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, June 30, 2015

A Heart's Betrayal

About The Book:  A Heart's Betrayal (Thomas Nelson, June 2015)  Emmie finds shelter in the arms of a soldier, but her secret could drive them apart.  When Emmie Croftner answered the door to her late husband's home, she discovered an awful truth: her deceased husband was a bigamist. And what's more, the home she thought she inherited never belonged to her at all.  Suddenly displaced, powerless, and ashamed, Emmie can't stay in Wabash, Indiana. She makes a hopeful start for Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to find her friend Sarah Montgomery and a new beginning. But when she arrives, she discovers she's pregnant---and without a husband. The new start she'd hoped for slips from her fingers.
But then she meets Isaac Liddle, a handsome soldier with a kind heart. When he begins to court her, Emmie wonders whether she could ever really be his---and whether she dares to tell him she is carrying another man's baby. 
Purchase a copy:
About The Author: Colleen Coble has sold over 2 million novels worldwide. Seagrass Pier, the third installment in her acclaimed Hope Beach series, marks a new highpoint for emotion and complexity in Coble's addictive brand of romantic suspense.  Find Colleen online: website, Facebook, Twitter
My Thoughts On The Book:  I am a huge fan of Colleen Coble.  I have read every book so far in this series and loved them.  This one was one of my favorites.  My heart bled for Emmie and life smacked her right in the face.  I felt as if I knew her personally.  Coble is great at character development and she does not disappoint in this continuing story.  The only problem I have encountered in this Journey of the Heart series is that the books are too short.  I would love to see most pages.  It reads more like a novella and can be easily read from start to finish in a short period of time.   
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from Litfuse and  NetGalley as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. 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, June 29, 2015

The Sound Of Glass

The Sound of Glass

About The Book:  The New York Times bestselling author of A Long Time Gone now explores a Southern family’s buried history, which will change the life of the woman who unearths it, secret by shattering secret.  It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.  Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.  Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.
About The Author: Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of eighteen novels including A Long Time Gone, The Time Between, After the Rain, and Sea Change. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband and two children near Atlanta, Georgia. 
My Thoughts On The Book:  I love visiting the lowcountry in South Carolina, whether it is in person or within the pages of a good book. I like reading Karen White and think she is an amazingly talented author.  The book was long, so it could not be read in one sitting,  but it did not disappoint. I loved the two main characters and their stories.  This is a good summer read and great for the beach! 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from NetGalley  and Penguin Group as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. 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, June 28, 2015

Touch of the Master's Hand

My scripture today comes from Luke 8:40-50 and Mark 5:21-5:32

Today we are going to talk about The Master’s Touch

Don’t you hate it when you see a sign that says “don’t touch”?  Aren’t you glad that God never has that attitude toward how He treats us? He created each of us with the need to touch…to be touched. It is probably not a coincidence that one of the most popular programs on television used to be “Touched By An Angel”.  I loved that show.  However, our text today talks about two people who were touched by God. It is interesting how the Holy Spirit intertwines two stories – at either end of the social spectrum to teach us an important lesson about “touch”.

Let’s read the passages together: Luke 8:40-50 and Mark 5:21-32.

The Master’s Touch – the touch of Jesus.  Two ends of the spectrum. A young preacher’s kid from the upper end of society and a poor, outcast woman from the “other end”.  Yet Jesus touched them both, it did not matter.  The Touch of the Masters Hand-Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, but held it up with a smile; "What am I bidden, good folks," he cried, "Who'll start the bidding for me?" "A dollar, a dollar"; then two!" "Only two? Two dollars, and who'll make it three? Three dollars, once; three dollars twice; going for three.." But no, from the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loose strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as caroling angel sings.


 The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low, said; "What am I bid for the old violin?" And he held it up with the bow. A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two? Two thousand! And who'll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, and going and gone," said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, "We do not quite understand what changed its worth." Swift came the reply: "The touch of a master's hand." And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin, Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin, A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine; a game - and he travels on. "He is going" once, and "going twice, He's going and almost gone." But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that's wrought by the touch of the Master's Hand.

I want to share with you this morning several simply, yet profound truths from these two intertwined events. Truths about the touch of the Master’s Hand.  Truth #1: People need to be touched!  It would be very easy to make light of “touch”. I’m not simply talking about physical touch either though medical science tells us that physical touch is a basic need. I’m told that new born babies who are left untouched will begin to wither away physically. The very act of touch can stimulate healing in the human body in some cases. But the kind of touch we’re focusing on today goes beyond the issue of physical touch – to the touch of God.


The leader of the Synagogue understood that ultimately it was only the touch of Jesus that would bring healing to his daughter. He intervened on behalf of someone who could not at the moment help herself.  I’m sure Jairus had called in the best physician in all of Galilee too look at his daughter. He might have even turned to the Romans who headquartered there in Capernaum. In the end he realized only the touch of Jesus could bring healing.

The woman realized herself that she needed the touch of Jesus. She had come to the end of her financial abilities. The Bible tells us she had been through any and every kind of treatment imaginable – exhausted all of her financial resources and was not only still hemorrhaging – but was probably reduced to a beggar as well.  She knew that if she could just touch Jesus…she would be healed.  In both cases there was a realization that in and of themselves – they weren’t enough.  Not many of us here this morning are suffering physically like the woman and the young girl – but we still need the touch of God.

Maybe you’re here this morning and it’s not your body that’s hemorrhaging, but your family relationships. Maybe it’s not your little girl that lies at the point of death – it’s your soul/spirit – your desire to keep going through the situation you find life in this week.  We still need the touch of Jesus, the touch of God.

The second truth we need to understand is that Jesus wants to touch people.

It has not been an easy day for either Jesus or the disciples. On the other side of the lake Jesus had delivered a demon-possessed man from 2000 demons. Maybe you remember the story from your studies in the Bible. Jesus had met a man who lived in caves and graves. Most of the time he ran around naked, beating and cutting himself with sticks and frightening the people of the region. When he was caught and chained up – he would simply break free of the chains. When Jesus met the man – he cast out the demons and gave the man a new life.  If you remember when he cast out the demons, the demons went into a herd of pigs that ran over a cliff into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. When the towns people heard what had happened – instead of rejoicing that the mad-man was sane and cured – they got mad because they had lost all the pigs.  They asked Jesus to leave…to them pigs were obviously more important than people. So, Jesus and the disciples got into a boat and rowed across the lake back to Capernaum. Getting chased out of town – rowing across a large lake and finally assuming they were going back to Peter’s home to some much needed rest…

Then the crowd showed up. The leaders of the synagogue along with the people of Capernaum waiting to see what Jesus would do. For most of us it might have been easy to say – OK, come see me tomorrow…maybe after the holidays. Can’t you see I’m weary…I’m busy. I don’t have time right now to touch anyone else. You people just don’t understand my situation. How can you expect me to go and touch someone else! But they did – and so did Jesus. There was never a thought, never a hesitation. Jesus simply went.  Why? because Jesus came to touch people.  Jesus said, “And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.” Luke 19:10.  Jesus wants to touch people.  Jesus made himself totally available to touch others.


When I first starting studying these passages my thought was “but each of these people took the initiative to come to Jesus”

But that’s not true – Jesus took the initiative to come from heaven in search of you and me. He took the initiative to take on a human form that could actually touch his creation.  They may have reached out to Jesus, but he made himself available to be reached!  Jesus wants to touch people.

This morning if you are here in need of a fresh touch from Jesus – all you have to do is open yourself to His touch. In the case of the synagogue leader – he brought Jesus into the needs of his family. He opened himself and his home to Jesus and His healing touch.

In the case of the woman – she was willing to do whatever it took to get past the push of the crowd to touch Jesus.

By the way – what’s blocking you from the touch of Jesus this morning? Maybe instead of a crowd of people – it is your finances, or pride, or shame. What’s keeping you from reaching out to Jesus?  Jesus wants to touch people.

The final truth this morning is that Jesus wants to touch people by using you and me!  It appears to me that the woman with the hemorrhage would never have made it to Jesus if the crowd had had its way.  They totally neglected this woman. They couldn’t have cared less.  There is another story in the Gospels (Mark chapter 2) where there was a crowd so large that several men could not get a sick man to Jesus. But instead of letting the crowd discourage them – these four friends climbed on the roof, tore a hole in the ceiling and lowered the sick friend to Jesus. Unlike the crowd that was a hindrance to the woman – these four guys wouldn’t let anything get in the way of bringing their friend to Jesus.  Jesus wants to touch people by using you and me.  He doesn’t want us to be the crowd in the way – it wants us to be the friends on the roof!  Jairus understood that if his daughter was to be healed – he would have to bring Jesus to her.

Church, we have a community that’s sick and in need of Jesus. Many of them don’t even understand their condition apart from God. Yet they need His touch whether they realize their need or not. And God has chosen us to bring His touch! The Master’s touch!  People need to be touched.  Jesus wants to touch people.  Jesus wants to touch people by using you and me.  So….are you willing to reach out and touch someone this morning?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reach Out And Touch Lesson for Children

Object:A bag of objects for the children to identify by touch. Examples: A rock, a baseball, a balloon, a pencil.
Scripture:When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. Mark 5:27-29 (NIV)
As you may know, we have five senses. The five senses are sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Each of these senses is very important to us. This morning we are going to test our sense of touch and discover the power that is ours in the sense of touch.  I have a bag full of different objects. I will ask one of you to close your eyes and I will hand you one of the objects. Without looking, you must to tell me what the object is just by touching it.  (After several minutes of allowing the children to identify various objects by touch, continue with the sermon.)
The sense of touch is very important, isn't it? We can often tell what an object is by its size, shape, and texture -- all of which can be learned by using our sense of touch. This morning I want to tell you about a woman who experienced the power of Jesus -- just by touching him.
One day Jesus was walking through a large crowd of people. The people were crowding around so that he could hardly move. There was a woman in the crowd who had a very bad sore that had been bleeding for twelve years. She had been to many doctors, but none had been able to help her. She had heard about Jesus and she believed that he could heal her, but there were so many who were people crowded around him that it seemed hopeless.
The woman thought to herself, "If I could just get close enough to touch his robe, I would be healed." So she pushed through the crowd and reached out and touched Jesus' clothes. Her bleeding stopped immediately and her suffering was ended.
The Bible tells us that as soon as the woman touched him, Jesus felt the power go out of him. He turned to the woman and said, "Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be free from your suffering."
Won't you reach out to Jesus today? If you will, you too can feel his power in your life today.
Dear Jesus, we long to reach out and touch you and to feel your power in our life. Amen.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Big House On Adams Street

About The Book:  With a heart full of cheer and hope, Fritz – a young, wealthy German – decides to go to America and build a community that will help people in need. With the completion of a beautiful, spacious, house, Fritz is witness to a series of unexpected events that bring together a cast of unlikely characters. Come journey with Fritz as he tries to complete a dream that will take your heart through a wondrous adventure of humanity.
About The Author:  Alberta Sparks is a pastor's wife. She wrote Sunday school curricula for children for eleven years and for twenty years was an associate editor for the Wesleyan Advocate. She wrote a series of missionary biographies for children, two fiction books for children, a history of her denomination's orphanage, and a Christian romance novel.
My Thoughts On The Book:  I was excited to read this book since Alberta Sparks was a pastor's wife.  I felt a connection and thought I would give her book a try.  I was disappointed because for me the book was very disjointed.  The stories did not seem fully developed and left the reader feeling a sad sense of incompleteness. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from Book Look Bloggers as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. 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, June 25, 2015

How To Catch A Prince

About The Book:  Prince Stephen came to America to escape responsibility. But what he found complicates his life more than ever.
Corina Del Rey is happy with her life in Melbourne, Florida. She spends her days engrossed in her career as a journalist and has her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder-if for no other reason, to distract herself from her dissolving family. But when she is confronted with the past she fought so hard to put behind her, she struggles to make sense of her future.
Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom has moved on since the tragic death of his buddies in Afghanistan. A star professional rugby player, he has no intention of looking over his shoulder at what could've been.  But when a notice arrives in the mail requiring his and his wife's appearance before the courts to dissolve their marriage, he must deal with the questions rumbling around in his heart. He thought his marriage had been annulled long ago, but his memories of Corina Del Rey remain close. Does he still love her? Can he even find her? Above all, can he tell her the truth about that fateful night in Afghanistan seven years ago? If he does, he might really lose her forever.
About the Author:  RITA Finalist and Carol Award winner *Rachel Hauck *was recently chosen by Family Fiction readers as one of the top five romance authors in CBA. She has written more than fifteen novels, including the acclaimed Songbird novels with multi-platinum country singer Sara Evans. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband, and writes from her ivory tower (her office really is in a tower—and it’s painted ivory!).
My Thoughts On The Book:  It is a beautiful story by an exceptional writer.  I think this is my favorite Rachel Hauck story to date.  From the outside cover to the inside story this is a book you cannot put down once you pick it up and start reading.  The characters are human and well developed.  These characters feel like your next door neighbor....if you are royalty.  GREAT STORY and a must read!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from Book   as part of their Book Look Bloggers Review Blogger Programs. 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, June 24, 2015

Hodge Podging Wednesday

I did not know til this morning that Hodgepodge is so a verb. Thank you Joyce for that piece of trivia I can file in the trivia portion of my brain's file cabinet.  Welcome to your mid-week fun in the form of a Wednesday random. Newcomers are always welcome to join in, but please don't link unless you've actually answered the questions. Hop over to Joyce's blog by clicking here.  Do hop over and say hi at least to the blogger who linked before you, because we're friendly here on this side of the pond.

1. June 23rd is National Pink Day. What's your favorite something pink?  I don't wear pink as a rule.  I have a bright pink T-shirt from St. Augustine that my friends Deborah and Jill brought back from the beach and gave me for my birthday.  I love I!  I also love pink roses and Gerber Daisies. 
 2. What did you enjoy most about gym class when you were in school? How about the least?
I was not a huge fan of gym class.  I loved it when we played with the medicine ball, played volleyball, and did square dancing.   As far as least favorite? How about the whole showering at school in the middle of the day nonsense, or sometimes almost right after getting to school if you were unlucky enough to have gym first period? Do p.e. teachers still stand at the shower door with a clipboard and check off your name after a shower? I actually took an F in junior high because I would not shower with the teacher standing there.  I had p.e. last period...dressed, walked home, and showered at the house.  I hated the uniforms we wore, and the Presidents physical fitness things...I had double jointed wrists and could not do the activities the normal way.
3. What memory is brought to mind by the smell of roses?
My mom had roses and they were mom has been dead for a while and when I smell roses I feel she is present.

 4. Do you prefer to read or write? 

 5. Sam Keen is quoted as saying, 'Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.' Would you agree? Is laziness ever respectable? How will you be lazy this summer? 

I don't see summer as a time of lazy....I garden, I take summer classes to get CEU's for school.  Occasionally I take a lazy Saturday....and read, paint....nothing strenuous.   It is summer....I am in the Smokies....I am being lazy......not making my bed....not cooking....sitting a visiting.
6. The Florida Keys, Disney World, or a resort somewhere on the Gulf Coast...which Florida destination would you choose (and why) if the trip were today?
Yes.....I love the Keys....I love the Gulf Coast....Disney is fun....but I would choose the Keys or the Gulf Coast....right now.  I would leave from the Smokies and go straight there. 
7. What's a question you hate to answer?  When someone calls me on my house phone and asks me, "Are you home?"  Hello!  This is a land line....not a cell phone.
8. Insert your own random thought here.  I love the Smokies, my favorite place in the world is Cades Cove. Have you ever been to the Smokies?  What is your favorite place?

Love Arrives In Pieces

About The Book:  Love Arrives in Pieces (Zondervan, June 2015)
For so long, Stella was known for her beauty. Now, with her heart stripped bare, she must discover who she really is.  Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn't trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to brokenness, so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but she always falls short. So she keeps her passion for art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn't get another job soon, she'll be stuck living with her parents. 
Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancĂ©e. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he'll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town's old theater and is shocked to discover that the designer for the project is his old flame, Stella.  Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and past as they struggle to compromise and work together on a vision for the theater. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness---and their unresolved feelings for each other-until Chase discovers the hidden parts of Stella, while losing her trust in the process.  A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice---to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from their brokenness. Purchase a copy:
About The Author:  Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana with her young daughter and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she's not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.
Find Betsy online: website, Facebook
My Thoughts On The Book:  I loved the concept of making something that was devastated into a thing of beauty.  The book was filled with beauty.  The symbolism in the book was profound.  I hated that I had not read the first book in the series because it took me a while to figure out who Kat and Lucas were and what impact they had on the new characters, Stella and Chase.  I found the book a bit repetitive and lost interest occasionally but overall this book was good and solid.  I would love to read the next book now that I have figured out some of the ins and outs of the characters. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from Litfuse, Zondervan, and  NetGalley as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. 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!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer's List

About The Book:  Summer's List (River North, June 2015).  A dying wish alters the course of a young woman's life.  Life hadn't been easy for Summer Snow. In acts of selflessness---caring for her ailing parents and running her grandmother's bookstore---she had forfeited her youth and dreams for the needs of others. And the only tries she had at love . . . didn't turn out. She had the bookstore, she had her beloved granny, but she was missing something---or someone.  Opportunity strikes when Granny sends Summer on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree, a kind but gangly young man from Summer's past. A childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?  Purchase a copy:
About The Author:  Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She's been a Barnes & Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.  Find Anita online: website, Twitter, Facebook
My Thoughts On The Book:  This one leaves me feeling confused.  I am not sure if I can give an accurate description of this book.  Part of it was interesting....part of it was not.  I did not really care for the stiffness of the dialogue.  I was disappointed in the book.  I am glad this as given to me to review and I did not spend money on it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from Litfuse and  NetGalley as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. 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!


Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Today is Kat's 35th birthday.  When I spoke to her earlier she informed me that she is closer to 40  than she has ever been.  I had to stifle a laugh.  Being close to 40 is funny to someone who is over 60.  I can remember this day as if it was just yesterday....instead of 35 years ago.  Every time I am in a waiting room waiting for a baby to be born I relive this day.  It was the best day of my life.  Her whole life has been a blessing to me and to those she came into contact with.  There is no other way to say it....and not just because she is mine....she has always been a joy!  This is not her first birthday away from me....but it is the first since she because a resident of Moldova.  She and her husband Brian are in Moldova doing what they do best....loving others.  My heart swells with pride because of their life choice.  So, with the distance great....her godparents and I went out to eat in her honor at Wasabi's.  Happy Birthday Baby Girl!  I can't wait to see you in Sept.  Enjoy yourself and your day. Love you to the moon and back!

Two Roads Home: A Chicory Inn Novel - Book 2 Review

About The Book:  Two Roads Home (Abingdon Press, June 2015)  What if it's too late for dreams to come true?  Minor---but-nagging setbacks continue to sour Grant and Audrey Whitman's initiation into the world of innkeeping, but larger challenges brew when an innocent flirtation leads to big trouble for the Whitmans' son-in-law, Jesse. Jesse Pennington's friendly, outgoing personality has always served him well, especially in a career that has earned him and his wife Corinne a very comfortable lifestyle. But Corinne and Jesse are both restless---and for similar reasons, if only they could share those with each other. Instead, too many business trips and trumped-up charges of harassment from a disgruntled coworker threaten their marriage and possibly put their three precious daughters at risk.  With their life in disarray, God is tugging at their hearts to pursue other dreams. Can Corinne and Jesse pick up the pieces of what was once a wonderful life before it all crumbles beneath them?  Purchase a copy:
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.  Find Deborah online: website, Twitter, Facebook
My Thoughts On The Book: I picked this book from the publisher when I got the email because I love reading Deborah Raney and I love books about Inns set somewhere I would love to travel.   I could not wait to read the book and I wanted uninterrupted time, so I let a few hours pass...waiting for that perfect moment to sit down.  The characters felt as if they were people I actually knew and their problems were some everybody can relate to.  This story was not a could not put it down kind of story, but I enjoyed my time spent with this family.  Raney always does a great job humanizing her characters and drawing her readers in.  This is a good read for the summer. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from Litfuse and  NetGalley as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. 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, June 22, 2015

The Unlikely Lady

About The Book:  Certain that no man wants a bluestocking for a wife, Miss Jane Lowndes is careful to wield her books and her spectacles as weapons against matrimony. Convincing her ambitious mama that she's content to stay a spinster is easier said than done, however. It's a good thing Jane is not above a bit of manufactured scandal if it will keep her from the altar, and the argumentative, contrary Lord Garrett Upton… ROMANCE IS NEVER BY THE BOOK.  With the war over, Garrett is determined to enjoy his bachelor's life while he can, even when it means attending a house party in celebration of a friend's wedding--and suffering Jane's notorious disdain. But when a masquerade ball leads to a mistaken kiss, he's surprised to learn that Jane's bookish exterior hides a truly passionate soul. When two such headstrong people are determined to remain unattached, can love lead to a happy ending?
About The Author:  Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels aka Racy Regency Romps!?Valerie's debut, SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT, the first in the Secret Brides series from St. Martin's Press, was nominated by RT Book Reviews for Best Debut Historical for 2012!?SECRETS OF A RUNAWAY BRIDE was named a 4.5 star TOP PICK! by RT Book Reviews. It's been called "Too Delightful Too Miss!" by New York Times bestselling author, Lisa Kleypas, and New York Times bestselling historical romance author Sarah MacLean says it's, "Everything a romance should be--sexy, quirky, fun...once you start reading, you won't be able to stop!"?  Valerie has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in history from Smith College. By day, she is a technical editor at a computer software company. By night, she combines her love of writing, history, and romance to craft stories about people falling in love.  Originally from Rantoul, Illinois, Valerie lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her family including her rascally rescue dog, Roo. When she's not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV or PBS.
My Thoughts On The Book: I have never read anything by Valerie Bowman, but I will read her again.  She is amazing. She is the kind of author that draws you into the book before you realize what has happened.  The romance in the story was  sweet. The characters were life like.  From start to finish I could not put it down and cannot wait for another.  Great read, Great author!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from NetGalley as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. 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, June 21, 2015

The Many Faces of a Father

Father's Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. Many countries celebrate it on the third Sunday of June, though it is also celebrated widely on other days by many other countries. 
In 1910, a Father's Day celebration was held in Spokane, Washington, at the YMCA by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis' Mother's Day in 1909 at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on 19 June 1910, the first Father's Day, "sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city."  However, in the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying in the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity, even in Spokane. In the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers. By 1938 she had the help of the Father's Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion. Americans resisted the holiday for its first few decades, viewing it as nothing more than an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. However, said merchants remained resilient and even incorporated these attacks into their advertisements. By the mid-1980s, the Father's Council wrote that "(...) [Father's Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men's gift-oriented industries." A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father's Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become  commercialized. US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus "[singling] out just one of our two parents". In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
In addition to Father's Day, International Men's Day is celebrated in many countries on November 19 for men and boys who are not fathers.  But today I want to talk about the special men in my life.  My very first love was my daddy.  He was an amazing one and I am who I am today because of the impact he had on my life.  He was my ideal.  I have missed him terribly since 2009.

My husband, Frank is another of my special men in my life.  He is an amazing man and I am blessed to be his life partner.
My son, Eric is an amazing father as well.  He has grown from a rascal to an awesome man.  I am so very proud of him.
(left to right - grandson, Austen, my dad, Eric, his son, Hayden, Eric's father, Ronnie)
My son-in-law, Stephen is an awesome dad as well.  He and his wife Amy are the parents of our precious grand daughter, Amelia.
The last man I want to acknowledge is Kat's god-father, Chuck.  He has made a huge impact in my life and the life of my daughter.  I love him with all my heart.  They don't get much better than my precious Chuckles....unless we are talking about his dad, Charlie.
To all the cousins, friends, church members, family, Porch People men who have blessed my life with their humor, love, and support I wish you a Happy Father's Day as well.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Oh What A Man

My Scripture for Sunday comes from Matthew 1:18-1:25 Matthew 2:13-2:23

My sermon is entitled:  Oh What A Man

Sunday is FATHERS’ DAY. I want to speak to you about a man - a FATHER - who is very often overlooked, I think. In some quarters he is overshadowed by the prominence given to his wife. I’m talking about JOSEPH, the husband of Mary and the adopted father of Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else preach a sermon on Joseph. But I believe it’s a significant thing that even as God chose Mary to be the one who would give birth to the Son of God, He chose Joseph to be a FATHER to Jesus and to raise Him into manhood. Mary and Joseph were chosen together to be parents.

I remember a film that was on television several years ago. One of those depressingly sad Hallmark movies that when you sit down and watch I find myself crying all the way through an entire box of Kleenex, and then at the end I usually say something like: “That was so sad - wasn’t it just wonderful?!” But this particular film was entitled something like “WHO WILL LOVE MY CHILDREN?” The story is about a poor family - hard-working parents with a large number of children - the woman discovers that she has an stage 4 cancer and will die within a year. Her husband is a good man, but obviously incapable of looking after the large number of children alone - particularly in those days when there was no government assistance or social security. And so the heartbreaking tale is of this mother who goes out searching for loving parents who will care for all of her children; she wants to have them all placed before she is dies. (If you ever intend to watch this movie, be warned - it’s definitely a king-size Kleenex movie!)

But as I recall this film, it leads me to thinking about the birth of Jesus. Just like that woman who loved her children so much that she wanted to personally choose parents for them, and not leave it to chance, Father God in the same way went looking for parents to raise His beloved, only-begotten Son. He searched the earth, and He found a young girl - a teenager engaged to be married - of whom the Bible says: she “found favor with God”. She was a choice young lady. A God-fearing young lady.

But Then….: God also went looking for a father. He called Mary AND JOSEPH as a couple. And here is the point of it - GOD CLEARLY DEMONSTRATES FOR US THAT THE ROLE OF THE FATHER IS A MOST IMPORTANT ONE. Fathers are not only needed for the physical act of CONCEIVING a child; they are also needed for the spiritual act of RAISING a child. The child was conceived in the womb of Mary “by the Holy Ghost” - a miracle took place so there was no need for a man to be involved in the conception. But a man WAS still needed to fill the role of father in Jesus’ childhood.

(HAVING SAID THAT - let me say a word to any single parents here today. Please don’t despair that your children are beyond hope because their father is gone, or their mother is gone – that is NOT the case. God is SO gracious. “Though my father and mother forsake me, yet the Lord will take me up.”)

The normal pattern is for children to be raised with a father and a mother. And those single parents, I know, will testify to the multiplied difficulties when one parent is gone. (Single parents, today, we salute you. We honor you. God bless you for your diligence with those children!) 

So, Joseph was chosen. And just as God had looked for a godly young woman to bring forth the child, so He looked for a godly man to be the father. And what an inspiring model of fatherhood Joseph was. God made a good choice! (He is a WISE God.) Let’s look together, for a few minutes, at some things the Bible tells us about this man Joseph.

First, would you note with me that he was:

1. A LOVING MAN. - The Scriptures draw the picture for us of a wonderfully caring and affectionate man. And we can see this, first, in his relationship toward Mary.

Look  with me at MATTHEW 1:19 - Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant. He hasn’t had any great revelation yet. What is he to think? What would YOU think guys> You’ve fallen in love with this pretty young girl. You do all the right things. You pursue her in the proper customary way. In stolen moments you’ve talked with her about dreams for a future together. A cottage with a white picket fence. A family. A business. And then out of the blue you learn that this sweet girl (you thought you knew so well) is pregnant. NEWLY pregnant. And you don’t know who the father is - but there is one person you know you can rule out! How does it make you feel? Angry? Betrayed?  The penalty for adultery in the Old Testament was death by stoning. And this penalty applied to infidelity during betrothal as well as marriage. Upon discovery that Mary was pregnant, Joseph would have been obliged to divorce her (DIVORCE WAS REQUIRED TO BREAK OFF A BETROTHAL ENGAGEMENT), and this would expose Mary to public shame and humiliation.

BUT, even before God spoke to Joseph - Joseph didn’t have any vengeance or bitterness in his heart. The Bible says: he “was minded to put her away secretly”. (There were ways in which a divorce could be enacted very quietly, without the involvement of a judge, and Joseph was already considering the best way to do this.  Joseph was kind. He LOVED Mary.  And husbands, the Bible says to US today that WE must love our wives with all that we have. In Ephesians 5:25 - the example is that we must love our wives sacrificially, even as Christ loved the church and lay down His life for it.  Joseph was a loving man toward Mary.  But we also see that Joseph was a loving man in his relationship toward Jesus.

…When the child came along - the child he had not conceived - there was no attitude in Joseph that “THIS BOY ISN’T MY FLESH AND BLOOD”. There was no resentment or indifference toward Him; no lack of love at all. JOSEPH ADOPTED JESUS AS HIS OWN. He protected Him from the hatred of Herod. He nurtured Him and cared for Him. Evidently he taught Jesus his own trade of carpentry. HE ADOPTED THE ONE THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD WOULD REJECT.

TODAY, by contrast, we see men who are prepared to abdicate their role even toward their own children. Men are opting out of the father role because of it’s costs. Do you know what the Bible says? [1 TIMOTHY 5:8]: says… “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever!”

Joseph was a LOVING man. That’s the first thing that is clear. SECOND: Joseph was . . . A DEVOUT MAN.

a.) He was a man who OBEYED God. - He explicitly followed the Lord’s leading and direction. He didn’t follow his own marked-out plan for life - he wanted God’s plan for his life. So when God spoke to him in a dream and told him to marry Mary (even though she was pregnant) HE OBEYED.

Then when God spoke and said: “Take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt for safety” - he immediately obeyed. He closed up his business and left.

Then when God said: “It’s O.K. now, head back to Israel”. again he did as he was directed. He was a man of obedience.

Joseph was a man of FAITH. – Let me tell you….It takes FAITH to pack your bags and head off to a foreign country with no prospects and no planning; simply on the basis that God said so. He had faith and obeyed the dream. He could have made excuses to stay where the prospects looked good, but NO - he was a man of faith.

FATHERS here this morning, your faith will speak to your children! Raise them in an environment of faith toward God.

I read the story of a farmer who had toiled over a bumper crop of grain - a badly needed crop of grain - a badly needed crop that was going to pay off many creditors and secure the family for another year. But just a few days before it was due to be harvested a freak wind and hail storm ravaged the property, and the harvest was lost. The man stood with his little boy looking over the fields of destroyed grain. The boy expected to hear his father cursing in despair. But instead his Dad began to softly sing: “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” Years later that boy, now  grown into manhood, said: “That was the greatest sermon I ever heard!” His father had shown him FAITH where the rubber meets the road!

Joseph was leaning on God. He was a man of FAITH. And one more thing:  He was a man who was FAITHFUL IN SPIRITUAL DUTY.  He set an example for his family - going to the Temple; attending the feasts. (We read about it in LUKE 2:41) He was regular in going to God’s house.

When my son was a little boy he was playing on a Sunday morning while his Dad was in a recliner reading the paper. His dad said: “Son, get yourself ready for Sunday School”. To which Eric asked: “Are you coming with me today Dad?” His father replied: “No, I’m not coming. But I want you to hurry up and get ready”. Eric then said: “Did you used to go to Sunday School when you were a boy, Dad?” He said: “I most certainly did!” As he walked away Eric mumbled: “Yeah, and I bet it won’t do me any good either!  I can’t wait til I am old enough to stay home from church.”  I cried all the way to church.  Our kids are watching our faithfulness.

So, let’s just re-cap for a moment. Joseph was a LOVING man. (Toward his wife. Toward his son. Toward his whole family.) He was a DEVOUT man. ( A man of obedience and faith, and being faithful in spiritual duty.)  And Finally, he was also:  A WISE MAN.  Joseph was wise because he lived as one who REDEEMED THE TIME.  By all accounts it seems that Joseph had a SHORTENED LIFE. We don’t read of him after Jesus’ childhood, and at the Cross Jesus charged John with the care of His mother - so it seems that Joseph was taken from them prematurely. But JOSEPH HAD USED WHAT TIME HE HAD BEEN GIVEN HONOURABLE - WISELY! He had provided for his family. He has set an example for them that they would remember. He had raised them in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.

Jesus was not the only child he had; he raised other boys for the Lord also, and possibly daughters as well. He had other sons - TWO OF THEM (at least) WERE GREATLY USED BY GOD. They wrote books of the Bible (James and Jude). James was leader of the church in Jerusalem.  Joseph raised his children in the ways of the Lord, and He left behind him a legacy after his lifetime.

Fathers! None of us know just how much time we have left with our children; with our families. You may only have a year. Two years. Five years. Who knows? Only God!  ARE WE REDEEMING THE TIME AS JOSEPH DID? Encouraging our families at every opportunity; setting an example; providing for their needs.

Some say, “Oh YES. I provide for my family” - when what they mean is that they put a pay cheque on the table every week. But what about the OTHER provisions they need from you?

Affection?  Example?  Godly counsel?  Laughter and warmth?

Loving concern?   This man, Joseph, inspires me. I’m sure that he wasn’t perfect - BUT HE WAS DEVOTED, and he was doing his very best - redeeming the time.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Betty Jeans Flower Garden

I have a happy place.  It is Betty Jean's Garden in the summer when all her flowers are blooming.  There is nothing like going to her house and just loving the blooms, birds, and buds.  I love it.  I went over the other day and took my camera and had a field day with it.  Here are some of the beautiful flowers I viewed. 

I took 48 shots, but thought I would only give you a taste of the beauty of her yard.  I wish I had the green thumb she has.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Happy Flag Day and Happy Birthday Katrina

US Flag Day poster 1917.jpg
In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on that day in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The United States Army also celebrates the Army Birthday on this date; Congress adopted "the American continental army" after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole on June 14, 1775.  In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. Flag Day is not an official federal holiday. The official statute on Flag Day; however, it is at the President's discretion to officially proclaim the observance. On June 14, 1937, Pennsylvania became the first U.S. state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday, beginning in the town of Rennerdale. New York Statutes designate the second Sunday in June as Flag Day, a state holiday.
Perhaps the oldest continuing Flag Day parade is at Fairfield, Washington. Beginning in 1909 or 1910, Fairfield has held a parade every year since, with the possible exception of 1918, and celebrated the "Centennial" parade in 2010, along with some other commemorative events.
Appleton, Wisconsin claims to be the oldest National Flag Day parade in the nation, held annually since 1950. It was also named "Most Patriotic City in America" by in 2008.   Quincy, Massachusetts has had an annual Flag Day parade since 1952 and claims it "is the longest-running parade of its kind in the nation." The largest Flag Day parade is held annually in Troy. , New York, which bases its parade on the Quincy parade and typically draws 50,000 spectators. In addition, the Three Oaks, Michigan Flag Day Parade is held annually on the weekend of Flag Day and is a three-day event and they claim to have the largest flag day parade in the nation as well as the oldest
Flag day has another special meaning to me.  It is the birthday of my granddaughter, Katrina.  I thought I would take a few moments to wish her a very special day.

Riddle Me This

What?" or…Riddle Me This
This morning's Bible reading is from Mark 4:26-34

I love riddles.  I have a friend who likes to come up with them and I love trying to solve them.  Some times I am very good at it….others…not so much.  In today’s Bible reading, Jesus tells a couple of parables. These parables are about farming and about how plants grow. Jesus talks about the tiny mustard seed and the large plant that comes from it. You may have heard the phrase, "The faith of a mustard seed" referring to how small things begin and how amazingly large they can become through faith in God. Somehow in this version of the parable, things don’t seem as grand.  The small seed grows up to become the greatest of all shrubs?  Shrub doesn’t sound all that great.  Other translations use herb, plant, and garden plant.   But….We’re reading from Mark today – in Luke 13:19 things sound more like what you may remember: It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.  It sounds a lot Grander when it is put like that…don’t you think?  A tree instead of a shrub or a garden plant. Never mind that a mustard plant is an herb or a shrub.  The parable sounds better as a tree, right?  I’m guessing that the writer of Luke wanted a little more punch in the narrative, or that the oral culture of the time has super-sized the parable before it was written down.  It is very likely that Jesus said “shrub” (or lachanon – the Greek word for herb or garden plant) when he told the parable.  We still get the idea that small things can become amazingly large through faith in God.  And no matter what, Jesus provided an opportunity for discussion.  You see, right at the end of the reading, there’s something I think gets lost. It says that Jesus always talked to the people in riddle-talk-- parables. But he would do further explanation to the disciples in private.  There is more to learn! There is more to understand! There is more to seek! Jesus talked about these things with his disciples. He got into smaller groups and really hashed out the stories. Jesus and the disciples spent time in what is called "midrash" -- where rabbis and students discuss scripture and the possible meanings. They tend to look at things from several angles and try to really chew on things as they seek deeper and deeper meaning.  I think Jesus’ example of digging deeper into the stories with the disciples further supports the idea that the stories weren't meant to turn people away or to confuse them to the point of giving up. They were an invitation to learn more. There are two parables in today’s reading.  The second one is the mustard seed.  The first one is a “seed” parable, too:  Most of us have planted something at some time in our lives.  Seeds are planted. They grow. The plants grow large. The plants are harvested, providing nourishment and resources. The seeds that come from the plants are planted – and more growth begins.  I think that’s how Jesus is comparing The Kingdom – or to put it in non-royal language, God’s realm. Or to put it into something even more understandable, God’s neighborhood.  And in God’s neighborhood, we have seeds planted, growth, LOTS of growth, harvest, and continued seed planting - All of it for the benefit of those whose lives are enhanced by what grows. But it does require a reseeding so that the growth pattern doesn’t stop.  Parables are meant to make you think.  They’re meant to start conversations.  Parables confuse, anger, and irritate folks so that people will think beyond the words and beyond what may seem obvious into something deeper and soul-enriching.  Let me ask you some dangerous questions. Let me ask some questions that give you permission to think in any direction the questions take you.   How have you experienced God’s neighborhood? What makes you want to keep believing in God? How are you reseeding what you’ve experienced?  And while you’re chewing on all of that, let’s head back to the mustard seed.
Do you see  God’s neighborhood like:

•A little seed that grows into a big weed!

•A little seed that grows into a big weed that folks spend hours trying to tear out – really to no avail.

•A little seed that pays no attention to the desire of the farmer – it grows and grows and grows – often choking out the plants around it.

•A little seed that produces an uncontrollable and disorderly result.

•A little seed that produces, ultimately, the perfect taste to go with a hot dog.

Or perhaps we could go in this direction.

•God’s neighborhood grows everywhere – and you can’t get rid of it!

 •God’s neighborhood isn’t dependent on folks to defend it or nurture it

•God’s neighborhood isn’t harmed by folks who attack it or try to minimalize it

•God’s neighborhood isn’t neat and tidy – it’s all over and we can’t control it!

•God’s neighborhood is distinct and makes stuff “taste” better

And there’s more that comes from thoughts like that

God’s neighborhood is tiny and at the same time bigger than you can imagine

When we mess up, God’s neighborhood isn’t messed up!  And before we get images of how to make this congregation bigger and better into our minds . . . God’s neighborhood isn’t about how big our churches are or how close we are to making our budget or what programs we have or how good our preacher is or whether we have enough money to buy nice things or ever pay our bills. It’s about God’s presence. . . and God’s love . . .  and God’s acceptance . . . and God’s extravagant welcome . . .  for all.  And in God’s neighborhood, we get to have great conversations.  Because God is still speaking!  Because the parables are still living.  They are still worth discussing. They are worth chewing on.  God still wants us to be able to experience the word and experience God’s neighborhood from different perspectives and different angles.  God wants us to continue to listen for God’s voice and to continue having conversations with one another as we seek deeper and deeper meaning.  God’s neighborhood is here, now. It’s arriving now. It will arrive in the future. It has been here in the past. It is unpredictable, messy, uncontrollable . . . It is marvelous.  And lots of the time it makes you think, what?