Posted in Christian

Standing Before the Burning Bush: And The Aftermath

I was talking with a friend and her circumstances made me reference this blog post. And that’s when it hit me: not only is this message easy to relate to and worthy of repeating, but I’m also standing on the other side of it now. So I wanted to take the time to re-share a personal season where I had to put my trust in God’s plans for me despite not feeling adequate. And I also want to take the time to remember where I once was and praise God for seeing me through. 

Who are you trusting? Yourself or God?

How about when you’re challenged with a difficult task and you’re way in over your head? Are you trusting yourself or Christ?

Sometimes even the most dedicated Christians stumble here. Moses did. Let’s go back to the moment in history in Exodus and examine the scene:
Moses was minding his own business when he walked upon a bush that while on fire wasn’t consumed or being burnt. The angel of the Lord spoke to him from inside this bush. It was here, that Moses learned of his assignment: Go back to Egypt and bring the Israelites out. Out of bondage. Out of Egypt. Out to worship the One True God in a way they had never known before. This was no small task. The Pharaoh was powerful. The people were stubborn. It would have been risky enough to slip back into Egypt and rescue just one person in the cloak of night, but to rescue ALL right in front of the entire Egyptian army and the mighty Pharaoh? Who would dare to do such a thing?

A man called by God.

But in spite of this calling, in spite of the awesome signs God had shown him right there on the spot, in spite of the fact that the Lord, Himself, spoke to him through a burning bush, Moses made a list of reasons why he wasn’t qualified.

In that moment, he stopped seeing how great and mighty God was and could only see himself. He saw his own shortcomings. His failures. His inabilities. And Moses had them. These were not pretend ailments but real issues that anyone could see. In fact, God didn’t deny them. But what did He say?
“Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

God told Moses that He would fill him with Himself. He would teach him. Sadly Moses continued to argue and God was angry. But He had mercy on Moses sent his brother Aaron to help him. But what about you? What about me? Have we ever stood before a burning bush and argued with God about how He intended to use us?

I have.

Four years ago, God laid it on my heart in a way that couldn’t be ignored to start writing for the public. I had already been writing privately but now I would allow others to read and criticize my work. And to make matters worse, the story on my heart included Civil War letters. I would actually be in charge of writing letters as if they came off the battlefield! How in the world a meek little woman, who had never so much as been in the army for an hour, write with authority? How would I make it sound real? I wasn’t capable of this task. And I knew it. Much like Moses, I made my list of reasons why I wasn’t qualified. I’m not smart enough. I don’t have the commanding personality to be in the public eye. I don’t know enough. I’m not talented enough. I wasn’t there in history’s past.

And like with Moses, God never denied my list. I never felt the Holy Spirit comfort my heart and remind me that I am good enough. That I am talented. That I am smarter than those around me. The God who created me knew He made me with some shortcomings. He also knew He was able to fill them.

He reminded me that He is the I Am. Everything I lacked would come from Him. He would teach me, guide me, and fill me. He would take my weaknesses and show off His strengths. Alone, Moses could do nothing. With Christ, Moses would storm Egypt and turn the world upside down. The showdown was so powerful and so mighty that we still talk about it today. My task would be much smaller, but I would still make the impact that God had ordained.

But what does this filling look like?

God didn’t fill me outside of my own efforts. That means that He didn’t zap me with His God-gun or insert powers into my body like the spider did when he bit Peter Parker. He didn’t come over me in a cloud. I didn’t fall into a trance at the computer and write a 400-page novel.

No. I sweated every word out. One word at a time. One line at a time.  And, yet, He was there.

Every time I studied, He was opening my mind. Every time I researched, He was bringing me closer to history. Every time I corrected my writing, He was giving me understanding. He brought others along side of me. He opened doors for me that had previously been closed.
I never worked alone. But I did work. And the same is said for repentance. God doesn’t zap us with a do-better ray. Instead, He changes us from the inside as we turn away from our old sinful behaviors. The more we turn from sin, the more we detest it. God is always working with us. But we’re always required to show up and do the work.

I once stood before a burning bush (figuratively, of course) and I argued my merits. I somehow thought that in spite of the great miracles I had read about in the Bible and in spite of the proof I had witnessed in my own life, God wouldn’t be able to use someone who had so little to offer and use them in such a powerful way.

And I was proven wrong.

God delights in using the simple and the weak. It’s not an ego boost to know it. But it is a comfort.

I stood before another burning bush two months ago. I made my list of failings but this time, I smiled and handed them over. God will use them. And I will get a front row seat. I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store. Are you curious to know what the new assignment is?

It’s a new adventure. A new series!

In spite of the fact that I’m in the middle of 5 books series. In spite of the fact that I’ve had mono for over 200 days now and counting. In spite of the fact that I’m also struggling with a Vitamin D deficiency. In spite of the fact that I’ve had to set aside the revisions of my third novel, falling months behind my personal schedule. In spite of everything, God pressed on my heart in a clear way that it was time to start a brand new series. I have begun writing the new novel and I intend to work on both series, side by side.
It’s true, I don’t have enough time or enough energy. Some days, I don’t get any writing done at all because my strength is zapped and my body is drained. But Jesus is the I Am. What I am not, He is. Where I lack, He fills. As I work, He’s working in me.
From where I stand, my progress looks like a snail’s crawl, but I trust my Master. My weakness will show off His strength and I’m looking forward to it.

Now for the conclusion of the matter: 
I thought it was worthy to note that the book which had once turned my life upside down has recently been released. It took nearly 2 years to write and publish If Only  It Were Yesterday, but as I hear back from the readers, I’m firmly convinced that it’s doing all that the Lord had intended for it to do.
There was once a time when I didn’t think I was capable of writing anything. But I surrendered. There was once a time when everything around, including my own body, was against me. Yet,  I surrendered, knowing that God would be glorified in my weakness. I don’t want to come to the place where I can so easily forget that it’s Christ in me doing the work and not me alone. So, I just want to take a moment to praise God for seeing me through and accomplishing His will in this area. It’s a good feeling to look back. 🙂 And I hope my story will encourage you to press forward or to take that leap the Lord is commanding you to take. It may not make sense at first, but it will it in the end. 
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Posted in Book Reviews

GIVEAWAY!! Plus Author Interview and Book Review: A Holy Passion by Alicia G. Ruggieri

228“My heart begins its slow crescendo at the news. Mr. Brainerd – my Mr. Brainerd – has come at last.”

After a few scant years of solitary missionary work among the American Indians on the colonial frontier, David Brainerd has been forced off the field once more by his terminal illness. A man who has sacrificed every earthly comfort for the sake of Christ, he takes refuge in the home of Reverend Jonathan Edwards, eminent Great Awakening theologian and pastor… and the father of a young woman named Jerusha. 

Unbeknownst to David, Jerusha Edwards has nurtured an affection for him since she met him long ago. Their renewed acquaintanceship challenges Jerusha to understand the meaning of selfless, Calvary love. Yet does such love demand too great a sacrifice for her to make?

Told with an emphasis on the known facts of Jerusha and David’s relationship as well as his missionary undertakings, this novel carefully embellishes the historical record, weaving a bittersweet tale of romantic, holy devotion.

 

I’ve packed a great deal in this blog post for you. A Holy Passion is a fiction book based on non-fiction events and characters. You’ll find my interview with the author, my review, and a giveaway for a paperback copy. Enjoy! 

My Interview with Alicia G. Ruggieri:

What was your inspiration for A Holy Passion?
My husband, Alex, and I used to live in Rhode Island, and we liked to take weekend jaunts exploring interesting places in New England. One time, a few years ago, we stayed at an old inn that had named its rooms after historical inhabitants of the town in which it was located. Our room was named after a young woman who had been captured by American Indians during a raid. At the time, I mentioned to Alex that I’d like to write a novel about that young woman. Well, I didn’t end up writing about her, but the idea of writing a colonial-era story got stuck in my mind for good. Sometime after that, I remembered a little book on my sister’s bookshelf: The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. I had never read the book, but I’d read a brief history of his life somewhere else and found him admirable. I also remembered that the biographer had mentioned that it was possible that the resolutely-unmarried missionary had entertained a romantic relationship with Jonathan Edwards’ daughter, who cared for him on her deathbed. Well, at that, the wheels of my writerly mind began turning… So that was the start of it!

How much research went into this novel? Did you research before or during the writing process?
As I started this project, I wanted to be sure that I accurately represented the people depicted in it (most of them are real people that we will meet in heaven someday), and so I really tried to delve deeply into both secondary and primary sources. The novel includes a list of some of the sources I used. Though most of the research was book-based, one of the fun parts of the research included traveling to Yale in New Haven and to Northampton, Massachusetts, to see the actual places Brainerd would have seen.
My research for this novel began well before the actual writing started and ended… Has it ended? 🙂 The fun – and sometimes heart-stopping – part of writing historical fiction is that there’s always something new to learn and another side to the story that you can explore.

Are there any books you’d recommend for us to read to learn more about David Brainerd?
If you only read two books on David Brainerd, read his Life and Diary. Alongside it, read David Wynbeek’s Beloved Yankee. Wynbeek’s book will make the Diary come to life for you. It’s out-of-print, but it’s the best and most readable adult biography of Brainerd available, in my opinion.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about these people?
One of the things that surprised me was the legacy that Brainerd left. This man died unmarried and childless; never graduated from seminary; and most of his work on the mission field, with the exception of the Crossweeksung revival, appeared a failure. He spent most of his own spiritual life in deep discouragement, and his body basically fell apart by his late twenties. This doesn’t sound like the kind of man who leaves a great legacy, does it?
Yet, over and over, I found Christians since Brainerd’s death who pointed back to him as their spiritual father, as the one who passed the torch to them, through his honest, God-seeking diary and through his life’s example of incredible endurance, made possible only by dependence moment-by-moment upon the Holy Spirit. Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Henry Martyn are just a few of these who were encouraged as a result of Brainerd’s life and work.

Could you relate to any of them? In what way?
Oh, yes! That’s one of the things that drew me into the story and kept me writing… These “characters” are real – they existed – we can go and visit their graves – and their experience of the Christian life was also real. In Hebrews 12:1, the Bible talks about how we have a great cloud of witnesses, those who have gone before us. We can look at their testimony and know that God’s testimony in His Word is true. We can see how they lived and how they died, and we can pattern our own lives after theirs, as John Wesley, leader of Great Awakening in England, advised that we do.
One of the specific things that really encouraged me was the honest way in which Brainerd describes his lifelong, severe battle with discouragement/depression as a Christian… and the way that he continued to persevere through it. Before I read his diary, I had heard it described as somewhat bleak because of the way Brainerd often wishes (literally) for death to come or continually relates his hopelessness that God will ever use him. That is true; his diary is the account of a man who went through significantly more “demon-possessed valley” experiences, as Oswald Chambers describes them, than mountaintop ones. However, as a result, reading Brainerd’s diary centuries later, I felt a spiritual kinship with and encouragement from this man who pressed on, despite the dark clouds that would not lift, despite the seeming lack of measurable spiritual progress. I find myself now remembering his example when discouragement loom, remembering to take heart, take hope in God, and to press on, not in a fake kind of joy, but in a determined belief that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)
Another way that I found I could relate to them was through Jerusha’s struggle to let Brainerd go. How often have we prayed for something before God, all the while with our spiritual hands tightly gripping that thing or person, refusing to let God take it or them and do what His loving will is with them or it? I know that has often been the case with me.

What was the biggest obstacle to writing this novel?
The sheer feeling of inability that often overcame me in the midst of the writing. Above all, I didn’t want to misrepresent these people in any way, and sometimes, especially in the beginning of the writing, I wasn’t sure how to form David’s character. God mercifully led me to write this in first-person, present tense, from Jerusha’s perspective, and seeing David from Jerusha’s eyes helped immensely.

What are you hoping the reader will get out of it? 
Well, the thing that made the greatest impression on me during the writing of this was the message that flames brightly from David’s life – and Jerusha’s – more than 250 years after their deaths: Hold nothing back from Christ. Give up lands, houses, relationships, and ambitions, if they distract in any way from the high calling we have in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is worth all of it, and more. In his day, David was unusual, peculiar, because of his total commitment. We are each called to this. We are called to it in a day of innocent indulgences and diversions; we are called to it when sleep is so appealing, yet we know that God wants us to plead before His throne; we are called it when the compromise the world asks of us is so small, so seemingly insignificant.
Growing up, my mom often said in response to a Christian dilemma of what to do or not to do, “Count the cost. The cost is high.” And it is. We would do well to ask ourselves daily, as Brainerd did, “Am I counting the cost?”
So, if nothing else, I hope that readers will be inspired by David and Jerusha’s story of doing just that – counting the cost – that they will be inspired by it to do likewise, to think of their own lives in light of eternity.

Light and Quick Questions:

Do you journal?
Oh, dear, I am such a delinquent journaler! 🙂 Yes, but not consistently. I like to journal my prayers sometimes because I often can express myself better in writing than in speech.

What’s the one thing (besides God and family/friends) that you don’t think you could live without?
Stories, in some form, of course! 🙂

Do you write in the morning or evening?
Usually in the morning, but when I’m on a deadline, I will write any time.

Do you think you would have been a patient nurse like Jerusha?
I think genuine, God-given love makes any of us patient, so I have a feeling that any one of us could have been patient as Jerusha was, if we loved David as she did.

What is one of your favorite old hymns?
Oh, there are so many good ones, but one of my favorites is Charles Wesley’s “Arise, My Soul, Arise.”

 

Here are my thoughts on A Holy Passion: 

What I Loved: A Holy Passion is a fiction novel based on real events and real people. From beginning to end, it’s clear the author spent a great deal of time researching everything from the lifestyle, disease, conflict, and down to her best perception of the characters’ real personalities. Naturally, there are areas where she’d have to fill in the blanks with her imagination, but her imagination felt as real and as plausible as the tidbits of facts that were woven in.
The bulk of the novel is told through the first person, present tense. This is a style that I find harder to wrap my mind around. I knew the story would be worth persevering and I’m grateful that I did. After the first couple of chapters, the present tense became rather natural to me, and I no longer tripped over it.
I found it delightful to meet up with big names and events that have been passed down through Christian circles for the last two centuries. And it was refreshing to get to meet two of these people who I have never heard of before now. The romance is at first relatable and entertaining. It’s not hard to understand Jerusha’s feelings as she anticipates David’s appearance and, later, his attention. But the further the story moves, the deeper and more awe-inspiring the romance becomes. From a historical standpoint, you’ll learn a great deal about tuberculosis, evangelism among the Indians, and some of the conflict surrounding the Great Awakening.
But the highlight of the novel is truly the spiritual content. Alicia brings David’s biggest desire for living a dedicated life of service to Christ and through evangelizing the lost to bear on the reader. It was the type of message, through the type of means, that will weigh on my heart, and help to bring me back to the basics, for a long time to come.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Holy Passion 5 stars. I recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Fiction, especially those looking for novels based on real believers. Also for those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction and those looking for more novels about the 1700s.

~ I received a copy from the author. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. 

 

Giveaway Info: 

The author is generously providing a paperback copy to one of my readers. Follow the link to enter the giveaway!

*Continental U.S. residents only due to shipping costs, but an ebook version can be provided for international readers.

*Giveaway ends Sunday night, May 20th. This blog post will be updated on Monday, May 21, 2018 to announce the winner. If a response is needed and the winner doesn’t claim the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected.

CONGRATULATIONS: JoAnna Gommensen!! You’re our winner!!
*Expect an email from either me or Alicia.  

 

Posted in Christian

God Doesn’t Hand Out Crutches

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What is a spiritual crutch?

A spiritual crutch is anything you turn to for comfort, for peace, or for security.

Looking at that basic definition, we may not be quick to say that we use spiritual crutches. By that definition, these crutches sound an awful lot like a false god and we know better than to worship lifeless idols. Don’t we?  But let’s look a little deeper at what they are and see if we don’t have a pair of worn out crutches sitting in our room.

Do you ever turn on the tv in order to find something to distract you from your troubles? The tv has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever grab a book to read in order to hide from issues surrounding you?
A book has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever create art: paint, draw, knit, color, etc. to escape and unwind?
Art has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you exercise to deal with the things you can’t handle in life?
Exercise has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you eat in order to better handle a bad day?
Eating has become a spiritual crutch.

Clearly, we could go on and on for days but I think you get the point, and maybe by now you even have your finger on the spiritual crutch or crutches in your life.

Why are spiritual crutches wrong?
Spiritual crutches are a problem for the Christian because we are trusting in something to woo us back into our happy places instead of relying on the Living God to do what He said He would do.

Have you noticed that spiritual crutches look an awful lot like hobbies? So…are hobbies sinful? Are we to give up the things that give us pleasure?
Hobbies are not sinful. I believe the Lord gives us desires and talents and allows us to enjoy them. And why wouldn’t He? He gave us taste buds to enjoy food. He gave us the sense of smell to enjoy the wonders around us. He gave us sensual pleasures to enjoy the duty of procreation.
He often showers us with delightful add-ons just because He can and it pleases Him to do so. So what’s the problem with these hobbies-turned-crutches?

The problem is when you turn to your pleasures instead of God when you’re going through difficult times. The problem is when you reach for your “fix” instead of your God.
How often do we say something like, “I’m having a terrible day but a good cup of coffee will make it all better.” Or we might turn up the radio and drown out the sorrows. Let the base rock the tension out of our shoulders.

The problem is not in the things. It’s in our placement of these things. Here’s a good example:
I’m around readers through several social platforms, and I’ve heard this dozens of times. They’ll say something like, “I can’t concentrate on this book I’m reading. It’s a great book, but I have so much going on at home (dog died, sister is in the hospital, child ran away, and they lost their job). I just want to get into a book and get lost. But I can’t and I’m frustrated.”
Of course, they’re frustrated!! Why wouldn’t they be? They’re trying to cover the gaping hole in their heart with a Looney Tunes band-aid! It doesn’t work that way. We don’t work that way. We weren’t created for this at all.

The Lord is our safety net. He is our perfectly sized, never falls off, medicated band-aid. The truth is, you don’t need anything else. You don’t need a backup plan. You don’t need God and that cup of coffee. You don’t need the smell of paints and a little Scripture.

You need to put your focus on Christ and only Christ.
Recite scripture to yourself and see how quickly your day turns around. No need to spend $3.99 for yummy calories.
Sing praises and hymns and watch your mood shift from night to day. You won’t even have to use a bookmark or recharge your kindle.
Read the Bible and notice how clarity floods your soul. You won’t even have to pull out your art supplies.
Pray to the God who is always listening and see how quickly peace enters in. There’s no need to hit the gym again on your way home.

It’s not that hobbies are bad. It’s that we often accept them in place of something so much greater. I’m not suggesting that you stop enjoying things you love. But I am saying that the next time life overwhelms you, turn to God first. Let Him heal you in a way that only He can. THEN enjoy all the extra stuff. You can’t empty your mind by numbing your mind and that’s what these crutches offer. Instead, empty your mind by handing over everything that is bugging you. Hand it over in prayer and turn those prayer requests to praises.

How can I be so sure that God can heal me, mend me, and turn my attitude and my perspective around? Here is just a sampling of what God says in His Word:

Psalm 121: 1,2
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 120: 1
“I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”

Psalm 71:1, 5, 14, 23, 24
“In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame…For You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth…As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more…My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You-I whom You have delivered. My tongue will tell of Your righteous acts all day long for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.”

Psalm 62:5-8
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 54:1, 2, 4
“Save me, O God, by Your name; vindicate me by Your might. Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth…Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”

Psalm 42:5
“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.”

Psalm 28:6, 7
“Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.”

In the face of such evidence, how can we continue to turn to a donut for comfort? All we ever have need of is hidden in Christ. Let us remember this the next time we reach for a crutch. After we have been healed and our hearts are whole, we can enjoy our hobbies. But as believers, we have to stop letting our hobbies become the crutch that allows us to hobble through our day. We were never meant to hobble.

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Posted in About the Author, Christian

My Testimony

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I’ll be celebrating a birthday this month, so I like to take time each year to share another special birthday: my conversion story. 

I attended a church program when I was seventeen. At the end of that program, I believed that God was dealing with my heart so I walked down the aisle, spoke with someone, and prayed a prayer.

But that’s it.

I left there feeling excited over the choice I had made that night, but that excitement never carried over into the rest of my life. Over the next five years, I would continue living life my way. I made no efforts to attend church after that night and felt no need to be baptized. I continued life with my filthy mouth, wicked thoughts, and sexual sins. I knew these actions were wrong, but it didn’t bother me enough to quit. I can remember my aunt trying to talk some sense into me. She tried to tell me that a Christian couldn’t continue in their sin like I was doing, but I believed that I knew better. “You don’t know my heart,” is what I would tell her. And it’s true, she couldn’t see my heart, but she could see my fruit…or lack thereof.

Better still, God could see my heart and He knew all too well that I was continuing in a life of rebellion, all while claiming that I was saved.

Five years later, I noticed a great stirring in my heart. I longed for the things of God and in time, He would lead me to a church. I began faithfully attending this church, all while trying to hold tightly to my sins. I would attend almost every Sunday, but my life had yet to change.

My pastor was preaching through Romans during this time and it seemed like every single sermon held the same theme, “No Change = No Salvation.” I’m near positive that he said those same words in every sermon at some point, or at least that’s what the Holy Spirit was bringing to my attention.

During this time, I began to doubt my salvation. I remembered the feeling that I had that night when I was seventeen and I walked down the aisle and when I prayed. I remember the excitement. I remember the jitters. But I never remembered forsaking my sin and myself. I don’t recall a day after that when I would purposely choose God’s ways over my own. No change = no salvation. These words echoed through my mind so often. And it would be these words that would be the theme of my testimony. One night, while listening to the latest sermon from Romans, I finally admitted the truth: I had never changed, therefore I’m not saved and will go to hell. I had finally come to grips with the truth and would finally turn my whole life over to Him.

After this moment in my life, I could see a serious change taking place. It didn’t happen all at once, although there were some things that did fall off at the moment of conversion.  For the most part, I would be growing in stages. This is something the Bible calls, sanctification. Sanctification is a life long process. The thing about being saved is that you WILL go through sanctification. After only a few months, I could see a change taking place.  A few months later, even more change.  Every so often when I would stop and look back over my life, it wasn’t hard to find evidence of the changes that were taking place.

How could I change? Because Christ now lived in me, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.” It’s the strangest thing, but the things that I used to love, I was growing to hate, and the things that I had once hated, I was growing to love. It was impossible for me to hate my sin while I lived in darkness, just like it was impossible for me to have the Spirit of God living inside of me and not change into His image. Although I have come a long way in my walk, I feel that I must clarify that I do and can still sin. But when I do, I no longer love it. When I sin, it literally grieves the Spirit within me. To put it plainly, it feels dirty; it feels wrong. Remember, sanctification is a life-long process. No one will reach the end until they reach Heaven.

A few years later, the devil would attack my assurance. He would begin to plant doubts in my mind. You see, most Christians can tell you exactly when they were saved. Many know the date, time, place, and some can even remember what they wore. But I knew none of these things. There were several moments of brokenness and sincere prayer, so  I’m not sure which one was the “one.” For about two years, I would struggle and doubt. And I can tell you honestly that it was the most miserable time in my life.

One Sunday during the altar call, a member of our church came forward and announced that she needed to be saved. She had believed herself a Christian all this time but knew something was off. At that moment, I had the courage I needed to come forward and announce that I had doubts and I was ready to get this settled. I came forward and was counseled by two ladies from our church. They both did a wonderful job trying to help me see, but it was something that I would have to continue to wrestle with on my own. For the next 36 hours, there was a great battle raging inside of me.

I began by searching my life for fruit. What proof did I have of being saved? I searched long and hard. I knew that the most common ideas of Spiritual fruit were actually works. Things like church attendance, tithing, and service. I could claim all of those things and I believe the scriptures teach that each Christian should be growing in these areas, but I also knew that these works could be faked, so I didn’t dwell there. I searched deeper, looking at things like repentance, conviction, and growth in the areas that other people could not see.
When I had a sinful thought, did I feel conviction?
Was I willing to repent of the tough stuff, even when no one else would know that I was involved in such sins?
Did I grow in the deeper, more hidden areas of my life?
I walked away confused because I had such strong doubts and yet as far as I could tell, I passed the test. I knew that if I were to plead my case to any person, I would be able to convince them that I was in fact saved. But I didn’t want to convince someone else, and I didn’t need another person to confirm me. I wanted God Himself to confirm once and for all that I was His. My prayer at the end of the night was simply this: Lord confirm me. I felt like Jacob in that hour, clinging to His robe crying out, “Either confirm that I’m Yours or save me! But I’m not leaving until You do one of them!” Jacob, too, refused to let go until God blessed him.

The next morning, I felt led to pick up a book that my pastor wrote titled, Genuine Conversion. In this simple booklet, he breaks down what it means, or rather what it looks like, to be saved. He compares what the Scriptures actually teach with what common belief says. It’s a simple read which lists what conversion DOES NOT look like compared to what it DOES look like based on the Bible.  In the end, he included a quiz to help the reader understand what kinds of fruit are growing on the limbs of their trees. I went through this same book that morning and there were two things that seemed to be repeated on every page.

1: Matthew 7:17-20 A bad tree can not produce good fruit

2:1 John 2:3-6 I can KNOW once and for all that I’m saved and never doubt again.

First, the verse Matthew 7:17-20: “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” This verse appeared so often in the short book that it became all the more clear. Not only can you know if you are saved by the fruit on your tree, but a bad tree (which I assumed that I was, till proven saved) cannot produce good fruit, just like a good tree can not produce bad fruit. I searched and searched. I took the quiz.  I begged God to show me my own heart and I was finding ample proof from all around that I was saved.

Second, First John 2:3-6: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” This verse came in and helped me to see that I can know the truth about my salvation. That God actually wants me to know. It’s not His way for believers to doubt. I walked away that morning understanding that I was saved. But this would not be the end of Satan’s attack. He had one last ploy.

Now that I was certain of my salvation, Satan then tried to keep me quiet about it. By twisting Scripture, he reminded me that “pride goes before a fall” and it would be best for me to enjoy my salvation, but just don’t tell anyone else about it. His reasoning was that if I stood up and announced that I had security, what if these doubts resurfaced further down the road and I was proven wrong next time? How embarrassing would that be?! I had to admit, he had a point. And being my enemy, he knew my weakness was my pride. I didn’t want to tell everyone what I had discovered, only to be wrong and have to renounce it. I stood in my bathroom and prayed, “What if these doubts come back? What will prove me next time?” I felt the Spirit speaking to my heart saying, “The same thing that proved you today will prove you tomorrow.” And at that moment Satan’s hold on me was finally shattered.

I cannot tell you the amount of peace that flooded my heart from this moment on. I know I’m saved, not because I can remember the moment I prayed a prayer, but because I have ample proof of being sanctified every day since then. I don’t remember the day I was justified, but I have intimate memories of being sanctified, and, therefore, I can KNOW that I will one day be glorified. The devil doesn’t sanctify and God doesn’t change a person before He saves them. God proved my relationship with Him was real by reminding me of all the changes He had made in my life.  He doesn’t work out of order.  First he justifies, then He sanctifies, and later He will glorify! Satan’s attempts to keep me quiet about my testimony only showed me how powerful my testimony really was. I love to share it now!

If you have any questions or comments, you can email me privately or chat with me below.
If you are interested in getting a copy of the Genuine Conversion book that I read through (which I highly recommend), please don’t hesitate to ask. I would love to send you a copy free of charge!

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: I Will Not Fear by Melba Pattillo Beals

220In 1957, Melba Beals was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. But her story of overcoming didn’t start–or end–there. While her white schoolmates were planning their senior prom, Melba was facing the business end of a double-barreled shotgun, being threatened with lynching by rope-carrying tormentors, and learning how to outrun white supremacists who were ready to kill her rather than sit beside her in a classroom. Only her faith in God sustained her during her darkest days and helped her become a civil rights warrior, an NBC television news reporter, a magazine writer, a professor, a wife, and a mother.

In I Will Not Fear, Beals takes readers on an unforgettable journey through terror, oppression, and persecution, highlighting the kind of faith needed to survive in a world full of heartbreak and anger. She shows how the deep faith we develop during our most difficult moments is the kind of faith that can change our families, our communities, and even the world. Encouraging and inspiring, Beals’s story offers readers hope that faith is the solution to the pervasive hopelessness of our current culture.

My Thoughts: This is a must-read. There are so many things to praise and unpack here. It’s hard to know where to begin.
First of all, the historical account: This is such a powerful look at our country decades ago. In light of racial conflicts being in the media so often today, I think it’s so important to see what was and what isn’t. Reading Melba’s first-person account was eye-opening for me. Being born in the 80s, segregation wasn’t a part of my history. It was equally eye-opening to see just how far we’ve come as a nation.
I found it humbling to walk along with Melba and hear of the extreme abuse she endured and to know how much we benefit from it today. While there are forms of racism still present today, it’s much improved compared to where we once were.
Spiritual content: This is a true gem. In many ways, it reminded me of Corrie Ten Boom’s story. The story isn’t just an account of what was or what happened, but of how God had carried her through it. How He created in her a heart willing and able to love and forgive those who had persecuted. It’s a beautiful story of forgiveness. But it’s equally a powerful testimony about leaning on Christ. For those being bullied today, Melba has some valuable lessons on how to deal with bullies.
From a writer’s point of view, my first impression was that the story was all over the place. But that’s the difference between a novel and a memoir. The flow of events are often grouped together by subject and not by chronological events. This tripped me up a bit in the first chapter, but once I wrapped my mind around the fact that this wasn’t supposed to read like a novel, I adjusted rather well and thoroughly enjoyed it.
When reading someone’s life story, you have to understand that you may or may not agree with everything they did. But this is THEIR story. While I wasn’t on board with her divorce or the reasons surrounding it, I realize it’s not my place to judge her or pick apart what she could have/should have done based on the partial information I’m given. Melba has graciously shown us intimate moments of her life and her failings in hopes of sharing the lessons she had gleaned along the way. She had certainly done that.

Rating and Recommendation: There are so many applicable lessons on faith, perseverance, forgiveness, and serving Christ on earth that I would highly recommend this book to any Christian or anyone curious to learn how a Christian walks through persecution. I’m giving it 5 stars.

~ I received a copy from Revell through Net Galley. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Christian

The Truth Behind the SuperMom

SuperMom

The most common question I hear when people find out that I’m a writer and mother of 4 is, “How do you do it all?”

I’ll tell you how: I don’t!!!

I often catch women saying something like this:
“I never have enough time.” Neither do I.
“I feel like I’m spinning in circles.” Yep, me too!
“I clean all the time, but I feel like I never get past the day’s worth of laundry and dishes.” So do I!!

One of the biggest threats to women today is ourselves and how we view other women. Surely this has been a problem over the centuries, but I know it has to be an escalated problem today with our social media options. This is what we see on our newsfeed:
Our friend’s perfect family photo.
Our neighbor’s healthy made-from-scratch dinner.
Our cousin’s perfect marriage.
Our sister’s stunning vacation shots.
Our old classmate’s remodeled kitchen.
Our homeschooling friend’s latest crafts with the kids.

Meanwhile . . .
We’re struggling to get everyone together for a family photo, much less have them in perfectly matched clothing minus the last minute stains.
We’re picking up takeout and stocking up on frozen pizzas.
While we normally get along, we haven’t exactly gotten over that last tiff with the hubby.
We forgot to bring our camera on vacation but had a blast anyway.
Not only is our kitchen in need of new flooring but the dishes are piling up, not in the sink, but on the STOVE! Because those specialized dishes that never make it into the dishwasher, yeah, it turns out they don’t wash themselves.

I’m convinced that one of the biggest problems we have is the ability to take everything we see at face value while focusing on our own shortcomings. We see the perfection in everyone’s lives because it’s what they broadcast so we assume that they have it all together in every other area as well. While on the flipside of that, we can’t help but note every area in our lives that is falling apart or falling behind.

Still not convinced? Let’s try a little experiment . . .

I LOVE to garden! Flower gardens are my favorite. I enjoy vegetable gardening as well. Corn, okra, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, and peppers . . . I’ve grown them all and I’ve even canned pumpkin and butternut squash from my garden.
Now, I want you to picture my garden. What do you see? Seriously, take a moment to examine what you see in my garden.

Have you mentally examined my garden? If not, I’ll keep waiting . . . If you’re ready, let’s move on.

Now it’s your turn. I want you to picture your own garden. What’s in it? What’s it look like? What do you see?

Waiting . . . waiting . . .

Ok, if you’re ready, let’s compare:
When you imagined my garden, did you see weeds in my garden? Did you see bugs? Did you see half-eaten plants? Did you see animals stealing my veggies?
When you pictured your garden, did you see weeds? Did you see bugs? Did you see half-eaten plants? Did you see the pesky animals attacking your plants?
I’m not a mind reader, but I have a feeling the majority of you saw perfection in my garden while you were immediately reminded of the trouble areas in your own garden. Why is that? You were willing to see perfection in me, assuming that since I’ve done such-and-such that I must have it together in this area as well. Meanwhile, you couldn’t overlook your trouble areas. Why were you being unfair to yourself? Did you think weeds couldn’t grow outside of your yard?
Are you ready for a secret? Everything I wrote about my garden was absolutely true! I DO love to garden. Flower gardens ARE my favorite. I really did grow all of those veggies in my backyard and I have canned the winter squashes. But do you want to know something else? I’ve been too busy the last 4 summers so I haven’t even attempted a garden of any sort. I canned pumpkin one year and loved it, except that I found a black widow spider on one of the pumpkins and haven’t been too keyed up on growing anymore since then. (Judge me if you want. 😉 ) As much as I ADORE flower gardens and it would be my dream to have a really large one that you can walk through and even sit in, I CANNOT grow flowers!!!!! They die. They die so often, that one day when my son was reading his Bible he turned to me and said that I must be related to Cain since my plants are cursed!! LOL I often joke and tell people that I can grow kids and veggies but I can’t grow flowers. As for the vegetable garden . . . no matter how many times I promise myself that I’ll stay on top of the weeds before I know it, the garden is overrun and I’ve given up trying. It’s one of the reasons I stopped gardening. I was tired of seeing the weeds.

Did that little experiment open your eyes to your faulty viewpoint? But now what do you do about it? How do you become the Supermom you were striving for?

You become the Supermom by realizing that there is no such thing.

How do I do it all? Simple: I don’t.
The moment you understand that what you experience on a day to day basis IS normal is the day you set yourself free from this damaging cycle. We put so much pressure on ourselves to measure up to a standard that doesn’t even exist.

Yes, I have four kids. Yes, I work from home. Yes, I have a hectic ball schedule to keep up with while raising 3 boys. But I also have kids that fight. Children that disobey or disrespect. I have a stash of paper plates that I never let run empty. I have frozen pizza on my weekly grocery list. I know which drive-thru window is the fastest in my town. I have a laundry pile that, at times, is taller than my 6-year-old. (And, no, I’m not joking.) Yes, I often have a precarious stack of dishes on the stove that has to be hand-washed. Yes, I feel like I’m falling behind on life. Yes, I lose my keys more times than I can count. Yes, I forget things. No, I don’t get to volunteer at the school like I imagined myself doing. Yes, there are days when I lose my temper. Yes, there are days when I feel like I’ve wasted entire hours of my day. Yes, there are days when I look around and wonder what I had cleaned because I remember doing it but can’t see the results. Yes, I cut corners where I can to save time or my sanity. And, no, I don’t feel bad about that.

I’m not a Supermom because I do everything. I’m a Supermom because I keep getting up in the morning and trying again.

I encourage you to stop judging yourself so harshly. Stop feeling guilty about not checking off every box that YOU set down on your to-do list. Instead, seek God each and every morning. Seek Him each hour. Ask Him to direct your steps that day and put you where HE wants you to serve. If that means, you sit on the couch all day long and watch reruns of Mickey Mouse with your sick child, then don’t let those dirty dishes make you feel guilty about that. Be where GOD wants you to be and stop stressing over what you think you needed to do. Doubt and guilt don’t come from God. God gives us peace, love, and joy. So seek Him and rest, knowing that you’re doing exactly what He wanted from you on that day.
If you trace this problem back far enough, you’ll find pride at the root of it. Is it not pride that urges you to meet the standards of those around you? So treat this as the sin that it is.
It’s time to repent, ladies. I promise you, the moment you do, you’ll find freedom.

Pinnable, Sharable, Stealable Graphics:

SuperMom QuoteSuperMom Quote 2SuperMom Quote 3
SuperMom Quote 4

 

Posted in Christian

The Silent Servant

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There are two things I want to do in this blog today. I want to talk to you about the overlooked areas of service. And then I want to open up and share something from my personal writing journey that most readers wouldn’t know about. I hope you’ll walk away feeling encouraged about your own place of service and enlightened about the life of a common author.

Let’s start by establishing the fact that each individual is gifted, crafted, and designed to perform a different task. Are some jobs worth more than others? Is a doctor’s efforts worth more than a janitor’s? Is the teacher’s job more important than the factory worker’s? Is the police officer’s service more meaningful than the mailman’s?

That all depends on who it is you’re working for.

The Bible tells us that we are to work not unto man but unto God. Everything we do, we’re to do it for Him. For His glory. For His purposes. For His kingdom.
You see, it’s not our work or society’s ideals that determine the value of our labor. It’s unto Who we’re doing it for. Anything done for the Lord is important and of GREAT value.

I love the book of Nehemiah and the image of service God offers through it. The people were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. This was no small task! Worse than that, they were threatened by their enemies. So much so that half of the men worked while the other half stood guard. What an image! We need people working with us and also people standing behind us, covering our backs with prayers.
But there’s more. The people were assigned a specific section of the wall to rebuild. I hope you noted that word, specific. They didn’t rebuild their favorite sections. They didn’t get bored with their section and work on someone else’s. They worked on the section assigned to them. AND their work was recorded. NONE of it went unnoticed. Not only do we have a record of it preserved in our Bible but God, Himself, has noted everything done in His name and is waiting to reward His faithful servants.

So I come to you today to remind you to do your work cheerfully, not despising the small stuff, because when it’s done for Christ it has great value.

And now I want to tear down that wall between author and reader and allow you to peek inside and take notice of something that you may not have known.

As an author, I’m expected to do one thing: Publish books. And yet I wasn’t able to publish anything in 2016. It wasn’t from a lack of wanting to, or from a lack of story, or any other such thing. I didn’t publish anything in 2016 because the Lord wouldn’t allow it. For reasons only known to Him I was delayed, sick, overwhelmed, and just unable to do all that my little heart desired to do. And yet…I’ve been busy. Much busier than even I knew. While I continued to work on my own manuscript, God enabled me to keep up with a different sort of work on the side. The work of a silent servant. Publication is one of those rare moments when you’re ushered into the limelight. But this work kept me hidden away, which was perfectly fine with me. Despite what this may sound like, I’m not sharing this with you so I can step back into the limelight. I really think it’ll bless your heart to know that there’s so much more going on behind the scenes of your favorite books.

While I didn’t publish anything in 2016, I spent countless hours with other authors. I spent time encouraging them, fellowshipping with them in ways that only another author can do, and even helping them.
My fans are wondering where my next book is, but did you know that I’ve had my hands in FIVE different publications in 2016 alone? I joined critique teams for other authors and offered them sound advice and loving encouragement for their work. While their stories are uniquely their own and their writing styles differ from mine, the same me-ness that marks my pages reached out and touched a few others.
I love to help another author strengthen their work. I love to come along side them as they sweat through the writing process and offer them a cool drink of water and a pat on the back.

As I reflected on my writing year, I was surprised to see that while I didn’t put out anything with my name on it in 2016, the fruit of my labors had gone out. These books are challenging and encouraging readers as we speak. I’m grateful to the Lord and the beloved authors for allowing me to take part in it. And may my experience remind you that the small things we do behind the scenes really do count. You may not be the doctor who saved a life today, but he’s grateful to the one who fixed his breakfast and helped him to get his day started. You may not be the general, but a general is nothing without a regiment of privates. You may not be the pastor, but your prayers are working in his life.

So while you’re waiting for my next release, may I encourage you to pick up something else that I’ve had my hands in? 🙂
Journey of a Letter and Befriending the Beast by Amanda Tero
Hello, Forever and Until Then by Krista Noorman (You’ll want to read this series in order, so start with Goodbye, Magnolia. I was a part of the critique team for that one too. 😉 )
A Love to Come Home to by Alicia Ruggieri (This is another series that you’ll want to read in order. I had the pleasure of helping with books 2 and 3).

 

 

Posted in Christian

God Doesn’t Hand Out Crutches

3.jpgWhat is a spiritual crutch?

A spiritual crutch is anything you turn to for comfort, for peace, or for security.

Looking at that basic definition, we may not be quick to say that we use spiritual crutches. By that definition, these crutches sound an awful lot like a false god and we know better than to worship lifeless idols. Don’t we?  But let’s look a little deeper at what they are and see if we don’t have a pair of worn out crutches sitting in our room.

Do you ever turn on the tv in order to find something to distract you from your troubles? The tv has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever grab a book to read in order to hide from issues surrounding you?
A book has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever create art: paint, draw, knit, color, etc. to escape and unwind?
Art has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you exercise to deal with the things you can’t handle in life?
Exercise has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you eat in order to better handle a bad day?
Eating has become a spiritual crutch.

Clearly, we could go on and on for days but I think you get the point, and maybe by now you even have your finger on the spiritual crutch or crutches in your life.

Why are spiritual crutches wrong?
Spiritual crutches are a problem for the Christian because we are trusting in something to woo us back into our happy places instead of relying on the Living God to do what He said He would do.

Have you noticed that spiritual crutches look an awful lot like hobbies? So…are hobbies sinful? Are we to give up the things that give us pleasure?
Hobbies are not sinful. I believe the Lord gives us desires and talents and allows us to enjoy them. And why wouldn’t He? He gave us taste buds to enjoy food. He gave us the sense of smell to enjoy the wonders around us. He gave us sensual pleasures to enjoy the duty of procreation.
He often showers us with delightful add-ons just because He can and it pleases Him to do so. So what’s the problem with these hobbies-turned-crutches?

The problem is when you turn to your pleasures instead of God when you’re going through difficult times. The problem is when you reach for your “fix” instead of your God.
How often do we say something like, “I’m having a terrible day but a good cup of coffee will make it all better.” Or we might turn up the radio and drown out the sorrows. Let the base rock the tension out of our shoulders.

The problem is not in the things. It’s in our placement of these things. Here’s a good example:
I’m around readers through several social platforms, and I’ve heard this dozens of times. They’ll say something like, “I can’t concentrate on this book I’m reading. It’s a great book, but I have so much going on at home (dog died, sister is in the hospital, child ran away, and they lost their job). I just want to get into a book and get lost. But I can’t and I’m frustrated.”
Of course, they’re frustrated!! Why wouldn’t they be? They’re trying to cover the gaping hole in their heart with a Looney Tunes band-aid! It doesn’t work that way. We don’t work that way. We weren’t created for this at all.

The Lord is our safety net. He is our perfectly sized, never falls off, medicated band-aid. The truth is, you don’t need anything else. You don’t need a backup plan. You don’t need God and that cup of coffee. You don’t need the smell of paints and a little Scripture.

You need to put your focus on Christ and only Christ.
Recite scripture to yourself and see how quickly your day turns around. No need to spend $3.99 for yummy calories.
Sing praises and hymns and watch your mood shift from night to day. You won’t even have to use a bookmark or recharge your kindle.
Read the Bible and notice how clarity floods your soul. You won’t even have to pull out your art supplies.
Pray to the God who is always listening and see how quickly peace enters in. There’s no need to hit the gym again on your way home.

It’s not that hobbies are bad. It’s that we often accept them in place of something so much greater. I’m not suggesting that you stop enjoying things you love. But I am saying that the next time life overwhelms you, turn to God first. Let Him heal you in a way that only He can. THEN enjoy all the extra stuff. You can’t empty your mind by numbing your mind and that’s what these crutches offer. Instead, empty your mind by handing over everything that is bugging you. Hand it over in prayer and turn those prayer requests to praises.

How can I be so sure that God can heal me, mend me, and turn my attitude and my perspective around? Here is just a sampling of what God says in His Word:

Psalm 121: 1,2
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 120: 1
“I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”

Psalm 71:1, 5, 14, 23, 24
“In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame…For You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth…As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more…My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You-I whom You have delivered. My tongue will tell of Your righteous acts all day long for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.”

Psalm 62:5-8
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 54:1, 2, 4
“Save me, O God, by Your name; vindicate me by Your might. Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth…Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”

Psalm 42:5
“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.”

Psalm 28:6, 7
“Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.”

In the face of such evidence, how can we continue to turn to a donut for comfort? All we ever have need of is hidden in Christ. Let us remember this the next time we reach for a crutch. After we have been healed and our hearts are whole, we can enjoy our hobbies. But as believers, we have to stop letting our hobbies become the crutch that allows us to hobble through our day. We were never meant to hobble.

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Devotions for Easter

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Prepare your heart and mind to celebrate the risen Savior.

It’s time for fresh spring blossoms, colored eggs, special recipes, and family gatherings. This year, with each tradition, small celebration, and new story, take the time to stop and discover the ways Jesus is showing His love for you. In remembering His Easter story—the greatest story ever told—your own will become that much sweeter.

The perfect companion for Lent, Devotions for Easter invites you to find the messages of hope and mercy God places in even the smallest moments of the season. Forty days of warm, inviting readings, prayers, scriptures, and beautiful images will take you through Christ’s journey toward the cross and the miracle of His resurrection. As new life emerges all around you, let your heart be filled with joyful worship of Christ and the renewal He brings.

What I Loved: This is a compact devotional. It’s broken up into 40 days and meant to be used in the days leading up to Easter to assist you in focusing your mind and heart on Christ during this special time of the year. I felt that it did everything it promised to do. I’m still currently working through it and have so far found it to be edifying, rebuking, and uplifting. Each lesson is a short read but I found that the author could dig deep even with small amounts of time. Aside from the heart-focusing lessons are the stunning pictures used throughout the book. It’s a beauty inside and out and would make a wonderful tool for personal use as well as a gift for someone else.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Devotions for Easter 5 stars and recommending it to any Christian looking for a simple devotion with deep impact or a beautiful gift.

~ I received a copy from Book Look Bloggers. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Christian

The Trouble with a Hallmark Christmas

15I shamelessly confess that I LOVE to binge watch Hallmark Christmas movies. Is anyone else raising their hands right now? 🙂 Welcome, friend! 

What this post isn’t: a call to boycott Hallmark Christmas movies.
What this post is: An encouragement from one believer to another based on a trend that I noticed during one of my movie marathons.

While I appreciate Hallmark for staying clean and family-friendly, the company isn’t expressively Christian. Therefore there will be times when their views won’t line up with ours like the one I want to talk about today: Losing the Christmas Spirit.

Without Christ at the center of Christmas, then Christmas is just another holiday. And we can take or leave it.

But Christmas is so much more than what we’ve let it become.

I cannot count on my fingers and toes the number of movies Hallmark has churned out with the theme of at least one prominent character losing their Christmas Spirit. Every one of these characters attributed this loss to something traumatic like the loss of a loved one of the betrayal of someone they held dear during the Christmas season. And as I watched movie after movie where someone struggles to gain the Christmas Spirit, aka the joy of traditions and lights, the more it weighed on my heart.

How many Christians live this way every year?

How many born again believers have fallen into the mindset of finding no joy in the things associated with Christmas?

I think it’s worthwhile to stop and ask ourselves what Christmas really is.

If Christmas is only long-held traditions, lights, trees, gifts, food, and merriment then people will be apt to losing the Christmas Spirit when their Christmas memories become tainted or when the joy has left their world.

But as Christians, we know that Christmas is more than that. We cannot lose our light because Christmas is a celebration of the Light coming down. While we celebrate with the aid of traditions, the holiday is a reminder of something so much bigger than ourselves and our feelings. Christmas is joy. Joy that the Holy One became Emmanuel: God With Us. Joy that the sole purpose for the manger was the cross.

I’m not suggesting that missing loved ones no longer pain you. But I am suggesting that we have something so much more to celebrate than the rest of the world. If you know Christ, then you can say with conviction that He came for you. And in that humbling thought, you’ll find your Christmas joy.

True Christmas Spirit isn’t an appreciation of trees and lights. It’s an appreciation of Christ and all that He did on your behalf.

For any believer that has fallen into the mindset of depression where Christmas is concerned, I encourage you to view Christmas in a new light. In a holy light.
I encourage you to spend the rest of the season praising God and then turn around and give to others. Where you might be feeling loneliness, I encourage you to pour your time into someone else who is lonely. Seek out a friend without family. Make a new friend. The nursing homes are filled with lonely souls. So are the streets and the homeless shelters. So are our workplaces, schools, churches, and neighborhoods.
Help out the single mother. Assist the new mother. Or the young couple staying far away from their family.

Offer yourself as a gift to others this year just as Christ offered Himself. And know that God will bless it. The joy you give to others will be poured back on you.

And I picked out some Christmas songs that I felt like put all the focus of the holiday back on Christ. Of course, these aren’t the only songs that do. But give them a listen and let your heart meditate on the truth they bring.

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