Friday, May 25, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Balance


Balance 
A devotional by Gail Kittleson

The author of Ecclesiastes instructs us:

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,

Drink wine with a robust heart.

Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!

Dress festively every morning.

Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.

Relish life with the spouse you love

Each and every day of your precarious life.

Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange

For the hard work of staying alive.

~Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, The Message (MSG)

How do we seize life? The key seems to be viewing each new day as a gift, even while acknowledging our struggles. We awaken with honest hearts, willing to live in the present—focusing on this twenty-four hours we’ve been given. On certain days of our lives, this seems almost impossible. We’ve all been there. 

I admit that it’s easy to look with doubt upon folks who “dress festively” and express constant good cheer. Don’t you wonder when they’ll finally admit life is tough, or if they’ll ever break down and show their tears? After all, no one ever instructed believers not to be human.

Once, I worked with someone who always smiled. No matter what you shared with her, she managed a cheery comeback. I began to observe her, certain that her fa├žade would eventually crack and she’d admit to having a bad day. But that never happened. Maybe we didn’t work together long enough—I still believe that deep down, she was just like the rest of us.

But what good does the opposite attitude do? Going around with a long face can be so depressing, both for us and the people around us. Why not look for the good in others and in circumstances beyond our control? After all, we all know spiritual growth seems to accelerate during the rough times. 

The author of this scripture points to balancing our gusto with an honest recognition of this old world’s suffering. Not an easy task, but it’s essential to maintain our equilibrium.

Perhaps that’s the key—balance. Isn’t much of life a study in maintaining balance? I’ve pondered this after a bad bout with dizziness. With my equilibrium disturbed, my most frequent prayer became, “Help!”

Without a sense of balance, poise and steadiness become pipe dreams. Accomplishing much of anything goes by the wayside. But with balance restored, we walk securely and find the energy to embrace what each day brings and enjoy our lives.

My Prayer: Dear Lord, please teach me to maintain balance in this world of ups and downs, for Your glory and for my own happiness.

~*~
Author Bio:
When Gail’s not steeped in World War II research, drafting scenes, or deep in an edit of her 1940’s novels, she does a limited amount of editing for other authors. 

She also facilitates writing and creativity workshops, both in Iowa and Arizona, where she and her husband like to spend part of the winter in the amazing Ponderosa pine forest under the Mogollon Rim.

Favorites: spending time with grandchildren, walking, reading, meeting new people, and hearing from readers who fall in love with her characters.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Forgiveness


Forgiving Yourself

A devotional by Ginger Solomon

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 
~1 Cor. 13:4-7 (NLT)

We talk about love a lot. It’s important. But I don’t want to talk about love today. Today, I’m taking a snippet from this familiar passage.

The end of verse 6 says, “it keeps no record of being wronged.”

Many of us are record keepers. We hold grudges for AGES.

The rest of us shrug and move on. I’m a shrugger. Yeah, you might hurt me, but I’ll love you anyway. That doesn’t mean I have to put up with you, though. Your attitude is not worth my time, my health, my brain power, or the wear and tear on my emotions. I have better things to do than hate you for the rest of my life.

And yet, I still keep a record of wrongs done.

Except the record is of MY wrongs, MY misdeeds, MY ill-spoken words, MY angry outbursts... The list could go on and on.

As I write this, my brain is filtering through the many things I’ve said and done. It’s a “little black book” of sins.

And yet, in so many places in the Bible, we are told to forgive. Most of them are referring to the hurts others commit against us, maybe even all of them. I didn’t check each and every one.

I think it’s MUCH easier to forgive others than it is to forgive myself for my shortcomings.

When I’m tired, I get grumpy. I snap. If I’m frustrated with something, I snap. When my hormones decide to play on the teeter-totter of my emotions, I snap. Sometimes, I can take myself away and regroup. Other times, well, I sin. *gasp* I ask forgiveness of whoever happens to be at the other end of my sharp tongue, but it doesn’t excuse the behavior in the first place. BECAUSE I KNOW BETTER.

So, I keep a mental black book of things I’ve done to hurt others. Sometimes I don’t even know I’ve done it. I was informed earlier in the month that I hurt someone I love. I didn’t know. I still don’t know what I did, but I apologized.

That same week, we had a guest pastor for our Wednesday evening service. I don’t remember everything he said, but this stuck out for me: “We can’t offer a hand of forgiveness to others unless we’ve forgiven ourselves.” If I’m too busy holding onto unforgiveness against MYSELF, I can’t offer forgiveness to someone else. Because if I don’t think I deserve forgiveness how can I offer it.

And honestly, I don’t deserve it. None of us do. But God gives it to us anyway, and if GOD can forgive me, who am I to think I don’t deserve to forgive myself.

Psalm 103:12(NLT) says, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

Do you know the east and the west NEVER meet? If you travel east, you will never reach west and vice versa.

So back to 1 Corinthians 13. If LOVE never keeps a record of wrongs, why don’t we love ourselves enough to forgive our own sins?

It’s a struggle. One I deal with daily. I’m still learning. I’m still growing. And that’s okay. I’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but I’m going to keep walking in that direction. I’m going to keep following the Savior. I’m going to apply what He’s teaching me through His word and through His messengers.

My Prayer: Father God, help us forgive ourselves. Help us to burn our little, black books of wrongs done to others. And if we keep one for the wrongs done to us, help us to forgive those people and rid ourselves of the baggage of unforgiveness. It’s a weight we were never meant to carry, and we . . . I lay it down at the foot of the cross right now. I forgive me. I release me. Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:
Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer—in that order (mostly). 

She writes or reads inspirational romance of any genre, and if she’s busy homeschooling, doing laundry, or fixing dinner, books are on her mind.

She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), president of her local writing group, and blogs regularly for InspyRomance.com and at gingersolomon.com.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: God's Favor


Grace, God’s Unmerited Favor

A devotional by Nanci Rubin


“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)

This scripture always pings my heart. I try and envision God in Heaven asking, “Who will go and save my creation? My children have been deceived and have gotten off course. They need someone to show them the way home. Someone who can bridge the crevasse sin has created.”

I can imagine the angels, the Holy Spirit and Jesus talking with God at a Heavenly Holy Ghost board meeting. Jesus, the chairman of International Outreach, raises his hand and says, “I will go.” Everyone nods and an ethereal melody that only the Heavenly Host can hear permeates the atmosphere. The Angels nominate Jesus as God’s representative and the Holy Spirit seconds the motion. Everyone is in agreement. God’s only-begotten son will become the savior.

There is a flurry of activity as preparations are made for Jesus to come to earth as the Son of Man. He willingly lay aside his robe and crown to come down to our level. He became the propitiation for our sins. I often wonder, why he did that? How deep is a love that would willingly take all our afflictions and sins? It is beyond all human comprehension.

So, how does grace come into this? According to Ephesians at the top of this blog, it states we’re saved by grace, God’s unmerited favor, not by anything that we say or can do. It is God’s greatest gift to mankind. He gives it freely. We can’t earn it. We can’t save ourselves. We all need a savior. God knew it. It wasn’t enough any longer for our sins to be merely covered by the blood of a sacrificial animal it was time for our sins to be laved away, once and for all. This was accomplished by the blood of Jesus at Calvary. His sacrifice opened the door unto eternal life.

In Isaiah, Chapter 53, God’s Word clearly defines what Jesus accomplished for us at The Cross. He took upon himself. ALL of our sin, All of our sicknesses and diseases, and we were healed. It’s already done. So many wonderful Christians fail to understand this gift of grace. I want to have the unmerited favor of God. I want to know that when I fail and sin, which we all do, that God has made a way for me, and you, to confess our sins and be forgiven. We need to get it through our heads that God loves us so much he has given all He can give to show us that love. There is not one thing you can do to make him love you more nor can you do anything to make him love you less. He just loves you.

When you think, you’ve screwed up and made a mess of everything God is not sitting on His throne with a whip, ready to punish you. No, GOD IS NOT MAD WITH YOU. HE IS MAD ABOUT YOU. He wants to restore you back into fellowship with Him. We all have such a tendency to run from God when we’ve messed up, but we should be running to Him.

Many years ago, God chastened me about speaking negatively about myself. I was constantly calling myself stupid or saying what a dummy I was when I’d done something wrong. God spoke to my spirit, and said, “Don’t say those things about My creation. You don't see yourself through my eyes. I see the finished product. You cannot.” From that time forward, I became very conscious of how I spoke about myself. I began to believe that indeed I was wonderfully and marvelously made by God’s own hands. Sure, I still mess up, but I realize it's covered by Jesus’ blood. I confess my faults, get up, dust myself off and start over.

This is the walk we choose when we accept grace. It’s wonderful to know God is always there and ready to restore us when we’ve gotten off course. Don’t allow the enemy to deceive you into believing God will not forgive you. Remember grace and Jesus’ sacrifice.

If by chance you’ve stumbled and lost your way call out to God and tell him you’re sorry and want his unmerited favor. When our children err and confess what they’ve done, we are forgiving because we love them. God loves you a zillion more times than that.

~*~
Author Bio:
Nanci writes Inspy Amish romance. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two fur kids, Romeo and Juliet, rescue cats. She is working on her debut novel, Plain Justice.

She retired earlier than planned from nursing to care for her mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her mom passed last year at the age of ninety-nine and Nanci has delved more into her writing.

She is active in an intercessory prayer ministry in her church, belongs to The Woman’s Club, a service-oriented volunteer organization dedicated to the welfare and enrichment of the community and volunteers two days a week at the Mary Washington Museum.

Currently, she's enrolled in Rhema Bible College’s correspondence Bible studies. She belongs to ACFW and RWA. When she’s not working, reading or writing she’s hiking with her husband at Shenandoah National Park.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Let Love Bloom: Bell's Book


Dreams Do Change
A guest post by Bell Renshaw

When I was little, I dreamed about growing up to be an artist. I even dressed up one Halloween as a ‘crazy artist’ complete with a white, frizzy-haired wig, a brush, and artists’ palette. Fast forward to today and…I am not an artist.

It’s probably not too much of a shock that my dreams changed. We often ask children what they want to be when they grow up and the answers range from firefighter to princess and beyond. Children have wild imaginations and it’s fun to hear them dream out loud. What we as adults realize is that most of what they dream stems from what they are interested in at that moment. Maybe they just watched Cinderella or a cartoon about a firefighter. Either way, we realize that those dreams will often fade or change given time.

But what happens when we get older?

In the first novella of my new Justin Harbor series, As Easy As Riding A Bike, I take a look at the idea of dreams and how they can change in a good way. One of my main characters, Connor Pearson, actually achieved his dreams. He started off with a love for photography as a high school student and ended up leaving the small, coastal town of Justin Harbor, Oregon to pursue his dream of being a traveling photographer. Then, one day, something brings him back to town.

My other main character, Emma Holland, is also a character made up of dreams. She took some time figuring out what they were, but she ends up running her own motel business in Justin Harbor.

Both characters seem to get what they want, but it’s not enough. Emma has to face the reality that she can’t do it all on her own, even if she’s achieving her dreams, while Connor has to own up to the fact that it’s okay for his dream to change.

Without going into what happens (no spoilers here!) I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that Emma and Connor took me on as I wrote their story. It was one of realizing that sometimes the things we think will satisfy us are actually hurdles in our way to something even better. Connor and Emma are able to find happiness when they let go of what they want in relation to what God has for them.

It can be a scary thing to let go of a dream. To come to the realization that the thing you placed all your hope in isn’t actually the thing you’re supposed to focus on, but I’d like to challenge you to consider the fact that maybe God is using the end of one dream to bring about the reality of another.

What did you want to be when you were little? Did you grow up to be that, or did something else take that dream’s place? Do you have a dream that’s changed over time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

~*~
Author Bio: 

Annabell “Bell” Renshaw has always loved books and the power of a good story. 

She turned those passions toward writing at an early age, finding solace and adventure in made-up worlds when her mother would read to her as a kid. 

She’s grown up now, but still finds herself lost in those worlds. She believes in the power of a happy ending and the fact that--no matter what--love will always find a home. 

~*~
Book Blurb for As Easy as Riding a Bike:

Emma Holland is almost finished with the renovation of The Brown Bear Lodge nestled just off the Pacific Coast 101 Highway in picturesque Justin Harbor, Oregon. Being a business owner in a small town isn’t easy, but Emma’s got more than enough determination—not to mention an excellent eye for interior design. There’s only one problem. One of her first guests of the season is someone she hoped she’d never see again. 



As a famous landscape photographer, Connor Pearson has traveled far and wide following his dreams at the cost of losing his first love. Now, back in Justin Harbor, Connor is looking for more than just a place to stay. He’s looking for himself.

As Emma and Connor rediscover their lost friendship and seek to find common ground in the present, Connor feels the tug of his small town roots. Is it possible that a man who’s traveled the world could find his home where his dreams began? Can Emma come to terms with the fact that self-reliance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Will their bonds from the past weather the storms of the present?

As Easy as Riding a Bike 
will introduce you to the salty air and calming waters of Justin Harbor, the first novella in a series featuring small town women business owners.

~*~
Buy Bell's book on Amazon


~*~
Connect with Bell:
Website - www.bellrenshaw.jimdo.com
Instagram - www.instagram.com/bellreadsbooks
Twitter - www.twitter.com/authorbellren
Facebook - www.facebook.com/bellrenshaw
Pinterest - www.pinterest.com/bellrenshaw


~*~
Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below:


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Friday, May 18, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Shellie's thoughts on science and Heaven


When We All Get to Heaven
A devotional by Shellie Arnold


“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 
~Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

My husband, Stephen, loves science. Science, astronomy, nature—they all point him to God. For Stephen, watching the stars is a spiritual experience. They provoke him to worship.

So, you’d think I’d support that, wouldn’t you? My husband learning about science, nature, the stars, details about God’s creation. The problem is, he usually shares these facts when I’m trying to go to sleep. And I don’t care. Because I want to go to sleep.

One time he was trying to explain to me that scientists had recently stumbled onto a new fact—I don’t even know what the fact was—that pointed to (wait for it) the possibility of the creation of our world being the result of intelligent design. Stephen loves those kind of “discoveries.”

But I was irritated. I wanted to go to sleep, but he kept talking.

And mean Shellie came out. She doesn’t appear very often, but this time, she did. I sat up in bed, and I said: “You know what? When we get to heaven, God is going to take all you science types into a big classroom. And He’s going to ask every one of you, ‘How do you think I did it?’ and you’re all going to have the wrong answer. Then He’s going to say, ‘This is how I did it." And you’re all going to say, ‘Wow, I never would have thought of that.’”

After having this particular conversation with Stephen—aside from being convicted and having to apologize for letting “mean Shellie” come out—I started thinking about heaven. And the older I get, the more difficult things I face, the more I think about it. Because sometimes what gets me through the week, or the day, or the moment, is focusing on heaven and what it will be like.

The above verse tells us there will be no tears in heaven—over tragedies, frustration, or rejection. Can you imagine?

There will be no death in Heaven. From cancer or Alzheimer’s or MS. There will be no more mourning in Heaven.

There is no more crying in Heaven—over disappointment or betrayal.

There will be no more pain in Heaven
emotional, physical, or otherwise. Everyone there will love God. Every touch will be right and honest and pure.

In Heaven, the old order of things will pass away. Pride will no longer cause discrimination. Power will no longer corrupt. Greed won’t exist. Shame won’t exist. Every beautiful thing we lost when Adam and Eve sinned will be restored.

You see, Heaven is the anti-thesis of all that is awful and painful here on earth. The complete opposite of everything that wounds and scars us.

It’s relief. Blissful, permanent relief.

When life throws things you didn’t expect at you, remember heaven with all its promise. You can make it through this—you can, with God’s help and strength—because on the other side, all of the things that made this side so difficult will be gone.

The One thing that will be the same, is Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Our lives on this earth are merely a taste of what being close to God will be like. Because finally, finally there will be no barriers between us. We will see Jesus. We can touch Him and feel His scarred hands cup our face. We can look into His eyes and find Heaven.

Don’t give up when life kicks the breath out of you or when one (or more) of these insidious things that inhabit our world happens to you.

Because for you and me, Heaven is just around the corner!

~*~
Author Bio: 

Shellie Arnold is a writer and speaker on marriage and family. She truly believes—despite baggage, neglect, or mistakes—if a husband and wife listen to God, they can live happily ever after. Her passion is sharing how God is helping her do exactly that.

She maintains a blog at www.shelliearnold.com and is the founder of YOUR MARRIAGE resources.

Shellie is a mother of three and has home-schooled for over twenty years. S
he lives in Ohio with her husband of thirty-one years.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Radio Airwaves and God's Love Letter


A Spirit of Wisdom

A devotional by Paula Moldenhauer

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” ~Ephesians 1:17 NIV

I still remember the exact place it happened. Turning onto the busy street beside the mall, I pulled away from the dry cleaners. Even though it occurred almost twenty years ago, I’m reminded of the moment when I pass that location.

To some, it might not seem like such a big thing but for me, it was life-changing. I listened to Christian radio as I drove, my children all snug in their car seats. The speaker's voice across the airwaves said, “Some of you are reading the Bible as if it was a textbook, but it is actually a love letter.”

What?


My whole being woke up. The radio preacher shared truth I needed, and the Holy Spirit poked me to attention.

When you spend your life trying to be good enough, it is easy to get caught up in searching the Bible for the dos and don’ts—trying to understand what is expected rather than experiencing a relationship of love. That message on the radio was just one of many ways the Lord calls to me, asking me to seek Him, not a set of behavioral guidelines.

In verse seventeen of Ephesians, Paul prays that the Christians in Ephesus will be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so they can know God better.

In the old days, I would have assumed that we needed wisdom and revelation so we could behave appropriately, know what we are supposed to do as Christians, and win souls! But that’s not what the passage says. It says we need wisdom and revelation so we can know our Lord. The Amplified Bible says this revelation “gives you a deep and personal and intimate insight” into who Christ is.

I love that.

As always, Scripture tells us to get our eyes off our petty efforts to be good enough and onto the One who already is. It reminds us that Christianity isn’t about us and our efforts, but about Him and His. It invites us into the most beautiful love story of all time. Is there any greater reason for wisdom and revelation than to know our Lord more intimately?

My Prayer: Father, I pray for myself and my loved ones, asking, as Paul did, that You give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so we can know You more. I want deep and personal and intimate insight into who You are and who Jesus is. I want to live more fully in the grandest love story of all time.

~*~

Author Bio: Author, speaker, and mom of four, Paula Moldenhauer encourages others to live free to flourish. She shares this message when speaking at women’s events, and it permeates her written work. Paula has published over 300 times in non-fiction markets and has a devotional book series, Soul Scents


Her first published novella, You’re a Charmer Mr. Grinch, was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, and she now has six published works of fiction. Her most recent release is included in A Bouquet of Brides

Paula and her husband, Jerry, are adjusting to a sometimes-empty nest in Colorado. They treasure time with their growing family of adult children, spouses, and spouses-to-be. 

Paula loves peppermint ice cream, going barefoot, and adventuring with friends. 

Today’s devotion was adapted from her devotional book, Soul Scents: Bloom

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Mothers and the meaning of "nurture"


Nurture and Share with Those Around You
A devotional by Tammy Karasek

Not every woman, young or old, is a mother. Yet, God has designed women in general to be nurturers. But before we go any further, let’s see how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word nurture:

nurture (noun): the care and attention given to someone or something that is growing or developing

nurture (verb): to help something or someone to grow, develop, or succeed

As we see by the definition, to nurture is to give care and attention to another person. Society always says that moms are our nurturers. But I believe that we, as women, are nurturers regardless if we have children or not.

Whether or not you’ve had a great relationship with your own mother, more than likely, somewhere along the way, someone has mothered or nurtured you in your life. Maybe it was your mom, grandmother, aunt or an older sister. It could have been a neighbor, Sunday school teacher, coach or an older friend.

Whoever it was, think back to some of the things that person taught you that you’ve carried through your life thus far. It could be a great recipe, kitchen technique or tip. Has someone shown you the ropes on gardening and how to have a green thumb? (And if you have this, I admire you as my thumb can only get as green as the color of celery!) Maybe it’s your love of decorating, singing, playing an instrument—has an older woman taught you the how-to on those?

I know I’ve had many nurturers in my life that have taught me so many gems. These gems—I’ve tumbled and polished from raw to shiny with their teaching, patience, and encouragement and I’ve seen my life change in wonderful ways. 


My love of cooking, sewing, and quilting come straight through the family line from my great grandma to me. While their expertise in these may have come from necessity, my passion for those came from working elbow to elbow watching and learning beside these three women I loved so dearly. My love of words—writing and reading—comes from my mom. 

My love of scripture grew from my mentor Helga, and my teacher-friend, Beth. My heart to always choose joy no matter how hard the circumstances, that comes from my dear sweet friend and birthday twin, Cathy. (She’s older by a few hours, and I often remind her she’s older!)

Here’s a fun little exercise for you: I’m going to help you see who had been your nurturers. Take out a pen and paper and jot things down that you love to do or even things you do well. Now go back and write down beside each item you’ve listed, the person who taught it to you or helped you get better at it. There are your nurturers my friend!

A challenge for you today: Be on the lookout for someone you may nurture. Keep your mind open to someone who casually mentions they’d like to learn something that you know how to do. Also, pray for God to show you who might need someone to come alongside of her for some care and attention to grow in a specific area. As the Scripture below says we are to share what we have. I feel it’s not just our material things but also our knowledge and expertise that we are to share

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." ~Hebrews 13:16 (ESV)

Share with us in the comments below who has nurtured you and how. Also—are you nurturing someone currently? What are you doing?

~*~
Author Bio:

You’ll find Tammy seeing humor and causing laughter in every aspect of life. Tammy’s past filled with bullying and criticism is the driving force of her passion to always encourage others and share with them the Reason to smile. 

She’s been blissfully wedded to her college sweetheart, Larry, for 36 years, mom to their grown daughter, Kristen and wrapped around the paw of a little puppy named Hattie.

She’s the President of Cross N Pens Christian Writers and a member of ACFW. She will be published in the 2018 Divine Moments book – Cool-nary Moments.
~*~
Connect with Tammy:
Blog - http://www.tammykarasek.com
Twitter - https://twitter.com/tickledpinktam
Email - tickledpinktammy@gmail.com