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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FIRST: Apologetics for a New Generation

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:


Apologetics for a New Generation

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Sean McDowellis a popular speaker at schools, churches, and conferences nationwide. He is the author of Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World and the co–author of Understanding Intelligent Design and Evidence for the Resurrection.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925201
ISBN-13: 978-0736925204

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Introduction:

Apologetics for a New Generation

by Sean McDowell

The voice on the other end of the phone was familiar, but the question took me by complete surprise. “You teach your students to defend their faith, right?” asked John, a close friend of mine. “Tell me, how do you know Christianity is true?” John and I have had a special relationship for more than a decade, but this was the first time he had shown any real interest in spiritual matters. And he not only wanted to talk about God, he wanted an apologetic for the faith—he wanted proof, reason, and evidence before he would consider believing. John later told me his interest in God was piqued when his younger brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 16 years old. His younger brother has since had surgery and experienced complete recovery. In John’s own words, this experience “woke him up to his own mortality.”

A few weeks after our phone conversation, John was heading back to school in northern California, so we decided to meet for a chat over coffee. As we sat down at the Starbucks across from the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission, John jumped right in. “I’m scientific minded, so I need some evidence for the existence of God and the accuracy of the Bible. What can you show me?” For the next hour and a half we discussed some of the standard arguments for the existence of God, the historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the basis for the reliability of the Bible. I did my best to answer his questions, trying to show that Christianity is rationally compelling and provides the most satisfying solution to the deepest longings of the heart. John didn’t become a Christian at this point, but he confessed that he was very close and just needed more time to weigh the cost of his decision.

When I reflected on this discussion, comments I have heard over the past decade by young leaders came rushing to my mind:

“We live in a postmodern era, so apologetics is not important anymore.”

“Young people no longer care about reasons for the existence of the Christian God. What matters is telling your narrative and being authentic.”

“New generations today no longer need ‘evidence that demands a verdict’ or a ‘case for Christ.’”

“Conversion is about the heart, not the intellect.”

Of course, these statements are oversimplifications. Still, we must ask, is scientific proof an important part of faith? Do we live in an era in which people still have questions that demand a truth-related response? Is John the exception, the norm, or somewhere in between? If we are going to be effective in reaching a new generation of young people, few questions, it would seem, are more pressing and important than these.

Postmodernism

In the early 1990s, interest in postmodernism exploded in the church. Bestselling books and popular conferences featured seminars about doing ministry in a postmodern world. People disagreed about exactly what is meant by “postmodernism”—and they still do!—but many agreed that the world was leaving the modern era behind and wading into the unknown waters of the postmodern matrix.

According to many, postmodernism marks the most important cultural shift of the past 500 years, upending our theology, philosophy, epistemology (how we know things), and church practice. Some compare postmodernism to an earthquake that has overturned all the foundations of Western culture. Thus, to be relevant in ministry today, we must shed our modern tendencies and embrace the postmodern shift. According to many postmoderns, this shift includes replacing a propositional approach to the gospel with a primarily relational methodology.

To be honest, for the past 15 years I have wrestled profoundly with this so-called postmodern shift, reading books about postmodernism, attending conferences, and engaging in endless conversations with both Christians and non-Christians about the state of culture today. As much as the next guy, I want my life and ministry to be biblically grounded and culturally relevant. If the world is really undergoing a profound shift, I want to embrace it!

The world is certainly changing fast. Advancements in technology, transportation, and communication are taking place at an unprecedented rate. But what does this really mean for ministry today? Certainly, as postmoderns like to emphasize, story, image, and community are critical components. But does it follow that we downplay reason, evidence, and apologetics? Absolutely not! In fact, as the contributors to this book all agree, apologetics is more important than ever before.

Postmodern ideas do influence the worldview of youth today, but their thinking is most deeply influenced by our predominantly modern, secular culture. This can be seen most clearly by comparing the way they think about religion and ethics with the way they think about science. Youth are significantly relativistic when it comes to ethics, values, and religion, but they are not relativistic about science, mathematics, and technology. This is because they have grown up in a secular culture that deems science as the superior means of attaining knowledge about the world. In Kingdom Triangle, philosopher J.P. Moreland writes, “Scientific knowledge is taken to be so vastly superior that its claims always trump the claims made by other disciplines.” Religion and morals, on the other hand, are considered matters of personal preference and taste over which the individual is autonomous. This is why, if you’ve had a discussion with a younger person, you’ve probably heard her say, “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me,” “Who are you to judge?” or “If that’s what they choose, whatever.” This is not because of their postmodern sentiments, but because their thinking has been profoundly shaped by their modernist and secular culture.

Popular writers such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins have written bestselling books attacking the scientific, historic, and philosophical credibility of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Their writings have wreaked havoc on many unprepared Christians. This has taken place while many inside the church have neglected the need to be able to defend the faith intellectually. Christians today are regularly being challenged to set forth the reasons for their hope. And with the ubiquity of the Internet, difficult questions seem to be arising now more than ever before. As professor David Berlinski writes in The Devil’s Delusion: “The question that all religious believers now face: Show me the evidence.”

I am convinced that C.S. Lewis was right: The question is not really if we will defend the Christian faith, but if we will defend it well. Whether we like it or not, we are all apologists of a sort.

The Apologetics Renaissance

During research for The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel was told by a well-known and respected theologian that no one would read his book. Lee was informed, “People don’t care about historical evidence for Jesus anymore. They’re more persuaded by experience and community than facts and reason.” Disappointed and frustrated, Lee returned home and told his wife that his efforts were seemingly in vain. Yet according to Lee, the largest group of readers who became Christians through his book has been 16- to 24-year-olds!

Philosopher William Lane Craig’s 2008 cover story for Christianity Today, “God Is Not Dead Yet: How Current Philosophers Argue for His Existence,” is a sign of things to come. Craig ties the awakening of apologetics to the renaissance in Christian philosophy that has taken place over the past 40 years. Science is more open to the existence of a Designer than at any time in recent memory (thanks to the intelligent design movement), and biblical criticism has embarked on a renewed quest for the historical Jesus consonant with the portrait of Jesus found in the Gospels.

The apologetics awakening can also be seen in the number of apologetics conferences that have sprouted up in churches all over the country. Tens of thousands of people are trained at apologetics events through efforts of various church denominations and organizations, such as Biola University, Southern Evangelical Seminary, Focus on the Family, and more. Resources on apologetics have also exploded in the past few years. This is good news because America and the church continue to become more and more secular. Those who describe themselves as “religious nonaffiliated” have increased from 5 to 7 percent in the 1970s to 17 percent in 2006.

Why Apologetics Matters

To say that apologetics is critical for ministry today is not to say that we just continue business as usual. That would be foolish. Our world is changing, and it is changing rapidly. More change has happened since 1900 than in all prior recorded history. And more change will occur in the next 20 years than the entire last century. But God does not change (Malachi 3), and neither does human nature. We are thoughtful and rational beings who respond to evidence. People have questions, and we are responsible to provide helpful answers. Of course, we certainly don’t have all the answers, and when we do provide solid answers, many choose not to follow the evidence for personal or moral reasons. But that hardly changes the fact that we are rational, personal beings who bear the image of God.

People often confuse apologetics with apologizing for the faith, but the Greek word apologia refers to a legal defense. Thus, apologetics involves giving a defense for the Christian faith. First Peter 3:15 says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and respect.” Jude encouraged his hearers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). The biblical evidence is clear: All Christians are to be trained in apologetics, which is an integral part of discipleship. This involves learning how to respond to common objections raised against the Christian faith and also how to positively commend the gospel to a particular audience.

We have certainly made mistakes in the way we have defended our beliefs in the past (as chapters in this book will illustrate), but this hardly means we should abandon apologetics altogether. Rather, we ought to learn from the past and adjust accordingly. Beyond the biblical mandate, apologetics is vitally important today for two reasons.

Strengthening Believers

Apologetics training can offer significant benefits in the personal life of Christians. For one thing, knowing why you believe what you believe and experiencing it in your life and relationships will give you renewed confidence in sharing your faith. I have the privilege of speaking to thousands of young people every year. Inevitably, whenever I speak on topics such as moral relativism, the case for intelligent design, or evidences for the resurrection, I get e-mails and comments on my Facebook page from students who were strengthened in their faith. One recently wrote, “I was at the [youth event] this past weekend and absolutely loved it! All the information was so helpful, but I connected the most with yours. All the scientific proof of Christianity and a Creator just absolutely amazes me!”

Training in apologetics also provides an anchor during trials and difficulties. Emotions only take us so far, and then we need something more solid. Presently, most teens who enter adulthood claiming to be Christians will walk away from the church and put their emotional commitment to Christ on the shelf within ten years. A young person may walk away from God for many reasons, but one significant reason is intellectual doubt. According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, the most common answer nonreligious teens offered for why they left their faith was intellectual skepticism. This is why David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, writes in his book unChristian, “We are learning that one of the primary reasons that ministry to teenagers fails to produce a lasting faith is because they are not being taught to think.”

The church is failing young people today. From the moment Christian students first arrive on campus, their faith is assaulted on all sides by fellow students and teachers alike. According to a ground-breaking 2006 study by professors from Harvard and George Mason universities, the percentage of agnostics and atheists teaching at American colleges is three times greater than in the general population. More than 50 percent of college professors believe the Bible is “an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts.” Students are routinely taught that Darwinian evolution is the substitute creator, that the Bible is unreliable, that Jesus was like any other religious figure, and that any Christian who thinks differently is at best old-fashioned and at worst intolerant, bigoted, and hateful. These ideas are perpetrated in the classroom through reason, logic, and evidence. The church must teach students to counter these trends.

This was exactly the experience of Alison Thomas, a recent seminary grad who is now a speaker for Ravi Zacharias Ministries (and the author of the chapter “Apologetics and Race”). As a college freshman, her faith was immediately attacked from every direction. Combine the intellectual challenges with the lack of nutrition, sleep, and Christian mentors, and according to Alison, it was a recipe for disaster: “I almost abandoned my faith in college because I was not sure if the difficult questions people asked me about Christianity had satisfying answers.” Alison is absolutely convinced that had she been prepared for the attack on her faith, she could have been spared much doubt, sin, and heartache. Her story could be multiplied thousands of times, but unfortunately, too often with different results.

Reaching the Lost

The apostles of Christ ministered in a pluralistic culture. They regularly reasoned with both Jews and pagans, trying to persuade them of the truth of Christianity. They appealed to fulfilled prophecy, Jesus’ miracles, evidence for creation, and proofs for the resurrection. Acts 17:2-3 says, “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ ” Some were persuaded as a result of Paul’s efforts.

According to pastor Tim Keller, this is similar to the method we should adopt today. Keller is the avant-garde pastor of Redeemed Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and the author of The Reason for God, an apologetics book which has soared atop the New York Times bestselling nonfiction list. In an interview for Christianity Today, Keller responded to the claim that rationality is unimportant for evangelism: “Christians are saying that the rational isn’t part of evangelism. The fact is, people are rational. They do have questions. You have to answer those questions. Don’t get the impression that I think that the rational aspect takes you all the way there. But there’s too much emphasis on just the personal now.” Tim is right: Evangelism today must be both relational and rational.

Greg Stier agrees: “Any claims concerning the death of apologetics have been greatly exaggerated…Those who believe apologetics aren’t important for evangelizing postmoderns have misdiagnosed this generation as purely relational; these young people are rational, too.” According to Greg, this generation of young people is more open to spiritual truth than any generation in recent history. (See my brief interview with him on page 124.)

Does this mean young people are walking around with deep spiritual questions at the forefront of their minds? Not necessarily. But it does mean that many young people are open to spiritual truth when motivated in the right way. The problem is not with apologetics but with our failure to motivate people. Much ministry today is focused on meeting a felt need, but the real difficulty is to take a genuine need and make it felt. If done in the context of a relationship, apologetics can be one effective means of accomplishing this. For thoughts on how to motivate young people in this regard see the chapter “Making Apologetics Come Alive in Youth Ministry” by Alex McFarland.

In my experience, people who criticize apologetics have often had one or two unsuccessful attempts and written off the entire enterprise. Rather, we need to put apologetics into perspective. Considering that a minority of people who hear the gospel choose to become followers of Christ in the first place, we shouldn’t be surprised that many people are unmoved by reason and evidence. It’s unrealistic to expect most people to respond positively to apologetics, just as it is unrealistic to expect most people to respond to a presentation of the gospel. The road is narrow in both cases (Matthew 7:14).

If only a few people will respond, why bother? For one thing, those who respond to apologetics often become people of significant influence who are deeply committed to the faith. This has certainly been the case in the life of my father, Josh McDowell. He became a believer as a pre-law student while trying to refute the evidence for Christ. I’m deeply humbled by the number of doctors, professors, politicians, lawyers, and other influential professionals who have come to Christ through his speaking and writing. He has spoken to more young people than anyone in history, and his books have been printed in millions of copies and translated all over the world. Honestly, I can hardly speak anywhere without someone from the audience sharing how instrumental he was in his or her coming to Christ. I’m proud to be his son.


Apologetics for a New Generation

Apologetics is advancing like never before, and a few characteristics mark effective apologetics for a new generation.

The New Apologetics Is Missional

There is a lot of talk right now about being missional, that is, getting out of our safe Christian enclaves and reaching people on their turf. This mind-set must characterize apologetics for a new generation. Each spring Brett Kunkle and I take a group of high school students to the University of California at Berkeley to interact with leading atheists from northern California. We invite various speakers to challenge our students and then to participate in a lively period of questions and answers. The guests always comment that our students treat them kindly, ask good questions, and are different from stereotypical Christians. This is because, in our preparatory training, we emphasize the importance of defending our beliefs with gentleness and respect, as Peter admonishes (1 Peter 3:15).

In Western culture today, Christians are often criticized for being exclusive, closed-minded, and intolerant. Missional apologetics is one way to help shatter this myth firsthand. Interestingly, one of the atheistic presenters from Berkeley spent 45 minutes arguing that the skeptical way of life is the most open-minded and the least dogmatic. I kindly pointed out that it was us—Christians!—who were willing to come up to their turf and give them a platform to present their ideas.

This is not the only perception of Christians that can be softened by missional apologetics. In his book unChristian, David Kinnaman paints a sobering view of how Christians are viewed by those outside the faith. For example, nearly half of young non-Christians have a negative view of evangelicals. Six common perceptions characterize how young outsiders view Christians: hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. To help overcome these perceptions, says Kinnaman, Christians must build meaningful, genuine relationships with non-Christians and live out their faith consistently. It is in the context of a loving relationship, says Dan Kimball in his chapter, “A New Kind of Apologist,” that we most effectively reach the lost today.

The New Apologetics Influences How We Live

Though I do not agree with his philosophy of pragmatism, one insight of William James has practical importance for apologetics training today. James said that when considering any idea, we should always ask, what difference does it make? If it makes no existential difference to the way we live whether it is true or false, then according to James, we should not bother with it. When training in apologetics, we must regularly ask, so what? How does belief in the historical resurrection of Jesus affect my relationship to myself, to others, and to God? How does belief in creation influence my view of the environment? How does the Incarnation affect my self-image?

Much of the criticism today is not with apologetics per se but with our failure to connect apologetics to the way we live. Some of this criticism is deserved. If we don’t apply the truth to our relationship with God and others, what’s the point? Brian McLaren, a leading voice in the Emergent church, is right: Having right answers that don’t lead us to better love God and our neighbors are more or less worthless.

A remarkable number of outspoken critics of Christianity have backgrounds of personal disappointment with Christians and the church. Pastor Tim Keller explains how our personal experience influences our evaluation of the evidence for Christianity:

We all bring to issues intellectual predispositions based on our experiences. If you have known many wise, loving, kind, and insightful Christians over the years, and if you have seen churches that are devout in belief yet civic-minded and generous, you will find the intellectual case for Christianity more plausible. If, on the other hand, the preponderance of your experience is with nominal Christians (who bear the name but don’t practice) or with self-righteous fanatics, then the arguments for Christianity will have to be extremely strong for you to concede that they have any cogency at all.

The great philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once commented that Christians have no joy. No wonder he found the evidence for God unconvincing. The sad part about his observation is that Christians, of all people, have the best reason to be joyful. If Christ has not risen, says Paul, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). But if Christ has risen—and the evidence for this is compelling—then even though we go through pain and difficulty in this life, we will share eternity with Him. Christians joyfully living out their faith in the power of the Holy Spirit provide one of the most powerful apologetics at our disposal.

The New Apologetics Is Humble

I failed miserably to act humbly a few years ago when getting my hair cut in Breckenridge, Colorado. The hairdresser noticed I was carrying a copy of The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Leslie Newbigin. So she asked, “Are you a Christian? If so, how can you explain all the evil in the world?” I proceeded to give her a ten-minute lecture about the origin of evil, the nature of free will, and the Christian solution. My reasons were solid, but I lacked humility and sensitivity in my demeanor. I had a slick answer to her every question, but I missed the fact that her needs went beyond the intellect to her heart. Eventually she started crying—not because she became a Christian but because she was so offended by my callousness. To be honest, it was a bit unsettling having a hairdresser, who held sharp scissors in her hand, crying and lecturing me while cutting my hair. But the point was well taken.

In retrospect, I should have first asked her some questions to try and understand why evil was such a pressing issue in her life. What pain had she experienced that caused her to question the goodness of God? Sometimes questions are primarily intellectual, but more often than not they stem from a deeper longing of the heart.

From the beginning, Christian apologists have exemplified the importance of humility in presenting our defense of the faith. There is a reason why 1 Peter 3:15 begins with “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” and ends with “gentleness and respect.” Before presenting a case for the Christian faith, one must first submit to the lordship of Christ. The heart of the apologist is the basis of all apologetic training. People still don’t care how much you know if they don’t know you care. The only way we can truly demonstrate the love of Christ to people is by first having our hearts humbled by God. When our hearts are not right, we can do more harm than good.

As you will see throughout this book, these are not the only factors characterizing the emerging apologetics awakening. The rest of the chapters in this book will spur you to think creatively about how apologetics fits into the many critical components of effective ministry today. Authors will tackle issues such as race, gender, media, homosexuality, Jesus, brain research, culture, youth, spiritual formation, and more—all with an eye on how we can effectively minister to new generations today.

Conclusion

In the fall of 2007, Christianity Today International and Zondervan partnered to conduct attitudinal and behavioral research of American Christians. Leadership Journal discussed the findings with leading pastors and religious experts to ascertain implications for ministry today. Three critical issues emerged:

The local church is no longer considered the only outlet for spiritual growth.
Churches must develop relational and community-oriented outreach.
Lay people have to be better equipped to be God’s ambassadors [apologists].
The third point on this list took me by surprise, not because I disagree with it, but because it’s refreshing to hear leaders emphasize the renewed need for apologetics. In the article, Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland church in Longwood, Florida, said, “We need to preach with apologetics in mind, with a rational explanation and defense of the Christian faith in mind.” One of the best ways to counter biblical illiteracy, claims Hunter, is to equip active Christians as teachers, ambassadors, and apologists. Yes! Ministry today certainly includes much more than presenting a case for our hope, but this is one critical piece we must not neglect. The time has never been greater for a renewed focus on apologetics.

You may be wondering what happened to John, my friend I mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. He has not become a Christian yet, but he is still inching along. We continue to have good discussions about God and the meaning of life. I trust and pray that someday he will choose to follow Jesus. Had my youth pastor, parents, and teachers not trained me in apologetics, I couldn’t have helped him at all. You and I can’t be ambassadors without having answers to tough questions. So I’ve assembled this team of (mostly) young apologists to help you develop a biblical and culturally relevant approach for reaching this new generation. Let’s go!


Chapter One:

A Different Kind of Apologist

by Dan Kimball

Apologetics is desperately needed more than ever in our emerging culture. But I believe that a different kind of apologist may be needed.

I realize that some may disagree with me. I hear fairly often from some church leaders that emerging generations are not interested in apologetics: “In our postmodern world there isn’t interest in rational explanations regarding spiritual issues.” “We don’t need logically presented defenses or offenses of the faith.” These kinds of statements always confuse me. The reason is simple: In my dialogue and relationships with non-Christian and Christian young people for more than 18 years, I am not finding less interest in apologetics, but actually more interest. The more we are living in an increasingly post-Christian and pluralistic culture, the more we need apologetics because people are asking more and more questions. We desperately need to be ready to answer the tough questions of today’s emerging generations.

This increased interest and need for apologetics in our emerging culture fits very nicely with one of the classical and well-known Bible passages on apologetics:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3:15-16 niv).

Over the past couple of years I have heard apologists emphasize “gentleness and respect,” which is an absolutely wonderful shift. Some Christians who are drawn to apologetics can have temperaments which may not always come out with gentleness and respect as they engage non-Christians. But this passage includes something else that, oddly, we don’t hear much about. Yet it is critical for our discussion of apologetics for new generations.

People Can’t Ask If They Don’t Know Us

The passage in 1 Peter 3 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Let me ask you, have you ever been standing on the street or in line at the supermarket and had a stranger walk up to you and say, “Excuse me. Can you tell me the reason for the hope that you have?”

That doesn’t happen, because strangers do not generally walk up to people they don’t know and ask questions like this. Strangers also don’t know the other person, so they wouldn’t be able to know if someone has hope or not. So how does someone know and trust Christians well enough to see the hope that they have and trust and respect them enough to ask them about it?

This is the biggest missing component in many of our approaches to apologetics today. It is one of the biggest shifts we are seeing with emerging generations. Apologetics is still needed today, but the apologist isn’t necessarily trusted in our culture today. In the 1960s and 1970s, many younger people left the church because they (rightly) felt the church was often irrelevant. The critical questions that younger generations had at that time were not being answered. The music and various approaches to preaching and worship were becoming outdated and not speaking to new generations at that time. So when churches revamped their approaches to worship and preaching and developed clear answers for some of the questions people had, many people (even if they weren’t Christian) became interested.

The culture still had a general respect for Christianity. So it was easier to communicate and also have a voice that folks would listen to. For those who grew up in a church but walked away, answers to their critical questions were extremely valuable. But today, Christians and the church aren’t trusted like they were. Before, we were hoping to see people return to the church. Today, many have never been part of a church in the first place.

Times have changed. But the Spirit of God is still alive and active. People will always be created with questions about life, meaning, purpose, and God. Apologetics are still important today for new generations, but our approach must change.

Hanging Out with the Wrong People

In my early days as a Christian, I constantly read books on apologetics so I could share with my non-Christian friends about my newfound hope. My friends were concerned that I was following a religion and reading a book (the Bible) that they felt was written by primitive, ancient, and uneducated people. So this challenge kept me studying to respond to their concerns. The more I read and studied, the more my confidence in Christianity grew.

I eventually joined a large, wonderful church and made some friendships with others who also liked apologetics. We spent hours talking about theology, reasons why we could trust the Bible, and ways to respond to common objections such as the problem of evil. I bought almost every apologetics book available and attended many apologetics conferences. I loved having Christian friends whom I could talk to about apologetics, but something slowly dawned on me: I wasn’t really talking to any non-Christians anymore about apologetics. I realized that I was hanging out all the time with Christians who loved discussing apologetics and the tough questions about the faith. But I wasn’t spending time with the non-Christians who were asking these tough questions.

As I began exploring this further, I discovered that many people who like apologetics primarily socialize with other like-minded people. Certain temperaments and personalities cause some Christians to become more interested in apologetics than others, and they connect with each other. Having community with other Christians who share common interests such as apologetics is a wonderful thing. But I realized that my Christian friends and I weren’t using apologetics to engage non-Christians. We were only talking with each other.

I discuss this in They Like Jesus but Not the Church, where I included this diagram, which lays out a typical pattern: The longer we are Christians, the less we socialize with non-Christians. We may work with non-Christians or have neighbors who are non-Christians. But the types of conversations we have and the trust that we build changes dramatically when we actually befriend and socialize with those outside the faith.

The danger is that we don’t do this on purpose. It happens unintentionally. But because we have limited time and we enjoy hanging out with others who think like us, we can remove ourselves from the very ones we are sent by Jesus to be salt and light to (Matthew 5). As the Spirit molds us to be more like Jesus, the majority of people who benefit from our growth are already Christians. We are salt and light to each other, not to the world. The more skilled in apologetics we get, the fewer people we know who actually need it.

You may resist hearing this, and I hope I am wrong about you. But let me ask you a question or three:

Think about discussions you have had about apologetics with people in the past six months. How many have been with Christians, and how many have been with those who aren’t Christians yet?
Let me make this more direct and personal:

Who are your non-Christian friends?
When was the last time you went out to a movie or dinner or simply hung out with a non-Christian? If people are to trust us in order to ask us for the hope we have, we must spend time with them and build relationships. The typical answers I get from Christians quite honestly scare me. Again, I hope I am wrong about you. Do you intentionally place yourself in situations or groups where you will be likely to meet new people? For me, music often provides an open door. So whether I’m with the manager of a coffee house I frequent or the members of local bands, I try to have the mind-set of a missionary and meet new people. This sounds so elementary and I almost feel silly having to type this out. But this leads to a deeper question:

Who are you praying for regularly that is not a Christian?
Our prayers represent our hearts. What we pray for shows us what we are thinking about and valuing. When the unsaved become more than faces in the crowd, when they include people we know and care for, we can’t help but pray for them. And we must remember: We can be prepared with apologetic arguments, but the Spirit does the persuading. Are you regularly praying for some non-Christian friends?

Again, I feel almost embarrassed asking this. But when I started realizing that I had fallen into this trap, I wondered if I was alone. As I began asking other Christians about this, many seemed to be like me. I even asked an author of apologetics books to tell me about his recent conversations with non-Christians that included apologetics. But he couldn’t remember any recent examples. He was talking only to Christians! This isn’t bad, but it raises an important question: How do we know the questions emerging generations outside the church are asking if we are only talking with Christians?

I recently talked with a person who teaches apologetics to young people. As we talked, he shared how interested youth are in apologetics (and I fully agree). I asked about the types of questions he is hearing, and I was surprised that his experience seemed quite different from mine. I was working with non-Christian youth at that time, but he was speaking primarily with Christian youth at Christian schools and youth groups. Nothing is wrong with teaching Christian youth how to have confidence in their faith through apologetics. This is an important task we need to be doing today in our churches. But if we are focusing our energy and time listening mainly to Christians, how do we know what the questions non-Christian youth or young adults have? This brings me to my next point.

Providing Answers Before Listening to Questions

The effective apologist to emerging generations will be a good listener. Most of us have been good talkers. We Christians often do the talking and expect others to listen. But in our emerging culture, effective communication involves dialogue. Being quiet and asking questions may not be easy for some folks, but those are critical skills we need to develop in order to reach new generations.

A 20-year-old Hindu became friends with someone in our church. Eventually she began coming to our worship gatherings. I got to meet with her at a coffee house, and because I was sincerely curious, I politely asked her some questions. How did she become a Hindu? What is Hinduism to her? What does she find most beneficial in her life about it? She eagerly told me stories that helped me understand her journey and her specific beliefs. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t interrupt her or jump in to correct her when I felt she was saying things that may have been inconsistent. I didn’t interrupt and tell her that there cannot be hundreds of gods, that there is only one true God. I simply asked questions and listened carefully.

Eventually, she asked me about the differences between Christianity and Hinduism. I gently and respectfully tried to compare her story and what she said with the story of Jesus and the narrative of the Bible. But I didn’t try to discredit her beliefs or show why what I believed was true. She asked me about the origins of Christianity, and I was able to draw a timeline on a napkin that included creation, the Garden of Eden, and the fall. I explained that people eventually began worshipping other gods or goddesses, not the original one God. I then walked her through a basic world religions timeline I had memorized and explained where Hinduism fit in that timeline. It truly was a dialogue, as I would stop and see if she had any input or comments.

I didn’t show her why I felt Hinduism was wrong; rather, I let our discussion speak for itself. The differences between Christianity and Hinduism became obvious. A few weeks later, she told me in a worship gathering that she had left Hinduism and chosen to follow Jesus. My talk with her was not the turning point. She had many conversations with other Christian friends in our church. They knew her beliefs, loved her, invited her into community, and lived out the hope they have. She could see it and experience it, and eventually she wanted to know the reason for the hope in her friends. I definitely needed to be ready with apologetics when I met with her. But the reason she even met with me was that we built trust first. Trust was built with some of her Christian friends. Trust was built during conversations I had with her when she came to our worship gatherings. Eventually, this trust led to her being open to dialogue specifically about her Hindu faith and to ask questions. First she was valued as a person and listened to, and then came the questions about the hope we have. Let me ask you a few questions about this:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself as a listener in conversations about faith?
What are some of the questions you have been asked as a result of building trust and listening? Would anyone have asked those questions if you didn’t build trust and listen first?
Stockpiling Ammunition or Building Trust

I recently heard of someone who was taking church groups on the street to walk up to total strangers and strike up conversations and then use apologetics with them. I respect the passion to reach lost people, but I was saddened by the methodology. The leader chose this area because it was highly populated with homosexuals. From my perspective, this is almost the opposite of the methodology that is effective with new generations. We may have our apologetics gun loaded, but we haven’t built trust. We haven’t gained a voice in their lives, so they don’t trust us enough to listen to us. Walking up to total strangers and asking them questions about very personal things immediately puts them on the defense. The discussion begins in a semi-confrontational way. This reinforces some of the stereotypes of Christians we need to break. Non-Christians are often open to discussing personal beliefs about religion and worldviews, but this normally occurs in the context of trust and friendship.

I recently met a guy in his twenties who was working at a coffee house. I did my usual thing: I selected one place to frequent and eventually got to know those who work there. We eventually started talking about all kinds of things, mainly music at first. Eventually I told him I was a pastor at a church and began asking his opinion on things. I asked about his impressions of church and Christianity. I shared that I knew about Christians’ bad reputation and that I wanted to know how he felt about that. This wasn’t the first thing we talked about, and we had begun to build a friendship, so he was happy to talk to me about this. One of his main issues was that the Christians he met knew nothing about other religions, but they would tell him he should be a Christian. His concern was that Christians were naive about anything but what they believed, and he didn’t respect that.

As I listened, I didn’t try to butt in and comment when he would say something I disagreed with. Instead, I listened, asked clarifying questions, took notes, and thanked him for each opinion. I asked him what he believed and why he believed what he did. And then the inevitable happened—he asked me what I believed.

Knowing his beliefs, I was able to construct an apologetic that catered to his story and specific points of connection. As with so many people, the issue of pluralism and world religions was a major point of tension that he felt Christians are blind about. Eventually our conversation moved to the resurrection of Jesus, which he saw as a myth. I used the classical Josh McDowell resurrection apologetics, explaining various theories of the stolen body and why they fell apart upon scrutiny. I shared about the guards at the tomb and how they would defend the sealed tomb. I was ready (thanks to Josh McDowell), and my friend was absolutely fascinated by that. I could tell he had never heard this before, and as we ended our time together, he thanked me. I didn’t press him for a response.

The following week I went back to the coffee house, and he told me that he now believed in the resurrection. He had been totally unaware that there are actually good reasons to believe it is true. Over the weekend he got a copy of the Bible to read the resurrection story and had no idea it was repeated in each of the Gospels. This is why I am convinced that regardless of how postmodern emerging generations may be, they receive apologetic arguments when trust is built. Of course, it is the Holy Spirit who does the work in someone’s heart—not clever arguments. But God still uses apologetics in our emerging culture.

Consider these questions:

When you are studying apologetics, does your heart break in compassion for the people you are preparing to talk to? Or are you stockpiling ammunition to show people they are wrong?
When you have used apologetics with those who aren’t Christians yet, do you find your tone being humble, broken, and compassionate, or is your tone argumentative and perhaps even arrogant (although you would not like to admit that)?
Critical Apologetics Issues

I know that most apologists are not arrogant, ammunition firing, non-listening people who don’t have any non-Christian friends and only talk to other Christians. But at the same time, a little hyperbole may raise up some ugly truth we perhaps need to admit. As I shared, I know I have been guilty of these very things. We must all examine ourselves and be brutally honest about it. Too much is at stake not to.

As statistics are showing, we are not doing a very good job of reaching new generations. Our reputation is suffering. But at the same time, I have so much optimism and hope. Apologetics is a critical factor in the evangelism of new generations. That is why I was thrilled to be part of this book.

If you are a leader in a church, I hope you are creating a natural culture in your church of teaching apologetics and training people how to respond to others when asked for the hope that they have. But again, how we train them to respond is just as important as the answers themselves. The attitudes and tone of voice we use as we teach reveal what we truly feel about those who aren’t Christians and their beliefs. Our hearts should be broken thinking of people who have developed false worldviews or religious beliefs and don’t know Jesus yet. How we teach people in our church to be “listeners” and build friendships is critical. Here are some of the key things we must be ready to answer today:

The inspiration and trustworthiness of the Bible. Everything comes back to why we trust the Bible and what it says about human sexuality, world religions…everything. Why the Bible is more credible than other world religious writings is critical.
Who is Jesus? Emerging generations are open to talking about Jesus but for the most part, they have an impression that He is more like Gandhi than a divine Savior. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to share why Jesus is unique and to provide an apologetic for His resurrection.
Human sexuality. We need to be well-versed in why we believe what we do about the covenant of marriage between a man and woman, about human sexuality, and about sexual ethics in general.
World religions. We must have an adequate understanding of the development and teachings of world religions. I don’t meet many younger people who are hard-core Buddhists, but many are empathetic to Buddhist teachings. Many pick and choose from different faiths. They are often surprised to see that many religions are mutually exclusive.
The Most Important Apologetic

As I close this chapter, I want to remind us that the ultimate apologetic is really Jesus in us. Are our lives demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), such as gentleness, kindness, patience, and love? Are we being salt and light with our attitudes and actions toward people? Are our conversations filled with grace and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6)? Do our lives show that we are paying attention to the things Jesus would, including the marginalized, the oppressed, and the poor? People watch and listen. If they trust the messenger, perhaps they will be more open to listen.

We can have all the answers ready to give people who ask, but are they asking us? If not, perhaps we have not yet built the trust and relationship and respect that lead them to ask us for the hope we have. Maybe that’s where we need to start—with our hearts and lives. If we will, I can almost guarantee that others will ask us for the hope we have.

May God use us together on the mission of Jesus as we are wise as serpents but as innocent as doves. May God use our minds and hearts to bring the reason for the hope we have to others. And may God put others in our lives who will ask for the hope as they watch us live it out.


Dan Kimball is the author of several books, including They Like Jesus but Not the Church, and a member of the staff of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California.

This is a book that I have been looking forward to reading for a while. Now that I finally have it, I have a million other books on my list as well, ack! But this is one I definitely plan to spend some time on and share with the private school I sometimes substitute teach for, they have a new apologetics class for the older kids. The idea behind this book is well needed.

Friday, March 27, 2009

FIRST: Yesterdays Embers by Deborah Raney

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:


Yesterday’s Embers

Howard Books (March 24, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Deborah Raney is the author of several novels, including Nest of Sparrows and the RITA Award-winning Beneath a Southern Sky. Her novel A Vow to Cherish was made into the highly acclaimed Worldwide Pictures film of the same name. She lives with her husband and four children in Kansas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (March 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416593098
ISBN-13: 978-1416593096

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



The parade of taillights smoldered crimson through the patchy fog hovering over Old Highway 40. Mickey Valdez tapped the brakes with the toe of her black dress pumps, trying to stay a respectable distance from the car in front of her.

The procession had left the church almost twenty minutes ago, but they were still barely two miles outside Clayburn’s city limits. The line of cars snaked up the hill––if you could call the road’s rolling incline that––and ahead of her, the red glow of brake lights dotted the highway, flickering off and on like so many fireflies. Cresting the rise, Mickey could barely make out the rows of pewter-colored gravestones poking through the mist beyond the wrought-iron gates of the Clayburn Cemetery.

She smoothed the skirt of her black crepe dress and tried to focus her thoughts on maneuvering the car, working not to let them stray to the funeral service she’d come from. But when the first hearse turned onto the cemetery’s gravel drive in front of her, she lost it. Her sobs came like dry heaves, producing no tears, and for once, she was glad to be in the car alone.

The line of cars came almost to a standstill as the second hearse crept through the gates.

The twin black Lincolns pulled to the side of the gravel lane, parking one behind the other near the plots where two fresh graves scarred the prairie. The drivers emerged from the hearses, walked in unison to the rear of their cars, and opened the curtained back doors. Mickey looked away. She couldn’t view those two caskets again.

When it came her turn to drive over the culvert under the high arch of the iron gates, she wanted desperately to keep on driving. To head west and never turn back. But Pete Truesdell stood in her way, directing traffic into the fenced-in graveyard. Mickey almost didn’t recognize Pete. He sported a rumpled navy double-breasted suit instead of his usual coveralls. How he could see through the tears welling in his eyes, Mickey didn’t know.

Her heart broke for the old man. She wondered if he was related to the family somehow. Seemed like everybody in Clayburn was related to at least one other family in town. Everybody but the Valdezes.

Pete waved the car in front of her through the gates and halted her with his other hand.

Maybe if she stayed in the car until the procession left the cemetery. She didn’t want to walk across the uneven sod. Didn’t want to risk the DeVore kids seeing her…risk breaking down in front of them. What would she say? What could anybody say to make what had happened be all right?

She didn’t know much about carbon monoxide poisoning, but she’d heard that Kaye and Rachel had simply drifted off to sleep, never knowing they would wake up in heaven. She wondered if Doug DeVore found any solace in that knowledge. Maybe it was a small comfort that his wife and daughter had left this earth together.

But on Thanksgiving Day? What was God thinking?

She’d never really gotten to know Kaye DeVore that well. They’d exchanged pleasantries whenever Kaye dropped the kids off at the daycare on her way to her job at the high school, but usually Doug was the one who delivered the children and picked them up at night when he got off work at Trevor Ashlock’s print shop in town.

The DeVore kids were usually the last to get picked up, especially during harvest when Doug worked overtime to keep his farm going. But Mickey had never minded staying late. It wasn’t like she had a family of her own waiting for her at home. And she loved those kids.

Especially Rachel. Sweet, angel-faced Rachel, whose eyes always seemed to hold a wisdom beyond her years. Mickey had practically mourned when Rachel started kindergarten and was only at the daycare for an hour or two after school. Now she forced herself to look at the tiny white coffin the pallbearers lifted from the second hearse. She could not make it real that the sunny six-year-old was gone.

Through the gates, she watched Doug climb from a black towncar. One at a time, he helped his children out behind him. Carrying the baby in one arm, he tried to stretch his free arm around the other four kids, as if he could shelter them from what had happened. How he could even stand up under the weight of such tragedy was more than Mickey could imagine. And yet, for one shameful, irrational moment, she envied his grief, and would have traded places with him if it meant she’d known a love worth grieving over, or been entrusted with a child of her own flesh and blood. She shook away the thoughts, disturbed by how long she’d let herself entertain them.

She dreaded facing Doug the next time he brought the kids to the daycare center. Maybe they wouldn’t come back. She’d heard that Kaye’s mother had cancelled her plans to winter in Florida like she usually did. Harriet Thomas would remain in Kansas and help Doug out, at least for a while. Wren Johanssen had been helping with the kids and house, too, when she could take time away from running Wren’s Nest, the little bed-and-breakfast on Main Street. Wren was like a second grandma to the kids. Thank goodness for that. Six kids had to be—

Mickey shuddered and corrected herself. Only five now. That had to be a handful for anyone. The DeVores had gone on vacation in the middle of April last year, and with their kids out for a week, the workload was lighter, but the daycare center had been deathly quiet.

Deathly. Even though she was alone in the car, Mickey cringed at her choice of words.

She started at the tap on the hood of her car and looked up to see Pete motioning her through the gates. She put the car in gear and inched over the bumpy culvert. There was no turning back now. She followed the car in front of her and parked behind it next to the fence bordering the east side of the cemetery.

A tall white tombstone in the distance caught her eye and a startling thought nudged her. The last time she’d been here for a funeral had also been the funeral of a mother and child. Trevor Ashlock’s wife, Amy, and their little boy. It would be five years come summer.

As if conjured by her thoughts, Trevor’s green pickup pulled in beside her. Mickey watched in her side mirror as he parked, then helped his young wife climb out of the passenger side. Meg walked with the gait of an obviously pregnant woman, and Trevor put a hand at the small of her back, guiding her over the uneven sod toward the funeral tent.

Mickey looked away. Seeing Trevor still brought a wave of sadness. Because of his profound loss, yes. But more selfishly, for her own loss. She’d fallen hard for him after Amy’s death—and had entertained hopes that he might feel the same about her. That she might be able to ease his grief. But he was too deep in grief to even notice her.

Then Meg Anders had moved to town and almost before Mickey knew what happened, Trevor was married. He and Meg seemed very much in love, and Mickey didn’t begrudge either of them an ounce of that happiness. But it didn’t mean she was immune to a pang of envy whenever she saw them together.

This day had to be doubly difficult for Trevor. It must be a comfort to Doug having Trevor here––someone who’d walked in his shoes and still somehow managed to get up the next morning––and the next and the next.

Again, she had to wonder what God was thinking. Where was He when these tragedies struck? How could He stand by and let these terrible things happen to good men…the best men she knew, next to her brothers? None of it made sense. And the only One she knew to turn to for answers had stood by and let it all happen.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

Masterpiece: Little Dorrit on PBS

Little Dorrit

Airing March 29 - April 26, 2009 on PBS Check local listings


Amy Dorrit's (Claire Foy) gentle spirit has never been dampened by the confining walls of the Marshalsea Prison she's lived in her whole life. Despite the dark shadow of debtor's prison, Amy lovingly cares for her father William Dorrit (Tom Courtenay), the longest serving inmate. A possibly redemptive light unexpectedly shines in the form of Arthur Clennam (Matthew Macfadyen), who has been left with the intriguing threads of a mystery after his father's death — threads that will intertwine his family and fate with the Dorrits. Clennam's exhaustive search for answers involves murder, fortunes gained and lost, the upper echelons and lowest dregs of society, and most surprising of all, a tender romance. Adapted by Andrew Davies (Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice), Little Dorrit, based on the book by Charles Dickens, is a sprawling story as timely as it is moving.

Cast and Crew Interviews
Meet the bts in Amy Dorrit's sprawling world, and the actors who portray them.

Characters
Veteran screenwriter Andrew Davies and newcomer actress Claire Foy on making Little Dorrit.



Book Giveaway
Sign up for a chance to win a set of Dickens's classic tales, and subscribe to the Masterpiece e-Newsletter.



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

For more Wordless Wednesday entries, click here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bittersweet by Cathy Marie Hake: a review

Bittersweet (California Historical Series, #2) Bittersweet by Cathy Marie Hake

Laney McCain has unabashedly had her sights set on Galen O’Sullivan for years. And though Galen has treated her as nothing more than his best friend’s pesky tag-along sister, Laney dares hope that now is the time he will open his eyes and truly recognize the woman she’s become. But the arrival of Ishmael and Ivy Grubb, squatters on the O’Sullivans’ land, diverts Galen’s attention. Though the Grubbs are crass and uneducated, Galen shows mercy and allows them to stay in exchange for help around the farm. But it becomes a decision he lives to regret…. Sometimes the Journey to Love Is Truly Bittersweet

My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
This review is of an ARC version of the book "Bittersweet" of the California Historical Series, book #2 by Cathy Marie Hake. After finishing book #1, "Letter Perfect", I could not help but be intrigued and eager to read the second installation of the lives I had come to care for and love in Folsom and the Broken P.



Receiving this book put me in a bit of a mood, because I ordered it from a swapping website and an ARC copy arrived. A few conversations and corrections later, the sender was extremely nice and apologetic and seemed thoroughly confused about it being an Advanced Reader Copy. Although I am even further confused how you cannot know that by the mostly white cover and the print "Advanced Reader Copy Not for sale" typed at the top and bottom of each page, but oh well, I got over it. Kinda. *wink*



Then, reading the synopsis on the back cover I was even a little more hesitant about reading this book. I just knew that I would not like it. The plot just lined up in a manner that I knew would make me angry.



Well. It took me a while to get through the first book. I read this one in two days. I could not put it down. I was right, I was angry. I was near to spitting nails and completely infuriated with the stupidity and arrogance and self centered... *rant rant rant* I was very upset with the way things turned out and were continuing to turn out. But then, that is the point is it not? Things will happen in our lives that we do not always agree with. We want to dictate to God what we want and how we want it to be. Even when he has something better in mind for the big picture, the stages of getting there are painful and not at all what we want to deal with.



Having finished this book, and in an attempt not to give anything away... I like the ending. It satisfied me. However, on one individual I still think they should have "fixed" a situation that was in their control once they had the power, but they did not and it had to be brought to a solution another way. It is true that it could definitely occur this way. And for these characters lives it did. That does not mean I have to like it. :)



I do recommend this read. I highly recommend that you read book #1 first, because then you will really understand the characters on a deeper level. But I encourage you to read it and share it.



Now.. I need more from Cathy Marie Hake.


View all my reviews.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Letter Perfect by Cathy Marie Hake: a review

Letter Perfect Letter Perfect by Cathy Marie Hake

If her own two feet don't end up tripping her, Ruth Caldwell's mouth is likely to get her into equal trouble. But Ruth has the best of intentions. Truly. It's just that her attempts to live up to her mother's expectations of how a lady should act have often yielded…well, less than impressive results. Josh McCain is speechless when he sees Ruth step off the stage in Folsom, California. Sure, it looks like she's been sleeping in her gown for the past week, but with a crown of riotous curls and those deep green eyes, she's certainly the most beautiful woman he's ever met. But attraction is not all that causes sparks between Ruth and Josh. With Ruth's legitimate claims to an inheritance, the Broken P Ranch's future is suddenly precarious. And when Ruth's "accidents"-going beyond even her normal bumbling ways-seem to take a sinister turn, Josh must decide where his loyalties lie.

My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was an enjoyable book all and all. For those of you who may know the other authors I read and adore, I would say this was similar to reading Mary Connealy. This was my first experience with Cathy Marie Hake and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.



I am not sure if it is the pregnancy hormones or things that need to be done, but I did not zip through this book. It took me a while to read it. When I was not with it, it did not call to me like some books where I think I will go crazy if I do not read the next page. However, I did like it overall.



I laughed, thought about crying, got angry, and snickered too. This story contained a wealth of emotions and a good couple handful of humor. The characters were enjoyable and some detestable just as they should be. I saw clues to what would happen and anticipated the next scene as if it were a film.



Easily, this is a read that I recommend.


View all my reviews.

book data
127 ratings, 4.05 average rating, 30 reviews (more data...)
edit

published
August 1st 2006 by Bethany House

binding
Hardcover, 384 pages

url

isbn
0764202847 (isbn13: 9780764202841)


Friday, March 20, 2009

Obstetrics and Maternal-Fetal Medicine

My little girl was conceived on Thanksgiving night (what were you doing on Thanksgiving? *wink*). When I first went to by OBGYN in December at 6 weeks preggo he informed me that he was retired from Obstetrics (does not delivery babies) and does not see pregnant mothers past 13 weeks. So, I needed a new doctor. Well, just great. (Issue #1)


5 wks 5 days
(Dec 19th, 2008 - She's the white spec at the bottom of my amniotic sac there.)


8 wks 2 days
(January 5th, 2009 - 12.3 mm CRL - head to bum length)


We had been driving a good bit to see him, he is a pro-life, do not use birth control unless you have to, type and was a very strong Christian man, who happened to be Catholic. So he understood, how religion was very important to me. Anyway... I started asking around church for an OB suggestion. Every single person I asked said to go see this one specific Nurse Midwife. So, I made an appointment, and in January she became my caregiver.

My Midwife works on a team. Four ladies, two MDs certified specialists of Obstetrics, the Nurse Midwife, and a Nurse Practitioner. Love the midwife! Really like one of the doctors. Have not met the other. And met the NP today, and like her too.

My first visit in January, (late January) the ultrasound (u/s) was inconclusive for the nuchal translucency, so they suggested I go see this Specialist to get a full opinion. Okay. (Long story short, google nuchal fold if you have more questions, but could be an indicator of a chromosomal abnormality such as Down's Syndrome).


10 wks 4 days (January 21st)

My first visit with the specialist, (later January) love the sonographer! She's great! Finger prick, sent of to lap, and u/s. Imagery suggests baby is fine. Specialist doctor is a complete jerk. (Issue #2) Wait on blood work.


10 wks 6 days
(January 23rd - see her feet!!)


Two weeks later (early February). The lab rejects the blood work and says that the baby was the wrong crown/rump length and their form had asked for an age rather than a length. Either way, I am brought back in for another u/s and finger prick. Not a big deal really, except the charge me again a specialists co-pay of $25. Ugh. (Issue #3) I tell them I do not think that is fair, and they basically say, pay it.

12 wks 4 days
(February 4th - head on left, white face)

Blood work in (mid-February). Jerk doctor calls and says my 1 in 7 chance just went to 1 in 10,000. Odds are great! But there is still a second part of the test.

Must come in to check growth. Great appointment, get a suggestion of baby's gender.

15 weeks
(February 20th - head on right, see face, spine and legs!)

(Mid-March). Go back for second part of test. U/s looks great. Confirm it's a GIRL!!!! They send me to a lab for a few tubes of blood. I tell them that I am confused since the finger pricks went to a different lab. They tell me they know what they are doing. Uh. Ok. (Issue #4) So I've been in the office for two hours (see a nice funny doctor). (Issue #5) Then head across the office complex to the lab. Wait forever at the lab. The sonographer (not my favorite gal - different one) did not fill out all the info on the form so the lab has to call with questions. *sigh* (Issue #6) Get blood drawn and finally go get lunch!

18 wks 5 days (March 19th - head on left, itty bitty nose and tiny ear! Here she was sleeping with her hands up behind her head on the left side in a prayer position. - Not shown - but her ankles were crossed Indian style too. *sigh* My modest little angel.)

Today, well mid-March was yesterday. Today I go to my normal OB for an u/s that was suppose to surprise my DH with the gender. Well, the sonographer says, "So this is your second U/s". And I say, well no, kinda like my fifth I think. Then we talk about the specialist. She says if I'm seeing the specialist, I do not need to see her. I tell her that I told the office that when they made the appointment and they said I still do. She goes and gets the NP, who says it was an error. (WHY DID YOU MAKE ME GET UP EARLY TO COME HERE WHEN I HAVE BEEN IN A DOCTORS OFFICE ALL "YESTERDA"Y!?!?!?!) (Issue #7) So, no u/s today, and canceled the appointment for next weeks. Listened with a Doppler. Answered a few questions and said, "See you in four weeks." Great. So my huge surprise of letting DH see what baby was was squashed and I had to just tell him and that lost a huge amount of the excitement. Then he races back to work and I go home feeling rather deflated. (Issue #8)

After being home for like two hours, the specialist's sonographer called (the one I like). She says, "Sorry, we made a mistake. You went to the wrong lab. You have to come back and do it again at the other lab." (Issue #9) I tell her I said that yesterday and they told me they knew what they were doing. (Issue #10) She apologized. So then I drive back to the specialist (not in the town I live in BTW). They do not have the "tools" to draw the blood, so I have to go to the hospital across the street, have Outpatient Lab draw the blood, then the sonographer will go get it and send it to the lab. (Issue #11)

I go. I am suppose to give blood, then the sonographer come pick it up. The hospital says I cannot do that. (Issue #12) We have to call and have them talk to the sonographer, who tells them whatever she said. They then tell me they'll charge me a fee, but let me take the blood. (Issue #13) I say will insurance cover it? I'm not suppose to be charged, they say sure. Then! They say that they have to fully register me, ugh. Some of my paperwork was still in the system from Dec 19th 2007 (ask me later if you want more details from my ER visit) so it was not as painful as it could have been. But then!! They charge me $21.10 for a puncture fee. (Issue #14)

Let me explain. I am having two small tubes of blood drawn. This time from my right arm, because yesterday they did my left. There will be a lab fee for the lab that we send the blood to. There was a co-pay yesterday for seeing the u/s, having blood drawn, and the doctor. There is a delivery fee on getting the blood to the lab from the office. All is covered except the miserable co-pay. Now. The hospital is charging a puncture fee, unrelated to any other and not acceptable to the insurance. They do not even attempt to file it to the insurance (because the insurance knows they are money grabbing jerks! - do not get me wrong, the ladies were all very nice, it's the policies that faulty). So I pay. Ugh. I give blood. Ugh. I drive back across the street to delivery my (already clotted I might add) blood to the sonographer. I say, dude they charged me. Both the front desk girl (very nice) and sonographer agree they should not have, (especially since the other lab did not! outside of insurance). So now, they tell me to call the "Billing Specialist Manager". (Issue #16)

Woohoo! I call, she is in a meeting. I leave a message. Great. Now, I can ask her about that double co-pay charge. They are continually messing up and charging me for it. (Issue #17) QUIT IT!

When we first went to the specialist it was suppose to be in, yes problem or no problem and out and over with. Now I see them about every two weeks (Issue #18) (get a specialist co-pay every time I might add!!) and now they say they have to see me in four week to get the results of this blood draw and to take another u/s to check the femur length (we're a little on the short side, um, hello have you taken a look at my femurs?!? - I have a long torso and short legs). Then four weeks after that (most likely) they'll see me again. QUIT STEALING MY MONEY! I ask, well after we got rid of the nuchal fold enlargement theory, why am I still here? Blood I understand, but the other tests? They say they must check for everything, because I will be angry with them if my baby is "with issues". Um. I just do not want to come back. I am not going to sue some doctor's office, because they missed something. Things happen. Babies are born. Perfect or not, I'm keeping her. So, leave me alone!

Well.. We'll see you in four weeks. Awesome. April 16th at the specialist and April 17th at the OB. Fabulous.

Note: Yes, I am complaining. Most of the staff have been really nice people which completely helps in the situations. (Oh, and I have not even told you about the incorrect filing of insurance stuff. HAH! Another time perhaps, or email me for more... lol) I love this baby. I am having this baby. She'll be perfect even if she is "with issues", hah. I never thought all this would be easy. I am quite certain it could be much worse. I just feel like ranting. This is my blog. Hence, I rant.


Here, she waves "Bye bye!" (14 wks 6 days)


FIRST: Katt's in the Cradle by Ginger Kolbaba and Christy Scannell

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:


Katt’s in the Cradle: A Secrets from Lulu's Cafe Novel

Howard Books (February 3, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHORs:




Ginger Kolbaba is editor of the award-winning Marriage Partnership magazine. An experienced columnist and public speaker, she lives in Chicago with her husband.

Visit the author's website.



Christy Scannell is a college instructor, freelance editor and accomplished writer who lives with her husband in San Diego.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (February 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416543899
ISBN-13: 978-1416543893

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Meet the Pastors’ Wives of Red River, Ohio

Lisa Barton is an at-home mom with two kids: Callie, sixteen, and Ricky, fourteen. Her husband, Joel, has pastored Red River Assembly of God for nearly five years. Lisa’s parents pastor the Assembly of God in nearby Cloverdale.

Felicia Lopez-Morrison’s husband, Dave, pastors the First Baptist Church. They have one child, Nicholas, who is five and in kindergarten. Once a high-powered public relations executive with a top national firm, Felicia now works from home for the company’s Midwestern clients. The Morrisons came to Red River three years ago from Los Angeles.

Mimi Plaisance is a former teacher who now stays home with her four children: Michaela, eleven; Mark, Jr. (MJ), nine; Megan, six; and Milo, fifteen months. Mark, her husband, is senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.

Jennifer Shores is married to Sam, pastor of Red River Community Church, where she is the church secretary part-time. They have been married twelve years and have one adopted daughter, Carys, who is eleven months old.

Chapter 1

Lulu’s Café

Tuesday, March 18

12:05 p.m.


“I can’t believe it!” Felicia Lopez-Morrison waved as she ricocheted through the tables, heading toward her three friends seated in their usual booth in the back right-hand corner of Lulu’s.

“Did you hear the news?” she asked breathlessly, sliding into the seat next to Jennifer, who pushed her leather purse against the wall and scooched over to give Felicia room.

Mimi laughed. “You mean about the scandal?”

“Who hasn’t heard?” Jennifer leaned over and gave Felicia a side hug.

“When Dave told me, I thought he was kidding,” Felicia said. “Kitty hasn’t even been in the ground a year.”

Lisa nodded. “Well, Norm was probably just lonely. He needed the companionship.”

“Then buy a dog,” Jennifer suggested. “Of course,” she said, getting tickled, “then people would talk about dogs and a Katt living together!”

The women groaned.

“It would have to be for companionship.” Felicia shouldered Jennifer playfully. “He just met the woman. He couldn’t love her, could he?”

“From what I heard,” Mimi said matter-of-factly, “she’s more like a girl.”

“Ladies!” Lisa smiled but looked a little uncomfortable.

Jennifer knew Lisa was construing this turn as gossipy. Sweet Lisa, Jennifer thought, looking at her friend, seated across the table from her. Always taking the high road. You’d think after four years of us all being friends, we would have picked up some of her good traits.

“Well, well.” A loud, brassy voice interrupted Jennifer’s thoughts. Their plump, gruff-sounding waitress, Gracie, was standing over their table, pulling out the order pad from thewhite apron strapped around her ample thighs. “Glad to see little Miss Señora made it today.”

Felicia pulled back in mock offense. “Hey, I’m only five minutes late!”

“Yeah, yeah.” A slight smile crossed Gracie’s face. She jutted her chin out toward Felicia. “I’m likin’ you without all the high-and-mighty outfits and shoes and whatnot.”

Everyone at the table laughed. Felicia spread her arms in show and bowed her head, as if accepting a standing ovation. Gracie threw back her head and guffawed.

Felicia certainly had changed in the last year she’d been working from home, Jennifer recognized. Her silky black hair, once curled and neatly laying across the top of her shoulders, was now pulled back in a ponytail. And her high-powered business suits and designer shoes had been replaced by a black pair of jeans and a mauve hoodie sweater. Jennifer glanced under the table—Well, her boots are still designer, she thought good-naturedly.

“I like you girls.” Gracie pulled a pencil from behind her ear. “You’re always the highlight of my every-other-Tuesday.”

“Well, thank you, Gracie,” Mimi said. “And you’re ours.”

“All right, enough with the chitchat,” Gracie said. “Are we all having the regulars?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jennifer and the others chimed in.

Gracie harrumphed. “I don’t know why I keep taking out my order pad and pen for you all. OK, PWs, I’ll be back with your drinks.”

Jennifer watched Gracie plod off to her next table of customers several booths toward the front of the café. Jennifer really liked their waitress—and knew her three friends did too. Underneath all Gracie’s gruffness lay a heart as big as an ocean. And it was Gracie who had given the women their official group nickname—the PWs.

When Jennifer, Mimi, Lisa, and Felicia had started secretly meeting at Lulu’s nearly three years before, Gracie had been their waitress. She’d overheard them talking about God and their churches, figured out that they were all pastors’ wives, and nicknamed them. She’d gotten a big kick out of the fact that the women—all hailing from the southwest Ohio town of Red River—would drive forty miles out of their way every other Tuesday to nosh and chat in this little nothing-special dive. Although the PWs never had explained to Gracie that they met that far from home to avoid nosy townsfolk and church members overhearing their business, their now-seventy-year-old waitress hadn’t taken too long to figure out what was going on.

Now Gracie ambled slowly behind the front counter to the rectangular opening between the restaurant and the kitchen. She pounded a bell sitting on the ledge and yelled, “Order in!”

Felicia unfolded her paper napkin and laid it on her lap. “I just can’t believe it,” she mused, shaking her head. “Norm Katt remarried. To a woman half his age.”

“Whom he just met,” Mimi reminded everyone.

Jennifer pulled her eyes from watching the cook grab their order ticket and start to read it. Gracie had interrupted a very important news-sharing moment, and Jennifer didn’t want to miss any of it.

“And did you hear her name?” Mimi asked.

“Allison.” Lisa shook her head, looking as if she were trying to suppress a laugh. “Ally.”

As if in chorus, the women said, “Ally Katt.”

“Does the man never learn?” Felicia laughed. “First, he marries Kitty. And now Ally.”

“Oh, if they have children!” Jennifer said. “They could name one Fraidy.”

Felicia nodded. “Twins, of course, would be named Siamese and Tiger.”

“Of course.” Jennifer smiled.

“You all are so terrible!” Lisa pushed back her thick, reddish-brown-highlighted hair and fluffed it.

Mimi sighed and patted Lisa on the arm. “Oh, we all know it’s just in fun. We really don’t mean anything by it, do we, ladies? But you do have to admit, it is funny.”

Lisa rolled her eyes and shook her head as if to say, You silly kids. “Has anybody seen her?”

“Not that I know of—I mean, except for their church,” Jennifer said. “I guess Norm and his new bride only came back to town a couple weeks ago.”

“Well,” Mimi said, “that kid’s got a tough act to follow. As much as Kitty drove us all crazy, her church adored her. Wonder how they’ll take to a new pastor’s wife?”

“I don’t know,” Lisa said. “But they’ll definitely talk. I hope she knows what she’s gotten herself into.”

“Did any of us know that when we married pastors?” Mimi asked.

Lisa smiled. “I guess not.”

“I sure didn’t!” Jennifer said, thinking back to when she and Sam married twelve years ago. She had been attending the church as a relatively new Christian when Sam arrived on the scene as pastor. “Being a church member and being a pastor’s wife are two entirely different things.”

“I didn’t marry a pastor,” Felicia said. “If you recall, I married a businessman, who decided several years into his career that he was called to be a pastor. I didn’t get that vote.”

Gracie walked toward them, carrying a tray of drinks. She set it down on the edge of their table. “I’m getting too old for this. Can you believe they still make me carry my own trays? And my shoulder all messed up from that fall back in December?”

Gracie had taken a tumble on some ice outside Lulu’s one evening after work several months back and hurt her shoulder and hip.

“Is that still bothering you, Gracie?” Felicia asked.

“I still go to therapy for it, but you know those doctors. You can’t trust ’em.” She handed Mimi a glass of milk and passed Lisa an iced tea. Felicia grabbed the remaining two glasses, each filled with Diet Coke, and handed one to Jennifer.

“Hey!” Gracie said. “You trying to deprive me of my hard-earned tip?”

“Sorry!” Felicia joked. “But you know I’m working from home now. I need all the money I can get.”

“Well, you’d better find a better table. These girls are tighter than a duck’s behind with their money.” She pulled four straws out of her right apron pocket and plopped them in the center of the table.

“I’ll be back.” She winked, then pulled up the tray against her chest and trudged away.

“Can you believe it’s been a year since Kitty died?” Lisa tore the paper off her straw and crumpled it before dipping the straw into her drink.

“I know,” Jennifer said. “I kind of miss her. All the snarky comments about how insignificant our churches were compared to hers. The patronizing tone. The condescending looks.”

“I’m serious!” Lisa said. “It was tragic.”

“I know.” Jennifer sipped her soda. “Believe me, I wish she hadn’t died. It wasn’t a piece of cake for me—going through that miscarriage and being considered a murder suspect in her death—all in the same weekend.” There I go again, making everything about me, she told herself and inwardly winced.

Felicia rubbed Jennifer’s back. That was sweet, Jennifer thought, realizing her friends remembered how difficult that time in her life had been. She’d wanted that baby so badly. And to suffer a miscarriage, have an all-out argument with Kitty, threaten her, then have her up and fall down a ravine and break her neck…. It had been devastating.

“Let’s be honest.” Mimi dabbed at a trace of milk at the corner of her mouth. “We didn’t like her. She didn’t deserve what happened to her. But life has been calmer and more sane and relaxing since she’s been—”

“It was a year ago yesterday,” Felicia said. “St. Patrick’s Day weekend. At the pastors’ wives’ retreat.”

“That reminds me!” Mimi brightened and reached under the table. She pulled up her large purse/diaper-bag and dug into its depths. In her hands appeared two shamrock-and-cross-covered eggs that were the brightest kelly green Jennifer had ever seen. She laid them on the table and reached back in, producing one more. “From Megan. She wanted me to make sure to give these to you. We combined two holidays in one—St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, since that’s this weekend.”

“Carys will like this.” Jennifer picked one up and set it on top of her purse.

“I wonder what she looks like?” Felicia took another of the eggs and placed it by her drink.

“Who?” Lisa asked.

“Norm’s new wife.”

“I wonder if she’ll come to the next pastors’ wives’ meeting at New Life next month?”

“I already called and invited her. She’s coming.” Lisa tore into a packet of sugar and dumped it into her tea.

The table fell silent as Jennifer, Mimi, and Felicia all stared open-mouthed at their friend.

“What?” Lisa asked.

She really doesn’t know, Jennifer realized.

“You’ve been holding out on us, girlfriend!” Mimi said.

“Spill it,” Felicia said.

“What? There’s nothing to tell, really.” Lisa fidgeted a little in her seat. “I called her last Friday. We didn’t talk that long. I just congratulated her on her wedding, welcomed her to Red River and to being a pastor’s wife, then invited her to next month’s meeting.” She looked around the table. “OK. She did sound young . . . and very perky. And . . . she giggled a lot.”

Jennifer, Felicia, and Mimi eyed each other knowingly. Yep, this is going to be a fun meeting next month. How in the world did Norm go from hard-edged, superior Kitty to an early twenties cheerleader?

“Wonder what Kitty would think?” Felicia asked.

Lisa shrugged. “I’d hope she’d be glad that Norm found someone who loves him and is going to take care of him.”

Before Jennifer could say anything, Gracie arrived with their food.

“All right, PWs, quit your yakking and help me unload this thing.” Gracie pulled the first plate off the tray and handed it to Mimi. Mimi looked at the tuna melt and strip of cantaloupe and passed it on to Lisa. Jennifer’s was next with her chicken strips and fries. Then Felicia took her Caesar salad. Last was Mimi’s hamburger.

They got their food situated, passing the ketchup and salt, then Felicia offered grace.

Mimi shoved a fry in her mouth and savored it. “I love Milo, but I gotta tell you, it’s nice to eat a full meal without messy little fingers showing up, grabbing something on my plate.”

Felicia poured the dressing over her salad. “I know what that’s like. Oh, the peace and quiet—and adult conversation!”

Jennifer smiled as she thought of eleven-month-old Carys doing that same thing. But her thoughts drifted back to Kitty and the week following her death. Jennifer had been considered—although not officially—a murder suspect and had had to endure the detectives following her around, treating her like a criminal, until they determined Kitty’s death had been an accident.

“Remember last year when those detectives were following me around?” Jennifer asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

With their mouths all full, the others could only nod and say, “Mmm-hmmm.”

“Well, it’s happening again. At least I think it is.”

“What?” Mimi half-choked and plopped her burger onto her plate. She pounded on her chest with her fist as if trying to move the meat down her esophagus. “Detectives are following you around?”

“I don’t know who it is. But I keep seeing this black town car everywhere I go. Just glimpses of it, really. But . . .” Jennifer knew the whole thing sounded crazy. And verbalizing it made it sound even more outlandish. Maybe I’m just making this up. “Never mind. It’s . . . probably nothing.” She tried to laugh it off. “Just my overactive imagination. You know, with all the sleep deprivation and everything.”

“Oh, yeah, I can relate,” Mimi said. But she tilted her head toward Jennifer. “You OK? I mean, if somebody is following you . . .”

“Why would somebody follow you?” Felicia asked.

“That’s just it.” Jennifer swirled her chicken strip in a sea of barbecue sauce. “I don’t know. I can’t think of one plausible explanation.”

“Maybe it’s a church member trying to dig up dirt on you.” Felicia smiled and patted Jennifer’s arm.

Jennifer laughed. “No, that would be Lisa with that problem.”

Lisa lifted her napkin to hide her face, then let it droop just below her eyes. Wide-eyed, she looked around the diner frantically. They all laughed, but Jennifer knew Lisa was trying to put up a good front. Lisa had lost fifteen pounds in the last six months, and the sparkle in her hazel eyes had lost its shine. Poor Lisa. God, take care of this situation at her church. They don’t deserve this. They’re good people.
“What’s going on with your church?” Jennifer asked, partly to take the focus from her, and partly because she hadn’t heard the update in a while.

Lisa dropped the napkin back to her lap and shrugged. “Same old, same old. At least Joel is still the pastor—though I don’t know for how much longer. He’s meeting with the head troublemaker next week to confront him.”

That’s not going to be easy. Although Jennifer and Sam had had their share of church member issues, they’d never gone through major conflict, as Lisa and her husband, Joel, were now. She ached for them.

Lisa continued. “I just wish . . . you know, if these people are so upset, why do they cause such trouble? Why not just leave? Why make it into a huge power struggle?”

“Because—” Mimi leaned over until her shoulder was touching Lisa’s—“and you should know this better than any of us, Miss Assemblies of God, this is called spiritual warfare. The enemy doesn’t want the church to be vibrant and powerful in the community. He’d rather take down a church from the inside out than have it succeed.”

“Oh, sure, look at it from a spiritual perspective, why don’t you?” Felicia smiled gently.

“It’s hard to do that, though, isn’t it?” Jennifer asked. “Especially when the hurt is so physical and emotional.”

“Well, sweetie, you know you’re in our prayers.” Mimi wrapped her arm around Lisa and squeezed.

Lisa just nodded and looked down. Jennifer could tell her friend was embarrassed, because she’d quickly wiped at her eyes.

“How are things in your life?” Jennifer asked Felicia, trying to take off some of the pressure from Lisa.

“Actually, can’t complain right now.” Felicia swirled around some more dressing in her salad but didn’t look anyone in the eyes. “My clients are happy. I mean, there are challenges working at home. Mostly because everybody thinks that since I’m home, I’m, you know, sitting around watching Dr. Phil and just waiting for someone to put me to good use.”

“Oh, yes.” Mimi laughed. “Been there. Everybody thinks that we live to serve, huh? OK, well, we do, actually—at least that’s what my kids tell me—but still!” She laughed again.

“So that’s been a bit of a challenge. But other than that, things are . . . good.” Felicia held up crossed fingers. “Enjoy the peace while I can, right?”

Jennifer waited to see if Felicia would say any more. She got the sense something else was going on with Felicia but knew her friend would speak up when the time was right.

Lisa must have thought the same, because she turned to Mimi. “And how about you? How’s Dad doing?”

“Awwk.” Mimi rolled her eyes. “As ornery as ever. One of the conditions for Dad staying with us is that he’s supposed to attend his AA meetings. He’s still attending, but he’s also still drinking. He does it on the sly, like he thinks we don’t notice. I don’t know what to do, honestly. We can’t kick him out; he’s got no place else to go.”

“Where’s your mom?” Felicia asked.

“She’s down in Kentucky, staying with her sister. She’s definitely not interested in taking him back. And I don’t blame her. Life with my father has never been easy. But when he ran off to California with that woman . . . I can’t say I’d take him back either, if he were my husband.”

“So instead,” Jennifer said, feeling a little bitter, “you, the daughter, have to take him in and parent him.”

Mimi half-chuckled. “Yep. My sister made it clear she wasn’t interested. So I’m it.”

“Doesn’t that tick you off?” Jennifer said.

“Sometimes, yes. But you know, I’m the responsible one.” She tucked her short, blond hair behind her ears—something she did whenever she was stressed or frustrated about something. “Plus, Mark and I have been trying to look at it from a spiritual perspective. He’s my dad—and he needs the Lord.”

Just like my mother. Jennifer tried to push the thought aside.

“Is he going to church with you yet?” Felicia asked.

“No, that’s one thing he refuses to do. But we keep working on him. It’s really cute to see Megan reprimanding him about not attending.”

Jennifer could picture Mimi’s precocious six-year-old giving her grandfather a lecture about loving Jesus and getting saved.

Gracie reappeared and dropped the check on the table. “Here’s your parting gift, ladies. Hope you have a good week and those preacher husbands of yours treat you all right.”

“Hey, how’s your sister doing, Gracie?” Lisa asked as Gracie started to turn away.

Gracie grimaced and a shadow crossed her face. Jennifer knew Gracie’s sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago and had gone through surgery and chemo.

“Not good. She just went to the doc last week. It’s back and vicious.”

“I thought she had it beat,” Jennifer said.

“We thought so too, but when she went in for a checkup, they found it. It’s in her bones and I don’t know where all.”

“Oh, Gracie, we’re so sorry.” Mimi touched Gracie’s hand. Gracie squeezed it and held on.

“Oh, Gracie,” Jennifer murmured.

“That’s terrible,” said Lisa.

Felicia just shook her head, her face heavy.

“I’m flying down there to Florida next week to be with her,” Gracie said. “So I guess I won’t see you next time.”

“We’ll be praying for your sister—and for you,” Lisa said.

Gracie nodded and let go of Mimi’s hand. “I know you will. If God hears anybody, I know it’s you four women. Pray hard, will ya? Maybe he’ll take pity on an old, crotchety woman and her sister.” She winked, then turned and walked slowly away.

Jennifer and the others looked at one another but didn’t say anything for a moment.

“I had no idea.” Felicia’s eyes followed Gracie as she tended to her other customers on the other side of the restaurant.

“She didn’t let on at all that something was up,” Mimi said, looking amazed at how well Gracie had covered up her pain.

“Maybe we should pray for her and her sister right now,” Lisa suggested.

Jennifer and the others agreed. There was no better time and place to pray.



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