Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Looking for a meaty Bible study? This is it! I love this in-depth study that looks through an early Jewish cultural lens. It gives context to help us see the Gospel the way the 1st-century Jewish people saw the events. I've been working through this book for the last month or so, and I'm learning a lot. I need to set aside plenty of time because the daily study is lengthier than most I've done--oftentimes I need to break it into two days. There's a lot of great info and I don't want to race! If you're interested in Jewish culture, try When the Good News Gets Even Better.

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:

When the Good News Gets Even Better: Rediscovering the Gospels through First-Century Jewish Eyes

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


Neb Hayden is director of International Student Development at The King’s College in New York City. A former quarterback for “Bear Bryant” at Alabama, Neb has been involved his adult life with the fellowship in Washington, D.C., which works behind the scenes to nurture and encourage the leadership in over 180 nations. The group also works behind the scenes of the National Prayer Breakfast. Neb speaks and teaches extensively at seminars, conferences, and retreats. He and his wife, Susan, live in New York City and are the parents of three grown sons and two daughters-in-law.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767000
ISBN-13: 978-1434767004



How is it possible to make the good news of the gospel better? How can truth be enhanced? How can Jesus Christ be improved upon? Impossible! Then, why the title, When the Good News, Gets Even Better? The gospel gets even better only when it’s more clearly understood.

When I was a kid growing up in North Carolina I fantasized about being a “fly on the wall or some kind of invisible presence that could magically be transported back in time and be there the great moments in history. I wanted to be at the Alamo with Jim, Davy, Sam and the boys. I wondered what it would be like to have been on the Mayflower or to be with the first settlers at Jamestown. I wanted to experience the thoughts and emotions of these people. I wanted to know how it felt to walk in their shoes.

In the mid 1980’s my wife, Susan and I were invited to go on a two-week study seminar to Israel. Dr. Jim Martin taught us as we move from site to site from Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness through the resurrection of Jesus. When we gathered together our first day, Jim said, “I am going to teach you to think like an ancient Jew. You will never truly understand the scriptures as long as you think like a Gentile.” That thought haunted me for several years and two more trips to Israel with Jim.

Meanwhile, my close friend, Bob Warren, a former professional basketball player and outstanding Bible teacher in Kentucky had a similar experience in Israel with a Messianic Jew named Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Bob had been studying the gospels from a Hebrew perspective and he said that the impact it was having on his understanding was astounding. This challenged me to began reading everything I could find concerning Jewish history and culture. I was hooked, and began to live out my childhood fantasy. Through First Century Hebrew eyes and ears, I began to gain a perspective that I had never seen before. I began to see what a Jew would have seen and hear what a Jew would have heard as he witnessed the works of and heard the words of Jesus. I had studies and taught the Gospels my whole life and yet, a new perspective began to wash over me in a fresh, unvarnished way. Gradually I developed a study course that I called The Hidden Gospels. I was eventually encouraged to write this study book that could be approached by an individual or small group.

I wrote When the Good News Get Even Better from the following perspectives:

~ By Studying Through First Century Jewish Eyes: The Bible is a Jewish book, written to Jews about a Jewish Messsiah who came to redeem the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). If you were a Jew living in the Middle East in first century, how would you have heard what Jesus said? How would you have seen the things He did? What kind of culture would you have lived in? How would your childhood training have affected what you saw and heard? The Good news gets even better when we read the gospels as they were communicated and in the way they were meant to be seen.

~ By Studying the Gospel Accounts Autobiographically: By stepping in the sandals of the people in these biographical accounts. They are relational documents; encounters with people who are basically just like you and me. Become the Samaritan woman who had lost hope as Jesus speaks with her. Be the rich, lonely, alienated little tax collector named Zachaeus when Jesus asks to go home to dinner with him. Feel the apprehension of the woman with the hemorrhage as she pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. We can feel what these people felt and understand them if we understand the circumstances of their Hebrew lives. Then what Jesus says and does comes alive to us.

~ By Seeing Jesus’ Life and Teaching Through the Window of Grace: Most of us were taught a law-based perspective and therefore read the scriptures like a rulebook of impossible demands that we cannot meet. Should, ought to, and must have been a constant companion of most believers. Try harder, do more, and re-dedicate have kept us spiritually fatigued and guilt-ridden. Jesus offers intimacy that transforms duty into desire and obligation into opportunity. Seeing the gospels through the eyes of grace changes everything.

~ Studying Each Gospel Event as it Actually Happened (Chronologically): I used A.T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels as a guideline. To see the events as they occurred brings a new flavor and excitement to the greatest story ever told.

Studying the gospels in this manner is the most life-changing thing I have ever done. Whether you do this study in a small group or individually, I guarantee that you will never again read the gospels the same as before. They are the foundation of our faith because our faith is built on a Person. He was a Jew, living in a Jewish world, and communicating with Jewish people. This study offers you the opportunity to walk the dusty roads with Him, to be there as a participant rather than simply an observer. These biographies of Jesus are your stories too. Every move Jesus made and every word He spoke has direct implications for your life in the twenty-first century.

My hope is that this study will not simply be new information to ponder, but that as re-discover the gospels through Hebrew eyes, you will come to more deeply know, and enjoy the One who wrote The

Gospels. This is when The Good News Gets Even Better.

Getting the Most Out of This Study

Aerial view: We will obviously not be able to deal with every event in the Gospels, but the connection between the events as the happens is critical to understand. We will take an aerial view or brief summary of the passage before moving on.

Through Hebrew Eyes: Understanding Jewish culture and history is critical for a fuller appreciation of the emotions, issues at stake, and reactions of people in the gospels. When you see the Star of David we will try to help you think as a Jew would have thought in the at day based on his background, teaching, history, and culture.

Insight into the Passage: The light bulb indicates my brief commentary on the passage. These are insights I have gleaned over in over 34 years of ministry. They have made a deep impact in my own life and have been the result of my own studies as well as the contribution of many wonderful people along the way.

Snapshot: Context is very important in studying the scriptures. When you see the camera icon, I will give a brief picture of the current atmosphere, the circumstances and issues leading to the passage or event we are about to study. This will help you gain a feel for the atmosphere in which everything is taking place.

Crossroads: This may be a statement or question concerning direction: So what? Where do we go from here? What difference can this make for me right now?

Part I. Beginnings

God’s unique and abiding love for the Hebrew people is unparalleled in human history. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is called the “bride of God.” These nomadic wanderers suffered greatly at the hands of their enemies, and for most of their existence have live under the continual dominance of other nations. Freedom and autonomy is the brass ring they have longed to grasp. They, like each of us have loved God, and yet have disobeyed Him, often trusting in their own abilities rather than in His faithfulness and sovereignty. God’s beloved bide sought other lovers, yet He continues, even to this day, to pursue them with His unfailing love.

But, God had been strangely silent during the four hundred years from the end of the writing of the Old Testament until the beginning of the New Testament. The flow of communication to His people through the Prophets during this period came to a halt, but the Hebrew people continued to anxiously await the coming of “the Prophet” spoken of by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-19) and more specifically by Isaiah, the Psalmist, Daniel and others.

As we begin this fascinating adventure in the gospels, Rome has been in control of Israel since 63 B.C. Bitter hatred exists between the Jews and her captors. In the minds of many, God appears to have abandoned His people. Many Jews quietly echo the sentiment of Job, who, amidst great agony of body and soul, cries out to God in his pain. Symbolically shaking his fist to the heavens, he in essence thunders, “God you know nothing of suffering; you have never experienced the lost of sons as I have. You have never experience shame and rejection, being abandoned by friends. You sit in your heaven surrounded by your holy hosts, but you have no notion of what it is like on this earth. Is there anyone in this vast universe who can identify with my pain? Is there anyone who knows what it’s like to be a man?”

And so, in the fullness of time, God responds to the cries of Job and all of His people. At the right time, He wraps himself in human skin and pitches His tent in the midst of humanity and lives among those He created, identifying with every emotion and every hurt that a human being can know. Never again would a man or woman be able to say, “God, you don’t understand what it’s like to be me.”

-Day 1

Luke Explains His Method of Research

READ: Luke. 1:1-4

During the early 60’s A.D., some thirty years after the crucifixion, a passionate follower of Jesus Christ and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, took pen in hand and wrote a biography about the Savior. Though others already had written accounts by that time (1:2), Luke apparently wanted to make certain that an orderly and historically accurate account was rendered. He was a medical doctor, easily identifiable because he always wore a golf hat. (Just kidding) As a physician, he places great emphasis on the healing ministry of Jesus. Luke was also a meticulous historian who took great pains to record events as they happened. He was the only gospel writer who was not a Jew. He writes to fellow Gentiles, specifically Greeks, who were consumed with the concept of the ideal man. Rather than attack this humanistic flow of thinking, Luke gives great attention to the person of Jesus, as if to say, “you want to hear about a real man… well listen up!” He wants his Gentile readers to see that Jesus’ great message of truth and liberation is now wide open to Gentiles and Jews alike. Luke was not part of the original twelve, but he had interviewed many eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus. Like the no-nonsense Sergeant Friday in the Dragnet Series of the 60’s, Luke wants, “Just the facts, ma’am… just the facts!” He sees the need to record the events of Jesus life in chronological order. (The other accounts record events in keeping with a particular theme that they wanted to underline to specific groups of people.) Luke’s theme is simply, Jesus, the Son of Man.

Luke comes right out of the shoot in verses 1-2 by assuring his readers that he wants to set the record straight through the eyes of those who had actually been there and seen it all happen. He writes specifically to a man named Theophilus, also a Gentile, who was probably a Roman official and a new believer. Based on his meticulous research, Luke wants to reassure Theophilus, and us, that the exact truth is available to all honest seekers who have ears to hear.

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: Matthew was a converted customs agent (Mt.. 9:9) and one of the original twelve apostles. He writes a detailed account of Jesus life. Lies were being spread by Jesus’ enemies and many sought personal gain from this new “movement.” Matthew shows that the events of Jesus’ life were powerfully foretold by the Prophets hundreds of years prior to His coming. Writing to Greek speaking Jews, Matthew shows them that Jesus is the fulfillment of their dreams and their history. Sixty-two times he quotes the Old Testament arguing that Jesus is the completion to their greatest longings. Matthew’s theme is Jesus, The King of the Jews.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK: Mark was also called John Mark in Acts 12:12. Peter refers to him as his “son in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:13). Mark would later accompany Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey. He deserted the team and retuned home (Acts 13:13), but became helpful to Paul in later years. Though he was not among the original apostles, Mark gained much personal insight and information from Peter, with whom he shared a special closeness. Mark writes to Romans with an unflinching sense of immediacy. He wants his readers to get off the beach and dive head first into the waters of life. Mark is an action guy with a great sense of aliveness and enthusiasm. He uses the word “immediately” (Mk.. 1:12) at least forty times in his account, stressing the urgency Jesus felt, knowing that this would appeal to Roman thinking. Probably written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD, Mark’s Theme is Jesus the Messiah, The Servant of Jehovah.

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: John is thought to have written his gospel while in exile on the Isle of Patmos sometime around 90 A.D. He writes much concerning the deity of Jesus. Unlike the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John writes more concerning the things Jesus said (His discourses) rather than what he did (His miracles). As the eldest of the four writers, John probably read the other accounts many times and his maturity and the wisdom of his years may have made him more intent on communicating the heart of Jesus to his readers than His works. Ninety percent of the content in John’s gospel is not found in the parallel accounts. John’s gospel is the only book in the Bible written primarily for the non-believer. John’s theme is Jesus, The Son of God.

John Pictures Jesus as the “Word”

READ: John 1:1-18

John wants his readers to know that Jesus (Yeshua) is unlike anyone who ever set foot on the planet. The Word existed from the beginning of time. In fact, the Word was another way of referring to God. The Word is, therefore, a Person. The Word is not simply information about Jesus, the Word is Jesus. Every created thing finds it’s origin in the Person, Jesus. Within this living, breathing personal Word is the sum total of everything concerning life. This Word even has the ability to scatter darkness and illuminate everything and everyone He touches.

In order to prepare the world for His coming, God sent a Jew named John (Yohnanan) to ready the hearts of people for this new Light that was to follow. This Living Word became flesh and lived among those to whom He came to give life. He came to His own people, the Jews. Most of them rejected Him, but many Gentiles accepted His free gift of life and became Sons of God.

Notice that “Word” is capitalized, indicating a proper name. The Greek rendering is “logos,” a person possessing intellect, emotion, and will. To a Jew, it was a way of referring to God. Therefore, John is saying that God came to earth as the Living Word. Everything the ancient rabbis taught about the Word was fulfilled in this Person, Jesus Christ.

Write a brief definition of the “Gospel” as it is typically used today. (“We left our former church because the minister didn’t preach the gospel.”)

If the Word is a Person, and not simply doctrinal information, can we not properly conclude that the “gospel” is also a Person? Most believers speak of the “gospel” as if it is certain theological principles and doctrinal facts that must be included if we are to be true to the scriptures. Consider the definition you just wrote. Have you left anything out? Have you added something that need not be there? Are you positive? Is it compatible with biblical truth? What about sincere, godly men and women who would render a somewhat different definition than yours? You can see the problem. If the gospel were basically doctrinal information about Jesus (His birth, His life, His teachings, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His return, etc.), all of this and more would have to be specifically stated every time someone spoke or taught. If anything is left out, the gospel will not have been preached according to someone’s or some denomination’s definition. What would your former Pastor have had to actually say each Sunday for you to feel he had “preached the gospel?” We will never all agree on every point, but we can agree that the gospel is this unique, God/man, Jesus Christ, fully and completely, and believe if He is lifted up as the centerpiece, the whole world will feel welcome to gather around Him, explore His free gift of life, and become His companion.

Genealogies Listed by Matthew (1:1-17) and Luke (3:12-38)

READ: Matthew1:1-17 and Luke 3:12-38 (What would possess Luke and Matthew to list all of these unpronounceable names?)

READ: Luke 1:5-25

Matthew lists Joseph’s family line to make a strategic point that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Joseph did not beget Jesus, but was simply the husband of the woman who was his mother. Luke shows in his gospel that Jesus is a descendent of the House of David and could therefore be King.)

The Jews have always stressed the importance of understanding their uniqueness, of knowing where and from whom they have come. Roots have critical importance, for Israel’s faith was deeply imbedded in their history and culture. Knowledge of their Hebrew beginnings is central to Biblical thought. To a Jewish person in the time of Jesus, reading the Holy Scriptures was like reading a family album. The destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was so traumatic, because in addition to the loss of 1.1 million lives, all of the genealogical records stored there were destroyed by fire, and that precious information was lost forever.

Important to know here, is that Matthew and Luke are showing, in different ways, that Jesus was the stepson of Joseph, not a biological son. They both seem to be saying to their readers: Whatever else you may be thinking, let’s agree on this as a beginning thesis: Jesus is fully qualified to be the Messiah. He fits every standard proclaimed by God through the voice of the Prophets. He is the legitimate candidate.

Monday, June 29, 2009


We've heard it said a thousand times that God is in the small things, a phrase meant to encourage believers to pray and believe Him about every aspect of life, because nothing is too small to escape His notice. It's comforting to remember that if His eye is on the sparrow and the hairs of my head are numbered, then surely I can take even the smallest of cares to the throne.

**True confession alert**

Over the past several months--dare I say years?--my faith has only allowed me to take the small things to the throne. Disappointment over unanswered prayers has kept me cornered, only able to have "faith" for things that I could probably do for myself, and won't leave me feeling vulnerable and angry over an answer that might be not in line with my hopes.

Conviction is bringing me back around, with this particular scripture leading the way:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly
beyond all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works within us,
to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jeasus
to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Eph. 3:20-21

Wow. Soak it in. There's so much packed into these two verses we could spend days dissecting each line. I won't pretend that I can take this out of context and ask for something completely whacky and God will do my bidding. That would be dumb. But I will go out on a limb and say that God is big enough to answer, and He's SUPER BOLD and AWESOME to assure us that He's able to do ABUNDANTLY MORE THAN WE ASK OR THINK. Let's face it, I can think big.

Part two: it's according to the power that works in us. What kind of power is working in you? Do you have high voltage faith, or a dim, flickering light bulb dangling by a wire? C'mon--be honest with yourself! I want power plant faith, because my God is able.

Today I prayed specifically for three things that have utterly disappointed me in the past. You see, I'm still here, so God can answer. Maybe He'll answer with a No, but it'll be because He has something bigger and better in store--in other words, it'll be because I hadn't prayed big enough. God's answers are based on love, not cruelty. His answers are right. I don't want to get to Heaven and find out He had more in store, but my flickering light bulb faith wasn't sure enough to ask for His best.

Do you have a Big Thing you need to believe God for? I'm not asking that you share it here (although you're more than welcome), but you can join in and say that you do. I'll pray for you, and you can pray for me. If you have a favorite prayer/faith scripture, I'd love to hear it.

God is big enough.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Amazing, amazing book. I confess I'm not familiar with Purtian life, so this was especially new and fascinating, and I do so adore 1st person historicals. The pure love was touching, the injustice was infuriating, and the ending was completely unexpected--but exactly right. I didn't want this book to end. HIGHLY recommend.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Love's Pursuit

Bethany House (June 1, 2009)


Siri Mitchell


Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi.

But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a sermon and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters.

Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder.

A Constant Heart was her sixth novel. Two of her novels, Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door were Christy Award finalists. She has been called one of the clearest, most original voices in the CBA.


In the small Puritan community of Stoneybrooke, Massachusetts, Susannah Phillips stands out both for her character and beauty. She wants only a simple life but soon finds herself pursued by the town's wealthiest bachelor and by a roguish military captain sent to protect them. One is not what he seems and one is more than he seems.

In trying to discover true love's path, Susannah is helped by the most unlikely of allies, a wounded woman who lives invisible and ignored in their town. As the depth, passion, and sacrifice of love is revealed to Susannah, she begins to question the rules and regulations of her childhood faith. In a community where grace is unknown, what price will she pay for embracing love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love's Pursuit, go HERE

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


...but there are certain aspects of my writing I want to be known for.

Branding is one of those buzzwords that can easily get annoying, especially since everyone seems to have a different idea of what branding means. One of the best definitions I've heard is what readers think of when they hear your name--in other words, what you're known for. Yes, it's a simplistic overview, but it's tangible to me.

Someday, whenever my books eventually get read (trying to think positive here, folks!) there are certain elements I want to spring to mind. I want my books/myself to be known for:

*Giving the reader a smile, and an occasional bit of gut-wrenching laughter

*Characters in I-Can't-Believe-That-Happened-to-Her, nail-biting situations (what can I say? I like a good train wreck =P)

*Offering God's hope when it seems like a happy ending is all but lost

What do you want readers to think of when they hear your name?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


...I have nothing to say, hence the reason I didn't blog yesterday. Sometimes I go through seasons where I have all this stuff that just has to get out there. Other times I'm boring, uninteresting. Dull.

Anyhoo, it got me to thinking about why I blog and how much time I spend on it versus the return. So why do I hang out here in cyberspace? Here's my list--and we all know how I adore a good list.

*At first I did it because all writers were doing it. Bandwagon Betty.

*I met some cool people, including Y-O-U! This is probably the number one reason I continue today.

*It's kind of a quick, easy way to chronicle everything fiction/writing, and even a little bit of personal stuff.

*It's a good way to flesh out my thoughts and explore new ideas. Oh, and sometimes I make fun of stuff and have a good laugh.

Now it's your turn. Why do you blog and hang out on blogs?

Friday, June 19, 2009


I drew the winner for Never the Bride. Are you ready???

{{insert drumroll}}

Can you feel the excitement???

Scroll down




Is it you?

The winner is PAMELA J!!! Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy the book. Thanks to all who entered.

Now, here's where I need everyone's advice. Father's Day fast approacheth, and I have not for my hubbeth. You see, he's so devastatingly wonderful at buying Mother's Day presents and showering me with love, I'm sort of at a loss for what to do for him. The other complication is that it's also my daughter's birthday, and as a family we chose to focus on her. BUT, I can't leave dear hubby out to dry!!!

Naturally we'll start the day with breakfast in bed--perhaps eggs with cream cheese and ham, and a warm pecan roll dripping with carmel sauce. The kidlets will make his cards and pour on the love and kisses.

But I'm stumped for presents this year. My man has shoes--oh boy, does he have shoes--and he has clothes and magazine subscriptions and newspaper subscriptions, and....well, now what? Need suggestions. What are you getting/doing for you husband, father, grandfather, or other special man to commemorate Father's Day?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Or not.

It's been almost two weeks of our new summer schedule, and already I'm drowning. Oh wait--wrong metaphor. My flaming batons are all over the field and my hair is on fire. Something has to give, and my husband hopes it's not my showers.

Recently added to the schedule:

*2 more days of gymnastics (youngest daughter made the Tumblebug team!) That makes 4 afternoons a week that my butt is strapped to the chair in the observation deck overlooking the gym floor.

*4 exercise classes per week. This is on the must-keep list, and helps combat the hours spent strapped to the aforementioned chair.

Getting deleted from schedule:

*weekly at-home manicures. I found it's much quicker to clip my nails (30 seconds) than to shape and paint them (1 hour and 15 mins.)

*Crochet. WAH! Hubby's ginormous blanket is indefinitely delayed. Good thing it's summer.

*Trash. Gathering the trash and taking it out was inadvertantly deleted until the fumes reminded me. Yikes!

Well, I'm still making adjustments and hope to make it through the summer in one piece. Oh, and I'd like to start another book (as though that's not already on the top of my list.)

How is your summer schedule panning out?

...I'm always hungry, and I haven't lost a pound.

However, I've tried many new exercises which keeps the whole workout situation fun. A "Just Weights" class, cardio, a killer ab class, and today I tried yoga. Sadly, I didn't get to put my foot behind my head on the first go-around, but I did get to break in a new pink sticky mat.

Anyhoo, back to hungry....

I AM A BURRITO! Evidently, life as a burrito is fun, fun, fun! Come back and tell us what you are.

You Are a Burrito

You life large, and you're happiest when you're the center of attention.

You are popular and appealing. You are charming and naturally flirtatious.

You are a trendsetter. You're always trying something new, and you never get stuck in a rut.

You are open minded and adventurous. You love to mix seemingly random elements together.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

FaithWords (April 16, 2009)


Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt


ANNE DAYTON graduated from Princeton University and is earning her master's degree in English literature at New York University. She works for a New York publishing company and lives in Brooklyn.

MAY VANDERBILT graduated from Baylor University and went on to earn a master's degree in fiction from Johns Hopkins University. She lives in San Francisco, where she writes about food, fashion, and nightlife in the Bay Area.

Together, the two women are the authors of Miracle Girls


Ana, Christine, Riley, and Zoe have grown closer than ever over the past few months, but summer is over and it's time to put their friendship to the test.
It's been a little over a year since Christine Lee's mom passed away in a tragic car accident. Now her dad is engaged to Candace--"The Bimbo"--and Christine couldn't be less thrilled. When her attitude starts to take a toll on her schoolwork, the administration forces her to attend counseling sessions. At least she gets to skip gym class!
But with her father's wedding inching closer, Christine is growing even more bitter. To make matters worse, the Miracle Girls are beginning to drift apart. Christine's anger and the pressures of high school threaten to break the girls up when they need each other the most. Will they find a way to join together to help Christine come to terms with her mother's death . . . and her father's remarriage?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, go HERE

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


If you ever have an inkling to laugh (or cry) you MUST read this book. At first I was leary--having God as an actual character...well, I wasn't at all sure that'd work with my theology. But some of the emotions are so raw and real for single, Christian women (I used to be one!) that I can't help but think that God really is right in the middle of this one. I went from side-splitting laughter to actually drippy, sobby tears and am soooo thankful I read Never the Bride. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!!

And here's the best part: I HAVE A COPY TO GIVE AWAY!!!! Leave your name and email addy in the comments and I'll draw on Friday.

PS. Do you suppose we might be able to stage a sit-in and convince CBA publishers to get more romantic comedy/chick lit onto the shelves??? I'm just sayin......

Here's the blurb:

Jessie Stone has spent thirty-five years fantasizing about marriage proposals, wedding dresses, and falling in love. She’s been a bridesmaid eleven times, waved dozens of couples off to sunny honeymoons, and shopped in more department stores for half-price fondue pots than she cares to remember.

But shopping in the love-of-her-life department hasn't been quite as productive. The man she thought she would marry cheated on her. The crush she has on her best friend Blake is at very best…well, crushing. And speed dating has only churned out memorable horror stories.

So when God shows up one day, in the flesh, and becomes a walking, talking part of her life, Jessie is skeptical. What will it take to convince her that God has a better love story than one of the thousands she’s cooked up in her journals? Will she trust Him with her pen when it appears her dreams of being the bride are forever lost?

A romantic comedy with a spiritual twist, Never the Bride is what it means to lose control—and getting more than any woman could ever imagine.

Author Bios:

Cheryl McKay is the co-author (with Frank Peretti) of the Wild and Wacky, Totally True Bible Stories series, which has sold nearly 200,000 copies, and the screenwriter of the award-winning film The Ultimate Gift.

Rene Gutteridge has published thirteen novels including Ghost Writer, My Life as a Doormat, the Boo Series, the Occupational Hazards Series, and the Storm Series. Together, McKay and Gutteridge are the authors of The Ultimate Gift, a novelization based on the feature film and popular book by the same title.

CLICK HERE to get your copy, or enter your email addy for the drawing! Even better, double your chance to win and sign up on BETSY'S BLOG!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009


Because this is post number 6*6 I'm going to combat with a churchy post. LOL!!!! (That's not really the reason, the reason is because I saw this for the first time and it made me think.)

The Church has been playing church for years. How relevant are we in the world? Do our methods work? I'm inclined to believe we can do a MUCH better job, which is why I sorta miss our old church which was hooked onto a coffee shop and reached out to people you'd never find behind traditional doors.

And here's my number one question for you:


Thursday, June 11, 2009

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Deliverer

Realms (May 5, 2009)


Linda Rios Brook


Linda Rios Brook, President of the RiosBrook Foundation, believes the answers to issues of social justice and righteousness lie in the proper alignment between the church, the marketplace and media and entertainment. She is a sought out speaker and teacher on matters relevant to cultural restoration. Linda worked as a media executive for over 20 years in the field of broadcasting serving as President and General Manager of television stations in Texas, Florida, and Minnesota and was President and part owner of KLGT-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.

Linda has served on several national boards and community organizations and is listed in Who's Who of American Women. She is an ordained minister and has a Doctorate of Practical Ministry from the Wagner Leadership Institute.

Linda is also the author of Lucifer's Flood.

Linda is also a teaching Pastor at Covenant Centre International in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Linda is married to Larry Brook, who is the Executive Director of the RiosBrook Foundation.


Ancient language expert Samantha Yale returns to translate a new batch of scrolls written by the fallen angel from Lucifer's Flood.

Samantha Yale has taken on a daunting translation project. A set of scrolls, delivered by a man she knows nothing about, tells a fascinating and frightening tale of what went on behind the scenes of biblical history. What is even more incredible is who is telling the tale--a fallen angel who immediately regretted his decision to side with Lucifer.

With The Deliverer, Linda Rios Brook brings new depth of imagery into the spirit world. It is a story about rebellion and consequences. It is about demonic strategy to disrupt and destroy the people of God. But ultimately, it is a story about the unrelenting love, grace, mercy, and determination of a sovereign God in pursuit of His children.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


My newest baby, Fit for Love, now has wings. After much back and forth with my patient agent to whip the details of my WIP and proposal into shape, FFL has now been submitted. (Prayers are appreciated, hint-hint!!!)

Here's the gist:

Big-boned and lovable bookseller Darcy Quinn is determined to get into shape after a shocking report from the doctor. She enrolls in a fitness boot camp to zap some energy into her sedentary life working at The Bookworm. Little does she know when she meets the devastatingly handsome instructor that it’s her love life about to undergo heavy-duty conditioning.

This book is particularly personal to me because the heroine's struggle is my own. Losing weight and getting fit is H-A-R-D. (Anyone care to take the opposing view? C'mon, I dare you.) When Darcy had a craving, I had a craving. When Darcy struggled with the desire to exercise, I did too. The scene where she can't get the gym-issued towel all the way around her...well...you get the idea.

So tell me, in what way do you most identify with your the hero or heroine in your current WIP? How much of yourself is sneaking into your main character?

Monday, June 08, 2009


For the past five months I've successfully avoided working out. Several factors came into play, like the fact that it was too cold to bundle the kids up and go to the athletic club in the mornings. Then there's the whole thing about working out making me H-U-N-G-R-Y.

Funny side note: I didn't gain an ounce by neglecting the treadmill. I think it's because I flat-out don't eat as much, however, a former coworker of mine informed me today that it's because I'm rapidly losing muscle mass. You be the judge.

Anyhoo, after much asking, begging, and wheedling, my kids convinced me to reinstate our membership. Starting tomorrow (or maybe the next day, because I don't want to get crazy here) we'll be working out. Pumping iron. Battling the treadmill and conquering the cardio room. A friend of mine is even trying to con me into yoga, but I'm a little creeped out by the ooouuummm stuff.

As writers, it's way too easy to ease into "writer's spread"--I'll let you figure that one out--so my burning question to you today is, what are you doing to stay fit? Favorite workouts?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


FaithWords (May 28, 2009)


Travis Thrasher


It was during third grade after a teacher encouraged him in his writing and as he read through The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis that Travis decided he wanted to be a writer. The dream never left him, and allowed him to fulfill that dream of writing fulltime in 2007.

Travis Thrasher is the author of numerous works of fiction, including his most personal and perhaps his deepest work, Sky Blue, that was published in summer of 2007. This year he has to novels published, Out of the Devil’s Mouth, and a supernatural thriller, Isolation.

Travis is married to Sharon and they are the proud parents of Kylie, born in November, 2006, and Hailey, a Shih-Tzu that looks like an Ewok. They live in suburban Chicago.

Stop by and visit Travis at his Blog where you can sign up to follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

Also check out the radio interview with Travis on Monday June 8th at BlogTalkRadio/FaithWords


For years Dennis Shore has thrilled readers with his spooky bestselling novels. Now a widower, Dennis is finally alone in his house, his daughter attending college out of state. When he's stricken by a paralyzing case of writer's block and a looming deadline, Dennis becomes desperate. Against better judgment, he claims someone else's writing as his own, accepting undeserved accolades for the stolen work. He thinks he's gotten away with it . . . until he's greeted by a young man named Cillian Reed--the true author of the stolen manuscript.

What begins as a minor case of harassment quickly spirals out of control. As Cillian's threats escalate, Dennis finds himself on the brink of losing his career, his sanity, and even his life. The horror he's spent years writing about has arrived on his doorstep, and Dennis has nowhere to run.

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

Friday, June 05, 2009

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Realms (March 3, 2009)


Mike Dellosso


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted.

He was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years and has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets. Mike also has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters.

Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer's Network, and International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity.


Otherworldly Screams...
A Madman on the Loose...
This Time the Stakes Are Higher Than Ever

While talking to his friend on the phone, Mark Stone is startled by a cacophony of otherworldly screams. Seconds later, a tragic accident claims his friend's life. When this happens several more times--screams followed by an untimely death--he is compelled to act.

Battling his failure as a husband and struggling with his own damaged faith, Mark embarks on a mission to find the meaning behind the screams and hopefully stop death from calling on its next victim. When his estranged wife is kidnapped and he again hears the screams as she calls from her cell phone, his search becomes much more personal and much more urgent.

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

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


....do you want your romance heros and heroines to be? I'm referring particularly to physical imperfections, since we all know they have to have inner struggles to overcome. Obviously we want to read about characters we can identify with, but to what extent?

In my first book, Table for One, the hero is a nerd with thick glasses and little sense of style. Of course he undergoes a transformation during the book, more so in the eyes of the heroine than on the outside, although he does that too. But I don't think this is the norm.

Let me probe into your head for a minute. Would it turn you off to read a book with a short hero? (Not that I have one in the works, but I'm tossing out an example here!) What about a heroine who didn't have long tresses and a firm shape?I'm sure it's a bit more acceptable in women's or general fic, but I'm wondering about romance in particular.

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:

A Heavenly College Education on an Earthly Budget

Dog Ear Publishing, LLC (December 4, 2008)


Status: Married, dad to 4 homeschooled kids

Occupation: College Financial Aid Consultant (Diploma Therapist), author

Member: ACCA American College Counseling Association

Passion: Brain and biblical principles based learning - Advocate for intellectual freedom.

Hobbies: Table tennis; humor; collect and learn words like nikhedonia (which means pleasure derived from anticipating success), and absquatulate (which means to get up and depart quickly) etc.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $23.95
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC (December 4, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159858667X
ISBN-13: 978-1598586671


Introduction: Why a College Degree May Be a Financial Disaster

The numbers are disturbing.

According to Kenneth Gray, Professor of Workforce Education and Development for Penn State University, 50% or more of college graduates with a social sciences degree end up in a job for which they are overqualified, and therefore underemployed.

Regarding the definition of underemployment, many in-laws offer a simple one: It is any job that their son-in-law has. For the record, underemployment as referenced here, is being in a job that doesn’t utilize all the skills and knowledge a person was trained for, and therefore doesn’t pay as well as a job that is designed for the person’s level of education. In professor Gray’s study, those with technical degrees, such as engineering and computer science, faired better at 20% or less being underemployed.1

A couple of years after professor Gray’s study, Steve Giegerich wrote an article for the Associated Press stating that even tech degrees are no longer a sure-fire ticket. Many of the jobs are going to China and India.2

And according to economist and former representative of the Board on the California Postsecondary Education Commission, Velma Montoya, growing global jobs competition has reduced the payoff to U.S. college attendance. She says that exports of skilled U.S. jobs to foreign countries have rapidly narrowed the income differences for college- and high school-educated workers.

She also says that high-paying, post-college jobs now are either for academic and athletic college superstars or those willing to go on for graduate or professional training.3

According to another study done by the Nebraska Department of Labor about workers in Nebraska, 67% of workers said they were underemployed.4

There are many other such studies and expert opinions like the ones above.

Underemployment is a huge problem. It’s not just about which kind of majors are in demand—oh no, if only it were that simple, but it’s not. I suspect that it’s even more complicated than what is reported, and what is more menacing and ominous about it is that it isn’t going to get better any time soon, in fact it will only get worse.

Here’s why:

According to Professor Kenneth Gray of Penn State, only 23% of all jobs require a four-year college degree. Years ago, when a much smaller percentage of the population got college degrees, merely having one was almost a guarantee of a good job. However, fast-forward to today and what do you have?

I did a bit more research, and according to my estimate, for at least every 35 college graduates there are only 23 jobs available that require a four-year degree. The bottom line? Thirty-four percent of all college graduates are not going to get a job that is equal to their training. That means that many college graduates will end up in a lower paying job. It is an economic fact.

People often talk about how since everybody is getting a degree these days, it isn’t worth as much as it used to be. However, as we see here, it is much more than that. It’s not just that he who has a degree is not as special anymore; it is the hard math reality that there are too many degrees chasing too few degreed jobs. Ouch! Now mind you, that is based on good economic times, but if the times are bad, well… double ouch!

On top of that, not all college degree jobs pay well. Some earn substantially more than the median, which obviously means others earn much less.

Have I mentioned debt yet? Debt at graduation is very commonly in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, and for a smaller but growing number of graduates, it even gets into the $40,000 to $130,000 range. Many experts say that student loan debt is becoming overwhelming for too many graduates.

Imagine graduating with a lot of debt and then getting a low paying job. A growing number of students wish it were only their imagination. Unfortunately, it has become a reality for them.

According to an article by Tosin Sulaiman of Knight-Ridder Newspapers, many college graduates are turned down for jobs because the potential employer runs a credit check on them and after viewing their credit history, believes them to be financially unstable.5 Such an unfortunate graduate as that is probably thinking, “If you’d just give me the job, I wouldn’t be unstable.” Life is like that sometimes.

Speaking of instability, you should also know that bankruptcy doesn’t discharge student loan obligations.

Another problem is that because debt is overwhelming for many students, more of them are defaulting. This is causing there to be less funding available. With less funding available, more students are dropping out of college because of lack of funds.

Getting heavily into debt for a degree that doesn’t teach you how to think and gain good vocational skills is not worth it. You could often do just as well or better without a college degree. Therefore, you have to ask yourself, “Do I really want a degree, and if so, what am I going to do differently so it will be worth it?”

What do you think then; do you still want to try for a college education? Are you sure that it will be worth it? I don’t blame you if you still want one, but as you can see by the above information, it isn’t as good of an idea as you might think unless you do it right and increase your odds for success. If you do the things the average high school and college student does, the odds are not going to be in your favor, especially since there are probably some hard economic times ahead.

When they pick a college, students mean well, they really do. But often they don’t know what they are picking. The average high school student often picks a college based on what friends say, or on the colleges’ prestige, or simply because the college is supposed to be good at a certain major.

The student waits until it is time to apply and then wonders how it is all going to work out. The average college student goes to the average college, has fun, maybe gets drunk a bit too often, cheats here and there, gets in debt, plows his way through college, and then hopes for a good job, which he may or may not get.

How are you going to set yourself apart from other graduates? What is it going to take for you to be among those who are considered very desirable for hire, and who don’t have a mountain of debt over their heads? How can you increase your odds of being one of the degreed 35 who gets one of the 23 degreed jobs?

After graduation, you will have to promote yourself to the business or labor market. What are you going to say? What will you show them besides a diploma? Think about it. One potential employer was quoted as saying that hiring isn’t just about having a college degree; it also has a lot to do with character. That is worth your consideration. Besides character, many jobs require specific vocational skills and you would do well to know what those skills are for your chosen major.

Time out. Stop reading now and write down what you would like to market yourself as in the future…

Done? Now your job is to learn how to get an education that will make it all true. Your ideas may change over time, but you will be further ahead by having something to work towards. Actually, after reading this book I hope you will revise your plans and have a much better idea. So, make sure to go over your plans again later.

While you are at it, don’t simply trust that a given college will provide the appropriate training in the required skills for your major. Talk to some employers, find out what they are looking for, and then make sure that you get training in those skills.

Doing these things is more than just working towards getting to college, and it is much more than just working towards a specific degree. You need to look at yourself as an entire person and look at what you want to do in this world. That is a much better approach.

You, and anyone else who does this, will have a bright future ahead of them. On the other hand, the average student will graduate with perhaps a very disappointing future. I say that because I am also considering debt, not just whether the student gets a good job or not. Some get a great job, but face paying student loans for 30 or 40 years and it isn’t very pleasant. For graduates in that situation, it might mean that financially, college didn’t really get them ahead.

A college education is probably going to be the second biggest purchase of your life, and a huge investment of your time; so you can’t afford to wing it on this one. You have to go into it knowing that you are going to be one of “too many degree holders” for the number of degreed jobs. To set yourself apart, you will have to really learn something of value, get some good skills, learn how to think, and be a person of good character. You need to know it is those things and not the degree itself that matters most.

If you get a narrow-minded degree, for which you were narrowly trained, and you graduate with your debt in tow and there is no job available for you, that will be a disaster. If you don’t get an adequate job, that will be a disaster. Conversely, if you learn how to think, analyze, make good decisions, obtain some good life skills along with your training, and can get through college with little debt, then college will not be a waste of time and money. You will be able to either find a great job or be capable of creating your own.

If you want to do this and increase your chances of success, I believe it will take a Heavenly Education. In the chapter after the next one, we will talk about the difference between a Heavenly Education and a regular education. By the way, in this book I use regular education and training and stuff education interchangeably.

The truth is, the right kind of education won’t create a problem of too many degrees chasing too few jobs, because the right kind of education will give a person versatile skills and the mental capacity to learn how to create opportunity even where none seemed to exist. Mind you, the right kind of education is not necessarily the same for everyone—it should be within the framework of a person’s particular talents.

It is worth noting that many jobs don’t require a degree yet pay very well and are very rewarding. There’s nothing wrong with graduating with a degree and getting one of those jobs. You’ll know that you got the right kind of education and that the skills and knowledge you acquired, combined with an ability to analyze and think well, will still help you excel.

In the end, if you get the wrong kind of education at the wrong price, it may turn into a big disappointment. If you even get the wrong education at a cheap price, it will still be a big disappointment. On the other hand, the right education at the right price will benefit you no matter what.

That is why the first part of the book is dedicated to defining what a great education is. That is the starting point, and it is what you must know before anything else. Until you know there is enough worth in the education you are pursuing, there is no point in looking at price.

Welcome to the new millennium, where any old degree at any price is no longer worth it. We are fast becoming a global economy with fierce competition for the better paying jobs. You aren’t only in competition with American students.

Once you can see how to ensure that you will get an education worth something, then later in the book we’ll look at lowering the cost. The case I will make is that if you get an education that is worth something, and you learn to rely on the Lord, there will be nothing to fear—you will be fine.

One of the problems with people and jobs is that they don’t understand economics very well. Their only concern is for getting their slice of the economic pie, as understood by themselves and the rest of the masses. They are only concerned with the distribution and redistribution of what currently exists, and how to train and get one of the jobs that those in charge are willing to “hand out.”

One of the things that they don’t understand is that we unintentionally limit the portion of the pie we receive. We even limit what we perceive to be the whole size of the pie. While there is only so much of any one thing that people need, there are plenty of other things that haven’t been discovered. There are new products and services that haven’t been offered yet. There are niches that are underserved, just waiting to be discovered and filled. We can always make the pie bigger.

There are usually at least two options. If we lose jobs to other countries, we can retool and get more competitive, or we can make new and different jobs. It just takes the right mentality and the right education.

You need an education that will help you understand this and help you develop some skills that support this idea. If you get any old degree, you would be right to be very concerned about the future. If you receive the proper education and preparation, there will be nothing to fear.

We’ve gone over some of the serious financial problems that can occur in pursuing a degree, and that is part of what makes many modern degrees not worth much. To avoid all of those problems, you really need a Heavenly Education. A Heavenly Education doesn’t just prepare you to face the future; it prepares you to shape the future.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't put her children on the net because...well...there are weirdos out there! LOL!! But today I had to share, not only because I learned how to put a video on YouTube, but because I'm so proud of my oldest daughter. Here she is during her Spring Recital at the university where she takes private lessons from one of the faculty. 

Monday, June 01, 2009


It started with a challenge. A fellow student of Dr. Carl Werner challenged him to prove evolution--and thus began his quest. Like Dr. Werner when he first began, and I bought into the theory without question. I worked in the Anthropology department, took the classes, believed everything they taught. Because of my own background, Dr. Werner's story fascinates me. Eventually he found that there are gaping, unexplainable holes in the theory of evolution.

Both books in the series take an in-depth look at the fossil records, and present in the evidence in an easy-to-read format. Beautiful pictures punctuate the pages, and it's easy to lose track of time digging into the information. I look forward to sharing these with my kids.

Even if you believe in the theory of evolution--which sadly, is usually taught as fact--these books are enough to give you pause. It's important to teach both sides of the debate, and let the serious student formulate their own opinions based on the evidence.

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:

Evolution: The Grand Experiment: Vol. 2 - Living Fossils

New Leaf Publishing Group/New Leaf Press (March 10, 2009)


Dr. Carl Werner received his undergraduate degree in biology with distinction at the University of Missouri, graduating summa cum laude. He received his doctorate in medicine at the age of 23. He was the recipient of the Norman D. Jones Science Award and is both the author of Evolution: The Grand Experiment book and executive producer of Evolution: The Grand Experiment video series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 274 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/New Leaf Press (March 10, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892216913
ISBN-13: 978-0892216918


Chapter 1 – The Bet That Would Change My Life

My lifelong interest in evolution began with an innocuous bet over dinner.

It is said to have a proper story, three essential components are required: a beginning, a middle and an end. While I will adequately provide you with a beginning (my story begins with a bet in medical school), and a middle (which leads to an incredible 30-year journey), I hesitate to say that my story has an “ending” for two reasons. First, I have more information I would eventually like to share with you, (Volumes III and IV of this series); and second, my version of an ending doesn’t really matter. As the author, I would prefer you write the ending. When you finish, you need to ask yourself: Has my perception of the past been changed?

Before I get into the specifics of how I became fascinated with the theory of evolution, you need to understand my background.

I was born in 1959 in a large Midwestern city and raised Catholic. I attended Catholic grade school and high school. Through my early years, I believed in the creation story, and the Bible stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, etc. I had no reason to doubt them and, of course, no one gave me any other options.

It was in my later high school years, between the ages of 15 and 17, that I found myself drifting away from my religious ideas and beliefs. This was my state of affairs when I was accepted to an accelerated college and medical school at the relatively young age of 17.

My first class in med school was physiology. Here, the professor taught us the evolutionary principle of “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny” created by Dr. Ernst Haeckel in the late 1800’s.

I had never heard of this concept and neither could I pronounce it. Fortunately, the professor had the class repeat the phrase “On-todge-en-knee Re-ca-pit-you-lates Fi-lodge-in-knee” over and over until we could say it smoothly and efficiently like a machine gun spitting out bullets at a thousand rounds per minute. He proceeded to explain what it meant: Prior to birth, animals retrace the history of evolution in their embryonic stages. For example, humans had their origin in a single-cell bacterium, which evolved into an invertebrate like a jellyfish, then a fish, then an amphibian, a reptile, a mammal, a monkey with a tail, and finally a tailless ape. He then showed us Dr. Haeckel’s drawings of human embryos in various phases of development, such as a single-cell fertilized egg (similar to a single-cell bacterium), an embryo with “gill slits” (similar to a fish with gills) and an embryo with a tail (similar to a monkey).

These drawings were extremely compelling to me, especially the “fact” that humans had gills and a tail. After this lecture, I found myself rapidly accepting evolution.

Years later, I learned that the drawings used to demonstrate Ontogeny were extremely inaccurate. When critics brought charges of extensive retouching and outrageous fudging in his famous embryo illustrations, Haeckel replied he was only trying to make them more accurate than the faulty specimens on which they were based.

Here are some of Haeckel’s errors: (1) Dr. Haeckel made the images of different animal embryos look similar even though the embryos do not appear this way in life; (2) Haeckel referred to neck pouches in the human embryo as “gill-arches,” yet there are no fish gills in the human embryo; and (3) Dr. Haeckel referred to the end of the vertebral column of the human embryo as “a tail” even though these vertebrae coincide with the sacrum and coccyx to which the pelvic organs are attached.

Sadly, I cast my vote for evolution in 1977 based on this faulty evidence. No one in my medical school told me that Haeckel’s drawings were shown to be inaccurate 80 years earlier. Even sadder is the fact that Haeckel’s drawings are still part of some medical school textbooks today.

“The accusation that Haeckel had fraudulently portrayed embryos in the latter part of the 19th century was an accusation that was raised at the time. Many of the medical textbooks today still duplicate the erroneous drawings that Haeckel had portrayed in the 19th century.” – Dr. Daniel Gasman, Professor of History, City University of New York (CUNY). Dr. Gasman is considered an expert on Haeckel.

Four Questions
One year later, in the middle of my sophomore year of college, I went out for pizza with a classmate. In my mind, it was just a social time to chew the fat. While eating dinner, we talked about our classes and friends. Then, for some unknown reason, my classmate began to ask some serious and pointed questions — questions that would forever change my life.

Q: What did I think about evolution?

A: I believe.

Q: What did I think about the problems with the fossil record which cast doubt on the theory of evolution?

A: I didn’t know there were “problems” with the fossil record.

Q: What did I think about the problems with the laws of physics in the big bang model?

A: I don’t know. I had never heard of “problems” with the laws of physics in the big bang theory.

My friend’s last question sunk me. It pertained to an area I was very familiar with, biochemistry.

Q: How could life begin if proteins do not form naturally?

I thought to myself: “He’s got me.” I had studied the chemical equations of proteins and aced them in class, but I had never applied them to the origin of life.

Let me explain.

The theory of evolution suggests that the very first form of life, a single-cell organism, formed spontaneously (or naturally) out of chemicals. But proteins, one of the necessary components for a single-cell organism, do not form naturally. How could life begin if proteins do not form naturally out of chemicals?

A seed of doubt entered my mind that day, and I felt a wave of emotion as I wondered, “Have I been duped into believing evolution?”

“The [physics] formulas we use [in the big bang theory] start giving answers that are nonsensical. We find total disaster. Everything breaks down, and we’re stuck.” — Dr. David Gross, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004. He is the Chair of Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“But there’s always been a couple of problems with the big bang theory. First, when you squeeze the entire universe into an infinitesimally small, but stupendously dense package, at a certain point, our laws of physics simply break down. They just don’t make sense anymore.” — Dr. Brian Greene Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University.

“No one has ever seen or witnessed a protein molecule form naturally.” — Dr. Duane Gish opposes evolution. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.

The Bet

Before I could gather an adequate response to the protein problem, my friend fired his last salvo. “Carl, I bet you can’t prove evolution.” I retorted, “That’s crazy. It has been proven!” But he had made his mark. His verbal shot lodged in my brain like a bullet. I thought to myself, “How could evolution be true if one cannot reconcile these important issues?”

His points concerning the formation of proteins and the laws of physics seemed believable, but I wasn’t quite sure I trusted my classmate’s lofty accusations that there were “problems” with the fossil record. How did he know? This was my med school buddy talking, not a paleontologist. He told me that nearly all the animal groups have missing links in their evolutionary history, despite finding millions and millions of fossils. How could this be? I had always assumed the so-called missing links (the fossils portraying one animal type changing into another, such as a dinosaur changing into a bird) are missing because the fossil record was poor. He pointed out the other logical possibility — that the proposed missing links never existed and that was why they had not been found. His reasoning seemed plausible. Still, I was not convinced. I am, by nature, skeptical. But because of the simplicity and eloquence of his arguments, I gave them some credence.

Now I was unnerved. How could there be such fundamental problems with the big bang theory, the origin of life, and the fossil record if evolution was true?

With this casual bet began the adventure of a lifetime, to prove evolution right or wrong. I decided I would review the evidence for the theory of evolution from top to bottom and then devise ways to test it. I felt up to the task because I had been afforded valuable experiences in science and experimentation. From all of these experiences, I learned how to apply the scientific method used to prove or disprove an idea.

By the time I accepted the bet in my sophomore year of college, I had been educated in chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, anatomy, physiology, embryology, and biology. My intention was to study evolution in my free time and hopefully wrap this up in a few years. Little did I know it would take decades, studying and traveling, to arrive at a definitive answer.

Now most people would find it difficult to believe that someone would go on a lifelong quest stemming from an innocuous bet over dinner. Yet, this is all rather telling about me. I am an independent thinker and a seeker of truth. Over the last 30 years, I have to confess, there were times I wished that conversation had never happened. I would have led a “normal” life as an ER physician, with more time to enjoy my favorite sports of fishing and sailing. But the reality is you cannot go back and change the past.

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