Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Joyful: Return to Sugarcreek


About The Book: A young Amish couple gets a second chance at love in New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray’s final book in her Return to Sugarcreek series.
Randall Beiler is doing his best to put his family and the farm’s needs first, even forsaking love. But though he tries, Randall knows he needs help caring for his younger siblings and keeping the house together.  When his brother offers pretty Elizabeth Nolt a job taking care of the house and cooking for the family, Randall is furious—and guilty about the way he once broke Elizabeth’s heart. But when he learns that Elizabeth and her grandmother are struggling to make ends meet, he knows the offer, no matter how painful, is the right thing for everyone.  Elizabeth wants to refuse—to stay far away from the man who hurt her—but she needs the money. Though she vows to protect her heart, spending time in the Beiler household makes Elizabeth realize that, while she’s older and wiser, her love for Randall still burns strong.  Randall, too, seems to want something more. But does he want Elizabeth because he truly loves her—or because he needs a housekeeper? If Randall sincerely wants something more, he must find a way to show Elizabeth—or risk losing his chance at love forever.  Joyful includes a P.S. section with a letter from the author, discussion questions, and a teaser from her next book.
About The Author: Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
My Thoughts About The Book:  This was the third book in the Sugarcreek series and it was wonderful.  True to it's title this book brought me great joy.  There were three stories actually going on at the same time and each scenario reeled the reader in and would not let go.  The characters were so real you felt as if they were your neighbors.  Although this was the third book in the series you do not have to read the others to enjoy this one. I would recommend reading all the books in the series.   I loved the letter from the author, the discussion questions and the sample from her next book.  If you like Amish fiction this is one you won't want to miss. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Fall of a Hodge Podge

Welcome to the Wednesday Hodgepodge! Everyone is welcome to play along, just answer the questions on your own blog, then add your link to the party on Joyce's blog by clicking here. Here are my answers to this week's questions-

1. It's fall. Y'all. My favorite season of the year! What's something you love to do this time of year that makes you feel it's officially fall? And unrelated to that, do you ever say 'y'all'?
I have to agree with Joyce.  I love a trip to North Georgia or to Tennessee apple orchard this time of year. I also love Fall Festivals.  
2. When did you last have a falling out with someone? Has it been resolved?
I don't fight and cannot remember the last time this happened.  I am the peace maker of the family and always have been. 
 3. A song you love with the word 'fall' in its title?
Can't Help Falling In Love and The Boys of Fall. 
4. What's something you've recently let 'fall by the wayside'?
Since I started my new job I have to say housework.  By the time I get home I am so tired.  I have also let my clearing out my mom's house fall as well.
5. When did you last attend an event, read a book, watch a movie, try a new recipe, or visit a shop-restaurant-tourist attraction that fell short of your expectations? In what way?
I am used to things falling short for me.  The minute I get caught up in the hype of something I can assure you it will not measure up.  I can't think of anything outright right now....but I know the last few movies I have been to see were such disappointments.
6. Describe a time you said or thought, 'The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
I think it about my daughter every day.  She is definitely my child.  I also teach school...I say it at least once a week....especially after meeting parents. 
7.  Was today better than yesterday? Why or why not?
Today was good.  It is Friday....and I am running behind on my blog...does that say anything about the rest of the week?  My friend, Deborah's father died this week.  My godmother died this week, and I am facing the anniversary of my own dad's death.  Yep...not a stellar week....but today is Friday....and Sunday is coming....and tonight is date night with my sweet hubs.  We are going to visit one of my church members who had surgery last night.8.  Insert your own random thought here.  Do you live somewhere where fall is different than summer?  I look forward to driving down our country roads and seeing the leaves changing colors.  It is such a reminder to me that God is AWESOME!...and He colors in the lines.  :-)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm

About This Book:  Bess Riehl is preparing Rose Hill Farm for her Christmas wedding, but her groom isn't who she thought it would be. Billy Lapp is far away from his Amish roots working as a rose rustler for Penn State and wants nothing to do with Stoney Ridge, his family, or Bess. And that suits Bess just fine. Why should she think twice about a man who left without a word, without any explanation? It's time she moved on with her life, and that meant saying yes to Amos Lapp, Billy's cousin and best friend. But as Bess and Amos's wedding day draws near, her emotions tangle into a tight knot. She loves Amos. Yet she can't forget Billy. When a "lost" rose is discovered at Rose Hill Farm, Billy is sent to track down its origins. Get in, identify the rose, and get out. That's his plan. The only catch is that he's having a hard time narrowing down the identity of the lost rose, and he can't get those tropical blue eyes of Bess Riehl out of his mind.  As the history of the lost rose is pieced together, it reminds Bess and Billy--and Amos, too--that Christmas truly is the season of miracles.
Join bestselling, award-winning author Suzanne Woods Fisher for an Amish Christmas to remember. Filled with heart-twisting moments amid the sweet anticipation of love, this story will charm readers into the holiday spirit.

About This Author:  Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling, award winning author of fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books, host of the radio-show-turned-blog Amish Wisdom, a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain. A theme in her books (her life!) is that you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate the principles of simple living. Suzanne lives in California with her family and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To her way of thinking, you just can't life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth. Suzanne can be found on-line at:
My Thoughts About This Book:  I have been a huge fan of Suzanne Woods Fisher since I read my first book by her and this one does not disappoint.  It has all of the things for a perfect heart capturing story.  There is a love gone wrong, a love returned, roses, Christmas, and Amish.  I felt as if I was right there with the characters and could not put the book down once I sat down and settled in to read.  I especially loved the addition of the character George. The whole book was Excellent!   Having read other Rose Hill Farm books I recognized the characters and that was an added benefit, yet one could read this as a stand alone and understand the past references in the plot. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Karen, Life Is Not Fair!

My scripture text today will be coming from Matthew 20:1-16.  One of the most resounding things in my memory is my mother telling me, “Karen, life isn’t fair.” I have carried that with me throughout life. The only thing I can say about it is that she was right. Life doesn’t seem to be fair. In fact it seems to be quite the opposite of fair. I have been turned down for jobs because I was of the wrong ethnicity. I have been denied a promotion because I was the wrong gender. I have often been denied employment because I was under qualified. Sadly I have also been denied employment because I was over qualified. That one really didn’t make any sense at all.  I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced life this way. I know that there are some of you who have been turned down for a loan because the loan officer had a bad day and didn’t want to deal with you long enough to finance you. I know there are cell phone owners here who have been charged for a little thing called roaming when you didn’t think it was just but you couldn’t argue your case enough to get it removed. There may be someone here today who was accused of something and felt the consequences just so an example could have been made of somebody by your boss. The thing you noticed is that even though you are working and doing the best you could the slacker across the way got off without even a confrontation.  I am sure that I am not the only person in this room who as a kid with a sibling thought my parents treated me unfairly at times in comparison to the treatment my brother got. I know I am not the only sister who received my brother’s spanking. I guess it is a good thing that my brother does not have the opportunity to tell you about all of my spankings he received because as for now it makes me look better.  The cold fact is that life isn’t fair. The more we try to please someone the more we stand to be let down. People are human in that they have their own way of viewing situations. They can have a “skewed” view of reality that keeps them from seeing all sides of reality. They can have their own opinions which may immediately charge the man in a conflict between a man and a woman or to vote for the white guy in a battle between races. Truly and undeniably we are unfair people living in an unfair world.   The good news however is that God is fair. If we will learn to hold on to Him, even when we don’t understand the path He is taking, it will turn out alright in the end.

God is a God of Grace. That is something we simply cannot understand as humans. God can see the big picture, he is omniscient, and that is something we can only dream about. God is just in his generosity which is a trait we don’t possess.

While on a trip to Switzerland, an America businessman was watching a Swiss clockmaker carving the case of an ornate cuckoo clock. As the businessman watched the clockmaker carve out the case, he was astounded at his slow rate of progress. The businessman finally said, “My good man, you’ll never make much money that way.” “Sir,” the clockmaker replied, “I’m not making money, I’m making cuckoo clocks.”  Notice the difference in the two men’s goals. The businessman was after the pay check and the clock maker was after the joy of a job well done.

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.   About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ’You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.  He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ’Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ’Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ’You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ’Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ’These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ’and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ’Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Notice: These guys hired to a new job each day.

- Those first hired worked hard for about 11 hours, had endured the heat of the desert all day and they were paid one denarius

-Those last hired worked for about one hour, had lazily stood around in the marketplace all day and they too were paid one denarius

-The vineyard owner owned the vineyard, all the wealth for the day’s pay was at his disposal and he had grace for the guys hired last but was just and fair to the all day guys.

This not just a story about some guy in a vineyard. Notice verse 1.   "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…”

-God is the land owner, those hired in the morning are like the old saints, those hired at the end of the day are like those who are saved at the last minute (Death-bed confessions)

We may not find it fair but God is just and he calls this fair.  We are not graceful but God is full of grace. In his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” Phillip Yancey points out that part of our problem is in the nature of grace itself. Grace is scandalous. It’s hard to accept, hard to believe, and hard to receive. Grace shocks us in what it offers. It is truly not of this world. It frightens us with what it does for sinners.  Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them. We would save the not-so-bad. God starts with prostitutes and then works downward from there. Grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. It is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it. That’s why God alone gets the glory in your salvation. Jesus did all the work when he died on the cross.

TWO things I hope we can take from this message today....

1. We should be grateful of this grace. We didn’t deserve it. It really is unfair because we deserve Hell but God has chosen to show us His grace.

2. We should follow God’s example and show grace to our neighbor.

-when someone else gets a break at work assume they need it

-when someone doesn’t get caught just remember the times you didn’t

-when someone gets off easy just pray for them that they will respect it

DON’T WISH PAIN ON PEOPLE FOR THE SAKE OF FAIRNESS…pray for grace for them.  It will make you feel a whole lot better...and it won't hurt them either.


Friday, September 19, 2014

The Hope Quotient

About The Book:  What’s at the heart of every thriving person, every thriving marriage, kid, and business?  Hope!
The Hope Quotient is a revolutionary new method for measuring—and dramatically increasing—your level of hope. Hope is more than a feeling; it’s the by-product of seven key factors. When these are present in your life, they cause hope to thrive.
Factor 1: Recharge Your Batteries Nobody does well running on empty.
Factor 2: Raise Your Expectations You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you expect.
Factor 3: Refocus on the Future It’s time to throw away your rearview mirror. No one goes forward well when they are looking back.
Factor 4: Play to Your Strengths Be yourself; everyone else is taken.
Factor 5: Refuse to Go It Alone Never underestimate the power of support. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.
Factor 6: Replace Burnout with Balance Burning the candle at both ends isn’t as bright as you think.
Factor 7: Play Great Defense Avoid these five toxic hope killers that can threaten your future.
Using seven years of research, powerful biblical illustrations, and compelling human-interest stories, Ray Johnston explains how these seven essential factors will support, sustain, and strengthen your hope. And when consciously built into your life, how they will unleash hope in your marriage, your kids, your career, your church, your community, and the world.
Discover your HQ level, the most important contributor to your overall success, and then learn how to improve it. Because when hope rises—everything changes.

About The Author:  Ray Johnston is the founding pastor of Bayside Church in the Sacramento, California suburb of Granite Bay. Under Pastor Ray's leadership, in just eighteen years Bayside has become one of the largest churches in the nation, with over 12,000 people coming together every weekend for worship, teaching, prayer and connection at the Granite Bay campus, and thousands more in multiple affiliated churches throughout the Sacramento area. 
Ray is the founder of Thriving Churches International, and Thrive Communications. He is a veteran of both youth and adult ministry, having crisscrossed the nation for years as a top instructor for Youth Specialties. A graduate of Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary, he was Chairman of the Department of Youth Ministry at North Park College and an adjunct professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He currently serves on the Board of Directors at Azusa Pacific University.
Ray and his wife, Carol, are the proud parents of Mark, Scott, and twins Leslie and Christy.

My Thoughts About The Book:  I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.  It was easy to understand and a most practical application for finding hope in today's world.  If there were a Best in Show Christian Feel Good, DIY book....this would be it.  I would love to meet Ray Johnston.  I believe this book should be read by everyone!  It is a powerful read!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Shelton Interactive, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Candle Prayers for Kids

About The Book:  A delightful companion prayer book to the popular Candle Bible for Kids. Jo Parry's distinctively bold and vibrant illustrations complement a combination of traditional and modern prayers by Claire Freedman, author of the Benjamin Bear series. Candle Prayers for Kids helps to bring prayer and talking to God into the life of every child.
About The Author/Illustrator:  Claire Freedman lives on the Essex coast. She is the author of a number of children’s books, and has also written for Little Tiger Press. When not writing, Claire spends her time sailing, walking in the countryside, and traveling.  Jo Parry trained at Bournemouth Arts Institute before becoming a full-time artist. She illustrates mainly greetings cards, fine art, and children’s books, adapting her fun, colorful style to each of these genres. She creates her characteristic style using an Apple Mac, and is fulfilling a lifelong dream working as an illustrator. Jo lives in Bournemouth, on England’s south coast.
My Thoughts About The Book:  This book is precious.  The illustrations are bright and fun and the prayers are short, sweet, and relative to a child.  The book is a great way to teach a child just how to pray about things that touch their lives.  I loved the variety of children represented in the book.  I loved the prayers.  I have used this book in my Time for Children minutes at my church and the children seem to look forward to me pulling out the book and opening it up for our closing prayer time.  These prayers have also given me a plethora of topics for my Time For Children moments.  I think it would make a great gift and teaching tool.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary from Kregel in exchange for my review. No compensation was received. Opinions expressed are solely my own.  Thank you so much for allowing me this opportunity.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Buried Beneath The Words

Buried Beneath the Words
About The Book:  Words! Words! Words!  Words all over the place. Accusing, blaming, and degrading words are the worst of all. After hearing those words over and over again, we begin to feel the weight of them threatening to crush the very life out of us.
Buried Beneath the Words cleverly shares a true life story about the different ways someone can end up buried beneath the weight of negative words. Then it shares a Christian course for how God’s word can revive us. By putting the advice given within these pages into practice, you will experience an awakening of the real you—the you that has been buried way too long.  Learn more and purchase a copy at Betel’s website.
About The Author: Betel Arnold is a Certified Christian Life Coach, her passion is to reach out to women with compassion, empathy and encouragement. She is the creator, co-producer, and co-host of Simply Talking, a local public television show addressing issues drawn from our daily lives to deeper questions that come from our personal tragedies. Betel has learned to integrate her roles as wife, mother, inspirational speaker and family advocate. It is Betel’s personal life experiences of overcoming adversity where she was able to find the inspiration and inner strength to do the impossible. She inspires others to overcome the challenges that keep us from moving forward in our lives and achieving our goals. Betel Arnold has embraced her life’s conviction to help women become all that God has called them to be.
My Thoughts On The Book:  I am a high school English teacher and a natural born lover of words I could not wait to get my hands on this book.  One thing I have noticed in my twenty-five years in the classroom is that my students and some of the adults in my life use words to hurt each other.  Growing up as a sufferer of low self-esteem I knew the power words could have on me.  I loved reading how Betel Arnold confronted her own issues and it was very empowering to find that one does not have to be bound to this life style.  This book is a mixture of stories, helpful scriptures, song lyrics and is just the book for someone who struggles thinking they are not good enough for God to love them.  Thank you Betel for speaking out about a topic that often goes without being addressed.  Loved this book and plan to add it to my library for future reference!
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse and their Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you so very much for allowing me this opportunity.