Friday, October 23, 2015

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

I am a huge fan of Dan Walsh. I have loved every book he has yet to pen. So, when I seen this for review I knew I had to snatch it up. The cover caught my eye with that little gingerbread cookie house that looks so inviting and warm. 

Dan's writing is impeccable. He is a master story-teller. I liked the premise of this story. A husband making way to give his wife a Christmas to treasure. A husband doing all he can and giving all he can to his wife, a wife that isn't so much doing the same to him. 

They are empty-nesters. This is the first time that none of their three children will be home for the holidays. Although Stan isn't so thrilled about the idea, he is quite content and happy to enjoy time with his wife, Judith. Stan seems so gentle and loving. Judith seems pretty caught up in her self. She isn't happy that her children will all be spending the holidays with their own family or friends. She simply wants them at home and nothing else will make her happy. 

Stan is trying to help her as much as he can. He gets the decorations out and brings the tree in for holiday decorating. He brings in the box with their children's ornaments that are homemade and thinks this is going to bring joy to his wife. Nope. Not at all. It's just the opposite. Can I be really honest? I didn't like her character at all. 

Christmas isn't Christmas until Stan gives up something he's been planning with a friend to give the biggest surprise gift to his wife. It seemed everyone gave in some way or another except Judith. 

This was a quick read for me. Again, I always enjoy Dan's writing. His writing here is just as wonderful as always. I just couldn't really get into loving these characters or caring about their holidays, except for Stan. I found Stan admirable and very likable. He was a true blessing to a wife that couldn't see past herself. 

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

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley, as well as The Unfinished GiftThe Discovery, and The Reunion. He has won three Carol Awards, and two of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year for 2011 and 2012. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for twenty-five years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. Visit for more.

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

This is a really joyful, lighthearted read. It was a quick afternoon read for me. The writing flows and the characters are lovely. The story-line is sweet and tender. To top it off this novel is filled with beauty and giving.  

I love the premise of the story. Joy is an unforgettable character. This elderly woman is full of life, love, and purpose. She isn't one to look at her own circumstances with pity or question, "Why me?" She's one to give until it hurts. She's a woman to admire as her beauty shines forth in her service to others. 

I too found Miranda to be just as lovely. Disappointment has splashed down on her life and she's in the middle of wondering, "What am I going to do now?", but here is Joy to encourage her and inspire her to not look at the circumstances around her, but to look at life as an opportunity to explore. Joy nudges Miranda to take a trip with her. It's on this journey that the heart of both of these ladies becomes clear to the reader. 

This is one of those wonderful Christmas reads that helps the reader to realize their own blessings. To see that it's not our circumstances, but how we react to them that matters. Attitude is everything!! 

A sweet story about giving and finding blessings in the most unexpected places. 

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

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas BusThe Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another GirlAnything but NormalDouble Take, the Life at Kingston High series, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. She is the winner of a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. Melody and her husband live in Oregon. For more information about Melody visit her website at

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Where There Is Fear Faith Can Overcome

It isn't by chance that God gives us, "Do Not Fear", 365 times in the Bible. He knew we would fear in this life before us. 

You're not going to hear from me that if you have faith you will have no fear. No, it is in that very fear that your faith will come alive and carry you through. Your faith will give you strength and courage. 

Our fears can consume us. They keep us from living a life in freedom. Can we ever truly be free from fear? In trusting Jesus we can overcome the fear that shackles our feet in concrete. 

How do we trust Him? We believe Him. We either believe He is God and He's in control or He isn't. Each day we have to make a choice to surrender our fears to Him. Ask Him to reveal Himself to us in ways that remind us He never falters, never waivers, never will we slip from His hand. 

Instead of a mind filled with what could happens we need to fill our mind on positive things from above. This world is filled with evil that is very real. Each day we must remember that God is alive and working in ways that we cannot see. His ways are higher than ours. That brings a comfort to me. When tragedy strikes I don't have to understand what makes no sense at all. What I do is believe that God will bring beauty from ash. He will use for good what Satan intends for evil. 

In this past year my fears have grown more real to me. As many of you know September 12, 2014 my friend's son, Donnie, was hit and killed by a drunker driver. You can read Donnie's story

It is since Donnie's death that fear has become more alive to me. I recently shared with my mother the fears that surface daily. I have kept this inside for such a long time now. Not wanting to share the thoughts that come and bring instant tears. 

Driving, hearing sirens, many things set it off for me. Most of all I question when the bad day for my family is coming. Our family has been so very blessed. For that I give God glory and thanksgiving daily. Our family isn't immune to tragedy. Why another and not us? So many things can happen and those things run raggedly through my mind. 

Where do I find escape? I turn to Jesus. I call out His name. I turn on Christian radio. I open my Bible. I read Christian novels and spread out my devotionals. I keep an open contention with my Jesus daily, praying and asking God to place a hedge of protection around my family. I take time and spill out blessings one after the other until the fear is gone. But I also must ask Him to use us in a mighty way. To broaden our territory and to give show us our purpose and call. To open the hearts of my children. For my grandchildren to receive Him as Savior at a young age and love Him all the days of their life. 

What Satan is trying to use to take me down, only brings me to my knees and closer to my Jesus. I refuse the thoughts of fear and ask God to change my focus to the things He has set before me that bring me to a time of thanksgiving and praise instead of fear and anxiety. 

When I turn to Jesus and away from my fears it only makes me love Him more and more, for He shows me His mighty strength covered in a grace that unveils His great love for me. 

Prayer is conversation with Jesus. Keep it going throughout the day. Prayer is powerful. It is our communication line straight to God. It is in Him and Him alone that all fear can be cast out. Friends, we don't have to allow fear to dictate our lives. It has its place in our life by giving us warning of evil, but beyond that warning we do not have to allow it room in our lives. 

I still wrestle with fear, but it isn't winning. There is a Victor in my life and that Victor is Jesus, my Warrior, my Shield, my Safe Harbor. 

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things." 
Philippians 4:8

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."  
1 John 4:18

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  
Joshua 1:9

Splash in Splendor

Do the trees cry out, "Oh, if only I were a mighty Oak, a tall and slender Elm, a full Maple, a Pine that will one day be used for a Christmas Tree?", or do these trees simply be who they are and magnify the glory of the Creator?  

The hills splash in splendor. The mountains paint glory. They come together and sing, "Hallelujah"! In each season they transform, change occurs, leaves bud, leaves fall, all that happens is change needed. For if there were no season of change we would miss the splendor of beauty that echos God's love and perfect work. 

It is together, as each colors the landscape, that they show us a kaleidoscope of God's magnificence.  Each tree different. None the same. Unique in every way. Different shapes and sizes. The leaves, the trunk, the branches, the roots, all unique. Some are young and some have been around for years, yet they come together in a motion of color that streams a glory that catches the eye and draws the soul to into worship. 

These trees do not compete against one another. Together they inspire. The differences can be seen, but more importantly it is because they are all different that they bring such glory. Even when they are green of summer there are still variations of color. Oh, how they make one another pop. They bring out the best in each other. 

They endure storms together. The winds blow, the sun beats, the rains pour, but there they are together standing against the elements. The rings count their age. They bend against the winds. The stories they could share. They are the storytellers of creation. They sing of God's glory, yet they never utter a word. They can bring us just joy, giving shade in the summer and protection in the winter. Such lessons we can learn from these beauties of God's splendor.  

As we see witness the glory of this season's change may we be reminded that God is never-changing. It is through change that we grow to become the storytellers of His amazing grace. 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” 
Psalm 19:1-4

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pick Up Grace Instead

Jesus is teaching. People are gathered around Him. A ruckus occurs. Men circle around and there in the middle of them is a woman. Can you see this picture? Stone in hand. Words slurred like poison. Anger and self-righteousness overflowing. There's enough sin here to make the dirt dirty. "So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."" John 8:7

This woman caught in adultery. The man isn't present. She is the only sinner today. Oh, these men probably don't really care about her sin, but they are using her to get to Jesus. They are using her to prove a point. 

Jesus is very present. Isn't He always? These men thought they would surprise Jesus. No, Jesus knew what was coming. Little did they know He was already there before these men came on the scene. 

They are accusing. Jesus writes in the dirt. Is it what He writes or what He speaks that gets their attention? When He looks up they are gone. Only the woman remains. She didn't run. Okay, if I was about to get stoned and all my accusers took off I'd have grabbed up my skirt and ran like the dickens out of there. All you would have seen was my trail of dust. "When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"" John 8:10

But here, right in the center of these people, this woman came face to face with her sin forgiving Savior. He knew her heart. He knew her story. Her past and present. He too knew her future. He had plans for her. She was to sin no more. Oh, can you see her there? I can see the tears upon her cheeks. She must have been terrified, but here before her Savior she finds sanctuary. "She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." John 8:11

Funny how our accusers run when they are about to have their sins revealed wide open for all to see. The scene changes when the accusers are gone. What's left in their place is Jesus full of grace. He doesn't accept the sin, but He accepts the sinner. He doesn't condemn, but all is revealed. "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." John 8:12

We can read this and ponder this woman. We can question these men. But let's make it present day for us. Women gathered after church. Circled with laughter. Bibles in hand. Minds on the afternoon at home. But there, walking up like she is one of them, is the woman they have all been biting at. Nibbling here and there, but today their looks scorn her deep. She feels the bite. Oh, what they think they know of her. If only they knew the truth. But would it really make a difference? Would this clique ever accept her?

Bring any scenario to the page. We have a way of stone keeping. We keep them close in our pockets, ready to throw at our target. Why? What is our take away? How are we any different than these men of this day ready to stone this woman of adultery? "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

I have been there with stone in hand just as I have been there center-stage with sins for all to see. Where is our grace? We call ourselves Christians, but sometimes we can be the worst of offenders. Friends, we all have dirty hands. Our only hope is Jesus. In Him we can come clean.

Praise God, in Jesus there are no outcasts. There are no sinners too sinful. He is there waiting for us to receive Him, arms wide open, ready to lift us up out of the muck and mire of judgement and condemnation. "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load." Galatians 6:2-5

Where would we have been on this day this woman was cast in the center for her sin to be seen by all? Would we have picked up a stone ready to throw or would we have stepped forward to stand with her? "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

May we put down the judgement stones and choose today to live courageous grace. 

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Amazing that this book was released twenty-five years ago. I've been married for twenty-five years. I read this book years past and walked away knowing more about grace from this book than all the years spent in church. Reading it now for the second time around I am still learning. Praise Jesus for Brennan Manning. I'm so thankful he wrote this book for himself and shared it with the world. 

This book is a life changing experience. Brennan goes deep and shares raw love. He writes with a Jesus passion. His heart is found in these pages. His wisdom will continue to grow in the hearts of all who choose to pick up this book. You cannot walk away from this book the same person as you were when you first picked it up. 

In the beginning of the book Brennan shares who this book is for. This is where I found myself. 

"It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker."
"It is for the poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents."
"It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God." 

My book is highlighted throughout and is a book I will go back to again and again. 

"The word itself, grace, has become trite and debased through misuse and overuse. It does not move us the way it moved our early Christian ancestors."

"We think salvation belongs to the proper and pious, to those who stand at a safe distance from the back alleys of existence, clucking their judgments at those who have been soiled by life. In the name of Grace, what has been the verdict of the Christian community on the stained life of the late Rock Hudson? To the disclosure (the $4.5 million settlement to his lover Marc christian notwithstanding) that he called a priest to his deathbed, confessed his sins, and cried out to God for forgiveness?"

"As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don't need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness."

"To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God's grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, "A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.""

"Ragamuffins never despise their material and/or spiritual poverty, because the deem themselves wealthy beyond compare. They have found the treasure in the field (see Matthew 13:44). Nothing compares to the kingdom of God. In their eyes its worth is beyond all worth. Measurement fails. Scales tip over. All calculation collapses in this infinity. This is the ragamuffin's secret, which nominal Christians do not understand, but for which martyrs have given their lives. for the sake of the kingdom of God, thousands upon thousands have had their possessions confiscated, homelands seized, and families, careers, and good names sacrificed." 

"Ragamuffins are simple, direct, and honest. Their speech is unaffected. They are slow to claim, "God told me.." As they make their way through the world, they bear wordless, prophetic witness." 

"Perhaps the supreme achievement of the Holy Spirit in the life of ragamuffins is the miraculous movement from self-rejection to self-acceptance. It is not based on therapy or the power of positive thinking; it is anchored in their personal experience of the acceptance of Jesus Christ. They are not saints, but they seek spiritual growth. They accept counsel and constructive criticism with ease. They stumble often, but they do not spend endless hours in self-recrimination. They quickly repent, offering the broken moment to the Lord. Their past has been crucified with Christ and no longer exists, except in the deep recesses of eternity."

I want to live out this kind of ragamuffin heart seeking Jesus that shines nothing but the sweet and tender grace of God. This is a book for every seeking heart. It is one that will lead you straight to scripture and have an understanding like never before of real grace. 

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

Brennan Manning is a writer and speaker who leads spiritual retreats for people of all ages and backgrounds. He is the author of more than ten books, including Abba's Child , Ruthless Trust , The Ragamuffin Gospel , and Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes. A resident of New Orleans, he travels extensively in the U.S. and abroad to share the good news of the unconditional love of God.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Better Day or Just A Better Attitude?

Do you ever just wish for a better day? Not even a better day, but a better attitude? I can get so busy. Oh, there are people who think I spend all my time reading. To them I just giggle. Oh, the life of splendor they must think I have. No, I stay busy all the time. 

With my husband's schedule I go to bed around midnight and I wake up around four each morning. I fall asleep at midnight only if I'm not up catching up on a few chores that didn't make it to my list that day. I wake with coffee brewing and head outside with our pup, Stanley, (who I might add keeps me on my toes all day long). Yes, you could say that I need to catch up on some sleep. 

So, throughout the day with chores, on trips to town, grocery shopping and the like, there are times I can feel overwhelmed and become so discouraged. There are people in my life who are demanding of my time. Living with chronic pain isn't a help. In fact it's an added kick in the gut for me. So often I make plans and have to cancel. I let the guilt of letting people down overwhelm me. 

Can I be really honest? I don't just get tired. I get ten times as tired. There are times my little body just says, "Enough, you're done!" At forty-eight years old I have raised my three children and helped raise my two step-children. I chose to teach our children at home. I have served in church and in other activities. Ya know, it's time I get to spend time with my husband and just enjoy. You know? Just breathe in and relax in laughter and love. So much of the time we have spent our lives being parents. Now it gets to be our turn, but even those dates away get canceled. 

I feel like there are so many expectations placed upon me. I can't be everything to everyone all the time. There are times I have to say, "I'm sorry, but I just can't", and then what happens? Guilt takes over and slaps me in the face. Ever feel the same? 

Writing is a passion. Book reviews are fun. But that is only a small portion of my life, of who I am. I have quite the hat collection and sometimes I wear more than one. I wish I could wear more, do more, be more, but I can only do what I can do. That's a difficult lesson to learn. But Jesus is teaching me. 

Praise Jesus, I am not the girl I was ten years ago. Gosh, even a week ago. I knew I needed a change. This guilt wasn't doing me any good. Discouragement wasn't leaving me with inspiration. Gosh, I have gotten to where I think, "Just maybe I should stop writing. Cancel out all book reviews. Stop doing all I do so I can be there for everyone who needs me when they need me". Whew...that wears me out just giving it thought.  But that's what I've been pondering. Oh, Satan loves to drag us down and he loves to use those people we love most.

There are times I lay in bed at night and cry because a migraine has hit and I have to let someone down once again. So, I turned to Jesus and I said, "Lord, I can't keep going like this. I need Your help. How can I be everything for everyone? I need Your wisdom and Your guidance. Most of all I need Your grace and a good dose of mercy." 

He answered me. "My daughter, you raise your head. You are enough. You are loved. You are treasured just as you are. Focus on Me. Allow Me to focus on being Everything for everyone." 

That following day I had to do some shopping for my mom. I got in the truck and realized I had been listening to a lot of different music. Less and less of Christian. So, I tuned the Christian radio station in and you know what? It's been there every since. I haven't changed it. While I'm driving I listen and praise, learn and love my Jesus more and more as I allow His Word into my heart, mind, and soul. 

I turned it on in the house and keep it playing throughout the day. Oh, how it lifts my spirit and sets me on a different track. One that isn't built on guilt and shame, but one that is on grace and forgiveness.  I find that anger hasn't even crept into my space. Really. God is giving me a new kind of peace that surpasses anything I could imagine. Focusing on Him and changing my attitude has moved me into worshiping Him in all that I do. That's huge for me! I have simply given Him everything. I am letting the guilt go. I'm understanding that I cannot be everything for everyone. It has taken me years to get to this place.

Maybe you're feeling that you too need a dose of encouragement. Some new inspiration in your life. Don't allow others to dictate who you are. You know what? I'm okay being me. I love reading. I love doing reviews. Some day that novel I'm working on just may be finished and I'll see it sitting upon a shelf. I love gifting people with afghans and scarves. Why should I stop that to please others? I enjoy so many things. I have this creative mind and if I'm not creating then that's when Satan creeps in and steals away a joy that surpasses all things that try to get my focus off of Jesus.

Everyday I must make a choice to live for the audience of One and that spot belongs only to Jesus. I cannot be everything for everyone. Oh, the expectations we place on others. If we could just look inside and realize we are all a work in progress, imperfect on our own, but perfect in Jesus. We need to just live grace, give grace, and give others the same acceptance that we so desire ourselves.

Live out today in complete love. When we change our focus to Jesus everything changes.

"Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A.D. 33 by Ted Dekker

This is Dekker at his best! I was blown away when I read A.D. 30 and couldn't wait for A.D. 33 to release. Patiently I hung in there and I was so excited when it arrived! Take a peek at my review of A.D. 30.

You don't have to first read A.D 30 to enjoy A.D. 33, but I encourage you to read it in order. There is so much valuable information in the first novel and having that knowledge about the characters gives you an undeniable yearning to keep turning pages.

The details that Dekker gives is exceptional. I felt as though I was in the desert, camels near, and could hear the heartbeat of each character that Dekker so eloquently and magically drew me into. 

This is an unputdownable for sure. It is a big screen feature on black and white that will touch your soul and bring you to ponder the story as if it were your own. 

There are so many facets to this series. Most of all Dekker uses this beautifully portrayed novel to bring readers to know Jesus in a new way. He brings faith alive and shows the turmoil the characters live and the absolute gift that they share in loving their Yeshua. 

This is a rich masterpiece that will keep you turning pages and wishing for more as you close the last. I loved this series. Mystery, love, romance, faith, hope, and so much more. This series has everything for a reader to wish and as classic Dekker he gives his best!!

This novel was a gift from Hachette Book Group for sharing my review with you. 

TED DEKKER is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 novels with a total of more than 10 million books in print. He is known for thrillers that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil.


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