The Jesus Who Never Lived

If you have ever had one of THOSE conversations, where you walk away and think, "I should have said that... or this... or that..." when talking with an unbeliever, this book will prove very interesting.

You can't dive in a convince anyone of your own point of view unless you understand theirs. After many, many years of discussion boards talking about my favorite subject, The Bible, and studying with some wonderful people who do not see it my way all the time, I've learned that you can make the most difference with someone who know you understand where they are coming from. This book may help you to understand where some other religions get their quirky beliefs.

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)

The feature author is:

and his book:

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)


H. Wayne House (ThD, JD) is a Distinguished Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Faith Evangelical Seminary (Tacoma, WA). and Adjunct Professor of Law, Trinity Law School of Trinity International University. He is the New Testament editor of the Nelson Study Bible and Nelson Illustrated Bible Commentary, and the General Editor of Nelson Exegetical Commentary (42 vols), Israel: the Land and the People, and Charts of Bible Prophecy, among the 30 books that he has authored, co-authored, or edited.

Dr. House has been a professor of biblical studies, theology or law for more than thirty years at such places as Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon; Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas; Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim, California; Michigan Theological Seminary, Plymouth, Michigan, and Trinity Graduate School and Trinity Law School, Santa Ana, California, California campus of Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL. Through this internet office we hope to help those who are interested in several topics within apologetics, including Christianity and culture, law, science, cultism, philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. Dr. House also leads Bible study tours to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Turkey.


What’s It All About?

In the Broadway play and later film Jesus Christ Superstar, Mary Magdalene asks, “What’s it all about?” as she tries to figure out who this man called Jesus really is. Certainly there are aspects about the song she sings, and suggestions made in the play, contrary to what we know from the canonical Gospels about the relationship of Mary and Jesus. But she does pose some important issues. She is puzzled about how to relate to Jesus as she has with other men, and this association with Him has made major changes in her emotions, actions, and thoughts. The reason she struggles is her perception that “he’s just a man.” If Jesus is just a man, then why does He captivate her so and cause her to evaluate herself to the depths of her soul? Such questions about Jesus and the impact of His ministry, death, and resurrection have been asked for two millennia.

Every year around Christmas and Easter the news media show an interest in Jesus. Rarely do they speak to people who believe in the Jesus who has been worshipped by the church since its earliest period until now. Rather, the fascination is with a Jesus re-imaged by people who have little interest in the historical record preserved in the New Testament.

This interest in Jesus, unconnected to the earliest tradition and history we have of Him, is not a new phenomenon. Toward the end of the first century of the Christian era, perceptions of Jesus began to arise that were different from what He said about Himself as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and proclaimed by the apostle Paul. Jesus has become the favorite of ancient heretics, founders of various world religions, modern novelists, Hollywood and documentary filmmakers, New Age teachers, adherents of popular religion, and over-the-edge liberal scholars. He is by far the most popular, and possibly most distorted, figure of history.

When Christianity was less than a hundred years old, we find two groups at different ends of the spectrum in their views of Jesus. One Jewish group, known as the Ebionites (late first century), accepted Jesus as the Messiah from God, acknowledged His humanity, but rejected His deity. On the other side were the Gnostics (early second century), who accepted Jesus as a divine figure but denied His true humanity. This rise of Gnosticism coincides with the demise, though not extinction, of Jewish Christianity, toward the end of the first century and beginning of the second century. Such views of the Christ were rejected by the apostolic church, and the view supported by the New Testament was finally put in creedal form, in a number of creeds, by the end of the fifth century.

Since those early centuries various religions have been enamored of Jesus. Eastern religions see Jesus as one of the avatars, or manifestations of God, and Islam considers Him a prophet (see chapter 8 for both topics). In the former, Jesus is an Eastern mystic, sometimes even viewed as having been trained in India, and in the latter as one who promoted Islam.

Muhammad was a pagan who had contact with Jews and Christians from Arabia and finally became monotheistic, in the first quarter of the seventh century after Christ embracing one of the over 300 Arabian deities: Allah, the moon god. In his limited investigation into Christianity, he came to believe, as is recorded in the Qur’an, that Jesus was born of a virgin, was sinless throughout His life, performed miracles, ascended to God, and will come again in judgment. He acknowledged all of these things about Jesus, considering none of these to be true of himself. Nonetheless, Jesus is never considered more than one of the prophets of Islam; He is not God in the flesh. Inside the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the walls are inscribed with statements that God does not have a Son, specifically addressed against the Christian doctrines of the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. As we shall see in a later chapter, Muhammad and his followers misunderstood the Christian doctrine of God.

In the eighteenth century, with the Enlightenment came skepticism about Christianity and absolute truth in religion. Biblical scholars and philosophers began to scrutinize claims that Jesus was more than human, and for over 200 years a search, or “quest,” for the historical Jesus has been pursued. We have now entered the third quest. While many within the second quest remain skeptical, there is growing support among some in the third quest for the credibility of the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament. In contrast to those who have little regard for biblical and extrabiblical history, scholars of both liberal and conservative persuasion now agree that within a couple of years following the death of Christ, the church preached a consistent message about His death and resurrection. Christ’s followers considered Him both God and man, Lord and Savior. And those who became believers in the latter part of the first century and early second century continued to accept Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels. The church’s belief in Jesus’ deity and humanity did not begin with the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, as encouraged by the Emperor Constantine; that belief was present from the church’s very beginning.

The Importance of Jesus

Though contemporary novelists and media sensationalists never tire of trying to find some new angle on Jesus to attract an audience, most serious historians and biblical scholars are impressed with the evidence in the Gospels for the Jesus who lived, taught, performed miracles, died, was buried, and rose again from the dead. An early twentieth-century composition by a devoted believer captures the wonder of Jesus:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.

But believers in the divine Jesus aren’t the only ones who admire Him. Marcus Borg, a member of the Jesus Seminar and distinguished professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at Oregon State University, speaks as a skeptical historian about the significance and uniqueness of Jesus:

The historical Jesus is of interest for many reasons. Not least of these is his towering cultural significance in the nearly two thousand years since his death. No other figure in the history of the West has ever been accorded such extraordinary status. Within a few decades of his death, stories were told about his miraculous birth. By the end of the first century, he was extolled with the most exalted titles known within the religious tradition out of which he came: Son of God, one with the Father, the Word become flesh, the bread of life, the light of the world, the one who would come again as cosmic judge and Lord. Within a few centuries he had become Lord of the empire that had crucified him.

For over a thousand years, thereafter, he dominated the culture of the West: its religion and devotion, its art, music, and architecture, its intellectual thought and ethical norms, even its politics. Our calendar affirms his life as a dividing point in world history. On historical grounds alone, with no convictions of faith shaping the verdict, Jesus is the most important figure in Western (and perhaps human) history.

These words of exuberant praise from a historian who does not accept Jesus as God in the flesh further indicates the amazing manner in which a human being was able to draw devoted followers by the magnetism of His life and teachings. Jaroslav Pelikan, noted historian of Yale University, has said of Jesus,

Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of supermagnet, to pull up of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left? It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that millions pray.

The world would be a considerably different place, with far less progress, peace, and hope than we possess today, had He not lived.

Liking Jesus Without Knowing Him

Just about everyone likes Jesus. How could they not, in view of the outstanding reception He has received throughout history, right? Not really. Much of the fascination with Jesus comes from those who really don’t know much about Him. Were He to confront them with His teachings and call them to a life of obedience to His will, they might be part of the recalcitrant crowd crying out, “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21).

Today a large number of people say they are attracted to Jesus but dislike His church. They see within the church people who are inconsistent in their practice of Christian ethics and fail to follow what they understand to be the teachings of Jesus. The church is viewed as judgmental, whereas Jesus said not to judge. The church speaks against sins such as homosexual relationships, whereas Jesus loved all people regardless of their sin, such as the woman caught in adultery. The church has interest in political matters, but Jesus did not involve Himself in politics and worked only to ease people’s burdens. (Whether these notions are true or not will be briefly discussed in chapter 12.)

This attempt to understand Jesus is often done without any reference to what we really know about Him. We simply guess who He is and how He acted—most often, how we think He ought to be and act to be acceptable to the twenty-first-century mind. Apart from the appeal to divine revelation, this is the manner in which He has been viewed over the centuries, including the century in which He lived on earth.

“Who Do People Say That I Am?”

As Jesus traveled with His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, He posed an important question: “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). The response to this question divides light and darkness, death and life. The disciples said that some believed Him to be an important prophet, but the apostles—specifically Peter—proclaimed His deity, a truth revealed to him by the Father. It is this authentic Christ, based on credible biblical and extrabiblical sources, whom we must encounter.

Each of us is confronted with important questions and priorities in this life. Some are of minor importance, but others have lasting, even eternal significance. The most important issue we must squarely confront is our relationship with God and, consequently, our final destiny. This is true not only for people today, it was also important in the first century when Jesus the Messiah came to earth. This is evident in the words of Christ that if people did not believe that He was “from above” (heaven), they would die in their sins (John 8:21-24).

Jesus the Prophet of God

In general, people liked Jesus Christ, as is true even today. The Scripture says that “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Saying this, however, does not mean they always understood His message (Matthew 13:10-17) or understood who He was:

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17).

The people during that time enjoyed what so many of us greatly desire—personal communication with the Son of God—yet they failed to understand Him. Many of them were miraculously fed and healed by Him. They heard His word with their own ears and saw Him with their own eyes. No doubt many also touched Him with their hands. To have the opportunity these people enjoyed seems too wonderful to imagine.

But when Jesus asked the disciples who the people thought He was, they cited many important figures of Jewish history, from John the Baptist (apparently thought to have been raised from the dead) to Elijah, who was to be forerunner of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5), to Jeremiah, who confronted the Northern Kingdom of Israel for its sins, or to some other prophet, as seen below:

John the Baptist. John the Baptist would have been a natural choice for the identification of Jesus, particularly by those who had not encountered John personally and maybe hadn’t heard the news of his death. John spent his ministry in the desert, baptizing in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, whereas the people in view here are in Galilee or maybe the Golan. Otherwise it seems unlikely they would have made such a connection, unless they believed that Jesus was the resurrected John, which is what Herod Antipas thought: “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him’” (Matthew 14:1-2). In the words of D.A. Carson:

His conclusion, that this was John the Baptist, risen from the dead (v. 2), is of great interest. It reflects an eclectic set of beliefs, one of them the Pharisaic understanding of resurrection. During his ministry John had performed no miracles (John 10:41); therefore Herod ascribes the miracles in Jesus’ ministry, not to John, but to John “risen from the dead.” Herod’s guilty conscience apparently combined with a superstitious view of miracles to generate this theory.

Though Herod’s superstition may be the cause for his comments, such a view is not unheard of in literature that precedes the New Testament. Albright and Mann say, “)The reappearance of dead heroes was a well-known theme in contemporary Jewish thought…[Second Maccabees 15:12-16] speaks of Jeremiah and Onias appearing to Judas Maccabaeus, and [2 Esdras 2:18-19] refers to the coming of Isaiah and Jeremiah.”

Elijah. Identifying Jesus as Elijah may appear surprising, except that Jesus’ ability to do miracles and the expectation of Messiah’s coming might have caused the people to believe He was preparing the way for the Messiah in agreement with Malachi’s prophecy:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet

Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

—Malachi 4:5 nkjv

The disciples had similar expectations about Elijah, whom Jesus connected to John the Baptist as His forerunner (Matthew 17:10-12).

There are indeed many similarities between Elijah and Jesus. Elijah exercised control over the forces of nature, telling Ahab his land would have no precipitation for several years (1 Kings 17:1-2).

In the midst of this judgment against Israel, God sent Elijah to the Phoenician city of Zarephath of Sidon, to a widow and her son who were facing starvation. To test her faith, Elijah asked her to make him some bread from the handful of flour and the little oil she had left. After she complied with Elijah’s request, the jar of flour and the jug of oil did not become empty until the famine ended (17:14-16).

Later, the woman’s son died, and the prophet of God brought him back to life (17:17-24). These spectacular miracles performed for a non-Israelite mother and her son reveal not only the power of God but also the love of God for all people.

Those people who saw the ministry and attitude of Jesus no doubt considered Him to be like Elijah because He also controlled the forces of nature. On the mountain near the shore of the Lake of Galilee He multiplied bread and fish (Matthew 15:29-38), and He raised a widow’s son who had died (Luke 7:11-17).

Jeremiah. The last prophet to whom Jesus is likened is Jeremiah. What in the life and character of Jeremiah served as a basis for comparison with Jesus?

Donald Hagner says there are a “number of obvious parallels between Jesus and Jeremiah, such as the preaching of judgment against the people and the temple, and especially in suffering and martyrdom.” The message of Jeremiah was God’s judgment against an unfaithful people (Jeremiah 1:16). Jesus presented a similar kind of message when He pronounced woe against Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:20-24).

Jesus offered healing and solace to the sick and downtrodden, but to the proud and rebellious, the words of this “prophet from Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11) were sharp and powerful. Another point of similarity may be Jesus’ cleansing of the temple and His indictment of those there (Matthew 21:10-13), and Jeremiah’s rebuke in his famous temple sermon (Jeremiah 7:1-15). Both texts even accuse the unfaithful of making God’s house a “den of robbers.”

One of the prophets. Even if there was disagreement among the people about Jesus’ identity, one thing is certain: They knew He was special, for He was viewed at minimum as a prophet. Just listening and watching Jesus revealed that He was powerful and insightful. This testimony—that the people identified Jesus with the prophets—demonstrates they held diverse eschatological expectations but there was no mass acknowledgment of Him as Messiah. The occasional reference to Jesus as the Son of David, found several times before Matthew 16, does not contradict the lack of recognition of Him as Messiah.

Fortunately, we also see among some non-Jews a different response. The Samaritan woman at the well first viewed Jesus as a Jewish man, then a prophet, then the Messiah, and finally the Savior (John 4:4-42).

Whether they believed He was God’s Messiah or one of the great prophets of Israel, all thought He was a person of great importance with divine authority and a powerful presence and message.

Messiah, Son of God

After the disciples responded to Jesus’ question about how the people viewed Him, He asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Would the disciples have a more accurate perception of their master than the general populace? You would think that their intimate relationship with Jesus would have made His identity clear in their minds. Yet this is not what we find. Though Peter correctly says that Jesus is the Messiah (christos, Greek translation of Hebrew mashiach, “anointed one”), the Son of the living God (16:16), Jesus says that the knowledge that gave rise to this confession came from heaven rather than from human insight (Matthew 16:13-17).

Is this confession true? Or is Jesus no more than a man, as the character of Mary sings in Jesus Christ Superstar? The Jesus who came to earth 2000 years ago has spawned a myriad of ideas about who He was and is. No more important subject than this confronts us today. Even among those who do not embrace the bodily resurrection of the crucified Messiah and His claims to deity, there is considerable praise. As Borg said of Him, “On historical grounds alone, with no convictions of faith shaping the verdict, Jesus is the most important figure in Western (and perhaps human) history.”

But is He only this—or is He, as Peter confessed, the Messiah, the Son of the living God? Our crucial quest in this book is to discover the true Jesus among the various visions of Him that have been constructed since His death and resurrection.


Engaging Father Christmas

This was one of the most engaging novellas I have ever read. Even though it was the continuation of a previous story which I had not read, it was most wonderful and I especially loved the characters. It was written in such a way there was delightful suspense as well an excellent build up to a most satisfying ending. I'll be reading every offering from this author.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Engaging Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 30, 2008)


Robin Jones Gunn

Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.


Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, go HERE


Leave it to Chance

I have read a LOT of fluffy nothings during my time as a book reviewer. However, this one is anything but fluffy. It is light hearted even though it deals with a sad subject of how a split family lives on after divorce. Not many good books out there dealing with that subject.

I do recommend it.

It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his/her book:

Leave it to Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)


Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799883
ISBN-13: 978-1434799883


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”


The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.

After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.


“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”


“She’s noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.”

He shrugged again. “Can I have my game back?”

“You lied to me, son. Again.”


“You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?”

His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. “No.”

She touched his leg. “What’s bothering you, honey?”

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasn’t it. “You can have it tomorrow.”

But would tomorrow be any different?


White Christmas Pie

One thing about this book... it is very sweet. It has sweet characters, sweet story and a sweet recipe! It is a great Sunday afternoon read.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

White Christmas Pie

Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)


Wanda E. Brunstetter


Fascinated by the Amish people during the years of visiting her husband's family in Pennsylvania, WANDA E. BRUNSTETTER combined her interest with her writing and now has eleven novels about the Amish in print, along with numerous other stories and ministry booklets. She lives in Washington State, where her husband is a pastor, but takes every opportunity to visit Amish settlements throughout the states.

This year Wanda also publishedA Sister's Hope


Step into Amish country for this bittersweet holiday romance. Here you'll meet Will Henderson, a young man tortured by his past, and Karen Yoder, a young woman looking for answers. Add a desperate father searching for his son, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class romance that will inspire and enthrall.

Abandoned by his father, Will Henderson was raised by an Amish couple. Now he's about to marry Karen Yoder but is having second thoughts. Can Will overcome the bitterness of his past in order to secure his future? Karen cannot break through the barrier her fiance has suddenly constructed around his heart. When she seeks the advice of an old boyfriend, Will begins to see green. Has he already lost his chance for happiness?

When an accident threatens Will's life, the strength of blood ties is tested. Will a recipe for White Christmas pie contain the ingredients for a happily-ever-after?

If you would like to read the first chapter of White Christmas Pie, go HERE

Watch the book trailer:


This is a novel about forgiveness. If you've been following my columns at Live As If... then you know I am really BIG on forgiveness. I found it an interesting look at a Viet Nam Vet's struggle with what went on in the war, although, I am not at all sure that the horror was captured correctly. I know several Viet Nam Veterens and have interviewed one... the movies don't come close to the horror and the mental anguish. This novel is a pretty good depiction.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Holy Night

Sheaf House (April 1, 2008)


J. M. Hochstetler


J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published three novels.

One Holy Night, a contemporary miracle story for all seasons, released in April 2008. Daughter of Liberty (2004) and Native Son (2005), books 1 and 2 of the American Patriot Series are set during the American Revolution. Book 3, Wind of the Spirit, is scheduled for release in March 2009. Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and Historical Novels Society.


In 1967 the military build-up in Viet Nam is undergoing a dramatic surge. The resulting explosion of anti-war sentiment tears the country apart, slicing through generations and shattering families. In the quiet bedroom community of Shepherdsville, Minnesota, the war comes home to Frank and Maggie McRae, whose only son, Mike, is serving as a grunt in Viet Nam.

Frank despises all Asians because of what he witnessed as a young soldier fighting the Japanese in the south Pacific during WWII. The news that his son has fallen in love with and married Thi Nhuong, a young Vietnamese woman, shocks him. To Frank all Asians are enemies of his country, his family, and himself. A Buddhist, Thi Nhuong represents everything he despises. So he cuts Mike out of his life despite the pleas of his wife, Maggie; daughter, Julie; and Julie s husband, Dan, the pastor of a growing congregation.

Maggie is fighting her own battle--against cancer. Convinced that God is going to heal her, Frank plays the part of a model Christian. Her death on Thanksgiving Day devastates him. Worse, as they arrive home from the gravesite, the family receives news of Mike s death in battle. Embittered, Frank stops attending church and cuts off family and friends.

By the time a very pregnant Thi Nhuong arrives on his doorstep on a stormy Christmas Eve, Frank is so filled with hate that he slams the door in her face, shutting her out in the bitter cold. Finally, overcome by guilt, he tries to go after her, but driving wind and snow force him back inside. With the storm rising to blizzard strength, he confronts the wrenching truth that what hate has driven him to do is as evil as what the Japanese did all those years earlier, and that he needs forgiveness as desperately as they did ...

Frank doesn't know that what God has in mind this night is a miracle. As on that holy night so many years ago, a baby will be born and laid in a manger--a baby who will bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Holy Night, go HERE.

A Rose planted in our hearts

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)

The feature author is:

and his book:

Templeton Foundation Press (September 26, 2008)


Stephen G. Post has spent a lifetime studying love in its theological, scientific, and practical dimensions. He is president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL) and professor of bioethics and family medicine in the School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Post has published one hundred thirty articles in peerreviewed journals and has written or edited fifteen scholarly books on subjects relating to the dynamic of love in our lives. His most recent book is Why Good Things Happen to Good People, coauthored with Jill Neimark. Dr. Post has chaired nine national conferences in his field and has received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Board of the Alzheimers Association. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his wife, Mitsuko, and their two children, Emma and Andrew.

Product Details

List Price: $12.95
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Templeton Foundation Press (September 26, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599471515
ISBN-13: 978-1599471518


Godly Love and Human Hatreds

In March 2007 I had the honor of spending several days north of Paris with the great Jean Vanier, then in his early eighties. Jean had founded L’Arche (“The Ark”) some four decades earlier, when he was inspired by an experience of Godly love to invite two men with cognitive developmental disabilities into his home. Over the years, L’Arche homes have flourished worldwide as volunteers dwell with the disabled in communities of faith, prayer, and Godly love. I had attended meals in L’Arche homes in Cleveland on a number of occasions, and I had heard the grace said before eating, the hymns sung, and the energy of love that was palpable in the lives of those caregivers and in the experience of those they cared for and lived with.

Jean struck me as one of the most loving, Godly, and humble men I had ever met. He spoke quietly and brilliantly, and he exuded an infectious sense of fun. On one Sunday evening there was a Catholic Mass in an old renovated chapel from the fourteenth century. About one hundred people had gathered there, mostly L’Arche volunteers and people with disabilities. I saw a volunteer wheel one older man named David up to the priest for communion. That night, at dinner, I asked Jean what he thought David had gotten from receiving communion, for David was probably the most severely disabled and agitated person I had encountered there. Jean said, “Whenever David receives communion, he becomes more peaceful, and that is the power of God’s love. Remember, Stephen, we do not know much about the mystery of God’s love and presence.” Jean’s pure, enduring, and expansive love clearly encompassed such a severely disabled man, and counted him among God’s blessed.

Evil in God’s Name

When I encounter a man like Jean Vanier, I feel that we must all stop thinking of God as the epitome of awesome power and strength in the conventional sense. This convention may be partly true, but we need to set it aside; otherwise, we begin to think of God primarily in terms of might, and human arrogance propels us into thinking that because my God is stronger than your God, violence is justified in God’s name. If we think about God in terms of power, then religions become tainted with human arrogance. Far too many prayerful people are carrying rifles in the spirit of pure hatred and pretending that their hatred is somehow divinely sanctioned. This amounts to shallow religiosity, which only causes pain and undermines Godly love. The Lord of power and might is first and foremost the author and giver of all good things, the Divine Entity who nourishes us in love and brings forth from us good works.

We need to stop thinking that our definitions of God are finite and that our knowledge of God’s will is total. Our definitions, even if divinely inspired, are still products of the human mind, and we can never fully understand the Divine. Religious doctrines, if adhered to arrogantly, tend to separate us from one another and shatter the unifying spirit of Godly love that all spirituality seeks to cultivate. When religions place doctrine and force above love, they foment massive evil—from torture to terror, from coercion to conflict. Religious wars exemplify human tribalism and arrogance, both of which bring out the worst in us.

Hatred, hostility, and revenge are such strong emotions that they can crush our fragile sense of Godly love. The pseudospirituality of hatred runs counter to all genuine spirituality, which is always an adventure in love, an expression of love’s deepest desires.

Countering Hatred with Godly Love

The love of power can sometimes overwhelm the power of love, so we must remain humble and guard against this. No matter how little we know about God, we can still experience Godly love. Only by taking Godly love much more seriously than we do now—even inculcating a profound love for one another among ancient, sworn enemies—can we expect to head off a spiral of widespread destruction.

Most of religion and spirituality is rooted in healing emotions, grounded in love. We will never achieve sustained peace in the twenty-first century unless all religions live up to those intrinsic ideals of Godly love, applying those ideals to all of humankind without exception.

The world shows no signs of becoming any less religious; we as humans will always have a passion for Ultimate Truth that provides safe haven and emotional security in times of distress. Yet we will only have a human future if we infuse universal Godly love into the rituals that religions create, and express through our actions spiritual emotions such as forgiveness and compassion. If our religions fail to promote universal Godly love, violence will sweep us all away in a cataclysmic firestorm.

Promoting Harmony and Peace

Godly love alone can realign the world in harmony and peace. Too many kill in God’s name, claiming that they alone know the destiny God intends for humankind. Our limited human knowledge of any divinely inspired destiny to be played out on the human stage belies this specious—and dangerous—claim.

Love is the source of our greatest happiness and security; therefore love is the Ultimate Good, the Supreme Good. Nothing else comes close, for love underlies the creative energy that propels us from birth to death. The withholding of love drives to destruction those deprived of love’s nurturing, its compassion, and its life-giving blessings. This occurs most notably in critical developmental periods during childhood. And it holds just as true for a child in a nursery as it does for an older adult in a hospice.

Our religions, which offer models of righteous living, must put into practice their visions of Godly love, or they risk becoming sidelined, or, worse, irrelevant.


Out of Her Hands

This is first person present tense. I literally abhor that kind of writing for more than one sentence. I do not talk that way to anyone... no one does. If they do, we look at them like they are crazy, which they are.
However, if you do not mind that breathless kind of writing, the story line will make you tired because it is another story about a controlling person. It does not grab your attention from the first paragraph. However, it gets mildly interesting as you progress along.
It has a good premise, just doesn't live up to the promise. But, please bear in mind that I really hate first person present tense, so that has absolutely clouded this review.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Out Of Her Hands

Tyndale House Publishers (September 22, 2008)


Megan DiMaria


I was born and raised in New York State and have since lived in Maine, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, and now I live in Colorado. My husband and I have three delightful, adult children and an old Jack Russell Terrier named
Belle who seems to find her way into my novels. My resume will tell you I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in Communications, and after graduation I worked as a radio and television reporter, freelance writer, editor and marketing professional.

I'm a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and am assistant director of Words For The Journey, Rocky Mountain Region.

But what's most important to know about me is that I am a follower of Jesus, wife, mother, friend, reader and writer.

Life’s a journey, enjoy the adventures!

See? She did not write the blurb about herself in first person present tense.
Doing so would be ridiculous!


In this second novel by Megan DiMaria, Linda Revere is back and continuing to struggle with the turmoil of contemporary life. Linda has been praying for her children's future spouses since they were very small. Confident that her prayers will be answered, Linda is not prepared for the young woman her son brings home. But Linda soon learns that while everything she once controlled is out of her hands, God is still in control. Megan uses her trademark humor while dealing with issues to which her readers will relate.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Out Of Her Hands, go HERE

"No sophomore slump for DiMaria! This novel (Out of Her Hands) is as engaging and meaningful as her first, Searching for Spice. Her realistic portrayal of the characters' lives should endear them to readers and help Christians to feel less alone in their daily trials."
~Romantic Times Magazine, 4 ½ stars TOP PICK!

“Life in Linda's world is messy...but filled with love, laughter, struggle and faith. Megan has created a most real heroine for us to love...and I adore her!”
~Deena Peterson, reviewer: A Peek at my Bookshelf

“Megan DiMaria crafts a novel so compelling, so real, you forget you're reading fiction.”
~Darcie Gudger, reviewer: TitleTrakk

"This is a great read for a quiet afternoon or in those times when you feel your own life spinning out of control and need the reality check of knowing you're not in it alone."
~Amazon reviewer

Please note the above reviews are not the views of this blogger.


Dangerous Heart

I thought this one was pretty good. It was certainly unique in a way... a little girl brought up by outlaws. It had a lot of promise. I really like Tracy Bateman's style of writing and have liked previous stories. This one, however, left a little to be desired since she has quite a couple of books under her belt, I would think she'd have the kinks worked out. However, it is well worth the money and I do recommend it. Who wouldn't fall in love with a handsome doctor named Grant? How can you resist?

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dangerous Heart

Avon Inspire (October 14, 2008)


Tracey Bateman

Tracey Bateman published her first novel in 2000 and has been busy ever since. There are two other books in the Westward Hearts Series, Defiant Heart (#1) and Distant Heart (#2)

She learned to write by writing, and improved by listening to critique partners and editors. She has sold over 30 books in six years.
She became a member of American Christian Fiction Writers in the early months of its inception in 2000 and served as president for a year.

Tracey loves Sci-fi, Lifetime movies, and Days of Our Lives (this is out of a 21 year habit of watching, rather than enjoyment of current storylines).

She has been married to her husband Rusty for 18 years, has four kids, and lives in Lebanon, Missouri.


For the past seven years, Ginger Freeman has had one goal: find Grant Kelley and make him pay for allowing her brother to die. Growing up motherless with a father who leads an outlaw gang, Ginger isn’t exactly peaches and cream. So when she finally tracks down Grant on a wagon train headed west, she figured providence had stepped in and given her the chance she’s been waiting for.

On the wagon train, finally surrounded by a sense of family and under the nurturing eye of Toni Rodde, Ginger begins to lose her rough edges. She’s made friends for the first time and has become part of something bigger than revenge. Not only has her heart softened toward people in general, but God has become a reality she never understood before. And watching Grant doctor the pioneers, she’s realized she can’t just kill him and leave the train without medical care. Putting her anger aside, before long, Ginger’s a functioning part of the group.

But when the outlaw gang, headed by her pa, shows up and infiltrates the wagon train, she is forced to question her decision. Only self-sacrifice and her new relationship with God can make things right. But it might also means she loses everything she’s begun to hold dear.

If you would like to read from the first chapter of Dangerous Heart, go HERE


Less Than Dead

Listen, if you read the first chapter you'll just get all mad at yourself because you don't have the rest of the book to finish. Trust me on this one... this is a keeper and besides that, it is a magnificent read. How many times have I said that in the past 2 years? Ummmm once.
You just gotta love The Bug Man... he is sarcastic in such an endearing way. No one gets his humor, but I do and it's the kind I like. I said indearing and meant it. It's one of those novels that keep you turning pages and reading faster and faster. You don't want to put it down because everytime you get ready to turn out the light, another twist comes along and you've got to see if you are correct in your deductions. I especially like the villioness. She's got a lot of panache, and you just love to hate her.
So, go buy the book. It is well worth it. You may even want to read this one again.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Less Than Dead

Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)


Tim Downs


Tim Downs is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University. After graduation in 1976 he created a comic strip, Downstown, which was syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate until 1986. His cartooning has appeared in more than a hundred major newspapers worldwide.

His first book, a work of non-fiction, was awarded the Gold Medallion Award in 2000. His first novel, Shoofly Pie, was awarded the Angel Award in 2004, and his third novel, PlagueMaker, was awarded the Christy Award for best suspense novel of 2007. First The Dead, the third book in this Bug Man series came out earlier this year.

Tim lives in Cary, North Carolina, with his wife Joy.


Some secrets just won't stay buried.
When strange bones surface on a U.S. senator's property, the FBI enlists forensic entomologist Nick Polchak to investigate the forgotten graveyard. Polchak's orders are simple: figure out the mess.

But Polchak, known as the "Bug Man" because of his knowledge of insects and their interaction with the dead, senses darker secrets buried beneath the soil.

Secrets that could derail the senator's presidential bid.

Secrets buried in the history of a quaint Virginia town.

Secrets someone is willing to kill to protect.

With the help of a mysterious local woman named Alena and her uncanny cadaver dogs, Polchak sets out to dig up the truth.

But with a desperate killer hot on his trail, he'll be lucky to wind up anything less than dead.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Less Than Dead, go HERE


Murder on the ol bunions

Let me just say that I've had about enough of authors, sitcoms, movies and all other forms of communications making men look like fools. If a woman loves her man come hell or high water, then she should act like it and never, ever, ever talk bad about him unless it is silently, and directly to God.
I was into this book along about the 4th chapter and I just got so tired of the protag's cutsey old southern drawl and her cut 'em down and "bless his heart". That is getting so VERY old! I did't finish it. I found that I really didn't care about the characters, and if I'm going to finish a novel, I must care about the characters. There's plenty of soul food in this book, but not much ole South Charm. I give it 1 star... mildly interesting.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Murder on The Ol' Bunions

Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)


S. Dionne Moore


SAndra has been writing for years with historicals being her main focus. By the time she had a polished manuscript in hand, historicals were unpopular. She didn't give up though and decided to try her hand at writing a mystery. A cozy mystery.

Her first book, Murder on The Ol' Bunions , released in April of 2008. Book two of the LaTisha Barnhart Mystery series, Polly Dent Loses Grip, and book three, Eat, Drink and Be Buried will follow in April 2009 and 2010, respectively.

She's almost always running a contest, so drop by her Website, you just might win a free gift!


LaTisha Barnhart’s bunions tell her something’s afoot as she delves deeper into the murder of her former employee, Marion Peters. When LaTisha becomes a suspect, the ante is upped, and she is determined to clear her name and find the culprit.

She’s burping Mark Hamm’s bad cooking to investigate his beef with Marion. . .getting her hair styled at a high falutin’ beauty parlor to see what has Regina Rogane in a snarl. . .playing self-appointed matchmaker between the local chief and a prime suspect. . .and thinking Payton O’Mahney’s music store lease might be the reason he’s singing out of tune when discussion of Marion’s murder arises. LaTisha’s thinking she just might use the reward money to get her bunions surgically removed. But she’s got to catch the crook first.

Small town intrigue, a delightful, vivid cast, and a well-crafted mystery make S. Dionne Moore’s debut novel a must-read! I loved it!~Susan May Warren~Award-winning author of Reclaiming Nick

“S. Dionne Moore has the rare quality of pulling together great characters and compelling plots.”
~Kelly Klepfer~

If you would like to HEAR the first chapter, go HERE and click on the bookcover trailer box!

If you would like to READ, the first chapter of Murder on The Ol' Bunions , go HERE.


A Purple State of Mind

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)

The feature author is:

and his/her book:

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2008)


Craig Detweiler (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is codirector of the Reel Spirituality Institute and associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has written scripts for numerous Hollywood films, and his comedic documentary, Purple State of Mind (, debuted in 2008. He has been featured in the New York Times, on CNN, and on NPR and is the coauthor of A Matrix of Meanings. Barry Taylor (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary), adjunct professor of popular culture and theology at Fuller, is a professional musician, painter, and the leader of New Ground, an alternative worship gathering in Los Angeles.

Product Details

List Price: 13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736924604
ISBN-13: 978-0736924603





How did the culture war begin? Was there a clear winner? Or did it devolve into a long, costly stalemate? What can we learn from the battle? Perhaps we are not as polarized as we presume. Political parties and pundits strive to distinguish themselves from the competition in the starkest possible terms. We use rhetoric to rail against one another while our core positions may involve only a slight divergence. We may be hardly separated rather than deeply divided. Can we move from an adolescent mind-set, shouting across the religious and political divide, into something more thoughtful, productive, and mature?

As a witness to the sixties and seventies, I’ve seen how destructive we can be—even toward ourselves. I’ve also lived through the comparative comfort of the Reagan era in the eighties. He turned back the clock to a prosperous vision of America before the social upheavals of the sixties. Can we uphold the vigorous freedom of the sixties alongside the rigorous responsibility of the fifties?

A purple state of mind pushes past the either/or squabbles of an earlier era. It adopts a both/and approach to following God and interacting with the world. It builds bridges rather than burning them. It seeks common ground rather than points of division. A purple state of mind attains maturity by knowing when and where to apply biblical truths to our blind spots.

John: I think this should be a candid discussion.

Craig: I want it to be first and foremost an honest conversation. Straightforward. Tell the truth. Nothing held back.

Were you alive when President John F. Kennedy was shot? While the world wailed, I was warm in my mother’s womb. She was in the doctor’s office, awaiting a checkup on my status. I was born two months after Kennedy was assassinated. I arrived after the initial shockwave, the outpouring of grief, and the confusion as to why such tragedy happens. But we all continue to wrestle with the conflicts that erupted in the wake of Kennedy’s death.

I entered a world on fire. Throughout my childhood, there were riots in the streets, protests on campuses, scenes from Vietnam in the news. My parents attempted to shield me from much of the conflict, turning me on to Mr. Rogers rather than Walter Cronkite. Yet the palpable conflicts over civil rights, free speech, and the war draft spilled into newspapers, televisions, and casual conversations. The struggle for civil rights was more than a century in the making. Leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were as patient as possible, given their long walk to freedom. Yet the positive steps created by the Civil Rights Act still moved too slowly for those trapped in the inner city. Riots in Watts and Detroit set cities ablaze. The mistakes of the Vietnam War constitute their own painful book. As images of the war filtered into our living rooms, resentment toward our leaders grew. Chaos reigned among protestors inside and outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

I knew my dad hated the protestors, but I didn’t know why. Something about their appearance bugged him. It may have been their long hair, their scanty clothes, and their flagrant disregard of authority. The hippies seemed equally frustrated by people like my father. They were complaining about the man, the system, anyone over 30. Why were the protestors so angry? What was all the shouting about? A generation gap emerged over the war in Vietnam. The students were ostensibly resisting the draft. They did not want to serve in an endless, misguided war in Southeast Asia.

Behind the political policies were distinct lifestyle choices. The hippies were celebrating free love, plentiful drugs, and raucous rock music. My father was wondering what happened to hard work, paying taxes, and civic responsibility. Teenagers embraced freedom while adults trumpeted responsibility. These dueling notions of the American identity exploded into a full-blown culture war that has been raging ever since. Reporter Ronald Brownstein calls this second civil war “the great sorting out.”

A purple state of mind appreciates the competing ideals that launched the culture war. It recognizes the patriotism that resides behind both visions. It remembers how much capital was created by responsible citizenship in the fifties. It also celebrates the ingenuity unleashed in the freedom-loving sixties. We learned valuable lessons from both eras. A purple state of mind borrows from both, combining freedom and responsibility.

The Fifties Versus the Sixties

I have lived my entire life in the shadow of the 1960s. I’ve heard the stirring speeches of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I’ve mourned the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in Dion’s song, “Abraham, Martin, and John.” I’ve been taken to the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now. How many television specials have I seen that retrace the upheavals of 1968? Rolling Stone magazine commemorates Woodstock or the Summer of Love every single year! Was it the best of times or the worst of times? Forty years on, we’re still locked in an adolescent debate. We see it in the childish name-calling of Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter on the right or and Daily Kos on the left.

Every American presidential election since the sixties has essentially been a referendum on that painful era. There were no clear winners in Vietnam. Like Rambo, we’re still fighting. It is a dark era in American history most of us would rather not review (even though we must learn those lessons so we stop repeating them). The fissure generated in Vietnam lies behind our conflicted feelings over the war in Iraq. We can’t talk rationally as a nation about important issues because of deep-seated, unresolved family dynamics. If you prefer the comparative calm of the fifties, then you know how to vote. If you uphold the progressive hopes of the sixties, then it is clear which candidate represents you. The only problem with this pattern is that many of us missed the fifties and the sixties. We’re ready to move on, to live in this moment, to meet today’s challenges rather than to relive yesterday’s news.

Living with this conflict is comparable to listening to our parents argue. We’ve heard all the lines, all the rhetoric, and all the old grudges. We can recite them from memory, and we’ve been exhausted by the gridlock. We haven’t bothered to speak up because we know our parents were too busy arguing to listen. The shouting match showed no signs of abating, so we let the circus pass us by. Instead of joining the conversation, we elected to start our own companies, clubs, and churches. The creative brain drain from civic activities has been well documented. Those who were turned off by the partisan rancor eventually turned off the pundits on TV. We are on the Internet instead, arguing about the minutia that remains distinctly ours—music, movies, television, shopping. We don’t want to be superficial. But with no creative political options, we opt out. If we hope to engage the next generation in public life, then this culture war, rooted in bitter recriminations, must stop. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must call a cease-fire.

Those of us who’ve inherited this war have seen enough casualties. John Marks and I were born at the end of the baby boom and the beginning of Generation X. We understand the majority position and empathize with the minorities who’ve been sidelined by the sheer size of the opposition. Consider this book an effort to bridge the generation gap. I’m here to help those over fifty understand what is coming. I stand between the baby boomers and their children, brokering a truce. As a professor, I’ve invested heavily in Generation Y, hoping that they will enact enough changes to make room for my children—Generation Z!

Seeking Wisdom

Seek wisdom, not knowledge.

Knowledge is of the past; wisdom is of the future.

Native American PROVERB

I recount our recent history in an effort to fill in gaps in our understanding. We must comprehend where we’ve been if we hope to figure out where we’re going. I’ve seen the abuses of power represented by Watergate. The special prosecutor’s hearings interrupted hours of my favorite TV cartoons. (Did you realize that Hillary Clinton was part of the legal team investigating Nixon’s White House? Republicans have struggled with her for a looooong time!) I watched Nixon’s sad wave goodbye on the White House lawn. I also understand the faith embodied by the first “born again” president, Jimmy Carter. His Southern Baptist beliefs led him to broker peace in the Middle East. Yet I also endured the 444 days of the Iranian hostage crisis that accompanied his peaceful negotiations. After such international embarrassment, Americans desperately wanted to return to the fifties era of strength and power. Ronald Reagan played the part of forceful leader resisting the Soviet Union. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism was a victory for freedom around the world.

Unresolved tensions about Vietnam, drugs, and the sixties fueled the vitriol hurled at the Clintons and the Bushes. Bill Clinton strapped on the mantle of President Kennedy, declaring himself “A Man from Hope.” His appearance playing saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show sent a clear signal that he embraced civil rights. As “entertainer in chief,” Clinton demonstrated a mastery of the electronic medium. His obfuscations about inhaling marijuana and dalliances with White House intern Monica Lewinsky also sparked latent fears of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. (Did you realize that Monica’s famous blue dress was found in her mother’s apartment—in the Watergate complex?) To his detractors, Clinton represented too much freedom and not enough presidential responsibility. The impeachment proceedings against him were a recapitulation and payback for the embarrassment borne by the Nixon administration.

George W. Bush represented a return to the fifties. He may have engaged in alcohol abuse or cocaine use, but Bush confessed his sins and seemed genuinely contrite. He experienced the dangers of too much personal freedom and welcomed the responsibility he found in his newfound faith. While Clinton parsed verbs, Bush offered plain-spoken surety. He distanced himself from his patrician upbringing, adopting a Texas rancher lifestyle as a populist alternative. To those tired of Clinton’s libertinism and excess, Bush offered a down-home throwback: cowboy boots and pickup trucks.

Yet all the tough talk in the world seemed insufficient in dealing with a nearly unseen enemy. How could a band of terrorists bring down the World Trade Center? They used our strengths against us, hijacking our own planes. They crashed into our most impressive symbols of financial prowess and military might. September 11, 2001, humbled and angered us. We marched into the Middle East with unprecedented firepower. Afghanistan fell almost without resistance. We submitted Iraq to “shock and awe.” Unfortunately, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda proved they could not only run but also hide. We attacked nations, but our enemies were individuals. American technology ended up undermined by insurgents with homemade bombs. We terrorized others with torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. We operated like a powerful empire but proved incapable of ferreting out an ideology. We desperately need leaders who can protect freedoms while serving as responsible world citizens. Such nuance has been lost in our prolonged and pointless culture war.

The next generation admires the civic responsibility of the fifties and the progressive art and music of the sixties. They have embraced a both/and view but have been alienated by either/or debates. A purple state of mind embraces freedom and responsibility. It takes the best of history but leaves the worst excesses (on both sides) behind. It blows away the purple haze hanging over our past. This chapter highlights key moments that got us into this mess. It will offer tangible proposals for moving on with maturity.

Nixon Versus Kennedy

For almost 50 years, we have been sorting out the choices represented by the first televised presidential debate, Republican Richard M. Nixon versus Democrat John F. Kennedy. On September 26, 1960, Vice President Nixon and Senator Kennedy squared off under the moderation of ABC’s Howard K. Smith. Over 80 million viewers tuned into the debate, which pitted Nixon’s experience (eight years as Eisenhower’s vice-president) against Kennedy’s comparative youth (one term as a U.S. senator). Both candidates offered hawkish opposition to the Communist threat represented by the Soviet Union. They debated issues of national debt, farm subsidies, welfare, and health care that continue to be unresolved. They drew distinctions about the role of government to stimulate economic growth. But Nixon and Kennedy diverged most significantly in style rather than substance.

Kennedy arrived at the debates looking tan, rested, and energetic. Nixon looked haggard, having recently fought off the flu. He refused to don makeup, figuring his forceful words would rule the day. Those who listened to the debate on the radio found Nixon the victor. Yet those watching the debate on tiny black-and-white televisions saw something else. They saw Nixon sweat while Kennedy smiled. Although Nixon was only five years older than Kennedy, his demeanor seemed comparatively ancient in outlook and energy. Nixon’s noticeable five-o’clock shadow didn’t help either.

Nixon learned the connections between style and substance too late in the campaign. Makeup covered his beard in three subsequent television debates. But Kennedy gained just enough confidence and votes to capture the closest general election of the twentieth century. Just one-tenth of 1 percent of votes separated Kennedy from Nixon. Americans have remained almost equally divided ever since.

The legacy of John F. Kennedy remains remarkably hopeful and progressive. Consider the optimism behind his war on poverty. Having watched the Russians beat Americans into orbit, Kennedy redefined the terms of the space race. How much chutzpah did it take to engage in a race to the moon? His version of American government looks almost absurdly hopeful in hindsight.

When Richard Nixon campaigned for president in 1968 (and for reelection in 1972), he promised an alternative to the vexing Vietnam War. Nixon expanded the Cold War efforts to include Cambodia and Laos. He presented a stronger America that refused to be intimidated. At the same time, Nixon engaged in a remarkable array of diplomatic missions to China and the Soviet Union. He met his adversaries face-to-face, winning surprising concessions and forging unexpected alliances.

Behind their policies, presidents Kennedy and Nixon represented divergent attitudes toward profound social change within America. The Kennedy years brought glamour to the White House. Entertainers like Marilyn Monroe sang sultry birthday greetings to President Kennedy. An air of celebration could also be read as a reign of permissiveness. A Democratic administration presided over the explosion of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Progressive politics coincided with experimentation and unrest. The Nixon presidency offered a return to law and order. Freedom took a backseat to responsibility. In 1971, President Nixon identified drug abuse as public enemy number one in the United States. He created the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (it became the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973). We’ve been fighting America’s longest war, the war on drugs, ever since.

Purple Haze

Jimi Hendrix’ song “Purple Haze” epitomizes the fuzzy grasp of reality that accompanied drug experimentation in the sixties. The title allegedly arose from a powerful batch of LSD served to Hendrix by Owsley Stanley. Some have also attributed it to a strain of purple marijuana. Hendrix said the inspiration arrived in a dream. Whatever the derivation, “Purple Haze” is rooted in altered states of consciousness. Released in 1967, “Purple Haze” served as the psychedelic anthem for San Francisco’s summer of love. The key to the song’s eerie sound is harmonic dissonance. Jimi’s guitar is tuned in B-flat, while Noel Redding’s bass plays E octaves. Such discordant sounds matched the era perfectly. A clash of cultures resulted in something jarring and new. Jimi didn’t just play rock music, he offered the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Consider the transcendent promises contained in his phrase, “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Some heard it as a sexual provocation, a pledge to kiss a guy. But the sound made it clear that his sights were set in the great beyond. At his seminal appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, Jimi transported the crowd to a higher state of consciousness. He demonstrated the otherworldly power of raw feedback, playing his guitar behind, above, and beyond himself. Hendrix stepped into the role of sexual shaman, licking, caressing, and stroking guttural sounds from his Stratocaster. In setting his guitar on fire during “Wild Thing,” Hendrix offered his gifts to the rock gods. It is an incantation, sacrificing his most precious possessions to the altar of altered states.

Unfortunately, Jimi’s life ended up in a similar state of self-immolation, falling to pieces just as suddenly and tragically. The Experience Music Project in Seattle serves as a permanent archive for all things Hendrix. EMP founder Paul Allen spent part of his Microsoft millions acquiring Hendrix memorabilia, bringing it back to Jimi’s hometown of Seattle. It is a memorial to a musical messiah. The hall dedicated to Jimi is fittingly called “Sky Church.”

To others, “Purple Haze” demonstrated a world utterly adrift. The idyllic visions of Woodstock were undercut by the horrific murder at Altamont. With Hell’s Angels serving as security, 1969’s other free concert (at Altamont Speedway in Northern California) ended in death rather than musical bliss. Every time Rolling Stone magazine presents another rosy retrospective of the sixties, I wonder why it refuses to acknowledge the dark side of psychedelia. How can it hold up Hendrix, Joplin, and Jim Morrison as departed saints, when they are also exhibits A, B, and C in the perils of drug abuse? They were amazing and stupid at the same time. Great talents squandered by excess. So when parents who lived through the worst of the sixties attempt to spare their children the same amount of destructive experimentation, I applaud. “Just say no” arose from painful, lived experience. It may have been simplistic, but it was preferable to self-destruction.

Recent films like Drugstore Cowboy, Trainspotting, and Requiem for a Dream capture both the allure and the demolition of drugs. They provide an audio-visual approximation of a drug trip. Their images are intoxicating and attractive—the ultimate music videos. Yet their message is clear: Despite the attraction, do not be deceived—drugs will kill you. They serve as cautionary tales for a stylish era. Today’s students have largely learned from the painful past. Rates of teenage pregnancies, drug use, and violence have hit 40-year lows. The parents from a turbulent era raised remarkably respectful, well-behaved kids. Demographers Neil Howe and William Strauss noted the surprising generational shift:

Boomers started out as the objects of loosening child standards in an era of conformist adults. Millennials are starting out as the objects of tightening child standards in an era of non-conformists adults. By the time the last Millennials come of age, they could become…the cleanest-cut young adults in living memory.

To a large degree, Generation Y has embraced the family values of the 1950s. But its rebellion remains wrapped in the profane packages of the 1960s.

Consider the violent, R-rated film Fight Club (1999). It is a scathing critique of consumer culture and middle-class values. We follow Jack, the bored protagonist, on a brutal slide into an underworld of macho self-abuse. Jack longs for genuine feeling, even if he must shed blood to achieve it. So while Jack may be a mild-mannered bureaucrat by day, he rallies his friends for bare-knuckled bar fights at night. Fight Club unleashes the fragile postmodern male id with frightening results. What begins as an invigorating alternative devolves into Project Mayhem, a prescient precursor to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Schizophrenia leads to destructive nihilism.

This is contrasted by the diagnosis offered by the toughest puncher in the club, Tyler Durden. He summarizes the isolation of a generation raised in affluence rather than upheaval:

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s— we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war…our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very p— off.

When I showed Fight Club to a class of undergraduate students, they nodded in recognition. They connected with Tyler’s frustration. During a class discussion afterward, a student announced, “We’re rebels.” When I asked what they were rebelling against, he said, “Our parents.” is all sounded more than vaguely familiar, so I pushed further. “What does that look like?” The students answered, “We don’t want to be like our parents. Drinking. Doing drugs. Getting lots of divorces…we’re rebels!” e most rebellious behavior imaginable? Abstinence!

While baby boomers harrumph about presidential candidates’ ancient drug use, their children are begging for them to grow up. Parents complain to MTV about Britney Spears’ kiss with Madonna. Switchboards light up from viewers shocked by Janet Jackson’s nipple slip during the Super Bowl halftime show. Yet the next generation lets out a collective yawn. They’ve already seen it, done it, or dismissed it. They identify with the band Weezer, which recorded a song titled “Tired of Sex.” They are ready to move on, past the provocation to more substantive issues. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer asks, “Oh, why can’t I be making love come true?”

A New Conversation

Craig: My introduction to what it meant to follow Jesus was to be a laughingstock. It meant bad hair, bad makeup, and bad TV. Is this what I signed up for? This whole tension of red state and blue state, this is the tension that I live with—how do I own my own people who so make me cringe on a regular basis? This nomenclature of left and right, red and blue is not helpful right now.

John: It’s not meant to be helpful. It’s meant to do exactly what it does. I’m not happy with what people on the traditional left, or Democrats, say is their worldview. I honestly don’t know if they have one. I’m as weary as anybody in this country of the politically correct dialogue, which basically says, “I’m a victim and you’re not. No, I’m a victim and you’re not.” It’s useless. It’s done. It’s dead. Postmodernism is dead. All those answers on the secular side are basically dead.

John Marks and I stand between generations. We are old enough to understand the boomers’ intra-generational issues, yet we’re still young enough to identify with the discontent of those who followed. We embarked on a purple state of mind because we’re desperate for a new paradigm, hungering for a different set of talking points. We each risked alienating our constituencies. Coming from evangelical Christianity, I am part of the fifties tribe, which is struggling to protect home and hearth. As a journalist, John Marks identifies with the political left and their tattered ideals. We both find ourselves embarrassed by those we represent. I ask how God’s people could have turned Jesus into a hater. John questions why allegedly free-thinking people are so close-minded when it comes to religion. A purple state of mind tries the patience of both sides. It runs the risk of disloyalty for the sake of a larger goal.

We must put the past behind us. We can no longer afford to be divided over issues of sexuality and drug use when global crises demand our attention. To lead the world, we must get past our adolescent fixation on who did what to whom. The rumor mills that trumped up charges against the Clintons in Whitewater or George W. Bush with evasion of the Vietnam War have done nothing but distract us. How much negative energy has been expended on investigations that went nowhere? We’ve been busy digging up dirt when we should have been building roads and schools. We tore down a government in Iraq rather than solidifying our own ability to lead by example. Shame on us for obsessing over the past instead of investing in the future. No wonder voters in 2008 longed for change.

The Gospel According to Austin Powers

Our desperate need for freedom and responsibility rests in the seemingly contradictory letters of the apostle Paul. He applied his godly advice in a unique way for the audience he was addressing. To Corinthian Christians navigating a libertine culture, he preached caution. Corinth was noted for temples dedicated to Apollo and Aphrodite. Worship at these temples often included sex with temple prostitutes. They were thought to serve as conduits for the divine. An intimate sexual encounter on temple grounds was comparable to an experience with the gods. So imagine how confused early Corinthian Christians may have been about what constituted proper worship of Christ. Their understanding of Christian freedom knew no bounds. Paul urged the Corinthian church to exercise spiritual discipline, to get their house in order. He insisted they “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). To those who claimed, “Everything is permissible,” Paul responded with a chastening, “Everything is not beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

In Corinth, even eating meat could involve idolatrous activity. The local cults of Apollo and Aphrodite controlled so much of the public consciousness and economy that new believers were encouraged to examine the sources of their food supply. Food sacrificed to idols may not be contaminated physically, but Paul challenged the Corinthian to demonstrate sensitivity toward those who may have confused or conflated eating with idolatry. Paul urges the Corinthian believers to take responsibility for their Christian brothers and sisters. To a chaotic church, he preaches order, propriety, and maturity.

Yet to the uptight church in Galatia, Paul preaches freedom. The new believers clung too closely to their Jewish roots. Perhaps out of fear of persecution, the local church leaders insisted that new Christians adopt the rigorous (old) rules of Hebraic law. Gentile converts were expected to get circumcised according to Jewish ritual. Paul considers such attempts to bind people to ancient purity laws as a threat to the gospel of grace. He insists, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He begged the Galatian Christians to loosen up, to relax their standards in the name of Christ.

Was Paul contradicting himself? By no means! In each letter, he concludes with an appeal to love. To the legally minded Galatians, Paul summarizes the law in a single command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). To the battling Corinthians who confused sex with love, Paul spells out the attitudes and actions that constitute love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4). He preaches freedom to Galatia and responsibility to Corinth because they each need to apply the message in a unique way.

Unfortunately, we often fail to identify our particular blind spots. Legalistic churches will often reiterate the call to purity given to the Corinthians. Lax churches will return to Paul’s letter to the Galatians to justify more license. Those who need freedom cling to responsibility. Christians who need to learn responsibility insist upon the freedom Paul grants to Galatia. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery urges us toward maturity. In the comedic conclusion, Austin gets the drop on a surprised Dr. Evil. But Evil remains unflappable and punches Austin’s buttons: “We’re not so different, you and I. However, isn’t it ironic that the very things that you stand for—free love, swinging parties—are all now, in the nineties, considered to be evil?” Austin retorts, “No, man, what we swingers were rebelling against is uptight squares like you whose bag was money and world domination. We were innocent, man. If we’d known the consequences of our sexual liberation we would have done things differently, but the spirit would have remained the same. It’s freedom, baby, yeah!” Austin Powers connects wisdom, experience, and the spirit all in one interrelated package. Dr. Evil offers a challenge: “Face it—freedom failed.” With the sounds of the sixties anthem “What the World Needs Now Is Love” playing in the background, Austin concludes, “No man, freedom didn’t fail. Right now we’ve got freedom and responsibility. It’s a very groovy time.” Even sassy movie stars can capture profound truths.

It is not freedom versus responsibility. It is not the law and order of the Republican Party or the liberal policies of the Democratic Party. We need a strong military to defend our freedoms. We need unregulated markets to encourage innovation. We need social agencies to check our greed and support “the least of these.” We must find freedom and responsibility between the parties. We must learn to listen to Paul’s competing calls. Christian maturity incorporates the whole of scripture and applies it to an integrated life. We must be aware of our history. We must recognize how we’ve become so divided. We must grow up as a nation, moving on to freedom and responsibility rather than dragging each other into ancient history. The radical claims of Paul continue to challenge us. Libertines may need to give up some freedoms for the health of others. Conservatives may need to unwind enough for the Spirit to enter in.

Adolescence is an experiment in self-governance. It is about identifying your own strengths and weaknesses, learning to moderate. Sometimes we fall on our faces from too much excess. At other times, we shrink back from opportunities we should have seized. Highly responsible people may sprint to early success and wake up 20 years later, wondering what all the compliance wrought. They will long for freedom. Those raised in a borderless environment will have to find a roadmap that shows where the blind curves and dangerous precipices are located. Maturity arises when those maps have been internalized, when familiarity with biblical wisdom coincides with personal experience. We appreciate the gift of freedom, but we also recognize when enough is enough. Only with our house in order can we begin to focus outwardly. We do not merely play thought police, checking and correcting others. Rather, we take on the deeper challenge of walking beside others, inviting them to join us on the journey. It’s a very groovy time.
Get widget