Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz

Every once in a while an exceptional book comes along and you know before you open the first page that you are about to be extraordinarily blessed. There's just some books that you know are going to leave an imprint on your soul, widen your perspective, challenge you to dive deeper in the Word, and encourage you to walk closer to the Lord. 

Anne Graham Lotz is such a gifted woman of God. One of the best books I've ever been graced to review is, "Wounded by God's People". (Take a peek at my review). This book is so powerful and aided me in healing and gave me such a deep perspective of my circumstances. 

The Daniel Prayer is very similar in how I feel after closing the last page. Anne is so transparent. She shares of her own life. She shares stories that truly leave you pondering. I love how personal she is. But what I love the most is that she never strays from the Word. The Word is the message . She is gifted in not only touching the heart, but getting in there past all the {stuff} and giving us such wisdom that healing begins, comfort begins to sooth, and the heart begins to change. 

"This is not a casual, every-day, pray-as-you-feel-like-it, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety type of prayer. It is not even a flare sent up as a distress call for help. The Daniel Prayer is a commitment. A commitment that perseveres over any and every obstacle until Heaven is moved and nations are changed."

"The key to thankfulness is not to view God through the lens of our circumstances, but to view our circumstances through the lens of God's love and sovereign purpose."

"Don't settle for less than fulfilling completely the potential that God had in mind for you when He brought you into existence, then brought you to Himself in a personal relationship. Yield your life to God's purpose even when it may seem the very opposite of anything you may have thought you had wanted. While God's purpose may be radically different than the plan you had laid out for your life, make no mistake about it, His plan is much greater and broader...it's more lasting and impactful...than any plan you could come up with yourself. I know...from personal experience. And so did Daniel."

"Because the Daniel Prayer is not an everyday type of prayer. It's a prayer birthed under pressure, squeezing the coal of our heartache, grief, and desperation into the diamond of genuine faith that pleases God, moves Heaven, and changes nations. It can be triggered by a disappointment or a sudden revelation of hope,an unanswered prayer or a promise freshly received, the consequences of a past failure or a miracle that lies just over the horizon. It's a plea for something you intensely long for that you know will take place, but has not taken place yet."

"The Daniel Prayer is not just venting to God or yelling at Heaven. The Daniel Prayer is not just an outpouring of heartfelt emotion and passionate pleading. It is an outpouring of heartfelt emotion and passionate pleading based on God's Word as we hold Him to His promises."

I have read the Book of Daniel many times. I have gained such insight. Anne does something really special. She brought this book, this man, to life for me like never before. She brings forth such revelation that you only want to dig deeper into the Word. 

Anne describes for us a prayer that is lacking. I know it is lacking in my own life. Prayer shouldn't be a churchy kind of cookie cutter repetition, but brought alive from the depths of the soul. This is that one book to share with friends. It would be a great book for Sunday school, a Wednesday night meeting group, or just a few friends gathering together to study. I encourage you to pick this one up. You won't be disappointed!

Happy Reading.

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

Anne Graham Lotz called the "best preacher in the family" by her father, Billy Graham, speaks around the globe with the wisdom and authority of years spent studying God's Word. the New York Times named Anne one of the five most influential evangelists of her generation. She is a best-selling and award-winning author of fifteen books, including her most recent, Wounded by God's People. To learn more about Anne, her family, and her ministry visit www.annegrahamlotz.org.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

This is a beautiful story that will intrigue you, open up your senses, move you emotionally, and allow you to ponder the story behind the women who had suffered for so many years with an issue of blood. 

It was the cover that caught my attention. Then reading the description I knew this was an adventure I wanted to take. Back in time to the life of a woman who I think we can all relate to in one way or another. 

I have always loved this story. I have written many times about this Biblical account of this women needing such healing. A woman strong of faith and one emboldened and empowered by her Savior. 

Tessa Afshar is a new writer for me. I was not disappointed. I have found another gifted writer. I love being introduced to new writers and Afshar is one writer who will leave an imprint on your heart. She pens beauty and brings our imagination to life at what life could have been like for this woman. 

You may find yourself in Elianna's story. Guilt and shame blanketed this beautiful soul until she thought no hope could be found. But there she finds the Savior and she is healed before she ever touches the hem of His garment. Such mighty faith! 

I love pondering what life could have been like for those in the Bible where we are only given portions of their story. Afshar gives us that gift with this novel as she brings Elianna to life. This is a story that will make you want to dive deep into the Word. That's always a blessing to leave a reader. I love writing that helps me to grow and to seek the Savior on a deeper level. 

A love story on a whole different level!

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

Sins of The Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason

Okay, a novel containing three masters at their craft all in one book! I have read everything penned from Dee Henderson and Lynette Eason. They are faves in the suspense genre, so I knew to only expect amazing reads from them. Dani Pettrey believe it or not is new for me. I've heard her penned works are amazing, but I have just not had the chance to review for her. Wow!! Turns out her novella was my favorite!!

I was instantly hooked with the intensity as Dee Henderson's, "Missing" began. It started fast paced and I was with the main character, John, the entire length of the story. Love the premise of this story and also the connection between John and Sharon. Dee is an artist when it comes to giving detail for the reader to imagine as if they are weaved within the pages having a front row seat. She is gifted at bringing out the best of each character and allowing you to truly care about them. 

In Pettrey's novella, "Shadowed", I couldn't read fast enough! I knew after reading the first pages that I would have to have more of this author. This story was perfection in every way. The connection between Ben and Libby was magical. Loved going back in time to 1979 to the intrigue of spies, murder,  and hidden messages. Being a newby to this writer I just truly enjoyed how she allowed these characters to come alive within these black and white pages. So much suspense weaved in this novella. Love how the writer filled her page limit to perfection!

In this last novella, "Blackout", by Lynette Eason we meet another great character, Macey. A crime has occurred and Macey cannot remember the account of this day. This selection was more in-depth for me. A story that was great, but let's face it, we are never happy to see an Eason book end, right? Once again we see a great connection between the characters here. I love how Lynette brings Chad and Macey together. I am astonished how Eason gives us so much within 130 pages! 

All of these stories are based on the sins of the past. How the sins of others touch our lives. No one is exempt from the sin of another blindsiding them. We have a choice when fear and anxiousness invades our lives. We can run or we can face it head on. These characters chose to face their circumstances head on with the strength and grace of God. Each of these characters looked to our Heavenly Father for support and they trusted Him to lead them to freedom, justice, and to a new peace of letting the past go and taking hold of the present He was now giving them. 

This is a great way to introduce yourself to these writers. You could read a story in one afternoon setting. Perfect for the rainy days of spring!

This book was a gift from Bethany House for sharing my review with you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dependency on God

There are times we feel God asking us to share our story, but being transparent is difficult, isn't it? It's hard to share where we struggle. I mean how will people respond to our journey? Well, we have to get to that place of obedience, right? If we hear our Lord asking us to share, He knows the value of our story, because He is so intricately weaved within it. 

Twelve years ago I was completely crumbled under the weight of something happening to me I didn't understand. I was living in total fear. Many midnight visits to the ER with what I would later know as migraines and panic attacks. At the time I had no idea what was happening to me. I just knew I was dying, living in fear of the next one hitting. 

These migraines would last anywhere from two days to two months. I didn't have the classic migraine. Nope, I would have every kind of migraine under the sun. Panic attacks would slam me out of no where. Mostly at night I would feel trampled in fear. 

I would go many months until I found a specialist in Neurology who had a specialty in migraines. This would be the doctor to uncover what was plaguing me. He would save my life. At this time during this unwanted journey I wanted to die. I didn't want to live with such fear and pain. 

This was a burden that would wear me down to almost nothing. I felt like a failure. I was homeschooling my children, involved in so very much. Life was busy, but so great. When the migraines and panic attacks came I thought I was losing my mind. I felt so lost. I knew no one who had faced what I was facing, so trying to explain it to others was impossible. I felt I was letting my family down and continually making excuses as to why I couldn't function as I was.

Sometimes such shame can come with living with such fear. Outward all seems just perfect, while inside you feel like your dying. You hide your pain to the world. This should be something you can face alone, right? I mean how weak can a person be to need the help of medication, right? There is never shame in seeking help. I literally thought I was losing my mind with these migraines and panic attacks. Two things most people around me couldn't understand. "Just take a Tylenol. Try to calm yourself. You're fine." These are words I would often hear. Words that would bring shame to my heart. 

The doctors would later figure out my thyroid was totally a mess. I would have it removed as I would learn I had Graves Disease and a goiter growing backward around my windpipe that would be a longer than usual surgery. Healing was not to come easily or quickly. It would be years later until my thyroid levels would straighten out and some sort of peace would blanket me. 

When all this happened the doctors prescribed many different medications. Most of which I endured every side effect. I'm not an easy girl to prescribe meds. But my doctors were vigilant in bringing me to a healing place. Finding the right doctors is key to healing. Through this I would uncover so much about myself. I would overcome. It would just take time and most importantly prayer.

One of the medications prescribed to me was Xanax. I was on a small dose, but four times a day. It wasn't just for attacks that erupted out of no where, but to hopefully help in preventing them. I have been on this medication for twelve years. I have taken this med because one, my body was a mess and needed some kind of calming, and second, I lived in total fear of these panic attacks. 

A little over a week ago I was standing in the kitchen. I went to grab my medication for my noon dose and I felt this strange calm. I heard the Lord speak to me. It was plain as day. "It's time, My daughter. You can do it. I will help you." Really? Could I really give up this med I was told I would be on for the rest of my life? This med I was told I would have to be hospitalized if ever wanting to rid my body of its effects? Twelve years is a long time to be on a medication. I wasn't mentally addicted to this drug, but my body was clearly not wanting to part with it.  I mean what if a panic attack came? How would I skip a dose? Fear was already churning as I was thinking about it, but there was the Lord again. "With Me you can do it".

I put my bottle back on the counter and thought about how difficult this would be. Now, I've never been a quitter. I'm up for a challenge, but this? Detoxing myself? So, it began. I soon found out skipping a dose was not going to work. Xanax is not a drug you can just stop. Death could be right around the corner. Okay, there is that threat of fear beginning to burn. No, I can do it. I know I can. So, my journey began.

I would lesson and lesson each dose until today I am only taking a fourth of what I was in each dose and only taking two a day. Today is the day I am hoping for one dose. Pray with me, please. This almost week and a half has challenged me. I never once have thought about giving up. With each dose lessened I grew in strength and encouragement. I couldn't believe it!! The Lord was guiding me to being free of this medication. I am hoping that in the next few days I will be Xanax free!!

I have had sweats, stomach cramps, headaches, and that feeling I'm going to crawl right out of my own skin. But those are growing less and less. God has totally shown me that I do not have to be dependent on this medication any longer. I am finding such new freedom. It's like I'm waking up from a long fog. Everything is coming alive once again. I always thought that the medication didn't make me feel dopey or effect me in any way except keeping the panic attacks away, but this medication trapped me in ways I had no idea. My memory was fading, my energy levels were being depleted. I was growing more dependent on this medication. 

The Lord's timing was perfect. Isn't it always? There was a time I needed this medication, but the Lord knew it was time to rid myself of it before the addiction became worse as years past. 

I would remain busy. I have done everything possible to keep busy and keep my mind focused on Jesus. Each time I could feel my body growing to want a dosage of medication I would refuse to give in and change my focus. I would pray for God's strength. He has remained at my side and I know without a doubt in the next few days I will overcome and it will be all praise to Him! 

He is always preparing and molding us. God's timing is never wrong. Like me, maybe you allow fear to keep your feet planted instead of taking that leap of faith. I have learned to be totally dependent on the Lord and trust Him. 

Maybe you too are facing a journey that holds fear and uncertainty. Friend, don't give up. Hold tight to that hope that it is possible. If God has you on this journey it is with purpose. He will forever turn ash into beauty. He will remain true and never leave our side. 

It took me a few days before I shared with my husband. Maybe I just wanted to be sure this was really happening before I shared. He has been such a rock for me. His encouragement has lifted me and has only given room for God to do His work in me. To hear my son and daughter tell me how very proud of me they are fills my heart with such gratitude. To be able to share with them and to have their support has been so valuable in this journey.

I know where I started with this medication. I know how much I was beginning to take and now I see where I am and how I have gotten to this day. God is so good. He has given me such insight as to how we grow dependent on people and things of this world. We can allow fear to swarm us and invade every area of our lives. This medication had its purpose. At the time I'm not sure I could have held on without it. But now the Lord sees my journey. He knows me better than anyone. Even better than myself. He sees the road behind me, and the one before me. He knew I was ready. I just wasn't going to come up with the idea out of fear. I was ready because He said I was and with Him the road before me wouldn't be an impossible one, but one that would hold so much more in this journey of learning about myself and about the One who would challenge me.

My journey continues. With each step I will trust in the One who set me on this course for continued healing and grace. Friend, whatever journey you are on today, don't give up. Allow room for your faith to grow as the Lord unveils Himself to you. Seek Him on every level and don't allow doubt or fear to overtake you. Satan is good at making us think we can't do the impossible. Where we are weak our Jesus is strong and sufficient to meet our needs and even go beyond all expectation.

Journey onward in faith, my friends, knowing the path before you is already paved in greatness. Be bold today and take that leap of faith into a new day paved with new mercies.

"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him." Psalm 28:7

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

I was excited to be receiving this new novel by an author I had not yet been acquainted. I always love being introduced to new authors.

This novel is published by Thomas Nelson. I'm not quite sure why one would find this novel in the Christian section of the closest book store. The main character speaks of God, but it never goes deeper than that. One could question what god she is speaking about.

This novel is fast paced. One in which each chapter is devoted to a character. Allie, Emma, Caroline, and Sheriff Gaines. I love the premise of the story. Allie is falsely accused of a crime and placed in prison. Emma her sister, raises her daughter, Caroline. Sheriff Gaines enters the story and we see bits of pieces of his life unfold. The story flows easily until the last few chapters. Then it speeds up and I felt like each chapter kind of just fell off the page with no more detail of the circumstances the characters were facing. With that being said, I never really connected to the characters because it was so fast paced. I feel the story just stayed on the surface without going deep. Maybe that's where my connection was lost.

Within these pages we do get to see a character, Allie, never give up. We see her strength continually grow as she seeks to find the truth. As she uncovers the truth we see her freedom become real and there is where she is able to find true peace now. I enjoyed the daughter's journey. Caroline is a struggling teenager, trying desperately to fit in and not be found out. She is fearful when her mom is released her world as she knows it will come crashing down. Emma is that girl who lives behind the facade that all is okay. She hides so much inside and doesn't want to reveal any depth of herself. She just wants to be loved and accepted. She has a distorted view that Allie is her parents favorite child. Sheriff Gaines is a more complicated character. I just feel like there needed to be more pages for these characters to develop fully.

My three star review isn't because of poor writing or a story that isn't worthy. This writer is very talented. I expected to see faith throughout these pages since it is published by Thomas Nelson. If faith were weaved into story and our Jesus was given credit for the main characters strength that would have left me with a more meaningful novel.

You may pick up this novel and just love it. I hope you do!! We all experience something different while reading a novel. I think I was just hoping for more.

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

Laura McNeill is a writer, mom, travel enthusiast, and a coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master's degree in Journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a PhD in Instructional Leadership at the University of Alabama. When she's not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in North Alabama with her family.


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