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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lydia Bennet's Story...Review

About the book:
In Lydia Bennet's Story we are taken back to Jane Austen's most beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, to a Regency world seen through Lydia's eyes where pleasure and marriage are the only pursuits. Lydia's dream of following the regiment to the fashionable resort of Brighton comes true, she is soon the darling of all the officers and tempted not only by a handsome royal dragoon, but drawn to the irresistible charms of one already well known to her. 

But the road to matrimony is fraught with difficulties and even when she is convinced that she has met the man of her dreams, she quickly discovers that her hero is not the man she believes him to be. Before long his reputation has her running back to Hertfordshire to be reunited with Bennets, Bingleys and Darcys, meeting once again for a grand ball at Netherfield Park. Will she resolve her problems to find happiness or will the shocking truth about her husband cause the greatest scandal of all?

As I read attempted Pride and Prejudice sequels, I'm always hopeful that the latest one will be a delight. They rarely are, and this one is no exception. Lydia was never someone I really cared about as I read Pride and Prejudice. She's more the annoying gnat that keeps buzzing around your head: the one you keep slapping away. This book is simply a light peek into the life of Lydia Bennet, one of the silliest girls in all of England.

The story is told in a third-person narrative, with Lydia's first-person journal entries interspersed. The technique works here. Jane Odiwe has defined Lydia in such a way that we find out why she acts the way she does and we see some of her thought processes. Most of it is plausible. Her main issue is that she craves positive attention from her father, the man who openly favors Elizabeth, but all she ever receives is negative.

The story follows her adventure to Brighton and subsequent marriage to George Wickham. Their marriage is chronicled as is Lydia's embarrassment at her husbands infidelity, and her pleas to Elizabeth and Jane for help. Things wrap up a bit too neatly and Lydia never really suffers for her misbehavior or inappropriate antics.

A promising story that fell flat. I just wanted it to be finished.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow and not buy.  If you really want your own, you can purchase a copy here.

Read 1/09

* * 
2/5 Stars

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


About the book:
At his beautiful mansion in the Hudson River Valley, the blind and brilliant musician Michael Emmanuel confronts a temptation he'd thought long vanquished. Meanwhile, in the teeming city streets of New York City, a deadly enemy from the past threatens physician Andrew Carmichael--an unlikely nemesis cloaked in a clergyman's robes. And the dauntless Vangie MacGovern meets a new calamity head-on as she struggles to save both her unborn child and her defiant eldest son.

The third and final installment of the American Anthem series by B.J. Hoff.

Dr. Andrew Carmichael, engaged to Dr. Bethany Cole, finds his practice and clientele threatened. Only desiring to help an unfortunate woman, and make the man responsible for her situation accountable, he finds his reputation tarnished by a scandal he never imagined.

Conn and Vangie MacGovern have made a new life working for Michael at Bantry Hill. Their estranged son Aidan, who was on his way to reunite with his family, dies en route to America. Vangie who, along with their infant son, nearly dies in childbirth, must find the strength to go on without her beloved first-born. Will Conn accept that Nell Grace, his eldest daughter, is an adult and capable of choosing her own love, and will he accept Paul, Michael's cousin, as the man of her choice?

Susannah and Michael, engaged to be married, must not let Michael's father divide them. Michael, under pressure to complete his American Anthem, must also convince his father that his choice to write music, over performing opera, is the right one for him.

My one regret with this story is that while the ending is appropriate and loose ends are tied up, Susannah and Michael's wedding was not included. I also think that they should have been able to continue their conversation about children, and for Michael to understand why Susannah was fearful of childbirth.

A compelling conclusion to a terrific trilogy. I was sad to see this series come to an end.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/09

* * * *

4/5 Stars


About the book:
Cadence reunites us with Andrew Carmichael, an inner city physician, and his partner in practice, Bethany Cole, one of the first female physicians in America, who share a desire to serve the poor with their healing skills and with love. As the story continues, they discover that they share more than a professional passion--they share a love for each other.

Set in late nineteenth century New York City and the surrounding Hudson River Valley, and incorporating the beginnings of American gospel music,
Cadence continues the saga of the courageous immigrants who helped build our nation, the struggles they endured, and the music they created, lived and loved by.

Cadence, book 2 in the American Anthem series, picks up where Prelude ends. I enjoyed it even more than the first one.

Dr. Andrew Carmichael wonders how he will tell Dr. Bethany Cole of his love for her, and when he does, what will her reaction be when she learns of his past.

The MacGovern family finds that America isn't quite as promising as they had anticipated. However, a chance encounter with a stallion, recently purchased by Michael Emmanuel, brings hope to the family.

Susannah and Michael realize their love for each other, but when Michael asks Susannah to perform with his orchestra, her fears keep her from saying yes. Michael's compassion for others brings the MacGovern family to Bantry Hill, providing Conn with a welcome job and the family with a home.

Through Dr. Carmichael and Dr. Cole, we also meet Maylee, a delightful young girl with a heartbreaking health condition. Andrew's best friend Sergeant Frank Donovan returns and we meet Mary Lambert, an opium-addicted woman, living in squalid circumstances, through no real fault of her own.

I loved these characters. B.J. Hoff has a remarkable way with words: her writing is quite lyrical and flows beautifully. She has taken all of these characters and intertwined their lives in such a way that is both compelling and enthralling. She has captured the essence of the time period: the hope and despair faced by early immigrants.

An easy, enjoyable read. I am anxious to finish the final book of the series.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/09

* * * *

4/5 Stars

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Red Siren...Review

About the book:
You'll be swept away by this latest historical romance by bestselling author M. L. Tyndall. Faith Westcott is a lady by day and a pirate by night. Can she garner the riches she so desperately needs before her secret is revealed? Captain Dajon Waite is determined to catch the fiery redhead who has been pillaging the Carolina coast. When Faith invites his courtship, she hopes his infatuation will shield her true identity and keep other suitors at bay. Can the love of a godly captain win her heart, or will she be forced to marry Sir Wilhelm Carteret, a man obsessed with taking her to wife?

 After her mother's death, and after her tyrant of a father marries off her eldest sister to a lecherous man who will ultimately inherit their estate, Faith Westcott turns to piracy in order to amass a fortune that will provide for her and her sisters. Early in her piracy career as the infamous Red Siren, she captures the ship belonging to Captain Dajon Waite.

Several years later, now living in colonial Carolina, Faith's father has arranged for her to marry Sir Wilhelm Carteret, a man she does not love, and a man who will do anything to win her, even plotting to eliminate his competition. It is then that Faith again runs into Captain Waite, the man her father has appointed to be guardian of Faith and her sisters. Still a pirate in secret, Faith recognizes him at once, although he doesn't recognize her. He's a captain in the navy, patrolling the Carolina coast to protect incoming ships from thieving pirates, and very much aware of the infamous Red Siren.

While it starts off a bit slow, and it's completely unrealistic, the book is also quite enthralling. After her mother's death, Faith lost her personal faith and belief in God. Dajon, his life nearly ruined after Faith captures his father's ship, has reclaimed his faith in God.

Predictably, the story follows that Faith and Dajon fall in love. But, what will happen when he discovers her secret? Will her efforts to provide for her sisters ultimately drive them away from her? Faith isn't completely likeable, but she does grow on you. Dajon is too perfect, but he too grows on you as you follow his story. You want these two to finally get together, and the arrogant Sir Wilhelm to finally get what's coming to him!

This was the first MaryLu Tyndall book I've read. The book is left open for sequels of each sister, Grace and Hope. I believe the second book follows later this year.

Thanks to First Wild Card for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about MaryLu Tyndall here. You can read the first chapter here. You can get your own copy here.

Read 1/09

* * *

3/5 Stars

The Red Siren...Wild Card!!

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 Red Siren

Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)


Best-selling author of The Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, MaryLu Tyndall writes full time and makes her home with her husband, six children, and four cats on California’s coast. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but expose Christians to their full potential in Christ.

For more information on MaryLu and her upcoming releases, please visit her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 318 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601569
ISBN-13: 978-1602601567


But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Matthew 13: 20-21

Chapter 1

August 1713, English Channel off Portsmouth, England

This was Dajon Waite’s last chance. If he didn’t sail his father’s merchant ship and the cargo she held safely into harbor, his future would be tossed to the wind. With his head held high, he marched across the deck of the Lady Em and gazed over the choppy seas of the channel, expecting at any minute to see the lights of Portsmouth pierce the gray shroud of dusk. Another hour and his mission would be completed with success. It had taken two years before his father had trusted him to captain the most prized vessel in his merchant fleet, the Lady Em—named after Dajon’s mother, Emily—especially on a journey that had taken him past hostile France and Spain and then far into the pirate-infested waters off the African coast.

Fisting his hands on his hips, Dajon puffed out his chest and drew a deep breath of salty air and musky earth—the smell of home. Returning with a shipload of ivory, gold, and pepper from the Gold Coast, Dajon could almost see the beaming approval on his father’s sea-weathered face. Finally Dajon would prove himself an equal to his older brother, Theodore—obedient, perfect Theodore—who never let his father down. Dajon, however, had been labeled naught but capricious and unruly, the son who possessed neither the courage for command nor the brains for business.

Fog rolled in from the sea, obscuring the sunset into a dull blend of muted colors as it stole the remaining light of what had been a glorious day. Bowing his head, Dajon thanked God for His blessing and protection on the voyage.

“A sail, a sail!” a coarse voice blared from above.

Plucking the spyglass from his belt, Dajon held it to his eye. “Where away, Mules?”

“Directly off our lee, Captain.”

Dajon swerved the glass to the port and adjusted it as Cudney, his first mate, halted beside him.

“She seems to be foundering, Captain,” Mules shouted.

Through the glass, the dark outline of a ship came into focus, the whites of her sails stark against the encroaching night. Gray smoke spiraled up from her quarterdeck as sailors scrambled across her in a frenzy. The British flag flapped a harried plea from her mainmast.

“Hard to larboard,” he yelled aft, lowering the glass. “Head straight for her, Mr. Nelson.”

“Straight for her, sir.”

“Beggin’ your pardon, Captain.” Cudney gave him a sideways glance. “But didn’t your father give explicit orders never to approach an unknown vessel?”

“My father is not the captain of this ship, and I’ll thank you to obey my orders without question.” Dajon stiffened his lips, tired of having his decisions challenged. True, he had failed on two of his father’s prior ventures—one to the West Indies where a hurricane sunk his ship, and the other where he ran aground on the shoals off Portugal. Neither had been his fault. But this time, things would be different. Perhaps his father would even promote Dajon to head overseer of his affairs.

With a nod, Cudney turned. “Mr. Blake, Mr. Gibes, prepare to luff, if you please.” His bellowing voice echoed over the decks, sending the men up the shrouds.

“Who is she?” Cudney held out his hand for the glass.

“A merchant ship, perhaps.” Dajon handed him the telescope then gripped the railing as the Lady Em veered to larboard, sending a spray of seawater over her decks. “But she’s British, and she’s in trouble.”

The ship lumbered over the agitated waves. Dajon watched Cudney as he steadied the glass on his eye and his boots on the sodden deck. He’d been a good first mate and a trusted friend. A low whistle spilled from his mouth as he twisted the glass for a better look.

“Pray tell, Mr. Cudney, what has caught your eye, one of those new ship’s wheels you’ve been coveting?”

“Nay, Captain. But something nearly as beautiful—a lady.”

Dajon snatched the glass back as the Lady Em climbed a rising swell and then tromped down the other side. Sails snapped in the rising wind above him. Bracing his boots on the deck, he focused the glass on the merchant ship. A woman clung to the foremast, terror distorting her lovely features. She raised a delicate hand to her forehead as if she were going to faint. Red curls fluttered in the wind behind her. Heat flooded Dajon despite the chill of the channel. Lowering the glass, he tapped it into the palm of his hand, loathing himself for his shameless reaction. Hadn’t his weakness for the female gender already caused enough pain?

Yet clearly the vessel was in trouble.

“We shall come along side her,” Dajon ordered.

Cudney glared at the ship. “Something is not right. I can feel it in my gut.”

“Nonsense. Where is your chivalry?” Dajon smiled grimly at his friend, ignoring the hair bristling on the back of his own neck.

Cudney’s dark eyes shot to Dajon. “But your father—”

“Enough!” Dajon snapped. “My father did not intend for me to allow a lady to drown. Besides, pirates would not dare sail so close to England—especially to Portsmouth, where so many of His Majesty’s warships are anchored.” Dajon glanced back at the foundering ship, now only half a knot off their bow. Smoke poured from her waist, curling like a snake into the dark sky. Left to burn, the fire would sink her within an hour. “Surely you do not suspect a woman of piracy?”

Cudney cocked one brow. “Begging your pardon, Captain, but I have seen stranger things on these seas.”


Faith Louise Westcott flung her red curls behind her and held a quivering hand to her breast, nausea rising in her throat at her idiotic display. How did women feign such weakness without losing the contents of their stomachs?

“They ’ave taken the bait, mistress.” A sinister chuckle filled the breeze.

“Oh, thank heavens.” Faith released the mast. Planting a hand on her hip, she gave Lucas a mischievous grin. “Well, what are you waiting for? Ready the men.”

“Aye, aye.” The bulky first mate winked, and then scuttled across the deck, his bald head gleaming in the light from the lantern hanging on the mainmast.

After checking the pistol stuffed in the sash of her gown and the one strapped to her calf, Faith sauntered to the railing to get a better look at her latest victim, a sleek, two-masted brigantine. The orange, white, and blue of the Dutch flag fluttered from her mizzen. A very nice prize indeed. One that would bring her even closer to winning the private war she waged—a war for the survival of her and her sisters.

The oncoming ship sat low in the water, its hold no doubt packed with valuable cargo. Faith grinned. With this ship and the one she had plundered earlier, loaded with precious spices and silks, she was well on her way to amassing the fortune that would provide for her independence and that of her sisters—at least the two of them that were left unfettered by matrimony.

She allowed her thoughts to drift for a moment to Charity, the oldest. Last year their father had forced her into a union with Lord Villement, a vile, perverse man who had oppressed and mistreated her beyond what a woman should endure. Faith feared for her sister’s safety and prayed for God to deliver Charity, but to no avail.

Then, of course, there was the incident with Hope, their younger sister.

That was when Faith had stopped praying.

She would rather die than see her two younger sisters fettered to abusive men, and the only way to avoid that fate was to shield them with their own fortune. Cringing, she stifled the fury bubbling in her stomach. She mustn’t think of it now. She had a ship to plunder, and this was as much for Charity as it was for any of them.

The bowsprit of the brigantine bowed in obedience to her as it plunged over the white-capped swells. Gazing into the hazy mist, Faith longed to get a peek at the ninnies who had been so easily duped by her ruse but dared not raise the spyglass to her eye. Women didn’t know how to use such contraptions, after all.

Putting on her most flirtatious smile, she waved at her prey, beckoning the fools onward, then she scanned the deck as her crew rushed to their stations. Aboard her ship, she was in control; she was master of her life, her future—here and nowhere else. And oh how she loved it!

Lucas’s large frame appeared beside her. “The rest of the men be waitin’ yer command below hatches, mistress.” He smacked his oversized lips together in a sound Faith had become accustomed to before a battle. Nodding, she scanned her ship. Wilson manned the helm, Grayson and Lambert hovered over the fire, pretending to put it out, and Kane and Mac clambered up the ratlines in a pretense of terror. She spotted Morgan pacing the special perch Faith had nailed into the mainmast just for him. She whistled and the red macaw halted, bobbed his head up and down, and squawked, “Man the guns, man the guns!”

Faith chuckled. She had purchased the bird from a trader off Morocco and named him after Captain Henry Morgan, the greatest pirate of all time. The feisty parrot had been a fine addition to her crew.

Bates, her master gunner, hobbled to her side, wringing his thick hands together in anticipation. “Can I just fire one shot at ’em, Cap’n? The guns grow cold from lack of use.” His expression twisted into a pout that reminded her of Hope, her younger sister. “I won’t hurt ’em none, ye have me word.”

“I cannot take that chance, Bates. You know the rules,” Faith said as the gunner’s soot-blackened face fell in disappointment. “No one gets hurt, or we abandon the prize. But I promise we shall test the guns soon enough.”

With a grunt, Bates wobbled away and disappeared below.

Returning her gaze to her unsuspecting prey, Faith inhaled a breath of the crisp air. Smoke bit her throat and nose, but she stifled a cough as the thrill of her impending victory charged through her, setting every nerve aflame. The merchant ship was nigh upon them. She could already make out the worried expressions upon the crew’s faces as they charged to her rescue.

This is for you, Charity, and for you, Mother.

Heavy fog blanketed the two ships in gray that darkened with each passing minute. Faith tugged her shawl tighter against her body, both to ward off the chill and to hide the pistol in her sash. A vision of her mother’s pale face formed in the fog before her, blood marring the sheets on the birthing bed where she lay.

Take care of your sisters, Faith.

A burst of wind chilled Faith’s moist cheeks. A tear splattered onto the deck by her shoes before she brushed the rest from her face. “I will, Mother. I promise.”

“Ahoy there!” A booming voice shattered her memories.

She raised her hand in greeting toward the brigantine as it heaved ten yards off their starboard beam. “Ahoy, kind sir. Thank God you have arrived in time,” she yelled back, sending the sailors scurrying across the deck. Soon, they lowered a cockboat, filled it with men, and shoved off.

A twinge of guilt poked at Faith’s resolve. These men had come to her aid with kind intentions. She swallowed hard, trying to drown her nagging conscience. They were naught but rich merchants, she told herself, and she, merely a Robin Hood of the seas, taking from the rich to feed the poor. She had exhausted all legal means of acquiring the money she needed, and present society offered her no other choice.

The boat thumped against her hull, and she nodded at Kane and Mac, who had jumped down from the shrouds and tossed the rope ladder over the side.

“Permission to come aboard?” The man who appeared to be the captain shouted toward Lucas as he swung his legs over the bulwarks, but his eyes were upon Faith.

By all means. Faith shoved a floppy fisherman’s hat atop her head, obscuring her features from his view, and smiled sweetly.


“Aye, I beg ye, be quick about it afore our ship burns to a cinder,” the massive bald man beckoned to Dajon.

Dajon hesitated. He knew he should obey his father’s instructions, he knew he shouldn’t risk the hoard of goods in his hold, he knew he should pay heed to the foreboding of dread that now sank like a anchor in his stomach, but all he could see was the admiring smile of the red-haired beauty, and he led his men over the bulwarks.

After directing them to assist in putting out the fire, he marched toward the dark, bald man and bowed.

“Captain Dajon Waite at your service.”

When his gaze drifted to the lady, she slunk into the shadows by the foremast, her features lost beneath the cover of her hat. Odd. Somehow he had envisioned a much warmer reception. At the very least, some display of feminine appreciation.

“Give ’em no quarter! Give ’em no quarter!” a shrill voice shrieked, drawing Dajon’s attention behind him to a large red parrot perched on a peg jutting from the mainmast.

A pinprick of fear stabbed him.

“Captain,” one of his crew called from the quarterdeck. “The ship ain’t on fire. It’s just a barrel with flaming rubbish inside it!”

The anchor that had sunk in Dajon’s stomach dropped into his boots with an ominous clank.

He spun back around, hoping for an explanation, but all he received was a sinister grin on the bald man’s mouth.

Tentacles of alarm seized Dajon, sucking away his confidence, his reason, his pride. Surely he could not have been this daft. He glanced back at the Lady Em, bobbing in the sea beside them—the pride of his father’s fleet.

“To battle, men!” The woman roared in a voice belying her gender—a voice that pummeled Dajon’s heart to dust.

Dozens of armed pirates spat from the hatches onto the deck. Brandishing weapons, they hurtled toward his startled crew. One by one, his men dropped their buckets to the wooden planks with hollow thuds and slowly raised their hands. Their anxious gazes shot to Dajon, seeking his command. The pirates chortled. Dajon’s fear exploded into a searing rage. They were surrounded.

The woman drew a pistol from her sash. Dajon could barely make out the tilted lift of her lips. He wiped the sweat from his brow and prayed to God that he would wake up from this nightmare.

“I thank you, Captain, for your chivalrous rescue.” The woman pointed her pistol at him and cocked it with a snap. “But I believe I’ll be taking over your ship.”

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Catch a Rising Star...Review

About the book:
When thirty-something Tabby Brockman has the opportunity to reclaim her role as a killed-off character on the nation's #1 daytime soap opera, she figures this must be God's reward. But back on the set, she's faced with the same hateful head writer who killed off her character in the first place, kids who drive her crazy, a stage dad who rubs her completely wrong, and and an unwanted boyfriend who can?t seem to get the message. Faced with this dizzying roller coaster of challenges, Tabby has to wonder: is she finally a star on the rise or just on the brink of another spectacular fall?

Tabby Brockman is an actress. Fired from her soap opera when the head writer, out of anger and jealousy, kills off her character, she flits from job to job always hoping for another break. When she's asked to rejoin the cast of the soap when her character makes a miraculous recovery after several years, she figures she has it made. Hilarity ensues when head writer doesn't like her, she's jealous of her on-screen rival, her mother drives her crazy and she has a crush on the father of her television children.

While Tabby is a bit of a doormat, her narration is quite funny. She can't tell the man who has a crush on her to go away, she won't stand up to her mother, and she always misreading and misunderstanding situations around her. Her two roommates add fun to the mix and what follows is laugh out loud entertaining.

Almost casually Christian, this is a fun, light-hearted chick-lit novel with nothing serious or thought-provoking about it. An easy read when you need a light diversion. Sequels follow for her two best friends.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/09

* * *

3/5 Stars

Friday, January 16, 2009

What Does God Want Me To Do?...Wild Card!

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:

What Does God Want Me to Do?

Tate Publishing (December 16, 2008)


Clem Boyd has served as pastor and elder for his church, Xenos Christian Fellowship of Dayton, and has his own freelance writing business. His articles have appeared in Focus on the Family magazine and many of its sister publications, as well as in Christianity Today, Christian Parenting Today, Plain Truth, Walk Thru the Bible publications Stand Firm and Indeed, Sports Spectrum and others. Many can be found through his website. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University in 1984 and a master's degree in biblical studies from Cincinnati Bible Seminary in 1995. He and his wife Julia have three children: David, 16, Bethany, 12 and Mark, 6. Clem’s mom Jean lives with them to complete the family.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606048821
ISBN-13: 978-1606048825


Why Am I Thinking about This?

Here’s a story: There was a guy who worked sixty to seventy hours a week, rarely saw his family, was a loving father and husband when he was around, and attended church regularly when he wasn’t on a business trip. He retired in his sixties, and died a year or so afterwards. The end.

For many that’s the story of their lives. Unless, of course, you’re reading these pages, which means you’re not dead. And that’s good. Because while you’re still alive there’s still the potential for change, if change is what you seek.

American life is about living large and going fast and pushing forward. How many societies get as pumped up about something so bland as ‘worker productivity’? Yet newspapers around the country will excitedly announce surges in productivity as a sign of a robust economy. Or, conversely, that things are going bad because productivity is in the toilet.

How many societies fixate on how many extra-curricular activities their kids are doing? Or agonize over the quality of those after-school commitments? And what that will mean for their future?

Many people faithfully carry out their roles as defined by society or family expectations. Even though there may be plenty of relentless pushing and moving, they get into comfortable grooves. These grooves may not be exactly satisfying or enriching, but they have the approval of others and come with a sense that “At least I’m doing something.”

These life niches come with something else that’s quite important¾predictability. Grinding, unstopping predictability. Sure, there’s the occasional hiccup in the schedule, and Joe and Susan may feel rushed now and then; but they have a certain amount of certainty. And they like that. I like predictability too .

I always wanted to be a writer. In fourth grade my best friend and I published a homeroom newspaper using the school mimeograph machine: The 104 News. Great title: straightforward, to the point. I still have a copy somewhere.

While I looked into different careers in high school and college, my path didn’t veer far from writing or communications. I attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, a school known for its excellent journalism program .

After college I held several writing jobs before settling as a newspaper reporter. I worked for a chain of community newspapers for several years then transitioned to a job as beat reporter with a small daily near my hometown. Things were moving along briskly. I could see my journalism career going somewhere. And then I swerved off the career path.

The choices I made in life, since those days of working as a beat writer in Xenia, Ohio, are not choices I can recommend to everyone. They’re choices that spring from who I am and the interests and values I share with my wife, Julia, a part-time family practice doctor.

I work part time as a church leader and freelance writer out of a home-based office, taking care of my kids four half days a week. I keep a schedule that allows me to respond to spur of the moment opportunities to do things I think God wants me to do with family and friends.

Not everyone wants what I have, and what I have isn’t for everyone. But this isn’t about becoming a stay-at-home dad or a telecommuter. This is about looking at life and figuring out if God’s priorities direct the action.

Life-Changing Discussion

Back when Julia and I were talking about marriage, we talked frankly about the direction of our lives. At the time I was a newspaper editor and Julia was in her third year of residency as a family practice doctor, just a couple months from going into practice.

We talked mainly about kids and childcare, but the conversation evolved into something else: being there for parents, making friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ, and the kind of atmosphere we wanted in our home. Looking back I realize we were having a discussion about values: what were Julia’s values and what were mine.

Values drive decision-making. Making lots of money and having the nicest house is a value with a capital “V.” Important decisions affecting every other area of life will flow from that. Wanting plenty of free time to support political or social causes is a value, so is raising kids to attend church or not attend church, to play sports or not play sports, visit art museums, go on vacations, or root for a favorite team.

Many people don’t think about their values, out loud at least. Their values remain secluded in the shady portions of their minds, concealed but barking orders like a marine drill sergeant¾“you will drive the nice car; you will work eighty hours a week; you will have three beautiful children”¾and on and on.

Where do values come from? The answer is simple: everywhere¾television, movies, newspapers, magazines, books, peers. Parents have a major impact on values, whether to model mom and dad’s priorities or react against them.

Other significant adults often shape values. It may be a sibling, an uncle or aunt, a soccer or football coach, a favorite teacher. It may be something they said, choices they made, or the life they lived that left an impression.

Then there’s the all-pervasive media. Does Madison Avenue really shape values? Well, it sure tries to, and not just passively, but with vigor. The billions of dollars spent on advertising each year testifies to that. I hope there’s not much doubt about that in this give-me-more consumer society.

But what about the Bible? Christians’ values should be changing and re-arranging according to what God’s truth says. This is what Paul means in Romans 12:2;

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

(Romans 12:2, NIV; emphasis added)

According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, God breathed the words of Scripture into existence, just as he spoke the world into existence. These words are useful for “teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (NIV).

To live a life of “good works” will require a transformation of my mind. I will need to saturate myself in the truths of God; I must allow the Bible to teach me, correct me, rebuke me, and train me about what it means to live a righteous life. I should listen as Christian friends and spiritual mentors challenge me and encourage me with scriptural truth. Then I will have values that more and more reflect God’s values, resulting in a life of eternal significance.

And here’s the top value I should embrace above all others: my ultimate worth comes from the fact that God loves me and has saved me from his judgment. From God’s point of view, the biggest thing that ever happened in my life was the day I asked his Son to be my savior. At that point, I went from eternal separation from God to union with him, from war to peace, from judgment to forgiveness, from insignificance to significance, from unacceptable to accepted for all time, from creature made in God’s image to his child.

Julia and I wouldn’t even have had the what-about-kids discussion and its related subtopics unless we had begun the transformation described above. There was a significant conclusion from our discussion: the way we defined ourselves would have to rest more securely in what God said, rather than what our jobs said or significant people said. Seeing career as a variable rather than a given was the result.

There were implications for the way we viewed our stuff too. Our home, instead of a private retreat, would be a foyer for God’s kingdom. Strangers would always be welcome. Our kids would get introduced to all kinds of people and develop important friendships with adults other than family members. We would have to teach them that a house is a gift from God to be used at his discretion, even though we were the ones who lived there most of the time. Our things might get broken, scuffed up or lost. But it would all be worth it.

The Bigger Question

All this talk about re-arranging and reshuffling is dependent on the answer to a bigger question: have you been changed on the inside?

I’m not talking about going to church, singing hymns, putting money in the plate, or attending Sunday school. Have I ever asked God to forgive me because of his Son’s sacrifice for my sins? That’s the pivotal question. This might turn off some folks; they’ve heard the wacko Christians go on about this. Please don’t close the book and walk away. Indulge me for a few more minutes.

Consider the example of Cornelius. Cornelius was an extremely religious guy. He gave scads of money to the poor and talked to God regularly. Yet this man was missing something. So God sent Peter to explain who Jesus was and what Jesus did. Then Cornelius believed in Jesus and accepted his death as satisfaction of the moral debt he owed God. The whole story is delivered in greater detail in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter ten.

Had I been alive at that time, I might have assumed that Cornelius was a Christian. But he wasn’t. Something was missing in the spiritual wiring, which hearing and believing the story of Jesus resolved. Once Cornelius believed in Jesus as his savior, he received the Holy Spirit. And according to Romans 8:9, if I don’t have the Holy Spirit in my soul, I still don’t belong to God, no matter how much good I do or how nice I am.

In his story about the life of Jesus, the apostle John notes that people need to actually invite Christ, who is still alive, into their lives. He writes:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God¾children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

John 1:12-13 (NIV)

How do I make the invitation? I might talk to God like this:

“Lord, forgive me for my wrong thoughts and wrong actions. I know I deserve hell but I believe your Son wiped out my guilt for all time, clearing me of the evil I’ve done or imagined in the past, present, and future. I ask him right now to come into my life and show me how to follow you.”

Praying that prayer will start a relationship with God that has nothing to do with how good you are or how often you attend church. This will change the eternal outcome of your life immediately. Plus, having the Holy Spirit on board will be a great help with a book like this, so you can capture and apply the most from it (see John 14:26 and John 16:13).

The Need for Change

Combinations of events and realizations spur change. It could be the birth of a child or the death of a parent or both. Maybe a person is fired or laid off or didn’t get the promotion she thought she was getting. Or she did get the promotion and the raise, but life got harder instead of better. Perhaps the kids are getting ready to leave the nest. Everyone gets wake-up calls; the real question is whether they jump out of their beds of complacency or hit the mental snooze button.

At age twenty-seven, I could not have imagined making some of the choices I’ve ended up making. My macho focus wouldn’t allow the idea of not being the big provider. Here are a few of the “ah-ha” moments and circumstances that God used to change my worldly perspective so that I might adopt his point of view.

Income disparity - One thing was very clear at the beginning of our marriage¾Julia could work part-time and still make more money than I could make full-time. If raising kids and being available for ministry were our values then we’d have to bank our money and time wisely. I began to see this would affect me.

Our kids - My son David was born in 1992. Holding him and spending time with him awakened my daddy instinct in a way that would change my life. This only heightened with the births of Bethany and Mark. I wanted to have a greater role in the lives of my children, and not just after working eight to twelve hours a day for the newspaper.

The Holy Spirit has strongly impressed me that one of my greatest Great Commission legacies (see Matthew 28:18-20) will be my children. Would I give the Lord the carte blanche to use me, along with Julia, to shape them into people who knew Jesus, loved Jesus, and wanted to give their lives to others as he had? I have come to the conclusion that, even if I were to win a Pulitzer but not be a major player in God’s game plan for my children, I would be a failure.

Plus, I must admit, I have fun with my kids. I totally enjoyed helping David build Lego villages when he was three, which he would play with for a while, then destroy like Godzilla in Tokyo. I loved pretending to be pirates on our gym set. I got a kick out of speaking for my daughter’s Ken doll and inserting life philosophy in his comments to Barbie, “Really Barbie, I like your pink convertible, but I think getting married on the first date is a little sudden. But you do look cute in your princess dress.” I’m refreshed in a deep way when I take walks with Mark in the woods near our house and we happen to see a deer cross our path. Awesome isn’t a big enough word for what these times mean to me.

Going back to school - In 1993 my love of building relationships with people for God’s purposes won out over writing about car crashes and school levy campaigns. I could work as a journalist and follow God. Who knows, I may end up covering a beat again someday. But making God-centered relationships a priority means that other things become less of a priority, and that’s how it went in 1993 with newspaper deadlines. I decided to pursue further education at a seminary in Cincinnati, which I hoped would prepare me for more effective people involvement. However, it also required saying goodbye to the journalism career ladder for the time.

Lois’ death - After seminary I began spending more time watching the kids, with my mother-in-law, Lois Sammons, covering the times I worked part time as a media relations coordinator and fundraiser for a local hospice program. But then Lois’ breast cancer, in remission five years, metastasized to her brain. She went into the hospice program I worked for and died just before Easter 1997.

I had always imagined going back to work full-time, although I was hoping I could do that through our church. I had never seen myself not doing that. But something changed after Lois died. Maybe I became adjusted to the idea of taking on more of the caregiver role. Maybe I had worked through some key things about the way I saw myself. My sense of self-worth was coming less and less from having a successful career, as the world defined it. More and more I was being fulfilled through ministry, family life and the work God had given me.

Satisfied by freelancing - After seminary I submitted story proposals to Christian magazines and eventually got my first sale with Plain Truth Magazine in 1997. By 1998 I was beginning to make headway with freelancing: I had a formal contract to produce a news insert for Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine and landing a variety of assignments from other publications.

For me, the adventure of researching a story has always been satisfying. I love the mental piston-firing experience involved in producing a written work. E-mailing the polished article to an editor on time, especially with a tough topic on a tight deadline, produces a unique strain of adrenaline-packed contentment. Who needs a title when you’ve already got the greatest job in the world? I can think about and investigate a topic and then get paid for my research and observations. How great is that?

The availability dividend - Being available has its own upside, which is very appealing. Because of my schedule, I’m flexible to meet other guys for lunch or breakfast and talk about their lives, my life, what God is showing us, how the favorite sports team is doing, etc. This can mean that I’m actually busier at times than I would be with an eight-to-five job, but I’ve concluded that’s how God wants my life to be. And there’s tremendous satisfaction I experience because of my elastic schedule.

The Context of Significance

Most of the New Testament’s message about God’s plan is in the context of fulfilling a role I’ve been given in his worldwide endeavor called the church. The role I have to play is primarily local, carrying out numerous kinds of service with other people, especially in small communities of Christians where I learn how to love others as Jesus Christ has loved me. This is God’s main means for getting the word out about his Son to those who don’t know him (John 13:34).

God’s view of significance is through the lens of relationships¾who I’m supposed to connect with and the way I’m letting him use me to benefit others and vice versa. These relationships naturally include my spouse and children.

How many hours does the average person clock at his job: forty, fifty, sixty hours, or more? Even if my work hours are fairly reasonable, how much am I really “there” when I see my wife, my kids, or friends?

Maybe you’re the caregiver parent and see yourself primarily in that role. This is good; there should be more parents devoted to this job. But perhaps you’re beginning to wonder if God wants to expand your horizons, get you out of the house a little bit during the day because he wants you to disciple, evangelize, and otherwise care about others. This may mean taking the kids out of the house while you have lunch with some friends, or calling on a friend to watch the children occasionally while you volunteer at a homeless shelter or lead a teen Bible study. We need to ask ourselves a question at this point: Is my view of myself in Christ strong enough to permit flexibility in the amount of time I spend parenting?

Perhaps you’re retired. You’ve done your bit for the economy and you’re ready for some rest and leisure. I’ve been putting off that model railroading hobby for years, and now it’s time to get serious, you think to yourself. I’ve always wanted to learn how to take amazing photographs but never had the time. Is that the end of it? We could be on the threshold of the most significant period in our lives. We ought to ask: what does the Lord want me to do?

Students may look at their near futures as pretty much laid out for them: attend high school and finish in four years, attend a trade or technical school for two years, or go to college for four to six years, maybe pursue a graduate degree. Someone else tells you the requirements, and you just fill in the schedule blanks like a Sudoku puzzle. You have a few extra-curricular activities you enjoy. But have you ever pulled back and evaluated, from a prayerful, God-centered angle with the help of prayerful, God-centered people why you’re doing what you’re doing?

In addition to ministry and service, God’s plan is also moral. He wants to see character change, which has implications for my relationships and the effect I have on others. He wants to see the fruit of a life led more and more by His Spirit¾love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). He wants to see my choices about career and family and everything else have more and more his moral stamp. This is something he’s committed to accomplishing in me, if I’m willing to cooperate.

Some may think, “Doing more for God sounds great¾where do I sign up and not upset my current lifestyle too much?”

I’ve spent years trying to figure that out. I like my comfort as much as anyone, and yet I also want to make a difference for God that will change the substance of eternity . The quality and content of forever, mine and hopefully many others, hinges on the choices I make about the small and large parts of my ordinary, everyday reality. What will I choose?

This dilemma is similar to the one Jesus spelled out:

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

In context, Jesus was describing the impossibility of devotion to God and devotion to material comfort. These are mutually exclusive.

Being more available for God’s purposes may mean taking a job with less pay. Or it might mean interrupting the flow of your current day-to-day schedule with the kids. Or it could mean surrendering that beloved retirement hobby to his timing and plan. Or looking into a course of study that your parents may or may not understand or even appreciate. Following God means taking chances; there’s no getting around the risks.

Here’s something else to consider: in American society, if co-workers think someone’s not giving 120 percent to the job it can result in a loss of prestige. Jeff Gordon, a Columbus, Ohio, internist, faced exactly this. There were fellow doctors who questioned his “commitment” to medicine because of his choice to be more available for ministry in his church and to his wife and children.

Did Jeff’s job choice suddenly make him less competent? Did he suffer an abrupt loss of medical expertise? No, of course he didn’t. But he was willing to risk the estimation of others to pursue a bigger purpose.

There are potential costs of making such a decision that must be tallied. If those costs aren’t considered, you might make choices which lead to frustration later. I didn’t understand all of those costs myself and experienced resentment and discouragement that I hope others do not experience.

I remember getting quite agitated one afternoon during graduate school when my oldest son was a toddler. I should be out there tracking down criminals, interviewing cops and detectives, and beating a deadline, not making macaroni and cheese, was how it went in my brain. I should be doing something I know how to do instead of pursuing a master’s degree where the outcome is uncertain. Who knows if I’ll even be able to earn a paycheck from this!

I was feeling negative about myself. I remember kicking a door and slamming some plates on the table and yelling at David, who was two at the time, about something really unimportant. I remember thinking that my life being over might not be such a bad thing. Inside, I was seething with anger and self-hatred and berating myself with thoughts that I’d been stupid to choose this path.

Thank God I had enough Scripture in my head, like Romans 8:1: “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV) to realize all this self-slamming was not the way God saw me. Eventually I sat down at the kitchen table, put my head in my hands and meditated on this verse and others, prayed for God’s peace and perspective. I began to recognize the devil was involved, pouring gasoline on the fire with negative, self-defaming thoughts. I apologized to David and to God and focused on the domestic chore in front of me.

Don’t Flinch Now

The drive to be “important” is very strong. The desire to do significant work is designed into me. And so I strive and slave and try to link what I do to something meaningful, permanent, and valuable.

When I fail to do that, I find myself at a crossroads. What’s “important” in my life? Has it meant a forty-sixty hour a week job outside home with little thought of God’s priorities? Has it been about satisfying the hopes and dreams of significant others while suppressing what I think God really wants? Has it been exclusively about the kids at the expense of other relationships God wants me to invest in?

Now is the time for honest evaluation. I dare not hold back; this is not the moment to hesitate. I need to ponder Caleb’s counsel to Israel ¾take the land! But this is spiritual ground; the potential gain is even greater.

© Clem Boyd, 2008

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Multiple Blessings...Review

About the book:
Eight children in three years? Impossible!

Kate and Jon Gosselin have learned that, through God, all things are possible—though sometimes slightly improbable.

Just three years after giving birth to twin daughters, Kate and Jon learned they were pregnant again—with sextuplets. In
Multiple Blessings, Kate candidly chronicles the emotional and exhausting challenges she and Jon faced from the time the babies were conceived through the first two years of their lives.

This amazing story of faith provides a heartening lesson in what it means to trust the faithful hand of God to provide the strength and courage to make it through life’s seemingly impossible situations.

Admittedly, I am not a television watcher. While I am aware of the Jon & Kate show, I think I have only watched one complete episode, and clips here and there. I have seen a great deal of criticism leveled at Kate Gosselin for her obsessive/anal organization and perceived criticism of her husband. I read the book out of curiosity and I'm glad I did.

I liked it. Kate is a strong, straight-forward person. She's honest and frank about their life. The book begins with their marriage and quickly moves into their fertility issues. They didn't set out to have sextuplets. They wanted one more child, but their belief that every life has a purpose wouldn't let them abort any of their babies. Doctors can call it "selective reduction" but it's abortion, plain and simple.

Kate chronicles her fears through her pregnancy and the pain and difficulties, but also her faith that God would see her through it and that her children would be healthy. She gives credit to her husband for his patience and love and praises him for being a good husband and father. Their relationship comes across as a true partnership. Once the children are born, she writes of the overwhelming task before them: to care for 6 premature babies and not neglect their 3-year old twins or their own relationship. She's candid about the fact that while she appreciated the volunteers and all the help, it was also difficult to lose their privacy and control of their lives and family. For someone who has control issues, this is a difficult thing.

While the family received a great deal of financial help, I came away feeling like Kate wrote this book to clear the air that they didn't ask for handouts, but are grateful for all those who chose to help them during a difficult time.

I was disappointed that the book really only touches on one area of their television life, and that was mention of the original one-hour documentary. There is no explanation of why they chose to put their family in a fish-bowl. I can assume that the money they receive from the show is helpful, but I would have liked to know more about the decision to do the show in the first place.

Each chapter begins with a scripture, and God is very much a central topic in the book. There is no mention of church attendance, their Christian faith seems central to their lives.

I think it's very easy to criticize and judge people for their actions. However, I think that unless you live with and raise 8 young children yourself, you have no basis criticizing others for the way they do it.

Overall, an easy, interesting and enthralling book.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/09

* * *

3/5 Stars

Love and Other Natural Disasters...Review...DNF

About the book:
Eve is eight months pregnant and in the middle of a Thanksgiving celebration when she discovers that her husband Jonathan has developed an intimate relationship with a woman over the past year. Jonathon asserts his innocence (an affair involves physical intimacy, and he didn't have any), while Eve feels deeply betrayed by the emotional connection he shared with someone else. What Jon has done seems so terrifyingly out of character that Eve finds herself questioning her entire reality. Did she ever really know Jon at all? Was their happiness together a lie? Is emotional intimacy more forgivable than sexual intimacy? And can their marriage survive?

I wanted to like this book. However, I couldn't even finish it. I tried, but there is significant, vulgar profanity which never improves a story. For me, it was hard to get beyond. I also really didn't care for Eve. She wasn't very likeable to me and I found myself annoyed with her, more than anything else. The author is a marriage and family therapist and the plot and premise sounded fascinating. I wish I could have enjoyed it.

Thanks to Miriam at Hatchette Books for the opportunity to review this book as part of the Early Bird Blog Tour. You can learn more about Holly Shumas here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Many other people really liked this book. You can check out these blogs for additional reviews, most of which are positive.


Read 1/09

1/5 Stars

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Never Say Diet...Wild Card!

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 books:

Never Say Diet

WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)


The Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Trainer

WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)


Chantel Hobbs is a personal trainer, certified spinning instructor, and motivational speaker whose no-excuses approach to fitness has won her a grateful following across the country. The author of Never Say Diet, Chantel hosts a weekly fitness program on Reach FM radio and is a regular guest on Way FM. Her “Ditch the Diet, Do the Weekend” bootcamp takes place several times a year in a variety of locations. She has presented her unique approach to lasting fitness in People magazine and on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, The 700 Club, Living the Life, and Paula White Today. Chantel enjoys life with her husband and their four children in South Florida.

Visit the author's website.


Never Say Diet Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307444937
ISBN-13: 978-0307444936

The Night That

Changed My Life

How to Choose

to Do the Best

Job of Living

It should have been a scene of American family bliss. A Sunday afternoon in our home on a beautiful fall day in South Florida. My husband, Keith, was watching the Dolphins game in the living room with some friends. He’d waited all week for this. Our girls, six-year-old Ashley and four-year-old Kayla, were helping me in the kitchen. Well, kind of. Our six month-old, Jake, was jumping and laughing in his Jolly Jumper. I was baking Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, our favorite, and everybody could smell the cinnamon and butter and couldn’t wait for the cookies to come out of the oven. Especially me. As I worked in the kitchen, I could hear the football game coming from the living room. The announcers were talking about a player who had arrived at training camp completely out of shape. He was six foot four and weighed 320 pounds. “That is a big boy,” they said. “Wow! He is huge.” “Would you look at that guy,” I heard my husband say with disgust. “I can’t believe he got so fat! What a lazy bum.” Those words cut me to the heart. I had created a happy home, with a

happy husband and happy kids. But at that moment I wanted to die, because I outweighed that player by at least 10 pounds. I was bigger than anyone playing for the Miami Dolphins. And I knew I was anything but lazy. I pulled the cookies out of the oven and felt nauseous. I was pathetic. I’d been overweight my entire adult life, but I was bigger than I had ever been. I was miserable but doing an excellent job of faking out everyone who knew me. I was five foot nine and weighed 330 pounds, maybe more. I didn’t know for sure because it had been months since I’d dared to step on a scale. Besides, the only one in the house was a conveniently inaccurate discount-store model with a wheel underneath that calibrated the scale. I had adjusted it to register the lowest weight possible. I was in denial, but I was also without hope. It was the autumn of 2000. I was twenty-eight years old and was starting to believe I would never live a long and fulfilled life. Not this way. If an angel had landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear that, in less than two years, Oprah Winfrey would have me on her show to tell a feel good weight-loss story, I’d have sent that angel packing and gone back to my cookies. I wasn’t Oprah material. And there was absolutely nothing feel-good about my life. Call me when you want a feel-bad story. That was me. If that angel had whispered that I would one day run a marathon, I’d have checked him in to an insane asylum. I couldn’t run around the block. Even in high school I hadn’t been able to run the required twenty-minute mile. My knees hurt all the time. I was morbidly obese—a term that I knew meant an early death. If one thing was clear about my life in the fall of 2000, it was that

I could never, ever run a marathon. But I did. I finished my first one in 2005 and after that ran four more— in less than a year. I went from weighing nearly 350 pounds to less than 150 pounds. And I have appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America and the cover of People magazine as one of America’s great weight-loss successes. Getting fit wasn’t easy—there was plenty of pain, deprivation, tears, and hungeralong the way. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I won’t try to sugarcoat any of that. But, honestly, I didn’t give myself a choice. Once I made the unconditional decision that I was going to lose weight and get healthy, nothing could stop me. And nothing will stop you if you make the Five Decisions to break the fat habit for good. That’s a guarantee. Here is the secret I learned—the same secret I want to share with you. I realized I had to change my mind before I could change my body, my health, and my life. I discovered the Five Decisions, which brought about an unconditional commitment to getting healthy and fit. Once I started, I treated it like a job so that no matter what else was going on in my life, I did what I had to do to achieve daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, and eventually the target weight and fitness that I desired. After making the Five Decisions, getting fit was a matter of showing up for work each day. The process developed from the inside out, which was a new concept for me.


People constantly ask me how I lost 200 pounds and started running marathons. When I explain that it took several years to achieve those goals, they wonder how I was able to stick to the plan when so many others can’t. I ask myself the same question. I had failed plenty of times before. I’d tried a few diets and failed, including a bit of foolishness called the chocolate-wafer diet, which I’ll tell you about later. I’d resolved so many times not to eat the entire package of Oreos, without success. So how did I lose all that weight and keep it off reclaiming my health and gaining a new life in the process? Here’s the simple answer: my brain changed. I decided to first become a different person in my mind and then learned patience as my body followed. My success wasn’t measured only by a declining number on a scale; it was much deeper. I had to change on the inside. I needed to change my mind before I could change my body. It will work the same way for you. First you must get to the right place in your head, and then you can create the lifestyle to go along with that. Your body reflects your daily choices, so stop confusing it by the way you think. The mistake so many people make is to focus on weight loss and how long it will take. In fact, the multibillion-dollar diet industry banks on people thinking this way. Don’t get stuck in the weight loss weight gain cycle. What you should focus on is the person you want to be. Set your sights very high, and keep your commitment level even higher. In this book I’ll explain how I did that. I went from being someone who weighed more than a Miami Dolphins lineman to someone who is strong and trim and can run twenty-six miles. I went from a state of hopelessness to a life of incredible confidence. And I want to help you achieve something great in your life. If you change your mind before attempting to change your body, you can do this.


While I was learning how to lose weight and regain my health, I faced setback after setback. My husband lost his job, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer—and those were only two of the crises that came along. Changing your life will never be easy, and that’s why in order to succeed, you first need to be ready to succeed. It’s a choice you make. In the fall of 2000, when I was baking cookies and overhearing my husband’s criticism of an overweight NFL lineman, I fell into despair. I realized my life was out of control and I was headed for an early grave if I didn’t change. But even then, I wasn’t yet ready to make the commitment that was necessary to change my life. The truth is, on that dark day I still wasn’t miserable enough to change. I hit rock bottom about six months later. I was at my heaviest ever—349 pounds, I think. Though I was still mostly in denial, I was starting to see myself clearly, and I hated what I saw. I’d look in the mirror and say, “You are pitiful! How could you have let this happen?” My appearance started to affect my family life. We live in South Florida, where every weekend is a pool party. My daughters were young, but they were being invited to a few parties, and I was horribly uncomfortable in a bathing suit. I knew it wouldn’t be long before my girls would be embarrassed by their mother, and that made me want to cry. It did make me cry. But that was the least of it. I was more worried that their mom would die young. I’d seen fat people, and I’d seen old people, but rarely had I seen fat, old people. If I couldn’t change for myself, maybe I could do it for my kids. One night I was driving home alone from an event at church. I felt trapped in despair. At age twenty-nine, my body felt old. I had recently had an emergency gallbladder operation, and the doctor had told me he was afraid to cut through all my layers of fat because of the risk of infection. Imagine being worried about your diseased gallbladder and experiencing anxiety about surgery. And then you learn that your weight problem makes you more prone to infection. That night in the car I felt like the most pathetic person who had ever lived. I believed that God had made me and put me on earth for a purpose, and I was not living the life He intended for me. I knew I had to change. As I drove, drowning in self-pity, I began to envision what my life would be if I weren’t fat. I thought of all the things I could do—even simple things, such as walking down an airplane aisle without having to turn sideways. I’d be able to board a flight without getting fearful stares from people hoping I wouldn’t sit next to them. And there were deeper things, such as being able to go down a slide at a playground with my kids. And I wanted never again to feel as if I was embarrassing my husband when he introduced me to business associates. I was tired of feeling prejudged by every server in every restaurant for what I ordered. I wanted to be able to shop in the same clothing stores as all my friends. I wanted a normal life. As I drove home from church, I came to the realization that I absolutely could not go on with my life as it was. I pulled over, sobbing. In total despair I cried out to God. I remember every word. “This is it!” I said. “I can’t live like this anymore. I’m done. I give all this pain to You. I surrender this battle. I need You to take over and give me a plan. Otherwise, I don’t want to live anymore.” Almost immediately a sense of inner peace filled me, and I calmed down. I had gone to church all my life and had a relationship with God, but I had certainly never felt anything like that before. The peace was real, and in my mind I heard from God. I clearly heard these words: You are not being the best you can be. It wasn’t a booming voice like in a movie, but it also wasn’t a voice coming from me. The words were a jolt to my soul. And that moment would change my life forever. Again, with crystal clarity, I “heard” a whisper: You are not being the best you can be. And for the first time in my life, I understood that this was a choice. I could choose to be the best I could be or not. We all have the same choice. We can’t choose our natural talents or what opportunities life is going to throw our way, but we can choose to do this one thing: we can do the best job of living that we are capable of. After praying alone in my car, I knew I could do better.


No matter how overweight and out of shape we are, our bodies and minds are capable of much more than we think. No matter what battles we face in life, we can have victory. The amazing thing is that so many of us choose not to. I know this is true because I was as guilty as anyone. For years I’d made poor choices and come up with excuses for why I really didn’t have a choice at all. I was big boned. I let myself overeat because I was pregnant. I skipped exercise because I didn’t have the time. I was too far gone to ever recover. I told myself whatever it took to hide the truth that I was not doing the best job of living. I was also being scammed by the diet industry. We all have been taken in by the hype. “We’ll give you your eating points,” the industry tells us, “and let you spend them on any food you want. And we’ll love you when you get on that scale, whether you’ve lost weight or not. We’ll keep hugging you for the next twenty-three years if need be.” Counting my points was not going to save me. Choosing the right frozen entrée and having it delivered to my home for the next two years was not going to save me. I didn’t need the unconditional love of strangers; I needed unconditional commitment from myself. I was also scammed by the “fat gene” scientists who insisted that my weight problem was out of my hands. They were wrong; it was in my hands. Chantel, I told myself, this is not cancer. I knew, because my mother had leukemia, and I had spent more tearful nights than I could count praying for her recovery something I couldn’t do anything about. I prayed that chemotherapy would work and that God would heal her. But I realized that I’d been thinking of my obesity in the same way, as an illness. I’d even been told by experts that drastic surgery might be my only option. But that was another lie. The way I lived my life and how I contributed to my health were completely in my hands. Every one of us knows what we should do, but we don’t always do it. Instead, we pretend it’s out of our control. We take the easy way out and let ourselves down. Gaining weight doesn’t come about by accident, and it’s not forced on us. We gain weight through a series of poor choices made on a regular basis over a long period of time.

We gain weight

through a series of poor choices

made on a regular basis

over a long period of time.

The same process holds true for achieving a goal related to your health and fitness. Whether it’s weight loss, athletic accomplishment, or any other personal or business goal, you achieve what you seek by learning to make the right choices and not being scared of self-sacrifice. I began wondering what my life would be like and what I would be capable of if I simply started being the best me I could. It was time to find out. After hearing God tell me, You are not being the best you can be, I made my decision, and I said it out loud: “I can do this. I will do this.” I repeated it, and I meant it. At that moment by the side of Cypress Creek Road, my life turned around.


Having made the commitment, I knew I was going to change my life, but I didn’t have a specific plan. I knew I’d have to start exercising, no matter how much I dreaded it. I knew I would have to change the way I ate, and I would need to learn more about nutrition. And to become a different person, I knew I would have to start thinking like the person I wanted to be and not the person I had allowed myself to become. I didn’t know how I was going to do all this, but I knew I would have God by my side. He might not make it easy, but He’d give me the strength to do everything that was needed. When I got home that night, Keith was already in bed. He had never criticized my weight, for which I was incredibly grateful, but I knew how he must have felt. I looked into my husband’s eyes, told him that God had spoken to me in the car, and announced that the next morning I would begin losing weight and getting healthy. (I even mentioned that one day I would write a book to reach others in my situation.) I made it clear that I was totally committed to being the best I could be. Keith smiled at me and quoted one of his favorite sources of inspiration, the self-made billionaire Art Williams: “Do it, then talk.” He was right. I shut up. Keith fell asleep, but I had a burning passion that kept me awake that night and has kept me up many nights since. Making the unconditional decision to change—the complete commitment with no turning back—had to be followed by action. First you change your mind. But to change your body and your life, you have to get moving. You have to do things and do them differently from the past. Do it. How incredibly simple—yet how long it had taken me to get to a place where I could see that clearly. Getting fit and accomplishing my dreams was simply a matter of choosing to do it, following through every single day, and understanding that failure was not an option. I could do it. I would do it. And I did.


Keep reading, and you’ll find out how to change your life through five crucial decisions. The Five Decisions change your brain, giving you a new way of thinking about yourself, your life, your health, and your future. As long as you keep thinking the same way you always have, you will keep doing the things you have always done—including the unhealthy habits you have developed. Join me in the next chapter as we explore the past—including all the influences that worked together to bring us to where we are today. Understanding the messages that influence our self-perception and the way we respond to obstacles enables us to make the new decisions that are necessary for permanent change.

What Do You Want to Change, and Why?

As you prepare to make the mental changes that will lead to permanent life change, think through the reasons you want to change. What is motivating your desire to lose weight and reclaim your health? Use the questions that follow to think in detail about your life, your goals for the future, and what you’re willing to do to make this happen finally and forever.

1. Beyond losing weight, what do you most want to change about your life?

2. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see certain areas of your life undergo radical change? If you’re not yet willing, what is holding you back?

3. When in your life have you felt the most hopeless? Are you now ready to move past those scars and never look back?

4. When you gained weight in the past, what factors caused you to lose your focus on health?

5. Identify three reasons or influences from the past that convinced you that you couldn’t achieve permanent life change. After considering these reasons, can you now admit they were merely excuses?

6. Think about the necessity of changing your mind before you attempt to change your body. Do you agree that lasting change begins on the inside? As you consider being the best you can be, are you ready to work from the inside out?

7. A total life change involves your mind, body, and spirit. Think about the spiritual aspect for a moment. Do you accept the role that faith plays in the process of changing your life for good?

8. When have you been held back by a fear of failure? Write down your biggest fears in this regard. As you face your fears, can you decide to let them go and give your all to permanent life change?

Never Say Diet Personal Trainer Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446425
ISBN-13: 978-0307446428

Week 1 Training Plan

The Perfect Body Type: Yours!

You Are Lovely Today

Scripture for the week: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.… When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”

—PSALM 139:14–16

Quote for the week: “Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”


As you begin the journey to never say diet, remember that your value is based on who you are in Christ, not what the number on the scale says. God created everything about you, and He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows which foods are your weaknesses, and He is there whenever the temptation to overeat or consume unhealthy food seems overwhelming. The Lord knows the tears you have shed out of desperation. He was there to comfort you when it seemed like no one understood your pain. Trust me, on days when I feel the most flawed, I need the verses from Psalm 139 to remind me of what is true. The living God formed every part of my body, even the parts I would like to change. Although I used to struggle and fail in caring for my body, God always knew it best. When I finally cried out to my Creator and invited Him to help with the repair, I knew I could succeed. He wants you to succeed too. Start this week by thanking the Lord for the gifts of your life and your body. By focusing on making some improvements, you will ultimately be honoring Him more and more each day. Find a recent photo of yourself, or take one, and tape it in the space that follows. This picture will be a powerful reference for you in the coming weeks as you begin your transformation.


In Never Say Diet, I make a big deal about the Five Decisions—and for good reason. You will fail in this new attempt to change your life unless you first change your brain. To succeed, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes—unconditionally. I want to be your cheerleader and your friend. And for us to get going, you need to commit to the five Brain Change decisions found on pages 76–82 of Never Say Diet. Think about how each of the Five Decisions applies to your life. Also, try to memorize them. They will form the backbone you need to stand up to and overcome every area of weakness in your life. Create your personal surrender statement.


This week your first assignment is to start building a foundation of discipline. You will be successful over the next month if you show up for exercise thirty minutes a day, five days in a row, every week—no matter what. There are many choices for your cardiovascular exercise. Below is a list of suggestions. Even if your week gets hectic, finding the time to make this happen is imperative.

Cardio Exercise Suggestions


Bike riding

Cross-country skiing machine


Elliptical machine


Kick boxing


Spinning class

Stair climber

Stair stepper

Stationary bike/recumbent bike

Step aerobics




How to Take Your Measurements

Taking your measurements at the beginning of each month is an important part of the process of losing weight. You will begin to see precisely where you are losing fat. As you start building more muscle, there will be months where your progress is more evident in your measurements than on the scale, because muscle is denser than fat. You will begin by taking six measurements. You should be able to do them by yourself, with the exception of your upper arm. (Ask a friend or your spouse to help you.) For instructions on taking accurate measurements, see pages 97–98 of Never Say Diet. Record your measurements below.

Bust: ______________

Chest: ______________

Waist: ______________

Hips: ______________

Thighs: ______________

Arms: ______________

Be sure that you consistently measure in the same spots each month. I also recommend taking your measurements before your workouts.

Weigh Yourself

Weigh yourself, and record your weight at the beginning of each week.

Week 1 starting weight: ________


Complete your cardio exercise five days in a row, for at least thirty minutes per day. In the space provided, write down the day, the date, the exercise you completed, and the duration of each exercise period. This serves as a reminder that you always found a way to get the exercise done, whether you felt like it or not.

Day 1 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 2 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 3 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 4 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 5 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?




This week you must place your nutritional focus on the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Plan to eat every day within two hours of waking up. Listed below are some fresh food ideas. Each one is about three hundred calories, which is perfect!

• Quaker Weight Control oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of raisins, cinnamon to taste, 2 slices of turkey bacon.

• One slice of whole-wheat toast, light spread of peanut butter (natural is best), and ½ grapefruit.

• Chocolate strawberry shake. Blend the following: 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 10 small frozen strawberries, 1 packet sugar substitute, ½ cup low-fat milk, a few ice cubes.

• Egg white omelet. In a skillet with nonstick spray, cook veggies you like, 3 lightly beaten egg whites, and 1 tablespoon fat-free cheese. Accompany with half an English muffin with a dab of peanut butter.

Each of these breakfast meals provides a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat. This ensures your day gets off to a good start; it is igniting your source of energy. Find a few meals that you enjoy, and keep repeating them. This way you won’t stress out over deciding what to have.

Week 1 Breakfast Log

Using the space provided, record each day’s breakfast menu and the portions.

Day 1 date/time: ___________________________________ ________________________________________________

Day 2 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 3 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 4 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 5 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 6 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 7 date/time: ___________________________________