Sticky Note

I'm on a blogging break, but will be checking in from time to time. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Book Lover's Dream!

It's coming! The first ever Christian Book Expo! What is that, you say?

Think: three-day event, over 200 Christian authors, 150 workshops and seminars led by authors, nightly inspirational events with authors and music artists, and an interactive exhibit floor featuring a KidZone and tens of thousands of Christian books and Bibles. Also unique to this event will be multi-author Panel Discussions featuring leading authors on significant topics.

Cristian Book Expo 2009

It's going to be held at the Dallas Convention Center (more than 389,000 square feet; 100,000 is exhibit floor!) on March 20-22, 2009, but if you come early you can attend the Christian Book Awards dinner Thursday evening.

If you're really a book junkie (c'mon, admit it!) you can also follow what's going on with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and such. Go to the Expo's home page and check it out on the left sidebar!

Gatekeepers by Robert Liparulo ~ Giveaway!

(Dreamhouse Kings #3)


Robert Liparulo


Robert is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Robert's first novel painted a scenario so frighteningly real that six Hollywood producers were bidding on movie rights before the novel was completed. His acclaimed debut novel, Comes A Horseman, is being made into a major motion picture by producer Mace Neufeld and his short story "Kill Zone" was featured in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson.

Bob has sold the film rights to his second book, GERM. And he is writing the screenplay for a yet-to-be-written political thriller, which sold to Phoenix Pictures, for Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, The Guardian) to direct!

And his third book Deadfall. debuted to rave reviews!


Bob Liparulo wants to give away a signed 3 book set of the DreamHouse Kings books! Send an email to Bob [at] Liparulo [dot] com and put "CFBA" in the subject line. He will pick a winner next week!!!!

In the third novel of this young adult series, the mystery deepens in a house that is more than meets the eye.

The Kings have been in the creepy old place, their new home, for only a few days, but they've experienced enough terror to last a lifetime. And the mystery is growing even more baffling. Shadowy and shifting, the big house conceals doors into other worlds that blur the line between memories and dreams-and the slightest misstep can change history forever.

At least, that's if they believe the trembling old man who shows up claiming to know them. "There's a reason you're in the house," he tells them. "As gatekeepers, we must make sure only those events that are supposed to happen get through to the future."

The problem is that horrors beyond description wait on the other side of those gates. As if that weren't enough, the Kings are also menaced by sinister forces on this side-like the dark, ancient stranger Taksidian, who wants them out now.

It's hard to believe that things could have gotten worse for the King family-but they have. Dad's in handcuffs, the school bully has just found the secret portal that leads from the high school to the house, and Xander is sure he's found Mom, but they can't get back to her. Then Jesse arrives, and he seems to be a virtual Obi Wan of knowledge about the place. But is he the key they need to unlock the secrets, or just a crazy old man?

Dangers are increasing from within and without when Xander makes a startling discovery that explains why they haven't found any rooms that lead to the future. Alongside the threats, though, they're also starting to find some surprising allies.
All they have to do is get organized, get psyched, and get Mom. But that isn't nearly as easy as it sounds.

Xander, David, and Toria must venture beyond the gates to save their missing mother-and discover how truly high the stakes have become.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Gatekeepers
(Dreamhouse Kings #3)
, go HERE

What they're saying:

"If you like creepy and mysterious, this is the house for you! Every room opens a door to magic, true horror, and amazing surprises. I loved wandering around in these books. With a house of so many great, haunting stories, why would you ever want to go outside?" --R.L. Stine (Goosebumps)

"A powerhouse storyteller delivers his most fantastic ride yet!"
-Ted Dekker, bestselling author of Kiss, Chosen and Infidel

My thoughts:
I haven't read this series yet but I can't wait! I've heard so many good things about it and even though it's labeled "Young Adult" I know many people who no longer fall into that category love this series. Check out these other reviews and see what you think:

Quiverfull Family

Book Critiques

Enroute to Life

Relz Reviewz (with extra giveaway!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Booking Through Thursday ~ Electronic vs. Paper

Today's Booking Through Thursday is a little different. Instead of posting on each blog we're to join a discussion in the comments on that post. Here's what it says...

Something a little different today–

First. Go read this great article from Time Magazine: Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature. (Well worth reading.)

Second. Stop and think about it for moment. Computers and digital media are changing everything we do these days, whether we realize it or not, and that includes our beloved books.


To be different, today, I’d love to see a discussion here, in the comments, rather than scattered amongst all our separate blogs. Because this is an issue that affects ALL of us, and I’d really like to see us hash out the merits and demerits of this evolution.

Tell us what you think. Do you have an ebook reader? Do you read ebooks on your computer? Do you hate the very thought? How do you feel about the fact that book publishing is changing and facing much the same existential dilemma as the music industry upon the creation of MP3s?

Sure, feel free to write about this on your blog, but honestly–I’d love to see an in-depth discussion, and you can’t do that by flitting about the internet reading 100 different, individual essays. You can only get that by having the back and forth of conversation.


There you have it! Go on over to Booking Through Thurdsay and throw in your two cents!

I'll go ahead and throw in some of my two cents here as well...

I don't have an ebook reader, nor do I care to get one. I don't like reading ebooks. Call me old fashioned but I'd much rather feel the paper in my hands. Also reading on screen hurts my eyes after a while and it's harder to go back and find something you want to look at again electronically.

However, I know change happens and that ebooks will become more prevalent and that is fine. They would also need to greatly improve the electronic readers, though. I can see advantages of it (i.e. having lots of books to choose from in one small package), but I still prefer paper. I don't think it will be the same kind of change as the music industry where they stop printing paper books all together.

Also, what about libraries? Checking out ebooks? Lending ebooks to friends? And many of us like to buy used books. They claim that ebooks are cheaper...but they aren't compared to used books.

I don't think ebooks will completely take over (whew!). But I can see them co-existing.

And as a side long as spell check doesn't recognize "ebooks" neither will I! LOL

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Red Siren by M.L. Tyndall

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Red Siren

Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)


M.L. Tyndall


M. L. (MARYLU) TYNDALL grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she'd only give her heart to Him completely.

Her current releases in the Legacy of The Kings Pirates series include:The Restitution, The Reliance, and The Redemption and The Falcon And The Sparrow


Lady Faith Westcott has turned her back on God and on man. Having witnessed the hypocrisy in the Church of England, her older sister's abuse at the hand of her husband, and her own mother's untimely
death in childbirth, Faith has determined never to marry and to gain enough wealth so she and her two sisters will never have to depend on man or God again.

To that end, though a lady by day, she becomes a pirate by night and begins her sordid career off Portsmouth when she attacks and plunders a merchant ship commanded by the young Dajon Waite. Humiliated at being defeated by a pirate and a woman no less, Dajon returns home without cargo and ship, and his father expels him from the family merchant business.

After a brief sojourn into debased society, Dajon rejoins the Royal Navy, where he finds comfort in the strict rules and redemption through his service to others. Three years later, he is sent to the frontier outpost of Charles Town, South Carolina to deal with the pirate problem. There, he connects with his mentor and old friend, Admiral Westcott, who has just arrived with his three daughters.

Much to Dajon's utter dismay, Admiral Westcott, who is being called away to Spain, asks Dajon to be temporary guardian of his three lovely daughters. One of the ladies seems familiar to him, a striking redhead who immediately sends his heart thumping.

Faith recognizes Captain Waite as the buffoon whose ship she plundered off Portsmouth. Yet, he appears no longer the fool, but instead a tall, handsome and commanding naval officer. Despite her immediate attraction to him, she labels him the enemy, but sparks are guaranteed to fly during the next few months when independent, headstrong and rebellious Faith falls in love with God-fearing honorable, rule-following Dajon-especially when Faith continues her pirating off the Carolina coast while her father is away.

Will Dajon catch her? And what will this man of honor and duty do when he does?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Red Siren, go HERE

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesday ~ Cry in the Night

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

~Grab your current read.

~ Let the book fall open to a random page.

~ Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

~ You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

~ Please avoid spoilers!

Here are my teaser sentences:

He cupped his hand to the side of his mouth and stared out the opening of the shack before he whispered, "I saw what it did."

~Cry in the Night by Colleen Coble, page 20

Get more teasers over at Should Be Reading!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Musing Monday ~ Lending Books

Today's Musing Monday asks:

A few weeks back we had a question about borrowing books, this week I was wondering what your policy was on lending books. Do you lend books to anyone? Just friends? Only big readers? How long are they allowed to have them?

I don't mind lending books to friends, but I wouldn't want to lend to people I don't really know. I am not a book-pusher who says, "Here, take this you have to read it," but more of a, "Hey if you'd like to borrow any books just let me know."

It doesn't matter to me how long they keep them, as long as I get them back eventually. Well, a year might be pushing it because surely anyone can get a book read in a year. I did lend some books to a lady in a bible study (at a different church than where I go) almost two years ago and still haven't gotten them back. I hate wondering if I should call her and ask for them back or not. I'm such a non-confrontationalist!

As a side note, I know some people don't lend out books because of what shape they will be in when they return and I don't blame them. I wrote in previous posts that I like to keep my books looking as good as possible, so I do hope that my books come back in the same shape they left, and that does make me want to hesitate on lending them out. But at the same time, people are more important than books and I'd rather someone be blessed by reading it than me hording it so that it doesn't get out of shape. If it comes back a mess (and they have before) I mourn the loss but it's not the end of the world. I know, I'm a freak but I know I'm not alone on this! :o)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Centurion's Wife

Bethany House Publishers (January 1, 2009)


Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

Davis Bunn is an internationally acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in fifteen languages. His audiences span reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include My Soul To Keep, and Full Circle. A sought-after lecturer in the art of writing, Bunn was named Novelist in Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University.

He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write.

Her first novel, a prairie love story titled Love Comes Softly, was published by Bethany House in 1979. This book was followed by more than 75 others.

After Love Comes Softly was published, Oke found her readers asking for more. That book led to a series of eight others in her Love Comes Softly series. She has written multiple fiction series, including The Canadian West, Seasons of the Heart and Women of the West. Her most recent releases include a beautiful children's picture book, I Wonder...Did Jesus Have a Pet Lamb and The Song of Acadia series, co-written with T. Davis Bunn.

Janette Oke's warm writing style has won the hearts of millions of readers. She has received numerous awards, including the Gold Medallion Award, The Christy Award of Excellence, the 1992 President's Award for her significant contribution to the category of Christian fiction from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and in 1999 the Life Impact Award from the Christian Booksellers Association International. Beloved worldwide, her books have been translated into fourteen languages.

She and her husband live nearby in Alberta, Canada.


Janette Oke has dreamed for years of retelling a story in a biblical time frame from a female protagonist's perspective, and Davis Bunn is elated to be working with her again on this sweeping saga of the dramatic events surrounding the birth of Christianity...and the very personal story of Leah, a young Jewess of mixed heritage trapped in a vortex of competing political agendas and private trauma.

Caught up in the maelstrom following the death of an obscure rabbi in the Roman backwater of first-century Palestine, Leah finds herself also engulfed in her own turmoil--facing the prospect of an arranged marriage to a Roman soldier, Alban, who seems to care for nothing but his own ambitions.

Head of the garrison near Galilee, he has been assigned by Palestine's governor to ferret out the truth behind rumors of a political execution gone awry. Leah's mistress, the governor's wife, secretly commissions Leah also to discover what really has become of this man whose death--and missing body--is causing such furor.

This epic drama is threaded with the tale of an unlikely romance and framed with dangers and betrayals from unexpected sources. At its core, the story unfolds the testing of loyalties--between two young people whose inner searchings they cannot express, between their irreconcilable heritages, and ultimately between their humanity and the Divine they yearn to encounter.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Centurion's Wife, go HERE

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Booking Through Thursday ~ Inspiration

This week Booking Through Thursday asks:

Since “Inspiration” is (or should) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?

Reading is an escape for me most of the time. So I like to read fiction that takes me to interesting places with characters I can connect with and get wrapped up in their story. I like experiencing places and cultures I haven't been to before but I also like reading about places I have visited/lived and connecting through nostalgia.

Since the world has too much violence and foul language and perverse things I don't want to read about it as well. Books that contain those things turn me off and put me in a bad mood. Not that what I read has to be light and fluffy by any means, just not foul. I am inspired more by a good story especially if it's romantic, suspenseful, or historical. I also like books with humor woven in where I can't help but laugh out loud.

As far as non-fiction, I get inspired by books that pull me out of my tunnel vision and help me grow spiritually. One of my favorites is Beth Moore. I love how she is on fire for God and inspires others to do the same.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grace for the Afflicted by Dr. Matthew S. Stanford

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness

Paternoster (September 5, 2008)

My thoughts:
Grace for the Afflicted is a great resource for a real biblical and scientific perspective on mental illness. It seems mental illness gets a bad rap especially from Christians because it is so misunderstood. Well-meaning Christians tend to do more harm than good when they try to "help" someone who is either suffering with a mental illness or living with someone who is when they don't have an accurate view of the illness.

This book starts with how the mind, body and spirit work and interact with each other and discusses what is commonly assumed from illnesses versus what is true. It also includes topics such as: mood disorders (including depression), anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, substance use disorders and borderline personality disorder. It covers each of these disorders with both science and biblical insights. It speaks to those who suffer with it themselves as well as to those who have loved ones who suffer.


Dr. Matthew S. Stanford is professor of psychology, neuroscience, and biomedical studies at Baylor University, where he also serves as the director of the Psychology Doctoral Program. He received his Ph.D. in neuroscience from Baylor in 1992. After graduating from Baylor he completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Prior to returning to Baylor as a member of the staff in 2003, he was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Orleans.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Paternoster (September 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068446
ISBN-13: 978-1934068441


Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

The church we were involved with at the onset of my son’s [mental] illness did not respond to us when we requested that a team come out and pray over him. . . . We were looking for support and comfort, and the churches we encountered were

not equipped to give that to us because they did not seem to have a complete handle on what we were dealing with. We have fallen away from the church, but not from God. —Laurie, mother of a son diagnosed with schizophrenia

“The Scriptures tell us that in Christ we have everything we need for life and godliness, correct? So can you explain to me why Anna’s bipolar disorder and her dependence on medication is not an issue of weak faith or sin?”

Only two of us stayed after the church meeting that morning, talking over coffee. I was a deacon in the church at the time, and the man who asked the question was a friend and respected elder. The question took me by surprise, and initially I was speechless (a condition for which I am, unfortunately, not known). If you have a loved one with a mental illness—or you yourself struggle with the debilitating symptoms—your first reaction to such a question may have been more along the lines of sadness, disgust, or anger.

But in my friend’s defense, he sincerely wanted to understand something he saw as alien and frightening. Was Anna sick, or was she spiritually weak? We know from 2 Peter 1:3 that we do have “everything we need for life and godliness.” Yet, even though Anna professed Christ as Savior, her life was a mixture of family problems, shame, suffering, and strange behavior. How should the church respond?

Science and faith have had a long and tense relationship. A dangerous and damaging battle—a battle between faith and psychiatry/psychology—is being waged daily in churches throughout the world. And lives are being destroyed. Men and women with diagnosed mental illnesses are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demon-possession, weak faith, and generational sin. The underlying cause of this stain on the church is a lack of knowledge, both of basic brain function and of scriptural truth.

Mental illness is a frightening experience, not only for the afflicted but also for those who witness an individual struggling with strange thoughts and behaviors. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages eighteen and older (one in four adults) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.1 Centuries of tension between the church and the scientific community have made pastors and laypeople alike wary of adopting scientific explanations for behaviors and thoughts that, on the surface, may appear sinful (e.g., suicidal ideations).

Again, I believe that the lack of understanding in the church related to mental illness is rooted in spiritual ignorance and fear. So, let’s look first to God’s Holy Word to gain a better understanding of how we were created, what effects the Fall has had on our physical bodies and minds, and who we are in Christ.

How Are We Created?

We have been created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:26). We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We are complex beings, unlike any other living creature: the union of a physical body with an immaterial mind and spirit. While each aspect is separate, in some sense, they are connected and affect one another. The Scriptures attest to this truth.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalm 84:2)

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) (all emphases, author’s)

The Body

At one level we exist in a physical body so that we can interact with the physical world around us. Our heart pumps; our stomach and intestines digest; our muscles relax and contract; our lungs inhale and exhale; our brain cells fire. We are God’s creative masterpiece: a miracle of skin, bone, and blood formed from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). But at the same time we are so much more. We perceive. We think and reason. We pray.

There is also an immaterial, nonphysical aspect to our being—what some call our mind or soul.

The Mind

What is the mind? This question has baffled philosophers and scientists alike for thousands of years. Are our thoughts and perceptions merely the product of neurochemical changes and electrical discharges in our brain? Or is our mind something more—something immaterial, more than the sum of our parts? I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. The functioning of our brain is integral to the existence of our mind, but that alone is not sufficient to explain it. Likewise, to imagine our mind as completely separate and unrelated to the physical does not seem correct either. Body and mind are intimately connected, each affecting the other. We retrieve a past memory of a fearful event in our mind, and our physiology reacts. Our sensory receptors are activated by familiar stimuli in the environment, and past thoughts and feelings rush to consciousness.

The Scriptures often speak of the mind. It is here that we . . .

Plan our actions

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Choose to sin

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. (Romans 8:6–7)


What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing

with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15)

Receive revelation and understanding from God

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)

Meditate on the truths of God

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

Are transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

(all emphases, author’s)

It is with our mind that we think and choose. It is our mind that controls our actions. And it is our mind that God wants to change through the process of sanctification, conforming us ever closer to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). A physical body formed by the hands of the Maker in union with an immaterial mind that controls and plans our behavior is a truly miraculous concept, though a difficult one to grasp. And the Scriptures teach us that we also have a third and even more amazing level of being, a spirit.

The Spirit

It is not uncommon for neuroscientists to talk and debate about the mind. We might use fancier words like consciousness or self-awareness to make it sound more “scientific,” but we are still talking about an immaterial, invisible aspect of our being. Things that can’t be seen make scientists uncomfortable. We don’t like to say that something is beyond our understanding or that it can’t be measured. We may admit that we don’t understand something presently but qualify our admission by saying that with enough study and the continued advancement of science we will one day. So to describe us as having a spirit, in addition to a mind and a body, seems almost heretical from a scientific perspective. But here is where we scientists must understand that Scripture is our ultimate authority and that it precisely describes our created being in the context of our relationship with God and our fellow human beings.

God created us as a unity of three parts, much like Himself. In our inmost being we are spirit, the very breath of God placed into a shell of dust (Genesis 2:7). That is how we differ from the other living creatures: both were created from the ground (Genesis 2:7, 19), but only humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). I like the way Paul Brand and Philip Yancey describe it in their book In His Image:

“And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (2:7).

When I heard that verse as a child, I imagined Adam lying on the ground, perfectly formed but not yet alive, with God leaning over him and performing a sort of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Now I picture that scene differently. I assume that Adam was already biologically alive—the other animals needed no special puff of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide to start them breathing, so why should man? The breath of God now symbolizes for me a spiritual reality. I see Adam as alive, but possessing only an animal vitality. Then God breathes into him a new spirit, and infills him with His own image. Adam becomes a living soul, not just a living body. God’s image is not an arrangement of skin cells or a physical shape, but rather an inbreathed spirit.2

Our body, while we see it as our true identity, is little more than a container for our true essence, which is spirit (2 Corinthians 5:1). It is in our spirit that we have the opportunity to be in union with the very God of the universe (Proverbs 20:27; Romans 8:16).

Bringing It All Together

So how does all this work together—body, mind, and spirit? Let’s look at a simple visual representation. Figure 1 shows three concentric circles, each separate but interacting with the one above and/or below. The outermost circle represents the body, which is in contact with the earthly environment (outside) and the mind. The middle circle is the mind, which is connected to the body through the functions of the brain and nervous system but also in contact with our immaterial spirit (the innermost circle). The body senses and reacts to the external environment; and the mind uses that information to perceive, understand, and interpret our surroundings. The mind also forms our thoughts and plans our actions. The spirit, when connected to God, works to transform the mind into the very image of Christ, which results in an ever-increasing display of godly behaviors through the body.

We are an amazing creation! The physical (body) interacting with the immaterial (mind/spirit). Physical beings designed to be in an intimate communion with the very Creator of the universe, who is spirit (John 4:24). That is how we were created, and that is how it was supposed to be. But humanity fell (sinned), and the consequences of our disobedience are felt every day, both spiritually and physically.

How Have We Been Affected by the Fall?

After the shock had worn off, I thought for a minute about how to respond to my friend’s question about Anna. I asked him, “Do you know anyone who has heart disease and regularly takes medication?”

He said that he did, but before I could continue, he asked me if I was trying to say that Anna’s bipolar disorder and heart disease were somehow the same. Throughout this book, I will try to answer that question. How are they the same? How do they differ? But first we need to answer a more foundational question: What are the results of man’s sin?

When a follower of Jesus Christ is asked that question, he or she will often quote Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Such a response correctly points out that spiritual death, or separation from God, is the result of sin. As children of Adam, we are sinful by nature and therefore spiritually dead and separated from God at birth (Romans 5:12).

I have always thought it strange, however, that the answer to the question rarely goes beyond the spiritual. Clearly, spiritual death resulted from our sin. But what about the other aspects of our being, our mind and body? How were they affected by the Fall? I have suggested that the Scriptures describe us as a three-part being, with each part interacting with and affecting the others. If that is true, then our sin must have also adversely affected our mind and body. I’m not saying that this truth is completely unknown in the church today. Plainly, the Bible teaches us that we are fully defiled by sin (body, mind, and spirit)—caught in what some theologians call “total depravity” (see Romans 3:12). Yet the church emphasizes the spiritual effects of sin while minimizing or disregarding the mental and physical effects. As I stated above, I think this results from a misunderstanding of what the Scriptures teach about how we have been created.


At birth, we are physically alive but spiritually dead. We are born with an imperfect body, scarred as the result of generations of sin. On the day that Adam and Eve fell, they forfeited their intimate relationship with God, and they became mortal. And we were placed at the mercy of the environment and natural biological processes that wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. But as Jesus teaches in the story of the man born blind, each time we struggle with illness and physical weakness is an opportunity for “the works of God” to be “displayed” (John 9:1–3).


When Adam and Eve fell, we were forced to fend for ourselves in a hostile and fallen world. Look at figure 2 to get a better idea of how and why we think and act the way we do. As we grow and mature, our body and mind learn to interact with and react to our fallen environment, all the while spiritually separated from God by our sin. The body, physically affected by the Fall, gathers sensations and stimuli from the earthly environment (small black arrows). Our mind, knowing only sin because of our separation from God, chooses to satisfy itself by the “If it feels good, do it” lifestyle, or what we in psychology call the pleasure principle. In doing so, it associates normal physiological reactions and sensations with lustful desires and wants, causing impure thoughts to come to mind almost instantly in common, everyday situations (James 1:14–15). It is in our mind that we choose to sin (2 Corinthians 10:5); and it is with our body (Ephesians 2:3), or “members” (Romans 7:23), that we act out our sinful thoughts (large black arrows). This process is altered only in the individual who comes to a saving faith in Christ Jesus, and even then that believer continues to struggle with a sinfully programmed mind and body (Romans 7:14–25).

In addition to the sinful desires that attempt to control us, another result of sin is physical death and decay.

Physical Death

God told Adam that in the day he ate from the forbidden tree he would surely die (Genesis 2:16–17); and while He certainly meant this in the spiritual sense, He also meant it in the physical sense. The moment that Adam disobeyed he began to age and decay (Genesis 3:19). Physical death came a little closer each day of his life, and so it continues for us. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that the whole of the physical creation was affected by our sin and longs for the day of redemption (Romans 8:19–22). Our bodies are damaged because of sin. We age. We get sick. We suffer physically and die because the physical creation has been affected by the Fall.

However, while we were all born “dead in sin,” which affected our body, mind, and spirit, there is an amazing truth for those who have been “born again”: we are new creations in Christ; the old things have passed away; the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Our Identity in Christ

Have you ever thought about what it means that you are a “new creation”? It means that you have been fundamentally changed; what you were before becoming a Christian no longer exists. That is not how I used to see myself. I lived Sunday to Sunday, holding on to some kind of faith-based fire insurance that I could turn in at my death in order to get into heaven. I certainly didn’t see myself as Paul describes the believer in Ephesians 1, having every spiritual blessing. I now recognize that as a believer in Jesus Christ I was chosen before the foundation of the world; predestined for adoption as a son of the living God; purchased out of slavery to sin and death; forgiven of all my sins—past, present, and future; given spiritual wisdom and revelation; and marked as such until the day that I stand before Him holy and blameless.

Do you see yourself that way? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then that is exactly how God sees you—whether you accept it or not. It doesn’t matter if you are struggling with mental illness. You are a new creation in Christ if you have received Him by faith. And we who minister to those who struggle with mental illness should remember that they are His chosen children, if they are in Christ, and they should be treated as such.

A Transformed Life

We were born with a fallen nature, which we received from our ancestral father Adam. But when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, he or she is “crucified”! The “old self” is nailed to the cross with Christ, never to return (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20). God gives us His Spirit; Christ’s very life takes up residence in us (Colossians 3:1–3). We have His righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9) and a new, Christlike nature (Ephesians 4:24). Spiritually, we sit at the very right hand of God Almighty (Ephesians 2:6).

So, just like my friend said, as believers we are complete in Christ, having everything we need for life and godliness in Him (2 Peter 1:3). That is true in the spiritual realm, but remember that we are a unity of three parts. What happens to our body and mind after we are transformed in the spirit?

Being Conformed to the Image of Christ

You were born affected by sin, and you lived some period of time before coming to Christ. Consequently, you have habits, thought patterns, and biological predispositions that are the result of your old self. This “sinful flesh” does not disappear because you have been given a new life. But change is now possible, whereas before it was not.

Let’s look at figure 3 to help understand our new life. We now see, in the inner circle, the very life of Christ within us. The Scriptures teach us that we are to submit ourselves to Christ, allowing Him to transform our minds (Romans 12:1–2). In the diagram this is represented by the small white arrowheads. As our minds are transformed and our thoughts are taken captive to Christ, He begins to take control of the “members” of our body (symbolized by the three large, black-and-white arrows), and our behaviors change (Colossians 3:5–10).

Why Write This Book?

At this point you may be saying to yourself, I thought this book was about mental illness and Christianity. When are you going to talk about my son’s disorder? I need to know what to do! Why am I having these thoughts and feelings? I don’t want to be like this!

Those emotional responses, and many more like them, are why this book has been written. But beyond that, I have seen the limitations of psychiatry and psychology firsthand.

As a research scientist studying human aggression, I see the results of the Fall every day—broken men and women who want to behave differently but feel as if they have lost control of themselves, wives who fear their husbands, children who seem destined to repeat the sins of their fathers. In my laboratory, we test the effectiveness of different medications on aggressive behavior. In many instances the treatments are successful: the patient’s aggressive behavior is reduced in intensity and frequency. But is that enough if the person still does not know Christ? The medication treats only the physical effects of the Fall. The mental effects often remain; and if the patient does not know Christ, so does his or her spiritual separation from God.

I hope this chapter has shown you that we have been affected by sin at all three levels of our being. Both believers and nonbelievers carry the physical and mental effects of sinful programming. Fortunately, believers have been transformed in their inner being and are righteous before their Maker. But that does not instantaneously remove the sinful “flesh” we still carry around. Sanctification is a process by which our minds are transformed through submission to Christ. Biological defects and weaknesses do not go away by themselves, no matter how much we want them to or have faith that they will. God can certainly choose to heal us supernaturally, and in some cases He does so. But we should see our weaknesses as an opportunity to grow in our faith (2 Corinthians 12:7–10; James 1:2–4). Like the man born blind, we are flawed so that “the works of God might be displayed” in us (John 9:3).

1. Ronald C. Kessler et al., “Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of Twelve-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), Archives of General Psychiatry 62 (2005): 617–27.

2. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, In His Image (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 22.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stand-In Groom

Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)


Kaye Dacus


Kaye Dacus is an author and editor who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. A former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kaye enjoys being an active ACFW member and the fellowship and community of hundreds of other writers from across the country and around the world that she finds there.

She currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, which she co-founded in 2003 with three other writers. Each month, she teaches a two-hour workshop on an aspect of the craft of writing at the MTCW monthly meeting. But her greatest joy comes from mentoring new writers through her website and seeing them experience those “aha” moments when a tricky concept becomes clear.


When wedding planner Anne Hawthorne meets George Laurence, she thinks she's found the man of her dreams. But when he turns out to be a client, her "dream" quickly turns into a nightmare. Will Anne risk her heart and career on this engaging Englishman?

George came to Louisiana to plan his employer's wedding and pose as the groom. But how can he feign affection for a supposed fiancee when he's so achingly attracted to the wedding planner? And what will happen when Anne discovers his role has been Stand-In Groom only? Will she ever trust George again? Can God help these two believers find a happy ending?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Stand-In Groom, go HERE

What they're saying about it:

“Dacus pulls off a delightful story that places readers in the heart of the South with the debut of the Brides of Bonneterre series. Readers will enjoy this look at how lives are transformed through devastating events and how forgiveness is the key to a promising future. Nothing is as it seems in this heartwarming story.”
Romantic Times, 4-Star Review

“Absolutely delightful! I enjoyed Stand-In Groom from cover to cover! Ms. Dacus’s clever story and wonderful prose will draw you away to a place deep in the heart of Louisiana, surrounding you with the scents, sounds, and sights of the deep south. A story filled with romance and intrigue, betrayal and forgiveness, I found myself laughing, crying and rejoicing right along with the characters.”
M.L. Tyndall, author of The Falcon and the Sparrow and the award-winning Legacy of the King’s Pirates series

“Stand-In Groom is as sweet, beautiful, and chaotic as a perfectly planned wedding. Anne is a bright and wounded heroine you’re going to care about for a long time. George is a hero to capture your heart. Kaye Dacus will take you along for a fun, poignent ride in Stand-In Groom.”
Mary Connealy, author of the Lassoed in Texas series and Of Mice...and Murder

My thoughts:
Stand-In Groom is an engaging read full of potential disaster because of miscommunication. Anne is a hardworking wedding planner who loves her job but harbors a lot of emotional pain and distrust from her past. I love that she's a "normal" woman, not a toothpick-thin beauty queen who turns every one's head. But she did turn George's head. He is also not a glamorous hot-body but an average looking man full of respect and integrity.

As Anne and George enter each other's lives and get each other's attention they both struggle with not being able to give in to their feelings because of their jobs. It is impossible for them to get together, yet they continue to be tortured by the attraction.

Just as one hurdle is crossed we find them right in the middle of another jam. Will they ever be allowed to embrace their feelings for each other? Will Anne be able to trust any man ever again?

Read the first chapter and see what kind of mess they can get into so quickly!

Teaser Tuesday ~ Stand-In Groom

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

~Grab your current read.

~ Let the book fall open to a random page.

~ Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

~ You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

~ Please avoid spoilers!

Here are my teaser sentences:

"It's alright." She took a fortifying breath. "You see, when I was eight--"

~Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus, page 86

Get more teasers over at Should Be Reading!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alpine Americas

Alpine Americas is a mountaineer's tour of the 10,000 mile range of peaks from the Arctic to Patagonia. The book combines stunning mountain photography with elegant text that explores the places from all perspectives -- geologic, historical, philosophical -- as it takes readers up the cold wind-swept ridges of Denali or down into the caldron of a smoking Mexican volcano.

Each mountain grouping is a different chapter. Each chapter focuses on a single element of what the place means to us. Brooks range in the Arctic, it's all about tranquility and the reassurance of seasonal patterns. Way to the South, in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, it's the chaos and conflict of the natural elements -- angry winds and big weather -- as the jagged landscape thrusts upward from the cold salt sea.

Don Mellor's inspirational words and Olaf Sööt's magical photographs, Alpine Americas is the celebration of the western world's majestic high places.

My thoughts:

Wow! This is really an impressive book! First of all the generous size (14 x 12 x 1) and beautiful cover make for a perfect coffee table book and conversation starter. But once you open it up you won't want to close it. The pictures are absolutely breathtaking, and that's an understatement! You literally can't look at just one.

When Alpine Americas arrived, my husband snatched it up and poured over every page. We were all looking over his shoulder, oo-ing and ah-ing at each one. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone, even non-readers. I love to read and my husband loves not to read. We both are completely captivated by this book!

The stunning scenery draws you in and once you dare to pull your eyes away you'll be even more blessed by the words. You'll get a personal tour and inside scoop on these fascinating places.

If you're having a rough day you can open up this book and take a mini-vacation and feel so much lighter as you let yourself be drawn into its grandeur.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays ~ Fictional Leaders

Today's question for Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays is:

With the presidential inauguration coming up this week, I thought it would be fun to talk about our favorite fictional politicians. Even though we generally talk about books, feel free to expand your answer to include movies and television shows. Why do you like this fictional leader? What qualities do they possess that you wish our real politicians possessed?

On the flip side, who is the worst fictional politician you've read about (or seen on TV) What makes them so bad?

Hmmm, since I haven't read too many fiction political books I'll go with movies. Off the top of my head...I really liked the president from the movie Air Force One (of course who wouldn't like Harrison Ford?) because he didn't cower down and did what it took to save everyone on the plane. I also liked the movie The American President (with Annette Bening and Michael Douglas). I'm not usually a big Michael Douglas fan but I liked how it showed the president as a human being...and with integrity.

I did not like the Vice President (don't remember his name) in the movie The Day After Tomorrow because he was pigheaded and wouldn't listen. He could have saved a lot of lives if he wasn't so full of himself and would actually listen to potential danger.

I'm sure I'll think of others later but these were off the top of my head. Go over to My Friend Amy's to see what other's are saying!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Sweetwater Gap

Thomas Nelson (December 16, 2008)


Denise Hunter


Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!


A story of new beginnings from best-selling Romance for Good™ author Denise Hunter.
When Josephine's family insists she come home to help with the harvest, the timing works. But her return isn't simple benevolence-she plans to persuade the family to sell the failing orchard.

The new manager's presence is making it difficult. Grady MacKenzie takes an immediate disliking to Josephine and becomes outright cantankerous when she tries talking her family into selling. As she and Grady work side by side in the orchard, she begins to appreciate his devotion and quiet faith. She senses a vulnerability in him that makes her want to delve deeper, but there's no point letting her heart have its way-he's tied to the orchard, and she could never stay there.

A brush with death tears down Josephine's defenses and for the first time in her life, she feels freedom-freedom from the heavy burden of guilt, freedom to live her life the way it was intended, with a heart full of love.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Sweetwater Gap, go HERE

My thoughts:
Sweetwater Gap is not just a sweet romantic story, it's about living with pain and guilt from the past and how it can ruin the future if allowed. Josie left her home and the orchard she loved for reasons only she knew. Everyone figured she was just flighty and undependable and she's content to let them think that because the truth was much worse.

When her brother-in-law calls to ask her to come back to help with the harvest she decides that would be a good time to convince her sister to sell the orchard. Her plan was to help with the harvest, sell the orchard and go back to her life hundreds of miles away. That was the plan. God tends to laugh at our plans sometimes, though. It doesn't take long for everything to start unraveling because of something she hadn't expected. Rather, someone. Grady. She couldn't let him mess things up and she is determined to stay the course no matter what.

This was a wonderful story and I had a hard time putting it down. I was drawn in from the start and just as my curiosity was abated something else got it going again. I felt for Josie and the pain she was living with because of what happened so many years ago and the rejection from her father. All the characters were easy to connect with and I was right there with them in the story.

It is a great read especially for anyone who has lived with pain in their life that keeps pulling them down and won't let them go. Sweetwater Gap shows us that when life feels so empty and we feel so unloved there is nothing we can do that would make God stop loving us. We're our own worst enemy sometimes when we refuse to reach out for help when we need it and just keep holding on to the pain. No one has to go through life alone and God wants us to lean on him and those who love us when we're hurting.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a "heavy" read. Denise does a fantastic job of showing us Josie's pain without weighing us down. I loved the romantic side of the story and of course I was cheering for them (and laughing at them). I got so tickled when he would call her a "sassy thing." The romantic scenes were written quite descriptively to appease the romantic in all of us but it was also done very tastefully, which I appreciated.

By the way...Camy Tang is giving away a copy of Sweetwater Gap over at her blog, Camy's Loft!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The God Question by J.P. Moreland

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The God Question

Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2009)


J.P. Moreland is distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology. His many writings include Kingdom Triangle. Dr. Moreland served ten years with Campus Crusade for Christ, planted two churches, and has spoken on more than 200 college campuses and in hundreds of churches.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736924884
ISBN-13: 978-0736924887

Why Can’t I Be Happy?

In the mid 1980s, hard evidence revealed that something was seriously wrong with the American way of life. Rumors about the problem were prominent since the 1960s, but when the evidence was published, the rumors became public knowledge, though few today know what is going on. And more evidence has piled up in the past 20 years.

Some of the causes and symptoms of the problem shape the way we approach our lives and make it difficult to face this evidence. Not long ago, I was watching reruns of television commercials of the 1950s. In one quite typical ad, a medical doctor encouraged viewers to smoke cigarettes for their health. Smoking, he assured the viewers, calmed nerves, aided one’s appetite, and helped people sleep better. This widely accepted belief hindered Americans from realizing that cigarettes actually harm one’s health. Similarly, the conditions of contemporary life make the evidence mentioned above hard to accept.

And even if someone accepts this evidence, it is very, very difficult to know what to do about the situation. And I say to you with all my heart that you have been hurt by what the evidence shows. No, it’s worse than that. You and your loved ones have been harmed, not merely hurt. In the following pages I have some good and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. What are the problems and the evidence to which I have been referring? What are the causes and symptoms that have hindered us from facing the evidence and overcoming our dilemma? Let’s look at these in order.

Americans Don’t Know How to Be Happy

The cover story of the December 2006 issue of The Economist was about happiness. The Economist is about as far from a pop psychology magazine as you can imagine, so the topic must have been something of great concern to the editors. Based on research data from 1972 to 2006, the article concluded that people in affluent countries have not become happier as they have grown richer, had more leisure time, and enjoyed more pleasurable activities and a higher standard of living.

In 2005, the results of extensive study on American happiness were released with similar findings: Americans are on average twice as rich, far healthier, more youthful, and safer than they were 50 years ago, but they are not as happy. Since the 1960s the percentage of Americans who say they are “very unhappy” has risen by 20 percent, and depression rates are ten times higher than they were during and before the 1950s. Each year, 15 percent of Americans (approximately 40 million people) suffer from an anxiety disorder.

For decades, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman has been the nation’s leading researcher on happiness. His study released in 1988 sent shock waves around the country. Seligman studied the happiness quotient and depression rate among Americans at that time compared to those of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Are you ready for this? He discovered that the loss of happiness and the rise of depression were tenfold in the span of one generation—the baby boomers. Something has gone terribly wrong with American culture, said Seligman, and the tenfold, short-term explosive loss of happiness and growth of depression—a factor that has continued to increase since the 1980s—is clearly epidemic. What is going on?

Digging Deeper

Without being harsh, I must say that we would be naive if we didn’t believe this epidemic has affected all of us. There is a way out of this mess, and the chapters that follow are my best offerings for embarking on a journey to a rich, deep, flourishing life. In fact, I would like you to read this book as my invitation to you for such a life—one that is brimming with drama and adventure, flowering with meaning and purpose. However, I am not interested in merely offering you an invitation. I also want to give you wise counsel that has been repeatedly tested and found trustworthy and helpful for the journey.

A journey has to start somewhere, and the best place to start this one is by digging more deeply into the causes and symptoms of our cultural crisis. We are looking for broad cultural factors that have generated a shift in the way we do life, a shift that has caused the epidemic. These factors are not likely to be things we regularly think about. If they were, most people would have made a priority of avoiding them, and that is not the case. I am not suggesting that people will reject the alleged factors once they are made explicit. Quite the opposite. I believe that once they are laid bare, most folks will experience an ah-ha moment and readily identify with them. No, in order to do their destructive work, these factors have to fly under the radar. They must be so pervasive that they are hardly noticed.

In their excellent book on anxiety and depression, psychologist Edmund Bourne and coauthor Lorna Garano identify three causes for the epidemic: (1) the pace of modern life, (2) the loss of a sense of community and deep connectedness with others beyond the superficial, and (3) the emergence of moral relativism. The increased pace of life does not merely refer to more work and less free time, though those are certainly factors. Well into the late Middle Ages, Europeans had 115 holidays a year! Besides free time, the sheer pace and speed at which we live—our language is filled with terms like “rush hour,” “hurry up,” and “fast food”—and the technology we use (including iPods, e-mail, television, and cell phones) make it difficult to be quiet and hear from ourselves. As a result, we feed off of adrenaline, our brain chemistry is not normal, and we are not capable of handling the stress of ordinary contemporary life. Maybe we were never intended to, but I get ahead of myself.

On the surface, the loss of community reflects two things: Western individualism (which is a good thing in moderation) gone mad, and the supposed lack of time required to cultivate deep friendships, especially among contemporary men, who have often been described as “the friendless American males.” On a deeper level, it reflects misplaced priorities due to a shift on our view of the good life. I will say more about this in the next chapter, but for now I simply note that we define success in terms of the accumulation of consumer goods and the social status that they and a culturally respected line of work provide. We seldom measure a successful life by the quality of family and friendship relationships we cultivate.

Regarding the factor of moral relativism, Bourne and Garano make this note:

Norms in modern life are highly pluralistic. There is no shared, consistent, socially-agreed-upon set of values and standards for people to live by…In the vacuum left, most of us attempt to fend for ourselves, and the resultant uncertainty about how to conduct our lives leaves ample room for anxiety. Faced with a barrage of inconsistent worldviews and standards presented by the media, we are left with the responsibility of having to create our own meaning and moral order. When we are unable to find that meaning, many of us are prone to fill the gap that’s left with various forms of escapism and addiction. We tend [to] live out of tune with ourselves and thus find ourselves anxious.

I cannot resist making an observation about their insightful point concerning moral relativism. The damage it does is one reason why the contemporary idea of tolerance is really an immoral, cold, heartless form of indifference to the suffering of others. The classic principle of tolerance is both true and important: We take another group’s views to be wrong and harmful, but we will treat the (alleged) errant people with respect, will defend their right to promote their views, and will engage in respective, civil debate in attempting to persuade them and others to reject their viewpoint. The contemporary idea is grotesque: We are not to say others’ views or behavior is wrong. This is immoral because it allows for genuine evil, such as racism and child molestation. We must judge the behavior to be evil before we can stop it! Bourne and Garano show us that it is also cold and heartless: If you think another is engaged in a lifestyle that is deeply immoral and flawed, the most loving thing to do is to help that person face and get out of that lifestyle. Even if you are wrong in your assessment, at least you cared enough to try to help. By contrast, contemporary tolerance creates indifferent people who don’t have the moral vision or courage to intervene in the lives of others and try to help.

We might summarize Bourne and Garano’s insights this way: First, our resistance to depression and anxiety is weakened by the pace of our lives. Second, we don’t have the relational connection we need for support and strength in finding a way out of unhappiness. And third, we lack the intellectual framework required to admit that there is a right and wrong way to approach life and to fuel the energy we need to seek, find, and live in light of the right approach. In fact, believing that there actually is a right approach seems intolerant to many.

I have spent hours thinking about these three points and how they inform my own journey. If I may say so, it wouldn’t hurt if you set the book down, took out a sheet of paper, jotted down these three factors, and brainstormed about how they have had a negative impact on you or your loved ones. Nevertheless, I do not believe that Bourne and Garano have identified the heart of the matter. We must probe more deeply.

Digging Deeper Still

Psychologist Carl Jung once observed that “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Jung is referring to our tendency to avoid feeling genuine emotional pain and facing real personal suffering and dysfunction by creating, usually subconsciously, a neurotic pattern of thinking or behaving that allows us to be distracted from our real issues.

When I was attending seminary, my roommate was in constant fear that he had committed the unpardonable sin, an act for which there is no forgiveness. Try as I might, I could not reassure him that he had done no such thing. One day while probing him more deeply, I realized that his real issue was fear of abandonment, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy due to harsh treatment in his early years by his father. However, it was too painful for him to feel and face these—something he needed to do to get well. Such self-awareness would have been legitimate suffering in Jung’s terms. Instead, he projected his anxiety on something more manageable, on something that distracted his anxiety from the real issues—the unpardonable sin—and neurotically worried about this repeatedly throughout his daily life.

I am convinced that this inability to face our deepest anxieties is at the heart of why we have trouble being happy. In chapter 2, I will expose why this inability is a distinctively contemporary problem for Western culture since the 1960s. For now, I want to mention two forms of “neurosis” characteristic of many of us. Just as my roommate obsessed about the unpardonable sin, we use these two items to manage our anxiety and cope with life while avoiding the deeper issues we have trouble facing. The two items to which I am referring are hurry and worry. When I speak of hurry, I am not simply referring to the (sick) pace at which we live our lives. That’s a problem in its own right. No, I am referring to the role that busyness and being in a hurry plays in coping with our fears in an unhealthy way. People are afraid to slow down and be quiet. As one thinker put it, the hardest thing to get Americans to do today is nothing. We fear solitude, silence, and having nothing to do because we fear what will happen if we aren’t busy. What do we fear? We fear that our anxiety will bubble up. We dread feeling insignificant. We fear hearing from ourselves because we might experience pain if we do. We all have responsibilities in which we invest time and effort. But if you compare our lifestyles with folks in earlier generations, it becomes apparent that our busyness and hurried lives are avoidance strategies.

We all have worries and things that could hurt us. But the degree to which we worry is, again, symptomatic of something much deeper. When I refer to worry as a coping strategy, I am not referring to worry about a threatening situation—losing one’s job, being sick, not getting married, and so on. I am talking about worry as an approach to life. In this sense, worrying is actually a learned behavior. As dear as she was, my mother was a very anxious person who worried about everything. I lived around her and absorbed her approach to life, so by the time I was a young adult, I had learned how to worry from an expert. And now I was the expert!

What roles do hurry and worry play in your life? I encourage you to spend some time pondering this question. As a help to you, I suggest you find some safe friends or family members and ask them to give you honest feedback about this. This issue is so deep and so much a part of the warp and woof of American life that it is hard to get in touch with the way we neurotically use hurry and worry to avoid problems.

One of our main fears is boredom and loneliness, and hurry and worry keep us from facing these fears. In fact, some patterns of ideas and beliefs that permeate the arts, media, and educational institutions of our culture make it all but impossible to face boredom and loneliness. More on that in chapter 2. Here I want you to ponder an additional fact: It takes a lot of emotional energy to “stuff” our real problems and manage appropriate anxiety by the hurry and worry strategy. And given the three pervasive cultural patterns we mentioned earlier—our pace of life, the loss of community, and the emergence of moral relativism—we have a very dangerous situation in our culture.

To live the way many of us do takes a lot of energy, so we are vulnerable to addiction. Various addictions provide some form of relief from a neurotic life and offer some reward on a regular basis in the form of the satisfaction of desire, usually bodily desire. However, all such addictions obey the law of diminishing returns. The more one turns to addictive behavior, the less it pays off and the more one must turn to the addiction. It may be social recognition, sexual stimulation, drugs or alcohol abuse, eating, acquiring consumer goods, and so on. Over time, we shrivel as authentic persons, and we become less and less in touch with our real selves. Instead, we must project a false self to others—a self we wish others to believe about us, a self that is a collage of parental messages, strategies for remaining safe and hidden, and behaviors that avoid shame and guilt. The range of our free will diminishes, and we become enslaved to safety, social rules, and bodily pleasures and their satisfaction.

It’s time to summarize. For at least 40 years, Americans have become increasingly unable to find happiness and, instead, are ten times more likely to be depressed and anxiety filled than Americans of other generations. Clearly, something about our culture is deeply flawed. As a first step toward identifying the flaws, I noted the adrenalized pace of life, the loss of a sense of community, and the emergence of moral relativism in American culture. Digging more deeply, I noted that for these and other reasons, we find it hard to face our real, authentic emotional pain and, instead, opt for lifestyles of hurry and worry that allow us to cope with our boredom, emptiness, and loneliness without having to face our true situation. Such an approach takes a lot of emotional energy and, partly to comfort ourselves, we turn to addictive behaviors that increasingly turn us into false selves who no longer know who we are.

An Invitation and a Word of Concern

I have received much help from others in my own journey, and I believe I have some genuinely good news for you in the pages to follow. I invite you to read on with an open mind and heart. However, I’m concerned about something. I am troubled that you may not be willing to think afresh with me about what follows and won’t benefit from whatever wisdom is offered. Why am I so concerned? It’s because of my topic and the two primary types of people with whom I want to travel.

Beginning with chapter 2, I am going to mention the G word—“God”—more specifically, the Christian God and Jesus of Nazareth. As we will see, whenever we focus on living a rich life and face our inability to be happy, broad questions about the meaning of life inevitably surface. This is as it should be. And lurking in the neighborhood will be questions about God. It has been said that the single most important thing about a person is what comes to mind when he or she hears the word “God.” This is a trustworthy saying.

So why am I concerned? Because it is so very hard to invite someone in this culture to give this topic a fresh hearing, especially from my two audiences. The first person to whom I am writing is not a follower of Jesus. You may be an aggressive atheist, mildly agnostic, or inclined to think that religion should be a private matter and that “Live and let live” should be one’s motto. If you fit this category, you may have picked up this book at a bookstore or found it online, or a friend or relative may have given it to you. If the latter is the case, you may feel defensive about reading the book. You may feel that your friend or relative wants to fix you or to “win” in your longstanding dialogues about Christianity. If you read this book with an open mind and fresh start, and if you come to agree with some of my offerings, you could lose face, as it were. Others could say you were wrong all along and this proves it.

I completely understand such defensiveness, having practiced it myself in various contexts. But to be honest, if you are concerned about such matters, you are actually not being true to yourself. Instead, you are letting others control you. You are giving them free rent in your mind. It’s as though they are looking over your shoulder as you read, just waiting to jump on you if you come to see things as they do. My advice is that you not let others have such power over you. Be yourself. Think for yourself. Give me a hearing, and when you have read the entire book, step back and decide for yourself what you think about these matters.

Besides friends or relatives, if you fit into this first group, I actually have a deeper concern—really, two concerns—about you being defensive in reading what follows. Having talked to atheists and agnostics for 40 years, I’ve seen that many of them don’t want God to exist. In a rare moment of frankness, atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel makes this admission:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, I hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Such an approach to life is hard to sustain. Influential young atheist Douglas Coupland frankly acknowledges how difficult it is:

Now—here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.

Fathers and Freedom

If you are an atheist or something close to it, I believe there may be two reasons why you think this way. I am sharing these with you to be helpful, not to throw this in your face. No one is here but you and me, so please see if these describe you. The first reason you may approach the question of God with anger or rejection is unresolved conflict with your own father figure. I have spoken on more than 200 college campuses and in more than 40 states in the last 40 years, and it has become apparent to me that atheists regularly have deep-seated, unresolved emotional conflicts with their father figures. To think that this plays no role in their atheism would be foolish. Paul Vitz, a leading psychologist in this area claims that, in fact, such conflict is at the very heart of what motivates a person to reject God or be indifferent to religion.

Let’s be honest. You owe it to yourself to see if this is causing you to be defensive about the topic of God. If it is, I urge you in the safety of our conversation to follow, to try to set this aside.

The second reason you may not want the Christian God to be real has been identified by Dinesh D’Souza: People want to be liberated from traditional morality so they can engage in any sexual behavior that satisfies them without guilt, shame, or condemnation. The famous atheist Aldous Huxley made this admission:

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption… For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was…liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.

If you have a vested interest in wanting to look at pornography or to engage in sexual activity outside of a traditional marriage, your hostility to God may well be a way of enabling yourself to sustain your lifestyle while flying in a no-guilt zone. I take no pleasure in saying this, and I am not trying to be harsh or judgmental toward you. The opposite is the case. I have help for you and will offer it in the chapters to follow. All I ask of you is that you give me a hearing and not allow these factors to fuel your defensiveness in such a way that you are not teachable and open to exploring these issues together.

Caricatures of Christians

My first concern about defensiveness, then, is due to the role that unresolved father issues and sexual practices may play in preventing you from facing this topic honestly and with a good and open heart. My second concern is the associations that come to mind when people in our culture think of conservative Christians, most of whom would be called Evangelicals. You may see red at the very thought of Christians. They are hypocrites, intolerant bigots, nosy members of the Religious Right who try to tell others what to do and how to think. Christians are irrational, unscientific, nonthinking sorts who will gullibly believe anything. Comparing Christians (and other religious zealots) and secularists, University of California at Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich gave this warning:

The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face.

With friends like that, who needs enemies! Reich needs to lighten up a bit. Still, you may share his opinion of what it means to be a Christian. May I suggest two counterarguments that may help you get something out of this book. First, Reich’s statement and the description of Christians in the preceding paragraph are gross caricatures that are far from the truth. It’s a cultural lie that the more educated you become the more you reject Christianity. A few years ago, University of North Carolina sociologist Christian Smith published what may be the most extensive study to date of the impact of contemporary culture on American Evangelicalism. Smith’s extensive research led him to this conclusion:

Self-identified evangelicals have more years of education than fundamentalists, liberals, Roman Catholics, and those who are nonreligious…Of all groups, evangelicals are the least likely to have only a high-school education or less; the nonreligious are the most likely. Furthermore, higher proportions of evangelicals have studied at the graduate-school level than have fundamentalists, liberals, or the nonreligious.

Sure, there are a few bad (ignorant and bigoted) eggs in our basket, but the whole basket should not be judged on this account.

Even if this demeaning picture of Christians contains more than a small grain of truth, becoming a follower of Jesus doesn’t have to make you like this. And there’s still the issue of you and your own life and welfare. You have a life to live, and if you are anything like me, you need all the help you can get to live it well. The real issue is whether the Christian God is real and can be known, whether Jesus of Nazareth was really the very Son of God, and whether the movement He started is what you need and have been looking for (consciously or not). At the end of the day, the issue is not whether Christians are hypocrites, Republicans, or whatever. The issue is Jesus of Nazareth and your life.


The second person to whom I am writing is a Christian who has become too familiar with the form of Christianity often present in our culture. If this is you, you may have become inoculated from the real thing. You are bored with church, you don’t like religious games, and you believe you have given the Christian thing a try and it isn’t what it was cracked up to be. In a way, you’ve lost hope. The fire in your belly has dimmed, and you despair of finding more as a Christian. You think you have already heard and heeded the invitation I am about to unpack, and you are not interested in hearing the same old stuff again. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

Dallas Willard puts his finger on this problem:

The major problem with the invitation now is precisely over-familiarity. Familiarity breeds unfamiliarity—unsuspected unfamiliarity, and then contempt. People think they have heard the invitation. They think they have accepted it—or rejected it. But they have not. The difficulty today is to hear it at all.

I’m asking you to listen again to the invitation as though for the first time. In some cases, that won’t actually be true. You will likely read things in subsequent chapters that you have heard before. If so, I promise to try to give these things new life, to cast them in a new light. In other cases, that may actually be true. Some brand-new insights may follow. If you are a Christian who fits my description, all I can do is to ask you to read on with an open heart.

So let’s move on. You and I have lives to live. How can we get better at it? In chapter 2, we jump out of the pan and into the fire. We move to what I believe is at or near the bottom of why you and many of our fellow Americans can’t find much happiness in life. The central issue revolves around broad cultural ideas about life, reality, and confidence. The fundamental issue involves the mind and how we think about and see things. But before I can tell you that story, I’ll need to let you in on something about your brain.