Sunday, September 30, 2012

Seeing The Moon In A Whole New Way

Tonight my husband called me into the living room to look out the window at the moon. I am a night sky lover. Even when I walk Daisy my eyes are pointed to the heavens instead of my steps. I tilt my head back and I am in awe of the mighty God who created this vast glory for my eyes smile upon.

I look out at the glorious moon and I can see a ring  encircling the bright reflection. I take a seat and look out the window at a different view and something wondrous beholds my vision. I'm captivated. As I look to the moon I see a cross. It's something you can't miss. I say, "Isn't it so amazing how God placed a cross right over the moon?" My husband isn't seeing it and I am wondering, "How in the world can you be missing the cross?"

He is standing. I am sitting. How is our view different? We are apparently looking through the very same window. He is seeing right through the glass and I am looking through the screen.

I've noticed the cross many years now and I have never questioned what I have witnessed. I just assumed it was there for all to see. But tonight as my husband was there my words caught in his heart. I asked, "Wait, don't you see the cross? It's always there." He takes my hand and says, "Stand up and look from here". No cross. Just the bright moon. He says, "Now look through the screen again". I do and what do you know? There's the cross.

I ask now the question stirring in my mind. "How is that happening?" husband preceded to tell me I see the cross through the screen because a screen is made in a cross pattern. It's weaved a certain way and when you look out it gives you a different view of an object.

Now, why it has taken me so long to figure this out is beyond me. I'm just gonna say, it's all part of the journey. But, it's it the coolest to learn something new every day?

So, my mind as not yet stopped churning. I'm sitting here thinking to myself, so if I change my vision, my outlook, my focus, I'm gonna see things much different. That screen is a like a filter. It's going to not only protect me from all that tries to distract me, but protect others from my own human viewpoint.  I am to see everything as if the cross is the first thing that crosses my vision.

Without the screen, the moon, yes, in all its glory, is still the moon, but through the screen, it's even more beautiful.

I have heard people for years say, we should hide behind the cross. Now, I get that. We are to allow God to shine before us. But what if we looked at that a little different? What if instead, we simply said, we need to place the cross at the forefront of our vision? We need to see everything through the cross. After all, isn't that how Jesus sees the world? Isn't that what grace is all about?

If I took each step seeing the cross before me, love would fill my vision. Bitterness, anger, jealous and all that jazz wouldn't matter one iota. I have to wear glasses to correct my vision. Sometimes getting the right prescription is difficult. But in this case, maybe I just needed to be attended to by a different king of Doctor.

All this time I thought I was seeing a cross as I looked to the moon. I would look up and simply say, "Beautiful, just magnificent", and my praises would begin. See, I want focused on the moon, but upon the cross. That's what caught my eye. Everytime I seen it from my bedroom window all I focused on was the cross and it's grace. Oh the beauty of it. The glorious shine that kept me gazing for hours until I fell asleep. Now I can remember, it is the cross I need to focus on. I need to set that Christ-screen before me.

How many days in my walk to I ignore the cross or just lose sight of it? Let me tell you, there are many. I have to totally change my focus and I must train myself to see the cross before all that crosses my vision.

What about you? Have you learned anything new about the Lord this week? What about Him amazes you? Everything about Him just simply and utterly amazes me. He never ceases to teach me. He is there always opening my eyes to something new. Tonight is just happened to be the cross. I now have a better view. I gotta tell ya, from where I'm sitting, it looks pretty breathtaking.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the thorn of God." Hebrews 12:1-3

"But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 4:29

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Love Without Condemnation

In the middle of my day the Lord speaks to me loud and clear. Have you heard His voice lately? Are you tuned in to His station? Oh friends, there are days I am totally tuned in and loving what I hear and others? Well, I change the station, cause I'm not so much liking what I hear. I know. Ouch! Right? Have you been there? It's hard isn't it? There are times I hear the Lord speaking such sweet words of promise to me. He brings comfort and healing. But there are times when I am doing wrong. When I am away from Him. It's then, I hear Him say, "Come back. Return to Me, daughter. I am only teaching you, so your life will hold treasure."

Do you know how many times I slammed by bedroom door as my parents tried to teach me for my own good? I would slam that door in anger, not wanting to hear, but knowing they were right. Knowing they did love me. They weren't just out to get me and make my life miserable. Although, it took me a while to figure that one out.

There were times I ignored them. I can share with you that today as I look back, every single time I ignored them, I fell on my face. I ended up making a mistake. Some would say, "Well, you learn on your own and we need to make mistakes". Yikes, to a point that is true, but oh, how sweet life would have been in my younger days if I'd have only listened and treasured my parents words of wisdom.

So, what is it exactly the Lord is sharing with me? My attitude. My words. My judgement. I am heeding His Word today as it speaks such truth to my heart.

I have to stop being so critical of others. Really, we as a people, condemn others for what Bible translation they choose to read, how they live, who they talk to, what church they attend, what beliefs they have, all the way to if they drink, if they work "outside the home" or if they stay home with their children. We seem to point our finger at everything everyone else is doing. Isn't it time we  just focused on our self and our relationship with the Lord? It's not for us to "Fix" others or make them live as we do. It's not for us to correct every issue, but simply LIVE for Christ. In doing that one thing, our life will change. It's through Christ we are to see the world and others. It's love this world needs not condemnation.

We are to reach a world in need. We aren't going to do that by condemning everyone who walks in our path. We can do this by simply loving. It doesn't mean we have to agree. It doesn't mean we have to like the actions of others. It simply means to treat others with love and respect.

I can tell you by being a momma to three and a step momma to two, it did me more good to point out and praise what my children were doing right than to point out every misstep and action that was wrong. Sure, as a parent I am to teach my children the difference of right and wrong and yes, when our children are wrong we are to teach them, but doing so in love.

Living in this world is different than raising our children. This world is not my home. It doesn't belong to me. The Lord places people in our path so that we can love them, share with them and show them our Savior. But, He too places people in our path to teach us along the way. I have learned so much from others and I can tell you that my first question to people I meet is not, "Are you a Christian"?  I can share Christ with this world by loving them, by showing Christ in my life.

We can live our enter life with the perspective we are not to allow anyone in who isn't a Christian. For me, that is not how I want to live. Yes, we are to set ourselves apart, but we are to live in this world and friends, it isn't so much what happens while we are sitting in our favorite church pew that matters. It's what happens when we leave the building and enter our work place, our home, our friend's home, the zoo, the local restaurant. The list goes on and on. There is never a place where we are that someone isn't watching. It's our actions that matter. It's the words we use. It's the love we truly share with others.

We are a work in progress. We are imperfect and too many times we try to give the image of perfection and yes, we too have the attitude that we are better. It's easy to fall in that trap. But life is pretty easy when we just surround ourselves with our circle of comfort. We are to live with arms wide open. We are to love those who are unlovable. At times I'm pretty unlovable myself.

But the sweet thing is, my Savior saved me. With His arms wide open, He took me in and wrapped me in His grace and washed me in His mercy.

We forget that we are to live each day with His love flowing through us. We are to see this world through His vision. He sees past our sins. He sees past tomorrow. Why do we have such a hard time? We point out what others are doing wrong, but some how find excuse for our own actions.

Instead of condemn why not live in grace? Instead of pointing fingers why not check myself? I am not to measure myself against others. I am to measure myself to the Word of God. Nothing more, nothing less. Just who do I think I am? I mean, really, what in the world are we thinking? The fact is, we aren't. In judging we not only lose respect, but we limit God.

We need to stop changing the channel and surfing to see what else looks good and get back to the Word of God. We need to focus on Him and allow Him to move in our life. He doesn't need me to change the world. He can do that all on His own. He just needs me to be the girl of Christ He created me to be.

It's no wonder people stop attending church. May we welcome the person and allow God the room to do the creating.

"Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God." 1 John 3:18-19

"God showed how much He loved us by sending His One and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love-not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us." 1 John 4:9-12

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's The Heart Of The Gift That Matters

One of my favorite verses in found in Micah. It's the header for this blog. It's a verse I try to live by and focus on. I slip up at times and lose my focus, but Christ is there to direct me back to Him.

"Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 (HCSB Version)

There are times we can get stuck in one verse without looking at what comes before it or after it. This is one of those verses for me. There is so much more here for us to learn and grasp about life, giving and the heart. It's not the gift that matters. It's not the amount. It's not even so much the giver. It's the heart of giving.

Lets be honest. We can all give. We can give the shirt off our back to another, but do we always give willingly? Here's a tough one. Do we give until it hurts? Meaning, do we even realize what we are giving?

In watching a program last week, I seen a portrait of real giving. A soldier of long ago needed to be buried and for many reasons was not allowed to be buried in his home town. Here's the beauty of it. People gave so his family could travel to Arlington. We aren't talking thousands or even hundreds of dollars. Some gave twenty-five cents. Others gave two dollars. After it was all added, they had just enough for the travel and enough to purchase winter coats for the journey. These givers were giving all they had. They weren't worried about what was left or if they had enough. They gave wholeheartedly.

This story touched my heart deeply. It made me think and ask myself, "Do I give until it hurts?" We live in the country of plenty. We are not wealthy by any means. But it's easy for me to give my old coats to Goodwill, especially on the day I go out and purchase a new one. I can buy someone a cheeseburger with the twenty dollar bill I have in my pocket. But what if I just gave more? What if I gave until it hurt?

I'm not saying we must give until we are empty. But where is our faith in Christ? Is He truly in the heart of the giver? I can honestly say, not always.

See, Micah was reaching out the people of Israel. The people are asking what they should give and Micah is correcting them, saying, it's not the gift but the heart that matters. Read verse 7 with me.

"Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin?" (verse 7)

Now, put verse 8 next to it.

"Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God."

The NIV version reads

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does He require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Micah is here, pleading God's case, to the Israelites. We can learn that God isn't concerned with the offering here, but in the offerer. It's his heart, his character, his behavior in giving. We aren't to give and share with everyone we meet that we have given, but we are to do so with a humble heart. Not one filled with pride.

There are times in my life where I have been the giver and those where I have been the recipient of a gift. God knows the need and He knows just how to meet that need. When I can be the giver, I'm not suppose to do so with pride, but fully understanding  that it is God who is giving through me. He has provided so that I am able to give.  I am to be His willing vessel.

I am to love others without judgement. I need to treat others just as I would want to be treated. We measure gifts by the cost and think we have done our good deed for the day by giving. Friends, giving is not a one time deal. It's not a good deed to get done and move on with our day. To walk justly, to live in faithfulness and to walk in humility should be characteristics of our relationship with Christ.

Too many times we give with the thought that now good things will come our way. We give with expectations. How many times do we give and we are offended if we have not heard, "Thank you"? We are not to give expecting anything. We are the vessel. We are there to meet the need and that is it.

We are to pray. Prayer is such a sweet gift in itself. In being the vessel that pours out the gift is an honor. As humans we can put too much thought into things and we get lost in the translation of giving. It's not so we gain, but that so our Father in heaven gains reward. I am to open my hands and my heart to others. I am to walk with Christ and as the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart I am to move on God's behalf.

Lord, help me to realize my life is not my own. I am to be Your vessel. I am to live with Your love and I am to follow Your commands. Your commands are treasure to us. Through love, You guide us. Open my heart to the needs around me, Lord. Open my eyes to all You want me to see. Teach me to be a Christ-giver. Use me to bring glory and honor to You, Lord. Take my life and allow it to shine before all men, bringing witness and glory to Your name. It is You, Lord, that provides every need. Be with us, Lord, for You are the Giver and the Gift.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst

Emotions and choice? They go hand in hand. I love how Lysa teaches that we need to allow our emotions to work for us not against us. That alone is powerful wisdom for us Jesus girls. (I too like how she calls us that)

When you pick up, "Unglued", you are going to find a vast wealth of information that will  help you to be "glued" to the Savior. Feeling whole and complete in Him.

In reading, "Unglued", it's as though your having a cup of coffee with Lysa and your just chatting over life. You know, the real stuff. The stuff we keep hidden and shut out from everyone else. Lysa has this way of making you feel comfortable. She is open and honest in her own struggles.

She teaches us about sweet grace and just how pure it is. How there are not really two of us. Not really one that the world sees and one that is a mess, but one person. One soul that Christ loves.

I love the cover. Now, my purses are mighty big and there have been times I just wanted to stick my head in and forget all else.

This is one of those stand out books that is real and personal. Lysa's personality shines through this book. I giggled with her and my heart has grown from her wise words.

The subtitle says it all, "Making Wise Choices In The Midst Of Raw Emotions". We learn about labels and how they are so unfair. I asked myself if I am a "Stuffer" or an "Exploder". For me, I am a combination of both. Bottom line, when we learn about our emotions and our personality, we can grow into the beautiful woman that Christ is creating us to become. Imperfections and all.

This book was a gift from Zondervan for its review.

Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and national speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author of 15 books, and encourages nearly 500,000 women worldwide through a daily online devotional. Her remarkable life story has captured audiences across America, including appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five children.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When Did You Notice?

She steps on the bus for the very first time. She is a little frightened and a little out of her comfort zone. She has moved to a new area with her family and today is her first day at her new job. She has never taken the bus before today.

Everything is new to her. The sights and sounds  are raw on her emotions. Each one brings her head to turn. She takes notice of everything. She sits. Looks next to her and before she can say a word the woman sharing her seat looks up and smiles. Introduces herself with the love of Christ shining in her eyes. Her words are like honey. This first morning is finding ease through one woman willing to turn away from her own interests and bring a bit of sanity to this young woman on her first journey through the city.

A few months pass. Her seat companion is there with the same smile and heartfelt hello. The young woman is feeling more confident now. She is more comfortable. She now opens up her newest book bought from the book store just down from her house.

Time passes quickly. Her angel of meeting is still there to give her a good morning word, filled with joy. She now opens her laptop and begins the article she has been fast at work on. She has more editing and it has her attention so much she almost misses her stop.

Again she takes her seat to the warmth of the woman with the smile. She gets busy on her smart phone, texting and sending emails to all those important people of the day. She checks her face book and moves on the Macy's site to see the new sales.

A year down the road and she is on the same route to work. Stepping up into the bus, her eyes are covered with her shades. She sits and doesn't even look out the window. The sights and sounds that captivated her on that first day no longer grab her attention. She reaches into her bag to pull out her laptop and she hears, "Is this seat taken?" Without realizing, she speaks, for the first time in months. "No, not at all."

It's five O'clock and she is ready for home. All she is thinking about is taking her heals off, a nice hot bath, but first she must attend to her children and have dinner started before her husband arrives home from his busy day. All her thoughts are directed at what she must be doing and someone hands her a card. It's a sympathy card, addressed to a Mr. Baxter and Family. She looks up and says, "Excuse me, but what is this?" The gentle woman who handed her the card says, "It's for Betsy's family. She died last week." Well now, she is totally confused. "Um..who is Betsy?" The humble woman looks down at her as she is seated and says, "Betsy, the woman you have been sitting next to for the past year."

Now she realizes. She's thinking to herself, now I know she sat here next to me yesterday. No, yesterday she looked down and noticed she had gum on her new pumps, but didn't notice Betsy was missing. All this time and she never even knew her name.

After she is home and now in the tub she remembers back to that first day on the bus when Betsy made her feel welcome and safe. Betsy smiled at everyone. She asked people how their family was doing. Once she even held a baby so the mother could get a few moments rest on the ride. She chatted with everyone. She would even bring a snack to share.

She signed that card and got the funeral arrangements. She decided to go. Goodness, did she even know Betsy enough to attend? What would she say? She didn't have to say anything. Betsy's husband came to her. Placed her hand in his and said, "Sarah, it's so nice to finally meet you. Betsy talked about you all the time. She really enjoyed sitting next to you." Sarah was blown speechless.

Has this ever happened to you? Maybe you have been the Betsy or maybe at times have been the Sarah. I think I have been both at one time or another. As of late I have felt more like the Betsy. Unnoticed.

We can get so caught up in our own little world that we miss out on what is around us. Namely people. People just want to be loved. They want to be accepted and they want to be noticed. Here is the kicker. They want to be noticed when they are not there any longer.

Wouldn't it be better to notice them while they were there? Why is it so hard for us to reach out to other people? Our phones have become our life giver. We get so wrapped up in what we are doing we don't even ask others what they are up to.

I too have been Sarah. Things have happened. People have become sick and my answer is, "Well, I didn't even know they were in the hospital." Now sometimes that isn't our fault. It happens and we are shocked and totally unaware, but not because we don't care. Lets be honest. Sometimes it's because we didn't take the time to notice.

Just think if Sarah could have remained with her eyes and ears open to all that was around her. Just think if she hadn't gotten so comfortable and caught up in herself. Look at the blessings she would have reaped by just knowing Besty.

It happens before we know it.

Lets make tomorrow different. Lets change all about tomorrow. Let loose of that comfort. Reach out to the new girl. Have lunch with a different crowd. Put that book away. Keep the laptop in the bag. Turn that phone on silent for a while. Allow your senses to roam. Give your eyes freedom to see things brand new. Turn your ear to the one you barely give a morning nod to. Most of all, open your heart and be the vessel the Lord is calling us to be. He is wanting us to reach out beyond ourselves and make someone else feel important. Special. Loved. Involved.

When someone has been missing for months, don't let that be your sign to call them. Be involved so that when they are missing for a day, you take notice. Remember cards? People love receiving cards in the mail and yes, hand written letters are still beautiful and welcome today. A phone call is so much warmer than a text.

I know..I've been that Betsy for a while now...Just sayin', I think we can all do better at reaching out to those close by.

"Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too." Philippians 2:3-4

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where Do I Go From Here

Have you ever been standing in a mall and can't seem to figure out where to get to that favorite store of yours? You look for one of those, You are here, signs. You find it and look for the familiar to get you there. Sometimes it's just right around the corner, but other times you must go the long distance down the corridor or up the escalator to the next floor. But as long as you follow the directions, you will get to your destination.

I have often found myself in a place in life where I called out to God and said, "Lord, where do I go from here?" I cannot tell you the times I have heard my Savior say, "As long as you keep following Me, you will be just fine". I can tell you, those words are true. He has been my Great North, my Compass, for the journey.

I have to remind myself to stay focused. I have heard people say, "It's not where you are, it's where your going that matters". I'm not so sure that's true. Don't we have to see where we are to understand where we are headed? God gives us grace for today and hope for tomorrow. That's how we know we are going in the right direction or not. That's how we judge if a U-turn is needed. Maybe the brakes needed halted. Might a yield sign up be up ahead and we must merge into what is oncoming slowly.

I think where we are in life is important. It has meaning. It's a time of reflection. Not just where we are, but where we came from. I have learned there have been times in my life where God didn't want me to move forward until I really took a good long look at where I was. It all matters. Our past and present. Every single choice we have made has a great impact on who we are today. It's all included in the journey. God connects everything in life for us. Yes, even those adversities we face that we have no control over. Maybe on the other side of heaven we will get to glimpse back and see He was there every step of the way. Just maybe we will see the highlights and have an understanding of those dead ends we ran into and how they lead to the correct road that in turn lead us straight into the path of God's glory.

My Pastor has a great question he asks. "Are you closer to the Lord today than you were a year ago? Ten years ago?" I think my journey would look more like one of those charts that zig zag up and down. I have some loops that stay high and others that drastically zoom down and hit the lowest point. I'm not sure there has ever been a point in life where I remained steadfast and sure. I tend to go off on my own journey, but praise Jesus. He is there to gently lead me back. But, that is me moving. Not my Savior. He is remains present. He is my Forever North. He is still and never changing. It is through Him that I not only find my destination, but I find the best route.

He not only sees where I am, but He knows what's around me. He knows what's going to distract me and He too knows what I might pass up out of sheer fear or uninterest. Isn't that what is so amazing about our Lord and Savior? He sees past where we are. He knows just where we have come from and He has our tomorrow all planned out.

I have learned that when I take my focus off of Him and place it on my circumstance, trial, trouble or fear, I am going to miss the heart of what He wants me to see. He is bigger than any giant I will ever face. I just need to remember He has already equipped me with everything I need for the journey, including my travel map.

Today you may be in the midst of the greatest trial you have yet to face. Maybe illness has invaded your body. A loved one has gone home and now your heart is more lonely than you could have imagined. That job you were counting on has just abandoned your dreams for that summer vacation. Your husband has deceived you and now your facing divorce. Those teenage years have struck and you find yourself more than ever looking for strength. The tests the doctor ran didn't come out with the results we were looking for. The list goes on and on.

Friends, trial touches us all. If we have not faced struggle yet in life, it will come. I'm not sure we can ever prepare for tragedy. What we can do is trust our Savior. We can keep His promises alive in our heart. We can walk with Him daily and seek His will for our life. Without Him everything seems hopeless. But He is a God of Hope. His Word remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is true for all of us. His Word gives us a greater hope that anything we could ever gain trying to do on our own.

Is it possible to look to our adversities as opportunities? Sure it is. We must stop seeing life as an ending, but envision it as a beginning. The Lord is always present to lead us where our feet have yet to travel. He knows the way. He has been there. He has traveled each road ahead of us to prepare our journey. It is through those trials that we grow more compassionate and merciful.

I don't think we have to try to connect all the dots and figure out what has purpose and what doesn't. The Lord does that for us. We just have to learn to live right now in this moment and keep our eyes upon Him.

How do we do this? We remain in prayer. We keep His Word present in our lives. When we feel lost and can't find our way, all we must do is call out, "Jesus", and He will answer. He will take our hand and show us the way.

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Philippians 4:13

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Romans 4:19

"Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually."
1 Chronicles 16:11

"Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore."
Psalm 105:4

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
Psalm 119:105

Lord, guide us with Your light. Keep our eyes focused upon You. May we not misstep and lose direction. Place a hedge of Your protection around us today, Lord. Help us to see all You have for us. Guard our hearts against doubt. Give us strength for today and help us to rest in Your peace. May we search for Your will in our lives and not allow fear to cause us to heed Your direction, but may we follow You in a humble spririt, filled with Your grace for all we must face. You have given us the Holy Spirit as a gift to guide us. Praise You, Lord Jesus. Thank You

Friends, this is my prayer for you today.

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin has done it once again. Outstanding! Who doesn't love a historical romance? I know I do and no one writes historical romance like Sarah Sundin. Why? She is passionate about history and does her research. That has the makings of a beautifully written story such as this. But there's more. So much more.

Sarah's writing flows and you begin to fall in love with the characters. Characters who stand out. Not because they are trying to, but because they are characters with humility and honor. They are real and characters we can admire. She allows us to see their heart as no one else does.

The premise of this story is sheer beauty. A written letter, exposing the real person with the intention of never really meeting. It's just meant to encourage and inspire. But as each letter is written, more is shared and love prevails. No outside interference. Love beginning from the inside. We get to see it grow from a seedling into a beautiful blossom.

World War II is alive. Two characters, each holding back, wanting so much to just be themselves. I looked forward to the love letters between them. Of course it didn't start out as love, but as friendship. The foundation for love to grow upon. I just love everything about this story.

We have flight nurses who are ready to give all for their fellow man who is fighting a raging war. Something rare happens. Anonymous letters are written and received. You gotta love how God just works and brings everything into perfection.

The two main characters are seeing themselves in a whole different way than the world sees them. I found myself cheering them on. As each letter is written, more of themselves is revealed and that's where the real beauty begins. I think they not only got to know each other, but themselves. The more comfortable they became writing, the more comfortable they were with who they really were.

The ending captivated me. To know that from the start God had a plan for these two to connect long before a letter was ever written.

This is the first novel to the, "Winds Of The Nightingale" series. I am so excited to see where Sarah takes us next. Yes, she is one of those authors who has the gift to take us to another time and place and sets us smack in the front row for the greatest view we could imagine.

Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow. In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist's mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

This book was a gift from Revell for its review.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Girl In The Glass by Susan Meissner

Every since I can remember I have always wanted to spend a summer in Tuscany. I think I may have just spent one of the most memorable weekends visiting a place my feet may never set ground on, but,  my heart has traveled there, and that just may be even more special. This novel was more than spectacular. It was magical. It took me on a journey I wasn't expecting and that is what makes for a great novel. Meissner writes a story within a story. Simply amazing!

I am a huge fan of Susan Meissner. She stole my heart in, "The Shape of Mercy" and "A Sound Among The Trees". This novel, is hands down, one of the best books I have read...ever. She has the gift to take us to a place we never expected to see and once there, she fills us with a beauty more splendid that our eyes can envision. She captivates us with chapter, bringing us closer and closer to seeing past just what appears and what lies beyond the horizon. She takes words like, Renaissance and gives them new meaning for the heart.

I love the cover and the title, but it's what is between the pages that takes us on a journey to Florence, Italy. The characters are so rich and vibrant. Such lessons of great value to take away. Nonna and Nora, were favorites of mine. The stories made me feel as though I was seeing the beauty of a life in Florence first hand. You know, this may be even more beautiful than seeing it in person. To read such love of a country and all it holds from another only makes it appear in it's purest form.

I walked away from this novel feeling as though I now had a new love for a place I have never visited, but have always dreamed of seeing. I feel as though I walked the streets with Mellie and Sofia. I could taste the coffee and feel the cool breeze on the balcony.

I think we all need a Lorenzo in our lives. A Gabe too. This story takes us on a journey between a daughter wanting to spend a summer with her father and what the Lord has designed for her instead. Her heart was opened in a new way and Florence for her, was a life lesson, that only brought her closer to who the real girl in the mirror is and that is what our Lord wants for us, to become who He has created us to be.

This is a beautifully penned novel. One that deserves an award. I was sad when I closed the last page. I already wanted to go back.

This book was a gift from WaterBrook Multnomah for its review.

Susan Meissner is an award-winning author whose books include The Shape of Mercy, Lady in Waiting, and A Sound Among the Trees. She is the wife of an Air Force chaplain and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Special Guest Post By Lisa Buffaloe

The Grace Gift

Written By

Lisa Buffaloe

An empty, two-lane farm road stretched in front of me. A perfect day and time to test how fast my little car would go. A teenager feeling my freedom, I put the pedal to the metal. Yep, stuck my foot on the gas and let my tiny engine whine and scream.

Freedom! I probably clocked in at seventy-five miles an hour (pretty good for such a small car). I was flying. And that’s when I saw him—the patrol car sitting on the side of the road.

I was caught. And I knew it had to be obvious.

The first opportunity to stop was a gravel road leading to a farmhouse. I pulled over and waited.

The patrol car stopped behind me. No lights, and no siren. The officer just sat in his car. A few minutes later he approached my open window. “Do you live here?”
I kept my hands on the wheel. “No sir.”
“You just pulled over?”
“Yes sir.”
His face showed no emotion, his eyes hidden behind mirrored sunglasses. “What were you doing?”
I responded with a sheepish grin. “I was trying to see how fast my car would go.”
He didn’t move for a few minutes. Finally, he shook his head. “Don’t do it again.” And with that, he turned and walked away.

I deserved a ticket. I even admitted my crime. Though I was guilty, I was pardoned and given the gift of grace.

Two thousand years ago, a baby boy was born in Bethlehem. At His birth, the heavens rejoiced and earth found hope. For He wasn’t any ordinary boy. His name is Jesus, and He is the Son of God. He came to earth to sacrifice His life to redeem the lost and pardon the guilty.

Jesus offers the ultimate gifts each and every day—grace and mercy. All we must do is believe and receive.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him”
 (John 3:16-17 NIV).

Lisa Buffaloe is writer, speaker, happily-married mom, and host for Living Joyfully Free Radio. Her past experiences—molestation by a baby-sitter, assault, rape by a doctor, divorce, being stalked, cancer, death of loved ones, seven surgeries, and eleven years of chronic illness from Lyme Disease—bless her with a backdrop to share about God’s unending love and that through Him we find healing, restoration, and renewal. She is the author of Prodigal Nights (2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest Finalist), Grace for the Char-Baked and a contributing author of The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter.

Friends, you can find Lisa just by clicking on these links.,, and

Friends, I too hope you will take a peek at Lisa's newest gem,

"Nadia's Hope".
2010 Women of Faith Writing Contest Finalist
Runner-up for Women’s Fiction, 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest
Best of Conference for Adult Novel, 2007 North Texas Christian Writer’s Conference.

Lisa, thank you for this lovely post and many blessings to you sweet lady. You are always welcome and always a sweet blessing.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Reunion by Dan Walsh

I am a tremendously huge fan of Dan Walsh! His newest book took me by surprise. Not because I expected more or less, but what these pages held was far beyond what the back cover gave away. I love that, don't you? I love the unexpected and getting wrapped in a book, penned so beautifully, that your heart is moved as you close the last page.

So, I will not be giving away any details. Except to tell you, get ready for a page turner. This is one of those books that just doesn't tell a story. It weaves together precious lives. This gem has it all. Love, romance, suspense, and history. Dan Walsh is one of those gifted writers who can touch a life through the telling of story. For me, I want more than just a story. I want to walk away changed and moved forever. This is the gift Dan Walsh gives to us in, "The Reunion".

I will tell you, yes, it all begins in a trailer park, settled back  in the country. Almost hidden from the rest of the world. This story moves beyond what is seen and takes us to the unseen. The heart. Through one man many are blessed. Through his actions, he has changed lives and is leaving behind quite a legacy of love. We travel on a journey and watch reunion take place within family. We see friendship rekindled. Ah, we see man reunited with his Lord. I loved the conversations between these characters. Walsh has this gift of allowing us to really connect with the characters.

There are many characters. They are rich and vibrant. Each having a story of their own to be told. I love how God brings His people together and through this gentle story we get a glimpse of the work God does in the hearts of those who seek Him.

I loved the cover as much as the story. One simple trailer. But there is more than meets the eye. The lights that leave a glow. The chairs right outside just waiting to be filled. I loved the journey into the past and admire how Dan Walsh brings it to connect to us today.

A treasure.

This book was a gift from Revell for its review.

Dan Walsh is the award-winning author of several books, including The Discovery and The Reunion. 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.

For the for the next week, starting today and running till next Monday, September 17th, Dan Walsh is celebrating the release of his new novel, The Reunion, with a 10-book giveaway contest! Five winners will each receive a signed copy of The Reunion, as well as his third novel, The Deepest Waters. (He’s including this book because it was named a finalist for an ACFW Carol Award for book-of-the-year). Click on the link below to see how easily you can enter the contest!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Prayers Of A Mother

She wakes early and goes to bed late. No one really knows her schedule. There is no 9-5. No vacation pay. No sign on package. Is her work really ever finished for the day or does it just continue on to the next?

She wakes with her back aching, her knees aren't what they once were when she ran track. Her smile is still there, beautiful as ever. She no longer concentrates on the big issues of life, but asks questions like, is there is enough toilet paper. She looks beyond the roll and makes do.

She leaves her make up off and waits for the bath. She looks in the mirror and thinks, "Oh my, what shall I do?" But there is a beauty there that cannot be made up by brush nor comb. It's a sheer beauty that shines through when she hears the cry of her child, "Oh Momma, I need you".

Those lunches out and dinners with girlfriends seem like they have disappeared, but she isn't lonely. She isn't lacking joy. She isn't missing a thing. That old life holds nothing to the blessings she has today. She finds that this new life is more than she could ever have dreamed. She sees life in her children. She giggles at their antics and finds all they simple amazing. She is captivated by the light in their eye and sees that there is more to life beyond what this world tries to sell. Life is right here in the beauty of her children.

No, it's not a glamorous life. No time for phone chats. No time for those top 10 best sellers stacking up by the yard. That red dress she once wore to dinner with her husband is now hanging in the closet, replaced by jeans and t-shirts, flip flops and pony tails. It's doctor visits, library Mondays, the zoo, the park, the backyard discoveries, and more. It's piled laundry that needs attention, but there's one more book to read to that baby girl first.

Car seats and toys cover the back seat. McDonalds seems to be always in view. No, there is nothing more important than a mother's child, except the prayer that is shared from mother to Savior. Yes, it is His strength that gets her through the day. Through those tough issues of life. Those unexpected days. Even through the struggle she knows where her heart is.  It's there with her children sitting in the floor with blocks and tumblers. Yes, she has learned what is far more important in life. She doesn't focus on the can not, but only on the can. For Christ fills her every need.

Those phone chats and books will come later. That red dress will pop out again. Maybe in a different size, but it will be worn again. One day when life changes forevermore. When the house is empty of chatter, but that will be years to come, because grand babies will fill the home. Yes, that empty nest is just right around the corner. She has heard for years, "Enjoy cause they grow fast", but just doesn't realize how fast, until that last car is packed and pulling out of the drive.

Oh, her life is never as it's predicted. Plans change and life alters at the first skinned knee of the day. Dinner is in the waiting. Baking ingredients are in the mixer with her children standing close. "Can I momma, Can I, peeez?"

Before her children rise, they are prayed over. She wonders if her children feel her hand brush back their bang. Do they feel as she brings the cover back up to their chest? She leaves each room with prayers filling quickly. At night when their bedroom doors are closed, she places her hand upon the wooden frame and kneels in quiet. Prayers of peace and blessings of greatness are reaching the heavens. She is never too tired to pray for her children. Some day heaven will reveal the prayers that were shared and blessings will flow as her children see past the no answers and momma knows best.

As the dishes are being readied, the wash is in the next cycle and the vacuum is waiting, her children come into view. She prays. Not knowing the need, but knows without a doubt her Savior knows. Her Savior sees beyond her vision and He is keeping watch in all the places she cannot. For she knows, as great as her love is, His is of greater depth. Oh she prays. She prays for all in their life.

She places her children first above her own needs and wants. She gives them all she did not have. She has learned from life experiences. No, she is not perfect. She is a work in progress. She too is in need of grace and forgiveness. She wonders at times what her purpose is. She wonders if there is more. Maybe she should have went after that career. Did she make the right choices?

All she has to do is look at her children and she knows. There is no greater gift in the world. No prize that could compare. The love between a mother and child cannot be broken. It is a bond of strength and one that holds pure beauty.

She finds purpose in teaching A to Z, in bringing a bow to a pony tail and zipping up that fall jacket. She sees herself in her children. She sees the glory of God being created and grown. It is then that she understands that He has been growing her through her children.

No, her work is never finished. She is a mother for life. She leaves a legacy beyond her wildest imagination through all her life has brought. She is the heart of her children. A gift of love. She is beauty.

She tries her best, but yet, still doesn't get it all right. She learns that she will make mistakes, but she will grow from each and every one. Striving to be the mother, the woman of God, she was called to become.

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her."
Proverbs 31:28

Monday, September 3, 2012

Free Yourself From Yesterday And Find Peace Today

With a humble heart, we can go to Christ at anytime and He is there to turn a ear to our heart. In brokenness we ask Him to forgive us of our sins.  This is not something that is a maybe under certain conditions. This is a promise from our Savior. Forgive is exactly what He does. He removes our sin  from His memory, never to be remembered again.  With this grace covered love we can move forward in hope and with a pure heart.

Jesus isn't there to dredge up every sin each time we falter, but isn't that exactly what we do to ourselves and others? Oh, how we love to keep score. And remember? We seem to forget many things, where we left our keys, what date the doctor's appointment is, and the list goes on, but we keep those sins right there in our minds. We can at times be our own worse enemy.

We allow our sins, our pasts to haunt us. We allow our mistakes to overtake our minds. There are times we just live in the past, not forgetting, and not quite forgiving either. We have a forgiving God. A God who shows us what forgiveness means and we at times do not accept it, because we cannot get past our past and forgive ourselves.

We spend a lot of time in the past. And may I just say, "The past is no more! Yesterday is gone." If we don't stop living in the past, we will forget to live for today and tomorrow will be gone in the blink of an eye. Time wasted on the past is just that wasted. We can't turn the clock back, even though we wish so many times we could. For me, it's easier to forgive others than for me to forgive myself. I seem to hold on to those sins of my past, remembering.

But isn't that exactly where Satan wants us to be? As long as we dwelling on our pasts, can we really do anything for the kingdom of God today? If we are concentrating on those sins of yesterday we are missing out on the blessings of today. And there are so many. God is waiting for us to forgive ourselves. Forgiveness is not about us. We just seem to make it about us don't we? If we have hurt another and ask for their forgiveness, whether they accept it or not, we need to let it and move on. If another hurts us, we need to forgive them whether they ask our forgiveness or not. Forgiveness is laying it down. In forgiveness we can find peace and assurance. We find humility in forgiveness. When we are asking another to forgive us there can be no pride there.

In St. Louis each year they have the lighting of the balloons in Forest Park. It happens at night when the sky is dark, the stars are out, and the hot air balloons are being filled so they can light and make everything around them shine in the darkness. I wanted to go each year, but for some reason I just haven't been able to attend. On the next morning, they all take flight and hundreds of these hot air balloons are off. It is a beautiful sight for those watching and I am sure even more so for those soaring through the sky. Can you imagine how freeing it is to just let go and fly? Seeing all below seem so very small in comparison to the beauty of above. When we allow ourselves forgiveness we light up and take flight. Those sins we are carrying, well, they tend to keep us grounded, unable to attend the beauty around us. It's time to light up, or lighten up, let lose and take flight. We have spent too many days just grounded. Tied to what is holding us back from really experiencing a full life. We are to take flight. We are to soar. We were born to be blessed.

In forgiveness we find growth. It's like carrying a big back pack for a long trek and being able to release it. We take it off our back and we feel lighter, we feel refreshed already, and we can stand a little taller. Carrying unforgiven sins with us is a weight we were not meant to carry. Jesus gave His life so that we could find life in Him. It's in that life we can find forgiveness and freedom. He has the key to those heavy chains wrapped around us. And He is just waiting to unlock the chains so that we might find freedom.

Ever fly a kite with your dad on a windy day? My dad and I loved flying kites. The wind would pick up after my dad had the kite ready. I would hold on to the string and the wind would blow that kite around freely, spinning and turning, with the tail coasting through the air. It was a sight of beauty seeing my rainbow colored kite soaring through the air. Christ wants us to be able to soar.

He wants us to experience freedom in letting go. I too loved balloons. It seems like I got one everywhere we went. But I wasn't the girl to hold on to the balloon. I was the girl to let go and watch it soar through the air. Watching up go up higher and higher. You could see it off in the distance just soaring away. The possibilities were endless, of course unless it got caught in a tree. Then it was just left hanging there, wanting to soar but not able to because no one had set it free. The same is true in our lives. Christ is wanting to set us free. He wants to watch us soar, and sometimes we are the only person holding us back.

Something worse than our sin, is never letting go of it. It's when we just hold on to it ourselves that the sin just seems to drag us down more, until we are in this pit of despair, having ourselves a pity party no one else wants to attend. But boy, don't we throw some dandies? We get out the can of chocolate icing, the ice cream, the candy bars, and turn on a sappy movie, and cry our eyes out. Why? We can't change what happened. We can't change others. We can change ourselves. We may not be able to change the circumstance, but we can change our outlook. And with Jesus, our outlook is pretty amazing.

I always say, "The only mistake is one not learned from." We are going to mess up. We are going to step in some smelly stuff. But you know what? Jesus has cleansing power to take out any stain. We can wash ourselves in the love of Jesus. There is nothing more powerful than watching Jesus work. When we are concentrated on our sin, our past and stumbles, we cannot see Him through our self pity.

When we make a mistake, it doesn't matter if the world around us judges us or doesn't have forgiveness. What does matter is us finding peace in forgiveness with Jesus. We all sin and to Christ, sin is sin. There is no greater sin and lesser sin. I believe He died for each sin in our past, present and future. For us to seek forgiveness in a loving Savior, we need to be ready to forgive those around us.

May we put our score cards away. May we forget the past and move on forward to all God has in store for us. How much time do we really want to waste in yesterday when we have a promising future in Christ? When we forgive others we are showing God's love. When we reach out to others who have faltered we are showing God's compassion and grace.

Whatever your holding onto day, let it go. Just simply let it go and let God deal with it. Don't continue to carry a sin of yesterday. If you are hurt, go to the one who has caused the pain, and open your heart to them. If another has turned away from you or just simply rejected your forgiveness that is no longer your burden to carry. Free yourself of yesterday today and make tomorrow a brighter day! Soar into freedom that is waiting for you today.

"But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."
1 John 1:9

"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead."
Philippians 3:13

"He has removed our sins as far from us as the east to the west."
Psalm 103:12

Prayers Of A Stranger by Davis Bunn

The cover of this book grabbed my heart. A smiling woman, looking into a snow globe, with gloved hands. Almost as though she was searching and hoping for what was to come. This is a great Christmas read, but for me, it was an anytime read. One about the gift of prayer by those we may never meet in our lifetime. Prayer that touches the heavens and is heard by a Savior watching and ready to bless.

This was a lovely read. I enjoyed reading about two families. Both living close as neighbors, but as circumstances allow, they find they are much more than neighbors, but friends. Brothers and sisters in Christ. I loved the connection between these couples.

Davis Bunn takes us on a journey through some of the most difficult times in their lives and shows us that God is still in control. He shows us that prayer connects us in a great and mighty way. There is no prayer that is void when spoken in God's will.

It left me with the reminder of God's grace and as I was once lost, I am now found. As I read the pages it gave me the picture of letting go and letting God. There is a time to grieve and a time to heal. That timeline isn't always as we predict, but in God's perfect timing, He brings exactly what we need when we need it.

This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for its review.


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