Tuesday, February 24, 2009

FIRST Wild Card Tour of Daniel's Den by Brandt Dodson

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Daniel’s Den

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2009)


Brandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, where he graduated from Ben Davis High School and, later, Indiana Central University (now known as The University of Indianapolis). It was during a creative writing course in college that a professor said, "You're a good writer. With a little effort and work, you could be a very good writer." That comment, and the support offered by a good teacher, set Brandt on a course that would eventually lead to the Colton Parker Mystery Series.

A committed Christian, Brandt combined his love for the work of Writers like Chandler and Hammet, with his love for God's word. The result was Colton Parker.

"I wanted Colton to be an 'every man'. A decent guy who tries his best. He is flawed, and makes mistakes. But he learns from them and moves on. And, of course, he gets away with saying and doing things that the rest of us never could."

Brandt comes from a long line of police officers, spanning several generations, and was employed by the FBI before leaving to pursue his education. A former United States Naval Reserve officer, Brandt is a board Certified Podiatrist and past President of the Indiana Podiatric Medical Association. He is a recipient of the association's highest honor, "The Theodore H. Clark Award".

He currently resides in southwestern Indiana with his wife and two sons and is at work on his next novel.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736924779
ISBN-13: 978-0736924771


The dance of the blind.

Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 26:5

Daniel Borden was a happy man. He was in control of his life and he had all that he needed. He was secure.

That was about to change.

On Tuesday, April 5, Daniel rose an hour before sunup and drank a chocolate-flavored protein drink before dressing in red running shorts, light gray T-shirt, and New Balance running shoes. The shoes were less than a month old, but had already carried him more than a hundred miles. They were comfortable.

After dressing, he stretched by putting one foot against the stairway banister and bending at the waist, bouncing slightly, until the tightness in his leg receded. He then alternated legs and performed the maneuver again.

When his stretching was done, he did a hundred sit-ups followed by a hundred push-ups. Although the intensity of the calisthenics was unusual compared to the number for an average man, Daniel was not particularly muscled. Instead, he had the lean sinewy build of an Olympic gymnast. At thirty-five, he looked ten years younger. And in fact, he felt ten years younger too. He attributed his good health to a disciplined lifestyle.

When his warm up was complete he called for Elvis, the two year old black Lab he had adopted from a local animal shelter. The dog had been lying patiently on the comfortable over-stuffed sofa watching with detached interest as Daniel worked through his morning routine. But now it was time to run and Elvis liked to run.

On hearing his name, the dog leaped off the sofa and trod to his master, waiting patiently as his collar and leash were snapped into place. The leash was a requirement of Bayou Bay's restrictive covenants, one of the many features that attracted Daniel to the highly regulated New Orleans subdivision.

He opened the door. “Let's go, boy.”

They left the house and crossed the short expanse of lawn, beginning their run by heading north, a route they often took and that would return them to the house three miles later. They ran at nearly the same time everyday and were familiar with the predawn rhythms of the neighborhood.

Newspapers were delivered between four and five each morning, the garbage collection occurred on Monday, and the Brightmans, who lived several doors down from Daniel and who tended to rise nearly as early, were usually drinking coffee in front of their open dinning room window by the time Borden and the Lab passed their house. The neighborhood ran with the precision and dependability of a Swiss time piece.

Except this morning.

As they began their run, Daniel noticed a black panel van setting curbside less than two doors away. There was nothing particularly suspicious about the van, but it hadn't been there yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. In fact, in all the months that Daniel had been running through the neighborhood he had never seen the van.

It didn't belong.

He paused to take a second look, when Elvis distracted him by pulling on the leash.

“Okay, okay. Sorry. Geeshsh.”

The morning air was still cool and dew had settled over the lawns giving them an almost aluminum sheen in the waning moonlight.

To the east, over the crest beyond which the city lay, a warm hue was beginning to illuminate the horizon as the sun woke for its ascent. It wouldn't be long before it would break the horizon, painting the sky over The Big Easy in a dazzling array of colors that would impress even the most skilled artist. Then the city would come alive as school children boarded buses, DJs took to the air waves, and rush hour traffic began to form.

But the neighborhood was quiet at this hour, which made for a quiet, peaceful run. Only the pounding of Daniel's feet, his own breathing, and the jingle of Elvis' tags broke the silence. It was a tune with which they had become familiar since Daniel acquired the lab, and it provided him a sense of stability that only the familiar can provide. And Daniel reveled in stability.

His need for the familiar, for the stable, as well as a passion to escape the near poverty conditions he had known as a child, had driven his career choice. As an investment analyst with one of the largest investment houses in the country, he learned that despite the ups and downs of an often volatile market, Wall Street could be relied on to do the one thing it does best--make money. Even in the most difficult of times the market could be depended on to correct itself. And it was the market's natural return to stability that convinced him most investors can control their financial futures if they were willing to make the hard decisions. The market may be unstable at any given moment, but the share holders needn't be. If they were willing to ride out the current travails, history showed they would have an excellent chance of recovery. If they had neither the stomach nor the time to wait for the inevitable market correction, they could sell and reinvest in another, more stable vehicle. True, they may suffer a loss, may even absorb a significant loss, but such were the realities of investing. But the truth underlying the matter is that the investor has the upper hand, even if exercising that option cost them in the short run. Far different than most, who viewed the market as a speculative ride, driven by greed and underwritten by risk, Daniel saw the market as the one place where savvy investors could control their destiny.

And Daniel needed to have control.

The runners approached the first turn in the road. This one would take then to the west, along Worth Street.

Daniel breathed deeply. The air was cool, invigorating, and renewed him in ways that made him feel lighter, as unbound by earthly constraints as the freedom that comes with unchecked flight. It was as though he could leave the earth and return at will.

As dog and master rounded the corner, Elvis began to tug at the leash, a clear sign that it was time to separate the men from the dogs.

“Want to run, huh?” Daniel said.

The dog woofed and pulled harder.

Daniel stepped up the pace, slow at first, but then faster as Elvis maintained his cadence effortlessly.

“Show off.”

Daniel had adopted the dog shortly after moving to New Orleans. Growing up as an only child whose parents moved frequently, more often than not to stay a step ahead of the bill collector, Daniel had often been lonely. Over time, his loneliness led to isolation. He had few friends (none who were particularly close) and was always the last one selected when choosing up sides.

And the abyss of loneliness was further deepened when, more often than not, his father was passed out on the sofa when Daniel came home from school and his mother was at work trying to earn enough money to keep the family in the same house for a single school year.

On those days, Daniel would go to his room and imagine himself a successful man who others admired and respected. He imagined himself traveling to places he'd never been, and would likely never see.

But on other days, when his father was not unconscious and his mother was home, he would try to earn their attention by initiating conversation or taking the lead in washing the after-dinner dishes. And when their favor didn't come Daniel would go outside to mope, or back to his room, feeling as discarded as the beer cans his father carelessly tossed about.

Daniel wanted a dog. Someone who would be glad to see him when he came home from school and who would lay on his bed at night, eager to hear about the day's events. But the realities of his parents' financial straits denied their son this one extravagance. “Dogs cost money,” his father said. “And if you take a look around you'll see that money ain't something that we have just laying about.”

So Daniel spent most of his time alone, dreaming of the day when he could make enough money to have a dog of his own--and take control of his life. And maybe, even make his parents proud.

Growing up alone, gave Daniel ample time for study.

After high school, he attended Ole' Miss on an academic scholarship and excelled in academic achievement. But his father often chided the boy for not wanting to work with his hands and his mother told him he might be reaching for heights that were beyond his ability. The desire to gain their approval began to wane, though, as he grew into manhood and became increasingly independent. But when his mother suddenly died, all desire to gain his parents approval died with her.

He left for Chicago shortly afterward, leaving his father to bury his grief-- real or genuine--in the same way he had buried everything else.

Later, when Daniel earned his MBA, his father did not attend the graduation ceremony, did not call, did not even send a card. The father son relationship officially ended, long before his father died in an alcoholic stupor three years later.

After graduation, it wasn't long before Daniel secured a position with the Chicago office of Capshaw-Crane and began to focus his efforts on climbing the ladder of success. At times it seemed inevitable that he would miss a step, slip up, and fall back to the disaster of his childhood, landing solidly on a pile of empty beer cans in a house of despair. But like the market, he would make the corrections necessary to maintain balance--even if not perspective.

Elvis woofed.

“Not fast enough, huh?” Daniel ran faster; the Lab kept pace.

Borden's concentration on the things in life that were important, on his career, his health, and his financial stability had clearly paid off.

Growing up, he had been lonely. Now he had Elvis. Growing up, he had been hungry. Now, although he chose not to indulge, he could dine in the finest restaurants in a city known for its unique culinary style. Growing up, he had lived in squalid surroundings, awakened as often by the sound of mice playing in his room as he was by his parents' seemingly never-ending arguments. Now he lived in Bayou Bay one of city's premiere residential areas.

Daniel had taken control. He was secure.

Until he noticed the van, again, parked alongside the street with its engine idling and exhaust spewing from the tail pipe. There was no doubt that this was the same van that had been parked on his street, just a few doors down from his house.

“We've seen that before, haven't we boy?”

Elvis continued to pull on the leash. The van was parked along the same side of the street as which they ran, with its nose pointed westward. It was a black panel van with a single red pinstripe encircling it.

It didn't fit. Didn't belong. And yet, here it was, a mile from where it had been parked just a few minutes before.

“This way, boy,” Daniel said, heading for the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street and away from the idling vehicle.

Elvis followed his master's lead, giving him a confused look, but maintaining the pace that would soon bring them parallel with the van. From his vantage point, Daniel could see that the side windows were covered in an opaque film that eliminated any chance of observing who was inside. But as they came alongside the van, Daniel began to slow, finally coming to a complete stop. Elvis gave his master another confused look.

“What have we got here, boy?” Daniel said, leaning forward, straining to get a better view of the van.

A low growl began to form in the dog's throat. As though he had just discovered the out of place vehicle and the possible threat it posed.

“You too?” Daniel said. “I don't like the-“

“Black Lab,” a voice said.

Daniel spun around to find that Elvis was facing to the right, opposite of where the van was parked.

“They're nice dogs,” the voice said. “I used to have one myself.”

Daniel focused on the shadows to his right. Barely visible, but silhouetted against the yard light behind him, a tall man emerged, dressed in pajamas and a bathrobe. He was carrying a garbage can.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn't mean to startle you.”

Daniel exhaled. “That's okay. It's just that my dog and I never see anyone out at this hour.”

The man set the garbage can down at the curb. “And you wouldn't have this time either, if I could've remembered to do this the night before.” He reached to pat Elvis on the head. “The wife and I are leaving for vacation today and I needed to get this stuff out so it wouldn't pile up. We're going to be gone for a couple of weeks.”

The van pulled away from the curb with only its parking lights on. Daniel made a note of the license plate.

“Do you know them?” Daniel asked.

The man turned to watch as the van disappeared around the corner.

“No, can't say I do. But I wouldn't worry.”

“Why's that?”

He stooped to pat Elvis' head again, before extending a hand. “Hubert Johns.”

“Daniel Borden. And this is Elvis.”

“Elvis, huh? Well, he's sure a beauty. Aren't you boy?” He scratched behind Elvis' ear.

“Why shouldn't I worry?” Daniel asked.

“I'm head of the neighborhood crime watch. If there's anything going on around here, I'm usually the first to know.”

“Are there things going on around here?”

“You mean like burglaries and that sort of thing? No, pretty quiet. And we try to keep it that way.” He nodded to the house across the street. “There are some kids that live there. Teenagers. But they're good kids. A little loud sometimes with their music and all, and their mother lets them keep some pretty late hours, but they've always been polite.” He patted Elvis again. “Most likely the van was some of their friends.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said, feeling a little foolish. “Probably some friends of theirs.”

The man put both hands in the pocket of his robe. “You okay? You sound kind of rattled.”

Daniel laughed. “I'm fine. The van was just sitting there with its engine running. It unnerved me a bit, that's all.”

“I don't remember seeing you at the meetings. Are you a member of the watch?”

Daniel shook his head. “No, I'm afraid not. I tend to keep pretty busy and I don't have-“

“Don't have what? Time?” Hubert chuckled. “I was a cop for thirty years. If they were up to something, I would've noticed it. After thirty years of dealing with every piece of garbage there is, you get to a point where you can smell trouble,” he tapped his nose. “Know what I mean?”

“I guess so.”

“You ought to consider joining the neighborhood crime watch. You never know when you might be a victim.”

“I'll sure think about it.”

“You do that.”

Elvis began to tug at the leash. There wasn't a lot of time left to run and Daniel was wasting it.

“Well, it was nice to meet you,” Daniel said. “Sorry that we haven't met before.”

Johns nodded as he looked about the neighborhood. “Too many people keep to themselves. That's never a good thing. Two people working together are always better than one working alone.”

“Right.” Elvis began to pull hard on the leash.

“But I wouldn't worry about that van. Probably just some kids smoking dope or something.” He nodded toward the eastern horizon. “Besides, the sun is coming up now. If it was somebody that was going to do something, they waited too late.”

Daniel watched as the glow that had just started when he left the house, began blossoming into a new day. “Yeah. Probably nothing to worry about.”

My Review:
I really enjoyed this. It's well-written, and the point-of-view's are easy to keep track of. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to read it all at once, but it was fairly easy to pick up on the story line when I started reading again.
A lot of people died in it, but I thought it portrayed the evil in the world really well.
I wouldn't recommend reading it if you're sensitive to reading books where people get shot or drown, but I would recommend it to most of my friends

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I wrote this in my diary the other day, and although it's not perfect I decided to share it anyway.

"The throne of God is at the centre of the universe, and empires and emperors are among the creatures of the outer circle who exist to give praise to God."*

This sort of gave me a new perspective on things: I exist to give praise to God.

Everything I do: The way I act, dress, talk, and think, all of these things should give glory to God. They should be evidence that my life is about giving praise to God.

If I say crude or perverted things, yell at my brother or sister, talk back to my mum, say something negative to/about a friend or myself, or bludge when I should be working or studying, then how is that going to give praise to God?

If my life is about giving praise to God, then I should be saying wholesome, encouraging things, speaking kindly to my brothers and sisters, respecting my parents, encouraging friends, refusing to say negative things about people and about myself, and believing that everyone (including me) is precious in God's eyes.

This would then prayerfully change how I feel about my family and friends, and how I react to them and speak to them. People should see a definite difference in my life, I would know that my worth is in God, and all of that would be bringing praise to God.

* Quote from "The God I Don't Understand" by Christopher J. H. Wright. pg. 64

Monday, February 16, 2009

FIRST Wild Card Tour of Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Gingham Mountain (Lassoed in Texas, Book 3)

Barbour Books (February 1, 2009)


MARY CONNEALY is married to Ivan a farmer, and she is the mother of four beautiful daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy. Mary is a GED Instructor by day and an author by night. And there is always a cape involved in her transformation.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601410
ISBN-13: 978-1602601413


Sour Springs, Texas, 1870

Martha had an iron rod where most people had a backbone.

Grant smiled as he pulled his team to a stop in front of the train station in Sour Springs, Texas.

She also had a heart of gold—even if the old bat wouldn’t admit it. She was going to be thrilled to see him and scold him the whole time.

“It’s time to get back on the train.” Martha Norris, ever the disciplinarian, had a voice that could back down a starving Texas wildcat, let alone a bunch of orphaned kids. It carried all the way across the street as Grant jumped from his wagon and trotted toward the depot. He’d almost missed them. He could see the worry on Martha’s face.

Wound up tight from rushing to town, Grant knew he was late. But now that he was here, he relaxed. It took all of his willpower not to laugh at Martha, the old softy.

He hurried toward them. If it had only been Martha he would have laughed, but there was nothing funny about the two children with her. They were leftovers.

A little girl, shivering in the biting cold, her thin shoulders hunched against the wind, turned back toward the train. Martha, her shoulders slumped with sadness at what lay ahead for these children, rested one of her competent hands on the child’s back.

Grant noticed the girl limping. That explained why she hadn’t been adopted. No one wanted a handicapped child. As if limping put a child so far outside of normal she didn’t need love and a home. Controlling the slow burn in his gut, Grant saw the engineer top off the train’s water tank. They’d be pulling out of the station in a matter of minutes.

“Isn’t this the last stop, Mrs. Norris?” A blond-headed boy stood, stony-faced, angry, scared.

“Yes, Charlie, it is.”

His new son’s name was Charlie. Grant picked up his pace.

Martha sighed. “We don’t have any more meetings planned.”

“So, we have to go back to New York?” Charlie, shivering and thin but hardy compared to the girl, scowled as he stood on the snow-covered platform, six feet of wood separating the train from the station house.

Grant had never heard such a defeated question.

The little girl’s chin dropped and her shoulders trembled.

What was he thinking? He heard defeat from unwanted children all the time.

Charlie slipped his threadbare coat off his shoulders even though the wind cut like a knife through Grant’s worn-out buckskin jacket.

Grant’s throat threatened to swell shut with tears as he watched that boy sacrifice the bit of warmth he got from that old coat.

Stepping behind Martha, Charlie wrapped his coat around the girl. She shuddered and practically burrowed into the coat as if it held the heat of a fireplace, even as she shook her head and frowned at Charlie.

“Just take the stupid thing.” Charlie glared at the girl.

After studying him a long moment, the little girl, her eyes wide and sad, kept the coat.

Mrs. Norris stayed his hands. “That’s very generous, Charlie, but you can’t go without a coat.”

“I don’t want it. I’m gonna throw it under the train if she don’t take it.” The boy’s voice was sharp and combative. A bad attitude. That could keep a boy from finding a home.

Grant hurried faster across the frozen ruts of Sour Springs Main Street toward the train platform and almost made it. A tight grip on his arm stopped him. Surprised, he turned and saw that irksome woman who’d been hounding him ever since she’d moved to town. What was her name? Grant’d made of point of not paying attention to her. She usually yammered about having his shirts sewn in her shop.

“Grant, it’s so nice to see you.”

It took all his considerable patience to not jerk free. Shirt Lady was unusually tall, slender, and no one could deny she was pretty, but she had a grip like a mule skinner, and Grant was afraid he’d have a fight on his hands to get his arm back.

Grant touched the brim of his battered Stetson with his free hand. “Howdy, Miss. I’m afraid I’m in a hurry today.”

A movement caught his eye, and he turned to look at his wagon across the street. Through the whipping wind he could see little, but Grant was sure someone had come alongside his wagon. He wished it were true so he could palm this persistent pest off on an unsuspecting neighbor.

Shirt Lady’s grip tightened until it almost hurt through his coat. She leaned close, far closer than was proper to Grant’s way of thinking.

“Why don’t you come over to my place and warm yourself before you head back to the ranch. I’ve made pie, and it’s a lonely kind of day.” She fluttered her lashes until Grant worried she’d gotten dirt in her eye. He considered sending her to Doc Morgan for medical care.

The train chugged and reminded Grant he was almost out of time. “Can’t stop now, Miss.” What was her name? How many times had she spoken to him? A dozen if it was three. “There are some orphans left on the platform, and they need a home. I’ve got to see to ’em.”

Something flashed in her eyes for a second before she controlled it. He knew that look. She didn’t like orphans. Well, then what was she doing talking to him? He came with a passel of ’em. Grant shook himself free.

“We’ll talk another time then.”

Sorely afraid they would, Grant tugged on his hat brim again and ran. His boots echoed on the depot stairs. He reached the top step just as Martha turned to the sound of his clomping. She was listening for him even when she shouldn’t be.

Grant couldn’t stand the sight of the boy’s thin shoulders covered only by the coarse fabric of his dirty, brown shirt. He pulled his gloves off, noticing as he did that the tips of his fingers showed through holes in all ten fingers.

“I’ll take ’em, Martha.” How was he supposed to live with himself if he didn’t? Grant’s spurs clinked as he came forward. He realized in his dash to get to town he’d worn his spurs even though he brought the buckboard. Filthy from working the cattle all morning, most of his hair had fallen loose from the thong he used to tie it back. More than likely he smelled like his horse. A razor hadn’t touched his face since last Sunday morning.

Never one to spend money on himself when his young’uns had needs—or might at any time—his coat hung in tatters, and his woolen union suit showed through a rip in his knee.

Martha ran her eyes up and down him and shook her head, suppressing a smile. “Grant, you look a fright.”

A slender young woman rose to her feet from where she sat at the depot. Her movements drew Grant’s eyes away from the forlorn children. From the look of the snow piling up on the young woman’s head, she’d been sitting here in the cold ever since the train had pulled in, which would have been the better part of an hour ago. She must have expected someone to meet her, but no one had.

When she stepped toward him, Grant spared her a longer glance because she was a pretty little thing, even though her dark brown hair hung in bedraggled strings from beneath her black bonnet and twisted into tangled curls around her chin. Her face was so dirty the blue of her eyes shined almost like the heart of a flame in a sooty lantern.

Grant stared at her for a moment. He recognized something in her eyes. If she’d been a child and looked at him with those eyes, he’d have taken her home and raised her.

Then the children drew his attention away from the tired, young lady.

Martha Norris shook her head. “You can’t handle any more, Grant. We’ll find someone, I promise. I won’t quit until I do.”

“I know that’s the honest truth.” Grant knew Martha had to protest; good sense dictated it. But she’d hand the young’uns over. “And God bless you for it. But this is the end of the line for the orphan train. You can’t do anything until you get back to New York. I’m not going to let these children take that ride.”

“Actually, Libby joined us after we’d left New York. It was a little irregular, but it’s obvious the child needs a home.” Martha kept looking at him shaking her head.

“Irregular how?” He tucked his tattered gloves behind his belt buckle.

“She stowed away.” Martha glanced at Libby. “It was the strangest thing. I never go back to the baggage car, but one of the children tore a hole in his pants. My sewing kit is always in the satchel I carry with me. I was sure I had it, but it was nowhere to be found. So I knew I’d most likely left it with my baggage. I went back to fetch it so I could mend the seam and found her hiding in amongst the trunks.”

Grant was reaching for the buttons on his coat, but he froze. “Are you sure she isn’t running away from home?” His stomach twisted when he thought of a couple of his children who had run off over the years. He’d been in a panic until he’d found them. “She might have parents somewhere, worried to death about her.”

“She had a note in her pocket explaining everything. I feel certain she’s an orphan. And I don’t know how long she was back there. She could have been riding with us across several states. I sent telegraphs to every station immediately, and I’m planning on leaving a note at each stop on my way back, but I hold out no hope that a family is searching for her.” Martha sighed as if she wanted to fall asleep on her feet.

Grant realized it wasn’t just the children who had a long ride ahead of them. One corner of Grant’s lips turned up. “Quit looking at me like that, Martha, or I’ll be thinking I have to adopt you so you don’t have to face the trip.”

Martha, fifty if she was a day, laughed. “I ought to take you up on that. You need someone to come out there and take your ranch in hand. Without a wife, who’s going to cook for all these children?”

“You’ve been out. You know how we run things. Everybody chips in.” The snow was getting heavier, and the wind blew a large helping of it down Grant’s neck. Grant ignored the cold in the manner of men who fought the elements for their living and won. He went back to unbuttoning his coat, then shrugged it off and dropped it on the boy’s shoulders. It hung most of the way to the ground.

Charlie tried to give the coat back. “I don’t want your coat, mister.”

Taking a long look at Charlie’s defiant expression, Grant fairly growled. “Keep it.”

Charlie held his gaze for a moment before he looked away. “Thank you.”

Grant gave his Stetson a quick tug to salute the boy’s manners. Snow sprang into the air as the brim of his hat snapped down and up. He watched it be swept up and around by the whipping wind then filter down around his face, becoming part of the blizzard that was getting stronger and meaner every moment.

Martha nodded. “If they limited the number of children one man could take, you’d be over it for sure.”

Grant controlled a shudder of cold as he pulled on his gloves. “Well, thank heavens there’s no limit. The oldest boy and the two older girls are just a year or so away from being out on their own. One of them’s even got a beau. I really need three more to take their places, but I’ll settle for two.”

Martha looked from one exhausted, filthy child to the other then looked back at Grant. “The ride back would be terribly hard on them.”

Grant crouched down in front of the children, sorry for the clink of his spurs which had a harsh sound and might frighten the little girl. Hoping his smile softened his grizzled appearance enough to keep the little girl from running scared, he said, “Well, what kind of man would I be if I stood by watching while something was terribly hard on you two? How’d you like to come out and live on my ranch? I’ve got other kids there, and you’ll fit right in to our family.”

“They’re not going to fit, Grant,” Martha pointed out through chattering teeth. “Your house is overflowing now.”

Grant had to admit she was right. “What difference does it make if we’re a little crowded, Martha? We’ll find room.”

The engineer swung out on the top step of the nearest car, hanging onto a handle in the open door of the huffing locomotive. “All aboard!”

The little girl looked fearfully between the train and Grant.

Looking at the way the little girl clung to Martha’s hand, Grant knew she didn’t want to go off with a strange man almost as much as she didn’t want to get back on that train.

“I’ll go with you.” The little boy narrowed his eyes as he moved to stand like a cranky guardian angel beside the girl.

Grant saw no hesitation in the scowling little boy, only concern for the girl. No fear. No second thoughts. He didn’t even look tired compared to the girl and Martha. He had intelligent blue eyes with the slyness a lot of orphans had. Not every child he’d adopted had made the adjustment without trouble. A lot of them took all of Grant’s prayers and patience. Grant smiled to himself. He had an unlimited supply of prayers, and the prayers helped him hang onto the patience.

Grant shivered under the lash of the blowing snow.

The boy shrugged out of the coat. “Take your coat back. The cold don’t bother me none.”

Grant stood upright and gently tugged the huge garment back around the boy’s neck and began buttoning it. “The cold don’t bother me none, neither. You’ll make a good cowboy, son. We learn to keep going no matter what the weather.” He wished he had another coat because the girl still looked miserable. Truth be told, he wouldn’t have minded one for himself.

Martha leaned close to Grant’s ear on the side away from the children. “Grant, you need to know that Libby hasn’t spoken a word since we found her. There was a note in her pocket that said she’s mute. She’s got a limp, too. It looks to me like she had a badly broken ankle some years ago that didn’t heal right. I’ll understand if you—”

Grant pulled away from Martha’s whispers as his eyebrows slammed together. Martha fell silent and gave him a faintly alarmed look. He tried to calm down before he spoke, matching her whisper. “You’re not going to insult me by suggesting I’d leave a child behind because she has a few problems, are you?”

Martha studied him then her expression relaxed. Once more she whispered, “No Grant. But you did need to be told. The only reason I know her name is because it was on the note. Libby pulled it out of her coat pocket as if she’d done it a thousand times, so chances are this isn’t a new problem, which probably means it’s permanent.”

Grant nodded his head with one taut jerk. “Obliged for the information then. Sorry I got testy.” Grant did his best to make it sound sincere, but it hurt, cut him right to the quick, for Martha to say such a thing to him after all these years.

“No, I’m sorry I doubted you.” Martha rested one hand on his upper arm. “I shouldn’t have, not even for a second.”

Martha eased back and spoke normally again. “We think Libby’s around six.” She swung Libby’s little hand back and forth, giving the girl an encouraging smile.

All Grant’s temper melted away as he looked at the child. “Hello, Libby.” Crouching back down to the little girl’s eye level, he gave the shivering tyke all of his attention.

Too tiny for six and too thin for any age, she had long dark hair caught in a single bedraggled braid and blue eyes awash in fear and wishes. Her nose and cheeks were chapped and red. Her lips trembled. Grant hoped it was from the cold and not from looking at the nasty man who wanted to take her away.

“I think you’ll like living on my ranch. I’ve got the biggest backyard to play in you ever saw. Why, the Rocking C has a mountain rising right up out of the back door. You can collect eggs from the chickens. I’ve got some other kids and they’ll be your brothers and sisters, and we’ve got horses you can ride.”

Libby’s eyes widened with interest, but she never spoke. Well, he’d had ’em shy before.

“I can see you’ll like that. I’ll start giving you riding lessons as soon as the snow lets up.” Grant ran his hand over his grizzled face. “I should have shaved and made myself more presentable for you young’uns. I reckon I’m a scary sight. But the cattle were acting up this morning. There’s a storm coming, and it makes ’em skittish. By the time I could get away, I was afraid I’d miss the train.”

Grant took Libby’s little hand, careful not to move suddenly and frighten her, and rubbed her fingers on his whiskery face.

She snatched her hand away, but she grinned.

The smile transformed Libby’s face. She had eyes that had seen too much and square shoulders that had borne a lifetime of trouble. Grant vowed to himself that he’d devote himself to making her smile.

“I’ll shave it off before I give you your first good night kiss.”

The smile faded, and Libby looked at him with such longing Grant’s heart turned over with a father’s love for his new daughter. She’d gotten to him even faster than they usually did.

Martha reached past Libby to rest her hand on the boy’s shoulder. “And Charlie is eleven.”

Grant pivoted a bit on his toes and looked at Charlie again. A good-looking boy, but so skinny he looked like he’d blow over in a hard wind. Grant could fix that. The boy had flyaway blond hair that needed a wash and a trim. It was the hostility in his eyes that explained why he hadn’t found a home. Grant had seen that look before many times, including in a mirror.

As if he spoke to another man, Grant said, “Charlie, welcome to the family.”

Charlie shrugged as if being adopted meant nothing to him. “Are we supposed to call you pa?”

“That’d be just fine.” Grant looked back at the little girl. “Does that suit you, Libby?”

Libby didn’t take her lonesome eyes off Grant, but she pressed herself against Martha’s leg as if she wanted to disappear into Martha’s long wool coat.

The engineer shouted, “All aboard!” The train whistle sounded. A blast of steam shot across the platform a few feet ahead of them.

Libby jumped and let out a little squeak of surprise. Grant noted that the little girl’s voice worked, so most likely she didn’t talk for reasons of her own, not because of an injury. He wondered if she’d seen something so terrible she couldn’t bear to speak of it.

The boy reached his hand out for Libby. “We’ve been together for a long time, Libby. We can go together to the ranch. I’ll take care of you.”

Libby looked at Charlie as if he were a knight in shining armor. After some hesitation, she released her death grip on Martha and caught Charlie’s hand with both of hers.

“Did I hear you correctly?” A sharp voice asked from over Grant’s shoulder. “Are you allowing this man to adopt these children?”

Startled, Grant stood, turned, and bumped against a soft, cranky woman. He almost knocked her onto her backside—the lady who’d been waiting at the depot. He grabbed her or she’d have fallen on the slippery wood. Grant steadied her, warm and alive in his hands.

My Review:
This is a good book. It showed where Hannah was coming from, and the reasons she didn't trust Grant. I loved the tension between them, and I really want to read the first two books in the series. However, having said that, you can quite easily read this as a stand-alone book.
The kids are great, and cheeky at times :)
I'll definitely be recommending it to my friends

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The God I Don't Understand by Dr. Chris Wright

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The God i Don’t Understand

Zondervan (January 1, 2009)


As the successor to John Stott, Dr. Chris Wright is the current international director of the Langham Partnership International. John Stott Ministries is the constituent member of LPI in the United States.

Dr. Wright, as the youngest of four children born to missionary parents, learned early that, “All our mission should be grounded in theological reflection, and all theology must result in missional outworking.” His words are a reflection of a lifetime of commitment to the strengthening of the church in the developing world through fostering leadership development, biblical preaching, literature, and doctoral scholarships.

With a degree in theology and a PhD in Old Testament ethics from Cambridge University, Dr. Wright felt a call to teach and followed that call in a high school in his birthplace, Belfast, Northern Ireland. His background includes pastoring a local parish church and teaching at a leading evangelical seminary in India—Union Biblical Seminary—and at All Nations Christian College, England, where he served as dean and president for more than thirteen years.

He and his wife, Liz, live in London and have four adult children and five grandchildren.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (January 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310275466
ISBN-13: 978-0310275466


The Mystery of Evil

It’s all very well to say, “Turn to the Bible”, but you can read the Bible from cover to cover, again and again, looking for a simple, clear answer to the question of the ultimate origin of evil, and you won’t find an answer. I am not talking here about the entry of evil into human life and experience in Genesis 3, which we will think about in a moment, but about how the evil force that tempted human beings into sin and rebellion came to be there in the first place. That ultimate origin is not explained.

This has not stopped many people from trying to come up with an answer for themselves and dragging in whatever bits of the Bible they think will support their theory. But it seems to me that when we read the Bible asking God, “Where did evil come from? How did it originally get started?” God seems to reply, “That is not something I intend to tell you.” In other words, the Bible compels us to accept the mystery of evil. Notice I did not say, “compels us to accept evil.” The Bible never does that or asks us to do so. We are emphatically told to reject and resist evil. Rather, I mean that the Bible leads us to accept that evil is a mystery (especially in terms of its origin), a mystery that we human beings cannot finally understand or explain. And we will see in a moment that there is a good reason why that is so.

Moral Evil

However, in one sense, there is no mystery at all about the origin (in the sense of the actual effective cause) of a great deal of suffering and evil in our world. A vast quantity – and I believe we could say the vast majority – of suffering is the result of human sin and wickedness. There is a moral dimension to the problem. Human beings suffer in broad terms and circumstances because human beings are sinful.

It is helpful, I think, even if it is oversimplified, to make some distinction between what we might call “moral” evil and “natural” evil. This is not necessarily the best kind of language, and there are all kinds of overlaps and connections. But I think it does at least articulate a distinction that we recognize as a matter of common sense and observation.

By “moral” evil is meant the suffering and pain that we find in the world standing in some relation to the wickedness of human beings, directly or indirectly. This is evil that is seen in things that are said and done, things that are perpetrated, caused, or exploited, by human action (or inaction) in the realm of human life and history. To this we need to link spiritual evil and explore what the Bible has to say about ‘the evil one” – the reality of satanic, spiritual evil forces that invade, exploit, and amplify human wickedness

By “natural” evil is meant suffering that appears to be part of life on earth for all of nature, including animal suffering caused by predation and the suffering caused to human beings by events in the natural world that seem (in general anyway) to be unrelated to any human moral cause – things like earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes, floods, etc., that is, so-called “natural disasters”.

In the case of moral evil, sometimes there is a direct link between sin and suffering. For example, some people directly cause other people to suffer through violence, abuse, cruelty, or just sheer callousness and neglect. Or sometimes people suffer directly the effects of their own wrong actions. Someone who drives too fast or drinks too much and ends up killing themselves in a road accident suffers the direct impact of their own sin or folly. Or we may suffer the punishment of the laws of our society for wrongdoing. Being put in prison is a form of suffering and in that respect it is an evil thing. And yet we recognize that some form of punishment for wrongdoing is a necessary evil. More than that, we have a strong instinct that when people are not punished when they are guilty of wrongdoing, that is another and even greater evil. Punishment, when deserved as a part of a consensual process of justice, is a good thing too.

But there is also a vast amount of suffering caused indirectly by human wickedness. The drunken driver may survive, but kill or injure other innocent people. Wars cause so-called “collateral damage”. Stray bullets from a gang fight or bank robbery kill innocent bystanders. A railway maintenance crew goes home early and fails to complete inspection of the track; a train is derailed and people are killed and injured. Whole populations suffer for generations after negligent industrial contamination. We can multiply examples from almost every news bulletin we see or hear. These are all forms of moral evil. They cause untold suffering, and they all go back in some form or another to culpable actions or failures of human beings.

Somehow, we manage to live with such facts, simply because they are so common and universal that we have “normalized” them, even if we regret or resent them and even if we grudgingly admit that humanity itself is largely to blame. But whenever something terrible on a huge scale happens, like the 2004 tsunami, or the cyclone in Myanmar in 2008, or the earthquakes in Pakistan, Peru, and China, the cry goes up, “How can God allow such a thing? How can God allow such suffering?” My own heart echoes that cry and I join in the protest at the gates of heaven. Such appalling suffering, on such a scale, in such a short time, inflicted on people without warning and for no reason, offends all our emotions and assumptions that God is supposed to care. We who believe in God, who know and love and trust God, find ourselves torn apart by the emotional and spiritual assault of such events.

“How can God allow such things?” we cry, with the built-in accusation that if he were any kind of good and loving God, he would not allow them. Our gut reaction is to accuse God of callousness or carelessness and to demand that he do something to stop such things.

But when I hear people voicing such accusations – especially those who don’t believe in God but like to accuse the God they don’t believe in of his failure to do things he ought to do if he did exist – then I think I hear a voice from heaven saying:

“Well, excuse me, but if we’re talking here about who allows what, let me point out that thousands of children are dying every minute in your world of preventable diseases that you have the means (but obviously not the will) to stop. How can you allow that?

“There are millions in your world who are slowly dying of starvation while some of you are killing yourselves with gluttony. How can you allow such suffering to go on?

“You seem comfortable enough knowing that millions of you have less per day to live on than others spend on a cup of coffee, while a few of you have more individual wealth than whole countries. How can you allow such obscene evil and call it an economic system?

“There are more people in slavery now than in the worst days of the pre-abolition slave trade. How can you allow that?

“There are millions upon millions of people living as refugees, on the knife-edge of human existence, because of interminable wars that you indulge in out of selfishness, greed, ambition, and lying hypocrisy. And you not only allow this, but collude in it, fuel it, and profit from it (including many of you who claim most loudly that you believe in me).

“Didn’t one of your own singers put it like this, ‘Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.’ ”1

So it seems to me that there is no doubt at all, even if one could not put a percentage point on the matter, that the vast bulk of all the suffering and pain in our world is the result, direct or indirect, of human wickedness. Even where it is not caused directly by human sin, suffering can be greatly increased by it. What Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans was bad enough, but how much additional suffering was caused by everything from looters to bureaucratic incompetence? HIV-AIDS is bad enough, but how many millions suffer preventable illness and premature death because corporate and political greed and callousness put medicines that are affordable and available in the West totally out of their reach? What the cyclone did to Myanmar was horrendous, but its effects were multiplied by the characteristically brutal refusal of the government to allow international aid organizations into the country until weeks later. Human callousness undoubtedly precipitated the death of thousands and prolonged the misery of the survivors.

The Bible’s Diagnosis

In a sense, then, there is no mystery. We suffer because we sin. This is not to say, I immediately hasten to add, that every person suffers directly or proportionately because of their own sin (the Bible denies that). It is simply to say that the suffering of the human race as a whole is to a large extent attributable to the sin of the human race as a whole.

The Bible makes this clear up front. Genesis 3 describes in a profoundly simple story the entry of sin into human life and experience. It came about because of our wilful rejection of God’s authority, distrust of God’s goodness, and disobedience of God’s commands. And the effect was brokenness in every relationship that God had created with such powerful goodness.

The world portrayed in Genesis 1 and 2 is like a huge triangle of God, the earth, and humanity.



Every relationship portrayed was spoiled by the invasion of sin and evil: the relationship between us and God, the relationship between us and the earth, and the relationship between the earth and God.

Genesis 3 itself shows the escalation of sin. Even in this simple story, we can see sin moving from the heart (with its desire), to the head (with its rationalization), to the hand (with its forbidden action), to relationship (with the shared complicity of Adam and Eve). Then, from Genesis 4–11, the portrayal moves from the marriage relationship to envy and violence between brothers, to brutal vengeance within families, to corruption and violence in wider society and the permeation of the whole of human culture, infecting generation after generation with ever-increasing virulence.

The Bible’s diagnosis is radical and comprehensive.

• Sin has invaded every human person (everyone is a sinner).

• Sin distorts every dimension of the human personality (spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, social).

• Sin pervades the structures and conventions of human societies and cultures.

• Sin escalates from generation to generation within human history.

• Sin affects even creation itself.

We read a chapter like Job 24, and we know it speaks the truth about the appalling morass of human exploitation, poverty, oppression, brutality and cruelty. And, like Job, we wonder why God seems to do nothing, to hold nobody to account, and to bring nobody to instant justice.

“Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?

Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?

There are those who move boundary stones;

they pasture flocks they have stolen.

They drive away the orphan’s donkey

and take the widow’s ox in pledge.

They thrust the needy from the path

and force all the poor of the land into hiding.

Like wild donkeys in the desert,

the poor go about their labor of foraging food;

the wasteland provides food for their children.

They gather fodder in the fields

and glean in the vineyards of the wicked.

Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked;

they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold.

They are drenched by mountain rains

and hug the rocks for lack of shelter.

The fatherless child is snatched from the breast;

the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.

Lacking clothes, they go about naked;

they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry.

They crush olives among the terraces;

they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst.

The groans of the dying rise from the city,

and the souls of the wounded cry out for help.

But God charges no one with wrongdoing

Job 24:1–12 (my italics)

And then we shudder because we know that if God were to do that right now and deal out instant justice, none of us would escape. For whatever grades and levels of evil there are among people in general, we know that it is something that lurks in our own heart. The evil we so much wish God would prevent or punish in others is right there inside ourselves. None of us needs to be scratched very deep to uncover the darker depths of our worst desires and the evil action any of us is capable of, if pushed. As we try to stand in judgment on God, we don’t really have a leg to stand on ourselves.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,

Lord, who could stand?

Psalm 130:3

Answer: Not a single solitary one of us.

And even apart from such latent or overt evil within ourselves, there is also the fact that it is practically impossible to live in this world without some complicity in its evil or some benefit from evils done elsewhere. We have to get on with living, and as we do so, our lives touch hundreds of other human lives – all over the planet – for good or ill. We are connected to the vast net of human experience worldwide. We may not be directly to blame for the sufferings of others, but we cannot ignore the connections.

The shirt on my back was made in an Asian country. I have no way of knowing if the hands that stitched it belong to a child who hardly ever sees the light of day, never has a square meal, or knows what it is to be loved and to play, and who may by now be deformed or even dead by such cruelty. But it is likely too that such wickedness is woven into the fabric of more than my shirt. In the week I write this, several major international companies in the UK are under investigation for profiting from virtual slave labour (a few pence an hour) in the majority world. Doubtless I have bought goods from some of them. Injustice and suffering plagues the global food industry, such that it is probable that some of what I eat or drink today is likely to have reached my table tinged with exploitation and oppression somewhere in the chain. The hands that have contributed to my daily bread undoubtedly include hands stained by the blood of cruelty, injustice, and oppression – whether inflicted or suffered.

Evil has its tentacles through multi-layered systems that are part of globalized reality. We can, of course, (and we should) take steps to live as ethically as possible, to buy fair-traded food and clothes, and to avoid companies and products with shameful records in this area. But I doubt if we can escape complicity in the webs of evil, oppression, and suffering in the world entirely. I say that not to turn all our enjoyment of life into guilty depression. Rather, as we enjoy the good gifts of God’s creation, we must at the same time accept the Bible’s diagnosis of how radical, pervasive, and deeply ingrained sin has become in all human life and relationships.

Only God in his omniscience can unravel such inter-weavings of evil, but the point the Bible makes is that it puts the blame for suffering and evil where most of it primarily belongs, namely on ourselves, the human race. The Bible makes it equally clear that we cannot just draw simple equations between what one person suffers and their own personal sinfulness. Often it is terribly wrong to do so (and makes the suffering even worse, as Job discovered). But in overall, collective human reality, the vast bulk of human suffering is the result of the overwhelming quantity and complexity of human sinning. There is no mystery, it seems to me, in this biblical diagnosis, which is so empirically verified in our own experience and observation.

Where Did Evil Come From?

It is when we ask this question that our problems begin.

It is important to see that Genesis 3 does not tell us about the origin of evil as such. Rather, it describes the entry of evil into human life and experience. Evil seems to explode into the Bible narrative, unannounced, already formed, without explanation or rationale. We are never told, for example, how or why “the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1). We are not told why it spoke as it did, though the very fact that it did should raise our suspicion that something is not right in God’s good creation. But why such “not-right-ness” was there, or where it had come from – these questions are not answered in the text.

What then can we say about this mysterious source of temptation that led Eve and Adam to choose to disobey? It was not God – evil is not part of the being of God. It was not another human being – evil is not an intrinsic part of what it means to be human either. We were human once without sin, so we can be so again. It was something from within creation – and yet it was not a “regular” animal, since it “talked”. And how could such evil thoughts and words come from within a creation that has seven times been declared “good” in chapters 1–2? Whatever the serpent in the narrative is, then, or whatever it represents, it is out of place, an intruder, unwelcome, incoherent, contrary to the story so far.

If evil, then, comes from within creation in some sense (according to the symbolism of the story in Genesis 3), but not from the human creation, the only other created beings capable of such thought and speech are angels.2 So, although the connection is not made in Genesis 3 itself, the serpent is elsewhere in the Bible symbolically linked to the evil one, the devil (e.g., Rev. 12:9; 20:2). And the devil is portrayed elsewhere as an angel, along with other hosts of angels who rebelled against God along with him (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 12:7–9).

What, then, is the devil or Satan?

First of all, he (or it) is not God. Nor even just some other god. The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to fall into any kind of dualism – a good god (who made the world all nice and friendly), and an evil god (who messed it all up). Some kinds of popular folk Christianity do slide in that direction and give to Satan far more assumed power and far more obsessive attention than is warranted by the Bible. And such dualism is the meat and drink of a large amount of quasi-religious fiction, which sadly many Christians read with more frequency and more faith than their Bibles.

But Satan is not God, never has been and never will be. That means that, although the Bible clearly portrays Satan as powerful indeed, he is not omnipotent. Likewise, although Satan is said in the Bible to command hosts of other fallen angels (demons) who do his dirty work, he is not omnipresent. Satan cannot be everywhere at once (as only God can be and is). And although the Bible shows Satan to be very clever, subtle, and deceitful, he is not omniscient. He does not know everything and does not have sovereign knowledge of the future in the way God has in carrying forward his plans for creation and history.

As an angel among other fallen angels, even as their prince, the devil is a created being. That means that he is subject to God’s authority and ultimate control. Like everything else in creation, Satan is limited, dependent, contingent – and ultimately destructible. We should take Satan seriously, but we should not dignify him with greater reality and power than is proper for a creature.

But is the devil personal? Is Satan a person like us? Is he a person like God?

We must be careful in answering this question. It seems to me that there are dangers in either a simple yes or no. On the one hand, the Bible clearly speaks about the devil in many ways that we normally associate with persons. He is an active agent, with powers of intelligence, intentionality, and communication. That is, the Bible portrays the devil as acting, thinking, and speaking in ways that are just like the way we do such things and are certainly greater than any ordinary animal does. When the devil is around in the Bible, it is clear that the Bible is talking about more than just some abstract evil atmosphere or tendency or a merely metaphorical personification of evil desires within ourselves – individually or collectively. The Bible warns us that, in the devil, we confront an objective intelligent reality with relentless evil intent. And the Gospels reinforce this assessment in their description of the battle Jesus had with the devil throughout his ministry. The devil, says the Bible, is very real, very powerful, and acts in many ways just like the persons we know ourselves to be.

But on the other hand, there is one thing that the Bible says about us as human persons that it never says about the devil, or about angels in general, at all. God made us human beings in God’s own image. Indeed, this is what constitutes our personhood. What makes human beings uniquely to be persons, in distinction from the rest of the nonhuman animal world, is not the possession of a soul,3 but that human beings are created in the image of God. The human species is the only species of which this is true. We were created to be like God, to reflect God and his character, and to exercise God’s authority within creation.

Even as sinners, human beings are still created in God’s image. Though it is spoiled and defaced, it cannot be eradicated altogether, for to be human is to be the image of God. So even among unregenerate sinners there are God-like qualities, such as loving relationships, appreciation of goodness and beauty, fundamental awareness of justice, respect for life, and feelings of compassion and gentleness. All these are dimensions of human personhood, for all of them reflect the transcendent person of God.

Now we are not told in the Bible that God created angels in his own image. Angels are created spirits. They are described as servants of God who simply do his bidding. They worship God and carry out God’s errands. The common word for them in the Old Testament simply means “messengers”.[AQ2] Don’t misunderstand: this is not meant in anyway to diminish the exalted status and function that angels have in the Bible. It is simply to note that they are distinguished from human persons. And ultimately it is the human, in and through the man Christ Jesus, who will take the supreme place in the redeemed created order (Heb. 2). Personal qualities are the unique possession of human beings because, as God’s image, we are the only beings in creation who were uniquely created to reflect God’s own divine personhood.

So, among the fallen angels, especially the devil himself, there is no trace of that image of God which is still evident even in sinful human beings. And this is most easily explained if we assume it was never there in the first place. In Satan there is no residual loving relationship, no appreciation of goodness or beauty, no mercy, no honour, no “better side”, no “redeeming features”. And most of all, whereas no human person, however evil and degraded, is ever in this life beyond our loving compassion and our prayers that they might repent and be saved, there is no hint whatsoever in the Bible that Satan is a person to be loved, pitied, prayed for, or redeemed. On the contrary, Satan is portrayed as totally malevolent, relentlessly hostile to all that God is and does, a liar and a murderer through and through, implacably violent, mercilessly cruel, perpetually deceptive, distorting, destructive, deadly – and doomed.

“So, Do You Believe in the Devil?”

Faced with this question I feel the need to make a qualified “yes and no” answer. Yes, I believe in the existence of the devil as an objective, intelligent and “quasi-personal” power, utterly opposed to God, creation, ourselves, and life itself. But no, I do not “believe in the devil”, in any way that would concede to him power and authority beyond the limits God has set. The Bible calls us not so much to believe in the devil as to believe against the devil. We are to put all our faith in God through Christ and to exercise that faith against all that the devil is and does – whatever he may be. Nigel Wright makes this point very well:

To believe in somebody or something implies that we believe in their existence. But it also carries overtones of an investment of faith or trust.… To believe in Jesus means, or should mean, more than believing in his existence. It involves personal trust and faith by virtue of which the power of Christ is magnified in the life of the believer. The access of Christ to an individual’s life, his power or influence within them, is in proportion to their faith. The same use of language applies in the wider world. To believe in a political leader implies more than believing in their existence; it implies faith in the system of values for which they stand and confidence in their ability to carry it through.

The reply to the question should Christians believe in the devil must therefore be a resounding ‘No!’ When we believe in something we have a positive relationship to that in which we believe but for the Christian a positive relationship to the devil and demons is not possible. We believe in God and on the basis of this faith we disbelieve in the devil … Satan is not the object of Christian belief but of Christian disbelief. We believe against the devil. We resolutely refuse the devil place.

… The power of darkness against which we believe has its own reality. Even though it has a reality it lacks a validity – it ought not to exist because it is the contradiction of all existence. Its existence is unthinkable even as it is undeniable. It exists, but for the Christian it exists as something to be rejected and denied.4

That is why Paul urges us to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11 my italics). That is why Peter, as soon as he has warned his readers about the devil’s predatory prowling, urges them to resist him – not pay him the compliment of any form of “believing”: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8–9).

That is why one of the most ancient formulas of the church, in the baptism liturgy, calls upon Christians undergoing baptism to “renounce the devil and all his works”. That is probably also why, when a popular series of books on Christian doctrines, the “I Believe” series of Hodder and Stoughton, came to the doctrine of Satan, it did not follow the simple formula of other volumes (e.g. I Believe in the Historical Jesus; I Believe in the Resurrection). There is no book in the series with the title, I Believe in Satan, but rather and quite rightly, I Believe in Satan’s Downfall.

The Fall of Angels?

So the Bible tells us that the devil and his hosts are rebel angels. But what does the Bible teach us about this so-called fall of the angels? Well, actually, it doesn’t really “teach” anything clearly or systematically, though we do get a number of hints that point in that direction.

Isaiah 14:4–21 and Ezekiel 28:1–17 are poems that “celebrate” the fall of the kings of Babylon and Tyre respectively. They are typical of the taunting songs of lament that were used when great imperial tyrants were brought low and the world breathed a sigh of relief. Some Christians see in these two songs a kind of symbolic portrayal of the fall of Satan. However, we do need to remind ourselves that they were written originally to describe the defeat and death of historical human kings, and so it is a dubious exercise to try to build detailed doctrinal statements about the devil or the “underworld” upon them. Nevertheless, we may discern the fingerprints of Satan in what is described in these poems, since it is clear that these arrogant human beings were brought low because of their blasphemous pride and boasting against God. Indeed, they are portrayed as wanting to usurp God’s throne. In the poem, such claims are probably metaphorical for the human kings’ hybris, but they have a spiritual counterpart that is recognizably satanic.

Jude, 2 Peter, and Revelation give us some clearer affirmations of the fall of Satan and his rebel angels:

And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

Jude 6

God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into chains of darkness to be held for judgment.

2 Peter 2:4

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Revelation 12:7–9

That seems to be it, as far as direct Bible references to this matter are concerned. In our curiosity, we ask for more information, such as:

• When did this happen?

• Why did created angels turn to become rebellious?

• Were the angels themselves tempted by something evil, as the serpent tempted Eve?

• If so, how did such evil come into existence?

• Where did the evil come from that led created angels to fall, who then led humans to fall?

But for such questions, we get no answer from the Bible. We are simply never told. Silence confronts all our questions. The mystery remains unrevealed.

Now God has revealed to us vast amounts of truth in the Bible – about God himself, about creation, about ourselves, our sin, God’s plan of salvation, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the future destiny of the world, and so on. Thus, in light of all this abundant revelation, the Bible’s silence at this point on the ultimate origin of evil seems all the more significant, and not merely accidental. It’s not as if God were now saying, “Oops, I forgot to mention that point, but never mind, they can figure it out for themselves.” No, the truth is that God has chosen in his wisdom not to give us an answer to our questions about the ultimate origin of evil within creation. It is simply not for us to know – and that is God’s sovereign decision, the prerogative of the one who is the source of all truth and revelation in the universe.

Now I think there is a good reason for this, but before we turn to that, let us briefly summarize what we’ve seen so far, so that we can keep track of our reflection.

We have argued that a vast amount of the suffering and evil in the world can be explained in relation to human wickedness, directly or indirectly. Evil has a fundamentally moral core, related to our moral rebellion against God.

But we also know from the Bible that at the point where this entered into human experience and history (the fall as portrayed in Genesis 3), it involved our human collusion with some preexisting reality of evil, a sinister presence that injected itself into human consciousness, invited us to stand over against God in distrust and disobedience, and then invaded every aspect of human personhood – spiritual, mental, physical and relational – and every aspect of human life on earth – social, cultural and historical.

But if we ask, “Where did that preexisting evil presence come from?” – we are simply not told. God has given us the Bible, but the Bible doesn’t tell us.

So then, to return to the title of this chapter, the Bible compels us to accept the mystery of evil. But here’s the key point: we can recognize this negative fact. We know what we don’t know. We do understand that we cannot understand. And that in itself is a positive thing.

Why is that?

Evil Makes “No Sense”

It is a fundamental human drive to understand things. The creation narrative shows that we have been put into our created environment to master and subdue it, which implies gaining understanding of it. To be human is to be charged with ruling creation, and that demands ever-growing breadth and depth of understanding the created reality that surrounds us. The simple picture in Genesis 2 of the primal human naming the rest of the animals is an indication of this exercise of rational recognition and classification. Our rationality is in itself a dimension of being made in the image of God. We were created to think! We just have to investigate, understand, explain; it is a quintessentially human trait that manifests itself from our earliest months of life.

So then, to understand things means to integrate them into their proper place in the universe, to provide a justified, legitimate, and truthful place within creation for everything we encounter. We instinctively seek to establish order, to make sense, to find reasons and purposes, to validate things and thus explain them. As human beings made in God’s image for this very purpose, we have an innate drive, an insatiable desire, and an almost infinite ability to organize and order the world in the process of understanding it.

Thus, true to form, when we encounter this phenomenon of evil, we struggle to apply to it all the rational skill – philosophical, practical, and problem-solving – that we so profusely and successfully deploy on everything else. We are driven to try to understand and explain evil. But it doesn’t work. Why not?

God with his infinite perspective, and for reasons known only to himself, knows that we finite human beings cannot, indeed must not, “make sense” of evil. For the final truth is that evil does not make sense. “Sense” is part of our rationality that in itself is part of God’s good creation and God’s image in us. So evil can have no sense, since sense itself is a good thing.

Evil has no proper place within creation. It has no validity, no truth, no integrity. It does not intrinsically belong to the creation as God originally made it nor will it belong to creation as God will ultimately redeem it. It cannot and must not be integrated into the universe as a rational, legitimated, justified part of reality. Evil is not there to be understood, but to be resisted and ultimately expelled. Evil was and remains an intruder, an alien presence that has made itself almost (but not finally) inextricably “at home”. Evil is beyond our understanding because it is not part of the ultimate reality that God in his perfect wisdom and utter truthfulness intends us to understand. So God has withheld its secrets from his own revelation and our research.

Personally, I have come to accept this as a providentially a good thing. Indeed, as I have wrestled with this thought about evil, it brings a certain degree of relief. And I think it carries the implication that whenever we are confronted with something utterly and dreadfully evil, appallingly wicked, or just plain tragic, we should resist the temptation that is wrapped up in the cry, “Where’s the sense in that?” It’s not that we get no answer. We get silence. And that silence is the answer to our question. There is no sense. And that is a good thing too.

Can I understand that?


Do I want to understand that?

Probably not, if God has decided it is better that I don’t.

So I am willing to live with the understanding that the God I don’t understand has chosen not to explain the origin of evil, but rather wants to concentrate my attention on what he has done to defeat and destroy it.

Now this may seem a lame response to evil. Are we merely to gag our desperate questions, accept that it’s a mystery, and shut up? Surely we do far more than that? Yes indeed.

We grieve.

We weep.

We lament.

We protest.

We scream in pain and anger.

We cry out, “How long must this kind of thing go on?”

And that brings us to our second major biblical response. For when we do such things, the Bible says to us, “That’s OK. Go right ahead. And here are some words that you may like to use when you feel that way.” But for that, we must turn to our next chapter.

Eric Clapton, “Before You Accuse Me”, from the album Eric Clapton Unplugged.

2 It is interesting that the only other time an animal is said to speak in biblical narrative is Balaam’s donkey, and on that occasion an angel is also involved. See Numbers 22.

3 Genesis 2:7 is sometimes said to be the moment when God breathed a soul into Adam. But this is exegetically impossible. The ”breath of life’” means the breath shared by all animals that live by breathing (as in Gen. 1:30 and 6:17), and “living being” is the same term used for all “living creatures” (e.g., in Gen. 1:24, 28). The verse speaks of special intimacy in the relationship between God and his human creation, but not of a “soul” as distinct from animals. The distinguishing mark of the human is being made in the image of God.

4 Nigel G. Wright, A Theology of the Dark Side: Putting the Power of Evil in Its Place (Carlisle: Paternoster; 2003), 24–25 (my italics).

My Review:
I'm only on the third chapter of this book so far, but I'm finding it good so far. There's some really practical advice in here that would do some Christians I know a whole heap of good.
I can't wait to finish reading the rest of it

John's Quest by Cecelia Dowdy

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

John's Quest (Maryland Wedding Series #1)

Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)


Cecelia Dowdy is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. Currently she resides with her husband and young son in Maryland.

Don't miss the second book in the Maryland Wedding Series, Milk Money!

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

Mass Market Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602600066
ISBN-13: 978-1602600065


The loud banging at Monica Crawford’s front door awakened her. Forcing herself out of bed, she glanced at the clock and saw it was two in the morning.

“I’m coming!”

She ran to the door. Looking through the peephole, Monica saw her little sister Gina smiling at her.

Her heart pounded as she opened the door, gripping the knob. “What are you doing here?” Playing an internal game of tug-of-war, she wondered if she should hug her sister or slam the door in her face. Humid heat rushed into the air-conditioned living room. She stared at Gina, still awaiting her response.

“It’s nice to see you too, sister.” Gina pursed her full, red-painted lips and motioned at the child standing beside her. “Go on in, Scotty.”

Gina had brought her seven-year-old son with her. Dark shades hid his sightless eyes. “Aunt Monica!” he called.

Monica released a small cry as she dropped to her knees and embraced him. “I’m here, Scotty.” Tears slid down her cheeks as she hugged the child. Since Gina had cut herself off from immediate family for the last two years, Monica had wondered when she would see Scotty again. “You remember me?” Her heart continued to pound as she stared at her nephew. His light, coffee-colored skin glowed.

“Yeah, I remember you. When mom said I was going to live here, I wanted to come so we could go to the beach in Ocean City.”

Shocked, Monica stared at Gina who was rummaging through her purse. Gina pulled out a cigarette and lighter. Seconds later she was puffing away, gazing into the living room. “You got an ashtray?”

Monica silently prayed, hoping she wouldn’t lose her temper. “Gina, you know I don’t allow smoking in this house.”

Gina shrugged. After a bit of coaxing, she dropped the cigarette on the top step and ground it beneath the heel of her shoe. “I need to talk to you about something.”

Scotty entered the house and wandered through the room, ignoring the adults as he touched objects with his fingers. After Monica fed Scotty a snack and let him fall asleep in the guest bedroom, she confronted Gina.

“Where have you been for the last two years?”

Gina strutted around the living room in her tight jeans, her high heels making small imprints in the plush carpet. “I’ve been around. I was mad because Mom and Dad tried to get custody of Scotty, tried to take me to court and say I was an unfit mother.”

Groaning, Monica plopped onto the couch, holding her head in her hands. “That’s why you haven’t been speaking to me or Mom and Dad for two years?” When Gina sat beside her, Monica took her sister’s chin into her hand and looked into her eyes. “You know you were wrong. Mom and Dad tried to find you. They were worried about Scotty.”

Jerking away, Gina placed a few inches between herself and Monica. “They might have cared about Scotty, but they didn’t care about me.” Gina swore under her breath and rummaged in her purse. Removing a mint, she popped it into her mouth.

“They were worried about you and Scotty,” Monica explained. “You were living with that terrible man. He didn’t work, and he was high on drugs. We didn’t want anything to happen to the two of you.”

Gina’s lips curled into a bitter smirk. “Humph. Me and Scotty are just fine.” She glanced up the stairs. “You saw him. Does he look neglected to you?”

She continued to stare at Gina, still not believing she was here to visit in the middle of the night. “What do you want? What did Scotty mean when he said he was coming here to live?”

Gina frowned as she toyed with the strap of her purse. “I want you to keep Scotty for me. Will you?”

Monica jerked back. “What? Why can’t you take care of your own son? Did that crackhead you were living with finally go off the deep end?”

Gina shook her head. “No, we’re not even together anymore. It’s just that. . .” She paused, staring at the crystal vase of red roses adorning the coffee table. “I’m getting married.”

Monica’s heart skipped a beat. “Married?”

Gina nodded, her long minibraids moving with the motion of her head. “Yeah, his name is Randy, and he’s outside now, waiting for me in the car.”

Monica raised her eyebrows, suddenly suspicious. “Why didn’t you bring him inside? Are you ashamed of him?”

Gina shook her head. “No. But we’re in a hurry tonight, and I didn’t want to waste time with formalities.”

“You still haven’t told me why you can’t keep Scotty. Does your fiancĂ© have a problem with having a blind child in his house?”

Gina scowled as she clutched her purse, her dark eyes darting around the room. “No, that’s not it at all.”

“Uh-huh, whatever you say.” She could always sense when Gina was lying. Her body language said it all.

“Really, it’s not Scotty’s blindness that bothers Randy. It’s just that—he’s a trapeze artist in the National African-American Circus and they’re traveling around constantly.” Her dark eyes lit up as she talked about her fiancĂ©. “This year they’ll be going international. Can you imagine me traveling around the globe with Randy? We’ll be going to Paris, London, Rome—all those fancy European places!” She grabbed Monica’s arm. “We’d love to take Scotty, but we can’t afford to hire a tutor for him to travel with us.”

“You’re going to marry some man and travel with a circus?!” Monica shook her head, wondering when her sister would grow up. At twenty-seven, she acted as if she were still a teenager. Since Monica was ten years older, she’d always been the responsible sibling, making sure Gina behaved herself.

Gina grabbed Monica’s shoulder. “But I’m in love with him!” Her eyes slid over Monica as if assessing her. “You’ve never been in love? I think it’s odd that you’re thirty-seven and you never got married.”

Monica closed her eyes for a brief second as thoughts of her single life filled her mind. Since her breakup with her serious boyfriend two years ago, she’d accepted that God wanted her to remain single, and she spent her free time at church in various ministries. She filled her time praising God and serving Him, and she had no regrets for the life she led. But whenever one of the church sisters announced an engagement, she couldn’t stop the pang of envy that sliced through her.

Forcing the thoughts from her mind, she focused on Gina again. “This discussion is not about me. It’s about you. You can’t abandon Scotty. He loves you.”

Gina turned away, as if ashamed of her actions. “I know he does, and I love him, too. But I really want things to work out with Randy, and it won’t work with Scotty on the road with us. He needs special education since he’s blind.”

Her heart immediately went out to Scotty. She touched Gina’s shoulder. “Scotty knows you’re getting married?”

Gina nodded. “I didn’t tell him how long I would be gone, but I told him I’d call and visit. Please do this for me.” Her sister touched her arm, and her dark eyes pleaded with her. She opened her purse and gave Monica some papers. “I’ve already had the power of attorney papers signed and notarized so that you can take care of him.” She pressed the papers into Monica’s hand.

“How long will you be gone?” asked Monica.

“The power of attorney lasts for six months. Hopefully by then me and Randy will be more settled. I’m hoping after the world tour he’ll leave the circus and find a regular job.”
Monica frowned, still clutching the legal documents.

“Please do this for me, Monica,” she pleaded again.

She reluctantly nodded. If she didn’t take care of Scotty, she didn’t know who would.

My Review:
My initial thought was that the romance moved a bit too fast, but as I got into the plot I liked the way that developed.
Monica had to let go of an old love, and learn how to trust again, and it was great to see that she had a strong relationship with God.
The only other complaint that I had was that Scotty didn't really seem to be blind.. it just threw it a little bit, but a good book otherwise.