Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Let's All Be Brave (Living Life with Everything You Have) by Annie F. Downs

Annie Downs has a gift for reaching young women. Her writing style is hip. She shoots with truth and shares the bravery she needs in her own life. That isn't always easy to admit. We like to think we're brave, but it takes a humble and genuine girl to say, "Yep, I need some courage for these hard days". 

I enjoyed her writing style. I think this book is geared towards young college age girls, but anyone can truly walk away with a bit of inspiration. 

I love that Annie shares the coffee house she penned each chapter at. It somehow brings a warmth to the book. As though we are able to see Annie sit down with her cup of coffee and ponder the thoughts she shares. 

I find her very inviting. You know, that girl that easy to talk to. The one who isn't afraid to be herself, to share stories where she has skinned her knees, and one who is comfortable to laugh at herself. 

This is an easy book to sit down and enjoy. Annie basically just shares her thoughts, her faith, her struggles, herself and the God who has made her the woman she is today. 

We could all use a bit more bravery to face each day. Annie shows us how with the Lord's guidance. Although she shares her stories, she points the reader to a relationship with Jesus. To have a woman of God share stories of herself finding bravery when it counts is a huge blessing in today's world. 

This book was a gift from Zondervan for sharing my review with you. 

Annie Downs is an author and speaker based in Nashville, Tennessee. Flawed but funny, she uses her writing to highlight the everyday goodness of a real and present God. By weaving together personal stories, humor, and Scripture, she invites the young women reading to experience fulfilled lives with a God who made them on purpose and loves them deeply. When she’s not writing books or traveling for speaking events, Annie spends her days writing all over the internet—blogging at AnnieBlogs.com and incourage.me, sharing truths about her life in Nashville as a single Christian woman and the stories that are woven into each day. Annie is a huge fan of singer/songwriters, burritos, the Internet, her community of friends, and sports of all kinds.

I shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Wow!! This is McCabe's debut novel!! Debut! Girl, you ROCK!! The cover is beautiful and telling. I absolutely loved this novel. I want to read more from this writer. Excellence!! 

I think I experienced every emotion possible. The writing is superb. I couldn't read fast enough. Once I began reading I knew I was going to love Rosetta. A character that embodies love, strength, and beauty. Rosetta is a woman to be honored and treasured. 

If you enjoy historical fiction this is a selection for you. McCabe takes us back in time to the Civil War. We often read and hear about the men of the Civil War, but not much about the women. McCabe highlights the women of this time and brings us to look back with praise and honor. 

This is one of those beautiful stories that belongs on the big screen. McCabe gives a writing portrait that creates a wonderful glimpse into another time and place. She gives the reader the gift of visualizing Rosetta's life. We feel her emotion. Her anger is real. Her love is passionate. What an inspiring novel!

This book was a gift from Crown Publishing Group for sharing my review with you. 

Erin Lindsay McCabe studied literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and taught high school English before completing her MFA at St. Mary's College of California in 2010. She has taught composition at St. Mary's and Butte College and resides in Northern California with her husband and son and a small menagerie that includes one dog, four cats, two horses, ten chickens, and three goats. 

Colliding with Destiny by Sarah Jakes

This book is geared more for younger women, high school and college age. Women of all ages can read it and walk away with a sweet journey with knowing Ruth more. But, I think younger women will grasp hold of Sarah's story and be able to see an example that isn't easily found in today's world. 

Sarah does a great job in connecting with the reader. She is transparent as she shares her own life. This is a book about collisions. Life isn't always as we plan, but if we focus on Jesus we see His greater plan. We see this in Ruth's story. Sarah shares scripture and gives us glimpses of Ruth's life. We open our imagination to a Ruth we can still relate to today. 

I enjoyed learning about Sarah and how she has grown as a young woman of God through all of the collisions that has touched her life. I must be honest and share that I wanted more of Ruth.

The take away from this book? Be true to yourself and above all, seek Jesus. 

This book is a gift from Bethany House for sharing my review with you. 

Sarah Jakes oversees the women's ministry at The Potter's House of Dallas, the church led by her parents, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Mrs. Serita Jakes. She regularly blogs at sarahjakes.com and occasionally serves as a TV host on The Potter's Touch. Sarah is a mom of two and lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Learn more about her and her ministry at sarahjakes.com.

The Desire by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

I LOVE this series. Love it!! Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley have come together to bring a series that is real and has the potential to be powerful for the reader. They share issues that families face today. Issues that many times we are afraid to share. We keep these things hidden and try to remain perfect in a very imperfect world. 

Could you read, "The Desire", as a stand alone? Yes, of course, but you will be missing out. This is a series that begins with, "The Dance", and follows with, "The Promise". (check out my reviews). This series follows a family. It begins with introducing us to everyone, but in the first of the series the focus is on, Jim and Marilyn, the parents. The second installment takes the focus to, Tom and Jean, the oldest son and his wife. Now we get close to, Allan and Michele. Michele is the daughter of, Jim and Marilyn. 

The title gives us a clue of the main theme. Desire. Jim and Marilyn want a child of their own. But there is more that they desire. With great writing, and inviting characters, we are able to walk this journey with Jim and Marilyn. 

There is so much that I love about this series. In this novel I enjoy that the writers bring the question of desire to surface. Are our desires always God's? Do we at times get confused about what direction God wants us to travel? We see what our heart wants so badly. Nothing wrong with desire. But, we must learn to wait on the Lord and see what His plans are. Too often we skip ahead and try to make our own thing happen when it doesn't seem to be happening fast enough. We like to make plans. Our problem is that we often don't invite God along. 

We see this family come together once again. Struggles will always be in our lives. But, there too are many blessings that flow. This is a series that will not only be entertaining for an afternoon read, but will give you life lessons along the way. Love books that make me ponder. This is a one of them. 

Hey, this isn't the end to this series! We'll get to grab up book 4 in the spring of 2015. Enjoy!!

This novel was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of many books, including The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley, The Discovery, and What Follows After. He has won three Carol Awards, and three of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel.

Gary Smalley is one of the country's best-known authors and speakers on family relationships and has appeared on national television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, and TODAY, as well as numerous national radio programs. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of many books, including the Baxter Family Redemption series with Karen Kingsbury and The Dance and The Promise with Dan Walsh. Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for 50 years and live in Missouri.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

HCSB Study Bible Personal Size, Black/Tan LeatherTouch Portfolio

First I must thank B&H Publishing for allowing me to review this beautiful Bible. There isn't a study Bible out there today that can compare with a Holman Study Bible. It is my absolute favorite Bible. I have a Holman Study Bible in the hardback form. It is simply AMAZING!! What is it about this one that I love so much? The size is perfect. This Bible is exquisite in every way

This is the black/tan 'leather touch' edition. Although 'leather touch' it is very sturdy and would last a lifetime. You can click on any link that I add here and check out all of the details and even get an inside view. You can find it on Amazon as well. 

I have also reviewed the Holman HCSB Ultra Thin Reference Bible, which is gorgeous.  A leather-bound edition that also another great choice if you're searching for a reference Bible. 

The HCSB translation is my favorite to study. This Bible has everything. It is filled with every tool you need to understand God's Word. 

  • I love the color photos
  • I'm a visual learner, so this Bible is perfect for me. 
  • I too love to dig in deep and this Bible has everything I need to do so. Another great aspect is the Greek/Hebrew Word Studies. They aid greatly in understanding the Word. 
  • The timelines are wonderful. 
  • Something that I found to enjoy are the essays on issues of today. They give a great theological view point.  
  • The maps are colorful and large. 
  • Although personal size the print isn't too small. 
  • Maps/illustrations/charts to guide you in a great Bible study.
  • Bible reading plans to choose from. 
  • A great concordance that has a wide selection.
  • I LOVE the introductions to each Book of the Bible.
If there was one thing I could say that isn't a highlight, that would be that the pages stick together. Let me explain. When you take your new Bible out of the box and open it you will find that some of the pages  stick together. Mostly the pages of the introductions and the essays. But, with a little patience, they come apart pretty easily. I found that if I fan the pages and then smooth out those that are sticking together from close to the bind outward, it's easy to take them apart. Once you have taken the time to do this they never stick again.

Friends, I encourage you to check out this Bible. It is the greatest study Bible I have found. It too would make an excellent gift to those who love studying the Word. You will not be disappointed by purchasing this extraordinary study Bible!

This Bible was a gift from B&H Publishing for sharing my review with you. 

Nowhere To Turn by Lynette Eason

Lynette Eason ROCKS at suspense! Another hit for Eason. She is that writer that you expect nothing less than excellence. She weaves a story together with characters you enjoy knowing. Okay, maybe the bad guys not so much. But she has strong characters. Characters with purpose and passion. The story always points to God's perfect timing and how living a faith-filled life empowers us in our journey. 

I get so excited when she has a new release. This is a series that I'm loving. The Hidden Identity Series is one that will keep you turning pages and on the edge of your seat. I've been blessed to review all of Eason's series, "Women of Justice", "Deadly Reunions", and her newest series, "Hidden Identity". The first book in the "Hidden Identity Series", is entitled, "No One To Trust". (Check out my review). 

The cover is very telling. Where do you go when you're on the edge and shadows are all around? Ah, do you see the light casting a shadow on the figure approaching? That same Light protects and guides! Love this cover! 

This is one of those unputdownable quick reads. I say quick because once you begin reading you don't want to wait to find out what happens next. This entire book is filled with suspense. Evil surrounds the main character. She is searching for a way out. For someone to protect her. But trust in is a HUGE issue. These characters all have a hidden identity in one way or another. Of course some are evil and they are trying to hide their schemes. But some have a past that they would rather stay hidden. Others, like the main character want to hide what is happening to their lives in the present. But as we see nothing remains hidden for long. The main character feels weak and defenseless. She is so much more than what she's been told she is. She is strong and courageous. When all around her seems dark and no way out she cries out to Jesus. The One who has always been on her side and guiding her to a life that no longer has to be hidden. The new is revealed when the hidden is truly seen for what it is. 

I would highly recommend any novel penned by Lynette Eason. She brings out the best in her characters and leaves the reader with a new strength and reason to roar into a greater faith!

This book was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series and the Deadly Reunions series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She has a master's degree in education from Converse College and she lives in South Carolina. Find out more at www.lynetteeason.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days by Holley Gerth

Holley Gerth has become a sweet favorite of mine. I've been blessed to review all of her books and now this newest gem. When it arrived, I took it out of the box and smiled. This is absolutely cheerfully cute! This little hardback edition is pocket sized. Perfect! It would be impossible to pick up this book and not instantly feel better. 

For me this is much more than a devotional. Sure, you could use it as such. Read it daily for inspiration. Set aside one evening a week to enjoy a sweet concoction of Psalms and Holley's encouraging words. I will most likely keep it on my desk for moments I need to just take a step back and breathe. It too would make a great gift!!

I've shared about the packaging. Now, for what's inside. Who doesn't need a dose of Psalms when the day is looking haggard? One of the devotionals is entitled, "God is Bigger Than Your Problems". The Psalm that Holley shares is: "The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth." Psalm 97:5 Next, Holley shares a personal story. It's followed with a section of, "What My Heart Is Saying To You", and then, "What My Heart Is Hearing From You"

There are many topics. Each are sure to touch you in one way or another. A dose of cheerful joy. A life lesson. Thoughts to ponder throughout the day. Holley's words are soothing balm for the heart. They lift instantly and encourage the reader to fix their eyes upon Jesus and soak in His Word. This is what I love about Holley. She places the spotlight on Jesus. She shares from the heart. Her words flow easily and her stories are personal and meant to connect with the reader's heart. 

I've had the pleasure of reading, "You're Already Amazing", "You're Going To Be Okay" and "You're Made for a God-Sized Dream". Check out my reviews. Every time I pick up a book penned by Holley I learn more about myself and I grow closer to the Lord. 

This book is a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Holley Gerth is a bestselling writer, certified life coach, and speaker. She loves connecting with the hearts of women through her popular blog and books like You're Already Amazing, You're Made for a God-Sized Dream, and Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream. She's also cofounder of (in)courage and a partner with DaySpring. Holley lives with her husband, Mark, in the South. Hang out with her at www.holleygerth.com.

Move On (When Mercy Meets Your Mess) by Vicki Courtney

Cleanup on aisle one! Now who hasn't been there? Messes are everywhere and most of all, right smack in our own lives. As soon as I opened this book and read the Preface I knew I was going to travel on a journey. A messy one, but one that was going to be filled with grace. 

This is my first book to read penned by Vicki Courtney. When I seen the cover and that red umbrella I was intrigued. Barefoot and running. Been there. Trying to run through the rain without getting wet is like trying to make it through the mess without getting dirty. 

Vicki had my attention quickly. When she started off with a personal story, she not only shared a mess, but she gave the perfect picture of God's grace. 

She is transparent and real. I love that she doesn't just give us scripture and say, do this and don't do that. Which you will find in chapter 6, "Law and Order". But she shares God through her own life. This is how we reach the world for Christ. She isn't afraid of being honest and sharing the ugly truths of life. We cover up and pretend. Yes, that's our plastic world. Pretend doesn't make for a joyful life. Grin and bear it, but for heaven's sake, don't share it. 

Ever feel the need to be approved? Has Christian snobbery touched your life? Have you entered a church that was subscribed to the stained glass masquerade? Vicki touches on the subject that our churches have stopped being hospitals for the sick and have opted instead to become showrooms for polished pretenders

"Most of us are hesitant to examine our hearts for fear of what we might find there. We have nothing to fear when we keep the steadfast love of the Lord as our faithful guide. His unfailing love gives us the courage to admit our struggles, open our wounds, expose our shame, and confess our sin. Living an authentic, vibrant, real faith requires us to admit we are under construction but deeply loved by God in the restoration process." 

Vicki reminds us to keep God's grace in the spotlight. She speaks about transforming moments and the road to becoming the women and men God has created us to be. She shares turning points in her life where grace met the mess in the middle. 

Here are a few questions Vicki gives us to ponder the chapters we have read:

  • Can you think of a time when you went along with an expressed opinion, even though you disagreed, in order to conform and not make waves (that is, you "lost your voice")?
  • When it comes to the shoulds and should nots, in what ways are you guilty of believing others should abide by your self-imposed rules?
  • Would you say your core group of Christian friends is more likely to engage in the pretender game or come clean about struggles they are experiencing? And are there levels of disclosure? How deep do you go?
  • How would you characterize your church? Is it a hospital for broken people or a showroom for polished pretenders?
  • Can you think of a time when someone else's idol was exposed and you expressed a holier-than-thou attitude of disgust? What was the situation?
  • What is your most recent encounter with shame? What were some of the messages or "shame tapes" that played in your head?"

I absolutely LOVE this book! I want to make my way through it again, slowly taking in the precious words of wisdom that Vicki shares. This is one of those books that has the power to set the reader on a course to releasing what this world expects from us and gives us the courage to let it all go and be real in Jesus! As you can see Vicki goes deep. She goes beyond finger pointing and gets straight to the heart of the matter. This is a book I highly recommend for every heart ready to explore all God has for us and living a life of abundant grace. 

This book was a gift by Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.

Vicki Courtney is a national speaker to women of all ages and the best-selling author of many books and Bible studies, including 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter and Ever After. Vicki and her husband have three grown children, a son-in-law, daughter-in-love, and grandson.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Morning Dew Feet

As I was walking through the morning grass I realized my feet were now wet from the dew. My toes were now covered with green. 

My heart was now churning in full speed. I knew there was a lesson to uncover. I was just waiting for my morning brain to catch up. And there it was. The lesson!

Whatever my hands and feet touch it is sure to cover me. 

"God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

As I looked down at my dirty feet I noticed the clover sprinkled with dew. Each clover holding three little hearts. Glory caught in my throat. Tears were ready to escape. I knew the Spirit was moving in me. I had not been paying close attention to where my feet were stepping. 

"Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily snares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne." Hebrews 12:1-2

"Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God." Ephesians 5:1-2

By the time I entered the house and made my way through the living room to the kitchen the floor was now touched by my path of green. Every footprint left a little bit of my outside step. Oh, boy, what if I'd have stepped in something stinky. Ewe! 

I washed my feet and now was backtracking in cleaning up my mess. 

Isn't this so true in our daily walk? If we walk in fragrant flowers how sweet the smell that follows. The trail we leave behind sets a path for others to adore. We take a step in dirt and it isn't worth sharing. 

Jesus was there to give of Himself for days like this. Days we would lose track of our step. But there before us is redemption. He cleans our feet to set us on the right path. 

We are always washing our hands. We don't want to spread germs. We don't want to attach dirt to the clean before us. What about our heart? Shouldn't we be making sure our heart is clean? Somehow we forget. We ignore. We become tragically stagnant and we don't notice what has become unclean. 

We wouldn't sit down to dinner with dirty hands. We wouldn't walk into our friend's home with dirty shoes. Why don't we take as much care with our heart? 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6

"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." Proverbs 4:23

It is so important for us to guard our heart, mind, and soul. We need to be aware of what we are allowing into our lives. What touches us, touches the heart. What we allow into the mind overflows into the heart. What we live touches the lives of others. 

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

Moved by The Spirit

Can you picture the apostles walking along, side by side, talking with Jesus? It's a lovely portrait to capture in the heart. Oh, the expressions upon their faces, shining with joy, as the Savior shares story after story. While the sun is hot upon them they are engaged in conversation. The laughter they must have shared in the cool of the night. The meals they feasted on together, no matter how small or great, gave opportunity to grow even closer together. Fishing wasn't just for fun, but life lessons for them to carry as they would come to share the gospel with the world. I can clearly see them pondering thought and asking questions that stirred the heart. Jesus in His patience answering each one in perfect time. 

Do you ever wonder what it was like for them to sit with Jesus? The Savior and the apostles, friends, brothers, family. Jesus' hands reaching out to them to follow Him. Arms wrapped around one another in love and friendship. All different, each with their own gifts, coming together to walk with Jesus. I can picture friends sitting along the sand bank, stepping out on the water sandal free. Brothers seeing who can skip the farthest rock. 

Pondering what it must have been for them makes my heart yearn to walk with Jesus. Someday heaven will open up and embrace us to do the same. We will walk with our Savior. Oh, the wonders we shall experience together. Can you imagine? 

They had the Savior walking in step with them. I imagine after a time they knew what His step sounded like. They would know if He entered a room. They knew His scent by heart. His touch upon their shoulder brought great comfort. Do you think they joked with one another? I can see them encouraging one another as they traveled the roads with dusty feet. 

As I wonder what it must have been like I can't help but wonder if they would want to be in our shoes. We have not seen our Savior's face. We have yet to feel His embrace. Our feet aren't dusty from travel with Him from city to city. We are blessed to experience Jesus in a different way. We look forward to heaven, but we cannot forget that He is with us today. His Spirit is within us. We are soul to soul with our Savior. You can't get any closer than that. He is with us morning, noon, and night. Where I go, He goes. He knows my innermost thoughts. He knows the words that sit upon my tongue before they are spoken. I cannot enter into a room without Him right there with me. Side by side, me and my Savior. The Holy Spirit lives within us. He is our gift. A gift upon receiving Jesus as Savior. At that very moment the Spirit moves within us and fills us whole. The Spirit falls upon our heart, deep within our soul we can feel Him. Hear His voice? Feel His comfort? There is power in His strength. Wisdom shared in moments of glory. 

Can you hear Him say, "Child, look! Look at My glory?" He encourages us to open our eyes to see all He has for us and inspires us to open our ears to hear His voice. He is there to guard us with His hedge of protection. He warns us against steps that will bring us harm. He is there to help us overcome temptation. "You can do it, My child." 

Imagine the love of our Savior to leave us with this precious and holy gift. He goes before my step. He stands guard over my heart. He keeps me still as I feel His presence with me. When I want to lash out in anger He is there to quiet me. If I only listen. 

He never leaves us. Never. When we walk into sin He doesn't check Himself at the door. He walks with us. Can you hear Him? He's telling us to remember who we are. We are children of the King of kings, Lord of lords. We are redeemed by His blood. There is nothing we cannot do without Him. He encourages our steps. He opens doors and brings opportunity. When we have sinned He is there to convict our heart. Not to condemn us, but to bring us back to Him. Can you hear Him? "Watch out! Please, dear child, don't go there.

The Holy Spirit pours Himself out within me moment by moment. I am never alone. That is comforting.  It is so encouraging to know wherever I step He is with me. My God spot is filled and forever engaging with me. I have learned His voice. Sweet words that sooth when anxiety hits me. Fatherly words to keep me from evil. Whether in the quiet of the day or when I'm surrounded with noise, His voice is always present. 

Whether I am faced with battle, trial, or blessing, the Spirit is there with me to experience every moment! Just think about that. That should bring joy and peace to the heart of the one who has received Jesus.We are God's vessel as the Spirit moves us. We obey His voice. We are comforted even though trouble lingers. We trust the Lord as we know that His Spirit is within us.

As I go about my day I have conversations with my Lord. I open my heart to hear His voice. When I'm broken I hear Him wash me with words of promise and healing. When I am struggling with sin I feel Him move in me, guarding me, protecting me, motivating me to follow Him. He leads me out of trouble. He makes way for me to have precious moments with Him in prayer. He is my strength and my courage. All I must say is His name and He's there. Jesus, sweet Jesus.

"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn't see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you." 
John 14:16-18

"I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you." 
John 14:25-26

"Don't you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body." 
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
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