Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Well of Hope

Little brother Joe sounds a teeny weensy bit arrogant when he shares his dreams with his brothers. But Joe didn't get to this prideful position all on his own. His father, Jacob, led the way by making him the preferred son. Out of the twelve, Joseph, is the favorite of his father. This could be because he was born later in Jacob's life and because he is the child of Jacob's wife, Rachel. It could be that every time Jacob looks upon his son, he sees his beautiful mother.

Jacob makes him a beautiful coat. That coat makes Joseph stand out among the others. Shoot, Jacob even has Joseph checking in on his brothers and bringing back report to dear old dad. You know the brothers are very bothered by Joseph by now. He not only wears the coat given to him by his father, but he is checking up on them and he is telling of dreams of the brothers bowing down to Joseph. To them, Joseph is a bit big headed. Maybe just a tad too big for his britches and they are going to see to it that he learns his lesson. How dare he act as if he is better than they. Who does he think he is any way?

Have you ever been envious of another person? It's quite easy to get caught up in envy, especially if we are not in a place of content. A place where we are confident and sure about ourselves. We can be envious of just about everything and everyone. Envy kind of sneaks up on us doesn't it? If we are lonely we can envy those who are surrounded by friends. We can envy those who have a close knit family. Someone can be sharing news about their new home or job and we find ourselves wishing we had the same. Our neighbor is readying for vacation and we see they are heading off to a destination we can only dream about. The list can go on and on.

We learn to be envious of people when we are kids and as we grow envy hangs around and chokes out the blessings we do have. If we are not careful we will spend our lives looking at what others have and find ourselves blind and a little too late to appreciate the blessings that are right in front of us.

This is where Joe's brothers learn that just maybe little brother wasn't so bad after all. Turns out his dreams really did come true. They go their entire lives pushing behind them the fact that they shoved their brother off in a well and then sold him as a slave. What I love about this story is the ending. Joseph is forgiving. He is loving and kind. His brothers beg for forgiveness, but before they utter the words he has already forgiven them of their actions of long ago. He even tells them that what they meant for harm, God meant for good.

There is so much to take away from the life of Joseph. He grew from that young man with a big head to a leader of humility. He never forgot where he came from. Most of all, he never forgot his God. Joseph grew in faith as he faced each battle. That first battle he found himself in the bottom of a well, only to land up being a slave, could have made him angry and bitter. But through it all, he realized God had a bigger plan. He had a bigger purpose for all those battles that Joseph faced. He used each one to bring glory and honor to Himself.

Are you going through a battle today? Maybe your past is filled with battle after battle. I can promise you that if your not in a battle today, one day that battle will come knocking. We are sure to face to them. But we must remember, we are never alone, and what others mean for harm, God means for good. He is the only One who can turn ash into beauty.

"Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now, therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." Genesis 50:19-21

Does that sound like a brother holding a grudge? A brother filled with anger? One looking for revenge? Just what if that is the Joseph we had read about? The story would have ended differently. Through the struggles Joe faced with his brothers gave him compassion on those he met in prison. He learned from each lesson. Each one crafted his character to resemble the God he worshipped.

"We face obstacles every day. We can have confidence, through, that through every struggle, God will help and guide us." Max Lucado

"Relationships don't thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful." Max Lucado

I gotta admit, if this were me, I think I'd have been saying, "You gotta be kidding me!" First he goes round and round with his brothers. He gets thrown into a well. Sold as a slave. Now he is the Pharaoh's right hand man, only to be thrown in prison next because of a lying wife of the Pharaoh. This woman chased after Joseph, wanting to get him in bed, only to be ignored and pushed away. She had to be one angry woman. Now she takes his tunic and gives it to her husband as she dreams up a lie that he had taken advantage of her. I mean, could it be any worse?

Don't we say that when we are facing a circumstance? "Could things be any worse?" Um..yes they can. Things can always be worse, but the amazing thing I'm learning is not to focus on the circumstance, but seek God and see what He is doing in me through the circumstance. Joseph had the right attitude. He never gave up. He never threw  in the towel. It's almost as if he said, "Okay, Lord, what's the next opportunity?"

Life is hard. We face difficulties daily. If we aren't careful we can allow them to overcome us and we find ourselves flat on our faces. You know, that's where I find that I grow the most. When I reach the place where I realize Jesus is all I have and He is the answer. We don't have to remain in that pit of despair. God has a plan and purpose for our lives. He can use every circumstance to bring us to the point of where He wants us. He lets nothing go to waste.

"Do not fret because of evildoers, not be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness." Psalm 37:1-3

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

I have faced many battles in life that while in them I thought, "I'm never going to make it out of this." But you know what? I did. I made it to the next battle and the next, each time with more strength and wisdom than before. Trial is difficult, but God has more than trial in our plan. He has triumph designed for us! He knows the path to victory. He has already won the victory!

Things don't always go as we plan, but friends let us never forget that God's plan for us is greater than anything we could ever imagine!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Instead Of Revenge Hold On and Pray For Peace

Color this scene in your mind. A large family. Your mom is Leah. Your dad is Jacob. You are the sister to twelve brothers. Twelve brothers. Brothers who are protective. Dinah went out into the land to do some visiting for the day. Nothing like a visit with friends to make your heart dance. Dinah's day had begun wonderful. She may have given her mother a kiss goodbye. Shouted to her dad, "I will see you this evening for dinner". She may have even had a little ribbing from her brothers about being off with the girls for the day.

But, somewhere along the way, Dinah's day was clouded in fear. She was raped and held captive. Her rapist and captor was Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country. Shechem saw what he wanted and he took it without permission. Without thought he changed this young girl's life forever. I can feel her fear deep in my bones. I can see her cry out for her dad. I can see her wanting nothing more than her momma's arms wrapped around her.

Jacob hears of this. No doubt his heart is breaking for his daughter. I can imagine anger rising up. He wanting nothing more than to have his daughter back in safety and this jackal punished. But something happens here. Jacob's sons are all out in the fields. Jacob in his anger knows he must take a few moments and calm himself. Maybe Jacob takes these moments and prays for his daughter and he too prays for wisdom. He knows he can't act too quickly. He mustn't make the wrong choice and lose his daughter forever.

See, for Shechem this was normal behavior. He spoke sweetly to Dinah. He believes he loves her. So, in his love he takes her to be his. This is not the custom of Jacob's family. Jacob patiently waits for his sons to return from the fields and then shares with them what has happened. Oh, I can see Dinah's mother, Leah, just beside herself. Now as the brothers gather, anger flares and they want nothing more than revenge. They don't stop to think and pray as Jacob did. They act quickly.

There is a meeting. One side shares what they want and the other shares what they too must have. Jacob's sons share that before they can give Dinah and all the women in their family to them all the men must first be circumcised. Shechem and his father agree. Shechem cannot see past Dinah and his desires to have her as his wife. I'm not sure if Leah is able to hear any of this, but I can imagine her just saying, "Please, just get Dinah back home safely". She wouldn't want her sons retaliating. But revenge was the only thing on the brother's minds.

They have formed their plan. Shechem and the men of his family are all circumcised. On the third day they are all in pain. (Poor things) Simeon and Levi each take a sword and killed all the males in this family. They even kill Hamor and Shechem. They remove Dinah from being held captive and return her safely home. These sons go and plunder the city. They take all the live stock and now they too capture all the women and children and bring them back with them.

Can you see Jacob standing outside as he sees them all traveling home? His eyes meet Dinah's and he is so grateful his daughter is home. He opens his arms wide. But he is disappointed in his Levi's and Simeon's behavior. Oh my, he cries, "What have you done?" Now Jacob is terrified. This is not what he wanted. He is now fearful things will be worse for his family. Others will now come upon them and what will God think?

God and Jacob have a conversation. God protects Jacob. He tells him to pick up and move his family.

This story comes from Genesis 34-35.

I read over this story and have pondered it all morning. I tried placing myself in Leah's or Jacob's position. What would I have done. Well, it's time to be honest. I would have been filled with anger and ready to act. I'm not so sure I would have had the wisdom of Jacob to stop and pray and think. As he took this time he was rewarded with blessings from God. Jacob showed patience and character. Too many times in life I have acted too quickly and without thought. My actions only made the situation worse. Instead of bringing peace to the situation I created a whole new set of problems because I acted foolish.

Now that I am older and wiser I can look back upon these situations and see that if I had only waited upon the Lord things could have had a totally different turnout. He in fact could have turned it all around, bringing peace to the situation. Anger becomes a sin when we act upon it. I am learning now that when I become angry I need to go to the Lord and lay it down before Him. Asking Him to replace my anger with peace and calm. Asking Him to give me His wisdom and the knowledge to know what to do with it.

Revenge is not something that should be in our hands. Is there really any good that comes from revenge? Do we seriously feel better after we have acted out in anger? I know from my experiences I have not felt better, but have felt saddened by my outburst. Ashamed at my behavior. Wishing I could go back in time for a do over. But we don't get to go back and change things. What we do have is grace. What we can find is forgiveness. We can reach for our Savior and in a humbleness that comes from a growing faith we reach out to those we have hurt with our actions.

I think that's what I'm learning. It's never too late to reach out. But before my humble heart must cry out to God for forgiveness, I am learning to first go to Him. I can share everything with Him. He already knows the circumstance at hand. I am to pray and wait. Yes, waiting is hard, but in waiting comes understanding. In waiting comes peace. In waiting we are able to think more clearly. One of the biggest things I am learning is to pray for the one who has offended me. I cannot pray and seek revenge at the same time. Praying brings us to a place where we completely trust in the Lord.

If your facing a situation today that brings you to anger, slow down. Stop and pray. Pray until you can get up not having anger flaring from your nostrils, but peace flowing from your heart. Wait until the Lord gives you the wisdom you so need in this time of unrest. Our Lord has a way of working everything out for His good. He can turn ash into beauty. He can bring peace to the worst situations.

Remember, there is always someone watching our actions. Our behavior speaks loudly about what is lying in our heart. The more we keep an open line to the Lord, the more we grow to look like Him. It's not easy. It isn't easy to face enemies. It isn't easy to let anger go. But friends, if we don't, our heart becomes hardened. We push away from God and those very people in our lives that we love are pushed aside as anger takes root. Nothing good comes from anger. Revenge causes us to give up our godly character in exchange for foolishness that only brings disgrace among our name.

Remember who you are today. We represent our family and most importantly we represent our Lord. Our behavior should reflect the love we have for Him. Our behavior is a choice. Forgiveness is not giving approval. It's allowing peace to flow through your heart and to extend the same grace the Lord gives us each and every day.

"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing." 1 Peter 3:8-9

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:9-21

"Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord." Psalm 27:14

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Wishing Tree by Marybeth Whalen

Imagine waking up one morning and you find out your losing your job, the very job your father gave you. Yes, he's closing up shop and the relationship you are in, yeah, it's not working out the way you dreamed. So, what happens? You turn on the television and realize your sister is getting proposed to on national television. Oh, the sisterly love Ivy must be feeling right now. Ivy Marshall is good at keeping all of her feelings tucked neatly inside. That is up until today. She wakes and it's as if life has changed overnight. Communication with your parents hasn't been the greatest and you are full of emotions you don't know what to do with. Sound like you can relate to Ivy? I sure can. This is the premise for the well penned story, "The Wishing Tree".

Marybeth Whalen has a gift of weaving together a story that strengthens the heart and makes you ponder your own life. In this story we see a family separated but reunited by a wondrous wedding. This family is brought together by a wishing tree.

This novel is set in South Carolina at Sunset Beach. This is a place of healing in many ways for Ivy. As she escapes and returns home once again she is uncovering all those pent up feelings and giving herself room to breath. Have you ever asked yourself, "Did I choose the right one?" Ah, yes, we look back at those first loves and ponder the thoughts of what if I had...This is where Ivy is now that everything is changing.

We get to see Ivy see a new side to herself. She discovers the importance of forgiveness. This is where grace comes in. A sweet grace that gives Ivy comfort and helps her to realize it is Jesus who completes her. The people around us are not perfect and we cannot expect perfection from others, as we are not perfect ourselves. Change is not easy. But as we see, we can accept the chance and trust the Lord with our yesterday as well as our tomorrow.

This was a quick read for me. I sat down with a cup of coffee for an afternoon of reading and found myself enjoying this novel. I think this is one you too will enjoy. The words flow gently and the story unravels in perfection.

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

Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. She is the director of She Reads, an online book club focused on spotlighting the best in women's fiction. Marybeth is the author of The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, The Guest Book, and The Wishing Tree (Spring 2013). Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She's always at work on her next novel. Marybeth and her family live in North Carolina. You can find her online at

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Slow Moon Rising by Eva Marie Everson

I have been blessed to review each book in the Cedar Key Series. I was anticipating book three. Oh friends, this is hands down the best book I have read yet this year! Once I began reading I couldn't stop. The pages just kept turning and I found myself wishing for more of Cedar Key and the Claybourne family. I am sad to see it end. I feel like Eva allowed me a privilege getting to know this family. In this series you get to know the people of Cedar Key. You grow to love them. You cheer for them and in the end you have a better understanding of life and love.

This book is poetically breathtaking. Eva writes with such passion and grace. I giggled and cried. Eva does a beautiful job of letting us get to know each and every character. They come alive in these pages and they bring with them many life lessons. They are real and touchable. Characters we can relate to. This last novel in the series is so inspiring.

The story kept building and throughout each chapter we uncover more and more about this family. We have a family of sisters. All different and unique. Kimberly, Jayme-Leigh, Heather, and Ami. The story begins as love unfolds between Ross, the girls father and Anise, the beautiful woman who stole his heart just six months after his wife's death. As far as the story goes, that's all your getting from me. This book is beyond memorable and I want you to dive in with a curious spirit and be ready to be blessed.

This is one of those stories that you lie awake at night and ponder. It's a story that begins with love and ends with a love even more powerful. We get to see each of these characters grow in ways that bring them closer to the Lord. Faith grows through trial and change. This is what we get to see from the Claybourne family.

The cover is so beautiful and telling. I love the the setting of the sun and the light that still remains in the lamp. A light that will carry on a love beyond all measure. Cedar Key is a charming place. A place that gifted this family with such wondrous memories. From this story we learn to love right now. Not to take for granted one day, one breath, one blessing, but to treasure life itself and to give those around us second chances.

I encourage you to begin with the first book of this series, Chasing Sunsets, and in doing so you will have a better understanding of just what is taking place with the Claybourne family.

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

Eva Marie Everson is a successful speaker and the award-winning author of Things Left Unspoken, This Fine Life, and Chasing Sunsets. She is coauthor of the Potluck Club books and the Potluck Catering Club series. She lives in Florida.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Grace's Pictures by Cindy Thomson

This was a sweet and enjoyable read for me. Cindy Thomson invites us to travel from Ireland to Ellis Island with Grace McCaffery. Grace is leaving Ireland behind for a new life in New York City. Sent here to begin a new life, but she is finding that everything is new and different. Grace isn't too trusting. Life in Ireland was not easy for Grace. She misses her mother and would like nothing more than for her mother to join her.

Her mother spoke words to Grace that stays with Grace her entire journey. They are words to empower and inspire her. Words of encouragement when fear and doubt begin to cloud her mind. "Listen to me," her mother had said. "I don't care what lies your father once spoke to you, darlin'...Remember instead this: You are smart. You are important. You are able."  (These are words that brought me to remember the movie, "The Help", and those powerful words spoken to the beautiful babe from the woman that truly loved her, "You is kind. You is smart. You is important.")

This is a story of Grace's journey from being a young girl dependant and unsure to a young woman finding herself strong and confident. We get a front seat view of Grace's growth through trial and triumph.

As the story begins we see the Grace doesn't know much about the Lord. She feels that if there is a God, He doesn't care for her. This story just isn't about a young girl coming of age in a new country alone and feeling lost. This is a story about trusting when you can't see tomorrow. It's about hope when all seems lost. Grace learns she isn't alone and there is One who is with her always.

If you enjoy historical fiction you will not want to miss out on this sweet read. The words flow easily and the story is touching. What I love is that the main character's name is Grace. Oh, how grace was needed for this young girl trying to find herself in a new world while letting go of the struggles that yesterday held. Grace's camera and the images she captures tells a story within a story. I think your going to enjoy this one.

This book was a gift to me from Tyndale for sharing my review.

Cindy Thomson is a writer and an avid genealogy enthusiast. Her love of history and her Scots-Irish heritage have inspired much of her writing, including her new Ellis Island series. Cindy is also the author of Brigid of Ireland and Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland. She combined her love of history and baseball to co-author the biography Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story, which was a finalist for the Society for American Baseball Research's Larry Ritter Book Award. In addition to books, Cindy has written on a regular basis for numerous online and print publications and is a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Cindy and her husband have three grown sons and live in central Ohio. Visit her online at

You can find Cindy on facebook:

Deadly Devotion by Sandra Orchard

This is a book I would call an unputdownable! It is the first book I have read penned by Sandra Orchard. It certainly will not be the last. Deadly Devotion is so much more than a who done it book. It contains everything that makes for an outstanding book. I wouldn't be surprised to see this story on the big screen in the future. Yes, it is that good!

Sandra Orchard weaves a story together that kept me glued from the turn of the first page until I closed the last. Excellent writing that flowed as I uncovered more and more about each character. Okay, there are a lot of suspense novels out there. Great books, but this is beyond anything I expected. Most of the time I know  who done it after the second or third chapter. I didn't discover who done it until the last chapters! I love when a writer weaves a story that keeps you so glued your sad when you have turned the last page. The story escalated in perfect timing. The characters were real and one of the most amazing gifts that I see from Sandra Orchard is how she draws the reader in and gives a vision through her words.

I found this book to be intriguing and compelling. It's one of those stand out novels that you tell your friends about. It is the first in her new series called, Port Aster Secrets. I am super excited to see the next upcoming installment.

When I read the back cover I thought this book looked interesting, but friends, the back cover doesn't give all the secrets away and you won't be getting any from me. The front cover is captivating, just as I found the main characters, Kate Adams and Tom Parker to be. You will be introduced to many characters, but you will never be at loss in the story. Each character just adds more intrigue. I found myself saying, "Yep, I knew she did it", to only later saying, "No, oh, I knew it was him". I mean this town is filled with people who are possible suspects. Suspects of what? Murder. See, Kate's close friend, Daisy, dies unexpectedly. The coroner calls it suicide, but Kate knows her friend and with faith like her friend carried, Kate knew without a doubt it was no suicide. It is here the story begins to weave together. Kate is so frustrated she goes straight to the police station with her suspicions and this is where she meets former FBI agent Tom Parker. He is no push over. He is a man looking for facts and reason to reopen the case.

As the investigation goes forward, Kate is determined to find the killer. Kate is the kind of friend we all need on our side. She is so determined. Her character isn't of a weak woman who lives in fear. She is a strong woman who has faith and lives by a code of morals that sets her up to be a great example.

This book holds suspense, love, and faith. There is a perfect combination of ingredients that make this story come alive and makes you think Port Aster is in your backyard. Friends, if your on the search for a great summer suspense novel this is it!!

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

Sandra Orchard is an active member in American Christian Fiction Writers, The Word Guild, Romance Writers of America, and a local writing group. She recently participated in the Writers' Police Academy for hands-on training and simulations at a police training facility. She is the author of Shades of Truth, Critical Condition, and Deep Cover, which won the Canadian Christian Writing Award for romance in June 2012 and was recognized as one of the top five novels of the year by Family Fiction magazine. Sandra has also received a Daphne DuMaurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense in both the inspirational category and for best score overall. She lives in Niagara, Ontario, Canada. To find out more, please visit

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To check out more about the book and to find bonus features just click on this link:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Prayer Changes Everything

In Luke 9:18-20 we see Peter confess Jesus Christ. In verses 21-22 Jesus predicts His death and as we read on to verse 23 and go through to verse 27 we see Jesus tell all to take up their cross and follow Him. About eight days later Jesus takes three apostles with Him on a retreat of prayer up the mountain. Peter, James and John were those three men chosen by Jesus to travel with Him.

Isn't it cool when we are reading the Word of God and it all comes together for us? I have read these verses hundreds of times, but over the last few months I decided I would dig deeper into the Word and remain there with new vision. I wasn't in a hurry to read through. I wanted to take my time and soak up everything. So, as I'm reading I  get to the transfiguration and it hits me. Why did Jesus take these three? Was it that Jesus needed them, or was it more that they needed to see this moment in history to further their walk with Jesus?

Can you imagine being on the mountain with Jesus and all of a sudden there before your eyes stands Moses and Elijah? Now, I am just filled with questions. Was this encounter with Moses and Elijah encouragement for Jesus? Jesus knew what was about to take place. Remember, He was all God, but He too was all man. He felt every possible emotion. After their time on the mountain they come down. Their ministry with Jesus continues as they encounter people in need all around them. They witness miracle after miracle from Christ. They see their Savior as He reaches out to others, meeting them right where they are. The encouragement continues.

I can envision the apostles just watching the Lord in awe. They were walking with Him and with each step they take forward is growth for the journey ahead. Let us move ahead a bit to where Jesus predicts that Peter will deny Him. Luke 22:39-46 "And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall now crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.""

Did you catch that? Satan asked for Peter! Just as Satan had asked for Job, he now asked for Peter. Nothing touches us that first does not go through the hand of Christ. Jesus knew what Peter was about to face and He was praying for him. I love this! What a picture of our Savior's love. Jesus knows what must come and He too knows that Peter is part of what is to come. He knows to strengthen Peter, He first must allow Satan a time with him. As we read in scripture we too see that Jesus knows Peter will return to Him. What faith we can encompass. What hope we can have for today.

We see Peter confess Jesus. Peter is one of the three on the mount to witness the transfiguration of Christ. Peter himself is about to go through a transformation! Just as Moses and Elijah were encouraging Jesus, here I see Jesus encouraging Peter. How wondrous for Peter's heart to hear that His Savior is praying for him. Of course, Peter can't even fathom that he would deny Jesus. But do any of us? Do we think we will deny Jesus? Of course we don't, but friends, we do just that when we are not making a stand for Christ. Every time I allow an opportunity to pass I am denying my Jesus. I am denying Him the opportunity to move through me and use me for His glory. Denying isn't always an unspoken word. Many times it is simply through our actions or lack of actions.

This next part really pricks my heart. In Luke 22:39-46 we see Jesus make His way to the Mount of Olives. One of the first things we hear Jesus say is, "When He came to the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."" Luke 22:40 Jesus knew they were about to be tempted. Jesus was about to be taken away and He knew they would be on their own. He had prepared them in every way, but here again we see Jesus calling them to prayer.

Now, as we read on and in verse 46 we hear Jesus say, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation." Prayer is powerful. Prayer is strength and courage. Jesus knew what they would need.

We can read in Matthew 26:36-46 that Peter, James and John fell asleep three different times. Three different times Jesus asked them to pray. Jesus was praying. He knew the power of prayer. Having that circle of friends around you in your time of need is so comforting. It brings peace in the moment of despair. There would not be a fourth time for Jesus to wake them from their slumber. His betrayer would be near. Judas was right around the corner. Oh, how Jesus needed prayer.

So, this brings me to my question. What if they had prayed? Yes, what if all three would have kneeled together in prayer, what would have happened? Would they have found a new strength? Would they have seen with new vision? Would things have gone differently when Judas approached? I know that our Savior had to face the cross, but with Jesus calling these to prayer, did He know that things could have been different if they had just obeyed and opened their hearts to prayer? If Peter had prayed would he have denied Jesus three times or would have found the strength he needed to stand at the cross with Christ? What about James and John? Wouldn't prayer have added to their faith? Why do we miss this? We continue to miss the importance of prayer. We cannot have a relationship with Jesus without prayer. It's our connection. It's our conversation time.

As we move to Luke 22:47-62 we see that Peter denies Jesus three times. He hears the rooster crow and he is reminded. It is then that he knows. Jesus knew. Would prayer have changed his circumstances? Would it have given him the strength to say, "Yes, I am a follower of Christ. He is my friend. My Savior."? We need that added strength, friends. We need our prayer time with Jesus. It's important in our journey. The closer we get to Christ the more we understand who we truly are. Our vision is increased and our hearts expanded. Prayer changes us to look more like Jesus.

Soon Jesus would die on the cross and three days later He would rise. He too would spend time again with Peter, James and John,and the other apostles. He would ask Peter three times if he loved Him. He would give forgiveness and embrace Peter. Jesus knows the whole story. He too knows what can take place if we humble ourselves a and pray.

His friends left Him. They left when He needed them the most. They left Him at a pivotal time. Have you been forgotten? Left at the way side when you needed your friends the most? I think there isn't one of us that cannot relate to that feeling of loneliness and abandonment. Don't you see, Jesus loves us no matter what. No matter the past, He is ready and waiting to give us a new future.

In John 17 we see Jesus praying. I wish I had room to write every word. This is such a beautiful chapter. First Jesus prays for Himself. "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have give Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." John 17:4-5

Now we see Jesus pray for His disciples. Such a precious and powerful prayer for those who have followed Him. In the end He prays, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth." John 17:15-19

Jesus doesn't stop there. He continues His prayer and prays for ALL believers! Friends, this prayer is for you and I also. Doesn't that stir your heart to praise? Jesus prayed for the believers at this time and for those to come. Prayer is powerful! "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." John 17:20-23

Sure, it's easy for us to look at Peter and the others and send some judgement their way. Oh, but friend, if not for the grace of God there go I. There is so much to take away from these verses. We need to encourage one other. We need to reach out when others won't. We need to pray without ceasing. How awesome to have a continual conversation with Jesus throughout the day. He knows too what we will face this evening. He knows what tomorrow will bring. Why wouldn't we pray instead of just allowing this precious time to pass by. We have an opportunity. Jesus knows just what we need for the journey. He knew what Peter had needed. Prayer changes everything, most of all, the heart of man. Prayer transforms us. Seize the moment in prayer and watch the Lord empower you for tomorrow!

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:1-4

What Is God Asking You To Build Today?

Let us go back. Way back to a time and place we can visualize through the Word of God. Noah is the headline. He is center stage. He has a mission. A job to preform that isn't easy. But then again, God doesn't give us easy assignments. He creates monstrous opportunities for us to be the vessel and He the light which shines forth.

Okay, so things are not going as planned. God created man for His glorious pleasure. What many can't wrap their head around is the fact that God gave us a choice. It couldn't have been pure love without a choice. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, had a choice. Even though there was way of sin through Satan, there too was a way out with redemption. After the garden people kind of..well..left God for the world and what it offered. They left the Creator for the creation. Sin increased, but there was one. One who stood out among the others. Noah.

So, Noah gets the call from God. "You want me to do what?" I can see Noah asking that question a few times to make sure he gets it right. I know I would have been making sure. I can even see Noah wrestling with this mission. Noah didn't foresee what was coming. Noah did have faith. His faith had to be strong. After all, this ark wasn't built over night. I imagine people thinking Noah was a kook. But one thing we see, his family stood by him. Sure, they may have questioned him. They may have even had an intervention, but throughout all, Noah knew his direction was clear. Noah led his family through the building of the ark, the boarding of the ark and the opening of the doors for the first time since the rains began.

I can imagine it wasn't all grace and smiles upon the ark. I mean, all those animals. That was a job in itself to care for just them. Who got to sweep out the stalls of the pigs? Who got to feed the crocs? The rains poured and I am sure at some point someone questioned what was going on. They saw the entire world wiped out. They remained. They were chosen by God for this mission.

In reading Genesis today I read over the life and times of Noah. Life wasn't easy. Is it really so hard for us to imagine what was taking place in the towns of these people? People who God created. People who had turned wicked. Nothing much mattered to them except having a good time and well..having a good time. Noah and his family lived among these folks. Folks who I am sure looked upon them as if they were the ones in need of help. I can envision Noah building and a friend from yesteryear's coming up and saying, "Noah, buddy, why don't you just put down those tools and come into the city with me? Your taking this God thing way to serious. You need some time away. You, my friend, need to have yourself a good time." Sound like anything you have come across? Our Christian walk is not without temptation.

So, here's what I have pondered all morning. Things could have gone totally different. I mean after all, we have a choice in everything. Noah could have gotten himself a big head. He could have looked at the job and said, "I can do better. I can do different." Think about it. God gave Noah exact instructions and measurements. Noah followed every single one. What would have happened if he hadn't? What would have happened if Noah would have decided on his own that he could make something grandeur. Noah could have seen this as an opportunity to set himself at center stage and say, "Look at me, y'all. Look at what God has asked me to do. Take a look at the magnificent work I can do. Look at all my hard work. My family, well, we are better than the rest." Know anyone with similar characteristics? If we are not careful we can all be right where Noah could have been. We get the call and the head seems to increase in size. We become pious and proud. We begin to look at those around us as if they are just a little bit less.

We can learn so much from Noah and his family. They were faithful followers. They served. They followed instruction. They were meek and humble. Where would we be if Noah had made a different choice that day? God uses His people as vessels for encouragement and inspiration for our journey with Him. He moves through people as He places them in areas where He can benefit from the gifts He has bestowed in each of us.

He doesn't need people on stage making a show of things. He doesn't need people changing the mission. He needs us to stay true to who we are and be ready and willing when we receive the call. He isn't asking us for our opinion. He isn't asking us to jump ahead. He is asking us to simply follow Him. Noah made the choice to obey God and to follow every instruction He gave. He led his family in faith. He was the guy in town who was busy in God's work.

This brings me to ask myself, "Am I listening for the call? Am I ready to receive the call and follow God in faith?" Noah wasn't just building an ark. He was building faith. This wasn't just an ark to carry them through the storm. Was this a test? God was preparing Noah. He was teaching him and molding him. God knew He would use Noah before Noah ever had the notion to follow God. God was using Noah for greater things than Noah could imagine. He didn't ask Noah what measurements He should use. He gave Noah instruction. So, why do we always try to tell God we can do it better? We know the problem and we know how to fix it. Oh, that is laughable isn't it? Mercy, the things I have tried to fix have always blown up in my face. It's not for me to fix the world. I'm not the band aid. I am a vessel for God to use for His will. He sees the bigger picture.

Is the rain falling today where you are? Does it seem like everything is out of sorts? Here is the big question. Is God calling you to build an ark? Is He calling you to faith? Building an ark takes great faith, doesn't it? Sure, Noah could have turned it around and made himself to be the center stage, but he didn't. He opened the curtain and allowed the light to shine on the One who had called him.

Is God calling to you service? If your breathing and you are a child of the King, you betcha, He is calling you to use the gifts He has given you for His glory. Friends, those flood waters may not be rushing back, but He is returning and we need to be ready and willing. What is our example saying to the world?

Noah didn't yell from the ark, "I tried to tell ya fools, but you didn't listen." Noah boarded that ark with His family in faith. I can see them praying for those left behind. During their time in the ark was another time of growth for them. Life is a journey. We are to be busy in the Lord's work. Whatever is taking place in your life today is preparation for what is to come tomorrow. Those trials are not always because of sin. Those very trials we face today is creating in us the very people God created us to be.

On this journey we are going to come in contact with those who try to catch us off balance. We are going to face those who laugh at us as we walk in faith. We too will face those who will try to cause us to stumble. This world is not our home. We must keep the faith and stay on guard. Yes, that means guarding our heart, soul and mind. We don't have an ark to carry us off to a land with a new beginning. God is wanting to use us right here and now. Just one person can make a difference. One person can touch the heart and soul of many. What are we waiting for? Don't let fear and doubt hold you back.

Look at the ark God is asking you to build today and stand in faith knowing He has called you for a distinct purpose. You can reach people I will never meet. I can reach people you will never see face to face. Bloom where you are planted. Folks, until He calls us home we have a mission and our mission is to share the love of Christ. Don't be in a hurry to board that ark just yet. Listen to instruction. Pray over the mission and heed God's wisdom. Ask God for strength and courage. He isn't asking anything of you, He cannot complete through you.

Be the one. Be the vessel God needs you to be today. Let your faith be seen and walk humbly among others who are trying to find their way. Don't shout from the ark that your better. Stand ready and willing and remember who you are and where you came from.

Genesis 6-9

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gone South by Meg Moseley

What happens when a Yankee wants to return to her treasured family home in the South? You get the Michigan girl, Tish McComb walking into a land of the bitter. Let me explain a little..just a little. Tish's mom is moving to Florida and would like nothing more than for Tish to move there with her, but Tish is independent and doesn't see herself moving at all. That is until the old family home comes up for sale. At first she doesn't want to buy. She just wants a sneak peek at where her great-great-great grandparents lived. She has heard stories from her father. Even visited there together. But she could never imagine herself leaving home. Oh, but once she enters that grand old house she has found home.

I love the cover of this book. The beautiful southern gown with rolled up jeans underneath. This city girl finds out moving South is more than she could have imagined. What happened to charm and hospitality?

She soon uncovers why the people of this town are not so fond of her. It's the McComb name itself. But beyond the bitterness that welcomed Tish, there are a few that gave her a welcome hand.

Noble is a town that seems to hold grudges. Not only for the McComb name, but for anyone who seems to get out of line. Tish reaches out to a young girl, Mel, who is in need of a friend. Tish becomes that friend and mentor. It isn't easy, but Tish isn't the type to give up so easy. She is gutsy and carries a lot of spunk.

This is a story of discovery. Discovery of self and of God's plan for us. Not everyone is friendly. Not everyone is accepted. We may not be able to change how others think and feel, but we have a choice in how we react. This is one of the things I loved about the character of Tish. Being here in the McComb home she could have doubted who she is, but she didn't. She finds herself standing tall and proud of her name. She isn't afraid to say her name out loud. This is something she teaches Melanie. Be comfortable in your own jeans. She is ready and willing to reach out to others. She wants to give everyone a chance and the benefit of doubt.

Melanie tugged at my heart. She's a young girl who is no longer welcome at home. She has made some bad choices and her family isn't so forgiving. Sound like anyone you know? Melanie and Tish form this sweet friendship. At times, I'm not so sure who is teaching who. They both learn so much from one another.

This is great writing. I can't wait to see what Meg Moseley brings her readers next. She touches on many issues. Melanie finds herself homeless. Meg brings us to the town of Noble. We get to meet the people here and understand where they come from. She dives in and weaves a story of beauty.

This too is a story of growth. One of letting go of the past and taking a step toward the future with an open mind and a heart filled with faith. Did I mention love? Yes, there too is love. We see a romance blossom. We see neighbor reach out to neighbor and before you know it, one at a time, people begin to change.

We not only get to know Tish and Melanie, but other characters. Characters who are real and grow on you. Before you know it, Noble kind of seems like home. As Tish uncovers more and more about her family roots she decides to find the good. To allow the good to out way the bad. She is one of those girls you want in your corner.

I really enjoyed reading this story. The title could mean so very much. Tish moving South and kind of everything going South once she gets there. It's not too long before she realizes she is right where the Lord wants her to be. God has a way of bringing truths to light. We see what really matters. It's not our name or where we came from. It's not even our past. It's the heart of man.

Yes, this is definitely one of those stories that leaves you pondering long after the last page has closed.

This book was a gift from WaterBrook Multnomah for sharing my review.

Meg Moseley is still a Californian at heart although she's lived more than half her life in other states. Holding jobs that ranged from candle-maker to administrative assistant, Meg eventually contributed human-interest pieces for a suburban edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contemporary fiction remains her real love, and she's the author of When Sparrows Fall and Gone South. She lives in Atlanta near the foothills of the Southern Appalachians with her husband.

That Certain Summer by Irene Hannon

I love this Missouri girl! Irene Hannon is one of the best. This book is something so different, so unexpected, but yet, we see the same classy style of writing from Irene Hannon. I would expect nothing but the best from her. I have read her earlier series, Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice and I was just blown away. I have heard her compared to Dee Henderson, but Irene Hannon is proving that she doesn't need comparing. She has hit this newest gem out of the park!

That Certain Summer is a contemporary story. It holds forgiveness and love. Finding one's self in the yesterday of home and experiencing a change that could only take place when the heart is ready. We follow  two sisters through a transformation of the heart. One so certain of herself and the other doubting every move. But over the summer as these two sisters grow closer than ever before, they see themselves through their sister's eye for the very first time. They find something magical.

Their mother needs help recovering and this momma isn't one that hands out complements. Crabby and bitter would be an understatement. But even momma finds she really does have a softer heart once all the mean is removed.

This was an outstanding read for me. I can say I think it's award winning. It would make for a great movie!  Karen and Val think they are so different from one another, but as the summer moves forward they learn to depend on one another. Circumstances have brought change to their lives. Change isn't always easy. Moving forward isn't always something we think possible. But isn't it always better when you have someone by your side?

Did I hear someone say love? Yes, your going to find love and romance in these pages. These ladies, these sisters, now call themselves friends. They grow in faith as they see God move in ways they never expected.

This story is woven together so creatively your hooked from the first pages. The characters seem so real they could be your neighbor. You might even find yourself in this story. Leaving the past behind is letting go and letting God in so that today can be lived with a joy yesterday never knew. Friends, this is a tale you don't want to miss!

This Certain Summer was a gift from Revell for sharing my review.

Irene Hannon is the author of more than 35 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, a HOLT Medallion, a Daphne du Maurier Award, and two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. Booklist also included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011. She lives in Missouri.

For more information about her and her books, Irene invites you to visit her website at

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Conversation Around The Table

One of the best parts of raising five children with my husband was our shared times around the dinner table. Sometimes the laughter was endless. Ashley would laugh so hard she would tumble in the floor with an asthma attack. At times there would be serious talk, but always sharing of some sort. Family dinners are always the best. It's a time to share comfortably and honestly. Breaking bread with those you love is a precious gift. For us, we now get to share dinner with our grand babies, which brings a whole new set of blessings.

It's a great time to share dinner with your family and friends. We have friends that we have shared many meals together. Their kitchen is one of my favorite places to be. It's warm and inviting. Just like it's waiting for the conversation to begin as the coffee is being poured. Sharing a meal is bonding. Opening yourself up to another. It's sharing a kindred time. It's a time to gather around the table for some great food and great conversation.

But I too have shared meals with some where it felt like an elephant was in the room. It can be delicate to converse with some. Times come where one must hold their tongue. When you don't, watch out, because food just may begin to fly. Awkward can describe dinners with in laws. A seating chart is always good to have. LOL

So, what do you think it was like when Jesus sat down with the twelve as they shared the Passover? Here they are to celebrate. They are in the upper room together. Dinner is provided. Everyone is seated and the conversation begins. I can picture them saying grace. Reaching for food. Laughing over antics. You know there had to be much laughter between these men who grew to love one another. And then the conversation takes a turn. Jesus decides it is time. Could Jesus have been going back and forth in His mind? "Should I say something, Father? Should I remain quiet?" I wonder if He felt anger. Being all man wouldn't it be possible? I'm sure He felt a deep pain over this one who He knew would walk away.

"In the evening He came with the twelve. Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me." And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, "Is it I?" And another said, "Is it I?" He answered and said to them, "It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born." Mark 14:17-21

Now the mood has changed. There is no more laughter. No more talk of anything except of who could do this to Jesus. Each one asking if it could be him. Can you imagine them all looking at one another in wonder? Jesus knew before He sat down that it would be Judas who would betray Him. But Jesus still shared a meal with Him. That says a lot about the love of our Savior. Remember, who although was all God, at the time was all man too.

"Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?" And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought an opportunity to betray Him." Matthew 26:14-16

Could you have sat at the table with the man who was about to turn you over for thirty pieces of silver? Imagine Judas had been waiting for the perfect time. I imagine there was a war going on in his heart. I'm not so sure I could have. But Jesus knew this was the only way. Was He showing us how to love our enemies? Was He showing us to be hospitable even to those who are not so nice? Had Jesus already forgiven him in His heart before he committed the traitorous act?

But see, Jesus didn't stand at the table and beat His fists with anger. He didn't raise His voice and make a scene. He was calm and showed nothing but grace. It was a teaching moment. It was a tender moment. These were His friends. Jesus walked with these men. He knew them. They knew Him. In fact, it was more than friendship. They were family.

The meal didn't end there. They continued on and shared the Lord's Supper with one another. After they shared a hymn together and went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus knew what was about to take place. He was trying to prepare His apostles for what was to come. I find myself wondering what hymn they sang together. Can you imagine them holding hands and voices raised in praise?

What a beautiful portrait of our Savior. Forgiveness before the act of betrayal.

"And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priestt and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely. As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, "Rabbi, Rabbi!" and kissed Him." Mark 14:43-45

We don't see Judas ask for forgiveness. But when we turn to Matthew 27:3-10 we see that Judas was remorseful. He gave the silver back. Judas says, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." Matthew 27:4 We can read on in verse 5 that Judas hangs himself.

I know it didn't happen, but can you imagine for a moment if Jesus could have shared a moment with Judas? Peter had denied Jesus and look what happened. Grace. Mercy. Forgiveness. Judas may not have had those moments with Jesus, but friend, if you have this moment right now, you do have. It never has to be too late for you. As long as you have life you have a choice.

One day we, those who believe and have accepted Jesus as Savior, will dine with Him in paradise forever. Can you imagine those dinners? The conversation will be endless! One day, my friends, one glorious day!

Remember those two commandments Jesus gives? Those commandments that He says is the greatest? "Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."" Matthew 22:3-40 

Jesus gave us the example of these commandments when He broke bread with the one who would betray Him.  There is so much to learn from these verses. I encourage you to spend some time in them. Imagine dinner. Imagine the grace of God. Now, extend that grace to the Judas' in your life.  

Having Just A Little Doubt?

In Mark 8 we read that Jesus feeds the 4,000. Can you imagine? Seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Um, have you ever been preparing dinner and the kids bring home four friends and the neighbors pop in? Now you find yourself trying to scrape together everything in the pantry all the while your trying hard not to panic. There was no panic in Jesus. Through this we can find hope. He will always provide a way. He always opens the door. We must believe. Our faith must be in practice.

After He feeds all these people, which could fill a small stadium, the Pharisees were not in the least bit happy. They were trying to trap Jesus while He was feeding hungry people. Jesus cannot be trapped. He knows His Father is in total control. "Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His Spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation." Mark 8:11-12

Okay, now I could jump all over the Pharisees and say, "Can you believe these people? Jesus just fed 4,000 and they need a sign after that miracle?" Well yeah. I cannot count the times I have asked Jesus for a sign. "Just show me, Lord. Show me something." The disciples had a bit of a memory problem too. After this they all loaded up in the boat to travel to the other side. That forgetful bunch only had one loaf of bread. Now, they are freaking out. They are hungry and they are wondering how one loaf is going to feed them all. Hello, isn't Jesus with them? Did they just not see what He did with the 4,000?

Isn't that like us though? We are in awe when Jesus does something, but soon forget. Soon doubt travels into our pea brains and we are asking for another sign. Just because we don't see Jesus doing something doesn't mean He isn't doing something. I have found most of the time He is silent to me is when He is doing a wondrous work in my heart. It's about that time I'm about to witness something huge take place. Doubt can be our worst enemy. If we doubt God we are sure enough going to doubt others and ourselves. It's like an annoying summer cold that spreads and makes us feel horrible.

"But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up? They said to Him, "Twelve." Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?" And they said, "Seven." So He said to them, "How is it that you do not understand?" Mark 8:17-21

Jesus has proven Himself again and again to me. When I have doubted, He has strengthened my faith. When I have asked, my growth has increased. I am learning that Jesus is always there. He isn't going to let me down and friends, we don't have to see a sign to know that He is here. Remember the sigh? In verse 12 Jesus sighs. I find this so reassuring and so comforting. May we never forget, although Jesus was all God, He too was all man. He was touched by what He saw around Him. He hurts when we hurt. He feels pain and heartache. He is a compassionate God.

Think about your life. How many people depend on you? I'm sure, just like me, your life seems out of control and you find yourself alone and you let out a sigh. Nothing in my life, no stress level, nothing compares to the life Jesus led on earth. Can you imagine the load He carried? Can you see the throngs of people surrounding Him day and night, wanting something, healing, food, just one touch? He was being pulled in every direction. And here even His disciples, His friends, were doubting in fear of where their next meal would come from. Didn't they know if Jesus provided for others, He too would provide for them?

But this isn't His first sigh. Not at all. In Mark 7:31-37 we read that Jesus sighed. Jesus is traveling everywhere. He is meeting people where they are. Right there in the midst of their mess, He finds them and brings healing. Here Jesus heals the deaf/mute in Decapolis. They begged Jesus to put His hand on Him. I love this! Jesus knowing this man cannot hear Him nor speak, sends him a message through gestures that He can understand. Isn't that the coolest? This man wasn't doubting. Jesus had met him where he was and brings healing. He places His fingers in his ears and He spat on touched his tongue. Now Jesus sighs! "Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha", that is, "Be opened." (vs 34) Why did Jesus sigh here? Could it be that He felt what this man had gone through his whole life? Could it be that just maybe Jesus had compassion and knew this was not how it was suppose to be?

After this the people were astonished (vs. 37). So, why are we still not astonished today? Why do we have such a hard time believing? These people had Jesus walking among them and they still struggled. Sure, we can ponder that and say, "How could they not believe?" But what about us, today in right now? Why is it so hard for us to believe?

We always hear about doubting Thomas, but he wasn't the only doubting disciple. In Mark 16 after Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to Mary Magdalene, and she went out and told the others He was alive. They didn't believe her. Later when He appeared to two disciples and they went and told the rest and you know what? They didn't believe. "Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they ,mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either." Mark 16:9-13 After this we see that Jesus rebuked their unbelief.

Friends, are you finding yourself doubting today? Finding it hard to believe with the circumstances surrounding you? You are not the first one to doubt and you won't be the last. Jesus understands us. We are His children. Sure, I can imagine Him shaking His head at me sometimes, but more often than that I see a Father with love. A Father who wants to have a relationship with me. We can believe in His Word. We can have faith in His promises. Don't allow your doubts to stay too long. When you find yourself doubting seek out Jesus. When you find yourself questioning what is going on in your life, search the Word and pray. Cry out to Jesus and share with Him all that is on your heart, then quiet yourself and allow Him time to show you that He is our Forever Faithful Savior.

Is It The Clock Or The Compass Leading Us?

As many of my readers know my family has been away from our home church for eleven months now. I can tell you with every fiber of my being, that's a long time. This time away has become a new journey for me. A journey of seeking nothing but Jesus. I began reading my Bible more. When I finish the Book of Mark I will begin my journey into the Old Testament. I have done study after study and often surround myself with my Bibles laying open across my bed to various books and chapters. As my heart takes in more of Jesus I realize more and more that I am missing something. Church. Fellowship. Service. Those three go hand in hand with walking with Christ. I'm not so sure you can have Jesus and not feel a mission ahead of you.

My family visits different churches almost every Sunday. There are those Sundays that I simply cannot make church, but that doesn't mean that I don't meet with my Savior. My heart is being moved in ways like never before. I ponder everything that crosses my path. It's as if nothing is without purpose. I find myself thinking that if there is no purpose than why do it?

As I sit in a pew of a new church I ask the Lord, "Lord, if this is home, show  me." He hasn't showed me yet. I hear from Him, "Keep on the search." You know  what I'm learning? The more I search for that home church the more Jesus shows me of Himself. The more I am learning about me. Life is a constant journey. It doesn't stop and wait for us to find our perfect place. Life continues and as each day approaches we can either sit back and wait for the perfect moments or we can go out and grab them. Can we really just sit and wait for Jesus to do something? Wouldn't it be better to just get out there and be part of Him and His mission? Shouldn't we be seeking Him in everything around us? If it isn't God worthy we shouldn't be doing it.

We are on a mission. That mission depends all on our vision. Think about it. We are either on a God mission or a self mission. Which is it? I could sit back and wait for that perfect church to come or I can get out there and keep on the search. God is leading the mission. It's up to me whether I want to follow Him.

I think too many times we are following our churches. Churches offer so much. Each one unique. Each one offering something different. Programs and gatherings. That's all good and well, but as we try to reach the world we cannot forget who we are. We cannot change the program just to fit what the world wants. Why do we go to church? Really, that's a great question. If the reason isn't Jesus than we are missing the whole point. We fill up with so much that is offered. I think it's time to get back to the simple mission of sharing Jesus.

I have been in churches where no one moves to the altar. In eleven months I have yet to see one person move to the altar of a church. This is something that I am not used to. Why is this? It's something to take a hard look at and to begin we must start within our own heart. Is Jesus missing or our we just too busy to notice Him? Listen, the roast in the oven will wait. Wouldn't you rather have Jesus? I witness stop watch type clocks in the back of the church for the pastor's eyes only so he knows he only has a few minutes to wrap things up. This is heart wrenching to me.

We are limiting God. We expect Him to bless us in the hour we give Him at church. No more, no less, but bless us in our hour. We are selfish in our time with Jesus. We want to give when we have time to give, but we expect Jesus to give when we ask. We come up with committee after committee with projects to involve others. That's all and well, but where is Jesus in all of these committees? Too many times we place ourselves and our wants ahead of what Jesus is calling for us to do. When do we ask Jesus? More than asking Jesus what to do we are leaving it up to others to tell us what to do.  

He is missing in our churches. A church can be full from front pew all the way to the back and Jesus can be absent. Is that mean of me to say? I'm not trying to be mean, I am trying to be real. We sit back and never say a word. We don't want to hurt others feelings. We don't want to rock the boat. But friends, it's time the boat got rocked or there are going to be many asking, "Why didn't you tell me? You knew Jesus. You knew He was coming. You knew I needed Him. Why did you leave me? Why did you forget about me?" Are you ready to answer those questions? I know I'm not. Too many have fallen through the cracks already.

We waste our time planning projects instead of changing hearts. We waste our time expecting others to do what God Himself is calling us to do. It's time we get out of the pews of the churches and start reaching the hearts of those around us. It's time for us to make changes in the way we reach others. We actually have to get up and get moving! Why are we wasting so much time?

What if we only had one hour left? One. What would you do? Who would you reach? What would be most important to you? If there is anything I have learned from that countdown clock I have seen in the back of the church is that we are running out of time. The problem is the simple fact that we don't give others our time. The clock is a huge problem of the Christian today. We divide our time with Jesus with all the other things we are involved in and in the end who is it that is getting the most time? I can tell you that Jesus isn't getting enough of my time. I am giving more time to other areas in my life. Surrender doesn't mean just give Jesus a little. It means give Him all.

So, how can we do that? We have family, we work, we go to school. The list goes on and on. It's pretty simple really. We make Jesus a part, a whole, of everything we do. He is our PURPOSE. What if we stopped using the clock and started using the compass? Jesus is our Forever North. We can change the way we think. When Jesus is the focus we stay on target. When He is no longer the focus it's time to change direction. If Jesus isn't in it, then we need to let it go.

Once we remember who we are that seems to change everything. We are children of the King of kings, Lord of lords. I am a child of the King and He has set before me a calling and mission. He has equipped me with everything I need to complete my mission. Just look what Jesus accomplished with twelve.

"And He said to them, "Go into the all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."" Mark 16:15-16

We have our mission. What are we waiting for?

Dear Heavenly Father, open our hearts to Your Word. Lord, guide us to see Your will and purpose for our lives. Help us to fight fear with faith. Show us how to toss the clock out the window and to remain focused solely upon You. May we stop looking to others for projects and positions, but search You for our purpose and plan. Forgive us, Lord. We get excited and then we get lazy. We get on point and then our lives are derailed. May we take today and live it for You, Jesus. May we encourage others along the journey instead of tear them down. Help us to inspire. Jesus, above all else, use us for Your glory. Take our lives and shine through us so that the world around us may see less of us and more of You. Help us to bring comfort to the hurting and give strength to the weary. May our hands and feet be used for Your glory. Use us up, Lord.


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