Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A New Hope

Carrie walks out the door with her purse in hand. She climbs into the car and starts the engine. Tears are streaming down her face as she turns to look back at the doorway. There stands her four children all smiles and waving goodbye at their momma. Only momma is ready to break. She is flustered to the point nothing makes sense and a fear has covered her where there was once peace.

Just where is she going? Maybe a drive will help? Maybe a new outfit? Just a chat with a friend? No. She wants to be alone. She is never alone. There is noise that surrounds her every moment. Life seems crazy and her husband? He is trying. He is giving everything he can to bring her happiness, but it just isn't enough. Not even an outfit will help today. She hates to look into the mirror anymore after having four children. Does anyone see her as pretty? Carrie sure doesn't. She knows her heart. The pain and anger that is there.

Oh, how she wants to be  happy. She has everything a woman could want. A husband that is faithful, children who are precious and a home that is far above anything she ever dreamed of. Others would look at her and think she had it all. But, she is missing something. Can she even see it? She complains constantly. Little hand prints on everything she has cleaned. Boot marks on the floor at the door. Forever laundry to last a life time. She hasn't slept through the night in years. She can't even remember the last day she spent out with a friend. She finds herself in everything to keep her busy. That way she just doesn't have to think. Why think? Too much is there that is haunting.

She remembers her dreams and they were nothing of her present life. She dreamed of being a nurse. Maybe even someone who traveled the world. Now she is home taking care of children and never even has time for herself. She feels like those dreams were just that dreams never to be.  She asks herself,"What is wrong with me?Why do I feel so alone? So down? Just simply so nothing?"

Carrie pulls out the drive with the windows down. The air feels almost freeing on her face as the tears fall fast. Should she wipe the tears and just forget everything or should she really think? Life just seems so confusing. She has lost herself in everyone else and she is wondering if she can ever be found again. She turns her cell phone off and the radio up. As the tunes play a song comes on that makes her drift away thinking of a perfect day, a day where she is smiling and all is well. Could it really happen?

She has searched her life trying to find peace, something of happiness that really fills her. She thought after leaving her childhood home she would chase her dreams and find all that life could give. Never to walk into a church, Carrie passes one. A small church where she sees a pastor outside waving. Something tugs at her heart. Something like never before. Should she stop? That is just a crazy idea. As she continues to drive she cannot get this pastor out of her mind. She turns around and pulls into the parking lot of this country church. Should she really go in? She isn't dressed for church, but something is calling her, pulling her.

As she walks in she takes a look around and even though the church is so small it feels so much bigger than her. In the bigness of it all she sees someone at the altar. Isn't that what it's called? She sees a woman, kneeling, crying out to God. She dares to walk to closer. The woman turns and smiles. Carrie thinks, "How can she be smiling through all those tears?" The woman says, "I was waiting for you." Now it's Carries turn to begin letting the tears flow. What is going on? The woman turns and takes Carrie's hand. She joins her at the altar.

This woman, who has lived many years, begins to share her story. She tells of a time long ago when she was a mother and wife. When all seemed perfect until one day when life all seemed to end. Her husband and four children were killed in an accident. She lost everything. In one second life changed forever. She couldn't pay her bills and lost her home. This woman lost everything she ever dreamed of. As she shares her heart, Carrie, is sitting so still her breath is silent.

The woman, Karen, tells her what could have happened. She could have fallen into despair. She could have let go of life, but she decided to call upon the Lord she had walked with since she was thirteen. The Lord filled her in ways she never knew possible. He used the lives of her family as a platform to bring glory and honor to Him. Their lives tell a story of faith, love and hope. Life had not ended for Karen, but a new journey began. It wasn't until she lost everything she had that she knew just how blessed she was. In her loss she found great gain in Christ. It was His love that set her free. After finishing her story, she turns to Carrie and says, "Go home. Love your family. Be thankful for each moment. Enjoy each day given and never take one moment for granite." Carrie stands and as she looks back the woman is gone.

Carrie kneels as a new woman. A woman who now sees life different.She prays for the first time in her life. Is it okay, if she just talks? She isn't even sure how to pray, but the words just seem to flow.  She leaves the church to go home and walk through the door as her children are running down the hall. She smiles and hugs each one. She takes her husband by the hand, seeing him as though for the very first time. That very next Sunday she woke and dressed her children. Picked out a new tie for her husband and pulled her hair up. She found herself sitting next to her family in a church pew where the preacher with the smile was speaking on contentment and thanksgiving. She found freedom in a place she never looked. She drove by this little church everyday and never thought about stopping, but the Lord knew exactly the right time to call her. He knew she would answer. He knew she would reach out to Him. She was ready to let go and let God.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-4

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

The Giving Season

December is here. Christmas is just around the corner. What is it this season that you are hoping to receive? Do you love gifting to others? We make so much of this season about the material that it leaves the heart empty. Just what if we gave in such a way that we made the heart full?

"In every way I've shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, 'It is better more blessed to give than receive.'" Acts 20:35

It is the season of gift giving. Oh, the packages wrapped so beautifully with bows and ribbon that will lay beneath our Christmas trees. Who doesn't love a great gift? I know I love them. Birthday gifts are the best to me. My birthday is on the 30th of December. You winter birthday people will understand. Yep, most of my birthday gifts growing up were tossed in with my Christmas present. I gotta tell ya that I didn't enjoy that much growing up. I envied those kids with birthdays in the summer. 

"Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning." James 1:17

When we think about the message here that is more blessed to give than receive, just what are we thinking about? Is it the gift giving of presents only? I'm not so sure that's what Jesus was sharing with us. At least for me I gain something totally different here. I love going deeper and if I do I am convicted of not always wanting to be the giver, but the receiver. 

"Each person should do as he has decided in his heart-not reluctantly or out of necessity, for god loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7

I love giving gifts to family and friends. It is a true blessing for me. But giving gifts is easy. What about the giving of gifts that doesn't come wrapped, but comes from the heart? Yes, those gifts are not always so easily given, especially when they aren't received well and they aren't returned to the giver. But then again, we aren't suppose to worry about how it is received or if we too will receive a gift in return now are we? We are simply to open our heart and give. Give until it hurts. Ouch! 

"A gift opens doors for a man and brings him before the great." Proverbs 18:16

Jesus gave. He gave us the ultimate gift and we are to follow in His example. Could that be why there are so many verses about giving? If giving a gift is so easy would Jesus continue to share with us so much about giving? I don't think so. That's why I think He's going much deeper here. 

"Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don't ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them." Luke 6:20-32

What if we gave love even when it wasn't reciprocated? What about forgiveness when it isn't asked for, but so needed? We don't seem to give much of our time any more. Grace and mercy do so much for the spirit when they are given from one who so desperately needs them too. Prayer is a gift that is lasting. Once that prayer is spoken it remains. Can you imagine if we thought of gift giving in a much different way all that is possible? 

"And forgive our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Matthew 6:12

In this season of giving life can grow hectic. Family can be separated. Drama seems to sneak in from every corner of our lives. We are wounded. We hide away from everyone. We expect others to treat us a certain way, but we aren't willing to treat others in how we too want so badly to be treated. We expect so much from one another. We fail at being perfect and we aren't willing to forgive or accept others as they are. We are always wanting more. That perfect gift that's wrapped perfectly. Those are ultimate failures. Every time we expect perfection from people we set them up for failure and we too don't make it easy for ourselves. We lose so very much in expecting such a great perfection from others. Don't you agree?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

If our focus was off of what others can or need to do for us and placed on our own giving without expectation we would walk with peaceful hearts. Hearts giving, not because we have to, but because this is who Jesus is and this is who we are to become. Giving may not come easy, but with forgiving ourselves comes grace for others. Having a merciful heart is loving another unconditionally and living in gratitude changes our attitude. 

"Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God." 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

Looking for perfection in people is a trap that only leads to a wounded soul. How can I expect so much from others when I myself am not perfect? I simply want to love the people around me. Let me tell ya not everyone makes that easy. But loving without expecting something in return is a love that goes far beyond any gift wrapped with a red bow. That is an unconditional love that can only grow and leave behind a legacy. 

"Love is patient, love is kind." 1 Corinthians 4

Praying is a mighty gift. If I know people are praying for me I am so over the top blessed and thankful. In this season of giving I continue to pray for all those I love. Prayer brings us together. Not every relationship is easy. But friends, an honest love, a love from Jesus, is greatest gift we can share with one another. May this season we think less about the gifts that are wrapped so tidy, and ponder those that are a bit more messy. If we are willing to open our hearts and give, Jesus will take that messy heart and create a lasting gift of beauty that will light up all of heaven.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Devotional for Women by B&H Publishing Group

I am a lover of devotionals. I'm that girl that needs to be surrounded by the Word and reminded daily to focus on Jesus. I love when women share with other women in such a transparent and down to earth way. These ladies have brought us a devotional for every woman. 

The topics are applicable to every women of every age. Young women will too enjoy this devotional. Each devotional covers two pages. Scripture is shared, the devotional, prayer, and then the reader has a space created for them to reflect. This is an aspect that I truly love. How awesome to pick up this devotional later down the road of our journey and look back, seeing just where we were and how Jesus moved in our lives. LOVE it!! 

This is a great way for us Jesus girls to grow daily, knowing more of Him, and understanding more of ourselves through prayer and reflection. This too would make for a great gift!! 

The leather is soft and the inside of this devotional is very inviting with the soft hues of purple and beautiful design. I love having a devotional that takes me straight to scripture and stories of the Bible. Stories that still resonate with us today. Life lessons that will give us encouragement and inspire us to keep our eyes upon Him as we journey through this life creating our own story of legacy. 

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

Rhonda Harrington Kelley is President’s wife and Adjunct Professor of Women’s Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a frequent speaker for women as well as an author of books including Divine Disciple, Life Lessons for Women of the Bible, and Personal Holiness: A Biblical Study for Developing a Holy Lifestyle. She is co-editor of the three volume Women’s Evangelical Library including Women’s Evangelical Commentary: Old Testament, New Testament, and The Study Bible for Women. Her husband Chuck Kelley is President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dorothy Kelley Patterson is Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. She is a homemaker, popular speaker, and successful writer, editor, and compiler of numerous books including A Handbook for Ministers’ Wives, The Family, BeAttitudes for Women, and Touched by Greatness: Women in the Life of Moses. She is co-editor of the two volume Women’s Evangelical Commentary:Old Testament and New Testament. Her husband Paige is President of Southwester Baptist Theological Seminary.Chuck Kelley is President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Owls (Our Most Charming Bird) by Matt Sewell

I seen this for review and chose it for a friend who absolutely loves owls. I knew it would make for a great gift for her. Once I opened up this book I was surprised at just how much I too would enjoy it. 

I mean who doesn't love owls, right? I found this book enchanting. The artwork is wonderful. Each page contains a different owl and a short little snippet about each one. Just by picking up this book one can learn a great deal about owls. If you have never really pondered the owl this is a book for you. After reading it you are sure to fall in love with these beautiful creatures. 

This would make a great gift for anyone really. Children would enjoy this book. Although not a lot of information is shared about each owl it is enough to encourage you to learn more on your own. 

I was pleasantly surprised by this choice and can't wait to get it wrapped up and sent off to my friend!!

This book was a gift from Blogging for Books for sharing my review with you. This book is published by Ten Speed Press

MATT SEWELL is an avid ornithologist, regular contributor to the Caught by the River website, and the author of several other illustrated bird books. His work has been exhibited in London, Manchester, New York, Tokyo, and Paris.

The Comeback by Louie Giglio

Wow!! As if "Waiting Here For You", didn't bless me enough, I open up this blessing of workmanship and am once again stirred to the cross.

"While we're waiting and trusting in the Lord for the plans and purposes of our lives and saying, "God, I trust in you," the task for us to do is to dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. This implies that we don't see all the purposes of God fully unfolded yet. That's okay, because most of God's plans are unseen to us anyway. In this journey of faith, our confidence comes from God's character, what's been revealed about him in the Bible. And our confidence also comes in trusting that God is working even when we don't understand or see what's happening around us. Hebrews 11:1 says our faith doesn't rest on what's seen, but what's unseen."

"You see, all our comebacks are swallowed up by this ultimate comeback. Because Jesus is alive again, we can come back from anything the world throws at us:

  • The deepest kind of sin
  • The devastation of crumbling relationships
  • The rejection of job loss and failure
  • The general disappointment of life
  • The pain of bereavement
  • The hammer of betrayal
  • Whatever, you name it
Jesus' ultimate comeback trumps all our comebacks, but it also makes it possible in a general sense for us to come back from anything, from anywhere, at any time. The secret is in how Jesus' resurrection life infuses our ordinary lives with the same kind of power."  

If that was all I read of this book it would be enough for me. This is one powerful dose of real!! I soaked up this book, underlined, and highlighted. I love how Louie is so transparent. He shares of himself here in these pages. He brings these black and white penned words to life by sharing scripture and story after story of Biblical people who have come back. He too shares of people today who have faced tragedy and have come back. It doesn't mean they didn't hit bottom. Doesn't mean they didn't make mistake after mistake. It surely doesn't mean they overcame in a moment's prayer, although praise Jesus, it can happen!! He brings to light that through Jesus EVERYTHING is possible and we can come back. Not of our own doing, but ALL because of Him.

These pages are great reminders for us. Each day we face battles and may we never forget that Jesus is right there in the midst of those battles fighting for us!!

"The big hope ahead is that when we're at a low, God offers us a hand up. He holds forth a better way of living, a way filled with freedom, strength, peace, and Jesus. Through fires and trials, God offers us a closer walk with him."

This is a book that will encourage and inspire. It certainly stirred my heart toward trusting Jesus more and more as I focus on Him and not the circumstance facing me. His grace is always bigger! This is a gem of a read that will give you a greater insight to the love of Christ and how He is forever there for us and with us every step of the way.

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

Louie Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and founder of Passion Conferences—a global movement of college-aged people living for the fame of Jesus Christ. A dynamic and effective communicator, Louie holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Shelley, reside in Atlanta. For more information about Passion City Church, visit passioncitychurch.com, and for more about Passion Conferences, visit www.268generation.com.

Waiting Here For You (An Advent Journey Of Hope) by Louie Giglio

The first time I had heard the name Louie Giglio was from my son who had heard him speak at a conference. My son was blown away by this man who so clearly walks the talk. My son will find this book sitting on his nightstand to once again be blown away and to grow through this season of hope.

Louie takes the reader through Advent. The days of November 26-December 24. I picked up this gem of beauty and didn't want to put it down. I actually did something totally different from any book I've reviewed. I sat by myself and read this book aloud. Sure, it was Louie's words, but it was simply me and Jesus.

"My hope is that this Advent devotion will help you hear the cries of the baby in the manger and the words of the Messiah on the cross. I pray that it will encourage and fortify your faith so hope may bloom again. For each day throughout the Advent journey you will find Scripture readings, Christian meditations, words of encouragement, and prayers. Carve out a few moments daily to embrace the gift of Christmas through reflection, worship, and prayer. As you do, there's a good chance something new will be born in your heart, so when Christmas day arrives you will be able to truly celebrate what God has done and what He has promised to do."

Each day begins with scripture. It then moves to Reflection, then on to Meditation, and ends in Prayer. Each of these are powerful and poignant. Louie's words of reflection are pondering. The meditation section is a collection of different lyrics dating years back. It was truly the prayer section that stirred my heart. Throughout the book are varying black and white photos that give the heart room to ponder.

I knew I would love this book but I just didn't know how much this book would bless me. This is a book I will carry with me for a great while. I will add this book to my purse. It's one of those books that just isn't for Advent, but a reminder for us all throughout the year. To bring us back to the manger, to the cross, to Jesus. To bring our focus back to what's really important from season to season in life.

Some of these old lyrics were brand new to me and speaking them loudly made this book all the more powerful for me. Here are a few that truly stirred my spirit:

The Day is Surely Drawing Near
Fear Not To Trust Me In The Storm
O Lord, How Shall I Meet You

Here are a few of the prayers that touched my heart:

"Father, in the middle of the storm I am setting my hope on You. You fight for me and You are greater than all my enemies. Nothing I face today is more powerful than You. You are the solid ground beneath my feet. Thank You for surrounding those who surround me. Give me peace in the presence of my enemies, knowing that You see me and defend me in Your love. Amen."

"Father, You alone know how hard I have searched for satisfaction in the people and things of this world. But they are broken, and I am too. You alone can fill my hungry heart. You alone have the love that is like no other. You never change. Open my eyes today. Show me Your riches and glory. Help me know You more. Let me see the feast of You that is set before me, so I may delight myself in You alone. Amen."

This is truly a wondrous book that I would suggest you grab up not only for this season, but for every season of life. There is so much to ponder. It is such a small book, but one that leaves a lasting imprint on the heart, bringing the reader to grow closer with Christ.

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

Louie Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and founder of Passion Conferences—a global movement of college-aged people living for the fame of Jesus Christ. A dynamic and effective communicator, Louie holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Shelley, reside in Atlanta. For more information about Passion City Church, visit passioncitychurch.com, and for more about Passion Conferences, visit www.268generation.com.

Friday, November 13, 2015

May I Exchange This, Please?

Oh, what a pretty sweater! It is a must have in my bag. So, I go up to the counter with my gorgeous purchase and leave with a smile. I get home and begin looking at my find just a little better and do you know it has a hole in it? What I thought was perfect is not. What I thought I would love to have no longer makes me smile. How many times have we been there in that exchange line? Sometimes we have a receipt and we can make an exchange, but many times we do not and what happens then? We cannot exchange for something else, something better. We cannot get our money back. We are just stuck with a sweater with a hole in it. But, let's really think about this. Is it really as bad as it seems?

Hey, we are women, right? We can sew! Put a needle and thread in my hand and I can fix that hole. It might not look perfect. It might have just a ripple or two in the seam, but I can patch up that hole. Who needs a new one, I can make this one work just fine! But what happens later on after we wash it? Yep, that hole is no longer tiny, but now stretched and tattered. Really, haven't you been there too? You love the color, the fit and style. You don't want to throw it away. Look what you paid for it. It can be fixed right? Okay, maybe we just wear it around the house. Maybe we just where it to play outside in the snow with the kids. Put a jacket on over it, who will notice? Probably the only one who will notice is me. I know the hole is there. I know it's no longer perfect.

Isn't that like our lives? We didn't sign up to stand in the exchange line. We don't have a receipt. We want to fix what is broken, but can we really? The more we try the bigger the hole gets and now, does anyone really want us around? We want perfection and what do we get? A big hole under our arm! No one else can see the pain, but we can. We walk with it. We try to hide it. We learn to cover it up well. Just don't raise your arm! Just don't let anyone hug me or touch me and I will be okay. Please, don't let anyone ask me how I am. I am praying no one looks close enough to see the hole in my heart. I want to stand in that exchange line and fight until something or someone will help me!!

Jesus, please help me!! Can you hear me screaming? Can you hear me crying out to You? I DON'T WANT THIS AND I WANT TO EXCHANGE IT!! Have you been there to my friend? We think we know what we want. We are sure of what is perfect for us, but after we have worn it a while we now know we picked out the wrong sweater. Why do I go shopping anyway? Why is what I have still not good enough? Why am I always searching for something different? Something more? Am I not content?

Many times we can receive a gift that wasn't on our wish list. Many times we open it in total surprise. What do I do with this now? Oh my, this is not my color? This is not going to fit me! But do we exchange a gift? Do we wear it with a smile? Do we dare give it to another? Most of the time we wouldn't want anyone else to wear it either. We know it's scratchy. It's uncomfortable. It's just downright ugly!

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Matthew 5:3-12

Life is choice. In our choices it is our attitude that matters most. Sometimes our gifts we receive are from plan old consequences of our actions. Sometimes we just need to wear those until they wear completely out. That way we remember not to go back in that store again. Sometimes, life sends a package we didn't expect and we find ourselves wondering why someone would send something so ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many times we don't understand how much time grandma put into knitting that sweater. We don't see Aunt Sally saving every dime to purchase the sweater she can while she does without. Once we take our eyes off our own sorry selves and begin to see the sweater we soon see the story behind each and every stitch. We see the love in the gift even it's something unexpected, something unwanted. Those unexpected and unwanted gifts are still gifts, they just carry different meanings. Sometimes you just have to put on the sweater and wear it for a bit to understand it really is the perfect fit.

We can go to the Lord with our sweater in hand. We can exchange our sorrow or joy. We can exchange our pain for laughter. We can exchange our bitterness for  forgiveness. Our anger for peace. Our meanness for kindness. Our complacency for zeal. Our gossip for love. Our rebellion for obedience. Our selfishness to selflessness. Neglect for faithfulness. Our unbelief to trust. Our failure into hope. Do you see the pattern here my friends?  We can exchange our brokenness for healing. We can exchange fear for faith. When we are dealt something we do not want, we can go to God and exchange it for His will. Might all our exchanges be for His will and not our own. We suffer so much in the sweaters we wear. We wear them with such anger and hate. We wear them with jealousy and envy. We can exchange our worldly desires for God's will. We can exchange our selfish attitudes for attitudes reflecting Christ. May we make that exchange line about Christ and not ourselves. Might we see those standing next to us and see the sweater within their hand too. What we want is not necessarily what we need. Our wants and needs to two totally different things. Sometimes we need to wear what we don't want so we can see what it is we do need.

Our heavenly Father paid the price for our red sweater. He stood there in line so that we didnt' have to. See, He has already made the exchange. His life for ours. May we begin to look at our sweater with a new hope, a new faith, and a new trust. Might we love the sweater we are wearing. Don't be so quick to trade it in. It might seem a little tight, a little lose, or maybe just something you would never pick out for yourself, but lets remember that God is the perfect shopper.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
Ephesians 2:8-10

"That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."
Ephesians 4:22-24

"Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."
Ephesians 4:31-32

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

Empty Me

Lord Jesus, empty me of {everything} that keeps me from being close to You. Don't allow the things of this world to change me. Don't allow me to be become numb. I want to feel.  I want to be moved by {everything} around me. I want to see in a new way. To hear like never before. 

Jesus, I want my life to become Yours. I want {everything} about me to shine to Jesus to the world before me. Yes! I want to reflect Your love onto everyone that crosses my path.

I want to express You through {everything} I do. I don't want to go through the motions of the day and not be aware of those around me. 

I want to experience {everything} You have for me. I want to more than talk the talk. I want to walk the walk. I want my actions to speak of You. I pray my words bring You glory. 

As You empty me of {everything} unworthy of You, Lord, fill me with {everything} that speak of You. Breathe into me what is pure and holy. Remove all that is chard. Heal the broken. Speak to my heart. Change me to look more like You, Jesus. Yes, my prayer today that is You take my life and make it new. Create in me something beautiful and unique. I don't want to follow the world. I don't want You to be hidden in my sin, but expose my sin, and free me of the chains that hold me down. Lord, I want to soar with You. I want to experience life in a new and bold way. 

Leave yesterday behind me and give me courage to stand in today and hope in tomorrow. I want to be free, Jesus. I want to escape the mold. I want to do something different. I want to stand out and be me. The me that You created me to be. 

No failures holding me back from {everything} You have for me! No fears to shame me into being stagnant. I want me feet to dance for You and only You. I want to live for an audience of One! Yes, Lord, it is my prayer that You take my life today and change me. I gave You my heart. I surrendered my life to You. But today, Lord, renew me. Allow me to walk in Your Spirit and move for You. Draw me closer to You. May I leave all the junk behind and embrace a freedom in love and forgiveness. 

Remove my inadequacies and replace them with confidence. A confidence that comes from You. May I walk in Your security and find sanctuary in Your holy place. I may I see Your glory in {everything} that surrounds me. May I be humble before You, Lord. No pride in my walk, but grace to be seen. 

May my life shout the love of Jesus. I pray grace and mercy can be seen in my life. I present myself to You today, Lord. Draw me near to You. No more wounds to bleed to me dry. I want my heart to be filled with forgiveness. No bitterness to drown me in pity. Take all of my imperfections, Lord. Take each ash of my life and create simple beauty. 

Today I open my heart my to You, Lord. I breathe in Your Word and I feel Your presence. Replace my {everything} with all of You.  

"Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God." 
Ephesians 5:1-2

"Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God-truly righteous and holy." 
Ephesians 4:22-24

The Jury Pew

Your following the court case. Your opinion is set. Guilty, guilty, guilty. You can hear the gavel slam down as the verdict is given. You are not even in the court room. You don't even know all the details being read, but you know enough to form an opinion and to you, well, they couldn't look more guilty.

We read the headlines. We see the reports. We make our decisions not based on what we see, but on what we hear. Is it always the truth? There is the question. There are three sides to every story. What Becky says happened, what Angela says happened and somewhere in the middle beckons the truth.

Being a juror would be a difficult job. Most people are called to be a juror at least once in their life. The person who sits before you is awaiting the decision you make based on the information given. We don't take that job lightly. After all a person's life is in the depths of our decision making. We look at the person and try to judge if they are a good person or not. Do they speak with sincerity? Do they seem likable? Do we really pay attention to the facts or do we base our opinion too quickly?

After the verdict is read the jury is polled. We hear guilty read over and over again. In some cases the person sitting before them is not guilty at all. Based on the information given, the eye witness reports and the conclusions of the jury members the verdict is handed down, but not always accurate.

There are times we live our lives in a similar fashion. Call it the "Jury Pew", if you will. You know that pew. You look around to see who is there and who isn't. Then you begin to wonder, "Well, it's been three weeks since Gloria has been here, wonder what's up?" We don't call Gloria to find out if she is okay. We just assume. We hear other whispers as to why she isn't there. Instead of looking for the truth, we gather in the jury pew and make our decision. She must be going down the wrong road. "I knew it!" The gavel comes down.

The church doors close and the pews are filled. The preacher is speaking and a subject blares from the microphone. It's a touchy subject. One that you know, isn't affecting you, but you look around and wonder if John is here to hear the words. "Yep, he's the one the Lord is speaking loud and clear to today." The gavel comes down.

We do it all the time, folks. We hear the news. Patty was in a car crash last night. This was her second crash.  Our thoughts go directly to, "Was she was drinking?" Here comes the gavel once again.

Nancy lost her job last week. Instead of us seeing how we can help her, we jump in with the thoughts, "I wonder why that girl can't hold down a job?" Here is comes. Slam!

Bessy is in the hospital again. Third time this year. She's having a hard time with her health. Ready? The gavel is set. "The Lord must be trying to get her attention. Hope she listens soon."

Yes, we take on the roll of Jury Pew and unlike the jury pool, it isn't pretty. It isn't needed and it only brings shame. There is no justice that comes from the Jury Pew. In fact, most of the verdicts that come down are guilty. Guilty without a doubt. No insanity plea here. No double jeopardy. Just guilty beyond all that we have heard. We don't even have to have the person take the stand. No witness's needed. Just enough information to make our case and there you have it. She must be guilty. Why else would people be talking?

Wasn't it the same for Jesus? Wasn't He found completely guilty without reason? We look back at that time and ponder, "How could they? How could they do that to our Jesus?" Friends, we do it to those around us all the time. We place them on the cross of guilt before they even have a chance to speak for themselves. In fact, we don't even want to hear from them. We would rather hear from those who witnessed the act, or at least those who can tell us their version of what took place.

We hear a person happen to lose their temper and they say a curse word. The first thought, the first words to that person? "Your heart is not right with the Lord?" How can we make that judgement?

"You mean, you watch that television show?" The gavel comes down and as it does you hear, "Sinner, sinner, sinner!" Just who do we think we are to judge others so quickly?

Do we forget that we too are sinners? Do we forget that grace is not just for us, but for all? Forgiveness reaches all those who ask for it. It's time we put our gavel away and maybe just step out of that jury pew and find a new place to sit. One in which we can focus on our relationship with Christ. If we want to find guilt, it shouldn't be too hard if we just look into our own heart.

Before long, this just becomes part of our lives. This feel to call others guilty. It becomes so easy on the lips of those speaking that it is soon called, "I just want to know how to pray for them". Really? Do we really need information to pray for others? No we do not. God already knows the whole story. He knows the need and how to meet it. All He needs from us is to be the vessels for prayer.

You know what we can do? We can encourage and inspire others. We can pray for those that the Lord lays upon our heart. We don't need to look at others based on what we hear, but we need to look to others with the same love that Christ sees us through. Just think what could happen if there were less jury pew and more altar encouragement? We would have revival. The Lord would send down His blessings.

I have to remind myself daily. Sometimes moment by moment. My relationship with Christ is what I need to be concerned with. I need to find what He wants me to change and what He wants to shine through me. I have no business looking at others and telling them what they need to be doing. It's not for me to calculate another person's walk. God has that under control and if we are not careful we get in His way.

What happens? We end up judging others and in turn they want nothing to do with us any longer. They become hurt and so tired of defending themselves that soon they just stay clear of it all so they can find peace in God.

Praise God at the end of my life, the only person before me is Jesus Christ. No jury pew members allowed. May I give the same grace I am given each and every day of my life. May I not assume the actions of another. May I not even utter a word not worthy for God to hear. May all the words that flow from my lips be in love.

We are all on a journey. We too are all on a different page in our walk. We are all different. We all learn different. Instead of judging another, why not simply engage in prayer. Not because we think they are doing wrong, but totally because we love them.

I have sat in that jury pew. It isnt' a pretty place to sit. I too have been on the outside of that jury pew and that is downright disheartening. There is no judgement in fellowship. When we mentor others may we do so through encouragement and example. If we could just lift one another up in love, there would be no room for the jury pew.

"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."
Romans 14:12-13 

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others,and you will be forgiven."
Luke 6:37

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."
Proverbs 31: 8-9

"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Colossians 3:13

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
Galatians 5:22-23

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”"
John 13:34-35

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert

I love reading works from authors that are new to me and Irma Joubert is brand new to me. She has a writing style all her own. She is a storyteller, but one that is quick with scenes and at times didn't give me time enough in one area before she was leaving and heading to a new scene. I wanted to know more of the characters, see more detail, and feel more passion. 

With that out of the way, this is a gem of a read. Really, once you begin reading, and it took me a while to truly get into the story, it is a story worth reading. 

It was the cover that caught my attention. It's spectacular. The story-line grabbed me and I knew I had to review this new work. 

I love history and works that share about this time in history are those very close to my heart. This novel spans over a fifteen year period. For me, that's a lot to take in and absorb. So much story to share and not enough pages to compose to totally bring me in and allow my heart to travel to another time and place and truly behold all the characters were feeling. 

What I will do is go back and in time give this another try and I know I will walk away with something very different. Maybe that's it. This is one of those gems you just have to take your time with and with imagination and heart it then comes to life. 

Remember, this is only my opinion. This is a beautiful story. For some reason I always felt a bit distracted. But you may pick up this lovely book and gain something totally different and walk away changed. I say give this author a chance to woe you into another time and place. 

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

Irma Joubert International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She's the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa, but this will be her first novel published in English. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.
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