Mary’s Blessing by Lena Nelson Dooley

May 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
Tags:

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:
Lena Nelson Dooley
and the book:
Mary’s Blessing by Lena Nelson Dooley
Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lena Nelson Dooley is an award-winning author with more than 650,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers—where she received the Mentor of the Year award in 2006—DFW Ready Writers, and Christian Authors Network. She lives in Hurst, Texas, with her husband of over 45 years.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Mary Lenora Murray was adopted by parents who had recently lost a child while on the last wagon train west in 1867. When she is thirteen years old, Mary’s mother and her two older sisters die in the cholera pandemic, leaving her the oldest child with four younger siblings to raise. Her father, in his grief, pours himself into keeping the farm going, leaving the running of the home entirely in Mary’s hands.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616386177

ISBN-13: 978-1616386177

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Pa?” Mary Lenor a Murray shouted back over her shoulder as she picked up the heavy picnic basket. “You ready to go?” Why does he always drag his feet when we’re going to

church?

Her father came through the mud room into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. He smelled of heat, hay, and sunshine, with the strong tang of muck from the barn mingled in. By the looks of his clothes, attending church was the farthest thing from his mind. His ratty trousers held smudges of several dark colors. She didn’t even want to guess what they were. And the long sleeves of his undershirt, the only thing covering his torso, were shoved above his elbows. Grayed and dingy, the shirt would never be white again, no matter how hard she tried to get it clean.

Mary bit her tongue to keep from scolding him as she did her younger brothers and sister when they made such a racket entering the house. No doubt he would give her some excuse about having too much work to go to church. Not a big surprise. She’d heard it all before too many times.

He set a bucket of fresh water beside the dry sink and gripped his fingers around the front straps of his suspenders. That always signaled he was about to tell her something she didn’t want to hear.

“I’m not going today.” This time he didn’t really make any excuses, just this bald-faced comment.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm her anger. She’d give him a sweet answer even if the words tasted bitter in her mouth. “The new pastor is coming today. We’re having dinner on the grounds after the service. Remember, I told you when we got home last Sunday.” She flashed what she hoped was a warm smile at him and prayed he couldn’t tell it

was fake.
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“What happened to the last one? He didn’t last very long, did he?” Pa started washing his hands with the bar of homemade soap she kept in a dish on the shelf. “Don’t understand why that church can’t keep a pastor. Someone musta run him off.”

Mary couldn’t keep from huffing out a breath this time. “I told you about that too.” She clamped her lips closed before she asked the question that often bounced around her mind. Why don’t you ever listen to me? At seventeen she was close enough to being an adult to be treated like one, and she’d carried the load of a woman in this household for years.

“His wife died, and his father-in-law begged him to bring the grandchildren closer to where they live, so he headed back to Ohio. Living in the same community as their grandparents, he’d have a lot of help with the younger ones.”

Mary had never known her own grandparents, none of them. Not her mother’s parents. Not her father’s parents. Not the par- ents of whoever gave birth to her. She didn’t wonder about any of them very often, but today her heart longed for someone who really loved her.

With bright red curly hair and fair skin that freckled more every time she stepped into the sunlight, she didn’t resemble anyone in this family that had adopted her as an infant. Since they were black Irish, they all had dark hair and striking blue eyes, not like her murky green ones. And none of them had ever wanted to know what she thought about anything—except her mother.

“Well, I’ve gotta lot to do today.” Her father reached for the towel she’d made out of feed sacks. “You and the others go ahead. I might come over that way at dinner time.”

No, you won’t. Mary had heard his statement often enough to know he was trying to placate her so she would leave him alone. So she would.

“Frances, George, Bobby, come on. We don’t want to be late.”
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She shifted the handle of the loaded basket to her other arm. “Frances, you grab the jug of spring water. We might get thirsty.” Her father’s icy blue eyes pierced her. “Pretty warm out today.

No sign of rain.”

“We’ll be picnicking in the field between the church and Willamette Falls. It’s cooler there, especially under the trees with the breeze blowing across the water.” She started toward the front door.

“Keep your eyes on the boys.” His harsh command followed her. “Don’t let either of them fall into the river. They could drown. Water’s fast right there.”

She nodded but didn’t answer or look back at him. All he cared about were those boys and getting them raised old enough to really help with the farming. He already worked them harder than any of the neighbors did their sons who were the same ages.

Six long years ago her mother and older sisters contracted diphtheria when they went to help Aunt Miriam and Uncle Leland settle in their house on a farm about five miles from theirs. On the trip to Oregon one of them had contracted the dread disease and didn’t know it until after they arrived. No one knew they were all dead until Pa went looking for Ma, Carrie, and Annette a couple of days later. He saw the quarantine sign someone nailed to a fence post and didn’t go closer until he had help. When he came home, he told Mary she would have to take over the keeping of the house. Six long years ago.

When did my life become such drudgery? Had it ever been any- thing else? At least not since Ma died, which seemed like an

eternity ago.
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4 4 4
Daniel Winthrop whistled while he dressed for church. He looked forward with anticipation to the moment when he would lay eyes on Mary Murray. Even her name had a musical ring to it.

He’d been waiting and planning what to say when he approached her. Today he would start his subtle courting. With the situation at the Murray farm, he knew he would have his work cut out for him to convince her she could start a life of her own with him. After he achieved that, he’d ask her father for her hand.

Visions of coming home to her each night and building a family together moved through his head like the slides of photo- graphs in the Holmes stereopticon they had at home. He loved her already, but more than that, he wanted to get her out of that house, where she was loaded down with so much work and responsibility.

Daniel had often gone with his mother when she bought fresh produce from the Murrays, so he knew what her life had been like since her mother died. Their families came to Oregon on the same wagon train, so he’d known her all his life. He was only three years older than she was, and he had watched her over the last few years as she blossomed into a beautiful young woman.

Mary needed to be appreciated and cared for, and he was just the man to do it.

“Daniel, we’re leaving soon.” His father’s voice prodded him from his dreams.

With a final peek into the tall cheval glass, he straightened his necktie before he headed out the door of his room. “I’m on my way.”

He bounded down the stairs and took their picnic basket
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from his mother. “Something really smells good.” He gave a loud sniff. “Do you need me to test and make sure it’s all right?”

He welcomed her playful slap on his hand that crept toward the cover on the basket. Her laughter reminded him of the chimes he had heard in the larger church in Portland.

“Not a single bite until dinner.” Like a queen, she swept out the door Father held open for her.

Their familiar ritual warmed his heart. He looked forward to creating family rituals with Mary. Once more he whistled as he headed toward the brougham. Nothing could cloud his day.

When they pulled up to the Methodist church, his father guided the team toward the back, where a large area paved with fine gravel gave plenty of space for those who arrived in horse- drawn vehicles. While Father helped Mother down from the open carriage, Daniel took the reins and tied them to one of the hitching rails that outlined the space. He chose the rail under

a spreading black cottonwood tree where the limbs were just beginning to show the leaf buds.

He scanned the lot, looking for the Murray wagon. Not there. Disappointed, he stared at the ground. Please, God, let Mary come today.

Clopping hoofs and a jingling harness accompanied a wagon

taking too fast of a turn into the parking area. Daniel cut his eyes toward the advancing disaster. Two of the wheels did indeed lift from the ground. Before he could get a shout out of his mouth, he heard Mary’s sweet voice.

“Lean to the right, boys!”

George and Bobby, Mary’s brothers, scrambled across the seat, followed by Frances. The wagon wheels settled into the gravel, and Mary pulled on the reins.

“Easy. Settle down.” Even though she spoke to the horses, he

heard every word.
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His heart that had almost leapt from his chest also settled down when he realized she was no longer in danger. Thank You, Lord.

The wagon came to a standstill, and Mary put her dainty hand to her chest and released a deep breath. The green cotton fabric, sprigged with white flowers, looked good on her, setting off her red hair, pulled up into a bunch on the top of her head. Without a hat or bonnet covering it, the sun danced across the curls. He loved seeing the wisps frame her face. That’s how he pictured her when he dreamed about their future.

Mary sat a moment without moving. She was probably scared out of her wits. Where was her father? He should have been driving the wagon, not her. How long had it been since the man had attended services? Daniel couldn’t remember the last time. It was not a good thing for a man to neglect his spiritual nature. He’d just have to pray harder for Mr. Murray.

Daniel hurried toward them. “Hi, Mary.”

She looked up, straight into his eyes, fear still flickering in the back of her gaze. “Daniel. Good morning.” Her words came out riding on short breaths.

He took hold of the bridle of the horse nearest him. “I can hitch your team under the trees for you.”

After releasing another deep breath, Mary nodded. “Thank you. I’d like that.” She turned toward her siblings. “Frances, you get the picnic basket, and George, you carry the jug of water. Go find us a pew, perhaps near the back of the sanctuary, and put the things under the bench. I’ll be right in.”

The younger children climbed out of the wagon and followed their sister’s instructions. Mary watched them until they’d gone around the side of the building toward the front. Then she stood up.

Before she could try to climb over the side, Daniel hurried to
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help. He held out his hand to her. She stared at it, then looked at his face.

“I’ll help you down.” He gave her his most beguiling smile. For the first time since she arrived, she smiled back, and pink

bled up her neck into her cheeks. Her blush went straight to his heart. Oh, yes, he loved this woman.

Mary slipped her slim fingers into his hand. Even through the white cotton gloves, he felt the connection as warmth sparked up his arm like fireworks on Independence Day. She glanced down so she could see the step. When she hesitated, he let go of her hand and both of his spanned her tiny waist. With a deft swing, he had her on the ground in seconds. He wished he had the right to pull her into an embrace. Wouldn’t that just set the tongues a-wagging? He couldn’t do that to her. Mary needed to be cherished for the treasure she was. And as far as Daniel could see, her father really didn’t treat her that way.

He watched her walk toward the front of the building, enjoying the way her skirt swayed with each step, barely brushing the tops of her black patent shoes. That is one beau- tiful woman. He turned back to her team. Walking beside the horses, he led them toward the hitching rail where his family’s brougham was parked, hoping it would give him the oppor- tunity to help her back up onto the wagon seat. As he crossed the lot, several other conveyances entered, and he waved and exchanged greetings with each family.

The church was the first one established in Oregon City. At that time, it was the Methodist Mission but grew as the town did. Along the way, members of this body had a great influence on what happened in the burgeoning city. And that was still true today. His Winthrop ancestors, who settled nearby, had been instrumental in both the growth of the church and of the

town. He felt a sense of pride at being a part of something that
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important, and he wanted to increase the town’s assets, because he planned to raise his own family here. Maybe establish a dynasty of his own, watching his sons and daughters, then his grandchildren, prosper.

His woolgathering slowed the progress of tying the horses to their spot. He needed to hurry so he wouldn’t miss the begin- ning of the service. As he opened the front door, Mrs. Slidell struck the first chord on the new Mason and Hamlin reed organ. The church had ordered the instrument from the manufacturing plant in Buffalo, New York. When it arrived only a couple of weeks before, the music added a special feeling to the worship and helped most people stay on the right tune better than the old piano did. He hummed along with the introduction to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” his favorite hymn.

Glancing around the room, Daniel finally spied Mary and her siblings sitting on the second pew from the back on the right side of the aisle. He squared his shoulders and confidently approached the wooden bench. He asked if he could sit with them, and she scooted over to make room. Just what he wanted. He would be sitting right beside her.

Throughout the service, Daniel had a hard time keeping his mind on the proceedings. Mary sat close enough for him to touch her if he leaned a little to his right. He was so tempted to bump against her arm, but he held back. He imagined clasping her hand in his and holding it for longer than just a few seconds while helping her down from a conveyance or through a doorway, really wrapping his large fingers around hers and intertwining their fingers. Just thinking about it caught his breath.

He whooshed it out, and she turned toward him, her eyes wid- ening with a question. After flashing a smile at her, he glanced up at Rev. Horton. The man’s delivery was smooth, and his words

made a lot of sense. He’d be a good pastor for them, but Daniel
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couldn’t keep a single word of his message in his mind. Not while he could feel Mary’s presence with every cell in his body.

Instead, in his mind he searched up and down the streets of Oregon City, seeking a place to turn into a home for him and his beloved. If the right house wasn’t for sale, he could build her one. She could help him choose the design. That’s what he’d do. Build her the home she’d always dreamed of. His heart squeezed with the knowledge of what he planned to do. He could hardly keep the idea to himself. He hoped it wouldn’t take too long for him to convince her that they should marry.

He’d even hire servants to help her manage their home. Whatever her heart desired, he’d do everything he could to present her with all she wanted. He only hoped it wouldn’t take too long. At twenty years old, he was ready to move on to the next phase of his life—with Mary by his side.

“Now let us bow our heads in prayer.” Rev. Horton raised his hands to bless the whole congregation.

Daniel dropped his head toward his chest. How had the man finished his sermon without Daniel noticing? Next Sunday he’d have to listen more closely. He really did want to get to know the new pastor and his family.

“Amen.” After the pastor pronounced the word, several other men echoed it.

Daniel watched his father rise from the second pew near the front on the left side of the aisle and take his place beside the new preacher. He placed his arm across the man’s shoulders. “Dear friends, on your behalf, I welcome our new pastor. Now let’s all meet his lovely family.” He waved toward a woman sitting on the front pew. “Mrs. Horton?”

The woman stood and turned toward the congregation. She was pretty, but not as young or as pretty as Mary.

“And,” Father’s voice boomed, “these are their children.”
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Four stair-step youngsters stood beside their mother. The tallest, a boy. The next, a girl. Then another boy, and the shortest, a cute little girl. As if they had rehearsed it, they bowed toward the people in unison.

Several women across the sanctuary oooed or aahed before a loud round of applause broke out. The three oldest children gave shy smiles, and the youngest tugged at her mother’s skirts. When Mrs. Horton picked her up, the girl waved to the people, clearly enjoying the attention.

“I hope you all brought your blankets and picnic baskets.” Father beamed at the crowd. “We’re going to spread our food together. I believe there are plenty of sawhorse tables set up near the building. And you can pick a spot under the trees to settle for your meal. Just don’t forget to take the time to greet our new ministerial family while you’re here.” Father led the Horton family down the aisle and out the front door.

Daniel turned back toward Mary. “Perhaps you and your brothers and sister could spread your blanket beside my family’s.” A tiny smile graced Mary’s sweet mouth. “If you’re sure your

mother wouldn’t mind, I’d like that.”

“Oh, yes. I’m sure.” He stepped into the nearly empty aisle and moved back to let Mary and her family precede him, and he quickly followed behind.

His heartbeat accelerated just thinking about spending spe- cial time with the object of his affections. Without thinking, he started whistling a happy tune.

Mary glanced back at him. “I didn’t know you whistled.”

“Oh, yes. I’m a man of many talents.” His heart leapt at the interest he read in her gaze. Things were well on their way to working out just the way he wanted them to.

Mind Monsters by Kevin Gerald

May 31, 2012 at 12:31 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
Tags:

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:
Kevin Gerald
and the book:
Mind Monsters
Charisma House (May 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kevin Gerald is the founder and lead pastor of Champions Centre in Tacoma and Bellevue, Washington, one of the largest congregations in the Pacific Northwest. Thousands are exposed to Kevin’s practical Bible teaching through his television program, KevinGerald.tv. Kevin is also a nationally recognized author of several books, including: Developing Confidence; Pardon Me, I’m Prospering; The Proving Ground; Raising Champion Children; Forces That Form Your Future; Mind Monsters; and By Design or Default.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Many of us are living beneath our potential because we’ve allowed “mind monsters” to steal our joy and peace, disrupt our relationships, and rob us of contentment. In Mind Monsters, author Kevin Gerald shows us how to combat these negative invaders of the mind.

Gerald explains how we can exterminate mind monsters such as fear, worry, guilt, and shame. People often end up in places they don’t want to be because they boarded the wrong train of thought. Mind Monsters will show readers how to recognize, reject, and replace mind monsters, and retrain their thoughts so they can experience God’s best.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99

Paperback: 128 pages

Publisher: Charisma House (May 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616387386

ISBN-13: 978-1616387389

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

NEGATIVE INVADERS OF THE MIND

Have you ever had the wrong thing in mind? Have you ever had one of those moments when it dawned on you, “I haven’t been thinking right ”? It ’s as if a light suddenly comes on, and you realize you’ve been giving a voice to mind monsters, those negative invaders that come and:
• Steal your joy and peace
• Disrupt your relationships
• Take away your contentment in life
They steal your life, one day at a time. As you read this book, you may be thinking, “I attend church. I’ve given my life to Christ. I shouldn’t have to deal with mind monsters, right?” The truth is, a person can be saved and on his way to heaven and still have to battle mind monsters.
So if you want your life experience to be positive, abundant, joyful, and overflowing with peace; if you want to live a successful Christian life with a great marriage and a fantastic relationship with your kids, you have to take a stand against negative invaders of the mind. It’s impossible to live a positive life with a negative mind.
Mind monsters are nothing new. In fact they are at least as old as the Bible, all the way back to the Book of Judges, where we can read about a man named Gideon who had to conquer some mind monsters on his way to defeating the Midianites.
The Israelites were in trouble. Their land had been taken over by the Midianites, and they were feeling the weight of oppression. In the middle of this was a lowly farmhand named Gideon. In Judges 6:14, God appears to Gideon and tells him, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Pretty strong words to hear directly from God Himself. And yet Gideon immediately let a mind monster jump between him and God. In the very next verse, he replies, “Pardon me, my Lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (v. 15). Can you believe it? God just gave Gideon a job, and Gideon refuses, saying he isn’t strong enough.
Fortunately when God chooses you, you stay chosen. Gideon essentially spends the rest of the chapter disbelieving God, and God spends the rest of the chapter convincing Gideon that he is, in fact, the one chosen to rescue Israel from their captivity. And from then on, Gideon finally accepts his role and kicks the invaders out. (It’s a great story— read Judges 6–8 for all of it.)
There’s also the New Testament story of Joseph, where a mind monster almost kept him from marrying the mother of Jesus. When we read the story of Jesus’s birth, it’s easy to see how close Joseph came to messing up God ’s plan. The Bible records in the first chapter of Matthew that Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married. Back in those days if you were engaged, you were committed; it took a divorce to become unengaged.
But then the unthinkable happened, which we read about in Matthew 1:18: “Before [ Joseph and Mary] came together, she was found to be pregnant [through the power] of the Holy Spirit” (amp). When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he knew it wasn’t his child. He also knew Mary’s penalty could be death—it was a horrible disgrace for a woman to be pregnant out of wedlock. His decision? “He had in mind to divorce her quietly.”1
He had in mind! Notice how his thinking had gone off course. His mind was on a completely different track than the plan of God. An angel came along and pointed this out to Joseph. I imagine the conversation went something like this: “Joseph, you’ve got the wrong thing in mind. God ’s got a plan going on here, and you’re not thinking right. You’ve got to get the right thing in your mind.”2
If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.

WAYWARD THINKING

Have you ever felt sad the moment you woke up? Your mind is whining, “Oh boy, another day! Oh my, a blue Monday! A terrible Tuesday! A weird Wednesday! A tough Thursday! A frightening Friday! A stinking Saturday!”
These way ward thoughts cause you to turn on your country western music and sing, “It’s raining outside, and it’s raining inside too. I’ve got trouble on my mind, and I don’t know
what to do.”
What happened to “This is the day the Lord has made; [I will] rejoice and be glad in it”?3 It went out when sadness came in. The sadness created way ward thoughts, and the mind monster of sadness started jumping around inside your mind wreaking havoc! It said, “Let’s go claim Monday as a day of sadness. Let’s go ahead and move into Tuesday and call it terrible.”
When the mind monster is at work, everything is sad, everything’s gloomy—but there’s really no reason for it to be that way. The negative invader of your mind came in and created way ward thoughts—thoughts that would get you off course. God had an assignment for you that day. You were supposed to go to work happy. You were supposed to walk in and smile at the folks in the office, greeting them with good
cheer.
You were supposed to let your light shine before men so they could see your good works and then honor and glorify God.4 That was God ’s plan before sadness—the monster—invaded your mind. Now you’re on a completely different track, feeling bad and walking into the office with your head hanging low. When your coworker asks, “Did you have a good weekend?” you can barely respond. You’re moping around and sacrificing influence with your poor attitude.
You’ve just been taken over by a mind monster. Get back on assignment and live out the purpose God has for you by understanding that these way ward thoughts are really mind monsters trying to hijack your day and your destiny.

THE TRAINS OF THOUGHTS

A few years ago my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a trip to Europe. Most of the time we were away we were transported between cities and countries by train. It was an experience that turned out to be much more difficult than we imagined. The signage was insufficient, and finding someone to help us with directions seemed impossible. We ended up being confused for a good portion of the trip. It wasn’t until the end of our time in Europe that we began to understand the routing system and train-car assignments.
Have you ever taken a train? If so you know you don’t get on one without knowing where it’s going. After all that’s the whole point; you’re on board to get somewhere. In my book Forces That Form Your Future, I wrote about the way thoughts are like trains—they take you somewhere. But so often we jump on these trains of thought without knowing our destination!
So many people end up in places they don’t want to be and then wonder how they got there. But it only makes sense that they boarded a train of thought to Self-Pity City, Anger Town, or Lonesomeville without even realizing it.
Many times they assume God put them there. I’ve heard people say, “You know, God put me in this wilderness. I’m hungry, and I can’t feed my kids, but God put me here.” That usually is not the case. More often than not, God is saying, “I didn’t put you there. You boarded the wrong train of thought.” The wrong train carries:
• Thoughts of worry
• Thoughts that create guilt
• Thoughts that cause you to feel insecure and question yourself
• Thoughts that bring sadness
• Thoughts that cause suspicion of others’ motives
• Thoughts that bring doubt of God and His Word
• Thoughts of inaccurate assumptions
For example, have you ever met a person who assumed something about you that wasn’t true? I remember a day when I left church quickly to catch a plane for a speaking engage- ment. My assistant had picked up a sandwich from Subway for me because I didn’t have time to eat lunch. I raced to the airport with no time to spare.
When I arrived, I jumped out of the car, hurried to the check-in counter, and said, “Is there any way you can get me on the plane? Can you get my baggage checked through? I have a speaking engagement tonight, and I’ve got to get on this plane.”
I remember watching the attendant work slowly. I was wondering, “What’s bothering him? Why is he treating me this way?”
Finally he blurted out, “The next time you’re running late to the airport, don’t take the time to stop at Subway and pick up a sandwich.”
Now in that moment I didn’t have to be a great man of God to recognize the mind monster of anger that jumped into my thoughts. Longing to leap over the counter and grab the attendant by the neck, I saw a flash, a picture of that negative imagination.
I rebuked that thought. I cast it down. I brought my thoughts into captivity and kindly responded with something like, “I really didn’t get the sandwich myself, but that’s OK. Would you just please let me on the airplane?”
Thoughts are like trains—
they take you somewhere.
Everyone makes inaccurate assumptions from time to time. The man at the ticket counter put two and two together and assumed I stopped and hung out at Subway and as a result was late for my flight.
He concluded that he shouldn’t have had to rush. He probably told himself, “This tardy customer isn’t going to create an emergency for me! I’ve been here all day waiting for him to get here. He obviously stopped at Subway, and now he wants to fire me up and get me going. I’m not hurrying for him, because I know what happened. I see the bag in his hand!”
I have to admit, I’m not immune to making inaccurate assumptions myself. As a Pentecostal preacher’s kid, I grew up assuming certain things about people who weren’t part of our specific brand of Christianity. It seemed to me that those in other denominations were less informed, less sincere, and just all-around less spiritual than those of us in my dad ’s church. I stereotyped them as not being on “our side.”
But then along came Reggie. We met during football camp while we were in high school and hit it off right away. We saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things and had many of the same interests, including several classes together. He was a fun, good- natured guy and a terrific athlete, so we became friends.
Then I discovered the worst: he was not only one of “them”— his dad was the pastor of one of those “other” churches! Yet here we were: two preachers’ kids in a large, secular high school. I began to realize that our commonalities were so great they rendered our differences irrelevant, and I stopped making all those negative, incorrect assumptions.
Looking back I can see that God had a bigger plan for me and that even then He was beginning to free me from false assumptions. He was preparing me for what I enjoy now: friendships and camaraderie with pastors and leaders of var- ious doctrinal and denominational backgrounds. My world is so much bigger today than it ever could have been had I held on to my “us and them” mentality. I had to change my mind to change my world.
Every day you’re going to be bombarded with mind mon- sters coming to steal your joy, take away your confidence, mess up your relationships, tempt you to doubt God’s Word, keep you focused on your flaws and shortcomings, and create chaos and havoc. There’s no condemnation in the fact that mind monsters are lurking in your life—everyone has them. But you have a choice: Will you allow them to stay, affecting who you are and God’s plan for your life, or will you conquer them?

KEYS TO REMEMBER

• Mind monsters are the negative invaders of your mind that come to steal your joy and peace, disrupt your relationships, and take away your contentment in life.
• It’s impossible to live a positive life with a neg- ative mind.
• If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.
• You can overcome the invasion of mind mon- sters and live according to the assignment God has for you each day.
• Thoughts are like trains; they take you somewhere.
• You have a choice of whether or not you will allow mind monsters to stay, affecting who you are and God ’s plan for your life, or if you will conquer them.
THINK ABOUT IT
• What do you think about the statement made in this chapter, “I’ve given my life to Christ. I shouldn’t have to deal with mind monsters, right?” Why do you agree or disagree with that statement?
• What are some ways you have learned to conquer mind monsters by reading this book so far? What kinds of things do you already put into practice that help you overcome mind monsters?
• What are some examples of different trains of thought? What do those trains look like when they “arrive” in your mind? (For example, the “Lonesomeville Train” begins with thoughts such as, “No one cares about me.”)
• Can you think of a time when you realized, “I haven’t been thinking right”? What did you do when you came to that conclusion? Did you take any steps in that moment to begin thinking better? Will you approach that situation differently in the future?

The Anniversary Waltz by Darrel Nelson

May 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm | 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:
Darrel Nelson
and the book:
The Anniversary Waltz
Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Darrel Nelson is a graduate of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, with bachelor’s degrees in English and education. He is a schoolteacher by profession, with thirty-three years of teaching experience, and currently teaches fourth grade at Raymond Elementary School. Nelson has had an article published in Lethbridge Magazine and has written several dramatic plays, two of which won provincial recognition and were showcased at a drama festival. He won the CJOC radio songwriting contest two years running and has had one song receive international airplay. Writing has always been a passion, and over the years he has written four novels intended for the juvenile market. They are unpublished as yet, but he reads them annually to his fourth-grade students. The Anniversary Waltz is his first novel intended for the adult market. Hometown: Raymond, Alberta, Canada

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam Carlson has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. Despite the strained relationship with his father, Adam sets out to revive the dilapidated family farm, neglected since his departure overseas four years ago. After some convincing to take a rest from his labors, he attends the town festival, where he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616387157

ISBN-13: 978-1616387150

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

July 1946
Adam Carlson shifted in his seat on the Greyhound bus and stared wearily out the window. He couldn’t remember being this tired, not even during the heaviest part of the
fighting in Italy. But he was too excited to close his eyes now. He had finally received his discharge and was almost home. The return voyage across the Atlantic by army transport ship made him seasick, and the four-day journey across the country by train seemed to last forever. But that was all behind him, compartmen- talized in his memory along with a thousand other images he would just as soon forget. All that remained was the thirty-mile bus ride north from Great Falls.
Running a hand through his wavy, brown hair, he studied the landscape he hadn’t seen in four years—except in his dreams. And he had dreamed about his hometown of Reunion, Montana, a great deal, especially while lying under the stars at night and smelling the earthy aroma of freshly dug foxholes. Those were the times he wondered if he would ever see the Great Plains again or feel the wind on his face. He ached to see the Rocky Mountains and gaze at the foothills as they merged with the plains and stretched eastward into infinity. This was the country he loved, the country for which he had fought. Big Sky Country—a corner of heaven.
He noticed a hawk in the distance, riding the invisible current on graceful wings, circling above a stand of cottonwood trees. At that moment, he decided, it had been worth it—all of it.
Even though he had enlisted against his father’s wishes.
As the son of Hector Carlson, dry land farmer, Adam hadn’t needed to enlist. But he wanted to satisfy his sense of adven- ture. He wanted to see the world outside the farm’s boundaries, to answer the call of plain, old-fashioned patriotism. Remember Pearl Harbor! Laborers could be hired to bring in the harvest, he’d told his father, but who was going to go overseas and fight for a cause greater than one family’s run of bad luck?
Hector hadn’t accepted this reasoning, however. He tried to talk Adam into staying and helping run the farm. When his efforts proved futile, he gave up talking to his son at all. He didn’t come to see Adam off, nor did he write once in the four years Adam was away, not even a quick note scribbled at the bottom of the regular letters Adam received from his mother, Maude.
Adam shook the memory away and felt his heart rate quicken as the bus made the last turn leading into Reunion. The anticipa- tion of meeting his parents made him feel strangely nervous. It was dreamlike, as unreal as the world he had just left.
His thoughts went to those who would not be returning. Sixteen of his friends and comrades had fallen in Europe and were now permanent occupants. They would be forever denied the thrill of a homecoming and the anticipation of getting on with their lives. They would never see the mountains again or watch the maturing fields of wheat sway in the wind like a planted ocean. In their memory he closed his eyes, fighting his emotions as the Greyhound turned onto Main Street and headed for the bus stop in front of the Reunion Mercantile.
Several people were waiting on the sidewalk, anxiously craning to see inside the bus. A face appeared in the barbershop window next door to the Mercantile, peering out to study the scene. Two doors down a woman clutching several garments paused before entering Yang’s Dry Cleaners and glanced toward the bus stop. In a small rural community like Reunion, where grain prices and the weather were the main topics of conversation, the arrival of the Greyhound attracted attention.
Inside the bus the driver announced, “Reunion. Please remember to take all your personal belongings. I’ll set your lug- gage on the curb.” He opened the door, and those who were get- ting off made their way forward.
Adam remained in his seat, looking out the window. He watched as each person emerged and was immediately engulfed by waiting arms. It was heartwarming to see people embrace, cry, and laugh all at the same time. He wondered if his father would be this demonstrative, but he already knew the answer to that.
The bus driver reappeared in the doorway a few minutes later. “Isn’t this your stop, soldier?” He smiled sympathetically. “Sometimes it’s as hard coming home as it is leaving, isn’t it?”
Adam nodded and eased his six-foot frame out of the seat. He put on his service cap and adjusted his uniform before making his way up the aisle.
“Good luck,” the driver said, patting him on the shoulder. Adam stood in the door of the bus for a moment, watching
the happy scene. A woman in a blue cotton dress made her way through the crowd. It took Adam a moment to recognize his mother. She had aged during the past four years and looked so frail that he wondered how she got through the crowd without being snapped like a dry twig.
“Adam . . . Adam!” she called, her voice filled with so much emotion she could hardly speak. Tears formed in her eyes and ran down her cheeks as Adam quickly descended the bus steps. She took him in her arms and embraced him with surprising strength. “Oh, my son, God has answered my prayers and brought you back to me.”
Adam held her for a long time, his eyes closed, his lips quiv- ering. Maude silently wept on his shoulder and rubbed the tears with the back of her thin hand. Finally she held him at arm’s length as if unable to believe her eyes. Adam smiled reassuringly and gazed out over the crowd.
“He didn’t come,” she said, in answer to his unspoken question. Adam looked into his mother’s face. “But at least you came.” She reached up and stroked his cheek, her hand trembling.
“Of course I came. Wild horses couldn’t—” She changed the topic abruptly, likely realizing it would only serve to emphasize her husband’s absence if she didn’t. “Where’s your luggage?” she asked. “Let’s get you home so you can rest. You look exhausted.” So do you, he wanted to say, but he just smiled at her. It was obvious that the intervening years had taken their toll on her too. Adam led her toward the passengers who were sorting through the luggage, which was now sitting on the curb. He had no dif- ficulty identifying his two suitcases. They bore little resemblance to the ones he’d purchased four years earlier at the Mercantile. They were now held together by rope and packaging tape, and both of them showed evidence of journeys they’d taken aboard buses, trains, ships, army trucks, jeeps, and, on one occasion, an Italian farmer’s hay cart.
Maude had no difficulty identifying her son’s luggage either. As she reached for one of the suitcases, Adam quickly intercepted her. “I’ve got them, Mom,” he said, picking up the suitcases and adjusting his grip on the sweat-stained leather handles.
“The truck’s parked in front of the dry cleaners,” Maude said, taking hold of his arm and leading him through the crowd.
Adam nodded to the bus driver, who gave him a thumbs-up gesture, and followed his mother down the sidewalk, answering her questions and asking a few of his own. He realized the words of greeting he practiced on the bus were unnecessary. He hoped it would be the same when he finally met his father. But somehow he doubted it.
As the farm came into view, Adam drew in a deep breath. The surrounding fields of wheat and barley, a vibrant green beneath
a robin’s egg sky, were a pastoral setting of majesty and peace- fulness. But in many ways, returning home was like riding into enemy territory. Several times during the war, he had run into an ambush and barely escaped with his life, using every skill possible to survive. Today he felt like there was no refuge. He could only proceed directly into the line of fire and hope for the best.
His mind raced wildly as the pickup truck rattled through the gate and stopped in front of the house. He reached for the door handle but hesitated, taking everything in one more time in case it suddenly vanished . . . like a dream upon awakening.
The farmyard had changed. The two-story, clapboard house looked tired and faded, and several shutters hung at odd angles. The veranda tilted slightly to the south, and the railing was missing several spindles. The pump out in the yard had only a stub of a handle, and the clothesline beside it sagged noticeably. The woodshed and the barn were badly weathered, and the poplar tree near the garden now held only remnants of the tree house that he and his father had built years earlier.
Perhaps the farmyard had always looked like this and he hadn’t noticed. But a fresh coat of paint would do wonders to hide the wrinkles and blemishes, and he resolved to paint every building before winter. He would shore up the clothesline, repair the front step, fix the shutters, replace the handle on the pump . . .
A burst of energy surged through him. He would make it up to his father by getting the farm back in shape. It would be like he had never left. He would show his father that he did care.
Maude put her hand on his. “Before we go in, there’s some- thing I want to say. Despite your father not coming to meet you today, he does love you.”
Exhaling slowly, Adam turned toward her. “He has a funny way of showing it.”
“He has a hard time expressing his feelings sometimes, that’s all.” “He didn’t write once in four years.”
Maude stared out of the truck window, focusing on nothing in particular. She seemed to be searching for the right words. “I can’t say I agree with how he’s handled things, son. And I’m not trying to make excuses for him. But it’s been hard on him too. I just wanted you to know that.” She patted Adam’s hand. “I just hope the two of you can let bygones be bygones.”
Adam leaned over and kissed his mother on the cheek. “You’re a good woman, Maude Carlson.”
She smiled in appreciation, but her smile faded as the barn door opened and her husband stepped out into the sunlight. She glanced over at her son, who squared his shoulders and pulled on the door handle.
Adam was struck by how much his father had aged. His hair was much thinner, and his sun-hardened, wrinkled skin was stretched like tanned hide on a pole frame. His complexion resembled buckskin, rough side out, and his leanness added a sharp edge to his features. A permanent scowl creased his fore- head, and his mouth sagged at the corners.
Hector remained motionless, as though he was a gargoyle guarding the farmyard. His expression looked equally sullen and fierce, and Adam slowly approached him. Staring down the enemy in the fields and streets of Italy had not been this hard.
Maude hurried toward her husband. “Hec, it’s our boy! Adam’s home!”
Adam studied his father’s face, looking for any sign of wel- come . . . or forgiveness. But Hector’s granite-like countenance remained unchanged. Adam stopped several paces away and stood before his father like a disobedient child.
Hector met his son’s eyes momentarily, and then his gaze wan- dered over Adam’s uniform. The silence deepened and Adam felt the tension increase.
Maude narrowed her eyes. “Well, Hec, say something.”
Hector scratched his stubbled chin and cleared his throat. “They treat you okay?”
What a strange question, Adam thought. Was his father refer- ring to the army or the enemy? In all honesty, neither of them had treated him well. The army had removed four years of his life with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, and the Germans had been far less subtle than that. They had tried to kill him.
Adam felt numb as the memories of the past four years flooded his heart, a trickle at first and then a gush. The experience had been more overwhelming than he ever expected. And with one question his father had reduced it to insignificance.
“You know I don’t agree with what you did,” Hector said. “But
I’m glad you didn’t go and get yourself killed.” Adam forced a smiled. “I’m glad I didn’t either.”
Maude looked anxiously from one to the other. “Hec, this calls for a feast of the fatted calf. Get some beet greens from the garden, and I’ll cook a roast with all the trimmings.”
Hector remained motionless.
She shooed him away from the barn. “You go on, now.” Embracing Adam, she said, “Go have a bath and get some rest, son. I’ll call you for dinner. There’s so much to talk about.”
Adam glanced at the retreating figure of his father and returned to the truck to get his luggage, aware that his mother was reverting to her proven formula for restoring peace on earth, good will toward men: a delicious meal. In the past, good food had settled more arguments in the family than had any line of reasoning, logic, or argument. The way to a man’s heart . . .
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