Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Praise

Christmas is coming! Yesssss!! And over the next few Wednesdays I want to focus on the Christmas Story--no, not Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun quest (though it's one of my favorite Christmastime movies)--but the true Reason for this season. The best gift we've ever received. The birth of our Savior. It's a classic. Hope you enoy:)

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”


Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting to Know You

This past week we all focused on things we were thankful for. In my life I have many, many things ranging from tiny to large. One of my biggest blessings is my BFF—and I almost missed out.

See, when I was seventeen I was all about penny loafers and argyle sweaters. Sensible. A bit of a push-over. Bon Jovi was Heavy Metal to me, and I felt like a rebel just listening to him. I’d had some friend issues (any girls out there relate???) and prayed for God to show me what being and having a good friend was all about.
He brought my BFF into my life.

My initial impression? Black leather and red bandana. Heavy Metal. Lotsa ear piercings. Flaming red hair with a major attitude. Definitely no push-over. If she had been a guy, my parents never woulda let me date her.
But no one ever had my back or made me laugh harder than the girl I met (still true to this day). (And right about now I’d love to show you a picture of us way back then, but she knows where I live.)
Our hearts connected in a way that could have only been God. She pulled out my crazy side, I reigned her in. She made me tougher, I softened her some. We compromised with John Cougar Mellencamp when it came to the radio and have slowly morphed not only in to one shared brain but the same hair color (at least in summer when we both get our blonde highlights). We’ve been maced in a Victoria’s Secret (long story), taken numerous road trips (with just a few detours) and shared the birth of children together (our first borns are 6-weeks apart). And have I mentioned laughter? She has brought countless hours of laughter into my life.

Had I judged the book by its cover I would have missed out on one of the greatest gifts in my life.
Don’t make the same mistake with God.
Natural disasters do not mean He doesn’t care. Dysfunction does not mean He’s chaos. Preachers that breath fire and brimstone do not mean He’s angry. Evil acts do not mean He’s hateful. And yet all too often these things stop people from getting to know God. But to truly know His heart, we need to spend time with Him. And when we do we see…
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7), “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace”(1 Cor.14:33), “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger…”(Psalm 103:8), “Whoever does not know love does not know God, for God is love”(1 John 4:8)

And that’s just scratching the surface. Getting to know someone takes time. You need to dig deep and have a desire to learn their heart. You study them and go through trials with them. You learn their voice and their character by intimately immersing yourself in them—not by looking at the surface. The surface can deceive. The heart never can. And once you begin to look beyond the surface of God and to His heart, you’ll find more than you ever bargained for. It will be the greatest relationship of your life. Don’t miss out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Praise


I am a quiet praiser - quite an oxymoron coming from this Pentecostal girl, shhh...don't tell anyone! See, when everyone around me is clapping, shouting and lifting their hands, I tend to bow my head, close my eyes and silently praise. Don't know why. I know how to clap and praise with the best of them...but it's something God's done in my spirit lately so I'll go with it.

And yet...

there are times...

where we DO need to shout our praises...

and it doesn't even have to be for anything other than...

we are SAVED!!!

So today, on the eve of Thanksgiving I want to say:

GLORY HALLELUJAH THANK YOU JESUS - I LOVE YOU!!!

He pulled me from the pit, turned my life around, showered His grace upon me and made me into a NEW creation. Anyone else relate? Do I hear any more HALLELUJAH'S out there? Come on, pull out that hidden Pentecostal--you know, the one who simply itches to burst out when you stop and think about what God's done for you. Almost makes you want to dance. (which we have been known to do, but not on the ceilings, I promise)

I'm going to end with one of my favorite Psalms. Okay, the whole book is one of my favorites, but this one is especially fitting for today:

Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness,
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise,
give thanks to him and praise his name,
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever,
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

So bring out your Hallelujah's alongside your turkey, there's no better side dish:)

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Which Way?


That picture makes you think, doesn't it?
How many times do we choose our way over God’s way? Ugh. Each time I use my snarky little comment. Each time I tell a tiny white lie to get me out of a commitment. Or each time I hold on to my anger because I think I have a right to it—anyone relate? Oh, and don’t even get me started on those bigger moments. You know, the times God calls me onto the path He created me for but I conveniently take a detour down a path that looks, well, more fun, more important, more….anything than the one He’s pointing me toward.
And He doesn’t stop me. He may throw up some flashing signs and try to get me back on the right path, but He won’t stop me from going down it. But God’s Word is really, really clear on what will happen if I stubbornly continue. Proverbs 14: 12 says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” In fact, this is such a serious point it is repeated—word for word—two chapters later. Well, I guess if He’s gonna put it that way I better listen. After all, I’m not too keen on death. Spiritually speaking that is.
So what do we do? Seems He’s got that taken care of too. Check out Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (His loving eye - I love that!) So pull out your Bible, get in prayer, and allow Him to teach you. Then don’t just listen to the directions He gives, but follow them. After all, directions are no good if you ignore them.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bookshelf Friday - A Hope Undaunted


Julie Lessman is a masterful writer. She weaves a story full of chemistry and conflict that keeps the reader turning pages, and A Hope Undaunted is no exception.

I loved this story. I loved how she brought in the entire O'Connor family and made you a part of it. I also loved her leading man, Luke "Cluny" McGee. He and Katie make the pages come alive. And just when you think you know what will happen, Lessman changes it again. And herein lies my issues with the story.

See, I love conflict and unexpected twists-and-turns in books, and I was flipping pages right along with Lessman, fully into this story, up until the last one hundred pages. It was at this point I felt she took one turn too many. Rather than being pleasantly surprised by another twist, I wanted to yell at the characters I'd come to love--and not in a good way. For me, it made a frustrating ending to a book I truly wanted to love all the way through.

That said, the final page was just what I wanted, I simply hoped it had come pages earlier. Still, Julie is a fantastic writer, and I will read her again. In fact, A Hope Undaunted is the continuation of the O'Connor family stories, and I plan to pick up the original series, Daughters of Boston, where this family is first introduced.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blog Award



A big THANKS to Gwendolyn Gage who gave me this award. Gwendolyn is a fellow writer and book-lover and this award comes from her blog "Serving Through Words". Check her out along with the story she's writing that can be found at "The Way of Impressions".

So here goes my things about myself:

1. I've known my hubby since junior high -though we didn't date until college. Good thing for him I was patient!
2. I love mornings--as long as no one talks to me, asks me for anything, or birds chirp.
3. I cried when the Godiva store left our mall (did you know could get a free truffle every month! probably why they left...)
4. I am an awful bargainer. Um, actually, I don't bargain. Chances are I'll offer you more money than what you are selling for. Just ask Hubby.
5. I'm 6' tall and still wear heels.
6. Though I prefer sweats and flats :) (my girls have forced me to be 'girly')
7. I have no coordination. That whole "rub your belly and pat your head" thing? No way.

There's my 7! As for passing it on, well, I have a hard time choosing so please check out Blogs I Love on my side bar. The ladies there are an amazing and creative bunch who are sure to make you laugh and give you encouragement.

Blessings!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beloved Praise

Love, love, love this song - love the video even more! (I am secretly coveting his guitar at the end)

It's so freeing when we realize that--in Christ--we are not our past, we are His, and He calls us His Beloved. Make me love Him even more.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Bread and Water

Lately I’ve battled this little feeling called “overwhelmed.” Heard of it? Yeah, it’s one of my favorites too. What’s a girl to do?
I’m sure there are times where I simply need to learn to say “no”. My children think I have no issue with that word, but let me tell you—as a people pleaser—“no” is a tough one for me. I’m learning, really I am, but sometimes I only learn by finding myself at my wits end and promising to never be there again.
But there are other times that life simply overwhelms (my BFF and I call these “eye-twitching" moments). Times when you’ve played by the rules, done all God’s asked, and yet life crashes around you. Flying high one moment, a puddle on the floor the next. Any one else identify? Then you’ll love Elijah.
Elijah. Great prophet of old. Used by God in amazing ways. Strong man of faith. Have you ever read about the amazing things God did through him? The widow’s jar of flour that never emptied, raising a boy from the dead, calling down fire from heaven—which, by the way, is my favorite story of him, from 1 Kings 18. I identify with his sense of humor (dare I say sarcasm) as he taunts the followers of Baal. And I love his complete faith in his Lord. But look at what happens immediately following this scene. I’m talking the very next chapter.
Elijah finds himself fleeing for his life. Ahab, King of Israel, wants him dead. Elijah spent his life in dedicated service to his Lord, and now must run to keep it. It’s not the first time his life is in peril. And he’s had enough. He journeys into the desert, finds a tree and slumps down under it. I can just imagine him uttering the phrase often found on my lips when I’ve had enough: “I’m done.” In fact, the NIV version says He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
Oh, I can feel his heart—can’t you? We’ve all been there. What I love so much is that God left us these stories so we don’t feel quite so alone. I mean, if Elijah felt this way at one time, how surprising is it that we may too? And even better, we get to see what to do when we’re in the same spot. In fact, I think I’m going to camp out in this passage for a few weeks, so let’s take today and look at the first thing God does for Elijah when he’s in this place of giving up.
Elijah is awakened by the angel of the Lord. God hears his heart, and what does He give to strengthen him? A cake of bread and a jar of water. Seriously? God could have given him a feast, yet He picks bread and water. And He doesn't simply offer it one time, but he wakes Elijah a second time to eat it again. Only look what God says this time: “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”
See, God wasn’t depriving Elijah. He wasn’t punishing him, didn’t tell him to “buck-up”. No, He leans down and in essence He whispers, “I know you’re tired, my Child, I’ve asked a lot of you, but I am here. Let me strengthen you. You weren’t meant to do this alone.” Yes, God could have given him anything to eat, but He fills him with the One thing he needs: Himself. Jesus tells us in John 6:48 that “I am the bread of life,” and He goes on in John 7:37-38 to say “if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him (Living Water, as in the Spirit of God. Love that!).
Life will overwhelm us—guaranteed. But you weren’t meant to do it alone. If you’re tired and weary, fill yourself today with the Bread of Life and all the Living Water you can drink. He will sustain you, everytime.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bookshelf Friday - When All My Dreams Come True by Janelle Mowery


I have to be honest, I didn't love the cover of this book, but the back cover piqued my interest so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did.

Here's a little about the story:

Bobbie McIntyre dreams of running a ranch of her own. Raised without a mother and having spent most of her time around men, she knows more about wrangling than acting like a lady. The friendship of her new employer awakens a desire to learn more about presenting her feminine side, but ranch life keeps getting in the way.

Ranch owner Jace Kincaid figures the Lord is testing his faith when a female wrangler shows up looking for work. Bobbie has an uncanny way of getting under his skin, though, and he’s surprised when she finds a home next to his heart. But when his cattle begin to go missing and his wranglers are in danger from some low-down cattle thief, can Jace trust God, even if it may mean giving up on his dreams?

I really like Bobbie's stubborn strength in this book. She does not give up easily, and that trait goes a long way in helping those around her. Searching for a home, she soon realizes that she needs God too. I loved how the Gospel is woven in and shared with Bobbie in such normal ways.

Jace is a great leading man. Strong enough to stand up to Bobby and equally as stubborn, his matching personality sets a fun stage for their growing relationship.

The adventure and suspense in this book was well paired with the romance, and I turned the last page satisfied with a smile on my face. When All My Dreams Come True is the first in Janelle's Colorado Runaway Series, and I'll be sure to read the rest.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

All Praise

I wonder sometimes what it will be like in Heaven. Will we all understand one another? Every tribe, every tongue, worshiping the One True Living God. Somehow, after hearing this song, I believe we will. God's spirit is a universal language for all who believe in Him.

How great is OUR God!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Scrub-a-Dub


I am a neat-nick. Doesn’t always work out well with small children, but if I had my choice, my home would always be neat. I don’t even mind cleaning because it actually calms me. Just don’t ask me to scrub anything. Dust, vacuuming, organize--great, but elbow-grease is where I draw the line. I mean, how relaxing is that, really? Scrubbing one spot over and over and over again? Ugh.

Hubby knows this about me, but it‘s not his favorite trait of mine (good thing he‘s called to love me anyway). I keep messes out of the way, but dirt in the corners? Baseboards that need washing? Stovetops with cooked on gunk? Yeah, not so much. It’s a matter of time, and I have other things I want to do. So, if my house is tidy, I tend to forget about the dirt lurking in other places, especially if it means skipping a task I truly don’t like.

And things go great, until Hubby wanders into an area that’s got gunk lurking. See, while I look at the big picture, God has blessed me with a husband who sees the details - thank you, Lord…truly…eh-hmmm…so anyway, last week when Hubby decided to cook me dinner, he encountered the stove. Sweet as he is, he didn’t say anything. He got dinner in the oven and just started scrubbing away. It took him the entire hour that dinner was cooking, (yes, I let it get that dirty) but that stove sparkled when he was done.

Now I explained to him that he’s much better at this than I am. Had I tackled the task, it would have taken much longer--his elbows are much stronger than mine. That explanation didn’t fly. He offered one of two thoughts--scrub harder or take care of the little messes before they turn into bigger ones. I politely ignored him. God, however, tugged on my ear to make sure I received the message.


I’ve been reading through the Bible during my morning devotional time and the next morning I opened up to where I was in Psalms. Chapter 66. There's a lot of great stuff in there that had me thinking, but I stopped at verse 10, “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” Now I’ve read that before, but God read it to me that morning, then spoke with me a while.

All too often we take care of the big, easy messes in our lives, the ones that are easy to spot and easy to fix. They keep our lives tidy, but do they keep them clean? And what about those little messes that occur along the way? They ones that aren’t as noticeable, so we leave them--not realizing they are digging into the crevices of our lives, creating bigger messes that are harder to get rid of. Then when God comes in and points them out, we don’t want to scrub and polish that area to be rid of them. It takes too much work. And really, is it fun to rub over one spot over and over and over again until it’s removed? The area becomes sensitive, we become tired--who really wants to go through that?

But what’s our choice? To borrow Hubby’s words: Either take care of the messes when they are little and manageable, or scrub harder. Because God wants to refine us like silver.


Silver’s neat, isn’t it? My mom gave me a box of silver bells she used to put out every Christmas. They were a mess. But after some polishing and scrubbing, (by me, no less!) they shined. And you know what I noticed? I could see my reflection. And that is exactly what God wants. See, silver--when shiny--reflects the image of the person who’s holding it. So scrub away at your mess, put the elbow-grease in (Phillipians 4:13 says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, so no saying you‘re not strong enough to scrub, use His strength), because when you’re polished up they world will look at you and see the image of the One who’s holding you: Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bookshelf Friday - Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon


I love Irene Hannon's books, so when Deadly Pursuit--the second in her Guardians of Justice series--came out I rushed to get it. It didn't disappoint.

Here's the scoop:

As a social worker, Alison Taylor has a passion for protecting children and seeing that justice is served on their behalf. But when she starts getting harassing phone calls and bizarre "gifts," it seems she may be the one in need of protection. When her tormentor's attentions take a violent turn, her brother Cole comes to her aid, along with his new partner, an ex-Navy SEAL, Detective Mitch Morgan. As her relentless stalker turns up the heat, Mitch takes a personal interest in the case. Protecting Alison has bec ome more than just a job--because his own happiness now depends on keeping her safe.

Though this is the second in this series, Irene's books all stand alone. Yet, if you read one you'll want the others. She weaves romance and suspense throughout, and develops her characters individually, not simply together.

For me, part of the draw was featuring a social worker. Having studied this field in college, I empathized with Alison and her dedication to her job. I really liked how Alison and Mitch weren't featured together all the time, but that you got snippets of their individual lives, yet could still feel the connection they were building. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Alison better in this book and the interaction she shares with her brothers. Another positive for me was how Irene enters the antagonist's head. Rather than attempting to keep the reader from discovering who the 'bad guy' is, Irene reveals him, writes a few chapters from his POV and still manages to keep the thread of suspense.

If you like romantic suspense and haven't encountered Irene yet, I highly recommend giving her a try and starting with Deadly Pursuit.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Most Wonderful Time!

November 1st! We officially start listening to Christmas music and break out our movies. Time for a little Christmas Vacation, Christmas Story and Elf...just to start. My kids and I love this day. My Hubby says we run over Thanksgiving. Not true--have you ever heard Thanksgiving music? Me either. If there was such a thing, we'd play that too.

And for all my writer friends out there--it's the start of NaNoWriMo! The time where we all start on those brand new ventures. For those of you out there tackling it this month, I'll be thinking of you. I hope to knock out a few words myself, but need to finish what I'm working on first. I'll set my own goal, but won't start today. To the rest of you--ready, set, TYPE!

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!!!