Sunday, June 29, 2008

Along Came a Cowboy

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his/her book:

Along Came a Cowboy

Barbour Publishing, Inc. (May 1, 2008)


Award-winning author and past president of American Christian Romance Writers, CHRISTINE LYNXWILER has numerous novels and novellas published with Barbour, including Arkansas, Promise Me Always, and Forever Christmas. She and her husband, Kevin, along with their two daughters, four horses, and two dogs live in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains in their home state of Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc. (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1597898961
ISBN-13: 978-1597898966


Chapter One

Babies complicate life, but the human race can't survive without them. Maybe I should write that on the dry erase board out in the waiting room—Dr. Rachel Donovan's Profound Thought for the Day.

Ever notice how some months are all about weddings? When you turn on the TV or pick up a magazine, everything is white tulle and old lace. Then there are what I think of as baby months. Unlike June and December for weddings, baby months can pop up anytime.

And here in Shady Grove, Arkansas—just in time for summer, when the irises are pushing up from the ground, the new leaves are green on the trees, and the crepe myrtles are starting to bloom—we're smack dab in the middle of a baby month.

I finger the latest birth announcement on my desk. One of my patients just had her fifth child. You'd think, at this point, she'd be sending out SOS messages instead of announcements, but the pink card proudly proclaims the arrival of her newest bundle of joy.

The front door chime signals the arrival of our first patient, so I send up a silent prayer for the baby. Then my eyes fall on the family picture on my desk.

Lord, please be with Tammy, too, in her pregnancy.

My thirty-eight-year-old sister was so thrilled when she called a couple of months ago to tell me she was pregnant and so scared yesterday when the doctor put her on temporary bed rest.

While I'm on the baby thread, I mention my friend Lark who is desperate to adopt. I say amen, steadfastly ignoring my own out-of-whack biological clock.

My receptionist, Norma, sidles into my office like a spy in an old movie, softly shuts the door and turns to face me, her brown eyes wide. "Whoever warned mamas not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys," she whispers, "never saw the man in our waiting room."

"What?" I absently flip through the small pile of files on my desk. Not long ago I remodeled my entire clinic—repainted the walls with calming blues and browns, added new chiropractic tables and new waiting room chairs, and even got solid oak office furniture with nifty little cubbies. For about a week I could find things.

And did she just say the word babies? What did I tell you? It's one of those months. "Do you know where Mrs. Faulkner's file is? I thought it was here, but I can't find it."

Norma raises her eyebrows. "You saw her after hours Tuesday night, didn't you? I think it's on my desk waiting for charges."

Now I remember. "No charge," I say automatically.

She puts her hands on her hips. "C'mon, Doc, you can't fall for every sob story you hear."

I grin. "We make it, don't we? If I can't help out a sixty-two-year-old woman who lifts and bathes and cares for her grown son around the clock, then I'd just as soon not be in practice."

She shrugs. "You're the one who has to worry about paying your bills. I get my paycheck regardless." Her round face lights up and she motions to me. "Now come look."

Norma's always slightly out of sync with reality, but today is shaping up to be odd even for her.

"At the man in the waiting room," she clarifies, as if I'm a little slow. "You have to see him."

"I usually do see everyone who's in the waiting room, don't I? Eventually?"

She blows out her breath and folds her arms. "It'll only take a second."

"Who is it?"

She shakes her head, her short brunette curls springing with the movement. "I'm not telling. You'll have to see for yourself."

I sigh. I know I'm the boss, but once Norma has something in her head, it's easier just to go along with her. She turns to lead the way out to her desk where a large window overlooks the main waiting room. I promise she's tiptoeing.

"Hey, Nancy Drew," I say quietly.

She jumps and spins around. "What?" she hisses.

I grin. "Let's try not to be so obvious."

She presses her back against the wall and motions for me to go ahead of her. I saunter to her desk. Right on top is the file I was looking for. At least this wasn't a wasted trip. I retrieve it while I give the waiting room a cursory glance. The cowboy chooses that moment to look up, of course. A slow grin spreads across his face.

I fumble with the file and almost drop it.

Jack Westwood.

I don't believe it. Alma Westwood could give the-little-engine-that-could lessons in persistence. I return his grin with a quick professional smile and—holding the file high enough that he can see I had a valid reason for being there—walk back to my office.

Norma is right on my heels. She closes the door. "So? What did I tell you? That's Alma Westwood's son. The rodeo star."

"I know who he is." I toss the file on my desk and plop down in my chair to look at it.

"You know him?"

I shake my head. "We were friends when we were kids, but I don't know him really. I've just seen his picture in the paper like everyone else." And since he moved back a few months ago, I've seen him around town enough to know that women fall all over themselves when he walks by. Definitely not my type. Which is one reason I've avoided him.

"Oh yeah. His hat was shading his face in that picture." Her brows draw together. "Which is a cryin' shame."

I look up at her cherub face. "Hey, remember old What's His Name? The handsome guy you're happily married to?" I grin.

She shrugs. "Doesn't mean I'm blind. Besides, you aren't married."

Thanks for the reminder.

"So when Alma signed in, she said she brought her son to see her new X-rays."

"How nice." Not that I'm falling for her flimsy excuse. Alma is just one in a long line of Mama Matchmakers. My patients with unmarried sons seem to take my singlehood as a personal affront. Ever since Rodeo Jack moved back to run his family ranch next door to my parents, Alma has upped her efforts
to make me her daughter-in-law, or at least reintroduce me
to him.

Don't ask me why Jack needs his mama to fix him up with someone in the first place. Norma is not exaggerating. He was passably cute back when we were kids, and he's one of those men who gets better-looking with age. If he's lost any teeth or broken his nose riding in the rodeo, he's covered it well. Not only is he a real cowboy, but he could play one on TV. Last week at the diner, I was two tables away from him when he smiled at the waitress. For a moment I was jealous that the smile wasn't for me. But only for a moment.

Then common sense kicked in. Me and Jack Westwood? Not likely. Which is just as well, because on a less personal note. . .a chiropractor and a rodeo star? What a combination. I'd spend the rest of my life trying to fix the mess he makes of his body. Besides, I can't imagine myself with someone whose belt buckle is bigger than his IQ. And even though he seemed smart when we were in school, as far as I'm concerned, anyone who'll willingly climb on a bucking bull over and over is a few calves short of a herd.

Still, it's my job to educate patients and their families about their health. I turn back to Norma. "After you put them in a room, pull Alma's X-rays for me, okay?"

Norma starts to leave then smacks her forehead with the palm of her hand. "Oh, I almost forgot. Lark Murray is on line one."

I glance at the phone. Sure enough, line one is blinking. "Thanks."

Never mind that we let Lark sit and wait while we sneaked a peek at Alma's cowboy son. Norma marches to her own drummer, and I run along behind her trying to stay in step.

I reach toward the phone, and for a split second, I consider having Norma take a message. Lark is one of my three closest friends. I'm a few years younger than the rest and came late to the Pinky Promise Sisterhood group they formed in childhood. But ever since the night they found me crying in the bowling alley bathroom, the Pinkies have been family to me. We share our deepest secrets and craziest dreams and—now that we all live in Shady Grove, Arkansas, again—regular face-to-face gabfests.

And any other day of the year, I'm happy to hear from any of them. But this particular anniversary day is always filled with awkward conversations. They never know what to say, and neither do I.

I snatch the handset up before I give in to my cowardice. I'll just make it short and sweet. "Hey, girl."

"Rach, I'm so glad I caught you. I was afraid you'd already started with patients."

"No. Sorry you had to wait." Here it comes. The gentle "You okay today?" Or the "Just called to say hi and wish you a good day for no particular reason."

"I can't take this anymore." Her voice is trembling.

Okay, I wasn't expecting that. "What?"

"The waiting. Why do they make us go through an in-spection worthy of a Spanish Inquisition if they're not going to give us a baby?"

I release a breath I didn't know I was holding and sink back onto my chair. Lark is focused on one thing and one thing only these days, so thankfully this call isn't about me. "They're go-ing to give you a baby. They'd be crazy not to. These things just take time."

"You sound like the caseworker." She sighs. "I called her last night even though Craig didn't think I should."

"Lark, honey, I know it's hard to wait now that you've finally decided to adopt. But you're going to have to. God has—" My throat constricts, but I push the words out. "God has the perfect baby for you."

"It doesn't feel like it." She must be upset, because that's definitely a bit of a whine, something she never does.

"Has He ever let you down?"

"No. But maybe I was right before. Maybe it's just not His will for me to be a mom."

I thought we'd settled all that a few months ago when she showed up on my doorstep late one night with a suitcase because her husband wanted to adopt. Still, I can totally relate to old insecurities sneaking back in when you least expect them. "You're going to have to think about something else for a while, Lark. Are you helping Allie today?"

"I'm supposed to. I was thinking about seeing if she can make it without me though."

"How are y'all coming along?" Our Pinky friend Allie Richards recently won the Shady Grove Pre-Centennial Beautiful Town Landscaping Contest and consequently landed the town landscaping maintenance contract for the year. She has some real employees now, but during the contest her crew consisted of Allie's brother, Adam, Lark, me, and our other Pinky, Victoria Worthington. So we all have a vested emotional interest in TLC Landscaping.

Lark sighs. "We're swamped trying to get everything in perfect shape before the centennial celebration really gets going. I guess I really should work today. I know Allie needs me."

Good girl. "You know what your granny always said—a busy mind doesn't have time to worry."

"You're right. I'm going to have to trust God to handle this and go get ready for work. Thanks for talking me down off the ledge."


"See you tonight, Rach."

"I'll be there." When the connection is broken, I close my eyes.

Lord, please give me strength to face today.

I open my eyes and push to my feet. Time to cowgirl up.


As soon as I walk into the adjusting room, Alma stands. "Dr. Donovan, I'm sure you remember my son, Jack."

Jack holds his cowboy hat in his left hand and offers me the right. I promise I expect him to say, "Ma'am," and duck his head. "Dr. Donovan," he drawls, and from the boy who used to pull my braids, the title sounds a little mocking. "Nice to see you again." As we shake hands, he flashes that heartbeat-accelerating smile again.

"You, too." His hands are nice. Slightly calloused. Working hands, but not so tough that they're like leather.

I look up into his puzzled brown eyes and then back down at his hand, which I'm still holding. Behind him, his mother beams as if she has personally discovered the cure for every terminal illness known to humankind. I jerk my hand away. Should I tell him that I always notice hands, since my own hands are what I use most in my profession? Or would he think that was a pickup line? I'm sure he's heard some doozies.

Better to ignore it. I slap the X-rays up on the view box then focus my attention on Alma as I point out the key spots we're working on.

When I finish, Jack crosses the room in two steps and points to the X-ray. "This increased whiteness is arthritis, right?"

My eyebrows draw together. "You've had experience with X-rays?"

He shrugs and gives me a rueful grin. "Occupational hazard."

Of course. "In any case, you're right. It is arthritis, but no more than normal for someone your mother's age."

"Thankfully, Dr. Donovan keeps me going. Otherwise I'd be like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz," Alma pipes up from her chair in the corner.

"To hear Mom tell it, you're the Wizard of Oz," Jack mutters, still standing beside me. He turns to Alma. "Your X-rays are normal?"

Her eyes open wide. "Yes."

"Totally normal?"

She blinks at him. "Isn't that wonderful?"

"Yes, but—"

"I thought you'd be pleased to know your old mom was going to be getting around without a walker for a few more years." Alma's voice is soft and sweet.

He frowns. "You know I am. But since Dr. Donovan has apparently already explained these X-rays to you, you could have told me that on the ph—" He stops, apparently realizing that I'm like a reluctant spectator at a tennis game, watching their verbal volleying.

"But this way you can see for yourself," Alma says with a satisfied smile.

He opens his mouth then closes it and nods.

Game, set, match to Alma.

I turn back to her. "Any questions?"

She smiles. "Not a one. Thank you so much for taking the time to go over this with us."

"I'm always glad to help you understand your health better."

"I'm going to go freshen up before we head home," Alma says. And just like that, she's gone, leaving me with her son. No doubt the whole point.

"Jack," I say in what I hope is a coolly professional voice, "thank you for coming by."

He nods. "I'm sorry we wasted your time. I don't know why I'm surprised this was a setup. Our mothers have been singing your praises ever since I got back in town."

"Our mothers?" My mother and I barely speak, and I'm certain she's never sung my praises a day in my life. At least not since I was a teenager.

"They make you sound like Mother Teresa and the Alberts all rolled into one."

I raise a brow. "The Alberts?"

"Einstein and Schweitzer."

I can't keep from laughing. "Now that's an appealing combination. And don't forget the Wizard of Oz."

"They're probably not far off, actually. It's just that—" He runs his hands around the brim of the hat he's still holding. "Thanks for being a good sport." He grins. "And at least now when we see each other at the diner, we can say hello."

A hot blush spreads across my face. The curse of being a redhead. I blush easily and at the oddest times. It's not like he knows I was admiring him the other day while I was waiting for my food. At least, I sure hope not. "True." I open the door and step back for him to go through.

"I guess I'd better go. I'll just wait for Mom out here," he says dryly and saunters down the hall.

"Not a moment too soon," I mutter under my breath and retreat to my office for a few minutes. The last thing I need is a blast from the past. Especially in the form of a rugged, sweet-smiling cowboy.

More Books

Yes, I'm still reading books other than those sent to me to review. Let me tell you about a few:
One author whose books I am trying to read my way through is Lawana Blackwell. She wrote a trilogy called the Gresham Chronicles; one of which I have reviewed earlier. I recently read The Dowry of Miss Lydia Clark which is about a school teacher who lives in Gresham, the same village as the innkeeper in the last book. It is the story of her relationships with some of the boarders at the inn and some of the townspeople,and, as the reference to a dowry would imply, it is a romance. It is well-written and I enjoyed it.

Lawana Blackwell is from Baton Rouge Louisiana and either has some familiarity with southern Mississippi or did her research. A Table by the Window is about a young woman from California who inherits some property in southern Mississippi from a relative she never knew. This young woman's mother had been abusive/neglectful and she never knew any other family'; so to say that the inheritance surprised her was to say the least. She went to the small town with the idea of selling everything so she could get on with her life and ended up staying and opening a cafe. This is the story of her relationships with her relatives and the other people in the town. There is romance involved too. It is Christian fiction and this woman raised without faith finds it. My only gripe about the book is the ending. It is happy but too many things had to happen just right for it to end this way, and frankly, I thought it was contrived and unrealistic. Still, I enjoyed the book and it was fun seeing the names of places I knew, since I grew up in southern Mississippi.

A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist is about an English lady who failed to get off a ship fast enough as it headed for America in 1643. One reason is because the captain figured he could get a good price for her as an indentured servant/bride and delayed her. Anyway, she is taken to Virginia and sold to a man who loses her in a card game to a man who doesn't want a wife. She of course is furious at her situation and even more furious when the law insists that the man who won her wed her or give her up to one who will. They are married, but live as brother and sister for some time. Eventually....This was a well-written detailed historical novel of the Christian type.

Tracie Peterson's A Lady of High Regard is about a young woman who lived in Philadelphia in the 1850's. Against convention, she gets a job writing for Gody's Lady Book, a popular magazine. She goes from writing about fashions and table settings to investigative reporting about the plight of the poor. Of course she has a romantic interest. The book was enjoyable, though nothing overly special.

Bygones by Kim Vogel Sawyer is about a woman who was raised in the Mennonite faith in a small Kansas town. She left the town as a young adult to marry a trucker, who soon thereafter was killed in an accident. She was left a widow to raise their unborn baby. She wanted to return home but her father turned her away. Now the baby is a young woman and a man (who happens to be an ex-sweetheart of her mom) shows up with the news that the only person in that town with whom Mom had kept up contact had died and left all her property, including a cafe, to the daughter, but with the stipulation that she had to live in the town for three months. Mom and daughter return to the town and, especially for the daughter, it is culture shock. The book is mainly the story of the mom and how she rediscovers her past and her faith. The book was pretty predictable but for a mindless read in the car with Dora blasting in the back seat, it was just about right.

I really enjoyed Gilbert Morris' The Dream which is set in a small Arkansas town during the Depression. It is about a preacher who came to town to preach a revival and stayed. Let's just say that he isn't a very conventional guy and stirs things up a bit. It is also the story of a family held together by a teenaged girl. Her mother is dead and her father is in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Her hobby is writing poetry and much of it is faith-based. This is a book about faith and how that faith translates into life. I highly recommend it.

Pure fluff, like most of her books, is how I'd describe Debbie Macomber's The Christmas Basket. It is about a couple who were high school sweethearts and broke up--but now it is ten years later. It is about two women, their mothers, who used to be best friends but who are now enemies. It is set at Christmas time. Put it all together and I'll bet you can guess how it ends.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Along Came a Cowboy Review

Romance novels are great if you are in that mood. You know the plot before you ever open the book--boy meets (or sometimes re-meets) girl, there is a spark there, but something keeps them apart. They spend the book fighting against that something, which is often themselves, and in the end, they live happily ever after. Along Came a Cowboy is a romance novel, of the Christian variety. The something that keeps the couple apart is her past and her guilt and shame over a sin in her past.

This is a clean romance--the kisses are few and not described in infinite detail. The fact that the characters pray is mentioned but this isn't one of those boy meets girl, and one of them has to find God before they can live happily ever after books either. We aren't treated to any sermons or long conversations between characters trying save souls either, and for that I'm grateful. I rather see characters live their faith--or struggle with it internally--than to be preached to.

All in all, I liked the book. It was pool read, not anything serious at all, but fun--and despite what my kids' summer reading assignments are like, I think summer reading should be fun.

Click the First Wildcard link on my sidebar to read the first chapter. I'd have it here, but the code wasn't up when we left for vacation.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Review of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society

This book is kind of a sharper version of Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street books. Like those books, this one is about a group of women who get together and knit. All of the women in this book are at painful points in their lives. One gets another chance at love; another gets the "love" she has waited all her life for--and realizes that if it was really love, she wouldn't have had to wait all her life for it. One of the "women" is a troubled teen who finds love in the group.

Each month this group of women meets in a Sunday School classroom to discuss a book and show off a knitting project related to the book. For example, when they read Heidi, they make a felted purse. The book involves a romance between one of the characters and the pastor of the church and a couple of the characters mention God a time or two, but if I hadn't been told this was "Christian fiction", I would never have put it in that genre. I don't know if the author/publisher would consider that a good thing or bad.

I'd recommend this book if you like books dealing with relationships between women. The publisher sent me an email asking if I wanted to tour this book this week and I accepted. A few days ago, First Wildcard sent me an email letting me know they were touring the book July 7, so if you check back then, I'll post the first chapter. I'm enjoying these blog tours; I hope those sending me the books feel they are getting their money's worth.

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society

Beth Pattillo (Heavens to Betsy and Earth to Betsy) knows how to follow a dream—even with a pile of publishing industry rejection slips to her name. She spent seven years on the path to her first publishing contract, and the characters in her newnovel, The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, embrace Pattillo’s persistence.

Eugenie, Ruth, Esther, Merry, and Camille are not perfect women. They each struggle with love in their own way—unrequited love, forbidden love, overwhelming love, even lost love. Yet they battle on, meeting every month in the Pairs and Spares Sunday school room to knit, discuss that month’s book selection, and puzzle out their lives.

When Eugenie throws neglected and abused teenager Hannah Simmons into their midst, however, walls decades in the making come crashing down. With secrets thrown on the table amid the tangle of yarn, needles and books, one thing becomes certain: The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society will soon discover what’s most important in the complicated lives they lead.

About Beth Pattillo

Beth Pattillo is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and holds a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University. She and her family make their home in Tennessee. Her novel, Heavens to Betsy, won the prestigious RITA award from the Romance Writers of America. TheSweetgum Knit Lit Society is her fourth novel. To learn more, visit

Q&A with Beth Pattillo, author of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society
Q. What was your inspiration behind The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society?

The book was inspired by the knitting group at my church. I loved the way a group of diverse women, from their teens to retirement age, bonded over knitting and prayer. I think book clubs experience a similar phenomenon. Something about knitting or reading together really helps to create authentic community. One of the things I enjoyed most about writing this book was looking at the world from such different points of view. Each of the women in the novel is unique. And the variety of ages and life experiences kept things interesting.

Q. In the book, troubled teen Hannah Simmons has seen her share of neglect and abuse before meeting the ladies of the Knit Lit Society. Do you see many teens like Hannah in the course of your work as an ordained minister? If so, what is your philosophy in helping them find healing?

Unfortunately, I’ve met a number of teens over the years that were neglected by their parents. I’m a strong believer in youth ministry because I know it can provide guidance and care that’s often missing in a teenager’s home. In the novel, Hannah happens to be poor, but I’ve found that income level, however high or low, doesn’t always correlate to the quality of parenting. The love and attention of a youth minister and/or youth sponsor can often keep a teen from making bad choices with disastrous consequences. Teenagers need to feel competent and valued. A strong youth ministry provides an opportunity for young people to find their spiritual gifts and use them. It also makes God’s love tangible and powerful.

Q. Since not every town has a Knit Lit Society, what would your advice be to anyone who has a "Hannah" in their life or knows of a teen in a similar situation?

Most teens need someone to listen to them without judgment or agenda. Mentoring, serving as a youth sponsor, teaching Sunday school and Bible study – these are all great ways to reach out to teenagers. As a minister, in a particular situation, I have to assess whether a teenager needs the help of social services in addition to the love and care of a church family. All ministers are required by law to report suspected abuse. Neglect, though, can be a bit trickier. Ideally, a minister can reach out to the parents as well as the teen to try and help the family become more functional and caring. I always appreciated my church members letting me know if they thought a particular teenager needed help. I think it’s better to get involved and ultimately find that the situation wasn’t as serious as you thought than to ignore something until a crisis occurs.

Q. Do you knit in your spare time?

I love to knit! I’m into hand-tied yarn right now, taking eight or nine different yarns in a particular color palette and tying 2-3 yard sections end to end. The result is wonderfully shaggy scarves or shawls that have real depth of color and texture. (I was inspired by the owner of The Shaggy Sheep in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas – a terrific yarn store!) I’m afraid I have numerous unfinished projects around the house, but one day, I hope to finish them all.

Q. You spent seven years waiting to publish your first book and now The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society is your fourth book. What advice do you have for novice or aspiring writers?

Aspiring writers have to persevere. For that matter, so do published authors. The publishing industry is a rejection-based business. Work hard, acquire a thick skin, be open to good criticism, and revise, revise, revise. As writers, we take our work personally, but the publishing industry doesn’t. Rejection is a business decision, not a critique of our value as human beings!

My other piece of advice is to write every day, even if it’s only a small amount. I run an email loop called Club 100 For Writers. The challenge is to write 100 words a day for 100 days. I’ve seen this practice transform people’s lives. Instructions for joining the group are on my website,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What is the Church

I've been musing more about the youth ministry post (which I wrote and re-wrote several times before posting) and it struck me that one thing we need to decide in order to decide what we want in youth ministry is in some ways so simple, and in others, so complex. Namely, we need to decide "What is the Church"? If the Catholic church is simply those who self-identify as Catholic when asked to name their religion, or who respond affirmatively to "Are you Catholic" then my understanding is we are doing pretty well at retaining our kids, at keeping them as members of the Church. On the other hand, if we indentify the Church as that group of people who assent to all that the Church teaches and at least try to live up to it (and admit that when they don't, it is because they sin, not because the Church is wrong) then the Church is a very small, very exclusive group to which most of those who self-identify as Catholic do not belong and do not particularly want their children to belong.

Should the local parish be a place visited on Sundays and Holy Days and a place to educate or kids about the faith or should it be a place where all family members spend time, not only in prayer but also in socializing? What draws more people: trying to meet them where they are (such as the music in Lifeteen masses) or showing them where they should be (such as preaching about the evils of contraception or the necessity of confession)? Are they necessarily exclusive? If we are nothing but a social club then we are clearly missing the boat yet I've heard of more people leaving the Catholic church because they had social needs that were met at the church down the street and not at their local parish than I've heard of people leaving because they disagreed with Church teaching.

I guess what I'm saying is that while I see the danger in youth ministry that is all social or which has only a veneer of Catholicism on the plank of a social club, I think that there is a reason Christianity is not a solitary religion. While I think there are necessary parts of our faith that cannot be changed just to attract people; there are externals than can be, and in my opinion, should be, if they draw people in to hear the truth. It does little good to preach the truth to an empty church. If Gregorian Chant draws the crowds, then chant away. If Christian praise music does, well crank up the amps as far as I'm concerned. If teens want to run with other teens (which I think most parents will agree is what teens want to to) then I'd provide a time and place for them to run with other teens. However, once they are there, I think there needs to be solid teaching. Without it, you just have a social club and if that is all there is, once kids move beyond that group of friends, there is little reason to go to church.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Youth Ministry

Amy Welborn wrote about youth ministry and since she has comments turned off over there, I'll comment here. First of all, I have no qualifications in that area except that I am a Catholic, a parent and an ex-teenager. I am a Catholic who has never left the Church but who has four siblings, none of whom, as far as I know, are active Catholics or practice any religion. We were all raised in the same home; we all were taken to mass weekly and attended religion classes all through high school, even after most of our peers had been allowed to drop out. Why did it "take" with me and not with them? What could our parish or or parents have done differently that would have made a difference--if anything? Honestly, I don't know. Yes, we came up in the infamous era of burlap banners and feelings getting higher play than memorization of doctrine--but by the time my baby brother was confirmed, that had started to change. Even so, I know that I'm not the only member of my high school class who still attends mass--though I know of quite a few who have joined other churches.

Amy, and most conservative members of the blogosphere seem to be against youth masses, especially those with Contemporary Christian or praise music. The music is a topic for another day, but I'll say that as a mother, I like family mass as part of what we do as a family. I don't know the population at our Lifeteen mass. I don't know if they are kids who, lacking the Lifeteen mass would be attending another mass (with or without family members) or if they are kids who, if it was not for Lifeteen, wouldn't be attending mass at all. I know that even before Lifeteen, I did not see large numbers of teens at the mid-morning mass. I also know that while there is a core of about 20 kids I see together when we do attend the Lifeteen mass, judging by the size of the school and CCD program, if all the parish teens attended, there would be over 200 kids. Clearly Lifeteen isn't getting most of them to come to that mass regularly--but does it get kids to come who wouldn't otherwise? Does it develop a love for Christ/the Church/mass that those twenty regulars wouldn't already have?

Amy says she'd rather her teen see a mass full of people who have fought the good fight, lived life, rather than a mass full of people with basically the same lack of experience as they have. But how do teens view those older people? Do they see them as examples to be followed, or as proof that church isn't for them anymore than the local senior citizen's club is? She wants them to see parents with kids, single adults, the whole spectrum of people in the Church--but she also says it will be a good thing when her daughter goes off to college and can get involved in a good campus ministry program. Why the difference? What about kids who aren't going to college?

I don't know the answers but I do know that many kids who are raised Catholic leave the Church, either for the Protestant church down the street or for no church at all. Is there anything we can do about it?

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Review of She Always Wore Red

For someone who reads for entertainment and prefers light fare to heavy, I found She Always Wore Red to be very enjoyable. Why is that surprising? It is the story of a woman who has recently inherited and is learning to run a funeral home. We read about many people, including children, who die. She tackles the issues of abortion of handicapped fetuses, racism and interracial marriage and yet mananges to do so in a story that is basically upbeat and not preachy. It is Christian fiction and against abortion and yet a good character struggles with it. The characters are real, they sin and they go on. It is the second book in a trilogy and I'll be looking for the other two.

She Always Wore Red

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

She Always Wore Red

Tyndale House Publishers (April 23, 2008)


Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected in novels from this versatile author. With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to novels.

Now that her two children have reached their twenties, Angie and her husband live in Florida with Very Big Dogs (a direct result of watching Turner and Hooch and Sandlot too many times). This affinity for mastiffs has not been without its rewards--one of their dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest canine in America. Their dog received this dubious honor after an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for the dog and the Hunts, complete with VIP air travel and a stretch limo in which they toured New York City.

Afterward, the dog gave out pawtographs at the airport.

Angela admits to being fascinated by animals, medicine, psychology, unexplained phenomena, and “just about everything” except sports. Books, she says, have always shaped her life— in the fifth grade she learned how to flirt from reading Gone with the Wind.

Her books have won the coveted Christy Award, several Angel Awards from Excellence in Media, and the Gold and Silver Medallions from Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. In 2007, her novel The Note was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

In 2006, Angela completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree and completed her doctorate in 2008. When she’s not home reading or writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course.

Visit her at her website.


Chapter One

The nameless cadaver on the cover of my anatomy textbook—a middle-aged man who is no longer black, white, or brown—would be counted among the orange in a census of the embalmed.

Someone should have adjusted the tint before they juiced him.

I flip the book open and study the color photographs of the cadaver’s aortic arch and brachiocephalic veins, then close my eyes and try to commit the multisyllable words to memory. Here I am, near the end of my first semester of mortuary school, and I’m still having trouble keeping my veins and arteries straight.

Behind me, an irate mother in the carpool line is honking, though we have a good three minutes before kindergarten dismissal. She probably has to pick up her child and get back to work before the end of her lunch hour. While I sympathize with her impatience, I wish she’d lay off the horn so I can concentrate.

I open one eye and examine the book propped on my steering wheel. The right internal jugular branches off the right and left brachiocephalic veins, which lie outside the brachiocephalic trunk. Brachiocephalic sounds like some kind of dinosaur. Bugs would like that word.

I turn the book sideways, but the photograph on the page looks nothing like a prehistoric animal. In fact, I find it hard to believe that anything like this jumble of tunnels and tubes exists in my body, but skin covers myriad mysteries.

I snap the book shut as the bell at Round lake elementary trills through the warm afternoon. The kindergarten classes troop out into the sunshine, their hands filled with lunch boxes and construction paper cutouts. The tired teachers stride to the curb and peer into various vehicles, then motion the appropriate children forward.

My spirits lift when my red-haired cherub catches my eye and waves. Bradley “Bugs” graham waits until his teacher calls his name and skips toward me.

“Hey, Mom.” He climbs into the backseat of the van as his teacher holds the door.

“Hey yourself, kiddo.” I check to make sure he’s snapped his seat belt before smiling my thanks at his teacher. “Did you have a good morning?”

“Yep.” He leans forward to peek into the front seat. “Do we hafta go home, or can we stop to get a snack?”

My thoughts veer toward the to-do list riding shotgun in the front passenger seat. I still have to run to the grocery store, swing by the dry cleaner’s to pick up gerald’s funeral suit, and stop to see if the bookstore has found a used copy of Introduction to Infectious Diseases, Second edition. Textbooks are usually pricey, but medical textbooks ought to come with fixed-rate mortgages. Still, I need to find that book if I’m going to complete my online course by the end of the semester.

“I’ll pull into a drive-through,” I tell Bugs, knowing he won’t mind. “You want McDonald’s?”

He nods, so I point the van toward Highway 441.

“Mr. gerald make any pickups today?” Bugs asks.

I ease onto the highway, amazed at how easily my children have accepted the ongoing work of the funeral home. “none today.”

“See this?”

I glance in the rearview mirror and see Bugs waving his construction paper creation. “Yes.”

“It’s a stegosaurus. Can I give it to gerald?”

“I think he’d like that.” I force a smile as an unexpected wave of grief rises within me. like a troublesome relative who doesn’t realize she’s worn out her welcome, sorrow often catches me by surprise. Gerald, the elderly embalmer at Fairlawn, has become a surrogate father for my sons. Thomas, my ex-husband and my children’s father, has been gone for months, but in some ways he’s never been closer. He lies in the Pine Forest Cemetery, less than two miles from our house, so we can’t help but think of him every time we drive by.

I get Bugs a vanilla ice cream cone at the McDonald’s drive-through, and then we run to the grocery store and the dry cleaner. I’ll call the bookstore later. no sense in going there when a simple phone call will suffice.

Finally we turn into the long driveway that leads to the Fairlawn Funeral Home.

Gerald has poured a new concrete pad next to the garage, and as I park on it, Bugs notices that the call car is gone. “uh-oh.” He looks at me. “Somebody bit the dust.”

I press my lips together. A couple of months ago I would have mumbled something about the old station wagon maybe needing a wash, but now I know there’s no reason to shield my children from the truth—we are in the death care industry. The squeamishness I felt when we first arrived vanished the day I walked into the prep room and gloved up to help gerald lay out my ex-husband.

“Come in the house,” I tell my son. “I’ll pour you a glass of milk.”

Saturday, June 07, 2008


One nice thing about having your own blog is being able to write about whatever you please and being able to figure that at least few people will read it. I just read what Denise had to say about healthcare, so I'm going to put in my two cents.

First of all, I believe our current system is broken. I'm economically conservative and firmly believe in the law of supply and demand as the best way to set reasonable prices. We have taken that law out of the healthcare equation. We have basically unlimited demand, a system that is willing to provide an unlimited supply, and which has limited costs for many users. In short, few people walk out of the doctor's office, hospital or drugstore saying "it would be nice to have, but I just can't afford it (or don't want to spend my limited money on that)" For the majority of people in this country, healthcare is paid for by someone else, at least for the most part. Because of that our system has developed a Cadillac model embracing high tech, private rooms, highly educated practitioners and lifetime medications for those with good insurance and a Yugo model of charity care by overworked understaffed public hospitals for those without. There is no middle ground. I had three kids, and the ob charges on each one were over $1000. When looking for an OB, I never asked the price--why should I? By the time it was over, my out of pocket for that baby wasn't going to be any different if I picked Dr. $800 or Dr. $1000. If I was looking for an appliance in that price range, you'd better believe I'd compare prices.

What would I do to fix the system? First of all, I'd get health insurance out of the workplace. What I spend on health insurance and the choices I make in that regard are my business, not my employer's.

Secondly, make health insurance true insurance--something that most people don't use. I've had car insurance for twenty-five years. I've only "used" it twice. I "use" my health insurance that often every month. The purpose of insurance is to protect us from things we can't afford, not to pay routine bills. Over 10% of our health insurance premiums go to pay overhead and profit for insurance company. I wonder how much of the money we spend at the doctor's goes to people who are billing specialists, who make sure the bills are properly coded and submitted to the insurance company. Remember when the "billing specialist" at the doctor's office was also the receptionist, who took your fee, paid in full, as you walked out the door? In today's dollars, I think health insurance policies should have deductibles in the range of $4000/year/family with charges for submitting claims before that deductible was met (if you want the insurance company to keep track of your paperwork, you pay for it)

The third thing I'd do if you made me dictator is to require community-based pricing of policies with your premium tier set when you buy the policy. In other words, I'd require insurance companies treat all people like a group, not like individuals. Once someone gets sick is no time to raise their premiums through the roof. If they have had a policy all along, it should not become unaffordable due to illness. As long as you maintain a policy, your rates cannot be singled out to be raised or lowered, but those who choose not to buy insurance for a while should be penalized--kind of like term life insurance (buy a long-term policy it when you are young and healthy and it is relatively inexpensive, wait until you are old and sick and it costs a fortune).

My hope is that such reforms would encourge the growth of a "Ford" healthcare system. In Europe, most prenatal and delivery care is performed by midwives, with better results than we get with doctors. If price became an issue for people having babies, then maybe they'd shop for midwives. Pediatricians spend lots of time on well baby check-ups. Why not a nurse practitioner? As a patient today I have no incentive to see the NP rather than the doctor--my co-pay is the same, so I'd rather see the doctor. As a matter of fact, most of the routine care people seek today could effectively be rendered by NPs or PA's. Doctors could provide it too for less money if they had an economic incentive to charge less--but they don't, so why should they? People have no economic incentive to seek that type of care. The result is high-priced high-end care that is affordable to those with money and/or insurance and inadequate care for those paying out of pocket.

My brother often quotes what he calls his "golden rule", namely "he that puts out the gold, makes the rules". In this case it mean that the one making the rules (mostly the government) comes up with ways to cut costs, and then the one whose profits are being cut comes up with a way around it. In the meantime positions like "bill auditor" and "medical coder" are invented. If there is a single provider system like the VA or military systems, then the problem is excess demand. Since they can't limit demand by raising prices, they do it by phone trees, waiting lists, referral requirements etc. That's the problem they have in Canada. Insurance companies try to cut costs by limiting hospital stays or requiring second opinions and we lobby legislatures to require them to cover more.

In short, I see the solution to the healthcare problems as being more costs that I see directly. I see giving consumers more of an interest in the cost of individual healthcare encounters and decisions as demand and price moderating. Maybe its a pipe dream but I don't want to give up more control of my healthcare to some government agency.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Another Author

I just found another author whose books I can mooch. Emilie Richards wrote a lovely story called Wedding Ring about three women, daughter, mother and grandmother. All have allowed sorrow in life to keep them from enjoying the life they have. The story takes place one summer when a neighbor calls the mother and tells her that the grandmother's house is a run-down fire trap loaded with junk. The mother and daughter move in for the summer to clean up, fix up and make arrangments for the rest of the grandmother's life. While there, the quilts that the gradmother makes bring them together and they learn things about each other they have never known. They also all realize that they can make the decision to be happier. I definitely recommend it. If you want it, email me. Otherwise, I'll put it on the bookmooch list soon.

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