Saturday, June 23, 2018

Stand Like a Deer


Psalm 18:30-36
As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

On my way up the driveway, to the college where I work, a deer stood in the middle of the pavement. I stopped the Jeep and watched her. In slow motion, she sauntered off the drive and headed toward the forest. Just before I pulled away, she seemed to nod at me, then take off at a run. The next day, in the same spot, she stood along the road, while another one sipped water from the pond. We often see wildlife on campus, but I don't think I'd seen the deer two days in a row. But the sightings didn't stop there. The next day, I walked to the Westwood building where the windows look out over the woods. Lo and behold (I say that with amazement) a doe preened her fawn.

Seeing the deer reminded me of the verses King David penned in Psalm 18. Even though the deer in Ohio don't have mountains to climb, mule deer in the Rocky Mountains climb like mountain goats. They're sure-footed and able to make their way up a steep path. David claims that God gave him the balance and ruggedness of a deer, with the ability to take to a path without his ankles giving way. David's words tell me that God equips me to meet my needs. Too often I fear that I don't have the talent I need to complete a task, or the words to write, or the wisdom to understand. I imagine God is probably shaking his head at me, saying "Silly woman, I'm giving you all you need. I always have and I always will." Yes he has, and he will. My unfounded doubts lead me to worry when there is no need.

David, considered a mighty warrior, composed these words before he went to battle. He knew he needed God and God prepared him. We go to war every day against the enemy. Satan creeps around every corner and slings doubt and fear at us. But God has given us the weapons we need to fight him off. Like a deer, I'll climb up the mountain away from Satan and make my way to stand close to Jesus. Praise God he watches out for me.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fiction Book Review: The House at Saltwater Point (A Lavender Tides Novel) by Colleen Coble


Book Description:
The dangerous beauty of Lavender Tides is harboring secrets that reach around the world.

Ellie Blackmore is making a name for herself as a house flipper. But when her sister
Mackenzie disappears, Ellie can’t focus on anything but uncovering what happened. Her only clue is the bloodstain on the deck of Mackenzie’s boat. Ellie knows her sister isn’t on the best of terms with her ex-husband, Jason, but he wouldn’t kill her—would he? 
Coast Guard intelligence officer Grayson Bradshaw believes Mackenzie faked her own death after stealing a seized cocaine shipment. The problem is convincing Ellie, who seems to view him as the true enemy.

Both Ellie and Grayson want truth, but truth—and family—is often more complex than it first appears. From international terrorism to the peaceful lavender fields of Puget Sound, The House at Saltwater Point is a thrilling race to uncover the truth before it’s too late.

My Review:
Colleen Coble is an excellent writer of suspense, taking the reader to the edge. Two of the things I loved about this story involve the sisters, Ellie and MacKenzie. One is a true hero in the strongest sense of the word. She puts her life on the line for the people she loves. The other is shown as a totally flawed human being in need of grace. The setting is lovely, I could almost smell the lavender. Grayson Bradshaw's story is complicated. But in the midst of the craziness, it is good to meet a man of honor. Coble's story is timely and in accord with current events. The book reminded me to give thanks for people putting their lives on the line every day. Both military and investigative units—so we can be free. If you enjoy NCIS Los Angeles or any of the shows or stories that focus on those who keep us safe, you'll love The House at SaltwaterPoint. I received this book from NetGalley with no expectation of a good or bad review.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fiction Book Review: Where the Fire Falls: A Vintage National Parks Novel by Karen Barnett


Book Description:
Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as "pervaded with divine light."

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region's wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.

    After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he's faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?

    As Clark opens Olivia's eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park's story as its vistas--a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

My Review:
Where the Fire Falls is a refreshing and exciting read with some unexpected twists and turns. Karen Barnett captures the amazing essence of Yosemite National Park. Even though I've never been there, I feel like I went on vacation. Her description of the scenery pulled me into the majestic outdoor space. I loved Olivia and Clark's stories. They grabbed my attention from the first page. I also appreciate the way Karen weaves the gospel in throughout the story. Reading about Clark's journey encouraged me as his faith grew. Olivia's story was original, creative, and well done. I've not read many books set in the 1920s. That was a nice change. This book is a five star for sure. I received this book for free from NetGalley with not expectation of a good or bad review.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Blessed to Work


1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12
Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

My dad shared his wisdom through actions more than his words. He taught my siblings and me to be responsible and have a solid work ethic. How did he do that? He set the standard by working hard himself. By trade he was a welder. But he was also a man who could fix most anything. I remember when Tim and I purchased a house that needed a lot of fixing, I came home from work and found him and my daughter, Hannah, on the roof repairing the shingles. He was in his seventies. After I finished freaking out a little, he assured me he was fine and not to worry. He went back to his work and patched up the roof.
I'm thankful I learned to work hard. Both Dad and Mom taught us to be responsible and respectful. Not just in our daily labor, but in the work we do for Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4 is one of my favorite passages. I've been a crafter for years, and I work on the computer every day. So I've literally worked with my hands my whole life. In leading a quiet life, I hope I've blessed others as I've labored for Jesus. In Thessalonians, Paul is telling the people not to rest on their laurels, but to continue in their daily work and their efforts for the Lord. I pray we can instill responsibility and respect in younger folks, so that they will learn the value of hard work, both in their jobs and in loving Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Like a Baseball Team


1 Peter 4:10-11
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 

My grandson, Zeke, stood on the pitcher's mound. At eight years old his excitement for the game of baseball shined. As the inning progressed Zeke and the first baseman made a great play to get the runner out. All the young men on the team filled different positions throughout the game. As they ran and hit and caught the ball their skills increased. I witnessed them finding their potential and strengths.

My other grandson on the team, Eli, shows the gift of encouragement. He cheered Zeke on as he pitched. Another young man, A.J., shows compassion for his teammates. The boys are not only learning the game of baseball, they are realizing their gifts.

Watching Zeke and Eli on the field reminds me of God's plan for people. Everyone of us has God-given gifts. Some are speaking, serving, being hospitable, and so many more. Each one of us has a reason for being, a purpose. One of my gifts is encouragement, which led me to write my blog. Through that gift I reach out beyond myself, follow God's heart, and give a bit of joy and hope to anyone who reads the words.

God creates each of us with our own passions and he gives us the tools to pursue them. If we pray, read God's word, listen, and pay attention, God reveals to us how to use the gifts he's filled us with. Then like a baseball team, we work together for God's kingdom—each of us in our position, ready to commit to the team. Are you on God's team?
What's your gift? I'd love to know.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Love in a Mist


My dear friend, Phoebe, gave me this beautiful blossom in a sweet bouquet. 
Blue blooms are not as common as pink, white, or yellow flowers, but they are so lovely.

Fiction Book Review: A Vast and Gracious Tide by Lisa Carter


Book Description:
A wounded veteran and the police chief’s daughter must work together to bring a killer to justice.

Caden Wallis lost friends, his girlfriend, and even his leg to the ravages of war. He arrives on the Outer Banks broken and still reeling, struggling to make peace with his new life.

McKenna Dockery has been stuck in limbo since her fiancé died three years ago. Now, when the handsome yet heartbroken Caden arrives at her doorstep, she starts to wonder if there may be hope for her heart after all . . .

But no sooner do they meet than a man is found murdered on McKenna’s property — and Caden is the prime suspect. The two must learn to trust each other, or no one will be safe in the tangled web of conspiracy, greed, and deceit lurking in the tidal marshlands of the Outer Banks.

My Review:
I loved reading A Vast and Gracious Tide. Not just the intriguing mystery, but the story of Caden's life after war, an injured soldier, both physically and mentally. I enjoyed reading Caden's story as it unrolled and intertwined with McKenna's. The setting for the story, the Outer Banks, is written beautifully. The small town feel creates a cozy background for the mystery. If you enjoy small town  life, ocean settings, and well-
written mystery with romance, I recommend A Vast and Gracious Tide. I received this book from NetGalley with no expectation of a good or bad review.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Fiction Review: Justice Betrayed by Patricia Bradley


Book Description:
It's Elvis Week in Memphis, and homicide Detective Rachel Sloan isn't sure her day could get any stranger when aging Elvis impersonator Vic Vegas asks to see her. But when he produces a photo of her murdered mother with four Elvis impersonators--one of whom had also been murdered soon after the photo was taken--she's forced to reevaluate. Is there some connection between the two unsolved cases? And could the recent break-in at Vic's home be tied to his obsession with finding his friend's killer?

When yet another person in the photo is murdered, Rachel suddenly has her hands full investigating three cases. Lieutenant Boone Callahan offers his help, but their checkered romantic past threatens to get in the way. Can they solve the cases before the murderer makes Rachel victim number four?
 
My Review:
Rachel Sloan sticks her neck out in Justice Betrayed, Book #3 of the Memphis Cold Case series. Rachel is new to the homicide department so she wants to prove herself worthy of the job. She's smart and skilled, but her emotions tend to get the best of her. In other words, she's a realistic hero. I enjoyed the banter and friendship between Rachel and Lieutenant Boone, as well as the relationship Rachel has with a young friend. If you love Elvis, that adds another plus to the story. There are plenty of references to him and his legacy. This story is an exciting mix of CSI and Cold Case. I received this book for free from Revell with no expectation of a good or bad review.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Fiction Review: Where Hope Begins by Catherine West


Book Description:
Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.
Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

My Review:
Where Hope Begins is one of those books that draws the reader in and doesn't let go. Then after you finish, the story lingers. Savannah Barrington's life is filled with sorrow, confusion, and trouble. But God has a plan. While I read, my emotions roller coastered up and down. At one point I thought I knew how I wanted the book to end, then changed my mind several times.  I was pleased that the author created the perfect ending for Savannah. Catherine West is a talented writer who tackled some very difficult subjects in this book. Some that are hard to think about but need to be understood. If you do read this book, read the author's notes after you finish. FYI-Some of the characters drink alcohol even though this is considered an inspirational/Christian book. I'm not a fan of that, but that said, the story is five star. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Life Long Foot Race


Acts 20:22-24
"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."

Kati sprinted up the slight grade on North Sandusky Street in Delaware (Columbus). She'd already trekked over six miles and had six plus to go to reach the half-marathon mark of 13.1 miles. Along with Kati and many other runners, a group of people accompanied individuals who couldn't run the course by themselves. These inspiring people pushed their friends' wheelchairs and helped them finish their race.

As I sat along the side of the street and witnessed runner after runner complete the course, Paul's words in Acts came to mind; "my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me." All Paul wished to do was finish his service to Jesus, the race of his life. As a follower of Christ, I am right there with Paul. But sometimes I need someone to run alongside me.

I can't quite wrap my mind around running so many steps at one time. Even though I'm not able to physically run anymore, I can support my family and friends who do. With positive words and just being present to boost their spirit, I can support and cheer. Just like Paul who depended on his friends to help him to the end of his race, we need each other's encouragement and the Holy Spirit's urging to stay the course and cross the finish line. The race we run for Jesus is filled with obstacles. But with a little help from our friends and sustenance from God's word, we can finish the race "of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." One step at a time wins!
Who can you encourage this week?