Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Combat That {Junk}

A wise friend once shared with me, "Hon, you can't go to church and allow all the junk to interrupt your worship with Jesus. You have to let all the junk go and fully concentrate on Him". I told ya, right? Wise words. Wise, but is it easy to do? Jesus never asked us to do {easy} for Him. 

This morning I had every intention to study Ephesians, but the Lord had other intentions. I opened my Bible to 2 Timothy and was wowed! Should we expect anything less from our Lord? His Word is living and powerful. I found myself meditating on 2 Timothy 2:1-13 and this is one of the verses that truly shouted out to me and confirmed what my friend had shared. 

"You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." 2 Timothy 2:3-4

I have read that soldiers at times disengage themselves from home and all that takes their mind away from what is present before them. They keep their minds upon the mission. They cannot allow their thoughts to be distracted. It's when their thoughts are torn from the mission that they are caught off guard. Doesn't this make total sense? It sure does for me. As a soldier of Jesus Christ, I cannot allow the junk to get in the way of my worship with Him. 

Maybe you are new to church. Maybe you're a lifetime member of your home church. Just maybe you are blessed not to be touched by {junk} of any sort. Junk can be anything from meddlers to gossip to people arguing over what color the new carpet should be. Junk is ANYTHING that distracts us away from the Lord. 

Church is where we go to worship. Church can be the place where we most love to be. But sometimes..sometimes..junk gets in the way. It can be misunderstandings, words that cause wounds, a Sunday school teacher you don't agree with, jealousy, competition. Yes, we are real people. Sinners in need of grace. We attend church to worship, but somehow we allow the world inside our church doors and all Satan needs is a foothold and pretty soon it becomes a stronghold and here comes the junk. In fact, we often give it a red carpet opening. 

"Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Ephesians 6:10-11

Friends, no matter what the junk is that is distracting us, we must let go of it and set our focus straight. Straight on what really matters. Jesus. Worship Him today wherever you are. Set aside anything that takes your thoughts away from Him. In doing so we gain a new perspective. He gives us new insight as the Spirit speaks to our heart. Avoid being distracted by worldly problems. That is huge in growing in Christ. A life lesson I am still learning. 

I'm learning to let go of the junk that clouds my vision. Junk can wound. Shrapnel doesn't just cut deep. It leaves a gash. An open wound that tears. That isn't what Jesus wants for us. We can walk in His glorious power and wondrous grace. We fight for what truly matters and silence what doesn't. We don't give room for Satan's traps. We don't allow the world room to change us into something we are not to be. Stay focused. Remain pure. Push that junk aside and I guarantee, you're going to be wowed!

Don't allow your daily walk with Jesus to get obscured by day to day annoyances. Combat that junk through prayer, Bible study, and worship.

"We must be absolutely committed and disciplined in our relationships with the Lord--especially as we face trials. Like the soldier, we serve at the pleasure of our Commander, and we must be focused on Him and obedient to His orders--despite the hardships and obstacles. Like an athlete, we press through the pain and abide by the rules to reach our goal, which is glorifying Him. And like a farmer, we patiently wait as our seeds of consistent faithfulness bloom into a harvest of righteousness." Charles F.Stanley

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fears Come in All Shapes and Sizes Especially in a Lump

Can I share a secret with you? It's a doozy and you just may think I've lost it. But, here it goes. Each day since I was nineteen years old I have felt my neck. Just as women we are told to examine our breasts and do self exams. Well, I have given my neck a once over each and every day. Sometimes, probably more than once. I warned that you would think I've lost it. 

See, at nineteen my dad's battle with cancer ended. He fought for a year with lung cancer. His first symptoms that he ignored? A few lumps in his neck. Well, it started with one and then more came. He kept this a secret. At least I had no idea, but then again I didn't know a lot that was going on at that time. Friends had noticed these lumps in his neck and had encouraged him to go to the doctor. He finally did. By then he had a few more symptoms. He thought he just had bronchitis and needed a strong antibiotic. Nope, that wouldn't be the case. So, now do you understand this fear I have? 

About ten years back I was sitting on the couch and turned my head to look at my husband and that's when something painful caught my attention. My hand went to my neck and right there above my collarbone was a lump. My calm was hijacked by the fear that was always there waiting. After doctor visits I found myself sitting in the surgeons office. My feet tapping a hole in the floor. Sure enough it would have to be biopsied. 

Entered the surgery floor that morning with this lump about to explode from my neck. They didn't have to ask where to put the giant X in black print. You could clearly see where it was to go. My Pastor and Youth Pastor came in and prayed over me. With my husband at my side we all prayed. Well, they prayed. At that time my mind was floating off in another time and place. 

As I lay on the surgery table the doctor begins feeling my neck. This isn't just any doctor. He is head of surgery. He knows his stuff and for some reason he's now having a bit of a problem. He has me sit up. He says, "Do me a favor and show me where this lump is", so by now I'm wondering what's going on and that fear of mine is about to have me run right out of the room. I tell him, "It's where the giant X is". Only when I placed my hand exactly where I had felt for the last three months, I wasn't feeling anything. It was gone. How could that be? Don't tell me prayer doesn't work and that God doesn't do extraordinary. My Lord healed me that day. Healed me from the prep room to the short stroll into the surgery room. How about that for some Jesus news to share! My doctor says, "I've never seen anything like it". He went ahead and did a little exploring. I left there with an inch scar on my collarbone and a giant Hallelujah!

Come to find out, that lump that disappeared was a warning sign that something was wrong. I just wasn't feeling well at all. After more tests it turned out that my thyroid needed removed. I had over seventy-five nodules covering my thyroid. I too had a goiter. Only, it wasn't growing outward like most. Nope, mine was growing inward around my windpipe. Check that out for weird. If it's strange or rare, I'm your girl!! 

After all that more surgeries have come and past. Just three months ago I had surgery on my thumb/hand. It was a pretty intricate surgery and a long recovery. Recovery was expected to be a year. Especially since I am a repeat offender and this was my third surgery on my hand. But it wasn't a year. I was released from the doctor last week. Another Hallelujah! 

So, here's where my story begins to hit a big pot hole. My surgery was on March 12. My dad's anniversary date for his home-going was April 20. On that very weekend, once again I was sitting on the couch and turned my neck. Yep, right there in the same place, a lump. Really, of all times to feel a lump? This had to be a joke. But it wasn't. Talk about fear running through your mind. Mine was racing with every thought that could possibly trip me up. Any other date and maybe I wouldn't have been so anxious. Who am I kidding? We feel a lump and we know where our mind goes. The big C word. So, a call into the doctor had me sitting on a table once again. 

He shared with me that he didn't think it was anything serious. Thought it most likely to be a hematoma caused from the block I had for surgery. Since that needle goes in pretty close to the same area as my lump. His advice to me was to just keep watch and it would probably go away. If not gone in a month I needed to give him a call. 

Yes, his phone was ringing for another visit. It's still there. Hasn't moved a bit. I now have an appointment this week with the same surgeon who experienced my healing last time. Let me be super honest. I am scared too death. I've had anxiety attacks and pretty much no sleep. I have felt this fear overcome my normal everyday activities. My husband assures me, "Your just fine, Rob. Everything's gonna be okay". Really? How is he so sure? I'm not so sure. In fact, every possible thought has raced through my mind. Oh, that's the wrong word. It hasn't raced. It has camped out for the long haul. 

I don't want to go through this again. There's a stack of hospital bills and doctor bills on the counter that we have to pay. I know, I have a lump and my thoughts are going to how are we going to pay for more? That's not my first thought or even my last, but it's in the mix. 

I've cried out to God. You know that questions we all ask, "So, where are You?" Can I be honest again? I might be a little mad that I have to yet again go through whatever this is. But you know what? God understands that. He understands my fear and this huge unsettling in my gut. How do I know? He's told me. 

See, after I've cried and had my two year old tantrum, I gave up. I gave up everything I was feeling and laid it all at the feet of my Jesus. Oh, yes, He and I had ourselves a retreat right in my bedroom. Me sprawled out on the floor, face down and tears flowing. He reassured me that He was here with me. Present. Hasn't left me and never will. He encouraged me to look back and that is exactly what I did. I took a trip back in time across all the places that I never thought I'd recover from. All those surgeries, family battles, circumstances that knock you down and test you. He was there for each and every one. In fact, He was there before I ever knew He was there. In those quiet times He was present. He was working deep within my heart. I'm not the same girl I was at nineteen. With each passing year and circumstances that have brought me to question everything in life, He has grown me. Changed me. But see, without all those circumstances I thought I'd never recover from I wouldn't be where I am today. And where am I? Closer to Jesus than ever before. 

He's been doing a masterful work in my heart. After all, isn't that what He's after, my heart? My heart is most important to Him. There isn't anything that touches my life that He doesn't know about. Sure, I may be asking, why, but just maybe I should be asking, why not. I know so many in my community right now that are facing battles. What's so different about me? Why should my life be so easy and without trial? The misconception we have is that we think it tells us in the Bible that Jesus will never give us more than we can handle. Friends, I hate to be the one to share this news, but it simply isn't true. That's found no where in scripture. Friends, if we could handle our own affairs would we really need Jesus? Would we look to Him? Would we cry out to Him and ask Him to move? We'd push Him aside and try to do everything in our own power. I gotta tell ya, I don't wanna work it out myself. I want the King of kings, Lord of lords on my side. I want His will and way for my life. I wanna say, yes, to all He has for me. Good and scary. If I can accept the good, how can I not accept the scary? 

Scary indeed, but what I'm learning, what I know, is this. Jesus wants nothing but the best for me. Plain and simple. If the best means walking through the scary and crawling up on a surgery table, well then, I'm ready. My knees might be shaking and my toes curling, but I wanna follow Him.

This lump could be nothing. It could be something. I know it's not suppose to be there. I could ignore it. But is that smart to ignore warning signs? No, it isn't. I've learned that from the past. But my fears have taken this nothing and turned it into something. Something that's unwanted. As a woman, I know my body. I know when something is not right. This is often where we go terribly wrong. We let things go and ignore what we don't want to see.

See, what I have found is His sweet peace. Oh, I've felt His comforting hand and that peace that is quiet like a stream flowing. But friends, His peace doesn't always come in the form. Sometimes His peace is just knowing He's there. It's a peace that gives you strength to get up in the morning and try again. It's a peace that gives encouragement to fight the battle. It's a mighty gift to know that Jesus in on your side. I feel that peace. I feel His hand upon me. He's already at my doctor's appointment Friday morning at 8:30. He already knows everything that will be said and explored. There aren't any details that's going to surprise Him. Isn't that peace? I say, yes! 

So, I'm not sure what's up ahead for me. Next week may bring new unexpected fears. But one thing I do know and that I'm sure of 100% without a doubt. I will not travel this road alone. I might be kicking and screaming a bit. My anxiety attacks may still hit me in the night. But Satan isn't having this victory. He isn't taking any strongholds. He has no power over me and that's exactly what he's been trying to do. In faith I will follow my Jesus. I will read His Word and be empowered by His promises. 

Over the last few days He has brought me to some verses that have opened my eyes in a new way. Verses I've read tons of times before, but now I am experiencing something totally different. I'm understanding more and more the power of the Holy Spirit. He is within me. That is mind boggling isn't it? So, if He's with me there is nothing for me to fear. Fear is real. If we aren't careful it can overtake our every thought. This is why it's so important to get in the Word. Uncover the scripture that holds the promises of God and know without a doubt that He is present and He will take that fear and replace it with a peace that will overcome. It will settle your gut and clear your mind. 

Here's a few of the verses that I have been reading over this past week. 

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask of think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

"Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!" Psalm 27:14

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

"The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

"Thought the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Through the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls-Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. There Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like a deer's feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills." Habakkuk 3:17-19

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." Romans 8:28-30

"For in it the righteous of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."" Romans 1:17

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into His 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 poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:1-5

Those are some pretty mighty power verses, aren't they? For me, this week they have lifted me up above the circumstances I am facing. Oh, those fears come, but I'm now quick to go to Jesus and it is that quickness, that moment of obedience that I truly find His sweet grace and mighty peace. 

I have no idea what is to come. Jesus doesn't always answer the way we would like. I'd love for Him to just remove this lump and heal me today. If that isn't His will who I am to argue? He has a greater plan that exceeds far beyond my sight and imagination. But what I know is that if God is in He's going to do something mighty big. And in my life may He forever gain the glory.

I've been hit with powerful and ugly cluster migraines that have knocked me for a loop. I just haven't felt good at all. When your stuck in bed, well...it stinks. Add worry on top of that and you have a whole mess of stress. That's not good. That's not what Jesus wants for us. We can actually have abundant life in the midst of our trials. It's moments like this that give room for our faith to grow. 

See, our journey will always have pot holes. Roller coasters that take us high and low. We may feel as though we've been steamrolled. That Mack truck doesn't seem to slow down before it hits us. Friends, we may get knocked down, but we don't have to remain there in the fear and anxiety. We can laugh and find a new joy even when our circumstances haven't changed. Through these circumstances God is doing a heart change within me. He isn't finished with me yet. His goal is to bring me closer to Him and that's exactly where I want to be. Wherever He goes is right where I want to be. Without a doubt there isn't anywhere I wanna go that He isn't already there. 

Jesus is my Jehovah Shalom. The Lord is peace. 



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

God Is Able by Priscilla Shirer

Priscilla Shirer is on fire for God! This is the second book I have had the pleasure of reviewing. I just finished reading, "Discerning the Voice of God". (check out my review). Wow, I can tell you that these two selections were sent to me right on time. God's perfect timing. 

In this extraordinary book Priscilla brings us the scripture verse found in Ephesians 3:20-21. "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.", and breaks it down in seven segments that have opened my eyes to this scripture in a whole new light. This is a scripture I have read many times, but here as Priscilla opens it up, my eyes have been refreshed. I've had that "aha" moment. Don't you love when God does that for us? 

Right now as I have worked my way through these pages I am facing my own set of circumstances that are frightening. Anxiety is overwhelming me. But Priscilla has helped me understand that God is Able! He is right here in the midst of my circumstances. In fact, He has already been here preparing. As I close the last page to this book my heart is lighter. I feel a new peace as never before and I have an added strength. A greater desire to dig deeper into the Word of God and trust Him in a whole new way. I'm ready to say, "Yes, Lord. Yes! Wherever You are that too is where I want to be." 

When I read, "Discerning the Voice of God", it was a slower read for me. So much to absorb. Great stuff. A life changing book. So, when I selected to review this book I was ready for a blessing and that is exactly what I received. 

I loved how Priscilla broke the verse down into seven parts. With each part adding a new way to prove through scripture, her own life experiences, and those of others, that God is able. This verse will now sit upon my desk to be a reminder to me daily. 

Priscilla's teachings are so valuable. She's real. Transparent. And in this book we see a bit of her humor. She shares from her life experiences. Her own battles and fears that she too has overcome. 

Here are some of my favorites throughout the book and let me tell you that there are many, but not enough room to share them all. 

"Sometimes His greatest miracles arrive not in the form of dollar signs and clean X-rays but in transformed attitudes and an abundance of unexplainable peace. Sometimes His best work in not what He does for us but what He does inside us. And believe me, that is no consolation prize."

"I'm more and more convinced that when He chooses to perform physical miracles in our lives-when He does what we consider supernatural and extraordinary-His chief intention even then is not to blow our minds but to cause our hearts to become more inclined toward Him, believe Him, and expect Him, until our primary goal is not that He answer our prayer exactly the way we've been praying it, but that we know Him more fully and intimately."

"Somehow, we think that by not allowing ourselves to over-believe or over-expect, we're giving ourselves a fallback. We think we're helping God out by not forcing Him into a corner where, if He doesn't respond, we might make Him look bad. We're guarding our hearts and our watching friends for children from disappointment, from discouragement, from thinking of God as uncaring and unmoved. No, what we're doing is selling short His glory for pennies on the dollar." 

"But I know from the testimony of God's Word that "power" is one thing we should never feel short on. Even if we do get tired, exhausted even, we don't need to feel impotent. God's power doesn't negate weariness; it enables us to press through it with an uncommon persistence. No matter how tall our challenges are, His power in us is greater still." 

"You cannot out-ask, out-pray, out-dream, or out-believe in the willingness and ability of God. The Father's ability to give to us exceeds our ability to ask. and when your heart is set on this truth, you're standing on a fact that will never change in a highly changeable and challenging world. It will help you sleep easier, laugh harder, and live more peacefully in the midst of trying times." 


You cannot go wrong with Priscilla Shirer. Her writing is real and written for every heart. I have already gained so much wisdom from this woman of God. I cannot wait to continue reading her books. I'm now getting ready to open, "Life Interrupted Navigating the Unexpected". I can't wait to share with you that review! She is quickly becoming one of my favorites. God is doing a wondrous work in me and He is using this precious woman to do some amazing things. 

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

Priscilla Shirer is an internationally recognized Bible teacher who focuses her ministry on the expository teaching of the Word of God to women. She desires to see women both understand the uncompromising truths of Scripture and intellectually and experience them practically. Priscilla is the author of A Jewel in His Crown, and We Are Changed, and He Speaks To Me. She is also an accomplished vocalist. Priscilla and her husband, Jerry, are the founders of Going Beyond Ministries and live in Dallas, Texas, with their three sons.



Friday, June 13, 2014

I Have Seen Him In The Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke

I'm not sure I can ever write a review that can exhibit the true beauty of this novel. Although it is a stand alone, Robert's story continues on through this writing masterpiece. Yes, reading it as a stand alone would be wonderful, but reading it after Cathy's first novel, William Henry is a Fine Name, (check out my review), will allow you to uncover more about Robert and how he has come to be the young man he is today.

Are you ready to travel back in time to the year of 1864? The Civil War is raging throughout the countryside. What life once was is no longer to be. Change is an absolute. Robert isn't quite eighteen yet. Oh, how he wants to serve, but he has made promises to wait. 

I love the relationship and respect that Robert and his father share. Robert doesn't take any part of life for granted. He knows what loss is. He too knows the value of life. 

This is one of those great reads. One that belongs in every library and schoolroom across America. Cathy pens a story that is riveting, but passionate. Robert and the other characters are so well portrayed that you fall in love with them. We have the privileged of watching Robert grow up. We see the wounds of his heart and hope is keeps alive for tomorrow. 

The cover is beautiful. The title grabbed my attention. Cathy reveals just where that title comes from and it is brilliant. I feel like I know Robert. He feels like a little brother. A friend I long to meet. I connected with him right away. 

Robert is a gentle soul. Honest and pure. He walks with integrity. His character is to be admired. This young man is an example for young men of today. For all of us really. I long to have the heart that this young man holds. He is true to himself. Even when tragedy strikes, he never gives up. Even when all seems hopeless, he continues to hang on. After all, he has made promises. There are people who need him. His heart is after answers and in the Lord's perfect timing he finds them. That's another aspect that I love about this novel and William Henry is a Fine Name. We see that no matter what, God is still in control. Faith grows by continually walking forward when you can't see where your feet are traveling, but knowing without a doubt there is One who is leading. 

Everything unimaginable happens to Robert. Sometimes this is just how life feels to us. It's never gonna end. Will things ever get better? Robert walks us through a time in history that we should never forget. With Cathy's remarkable writing we never will. I am more intrigued than ever before about this time period and those who walked these miles in shoes my feet will never touch. 

If you love history this is a novel for you. I can see Keven Costner producing this on the big screen. Yes, it's that spectacular! It is one that will make your imagination soar! I am honored to have been blessed to review these two titles. 

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

Cathy Gohlke's first novel, William Henry is a Fine Name, won the Christy Award. She has worked as a school librarian, drama director for adults and young people, and as a director of children's and education ministries. Cathy lives with her husband in Maryland. You can visit her site at www.cathygohlke.com.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

One More Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong

Cathleen Armstrong writes in such a way that you feel she's sharing a personal story. You're able to connect with the characters because even as they are introduced, they feel like family. 

Her writing flows. Nothing fancy. No complications. No distractions. Just simple story writing that grabs your heart right off the bat. These are characters that we can relate to. They are written so well that we long to know more about them. Armstrong gives detail, but not so much so that the imagination has room to dream. 

I had the pleasure of reviewing the first in this series, "Welcome To Last Chance". (Check out my review) This series is entitled, A Place to Call Home. Once you begin to read the story, you understand why. We are all longing for home. Whether that is a place of the past we dream of or one we never quite had growing up. Home is where we are accepted and loved. It's not about who we are or what we can do. It's about the heart. Armstrong brilliantly shares this message. 

We all need a second chance at one time or another. Sometimes more than a second, but a third and a fourth. I love how Cathleen has brought together two main characters, Sarah, who is returning home and Chris, who is now making Last Chance, New Mexico his new home. Sarah likes things the way they are. Chris is wanting to change a few things and this makes Sarah really uncomfortable. I loved watching these two characters find their own. But they don't do it alone. They do so by the help of the loving people who call this town home. 

Is there really a normal or are things always changing? For these characters change is ever-present in their lives, just as it is in our own. That's what is so easy to relate to. Unless that change is good, it's scary when it happens. We're unsure of ourselves. 

I was excited to catch up a bit with Lainie from the first novel. I just LOVED her character. Seems there is always someone new coming to Last Chance. In this case, Chris is the new comer and Sarah is so sure about him. Although the story revolves around these two main characters there are many to fall in love with. 

But like with any small town it's hard to keep a secret. One of the characters loves to share her opinions, her thoughts and all the happenings, even when it is none of her business and has been asked not to share. LOL I love how Cathleen brings her character to light, because she is someone most of us can relate to. 

This is one of those sweet, afternoon reads that will make your heart soar. I do suggest that you begin with the first book in the series. Yes, this could be a stand a lone novel, but with reading, "Welcome To Last Chance", you will get a greater understanding of this remarkable town that has a gift for making people feel comfortable and accepted. 

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

Cathleen Armstrong is the award-winning author of Welcome to Last Chance. Though she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, her roots remain deep in New Mexico where she grew up and where much of her family still lives. Learn more at www.cathleenarmstrong.com

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Bridge Tender by Marybeth Whalen

I just love Marybeth Whalen. Really. You can see her sweet spirit through the words she pens so eloquently. She brings a story to life by adding such rich emotion that gives the reader that extra bonus in uncovering the truest form of enjoying a novel. 

I have enjoyed each of her novels. The Mailbox probably being my favorite. With each novel from the Sunset Beach collection we meet characters that are so real. We see their heart etched in the story-line, and their realities become very much our own. 

This is a story that could be on the big screen. I can see Sandra Bullock playing the lead roll of Emily. This novel gives me the same feeling as one of my fave movies, Hope Floats. 

The writer has done their job when you feel the deep pain of a character. When they bring you to laughter, you know they have a rich gift. 

I enjoyed this novel very much. I loved the connection between Emily and Ava. Their circumstances ironic, but so poignant to the story. It would be wonderful if each of us could have a connection like the one we witness between these two sweet ladies. 

I love seeing Jesus throughout this entire story. The message doesn't jump off the page and hit you in the face. It's gentle and moving. Marybeth has taken a bridge and has given each reader a way in which they can connect to the story. 

New love. New life. We are reminded that God has a plan for each of us. We can't see what's up ahead, but we can trust Him without a doubt to bring us to the very places in life He has chosen for us. This is a story that will touch your heart and leave you wondering about the bridges in your own life. 

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

Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six Children. She is the co-founder of She Reads, an online book club focused on spotlighting the best in women's fiction. Marybeth is the author of The Mailbox and The Guest Book. She spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scrible 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 www.marybethwhalen.com

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

I chose to review this book through the Blogging for Books Program. This is the first book I have reviewed that isn't Christian Fiction or Non-Fiction. So, before I continue on with my review I want my readers to understand that this book is in no way a christian based novel. 

Some may wonder why I chose to read a book that isn't christian and post the review on my blog. Well, I am a lover of christian novels, but I too am a lover of all genres of books. This isn't something I normally read, but it intrigued me. Yes, there is some language and sex that I found uncomfortable. With that being said, the story line is fascinating. 

The cover caught my eye. The title was intriguing. After reading the description of the book I was even more captivated. Miranda is a new author for me. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I can tell you that I really enjoyed this read. 

The characters were real. We see the beauty and the ugly in people. The story started out with two college roommates and from there it exploded in so many different directions. What I loved is that the story continued to grow. With every chapter I grew more captivated. It is a complex story, which again I love. I'm captivated when a story is always taking a different direction, never truly allowing the reader to know where he or she is going. 

Yes, you could call this a coming of age story. But it is so much more. It's about family, secrets and lies. We see what happens when sin takes over and how it destroys the heart of people. Greed comes in all different sizes and shapes. 

It gives us the question, just how far are we willing to go to reach success? And what is success to us? The heart is deceptive and Miranda brings this out in a spectacular read. 

This novel was a gift from the Blogging for Books Program and it published by Crown Publishing

Miranda Bevery-Whittemore is the author of three novels, including The Effects of Light and Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for the best book of fiction by an American woman published in 2007. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, she lives and writes in Brooklyn and Vermont. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Little Red Bible

When I was a little girl we lived in the country. My mother had befriended our neighbor. She was in her early 80s and was a scrapper of a lady. She was a lot fun. Friendly, warm and inviting. She was like the grandmother I never had. Ms. Fry lived in an old farm house that was filled with stuff. Stuff that captivated me. 

I remember her having a huge garden. She'd allow me to help her. After working in the garden there was always a glass of milk and a snack waiting. I truly enjoyed this lady. 

Some days I would go over by myself and spend the entire day until Mom called me home for dinner. She was very giving and she would go through all her stuff with me. Showing me this and that. Until one day she opened a cabinet and I saw them. A stack of little red books. I had never seen a red Bible before. Had no idea they were Bibles until she shared with me. She even let me hold one. From then I knew I wanted one. But I too knew it would be wrong for me to ask her if I could take one home. So, I kept that secret to myself. Hoping one day she would give me one. 

A few hot summer months passed and we had new neighbors move in across the street from us. A family that had four rambunctious kids. Two boys and two girls. I became friends with them and had to introduce them to Ms. Fry. I had told them how much I loved her and how she was a good friend. But something happened I wasn't ready for. She began inviting them over. They began spending more time there than me. I was hurt. I didn't understand. Yep, I was jealous. After all, I thought of her as my grandmother. 

On one afternoon we were all there visiting with Ms. Fry when she opened her cabinet and to my amazement she pulled out the Bibles. I knew my hope had come true. She was about to give me a Bible. Maybe even the one that she allowed me to hold. Only she didn't. I stood there excited. Anticipating the feel of the little red Bible in my hand. Only she handed all four out to the neighbor kids and I was left standing empty handed. 

I went home that evening heartbroken. I didn't understand. I don't think I even shared my wound with my mom. Every thought went through my mind. I was only a little girl, but yet I remember this as if it were yesterday. Was I not good enough? Did she not love me? 

Later on I found our family Bible. Mom kept it under a table in our living room. I never remember her reading it. I think she just collected information in it and kept special photos inside. But I would pick up that huge Bible and sit on the couch cross-legged. I had no idea I was reading the Word of God. Didn't know what the red print meant. But I had a feeling. The same feeling I had when I held that little red Bible. 

Years later I would look back on those times and wonder. God knew me even though I didn't know Him. He knew my name and He too knew my heart. Even as a young girl, a tree climbing tomboy, He loved me. I still get that same feeling today when I pick up my own Bible. Isn't He simply amazing? 

I don't know why Ms. Fry gave everyone a Bible except me. Maybe she thought I had one. Maybe she knew something I didn't. Maybe she knew the little neighbor children needed them. I don't think she knew I was hurt. I hid that. I too never did share with her that I would have loved to have one. 

What I do know is that God was drawing me near to Him. I wouldn't come to know Jesus as my Savior until years later when I was twenty-three. I love knowing that He had a plan for my life. I never did get that little red Bible I loved so much. But my home is filled with many Bibles now and I have been blessed to give away many Bibles to the children I have taught over the years. Best of all I have been blessed to place a Bible in the hands of each of my children. And this Nana has a Bible for each of her grandchildren.  

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." 
Ephesians 2:10

"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

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

A Little Bottle of Raspberry Wine

A friend and I had a code for those days that were about to take us over the edge. "I need a drink". Those words were code for I'm about to pull my hair out! Together in our sweet friendship we would encourage one another through those difficult days. We would sit and share coffee and talk until we felt peace wash every last bit of, "I need a drink", away. 

I grew up in an alcoholic family. Everyone drank. Mom, dad, aunts, uncles. Everyone.  There were not any family functions in which alcohol didn't play a part. Pick a holiday and I can remember an instance where the drink got to be too much for one and a huge fight would break out. It was normal for our family. Isn't that sad? I grew up thinking this was the norm. 

It wasn't until I was married to my husband and in our first year of marriage we went to a family function that I realized it wasn't the norm. No one was drinking. No alcohol was in the building. I even remarked to my husband, "What's going on? No one's drinking". This was a mind blowing thought to me. Could you really have fun and enjoy yourself at a party without alcohol? One sure could. That was one of the greatest evenings we enjoyed together. I witnessed this wonderful Christian family take part is laughter and hugs. And you know what? Not a fight at all broke out. 

I haven't had a drink since I sipped champagne with my husband on our wedding night. I was twenty-three. Wait. That's not entirely true. I sipped a bit of champagne at my daughter's wedding. I'm now forty-seven and I still have my days in which I want a drink. 

With deep regret I have to be honest. That's the only way to write, isn't it? Just to be simply transparent? I drank as a teen. In fact I drank a lot as a teen. Remember, I thought it was the norm. At age nineteen my dad died of lung cancer. That night after coming home from the hospital I was lost. My world was crushed. Nothing made any sense. My dad was suppose to come home on this day. He was suppose to get better. I walked into the kitchen. Opened the fridge and grabbed a beer. One of my dad's last of his six pack. I took that beer and went out and fell asleep in his boat. You could say that was a life changing night for me. I knew drinking couldn't be a part of my life. 

At twenty I became pregnant with my first daughter. Seems, God was blessing me and at the same time was making sure this messed up girl wasn't going to drink. At the time I didn't know Jesus as my Savior. And if you mentioned God to me I would have punched you in the face. Remember. Honesty. I was mad and God was my number one enemy. 

When I received Christ into my heart He changed my life forever. As years passed things began to make sense. At least things were becoming clearer to me. No one in my present life drank. Drinking didn't fit into my life. It was then that I understood why so many do drink to excess. They're unhappy, mad, confused, depressed, insecure, and like me, they think drinking is the norm. This could have been any member of my family. In many ways it was me. 

So, after being married and having a home of five kiddos, my life was complete. Sure, as a mom and a wife, there are days that you're not sure how it's gonna turn out, but I learned to depend on my Savior. I found joy in so many things. But there in the back of my mind was always the thought, "A drink sure would sound good about right now". 

Last week while celebrating my son's birthday our family took a trip to his favorite restaurant. It is almost a three hour drive. Whew. Praise Jesus for gas stations with clean bathrooms! As we made our stop I made my way to the bathroom and then get a drink for the drive. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense doesn't it? As we were paying and getting ready to go out the door I noticed a display of wine from a local winery. What caught my eye was the raspberry wine. I picked it up and as I did my hubs says with a smile, "Yeah, I think we're gonna leave that right where it is". The lady behind the counter giggled at his humor. See, my hubs knows me better than anyone. I love that about him. He knows that at times it is a struggle. I'd love to have a glass of wine. But for me it wouldn't end there. That glass would turn into another and that bottle would soon gather friends. 

We have to know ourselves. We have to understand what makes us tick. What could cause us to stumble. Where the temptations are that cause us to question. I think our problem as a society is is that we don't know how to tell ourselves no. We take the easy route. We make excuses. Most of all we aren't able to be accountable. 

"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to god. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." 
Romans 6:13-14

"For we know that he law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good." 
Romans 7:14-17

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." 
Romans 12:12

See, for me, drinking is a sin. I know it is a sin because I hear the Lord warning me. He gives me a way out. He fills my heart with everything I need. He gives me strength to overcome. And He reminds me that His sweet grace is always bigger than my sin. 

Being tempted isn't a sin. For me, that temptation for that bottle of raspberry wine was real. People just don't drink because something is wrong. Sometimes it is because they actually enjoy the taste. But that is where it must begin and end for me. My lips can't touch that glass of wine. I know what would happen. I've seen it in my family. Alcoholism destroys people. Not just the alcoholic, but those who love them. 

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." Galatians 5:16-18

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 
1 Corinthians 15:57

What is your temptation? It may not be a little bottle of raspberry wine. Temptation is anything that calls us away from the will of God. It's anything that could destroy us. Anything that could lead to sin. Jesus knew temptation. He was tempted by Satan. He overcame because He focused on His Father. Don't ya know that Satan too knows our greatest temptations? He lies in wait to deceive us into thinking that one glass of raspberry wine isn't going to hurt us and so what if you have two. He messes with the mind. He brings us to confusion. 

This is why it is so valuable for us to dig deep and truly know ourselves. To be honest with ourselves and those around us. Ask for friends to help you be accountable. Share your struggles with others. This is how we know we're not alone. We all face temptations of many kinds. Life is not without them. When we begin to be honest with ourselves is when we will begin to truly grow. Allow Jesus room in our heart so the Spirit can lead us and encourage us to live victory over all that temps us. 

"The better you hear His voice and want to follow. If I have presented my body to Him as a living sacrifice, and I'm being transformed by the renewing of my mind, then I'm able to prove-to put to the test-what His will is. He will show me that which is good, acceptable, and perfect for me." 
Kay Arthur

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Daddy's Razor and the Bathroom Sink

As a kid I was mesmerized by my dad. I mimicked everything he did. Each morning he would rise at the crack of dawn. Four in the morning came early. Each morning my mom would make him a fried egg sandwich with cheese and mustard. I would try waking when my dad did, but that's kind of hard when your only six. But when I woke there on the table waiting for me was my fried egg sandwich. I would even eat sardines on crackers with him. EWE! Hey, if dad loved them, I loved them just the same. 

Oh, my dad was pretty great. Even at that young age he was grooming me for softball. He figured if I could throw a baseball and hit one, well, that would make me an even better softball player. You know what? It worked! We may have had a few mishaps along the way. Like when he tossed me the ball and my face caught it instead. Broke my nose. Blood was everywhere. As my mom freaked out, my dad calmly said, "She's okay, aren't ya, Rob?" Well, of course I was NOT, but hey, if dad thought I was okay, I was good to go. In fact, after I was all cleaned up we were back at it again. Lesson learned. Keep glove up. 

My dad would shave almost every morning. I would stand in the bathroom and watch him. He had one of those razors with the guard. You know the one. He too used that super cool shaving cream, Barbasol. Okay, who couldn't have fun with that? Seriously! 

I would wait until he was at work and I would break out the Barbasol. I'd climb up on the sink. Funny, how I seemed to fit there perfectly in front of the mirror. I would grab the razor, but first I made sure my face was covered with Barbasol. Hey, dad didn't shave his forehead, but I sure did. I'm surprised I never took off my eyebrows. LOL

I would sit there with my legs crossed and shave until I was for sure no hair was left. I mean, you gotta get all that stubble. Am I right? I would do every stroke my dad would do. I was a pro. I never even cut myself! Another amazing phenomenon for me. Well, I may have that answer. See, my dad knew what I was doing. Probably a good clue when he was always out of Barbasol. Since he knew I watched him and mimicked his every move, once I was out of sight, he would take the razor out and hide it. That brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. He was protecting his baby girl. 

Who knew time would fly and that little girl would lose her dad to cancer when she was only nineteen. After my dad was gone I would walk into our bathroom and sit on the sink. Yep, I still fit. If I told you that I never picked up his razor again and shaved I'd be lying. 

Funny how years later those little things have such an impact on our life. While we are living do we really think about the memories we are making? My dad could have told me to go play. He could have shut the bathroom door. But you know, I believe he enjoyed it just as much as me. I was the boy he never had. But I too was the girl he adored. 

Dad always used Irish Spring and he always smelled like Old Spice. I loved the smell of my dad. Yep, I would splash on Old Spice after I shaved. Still today, we have some under our bathroom sink. Every once in a while I will pull off the top and take a step back in time. 

"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma." 
Ephesians 5:1-2

"Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you." 
1 Corinthians 11:1-2

Who knew all these years later that me mimicking my daddy would help me to realize that I need to mimic my heavenly Father in everything. I need to listen for His voice. What I see Him do, I too need to do. Just as my dad put the razor away for my safety, my Lord Jesus, also protects me. He guards me when I think all is okay. He has placed a hedge of protection around me. I may not see everything that's coming my way, but He does. He intercedes for me.

Shaving, softball, fishing. Yep, dad taught me many things in the short time we had together. He gave me encouragement and inspired me to think outside the box. To believe all things possible. Oh, if I could sit with him now and share all that I have learned. I think he'd be pretty proud. 

In many ways I'm still that little girl looking to her Father. Wanting to see what He's doing and do just like Him. Only now I'm not at the sink with a razor in hand. I'm sitting cross-legged with my Bible in hand. 






Two Cups of Coffee Side by Side

Two coffee cups share a spot on the counter. 

She hopes there will always be two cups side by side. 

So many years together. She had found his love of coffee. She had watched him gently sip the liquid warmth over the years. She now could share in what she understood to be a coveted moment in time. 

Each night before bed she readied the magic brew. Timed it perfect for each morning. She set down two cups side by side ready to to enjoy. 

As the morning sun began to rise the house would deliver the tantalizing smell that awakened them. She readied it at night and each morning he would pour her cup first and then his. He would carry this gift to her every morning and say, "For my princess". They would snuggle in for a few sweet hours of chatting about life, dreams and just silliness. 

Priceless. 

They would become best friends. 

His cup held black. Her cup was vanilla. So much about them different. Yet, so much alike. The years had given them a gift of peace and stillness. Both hold great faith that continues to grow. Learning to never take moments like these for granted. 

Raised five children together and an array of family pets. Life has been busy. Work. Homeschooling. Sports. Church activities. Every day seemed to hold something. This was the life they dreamed.

But now, over coffee, they dream together. They pick places on a map and share where they would like to travel. They say what gifts they would give if it were possible. They take vacations to places they will never see in real life, but through their dreams, they escape and are already there. 

Her husband leaves for work. She walks to the kitchen to empty their cups. It hits her. What happens if one day there is only one cup? No. She refuses to go there. But God calls her there. He wants her to see. He wants her to remember. 

She now embraces each moment. She lets the little stuff go. She listens more. She is careful to look into his beautiful green eyes. She soaks in his laugh. Appreciates so much more. Never does she want time to pass without realizing how special each moment is. She wants to start again. Living each moment not as its the last, but as if it were the very first. 

They hold hands. They dance. They pray for their children and grandchildren. Oh, their love has grown through the years. Not every moment was easy. Some days she wanted to give up. But, God grew them. They learned to trust Him. To open their hands and give Him everything. 

Whether they have twenty-five years or eighty-five, she prays they never forget the love. The simple love. She prays the laughter remains and the prayers come to fruition. 

No more worry about the spilled coffee on the counter or the dirty boots left by the door. 

She stops now. Each morning in the quiet. She looks around and sees the life they have created together and she loves him all the more. 

Should I Serve You Even Though You're Different?

There are times I struggle with writing from the heart. I want to be obedient to my Jesus. I want to serve Him with the gifts that He has given me. But being transparent isn't always pleasant. What if some are offended? I have gone back and forth about writing this. Some may understand. Some may agree. Some may attack. But what I can share with you is that this is my conviction. 

We are called to serve. Who is that we serve? As I have studied scripture the word I am continually seeing is ALL. Not a select few. Not just those I like. Not those who I can gain something in return. I am to serve those around me with the sweet love of Jesus. 

Let's say I am the owner of a bakery. Okay, now, how sweet would that be? If I could bake that might be a possibility. Not a gift of  mine, but one I can surely work on. Now, I've owned my shop for ten years. I have built a great business. I have a connection with the community. I love my bakery. Love my customers. It is connecting with others that I think I love the most. To give a cup cake to someone brightens their day. To create the cake of a bride's dream brings joy to my heart. 

Now, since I'm known in the community, most everyone knows that I am a Christian. They know my convictions and hopefully that know that I am a woman of God. Not just through word, but in deed. I have decorated my shop with a Christian theme. With each purchase, as I had the receipt over, I am hoping that the hand it has gone to will read the scripture attached to each receipt. For those who purchase cakes from me, I send out a card of gratitude. Not just any card, but one that shares the love of Jesus. Yes, although God has gifted me with the talent of baking, He too has given me the heart of a mercy. The hands of a servant. 

But what happens the day a gay couple enters my shop and asks me to bake them a wedding cake? Now, everything I claim to be. Everything about me will either shine Jesus or the hate and judgement of the world. Now, as a Christian, I know without a doubt that homosexuality is a sin. If I take part in this am I too sinning? Do I boldly stand in my convictions about sin? 

Well, let's just say I don't serve them because of their sin. I might as well shut the doors to my bakery, because every soul that enters my shop is a sinner. So, where does my service begin and end? As an American citizen I can serve whomever I choose. I have the right to turn away anyone. But as a Christian is it the same for me? 

See, as this couple enters my shop, they share with me that they have heard how wonderful my cakes are and would be honored if I could bake them a cake for the special day they have chosen. If I turn them away am I showing them the love of Jesus? 

Now, I don't have to attend the wedding. I don't have to agree with the standard in which they are living. In fact, I simply don't have to like them at all. See, as a Christian, I want them to leave my shop with more than just a cake. The more people I serve the more opportunities I have to share the love of Christ. 

As I have shared with you, these are my convictions. This is the message that I am hearing. So, let me share a few verses with you before I continue. 

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without the law, as without the law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those we who are without the law; to the weak I became as the weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you." 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience' sake; for "the earth is the Lord's, and  all its fullness." If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience' sake. but if anyone says to you, "This was offered to idols," do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience' sake; for "the earth is the Lord's and all its fullness." "Conscience," I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:23-33` 11:1

"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall over your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another." Galatians 5:13-15

Friends, I don't claim to have all the answers. But what I do know is that we are not going to open the door for people to receive Jesus unless the world sees those who follow Christ as the Christ followers we claim to be. We are to be in the people business and leave the soul business to Christ. Our outright judging others isn't winning for the cause. We pick out a few sins and stake a claim on those, forgetting all others. 

What about serving the town gossip? What about the man of God who drinks in secret? Should I too turn him away? What about the church secretary who takes home a few extras without thought? What about the condemning eyes of the judgmental Sunday school teacher who watches through her window at all the happenings and then starts the prayer chain with the latest news? The man who goes home after work and slaps his wife because dinner isn't on the table at 5:00. The woman having an affair with the owner of the local car lot. Can we admit that most of our sins are in secret? We go home at night and close the blinds as we scream at our children and watch television shows about demons and vampires. We get out the ice cream at night and before we know it the entire carton has disappeared before our very eyes. Over eating is a sin. Friends, isn't it time we stopped judging people and started loving? Isn't it time we get off our judgmental goggles and learn to see through the eyes of Jesus?  

How are we going to reach a world for Christ if we continue to turn people away? By serving people who are different than us, doesn't mean we agree with their life style. It means we agree with what our Lord compels us to do. Serve with love. To serve all.

Whether you are serving in a bakery, the local grocer, or wherever you have chosen to serve the public in some capacity. Shouldn't we simply serve with a loving heart? It doesn't matter who comes across our path, who enters into our life, if we are a believer, our life belongs to Christ. Serving gives us an opportunity to live out Jesus to the world. It gives others an opening to see that we are different. It gives opportunity for others to ask questions. For me to invite them to church or a christian function. We have to give way for that door to the world to be opened. 

Paul wasn't hindered by culture. He didn't allow differences to stop him from reaching out and preaching the Word of God. We cannot just accommodate to those like us. The point is, we must reach out to those who are not like us. We must not limit our God by our hang ups. We cannot box our God in and move in just our sweet, little circle of people. We need to serve without seeing sinners. We can learn to serve with love and grace. Who am I to judge another? Half the time I'm living in the flesh, when I should be living in the Spirit. 

I can impact my community through serving in my bakery. I can do more in serving than I can in turning someone away. Do I have that right to turn people away? In America today, yes we do. Our rights are being changed. Things are being forced upon us that shouldn't be. But how do we win in that battle? Isn't Satan the winner when all we do is fight and bicker? Nothing comes from acting in the flesh. It is when we listen and obey the Spirit that He moves and touches the hearts of those we serve. 

What happens when I bake the most beautiful cake I've yet to create and I serve this cake to this couple? I send with them a card. I have opened my heart and shared love. I also send, in my own way, scripture that leads to receiving Jesus as Savior. I have opened the door to make a connection. I now have two hearts I can pray for. I now have opened my own heart to Christ and have allowed myself to be used as His vessel. No one knows what will happen down the road. It could be weeks, months, years, but change can happen. Nothing is impossible when we share the love of Christ.

As a Christian I would be hurt if I walked into a place of business and they refused my service for whatever reason it is. What are we saying when we turn someone away? I don't understand you. I don't believe in you. I don't want anything to do with you. You are different from me. You are not a believer. Friends, there is judgement on both ends of this spectrum. But shouldn't it be different for those who believe? 

Serving the world doesn't mean we accept sin. We shouldn't accept any sin. Sin is sin. We tend to forget that. Aren't we to look at the heart of man? Isn't that what we are aiming for? Without Jesus aren't we all dead in sin? How do we reach out to a world we are not willing to serve? What was the cross about then? Jesus didn't just die for those few. He died for all. He wanted all to come to know Him as Savior. We can share Jesus through the gifts He has given us. Where would I be if someone hadn't reached out to me? I would still be lost. 

"But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

Change comes when we are willing to change ourselves. It takes courage to change. We must humble ourselves and realize that it isn't all about us. It is about our Jesus. When given opportunity how often do we intercede for others? Can we have conversations with those who are different from us? My husband and I have a little joke between us that we say; "It is a darn shame the world cannot be as perfect as we are." Ouch! It really is easier to see the sins of others before we see our own. It isn't up to us to condemn people. We share the love of Jesus and it is up to Him to convict the heart. Conviction and condemnation are two different things. And friends, Jesus didn't come to condemn. 

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

Serving isn't about my opinion or how uncomfortable I am. We are to listen to the Spirit. We cannot expect from others what we ourselves are not willing to do. So, in my service I must continue to walk in the Spirit and allow Him to direct me. Jesus works in miraculous ways. When we give Him the room in our lives that He needs, wow, the possibilities are endless! I pray that as others cross my path they see a girl who loves Jesus. A Jesus who saved a wretch like me. 


Monday, June 2, 2014

Sarah's Choice by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue

The cover caught my eye. The description had my attention. The story had my heart. This is a wonderful novel. I was taken by Sarah right away. Why? Her honesty. This is a girl who desires perfection. She strives for nothing less than perfect. She wants to succeed in everything she does. Failure isn't an option. But Sarah soon realizes that one choice leads to another and one poor choice could change her life forevermore. 

But Sarah's life is woven with deep hurts. I could relate to her on so many levels at carrying the wounds of losing her father. My heart bled with her as she shares her family circumstances with a friend. Friendship is something Sarah needs. Seems every friend has advice, but is it advice that is good for Sarah? I love her friendship that blossoms with Audrey. What I love even more is at first glance each of these ladies admits that they didn't like one another. But we see that God knows exactly what He's doing as He places people along our path. 

Sarah's co-worker, Megan, got under my skin at first. She gives Sarah advice. Tells her exactly what she should do. Advice that could leave a scar forever. What's sad is that Megan wholeheartedly believes her advice to be wise. Before I could judge, Megan, I had to realize that this is how she was raised. She was full of self and if there was an interruption, get rid of it! But as the story grows, Megan too grows by the life and choices of Sarah. 

Matt is a character that kind of lives by the seat of his pants. Maturity hasn't grasped hold of him yet, but as we see through Matt, God is forever growing us and gives us circumstances in life to grow us and bring us closer to Him. 

Matt doesn't have a relationship with Jesus. Sarah grew up in church. She knows scripture, but like many, she has grown angry with God. Again, I could relate with Sarah. Her heart aches for her father. Going to her mother's home stresses her out. She misses her dad and his absence has Sarah simply lost.

I love how the writers brought out Sarah's relationship with her mother. Her mama is a deep believer, but too often she ends up preaching at Sarah. I too have made this mistake. Her mama feels this is what Sarah needs to hear, but it only pushes Sarah away more. Through the novel we see their relationship grow and they learn how to communicate with one another. 

This novel is one that looks into the heart of a girl who desires success and doesn't want anything to get in the way of that. We see her struggle. We witness her question herself. I loved how there were people who literally shared with Sarah about having the baby, giving the baby up for adoption and having an abortion. 

This isn't a novel just about making the choice to have a baby or have an abortion. It's about family, love and healing. It's about characters finding their way through choices. About what's important and what isn't. What's truly valuable and what isn't. 

God moves in mysterious ways and He is reaching out to Sarah in ways that makes her realize it's Him. This is such a precious novel. Her heart is so conflicted. She wants to make the right choice, but what if she doesn't? This is a novel that every single reader can relate to on one level or another. The characters are so real. I love how each character peeled back like an onion to reveal the deepest part of their spirit. 

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

Rebecca St. James is both a Grammy and multiple Dove Award recipient as well as a best-selling author whose books include Wait for Me and What Is He Thinking?? Her leading role in the pro-life film Sarah's Choice won critical acclaim. A passionate spokesperson for Compassion International, Rebecca has provided sponsorship to more than 30,000 children through her worldwide concerts. 

Nancy Rue is the best selling author of more than 100 books for teens, tweens, and adults, two of which have won Christy Awards. Nancy is also a popular speaker and radio show guest due to her expertise in tween and teen issues. She and her husband, Jim, have raised a daughter of their own and now share their Tennessee lake home with two yellow labs. 
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