Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review for A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

A lasting impression is exactly what this book brings.   

A Lasting Impression by Tamera AlexanderThis story takes place in the late 1800’s after the war.  The states are desperate to recover and rebuild and so is Claire Elise Laurent, a young French woman whose past is only a step behind her.  She comes to war-torn Tennessee hoping for a fresh start.  In the Publisher’s words:
“Set at Nashville’s historic Belmont Mansion, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and a woman to see themselves – and each other – for who they truly are.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  The history is rich and vibrant along with the characters.  My own knowledge on this time period is lacking but I felt the world Ms. Alexander created of Nashville was stunning.  And the Belmont Mansion is extravagant in description.  She has an amazing ability to string together words providing a masterpiece of the senses.  I loved it.  A link to an excerpt of the story is here.

Alexander covers many themes in this story, such as authenticity and honesty, family backgrounds and social status.  Along with this she exposes a spiritual journey for the main characters that feels real and alive.  The progression of the story is natural.  I really loved the character Claire.  She has a secret that shapes her and molds her decisions leading the reader effortlessly along her journey.

So far in every Alexander book I have read she always leaves a fingerprint on my heart; a word or phrase that changes the soil of my soul.   Tamera always leaves me changed – and challenged.  In the story, the main character faces a question that Tamera herself faced at one time.  Would you still paint (or write or sing or whatever) if you were only painting for Him?  God places desires and talents in us, His children.  He wants us to use those for His kingdom.  That is a question we all must answer at some point in our lives.  That alone is a journey.  I am on that journey myself.  The popular quote often repeated is that every journey begins with a step.  A step of faith often.  Claire had to take one and so do I.  There is a line at the end of the novel that has struck chord within me.  Alexander writes this as closure has come to one issue and Sutton, the hero of the story, is granted a new position at his work.  “Though Claire knew it wasn’t what Sutton wanted to do with his life, it was a step, and every step changed the view.  Who knew what God would bring next?”     Now isn’t that what a spiritual journey is all about?

Have you ever taken a step of faith, not knowing what would happen and then watched the view before your eyes change?  Was God faithful in that step of faith?

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, 
a division of Baker Publishing Group".   

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review for Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy

A mother's love.  A sister's promise. Will two women find the path to save a young woman's life?

Reclaiming LilyPatti Lacy wrote a powerful story about two cultures and two women who collide over their love for one special girl.  Lily, a young girl in a Chinese Orphanage is adopted and relocated to the Long Horn State in the U.S.A. She is renamed Joy and expected to live the life of an American girl.

Gloria, Joy's adoptive mother, struggles with a deep fear that she will lose Joy, so she holds on to her with an iron grip.  Too tight - to the point of pushing her away.

Many years after her adoption Joy is tracked down by her adoring sister, Kai who has spent her life on the mission to reclaim Lily into her Chinese family. Kai brings a sense of family Joy has been missing.  She also brings bad news of a genetic disease, PKD, that has attacked the Chinese Chang family and fears it may be poised to take Joy as well.

This story is moving and deep as it follows the roller coaster ride of international adoption, diverse cultures, teenage angst and rebellion, and life changing illnesses.  Patti Lacy has also pulled back the veil of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in this story of healing and restoration.  The story line is definitely worth the read.

As a reader I struggled with the lay out of the story.  The backstory, flashbacks and switching view points made the beginning half of the story difficult to follow and frustrating to continue on.  The two main characters, both women, were not easy to relate to from my perspective.  However, by the middle of the story I was engaged and invested in the characters plights. There were elements of the story that I struggled to see the connection to the plot.  This slowed down the flow of the book. The ending/epilogue felt a little rushed and disconnected but by the wrap up of the story I was able to see what Lacy was trying to show.

The aspects of the story I enjoyed were redeeming.  The transitions in the characters was realistic and understandable.  The faith issue was handles well without clich├ę or contrived 'Christianese'.  A strong voice for Kai helped the cultural differences to stand center stage at all times.  I felt the character of Kai was the most interesting and compelling.  Kai's story became more of the focus of the plot than Joy.  The research Lacy must have done for the story was extensive, but her accounts showed a confidence and power.  There were many emotive experiences she needed to draw from.  Well done.

My recommendation for Reclaiming Lily is to readers who are looking for a deep story, written with poetic prose and rich historical basis.  The story will touch your heart and leave you encouraged.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Lord has come ... now and then.

Have you ever had one of those teaching moments from God where the light bulb flickers on and all the little puzzle pieces from the last few days or weeks all come together.  I love those moments.  To me it is proof that there is a an all-powerful God who loves me enough to send me little 'love notes' or clues.

Lately I have been thinking about how there is so much that doesn't make sense to me.  You know the big things, like ... why is pain and suffering the best teacher?  ... how do we pray for something for years without an answer and still pray in faith?  ... how do I live in the now but focus on the then?

The little clues of truth God has been planting in my life started several weeks ago.  First as a sermon, then in some morning devotions and last of all in a book I was reading.  The clues over the last few weeks point towards one word ...eternity.  This life I am living right now is only a blip, a mist, a shard of ice off the tip of the iceberg.  Why then do we get so caught up in that tiny speck. It is time to see the bigger picture.

I just finished another ARC book titled Reclaiming Lily.  I discovered an undercurrent theme of how God is in the big things and in the little things and He is especially present in the things we don't understand.  I will explain more about that in my review.

Here is a clip from my devotions this week that sums it up nicely - (another clue).

"God is everywhere present, so why am I surprised when I find him in unexpected places?  Royalty in a manger?  Sovereignty riding a common colt through the streets of Jerusalem?  Peace by the beside of my friend's mother who is trying of leukemia?  Expectations are disappointed.  Plans are thwarted.  I do not like what life does to people and plans."   (Ruth Senter)
The fact that God does so many things that don't make sense to us is actually part of the plan.  "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing..."  (1 Cor 1:18)   God has a grand scheme plan, a large scale purpose, a never-ending plot that cannot be explained in the first few words of an introductory sentence.
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him -"  (1 Cor 2:9)
So the next time you find yourself scratching your temple, shaking your head and fists at God, think for a moment about the fact that we are unable to see the whole story from our limited perspective. Imagine it like acting as an extra in a movie.  Your scene runs a full one minute and eight seconds then the camera swerves back to the main character.  With that small presence you don't have anything to do with the setting, the arc of the characters or even the plot.  You weren't there when it all started and you won't be there when it all ends either.  Even if it turns out to be the best movie ever made, poised to accept a long string of awards, you are insignificant.  You are a by passer.  You are an extra.  You are 'Guy, the expendable crewman number six'.

However don't stop there.  That isn't the end of the story.  There is something else that's good news.  The best news of all.

  • You are a child of the Living God (1 John 3:1,2)
  • You are Christ's friend (John 15:15)
  • You are adopted by God (Rom 8:15)
  • You are a citizen of Heaven (Phil 3:20)
  • You are an heir of God (Rom 8:17)
  • You are blessed (Eph 1:3)
  • You are chosen by God (holy, beloved) (Col 3:12)
  • You are a member of His body (1 Cor 12:27)
I could go on.  I could list item after item of how important you are to God.  You are not insignificant or expendable or even a casual thought.  You are special to Him.  You are loved.

So how does that fit in with the whole fleeting moment thing?

Simple.  Our life here ... our troubles here are temporary.  Our life here on Earth is what is fleeting and small.  But our life IN CHRIST is what will last forever.  If you find yourself lost in the moment, neck deep in frustration, worry or pain, take a step back.  Ask God for an eternal perspective.  Spend time alone with Him to counteract the bombardment of the "now" to focus on the "then".

Take a moment this week to plan for eternity, instead of for 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spread some cheer ... Christmas time is here.

This morning I am baking goodies - sweet and savoury for our annual open house.  I haven't been in the mood for a lot of Christmas music yet this year but today I am.  So I thought I would show you a few songs to get you in the mood too.  (In case you aren't there yet).

But first, let me open our time together with a silly video from the guys at Tenth Avenue North.  You can tell they had a lot of fun filming it.

Anyone want to take a guess at how many attempts it took to film that awesome display of Holiday Cheer?  Check out their website for the answer.  The song is also available for download at iTunes.

Here is a list of some Christian artists celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour.  The links are to the song which you can download onto your computer for free.

If you like Sixpence None the Richer, Leigh Nash has a free download from Amazon of her rendition of O Holy Night.  (It is in Mp3 format.)

Or why not, Angels We Have Heard on High. (Info on how to download is underneath the song title.  To play the song, click on the blue highlighted song title.)    

Or perhaps you are in the mood for a little God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Jars of Clay.

Are you a Phil Keaggy fan?  Try The Best Christmas Morn.

Those are just a few free downloads you can add to your Christmas tunes this year.  However my favourite Christmas CD, (which isn't free and I don't even have any videos for it) is my Paul Brandt CD titled The Gift.  I am listening to it now.  Wanna come over?  I'll have some cookies out of the oven in about ten minutes.

One last bit of holiday fun is a video made by Spirit 105.3.  

Have a blessed and joyous Christmas.  From my home to yours ... God Bless!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Marc Martel - He's somebody to love!

Well the votes have been cast and he did it folks.  Marc Martel won the role of lead singer for the band Queen's 40th Anniversary tour. Roger Taylor, former Queen member has selected 6 lucky individuals from the masses to be in his tribute band.  Three of those six are Canadians.  Go Canada Go!

I posted a lot of information about Marc and his amazing climb to the top in the audition process here.  You can discover the background there.  But for now, here is what Marc has to say about all this stuff.

“What an amazing and unexpected opportunity to come our way – not to mention the timing of it all for me.  Having gotten to know the other contest winners a bit in LA, I’m confident we have what it takes to gel as a unit and give our best to do justice to some of the best rock music ever recorded.  I am so thankful for the chance to do this.  Gonna be Fun!”
The CBC ran a clip and an interview with all three Canadians. Check them out here.  One thing I did not know until the finalist were announced is that Marc's brother, David, was one of the semi-finalist as well.  Some good rock n' roll genes in that family i would say.  Unfortunately David Martel did not win.  Here is a You tube journey for David.  (1st audition, 2nd audition, final audition).

The contest required him to pass through two video auditions and then a live audition with several other artists in front of Band member Roger Taylor.  The Queen Extravaganza group posted all six of the live auditions if you want to check them out.  Marc Martel in on video part 4.  But for today ...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review – The Names of God Bible

“Yahweh is my Roeh.”  Do you know what scripture that is?

Names of God Bible, The, Ann Spangler, 978-0-8007-1931-9Ann Spangler, the General Editor of the Names of God Bible, opens the door to a more intimate relationship with God.  She takes your everyday reading of God’s word to a new level. Spangler is an award-winning writer whose fascination with the Bible has resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. She is the author or co-author of several bestselling books, including Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, Women of the Bible, and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.

The Names of God Bible is written in the God’s Word Translation.  This is a relatively new translation from 1995 which uses the method known as “closest natural equivalence” to express the meaning of the original text.  This allows for clear readability.  The structure is common to our everyday day English, using grammar and punctuation we are most familiar with.  For more information about the God’s Word Translation please visit here.

My first impression of the Bible was it's beautiful layout.  I like the colours used and the pleasing look of the pages. The Bible would make a beautiful gift.

I found the Names of God Bible very easy to read with the added eloquence of the proper Hebrew names of God within the text.  It took away the common, overused titles we use for our Lord and replaced them with words that now hold greater meaning.  I also enjoyed the prayer prompts throughout to give me a handle on what God's name means to me in my life today.  A nice touch.

The Name pages interspersed throughout the Bible are well written and share some great insights.  An added bonus of the Bible is the ability to travel through on a verse by verse trail following the same name.  This is a useful aspect should the reader want to study the names of God deeper. (Which is perhaps the Bible's main purpose.)  

One aspect I wished I could have had in the Bible is a link back to where the Name was taught - a.k.a. the Name page.  Due to the style of my daily devotions at this particular time, I read a scripture set each day - not in sequential order.  So when I came along a new name in the scriptures I had to resort to the index to find out what page the Name description was on.  It was not difficult - just time consuming.  A small page link in the margins would have been helpful.

Overall, I find the Names of God a good reference.  I enjoyed using it alongside my other Bible.  I would recommend it to others.

By the way, the verse at the top is Psalm 23.
"Yahweh is my Roeh.  I am never in need.  
He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside peaceful waters.  He renews my soul.  He guides me along the paths of righteousness for the sake of his name.  
Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm.  Your rod and your staff give me courage."
If I have intrigued you and you want to know more, please check out this video about how the Bible is set up with all its added features that I couldn't touch on here.  

Bible has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Laugh a little; live a lot

Want a good laugh?  Go check out this short video from a blog I follow, Character Therapist.  Do it now, I will wait for you.

I am not insinuating that mental health is a laughing matter - it isn't.  Our mental health is a very serious thing, but sometimes we can get so lost inside ourselves we forget why Christ came.  So, golly-gee let's all lighten up a little and heal some by laughing.

This morning my devotions were from Galatians 5:
Christ has freed us so that we may be enjoy the benefits of freedom.  Therefore, be firm in this freedom and don't become slaves again.
Paul is referring to becoming a slave to the law, but I think in our culture there are so many things that enslave us than only the law and our own sins.  Things like:

  • busyness - running from place A to place B in a frantic race to be involved
  • money - trying to get more, have more and be more
  • comparisons - looking around to see what others are or have that you lack
  • depression - caught up in self instead of others
  • strangling relationship - discord with ones we are called to love 
  • discontentment - never having enough of ...
Where are you struggling to be free from?  What bonds are holding you prisoner?  Remember that Christ came so you could be free and have life to the fullest.  Live it!

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review - Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo and Lyn Vincent

Pastor Todd Burpo had no idea that his picture and outlook on Heaven would change once his 4 year old son Colton was rolled into the operating room for a life-saving surgery to correct an infected appendix.   Heaven was about to become very real.   As Colton recovered from the invasive surgery he began to share glimpses of a journey he took to heaven and back.  Over the coming months Todd would document the stories told by his son Colton.  Stories that would bring hope and comfort to those who chose to listen and believe.

As I read this story I made two observations in this easy to read true story.  First, Heaven is for Real is certainly not a book to rely on for a biblical picture of heaven.   I am in no position to determine if Colton really did or did not go to heaven.  However I will say that some of the stories told left me scratching my head and wondering if that was truely a match for what is presented in the Bible.

On a more positive note, my second observation is that of a lesson learned from reading this book.  A child’s faith is something to behold.  Little Colton has no reservations or doubts when it comes to the validity of heaven and life-after-death.  I wonder, do I live with this type of confidence from the knowledge I have gained in scripture?  Whether the reader believes this story or not, there is no disputing that the boy portrayed within the pages has a faith that is strong and certain. 

Heaven is For Real is not a hard book to read.  While some may find it somewhat of a stretch to believe, I choose to digest it for the lessons I can learn.  I would recommend this book to people looking for a casual but interesting read.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sing unto Him a new song

We are doing a study at our church about discovering your life's vision or dream, giving to you by God.  (Check out this post for more information.  Or visit Chazown for yourself.)

As part of the process we took a test to determine our spiritual gifts.  I was amazed.  What I thought would be on my list wasn't and instead ones I never would have guessed were.

For example I rated quite high for music.  I would never list music as my spiritual gifting - either would the poor soul standing in front of me in the pews.  I love to sing but I can't do it well.  At all.  I once told a musically gifted woman that and she smiled and said 'you could learn to'.  So, I told her the story of when I joined a kids choir as a youngster.  This is no lie; the sweet choir director, a close friend of my family, pulled me aside after a few sessions and gently suggested I find another hobby.

I also taught preschool for years.  I loved teaching the kids new songs, but the best part was the look on the parent helper's face when I started to sing it for the kids.  Funny how little people never care if you are in tune or not.  It just makes them sing freer, I think. (I hope.)

The interesting part is that music is very important to me.  There is always some playing in my home and in my vehicle.  I wake up in the morning with songs on my mind.  Music speaks deeper into my soul than words or art or anything.  However it is such a personal, almost private thing, that most people who know me very well may not even know how important it is in my life.  I can't think of a single person who would say it was one of my spiritual gifts.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book review Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock

Shadow in Serenity is a smooth ride on a new carousel.  I found the book light and fun to read with engaging characters who brought the story to life.

Click to see a larger image of Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock

Carny Sullivan was named aptly for the world she grew up in.  Her parents worked on a travelling carnival who taught her to see the world through very different eyes than most.  She was raised to trick, con and steal almost anything.  Which gave her an ability to read people far deeper than most could. 

Now living in a quiet "Mayberry" types town in Texas she doesn't need to use that skill much, until Logan Brisco strolls into town. His slick and saavy ways are no match for her insight, until he finds a way past her head and into her heart.  Then he has to pull off the greatest con ever in his life ... the truth.

Shadow in Serenity is penned by Terri Blackstock, a Christy Award winning and New York Times Bestelling author.  This title is my first from this author and I was definitely not disappointed.  The original story was actually published many years ago when she worked as a non-christian writer.  Since God changed her life and she switched over to the Inspirational market, she has had a fondness for this story.  So when the timing was right she re-wrote parts, added more to the Christian elements and prepared the story for her conservative audience.

This story held so many great elements for me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Did you know ...

The movie Courageaous did very well in the Theatres.  The hit movie from Sherwood Pictures and the Kendrick brothers is about to launch its DVD nationwide on January 17, 2012.  Let's check out some stats first.

The movie was only picked up by select theatres but shocked many when it opened at No. 4.  After the second week, the movie expanded into thousands more theatres than it started out with - across the US.  There it stayed in the top ten for four weeks.

I don't know about where you live but here in Alberta the film did very well for the short time it was available.  It played in only ONE theatre in all of Calgary, however.  The first weekend it was sold right out hours before the showings.  It did not stay for long and did not expand its showings like in the states.

COURAGEOUS is that rare movie combining an entertaining, engaging story with a vital, inspiring message,” said Michael Catt, executive producer of the film and Sherwood Baptist Church senior pastor. “You’ll be on the edge of your seat watching COURAGEOUS, then rise up when it’s over, resolving to make a difference in your life and the lives of those you care about.”

Now we can get geared up for the DVD to be released.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't swerve or you'll miss it!

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we possess for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
Unswervingly - what a strange word to find in my bible.  I can just imagine the writer writing a word then crossing it out, then trying another.  Then once again he crosses he out.  Finally he stands up from his table or desk and walks across the room to his book shelf where he pulls off his trusty Thesaurus.  He blows on it to release it from its blanket of dust and then skims through it to the right page.

without wavering; remain steady; not deviating; unswervingly

'That's the word I want.  It is important my readers to not get the wrong image.  God wants them to know His faithfulness is sooo strong that they will not even feel the slightest shimmy from the path if they trust Him completely.'  Unswervingly.

Does that describe your faith?  Does that word describe anything about you?  I am afraid it doesn't describe me or my faith most days.  I waver.  I deviate.  And I definitely swerve.

"You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself unswervingly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."  Deut 30:20
"For this is what the LORD says: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold unswervingly to my covenant--to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off."   Isaiah 56:4,5
"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold unswervingly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." 1 Cor 15:2
"For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as unswervingly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ."  Heb 3:14 
There are so many more accounts in the bible -

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review A Woman's Guide to Fasting

Lisa E Nelson has written a wonderful book to guide women through the maze of fasting as a spiritual discipline.  I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it to every PERSON out there.  Not just women.  However it is a nice book to share with a few close girlfriends.
A Woman's Guide to Fasting
Lisa offers women an easy to read and easy to put to practice approach to fasting.  She tackles common questions, concerns and worries that I know have been on my mind.  I have never fasted before this book and I will definitely be doing it after.

Lisa is not legalistic or suggest in any way that I would be a better Christian if I did this.  Instead she dives into the heart of God and how we can follow after it in many different ways.  Fasting is just one of them.  But I must add that this book did more for my entire spiritual walk than just specifically for the idea of fasting. Lisa is an encourager.  She does a fabulous job of encouraging me in every aspect of my journey of faith.

Her writing style is relaxed and soothing.  It feels like having a coffee with Lisa at a quaint little tea house.  She fills each of her points with abundant scriptures.  You become friends with her before you finish the book.  She shares a lot of insight from her own life.  I particularly loved her section on the experience of 9-11 and how her husband and family was affected that day and how God used fasting to call her spirit into prayer.  Very powerful!

Pick up this book.  It is a must read! In fact, I will tell you that I normally give away my copies of review books to my library. However this one is staying right where it is - on my bedside table.  (Well, after I loan it out to my friends that is.)

Thank you Lisa for gently calling me to a closer relationship with my heavenly Father.  May He bless you as you continue to touch the lives of other women.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an HONEST review.  I am not required to provide a positive response.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wow! A light bulb moment

The other night I sat in on a live chat with a prolific Christian author, Susan May Warren and her friends.  It was fun and educational.  She talked about writing stuff that might bore a lot of you.  However she gave me some food for thought.  I will be chewing for awhile.

She gave me a certain thought that has stuck in my head for a few days.  I think it relates to everyday life.  It has to do with Point of View.  That is writing vocab for "who" is the teller of a scene.  In some books it stays the same consistently throughout the whole story.  In others, it can change depending on the scene.

For my NaNo project I am trying a different style than I have done before.  It is written as a strictly romance genre.  Which means most publishers want a hero POV and a heroine POV.  I have only written one other project from a his/hers perspective before.  It is my second manuscript titled Another miracle.

The author who lead the on line talk, Susan May Warren, gave me a treasured tidbit; a nugget of author gold.  Almost always the scene is told from the point of view of the character who has the most to lose.  That provides the reader with more of an emotional ride.  I can see that, however it got me thinking of my own life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

You are so good to me

Yesterday our community was shook by some devastating news of a tragedy.

The morning yesterday felt off-kilter, unsettling and just plain weird when I got up.  It wasn't until 8:55 am that I received the news. Suddenly off-kilter and weird felt much better than the truth.  Any plans we had for our day were shifted in order to be there and support those who were affected the most.

Throughout the day I found myself carrying some invisible baggage.  I did not want to name it - for the pain was so close. Yet I couldn't put it down.  I felt in some strange way I needed to carry my share.  So I did.  I held it close.  I prayed for it.  I prayed about it.  I mourned.  And then I prayed some more.

This morning I still feel heavy.  I feel a new burden and it is definitely weariness.  It is born of more than two weeks of early mornings to write.  From keeping my household afloat with the usual day to day activities.  From keeping up with jobs and after school sports and dance classes for three active teenagers.  And from the disappointment of yesterday that carries a new weight - Lord let us help the other hurting ones out there.

So I did my devotional this morning and then put aside my laptop and curled up with a warm fuzzy blanket, a raging fire and Jesus. Although my body wanted to sleep, my mind needed rest and peace more.  So I let myself just rest in His embrace.

Jesus said, 'come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matt 11:28
It is an invitation.  It is a promise.  And it is words of comfort to a dry and thirsty soul.

Be still and listen.

Is he saying them to you?

A song kept creeping into my thoughts as well.  It brought me a measure of peace.  I have a link for you here in case you are feeling burdened today too. (Link - scroll down to the bottom of the lyrics where there is a grey box with a play button.  Click that and a new window will open that plays the song.)

The Lord wants us to curl up in His lap and tell him when we are feeling burdened.  He wants to restore us. For that I am thankful. He truly is an amazing God.

Today my prayer is for the family and friends in our community that are mourning a huge loss.  For the ones who are wondering 'why'.  To the folks who are angry and can't understand or accept what has happened.
Lord, you are an amazing God.  You are greater and mightier than anything we can ever imagine.  It is Your desire to draw near those who are hurting, those who are feeling heavy and burdened - whether by pain or sorrow or dissatisfaction.  You want them to come to You for rest.  You love them and it hurts Your heart to see them in so much pain.  But God you are willing and able to heal those broken hearts.  Thank you.  Help open their eyes to You and Your strength over the next days and months as they try to pick up the pieces.  

I thank you Jesus for holding me today.  You are my Jesus who loves me.

Has there been a time in your life when you crawled into His lap and let His peace and rest envelop you?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How Great Thou Art

This month as I am striving hard to complete 50K words in the Nanowrimo contest I have taken on a wider, bigger goal that that as well.

If you've been following along with me you know that this is my second year doing Nano.  (See previous post here.)  However last year my goal was just the 50K.  This year I wanted to swallow the whole experience - write every day a certain amount of words.  In order to do that I needed to be disciplined.  To be honest, discipline is something that is often absent in my life.  I am more of a whatever-you-feel-like-at-the-moment kind of gal.  So before I entered into this contest I decided it needed to encompass more than my writing.

I decided to be disciplined with God too.  So I set my alarm for 5 am every week day.  I get up, make a tea and a fire and sit down on the couch with my Bible and  a devotional book.  Then after spending half an hour with God I open my laptop and start to write.  Depending how fast I type that morning I can almost complete the daily word count in the next hour before my children need to be wakened for school.  I was amazed at how a little discipline made a huge difference in my life.

  • It renews my love for my Saviour   
  • It gives me a boost for my day.  
  • And before 7 am I can complete my biggest challenge of the day.

Now part two of this new me is how do I keep it going for a month. I am also not a good finisher.  I wanted to be successful not just in building a writing habit but more so a quiet time habit. Here I am on day 16 of the month long challenge and this is my progress report.  I have missed three mornings of writing.  I have missed zero mornings of quiet time.

How did I manage that yo may ask?  Once I slept in too long and just used my time to read the Bible instead of cracking my laptop open.  Then twice I woke up with headaches.  I read from my bible then curled up on the couch with a blanket and went back to sleep until my kids had to get up.

I don't tell you this to boast.  For I have done nothing incredible.  I have just been obedient.  I do tell you this to encourage you. Mostly though, I tell you this to share what happened this morning.  I woke at 5 am with a song in my head.  That is not all too different.  But today the hymn was How Great Thou Art.  It was so strong and clear I decided to grab a hymnal and sing through the song before I started my Bible reading.  It was a nice way to begin my morning with God.  Then I opened my devotional and the bible reading was from Psalm 66.
Shout for joy to God, all the earth! 
Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! 
So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. 
All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, 
they sing the praises of your name
It was one of those little reminders (a fingerprint of God on my day) that He is in control.  He reigns in my mornings and in my nights.  He reigns in my writing and in my other daily duties.

Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, my God how great Thou art.
If you need a little pick me up check out this video.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You are here.

Have you ever wished God would point his finger to a big red dot on the floor and say, "stand here"?

I have.

I read a blog post the other day with a variety of fun door mats. The first one caught my eye and made me ponder its meaning all day.
I think we all at some point wish we had more specific direction.  A map with a little more detail on it.

The cool thing is that God has the whole plan mapped out.

Even if you can't read it, He wrote it and understands every mark on it.

He knows ever turn and every adjustment needed to make to get you from A to B.

Or from there to

Ask God to help you.  Pray that he would show you where to stand to be in the centre of His will.

There are so many instances that God tells us to come to Him. He wants to show you the way.  He is waiting for you to ask.

James 1:5
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
Matthew 7:7
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

Psalm 25:4,5
Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long. 

Where are you standing?  Are you where God wants you to be? Check out my post on purpose if you aren't sure.

In the meantime, here is a little pick me up for you today.

 Blessings my friend!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Review Softly and Tenderly by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck

Click here to listen to the first few pages.

Softly and tenderly is a story about two families all connected by one woman, Jade Benson.  She is in her thirties, married to Max, a Lawyer.  She lives near her in-laws June and Reb who are well-to-do Southern folks.  Jade owns two businesses and is trying to care for her ailing mother, Beryl who is dying of leukemia.  Jade and the family members around her have to grapple with enormous life issues in this 289 page story.  There is infertility, abortion, divorce, infidelity, adoption, pre-marital sex, drug addictions, death, deception, abandonment issues and social climbers.  Frankly I was overwhelmed.  I had a hard time relating to the main character.  I couldn’t believe with everything on her plate she was still standing.  If I wasn’t reading this book for a review I would have shelved it.  But I didn’t and by the end I was glad I kept going.

I really wanted to like this book.  I liked the edgy feeling to the book, the very natural and casual voice of the authors.  Yet, I found it did not follow a ‘typical’ Christian format.  I do not want to open a whole new can of worms, but for a story about all believers but one in the main cast, the issues of sin were handled so lightly.  A few characters felt their indiscretions were no big deal.  That is fine on page ten of a story but by the end as a reader I want to see restoration.  I want to believe that my God is bigger than ALL the stuff Jade is dealing with.  And He is, but the story doesn’t actually say that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Write on Purpose ... over and over again

Everyone ends up somewhere.

But few people end up somewhere on purpose.

Those were words shared in the sermon this last Sunday at my church.  They have stuck like glue in my head, dripping into almost everything I've done so far this week.  Aside from becoming a sticky mess, they have focused me on a bigger prize.

Getting where I want to go ON PURPOSE, not by accident.

It is a perfect mantra for me this month.  It is, after all NaNoWriMo month.

HUH?   NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month.  So basically a writer has one month to write 50K words in a novel.

"For fun?", you ask.

Yes.  But more so to get somewhere on purpose.  See, a writer's life can be solitary and lonely.  In fact no one around may even be aware you are a writer unless you tell them.  Or better yet, show them a finished product.  NaNo tries to ingrain in writers a habit of writing everyday - just like a full time author would do.  On purpose.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You don't have to be the strong one.

I read a book this week that was outside my usual style.  And it wasn't even a book I am supposed to review.  A friend from my church recommended the author Dee Henderson to me.  So I found a series on the library shelve and started at book number 1. It's called The Negotiator.  I enjoyed it.

At the end of the book it explained there is a prequel.  It's called Danger in the Shadows.  Now that book I loved!  Here is the first chapter if you want to check it out.

The heroine in the story, Sara is a young woman who had lived a horrendous life in real, tangible fear.  I won't spoil it for you, but there is a very good reason for her to fear for her life - every day. Although she is a believer and she turns to God to help her with her fears, it isn't the relief she has been hoping for.  It isn't until the end of the book that she finally gives her fear TO God.

Believe it or not, there is a big difference between praying about something and giving that something to God.  But as I read Sara's journey I saw myself in her.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Somebody to Love . . .

Does controversy draw you nearer to God?

We, in North America do not really know what persecution for our faith feels like.  There are a few examples though.  Right away, I think of the young girl from the Columbine shootings, Cassie Bernall, who died for her faith.  However most of us don't know expeiences like that personally.

There are people who are taking risks of a different kind here in North America.

Maybe you've heard of the hype already that is surrounding Marc Martel.  Or maybe, if you're like me you ride a little further to the back of the information bus.  Marc is the lead singer of the band Downhere.  They are a fantastic Canadian, Christian rock band. (For those who are going to Breakfroth, they are preforming Sunday night.)

Their newest hit on the radio waves is Let Me Rediscover You.  I have included the official band's video.  It is cool camera work, by the way.

Today, I have been thinking about this man, Marc.  I have been praying for his family.  Let me take you on a You Tube tour of the controversy that has surrounded this man and his family for the last month.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Have a little faith today.

"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."

~Franklin D. Roosevelt

I have been debating whether or not I should enter the NaNoWriMo contest again this year.  It is a month long writing contest where a writer starts a book and finishes it (minimum 50K words) in exactly a month.  The month of November, to be exact. That is precisely where they get the crazy name from. NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth.  Check it out on line if you wish.  This is the link.

Last year I joined the party and I even finished my novel.  It was my fifth complete novel that year.  (You can find a little blurb about it on the OtherProjects Page.  It is aptly documented under the number five heading.)

I had assumed it would be a lot easier than my contest I do each year to write a whole novel in 3 days.  After all, I had been writing large chunks of words for 10 months prior to that and thought 50 thousand words would be a piece of cake.  

Well ... It wasn't.  

The whole point behind the month long contest is build a new habit. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I asked for it.

God is so good.  All the time.

Why are we creatures of doubt?

Why can't we just rest in the arms of the Almighty and know that He is in control and that He loves us and He longs for the best things for us.

Please tell me I am not the only one who frets.

I am part of a group of ladies who meet regularly to go through the book Fearless, by Max Lucado.  We met on Friday last week. It was already an emotional day for me and then the book gave me a strong left hook to the jaw.

My last post was about an armload of "junk" I've been holding and wishing God would take it away.  Friday was the day all the junk would hit the fan.  It did, but it was amazing how God filled me with peace and He carried me through the event.  He turned my nightmare into a dream.

If I could I would like to get specific with you.  I hope I don't scare you away.

A few months ago I posted about my past.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm tired of living life a fool ...

My heart is so full today.  The Lord is stretching my heart past its edges these days.  It hurts.

But today I say to my God and to you ... I surrender.

I give to Him, the Maker of all that I am and ever hope to be, all the "junk"  I am holding onto.  Maybe it isn't junk in His eyes. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise, a treasure worth a thousand fold, or the one thorn that will bring me closer to him.  To me it feels like a heavy weight, a burden I would like to pass on, a heart-renching pain I would rather be without.

I touched on this in a blog post last month - praying for the courage to follow God's lead - no matter where it takes us.  How can I find courage when I feel anything but strong enough?  Wasn't that Joshua's hearts cry?  Courage seems to be one of those things, like trust, that you have to act on it before you feel it.  God wants us to just trust Him enough to be willing to walk the path we wants us to.

I saw the movie Courageous last week.  It was amazing!  And an amazing roller coaster of emotions too.  We went from fear to sorrow to laughing so hard we could hardly sit in our seats and then back again.  The message is powerful and UNMISTAKEABLE. God is the only answer.

So if God is the only answer for them, I have to trust that He is the only answer for me.  God is the only one capable of getting me through the maze of my 'junk'.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How much endurance does your obedience have?

I have been struck hard by a simple fact I discovered while studying the story of Noah.  One single act of obedience lasted longer than I could ever hope too live.

The time frame we are looking at here is 120 years.  Noah received the call from the Lord (Genesis 6:14) to build an ark and did not see the end of his act of obedience for 120 years.  That is longer than you or I will probably live.  Unlike this one woman who reported lived to over 122 years old (Jeanne Calment), most of us will die long before then.

But let's say for argument sake that I might live 120 years.  Could I possibly follow one path of obedience that long?

I need to break this down so you can see the craziness that has been my thought process lately.  (It might not be pretty.)

Almost two years ago now, God gave a very specific call on my life.  Much like a message straight from Heaven sent to guide me down a path I would not have chosen for myself.  To me it sounded a little like, "why don't you build a large boat the size of one and a half football fields in the middle of this grassy patch, nestled miles and miles away from any body of water."  Although the actual words were 'write these stories'; it might as well have been an impossible task.

After much struggle, argument and all-out disobedience I finally caved and started to type.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thank you for this ... Amen

I have teenagers.  Two and a half of them to be exact.  You don't need to feel sorry for me, but feel free to pray for me.  I need it.  I love each of them very much and treasure the time I have with them.  They definitely keep our home interesting.

Let's take meal times for instance.  It can be tense, awkward, silly or outwardly hilarious.  We have all kinds of experiences.  One thing we do try for is to eat together as much as possible.  As we sat at our supper table the other night, my husband prayed thanking God that we were all together at the table again.  See, my husband had been away on a retreat for one week and then my son went away for two days to a friends.  After we began eating our conversation turned as my son told me how cool it was that this family he visited ate breakfast together.  He added how he wished we would eat breakfast together.  Within a second's notice a chorus of other teenagers piped in agreeing with his comment.

Just as quickly my mind was flooded with a long-forgotten image of trying to eat breakfast together on school mornings when the kids were younger.  The ones whining who didn't want to come to the table.  The ones whining because they were at the table but couldn't eat yet.  And of course the mother whining about why she thought this was a good way to start our days.

Why now, do my teenagers,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Isaiah got it, why can't we?

I read a passage the other day that pricked me a different way.
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
That is the New Living Translation of Isaiah 64:6.

That means even the best things I could possible drum up for God is still throw away garbage.  So if our best is that, why do we think our worst is so much . . . worse?  There are not that many lower rungs than filthy rags.  I guess they just get filthier.

Sometimes in the public eye, there is a person who we thought should have it all together, that fails.  Then they fall and we start casting stones at them.  We are shocked at their sins.  We can't believe we supported them, or purchased their movie or record or book.  Are we really that surprised that they sinned?

Am I surprised when I sin?  It is no surprise to me that I am infected and impure.  The very best I can do is present my disgusting filth to God and ask Him to make it 'white as snow'. (Isaiah 1:18)  God knows all our junk. He loves us anyway.  So when we are presented with someone else's junk - we should offer the same.  After all, our mothers taught us this when we were kids:
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."  Matthew 7:12
What made me think of all this?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I am a warrior. I am a conqueror.

I did not have to travel to Ireland, like Finley Sinclair of there you’ll find me  did.  Instead I found the grace of God’s words on my dry soul sitting my living room opening my Bible.  See, in Jenny B Jones’s newest novel the main character Finley, whose name means warrior, goes on a mission to rediscover the love of God she thought she lost after her brother’s unexpected death.

I can’t relate to that.  I haven’t lost anyone that close to me.  I also couldn’t relate to Finley’s eating disorder or perfectionist personality begging for control over the multitude of uncontrollables in her life.  However I can relate to her need to FEEL God’s love.  I can relate to wanting to tangibly touch and feel and know that the Almighty is okay with me, because to be honest I am a wreck inside.  And I often think that only Him and I know that.  So if I can’t seem to love me very much than either could He, right?

Do you ever feel that way?  Take my hand and let me lead you down a road that Jenny B Jones, her character Finley, and God took me on this week.

Let’s turn to Romans chapter eight.  This is where the key verse from the novel comes from.  Verse 37 to be exact.  
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
First let me point out that even though the word ‘loved’ is a past tense verb, God’s love for us is not past tense.  I had often grappled with this – why is His love often written in the past tense.  I finally discovered why.  (To be honest I do not remember where I got this from, but it was when I was studying for my camp talks this summer.)  God’s act of love was sending His Son to die on the cross.  It was his 'once and for all time' stamp on our lives.  That action was past tense.  His love is forever and it is past, present and future.  When you see the past tense form of ‘love’ it is probably referring to the act of love that God bestowed upon us.  Christ.  On a cross.  For me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review - There You'll Find Me

If weakness is just a wound that no one wants to speak of, then cool is just how far we have to fall.”
                                                                          “I’m Not Alright”, Sanctus Real

There is so much I could say about Jenny B Jones’ latest book, there you’ll find me  but I need to start with this.  It is completely not what I expected and completely and magnificently what I needed.

Finley, a young girl starting her senior year accepts a foreign exchange program placement to Abbyglen, Ireland.  The exact same country and town as her late brother, Will had visitied during his senior year.  So Finley sets out, armed with bravado, wit and a journal marking every location that Will ever set foot near during his time there.  Only the journal he wrote speaks not just of landmarks, cuisine and culture of this Irish treasure; it is riddled with his personal and poignant journey with his Saviour.  How he met God in a very real sense during his time in Ireland.  How Will saw, heard and felt the hand of God as he walked through the beauty of a nation dressed in green.  Aching inside, Finley hopes to recapture the same love her brother Will felt from Jesus, and let it seep into her doubts, fears and gaping holes of loneliness.   

I wasn’t prepared for many things about this new novel.