Letters to a Young Pastor by Calvin Miller

September 28, 2011 at 1:38 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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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:

 

Calvin Miller

 

and the book:

 

Letters to a Young Pastor

David C. Cook (September 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Calvin Miller’s first full-time pastorate was at Plattsmouth Baptist Church in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, from 1961-1966. He went to Westside Church in Omaha, Nebraska, in January 1966, where he served as senior pastor for 25 years. During his pastorate the congregation grew from ten members to more than 2500 members. From 1991-1998, Miller served as Professor of Communication and Ministry Studies and Writer-in-Residence at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas. In January 1999, he joined the faculty of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, where he is currently Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry.

He is the author of more than forty books of popular theology and inspiration. His poems and free-lance articles have appeared in various journals and magazines such as Christianity Today, Campus Life, Leadership and His. He has served as an inspirational speaker in various assemblies and religious convocations, both in his own denomination and other Christian gatherings.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Getting out of bed on Monday is a grumpy chore, and overcoming the cloudy-headed daze that almost always characterizes the second day of the week requires a lot of coffee and even more determination. Mondays are hard for us all, but they are particularly difficult for pastors because they have to come down from the “Sunday high.” It’s something few can identify with, but for most pastors it’s a haunting reality that accompanies a litany of stressors like dealing with divisive people, balancing the budget and leading difficult staff members. As a result, a lot of young pastors are desperately hungry for someone older and wiser to walk with them over the mountains and through the valleys of church ministry.

For decades, as an author, poet, pastor and educator Calvin Miller has been a lively and creative voice in the church. Having survived some of the most tumultuous decades of evangelicalism, his latest book, Letters to a Young Pastor (David C Cook), shares his wisdom and experience, his successes and his scars, to help today’s young pastors fulfill their calling…and maintain their sanity. In this humorously authentic collection of letters, he encourages young pastors to fight the good fight, stay the course and keep their eye on the Author and Finisher of the faith—no matter how frustrated they may feel.

Letters to a Young Pastor offers every young pastor an invaluable mentor with a heart for sharing his hard-won insights with those who enjoy the victories and carry the burdens of the pastorate. Dr. Miller’s appeal to young pastors lies not in his overwhelming successes, but simply in the fact that he’s been there and done that. As Dr. Miller says, “The all-time great reason that you should listen to me is that much of what I write about in this book is written from the edge. Ministry is not for sissies, and the requirement of the tough times brings us to the edge of our commitment.”

Regardless of the situation, Dr. Miller’s creative and cordial counsel poetically prods pastors along the path of ministry. To the young pastor struggling with the validity of his calling, Dr. Miller advises, “Young minister of God, keep that little sparkle in your eyes, and then write down how your call came to you, and when you’ve written it down in fire, defend it that way.” For those wrestling with conflict, Calvin challengingly suggests, “Cowards are never good at teaching courage.” Even the pastor who’s not sure whether he’s promoting God’s vision or his own image finds these wise words from Dr. Miller: “This is the foundation of significance: Settle on your vision, and your image will be authentic. But pursue image, and you may miss your vision altogether.”

Many things have changed over Dr. Miller’s pastoral years, from switchboards to smartphones and big-haired evangelists to cigar-smoking emergents. But two things remain the same—God is love and people are broken. Letters to a Young Pastor is a warm, honest and often humorous collection of letters to young pastors and leaders, encouraging them to love Sundays, fight through Mondays and look forward to the day when they’ll hear that great “Well done.”

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (September 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781405777
ISBN-13: 978-0781405775

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Letter 1

Seeing the Significance of Your Cal

Whatever the Congregation’s Size

“For all the usual evaluative purposes, the large and global churches are obviously the most important. But for deep spiritual renewal, the recognition of identity, the birth of awe, the small, local church serves every bit as well. Perhaps, they serve even better. In my history of small, local gatherings, the rooms were full of characters—divorced bankers, cantankerous physicians, drama queen choir members, faithful janitors. Characters. I have never been able to look upon people in any other way since. I hope I learned something from praying with the same lady who taught me English, from singing with the same man who bagged our groceries, from listening to the same preacher who also tucked me in at night. A small church like that, one big enough to house the people that you meet each day, can be both lonely and grand and simple. It is as good a place as any for the experience of learning to be content in any and every circumstance. Save a piece of locality like that intact, and it does not matter in the slightest that only a couple of hundred people every year will go into it. That is precisely its value; a theography of hope.”2

Dear Young Pastor,
Sum up reality and opt for hope.

At the turn of the last century (1900) there was a ratio of 27 churches per 10,000 people, as compared with the close of the century (2000) where we have 11 churches per 10,000 people in America! What has happened?

Given the declining numbers and the closures of churches compared to the new church starts, there should have been over 38,000 new churches commissioned to keep up with the population growth. The United States now ranks third following China and India in the number of people who are not professing Christians; in other words, Americans are becoming an ever-increasing “unreached people group.” Half of all churches in the United States did not add any new members in the last two years.

I’m hard but honest when speaking to graduating preachers. I always say something like this to them: “Most of you will be taking churches of 100 members or less. Twenty years from now, 80 percent

of you will no longer be a pastor, having chosen another profession primarily because the pain of hanging on was greater than the risk of letting go. The 20 percent of you who have continued preaching will

still be in churches of 100 members or less.

“Happy graduation!”
The work is hard, and the pastoral survival rate is scary. Every year 4,000 churches close their doors forever, compared to just 1,000 new church starts. Between 1990 and 2000 the combined membership of all Protestant denominations dropped 5 million members (9.5 percent), while the US population increased by 11 percent. Each year 2.7 million church members fall into an “inactive” status. In probing for a reason for this dropout rate, the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development found that these people were leaving because they were “hurting and wounded victims—of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect.”3 The Schaeffer Institute did not comment on why pastors were leaving, but it is probably for “abuse, disillusionment, or neglect” also. Since both pastors and laity are abandoning the church, we can infer that churches are not just dying; they’re dying unhappy.

It is this inference that bothers me.

Doctrinal differences are not the only thing that is killing evangelicalism.

We are dying from a deep infection in our own group dynamics. We don’t love each other enough to cling to each other and survive. Forget love. We don’t even like each other. That’s the core reason we are dying. And into this painful cauldron of ill will we drop young preachers and expect them to save the church. But most soon leave behind the notion of trying to save the church and commit themselves to trying to survive the church.
Here are the reasons we give up on Christian ministry:

First, we die because we suffer from congregational social schisms that result from huge doses of unforgiveness between jealous, wrangling laypeople.
Second, we have too many pastors who compete within their denominations and fire at each other with blitzes of resentment.

Third, many preachers who resent each other’s success within their city limits participate in sanctimonious name-calling: “Easy gospel church! Calvinist Mecca! Bible-free preaching! Social gospelers! Modernists!” Most of these churches rarely say these things out loud, but they do say them. Even statements like “Come to our church; it’s the largest church in the city” say it. Or as I saw painted

on the back of one church bus: “Follow me to Exciting WestBrook!” All such labels divide and destroy.

In 1970, Francis Schaeffer wrote a thirty-five-page book titled The Mark of the Christian. In a little more than a hundred paragraphs he gave us the only possible solution to the dying of evangelicalism:

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another;

as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all

men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”

(John 13:34–35).
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,

that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou

hast sent me” (John 17:21).

What then shall we conclude but that … we as Christians are called

upon to love all men as neighbors, loving them ourselves.… We are

to love all true Christian brothers in a way that the world may

observe. This means showing love to our brothers in the midst of our

differences—great or small— loving our brothers when it costs us

something, loving them even under times of tremendous emotional

tension, loving in the way the world can see. In short we are to practice

and exhibit the holiness of God and the love of God, for without this

we grieve the Holy Spirit.4
It took me years to understand what Francis Schaeffer meant when he said that grieving the Holy Spirit was a direct result of our failure to love. But now I do understand: Grieve is a love word! This is what Paul meant when he said, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). When we sin, we do not infuriate God, our Lover. We only hurt Him. We grieve Him! Until pastors and churches come to understand this, evangelicalism will continue its decline.

When we fail to love each other, there is an empty ache that runs throughout the halls of heaven. And people who wanted more from us and expected more out of us will leave the church hurting, and we who are pastors will leave the church hurting, all because we have read the Bible all our lives—even knowing it in Greek and Hebrew—and never caught the connection between John 13:35 and Ephesians 4:30.

This is not a truth that can ever be sold on a group basis. You can solve the dilemma only within the singular, narrow place that is your soul. And you can solve it there. Here’s your chance to turn things around.

Christ is on the mound.
You’re at bat.
Save the game!

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Book Review: “The Liberating Truth” by Danielle Strickland

September 27, 2011 at 7:45 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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Danielle Strickland in her new book “The Liberating Truth” published by Kregel Publications explores  How Jesus Empowers Women.

Suppose we were able to take a camera crew and take to the city streets going about asking just one question:  are women treated equally and fairly in our society?  What do you think our results would be?  My opinion is the answers we would receive would be yes.  People would feel that women won the right to vote, the right to work and even the right to govern so the answer is yes.  Ms. Strickland disagrees.

According to her findings as she has traveled the globe women are still treated as inferior physically and mentally and have sex used against them over and over.  Not only does that happen in the world but Ms. Strickland feels that it also carries over into the Church

“The Liberating Truth” is divided into two parts:  Part One provides the evidence that shows how women are unfairly treated and Part Two provides “What The Bible Says”.  Do I agree with everything that Ms. Strickland has to say?  No.  Does Ms. Strickland provide a lot to think about?  Yes.  Are there many things that need to be changed?  Yes.  “The Liberating Truth” will certainly keep you thinking.

If you would like to listen to interviews with other authors and professionals please go to www.kingdomhighlights.org where they are available On Demand.

To listen to 24 hours non-stop Christian music please visit our internet radio station http://www.kingdomairwaves.org

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cherished by Kim Cash Tate

September 27, 2011 at 12:19 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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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:

 

Kim Cash Tate

 

and the book:

 

Cherished

Thomas Nelson (August 30, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kim Cash Tate was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. Her mother, a manager with AT&T, and her father, an educator, divorced when she was young. Even after the divorce, one thing her parents agreed on was the importance of education. She attended both public and private Catholic schools, and college was a given. Tate chose the University of Maryland.

After completing her undergraduate degree, she distinguished herself as a law student at George Washington University. She was invited to join the Journal staff, and a summer job at a respected law firm in her beloved Washington, D.C. followed by a one-year clerkship with a federal judge in Madison.

Tate’s law career took off in Madison. Once the clerkship ended, she was hired on at a large firm. In spite of her success, she was plagued by constant feelings of discontentment and loneliness for the racially diverse environment she left behind in D.C. She began seeking faith, simply as a means of maintaining sanity. After she and Bill married, the couple began attending a local AME church, and they both felt Jesus calling.

When her children were young, Tate left her thriving law career to stay home. A passionate and persuasive communicator, she tried her hand at writing. More Christian than African-American shares her story of finding her identity in Christ rather than in her race, which had been a major focus for her. Her first novel was Heavenly Places, followed by Faithful and her newest release, Cherished. Tate was a speaker for Women of Faith in both 2010 and 2011.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Kim Cash Tate explores Psalm 103:12 as she takes her readers down the path to God’s forgiveness and reconciliation in her newest novel, Cherished. Readers will discover that God can still use them in spite of their worst choices. And He doesn’t just forgive them, but they are truly cherished!

Tate’s story will show her readers how God can bring beauty from ashes. She has a unique way of weaving her characters’ lives together, leading back to one great point—God’s tremendous mercy and grace. In the words of one of her characters, “I wasn’t sure what to expect. I felt like it would take a while to work my way back into God’s good graces, but it was like…”—she flung wide her arms—“…He just embraced me.” We too can be embraced by the same great love when we learn that true forgiveness for ALL of our sins is right before us.

Growing up in Saint Louis, Kelli London dreamed of becoming a songwriter and glorifying God with her songs of praise. But after falling into sin, she walks away from her dreams. Heather Anderson’s life has spun out of control—first an affair with a married man and then a one-night stand with the drummer of a popular Christian band. Broken and alone, she discovers the only one who can save her. Brian Howard grew up as a science geek. But after making the worst mistake of his life after high school, he finds forgiveness in Christ and is being led down a completely different path. Now he must choose whether to continue pursuing his PhD in biochemistry or to become a full time Christian rapper.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 30, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548556
ISBN-13: 978-1595548559

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Kelli London took her place on the piano bench and waited for her cue, grateful that her jittery hands were hidden from the crowd. She shouldn’t have agreed to do this, but she loved her brother and had never seen him happier. How could she say no to singing at his wedding?

But it was the song Cedric had asked her to sing, one he’d heard only by chance. He had no idea what it meant to her. He didn’t know that singing it would unleash memories of the last person she ever wanted to think about.
Laughter rose from the pews, and Kelli looked up, wondering what she’d missed.
“. . . and I’m sure Cedric wants me to get to the vows ASAP,” Pastor Lyles was saying, “so they can get to that kiss they’ve been waiting for.”
Kelli had only met the pastor once before, at her brother Lindell’s wedding last fall, but it didn’t take long to love his spirit and his style. A black man in his late fifties, he’d started Living Word Community Church decades ago and watched it grow into a multi-ethnic megachurch. At least a couple hundred members were here today. Kelli guessed none of them thought twice about the various hues and accents that had gathered to see this black couple wed. She loved that spirit too.

Cedric was shaking his head with a shamefaced grin as the pastor called him out. Cyd was smiling up at him, gorgeous, beaming like the bright light she’d become in Cedric’s life.

Pastor Lyles continued. “But I don’t think he’ll mind one last song, and it’s a special one, written by his sister.”

Kelli drew a deep breath as Cedric and Cyd smiled over at her, Lindell and Stephanie too—the flip side of last fall. Then Stephanie and Lindell were the bride and groom, and Cyd and Cedric were maid of honor and best man, which was how they met. Kelli loved the story, how Cyd turned forty on her younger sister’s wedding day, thinking she’d never marry herself. Now here she was—a June bride. It was romantic that her brothers would now be married to sisters, but it somehow added to her melancholy, that each of them had found the love of his life.

Kelli gazed at the piano keys, and knowing they had to, her fingers tapped the first notes. She fought to stay in the moment, in the church. Her eyes swept Cyd and Cedric, imagined the lyrics were just for them . . .
I will love you till the stars don’t shine

And I will love you till the oceans run dry

I will love you till you know every why

I will, I will

Her eyes closed, and he was there. A shiver of remembrance danced down her arms. She could still see that distant look in his eyes, could even hear him, that tone of indifference that echoed forever in her head. Kelli opened her eyes to capture another image—any image—but he was everywhere now. And her heart allowed itself to be crushed all over again.
I will love you like an endless stream

A million miles won’t take your heart from me

I will love you every breath you breathe

I will, I will

Almost to the bridge, Kelli could feel her emotions cresting with the song. She closed her eyes again as they took over, filling her voice, magnifying her range, powering her through. She played the final chords with the salt of tears on her lips and bowed her head at the last note . . . and heard—applause? She looked out and saw the guests on their feet and Cedric and Cyd fully turned, facing her—Cyd wiping tears from her cheeks. With her own anxiety about singing it, Kelli hadn’t given thought to whether people might actually like the song.

She pulled a tissue from the box atop the piano, dabbed her cheeks, and blew her nose, then muscled a heart-heavy smile to acknowledge everyone’s kindness. When she moved back to the front pew beside her mother, only then did the guests stop clapping and sit.

“When did you write that?” her mother asked, patting her thigh. “That was beautiful.”
“Thanks, Mom. I wrote it . . . a long time ago.”

She turned her gaze to the ceremony, her heart beating a little faster still, puzzled by the response to the song. It coaxed a different memory to the surface, and as Cyd and Cedric exchanged vows, Kelli thought about her long-ago dream of writing music that God would somehow use. Then the better part of her brain kicked in,

reminding her that she’d left songwriting behind, that she knew better than to dream.
That all those dreams had turned to dust.

“Kelli! Girrrl . . .”
Kelli looked up—midpivot in the Electric Slide—and saw Stephanie threading her way through the line dancers in her champagne-colored dress. Soon as the song started, it seemed everybody left tables and mingled to claim a spot on the parquet floor. Kelli waved her sister-in-law over.

“I’ve been looking for you.” Stephanie scooted between Kelli and Devin, a nine-year-old cousin, as rows of people sidestepped to the right. “I haven’t had a chance to tell you . . . girl, you sang that song. I had no idea—hold up, am I doing this right?” She was headed a different direction from everyone else. “Why am I even

out here? I hate this stupid dance.”

Kelli laughed. “Back, Steph. We’re going back.”

“Oh.” Stephanie checked Devin to get in sync, then leaned her head Kelli’s way again, her voice elevated. “Anyway, I told Lindell I couldn’t believe he didn’t tell me about that song, ’cause I would’ve had you sing it at our wedding. And he said he’d never heard it . . . and then I couldn’t believe that.”
“I know. Crazy, right? This way, Steph. Pivot left.”

Stephanie was behind her now, and Kelli turned to make sure she was following, but Devin had it under control.

Like a traffic cop, he moved his hands left, then right to direct her which way to go next. “And pivot,” he announced, to the amusement of those around them.
Side by side with Stephanie again, Kelli continued. “Lindell and Cedric had already moved out of the house by the time I started writing songs in high school, so it was easy to kind of keep my music to myself.” She shrugged. “Cedric overheard it because I didn’t know he was there.”
“Hmph,” Stephanie said. “If I had that kind of talent, everybody would know about it. They’d have to tell me to be quiet.”

The music switched, and they could hear people near the center of the floor cheering, “Go, Cyd! Go, Cedric! Go, Cyd! Go, Cedric!”

Kelli and Stephanie craned their necks, moving toward the action.

“Oh, goodness,” Stephanie said, laughing. “Look at your brother. He’s at it again.”
Kelli laughed too, remembering Cedric and Cyd on the dance floor at Stephanie and Lindell’s reception. Now the two had cut a wide swath in the middle of the floor with a different line dance, this one a little livelier.

Kelli and Stephanie worked their way to a spot in the inner circle.

“Have you seen this version?” Stephanie asked.

Kelli nodded. “But you know Cedric’s gonna add his own twist.”

Instead of a simple sidestep, Cedric led Cyd in bouncy moves to the left, with a slide before going right. And instead of a normal pivot, they did some kind of kick, kick, turn—with Cedric twirling Cyd into a two-step before moving back to the line dance, all of it seamless. The crowd was fired up.
After a couple of rounds, Cedric spotted Kelli and pulled her to the center.
“I don’t know if you can hang with a twenty-five-year-old, big brother.” Although Cedric was a fit forty-two, Kelli didn’t miss an opportunity to tease him about his age. “I’d hate to embarrass you in front of your guests.”
“Oh, you got jokes? We’ll see about that, baby sis.”

Cyd led the cheers this time as Kelli whipped some different moves on him. Cedric paused, then mimicked every last one to let her know she couldn’t show him up. Lindell dragged Stephanie out there—literally—and Kelli was in stitches watching them try to copy what she and Cedric were doing. Soon everyone on the

floor had joined in again, and then the music switched to Motown, which got its own cheers.
Cedric draped one arm around Kelli and the other around Cyd and led them off the floor. They stopped at the bridal party table, which had emptied of all but Dana, one of Cyd’s bridesmaids.

“Why aren’t you on the dance floor?” Cedric asked. “We need all the forty-and-over folk representing.”

Dana glared at him. “Let’s see how well you ‘represent’ with some heels on. My feet are killing me.” Then she nodded toward the dance floor. “My husband left me. He’s out there with the kids. And last I saw, Scott wasn’t representing too well either. He looked almost as bad as Stephanie with that Electric Slide.”

“I heard that, Dana,” Stephanie said, walking up with Lindell. “I could learn the dumb dance if I cared to. And since you’re trying to clown me, I might do it just to keep my black rhythm points. Can’t have a white guy showing me up.”

Dana got a kick out of that, laughing as auburn wisps fell about her face. “How about a white girl? Let’s tell the deejay to play it again and see who’s got it.”
Stephanie eased into a seat. “Uh, no thanks. I always told you, you’re one of those black white girls. You can go on the dance floor.”

Dana eyed the dancers out there. “Well, pray for Mackenzie. I think the poor thing takes after Scott. Look at them.”

Kelli’s heart was smiling. Because she lived out of state, she didn’t know these women well—not even her sisters-in-law—but from her brief interactions, including last night’s rehearsal dinner, she could tell she would like them.
Cyd pulled out a chair and sat, her beautiful gown, passed down from her mother, swishing over the sides. “Ahh . . . think I can get away with sitting like this for maybe five minutes?”

Cedric massaged her shoulders. “You’re good. The Jackson Five’s got everybody occupied.”
Dana touched Kelli’s arm. “The bridal table was talking about you earlier.”
“Me? Why?” Kelli took a seat.

“Are you kidding? That song. It was beautiful.”

Kelli blushed. “Thank you.”
“That’s my little sister.” Cedric beamed.

“Mine too!” Lindell said, giving her shoulder a squeeze. “So proud of you, girl.” He looked at the others. “Just got her master’s too, from UT–Austin.”
“I heard,” Dana said. “Is your degree in music?”

Kelli shook her head. “One’s in communications and the other’s in public relations.”
“Wow, two?” Dana nodded. “That’s awesome.”

“Well . . . not really. Just means I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” Kelli didn’t mind admitting it. “But I’m done being a professional student. I’m looking for a job now—”

“—in Texas.” Cedric’s tone made clear what he thought of that. “What part of Texas?” Stephanie asked. “Are you trying to stay in Austin?”

“I’ve been looking at possibilities in Austin and Houston . . .and Dallas.”
“Mostly Dallas, I’d bet,” Cedric said. “That’s where her boyfriend is.” He looked around playfully. “Where is he anyway? I wanted to meet him, see if he measures up. What’s his name? Miller?”

Kelli smirked at her big brother. “Miles. Miles Reed. He wanted to meet you all too, but he had a conflict.”

“I’m sure we’ll get another opportunity,” Cedric said, “if I can get you to move back to St. Louis.”

Cyd perked up. “Ooh, Kelli, I’d love that. Any chance?”

“I . . . doubt it.” Kelli hedged to be polite; her mind had said a fast no. She hadn’t lived in St. Louis since she left for college, and the distance had been good. Her mother had relocated to Little Rock to care for her mother, so Kelli had gone there on school breaks.

“How’s the job market in Texas?” Cedric asked. “Improved any?”

Cedric knew the answer perfectly well. He was a VP at a head-hunting firm. He’d made some calls for her, but nothing had materialized.

“Not exactly,” Kelli admitted. “I’ve been looking since early in the year, and, well . . . it’s nearing the end of June.”

Lindell rubbed his chin. “I’m thinking you can be unemployed in St. Louis just as well as in Austin.”

Cedric gave a big nod to his brother. “Better than in Austin. In St. Louis, you can be unemployed and hang out with your brothers.”
Cyd raised a hand. “And sisters. Don’t forget about us.”

“All of us,” Dana said. “We’d love to plug you into Daughters’ Fellowship.”

“What’s that?” Kelli asked.

“It started years ago with Dana, Phyllis, and me.” Cyd pointed toward the dance floor at her other bridesmaid. “Real informal. We’d do potluck and talk about—sometimes cry about—what God was doing in our lives. Stephanie crashed the party last year.” Cyd smiled at her younger sister. “It’s evolved into kind of a Bible study/gabfest.”

“Emphasis on gab,” Cedric said. “Amazing how two hours can turn into five—every single time. You’d think you’d run out of things to talk about.”
“Now, now, brother,” Lindell said, “don’t exaggerate. I think it was four and a half hours last time.”

Cedric and Lindell shared a laugh as the women pounced.

“We’re praying too, you know,” Dana said. “Getting that fuel we need to be the best we can be.”

“Lindell knows.” Stephanie gave him the eye. “I left the house with an attitude before that last meeting. Came back changed. Didn’t I?”

Lindell threw up his hands. “Hey, I’m not complaining. I might be the biggest DF fan at the table. Stephanie’s not the same woman I married.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Babe, that’s a good thing! I’m just sayin’.”

Kelli laughed as Lindell backpedaled. For years her brothers had been busy with their careers, living the bachelor life. Hadn’t occurred to them or her that they should live near one another, be a part of each other’s lives. But now they were both settled down, with wives Kelli would love to know better. She’d always wanted sisters. And it was strange that she, Cyd, and Stephanie kind of looked alike—all of them tall with honey brown skin and long brown hair.

And Daughters’ Fellowship sounded great. Her own relationship with God wasn’t where it should be. She’d known that for some time. Just wasn’t sure how to get it back on the right track. The thought of getting together with these women, talking and learning from them, felt like water to her parched soul.

If only it were in another city . . .

Kelli sighed as she looked around the table at the laughter, the ribbing, the love. Did she really want to stay in Austin, away from all of this?

And what about Miles? They’d been dating almost a year. Although he’d graduated from UT–Austin last December and moved back to Dallas, the distance didn’t seem so great with them both in Texas. Still, they were already several hours apart. Would a few more make a huge difference?

Kelli looked up as her mother stopped at their table.

“Hey, it’s my gorgeous mother,” Cedric said, placing an arm around her.
“No, it’s my gorgeous mother,” Lindell said, hugging her other side.

Francine London glowed with pride. “You boys are something else,” she said. “And I didn’t come to see y’all. I came to see how my daughters-in-law are doing.”
“Oh, it’s like that now?” Cedric asked. “I get married, and I get kicked to the curb?”
Francine laughed, keeping her arms around her sons’ waists. “I’m wondering what’s gonna happen when you all start having my grandchildren. I’m not gonna like being all the way in Little Rock.”

“You need to move back too,” Lindell said.

Francine dismissed it with a shake of the head. “Your grandmother’s not doing well, can’t get around, so we’re better off staying put.”
“Well, help us convince your daughter to move back,” Cedric said. “We’ve been working on her.”

Francine looked at Kelli, nodding. “I was thinking about that today, how nice it would be if you could be around your brothers and their wives. You know I’m big on family.”

“Yes, I know, Mom.” Kelli cut them off at the pass. “So . . . which one of you would be willing to let your little sister move in?”

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