January 30, 2012

Quote of the Week

"The oriental shepherd always walked ahead of his sheep. He was always out in front. Any attack upon the sheep had to take him into account first. Now God is out in front. He is in our tomorrows, and it is tomorrow that fills people with fear. Yet God is already there. All the tomorrows of our life have to pass through Him before they can get to us."     F.B. Meyer

January 25, 2012

5 books on my future reading list

I am Second

I've enjoyed watching a few videos from this website I am Second and was excited to see a book come out of it! It's a collection of stories and testimonies from some familiar faces and how they are learning to put God first and self second. People like Bethany Hamilton, Tony Dungy, and Lacrae. Sounds like a great book not only for reading, but for sharing.


Great Expectations

I remember watching BBC's mini series of this book as a teenager and being completely enthralled by the story. After all these years I've never actually read the book. Now a new mini series is airing on PBS in April and I really want to get it read before then!
It's the story of a young orphan who is given a chance at a good life as a gentleman through a anonymous benefactor. I love this description on the back cover: "Written in 1860, at the height of Dicken's maturity, it also reveals the novelist's bittersweet understanding of the extent to which our deepest moral dilemmas are born of our own obsessions and illusions."

It happened in Italy

During World War II Italy allied with Germany, but within the country many Italians were risking their lives to hide and shelter hundreds of Jews. In so doing  many lives were saved.
This book is filled with these stories. I just bought this one and I'm really looking forward to learning some Italian history and reading about these brave wonderful people.

The Wedding Dress
This story is about an engaged woman and owner of a bridal boutique, who finds a hundred year old wedding dress in a battered old trunk. She discovers the history of the dress and who had worn it. Emily in 1912. Mary in 1939. And Hillary in 1968. Through each woman she learns about her own heritage, love and faith. I've never read anything by this author before but this story really captured my attention. I love books that go back and forth through time. Can't wait to read it! It comes out this April.

Grace for the Good Girl

 "Many of us believe that we are saved by grace--but for too many, that's the last time grace defines our life. Instead of clinging to grace, we strive for good and believe that the Christian life means hard work and a sweet disposition. As good girls, we focus on the things we can handle, our disciplined lives, and our unshakable good moods. When we fail to measure up to our own impossible standards, we hide behind our good girl masks, determined to keep our weakness a secret."

I love the description of this book and I'm really looking forward to reading it soon.

January 24, 2012

The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

Thank-you Melanie from Christian Bookshelf Reviews for awarding me the "The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!" :)

The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Share 7 things about yourself
2. Pass the award to 10 other bloggers

7 Things about me:

1. Spring is my favorite season

2. I love to cross-stitch, but haven't done it much the last few years

3. I could spend all day in a bookstore, but don't because then I'd probably spend way to much!

4. I love watching movies with my kids

5. I sponsor 2 children through Compassion International

6. I don't like coffee (I know I'm probably the only adult on the planet that doesn't) :)

7. I often pray for the people of the underground church (those who can not openly worship where they live)...they inspire me

I'm passing this award onto these 10 wonderful blogs: 

Kelly at: Encourage 365
Mandy at: To Read, Or Not To Read
Jennifer at: Sweet Blessings
Jemimah at: Beautiful Blank Pages 
Jessica at:  Bookingit
Tracy at: My daily walk in His grace!
Faye at: labor not in vain 
Gwen at: Serving Through Words  
Kara at: My Thoughts and Book Reviews
Joanne at: Joanne Bischof

Hope you find the time to check each of these blogs out and Melanie's as well. Happy reading!

January 21, 2012

Homespun Bride

This book reminded me of something of a 'hallmark movie.' Full of sweetness in a time gone by where life was simpler.

The novel is set in Montana during the winter of 1883. Within this beautiful setting is lots of talk of snow, sleighs rides, horses and ranches.

It's the story of young love ripped apart, neither one really understanding why. Years later they met again and their love for each other starts to grow once more. Things have changed though. An accident has left Noelle blind, with the loss of her parents and feelings of inadequacy. Thad, after being gone for years and carrying some bitterness in his heart, is gently brought back to the Lord by the end of the story.

I loved the descriptive writing in this novel. I could feel how the character of Noelle felt as a blind person. The feel of snowflakes falling on her face, the smell of roast beef cooking, or the distinct sound of someones footsteps. It really added to the story and made it more enjoyable.

This past Christmas my husband gave me an e-reader (Yeah!) and I was able to get this book for free. This is the first Love Inspired book I've read and I enjoyed it very much. This story reminded me of the kind of books I loved as a teenager. Simple and sweet. Leaving you with a happy ending, a sigh and a smile on your face. :)

January 18, 2012

One Word

This past year and a half has been difficult and its been easy at times to focus on the troubles, the heartache and the sadness, rather than on the Lord.  A few days ago, I read this in my devotional:

"The type of prayer that empties us of faith frequently arises from focusing our thoughts on the difficulty rather than on God's promise."  (Jan. 4th 'Streams in the Desert')

So I've chosen a word for 2012: Promises...God's Promises.

Throughout the coming year I will be trying to focus on God's promises. I thought it would be fun to share these promises every once in awhile here on my blog. They will be under the heading of 'God's Promises.'

For today I'm focusing on this promise. This verse always reminds me that I am never alone. I think it's one of the greatest. :)

January 16, 2012

Biblical Grace

After reading "Growing up Amish" I got to thinking about grace and what it really is. I went back to a chapter on the grace of God, in a book I've been slowly reading called "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer. He says here:

"God is not true to himself unless he punishes sin. And unless one knows and feels the truth of this fact, that wrongdoers have no natural hope of anything from God but retributive judgment, one can never share the biblical faith in divine grace."

"No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law," declares Paul (Romans 3:20). To mend our own relationship with God, regaining God's favor after having once lost it, is beyond the power of any one of us. And one must see and bow to this before one can share the biblical faith in God's grace."

 Wow...pretty heavy stuff. But I've come to realize how true this is. Charles Spurgeon wrote in his book 'All of Grace':  

"You will never value pardon unless you feel repentance, and you will never taste the deepest droughts of repentance until you know that you are pardoned."

In other words until you come to terms with your sinful nature (that you are a sinner) and repent, you can never receive or understand God's grace. But when you do you will be overwhelmed with gratitude for what He has done for you.

I love the way Paul in 1 Timothy describes God's grace to him:

"Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 1: 13-14

J.I. Packer goes on to talk about how grace is not earned or deserved:

"The grace of God is love freely shown towards guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity and had no reason to expect anything but severity...It is surely clear that, once a person is convinced that his state and need are as described, the New Testament gospel of grace cannot but sweep him off his feet with wonder and joy. For it tells how our Judge has become our Savior."

In Titus 3:3-8 Paul writes:

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying." 

I love that God pours his grace out on us abundantly and generously, when He really doesn't have to. He owes us nothing and doesn't need us at all. But He wants to, because he loves us.

From being a sinner, deserving punishment and death, to being made an heir of God! Amazing!

I have found that many authors I have read through the years have this one thing in common, they all understood the grace of God. Authors such as John Newton, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Hus, and so on. They all struggled with their sinful nature and admitted to being in need of a Savior. They lived humbly and in gratitude for their lives in Christ. Many of us Christians have lived in fear of death and punishment, but these men by their faith in God have shown me there is a better way to live. To live in gratitude and peace of mind that God will do what he says he will. We can rejoice in God's promises and live in His grace.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him."                                                     Romans 15:13

Most of us have heard this song many times, but I encourage you to really listen to what John Newton (1725-1807)  is saying here and what grace really meant to him.

I thought this was such a pretty version of the song. It's missing the last 3 verses of the song though, so be sure to read them below. They are so beautiful. I especially love the line: "The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures."

                   Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

January 13, 2012

Growing Up Amish

This was such an interesting memoir of a man raised in the Amish ways, who struggles to find rest. Ira Wagler tells an engaging story of his childhood and youth, being raised within the strict rules of the Amish community.

I learnt alot about the beliefs of the Amish, their strict rules and how they live. I realized the Amish, when it comes to human nature, aren't really that different then any of us. They love their families, work very hard to provide, and strive to teach their children moral values. But they also gossip, struggle with jealousy and judge each other, just like us. The difference is they believe belonging to the Amish church saves them and that they are lost without it. That is why so many leave and come back, leave and come back. They are afraid of losing their salvation. He says here:

"We were special--the chosen ones who preserved and honored "the only way."

"With some prodding, there might be a reluctant admission that yes, others not of our particular faith might make it to heaven, but only because they were not born Amish and didn't know any better. Those who were born in the faith had better stay, or they would surely face a terrible Judgment Day. That's what we heard. What we were told by our parents and what we heard in the sermons at church."

He goes on to say:

"But they never explained why. Why we were special. Why we alone knew the only true path. Only that we were and we did."

The author goes on to share the struggles and torment he went through, in leaving and coming back several times. Until he finally decided to talk to God.

He say here:

"Although I'd been taught all my life to pray, I never did much, because I never saw that it did any good. Not for those around me, at least. Every day the Amish launched some of the most beautifully written prayers out there. It was a formal thing, praying. Approach God, read some poetic lines from a little black book, and then get up and go about your day, secure in the knowledge that you had done your duty, that you would be protected. In church, of course, every single syllable in every prayer was scripted, read from a book or memorized, word for word. That's all I knew about praying. All I had ever seen.

Normally, I wouldn't have considered praying, not for a second. It would never have crossed my mind. Even if it had, I would have shrugged it off. But this was not a normal time.

I decided that I could simply talk to God. ask for his help. Not by reading from a little black book, but by talking to him, man to man. Or man to God. Whatever."

In God's time He answered that simple prayer with the most unlikely of people. Ira eventually found the true Source of salvation, not in an organized church, not in good works, not in obeying laws, but in a gift of God, in his Savior Jesus Christ alone.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."    Ephesians 2:8

I love how God comes to us right where we are and when we cry out to Him he hears our every prayer. He wants us to come to him and rest in him, because he loves and cares for us.

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."            

                                                          1 Peter 5:7

I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it.

January 10, 2012

New Year, New Devotional

I'd been looking for a new devotional for 2012 and a fellow blogger suggested "Streams in the Desert" by  L.B. Cowman. So I  decided to pick it up and give it a try it. I was a little reluctant, as I'd never heard of L.B. Cowman before.

In 2010 I read through Oswald Chamber's "My Utmost for His Highest" and really enjoyed it. Reading through the introduction of "Streams in the Desert" I discovered this author was friends with Chambers! L.B. and her husband Charles, met him in Japan where they were missionaries and where Chambers had traveled to preach. This has got me excited about this new devotional.

It's full of complied devotions from scripture, poems and quotes from notable men and women of God. I'm only a few days in and I'm already being blessed and encouraged by this book. I'm thankful for this great suggestion and look forward to reading it through 2012.

January 7, 2012

Quote of the Week

"Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but simply taking God at His word."                                                                   Christmas Evans

January 3, 2012

To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

Historically Anne Boleyn has been portrayed as a man-eating woman who manipulated a king.  But what if that is not all together true? This novel puts a more favorable light on Anne Boleyn and is based on the historical facts of this dramatic period of time.

I really enjoyed this book, which is told through a childhood friend of Anne's, Meg Wyatt. As Anne enters court and grabs the attention of King Henry XIII Meg follows and tells Anne's story, along side her own. The loyalty of their friendship is tested throughout the novel, in good times and in bad.

Meg and her first love also experience a romance throughout the book, which I thought was very sweet.

I loved the way this author intertwined fact and fiction. Her style of writing was also a treat to read and brought me right into the courts of 16th century England.

This period of time has always fascinated me. Especially the reformation which was going on in full strength during King Henry XIII's reign. I find  Anne Boleyn's part in it very interesting and have often wondered if she was sincere in her promotion of reform within the Church. Even after she was queen she continued to fight for the cause. Why would she do that and risk her life? I believe there is so much more to this story that we may never know, at least not in this lifetime.

This novel was very well done and if you are interested in this period of time and its history, I think you'll enjoy it too. At the end of the book the author gives some "principal works of reference" about the life of Anne Boleyn, which caught my attention and I'm definitely going to look into.

Also if you are interested in the reformers of this time, some of which Sandra Bryd includes in this novel, I would highly recommend a book called  "Foxe's Book of Martyrs." Each chapter is dedicated to a reformer of the faith and tells his or her story. Reformers like Martin Luther, William Tyndale and John Wycliffe. It was written by John Foxe in the 16th century.

Lastly I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series called "The Secret Keeper" which is about Katherine Parr, King Henry XIII's last wife, who had her own part in the reformation.