Saturday, June 28, 2008

When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister by Mary Pierce

Tour Date: June 30, 2008

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It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister

Zondervan (November 1, 2007)



Looking for fun and inspiration? Mary Pierce tickles the funny bone as she touches hearts, offering wit and wisdom to corporate and community audiences at women’s health and wellness events, caregiver and senior gatherings, and church retreats since 1996.

She offers an entertaining and positive motivational message, inviting audiences to laugh along and learn with multi-media presentations filled with comic relief, practical teaching, and a powerful message of hope and encouragement.

Mary Pierce is the author of three books of inspirational humor for women, published by Zondervan/HarperCollins:

When Did I Stop Being Barbie and Become Mrs. Potato Head? (2003)
Confessions of a Prayer Wimp (2005)
When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister (2007)

With degrees in education and business (University of Minnesota and University of Redlands), she’s worked as a stockbroker, teacher and corporate trainer, and has co-hosted a radio interview program. She’s met life’s changes and challenges with unfailing optimism, deep faith, and a lively sense of humor. She and her husband Terry share six children and seven grandchildren, and a fox terrorist named Izzy, and they are full-time caregivers for Mary’s 94-year-old mother.

They live in Wisconsin where Mary dreams of getting her act together…someday.

CONTACT MARY to find out how she can help make your upcoming event MOTIVATING, ENCOURAGING AND FUN for all who attend!

Visit her at her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (November 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310272378
ISBN-13: 978-0310272373


Chapter One



“Right Foot Red!” Bossy calls.
We laugh and step onto a red circle.
“This is nothing,” we say, “Bring it on!”

Chapter One

Twisted Sister

Whoever said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff,” never got a good look at my thighs.

I did the other day. It was not a pretty sight. I was in the sporting goods store at the mall. I didn’t intend to go in there, but I forgot where I parked my car. (I hate when that happens. It happens a lot. Especially lately.)

There I was, wandering through the sporting goods store, trying to get to an exit. That’s not easy. Have you noticed how stores are laid out these days? I’ve been shopping long enough to remember when you could make a beeline from the front door to the department you wanted and back out again. Now walking through a store is like navigating an obstacle course and requires a degree of agility I don’t possess.

Straight aisles are a thing of the past. The art of merchandising is a diabolical plot to trap consumers in the store, expose them to as many displays of goods as possible, and get them so confused and frustrated that they will hand over their wallets gladly, just to be able to escape.

So, trapped as I was, I had little choice but to wander through the displays of camping, skiing, boating, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, treading, kayaking, swimming, lifting, running, scuba diving, fishing, tennis, baseball, racquetball, basketball, football, soccer, lumberjacking, and whaling equipment. Somewhere between the fishing tackle section and the football tackle department, I found myself trapped behind a rack of tiny—TINY—swimsuits. There wasn’t enough fabric there to cover my left elbow, much less the dimpled tundra of my backside.

Even worse, I was sandwiched between the rack of tiny suits and a huge mirror. These stores have mirrors everywhere. I guess the jock-types who hang out at sporting goods stores don’t mind looking at themselves. I try to avoid my reflection but, like those people who slow way down to gawk at a freeway accident, I can’t resist sneaking a peak anytime I pass a shiny surface. (Oh admit it! You do it too.)

This wasn’t just one full-length mirror, but a three-sider. I gaped. I stared. I gawked. The shorts I’d tossed on for this “quick” run to the mall were rumpled and riding up embarrassingly. And there, hanging out like two giant stuffed sausages, were my thighs, glowing under the fluorescents like two gargantuan, pasty-white slugs under a black light. It was obvious why I no longer buy corduroy pants (Aye, there’s the rub!) or anything made of Spandex.

The tiny swimsuits mocked me from behind while the triple mirror tripled my lumps. Tripled my lard. Tripled my dimples. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Triple mirrors do nothing for a sister’s self esteem.

“Who ARE you?” I whined at the three women in the mirrors. “How did this HAPPEN? You used to be in great shape. You were fit and flexible, tight and toned in high school!”

We used to DANCE in high school, they reminded me.


Standing there before the jiggling blobs of my current reality, I drifted back to those glory days of youth, when the lower half of my body actually had muscle.

It was true. I used to dance. Modern dance was one of the physical education electives in our high school. I elected it. We modern dancers worshipped at the bare feet of our teacher, Miss Jeanne, who had worshipped and studied at the bare feet of modern dance maven Miss Martha Graham, HERSELF! Under Miss Jeanne’s skilled tutelage we learned how to dance like the wind, soar like the eagle, wave like a field of wheat, and rise like the sun. All within the confines of the gym at North High.

Modern dancers, Miss Jeanne showed us, could isolate their rib cages from the rest of their torso, elevate any given body part, and stretch in ways that seemed humanly impossible (to say nothing of painful). Modern dancers had steely thighs and elastic hamstrings that allowed them to float across the floor with power and grace.

And six of the modern dancers in our class were chosen to be the horses in the merry-go-round when the senior class put on a production of the musical, Carousel. Each of us was assigned a position and a color. I was the pink pony.

Upright in pastel leotards and matching tights, we six pranced proudly, each holding in her pony forefeet a length of wide pastel ribbon. The opposite ends of the ribbons were attached to a tall center pole.

The tall pole was a girl named Jane. The least graceful horse in the class, Jane held the ends of the ribbons high as we swifter ponies trotted around her. She raised and lowered the ribbons as we raised and lowered our steely thighs in a graceful canter, moving around and around with us, faster and slower, higher and lower. At times we even reversed direction, in a dazzling feat of merry-go-round marvel.

Opening night came. Around and around we pranced. No one noticed that Jane, who’d performed her part flawlessly during rehearsals, had decided not to wear her glasses in front of the live audience. (Vanity of vanities!)

Jane, blinded and dizzier by the minute, evidently lost track of whether the pastel blur surrounding her was moving clockwise or counter-clockwise. Unable to judge the speed or direction of the herd, Jane did the only thing a pole could do. She stood still.

We ponies cantered on, not noticing until it was too late that the pole was frozen. Soon poor Jane was mummified in pastel ribbons and we horses were falling over each other as we wound ourselves closer and closer to the center. The carousel ground to a halt. So did the play. So did my dancing career.


Snapping back to the reality of the sports store’s three-way mirror, I shuddered to realize how far my body had deteriorated—from the glorious days of fresh, lean youthfulness to the flabby nag, sagging like a feed sack of cellulite, staring back at me. The old gray mare just wasn’t what she used to be; she looked ready to be put out to pasture. Neigh.

I slunk away from the mirror, hoping no other shoppers had seen me there, in triplicate. One of me was bad enough.

Depressed, I wove my way through the rest of the store, avoiding the mirrors and focusing on the merchandise instead. I wondered why they call the stuff “sporting goods.” Most of it seemed neither “sporting” nor “good.”

Think about it. Who in her right mind binds her stiff-booted feet onto flat fiberglass slats and hurls herself down a frozen mountain, protected only by her fluffy pink jacket and matching fluffy pink headband? Wouldn’t a fluffy pink crash helmet be a good idea?

Who in her right mind wedges her oversized bottom into an undersized kayak and paddles alone out into the middle of a lake? Doesn’t she know that when the thing capsizes—and it will. It will!—her smaller top half will never be able to counterbalance the centrifugal force created by the larger ballast of her bottom in motion? She’ll be trapped there under the water, waiting to drown. Upside down!

Sporting? Good? I think not.

“What’s a girl to do?” I asked the handsome mannequin modeling the latest in Spandex exercise wear. He had no answer. He may have been a dummy, but he looked good. Everyone, it seemed, was in better shape, thinner, more fit, doing more, going faster, and running farther than I was. I wanted to scream, “Where is the stuff for girls like me?” Girls who are a little long in the tooth. A little short of breath. A little wide in the angle. A little narrow in motivation.

Just then, as if to answer my question, a peppy girl in a store uniform, bounced up to me. She was young enough to make me wonder if the child labor laws were still in effect.

“Can I, like, help you?” I could tell from her tone she thought I was beyond help. I wanted to ask her to escort me to the nearest exit and maybe help me find my car, but I suddenly felt the need to make her think I had something on the ball.

“I need to start working out. What do you suggest?” She gave me an appraising once-over and led me down a nearby aisle. She plucked a book called Walk Yourself Fit from a rack and handed it to me.

How had she guessed walking was my sport? I had decades—over 20,000 days so far—of walking practice. I was good at walking. A quick glance at the book’s back cover assured me that I could quite literally walk my way to fitness and good health. I didn’t need to do anything but walk. No need to change my diet. Walking would automatically, over the course of time, cause my thighs, indeed all of me, to shrink miraculously and painlessly.

Walking I could handle. The price of the book—$9.95—I could also handle. I was ready to head to the huge sign that said CASHIER—they make sure you can find those—when the nice young lady said, “You’ll need some walking shoes. They’re right over here...”

A hundred-and-eighty-seven dollars later, I left the store with the book and its accompanying CD of walking music. I had new shoes—a dynamically-engineered, air-cushioned, shock-absorbing pair that specialized in walking. (Did they even need me?) I had air-cushioned socks that were guaranteed to absorb the shocks the shoes missed, even if I had trouble absorbing the shock of forking over twelve bucks for a pair of socks.

I had new shorts and a matching shirt that were guaranteed never to shrink, fade or wrinkle, no matter how much abuse I subjected them to. (Oh, for a body with that kind of guarantee!) And the shorts were friendly; they promised not to pinch me, squish me, or ride up and wedge themselves into uncomfortable places. My new sports bra was positively aerodynamic and designed to hold me firmly with no sagging for five years or fifty thousand miles of bounce, whichever came first.

And with it all, le pièce de résistance: new undies that breathed. How could I resist? They BREATHED, for goodness sake! (How had I made it all these years wearing suffocating undies?)

I was set. The cashier pointed me to the exit, I eventually found my car and drove home with the sort of radiance that only a good day’s shopping can bring. I glowed all night. I was still glowing the next morning, when, headphones pumping CD motivation into my brain and clad in my new shorts, shirt, bra, shoes, and socks, and with my undies breathing the fresh morning air, I set out to walk myself fit.

Five minutes out, halfway up the first hill, my formerly-elastic hamstring twisted itself into a knot the size of my fist. I hobbled back down the hill before the first song ended on the CD, limped into the kitchen, where I sat and sipped a double café mocha with extra whipped cream for consolation.

Life is full of twists, isn’t it? It’s hard sometimes to navigate from one spot to another without getting trapped or hurt or lost. Life doesn’t seem to have clear wide aisles that allow us to flow easily from one place to the next. Lots of the things that happen to us are not what we’d call “good” or “sporting.”

And sometimes we just plain forget where we left the car, or our minds, or our hearts.

We can get ourselves all twisted up trying to keep it all together physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Sometimes we’re like the merry-go-round horses; around and around we go, faster and faster, high-stepping and showing off for all we’re worth. Sometimes we don’t notice what’s happening until we’re all twisted up in the ribbons of living and come to a crashing halt. Sometimes we don’t notice the pole standing there nearby, paralyzed and blinded by the chaos we’ve created with all our whirling around.

When we compare our lives and ourselves to what we see around us—and we so often do that—we end up feeling we’re not good enough, fit enough, young enough, smart enough, old enough, thin enough, pretty enough, spiritual enough—whatever enough—to be worth loving. Worth anything.

I’ve struggled with my physical image much of my life. I’ve often felt awkward, clumsy, or just plain ugly. Sitting there in my kitchen I could hear, in my mind, all the names I’d called myself, and all the names I’d imagined or heard others calling me, over the years.

Thunder Thighs. Whale Woman. Blubber Butt. Flat Chested. Slope Shouldered. Squinty Eyed. Flat Nosed.

What have you heard? How have you felt?

God has another perspective.

As I sat there, with my leg propped on the chair next to me to stretch my twisted muscle, I remembered something from the Bible about me being “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Are you serious, Lord? I asked, gazing down at my cheesy thighs. This is fearfully and wonderfully made? This body?

Yes, I heard him whisper to my heart. This.

Is it possible? Can it be? “I created your inmost being…I knit you together in your mother’s womb…You are fearfully and wonderfully made…” he says. Can it be true?

Can God really mean that about me? About you?

Yes. This timeless truth is the beginning of our healing, our deliverance from the worry and doubt that plagues us. This is the beginning of new life, of a powerful sense of self—realizing that it is God—Almighty Creator of the Universe God—who created us—you and me—and God who loves us. That this physical body, whatever its size or shape, whatever “flaws” we think we have, is a work of genius.

If God thinks you’re a work of art, who are you to argue?

Fearfully and wonderfully made, dimply thighs and all—I am a masterpiece of his design, beautiful in the eyes of my Creator. He’s called me by new names. To him, I am Beloved. To him, I am Delightful. To him, I am Wonderful.

And so, dear reader, are you.

For everything God created is good…

1 Timothy 4:4


Powerhouse or Powder Puff? Describe your experience as a “student athlete.” What do you remember about gym or physical education classes?

Have you ever been called a name? What did the experience teach you? Have you forgiven the name caller? If not, when will you let it go?

God loves you and he delights in you, according to Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Which truth from this verse is most meaningful to you today?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky

Tour Date: July 3, 2008

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It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

Beyond the Night

Multnomah Books (June 17, 2008)


Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of six books, including her latest novel, Beyond the Night, which combines a love story with a surprise ending twist to create a new type of novel that she hopes will impact readers at their deepest levels. Marlo’s other books include Veil of Fire, a novel about finding hope in the fires of life, Empty Womb, Aching Heart- Hope and Help for Those Struggling with Infertility, and Cry Freedom.

She’s had over 600 articles published in various Christian magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman, Decision, Moody Magazine, and Discipleship Journal. She has contributed to Dr. Dobson’s Night Light Devotional for Couples, Tyndale’s Book of Devotions for Kids #3, and Discipleship Journal’s 101 Small Group Ideas. She is a speaker and a regular columnist for Power for Living.

Marlo is also a California native, a small business owner, and a graduate of Stanford University (with a B.S. in Chemistry!). In addition, she has recently earned her Masters in Theology, with an emphasis in Biblical Studies, from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Marlo lives with her husband and four young daughters in a log home in Central California.

When she’s not changing diapers, doing laundry, or writing books, Marlo loves Starbucks white mochas, reading the New Testament in Greek, and speaking to groups about finding the deep places of God in the disappointments of life.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (June 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420161
ISBN-13: 978-1601420169


Chapter One

Darkness rose from somewhere within her. Blackness, like a great, choking wave. Immersing her, drowning her, until she couldn’t breathe under the weight of it. It flooded her mind, spilled down her back, and submerged her limbs in icy heaviness. She fought against it…and failed. Deeper. Darker. Until her world was nothing but a black river, crashing in currents of pain.

Help me… The words squeezed from her, unspoken yet real. They became a silent cry, like mist above the water, shimmering, then gone. Did anyone hear? Did anyone know? Was there someone listening out there beyond the darkness? Help me. Don’t leave me alone. Please…

Time wavered. Stillness breathed. In. Out.

Then a voice dipped into the blackness. A single word, spoken from a world beyond her own. It came like a slender ribbon of light, rippling over the waves. “Maddie…”

I’m here.


One word. And in it, hope.

I am not alone.

The water receded. A little.

“Wake up. I’ve come to take you home.” The blackness shivered, broke, then settled into a familiar gray. Her breath came again, steady and comforting.

“Can you hear me, Maddie?” The voice caressed her, embraced her in its gentle warmth.

I hear you. The answer formed in her mind but refused to be spoken. Stay with me.

“Come to me. Remember.”

I can’t. Silence. Dreaded, awful silence.
Please… Don’t leave me… You promised…

The dreariness of the hospital room pressed into Paul’s consciousness more heavily than the Monterey fog pressed outside the window. Damp. Gray. Cold and unwelcoming. A moment, a lifetime, before he had laughed and loved, hoped and dreamed. But all that had tunneled into this one image—a flickering fluorescent light, the reek of antiseptic, and the woman he loved in the bed before him. His vision blurred.


The word fell and was lost in the buzz of the light, in the steady beep of the EKG machine. For so long he had sat here, with doctors and nurses going in and out, taking her blood pressure, scribbling on charts. He’d almost lost track of them all, as the day faded to twilight. As shifts changed. As visiting hours dwindled. But no one would ask him to leave. Not tonight. Because Maddie was doing much worse than anyone let on.

It was going to be a long night. And there was no way he was going to leave her.

So he sat here, watching the liquid drip incessantly through clear tubes, watching Maddie’s chest rising, falling. And the fog blotting out all hint of the California sky. So long, yet nothing changed.

Outside the room a gurney squeaked, an intercom rumbled, footsteps hurried past and faded. Outside, the world went on. But here, in this tiny room, life teetered on the edge of darkness.

How had it come to this? To a hospital bed, a frayed chair, and an ocean of silence between them? All the years. All his love. All the memories of a lifetime past. All captured in this one woman, pale, shriveled, so different from the vital, lively girl who shared his heart. She lay there with her eyes closed, her breath ragged, her lashes dark against sunken cheeks. A single lock of hair, damp and dull, curled over her forehead. Tubes lined her cheeks, her arms, trailed over her chest. Rising. Falling. Breath rasping from lips once red, now the color of ash.

Why did it have to be like this?


Did he speak aloud? No one heard. Did she? Could she?

Paul leaned forward. He reached toward her. If he could just take her hand, pull her back from the dark place where she’d gone. But he couldn’t touch her. Not yet. She was too fragile, her life hanging by too thin a cord. “Wake up. I’ve come to take you home.”

But Maddie didn’t stir.

“Can you hear me, Maddie?”

Was that a sigh? Did her finger twitch? A shiver ran through him.

“Come to me.” It’s time. Come out of the darkness. Remember. He waited. A second. An eternity. Almost. Almost he had reached her. A pen clicked. Shoes squeaked.

Paul straightened.

A nurse in hospital blue hurried to the far side of the bed. “Blood pressure check.”

Paul stood and moved away from the chair. “Not again.”

The nurse pursed her lips and didn’t answer. She just checked the levels of clear liquid dripping in the tubes, tapped the band around Maddie’s arm, then glared in his direction.

Paul sighed.

The nurse stabbed her pen at him. Her forehead bunched. Paul jumped to the side. “Oh. Oops.” He had been standing in front of the EKG machine.

“Blood pressure’s good.” With brisk efficiency, the nurse reversed her pen and wrote something on her clipboard. Then she turned and paused. For a brief instant, her hand brushed Maddie’s. Her voice softened, as if she knew, understood, how hard this night would be.

“Hang in there. Won’t be long now.”

The words twisted through Paul’s mind.

She clicked her pen again, shook her head, and rushed from the room.

Paul stared at the place where the nurse’s fingers had touched Maddie’s hand, so white against sheets that were whiter still. And her skin so thin that it seemed translucent. Delicate, frail. Yet, the freckle just below her left thumb was still there, reminding him that some things don’t change. Some things are forever.

Warmth flowed through Paul. Perhaps, just once, he could kiss that freckle again. He’d done that, for the first time, years ago. Her hands were strong then, young and tan. But the freckle was still the same. He smiled. The kiss had been a joke, really. A prank done in passing. Yet he remembered it still. A simple gesture that changed everything. At least
it had for him.

“Do you remember?” He spoke, knowing she couldn’t hear him, knowing she was still too far away to understand.

“It rained that morning, before the sun came out.”

Only the steady beep of the EKG answered him.

His voice lowered. “Come, Maddie, remember with me. Remember the day I fell in love.”

Palo Alto, 1973

Paul smashed his racquet against the small blue ball. The ball thwacked into the front wall and zoomed toward the back corner. Maddie raced left, her racquet extended. She slowed, pulled back, and swung.

Paul squatted, ready.

Air swooshed through the strings as Maddie’s racquet missed the ball by a good three inches.

Paul relaxed.

Maddie’s shoulder slammed against the wall. The ball dribbled into the corner.

“You all right?” He wiped his brow with his wristband. “That last chem exam gotten to you or something?”

“What do you know about exams?”

He grinned. “Not much anymore, thankfully. It’s been a couple

Maddie grimaced. “Well, maybe if I had some fancy research job in a big pharmaceutical company I could joke about exams too.” Paul bounced the ball with his left hand. “I’m telling you, money’s in research these days.”

She rolled her eyes. “Blah blah. I think I’ll stick to being a doctor…someday.”

Paul chuckled. “I’ll mix ’em, you fix ’em.”

It was an old joke. And not a very good one. “Just serve, would you?”

“You sure you’re ready?” He bounced the ball again.


“Here goes.” He slammed his racquet into the ball. It hit the front wall and whizzed toward her. She swung. And missed. Again.

“Your game.” Maddie twirled her racquet, then let it dangle from her wrist. “What’s that? Four games now?” She scowled.

Five. Paul shrugged. “Who’s counting?”

She put her hands on her hips. “You are. And don’t pretend you’re not.”

Paul grinned, then sauntered over and picked up the racquetball. He popped it onto his racquet, making it dance there with small, precise bounces. “You wanna go again?” He tossed her the ball.

She let it drop. “I already owe you a pizza, a movie, popcorn, and a Coke. At this rate, I’m going to go broke.”

“Normally, I’d say it’s just bad luck. But…”

Maddie glared at him. “Go ahead, say it.”

“Well, you gotta admit your game’s off today.” His voice turned to a whisper. “Really off. Can’t blame that on a summer class.”


“So, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. It’s like the ball just vanishes before I hit it.”

Paul reached over and tousled her hair. He loved doing that. Her loose, short curls stood straight up when he did it just right. “Didn’t I tell you? That’s a new trick of mine.”

Maddie chuckled and punched him in the shoulder. “Come on, let’s quit while I’m behind.”

“Way behind.”

“Stop rubbing it in.”

Paul slung his arm around her shoulder and turned her toward the glass wall behind them. A blonde in red hot pants crossed on the other side of the glass. The blonde was so different from Maddie. Where the girl was tall and slender, Maddie was, well, medium. Five and a half feet tall, not slim, not stocky. Somewhere in between. Athletic and built for racquetball. Usually, anyway. Just not today.

He paused. “She’s new.”

“You mean you haven’t asked her out yet? Looks like I’m not the only one whose game is off today.”

Paul scooped the racquetball off the floor with his racquet. “The day is still young, my friend.”

Maddie shook her head. “What happened with the girl behind the soda counter?”

Paul opened the court’s door for Maddie and stood back as she slipped out in front of him. “I think she found me too suave and debonair.”

“Oh, yes, you’re very swave.” She purposefully mispronounced the word.

“All she did was giggle and talk about the Bee Gees. It was like she was fourteen.” He pulled out a towel from his gym bag and wiped the back of his neck.

“She’s nineteen. And everyone knows she’s a huge Bee Gees fan.”

“Well, you could have saved me a bundle on dinner if you’d told me before. I count on you for these things, you know.”

Maddie slipped her racquet into its case and dug around in her bag.

“Poor baby. I thought you said all girls eat is salad anyway. How expensive could that be?”

“Speaking of food, I’ll take my pizza first, then the movie. The new 007 is out.”

Maddie groaned. “Not another Bond flick.”

“When you win, you can choose. Tonight it’s…Bond, James Bond.” Paul faked an English accent.

“Bond is supposed to be Scottish.”

“Not any…Moore.”

Maddie cringed at his joke.

“You aren’t still crying about their replacing Sean Connery, are you?”

“It’s not a replacement, it’s a downgrade.”

“We’ll see.”

“Your date is leaving.”


“The blonde.”

Paul glanced over to the blonde. She was sipping pink liquid through a straw and moving toward the back door. He stretched out his arms and cracked his knuckles. “Okay, watch the master work.” Maddie sighed and rolled her eyes.

Paul strolled over to the blonde. She was pretty, he supposed. But a little thin. And her eyes didn’t sparkle. She looked, well, bored. And boring. He could turn around now and forget it. He wanted to, but Maddie was watching. So he straightened his shoulders and sauntered up to the girl. Three minutes later, he walked back to Maddie. “Friday at seven. Easy as that.”

“Hope she’s a salad eater.”

“She is. I asked.”

Maddie laughed. “I don’t know how you do it. Next time, get a date for me, will you? I haven’t been out in six months.” Paul ran his fingers through his hair. “You find the guy.”

“Okay, how about him?” Maddie shot a glance at a man heading toward the weight room.

“Nah, too short.”

“That one?” She pointed to a guy at the check-in counter.

“Too old.”

“Over there?”

“Too muscular.”


“Clearly he’s obsessed with his body. You don’t want that, do you?”

“Well, how about—?”

“No. No. No.” Paul jabbed his finger toward the remaining men in the room. “No one here’s good enough for you.” He cleared his throat, fighting to hide the strange dryness in his voice. “Besides, with that wicked backhand of yours, you’d scare off all these namby-pambies anyway.” Maddie raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, my backhand sure was scary today, wasn’t it?”

“Admit it, you just wanted to see old Moore-baby.”

“You be good, or next time I’m going to find the most syrupy-sweet romance playing, and I’m going to win.”

“You hate those movies.”

“Yep. But not as much as you do.” Maddie grinned and batted her eyes at him.

Paul threw his hand towel at her. She reached for it midair but missed.

“I give up. My place, one hour. You’re driving.” She grabbed her bag and started toward the door.

“I’ll order ahead. Pepperoni.”

“Good.” She paused at the door and glanced back at him. “I’m starved.”

Paul slung his bag over his shoulder. “I thought girls only ate salad.” Maddie pulled open the door and flung a final comment over her shoulder. “How dare you call me a girl.” She marched outside. Paul laughed as she disappeared from sight. He stooped over and picked up the hand towel. He frowned at it, then stuffed it into his bag. Something glinted at him from the floor. Maddie’s keys. He grabbed them and trotted toward the door.

Maddie stood outside her car with one hand digging through her bag. The summer sunlight glinted off her russet hair, making it look on fire. Or maybe it was just her mood. Even from a distance of a hundred feet, Paul could see her muttering to herself. He snuck up behind her and dangled the keys in front of her nose. “Missing something?” She snatched them from his hand. “I seem to be missing everything today. First the ball, then the towel, and now this. Everything just disappears right before my eyes.”

Paul spread out his arms. “Everything but me.”

“What luck, huh?”

He smiled at the dry humor in her voice.

She shook her head and attempted to insert the key into the keyhole.

It slipped to the side instead.

He plucked the keys from her hand and slid the right one into the hole. “Good thing I’m driving tonight.” He opened the door, took her hand, and helped her in. “Your ride, m’lady.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Would hate for you to miss the seat.” He grinned, lifted her hand to his lips, then kissed it. Right on that little freckle. For a moment, neither moved. The shock of something strange and new flowed through him. Their eyes met. And he noticed in hers deep golden flecks against the brown, flecks that he had never seen before. He dropped her hand.

And there it was. An ordinary moment in what would be a lifetime of ordinary moments. A moment that nonetheless touched the edge of eternity.

Maddie quirked her lips into a smile and looked away. “Suave. Very suave. And I’m not even blond.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Molech Prophecy by Thomas Phillips

Tour Date: June 27

Grab the HTML for the entire post (will look like the post below):


It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his book:

The Molech Prophecy

Whitaker House (July 1, 2008)


Thomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability. He did everything possible not to read. It wasn't until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book from cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, Phillips uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies.

Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Phillips has worked as a freelance journalist and currently works full time as an employment law paralegal. When he isn't writing, Phillips plays his guitar, is active in his church, coaches his children's Little League team, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his first published Christian novel.

Visit him at his MySpace, ShoutLife, and blog.


Chapter One

The first things I noticed when I pulled into the church parking lot were the two police cars. Instinct wanted to kick in, but I stopped myself from turning my car around. The police weren’t there for me—couldn’t be there for me. I’d done nothing wrong. I wasn’t the same man. My days of running from the police had ended when I became a Christian. I reminded myself of this simple fact and felt a grin play across my lips. Thankfully, my days of running from the police ended four years ago.

On any given Sunday, I have come to expect many things from Faith Community Church. And why not? I have been attending weekly services for years. I expect smiles from Faith’s Greet Team—from those helping direct cars in the parking lot to those handing out programs and pencils at the sanctuary doors. I expect powerful worship music, a variety of jokes from Pastor Ross—some funny, some not so funny—and I expect, each week, a message that will impact the way I live the rest of my life.

But what I did not expect this morning was what I saw next: the complete defacing of the church building. Black spray paint covered the pecan-colored bricks in horrific graffiti.

After parking, I sat silently in the car, taking it all in. A large pentagram—an encircled, upside-down, five-pointed star—was displayed at the center of it all. Painted on every other available surface were words like “Death,” “Die,” “Faggots,” “Hypocrites,” and “God Is Dead.”

Seeing all of the graffiti felt like a punch to the gut. Faith Community was like my second home; the people who attended were like my second family. It was impossible not to take this attack personally.

Slowly, I climbed out of the car, ignoring the early November morning chill. The wind blew relentlessly all around me, howling and moaning as if it too was furious and saddened and confused by the desecration.

Other cars pulled into the lot. The people get-ting out of them emerged as slowly as I must have. I could see the stunned expressions on their faces—dropped jaws and wide eyes that surely matched my own.

Who would vandalize a church like this? I wondered as I walked toward the entrance. As I stopped in front of the pentagram and took in the mess that attempted to dirty my church, I realized that who-ever did this was hurting—hurting badly. That thought did not stifle the anger—the righteous anger—I felt boiling deep inside.

I nodded a grim good morning to the greeter who held the front door open as I walked into the church. The atrium is usually packed with people mingling before the start of the service. Free coffee, hot cocoa, and doughnuts set out on a table each and every week encourage people to arrive early for fellowship.

This morning, however, only a few people lin-gered in the atrium. Whispers were all I heard. As I entered the sanctuary I saw that this was where everyone had gathered. I usually sit toward the back, far right, as if there were assigned seating. The things I’d seen outside left me feeling hollow and alone. Today, I sat closer to the front, middle row.

I nodded hello to people here and there. Many sat with heads bowed, deep in prayer. I decided praying would be a good use of the extra time before the service.
I tried to cope with a flood of mixed emo-tions, such as anger, sadness, confusion, disbelief, and then, once again, anger. Instead of praying, questions ended up filling my mind: Who could do such a thing? Why would someone do such a thing? How are we going to get that filth off the bricks? If I ever get my…. I broke off the last thought before it got out of hand. I’m in a church, I reminded myself. There is no place for thoughts like that, but especially not in a church.

The service did not start the way services nor-mally did. The church band usually opened wor-ship with a fast-tempo song, one that got those present up on their feet, clapping and singing along, and one that brought those lingering in the atrium into the sanctuary.

Today, in dead silence, Senior Pastor Ross Lobene walked out and stood center stage, grip-ping the podium. He seemed at a loss for words. I think he knew what he wanted to say but was afraid that if he tried speaking too soon, he might lose his composure. I wouldn’t blame him.

As usual, roughly two thousand people filled most of the available seats. Two large projection screens hung on the wall at either side of the stage. Both showed a close-up of the pastor’s face. He could not hide his red eyes—or stop his quivering lips.

Pastor Ross opened a Bible, and when he finally started to speak, his voice was weak and shaky, as if he were on the verge of crying. “I want to read Matthew, chapter five, verses ten through twelve: ‘God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.’”

He bowed his head.

I felt sorrowful pain in my chest.

“Shock. Pure shock,” Pastor Ross said. “You don’t think stuff like this will happen here. It will happen elsewhere, like in run-down, gang-ridden areas, so we think. But from what I know of human nature, it happens everywhere, because people can be dark-hearted everywhere. God is always in con-trol, and He wants us to learn to deal with prob-lems in God-honoring ways. I have come to realize through this incident, and through other incidents that have occurred in our church family, that our enemy, Satan, attacks those churches that are a threat to him and his evil ways.”

I nodded in agreement, listening intently and watching as Pastor Ross released his white-knuck-led grip on the podium and began to come into his own. He paced back and forth on the stage, addressing the congregation, righteous fire heating this impromptu sermon.

“Jesus tells us in Revelation three, verses four-teen through seventeen, that He will spit out of His mouth the church whose people are lukewarm in their faith, because they are neither hot nor cold. It is my desire for Faith Community Church to be a church that is hot, making a difference for Christ and His kingdom in Rochester and the surround-ing area.”

As Pastor Ross paused, he stroked the sandy-colored goatee that covered his chin and used a handkerchief to wipe away the beads of sweat that formed on his bald head. “This, friends, this is a great opportunity for us to love our enemies as ourselves.” He pointed out at us and then pointed back at himself. “It is my desire to see everyone at Faith truly model this command from Christ and not become bitter by this incident. I pray that we have an opportunity to minister to the needs of the person or people responsible, so we can share the life-changing message of the gospel with them.

“I have known many people who have been enslaved in the bondage of satanism and witch-craft, and although the hold these things have on them is strong, it is no match for our all-powerful, all-loving God. It will take time, but if we can be models of Christ’s love to this person, I have full confidence that he will become a child of the light instead of a slave to the darkness.” A second, brief pause followed. Then Pastor Ross added, “Don’t get me wrong. I also hope that the person who did this crime is caught and processed fairly through our justice system.”

I tried to let my own anger subside. If Pastor Ross could move on, so could I. All I needed now was help unclenching my hands, which had been rolled into solid fists since the beginning of service.

Used by permission of the publisher, Whitaker House ( ). All rights reserved.