Monday, April 29, 2013

Jesus the One and Only by Beth Moore

When I was asked if I wanted to join the blog tour for Beth Moore's new study I jumped at the chance to peek through the pages penned from her heart. That's exactly what they are too. Beth is one of my favorites. She is a woman of God and she is on a mission to be used greatly of God. With combination she is unstoppable.

I have enjoyed reading many of Beth's studies, but I must be honest and tell you, this is my by far my favorite yet. I knew to expect great writing, but what I didn't expect was to be so moved by the Lord in such a powerful way. "Jesus the One and Only" takes us through the Book of Luke. We begin with Zechariah and Elizabeth and move all the way through the life of Christ.

Friends, this was a journey that started with intrigue and only got more exciting along the way. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I grabbed a highlighter and created a bright pink outline of the high points for me. I soon realized the entire book was going to be pink.

I was blessed to review, "Jesus the One and Only", in book format. It too is available in study book form. This book is published by B&H Publishing Group and is available now for purchase.

I loved going along with Beth on this journey through the book of Luke. She gives the scripture verses for you to read first, then as you come back to the book you have a greater understanding of what she is sharing. I can honestly share with you that this is one of those life changing, life altering books. Jesus wants to have an intimate relationship with us. For us to do so we must know Him more and knowing more of His life gives us a greater understanding of Him. This book flows and is so easy to understand. My eyes were opened to things I hadn't put much thought in before. Beth helps us understand how everything fits together to create a completed puzzle.

I think what I love the most is that we see the love Beth truly has for her Savior. She is passionate and real. That makes her relatable. I have read the Book of Luke many times, but this book opened my eyes to uncovering more detail. As a visual learner this was a great book for me. Beth takes the brush and paints a beautiful portrait of the life of Christ. She has a gift that brings the reader to ponder more deeply, which encouraged me to remain in the Word longer. Beth doesn't add more to the Bible, she brings our attention to detail and inspires us to truly know our Savior.

If your wanting a wonderful read to encourage you on your walk with Jesus is is an exceptional gem that you will want to return to again and again. Once we know Jesus personally our faith will only grow!

This book was a gift from Shelton Interactive for the review of Jesus The One And Only.

Beth Moore is a writer and teacher of best-selling books and Bibles studies whose public speaking engagements carry her all over the United States. A dedicated wife and mother of two adult daughters, Beth lives in Houston, Texas, where she is president and founder of Living Proof Ministries.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Love At Any Cost by Julie Lessman

If you have not read a book penned by Julie Lessman as of yet, you are missing out my friend. Julie is one of the best. I was hooked when I was first blessed to read her, "Winds of Change Series". Oh, she weaves a story that begs for your heart. Once it's captured, she isn't letting go any time soon. Again she is bringing us a new series. "The Heart of San Francisco Series". I have just finished book one, "Love at Any Cost", and I must say, she has done it again!

What are you willing to do for love and at what cost? The characters Cassidy McClare and Jamie McKenna are finding that passion trumps assumption. The lesson? Never assume who one truly is until you are able to genuinely know them. As one character has been hurt and moving on, another is searching for love with the great accessory of wealth. Yes, these characters are placing conditions on love. These characters meet and a story of change, faith, family and love begins.

This was a fun read for me. Enjoyable to the very end. This is an unputdownable for sure. Oh, the romance! I LOVED the kissing scenes. Way to go, Julie! I must say, this is romance at it's best.

We see characters that are imperfect. In their quirky imperfections we witness a God at work. Change is something that is difficult, especially if it's a change that isn't wanted. Through Cassidy I see a woman who is ready for change and is willing to go the distance. We witness her put her guard down after she has built up a wall around her heart. Jamie is that character that is looking beyond what love can do for his heart, but for his life. He wants change. He too is searching for ways to bring change. He isn't quite seeing past his circumstance. I loved seeing these characters come to trust the Lord and surrender all to Him.

I cannot wait to see where Julie goes next with book 2 of  this series. This is one I will be eagerly awaiting!

This book, "Love at Any Cost", was a gift from Revell for my review.

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of "Passion with a Purpose" underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 14 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as "Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction." Chosen as the #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2011 Readers' Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Series of the Year in that same poll and #3 Author of the Year, #5 Novel of the Year, and #4 Historical Fiction Author of the year. She resides in Missouri with her family and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series and the Winds of Change series whose first book, A Hope Undaunted, ranked #5 on Booklist's Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010. You can contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.



Limitless (Devotions for a Ridiculously Good Life) by Nick Vujicic

Have you ever heard of Nick Vujicic? You know the question, "If you could invite five people to dinner who would it be"? Well, Nick would be one of my picks. This is a young man we can all learn a great deal from. He can totally teach us how to live! I loved this devotional! It was so refreshing to read his story. He is an inspiration and a great encouragement to all. Nick was born without legs and arms. Can you imagine? I cannot even grasp this, but Nick not only was born this way, he grasped a hold of the Lord and is living his life for Jesus! Amen! That is something to shout about.



Nick could live an angry and bitter life, but he chooses to live in the moment. Once you read his story you understand that he isn't disabled at all. In fact, he is probably more able than most. He has shared his story in, "Life Without Limits", and Unstoppable". It was a blessing to be privileged to review his third book, "Limitless", which is a devotional. This small treasure contains fifty devotional type stories. They are short but powerful. Nick shares a scripture verse, a devotion that is brought out by his life lived limitless. Each devotion closes with, "Limitless Life", just a short quote of encouragement to live by.



A few of the devotions are titled, "Hope for the Impossible", "Triumph Over Tragedy", "Never Be Without Hope", "Full Surrender", "Don't Go It Alone", "A Passionate Pursuit", and many more.



Here are just a few of Nick's Limitless Life quotes:



"Even if you haven't always appreciated the ways you are different, thank God for His divine creation of you. Ask Him to show you how your uniqueness can be used to help others or to glorify Him."



"Your comeback, like mine, may come in small steps, day by day, over a period of weeks or months. I hope yours comes quickly, but there are benefits to a gradual revival. As the fog of despair lifts, be grateful for every ray of light that comes through."



"The next time something unforeseen happens to your plans, try not to view it as a disruption. Instead, look for the hidden gift-the opportunity that blesses you or someone around you. Be available to be used by God when He needs you."



This book is perfectly placed together with scripture, devotion and inspirational quotes by Nick. It is clear to see that Nick is being used of God for great missions. Nick is an example of a humble man, living out life with purpose and passion, giving glory to the God who created him just as he is. Beautiful beyond description.



This is one of those books that will bring life into perspective. We forget what is truly important and focus on things that really don't matter at all. Nick truly shows us how to live the limitless life that God created for us!



This book was a gift from WaterBrook Press for my review.
 
Nick Vujicic is an international and New York Times best-selling author, evangelist, motivational speaker, and the director of Life Without Limbs, an organization that helps share the message of the hope in Christ to the entire globe. Nick is an inspiration worldwide with crowds and the media for his positive attitude towards overcoming obstacles and achieving dreams. A longtime resident of Australia, he now lives in southern California with his wife, Kanae, and son, Kiyoshi.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finding Peace, Purpose, and His Plan, In Our Deepest Struggles

"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10


Wow, do you hear Paul as he speaks about his life? These verses were penned by Paul. Things were not easy going for him. Paul didn't walk the road of luxury. He didn't have everything at his feet. Simply put, life was hard. It was a challenge. No where does Paul say what his thorn was that he struggled with. No doubt life was a battle for him, but one this is for certain. He knew where his strength came from. He knew without a doubt that the Lord was with him. He knew God had a purpose for everything that touched his life.


Paul could have easily given up. How easy would that have been? Have you ever wanted to give up? Lord knows I have.  Paul overcame through the strength he found in Jesus Christ. He struggled. This is evident as he cries out to God to remove the thorn in his side. How many of us walk with a thorn in the side? Fill in the blank of what your thorn is. Maybe you have struggled for years. But friends, there is good news. You too can overcome just as Paul did.


I live with chronic illness and pain. There are days I wake up and I am soaring. I can do just about anything. I feel super. But there are those days where I am flat on my back in bed. Not just for a few hours, but at times days and even weeks. I can be honest and tell you at first I just crumbled. I celebrated with the biggest pity party ever thrown. The thing is, no one wants to attend those parties. I felt alone in my pain. I felt that no one could understand. There were days I wanted to give up. Literally. But as I lay in bed one night I felt the Lord take my hand and I heard His sweet whisper, "My daughter, I am here with you." He was. He had been there the entire time. He hadn't left me. In my pity and anger I had left Him behind. I was wondering why me and wondering where He went. He remained at my side and as for wondering, why me, well, I believe Paul was kind of asking that himself.


He asks the Lord to remove his thorn and in every circumstance that he cried out to the Lord the He answers that His grace is enough. Paul would not only live with the thorn being content, he would do God's will and use all of his life to bring glory and honor to the Lord. Doesn't that bring peace to your soul? It does mine. In fact, it changed the way I seen my pain and struggles. This wasn't something the Lord was punishing me with. It was something He could use greatly through me. I began sharing my struggles and soon others were being encouraged. They no longer felt they were the only one. I would use my time in bed to pray for others. To send cards. To make calls to those I knew needed encouragement. God used that time in my life to change my heart. I became more compassionate. I became more understanding. Through those very struggles He was changing me to become the girl He created me to be.


We can see that instead of Paul complaining of each circumstance that touched him, he now praised God for each and every one. That kind of changes things doesn't it? Gives us a whole new perspective on living. It shows us that we have a choice in what our attitude toward struggle is. We can either accept it as a challenge and an opportunity with the attitude of, "Why not me, Lord?" or we can beat ourselves us with pity and bitterness. In choosing anger and bitterness we make the choice of wasting precious time.


Did you just lose your job? God uses those times to stretch us. We are never going to grow to our full capacity if all is just perfect in our lives. If all is perfect, just the way we wish it to be, then why would we call out to God? He never allows any circumstance to go to waste. He wants to use everything in our lives to bring glory to God, but first we have to be the willing vessel. We have to trust Him. We have to believe that there is a purpose for all.


"We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5


"Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life." Proverbs 4:23


When we surrender every single thing in our life and entrust the Lord with all it changes our life. It changes perspective and it changes our attitude . It brings new life. Abundant life full of joy. Yes, we can have joy even in our deepest struggles. It has often been those struggles that have brought me closer to the Lord.


"Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stone; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands." 2 Corinthians 11:25-33


I read these words with tears today. Paul shares with the church the struggles he had battled. But he never gave up. He could have walked away and left behind his call. How sad would that have been? Just as sad for you to leave behind your call out of anger and asking the Lord, "Why me?" Paul lived through each infirmity and overcame. It gave him strength for the next and the next and the next after that. God used Paul greatly. He too wants to use you, my friend. He doesn't want you to give up. He wants you to look beyond your circumstance and see an opportunity for greatness. He wants to heal you, beginning with your heart. A heart transplant does wonders for the body.


As I study the life of Paul I am learning a great deal. I'm learning about the life of Paul, about my Lord, Jesus Christ and also about myself. I see my own struggles and I see how the Lord has never let me down. By His grace I continue onward.


"Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through him also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. and not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been pured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:1-5


"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6


"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

So, You Wanna Change Me?

Are we loving as we should? Really loving?


"Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."" Romans 13:8-10


"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." Romans 12:9-16


"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 in 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 2:1-2


Loving people isn't always easy, is it? No where in the Bible does the Lord tell us loving people is easy. The key is loving like Jesus. The focus is the love Christ has lavished upon us. The mission is loving people where they are.


Too many times we try to step in and change people. We think we need to offer our opinion and once it is given that person should wisely accept it and move to change in that very moment. Wow, you all, who do we think we are? Really? Do we think so highly of ourselves that we need to step into situations that have nothing at all to do with us?


A few months back someone felt the need to share with me the activities of my son. Now, were my son's activities of godly character? Not so much. He knew he had made a mistake. But see, it took Christ to move him to see for himself. This person who felt the need to contact me did more harm than good. Let me explain. When we have close friends, we are sharing all the time. We meet for coffee. Dinner and a day out are frequent. Our lives intertwine with one another. We know where we are with our relationship. Our relationship is built on trust. The person who contacted me had never had a conversation with my son. I don't think our conversations were more than a hello in passing. So when this person shared their words I can tell you it wasn't received in love.


There are times our actions can do more harm than good. If we are not led by the Lord to move on behalf of another than we need to keep our opinion to ourselves. What this person could have done was pray for my son. This person didn't share anything I didn't already know. It would have made more of an impact if this person had invested time in my son's life.


For us to make an impact on the life of another we must love like Jesus. We must encourage and inspire. We must give value to that person. We must treat them as we would want to be treated. For every action there is a reaction. Our actions have the power to bring others closer to Christ or to turn them away. When we feel the need to step in we need to ask ourselves a few questions:

Is the Lord leading me to this action?
Have I prayed about this situation?
Could the Lord be teaching me something through the actions of this person?


Friends, just because we see a behavior we know is wrong, we don't know all the details. I can tell you without a doubt there is always more going on than what our eye sees. We tend to miss out on all that this person is doing. That's what happens when we don't invest in the lives of others. This takes time and yes, time is love. Love is an action verb. We actually have to make an effort to get to know people. Once we know the heart of a person we can understand so much more.


In our Christian walk we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to love like Christ. We too are to love them enough to wound them, but with that comes much responsibility.


"Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let's stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall." Romans 14:12-13


"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Psalm 133:1


"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." John 15:12


Love goes beyond self. Love sees that person right where they are flaws and all. I can tell you it would have impacted my son's life in a huge way for this person to step forward and give his time and friendship. Just living an example encourages others to walk close to the Lord. We are going to stumble and most of that time it's going to be over our own feet. We are so focused on how others are walking we lose our own footing.


When a baby begins walking they spend more time falling down than they do walking. Think about this. This too is our Christian walk. I have learned more from my own stumbles and have grown by seeing my Savior lift me up and love me than I have from someone else stepping in to tell me how wrong I have been. Yes, there is a time to step in. When we see our brother or sister in danger we should step in, but even then we step forward with grace and love. Not condemnation and judgement.


"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved." John 3:17


I have found that by being transparent and sharing my own stumbles brings others to know they are not alone. It gives comfort for others to know they aren't the only people who struggle. Think of how much more we can bless others if we begin with encouragement instead of knocking them down when they are already down. Be a friend. Share your own experiences in times when you have stumbled and when Jesus has lifted you up. Invest in the lives around you. When you give your time others will then pay attention to what you have to say.



Monday, April 8, 2013

Go Beyond The Fence Row

Love covers all.



"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:16-17



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



"In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:9-11



"Is someone says, "I love God", and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also." 1 John 4:20-21



"My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." 1 John 3:18-19



I must ask myself, "Rob, what do your actions show? Do they show a girl after God's own heart? If someone peeked into your life, would they know that you are a Christian?" These are questions that should prick our heart daily. Daily I am to check myself. If I just go from day to day without really thinking about my words and actions I am going to be off track quickly.



You know what I mean. Life gets busy and we get crabby. Life gets crazy and we get lazy. If I'm not careful I will take my eyes off of Christ and down I go. Not just a skinned knee, but I fall face first in the dirt. And wouldn't you know there just happens to be a crow right there for the eating. It's easy for us to say we love our neighbor, but do we really? Really?



I have neighbors that I have never had a conversation with. If I was asked their names I couldn't tell you. We have waved to one another in passing, but as far as me moving to talk with them? Nope. Is that love? If they needed sugar, sure I would give them sugar. If their house was on fire I would help and call 911. Is that love? Well, that's just being nice. That's not really love. Love would be going beyond our fence row and inviting them to know Christ. That is love. So, why haven't I? I can't even answer that question without feeling humiliated. Fear I suppose. What if they become angry and never speak to me again? Hello, we aren't exactly sharing coffee now. What if they slam the door in my face? Well, I suppose I just turn around and come home. I could spend all day with a what if scenario. Couldn't we all?



We see people in need every day. Every day we pass people in need of Jesus. Pass by someone whose car is broken down? See someone at the grocery store put something back because they can only afford the milk and bread in their hand? If we look past ourselves there is always someone with a need. Aren't we suppose to walk beyond our fence row to help?



Ever think about just how much a smile can do for another person? Inviting that girl who sits in the back pew out to lunch? Taking that older couple a meal during the week just to help out? Friends, we can do so much more. I can do so much more.



It's spring and what's on my mind? Spending time outdoors, going shopping, planning a vacation. The list goes on and on. While I'm thinking of which dress I will wear to church there is a woman with a bruised cheek that is covering up with make up so no one in the next pew notices. People are hurting everywhere. Unless we go beyond the fence row we are never going to know just how we can help.



As Christians we should be praying for God to open doors for us to move through. We should be uniting ourselves with others and making a way to reach our neighbors. I need to be asking God to lay names upon my heart. Prayer is mighty. Prayer is more than me just sharing with the Lord. Prayer is listening to the Lord. Prayer is bringing hurting people to the foot of the cross. Prayer is love. Prayer is powerful. Prayer is needed, and yet what do we do? What do I do? I get lazy. We begin thinking that someone else will do it.



"Goodness, don't they have family that can help? Isn't there a committee for these things? I can't help everyone." These thoughts move from our lips as we make excuse after excuse. There is always someone in need. We are to be an extension of Christ's love. We are to be His hands and feet. We aren't just to sit idle and be concerned with ourselves. We are to go beyond the fence row.


When we move beyond the fence row roses bloom. All of heaven joins in praise as the Lord's work is being done. Friends, we can't just wait for someone else to do what needs to be done. For us to be Christ-like we are going to have to see beyond ourselves and cry out to Christ for opportunities to love and boundaries to be crossed.


We must remember that Jesus crossed the fence row for us. He gave all for us. He didn't leave it for someone else to do. He gave all of Himself. We cannot forget that faith, hope and love are key to following Jesus. We must be willing to reach beyond our comfort zone. We must get busy. There isn't time to waste. The time to reach out is now. We must make an effort and be willing to be uncomfortable.


Let's just not do what we can, but go beyond that. Go beyond the fence row. It's when we go beyond that we truly see the power of God at work.


You've Got More Than Mail!

We love getting mail. Little notes from friends. Cards that just say, hello. Postcards with a beautiful view from a place far away. We love hearing from those we love. I can tell you with great excitement I love getting packages in the mail. Books! It's like Christmas every time I receive a new one. When I receive a card from a far away friend my heart lights up with joy. You know those cards. Some make us giggle. Some bring a tear. But just knowing someone was thinking of you makes the day seem much lighter. It's encouragement in tough times. It's inspiration when the heart is aching. It's love simple as that.



When I was little I had a few pen pals. Today I cannot remember who they were or where they lived, but I do remember the joy in receiving a letter. It made me feel important. My parents received mail daily, but when I went to check the mail, wow, if there was a card for me, I ran back to the house and before I got to the door my letter was ripped open and ready for reading.



I have been making my way through the New Testament. I did a review on my newest Bible a few weeks back. I ordered Max Lucado's Life Lessons Bible. Friends, this is one amazing Bible. I have made it a habit to leave my Bible open. That has changed my daily activity immensely. I leave it on a chair in my bedroom on the lesson I had just read. I have placed it in a spot that I must pass by several times a day. I have been studying over morning coffee and in the evening when all is quiet. But many times I will pick it up throughout the day. This has changed my life. Just this one addition to my day. One change. Just leaving my Bible open has called me to read it more. Which brings me back to receiving mail.



I have always been excited to read the Word of God. But yes,  I can honestly share with you that there have been times I have read my Bible just to check it off my list for the day. I think we all have gotten into that trap a time or two. This can be the beginning of those dusty Bibles. But something is changing in me. I have a greater desire than ever to read the Word of God. It has become more exciting to me. Why? I changed my perspective in reading. For instance in reading the book of Philippians, I am now reading through it as if Paul had written this letter to me. After all he did write it to the church in Philippi. Paul doesn't just pick up a pen out of duty. He writes from the heart. He allows the Holy Spirit to move through him. He is the vessel. God is the Word. The Word is living! Yes!



Paul is in chains. In having a clear picture of Paul's life we can get a better understanding of the Word. Life for him is not an easy one. He isn't writing from a grand hotel in Paris. He isn't at a mountain resort. Not at the family lake laying on a hammock. He is in chains. He is imprisoned and yet, he isn't thinking of himself. He is focused on His Savior and he is concerned for the church. His loves covers his pain. We see that God's grace is enough. He is content. Why? Because he knows what lies outside of those prison doors. He knows there is life beyond the chains and while he is in those chains he has a mission. He never lost sight of his mission. He was to share the gospel of Christ. He was to be a light in the darkness.



Can you imagine how the churches reacted when they received a letter from Paul? Paul would send messengers to the churches. He would remind them that although he wasn't there in person, although they could not see him, he was with them in prayer and in love. Yes, just as our Savior is with us today. I'm sure they didn't just receive his letter and set it back on a shelf for a day when it was raining. They didn't just toss it in a drawer. They gathered around and read it with excitement. They wanted to know what Paul was doing and they wanted to hear from him. They wanted to hear the message that was sent from God to inspire and encourage them.



As we open the Word of God we need to be excited for what these pages hold. These are words written from one heart to another. These are words written to give us hope. We have the entire Word of God available to us. We don't have to wait for the postal service to deliver it. It's not going to get lost in the mail. We don't have to place our order and wait like a watch pot. His Word is right here before us. Where is the excitement?


We get excited when our favorite television shows are coming on. When the new action movie is at the theaters we are so excited we call our friends and make a date. We preorder books from our favorite authors. We get so excited for these things and more. Why not be excited about the Word of God? It was written just for us. That's pretty exciting to me. I haven't always felt super excited to read the Word of God. It takes effort. We must be deliberate and diligent. The Word was written for me and you. Doesn't that stir your heart?


One of the most amazing things is that I find myself within these words. These words hold such deep meaning that every time I read them I am moved in a whole new way. Yes, I have been having a lot of "aha" moments lately, but they wouldn't be happening if I was not not determined and disciplined. I am learning. The more I see of the Lord the more I see myself. It's as though I am uncovering page by page who I was created to be. With every word, with every chapter and book comes change. My heart is changing. With a heart change comes a life change. As my heart changes my perspective on life changes. I am on the course of becoming the woman of God He created me to be. Praise Jesus, He is with me all the way!



As we open a book from the Bible we need to think about who wrote it and why. We need to dig deeper and seek when it was written. What was happening at this very time of receiving the letter. There is so much to be excited about. We love a good book. Friends, this is the Good Book! It's the best book ever written!



"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
 
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Take A Chance On Me by Susan May Warren

I have been blessed to review some outstanding books lately. Friends, this is a selection to add to your shelf. This is a beautiful story that brings forgiveness, redemption and grace straight to the heart of the reader. This is a new series from Susan May Warren about the Christiansen family. This is a family that may resemble yours. They too could be your neighbor.

This is a family well respected and grounded in faith. Tragedy occurs and shakes the very foundation of what they are made of. In a split second life changes forever. An accident. Some give grace while others harden their hearts. Hatred runs deep in some. They are a small, tight nit community and everyone seems to know something about this terrible accident. The towns people find themselves on one side or the other.

I was hooked the moment I opened this book and found myself reading a letter from a mother to her son. I wept as I read these penned words of such deep love from a mother to her son. As we read on we know that this letter was written to Darek from his mother.

The characters are raw and real. Warren shows us the trials they face, the scars that they now wear, and the burdens they are working to overcome. Love meets the past and they connect in a way only the Lord could bring them together. We see healing come, but it isn't an easy road. We travel the journey with these characters. We see the good, the bad and the ugly. Most of all we see the grace and mercy that is given.

Darek Christiansen and Ivy Madison are the main characters. Darek part of the Christiansen family. He is raising his son with the help of his family. Darek is a widow and still in deep pain over the tragedy that hit him blindsided. Ivy is new to town. Ivy has longed to find love and happiness. There are many characters in this story. Each has an impact on Darek and Ivy. All are connected and we see how the Lord brings His peace to the hearts of those who seek Him.

What I love is how the main characters question their faith. It's something we all have done or will do at some point in our life, but Warren brings it to a place where it's so real. Tragedy strikes and we are either going to believe no matter what or we will come to a place where we question everything. In questioning  we see these characters grow. As they seek answers we see God reveal Himself in ways they never could have imagined.

Life has been very different for Darek and Ivy. Each carrying their own baggage, but some how each can relate to the other's pain. Darek growing up in a family of faith and Ivy only dreaming of what family truly is.

There is a character that touched my heart. That would be Jensen. He was accused of a crime he continues to declare his innocence. We see his character in his deepest moments of pain. A town is against him. He feels there is nothing left for him, but once again, God shows Himself and we see Jensen set free in ways he could never imagine.

This is a book that is so refreshing. Everything isn't perfect and everything doesn't turn out the way we wish. We see the flaws of these characters and the grace of God that covers all. If your looking for real, this is it, friends!

There are just some reviews that are hard to write. This is one of them. If I say too much I will give something away, but this is such a great story I just want to tell you everything. LOL So friends, your going to have to take these few words I have shared and trust me that this is one of those stories that will leave your heart full.

I cannot wait to see what is next for this family!

"Take A Chance On Me", was gift to me from Tyndale for sharing my review.

Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in our lives. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at www.susanmaywarren.com.



Friday, April 5, 2013

The Dance by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

This is the first book of The Restoration Series written by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley. I love how these two gifted writers have come together to pen a story that touches the heart and has the power to change the heart. Redemption comes to the heart that is humble. Restoration comes to those who believe. Redemption and restoration grow a deep faith in the characters of this beautifully written story.

First I must share the cover says so very much. We see a woman with her arms crossed. She wants to dance so badly. She wants to love deeply, but she's afraid of more hurt and disappointment. She has tried for years to reach her husband, but he is unable to hear her cry for more. This is Marilyn.

Marilyn and Jim have been married for twenty-seven years. Something is missing. Something so very important. They appear to have it all. They have three grown children. One married with family. One planning a wedding and one still at home. The empty nest is about ready to hit and hit hard. This couple faces issues that many couples face today. They are growing apart. The spark that first ignited their relationship is fading. They are no longer dating, but have become roommates and not good ones at that. It's as though they both have their own lives, their own activities and as a married couple they just go through the motions.

Jim and Marilyn have lost communication with one another. Jim is success minded and has allowed his family to take the backseat to his career and his status in the community. He has always felt he was an attentive husband and a great dad. He provided for his family and has kept them safe and secure. He has been able to supply their every need. Almost. Jim has a hard time listening. He has a difficult time opening up and just having a conversation with his family. I think they would choose having him over all the stuff he has provided.

I see Marilyn as just wanting to be loved. She is desiring attention and intimacy. She is missing their connection. If Jim could just hear what she is saying, but it's like they are speaking two different languages. Marilyn decides it is time to leave and Jim is thrown for a loop. He has no idea that Marilyn has been unhappy. He seriously doesn't have a clue as to why she left.

This story is woven in the reality of life. It gives us a clear picture of the hurt that Marilyn is going through. During this separation we see Marilyn discover pieces of herself that have been missing for years. Jim uncovers a gentleness and a warmth that is surprising to him. We see the struggles and the pain during this period of growth. We get to see them learn the love languages of one another.

What I found interesting is the fact that they placed their children in the middle. They confided things with their children that they hadn't shared with one another. We too see how the church reacts to their separation. What I love about this book is the fact that it's so real. This could be any family in our world today. We get so busy and caught up in what we desire that we forget about those we love to much. Just as in this family. Jim and Marilyn just get stuck in a rut and they began to take one another for granted. They forgot to love. They misplaced all that was important for what they thought would bring them happiness. They forgot to dance.

I wish I could tell you more, but I don't want to give away the best part. The dance. This book is filled with beauty and the discovery of how important relationships are to us. We see God move in big ways. He brings people into their lives who touch them in a powerful way. Through unexpected relationships they learn how to have a relationship with one another. This book is beyond beautiful. This is one that gets a five star from me.

What a dance this was!

This book was a gift from Revell for sharing my 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.

Gary Smalley is one of the country's best known authors and speakers on family relationships. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of 16 books, along with several popular films and videos. He has spent over 30 years learning, teaching, and counseling, speaking to over 2 million people in live conferences. Smalley has appeared on national television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Extra, The Today Show, and The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, as well as numerous national radio programs. Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for 40 years and live in Branson, Missouri. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

At The End Of The Day What Really Matters?

Two women. Two similar worlds.  These women could be neighbors. Same color of house. Two car garage. Dog in the yard. They even have those cute little stick figures on their car window. But there is something very different about these women.

One woman has four children. She has built her life around them. She has never been away from her children overnight. She has made her children her world. Their every need comes first. She wakes early to begin making breakfast and preparing lunches. She does everything for her children. Her entire day is about her children. Evening comes and she is preparing dinner. She realizes she has yet to shower. Where did the time go?

Her husband has been home for hours and she has yet to even hug him hello. She could greet him, but who has time? He could greet her with flowers and a kiss, but why? He doesn't have to do that anymore, right? He is use to her being busy and he too goes about his own business. He decides to watch tv for a while. He has learned to just stay out of her way as she is working. It's become easier to just go to the other room. I mean, after all, he has worked all day too.

Dinner is ready and hubs is fast asleep on the couch. She doesn't wake him. She doesn't even remember to wake him. She has dinner with her children. Now its time for baths and pj's. She still isn't ready for bed. So much to do. So many chores still yet to be accomplished. She doesn't close her eyes until past 2:00am.

Her hubs wakes on the couch and readies himself for work and is out the door before she realizes that's why the dog is barking. Oh yes, the dog. She forgot to feed the dog yesterday. The sun is rising and another day begins. The humdrum has become the mainstay of this home. Everyone just goes through the motions. Day in and day out its the same routine. Nothing changes. She is a mother on a mission and she feels that no one can do her mission better. Her mother did it all. Shouldn't she be able to?

Does any of this sound familiar? Over the top busy days of chores and taxi driving. Preparing meals and sorting laundry. Folding clothes and trying to be the mom of the year. Isn't that what we all want? At some point doesn't that thought cross our minds? Yes, we want people to know that we are good moms. No, scratch that. We want to be known as great moms! Moms who can do it all. We work outside the home. Inside the home. We volunteer for this and that. Our time is spread out so thin we no longer have time for ourselves. But this is the job of today's woman, right?

This mom is tired and she is dragging. She doesn't have the support of friends. She keeps to herself and thinks that if she isn't cleaning and taking care of the kids she is being lazy. She now has a destorted view. She feels like the more she does the better she is. She has lost herself somewhere in the midst of laundry and homework. Before she can be her best she needs to find rest. She needs to find herself again and reconnect with the man that first stole her heart. Jesus.

But what about the other woman in the story? She too has four children. All still at home. She is a bit more organized. She thinks about her tasks and realizes what is important and what isn't at the top of the list in priorities. Her mother was a clean freak. She looks back and has learned a bit from her mother. More so of what not to do. She isn't afraid to ask for help. Yes, her home is clean, but she doesn't spend all day cleaning. She has learned to play with the children. She has learned not to do everything for the children. She gently teaches her children how to  help one another and she encourages them to learn to do tasks on their own. After all, she is raising her children to become productive adults.

She too realizes how important her husband is. She meets him at the door with a kiss and a hello. She greets him and asks about his day. As he enters their home they spend thirty minutes uninterupted together. He too is asking about her day. She spends time sharing and laughing about the antics of the day while they cook dinner together. Why do we find this so shocking?

Friends, in today's world it is important for us to find balance. That begins with Jesus. We are on a journey and as mothers we are going to make mistakes. We might as well toss that image of perfection out the window. We learn what works and what doesn't. It's more important than ever to have an open communication with your husband. Each of you bring important value to your family. There is no 50/50. Although we strive for 100/100, there are days where it's more like 40/60 or 20/80. Support from one another is so important. Our children see this support as a great gesture of love.

This family enjoys dinner together. They laugh over what happened at school and on the bus. They talk about the highlights of the day and laugh some more. After dinner everyone steps in to help clean up the kitchen, but as they clean they turn on some music and make it fun. In this home everyone is involved in helping one another.

Home work is complete and baths are all finished. It's time to begin winding down for the night. Prayers and hugs begin. They share about their fears, dreams and hopes. This family spends time encouraging one another. The day may have been super busy filled with many activities, but we can end our day with family time each night.

This woman realizes she could remain up for hours and finish more on her to-do list, but she knows what is more important. She and her husband go to bed at the same time and bond with one another. It's that closeness they have that encourages them to be the best they can be. They know how important it is to do things together. They even have date night. They know the importance of their marriage. They know they are an example to their children. As they are close and make time for one another their children are being raised in a home where joy abides.

Which woman are you? Which family is closer to yours? Friends, we must be aware of our home life. It's the place where love and comfort live. It's the place where family grows and memories are made. The difference in these women? Perspective. Could they be perhaps a Mary and Martha? They both want the best for their family. The love of these two women run deep. What has brought these two women to where they are today? While one is struggling the other has found true contentment with Christ. She counts on Him for her everything. There are no exceptions for her. She knows where her strength comes from. She is living determined not to allow doubt to creep and steal away the balance the Lord brings as she places Him first.

Their are some huge differences in these ladies. One is knocking herself out trying to make sure everything is perfect that she has no time for anything else. I have learned from this woman. I was once this woman. My life revolved around my children. Now, my love for my children is great, but the love I have for my husband should be just as great. See, one day all her babies are going to leave home and then what will she have? That empty nest is going to hit her hard because she defined her life by her children.

We need to live with our spouses as if we are still dating. Remember dating your spouse? Remember going fun places and staying up all night talking? You knocked yourself out for one another. Just because we have children doesn't mean this has to stop. Even more so, it means we must make time so that when our babies are all gone we can look next to us and see our best friend.

As women we need support from family and friends. This isn't always easy. But we must strive to find that circle of encouragment. Fellowship with other Christians is a great way to connect with other ladies struggling with the same issues. We need to be honest with ourselves and open up and share with our spouse. Most of all we need not be so hard on ourselves. There is only so much we can do.

I have learned that I cannot be everything for everyone. We must learn to say no to others. It's hard when your a yes girl. I was that yes girl for a long time until I was ready to collapse. I too learned that I wasn't going to be a great mom or a great wife until I was a great me. I found me through Jesus. Jesus is my everything. He fills those empty spots. I found my purpose through Christ. It is Christ who completes me. I had to stop looking for everyone else to fill a need in me that only He could fill.

We love our children and our husband. When we place our husband first it in no way means we love our children less. In fact, it is showing just how much we love our children. The wife and husband are to be one. When we make it a priority to lift up our spouse it creates a home life that brings everyone closer together. Being a wife and mother are only part of who you are. You were created to be a daughter of the King. There is much about you to still grow and learn. Our first priority is spending time with the Lord. Yes, making time with Him gives clarity to our lives. He brings perspective. He adds peace and strength and meets our needs.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter whether your floors are swept and the oven is clean. Those things will still be there tomorrow. What matters most is family. Those one on one moments you will remember forever. The special times shared help create well balanced children.  Spending quiet moments together help to bring peace after a busy day. Home is where you feel safe and secure. It's the one place you can be yourself. It's the place your family comes together. So, put away the dust cloth and break out a game. Play dress up. Have a car race. Make some crafts. Giggle until you pee your pants. Have fun and enjoy one another!

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Ephesians 5:25

"Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. ." Ephesians 5:24


"We do not develop habits of genuine love automatically. We learn by watching effective role models – most specifically by observing how our parents express love for each other day in and day out." Josh McDowell

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Recipe That Brought An Unexpected Blessing

My husband recently celebrated his birthday. I wanted to do something special for him. Give him a birthday he would always remember. I decided I was going to make him a homemade birthday cake. Now, some of you may be spectacular in the kitchen. I can be totally honest with you and say the kitchen is not my gifted area. LOL I think my family can attest to that fact too.

Well, let me make this a little more clear. The area of baking is not my greatest asset. Oh, I try. I try with all my heart, but it just never works out quite like I have it envisioned in my mind. In my mind I am seeing perfection, but that is not what ends up on the cake plate.


A few years back I tried to make homemade bread. Oh friends, I followed the recipe. I made sure I read over the instructions and as I finished each one I would check it off. This was a beautiful bread. It was twisted and golden shiny. I opened the oven and my heart was soaring. It was breathtaking! I thought I had really done it. That is until I put it on the cooling rack. This bread could have weighed five pounds and was hard as a rock. No kidding. The dog wouldn't even eat it. It was probably that he tried but couldn't sink his teeth in.


My heart that had soared with good intention had now sunk and my heart felt as heavy as this brick of bread. I felt tears starting to stream. I had purchased all the ingredients. Followed directions and it flopped! I had every good intention. I wanted to make my family happy. I wanted to see their faces light up when I set this bread on the table for dinner. After that I kind of gave up on trying to bake. It took a while before I attempted anything again. It seemed the more I tried the more something just wasn't right.


So, here I am years later giving it another go with a homemade cake for my husband. It was a mango/carrot cake. He loves mangos. When I found the recipe I knew he would not only be surprised but thrilled. My husband isn't one for big gifts. It's just giving of your heart that wins him and brings a smile to his face.


I get myself together on this snowy day and brave the cold for the needed ingredients. In my cart I also add an extra cake mix and icing made by Betty Crocker herself. You know, just in case it didn't turn out. I was already facing doubt. I too had a little fear racing through my mind. I mean, who can't bake a cake? That would be me, folks!


I hurry home. Trekking through the snow. I put everything away. Pour a cup of coffee and begin making my mango/carrot cake. I gather everything. Read over the recipe twice. Here I am once again checking everything off as I add it to the bowl. I'm ready to mix and pour. I open the oven and pray. Yes, I actually said a prayer that all those ingredients I added would turn into perfection.


The aroma was splendid. The minutes are counting down and as I open the oven my heart sinks. Yes, once again, my dream of perfection, was anything but. My cake was done, but it didn't rise. I wanted to cry. I grabbed my magazine that held this delicious dessert and read over the recipe. Yes, I followed the instructions. Did I beat it too long? Not enough? Did I forget something? Put too much of something in? What in the world went wrong this time? I waited for this cake to cool and added my homemade cream cheese icing and little ringlets of carrots and walnuts to top off this creation. It looked divine. It truly did look spectacular. Well, all except for the rising part. LOL

I now called on Betty Crocker to help me in the kitchen. It was her turn. Of course, her carrot cake would turn out just perfect.  Have you ever compared yourself to the actions or gifts of another? Some how we just never seem to measure up do we? Even as I empty Betty into the mixer and add the eggs, I feel a lesson coming on.


My home smelled as if I had baked perfection. The aroma was inviting. I was so tired after my morning shopping and my afternoon in the kitchen I just put the topper on my cake plate and forgot all about it. I was feeling like it was a wasted day. I didn't want to see disappoint on my husbands face. I wanted to see sheer joy.


My husband came home a bit early from Chicago. He entered the kitchen and said, "Well now, you have been busy." He looked at my cake with such pride. He cut a piece and said, "Babe, it tastes great!" I told him he didn't have to eat it. I explained what had happened and how I had no idea what had went wrong. He wrapped his arms around me and said, "Thank you for making my birthday special." He was delighted I had made such an effort to make his day one to remember. He was thrilled I had tried again. He didn't care one bit that it didn't rise. It wasn't so much how it turned out. It was the effort I put forth. It was the love that I had given through my actions. This is what meant the world to him. I seen sheer joy upon his face.


As my husband tasted the icing, he says, "The icing tastes great!" I had forgotten I had iced the cake with the homemade icing I had made. Yes, the icing, my first homemade icing I've ever made turned out just perfect! I was so focused on the cake I had forgotten all about the icing.


So, yes, this will be the birthday we remember the cake that didn't rise to the occasion. But it too is the afternoon the Lord reminded me that I am a work in progress. No matter how much I try to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, I am first and foremost a daughter of the King of kings. He loves me in my imperfections, because it is through Him that I find perfection. It isn't anything I can do on my own. It's all Him. It's all His love, mercy and grace. It's the Holy Spirit moving through me to create beauty through actions of love.


We can be so terribly hard on ourselves. Friends, this is where grace comes in and covers all. This is where the sweetness of mercy lives. I'm learning to stop doubting myself. I'm growing into the woman who is accepting herself, mistakes and all. I wake each day and embrace the moment. Those mistakes are going to come. I'm learning to face to them and realize that beyond that mistake, that mess that I created, is the sweet love of Jesus. He is just waiting to embrace us.


Even through baking a cake the Lord can teach  great and mighty lessons. Whether I'm trying my best and still cannot hit that mark or whether I misread the instructions and make a mistake by following my own recipe, the Lord is with me. He knows my heart.


Sometimes no matter how much we try it just never seems to turn out as we envision. Sometimes it turns out even better than we could ever imagine.


"A man's steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand." Psalm 37:23-24

"But I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up, though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light." Micah 7:7-8

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