Saturday, May 25, 2019

Great is Your Reward

Matthew 5:11-12
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


The sounds of May—teachers shouting with joy and students laughing and fist bumping the air. Schools out for the summer.

The week has been busy with end of school awards. Since retirement, I've been able to attend the activities of grandkids. At the middle school on Wednesday, I watched as my granddaughter Dylan was given certificates from the teachers who worked hard to instill a love of learning. On Thursday, I attended awards for Eli and Zeke, moving from third to fourth grade. Every child beamed when their name was called. They held up their certificates and medals, joyful about their accomplishments. What a way to end the year!

Many of the children received the Tiger award. A special acknowledgement of good behavior, kindness, and hard work. Those students treated their fellow students with respect and were rewarded.

When I accepted Jesus as my savior, I agreed to obey God. Frankly, at times I've failed. But the beautiful thing is—God gives grace. Yes, I obey in hopes of receiving the reward of heaven. More than that, I want to emulate Jesus. I strive to show love the way he has, to others.

Jesus reminds me, in the passage in Matthew, that following him may bring persecution. The devil loves to poke, prod and attack from every side. As certain as I am that it wasn't always easy for the students to show kindness to each other, I know how difficult the path is when following Jesus. Yet, I choose to follow the example Jesus set. To love God and people. For great is the reward of heaven.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Fiction Book Review: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes


Description:
In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss's humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the tiny, coastal Maine town, and he sets his calloused hands to work, but the building halts when tragedy strikes.

Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when she learns her Great-Uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. What she didn't anticipate was finding a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Long-ago memories of stone ruins on a nearby island trigger her curiosity, igniting a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers.

She joins forces with the handsome and mysterious harbor postman, and all her hopes of mending the decades-old chasm in her family seem to point back to the ruins. But with Robert failing fast, her search for answers battles against time, a foe as relentless as the ever-crashing waves upon the sea.

My Review:
Whose Waves These Are is an amazing story of love, devotion, misunderstanding, loss and redemption. Annie Bliss is a plucky character determined to make amends for her own mistakes and those of her family. She's strong, yet vulnerable. Jeremiah's patience and uncertainty add a delicious layer of mystery to the already interesting story. As Annie and Jeremiah work to unravel the years of tangled family threads, the village of Ansel-by-the-Sea rises up to its full potential to love the people who need it most. Amanda Dykes has woven a fascinating and satisfying story, A perfect Maine tale. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Fiction Review: Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter


Description:
When her grandmother goes missing from the family beach house, Maddy and her estranged sisters converge in Sea Haven, North Carolina. Being with uptight Nora and free-spirited Emma in the home where their family broke apart is a struggle Maddy is not in the mood to face, especially since she’s recovering from her ex-boyfriend’s betrayal.

As the sisters wait for word of their grandmother, they begin to pack up the family belongings—and unpack memories of the idyllic summers of their childhood. But with those memories come long-buried secrets, and Maddy discovers that all was not as it appeared that last summer in Sea Haven. Meanwhile, Gram’s neighbor, Connor Sullivan, seems overly interested in Gram’s whereabouts. Maddy is drawn in by his quick smile and steady gaze in spite of herself.

Undercurrents of jealousy and resentment threaten to pull the family under again, maybe for good this time. As tensions rise, the sisters must find a way to accept each other for the women they’ve become—and Maddy must decide if falling in love again is worth the potential heartbreak.

My Review:
Love this book! Summer by the Tides is a beautiful story of love, hope, and forgiveness. A visit to Sea Haven, North Carolina made me feel like I was on vacation. The memories embedded in Gram's cottage, from family summers of the past, creates tension between the sisters. The kind of tension that made me keep turning the pages. While Maddy tries to figure out her life, Gram's handsome neighbor, Connor, reaches out to the family. The story of the three sisters is intriguing. I enjoyed this is perfect summer read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

God is Love

1 John 4:7-10
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This week has been a tough one. I've been in prayer—a lot. For dear friends who have physical ailments, surgeries and recoveries. For grandchildren and children who need some extra special care. For Tim and I as we let go of one of our best friends, our dog Tater. I don't really know how to say goodbye to our dog. He came to us as the sweetest little puppy. Now fifteen years later, yes that's a long time for a big dog, his body is giving out. But when I look into his face, I see that puppy who stole my heart. Some folks won't understand losing a pet, but many will. He's been part of our family, a comfort at times and a buddy always. The same grief we experience for a loved one has been pounding me ever since we knew he'd be gone soon. I've been angry, sad, relieved, comforted, all those emotions and sometimes all at once. But the one thing I know...we have wonderful memories with a fabulous pet. He protected and loved us.

I don't know if dogs will be in heaven. They are part of God's creation, so I hope they are. But even if they aren't, I'm thankful God made them for us here. Tater has loved us unconditionally. He's given us a glimpse of the bigger love God has for us. I've learned a lot of things from my dog, but the best lesson is love. His love is pure, without manipulation or selfish ambition.

God's love, the purest love, reaches across the universe to every person. Through his love he sacrificed his son, Jesus, so our sins would be forgiven. That had to be hard. His own son. Think about that. God's love is so huge we can't comprehend it. How can he love me, a sinner? Not just love, but forgive. He loves and wants to be loved back. 
Love God and love people. There is no greater commandment.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Historical Fiction Book Review: The Refuge by Ann H. Gabhart


Description:
When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It's meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique--and lonely--position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?

My Review:
I enjoyed delving into and learning more about the Shaker community in The Refuge. Ann H. Gabhart's research into the lifestyle and beliefs of the Shakers is beautifully woven into the plot. Darcy and Flynn's stories are entertaining, and I love the stories of the children. Ann added some twists I wasn't expecting, which always makes for a good read. This is well crafted historical fiction; written with great detail and based in the reality of the times. If you enjoy well-written historical fiction, you'll love The Refuge. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Fiction Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay


Description:
Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop.

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened her heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

My Review:
The Printed Letter Bookshop is a beautiful story of love, loss, misunderstanding, friendship, and joy. I'd love to have a bookshop like this one in my neighborhood. The store itself is an amazing character. The two ladies who work in the shop create the perfect tension to carry the story through to the end. I enjoyed watching Maddie grow into the person her aunt knew she could be. And I love the gardener. He's a sweetheart. Katherine Reay's books always captivate me, this one was no exception. She adds in so many wonderful literary references. This is definitely a story for book lovers. It would make a wonderful gift for the avid reader.
 I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Children's Book Review: Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You words by Annette Bourland, illustrated by Kit Chase


Description:
Featuring read-aloud rhymes and adorable illustrations, Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You is the perfect book for a parent, grandparent, or any other loved one to share with the little one in their life. With each reading, it will bring joy to your child’s heart, and might even bring a tear to your eye as the charming illustrations and sweet rhymes remind you how precious these moments are between you and your Little Sweet Pea.

Little Sweet Pea, God loves you.
From button nose to gentle coo.
Squishy cheeks and sparkly eyes,
Pure delight and perfect size. 

My Review:
Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You is an adorable book made for reading aloud. This is the perfect story for lap-sitting and snuggling. The words are in a sing-song easy to read rhyme. The delightful illustrations add charm. Kit Chase uses watercolor, gouache, acrylic and ink to bring the pages to life. If you have a sweet child in your life you enjoy reading to, or know someone who would enjoy this positive, inspiring read about God's love for them pick up a copy to share.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zonderkidz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Like the Birds

Psalm 91:1-2
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

A baby barred owl nestled into the roots of a tall oak tree. He sat as still as a statue— until my youngest daughter and I approached. We stood about three feet from him when we heard his mama hooting. He clacked his beak and flapped his wings to scare us off and she kept hooting. The next day, on a field trip with my oldest daughter's first grade class, we spied a killdeer. She flapped her wings, swelled her chest out, and ran around trying to shoo us away from her eggs. Both mama birds went into protector mode when their babies felt threatened.


Like the birds, I have a protector. One who knows my enemy. I love the verse in Psalm that reminds me I rest in the shadow of the almighty. Can you imagine the enormity of God's shadow? Neither can I. Yet what I do know—in his shadow I'm surrounded by God and his army of angels; I have God's word that pours truth into my weary soul; I have the Holy Spirit who walks with me every day; and I have Jesus promise of new life. Praise God for his love and protection.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fiction Review: On a Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Bk#1 of Three Sisters Island)


Description:
Sometimes love hurts--and sometimes it can heal in the most unexpected way.

Camden Grayson loves her challenging career, but the rest of her life could use some improvement. "Moving on" is Cam's mantra. But there's a difference, her two sisters insist, between one who moves on . . . and one who keeps moving. 

Cam's full-throttle life skids to a stop when her father buys a remote island off the coast of Maine. Paul Grayson has a dream to breathe new life into the island--a dream that includes reuniting his estranged daughters. Certain Dad has lost his mind, the three sisters rush to the island. To Cam's surprise, the slow pace of island life appeals to her, along with the locals--and one in particular. Seth Walker, the scruffy island schoolteacher harbors more than a few surprises. 

My Review:
On a Summer Tide, the first in the Three Sisters Island series by Suzanne Woods Fisher, is a heart-warming story with a glorious setting. You may be familiar with Suzanne's many Amish and historical novels. Her contemporary romance is delightful and full of charm. The beautiful Maine coast is the perfect backdrop for this story of reconciliation and discovery. Paul Grayson wants his daughters back in the fold, to accomplish that he buys an island. That alone made the story appealing to me. They work together to rebuild the camp he holds dear to his heart. Each of the three sisters brings a different personality to the table, as is the case with sisters. There are some surprises along with the restoration. I plan to keep this book and reread it when the next ones in the series are published. This a perfect summer read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Fiction Review: Becoming Us (Haven Makers Book 1) by Robin Jones Gunn


Description:
Five young women, including beloved Gunn characters Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen, gather for a simple Christmas party and soon become unlikely best friends. Told from the viewpoint of Emily, a timid young mom going through a difficult season of life, the regular gatherings provide the much needed community she's longed for. As the women begin sharing their life stories in Becoming Us they are endeared to each other and find ways to challenge, encourage, and help each other become the nurturing mothers they wished they'd had when they were growing up. They see themselves as Haven Makers and unite to be remembered for what they do and not for what was done to them.

My Review:
Becoming Us is a sweet inspirational novel. Fans of Robin's Christy Miller books will love this new series. I enjoyed the interaction of the young women as they learn and grow through tough times. The most inspiring element in the story is the common thread they share; young women doing life together. I've read several of Gunn's books and enjoyed them all. This one will appeal to young women who can relate to the trials of life as mom's and/or working women. I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Children's Picture Book Review: A Kite for Moon by Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrated by Matt Phelan


Book Description:
Dedicated to astronaut Neil Armstrong, A Kite for Moon is the perfect children’s book to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first United States moon landing.
What would it be like if the moon was your friend? Find out as you walk alongside a little boy who journeys through life to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut. And then blast off with your little one as you zoom to the moon together!

The story begins when a little boy, who is flying his kite, notices a sad Moon. He sends up kites to her, writing notes promising he will come see her someday. This promise propels him through years of studying, learning, and training to become an astronaut. Until … he finally goes up, up, up in a big rocket ship with a fiery tail!


A Kite for Moon, written by New York Times bestselling author of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi Stemple, is a heartfelt story about a young boy’s fascination and unlikely friendship with the moon.

My Review:
A Kite for Moon is the perfect conversation starter about space exploration, the moon, or a summer night of star gazing. Share this poetic tribute with an elementary school class or your own children. This sweet story will inspire children to dream about what they'd like to do when they grow up. Dedicated to Neil Armstrong, the story follows a little boy and his desire to help the moon find happiness. I like that the point of view comes from the moon's perspective. At the age of 12, I remember watching Armstrong's moon landing; as will many grandparents who will want to read this to their grandchildren. This gorgeous book, filled with beautiful illustrations, is a perfect salute to Armstrong and all the boys and girls who dream of bigger things. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zonderkidz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Free to Live


2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

"I am Free!"

I woke up on May 1st with the News Boys song in my head. "I am free, yes I am free." That marked my first day as a retiree. No more clocking in and out. No more scheduled work, deadlines to make or staff meetings. Thanks to the support of my husband, I no longer need to work outside of our home. On my last day of work, several co-workers dropped by and bid me farewell. Many of them asked me what my plans were after I retired. But one of them posed a different question. He asked, "What is your favorite memory you'll take with you?" I had to ponder that one. With 24 years of library work, what did I think? A few hours later one of our former student assistants, Ty, dropped by to tell me good-bye. I had a Charlie Brown moment when in my head, I yelled, "That's it!"

My favorite memory stemmed from the students, Ty and Ben. I had both young men in elementary school, before I worked at the college. They both came to Clermont as college freshman and worked in the library as students. I had the privilege of seeing these two follow their dreams, along with several of my friends' children.

I loved working with students. But God knew I was ready for a change. As free as I feel about retirement, I am truly free in Jesus because he took my sins with him to the cross. When Jesus beat death, the shackles of sin fell from me because I chose to follow Him. Now without a daily job to go to, I have opportunity to explore my future. Through prayer and scripture, I'm seeking what God wants me to do for the rest of my life. I know my path includes encouragement, writing and art. With the Holy Spirit's guidance and a servant's heart, I want to glorify Jesus in whatever I do. Because the Spirit of the Lord is with me, I am free indeed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Fiction Review: Sweet on You (A Bradford Sisters Romance Book #3) by Becky Wade


Book Description:
Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long.

Independent and adventurous Britt channels her talent into creating chocolates at her hometown shop. Zander is a bestselling author who's spent the past 18 months traveling the world. He's achieved a great deal but still lacks the only thing that ever truly mattered to him--Britt's heart.When Zander's uncle dies of mysterious causes, he returns to Merryweather, Washington, to investigate, and Britt is immediately there to help. Although this throws them into close proximity, both understand that an attempt at romance could jeopardize their once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But while 

Britt is determined to resist any change in their relationship, Zander finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings hidden.

As they work together to uncover his uncle's tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light?


My Review:
I love Zander. In True to You, book 1 in the series, Zander is a sweet boy, who has grown up, after travels overseas, to be a kind-hearted man. Britt made me a little crazy, in a good way. She's a dare-devil who pushes the limit. But the two, with a solid friendship have much to figure out. Then there is the mystery that folds into the lives of Zander and Britt. Well done, Becky Wade. This is a great addition to the series. I loved Britt's chocolate shop, where I wanted to taste the peppermint truffles and revisiting the Merryweather Historical Village where much of the story takes place. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I Spy the Colors of Spring


I love the color that brightens the earth this time of year, especially the blooming trees and bushes. After the white and grey of winter, the array of purple, pink, yellow and green spray beauty everywhere.

First the forsythia bring sunshine with their bright yellow blossoms. Redbuds pop with color against the pale green of the budding trees. Then the dogwood brighten the woods with brilliant white and passion pink. And I love the lavender of the lilac bushes.

When I was a girl, a lavender bush stood in our yard. Taller than me and wider than a tree, I played hide and seek around the bush with my cousin. We breathed in the fragrant smell of the gorgeous blooms. Mom cut the branches and graced our table with the gorgeous color and fragrant smell. For the last few years, we had a bush growing by our garage. I didn't know what the bush was, although I should have, until the lavender clusters popped out. What a delightful surprise.

Driving down the road with my grandson and granddaughter, we played a game spying all the different colors of trees. Ella Cates favorite color is pink and sure enough she found the pink dogwood and the redbud. Eli discovered the white dogwood and the shades of green on the new spring leaves. What fun to share my love of nature with my grands.

Take the time to notice the beauty of God's creation.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;    let your glory be over all the earth.Psalm 57:11

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Heart of the Matter


1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I rummaged through my closet trying to find the best outfit to wear to the Mercy Me concert. Everything I pulled out either looked like work clothes or casual Saturday (different from casual Friday, much more relaxed—maybe even sloppy.) Frustrated, I tried again. I'd decided jeans would be good, but felt discouraged with my choice in shirts. My good friend Bev and I had planned this evening for months, and I wanted to look nice. I finally narrowed it down to two possibilities, then went on with my day.

Coffee in hand, I opened my Bible to the daily reading. As I perused the verses, my foray through my closet seemed pathetic. Here I was preparing what to wear to the concert. When what I should have been doing was preparing my heart to worship and praise God.

As Samuel searched for a future king to replace himself, God reminded him not to look at the outward appearance, instead look at the man's heart. David, who Samuel would later choose to follow him as king, was a man of small stature. Even though he was considered handsome, God wanted to know what was inside, not outside. God looks at the heart, the organ that pumps life into our souls. After I bowed my head and had a heart-to-heart with God, I knew I was ready to receive his blessing and give him glory at the concert. I pray that my heart is ready to worship the Lord every day.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Friday, April 26, 2019

Fiction Book Review: Driftwood Bay by Irene Hannon (Hope Harbor Novel)


Book Description:
After tragedy upends her world, Jeannette Mason retreats to the tiny Oregon seaside town of Hope Harbor to create a new life. Vowing to avoid emotional attachments, she focuses on running her lavender farm and tea-room--until a new neighbor with a destructive dog and a forlorn little girl invades her turf. But she needn't worry. Dr. Logan West is too busy coping with an unexpected family, a radical lifestyle change, and an unruly pup to have any interest in his aloof and disagreeable neighbor.

Yet when both Jeanette and Logan find themselves pulled into the life of a tattered Christian family fleeing persecution in war-torn Syria, might they discover that love sometimes comes calling when it's least expected?

My Review:
The Hope Harbor series is one of my favorites. I love traveling back to this beautiful seaside town to visit with the folks who pop up in each book; particularly the taco stand owner, Charley. I love his wisdom and his two seagull friends—Floyd and Gladys. Jeannette's lavender farm and tea room invited me to relax as I read her story. Molly, little girl in Logan's life, is a sweetheart. The story of the Syrian family broke my heart, but I loved the hope they found in new friends and God. Driftwood Bay is a beautiful story filled with love and joy, sorrow and hope. Irene Hannon writes from the heart. This is a great summer read or curl up with a blanket while the spring rains fall. Visit hope Harbor—relax, read, enjoy.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Excited!

Acts 5:30-32
"The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Can I say I'm excited? Seriously, EXCITED! Our mighty God in his miraculous way, breathed life back into his son. Jesus died, then rose again. That's amazing, and unfathomable. My earthly mind doesn't understand. For the logical side of my brain, it makes no sense. But guess what, the resurrection happened.

I'd love to talk to Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the women who saw Jesus alive after they watched him be crucified. Confusion must have filled their brains, at first. But just imagine the joy that flowed from their hearts once they understood. Their Lord and Savior lives.

Did I say I'm excited! I am. My Jesus lives. He's not in a tomb, rotting away. He's not dead. He's alive. Because he lives, I have hope for a future in heaven. I have the Holy Spirit to guide me. I have peace amid the strife of this earth. Jesus gave his life for me and for you. He died and rose again so that the people who follow him will have life after death. So we can have joy, love, peace and hope.
Easter is more than the bunny. Easter is a celebration of life. Rejoice with me that Jesus lives!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Non-fiction Review: Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach Us About the Nature of God and his Love for Us


Description:
The Bible talks about trees more than any living creation other than people. Perhaps you've missed the forest...and the trees.

In this groundbreaking walk through Scripture, former physician and carpenter Dr. Matthew Sleeth makes the convincing case why trees are essential to every Christian's understanding of God. 

Yet we've mostly missed how God has chosen to tell His story--and ours--through the lens of trees. There's a tree on the first page of Genesis and the last page of Revelation. The Bible refers to its wisdom as a Tree of Life (Proverbs 3:18). Every major Biblical character has a tree associated with them. Jesus himself says he is the true vine (John 15:1). A tree was used to kill Jesus--and a tree is the only thing the Messiah ever harmed.

This is no accident. When we subtract trees from Scripture, we miss lessons of faith necessary for our growth.

This is the rare book that connects those who love the Creator with creation, and those who love creation with the Creator. It offers inspirational yet practical ways to express our love for God--and our neighbors--by planting spiritual trees and physical trees in the world.

Join Dr. Sleeth as he navigates the Bible's trail of trees to explore the wonders of life, death, and rebirth. You'll be amazed at how science is just beginning to catch up to the truths described in Scripture thousands of years ago. Once you discover the hidden language of trees, your walk through the woods--and through Scripture--will never be the same.

My Review:
When I saw this book available for review, I knew I needed to read it. I've yet to read a book so focused on the trees God created and why they are so important to life on earth. Matthew Sleeth, MD, an atheist before he found his way to Jesus, has done a great deal of research within the scripture to discover how trees thread their way through the Bible. I enjoyed his perspective and excitement for taking care of God's creation. Sleeth has many great ideas of how to keep trees on earth.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Final Dash


2 Timothy 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Lined up in their own lanes, the runners leaned in to race. The starting gun popped. The students darted off in a flurry. As they pushed themselves around the track, some hustled ahead of the pack—others kept a steady pace. As they rounded the bend, a few of the middle runners fired into a sprint—to make the final dash to the finish line. The beauty of the race, every runner finished. No matter where they placed, they pushed through and completed what they set out to do.

Paul penned a letter to Timothy, the young evangelist, and let him know his race would soon end. Paul spent years teaching others about Jesus. He'd been in prison, traveled across water, and walked miles to speak the truth from his heart. Paul loved the Lord and cared about his young friend, Timothy. What I love about Paul's confession—he could say with confidence, he'd completed the journey God called him to. He ran the race, kept the pace, and sprinted to the end for the ultimate prize; life-after-death in heaven with his Father.
Paul understood what awaited him at the end of his race. He knew Jesus waited for him, as he dashed to the finish line.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Fiction Review: The Memory House by Rachel Hauck & Giveaway!


Description:
When Beck Holiday lost her father in the North Tower on 9/11, she also lost her memories of him. Eighteen years later, she’s a tough New York City cop burdened with a damaging secret, suspended for misconduct, and struggling to get her life in order. Meanwhile a mysterious letter arrives informing her she’s inherited a house along Florida’s northern coast, and what she discovers there will change her life forever. Matters of the heart only become more complicated when she runs into handsome Bruno Endicott, a driven sports agent who fondly recalls the connection they shared as teenagers. But Beck doesn’t remember that either.

Decades earlier, widow Everleigh Applegate lives a steady, uneventful life with her widowed mother after a tornado ripped through Waco, Texas, and destroyed her new, young married life. When she runs into old high school friend Don Callahan, she begins to yearn for change. Yet no matter how much she longs to love again, she is hindered by a secret she can never share.

Fifty years separate the women but through the power of love and miracle of faith, they each find healing in a beautiful Victorian known affectionately as The Memory House.  

My Review:
I loved this book. The old Victorian home called The Memory House is lovely. The way Rachel Hauck describes the beautiful old home made me wish I could visit. Picture yourself in a place where you can find respite from grief and sadness with the hope of tomorrow, surrounded by beauty. Beck's story broke my heart. To not be able to remember a loved one who passed on would be so hard. As the story trailed Beck's journey then entwined with Everleigh's, I didn't want to put the book down. This is a beautiful story of two women finding their way, despite the obstacles they face. A spiritual thread of hope underlies the story. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


                                                           a Rafflecopter giveaway
Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journalbestselling author.
Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Reviews. She is a double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award Winner.
Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding Series, was filmed for an Original Hallmark movie.
Rachel has been awarded the prestigious Career Achievement Award for her body of original work by Romantic Times Book Reviews.
A member of the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers, she teaches workshops and leads worship at the annual conference. She is a past Mentor of The Year.
At home, she’s a wife, writer, worship leader and works out at the gym semi-enthusiastically.
A graduate of Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with a degree in Journalism, she’s a former sorority girl and a devoted Ohio State football fan. Her bucket list is to stand on the sidelines with Ryan Day.
She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Where are you When the Lights go Out?

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

1 John 1:6-7
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

As I chatted with my co-worker in her office, the lights flickered out. Electric all over campus shut off. As soon as we realized what happened, we walked to the main room of the library. No storm brewed outside, instead sunlight flooded the sky lights. Two florescent lights stayed on due to a generator. Students wondered what to do. We directed a few to hang in there until we figured out what was going on. Then, one young man stepped in and went straight to the only table with a light. He unpacked his backpack, sat down with his textbook and started to read. He knew what to do—follow the light.

Every day darkness overwhelms us. If you watch the news, you see people who hate and kill. We read about people who bring harm to others or themselves. Illness and circumstances bring grief. The constant focus on politics and who has said what is just plain irritating. If we'd let ourselves, we could sit in the dark of sin every day. But we don't have to. There is a light that shines to bring hope and love to this world. Jesus is the light. He shines brighter than any darkness Satan can throw over us. Like the young man in our library, let's walk toward the light and focus on our Lord and Savior—Jesus. He is the light that shines in the darkest hour. He is our hope!
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Fiction Review: A Silken Thread by Kim Vogel Sawyer


Description:
Eighteen-year-old Laurel Millard, youngest of seven children, is expected to stay home and "take care of Mama" by her older siblings, but Laurel has dreams of starting her own family. Operating a silk loom at the Atlanta Exposition will give her the chance to capture the heart of a man wealthy enough to take care of Laurel and any children she might bear, as well as her mother.

Langdon Rochester's parents have given him an ultimatum: settle down with a wife or lose his family inheritance. At the Exposition, Langdon meets Laurel. Marrying her would satisfy his parents' command, she would look lovely on his arm for social events, and in her besotted state, he believes she would overlook him continuing pursuing rowdy adventures with his unmarried buddies. Langdon decides to woo Laurel. Willie Sharp is not well-off and must take on an extra job at the Atlanta Exposition as a security guard. When mischief-makers cause trouble in the Women's Building, Willie is put in charge of keeping the building secure. He enjoys visiting with Laurel, who seems like the little sister he never had, but his feelings for Laurel change to something much deeper. Can Willie convince Laurel that he can give her better life--even with so little to offer?

My Review:
I chose this book to review because I enjoy reading about historical expositions and world fairs. Kim Vogel Sawyer did her research and set the scene for me. She also took on the difficult job of writing about slavery and racism in the south following the Civil War. The way she handled the animosity balanced by the love of one brother for another reflected the love of Jesus in a beautiful way. I loved that Laurel got to stretch her wings and work at the exposition. It was fun to read her story of growth. I loved Willie, what a sweetie. If you enjoy historical fiction laced with faith and hope, you'll love A Silken Thread.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook & Multnomah. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

What am I Leaving?


Acts 4:36
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”) sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Within a few days, I heard that three men our family knew had passed away. Although I had not seen any of them for some years, I felt the sting of grief. As I prayed for their families and friends, memories of each of them flooded my mind. I'd known Pat since he was a boy and always loved his kind, caring heart. Todd was a friend of our children. The last time Tim and I ran into him he greeted us with his big smile and welcoming spirit. Charlie showered his love for Jesus over me when I needed it most. Every one of these men encouraged me with their loving, hopeful spirit. They left a positive influence on my life. Which made me wonder, what am I leaving?

In the book of Acts, Paul, who was Saul, turned his life over to Jesus. God provided him with an encouraging friend; a believer named Joseph who was nicknamed Barnabas, "son of encouragement." Barnabas left a positive impression on the people he met. He poured God's love over Paul as he traveled and taught with him.

Thinking about the men who passed reminded me that what I do, say, act have an impact on the people God places in my path. Am I making a good impression for Jesus, or am I leaving behind dark clouds of pessimism and negativity?

I'm thankful I remember Pat, Todd, and Charlie as positive influences I my life. I continue to pray for their families and friends as they miss their loved ones. I also pray God reminds me to be an encourager for him.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. -Will Rogers

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Raise a Hallelujah!


Psalm 150
Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.


Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

The other day, two of my granddaughters rode in the Jeep with me. From the back seat, I heard Ella Cate's sweet four-year-old voice. "Grammy Penny, can we listen to music. You know that's what I like to do in the car, is listen to music." I turned on the radio as we drove a short distance to a restaurant. When the song that played ended, she requested a song we both love called "My Lighthouse." We didn't have time to plug that one in, but we'd sung it together before. I promised the next time she's in the Jeep we'd play her favorite. What a joy to know that my grandchildren enjoy music, especially when the songs praise God.
Exposing children to positive, uplifting music gives them another tool to help them navigate this crazy world.
In Psalm 150, the author encourages us to praise God with everything from a tambourine to cymbals. In Hebrew the term "Hallelujah" means praise the Lord. When life goes great—praise the Lord, when life stinks—praise the Lord. Sing hallelujah to the author of life, the Savior of souls, the One who gives grace. No matter what life throws at us, we can find comfort in the music that praises God. Maybe a psalm, traditional hymn, or contemporary chorus. God has gifted some with the ability to write, sing and perform music. He's gifted all believers to take those songs and lift them to him as offerings of praise.
Let's raise a hallelujah to the King of Kings!

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.