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!”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Opposite of Maybe

The Opposite of Maybe: A Novel

About The Book:  A heartfelt and exceptionally human novel about the best mistakes a person can make.  Jonathan and Rosie have been together so long they finish each other’s sentences—so when he (finally) proposes and asks her to move across the country with him, everyone is happily surprised.  But when things suddenly unravel, Rosie sends Jonathan packing and moves back home with Soapie, the irascible, opinionated grandmother who raised her. Now she has to figure out how to fire Soapie’s very unsuitable caregiver, a gardener named Tony who lets her drink martinis, smoke, and cheat at Scrabble.  It’s meant to be a temporary break, of course—until Rosie realizes she’s accidentally pregnant at 44, completely unequipped for motherhood, and worse, may be falling in love with Tony, whose life is even more muddled than hers. When Soapie reveals a long-hidden secret, Rosie wonders if she has to let go of her fears, and trust that the big-hearted, messy life that awaits her just may be the one she was meant to live. Now with a comprehensive Reader's Guide.
About The Author: Maddy Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers--the kind of storytellers who would sit on the dock by the lake in the evening and claim that everything they say is THE absolute truth, like, stack-of-Bibles true. The more outlandish the story, the more it likely it was to be true. Or so they said.  And in between all these stories of crazy, over-the-top events, there was the hum of just daily, routine crazy: shotgun weddings, drunken funerals, stories of people's affairs and love lives, their job losses, the things that made them laugh, the way they'd drink Jack Daniels and get drunk and foretell the future. There were ghosts and miracles and dead people coming back to life. You know, everyday stuff.  How sheI turn into anything else but a writer? Having had various careers as a substitute English teacher, department store clerk, medical records typist, waitress, cat-sitter, wedding invitation company receptionist, nanny, daycare worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco-maker were only bearable if she could think up stories as she worked.
My Thoughts On The Book:  This is one of the best novels I have read in a while.  I was sucked into the story within the first chapter.  I loved all of the characters except for Jonathan, but then I don't think we were supposed to like him at all.  I absolutely adored Soapie and her story.  I would have loved for Rosie to have found her dad, but maybe that will come in another novel.   The humor, storyline, and characters are obviously the development of someone who grew up around storytellers. This book is one of those that once you start it you cannot put it down until you have read the last page.  A must read.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Blogging for Books, 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!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Southern Foodie's Guide to the Pig: A Culinary Tour of the South's Best Restaurants and the Recipes That Made Them Famous

About The Book:  Chris Chamberlain, author of the popular The Southern Foodie Cookbook, takes you back to the South for a tour of the restaurants that make the best pig dishes.  When Ben Franklin lobbied his fellow founding fathers to consider the wild turkey as our young country’s national symbol, perhaps he should have considered the pig. Arguably the most democratic of all proteins, pork is welcome across the country from a gourmet pork belly dish on the menu of the toniest Charleston bistro to a whole hog roasting in a hole dug in the sand of a beach in LA (Lower Alabama).  Pork is also uniquely democratic in that it is a meat that is welcome at every meal. The old saw goes that when considering a breakfast of bacon and eggs, "the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed." While you may occasionally see a breakfast steak on the menu, the pig is the star of the morning meal. A thick-sliced smoked bologna purchased from a gas station deli in rural Tennessee is the perfect working man’s lunch, unless you consider the ultimate demonstration of the nose-to-tail versatility of the pig, a snoot sandwich made from a boiled hog’s nose slapped between two slices of white bread. Feel free not to consider that for too long…The Southern Foodie’s Guide to the Pig takes you on several journeys. An anatomic survey of the pig introduces readers to all the parts of this versatile animal and teaches procedures and recipes to prepare all sorts of wonderful dishes. A geographic tour of the Southern states will showcase restaurants in the region that have particular talents when it comes to pork. The chefs and pitmasters have shared some of their most sacred secrets, the actual recipes for the best pork, barbecue and bacon dishes that emerge from their kitchens. Finally, since man cannot live by pig alone (unfortunately), there is also a selection of recipes that are great accompaniments to the pork dishes contributed by the fifty Southern restaurants that are featured.  So feel free to keep a copy of this book in your glovebox to help you find the best place for an elegant meal in Atlanta or that hidden gem of a barbecue joint in Kentucky. Or get this book a little dirty in the kitchen as you take your own tour of the South’s best pork dishes while you plan your meals for the week. Either way you use it, it’s a journey well worth taking.
About The Author:  Chris Chamberlain is a food and drink writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has lived his entire life except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks. He is a regular writer for the Nashville Scene and their "Bites" food blog. He has also contributed to the Nashville City Paper, Nashville Lifestyles magazine, 2001 Edgehill and at
My Thoughts On The Book:  I am a Southerner and BBQ lover.  If it is made from pork I am there.  I was thrilled to have a chance to read this book and review it.  I have traveled all over the state of Alabama partaking in the culinary stars of the state and this book introduced me to many more.  I LOVED IT!  I now have a new bucket list of food places I plan to visit.  If you are a grillmaster, chef, or just love plain ole southern fare then this is the book for you.  It is a must read....and must own! 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Booklook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson Publishers, 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 28, 2014

My Two Sons

My Scripture text today comes from:  MATTHEW 21:23-32
I remember a conversation I once had with my first roommate.   She said, “I would be more than happy to be over in some foreign country--feeding the hungry--giving my life for the needs of others.”  My reply was: “If you would be more than happy to do that...then why aren’t you doing that?”  “Good point,” she answered.

The parable of the Two Sons is part of the confrontation that Jesus had with the religious authorities in the temple.  Jesus was asked by what authority He conducted His ministry......Jesus answered their question with His own inquiry about the source of John the Baptist’s ministry. They could not reveal their true feelings about John, and so they had to reply that they did not know whether John’s baptism was of God or not.  Jesus also refuses to tell them the source of His authority and then He tells them the parable of the  Two Sons. 
This story is crystal clear.  It is a direct challenge to the Pharisees in their legalism and to the Sadduccees in their pretended devotion to the temple.  So, Jesus begins the parable with a question: “What do you think?”  Christ wants us to see the Truth of God as it is revealed in life’s story.  Our minds are limited but God wants us to go as far as we possibly can in pursuit of His divine Truth. 


The first son in this parable is guilty of the sin of overt rebellion...
...He, at first, refused to obey his father’s request that he work in the vineyard, but later he repented.

The second son showed outward respect for his father and said he would go, but he never did.  The second son was guilty of the sin of covert (or secret) rebellion and he didn’t repent.  Another way to put it is that the second son was guilty of the sin of good intentions--not carried out.  He was not insincere: he probably intended to obey....he just never did. And this is often our problem as well.  How many projects have we agreed to be a part of that never get started...?........How many of us have agreed to serve on a committee--when asked--only to never show up for the meetings?
How many people tell themselves and God that they will someday give their lives over to Christ...and then never ever get around to doing it?

I remember a conversation I had with a family member of mine many years ago........she was probably getting about ready to finish college.......I asked her if she planned to join a church....
....her answer: “Not right now, but I definitely will when I have children.”......her oldest child is now 6, and she is still not a member of a church. 


For many of us, Christianity appeals to our reason, especially now as we see the tragic outcomes of an  unChristian way of life.  Christianity appeals to our emotions: we are drawn to Jesus as He dies pierced in lonely love.

Worship kindles our dormant we vow obedience......But today is too soon, and the discipline of trying to live our faith is too hard.  So, although many have pledged their response to Christ...many do not go.

This parable holds a clear warning: even for those who profess to believe in Christ....If they do not ever really make the decision to give their lives to Him....they are not going to make it to heaven!

The first son in this parable was rebellious but, at least, he was open and honest about it.  The second son, perhaps, didn’t have the guts to say “No.” This is a cowardly and dishonest kind of
rebellion.  The honest and open rebellion was practiced by the tax collectors and prostitutes.......the second type of rebellion was practiced by the religious breed.

The tax collectors and prostitutes knew they were sinners...heck, they even admitted it, but the religious sinners disguised their rebellion under a religious cloak.

A French moralist once wrote: “Almost all your faults are more pardonable than the methods you think up to hide them.”  Could this be the case with any of us?

The first son had been curt and rebellious....he chose his own will...
...And who among us has not done the same thing?  The key is that he repented!  This means that he had meditated on life, and faced the facts.  It also means that he had to lay aside his pride.
Why is it that so many of us are not greatly ashamed to sin, but we are greatly ashamed to confess our sin?

Let me tell you folks….Pride dies hard......but this son admitted his wrong without any attempt at making excuses........and then he went...the key here is....and then he went!  Can we see ourselves in this parable?

Jesus told this parable against the religious leaders of Jerusalem... the opposition closed in around Him.  The religious leaders came up with the right answer to Jesus’ question but they didn’t see themselves in the story. They couldn’t imagine that they were the disobedient ones who said all the right things but failed to
follow through.  Yes, pride is the great enemy.

Jesus wanted to convey a critical message to them, a message that would determine their eternal destiny.  He was asking them….What does it take to enter God’s kingdom?

It’s not only profession and righteousness, but it is also repentance and belief!  Christ asked the religionists standing around which of the two sons did the Father’s will.  Their immediate response to Christ’s question is interesting.......They demonstrated by their answer just how much pride and self-righteousness can blind a
person---giving a false sense of security.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead
of you.”

It is important to pay close attention to the Lord’s words...
....He said “ahead of you.”  He was not shutting the door of heaven to the self-righteous, the false religionist, the false professor....
....they just could not enter God’s kingdom the way they presently were.  So let me ask this…..
Can we enter God’s kingdom the way we presently are?

As Christ said in the next verse, those He was speaking to lacked one thing, and they must do that one thing in order to enter God’s kingdom. As usual, Jesus shocked His audience! He declared that human being’s idea of religion is wrong! Religion and righteousness is not enough to enter God’s kingdom. Good intentions are not enough. It takes more!!!

Christ shockingly declared to the religionists and the self-righteous that what they have is not enough---it takes more......something else is needed!

In verse 32 Jesus says: “John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” Repentance and belief is what is needed to enter God’s kingdom! We are all sinners, and none of us can save ourselves! What it boils down to is this: We all must repent and change. And obviously, it’s not anywhere near as important where we started out--it’s where we end up that makes all the difference in the world.

Like the religionists of Jesus’ day, many of us have been raised in the right kinds of homes......many of us were brought up in the church.......many of us were confirmed when we were eleven or twelve.......many of us made a profession of faith and obedience...
...but were these professions similar to the profession of the son in Jesus’ parable who immediatley told his father he would go work in the vineyard...but did not go?.......or have we gone?  Many of us are like the first son, when asked if we would give our lives to Christ our answer was “I will not.” And in doing this, we may have gone off in all sorts of different directions......getting ourselves in all sorts of trouble.  Some of those who initially said, “I will not,” may have gotten so far involved in the destructive vices of
this world that they lost their sanity or even their lives before they were able to repent, change their minds, and
follow Christ.  We need to remember this.....None of us ever know when our time will be up.......when there will no longer be any second chances... Therefore as the Scripture says, “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”  Imagine getting to the end of life and saying: “Look at all the time I wasted. Look at all the opportunities I missed....Or even worse....
....imagine getting to the end of your life and saying: “I said no to Christ, but I did intend on giving my life to Him some day in the future....I just never got around to it.”

 Thank goodness that God gives us a choice....
...we have freedom of choice....
...we can choose....
...God offers us the free gift of salvation through faith in His Son Jesus Christ....
...we can take it or leave it...

...we can choose heaven or hell, paradise or torment...’s up to us.

We are all called by God to “go and work today in the vineyard.”

What say ye?

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Word Exchange

About The Book:  A dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange offers an inventive, suspenseful, and decidedly original vision of the dangers of technology and of the enduring power of the printed word.
In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange. 
Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . .Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague, Anana’s search for Doug will take her into dark basements and subterranean passageways; the stacks and reading rooms of the Mercantile Library; and secret meetings of the underground resistance, the Diachronic Society. As Anana penetrates the mystery of her father’s disappearance and a pandemic of decaying language called “word flu” spreads, The Word Exchange becomes a cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller and a meditation on the high cultural costs of digital technology.
About The Author:  Alena Graedon was born in Durham, NC, and is a graduate of Carolina Friends School, Brown University, and Columbia University’s MFA program. She was Manager of Membership and Literary Awards at the PEN American Center before leaving to finish The Word Exchange, her first novel, with the help of fellowships at several artist colonies. Her writing has been translated into nine languages. She lives in Brooklyn.
My Thoughts On The Book:  The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon was an amazing book.  It is written in 26 chapters each named for a letter of the alphabet.  The Word Exchange lis the kind of book that makes you think about our reliance on electronic devices.  As a teacher and a purist, one who loves to read the physical book and not choose e-formats, this book was a real eye-opener for me.  I had to stop and wonder what word would I miss most from the English language.  I grew up with a mother who made me use a dictionary to discover the world of words and I would miss this act terribly.  I love the smell of books and if given a choice will chose a "real" book over an electronic one anytime. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley, 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 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.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hey God! I NEED a Do-Over!

My Scripture Today Comes From Matthew 18:21-35

I have to be honest with you all…..There have been a few times in my life where I’ve wanted a do-over.
• The time I wrote an “anonymous” love note to a Harold Smith in junior high, only to have him figure it out and tell all of my classmates.  I could have died. 
• The time I locked my knees in my wedding ceremony and almost fainted.
• The time I wore heels for the first time and caught my choir robe on one and fell down three flights of stairs at church and landed right in front of a boy I was trying hard to impress.  Yeah…I impressed him alright!

These are just a few of my many embarrassing moments that I’d like to have a second chance at. But what about the more important times in our lives when we’ve messed up.  You know….
• Maybe someone has  fallen into an adulterous relationship, bringing disastrous consequences upon the family.
• Maybe someone broke promises to God that they would break a nasty habit.
• Maybe anger has gotten us into trouble again at work or at home.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just yell “do-over” and get a chance to do it again? If everything that happened in your life was written on a white board, wouldn’t it be great if you could just walk up and erase the board, and make it clean again?  Well guess what Midway….
I’ve got good news for you. My God specializes in do-overs.
• He can take a broken life and set it straight again.
• He can take a hopeless situation and infuse it with hope.
• He can offer perfect love and forgiveness to people who have broken their promises over and over.
• He is the God of the do-over.

No matter what has happened in your past, Jesus Christ can make you new – he can give you a do-over.  If you doubt it, listen again to Matthew 18:21-22…..these are scriptures that show us loud and clear…. God’s heart of forgiveness:
”Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”   Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Luke 17:3-5 tells us…..“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

I don’t know about you….but I find I must  chime in with the apostles, “Increase our faith!”   I absolutely cannot fathom that type of forgiveness. We can understand forgiving someone 7 times. But 77 times? Or 7 times in one day? Come on! But this is God’s heart. God heart is so wide and so loving that he can and does forgive everyone who comes to him asking for his forgiveness. And he doesn’t keep track of how many times it has happened, either.

If I were required to forgive someone multiple times in one day, I can tell you that by the end of the day I might be mouthing words of forgiveness, but my attitude would not be so great. The amazing thing about God is that even though he knows in the most intimate detail how we fail him – he is still so happy when we come back to him. How do we know this?

In Luke chapter 15, you can read 3 stories, placed back to back to back for emphasis, that communicate the grace-full heart of God. In stories about a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a wayward, rebellious child, there is one picture that stands out: the image of God as jumping-up-and-down-happy over the return of one of his children to his care.

Let me read the first 2 of those stories from the Bible:
Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Both of these stories end the same way: there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. I think that is true when they repent for the first time and submit their life to the Lordship of Jesus, but it is also true when a sinner repents for the 2nd or 4th or 15th or 100th time. That’s because God is a God of do-overs.

After these two stories about the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus goes into one of his more famous parables, hitting home the message that God is a god of do-overs in a powerful way. Over the years there have been many retellings of this parable, but my favorite is one I discovered in a wonderful book by Philip Yancey called “What’s So Amazing About Grace”. I’d like to share it with you now:

Read p 49-51 in the chapter “The Lovesick Father”
“Welcome home.” If you need a do-over for any reason in your life, you need to hear those words. “Welcome home.”

Is. 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.

Though the church in general is viewed as a judgmental place full of “holier than thou” hypocrites, here at Midway I have found that we welcome home anyone who needs a do-over. Welcome home.

If you are willing to repent – there is a do-over waiting for you. A fresh start. Yes, it’s true that there may still be consequences of sin from your past – but it need not control your future. You can be set free from having to stay in that place – you can start anew.  In this very room….at this very moment….there are people who have failed God and other people in many ways. But as a body of believers we have discovered that we can be made new in Jesus Christ.

The cost for such renewal is quite simple: humility. In order to experience a do-over and the new life that Jesus Christ can bring into your life, you will have to humbly admit you’ve messed things up. And then you’ve got to be willing to come back to his ways.

This can be a long journey for some or a quick step for others. But it is the key.  Is. 57:15 For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.  Need a do-over? There is no time like the present.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Christ-Centered Wedding

Product Details
About The Book: How Do I Keep the Focus Where It Belongs?  Wedding planning has spawned a major industry. The average cost of the occasion now exceeds $25,000, and societal pressure to create the “perfect day” is so strong that even Christian couples forget what God originally intended for the sacred marriage ceremony. While paying attention to the good fun that follows that special proposal (the dress, the flowers, the cake, the gatherings, etc.), A Christ-Centered Wedding first serves as a guide to believers who want their wedding to portray the relationship of Christ with the church and to reflect the gospel to all in attendance. From the start, this thoughtful book looks to the Creator of weddings for guidance in planning by emphasizing the sacrificial love of the Savior more than the modern world’s idealistic view of romantic love. There are chapters filled with practical information about everything from pre-marital counseling and choosing a wedding location to other resources like a planning checklist and timeline, music suggestions, guidance on potential issues of conflict, a listing of traditional financial responsibilities, sample vows, and other great ideas from couples who have successfully put together a Christ-centered wedding.
About The Authors:  Catherine Strode Parks writes from home in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, Erik, and their two young children. She is the co-author of A Christ-Centered Wedding (B&H) and blogs at  Linda Strode is a pastor's wife and has been involved in multiple aspects of wedding planning over the years.  She survived the bridesmaid fashion horrors of the 70's and 80's and has quite a few photo souvenirs to prove it.  Linda and her husband, Tom,  live in Fredricksburg, VA,
My Thoughts On The Book:  For my reader friends who know me, No! I am not planning my wedding and all my children are married.  As a pastor/pastor's wife I thought this book would be something good for our library.  As a pastor's wife I am occasionally asked to serve as the Wedding Director.  This is not a job I take lightly.  I want all my young couples to start out grounded in Christ. I desire for young couples to steer away from the glitz and glamour of the wedding ceremony towards God.  This book is a lifesaver.  I loved how the book was divided up into short, easy chapters covering everything there is to cover on a wedding.  The authors left no stone unturned.  When my daughter married she and her husband lived out this book.  I do not remember ever attending a more Christ-centered wedding in my life.  They made a commitment to Christ and have now followed it to the mission field, working in orphanages in Moldova.  The money you spend on a wedding does not matter....what does is the commitment to Christ the couples have.  I LOVED THIS BOOK!
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

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Here And Now

The Here and Now

About The Book:  An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.  This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.  Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking--and a must-read novel of the year.  "This gripping story is set in a world unlike any other and inhabited by beautifully imagined characters that stay with you long after the last page. As always, Brashares expertly captures the wonder of love’s enduring power.” – Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars
About The Author:  Ann Brashares is the bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants, Forever in Blue, The Last Summer (of You and Me), and My Name is Memory.
My Thoughts On The Book:  I have read many of Ann Brashares books.  I teach high school and have recommended many of them to my student readers with no problem.  I wish I could say the same about this book.  It was all I could do to finish it!  I had to look several times to make sure this WAS EVEN an Ann Brashares book.  When I read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants I felt as if I knew everyone of the characters personally.  I did not feel that way this time.  The characters to me were boring...plain and simple.  I enjoy reading time travel books.  I am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series....but  just could not sink my teeth into this one.  I did loan it to one of my avid student readers so we could discuss the book and we both agreed after reading that there was nothing to really discuss.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley Publicity Group  in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you for allowing me this opportunity.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New England's Scariest Stories and Urban Legends

New England's Scariest Stories and  Urban Legends

About the Book:  Journey through New England’s darkest places and read 22 of its scariest stories and urban legends. Explore mysterious cryptids like the Dover Demon, Pigman, the Sea Serpent of Gloucester, the Dublin Lake Monster, and the Derry Fairy. Meet Champ, the legendary lake monster of Lake Champlain, and a fisherman who found himself thirty feet from the beast. See the grave of Midnight Mary and the Desert of Maine, and judge for yourself if their curses are real. Try to walk with the Leather Man and wonder why he chooses to walk alone. Visit The House of the Seven Gables and The Shunned House, both famous in literature, and learn of ghosts that still linger there. Cross Emily’s Bridge in Vermont, creep over the alleged vampire Mercy Brown’s grave in Rhode Island, and more. New England promises to scare you!
About The Author(s)/Illustrator:  Cathy McManus is a lifelong Mainer. When not busy working as a computer technician; she spends much of her free time wandering cemeteries and old houses throughout New England. She's an avid researcher and photographer. Summer Paradis is a native New Englander. When not working in the paranormal, she is employed as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist.  Wayne Bud Ridsdel has had a passion for art since he was a child, He completed seven years of study at Wakefield Art College in Yorkshire, UK. His career has been diverse and he has held positions in advertising design, point of sale advertising, print and graphic design.
My Thoughts On This Book:  As a fan of folklorist, Kathryn Tucker Windham and her 13 Ghosts series I thought this would be something along that line.  I enjoyed the stories for the most part.  I did not enjoy the way the book was put together.  It seemed like it was just thrown together.  I love to plan trips around odd things of interest.  My daughter and I have visited a few of these New England sites and really enjoyed ourselves so I was hoping for something more.  It was a good read, but not one that left me sitting on the edge of my seat.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley Publicity Group and Schiffer Publishing,  in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you for allowing me this opportunity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Hodge Podging

Happy Hodgepodge! It's a big day in the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Come and join in with us by hopping over to Joyce's blog and linking up after you share your answers to her questions.

 1. On Thursday we pause to remember a dark day in history-9/11. Will you mark it in some special way?  I have a special Bell Ringer assignment for my Spanish classes on 9/11.  I will prayer for the families of the ones who did not survive.  This time of year always makes me a little sadder because life as we knew it ceased to exist. 

2. Do you ever/still...listen to an actual radio? Watch a videotape (VCR)? Look up a number in a telephone book? Refer to an actual paper map while traveling? Set an alarm on an alarm clock as opposed to your phone?
 I love listening to the radio especially when I am cleaning house.  I do still look up numbers in a phone book.  I set an actual alarm clock each night and never travel without my map....even though we use GPS.  I don't trust it 100%.  I still have VCR tapes to watch. 

3. Is it ever a good idea to discuss religion and politics with people you don't know?

I check out the emotional stability of the crowd first....but as a rule I do not.

4. What's a dish you haven't eaten all summer, but come September find yourself craving? Have you made it yet this month?

I am with Joyce and have to say Chili.  I never make or eat chili in the summertime, but come September and football season and the slow fade to fall, I crave chili. Haven't made it yet, but I will before September is over. I also want some potato soup and good old fashioned vegetable soup.  I love the foods of fall.

5. What's something you know nothing about?
Rocket science!

6. September is Classical Music Month? Do you like classical music? If so, what's your favorite piece?

I love classical music.  My favorites are:  Canon in D and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy....the Wedding March would be another. 

7. What's the oldest thing you own?

Frank's great grandmother's earrings and my grandfathers tater bug mandolin.. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

God Bless You All and have a wonderful hump day!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Home to Chicory Lane

Home to Chicory Lane

About The Book:  Audrey Whitman’s dreams are coming true. Now that their five kids are grown, she and her husband Grant are turning their beloved family home into a cozy bed and breakfast, just a mile outside of Langhorne, Missouri. Opening weekend makes Audrey anxious, with family and friends coming from all over to help celebrate the occasion. But when Audrey’s daughter, Landyn, arrives, the U-Haul she’s pulling makes it clear she’s not just here for a few days. Audrey immediately has questions. What happened in New York that sent Landyn running home? Where was Landyn’s husband, Cory? And what else was her daughter not telling her? One thing was for sure, the Chicory Inn was off to a rocky start. Can Audrey still realize her dream and at the same time provide the comfort of home her daughter so desperately needs?
About The Author:  Deborah Raney’s books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas—the setting of many of Deborah’s novels—for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deborah on the web at
My Thoughts About The Book:  It was a lovely rainy day when I picked this book up to read and I was hooked from the start.  I loved the setting, the characters, the was a great book.  I have read Deborah Raney before and was very impressed with her ability to develop her characters.  She did not let me down this time.  This book was spot on.  I cannot wait to read the second book in the series. 
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse and their Blogger Program and Net,  in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Thank you for allowing me this opportunity.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Happy Birthday Jeni!

Today is my oldest daughter, Jenifer's birthday.  I decided to write a poem for her, but could not seem to come up with the words to express what I wanted to say.  I found this poem and adapted it to fit our relationship.  I hope her day was an amazing one.  I think she is pretty amazing herself.

Our wedding day.  Jeni is the precious little blonde to my right.  Her brother Eric is to my left.  Are they not precious?
I never wanted to take your mother place,
I just wanted to be your Friend,
Someone you might talk too and a shoulder
for you to cry on,
You could and can always count on me to give a helping hand,
As a mom/stepmom I loved you like my own,
We did not choose each other,
But we were chosen by love.
Through bad times as well as the good times,
I have always thought of you as my daughter,
Love is not lodged within the flesh and bone,
But grew from within my heart,
I know we got off to a rough start,
But as the years went by we learned to trust
and love each other,
You will always have a special place in  my heart,
I have watched you grow into a beautiful woman,
mother and wife and this make me proud to be
your mom/stepmom.
As you grow in your life,
I wish you love, laughter, happiness and peace,
May God walk with you till the end,
Your always in my prayers,
I'm always here for you,
love always, Mom

Jenifer and Kat in Florida

Eric, Kat and Jeni at the Grand Canyon

Kat and Jeni at Christmas.  "Sisters, Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters..."


Scripture today is from Matthew 18:15-20

My sermon is called….. “Forgiveness?”

Grace, peace, love and forgiveness are yours through Jesus Christ, our living and reigning God. Amen.

Have you ever heard someone, perhaps another pastor, one of your Sunday School teachers, or maybe me, talk about the Mysteries of the Church?  Usually when we think of the Mysteries of the Church, we think about things like:

The Immaculate Conception – How could Jesus really be born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit?

The Sacrament of Holy Communion – How does that bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus Christ?

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism – How, with only water and the Word, can faith be given, even to a tiny infant?

The Resurrection – How could Jesus die, be buried, and yet be alive three days later, be risen from the dead?

But you know there are many other unknowns throughout the Bible that might be called mysteries. Have you ever asked yourself…

· How did Noah get all those animals on the Ark?

· How did the water of the Nile become blood?

· How did the Red Sea part allowing the Israelites to cross on dry land?

· How did the millions of people and animals survive for 40 years wandering in the desert on their way to the Promised Land?

· How did Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego survive in that fiery furnace?  That list could go on and on.

These mysteries, these unknowns, these profoundly non-intellectually understood stories, which reveal the power, the might, the awesomeness of our Creator.  But Wait!  Then there are the accounts of the miracles of Jesus.

· Healing the sick.

· Giving sight to the blind.

· Making the lame to walk.

· Feeding over 5000 people with just five loaves of bread and two small fish.

· Driving out demons.

· Walking on water.

· Raising people from the dead.

These mysteries of the Church, these mysteries of the Bible, these mysteries of the life of Christ are innumerable.

Today, I want to talk about a different mystery. It’s probably the mystery that confounds me more than any other, perhaps because it’s a mystery that affects me more personally than any of the others.  That’s the mystery of forgiveness. If you followed along with the scripture lesson for this morning, you might think that the message for this morning should be more along the line of confrontation than forgiveness.  In the Ezekiel 3: 16-20  we find, the prophet Ezekiel picking up on a theme that was established early on in his days as a prophet. That is, that he has been appointed by God to be a watchman. He has been given a gift by the Lord to talk to the people of Israel. The people that he is addressing are his fellow captives in Babylonia. You have to understand that Ezekiel is a lot like the prophet Jeremiah. What he had to say to the people was not what they necessarily wanted to hear.   But that’s where his title of watchman comes into play.

I grew up in South Florida and back in the 1960’s we had, in our county, a Department of Civil Defense, perhaps a forerunner to the Department of Homeland Security. My next door neighbor was the head of the Civil Defense team for West Palm Beach, Florida. (That’s because he had been in the military and still owned a uniform that fit.)  On top of the fire station in our town, there was an air-raid warning siren. It was there to notify the town if we were under attack by incoming nuclear missiles. It also warned us of tornados and other weather related dangers.

In the old days, back in Jesus day and before, prior to things such as “early warning radar” and NORAD and satellites, the way that towns and cities would protect themselves was by erecting a wall around the outside of the city. That was great, but they still needed to have someone to keep an eye out just in case the enemy decided to attack. That job of course was given to the watchman. It was the most important job in town. This watchman had in his control, the life and death of the people of the city.  If he did his job, the people could be prepared. They could be prepared to fight, to put up resistance.  They could perhaps overcome their foes. But, if he were to decide to take a little nap, if he decided to sneak away and take a day off, or if he decided that the threats were probably more perceived than real so that he would ignore the movements in the bushes….well, then the city could be overrun and the people could all be killed.  Now, Ezekiel the prophet wasn’t posted up on a wall looking down on the Israelites warning of the enemies that were coming from the outside, although there were real, live, threats from invading forces. Ezekiel had an even tougher assignment. He was to warn the people of Israel of the enemies attacking from within. He was God’s own messenger to the people and he was commanded to tell the people that what they were doing was not pleasing in the eyes of the Lord! In today’s lesson, we hear of an added little bonus for Ezekiel, the watchman. He is told, in no uncertain terms, that if he fails to warn the people adequately, he will be held responsible. He also gets to inform the people that if he tells them of their sin and they do not repent, they are going to die, but he will be saved.  That’s supposed to be the good news portion…and it is, for Ezekiel …but when you have to tell people something like that….well, it doesn’t make it any easier.  So, we move from the OT to the Gospel.

Loud cheers…..yeah….yeah…..away from that awful Law and now for the good news!!!!!  And we read the words of Jesus, talking about how to confront our brother if he sins against you.  Why do we have to bother with this? I mean, after all, if the guy is out there sinning against me by thought word or deed….he probably deserves whatever punishment he’s going to get anyway right?!  And further more, if he’s out there sinning against me, maybe I ought to be doing some confronting!  Maybe the guy needs to hear a few words from me. And I’m just the guy who can do it!!!!!  In our sinful world, this far too often becomes our attitude.  We love to, once again, be selective listeners or selective readers or hearers of the Words of Holy Scripture. You see, this is the way most of us would like to read the opening lines of this text: Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault. Period.” Far to often, I hear people almost enjoying, feeling superior, by pointing out the faults and the sins of others.   And you know what my first reaction is when I hear that: I hit them with a Bible verse: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  And when I do that, I am no better than them.  What Jesus was talking about in that “sawdust” verse is hypocrisy.   You know people just love to use the Bible to try and make a point and to try to beat someone into submission with words of Holy Scripture.  How hypocritical is it for me to use Jesus’ words if I don’t read all of what he says. Because if you continue on in the Gospel text it says: “go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  You see, the whole point of this confrontation is not to belittle. It’s not to judge. It’s not to turn away. It’s to turn the person back to God. It’s to bring the person back into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The same way that Ezekiel was serving as a watchman, warning the Israelites of their sins against God and urging, pleading, begging them to repent, that is how we are to go to our brothers who have sinned against us.  Not trying to create a crevice. Not trying to drive a wedge. Not going after them with a vengeance, but approaching them in love.  That’s right love.  Just a little side note. You think it’s odd that we talk about confronting a brother in love, or loving our enemies. Look at today’s Epistle lesson. The apostle Paul takes on two subjects that have created more rancor throughout the ages than just about everything but religion…..government and taxes.  Note his final words in dealing with these touchy subjects. Love.  Brothers and sisters in Christ. God is Love.  Do you think that Ezekiel enjoyed going and telling his brothers that they had to mend their ways? That they had to change their way of thinking and living and acting and turn back to God?  NO! and to make matters worse….He was scorned.  Do you think it’s easy to confront someone these days with their sins?   But it is a necessity. People need to hear about sin. People need to hear about their sin.  This is not to say that you follow along behind your brother or sister or husband or wife or son or daughter and continually point out every mistake they make and say, “just wanted to let you know you’re a sinner.”

What it does mean is that if someone is sinning grievously and is unrepentant, they should be confronted.  Once again, not to push them out the door, but to show them the door is wide open.  When Jesus died on the cross he carried on his shoulders the sins of all humanity. Yours, mine, theirs. ALL of the sins, of all the world were ransomed in that one sacrifice. They were paid for.  Do people need to know, do people need to hear that they are sinners? Yes.   But they also need to hear the loving words of forgiveness. They need to know that no matter how bad society thinks they are, no matter how bad they think they are, God loves them.

And He’s already proven it by sending His Son to die for them. I told you earlier that I was going to talk about mysteries and I have to be honest….The biggest mystery in my life I is understanding how this God that reigns in the heavens above…This God that created life… This God that formed the mountains and the rivers and the oceans and the stars and the planets… This God that has His hand in everything that happens in this entire universe, in this planet, in this country, and in this state, also has me.  He holds me in the palm of His great and wonderful hand and promises me that I am forgiven.  He promises me that I am His child.  I don’t understand it. I can’t intellectually figure it out. All I can do is relish it. All I can do is fall on my knees and be grateful for it. All I can do is love and give thanks and praise to Him who loved me first.  Where I grew up there was a bumper sticker that said, “Mi Casa es Su Casa”. It means my house is your house.  If I were going to have a bumper sticker on my car now, it would read: “Mi pardon es Su pardon.” It would mean, “My forgiveness is your forgiveness.”  We say it every Sunday…. “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  When we forgive others as Christ has forgiven us, we show the love of God and strengthen our faith.