The Flowering by Agnes Sligh Turnbull

The FloweringI can never thank my local library enough for their regular cleaning out of old books, and selling them to folks like me. The other day, the little old lady at the desk…(she’s really not old, but she is little,) said to me, “You are one of our best customers!!!!” as I was picking up my weekly stack of  books for which I paid no more than $2.00 for. I think I have an addiction to books. I have them in the trunk of my car, in my garage, in my den, at work, in other’s offices. I just can’t pass up a good deal.

One of the best deals I ever made was reading Agnes Sligh Turnbull. Her writing style is one of the most relaxing I have ever enjoyed. Her books are full of normalcy, “NORMALCY?” Yes, just plain people living out their lives, and her book, “The Flowering” is no exception.

“The Flowering,” introduced me to Hester Carr, a widow, who had lived a very uneventful life with her departed spouse. Oh, he had been a good provider no doubt, but their lives together lacked excitement. She, along with her live in housekeeper, Hattie, just plodded through their days, in this suburb known as Westbrook, where, “men in white shirts took the wheezy train each morning to reach their work in the city.” Hester had friends and varied interests, she owned a cocker spaniel, and enjoyed music, but all in all, it was pretty mundane…until John Justin, a professor on college sabbatical,  moves into their quiet suburb. Then, “The Flowering” begins to bloom, with multiple plots, and the advent of another neighboring community, Sackville, coming into view. Sackville, was the troubled and impoverished old mining town, whose only existence was to serve Westbrook. The women worked as maids, and the men grudgingly as tradesmen.

There was no hope for the young people of Sackville, until John and Hester hatch a plan, a plan that would set the upper crust of Westbrook into a frenzy.

One of my favorite sections, is where John Justin is trying to secure an auditorium for the a performance by the young people of Sackville, whom he has been working with. The Westbrook schools have  just turned him down, so now he is heading for Parish Hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal church  to see if their loving arms may be open:

“There remained but one more, which he had left to the last, because it was unrelated to the general scholastic area. This was the Parish Hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  In size and acoustics, it would be perfect.  It even already had a stage! But the fact that Sackville had little dealings with religion in general, and with its one small dilapidated church in particular, made it seem to Justin almost too presumptuous to ask such a big favor of St. Paul’s.  He attended service there with Hester occasionally, and had many chats with the rector, Dr. Howard, whom he liked.  After all, if there was a moral obligation connected with his plan, St. Paul’s should be the one to accept it. He pondered this as he decided to put his courage to the test at once, rather than have the torture of uncertain waiting.”

Now, I will share the rector’s response to his request:

“Mr. Justin,” he said, ” I know all this. As you’ve probably heard, the plan leaked out ten days ago. People have been quietly, or not so quietly talking about it ever since. I’m in the worst spot of all. With all my heart I want to lend you our Parish Hall, but every member of my church and the vestry are bitterly against it. You see, they’re still worried and scared about that affair of the Quinn girl, and that Sackville boy.  If the Sackville children come here, don’t you see, our young people will certainly come out of curiosity. They will all mingle after the program-“

They will mingle after the program…oh how much is that like our churches today, keeping only to “their kind,” and not willing to make it easy for others of lesser circumstance to enter, or be made to feel welcome?

I heard it once said, that the world needs more Christian writers, but I have also felt that the world needed more writers that are Christians.  Although, I didn’t find any references anywhere to her faith, I firmly believe that she was indeed, a writer who did honor the Lord.  I would have liked to known Ms. Turnbull.

She is also known for one quote that I found online, and oddly enough it comes from this very book. Ms. Turnbull was a dog lover, and on page 69, as Hester is feeding her cocker spaniel “Flushie” part of her sandwich, (she is on a picnic with John Justin,) she remarks, “Dogs’ lives are too short. there only fault really.”

God bless you Mrs. Agnes Sligh Turnbull, and thank you for many hours of reading pleasure!

Agnes Sligh Turbull Quote




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The Wedding Bargain by Agnes Sligh Turnbull

The Wedding BargainAnother quick stop at my local library, has yielded treasure again. However, I don’t know exactly what has happened to me, with regard to my personal preference in books, but I have found an incredible peace in this author’s works. Agnes Sligh Turnbull truly must have been a very gently and sweet woman. Her books have a quality of a day gone by, but what’s more, in this crazy turmoil of a world that we live in, when I sit down to read one of her books, I find that I become relaxed, and it is almost like going back into time. Into a less busy, and easier and quieter time of life. It is actually almost like getting into a “Time Tunnel.” If you remember that old TV show from the 60’s then you are definitely my kind of reader!!!! Oh, how I often wish that I could go back in time, to another place. A more peaceful existence. Well, “The Wedding Bargain,” is a novel that will get you pretty close to that kind of feeling. (Wow, it has been years since I thought about that old program. I think Lee Meriwether was one of the actresses in it as well.)


Gettng back to “The Wedding Bargain,” it is a story set in the New York of the in the 1930’s, and it is a definitely a romance novel.  A very capable young secretary from Vermont, Liz Hanford goes to work, for all business, and no pleasure business millionaire tycoon, Dan Morgan. After working for him for eight years, Mr. Morgan decides that he could use a wife, and decides that his competent and efficient secretary Liz would be the perfect candidate. After all having a wife will create many business advantages, and with his strictly a no emotional strings attached proposal. Liz will have access to money, and a beautiful home, while allowing Dan to pursue his business ventures with no interference by her.  It is a perfect arrangement in his eyes!

What Dan doesn’t know is that Liz  has been for many years  nurturing
a great for him, and although this is not what she had in mind, she agrees, believing it may be the only chance she will have for life with Dan. What unfolds after they are wed, is an amazing and very pleasant, no foul language, no bedroom scenes, just the story of two people who are truly made for one another.

An exciting element is added when Dan is accused of the murder of a socialite for  that has had her eyes on him for many years. Liz pulls a Tammy Wynette, and “Stands by Her Man,” showing what kind of wife of convenience this Vermont secretary really is.

” The Wedding Bargain,” was published in 1966 by Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston, and is 290 pages in length.

In this passage, Dan is presenting his “proposal” to Liz:

“You see,” he was going on, “the situation is this. I do not want to marry for the reason I’ve given, and I am not in love with anyone. Don’t believe I could be. All the romance was knocked out of me long ago. I may have told you, I started working in the mines when I was twelve. To get to be an operator and make a fortune was all I thought of. Hard work and a lot of luck helped. Now it seems as though all I have to offer a woman is the money, and one that was merely mercenary, you see I wouldn’t want. So, well, what I’m leading up to, Miss Hanford is this. Would you consider marrying me?” 

“Eliza sat as still as death while she felt her face grow scarlet and then drain of color.”

This is the writing style of Ms. Agnes Turbull. A very pleasant author. She puts me in mind of another sweet  lady I have known that recently passed away, Wilene Dowdy, 88 years old, a resident of the Golden Apple Assisted Care Home, here in Moultrie Ga.  She was a very special lady, who loved the Lord with all her heart. She was also a very talented singer, and would join in our weekly Wednesday sings at the Apple.

Wilene Dowdy

Mrs Dowdy was a hobby painter as well, in fact here is one of her paintings, “The Lighthouse.”  (which was also one of our favorite songs there.)The Lighthouse by Mrs DowdyI also enjoyed spending time with Mrs Dowdy, and the rest of the residents. It is like stepping back in time there as well. Perhaps this is why I enjoy Agnes Sligh Turnbull books so much as well. Another place and another time I suppose…

Please read Agnes Sligh Turnbull.  I promise you will not be disappointed!

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The Bishop’s Mantle by Agnes Sligh Turnbull

The Bishop's Mantle“Grandy was dead. The man who had been father to him since childhood, who had been both mentor and comrade through all the years, was gone. And now in the first great crisis of his life he was to be left without the wisdom, the tolerance, the saving humor as well as the unshakable love upon which he had always depended. A blackness settled upon him; a sense of intolerable loneliness and insufficiency.” (The Bishop’s Mantle, pg 4)

These were the precise and personal thoughts of Hillary Laurens, a  young and fresh Episcopal priest, who had returned to his hometown, in 1939, to take up his calling as vicar of St. Matthews church, as he knelt at the bedside of his beloved grandfather, and Bishop. Now this weighty mantle had passed to him. There was much to do for a war was imminent.

I could go on, and rewrite the words of all those worthy reviewers who have gone on before me, and am sure that I would not be able to add any more to their fine ponderings.  This is my first encounter with Ms. Agnes Sligh Turnbull, and she had captured my heart both as an author and, in some sense, a teacher.  Within this initial reading of her work, I have found someone who seems to understand the common struggle of those who wish to live a life that is pleasing to our Lord.

Just as Hillary strives to be a worthy replacement to his predecessor, at St. Matthews, he also faces the task of being a husband, and a guiding hands on leader in his hometown. His lovely socialite wife Lexie, is also faced with coming into her own, and throughout the story the reality of World War II looms upon them . It is a novel about taking up our crosses daily. It is a story of being the men and women that we were called to be.

Wikipedia offers a tremendous synopsis, and it is not in laziness that I offer it, but rather in admiration, as I cannot offer better:

The Bishops Mantle – Wikipedia

What I can offer, however is the rare jewel that this story by Ms. Turnbull has given to me, even after all this years since it’s publication, in 1948  by The Macmillian Company. (10 years before my own birth).

I am a Christian. I am a follower of Christ. I would like to say that I do this well, but I am a poor example of this most honored membership. I struggle each day, with the multiple callings of being a husband and father in this contemporary world, keeping my family financially afloat, and my desire and duty to serve Christ.  I have failed on most fronts in my own perspective.

What this book has done for me is allowed me to be secure in the knowledge that mine is no uncommon plight. Christian men from every age and walk of life share my plight.  Ms. Agnes Sligh Turnbull, has found a common thread for those who would desire to live godly in an ungodly world.

I have found an author that I will enjoy getting to know in the months to come. I have found that perfect recliner, that welcome lounge chair at the end of a busy and weary day, in the gift of this wonderful writer.

Agnes Sligh Turnbull 1947

Ms. Turnbull will truly make you look at yourself as you read this masterpiece. Please make sure that “The Bishop’s Mantle,” is on your reading list.  You are sure to come away with a better appreciation of your own loved ones and those who labor for you in the Heavenly realms.

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The Moneyman by Thomas B. Costain

The Moneyman I must be one of the most blessed people in all the world, when it comes to acquiring great reads very inexpensively. It’s either this, or I have in my community one of the most gracious public libraries ever, as they are so willing to offer such treasures as this, “The Moneyman” by Thomas B. Costain, for the one quarter the cost of a cup of coffee.  Speaking of coffee, I’ve found that there are very few ways to enjoy a good cup ‘o joe, than sipping it with a great book, like “The Moneyman,”  a fantastic historical novel, penned by an unparalleled historical fiction writer, Thomas B. Costain.

I first became acquainted with this author, in the home of my beloved grandparents, David and Stella Burns, on 21st Street in Huntington, WV, when I was a young boy. The book was “The Silver Chalice,” which I’ve reviewed in the past, (see my posting on 12/14/13.) What an incredible book! I am saddened by the fact that I realize that most of the young people today, will never know these authors, from this great literary time.  I know we have many good authors now, I guess it’s just that I came from another generation…or at least am connected to it by my memories. Here is a photo of the author:

220px-Thomas_B._CostainThomas Costain surely doesn’t disappoint with this novel, “The Moneyman.” It is a fictionally prepared account of a very real and famous historical figure, Jacques Couer, the “moneyman” of King Charles VII, the King of France in the 15th century. The real term for this position is argentierthe steward of the royal expenditure and official court banker. He also oversaw the tax collection. He was the son of a furrier in Borges, France, and the most successful business man of his time. He can be compared to such contemporaries as Donald Trump, or more likely the Bill Gates of his day. He was, in fact,  the richest man in the world at that time.  Here is a 19th Century engraving that depicts Jacques Couer:

Jacques Coeur 19th dentury engraving

That being said, the author of this great novel, has interwoven this very historical tale of Couer, with well spun fictional threads, leaving the key facts and elements intact, while offering a very engaging story.  It was really a pleasure to read, and I looked forward to every available moment that I had to spend in this book.  It appears that my copy is a first edition, copyright 1947, 434 pages, and published by Doubleday & Company.

The author has also provided a very explanatory introduction in the front of the book, explaining his intentions, and again assuring the accuracy of what the reader is about to feast on.

Here is a favored passage, where Jacques Couer has fallen out of favor with the king, and is being set up by his enemies, over a false accusation that he was responsible for the death of the king’s mistress, the unparallelled and beautiful Agnes Sorel. His home and office have been ransacked, by those seeking opportunity to do him harm:

“Now that the blow had fallen, Jacques Coeur felt a deep sadness but no anger. His mind went back to the past. He thought of his first shop at Bourges , of his first visits to the East, and of the series of inspirations which had lead to his dominance. That he had become the riches man in the world, and had paid for a war out of his own purse were no longer important. What he was thinking of, as he stood there outside his locked door, a discarded minister of the Crown, was his vision of a different and better world which he had hoped to see in his own lifetime.

‘If they tear down what I have done,’ he said, aloud, ‘men will soon forget what I’ve taught them.'”

Writing like this is so rare today. Thomas Costain’s command of the language is an honor to read.

What I saw in this portrayal of Jacques Couer, was a man of great humility, who truly loved his fellow man.  As I looked into other historical accounts of him, I saw the same thing. In fact, when he died, his marking stone, contained no accounts of the high offices he had held in his life, nor his great deeds.  Jacques Couer was almost single handed responsible for the restoration of France in the 15th century, and as aptly spoken in “Under the Golden Lillies,” a book about great men and women of France, by John Allyne Gade, he writes, “Jacques Couer was filled with a new spirit of a new age.”

The reminds me so much of the great things that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit can also accomplish. So many inferences to the respect that  Jacques Couer had for the church, have led me to think that he may have leaned toward Christ. I hope so, for he truly knew the meaning of sacrifice, and brotherly love.

It is a very inspiring work. Please read it in your lifetime. Again, I am so grateful to my Lord for giving me a grandfather who introduced me to such great authors.

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Reunion by Karen Kingsbury with Gary Smalley

ReunionThis is  the 5th book in this five book series, ( I only found 3 for sale at my local library,) but again, I have to emphatically say that for $.10 each,  it has been so worth it! My last post in this series was the 4th book, “Rejoice,” and this final installment, “Reunion”picks right up up where “Rejoice,” leaves  off, it bringing  the life of the Baxter family full circle.  This entire series is  known as, “The Redemption Series,” and it tells the wonderful story of the Baxters,  John and Elizabeth (the parents,) their  four daughters, Brooke, Ashley, Kari, Erin, and their only son Luke.

Books like this are so hard to talk about, because I feel such an obligation to the author not to “spoil” the story for someone who hasn’t read it.  But, since it has been around for awhile, published in 2004  by Tyndale House Publishers, I  suppose it’s alright. The main thread is that a cancer diagnosis has been given to Elizabeth the mother, and believe me,  this is a real to life picture of the grace of God in this moment, and a genuine “how-to” guide on how a family of believers meet it.

There is hardly anyone who hasn’t felt the chill of cancer in their lives at some point.  My wife Mary Ann’s parents both lost courageous battles to this dread enemy in their 40’s.  I also lost both my beloved grandparents to it as well.

Here are Kathy & Dale Wright (my wife’s incredible parents) :Kathy & Dale b&wAnd Dave & Stella Burns (my grandparents) :PawPaw & Grammy b&w 1986

I sure miss them! I really do!

As I read these 367 pages, of “Reunion,” I realized that the Lord was using this wonderful author, Karen Kingsbury to teach us all, by example, how a true lover of Christ meets such a challenge.  I’m a 55 year old man, and I wept at the courage, as well as the moments of weakness that John Baxter faced as he walked with his wife and children through this Valley of the Shadow of Death.  I think I understand much more what my own family members had faced as well.  I so remember that last night with my father-in-law, as we all knew it could be anytime, and he sat in that recliner speaking with us, and sharing his thoughts regarding his love for his family,  Eternity, and the Lord. The next morning, we awoke to find that he had indeed left in the night, to his glorious “reunion.”

I cannot imagine, and pray as we all do, that I don’t find myself in a situation as illustrated in this selection from the book. Elizabeth and John have just received the news from their physician, that Elizabeth’s cancer of a more than ten year remission, has returned, and it is of an angry aggressive nature:

“The doctor was waiting for her response, but she couldn’t talk, couldn’t move or even blink her eyes. If she said anything at all,the the doctor’s diagnosis would be real. She would be sitting across from him in his office, John at her side, receiving the worst news of her life. And so she said nothing, only leaned hard into John’s arm.

That’s when she saw his eyes. For the first time in those awful minutes, Elizabeth caught a look at her husband’s face and saw how grim the situation truly was. John’s eyes were filled with fear.  On occasion, she had seen John cry, seen him weep when Luke returned to the family or tear up when he walked Kari down the aisle. But this was the first time she’d ever seen raw, terrifying fear in her husband’s eyes.” (pg 12)

I don’t know how folks who don’t know the wonderful grace of our Lord, meet these obstacles. I mean I know that they do, and we all know people who do not have a relationship with God. Even you who are reading this may not know Him. If you don’t, please dear friend, I urge you to find a quiet place right now, alone, and simply talk with Him.  Ask Him about Himself, and about your place with Him. Ask Him about His son, Jesus. Then talk to Him as well.

It might feel funny at first, but it’s a first step. He loves you. He loves me. Even through our failures, He love us. Even in our pain, He will comfort us.  Please, don’t put off the opportunity to get to know the Creator of the Universe, and the One who died for you and me, so we could have our own “Reunion,” with Him some day.

It may be sooner than we think. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Read “The Redemption Series,” by Karen Kingsbury with Gary Smalley. I promise that you will not be disappointed.



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The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit 1955In 1955 there was an English instructor at the University of Buffalo. He had a wonderful wife, Elise Pickhardt Wilson who was as instrumental in this, what I consider, his most famous novel, “The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit,” (in fact, it is she that suggested this as the title.) This professor was Sloan Wilson, a Harvard graduate, and the author of this fantastic novel, that this Marshall University graduate was able to snag at his local library for a paltry twenty-five coppers. It will never cease to amaze me what joy a quarter can still purchase, if you know where to spend it!

“The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit,” published by Simon & Schuster in 1955, is easily one of the greatest books I have ever read! I can see why this 304 page novel, was even made into a motion picture starring Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones. Incidentally,  DeForest Kelly, ( the actor who played Doctor McCoy, “Bones,” in the original “Star Trek” series had a bit part as an army medic.


For the film info check here:
I haven’t seen the film, but I can say that the book has been exceptional! It’s the story of a life, the life of Tom and Betsy Rath, a couple, raising their children, and are struggling to find their place in a post World War II suburbia New York.  It is a true picture of life in the 40’s and 50’s, as seen through the eyes of real people, with real concerns about their future.  Tom and Betsy are struggling to somehow find that place of contentment, in their lives and family.  Tom, a former WWII paratrooper, with his share of war secrets, lives in discontent, wanting a better life for his family financially, and Betsy is the faithful and dutiful wife, that is raising their three children.  It is a book about being honest with oneself and others in life. It was a true inspirational read for me, as I found so many times through out this literary journey, so kin to what the Raths were going through.

I want better for my family. I want to have the guts to be honest. I want to try to see this world not through these dark glasses of pessimism, but with a hope that all will be right with our world.

It is a book about faith. Faith in one’s ability to climb out of the hole of despair, to find the diamond chips in the dust of darkness that often accompanies many of the twists and turns in this life.

At one point, (on page 301,)  a reference to Robert Browning’s poem “Pippa’s Song,” is offered:

“God’s in His Heaven- All is right with the world!”

I learned something from this book, “The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit.” I learned that any situation can be turned around, and that patience is a necessary ingredient for success.  Also, in this novel, there are many very interesting contrasts between the characters, but in each one you will find someone that is currently in your life as well.

This is an incredibly well written novel. In fact in one of the other reviews I looked at, (yes I like to see what the other folks are saying,) the reviewer on Amazon, said that they had purchased it because they had heard that it was one of the best books ever written in English, and they were not disappointed with it. I do have to agree, and I sure have not been disappointed either!

I have a favorite Psalm. It is Psalm 138:8

The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands. Psalm 138:8

I thought much about this Psalm as I read this book. It has helped me to realize that no situation is so dire that some good cannot come of it, and trusting in Christ will lead to a right resolution of any circumstance.

I also did a little research on the author, and was saddened to find that he suffered from alcoholism through his life, and at the end, he had Alzheimer’s.

Sloan Wilson

Make sure you read, “The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit,”  someday  in your lifetime. You will be the better for it.


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Rejoice by Karen Kingsbury with Gary Smalley

RejoiceThis is actually the 4th book in a 5 book series, (of which I only found 3 for sale at my local library,) but for the price of only $.10 apiece they have been so worth it!  My previous post was the 3rd book, “Return” and it chronicled the story of Luke Baxter, the only son of the Baxter family. This book “Rejoice,” continues where the story left off in “Return,” but it  focuses primarily on Brooke Baxter West’s family. Brooke is Luke’s sister, as the Baxters,  John and Elizabeth (the parents,) have four daughters, Brooke, Ashley, Kari, Erin, and one son, Luke.

In this story, a tragedy has befallen Brooke and Peter West. Brooke and Peter are both physicians. At a children’s birthday swim party at the home of one of Brooke’s pediatric partners,  the youngest of Brooke and Peter’s two daughters, Hayley has fallen in the pool unnoticed.  Brooke had been unexpectedly called away to a work emergency, and Peter was watching the girls.  When Maddie comes in asking Peter to help find her sister, Peter see’s she is holding Hayley’s life jacket. So begins, “Rejoice.”

In our home town, from West Virginia, my wife and I were best friends with another family. In addition to attending church together, we saw each other regularly. They also had two daughters that were the same age as my girls, and their names were Hayley and Maddie.  Though thankfully, no tragedy like this ever occurred, seeing these two names in this story, brought back many wonderful memories, such as adventures to Carter Caves, Kentucky, camping trips and campfires, just visiting around the kitchen table with coffee.  The best part of life, I’ve learned, is found in these type of moments. Being with people you love.

With this in mind, that is what this book, “Rejoice” (copyright 2004, by Tyndale House Publishers, 369 pages, including concluding words from the authors,)  is really about. It is a book of moments in the life of the Baxter family, as they surround the kinds of situations that every family faces. Lessons in faith and prayer are given to all of us. How better to learn how to meet those unexpected turns in this highway of living, but through the example of others?   Interwoven through the circumstance of the West’s family, are all the other happenings in the Baxter world, each inviting you to become a friend of the family.

When you finish, “Rejoice,” you will be just that. A friend of the Baxter’s and a fan of Karen Kingsbury.  You will also be better equipped to meet your own opportunities to REJOICE, what may come.

At the end of “Rejoice,” Karen shares that the events of this story are parallel to a real life situation that her friend out in Arizona had faced with their 19 month old son Devin. Four months after she had written the first chapter of “Rejoice,” she received a phone call that on 4-12-2003,  little Devin James May  had fallen in and drowned in an irrigation canal in Cottonwood, AZ.  He was in the canal for 18 minutes, blue and lifeless, no breathing, no pulse, just like little Hayley in the story.

God intervened, and little Devin survived and prospered. By the time Karen had written her remarks, Devin had turned two, and was eating birthday cake.

I tried to see if I could find out how he was doing today, he would be around  11 years old now.  I hope that he has done well.  I did see this update from 2006,  where Devin had graduated preschool!

Devin James May 2007 from Devin's Miracle

He looks great!!! Knowing this, it has truly added to the experience of  reading “Rejoice.” It has come to life even more for me.

There is a prevailing verse throughout the books in the”Redemption” series:

“I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11, NIV

I personally prefer the KJV:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11, KJV

Here is why. In the original Hebrew bible it says this:

Jeremiah 29-11 Hebrew Online Interlinear Bible

This reminds me that we are always on God’s mind, in the thoughts and designs for well-being  that He has for us, and  whether or not we ponder it, we all will have a hereafter.  The “expectation,” is what the Lord has in His mind  for us, and I really believe that this also relies on our own willingness and purpose to seek and walk in His design for us as it unfolds in our lives.

As Karen Kingsbury’s wonderful books points out, this unfolding of God’s incredible design, may offer us surprises, and at times may seem unbelievable. There will be joy, and times of sorrow.

Oh how I pray for my family, my own wife, daughters and son, that God’s design for us will bring us into all that He has purposed. I do love Him so!

Read “The Redemption Series,” I know you will be incredibly blessed!







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Return by Karen Kingsbury with Gary Smalley

ReturnThere is an old saying, “You are what you eat.” I think another equally viable statement would be, “You are what you READ.” I know that at least it is for me. Again, on one of my bi-weekly sojourns to my favorite hunting grounds, my local library, I came upon a treasure, or rather treasures.  I found three paperback books, (which are only $.10 apiece,) “Return,” “Rejoice,” and “Reunion,” written by Christian author Karen Kingsbury with Gary Smalley.  These were the last three books of a five book series, called “The Redemption Series.” They were a series of books written about the Baxter family, and the trials and joys that are faced by this family, which are not unlike what we also face. The first two are entitled, “Redemption,” and “Remember.”

I wish that I could have gotten all five, but believe me that even the one would have been worth it.  It really helped me to focus again, and having spent my past few reads in the secular, I didn’t realize how much I had missed Christian fiction, and writers, and how important they are to my own personal journey in Christ.  As I read “Return,” I easily was caught up on the story of the series, ( a real characteristic of a good author,) I immediately felt welcome, and got to know the characters as friends, (imaginary I guess, how strange huh?,) and found a resting place.

No more fighting through bad language, that I tried to read on through, or descriptions of intimate encounters that left me feeling so guilty for reading through them, (or skipping them hoping that I wouldn’t get lost in the story.)  Then, I began to justify, saying that it was just a story, and found myself becoming desensitized.  This helps me to see how easy it is for us, especially as Christians, to be subtlety lead right off the path of righteousness, until we look up and realize that we can no longer see Christ before us, that we might follow Him. Whew!!!! Glad I was able to see this before I had wandered too far off.

I am so glad back home in my favorite reading genre. Thank you Karen and Gary! I will be more careful in the future, I promise. There are many good classics out there that I want to read, and many are wonderfully and very tastefully written. It just took a good Christian author to help me see again. Christ really does restore our sight!

Book no. three, “Return,” (copyright 2003, by Tyndale House Publishers, 363 pages, ) where I have begun my journey, is mostly about a young man in college named, Luke Baxter. Luke was the family golden boy, raised in a good Christian atmosphere, and a faithful dependable son. Incidentally, the Baxters,  (John and Elizabeth,)  also have four daughters, Brooke, Ashley, Kari, and Erin.

This is the story of the prodigal son. And it is a good one, interwoven with many surprises. The events of 9-11 have impacted the Baxter family, and caused much questioning and challenges to their faith. Luke has gone off to college, and gotten involved in “free-thinking” with his girl friend, but is about to learn some news that will change things for him drastically. In addition to Luke’s situation, there are several “sub-plots” developing with the other family members, so be ready to find yourself immersed in a true to life family, who share the same struggles that you and I do.  Life lessons abound in this book, but that’s all I want to say.  I don’t want to give too much away, even though the books have been around for awhile, because to me, the best part of reading a good book is the discovery, and surprises!

All I can say is that Karen Kingsbury is a wonderful writer, and has been a blessing to me. She truly has Christ’s hand upon her, and has advanced the Kingdom mightily.  Here is her website, please take time to visit, and learn more about this author.

Here is Luke’s first appearance in the first chapter, a son that has left his family, and is away from home in college. He is in class, but his thoughts are not in the same place:

His past had sprouted legs and was chasing him. That had to be it. Luke had no other way to describe the breathless anxiety marking so much of his time. Sometimes he could almost hear footsteps pounding the ground behind him, and on days like that he would even turn around. As though he might see a person or a being, whatever was after him. But no one was ever there.

In the  back of “Return,” is where Gary Smalley has provided a guide as to the practical applications of the things that you may have learned from this book.  Gary is an expert on marriage and relationships. I have read his books in the past, and he has been a blessing to me and my family as well.   You know, Karen Kingsbury is probably considered a writer mostly for women, but I believe that we fellows had better wise up, and get to know some of these women authors, that our better halves are reading. Remember, knowledge is power!!! (The power to be the best husband or boyfriend that you can be that is!)

If I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be “HEALING.” Read the “Redemption” series books by Karen Kingsbury.



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The Long Rain by Peter Gadol

long rainAgain, on one of my many expeditions to my local library, I came across this novel, “The Long Rain” by Peter Gadol.  I had never heard of this writer, but intrigued by the contemporary design of the dust cover, and the brief synopsis on the inset, I found myself willing to give up my two bits, (nobody says that anymore, do they?) or $.25 and pick it up.

It appeared to be one of those what I call “bonus books,” meaning in addition to being a pretty decent read, I would also probably learn something that I didn’t know much about. This time it would be wine making, because the setting of this 298 page first edition novel, published by Picador USA in September 1997, was a seventy-five year old family vineyard in the California wine region.

Also, as the shadow of my years grows, I find myself drawn to book with larger, easy to read font, spaced at 1 & 1/2 lines.  This is a big plus in my purchase decisions as well.

So I pulled out my smiley face plastic pocket change purse, and retrieved a quarter, paid the librarian, and left.  Interestingly, my little change carrier, was in fact a mini-puppet, that came with a ventriloquist training kit I purchased, many years ago, from the Maher Company, makers and sellers of puppetry supplies.


The ventriloquist dream was never realized, but I’ve carried the change purse for many years. My beloved grandfather, Dave Burns always had one, and I suppose this is where I picked it up.

“The Long Rain” is a novel about the search for redemption I suppose.  It’s the story of Jason Dark, an out of work, (and out of hope) lawyer who finds himself back on on what remains of his inheritance, an broken down vineyard. Jason has basically lost everything, his wife Julia, his son Tim.  He came to Oak Valley to sell off this remaining piece of property, but instead, found himself rebuilding his life. He began to revitalize the vineyard, his law practice, and his life as well.  He along with his reunited wife Julia and son, began to find themselves once again in this small, and once again blossoming California community.

Just as everything was coming back together, one late and rainy night on one of his regular soul searching drives through the mountains, he accidentally hits a local teenage boy.

Then the true story begins….the moral failure that overshadows every thinking man, and our quest for redemption. Though the circumstances  change, this is a tale that resonated with familiarity in my own  heart. Not literally of course, but in my own life.

I guess that’s why I kept reading.

Peter Gadol really is a wonderful writer.  After one of my searches, I did find that some of his other books are written about topics which I personally would not be interested in, but I am thankful that I did stumble across this one. It was a good mystery, and very well executed.

In this brief passage, Jason has just hit the teenage boy, and is kneeling over him in the road:

  “I have no idea how long I sat there by the side of the road in the cold rain, how long I sat there with his head in my lap before his eyes opened, round brown eyes, and he looked at me – no through me first, as if I weren’t there at all, and up at the tall trees instead, and then back at me finally, focusing on my face, searching my face, reading my face. It wasn’t like he was asking me for help, and he wasn’t absolving me, and he didn’t even look angry with me, just confused, just baffled, just lost –  Who are you? That was what he seemed to be asking me with his eyes. His brown eyes dilating, going black. Who are you?

    Then his lips parted as if he might speak. The his mouth opened wide as if he might scream, but no sound came out, not even a gasp. Then his body stopped shuddering and the fingers of his left hand uncurled and the pinecone rolled away. I was still shaking, but he had stilled, and in a matter of seconds, that was it, he was gone – he became as cold as the road beneath me.” (pg 50-51)

“The Long Rain”, is a story of a man trying to self level his life. Though some portrayals of Jason’s romantic interludes with his wife, did surprise me, and are not for children, and the language does waiver infrequently , for the most part,  it has been as tastefully written as any secular writer may attempt, and has been successfully and very armchair grippingly presented.  “Arm chair grippingly,” pretty neat description don’t you think?

It is a novel that reminds me that honestly in all things is by far the best way to live.  Guilt can destroy a person, and if you are a Christian, then you know first hand what it can do. But also, if you are a Christian then you also know where there is a resting place from guilt.  That place is on our knees.

Like Jason Dark in this story, how many mistakes I have made, and wished that I could go back and do the right thing from the start. How many failures…how many regrets. It is only because I know Christ that I can live today, knowing that my past doesn’t necessarily have to be my future.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 KJV

My hat is off to you Mr. Peter Gadol, for your wonderful ability to tell a story. My prayer is someday that you find yourself in the genre of Christian fiction, as with your God given talent and abilities, you will have an impact on the Kingdom.








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Last Lessons of Summer by Margaret Maron

Last lessons of summer I found this book, “Last Lessons Of Summer,” by Margaret Maron at my favorite bookseller; my public library. The reason it caught my attention was, believe it or not, the dust jacket. It just looked interesting, an unoccupied retro chair, with a single lamp casting subtle light and shadow, over the empty space, as if someone should be there but wasn’t. This cover was designed by Diane Luger, who currently is the VP Executive Art Director at Grand Publishing.

For some reason it grabbed my attention, perhaps it was reminiscent of my younger years, and the furniture in my grandparents home.

Upon further examination, I saw that the author had won the Edgar Allen Poe Award for mystery writers, and she was called, “one of the most seamless southern writers since Margaret Mitchell,” by Publishers Weekly. There were also accolades by the New York Times, the San Diego Union Tribune, and the Chicago Tribune.  “Ms. Maron must be some kinda writer,”  I surmised, and opening the book I saw a small photo of the author, apparently taken by her husband, Joe Maron, who was an artist. She looks to be a very pleasant and friendly person.


I thought it was funny how artists seem to find each other, and when they do, both seem to thrive. I guess it’s because they understand one another and support each other.

Here is one of Joe Maron’s pieces, called “Dancing in the Dunes”:


I had to dig around a little to find it. You can see it along with several others on this website

Getting back to the “Last Days of Summer,” after finally deciding to gamble my $.25 to purchase this book in wonderful condition, I was not disappointed.  It was a very enjoyable book to read, just the right combination of mystery and romance, done very tastefully.

It’s the story of the demise of a grandmother, who was the head of a children’s publishing company, Pink and Blue and Max enterprises. and a grandaughter, who wants answers. It appeared that the death of the Frances Barbour benefited quite a few relatives. In order to settle her grandmother’s affairs, Amy Steadman, heir to this publishing empire, leaves New York to return to North Carolina, back to the home where she lived for many summers, and also where her mother, Maxie,  (the “Max” of Pink and Blue and Max Enterprises, ) had commited suicide when she was three years old.

As she reacquaints with her family of the past, answers begin to unfold, and the non-confrontational Amy finds herself dealing with newly uncovered and unexpected issues in her family, her marriage, and ultimately within herself.  This was a book I really enjoyed returning to each day, on my white plastic lunch bench, on the grounds at the company where  I work as an accounts receivable manager.  Mrs. Maron really was able to transport me from my day’s cares and concerns  into a true southern mystery. I am grateful.

Edgar Allen Poe, would have been proud!

“The Last Days of Summer” is 295 pages, and was published by Warner Books, copyright 2003. The language does tend to get a little rough for my taste, as I have always felt that certain words, could be left out of the literary world, with little impact on the whole. Not everyone shares my opinion, but other than this aspect, I was truly mesmerized by Margaret Maron’s work.

I suppose what meant most to me, was the issue of redemption in this work.  Just as the heroine Amy unfolds the answers to many of her life’s questions in this book, so have I been able to look back in my own life, and see how I have come to the place that I am today. Oh, sure I’ve pondered how I would go back and change many things if possible, but not if the result would lead me to any other present.  This whole novel is the story of  a search for truth. Perhaps, this is why it appealed so much to me. I think we are all searching for truth, that we might be made free of those things that hold us down, and keep us from being all that we were created to be by our Lord. The reason we were created is simply to contain Him, and as He is Truth, anything short of it will not accomplish our purpose for being.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 (King James Version)

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.

21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

Isn’t that what we all want to be? A vessel unto honour, set apart for the Lord’s use? Then we must get rid of the untruth in our lives, in our beliefs, and the way we see the world.

Truth, when you find it will truly make you free.







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