Monday, June 30, 2014

Word Virus

So recently someone had a few words for me that threw me for a bit of a loop. It's funny, because when they were said I didn't realize their full impact. But within the following weeks, I found myself with negative thoughts that slowly multiplied, almost like a virus. I went from a deep confidence in who I was in Christ to truly questioning my authenticity. It shook my core and how I saw myself in Christ.

cuteimage/freedigitalphotos.com
Like I said, it didn't happen immediately, nor did I realize the full impact of those words until my thoughts were truly in danger. I hadn't realized the onset of symptoms until it was a full-blown attack that had me down for the count. It was only this past week that I traced my current issues back to that moment, those words.

And I knew, even though I didn't feel like it, I needed to start the road to recovery. Which meant opening my Bible and really seeking God. Just like when you start taking medicine, the effects aren't immediately evident, but that doesn't mean you stop. So I opened my Word and dug in. I wrote last Wednesday's blog and one sentence I penned stuck:

We don't serve our feelings, we serve our God.

Now please don't misunderstand, I know there are truly medical issues that can affect our feelings and thoughts. Depression is real as are other mental diseases. Those aren't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about how too often we give up when the rush of feelings we expect to encounter doesn't immediately follow. Oh, sometimes God works that way, but sometimes he wants us to keep digging in, keep seeking him, and to believe the feelings will follow. Sometimes he wants us to step out in that knowledge and faith and put feet to what we know to be true.

So I read my Bible all week. Knowing where the word virus had started and wanting to reclaim my thoughts and footing, but not really feeling any better. And then Friday I came across Psalm 43:

You are God my stronghold.
    Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

A couple of things stood out to me all at the same time. He is my stronghold. His light and his faithful care lead me. The desire to be in the place he dwells. He is my joy and delight...and then, finally, to praise him.

Praising him.

When David talks about his soul being downcast, he immediately leaps to praising God. All week I'd been reading my Bible, but I had not spent one moment in praise to God. I felt too distant. I felt condemned...unworthy. Now, there is such a thing as conviction that is accompanied with the voice of Truth. It's not always fun to hear, but you know there's truth in the words, and you can work toward change. But when words are served with an overwhelming feeling of condemnation, chances are they weren't spoken in truth and you need to seek God before moving in them. Had I immediately done that, rather than letting the word virus fester, I doubt I would have found myself where I was; even though I'd already decided I didn't want to serve those feelings, in cutting off my praise that's exactly what I was doing.

Alex/Flickr
And here's the thing...even if we are a hypocrite or unworthy, even if we are a sinner in the worst way, it does not mean we cannot approach God in praise. Allowing satan to tape our mouth or invade our thoughts keeps us separate from the incredible power of praise because God inhabits the praise of his people! Battles have been won in the midst of praise! Walls have come tumbling down in the center of worship! Wars won. Lives changed. The holy anointing power of our God swirls through our praise and worship...they bring us to his holy mountain, to the place where he dwells, and there...

there...lives are changed. Thoughts are made new. And healing happens.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - A Rush of Wings Series by Kristen Heitzmann

I've read several books by Kristen in the past. She tends to walk the line between contemporary romance and contemporary romantic suspense, and she walks it well! I always enjoy the balance to her books, her characters, and the amazing story lines that move at just the right pace. Having read several years ago A Rush of Wings and The Still of Night, I was surprised to discover there was a third recently written for the series entitled Breath of Dawn. I had no idea! So when a friend told me about it, I immediately snapped it up. But I can't tell you any of the specifics because you have to read the other two first. So...I'm talking about the first in the series here today:)


When fragmented images and unfocused panic force Noelle St. Claire to flee her wealthy, sheltered life in New York, she gains sanctuary on a ranch in the Rocky Mountains.
There Noelle finds solace in the breathtaking scenery she paints. But as the attentions of two brothers, Rick and Morgan Spencer, breach the wall she hides behind, the past she yearns to escape becomes a menacing threat from which she can no longer hide. 

Just a little FYI before we start, the book has been rereleased with another cover, so you'll see both out there.

Ok. This series was wonderful. I loved not knowing which brother she'd choose. I loved the scenery in this book and the relationships that develop. As I noted above, Kristen does a great job of keeping the immediate danger in the background for most of the book and allowing her characters to be the focus on page. And, oh, do they shine. You all know I love dialogue, and Kristen does it well. I love the tenderness and strength of her leading men, and I couldn't wait to read more about the brother who didn't win Noelle's heart...his story takes place in The Still of Night. I also loved the focus on healing that her books tend to take and how that is always accomplished through the only One who can truly heal. Not only is the scenery in her books breathtakingly beautiful, but so are her scenes.

That being said, if you choose to read this series it is one that must be done in order! I don't normally say that, but this time I'm going to. Each story is encapsulated in it's own, but there are other factors at play here that will make your read much better if you start here with book one and finish (without looking at the blurbs even until you're at that book) with Breath of Dawn.

And while Rush of Wings I gave 4 out of 5 stars, the final two I gave 5 out of 5, making this a series I'd very happily give 5 out of 5 stars on overall.

You can pick up Rush of Wings here. Hope you grab it and enjoy!

To learn more about Kristen and all her books (another favorite of mine was Freefall) visit her website Kristen Heitzmann Books.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

One-Word Check-In

So if you recall, my One Word for 2014 was:

We're mid-way through the year, and I'm just wondering how everyone is doing with their words? I won't lie, the last several weeks I've been in a bit of a "blah" mood. Makes being fervent a tad hard when you can't even rouse much more than an "eh" over things.

But I've recently been reminded that we don't follow our feelings, we follow our God. And while the blahs haven't left yet, I can still pray with a fervency and power that is attached to him. A fervency that he ignites regardless of my feelings. A fervency that looses here on earth what is in Heaven. And eventually these lovely, incredibly human feelings will follow if I just don't give up!

So I wonder, have any of you hit a stumbling block with your One Word for this year? I know so many who started the year with a passion and direction, so for those of us who may need an aid station about now in this race, check-in and know I'm praying for you:)

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Boat are You?

I was blessed to spend the last week in Destin, Florida with my family. Many mornings I'd sit on the back deck with this view:

And though it's hard to see, it was a perfect view of the channel. I could watch the boats all heading out to the ocean ready to fish. Some were huge and flashy, packed with people, others were tiny but speedy, and still others looked in bad need of a paint job. I watched one morning while the smallest, roughest looking boat outran a larger one leaving it to eat its waves. But all shared one thing in common: they were going fishing.

Of course, it made me start thinking. We are an awful lot like those boats. God has made us all unique. Some of us are more polished while others have seen the knocks of life, but each of us is a vessel God can use. Our outward appearance or the way we approach fishing isn't what matters--each of those boats went out there and caught fish in their own way. With their own tools. Old ones full of experience and newer ones with the best technology on the market, but the end result was the same...they caught fish. In different areas, at different depths, and of different kinds, but they caught them.

I know, it seems simplistic, my little boat analogy, and yet we struggle with it, don't we? We fail to see the beauty of this vessel God has given us. We compare. We strive to be like another. We think we're not good enough, the talent he blessed us with is too small, the amount of fish we haul in paltry. But that's just it: we think. But God, our Father? He's rejoicing over us.

Think about it. Ever gone fishing with your child? When they haul in even a minnow we jump up and down in excitement with them. So when did that become not enough for us? Your boat may be small and peeling, your catch only a few tiny minnows...but if you didn't catch them, they'd still be out there swimming. Jesus always rejoiced over the one, so why don't we? Why do we think it isn't enough?

If it's because we sense more out there in need and truly have the heart to reach them, then go! Keep fishing! But if it's because we're upset by our fishing vessel and are living in comparison, then pull back to shore and spend some time with the One who created you. Let Him speak over you, love on you, polish you up and heal any holes, but then get back out there. There's an ocean full of fish waiting to be caught and you have a part in the perfect vessel He gave you.

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Mark 1:17



Friday, June 20, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin

While driving to Florida I had the chance to read Victoria Bylin's newest release--her first from Bethany House! Here's the blurb and beautiful cover, and we'll chat on the other side:)

Finding each other was only the beginning . . . 

When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life. 

It's Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate's rescue. Nick is handsome and confident, and he seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She's not planning to get involved with one of the locals. 

Nick is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn't expect to be swept off his feet by the car's occupant. He's made a vow--no dating for a year--but keeping that vow is going to be a lot more difficult now that he's met Kate Darby. . . .

Like I said, isn't that a gorgeous cover? I first saw it on NetGalley and thought that's a book I have to read! I was so excited when it landed on top of my TBR pile just as we were leaving for Florida, and I couldn't wait to start it as soon as we climbed in our car. Of course, with the fast-paced beginning of the book, I quickly became happy that our minivan was no where near any cliffs:)

The fast-paced start gave way to a milder paced remaining story where the reader gets to know Kate, Nick, and Kate's grandmother, Leona, among many other characters. As a reader, I struggled with Kate. I truly enjoyed her strength as a woman and her desire for both her career and her family. I understood her inner battle over how to make both work and also enjoyed her spiritual journey. However, at times I didn't care for how she seemed to push Nick even though he shared his determination to keep a commitment he'd made between himself and God. And though this bothered me, I could also understand she wasn't in the same place with her faith as Nick.

And, oh, Nick:) He was an amazing lead male. I loved his strength and tenderness with Kate. I also liked how uncomfortable he was being placed on a pedestal by her at times, and that he constantly redirected her toward God. He was a man who held his convictions closely, even when it came at a personal cost to his heart. I loved the story question his spiritual journey brought up--has God called us to something or have we done that ourselves? I also liked seeing a new Christian walk out their faith; trials, temptations, and all. He was by no means perfect, but he did understand grace, and that was refreshing to see.

All together I enjoyed this book. While I wasn't crazy about the condors, they did play beautifully into the storyline and added a richness to it, as did Leona and her letters to Kate. Victoria knows how to write an amazing leading man and even Kate, though I didn't always like her choices, was a fun character to read. I'll definitely look for more books by Victoria in the future.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. 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.

Known for her realistic, likable characters and vivid writing, Victoria Bylin writes both western and contemporary inspirational romance. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband currently live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vacation!


So last month my parents celebrated 50 years together!! 

Now that everyone is out of school (kids and adults, we have a couple of teachers in the family) we are all off to celebrate!! Because 50 years deserves a celebration:)

I'll be gone from here till next Friday when I'll return with a review of Victoria Bylin's Until I Found You.

Have a great week everyone! And if you think of it, please pray for safe travels for my family:)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Quotable Wednesday


I was drawn to this quote because of a conversation I had with my daughter recently. Her younger sister was pushing all of her buttons until finally my daughter snapped. I sent her to her room and after dealing with baby sister, I went to speak with my big sister. Her response?

"Mom, sometimes she just makes it so hard to love her."

Yeah. I think we all can relate. And let me be frank, I know at times I'm near impossible to love! And my girl's honest response allowed me to talk about God's love. About how he calls us to love...always. Seems near impossible sometimes--just like she'd noted.

But when we think about how God loves us, and that through him we possess that same ability, how can we do any less?

Sure. We might need to send ourselves to our rooms first for a breather (and sometimes we need to stay there and love from a distance), but then we love.

Even when they're unloveable.



Monday, June 9, 2014

Some Things Bear Repeating

I was reading recently and this reminder came through the following verses, so I wanted to share it because some things just bear repeating.

The tongue has the power of life and death...Proverbs 18:21

It's strange to think that such a small muscle can hold such power, isn't it? But it's not our physical power this verse refers to. What it's referring to is words, and that brought me to two other verses in Scripture:

...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God...Ephesians 6:17

and

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

See, sometimes I think we forget the power behind the Book in our hands. It's not just a bunch of words scrawled across a page or simple stories of old. No. Each little word in our Bible is God-breathed and full of his essence, his power. And when we speak those words? They hold all the power of the God who created this world, raised people from the dead, healed with one touch, and still commands the very stars above our head. These words give life to all he's called into being--our dreams and our purposes--and kill all the plans of the enemy.

These words are not to be wielded lightly, nor are we ever to think it's an ounce of us that gives them power. When Proverbs says the power of life and death is in the tongue it's not referring to our breath or muscle giving power to the words we speak, but rather the power of the Holy Spirit wrapped inside them.

Which is why it's so incredibly important to know his Word! Right now my family and I are doing something we started called Challenge 66. Starting in Genesis, each week we move to another book of the Bible and learn a verse from it. Some weeks we do great, some are a miss, but we are still farther in our Scripture memorization then we've ever been. And that's what I want. To inscribe his Word on every brain cell so I can speak it into every situation of my life.

What about you? Do you realize the true power on the tip of your tongue?



Friday, June 6, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers

First off, the winner for my May Bookshelf drawing...

Sarah Nichols!

Sarah, you can Facebook or email me which book from my May Bookshelf Reviews you'd like, and I'll get it to you:) Congrats!! And thanks so much not only to you, but to all of you who've followed or liked my sites. It truly means so much!

Now let's keep the love-fest going straight into today's review because I love Francine Rivers, and I have for years. She is one of the very first CBA authors that stood out to me, and if you've ever read a book by her you know why. If you haven't, then you need to start. Pick anything up with her name on it, and you'll be happy! Today, though, I've got her newest to chat about. Here goes!

To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

Alright, confession time here...I picked up this book at our church library on Sunday with every intention of having it read, but then my week went a tad crazy. I had a few things writing related that I had to accomplish, so I didn't get this fully read! However, what I can say is how deeply it has drawn me in from page one. Not only are the characters rich, but the story has just enough questions to keep me turning the page. Francine is so amazing at writing characters and their struggles with such authenticity and relatability that I truly feel like I know them. And I love, love, love how Truth is always at the core of all her stories, and this one is no different. I'm mid-way through and I have no doubt, now that my schedule is a bit more free, I'll have it finished very quickly.

If you'd like to purchase Bridge to Haven, you can find it here. And if you'd like to know more about Francine Rivers, you can visit her website, here. Happy Friday, all!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Quotable Wednesday


Ok. I had to use this quote. First, because I loved the Chronicles of Narnia. They made a huge impact on me as a child. Second, because I simply love this quote. It challenges my faith and reminds me how deep it needs to be, because as I said earlier this week: my natural inclination is to know!

But what I need to do, is believe:) 

What about you? Where does this quote take you?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Like Walking Through Myst

Back in the 90's there was this really cool computer game called Myst. Well, most of my siblings thought it was cool, I however hated it. The objective was unclear, there wasn't a map or a specific set of rules, the game simply started and you had to explore. Along the way you'd collect items that pointed you to other worlds called "Ages" that you'd need to explore and collect more items...and so on as the picture of the purpose of this game slowly came into focus. And it drove me crazy! Like fumbling along in the dark...err...mist...which I think explains the name.

Lately this game has been coming back to my mind. I've been stepping out into a new area God's calling me, at least I think he is, and it's caused a bit of fumbling. I'm not too sure how to achieve the goal in front of me--not even 100% sure of what it is, though I have an idea--and each morning I find myself searching for another piece. It reminded me of this game. Which, as I thought more about it, made me realize how much this game is like our walk with God. (So I guess that means I have to admit at times this walk drives me crazy. Because it can. It does. Like right at this moment.)

I am a person who would like a map. I like order and purpose. All of which God is, only he doesn't always reveal those things in our lives. Oh, he knows the purpose for which he created us, but sometimes we have to stumble a bit in the dark to start discovering it. How do we handle this?

It's called faith.

We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) We know that God has ordained our steps (Proverbs 20:24) and makes them sure (Psalm 37:23). He has a purpose (Psalm 138:8) and a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). And he will never fail you. (Deuteronomy 31:6).

That I'm able to recall all those verses reiterates something to me: My life is indeed very similar to the game I used to hate. As I've stumbled and moved around my daily life, God's given me little pieces of discovery. I've also collected verses and sharpened a few skills. All these things I carry with me and slowly, ever so slowly, the picture of my purpose here has started to crystallize. (And, bonus, this process has only drawn me closer to God. Which makes me only slightly less crazy.)

How about you? Ever feel like you're taking a stab in the dark? This isn't the first time I have, and though I'm sure I'll never feel completely comfortable in these situations, one thing I am 100% sure of: He'll slowly clear that mist away as I draw closer to him, and he'll do the same for you! Seek him and he will be found (Deuteronomy 4:29). I'm not the only one promising it...he is:)