Monday, February 27, 2017

The Imitation Game

I've been reading 2 Kings lately, a book that never ceases to amaze me! Every time I read it I shake my head how chapter after chapter follows the same pattern of the Kings of Israel and Judah not following God. And where the King went, the people followed. They had so much God wanted to give them and do through them, but they forfeited it due to their continued lack of obedience.

As I was reading the repeating pattern, I came across words in 2 Kings 17:15 that made me pause. The chapter starts in much the same fashion as the previous ones and goes on to share how the Israelites were stiff-necked and unwilling to listen or follow the Lord. Then it says, "They imitated the nations around them..." and those few words made me stop. Actually, it was one word: imitate.

What got them in trouble was that instead of being the unique nation God created them to be, they tried to be someone else. Oh friends! How we do the same! Constantly faced with social media posts and air-brushed advertisements (to just name a few items) we strive to be like what we see rather than who God created us to be. And in doing so, not only do we miss out, but those around us do as well. Imitation is not the best form of flattery, it's the best way to miss your destiny. You were created for a specific purpose and plan (check out Ephesians 2:10 or Jeremiah 29:11) and when you choose to imitate someone else rather than walking in your unique purpose, there's a hole smack dab where you should have been.

That's not to say that God cannot fill that hole with someone else. But oh! Why would you want to exchange the amazing plans he has for you to mimic someone else's? What God has for you is exceedingly more than you can ever come up with on your own (that's in Ephesians also, chapter 3, verse 20.) so don't settle. Don't imitate. Seek out God and all he has for you. And start today.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vengeance or Grace?

So I was sitting in church a while ago and the sermon was on forgiveness. I've got to say, in my life I've had to practice that quite a bit--on both the giving and receiving end. I was rather sure I had it down too, because quite honestly, I don't want to spend my time here bitter and hardened. Not forgiving doesn't hurt anyone but ourselves, and I'm just not willing to go there any longer.

When our pastor asked this question: "When you think about something bad happening to that person, do you get a little satisfaction, even just a twinge?" I could easily answer "no." In fact, I smiled at God and said, "I've got this God, right? I'm soooo past this one, we covered it years ago. Vengeance is all yours, I've left them with you."

But after my pastor's question, God followed it up with a deeper one--because He's God, and He likes to do that, especially when He sees those little corners of our hearts.

"But what if you're idea of vengeance doesn't match up with mine?"

Uh. Say what?

And He didn't stop there. Oh no. He went on.

"What if I save them. Redeem them. Give them grace instead of revenge?"

Yeah. Not a picture I'd thought of before.

And I know He wasn't talking about consequences. Of course there are consequences to sin--but they are God's to hand out, not mine. And while I can dream all the consequences up that I want, there's no guarantee they are the same ones God will be handing out. In fact, I may never see their consequences, but I sure may see their salvation and healing--and I should be praying for it. (oh, and be OK with it too--like even celebrating it, even if it's just a quiet "woo-whoo" in my heart.)

Gives a whole new meaning to: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:44

And yet why was the whole purpose God came? "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost" Luke 19:10 and "...He is not willing that any should perish, but everyone should come to repentence." 2 Peter 3:9. That includes the person you're trying so hard to forgive.

See, God calls us to something deeper than simply forgiveness when He calls us to pray for them. He calls us to the ultimate end goal--their souls. That doesn't mean we even continue unhealthy relationships. But just because we may need to sever a relationship does not mean we sever our prayers for them.

Believe me, I know what I'm saying is not simple. Exactly how I felt when God nailed me between the eyes with it. But it is His Word, and it is freeing. It happens in steps. Slowly releasing that person to God, and remembering the same grace that has saved us is the same grace He wants to extend to them. Forgiveness is a daily, hourly thing at times, and if you're wondering if you can do it, remember this verse too:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13

And you can. You can release them and pray for their salvation and healing. You can give up your idea of vengeance for God's gift of grace. You can do it because it's been done for you, and His strength now resides in you.

It may take a minute-by-minute reliance on God, but His power is made perfect in our weakness. Pray with Him today, ask Him to start this work on your heart, and then allow Him to move. You'll be amazed at what seems impossible, God makes more than possible.

Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God." Luke 18:27

Let Him show you:)

Praying for you today!

***this post originally ran 5/2013***

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon

It's been a bit since I'd read an Irene Hannon book, so I picked up Tangled Web with a readiness to dive back into her stories. She's an author I enjoy, and this book was no exception. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime. A peaceful month in the woods sounds like the perfect way to decompress. But peace isn't on the agenda once he crosses paths with publishing executive Dana Lewis, a neighbor who is nursing wounds of her own. Someone seems bent on disrupting her stay in the lakeside cabin she inherited from her grandfather. As Finn and Dana work together to discover who is behind the disquieting pranks, the incidents begin to take on a menacing tone. And when it becomes apparent Dana's foe may have deadly intent, Finn finds himself back in the thick of the action--ready or not.

One thing I like about Hannon is her pacing. She keeps her plots moving at a good clip with rarely a slow moment. Everything that happens on the page is for a reason, and that keeps the reader pulled in and interested. Whether it's pushing the suspense forward, the romantic thread, or the antagonist's story, Hannon uses her words on the page wisely.

Overall I liked Finn and Dana very much. At times I wasn't as sold on the motivation behind their decisions, but they did maintain their believability and most moments were very organic. I did feel the end brought an easy out for one of the characters, but I could also identify with why Hannon chose to write it the way she did. I loved the interaction between Finn and his brothers as well, reminding me that I haven't read the first book in the series yet but do want to! And as for Finn and Dana, Hannon balanced the romance and suspense incredibly well, something she's become very adept at doing.

Tangled Webs entertained from start to finish with very little I disliked about it--which is no surprise when it comes to an Irene Hannon novel. I happily give it 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Day Off

Hey all!

Between my hubby having surgery Friday (he's doing well, but we'd welcome prayers of healing!) and my youngest being sick the entire week (5+ days with fever), I'm taking a necessary day off to care for them both.

I'll be back Friday with a book review. Until then, have a happy Monday and great rest of your week!

Friday, February 10, 2017

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

I have followed this series since Hunter's debut and was excited to pick up this, the third in the series. When I got my hands on it, I quickly dove in knowing I'd enjoy the story. So here's a small blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier if she hid in her older sister's shadow--which worked until her sister got married. Even with thepressure of her socially ambitious mother, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience to save her previously spotless reputation.

Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn't be happier that he is not the duke in the family. He's free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, which includes grand plans of wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he doesn't know, his dream of a marriage like his parents' seems lost forever. 

Already starting their marriage on shaky ground, can Adelaide and Trent's relationship survive the pressures of London society?

The book opens at Adelaide and Trent's wedding. I have to say, that caught me off guard. I felt as though I was missing something and for once, wished for a prologue. Quite honestly, I'd have loved to see a few of the moments that led to their being forced to wed. We definitely see snippets of it throughout the book as they recall the incident, but I would have loved to see it on page. Tossing that aside, the start of the book sets our protagonists up for quite a bit of conflict. It was an interesting concept that definitely snagged the story-teller and reader in me, and I happily dove into this tale. And overall, I really enjoyed it. I do believe Hunter could have added more interactions between the two and found a bit of a faster pace at times, but when Adelaide and Trent were together, their relationship was one I rooted for. They definitely had many obstacles to overcome.

I found Trent's desire to court his wife adorable and romantic. I could relate to Adelaide's insecurities and had an intense dislike of her mother. Hunter nails these characters, their desires, and their fears, making them very believable. And while I still love the first book of this series the most, it was wonderful to finally see Trent receive his happily ever after with such a deserving woman. His tender treatment and protection of her made him the hero we already believed he could be.

Overall I give An Uncommon Courtship 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here. Please note that while this is book number three in the series, they can all be read as stand alones.

Happy reading, friends!

Monday, February 6, 2017

God is Good

Life hurts.

Ever experience that?

Ever wonder why bad things happen to you?

Me too.

But when bad things happen to us, does that change who God is? It certainly has the potential to change how we see Him. But make no mistake, it does not change Him.  Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The circumstances around us do not change Him. No matter what, “He faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love." (Psalm 33:4-5)

Even in pain, God is faithful.

Just look at Joseph’s story. Sold into slavery by his brothers. Wrongly accused of a crime and thrown in jail. Left there after he helped a fellow prisoner who promised to remember him but didn’t. Read his story. It starts in Genesis 37—you get a little interlude in chapter 38, but it returns to Joseph in 39—and you’ll see, though we follow God, things are not always perfect. However, God is good.

He never left Joseph’s side. He restored him to a place of honor. He sowed healing into Joseph’s heart through forgiveness. And through all the bad things that happened, God was following His plan for Joseph’s life. Growing Joseph even while keeping Joseph in His hand. In the end what does Joseph say to his brothers who set the whole ball in motion when they sold him? “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50:20) 

Looking back (hindsight offers us so much, doesn’t it?) Joseph could see God’s plan for his life. He could connect the dots and understand why there were moments of pain. How it shaped him. How it brought him to where God wanted him to be. Did Joseph struggle during those moments? You bet. But he never let go of his grip on God, and ultimately he could look and see that God is good. And he could testify to that, even with all the awful things that had happened to him.

I don’t know what you’re going through at the moment, but I do know this. God is good. Cling to that. Repeat it. Believe it. And each morning, wake up and praise Him—the devil hates that! Don’t let satan take what is harming your life and use it for evil. Grab it back, and let God use it for good.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Still Life by Dani Pettrey

You all know I love a good suspense, and Dani Pettrey's newest series is off to a great start. Still Life is number two in the group and I just finished it. Here's a short blurb and we'll chat on the other side!

Dani Pettrey knows how to write a good romantic suspense. I loved her "Alaskan Courage" series and was incredibly excited to dig into this one. However, when Cold Shot debuted, I was left slightly let down. I still loved the book, but it wasn't quite what I expected. Now digging into book two in this series I find I'm warming to the change of pace. The "Chesapeake Valor" series leans even more toward an ensemble cast with shared screen time than her past books. The pacing is slightly different than "Alaskan Courage" series, but that isn't a bad thing. In fact, I'm finding it a good thing. It's just enough of a difference to keep things fresh while maintaining Pettrey's voice.

In Still Life we revisit Avery Tate and Parker Mitchell. They've realized their attraction--one we all picked up on in book one--but aren't quite sure what to do about it. Avery was ready to build a relationship with Parker, but he wasn't able to let go of his first love who'd died. Yet he knows he's come to care for Avery. Pettrey does a wonderful job of writing Parker's struggle and moving him forward while also making Avery patient yet strong. These two are well matched, and I loved seeing them on page together. They are definitely a couple you'll root for.

The suspense and twists in this book were very well done. For some the subject matter at times may borderline creepy, but as one who gets creeped out easily, I found it never quite got as dark as it could. Pettrey balanced that darker story with enough light to keep you turning pages rather than setting the book down. My only complaint was the ending seemed slower paced than it could have been. While twists were revealed, they seemed to lack any heart-racing moment. Still, this is definitely a read you'll want to add to your shelf, especially as Pettrey manages to take the on-going back story to another level, feeding the reader just enough information to keep you sucked into the mystery that will no doubt span this entire series.

All together I've come to really enjoy this series. While one couple is high-lighted in each book--their story is told and they receive their HEA--this is very much a bigger cast series. The page time is split with other POVs as Pettrey has done in the past, and there's evidence that something much bigger is going on in the background of this cast's lives. I think the final book is where we'll receive that pay-off. That fact has sucked me in, and I'm eagerly awaiting book number three to continue the ride with these characters.

I happily give Still Life 4 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here. It is a stand-alone, but I highly recommend reading Cold Shot as well if you haven't done so yet. Happy reading, friends!