Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fiction Book Review: Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

Book Description:
Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm?

My Review:
I've read several of Courtney Walsh's books. This one is my favorite, so far. The journey Beth travels is one I think many readers would relate to. Expectation can be such a road block to what God intends for us. And Drew's story. Wow. Beth may have been the Hometown Girl, but Drew was the broken boy. With a mystery waiting to be solved and delightful secondary characters, this book kept me up past my bedtime. If you enjoy mystery, romance, and small town stories, this is the perfect book to read. I purchased the Kindle edition from Amazon.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Movie Review: The Star

Movie description:
In The Star, a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a loveable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told - the first Christmas. -Sony Pictures Animation


My Thoughts:
The Star is a delightful rendition of the story of Jesus birth. Although the story line doesn't follow the exact order in the Bible and a few extras are thrown in for dramatic effect, the movie is a great Christmas movie to share with the kids. My grandchildren enjoyed it, ages three, seven, and twelve. Many wonderful truths came out. They called Jesus—the Son of God—and recognized that angels came to visit Mary and the shepherds. They handled the delicate parts well—Mary and Joseph and their marriage.  I loved the donkey, sheep, and dove. They were fun to watch. I'm giving the movie 4.5 stars. Take the kids, enjoy, and have a great conversation afterwards about why we celebrate Christmas. That's what I did!

P.S. The PG rating is due to a soldier who is angry and wielding a sword, plus two scary dogs. But the dogs story is worth the watch.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Thankful Heart

Colossians 4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

I have fond memories of my dad praying grace over our meals, when I was growing up.
Tim's prayers at our dinners bless my heart. My girls learned to pray their prayers at bedtime with honesty and sweetness. Oh, how I enjoy our grandkids' little voices speaking to their heavenly father. Over the years, I've been asked to pray out loud, and I'll be honest, I get nervous. I'm not comfortable leading others in prayer. As a matter of fact, I used to struggle with how I should communicate with the Lord, at all. But I've learned, I don't need to be nervous or shy about prayers. I simply need to go before God with whatever is on my mind. Sometimes I write my prayers in a notebook. Other times, I talk to him whenever a need comes to mind. The truth I know is—God wants to hear from me.

Paul tells the Colossian church to pray with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Even though my words may be simple, I don't want to be distracted when I call up words to Jesus. Instead, I need to be attentive. And I should always go before the Lord with thanksgiving. It's easy to think of what I'm thankful for, with Thanksgiving Day around the corner. But what about next week? Or during the hustle and bustle of Christmas, if I become irritated and tired. What about next year, after the new diet doesn't work out and the scales are stuck? Yep, even then I need to go before God with a thankful heart. What if all is well? Do I stop talking to God? No! I need to shout words of thanks and praise! I am grateful that God has set up a way for us to communicate. I love talking to him and listening for answers. This week as Thanksgiving approaches, give thanks to the Father who loves us and wants to hear from us!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fiction Book Review: Christy by Catherine Marshall

About the book:

New edition of Catherine Marshall's inspirational classic! 

The train taking nineteen-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, might as well be transporting her to another world. The Smoky Mountain
community of Cutter Gap feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions, and century-old traditions.

But as Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, some see her - and her one-room school - as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove.

Yearning to make a difference, will Christy's determination and devotion be enough?


About the author:
Catherine Marshall (1914-1983), The New York Times best-selling author of 30 books, is best known for her novel Christy. Based on the life of her mother, Christy captured the hearts of millions and became a popular CBS television series. Around the kitchen table at Evergreen Farm, as her mother reminisced, Catherine probed for details and insights into the rugged lives of these Appalachian highlanders. Catherine shared the story of her husband, Dr. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate, in A Man Called Peter. A decade after Dr. Marshall's untimely death, Catherine married Leonard LeSourd, Executive Editor of Guideposts, forging a dynamic writer-editor partnership. A beloved inspirational writer and speaker, Catherine's enduring career spanned four decades and reached over 30 million readers.
Find out more about Catherine at http://gileadpublishing.com/christy/.

My Review:
Cracking open Christy was like going home for me. I read Christy probably six or seven times between high school and college, back in the 1970s. I even wrote a paper using Christy as the core book. I can honestly say that Christy is my all-time favorite novel. Yes, I love it that much. Catherine Marshall's writing is simply beautiful. Her descriptions pulled me into the story and made me feel I was in the Smoky Mountains right along with Christy. And the characters! She has a knack for breathing life into each person Christy met. I love Fairlight and the beauty she brings to her life regardless of her circumstances. Alice Henderson is amazing. How fun to read about the doctor and David. Marshall wove so much of the Appalachian culture into the story. Although the book is based on her mother's experiences, the story is much more the tale of a young naive woman who grows up by jumping into a new experience with both feet as she finds her calling. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I believe it should be read by anyone who wants to serve others, particularly teachers. The book is fairly long, but once you're hooked, you'll want to keep reading. This is a perfect read for the cold months of winter. Snuggle up with a cup of tea or coffee and a favorite old quilt and journey to the mountains with Christy. (I received the book for free from Lightfuse.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fiction Book Review: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

Book Description:
Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that's obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she's made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she's chosen. She's still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she's not sure she can write anymore. She's beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a "scandalous" book. And the fact that she's falling in love with her pastor doesn't make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn't afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

My Review:
I want to just say "Wow!" to Bethany Turner. I'm so happy someone finally wrote a truthful account of how difficult it is to move from a life of sin to a life with Christ. And she does it with grace and humor. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. And honestly, I'm still not sure I would recommend it to just anyone. The author addresses a topic not often written about in Christian fiction—how to deal with physical desires while dating. Especially for a brand new Christian. For anybody who wants insight into the sometimes difficult transition from a worldly life to becoming a part of the family of God, I say—read this book. Bethany's honest account of Sarah Hollenbeck's life made me laugh out loud, cringe, and pray. Yes, pray. This book may not be for every reader of Christian fiction, but it certainly has a place and will be used by God for good. I love that. I can see so much good from this story. If you like to laugh, enjoy stories of redemption and forgiveness, and stories of friends shoring up one another, you'll enjoy The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. I received this book for free from Revell.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fiction Book Review: Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano

Book Description:
Lynhurst Manor is a house built on secrets . . . and the arrival of Aurelie Harcourt might reveal them all.

When Aurelie Harcourt's father dies suddenly, he leaves her just two things: his famous
pen name, Nathaniel Droll, and his wealthy family--who want very little to do with her.

As Aurelie struggles to find a home with her father's family and learn the rules of society, she relishes in his parting gift--the beginning of his last story. The story she always wanted to hear, about her mother's mysterious disappearance from the home where she now lives. To complete the novel, she'll have to extract clues from relatives--and one enigmatic houseguest--who often seem reluctant to give them up.


My Review:
I enjoyed Lady Jayne Disappears. Joanna Davidson Politano's debut reads as though she's been writing historical fiction for years. This story involves mystery, intriuge,  and of course romance. But none of it travels a smooth and easy road. Character Aurelie Harcourt is a delightful and resourceful young lady who's been handed a dreadful life. Yet, she's made the best of her difficult situation. When she's thrown into the middle of her wealthy family, the story unfurls and she must work to put the pieces together. I like the thread of the serials told by Nathanial Droll throughout the book. It's like a story inside of another and adds its own layer of mystery. If you enjoy well-written historical fiction, you'll like Lady Jayne Disappears. I received this book free from Revell.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Hebrews 10:10
For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

I was honored this week to witness a group of second graders giving respect and
recognition to our veterans. Behind the children a giant flag filled the wall, created by grades K-2. Around the walls, stars hung with names of military men and women inscribed by the kids. On the risers, second graders stood proud to sing about the ones who protect our country. Two of our grandchildren sang with their classmates; "America the Beautiful," "Armed Forces Medley," and "You're a Grand Old Flag." The first graders displayed America's White Table for MIA and POW men and women. The program reminded me how important the militaries' protection is for the very children standing there singing.  I am thankful the schools still teach children to respect the folks in the military and to appreciate their sacrifice.

As I'm thinking about the sacrifice made by the people who fight to keep us safe, I'm reminded of the ultimate sacrifice made for life itself. Jesus gave his life so that we could all have the hope of heaven. I believe in life after death. I know God has prepared a place where we can live with him forever. But I also know, I can't get their of my own accord. No more than I could have my freedom on American soil without the military. Jesus is my only way to eternal life in heaven. He gave his life for mine and yours. I believe with all my heart in Jesus as my Savior. As I remember those who have given their life for freedom, I also remember the freedom Jesus has given me from sin. Praise God for the hope we have in Jesus and the folks who protect our freedom to worship.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Christy is Back!

I love this book-I'll be posting my review soon!

Some stories are evergreen, their themes and lessons standing the test of time and connecting with readers generation after generation. Reconnect with Catherine Marshall's beloved Christy as it celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new edition! As nineteen-year-old teacher Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home of Cutter Gap, some see her-and her one-room school-as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove. Yearning to make a difference, will Christy's determination and devotion be enough?

Celebrate the new 50th anniversary edition of Christy by entering to win one of TWO $50 Visa cash cards (details below) and by attending a Facebook Live party on December 5!


TWO grand prize winners will receive:
  • One copy of Christy
  • One $50 Visa Cash Card
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 5. The winner will be announced at the Christy Facebook Live Party. RSVP for a chance to connect with authors who've been impacted by Christy and other readers, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word-tell your friends about the giveaway and Facebook Live party via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 5th!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Nonfiction Review: Ordinary Graces: Word Gifts for any Season

Description:
Everyone loves to receive a gift.
And God has given us many, such as his grace-the gift we don't deserve and can never earn. Promises from the One who declares we are already loved, already accepted, already created in his image. The question becomes, will we truly receive that gift? Will the reality of it actually change the way we think and notice and reach out?
God's Word will stand forever, in any season of life. These truths prompt us to respond with compassion and courage.

Through inspiring devotions, Lucinda Secrest McDowell reveals biblical blessings that remind us that: God's promises give us strength, God's grace can be most evident at our weakest points, a proper response to our abundance of blessings is simply gratitude, and the "more" we are all looking for is the same abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
Would you like to receive these gifts of ordinary grace? Join Lucinda in focusing on one word a day through devotional readings and short benedictions for any and every season to explore the many facets of Grace, Strength, Gratitude, and Life.

About the author:
Lucinda Secrest McDowell is passionate about embracing life - both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she offers "Encouraging Words" to all on the journey. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, Cindy is the author of 13 books, including "Ordinary Graces," "Dwelling Places," "Live These Words," "Refresh!," "Quilts from Heaven" and "Role of a Lifetime." Whether co-directing the "reNEW - retreat for New England Writing," mentoring young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages.
Find out more about Lucinda at http://EncouragingWords.net.

My Review:
Lucinda Secrest McDowell is one of the best devotional writers I've read. I love her conversational tone and her ability to tap into the every day life of Jesus' followers. In Ordinary Graces I read through the Gratitude devotions as well as a few of the other sections. With each one, I found something valuable to carry through my day. One of my favorite part of her devotions is the very end of each one. She writes as if God is speaking directly to the reader. I love that I can hear him in my heart. Ordinary Graces would be a lovely gift as well as an excellent daily devotion. I received this book for free.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Nonfiction Book Review: Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose by Melissa Spoelstra

About the book:Give your Christmas a makeover with this practical approach to help your family learn what it means to truly celebrate their Savior.

In the bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the things to do. But it's important to pause and remember that our priority should be to spend time celebrating Christ's birth and not forget to invite Jesus to his own party.
Christmas is far more than a celebration of an event from long ago or a modern holiday centered around shopping. Mindfully take time to listen to how God continues to speak through the Christmas story as the Gospel narratives centered around the birth of Jesus provide encouragement and revelation concerning the love of God and his wisdom for us today.
In Total Christmas Makeover, author and Bible teacher Melissa Spoelstra provides a practical approach for you and your family to turn your attention toward God's grace day-by-day as you prepare for Christmas. This 31-day devotional presents key scriptures, ideas to implement with each reading, and questions for reflection to guide you in rediscovering rituals, relationship, and rest to connect you more deeply with Christ this holiday season.


About the author:
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women's conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages to seek Christ and know Him more intimately through serious Bible study. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology and enjoys teaching God's Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is the author of the "First Corinthians: Living Love When We Disagree," "Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness," and "Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World Bible" studies and "Total Family Makeover: 8 Steps to Making Disciples at Home" book. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids.

Find out more about Melissa at http://melissaspoelstra.com


My Review:
I chose to review Total Christmas Makeover because, probably like you, the holiday can overwhelm me. I was hoping to find some inspiration on how to make Christmas more of a blessing than a hectic time. Melissa Spoelstra offers wonderful words that do indeed inspire. Through scripture and her wise words I felt a lift in spirit as I contemplated the coming season. She adds a prayer and I really like her "A Practical Approach" segments. The "Questions for Reflection" helped me slow down and think about what I'd read. I think this book is a priceless tool for those of us who want to bring Christ to the forefront of Christmas. I recommend reading this, beginning in November, to prepare your heart. Along with reading the devotions, give yourself time to reflect and take in the beauty of the season. If you enjoy Christmas music and lights use those as part of your personal time with this gem of a book. I received this book for free.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cross and Crown

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Sunday morning at church, the worship team led us in a beautiful rendition of "O Come to the Altar" by Elevation Worship. As they strummed guitars and voices rose, I focused on the words. The song talks about Jesus and how he has his arms open to us who may be hurting or searching. The words reminded me that Jesus wants me to come to him and bow down, seeking his love. As I sang along and we came to the end of the song, this line grabbed me"Bear your cross, as you wait on your crown."

That line describes life. Temptation and testing happens every day. The devil never misses an opportunity to poke his ugly fingers into our lives. He'd love more than anything for us to succumb to his wily ways. But that's only part of the story. The second half of the line, "wait on your crown" is overflowing with hope. As I seek Jesus, he shores me up and equips me with the tools to fight back and knock Satan out of my life. Jesus provides resistance and strength. As you bear your cross and wait on your crown, know that Jesus stands with you.
...hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Ephesians 6:16

  

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The View from Caesar's Head

Psalm 95:4-7
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
    and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
    His hands formed the dry land, too.
Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
    the flock under his care.

Tim and I drove down to see Hannah in South Carolina. On the way we cruised through the Great Smokey Mountains. As we powered along, I watched the landscape for any signs of autumn. And bears—I always watch for bears. From the highway, we looked over the ridges and felt we were well above the tree-strewn valleys. That is until Saturday, when Hannah took us to a place called Caesar's Head. From our point of view, about 3200 feet above sea level, the scene took my breath away.  A valley, that stretched as far as I could see, housed a vast forest dotted with gold and red. A lake as smooth as glass sprawled between hills. The majestic mountains rose in the distance.

We stood on top of this rock formation called Caesar's Head
Gazing over the beauty, reminded me of two truths from Psalm 95. Number one: Everything was created by and is owned by God. As I stood on the top of Caesar's Head, I saw wonder in God's natural world. I drew in fresh air. I imagined what animals roamed those mountains. (Maybe, a bear or two.) Number two: God watches over me. He cares about me and loves me just as I am. I needed that reminder, because sometimes I forget or take for granted our incredible Lord. He has more love than we can imagine, and he wants to pour that out on us if only we seek him.

Let us come to him with thanksgiving. 
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
                                      -Psalm 95:2

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Nonfiction Book Review: The Most Important Women of the Bible: Remarkable Stories of God's Love and Redemption by Aaron & Elaina Sharp

Book Description:
From well-known women like Eve and Esther to those lesser known like Jochebed and Zipporah, women of the Bible play a vital role in God's timeless story of redemption.

This book traces the stories of three dozen of the most important women in Scripture, each handpicked by God to play a crucial part in his gracious plan for all humanity. Every chapter begins with a short biography followed by an explanation of how each woman fits into the overall narrative of the Gospel message, pointing to God's love for the individual as well as his larger plan to redeem sinners through the sending of his son. The Bible is the story of God's relationship with his people--men, women, Jews, Gentiles, saints, and sinners. But this book reveals that it's also the story of his relationship with you.


My Review:
I love to read about the women in the Bible. Aaron and Elaina Sharp have chosen 32 biblical ladies in 31 chapters. From Eve to Priscilla, they summarize the story surrounding each woman, then share about their "Role in Redemption." I love that they show how each woman played a part in God's ultimate plan of salvation and grace. The authors bring out Bible truths from each woman's story that we can apply to our lives today. I also like that the authors breathe life into some stories that might otherwise be overlooked. The Most Important Women of the Bible would be great for a women's Bible study or a devotional reading. I received this free from Bethany House.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Children's Book Review: 'Twas the Evening of Christmas by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Elena Selivanova

Book Description:
For over 200 years, families have gathered on Christmas Eve to hear the much loved words of Dr. Clement C. Moore’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. This year, families can gather together to share the real Christmas story––the story of Jesus’ birth. ’Twas the Evening of Christmas echoes the familiar language and rhythm of Dr. Clements’ poetry, but instead of focusing on Santa, it focuses on the baby Jesus, who is, after all, the true hero of Christmas. All families will delight in this simple retelling of the most famous story ever told. With a cover that comes alive with foil and sculpted embossing, this book is sure to become a Christmas classic.


My Review:
I am excited about sharing Glenys Nellist's rendition of  this well-loved Christmas classic with my family. For years, our family has read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and the Bible's story of Jesus birth during the holidays. This year I want to add this new classic, 'Twas the Evening of Christmas.  Glenys did a lovely job rewriting the story to reflect Jesus' birth. Her rhyming is smooth and flows beautifully, the rhythm is consistent with the original story. The colorful illustrations add charm to the story. But, my favorite part of the book is the very end, where we hear sweet words from Mary, Jesus' mother. This would be a sweet book to share on Christmas Eve or morning. I received this free from Zonderkidz.

Children's Book Review: God's Great Love for You by Rick Warren, illustrated by Chris Saunders

Book Description:
God’s Great Love for You, written by #1 New York Times bestselling author and respected pastor Rick Warren, takes children on a whimsical and heartfelt journey that lets them know God’s love is with them wherever they go. With breathtaking illustrations by Chris Saunders, the simple yet poignant text comes alive as a child journeys to places far and near and discovers God’s great love is perfect, and everywhere, and will never end.


My Review:
God's Great Love for You is absolutely beautiful. The spare wording gives a heartfelt reassurance that God loves us. The illustrations made me feel like God's love is huge. So big, he is everywhere. This book is perfect for preschool through Kindergarten. And could be used to teach a class of little ones about God's amazing love. The main character is a little girl. Her expressions create a sense of wonder which adds a layer of delight. This is definitely one I will share with my youngest granddaughter. I received this book for free from Zonderkidz.

October


Friday, October 20, 2017

Two Ears and a Mouth

James 1:19-20
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

from commons.wikipedia.com
I have a confession. Sometimes—I lose my temper. Unfortunately, that's a true statement. The weird thing is, I am usually at work when this happens. And almost every time, someone has told me something and instead of listening and thinking about their words, I let my mouth fly open. "Why did this happen?" "Why did that happen?" "That's not fair!" The one not being fair might be me, because I don't know the whole story. Yet God does, and he sees my behavior. I have proof—last Friday I was feeling bad about something I'd spouted, so I prayed. The next morning, in my Bible app, the verse of the day was James 1:19.

God knows my thoughts and my heart so well, I'm thinking he knows yours too. That's why I'm sharing this. James is a smart man, the brother of Jesus, and an inspiration to me. I love the book of James. Evidently, I need to read it more to remind myself of God's truth. When I read the verse on my phone, I was reminded of something I used to tell my elementary students at storytime. We have two ears and one mouth. We need to listen more than we talk. Sounds like I need my own advice.

On Monday morning, when I returned to work I taped a copy of James 1:19 on my computer. That little verse has been a great reminder, and practicing the wise words has given me a better week. What's God trying to tell you? Do you need a visual reminder. So far that method has helped me. Consider God's wisdom, it's the most amazing life transformer I know.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Soccer and Sun

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

We've spent several Saturdays watching grandsons play soccer. Sitting on the sidelines our view often faces the sun. The bright rays make us squint. We have to lift our hands to block the glare (when we forget our baseball caps.) The sun makes watching the games a bit uncomfortable. But we tolerate the heat and brightness  because we love our grandsons and want to support them.


With Jesus, the opposite happens. In life we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. Maybe a loved one has died or we've found out we're ill. Perhaps our hearts break for a sad situation or we've experienced abuse. What happens in this world is sometimes so difficult we don't understand. But then the light of Jesus warms our hearts. His light breaks through the darkness and brings comfort and peace. His light is so brilliant, once you let it in, the radiance of hope outshines the darkest night. But that's just it, we have to choose to let Jesus in. He wants, more than anything, to fill our lives with his light. His offer of comfort, peace and joy is open to everyone. His light is not something to tolerate, instead it's something to cherish. If you need light in your life, seek Jesus. He loves you.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Do You Know the Joy?

1 Peter 1:6-7
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Our three-year-old granddaughter bubbles over with joy. Born with a huge personality, she entertains and loves in a big way. She sings about Jesus and dances with delight. Her precious little smile causes me to melt, especially when her eyes twinkle and her sweet dimple shows. She loves life and shares that love with a joy-filled heart.

Our world is filled with tragedy and grief. On the days when evil rears his ugly head and causes pain and sorrow, I find it difficult to grasp the joy that's "down in my heart." Growing up we learned a fun little song, that Ella Cate is probably being taught in Sunday School. "I have the joy, joy, joy—down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart." That joy, delight, elation comes from trusting in Jesus. When I dedicated my life to follow Jesus, he poured his love and yes, joy in me. Even when I've suffered heartache, illness, distrust, or tragedy, Jesus' joy sustained me. No matter what happens on this earth. No matter how scary, heartrending  or catastrophic— because I love and follow Jesus—I still have a glimmer of hope.

So when I visit with my granddaughter and she bubbles over with joy, I'm reminded of the joy that bubbles in my heart! That hope fills me with peace. I pray for peace for all who are going through trials. I pray for the joy of Jesus to overflow.

Luke 18:16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fiction Review: Hearts Unfolding (The Rockwell Chronicles, Book 1) by Kathleen E. Friesen

Book Description:
Kennedy Rockwell takes pride in working for her family’s Rockwell Concrete Works, but she plans to branch out into her own landscape design business. Strong and independent, she is determined to succeed. Romance can wait…until Austin Warner turns her emotions inside out.

Austin works hard to achieve his goals, and the one closest to his heart is something he’s never really had—a family of his own. Kennedy seems to be the answer to his prayers until a small complication brings huge consequences. 


Troubles from their pasts threaten to crush their dreams and push them apart. Can Kennedy and Austin learn to yield everything to the One who can grant them the desires of their hearts?

My Review:
I love to read stories with flawed characters, especially the ones who have depth and have gone through difficult times. Kathleen delivers that in Hearts Unfolding. The story touched my heart and kept me cheering for Kennedy and Austin. As Kennedy and Austin face problems and stand against their pasts, they are surrounded by people who care and point them to God. I love the spiritual thread that flows through the story. If you enjoy a heart-felt read, this is the book for you. Five stars. I purchased Hearts Unfolding on Amazon.

God Cares


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Letting Go of the Leaves

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I was walking down the hall at work, a walkway with top to bottom windows, when I paused to peer out at the woods that surrounds our campus. Some of the trees already donned their autumn wardrobe. As I watched for a moment, a tree let go of a leaf and sent it tumbling to the ground. The deciduous trees sense winter is coming, so they begin their hibernation by letting go of the old leaves. Once the brilliance of fall ends, the leaves cover the ground and the tree hopes for a new season in the spring.  

That single leaf falling to the ground reminded me of the seasons in life. The ones where we need to let go of old things. Maybe a sin from the past that hangs on with hawk like talons. A sorrow so great, your heart breaks over and over. Words that sliced you like a knife. Or words you flung at someone else. The baggage we hold onto weighs us down. Like the trees, God wants us to let go and place our burdens and cares in his hands.

The trees were created by God to sense the time to let go. As believers, he gives us his word that tells us to cast our cares and anxieties on him and he'll take care of us. I know I need to trust God with my heartaches and my burdens. I know, like the trees do that there's a time to let my problems drop into his hands and let him take care of me. God loves us so much. The desire of his heart is for us to pour out our hearts to him. If you have a sin, a sorrow, a worry, a confession—tell Jesus. He listens and forgives. He helps us move on to the next season. Praise God, he loves us so much!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Puffins, Fear and Faith

Matthew 8:23-26
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.


Off the coast of Maine, Tim and I waited with several others for our puffin tour to begin. Once the tour boat launched we'd travel out about half an hour to see the little birds in their habitat. The captain announced the excursion would be delayed because of a mild storm. Rain drizzled down around the boat as clouds rolled over. Once the dreary weather passed, the captain pulled the boat out into the choppy ocean waters. Thirty minutes later we stood on the deck and spied the puffins. The boat rocked, the puffins bobbed, and I hung over the side with my hand wrapped around a pole to snap photos. Although I should have been afraid of falling in, I wasn't. For two reasons—Tim was watching out for me and my focus wasn't on fear. Instead the purpose for the tour held my attention.

Matthew tells another story about a storm and the fear that gripped the disciples when the waves crashed. Although my experience wasn't like theirs, nor was it like the folks who just went through hurricanes, I learned a lesson. Instead of letting fear grab my attention, I was able to focus on why I was on the boat. Through determination and anticipation, my fear took a back seat.

So many days troubles come, storms of life if you will. And what do I do. Too often I focus on the fear, the anxiety, the possibility of failure. What should I do? Pray and trust Jesus to see me through. Also, I need to keep my eyes on my purpose and remember God has a plan for my life. The storms I go through are not just storms, they're lessons and opportunities. Our storms give us the chance to show others our faith in Jesus. Let's praise him through the storms!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Treasures of the Heart

Proverbs 24:3-4
By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

Tim and I hiked through one of Kelleys Island's nature preserves. We trekked along a grass and dirt path until we reached a boardwalk, made of recycled plastic, that rambled through the woods and over the wetland. On the other side, the trees opened up onto a lovely little beach. White sand, created from waves breaking up tiny white shells, sparkled in the sun. As we wandered along the water's edge, we searched for treasures. Not gold or silver, but pretty rocks, pebbles, and lake glass. Lake Erie did not disappoint. We found pink, red, and interesting green rocks along with white, green (two shades) and brown lake glass. As we wandered along, some children playing nearby showed us their finds, including a live turtle they were watching. What a fun trip!

Once we got back home, I cleaned the rocks and glass and added them to my growing collection. I love my treasures. They are memories of my life. Our home is filled with things that remind us of the people we love and the God we worship. So much of what we own reflects the gifts God has created and given. 

Proverbs 24 reminds me my home should be built with wisdom, established on understanding, and that treasures come from knowledge. I believe the wisdom refers to the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit. For my house to truly be a home, God must come first. Understanding reflects our relationship with Jesus and the personal interest he has in us. Knowledge represents God's word of truth, the Bible, which is chocked full of rare and beautiful treasures. Without these elements, my home would be empty. I want Jesus' love, joy and peace to fill our house. I love my rocks and lake glass, but I treasure the heart of our home so much more, which is Jesus.

The treasures that fill the home should also fill the heart.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Christmas Fiction Review: The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

Book Description:
She's determined to give her baby a better life.
Could a Christmas miracle make it possible?

Not long after she receives the news in 1944 that her baby's father was shot down in the South Pacific, Amelia Richards loses hope. Jobless and broke, she has nowhere to turn for help but her infant's paternal grandparents. The only problem is, they don't know that she--or their grandson--exists.

When Amelia discovers the family is wealthy and influential, dare she disclose the truth of her relationship with their son? Or could the celebration of the arrival of another unexpected baby nearly two thousand years ago be the answer to her dilemma?


My Review:
It's not too soon to be looking for the newest holiday books. Melody Carlson writes a new Christmas story every year. The one she's penned for this joyous season is an engaging tale about a young woman who wants nothing more for her child than the love she knew with his father. I enjoyed reading the story of Amelia's courage as she forged through life's tragedy with her sweet little baby. Determined to do what's best for her baby boy, Amelia prays for a Christmas miracle. If you are looking for a great holiday read, pick up The Christmas Blessing. It's a feel good story of hope and love during WW 2. I received this book for free.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fiction Book Review: These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart

Book Description:
Francine Howard has her life all mapped out until the soldier she planned to marry at WWII's end writes to tell her he's in love with a woman in England. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he's at a loss when it comes to envisioning what's next for his life.

When Francine's and Ben's paths intersect, it's immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.


My Review:
These Healing Hills is Ann H. Gabhart's best writing to date! I love the story of Francine's brave journey into the Appalachian Mountains to become a midwife. As I read, I was reminded of another amazing book, Christy by Catherine Marshall. Ann obviously researched the nurses/midwives who actually put their lives aside and traveled into a place they'd never been. As well as the woman who started the program, Mary Breckinridge. Being a native Kentuckian, Ann wrote with the heart of one who understands the Appalachian communities. I loved the characters and found their way of life fascinating. One of the things I liked best was Ann's portrayal of the Appalachian people's love of family and faith in God. These Healing Hills stayed with me long after I finished the last page. I received this book for free.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Nonfiction Book Review: How to Listen, So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connection by Becky Harling

Book Description:
The secret to great relationships isn't to become more charming or funny or to solve the world's problems or to just try harder. The secret is to listen--and listen well. It's that simple. 

When you listen well, your marriage will grow stronger, your parenting will flourish, your friendships will thrive, and your influence at work will increase. You will be amazed at how one simple act can transform the hearts of others--as well as your own.

My Review:
How to Listen so People Will Talk is more than a how to book on listening. The author includes thoughts about not just listening to people but also, listening to God. Hearing his voice as he speaks to our hearts. When we learn to listen to God, we'll hear the voices of the people around us with deeper meaning. Becky gives some excellent exercises that help the reader check their attitude and increase listening skills. I like that she talks about hearing other people's stories and learning more about those we care about. I recommend this book as a great tool that will help us all listen better. I received this book for free.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Lord is my Rock

Psalm 18:2
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.


I had something else in mind to write today, but I've tucked those words away for another time. Instead, my mind and heart are with the folks who have been through or are waiting on the forces of nature that have let loose. Texans dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Harvey, Floridians and other southerners who watch and wait on hurricane Irma. The folks out west praying for rain to put out the wildfires.

Dan Walsh, an author whose books I've reviewed, lives with his wife in Florida. He's been giving updates on Facebook as they pray and watch the weather channel. After so many changes in predictions, Dan posted that he was putting the situation in God's hands. I would hope in the same situation, that I'd have the faith to trust God. But how difficult that would be. Worry loves to wiggle in and take over. But God counters those thoughts with instruction to trust him, even when the situation seems impossible. Don't think for a minute that I haven't fretted. I've done my share. But I'm thankful I have a place to go with my concerns.

I'm sure we all know someone affected by the disasters around the globe. Please join me as I pray for the folks in the eye of the storm.  


Proverb 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.