Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review: A Very Private Grave (Book 1: The Monastery Murders) by Donna Fletcher Crow

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

A Very Private Grave (Book 1: The Monastery Murders)

Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Donna Fletcher Crow for sending me a review copy.***


Donna Fletcher Crow is the award-winning author of more than 30 books, primarily novels dealing with British history.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1854249681
ISBN-13: 978-1854249685


Felicity flung her history book against the wall. She wasn’t studying for the priesthood to learn about ancient saints. She wanted to bring justice to this screwed-up world. Children were starving in Africa, war was ravaging the Middle East, women everywhere were treated as inferiors. Even here in England—

She stopped her internal rant when she realized the crash of her book had obscured the knock at her door. Reluctantly she picked up the book, noting with satisfaction the smudge it had left on the wall, and went into the hall. Her groan wasn’t entirely internal when she made out the black cassock and grey scapular of her caller through the glass panel of the door. She couldn’t have been in less of a mood to see one of the long-faced monks who ran the College of the Transfiguration which she had chosen to attend in a moment of temporary insanity. She jerked the door open with a bang.

“Father Dominic!” Felicity was immediately sorry for her surly mood. Fr. Dominic was an entirely different matter. She was always happy to see him. “I didn’t realize you were back from your pilgrimage.” She held the door wide for him as he limped down the hall to her living room.

“Just returned, my dear. Just returned.” As he spoke he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes that belied his 85 years, but he couldn’t quite suppress a small sigh as he lowered himself stiffly onto her sofa.

“I’ll put the kettle on.” Felicity turned toward her small kitchen. “I’m so sorry I don’t have any scones.”

“No, no. Just tea today— black.”

She looked at him, puzzled for a moment, then remembered. Oh, yes— today was Ash Wednesday. Solemn fast and all that. Felicity mentally rolled her eyes as she filled the kettle with water and clicked it on.

A few minutes later she filled his cup with a steaming, amber stream of his favorite Yorkshire Gold tea. The Community had a year or two ago started serving a cheaper blend of tea and donating the money saved thereby to the African Children’s Fund Fr. Dominic chaired— a worthy cause, but the tea was dreadful.

He raised his cup, “Oh, who could ask for more? The nectar of the gods.” Still, she knew he was missing her scones for which he sometimes provided little jars of quince jam from the community kitchen. And at Christmas he had brought her favorite— slices of dark, rich fruit cake encased in marzipan an inch thick.

And yet today she wondered if he noticed what he was or wasn’t eating at all, he was so animated with his plans for the major funding drive the Children’s Fund was set to launch. “If one puts together abortion, infant mortality, AIDS and traumatic deaths, South Africa’s daily death toll is appalling. Thousands die in a matter of months. If this were a war, such troop causalities would not be acceptable. The entire future of that nation— the whole continent, really— is at stake. They simply cannot afford to lose so many of their people— especially the children who are the future. If you don’t maintain health and keep order, instability, violence and poverty tear a country apart.”

Felicity nodded vigorously. Yes, this was more like it. This was what she wanted to hear about, not some useless church history nonsense. Fr. Dominic had spent his life working in South Africa, and today his passion made every word strike her heart. “And it isn’t just South Africa, the rest of the continent looks to them— to us— for stability. If South Africa fails, millions of Africans will curse us— we who stand by and let it happen.”

Still, there was hope, Dominic had talked to key people while on pilgrimage and had secured a source for a vast amount for the fund, although he didn't say what that source was. “This will be enough to build a first rate hospital for AIDS babies in Africa and fund a research wing for prevention and cure. There are good leaders in the government. There are people working for justice. If we can just give the people hope to hold on— "

His eyes took on a dreamy look and a little smile played around his mouth. "Hope. That’s what it’s always been about. Through the centuries . . . At last, the treasure to be put to a truly worthy use. . ." He ducked his head and took a quick sip of tea. “Forgive me, I’ve said too much.” He became suddenly thoughtful and lapsed into a most uncharacteristic silence. All Felicity’s best efforts couldn’t coax any more stories from him. Perhaps it was just the solemnity of the day, but Felicity did miss his stories— even the ones she had heard multiple times.

He drained his cup and set it down. “Ah, thank you my dear. Always a pleasure to be in your bright company. But now I must be getting back up the hill. Father Superior has asked me to do the ashing at mass, so I must prepare.” He struggled to his feet, his broad-shouldered, once-muscular frame revealing gauntness under the weight of his black woolen cassock, as did the folds of flesh that hung beneath his square jaw.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” he patted the canvas scrip which hung at his side from a strap slung across his chest. “I thought this might interest you.” He held out a small parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied up with old-fashioned string. His hand shook ever so slightly as Felicity took it from him. The gesture was so endearing: his shyness charming; his eagerness humbling. If the circumstances had been vastly different he could have been a suitor offering jewels to his beloved, or perhaps in an earlier age a troubadour bestowing an ode to his lady. And oddly enough, Felicity had the distinct impression that he hadn’t at all forgotten, but rather that delivering this small package had been the sole object of his visit. One might almost say his mission.

Felicity couldn’t help herself. She stepped forward and kissed him on his cheek. “Thank you, Father.”

Unexpectedly he placed his hands on each side of her forehead. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.” She felt a warmth from his hands that infused her whole head and radiated toward her body as if she were being bathed in warm oil. She almost fancied a faint scent of spice as he made the sign of the cross over her.

Moving inside a bubble of hushed awe, she held the door for him and he walked out slowly, as if reluctant to leave, stepping carefully to avoid limping. “I’ll see you at mass, Father.”

She shut the door behind him and turned to the window to watch his slow progress down the uneven sidewalk, his grey scapular blowing in the wind. Somehow she wanted to call out to him, to cling to the moment, but already it was passing, the normality of the day moving in on a holy moment. Yet even as she turned away from the window, the warmth of his touch remained on her head. She turned back one last time, her hand held out to him, but no one was there. Only a fleeting shadow brushed the corner of her eye. She shivered, but when she blinked the sky was clear.

"Right. Back to the real world." Felicity spoke aloud to make herself focus. She looked longingly at the small brown package in her hand. It felt like a book. A very slim volume. Had Father D. found a publisher for his poetry? Her fingers plucked at the string. No. If this was a collection of her friend’s poetry perusing it must not be rushed. Reading it would be her treat when she finished the work she had set for herself for the day. Lectures had been cancelled to mark the solemnity, but essays would still be due when they were due. With a sigh she slipped the gift into one of the copious patch pockets of her skirt and returned to the tome on the Anglo-Saxon church Fr. Antony had assigned, forcing herself to concentrate on its obscure irrelevancies.

That had been the hardest thing she had found about adjusting to her first year at theological college— the constant pressure for work, the lack of time to pursue her own interests— and that in a monastery, even. You really would think, living with a bunch of monks and future priests you'd have all the time in the world. Felicity shook her head.

And besides that, there was no margin for error on her part. As one of only four women among the student body of forty-some— and the only American— Felicity felt a double burden to reach the highest standards possible. This was the first year the Anglo-Catholic College of the Transfiguration had accepted women as ordinands, although they were still housed off campus awaiting alterations to the dormitories. Before "the Great Change" a few women enrolled as students, but were not allowed equal status with the male ordinands. Last year, however, the college had submitted to the winds of change and the powers that be, so now the women had full status— and double pressure.

Felicity, however was never one to let such barriers discourage her. She could rise to any challenge and her determination to succeed in this male-dominated world knew no limits. Anyway, she had few complaints. She had been warmly welcomed— by most. A handful of ordinands and perhaps two or three of the monks or lay teachers were less warm— whether because she was female or because she was American she wasn’t sure.

Two hours later the insistent ringing of the community bell called her back from her reading just in time to fling a long black cassock on over her shetland sweater and dash across the street and up the hill to the Community grounds. Her long legs carried her the distance in under three minutes— she had timed it once. Once inside the high stone wall enclosing the Community she slowed her pace. It never failed. No matter how irritated she became with all the ancient ritual and nonsense of the place, there was something about the storybook quality of it all that got through to her in her quieter moments.

The spicy scent of incense met her at the door of the church. She dipped her finger in the bowl of holy water and turned to share it with the brother just behind her. Shy Br. Matthew extended a plump finger without meeting her eyes. They each crossed themselves and slipped into their seats in the choir.

“Miserere mei, Deus. . .” The choir and cantors had practiced for weeks to be able to sing Psalm 51 to the haunting melody composed by Allegri. The words ascended to the vaulted ceiling; the echoes reverberated. Candles flickered in the shadowed corners. She had been here for six months— long enough for the uniqueness of it all to have palled to boredom— but somehow there was a fascination she couldn't define. “Mystery,” the monks would tell her. And she could do no better.

What was the right term to describe how she was living? Counter-cultural existence? Alternate lifestyle? She pondered for a moment, then smiled. Parallel universe. That was it. She was definitely living in a parallel universe. The rest of the world was out there, going about its everyday life, with no idea that this world existed alongside of it.

It was a wonderful, cozy, secretive feeling as she thought of bankers and shopkeepers rushing home after a busy day, mothers preparing dinner for hungry school children, farmers milking their cows— all over this little green island the workaday world hummed along to the pace of modern life. And here she was on a verdant hillside in Yorkshire living a life hardly anyone knew even existed. Harry Potter. It was a very Harry Potter experience.

She forced her attention back to the penitential service with its weighty readings, somber plainchant responses, and minor key music set against purple vestments. Only when they came to the blessing of the ashes did she realize Fr. Dominic wasn’t in his usual place. Her disappointment was sharp. He had definitely said he was to do the imposition of the ashes and she had felt receiving the ashen cross on her forehead from that dear man would give the ancient ritual added meaning. Instead, Fr. Antony, one of the secular priests who lectured at the college, not even one of the monastic community, stood to hold the small pot of palm ashes while Fr. Anselm, the Superior of the Community, blessed them with holy water and incense.

Felicity knelt at the altar rail, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The ashes were cold, a sooty mark of grief, gritty on her forehead.

“Amen,” she responded automatically.

She was back in her seat, turning ahead to the final hymn, “Forty Days and Forty Nights,” when she heard the soft slapping of sandals on the stone floor. Oh, there’s Fr. Dominic. She relaxed at the thought, putting away her worries that he had been taken suddenly ill. But her relief was short-lived when Fr. Clement, the Principal of the college, and Jonathan Breen, a scholar making a retreat at the monastery, slipped to the altar for their ashes.

The final notes of the postlude were still echoing high overhead when Felicity rose from her seat and hurried outside. Dinner, a vegetarian Lenten meal, would start in the refectory almost immediately and it wouldn’t do to be late. If she hurried, though, she could just dash back to her flat and pick up a book of Latin poetry for Fr. Dominic. She had a new volume of Horace, and she knew Fr. D loved the Roman's half Stoic, half Epicurean philosophy. He would have time to enjoy what he called his “guilty pleasure” while he recuperated from his indisposition.

She bounded up the single flight of stairs, flung open her door and came to a sudden halt. “Oh!” The cry was knocked from her like a punch in the stomach. She couldn’t believe it. She backed against the wall, closing her eyes in the hope that all would right itself when she opened them. It didn’t. The entire flat had been turned upside down.

Felicity stood frozen for perhaps a full minute, trying to take it all in: books pulled from shelves, drawers pulled from her desk, cushions flung from chairs. Hardly breathing, she rushed into her kitchen, bath, bedroom— all chaos— sheets and duvet ripped from her bed, clothes pulled from her wardrobe. She picked her way through scattered papers, dumped files, ripped letters. Dimly she registered that her computer and CD player were still there. Oh, and there was the Horace book still by her bed. She pulled her purse from under a pile of clothes. Empty. But its contents lay nearby. Credit cards and money still there.

Not robbery. So then, what? Why?

Was this an anti-women-clergy thing? Had she underestimated the extent of the resentment? Or was it an anti-American thing? The American president was widely unpopular in England. Had he done something to trigger an anti-American demonstration? Felicity would be the last to know. She never turned on the news.

Well, whatever it was, she would show them. If someone in the college thought they could scare her off by flinging a few books around she’d give them something new to think about. She stormed out, slamming her door hard enough to rattle the glass pane and strode up the hill at twice the speed she had run down it. Not for nothing her years of rigorous exercise at the ballet barre. When she reached the monastery grounds she keyed in the numbers on the security lock with angry jabs and barely waited for the high, black iron gates to swing open before she was speeding up the graveled walk.

Felicity's long blond braid thumped against her back as she charged onward, her mind seething. If those self-righteous prigs who posed as her fellow students thought they could put her off with some sophomoric trick—

She approached the college building, practicing the speech she would deliver to all assembled for dinner in the refectory: “Now listen up, you lot! If you think you can push me around just because your skirts are longer than mine. . .”

She punched a clenched-fist gesture toward her imaginary cassock-clad audience, then saw the Horace book still clutched in her hand. Oh, yes. First things first. She would have missed the opening prayer anyway. She would just run by Father D’s room— then she would tell them.

She hurried on up the path beyond the college to the monastery, ran her swipe card through the lock, and was halfway down the hall before the door clicked shut behind her. She had only been to Dominic’s room once before, to collect a poetry book he was anxious to share with her, but she would have had no trouble locating it, even had the door not been standing ajar.

She pushed it wider, preparing to step in. “Father D— ” she stopped at the sight of a man in a black cassock standing there praying. He jerked around at the sound of her voice and she recognized Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer.

She took a step backward when she saw the look of horror on his sheet-white face. “Felicity. Don’t come in.” He held up a hand to stop her and she saw it was covered with blood.

“Father D! Is he hemorrhaging?” She lunged forward, then stopped at the sight before her.

The whole room seemed covered in blood. Bright red splotches on the pristine white walls and bedding, on the open pages of a prayer book, on the statue of Our Lord, forming lurid stigmata on His hands extended in mercy. . .

And in the center of the floor, in a pool of red, his battered head all but unrecognizable— her beloved Father Dominic. The smell of fresh blood clogged her nostrils. Gorge rose in her throat.

“Felicity— ” Fr. Antony extended his reddened hands to her in a pleading gesture.

“No!” She screamed, wielding her Latin book as a shield against the blood, a red haze of shock and horror clouding her vision.

She couldn’t believe Antony's face could get even whiter. “Felicity, wait. Listen—”

She dimly registered his words, but the voice in her head shouted with far greater force. No! It can’t be. It's a mistake. She was in the wrong room. Must be. She shook her head against the nightmare she had seen yet couldn't accept that she had seen. Blackness rolled toward her.

She staggered backward into the hall and slumped to the floor as the room spun before her. She closed her eyes against the darkness as her mind reeled, groping for a coherent thought. How could this be?

Only a short time ago she had been reveling in the peace of this remote holy place. Where could such violence have come from? How was it possible here? In a place of prayer? To a holy man. Why?

If Fr. Dominic wasn't safe who could be?

And even as the questions tumbled, half-formed through her head, even as her mind denied the act her eyes saw, she knew she had to find an explanation. How could she continue studying— believing in— purpose and justice if such senseless irrationality reigned free?

Focusing on the questions gave her strength to get her feet under her again.

Antony was still standing dazed in the gore-splattered room looking as though he could collapse in the middle of the pool of blood. Felicity grabbed his arm, jerked him into the corridor, and shoved him against the wall where he stayed, leaning heavily. He held his hands before his face as if unbelieving they were his own. “When he missed mass I came to check on him. . . I felt for a pulse— ”

“We must get help!” Felicity looked wildly around.

“Yes, of course.” Her energy seemed to galvanize Antony. He pushed himself forward unsteadily. “Forgive me, I feel so stupid. It was the horror. I— we must tell the Superior. He’ll call the police.”

“Police? You mean an ambulance.” Felicity started toward the room again. Yes, that was it— how could she have dithered so when they must get help. “He’s lost so much blood, but maybe—”

“No!” Antony gripped her shoulder with more strength than she realized he was capable of. “Don’t go in there again, Felicity. It’s useless.”

She knew. She had seen the blood.

My Take:
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I'm a church history buff so this was right up my alley. If you are not into church history and/or Anglican/Episcopalian/Roman Catholic, you may be a bit put off by some of the terminology, quotes and references. If, however, you are as history-crazy as I am, you are in for a treat. The book starts off with the bludgeoning of a sweet old priest and you are left to wonder what he knew that got him killed. Two of his friends go on the run, trying to investigate the murder and stay one step ahead of both the police and the murderer or murderers. The answer will cause them to travel through the present while staying fully grounded in the past. This is not a light easy read, but worth the effort.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review: Living On Our Heads: Righting an Upside-Down Culture by Rod Parsley

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:
Charisma House; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***
Rod Parsley is the author of more than fifty books, including his most recent New York Times best seller Culturally Incorrect. An international speaker for the past thirty years, Parsley has appeared on such media outlets as ABC’s World News Tonight, Dateline NBC, CNN’s Larry King Live, Fox News Channel, The Dennis Miller Show, and CBS Morning News. In addition, he has been featured in such publications as the New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and TIME magazine. His daily television program is viewed by millions worldwide. He is the president and founder of the Center for Moral Clarity and the founder and senior pastor of World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, where he resides with his wife, Joni, and their two children, Ashton and Austin.
Visit the author's website.

Product Details:
List Price: $22.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Charisma House; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381884
ISBN-13: 978-1616381882

A Culture of “Contraries”
A Native American rides proudly and defiantly into the village—seated backward on his horse. His puzzled, long-lost stepbrother looks on. “Younger Bear” climbs down from his
horse, greets his relative by saying “Good-bye!” and proceeds to bathe by throwing handfuls of dirt all over himself. He finishes by walking down to the river to dry off with water.
You may recognize this ridiculous scene from the 1970 Dustin Hoffman movie Little Big Man. In it, Hoffman’s character is told that Younger Bear has become a “Contrary”—a person with a mental disorder that causes him to approach everything precisely backward.
Unfortunately, it’s not all that uncommon. It can happen to the most unlikely people at the most inconvenient times. If it happens to afflict someone in a position of great responsibility during a time of crisis, the results can be disastrous.
For instance, pilots have to be instrument rated in order to fly during conditions when they are unable to see the ground. If they’re flying through clouds or at night, they have to depend completely on what their instruments tell them rather than relying on information sent to the command center of their brain through their senses. It’s quite a discipline, and if they fail, they may fall prey to a condition popularly known as vertigo, which affects their equilibrium and causes them to think down is up and up is down. As you can imagine, if uncorrected, their error will lead to terrible tragedy and loss.
I’ve found myself thinking about poor, confused Younger Bear often in the decade-and-change since our calendars rolled over to 2000 amid the nail-biting, frenzied days of Y2K. On more occasions than I care to count,
I’ve witnessed acts and statements of breathtaking upside-down-itude and stunning backward-ity. A recent body wash commercial featured a man riding a horse backward. It was amusing because it was absurd—but some people fail to see the humor in it because for them it’s normal. After all, sad to say, he’s just expressing his individuality and creativity; and yes, cries PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), it’s perfect, because we wouldn’t want the horse to develop an inferiority complex thinking only the rider knows where they should go!
Why does it seem so many people consistently get it wrong? Perhaps
this example will help explain.
When I visited Honolulu for the first time, I saw the beautiful waves coming into the beach from the top of a mountain, and I wanted to go experience the thrill of the surf in Hawaii. As I drove down the mountain, I couldn’t help but notice that the waves seemed larger and larger, but that didn’t deter my naivety or my enthusiasm. I pulled my little
rented vehicle into the parking area and ran out into those glorious whitecaps.
Before I got very far, one of those waves that looked so beautiful from a distance picked me up and body-slammed me to the ocean floor. I felt like I was in a washing machine set on the spin cycle. I was rolled across the bottom like a piece of driftwood, with water and sand shooting into . . . well, you understand. I literally couldn’t tell which end was up.
At one point the top of my head was parallel with the sandy ocean floor and my feet were saluting the sky. I was . . . in a word . . . upside down! I was about to despair of life when that wave, much like Jonah’s whale, deposited my scratched and bruised body and ego with great disdain back on the exquisite beach, where I was all too happy to spend the rest of my day with my feet solidly on the ground.
That was more than enough disorientation for me, but it seems that many today enjoy walking on their heads supported only by the unpredictable waves of cultural, political, and spiritual correctness.
When I saw Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid standing in the hallowed well of the Senate proclaiming that the war in Iraq was lost,despite overwhelming evidence that the Bush-Petraeus troop surge was working, I saw a man riding his horse backward—and doing so with the posture and pomp of Stonewall Jackson inspecting the troops. I hadn’t
seen a leader that eager to declare defeat since an Iraqi sergeant and his men surrendered to an unmanned drone during the first Gulf War.
I watched college campus “intellectuals” wail and rend their clothing as they accused George W. Bush of endangering their free-speech rights. Then I watched Yale students shout down an invited speaker who represented the Minutemen (a pro-border security group), even storming the podium to physically drive the speaker from the stage. Why? Because they didn’t like his message. To me, it was as insane as a group of people
rolling in dirt while bragging about their hygiene.
And when I see pampered, privileged Hollywood celebrities worshiped like gods while heroic servicemen are criticized and even demonized by fringe groups, I see a culture that has managed to convince itself that up is down and Good-bye means Hello!
There is no sign of right-side-up-ness when Chris “I felt a thrill run up my leg when Obama spoke”2 Matthews and his colleagues at MSNBC complain about ideological bias at FOX News. I scratch my head and think, “Well, Mr. Pot, say hello to Mr. Kettle.” On the other hand, I shake my head in equal disbelief when conservative clergymen make
solemn pronouncements that disasters such as Hurricane Katrina are God’s judgment on a city or nation.
Sometimes it seems as though whole segments of our society have become Contraries. And I question if we’re becoming “Younger Bear Nation”: the obvious is ignored, common sense is disparaged, good is seen as evil, and evil is hailed as good.
As I look around, I see people who favor accommodation for the workplace demands of Muslims but yet, in the next breath, insist that Christians leave their convictions at home. Need a foot bath installed in the break room? No problem! Just don’t leave an open Bible on your desk during your lunch break—that is, not if you expect to keep your job. After all, jobs are all too scarce these days, aren’t they?
University officials roll out the red carpet to Holocaust-denying thugs but treat a former Harvard president—who dared wonder aloud whether men and women are wired differently—like . . . well, like a Holocaust-
denying thug.
Our culture aggressively markets products and lifestyles to children as though they were adults (consider sexually charged fast-food ads) while marketing to adults as though they were children (desperately in need of more “toys”). More people watch “fake” news shows on television than watch any of the big network newscasts.
Do these examples sound like the makings of an epidemic of upsidedown thinking? I believe so.
Of course, these are just the random observations from a country preacher’s perspective. Yet lest you think it’s just me being an alarmist, I can assure you there is little comfort to be found in the scientific opinion surveys.
For example, one survey for the 2008 election showed that 13 percent of Americans were prepared to cast a vote for a comedian who was pretending to run for president. Meanwhile, psychologists have identified a new compulsion called Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS), and one study indicates that 36 percent of Americans may have it. I had an unusual opportunity to see this up close at the Grammy Awards ceremony in 2010. A lady sitting near me was extending her condolences to Lady Gaga for not winning the Album of the Year award. The pop diva pouted like a preschooler and said, “I already won two Grammys anyway.” Another poll indicated that more than a third of Americans suspect their own government of being complicit in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001.6 (Whether there was a corresponding spike in the sale of tinfoil hats was not reported in the poll.)
In George Orwell’s 1984, you find an entire society brainwashed into accepting absurdities such as:
• War Is Peace
• Freedom Is Slavery
• Ignorance Is Strength
Orwell’s novel is just that—a story. However, what we are seeing today is real. To my left, a significant slice of our nation has bought into such bizarre ideas as: “Pop stars are wise.” “Al Gore is our savior.” “FOX News is the devil.” Such beliefs prove once and for all that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
To be fair, I see another segment on the far edges to my right; this group has become convinced that “Jews are sneaky,” “FEMA is a sinister Illuminati plot,” and “Katie Couric sleeps hanging upside down from an attic rafter.”
Upside-down thinking happens on both sides—and it’s nothing new. As I read history, I discover that we are not the first culture to lose track of the general direction of up on a large scale.
Take the French Revolution, when a so-called Enlightenment produced bloodthirsty mobs with pitchforks and torches. The hundreds who died daily at the guillotines probably enjoyed all the enlightenment they could bear. For a movement supposedly built on the worship of reason, the French Revolution sure produced a lot of nuttiness—not to mention headless bodies.
Centuries earlier, the Roman Empire prided itself on its wisdom, refinement, and civilization. Eventually, however, the wheels started coming off the chariot of cultural sanity, producing emperors who had all the reasoning power of Charles Manson—but with only half his moral fiber. As for refinement, the general public’s idea of a grand day of entertainment consisted of watching people fight, bleed, and die in gladiator games.
The prophet Isaiah knew a raging case of Younger Bear Syndrome when he saw it. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, he looked at his neighbors and wrote: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
That is as fine a description of upside-down thinking as you’ll find. “Woe” is right. And “Whoa!” too. Old Isaiah was doing his best to flag down his fellow citizens who had all piled into a wagon and merrily sent it hurtling toward the nearest cliff.
On the pages that follow I hope to follow Isaiah’s example. In order to do that I am going to have to call foolishness what it is.
Wherever nonsense-on-stilts parades itself around our popular culture like an out-of-control Shriner on the Fourth of July, I must point to it with all the indignation that is proper to its outrage.
But I’ll do more. Where we’ve lost our way, I’ll direct us to a reliable compass that always points true north. Where we’re culturally dizzy and disoriented, I’ll point up. Where we’re happily careening toward a precipice like Thelma and Louise, I’ll wave my arms and shout like the old-school preacher I am.
You see, there’s absurdity, and then there’s madness—and our culture is descending into a unique form of madness. But it may not be too late. Perhaps I can show us a way out in the next few pages. Come on. Let’s see if we can march through the crazy storm of our time to locate some good old-fashioned reality—and with some common sense-ability, stop living on our heads and actually try walking on our feet again.

My take:
I really liked this book and am recommending it to my friends. I've already loaned out my copy and have a waiting list. This book is about the issues we, as believers, need to be aware of, but frequently aren't, because we have a hard time making sense of the conflicting information we hear and see. This book lays out the issues in such a way that we can clearly understand what the issue is and what the implications are to our world. I would recommend it to any and every Christian who is concerned about our world.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Review: The Blood Type Diet by Joseph Christiano

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:
Joseph Christiano's Bloodtype Diet:
Siloam (September 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Silva of Strang for sending me a review copy.***
Joseph Christiano, ND, CNC, a naturopathic doctor and certified nutritional counselor, has spent forty years developing individualized diet and exercise programs for Hollywood celebrities. Trainer of Miss America, Miss USA, and Mrs. America pageant winners, Joseph is a former Mr. Florida and award winner in the Mr. America bodybuilding championships. His health and fitness coaching expertise has resulted in helping school aged kids be more physically fit. He is the author of several books, including the best-selling Bloodtypes, Bodytypes, and YOU.
Visit the author's website.
Product Details:
Type A:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Siloam (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616380004
ISBN-13: 978-1616380007
Type B:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Siloam (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799995
ISBN-13: 978-1599799995
Type AB:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Siloam; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799820
ISBN-13: 978-1599799827
Type O:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Siloam; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799626
ISBN-13: 978-1599799629
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER: (All the first chapters of the Blood Type Diet are the same)

Blood Types: Your Foundation For Health
DNA. Genome. Cellular profiling. Stem cells. Cloning. Blood types. What is it all about? Is the existence and physiological makeup of humankind just a mixture of theories, personal points of view, and yet-to-be proven truths? Are we dabbling into mysterious areas that should be left alone, or are we finally beginning to learn more about ourselves?
In man's conquest to survive, questions arise every day: What role do genes play in determining health, disease, longevity, bodily function, and performance? What is the origin of man—where did he come from? Do we all come from one main gene pool, or are we descendants of individual generational ancestry? Did we evolve from nothing to crawling on all fours to an eventual upright position, or did Yahweh (God's proper and personal name) create us? Is man degenerating because of cellular mutation, becoming less than what he started out as, or is he a result of an evolutionary process, making him far superior to what he was at the beginning of time? Why do some people enter life with blue eyes and blond hair and others with brown eyes and brown hair? Are certain body genetics designed for physical and athletic superiority while other body genetics determine the run-of-the-mill hopefuls? Do the ABO blood types react differently to the same foods? Is there a link between red blood cells and your health?
Although phenomenal advancements have been made through modern-day discoveries in technology, science, and medicine, it will still take eternity to unravel the amazing intricacies of man. The world's best scientific minds have made amazing discoveries, but in the light of all that we still do not know about ourselves, technology seems to move at a snail's pace.
Whether you believe that Yahweh created every human being or that our existence is a result of some theoretical development of nothingness into something, the answers to our questions lie far beneath the surface—with our genetic foundation.
Our genetic makeup is the foundation of all that is life. Nothing relating to our ability to survive our environment; to fight off illness, infection, or stress; to supply our bodies with nutrition; or to make physiological adaptation is a matter of happenstance. It is no coincidence that our bodies are programmed with the innate ability to defend us from uninvited invaders such as parasites, viruses, and bacteria by creating an army of antibodies.
Our genetic foundation is a mixture of trillions of cells with codes that identify, program, and link everything in our existence—the color of our hair, our bodies' susceptibility to disease, and foods that are compatible to our potential life span and capability to survive.
Some people would rather merely swim in shallow water than go below the surface to discover answers to the questions and issues of life. But there is a bottomless sea to dive into for the inquisitive and health-conscious individual who seeks knowledge of the role genetics play in our lives.
For example, did you know that . . .
Gene therapy is now being researched intensively in most developed countries—for a host of very good reasons. Instead of treating deficiencies by injecting drugs, doctors will be able to prescribe genetic treatments that will induce the body's own protein-making machinery to produce the proteins needed to combat illness.
Researchers succeeded in making artificial copies of human genes that could be manipulated to produce large amounts of specific proteins. Such genes can be introduced into the human body where, in many cases, they substitute for a defective gene.
In a study that could lead to new treatments for diabetes and provide guidance on the use of genes in treating disease, scientists show that a common genetic variation increased the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes.
Australian scientists have identified a new gene responsible for controlling appetite in humans—a discovery experts say could lead to the first gene-based drug to treat obesity and diabetes.
In the not-too-distant future, scientists may be able to grow replacement organs and new blood vessels to replace clogged ones, eradicate diseases as diverse as Alzheimer's and cystic fibrosis, and tell which medication to prescribe.
Gaining more knowledge and understanding about the complexities of our genetics humbles me—and convinces me of the existence of One much greater than man, with infinite creative wisdom that stretches far beyond the finite knowledge of man. The fact that man has the ability to make scientific advancements and acquire information about the genome of man serves only to prove how much greater his Creator must be.
The Discovery of Blood Groups
I also find it amazing that what the majority of us now know about our genetic makeup has only been discovered in recent decades. Experiments with blood transfusions began centuries ago, but without an understanding that there are different blood groups (also called blood types) many people died. At that time, no one knew that the blood clumping (agglutination), which caused toxic reactions and even death after some transfusions, was the result of mixing blood from two people with different blood types.
Then in 1901, an Austrian named Karl Landsteiner discovered that blood clumping was an immune system reaction that occurs when the receiver of a blood transfusion has antibodies that war against the donor's blood cells. His discovery led to the classification of different blood groups, making it possible to conduct blood transfusions much more safely. Landsteiner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930 for making this remarkable, life-saving discovery.
So, what is it about the blood that makes one blood group different from another? The differences in our blood are based on the presence or absence of antigens and antibodies. Antigens are located on the surface of the red blood cells, and antibodies are in the blood plasma. People have different types and combinations of these molecules, which are inherited from their parents.
There are more than twenty blood group systems known today, but since the ABO system is the one most people are familiar with, I'll stick with the ABO blood group system for our discussion of blood types in this book. As you're probably aware, according to the ABO system, there are four different kinds of blood groups: A, B, AB, and O.
Blood group A
Since you purchased this book, I assume you belong to blood group A. As a member of this blood group, you have A antigens on the surface of your red blood cells and B antibodies in your blood plasma.
Blood group B
People in this blood group have B antigens on the surface of their red blood cells and A antibodies in their blood plasma.
Blood group AB
People in this blood group have both A and B antigens on the surface of their red blood cells and no A or B antibodies at all in their blood plasma.
Blood group O
People in this blood group have neither A nor B antigens on the surface of their red blood cells, but they have both A and B antibodies in their blood plasma.
How Did Different Blood Types Occur?
People who believe in Creation often ask: How did such a variety of ethnic groups and diverse races arise from one human pair?
Research is revealing more and more about the origin of blood types. Much of this research points out the possibility of the emergence of all known blood types from our common ancestors, Adam and Eve. In his dissertation titled “Blood Types and Their Origin (Answering the Critics),” Jonathan Sarfati tells us:
There is one gene in humans that controls the ABO blood type. There are three versions of the gene, or alleles: A, B, or O....For a husband and wife to pass on all alleles to their children, they need to, between them, have the A, B, and O alleles. . . . If Adam and Eve were genetically AO and BO, for example, their children could have had AB, AO, BO, or OO genetic makeup, giving AB, A, B, or O blood types. Indeed, about 25 percent of their children would have been of each type.
There is so much more to be discovered about man and our genetic makeup—birthed in us at the moment of conception. Although scientists are discovering new things about our genetic structure daily, there is much more that remains unknown. One scientist has observed:
Data supporting the complexity and design of life at all levels, and especially that of man, loom larger than was previously supposed—as large in fact as the enormous “gaps” in the fossil record. . . . The further we look into the complexity to the real world of man and his living companions, the more baffling and unexplainable, at least in standard evolutionary theory, the whole complex becomes. . . . To the skeptic, the proposition that the genetic programmes of higher organisms consisting of something close to a thousand million bits of information...containing in encoded form countless thousands of intricate algorithms controlling, specifying, and ordering the growth and development of billions and billions of cells into the form of a complex organism, were composed by a purely random process is simply an affront to reason.
It has taken gifted scientists years upon years to discover the things they know about man today. But it will take hundreds of more years to understand how to apply the new information.
It is when we are willing to be taught and are open to more knowledge that we continue to grow. I am growing daily in my own knowledge, particularly in my knowledge about the link between blood types and nutrition. Since authoring the book Bloodtypes, Bodytypes, and You, I have discovered new studies about the origin of blood types. These findings lean more closely to my personal beliefs in creationism.
My purpose for mentioning this is twofold: First, I humbly admit that no one has all the answers. But as long as we are willing to be open to greater learning and understanding, progress can be continual. Second, since I happen to believe that Yahweh is the Creator of all creation, it stands to reason that I would embrace studies that line up with my beliefs. As we learn more about the complex design of man, it just makes good sense to me that Someone greater than you or I is in charge of this whole thing.
Regardless of where you stand concerning the origins of blood type, one thing we can agree on is that eating foods compatible to our blood type and avoiding foods that are not compatible is a more accurate and individualized approach to eating than anything man has experienced.
As a naturopathic doctor, and not a scientist, biochemist, or genealogist, I'll leave the research and discoveries to them and concentrate my efforts on helping you to be healthier. My interest is to help you reach a basic level of understanding about your body so you can take care of it in a way that will contribute to living a healthier and more balanced life.
During my summer vacations from school as a kid, I remember going with my father while he worked a few hours a week for my cousin, who owned an excavation and construction company. I watched the construction workers build the foundations for new buildings, or as they called it, “pour a cellar.” It was quite a process. The first thing they did was excavate the land and prepare the ground. Then they measured out the area where the foundation would be laid. After determining the proper elevations and measurements, they began to set up the forms.
Until I saw the entire process completed for the first time, it was hard to understand why they were using all those heavy planks to make a huge square in the dirt. But I learned that those planks played a very important role in the next part of the procedure. When the huge cement trucks were ready to pour the concrete, they poured it into the wood forms, which shaped the foundation of the building.
I learned that each foundation differed in size, shape, and materials. Certain job sites required the forms to be dug deeper in the ground, while other forms were extended higher. The deeper or higher the forms were laid, the thicker the concrete base or foundation would be. The design and composition of each poured foundation determined the size and weight of the structure that it could support.
Each building structure, whether a residential home, a high-rise building, or a strip mall, required a unique foundation that functioned as its basis for structure, stability, and support. Similarly, our ability to survive, support, and improve our structure will be determined by the mixture of the material found in our foundation. Our foundation, of course, is our genetics.
Consider yourself as a general contractor who wants to redesign or custom-build a house. In this case, the foundation of the house you want to construct, or reconstruct, is your genetics. Instead of brick, mortar, and wood, you are using the materials that comprise your body.
The amount of time and effort you put into customizing and building your “house” (your body) will help it to last for many years. By understanding the purpose of a strong “foundation” (your genetics) and by using the proper “tools and materials” (the proper nutritional and exercise applications and methodologies), you can assure a healthy, happy future.
You have a specific biological makeup that was given to you at conception. It's the genetic substance that makes up your entire existence.
I have three daughters—Amy, the oldest, and twin daughters, Jenifer and Cara. Amy's genetic foundation has given her facial features that resemble mine, while genetically Jenifer and Cara have their mother's facial features.
But your genes are not limited to your facial characteristics. Your genes not only determine if you will look more like your mom or your dad and what color your hair and eyes will be, but also how susceptible you are to certain diseases and illnesses.
Your cellular profile and the way your body responds to certain foods, viruses, and bacteria are determined by your genes also.
One very important consideration can greatly help you maximize your genetic potential. This is providing your body with the best nutritional program for your specific genetics. Let's take a look at this consideration in the next chapter.
To understand the importance of your blood type, remember the following:
1. All of us are made up of trillions of cells. We function by our cells.
2. Our genetic foundation can help us determine today and tomorrow how to prepare ourselves for potential illnesses and diseases.
3. Understanding the role our genetics (blood type) play will help individualize the dietary remedies we need to improve survival.
4. Your body at the cellular level responds differently to the same foods than other blood types may.

My take:
I read the book for my blood type and there was some interesting information in there. I especially liked the part on intuitive eating. The diet was a little scary because it eliminated most of the foods I regularly eat. For my type, there is no red meat, no dairy, almost no fruit or grains, and some scary exclusions in the vegetables for this salsa-loving girl, including tomatoes and peppers. Not only was Mexican food out, so was Italian. Sigh. That left me with chicken, fish, and lots of vegetables.

I'm sure you could lose some weight on the diet if you chose your food carefully, but I have certain issues with the diet on a philosophical level. For one thing, it would be extremely challenging to follow this with your whole family if it is comprised of more than one blood type. Just cooking for the two types covered by my dh and I would be a challenge, since many of our "beneficial" and "avoid" foods are opposite each other.

My largest issue is with the premise that there are a large number of whole, natural foods that are toxic to my body. I have a very strong belief in the goodness of God and find it difficult to believe that He created so much food that would harm His people, who for centuries would have eaten them because they didn't have the benefit of modern laboratory testing. For my blood type, even observing the Passover in the traditional manner would be harmful to me.

So, from a familial, theological and historical perspective I have issues with this plan as a permanent way of eating, which it is intended to be. As a temporary measure, it may have merit. Blood type diets are controversial, because we have no way of knowing how the foods, tested individually, react when eaten together. Do your own research and use your best judgment.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Review: One Hand, Two Hands by Max Lucado

Book Description

A delightful way to show little ones how their hands are a blessing from God that they can use to do help others. Written in rhyming text and illustrated with the charming art of Gaby Hansen, this simple message of God’s blessing of hands not only entertains . . . as it teaches what wonderful things our hands can do from scratching, latching, and petting a pup to washing dishes with mommy and putting toys in a box . . . but it also conveys the important message: We can use God’s gift of hands to show our love for Him by helping others. The book ends tenderly with a prayer of thanks to God for hands and asks Him to use them again:
One hand, two hands,
Five fingers, ten.
God, thanks, for my hands.
Please, use them again.

My Take

I received this book to review the same time I received Max Lucado's new book for adults, Outlive Your Life. This was meant as a companion for small children to understand that they, too, can make a difference in their world. This is a picture book of a little girl and her extraordinarily cute companions discovering all the things they can do with their hands. The illustrations are bright and colorful. Some reviewers have noted the imperfect rhyming, but my kids weren't bothered by it. I think that One Hand, Two Hands is a wonderful way to share with your small children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, the blessing of giving of one's self.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Book Description

These are difficult days in our world's history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe. But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God's love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth. Let's live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did. 

My Take

When Thomas Nelson publishers sent me this book to review, I was in the process of reading In His Steps to my children. Reading this book at the same time was amazing. If you ever had any doubts that one person can impact the world for the better, you should definitely read this book. This book inspired me, at times moved me to tears, and spurred me on to action. 

The book is filled with amazing stories of ordinary people impacting the lives of those around them. It also contains much information about ways you can make a difference as well. All of this comes in the context of the warm, wonderful style of writing that has made Max Lucado so popular. 

There seems to be a call going forth for the church at large to stand up and do something about the world we live in, instead of wringing our hands and talking about how bad it is. This book shares in that call. Always one to literally put his money where his mouth is, Max Lucado is donating his royalties from the book to World Vision. I highly recommend Outlive Your Life to any Christian who really cares about the world and wants to make it a better place for all.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Review: The Art of War for Spiritual Battle

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:

Charisma House; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Silva of Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Cindy Trimm is a motivational speaker and preacher and a multifaceted executive, life coach, and success mentor who travels up to forty-eight weeks a year, speaking and empowering people from all walks of life. She has published several best-selling books, including Commanding Your Morning, and is known as a popular, charismatic communicator.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Charisma House; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599798727
ISBN-13: 978-1599798721


Part One


The art of spiritual war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions of taking the field and winning the battle.

These are: (1) The way; (2) heaven; (3) earth; (4) the general; (5) method and discipline.

—The Art of War, 1:3–4, paraphrased



Therefore, in your deliberations and preparations for war, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:

(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with right on his side?

(2) Which of the two generals has the most ability?

(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from heaven and earth?

(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?

(5) Which army is stronger?

(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?

(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

By means of these seven considerations I can

forecast victory or defeat.

—The Art of War, 1:12–14, paraphrased

In the Book of Acts, Jesus’s last words before He ascended to heaven gave the church a direct order, which was to be carried out before His return:

[Do not] depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father. . . . “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

—Acts 1:4, 8

It was a military-like command to go out and take territory for God and expand His kingdom around the earth—but only after having first received the power and strategies from heaven’s war room. God was ready to unleash His kingdom and His divine power upon the earth. As we stand here more than two thousand years later, this commandment has still not been completely carried out.

You may ask, “What exactly is God’s kingdom?” God’s kingdom is simply any place God’s will is performed on the earth as it is through the administrations of the government of heaven. When one attempts to understand the kingdom of God, the seeker must first learn what is meant by the actual concept itself. It has become almost a catchphrase in the body of Christ, without many people truly understanding the concept thereby or living out their proper authority.

Over time, the true meaning of the kingdom of God has been overshadowed by the religious conventions of Christianity, church denominations, and the traditions of man, thereby hindering believers from true freedom. Let us take some time to truly understand what God really intended by this phenomenon called the kingdom.

The kingdom of God is a literal, spiritual realm accessible only to born-again believers. This realm encompasses the power and resources essential to the believer if he or she desires to achieve the manifestation of heaven on earth. (See Genesis 2:4–5.) It can be best understood from an analogous perspective of the natural cosmological systems of the universe.

In the kingdom of heaven, the believer’s earthly experience is filled with the essence of the righteousness that is God. It is a spiritual realm in which believers are privileged

to exist and function at prosperous levels while physically living in the earth. This life is lived with the perspective originally intended by God at the forefront— that is, fulfilling God’s original mandate to humanity as presented in Genesis 1:28—that we are to have dominion on the earth.

The kingdom of God has its own unique characteristics, consisting of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. It encompasses countless other principles;

however, these three concepts are, at best, a summation of what the omniscient God purposed for His earthly kings to whom He gave complete dominion over all that exists in the earth.

As previously stated, this lifestyle can only be accessed and experienced by those who have faith in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. According to Luke 17:20, this kingdom cannot be perceived by the natural eye, because it is the sovereign rule of our unseen God through His citizens in the earth realm.

To achieve the maximum benefits God intended, we must move from merely surviving and settling for mediocre lifestyles to living—abundantly. God did not intend for His people to live beneath their potential. We find evidence of this in the Old Testament, and it was later manifested and maximized in the perfect example of Jesus Christ while He lived on the earth.

Jesus Christ emphatically proclaimed the kingdom of God. Since He so passionately promoted kingdom living, it is wise, at the least, to seek and obtain all that He purposed and planned for your life from the beginning of time.

Christ has instructed us as believers, above all other pursuits, to seek the kingdom. It should be the epitome of our priorities. In this realm we demonstrate our royalty and manifest our authority.

Open the spirit of your mind and allow these laws of the kingdom—which are based on principles found in the Word of God—to be firmly planted in the fertile soil of your heart. Then, and only then, can the kingdom be internally understood and subsequently realized through your existence as a kingdom ambassador in the earth.


The greatest enemy of the church is not sin but ignorance. Satan’s number-one goal is to keep you ignorant concerning the kingdom, as was described in Hosea 4:6:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

Because you have rejected knowledge,

I also will reject you from being priest for Me;

Because you have forgotten the law of your God,

I also will forget your children.

Even as Satan challenged Jesus in Matthew 4, so it is today with the church. The key confrontational issue has to do with the kingdom, because it is literally God’s rule on the earth through man—His earthly representatives.

Think about that for a moment.

What rules heaven? God’s will as expressed in His laws and principles. Is there sickness in heaven? No. Is there poverty in heaven? No. Is there slavery, sex trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse, oppression, famine, war, child soldiers, persecution, terrorism, malnutrition, bankruptcy, or water that isn’t safe to drink in heaven? No.

I’ll tell you another thing; heaven doesn’t need orphanages or divorce courts either, because those aren’t issues there. The things that are tearing our world apart don’t exist in heaven, because God’s will is as accessible there as breathing the air is to us.

The next question is, what rules the earth? As long as man does not take his rightful stance, posture, and place in God through prayer, evil and evil human beings will rule. Herein lies the challenge. You must arise and take your place so that through you God can restore order, peace, righteousness, morality, ethics, just governance, health, and healing.

Though we all have different racial and ethnic backgrounds and are from all types of families, our emotions and passions have commonality; they respond to the human condition and life challenges, hardships, and disappointments in very similar ways. God planted it within each of us to want to make a difference in our world—a difference that will bring good and not harm, peace and not strife, prosperity and not poverty. But too few realize that the groundwork for this overcoming lifestyle begins in our prayer closets. It is the place of training and preparation. It is the boot camp to overcoming.

Just as one who is not practiced in the art of sword craft cannot artfully wield a sword, no person on this earth can correctly use God’s Word who has not been trained in it by the Master Himself. Prayer is that place of training, and also the place of overcoming.

There are battles still raging for the peoples of the earth, and those battles are fought in the spiritual realm before they manifest in the natural. I remind you that the Spirit realm is the causal realm. If you prevail in the Spirit, you will win in the natural. If you can learn the art of victory through intercession, then such struggles that steal the souls of humanity need not ever manifest at all.

Thus, as you look at joining the forces of God’s army to establish His kingdom upon the earth, you need to count the cost. You need to look at some initial considerations and the lay of the two sides and see what it is that you need to do to gain the victory. For Sun Tzu, this boiled down to the answers to seven questions:

1. Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with right on his side?

2. Which of the two generals has the most ability?

3. With whom lie the advantages derived from heaven and earth?

4. On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?

5. Which army is stronger?

6. On which side are officers and men more highly trained?

7. In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

Some of these answers are easy. (1) God has right on His side over our adversary, (5) God’s army is stronger, and (7) God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek

Him” (Heb. 11:6). But what of the others? Do our prayer generals have more ability in warring for right than those who are seduced by Satan to establish his kingdoms of evil? Which side is better at using its authority under heaven and upon the earth? Which side is more disciplined in what it is doing? On which side are the officers and soldiers better trained and practiced in establishing the will of their master upon the earth? While we as

Christians have all the power behind us, how well are we acting in that authority? The determination in whether we will be victorious or defeated hangs upon the honest answers to these questions. We are overcomers, but are we overcoming? Thus the issue is not the power of our God, but how disciplined and prepared we are to win the battles of our spiritual war in prayer.

Thinking of these questions reminds me of what happened with U.S. General George Patton during World War II. Patton demonstrated the need for both physical and spiritual preparations to win the battles we face, and in his case these were literal battles against evil. In early December 1944, the German Sixth Panzer Army was making a desperate attempt to regain lost territory in France through surprise attacks on the eighty-eight-mile front that was tenuously held by the Allied Forces. They were making great headway in the midst of heavy rains, thick fogs, and swirling ground mists that muffled the sound of their engines, blotted out the sun, and reduced visibility to only a few yards, keeping Allied planes grounded and forces on the ground isolated. Under this cover, the Nazi tanks easily cut through the few divisions holding the front in Luxembourg as they pushed south. The foul weather was an incredible aid to the Axis leaders, and Patton knew that if these troops were going to be turned back, the skies would have to clear or they would have little chance to determine where the Panzers would strike next. These rains had been plaguing the lines between France and Germany since September.

So, on the morning of December 8, General Patton, who was an Episcopalian and used to written prayers, called the Third Army chaplain, saying, “This is General

Patton. Do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about those rains if we are to win the war.”

The chaplain who took the call did not find a specific prayer on weather in the prayer books he had access to, so he composed the following:

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.


Because of the season, the chaplain also added a Christmas greeting. When the general approved it, he instructed, “Have two hundred fifty thousand copies printed, and see to it that every man in the Third Army gets one.” The chaplain then directed the general’s attention to the greeting on the other side of the card and said, “If the general would sign the card, it would add a personal touch that I am sure the men would like.”

Smiling at the gesture, the general crossed to his desk, took a pen, and signed the Christmas message. When he handed the card back, he said, “Chaplain, sit down for a moment. I want to talk to you about this business of prayer.” He crossed to the window and looked out at the steady rain. He was a striking figure at six feet two with broad muscular shoulders and dressed in his uniform, which showed the discipline and polish of a dedicated soldier.

“Chaplain, how much praying is being done in the Third Army?”

“Does the general mean by chaplains or by the men?”

“By everybody,” he replied.

Thinking a moment, the chaplain responded, “I am afraid to admit it, but I do not believe that much praying is going on. When there is fighting, everyone prays, but now with this constant rain—when things are quiet, dangerously quiet, men just sit and wait for things to happen. Prayer out here is difficult. Both chaplains and men are removed from a special building with a steeple. Prayer to most of them is a formal, ritualized affair, involving special posture and a liturgical setting. I do not believe that much praying is being done.”

The general crossed to his desk, sat down, leaned back in his chair, and began toying with a pencil he had found laying there.

“Chaplain, I am a strong believer in prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want: by planning, by working, and by praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning, or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that’s working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks. I call it God! God has His part, or margin in everything, that’s where prayer comes in. Up to now, in

the Third Army, God has been very good to us. We have never retreated; we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics. This is because a lot of people back home

are praying for us. We were lucky in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy simply because people prayed. But we have to pray for ourselves too. A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work. There is something in every soldier that goes deeper than thinking or working—it’s his guts. It is something that he has built in there: it is a world of truth and power that is higher than himself. Great living is not all output of thought and work. A man has to have intake as well. I don’t know what you it, but I call it religion, prayer, or God.”

He talked briefly about Gideon and men he had known who felt they must always be in prayer or else they would crack up, then eventually, he went on: “I wish you would put out a training letter on this subject of prayer to all the chaplains. Write about nothing else, just the importance of prayer. Let me see it before you send it. We’ve got to get not only the chaplains but also every man in the Third Army to pray. We must ask God to stop these rains. These rains are that margin that holds defeat or victory. If we all pray, it will be like what Dr. Carrel said [Dr. Alexis Carrel had been quoted some days earlier in the press describing prayer “as one of the most powerful forms of energy man can generate”], it will be like plugging in on a current whose source is in heaven. I believe that prayer completes that circuit. It is power.”

In the days that followed, a quarter of a million prayer cards and 486 training letters on prayer were distributed to the soldiers and chaplains of the Third Army, sometime

between December 11 and 14. From December 16 to 19, the men fought bravely against an enemy almost invisible in the rains, and on the nineteenth, the Third Army turned north to meet the attack of the Panzer divisions. Even though continued rains and bad weather was forecast, the skies cleared on the twentieth, and the fog dispersed. For a better part of a week the skies remained bright and clear, creating perfect flying weather for planes by the thousands to pound the Germans to defeat as well as cut off the chances of the arrival of any reinforcements.

When the general saw the chaplain again in January of 1945, he said simply, “Well, Padre, our prayers worked. I knew they would.” Then he cracked him on the side of

his helmet with his riding crop to punctuate his gratitude for the chaplain’s help.

As believers, are we yet ready to stand as prayer generals with this same faith, planning, and work at the head of God’s army to marshal His troops to pray down His will for our world with just this same enthusiasm?

Are we as prepared and disciplined, but still relying on God to make the difference? Before we can hope to attain to such successes, we must first develop overcoming prayer lives of our own.

In order to have an overcoming prayer life, knowing that these conflicts and wars are waged against all humankind, not just us, helps give perspective. We face no challenge, “except such as is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). If we understand this, then we are better able to persevere in prayer, knowing that the turmoil we see is business as usual for Satan, and God has beaten him at it millions of times before. This knowledge helps us to contend with difficulties and gives us the faith we need to overcome them.

But while the victory is ever the Lord’s, it will not manifest on the earth if you as a believer do not fight for it. This is your time on the earth to see that God’s will is done during your watch. You, who have jurisdiction on the earth while you are here, must stand in the gap and tell Satan, “No, I will have none of your monkey business here.” Praying earnestly—and ultimately victoriously—in such matters is to strive in the spirit through mastery of the techniques and disciplines of prayer. In praying earnestly, there is a heavy exertion of energy consistently propelling you forward to obtain the object of your faith. The greater work Jesus said you would do will not first be done with hands reached out to others, but will first be done by hands folded in prayer and hands reached out to God.

You make a mistake if you underestimate the tenacity needed to win such battles. The fights are oft en so prolonged that you will be tempted to—and will—try anything else rather than persevere in prayer all the way to victory. The answer to the pain of drug addiction, marital infidelity, unemployment, homelessness, prostitution, or any of the number of other evils that need to be overcome in our world require dismantling of the old and establishing of the new. At the moment a prayer is uttered, angelic hosts move throughout the atmospheres on behalf of the prayer(s), rooting up and tearing down entrenched strongholds that have wreaked havoc on lives. Then God meticulously plants and nurtures, one by one, the answers to counteract those evils, until all is in alignment with His will. Just as it took a long time for the enemy to spawn his diabolical webs and trap people in them, it will take time as well to unravel and reposition people to receive the blessings of the Lord. Therefore, we must pray patiently, persistently, and passionately.

Staying steadfast in prayer over such matters until the answer arrives not only is the key to victory, but it also matures our faith in ways that no other practice can.

In order to take the fields of battle God has assigned us, we need steadily and patiently to be plugged into His command center in just this way. We need to be constantly tapped into the big conversation that is going on in the heavenlies, tuning into heaven’s frequency and listening in to what God is broadcasting concerning His will and His ways of bringing His goodness into manifestation on the earth.

I’m not just talking about miracles, either. Miracles are wonderful things, but you know what? Heaven doesn’t need miracles to make things right. The systems of heaven simply work the way they are supposed to.

God’s will on the earth could look as much like a school or a hospital as it could a healing revival. It could look like a church that doubles as a community center to help people find work when they need it or teach English to immigrants as easily as it could miraculously open prison doors in the middle of the night as it happened in

Bible days. Believe it or not, most of the social services offered by governments today—unemployment offices, health clinics, job training centers, schools, advocacy groups for safe working conditions and abolishing child labor, and so forth—started as outreaches of Christian ministries. Such ministries, holistic in essence, sought to reach out to help people spirit, soul, and body. We need a similar approach today. Our churches need to again be the powerhouses that connect and improve communities, not just somewhere to sing, clap your hands, and hear a “good word” or a Sunday morning book report.

But how are we going to return churches to that kind of relevance? Once again, we need to become masters of winning battles in the spiritual realm, so that God’s will is done in the natural realm around us as easily as it is done in heaven.

Prayer cannot be a passing fancy or fad. Power comes through constant prayer. When a group of American ministers visited Pastor Charles Spurgeon in the late

1800s, he offered them a tour of his church’s facilities. He took them through the massive sanctuary and around the various buildings of the compound and then asked if they would like to see the power source, the boiler room of the ministry. Thinking it dramatically unremarkable, the visitors tried to politely decline, but Spurgeon insisted. So he led them down a rather ordinary stairway down to the church’s basement, then down a hallway to a room with a closed door. When he opened it, instead of finding the plumbing and furnace they expected, they found a hundred or so people on their faces in prayer. “This,”

Spurgeon said with a smile, “is my boiler room.”

When Spurgeon was asked the secret to his success, he credited his success to his praying church members. What is the power center of our churches today? Those inexperienced or new to life in Christ oft en think that winning spiritual battles is as easy as asking. Thank God that in many instances this is true. We ask for things in prayer, and sometimes the answer comes immediately. But don’t let such easy successes fool you. Satan is not ignorant of God’s methods and the power of prayer! The last thing he wants is believers practiced in the long-term campaigns of prayer required to dismantle his empires of greed, hatred, pain, suffering, and deception. Because of this, he has no problem letting some little answers through every now and again. So, you come to Christ, you pray for your rent money in a service, and someone hands you a check before you leave. Praise God. Or you face an exam and need God’s wisdom to help you pass it. You are blessed and you get an A. Or you are on a short-term mission trip and you pray for a child’s foot to be turned around the right way from being crippled, and before your eyes the child goes from walking with a crutch to running and leaping and dancing. Praise God!

But what I want you to see here is that it is not always in Satan’s interest to block such prayers from coming to pass. If the devil did, you might just pray all the more determined. So what he would rather do is let you convince yourself that prayer should always be this easy, then you will never learn to persevere in it. You will pray for something a few times, but when the answer doesn’t manifest as others have before, you will begin to question things. You will wonder if your faith is just not strong enough, or if you have interpreted the Scripture correctly—or you become convinced it is just not God’s will. So your determination wavers. You begin to hedge your bets by praying artificially spiritual things like, “Your will be done,” so that if your prayer doesn’t get answered, you can always blame it on God’s will rather than anything that was within your control.

Satan knows that if he can let you convince yourself that everything that comes from God is always spectacular and easy, then you will begin to overlook the supernatural for gimmicks and tricks. You will be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph. 4:14). You will remain children who think everything that is good in life comes on your birthday or Christmas, and you never learn to work for anything. Satan doesn’t really care if you become a Christian and get blessed every once in a while—as long as he can keep you from truly understanding how to exercise your authority in Christ. Because of this, he doesn’t mind letting a casual prayer though here and there, as long is it keeps you convinced that prayer is like a vending machine where you put in your faith, push a button, and immediately your answer pops out. In fact, it probably gives him a laugh, because as you jump up and down, he is already envisioning your doubts and discouragement when he later hinders something bigger you will pray for; he knows you will give up just short of seeing it manifested.

You see, what Satan really doesn’t want is a persistent, methodical, importunistic believer who lives by prayer. He doesn’t want someone who is so disciplined and tenacious in prayer that once that person begins to pray, Satan knows, no matter how long he fights to delay the answer, he has no hope of winning. If we had more Christians who prayed like that, then there would be an inevitable, unstoppable, step-by-step, day-by-day dismantling of the kingdom of darkness that he could never withstand. The end of his kingdom of bondage, disease, deformities, and emotional torment would be written on the wall. So he is quite content to keep us thinking that all the big things are really in God’s hands alone, so we never need to worry about much more than our own needs and those of our immediate family.

Do you find that hard to believe? Well, look then at the story of Daniel. Nowhere else in the Bible do we see so many plots against one person to do one thing—simply stop this man from praying three times a day. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace for what? Because they would only bow their knees to God—something they did regularly with Daniel. Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den . . . why? Because

he threw open his windows and prayed unabashedly. And yet, we don’t see Moses-like miracles being done by Daniel. There were no plagues of deliverance upon the Babylonians as there had been on the Egyptians. No, instead we see a simple prophet of God who prayed with a regimen nothing could deter him from, and it brought about the deliverance of Israel from Babylon.

Look at the story in Daniel 9. Daniel is reading in the Book of Jeremiah one day in one of his devotional times, and he makes a discovery. According to Jeremiah, God said that the exile of Israel would only last seventy years. Daniel is an old man at this point, so he starts to count his birthdays. “Let’s see, I was taken into exile when I was a child of so many years, and now I am so old—why, that is more than seventy years!” There it was, a promise in

Scripture, and it hadn’t come true! So what does Daniel do? He begins to seek God through prayer and fasting to find out what was going on. He began confessing his sins and the sins of Israel and presenting his petition to heaven, inquiring as to why this promise of God had not yet been fulfilled. He gets a vision from the Lord about the future, but it is not the answer he is after, so he stays in prayer. He received other visions—incredible, mind-boggling things, but again they weren’t the answer to his question, so he kept praying. Then finally after three weeks, an angel appeared to Daniel saying:

Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come. . . . Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia;

The Art of War for Spiritual Battle and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth.

—Daniel 10:12–14, 20–21

The very moment Daniel started praying, God sent this messenger, but he immediately ran into demonic interference, and it took twenty-one days to fight through with the answer. Satan let other insights come through, hoping that Daniel would be so fascinated by them he would forget what he was really praying about, but when Daniel persisted, Satan’s forces were eventually defeated. Daniel received his answer, and within that same year, according to some scholars’ chronologies, King Cyrus decreed that the temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt. (See Ezra 1:1–4.) It was the first step in Israel’s return to the Promised Land.

A similar thing happened with Rees Howells, an intercessor in Wales in the early twentieth century. He had spearheaded a very successful mission outreach to the local coal miners, of which he was one, but over several months his closest compatriot in the mission was considering leaving because he didn’t want to be second fiddle to

Rees. Rees took the matter to prayer, and God answered very matter-of-factly: Rees was to turn the leadership of the mission over to his friend, step down from the pulpit, and go behind the scenes to become an intercessor and pray that the mission would have greater success in the hands of his friend than it’d had in his own. Rees eventually reluctantly agreed, and the mission exploded in attendance in the coming months.

Following that, God gave Rees an even greater challenge that seemed even more obscure. He was to pray for the son of a benefactor who had gone off to war and fallen away from God. Rees agreed that he would pray that the young officer would not return to the front without returning to God. This would not be a prayer for a matter of hours, or even days, either. Rees’s shift in the coal mine was from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., six days a week. He would then come home, eat dinner, and go to his room and spend from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on his knees before God reading his Bible and praying for the young man. He did this for six months. In that time the man’s son was discharged from the army and moved to Canada, never returning to the front, but also not yet returning to God. Eventually Rees received the conviction in his heart that his intercession had been answered, and he left this vigil to pray for other things, telling his benefactor the work was done in the spirit. It would be another twelve years, though, before the man’s salvation manifested and he turned his life back over to God. It happened just weeks before his father passed away. In all that time Rees never budged from the conviction that the man’s salvation was already accomplished in heaven as God had promised him in prayer.

Another example would be a little noticed part of the Christmas story, from the day just after New Year’s when Jesus was presented at the temple to be consecrated to the God.

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was

just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. . . . Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. —Luke 2:25–26, 36–38

Both Simeon and Anna had been blessed by God to see Jesus before they died, but why? Why—and when, for that matter—would God tell them they would see the Messiah before they died? The only logical answer was that it was while they prayed, and, logically again, while they were praying for the Messiah to be born on the earth. How long had they been praying? According to this passage, Anna had been living in the temple praying day and night for eighty-four years. That doesn’t mean she never slept, but it does mean the primary occupation of her time was prayer. In writing this, Luke took the time to mention that her father’s name was Phanuel, a name remarkably like the Hebrew Penuel, the place where Jacob wrestled all night with God and received the name Israel, meaning “a prince of God” or “one who has authority with God.” (See Genesis 32:22–30.) It seems that God couldn’t even send His own Son to the earth without someone praying Him in.

I could tell other stories—and I will later on—but I hope this is enough so that you can see there is a way of prayer to accomplish things in the heavenlies that is beyond merely presenting our requests to God. It is a surer way, but it is also a more difficult way—certainly not for the faint of heart. However, the rewards are limitless. By spending consistent, purposeful, and fervent time in prayer, knowing God, discerning His voice, and walking in His ways become as intimate to us as knowing those who live with us in our own homes. It opens us to understanding the mysteries of God and allows God to reveal to us exact strategies for praying for specific people, growing our churches, changing our communities, and releasing God’s kingdom on the earth. It also lets God’s

wisdom rub off on us regarding how to conduct our businesses or work our jobs, how to invest and manage our money, and what we need to do to nurture our relationships and discipline ourselves to keep our bodies fit and strong.

Many people think that engaging in this level of spiritual warfare is something for only a select few, but there is no gift of prayer or office of intercessor mentioned in the Bible. What this means is that each of us has a part to play in manifesting God’s kingdom on the earth. Prayer is a call of duty, a practice and principle for every one belonging to Christ. After all, if He is our Lord, how can we honor His lordship if we don’t communicate with Him daily? Certainly we will each be led to pray in different ways and with different intensities, but prayer is as foundational a Christian discipline as reading the Scriptures or obeying the law of love. It is the place of apprenticeship for learning the voice of God and communicating with Him so that He can teach and empower us to live as His representatives on the earth. It is the key to our success and to winning battles in every arena of life. This is why we must become people who live in the way of prayer.

The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.

—Daniel 11:32

My take on the book: I thought this book was very encouraging in a "pump-you-up, stir-you-to-action" way. Cindy Trimm stresses the importance, not only of prayer in a corporate sense, but on the individual basis. She shows that everyone is supposed to pray and then explains how to do so effectively. It is a call to arms using our most effective weapon. If you have ever felt hopeless about the state of the world, prayer is your answer and this book will help you learn how to pray to really make a difference.