BOOK FUN MAGAZINE - FREE READ

LOVING CEE CEE JOHNSON by LINDA LEIGH HARGROVE








Today's Wild Card author is:


and her book:


Loving Cee Cee Johnson

Moody Publishers (September 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her writings include two novels: The Making of Isaac Hunt (June 2007) and Loving Cee Cee Johnson (September 2008). The former environmental engineer currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and three sons where she occasionally designs a Web site.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802462707

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

Prologue


Brother was screaming. He had come from the front of our trailer, running faster than the time the black snake chased him down the lane. He hid behind some of the bushes at the edge of the woods next to Fat Anne’s doublewide.

I could see his little body shaking from where I sat with my older sister Tabby on our back step. He was a fast little rabbit for a six year old but he wasn’t very smart. Daddy was sure to find his little tail hiding right there at the edge. He had run and hid in the bushes before and it was always because a beating was coming.

Tabby wiped the back of her hand across her Kool-Aid smile. I could see the red marks on her dark skin even in the shade. They curled like single cherry quotation marks on either side of her mouth. She had already finished two glassfuls. The greedy alligator!

She leaned forward and wagged her finger at the dusty boy in the brush. “He gonna get it this time. We need to teach him how to hide better.”

I giggled. The rumble of the sound mixing with the tinkle of ice in my half empty Kool-Aid glass. I was drinking it slowly, savoring it, letting the frosty droplets that covered the bottom of the glass drop on my bare knees.

“Brother, come back here,” Mama yelled through an open window. She called him Brother. Well, we all did. Not Junior. Not Quincy, Jr. Just Brother. I thought that was funny.

I was smiling about her calling him Brother when the music started. It was sudden like and way too loud. Daddy’s music. Some slow sensual tune. One of the 45s he’d bought from the records Miss Emily sold in the back of her grocery store downtown. Sade, Barry White, Earth Wind and Fire.

Mama yelled again. “Oh, no! No, Quincy!”

Then there were sounds of crashing, breaking. And then a shriek.

I closed my eyes but it didn’t stop my mind from replaying the bloody memories from the last time daddy beat her.

“Tabby, Cee Cee,” she yelled to us through a window. “Girls! Find Brother. Run. Hide!”

Hide! My mind raced but I didn’t, couldn’t move. Hide? Tabby yanked me up.

“My glass! What about my glass?” It was my favorite, a Ball canning jar from grandmamma. I looked to Tabby’s, a broken shell on the bottom step.

Tabby gritted her teeth and barked at me, “Come on!” She yanked harder on my arm. I let my glass slip from the fingers. Tabby was big for twelve and, it seemed, at least twelve times as strong as me.

Brother was already running when we reached him; Tabby grabbed his arm anyway. The movement snapped his little round head back.

“Tree house,” Tabby panted.

I wrenched myself free. “We gotta tell somebody.”

“No!” Tabby reached for me again.

“Miss Dusty. I’ll tell her and meet y’all at the tree house.”

“No!”

“But, mama …”

“I’ll go to the grader for Mr. Abraham after I get y’all to the tree house. Now come on.”

The cucumber grader was on the other side of Thirty Foot Road. That was too far away. Anything could happen to mama by the time Tabby got back with the big white man.

“No,” I screamed back over my shoulder.

Miss Dusty was a better bet. I could see Miss Dusty’s old Ford pickup in back of her trailer halfway down the dirt lane that ran along the edge of the woods.

“I’ll meet you there.” I looked back to see Tabby crouched with Brother behind a big pine. She was breathing hard. Hate in her eyes.

“Cee Cee, you better come straight to the tree house. You hear me!”

Miss Dusty was my classmate Violet’s mama. The mother of five was always working. In fact, I was surprised, but grateful, to see her truck that day. She was forever willing to help mama and us when we needed it. Though mama only took her help grudgingly, saying the word trash under her breath.

Violet met me at the door. The sun slanted in across her bright yellow hair, her light blue eyes. She looked like a fairy princess, except that is for the black eye. It wasn’t fresh; just a puffy yellow half moon under her left eye, but I still winced when I saw it.

“Mama’s not here,” she said in response to my question.

I looked at the truck and saw for the first time that the one of the rear tires was gone. The metal parts of the wheel were sitting up on cinder blocks.

“Broke down as usual.”

The TV was blaring behind her but I could hear her daddy snoring, kids yelling and throwing mess around.

“Y’all’s phone working,” I asked.

She stepped out onto their cinderblock steps and closed the door carefully behind her. I couldn’t see why since half the screen hung from the frame.

“Naw. Why? What you need it for?”

Suddenly I was embarrassed or maybe just not certain what she could do to help mama. My mother’s screams made me jump.

I took off running for home. Violet followed. She stumbled into me when I stopped, beyond words at the sight of my father making a fire in the trash barrel behind our trailer. Mama sat on the bottom back step.

By the way she was crying I could tell daddy wasn’t just taking out the trash.

He reached into a cardboard box at his feet, pulled out a large brown envelope, and tossed it in the fire.

Mama’s book.

Tears filled my eyes. My mother had been typing on it almost every night for months. Grown folks business, she told tell me whenever I asked to read it. Now it was gone.

“Good God A’mighty,” Violet whispered and covered her mouth.

“What?” I followed her gaze.

Violet had seen what I didn’t at first. Daddy had a gun. As he turned the evil thing, barely bigger than his hand, it glinted like fresh tar in the sun. He pointed it toward mama and pulled something else from the box on the ground.

My Jesus statue.

I had recited the Twenty-third Psalm flawlessly for the VBS lady and received the all nine inches of sanctified plastic at First Baptist VBS on Freeman Street. That meddling white-Negro church, as daddy called it.

More things from VBS went into the fire. Tabby’s Noah’s Arc drawings and Brother’s David slingshot. Then three tiny New Testaments. All consumed by the flames.

I didn’t hear Tabby and Brother coming through the bushes. Neither did I hear Violet leave. I used my sleeve to wipe at my tears, choking on the smells from the trash barrel. Thick smoke climbed into the air.

Nearby pine trees had begun to drop their needles from the heat. What else had daddy put in the fire?

“Where’d Violet go?”

“Cee Cee,” Tabby hissed, shaking me like she did when it was time to get up for school.

“He’s burning it all, Tabby.”

“Come on, I gotta get y’all to the tree house.”

I followed numbly, thinking of mama’s bare feet among the broken pieces of grandmamma’s canning jar and Jesus in the fire with mama’s novel and all our VBS treasures.

THE MAKING OF ISAAC HUNT by LINDA LEIGH HARGOVE


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

website and her blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Lift Every Voice (June 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802462693
ISBN-13: 978-0802462695

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

Prologue

On an ordinary afternoon in late October I discovered the truth about me. Like fire, that single truth stirred a hunger and created a hurt, but in the end it opened the door to a wholeness beyond my wildest dreams. All in all, I don’t regret embracing that truth. I only regret the time I wasted in running from the freedom that came with it.

I was planning to drive to Richmond that Sunday afternoon a few hours ahead of my parents. I told them I wanted to visit old school friends before our Sunday visit to the rest home where granddaddy stayed.

“I know it’s kind of a last minute thing,” I said, hoping it didn’t sound like another one of my lame stories. “But I haven’t seen any of them in a couple years.”

“Oh?” was mom’s response. It had been a long ‘oh’. She had stared at me with those big brown eyes over her half glasses and brought her Eartha Kitt-like voice up a half dozen notches. “Sounds interesting, Isaac,” she added like she expected to be invited along. Then she winked and said, “Give Senator Holloman’s daughter our love.”

Dad gave my hair a once-over, wagged his head, and grunted. “Behave yourself. Your mother and I will meet you outside your granddaddy’s room around two. Don’t go trampling in bothering him before we get there. He needs his rest. You need a haircut. How can you even see to drive?” He screwed up his brown face and went back to rummaging through his briefcase. Making preparations for upcoming meetings at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals took front seat to his concern over his only son’s dishonesty.

Later, I had sat in the Alzheimer’s wing outside my grandfather’s room for over an hour waiting for the woman I had lied for. A single white rose in my lap.

Her name was Rose. She had eyes the color of milk chocolate, skin like the choicest cream, and the pinkest lips. She was real and easy to be with. Every third Sunday for more than three months she’d dodge work at the front desk and meet me on the bench outside granddaddy’s room. We had a special spot in the woods.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the mud colored cinderblock wall and pressed the rose to my lips. Then I placed the rose on the seat beside me and linked my hands behind my head.

Someone was walking toward me. The footsteps were muffled and slow. I kept my eyes closed, faking sleep. The footsteps stopped and someone poked me in the chest.

“Wake up, Isaac,” came the whisper.

Another poke to the chest. “Isaac.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Patterson,” I said without opening my eyes.

He snorted and moved in closer. I felt his warm breath on my cheek. “We’ve been waiting all day, kid.”

He had been eating raw onions again. I coughed. “I’m not doing it anymore. That’s what I told you last time, Mr. Patterson.” I looked up into his blue-gray eyes “It’s over. Remember?”

He stuck out his bottom lip and gave me a squinty-eyed frown.

I shook the hair out of my eyes and looked at him hard. “I’m not doing it anymore.” I waved my arms like an umpire calling a man out. “No more.”

“What do you mean, you’re not doing it no more. Kid, it was your idea.”

“Well, it was a bad idea. And I don’t want to do it anymore. Besides, they know.”

Mr. Patterson sat down beside me and placed his silver cane across his lap. He stroked it with the heel of his hand. His age spots looked like coffee stains on white china. “They don’t know a thing we don’t let them know.”

He looked at me sideways and winked. “You know what I mean, bro.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Little white men with canes should only say the word bro if they want to be laughed at. “They know.” I winked hard and tipped my head toward the surveillance camera down the hall.

“Playing checkers,” he whispered, “That’s all they think we’ve been doing. Nobody has to know it’s anything more.”

The squeak of a wheel cut Mr. Patterson short. He was looking over my shoulder with wide eyes. The scent of cheap aftershave rose around me.

“Yes, Isaac. It’s just a friendly game of checkers,” said the voice behind me.

I turned and nodded to the thin clean-shaven man in a wheelchair. “Good afternoon, Mr. Smith. Getting a little exercise?” I forced a smile. Sweat glistened on the loose skin of his neck. There was a bead of sweat on his upper lip that made his face look dirty. His eyes, as pale as mine, sparkled irony.

He was pulling at his black leather biking gloves. For a few seconds I couldn’t take my eyes off them. That’s when I noticed what he had tucked in the folds of the blanket spread across his legs – an envelope marked I. Hunt.

Mr. Smith finished looking me up and down then nodded back at me. “Mr. Hunt.” Then he gave Mr. Patterson a smile that did nothing to warm the air and barked, “Bye, George Patterson.”

Mr. Patterson stood and gulped. “Afternoon, Mick,” he said and left.

Mr. Smith stared at me some more. I stared back some more.

“You’re quite the young entrepreneur for a shaggy-headed college student, Isaac Ulysses Hunt.” He jerked his head toward my grandfather’s door. “Old Ulysses would be proud.”

I glared at his white face then clenched my teeth and looked away.

He wheeled himself closer to me and lowered his voice. “They don’t know. That note you received came from me.”

I looked at him. He was a thin pasty old man. His Aqua Velva or whatever it was was starting to burn my eyes. The insulated shirt he wore only concentrated the aroma. His blue eyes were set back under a heavy brow with wild salt and pepper eyebrows. He narrowed those eyes and smiled at me. I looked away.

“That’s a very nice rose you have.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Want?”

“Yeah. This is where you ask me for that little favor so you can keep my little secret.”

He sighed. “If I wanted to black mail you I would have done it a long time ago. Besides it was kind of interesting watching you operate. Getting all these old white folk to trust you with their money. It beat Bingo and reruns of Diagnosis Murder, that’s for sure. What’d you do with the money?”

I stared at him. That’s for me to know and you to find out. My turn to narrow my eyes and smile.

His smile faded. “Doesn’t matter, I guess. Push me.”

“I’m waiting for someone.”

“Rose? She’s not coming.”

I frowned.

He glanced down the hall past me. “I’ll tell you outside. Just push me, Isaac. Too many eyes here.”

I laid the rose across the back of his headrest and I pushed.

Mr. Smith directed me toward a back entrance and down a wide leaf-littered path to a clearing with stone benches overlooking a small pond. Dry leaves rattled in the breeze. A few squirrels frolicked on a log nearby. I knew the spot well. It felt empty without Rose.

Mr. Smith shifted in his chair and reached under his blanket. He pulled out a half empty bottle of whiskey.

“Here, hold this.”

I took the bottle and sat on the bench beside his chair.

He reached under his blanket again and pulled out two crinkled paper cups. He handed me one and took the bottle back. His clammy white fingers brushed mine. I flinched.

“Hold your cup closer.”

And you’re against me gambling? I almost said. I rolled my eyes and placed the empty cup on the bench beside me.

“I take it you don’t care to drink with me then.”

Mr. Smith shrugged and screwed the cap back on the bottle before tucking it under his blanket again.

“I need to get back. My parents should be here soon.” Upsetting my parents was only a distant thought, I still had Rose on the brain.

“She’s not coming back, Isaac. Rose, I mean.”

“You’re repeating yourself. How do you know that anyway?”

He slumped and looked out over the pond. “Yesterday, Rose and I sat here and we talked about you.”

I frowned at him.

“Rose was my daughter.”

I couldn’t help but gape.

He shrugged and with a smirk said, “She got her mother’s looks.”

Mr. Smith shifted in his chair and gulped the rest of the whiskey in his cup. He poured himself another and continued. “She’s a bright girl most of the time but put her in the same room with a handsome face and a single white rose and she turns into a naïve flighty little thing. I asked her what she knew about you. Your work. Your family. She said she thought you were in finance and came to visit your mother every month.” He looked at me.

I winced. “We haven’t exactly talked about ...”

“She said she thought your mother was the widow Inez Hunt, a white woman that lives across the hall from me.”

I winced again.

“Then she went on and on about you. Your clothes. Your car. Your looks. ‘He has the most exquisite coloring, daddy.’ That’s what she said.”

Exquisite? She was one for strange words.

He shook his head. “That’s when I knew I had to tell her my little secret. Though I knew as soon as I opened my mouth that she’d do the same thing her mother did ten years ago. Leave me.”

He hung his head and stayed quiet for several minutes. He coughed and ran the back of his hand across his top lip. I stood up. Rose was a wash and I didn’t want to hear the rest of what this old white man had to suggest about me. “Mr. Smith, I …”

“You know what passing means, Isaac? Passing for white, I mean.”

A stiff breeze blew between us. I pulled the collar of my pea coat in tighter and leaned over him. “I’m not trying to pass, Mr. Smith.”

He tucked his cup and bottle away and stuffed his hands under the blanket. “My daddy was about like your folks. Real fair. My mother she could have passed. But she didn’t. She was a proud woman. Proud to be black. When I was seventeen, they were both killed in a car accident. Daddy’s brother took me in. I graduated high school. Enlisted Army. Did nine months in Korea. That’s where I was wounded.” He pointed at his legs. “And that’s where I discovered the benefits of passing. I came back. Conveniently forgot my uncle’s address. Fell in love with a white woman. Married her on her daddy’s front porch overlooking the Chesapeake. Had our lovely Rose. Made a nice living passing for white.

“My sweet Leslie thought the sun and moon rose and set at my command till the day my uncle shows up and I have to tell her my little secret. She took Rose and left. All these years I thought she’d told Rose. Yesterday, when I realized Rose didn’t know …

He shook his head and ran a shaky hand through his thinning hair. “You know what your granddaddy told me one day? He said ‘A lie is a lie is a lie. No matter how pretty you tell it or how long you live it, it’s still a lie and in the end when it’s brought to light, it breeds misery.’ Right out of the blue. That’s what he said. I was sitting in his room playing old Al Green and he kinda woke up and came to his senses just for a few seconds.”

He glanced at me and stopped short. I was trying hard not to roll my eyes. I’d heard that lie line many times from my grandfather. It was as tired as Mr. Smith’s blanket.

“‘I’m not black, daddy.’ That’s what my Rose said before she left me.”

He stretched out a hand, palm down, and looked at it. His hand started to tremble and he caught his breath. Tears dropped into his lap. I looked away then turned to go.

“Isaac. Wait.”

He handed me the envelope, “From Rose.”

I took it and stood there for a few seconds. Looking at that wilted rose and the shrinking old man. I remember thinking as I shifted on my cold feet that this talk had really been more for him than for me. It was obvious he didn’t care any more for me than the man in the moon but he needed to say these things to unload some guilt. He was old and guilt ridden. I knew the truth about who I was. I wasn’t living a lie, I told myself.

Man, I couldn’t have been more wrong.



# # #



“Where’s Betty’s boy?” came the scream a second time. It was my grandfather’s voice a few thousand decibels louder than anything I had heard coming out of him in a coon’s age, as he would say. And it was certainly louder than anyone at Glenbrook Rehabilitation Center would appreciate.

I chuckled and said something about his medication needing adjusting as I entered granddaddy’s room. My parents weren’t amused. Dad was hovering over his father’s bed. Mom was standing near the door wringing her hands.

When I walked in she pushed me back and pointed to the bench outside the room and said, “Sit.”

“I want to see Betty’s boy.” came another yell. “Can’t a dying man have a last request?”

Last request?

I pushed past my mother. “No, Mama. I want to talk with granddad.”

“Isaac …” my father started, then muttered, “Chloe, honey, stop him.”

Granddaddy’s eyes widened. He smiled and stretched his yellowing brown arms toward me. “There’s Betty’s boy. Come give me a hug, Isaac.”

I studied the old man from where I stood. His light brown eyes didn’t look like they had three months ago – wild and glassy like those of an animal in pain. During that visit, he’d talked endlessly to an invisible person named Mimi. The woman, I found out later, had been his secretary for a few months during his many years at the Department of Justice in D.C. Their affair had lasted for several years.

“Guilt will do that to a man in his last days,” Ricky Hunt, my father the wise judge had pronounced on the ride back to Raleigh.

Granddaddy had on one of those 9/11 tee shirts with a large bald eagle and flag enfolding the Twin Towers, and the words ‘In God We Trust’ across the top. I stared at it for a few seconds, not sure what to make of the words. God and Granddaddy? I chalked it up to another slip in reality for him.

I glanced behind me to where my parents stood – their eyes stretched wide. Dad shifted toward me a bit but stopped short when his foot hit the corner of a bulging duffle bag propped against the wall.

My mind went briefly to Mr. Smith out there crying in the woods. Racked with guilt and regrets. Weighed down with the burden of lying all his life.

What kind of burdens were weighing on my grandfather I wondered?

I stepped closer to the bed. His blue bathrobe, the one I had given him when I was twelve, was stretched over his thighs. I placed my hand on the worn terry cloth and leaned in. “Who’s Betty, granddaddy?”

“Your mama, Betty Douglas. She lives in North Carolina. In Pettigrew.”

The two adults behind me descended on the old man like an ER team, doing everything but cover his mouth with their hands. Looking back on that day, I think if they hadn’t been so obvious I wouldn’t have gotten so suspicious. I would have marked it up to another Mimi incident. Maybe he had had more than one tryst. He was a handsome old guy with those eyes and that square jaw, and probably had played the field as a younger man.

“What’s going on, Chloe?” asked granddaddy. His body fell back onto his pillow and he gasped, “Good Lord, help us all.”

Ulysses Hunt, the man I had grown to love and trust and learned to call Granddaddy Ulysses, died the next morning. Two days later, I hired a private investigator to help me find this Betty of Pettigrew.


A PASSION REDEEMED by JULIE LESSMAN



This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


A Passion Redeemed

Revell (September 1, 2008)

by

Julie Lessman



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. A Passion Most Pure was her first novel.




ABOUT THE BOOK

No man can resist her charms. Or so she thought. Charity O'Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. Her stunning beauty and flirtatious ways have always succeeded with men. Until Mitch Dennehy, that is.

Brilliant and dangerously handsome, Mitch is a no-nonsense newspaperman who wants nothing to do with her. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won't play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants--one way or another.

Or does she? Will her best-laid schemes win his love? Or will her seductive ways drive him away forever? Book 2 in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed will captivate your heart and stir your soul with a story of faith and redemption rising from the ashes of temptation, desire, and shame.

Praise for the first book in the series:

"Full of romance, humor, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page." --Historical Novels Review "Superb! Incredible!

"I loved Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure from the second I picked it up until the very last moment I stopped reading." --Armchair Interviews

"I devoured this book and loved every single page. . . . This is a thick, juicy read, and one I would pick up again in a heartbeat." --christianreviewofbooks.com


If you would like to read an excerpt from A Passion Redeemed, go HERE.

WILD GOOSE CHASE by MARK BATTERSON

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger (http://evotional.com/). He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590527194
ISBN-13: 978-1590527191

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

Yawning Angels

Living a Life of Spiritual Adventure

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
—HELEN KELLER


The Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit that has always intrigued me.They called Him An Geadh-Glas, or “the Wild Goose.” I love the imagery and implications. The name hints at the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger and an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious at first earshot, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to pursue the Spirit’s leading through life than Wild Goose chase. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something that institutionalized Christianity hasmissed out on. And I wonder if we have clipped the wings of theWild Goose and settled for something less—much less—than what God originally intended for us.

I understand that “wild goose chase” typically refers to a purposeless endeavor without a defined destination. But chasing the Wild Goose is different. The promptings of the Holy Spirit can sometimes seem pretty pointless, but rest assured, God is working His plan. And if you chase theWild Goose, He will take you places
you never could have imagined going by paths you never knew existed.

I don’t know a single Christ follower who hasn’t gotten stressed out over trying to figure out the will of God. We want to solve the mystery of the will of God the way we solve a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. But in my experience, intellectual analysis usually results in spiritual paralysis.

We try to make God fit within the confines of our cerebral cortex. We try to reduce the will of God to the logical limits of our left brain. But the will of God is neither logical nor linear. It is downright confusing and complicated.

A part of us feels as if something is spiritually wrong with us when we experience circumstantial uncertainty. But that is precisely what Jesus promised us when we are born of the Spirit and start following Him.1 Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: adventure.

I think it is only fair that I give aWild Goose warning at the outset of this book: nothing is more unnerving or disorienting than passionately pursuing God. And the sooner we come to terms with that spiritual reality, themore we will enjoy the journey. I cannot, in good conscience, promise safety or certainty. But I can promise that chasing the Wild Goose will be anything but boring!

ISLANDS OF EDEN

Not long ago I visited what must be the closest thing to the Garden of Eden left on earth. It almost felt wrong arriving in the Galápagos Islands via airplane. Washing ashore on a bamboo raft would have seemed more apropos.

We spent most of our time island hopping in a boat that didn’t seem large enough for the twelve people on board or the twelve-foot ocean waves we encountered. And sure enough, we discovered that the boat had capsized not long before our visit. That tidbit of information would have been nice to know before we climbed aboard—
but it definitely added an element of adventure.

The entire week was full of new experiences. I went snorkeling for the first time and saw some of God’s amazing underwater creations. Where did He come up with those color schemes? In an unscripted and unforgettable moment, my son Parker and I went swimming with some playful sea lions. And I accomplished one of my life goals by jumping off a forty-foot cliff into a narrow river gorge at Las Grietas.What an adrenaline rush!

The trip consisted of one adventure after another. So the saying in Spanish that we saw on a Sprite can that week seemed fitting, and we adopted it as our mantra: Otro día, otra aventura. Translation: “Another day, another adventure.”

I love those four words inspired by Sprite. They capture the essence of what we experienced day in and day out in the Galápagos. I think those words resonate with one of the deepest longings in the human heart—the longing for adventure. And I’m not sure I could come up with a better description of what it’s like to pursue God. Take theHoly Spirit out of the equation of my life, and it would spell b-o-r-i-n-g. Add Him into the equation of your life, and anything can happen. You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll go, or what you’ll do. All bets are off.

If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you’re following the Spirit but have actually settled for something less—something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God’s purposes, we want Him to serve our purposes. And while this may seem like a subtle distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that leaves us feeling empty, it’s also the difference between spiritual boredom and spiritual adventure.

CAGED CHRISTIANS

Situated five hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos chain is one of the most primitive places on the planet.While many of the islands in the forty-nine-island archipelago are inhabited, most of them are absolutely undomesticated. When I was there, I felt as if I were as far from civilization as I could get. It was Edenic.

Somehow I felt a new affinity with Adam in the Galápagos environment. It helped me imagine what life must have been like before the Fall. Scripture tells us that one of the first jobs God gave Adam was naming the animals.2 And we read right past it. But it must have taken years of research and exploration to complete the project. I don’t think God paraded the animals past Adam in a single-file line; I’m guessing God let Adam discover them in their natural habitats. Imagine how thrilling it must have been for Adam to catch his first glimpse of wildebeests stampeding, mountain goats climbing, or rhinos charging.

That’s how I felt when I was in the Galápagos. And it was there that I discovered the difference between seeing a caged animal at a local zoo and getting within arm’s length of a mammoth marine iguana or walking a beach with hundreds of barking sea lions or floating above manta rays as they glide along the ocean floor. It’s one
thing to see a caged bird. It’s an altogether different experience to see a pelican that looks like a prehistoric pterodactyl circling fifty feet above your boat, dive-bombing full speed into the ocean, and coming up with breakfast in its oversize beak.

Few things compare to the thrill of seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. There is something so inspiring about a wild animal doing what it was created to do. Uncivilized. Untamed. Uncaged. So a few weeks after returning from the Galápagos, our family spent an afternoon at the National Zoo near our home in Washington DC. It’s a fantastic zoo. But it just wasn’t the same after the Galápagos. I’m ruined for zoos. It’s not the same seeing a caged animal. It’s too safe. It’s too tame. It’s too predictable.

At one point we were walking through the ape house, and I had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas window at a four-hundred-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.

I love the church. I bleed the church. And I’m not saying that the way the church cages people is intentional. In fact, it may be well intentioned. But too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian.

Deep down inside, all of us long for more. Sure, the tamed part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage. But the untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure. And at some point in our spiritual journey, the safety and predictability of the cage no longer satisfies. We have a primal longing to be uncaged. And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the
cross to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.

Praying for protection is fine. I pray for a hedge of protection around my three children all the time. You probably pray that kind of prayer too. But when was the last time you asked God to make you dangerous?

I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction at the end of our church services, I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy.

LIVING DANGEROUSLY

Every once in a while, I have random thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Here’s a thought that fired across my synapses not long ago: Do angels yawn?

I know it seems like an inane theological question, but I seriously wonder if angels have the capacity to get bored. More important, I wonder if some of us are living such safe lives that not only are we bored, but so are our guardian angels. If they could, would our guardian angels coax us out of our cage and beg us to give them
something dangerous to do?

In the pages that follow you’ll meet some dangerous people. Mind you, they’re ordinary people. They have doubts and fears and problems just like you and me. But their courage to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ will inspire and challenge you to follow them as they follow the Spirit’s leading. I think of Ana Luisa, who used her award miles to fly to India and sacrificially serve some of the poorest of the poor at a medical clinic. I think of Mike, who started a dangerous ministry in a dangerous place—a porn show in Las Vegas. I think of Adam, whose
sensitivity to the Wild Goose resulted in a life-changing encounter on a mission trip half a world away. And I think of Becky, who made a conscious decision to endanger her own life by becoming part of the crusade against human trafficking.

Since when did it become safe to follow Christ? Maybe it’s time to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ.

SENSE OF ADVENTURE

The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard believed that boredom is the root of all evil. I second the notion. Boredom isn’t just boring; boredom is wrong. You cannot simultaneously live by faith and be bored. Faith and boredom are antithetical. Against that backdrop, consider the gospel story of the rich young ruler. On paper the rich young ruler had it all: youth, wealth, and power. But something was still missing. The rich young ruler was bored with his faith. And I think it is evidenced by the question he asked Jesus: “What do I still lack?”3

I’ll tell you exactly what he was lacking: spiritual adventure. His life was too easy, too predictable, and too comfortable. He kept all the commandments, but those commandments felt like a religious cage. I think there was a deep-seated longing within him for something more than simply not doing anything wrong.

Listen, not breaking the prohibitive commandments is right and good. But simply not breaking the prohibitive commandments isn’t spiritually satisfying. It leaves us feeling caged. And I honestly think that is where many of us find ourselves.

Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of serving as lead pastor of National Community Church inWashington DC. As with every church, our demography and geography are unique. Seventy percent ofNCCers are single twentysomethings navigating the quarterlife crisis. And most of them live or work on Capitol Hill. So the observation I’m about to share is undoubtedly shaped by the life stage of our congregation and the psyche of our city. But I also think human nature is human nature. And here is what I’ve observed: many, if not most, Christians are bored with their faith.

We know our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We know we will spend eternity with God when we cross the boundary of the spacetime continuum. And we are trying our best to live our lives within the guardrails of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. But still we have a gnawing feeling that something is missing.

I think the rich young ruler is representative of a generation that longs to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ. But too many among us end up settling for spiritual mediocrity instead of striving for spiritual maturity. Jesus speaks to that deep-seated longing for adventure by challenging us to come out of the cage. But coming out of the cage means giving up the very thing in which we find our security and identity outside of Christ.

In the case of the rich young ruler, his cage was financial security. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”4

A part of us feels bad for the rich young ruler, right? How could Jesus demand so much? He asked him to give up everything he had! But we fail to appreciate the offer Jesus put on the table.

I live in the internship capital of the world. Every summer tens of thousands of young adults make the pilgrimage to DC to try and land the right internship with the right person because they know it can open the right door. It’s amazing how many members of Congress were once congressional pages and how many Supreme Court justices were once Supreme Court clerks.

I don’t care how much this rich young ruler had to give up—Jesus offered him so much more. This was the opportunity of a lifetime: an internship with none other than the Son of God. Come on, that’s got to look good on your résumé! You can’t put a price tag on that kind of experience. But the rich young ruler turned it down. He opted for the cage. And he made the mistake so many of us make: he chose an accessorized life over a life of adventure, over a life of chasing theWild Goose.

Now juxtapose the rich young ruler with the twelve undomesticated disciples who accepted the unpaid internship. They heard the parables with their own two ears. They drank the water Jesus turned into wine. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish. And they were there when Jesus turned the temple upside down, walked on water, and ascended into heaven.

In a day when the average person never traveled outside a thirtyfive-mile radius of his home, Jesus sent His disciples to the four corners of the ancient world. These ordinary fishermen, who otherwise would have lived and died within sight of the Sea of Galilee, were sent to the ends of the earth as they knew it. What a Wild Goose chase! According to the third-century historian Eusebius, Peter sailed to Italy, John ended up in Asia, James the son of Zebedee traveled as far as Spain, and even doubting Thomas chased the Wild Goose all the way to India.

Just like the rich young ruler, we have a choice to make. The same offer is extended.We can stay in our cage, end up with everything, and realize it amounts to nothing. Or we can come out of our cage and chase theWild Goose.

SIX CAGES

In the prequel to this book, In a Pit with a Lion on a SnowyDay, I retell the story of an ancient warrior named Benaiah to show how God wants us to chase the five-hundred-pound opportunities that come across our path. And I cite the aphorism “no guts, no glory.” When we lack the guts to step out in faith, we rob God of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.5 In Wild Goose Chase, I want to take it a step further and show you how all of life becomes a grand adventure when we chase the trackless, matchless Goose of heaven.We’ll retrace the steps of sixWild Goose chasers who come right out of the pages of Scripture. And my hope is that their footprints will guide us as we chase theWild Goose. But before the chase begins, I do want to offer one simple reminder.This book is aboutmore than you andme experiencing spiritual adventure. In fact, this book is not about you at all.

It’s a book about the Author and Perfecter of our faith,6 who wants to write His-story through your life. And if you read through Scripture, you’ll discover that His favorite genre is action-adventure.

Sure, you can choose the safety and predictability of the cage, forfeiting the adventure God has destined for you. But you won’t be the only one missing out or losing out. When you lack the courage to chase the Wild Goose, the opportunity costs are staggering. Who might not hear about the love of God if you don’t seize the opportunity to tell them? Who might be stuck in poverty, stuck in ignorance, stuck in pain if you’re not there to help free them? Where might the advance of God’s kingdom in the world stall out because you weren’t there on the front lines?

Jesus’ disciples didn’t just live an exciting life post-Pentecost; they turned the world upside down.7 And that’s what you can be a part of too. Wild Goose Chase is an invitation to be part of something that is bigger than you and more important than you.

Are you in?

In the pages that follow I will identify six cages that keep us from roaming free with theWild Goose and living the spiritual adventure God destined us to. I’m not sure which cages you may find yourself in. But the good news is this: you are only one Wild Goose chase away from the spiritual adventure God has destined for you.

The first cage is the cage of responsibility. Over the course of our lifetime, God-ordained passions tend to get buried beneath day-today responsibilities. Less important responsibilities displace more important ones. And our responsibilities become spiritual excuses that keep us from the adventure God has destined for us. Without even knowing it, we begin to practice what I call irresponsible responsibility. The Wild Goose chase begins when we come to terms with our greatest responsibility: pursuing the passions God has put in our heart.

The second cage, the cage of routine, is almost as subtle as the first. At some point in our spiritual journey, most of us trade adventure for routine. There is nothing wrong with a good routine. In fact, the key to spiritual growth is developing healthy and holy routines known as spiritual disciplines. But once a routine becomes routine, we need to disrupt the routine. Otherwise, sacred routines become empty rituals that keep us caged.

The third cage is the cage of assumptions. Our assumptions keep many of us from chasing theWild Goose. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m underqualified. I’m overqualified. It’s too late. It’s too soon. And the list goes on. As we age, many of us stop believing and start assuming. We stop living out of right-brain imagination and start living out of left-brain memory. And we put eight-foot ceilings on what God can do.

The fourth cage is the cage of guilt. The Enemy’s tactics haven’t changed since the Garden of Eden. He tries to neutralize us spiritually by getting us to focus on what we’ve done wrong in the past. Satan uses guilt to turn us into reactionaries. Jesus came to recondition our spiritual reflexes with His grace and turn us into revolu- tionaries for His cause. As long as you are focused on what you’ve done wrong in the past, you won’t have energy left to dream kingdom dreams.

The fifth cage is the cage of failure. And, ironically, this is where manyWild Goose chases begin.Why? Because sometimes our plans have to fail in order for God’s plans to succeed. Divine detours and divine delays are the ways God gets us where He wants us to go. And the sixth and final cage is the cage of fear. We need to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Instead, we need to start playing offense with our lives. The world needs more daring people with daring plans.Why not you?

I want you to know that before you decided to read this book I started praying for you. I prayed that Wild Goose Chase would get into the right hands at the right time. So I hope this book is more than a casual read for you. It’s a divine appointment waiting to happen. And I believe one chapter, one paragraph, or one sentence can change the trajectory of your life.

Let the chase begin.

YOUR CHASE

O What’s your reaction to the ancient Celtic description of God as the “Wild Goose”—untamed, unpredictable, flying free?

O How have you been living “inverted Christianity,” trying to get God to serve your purposes instead of you serving His purposes?

O Right now, where are you on this spectrum?

O How does the call to spiritual adventure strike you? What is it inside you that resonates with that call?

O Of the six cages described at the end of the chapter, which do you think might apply to you the most and why?

THE BRIDE BARGIN by KELLY EILEEN HAKE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Life doesn't wait, and neither does Kelly Eileen Hake. In her short twenty-three years of life, she's achieved much. Her secret? Embracing opportunities and multitasking. Kelly received her first writing contract at the tender age of seventeen and arranged to wait three months until she was able to legally sign it. Since that first contract five years ago, she's reached several life goals. Aside from fulfilling fourteen contracts ranging from short stories to novels, she's also attained her BA in English Literature and Composition and earned her credential to teach English in secondary schools. If that weren't enough, she's taken positions as a college preparation tutor, bookstore clerk, and in-classroom learning assistant to pay for the education she values so highly. Currently, she is working toward her MA in Writing Popular Fiction. No matter what goal she pursues, Kelly knows what it means to work for it!

Kelly's dual careers as English teacher and author give her the opportunity explore and share her love of the written word. A CBA bestselling author and dedicated member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kelly is a reader favorite of Barbour's Heartsong Presents program, where she's been privileged to earn numerous Heartsong Presents Reader's Choice Awards; including Favorite New Author 2005, Top 5 Favorite Historical Novel 2005, and Top Five Favorite Author Overall 2006 in addition to winning the Second Favorite Historical Novel 2006!

Her Prairie Promises trilogy, set in the 1850s Nebraska Territory, features her special style of witty, heartwarming historical romance. Barbour plans to release the first of this collection, The Bride Bargain, in fall 2008.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601755
ISBN-13: 978-1602601758

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

Nebraska Territory, Oregon Trail, two weeks journey past Fort Laramie, 1855


“That does it!” Clara Field gritted her teeth and tugged harder on her leather glove, which was currently clamped between the jaws of a cantankerous ox. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“I’ll get him in a headlock for you, Miss Field, and cut off his air so he’ll open his mouth.” Burt Sprouse sauntered over. “That should take care of things quick enough.”

“Oh, choking him wouldn’t be the right answer.” Clara struggled to hide her disgust at the very suggestion. “I have to marvel at how similar animals and humans can be. Neither group likes to be forced into anything, and try as I might, I can’t seem to convince him we’re trudging toward freedom.”

“Well, I reckon I could knee him in the chest to make him let go.” Sprouse shuffled closer. “Hickory’s got an eye on you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Sprouse. I’ll handle this.” Clara waited until the burly ex-lumberjack wandered away before pleading with the ox. “Your antics are going to get us kicked off the wagon train, Simon!”

At the sound of his name, the ox perked his ears and his mouth went slack, allowing Clara to yank away her glove. How an ox had a taste for leather escaped her, but bovine cannibalism counted as the least of her worries at the moment. She held up the mangled thing and sighed.

Thank You, Lord, that I brought an extra pair just in case I lost one. Her lips quirked at the tooth marks on the leather. Though I never thought things would come to this.

Yanking on the length of rope she’d tied around Simon’s neck, Clara urged him toward the makeshift corral the trail boss had set up for the night. The obstinate animal refused to budge, his eyes fixed on her glove with a greedy gleam.

“There’s lots of good forage and fresh water,” she tempted. “And plenty of rest.” Oooh, how good that sounded. A verse from Psalms floated into memory: “He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

For it being a river, the Platte came as close to still water as any running water could ever hope. Wide, shallow, and dark with mud, it was their constant guide and water source. Clara tried not to compare it to babbling brooks, flowing streams, or any other clear, flowing water with a friendly rush of sound.

As for the earlier part of that scripture. . .well, they’d only just stopped for the night. Until she got this last ox to the corral, gathered enough fuel for the campfire, and cooked dinner for herself, Aunt Doreen, and the blessedly helpful Burt, she wouldn’t be lying beside anything.

But we’re one day closer to Oregon. Eleven miles farther toward a new start. Not even Simon’s snacking can take that away.

Tension eased from her shoulders as Simon ambled toward the enclosure. She and Aunt Doreen had already lost two oxen on the trail, and when they settled in Oregon, the remaining stock would be used for food or trade. The sadness creeping over her at the thought explained, at least in part, why Clara wasn’t an accomplished driver. Even after weeks on the trail, she couldn’t bear to use a whip harshly.

With Simon safely tucked away with the rest of the train’s livestock, Clara began hunting for buffalo chips. The tall, dry grass rustled around her skirts as she searched. Typically, the prairie held a large and ready supply of the quick-burning fuel. But the recalcitrant ox had cost her valuable time. The areas closest to the circled wagons were picked over by the other women on the train whose husbands saw to the animals. She needed to go farther, though never too far, to scrape together a fair-sized load.

By the time she got back to camp and started their fire, Aunt Doreen already had vegetables—the same supply of potatoes, carrots, and an onion that they’d been using since the stop at Fort Laramie—chopped and in the pot for cooking and the batter ready for Petecake. Once the fire burned hot enough to heat the Dutch oven and cook the stew, Clara gratefully sank down beside the makeshift kitchen.

A healthy breeze carried away the smoke from the fire, bringing welcome coolness as the sun faded. The moon came into view, its modest glow bathing the plains in whitish blue light.

“Grub ready yet, Miz Field?” Burt Sprouse’s head tilted forward as he sniffed the air like a hopeful bear. In exchange for their cooking, alongside a bit of washing and mending, the ex-lumberjack provided them with fresh meat whenever possible, took on the night watches assigned to their wagon, and lent a hand when he could.

“Not quite, Mr. Sprouse.” Apologies wouldn’t make the rabbit cook any faster. “I had difficulty finding enough buffalo chips tonight.”

“Looked like the oxen gave you some trouble tonight.” Burt’s voice held no censure as he squatted down. “I’ll take on your watch tonight, like we agreed, but Hickory’s getting antsy about having you and your aunt in your own wagon. You were last in the row and last to set up camp tonight.”

“Sure were.” The trail boss, Hickory McGee, stomped over to glower at them. Disgust filled his tone. “Same as every day on this trail. I warned you gals I didn’t want to take on two women with no menfolk to shoulder the night watches, wagons, and livestock. You know the law of the trail—pull your weight or be left behind.”

“We know.” Clara forced the words through gritted teeth. Men who believed women to be inferior in every way put up her back as little else could. If you spent more time helping and less time harping, things would get done faster. As it is, you accomplish nothing with threats, yet Aunt Doreen and I hold things together in spite of them. A true gentleman—the kind of man a mother would be proud to raise and a woman would be glad to claim as husband—would be respectful and helpful.

She kept the thoughts to herself. Speaking her mind was a luxury she couldn’t afford if it angered the trail boss. A quick prayer for patience, and she swallowed her ire.

“I haven’t completely mastered the art of unhitching the oxen,” Clara admitted before staring him down. “But Mr. Sprouse makes sure our watches aren’t shirked, and you know it.” She cast a grateful look at Burt.

“You ain’t the ones doin’ it,” Hickory groused. “No call for a man with his own wagon and responsibilities to shoulder yours.”

“I don’t mind taking the extra watch in exchange for their cooking,” Burt put in.

“Don’t recall askin’ you, Sprouse.” Hickory turned his glare from Clara to the lumberjack. “But anyone causin’ problems can be left behind.”

“Worse comes to worse”—Mr. Sprouse shrugged—“I can sear some meat. Got an iron stomach, I do.”

“Glad to hear it.” The guide returned his attention to Clara. “You’re lagging behind as it is. Not being able to control your animals is one more hassle to endanger the train. One rampaging ox can set off a stampede.”

“We managed to sort it out.” Aunt Doreen tugged a bucket of water toward them. “We always do.”

“It didn’t put anyone else out.” Clara shoved aside her remorse over Mr. Sprouse’s late dinner. “We’ll be ready to pull out at dawn, same as everyone else.”

“Better be.” The disagreeable guide punctuated that statement by launching spittle toward their cookfire. It hissed as he stalked away.

When we get to Oregon, it will be worth it, she vowed to herself for the thousandth time since they left Independence and started out on the trail. The Lord will see us to a new life and a happy home.

“The johnnycake should be about ready.” Clara pushed the ashes off the top of the Dutch oven with her ladle handle, wrapped her hand in a dishcloth, and lifted the lid. The sweet smell of warm cornbread wafted toward them. “Let me slice a piece for you to have now while the stew finishes.”

“Mmmph.” A moment later, Mr. Sprouse plunked himself down and set to munching the hot bread. His obvious enjoyment didn’t soothe Clara as it usually did—not when he’d made it clear that their agreement wasn’t as strong as Hickory’s warnings.

“Here, Aunt Doreen.” Clara made sure her aunt got a large portion. After weeks on the trail, not only did their simple dresses boast enough dust to plant a garden, but the calico also hung from her aunt’s thin frame. After a grueling day of travel, any moment they could use for a good night’s rest was another small loss her aunt didn’t deserve to bear. Unacceptable.

Aunt Doreen passed Mr. Sprouse another piece before he asked. Their success on the trail depended on keeping the man well fed. So long as they did that and kept pressing onward, the trail boss couldn’t leave them behind.

Clara filled a tin with the steaming stew. Onions came from their supply, greens they’d gathered along the way, and the rabbit came courtesy of Mr. Sprouse’s shotgun. If it weren’t for their little arrangement with him, she and her aunt would be surviving on jerky.

“Best deal I ever made.” His grunt made both of them smile. Burt made no bones about the fact he liked to eat but couldn’t cook. Another’s misfortune was rarely cause for prayers of gratitude, but. . .

“I was just thinking the same thing.” Clara knew Aunt Doreen’s reply came from the heart, to say the least.

Until now, Mr. Sprouse was just one more example of how the Lord watched over them and would see them through this arduous journey, which had become more wearing than Clara anticipated. A continuous stream of mishaps drained their supplies and energy. And they’d yet to make it past the prairie to the hardships of the mountains.

“When we reach the mountains, things will go more slowly.” She meant the words as a comfort to her own aching bones and her aunt’s worries, but Burt Sprouse didn’t see it that way.

“Yep. Snow can make us lose days, get off the trail, have so many delays food runs out and animals freeze. Everything’s harder once you hit the Rockies.”

“Our oxen are too ornery to freeze.” Clara couldn’t help smiling even as she muttered the words.

“Even so, we’ll all probably lighten our loads.” Burt shrugged. “I hear the mountains are littered with furniture and heirlooms abandoned by travelers so they can get free of a snow bank or make it up a steep pass.”

Her aunt’s gasp made Clara wrack her brain for something positive to say.

“After that rough river crossing, we already lost several items.” She quelled the sense of loss that overcame her at the memory of her childhood trunk, filled with her doll and doll’s clothes. The last thing her father gave her, lost in the Platte forever. “So we probably won’t need to leave anything else behind.” She forced a smile.

“For all those reasons, you have to be careful not to get on the trail boss’s bad side.” Burt waved his spoon in the air. “We won’t make it without him, and he’s dead serious about leaving behind anyone who causes problems.”

He does care. Surely Burt said that nonsense about having an iron stomach just to placate Hickory. She eyed him fondly as he made his way back to his own wagon. Who would have thought a burly ex-lumberjack looking to make his fortune gold mining would be their saving grace?

“You go on ahead and get to bed,” Clara encouraged her aunt after they’d eaten their fill. “I’ll clean up and join you in a few moments.”

Aunt Doreen’s lack of protest and grateful nod spoke of her weariness more eloquently than if she’d carped over the long day. Yet the older woman never uttered so much as a word of complaint. Not that she ever had, even throughout the long years of living under Uncle Uriah’s thumb.

No matter how many verses her uncle warped out of context, how often he misinterpreted her own words or actions, Clara held firm to the conviction that Uriah’s chauvinism was personal prejudice, not truth. Oft-repeated lectures against the frail values and fragile mindsets of the so-called weaker sex only underscored the quiet strength of the woman who’d raised her.

The few months when she’d had Doreen’s sole attention soothed her soul, pulling her from the endless cycle of guilt and anger over Ma’s and Pa’s deaths. Clara owed everything to the self-sacrificing love of Doreen. Then she’d married Uriah Zeph, and their world tilted once more. For the worse.

Hopes ahead; regrets behind. Grandma’s saying had become their motto over the years and seemed more appropriate with each passing day. Tonight, as Clara fell into her quilt, she added one more phrase. . . .

And God alongside.


Outskirts of Baltimore


Filth everywhere. Dr. Saul Reed shook his head as he made his way from the room he rented to the area of the Baltimore outskirts that housed businesses. Brackish water and mud splotched the street. The odor of stale urine in the alleyways fought for dominance over the smell of stewed cabbages and onions.

To think, this was the better area of town, where most of the residents had roofs over their heads and cabbage to eat at all. There were others less fortunate, left to burrow under garbage or be chased away from bridges until pneumonia or fever took them away. The illness he could treat, the neglect of hygiene and sanitation he could fight, but all he could do was pray for the indifference neighbors showed for one another.

That’s why he’d chosen this place. A cozy practice in a whitewashed building in the heart of Baltimore would bring affluent clients, respectable standing, and a nice living. Here, though, he could put his knowledge to the best use. These were the areas where people otherwise denied medical attention needed his help.

If only You will open their ears, Lord, he prayed as he entered the post office. His youth became an impediment in the eyes of some, who saw more value in years than in his Edinburgh education. They didn’t take into account the school’s reputation as he had when making his choice. The university’s renown for technological advancement didn’t transmit beyond the medical community.

“Letter come for ya, Doc.” The post office worker thrust the note at him.

“Any packages?” Saul peered into the cubbyholes behind the desk to no avail. “Those forceps I ordered should be coming in any day now.”

“Any day ain’t today.” The man chewed his tobacco before sending a thick stream of sludge onto the floor beside an obviously oft-missed spittoon. “While yer here an’ all, though. . .”

“What’s ailing you?” Saul prayed the man wouldn’t do as he had the last time he’d asked for help and pull down his britches to display a carbuncle on his hip.

“M’ mouth.” The tobacco tucked into his cheek, he opened wide.

Holding his breath to avoid the foul blast of air, Saul tilted his head and surveyed browned teeth, yellowed gums, and a sore the size of his thumb on the man’s tongue. Saul pulled back to a safe distance and inhaled.

“You’ve got an open sore on your tongue.”

“Heck, Doc, even I knowed that much.” The man rolled his eyes. “What can I do about the thing?”

“I’ll make you a rinse of witch hazel to clean it out. Be sure to drink a lot of water and use the rinse after you eat anything.” Saul set his jaw. “Most of all, you must stop using the tobacco.”

“Wha’?” His jaw gaped, treating the doctor to another view of that open sore and losing the tobacco altogether. It landed with a soft thud on the dusty floor.

“Good. The tobacco is what’s causing the problem.”

“Naw.” The man stooped down, scooped up the wad, dusted it off as best he could, and plopped it right back in his mouth.

“Yes.” Saul closed his eyes. “Though taking things from the ground and putting them in your mouth doesn’t help, either.”

“Dirt don’t hurt.” Crossing his arms over his chest, he rolled the chaw in his mouth, sending another stream toward the ground. This time it landed perilously close to Saul’s boot. “Even a quack’d know that.”

“People track in more than dirt.” Saul’s voice became more stern. “The more you chew, the worse it’ll get. Keep on, and you’ll see more sores until they spread down your throat and you can’t speak.”

The man’s laughter followed Saul outside—another example of the ignorance that ruled this area. How can I make a difference if they won’t let me? What do I have to do, Lord, to make them see how to take care themselves? Give me the chance to make a difference.

As he rounded a corner, a shaky voice sounded. “Young and untouched. I’ll give ya a good time, sir.”

“No.” He made to move on, but her gaunt face stopped him in his tracks. The girl couldn’t be more than eleven. Shadows smudged her eyes, and bony wrists protruded from beneath too-short sleeves.

“I swear it’s true.” She drew closer, obviously misinterpreting his pause for interest. In the brighter light, livid bruises bloomed along her throat. Whether they’d been pressed there by a violent customer or an enraged pimp was impossible to say.

“Stay there.” He held out a hand to stay her progress. Between her youth, her assertion of innocence, and those bruises, he couldn’t walk away. “What is your name?”

“Whatever ya like.” She raised a nervous hand to the marks on her throat. “Whatever ya want.”

Enraged pimp then. Saul peered down the alleyway to see if the brute lingered behind. No one there.

“What can you do—no, not that.” He stopped her hastily as she prepared to speak. “Can you sew? Cook? Clean?”

“What?” Astonishment replaced the desperation in her gaze.

“I know a lady who runs a boardinghouse and is in need of some help.” Saul kept his voice muted. “If you’re an honest sort and not afraid of solid work, you might do.”

“I sews real fine—it’s what he used to have me do.” The glow of pride left her abruptly. “He’d find me.” The whisper almost floated past him unheard, but when her hand fluttered toward her neck again, Saul understood her fear.

“Where is he now?”

“Pub.” She jerked her head toward a side street.

“Come with me now, and he’ll never know.” Saul shifted his doctor’s bag so it came into a more prominent view, hoping the symbol of trusted authority would put her at ease.

“You’re one of them what purges babes when one of us gets unlucky?” Suspicion blazed to life in her pinched face. “Like him that came last night? He took the baby, right, but m’ sister hasn’t stopped bleeding since.”

“Absolutely not.” Saul closed his eyes at the image she evoked. “Where’s your sister?” Obviously the woman needed immediate help—if it wasn’t too late.

“Inside.” She backed away a step. “Be on yore way, sir. M’ sister don’t need any more help from no doctors. She didn’t want the first one to come, but he didn’t give ’er no choice.”

“The quack who did that to her was no doctor.” Rage boiled in Saul’s chest. “If she keeps bleeding, your sister will die.”

“And I’ll be alone wif”—her gaze darted in the direction of the pub she’d indicated earlier as her voice went hoarse—“him.” Though Saul wouldn’t have thought it possible, her face became even more pale. “He said he’d take care of us, but he turned Nancy out within a week. After last night he said I’d have to take her place.”

“No, you won’t. Take me to Nancy.”

NORA INTERVIEWS MIRALEE FERRILL



How did you start out your writing career? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I got a very clear word from the Lord via a visiting pastor who I really trust. He prayed with me and said he felt the Lord was directing me to start writing, and whatever I wrote, needed to be published. I prayed about it for a couple of wks, got counsel from my husband and pastor, then started writing short articles and a memoir of sorts. After three articles were accepted for publication an author friend suggested I try writing Christian fiction.

How did you get the idea for your this novel “The Other Daughter”? Did you come up with this title? If not, what was your working title?

A friend and I were brainstorming about what I could do for my first book, and she suggested using something I knew, possibly from my own life. That triggered the idea of using an episode from me and my hubby’s personal life—we received a letter from an 18 yr old girl a number of years ago, claiming to be my husband’s daughter. After investigating and meeting Trisha, we accepted her into our lives and hearts, and have continued a relationship with her. The basis for the book came from that episode, but the balance of the book is fiction, other than the setting—I live in the Pacific N.W., in the area where the book takes place.

I didn’t come up with the title, Kregel did. My working title was Yesterday’s Child, but there were 2-3 books at the time listed on Amazon by that title, so they chose to change it.


How was it different writing your second book than your first? What kind of research did you do in order to write this story?

The Other Daughter came somewhat from personal experience and I was able to tap into emotions and family scenarios to some extent, so very little research was needed. We’d been foster parents for a number of years, so I was able to draw from that knowledge as well. Past Shadows, the working title for the sequel (which is being considered by Kregel now) was a different story. It has no basis in fact and deals with people and subjects I wasn’t as familiar with. I interviewed a woman at a homeless shelter and a local District Attorney for part of the book. The setting is local to my area, so no problems there.

Is being an author everything you thought it would be? If not, what has been surprising to you?

There’s very little that is as I thought it would be. I had no concept of the work I’d go through on the editing, revising, and rewriting, nor did I know I’d be involved to the extent in was in the marketing. Thankfully I’ve been in some form of sales much of my adult life, so that part has come easier to me than for many writers. I started on this journey completely green and untaught, and have grown and learned so much. God’s hand truly has been apparent during this entire process. When I started I had no idea it wasn’t typical for a first time author to be contracted just a year after starting to write their first novel.


I know that you have another book coming out soon. Can you tell us the title and what we can expect from this book? Is it a sequel?

I’ve written the sequel to The Other Daughter and it’s under review right now with Kregel, but not contracted yet. The working title is Past Shadows, and here’s a short summary for the book….it follows the life and problems of Jeena Gregory, who we met in The Other Daughter.

Jeena’s new job with Browning and Thayer promised big things, and she intended to take full advantage in every way she could. New clothes, new townhouse, new car and new furniture were just the start. Rumors around town cast her new boss in a shady light, but she set aside her uneasy feelings…the money was good, and his ethics weren’t her concern.

A few weeks later her world began to shake. Her salary wasn’t paid on time, and things were happening in the office that didn’t bode well for her future. Money was disappearing, and the investors were making trouble. Her boss disappeared and his partner was left to take the fall, along with anyone else associated with the company.

Jeena’s carefully crafted world begins to crumble, and her struggle with alcohol began to rear its head again. Being dragged into court to be interrogated is only the beginning....

What are you working on now? Can you tell us something about that book?

I have a stand alone romantic suspense (set in 1877 on a horse ranch) releasing in Feb., 2009 with Summerside Press. The title is Love Finds You In Last Chance, California. If you put my name into Amazon, you’ll find it available for pre-order, although I don’t believe they’ve uploaded the front cover yet, as it’s still too far from the release date. Here’s the summary for the book:

Two people trying to make it on their own must work together to save what they both love... It's 1877 and just before Alexia Travers’ father died, he mortgaged his land in exchange for gold to buy more horses. But when no gold is found, Alexia is left with a heavily encumbered ranch and no man to lean on. Not that she wants one: despite several offers, the feisty brunette has no interest in marriage. Instead, she dons men’s clothing and rides the range, determined to make the ranch a success on her own.

Justin Phillips arrives in the town of Last Chance, California, with a young son he cannot care for by himself. When he applies for a job on Travers Ranch, Alexia reluctantly accepts his help. Though the young woman can ride, shoot, rope, and break young colts, she is irritated to learn that Justin can do everything just a shade better!

When disaster threatens the Travers' Ranch, Alexia and Justin must work together to save someone they both love. Can these two independent people learn to depend on God…and each other?

Could you please share some of your Testimony with us?

I’d love to! I don’t have a “salvation” moment, per se…as I was raised in a Christian home and in church all my growing up years, three services per week, plus youth group when I was old enough. At the age of fifteen we had a traveling evangelist come for a few days—and his stay extended to a true revival that lasted about 3 wks. I truly made Jesus Lord if my life at that time, committing to serve Him in whatever path He chose for me.

Did you have a say in picking out the cover for either of your books? Was that a fun experience for you, why? If not, explain.

It was an awesome experience! When Kregel sent me their top two choices for the cover, they indicated they weren’t really happy with either, but were having a hard time coming up with art that represented what they (and I) were both hoping for. I asked if they’d give me a chance to do my own photo shoot, as I knew exactly what I wanted on the cover and they agreed to give me a shot. I had three days to get something to them, as they were on a very tight deadline. I grabbed a 13 yr old girl who’s mother is a good friend of mine. I made a trip to a thrift store to borrow (yes, they loaned them to me!) clothes and a suitcase for Kayla, then we raced to another friend’s house who had the type of door I wanted as a backdrop. I took a number of pics and sent them in that evening. The graphics department loved them and agreed to use them. They tipped the angle slightly, and tweaked the colors, making them “pop”. I loved the effect they came up with, and we all agreed it was an excellent collaborative effort.

Can you describe for me a moment in your life that you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt God was real? Not just a story you read in a book?

I have soooo many that it’s hard to know where to start. I’ve seen God miraculously heal people that I’ve been directly involved in praying for, seen Him deliver people from oppression and depression after prayer, and had Him intervene in our behalf in the eleventh hour financially many times, as well. He spoke almost audibly to me with a strong reassurance concerning our son’s safety while he was fighting in Iraq as a U.S. Marine during the initial campaign, letting me know He’d bring him home safely if I’d choose to trust Him and rely only on Him. I have a very close, personal relationship with a very ALIVE God who is more willing to speak to me than I am to listen…I’ve learned that I must give him time and opportunity to speak, but setting aside time to listen. I can’t just rattle off my “want list” in prayer, then leave…I need to allow my heart and spirit time to absorb what He is saying to me. He never fails to speak to me, when I give Him the courtesy of my time and attention, and it’s an awesome experience.

Some writers plot out what they are going to write step by step and others say they write by the seat-of-their pants, which style of writing best describes your writing style?

At first I was totally seat of the pants, with no planning at all. On my second book, Past Shadows, I did a little plotting, in that I wrote the synopsis and had a general idea where I planned to head. On Love Finds You In Last Chance, CA., I did a general outline of the main points of the story, along with a three page synopsis and have found it to be a huge help. I don’t lock myself in to a plot plan, as my characters often let me know they want to make some type of change or addition along the way, but having a general outline helps keep me on track.


Top Things you have wanted to ask Miralee but were afraid to; so I did!!

Coke or Pepsi? Diet or Regular?

Easy one! Absolutely and ONLY Diet Pepsi!! My family says I need to have a diet pepsi drip going into my veins…I think they’re saying I drink too much of the stuff, LOL!

How do you eat an Oreo cookie? If you don’t eat Oreo cookies, what cookie is your favorite? How do you like to eat it? (do you dunk them into milk?) If you do eat Oreo cookies what is your favorite kind? (they have so many now)

I’m not a huge Oreo lover, although my daughter bought a package today and I actually ate two of them…the first I’ve probably had in at least 6 months. I don’t like to dunk any cookies in milk, I just eat ‘em straight, one bite at a time, and never, ever open them and eat the frosting out.

What is the neatest place you have ever visited and why? What made it so neat, special, memorable for you?

I’d probably have to say Alaska. We lived there for a year when our kids were in upper grade school. At first I kicked about moving there, as we were leaving so much behind at home. But the Lord was definitely in the move and I quickly acclimated. He plugged me in to an awesome women’s prayer and ministry group that I ended up leading after just a few weeks (when their leader stepped down). I learned more and grew more spiritually in that year than at any time up to then. It’s an amazingly beautiful state and I still have friends there almost twenty years later.
If you had all the time in the world (and just as much money) to do anything you wanted to do; what would you do?
Miralees husbands 51' sailboat that they have docked at marina in Oregon. It's a beauty.
His sailboat frozen in at the marina.
Miralee's 100 year old house she must moved into.

Wow, that’s tough! I’m going to set ministry desires aside, and make this more personal. Although I will share that if I had tons of money for ministry I’d want to start a ranch/farm far away from the city to take street kids and prostitutes, give them a new home and train them to lead a full, productive life. But for myself? Hmm….I think two things…buy a bigger sailboat for my hubby that we could spend a few months at a time on very comfortably and luxuriously, as well as maybe having a second home where it’s warm and dry for the winter months.

Who is your favorite chef on the cooking channel? Why? Have you ever tried any of their recipes? What did you try and did it turn out?


Sorry, but I can’t relate to this one at all, LOL! I cook to survive, not because I enjoy it. I’ve NEVER watched the cooking channel (I know, I’m hearing gasps of horror from some of your readers) and I’m doing good if I ever think to try out a new recipe from my cook book.

What is one special quality, talent or event you have or have experienced that would surprise people? Please explain.

I don’t do a lot with it now, as writing takes so much of my time, but I used to do quite a bit of oil painting. Mostly land and seascapes…and I took a number of classes over the years to learn the craft.

A Special event that I helped my husband with was raising lion cubs.These are our two cougars we used to have. Sierra, the female on the top is featured in a story that just came out in Cup of Comfort For Cat Lovers that I wrote. Spunky is on the bottom, shown at about 4 months old.


Have you ever been on or would you like to go on a mission trip? If you have been where did you go? If you haven’t where would you like to go and what would you like to do?

I’m not sure I’d call it a mission trip, but it might qualify. When I was 16 I spent the summer with friends of the family working and living at an offshoot of Teen Challenge…a coffee house (not an overnight facility) that ministered to kids on the streets. We did a lot of street witnessing, and had rap sessions and studies at the house with anyone who chose to drop in all hours of the day and up till midnight. I led my first person to the Lord that summer and was able to play a small part in impacting several lives for His kingdom. I developed a love for teen ministry at that time and have always had a wanted to minister to street kids or runaways since that time.

Do you enjoy live theatre? If so, what is the neatest play you have ever seen? What made it special for you? If you don’t like theatre what do you enjoy?

We live in a very small, rural area with the closest theater about an hour and a half drive away in downtown Portland, Oregon. I’ve not been to the theater since college, and while I did enjoy it, it’s not something I’d spend a lot of time or money attending, even if we had one locally. We’re not huge movie buffs, either, although we do attend 2-3 per year. I’d have to say we’re more home-bodies, that enjoy puttering in our garden, taking our sailboat out for a jaunt, or I love riding my horse with my grown daughter (my husband doesn’t share my love of horses).
Miralee's Arab mare Khaila

Miralee its been fun and thanks for letting the ladies in my book club and others get to know you better. I appreciate you hanging out with us.
Miralee's cat - Tom doing what he loves to do - smell flowers. He also enjoyes eating apples, watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, and tomatoes. Wow!!


THANKS again for sharing your heart, time and photos with us. I really appreciate you doing that. It was great to talk to you on the phone the other day and know that you are all settled in your new house and feeling much better. Thanks for dropping by. We look forward to talking to you on the phone at book club next week. All the best to you friend.

Nora :)