Monday, June 27, 2016

Sinful Reminders

I sat in church yesterday and listened to our pastor preach on David & Bathsheba. The story is, I think, the low point of David's life. It reminds me that everyone messes up. No one is outside the pull of sin. However, it also reminds me that no one is outside God's grace. God wound up restoring what David's sinful choices took from him--but that restoration didn't exclude the pain of David's consequences playing out. Sin will always, always, always come with a price higher than you wanted to pay, even if that payment doesn't arrive for years.

I think that's why sometimes we so badly want to forget our moments spent away from God. They are dark. They are painful. They are our own personal low points. I think back to my mess-ups. Moments that want to paint me with shame. Moment's I'd rather ascribe to anyone other than myself. Yet they are all mine. But here's the thing, friends, we need to remember our sin. See, as I sat listening to the sermon, my past filtered through my mind. And while my sin still wanted to cover me in shame, do you know what spoke even louder? God's grace.

That's because our sin is the backdrop on which God's amazing grace shines. How dare we try and forget it? By removing our mistakes from our past, we silence our testimony. It's through the lens of who we were verses who we now are that our praise is born. It's also how he uses us. Our stories speak to those still struggling. It pulls them toward the only Person who can heal them.

Don't eliminate your testimony from your life. Let your sinful reminders speak to the power of God to transform anyone from anything. There is nothing too big for him. No one too far from his reach. Rather than our sin still reaching for a spot of shame in our lives, let it bring glory to the One who redeemed us.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Battle Praising

There is something amazing that happens as I open God’s Word in the morning and just read it. Some days it’s simply one chapter, other days I’m pulled into a story and blow through five or six. If you haven’t ever accomplished reading His story, I challenge you to try it. Don’t pressure yourself with a plan, just crack it open and see where He leads you. This week it returned me to one of my favorite stories. It occurs in 2 Chronicles 20 and stars Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. Jehoshaphat was facing a battle with some big people, a “vast army” to be exact. I can relate? You? Well Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and I love what happens here.

First, the people of Judah fasted and called out to God. Then He answered. And just look at His answer (I’m taking this from verses 15-17) “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged…face them and the Lord will be with you.”

Before I move onto what Jehoshaphat and Judah did, I want to point out something—the battle was never theirs. Did you see that? God tells them it’s His battle, they didn’t need to fight it. Sometimes we get locked into fighting a battle that was never ours to take up. We can’t understand why we feel defeated, yet we aren’t even supposed to be in the fight. So what should we be doing, if not fighting?

Let’s keep reading snippets from the rest of the passage. "Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites…praised the Lord with very loud voices…Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army…and as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir…and they were defeated.”

Do you see? See the power of our praise? So often we try and take the battle from God and all He wants is our praise. As we praise, He moves. There is such power in the simple act of worship. And where did this praise occur? In front of the battle! Before the deliverance even happened, they praised God for the victory. OH! How I want to be someone who praises God for victory before I see it.

Are you fighting a battle today? Seek God…is He trying to tell you that the battle is His? Step back from the fight and start praising—let Him defeat your enemy. The battle belongs to the Lord.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Don't you love it when you pick up a book without huge expectations and then completely fall in love with it? Me too! :) That recently happened when I read Kristi Hunter's debut, A Noble Masquerade. Here's a blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother's old school friend, a duke--with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she's heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother's new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned. 

When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men--one she's never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda's heart is far from all that's at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.

I had the chance to read this book on my recent vacation. I figured it would fill in the few quiet moments I had, but quickly became so sucked into the story that I didn't want to put it down. Hunter does an amazing job crafting two leads who you root for individually and as a couple. Their immediate chemistry is eclipsed by how well their personalities compliment each other. They challenge one another and yet see the best in each other. And they are downright funny together at times. I found myself smiling my way through the book. Add in the light mix of suspense & mystery--which is never drawn out needlessly--and both hero and heroine only shine brighter. These are two characters who stayed with me even after I turned the final page.

And though the plot is slightly predictable, that in no way dimmed my enjoyment of this book. Hunter's writing voice, the plot itself, and the characters she created all flowed together seamlessly.  I happily give The Nobel Masquerade 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Protective Duty by Jessica Patch

Patch's sophomore release is as action packed as her debut. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

Minutes into FBI profiler Bryn Eastman's first case since a near-fatal shooting, a brazen serial killer sets his sights on her next. Now her life—and career—is in the hands of her new partner, Detective Eric Hale, the man she once loved and lost. Racked with nightmares of the shooting and regrets for the tragedy that tore her and Eric apart, Bryn doesn't want Eric to discover the secrets she carries—but she needs him. Seeing Bryn brings back memories Eric can't control. Memories of a once-in-a-lifetime love. But the tough detective knows their only path to a second chance goes straight through a relentless killer…one who won't quit until he counts Bryn as his fifth victim.

This book opens with a bang and sucks you into its suspense and mystery. With their shared past, you're rooting for Bryn and Eric from their first encounter. It's obvious they still love each other. And as I've come to expect from Patch's book, there's a wonderful balance between the suspense and lightheartedness. Her writing delves into deep moments--both spiritual and emotional--while also allowing her characters to laugh. This creates a read that you simply don't want to put down. Perfect for these summer days!

You can purchase Protective Duty here (or at your local Walmart or Meijer). And, until June 20th, Jessica is running a giveaway on her blog for a copy of Protective Duty tucked into a beach bag full of goodies! You can enter here.

Happy reading, friends!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Wash Up

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

I was having not the best of days a few weeks back. The house was a mess, I was behind on most chores, we'd barely survived the homeschooling day, and dinner still needed to be cooked. I began chopping and stirring, while simultaneously clearing off the dining table from a recent painting project my girls had taken on. (I am so not a craft mom. Not even gonna pretend here.)

My youngest came into the kitchen to check out what I was doing. Now, can I just say, she is the child God saw fit to bless us with about the time Hubby and I were sure we had this whole parenting thing down. I do believe He daily chuckles over that one--God is so good to us, isn't He?

Anyway...Raleigh came into the kitchen and eyed the paint tray I had just set on the counter to dry. Knowing what she was about to do, I calmly told her, "DO NOT touch those paints!"...however, Raleigh's fingers seem to have a mind of their own. She so badly wants to do good, she wants to listen, but sometimes her desires get the best of her, and before I could even blink my eye, her finger poked into the black paint. She just couldn't help herself.

And there her fingertip was, black paint against her white skin. One small spot that could create one big mess if I let her leave the kitchen.

My water was boiling, my meat was sizzling, and I here sat with my girl who had paint on her little hand.

Now, her sin was disobeying me, but my sin came in my anger. Isn't it great that God loves us enough to not leave us there?

I snatched her hand, flipped on the kitchen faucet, and pushed her finger under it and yelled at her, "Why can't you listen? Now your hand's a mess and I have to clean it up." Figuring I'd have to scrub, I reached my hand into the water and rubbed my finger across hers. When I twisted my hand up, the spot was gone from her hand--completely, as if it had never been--and my fingertip was now black. One round dot of black now marring my white skin, and that's when God nailed me:
Photo Credit:

This is what I do for you on a daily basis, Daughter--clean you up when you've failed to listen. I take your black spots of sin onto my own skin, leaving you clean and white. I wear them for you, so that you don't have to. So that you can stand before My Father without spot or blemish.

Oh, boy. Talk about hitting me right between the eyes.

I am no better than my daughter, I'm simply older. There are so many moments where I hear Him tell me to not touch something, and yet my hand reaches out for that temptation. And when I call, He gently takes my hand and cleans me up.

That's what grace is.

We need Him. Every second, of every hour, of every day, we need Him. We are far from perfect people, and yet He covers us with His perfection. And why? Because He loves us.

If you're struggling with something today--whether you are a Christian or only just finding Jesus--call out to Him. He'll wipe every one of your spots out and wash you white as snow.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

And if you want to read more about it, check out Psalm 51 here...and be blessed today:)

***this is a repost from 2013***

Friday, June 3, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Forever Safe by Jody Hedlund

Headland's fourth installment to her "Beacons of Hope" series released recently, and I had to snap it up. Here's a short blurb, and then we'll chat on the other side!

Race Point, Massachusetts, 1876 Will she ever be able to stop running, even when she believes she’s finally safe? Heiress to a vast fortune, Victoria Cole has everything she wants, including the perfect fiancĂ©. Having left two other men at the altar, Victoria is sure that now she’s found her true love and will finally live happily ever after. As her wedding draws near, however, Victoria’s life is threatened. To keep her safe, Victoria’s father hires a bodyguard. Tom Cushman’s number one priority is protecting his clients, which means no personal entanglements. But he’s never guarded someone as beautiful and winsome as Victoria. After a near-kidnapping, the wedding is cancelled, and Tom hides Victoria at Cape Cod’s Race Point Lighthouse until her attacker can be found. Appointed as assistant light keeper with Victoria posing as his wife, Tom believes the isolation of the lighthouse will keep her safe. As Victoria struggles to live without familiar luxuries, her heart betrays her with growing feelings for her protector. Determined to help Tom stop fleeing from his haunted past, can the runaway bride learn to face her own fears? With the attacker closing in, will both of them ever be able to stop running and find the safety they long for?

While Hedlund is currently working on a new series, she had Victoria and Tom's story still running through her head, asking to be told. So she decided to self-publish this book, and I'm so glad she did! As is custom with Hedlund's books, the romance is more than about attraction--though she writes chemistry extremely well! Victoria and Tom seem opposites but they pull out the best in one another. The conflict that is created while recognizing this, however, provides for some entertaining moments. I truly liked Victoria better the more Tom challenged her. She's never a whiny character, but one that tackles each obstacle in her way. She has a backbone and stands up to Tom when needed. Add in the dynamics of his parents and how they challenge his growth and you have pages full of a very enjoyable story.

A fresh aspect to this book is Hedlund takes us from the shores of Michigan to Massachusetts. And though I struggled with the need for them to actually marry to pose as man and wife, that was a minor issue with the book that in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment. As for the suspense aspect, I loved the addition of this, though the romance certainly took center stage. Another well written book from Hedlund who never fails to deliver a satisfying read. She remains on my must-read list.

You can purchase Forever Safe here

Happy reading, friends!