A Million Blessings

A Million Blessings

4.4 7
by Angela Benson, Marilynn Griffith, Tia McCollors

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What happens after all your dreams come true? In these uplifting tales of faith and fortune, delve into the lives of three people whose hearts—and wallets—are on the line when an unexpected windfall tests them like never before. . .

Showers of Blessings Angela Benson

Assistant pastor Ronnie has a shameful secret: he's a compulsive


What happens after all your dreams come true? In these uplifting tales of faith and fortune, delve into the lives of three people whose hearts—and wallets—are on the line when an unexpected windfall tests them like never before. . .

Showers of Blessings Angela Benson

Assistant pastor Ronnie has a shameful secret: he's a compulsive gambler. And just when it seems he's run out of luck, he finds salvation in a miraculous win. But nothing can keep Ronnie from recklessly betting his family's future. His only way out is through renewed faith—and a desperate act of redemption.

Second Chance Blessings Marilynn Griffith

Pro football player Craig Richards has it all, from the trophy wife to the lavish mansion—until an injury costs him everything. Defeated, he returns to the community and church he left behind—and discovers his loss just might be a blessing in disguise. But will a second shot at fame and fortune lead him astray once more?

Knight In Pink Armor Tia McCollors

Dara Knight's dream goes far beyond the multi-million dollar lottery she just won. Her real desire is to rebuild a poverty-stricken Atlanta community. But when a vicious gang sets out to destroy her project, will she have enough courage to prove that investing in people, against all odds, yields heaven-sent rewards?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Three popular African-American novelists address the topic of sudden prosperity in novellas that each feature characters winning the lottery, a popular fantasy for millions— disproportionately in hardscrabble neighborhoods—about acquiring millions. Benson presents Andrew Gooden, an assistant pastor with a hidden gambling problem. Griffith’s story centers on pro football player Craig Richards, who loses his career, trophy wife, and palatial home following an injury. McCollors creates motorcycle-riding Dara Knight, whose lottery win fuels her dream of refurbishing the dilapidated neighborhood where she does outreach for her church. Each writer offers nice touches of observation or dialogue that move things along in brisk and clever ways. All three offer traditional Christian ways of thinking about character redemption, using an unsubtle approach to painting the moral to these stories about how to use money. Benson and Griffith write with more satisfying arcs of resolution; McCollors’s tale just gets going as it ends. The work feels somewhat hasty, but fans will like it. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This anthology by three popular African American authors explores how an unexpected windfall changes their characters in surprising ways. In "Shower of Blessings," Christy Award nominee Benson (Awakening Mercy) presents a pastor with a compulsive gambling problem who hits it big. Can he find the strength to fight temptation before he loses it all? Marilynn Griffith's ("Shades of Style" series, "Sassy Sistahs" series) "Second Chance Blessings" focuses on a professional football player who loses his wife and career after an accident. He finds comfort in his faith-based community, but can he resist the pull of a second chance at fame and fortune? In "Knight in Pink Armor" by Tia McCollors (The Last Woman Standing), a woman uses her lottery winnings to rebuild her destitute community, but will gang violence turn her away from her faith and belief in humanity? VERDICT Populated with well-developed characters, these tales ask thought-provoking moral questions. Sure to appeal to the authors' fans and a great way to introduce new readers to these writers.

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Read an Excerpt

A Million Blessings

By Angela Benson Marilynn Griffith Tia McCollors


Copyright © 2010 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-4211-2

Chapter One

"It's me again, Lord," Andrew Gooden said, lowering his forehead to rest against the steering wheel of his leased burgundy 5 Series BMW, which was parked in front of a run-down Bankhead convenience store. He'd chosen this neighborhood and this store because of their distance from his home and stomping ground in the decidedly more upscale suburb of Alpharetta. There was no chance he'd run into anyone he knew here. "I know I said I wouldn't end up in this situation again, but here I am. I don't know how it happened, really. I had been so good for so long and then I just fell off the wagon."

Andrew lifted his head and stared out the window at what appeared to be two homeless men ingesting their beverages from brown paper bags. He felt as destitute as they looked. He leaned forward and picked up the two completed lottery forms resting on the passenger-side dash. "I need your help, Lord. I don't have to tell you how much. The repo guys are looking for my cars. The house is teetering on foreclosure. My bank account is overdrawn. Things have been bad before, but never this bad. Sandra's threatening to leave me if I don't do something fast." He held the lottery forms up and double-checked the numbers. "All I'm asking, Lord, is that you bless these forms and these numbers.I'm counting on you for a miracle."

Andrew closed his eyes and bowed his head. "Please, Lord." With those final words, he picked up the hat and sunglasses he'd brought with him and put them on. Though the possibility was slim that he'd run into someone he knew, he couldn't take the chance. He was an assistant pastor at Praise City, a well-known megachurch in metro Atlanta. As much as his senior pastor raged on the sins of gambling and playing the lottery, he'd be put on blast if someone caught him purchasing lottery tickets.

Andrew got out of his car and headed for the store entrance, careful to keep his head down. So as not to be obvious, he went to the soda case and picked up a liter bottle of orange soda, his kids' favorite. To give the current customer at the counter time to complete his transaction, Andrew stopped and browsed the snacks. He picked up a family-sized bag of chips. When the checkout counter was clear, he made a beeline for it. "Two lottery tickets," he said, handing the forms to the cashier as he put his two items on the counter.

"Hope these are winners for you," the cashier said.

From your mouth to God's ears, Andrew thought. "Thanks," he said, not wanting to get into a conversation that would extend his time in the store or give the clerk any reason to remember him. He wanted his lottery tickets and he wanted to get home. As the clerk ran the lottery forms and rang up his purchases, Andrew opened his wallet and pulled out the last of his credit cards that wasn't charged to the limit. At least, he hoped it wasn't. He and Sandra had been living on credit for months. This card had to be pretty close to the limit by now. When the clerk took the card, Andrew silently prayed that his purchase would be authorized.

He released a breath when the clerk asked for his signature. He quickly signed the receipt, took his purchases without waiting for them to be bagged, and rushed out of the store. He slid into his car, took off his hat and glasses, and breathed deeply again. "Thank you, Lord," he whispered. He put the key in the ignition and was about to turn it, when someone knocked on the driver-side window.

"Pastor? Is that you, Pastor Gooden?"

Andrew couldn't believe it. He'd gotten so close to making a clean getaway. He turned toward the window and saw one of his male parishioners grinning at him. Though he couldn't come up with a name, he knew the face. He pressed the button to lower the window.

"I thought that was you," the man said, still grinning. "What are you doing in my neck of the woods? It's Wednesday night. I figured you'd be in Bible class. Don't you teach on Wednesday nights?"

Andrew forced a smile. "I'm on my way to church now, brother," he said, wondering if the man had seen him coming out of the store with his hat and glasses. "Are you going to make it?"

The man shook his head. "Not tonight. The wife has already gone. She doesn't like to be late."

Andrew looked at his watch. "I'm going to be late myself if I don't get moving."

The man stepped back from the car. "Don't let me hold you up," he said. "I'll see you on Sunday."

"I'll look for you," Andrew said, starting the car. He nodded to the man and pressed the button to raise the window. It was then he realized he still had the lottery tickets in his hand. He glanced back up at the man, whose grin had settled into a smile. Had the man seen the lottery tickets? Andrew wondered.

Shaking his head in answer to his question, Andrew guided the car toward the main street. He didn't breathe again until he was on the interstate, far away from that Bankhead convenience store and his unnamed parishioner.

Chapter Two

Sandra Gooden waved one last time to her children, eight-year-old Matthew and ten-year-old Andrew, Jr., as they headed off in the backseat of her father's car to get ice cream and then she closed the front door. She lowered her eyelids and leaned back against the door, taking a moment to rest.

"Tired, dear?" her mother asked.

Sandra sighed and pushed away from the door. "I'm fine, Mother," she said. "I appreciate you and Daddy taking the kids for a few weeks."

Ida waved off her thanks. "It's no bother. You know we love having those kids. I'm just glad we could help."

Sandra was glad, too. Her kids were old enough to know things weren't right around the house, and her excuses were wearing thin. Besides, it was embarrassing to coach your kids not to answer the phone unless they recognized the name on the caller ID. It would be more than embarrassing if they knew their parents were being hounded by creditors.

"Sandra," her mother began. "You know I don't like to dip in your marriage, but Andrew needs to get some help. He's gambling again, isn't he?"

Sandra regretted ever sharing her husband's vice with her mother. But at the time, she'd had to tell somebody and her mother had seemed the safest choice. Andrew's problem was certainly not something she could share at a prayer meeting with the members of Praise City's leadership team, not if she wanted to maintain their standing among them. No, this was a secret they had to keep.

"I don't want to talk about it, Mother," she said, walking past her mother and toward the kitchen.

Her mother followed her. "I know you don't want to," she said, "but you need to. You can't keep all this bottled up inside. You're hiding it from the people who care about you and you're hiding it from your kids. You need to let it out, Sandra."

She turned on her mother, throwing up her arms. Her mother's doggedness defied her short stature. "What am I supposed to say, Mother? That my husband is a gambler, and a poor one at that? Should I announce in church that he's so far gone that we're on the verge of losing everything-again? Should I tell them that Andrew's fallen so low that he's even gambled away his children's college funds? How can I tell anyone all that?" she cried. "How can I admit that I tied myself to a man who is so fatally flawed?" She turned away from her mother. "Some days I wonder why I married him. This is not the life I signed up for, Mother. Andrew and I should have our own congregation by now, and we would if not for his problem. I thought he'd overcome it last time when he brought us to the end of our rope, but here we are again."

Her mother walked over to her and rubbed her shoulders. "You married him because you loved him."

"I don't even know him," Sandra said. "How can I love him?"

Her mother pulled away. "Are you thinking about leaving him?" she asked.

"I have to think about it, Mother. I can't keep on like this. My kids deserve better than this. I deserve better than this."

"Andrew is a good man, Sandy. He just needs to get some help. You both need to get some help."

Sandra pulled away. "I'm not the person with the problem, but I certainly have to deal with the fallout. I'm tired, Mother. Tired. I can't go through this again with Andrew. I don't have it in me."

"You know your daddy and I had some rough years, but we made it through."

Sandra remembered those rough years when her father was a functional alcoholic, and they weren't good memories, either. She wanted better for herself and her children. "I admire you, Mom, and what you were able to endure and to work through, but I'm not you." I don't want to be you, she added silently, not wanting to hurt her mother's feelings.

"Well, what can I do to help?"

Sandra pressed a kiss against her mother's forehead. "You're already doing it. You're taking care of the kids."

"I have a little extra money that your father doesn't know about," she said, reaching into the pocket of her jeans and pulling out a check.

"I can't take your money," Sandra said, though she was sorely tempted. She was sure they were at the limit on their last credit card, and she had less than a hundred dollars in cash. She didn't know what they were going to do.

Her mother took her hand, put the check in it, and folded the hand closed. "It's only five hundred dollars. It's not much, but it'll help."

Sandra felt tears well up in her eyes. This wasn't the way things were supposed to be. Here she was a thirty-five-year-old married woman with children taking cash from her mother. As the daughter, it should be her turn to help her parents. "I can't, Mom-"

"Shh, yes, you can. It's done. You take that, and if you need more, you let me know. I'll see what your father and I can do."

Sandra began shaking her head. "You can't tell Dad, Mom. You promised."

"I know what I promised, and I'm going to keep my promise, even though I don't think it's wise. Your father could talk to Andrew, help him out, especially since he doesn't have a father of his own."

Andrew was an orphan, brought up in foster care. She and the children were his only family. His need for family was one of the traits that had attracted her to him. He valued what he'd never had. She saw in him solid husband and father material. What she hadn't seen was his fatal gambling addiction.

"Andrew would be devastated if Dad knew how badly he was handling his family duties. I can't do that to him. His pride is battered as it is." Besides, it had taken her father years to warm up to Andrew. If he knew about the gambling, he would revert to his earlier opinion of her husband. She was sure of it.

Her mother lifted a brow. "Those aren't the words of a woman getting ready to leave her husband."

Sandra frowned. "Oh, but they are. I know what it means to reach the end of your rope. That's where I am."

Chapter Three

Andrew knew something was wrong when the boys didn't rush him at the door as soon as he entered the house. "I'm home," he yelled out, hoping against hope that his family was just otherwise occupied. Thoughts of Sandra's threat to take the boys and leave chilled his heart. She hadn't really done it, had she?

He marched through the kitchen, peeked into the family room, and seeing no one there, headed upstairs to the bedrooms. "Sandra," he called out from the stairs. When she didn't answer, he quickened his steps. When he passed the boys' rooms and saw their beds were empty, his heart raced. She'd done it this time. She'd really left him.

"Please, Lord," he prayed. "Please, please, please, don't let them be gone. I won't ever gamble again. I promise. Just don't let me lose my family."

Andrew stopped short when he entered the master bedroom and found his wife curled up on the bed reading a book. "Didn't you hear me calling you?" he asked.

Without glancing up, she said, "I heard you."

"Then why didn't you answer?"

She looked up at him then, and the disappointment he read in her eyes made him wish she hadn't. "What's the point?" she asked. "I'm tired of your excuses."

Okay, he deserved those words. He accepted them with a swallow. "Where are the boys?"

"They're staying with my parents until we straighten things out."

He didn't like that she had shipped the boys off without consulting him, without giving him a chance to say goodbye. "Don't you think we should have talked about this?"

She closed the book, put it on the nightstand, and then sat up in the bed. "I sent them away because we need to have a serious talk about this marriage and our family. The bottom line is that I can't keep going through this with you. You promised me the last time that it wouldn't happen again. Yet here we are."

He came to the bed and sat facing her. "I know I've let you down," he said. "But I'm going to fix this. I have a plan-"

She began shaking her head. "Not another plan. Andrew, you need help. Professional help. I believed you before when you said you could stop. I don't any longer. You're destroying this family. Can't you see that?"

Andrew shook his head, refusing to believe God would let him lose the only thing that mattered to him-his family. He took his wife's hands in his. "Trust me one last time," he pleaded. "And if you can't trust me, trust God. Expect a miracle with me, Sandra."

He saw the wariness in her eyes. "What have you done, Andrew?" she asked. "What kind of miracle are you expecting?"

"I want you to look for a miracle that only God can provide."

She laughed a dry laugh. "I guess you want me to believe that God is going to drop money from heaven for us the way he dropped manna for the Israelites."

"That's exactly what I want you to believe," he said.

She pulled her hands away. "Come on, Andrew. You should know by now that God doesn't work that way. That's how we got in this situation in the first place. You're always looking for the big score, instead of building slowly. You need to change the way you operate."

Andrew reached for her hands again. "Okay, if this doesn't turn out the way I believe it will, we'll try it your way."

She squinted at him. "What have you done, Andrew? What scheme are you working on now? Please don't tell me you've borrowed money so that you can gamble."

He chuckled, shaking his head. "This deal only cost me two dollars."

"Two dollars? What are you talking about? I don't understand."

"I had a vision," he said, taking a bit of leeway with the truth. "In that vision God told me to play the lottery this week and he gave me the numbers to play."

Sandra snatched her hands away and jumped up from the bed. "That's the last straw, Andrew. Now you've started lying on God. You know as well as I do that God did not give you any lottery numbers. Have you lost your mind?"

Her words hurt, but he brushed them off as best he could. God was not going to let him down. He could feel it.

"If playing the lottery is your way of getting us out of the hole you've put us in, we're in more trouble than I wanted to believe. I think it's best that I go stay with my parents and the kids and give you some time to figure out what you want from us and what you're willing to give. We can't build a future for our family on a lottery scheme. We don't even believe in the lottery."

Andrew glanced at his watch. "Turn on the television," he said.

When she just rolled her eyes, he reached on the far-side nightstand, picked up the remote, and turned it on himself. "They should be announcing the lottery results in a few minutes. Believe with me."

"I believe you've lost your mind," she said. "That's what I believe."

He pulled the two lottery tickets out of his pocket and handed them to her. "You hold the tickets," he said. "I'm too nervous."

Grudgingly, she took the tickets and sat down next to him on the bed. "I don't believe I'm doing this," she said. "Pastor McCorry would fall out of the pulpit if he knew his assistant pastor was at home waiting for the lottery numbers to be announced, rather than at church teaching his Bible study class."

Pulling her close, Andrew chuckled. "There was no way I could teach tonight. I'm too anxious about the lottery results."

"How much is the lottery for this week anyway?" Sandra asked.

"Not much," he said. "About twenty million."

She laughed out loud. "Sounds like a lot to me."

He laughed, too. "It's a lot to us but not for the lottery. It's not like it's one of those hundred million dollar weeks when everybody plays. This is an average-sized jackpot."

She peered up at him. "You know, it bothers me that you know so much about the lottery. Something tells me this isn't the first time you've played."

"Watch the television," he said. "They're about to call the numbers."

She did as she was told. "Here," she said to him. "You hold one and I'll hold one."

He took his. His heart began to sink as the announcer read the numbers. He hadn't won. He glanced over at Sandra, and from the look on her face he gathered she hadn't, either. He couldn't believe it. He'd been so sure God was going to come through for him.

"We'll just play the numbers again next week," he said. "We can't give up now. I really believe in these numbers." When his wife didn't respond, he looked down at her and saw she was crying. Her tears broke his heart. "I'm sorry, Sandra," he said. "I'll fix this. I promise I will."


Excerpted from A Million Blessings by Angela Benson Marilynn Griffith Tia McCollors Copyright © 2010 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Angela Benson has written seven books and a novella, and has given numerous workshops and presentations on writing.

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