Friday, August 29, 2008


Let's see

Please excuse me......

While I try to figure a signature out :D

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Bride Bargain by Kelly Eileen Hake

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 her book:

The Bride Bargain

Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)


Life doesn't wait, and neither does Kelly Eileen Hake. In her short twenty-three years of life, she's achieved much. Her secret? Embracing opportunities and multitasking. Kelly received her first writing contract at the tender age of seventeen and arranged to wait three months until she was able to legally sign it. Since that first contract five years ago, she's reached several life goals. Aside from fulfilling fourteen contracts ranging from short stories to novels, she's also attained her BA in English Literature and Composition and earned her credential to teach English in secondary schools. If that weren't enough, she's taken positions as a college preparation tutor, bookstore clerk, and in-classroom learning assistant to pay for the education she values so highly. Currently, she is working toward her MA in Writing Popular Fiction. No matter what goal she pursues, Kelly knows what it means to work for it!

Kelly's dual careers as English teacher and author give her the opportunity explore and share her love of the written word. A CBA bestselling author and dedicated member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kelly is a reader favorite of Barbour's Heartsong Presents program, where she's been privileged to earn numerous Heartsong Presents Reader's Choice Awards; including Favorite New Author 2005, Top 5 Favorite Historical Novel 2005, and Top Five Favorite Author Overall 2006 in addition to winning the Second Favorite Historical Novel 2006!

Her Prairie Promises trilogy, set in the 1850s Nebraska Territory, features her special style of witty, heartwarming historical romance. Barbour plans to release the first of this collection, The Bride Bargain, in fall 2008.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601755
ISBN-13: 978-1602601758


Chapter One

Nebraska Territory, Oregon Trail, two weeks journey past Fort Laramie, 1855

“That does it!” Clara Field gritted her teeth and tugged harder on her leather glove, which was currently clamped between the jaws of a cantankerous ox. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“I’ll get him in a headlock for you, Miss Field, and cut off his air so he’ll open his mouth.” Burt Sprouse sauntered over. “That should take care of things quick enough.”

“Oh, choking him wouldn’t be the right answer.” Clara struggled to hide her disgust at the very suggestion. “I have to marvel at how similar animals and humans can be. Neither group likes to be forced into anything, and try as I might, I can’t seem to convince him we’re trudging toward freedom.”

“Well, I reckon I could knee him in the chest to make him let go.” Sprouse shuffled closer. “Hickory’s got an eye on you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Sprouse. I’ll handle this.” Clara waited until the burly ex-lumberjack wandered away before pleading with the ox. “Your antics are going to get us kicked off the wagon train, Simon!”

At the sound of his name, the ox perked his ears and his mouth went slack, allowing Clara to yank away her glove. How an ox had a taste for leather escaped her, but bovine cannibalism counted as the least of her worries at the moment. She held up the mangled thing and sighed.

Thank You, Lord, that I brought an extra pair just in case I lost one. Her lips quirked at the tooth marks on the leather. Though I never thought things would come to this.

Yanking on the length of rope she’d tied around Simon’s neck, Clara urged him toward the makeshift corral the trail boss had set up for the night. The obstinate animal refused to budge, his eyes fixed on her glove with a greedy gleam.

“There’s lots of good forage and fresh water,” she tempted. “And plenty of rest.” Oooh, how good that sounded. A verse from Psalms floated into memory: “He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

For it being a river, the Platte came as close to still water as any running water could ever hope. Wide, shallow, and dark with mud, it was their constant guide and water source. Clara tried not to compare it to babbling brooks, flowing streams, or any other clear, flowing water with a friendly rush of sound.

As for the earlier part of that scripture. . .well, they’d only just stopped for the night. Until she got this last ox to the corral, gathered enough fuel for the campfire, and cooked dinner for herself, Aunt Doreen, and the blessedly helpful Burt, she wouldn’t be lying beside anything.

But we’re one day closer to Oregon. Eleven miles farther toward a new start. Not even Simon’s snacking can take that away.

Tension eased from her shoulders as Simon ambled toward the enclosure. She and Aunt Doreen had already lost two oxen on the trail, and when they settled in Oregon, the remaining stock would be used for food or trade. The sadness creeping over her at the thought explained, at least in part, why Clara wasn’t an accomplished driver. Even after weeks on the trail, she couldn’t bear to use a whip harshly.

With Simon safely tucked away with the rest of the train’s livestock, Clara began hunting for buffalo chips. The tall, dry grass rustled around her skirts as she searched. Typically, the prairie held a large and ready supply of the quick-burning fuel. But the recalcitrant ox had cost her valuable time. The areas closest to the circled wagons were picked over by the other women on the train whose husbands saw to the animals. She needed to go farther, though never too far, to scrape together a fair-sized load.

By the time she got back to camp and started their fire, Aunt Doreen already had vegetables—the same supply of potatoes, carrots, and an onion that they’d been using since the stop at Fort Laramie—chopped and in the pot for cooking and the batter ready for Petecake. Once the fire burned hot enough to heat the Dutch oven and cook the stew, Clara gratefully sank down beside the makeshift kitchen.

A healthy breeze carried away the smoke from the fire, bringing welcome coolness as the sun faded. The moon came into view, its modest glow bathing the plains in whitish blue light.

“Grub ready yet, Miz Field?” Burt Sprouse’s head tilted forward as he sniffed the air like a hopeful bear. In exchange for their cooking, alongside a bit of washing and mending, the ex-lumberjack provided them with fresh meat whenever possible, took on the night watches assigned to their wagon, and lent a hand when he could.

“Not quite, Mr. Sprouse.” Apologies wouldn’t make the rabbit cook any faster. “I had difficulty finding enough buffalo chips tonight.”

“Looked like the oxen gave you some trouble tonight.” Burt’s voice held no censure as he squatted down. “I’ll take on your watch tonight, like we agreed, but Hickory’s getting antsy about having you and your aunt in your own wagon. You were last in the row and last to set up camp tonight.”

“Sure were.” The trail boss, Hickory McGee, stomped over to glower at them. Disgust filled his tone. “Same as every day on this trail. I warned you gals I didn’t want to take on two women with no menfolk to shoulder the night watches, wagons, and livestock. You know the law of the trail—pull your weight or be left behind.”

“We know.” Clara forced the words through gritted teeth. Men who believed women to be inferior in every way put up her back as little else could. If you spent more time helping and less time harping, things would get done faster. As it is, you accomplish nothing with threats, yet Aunt Doreen and I hold things together in spite of them. A true gentleman—the kind of man a mother would be proud to raise and a woman would be glad to claim as husband—would be respectful and helpful.

She kept the thoughts to herself. Speaking her mind was a luxury she couldn’t afford if it angered the trail boss. A quick prayer for patience, and she swallowed her ire.

“I haven’t completely mastered the art of unhitching the oxen,” Clara admitted before staring him down. “But Mr. Sprouse makes sure our watches aren’t shirked, and you know it.” She cast a grateful look at Burt.

“You ain’t the ones doin’ it,” Hickory groused. “No call for a man with his own wagon and responsibilities to shoulder yours.”

“I don’t mind taking the extra watch in exchange for their cooking,” Burt put in.

“Don’t recall askin’ you, Sprouse.” Hickory turned his glare from Clara to the lumberjack. “But anyone causin’ problems can be left behind.”

“Worse comes to worse”—Mr. Sprouse shrugged—“I can sear some meat. Got an iron stomach, I do.”

“Glad to hear it.” The guide returned his attention to Clara. “You’re lagging behind as it is. Not being able to control your animals is one more hassle to endanger the train. One rampaging ox can set off a stampede.”

“We managed to sort it out.” Aunt Doreen tugged a bucket of water toward them. “We always do.”

“It didn’t put anyone else out.” Clara shoved aside her remorse over Mr. Sprouse’s late dinner. “We’ll be ready to pull out at dawn, same as everyone else.”

“Better be.” The disagreeable guide punctuated that statement by launching spittle toward their cookfire. It hissed as he stalked away.

When we get to Oregon, it will be worth it, she vowed to herself for the thousandth time since they left Independence and started out on the trail. The Lord will see us to a new life and a happy home.

“The johnnycake should be about ready.” Clara pushed the ashes off the top of the Dutch oven with her ladle handle, wrapped her hand in a dishcloth, and lifted the lid. The sweet smell of warm cornbread wafted toward them. “Let me slice a piece for you to have now while the stew finishes.”

“Mmmph.” A moment later, Mr. Sprouse plunked himself down and set to munching the hot bread. His obvious enjoyment didn’t soothe Clara as it usually did—not when he’d made it clear that their agreement wasn’t as strong as Hickory’s warnings.

“Here, Aunt Doreen.” Clara made sure her aunt got a large portion. After weeks on the trail, not only did their simple dresses boast enough dust to plant a garden, but the calico also hung from her aunt’s thin frame. After a grueling day of travel, any moment they could use for a good night’s rest was another small loss her aunt didn’t deserve to bear. Unacceptable.

Aunt Doreen passed Mr. Sprouse another piece before he asked. Their success on the trail depended on keeping the man well fed. So long as they did that and kept pressing onward, the trail boss couldn’t leave them behind.

Clara filled a tin with the steaming stew. Onions came from their supply, greens they’d gathered along the way, and the rabbit came courtesy of Mr. Sprouse’s shotgun. If it weren’t for their little arrangement with him, she and her aunt would be surviving on jerky.

“Best deal I ever made.” His grunt made both of them smile. Burt made no bones about the fact he liked to eat but couldn’t cook. Another’s misfortune was rarely cause for prayers of gratitude, but. . .

“I was just thinking the same thing.” Clara knew Aunt Doreen’s reply came from the heart, to say the least.

Until now, Mr. Sprouse was just one more example of how the Lord watched over them and would see them through this arduous journey, which had become more wearing than Clara anticipated. A continuous stream of mishaps drained their supplies and energy. And they’d yet to make it past the prairie to the hardships of the mountains.

“When we reach the mountains, things will go more slowly.” She meant the words as a comfort to her own aching bones and her aunt’s worries, but Burt Sprouse didn’t see it that way.

“Yep. Snow can make us lose days, get off the trail, have so many delays food runs out and animals freeze. Everything’s harder once you hit the Rockies.”

“Our oxen are too ornery to freeze.” Clara couldn’t help smiling even as she muttered the words.

“Even so, we’ll all probably lighten our loads.” Burt shrugged. “I hear the mountains are littered with furniture and heirlooms abandoned by travelers so they can get free of a snow bank or make it up a steep pass.”

Her aunt’s gasp made Clara wrack her brain for something positive to say.

“After that rough river crossing, we already lost several items.” She quelled the sense of loss that overcame her at the memory of her childhood trunk, filled with her doll and doll’s clothes. The last thing her father gave her, lost in the Platte forever. “So we probably won’t need to leave anything else behind.” She forced a smile.

“For all those reasons, you have to be careful not to get on the trail boss’s bad side.” Burt waved his spoon in the air. “We won’t make it without him, and he’s dead serious about leaving behind anyone who causes problems.”

He does care. Surely Burt said that nonsense about having an iron stomach just to placate Hickory. She eyed him fondly as he made his way back to his own wagon. Who would have thought a burly ex-lumberjack looking to make his fortune gold mining would be their saving grace?

“You go on ahead and get to bed,” Clara encouraged her aunt after they’d eaten their fill. “I’ll clean up and join you in a few moments.”

Aunt Doreen’s lack of protest and grateful nod spoke of her weariness more eloquently than if she’d carped over the long day. Yet the older woman never uttered so much as a word of complaint. Not that she ever had, even throughout the long years of living under Uncle Uriah’s thumb.

No matter how many verses her uncle warped out of context, how often he misinterpreted her own words or actions, Clara held firm to the conviction that Uriah’s chauvinism was personal prejudice, not truth. Oft-repeated lectures against the frail values and fragile mindsets of the so-called weaker sex only underscored the quiet strength of the woman who’d raised her.

The few months when she’d had Doreen’s sole attention soothed her soul, pulling her from the endless cycle of guilt and anger over Ma’s and Pa’s deaths. Clara owed everything to the self-sacrificing love of Doreen. Then she’d married Uriah Zeph, and their world tilted once more. For the worse.

Hopes ahead; regrets behind. Grandma’s saying had become their motto over the years and seemed more appropriate with each passing day. Tonight, as Clara fell into her quilt, she added one more phrase. . . .

And God alongside.

Outskirts of Baltimore

Filth everywhere. Dr. Saul Reed shook his head as he made his way from the room he rented to the area of the Baltimore outskirts that housed businesses. Brackish water and mud splotched the street. The odor of stale urine in the alleyways fought for dominance over the smell of stewed cabbages and onions.

To think, this was the better area of town, where most of the residents had roofs over their heads and cabbage to eat at all. There were others less fortunate, left to burrow under garbage or be chased away from bridges until pneumonia or fever took them away. The illness he could treat, the neglect of hygiene and sanitation he could fight, but all he could do was pray for the indifference neighbors showed for one another.

That’s why he’d chosen this place. A cozy practice in a whitewashed building in the heart of Baltimore would bring affluent clients, respectable standing, and a nice living. Here, though, he could put his knowledge to the best use. These were the areas where people otherwise denied medical attention needed his help.

If only You will open their ears, Lord, he prayed as he entered the post office. His youth became an impediment in the eyes of some, who saw more value in years than in his Edinburgh education. They didn’t take into account the school’s reputation as he had when making his choice. The university’s renown for technological advancement didn’t transmit beyond the medical community.

“Letter come for ya, Doc.” The post office worker thrust the note at him.

“Any packages?” Saul peered into the cubbyholes behind the desk to no avail. “Those forceps I ordered should be coming in any day now.”

“Any day ain’t today.” The man chewed his tobacco before sending a thick stream of sludge onto the floor beside an obviously oft-missed spittoon. “While yer here an’ all, though. . .”

“What’s ailing you?” Saul prayed the man wouldn’t do as he had the last time he’d asked for help and pull down his britches to display a carbuncle on his hip.

“M’ mouth.” The tobacco tucked into his cheek, he opened wide.

Holding his breath to avoid the foul blast of air, Saul tilted his head and surveyed browned teeth, yellowed gums, and a sore the size of his thumb on the man’s tongue. Saul pulled back to a safe distance and inhaled.

“You’ve got an open sore on your tongue.”

“Heck, Doc, even I knowed that much.” The man rolled his eyes. “What can I do about the thing?”

“I’ll make you a rinse of witch hazel to clean it out. Be sure to drink a lot of water and use the rinse after you eat anything.” Saul set his jaw. “Most of all, you must stop using the tobacco.”

“Wha’?” His jaw gaped, treating the doctor to another view of that open sore and losing the tobacco altogether. It landed with a soft thud on the dusty floor.

“Good. The tobacco is what’s causing the problem.”

“Naw.” The man stooped down, scooped up the wad, dusted it off as best he could, and plopped it right back in his mouth.

“Yes.” Saul closed his eyes. “Though taking things from the ground and putting them in your mouth doesn’t help, either.”

“Dirt don’t hurt.” Crossing his arms over his chest, he rolled the chaw in his mouth, sending another stream toward the ground. This time it landed perilously close to Saul’s boot. “Even a quack’d know that.”

“People track in more than dirt.” Saul’s voice became more stern. “The more you chew, the worse it’ll get. Keep on, and you’ll see more sores until they spread down your throat and you can’t speak.”

The man’s laughter followed Saul outside—another example of the ignorance that ruled this area. How can I make a difference if they won’t let me? What do I have to do, Lord, to make them see how to take care themselves? Give me the chance to make a difference.

As he rounded a corner, a shaky voice sounded. “Young and untouched. I’ll give ya a good time, sir.”

“No.” He made to move on, but her gaunt face stopped him in his tracks. The girl couldn’t be more than eleven. Shadows smudged her eyes, and bony wrists protruded from beneath too-short sleeves.

“I swear it’s true.” She drew closer, obviously misinterpreting his pause for interest. In the brighter light, livid bruises bloomed along her throat. Whether they’d been pressed there by a violent customer or an enraged pimp was impossible to say.

“Stay there.” He held out a hand to stay her progress. Between her youth, her assertion of innocence, and those bruises, he couldn’t walk away. “What is your name?”

“Whatever ya like.” She raised a nervous hand to the marks on her throat. “Whatever ya want.”

Enraged pimp then. Saul peered down the alleyway to see if the brute lingered behind. No one there.

“What can you do—no, not that.” He stopped her hastily as she prepared to speak. “Can you sew? Cook? Clean?”

“What?” Astonishment replaced the desperation in her gaze.

“I know a lady who runs a boardinghouse and is in need of some help.” Saul kept his voice muted. “If you’re an honest sort and not afraid of solid work, you might do.”

“I sews real fine—it’s what he used to have me do.” The glow of pride left her abruptly. “He’d find me.” The whisper almost floated past him unheard, but when her hand fluttered toward her neck again, Saul understood her fear.

“Where is he now?”

“Pub.” She jerked her head toward a side street.

“Come with me now, and he’ll never know.” Saul shifted his doctor’s bag so it came into a more prominent view, hoping the symbol of trusted authority would put her at ease.

“You’re one of them what purges babes when one of us gets unlucky?” Suspicion blazed to life in her pinched face. “Like him that came last night? He took the baby, right, but m’ sister hasn’t stopped bleeding since.”

“Absolutely not.” Saul closed his eyes at the image she evoked. “Where’s your sister?” Obviously the woman needed immediate help—if it wasn’t too late.

“Inside.” She backed away a step. “Be on yore way, sir. M’ sister don’t need any more help from no doctors. She didn’t want the first one to come, but he didn’t give ’er no choice.”

“The quack who did that to her was no doctor.” Rage boiled in Saul’s chest. “If she keeps bleeding, your sister will die.”

“And I’ll be alone wif”—her gaze darted in the direction of the pub she’d indicated earlier as her voice went hoarse—“him.” Though Saul wouldn’t have thought it possible, her face became even more pale. “He said he’d take care of us, but he turned Nancy out within a week. After last night he said I’d have to take her place.”

“No, you won’t. Take me to Nancy.”

My review:
I really enjoyed this book! I loved how Clara had one idea, but Mr. Reed had another :D
A very enjoyable read. Good job!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs

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:

NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)


Dean Barkley Briggs is an author, father of eight, and prone to twisting his ankle playing basketball. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few)...and generally thinks most fantasy fiction pales in comparison. (Yes, he dabbled in sci-fi, too. Most notably Bradbury, Burroughs and Heinlein).

After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who, while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.

Briggs is remarried to a lovely woman, who previously lost her husband. Together with her four children, their hands are full.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 397 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160006227X
ISBN-13: 978-1600062278

Watch the Trailer:

Enter the Contest:


In final days / Come final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Forgotten curse / Blight the land

Four names, one blood / Fall or stand

If lost the great one / Fallen low

Rises new / Ancient foe

Darkest path / River black

Blade which breaks / Anoint, attack

If once and future / Lord of war,

Queen la Faye / Mighty sword,

Rises ‘gain / As warrior king,

Prepare / For day of reckoning

If Aion’s breath / For music cursed

Sings making things / Made perverse,

Fate shall split / Road in twain

One shall lose / One shall gain

If secret lore / Then be found

Eight plus one / All unbound

Beast shall come / Six must go

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

If buried deep / Hidden seen

Ancient tomb / Midst crimson green

Nine shall bow / Nine more rise

Nine horns blow / Nine stars shine

If falling flame / Burning pure

Ten thousand cries / For mercy heard

Then plagues, peril / Horns of dread

End of days / Land be red

When final days / Bring final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Fate for one / For all unleashed

Come the Prince / Slay the beast

Cross the water / Isgurd’s way

White horse / Top the waves

Aion, fierce! / Aion, brave!

Aion rides / To save the day

— The Ravna’s Last Riddle

Chapter 1


The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic. Strange clouds overhead teased the senses with a fragrance of storm wind and lightning and the faint, clean smell of ozone. Invisible energy sparkled like morning dew on blades of grass.

Standing alone in an empty field on the back end of their new acreage, Hadyn Barlow only saw the clouds. By definition, you can't see what's invisible, and as for smelling magic? Well, let's just say, unlikely. Hadyn saw what was obvious for late November, rural Missouri: leafless trees, dead grass, winter coming on strong. Most of all he saw (and despised) the humongous briar patch in front of him, feeling anew each and every blister and callous earned hacking through its branches.

Making room for cattle next spring, or so he was told; this, even though his dad had never owned a cow in his life. He was a history teacher for crying out loud. A college professor. Hadyn's shoulders slumped. It didn't matter. Everything was different now. Mr. Barlow didn't let his boys curse, but low under his breath, Hadyn did, mildly, just to prove the point. Life stunk. That was the brutal truth.

All true for the most part. Yet standing alone in the field, bundled in flannel, something else prickled his skin—something hidden in the rhythm of the day, at its core—and it wasn't just the chill wind. He couldn't shake it. A sense of something. Out-of-placeness. Faced with a friendless sophomore year, Hadyn knew that feeling all too well. It attacked him every morning, right before school.

But this was something more, more than the usual nervousness and name-calling stuff. His intuition was maddeningly vague. Hadyn sniffed the air, eyeing the field. A fox scampered in the distance. Bobwhites whistled softly. This had been his routine for weeks. Go to school, come home, do chores. Today was no different. Except for the clouds.

He looked upwards, struck again by the strange hues. The colors were still there; kinda creepy. They had lingered since the bus ride home. He had seen it happen with his own eyes, though he didn’t think much of it at the time. Right about the time school let out and the yellow buses began winding home, the skies had opened and spilled. Low banks of clouds came tumbling from the horizon like old woolen blankets. Like that scene from Independence Day, when the alien ships first appeared. Hues of purple, cobalt and charcoal smeared together. Not sky blue. Not normal. Riding on the bus, face pressed against the cold window, he didn’t know what to think. Only that it looked…otherworldly. Like God had put Van Gogh in charge for the day.


Earlier, the day hadn’t felt weird. If anything, he had felt relief. Two days until Friday...until Thanksgiving Break. Only two days. He could make it. Standing by the mailbox with his three brothers, waiting for the bus—he couldn’t wait to get his own car—mild winds had stirred from the south, scampering through row after row of brittle stalks in the neighbor’s cornfield across the road. He heard them in the leafless oak and elm of his own yard, hissing with a high, dry laughter. Warm winds, not cold. But about noon, the wind shifted. Again, no big deal for Missouri, always caught in the middle between the gulf streams of Mexico and Canada’s bitter cold. Temperamental weather was normal in these parts.

Yet there it was. From the winding ride home to this very moment, he couldn’t rid himself of that dry-mouthed, queasy feeling. It was more than a shift in wind. It was a shift in energy. Yes, the dark clouds and strange colors reminded him of the thickening air before a big, cracking Midwestern storm, but that wasn’t it. This was different.

Hadyn being Hadyn, more than anything else, wanted to identify the moment. To name it.

Though he didn’t actually verbalize until age three, Hadyn was born with a question mark wrinkled into his brows. Always searching, always studying something. He couldn’t speak a word before then—refused to, his dad always said—yet he knew the letters of the alphabet at a precocious 12 months. When he finally did decide to talk, words gushed. Full sentences. Big vocabulary. Not surprisingly, it was clear early on that Hadyn was one of those types bent toward structure, patterns. He hated incongruities, hated not knowing how to pinpoint the strange twist in sky and mood right in the middle of an otherwise typically dreary day. If it was just nasty weather, name it! What did it feel like? Wet fish guts? Not quite. A full wet diaper? He remembered those well enough from when the twins were little, but no. A three day old slice of cheese?

Yes, that was it. Cold, damp, moldy.

Velveeta, actually, he decided, feeling a small measure of satisfaction. He fumbled for the zipper of his coat as another icy breeze prickled his skin. Yep, another lousy Velveeta day in the life of Hadyn Barlow.

He thought of the roaring wood stove back home. Hot cocoa. Little consolation. Until dusk, the oldest Barlow boy was stuck outside in a field with hatchet and hedge shears. Stuck in a foul mood, stuck with a knot in his throat. Just plain stuck. His task, his life, seemed endless and pointless.

“Just a little bit every day, however much you can manage after school,” his father would remind him. “And don’t look so grumpy. The days are shorter and shorter.”

But not any warmer.

“Grr!” Hadyn grumbled aloud, snapping at the cold in his thoughts. He had chosen to “clear” the massive beast by carving tunnels in it, not just hacking mindlessly. Probably not exactly what Dad had in mind, but, well, to be honest, he didn’t really care. He was the one stuck out here in the cold. He had already carved several tunnels, and reentered the biggest one now, loping and clicking his shears at the endless mess of thorns and branches, alternated by halfhearted swings of the hatchet. The briar patch sprawled a couple hundred feet in every direction, comprised of dense, overgrown nettles, blackberry bushes and cottonweed. Untended for generations, the underbrush was so thick and tall a person could easily get lost in it, especially toward the center, where the land formed a shallow ravine that channeled wet weather rains toward the pond on the lower field. Hadyn guessed the height at the center point would be a good 12 feet or more. Enormous.

Really, it was a ridiculous task. Dad had to know that.

“Why not just burn the thing?” Hadyn had asked him. Burn it, then brush-hog it. Throw a hand grenade in and run.

Mr. Barlow never really answered, just said he wanted him to clear it by hand. After the first day of grumbling and complaining (which proved none too popular with his father), Hadyn started carving tunnels. His plan was to craft a maze out of it, maybe create a place to least have some fun before his dad made him level the whole thing

Fun? He caught himself, tasting the word like a spoonful of Nyquil. Fun is soccer with the guys back home.

He paused for a moment to wipe his brow. Home was no longer a city, not for four months now. It was a cow pasture. Home had been Independence, the suburb of Kansas City whose chief claim to fame (other than being the birthplace of Harry S. Truman) was that Jesus would return there, at least according to one of numerous Mormon splinter groups. For Hadyn, it was all about skateboards and traffic and rows of houses. Noise. Friends. Now, all that—everything familiar and good—was exactly three hours and nineteen minutes straight across I-70 on the opposite end of the state. Might as well have been on the opposite side of the planet. Home now: three hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, away from all he had ever known.

The town was called Newland. The name seemed like a smack in the face.

New town. New school. New faces. New troubles to deal with. New disappointments. His dad had tried to make a big deal of the “new” thing. This would be a new start for their family, a new chapter, blah, blah, blah. A change, from sadness to hope, he said. Hadyn hated change.

He didn’t want new. He wanted it how it used to be.

How it used to be was happy. Normal. Right. Fair. How it used to be meant they were a family of six, not five. Hadyn felt a familiar pang slice across his chest. He would have traded all the unknown magic in the world for five more minutes with—


It had been a year since she died. His mental images of her remained vivid, of a beautiful woman with porcelain smooth skin, naturally blonde, witty, vivacious. All four Barlow brothers shared her spunky attitude, as well as an even mix of their parents’ coloring: mom’s fairness, dad’s darker hair and complexion, the boys somewhere in between. Hadyn, rapidly entering his adult body, was tall for his age, muscular, lean, possessed of a sometimes uncomfortably aristocratic air. Some days his eyes were smoky jade, others, iron gray. But he had Anna’s cleverness.

His parents had been saving money for several years, studying the land all around Newland. Hadyn could not fathom why. What was so special about Podunk, America? But he knew his mom had been happy to think about life in the country. Once upon a time, that was enough. But now? Without her, what was the point? Why couldn’t they have just stayed in Independence? Moving wasn’t going to bring her back. Didn’t Dad know that?

For the second time that afternoon, a tidal wave of loneliness nearly drowned him, left him in a goo of self-pity, the sort of sticky feeling he didn’t want anyone to spoil by cheering him up. He took one more angry swing. Done or not, he was done for the day. Work could wait. Dad would just have to deal with it. Already, he had built a pretty impressive maze, though. Six unconnected tunnels so far.

Like I give a rip about these stupid tunnels, he thought as he crawled from the center toward the mouth of the largest, longest shaft. Or this stupid land, or town, or patch of—his knee jammed against a thorn protruding from the soil—thorny! ridiculous!...

He clenched his jaw, flashing through dozens of choice words, using none. Honoring his dad. Pain streamed as tears down his cheek, and it wasn’t just the thorn in his knee. It was life. Crawling forty more feet, he emerged to face the slowly westering sun melting down the sky. The otherworldly colors he had seen earlier were gone. Only the cold remained. And now, a bleeding, sore knee.

Behind him, he heard heard rustling grass and the high pitched, lilting notes of his brother’s tin whistle. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and grimaced. Ewan, like his mother, was musical. Even more like her, he was sentimental. He often carried the whistle she had brought him as a gift from Ireland. It would, no doubt, have seemed humorous to some, to see him wandering the field, playing a spritely little tune. It only annoyed Hadyn. Thankfully, as Ewan drew closer, the song trailed away.

“Hey, Hadyn.”

Hadyn grunted. “What do you want?”

Ewan shrugged, tucking the flute into his back pocket. He wore blue jeans, and a blue embroidered ball cap, initialed ‘ECB’.

“Wondered how things were going.”

“Dad sent you to help, didn’t he?”

Ewan frowned. “Yep. Got done with my chores sooner than planned.”


“Major bummer,” Ewan emphasized. “Looks like you’re near the center, though. That’s pretty cool.”

Hadyn didn’t reply. With only two years between them, the two brothers had always been the closest of friends, the fiercest competitors, the quickest of combatants. They understood each other’s rhythms like no one else in the family. Whereas Hadyn was studied, wise and cautious, Ewan was quick, fearless and comfortable with long odds. No one could make Ewan laugh—gasping-for-air, fall-on-the-ground-cackling—like Hadyn. Likewise, Ewan could frustrate Hadyn to no end, or, with the sheer power of silliness, cheer him up when a sullen moment was about to strike. Not much wanting to be rescued from his mood at the moment, however, Hadyn let his silent response wrap around him like a barrier against further penetration. He didn’t notice that Ewan’s gaze had drifted from the briar patch to the low sky and paused there.

“What do you make of that?” he dimly heard his brother say, distracted, curious. Through the haze of his own thoughts, Hadyn followed Ewan’s line of sight, his pointing finger, straight into the sunset. At first, he saw nothing. Then it was obvious. Several large, black birds were swooping low on the horizon. Even at a distance, it appeared they were headed straight for the two boys, unveering over the slope of the ground, drawing swiftly nearer, a hundred yards or so away. From the sound of their raucous cry, they were like ravens, only larger, throatier, and if possible, blacker.

“Cawl-cawl,” they cried.

Hadyn counted four total, wings outstretched, unflapping, like stealth bombers in formation. There was something organized and determined about their flight. It lacked animal randomness.

“Do they look strange to you?” Ewan asked, cocking his head.

Hadyn pretended to be uninterested. It didn’t last. “What is that in their claws? What’re they carrying?”

“Yeah, I see it. Sticks?”

“Too thick. It would be too heavy. Wouldn’t it?”

“Hard to tell at this angle. Are they heading for us?” Ewan held up his hand to shield his eyes. “Man, they’re fast. What are they?”

“I don’t know, but they’re still—”

“Look out!” Ewan dove to the side, tripping Hadyn in the process. Both boys hit the ground on a roll, turning just in time to see the birds swoop suddenly upward, arcing high into the sky, turn, then turn again. The lead bird, larger than the others, croaked loudly; the other three responded. Over and over, the same phrase, like a demand: “Cawl!”

All four were pitch black, having none of the deep blue sheen of a crow’s feathers, or so it seemed in the failing light. They flew as black slashes in the sky, all wing and beak, not elegant in the air, but fast. Disappearing completely against the lightless eastern expanse, they reappeared again as silhouettes skimming the western horizon. At first it seemed to Hadyn the birds would fly away, as they swept up and out in a wide arc. But the curve of their path soon came full circle. They were attempting another pass. Both boys nervously scooted further outside the angle of the birds’ approach.

“What in the world?” Hadyn said, hatchet raised and ready. It was clearer now in silhouette form. Each bird carried the form of a long, thick tube in their talons.

The brothers hunched on the ground, motionless, muscles tensed, watching as the birds continued their second approach. Hadyn held his breath. The birds didn’t veer, nor aim again for the boys. Instead, they formed a precise, single-file line, a black arrow shooting toward the main tunnel of the thicket. With a final loud croak—“Cawl!”—and not a single flap of wing, all four swooped straight into the hole, one after the other. As they did, each released the object clutched in its talons. The tubes clattered together with a light, tinny sound at the mouth of the tunnel, literally at the boys’ feet. The birds were already beyond sight. Their throaty noise echoed for a moment, evaporating into an obvious silence marked only by the faint breeze of wings passing over broken grass.

Hadyn and Ewan stared first at the tunnel, then at the objects. Then at each other. Then back at the tunnel. In the same instant, each of them leaped toward what the birds had left behind: four thin, black metallic tubes, trimmed with milky white bands at top and bottom.

Hadyn slowly stretched out his hand and picked up a tube. He rolled it between his fingers. It was about the length of Ewan’s Irish whistle, but thicker, maybe the circumference of a quarter. Not heavy at all. In the middle of each tube, finely wrought in scripted gold filigree, the letter ‘A’ appeared.

Ewan lightly shook his tube, listening for clues to its contents. It sounded hollow.

“They didn’t even have us sign for delivery,” he deadpanned. “What do we do with these? They look important.”

“How should I know?” Hadyn said contemptuously, flicking his eyes cautiously toward the tunnel. “Where’d they even go? I mean, really. Are they just hiding back there until we leave?”

“Who cares!” Ewan said. His disgust was obvious. Hadyn’s was being an analyst again. “This isn’t hard, Hadyn. Some big birds dive bombed us. They dropped these cool tubes. It makes no sense. It’s awesome. Totally, factor 10 cool.”

Hadyn mulled it over. “Maybe they’re some sort of carrier pigeon, carrier pigeons even fly anymore?

“Only on Gilligan’s Island. TV Land. Listen to me, you’re just guessing.”

“Have you got a better idea?” Hadyn demanded.

Ewan waited, considered. Hadyn knew he hated being put on the spot like that, in the inferior position. Now it was Ewan’s turn to think.

“Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe those birds really are carriers of some sort?—” Ewan held up a tube, “—obviously they are. What if they need to carry these things farther still? What if they’re just resting? What if they are trained to do this when they need to rest? Drop their packages, find a hole, rest, then grab their stuff and carry on?”

“So...are you suggesting we flush them out? Cause there is no way I’m going to crawl back there. They can get out later on their own.”

Ewan didn’t reply. Instead he dug into his pocket, pulled out a small flashlight, and scuttled into the tunnel the birds had entered. “Wait here,” he ordered.

“Hey, watch it back there!” Hadyn cautioned. Secretly, he wanted him to go, knew how to punch his brother’s buttons to make it happen. “Those claws looked sharp!”

While he waited for Ewan to return, Hadyn examined the tubes further. He shook one tube, flicked it, smelled another; picked up and twirled the third and fourth tubes. His efforts yielded the same muffled sensation of something barely shifting inside. Maybe a rolled up piece of paper? If the ravens (or crows, or whatever they were) were carriers of some sort, a written message did make the most sense. But who in the world still sent paper bird? By raven, no less. Hello, email anyone?

Presently, Ewan reappeared, breathing hard.

“They’re gone,” he said simply. “Must have flown out one of the other tunnels.”

Hadyn creased his brow. “No way. None of the tunnels connect yet.”

“They don’t?” Ewan’s eyes widened as it dawned on him that he hadn’t seen any other tunnels. “No...they don’t.”

The two boys stared at one another in silence. Evening enfolded them; soon, darkness. “They must have crawled through the branches,” Hadyn surmised, but he hardly sounded convinced. “Are you sure you didn’t see them?”

Ewan rolled his eyes. “Hello? Big, black flappy things. Yes, I’m sure.” He grabbed one of the tubes, shook it again. “This band looks like ivory, but it’s hard to tell in this light.”

“Reminds me of one of mom’s necklaces.”

Ewan grabbed the end and twisted. “Only one way to find out.”

This time Hadyn didn’t argue or analyze. Curiosity had gotten the best of him. The lid twisted off with surprising ease, followed by a thin hiss of sealed air. Ewan wrinkled his face. “Smells old. Yuck. Turn on your flashlight. Mine is getting weak.”

He tapped the open end against the palm of his left hand. The coiled edge of a piece of thick, cream-colored parchment slipped out. Hadyn leaned in closer. Ewan gingerly teased the scroll out. It had a heavy grain of woven cotton, with rough edges trimmed in gold foil. Both boys let out a long slow breath. Neither the silver moon hung off the treeline, nor the winking stars, provided light enough to clearly see. Hadyn turned on his flashlight as his brother unrolled the parchment. The paper was larger than normal, rich to the touch. Pinning both ends to the ground, both boys read at once the simple message beautifully scripted on the inside in golden ink: “You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

“Dude!” Ewan whistled softly. “Looks like something from King Arthur. What in the world are the Hidden Lands?”

Hadyn, who actually loved the lore of King Arthur—and Ewan knew it—was already reaching for another tube. Ewan followed his lead. Within twenty seconds, all four tubes were opened, and four identical parchments lay spread on the ground in the dark, illuminated only by flashlights. Golden ink glimmered, subtly shifting hues. Each bore the exact same message.

“You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

Hadyn grabbed the four sheets, quickly rolled them up, and inserted each back into its thin metal sleeve. “We need to head home before Dad gets worried,” he said. “You take two and I’ll take two. Stick them under your shirt and act cool. I have no idea what these are. But for now, they’re our little secret.”

He puffed up for a moment, the older brother. Still out of sorts with the world.

“And none of your games, either, Ewan. I mean it. I’m not in the mood.”

God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall

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 her book:

God Loves Me More Than That

WaterBrook Press (August 19, 2008)


Dandi Daley Mackall has published more than 400 books for children and adults, with more than 3 million combined copies sold. She is the author of WaterBrook’s two other delightful Dandilion Rhymes books, A Gaggle of Geese & A Clutter of Cats and The Blanket Show. A popular keynote speaker at conferences and Young Author events, Mackall lives in rural Ohio with her husband, three children, and a menagerie of horses, dogs, and cats.

Visit the author's website.


David Hohn is an award-winning illustrator who graduated with honors from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has worked as both a staff artist and an art director for a children’s software company in Portland, Oregon, a position which led to his art directing an award-winning project for Fisher-Price. Hohn’s recent projects include Lisa Tawn Bergren’s God Gave Us Christmas.

Visit the illustrator's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (August 19, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073162
ISBN-13: 978-1400073160


Chapter One

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Tawn Bergren

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 her book:

God Gave Us Heaven

WaterBrook Press (August 19, 2008)


Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than one million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Heaven is Lisa’s fourth children’s book, following in the tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She makes her home in Colorado, with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

Visit the author's website.


Laura J. Bryant studied painting, printmaking, and sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. She has illustrated numerous award-winning children’s books, including God Gave Us You, Smudge Bunny, and If You Were My Baby. Laura lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Visit the illustrator's website.

Poduct Details:

List Price: $10.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (August 19, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400074460
ISBN-13: 978-1400074464


Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm Not Crazy, But I Might be a Carrier, by Charles Marshall

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)


Charles Marshall began his career onstage as a singer/songwriter. When his singing voice gave out, he turned to stand-up comedy and was much more successful. He is now a nationally syndicated Christian humor columnist and has contributed to Focus on the Family magazine. He is the author of Shattering the Glass Slipper: Destroying Fairy Tale Thinking Before It Destroys You and has filmed two stand-up comedy videos, I'm Just Sayin' and Fully Animated.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 082543419X
ISBN-13: 978-0825434198


Chapter 1 Going to the Dogs

My wife and I have been thinking about getting a dog, lately, and discussing what type we might get. For me, there is really only one possibility—and that, of course, is a real dog.

For the uninitiated, there are three basic types of dogs:

1] Real dogs. These are dogs as God originally made them—monstrous, made-for-the-outdoors hunting machines that are perfect for intimidating neighbors and attracting lawsuits.

The ownership rule for guys and dogs is simple: the bigger the dog, the cooler you look. Walk down the street with a Pekingese and you might as well be wearing a tutu.

When you observe a man walking down the street with a massive real-dog, his message to you is clear. “Yes, I’m overcompensating for my insecurities and lack of masculinity but I’ve got a really big dog.”

Now that’s the kind of attitude I can get behind.

2] Mutant rat-dogs, otherwise known as Chihuahuas. These poor creatures are the unintentional result of secret experiments conducted by the Mexican army in a failed attempt to create the ultimate weapon by cross-breeding bats and Great Danes. The only surviving result of these experiments is a group of nervous, angry little rat-dogs that decided to take their revenge on humanity by being annoying on just about every level known to mankind.

If you are approached by one of these aberrations of nature, know that it despises you with a hatred rarely seen outside the Middle East, and that it won’t hesitate to tear your ankles to shreds. These dogs are the piranhas of the canine world and would nuke

mankind tomorrow if they thought they could get away with it. Under no circumstance should one of these animals be allowed to run for public office.

3] Kitty-dogs, which is every kind of dog that does not fall into one of the first two categories. I’m all in favor of this type of dog because, hey, girls have to have dogs, too.

The curse of the kitty-dog is that there are those who take a warped delight in dressing them up like people. Most dogs would rather be subjected to Mexican weapons experiments than go through this type of torture.

I cannot say this in strong enough terms: You should never, ever dress up your dog for any reason whatsoever. Take it from me—even if it were thirty below outside, your dog would rather die with dignity in his own fur coat than live while being seen in a little poochie parka.

If you dress your dog, you need to know two things:

1] The rest of us are making fun of you behind your back.

2] Every day your dog prays for a heaven where he gets to dress you up in humiliating costumes while he and his doggie friends point at you and laugh for all eternity.

If you feel you absolutely must dress an animal, go dress one that at least has a chance of defending itself like a cougar or a wolverine or a Chihuahua.

One of the most amazing things about the three dog types is that for every one of them, there is someone that likes that kind of dog. At this very moment, there are people risking the loss of fingers and eyes while they stroke their vicious little rat-dogs, all for the sake of love.

That’s a mysterious kind of love, isn’t it—the kind that embraces the unlovely, that sees through the imperfect and loves without regard?

Let’s face it, the human heart isn’t very attractive either. Every thought we have is consumed with self. If you peel away the layers of even our most noble deeds and acts of kindness, you will find thoughts that circle back to ourselves like homing pigeons. In our hearts, we are all mutant rat-dogs.

And yet God loves us.

In the Bible, you find that same theme of an indefatigable, undefeatable love reaching out to a vicious, ungrateful humanity over and over again. I’ve found it’s a love well worth pursuing.

And so the great dog debate rages in my household, and I think my wife is coming around to my point of view. But, if by chance, you happen to see me in the neighborhood walking a Pekingese that is wearing a teeny hat and sundress, you may safely assume things did not go my way.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lessons from the Road by Nigel James

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 his book:

Lessons from the Road

Authentic (April 1, 2008)


Since 2000, Nigel James has travelled extensively as the road pastor for the iconic Christian rock band Third Day. A self-described “20-year-old kid trapped in a 47-year-old man’s body,” Nigel’s relationship with the band exists on several levels: pastor/mentor, father figure (or “grandfather figure,” as the guys joke), and fan.

A Christian since his teenage years, Nigel holds a degree in sociology and a post-graduate qualification in practical theology. He has spent most of his adult life in youth ministry, evangelism, and discipleship. He is the founder, along with Gary Smith, of the IGNITE discipleship initiative. IGNITE is part of the UK-based ministry called Big Ideas (not to be confused with Big Idea productions in the USA) which Nigel and Gary founded in 1995 after they both worked as part of the national leadership team for a Christian youth organization.

Through his association with Third Day, Nigel has befriended some of the most beloved personalities in Christian music and ministry. In 2002-2003, he travelled with Third Day, Michael W. Smith, and Max Lucado on the highly acclaimed “Come Together and Worship” tour. In January of 2008, Nigel accompanied Third Day on a tour to minister to U.S. troops in Kuwait and Iraq. He is also a regular speaker at colleges in the U.S., and his humanitarian work has taken him to various locations around the world. Because of IGNITE’s partnership with Compassion International, Nigel has travelled to Haiti to see firsthand the organization’s child sponsorship work there. He is also a frequent visitor to India, where the IGNITE ministry has opened a number of IGNITE India Churches and is in the final stages of constructing a school set to open this fall.

Nigel lives in Cardiff, Wales with Gill, his wife of 19 years, and their daughter Bethan. Two adult children, Rachel and James, live away from home. Nigel also serves as a pastor at the City Temple Elim Pentecostal Church in Cardiff. Though his greatest passion in life is “encouraging people to follow Jesus,” he is also a cricket enthusiast—both as a spectator and a participant. Thanks to his downtime on the road with Third Day, he is also an improving golfer.

Other books by Nigel James:

Ignite: God's Purpose for This Generation

Seven Ways to Ignite Your Life: Life Lessons from 1 Samuel

Seven Myths of Youth Ministry: How to Re-Ignite Your Passion

Seven Ways to Ignite Outrageous Prayer

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: Authentic (April 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068489
ISBN-13: 978-1934068489


Chapter One

Set This Place on Fire

“From the beginning of Third Day we realized that we needed to have someone to speak into our lives as individuals and as a band. Through the years we have had many people, pastors, and friends travel with us. But of all those people, Nigel James has been the most important. He has allowed us and reminded us to be men of God first, and as a result, our music and ministry have reflected that. Nigel has kept us accountable to each other, to the church, and, of course, to our Lord. He has helped us to grow in our faith and has reminded us to stay focused on our calling and on what Third Day is really all about.” ~ Mac Powell, November 2006

Whenever people find out that I travel with Third Day as their road pastor, they always ask me the same two questions. The second question is, “Do you need someone to carry your bags?” I laugh politely and mention that I’m strong enough to carry my own bags. However, the first question needs a more serious answer. Everyone always asks me, “How did you get the job of Third Day’s road pastor?” Depending on how much time I have and how interested the person looks, I’ve got two possible replies. My short reply is that it is a “God thing”; and the longer reply, which explains the set of circumstances in which I’ve ended up working with the band, adds up to basically the same answer—it’s a God thing.

If you think about the situation, it does seem to stretch the bounds of credibility that a man from Cardiff, Wales, in the UK would find himself in the privileged and responsible position of being spiritual adviser and friend to one of the most successful and influential bands in the history of Christian music. Equally unlikely is that their production manager would up root from his home in Australia to join the band’s crew, or that their merchandise manager is a missionary from Brazil. Yet that’s the way God often works: “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9 nlt). So let me explain how God orchestrated my relationship with Brad, David, Mac, Mark, and Tai.

It all started in the summer of 1995. My best friend, Gary Smith, and I had just left the employment of a national Christian youth organization in the UK to begin ministry together in a charity called Big Ideas (nothing to do with Veggie Tales!). For some years before this, we had been running a Christian music festival and had begun a friendship with the main guys in a Christian record company. Ian Hamilton, Dave Withers, and Dave Bruce, major players in the UK scene, started a new company called Alliance and needed some help developing live concerts and touring. They promised to send some opportunities our way when Gary and I set out together.

Our plan for the summer of 1995 was to leave our employment in June, spend July and early August on an evangelistic trip around youth camp sites, have a couple of weeks holiday late in August, and then officially begin ministry together in the first week of September.

Then two things happened that shaped my destiny: first, Gary got ill with a kidney stone and had to return home early from the evangelistic trip. In fact, he ended up in the hospital. Second, Alliance Music called us to ask if we could look after an American band that was coming over to the UK and Europe for a week. Basically they needed a minibus driver to take a band called Newsboys around the UK, Holland, and Germany. I have to admit I’d never heard of them but had it on good authority that they were good and were gaining a great reputation. Already Gary and I had decided that he would do more of the management, events, and organizing and that I would do more speaking and evangelism. Had Gary been well, he would have driven Newsboys around, but because we couldn’t turn down such a great opportunity, I found myself escorting them around when I thought I’d be having a few quiet days before starting a new ministry.

A week on the road with Newsboys was a blast and my first introduction to the nuts and bolts of the Christian music world. I’d been a fan of contemporary Christian music since I was a student in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but now I was experiencing it from the inside. Peter Furler and the rest of the guys of Newsboys really welcomed me, and we shared many plates of “pie and chips” during that week. Newsboys’ management, Wes and Steve Campbell, became very good friends of mine, and Gary recovered enough to run a showcase concert for Alliance with Newsboys as top of the bill.

Over the next few years, Alliance Music flew Gary and me to the Gospel Music Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee, to find bands and performers who would relish the opportunity of playing in the UK. Each time we went to Nashville, we would stay with either Wes Campbell or Duncan Phillips, and we got to know Newsboys better and better. Peter Furler would often suggest that they bring me over to the US to work as the road manager, and I kept replying that I was a pastoral/speaker-type person, not a management dude! I must admit that my appetite for life on the road in the US was whetted on one occasion when I flew up from Nashville to Chicago to see Newsboys perform at a Luis Palau youth rally and then traveled back to Nashville on their tour bus. I slept on the couch in the front lounge of the bus and gazed wide eyed out of the window at the nighttime Chicago skyline and the early morning scene on the outskirts of Nashville.

Then, incredibly, in the summer of 1998, Steve Campbell called and asked me, on Peter Furler’s behalf, if I’d consider coming on the Step Up to the Microphone tour to do some speaking on behalf of Teen Mania and to act as a tour pastor. After a phone conversation with Ron Luce of Teen Mania, a visit to their headquarters in Texas, and a trip to Romania to see one of their mission teams in action, the plan was confirmed.

So in September 1998, I headed out for the first of two one-month-long stays on the road with Newsboys. At the age of nearly thirty-eight, when most sane people in Christian music were deciding to come off the road, I was embarking on a journey that now eight years later I still have not finished!

Life on the road with Newsboys was perhaps the most intense experience I have ever had. I learned so much about myself, about being away from my family, about life on the road, about Christian music, about relying on the Lord, and I saw so much of America—places like Memphis, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, which I had often seen on TV but never in real life.

I’m immensely grateful to the guys at Alliance, to Gary Smith, and to Newsboys (especially Steve Campbell, who along with his wife, Simone, looked after me so well) for the opportunities that came my way at this time. But how does all this connect with Third Day? I hear you ask. Good question! The support act for Newsboys on the first part of the Step Up to the Microphone tour was none other than—you’ve guessed it—Third Day!

The first mention of Third Day in my journal, dated Saturday, October 3, 1998, reads: “At another Paramount theme park. Third Day talked me into going on the Top Gun ride with

them—a frightening experience.” I have to confess that my fear came not from being with the guys of Third Day but from a deep aversion to theme-park rides.

I spoke on the weekend shows of the tour and would be waiting in the wings of the stage while Third Day performed their set. I hadn’t listened to their music before the tour but found that songs like “My Hope Is You,” “Consuming Fire,” and “Peace” really helped me worship the Lord and receive His strength before I went on to speak.

I met John Poitevent at this time, who became a great friend. On my first night of speaking, John was walking offstage with a guitar (he doubled as a guitar tech), and just before I was going on stage, he prayed an awesome prayer for me. I was amazed and remember thinking, “Wow! These Third Day guys must be incredible; even their guitar tech is a mighty man of God.” He was actually Third Day’s full-time road pastor, and it was he who encouraged me to get to know the band and to spend some time with them on our days off.

My friendship with Third Day came to fruition in October 1998. Newsboys were big into motorbikes and were going to spend some time biking in California and Nevada, so Third

Day invited me onto their bus. We bonded on a golf course in Pasadena and in a Thai restaurant in Hollywood! Our friendship nearly came to a premature end a few days later when I tried to impress the crowd at a concert with my newly learned American slang, courtesy of Third Day. Great embarrassment for me and for them!

As far as my journal entries go, I joined in a Sunday devotional with Third Day for the first time the day after the Top Gun ride and led my first Bible study with the guys on Tuesday, October 13, 1998, at the invitation of John Poitevent: “Leading a Bible study with Third Day today—supposedly. Didn’t think Newsboys bus would arrive at the venue in time. Got here with twenty minutes to spare, washed and ate, only to find all the guys in Third Day still asleep.”

The first study I ever shared with Tai, Mac, Mark, David, and Brad was on this verse: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:20 niv). As if to enforce that theme, the daily reading in my own quiet time from a book my wife, Gill, had given me was from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 niv).

I was homesick, missing my wife and family, aware of the grace she showed in allowing me to travel to the USA, yet I was also conscious that God was beginning to open up a new chapter

of my life and that His power would be all that I needed.

I spent another two months in the spring of 1999 on the Step Up to the Microphone tour, although Third Day wasn’t in those shows. I also traveled with Newsboys on their Love

Liberty Disco tour, which took place inside a giant blow-up air dome in parking lots or state fairgrounds during the spring of 2000. I kept in contact with Third Day and even found time to

pop into the studio in Nashville when the band was mixing the Time album. I can vividly remember listening to the finishing touches to “Your Love, Oh Lord” and then going out for a good ol’ barbecue meal together. The guys first invited me to join them for a few days out on tour towards the end of 2000. By then, John Poitevent had gone back to Atlanta to work with his church, and Third Day was touring the Time album. From then on, I joined them regularly on each of their tours.

The contemporary Christian music scene often receives criticism for being a business or for merely mimicking the mainstream music scene or for attempting to create a parallel and “safe” Christian culture away from the real world. And to a certain extent, all of these observations carry some truth. Yet my experience also tells me that Christian music does transform lives, does communicate with people, does help seekers find faith, and does build up the body of believers. It’s for these reasons that I do what I do with Third Day.

I often reflect on what I have done to deserve the privilege of pastoring Third Day. In reality, it’s down to the grace of God because there are thousands of faithful, inspirational, even famous pastors in the US who in human terms should be doing what I do. However, as I reflect, I do believe that part of the reason has been my willingness, ever since God called me to serve Him, to be faithful in the small things. I am reminded of the words of the master in the parable of the talents: “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” (Matthew 25:21 nlt).

From my late teens, when I knew God’s call in my life was to share Jesus with others, I have always been excited about the opportunity to preach and teach the Word of God, whether to five hundred people or to five people. In fact, the denomination in which I grew up sent me around London to preach in many of its dwindling churches. Sometimes I would take other young people with me, and we would outnumber the small congregation we were visiting. Once I preached in a church that had space for eight hundred people, but only a handful were present. Rather than get resentful or despairing, I was always thrilled to give a message I believed the Lord had given me. Over the years I have attempted to keep that same desire to prove faithful in the small things, and I believed that opportunities such as those with Third Day would not have come my way if I hadn’t treated “smaller” responsibilities faithfully. Sometimes people ask me how to become a road pastor, or they tell me that they want to be a famous preacher or a successful singer or worship leader. My advice to them is to start serving the Lord right where they are and learn from being faithful in the small opportunities that will come their way.

Through the song “Consuming Fire” God gave me much of the vision and direction for a project called Ignite, which over the last six years or so has grown to dominate the ministry I help direct in the UK. Very rarely is there a Third Day concert without the song being sung. Here Mac opens up about “Consuming Fire”:

I honestly don’t remember exactly how this song started out—I just remember it always being one of our songs. I have always felt this is a great representation of what Third Day is. It’s a rock song, yet the lyrics are worship. It’s a 6/8 song, so there is a “sing-along” feeling to it as well.

I got the idea from the verse in Hebrews. I didn’t totally know what it meant when I was writing the song. I took it to mean that God purifies us in the same sense that extreme heat purifies precious metal. But we have to allow God to do that daily so it’s not just a one-time shot. The song has lasted the test of time because there is an intensity in the song musically and lyrically asking God to change us and to help us. It starts from a place of brokenness and desperation. We need God to be our Purifier, our Redeemer.

“Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28–29 nlt). ~ Mac Powell, November 2006

My review:

I've only just started reading this, but it's already promising to be good! I haven't listened to much Third Day music, but I'm going to see if I can borrow some off a friend because it sounds like it should be good!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Buzz Tag -- You're It!!

Let's try something fun, created by Becky Miller over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction! I was tagged by Jenny at AusJenny.

Here's how it will work....Becky has provided a list of her five MUST Read novels and five Keep Your Eyes on These Novels, then tagged five bloggers who she is asked to post her list on their site. They may then add one book to each list but must also subtract one book. Finally they should tag five other bloggers, link here at
A Christian Worldview of Fiction
, and comment to this post so visitors here know to check out how they may have changed the list. (Deena says: I don't tend to play fair, so I'm adding my OWN category *grin* can play along or delete it...up to you).

If you aren't tagged but want to play, copy the how to paragraph above, make your own list of MUST Reads and Keep Your Eyes on These, and tag away. It will be fun to see if we can generate some book wars … uh, I mean, discussions … good, healthy, respectful discussions! ;-)

NOTE: On my post, my selection is a different colour than the others, and a * means I have read the book and agree with it being on the list. I've also linked my books to Amazon so you can check them out!

*A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman (Revell)
The Restorer by Sharon Hinck (NavPress)
Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins (Tyndale)
Zora & Nicky by Claudia Mair Burney
*The Falcon and the Sparrow by M.L. Tyndall (Barbour)

*For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice
Wilderness Skills for Women by Marian Jordan (B&H)
Saturdays With Stella by Allison Pittman (Multnomah)
For Parents Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A Rice
Once Blind the story of John Newton by Kay Strom (Authentic)

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (WaterBrook)
The Edge of Recall by Kristen Heitzmann (Bethany)
Searching For Spice by Megan DiMaria (Tyndale)
*Coming Unglued by Rebeca Seitz (B&H)
*Sisters Ink by Rebeca Seitz (B&H)

Shade by John Olson (B&H)
Stepping into Sunlight by Sharon Hinck (Bethany)
Faking Grace by Tamera Leigh (Multnomah)
Home Another Way by Christa Parrish (Bethany)
A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman (Revell)

I tag:
Southeastcountrywife at I Need To Read
Karla at Another Road To Ramble
Felicity at A Mother At Home
Aussie Youth Pastor at Confessions of An Aussie Youth Pastor
Ashlea at LilCaff