Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review of A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano

Jen Turano is a new author in the Historical Romance genre. This novel is the first of four in the Ladies of Distinction series.

Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. Her fortune was the last thing she had left after losing her father, her fiance, and her faith. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner, governess-at-large, she`s determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.
Cover ArtMr. Hamilton Beckett, much to his chagrin, is the catch of the season, and all the eyes of New York society–all the female ones, at least–are on him. He has no plans to marry again, especially since his hands are full keeping his business afloat while raising his two children alone.
Eliza`s hapless attempts to regain her fortune unexpectedly put her right in Hamilton`s path. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces and, before she knows it, Eliza has a whole retinue of people helping her. Eliza`s determination not to trust anyone weakens when everyone`s antics and bumbling efforts to assist her make her wonder if there might be more important things than her fortune and independence.
When all of Hamilton`s and Eliza`s best-laid plans fall by the wayside, it will take a riot of complications for them to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.

This story transports the reader to New York in 1880.  Turano provides a story from another time without any distracting history lessons.  The finer details of the past are mingled in with a light touch. Perhaps, to a history buff, it might not be sufficient - but for a fun, Sunday afternoon read, it was quite fine.

The main character, Eliza is fun and quirky right from the moment the story begins.  I thoroughly enjoyed the circumstances that propel Eliza to tackle the crazy things she does throughout the plot.  She is independent, spirited and determined to regain her father's fortune and reputation. When you bring the trouble-prone Agatha into the mix, you have very many laugh out loud moments.  This is the primary gift of the story - its humour.  Jen Turano does a great job.  Some parts may feel a little 'slap-stick', but it fits the story. The humour and action reminded me a lot of the movie A Knight's Tale - mixing a little modern in with the historical.

Overall the entire story is fun to read.  A great vacation style novel.  The downside for me was wishing for more depth to the characters.  Especially the two male counterparts, Hamilton and Zayne.  They have good qualities and some slight-flaws as every character should.  I had only hoped for a deeper analysis of their motivations and their wounds.  A personal preference for sure.

If you are looking for an enjoyable read that is light and thoroughly entertaining you will love this story.  You can find it at almost any online or retail book store.  Be sure to watch out for the upcoming books in this new series, Ladies of Distinction, by Jen Turano.

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.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Live Second Devotional Review #3

Do you want your life to be better?  Do you want to succeed? Then you need to become second.

I watched an amazing film at I Am Second for the devotional on Week 22, Day 1. It is titled Love Story.  I think Darrell Waltrip, shown in this clip, sums up what I Am Second is all about.  He talks about being at the pinnacle of success and having to let Jesus become first in his life.  (He was a race car driver.)

As I began to look at my own life and the hopes I have to accomplish, I thought there was only one area that I might be prideful and looking for success in: my writing.  Yet at a closer look, I found nearly every area in my life has a tinge of the need for success if I am truly honest.

  • I want my kids to behave right and make good choices - success in Motherhood!
  • I want to have a good marriage that is an example to others - successful marriage!
  • I want to do my best in my job so others will notice my work - success!
  • I want to have lots of good, deep friendships - success!
When I actually sat down to evaluate my life I realized it was riddled with the need for success.  That brought me to my knees again as I had to confess that need and replace it with a need for more of God. 

What about you?  Where are you harboring dreams of success in your life?

Live Second: 365 ways to make Jesus First is a great tool to help you to live second.  When Jesus is first you will experience all the success you were designed to achieve.  The right way.  Buy it for yourself and for someone on your Christmas list.  It is great for people you are trying to share the gospel with too. The readings are short, simple and dive into the basics of living for Jesus.

Live Second today!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Live Second Devotional Review #2

Words carry such incredible power.

They can lift up or tear down.  They can save or they can kill.  It is amazing that God would allow us to yield so much power.  Yet He is truly the One who holds the power.  He asks us to use our words to bring hope and healing to those around us who are still lost in their sin.

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power."              —1 Corinthians 2:4–5
Does God have  power over your words and your speech?  Does He control your tongue?  I would have to admit this is an area I struggle with.  Not only do my words hurt others too many times but I also don't use my words to bring others closer to God.

Live Second: 365 ways to put Jesus First talks about "words" in week 13, day 2.  The devotional questions your words and puts them to the test.  Are you using them to share God's Good News? There are no acceptable excuses if we aren't.  God tells us He is made perfect in our weaknesses; so we can't say we are not good at it.  God tells us He will give us the words through His Holy Spirit; so we can't say we don't know what to say.  God tells us He uses weak and broken vessels, just everyday people; so we can't say that it is not our gifting.

There are no excuses.

Doug Bender says in his devotional, our part in God's plan of spreading the Gospel "is more about obedience, humbleness, and diligence than wisdom and persuasion."  So no more excuses for me!  Or you.  God says "go and make disciples...", so let's go and do that today.  Tell one person about Jesus today.  Tell them God loves them and He is waiting for them.  Speak the WORDS and let God do the rest.

Join the conversation at #IASwords and share your thoughts.

Get your devotional book this week (Dec 9-15) to help the efforts of I Am Second to make the NYT Bestsellers list and change your life while you do it.

In the meantime, check out this new song from Hawk Nelson and Bart Millard (from Mercy Me).  It is called Words.

Hawk Nelson - Words (Feat. Bart Millard of MercyMe) Official Lyric Video from hawk-nelson on GodTube.

Tell me:  who will you use your words on today?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Live Second Devotional Review #1

Have you ever considered that you can offend the Living God?

I was moved by a devotional in the Live Second: 365 ways to make Jesus First.  It's titled Divine Despair from Week 1, Day 5. The scripture verse was Genesis 6:5-22.  That is the account of God's plan to flood the earth.  A story I knew well, but still a few words tripped me up as I read it - which could be different depending on your bible version.  The words I read were:
"The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled." Verse 5,6

Have you ever considered God to have regretted something he'd done.  Regretted you?  This verse really rocked my perspective and forced me to pray and ask God for wisdom to understand it. My personal bible version says "grieved that he made man". Somehow that feels softer on my heart than "regretted".  I desperately needed to hear from God.

I am not a bible scholar nor do I know Greek so I had to rely on God's spirit to teach me what to think of this verse.

God did reveal something to my heart but it wasn't what I expected at all.  He brought to mind a woman I have started to work with on a project.  A woman I have known for five years but never gotten too close to.  Now that we are working together I am realizing we are very different.  So different in fact that I find myself wishing I never have to work with her again.

Each time I am with her I envision violent things while I bite my tongue and walk away.  I never thought I was that kind of person before - I thought even though I might not like everyone that I could at least be friendly and considerate.  I guess not.

A speaker at a conference I attended recently said if you are truly serious about living as Christ lived you need to become 'un-offendable'.  What he meant was that you could love ALL people - fully, like Christ.  He said if you pray that prayer God will bring into your life people that will offend you in more ways than you knew existed all until you've learned to love and not become offended.

I never prayed that prayer in my words, but something touched my heart with those words.  Being a pastor's wife, isn't that something I should be?  'Un-offendable'?

When I read that God regretted his creation I didn't think of all the things this woman does to turn me inside out or drive me crazy - I thought of all my unloving and unchristlike thoughts I had entertained about her. I realized that I grieved his heart so deeply when I disregarded the beauty and the awesomeness with which he made her.

Doug Bender's devotional says:
We create disunity and strife rather than love and goodness. We use our mouths to gossip rather than defend or encourage. We spend our thoughts on vengeance and greed instead of forgiveness and contentment. But how would our lives and even our world change if God were First, if we thought of his love before we swung our fists, waged our wars, or sought our glory, wealth, and comfort? How would our lives change if the concerns of others and the will of God came before our own?
God's Spirit convicted my heart to put Jesus first in my life by loving those He loves.  All of them - even this woman.  She is no exception of his love and affection - just as I am not an exception to the great and merciful love of Jesus Christ.

Is there someone in your life today that offends you?  Someone whom God created with the perfect intimacy with which He created you?  Put Jesus first today and CHOOSE to love.

If you would like to hear what others have to say about this very same devotional message (and you are a Tweeter) visit #IASdivinedespair

"...choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, ..."  Joshua 24:15

Monday, December 10, 2012

Live Second - start today!

I am a huge fan of the organization  I Am Second.  They have inspired me in more ways than I can count.  The website is filled with videos of famous and not-so-famous people who have come to a crossroads sometime in their life and chosen to become second.

That means Jesus is first!!

If you haven't checked their site out yet you need to!  Go now ... I will wait for you.  Well, actually I can't wait because once you open up the site you will be hooked and may not be back here for days. But go anyway!

They have a new look to the website allowing you to choose topics and not just names of people.  It makes it more time effective I think.  Click on films if you want to see who has videos on there. Click on struggles if you want to look up individual topics. (Topics of struggles are listed under each video as well if you choose to go to the film page.)  Enjoy :)

Today marks a new adventure in the I Am Second movement.  Doug Bender, co-author of the book I Am Second brings us a new challenge bringing us one step closer to truly living second - one day at a time. He has written a daily devotional - that's 365 ways - to put Jesus first in our lives.  I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity to review his new book.

Every day this week I am sharing with you something I have gleamed from this devotional.  But it doesn't stop there.  You need to visit the facebook page or the twitter feeds as they are rampant with people just like you - seeking to put God first.

Doug Bender is trying to draw enough of a stir over this new devotional that it will land on the NYT bestsellers list.  We need 10,000 sales to do that.  Join in.  Get one for yourself and one for someone you love on your christmas list.  What a better way to start the New Year, than with a committment to put Jesus first and live second.  Books available at most online retailers and local Christian bookstores or directly from the I Am Second site here.

December 9 - 15, which is the kick off week of the book (filled with specials and deals) opened up already with a complete sell out - Day 1!  That is so encouraging.  What a blessing.  But don't worry, if you want to get in on the action - any order placed this week (Dec 9-15) will still count for the special prices even though the publishers are frantically trying to produce some more. (And still count for the best sellers too!)

My challenge to you today:

  • Visit the site
  • Come back tomorrow where I will sheare my thoughts on God's divine despair
  • Check out the 22 day challenge - one video a day, one challenge a day to make Jesus first - follow this link
  • Do something tangible today to live in second place and then tell me (or someone else about it)

If you want to check out Doug Bender's video on I Am Second, follow this link.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Changing perspective

Sorry to all my faithful followers for my hiatus from this blog. Unfortunately I had a huge interruption in my life and it required a little stepping back and refocusing time.

Have you ever had to do that?

My husband and I recently returned from a brief visit to Toronto Ontario.  I had never been that far East before so we flew there to check it out.  Of course, we visited the famous CN Tower.  It was incredible.  The view was spectacular looking out over Lake Ontario one way and over the downtown core the other.

We had spent the day walking through the downtown area seeing so many unique places and amazing architechure.  So naturally we wanted to see if we could find the same places from the CN Tower lookout.  It wasn't too hard to locate our hotel and a couple large buildings we had seen.  However, many of the sights we saw while walking the streets were very hard to find at 346 meters (1,136 ft) high.

Perspective is everything.

A person's perspective can change how they act, talk or react to a given situation.  Take the example of a car accident.  Perhaps there were two people involved in the accident and three witnesses.  You will still have five different and separate perspectives of what happened.  And sometimes the stories don't even sound like the same event.

Also, within the life of a believer we often encounter the difference of a worldly perspective and a heavenly one.  They are very different and can sometimes be opposites.  This is where I found myself this last few months.  An event happened in my life that affected everything.  I had to figure out which perspective I would view it - with my eyes or His?

My eyes told me I had rights.  What happened to me was the fault of someone else and I could retaliate.  No one would question my actions in doing so.  It was the "right" thing to do.  All the people we asked for advice from said the same thing.

Yet something didn't feel right to me.  Sure, I could use the courts to turn things in my favour, because the other person had clearly done wrong.  But something within me hestitated.  It wasn't until I was reading and studying a portion of scripture for a novel I'm writing that I found the words of God's perspective.

Committ your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.  Psalm 37:5-9.
In the story I'm writing, my character has to learn that when God says "venegence is mine" - He means it.  God's persepctive is ALWAYS different from mine.  ALWAYS.  I guess I have to learn the same lesson.  Instead of finding a way to retaliate I need to find a way to forgive.

If you have found yourself in a situation where you are certain you are right but God is pressing pause on your heart listen to one of my favorite songs.  Lyrics here.