Thursday, November 19, 2009

FIRST Book Tour: "Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana" by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanne Fleiss **may contain spoilers**

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 authors are:

and the book:

Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author's website.

Ocieanna Fleissis a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer's historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296


The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

My Opinion:

Blown away! Another hit from Tricia Goyer and another co-author, Ocieanne Fleiss - like the other review I posted for Tricia's other co-authored book "The Swiss Courier" it was a fast read! I read this book in a record time - two days - again an amazing feat and couldn't put it down. I had to put it down but it was really hard to do so staying up until the wee hours to finish it!

Harkening back to the days of the orphan trains and mail order brides, the reader is taken from the streets of New York City and a orphanage to the streets of the untamed West - Lonesome Prarie. Her heart torn at having to leave 'her girls' in the care of others who promise to care for them Julia learns another shocking surprise! Full of godly insight from the characters, again there is no risque romantic behavior, which is wonderful since one of the main chacaters is a circuit riding Parson.

If you're a history buff like I am, there is plenty of that in this book as well. I wish there were still buffalo tunnels so I could enjoy in awe what Julia did when arriving in the West. This is yet another book that I would not be afraid to let my daughters read when they get older, nothing in this book to be ashamed or red-cheeked about. A romance with just enough history thrown in to make a good read while not having to worry about what Jesus would think if He caught you reading it (except to say He may think I could have washed the dishes!)!

FIRST Book Tour: "Lessons From a Broken Chopstick" by Mary Anne Phemister

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:

Lessons from a Broken Chopstick

Hannibal Books (September 30, 2009)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson of Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***


Mary Anne Phemister is a nurse, author, mother, grandmother and wife of noted concert pianist Bill Phemister. The Phemisters live in Wheaton, IL. She has also co-authored Mere Christians: Inspiring Stories of Encounters with C.S. Lewis.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (September 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749621
ISBN-13: 978-1934749623


The Chinese Chest

A large, beautifully carved Chinese chest rests on curved wooden legs in my kitchen. Long-legged cranes decorate the top and sides in various poses. One bird in the background looking wide-eyed and perplexed, I’ve come to call “the bewildered one.” She reminds me of my mother, full of questions she dare not ask.

A furniture maker in Hong Kong sold this beautiful chest to my parents during their early, happier years of married life. Being practical and resourceful, they knew that this fragrant, camphor-lined vault could store and preserve the many curios and keepsakes that they would be collecting over the years to ship back home, someday. A skilled Chinese woodcarver had chiseled these revered birds into the outer teak frame, knowing full well its commercial appeal. Throughout Asia, red-crested cranes are symbols of long life and good luck.

My parents, however, believed in divine providence rather than in lady luck. To them, the force that operates for good or ill in a person’s life is not as capricious and precarious as luck. Good fortune is not the result of mere chance; it is part of God’s plan. Unfortunate circumstances, like the time my father almost died of food poisoning, are blamed on the enemy of our souls—Satan, the devil or the evil one. Hence, even when God allows bad things to happen to good people, it is not without some purpose. God is teaching us something or testing our faith. Our job on earth is to trust God, who has clearly instructed us not to lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt. Nevertheless, the few curios they brought home in this chest, fortified with camphor against pesky moths, could not be considered real treasures, merely mementos to display at missionary meetings.

My parents firmly believed that one should not—must not—expect to reap the rewards of living a virtuous life here on earth. However, in the life to come, all would turn out right. Then, all life’s troubling questions would be answered to our satisfaction. “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” was a bible verse I had memorized at a very early age. Thus, I have always known that life has meaning and purpose. I have never doubted God’s goodness, although I have often questioned His methods.

This core belief, that all will turn out well in the end, that good will triumph over evil, that God rewards the faithful, was the force that enabled my mother to endure the countless challenges in her life. Her unshakable faith held her fast after the death of her infant son, Johnny, the puzzling alienation of her brother, Andy, and throughout her unhappy marriage to my father, notwithstanding all her attempts at being the good wife.

My parents’ acquaintance began at the suggestion of my father’s sister, Agnes. She had met Violet in Buffalo, New York and knew of her intent to go to Tibet as a missionary. Agnes suggested to her brother, Al, who was living in Shanghai at the time, that Violet would make him a good helpmeet. My father, who was on the lookout for a wife, then began a correspondence with this devout woman with a winsome smile, recently graduated from the Nyack Missionary College. Al eventually succeeded through his letters in persuading Violet to join him in China. Thus, Violet Anna Agnes Gibson and Alexander George Kowles were married on the very day the steamer docked in Shanghai harbor, September 6, 1938. She was just six days shy of turning thirty. Al, two years younger and two inches shorter, regretted these facts most of his life.

Why my parents went to China was never a mystery to me. In church service after church service they told of how God had laid on their hearts the burden for the lost. They were dedicated to answering the Master’s call for reapers to work in the harvest field for lost souls, as they would express it. They were merely obeying the great commission to go into all the world to bring the message of God’s love and salvation to people in heathen darkness. These words and phrases I heard often. I have never doubted their sincerity and resolve. They were more committed to their duty to obey Jesus’ imperative to preach the Gospel than to any other obligations, even to each other. Their marriage, based on their sincere desire to serve God, seemed to them at the beginning, to be God’s will. But before long, my mother began to recognize the smoldering notion that she had made a grave mistake. Where was God in this? How was God going to work this marriage out to his good?

“But you’re here,” my mother would say, dodging my question whenever I asked her why she stayed with my father for all those painful years. So, it was my existence and that of her other three children that enabled her to endure and be faithful. To her, the ever self-sacrificing handmaiden of the Lord and Al, divorce was unthinkable. God must have some purpose in it for her, she often reasoned throughout her prolonged heartache. It was her duty to persevere, to keep up family appearances for the sake of us children and “the ministry.”

I’m sure now that it was her strong sense of duty, her belief that marriages are made in heaven, her determination to endure to the end, bound and kept her locked in that disappointing marriage. Like the flight plans imprinted in those cranes’ brains, the mechanisms that steered the course of my mother’s life were those strongly implanted religious beliefs. I have inherited some of my mother’s sense of adventure, her perseverance, as well as strong religious beliefs, but for me, marriages cannot possibly be made in heaven. Where does it say that in the Bible? People make those choices, some good, some unhealthy. Somewhere along the line I have learned, contrary to family maxims, that if you make your bed, you don’t necessarily have to lie in it. You can get up and move, especially when one encounters, emotional, physical, sexual or even spiritual abuse.

Never once did I hear my mother question God’s sovereignty. To her, that would imply that the God whom she trusted with all her heart had led her down the wrong path. In her theology, and reinforced by my father with quotes from the Bible, that it was God’s will that she submit to her husband. She was committed (and coerced) to love, honor, and obey him until death intervened. “I accepted the future in simple faith that the Lord was leading me all the way,” she said. Simple faith did not permit her to question. A professional Christian counselor was out of the question, even if there were any around to be consulted a half century ago. Seeing a counselor pre-supposed that intense prayer and fasting and Bible reading were inadequate remedies to life’s problems. She told very few about her anguish, and never to her children while we were growing up.

During the time my mother kept the Chinese chest in her small apartment, it lay shrouded under a heavy, black brocade cloth. Stacked on top of the chest sat her phonograph player, her photo memory books, and piles of assorted record albums. Out of sight, the noble cranes lay hidden for decades until my mother moved into an assisted living residence. I remember her broad smile when I told her that I would take good care of her beautiful camphor chest, this lovely thing she bequeathed to me. She had begun to distribute her “things,” as she called them, to her four children. My mother lived to be eighty-nine. Clues to her life had been locked away in that Chinese chest for most of those years. In time, it was my joy to unearth some of the mementos and letters she had penned to her mother when she first sailed to Shanghai on the Empress of Japan to marry “by faith” a man she barely knew.

As I look at those cranes now, embedded in that chest that has come down to me, the bewildered one in particular seems to encapsulate much of my mother’s fascinating, woeful life. She, like the cranes, had mated for life, despite the unhappiness she endured. I suppose that if we children had all turned out to be preachers or missionaries to a foreign country, she would have felt some recompense, but none of us did. Throughout her lonely migrations to strange and foreign lands she kept searching for a resolution to the sadness she was feeling but could not verbalize. God did not provide the reconciliation to her husband and brother that she had so desperately prayed for. To bolster herself, she often took comfort in the words of the old hymn: “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus; life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.” I am sure that now she has found the answers in heaven and has found peace--the peace that passes understanding. What has she learned over there? What have I learned from her life experiences? How does one resolve the problem of pain in a Christian worldview? C. S. Lewis has helped me understand what my mother knew and quietly bore: many questions in this life are left unanswered. Life in Christ is a faith journey indeed. The Bible reminds us that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” (Rom. 8:18 NIV) Trust and Obey were the three little words that guided the choices my mother made throughout the bewildered maze of her life.

My Opinion:

Delving into Mary Anne's life as a Missionary Kid (MK) was a moving read. I enjoy reading the harrowing stories of missionaries but have never read a first hand account of a MK and what it's like to be a child of a man who truly believes that being called to be a missionary means he may just have to sacrifice his children and his wife. Gently Mrs. Phemister delves into her past, painful or not, and exposes lessons she had literally learned from a broken chopstick.

She was exposed to a culture that she never fully belonged to and sent to a posh boarding school - sent back to a world that she never knew. She was between cultures and strove to make it work for her - even though at times it seemed it would be almost impossible, to me that is. She saw first hand what extreme legalism can do to families but also how others can balance the life of missionary with having a family.

With love and honesty she opens up a world that I've never heard discussed before the life of a missionary child. In her time as a MK it was par for the course for the families to send children to mission run boarding schools and only see their parents a few times a year. Mary Anne Phemister talks candidly about this time and again lovingly handles all she was given. There is no bashing of missionaries or of God - if anything I felt she may even have a deeper love and appreciaton of God - just an eye opening view of an adult woman who grew and ultimately healed from her past by fully embracing her past.

FIRST Book Tour for "The Swiss Courier" by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey **contains spoilers**

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 authors are:

and the book:

The Swiss Courier

Revell (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.

Visit the author's website.

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733363
ISBN-13: 978-0800733360


To the Reader

In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.

Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.

Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.

Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.

An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.

What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.

This is that story . . .


Waldshut, Germany

Saturday, July 29, 1944

4 p.m.

He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.

Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.

His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of

Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.

Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.

Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.

His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.

Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.

Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.

Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,

the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.

Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.

Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had

to keep reminding himself of that.

Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red

armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.

She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green

uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.

She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was

to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.

“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.

“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.

He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.

Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.

“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”

Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.

A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.

Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.

A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.

“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.

Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.

Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to

know well.

One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.

As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.

Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.

The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.

“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.

Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.

What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.

With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.

“Don’t shoot!” one cried.

The sound of a police siren split the air.

“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.

The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.

Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”

Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.

Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.

They needed to find cover—

More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.

The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.

Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.

“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”

She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”

“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.

“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.

“But what if—”

“I’ll join you. Now go!”

Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.


Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping

with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.

I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.

Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.

Suzanne . . .

He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.

“Go,” Suzanne whispered.

“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”

Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.

Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of

black hair from her face.

Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with

the prisoner.

He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.

Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.

With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.

Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.

The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.

Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother

Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.

Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.

He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.

Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,

Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

My Opinion:

I am so happy to say that this is another prize winning book by Tricia Goyer and her co-author Mike Yorkey. I have truly grown to enjoy Tricia's writing and the historical facts she (and co-authors) expertly weave into the story. From the go the reader is pulled into the story - one that is extremly hard to put down - I finished it in two days which is quite a feat when one is a homeschooling mom of three young ones! I just cannot say enough about this book!

I am a history buff so when I am completely pulled into a story like "The Swiss Courier" I know it'll be a great read. I could feel the tension as Gabi has to cross the Swiss/German border and I could feel the sorrow of the Jewish mother and her husband as they were being escorted back to the Germans and felt they had no choice but to jump off a bridge rather than be tortured in the concetration camps. When an author, or authors, pulls the reader into the book so thoroughly then it's a smashing success!

Even though there is some romance between two main characters, I was appreciative of the fact that there were no risque love scenes. There was a kiss between two characters right before a dangerous mission but nothing like some books I have read lately. This is truly a godly book and one that I would not be afraid to let my daughter read when she is old enough to understand about the horrible nightmare that was the Third Reich. Way to go Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey!

Friday, November 13, 2009

FIRST Tour: "Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It" by J. Steve Miller

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:

Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It

Wisdom Creek Press, LLC (March 11, 2009)

***Special thanks to Blythe Daniel of The Blythe Daniel Agency, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


J. Steve Miller - educator, investor, entrepreneur, and speaker - has taught audiences from Atlanta to Moscow. He’s known for drawing practical wisdom from serious research and communicating it in accessible, unforgettable ways.

Steve is the founder and president of Legacy Educational Resources, providing global resources for teachers of life skills in public schools, churches, and service organizations at A self-styled "wisdom broker," he collects wisdom from many fields and packages it for teachers and writers via his published books and the Web. His wife, Cherie, and their seven sons continually remind him what works and what doesn’t.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Creek Press, LLC (March 11, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 098187567X
ISBN-13: 978-0981875675



This book will help you to:

get out of debt and accumulate wealth.
get ahead, even when the work you love doesn’t produce big bucks.
find your strengths and passions and make a living with them.
live a more fulfilled life.

You'll discover the wisdom of the great makers and accumulators of wealth, presented in a story form to help you understand, internalize and have fun in the process. You’ll learn investing from Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor and wealthiest man in the world. You’ll learn principles of business success from Sam Walton, the uber-successful founder of Wal-Mart. You’ll find advice on landing and succeeding in a dream job from experts in career guidance.

Is This Book for Me?

You're never too young or too old to discover these ageless principles. They apply to the seasoned business executive as well as the entrepreneur with his first lemonade stand. Warren Buffet caught his vision at age five and started investing at age 11. My grandmother started multiplying her money in her mid-60's. At age one hundred and two, with her sharp mind intact, she's accumulated a small fortune.

What's Unique About This Book?

Many books teach personal money management. Some of them are good. But, as Paul A. Samuelson (MIT Professor of Economics and Nobel Laureate) said:

"The same surgeon general who required cigarette packages to say 'Warning, this product may be dangerous to your health' ought to require that 99 out of 100 books written on personal finance carry that same label. The exceptions are rare." 1

I strove to be one of those exceptions by basing my advice not just upon years of personal experience, but upon the knowledge and experiences of well over one hundred wise people. In the process, my house at times bore more resemblance to the famed library of Alexandria than to a home. But each new book or interview seemed to offer new angles or fresh insights, often pointing to new paths just begging to be traveled. 2

After writing my first draft, I put it into the hands of over forty smart people I respect, asking them, "If you could put a lifetime of financial wisdom into a book, is this what you'd say? Be ruthlessly honest!" Their input proved invaluable.

Essentially, I distill the wisdom of the wise on working hard, working smart, saving, investing and giving - all the ageless basics - applied to today's world. I was especially fascinated with the counterintuitive nature of so much of their advice. The more you study the successful, the more you see why most people aren't very successful. The path to financial freedom isn't the path that initially appears obvious. Thus, the need for books to challenge the conventional thinking of popular culture.

I cover critical topics often left out of books of this nature. For example, the excellent studies of millionaires by professors Thomas Stanley and William Danko found that character traits such as integrity, diligence and thrift are shared by most who accumulate wealth.3 The massive Gallup study of managers and people at work helps us discover our passions and strengths and put them to work in a fulfilling career.4

Finally, people usually seek money, not as an end in itself, but as a way to find peace and happiness. Funny that so many money books assume that lots of money will automatically cure our ills and put smiles on our faces. When does money help lead us to happiness? When does it hinder our happiness? Social scientists have studied happiness extensively and drawn some fascinating, counterintuitive conclusions.5 Isn't happiness important to consider in handling your money?

Money management can be exciting! I believe that this story of Antonio, Akashi, James, Amy and their mentors can build some of that excitement. It's fun to beat the system. It’s fun to see your money grow. It’s fun to feel successful. It’s fun to have enough money to help others. To this end, I hope you have fun reading my book.

Table of Contents




Part One – Investing Money

Breakfast 1 – Discover the Basics……………………………………………

Breakfast 2 – Catch the Vision………………………..…………………

Breakfast 3 – Don’t Lose Money in Stocks……………………………………

Breakfast 4 – Make Money in Mutual Funds……………………………

Breakfast 5 – Diversify with Real Estate and Prepare for Hard Times ……

Breakfast 6 - The Breakfast that Almost Wasn’t…………………………

Part Two – Saving Money

Breakfast 7 – Live WAY Beneath Your Means…………………………

Breakfast 8 – Save on Food and Clothes ………………………

Breakfast 9 – Save on Cars…………………………………………

Breakfast 10 – Save on Houses……………………………………

Breakfast 11 –Ten Popular Ways to Lose Loads of Money………………

Part Three – Making Money

Breakfast 12 - Find Jobs You Love………………………………………

Breakfast 13 – Excel at Your Job…………………………………………

Breakfast 14 – Invest in your Mind………………………………………

Part Four: Enjoying Money

Breakfast 15 – Look for Happiness in the Right Places…………………

Epilogue: Where Are They Now?

Web-Based Complementary Resources


Bibliographical References


From Cliff Hanger to Hash Brown’s Breakfast Bar

August 15, 2005, Somewhere in the Montana Rockies…

Dangling off the edge of a massive rock, something had to give. Antonio could no longer hang on to both his well-chalked handhold and his struggling, neophyte climber - a Down ’s syndrome teen named Chad.

Antonio shot a piercing glance directly into Chad’s fear-filled eyes. “I’ve got to let go of ya, Chad! Trust in what you’ve learned and hang on to that rope!”

After the briefest silent prayer, Antonio let go….

Chad let out a blood-curdling scream, which quickly shifted into quiet concentration as he relaxed his death-grip on the rope and let it slide through the carabineers. He pushed off of the rock and began bouncing down the cliff. Rappelling with newly found confidence and his own distinctive style, his silence erupted into laughter. Chad had conquered yet another challenge during his week-long retreat with Extreme Wisdom Wilderness Adventures.

Antonio free-climbed his way down the adjacent rock, shouting triumphantly to the cloudless sky, “What a job! The wilderness is my office. My clients love me. I’m changing the world, one person at a time!”

Then, he chuckled to himself as his mind rewound to a decade earlier, to “In School Suspension,” “The Counterculture Club,” and that loony old Mrs. Kramer, who turned out to have more sense than anyone he’d ever met.

“Without them,” Antonio thought, “I could have never landed this dream job. Not the way I handled my money back in high school. When I get back to civilization, I’m calling a reunion of the “The Counterculture Club.”

11:00 PM, Two Months Later, Hash Brown’s Breakfast Bar in Acworth, Georgia…

Second-shift manager Larry Wiersbe was experiencing a rare lull in customers until four rowdy twenty-somethings suddenly charged in, looking like they’d stepped straight out of a culturally-sensitive brochure: an Asian girl, an African-American guy, an alternative-looking Caucasian girl and a Hispanic guy.

Larry introduced himself, took their orders and retreated to the grill until a sudden movement forced him to glance at the crowd. The Asian had jumped up suddenly and was swinging her glass Ketchup bottle over her shoulder like the start of a tennis serve. Then, she brought it down forcibly toward the table. Before he could intervene, she stepped back just far enough to miss the table. Riotous laughter followed, until an elderly lady appeared in the entranceway. She pointed her cane at the small party and announced at the top of her lungs, “I christen thee, ‘The Counterculture Club!’”

“Mrs. Kramer!” the Hispanic shouted, as they sprang from their seats to hug their old mentor and friend. High fives, hand slaps and severely dated hand-shakes followed. After all the commotion, Larry half expected them to boost the old lady overhead and body surf her to the table. Instead, they led her gently by her hands, respectfully seating her at the head.

His curiosity piqued, Larry followed their loud conversation from the grill.

“You crazy kids!” Mrs. Kramer began. “What in the world have you been up to? You kept me up-to-date with e-mails and an occasional meeting for a few short years, but then you fell off the face of the earth, you ungrateful bums!”

“You were never one to beat around the bush,” Antonio said sheepishly. “I’ll be the first to plead guilty to the charge of not writing…”

“Enough with the boring confessional,” Mrs. Kramer broke in. “I’m dying to catch up with your lives!”

For the next hour, Larry listened intently to some incredible success stories. Although far from perfect, these people seemed to “get” something that Larry didn’t. They exuded vision, goals, purpose. Much of the conversation revolved around finances – refusing debt, making, saving and investing money. But then the conversation would move seamlessly to finding fulfillment in serving others with their time and money.

Larry knew he didn’t fit in. He shared their age, but that was it. The three credit cards in his wallet were stretched to the max. He worked two dead-end jobs just to keep his head above water. At this rate, he’d never own his own home, much less have the time and resources to help others. And he resolved to never marry a girl who was stupid enough to choose such a loser. Finally, he got the nerve to break in.

“OK guys, it’s midnight, closing time. But you’ve obviously got something I desperately need. Unless you’re all high or suffering from delusions of grandeur, you’ve achieved a freedom that’s eluded me all of my life. Can you tell me what you learned from this lady that made your lives into something I’m envying?”

They looked at each other and shrugged.

“I’ll cut a deal with you,” Larry continued. “If you’ll tell me in one hour how you’ve achieved this…“financial freedom” as you call it, I’ll let you hang out as long as you like. Plus, I’ll serve you whatever you want. No charge.”

“Why not?” said the old lady. Obviously the mouthpiece for the group, she seemed to enjoy taking charge once more. “It would be a hoot to reminisce about old times, and a helpful review for these slow learners. Keep that order pad handy, because you’ll need to jot some of this down.”

“And you’d better pull up your chair,” chuckled the black fellow, “because once you get us started, we’ll take more than your hour.”

In School Suspension

“I’ll start,” volunteered the alternative-looking blonde. “I remember that first day vividly because I’ve relived it in my mind a hundred times since. You wouldn’t have recognized me back then. As a fifteen-year-old, I didn’t have the cheek-ring or tattoos that today help jump-start conversations while volunteering at the Juvenile Center. Back then, I was a reluctant cheerleader. This unlikely group first met in ISS.”

“In School Suspension?” queried Larry.

“If you don’t know, you must have been one of the good boys!” teased the Asian.

“So, I walked in to find these three students, but no teacher. I’d hoped someone I knew would be there, but no such luck. An assistant principal broke the ice by stepping in and explaining that our teacher would arrive shortly. Then she asked for our names and wrote them on a legal pad:

Antonio, Amy, Akashi, James.

She took another sheet and began to read our crimes, something like this:

Flash Back to High School

“Antonio: Fourteen tardies? We’re only into the fifteenth school day!”

“I’m not a morning person,” Antonio offered.

“Akashi, sleeping through Algebra again? I figured you’d be good at Math.”

“Not all Asians can be Math geniuses, you know,” Akashi responded, showing more than a hint of attitude.

“James, caught in the hall without a pass.”

“The teacher wasn’t around, and when you gotta go, you gotta--”

“Spare me the details. And Amy, what’s with parking in the teacher’s lot?”

“I was late, and a visitor had taken my spot.”

“Typical teens: all victims, none responsible. Anyway, Coach Helms will be in shortly.”

As the door closed behind her, Akashi mocked, “typical teens…all victims, none responsible. And since I’m Asian, of course I sit around studying Math for fun. I’m so tired of this prison of a school. And here I sit in house arrest with a couple of jocks and a cheerleader.”

“So you resent being labeled a stereotypical Asian Math whiz but have no problem labeling us as stereotypical preps and jocks?” shot back Antonio. Can you say “hypocrite?”

“We’re getting off to a bad start,” offered James. “If coach Helms walks in and finds us in a rumble, we’ll be stuck in ISS the rest of the year. Obviously, none of us want to crack a book until we have to. Let’s break through the stereotypes and get to know each other a bit. Surely we have something in common. Amy, you’re a cheerleader, right?”

“I hate cheerleading,” complained Amy. “It’s not me at all.”

“What do you mean?” asked Antonio. “You so look the part.”

“I’m a rebel living in a preppie world. You see, my brother started dressing goth in high school about the same time as he discovered drugs. My parents, fearing the same would happen to me if I got with the ‘wrong’ crowd, won’t let me near a Hot Topic or thrift store. I understand their concern, but I’m not about to do drugs. I see what they’ve done to my brother. But I’m not comfortable with jocks and preps.

My parents want the best for me. I don’t want to hurt them. But I’m counting the days till I go off to college, shed these Abercrombies and join a punk band. Alone in my bedroom with my bass, I can keep up with almost any song you give me.”

“Amazing. And you guys probably think I play Soccer,” teased Antonio. “It’s never interested me. I’m more into weightlifting and wilderness adventures, like rock climbing and caving.”

“If you’re into stereotypes, I do like basketball and fried chicken,” offered James. “But I don’t like watermelon, and I’m not on the school basketball team. I spend my after school hours making money. My parents always fight about money, so I plan to make a million by the time I’m 40 so that it won’t be an issue in my family.”

“Parents with money problems, now that’s something we’ve got in common,” replied Akashi. “My parents are so obsessed with ‘getting ahead’ that they work day and night and weekends. We live in a nice neighborhood and have great cars, but they can’t enjoy life. They have to work all the time to pay the bills. I’d much rather live in a one room apartment and have time to travel and hang out with my family. Amy, what about your parents?”

“They’d love to teach at the University and write on the side, but they can’t quit their corporate jobs. They need the money. They’ve never been savers. They max out their credit cards over Christmas, pay them off by the end of summer and start the cycle over again the next Christmas.

When my brother went into drug rehab and insurance wouldn’t pay, Mom and Dad had absolutely no savings to draw from. They took out a second loan on the house and are now in worse financial shape than ever. It’s depressing. They’re always tired and worried. I can’t see how they’ll ever dig themselves out of this hole. Antonio?”

“Mom works day and night to support the family. Dad’s a deadbeat. He’s always either looking for a job or complaining about the job he has. Money’s definitely a big issue at home. Mom and Dad argue all the time about it. It gets so bad that I fear Dad will eventually pack up and leave.”

(Enter Coach Helms.)

“Okay class. Sorry to be late. I recognize all of you from previous suspensions, so I’ll dispense with introductory matters. Please open your text books and get to work.”

“Coach Helms, we’ve got problems,” interjected Akashi.

“Hello! That’s why you’re in ISS, Right?” offered Coach Helms.

“Not those problems,” explained Akashi. “I’m talking about family problems. Our parents suck with their money.”

“Tell me about it,” said Coach Helms. “I wish I had some answers, but I overslept this morning because I work a night job to make ends meet. I can’t seem to make it on my teacher’s salary.”

“Is everyone in this town hopeless with their money?” asked Akashi. “If you don’t give us some answers, we’ll end up just like our parents – broke, tired and whining all the time. You’re supposed to be our teacher. Give us some direction here.”

Coach Helms thought for a moment, tapping his pencil nervously on the desk. Without looking up, he said, “What about Mrs. Kramer?”

“Old widow Kramer, the Social Studies teacher?” asked James. “I had her for a class. She dresses worse than my grandma…and her car isn’t anything to brag about.”

“She may not look the part,” said Coach Helms, “but my banker says she’s the best money manager he knows. She’s got all kinds of investments going. Besides Social Studies and Business, she also teaches Money Management.”

“Come to think of it,” continued James, “I remember her being hyped about her world travels. I wondered how she paid for it on a teacher’s salary. Maybe she got a big life insurance claim when her husband died. But she can be a little scary…and those riddles….”

“Her personality…,” continued Coach Helms. “She’s definitely a work of art. More Picasso than Norman Rockwell. Been around students so long that I think she’s more comfortable with teens than adults. Hardly ever see her in the teacher’s lounge. Speaks your language.

She eats second lunch. How about this? I’ll let you eat second lunch. Try to connect with her. Until then, get out those notebooks. I want to see some progress.”


1. What are your friends and relatives doing right with their finances that you’d like to emulate?

2. What are your friends and relatives doing wrong with their finances that you’d like to avoid?

3. What would you like to learn most about making and managing your money?

4. For more free discussions and activities for each chapter, visit

Old Widow Kramer

Fast Forward to Reunion

“So we met her for lunch, and she told us her story,” Amy continued. “Tell him about it, Mrs. Kramer.”

“At thirty years of age, my husband died of cancer, leaving me, not with a fat life insurance pay out, but with over $20,000 in credit card debt and funeral expenses. The monthly payments on those debts were killing me. Every time the phone rang, I knew a debt collector would be on the other end, hounding and threatening me.

So I sold my house and moved into a condo to pay down my debts and reduce my expenses (and avoid mowing that blasted yard). Then, I took a weekend job. The extra job also helped keep my mind off of my grief. I worked like a dog to dig my way out of debt and get those accursed creditors off my back. In a little over four years, I paid those debts in full, on a day I refer to as ‘one of the best days of my life.’ I felt soooo free!

From that experience, I got a bad taste in my mouth about debt. I avoided it like the plague. I vowed to never again make credit card payments unless it was absolutely necessary.

I still owed about $15,000 on the condo, so I kept my weekend job, putting all my extra money into paying it down. I was amazed at how quickly I paid it off. I was totally debt free! Nobody could take my home from me. It was mine.

With very few expenses, I quit my weekend job and divided the money I used to make in payments into investments, travel and giving to worthy causes. So far, I’ve saved up about $500,000 toward an early retirement.”

“From $20,000 in debt to $500,000 in savings!” reiterated Amy. “That was quite an impressive story – actually, a bit unbelievable at the time.”

Amy continued. “From that short lunch, we knew that there was a lot more wisdom where that came from. And it was more than book wisdom. It came from her experience. She had beaten the system that was killing our parents. If we could learn her lessons at age 18, she could save us tons of headaches along the way.”

“More than that,” added James, “I decided that she just might hold the key to my dream of making a million dollars by my fortieth birthday and taking early retirement.”

“My needs were more emotional,” admitted Akashi. “My older siblings were academic overachievers. My parents drilled into me that ‘A’s in school would set me up for an ‘A’ career and an ‘A’ life. But somehow I’d botch up every class with ‘C’s and ‘D’s, which I thought would guarantee me a ‘C-Minus’ life. I was a loser, and felt that everyone saw a huge ‘L’ tattooed on my forehead. I acted tough, but was scared stiff at the thought of meeting with Mrs. Kramer. Yet, I felt that she offered a glimmer of hope. I was desperate. What did I have to lose?”

“We asked her if she would meet us for breakfast once a week,” continued Amy, “to ask questions and learn more. She said that she’d love to, if we’d pay her $5.00 each per breakfast. She explained that it would be a good lesson for us to pay for wise counsel.

For the next year, we met with her every Saturday morning, here at Hash Brown’s. Sometimes, we’d discuss a book for a month of meetings. Other times, we’d just ask questions. We’ll just tell you about the meetings where she pulled out her notebook and covered new topics. Each week, she exposed us to stuff we’d never learned, either at school or at home. Those meetings changed our lives.”


Was it really possible for Mrs. Kramer to go from $20,000 in debt to $500,000 in savings in a span of about 30 years?

What keeps most people from making such a dramatic turnaround?

What could have kept Mrs. Kramer from getting into her predicament in the first place?

Part One

Investing Money

Breakfast #1

Discover the Basics

“I remember that first meeting well,” volunteered Antonio, wincing. “I’ll tell about the first two breakfasts.

So, I stroll in at 9:04 to find everyone there, waiting on me.”


Kramer: You’re four minutes late!

Antonio: I have a hard time getting places on time.

Kramer: When you’re late, you waste our time. Half of success, financial or otherwise, is showing up…on time. It’s so important that I’ll lay out some incentive. If you’re late next week, you pay for the entire breakfast by yourself.

Fast Forward to Reunion

“Everyone but me thought it a splendid idea, so my resistance was outvoted. I was more than a little ticked off, threatening that I just might not show up at all next week. Kramer nonchalantly replied that it was my choice. We learned quickly that if we wanted her advice, it would be on her terms, not ours. She ignored my pouty expression and continued.”


Kramer: So you want to learn how to handle your money. Well, if I talk the entire time, I don’t get to eat. So let’s do it this way. We order our food. While we wait for it to come, I tell a story or throw out five to ten minutes of advice while you think and jot down notes.

After the food comes, everyone throws in their thoughts. I want to know your experiences with the concept, good or bad. Take your best shots at my ideas. Too much education these days is merely transferring a set of notes from the teacher to the students, without it going through the minds of either.

I’m not easily offended. Tell me why it won’t work for you. Your objections and comments will help us distill each concept into something that will work for you. At the end of each session, tell us what you want to deal with the next week. That way, we stay practical. Sound good to you?

(Everyone agreed as the waiter arrived to take our orders.)

Kramer: First, I’ll pass out a sheet that should help you to lighten up on your parents. I know that you think they’re totally incompetent buffoons with finances. I want you to understand the bigger picture of our culture, a big part of the reason for their money issues. Your parents’ neighbors, friends and relatives probably handle their money the same way. They’re just doing what their culture has taught them. When everybody’s doing it, it’s hard to question your way of life.

James: You’re saying that if I were to live with my neighbors for awhile, I’d likely find the same financial problems that Mom and Dad have? I’ve assumed that their nice cars and smiling faces meant that they were better off than me.

Kramer: Wrong assumption. Here’s the way many of your friends and neighbors manage their money.

Personal Finances in America

According to surveys:

Ninety-seven percent of workers over 45 say they regret how they spent their money, in light of how much they could have saved.1

Almost one in four adults live paycheck to paycheck.2

Fifty-nine percent of Americans don’t save regularly.3

We’re getting worse and worse at saving.4

Twenty-five years ago, Americans saved over ten percent of their income.

Ten years ago, we saved 4.5 percent.

By 2005, for the first time since the Great Depression, we spent more than we earned.

Approximately 1,500,000 Americans declare personal bankruptcy each year.5

The average college student graduates with over $20,000 in debt.6

Most Americans haven’t even calculated how much money they need to retire.7

Personal debt is reaching record highs, and personal savings is reaching all time lows.8

James: That’s insane! I'd hoped that retirement would be the time for me to say goodbye to the eight to five grind and relax at a beach house. If I follow the crowd in finances, I’ll be worrying about money the rest of my life!

Akashi: One in four adults living paycheck to paycheck? Talk about risky living! And adults complain about teens’ risky behaviors! A short-term job loss or illness could put them in serious debt and make them lose their houses.

Amy: The scary side of it for me is that if we don’t do something different, we’ll all be over $20,000 in debt in about six years. Then we’ll go to work and live paycheck to paycheck, until we retire in a low rent district, watching Wheel of Fortune on one of our four antenna stations, constantly whining about how we regret the way we lived our lives and don’t have enough money to have any fun.

Akashi: Our kids will probably hate our visits, assuming we’re there to ask for another handout!

Kramer: Exactly! Somehow, you’ve got to break loose from a culture that’s gone crazy with its finances. Many dig themselves into a deeper hole every day, enjoying life less and less as they spend everything they’ve got to pay off past debts. In the land of the free, they’ve become financially enslaved.

(Kramer gets a wild look in her eyes, more animated with each sentence as she rises from her seat.)

You’re already different from the mainstream. That’s why I relate to you. I challenge you to extend your independent thinking and counterculture attitudes to your finances.

And to that end (she pulls back a glass ketchup bottle high overhead with both hands, waving it menacingly in the air), I christen this group (she brings the bottle back down with increasing speed, aimed directly at the table), THE COUNTERCULTURE CLUB!

(She pulls back the bottle at the last second, missing the table, but sending her students scattering all directions. Kramer erupts into laughter.)

Amy: You scared me to death! Did you really have to embarrass us in front of all these people to make that point?

Kramer: A little adrenaline is good to help cement points in your memory. You’ll never forget this moment. Plus, if you never get over the “Oh my gosh, what’s everybody gonna think?” thing, you’ll find yourself living everyone else's life, the life of your culture, rather than your own life. I like a little drama now and again to spice things up. Later today I’ll get a good laugh out of picturing your faces as you envisioned ketchup exploding all over the restaurant.

James: (Settling back into his chair.) A good laugh at our expense! Don’t be surprised if you find toilet paper in your yard from your favorite club to test your own embarrassment index. So where were we? Something about how our culture sucks at finances?

Kramer: From the stats on my handout, you know how NOT to handle your finances - the way most others handle their finances. You’ve seen it in your parents and now in the culture at large. Let’s transition to how we can do finances right. This being the first breakfast, let’s start with an overview - some basics of financial wisdom. In the coming weeks, we’ll devote entire breakfasts to each principle.

But instead of handing out the list, I want you to draw out the basics from a real person who went counterculture with her finances. From decades of teaching, I’ve found that students remember stories better than lists; plus, stories are more interesting. As I tell the story, jot down the principles that you think made the person successful.

Oseola Enjoys Life and Saves a Fortune

Some of us might fear that we'll never have enough money to make ends meet and enjoy life. What if your job doesn't pay well, and you can't seem to get ahead? I want to introduce you to Oseola, who has a lot to teach us. She didn't have the advantages of most of us, yet she enjoyed life and saved a ton.

Oseola grew up in a simple house with her grandmother, mother and an aunt. As an eight-year-old, she would wash clothes after school to help make ends meet. Her school education ended at age 12, when she dropped out to care for her sick aunt and work full time at washing.

So far, she's not on anyone’s “most likely to succeed” list.

Her work was hard, but she enjoyed it. She washed the old-fashioned way: building a fire under her wash pot, then soaking, washing and boiling a bundle of clothes. Rub. Wrench. Rub again. Rinse. Starch. Hang out to dry. She worked Monday through Saturday, for 75 years, until arthritis forced her into retirement at age 86. She never got to finish school, never had a car and owned few possessions. Her TV received only one station. But that didn't bother her because she never watched it very much anyway.

I can hear you thinking, ''Get a life, woman!'' But, you see, Oseola did have a life - a great life. She didn't desire travel or possessions. She loved her God, her family and her work. Singing and storytelling filled her days with joy and laughter.

She never bought on credit so that she would be financially free. And since she didn't need money for a lot of possessions or travel, she invested it, a little each month. By July 1995, a half year after her retirement, she had saved - get this - $280,000. That’s over a quarter of a million dollars! Then, she stunned the world by giving away over half of it, $150,000, to establish a college scholarship for needy students, offering others the education she never had.

Until recently, Oseola McCarty referred to herself as a ''poor little old colored woman who walked everywhere.'' No one paid her much attention when she was out. But when the word leaked out about her donation, the world took notice.

She has since received numerous awards, been interviewed on ABC, CNN, NBC, BET and MTV. She's been featured in Newsweek, The New York Times, People, Life, Ebony, Essence and Jet. But all that recognition never changed her simple life. You see, she didn't need all the recognition. In her own words, ''I think my secret was contentment. I was happy with what I had.''9

Now, compare her to most Americans. Many with huge salaries haven't managed to save a cent. Many are worth less than nothing, worrying constantly about their debts. But Oseola shows me that if she can save over a quarter of a million dollars by washing people's clothes in boiling water over a fire, I can save money as a schoolteacher.

So, what do you think?

Reflections on Oseola

Akashi: I’ll start. I think her life sucked. She spent her entire life in a hovel working the same crappy job day in and day out, with only one TV channel for entertainment. She didn’t even own a car. What kind of life is that?

Antonio: Akashi! Mrs. Kramer is trying to help us out here. Don’t be so hard on her!

Kramer: I’m the one who sets the ground rules, and I challenge you to be just as outspoken as Akashi. If you other three sit there smiling at each other and sipping your juice while disagreeing in your gut, we’re getting nowhere. Say what you think. Be ruthless.

Jack Welch, one of the greatest business leaders of our time, devoted an entire chapter of his book Winning to push for candor.10 He observes that we usually don’t tell it like it is, fearing we’ll hurt people’s feelings. He thinks lack of candor is deadly to business.

Lack of candor may be easier in the short-run, but it hurts us in the long-run. Without candor, we don’t face reality. Be honest, guys! Do you agree with Akashi?

Antonio: I’ll be candid with you, Akashi. In ISS you complained about your parents being so wrapped up in their work and living in a ritzy neighborhood that they didn’t have time for the important stuff, like family.

Oseola chose relationships over things. She enjoyed working at home, spending time with her relatives and helping others. She didn’t secretly desire to get the latest version of Halo or go to Disneyland. She lived life the way she wanted to, had lots of fun and can look back with the satisfaction of knowing she helped others along the way.

Think of Einstein. He never drove a car. He enjoyed thinking more than mansions and hot cars.

Akashi: You nailed me. As much as I complain about my parents’ obsession with things and money, I’m pretty hooked on some of my things, like always upgrading to the latest cell phone, playing online games till late at night and the freedom that my car gives me.

But fun is different for everyone. I do admire Oseola for bucking the crowd, choosing her own path, finding financial freedom and putting people first.

Kramer: We don’t have to adopt everything about her life. But what can we learn from her financial success?

James: I’m astounded that she could accumulate such wealth from what must have been a pitiful salary.

Amy: I think it’s actually pretty simple. She spent less than she made. With no car, low-cost housing and no frivolous spending, she could save more than a lawyer who has a great salary but spends it all on his ritzy house and payments on his Porsche. The first thing I learned from Oseola is: Live beneath your means. All of our parents make tons more than Oseola, but I’ll bet you that everything they get on Friday is spent by the next Thursday. You can’t save if you spend all that you make.

Akashi: Look not only at what she did, but what she didn’t do. She didn’t own even one credit card. Whereas most of us spend outrageous money in interest, she waited till she could pay cash. I’ll bet that one habit saved her thousands and thousands of dollars.

Kramer: You bet right, Akashi. In Oseola’s own words,

''I save my money till I can buy something outright.''11

Akashi: So, principle number two is: Avoid paying interest.

Antonio: Principle number three: Save for the future. If she had a medical emergency, she wouldn’t have to sell her house to pay for it.

James: She took the money that she would have been paying the credit card companies and invested it, so that she was receiving interest rather than giving it away. Over time, it all added up. Principle number four: Invest over time.

Antonio: She worked hard at something she enjoyed. Even a small salary adds up when you put in the hours.

Kramer: I think you’ve summed up the basics of financial wisdom. Think about those principles this week, and see how they apply to your personal finances. In future weeks, we’ll talk in much more depth about each principle. What do you want to cover next week?

James: I’m fascinated with how Oseola multiplied her money. I want to be financially independent as quickly as possible. How can investments multiply my money so that I can retire in my 40’s?

Kramer: Is that okay with everyone else?

(Nods all around.)


What facts from the “Personal Finances in America” sheet bother you the most? Why?
Why do you think Americans struggle with their finances?
How would your personal finances be different if you handled them more like Oseola?
Are you living above or below your means? How could you begin living below your means and saving some money each week?
What can you do this week to start handling your money better?

This week, ask your parents to tell you what they know about investments. Go on the Internet and read some basic articles on stocks and mutual funds. You’ll need to bring your calculators. What I’ll tell you is so extraordinary that you won’t believe it unless you see the numbers yourselves.

One more thing! I have a riddle for you to solve:

To some I’m their greatest nightmare
To others their greatest friend.
Neither spirit nor flesh
I’m not hard to comprehend.

I increase the wealth
Of both paupers and kings,
Rewarding the wise,
Robbing fools of their dreams.

I work when you work
Just as hard when you sleep.
With me Buffett made billions
If you sow, you can also reap.

I’m slow at the beginning
‘Till my power is unfurled.
It’s why bankers and investors say,
“You’re the eighth wonder of the world.”

Resource to Take You Deeper

Read Oseola McCarty, Simple Wisdom for Rich Living, (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1996).

Please do not construe this book as the author’s or publisher’s prescription for your personal finances. Only a qualified financial counselor who knows your specific life circumstances, your personality, your goals and your objectives might be qualified to advise you in these matters.

Enjoy Your Money! Copyright © 2008 by Wisdom Creek Press, LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher, except for brief reviews. For information contact Wisdom Creek Press, LLC, 5814 Sailboat Pointe, Acworth, Georgia, 30101,

Cover design by Carole Maugé-Lewis
Front Cover Photography by Rasmus Rasussen

Author Photo by Christina Cosenza

Typesetting by Callisa Ink & Co and Carole Maugé-Lewis

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Miller, J. Steve, 1957-

Enjoy Your Money! : how to make it, save it, invest it and give it : the adventures of the Counterculture Club/ by J. Steve Miller.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

LCCN: 2008941060

ISBN-13: 978-0-9818756-7-5

ISBN-10: 0-9818756-7-X

1. Finance, Personal. I. Title.

HG179.M4919 2009 332.024