My friend Rick left his family and friends and headed to eternity on Tuesday after battling cancer.
God allowed me to see him before he died, to occupy a small amount of his life after so many, many years. Those of us here know it was no coincidence that I found him on Facebook at this season of his life. I'm so grateful for that visit.
Rick occupies only good memories in a time when few things seemed stable. One special summer of '67 lived on in our hearts before he and other friends headed to Viet Nam, a friend and I ventured to Europe, then I found my niche in horse racing at the now defunct Longacres. I think we saw each other twice briefly in the last 30 some years, but this reunion was good, memorable. He allowed me to pray for him before I left his home.
He left his mark in my life as friends who cross time and space to remain friends in spite of life. He will be greatly missed.
Thank you so much to all who prayed for him. Words can't express how grateful I am for your friendships.
Father, I pray for his family as they must face this horrible grief. I can only hope they will find you to comfort them. That is my hope. I know of no other true comfort in the face of death. Please help them. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
To get the full benefit of this series, start with Relentless, then Retribution, and the latest release Revenge by Winter Austin. A Cajun hero and a sassy Texas cowgirl try their hands at falling in love amidst murder and utter mayhem.
Hey, I bet you thought I forgot about my traditional Christmas book shopping suggestions in October for the early get-it-done shoppers. Every book on this list is reviewed here*. Some of these have been out for awhile but merit your attention still. Shall we begin?
Let's start with the Thriller genre:
The first book in the Patrick Bowers Series and the latest in the series. I recommend these and all those in between.
The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction.
We questioned the elders and asked them, "Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?" We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.
This is the answer they gave us:
"We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Bablyon.
"However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple in Babylon.
". . . From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished."
Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.
. . .
Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be impaled on it. And for this crime his house is to be made a pile of rubble. May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.
I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.
Ask ten people their definition of utopia, and, depending on their belief systems, you're likely to get ten different answers. If you ask a Christian what utopia is, they most likely will say heaven. They might add that mankind isn't going to find it on earth. If prodded - or allowed - they will explain why.
In that explanation they will tell you that mankind is flawed, sinful, and incapable of restoring earth to its pristine condition before The Fall. They will continue to cite centuries of hideous and ongoing acts of murderous intentions repeated over and over again. They will contend that those sinful and heinous acts are not diminishing as an evolution toward utopia would purport but in fact are increasing as the debasing of human life continues.
So what's this got to do with football? I'll tell you what. The politically correct crowd, those who believe in an earthly utopia brought about by none other than the elites who can generate such things, this bunch believes they can control the game of football and make it better! Since players and coaches are incapable of self-preservation, knowing the risks of the sport, they must be controlled, guarded, protected, from their own stupidity and love of the game and who better to make sure they're not going to hit each other in ways that will further damage each other than the politically correct and self-appointed managers who, for the most part, have never played the game but think they know more about it than those who have and do.
Don't get me wrong here. There are wicked hits. There are severe injuries that can happen to the brain and almost every other part of the body. From numerous and dangerous concussions to the rupturing of testicles, injuries are a part of the game. Equipment is designed and tested, and every effort to make it more trustworthy, durable, and comfortable continues as it should.
I'm not one to proclaim football is a "violent" sport. I recognize professional football is a tough and punishing game played by strong men who love contact and have managed to perfect their skills to a level most football players can only dream about. It's a sport that has crippled and damaged its players on occasion, some never returning from their injuries, others rushing to rehab and return. Yesterday, a top linebacker for the Houston Texans (Brian Cushing) was tackled and broke his leg and may have a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee — the same one surgically reconstructed last fall — and will have to undergo surgery again. On crutches he vowed he'd be back sooner than predicted.
These injuries are a danger of the game. Nobody forces these players to love the sport and to want to play it. Well, wait. I suppose there are a few parents who push their atheltic sons to excel in different sports, but when it comes to actual training to play a sport, those who can't measure up to the dedication and the talent, to the willingness to sustain injuries, to rehab if necessary, and to play some more, the process culls those who can't do it for whatever reason.
It's a statement about our politically correct culture to infiltrate a hard-hitting and rough sport to intervene and regulate the hits by players on players. The penalties have been so extreme for even the suggestions of infractions as to take part of the fun out of the game for players, coaching staffs, and fans. The rules have created a game where after nearly every play, players are throwing their hands in the air demanding a flag be thrown against their opponent, pretending to be victims. Too often it works. The penalties are often illegitimate, subjective, partial to particular positions, and, yes, even to particular players.
Most of us watch football because we love the game and to escape the rigors and effects of politics played out in everyday life. Well, now it can't be done. Between Bob Costas and his leftwing rants on Sunday Night Football, the league considering changing the name of the Washington Redskins because of "offending the Native Americans", and the Commissioner Roger Goodell endorsing gay marriage and all of its implications, there is no escape in football. The utopians want to control the sport too. It's not enough to press for control of everything else in our lives. Now they want football too.
Why? Because they believe they know best. For everyone. You and me? We're too stupid to know what's appropriate and good for our lives. The utopians insist they have all the answers. After all, they're better men and women than you and me. And certainly better equipped to govern a sport they don't even like, let alone have never played. As with all things mankind tries to do to regulate, control, and improve: it's been a massive failure to stop injuries. But it is successful in ruining the game. Perhaps that's the real objective.
Father, if only . . . we could follow you as you desire. We would know the peace of God which is in Jesus, and we would relinquish control of our lives and the lives of others and surrender them to you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Name one week of the season of football where phantom and/or bad calls did not ruin or affect the outcome of a game. One week. And these guys - and fans - had the nerve to question the calls of the replacement refs of last year? For football fans like me, it's absurd that they can get away with some of the calls they make. And I'm not talking about just my team. I'm talking about every game I watch.
Incredible. This is my football rant for the week. I'm done. For now.
God, forgive my fanaticism when it gets out of hand. I guess it's the injustice, but I know I don't receive justice for my errors either. You paid for mine. Thank you, Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
This is one of the latest legal projects of the ACLJ. "Defending" the Cross:
"An atheist group has filed a lawsuit to have the Ground Zero Cross removed from the 9/11 museum in New York. Their claim? The existence of the Cross has brought on headaches, indigestion, even mental pain. These claims are ridiculous. So is the lawsuit.
The cross was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center and still stands as a symbol of hope today. The ACLJ is defending the Cross and our religious liberty in court and we need you to join us. Add your name to our amicus brief today."
Oh, that pesky Cross. It stands for death, punishment, cruelty, and sin. It recalls the ugly betrayal of Jesus by Judas. It reminds people that upon one cross, a man named Jesus was executed illegally with not one proven charge against him. Another man named Pilate "washed his hands" of the whole spectacle, making the way for the hedonist mob to kill an innocent man. Little did they realize they were murdering the Son of God who was hanging on that cross to save them from their sins. He would give up his Spirit to death and the resurrection from his Father would follow. With that resurrection came the promise for all who asked forgiveness for their sins to spend eternity with the triune God.
The symbol of sin, death, and resurrection of God's only Son Jesus Christ is anathema to followers of the enemy of our souls. The Cross represents victory over sin and death. What grinds on unbelievers is that ugly little word "sin". Who wants to admit to sin? Who wants to acknowledge that sin can be defined and people can be rendered guilty, and the penalty is death. Ah, but if you're willing to admit to right and wrong, if you're willing to recognize you've committed sins, if you're willing to "man-up" as they say and confess those sins to the God of the universe, He desires to forgive you! Why? Because He offered up His Son to pay the horrific penalty for your sins, and He wants you to spend forever in that perfect place with Him.
Hard to believe? Yes. Easy to do? No. It takes a complete humbling to admit to our state of being. We are sinners. That's not easy to disbelieve except for some who, through no true logic, have decided that human beings are the ultimate source of a wellspring of good. Nothing could be further from the Truth.
It takes faith to believe in God. He entwines a fraction of it within our DNA at creation. With His help we can amplify that faith to believe in what His word tells us from cover to cover. He had a plan when His creation failed the one safeguard He'd given them. A plan of redemption which would require the highest cost to Him.
Also within that DNA mixture is the freedom to choose Him or yourself for redemption. One leads to heaven. The other to hell. Not His hope that some of His creation would join the devil and his minions. But for some, relinquishing their hold on independence and their tendency to favor wrong over right is far more important now than to consider potential eternity having made that choice against God later.
I realized I could not find any kind of lasting contentment amidst the worldly encounters, conditions, and trials. I needed to be saved from myself. And so do you.
Why is the Cross so offensive? Because it should have been us on it. Not the sinless God-man who paid our way to heaven to be with Him. That kind of guilt can't be erased by taking down a Cross.
Father, there are no words for the gratitude and relief from your provided redemption. Jesus, you are the Savior of the world, and we're desperate for you. Holy Spirit, you are so loving and amazing to reside within these transformed hearts. Thank you for speaking to mine. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I can't speak for all writers, but I can surmise that many of us have gone through the inferiority blues when it comes to our manuscripts. We had great intentions, and we wrote that story with fervor. We stepped away from it, and when we returned, we were slammed with the fear of utter failure.
It's not that we didn't like what we wrote. It's just that it didn't seem like it would ever measure up to the work of our favorite author(s). We wondered if we'd made stupid mistakes, if we could be any kind of judge of our own abilities, and we concluded we might never make it as a writer. Until . . .
We breathed in and we breathed out. We started rereading and got caught up in a few chapters. We rearranged a few words, enhanced a scene with new purpose, eliminated a few clogged sentences, and felt a dash of excitement over a couple of metaphors, an intense exchange, some very cool dialogue, and actually cried over one character's decision.
Still laden with inferiority fears, we could at least admit that we wouldn't give up. We stood straight and declared: I can write. I can do this. And so we do.
I've known inferiority my entire life. But it hasn't stopped me because I know what the Lord has given me to do. I go forward knowing apart from Him, I can do nothing. There's freedom in that. And humility.
Father, help me to be the one you want me to be. You're the only one who can. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Writers, have you lost your voice? Has your voice changed?
Young writers working on their first projects often question "voice". What does it reference? How do I determine mine?
Experienced authors and other publishing professionals have written unlimited articles giving definitions of writers' voices, explaining how everyone has one, and even how to discover, perfect, or practice using "your voice".
If and when writer's block hits, is it normal to question whether or not your voice has gone silent?
Describe your interpretation of your voice or style. Can you?
I joked that mine was street literary - I thought I made it up. As it turns out, there is an actual definition for the term I had no idea existed. What would you call yours?
Father, thank you for the individual traits you give to us. In all of your huge creation we have commonalities, but still you give us individuality. You're amazing, Lord. Apart from you, we can do nothing. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Revenge is the third entry in the Degrees of Darkness Series by Winter Austin, published by Crimson Romance and due out November 11th (2013).
We're reunited with Remy LeBeau attempting to put his past behind him once and for all by returning to New Orleans where all but two of his former associates on the police force believe he died in the Katrina tragedy thanks to the arrangements of his former father-in-law and District Attorney Paul Dumond. His former partner on the police force Jared Savard knows he's alive because he thought he killed Remy when he raped and killed Remy's newly pregnant wife Marie. Paul Dumond made it easy for Remy to disappear and relocate in Dallas on the police force where he's a detective with his partner, former Marine Heath Anderson. Dumond made it clear the arrangement meant Remy could never return to New Orleans.
Remy never expected to fall in love again after the horrors of losing his wife Marie and barely surviving his knife wounds, but after his initial meeting and subsequent go-round with the red-headed rodeo spit-fire Cody Lewis in the first book of the series Relentless, he's fallen hard and reasoned the only way they can truly be together is to confront the forces that have been trying to kill him, introduced in the second book Retribution. With the information he gained in Retribution he's determined to locate and eliminate his former partner and whoever is responsible for giving Savard the orders for the death of Marie and now himself.
The blow-up he expected from Cody takes place when he denies her request to accompany him, intending to protect her from the evil he's pursuing, and he leaves with her furious declaration that she won't wait for him echoing in his senses. With his mandatory month long vacation handed down from his superior, he leaves Dallas and rides his Harley to his only remaining confidante with whom he worked on patrol in New Orleans, Victoria (Vic) Slater's home. Secretly, they intend to solve two things: who is "Alphonse" who's been ordering these horrible killings and could it also be connected to the cold case deaths of Vic's parents?
In a regretful turnaround Cody, her best friend Kim, Luc Santorini the investigator, and Heath head to New Orleans to find and assist Remy before he manages to get himself killed. Kim's on a mission to find out information about her birth mother's death, and Cody and Heath are geared up for finding Remy, starting out on Bourbon Street.
Remy sneaks into town planning to ambush Savard's underlings until he gets the information he needs. Hitting hard and fast, he gets some information but not enough. In the meantime Savard's Voodoo backfires on him and the clang of fear begins to motivate his actions. "Alphonse" learns of Remy's presence, and all hell breaks loose.
The twists tease the reader in the background, the tension amps up, the hot-headed Cody manages to alienate her best friend, Heath tries to handle Cody and Kim, Luc turns up useful and compelling discoveries while Remy and Vic try to figure out what they've missed.
Winter gives the reader a true depiction of the real New Orleans, famous for its corruption much like Chicago. We feel the darkness and evil that floats through the Bourbon Street bars, and we sense the cold murderous spirit about to wrap itself around Remy and his friends.
Revenge is an exciting tale of love, loss, the desire to put an end to the long standing evil that surrounds Remy's life so, if he can survive his mission, just maybe he can find some real happiness. Toward the end, survival looks tentative, but the intense climax and settled ending proves satisfactory on many levels.
Cody's character grew on me, but she drives me (and herself) crazy with her over-reactions and self-induced struggles. In this book her courage and toughness is admirable and fits with her strong-willed personality. Remy is the strong, stubborn Cajun who's smooth, sultry, and savvy when he needs to be. It's hard not to fall for him. The bad guys are definitely bad with a little Voodoo and a lot of cold, hard evil.
Real romantic suspense, this third edition in the Degrees of Darkness Series manages to be my favorite. Faith issues remain mostly in the background, and profanity is used occasionally. I recommend you begin with Relentless, proceed to Retribution, and thoroughly enjoy Revenge by Winter Austin.
And finally I gotta say: that is one fabulous cover for this novel.
Father, thank you for Winter's imagination and talent. Thank you for her diligence and determination. Please continue to give her meaningful characters and stories and the time to complete what you've given her to do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage."
What does it take, if anything, to get you to help yourself to a novel you've already read?
I have only one series of novels where this has happened to me, although I confess to be considering re-reading Vince Flynn's books.
Why only two books of a three book series? For the first and potentially the last time I re-read Kristen Heitzmann'sSecrets before the second in the series Unforgotten debuted. I loved Secrets because of the unique and truly amazing co-protagonists Reese and Lance. I've said before if I was a man, I would've been Lance Michelli (sans the Catholic part, and that's no offense to Catholics). His passion and spirit captured me from the first acquaintance. Kristen outdid herself with these two characters. When I purchased Unforgotten, I read it, closed the book and opened it again to the first page, completing it a second time. Then I reread Secrets and Unforgotten in order. Never had done anything like that before or since. All total, I reread those novels three times each.
The characters were amazing, the story unique, the scenes life-touching, and the locations intriguing and wonderfully presented. Needless to say, I've loved a lot of novels that proved meaningful to me in many different ways, but there was something about these two that reached way down deep and left a mark. The third and final novel (Echoes) in the series was a disappointment but then it would've been hard to equal the first two.
So I know some of you have resorted to taking second helpings of novels you've read. Why?
Father, thank you for the beauty of creating fiction that models life in all of its difficult ways but somehow through it all leaves a redemptive seal. Only you can inspire that kind of truth and beauty. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.