we could become more financially stable as we prepared for this additional responsibility. In short, it was time to get serious. Second, this impending life change and the urgency we both felt resulted in a unity of purpose that we’d never had before. In the past, our convictions about getting out of debt and making hard changes were usually separate, with one person not as sold on the necessity of the plan. We had never been on board at the same time.

Finally, and most importantly, God met with us that night in the car, allowing Curt and me to feel the same conviction and urgency. God went before us and prepared our hearts, as He is faithful to do. We looked across that car at each other and decided that, not only could we do this, but that together we would do this. Whatever it took. In our ignorance we were actually excited about working together to slay this debt monster and change our financial picture. God created unity where once there had been anger and blaming.

Heart Attitudes

Since that night, I’ve learned that getting out of debt requires allowing several basic attitudes to take root in our hearts. Notice I did not say in our minds. The Bible points to the heart as the center—the very essence—of who we are. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” All of our thoughts and actions flow from our hearts. It’s funny how we seem to relate money to our heads and not our hearts. But we miss the mark when we do that. Without allowing these attitudes to take root in our hearts—at the very center of our being—our plan for debt reduction would have quickly fallen by the wayside as unexpected expenses and “opportunities” came our way. By presenting a united front in our battle with debt and allowing these attitudes to determine our actions, we’ve been able to stick with our plan. Though we’ll go into the specifics of our plan in other chapters, I first want to cover these four heart attitudes.

An Attitude of Commitment

Because we saw the necessity of reducing our debt and were committed in our hearts to doing that at all costs, we were not tossed about by the waves (Eph. 4:14) when real life hit. We set a goal and held each other accountable to reaching that goal. We are committed to God and to each other as a team. Our plan to become debt free was a long-range plan. In a world of fast food, microwaves, and instant access, it’s not easy to walk out every agonizing step in a long-range plan. We knew that results would be long in coming and that we had to fix our eyes on the goal, not the circumstances, and hang onto the Lord to get us through. We’ll spend all of chapter 4 talking about how to become a team.

An Attitude of Obedience

A key to obedience is recognizing God’s ownership of all things. We were both convinced that God would help us get out of debt if we were obedient to Him. This obedience required me especially to obey not only God, but my husband as well. Though submission is a dirty word in most circles, it was essential on our journey. I had to let my husband lead—even when I doubted his decision and even when he made mistakes. I couldn’t step out of the chain of command, and at first I had to continually confess this struggle to the Lord. The good news is, it got easier for me, and my husband became a natural leader for our family. The more power I handed over to him, the more I saw him grow. I am the direct beneficiary of the blessings of obedience. Through this journey, I’ve had many opportunities to show my husband my respect, trust, and honor as our provider and leader of our home.

An Attitude of Surrender

This period of getting out of debt hasn’t been all rosy, as we’ll relate later in this book. Obedience has required sacrifice. I’ve had to surrender my wants and reduce my expectations. I’ve had to learn to go without, to trust God to provide, and to lay down my desires. We’ve both had to make adjustments in our spending and truly “count the cost” of every spending decision. We’ve learned to surrender our desires in the name of honoring God’s plans for our family, trusting Him to continually bring about the best outcome possible—more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

An Attitude of Prayer

As we’ve laid down our wants, we’ve had to go to God and cast all our anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He has shown Himself to be a great listener and comforter. We are learning to go to Him with our specific financial concerns and to give Him all the praise when He meets our needs in miraculous ways. Our time of financial readjustment has truly increased my prayer life as I’ve become more intimately acquainted with Jehovah-Jireh, my provider. I have learned what a detail-oriented, personal God He is. This experience has deepened my faith—a benefit I did not expect.

As we’ve walked through this time of going to God for everything we need, I’ve learned to trust in Him more completely. Though I’ll talk about this in more detail later, I want to share some things that happened just last summer that illustrate how God answers even what most would call silly, insignificant prayers. Know, though, that nothing we pray is silly and insignificant to God!

• In past summers, we’d gone to a farm and picked buckets of blueberries. But it was not cheap to buy the blueberries—and I knew that we didn’t need to spend the money. So I told the Lord about how I wanted blueberries. I didn’t really ask Him for blueberries, per se, I just told my Daddy how I was longing for some blueberries for making pancakes, muffins, cakes, and other dishes. Just a few days later, I was talking with a woman I barely knew, and she mentioned that she and her family would be going out of town for a few weeks. She said that she worried about their large blueberry bushes with no one to pick them—and would we like to come and help ourselves while they were gone? Would we! We were able to pick bags of blueberries—for free!

• My son needed a new bike to ride up to our neighborhood pool because his had been stolen. We simply did not have it in the budget to buy the new bike—and yet the mother’s heart in me broke every time I saw him walking up to the pool while all the other kids rode past him. I told God how much it hurt and asked Him to provide my son with a bike when I could not. Just a few days later I was at a children’s consignment store and there, for a very inexpensive price, was a bike that looked almost new and was the perfect size for my very tall son. Why was this bike at a children’s consignment store that day? Because God orchestrated it so that I would find it. At least that’s what I believe, and that’s why I praised Him that day for answering this mother’s prayer and taking care of yet another detail in my life.

• One day I was craving a good, old southern tomato sandwich, a staple of my summer diet. But we had no tomatoes. I was just about to get in the car and drive to a produce stand to buy the tomatoes when I felt God tell me not to go, but to wait for the tomatoes. What a strange response, I thought. But I obeyed, wondering what God was up to. Within the hour, my son ran in from the neighbor’s house with several large, juicy ripe tomatoes in his hands. “Mom,” he cried. “Miss Joyce had too many tomatoes and I told her you’d love to have some!” I didn’t miss that opportunity to let my son know how God had used him to answer his mom’s prayer.

• A new necklace was all the rage and caught my eye several times as I saw it on the necks of other women. Usually I’m not much of a jewelry person, but there was something different about this particular necklace. I even found one for a reasonable price at a little home jewelry show and had it in my hand to buy it when I felt God nudging me to put it back. “But it’s a great price,” I told God—as if He didn’t know that. Again, I felt Him telling me to put it back. I will provide, I heard Him say. The following month we were visiting my stepsister, Becky, in Florida and I noticed that she was wearing that same necklace. I told her how much I liked it. “Oh,” she replied. “Do you want one? Because I got one for a gift and certainly don’t need two!” And just like that, I was the proud owner of a necklace I really wanted. And I didn’t have to spend a dime.

These are a few just examples of the countless times that God has shown us that He hears our prayers, He cares about the details, and He will move on our behalf. Sometimes we just have to be patient. And sometimes we have to learn to take no for an answer. Because I’ve seen God provide in miraculous ways, I’ve learned that when He says no, there has to be a good reason. And I must accept his no and move on instead of brooding over it. This process has taught me much about holding the things of this earth lightly—and has drawn me closer to the Father’s heart in the process. Through it all, we’ve indeed found hope in what could have been seen as a hopeless situation.

Do you need to find hope for your finances? The God of hope (Rom. 15:13) is waiting to show you the way out of debt and into freedom.

Study

Read Genesis 6:5; Luke 2:19; and Hebrews 4:12. How do these verses relate our thought lives to the condition of our hearts?

Reflect, Discuss, Plan

1. Was it a different concept for you to think of money as being tied to your heart attitude instead of your thought life?

2. What heart attitude do you struggle with the most—commitment, obedience, surrender, or prayer? Is there a part of you that still wants to control the situation and is hesitant about involving your heart in the process?

3. In the car that night prior to Christmas, we took a big step toward getting out of debt, as we verbally committed to each other to do whatever it took to get out of debt. Has there been a time when you’ve taken this step with your spouse? Does there need to be?

4. Have money problems been the lowest point in your marriage? If so, why do you think that is?

Take Action

Are you facing a particular situation that feels hopeless? (A bill that’s due, large amounts of debt to pay off, a purchase that needs to be made but no money to make it, etc.) Write down Romans 15:13 and then spend time praying that verse aloud. If you’re working through this book with your spouse, pray together.

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The Blood of Lambs: FIRST Wild Card Tours

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:

The Blood of Lambs

Howard Books (April 7, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kamal Saleem was born under another name into a large Sunni Muslim family in Lebanon. At age seven, he was recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood and immediately entered a Palestinian Liberation Organization terror training camp in Lebanon. After being involved in terror campaigns in Israel, Europe, Afghanistan, and Africa, and finally making radical Islam converts in the United States, Saleem renounced jihad and became an American citizen. He has appeared on CNN, CBS News, and Fox News programs, and has spoken on terrorism and radical Islam at Stanford University, the University of California, the Air Force Academy, and other institutions nationwide.

Collaborator Writer, Lynn Vincent: Lynn Vincent, a U.S. Navy veteran, is features editor at WORLD Magazine, a national news biweekly. She is the author or co-author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller, Same of Kind of Different as Me.

This true story of an ex-terrorist reveals the life and mindset of radical Muslims. Now a US citizen, Kamal heralds a wake-up call to America.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $23.99
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (April 7, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416577807
ISBN-13: 978-1416577805

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Beirut, Lebanon

1963

1
It was at my mother’s kitchen table, surrounded by the smells of herbed olive oils and pomegranates, that I first learned of jihad. Every day, my brothers and I gathered around the low table for madrassa, our lessons in Islam. I always tried to sit facing east, toward the window above the long marble sink where a huge tree with sweet white berries brushed against the window panes. Made of a warm, reddish wood, our table sat in the middle of the kitchen and was surrounded by tesats, small rugs that kept us off the cool tile. Mother sat at the head of the table and read to us from the Koran and also from the hadith, which records the wisdom and instruction of Allah’s prophet, Muhammad.

Mother’s Koran had a hard black cover etched ornately in gold and scarlet. Her grandfather had given the Book to her father, who had given it her. Even as a small boy I knew my mother and father were devout Sunni Muslims. So devout, in fact, that other Sunnis held themselves a little straighter in our family’s presence. My mother never went out without her hijab, only her coffee-colored eyes peering above the cloth that shielded her face, which no man outside our family had ever seen. My father, respected in our mosque, earned an honest living as a blacksmith. He had learned the trade from my grandfather, a slim Turk who wore a red fez, walked with a limp, and cherished thick, cinnamon-laced coffee.

Each day at madrassa, Mother pulled her treasured Koran from a soft bag made of ivory cloth and when she opened it, the breath of its frail, aging pages floated down the table. Mother would read to us about the glory of Islam, about the good Muslims, and about what the Jews did to us. As a four-year-old boy, my favorite parts were the stories of war.

I vividly remember the day in madrassa when we heard the story of a merciless bandit who went about robbing caravans and killing innocent travelers. “This bandit was an evil, evil man,” Mother said, spinning the tale as she sketched pictures of swords for us to color.

An evil bandit? She had my attention.

“One day, there was a great battle between the Jews and the sons of Islam,” she went on. “The bandit decided to join the fight for the cause of Allah. He charged in on a great, black horse, sweeping his heavy sword left and right, cutting down the infidel warriors.”

My eyes grew wider. I held my breath so as not to miss a word.

“The bandit fought bravely for Allah, killing several of the enemy until the sword of an infidel pierced the bandit’s heart. He tumbled from his horse and died on the battlefield.”

Disappointment deflated my chest. What good is a story like that?

I could hear children outside, shouting and playing. A breeze from the Mediterranean shimmered in the berry tree. Mother’s yaknah simmered on the stove — green beans snapped fresh, cooked with olive oil, tomato, onion, and garlic. She would serve it cool that evening with pita bread, fresh mint, and cucumbers. My stomach rumbled.

“After the bandit died,” Mother was saying in her storytelling voice, “his mother had a dream. In this dream, she saw her son sitting on the shore of an endless crystal river, surrounded by a multitude of women who were feeding him and tending to him.”

I turned back toward Mother. Maybe this story was not so bad after all.

“The bandit’s mother was an observant woman, obedient to her husband and to Allah and Muhammad,” my mother said. “This woman knew her son was a robber and a murderer. ‘How dare you be sitting here in paradise?’ she scolded him. ‘You don’t belong here. You belong in hell!’ But her son answered, ‘I died for the glory of Allah and when I woke up, He welcomed me into jannah.’ “

Paradise.

My mother swept her eyes around the kitchen table. “So you see, my sons, even the most sinful man is able to redeem himself with one drop of an infidel’s blood.”

The Blood of Lambs © 2009 Arise Enterprises, LLC

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What Color is Your Parachute?

What Color is Your Parachute?

What Color is Your Parachute?

I don’t know what color my parachute is. But I do know that this book is a must-read for anyone who is about hit the job market for the first time or anyone who is looking for a career change. Now, if you know what you want to be “when you grow up,” please instruct us all.

This book written by Dick Bolles is a classic on careers reprinted every year with updates. I read the 2008 edition; it’s clearly marked on the spine of every book. The subtitle is A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. Part one is about the job hunt–things you wish you learned in school but were never taught.

Bolles states that success in finding a job is in who you know and not what your resumé says. He said the internet is not the way to go but every job I have found since I graduated from college was found through Craig’s List. So much for the expert Bolles.

I love this book and the supplemental workbook. However, I think Bolles is still not ahead of the tech curve. I have found plenty of jobs online and spent more time networking that way than attending events. In fact, events have grown out of online communities.

The most valuable aspect of this book is the thorough analysis and suggestions for the job hunt. I will provide further review once I finish the workbook. This book is best carried along with you on the journey for each perfect job to make up a long, fulfilling career.

There is a website and a workbook that helps. http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/ by Dick Bolles.

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The Woman of Mystery: Unveiling the Secret to True Romance: FIRST Wild Card Tour

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:

The Woman of Mystery: Unveiling the Secret to True Romance

Tyndale House Publishers (April 1, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hayley DiMarco is the best-selling author of more than thirty books, including Datable and Marriable.She spent the early part of her career working for a little shoe company called Nike in Portland, Oregon. After three years with the “Swoosh,” Hayley got fed up with the incessant rain of Portland and began to search for dryer ground. Soon she found just the spot—Nashville, Tennessee, where she became the manager of promotions at Thomas Nelson Publishers. While operating as the brand manager of Nelson’s new teen line, Hayley authored, edited, or had her hand in more than thirty-six different titles.

In 2002 Hayley left Nelson and founded Hungry Planet, a company intensely focused on feeding the world’s appetite for truth by producing books and new media, taking on issues of faith and life with a distinctly modern voice.

Shortly after founding Hungry Planet, Hayley successfully completed a nationwide executive search for someone to run the company so she could focus on writing. She describes her husband, Michael, as her most successful business acquisition! Hayley and Michael are now the proud parents of Hungry Planet’s thirty-plus books, including ten best sellers, three ECPA Christian Book Award finalists, one ECPA winner, and one amazing human, their daughter, Addison.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414324685
ISBN-13: 978-1414324685

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss from her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.

• CITY OF ANGELS

I’d rather fight with you than make love to anyone else.

• THE WEDDING DATE

You’re a woman and you want him to appreciate you because of that. Being female is at the core of who you are, and you want him to notice. To notice your ability to communicate and the funny way you wiggle your nose when you’re happy. You hope he will catch the curve of your legs and the way you fixed your hair. You want him to follow the scent that lingers as you walk by. You want to allure the man you desire, and you realize that it takes all that is feminine in you to do it. But you also want him to love the parts of your personality that make you uniquely you: Your self-assertiveness and your ability to have strong opinions and ideas. Your sense of humor, your favorite and unfavorite things, the quirky habits that set you apart from everyone else. Your shyness, your strength. You want him to recognize your mind and all its creativity and power, your heart and its ability to love, your soul and its depth. You want him to find in you that thing he’s been looking for all his life.

Romance arrives when you realize that on all these counts he has seen you and found you alluring. In return, he shows honor and respect for those things in you that he finds so appealing. When he showers praise on your very essence, you are where you long to be—in the heart of romance. All that we define as romantic has the element of recognition in it. We are recognized for who we are, and we are loved for who we are. We are recognized as “other,” as different from the one who sees us, but still awe-inspiring.

When a man finds everything about you (even your idiosyncrasies) endearing, he is offering you pure romance. And it is intoxicating.

If you are like me, there is likely a part of you that is craving romance. Maybe you’ve tried to stuff it into the corner of your heart, or maybe you’ve tried to ignore it altogether. But it’s there, whether you acknowledge it or not. Like me, you might have tried to fulfill your need for romance with fantasies of romantic moments with a man, sexy clothes, romantic getaways, or idyllic decor . . . and more than likely, you’ve come up short. The romance your mind promises your heart never seems to arrive. And so you yearn for more, and you wonder what you are doing wrong—or what’s wrong with you. The search for romance seems never ending and always just out of reach.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. When we embrace the concept of womanhood as God designed it to be, true romance is possible. At her best, the Woman of Mystery is an echo of the divine, revealed in the romance of femininity (more on this in a moment). Her presence can transform a room. She is captivating

and inviting, and men find her unforgettable. If romance is a kind of aphrodisiac for women, then one could say that mystery is an aphrodisiac for men. The mystery of the woman who can’t be fully understood is an invitation to the masculine heart to come closer.

This woman is alluring and warm. She draws people to her. People who know her want what she has; people who observe her are intrigued by her charm and charmed by her beauty, though that beauty might be just beneath the surface. It is the atmosphere that surrounds her that entices others to her side. It is her soul that makes people curious, that causes them to follow her, pursue her, and want to know her.

Though mystery can keep many a man guessing, it is also what makes him desire a woman. Mystery says to the man who catches a glimpse of it, “That is something special,” and it compels him to explore the depths of it. But more than that, it can give him strength and hope. Mystery leaves his soul wanting more, so when a woman allows some things to remain hidden or unspoken, he is intrigued.

There are some women throughout history who have given us a peek at the mystery that captivates. Jackie Kennedy was one such woman who lived with a captivating sense of grace and dignity. She will forever be remembered as a woman who didn’t allow her grief and pain to become the focal point of her life. She maintained her personal strength in order to be strong for her nation. Lady Diana also had an air of mystery that endeared her to the world. Even in the midst of her own heartache, she reached out to the world and sought to bring comfort to the weak and neglected. Audrey Hepburn kept a certain sense of mystery about her throughout her life too, not only because of her physical beauty and the way

she carried herself, but also because of her dedication to helping underprivileged children in the poorest countries. She will live on in the minds of generations as a result. These women didn’t just let it all hang out; they lived with gentle reserve and unspoken confidence. They weren’t prone to fits of rage or given to public displays of emotional weakness or excess. Though their mystery might not have come from a life lived with Christ, they are still noteworthy starting points of what mystery looks like.

Feminine figures in the faith like Kay Arthur and Beth Moore demonstrate a compelling sense of mystery in their own way. They speak to thousands with confidence and yet also speak to individual women they meet with such charm that each woman believes, at that moment, that she is the only person in the world. I have personally watched Kay interact with hundreds of women and have seen how she treats each stranger as a friend. She looks into these women’s eyes as they share their hearts with her. She holds

their hands and hugs them tight. Her mind isn’t on herself or her next appointment but always on those she is with. This kind of compassion and love captivates anyone in her presence. It gives her an air of kindness and strength that draws people to her. God’s love is quickly seen in the lives of women like these.

The Mysterious Christ

“I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

Christ himself is the author of mystery. His very presence here on earth was a mystery (see 1 Timothy 3:16). He maintained that mystery as he spoke in parables, suggesting that not all who listened would understand (see Luke 8:9-10). And in a way that defies human logic, when he was being persecuted, he didn’t seek to defend himself or argue with his persecutors but instead accepted their attacks with a sense of acceptance that God’s hand was in the matter (see 1 Peter 2:23).

Imagine how he walked while he lived among us; imagine how he talked and loved while he interacted with people. Imagine the calm he instilled in them. Imagine how captivating his words would have been to hungry hearts, how mysterious his reactions were even to the disciples who were with him every day. Though others disdained and avoided the Samaritan woman, Jesus loved her (see John 4:9-10). He ate with people who were viewed as the worst kind of sinners (see Matthew 9:10-12). His very nature went against the grain and baffled the minds of those who thought they knew God. And in the end, the world mocked him when he mysteriously refused to come down from the cross and save himself from such great pain (see Luke 23:35). To our human natures, Jesus was and is a complete mystery—his actions, his words, his heart. Mystery was his way of living. And dying. But to our spiritual natures, this mystery is revealed as we seek to know him more (see Matthew 7:7).

It shouldn’t be a surprise that our call as believers to imitate the life of Christ would also lead us to that same mystery that makes him so alluring, so different from the rest of the world. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul calls believers to imitate Christ. Beautifully, mysteriously, as we accept Christ, we find ourselves in the possession of his Spirit. “The person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17). As we accept the life of Christ and all the mystery that it entails, we also accept the mind of God himself. First Corinthians 2:16 states that “we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” Because of that, the imitation of Christ’s life, and therefore his mystery, is within our reach as we walk this earth and relate to those who love us and those who hate us. Rather than thinking of Christ as a mystery we must solve, we must embrace his mystery, as it is this mystery that draws people to him in the first place.

This call to imitate the mystery of Christ is not a gentle request but a God-initiated command. Yet how many of us take the words of imitation seriously? At times my heart lacks the strength to stand, so it retreats into the habit of fear and worry, and looks nothing like the heart of Christ. I depart from the imitation of the God I love, and I travel to the land of introspection and anxiety. And the mystery is lost. It isn’t until I look from the trials of life to the God who sustains me that I can reclaim the ground I lost. It

is a daily returning. I confess my retreat, and I promise to march forward in faith and hope. “Day by day” has become my battle cry. My constant fight is against the conflicting impulses that tug at my heart and distract me from the face of God.

For a number of years, I struggled with a horrific fear of flying. I would see images of plane crashes on the news, and I couldn’t get them out of my head. So each time I would get onto a plane, my heart would pound, my mind would race, and my gut would hurt. And although I didn’t explode like I thought I would—and neither did the plane—I would end up physically sore, emotionally tired, and literally sickened by the end of each arduous flight.

Each time we landed, I would look back over my stressful trip and say to myself, Why can’t I trust God with my life? I knew all the biblical responses. I coached people through their fears. But this fear controlled me. However, each time I wanted to give up flying altogether, I’d say, “No, I will not let fear, a sin, control me.” And so I would fly in spite of the difficulty and stress of it. After much prayer and much refusal to let anything other than God control me, I am happy to say that I can now fly without fear. There are days in my life when I look like anything but a believer, let alone like Christ himself, but I refuse to let that be the end of me or define me. Instead, I push forward to attain what God promised me—the ability to imitate the life of peace and hope of Jesus himself.

No matter what your area of struggle is—whether it’s failing to trust God with your fears, failing to keep the mystery alive, or failing to embrace his version of true romance—don’t give up. I want to make it clear to your heart that perfection isn’t attainable this side of glory. But the desire to imitate Christ is worth pursuing. As many times as we fall down, we can keep getting up and trying again.

Three Kinds of Romance

If you talked to a dozen women about what romance means, you’d likely get a dozen different answers. One woman might say it’s getting red roses; another might say it has to be wildflowers. Some might say it’s a mountain getaway; others might say it’s Times Square at midnight. Or maybe a picnic by the lake is better than a candlelit dinner at a fancy restaurant. Opinions on what romance is may vary, so it might be best to establish what the term romance means to the Woman of Mystery. I believe there are actually

three different kinds of romance: manufactured romance, earthly romance, and true romance. Manufactured romance and earthly romance are only imitations of true romance. They give us hints of its flavor but not the full taste.

Manufactured romance is the least genuine of the three. It is an attempt to force romance through setting and circumstances. It is the imitation romance of films and music. Manufactured romance is going to a chick flick in order to get a taste of romance for ourselves. It is opening a Pottery Barn catalog and believing that if we could just have that room, our lives would be magical. It’s the romance we arrange ourselves when the real thing is lacking. And it’s little more than a false high that leaves us feeling empty when the vision and the hope wear off.

Earthly romance is a closer imitation of the real thing. Not only can it peacefully coexist with true romance, but it can also amplify it. Earthly romance is that thing that happens between a man and

a woman. It is the way the world fades into the background when you look into his eyes. It is that feeling that keeps you up at night with excitement and hope, and it is those moments when your heart feels truly adored and loved by one man who is wholly and completely devoted to you. And in its truest form, earthly romance is something God created to be a natural taste of the divine. But it can never be a substitute for true romance.

True romance is what all other forms of romance seek to imitate. It comes from a relationship with a holy God and is more amazing than any earthly relationship could ever be. It comes as you worship, as you obey, as you love. When your heart becomes aware of God’s presence, feelings of peace, hope, joy, and even ecstasy can overtake you (see John 14:27). The world starts to look a little brighter and seem a little less harsh toward you (see Psalm 37:3-4). When your thoughts mirror God’s thoughts, and when you can say that he is all you ever really want or need, then true romance descends upon you.

This is a romance that cannot be shaken, no matter how bad your outward circumstances. It stands in the face of every trial, every attack, and every heartache. It brings you tears of joy and real feelings of comfort and support. When you experience true romance, you know in the very center of your soul that you are loved with the kind of love that is beyond compare. And that love will never disappoint. It is this true romance that is the answer to all other longings for love in your life. Without true romance, earthly romance becomes fleeting and unsatisfying, but with it, all earthly romance is enhanced and strengthened. Gain true romance and you will never again need to ask, “Where is the romance?”

When I was single I had moments of despair. Would I ever find a man to love? Would I be alone forever? It was an emotional time. I can remember feeling deflated and wanting so badly to have someone hold me and say I was beautiful, to romance me and make me happy to be adored. But no one was to be found. In a lonely funk one evening, I walked out onto my porch, sat down to watch the sunset, and found just what I was looking for. The breeze gently touched my skin, and I sighed. The smell of fresh-cut grass made me inhale deeply. And the orange sky made me say thank you. How foolish I had been, looking for earthly romance when true romance was there right in front of me. Who needs flowers when you have a sunset designed by the very hand of the one who loves you most? Who needs a hug when his very creation fills your lungs and surrounds your body with every breath? When I pushed out my thoughts of what I lacked and focused on the abundance that was mine, I realized that true romance wasn’t dependent on the presence or the lack of a man in my life.

When Jesus was nearing the end of his time here on earth, he offered us these words: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). True romance is a gift the world cannot give. It is beyond compare, and it is available to everyone who seeks it. The Woman of Mystery is a woman who understands the secret to true romance and the need for it in her life. Because of her connection to God, she has an air of mystery that captivates those who are near her.

But becoming a Woman of Mystery can initially feel like a daunting task. Her qualities seem too perfect to be attained, her choices too impossible to imitate. I know from experience. I was not always a lover of mystery. I was an aggressive, successful executive type who took the world and the boardroom by the horns. I found it rewarding to shock people and to demand attention.

I can remember one particularly notable nonmysterious move that I once made that caused a few jaws to drop. I was presenting at an important sales meeting for the publisher I worked for. This conservative publishing house was, at the time, populated with middle-aged men who found me a bit of a wild card in the world of Bible publishing. In my belief that shocking people helped me to get my point across, I had chosen to wear an outfit that seemed to solicit a lot of comments. As I walked the length of the large—very large—mahogany conference table, the guys proceeded to make comic remarks about my attire. “You singing at a wedding later today?” They all laughed and murmured their snarky remarks. So,

when I got to my seat at the head of the table surrounded by some thirty men, I put down my papers and pulled out my chair. Then I stepped up on it and onto the shiny wood table. “Take a good look!” I pronounced. “Have your laughs now. Get it out of your system.” I twirled around slowly as they all sat in shock. As I came back around to face them, the huge doors at the other end of the conference room opened and the CEO of the company walked in. His very conservative jaw dropped, and a look of discomfort came over him. And I enjoyed every minute of it. Let’s just say that on that day I made my mark on the company.

Lest you think as you read this book that I’m now a quiet church-lady type and that mystery comes naturally to me, let me assure you that I am the exact opposite. I am, at heart, a driven, assertive woman who is at times both a social hermit and a show woman. When I’m expected to perform, I am the center of attention and take command of the crowd. But when I’m not on, I am shy by nature and would rather spend my days at home alone than with crowds of people. I can tell you that my desire to achieve has often made me do things even I am shocked by, both in the boardroom and in the romantic world. Most of the time, I’ve gotten it all wrong.

My dating life spanned almost two decades. And over those years I made many mistakes. For most of my adult life, I was the aggressor, not only in business, but also in love. I chased men, argued with them, and baffled them. I can’t tell you how many men said, “Can you just stop being the man in this relationship?”

And for years I couldn’t understand what they were talking about and why I was still single. I was a catch! (Isn’t that what we all tell ourselves?) Even after I got married, remnants of my “masculine”

tendencies remained. But more on that later. It wasn’t until after I started to discover the power of mystery that I was set free from this constant state of internal unrest. I was no longer striving or pushing against the world. I was living in step with it and the people around me, and I was finding beauty where I had never seen it before. I’m far from the picture of perfect mystery, but I’m miles closer than I used to be.

And so when I talk about this woman that we aspire to become, know that I have yet to get it all right. But as I embark on this life of mystery, I’m finding it is not only more relationally rewarding but more spiritually rewarding as well. I hope that these words resonate with you and that you will risk testing them to see if they are true. May this be a chance for you to find your heart full of true romance and the love that goes along with it.

Lifting the Veil

FINDING ROMANCE

Don’t look for more candles or romantic music; try to look for opportunities to admire, even adore, God’s creation. And that includes your husband, if you have one, as well as your friends and family. Find the good in everything from nature to smells to tastes, and you will begin to discover the romance. Spend time each day taking it all in.

Meditate on the goodness in your life; disregard the negative. Refuse to become a slave to resenting what God himself has given you. And major on the positives.

ROMANTIC INVENTORY

Take a look at your life over the past five to ten years. What are some of the most romantic moments you’ve had? What has made them so romantic? What about the times romance was lacking? How did you handle its absence? Can you think of some ways you could replace those longings with God himself? Spend some time in prayer and Bible study, finding out how to fall deeper in love with Jesus.

WORSHIP MUSIC

I have found that if I listen to my favorite uplifting music while reading devotional and other inspirational books, I increase the degree of understanding and penetration to my heart. It’s the sound track of life, as I like to call it. So I encourage you to pick up your iPod or turn on the CD player and allow the sound track of life to add to the experience of reading and absorbing this book and other books you’re reading.

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