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"...FIRST Wild Card Tours" - 5 new articles

  1. Template for Blog Tour
  2. WayFarer, Tales of Faeraven 2 by Janalyn Voigt
  3. Operation Dark Angel: The Rise of Nicolaitanes by Pam Funke
  4. Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams Book 1) by Sharlene MacLaren.
  5. 30 Meditations on Rest by Marilyn Hickey and Sarah Bowling
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search ...FIRST Wild Card Tours
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

Template for Blog Tour

When the tour date arrives, copy and paste the HTML Provided in the box. Don't forget to add your honest review if you wish!

Grab the HTML for the entire post (will look like the post below) and fill in the blanks with what the author, publicist, or publisher has provided. For the links, right click on the blue words and you'll see a link that you will need to replace. Replace the entire link for the author and the author website with the link provided by the author, publicist, or publisher. For the 'Title' link, only replace the question mark with the 10 digit ISBN. Replace 'AUTHOR' with the author's name, and 'TITLE' with the book's title.:



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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

PUBLISHER'S NAME (DATE)

***Special thanks to PUBLICIST'S NAME of PUBLICIST'S COMPANY for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




IF AVAILABLE, PLEASE PLACE THE YOUTUBE VIDEO PROMO FOR THE BOOK HERE. PLEASE ERASE THIS NOTE. 

Product Details:
List Price: $
Paperback:
Publisher:
Language:
ISBN-10:
ISBN-13:


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

HIGHLIGHT HERE AND PASTE THE CHAPTER INTO THIS BOX.
    


WayFarer, Tales of Faeraven 2 by Janalyn Voigt

Tour Date: January 31st, 2014

When the tour date arrives, copy and paste the HTML Provided in the box. Don't forget to add your honest review if you wish! PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST WHEN THE TOUR COMES AROUND!

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



***************************************************************************

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harbourlight Books (December 31, 2013)

***Special thanks to Janalyn Voigt for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, her epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams.

Janalyn is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of Wordserve Literary. She serves as a literary judge for several international contests and is an active book reviewer. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA.

When she's not writing, Janalyn loves to find worlds of adventure in the great outdoors.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Elcon, an untried youth, assumes his duties as High King. But as trouble stirs between nations and rebellion threatens Faeraven, his position is far from secure. Can Elcon trust that the Elder youth accompanying Kai is the DawnKing, sent by the High One to deliver his people? Or has something gone horribly wrong?

Driven to prove himself, Elcon embarks on a peace-keeping campaign into the Elder lands, where he meets a beautiful Elder princess. But Aewen is betrothed to another, and Elcon has promised to court the princess, Arillia, upon his return. Declaring his love for Aewen would shame them both and tear apart the very fabric of Faeraven.

Elcon’s choices lead him into the Vale of Shadows, where he learns that to deliver his people, he must find redemption himself.



Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 298 pages
Publisher: Harbourlight Books (December 31, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611162920
ISBN-13: 978-1611162929


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Part One: The Bridegroom

1

Return to Torindan

An indrawn breath alerted Kai. Unsheathing his sword, he peered into the shadows beneath a weilo tree’s curling tresses.
Nothing stirred.
“Show yourself!” His challenge rang through the vale.
No response.
He stepped closer.
Kai. His name sighed in a sudden wind that ruffled the waters of the weild. Morning mists eddied above the river, but the leafy canopy over his head remained still and silent.
Impossible! And yet he knew that voice. “Shae?” With his heart beating in his throat, he pressed forward.
Beneath the weilo a many-hued light shimmered, swirled, and took shape. Shae stood before him, her eyes closed as if in prayer. Her unbound hair cascaded in burnished curls to her waist. Beneath her scarlet cloak, she clutched something at the end of the fine chain encircling her neck. The glint of silverstone between her fingers told him she wore his locket. She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Kai.”
But he backed away. “Are you some dryad come to enchant me?”
“Please.” She held out her hands imploringly. “Stay.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“You have nothing to fear. It’s me—Shae.”
He shook his head. “I saw you vanish from this world. Do you return by another gateway than Gilead Riann?”
“Gilead Riann is the only Gate of Life, but there are soft places like this one where I can look into Elderland, if only for a time. When I saw you near, I called to you over and over.”
Even as a spark of hope flared, he hesitated. “I heard your voice once only, borne on the wind.”
She clasped her arms about herself and smiled, although tears glistened in her eyes. “And yet you answered my call.”
“I love you, Shae.”
“No. Release yourself.” Her voice broke on the whispered words.
The longing to take her into his arms left him weak. “You ask more than I can give.”
“I can’t bear to see you suffer.”
“Then you must not look.”
Shae’s image shimmered like a reflection in wind-stirred waters. “I release you.”
“Wait!” As he rushed toward her, she dissolved into glimmering light that melted into shadow…
Jerking heavy lids open, Kai blinked against the weak light tilting through swishing weilo leaves. His dream had seemed so real. A moan sprang to his lips but died behind gritted teeth. Short, swift breaths relieved the tightness in his chest. His mind, however, knew no ease.
He turned his head and met a pair of dark, rounded Elder eyes. He let his lids close to shield himself from their penetrating gaze.
“Kai.”
Emmerich’s murmur called him back from the edge of thought. He rolled onto his side and pushed to a sitting position. His companions, their shapes little more than shadows in the gathering mists of morning, bent over their bedrolls. Behind them the canyon walls of Doreinn Ravein rose into obscurity.
At the expression of pity on Emmerich’s face, Kai balled his hands into fists and rode out a surge of heat. Shae might stand beside him now, but for Emmerich.
As soon as the unworthy thought came, he pushed it away and forced his hands to unclench. Shae had willingly traded places with Emmerich at Gilead Riann. She’d sung her own death song by choice. And he, to his joy and sorrow, had urged her on.
He glanced sideways at Emmerich. “Sometimes, when the wind blows, I think I hear her calling.”
Emmerich’s eyes gleamed. “Perhaps she does.”
Kai waited until he could trust himself to speak again. “She comes to me in the land of dreams.”
Emmerich tilted his head, and a lock of dark hair fell across his brow. “Does she speak to you?”
Without answering, Kai bent and rolled up his bedding.
Emmerich waited.
Kai sighed and looked away. “She tells me to wait for her no more.”
“I see. And will you heed her?”
He dusted off his hands, lingering over the task, and then glanced sideways at Emmerich. “At odd moments I expect to see her, to hear her voice. I can’t stop hoping for a sight of her—looking for her return.” The words wrenched from him in a rush. “I can’t release myself from loving her. I don’t know how.”
“Patience does not spring from sorrow with ease.”
All at once, Kai laughed. “You have both wisdom and youth—a fearsome combination.”
“Those with ready ears often hear wisdom, even from a youth.”

****

“Steady, Fletch.” Kai touched the neck of the winged horse beneath him and looked out over the frothing weild, which fell to rapids here. Sudden memory caught at him. He could almost see Shae combing her hair on the flat-topped rock at water’s edge.
At a restive movement from the other wingabeasts, Fletch shuddered in sympathy. Kai turned away from the wraith of memory and gathered his wits before facing his companions. “Thank you for your faithful service. Each of you went beyond duty. Although we–” He heaved a breath. “Although we return without Shae, our quest succeeded. In that we can give thanks to Lof Yuel, the High One, who has kept us in His care.”
He signaled Fletch, and wings rose to enfold him like a feathered curtain. As the great wings lowered and they lifted on invisible currents to the top of the canyon walls, draughts rippled across him. At this height the mists thinned but would still hide their movements from any stragglers from Freaer’s forces retreating from the siege of Torindan.
How would Lof Shraen Elcon, Faeraven’s new high king, react when Kai returned without Shae? He put the thought from him and focused, instead, on navigating the twists and turns of the canyons. They emerged into a flat land as the horizon blushed and the shadows lengthened to stain the eastern desert purple.
The ground folded and rose beneath them, and then crested a rise. In the distance, past the broken peak of Maeg Streihcan, swelled the hills that Kai’s people, the Kindren, called Maegren Syld. The Elder nation knew them as the Hills of Mist. To the west, the kaba forest stretched to meet sandy shores where the tides of Maer Ibris ebbed and flowed.
Torindan, fortress of Rivenn, perched on an arm of rock thrusting into Weild Aenor, the wild river of legend. Kai caught his breath at the sight. How long ago it seemed since they had left.

****

Raena Arillia stepped toward Elcon in the dance, jewels and eyes aglitter. Her figure had softened since he’d seen her last, and the luster of her golden hair echoed the glow of her skin. He captured her by the hand and waist and turned her toward him. When she smiled at him, he forgot everything but her beauty.
He clapped his hands in tempo, and Arillia swayed in a circle that brought her back to him. Dainty, light on her feet, and quick to smile, she reminded him of Shae.
Shae.
Elcon’s hands stilled, and his smile died. He’d tried and failed to reach his sister with the shil shael, the hereditary soul touch they shared. He could only hope she still lived.
Arillia’s smile faltered. “Are you well?”
Without replying, he offered his arm to her. She took it without hesitation, and he guided her out of the crush of dancers toward the leaping fire in the nearest of the great hall’s three large hearths.
Arillia’s parents smiled down upon them from the dais at the end of the long chamber. Shraen Ferran and Raelein Annora had conspired with Elcon’s mother to thrust Arillia and Elcon into one another’s company all of their lives. No formal marriage pact existed, but he and Arillia knew they were expected to wed. As children, they’d laughed at the notion many times.
With a tug on his arm, Arillia brought him up short. “What ails you?” Such trusting eyes she turned on him, eyes of palest gray. She knew him well, but he thought she did not guess he used her company as a balm. In her presence, he found ease for the worries that tormented his rest.
Her gaze probed his, but he glanced away, out the tall window behind her to the fieldstone paths that cut through the lush sward to the inner garden.
Ah, the garden. They’d often whiled away entire afternoons gathering the roses that nodded beneath twisting strongwood branches. Side by side, they’d dropped bright petals into the silken waters of the pool and watched the water cascade in glinting ribbons from the tiered fountain.
Elcon pushed away his memories and looked down into Arillia’s troubled face. “Naught but shadows.”
Her expression registered her disbelief, but he offered nothing more. For Shae’s safety, he couldn’t claim her as his sister. And how could he explain to Arillia the feeling of doom that weighted him?
And yet, when he looked into the cool depths of her eyes, he could almost persuade himself she understood. The thought should draw him to her, but it only made him uneasy. Perhaps he and Arillia shouldn’t spend so much time together.
“As you please, Elcon.” Irritation edged her voice. “It’s clear you mean to keep your thoughts private.” Arillia stepped closer to the fire and gazed into its depths as silence stretched between them. “But I still wish—”
Elcon took her by the elbow. “Forgive me. I must return you to your parents.”
Her eyes widened, but as he pushed her through the crowd toward the dais, she didn’t resist. His perfunctory bow to her parents included Arillia. He caught the glint of tears trembling on her lashes and hesitated, but then hurried across the great hall. Arillia, and all the confusing emotions surrounding her, would have to wait.
By the time he reached the main archway, Weilton, the second guardian of Rivenn, had joined him. In Kai’s absence, Weilton had assumed his duties as Elcon’s personal guard. Elcon answered the question in Weilton’s light gray eyes. “I saw from the window a company of wingabeasts approaching from the south. Kai and Shae return.”

****

Kai sent Flecht into a spiral and touched down beside his companions on the arched bridge outside Torindan’s barbican. Although they could have flown into Torindan, protocol and good sense called for the guardians to land their wingabeasts outside all strongholds, even their own, and obtain entrance in the usual manner.
“Who goes there?” A guard called from the parapet above the barbican.
“Kai of Whellein and a company of weary travelers, all friends of Torindan.”
With a rasp and screech of metal, the drawbridge lowered over the moat’s dark waters and the barbican’s timbered metal doors swung open.
As they passed beneath the iron fangs of the portcullis, Aerlic drew his silver wingabeast, Argalent, abreast of Kai. Just behind, Emmerich rode Ruescht while Guaron and Dorann brought up the rear. They had barely passed through when the doors thudded shut and the bar clanged back into its rests. Chains clanked, and the portcullis dropped with a squeal and a thump, sealing them into the treacherous “walls of death.”
Fletch’s hooves clattered on the wooden floorboards and rang when they found trapdoors above pits. As Kai guided his wingabeast onward, bars of light penetrating through arrow slits in the outer walls fell over him. With much clanking and screeching, a second portcullis gave way, and they emerged before the inner gatehouse.
Kai, blinking in the sudden light, answered another round of salutations. A small drawbridge lowered across a second channel of the moat. More doors opened, and they passed beneath twin turrets into a short corridor.
Footsteps, light and fleet, approached from the outer bailey. With his eyes adjusting again to dimness, Kai halted Fletch and his companions gathered around him. Two figures entered by the archway from the outer bailey. “Kai. You return.”
Kai’s vision cleared, but he’d already recognized Elcon’s voice.
One of the guardroom doors along the corridor flung open and Craelin, First Guardian of Rivenn, stepped out, the lines around his eyes crinkling from the force of his smile. Beside him strode Eathnor, dressed in the green and gold of the high guard.
Kai dismounted and bowed before Elcon. “I’ve returned, but without Shae.”
“Rise.”
Kai obeyed.
Elcon looked him over. “You’re too thin, and I’ll warrant, weary. You look like a strong wind would knock you over. Still, I’m glad to see you. Has Shae stayed behind with her sister in Graelinn?”
Kai swallowed his surprise at Elcon’s response. “Forgive me, but I should explain in private.”
“Tell me where she is.”
Kai flinched. “She remains within the gateway of Gilead Riann.
Elcon’s eyes narrowed. “What madness is this?”
“Only the truth, I promise. Shae went through the gateway of her own will.”
“Why would she do such a thing?”
“So that Shraen Brael could enter Elderland.”
“The DawnKing of prophecy has entered Elderland? But where is Shae?”
Craelin stepped forward. “If I may suggest, whatever news Kai brings might better be given in private, Lof Shraen.”
Elcon opened his mouth as if to speak but closed it again. “Yes. Yes, of course.” His glance slid past Kai and landed on Emmerich, just dismounting. “Tell me, Kai, why you ride with this Elder. Has he strayed from his path so far it brings him among the Kindren?”
Emmerich lifted his head. “I know well my path, Elcon, Shraen of Rivenn, Lof Shraen of Faeraven. I follow it to you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“That is the simple truth.”
Elcon paced before Emmerich, his gaze a challenge. “Who are you?”
Emmerich stood without flinching. “Are you certain you wish to know?”
Elcon stared at him, but then looked to Kai. “Bring him to my meeting chamber, and we’ll discuss these matters at length.” At the archway to the outer bailey, Elcon shot a final piercing glance at Emmerich. “I look forward to that conversation.”
Elcon went through the archway with Weilton behind him. In the small silence that followed his departure, Kai drew his hands into fists at his side. After all they had suffered and sacrificed, would Elcon now reject Emmerich?
“Are you all well?” Craelin said near Kai’s ear.
Kai considered the question. “Well enough. We sustained injuries besides the ones you knew, but most have healed. Some take longer than others.” And some never heal. “How did you and Eathnor fare on your return to Torindan?”
A smile lit Craelin’s face. “Well enough, also. We reached Torindan in advance of Freaer’s charge and just managed to take away a small group of messengers. We rode like the wind to summon the loyal Shraens of Faeraven but had to dodge welke riders to save our own lives.”
“Ah.” An image of dark riders pursuing through the mists of morning came to Kai. “We had a bit of trouble with them ourselves.”
“If not for Eathnor’s skill as a tracker we would not have survived to spread the alert.”
Kai nodded to Eathnor. “Well done. And so you have joined the ranks of the guardians. I commend Craelin’s choice in you.”
Eathnor clasped Kai’s hand. “Thank you. I hope to prove myself worthy of the company I keep.”
Dorann dismounted in one leap, and the two brothers gazed upon one another with eyes that shone. At last, Eathnor dipped his head. “You’ve healed.”
Dorann put a hand to his once-blackened eye as a slow smile spread across his face. “In truth, I’d forgotten it.” He took in the garb his brother now wore as part of the lof stapp. “Green suits you.”
Eathnor laughed. “That it does.”
With Eathnor beside him, Dorann led his dark gray wingabeast, Sharten, through the archway into the outer bailey, where the stables lay.
“Welcome back.”
At Craelin’s greeting, Kai smiled for the first time since entering Torindan. But he also felt like weeping. “Thank you. I’m glad to see you.”
The bright blue eyes nested more deeply in Craelin’s face. “And I, you.”
Kai cleared his throat. “We should hurry, although I dread facing Elcon again.” With slumped shoulders, he led Fletch after the others into the outer bailey, where smoke hung heavy and the stench of charred meat fouled the air. Dogs snarled and yipped, fighting over a bit of offal thrown to them. A scarred wooden door hung open in a doorway, through which emitted the clash and clang of cooking.
With Craelin keeping pace beside him, Kai took the side path to the stables, which squatted across the sward from the kitchens. Waiting for a groomsman at the stable door, he breathed in the heavy scent of hay. Thudding hooves, soft whickerings, and calming voices drifted to him. A lump formed in his throat. He’d forgotten what it meant to come home.
Craelin touched his arm. “Give it time, Kai. None but a fool would think you gave less than your all for Elcon or Shae.”

Kai wanted to shout that his all hadn’t been enough. He’d failed Shae, and he had failed Elcon. 
    

Operation Dark Angel: The Rise of Nicolaitanes by Pam Funke

Tour Date: January 30th

When the tour date arrives, copy and paste the HTML Provided in the box. Don't forget to add your honest review if you wish! PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST WHEN THE TOUR COMES AROUND!

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



***************************************************************************

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (June 4, 2013)

***Special thanks to Pam Funke for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Pam Funke is the grand-daughter of a Pastor and was brought up in the church. Her love of reading led her to write for the enjoyment of others. She lives in Hinesville, Georgia  with her son and daughter.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This is the first book in the exciting The Apocalypse series.

Our current world is full of chaos, turmoil, hatred, wars, starvation, murders and strife.  Every day the world spirals more and more out of control. The people of the world feel helpless and are looking for someone, anyone to save them. Who will save them and bring peace  to the world? Can the birth of a  single child be the answer to their prayers? Where is God in all of this? Is anyone even searching for Him or are they too caught up in the world to even bother looking?

Nicolaitanes Balac, a man who is quickly gaining political power and reverence, has enlisted the help of General Alexander Ludlow and The Group in an attempt to bring about peace and serenity for the entire world. Hence, the birth of Operation Dark Angel, a military operation designed to bring about world peace. Or is it? Will the  operation really bring an end to the turmoil, violence and hatred or will it make matters worse? What can the people of the world do to regain control of the world?



Product Details:
List Price: $14.95
Series: The Apocalyse Series
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (June 4, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1482675390
ISBN-13: 978-1482675399

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Just outside of Washington D.C., Halle Smith was sitting at home alone flipping through the television channels. There is so much turmoil going on in the world. It seemed as though every single channel that she turned to was about some disaster or another. Hurricanes and monsoons killing people, people starving to death in Africa, North Korea threatening to bomb South Korea, children being used for warfare, gang violence, serial killers, suicide bombers, the list went on and on and on.  Halle was overcome by all that she saw.
“Oh Lord, why is all of this happening? Why is there so much pain and hurt in the world?” Halle asked.
Tears were steadily streaming down her face; she was incredibly saddened by what she saw. But what was worse was the fact that no one seemed to care. The news reporters showed no emotions whatsoever as they reported the horrible news. Just what is wrong with people?
She wished that her husband, Richard, was home from work. She really wanted someone to talk to. She didn’t really want to be alone, at least not right now. Her heart felt as though it was breaking. She turned the television off and called some of her friends to fellowship for a while. Strange, everyone seemed to be busy as all she got was voicemail after voicemail. She hung the phone up disgusted. Why is it that whenever I need someone they are never available, but if they need me I am always available? I don’t understand it.
She walked through the house tidying up. She glanced at the clock; it would be hours before her husband came home. She picked up her Bible and drove to the church. Wow, the parking lot sure is packed this morning. I wonder what is going on. She had never seen this many cars at the church except on Sundays. It took her over fifteen minutes to find an available parking spot. She grabbed her Bible and hurried into the church afraid that she was missing something important.
Inside the church, the sanctuary was packed with people. Halle wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to find any place to sit. Bishop Williams was already preaching, for how long  she had no idea. She sat quietly at the back of the church listening.
“Brothers and sisters, right now is the time in which you must make a decision! Are you going to continue living the way that you currently are or will you live for Christ? Look around at the world around us. The crime rate is skyrocketing through the roof, the amount of natural disasters is increasing in amount and intensity, homosexuality is on the rise, our children are becoming desensitized by the world around them, brother is going against brother, children against their parents, children are murdering at younger and younger ages, our society is accepting immoral and ungodly behavior, people are turning their backs on God, and our economy is in the toilet. These are not things that should alarm you or scare you, not if you are living for Christ as all these things were foretold in the Bible. Turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 3: 1-5, 12-15. When you’re there say amen, if you need more time say wait,” Bishop Williams preached.
He looked out over the congregation waiting for those who were looking for the passages in their Bible to find them. He smiled to himself, he was glad that so many people had come to listen. If only he could reach each and every one of them. The congregation stood as he began to read the scripture.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! Brothers and sisters, we see much of this behavior going on today and it’s getting worse. Unfortunately, we are even seeing this behavior in the church. But, I am here to tell you today that there is still hope for you. However, you must repent of your evil ways, accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and live for Him. I pray that you do this before time runs out,” he looked around the room waiting. The congregation remained silent.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Yes, as followers of Christ we can expect to have trials and tribulations even more so than non-believers, we will also be persecuted in His name. As Jesus himself, suffered trials and tribulations, and was persecuted how can we expect not to be? But regardless we will make it through because God is always with us! No matter what you are going through, nothing. I say again, NOTHING is too great for God to handle. He will work it all out for our good. Remember that we are going through so that God will get the glory,” he continued.
“Amen,” replied several members of the congregation.
Halle was taking notes as fast as she could. Many questions popped into her head while she was listening to Bishop Williams. She wrote down all of her questions in the margin of her notepad so that she could ask him about them after the service.
“Turn with me now to Mark 13:5-37, And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and will deceive many.” We have seen many deceivers in recent years. For example, think back to the Waco incident, the priest in Florida that convinced his entire congregation to tattoo the number of the beast on themselves. There are many more if you want to look it up for yourselves. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. We have heard of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland, Africa; and we have heard of rumors of war in Korea, Russia. But we need to be encouraged brothers and sisters, as Jesus himself said that these things must happen in the end times. We need to take comfort in knowing that the end is not yet! Use this time to get right with the Lord! Preach His good news to everyone. Live your life for Him in every aspect of your life. When people look at you, they should see the love of God shining through. We are an example to the world. You are the only Jesus that some people will ever see,” Bishop Williams preached. He started walking back in forth across the front of the sanctuary. 
“For nation will rise against nation. We have seen this all throughout history: World War I and World War II for example. Kingdom against kingdom. Earthquakes in various places. There have been devastating earthquakes in the past few years, many in places that are not common for earthquakes. Famines and troubles. Africa has seen famine for many years. It is also affecting other areas of the world. We will be persecuted for his sake. The gospel must be first preached in all the nations. We will be hated by all for His name’s sake. Continue reading Mark 13 on your own. Let’s move on,” Bishop Williams said returning to the pulpit.
“Turn with me in your Bibles to Revelation 6:1-6. When you’re there say amen, if you need more time say wait,” Bishop Williams preached.
Halle was mesmerized. She was so excited and couldn’t wait to hear what the pastor was going to say next.
Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see,” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come and see,” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword. When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see,” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.  And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine,” We have been given the different signs of the end of days. What we do with the information, is up to each and every one of us. I leave you with these questions to contemplate. How will you continue to live your life? Will you live each day as though it were your last? Will you live your life serving God and doing His will? May each of you make the decision to live for Christ and do it willingly? May God watch over each of you until we meet again,” Bishop Williams said before turning and leaving the sanctuary.
Wow. There was still so much that she wanted, no needed, to know. She gathered her things quickly and pushed through the crowd after Bishop Williams.
“Bishop? Bishop Williams? Do you have a moment?” Halle called out. Bishop Williams turned around to see who was calling him.
“Ah, Halle. How are you my dear?” Bishop Williams asked taking her hand.
“I’m okay. I just have some questions that I wanted to discuss with you,” Halle replied urgently.
“Well, come into my office and I’ll see what I can do about answering those questions for you,” Bishop Williams said.
“Thank you,” Halle replied following the Bishop into his office.

*****

Meanwhile in Rome, Italy an unknown young man was rapidly becoming of interest to Italy. He was extremely good-looking with an incredible speaking ability. When he talked people listened. He was a direct descendant of the Roman Emperor Nero Germanicus. For some strange reason, this fact alone impressed many people. He had been born right there in Rome, Italy. He had taken a fancy to politics at an early age as he was only 28 years old and had already been advising the Italian President on many different issues. He was quite pleased with his accomplishments, but they were only the beginning of things to come. His ultimate goal was not just to rule Italy, but to become ruler of the entire world. He would accomplish this goal at any cost.

*****

Gage Cameron was the top news reporter for ICNN news. He was proud to be the best; he had worked hard at it. That was probably why he was no longer married. He had worked long hours and was hardly ever at home. He still had not changed. His wife Carol, ex-wife actually, used to constantly get on his case about working so hard and always being gone. She was always telling him how he neglected her and when were they going to start working on having a family. It used to drive him crazy. At least he no longer had to worry about such things and he could focus completely on his job. It was better this way. He kind of liked it by himself with no one to answer to or to constantly nag him; he was not sure why he had married Carol in the first place. It was not like he was the marrying kind of guy anyway. One of these days he would stop lying to himself, but not now. One day though.
Gage Cameron was meeting his source at a local café in downtown Bagdad, Iraq. He had just finished a big story and was looking for his next big break. He was a little anxious, but a little nervous as well as he had never met his source in person before. He was kind of curious as to why she had insisted on meeting in person this time. It must be a really big story. He sat there quietly sipping his cappuccino and imaging what she must look like. He kept imagining all these young, beautiful actress-type women. He sat smiling to himself. His smile disappeared however, when an older, plain woman sat down at the table with him. He looked at her puzzled.
“May I help you?” he asked.
“No, Gage. It is I who will be helping you,” she replied.
“Ros?” he asked.
“Yes, it is nice to finally meet you face to face, Gage Cameron,” she replied extending her hand.
“It’s nice to meet you as well,” Gage replied a little disappointed.
“Now, let’s get down to business,” she said lowering her voice. “I have two stories for you for now. The first one, Nicolaitanes Balac is going to be named President of Italy. That’s a story that you will definitely want to cover. The other story, you will need to go to Israel. There’s going to be a lot of interesting stories going on over there in the next few weeks that you are going to want to cover as well. Israel is going to be attacked,” she whispered.
“What? How do you know these things?” he asked.
“I’m not at liberty to tell you. All I can say is that if you cover these stories, you will be the envy of all the other reporters—you will have breaking news stories before anyone else. They will definitely boost your career,” she said.
She held out her hand, “I will be in touch. Keep doing me proud with your excellent reports.”
Gage stood up and shook her hand. “I really do appreciate what you are doing for me, but why me?” Gage asked.
“Do you doubt your work Gage?” she asked standing up to leave.
He looked at her offended. Of course, I don’t doubt my work. What kind of reply is that? He walked her to her car then walked to his car rental. He was excited with the information that was just given to him, but he had a lot of questions as well. He could not wait to get started. He figured that he had better find his camera man, Byron and head to Rome, Italy. What a story this is going to be, if it truly happens.
She got into the back of the Town car. “Did he buy it?” the man asked.
“But of course; he always does,” she replied.
“Good. Good. We may have use of him yet,” he replied.
The man smiled to himself. She had the driver take them back to his private plane. Things were most definitely going according to plan.

*****

Down in the lab of the new top secret facility at Fort Stewart, Georgia, a group of scientists had started working on a new biological experiment. They weren’t the only facility to begin experiments as all of the facilities had been ordered to do one experiment or another. They were creating BTX and testing its strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Charlie Andrews hated the testing phase of this as they were testing various stages of the BTX on animals and studying the effects. Some of the animals had died which made Charlie really sad and angry. He was an animal lover and despised harming them in any way.
“Charlie, how else are we going to gain the knowledge we need? We cannot test this on people. You know that, right? Besides, just think about how many humans and animals that we will be able to help when we’re done. We will have the cure to reverse the process,” Grant consoled him.
Charlie just looked at him. He knew Grant was right, but that didn’t make it right. Charlie just nodded. He held the animal that had just died gently. He smoothed the fur and closed its eyes. Then he gently put it in the box and closed the lid. He labeled the box accordingly and placed it with the others for dissection and study. He was glad that he was not a part of that portion of the project. He didn’t have the stomach or the heart for that

*****

Back on the outskirts of Washington D.C., Richard Smith was finally home from a long, hard day at work. He couldn’t wait to relax in front of the television and eat his dinner. He hoped that Halle had dinner waiting as he was extremely hungry, but he walked into a dark, quiet, empty house. Now just where is Halle? I bet she’s up at that stupid church again. I don’t know why she even bothers with that stuff? He plopped down onto the couch and turned the television on to watch the news.

*****

Nicolaitanes Balac was in the process of going to Barcelona, Spain for a UN convention. He had been invited to attend with President Adamo Ricci. Rosalind was also coming along as Nicolaitanes’ assistant. The meeting was a very important development for Nicolaitanes’ success Rosalind knew. She doubted if anyone else would know the significance.
More than 200 delegates from around the world were in attendance. There were people representing various religions and nationalities from around the world. There were Catholic, Episcopalian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Sikhs present. There were leaders of countries and religions of both men and women in attendance. They were all dressed up in their Sunday best. Rosalind was definitely impressed. She sat proudly in her chair next to Nicolaitanes. It is wonderful watching a major historical moment in time. I wonder if Nicolaitanes is going to speak here.
Nicolaitanes laid his hand on her shoulder. “No, Rosalind. It is not my place to speak here today. We are here for other purposes,” he whispered quietly. Nicolaitanes is being compliant. I wonder why?

*****

Back in Rome, the archdiocese was awaiting the arrival of Patriarch Bartola. Lou Spiel had left half an hour ago to pick him up from the airport. The room was filled with excitement; even Pope Paul John had arrived unexpectantly. This is a meeting that no one will soon forget.
At the airport, Lou waited near the baggage claim holding a sign with Patriarch Bartola’s name on it. He wasn’t sure exactly what to expect as he had no clue what the man looked like. He certainly wasn’t expecting the young, handsome gentleman that walked over to him.
“Patriarch Josef Bartola?” he asked extending his hand.
“Yes,” the man replied.
“I am Lou Spiel and will be driving you to the meeting. I am also your personal assistant while you are here. Let me know if you need anything at all, okay?” Lou said taking his bags and placing them in the trunk of the car. He then held the door open for Josef. This is going to be an interesting assignment.
Lou was excited; anything to get out once in a while. He had been stuck in “the dungeon” working on scrolls and biblical prophecy for the church for years. Although, his head was full of vast knowledge, he hadn’t seen much of the world. This was finally his chance to.
Half an hour later, they arrived back at the Vatican. Lou led Josef quietly to the private offices and knocked softly on the door. A man wearing robes peered at the two men, before motioning for them to come inside. Another man stepped in front of Lou, gently placing his palm on the man’s chest stopping him.
“You are dismissed for now, Mr. Spiel. Please close the door behind you,” he said.
Lou was disappointed, but he did as he was told. He went to a nearby bench in the hallway and sat down to wait.
“Please have a seat,” the man said to Patriarch Bartola.
Josef looked around the room. There were quite a few people there. But that is not what surprised him; he was very astonished to see the Pope in attendance. He was pleased, yes very pleased indeed. After everyone was sitting quietly, a gentleman to the left of the Pope got up and stood before the group.

*****

The man stood outside staring up at the Vatican building. He shook his head sadly. “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” he said out loud and was gone.

*****

“Gentlemen, I am pleased that we could all be here today to meet with our esteemed guest, Patriarch Josef Bartola. Patriarch Bartola, I am sure that you are wondering why we had you come so far away from home. We have been watching your work and needless to say, we are very pleased. I personally am very impressed with your natural ability to lead and persuade your congregation,” he said.
Josef smiled. “Thank you very much. I believe that I have a natural ability for this. Spreading the word of God is my calling. I believe that I was chosen by God directly for this,” he beamed.
The Pope stood up slowly for he was extremely old and frail. He gently laid his hand on the shoulder of the speaker and gestured towards Patriarch Bartola. I don’t know why, but I feel it in my bones that he is the one that I’ve been waiting for. He will be my replacement; the one who will be the right hand of The Child, once we find him. Thank you God for allowing me to live long enough to see this.
“Patriarch Bartola, my son, please come forward to me. I wish to bless you,” Pope John said extending his arm.
Isn’t this unusual even for him? I mean he just met me and knows absolutely nothing about me. Doesn’t he usually give his blessings to special people? Josef stood and walked over to the Pope. He kneeled before him and kissed each of his hands as was the custom. The men in the room all kneeled before the Pope and extended their hands towards Patriarch Bartola. Pope John laid his hands on Josef.
“Before the eyes of God and the men before me, I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. May your comings and your goings be blessed. May your works be acceptable to God Almighty. May God be blessed in all that you do,” Pope John said.
He helped him to his feet, “I am old my son. I would like very much for you to remain here in Rome teaching our congregation and studying to someday take my place here. This is right in the eyes of God. Will you do this my son?” Pope John asked.
“Yes sir, it would be an honor,” Josef replied humbly.
“Good. Then here is your first assignment, I wish for you to go with Lou to attend the UN summit in Barcelona. Here are your tickets,” the Pope replied handing him two airline tickets and sitting back down. He felt good about the young man.
The UN summit? Why on earth do I need to go there? Why is the Pope so interested in the UN? Josef took the tickets. He dared not question the Pope. It must be extremely important for me to be there. After all, they already had the airline ticket with my name on it. What would they have done if I had said no? Josef and Lou left immediately for the airport.

*****

Meanwhile in Barcelona, the assemblyman stood at the podium and asked for quiet.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the United Nations (UN), thank you all for coming. I come before you this morning to propose that we create a United World Religion (UWR). As we are all aware of the turmoil, violence, war, civil unrest that is taking over the world at an alarming rate, especially in the Middle East. There are wars and rumors of wars for the sake of religious beliefs. We must agree that the majority of it, if not all of it, is due to religious differences—namely Christianity. Because of the vast diversity of beliefs, it causes humanity to quarrel and inflict war upon each other. In order to bring about peace we need to get rid of the hatefulness, the unwillingness to accept one another as brothers and sisters despite our religious and cultural differences.” he said pausing for effectiveness.
“If we create the UWR, it will incorporate all religions into one. All are welcome. By forming a one world religion we will unify the earth and bring about peace. With a one world religion, no one will be coerced to participate in any religious rituals as with the Christian faith. It will accept all religious beliefs. No one will be made to feel as an outsider. Homosexuals will be welcome here; they will not be shunned by the people like elsewhere. No one will be made to feel as though their sinful nature is unforgiveable and not tolerated. This will be a growing global unity dedicated to enduring daily interfaith cooperation and ending religiously motivated violence, creating cultures of peace, justice and healing for all the inhabitants of the earth,” he continued.
Josef could not believe his ears. That was exactly what he dreamed of doing. How did that man possibly know? So this was why I’ve been sent to this summit. Now, how will I get myself implemented into all of this?
“Do not worry Josef. Your steps have been ordered,” the voice said.
Josef looked around; no one was paying any attention to him. So who just spoke to me?

*****

The man stood in the middle of the general assembly. He looked around at all those in attendance.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.,” he spoke with a loud authoritative voice. No one seemed to pay him any mind. He looked at the assembly once more and was gone.

*****

“I would like to introduce to the assembly a young man sent to us by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. A man who has envisioned peace throughout the world through a program such as this. I am pleased to introduce you to Patriarch Josef Bartola. Please would you come forward sir?” the assemblyman said clapping his hands.
The whole assembly stood to their feet cheering and clapping. Josef was impressed. How did they know? Wow, what a warm reception. They love me already. He walked up to the podium. Surely this must be the will of God.
“Thank you so much for that warm welcome. It is an honor to be invited here today. I truly believe that a unified religion is the answer to stopping the majority of the violence around the world. The UWR will be a world assembly for humanity’s spiritual traditions. It will incorporate Catholic beliefs, Episcopalian beliefs, Muslim beliefs, Buddhist beliefs, Hindu beliefs, Jewish beliefs, Sikh beliefs, Wiccan beliefs, Polytheistic beliefs, Animism beliefs, Pantheism beliefs, and even atheist beliefs. By incorporating these various religious beliefs and customs it will serve to bring together a diverse people rather than to segregate them, thus giving a more unified result. It will reach out and embrace all those who profess to believe in god, no matter who or what their god may be. We, those who are chosen to head this new assembly, will create a charter to govern the UWR. It will be held accountable to you, the UN. This is definitely a step in the right direction. I propose that we vote today to create the UWR.,” Josef said.
He took a long drink of the cool water that was offered to him. He stood watching everyone for a moment before continuing; he wanted what he was saying to sink in.
“I want the same things that each of you do, a world free of war, famine, pestilence, hatred, et cetera. I truly believe that this will accomplish that,” Josef said full of passion. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the assembly,” Josef continued.
He bowed humbly before the assembly before returning to his seat. He smiled to himself, things are going well.
Rosalind was impressed with the man. So this is why Nicolaitanes is here. I wonder how Patriarch Bartola will fit in with Nicolaitanes’ plans. She glanced over at Nicolaitanes; he was sitting quietly, completely emotionless. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
President Ricci turned to Nicolaitanes, “What do you think about all of this my friend?” he asked quietly.
Nicolaitanes folded his hands together in thought. “If it were a perfect world; the idea might work. Perhaps, with an exceptional leader in charge of the whole world and their complete freedom to run things as they see fit, I think that it would be successful. However, there are still many flaws with the idea,” Nicolaitanes commented quietly. President Ricci and Rosalind looked at Nicolaitanes puzzled.
“I think that it’s a marvelous idea, Nicolaitanes,” Rosalind said.
Nicolaitanes raised an eyebrow at her. She closed her mouth and kept quiet. This was not the time or the place to question Nicolaitanes about his motives. She sat there quietly listening to the murmur of voices talking amongst themselves.
President Ricci abruptly stood. “Excuse me, assemblyman, but I would like to second the motion to create the UWR. I further propose that we set a date to meet for the creation of the charter and regulations and implement this to the world,” President Ricci said.
“Are you sure that you wish to do that my friend?” Nicolaitanes asked concerned.
President Ricci smiled. “Of course Nicolaitanes, it is a good thing that we do here,” he replied.
Nicolaitanes smiled to himself; everything was going according to his plans. Now there are just a few more things that need taking care of.
The UN assembly voted unanimously in favor of creating the UWR. It would remain a secret from the outside world for now until they were ready to announce it to the world. More or less after they had it up and running and could enforce it.

*****

On the plane ride back to Rome, President Ricci asked Nicolaitanes to join him in his private quarters. Nicolaitanes knocked quietly on the door.
“Come in, my friend,” President Ricci called out. Nicolaitanes entered the room.
“Ah Nicolaitanes, I am so glad that you were able to accompany me. That was a very enlightening revelation. When we return I would like for you to help me with a speech for the people of Italy. What the UN is doing has given me an idea to help our own country,” President Ricci said. “Come, I wish to show you something,” he continued, unrolling a parchment onto the desk.
Nicolaitanes walked over and looked at the parchment. He was looking at plans to convert the entire country to Christianity. President Ricci had included a persuasive plan to show how he intended to convince the people that Jesus was truly the only way to heaven. This is not within my plans. What is President Ricci up to?Is my friend truly one of them? How did I not see this coming?
“I’m not sure that I like this,” he mumbled.
“What was that?” President Ricci asked.
He looked over at Nicolaitanes. What he saw shocked him. For a moment he thought he saw a look of pure hatred on his friend Nicolaitanes’ face. President Ricci looked pale and took a few steps back.
Well, that  confirms my suspicions. I’ll have to do something about this. “Are you alright, my friend?” Nicolaitanes asked reaching out to support President Ricci.
“Yes, I think so. Please Nicolaitanes, help me to the sofa. I wish to lie down,” President Ricci replied. What manner of evil was that?  Something evil glimmered in Nicolaitanes’ eyes for a moment. Is something trying to take control of my friend? Perhaps I imagined it all. Lying down for a while should help me to clear my head.
Nicolaitanes helped his friend to lie down on the sofa. He poured him a glass of cold water from the pitcher and helped him to drink it before placing the empty glass onto the table.
“Thank you Nicolaitanes. You are truly a caring and loving person. I thank you for this,” President Ricci said warily.
He was feeling unsure of himself. He kept trying to see a glimmer or hint of what he thought he saw only a moment ago. But whatever it was, it was now gone.
Nicolaitanes placed a pillow gently under President Ricci’s head.
“Thank you again, Nicolaitanes. Please close the door on your way out,” President Ricci said waving Nicolaitanes away.
Nicolaitanes turned off the light as he quietly left the room. Although Nicolaitanes didn’t show it, he was fuming. “No one dismisses me,” he mumbled angrily.
Nicolaitanes grumbled all the way back to his seat. He plopped down in his seat sulking and fumbled noisily with the magazine next to him. Rosalind glanced up from the magazine that she was reading to see what was going on. Nicolaitanes looked livid. Now what happened?  Nicolaitanes appears to be in one of his foul moods. It’s best to just leave him be for a while. But I don’t ever remember seeing him so angry before. Rosalind said nothing and went back to reading her magazine.
“How dare he? Doesn’t he know who he’s talking to? Where’s my respect?” Nicolaitanes mumbled.
He sat there drumming his fingers on the armrest, his foot tapping lightly on the floor. He looked at Rosalind; she wasn’t paying him any mind whatsoever. Good, she’s distracted. I have to take care of this now. I cannot allow him to get away with this. He stood up and walked back to President Ricci’s quarters. He quietly knocked on the door; no answer. He opened the door slightly and peered inside. President Ricci was sitting on the edge of the couch, pale and hunched over.
“Nicolaitanes help me,” President Ricci whispered.
Nicolaitanes walked over to his friend. He looked into his eyes with pure hatred and contempt. He laid his hands on President Ricci’s wrists. Fear overcame President Ricci as he stared into Nicolaitanes’ eyes.
“Nicolaitanes, what are you doing?” he asked terrified.
Something pure evil moved from Nicolaitanes’ body into President Ricci. It moved through his veins quickly stopping his heart and erupting in his brain causing a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Nicolaitanes smiled to himself. Problem solved. He gently laid President Ricci’s body down and closed his eyes. He walked out of the room and gently closed the door. He returned to his seat and looked out of the window.
“Ah, life is good,” he said.
Rosalind looked at him questioningly, but Nicolaitanes just ignored her. She turned and looked down the walkway from where Nicolaitanes had just come. What happened back there? She turned back around and continued reading her magazine.
A few minutes later they heard a loud crash before the stewardess screamed. They both raced towards the President’s quarters.
“What’s wrong my dear? What’s going on? President Ricci, everything alright in there?” Nicolaitanes called out with mock concern.
The stewardess came out of the room tears streaming down her face. She looked scared. Nicolaitanes grabbed her gently by her shoulders.
“What is it?” he asked firmly.
“I……………I………..I………” she stammered.
Nicolaitanes gently slapped her across her face.
“Get a hold of yourself woman and tell me what’s the matter?” he replied.
The stewardess stared at him. She was quiet.
“Well?” he asked again.
She looked down at her feet. “I was bringing the President his afternoon tea, as he requested. And……..and…….and” she said crying all over again.
She moved out of the doorway.  “Well, just see for yourself,” she said before running away.
Nicolaitanes stared into the room. He could see where the stewardess had dropped the teapot on the floor. The china had shattered all over the floor. President Ricci didn’t move. Is he really dead?
Rosalind pushed past Nicolaitanes into the room. She saw the President lying on the couch completely slack. He was extremely pale and turning colors. She reached for him and checked for a pulse. She found none. She sadly shook her head at Nicolaitanes.
“I’m so sorry Nicolaitanes, but I’m afraid that he’s gone,” she said gently. Nicolaitanes stared at her blankly. “I need to notify his aid and the pilot. They’ll have to notify the proper authorities prior to landing the plane in Rome,” Rosalind continued pushing past Nicolaitanes.
She wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw Nicolaitanes smile for just a moment. Is this what was bothering Nicolaitanes? Did he somehow know about this ahead of time? He does seem to know about things before they happen; I still have no idea of how he even does that. She walked to the cockpit to talk to the pilot.

*****

Gage and Byron traveled to Rome, Italy, after his meeting with the source. Gage was a little anxious to see if things were truly in the works to happen as she had suggested. Their flight arrived in Rome on a gorgeous fall morning. Gage got off the plane humming to himself.
Gage sure is in a good mood. Byron smiled to himself. He hoped that was a good sign. Perhaps he was finally getting over his divorce. Gage had been in a funk ever since his wife left him. But who could blame her? Gage hadn’t exactly been the model husband. Granted he had been faithful to his wife, had treated her with respect, but he was more married to his job than to her. That’s what had finally broken them apart. She’d had enough one day and Gage had come home to an empty apartment. Byron had tried to warn him, but nothing Byron had said had gotten through Gage’s thick headedness. Although Gage would never admit it, he had wished that he had listened to Byron. But it is too late now, Carol is gone. I hope that life is treating her well. She really deserves someone who will treat her like a queen.
They went through customs and gathered their luggage. Gage was excited about why they were here. He hoped that they could get started right away, but he wasn’t exactly sure where they should start. There was a story coming he knew, but he wasn’t sure when it would take lace—Ros had not given him any specifics. Gage suggested that they go to their hotel to check-in and freshen up a bit.
“So where do we start? What’s the story that we are here to scoop out anyway, Gage? Are you going to give me a hint at least?” Byron asked curiously.
“I don’t know yet. All I know is that we’ll know it when we see it,” Gage smiled slyly. He put his bag down on the bed.
“What do you say we do some sightseeing and get some footage of the city? You never know what we might find. Besides it’s a beautiful day. Way too nice to stay indoors,” Gage said grabbing his jacket.
They took a taxi to the tourist areas of the city. Byron filmed the various attractions they visited; the Colosseum, The Fountain di Trevi, and The Basilica of San Giovanni in Latesano. He was awed by the city’s colorful history and beauty. I definitely have to bring Karin here sometime; she would absolutely love it here. Byron reviewed the footage that they had taken earlier in the day. It looked really good. If nothing else, at least I have something of this trip that I can happily share with the family.
“I think that we shot some good footage today Gage, although I’m not sure what we can use it for just yet,” Byron said.
“Perhaps, but the story we came here for is still in the works somehow,” Gage replied.

*****

Halle had an enjoyable lunch with her new friend Amy. She had invited Amy to go to church with her, but once again she had politely turned Halle down. She wouldn’t give up on her. She drove to the church to meet with Bishop Williams. Halle got comfortable on the couch in his office before opening her Bible and getting out her notebook. Bishop Williams looked at her and smiled. She sure has been absorbing as much as she can lately. She is so eager to hear about everything. Bishop Williams wished that everyone had her desire. He sat down in the recliner across from her.
“Tell me about those questions that you have, Halle,” Bishop Williams asked gently.
“Well, Bishop I have quite a lot of questions today. Are you sure that you have time to answer them all?” Halle asked hopefully.
“Take all the time that you need, Halle,” Bishop Williams replied. 
“Okay. First question: Can anyone go to heaven? What does one have to do to earn it?” Halle inquired picking up her pen, ready to write down what the Bishop said.
“To answer your question, yes, Halle anyone who accepts Jesus Christ can go to heaven. John 3: 5 says, ‘Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ One cannot earn the right to go to heaven, they cannot buy their way into heaven nor can they pay for it with their good works. Without having first accepted Jesus, no one can enter the kingdom of heaven,” Bishop Williams replied.
She hurriedly wrote down everything that was said, especially the scriptures. Satisfied that she had written everything down, she asked the next question.
“What about someone that lives a sinful life? Like a liar, adulterer, fornicator, thief, murderer, etc. Can they go to heaven as well?” Halle continued.
Bishop Williams thought about it. “Halle, we are all sinners in the eyes of God. That is why we need Jesus. He died on the cross for our sins. He took the punishment for us. We need only to ask for forgiveness of our sins, accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and live our lives holy and acceptable to God. We are not perfect Halle, so we need to study the word daily, pray daily, ask for forgiveness and allow God to change us,” Bishop Williams replied.
“Okay. So no matter what someone has done, if they only ask for forgiveness and accept Jesus they can become a child of God and go to heaven?” Halle asked amazed.
“Yes, my dear. God loves each and every one of us. He is not want that any should perish. He wants us all to come to repentance of our sins, accept his beloved Son as our Lord and Savior and live a holy and acceptable life,” Bishop Williams replied taking Halle’s hand gently. Halle was in awe.
“God is truly amazing. He must have a love that surpasses all understanding. I for one certainly don’t understand it,” she said.
“His ways are not our own Halle. We won’t understand a lot of why God does some of the things that He does or why He allows certain things to happen. A lot of it won’t make any sense to us. But it is okay, Halle as it’s not for us to understand,” Bishop Williams said.
Halle looked down at her notes. She was thinking about her husband.
“Is it possible for one to have a personal relationship with God and how would you do so? “ Halle asked.
“Yes Halle, we can all have a personal relationship with God. We do so by reading and studying the word, praying, going to church to hear the word and meditating on the word. You can talk to God at any time of the day or night and about anything at all. He wants us to come to him with not only our good things, but our bad things as well. He wants us to trust Him completely. He wants to be our best friend. He loves us like a father and He wants to be a wonderful part of our lives,” Bishop Williams said passionately. Halle appeared intrigued by this.
“How can I prove God to someone who doesn’t’ believe in anything they can’t see or touch? How do you get through to someone like that?” Halle asked.
This question kind of stumped Bishop Williams, but only for a moment. “You cannot reach anyone until they are ready to listen. Pray to God about the situation and ask Him to prepare that person to be ready and willing to listen. Don’t give up on that person, but you can’t force it on them either. God gave us the freedom to choose and we must choose Him willingly,” Bishop Williams said.
Halle sighed. “I know that this can be frustrating at times, but have patience Halle,” he added.
“When is it right to spread the word of God to others?” Halle asked.
“Any time is right to spread the good news. God will provide you with many opportunities,” he said.
“After I have accepted Jesus and am seeking to live a godly life, can I do whatever I want?” Halle asked shyly.
“Well Halle, once you accept Jesus you cannot live any kind of way. Don’t be like the hypocrites, you can’t be one way on Sunday and the opposite the rest of the week. You will need to stay away from ungodly things and people. Just like the old folks used to say, you are what you eat. Don’t get caught up in the world. Be careful who your friends are. If you watch evil things on television all the time, some of it will rub off on you and influence you. Don’t become conformed to the world. Remember the devil is a liar and he has many deceitful ways to try to get you to not focus on God. For example, he may try to convince you that God is not real, that a homosexual lifestyle is okay or sleeping with numerous partners for that matter. That being Goth is okay and not satanic or a cult in nature. That it’s okay to be married and sleeping around with those who are not your spouse, that it’s okay to have sex when you are not married, that it’s okay for the same sex to marry or that it’s okay for an unmarried man and woman to live together. These things may be acceptable to our society however, it is not acceptable to God. These things displease God. They are sinful in nature; they are ungodly. Should we as Christians shun these people or stop loving them or shame them? The answer is no. Instead, we should pray for them and share the good news of God with them,” Bishop Williams said.
Wow. I am really glad that I came. There is so much that I can learn from Bishop Williams. I didn’t realize that there was so much to learn about living for God. I could sit here and learn all day. There’s just something about hearing about God that makes me want to hear more. Halle was eager to learn all that she could.
“First and foremost, Halle you have to remember that God is a loving God. His love for us is unconditional. We can show others God’s love in our actions and words. Remember that you may be the only Jesus that someone may ever see. So let the light of God shine through you. Allow Him to use you to do His will,” Bishop Williams added.
“I would like that very much,” Halle replied enthusiastically. “But first I’m afraid that I have a lot to learn,” she added quickly.
“We are all still learning. We are in the construction phase,” Bishop smiled.
“Well I guess that I have taken up enough of your time for tonight. Do you mind if we do this again sometime?” she asked eagerly.
Bishop Williams smiled. “Anytime Halle. My door is always open. Come let me walk you to your car,” Bishop Williams said heading towards the door.
“Thank you so much for your time,” Halle said. She shook Bishop Williams’ hand then turned and got into her car.

*****

Gage and Byron had been in Rome for a few days now. Nothing exciting had happened yet. They were more or less playing tourist for the time being. It was kind of nice to be on vacation at the expense of someone else.
The phone in the room began to ring. “Now who could that be?” Gage wondered. No one knows that we are here. Even Ros doesn’t know where we are staying. How strange? The phone rang again.
“Well, aren’t you going to answer that?” Byron called from the bathroom. Gage picked up the phone. It felt strange in his hand. Not quite real.
“Gage?” a woman’s voice said.
“Yes. Who is this?” he replied.
“Today is a good day for a story. Get out and about today; you never know what you might see. The airport is a good place as any to start,” she said before hanging up. Gage stared at the phone in his hand.
“Who was that?” Byron asked walking into the room.
“She didn’t say. But I think today’s the day,” Gage said getting up. “Get dressed Byron. Today is going to be a good day for news,” Gage continued.
Byron looked at him oddly, but hurried back into the bathroom to get dressed.  I wonder if that phone call has anything to do with Gage’s sudden excitement. Who was it anyway?
Ten minutes later, Byron and Gage were in a taxi driving near the airport when they suddenly heard a bunch of sirens. The taxi pulled to the side of the road to let them pass.
“I wonder what’s going on,” the taxi driver said.
A couple of ambulances and police cruisers went flying passed them towards the airport. Gage and Byron looked at each other.
“Hey Buddy, change of plans, follow those cars,” Gage demanded.
The cabbie shrugged his shoulders then drove after the police cars. He was a little curious anyway to see what was going on.
A few minutes later the cab pulled up at the airport. The police cars continued into the restricted area of the airport. The airport was in a chaotic mess. Polizia di Stato were trying their best to keep people back from the entrance to the terminal. Gage and Byron got out of the cab.
“What’s going on?” Byron asked one of the officers.
“Not quite sure, but it has something to do with President Ricci,” he said.
The officer noticed the EMS team hurrying towards them with a gurney. It must be pretty bad if they need all of us here. I hope the President is alright.
“Please keep back out of the way sir,” he ordered pushing the reporters back to let EMS pass through. They watched silently along with everyone else.
Gage turned to Byron, “Make sure you film all of this. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I bet that there’s definitely a news story in all of this somewhere.”
Byron picked up his camera and started filming the chaos all around him. He noticed some activity going on near the plane and focused the camera there. A moment later the EMS team exited the plane with a body covered by a sheet on the gurney. I wonder who they have under that sheet. It can’t be the President, can it?
They all had their heads lowered as they exited the plane and walked towards them. All were extremely quiet. Behind the EMS team, Nicolaitanes Balac and Rosalind Carey followed with their heads down, a few tears were flowing down Nicolaitanes’ face. Put on a good performance. Nicolaitanes slowed down his stride and buried his face in his hands.
“Nicolaitanes? Nicolaitanes? Can you tell us what’s going on here?” a woman with a microphone asked.
Nicolaitanes paused for a moment looking at the cameras. I have to make this look good. He took a deep breath before responding.
“I’m afraid, my good friend President Adamo Ricci has passed away,” Nicolaitanes said deeply saddened.
“What’s to become of Italy? Who will rule her now?” another reporter asked.
“I have been asked to take President Ricci’s place,” Nicolaitanes replied sadly.
“President Ricci is dead? That can’t be. What happened to him?” the reporter asked.
“I’m sorry, Nicolaitanes will not be taking any more questions at this time,” Rosalind said stepping up to the microphone.
He nodded to Rosalind and thanked her before pushing his way through the crowd to an awaiting Town car. Rosalind followed closely behind him.
Gage was ecstatic. “Byron, come on. I don’t want to miss that ceremony. We are going to go live with this,” Gage said. This is a little unusual—Nicolaitanes Balac is going to be sworn in to the Presidency without the people voting for a new President. Don’t the people have a say in this? How strange.

*****

Gage and Byron hurried back to their waiting cab. Byron wasn’t sure what he thought about all of this. Something about all of this didn’t set right in his spirit. What’s wrong Lord? What has my spirit stirred up so? Is this normal procedure for Italy? Perhaps they just do things differently here then they would back in the United States. I guess this is just all a little strange to me.
“So, what happened over there? Was that a body that I saw them wheel over to the ambulance?” the cabbie asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Gage replied.
“I see. So who was it?” the cabbie asked curiously.
“It’s the body of President Adamo Ricci,” Byron said quietly.
The cab driver turned in his seat to look at Byron, “Dio non voglia. Are you sure about this?”
“Yes, I am sure. Is something wrong?” Byron replied.
The cab driver turned around quiet in his seat. He stared at the cross dangling from his rearview mirror.
“And so it begins,” he mumbled.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” Gage asked.
“Nothing. Where to now gentlemen?” the cabbie asked.
“Follow that Town car. I want to be there when they swear in Nicolaitanes Balac for Presidency,” Gage replied.
The cabbie nodded and started up the car. He followed behind the Town car being careful not to drive to closely. Is this the man that you forewarned us about Lord? What should I do now? I don’t want my family to be exposed to the lies and deceit of the antichrist. Should we stay here in Italy or do I take my family and flee now? What do I do Lord?
Byron noticed how quiet the cabdriver had become. Why is he so affected by the news of President Ricci’s death? It seems a little extreme to me. I don’t believe this cabdriver knew him personally so why? Perhaps this has more meaning to him then we know. Byron watched him quietly as they drove through the streets of Rome.
A few minutes later they pulled into a parking lot outside of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.I wonder why they are here. This isn’t where they normally swear in the President. There sure are a lot of people here. I hope that these gentlemen are finished with my services as I would like to get back to my family. We have a big decision to make. He watched as Gage and Byron collected their things before exiting the cab.
“Will that be all?” he asked.
“Yes, as I don’t know how long this ceremony will be. Thank you so much for your services,” Gage said leaning back in the cab to pay the fare.
The cabbie smiled at the tip Gage gave him, “Thank you so much. This will certainly help my family.” He waved before driving away.
Byron stood there watching the cab drive away. The driver sure seemed eager to get away. Strange as he had been so interested before. So why the sudden change? Does he know something we don’t?
He turned to see where Gage had gone and hurried to catch up. He waited patiently for Gage to decide what vantage point he wanted before setting up the camera. There certainly are a lot of people here. How? He looked around at the large crowd gathering for the ceremony. Wait a minute. Where are all the other reporters? What happened to the reporters from the airport? Surely, they followed Nicolaitanes’ car here just as we did. Are we the only ones here? Is this the exclusive that Gage’s source recommended?
Byron stood there quietly staring off in the distance. He saw something peculiar. What is that? What’s going on?
Byron? Are you ready? I think that we should do this live? Hey Byron, are you alright?” Gage asked. What on earth has captivated Byron’s attention.
Gage walked over to his friend and laid his hand gently on his shoulder. Byron flinched at the touch.
“Byron?” Gage said gently.
“Gage, what are you doing? Shouldn’t you be getting ready to tape your report?” Byron asked.
“I was waiting for you. Where were you a minute ago?” Gage asked.
“Sorry, something just caught my attention. Anyway it looks like they’re getting ready to start the ceremony. Come on, we didn’t come all this way for you to miss it,” Byron said turning the camera on.
Gage looked at him curiously, “Okay, I’m ready.”

{TV Announcement, CNN News}

Italian President Adamo Ricci was found dead this morning. The circumstances surrounding his death are currently being investigated. Nicolaitanes Balac is being sworn in as President of Italy as we speak. We take you now to the Presidential ceremony already in progress.
Thank you, James. This is Gage Cameron at the Presidential swearing in of Nicolaitanes Balac. Although, Nicolaitanes Balac is not the obvious choice to fill the late President Adamo Ricci’s shoes; he seems to be a choice that the people here are thrilled with. There are thousands of people here for his ceremony as you can see. They are cheering, waving flags, and just altogether ecstatic by this. This is just so amazing. You would have to be here to feel the love and support the people are showing President Nicolaitanes Balac. This is Gage Cameron, CNN news.”

*****

Outside of Washington, D.C., Richard sat watching the latest newscast. Something seemed really odd to him about the whole thing.
“Now that is just weird. That man, President Adamo Ricci, was just on the television the other day, something about a summit meeting or something like that. Now, he’s a dead man. Hmmm, seems downright peculiar. But what do I care as it doesn’t have anything to do with me. What does this have to do with us anyway? That’s over in Italy,” Richard Smith said out loud to no one.
He looked over at the clock on the wall as his stomach grumbled again. Where is that wife of mine? Doesn’t she know that I’m starving here? How much longer is she going to make me wait? He returned his attention back to the television and flipped through the channels until he found a comedy to watch.

*****

“Congratulations, Nicolaitanes. I knew that you would be chosen,” Rosalind said laying a hand on Nicolaitanes’ back.
“Thank you, Rosalind, but this is just the beginning. We have much work to do,” Nicolaitanes replied. Was there ever any doubt?
He waved once more to the people, his people, and turned and walked into his new Presidential office. He sat down behind his new desk and smiled to himself.
“Yes, all is going according to plan,” he said smiling.

*****

Halle thanked Bishop Williams for his help and walked back to her car. She was filled with excitement. The answers that the Bishop had given her were so empowering. She couldn’t wait to get home so she could share all of this with her husband. She glanced at her watch. Uh oh he should have gotten home an hour ago and I haven’t even gotten dinner started yet. He is going to be mad. She decided to pick up some fast food on her way home.

*****

A few months later, Nicolaitanes Balac made his bi-annual business trip to the United States. His architect company had just obtained more contracts to build secret office buildings for the military; his company also built these buildings for other countries besides the US. He was pleased with the work that his company had already accomplished. Their specialty was building elaborate top secret military office buildings. He had the architectural ability to make them look like beautiful regular office buildings on the outside. But he like the military knew better.
He was going to Washington DC to personally oversee the buildings currently being built near the Pentagon. Besides, he also had another reason for making this trip personally. After the trip to DC, he would make his rounds to the various military posts where he had already built these buildings to ensure that the military was 100 percent satisfied with the work. He didn’t really care whether they were or not, but he did need to keep them happy so that he could ensure that he would continue to obtain the government contracts year after year. He needed this in order to continue with his plans--it would be helping him in his rise to power.
It was on this particular trip that he met Adolphe Christophe, Tara Matthews, Victor Bartola, Annamaya Varnedoe, Andrew Jackson, Richard Smith, Sampson Perry, Serenity Lambert, and Caitlin Rogers. He met them at various military posts as well as at the Pentagon. He was impressed with each of their job capabilities and work ethics. Each had a specialty that Nicolaitanes required to have his plans fulfilled. He invited each of them privately to become a part of Operation Dark Angel. They each agreed without much resistance. Now he needed only to find one more person to complete his task. Upon reaching Fort Stewart to check on the status of a building in the process of being built, he met General Alexander Ludlow.
Although Nicolaitanes had not met the General on his previous trips to the post, Nicolaitanes liked him immediately. He had heard from other officers that the General was a ruthless man. The General had not cared who he had stepped on to get what he wanted. He had all of the characteristics that Nicolaitanes was looking for, he was perfect for Nicolaitanes’ plans. Upon meeting the man in person, Nicolaitanes invited General Ludlow to be in charge of Operation Dark Angel. The General though, was a little reluctant at first. After much deliberation he finally agreed to be a part of it. Satisfied, Nicolaitanes returned home to Italy pleased with himself. Now Nicolaitanes’ special group was complete.
“Now it all truly begins,” he said smiling and pressing his fingertips together.

*****

The man walked slowly through the town. Why is it the same, town after town, city after city? He was so disappointed and saddened by what he saw. All the hateful graffiti, the young boys hanging on street corners sipping 40s, the young women standing on the street corners, the homeless wandering the streets in search of somewhere to sleep, the drug dealers selling drugs to anyone who would buy them (including children), people eating out of garbage cans because they had nothing to eat. Where are all the caring people? “What is wrong with the world? Where is all the love? The man sighed disgusted by all that he had seen.
He watched people walking by those who were hurting and needing help without so much as looking at them nor speaking to them. Most people acted as though they didn’t even exist. Not one had a kind or encouraging word for them.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” the man proclaimed then was gone.
He walked through another section of town where all the churches were. It was a more upscale area of town. There were pretty decent looking homes here, probably middle class. Strange how there were so many churches here in the nicer neighborhood, but none where it was needed most—in the neighborhood where he had just left. This saddened him. The world was in so much turmoil and it was only going to get worse from here on out. Mankind just didn’t seem to need or care about God. This saddened him dearly. His heart was incredibly heavy. If it hurt him this much, he could only imagine how the Master must feel.
He walked closer to the church of Bishop Williams. Something didn’t feel quite right. Something indeed was very wrong here. He must warn them.

*****

Bishop Williams was working late in his office. He had gotten caught up in his new sermon series that he was doing. He was so excited by how much the congregation seemed to absorb everything like a sponge. He was proud of himself. He was currently working on his sermon for tomorrow night.
“In Revelation 11:7, we hear about the beast that comes out of the bottomless pit. He will declare war against God’s people. He will conquer them and kill them. Many of us will die for God’s sake during the end times. Many of us will be martyred in His name. Now the martyrs will not be the Christians who are here today, for we will be called up to Him when the trumpet sounds. These will be new Christians; those who come to God during the time of the Tribulation,” he rehearsed in front of his mirror.
He paused here staring at the mirror; there was a reflection of a man he had never seen before standing behind him. Bishop Williams turned around startled. Where had he come from? I don’t remember hearing the door open plus the chimes didn’t sound. Did I forget to turn the system back on?
“I’m sorry, may I help you with something?” Bishop Williams asked smiling.
The man stood there quietly for a moment. “Take your flock into hiding for it is not safe for you to be here. The enemy of God is prowling around here seeking to devour your sheep. God is not want that any should perish,” the man said firmly then turned and walked away.
Bishop Williams stood there stunned. He stared after the man until he couldn’t see him anymore. He looked at the sermon in his hand before turning and running down the hallway.
“Hey? Hey! Hey you stop,” he called out. But he may as well have been talking to the walls, for the church was empty except for himself.
Strange. Where had the man come from? I didn’t hear the man come in or leave. Who was he? Was he serious? Is God warning me about something yet to come?
He walked through the entire church looking for the man and thinking about what he had said. Although the message had been strange, could he risk his flock by ignoring the message? He couldn’t explain it, but with every step he took his heart was filled with impending doom. This could only have come from God and who am I to doubt it.

He decided strange or not, it wasn’t worth risking the lives of anyone and decided that they would continue church services at the safe house from now on. He returned to his office and called the church secretary at home. He asked her to call all of the church members and let them know of the new plans effective immediately. No one was to come back here to the church for any reason. She was puzzled by the Bishops’ request, but followed his orders nonetheless and began calling everyone that she had a phone number for. She was sure that he would explain when the time was right.
    


Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams Book 1) by Sharlene MacLaren.

Tour Date: January 29th

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Award winning romance author, Sharlene MacLaren has released 13 novels since embarking on a writing career in 2007. After a career teaching second grade “Shar” says she asked God for a new mission “that would bring her as great a sense of purpose” as she’d felt teaching and raising her children. She tried her hand at inspirational romance, releasing Through Every Storm to critical and popular acclaim in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. She quickly became the top selling fiction author for Whitaker House, has accumulated multiple awards, and endeared herself to readers who can’t get enough of her long, luscious and often quirky tales – both historical and contemporary. Her novels include the contemporary romances Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; and three historical series including Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma); The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann) and River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret).

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

 Mercy Evans has known a great deal of heartache and hardship in her 26 years. She lost her mother at a young age and was only 16 when her father was killed in a brawl sparked by a feud with the Connors family that spans several generations. When a house fire claims the lives of her two best friends, Mercy is devastated, but finds comfort in caring for their two sons, who survived thanks to a heroic rescue by Sam Connors, blacksmith in the small town of Paris, Tennessee. Yet the judge is determined to grant custody only if Mercy is married. Mercy loves the boys as her own, and she’ll go to any lengths to keep them—but what if that means marrying the son of the man who killed her father?  Set in the 1880’s, Heart of Mercy is the first book in MacLaren’s new Tennessee Dreams series.


Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Series: Tennessee Dreams (Book 1)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749632
ISBN-13: 978-1603749633


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1890
Paris, Tennessee
“Fire!”
The single word had the power to force a body to drop his knees and call out to his Maker for leniency. But most took time for neither, instead racing to the scene of terror with the bucket they kept stored close to the door, and joining the contingent of citizens determined to battle the flames of death and destruction. Such was the case tonight when, washing the dinner dishes in the kitchen sink, Mercy Evans heard the dreaded screams coming from all directions, even began to smell the sickening fumes of blazing timber seeping through her open windows. She ran through her house and burst through the screen door onto the front porch.
“Where’s the fire?” she shouted at the people running up Wood Street carrying buckets of water.
Without so much as a glance at her, one man hollered on the run, “Looks to be the Watson place over on Caldwell.”
Her heart thudded to a shattering halt. God, no! “Surely, you don’t mean Herb and Millie Watson!”
Mercy Evans and Millie Watson, formerly Gifford, had been fast friends at school and had stuck together like glue in the dimmest of circumstances, as well as the sweetest. Millie had walked with Mercy through the loss of both her parents, and Mercy had watched Millie fall wildly in love with Herb Watson in the twelfth grade. She’d been the maid of honor in their wedding the following summer.
But her voice was lost to the footsteps thundering past. Whirling on her heel, she ran back inside, hurried to extinguish all but one kerosene lamp, snatched her wrap from its hook by the door, and darted back outside and up the rutted street toward her best friends’ home, dodging horses and a stampede of citizens. “Lord, please don’t let it be,” she pleaded aloud. “Oh, God, keep them safe. Jesus, Jesus….” But her cries vanished in the scramble of bodies crowding her off the street as several made the turn onto Caldwell in their quest to reach the flaming house, which already looked beyond saving.
Tongues of fire shot like dragons’ breath out windows and up through a hole in the roof. Like hungry serpents, flames lapped up the sides of the house, eating walls and shattering panes, while men heaved their pathetic little buckets of water at the volcanic monster.
“Back off, everybody. Step back!” ordered Sheriff Phil Marshall. He and a couple of deputies on horseback spread their arms wide at the crowd, trying to push them to safety.
Ignoring his orders, Mercy pressed through the gathering mob until the heat so overwhelmed her that she had no choice but to stop. Besides, a giant arm reached out and stopped her progress. She shook it off. “Where are they?” she gasped, breathless. “Where’s the family?”
The sheriff moved his bald head from side to side, his sad, defeated eyes telling the story. “Don’t know, Miss Evans. No one’s seen ’em yet. We been scourin’ the crowd”—he gave another shake of the head—“and it don’t appear anybody got out of that inferno.”
“That can’t be.” A sob caught at the back of her throat and choked her next words. “They were at my place earlier. I made supper.”
“Sorry, miss.”
“Someone’s comin’ out!” A man’s ear-splitting shout rose above the crowd.
Dense smoke enveloped a large figure emerging—staggering rather like a drunkard—from the open door and onto the porch, his arms full with two wriggling bundles wrapped in blankets and screaming in terror. Mercy sucked in a cavernous breath and held it till weakness overtook her and she forced herself to let it out. Could it be? Had little John Roy and Joseph survived the fire thanks to this man?
“Who is it?” someone asked.
All stood in rapt silence as he passed through the cloud of smoke. “Looks to be Sam Connors, the blacksmith,” said the sheriff, scratching his head and stepping forward.
“Sure ’nough is,” someone confirmed.
Mercy stared in wonder as the man, looking dazed and almost ethereal, strode down the steps, then wavered and stumbled before falling flat on his face in a heap of dust and bringing the howling bundles with him.
Excited chatter erupted as Mercy and several others ran to their aid. Mercy yanked the blankets off the boys and heaved a sigh of relief to find them both alert and apparently unharmed, albeit still screeching louder than a couple of banshees. Through their avalanche of tears, they recognized her, and they hurled themselves into her arms, knocking her backward, so that she wound up on her back perpendicular to Mr. Connors, with both of the boys lying prone across her body. In all the chaos, she felt a hand grasp her arm and help her up to a sitting position.
“Come on, Miz. You bes’ git yo’self an’ them chillin’s out of the way o’ them flames fo’ you all gets burned.” She had the presence of mind to look up at Solomon Turner, a former slave now in the employ of Mrs. Iris Brockwell, a prominent Paris citizen who’d donated a good deal of money to the hospital fund.
Mercy took the man’s callused hand and allowed him to help her to a standing state. By the lines etched in his face from years of hard work in the sweltering sun, Mercy figured he had to be in his seventies, yet he lifted her with no apparent effort. “Thank you, Mr. Turner.”
Five-year-old John Roy stretched his arms upward, pleading with wet eyes to be held, while Joseph, six, took a fistful of her skirt and clung with all his might. “Come,” she said, hoisting John Roy up into her arms. “We best do as Mr. Turner says, honey. Follow me.”
“But…Mama and Papa….” Joseph turned and gave his perishing house a long perusal, tears still spilling down his face. John Roy buried his wrenching sobs in Mercy’s shoulder, and it was all she could do to keep from bolting into the house herself to search for Herb and Millie, even though she knew she’d never come out alive. If the fire and smoke didn’t kill her, the heat would. Besides, before her eyes, the flames had devoured the very sides of the house, leaving a skeletal frame with a staircase only somewhat intact and a freestanding brick fireplace looking like a graveyard monument. Her heart throbbed in her chest and thundered in her ears, and she wanted to scream, but the ever-thickening smoke and acrid fumes burned to the bottom of her lungs.
With her free hand, she hugged Joseph close to her. “I know, sweetheart, and I’m so, so sorry.” Her words drowned in her own sobs as the truth slammed against her. Millie and Herb, her most loyal friends. Gone.
Sheriff Marshall and his deputies ordered the crowd to move away from the blazing house, so she forced herself to obey, dragging a reluctant Joseph with her. At the same time, she observed three men carrying a yet unconscious Sam Connors across the street to a grassy patch of ground. Several others gathered around, trying to decide what sort of care he needed. Of course, he required medical attention, but Mercy felt too weak and dizzy to tend to him. Best to let the men put him on a cart and drive him over to Doc Trumble’s. Besides, she highly doubted he’d welcome her help. He was a Connors, after all, and she an Evans—two families who had been fighting since as far back as anyone could remember.
She’d heard only bits and pieces of how the feud had started, with a dispute between Cornelius Evans, Mercy’s grandfather, and Eustace Connors over property lines and livestock grazing in the early 1830s. There had been numerous thefts of horses and cattle, and incidents of barn burnings, committed by both families, until a judge had stepped in and defined the property lines—in favor of Eustace Connors. Mercy’s grandfather had gotten so agitated over the matter that his heart had given out. Mercy’s grandmother, Margaret, had blamed the Connors family, fueling the feud by passing her hatred for the entire clan on to her own children, and so the next generation had carried the grudge, mostly forgetting its origins but not the bad blood. The animosity had reached a peak six years ago, when Ernest Connors had killed Oscar Evans—Mercy’s father.
“That man’s a angel,” Joseph mumbled into her skirts.
“What, honey?”
“John Roy was wailin’ real loud, ’cause he saw somethin’ orange comin’ from upstairs, so he got in bed with me, and after a while that angel man comed in and took us out of ar’ bed.”
She set John Roy on the ground, then got down on her knees to meet Joseph’s eyes straight on. His were still red, his cheeks blotchy. She thought very carefully about her next words. “Where were your parents?”
Joseph sniffed. “They tucked us in and went upstairs to their bedroom. John Roy an’ me talked a long time about scary monsters an’ stuff, but then, after a while, he went to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I got up t’ get a drink o’ water, and that’s when I heard a noise upstairs. I looked around the corner, and I seed a big round ball o’ orange up there, and smoke comin’ out of it, and I thought it was a dragon come to eat us up. I runned back and jumped in bed with Joseph and tol’ him a mean monster was comin’ t’ get us, and I started cryin’ real loud.”
John Roy picked up the story from there. “And so we waited and waited for the monster to come after us, but instead the angel saved us. I think Mama and Papa is prolly still sleepin’. Do you think they waked up yet?”
Mercy’s throat burned as powerfully as if she’d swallowed a tablespoonful of acid. Her own eyes begged to cut loose a river of tears, but she warded them off with a shake of her head while gathering both boys tightly to her. “No, darlings, I don’t believe they woke up in bed. I believe with all my heart they awoke in heaven and are right now asking Jesus to keep you safe.”
“And so Jesus tol’ that angel to come in the house and get us?” Joseph pointed a shaky finger at Sam Connors. The big fellow lay motionless on his back, with several men bent over him, calling his name and fanning his face.
Mercy smiled. “He’s not an angel, my sweet, but that’s not to say that God didn’t have something to do with sending him in to rescue you.”
“Is he gonna die, like Mama and Papa?” John Roy asked between frantic sobs.
“Oh, honey, I don’t know.”
She overheard Lyle Phelps suggest they take him over to Doc Trumble’s house, but then Harold Crew said he’d spotted the doctor about an hour ago, driving out to the DeLass farm to deliver baby number seven.
A few sets of eyes glanced around until they landed on Mercy. She knew what folks were thinking. She worked for Doc Trumble, she had more medical training and experience than the average person, and her house was closest to the scene. But their gazes also indicated they understood the awkwardness of the situation, considering the ongoing feud between the two families. Although the idea of caring for him didn’t appeal, she’d taken an oath to always do her best to preserve life. Besides, the Lord commanded her to love her neighbor as herself, making it a sin to walk away from someone in need, regardless of his family name.
She dropped her shoulders, even as the boys snuggled close. “Put him on a cart and take him to my place,” she stated.
As if relieved that his care would fall to someone other than themselves, several men hurried to pick him up and carried him to Harold Crew’s nearby buggy.
“What about us?” Joseph asked.
The sheriff stepped forward and made a quick study of each boy. “You can stay out at my sister’s farm. She won’t mind adding a couple o’ more young’uns to her brood.”
Joseph burst into loud howls upon the sheriff’s announcement. Mercy hugged him and John Roy possessively. “Their parents were my closest friends, Sheriff Marshall. I’d like to assume their care.”
He frowned and scratched the back of his head. “Don’t know as that’s the best solution, you bein’ unwed an’ all.”
“That should have no bearing whatever on where they go. Their parents were my closest friends. They’re coming home with me.” She took both boys by the hands, turned, and led them back down Caldwell Street, away from the still-smoldering house and the sheriff’s disapproving gaze. Overhead, black smoke filled the skies, obliterating any hope of the night’s first stars or the crescent moon making an appearance.


    

30 Meditations on Rest by Marilyn Hickey and Sarah Bowling

Tour Date: January 24th

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Whitaker House; Pap/Crds edition (September 2, 2013)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Marilyn Hickey, founder and president of Marilyn Hickey Ministries, has served in a wide variety of roles: author, teacher, pastor’s wife, mother and grandmother, preacher, broadcaster, peacemaker and spiritual diplomat. She’s known and loved worldwide for her daily radio and television broadcasts that have helped several generations learn to read the Bible and integrate its principles into daily living. Marilyn is joined by her daughter Sarah Bowling for their TV show, Marilyn and Sarah. Sarah is Vice President and founder of Saving Moses, a humanitarian initiative dedicated to reducing infant mortality worldwide. She is speaks at seminars, conferences, and college campuses throughout the world. Sarah and her husband, Reece, are senior pastors of Orchard Road Christian Center, near Denver, founded by Marilyn Hickey and her late husband, Wallace.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

30 Meditations on Rest is the first of a meditation series by well known Bible teacher Dr. Marilyn Hickey and her daughter and ministry partner, Sarah Bowling. In this volume, readers learn how to meditate and focus on the importance of rest. The authors maintain that rest begins in the mind and offer 30 supportive biblical meditations designed to renew and refresh world-weary readers. Convenient tear-away Scripture cards are included to help people maintain focus amid the busyness of life. Dr. Hickey, over 80 and going strong, says she and Sarah launched the series to challenge those who associate the word meditate with drudgery, saying, “It’s our desire for the reader  to experience a life transformation that will take place as these principles are applied.”


Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House; Pap/Crds edition (September 2, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749012
ISBN-13: 978-1603749015


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Meditating: The #1 Key to Success
Hide-and-seek was a fun game. I can hear the refrain: “Ready or not, here I come!” One child was “it,” and he would cover his eyes on home base as all the other children ran and hid. The object was for those who were hiding to get “home” before they were found.
It was great entertainment, and amusing, but there’s a “hiding” that is essential to our walk as Christians that I want to present here.
I’m referring to hiding the Word in our hearts, and the “who, what, when, where, and how” of doing this. The Bible says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:11). When we hide the Word in our hearts, it not only keeps us from sin, as the psalmist said, but it also will bring success.
Most promises in the Bible relate to specific actions:
“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”                                                (Ephesians 6:2–3)
The command (action) involves honoring your parents, and it is accompanied by a specific promise: that you may be well and “live long on the earth.”
God gave a command to Joshua. It was given because of God’s promise to lead Israel into the Promised Land. After forty years in the wilderness, Joshua was chosen to fulfill the hundreds-of-years-old pledge. In Joshua 1:8, he received a command to meditate. The instruction was for all people, as you’ll see from reading further Scriptures on meditation, and it carries a promise that goes with everything in your life. This Scripture enlightens us about hiding the Word. It says,
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.         
                                                                                                     (Joshua 1:8)
God said, in effect, “If you meditate on My Word, day and night, and if you speak that Word and obey it, everything in your life will be prosperous and successful!”
I’ve discovered that God has a lot to say about meditating, and I’ve become excited about what meditating on His Word accomplishes. It is important that you understand what meditation is and what it will do for you. Meditating on God’s Word changes lives—in fact, it is life.
I’ve heard many testimonies regarding the effects of medication. If you know me, I’m sure most of you know Sarah Bowling. She’s a wife, a mother, a teacher of the Word, a pastor, and my television cohost on Today with Marilyn and Sarah. And, if you did not know, she is my daughter. She ministers alongside Reece Bowling, her husband, who is senior pastor of Orchard Road Christian Center, in Greenwood, Colorado. The crux of her heart’s cry is a ministry she founded, called Saving Moses, which concentrates on saving young children, from newborns to the age of five.
Sarah’s life has been strongly affected by meditation. This is what she says:
The most powerful experience I’ve had meditating on the Bible was when I was in my early twenties. I was spending the summer doing missions work in Hong Kong. At the time, I was a schoolteacher and had made some bad decisions in my personal life during the preceding school year. During my time there, I was not only involved in missions work but I also was trying to get past the dilemma created by those choices. Thankfully, I had supportive people around me and made great friendships.
Over the course of that summer, what helped my thinking the most was my experience with memorizing and meditating on Colossians 3. I found that the longer I memorized and meditated on those verses, the more healthy my mind and thoughts became. As I continued to progress through the chapter, it felt as though the verses I memorized were figuratively washing out all the garbage those bad decisions had deposited in my mind. Furthermore, it felt like those verses were not only cleaning my mind, but they also were replacing destructive mind-sets with more truth-oriented thoughts and convictions.
I’ve never forgotten that experience and the transforming power of meditating on the Bible. Subsequently, I’ve used the principles of meditating over the course of my life with equally powerful results and transformations.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. Rick is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, in Forest Lake, California. This is what he said in his book about meditation:
Meditation is “thinking about God”—His essence, His desires, His plans, His mercy, etc.—throughout each day. And the only way a Christian can do this is by knowing God—and the only way a Christian can know God is through His Word. Meditation (similar to the process of “worrying”), which is only “focused thinking,” is accomplished when one mulls over (contemplates, ponders) God’s Word continually during the day.
Meditation allows God to share His secrets (revelations) with His children—to speak to His children in a close and personal way. To properly meditate requires a life of studying God’s thoughts recorded in the Bible. It also means that a Christian should continuously review biblical truths when they are presented in sermons, radio broadcasts, Bible studies, etc.”
Meditation isn’t always easy, and it’s no small wonder the enemy has desperately tried to mask the topic of meditation on God’s Word. He’s brought in many counterfeits, such as transcendental meditation, and all kinds of distraction. Whenever you see the devil putting up a smokescreen, you can be sure he’s counterfeiting something real. The devil never created anything. All he can do is falsify and imitate what already exists.
The “Who” of Meditation
I mentioned earlier God’s promise for success in Joshua 1:8.
What is success? Let’s look at the Hebrew word for “prosperous”: tsalach.
It means:
1.      <---[endif]-->to rush
2.      <---[endif]-->to advance, prosper, make progress, succeed, be profitable
3.      <---[endif]-->to make prosperous, bring to successful issue, cause to prosper
4.      <---[endif]-->to show or experience prosperity, prosper
You see how success and prosperity go hand in hand? This Hebrew word has the correct signification. When I read “to advance,” I think of wading across a river or pushing forward toward a goal. Proverbs 13:19 says, “A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.”
Another meaning of this word is “to fall upon.” Picture God’s riches falling upon you. Also hidden in this good word is the meaning “to finish well.” God’s Word has happy endings.
Lastly, it can be translated as “promote.” The Hebrew connotation means it brings promotion.
If you so desired, you could place meditate before each meaning and make an equation straight across the line. Do you want to prosper as a wife, a husband, a mother, an employer, an employee, a friend, a sweetheart, a neighbor, a minister, or as a Christian? Meditation on God’s Word is the unusual key that unlocks all of His success. It is the solution, and we need to know what it is and how to do it.
Many will say that this passage was only written for Joshua. They may say, “Well, God gave Joshua success because he had to take the Promised Land.” But I want to tell you that God did more than tell us to take the Promised Land—He told us to take the world for Jesus.
Meditation can dramatically change your life. In this passage, God is talking about a “blessed man.” He says:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
                                                                                    (Psalm 1:1–3)
If you meditate on the Word day and night, you’ll implement the key element of being blessed, prosperous, and successful in every area of your life.
“Oh,” you say, “there’s that ugly word meditate.” I think some Christians have this word confused with medicate. I think they associate it with a task that is time-consuming and difficult. However, meditation does not need to be drudgery. Rather, I have discovered that it adds a refreshing quality to my study of God’s Word. It is my desire for you to see transformation take place when you begin applying the principles of meditation to your own life. As Rick Warren suggested, if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate!
In the passage above, we run into the same idea found in Joshua 1:8. “Blessed is the man….”The man who meditated on the Word will be prosperous and successful in all that he does. Shall we embrace the truth of meditating? Or shall we simply stand aside and, with words and acts, watch other Christians meditate? We are too busy, too old, or too “out of it” to be bothered.
However, you see, Psalm 1 whets every believer’s appetite for meditation. It states, “Blessed is the man who…meditates” (Psalm 1:1–2). The word blessedness is not found in the Hebrew text, because there is no such thing as a singular blessing, only plural blessings. Psalm 1 says that meditating will give you vitality “like a tree” (Psalm 1:3). It will give you security, for you will be “planted” (verse 3). Your capacity will be unlimited because His sources are “the rivers [plural] of water” (verse 3). You will be fertile, because meditating “brings forth its fruit” (verse 3). You will have seasons and perpetuate, because your “leaf…shall not wither” (verse 3). What prosperity! Everything you do “shall prosper” (verse 3).
Can you look into the mirror of these words and see yourself?
Because of the blessings, successes, and revelations I’ve received, I’ve condensed hours of study, practical experience, and character studies on meditation, which I believe will compel you to meditate on His Word—letting it dominate and change your life for the better. I pray the Lord will throw open the shutters of your spiritual understanding so that you may receive all the blessings He has for you in the fullness of His Word.
Let this truth be gladly received in your mind and your will. Embrace this truth. There’s only one way to go—forward!


Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 85.
    


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