Monday, August 2, 2021

Turning the Page

Welcome to August! It's a new month. A clean page on the calendar. Time for a fresh start.

Yesterday I turned the page on the "official" family calendar on the side of the refrigerator. And I smiled. It's my birthday month. And it's one month closer to fall and cooler temperatures!

We often think of a new month as a clean slate. A time to start over. But if your calendar looks anything like mine, it isn't exactly a blank page. There are doctor appointments and hair appointments and meetings at church already written in. August is shaping up to be another busy month.

Even so, there's something refreshing about turning the calendar page. A new month means new opportunities. New adventures. New challenges to be faced.  

Turning that calendar page also means moving on. Leaving the previous month behind. Letting go of all the less-than-we-might-have-liked-them-to-be moments. The new month is time to let all that go, and time to move forward.

Facing this new month means asking some questions. As in, what things in my life need some correction. What additions need to be made? What things in my life need some fine-tuning. What things in my life need to be deleted. You may find that to be true in your life as well.

Here are a few questions to help you get started.

What foods need to be deleted from my life? What foods need to be added?

What habits need to be deleted from my life? What habits need to be added?

What corrections need to be made in my speech?

What needs to be deleted? In my activities. In my recreation. In my reading. In my TV watching. In the way I spend my money.

What needs to be added? In my activities. In my recreation. In my reading. In my TV watching. In the way I spend my money.

Life is a process. And all those processes need some editing from time to time.

What better time than today, as we are turning the page to a new month, to take some time to consider what changes might need to be made! 


"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."  (Philippians 3:7 NASB)

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Mistletoe Countess. A Book Review.


The Mistletoe Countess
 is an absolute gem! Pepper Basham has become one of my favorite authors, and The Mistletoe Countess is one of the reasons why. Pepper Basham is a gifted storyteller.

I loved everything about this book! This is the story of an arranged marriage that leads to an exquisite love story. I loved the characters, especially Grace! I loved her joy, her enthusiasm, her humor, her love of books, and her red hair, which I could picture so vividly. (She reminded me a great deal of Anne in Anne of Green Gables.) She often made me laugh, even in the midst of fighting off a villain.

I loved the setting of the book. It is so vividly described I felt I was actually there. The characters are so well presented, you feel as though you can see them. The dialogue is fresh and realistic. The villains are perfectly villainous, as they should be.

The Mistletoe Countess has all my favorite elements in one book - history, romance, mystery, and humor. And through it all is a beautiful thread of faith and hope and redemption.

This is one I will remember and will be recommending to others. It's one you shouldn't miss!

The Mistletoe Countess will be released September 1, 2021. You'll want to look for it at your local bookstore!

Many thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for an advance copy of this book. The opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

What If?

What if? We have all asked that question from time to time. Truth be told, there are some of us who can't seem to let go of that question!

What if I get sick?

What if we don't have enough money?

What if we can't pay our bills?

What if the car breaks down?

What if the air conditioner can't be fixed?

What if my child gets hurt?

What if I lose my job?

What if I get cancer?

What if we have a storm?

What if.......

You can complete the question with your own "what if".  

A number of years ago, when my husband was working as building and grounds manager for a large insurance company headquartered in our city, he often had to answer that question. Several times a week he would be called into the office of the person to whom he reported, and he would have to answer the question "what are the five worst things that will happen if we do this?"

That became a standing joke around our house! We asked that question about everything. And I do mean everything!

What are the five worst things that will happen if we buy this car? What are the five worst things that will happen if we go to Disney World? What are the five worst things that will happen if we go to the mall? What are the five worst things that will happen if we eat chicken for dinner?  

You get the idea. It bordered on ridiculous.

But if you think about it, don't we do the same - border on ridiculous - when we obsess over the "what ifs"? We worry far too much about things that probably won't even happen. But even if some of our "what ifs" actually do become reality, what good does it do us to worry and fret? Does all the worrying and fretting actually prevent any of those bad things from happening? Does all the worrying and fretting actually change anything?

A far better approach to the "what ifs" of our lives is to remember that God has it all under control. To remember that whatever happens to us, even if all our "what ifs" become reality, God knows and understands. And He is working it all together for our good and for His glory.  

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son."  (Romans 8:28-29a ESV)

There is one "what if" we should keep in mind. The hymn writer Lelia N. Morris put it this way:

"Jesus is coming to earth again; What if it were today?"
 
Jesus is coming again. Are you ready?
 
"Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."  (Matthew 24:44 ESV)

Monday, July 12, 2021

Distractions

Do you ever get distracted?

Have you ever started a project and then not finished it because your mind wandered to somewhere else?  And then you remembered another thing that needed doing. Or a phone call you needed to make. And then you decided to check Facebook or your texts. And then you needed a snack. But maybe you should walk the dog first. But I need to finish this chapter. Except I just remembered that I have clothes in the washing machine that need to go in the dryer. But first I'll go make another cup of coffee. Now what was I doing?  

Can anyone relate?

We all get distracted from time to time. Life is busy, and our schedules are filled with places to be and things to do.  

Sometimes distractions are a good thing. We can be going through the busyness of the day and then find ourselves distracted by the beauty of a flower. Or by a sunset. Or by a song we hear. Or by the sound of children at play. At those times we hit the pause button on life, set aside for a moment whatever we might have been focused on, and enjoy the beauty. We take time to smell the roses, to borrow a phrase. Those are good distractions.

Too often, however, distractions are not good things.  

We too often allow distractions keep us from the Word of God. We allow the busyness of life to get in the way. We even allow good things, like family and friends, to become distractions, keeping us from best things, like time with the Lord. We too often use friends and family as an excuse, rather than seeking to find the right balance. As a result, relationships with family, with friends, and with the Lord, can suffer.

We allow the media to distract us. There have been all sorts of controversies seeking our attention: politics, the COVID virus, racial tensions, the cancel culture, and the list could go on. While all these may be valid concerns, the media circus around each concern is not helpful. Here in our own state, not so many years ago, there was controversy over removing (canceling) the Confederate Battle Flag which is part of our state’s history. My point here is not to discuss whether or not it was not right and proper for South Carolina to take the flag off the State House grounds. My point is that the flag was not the issue. 

Moving the flag did not remove hatred and evil from our world. Moving the flag did not eradicate racism. Nor does defacing and destroying monuments solve anything. These things only keep us distracted from real issues that must be faced. If we are distracted by viruses or monuments, we won’t notice how our freedoms are being eroded, or how many babies are being aborted, or any of the other issues of the day.

Politicians would like to keep us distracted. The media would like to keep us distracted. The enemy of our souls would like to keep us distracted.

That's the greatest danger of all. That the enemy of our souls would keep us so distracted, whether by busyness or by false teachers or by media and political pundits with their particular agendas. That distraction is the one we must guard most against.

The enemy of our souls would like to keep us so busy and so distracted by our religion and our politics and our good works that we miss the most important thing - our relationship with Jesus.

Don't give your enemy the victory!

"You therefore, beloved....be on your guard."  (2 Peter 3:17 NASB)

"Be on guard."  (2 Timothy 4:15 NASB)

"Be on guard, so that your heart will not be weighted down...."  (Luke 21:34 NASB)

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."  (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith."  (Hebrews 12:2 NASB)

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Bridge of Gold. A Book Review.


 

Bridge of Gold by Kimberly Woodhouse is the 3rd offering in Barbour Publishing’s Doors to the Past series, a series combining history, romance, and suspense. Each book in the series stands alone and is excellent. Bridge of Gold is no exception.


In this dual timeline story we meet underwater archeologist Kayla Richards and bridge reconstruction specialist Steven Michaels as they work together when renovations to the Golden Gate Bridge reveal a sunken ship and human remains at the site.


The historical timeline takes us back to the 1930s and the construction of the Golden Gate Bride. Meticulous research is evident as we learn about the construction of the Bridge, about the Depression, about the San Francisco gold rush, and about San Francisco then and now.


The story is exciting, filled with mystery and intrigue; the descriptions are vivid and authentic; the characters are well developed and believable; and a sweet love story rounds it out. This is a fast-paced book that flows seamlessly between timelines. 


History, action, romance, and faith make Bridge of Gold a story not to be missed. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would!


Many thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for the opportunity to review this book. The opinions are my own.

Friday, July 9, 2021

A Clear Focus



When he was in third grade, our son's vision began to deteriorate. By the time he entered fourth grade, he was wearing glasses. Over the years we have referred to him as our "blind child" because his vision was so bad. A few years ago, he had a consultation with an eye surgeon, which was followed by LASIK surgery.  Finally, after all these years, he can see clearly. With clear focus.

What about you? How's your focus? I'm not just referring to whether or not you wear glasses. Or whether or not you have cataracts clouding your vision. I'm thinking this morning in spiritual terms. Do you perhaps have "spiritual cataracts"? Is there anything clouding your spiritual vision?

Perhaps you're focusing on the wrong thing. You may have you vision laser-focused onto your circumstances. Or on a relationship. It may even be a good relationship. Or perhaps it's one that has some problems. In either event, that's where your focus is.

There's a trend in Christian circles these days to focus on the gifts God gives, on the grace-gifts He brings into our lives. I think it's certainly a good thing to be aware of all the blessings God brings into our lives.  And I agree that it's an act of worship to notice and give thanks for all these blessings. I do not, however, agree with the idea that God is good because He brings these things into our lives. That implies that He is not good if He doesn't bring these good gifts. Or that He is not good when we are going through hard times. That is a direct contradiction of Scripture. ("Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4 NASB)  

God is not good because He brings good things into our lives; He brings good things into our lives because He is good! Furthermore, God is good all the time. In the good times. In the not-so-good times.  When we are blessed with wonderful gifts. When we are not. God is good, because of WHO HE IS, not because of what He does or doesn't do, or because of what He does or doesn't give.

But back to the issue of focus, where is your focus today? Certainly we should be aware of, make note of, give thanks for, all the gifts God brings our way. And if you were to keep a list, you would likely be astonished at just how many ways God blesses you in a day's time.  

My issue, my concern, is that too often we are putting the focus on the gift, rather than on God Himself.  My concern is that too often we are focused on the blessing, when our focus should be on the Blesser.

What's clouding your vision today? Or do you have a clear focus? Is there anything "between your soul and the Savior"?

Something to think about.

"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Hebrews 12:2 NASB, emphasis mine)


Listen to the hymn "Nothing Between My Soul and the Savior" here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o62NruWQyBk

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

A Lady in Attendance. A book Review.

 Summer, with its slower pace, is a great time to do some reading, and I have read a number of good books lately. Let me tell you a little about the latest.

A Lady in Attendance by Rachel Fordham is the story of a young woman named Hazel who, after being wrongly accused of a crime and spending 5 years in a reformatory in Upstate NY, must now seek employment. Because her past is hindering her job search, she uses a false identity and finds a position as a Lady in Attendance (dental assistant) in Dr. Gilbert West’s office. There she finds a friend, and also the hope that there may be a future for her after all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a gentle story that starts slowly but builds to a very satisfying conclusion. There is some mystery and some suspense, along with a very sweet love story. Fordham deals with opium trafficking in the 19th century, along with themes of love, forgiveness, and redemption. This is Christian historical fiction at its best. 

I received a copy from the publisher and Net Galley in exchange for my opinion.