Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home to Blessing Book 1: A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling

From Bethany House Publisher's website:


Eighteen-year-old Astrid Bjorklund has been studying medicine under Dr. Elizabeth Bjorklund's direction and dreams of joining her practice in Blessing. But when a missionary arrives and tells of the need for medical ministry in Africa, he seems to look directly at her. Could God be calling her to go to Africa?


Joshua Landsverk left Blessing two years ago, but he's never forgotten Astrid. Returning to town he seeks to court her, and love begins to bloom. When the opportunity opens for Astrid to go to Chicago for further training, she finds it difficult to leave home•and Joshua. They agree to correspond, but after receiving only one letter from him, she learns he's left town--again. Believing Joshua no longer loves her, Astrid makes an impetuous, heart-wrenching decision. Will she regret the choice she's made?


My Opinion:

If you are looking for a book that is inspirational and you won't be embarassed to be seen reading it then "A Measure of Mercy" is that book. Lauraine Snelling has done another great job is weaving a intriguing story with 3 dimensional characters that draw you in and wrap you in their story.


I was pulled into the story as soon as it began, I felt like I was living in the township of Blessing and invited into the character's life. I could feel the emotion that the doctor's felt when they lost a patient and a baby during child birth. Even though there is a romance weaved into the storyline there is no kissing or hugging or anything untoward in the story that would deter me from letting a young lady read this.


Lauraine Snelling has another wonderful on the market one that I would not be afraid to suggest to a friend, married or unmarried. The wonderful thing about this book is how much the character rely and lean on God for His provisions, even when a character has a crisis of Faith she still turns to God for His knowledge and guidance in her life.

**I was provided a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

God Has Not Forgotten About You...And He Care More than You Can Imagine by Leslie Haskin

From the Bethany House Publisher website:


When everyday concerns and problems linger--when desires of our heart go unmet--it's easy to wonder if we've done something wrong or if God cares.

Leslie Haskin is no stranger to these feelings, but through adversity she has emerged victorious.

"This book is honest and straightforward. It is about real life for real people," Leslie says. "Whether the struggle is emotional, spiritual, or physical, I write for those who, like me, would like some answers but even more need a revival of spirit.

"Nothing in our lives is too small for God, so be encouraged in your walk with Him today. You indeed can make it to the other side of whatever you are facing and be better for the experience. I assure you, God loves you more than you can imagine."

My Opinion:


There are times when we all think that God has forgotten us and we wonder does He hear our prayers and needs? Of course this also makes our faith stronger in the end when we realize, yes, He does care and He answers us in His way. It is hard to keep that in mind though when trials come our way, it may be a sick child or it could be something major - like a bank foreclosing on the house.


Leslie Haskin's has written a book for all of us who need reassurance that God is present and He is listening and wants to comfort us. Leslie Haskin escaped one of the towers at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and she knows what the lowest of lows can be like, today she is active in mission work. She has founded Safe HUGS which is a ministry that helps women and children.


"God Has Not Forgotten About You" is a book that can speak to the emotional, spiritual and physical parts of our beings that need God so much. There are words to savor in this book and it is a book that takes some time to read as the words are digested and weighed against God's Word. Thankfully this book is Scripturally based, or at least I found it to be and that is what counts for me - there are not enough platitudes that anyone can write to comfort me unless it's based on God's Word.


**This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers for my honest review.

***This book can be purchased at Bethany House Publishers website.

Stories From Japan: Past to Present by Al Hammond

"Stories From Japan: Past to Present" by Al Hammond is a wonderful book for those whose hearts are called to missions or want to experience mission work from a first hand account. I am both of these, I yearn to do mission work and right now the mission is my home but my heart aches for those in countries who are persecuted for being Christian or who don't even know the Lord.


Mr. Hammond has a knack for writing about the Japanese culture from a missionary's viewpoint and makes the reader feel as if they know the people he ministers to and almost like they are there with him and his family. For sixteen years Al Hammond and his family served as missionaries to Japan planting churches and editing an open forum magazine. With much love, which comes through his writing, the reader will enjoy Mr. Hammond's book about the Japanese people.


"Stories from Japan" covers invitation, adjustments, rejection, communication, bonding, student encounters, women, mission strategies, readjustment to America, demon encounters and many more in it's forty chapters. Throughout the entire book one feels like they are with the Hammonds through all the trials of mission work and can feel the love and sometimes even a level of frustration (isn't it frustrating when you're not sure of cultural norms?). I felt like I was observing from an outsider looking in when I read this book.


Even though it is a long read, it is so worth it! It is an edifying read of how Christians can reach out and minister to others with sacrifice and not want anything in return. I do recommend Mr. Hammond's book to others who desire to learn more about missionaries and try to understand what goes on in a missionary's life.


**I was given a copy of this book by Mr. Al Hammond through Believer's Press in exchange for my honest review.

***This book can be purchased through Amazon or through Believer's Press Marketplace.

The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn



"The Fallacy Detective" by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn is a book that should be on every homeschooling family's book shelves (and even those who don't homeschool) especially if they enjoy Classical home educating. "The Fallacy Detective" is geared for ages 12 to adult but could easily be used for those under the age of twelve - in fact I plan on using it in our upcoming 2010-2011 school year for my will be 8 and 6 year olds.

The book covers thirty eight lessons on recognizing logic that is skewed. Each fallacy is full defined and explained and cartoons are through out the book from Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts and Dilbert which aid in understanding. The cartoons are child safe for the most part however I did see one with Calvin being punched and a lawyer holding a gun as evidence, these are use only as teaching tools and could allow a parent to expound why violence isn't needed by Christians. Each chapter is fairly short, I read each in 5 minutes or less with following exercises that the student or adult can do to train themselves to recognize bad reasoning.

Some of the fallacies that are discussed in "The Fallacy Detective" are: red herrings, ad hominem, circular reasoning, part-to-whole, post hoc ergo propter hoc, propaganda, transfer and many, many more. Again each fallacy has a set of exercises after the short reading assignment, and it is recommended that the exercises be done in a group of two or more so that they can be discussed and see other points of view. This works well in a homeschool family since moms and dads can each participate with the children. All answers for the exercises are given in the back of the book, also is the Fallacy Detective game with all rules, how to score, preparation given.

This book is a great resource for anyone wanting to uncover fallacies in all walks of life, from reading a book, to discussions and T.V. commericals. You can sign up for The Fallacy Detective News and get "The Fallacy Detective" test, both for free. The book sells for $22.00 and can be purchased at Amazon, Christianbook, Rainbow Resource and Trivium Pursuit. So as fellow homeschoolers look towards next year's curriculum I would recommend this book as a must-have.

**I received this book from Trivium Pursuit in exchange for my honest review.

Raising Real Men by Hal and Melanie Young

I have one son and my prayer is that he will become a godly man who wants to serve the Lord and raise a family who serves God. When I was given the chance to review "Raising Real Men" by Hal and Melanie Young I jumped on the chance to read the book. The book's subtitle is "Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys" , and at this moment in my life with a 3 year old boy at home surviving his antics is a goal of mine! I also have moments of wondering can I actually homeschool an active and inquisitive little boy without destroying his eventual manliness.


Hal and Melanie Young are the parents of 6 boys and two girls, and have a lot of experience of raising and home educating boys. There advice is down to earth and almost feels like you chatting with them over a cup of coffee (or tea if you prefer that). Even if the Lord decides only to give me one little boy, this book will be a handy guide on what I can do to help him become a man of God without making him effeminate like the world would want him to be. One of the chapters even goes into resisting the feminization of boys - which is so timely in today's world that wants girls to act like boys and boys to act like girls.


Scriptural to the hilt, using God's Word really drives home the advice that the Young's give from their real world experiences of raising six young men. Discussing items of interest such as hereos (no Spiderman) that are appropriate for our boys to look up to, how boys can be boys without sacrificing our or their Faith. One thing that I've been struggling with is wether or not to let my son use fake swords and/or guns and while I am still on the fence about guns as long as he knows the rules (no hitting animals, sisters, etc) I would allow fake sword play. There can be a time for this type of play - especially if he is defending his sisters and not killing anyone.


While I may not agree with everything that the Young's wrote in this book, I can't recall a specific item, this book is very sound in using Scripture to back up their beliefs and experiences in raising young men to be men of God. The Youngs have a great book and a wonderful resource for Christian parents who choose to utilize it and I do recommend this to anyone mom or dad who has one son or many becasue regardless on how many sons a family may have we want them all to be Godly men when they grow up.

* I was provided a copy of "Raising Real Men" by Hal and Melanie Young for my honest review.

** The book can be pre-ordered now by visiting Raising Real Men pre-orders.

*** The book is $15.00 and there is also an ebook option and a study guide available for purchase.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Girlfriend Getaways by Lisa Kasanicky



Have you ever just wanted to take a trip with just you and the girls? I know I have but I also want to include my children, but the book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Girlfriend Getaways" gives ideas for some fun and even economical ways to get away with your girlfriends for some alone time. I really enjoyed the ideas in this book and even if, like me, you do take the children with you - this book will give you ideas for a wonderful, refreshing trip.

The book is divided into 6 parts with the following parts: Plan, Prep and Primp, Shop 'Til You Plop: Adventures in Retail Therapy, Head Trips: Mind and Body Retreats, Culture Club: Excursions That Feed Your Mind and Appetite, Friends Who Play Together Stay Together: Adventure Trips, The Road Less Traveled: Quirky, Wacky and Wild Excursions. Each part has other subdivided parts that delve into places to go that relate to that main heading. There are volunteer trips, learning, homebodies, thrifty, spa and other exciting excursions.

Each chapter will discuss places where you can stay, stop, and other things you can do along the way. Filled with tips and wit, the book will give you many options as you plan your trip. Ohio Amish Country is included, so be sure to stop there and take a step back in time. Other places included are: New York City, North Carolina, Mayflower Inn in Connecticut, largest animal sanctuary in Utah, festivals, rock band camp and many, many others. Phone numbers and websites are given when available to make it easy to make arrangements. Prices are also given, although they are subject to change.

This is a definite, must have resource if you'd like to plan a getaway with a girlfriend or even plan a family vacation or a mother daughter getaway. With everything laid out in easy-to-read format and also easy to find what you're looking for makes planning the trip fun and easy. And if you don't like what Lisa Kasanicky has written about then she lists more options at the end of each chapter to give you even more options. A wonderful resource that should be on any woman's bookshelf even if just for a mother daughter getaway.

**This book was provided to me by Lisa Kasanicky in exchange for my honest review.

***Picture copied from Amazon.com website.

Pirate Hunter by Tom Morrisey

The following is from the back of the book, "Pirate Hunter" by Tom Morrisey.
West Indies, 18th century
Young Ted Bascombe is rescued by notorious pirate Captain Henry Thatch, finding himself caught up in a world of crime, adventure, and a daily fight for freedom....
Key West, 21st century
Marine archaeologist Greg Rhode embarks on a treasure-hunting expedition in the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, but he's as beguiled by a beautiful diver with different-colored eyes as by the lure of pirate gold....
The Hunt Is On!
Interweaving these two stories, pro deep-sea diver Tom Morrisey spins a multilayered tale of two young men's quests to escape their past by losing themselves to adventure on the high seas. Romantic and thrilling, this unique novel explores the timeless truth that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
My Opinion:
I'm all for historical fiction but I just couldn't find myself getting excited about this one. I've never read Tom Morrisey before and I'd like to thank Bethany House for giving me the chance to try his book out but I just wasn't able to get into this book. So in saying that I'd definitely like to check out his other books when I get the time as they sound really good but "Pirate Hunter" just didn't draw me in like other books with a historical theme.

With suspense and romance and history all rolled in together it would make a great read, especially those with knowledge of diving (there seems to be a lot of diving terminology or at least lingo) could appreciate this book. I think that is what had me frustrated with this is some of things going on in the book I couldn't quite wrap my mind around. There was also a running joke between two characters about a female character being a lesbian - which I thought could have been left out since it is put out on the Christian market.

So I'll have to leave it up to you, my readers, to decide if you'd like to try out this book and if you do please let me know what you thought. Like I said I would definitely try Morrisey's other books but this one was one that didn't draw me in and I like to be drawn in, hook, line and sinker.
**This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

No Sex in the City by Lindsey N. Isham



"No Sex in the City" written by Lindsey N. Isham was an interesting read. Miss Isham is a virgin and she isn't ashamed to acknowledge that fact because that is what God wants of her and all unmarried Christians to be until marriage. She has been working for over 13 years with singles and traveled nationwide speaking to audiences of women of varying ages. Kregel Publishing has found an author that will appeal to the younger generation of Christians who also uses sound Scriptural basis for their writings.

This book is a frank outlook on single women who have choosen to remain pure until marriage. Since I want my daughter's (and son) to also be virgins until marriage I was intrigued by this book and I must say some of the terminology was shocking! Terms such as 'horny', 'one-eyed snake' and 'get laid' were just some of the terms that I came across that made me uncomfortable. No, I'm not a prude but I simply find these terms unusable for Christians - not to mention pure, modest Christian women. I would not let my daughter's read this book - these terms are ones that I don't think they need to know and it's my prayer that I can avoid them learning these things.

I can see where this book would reach a young woman who is in the world and not sure if they want to continue living an abstinent lifestyle. Also I could see where today's church would not have an issue since most try to be culturally sensitive, but if you want a book that is more modest in terminology this isn't the book. However, this book does have the redeeming quality of sound Scriputural basis, and most books that come out today for young people do not have this quality. Overall, I can see it's niche but I also would not let my daughter's nor the daughter's of my friends read this book.

**This book was provided to me by Kregel Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stan Toler's books of encouragement




Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—Celebrated author of over 70 books, Stan Toler has touched countless hurting people with his timeless stories of hope and encouragement. This summer, a whole new audience of readers will have the opportunity to discover Toler’s best-selling books as David C Cook introduces the updated editions of two of Toler’s most beloved collections—The Buzzards Are Circling, But God’s Not Finished With Me Yet and God Has Never Failed Me, But He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times (David C Cook, August 2009).



On the landscape of life, buzzards are inevitable—those challenging events and situations that encircle us, eyeing us as prey and swooping down to cause hurt and heartache. A late-night phone call delivering bad news. Losing a job. Struggling with bankruptcy. No matter what form these buzzards take, the pain is universal.



In The Buzzards Are Circling, But God’s Not Finished With Me Yet, Stan Toler takes a lighthearted look at some of life’s more serious subjects. Drawing from his own personal struggles, Toler offers a generous dose of encouragement for the troubled heart, helping readers find hope, joy, and peace, even in the most trying of circumstances. In chapters such as “When the Fountain of Youth Has Rusted” and “I Know I’m Lost, but the Scenery Is Spectacular,” readers will find the strength they need to shoo away any buzzards and face life’s difficulties with the security of knowing that God is in control.

In God Has Never Failed Me, But He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times, Toler gives a humorous twist to the challenges that place us in faith’s waiting room. Though we know that God’s provision is always on time, we’ve all had close calls waiting for His help. For anyone who has ever felt frazzled, stressed, confused, hurt, angry, undone, or any other emotional response to the difficulties and uncertainties of life, Toler serves up a delightful combination of poignant and hilarious reminders that God is still at work in the world.

Filled with heartwarming stories and humorous anecdotes, this charming collection offers hope and peace for the weary, waiting heart. Toler combines a rich blend of spiritual truths with humorous insights as he reminds God’s children of His unfailing love. Through it all, readers will discover a God who is always faithful, worthy of our trust, and never late with His help.

Repackaged with a fresh look and design, both books will be available for purchase in August.

Author Bio

Stan Toler is senior pastor of Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and was recently elected as the 39th general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene. For several years he taught seminars for Dr. John Maxwell’s INJOY Group, a leadership development institute. He also serves as the executive director of the Toler Leadership Center, located on the campus of Mid-America Christian University, and is the co-founder of BGW Forward in Faith. Toler has written over 70 books, including his bestsellers, God Has Never Failed Me, But He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times; The Buzzards Are Circling, But God’s Not Finished With Me Yet; God’s Never Late, He’s Seldom Early, He’s Always Right on Time; The Secret Blend; Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry; Total Quality Life; and his popular Minute Motivator series.

The Buzzards Are Circling, But God’s Not Finished With Me YetGod Has Never Failed Me,
But He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times
by Stan Toler
David C Cook/August 2009
ISBN: 978-1-434765-94-9/224 pages/softcover/$14.99
ISBN: 978-1-434765-95-6/224 pages/softcover/$14.99

Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World by Tom Davis **updated w/ review 12/27/09**


The new movie Orphan takes a look at a family adopting a little girl from Russia who is not what she seems. While the movie attempts to entertain the masses with horror, around the world, orphans are facing horrendous conditions unlike anything Hollywood could produce. Tom Davis, CEO and President of Children’s HopeChest, is passionately working to alert the public about the real plight of orphans around the world.

Two weeks ago, Orphan, or as the Washington Post referred to it, a "depraved, worthless piece of filth...a high-gloss horror show about a well-meaning couple who bring home a 9-year-old girl to join their family, only to discover, way too late, that she's a homicidal psychopath" was released in theaters. The widespread criticism of Orphan is showing up in both the mainstream media (New York Times, New York Times 2) and also in Christian news sources as well. (See Orphans Deserve Better)

Children’s HopeChest CEO Tom Davis says, “The true horror, as pointed out by the Orphans Deserve Better site, is not the Hollywood over-hyped stereotype of an adoption gone homicidally off the rails. There's ample evidence on both sides of the older orphan adoption discussion, and I think all would agree that this movie doesn't help the 150 million children without families. That's the real horror. If you want a good horror story about orphans, I've got plenty that will turn your stomach and wrench your heart. Imagine, for a moment, the impact that the film's producers could have had by investing the film's budget in cleaning up some of the real horrors facing orphaned kids today.”

Children’s HopeChest was founded in 1994 by helping orphans in Russia. After the fall of communism, nothing was being done to help the millions of children who were institutionalized by the state. Most of the children were kicked out at fifteen or sixteen and they didn’t have the ability to survive. In fact, 70% of the girls ended up in prostitution. The idea of Hopechest is to help these kinds of kids have the chance at the kind of life a family kid would have. “We help to meet the same needs for orphans that you and I would meet for our own children - food and clothing, but also loving relationships, medical care, and perhaps most important, an education. We also specialize in helping kids make the transition out of orphanages and into young adulthood,” states Davis.

The United Nations estimates the world orphan population to be over 143 million children. Poverty, war, disease, and AIDS are the primary enemies of children across the globe, leaving those who are robbed of their parents at-risk for criminal behavior, prostitution, drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide. Davis offers readers a sweeping narrative that explores these most critical social concerns in his debut novel. Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World (June 2009/David C Cook) delves into the lives of a photojournalist struggling to redeem his past and an African orphan fighting for survival. Davis’ book is based real situations he has witnessed while working with orphans in Africa.

In Scared, Davis, also the author of Red Letters and Fields of the Fatherless, weaves a beautiful story of redemption that takes place in a world far away from our own. Readers will discover, along with Stuart, that, “Sorrow is a part of life, but our tears can leave us with clearer sight, if we look to God.” True “fiction with a conscience,” Davis’ novel is the first in a planned series of three. Narrated in the first person by both Stuart and Adanna, Scared offers a unique perspective on the tragedies taking place in Africa today and encourages readers to step out and help the “least of these.”

Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World by Tom Davis

David C Cook/June 2009/ ISBN 978-1-589191-02-0/288 pages/softcover/$14.99


My Opinion:
I couldn't put this book down - I finished it in a day! With my heart for missions and wanting to do mission work this book was right up my alley. Tom Davis is a new author for me, but no longer his writing pulls you in until you can't leave the world in the book until you're done reading it! In this case it's Africa, with it's starving, homeless orphans and children as young as 5 being parents for their baby siblings - this book will grip your heart!

As you read "Scared" and you 'live' Adanna's life and the horrible atrocities that happen to her you will find righteous anger rising up in you and you'll begin cheering for Adanna and her siblings to rise above this life and become more. AIDS has attacked Africa more than any other country and it's leaving behind the smallest victims, the ones who can't do it on their own. Families turn against families and children are turned out to the streets or to go to work doing things that are unthinkable so their families can just scrape by. A wonderful and touching book, even if some parts are difficult to read, it's a book I do recommend.

Christianish by Mark Steele


Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—Modern evangelicalism has lost its balance. A lukewarm spirituality, somewhere between cold faith and hot pursuit, has taken hold and found many believers in the median between the wide path and the narrow road of the spiritual walk. The efforts of many have become more centered on how to cope with their own dysfunctional lives, and less concentrated on what it really means to follow Jesus. It’s something not quite Christian. It’s more like…Christianish.

In his new book, Christianish: What if We’re Not Really Following Jesus at All? (David C Cook, August 2009), author Mark Steele tells the story of his own personal journey from living in the “in-between” to a life that’s centered on Christ. “Somewhere along the road, I stopped being a ‘little Christ’ and instead began filling out the application that I had labeled ‘Christian.’ It was not a definition based on the actual namesake but, rather, on those who frequent the clubhouse. I allowed Jesus to seep into my church world—but not my relational world, my romance world, my business world, my creative world, my habits, my mouth. I had become Christianish.”

Christianish may feel like authentic faith. It may even look like the real deal. Yet it’s often easy to settle for the souvenir t-shirt—the appearance of a transformed heart—instead of taking the actual trip through true life-change. We find ourselves being contented with a personal faith that’s been polluted by culture and diluted by other people’s take on spirituality.

In Christianish, Mark revisits the words and life of Christ to find just what it means to be a Christian. Through stories and insights that are sometimes profound, often hilarious, and always honest, he delivers a compelling look at what authentic faith is all about. While carefully detailing the tell tale symptoms of being Christianish, Mark encourages readers to ditch the “ish” to become true Christ-followers.

“We have trained ourselves to cope well on a Christianish path: a path where we please the right godly people and don’t feel the guilt when our failings are seen by the world at large. But this is not the approach to Jesus that we were created to take. There is only one way for us to discover the right way to travel the right road. The way is not church. The way is not an ideology. The way is not Christian. The way is Jesus.”

Author Bio:

Mark Steele is the president and executive creative of Steelehouse Productions, a group that creates art for business and ministry through the mediums of film, stage, and animation. He is also the author of Flashbang: How I Got Over Myself and Half-Life/Die Already and is a regular contributor to Collide Magazine and Relevant Magazine. Mark and his wife, Kaysie, reside in Oklahoma with their three greatest productions: Morgan, Jackson, and Charlie. Christianish: What if We’re Not Really Following Jesus at All? by Mark SteeleDavid C Cook/August 2009/ISBN 978-1-434766-92-2/320 pages/softcover/$14.99www.davidccook.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce A. Ware


I love when a wonderful resource comes out that is done in an easy to read and understand format for multiple ages that can easily explain Biblical truths. Big Truths for Young Hearts is one of those books, geared for parents of children ages 6 - 14, it explains Christian theology in an easy to read and understandable format.


Oftentimes parents can find themselves lost in answering questions and this book can be a jumping off place to start in explaining Biblical truths. The truths covered in this book make it a good read for any denomination of Christianity who believes the Jesus is the Savior and He is the only way to Heaven. One chapter discusses God as Three in One and goes on to break down into there is only one God, one God in three persons, the Father is God, The Son is God, The Holy Spirit is God and how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate.


At the end of each chapter are questions for thought, which even the youngest child could answer with rephrasing it for the child's age or ability. Also included are a memory verse - the family can use their own version of the Bible for this or use the book which is using the ESV (English Standard Version). I really enjoy the straight forward approach to teaching children about God - which all Christian parents should strive for.


Overall, this book is a wonderful resource for any Christian family and it will prove to be invaluable to the homeschooling family as it would definitely be an easy way to approach devotionals and teaching about the Bible in a easy to do manner, especially with multiple age ranges.

**I'd like to thank Amy Stephansen at Crossway for providing a copy of this book for my honest review.

FIRST Tour: Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur **updated w/review 12/27/09**

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:


Wisdom Hunter

Multnomah Books (September 20, 2003)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Randall Arthur is the bestselling author of Jordan’s Crossing and Brotherhood of Betrayal. He and his wife have served as missionaries to Europe for over thirty years. From 1976 till 1998, he lived in Norway and Germany as a church planter. Since 2000, he has taken numerous missions teams from the United States on trips all over Europe. Arthur is also the founder of the AOK (Acts of Kindness) Bikers’ Fellowship, a group of men who enjoy the sport of motorcycling. He and his family live in Atlanta, Georgia.


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (September 20, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590522591
ISBN-13: 978-1590522592

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


PART 1: 1971-1972


Jason cleared his throat. His wife knew what was coming next, and the pain within her rose again. At every evening meal for the last five hundred and fifteen days he had prayed aloud for their daughter, always working his way slowly through the prayer, emphasizing each word as if to prove his sincerity.


"0 God," he said tonight, "wherever Hannah might be right now, we ask that she'll know your protection. Thank you for watching over her. And thank you even more that one day you'll honor our faith and bring her home."


He paused, as if to arrest the Almighty's attention, then continued with a faltering voice. "Just-just make it soon. We miss her... "



LYING ON THE living room couch, Hannah Freedman proudly realized once again that she was the reason Cody had emerged from his loneliness. He was absolutely consumed by her-and the thought was enthralling. Admiring her diamond-studded wedding band, she gratified herself with the reminder that Cody always treated her like a princess, as if by royal decree she had somehow granted him a new life.

At this very moment, alone in their suburban Miami home, she could feel his infatuation. It lingered in every room, echoing in the easy recall of Cody's loving words and embraces.

Hannah turned heavily upon her side, the baby in her womb preventing her from rolling all the way over onto her stomach. She smiled. It was like a fairy tale. She and Cody had met only ten months ago-she a runaway, not yet eighteen; and he a well-bred, 25 year-old professional. Now they were together forever. How could it be real? How could they have it so good?

She reached over her head, retrieving from behind her a framed photograph of Cody that sat alone on the end table. The picture had been taken only weeks before she met him. It was the same handsome face, the same green-eyed, ash-blond man who was now her husband-but he had been so different then. There was a smile on the face, but it was hiding a sense of loss that had governed his life ever since the death of his parents in a plane crash two years earlier. From that seemingly unshakable disorientation, she had rescued him. Likewise, Cody had taken her from a miserable existence and placed her on a lofty pedestal of fulfillment beyond her wildest dreams.

Her spirit soared with gratefulness as she pressed the photograph to her chest. Lost in blissful thoughts, she relived for the thousandth time the nonstop passion of the last ten months. First, the explosive romance-the instant chemistry, like gunpowder contacting fire. Then came the unplanned but welcomed pregnancy, followed by the exchange of wedding vows seven and a half months ago. Every day had been glorious. If she could live all of it over, she would not change a single detail.

A wall clock across the room began to chime the hour, and Hannah closed her eyes and stilled her thoughts to listen: Four o'clock. It was four o'clock, Friday afternoon, December 15th. The "Christmas spirit" with its commercialism was in full swing-and she, Hannah Freedman, had everything in life a woman ever dreamed of: a large and beautiful home, a flaming love life, and emotional security. In only forty minutes her lover would be home from a day's work at his veterinary clinic, ready for their usual early and intimate dinner together. And in only fourteen days, according to the doctor's calculations, she and Cody would cuddle their first child.

She lifted the photograph and contentedly stared through tears at Cody's picture. For the first time in her eighteen years, she knew what it was to live and to love.

She slowly reached over her head and carefully returned the photograph to its place. She contemplated getting up from the couch. But due to an early morning burst of energy she had already put in a full day of cleaning house and baking Christmas cookies, and the work had left her exhausted. Her small frame, now carrying an extra twenty-six pounds, simply refused to rise.


AT 4:40, CODY came in the back door. He slipped quickly through the kitchen, moving his six-foot-three, 170-pound athletic body with the fluidity of a cat, and began singing: "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to live with a blue-eyed Georgia girl, hey!"

On the living room couch Hannah awoke from her light sleep, and broke into a smile as Cody continued singing heartily off-key: "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to love my blue-eyed Georgia girl!"

When Cody poked his head around the corner, Hannah was applauding. "Coe," she said, extending tired but inviting arms, "you can love this blue-eyed Georgia girl anytime you want to."

Like a moth to a flame, Cody was drawn into her arms. Kneeling on the plush gray carpet beside her, he kissed her full, moist lips as if he had been starving for her for weeks. When he finally withdrew, he looked into her eyes and said with intensity, "Hannah, you're so beautiful-even when you're tired"

So often before he had told her she was beautiful-and had never stopped, even after her pregnancy began showing. Spreading her arms playfully like wings, Hannah nodded toward her body. "You like it, huh?"

Cody smiled his reply, then ran his fingers slowly through her long, thick auburn hair. "Hannah," he moaned in earnest, "I'm missing you, bad."

"How much?" she asked with delight.

"You really want to know?"

"Yeah."

Cody grinned. "Well, I'll tell you. I accidentally gave overdoses of antibiotics to four different dogs today and killed them all," he joked, "simply because I couldn't get my mind off you. All I've done today is dream about being with you."

Feeling aroused, Hannah slowly pulled him into another fiery kiss.

It took every ounce of self-control Cody could muster to keep from going further. When Hannah finally released him, he fell reluctantly to the floor and stretched out on his back. "Just you wait," he said with gusto, "till we're able to be together again. I'm going to make it unforgettable."

Hannah laughed seductively. "Are you sure you can hold out until then?"

With surprise, she watched Cody's mood turn sober. He rose to kneel beside her again, and took her hands in his. "Hannah, if I had to, I'd be willing to wait the rest of my life for you."

There was no doubt in Hannah's mind that he meant every word. She felt his sincerity as certainly as if it were rain pouring down on her. Instinctively she pulled him into another tight embrace.

“Cody,” she confided in his ear, “this will be the best Christmas I've ever had. And the reason is you…”


AFTER DINNER Cody raved as Hannah placed the tray of Christmas cookies on the dining room table beside him. "Better looking than Mother's used to be," he said. Taking a bite, he nodded, "And every bit as good!"

An LP of instrumental Christmas music was playing softly in the background. Hannah sat down to hear Cody finish telling her about his day: setting a German shepherd's broken leg, diagnosing an old tomcat that was refusing to eat, bobtailing a four-day old boxer, and giving an array of shots.

"And Mrs. Gravitt brought in her Dalmatian again," he said, then paused.

"And?" Hannah asked.

"And it should be the last time!" he smiled with satisfaction. "He's fully recovered, and Mrs. Gravitt is as happy as any client I've ever had."

"She should be," Hannah reassured him. "That dog was nearly dead two months ago when she first brought him to you. It was a miracle anyone could save him. But what can I say? You're the best!"

"Well, maybe not the best… But..."Cody tucked his thumbs beneath imaginary suspenders, in a mocking pose of greatness. They both erupted into laughter.

"Say," he said after finishing another cookie, "I called Reed's Travel Agency this morning. They promised they could reserve the cabin-"

Before he could complete the sentence, he saw Hannah suddenly gasp for breath, tense in her chair, then let out a low groan. Cody was immediately face to face with her, gripping her shoulders. "Are you all right?" he demanded.

She finally began breathing, then looked him in the eye and gave the most surprisingly beautiful smile he had ever seen. "I think so... I... uh... yeah, I'm okay," she answered. "My water just broke." She could feel the warm fluid puddling around her buttocks and running down her leg. For a moment she was embarrassed, but the feeling was quickly overcome by an acute surge of pain.

Still trying to figure out what to do, Cody saw Hannah tense again. He gripped her hand in silence, stunned by the piercing hurt locked on her face.

Several seconds later, Hannah relaxed and took a deep breath. "I'm not positive," she said, "but if that was my first contraction, we may be mommy and daddy two weeks earlier than we thought."

Elated, Cody held her in a big hug and said, "Can you believe it?" He started dancing around the table. "We're going to be a family!" he shouted, as Hannah laughed.


THEIR CELEBRATION was soon tempered by the quickly recurring pains, and the rush to leave for the hospital. Within twenty-five minutes from the time Hannah's water had broken, she was seated beside Cody in their Ford station wagon. He was timing her contractions, which now came at less than three-minute intervals. The quickly paced labor pains, coming so soon, made Cody nervous. He tried to relax, but it was all so new. And this was his wife, his baby.

This is happening too fast, he thought, calculating that the trip to the hospital would normally take twenty-five to thirty minutes. This time, he decided, it would have to be less than twenty. No stranger to speeding, he was confident he could meet the challenge.

He glanced at his wristwatch-5:51-just as they were leaving their residential area and approaching the nearest main road. One look ahead quickly confirmed a rising worry: It was rush hour. Traffic on the main road was packed, moving at only a fraction of the normal speed.

For the first time, Cody felt panic. To hide it, he forced a grin and said to Hannah, “I love adventure, but this is a little too much of the good stuff.”

She smiled briefly, before yielding to the start of yet another contraction.

Soon the eruptions of pain were less than two minutes apart. Hannah bravely fought back. Everything's under control, she kept telling herself. Be strong, be strong. Impossible as it seemed, each contraction hurt worse than the last, worse than anything she had ever felt in her life.

"Just hang in there, babe," Cody said. "I'll get you there."

The line of cars crept forward to an intersection which he realized was approximately their halfway point to the hospital. The flow of traffic halted again as he saw the same set of stoplights change to red for the second time. With mounting fear he looked at his watch: 6:16.

Suddenly, Hannah leaned forward, grabbed the dashboard with both hands, and screamed. Cody reached out and touched her shoulder. He was now almost beside himself with panic. "Are you going to make it?"

When her pain had passed its peak, she found her breath and shot back, "I don't know... Just hurry!"

He knew then what he had to do. And on impulse, as if the adrenaline surging through him had switched on a machine, he did it.

Trying to take charge of this desperate situation, he lurched the station wagon out of their traffic lane. Sounding his horn and flashing his headlights, he charged through the intersection and down the avenue, straddling the middle line.

Hannah did little more than flinch. The thought of how crazy it all seemed flashed in and out of her mind.

"I'll get you there," she heard Cody say again.

My Opinion:

WOW! There are books that are good and then there are the books that make you think about what you think is true, this is one of those books! Having never read Randall Arthur before I wasn't sure what to expect from his writings but I was so happy to realize that his style gets you involved in the character's life. These aren't one dimensional characters in "Wisdom Hunter" but characters that may seem like you know them in real life!

I appreciate a book that comes from an author who isn't trying to convince you that you are wrong but want to stretch you and your Faith. I found myself growing and streching while reading this - I think that the Holy Spirit was using this book to make me think about things that I needed to ponder. Even though the main character realizes that the rules he forced on his church such as women not working, women only wearing dresses, what positions the men could hold, etc were legalistic in the light of him controlling his congregation the author doesn't want the reader to feel that everyone with those convictions are legalistic. This book is one that can help the reader grow wether you are a baby Christian or have been a Christian for years - "Wisdom Hunter" is a wonderful read for Christians.

FIRST Tour: Shadow Government by Grant Jeffrey

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:


Shadow Government

WaterBrook Press (October 6, 2009)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Grant R. Jeffrey is the internationally known prophecy researcher, Mideast expert, and author of Countdown to the Apocalypse, The New Temple and the Second Coming, The Next World War, and twenty other best-selling books. He is also the editor of the Prophecy Study Bible. His popular television program, Bible Prophecy Revealed, airs weekly on TBN. Jeffrey earned his master’s and PhD degrees from Louisiana Baptist University. He and his wife, Kaye, live in Toronto.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400074428
ISBN-13: 978-1400074426

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Part 1

TECHNOLOGY

THAT DESTROYS

YOUR PRIVACY


Chapter 1

YOU HAVE NO MORE PRIVACY

In the War Against Privacy, You Are the Target

An undeclared but very real war is being waged on your privacy and freedom. Your movements, personal communications, preferences, loyalties, habits—all these things are no longer private. And in spite of the fact that our privacy and liberty are under attack on multiple fronts, the average citizen in the Western world seems blissfully unaware of the threat.

We assume that our privacy, “the right to be left alone,” is secure. We couldn’t be more wrong. High-tech surveillance methods used by governments responding to the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking, tax evasion, and organized crime are stealing one of your most basic human rights—the right to privacy, the right to be left alone.


THE ALL-SEEING EYES


An interesting metaphor for the invasive surveillance society is found in a fascinating proposal for eighteenth-century prison reform. In 1785 philosopher and legal reformer Jeremy Bentham advocated that the English government build a state-of-the-art prison to more efficiently observe and guard dangerous prisoners with twenty-four-hour surveillance. Bentham’s proposed Panopticon prison called for the use of optical instruments and mirrors to allow a very small team of guards stationed in a central tower to observe hundreds of prisoners. Bentham’s system was designed in such a way that prisoners would never know when they were under active surveillance.

The idea was that the fear of continuous surveillance would motivate inmates to police their own behavior. Tragically, the practical application of Bentham’s nightmare vision is becoming reality in the twenty-first century. Advanced surveillance technologies available to government, corporations, and even your neighbors have created a twenty-four-hour, 365-day, total-surveillance society—the same system that would have violated the privacy of British prison inmates in 1785.

The current British home secretary, Jacqui Smith, exercises political control over all UK counterintelligence operations. This includes Scotland Yard’s

Counter Terrorism Command, the Security Service (MI5), and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British government’s global eavesdropping operation. Smith is working to establish an enormous computer database that would collect for analysis every telephone call, all Internet searches, and all e-mails being transmitted within or outside of the United Kingdom.1


Your Life on Camera

Smith’s plans are but one manifestation of the all-seeing, all-hearing surveillance. The installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in public places makes our daily activities, including our private interactions, a matter for close examination by unseen observers. My wife, Kaye, and I conducted a research trip in the United Kingdom in 2008. Although I had previously documented the massive adoption of CCTV by local councils and national authorities in the UK, I was stunned to see the extraordinary expansion of that type of surveillance. By the end of 2008, millions of CCTV cameras were monitoring the activities of every citizen and visitor in the country. The United Kingdom, the mother of Western political freedom and democracy, is now the most obsessively watched society in the West.

Surveillance cameras followed us during every step of our passage through UK customs and British immigration at Heathrow Airport. And it didn’t stop there. We were on camera as we acquired a car at the rental car agency office and as we proceeded out of the airport parking garage. As we entered the main highway, we noticed traffic-control cameras monitoring virtually every mile and covering every road, even in small towns. More than two thousand car-recognition cameras capture photos of cars, license plates, and drivers along with their passengers. Cameras recorded us as we purchased gas and food. Recent estimates by British authorities suggest that citizens and tourists alike will be captured on camera an average of five hundred times every day. Even London’s city buses are outfitted with an astonishing sixty thousand cameras, in addition to the ten thousand CCTV cameras on subway cars and trains.

But despite the almost universal presence of CCTV, even in back alleys, law enforcement authorities report that the cameras have not suppressed violent crime as much as they have displaced it. Surveillance cameras motivate criminals to move their activities a few blocks away—to a location with less-active CCTV surveillance.

A few years ago a million CCTV systems were operating in the United Kingdom. However, a 2008 article in the Guardian stated that an astounding 4.2 million CCTV cameras were being used in the surveillance of UK citizens and tourists.2


Cameras That Hear

It now goes far beyond simple cameras mounted on utility poles. Scientists have developed “listening” cameras that, paired with artificial intelligence software, recognize particular sounds such as gunshots, car crashes, and breaking glass. In response to certain sounds, the camera rotates and captures what could be a criminal or terrorist act. Despite the enormous financial cost and the invasiveness of the CCTV system, a report by the UK Home Office concluded that better street lighting is seven times more effective in preventing crime.

If watching you and listening to what you are saying is not enough, some new versions of CCTV technology enable police supervisors to confront you verbally through a speaker system. Law enforcement personnel can issue an immediate warning if they feel you are engaging in illegal behavior. And just in case all of this has not been disturbing enough for you, some UK municipalities are broadcasting local CCTV coverage on television. They ask citizens to tune in and watch so they can inform on the activities of their neighbors. Welcome to the world of block informers, a system you thought was limited to the horrors committed by the Nazis, the Soviets, and Communist China.

CCTV surveillance doesn’t end with cameras posted in public places. Miniature security cameras designed to promote safety and control crime on private property are now used for vastly expanded purposes. Companies use CCTV for the continual surveillance of employees during work-hours. They are observed at their desks, in washrooms, and throughout the office area. Employers justify the spying operations against employees, vendors, clients, customers, and visitors as a way to combat theft and industrial espionage. No matter what reasons are used to justify the surveillance, you are losing your privacy in just about every setting imaginable.

We live in a total surveillance environment that closely resembles the horror described by George Orwell in his famous novel 1984. Orwell described a future global regime composed of three totalitarian governments. In comparison to his horrific vision, computer technologies developed in the last few decades have created a daily environment far more threatening than any faced by the character Winston in 1984.


THEY KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU


The loss of privacy goes far beyond having your public activities monitored on camera. Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, declared some time ago that “privacy is dead, deal with it.”3

There are legal means that individuals and businesses can use to acquire and store information about you, obtained from your use of the Internet and even from such ordinary activities as shopping for groceries, buying a movie ticket, or ordering items online. You might think that you don’t provide information to governments, law enforcement agencies, and marketers. However, you are dispensing vast amounts of personal information every time you use a check, credit card, or debit card. Every time you make a purchase using these forms of payment, you supply information on your bank account, financial history, buying habits, and product preferences.

It seems that no information about you is insignificant. Your Internet searches, your online shopping, the e-mails you send, and the Web sites you access—all of these are of interest to someone. The subjects that attract you, the causes you support, your brand preferences, the topics you research on the Web, your reading habits online—all of these are important to Web site operators. Everything you do on the Internet, including visiting Web sites and chat rooms, sending and receiving e-mail, researching health issues and medical questions, and shopping is permanently recorded in a computer database. Google, the most popular Internet search engine, has admitted that it gathers and stores information on every one of the more than 330 million Internet searches completed every day.

What’s more, every e-mail you’ve ever sent or received and all the online searches you have completed are available to police and intelligence agencies. Who is so careful in what they say in private e-mails that they would never include a statement that might someday be considered suspicious to certain government authorities? And who considers the potential damage to their future career plans or credit rating that could result from research they have done using the Internet? For example, an innocent medical search to gain information about a disease such as Alzheimer’s, even if you are doing the research for a relative or friend, could be accessed by an investigator during a background check when you apply for a job. Even the possibility of a link between a prospective employee and a devastating disease could be sufficient cause to reject your employment application.4


Your Entire History on Exhibit

Attacks on privacy are not new. Beginning in 1917, after destroying the first elected government of Russia, the new communist dictatorship of Lenin began a process of secret police surveillance of its entire society. Even in the democratic nations of the West, government intelligence and police agencies created a surveillance system to monitor citizens’ activities. Prior to this war on privacy, only the few individuals suspected of criminal activity, sabotage, or sedition were considered worthy of police surveillance. But now, with rapid advances in sophisticated surveillance devices and computer technologies, most national governments have developed an intense interest in every citizen. Governments gather enormous amounts of previously private information on the assets, activities, communications, financial transactions, health, and political and religious activities of virtually every person on earth—and with relative ease.

Many military intelligence agencies, government agencies, and large corporations have introduced sophisticated security systems requiring employees to wear a badge containing a radio frequency identification microchip. This RFID chip enables companies, agencies, and organizations to monitor the location and activity of every worker during every moment he or she is on the premises. When an employee enters the office, a computer records the exact time and begins monitoring his or her every move throughout the day. Security sensors at strategic locations throughout the office complex record the location and duration of the activities of the badge wearer.

Many office phone systems monitor all private phone calls made by employees while at work. Computerized phone systems maintain a permanent record of all known phone numbers of clients, customers, and vendors. If an employee places a personal call, the phone system records the unauthorized number and produces a report of the employee’s private calls, along with the duration of such calls. This data can be used against the employee at the next performance evaluation.5

It’s interesting that U.S. corporations are using secret employee surveillance more than businesses in any other nation. The American Civil Liberties Union has warned, “Criminals have more privacy rights than employees. Police have to get a court order [to eavesdrop on suspected criminals], whereas in the workplace, surveillance can be conducted without safeguards.”6 Computer network security supervisors in many companies go as far as to monitor the keystrokes and productivity of all employees who use a computer in their work. Employees often complain about the stress they experience knowing they are being monitored constantly throughout the day. In many companies, computer spy ware monitors an employee’s Internet activities. Add to this the growing use of random drug testing, secret cameras in washrooms, and intrusive psychological questionnaires. The bottom line is that companies are creating an adversarial and unhealthy psychological environment for workers.

You should be appalled to know that your local and state police, federal intelligence agencies, government officials, employers, and even curious neighbors and business competitors can acquire virtually all of your private information. A record of your travel destinations, the newspapers and books you read, your video rentals, your pay-TV choices, your traffic tickets, your medical tests, as well as your private purchases are recorded in computer files. Anyone with enough computer knowledge can access your information, legally or not.

There is a growing public awareness and concern about the numerous attacks on our privacy through the misuse of computer records. However, the United States Congress and Canada’s Parliament have failed to enact serious laws to protect the privacy of citizens’ medical, criminal, and financial records.


Your Secret Life Now on Camera

Security companies that work under contract for large corporations have found ways to make use of advances in surveillance devices. Virtually invisible pinhole cameras can be placed behind a wall to monitor everything that goes on in an adjacent room, both visually and audibly. The tiny lens, which is the size of a pinhead, is unnoticeable. Infrared cameras can record images silently and in near-total darkness. Another type of surveillance camera can be concealed in a mobile telephone, recording events through the tiny hole normally used for the microphone. This tool often is used for industrial espionage, stealing trade secrets from a competitor. It is also useful in gaining the upper hand in business negotiations. For example, during a face-to-face meeting in a protracted negotiation, the user of the cell phone can leave the phone in the boardroom when he exits to take a break. As the other team discusses their strategy, supposedly in private, the cell phone is recording the conversation.

Surveillance devices are also being used much more widely by individuals. For several hundred dollars, you can obtain a device that enables you to monitor every conversation that takes place in your home or office while you are away. A remote monitoring device known as the XPS-1000 allows you to listen to conversations in your office or home by using the telephone. From a remote location, you dial your phone number using a secret activation code. The phone will not ring, but from that moment on, you can monitor every sound in the room where the phone is located. Another tiny device, a micro transmitter powered for three months by a miniature battery, can be left in any room and will broadcast for a distance of up to one thousand yards to a hidden radio receiver–tape recorder.

While fascinating, the miniaturization of cameras, microphones, and recording devices has stolen what was left of our privacy. If a person is determined to monitor your activities, you can’t prevent it. You can try to guard your privacy by using a software program or device designed to protect your communications. But in doing so, you will have inadvertently alerted intelligence agencies and private investigators that you have something worth keeping private. This may cause them to increase the level of surveillance in an attempt to discover why you want to avoid it.


Abuse of Legitimate Data

All U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), can access data from the National Identification Center to identify and monitor every registered gun owner in the United States. However, we have to ask this question: what else will government agencies pursue using legitimate and legally acquired data?

Two of America’s most secretive agencies, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Security Agency (NSA), maintain a massive global surveillance system known as Project Echelon. This system can monitor every telephone call, fax, Internet search, and e-mail transmission worldwide. (We will look more closely at the remarkable capabilities of this massive surveillance system in chapter 5.) We need to face the sobering truth that we can’t escape the growing surveillance capabilities of all governments, both East and West. These developments turn our attention to the last-days prophecy from the book of Revelation about a coming totalitarian police system. John warned that a person’s every activity will be controlled: “That no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name”

(Revelation 13:17). Remarkably, John was describing a universal population control system that would impose some kind of numerical identification on every person in order to monitor his or her financial transactions, trade, business, and ability to buy and sell. This system will enable law enforcement authorities working for the Antichrist and his partner, the False Prophet (see Revelation 13:16), to control the world’s population through a unique ID, based on the number 666, on everyone’s right hand or forehead. The recent subcutaneous pet identification chips could easily be inserted in each human being.


WHO WANTS TO CONTROL YOU?


Government authorities, national security agencies, and businesses that market and sell consumer products know far more about you than most of your friends and family will ever know. People you will never meet have compiled personal information about the details of your daily life, place of residence, type of residence, spending habits, and financial assets. Government agencies justify the invasion of your privacy by reminding us of the threats posed by international terrorism, organized crime, the influx of illegal immigrants, and citizens who defraud the government as welfare cheats or tax evaders.

The NSA possesses detailed records of millions of U.S. citizens, including your communications, health status, medical treatments, employment status, vehicle ownership, driving record, criminal record, and real-estate holdings. In addition, all of your credit records, banking and financial transactions, credit rating, educational transcripts, and travel records are available to many major corporations and government research institutes.

Your life is also of great interest to foreign governments. Most of the Western democratic governments, as well as the governments of China and Russia, are thought to maintain enormous computer databases filled with details about millions of U.S. citizens. Data storage is just the first step. Next will be the most effective ways to organize, categorize, and use this private information. This hurdle will be removed when the government assigns a unique identification number to each citizen. Once that is accomplished, the staggering number of separate files on individual citizens in various databases can be combined into a single massive intelligence file. (We will talk more about this process in chapter 3.)

A confirmation of the consolidation of citizen data was publicized in the Canadian press on May 19, 2000. The Canadian government reluctantly confirmed that up to two thousand significant pieces of information had been assembled on virtually every Canadian citizen in a massive database known as the Longitudinal Labor Force File. As a result of strident public criticism following these revelations, the Canadian government promised to destroy the computer program that linked these files. However, the federal government admitted they still will retain computer data on more than thirty million Canadians— data that are retained in separate computer files held by a variety of government departments, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Immigration, and provincial police forces.7


A SECRET CHIP IN YOUR CREDIT CARDS


Your credit and debit cards are much more than a convenient way to pay for goods and services. The magnetic strip on a credit card or debit card holds electronic data verifying your identity, as well as information validating your right to access particular computer databases, such as your bank accounts. More and more, these cards are being replaced by higher-security smart cards that contain even more information about you. A smart card contains an embedded RFID chip capable of holding millions of times more digital information than is contained in a card’s magnetic strip.

Smart cards provide high levels of security, since they are capable of storing biometric information, such as the iris pattern in the eye of the authorized user. These new cards will document the user’s identity by measuring 173 distinct characteristics from the rings, burrows, and filaments within the iris. The stored data is compared with an iris scan made by a surveillance camera that can read your iris pattern from a distance of several yards.

Other identifying data include your precise hand geometry, which involves identifying you by measuring the length of your fingers and the translucence and thickness of your skin. Infrared scanners can reveal and record the patterns of veins on your palm or the back of your hand. Voice-recognition software can confirm your identity through digital measurement of your voice tone and timbre. Incredibly, a new machine can puff air over the back of your hand, analyze your subtle body odors, and detect as many as thirty separate trace chemical elements that supply a positive identification reading.8 All of this data, and more, can be stored in an RFID chip.

Soon you will be able to replace your credit and debit cards with one very secure smart card that is virtually immune to counterfeiting and attacks by hackers. The data will be encrypted, and your unique passwords—including biometric information—will be required for you to use the card. More than two and a half billion radio frequency smart cards now in use worldwide can perform these functions:

cash transactions such as rechargeable stored-value cards that carry a predetermined monetary value
confidential transferring of medical data to paramedics and hospital in the event of a medical crisis
control of entry into high-security workplaces and computer systems
access to air travel as well as to trains, subways, and buses


These are some of the benefits of the smart card.9However, the growing use of RFID cards will make it possible for government, police, and intelligence agencies to track the activities, location, communications, and financial transactions of every citizen from cradle to grave.


AN INTERNATIONAL STANDARD FOR PRIVACY


Growing concerns over privacy have motivated representatives of member nations of the European Union (EU) to create an international standard for privacy. The basic rules are as follows:

All privacy regulations apply to both government and private organizations.
Data collection should be limited to that which can be obtained legally and with the knowledge and consent of the citizen subject, except where this is impossible or inappropriate (e.g., criminals).
Data sought on individuals should be limited to the original purpose and kept up to date. The purpose of data collection should be specified, and subsequent use of data should be limited to the original purpose.
No personal data should be disclosed to others without the consent of the subject or without a court order.
All personal data must be kept secure using all reasonable precautions.
All citizens should be able to access, review, and challenge inaccurate data held in databases.
The government agency controller of the database should be legally and criminally accountable for abiding by these privacy principles.
The policies and practices of organizations holding databases on individuals should reveal the information to those who legally inquire.
Private data collected by EU member corporations and states may not be transmitted to organizations in nations that do not have privacy regulations equal to those of the European Union.10


The introduction of similar legislation in America, Canada, and other democratic nations could provide significant protection against the abuse of our privacy. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an international group of twenty-nine developed nations from North America, Europe, and Asia that has suggested the creation of powerful, binding privacy standards for both governments and businesses.11

The reality is that the growing attacks on our personal security are rapidly overwhelming the proposed defenses. One potential solution is to use a smart stored-value card that would allow a person to make a payment while the card restricts the merchant from accessing the purchaser’s identity. The card would also prevent merchants and anyone receiving an electronic funds transfer from tracking previous purchases made by that customer. For example, a smart card developed by Mondex International allows customers to transfer funds from their card to a merchant’s account to make a purchase. However, when the merchant’s bank accepts the transfer of funds to cover purchases made using Mondex cards, the bank is not able to identify the actual purchasers. A similar system is used by Visa International in its Visa cash card. The disposable card does not permit merchants to identify the person who used the card.


WHAT YOU CAN DO


There are hopeful signs that, after years of indifference to the threats to our privacy and financial security, the public is awakening to the heightened dangers posed by new surveillance technologies.

When it was revealed that Intel Corporation had embedded in every Pentium III chip a secret serial number that would allow the person using the computer to be identified, customers and privacy groups launched a protest.12 Additionally, Microsoft had embedded a hidden identification number in all documents produced by any computer using Microsoft software. The protests that followed forced the company to provide a free software program that eliminated the identifying number.13 However, the vast majority of computer users of Microsoft software are unaware of the privacy problem, and most lack the expertise to fix it.

If we are to protect what little privacy we still have, we should encourage a healthy debate about the relative advantages and disadvantages of each new technological development. Citizen involvement and thoughtful protest against the governmental and corporate threats to our privacy can slow down this relentless attack. We need to defend our right to maintain a personal life that is free from outside interference and intrusion.

Still, in violation of constitutional guarantees to the contrary, our society continues to move toward an all-encompassing surveillance society, which is described in the prophecies of the book of Revelation. We will live to see the time when our right to privacy and the freedom to be left alone are nothing more than distant memories.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

FIRST Wild Card Tour: "The Christmas Kitchen" by Tammy Maltby

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 Christmas Kitchen

Howard Books (October 6, 2009)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Willingham of Simon and Schuster for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Tammy Maltby is a writer, speaker, and media personality. For eight years, she was the co-host of the Emmy Award-winning television talk show, Aspiring Women. She serves on the board of the National Women’s Ministry Association, Christian Women in Media and Arts, and Women of Courage International. She and her family live in Colorado Springs, CO.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 132 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (October 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416587659
ISBN-13: 978-1416587651

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Press this picture to browse inside the entire book:







The Christmas Kitchen is a beautiful gift sized book with beautiful pictures and thoughts throughout. The hardcovered book will be treasured for years to come in giving ideas for preparing for the celebration of the birth of the Savior. Loaded chock full of yummy recipes and other time saving tips, crafts and decorating ideas this is truly a lovely book to have on hand, wether single or married, children or no, this book will help reaffirm your tradions and maybe even implement a new one or two.

"Fields of Grace" by Kim Vogel Sawyer



I have enjoyed reading Kim Vogel Sawyer's writing in the past and reading Fields of Grace was no different. A superb novel written by an author with a great talent and penchant for the Amish and Mennonite people - this book is sure to have you rallying, crying and cheering after you have finished it. It was a quick read for me since I couldn't bear to put it down, I HAD to know what was going to happen to this family to the new country of America!


Russian Mennonites are either forced to allow their adult sons to enter military service or leave for America. The Vogt family decides in order to keep their belief of non-resistance they are going to leave - and they have three sons one who will be conscripted in a few months if they don't leave. The five Vogt's and Uncle Eli board a ship bound for America, but as they travel tragedy breaks out. Can the mom, Lillian's, faith survive the hardship and the frontier - you'll have to read to find out.


Go on board with the Vogt's as they travel amid other emmigrants to a new country - one that promises land and freedom. Kim Vogel Sawyer does a wonderful job in making you feel as if you making the journey with the emmigrants. From the crummy food, to the stench of body odor and sickness and heartache and then on to the harshness of frontier life - the reader will definitely appreciate the feel of actually living with the characters. With characters who are well developed you feel like you are extended family dropping in for an intimate look at their life.


Also with Kim Vogel Sawyer's books you won't find lurid romance scenes or other un-Christian attributes (although at times the characters do question God - but it isn't un-Christian for them to do so) so it's safe reading for a married woman. Since there is an allusion to the husband and wife having consumated their marriage, I would caution for that, but again it's not in detail and nothing about it is untoward. I would definitely recommend this to friends without feeling like I have led them astray.


**I was provided a copy of Fields of Grace by Bethany House Publishers Book Reviewers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

"Offworld" by Robin Parrish

Having never read Robin Parrish before and having the chance to do so through Bethany House book reviewer program (I was provided a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review) let me delve into a genre I normally wouldn't have gone near. I was hooked on this book from the time I first picked it up until I finished it two days later.


We begin offworld with four astronauts from NASA who are on the first manned mission to Mars in the year 2032 as they are begining their trip home. What they don't know is they are in for a big surprise when the finally do get back to Earth - no one is there to welcome them! With surprising twists and turns Mr. Parrish really does a great job in weaving a story of suspense, science fictions and drama. While there isn't a whole lot of talk about God or even having faith in Him - one could see the allegory that could be made from reading this book. There is the word c**p used once, which I really could have done without but the character who used it also wasn't a Christian but as a Christian reading the word it did offend me.


Overall, despite the use of the above word and lack of the characters having a solid faith in God it was a good read if only for entertainment rather than inspirational value. So while I can't say I would whole heartedly recommend this to my Christian friends, because I know they too would be offended by that word (I consider it a curse word - again my opinion) I also know it was a good and thrilling read that takes the reader into another world - which I enjoyed being able to be 'transported' to.


Purchasing information can be found on Bethany House's website.

FIRST tour: "Touching Wonder" by John Blase

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:


Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of the The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




John Blase’s work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children’s Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764656
ISBN-13: 978-1434764652

AND NOW...an excerpt:


Three

Angelic Visitor


Luke 1.26–38


In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:


Good morning!

You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.


She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.


He will be great,

be called ‘Son of the Highest.’

The Lord God will give him

the throne of his father David;

He will rule Jacob’s house forever—

no end, ever, to his kingdom.”


Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”


The angel answered,


The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

the power of the Highest hover over you;

Therefore, the child you bring to birth

will be called Holy, Son of God.


“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”


And Mary said,


Yes, I see it all now:

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.

Let it be with me

just as you say.


Then the angel left her.


Gabriel


The theologians have rendered us mindless God-slaves, wisps of cloudy wings, doing nothing but the bidding of the Mighty One. Theologians. There is so much they do not know.


I found her just as He said she would be found: sitting on her bedding, barefooted, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her knee-tops. I saw why she had gained the favor of the Mighty One. I liked this daughter-of-Eve-to-bethe-mother-of-God.


“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”


I expected this. But unlike that old priest’s, hers was not the doubting of a skeptic but rather the wondering of a child.


“But how? I can’t see it.”


“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. Mary, you have nothing to fear.” The Mighty One had expressly said, “Herald the news, Gabriel. Don’t report it.” I would have liked to elaborate further, but Mary would have to live out the details of my news in days to come. Truths unlived are not truths.


Then she paused and looked away. I have spoken to many of God’s children, and their eyes are always transfixed on me. They should be. I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God. But Mary’s gaze wandered for a moment. But what I initially took for a distracted mind was rather a devoted heart.


Her eyes returned to me. “Let it be with me.” Ah, the Mighty One had chosen well. Her words were not

resigned, but faith-full. The faith of a child. Of such is the Mighty One’s kingdom.


“Cousin Elizabeth? Really? Old Elizabeth? But how?”


I laughed.


“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God. Mary, you have nothing to fear. I have told you all you need to know for now. You are more ready than you realize, stronger than you know. God is with you. Now I must go.”


But I did not want to go. Faith is rare, at least true faith. Yes, the word is often used, but the reality is hard

to find. Yet here I found it, in an earthen vessel surrounded by an earthen room. I liked Mary.


I left her just as He said I would: barefooted, sitting on her bedding, knees pulled up to her chest, arms

wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her kneetops. She looked older now. Human eyes would not

recognize this, but mine have seen much.


The Mighty One had revealed glimpses to me, what days ahead would hold for this glorious girl. Her cousin’s leaping womb. Joseph’s broad shoulders. The back of a borrowed burro. Herod’s jealous-red face. The cries of the innocent. The breath of stable animals. The agony of pushing the Mighty One out into this world.


I found myself praying for the favored one. Mary had so much to carry.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Touching Wonder by John Blase. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.



My opinion:


This book is so timely for Christmas, and it's beautiful cover could actually decorate a coffee or side table or propped up next to a Nativity scene. The book beautifully expounds on the Christmas story and I found myself evisioning Mary and Joseph and the innocent children at the end of Herord's rage. While the Scripture was taken from The Message paraphrase (I much prefer the KJV or NKJV) it was still beautiful to read.


Picturing Mary as she pushed the Lord into the world, Joseph as he watched Mary give birth, the Shepherds, Mary breastfeeding Jesus - it all seems so pituresque - when it wasn't and the author doesn't make it seem so. He doesn't downplay the horrible atrocities committed by Herrod or the pain that Mary would have gone through but it still paints a vivid portrait of a family raising a boy to go about His Father's work.


Beautiful illustrations done by artist Amanda Jolman brings another realistic touch to the quick reading. The illustrations are hauntingly beautiful in that they do stick in the mind and give a beautiful touch to the Nativity story - just what is needed in a time of commercialism and give-me's.