Sunday, March 31, 2019

Fiction Review: A Silken Thread by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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.

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.