Wedding Day

Wedding Day
Enjoy EVERY moment in your wedding gown. You can't stay in it forever...SO UNFAIR!!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Review - Testimony by Anita Shreve


Thank you to Valerie from Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to review Testimony by Anita Shreve.

Description (from the back cover):

Enter a world upended by the repercussions of a single impulsive action.
At an exclusive New England boarding school, a sex scandal unleashes a storm of shame and recrimination. The men, women, and teenagers affected - among them the headmaster, struggling to contain the scandal before it destroys the school; a well-liked scholarship student and star basketball player, grappling with the condequences of his mistakes; his mother, confronting her own forbidden temptations; and a troubled teenage girl eager to put the past behind her - speak out to relate the events of one fateful night and its aftermath.

My Review:

Testimony is set in a small Vermont town that is the backdrop for an exclusive private school. The story of the scandal that involves students of this boarding school is told through the eyes of many of those involved personally and peripherally. Each voice brings the reader a different perspective on the scandal and eventually the reader gets a clear picture of the steps to and from a tragedy.

This was an easy read in the fact that it was well written and moved smoothly from one person's point of view to the next. There were a few moments that I felt didn't need to hone in on Mike so much, but for the most part I would say that it made the story more real. Testimony was also painful to read, because there was no denying what a tragedy this was and like so many tragedies, it could have been avoided. Certain conclusions happened that I expected but still held out hope would not come to pass.

Testimony was a strong reminder for me of how important it is to communicate to your family that you love them. That no matter will be there. Maybe I saw that because I am a mom of a teenage boy. Testimony did not just cover the act that was the scandal but the path to a scandal, and the sad path to the aftermath. I do not think this was the book's purpose, but it is a good purpose.

Testimony is a reminder of how one incident can honestly change a life.

How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph

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:

How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Linda Massey Weddle is a children’s author and regular contributor to publications including Women’s Day and Christian Parenting Today. She develops Bible-based curriculum for young people and has been involved in children’s and youth ministry for the past twenty years. She has two grown children and six grandchildren and resides in suburban Chicago.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765318
ISBN-13: 978-1434765314


I n t r o d u c t i o n

A Journey Worth Planning

For parents like you…in churches like yours…this book is practical guide for a child’s spiritual

development—a journey in which parents and churches work together to raise kids who know, love, and serve the Lord.

Much of the vision and purpose for such a journey is discussed in my friend Larry Fowler’s book, Raising a Modern-Day Joseph. The book you hold in your hands—How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph—focuses more on the practical side of that. It gives parents a workable plan for putting this vision and purpose to work in their everyday family life.

No Guarantees?

Like Larry’s book, this one is needed because we’re in the midst of a crisis. The statistics stagger us as we read about, hear about, and see young people walking away from their faith.

We surprised that this could be happening, since after all…

• our churches provide nurseries, Sunday school, vacation Bible School, Awana, youth ministries, and every other kind of kid or youth program imaginable.

• our children’s ministry curriculum is more entertaining, colorful, and professional looking than ever before.

• the market is flooded with “Christian” action figures, mugs, pencils, wallpaper, wallets, posters, linens, T-shirts, and toys, many decorated with clever “Christian” sayings.

• radio stations play Christian music twenty-four hours a day, and television channels broadcast a never-ending selection of messages from both local churches and polished, smooth-talking televangelists.

And here’s an even tougher dilemma: Why does a kid from one home walk away from the Lord while a kid in another home stays true to Him—yet the families in both homes have attended the same church, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, Awana clubs, etc.?

What happened? What’s the difference?

Before going further, I need to say this:

No plan,

no curriculum,

no humanly written book,

no pastor,

no teacher,

no parent…

can absolutely guarantee that a young person will not walk away from what they’ve been taught.

God works with His people individually, and each individual must make the choice to trust Christ as Savior. Each one chooses to walk with the Lord or to walk away from Him. After all, even with the first two kids we read about in the Bible, one had a criminal record.

The absence of such a guarantee is due to sin.

Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised,

being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

(Galatians 3:22)

So yes, unfortunately, children don’t come with guarantees.

But God’s Word does come with a guarantee: If we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior,

believing that He died and rose again, we’re promised…

• the forgiveness of sin (bridging the separation between imperfect people and a perfect


• eternal life.

• a future in an unimaginably perfect heaven.

That’s some guarantee!

No, we as parents don’t have guarantees, but we do know that children who grow up in strong, Christ-centered homes—where God’s Word is both taught and lived—are more likely to live godly lives as adults.

But lets take a glimpse at what’s typically going on in many families.

A Church and Pastor Problem?

I grew up as a preacher’s kid, and as an adult became a preacher’s wife—I know firsthand how often the preacher and the church get blamed for parental failures.

I remember one Sunday morning after the church service when my husband was shaking hands with people filing out of the auditorium. Suddenly a mother stormed into the lobby, yelling and visibly upset. She said her son had been knocked over by other boys in the parking lot.

My husband’s first reaction was to call an ambulance, but the mom said that wasn’t necessary; her son just scraped his knee. “But,” she shouted, pointing to my husband. “This was your fault.”

“Why?” he asked. He could see our own two kids talking with friends nearby, so it wasn’t them who had knocked down the woman’s son. So why was this his fault?

“Because it’s your church,” the lady screamed. “And so they’re your responsibility.” (Well, that wasn’t true either; the church belongs to the people.)

But that true story is a picture of what many people do spiritually.

Just as many parents leave the physical well-being of their children up to the church (the drop-them-off-in-the-parking-lot syndrome), so many parents do the same with their children’s spiritual well-being, training, and guidance: Drop them off in the parking lot and let the church do the nurturing (whether or not the parents are even in the same building).

Maybe you feel this way too—at least to some extent. After all, you make sure your children go to church for every kids’ activity possible, so you figure the church’s pastors, teachers, and leaders are covering that spiritual training part of your kids’ lives. You’re busy doing other things, like working long hours to provide for your family, which is your responsibility.

Deep inside, you hope those people at the church are doing it right. And if your kids walk

away from the Lord someday, you’ll certainly have something to say about the church’s failure,

since spiritually raising your kids is their job.


Well, no!

From the Start

Let’s review some essentials of what the Bible says about the family.

The Family Is the First Group God Created

The family came before towns or countries, and before churches, youth programs, basketball

teams, or Facebook. God immediately created the marriage partnership—in fact, by the second

chapter of Genesis, God had already established marriage:

For Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:20-22)

And already by the fourth chapter in Genesis, we learn about children.

The Family (Marriage Partnership) Is a Picture of Christ and the Church

Paul says it this way:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:21–27)

Family “Rules” Are Listed Throughout the Bible

Here’s an example:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18-21)

Family Members Need to Encourage Each Other

Paul pointed to family encouragement as a model for the entire church:

But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11–12)

The family has the primary responsibility in the spiritual training of children. But families also

need the church to come alongside them to nurture their kids, to provide Christian friendships

from likeminded families, and to give complementary spiritual training. (We’ll look at all that

more closely later.)

Someone Who Knew, Loved, and Served God

The goal of Awana (the ministry I serve with) is to train children and youth to grow into adults who know, love and serve the Lord. We’ve come to see that this is also an outstanding goal for parents in training their children.

And as a biblical example of a young person who grew up to know, love, and serve the Lord, it’s hard to beat Joseph in the Old Testament. Not that he came from a perfect family.

Most children know about Joseph. They know he received a unique coat from his father—and our perception of that is a knee-length coat with rainbow-colored stripes. But why would grown men (his older step brothers—see Genesis 30:1-25) care about their little brother’s multicolored coat? The Hebrew word here for “coat” refers to a full-length tunic—sleeves to the wrist, the hem to the ankles. This was the style of coat worn by rich young men. They didn’t have to work (they had slaves or servants to do that), and they had a position of honor both in the home and in the community.

Joseph’s full-length coat was probably made of white linen, with bands of colorful embroidery as trim. By contrast, working men wore looser fitting, shorter garments so they could climb over rocks and take care of their sheep—they needed to move quickly and not be hindered by long clothing. So the brothers weren’t jealous of the colors of Joseph’s coat, but rather the implied position Joseph held in wearing such a garment.

Joseph lived in Hebron. The word Hebron means “community” or “fellowship.” Joseph had fellowship with his father, but this wasn’t a family who had a lot of fellowship with one another. I don’t think dinnertime conversations were leisurely discussions about the price of sheep feed or the Hebron weather.

The truth is, Joseph came from a dysfunctional family. This is obvious when you read in Genesis 30 about the intrigue involving his mother, his mother’s sister, their servants, and drugs (mandrakes—which were seen as narcotics or aphrodisiacs). Rachel and Leah were both jealous women who were willing to have their servants lie with Jacob so they could win the who-can have-the-most-sons race. And when Rueben brought home some mandrakes, Rachel desired them so much she was willing to “sell” Leah a night with Jacob to get her hands on them.

This of course isn’t part of the biography we read about in Sunday school, but these events are worth noting here. Out of this mess, the Lord brought Joseph, a young man who never wavered from the assurance that God was with him; a young man with a true heart-desire to know, love, and serve the Lord.

We know that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he ended up in Egypt. We know he quickly gained power and influence in Potiphar’s house, then quickly lost it when fleeing the temptations of Mrs. Potiphar. Yet even when put in prison, Joseph knew God was with him, and he remained faithful. Later, because he interpreted the king’s dream, he was made a VIP and placed in charge of the entire land of Egypt. In that position, he was able years later to publicly forgive his brothers.

Through it all, Joseph concluded that it wasn’t his brothers who sent him to Egypt, but God. God had a plan for him, and Joseph listened to God and fulfilled His plan—something he was later able to testify about to his brothers: “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).

Joseph’s life in particular reflected five godly character qualities—we’ll call them “master life threads”— that were woven into the very being of who he was and how he lived his life.

• Respect for the awesomeness and authority of God (Genesis 39:6-9.

• Wisdom for living life, based on a knowledge of God (40:5-8).

• Grace in relationships with others (41:51-52).

• A sense of destiny and purpose that came from God (45:4-10).

• A perspective for life based on the sovereignty of God (50:15-21).

These master life threads are also desired characteristics in the lives of our own children—as they learn to know, love, and serve the Lord.

We know that Joseph knew about the Lord. God was the God of his father, Jacob. As Joseph’s life continued in surprising new situations—as head of Potiphar’s household, as a prisoner, and finally as the man in charge of all of Egypt—he continued following the Lord. Over and over in the biblical account of Joseph’s life, we read that the Lord was with him, as in Genesis 39:21: “The LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”

We know that Joseph loved the Lord because of the way he lived his life, refusing to be drawn into the temptations of a rich and powerful household, and because of his exemplary forgiveness toward the brothers who had wronged him: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:19-21).

And we know that Joseph served the Lord—by making righteous choices, by administrating the seven years of plenty, and by giving food not only to the people of Egypt but to other countries as well. As the famine intensified, and “the people cried to Pharaoh for food,” Pharaoh responded, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you” (Genesis 41:55).

Modern-Day Josephs

What Christian parent wouldn’t want their child to grow up to be a modern-day Joseph—a young person who reflects those five master life threads, and who knows, loves, and serves the Lord?

For many parents (and maybe this includes you), their children are already becoming Josephs. They do excellent jobs spiritually nurturing their children. They daily teach their kids God’s Word by guiding them toward recognizing the need to trust Christ, praying with them, reading the Bible together, encouraging Scripture memorization, explaining difficult words and concepts and talking about the qualities of the Christian life. Then they live out God’s Word in everyday life. They take their responsibility seriously.

Then there are other parents simply don’t think about their child’s spiritual training. These parents flounder through life, not learning much themselves about what the Bible actually says, and they couldn’t begin to explain the difference between Genesis and Galatians. Yet they’re law abiding citizens and church-attending Christians. They figure their kids will turn out okay. After all, they get their kids to Sunday school and even sent them once to a Christian summer camp.

But the majority of Christian parents are somewhere in the middle. They desire to be spiritual nurturers of their children, but they don’t know how. They might be intimidated that they might not say the right words. (What if my child asks me to explain eschatology or something?) Or they don’t know where to find a plan that shows them how to be a spiritual nurturer. (They may not even realize they should have a plan).

Furthermore, you probably know some adults who grew up without any spiritual nurturing in the home, yet who are now pastors, missionaries, church leaders, or shining witnesses in the secular workplace. The Lord used someone besides a parent to mentor that child, or gave the child a desire for Bible study that transformed her into someone who truly wants to know, love, and serve the Lord.

Goal and Plan

If our destination for our children is having a child who develops Joseph-like characteristics—knowing, loving, and serving the Lord—what’s the itinerary or plan for that journey?

The lack of such a plan often becomes the roadblock in our children’s spiritual development—and getting past that roadblock is what this book is all about. This book is not a step-by-step itinerary, but more of an atlas where you pick and choose which stops to make in your own family journey—because we know all families are different, with different schedules, different interests, and different personalities.

Our desire is to give your family (and your church) ideas—lots of ideas for helping to spiritual nurture your children. But as the parent, you need to devise the route.

It’s a plan that involves both parents—and the church as well.


The father is the head of the house and the God-ordained leader of the home. Dads and moms need to work together to spiritually raise their children.

A spiritually strong dad will…

• pray with his children.

• lead the children in Bible study and worship.

• take an interest in what the child is learning at church.

• teach his children Bible verses, Bible concepts, and Bible truths.

• discuss challenging questions, cultural events and concepts with his children.

• model a Christlike attitude in his daily life.

Unfortunately in too many homes, Mom is by herself in doing all of this. Dad might drive the family to church, but he doesn’t take any real responsibility in the child’s spiritual development.

If you’re a father, know this: God has given you a job to do. Your responsibility is to do it. You can’t expect your child to grow into a God-honoring adult when he sees you ignore the Bible, find every excuse possible to avoid church, and live a life that’s inconsistent with what God says in His Word.


Children need both parents involved in their spiritual training, and that’s the basic scenario presented throughout this book. It’s a sad situation when Dad is faithfully living for the Lord, but Mom doesn’t want any part of it.

Mom needs to be an active part of the praying, teaching, discussing, and modeling too. For example, sometimes Mom’s the one who spends a half-hour before or after school helping her children work on a memory verse, and when Dad gets home, he can enthusiastically listen to the children recite the verse. This is a joint effort. Both parents are huge influencers.

You might be a single mom and already feel defeated because you don’t have a husband to help you out. You can still teach your children from God’s Word and live an exemplary life. In your situation, the partnership of the church may be more important than usual. Hopefully your church has good male role models teaching younger children, so your children can profit from a masculine influence.

A good example of one parent spiritually training a child is that of Eunice and her son Timothy (2 Timothy 1:4-5). Eunice did have the help of her own mother, Timothy’s grandmother, but she didn’t have any help from her unbelieving Gentile husband. Timothy’s mom and grandma taught him the Old Testament Scriptures and exemplified godly lives. When the apostle Paul came along and taught Timothy about the Son of God and His sacrifice on the cross, Timothy was ready to trust Christ as Savior. Timothy became Paul’s son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2), and Paul recognized of the foundation which Timothy’s mom and grandma had laid.

Many single parents do great jobs in spiritually training their children. If you’re a single parent, or your spouse isn’t interested in God and His Word, you need to surround yourself with likeminded adults who can give you and your children support and encouragement.

Fitting into Your Schedule

When, where, and how do we spend time spiritually training our children?

The following verses from Deuteronomy give clear instruction that our entire daily lives should provide teaching opportunities to spiritually train our children:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)

In a real sense, spiritual training in the home is ongoing and never-ending. It’s really a part of everything you do.

But we also need to set aside specific times when we come together as a family to pray, honor, and worship the Lord and to study and memorize His Word. Some families enjoy singing or playing instruments together. Others read a page from a devotional book.

One teenager said, “Our family wasn’t musical, so that wasn’t part of our activities. But we did other things, such as making rebuses of Bible verses.”

You might set aside a time each day for spiritual focus—at the breakfast or supper table, or before bed. Or you could plan family nights when an entire evening is dedicated to a lesson, an activity, and a special treat. (Be careful you don’t present the activity as more important and fun than the lesson. Bible study can and should be a great experience.)

Maybe your family’s schedule is so complicated that you can’t have a regular set time for spiritual focus, but you can still conscientiously meet together as a family to pray, worship, and learn about the Lord.

A couple considerations in all this:

• Sometimes families are diligent in having family devotions, but that’s the only time their children hear about the Lord. Because Dad prays and reads a page from a devotional book, he feels he’s taken care of his spiritual leadership responsibilities. Five minutes later, the children hear him swear when opening the gas bill, or see him confront a neighbor because the neighbor’s dog messed up the lawn. What he verbally taught is negated by the way he lives his life.

• Families are different. One guy diligently teaches his kids from the Bible, helps them with their memory verses, and consistently lives a godly life, yet he feels guilty. He knows of another family that spends thirty minutes of concentrated training at the supper table each night, but his irregular work schedule doesn’t allow him to do that. He is, however, doing a great job. We need to focus on our own families, not on what someone else is doing.

We as parents need to work together to develop the itinerary for our own families, keeping

our eyes on the goal of raising children who know, love, and serve the Lord.

Your Church

Whether large or small, your church is your best partner in raising your children.

In fact, the size of the church doesn’t really matter. Mega churches have the money and staff to provide exciting programs for both parents and children, and those programs can be good. But smaller churches can be better at giving a child a sense of security, family, and nurturing that you don’t always find in a larger church.

So church size isn’t important. What is important is the attitude of the church and the pastor toward kids. Does your church leadership really care about kids? Do they see the value in children’s ministry, and provide necessary resources to spiritually disciple children? Do they occasionally visit children’s or youth ministry times to give the lesson, answer questions, or simply greet the children or youth? Do they make an effort to learn the names of the kids, or do they know your three teenagers (who have been attending the church since birth) only as the Hansen kids?

If your church doesn’t see the importance of encouraging families, maybe you could be the catalyst to begin the initiative.

After this book’s Part One (which focuses on giving parents specific age-appropriate suggestions for their child’s spiritual development), Part Two will focus especially on practical ways the church can partner with you in this task. Be sure to explore what’s presented in Part Two, and become familiar with ideas of how churches and families can work together.

Planning Your Family’s Spiritual Journey

The ideas in this book are suggestions. No parent can do everything, just as no church can do everything either. Our goal is to give you plenty of ideas to help get you started and keep you going.

So let me lay out what you’ll find in each chapter in Part One, which is especially geared for you as a parent. (Keeping the journey idea in mind, most of these components have travel-related labels.)

Life Threads

Each chapter targets a different stage of a child’s life, and will focus on an appropriate life thread

(reflecting a quality that Joseph displayed in his life).

Here are these life threads for each age category:

Preschoolers (ages 2-5) Respect

Early Elementary (ages 5-8—kindergarten to second grade) Wisdom

Older Elementary (ages 8-11—third through sixth grades) Grace

Middle School (ages 11-14—seventh and eighth grades) Destiny

High School (ages 14-18—ninth through twelfth grades) Perspective

At the beginning of each chapter, you’ll find listed again the life thread to focus on for that stage in your child’s life.

By the way, if you’re looking at this list and thinking, “Great, but my child is already twelve years old!”—that’s okay. Yes, you’ve missed some prime training opportunities, but you can catch up. Review the sections for preschoolers and elementary age children, and teach the principles to your child using explanations and activities appropriate for a twelve-year-old. Instead of regretting what you missed, focus on the present and look to the future. These concepts are good for all ages—including adults.

What They’re Like

Early in each chapter, this section lists ten characteristics about that particular age category. Understanding these characteristics will give you a great head start in helping your child grow spiritually.

What They’re Asking

This section in each chapter lists the kinds of questions that kids in this age group typically ask about God and the Bible. You’ll also find suggested answers to a few of the questions.

These questions came from a “Biggest Question Survey” sponsored by Awana. A few years back, we asked 4,000 children and teenagers, “What’s your biggest question about God and the Bible?” These children and teenagers all had some Bible background (though, after looking at their questions, we surmised that some didn’t remember much of it). Then we determined the most-asked questions for each age group.

But don’t stop with reading what other kids have asked; ask your own children for their biggest questions about God and the Bible.

What You Can Do

In this section of each chapter you’ll find a wealth of practical suggestions for what you as a parent can do to help in your child’s spiritual growth in each stage. This begins with a short section about helping your child make the all-important decision to trust Christ as Savior.

Bios and Verses

Here you’ll find appropriate Bible biographies and Scripture memory verses to explore and learn with your children.

(At Awana, we substitute the word “biography” for “story” to emphasize that what comes from the Bible is true and not fictional. We explain that a biography is a true story about someone.)

What Not to Do

Sometimes we hinder more than we help. Each chapter includes this section where you’ll find common errors to avoid in each stage of your child’s life.


Each chapter also includes a checklist of basic attainments to look for in your child’s spiritual development.

Family Itinerary

Finally, the section in each chapter labeled “Family Itinerary” is a worksheet to help you develop your plan and goals for your child’s spiritual journey in each stage.

Here are a couple of samples of completed itineraries from two families, one with younger children and one with teenagers:

A Sample Itinerary for a Family with Young Children

Our spiritual goals for the year are:

1. Teach Emma and Jacob that God created the world.

2. Teach Emma and Jacob that God loves each one of us.

3. Teach Emma and Jacob that the Bible is God’s book.

4. Teach Emma and Jacob that Jesus is God’s Son.

5. Teach Emma and Jacob that we’re to obey God.

Our family verse for this year is:

Genesis 1:1

We’ll also study the following six additional verses (one every two months) about God and His character:

1. Psalm 33:4

2. Proverbs 3:5

3. Matthew 28:20

4. Romans 3:23

5. Ephesians 6:1

6. 1 John 4:14

We’ll also study the following six Bible biographies (one every two months):

1. Adam

2. Joseph

3. Heman

4. Josiah

5. David

6. Christ’s birth

We will also do a more extensive study on this person in the Bible:

Heman in 1 Chronicles 25:5–7. We’ll learn how he and his family sang in the temple. We’ll learn a song together and sing at church.

Here are other activities our family will do together to learn about Bible characters:

1. We’ll watch a series of DVDs on Bible characters (a set we were given that’s factual).

2. We’ll visit Grandma and Grandpa and look at their pictures they took in Israel.

3. We’ll study Josiah and other Bible characters who served God even though they were young.

4. We’ll do several crafts using natural materials from the outdoors as we talk about God’s creation. These will include leaf-tracings, pictures on sun-sensitive paper, and drying flowers.

5. We’ll teach Emma and Jacob to identify five birds and five flowers, explaining that

they were all created by God.

Here are some themes for family fun nights we would like to do this year:

1. We’ll build a birdhouse together and learn about ten birds in our area of the country, and we’ll talk about creating a wonderful variety of birds.

2. We’ll make a mural for the basement wall of David watching his sheep.

3. We’ll invite Grandpa and Grandma to family night so they can hear Jacob and Emma say their verses.

4. We’ll make a book of all the different Bible biographies Jacob and Emma have learned at church this year.

5. We’ll visit the zoo.

6. We’ll make cookies for the lady down the street who’s homebound.

Our family has completed this year’s family itinerary and met our spiritual goals.

(Signed by each family member)

A Sample Itinerary for a Family with Children in High School

Our spiritual goals for the year are:

1. Study the book of Ephesians together.

2. Encourage Andrew and Amanda to teach and mentor their younger siblings.

3. Discuss biblical worldview and what that means as Andrew and Amanda head off to college.

4. Have open, honest discussions about difficult cultural issues.

5. Encourage Andrew and Amanda to write down any questions they may have about God and the Bible and to work through those questions as a family.

6. For Andrew and Amanda to serve by singing and playing guitar at the rescue mission once a month.

Our family verse for this year is:

Joshua 24:15

This year we’ll do the following family research project:

On creation. The project will culminate with a week at creation camp this summer.

We’ll memorize this chapter from the Bible:

Ephesians 2

We’ll read (either as a family or individually) the following books:

1. Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

Our family service project this year will be:

Serving at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Our family has completed this year’s family itinerary and met our spiritual goals.

(Signed by each family member)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke

My Review: I am up in PA right now, and the computer I am on is a little slow. In order to make sure this tour is posted, I am going to post my review when I come back. I will say this...this book was a fun getaway for me. :)

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:

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing: A Novel (Va Va Va Boom Series)

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Allison Bottke spent 17 years as a professional fund-raiser before her personal journey prompted her to create the best-selling God Allows U-Turns anthologies. Now a popular speaker and author of hip-lit fiction as well as nonfiction, Allison was one of the first plus-size models with the Wilhelmina agency. Today, she has created a place where fun, fashion, food, family, and faith merge to empower and inspire boomer women all around the world. That place is her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799492
ISBN-13: 978-1434799494


Susan Anderson yawned and mumbled an incoherent complaint. She tried to focus heavy-lidded eyes on the glowing chartreuse numbers of the digital clock. Six a.m. She rolled onto her side and picked up the ringing cell phone, wishing she’d shut it off the night before. This was her day off, the one day in seven she could stay ensconced in her luxurious bed, wrapped in Egyptian cotton like a mummy princess. The one day in seven she could snuggle with her hubby when he came home from working the night shift.


“Slow down, Karen,” Susan whispered hoarsely. “I understand you haven’t been to sleep yet, but I’m still waking up, okay? Now, start from the top. Who’s Tina?”

Stretching like a limber feline, Susan propped her pillow against the headboard and slowly sat up, her eyebrows knitting together as she listened. Her eyes opened more fully as she listened to Karen’s amazing tale.

“… that’s the whole story. I’m afraid she’s going to do something drastic. Please, you have to help her. I know you don’t work Mondays, but you’re the only one I know who might be able to do something.”

Susan leaned her head back and yawned again as she considered.

“Susan? Susan, are you there?”

“Still here. Sorry. Okay. I need coffee and a bagel, but you can tell her to meet me at the salon at seven.”

“Seriously? Fantastic! You’re a lifesaver!”

Susan hung up the phone, rolled onto her stomach, and buried her face in her pillow. Part of her wanted to go back to sleep. But the rest of her loved a challenge—and this was truly a challenge. Although dull moments were few in her world, so were new ventures these days—at least ventures of the dramatic magnitude Karen had just described.

She pulled back the covers and eased up on the edge of the bed. Absentmindedly tucking a strand of ash-blond hair behind her ear, she considered her options for another minute or two before reaching for the phone.

“She works hard for the money, so hard.…”

“Stop singing, Loretta—please. It’s too early for Donna Summer, even for you. I hate caller ID.”

“Heretic—bite your tongue! It’s never too early for Donna. And you should love caller ID. It’s the only reason I always answer your calls.”

Susan laughed. More than a dependable employee, Loretta Wells was a good friend and a sister in faith. She was also the reason Susan could take Mondays off. Loretta was more than capable of handling things without the boss. In fact, she’d been Susan’s right hand for almost twenty years.

Every Monday morning before opening the salon at seven thirty, Loretta had coffee at the Starbucks just off Tropicana Boulevard. Susan knew she could depend on her to rise to this challenge, cut her Starbucks run short, and get things ready for Tina before she arrived.

Susan explained what little she knew about what she’d dubbed as Tina’s Tragic Trauma. “You don’t mind coming in early?” she asked.

“Are you kidding? Sounds utterly fascinating. Don’t worry about me—what about you? I don’t think I’ve seen you on a Monday in more than a decade. Think you can function?”

“Very funny. I’ll be just fine. See you in forty five.”

She flipped the phone shut, grabbed a notepad and pen from the bedside table, and scribbled a note to leave downstairs for Michael on her way out. Her husband wouldn’t get home until eight, about the time she was usually getting ready for work. He wouldn’t be happy with her for taking off like this on their one day together, but what could she do? This young woman needed her.

She recalled the most recent argument she’d had with Michael about this very subject.

“You’re a hairdresser for crying out loud—not George!” he had shouted into the phone last week when she called him from the salon at 2:30 a.m.

George was their neighbor, a psychologist who was on call for police emergencies twenty-four/seven.

“You wouldn’t say that, Michael, if you had seen her. The creep used a butcher knife to cut off her hair. I couldn’t say no. Michael, you should have seen …”

“What if he had showed up at the shop? What then? He might be outside waiting for you right now. Maybe I should come over and follow you home …”

“No, Michael, I’m fine. I’m sure he’s not waiting for me. He doesn’t have a beef with me.”

Susan didn’t tell him she had worried about the same thing when the girl showed up, referred by a friend who ran a shelter for battered women.

“I’m sorry I called,” she said with a sigh. What she had really wanted to share was her excitement at being able to pray with a young woman who was openly searching for an answer to the unexplainable emptiness in her heart.

“Me too,” Michael grumbled. “Now, get out of there and go home. I’ll stay on the phone while you lock up.”

That had been several days ago, and they had yet to talk about the situation again. She wasn’t exactly eager to bring it up—not with the way Michael had been acting lately. His sixtieth birthday loomed on the horizon, and Susan was quite certain he was having a delayed midlife crisis. She was hard-pressed to feel sympathetic. She was turning fifty in April, and she wasn’t snapping at everyone about every little thing.

Susan didn’t start thinking about Tina’s Tragic Trauma again until she was in the shower. What if she couldn’t help her? Lord, I’m almost embarrassed to bring this to you. I mean, I know it’s just hair. But what if Karen isn’t overdramatizing the situation? Surely someone wouldn’t commit suicide over a bad hair day, would she? Please help me help Tina. Amen.

Hurrying to get dressed, she pulled her thick hair back in a ponytail and wrapped a vintage Chanel scarf around her crown as a headband. She brushed her teeth, stroked on moisturizer, and applied her makeup in record time even though she’d been tempted to go without it, since her goal was to return home in a couple of hours and jump back into bed.

She quickly straightened up the bathroom for Michael, knowing he would take a shower as soon as he got home. When she finished, she sat down at her laptop and sent a quick e-mail to her online chat group. Then she checked herself one last time in the hall mirror and headed out the door.

From: Susan Anderson (

Sent: Monday, January 9, 6:43 a.m.

To: Patricia Davies; Mary Johnson; Lisa Taylor; Linda Jones; Sharon Wilson

Subject: You will NEVER believe this … story to follow

Good morning fellow boomer babes!

I’m off to work early … seems we have a Hair Emergency. I’ll fill you in when I know more. Can’t believe it’s only week two of the new year. Things haven’t slowed down at the shop … we’ve been operating full tilt since before Thanksgiving. Guess I shouldn’t complain … business is good. Hope everyone is healthy and happy.


Looking around the casino on his way out that morning brought Michael Anderson a bittersweet feeling. He liked his job, and every day yielded a new challenge. Yet, after thirty-five years, he was beginning to consider early retirement. The past night had been another busy one, and he was tired from walking the length of the property countless times as one mechanical problem after another surfaced. The Silver Spur was one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas, and time was beginning to take its toll.

Of course, mechanical problems were easier to deal with than the inevitable people problems his wife seemed to encounter on a daily basis. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like for Susan, standing in one area, doing the same thing day in and day out. It must drive her crazy. It drove him crazy sometimes, just hearing about it.

“I love it, Michael, really I do,” she often told him. And he knew she was proud of her unique beauty salon, Disco Diva. But she had to be as tired of the daily grind as he was. They’d both been at it for so many years.

He couldn’t wait to get home and tell her his news—and this was the day to tell it. Monday was their only full day to spend together. Oh, sure, he saw her throughout the week, but not for long. Most days they were like the proverbial ships passing each other. He came home from the night shift just before she left in the morning, and she woke him when she returned from the salon in time for him to shower, get dressed, eat, and take off for work.

For years, though, they had enjoyed their evening meal together—Susan’s dinner and his breakfast. It was a solid ritual. And there was always something to talk about. Communication wasn’t a problem in their relationship. Having time to communicate was the problem. He’d once computed the time they’d actually spent together in the almost twenty-five years they’d been married; it was far less than the years implied.

And recently, it seemed, things were getting worse. More often than not during the past few months, Susan was already gone when he came home in the morning. And instead of waking him in person in the evening, she had taken to setting the alarm clock for him before she left for the salon.

This was all very unusual for her. He suspected she might be going through early menopause—not that he was an expert on such things. But she was certainly acting strangely these days. She spent more time at the salon than ever and seemed on edge a lot of the time.

That was another reason he’d decided to unveil his surprise a little early. It was time to free her from the growing responsibilities that were clearly taking away her joy.

Time for him to make their longtime dream come true.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Scared: A No vel on the Edge of the World by Tom Davis

This wasn't one of my reads, but I still wanted to share. :)

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:

Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Tom Davis is the accomplished author of Red Letters and Fields of the Fatherless. He also serves as a trainer in leadership development. He holds a Business and Pastoral Ministry degree from Dallas Baptist University and a Master’s Degree in Theology from The Criswell College. He is the president of Children’s HopeChest (, a Christian-based child advocacy organization helping orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa. Tom and his wife, Emily, have five children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589191021
ISBN-13: 978-1589191020


Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa, 1998

Ten years ago I was a dead man.

It all began when Lou, my broker from Alpha Agency, said, “Stuart, how would you feel about heading to The Congo? Time is putting together a crew and needs a hot photographer.”

He asked; I went. That’s how I got paid then. It’s how I get paid now.

My job was to cover a breaking story on a rebel uprising that would soon turn into genocide. Unfortunately, neither Lou nor any of us were privy to that valuable information at the time. We should have seen it coming. The frightening tribal patterns resembled the bloodbath between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. We knew what happened there had spilled over to the DRC – but we ignored it.

Our job was to focus on the story of the moment, whatever we might find. But this was more than a search for journalistic truth. It was an opportunity to win a round of a most dangerous game – the chase for a prize-winning picture.

The plane landed in the capital city of Kinshasa. A man in combat fatigues stood near a large black government car. He was flanked by six armed guards toting fully automatic rifles.

“That must be the mayor and his six closest comrades,” I said to our writer, Mike, as I swung my heavy neon orange bag over my shoulder. “Welcome to a world where you are not in control.” This was Mike’s first international assignment. I swear his knees buckled.

Our team consisted of me; Mike, shipped in from Holland (a lower executive from Time who was looking for a thrill and trying to escape his adulterous wife for a few weeks); and Tommy, the Grip, whose job it was to carry our gear.

“Welcome to the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am Mayor Mobutu.” We introduced ourselves, exchanging the traditional French niceties.

“Bonjour Monsieur.”

“I must go and attend to some urgent matters, but there is a car waiting for you. These guards will take you out to Rutshuru, North Kivu.”

He pointed to a Land Cruiser near the airport building. The mayor’s face carried the scars of a rough life. His right cheek looked as if someone tried to carve a “Z” into it. His left eye was slightly lazy, giving you the feeling he was looking over your shoulder, even when you were face to face.

He turned to me. “You know how dangerous it is here. You are taking your life into your own hands, and we will not be responsible. We keep telling reporters this, but you never listen!” He started to walk away, but turned one more time and wagged his finger at each one us as if we were children. “Pay attention to what these guards tell you, and do not put yourself in the middle of conflict.”

Nobody ever won a Pulitzer by standing at arms length.

“Thank you for welcoming us, sir, and for your words,” I said. “We will keep them in mind.” The guards nodded for us to follow, and we made a solemn line into the Land Cruiser.

It was the rainy season, and on cue an afternoon storm whipped and lashed across the landscape like an angry mob. As we drove in silence, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. We arrived at the village that would serve as our headquarters. Amid the familiar routines of a small community that seemed oblivious to the dangers surrounding them, people who were displaced by violence congregated in huddles hoping for safety.

I snapped off pictures of the scene. Once the children noticed my camera, school was over. They surrounded me like ants on a Popsicle. I had come prepared. I handed out candy as fast as I could, then got back to the business of capturing images of this unsettling normalcy.

The sun hid behind the trees, and darkness enveloped the thatched huts and makeshift refugee camp, swallowing them whole. Our armed guards escorted us into a separate compound meant to keep us safe from any danger lurking in the nearby jungles.

We took a seat on concrete blocks to enjoy a traditional African meal of corn and beans and we laughed about the monkeys we had seen on the road hurling bananas at our Land Cruiser. It was funnier than it ought to have been.

And then it happened.

The crisp pop of bullets battered our eardrums. The sounds ripped through the jungle night and into the village. Then the screams began. Screams that boiled the blood inside my ears.

I dropped, crawled on my belly to the window and slid up along the front wall, craning my neck so I could see outside. A guard across the room mirrored my actions at another window. Everyone else was flat against the ground. As I peered through the rusty barred window, flashes of light pounded bright fists against the sky, the road, and the trees.

Buildings exploded with fire and a woman cried out in terror. Shadows flickered, black phantoms haunting the night. I made out five or six soldiers beating a woman with their boots and the butts of their guns.

She quit screaming, quit moving, and then they ripped the clothes from her broken body. They began raping her. She came to and started to scream again, pleading for help, and they hit her until her screams choked on her blood.

She couldn’t have been more than sixteen.

I turned my head.

The horror of this night was no act of God. No earthquake or tsunami. This was the act of men. Evil men. Demons in the guise of men.

The uncertainty of what might happen next hovered at the edge of an inhaled breath.

The armed guards screamed for us to lay prostrate on the dirt floor as bullets flew through the walls and widows, scattering plaster and glass. I wiped away salty sweat burning my eyes. But the sweat was thicker than it should have been. I tasted it.


Fear strangled the air. Shallow breaths and rapid heartbeats echoed throughout the tiny room. I thought about my last conversation with Whitney.

My last conversation.

Was it my last?

Mike’s hand slid up next to me. His whisper turned my head. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, man.”

Mike shoved his glasses back onto his oversized, pock-marked nose. “This happened to one of my closest friends in Northern Uganda. The rebel militia mutilated everyone and everything in sight. No one made it out alive. No one. These monsters believe in a kind of Old Testament extermination of anything that moves.”

“Thanks for the encouraging words.”

“I always knew I’d die young.”

He reached in his pocked and pulled out a string of wooden rosary beads.

“These were my mother’s.”

“I’m not Catholic.”

“Neither was I. Until now....”

“Shut up!” one of the guards hissed.

Rivers of sweat baptized our faces, our necks, our chests.

Death, real and suffocating, pressed in, driven by the wailing of dying babies, the yelps of slaughtered animals, the screams women being beaten and raped.

My heart raced in rapid-fire panic.

I peered through a hole between a cinder block and a broken windowsill. Rebel troops swarmed like locusts, devouring every living thing in their path.

Mike elbowed me in the thigh. “Remember that story about an African militia group that raped a bunch of Americans? Men, women, children – they weren’t choosy.”

“You have to be quiet,” whispered a guard. He got to one knee, steadying his gun. “Now shut up or I’ll kill you myself.”

A rebel commander yelled something just outside the door. Another shot, and the guard who had just spoken fell dead right on top of me. His blood flowed over my neck and right arm staining my band of brothers ring crimson. The screaming intensified, people ran, yelled, and died.

I scooted against the wall, huddled next to Mike as shots continued to shriek overhead. Plaster exploded and covered us. We tried to make ourselves invisible, curling into the fetal position, wrapping our arms over our heads.

A bullet whined by my ear, missing by centimeters. I crawled face down to the other side of the room, trying to get out of the line of fire.

Then, sudden, deafening silence.

Nobody moved for what seemed like hours. My thoughts milled with the ants of fear, waiting as the silence thickened, punctuated by a moan or a sob. We waited and waited, wondering when it would be safe to stand, wondering if it would ever be safe.

Finally, I gazed out the window, my eyes searching for rebel soldiers in the yellow-orange gloom of smoke. No figures or movement.

“I’m going out,” I whispered to Mike.

He didn’t respond

“Hey, listen. Let’s go man.”

I elbowed him in the ribs.

“Mike!” I grabbed his jacket to turn him toward me. There was a pinpoint crimson stain on the front of his light blue shirt. His eyes stared through me.

I was paralyzed for a moment, not knowing what to do. Then I pulled my camera out of my bag. I picked up Mike’s gear and slung it around my neck.

Outside, the air burned of flesh. Some shadows moved in the distance, but the streets were barren. A few jerking and twitching heaps lined the road and quivered beside the buildings.

Oh, God. Oh, God.

I walked toward the flames. Everything was silent except for a sour ringing in my ears. Something compelled me to enter the destruction, to get closer.

Severed body parts lay before me in a display of such horror I began to heave. A young, pregnant mother crumpled over, lying dead next to a burning haystack. She barely looked human. One leg lay at a right angle, an arm hung loosely from her shoulder, held there by a single, stringy tendon. Her stomach had been sliced wide open, the worm-like contents spilled in front of her, still moving.

There was nothing I could do to help her. Nothing.

I lifted the camera to my left eye. Snap. Snap. Snap. The lens clicked open and closed.

I stepped closer to capture the look on her face. Steam rose from her insides. More pictures. Through the blood and mucus by her midsection I made out a face, a tiny face with eyes closed.

Voices rose over the roofs. Something was happening at the end of the village. Without thought, I raced through the corpses and debris toward the commotion.

The rebel troops had gathered the bodies of all the men they had slain. They were stacking them together in the shape of a pyramid.

As each body was thrown on top of the others, the rebels jeered, spit on the dead, and drank from a whiskey bottle, relishing in their triumph. They shot their guns into the air. Fire flashed around the perimeter. It was a scene from hell.

A man climbed on the roof above the bodies, unzipped his pants and urinated all over the dead. The men slapped each other on the back and laughed.

Another rebel poured some liquid over the bodies.

I adjusted the camera settings and snapped a series of shots as fast as my fingers could click. The fire ignited, a pyramid pyre, and I continued to shoot. I snapped pictures of the dead - men I had seen earlier that day caring for their families - as their faces melted like candle wax. I snapped pictures of the rebels’ ugly glee. And I felt like retching again.

I turned and walked, faster and faster, until I was running.

Each step I took pounded the question: Why? Why? Why?

I raced to the edge of the compound and saw Tommy hanging out the window of our car, frantically motioning me to come. We sped off, the remaining guard driving like a bat out of hell, for it was indeed hell we were escaping. As I turn to look out the back window, I saw Mike’s body crumpled in the seat behind me. Like a rotted rubber band, something inside me snapped. My whole body shook. Sobs came without tears. I only could muster one coherent thought: If we get out of here alive, at least we can send Mike back to his family.

Back to his cheating wife.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Bothers Me Most About Christianity by Ed Gungor

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:

What Bothers Me Most about Christianity

Howard Books (June 2, 2009)


Ed Gungor is the author of the New York Times bestselling book There Is More to the Secret, as well as several other books. Lead pastor of The People’s Church in Tulsa, Gungor also makes regular media appearances and speaks in churches, universities, and seminars nationwide.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416592555
ISBN-13: 978-1416592556



it bothers me that God is intentionally hiding

I believe in God most of the time. But I have moments when I wonder if I’m wrong; times when I have a taste of doubt in my soul. Faith is a tricky business. Those of us who embrace it live our whole lives for someone we’ve never seen, and we believe in things we are convinced of but cannot prove (at least empirically).

This could easily be resolved if God were visible. It bothers me that he isn’t. I mean, come on, it would be such an easy matter for God to appear as God every once in a while, in ways that are undeniable. It would sure clear up some matters and show folks who’s right (I love being right). I especially feel this way when believing in God gets me labeled as a “crazy” by those who claim that faith in God has as much value as belief in the Easter bunny or tooth fairy.

I wish every person could have a peek at God, even if only once before the person dies. I’d even vote yes for people to see God while they are kids and then, when they come of age, to stop seeing him. Then they could wrestle with whether he is real or imaginary. That would be better than his being invisible. But invisible he is, and he’s invisible on purpose.

Judeo-Christian thought has a rich tradition concerning the “God who hides.”1 God loves to hide; he loves to tuck himself so completely into the backdrop of life and creation that many completely miss his presence. Isaiah comes right out and says it: “Truly you are a God who hides himself.”2 The Bible records that after Jesus’ resurrection, he was with two of his disciples who knew him well, yet “they were kept from recognizing him.”3 Jesus’ own disciples had no clue they were walking along the road with the resurrected Christ. He was hiding. God also hid from the biblical patriarch Jacob, who exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”4 God often told Israel, “I will . . . hide my face.”5 The psalmists repeatedly lamented how God was “hiding” from them.6

But it gets worse than God’s hiding his presence. When it comes to his message, he cloaks it in obscurity, making it fairly inaccessible. In one of Jesus’ prayers he said “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned.”7 What’s up with that? Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t get what was going on: “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”8 When teaching the crowds, Jesus would say, “If you, even you, had only known . . . but now it is hidden from your eyes.”9 He claimed, “This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”10 God often hid the meaning of his message from people.

After Jesus departed and the apostles began to teach about faith, they alluded to this conspiracy of hiddenness. Paul wrote, “We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden.”11 The apostle repeatedly called the gospel a “mystery” that “was kept hidden in God”12 only to be “revealed” at a special time to a special group of people.13


Any thinking person has to ask, Why would God hide? If, as Paul said, God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,”14 why would God hide from people or make his message obscure? The whole notion seems counterintuitive. But as I’ve wrestled with this question, here are the best guesses I’ve encountered as to why God functions this way.

Allowing Faith to Be Faith

Perhaps God hides because he has chosen to establish a relationship with humanity through the pathway of faith. In order for faith to be faith, God must remain invisible and unprovable to the senses. If God could be seen as plainly as the sun or experienced as unquestioningly as gravity, faith would not be required. God’s existence would be an undisputed fact.

The pathway of faith insists that relationship with God is a matter of human free will and not forced or involuntary. Faith can only exist in freedom, where we can choose to believe or not to believe. Because God uses faith as the only modality for connection with him, any relational connection between us has to be the result of choice or free will. As I wrote in the Introduction, if we aren’t honest about the tensions in faith, problems emerge.

Christian theology sees God as almighty, all-knowing, and everywhere present; and yet, he respects the right of those he created to disregard him. He only wants authentic relationship with us, so he honors our right to ignore him. Authentic relationships require choice. Forced friendships or shotgun weddings do not constitute real relationships. But the choice to discount God would be impossible if God were visible. Why? Because God’s presence is ubiquitous—he is everywhere interacting with us, in everything from holding creation intact,15 to choosing when and where we would live,16 to causing all the good we know,17 to giving us “life and breath.”18 Only invisibility affords us the choice to ignore God. Because he is invisible, we have the option, via faith, to leap past that invisibility into a relationship with him.

Maybe this conspiracy of hiddenness is like the hide-and-seek game children play. God hides; those who want to find him, look for him. Scripture tells us well over a hundred times to “seek the Lord”19 or to “seek his face.”20 Perhaps the call to “seek” God is a call to this hiding game. It seems that God has rigged the game so that the persistent, dedicated seeker always finds him. God promises to those who seek him, “I will be found by you.”21 Jesus adds, “Seek and you will find.”22 The notion that God is playing hide-and-seek with us is fairly scandalous, yet amazingly brilliant. Maybe this is why faith is partially fun. For me, it’s both bizarre and fun to have a relationship with a Being I have “found” but can’t see.

The Romance of Belief

Another possible justification for why God hides is that faith involves more than the rational mind; it also involves the heart. Whenever you address matters of the heart, you must push past mere intellect. God’s hiddenness requires that faith rest on more than intellectual interaction. Trying to connect with someone unseen messes with your reasoning faculties. To pull it off, you have to plunge deeper into your soul and engage the “what if?” and “maybe” pockets of curiosity within the human heart. Only when this curiosity ascends can a heartfelt “seek” dawn, leading to the heart-transforming “find.”

This rumors the enterprise of falling in love. Boy notices girl; girl notices boy. Eyes meet. Interest rises. There’s often an unspoken hint of excitement. Why? Because there is hiddenness in the mix. The obscure dissimilarities between the sexes elicit curiosity in the person with an open heart, and curiosity is a great motivator for pursuing a relationship. Some won’t go there—it’s too irrational, potentially painful and disappointing—so they face life alone. To be sure, relationships have an intellectual component, but they are not just intellectual. They also transcend the rational mind. By the time a man and woman decide to enter into something as serious as a marriage vow, they have shot way beyond the function of intellect. Their wills, their emotions, their imaginations, the part of them that trusts—all these aspects of who they are must weigh in. One could say that entering committed love involves the whole person. And when you give yourself totally to another person, risk emerges. You wonder: How will it change me? Will I be happy? Will I get hurt? Am I being foolish? Wagonloads of scary questions; lots of hiddenness. But the risk, the irrationality, the uncertainty, the hiddenness make love, love. Same goes for faith.

Something about the love between a man and a woman mirrors the love relationship we are to have with God. Paul claimed that the romantic relationship is “a profound mystery” that speaks of “Christ and the church.”23 Somehow the clues of God’s existence catch our eye, and we suspect he may be real and even reaching out to us. We feel a rush of excitement and anticipation. The idea may have some rationality in it, but it is also submerged in hiddenness, uncertainty, and irrationality. We choose either to keep seeking or to drop the issue. That choice is a critical one indeed.


Though God is invisible, he leaves us clues that point to his existence. He drops hints of his activity all around us. But they are only hints. As you study the biblical record, you see that God loves to spill his life into the world through subtle, almost unperceivable ways. Unless you are actively looking for him, you will most probably miss him.

As silly as it sounds, there is a Goldilocks way in which God sneaks around our world. Let me explain. In the children’s story Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Mama, Papa, and Baby Bear came home one day only to discover that someone has been eating their porridge, sitting in their chairs, and lying on their beds. It wasn’t until the end of the story that they found out it was Goldilocks.

I think God, in Goldilocks fashion, gets involved with our lives before we notice him. As the Creator and Sustainer of all life, he metaphorically messes with our porridge, sits in our chairs, and lies on our beds. Though we can see and feel the results, we don’t get to actually see him till the end of the story. The essence of faith is the human commitment to seek the clues until they lead us to the Hiding One. We may only find him metaphysically or spiritually, but find him we do indeed. James wrote, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”24


What’s provocative about God’s hiddenness is that God doesn’t scatter his clues in the world and then leave it to chance as to whether people will notice them. He guarantees we will. Scripture claims God has predisposed everyone to notice the clues, that on some fundamental level, God has made the clues to his existence “plain to [everyone].”25 On some intrinsic level, God places an internal awareness within every person born into this world that there is something more, something transcendent “out there.” God has rigged the human heart to notice clues that cultivate a suspicion that there is something otherly to be sought and experienced. Paul said that even those who have never heard the good news about God have this inner awareness “written on their hearts.”26 In this way God makes true his claim, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”27

This primitive knowing, however, doesn’t mean we “see” the Hidden One or that everyone understands God in the way Christ revealed him in the Gospels. In fact, a story in the life of apostle Paul demonstrates how people can manifest an intrinsic knowing of the transcendent but not necessarily get the God story right.

Although Christ had never been preached in Athens, Paul said the Athenians were “very religious.”28 The city was full of idols and idol worship. Their religiosity was evidence that God has conditioned all people to believe in something transcendent, and it was an indicator that God has rigged the human heart for faith (at least the kind of faith that elicits a curiosity for spiritual matters). Paul told the Athenians that God has always been with them; that he had “determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”29 Paul was saying, in essence, that God was present and working in their pagan culture before Paul got there with the gospel. But he clarified that this working was incomplete and unclear without the addition of the gospel. He then pointed to an altar, which had been built to an “Unknown God,” and he declared, “I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.”30

Paul is saying that the gospel message he preached was designed to bring clarity to who God is and to give instruction as to how God wants people to connect with him. But notice what else Paul asserts. He claims that whether or not people understand what is going on, God is always working in their lives—he is working in the life of every person, in every nation, at every moment. Many just don’t know it is the God of the Bible who is working. Hence, they co-opt the God activity that touches them into their own manmade religious stories. Paul held that the Athenians’ commitment to religious expression (as confused and false as it ended up being) demonstrated that God was working in them, prompting them so that they “would seek him” and “find him” because he was “not far from each one of [them].”31 Paul claims that all people are wrapped in God’s care, that “in him we live and move and have our being.”32 However, he firmly believed that until Christ is preached, people miss the point and head down false religious trails, while God’s true nature remains opaque and shadowy to them. It is the Christian gospel that brings the religious impulse to fruition and salvation. The true God is found.


If seeing God is off the table, where exactly does faith come from? Why did humans begin to believe in God in the first place? When secularists enter the discussion about the origins of faith, they suggest that the idea of God is a human construct—we made him up. Atheist Richard Dawkins writes, “The proximate cause of religion might be hyperactivity in a particular node of the brain.”33 Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker suggests there may be a “God module” in the brain that predisposes us to believe in God.

Admittedly, both men dismiss faith as nothing more than an impulse across a nerve synapse. Okay. What if one day a scientist discovers that such a module exists? Would that prove God isn’t real? No, it would not. The discoveries of how the brain functions didn’t disprove the scriptural claim that God created humans to reason and think. Wouldn’t finding such a module actually support the biblical claim that God put a spiritual interest or bent within every person? It would not disprove the existence of God; it would simply show us how God has “set eternity in the hearts of men”34 to begin with.

So, what becomes of the thing God set in the human heart—this possible module? That’s entirely up to each person. Paul claimed some people respond with interest and openness to that inner awareness and begin a journey of faith and discovery that is lifelong and full of mystery and surprise. He said others suppress that knowledge because they are interested, not in surrendering their lives to a creator, but in keeping themselves the center of their own universe.35 Paul described this group when he claimed “not everyone has faith.”36

When Jesus was here, he knew that people reacted differently to the clues God placed in the world about the kingdom of God. He knew that while some would respond by seeking more evidence of that kingdom, others would blow off the idea completely. Of this latter group Jesus quoted a haunting song. He said,

We played the flute for you,

and you did not dance;

we sang a dirge,

and you did not mourn.37

In other words, these folks would not respond to the clues left by heaven. In this same chapter Jesus talked about the cities he visited where he did miracles. He claimed that if the same miracles had been done in some of the ancient cities that were destroyed because of their rebellion, those cities would have responded to the message of God. The point? Some respond well to the way God tries to make himself known; others do not.


You and I have to decide what to do with the evidence we see in the world. Because God is invisible, all we see are hints of his activity. Based on those hints, we choose to believe or not believe. Mathematical genius Blaise Pascal, who lived in the 1600s, wrote, “If [God] had wished to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, he could have done so by revealing himself to them so plainly that they could not doubt the truth of his essence. . . . There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.”38

Pascal was saying that people either see or don’t see God, based on the direction of their hearts. So, if you are open to the idea of God, you will notice evidence that will encourage you to continue investigating the possibility of his existence. On the other hand, if you are of a “contrary disposition,” you will only see evidence that satisfies your penchant not to believe in God. This means your view of the world—your way of interpreting the world and making sense of all its varied elements—inclines you toward a particular way of interpreting the evidence about God’s existence. We all operate from a particular worldview. Let me illustrate.

Imagine coming across a man giving an outdoor speech one day in 1863. If you were a Martian, you would probably place little significance on what was going on. You’d likely assume that humans occasionally like to stand on big boxes and make sounds. If you were a child on the scene, you would hope the speech would be brief. After all, adults’ words are always Charlie Brownesque, “Mwa, mwa, mwa, mwa, mwa.” You wouldn’t have gotten much out of it. But let’s say you were a historian from the future. Listening to this speech by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, would have definitely carried special significance for you.

Your point of view, what you think is really going on around you, impacts how you interpret events, what you make of life, and ultimately how you respond to it. So, what in the world is going on? What’s your take? Is there a God? Is he controlling things? Or do things just happen on their own? What is the back story behind the events you see in the world? Your answer often depends on your worldview.

Jesus was praying shortly before his journey to the cross, “ ‘Father, glorify your name!’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.”39

The story claims the voice of God shot out of heaven. Some folks took the view that it really was the voice of God; others took the view that the sound was just thunder, a natural phenomenon. Why the disparity? Differing worldviews. Two people can observe the same evidence and walk away with two different accounts of what is taking place. People shoehorn what they see into the theological or philosophical frameworks they have already bought into. We all come to the party with some presuppositions; no one is exempt.

Some worldviews are based in a belief in God; others are not. Buddhism, Taoism, atheism, Marxism, and existentialism are examples of worldviews that are nontheistic. Worldviews can’t be proven because they represent big-picture ways of interpreting and engaging with the world. The core beliefs of a worldview lie beyond anything resembling final proof.

Because this is the way things such as faith work, Jesus wondered if he would “find faith on the earth” when he returns.40 He wasn’t being rhetorical. Jesus had no guarantee this world wouldn’t go the direction of those in Noah’s day where “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”41 The God who hides takes the risk of being ignored by a race governed by free will.


Our capacity to believe in the notion of God is also shaped by our past. We all come from the land of broken toys, and because we do, we have issues with trust. It’s not that we don’t want to trust, it’s that those in whom we have already trusted have wounded us: parents, friends, siblings, leaders, and so on. It only takes one or two disappointments before our “truster” (the thing that enables us to trust) starts to shut down like a laptop cycling into shutdown mode—it’s still running, but it’s not going to do anything but shut down.

If you have had a horrific past, faith will be more difficult for you. You may not respond to the clues of God’s existence. Don’t be too hard on yourself about that. I think God understands this. I think he’s okay with the doubts that pop up as a result of what we have experienced.

A person who has been sexually or physically abused by a parent is going to find it hard to understand or feel trust or believe in God. It’s not that he or she is not open, it’s that the concept of God has been polluted. Parents always play a significant role in shaping a child’s view of God. (Perhaps this explains the stern warning given by Jesus to parents about how they approach their responsibility as parents—see Mark 9:42.)

History’s most famous atheists—John-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and Karl Marx—all had difficult relationships with their fathers or had fathers who abandoned them or who died when they were very young. Perhaps this is why believing in a heavenly Father never stuck. Faith would have proved very difficult for them. Parents color our view of God.

The good news is that God will help disentangle this and empower a clean, robust faith within a seeking person’s soul. But it will not happen apart from a willingness to struggle through the hurt, confusion, and doubt that such hard experiences foster. In the process, people must refuse to let personal feelings and experiences limit their view of God. Only then will they be able to sort through what God reveals about himself in creation, in healthy relationships with others, and, ultimately, through the sacred Scriptures. Not easy stuff.


God promises that he can be found by anyone, but as we’ve seen, there are some prerequisites. A significant one is a commitment to stay true to one’s inner self—not the mature, self-made, adult self, but the simple, innocent, created-by-God, inner-child self.

Paul claimed that through creation itself “what may be known about God is plain to [everyone], because God has made it plain to them.”42 In order to find the God who hides, we must be honest about the indicators that clearly point to his existence. As children, we had an inner suspicion that there was a God. Every child looks at the wonder of the universe and asks questions like, who made the flowers? or who put the stars in the sky? Children have a remarkable capacity to quickly, innocently, almost imperceptibly, orient themselves toward the rule of God. To the surprise of his disciples, Jesus taught that children are perhaps more capable of receiving and orienting themselves toward the gracious, renewing rule of God than adults are.43 Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”44 As children grow and observe creation, they have a natural curiosity about what is transcendent. What one does with that curiosity is what’s important.

Paul argued that creation has “God’s invisible qualities” on parade in ways that are “clearly seen” and “understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”45 The problem, as Paul saw it, was that “although [people] knew God,” as children, “they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.”46 Somewhere along the way, they lose touch with that inner awareness and wonder about God. Paul claimed people will either stay in tandem with their God-given inner curiosity and continue seeking more evidence about God, or they will ignore it.

So, we interpret the evidence we observe in the world through the direction of our hearts. Jesus revealed the profile of those who are able to “see” the kingdom of God. They are “poor in spirit,” “meek,” “merciful,” “pure in heart,” a “peacemaker,”47 and childlike. Jesus also said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,”48 which means that those who are not pure—those who are too sophisticated to stop and give thanks to God—do not get to see him.

What is the difference between a heart that has the honesty to see God and one that doesn’t? It’s the difference between humility and pride. The Bible says it overtly, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”49 The heart filled with pride will not find God, but those who are humble in heart will. When people are humble, open, and willing to admit their own poverty of spirit, the scales fall off their eyes and they begin to see God at work in their lives. Those with impure hearts, full of pride and self-adulation, form spiritual cataracts that blur their capacity to see God. There are no miracles, no divine interactions; just “thunder.” The position of our hearts has everything to do with whether God ever comes out of hiding for you and me.


There are some strong, very intelligent voices trying to persuade people to not believe in God or religion of any kind. In a pugilistic yet compellingly lucid fashion, highbrow atheists are raising their voices, claiming that faith subverts science, saps the intellect, and has proven to be harmful to our children and society as a whole. They claim faith is an irrational, pernicious, nonintellectual position that results in ignorance, intolerance, oppression, bigotry, arrogance, child abuse, cruelties to women, war, and the like. When you read the arguments this group lays out and look past their use of inflamed language and antifaith prejudice, you get the sense that they are reacting to all the evil that has been done in the name of God.

I can only imagine that this breaks the heart of God. He loves these folks as much as he loves anyone else. The problem is, God has chosen faith as the road that leads to discovery of him, not human wisdom or intelligence. Faith demands a childlike, heart-based openness to spiritual reality. When a person ignores matters of the heart and chooses to believe what seems reasonable, he or she ends up shunning the spiritual. That person will never find God. Scripture says, “God in his wisdom saw to it that [people] would never know God through human brillance.”50 God’s commitment to faith as the pathway to spiritual discovery is clearly seen by his promise: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”51 He commits to this even though it will “shame the strong.”52

It’s not that God hates people who put their intellect first. Not at all. He is the one who gave us our intellectual capacity. It’s that living by reason alone is a self-relying, self-sustaining enterprise, and faith is the exact opposite: it refuses to trust self in favor of trusting in God. In a sense, self-reliance is a rebellion against God. This is why those who hold reason sacrosanct end up seeing faith as folly and want nothing to do with God. Later, in our chapter on eternal judgment, we will see how a person’s direction of trust is carried with that individual as he or she enters eternity. Self-reliant, proud people will want no more to do with God when they see his face than they do now when they don’t. These are the ones John saw calling “to the mountains and the rocks” in the book of Revelation, crying, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne!”53 They don’t want anything to do with God.


When the heart is right, the hiding God will be found. God himself oversees this process. Jesus declared, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” He goes on to say that a person can only have faith when he or she is “taught by God.” He continues, “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.”54 God does not force some to believe while making others doubt. The journey of faith is an interplay between God and the open human heart. Each plays a role.

God teaches about himself in bits and pieces. The secret for getting into this God classroom is simply longing for him, remaining interested and open to the possibility that he is there. Jesus says, “Those who hunger and thirst . . . will be filled.”55 As a person hungers and thirsts, God comes out of hiding. God promises, “You will seek me and find me.” But he adds the caveat that the seeker will only find him “when you seek me with all your heart.”56

God is so committed to the conspiracy of hiddenness that he goes into hyperhiding when people demand physical proof before they will believe. Some of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day came to him and asked, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” Jesus responded, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it.”57 When Jesus was brought before Herod, Herod “hoped to see [Jesus] perform some miracle.”58 Jesus didn’t go there. At the cross folks gathered to see if Jesus would perform a sign that would prove he was who he said he was.59 Again, no proof was forthcoming.

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who end up in hell and pleads with Abraham on behalf of his five brothers. He asks that someone go back to the earth from the dead in order to “warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” But the rich man is positive that the historical evidence is not proof enough. He knows his brothers will not listen unless they have physical proof, so he says, “No, father Abraham, . . . but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” Then Abraham shuts the discourse down by saying, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”60

This story is enormously significant in helping us understand how faith works. Those who won’t follow the evidence in the world that points to God’s existence will not believe anything that would serve as miraculous proof. The problem isn’t with the evidence; it’s with the orientation of the heart.

To make matters worse, if one is reticent about following the clues that point to God’s hiddenness, God goes even more covert. Jesus’ life showed us this: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” So what takes place? Jesus said that in response to their unbelief, God made it so “they could not believe.” Jesus said, “ ‘[God] has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’”61

Let’s say I told you I heard a faint scratching in my ceiling and I believed squirrels had invaded my home. Then I asked you to help me catch them. You could either tell me I was crazy and yell that you need proof the squirrels are really there before you help me look for them, or you could shut up and listen to see if you can hear them. As long as you are screaming, one thing is certain: you will not hear any faint scratching. You will be deaf to the evidence that supports my claim.

The screaming mind of reason or the untrusting heart of the broken soul can preclude people from perceiving the evidence of God in our world. They’re making too much noise. These people focus so much on the natural world for proof that they are oblivious to the evidence that is not seen with the natural eye. And God honors their right to stay in that state.

I’m not sure I get why this happens, and it is certainly a scary notion, but God either enlightens or blinds people’s eyes to his existence in response to the condition of their hearts! If your heart is proud, you will be blinded. If your heart is humble, you will be enlightened. Paul wrote of those who “suppress” what God has made “plain to them.” He said these suppressors “neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,” and as a result, their “thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”62 Paul said because of the direction of their hearts, “God gave them over” to become “fools.”63 In the end, pride destroys a person’s capacity for spiritual hunger and perception.

But then it gets even more complicated. Even when a person is open to following the evidence to God, there is a point where the trail stops cold and the next step is uncertain. The early road of clue-based faith ends in a Thelma & Louise cliff leaping end—dare we go for it? Each person has to make a decision at that moment: Do I turn back or take the leap into the complete unknown? I wish we could follow the hints of God’s existence like a yellow brick road of clues all the way to the face of God. Then God’s existence would be provable to the rational part of our minds. But it isn’t. We can make persuasive arguments for God’s existence with a number of factors (for example, the design of creation, the range of human experience, the longing for transcendence in every person, and so on), but these arguments are not proof certain. We cannot prove God exists like we can prove that 2+2=4. At some point, we must embrace a different kind of faith, one based on revelation rather than clue finding. This kind of faith goes way beyond the interplay of observation and investigation. Revelation comes from the world of the supernatural. The good news is that faith based on revelation ends in an amazing encounter with the living God. But this kind of faith demands a significant leap over reason. Let’s look at that next.

(Better buckle up, Harold.)