Monday, February 8, 2016

Already Ours

There is SO MUCH in this verse!

I came across it while doing Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study this week. I’m not even going to lie, it’s one of my favorites. I am passionate about what this verse tells us, and I desire deeply for every person to understand these words are for them. Not simply to read, but to live!

See, I think that’s one of our problems with the Bible. We read it like we would other books. A good story. A fix-it manual. Or several auto-biographies rolled into one. We keep a safe distance, a third-party participant if you will, from the words on these pages…but the Bible is a living, breathing, powerful weapon full of truths and actions for our lives today!

The Bible was meant for us to know God intimately and, by extension, to change our lives radically. Those words on the pages are his very breath. They are filled with power. And they are ours to experience in a very tangible way. Oh, how much we miss in our lives when we think it’s simply ink on a page.

Simply look at this verse. Once we understand that it’s our to live, we can begin to let it transform us. First, we have hope to which he’s called us, meaning when we call on him we are saved. Redeemed. Free from our sins. Free. Now that is hope.

But he doesn’t stop there. He has an inheritance for us. We’re not talking monetary, no, we’re talking riches like mercy, grace, wisdom, joy, peace…life changing riches that are ours because we now belong to him.

Even better? The verse goes on to one more. Possibly the most important for us to grasp. His incomparably great power resides in us. Listen to that! It’s the linchpin of our Christian lives, people. The same God who raised the dead lives in us and has given us access to that power through him. This verse doesn’t say we are waiting for it, it says it’s already ours.

So why do so many of us live like we’re more of a watch battery than a power plant? There is nothing satan can throw at us that the God who lives in us can’t defeat. We need to start behaving like the God who raised the dead and called dry bones to life is the same God who is IN us. We need to believe the Bible is active and not black ink on paper thin pages.

It’s not a story, it’s a sword. And we need to start wielding it as such. Because every promise inside of it is already ours.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey

I have anxiously been awaiting the next book from Dani Pettrey since she ended her last series. Cold Shot opens up with a new cast of characters in an all new setting, and I was so excited to have it in my hands. Here’s the blurb, and we’ll chat on the other side.

In college, Griffin McCray and his three best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore Police Department, Declan Grey would head to the FBI, and Parker Mitchell would study to become a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world--and friendships--crumbled. 

Now years later, Griffin has left the police and his friendships behind. Still trying to forget a case that went bad when he was a SWAT team sniper, he's living a quiet life as a park ranger at Gettysburg. Quiet until skeletal remains are uncovered near Little Round Top--and they aren't Civil War-era. 

Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott discovers evidence pointing to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Grey steps in to take over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he'll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he--and those he cares about--are going to escape a downward spiral of crime, danger, and murder.

From page one, Cold Shot brings you straight into the suspense. I truly enjoy that aspect. And the first meeting between Griffin and Finley suited them perfectly and set up what promised to be a dynamic relationship coming together. Instead, this became a portion of the book that left me wanting more.

While Pettrey does an amazing job with a complex plot that definitely keeps you sucked in for the suspense aspect of this book, I found the romance side slighted compared to what I know she typically writes. Cold Shot feels like a large set-up for this new series with many (if not all) of the new characters coming on screen inside the pages of book one. And while I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them all and am intrigued to solve their mysteries, too many of the pages focused on their introductions, making Griffin and Finley’s relationship take a back seat.

That being said, Griffin and Finley are still the main couple of Cold Shot and they do receive their HEA by book’s end, I only wish more pages had been dedicated to them getting there, because they are two amazing characters who would have benefitted from more screen time.

Still, Pettrey knows how to write a suspense that borderlines a mystery and she does craft some pretty amazing characters who will easily carry this new series. And though Griffin and Finley’s story is completely wrapped up at the end of Cold Shot, there’s enough overarching mystery in these friends’ lives to keep you coming back for the next book, which I most definitely will be doing.

I happily give Cold Shot 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

If you'd like to see a break-down of what my stars equal, check out my page My Ratings System to the right there. And a big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What Will Consume You?

This past week I was mad at God. I’m just going to lay that out there in all its honesty. It wasn’t pretty, as anger typically isn’t, but it also wasn’t unfounded. And it definitely did not come as a surprise to Him.

At first I didn’t want to admit it. I tiptoed around the subject, speaking to the feeling with all the right words because I knew it was the right thing to do, but I didn’t deal with it. When that didn’t work, I focused on other places as the root of the issue, aiming my anger there instead. Not that I acted out, no, I simply kept the anger to myself unwilling to face it head on or let it out because…well…the idea that I was mad at all seemed like something I shouldn’t feel.

But here’s the thing. God can handle our anger. He gets angry himself. Anger is not a sin. It’s what we do with it that can become sin. When we hold it inside, refusing to talk about it and allowing bitterness to take root, that is when sin enters the picture.

Friend, a relationship with God is like no other relationship we have and yet the same all in one breath. One facet that mimics other relationships—really is the key to them—is communication. I spoke a little about our need for regular chats with God last week. Communication must happen for us to grow in Christ. We cannot shut Him out or ignore a problem when it arises because we are scared to reveal our true feelings to Him. Spoiler: He already knows them because He already knows us that intimately (Read Psalm 139 to see this). Our thoughts are not hidden from Him! And as long as we continue to work through our emotions with Him, we’ll be okay.

I started by unloading on my husband. Sometimes having that physical listening ear can start you talking. But in the end it was God who I most needed to speak with. I needed to open my mouth and let out the frustrations hammering away at my heart. And they were understandable issues driving my anger. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever experienced this. We are going to get mad at God from time to time. It’s normal. Think of it this way. How many of you are parents? Our children don’t always like the decisions we make, but they are always made out of love and typically from a larger vantage point than our children have. We make them because we see a bigger picture, and we have their safety and best interests at heart. Yet in the moment our children don’t like us for it. Well, our relationship with God is much the same, and we have to trust that He loves us too much to always keep us happy. If happy-in-the-moment takes us away from His best, then guess what? God isn’t going to choose that. He’ll chose what is best for us, even if it upsets us sometimes.

And when He does, we have a choice. We can keep that anger inside and let it consume us, or we can run to God with it and let Him consume us.

It might have taken me the better part of a week, but I finally found myself speaking honestly with Him. He didn’t get upset. He didn’t act surprised. And He didn’t pull the silent treatment in response. Instead He gathered me in His arms, shouldered my anger, and began to heal my heart from it.

He’s waiting to do the same for you. All you have to do is start talking. He’ll listen.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

I so enjoy Jody Hedlund's writing, so I was very excited when Undaunted Hope showed up in my mailbox. Book #3 in her "Beacons of Hope" series, it was a wonderful addition. Here's the blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won't be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can't help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him. 

Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she's the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

First off, as anyone who has read a Hedlund book will say, this author does her research. Every detail is paid attention to and oftentimes her characters are taken from the history of real people. Undaunted Hope is no exception as she loosely based Tessa on the wife of a light keeper. These author traits only deepen the setting, and story and the reader greatly benefits.

But Hedlund doesn't just do research well. She also writes beautifully, creating strong leads, organic faith elements, and multi-layered plots. I loved getting to know Tessa better in this book, and I could relate to her struggle between what she wanted to do and what God just might be leading her to do. Add to it two amazing male leads, and Hedlund was able to craft a love triangle that didn't feel overdone. I knew immediately which man I rooted for, but it was a fun ride waiting to see if he'd be the one to end up with Tessa at the end.

With just a hint of suspense, tons of smile-worthy romance, and a stubborn young woman who only wants a fresh start, Undaunted Hope allows Hedlund's writing to once again shine, and I cannot wait for book #4 in this series. If you haven't read any of them, you can easily start here, but I'm going to recommend you read them all. They are simply that good.

I happily give Undaunted Hope 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Who Am I Speaking With?

We still have a landline. We’re in the minority, I am sure, but it allows people to call my home and get any one of us on the phone. And I’ve been noticing a new phenomenon occurring when my oldest—and even sometimes youngest—daughter answers the phone. People don’t know if it’s her or me. On more than one occasion acquaintances, doctor’s offices, businesses, and even family members have begun a conversation thinking I’m the one who answered.

Do you know who doesn’t?

My husband.

And why would that be? It’s because he lives with us. Day in and out he spends time with us. Every single day he is in conversation with us, and because of it, he knows our voices. He knows who he’s speaking with when he calls our house, and it doesn’t matter who picks up.

Friends, we need the same with kind of relationship with God. We need to spend so much time with him that we never wonder whose voice we’re hearing or take a misstep because we listened to a counterfeit. When God speaks, we need to have been in his presence so often that we recognize his voice from the first note of it.

So sit with him today. Chat with him. Oh how he treasures time with you! Listen to his voice and let it become so familiar that nothing and no one could ever fool you.

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:3-5

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - A Thousand Shall Fall by Andrea Boeshaar

A good friend recommended this book to me, and I was excited to read it. I enjoy checking out authors who are new-to-me, and with a recommendation I could almost guarantee I’d enjoy the book—which I did. Here’s the blurb, and we can chat on the other side!

Nineteen-year-old Carrie Ann Bell is independent and spirited. The only thing she really fears are the Union soldiers fighting against her Confederate friends. When her youngest sister runs away from home, brave Carrie Ann is determined to find her and bring her back. Disguised as a soldier, she sets off--only to find she's fallen into the hands of the enemy.
Her childhood friend Confederate Major Joshua Blevins has warned her against these Yankees: they're all devils, ready to inflict evil on unsuspecting young women. When Colonel Peyton Collier arrests her for her impersonation of an officer, it seems to confirm all her fears.
Soon, though, she finds herself drawn to the handsome, gallant colonel. He rescued her, protected her, and has been every inch the gentleman. Carrie Ann discovers that her foe has become her ally--and more than that, someone she could love. But the arrival of Joshua in the Union camp as a spy will test her loyalties. Will she protect someone who has been like family or be loyal to this stranger to whom she wants to offer her heart? When her world is being torn apart around her, whom should she trust?

Set during the Civil War, it is obvious to the reader that Andrea Boeshaar has done her historical research before beginning this book. That facet only added depth to the setting, background, and details of her characters.

Peyton Collier and Carrie Ann Bell were well-rounded and believable leads for this time period. And I loved the strength Boeshaar wove into Carrie Ann, making her immensely likeable. She was willing to do anything for her family, but she never made a decision I found unbelievable or untrue to the woman we saw on page. I enjoyed the connection she shared with Peyton who was a very strong hero in this story; soft where needed but tough at the same time. He desired to both protect those he loved and also possessed the heart of a soldier to fight and protect for the freedoms he believed everyone deserves.

The story plot moved at a good pace and placed authentic conflict before all of those on the pages. The resolution of those conflicts was so natural and not drawn out, which only added to my enjoyment of the book. I even loved the secondary characters such as Aunt Ruth and Tommy. All together the pages flipped by quickly as I was immersed in a story I truly delighted in reading.

I happily give A Thousand Shall Fall 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.