Tuesday, March 31, 2009

First Look - Apologetics for a New Generation

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

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Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Apologetics for a New Generation

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2009)


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

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Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736925201

ISBN-13: 978-0736925204



Apologetics for a New Generation

by Sean McDowell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Apologetics Renaissance

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

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

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

Why Apologetics Matters

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

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

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

Strengthening Believers

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

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

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

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

Reaching the Lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologetics for a New Generation

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

The New Apologetics Is Missional

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

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

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

The New Apologetics Influences How We Live

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

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

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

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

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

The New Apologetics Is Humble

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

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

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

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


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

The local church is no longer considered the only outlet for spiritual growth.

Churches must develop relational and community-oriented outreach.

Lay people have to be better equipped to be God’s ambassadors [apologists].

The third point on this list took me by surprise, not because I disagree with it, but because it’s refreshing to hear leaders emphasize the renewed need for apologetics. In the article, Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland church in Longwood, Florida, said, “We need to preach with apologetics in mind, with a rational explanation and defense of the Christian faith in mind.” One of the best ways to counter biblical illiteracy, claims Hunter, is to equip active Christians as teachers, ambassadors, and apologists. Yes! Ministry today certainly includes much more than presenting a case for our hope, but this is one critical piece we must not neglect. The time has never been greater for a renewed focus on apologetics.

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

Chapter One:

A Different Kind of Apologist

by Dan Kimball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanging Out with the Wrong People

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about discussions you have had about apologetics with people in the past six months. How many have been with Christians, and how many have been with those who aren’t Christians yet?

Let me make this more direct and personal:

Who are your non-Christian friends?

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

Who are you praying for regularly that is not a Christian?

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

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

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

Providing Answers Before Listening to Questions

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

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

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

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

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself as a listener in conversations about faith?

What are some of the questions you have been asked as a result of building trust and listening? Would anyone have asked those questions if you didn’t build trust and listen first?

Stockpiling Ammunition or Building Trust

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

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

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

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

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

Consider these questions:

When you are studying apologetics, does your heart break in compassion for the people you are preparing to talk to? Or are you stockpiling ammunition to show people they are wrong?

When you have used apologetics with those who aren’t Christians yet, do you find your tone being humble, broken, and compassionate, or is your tone argumentative and perhaps even arrogant (although you would not like to admit that)?

Critical Apologetics Issues

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

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

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

The inspiration and trustworthiness of the Bible. Everything comes back to why we trust the Bible and what it says about human sexuality, world religions…everything. Why the Bible is more credible than other world religious writings is critical.

Who is Jesus? Emerging generations are open to talking about Jesus but for the most part, they have an impression that He is more like Gandhi than a divine Savior. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to share why Jesus is unique and to provide an apologetic for His resurrection.

Human sexuality. We need to be well-versed in why we believe what we do about the covenant of marriage between a man and woman, about human sexuality, and about sexual ethics in general.

World religions. We must have an adequate understanding of the development and teachings of world religions. I don’t meet many younger people who are hard-core Buddhists, but many are empathetic to Buddhist teachings. Many pick and choose from different faiths. They are often surprised to see that many religions are mutually exclusive.

The Most Important Apologetic

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

First Tour - Deadly Charm

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:

Deadly Charm (Amanda Bell Brown Mystery Series, Book 3)

Howard Books (March 24, 2009)


Claudia Mair Burney is the author of numerous novels and the popular Ragamuffin Diva blog. She lives with her husband and their seven children in Michigan.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (March 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416551956
ISBN-13: 978-1416551959


Rocky showed up at my apartment door with an offer that, in his words, I “no coulda refuse.” Or maybe those were Marlon Brando’s words. I couldn’t be sure. My blond, dreadlocked former pastor slash ex-boyfriend locked me into a stare with those big, brown puppy eyes. He’d puffed out his jowls to utter the Godfather’s most famous line, while grazing his cheek with the back of his fingers—an excruciatingly amiss imitation. I’ve seen newborn babies’ smiles more intimidating.

“You look more like a hamster than a mobster, Rock.”

“Hamsters are cool.”

“But less compelling, you must admit.”

Rocky grinned and wagged his finger at me, “Never underestimate the power of a furry little creature.” He twitched his nose and started making hamster noises.

“Amen!” I said.

I thought of my vicious, former pet sugar glider, Amos. Although he’d become my friend and hero, I had to give him away to another nocturnal creature—otherwise, I’d never sleep again. My husband’s best friend, Souldier, had taken the murderous marsupial. Now Amos happily shreds his drapes.

“Come on in, my not-so-furry friend,” I told Rocky, mostly so he would stop making weird rodent sounds.

I moved aside so he could enter my little slice of paradise: shabby chic meets Africa is what Jazz, my husband called it. Rocky loved my funky, eclectically furnished place, too. He just didn’t describe it as aptly as Jazz did.

Who was I kidding? Rocky didn’t do anything as aptly as Jazz did. I had lost them both six weeks ago, and now here was Rocky, surprising me by showing up at my door like unexpected grace.

“Welcome back, Rocky,” I said. I know how lame I sounded, but I wanted him to know I was glad he’d come no matter what the reason.

He muttered a shy, “Thanks.”

We stood in my foyer exchanging reticent glances until I got bold enough to take a long look at him. I’d missed him so. He wore a typical Rockyesque uniform underneath his white down jacket—khaki pants and a long-sleeved Batman T-shirt. A cupid earring dangled in his right ear. Every year about this time he wore it to remind me to come to the Saint Valentine’s Day feast.

Without thinking I blurted out. “I see you and Cupid are still advertising our—” I bit my tongue. There’d be no “our” Saint Valentine’s Day feast this year for prodigal Bell. “Sorry,” I muttered.

“No problem,” he rushed to say, and then an awful silence descended on us like a cold, grey fog.

When I was still a member of his church, aptly named the Rock House, I never missed the event. Rocky would tell stories of the historical Saint Valentine; we’d eat candy conversation hearts, listen to live music, and share abundant amounts of food and laughter. It was Rocky’s way of making sure the lonely hearts wouldn’t spend the evening alone. There with my church family, not only did I get heaps of love, I could give out some from my meager supply.

That and we always had a chocolate fountain.

What was I going to do now?

I tried not to think about the sting of Rocky kicking me out of his church. I didn’t want to think about anything that had happened six weeks ago. Still, I figured whatever brought him to my door had an olive branch attached to it, and whatever he asked, short of sin, I’d be willing to do to reconcile with him.

Rocky hung up his jacket, kicked out of his Birkenstocks, and headed over to my rose-colored velvet sofa and sat. I followed, plopping down beside him.

“So, what’s the offer, Godfather?”

He stared at me. “Did you gain weight?”

Because I know it’s rude to kill your loved ones, I let that one slide and gave him a polite smile, but I did grab a mudcloth throw pillow and cover my expanding waistline.

“So, what’s the offer, Rocky?”

He gushed in a most un-Godfatherly like way. “I want you to go to a meeting with me. It’s only going to be the way-coolest event you’ve been to in forever.”

I cuddled the pillow and eyed him cautiously. He didn’t mean the Valentine’s Day feast. I braced myself. Rocky’s idea of way cool could get scary. “Can you be a little more specific?”

He didn’t answer. Just reached out and touched my hand, rubbing his thumb across my knuckles. “I really missed you.”

Oh, man. That small gesture—him touching the hand nobody held anymore—that tiny movement had the effect of a pebble in a pond, creating ripples of unexpected sadness that circled out of my soul. Lord, have mercy. I didn’t fling myself at him, begging like a rhythm-and-blues singer for him to keep loving me, to not give up on me, but something in me wished I could.

I didn’t want to marry Rocky, or even date him. He had never been the love of my life. In that moment I simply wanted to banish the nearly incarnate loneliness that had been dogging my heels as a solemn, maddening companion, shuffling me through all those days with no best-friend Rocky.

And with no husband Jazz.

I gazed up at him with my own version of puppy eyes. “I missed you too, Rocky.”

We let a bit of silence sit between us on the sofa like a third and very quiet presence. Our heads hung low. Apparently we both still smarted over our mutual pain of separation.

Minutes passed, our hands still clasped together, but Rocky’s merciful presence soothed my dry soul patches like olive oil.

Thank God. Thank God for every kind soul I don’t deserve in my life who loves me anyway.

“Rocky.” I made my voice as soft and small as a baby’s blankie.

He turned to me, his face as open and vulnerable as that blankie’s little owner.

I squeezed his hand. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

Those puppy eyes shone with the compassion I knew like the backs of my freckled hands.

“I’m sorry for the things I did, too, babe. For the things I said that night.”

“Don’t call me babe.”

He chuckled. “Some things never change.” Again, those gentle peepers bore into me. “Why didn’t you tell me you married Jazz?”

“At the time I didn’t seem too clear on it myself. Things happened pretty fast, and the next thing I knew, I was a wife.” I paused, the weight of that statement shifting just a bit since Rocky had shown up to help bear my burden. “He’s mad at me.”

“Duh-uh. You were kissing your blond boy toy.” He nudged me with his tattooed arm. “What’s going on with the two of you now?”

“I’ve seen corpses on Carly’s autopsy tables more involved than our marriage.”

I wondered if I’d ever get over what I’d lost with Jazz.

“I can only imagine what his parents think of me. I guess they’d say I’m the nightmare that took his ex Kate’s place.”

He regarded me with the care and concern I’ve seen him lavish on the fortunate souls he counseled as a pastor. Rocky may be only twenty-seven years old, but he’d been a pastor for two years. Two good years. He didn’t have the life experience an older pastor would, but God had given him an extraordinary shepherd’s heart.

“You’re not a nightmare,” he said. “You jumped into a marriage with no spiritual or emotional preparation.”

Like I, the clinician, needed him to tell me that.

I sighed. “Yet another psychologist heal thyself thing.” I looked away from him, guilt gnawing at me. “Maybe Jazz and I just aren’t meant to be, Rocky.”

“Have you talked to him?”

I shrugged. “Just once. He came over for a few minutes on Christmas Eve. I let him know I wanted him in a way I knew he’d understand. And then I waited. He never came back.”

“Why didn’t you go to him?”

“The same reason I didn’t come to you. I wanted to give him some space to feel whatever he felt and then to decide on his own.”

“But, maybe he’s not like me, babe.”

“Ya, think? And don’t call me babe.”

“Maybe he needs you to help him decide. Like, some extra reassurance or something.”

“That’s crazy, Rock.”

“It’s not so crazy, babe.”

I took back every nice thing I’d just thought about him. What did he know? Yes, he pastors a church of more than two-hundred members. He did missions work. He had a shepherd’s heart. He took pastoral counseling classes in seminary, but, honestly! His voice sounded just like Patrick’s on Sponge Bob.

Rocky glared at me. “Babe. . . .”

“Don’t call me babe.”

“Babe! You gotta go to him.”

“But he yells. Sometimes he cusses like a fish wife.”

“What’s a fish wife?”

“I don’t know, but my great-grandmother used to say that and it stuck with me. Maybe only females cuss like fish wives. Maybe he cusses like the fish.” Now I sounded like Patrick!

“Fish don’t cuss.”

“Okay, I know I should have reassured him.”

He sighed. Looked at me with those eyes. Squeezed my hand. “Will you ever let anyone love you?”

“People love me, Rocky. My sister. My secretary. Sasha.”

“I have doubts about Sasha.”

I thought about that and chuckled with him. “You may be right. My mother has done a few things that make me wonder. Now I’m really depressed.”

“I want to see you happy.”

“I want to see you happy, too. Speaking of which, how are you and Elisa?”

He grinned, reddened, looked away.

“What? Did you marry her in six weeks? My goodness!” For the first time, I didn’t feel jealous that someone was interested in Rocky. Well, not much.

“No. I’m not married. I’m . . . .”

“You’re what?”

“She’s really special, but it hasn’t been that long since she left creepy cult dude. I’m not sure I should be involved.”

“How involved are you?”

“I’m involved, babe.”

“You’re in love?”

He wouldn’t say anything, but his goofy grin spoke for him.


He nudged me, “Cut it out, babe.”

So, Rocky was really in love. Wow. I always knew it would happen, but I didn’t realize I’d still have the teensiest bit of pain knowing he’d moved on from me for good. I could see a flower of astonishing beauty blossoming between them when I saw them together, even though it nearly killed me at the moment. But God knows Rocky deserved the biggest, juiciest love he could find. He needed to look beyond the non-existent us. And he still calls me babe.

“Just take it slow, Rock. Trust me. The cost of moving too fast is astronomical, even if you are in love.”

I could tell he didn’t feel comfortable talking to me about Elisa. I decided to let their love blossom without my tending, pruning, or pulling up weeds. I got back to the business at hand. “Are you ever going to tell me what your offer is?” I eased into the lush upholstery of my sofa.

Rocky’s face lit up. Honestly, if that guy had a tail to go with those puppy eyes, it’d be thumping my sofa with joy.

“It’s gonna be awesome, ba— I mean, Bell.”

Apparently our little chat about Elisa made him correct himself.

“You think everything is awesome, Rocky.”

“I don’t think everything is awesome.”

“You said my Love Bug is awesome. You said Switchfoot’s new CD is awesome. You said my new zillions braids are awesome, and you said the ice-cream at Cold Stone Creamery is awesome.” Okay, the ice-cream at Cold Stone happened to be awesome for real. Lately I’d craved it like the blind crave sight.

“But, babe . . . ”

There he goes again. Honestly! A holy war couldn’t make that man stop calling me babe.

He went on. “Those things are awesome.”

“God is awesome, Rock. Awesome meaning the subject inspires awe, as in reverence, respect, dread.”

“You reverence your tricked-out VW Beetle,” he said, “And I respect Switchfoot, especially Jon Foreman, and your way-cool, African-goddess hair inspired me to get dreads.”

I stared at him. Comments like these coming from Rocky tended to render me temporarily speechless.

He filled the silence with his proposal. “I want you to go see Ezekiel Thunder with me.”

My eyes widened. Electroshock therapy wouldn’t have given me such a jolt. “Ezekiel Thunder?” I screeched. I jerked up from my slouch. I’d heard the un-right reverend wanted to hit the comeback trail, taking his miracle crusade with him.

Rocky gave me a wicked grin and settled himself smugly into the soft folds of my sofa. He knew I’d left Thunder’s particular brand of Pentecostal fire many years ago and had no desire to go back.

Rocky bobble-head nodded, as if his physical movement would affect a change in my attitude.

“Stop all that nodding!”

“I’m just trying to encourage you.”

I did not feel encouraged.

“It’ll be fun,” he said, blasting me with the full puppy-eyes arsenal. Oh, those eyes. Powerful! Mesmerizing! Like a basket full of cocker spaniel puppies wearing red ribbons. I could feel myself weakening.

“Rocky, that meeting will torture me. It will torture you!”

“No, it won’t. Ezekiel is my friend.”

“Your friend?”

“He led me to Christ.”

“Ezekiel Thunder led you to Christ?”

“I told you I came to Christ at a Bible camp.”

“Yes? And?”

“It was a Sons of Thunder Bible camp. I’m a Thunder Kid!” He beamed with what I hoped wasn’t pride.

“You never told me that!”

Honestly! You think you know somebody! He was my ex-boyfriend for goodness’ sake. We’d talked about marriage. I couldn’t believe I had no idea he was close friends with the infamous Ezekiel Thunder!

“You can be kinda judgmental about guys like Ezekiel.” He went on. “I didn’t mean to upset you or trigger bad memories of your tongues-talking days.”

“Then don’t ask me to go see him.”

“He’s a different man. He and his family want to buy a house in Ann Arbor. He’s living at the Rock House house until one comes through for him. ”

“God forbid!”

“He needs support. People to show up and cheer him on.”

“Cheer him on? We should stop him!” Had Rocky forgotten that Ezekiel Thunder had fallen as hard as many of his televangelist contemporaries in the eighties—and for a tawdry little tryst with a young intern? May it never be!

“How hard would it be for you to sit there and listen? Maybe say a few prayers for him.”

“God bless you as you do that for him.”

“I was there for you, supporting Great Lakes Seminary when they were struggling and going to lose their building. I did it because of how much you love Mason May.”

“Rocky! That’s not even comparable. Mason is a fine theologian training good men and women for powerful, effective ministries. He’s not a snake-oil peddler.”

“It’s not snake oil. It’s miracle prosperity oil.”

I stared at him. He’d stunned me to silence once again. I waited for Rocky to fill the silence with testimonies about the healing properties of miracle prosperity oil. Thankfully, he refrained. But he didn’t look like he’d let me off the hook.

I tried to reason with him. “You shouldn’t ask me to do this. You’re Emergent, Rocky, not a dyed-in-the-wool charismatic.”

“You don’t like post-modern, post-denominational, Emergent folks either.”

“I like them more than Ezekiel Thunders.”

“What’s that thing you say about the Emergent Church?”

“This is not about the Emergent Church. I’d go to an Emergent meeting with you anytime. You name the place: Mars Hill, Ann Arbor Vineyard. How ‘bout Frontline Church? ”

He didn’t budge. “Come on, babe. He’s like a dad to me.”

“A dad?”

“You always say Mason is like a dad to you.”

“But Mason has a PhD. He doesn’t sell ‘miracle prosperity oil’.”

“Ezekiel doesn’t sell it, either. He gives it away for a love offering.”

“A considerable love offering, if I remember! It’s plain olive oil he’s pushing to gullible babes in the faith who don’t know any better. How can I support his money-lusting schemes?”

“Ummm. By going with me?” Hope burgeoned in his voice as if I hadn’t just accused his mentor of being a hustler.

“Did you hear what I said, Rock? Ezekiel Thunder is everything I walked away from.”

“You walked away from a lot more than that, babe. And you’ve been known to hang out with people with worse theology than his. People way more dangerous.”

He had a point.

“Rocky . . . .” I didn’t want to go. Please, God, don’t make me go.

“He’s changed, babe. Give him a chance. For me.”

The eyes again, and a smile with an invisible tail wag.

I grumbled.

He grinned.

I gave him a dramatic sigh. “What time are we leaving?”

“If you’re not busy, and you’re not, we can leave in a few hours. I’ll pick you up at six.”

“How do you know I don’t have plans?”

“Because you have antisocial tendencies.”

“Don’t hold back, Rock. What do you really think about me?”

“Don’t worry,” he said, ignoring my insolence. “You’re gonna fall in love with Ezekiel.”

I rolled my eyes. “Not likely.”

He put his face right in front of mine until we were eye to eye. “You are feeling veeeeeery tired. You’re getting sleepy. You’re going to enjoy yourself at the crusade.”

“No fair,” I said, “Those eyes of yours are potent hypnotizers.”

“You are going to love Ezekiel Thunder.”

“I am going to love Ezekiel Thunder.”

Rocky got out of my face. “You’ve gotta admit, babe. This will be safer than sleuthing.”

No, it won’t, a disembodied voice--also known as the still, small voice of God--informed me.

I tried to ignore it. Maybe this Spirit prompting was speaking figuratively.

Couldn’t ignore it.

What, Lord, am I some kind of trouble magnet?

Don’t answer that, God.

I started rationalizing immediately to take the edge off what I truly hoped was not a prophetic warning. Maybe I could fall in love with the guy and respect him. Maybe he could even heal the egg-sized growth on my lower abdomen that scared me to death each time I ran my index finger across it. Maybe I could even find the keys to unlock the little room inside my heart where all the Ezekiel Thunders I’ve ever known were locked. I’d stored them there to keep me safe from the particular brand of harm only they could inflict.

I could feel my defenses shoot up as if a rocket propelled them.

Fall in love with Ezekiel Thunder?

I wished.

I shouldn’t have wished. My great-grandmother and namesake Amanda Bell Brown use to say, “Be careful what you wish for, baby. You just might get it.”

She ain’t never lied.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When the Unthinkable Happens

I am ever so happy to be participating once again in Lelia's Yes to God Tuesday Bible Study. I missed the last one and I feel like I am going home now :) We are reading "An Untroubled Heart" by Micca Campbell of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Let's begin shall we?

***Anything in blue is a quote from the book***

First, let me tell you that it took me quite a while to get through this chapter. Not because it was bad, but because I was crying so hard I couldn't see! Micca relates the story of her first husband, Porter. As Micca describes him, "He was such a looker that my friends had only one word to describe him - "Mercy!" WOW! Micca described their courtship and early marriage. And then.....

Micca tells us how Porter was burned in an explosion. I got to the part where she was in the room after his surgery, looking at him on life support. She asked the nurse a question that brought back some strong and painful memories for me. Micca asked, "If you were to turn off my husband's machine, he wouldn't breathe on his own ever again - would he?"
The nurse answered that he would not. So the family turned off the life support and Porter went to be with the Lord.

It reminded me of my dad. He had a rare lung disease. By the time we found out about it, it was too far along. We didn't get his diagnosis until after his lung biopsy. They had put him under sedation to allow his lungs to heal. But when they removed the sedation several days later, he didn't become responsive. They did some tests and reported that he was brain dead. As a family, we made the difficult decision to remove his life support. I was there with my mom as he passed from this life to eternity. And I know he went to meet my sweet Jesus because we had talked about his salvation just before his lung biopsy.

As I read Micca's account, it brought all those memories rushing back and I cried as if it had just happened. Tears are flowing as I write this now. When my dad died, I felt like my life was over. At that time, my marriage was not in a good state. My dad filled in the gaps where my husband was being deficient.

There were a lot of gaps. Micca said "In my mind's eye, I burst through the door to the throne room of grace, shook my fist in the face of God, and boldly questioned, "WHY - why did You do this to me? You could have saved him! You're God!" Oh Micca, I know girl. I said the same thing. "Why did you leave me God with two kids whose father is only physically present. I need help and You, God, just let him die!"

Micca said she turned to Psalm 139 and through it God spoke to her and told her "You are not alone. I am here." And He is. He's always there for us. "My first step in learning to trust God again came when I chose to believe that I am never ever alone. God is always with me." AMEN! I realized this to be true when I saw God change my husband. Were it not for God being with me, I would probably not be married today. But I am glad I trusted God - He is always present and always right!

In the Bible Study portion, Micca makes a very powerful statement that I totally resemble. She says "I desire to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. I just don't want to have to go through a trial to get there." Yep, I resemble that 100%. Hmm..make that 200%

Yeah, then she throws me a curve ball. Stinker :) She says "However, these are the ways of God. When you and I look to the end result of what our testing is accomplishing, then we can find joy in the midst of it." Micca you are a wise woman! I just hope I can remember this during my next testing.

I cannot wait to see what Micca has in store for us next week. Hopefully I won;t be blubbering the whole chapter like this time! Please stop by Lelia's blog and visit the other blogs participating in the study. See ya next week and until then.....Be blessed!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Katt's in the Cradle - First Tour

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

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

Howard Books (February 3, 2009)


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

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

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Product Details:

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


Meet the Pastors’ Wives of Red River, Ohio

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

Lulu’s Café

Tuesday, March 18

12:05 p.m.

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

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

Mimi laughed. “You mean about the scandal?”

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

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

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

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

The women groaned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whom he just met,” Mimi reminded everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course.” Jennifer smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa smiled. “I guess not.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who?” Lisa asked.

“Norm’s new wife.”

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

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

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

“What?” Lisa asked.

She really doesn’t know, Jennifer realized.

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

“Spill it,” Felicia said.

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

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

“Wonder what Kitty would think?” Felicia asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why would somebody follow you?” Felicia asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s your mom?” Felicia asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, Gracie,” Jennifer murmured.

“That’s terrible,” said Lisa.

Felicia just shook her head, her face heavy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I really liked this book. I have to say it was hard to keep up with who was who and who was struggling with what at first. That made it a slow read through the first few chapters. However, once I got everybody down, I flew through this. The wives and families seem very authentic. There were some tough moments and they were not all handled with grace. And that is very real! I highly recommend this book!