Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Measure of Growth

Colossians 1:9-14
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

When we vacationed in Maine, Tim and I took a "Lobster Tour." Our first afternoon in that beautiful state we boarded the Lucky Catch, on the Casco Bay in Portland. The little red boat held about fourteen tourists ready to learn about the trade of lobstering. First, we filled mesh bags with chubs and herring, then tied them into the traps. The captain taught us about the traps, how the larger lobsters get caught and the little ones have an escape hatch. The whole experience was hands-on. When we pulled in the traps and found a female, they showed us she was a layer and threw her back. Then the captain demonstrated which of the larger male lobsters to keep and which to send back to the water.


The captain grabbed the lobster and a gage. He hooked one end of the measuring tool to the socket behind the lobster's eye, then drew the other end straight down along the crustacean's carapace (back). The minimum length had to be three and a quarter inches for him to keep it. Otherwise back to the deep they went for a chance to grow.

Like those lobsters that get thrown into the sea, God wants me to keep growing. My Father knows where I am as a believer. He knows my heart and sees my soul. When I think of ways to grow spiritually I call up the verses in Galatians where Paul names the Fruit of the Spirit. My love needs to multiply. Does God draw me through the fires of life to increase my compassion for people? I'm willing to say yes. Does he require I wait to develop patience? Of course. How about experiencing hurt and pain to remember to be kind and gentle. Yes! God wants me to grow in my relationship with Jesus. He wants me to strengthen my knowledge of his word. Does he use a gage to measure my growth? No, instead he checks my heart. Jesus knows me. He loves me and he wants me to be filled with joy. And that takes growth—in learning his word, in prayer, and in obedience.


Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fiction Book Review: Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson

About the book:
A brave midwife. A wounded pilot. A risky secret.
In the midst of World War II, Ireland has declared herself neutral. Troops found on Irish soil must be reported and interned, no matter which side they are fighting for. When midwife Nan O'Neil finds a wounded young Canadian pilot at her door, she knows she's taking a huge risk by letting him in. Not only is she a widow living alone, but if caught harboring a combatant, she'll face imprisonment.

Still, something compels Nan to take in "flyboy" Dutch Whitney, an RAF pilot whose bomber has just crashed over County Clare. While she tends to his wounds and gives him a secret place of refuge, the two begin to form a mutual affection-and an unbreakable bond.

But Nan has another secret, one that has racked her with guilt since her husband's death and made her question ever loving again. As Nan and Dutch plan his escape, can he help restore her faith?


About the author:
Jeanne M. Dickson was born into an Irish American family, the only girl surrounded by four
brothers. She credits her mother, her aunts, and her grandmother with her love of storytelling. Perfecting her craft, she attends many writer's conferences and over the years, she has won and finaled in numerous RWA romance writing awards including the Daphne du Maurier Award, the Maggie Award, The Molly, The Tara, and she was the overall contest winner of Launching A Star. Today she lives in Coastal San Diego with her fabulous husband, her two wonderful girls, and a dozen disobedient rose bushes.

Find out more about Jeanne M. at http://www.jeannemdickson.com.



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My Review:
Grounded Hearts tells a beautiful story of strong women in Ireland in World War 2. I didn't know that Ireland was neutral during World War 2, nor did I know anything about their internment camps. Jeanne M. Dickson did her homework on the history of the area and the role Ireland played during the war. I like the main character, midwife Nan. She has a heart of gold, that's been broken. Yet, she's selfless when it comes to taking care of others. I love the strong and loyal bond the women of the story share, as well as the setting. Nan's cottage is cozy. Then there is the flyboy, "Dutch". He's a strong, yet tender man who wants nothing more than to fly his fighter plane against the evils of Hitler. As I read the book, I didn't want to put it down. It's not a gentle inspirational book. Instead, the story deals with emotions, passion, sin, war, and love. The men of Ireland were drinkers and the women said what was on their minds. But the story is a beautiful tale of redemption, second chances, forgiveness, loyalty, and love. If you enjoy honest, historical fiction, you'll want to read Grounded Hearts. I give it five stars for the excellent writing and moving story. I received this book for free.

Jeanne M. Dickson's 'Grounded Hearts' Giveaway and Blog Tour

What do you get when you mix World War II, a brave midwife, a wounded pilot, and a risky secret? Jeanne M. Dickson's new historical fiction novel, Grounded Hearts. When midwife Nan O'Neil finds a wounded young Canadian pilot at her door, she knows she's taking a huge risk by letting him in. Still, something compels Nan to take in "flyboy" Dutch Whitney, an RAF pilot whose bomber has just crashed over County Clare. While she tends to his wounds and gives him a secret place of refuge, the two begin to form a mutual affection-and an unbreakable bond.

Join Jeanne in celebrating the release of her new book by entering to win the Celtic Knots Giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on July 31. The winner will be announced August 1 on the Litfuse blog.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

God's Own Hands

Isaiah 44:23
Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.

I never get tired of experiencing God's amazing creation. On our trip to Maine this week, we spent a day in the rural area between Portland and New Harbor. We journeyed up the coast across parts of the Casco Bay. Trees lined the roadways; not just fence lines of scrubs or a spruce here and an oak there. Instead we passed by forested areas grown by God's own hands. I couldn't help but wonder what animals roamed the woods. Maybe a bear or a moose. But those were left to my imagination. Other areas we crossed were covered by wetlands and waterways. Everywhere we looked, beauty sang a song of glory to the Creator.

As I prepare to leave the great state of Maine, I thank the Lord for the experience to visit another area of the world. No matter how large or small the geographical areas in my life are, I know God's hands formed everything. From the sandy beaches to the evergreen trees to the call of the sea gulls, I witnessed the glory of God by his presence in this amazing environment. I love his incredible imagination and wisdom.


Shout to Him with joy, for He is good!
Do you connect to God through nature?  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

We Grabbed the Tail of our Dream

I've imagined traveling to the great state of Maine for almost 50 years. It's true. When I was a kid in school, we were assigned a state project. My state was Maine. We had to use snail mail back then and write a letter to the Maine State Chamber of Commerce to gather information (no internet, way back then.) I discovered Maine had a beautiful coast.
I spent my 60th birthday on a Puffin tour 
Amazing forests. Mountains. Incredible wildlife and gorgeous flora. And so the dream began... a journey to Maine.

In February, things started to fall into place. Tim and I both researched the possibilities. Where to stay. Do we drive or fly? What do we want to see? In March, we booked an Air BnB. My dream turned into our dream. Being here with my best friend has been incredible.


 Lobstering was so much fun!





We got to eat the lobster we caught. Yummy!

  The beach at our Air BnB

 


 


                         A seagull egg


 

Friday, July 7, 2017

I'm Not Home Yet

John 14:1-4
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Have you ever prepared for a long trip? A journey to a new place? An adventure of a lifetime. We've spent the last few months booking places to stay, creating lists of things to do, pages of what to pack and mapping out a route. Maybe you do this for vacation, taking a child to college, or moving across the country. This year, we'll be packing our bags for a week long excursion across several states. I'm excited to go places I've never been and see things I've only dreamed of. But to go from dreaming about the trip to actually loading the car and driving off, we've had to get ready.

In John 14, Jesus talks about a different kind of journey he's designing for his followers. Building 429 sings, Where I Belong, a song that talks about not being home yet and looking forward to the time when they'll meet Jesus face-to-face. Even as Jesus sets the table in his Father's mansion and lays out a path for me to follow, I need to prepare for the journey. I can't just sit around and dream about the day I'll see Jesus. I need to pray and listen to his voice. I want to follow his map, the Bible. I try to obey my God and Savior, as I anticipate his coming. He's promised to return for the faithful. I praise God for his grace and the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven. I know I'm not home yet. But someday I will be spending my days at the feet of Jesus' throne.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Fiction Book Review: On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson

Publisher's Description:
Natalie O'Ryan had no plans to return to Prince Edward Island. But when her fiancé books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose's Red Door Inn, she sets out to plan the perfect wedding. Yet she can't possibly plan for a run-in with Justin Kane--the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin has never forgotten Natalie. He'd been prepared to follow her off the island until tragedy struck, leaving him to run the family dairy farm. He's done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him--but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he's been missing.

After Natalie's reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin's property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin may discover that there is more between them than broken promises and an old friendship.


My Review:
I thoroughly enjoyed On Love's Gentle Shores, the third book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series. First of all the setting is incredible. The water's edge, the small town feel, and a lighthouse drew me right in to Prince Edwards Island (PEI.) Second, the characters are lovable and realistic. From Natalie to Justin's mom, I enjoyed getting to know each one. Third, Liz Johnson is a fabulous writer. One of the things I like most about Natalie is that she's carrying baggage. Real baggage, and she struggles to deal with it. Fourth, I love the community on PEI. The people are real. There are loving folks and town gossips. Helpful and harmful—true to small town living. This is my favorite book in the series. And just for the record, Justin is a sweetheart. This is a fantastic summer read, and can be read as a standalone. But trust me, you'll want to read the series. I can actually say that I missed the characters after I finished the book. I'd love to see what happens to them in the future! 5 Stars! I received this book for free.

Reflections of the Heart

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.


Before July ends, I will celebrate another birthday. I've chalked up a lot of experience in the years I've lived. As I looked in the mirror this morning, my reflection stared back. White hair, tired eyes, wrinkles and frown lines. Life mapped out on my face. Sounds depressing doesn't it. Until I look past the physical markings and see the cheeks my husband, children, and grandchildren kiss. The hair I still have. The eyes that take in the beauty of the natural world. I see hints of my mom and my dad, resemblances to my siblings. Years of worry and sadness are balanced by many more moments of joy and love.

Somewhere in the reflection, I recognize the love Jesus pours over me. The grace he offers freely. Even as I live on earth, I see Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, the apostle Paul talks about "a reflection as in a mirror," as in what we see now—today—here on earth. But "then we shall see face to face," not in a mirror but face to face. Jesus will return to take his followers, the believers, the obedient—and then we will see him face to face. Not just a reflection, but our true Savior will stand in front of us in all of his glory. What a joy that will be!

As I reflect on my life, I pray that my heart reflects the deep love I have for Jesus and the grace he's given me. I praise God for many years lived surrounded by people I love.
Proverbs 27:19 As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

He's my Rock

Malachi 3:6
"I the Lord do not change."

I've joked that the most consistent thing about working in a library is change. New software, new methods of teaching, new information, new ways of getting the information. Constant change keeps the library moving into the twenty-first century.

Monday, the three librarians I work with and I set up our office and a temporary library in two classrooms. We moved the essential books and whatever we needed to work in the space, while the library is getting sprinklers and new heating and cooling. I've lost count of the changes that have occurred in the eleven years I've worked for Clermont. But I can tell you this—I've struggled with every single one.

I'm not good with change. I like my routine. I like the workflow I've set up. I like my office space. Yet, every time a change has been made, I've adjusted (sometimes with whining.) But each time, I've learned the new software, pushed my office chair to a different desk, or moved books to a different location, I've adapted.

For all the change I see in my daily life, I am so thankful that the God I love, does not change. He's always the same. He loves me and wants the best for me. He's ready to listen to my prayers and answer them. God is the same—All.The.Time! No matter how frustrated I get, worried I become, or troubled I am, God stays the same. He's my rock. He loves me. He knows what's ahead and why the change is necessary. And he knows what's best for me. Praise God he is the great I am.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. Psalm 95:3

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Muck of Worry

Matthew 6:34
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

When I was a young teen, I nearly drowned. I was swimming with my friends in their pond and I felt like I was pulled under. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't push myself up. Fortunately, my friend noticed and one of her brothers caught hold of me and tugged me out of the water. I don't know if my foot got trapped in the muck at the bottom or if a whirlpool caught me, but I was sinking with little hope of swimming my way out. Lately, I've had that overwhelming feeling that I'm caught at the bottom of a pond, struggling to swim to the top. That's what worry does.

Worry causes me to take my eyes off of the one who calms my soul. I'm not anxious about money, or my health. I'm not as anxious as I used to be about our kids. Although, I can still work up a good worry about them. But the one area that makes my anxiety go up, like the mercury in a  thermometer on a ninety-degree day, is my grandchildren. With Facebook, Twitter, newspapers and the news, I read way too much bad news. So far this summer I've read probably fifteen different stories about how bad ticks and mosquitoes will be this summer and the diseases they carry. People have posted lots of articles on water safety/tragedies. Then there are the other stories that I hate to even mention, that involve children. Please understand, I take all of this seriously, but I shouldn't let it terrify me.

Instead I should take my concerns to the one I trust the most. The God of all creation, who made the universe and counted every silver hair on my head. Our children and grandchildren are growing up in trying times. One tragedy after another. And all I want to do is protect them all. But that's not my job. No, my job is to pray. To ask God to watch after the little ones, and not so little ones. To seek God's guidance as I share life with them. Instead of spending time drowning in the depths of worry, I hit my knees and asked forgiveness for not trusting the one who holds my heart and the hands of our grandchildren. They are a valuable treasure, God has given me. Instead of worrying I want to spend my time encouraging them and teaching them about the hope I have in the Lord.

Worry is a pariah that results in paralyzing fear. Instead of worrying—pray and trust God.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fiction Book Review: Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

Book Description:
She's anticipating a quiet summer surrounded by beauty. She never expected a fresh chance at love.

High school art teacher Nicole Anderson is looking forward to a relaxing summer in Savannah, house-sitting and managing an art gallery for a family friend. The house is luxurious in a way that only old money could make it, and the gallery promises interesting days in a gorgeous setting. Yet it isn't long before her ideal summer turns into more than she bargained for: a snooty gallery employee who's determined to force her out, a displaced adolescent roosting in the attic, and two of her childhood friends--who also happen to be brothers--vying for her attention.

With the backdrop of a gorgeous historical city, incredible architecture, and even an alleged ghost or two, combined with the opportunity for romance . . . anything can happen!


My Review:
Under the Summer Sky is a delightful story, filled with great characters. Nicole Anderson takes a risk for the summer. She's a brave soul to step into a situation on the opposite coast from where she lives. And her summer is anything but quiet. As soon as she arrives in Savannah, her life is turned upside down. But I love that she meets it head on. The teen she finds in the attic adds a different dimension to the story and shows Nicole's sweet, caring side. The disgruntled employee brings out Nicole's smart side, and the brothers give her a chance to be the beautiful woman she's grown up to be. I enjoyed the setting in beautiful Savannah and the story Melody Carlson wove around Nicole's adventure. This is a perfect summer read—at the beach, by the pool, in your chair in the air conditioning. Melody Carlson is one of the best writers I've read. Nicole's story might just encourage you to find an adventure of your own.

Heartfelt Thanks

Colossians 2:6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

In the past month, we've received six thank you notes. Two in our mailbox, three on my desk at work, and one via messenger. We've been blessed to be included in a wedding, graduations, the birth of a baby and a housewarming. One was for my years of service where I work. Each time I opened a card and read the heartfelt words, I felt good. My heart was happy at the simple, but kind, gesture of someone taking the time to say thank you. Years ago it was the custom to pen thank you notes and send them often. I'm a little sad that our society has gotten away from that.

From receiving the notes, I realized how I've failed to continue the custom of thanks. A custom that predates our society. The Bible speaks often of giving thanks. Paul told the folks who received his letters how thankful he was for them. The Old Testament is full of moments when people gave thank offerings to God. Daniel thanked God for his wisdom. 

We hear a lot lately about being a kinder society. I believe if we give thanks more often, the kindness will follow. Paul writes in Colossians that we should be "overflowing with thankfulness." Certainly, that thankfulness should be given to God. But let's not forget to thank our spouses, friends, children, co-workers, and family, too. Maybe even write a note of thanks. Try that this week and see what happens.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

Monday, June 5, 2017

Incredible Beauty

My friend, Wendy, posed a question on Facebook last week. "What part of nature reminds you that you're cared for [by God]?" I sent back my reply after a few minutes.

Truth be told, most everything about nature reminds me of how much God loves me.  I sit on my back porch and see how he takes care of the birds, such amazing, aerodynamic, little creatures. In the woods, I see the trees that tower over me. I admire their photosynthetic system that guides them through the seasons. At the beach I watch the tide roll in and out due to the gravitational pull from the sun and moon. I could go on because so much of our amazing earth, the place God created for us to live, reminds me how much God cares.

So what part of nature reminds me how much God is concerned about me? 

Flowers and butterflies. 

I could watch butterflies all day, as they flit from lavender to roses to daisies. When flowers spring from the ground, I can't wait to see them grow and bloom. 

Both have an incredible beauty for which only God could be responsible. Both depend on each other. Both rely on other parts of creation, like rain and sun. Both bring me peace. When I see a butterfly in the flowers, I feel like I've found a treasure.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." -Matthew 6:27-29
How about you? What part of nature reminds you that you are cared for? 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Did Martha Go Wash the Dishes?

John 11:21-27
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

I like Martha; Jesus' friend and Lazarus and Mary's sister. Too often she gets a bad rap. She's accused of worrying about the practical things while her sister rested at Jesus' feet, learning. But when you read the rest of her story...

Martha loved her brother and sister. It appears she takes good care of the household they share. Of course Lazarus has responsibility as the male in a Jewish household. No doubt, Mary does her part. But Martha makes sure the everyday things get done. Food is prepared, water is drawn, floors are swept, clothes are cleaned. But don't be fooled by Martha's focus on the essentials.

In her story from John 11, her brother Lazarus has died. Martha and her sister sent for Jesus, but he arrived after the fact. I'm sure she and Mary prepared Lazarus body with oils before they laid him in the cave and pushed a rock in front of it. So they knew Jesus was too late to heal their brother. I'm guessing Mary wanted to sit at Jesus' feet again and listen to his wisdom and comfort. But Martha wanted hope. In her heart she knew Jesus' power, she understood his significance, she believed he was the Son of God. That faith paid off. Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave and brought him back to life.

Martha and Mary witnessed this miracle up close and personal. Did Martha go wash the dishes? No, she confessed her faith to Jesus. When Martha needed to, she took care of business. Yet, along with her can-do spirit she worshiped her Lord and shared his hope. I like Martha. She's a nice blend of practical and faithful. Her feet scurried around the house even as her heart was full of Jesus' love.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”