Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible by Thomas Nelson

I was searching for Max Lucado's devotional Bible and was having a hard time finding it. I had heard it was simply amazing. So, I kept searching with no luck. However, I came across his study Bible. Friends, let me tell you, this is one spectacular study Bible. I started reading and didn't want to put it down. So, I have made a plan to work through one chapter a day.

I too was searching for some great new studies. With this new Bible my search is over. There are over 1,000 life lessons in this Bible. I find that outstanding. This is just what I have been searching for. First I should say that I purchased the hardback copy and it looks exactly like the jacket. I was totally surprised at how pretty it is on the inside. Very eye catching and inviting.

I am finding that every chapter in the Bible is covered by Max's life lessons. He begins with an introduction to each book of the Bible. He makes it very personal.  Max has this flow with his words and has a gift to bring a powerful insight straight to your heart. I have learned something totally brand new each time I have opened this Bible. It's like I'm uncovering the Bible in a whole new way. I'm excited to begin my study each morning.

The life lessons include an explanation of the situation, the observation, inspiration, application, and exploration. That would be enough if it ended right there, but amazingly there's more! It is jam packed with inserts of, Christ Through The Bible, snippets that give an extra look into the scripture.

This Bible includes, "He Did This Just For You Verses", "Spiritual Growth Verses", "30 Studies for New Believers", "The Big Picture: A 30 Day Overview to the New Testament", and a "Where to Turn When index". You can literally open the pages and remain hooked for hours. I can begin reading and lose track of time.

I have read most of Max Lucado's books and throughout this Bible are readings from those very books I enjoyed so much. This is truly a great tool for studying the Bible. This is written in the NKJV. This is a study Bible for everyone. It would make an amazing gift for someone this Easter. You can find it at Amazon and Thomas Nelson. In both places it is on sale. (If you click on the Thomas Nelson link you can check out an excerpt of the Bible.

NIV Real Life Devotional for Women by Lysa Terkeurst

I have Bibles in every corner of my house. I love Bibles of all kinds. Since I review books, I don't have to purchase many Bibles, but when I saw that Lysa Terkeurst was coming out with this new Bible I pre-ordered it from Amazon. I was excited for it to arrive. I adore Lysa Terkeurst. She is such a gifted writer and can share many issues with women because she understands. She has been there with us.

I have to share that I had just finished reading, Lysa's new book, "Unglued", and I too read the devotional that goes along with it. So, when I seen this Bible listed under Lysa's name, I just assumed the devotionals were written by her. If you haven't read Lysa's books, ladies, run out and grab them up. They are just amazing in every way. I can say they are life changing.

My Bible arrived last week and I have been reading through the devotionals. There are 366 devotionals in order by day 1, day 2 and so on. Something that I didn't catch when ordering was the fact that these devotionals are written not just by Lysa, but by the Proverbs 31 Ministry ladies. I too adore these women. They write with such passion and purpose. My walk with the Lord has been strengthened by these amazing ladies.

This Bible is gorgeous. The cover is spectacular and most of all it's inviting. In the back of the Bible you will find a list of all the women who participated in writing devotionals and those they have penned are found listed under their name. It's a great size for a Bible and the inside detail is very pretty.

Now, with all that said, I am a little disappointed. I know, you didn't want to hear that. But I was so over the top excited to get this one, it was kind of a let down. Maybe I was just expecting more. I would have loved having this Bible when my babies were still at home. It would have provided me with great insight and words of comfort and peace.

The devotions are well written and touch base in many areas, but they are short devotions. Most are a short four or five paragraphs. About the time I was just getting into the devotion it was over. All the devotions have a key scripture verse that goes along with the devotional. Each devotion shares a few extra verses to explore if you choose.

I think all women can relate to these devotionals on some level. There is something here for everyone. There is a blend of topics for the young mother, the stay at home mom, the working mom, the wife, and the friend. They take us through all sorts of circumstances and give wisdom on how to handle such situations. They touch on struggles, marriage, forgiveness, hope, mercy, obedience and many more.

In all I think this is a nice devotional. It's one I will continue to read through daily.

Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and national speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author of 15 books, and encourages nearly 500,000 women worldwide through a daily online devotional. Her remarkable life story has captured audiences across America, including appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five children.

Needing A Drink Of Faith?

Last summer my husband and our granddaughter were working in the garden picking tomatoes. Picture dirty feet and hands. The sun was shining brightly upon them as my husband showed Pip which tomato to pick. Soon enough they were working up a sweat. They are just having a ball. As I stood back and watched all I could see was simple beauty. A grandpa and his precious granddaughter laughing in the garden.

I hear Pip say, "Pa Pa, I need drink". Pa Pa did as any grandpa would do. He said to Pip, "Lets go get ourselves a drink", and she took his hand as they walked to the water pump. He reached for  the water hose. At first she wasn't quite sure of the hose and the water escaping from it. But, everything changed when Pa Pa took the first drink. First he washed Pip's hands and feet and tenderly held the hose so she could drink in the cool and refreshing water. Giggles began and beauty touched my eyes.

After they shared a drink from the hose, they were ready to head back to the garden for more picking and watering. A drink was all Pip needed to feel refreshed and energized. All you could hear was, "I do it Pa Pa. I do it".

"Jesus answered and said to her, 'Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:13-14

Children have such an unbelievable trust in those they love. Pip knows her Pa Pa and Nanny would do anything for her. We only want the best for her. We keep watch over her and protect her from harm. Our love for her is great. We pour out our love for her and in return we are filled until overflowing with hearts that melt at the mention of her name.

Our Father in heaven has a great and mighty love for us. Are you thirsty? Cup your hands together and drink from the fountain that will give you life. His love springs from a fountain that will never go dry. He makes a way for His children. Jesus has poured Himself out to us in only a way that He can. He quenches our thirst and as we drink a new peace washes over us.
"As a deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." Psalm 42:1-2a
Oh, how we grow tired and weary. We become overwhelmed with life issues. We can feel dirty and stained by all that has touched us. We work all day and what is there to show for our hard work? We can get so focused on the job that we forget to stop and take a break. Friend, is it time to take a break?
Daily I hear of friends going through such trying times. They are being pushed and pulled in every direction. It seems just a struggle to wake up. I too have been there. I will be there again as trials come my way. But I am learning not to dwell too long in my circumstance, but to spend time with the Lord. He has everything I need. Everything changes when He comes into the picture. Oh sure, that circumstance might still be facing you head on, but your perspective changes with a cool drink from the faith fountain. Spend as long as you need there. Find solace in His presence and His peace will cover your weary bodies. His strength will guide you to victory. His love will wash over you and leave you bathed in His grace.
"The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26
It is my prayer that you can spend time with the Lord in the garden today. Being washed clean and touched with a new hope. The Lord will lead gently lead you to the spring of faith. It is there, friend, that your cup will always be overflowing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is It A Mountain Or A Mole Hill?

Just what is a mountain about anyway? Ever make a mountain out of a mole hill? The climb seem extra tough today? I have seen that mountain and in fear ran the other way. There are times I'd rather duck and hide than face the mountain before me. See those self clouds of doubt up there high above the mountain? Sure, you know them. They are saying, "You can't do it!" Mountains come in all shapes and sizes. But when we face the side of mountain and look up, don't they all seem out of reach? It's frightening to think about climbing, isn't it?

"And the Lord said, 'If you have faith as a mustard see, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea', and it would obey you'." Luke 17:6

"So Jesus said to them, 'Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you'." Matthew 17:20

Faith is seeing beyond the mountain to the other side. Faith is believing that the mountain before you can in no way hinder your path. Faith is seeing the mountain as an opportunity to reach higher, beyond our own strength.

Today was an "aha" moment for me. Don't you love those moments? The moment when something becomes crystal clear. I was thinking of all the mountains I have climbed. Mountains I thought would be the end of me. Oh, they seemed so big at the time. As I faced them I stood shaking in fear. Unbelief of this girl who lives out her faith. Well that is until she faces a mountain. So, I began thinking about seeds. Yep, small seeds. Those seeds like the mustard seed. So small you barely see them. There's power in a seed!

Just what do we do with a seed? If you plow up a garden each summer you know well what to do with seeds. You plant them. Now, you can just walk out to the field and drop your seed. If only it were that easy. First you need some good manure. Ewe, but yes, that fertilizer will make your garden of seeds grow. With that said, ever feel like your walking in poo? Stuck in the muck and mire? It's funny just what a little smelly fertilizer can do for growth. Take a few trips trekking your way through muck and mire and you find a strength you didn't know you had.

So you have your fertilizer brought in and now it's time to plow. You get all that old dirt up and mix it around. This is tough work. Last summer I used our tiller. First time ever with the tiller for me. I must tell you, it made it much easier, but there was still sweat. Ever feel like your being mixed around? Maybe you don't even know which way is up at times. This is bringing in the air and making room for growth. It helps being married to a farmer.

Now it's time to make your rows. I can remember the first year I thought I would surprise my husband with a garden. LOL I did this while he was out of town. Thought it would be a great gift to him. I worked my tail off planting, but I made a huge mistake. I didn't make straight rows. All that rain that would come couldn't drain off properly, do with my "pretty" garden, everything was going to be saturated until it drowned. I think we can all relate to this. I have felt like the rains would not end. I'm not sure if there is a worse feeling than feeling like your drowning and there is nothing in the world you can do about it. The rains just keep coming. You feel like your in over your head. But friends, with rain comes sunshine. Rain brings growth. In fact, you can't plant a seed and hope it grows if there isn't a water supply.

Your rows are plowed and now it's time to dig a little hole and put in the seed. This is probably my favorite part. I get down on my hands and knees and place each seed a few inches apart. As I place the seed in the hole I now cover it up. Where each tiny seed is planted is now looking like a mound. At least to me, it looks like a mound, but to that tiny seed, that is one huge mountain to burst through. That tiny seed must begin to grow and as it does it will raise a little higher until it begins peeking through the mound that has covered it. That's quite a strong seed, don't you think? Yep, there is power in the seed.

That tiny seed springs forth, erupting out of the mound of dirt. At first you see a tiny shoot rising above, reaching for the sun. That shoot soon has leaves and over time will blossom and before we know it there before our eyes are the first vegetables of the season. That little seed was nurtured. It was watered and fed. It was given everything it needed to become a harvest.

Friends, what I am trying to say is, don't fear the mountain. In the verses I have shared Jesus says that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can move a mountain. Once I really began thinking of that I asked myself, "Is Jesus really speaking of a mountain the size of Everest or a mountain? Could it just be my mountain I'm crossing at the time? Just a little faith, faith the size of a mustard seed, can get me over and across that mountain! That changes things doesn't it? It does for me.

The Lord knows what it's going to take for us to grow into the women of God He has called us to be. His recipe for growth is perfect. You can't mess with perfection. You can't change His recipe. No one else does it like He does. No matter how much we try or how much better we think we can do it. Nope, it's best to get out of the way and give Him the room He needs.

I think of the seed buried under that mound of dirt and all it must do to peek it's head through. That seed doesn't stop there. He keeps going and growing, never giving up. In not giving up something spectacular happens. That mound isn't a challenge any longer. He broke free and come to find out, it was that mound that helped him grow tall and strong.

I'm trying to not focus on how big the mountain appears to be. In doing so I'm going to miss out on something beautiful right before my eyes. I too don't want to be so focused on the mountain that I limit God. Isn't that exactly what we do in our fear and unbelief? There is no mountain too big for God!

I'm finding I need to change my perspective in how I view the mountains I face. Friends, there will always be a mountain. We are either facing one now or we will face one soon. The best thing is, we don't have to face them alone. We don't have to face them in fear and trepidation. I need to stand before each mountain and trust the Lord with every ounce of my mustard seed faith. He will get me over that mountain and He will sustain me as I am growing my way through.

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

When It Seems All Has Left Jesus Remains

Have you ever felt alone? I mean really alone? To the point that you have no one left to call. No one standing next to you. Not any one who can understand. It seems almost as though the world continues on while your standing still. It's like you see the motion of life around you, but inside your dying. Trying to catch your breath seems almost impossible. I mean, why breath anyway? Would anyone really notice if you weren't?

Yes, I think at some point we have all been there. Whether as a child when a bully shows up after class, as a teenager when the world seems against you, as an adult when everything seems like it's in shambles. Your just waiting for a sound, any sound, to drown out the silence you feel in your heart. Your soul feels raw. The things that once brought you so much joy now seems so far away. You begin to question everything. Your life feels like a blank slate and you don't even know where to begin or how to dig your way out. Where are those friends you thought were so close to you?

I have felt the loss of friends over the past year or so. I have felt the pain of people walking out of my life one by one. Yes, those women who I thought would be by my side forever are now not even a text away. I know what it feels like to feel forgotten. You reach out and try to connect, but there is no response in return. There are times I see one of those friends out and do you know what I hear? "Gosh girl, I miss you so much!" My heart wants to scream, "Really? You miss me? I would have never known by your actions."

There are times we can feel stranded by family. Goodness, I mean there are just times people don't get it. I'm not sure if they don't get it or they just don't have time to get it. So that brings the question, do we really care? Honestly, do we really care about what is taking place in the lives of those around us? Not on a nosy level. Not at all. I mean on that compassionate and encouraging level. There isn't one of us that doesn't need encouraging.

We misplace our priorities. We get so busy we forget about people. When we leave people in the dust it hurts. When we forget people it makes them question if they really mattered at all.

There is One who understands. Jesus. In Matthew 26:36-46 we see Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He is asking His disciples to pray while He prays. Jesus knows the hour is near. He knows what is about to come. I cannot imagine the depth of His pain at this very moment. We always say we wish we could know what was about to happen. Do we really mean that? I'm not so sure I want to know what the next hour holds for me. I am learning to live in the very moment. Live in this moment and trust the Lord with the rest. If we don't learn to do this we are not truly living. We cannot live when we are focused on what could or is about to happen.

Jesus has a conversation with His disciples three different times. Three times He goes away to pray and returns with His disciples, His friends, not doing as He asked.

My son is that young man who is always there for those around him. If a friend calls in need, Jake is on his way to help. I have been with him when he sees someone having car trouble. He has no problem pulling over to see if he can bring them aid in some way. He will cancel his plans if a friend calls and says, "Hey Jake, any way you can help me?" This is the kind of friend we should all have. On the flip side of that, Jake is that young man who often gets dumped. Friends almost take him for granted. Ever feel that way yourself?

Soon Jesus is betrayed by Judas. This too is understandable for most of us. Betrayal hurts deep. Jesus knew this raw pain. He knew it was coming. Although He knew it was coming He still chose to love Judas. Do you find it easy to love those who have betrayed you? Jesus knew Judas would betray Him and do you know Jesus still washed his feet? He still loved. He still gave. This is the kind of friend we are to be to those around us. We are to be the friend of the lonely. We are to step out and make a difference. Too many times we don't. We make excuse after excuse and then one day we look back and say the words, "I wish I had spent more time with him." Might we choose to live without that regret.

Next comes the denial of Peter. Can you imagine if Jesus would have had His friends near Him? Just one friend who would remain at His side and not run in fear. Jesus too knew Peter would deny Him. Oh friends, how many times do we deny our Savior? We deny Him daily. Again, Jesus chose to love Peter. He not only loved him, He forgave him. This is a great and mighty love.

Soon Judas hangs himself. Jesus is facing Pilate and soon to face the cross. I think Jesus was most likely thinking of those around Him too. That's just the kind of friend Jesus is. I can imagine that while Jesus is facing the cross He is praying for His friends and family. Maybe He would pray they would find strength. Strength to forgive themselves and to move on without Him. Jesus loved greatly. He didn't take His relationships lightly. His relationship with you is important to Him.

See, the thing is the people who didn't believe in Jesus felt they had nothing to lose. They walked away not caring one way or the other. Some had only spent a little bit of time with Jesus. They too walked away. But what about those who had been healed by Jesus? What about those who had been touched by Him? They too walked away. But His disciples? Those friends who stood by Him? They didn't stay. They took off as fast as they could. Maybe fear overtook them. I'm sure each had their reasons, but does that even matter when it comes to a friend?

Where was the compassion, the loyalty, the friendship? We ask these things ourselves as we feel stranded and alone, don't we? We feel like no one cares at all. Actions speak much louder than words. Saying, "I miss you", is one thing, but showing a friend you miss them, now that is another.

"But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled." Matthew 26:56

Jesus is the One, the Shepherd who returns for that one lost sheep. Luke 15:1-7

Jesus is the Friend of all friends. John 15:15

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor." Romans 12:10

Jesus is our BFF. He is that friend that stands beside us. He never leaves us. Not for one moment. He is there to walk with us. He has carried me when I could no longer walk. He gives us strength when we are weak. He wants to be the first one we go to with everything. He is joyous when we are excited about our walk. I'm sure He has had His share of giggles over our times together. In those times I start to take another path, He is there to call me back. He is the friend who gave all. He is the friend who would not think about giving any less.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phillipains 4:19

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah." Psalm 46:1-3,7

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

Friends, don't give up. Look up to Jesus. He is that Friend who will forever remain at your side. He is the life giving friend. The forgiving friend. The friend who gives grace and mercy. He guides us with His Word. He has given us the Holy Spirit to remain with us always. He hasn't forsaken you in your time of need. Look up. He's here with you. Take hold of Him and He will never let you go. For us, we need to be the kind of friend Jesus calls us to be. We need to reach out and not forget. May we love with a Jesus kind of love all the days we are here.

Come With me To The Cross

Here is a fact. We cannot come to the foot of the cross without Jesus. He is the reason we go to the cross and while at the cross He is right there with us. My question is. Do we go to the cross enough? I don't. I mean, I see the cross, know the cross, but at some point, do you ever feel as though you have taken the cross for granted? At some point, I think we all do. Jesus is no longer on the cross. But it is at the cross we find freedom in Jesus. The cross is personal. Its intimate. Its where we find life.

I have been caught in a passage in Matthew over the last few days. Take a look at Matthew 26:36-46. Over the next few days I'm going to stay here within these verses and spend some time writing. Here in these passages we see Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He knows what is about to take place. He will come face to face with the cross. Its this picture that I cannot get out of my head. I'm trying to wrap everything I have around why my Savior would die for me. For me, Robin Prater. The answer is that Jesus was following the will of His Father. It all comes down to love.

Okay, what really gets me is this. Jesus died on the cross. Maybe its because Easter is approaching. I'm not sure, but I am having a whole new experience at the cross. To that I gotta say, Amen! Each and every day we need to experience Jesus. Not just talk the talk, but truly walk the walk and in that walk we need to experience the cross. Don't you think? We can't have that walk without the cross.

Jesus died for all of mankind. Not just some. Not the few and chosen, but all. Do we really get that?

Until the cross Jesus knew no sin. He had not encountered sin. Sure, He was tempted, but Jesus knew no sin. He was sinless. Our Savior was sinless. Blameless. It was at the cross He was covered in sin. Not just my sin that occurred at 5pm last night. Not just my sin for the date of January 21st. My sin for my entire life. Sin I had yet to commit. Jesus took it all upon Himself. Why? So that I could find life. So that I could have life. Forgiven. Grace. Mercy. Its all found at the foot of the cross.

He didn't just die for my sin. Not just my family. Not just my friends. Not only my town, but the city. The state. The world. Think about that, friends. The entire world's sin was upon Jesus at the cross. The Savior who had never encountered sin before.

How do you feel when you know that you have sinned? I mean just one sin. That gossip that was shared Sunday after church before ever leaving the pew. That sin that you have been holding on to for years. I know when I have sinned. I feel as though I have let my Father down. I feel the shame. Just one sin will destroy a man, but Jesus went further. He held every single sin of man that had been committed and was yet to be committed. It is any wonder He cried out to His Father? I can't imagine.

This brings me to understand that sin is sin. There is no great or lesser sin. Sin is ugly. Sin destroys. Sin is what took the life of our Savior. Sin began in the Garden of Eden, but it didn't stop there. Why haven't we learned yet? Sure, we are human, but too often we use that for an excuse. I know I will never be sinless, but I can come to the place in my life where I sin less. I can be more aware of my sin and what the actions of my sin does to those lives around me. Sin just doesn't effect us, it touches everyone.

If we are all honest I think we could easily say we make light of our sin. I know I do at times. I sin and toss up, "I'm so sorry, Lord. I shouldn't have said that. Please forgive me". Is that really what I need to be doing? Did anything change in me at that moment? I don't really think so, because not an hour later I'm doing the same thing. Sin is deep. It's something for us to understand the reasoning so that we can overcome that sin. When we make light of our sin, what are we doing to the cross? There was nothing light about what Jesus did for us. He gave His life.

The Lord is really speaking to my heart about the sin that I invite in and I don't want to make light of any sin that touches my life. If anything I want to bring light to my Savior. I want to share what He has done for me. He not only forgives me of my sin, but He gives me new life. He gives me strength to overcome my sin. He doesn't want us to wallow in sin. That isn't really living is it?

This story would be sad if it ended here, but there is more. Our lives don't have to be filled with sin. At the cross we can find Salvation. We can find forgiveness. Jesus wraps us in His grace and remembers our forgiven sin no more. It's through Jesus that we find new life. Sin brings forth death. Salvation springs forth life. New life. Abundant life through the grace and love of our Savior. The Savior who gave all for us. He took upon the sins of the world so that we could have life. Eternal life with the Father.

It is my prayer that you too see the cross differently. I pray you can come to the cross and seek Salvation through the Savior who followed the will of His Father. This will took Jesus to the cross and beyond. Our life doesn't have to end at the cross. Our life begins at the cross. Lay it all down before the Savior. Remain until He lifts you from the darkness that has overtaken your life. Jesus is life giving.

This has been such a powerful awakening for me. To really see the cross and to have a greater understanding brings me closer than ever before to my Savior. Seek Him today. Go to the cross with your burdens and you will be met by the Savior.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin." Hebrews 12:1-4

Scent of Lilacs by Ann Gabhart

Oh, how I love Ann Gabhart. She has the gift to bring a story straight to your heart. This is a sweet southern story about the journey of a young girl coming to understand who she is. It's her journey. A journey that is wrapped with love, but holds an uncertainty. It's learning to trust in the Lord with those uncertainties that bring us closer to Him.

Hollyhill Kentucky is that quiet yet connected town that reminds me of Mayberry. Everything is so simple, but yet, hidden in that simplicity is such uncertainty. It seems trying to find peace when there is a whirlwind of secrets is quite the task, but as we see, everything is possible when we trust in the Lord.

Its 1964 and Ann takes us back in time to a different era. People didn't talk about what lies underneath their smile. It was easier to keep things hidden in hopes that no one found out and all would work out. But what happens when those secrets are uncovered? Lives can be shattered.

We meet Jocie Brooke. A sweet and unforgettable girl. I fell in love with her character. She has such beautiful qualities. The best part is that in watching her grow, I too was opened up in ways I didn't expect. I can tell you that we get to understand every single character in this book. Each one has a story. It is so awesome to pick up a book and get to know each character and have an understanding of how they are all woven together in a tapestry that brings us to the front porch of Hollyhill.

I giggled throughout this story. There too were tears. One of the best parts of this story was getting to know and understand Aunt Love. Oh, how her story stirred my heart. Yes, we see Jocie grow, but we meet her dad, family and friends. What I enjoyed most of all was the love I felt as I closed the last page. We don't always have all the answers in life. Things don't always go our way, but in reading this story we see what real love does. God's love that is. It takes away the hurts and it gives peace where things are uncertain.

It took a while to understand the title, "Scent of Lilacs", but wow, when you get to that part, watch out. Your going to wish you had tissues handy. I cannot say enough about how wonderful this book is. Ann Gabhart brings a blessing through her penned words from beginning to end in this wondrous story.

This book was a gift from Revell for my review.

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several novels, including Angel Sister, Words Spoken True, The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Find out more at www.annhgabhart.com.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Women's NIV Devotional Bible by Zondervan

I received the Women's Devotional Bible by Zondervan as a gift for my review. This week I have been reading through the pages of this lovely devotional. This Bible was released in September of 2012. I received the hardback copy. You can easily slip the jacket off. I always take the jacket off for easy carrying. That's just me. This is an NIV version for easy understanding.

I must be honest and tell you this isn't quite what I expected from a women's devotional. When looking for a women's devotional I search for one that relates to women and has devotionals based on issues that women face daily. I found this devotional Bible to be more for everyone. I was hoping for something more personal.

With that being said, the devotions are very well written. There is one for every day of the year. They are even labeled for the days of the week and for weekend devotionals to help keep you on track for daily reading.

With each devotion there is a key verse and three reflection questions and related reading so you can dig deeper. I found these to be great questions to ponder.

With the beginning of each book of the Bible there is a brief summary of what the book entails. Author, date, audience, setting, and a verse to remember.

You have a subject index and many great reading plans. I must tell you, I think this is the favorite part of the devotional for me.
60 Day overview of the Bible
30 Days for beginning your walk with Christ
30 Days with Jesus
30 Days in the Psalms
30 Days in Proverbs
20 Not-So-Famous Bible stories
30 Days with Paul
30 Days with Promises
30 Days of Leadership
30 Days of Prayer
30 Days of Knowing God
30 Stories of Great Faith

As you can see this devotional has many great reading plans and that is the key, to begin reading on a daily basis. The cover offers a great reminder that as you begin your day with coffee, take time and enjoy it with Jesus, over His Word and saturate yourself in His grace for the day.

This Women's Devotional Bible was a gift from Zondervan.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"The Return of Cassandra Todd" by Darrel Nelson

I am a huge fan of Darrel Nelson. After reading his first novel, "Anniversary Waltz", I was hooked. His second book, "The Return of Cassandra Todd", is a beautifully written story about facing the past and finding freedom in the hope of Jesus.

Main characters, Cassandra Todd and Turner Caldwell cross paths once again. This time high school is far from view. But for them dangerous paths are ahead. Believe in God's perfect timing? He brings Turner into Cassandra's life and their lives are weaved together in this wondrous story.

Cassandra has been in an abusive marriage. Violence has become part of her life. Her perfect life isn't so perfect when the doors are closed and no one can look inside. She is fearful not only for her own life, but for the life of her son. She gains courage through her faith and decides that is time to escape. Her freedom is near, but she must cross many mountains before peace comes and she finds solice.

Turner Caldwell was bullied in high school and that pain has left scars. Deep scars. He comes face to face with his past when his path crosses with Cassandra. The girl who had it all in high school is now on the run to find freedom. Turner has tried to forget the past hurts of his life, but now he is having to face them head on.

What I love about this poignant story is Darrel shows us God's perfect timing and how He places people in our path to encourage and inspire us. In this story, Cassandra is just as important to Turner finding a new freedom as he is in helping her escape a life of abusive.

The characters are real and raw. We witness their struggles. The baggage they carry and we see how the scars play a part in their lives today. They immediately connect and we see God do amazing things in their lives. They face their fears with a David like courage. They find together they can overcome all.

This is an unputdownable. It's a story that will grab your heart and leave you cheering these two precious people onward along their journey to finding a new freedom. This is a story of hope and rescue. When we lay down the pain of yesterday the Lord brings healing. When we trust Him in our darkest times, He shines the light on the path to freedom and peace.

I cannot wait to see what's next for Darrel Nelson. His stories are rich and worthy of praise. They will leave you realizing there is more to life than material stuff. He has the gift of taking us deep beyond ourselves and stretching our comfort zone to bring us to a place of growth.

This book is published by Realms and was a gift from Glass Road Media.

Darrel Nelson is the author of The Anniversary Waltz and a teacher. He writes novels, articles, plays, and music. He has bachelor’s degrees in English and education from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just One Touch

All is well. She had just spent time with her family. A family she loves. I can imagine her sharing morning coffee with girlfriends while chatting over the town's news. The sun is shining. All is wonderful. She is counting her blessings one by one. How could life be any better? What could possibly happen to change the beauty of today? She has everything a woman could possibly ask for. Until..

She wakes early. There is spotting. Just a little, but enough to alarm her. It isn't time, why is this happening? She doesn't dare call upon the girlfriends she just enjoyed breakfast with. Who could help her on this dreadful morn? She travels into the city and sees a doctor. Nothing. He has no answers for her. She begins to smile and says, "Tomorrow will be a better day". But tomorrow comes.

There is no change. More bleeding. What could possibly be wrong? The days pass and the doctor visits are now taking up every token she has saved. There is no more money to spend and no more specialists to visit. The tears break through her heartache. One week turns to two. Two months turn to two years and pretty soon, twelve lonely years have passed. Can you imagine?

Each day she grows more alone. Although scripture doesn't say, but I can imagine her growing bitter and angry. How could everyone just leave her? There is One who knows just how that feels. He knows the pain of desertion all too well. She must find forgiveness. She must trust the Lord. If she could only have one friend visit her. I can envision her realizing that Jesus is that friend. He hasn't left her. By the sweet grace of God is how she has made it twelve long years.

One day this woman wakes to everything and now no one can be near her. Why? She is unclean. She must live alone. Dine alone. Yes, she must do everything alone. It's been so long since she has felt the touch of another. Laughter seems to have escaped her memory. "Why is this happening to me?", she asks. "Why can't anyone help me?" Everyone knows what is going on in her life. The town has turned their backs upon her. All she wants is to be loved. To be accepted. Life is just existing from one lonely day to the next.

Can you feel her pain? The loneliness that has her captive? Twelve years of bleeding. Something she could have never imagined happening. Doctors have no clue as to why she is not well. No answers. I can imagine she is scared. Scared with no one to talk to. No girlfriends to chat with. No family to pray with. I can imagine her wondering what it would be like to just leave this world. Would anyone even miss her?

One day she hears Jesus is coming to town. The Savior. The Healer. Should she even approach the town? What will they say? They could stone her for her uncleanliness, but would they really do that? Well, why not, they have all but left her to die of this dreaded illness that no one has answers for. But Jesus, He will know. Jesus can heal me.

Yes, this is a woman of faith. A woman who has prayed and yearned for her life back.

She gathers herself and heads for town. She doesn't want to be seen, but how could she miss the chance to see Jesus. Her only answer to healing. To life itself. She takes the chance. She sees Him. It's really Him. He is walking with His disciples. He is surrounded. It looks as if He is in a hurry.

What this woman of faith doesn't know is that Jesus is on His way to Jarius' house. His daughter is ill. She is dying. She is twelve years old. Just a baby. This woman of faith has been in torture for as long as this precious babe has been alive. Jesus is on His way to heal her. Yes, Jesus, the King of kings, is going to heal Jarius' precious child. But He feels something. Someone has touched Him. Not Him, but the hem of His garment.

As soon as this woman of faith touched the tassel of His robe her bleeding stopped. Everything changed.

The crowds have noticed Jesus stop. Jesus asks, "Who touched Me?" Should she walk forward? Should she even make a move or should she run like a wild fire? She stays. She stands. Jesus has felt His power leave Him. The Spirit has brought healing. He knows this woman of faith. Jesus finds her trembling. She falls down before Him. Can you imagine the pain she is feeling? The exhaustion that has held her captive for the last twelve years all gone with one touch.

She declares to Jesus that yes, she is the one who has touched Him. She explains why. She is opening herself up and reaching for the Savior's healing. Jesus looks at her in this moment of all moments and says, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace."

Can you imagine this moment? Tears of joy. Is it real? Did Jesus just tell her she was healed? As she stood to walk away I am sure she didn't just walk. I imagine she was ready to dance. Who did she tell first? Did she invite family and friends into her home for a party of praise? Just when she thought she couldn't go any further, Jesus brought her through her trial and touched her with His healing powers. Just when she thought no one cared, Jesus showed her that He loved her beyond her circumstance.

Life would never be the same for this woman of faith. Her faith was strengthened. Her love for Jesus increased. She knew without a doubt that Jesus would heal her. Now for the rest of her days I can imagine her sharing her testimony with all she meets. A story of faith, hope and love. A journey of healing.

Friends, when you feel alone, when all feels like it's the end of the world, like there is no cause for living, there is hope. Hope in the Savior. He is there for those who believe. Though trials come, He remains near. There is no happenstance. In every situation there is an opportunity for Jesus to bring beauty from ash. He brings hope to every situation. It is in Him that we find true life. Even in the midst of our deepest trial, know that Jesus is near. He sees our trial and our heartbreak. As we can become stagnant in our moment of distress, Jesus sees past the hurt and trouble. He sees the greater good that is too come. Hold on, dear friends, when we are in our darkest moment, Jesus is about to bring it to pass and bring about a tremendous opportunity for us to shout glory to His name!

Luke 8:40-56, Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18-26

"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, and out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord." Psalm 40:1-3

"For You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory." Psalm 32:7

Dear Heavenly Father, in our time of need may we remember to turn to You. May we not lose hope, but find great faith as You lead us through the storms of life. Each day when we wake may we be grateful and ready to give You praise for Your boundless glories. Amen

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life Is Outside The Tomb

I walked out of doors this morning to snow flakes touching my cheeks. I stood still for a few moments. As I closed my eyes I just listened. I could hear the trees being moved by the wind. On this early morn I could hear cars passing. I stood a little longer and soon enough I could hear the horses next door. Then came the cows. Geese, ducks and yes, even goats. I listened even closer and a smile came as the chirping birds flooded my senses. Next a few hoots came from an owl.

This was the morning the Lord wanted me to see. He wanted me to have an understanding of what it truly is to see. Even with my eyes closed I knew these things were near. Just because I couldn't see them didn't mean they were not real. They were very real. This is what faith is. Seeing beyond ourselves and allowing our senses to be touched by an unseen and miraculous beauty. Faith is believing even when we cannot see.

This is how it was for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Friends of the Savior. Friends who understood more than most who Jesus was. He was more than their friend. He was their Teacher and He was their Savior. Martha served in faith. Mary listened in faith and Lazarus died and was resurrected in faith.

Have you ever known someone who was raised from the dead? One day the dead in Christ shall rise! That is a day I want to envision with everything I embody. If you have been saved from the death of sin, yes, you have been resurrected from the dead. Death holds you captive no more.

In John 11 we read the story of Lazarus. It is a story with a great many lessons to grasp. We see that Lazarus is sick. Somewhere something terrible goes wrong and word gets to Jesus that His friend is sick. Can you imagine how Jesus feels? He is not close in miles, but Jesus is always near.

After He hears of Lazarus being sick He remains where He is for two more days. Why didn't He urgently run to His friend? Jesus was already there. He was prepared for what was about to happen. He knew glory was going to be seen by all those who were near and far. Look at us today. We are still being touched and changed by the story of Lazarus. Jesus knew there was more blessings to come by allowing this circumstance to pass.

We see that Jesus arrives and Lazarus is already dead. The linens are wrapped around him and the tomb is closed. Jesus calls for the tomb to be opened. But first He speaks with Martha and then Mary. Martha runs to Him. Can you feel her pain? All she sees is right now. It's too hard to see past this moment of pain. Mary comes out to speak to Jesus and what does Jesus do? He weeps. Jesus is visibly broken over his friend. Not just Lazarus, but the heartbreak of his friends.

What happens next changes everything. He now calls Lazarus. Can you imagine the look upon the faces near the tomb? Jesus is calling a dead man to life. But something even more wild happens. He answers! Lazarus walks out of that tomb alive! Can you  now hear the praise? I'm seeing tears of pure joy.

Lazarus spent four days in that tomb. How many days have you spent dead in trespasses? It's time to walk out of the tomb. It's time to hear the call of Jesus. He is calling you. He is calling you to life. Life ever lasting. Won't you answer?

Sometimes circumstances are allowed not because we have done something wrong to deserve them, but because there is a greater beauty beyond what we can see. As humans we see in the moment, but Jesus sees beyond the moment to tomorrow. He knows how to bring beauty from ash. He can take our deepest wounds and bring healing that we could never see coming.

Faith is what it takes. We must be able to trust our Savior. We must be able to see past ourselves. When we are in a circumstance that seems like the end of the world, Jesus sees a beginning to new opportunities.

Today I find myself pondering the question, "What if all of my prayers were answered with a yes?" Jesus sees beyond my wants and needs. Sometimes, no has been the greatest answer I have ever received. It takes faith to understand beyond right now.

Just as when I closed my eyes and could hear everything around me. I knew without a doubt these beautiful sounds were not my imagination. What if instead of working so hard to see the solution or the outcome we desire, we called upon the Lord and trusted Him with all? What if instead we stood in the moment and found the beauty He has for us? We want to rush to the end and when we do we miss out on all that is right there for us to grasp.

Today I challenge you to slow down. Take a breath. Don't rush the Savior. Trust Him. Open your heart to Him today and allow Him to let you see the beauty around you. Yes friend, it's time to come out of the tomb. There is no life there. Life happens when we answer our Savior and follow His voice.

"Dear friends, don't let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:8-9

"What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not!  How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin's dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin's claims. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Romans 6:1-11

"Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God's approval by it. By faith we understand that the universe was created by God's command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible." Hebrews 11:1-2

Monday, March 4, 2013

"When The Heart Heals" by Ann Shorey

I love books based in Missouri. The Civil War era is a time in history that captivates me. Here in, "When A Heart Heals", we once again visit the town of Noble Springs. Sweet, simple and quaint. It's an easy going and lovely town. I absolutely adored this book. From the first page I found myself totally absorbed. I simply couldn't put it down. The words flowed at the perfect pace.

In this second installment of the, "Sisters At Heart Series", we find characters of old and some who have arrived in Noble Springs that change the people who live there forever. Yes, I mentioned the characters. They are lovely. Many characters, all with a story of their own healing process. Circumstance hits, but the people of Noble Springs are not those who give up easily. Especially Rosemary Saxon. She is one stubburn girl. This I can relate too. This can be a hinderence, but it too can be a strong attribute. Rosemary is a nurse who had her training at Jefferson Barracks. At Jefferson Barracks she was accepted with honor. Not so much when she returned home. A nurse was unheard of and the actions of others has brought much pain to Rosemary's heart.

Everything changes when Dr. Elijah Stewart comes to town to begin a new practice. He has healing of his own to do. I love the connection that grows between Elijah and Rosemary.

Yes, the theme that runs through these pages is healing. We see the Lord bring healing to the characters. What I love is that it doesn't happen over night. It's a journey. The towns people are there for one another. Something missing in today's society. I admired the characters, espeically Rosemary.

This book too holds forgiveness. Although this book is clasified as historical romance, there is a bit of a mystery here too. I tell you, this book holds a touch of everything. It's absolutely perfect in every way. I love the writings of Ann Shorey. She is a master story teller.

If you haven't read the first book in series, "Where The Wild Flowers Bloom", I would suggest you begin there and you will have a full impact of just what Rosemary is feeling in her heart. A beautiful and inviting story. One that I couldn't wait to read. One that left me excited for what comes next in the lives of those living in Noble Springs.

"When The Heart Heals" was a gift from Revell for my review.

Ann Shorey is the author of Where Wildflowers Bloom, The Edge of Light, The Promise of Morning, and The Dawn of a Dream. She has also published selections in the Cup of Comfort series and in Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul. Ann and her husband make their home in southwestern Oregon.

I'm To Be A Humble Servant Of God

Two sisters. Both serving, but in different ways.

Two sisters. Both giving, but in different ways.

Two sisters. Both loving the Savior.

One brother raised from the dead.

One man who allowed greed and temptation to over take him.

One Savior who died for ALL.

Today I want to take you to John 12:1-8. This is not the first time we see Martha and Mary with Jesus. But this time Judas is here to give his opinion. Again we see the love of Jesus.

On this day, six days before the Passover, we see Martha serving. Mary at the feet of Jesus. Judas showing his true colors. They are all gathered once again. Once again we see the love of Christ.

Let's begin with Lazarus. He is a friend of Jesus. Soon the chief priests will come for him too. They see him as a threat. Christ brought Lazarus back from the dead. His linens were needed no more. The tomb is empty. Sound familiar? We too are like Lazarus in the fact that we are dead in sin. Jesus can bring us back to life. We can have life everlasting with Him. We first must realize we are dead in our sin. Second we understand that it is Jesus, our Savior, who brings life. He takes away the sin of the world and gives everlasting life. Ephesians 2:1-10

Now for Martha. She is a servant of the Lord. This is her gift. She is filled with joy when she is serving. She is serving with a love of Christ in her heart. We see humility in Martha. Martha is serving with everything she has. Like her Savior. Her friend, Jesus, who served and gave all so that we could have life. John 3:16

Mary is at the feet of Jesus again. She is listening. She understands. She is filled with unmeasurable gratitude. Mary has an expensive alabaster jar of perfume. A years wages it would take to purchase it. She breaks the jar and anoints the head and feet of Jesus. Mary understands, yet she only has a glimpse of what is to come. We have the entire Word of God in our hands. I want to have the same passion as Mary and Martha. They were using the gifts the Lord had instilled in them to use for His glory. Not their own. They were living unselfish lives. Lives fulfilling. Mary was imitating her Savior. Jesus too walked in humility. Remember when He washed the feet of the disciples? John 13:5

Judas is showing how upset he is. No, he is showing anger. He doesn't understand what Mary is doing. He sees it as waste. He is trying with all his might to show Jesus that he is only worried about the poor. Jesus sees right through Judas. He knows he is a thief (John 12:6) We aren't to do things out of selfish ambition. Philippians 2:3

"Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:3-5

Jesus stands and speaks for Mary. He tells Judas to leave her alone. John 12:7-8 Don't you love how the Savior stands for those who love Him? He is forever with us. Guarding us, protecting us and leading us in the gifts that He has bestowed upon us. He is faithful and true. He shows us how to walk. Micah 6:8

Martha, Mary, Lazarus and Jesus. These were truly friends. They had great understanding of one another. They accepted each other in love. This is how we should love those around us. We are not all alike. We all have different gifts. Jesus wants us to use these gifts to glorify Him. In glorifying Him, in walking in the Spirit, we are imitating His actions, His life, for the world to see.

What I love is that Martha and Mary were not concerned with what others thought. They were serving in the way the Lord had called them to serve. They were focused on their Savior. Nothing was getting in the way of what their calling was on this day. All that mattered was that they were following the Spirit's leading.

These were friends giving a rose to the living. They weren't wasting time. They were not going to live with regret of what they could have done. They were determined to live a life of service. This is what I want my life to reflect.

"So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn't run or labor for nothing. But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me." Philippians 2:12-18

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me Your entire Word. I can hold in my hands and read the Word before me. I can see You in everything. I want to live as Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Afraid of nothing. Not allowing this world to define who I am, but finding allowing the Spirit to move in me. I want to follow You. I want to serve You. Lord, these friends of Jesus, served without fear. I praise Your holy name, Jesus. I want to live a humble life. I want to have a humble heart that is focused on You. Use me up, Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.


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