Archive for October, 2008

Word Filled Wednesday

 

I love this verse.  :o)

 

The photo above is from my friend, Sarah, she is living in Burkina Faso Africa for the next two years.  I have loved looking at her photos of these beautiful children.  I find that this is my prayer for each of them…that they would come to know they are His children and they would know His love lavished on them…I love that word…what a wonderful thought God lavishing His Love on us :o)

I am very fond of little children, especially those from Africa because my heart was stolen by one earlier this year.  God asked me to sponsor a Compassion child earlier this year, and I will be honest, I balked at the idea.  I mean my budget is tight, and when I say tight I mean down to the penny tight…so after much going back and forth I decided He knew better than me and I sponsored my Catherine…and I fell in love.  She sends the most wonderful letters, and at the end of each one she tells me two things….that she loves me and that she is praying for me.  My heart clenches at the thought of this sweet little one praying for me, who lives in the US and has so many comforts, and she who lives in Uganda in a hut with no running water…she prays for me….now who is richer?  I think perhaps it might be her, actually I know it is her.

 

I hope you feel His Lavish LOVE today.

 

For more WFW goodness go visit Amy Deanne.

Blessings…

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book’s FIRST chapter!

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

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Diamond Duo

Barbour Publishing, Inc (October 1, 2008)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Marcia Gruver is a full time writer who hails from Southeast Texas. Inordinately enamored by the past, Marcia delights in writing historical fiction. Her deep south-central roots lend a Southern-comfortable style and a touch of humor to her writing.

Awarded a three book contract by Barbour Publishing for full-length historical fiction, Marcia is busy these days pounding on the keyboard and watching the deadline clock. Diamond Duo, the first installment in the trilogy entitled Texas Fortunes, is scheduled for release in October 2008.

Marcia won third place in the 2007 ACFW Genesis contest and third in the 2004 ACFW Noble Theme contest. Another entry in 2004 finished in the top ten. She placed second in the 2002 Colorado Christian Writer’s contest for new authors, securing a spot in an upcoming compilation book. “I Will Never Leave Thee,” in For Better, For Worse—Devotional Thoughts for Married Couples, was released by Christian Publications in January 2004.

She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Fellowship of Christian Writers, and The Writers View—and a longstanding member of ACFW Crit3 and Seared Hearts, her brilliant and insightful critique groups.

Lifelong Texans, Marcia and her husband, Lee, have one daughter and four sons. Collectively, this motley crew has graced them with ten grandchildren and one great-granddaughter—so far.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602050
ISBN-13: 978-1602602052

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Diamond Duo by Marcia Gruver, Chapter One

Jefferson, Texas, Friday, January 19, 1877

With the tip of a satin shoe, the graceful turn of an ankle, the woman poured herself like cream from the northbound train out of Marshall and let the tomcats lap her up. In the beginning, an upraised parasol blocked her visage, but no lingering look at her features could erase the impression already established by pleasing carriage, a lavish blue gown, and slender fingers covered in diamonds.

Bertha Biddie waited with stilted breath for the moment when the umbrella might tip and give up its secret. All about her most of Jefferson had come to a halt, as if the whole town waited with her. Without warning, the woman lowered and closed the sunshade.

Enchanted, Bertha followed the graceful lines of her form to her striking and memorable face. At first sight of her, Bertha thought she was the devil’s daughter. She bore no obvious mark of evil. Just smoldering eyes and a knowing glance that said life held mysteries young Bertha had yet to glimpse.

Her hair sparkled like sunrays dancing on Big Cypress Creek. Her lashes were as black as the bottom of a hole, and her lids seemed smudged with coal. Delicate features perched below a dark halo of hair, and a pink flush lit her fair cheeks. Her expression teemed with mischief, and her full ruby lips curled up at the corners as if recalling a bawdy yarn. She turned slightly, evidently aware of the gathering horde for the first time. With a tilt of her chin and barely perceptible sway, she cast a wide net over the men in the crowd and dragged them to shore.

Bertha watched them respond to her and realized Mama had been less than forthcoming about the real and true nature of things. Forgetting themselves and the women at their sides, they stared open-mouthed, some in spite of jealous claws that gripped their arms. Even the ladies stared, the looks on their faces ranging from admiration to envy.

The reaction of the men only slightly altered when the lady’s escort stepped out of the Texas & Pacific passenger car behind her. Though his clothes were just as spiffy and he carried himself well, the man who accompanied that gilded bird lacked her allure, bore none of her charm. Yet despite her confident display of tail feathers, the bluebird at his side clearly deferred to him as though he’d found a way to clip her wings.

With great care, the porter handed down the couple’s baggage, the matched set a rare sight in those parts, then held out his hand. Her companion tipped the man, gathered the bags, and walked away from the platform without offering a single word in the bluebird’s direction. She cast a quick glance after him but stood her ground, her demeanor unruffled in the face of his rebuke.

As was the custom, The Commercial Hotel, Haywood House, and Brooks House, three reputable hotels in town, each had transport standing by to haul incoming passengers from the station. Dr. J. H. Turner, landlord of Brooks House, waited on hand in the conveyance he called an omnibus.

The woman’s friend secured passage with Dr. Turner and helped him load their belongings then turned and crooked a finger in her direction. She pretended not to notice.

“Bessie!” he barked. “For pity’s sake.”

She lifted her head, reopened the parasol, and strolled his way without saying a word—giving in but taking all the time she pleased to do so. He handed her up onto the carriage, climbed in beside her, and settled back to rest a possessive arm around her shoulders.

Dr. Turner eased onto Alley Street and trundled away from the station, breaking the spell cast over the denizens of Jefferson. In slow motion they awoke from their stupor and returned to their lives.

Bertha released the breath she’d held and gripped her best friend’s arm. “What was she, Magda? I’ve never seen anything like her.”

When Magda shook her head, her curls danced the fandango. “Me neither. And we never will again. Not around here, anyway.”

She leaned past Magda trying to catch another glimpse. “She’s no earthbound creature, that’s for sure. But devil or angel? I couldn’t tell.”

Magda laughed. “She’s human all right, just not ordinary folk.” She pressed her finger to her lips. “Could be one of those actresses from a New York burletta.”

Bertha gasped. “From the Broadway stage? You really think so?”

“She’s certainly stylish enough.”

Bertha squinted down Alley Street at the back of the tall carriage. “That man called her Bessie. She doesn’t look like a Bessie to me.”

“Further proof that beneath all her fluff, she’s a vessel of clay like the rest of us.”

“How so?”

“Who ever heard of an angel named Bessie?”

Grinning, Bertha leaned and tweaked Magda’s nose. “Oh, go on with you.”

Of all the souls wandering the earth—in Jefferson, Texas, at least—Bertha Maye Biddie’s heart had knit with Magdalena Hayes’ from the start. They were a year apart, Magda being the oldest, but age wasn’t the only difference between them. Magda easily reached the top shelves in the kitchen, where Bertha required a stool. And while big-boned Magda took up one and a half spaces on a church pew, Bertha barely filled the remaining half. Magda’s russet mop coiled as tight as tumbleweed. Bertha’s black hair fell to her waist in silken waves and gave her fits trying to keep it pinned up. Nothing fazed self-possessed Magda. Bertha greeted life with her heart.

Magda nudged Bertha with her elbow. “Earthbound or not, I can tell you one thing about her. . .”

“What’s that?”

The look in Magda’s big brown eyes said whatever the one thing was it was bound to be naughty. She leaned in to whisper. “She knows a thing or two about the fellas.”

Bertha raised her brows. “You can tell that just by looking at her, can you?”

“Not looking at her, smart britches. I can tell by the way she looks at them.” She fussed with her curls, her eyes pious slants. “No decent woman goes eye to eye with strange men in the street, and you know it.”

“I guess some decent woman told you that?”

“Bertha Maye Biddie! Don’t get fresh with me.”

Bertha tucked in her chin and busied herself straightening her gloves. “Maybe she’s fed up with their scandalous fawning. Ever think of that?”

“Any hound will track his supper.”

The words made Bertha mad enough to spit, but she didn’t know why. “A pie set out on a windowsill may be a fine display of good cooking, but not necessarily an invitation.”

Magda narrowed her eyes. “What on earth are you talking about?” Before Bertha could answer, she stiffened and settled back for a pout. “Why are you siding up with that woman anyway? You don’t even know her.”

The truth was, Bertha’s head still reeled from the first sight of Bessie. And the way men reacted to her flooded Bertha’s young heart with hope and provided an opportunity, if she played her cards right, to fix a private matter that sorely needed fixing.

She knew a few things by instinct, like how to toss her long hair or tilt her chin just so. Enough to mop the grin off Thaddeus Bloom’s handsome face and light a fire in those dark eyes. But she was done with turning to mush in his presence and watching him revel in it. If Bertha could learn a few of the bluebird’s tricks, she’d have that rascal wagging his tail. Then the shoe would be laced to the proper foot, and Thad could wear it up her front stoop when he came to ask for her hand.

One thing was certain. Whatever Bessie knew, Bertha needed to know it.

She tugged on Magda’s arm. “Come on.”

“Come on where?”

Already a wagon-length ahead, Bertha called back over her shoulder. “To the hotel. We’re going to find her.”

“What? Why?”

“Save your questions for later. Now hurry!”

Bertha dashed to the steps at the end of the boardwalk and scurried into the street.

“You planning to run clear to Vale Street?” Magda huffed, rushing to catch up. “Slow down. It ain’t ladylike.”

“Oh, pooh. Neither am I. Look, there’s Mose. He’ll take us.”

Just ahead, Moses Pharr’s rig, piled high with knobby cypress, turned onto Alley Street headed the opposite way. The rickety wagon, pulled by one broken-down horse, bore such a burden of wood it looked set to pop like a bloated tick. When Bertha whistled, the boy’s drowsy head jerked up. He turned around and saw her, and a grin lit his freckled face.

“Bertha!” Magda hustled up beside her. “If your pa gets word of you whistling in town, he’ll take a strap to your legs.”

“Papa doesn’t own a strap. Come on, Mose is waiting.”

She ran up even with the wagon and saw that the mountain of wood had blocked her view of Mose’s sister sitting beside him on the seat. They both grinned down at her, Rhodie’s long red hair the only visible difference between the two.

“Hey, Rhodie.”

“Hey, Bert. Where you going?”

“To Brooks House. I was hoping to hitch a ride.”

Mose leaned over, still grinning. “We always got room for you, Bertha. Hop on.”

Magda closed the distance between them and came to stand beside Bertha, breathing hard. When Bertha pulled herself onto the seat beside Rhodie, Magda started to follow. Mose raised his hand to stop her.

“Hold up there.” He looked over at Bertha. “Her, too?”

Bertha nodded.

Mose cut his eyes back at the wood and then shrugged. “Guess one more can’t hurt. But she’ll have to sit atop that stump. Ain’t no more room on the seat.”

Magda adjusted her shawl around her shoulders and sniffed. “I refuse to straddle a cypress stump all the way to Vale Street.”

“Suit yourself,” Bertha said. “But it’s a long walk. Let’s go, Mose.”

Mose lifted the reins and clucked at the horse. Magda grabbed the wooden handgrip and pulled herself onto the wagon just as it started to move. Arranging her skirts about her, she perched on the tall stump like Miss Muffet. “Well, what are you waiting for?” she asked. “Let’s go.”

Laughing, they rolled through Jefferson listing and creaking, ignoring the stares and whispers. When the rig pulled up across from Brooks House, even the spectacle they made couldn’t compete with Bessie and her traveling companion.

The couple stood on the street beside their luggage, the carriage nowhere in sight. They seemed at the end of a heated discussion, given his mottled face and her missing smile.

When Bertha noticed the same sick-cow expression on the faces of the gathered men and the same threatened look on the women’s, she became more determined than ever to learn Bessie’s secret.

The man with Bessie growled one more angry word then hefted their bags and set off up the path. Not until Bessie followed him and disappeared through the shadowy door did the town resume its pace.

Mose gulped and found his voice. “She looked as soft as a goose-hair pillow. Who is she?”

Bertha scooted to the edge of her seat and climbed down. She dusted her hands and smoothed her skirt before she answered. “I don’t know, but I intend to find out.”

“Roll up your tongue, Moses Pharr,” Magda said from the back, “and get me off this stump.”

Mose hopped to the ground and hurried around to help Magda.

Rhodie, twirling her copper braid, grinned down at Bertha. “What are you going to do, Bert?”

Magda answered for her. “She’s going to get us into trouble, that’s what.”

Bertha took her by the hand. “Stop flapping your jaws and come on.”

They waved goodbye to Mose and Rhodie then hurried across the street, dodging horses, wagons, and men—though their town wasn’t nearly as crowded as it had once been.

Jefferson, Queen City of the Cypress, lost its former glory in 1873, when the United States Corps of Engineers blew the natural dam to kingdom come, rerouting the water from Big Cypress Bayou down the Red River to Shreveport. Once a thriving port alive with steamboat traffic, when the water level fell, activity in Jefferson, the river port town that had earned the title “Gateway to Texas” dwindled. To that very day, in fits of Irish temper, Bertha’s papa cursed the responsible politicians.

But through it all, Jefferson had lost none of its charm. Brooks House was a prime example of the best the town had to offer, so it seemed only right that someone like Bessie might wind up staying there.

Bertha and Magda positioned themselves outside the hotel and hunkered down to wait—the former on a mission, the latter under duress. It didn’t take long for the girls to learn a good bit about the captivating woman and her cohort. Talk swirled out the door of the hotel soon after the couple sashayed to the front desk to register under the name of A. Monroe and wife, out of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The gentleman, if he could be counted as such, addressed the woman as Annie or Bessie, when he didn’t call her something worse. The two quarreled openly, scratching and spitting like cats, and didn’t care who might be listening. By the time the story drifted outside, the locals had dubbed her Diamond Bessie due to her jewel-encrusted hands, and it seemed the name would stick.

Bertha shaded her eyes with her hands and pressed her face close to the window. “I don’t see her anymore, Magda. I guess they took a room.”

“Of course they took a room. Why else would they come to a hotel?”

Bertha ignored her sarcasm and continued to search the lobby for Bessie. Still catching no sight of her, she turned around. “Isn’t she the most glorious thing? And even prettier close up.”

“That she is.”

“Did you see the way men look at her? I never saw that many roosters on the prowl at one time.”

“And all for squat,” Magda said. “That chicken’s been plucked. The little banty she strutted into town with has already staked a claim.” She grinned. “He wasn’t all that hard on the eyes himself.”

Bertha frowned. “That strutting peacock? Besides his flashy clothes, she was the only thing special about him. Don’t see how he managed to snare a woman like that. He must be rich.”

Magda arched one tapered brow. “Did you see the rings on her fingers?”

“I reckon so. I’m not blind.”

Magda stretched her back and heaved a sigh. “I guess that’s it then. Let’s go.”

Bertha grabbed her arm. “Wait. Where are you going?”

“Home. This show’s over. They’ve settled upstairs by now.”

Lacing her fingers under her chin, Bertha planted herself in Magda’s path. “Won’t you wait with me just a mite longer?”

“She’s not coming out here, Bertha. Besides, you’ve seen enough for today.”

“I don’t want to see her. I need to talk to her.”

Magda drew herself back and stared. “Are you tetched? We can’t just walk up and talk to someone like her. Why would she fool with the likes of us?”

“I don’t know. I’ll think of a way. I’ve got to.” She bit her bottom lip—three words too late.

Looking wary now, Magda crossed her arms. “Got to? Why?”

“Just do.” Bertha met her look head-on. She wouldn’t be bullied out of it. Not even by Magda.

Resting chubby fists on rounded hips, Magda sized her up. “All right, what does this have to do with Thad?”

No one knew her like Magda. Still, the chance she might stumble onto Bertha’s motives were as likely as hatching a three-headed guinea hen. Struggling to hold her jaw off the ground, she lifted one shoulder. “Who said it did?”

Magda had the gall to laugh. “Because, dearie,” she leaned to tap Bertha’s forehead, “everything inside there lately has something to do with Thad.”

“Humph! Think what you like. I am going to talk to her.”

Magda glared. “Go ahead then. I can see there’s no changing your mind. But I don’t fancy being humiliated by another of your rattlebrained schemes, thank you.”

Bertha caught hold of her skirt. “Don’t you dare go. I can’t do this on my own.”

“Let go of me. I said I’m going home.”

“Please, Magdalena! I need you.”

Magda pulled her skirt free and took another backward step. “No, ma’am. You just count me out this time.”

She turned to go and Bertha lunged, catching her in front of the hotel door. They grappled, tugging sleeves and pulling hair, both red-faced and close to tears. Just when Bertha got set to squeal like a pestered pig, from what seemed only a handbreadth away a woman cleared her throat. Bertha froze, hands still locked in Magda’s hair, and turned to find the bluebird beaming from the threshold—though canary seemed more fitting now that she’d traded her blue frock for a pale yellow dress.

“What fun!” Bessie cried, clasping her hands. “I feared this town might be as dull as dirt, but it seems I was mistaken.”

Christian Fiction Carnival

It is Saturday and that means that once again Amy is hosting The Saturday Christian Fiction Canival meme…and this week’s question is…

Whether or not you celebrate Halloween, there’s something about the shorter days and chilly air that makes one want to curl up with a scary book. The horror market for Christian fiction is growing in creativity and testing all sorts of boundaries. The suspense market is also very rich with many talented authors. So my question(s) for you is…what’s the best Christian fiction horror or suspense novel that you’ve read? What book would you recommend to someone who wanted to try out these genres? What’s a book in these genres you want to read but haven’t yet?

Hmm well I am not one for horror so I have not read anything in that genre…ever :o) I do like me some suspense however. I was first introduced to suspense through Gilbert Morris and his Dani Ross series…I still love those books :o)

I think Dee Henderson has always been my favorite suspense writer…why? Because not only do you get suspense but you get romance too…and her O’Malley series is quite possibly my most favorite series ever. I have also always enjoyed Terri Blackstock…I have read most of her books and she too does a great job of suspense and romance. I also would say that Susan May Warren’s Mission: Russia series is suspense…and it ranks up there with Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series. I also enjoy Elizabeth White’s books and they have an element of suspense too. I love the element of suspense in books, it keeps the plot going and it keeps you guessing. I especially love the tension…some authors are excellent at building and keeping tension in their stories.

I was introduced to Ted Dekker a few years ago with his Blessed series, which is amazing, but cannot get into a great many of his books…although I did enjoy the Saint. I tried to read Three but well let’s just say being a psychology major ruined that book for me :o) I have also tried to read some of Frank Peretti’s book but to no avail…

I have also enjoyed books by Robert Whitlow, Randy Alcorn, Mel Odom, and Debra White Smith (her 7 sisters series). And the Love Inspired Suspense line is very good too.

Well when I first saw the question I thought I don’t read that many suspense novels but as I looked at my bookshelf and wrote this post I realized I love suspense novels (especially with a little romance thrown in!)

I have two books that I am looking forward to reading right now: Riven by Jerry Jenkins and Forsaken by James David Jordan.

For more SCFC fun including other’s views on this week’s question go visit My Friend Amy

Word Filled Wednesday

The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 10:18

I love the visual that this verse creates….the word strong is so important in the verse to me. He is strong enough to handle what ever we bring Him, and His name, His very name, is strong enough to keep us safe.

As I have said many times, music speaks to me…especially when it uses God’s Word. As I have thought over the last week and what has gone on in the lives of those around me this song (as well as the verse of course :o) has been formost in my mind:

When I wander through the desert
And I’m longing for my home
All my dreams have gone astray
When I’m stranded in the valley
And I’m tired and all alone
It seems like I’ve lost my way

I go running to Your moutain
Where your mercy sets me free

You are my strong tower
Shelter over me
Beautiful and mighty
Everlasting King
You are my strong tower
Fortress when I’m weak
Your name is true and holy
And Your face is all I seek

In the middle of my darkness
In the midst of all my fear
You’re my refuge and my hope
When the storm of life is raging
And the thunder’s all I hear
You speak softly to my soul

Strong Tower-Kutless

I love how this song uses that verse…and reminds us He is our refuge, our strong tower, and our hope even when that storm is raging all we have to do is call His name.

So if you are feeling downcast today run to your strong tower and He will keep you safe.

For more Word Filled Wednesday goodness visit Amy Deanne.

Blessings.

Ripple Effect- Teen FIRST

It’s the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book’s FIRST chapter!

and his book:

Zondervan (October 1, 2008)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Paul McCusker is the author of The Mill House, Epiphany, The Faded Flower and several Adventures in Odyssey programs. Winner of the Peabody Award for his radio drama on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Focus on the Family, he lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two children.

Product Details

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714362
ISBN-13: 978-0310714361

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“I’m running away,” Elizabeth announced defiantly. She chomped a french fry in half.

Jeff looked up at her. He’d been absentmindedly swirling his straw in his malted milkshake while she complained about her parents, which she had been doing for the past half hour. “You’re what?”

“You weren’t listening, were you?”

“I was too.”

“Then what did I say?” Elizabeth tucked a loose strand of her long brown hair behind her ear so it wouldn’t fall into the puddle of ketchup next to her fries.

“You were complaining about how your mom and dad drive you crazy because your dad embarrassed you last night while you and Melissa Morgan were doing your history homework. And your dad lectured you for twenty minutes about .?.?. about .?.?.” He was stumped.

“Chris-tian symbolism in the King Arthur legends,” Elizabeth said.

“Yeah, except that you and Melissa were supposed to be studying the .?.?. um?—?”

“French Revolution.”

“Right, and Melissa finally made up an excuse to go home, and you were embarrassed and mad at your dad?—?”

“As usual,” she said and savaged another french fry.

Jeff gave a sigh of relief. Elizabeth’s pop quizzes were a lot tougher than anything they gave him at school. But it was hard for him to listen when she griped about her parents. Not having any parents of his own, Jeff didn’t connect when Elizabeth went on and on about hers.

“Then what did I say?” she asked.

He was mid-suck on his straw and nearly blew the contents back into the glass. “Huh?”

“What did I say after that?”

“You said .?.?. uh .?.?.” He coughed, then glanced around the Fawlt Line Diner, hoping for inspiration or a way to change the subject. His eye was dazzled by the endless chrome, beveled mirrors, worn red upholstery, and checkered floor tiles. And it boasted Alice Dempsey, the world’s oldest living waitress, dressed in her paper cap and red-striped uniform with white apron.

She had seen Jeff look up and now hustled over to their booth. She arrived smelling like burnt hamburgers and chewed her gum loudly. “You kids want anything else?”

Rescued, Jeff thought. “No, thank you,” he said.

She cracked an internal bubble on her gum and dropped the check on the edge of the table. “See you tomorrow,” Alice said.

“No, you won’t,” Elizabeth said under her breath. “I won’t be here.”

As she walked off, Alice shot a curious look back at Elizabeth. She was old, but she wasn’t deaf.

“Take it easy,” Jeff said to Elizabeth.

“I’m going to run away,” she said, heavy rebuke in her tone. “If you’d been listening?—?”

“Aw, c’mon, Bits?—?” Jeff began. He’d called her “Bits” for as long as either of them could remember, all the way back to first grade. “It’s not that bad.”

“You try living with my mom and dad, and tell me it’s not that bad.”

“I know your folks,” Jeff said. “They’re a little quirky, that’s all.”

“Quirky! They’re just plain weird. They’re clueless about life in the real world. Did you know that my dad went to church last Sunday with his shirt on inside out?”

“It happens.”

“And wearing his bedroom slippers?”

Jeff smiled. Yeah, that’s Alan Forde, all right, he thought.

“Don’t you dare smile,” Elizabeth threatened, pointing a french fry at him. “It’s not funny. His slippers are grass stained. Do you know why?”

“Because he does his gardening in his bedroom slippers.”

Elizabeth threw up her hands. “That’s right! He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care how he looks, what -people think of him, or anything! And my mom doesn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed for him. She thinks he’s adorable! They’re weird.”

“They’re just .?.?. themselves. They’re?—?”

Elizabeth threw herself against the back of the red vinyl bench and groaned. “You don’t understand.”

“Sure I do!” Jeff said. “Your parents are no worse than Malcolm.” Malcolm Dubbs was Jeff’s father’s cousin, on the English side of the family, and had been Jeff’s guardian since his parents had died five years ago in a plane crash. As the last adult of the Dubbs family line, he came from England to take over the family fortune and estate. “He’s quirky.”

“But that’s different. Malcolm is nice and sensitive and has that wonderful English accent,” Elizabeth said, nearly swooning. Jeff’s cousin was a heartthrob among some of the girls.

“Don’t get yourself all worked up,” Jeff said.

“My parents just go on and on about things I don’t care about,” she continued. “And if I hear the life-can’t-be-taken-too-seriously-because-it’s-just-a-small-part-of-a-bigger-picture lecture one more time, I’ll go out of my mind.”

Again Jeff restrained his smile. He knew that lecture well. Except his cousin Malcolm summarized the same idea in the phrase “the eternal perspective.” All it meant was that there was a lot more to life than what we can see or experience with our senses. This world is a temporary stop on a journey to a truer, more real reality, he’d say?—?an eternal reality. “Look, your parents see things differently from most -people. That’s all,” Jeff said, determined not to turn this gripe session into an Olympic event.

“They’re from another planet,” Elizabeth said. “Sometimes I think this whole town is. Haven’t you figured it out yet?”

“I like Fawlt Line,” Jeff said softly, afraid Elizabeth’s complaints might offend some of the other regulars at the diner.

“Everybody’s so .?.?. so oblivious! Nobody even seems to notice how strange this place is.”

Jeff shrugged. “It’s just a town, Bits. Every town has its quirks.”

“Is that your word of the day?” Elizabeth snapped. “These aren’t just quirks, Jeffrey.”

Jeff rolled his eyes. When she resorted to calling him Jeffrey, there was no reasoning with her. He rubbed the side of his face and absentmindedly pushed his fingers through his wavy black hair.

“What about Helen?” Elizabeth challenged him.

“Which Helen? You mean the volunteer at the information booth in the mall? That Helen?”

“I mean Helen the volunteer at the information booth in the mall who thinks she’s psychic. That’s who I mean.” Elizabeth leaned over the Formica tabletop. Jeff moved her plate of fries and ketchup to one side. “She won’t let you speak until she guesses what you’re going to ask. And she’s never right!”

Jeff shrugged.

“Our only life insurance agent has been dead for six years.”

“Yeah, but?—?”

“And there’s Walter Keenan. He’s a professional proofreader for park bench ads! He wanders around, making -people move out of the way so he can do his job.” Her voice was a shrill whisper.

“Ben Hearn only pays him to do that because he feels sorry for him. You know old Walter hasn’t been the same since that shaving accident.”

“But I heard he just got a job doing the same thing at a tattoo parlor!”

“I’m sure tattooists want to make sure their spelling is correct.”

Elizabeth groaned and shook her head. “It’s like Mayberry trapped in the Twilight Zone. I thought you’d understand. I thought you knew how nuts this town is.” Elizabeth locked her gaze onto Jeff’s.

He gazed back at her and, suddenly, the image of her large brown eyes, the faint freckles on her upturned nose, her full lips, made him want to kiss her. He wasn’t sure why?—?they’d been friends for so long that she’d probably laugh at him if he ever actually did it?—?but the urge was still there.

“It’s not such a bad place,” he managed to say.

“I’ve had enough of this town,” she said. “Of my parents. Of all the weirdness. I’m fifteen years old and I wanna be a normal kid with normal problems. Are you coming with me or not?”

Jeff cocked an eyebrow. “To where?”

“To wherever I run away to,” she replied. “I’m serious about this, Jeff. I’m getting all my money together and going somewhere normal. We can take your Volkswagen and?—?”

“Listen, Bits,” Jeff interrupted, “I know how you feel. But we can’t just run away. Where would we go? What would we do?”

“And who are you all of a sudden: Mr. Responsibility? You never know where you’re going or what you’re doing. You’re our very own Huck Finn.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Not according to Mr. Vidler.”

“Mr. Vidler said that?” Jeff asked defensively, wondering why their English teacher would be talking about him to Elizabeth.

“He says it’s because you don’t have parents, and Malcolm doesn’t care what you do.”

Jeff grunted. He didn’t like the idea of Mr. Vidler discussing him like that. And Malcolm certainly cared a great deal about what he did.

Elizabeth continued. “So why should you care where we go or what we do? Let’s just get out of here.”

“But, Bits, it’s stupid and?—?”

“No! I’m not listening to you,” Elizabeth shouted and hit the tabletop with the palms of her hands. Silence washed over the diner like a wave as everyone turned to look.

“Keep it down, will you?” Jeff whispered fiercely.

“Either you go with me, or stay here and rot in this town. It’s up to you.”

Jeff looked away. It was unusual for them to argue. And when they did, it was usually Jeff who gave in. Like now. “I don’t know,” he said quietly.

Elizabeth also softened her tone. “If you’re going, then meet me at the Old Saw Mill by the edge of the river tonight at ten.” She paused, then added, “I’m going whether you come with me or not.”

On A Whim….A Review!

Oh my.  So I loved the first book in the Katie Weldon series, Peculiar Treasures.  Robin Jones Gunn is well know for her books for teens and I love that she has continued with some of her beloved characters, especially Christy and Todd.    

On A Whim is the second book in the Katie Weldon Series.  Katie is a senior in college and life is complicated to say the least!  She has a boyfriend she who is our of town often, a family who she does not know, and a dying car plus college classes and a job as an RA.  To put it mildly Katie has one busy life!  RJG does an amazing job of making you feel like you are a part of Katie’s life.  Her struggles become real to you and start feeling as if you know Katie, as a real person.  RJG also does an amazing job of character development, in every book you get to see one or more of the characters grow, personally and spiritually.  In On A Whim Katie does a great deal of growing and it was a wonderful read.  

If you want some background on the characters in the Katie Weldon series I highly recommend The Christy Miller series and Christy and Todd: The College Years.  It will make the Katie Weldon series all the more enjoyable :o)

 

Cheerio.

Saturday Christian Fiction Carnival

So Amy over at My Friend Amy blog is hosting a Christian Fiction Carnival on Saturday’s and it looks fun so I thought I would join in…every week she will ask a question you can answer :o)

This weeks question:

Why do you read and review Christian fiction? Do you exclusively read Christian fiction or do you also read general market books?

Why do I read and review Christian fiction? I grew up reading Christian fiction. I have always, always loved to read. I am the type of person most people do not understand as I will choose to read over television, movies, and music :o) So at a young age, around 8 or 9, I started reading Janette Oak and Gilbert Morris. As a teenage I loved the Christian books geared toward me, especially the romance ones…I have a romantic heart! I remember a series called Live from Brentwood High that I loved as well as the PCU series…and the Christy Miller series…and to this day it is still my favorite :o) So of course I LOVE it and it seemed like a natural step to start reviewing Christian fiction…which I had no clue exisited until my friend Jen from So Many Books introduced me to FIRST and CFBA…and I loved it! I love getting the word out about Christian authors…they work so hard at what they do and it is such a blessing! I recently jumped into doing Author interview (my first with my favorite Julie Lessman) and had such fun that I hope to continue doing this also. Because of time commitments (darn grad school haha!) I had to drop out of CFBA and was so bummed but I felt that I needed to read the books I was sent and at least let others know about them…it is my favorite part of the day when I can sit down and read a good book :o)

Do I exclusively read Christian fiction? Nope. I did until around 4 years ago though. But I have been introduced to some really great general market authors that I really enjoy, and I feel as an adult now that I know what is reality and not reality. At some point I think it would be fun to review general market fiction also. Once again that pesky time situation gets in the way :o) At one point in my live I thought I would never read general market but after being introduced to said authors I realized that I know my limit of what to read and not to read…as with any conviciton as a Christian I feel that we each have our own personal convictions so I do have mine as a reader.

I am just so thankful there are authors out there in the world who supply us with the wonderfulness that is books :o)

Word Filled Wednesday

You have made known to me the path of life, you fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11

This verse is our “signature” verse for the ministry I work for. It has been on my mind for a while to share it this way so when I took this photo this weekend I thought this would be perfect.

I am so thankful He has made known to us our path of life and that in His presence we are filled with JOY!

For more Word Filled Wednesday visit Amy Deanne.

Hope you have a blessed Word Filled Wednesday.

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)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


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 (www.purplestateofmind.com), 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

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Freedom

and

Responsibility

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 MoveOn.org 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.

30…the new 20?

so I turned 30 on Friday…10/10. And so far….I feel no different :o) haha!

But it was a fun day. I slept in and then studied for a while (midterms are this week) and then met my friend Allison near her house for my most favorite outing of this year… so here is my birthday evening in photos…

First we had dinner…

at the Georgian Terrace Hotel. They have a restuarant called the Savoy.

The Hotel is right across the street from the Fox so this was our view from our seats on the terrace. We had the buffet which was fabulous…but the best part was…

Dessert of course…and it was yummy!

Then we crossed the street…

to get to the Fox Theater…I love this place…it is beautiful and stately and well just plain fun!

Oh what did we see? Why….

Wicked…of course! It was AMAZING! I loved it…I was a little worried about all of the hype but it turns out that hype is right! I would love to see it again before it left Atlanta… yes it was that good!

So after the fun show we headed back to Allison’s house and on the way we talked about the King and Queen buildings (so called because of the tops of the buildings) and how the Queen building is in pink this month because October is Breast Cancer Awareness month…so here is a bad photo of the cool buildings :o)

So it was an amazing day…and then I spent the weekend studying…whoohoo! I live such an exciting life…how do I stand it :o)

So I am no longer a 20 something…and it is weird…but not as bad as I thought :o)

Cheerio…


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