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Friday, January 25, 2013

Under the Summer Sky Review!!!

Under the Summer Sky by Lori Copeland


Book Description:

Under the Summer Sky (The Dakota Diaries)
This romantic new book from bestselling author Lori Copeland portrays God's miraculous provision even when none seems possible.
1893--A man who goes only by the name of "Jones" isn't looking for trouble when he happens across Miss Trinity Franklin at the riverside. He is simply on his way to North Dakota to seek the advice of Tom Curtis, a former CN&W Railroad land purchaser. But when Jones spots a lady who is about to become the victim of a marauding band of thugs, he quickly follows his instincts. A handy barrel and a nearby river seem the perfect getaway solution...how was he to know she couldn't swim?
Thus begins an adventure beyond what either could have anticipated. After Jones again rescues Trinity--this time from the river--they find their destination is the same: a small town in North Dakota. A seemingly coincidental beginning comes to a delightful and charming ending when orchestrated by the One who can put the pieces of any lost and broken life together.


My Opinion:

This book is crazy, shocking, hilarious, and really good! It is one of those books that I love the most, because it grabs your attention with the first few sentences and drags you into the story. So many things happen right when you aren't expecting them, and the back cover only skims the top. Under the Summer Sky is a great book when your in the mood to laugh. Filled with hilarious circumstances, it kept me on my toes wondering what could possibly happen to these two next! I love the characters and the way Lori writes. While some of it is just SO crazy; everything was really enjoyable! The only problem I have with the book is actually the cover. (Some of you that may have read my other reviews will already now that I can be picky on this subject, but...) I don't understand why they didn't make the female actress a red head like the character in the book, but I digress. This is a wonderful, lighthearted, adventure! A really cute book!

My songs are: "From this Moment On" by Shania Twain, "Shall We Gather At The River? (Album Version)" by Randy Travis, and "To God Be The Glory" by Studio Musicians

Exodus 14:14

~ASC


P.S. As always thanks to my followers!  And if you don't yet follow PLEASE do with GFC or NetworkBlogs!!! :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Putting Your Faith in Action by Nick Vujicic


unstoppableword
Putting Your Faith in Action by Nick Vujicic
Having faith, beliefs, and convictions is a great thing, but your life is measured by the actions you take based upon them. You can build a great life around those things you believe and have faith in. I’ve built mine around my belief that I can inspire and bring hope to people facing challenges in their lives. That belief is rooted in my faith in God. I have faith that He put me on this earth to love, inspire, and encourage others and especially to help all who are willing to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe that I can never earn my way to heaven, and by faith I accept the gift of the forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus. However, there’s so much more than just “getting in” through the Pearly Gates. It is also about seeing others changed by the power of His Holy Spirit, having a close relationship with Jesus Christ throughout this life, and then being further rewarded in heaven.
Being born without arms and legs was not God’s way of punishing me. I know that now. I have come to realize that this “disability” would actually heighten my ability to serve His purpose as a speaker and evangelist. You might be tempted to think that I’m making a huge leap of faith to feel that way, since most people consider my lack of limbs a huge handicap. Instead, God has used my lack of limbs to draw people to me, especially others with disabilities, so I can inspire and encourage them with my messages of faith, hope, and love.
In the Bible, James said that our actions, not our words, are the proof of our faith. He wrote in James 2:18, “Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’ ”
I’ve heard it said that our actions are to our faith and beliefs as our bodies are to our spirits. Your body is the housing of your spirit, the evidence of its existence. In the same way, your actions are the evidence of your faith and beliefs. You have no doubt heard the term “walking the talk.” Your family, friends, teachers, bosses, coworkers, customers, and clients all expect you to act and live in alignment with the beliefs and convictions that you claim to have. If you don’t, they will call you out, won’t they?
Our peers judge us not by what we say but by what we do. If you claim to be a good wife and mother, then you sometimes will have to put your family’s interests above your own. If you believe your purpose is to share your artistic talents with the world, then you will be judged on the works you produce, not on those you merely propose. You have to walk the talk; otherwise you have no credibility with others—or with yourself—because you, too, should demand that your actions match your words. If they don’t, you will never live in harmony and fulfillment.
As a Christian, I believe the final judge of how we’ve lived is God. The Bible teaches that His judgment is based on our actions, not our words. Revelation 20:12 says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” I act upon my beliefs by traveling the world and encouraging people to love one another and to love God. I am fulfilled in that purpose. I truly believe it is why I was created. When you act upon your beliefs and put your faith into action, you, too, will experience fulfillment. And please, do not be discouraged if you aren’t always absolutely confident in your purpose and how to act upon it. I have struggled. I still struggle. And so will you. I fail and am far from perfect. But deeds are merely the fruit—the result of the depth of a true conviction of the truth. Truth is what sets us free, not purpose. I found my purpose because I was looking for truth.
It is hard to find purpose or good in difficult circumstances, but that is the journey. Why did it have to be a journey? Why couldn’t a helicopter just pick you up and carry you to the finish line? Because throughout the difficult times, you will learn more, grow more in faith, love God more, and love your neighbor more. It is the journey of faith that begins in love and ends in love.
Frederick Douglass, the American slave turned social activist, said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Your character is formed by the challenges you face and overcome. Your courage grows when you face your fears. Your strength and your faith are built as they are tested in your life experiences.
Adapted from Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic with permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Sound Among the Trees!!!

*A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Among-Trees-Novel/dp/0307458857/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358809976&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Sound+Among+the+Trees

Book Description:
A house shrouded in time. 
A line of women with a heritage of loss.

A Sound Among the Trees: A NovelAs a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.
When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.
With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love. 


http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Among-Trees-Novel/dp/0307458857/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358809976&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Sound+Among+the+Trees

My Opinion:
This book was not what I expected it to be. At first I was scared that it would be a fantasy based tale filled with supposedly "real" ghosts and hauntings, but I gave it a shot anyway. And I am SO glad I did. As I read on I realized it is SO much greater that I even hoped it would be. Susan takes you on a great journey, and while I thought it would be wholly about the past and Susannah it held more about the descendants than I thought it would. Though it still tells Susannah's tale and unlocks real life truths. Such as God's will, plans, and timing are SO different and better that we could ever come up with. What you think is a heart breakingly tragic story is revealed to be Providentially Glorious. Adventure, love, pain, joy, heart break, fear, past, presents, and history fold into a great adventure that is in one word Beautiful. This is a MUST READ and had made it ti my Favorite Books List. With it's real feelings and journey this book has touched my heart and I know if you give it a chance it will touch your to. The only true crime with in this book is (WARNING: You may need to brace yourself!)...a couple of the main characters hate chocolate!!! :O WHAT A HORRIBLE CRIME!!! ;)

A Sound Among the Trees touched me so deeply, but I could not find a song that expressed my heart's feelings (I will keep looking and if I find it I will update). That said here are a few of the songs that could portray parts of the book: "Alive" by Avalon, "Wind Chime - Peaceful Soothing & Relaxing" by Wind Chimes, and "Lessons Learned" by Carrie Underwood

John 14:1-4

~ASC

Susan Meissner's Web Site
PODCAST: A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner
Follow Susan on twitter
More Info about A Sound Among the Trees
Read Chapter One
Susan's Bio

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
This in no way affected my opinion of A Sound Among the Trees, and the above is how I truly feel about the book. ~ASC

P.S. PLEASE become a follower with GFC and or NetworkBlogs! :)  THANK YOU to all my followers!!! :)

Loving Libby Review!!!

*Loving Libby by Robin Lee Hatcher



Book Description:
Loving LibbyBe not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Yes, well, Remington Walker was no angel... He posed a more serious danger to Libby than she'd ever faced. Libby Blue had found a refuge from her past in the Idaho wilderness. Leaving her ruthless father and a privileged Eastern girlhood behind, she finally found freedom in the wild West. Libby could run a ranch, make her own choices, and never have to answer to any man. But then Remington Walker rode into her life. Despite herself, Libby found Remington breaking through all her defenses. Threatening the fragile safety of her western refuge. But what she doesn't know is that Remington has a reason for being there. A reason that could well destroy them both.

http://www.amazon.com/Loving-Libby-Robin-Lee-Hatcher/dp/0310256909/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358810082&sr=1-1&keywords=Loving+Libby

My Opinion:
Fabulous! This is yet another book that has made it to my Favorite Books List. At first I didn't think it would make the list; an easy read, I devoured it in under 24 hours. Some books have a way of leading you into a break, time to stop and do something else or wait until tomorrow to pick it up again. Some leave you not being able to sleep until you see what happens. Loving Libby is a happy medium, not too action packed, yet it kept my interest all day long. The beginning is well written and entertaining, but it's the end that got it to My Favorite Books List. I could probably read it over and over again just for the end alone. Robin Lee Hatcher is one of my favorite authors because she writes in a way that it only takes 3 pages to shock you and push you to read further! :) A MUST READ!!!

The only fault I can find with the book over all has nothing to do with the story or Robin. It has to do with Michelle Lenger and (possibly) Jon Paul Ferrara. I am disappointed with their work on the cover. There is no reason why Libby should not look exactly like the character described by Robin. This girl on the cover's hair is (I think) the wrong shade, her eyes are actually blue and do not reflect enough of the dress to be green enough and she has no freckles. This bothers me so much because these are very simple fixes that wouldn't even take me an hour to make. But I digress.

My songs are: "Center Of It" by Chris August, "I See The Light" by Mandy Moore, and "Little Miss" by Sugarland

Psalm 119:32

~ASC

Zondervan description page for Loving Libby: http://zondervan.com/9780310256908

*I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This in now way affected my opinion of this book, and the above it how I truly feel about Loving Libby.

P.S. Thank you to all of my followers!!!  If you are not yet a follower PLEASE become one with GFC or NetworkBlogs.  You'll find what you need to follow on the left! :) ~ASC

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Stranger in Wynnedower Review!!!

A Stranger in Wynnedower by Grace Greene

http://www.amazon.com/Stranger-Wynnedower-Grace-Greene/dp/0615707467/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358359114&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Stranger+at+Wynnedower

Book Description:
Love and suspense with a dash of Southern Gothic...

A Stranger in WynnedowerFrom the author of Beach Rental and Kincaid's Hope

Rachel Sevier, a thirty-two year old inventory specialist, travels to Wynnedower Mansion in Virginia to find her brother who has stopped returning her calls. Instead, she finds Jack Wynne, the mansion's bad-tempered owner. He isn't happy to meet her. When her brother took off without notice, he left Jack in a lurch.
Jack has his own plans. He's tired of being responsible for everyone and everything and wants nothing more than to shake his obligations, including the old mansion. The last thing he needs is someone who'll complicate his life further, but he agrees to allow Rachel to stay while she waits for her brother to return.
At Wynnedower, Rachel becomes curious about the house and its owner. If rumors are true, the means to save Wynnedower Mansion from demolition are hidden within its walls, but the other inhabitants of Wynnedower have agendas, too. Not only may Wynnedower's treasure be stolen, but also the life of its arrogant master.
In letting go of what she has struggled to control and hold onto, will Rachel gain more than she could have dreamed? Or will she lose everything and everyone she cares about?


http://www.amazon.com/Stranger-Wynnedower-Grace-Greene/dp/0615707467/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358359114&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Stranger+at+Wynnedower

My Opinion:
When I started this book I thought it was going to be along the lines and in the time of Jane Eyre. Well it does have a great feel toward Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast in a way (which I LOVED), but the time is in the present. This is not a fault, but still I was surprised. As I started getting into the story I got so excited I didn't want to put it down! I love Grace's play on words and descriptions of every scene. I did feel that some of the transitions where a little sporadic, but that added to the story in it's own way also. And the only other fault I have with this book is that I, personally, wanted a little more Faith writing. More prayers, a little scripture, etc. These are the only faults I have with the book over all it is FABULOUS!!! Shocking to the end, and I do mean the VERY end! I loved the characters, the setting, the surprises, and the plot! Filled with secrets, mystery, and a hidden treasure A Stranger in Wynnedower is a great adventure and a great read!!! :)

My songs for this book are: "Karaoke - Hallelujah" by Karaoke - Rufus Wainwright, "Long Shot" by Kelly Clarkson, and "Falling In" by Lifehouse

Proverbs 3:5-6

~ASC

P.S. if you are not yet a follower PLEASE become one!  Find GFC and Networkblogs on the left! :)  Thank you to all my followers! :)

Starting the New Year with a Fresh Perspective by Mike Glenn


gospelword
Starting the New Year with a Fresh Perspective by Mike Glenn
In the story of the prodigal son, Luke uses a curious phrase when the younger son realizes what he has lost and determines to go home. The King James Version translates the phrase, “He came to himself.” That phrase has always fascinated me. How do you come to yourself? Can you set yourself down somewhere and then forget where you left yourself? Actually, it is something like that. We can become so buried under mistakes and failure, stuffed under grief and regret, that we get to the place where we no longer recognize ourselves. But God’s “yes” changes all that. When the Spirit changes our true identity in Christ, we leave behind everything that is false and start walking toward the truth of Christ and who he created us to be.
Changing your mind
Walking away from the lies and destruction of sin is very close to the practical meaning of biblical repentance. It goes far beyond feeling bad about your sin—all the way to literally changing the direction of your life. And to change your life, you have to change the way you think. A change in your life’s direction means you stop fighting the current of God’s grace that flows in your spirit. Now you start flowing with the current of grace. As you reorient your life in the direction of God’s leading, you find your efforts are amplified through the Spirit’s presence in the same way an ocean current enhances the work of a ship’s sails.
When we talk about Christian conversion, we emphasize feelings of conviction and a decision to confess our sins and seek forgiveness. But we don’t stress the essential role played by our thinking. The problem that results is we don’t change the way we think, so we end up not changing our behavior. For a total transformation of a person’s life, the mind as well as the heart must change. We live the way we do because we think the way we do. The mess is in our heads before it is in our lives, but it moves from the mind to daily life.
This changes when we ask Christ to renew our minds, to alter the way we think. We need to allow our minds to be completely transformed. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” When your mind is transformed, your life will follow.
I am not naive. I understand the lure of sin and the effectiveness of its deceptions. And I am familiar with the consequences of sin. I have sat with large numbers of people and listened as they recognized and talked through the harmful consequences of their actions. When the cost of their failures sinks in, it is devastating. A man’s infidelity cost him his wife and children. For a few minutes of pleasure, he traded away a future with his family. It takes only one incident to disrupt a friendship, a career, a family, a life. Lies are told, discovered, and confessed in tears, but how can a person regain trust? Sin looks good in the moment but only because it’s hiding the future consequences.
I’m convinced we don’t understand the total impact of salvation. We make it about feelings or a one-time decision to confess our sins and trust in Christ’s death and resurrection. But to live a new life, to be completely transformed, our salvation has to be about the total person, including our minds.
Changing your frame of reference
If in obedience to Christ we are going to make different choices, we have to adopt Christ’s way of looking at things. God will create a new mind in you and me, but we have to join willingly in the process. And part of thinking differently is letting go of old assumptions and preferences and accepting the preferences of God.
In Acts 10 we read the story of the early church hearing from God a “yes” that led to its dropping of ethnic barriers. A Roman centurion named Cornelius was praying, and in his prayers he was told to find a man named Peter. Peter, in the meantime, also was praying. In his prayers Peter saw a vision of a sheet holding all kinds of animals—and they weren’t kosher. Although Peter was told to kill and eat, he refused. Again the vision came, and again Peter refused to eat. Each time, Jesus confronted Peter with the following rebuke: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Only when Cornelius’s messengers appeared at his gate did Peter begin to understand the message of the vision. Nothing created by God, people most of all, can ever be called unclean.
God created Gentiles just as he did Jews, and no one—Gentiles included—was inferior to anyone else. God loves those outside the nation of Israel on a par with the descendants of Abraham. Having grown up under the influence of Jewish traditions and biases, Peter must have had difficulty processing this. But to his credit, he was obedient to Christ and changed the way he thought about these matters. And not just the way he thought, but his life and his preaching as well.
Free of condemnation
There are two reasons we should not condemn others or ourselves. First, we all are created in the image of God. And second, Christ died for sinners. This is the price God was willing to pay for our redemption. We are called to live in the glory of knowing what we are worth. And when we don’t, we damage ourselves, one another, and the world we live in. Sin devalues us as people and causes us to see others and all creation as lacking worth. Sin negates the good work Christ does in us and in the world. Where Christ speaks “yes,” sin says “no.”
We have things in our lives that cause shame or grief, and they act as a giant but to the good news of Christ. He promises us new life, which sounds great, but…“my family business went bankrupt after I misspent some accounts. I was going to pay it back, but then everything collapsed.” And suddenly we forget the promise of Christ. He promises forgiveness and second chances, but it’s hard to believe the second chance could still apply after the things we’ve done.
Why do we think that we alone committed a sin so horrible it exceeds Jesus’s ability to forgive? This kind of thinking is the ultimate heresy. What we are saying is the death of Jesus was payment enough for everyone else’s sins, but our sin is so monstrous that his death isn’t enough to cover it.
Let Christ change the way you think so you can let go of that lie. Jesus paid it all. No part of the debt has been left for you or me to pay by working hard to clean up our own lives. On our own we can’t get clean enough to impress God. Whatever we might try, we will always be unworthy of his love. The gift of God’s “yes” in Christ is unearned, given to us freely. Our relationship with God is not a contract; it is a covenant, a bond of mutual love and commitment. In this covenant the parties are not equal, but the arrangement is mutual. Christ died for us and offers us his salvation, and we accept what he did for us as a free gift—on his terms.
Christ opens the door; we need only to walk through it. We then live our lives in loving response to God’s grace expressed in Jesus. This is the mutual love and commitment of the covenant. Yet, for some reason, we have a hard time believing the gift of salvation is free. Who would give away something like that? So we think we have to earn it.
Adapted from The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn with permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Captive Trail Review!!!

*Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis

http://www.amazon.com/Captive-Trail-Texas-Series-ebook/dp/B005NFG4Y8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358272867&sr=8-1&keywords=CAptive+Trail
Captive Trail (The Texas Trail Series)
Book Description:

The Captive Trail is second in a six-book series about four
generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896.  Although a series, each book can be read on its own.

Taabe Waipu has run away from her Comanche village and
is fleeing south in Texas on a horse she stole from a dowry left outside her family's teepee.  The horse has an accident and she is left on foot, injured and exhausted.  She staggers onto a road near Fort Chadbourne and collapses.

On one of the first runs through Texas, Butterfield Overland Mail Company driver Ned Bright carries two Ursuline nuns returning to their mission station.  They come across a woman who is nearly dead from exposure and dehydration and take her to the mission.

With some detective work, Ned discovers Taabe Waipu identity. He plans to unite her with her family, but the Comanche have other ideas, and the two end up defending the mission station. Through Taabe and Ned we learn the true meaning of healing and restoration amid seemingly powerless situations.


http://www.amazon.com/Captive-Trail-Texas-Series-ebook/dp/B005NFG4Y8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358272867&sr=8-1&keywords=CAptive+Trail

My Opinion:
Everything Cowgirl trail wasn't Captive trail is!!! Susan's writing is exquisite, the story line is amazing, and the pace is wonderful. This is an excellent adventure and a heart warming story. Susan's characters are wonderful and they will steal your heart. An amazing, surprising end will leave you reeling! Or at least it left me that way! I had to read the scene three times it is SO good. Captive trail has given me new love and interest in this series and this author. Susan always has strong female characters, intelligent characters all around, and adds that bit of humor and surprise to whisk you away to the time of Comanche captives, cavalry men in forts, buffalo hunters, and wild Indian renegades raiding the plains in all her books but especially in this one! I can't wait to read more from Susan now! Captive trail is a great read whether you are looking for an adventure during a rainy or snowy day, or if you just want a great read in general! :)

I have 2 songs for this book and 1 of them is from the book (or at least the closest I cold find.) "Amazing Grace" by Spiritual Flute Recorder Music and "Soothing Thunder Tones" by Sleep Tribe

John 14:1-3

~ASC

*I received this book for the purpose of reviewing it.  This in no way affected my opinion expressed above and this was my truthful opinion of Captive Trail.

P.S. Thanks for reading and thank you to all of my followers!  If you aren't a follower yet PLEASE become one with GFC or Networkblogs, and then pass it on to all of your friends and family! :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Learning the Art of Self-challenge by Jason Jaggard


sparkword
Learning the Art of Self-challenge by Jason Jaggard
Through taking healthy risks that make you a better person or the world a better place, you begin to develop a deeper appetite for good. At first it might not be very tasty. Taking even a small risk can be more difficult than it sounds. And that is why we have to practice. We have to develop the skill of challenging ourselves.
We want the act of making healthy choices to become a natural and authentic part of who we are. But before something can become a habit, it often is a hassle. Put another way: if we want new habits to become instinctual, then they must first be intentional. And in order for that to happen, we have to practice the sacred art of self-challenge.
I don’t want to freak you out, but what we’re really talking about is obedience. Obedience to God is the path that leads to Life. It’s the path that transforms you into the person you long to be.
And obedience always requires risk.
What’s amazing is that much of our obedience is instinctual. In at least some areas of life, we naturally make healthy choices. We naturally smile at a stranger, or perhaps we have a great work ethic or are naturally curious or easygoing.
Yet we can’t define obedience solely in terms of what comes naturally. Often our greatest moments of obedience come when it is least natural. Perhaps our natural tendency in certain situations is unhealthy or hurtful. Or perhaps what we naturally want to do is nothing, to avoid taking action when action is called for. In these moments we have to choose something else, something we don’t want to do, something that, most likely, will move us into the space of the unknown.
I want to be a person who is able to act—who is able to obey—even when it’s unnatural.
Intentionality and risk are the ways we develop a greater capacity to obey. When we say, “I’m going to do this thing that I wouldn’t normally do,” we are developing the capacity to grow into the people we were meant to be.
When Jesus invited people to follow Him, He was inviting them to obey Him. There are parts of you that already reflect God’s character, parts of your uniqueness that are expressions of something God wanted to say when He created you. Those are already consistent with following Jesus.
Maybe it’s your smile.
Maybe it’s your way with people.
Maybe it’s your work ethic.
Maybe it’s your sense of right and wrong.
Maybe it’s your intelligence or your curiosity for life.
Maybe it’s your sense of responsibility or your flare for fun.
These things are good just the way they are. It’s easy to obey when God calls us to things we naturally love. When God calls us to the stuff we already like (which happens a lot more than we realize), it’s one of the great pleasures of life.
Risk is the central narrative of the scriptures. When I do Spark Group trainings with faith communities, I always have participants do this exercise:
1. Pick any person in the scriptures that comes to mind.
2. Identify the risk God called that person to take.
This is surprisingly easy. And once people get going, it’s hard to get them to stop. Abraham: stopped living with his parents at age seventy and moved into no man’s land to start his own nation. Moses: even with a speech impediment, he stood up to the most powerful man in the world to liberate an enslaved people. Mary: endured the shame of people assuming she had been unfaithful to her fiancĂ©. Joseph: remained committed to a teenage girl, his fiancĂ©e, who in the eyes of their neighbors and extended family was almost certainly an adulteress.
Samson.
Ruth.
The apostle Paul.
Rahab.
The twelve fellas who quit their jobs to follow Jesus, most of whom were later killed for doing so.
The people whose stories are recorded in the history of the scriptures all took risks—often huge risks—to be a part of what God was doing in the world. It seems like a prerequisite for being mentioned in the narrative of the movement of God is the willingness and courage to risk.
Like God’s people throughout history, we can jump into life in ways that only we can so that God can move in ways we cannot. Call it faith if you want, but in terms of everyday life, it’s risk. And it’s through risk that God can change our lives.
Faith. Love. Hope.
Risk. Compassion. Optimism.
When we begin to live out these values, we create a context that is thick with potential. When we have the courage to take risks of compassion that produce optimism in others, we create space for God to move and work. We begin to form our souls into the kind of textured lives that gives God traction to guide us into the future He dreamed we could participate in. And we become fully alive.
This is what Jesus did two thousand years ago. He assembled a team and spent three years with them, throwing them into the deep end of serving humanity. Coaching them. Teaching them. And then He kept saying weird things, such as “Have faith in me and you will do greater things than what I have done.”
And then, before He turned His followers and friends loose to serve humanity on God’s behalf, He said: “Go, create cultures of servant leadership, of risk, compassion, and optimism out of every society.”
He looked into the eyes of folks like you and me and said, “Go.” Risk. Care. Create.
Just like the people you’ve read about in this book, you have ideas that need to be set free. God has placed potential inside you, potential for creative joy and love, strength and peace. And all of that needs to be unleashed.
So risk. Choose something. Do something. Partner together with God and others to pull off something beautiful that serves humanity. It will be hard. You will experience failure. But I promise, you will never regret it.
As Steven Ma put it: “It’s definitely a challenge. It’s definitely a risk. But most important: it’s fun.”
This is the way the world heals. It is the way God has chosen to move through the contours of history. He has chosen our hearts, our feet, our fingertips. Some people will hear God’s voice only if it sounds like ours, inviting them into the adventure of hope that we have been invited into.
This is how we spark our world. When we begin to realize that learning is a verb and that life is the best classroom. When we begin taking risks of compassion in the context of community. When we start intentionally leaning into our relationships, our careers, our faith. When we step outside of our comfort zones and experience a life that can exist only if God is with us.
Our world will begin to change.
One small risk at a time.
Adapted from Spark by Jason Jaggard with permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Courting Cate Review!!!

*Courting Cate by Leslie Gould

http://www.amazon.com/Courting-Cate-Courtships-Lancaster-County/dp/0764210319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357323029&sr=8-1&keywords=Courting+Cate


Book Description:
Courting Cate (The Courtships of Lancaster County)When Amish farmer Pete Treger moves to Paradise Township, Pennsylvania, seeking a better life, he meets sisters Cate and Betsy Miller. Both are beautiful, but older sister Cate is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Betsy, on the other hand, is sweet and flirty--and seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County!

However, the sisters' wealthy father has made one hard and fast rule: elder sister must marry first, before the younger can even start courting. 



Unfortunately for poor Betsy, and for the men who want to court her, her older sister, Cate, doesn't have any suitors--until Pete comes to town, that is. 

Though he finds both sisters attractive, something about Cate's feisty demeanor appeals to him. Soon the other bachelors in the district convince Pete to court Cate. She hardly seems receptive to his overtures, though. Instead, she's immediately suspicious of his interest.

http://www.amazon.com/Courting-Cate-Courtships-Lancaster-County/dp/0764210319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357323029&sr=8-1&keywords=Courting+Cate

My Opinion:
I have always loved Taming of the Shrew and Amish fiction. So when I found a book that combined both of them I was SO excited!

Taming of the Shrew is my favorite Shakespearean work. I have always felt a connection to the character Kate, and the same is with Leslie's rendition. Actually I loved Courting Cate even more than Taming of the Shrew, because it is written in Cate's perspective. The kinship I have always felt with Cate grew by leaps and bounds while reading her thoughts and feelings. Leslie has made it onto my favorite authors list and Courting Cate has made onto my FAVORITE books list! This is a fabulous story, told in a beautiful way. The pace is set with NO lulls and FULL of great scenes; and a few twists! I didn't want to put this book down and I read way past/or right to midnight on more than one night before making myself go to sleep. Then I picked it back up and read through out the day!!! Every emotion resonated within my chest as I read through everything Cate and Pete goes through, because Leslie writes in such an emotional way. Courting Cate shows you that if you find God's love first; other loves are truer and stronger. This is a MUST READ!!! Wonderful, simply wonderful!

My songs are: "Be Be Your Love" by Rachael Yamagata, "Pass Me Not" by The Cluster Pluckers, and "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None The Richer (love this song for this book because it reminds me of "KISS ME KATE!" :) )

Esther

~ASC

*I received this book for free from Bethany House for the purpose of reviewing it.  This in no way affected my opinion of this book, and the above is my true opinion of Courting Cate.  Thanks Bethany House for the review copy! :)

P.S. As always I would LOVE for you to follow my blog!  Either by GFC or Network blogs!  Look to the left of the posts and PLEASE Follow!!!  THANK YOU to all my followers! :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

This Year: Dream Bigger, Start Smaller by Steven Furtick


greaterword-2
This Year: Dream Bigger, Start Smaller by Steven Furtick
I’ve met a lot of people who knew what it was to burn plows and set out to live for God but didn’t know what to do next. They prayed, they made a commitment—and they got stuck. As a pastor, I’ve seen it over and over again. As a man trying to live for God, I’ve experienced it over and over again.
I’m guessing you’ve made plenty of resolutions about stuff you needed to start doing or stop doing. Maybe you were going to start praying or reading your Bible more.
Or maybe you were going to stop smoking or boycott carbohydrates or stop looking at pornography or stop saying mean things about family members behind their backs. Maybe you decided to break away from a relationship you knew was unhealthy for you.
The way I see it, there are two major reasons why well-intentioned people like us get stuck after we burn our plows.
One, we don’t think big enough. Two, we don’t start small enough.
I’m not trying to talk like Yoda here. Thinking big enough and starting small enough are two sides of the same coin. So I not only want to motivate you to dream bigger dreams for your life. I also want to challenge you to take realistic steps of obedience that can actually make God’s vision come to pass.
After all, our God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). It is true that we often settle for dreams and visions that are far less than those God has for us. And He wants us to experience much more. If I didn’t believe that, the title of this book would beSamer.
So of course God wants you to believe big—it’s in His very nature. I’ve devoted my whole ministry to inspiring people with this truth. Preacher Dwight L. Moody made a statement that I love: “If God is your partner, make your plans big.” That way of thinking makes my heart race.
But we’re not going to see God’s bigger vision fulfilled in our lives just because we spend more time thinking transcendent thoughts. We don’t attain greater things simply by lying on the couch and concentrating on the possibilities of a better life. Alas, sitting for thousands of hours with my headphones on listening to Guns N’ Roses and imagining I was Axl Rose didn’t translate into my being the lead singer of the world’s most dangerous rock’n’roll band.
You do have to be willing to think big. But the active ingredient of God’s greater work through us is our willingness to start small.
I want to show you an incredible image in one of the first main-stage miracles Elisha performs after Elijah departs and leaves the ministry in his successor’s hands. It demonstrates the principle that small steps and hard work precipitate a move of God. That human action prepares the way for supernatural favor.
It comes from 2 Kings 3, and it goes like this:
King Joram is ruling over Israel during the years when the kingdom is divided. When the king of Moab rebels against him, the frightened king enlists King Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom to help him. Their combined military force should be fearsome against the Moabites—but they almost immediately run out of water for their armies and animals. Now they are preparing to face a terrifying foe while facing an even more terrifying fate: dying of thirst.
Par for the course in Israel’s history, the crisis drives King Joram to look for divine help. He isn’t desperate for God, but he is desperate for a solution. King Jehoshaphat asks if there is a prophet who could consult God for them. A servant reminds him of Elisha, the artist formerly known as Mr. Plow. So the three kings and their entourages go looking for Elisha.
Elisha confirms to the kings that water will flow from Edom by the time the sun comes up the next morning. Their armies and their animals will have plenty to drink. The drought is almost over. God is going to deliver Moab to His people just as they prayed for. Hallelujah, somebody?
But he tells the kings to take a small, ludicrous step first.
This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. (verse 16)
Why would anybody in their right mind dig ditches to hold rain that isn’t even in the forecast?
Because that’s the way faith works. When you know God has promised you greater things, you don’t wait for a sign to appear before you respond. The kings wanted a miracle. They would get their miracle. But first they got a work order: This is no time for the power of positive thinking. Tie a bandanna around your head and pick up a shovel.
It would have been great if all the army had to do was sit around thinking hydration-related thoughts or had a few guided exercises to help them visualize the water. But that’s not how God operates.
It’s as if God says, “If you really believe I’m going to do what I told you I would do, get busy. Show Me your faith, and then I’ll show you My faithfulness. Do your part. If you will do what I asked you to do, I will be faithful to My word.
“If you’ll dig the ditches, I’ll send the rain.”
The entire nation must have pitched in and dug all night, because they got it done. The next morning the water arrived. As promised. As always. The newly installed ditches were full of water, the armies and animals were refreshed, and the joint army easily overtook the Moabites.
I think Elisha used the process of ditch digging to teach Israel this important paradox of great faith:
Only God can send the rain. But He expects you to dig the ditches.
It really comes down to this: What small steps and practical preparations is God asking you to make for the greater life He wants you to live? What ditches is He asking you to dig?
You can’t expect God to entrust you with a big dream if He can’t trust you to make a small start.
You can’t have the apostle Paul’s walk with God overnight. Big dream.
But you can pray ten minutes a day beginning tomorrow. Small start.
You can’t entirely mend a broken relationship overnight. Big dream.
But you can have a conversation and open the door, write the letter, make the call, say, “I’m sorry.” Small start.
If your kid is far from God, you can’t bring him back overnight. Big dream.
But you could start praying for him every day. Small start.
Notice what Elisha doesn’t say; he doesn’t tell the kings to dig one ditch. No singular ditch digging on this prophet’s watch.
Instead, make this valley full of ditches. Plural.
Believe that God is going to send a lot of rain.
If we really believe God is an abundant God, ready and willing to bless our lives in greater ways than we could ever imagine, we ought to be digging all kinds of ditches. In our relationships. In our careers. In our ministries. In every area of our lives, there ought to be heavy-duty equipment on site. Moving dirt. Making preparation.
And we ought to dig ditches using every means available. We can dig ditches with our words. With our prayers. With our expectations. Even with our thoughts.
How many ditches are you willing to dig? How deep will you dig them? You’re not digging alone. And it’s not in vain. God has a downpour scheduled in your near future. The deeper you dig, the greater the rainfall has the potential to be.
Adapted from Greater by Steven Furtick with permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

To Whisper Her Name Review

*To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander

http://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Belle-Meade-Plantation-Novel/dp/0310291062/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357084453&sr=1-1&keywords=to+whisper+her+name

To Whisper Her Name (A Belle Meade Plantation Novel)
Book Description:
Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a man shot as a traitor to the South, is shunned by proper society and gratefully accepts an invitation from "Aunt" Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation. Expecting to be the Harding's head housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned when she learns the real reason Elizabeth's husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming. Not finding the safe haven she expects, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a Southern man who seems anything but a Southern gentleman.
 
Branded a traitor by some, Ridley Cooper, a Southern son who chose to fight for the Union, is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him. Determined to learn "the gift" that Belle Meade's head horse trainer and former slave, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley harbors secrets that threaten both their lives. 
 
As Ridley seeks to make peace within himself for "betraying" the South he loved, Olivia is determined to never be betrayed again.

Set at Nashville's historic Belle Meade Plantation, the most influential thoroughbred stud farm in America's history, To Whisper Her Name weaves the struggles of real people of the post-war South with the journeys of a man and a woman scarred by betrayal.

http://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Belle-Meade-Plantation-Novel/dp/0310291062/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357084453&sr=1-1&keywords=to+whisper+her+name

My Opinion:
Wow! That is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this book. "To Whisper Her Name" has been such a contradiction for me. It felt at times that it would never end, and yet, I found a part of me didn't want it to. Filled with the true South, it reminded me of Gone with the Wind and the Daughters of Twin Oaks series, but with it's own legs to stand on. Filled with characters that steal your heart, are complete scalawags, anger you, and one that leaves you not knowing how you feel about him. Completely shocking twists that I never saw coming and blew my mind! Tamera's writing style is intelligent, but sometimes overly so. I love the way she strings words together, but at times it got a little wordy. This book is filled with fabulous and exciting moments, but it had lulls in between them. My opinion is that this book was a little long for my liking. But it is an amazing story that I wholeheartedly recommend, and do not regret spending so much time reading! "To Whisper Her Name" must be read, savored, and contemplated! Capturing the elegance, pain, devastation, and beauty of the South, that came with the changes after the war, Tamera paints the picture wonderfully!

My songs for this book are, "Softly and Tenderly" by Deborah Liv Johnson, "Wild Horses" by Natasha Bedingfield, "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" by Shedaisy

John 14:1-3, Galatians 3:27-28

~ASC

*I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This in no way affected my opinion of To Whisper Her Name, and the above is my true opinion of the book. 


Zondervan.com's product description page: http://zondervan.com/9780310291060


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Happy New Year!

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