Saturday, March 16, 2019

Deserve or Serve?

Ephesians 6:7 
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people

As I close in on the last days of working at the college, I'm reflecting on the many tasks I've had as technical services manager in the library. This week, in particular, has been filled with events and activities. Some generous folks in the county donated money for beautiful new study rooms to be built in the library. On Wednesday, many of us buzzed around like bees to put the final touches on the rooms and the library so we could honor the donors at a special event, planned for the afternoon. We cleaned, set-up tables, decorated, and prepped food. My co-workers and I served. We honored people who deserved to be appreciated and thanked.

I'm thankful there are people who do good and deserve appreciation. But even more, I love when those folks are humble and don't want the praise. Our library donors just wanted to make a difference. They didn't seek praise, they didn't want attention. Instead through their attitude they served our students.
When I place the words serve and deserve beside each other, the difference jumps at me. Do I quietly help others or do I seek attention because I think I'm worthy?
Paul wrote to the Ephesians to serve as if they are serving the Lord himself. That's not an attitude of deserving, instead, Jesus wants us to have an attitude focused on serving. Humble, giving, and grateful, Jesus helped others even though he deserved to be served. 
May my heart be filled with the desire to serve.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Fiction Review: Courting Mr. Emerson by Melody Carlson

When the fun-loving and spontaneous artist Willow West meets buttoned-up, retired English teacher George Emerson, it's not exactly love at first sight. Though she does find the obsessive-compulsive man intriguing. Making it her mission to get him to loosen up and embrace life, she embarks on what seems like a lost cause--and finds herself falling for him in the process.

A confirmed bachelor, George vacillates between irritation and attraction whenever Willow is around--which to him seems like all too often. He's not interested in expanding his horizons or making new friends; it just hurts too much when you lose them.

But as the summer progresses, George feels his defenses crumbling. The question is, will his change of heart be too late for Willow?

With her signature heart and touches of humor, fan favorite Melody Carlson pens a story of two delightfully eccentric characters who get a second chance at life and love.

My Review:
Courting Mr. Emerson is one of the most delightful books I've read in a while. I loved the quirky characters and the lovely little town they live in. George reminds me of a couple of people I've met through the years. Willow's free spirit pops from the pages. One of the things I like most about Melody Carlson's writing is her ability to tell more than one story at a time and weave them together so beautifully. With comedy and endearment, she's penned a lovely story filled with complex and lovable characters. I also like the art angle as a nice backdrop for several scenes and the charming cover. If you want an enjoyable story to curl up with and feel good about, pick up a copy of Courting Mr. Emerson. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I'm Thankful we don't have to do That!

Leviticus 1:3-5
If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting...

Luke 23:44-46
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

As I read through the book of Leviticus, my heart skipped a beat when I came across the verses about sacrifice. When the folks in the old testament presented a sacrifice to God, they sorted through their herd and found a blemish free animal, "a male without defect." Not only did they give up their best, they had to kill it and burn it themselves—among other things. If you read the first few chapters of Leviticus, you get the picture that the business of sacrifice was messy, the kind of mess that would make me turn my head away. The people responsible for making the sacrifice literally got their hands dirty. They dealt with the blood and the cleansing.

But then something miraculous happened. Jesus came to live as a man on this earth. At the end of his short life here, he took the place of that perfect, spotless animal. Soldiers walked him through the streets, beaten and bloody, carrying his cross. On Golgotha, men nailed Jesus to the cross. His blood spilled when they sunk a spear into his side and stuck a wreath of thorns on his head. Jesus died as the sacrifice for our sins. We no longer need to offer animals to be forgiven or accepted by God. The Lord who loves us more than we understand, gave his life. HIS LIFE. We don't need to sort through a herd or flock, we just need to look to God and ask forgiveness.
I don't know about you, but I praise God that I no longer need to carry a lamb to the altar, instead Jesus is the only sacrifice I need. He's the ultimate offering. Thank you God for your grace.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Fiction Review: The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

Brought together by a charming bookstore in England, three women fight to defy expectations, dream new dreams, and welcome love into their lives. 

As a counselor, Sophia Barrett is trained to help people cope with their burdens. But when she meets a new patient whose troubles mirror her own, she realizes she hasn’t dealt with the pain of her recent past. After making a snap decision to get away for the summer, Sophia moves overseas to an apartment above a charming bookstore in Cornwall, England. She is hopeful she will find peace there surrounded by her favorite thing: great literature. 

Bookstore owner Ginny Rose is desperate to save her business without asking for help from a husband who’s decided to take a break from their marriage. Ginny never imagined she’d be solely responsible for keeping afloat her husband’s dream, but the unexpected friendship with her new renter has her feeling more optimistic. Between the two of them—and Ginny’s brother-in-law, William—the bookstore might stand a chance. 

Then Sophia finds a notebook in the bookstore that contains journal entries from Emily Fairfax, a governess who lived in Cornwall more than 150 years ago. Sophia learns that Emily harbored a secret passion for becoming an authoress—as well as a deep love for her childhood friend, Edward, whose station she dared not dream to touch. 

Eager to know more of Emily’s story, Sophia goes on a quest—dragging Ginny and William with her—to discover the heart of the woman behind the beautiful entries. Soon Ginny’s need to save the bookstore becomes more than a way to save her marriage, and Sophia finds new purpose of her own. Together they find that sometimes both heartache and hope can reach across the centuries.

My Review:
I enjoyed this enchanting story of friendship, healing and love. The English village where  this delightful little bookstore is set is a wonderful place to get lost for a few hours. The characters are just quirky enough to be charming. Sophia, Ginny and Emily all have stories that draw on encouragement, friendship and courage. I also liked that Sophia's mom was supportive and caring. This is a story I will revisit in the future. Grab a copy of The Secrets of Paper and Ink, a cup of tea, and a comfy chair and enjoy these delightful characters and their stories of hope. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

What I've Learned

Proverbs 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.

Retirement has been a dream for me for the last five years. On May 1st it will be a reality. I've worked in libraries for twenty-four plus years; public, school, and academic. Twelve of those years, I spent encouraging children to read. I loved the joy on their faces when they found a book they liked. Reading to the kids in storytime and library class made my day. The other twelve years, I've worked as a technical services manager; the person who makes sure the books are searchable in the catalog. Through all of this, I've learned one thing—Trust God!

Even in a line of work where you'd think the environment would be quiet and calm, stress availed. On the days I wondered why God led me to work in libraries, I heard the Holy Spirit say, "trust God." So many times, I didn't understand decisions people made, the anxiety they caused or negative attitudes. God said, "trust me." So I did. On my desk I have a little sign that says pray.  And I do, everyday.

As I reminisce about my journey in the libraries, I see God's hand all over those days. Amid the negative and stress, many positive, happy memories pop up. I made some great friends and learned more than I can even write about. God knew what I needed far before I did. I just needed to trust him.
He knows my future and I trust him to guide me.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Pure Joy

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

It's pothole season in Ohio again, that time between winter and spring when the snow and ice have melted and the blacktop gives way to winter's damage. After church Sunday, Tim and I noticed several deep divots chiseled out of the pavement. Some of them were crater sized. One wrong clunk into the hole could cause a tire puncture, damage to the wheel rim, problems with shocks, suspension or alignment. If the damage isn't repaired one problem may lead to another.
Pothole in the Road 

Sometimes in life, potholes are unavoidable and do a lot of damage. Some are deeper than others. Imagine traveling down a perfectly paved road, then all of a sudden a hole appears in front of you, but you can't avoid it; swerving around it would cause you to hit another car. So you drive over it and bumpety-bump you go. The tire blows, the rim gets bent and the suspension is a mess. Now what! You take the car to a mechanic who knows how to repair the mess.

Life's potholes are often unavoidable. We find out we have cancer, break a leg or have surgery. A friend disappoints us, or a child turns away from God. There are so many holes in the roads we travel. But like the mechanic, we know someone who wants to help us through the potholes. God's waiting to take your burden, he's waiting to hear from you. There's no magical shield to protect us from potholes. But we do have someone who loves us and offers comfort and guidance through the rough bumps of life. When we turn the troubles in life over to Jesus, we gain strength in our faith, perseverance and maturity which results in joy. Beautiful joy!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Work With my Hands

Exodus 35:35
He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

This verse in Exodus 35 made my heart happy. God gave instructions to the Israelites on how to build, design and decorate the tabernacle. Every Israelite was asked to gather supplies, then God called those with the gifts of crafting to work together and create a place of worship. My heart smiled at this verse because I am an embroiderer, a crafter. If I'd lived back then, I may have had the opportunity to put my hands to the task and please God with my work.

God called his people to use their skills, their gifts to work together and accomplish his request. Even though we may not be building a tabernacle, we are building God's kingdom on this earth. When God created me, he knew what my abilities would be. He made me to work with my hands. I love creating. Embroidering beauty, crocheting, and writing. I have been instilled with a love of nature and sharing what I know about God's creation. When I chose to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit added to those skills. He gave me spiritual gifts enhanced by my natural abilities.

I love this about God. He knew me before I was born. He understood my purpose. He calls me where he needs me. I'm thankful for the gifts God has given me, and I pray each day for his guidance as I work for him.
My life verse: 1 Thessalonians 4:11-2 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.