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