Friday, June 29, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Chains


Remember My Chains
A devotional by Nathan D. Maki

The Apostle Paul was by nature a free spirit. He refused to be bound by physical limitations, geographical difficulties or borders, or social prejudice. In his missionary journeys, he traveled approximately 20,000 miles, relentless in his mission to push the Gospel to the far reaches of the Empire. Yet as this man who preached and exercised liberty and freedom prepared to return to Jerusalem, the Spirit and men of God began to warn him that chains awaited him there.

But Paul was bound before he ever set foot in Jerusalem.

Before the riot broke out. Before the Romans came crashing in with shield and sword and clamped chains on his hands and feet. He was bound in the spirit because God had told him to go. So knowing that a chain awaited him, still, he went. Why? Because he wanted to finish his race with joy, testifying the gospel of grace.

Paul was determined not to be disqualified by veering off the God-marked course to take a shortcut or an easier road. That’s why at the very end he could write to Timothy with confidence from the dungeon beneath Rome. He wrote these words, “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness!” 
~2 Timothy 4:7-8, KJV

That is not the last, relieved sigh of an old man glad his suffering is over. No, that is the victorious shout of a marathon runner, who has shunned the easier road, has pressed toward the mark, broken through the finish line, and is ascending the victor’s podium.

Chained in Rome, Paul sat and wrote to the church at Philippi, these beloved believers who had recently sent a love offering to pay for his food and lodging.

“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” ~
Philippians 1:12-14 (NKJV)

Paul planned on going to Rome as a preacher, not a prisoner! He could have proclaimed his innocence, decried the injustice of the Sanhedrin, described the abuses of the Roman justice system, and lamented his long incarceration. He could have become bitter and angry.

Paul’s chain could have become something that he constantly tripped over in his walk with God.


It could have become a symbol of failure or he could have taken it as a sign that God had forsaken him. But instead, Paul saw his chain as an opportunity. A ministry tool.

So my question for you today is this. What is your chain? What physical or mental or emotional or spiritual chain does it seem like you just can’t break free from? We always view chains as negative, but Paul consecrated his chain to God to use it for His glory!

Do you believe God could free you from the chain that binds you? God could have freed Paul. In Philippi, the very city Paul was writing to, Paul and Silas were bound in prison when God shook the earth, opened the doors, and broke off their chains. Paul might have even cried out to God, “Why not this time?”

But God was shaking the earth!

Shaking the very foundations of Roman society, as even the Praetorian Guard and Caesar’s household were being converted right under Nero’s nose!

God was opening doors!

Paul’s chain was a key that opened doors that nothing else could have. What else besides a chain could have ushered him into Emperor Nero’s presence to preach the gospel?

God was breaking chains!


All over Rome, chains of fear were dropping off believers. Encouraged by Paul’s boldness, they too began speaking the Gospel. And all over Rome, chains of spiritual bondage and sin were falling off new converts and shattering!

What if you surrender your chain to God to use it for His glory? Remember that what you see as a chain might just unlock a realm of ministry, anointing, and opportunity unimaginable and unattainable by any other means.

“Remember my chains.”

Not, then, a plea of an Apostle afraid of being despised and forgotten because of those chains, but a three-word challenge to all believers, everywhere and throughout history.

“Remember my chains.”

~*~
Author Bio:

A life-long love for historical fiction and a passion to create high-intensity, realistic novels from a Christian worldview has propelled Nathan into his writing career. 

He is the author of the War Within series of novels set in Ancient Rome and most recently The Keeper's Crown, a novel of the Apostle Paul. 

A recent trip to Rome to walk the ancient streets, explore the Catacombs, and stand in the Coliseum plunged Nathan even deeper into the ancient world he brings to life for his readers.

Nathan's novels combine the faith and romance of Francine Rivers's Mark of the Lion trilogy with the action and adventure of Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden.

Nathan lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, son, and three very spoiled dogs. He pastors a church and manages his own business in addition to his writing. Sometimes he even sleeps.

~*~

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Celebrate Lit Blog Tour: "Just Let Go" by Courtney Walsh


About the Book:

Title: Just Let Go

Author: Courtney Walsh

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Genre: Contemporary Romance


For Quinn Collins, buying the flower shop in downtown Harbor Pointe fulfills a childhood dream, but also gives her the chance to stick it to her mom, who owned the store before skipping town twenty years ago and never looking back. Completing much-needed renovations, however, while also competing for a prestigious flower competition with her mother as the head judge, soon has Quinn in over her head. Not that she’d ever ask for help.

Luckily, she may not need to. Quinn’s father and his meddling friends find the perfect solution in notorious Olympic skier Grady Benson, who had only planned on passing through the old-fashioned lakeside town. But when a heated confrontation leads to property damage, helping Quinn as a community-service sentence seems like the quickest way out—and the best way to avoid more negative press.

Quinn finds Grady reckless and entitled; he thinks she’s uptight and too regimented. Yet as the two begin to hammer and saw, Quinn sees glimpses of the vulnerability behind the bravado, and Grady learns from her passion and determination, qualities he seems to have lost along the way. But when a well-intentioned omission has devastating consequences, Grady finds himself cast out of town—and Quinn’s life—possibly forever. Forced to face the hurt holding her back, Quinn must finally let go or risk missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

~*~
About the Author:
Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theatre director, and playwright. 

Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. 

Courtney lives in Illinois with her husband and three children. 

Visit her online at www.courtneywalshwrites.com.

~*~
Guest Post by Courtney Walsh:

It’s funny where inspiration can come from. An overheard conversation in the line at the bank. A story filtered through generations. A rumor that, if true, would make a juicy story… inspiration is everywhere.

Even in the movies, you watch with your kids.

When I first started “plotting” (I put that in quotes because I don’t really plot, but I do have a loose map of where I’m heading) Just Let Go, I had a few ideas about my opposites attract love story that I really loved. I knew I wanted to explore the idea of accepting an apology you never got, and I wanted to take a deeper look at how we can’t really move forward until we let go of the past—and I knew I wanted my hero to be an adrenaline junkie who’d never really had to work for his success. You know those types of people…everything comes easily for them. They’re practically born on top.

And that made me wonder, what happens to someone like that when their bright light starts to flicker?

As I was brainstorming the story, a writer friend of mine pointed out that there were similarities to the Disney/Pixar movie Cars. My hero, Grady Benson, was in a predicament a lot like the one Lightning McQueen finds himself in. I’m a huge fan of Pixar movies, so I liked this as inspiration for one of my novels. I found that Grady’s character is a bit like Lightning’s, though his journey is different.

It was fun to think through that cartoon, which I’ve seen a million and two times, from a story perspective. I gained a new appreciation for the incredible storytellers at Pixar.

Inspiration really is everywhere, and writers are always watching and listening for it. I guess I never expected those countless viewings of cartoons to influence my writing, but a good story is a good story, animated or not.

~*~
My Review:

This story is wonderfully written and the main characters are not easily forgotten.

Courtney Walsh is a skilled storyteller who holds nothing back when she delves deep into her characters and shows the reader how their backstory affects their role in Just Let Go.

The dialogue in this story is fresh and witty. As a reader, this story kept my attention from Chapter One through The End.

The plot was solid and takes turns may surprise even the most experienced reader cannot guess. As a romantic, I loved that the heroine worked in a floral shop. It's a great backdrop for a story that includes romance. The heroine's romance with the hero did not easily unfold after her unfavorable first impression of him. The fact that he had quite the reputation following him only added an extra layer of conflict to the story as it presented all sorts of roadblocks to his desired romance with the heroine.

This story seemed to be family-oriented and that made me smile.

Just Let Go is well-deserving of a five-star review!

*Celebrate Lit provided me (Alexis A. Goring) with a complimentary copy of "Just Let Go". My opinions in this book review are my own.

~*~
Giveaway Details:

To celebrate her tour, Courtney Walsh is giving away a grand prize of a library of Courtney Walsh’s books and a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/d0a4/just-let-go-celebration-tour-giveaway
~*~

Blog Stops

By The Book, June 26
Among the Reads, June 27
Splashes of Joy, June 27
God is Love, June 28
Genesis 5020, June 28
Carpe Diem, June 29
Radiant Light, June 30
Quiet Quilter, July 1
C Jane Read, July 1
Baker kella, July 2
Remembrancy, July 3
amandainpa, July 3
Vicky Sluiter, July 5
Bigreadersite, July 8

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Marriage


Marriage on My Mind

A devotional by Ginger Solomon

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.” 
– Proverbs 31:10 (NLT)

I have weddings/marriage on the brain. My third child will marry his love in just over a week from the date of this post. And I can happily say that I love his choice. She is a “virtuous and capable” woman, and definitely “more precious than rubies.” I believe she will make my son a wonderful wife.

But I know they’ll have fights, disagreements, and issues. While they are religiously in sync, their backgrounds are varied. You see my son is white, but my future daughter-in-law is black. 



Even in today’s diverse society, people feel they have the right to make inappropriate comments about their relationship.

They will have the same troubles as the rest of us. Money, sex, children, dinner, chores, and the list goes on and on. We fight.

My husband says there’s only one surefire way to never have trouble with a spouse. Don’t get married. And it’s the truth. We are all selfish creatures – some more than others. Living with someone else is hard.

It’s one of the reasons my website sports the tagline, “Finding faith when your bed of roses includes thorns.” Marriage is not a bed of roses unless you include the thorns. Nor is it “as easy as pie.” Of course, I’ve never met a pie that’s easy, so maybe it is. LOL

In the end, the fights and disagreements don’t matter. Their relationship is what matters. With each other, but more importantly with God. A pastor once gave an illustration that stuck with me. He drew a triangle (point up). Here's one example of it from Google Images:



Man is in one lower corner. Woman is at the opposite bottom corner. God is at the top. As the man and the woman grow closer to God, they grow closer to each other. That’s not to say there aren’t bumps in the road or a slide toward the bottom now and again, but it’s a good picture to remember.

I leave you with this from Genesis 2:18-24 (NLT): 

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

~*~
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, June 25, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: A Mountaintop Experience


On the Mountaintop
A devotional by Dana McNeely

One of the greatest mountaintop experiences of all time occurred when Elijah told King Ahab to summon people from across Israel and meet on Mount Carmel. Outside the land of Samaria, the mountain was well placed for people to gather from all parts. Many had never traveled this far, but after three and a half years of drought and famine, suffering was intense. Everyone was ready to comply, no matter what they thought of Elijah.

The King


King Ahab blamed the prophet for the country’s suffering and had searched everywhere to find him. He felt no responsibility for the drought, though he’d married a foreign princess, embraced her gods, and led the people into a sort of dual worship of Yahweh and Baal. The king must have felt some grudging respect for Elijah who, despite all the machinations of king and country, made good on his promise of “No rain until I say so.”

The False Prophets

On one side there was Baal, god of sun and rain, with over four hundred prophets. On the other, Yahweh with his lone prophet. The false prophets must have watched him with hatred, waiting for their chance to make sure their nemesis never descended the mountain. But as Elijah had said before, he stood in the presence of the one true God. He appeared confident. Fearless.

The People


A hush may have fallen on the crowd as they heard the tread of the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Next, the king’s honor guard, surrounded by other important officers of state, bearing Ahab in his royal litter. And behind them, one last commoner, a humble shepherd … but wait … could that be the prophet?

It would have been reasonable to hope that Elijah might pray for rain and end the terrible drought. If he didn’t, the king would undoubtedly kill him. Either way, there'd be a story to tell their children and grandchildren.

The Question

What happened next revealed that Elijah didn’t mind providing a little entertainment, but it wasn’t going to be as easy as a quick prayer and a raincloud. At the start of things, he’d made clear that the drought was the Lord’s judgment because of the nation’s idolatry. For the judgment to be removed, Israel must publically turn back to God.

According to 1 
Kings 18:21 (NIV), Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

The word used here for ‘waver’ (‘halt’ in another translation) means ‘totter.' Sometimes the people tottered over to worship the Lord, and other times they lurched over to the temples of Baal and Asherah, like drunks unsteady on their feet. They couldn’t make up their minds. Afraid of Yahweh, Israel didn't entirely abandon him. Fearing the king and queen, they worshiped the Baals also. They weren’t willing to take a stand for either side.

The Contest

Then Elijah proposed a contest which the people thought a good idea. The winner would be the true God. The prophets of Baal would prepare a bull for sacrifice, but not light the fire. Elijah gave them the first opportunity to call on their god. They prayed from morning to noon, dancing around the altar. No one answered.

At noon, Elijah began to taunt them. Baal might be deep in thought, busy, or traveling. Maybe he was asleep and needed to be wakened. The false prophets grew more frenzied and slashed themselves until their blood flowed on the altar. They continued until it was nearly time for the evening sacrifice.

Then Elijah took his turn.

He built an altar of twelve unhewn stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, symbolizing the nation’s unity, even though it was now divided. He dug a trench around the altar and called on observers to drench the sacrifice until water overflowed and filled the trough.

At precisely the time of the evening sacrifice, he prayed a simple prayer.

According to 1 King 18:36-39 (NIV) he prayed, "Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again."

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!

No dancing or shouting. A request and an answer. From the one true God.

Thoughts to Ponder:


· Elijah’s prayer took a lot of faith. He risked his reputation and his life. Can you think of situations God used to build Elijah's trust? (Hint: In the presence of royalty, by a wilderness brook, in a humble home.)

· Did you notice that the Lord sent fire after Elijah’s request, but RAIN didn’t fall until after the people chose the Lord? What does this for us today?

· The Lord is a jealous God. Throughout scripture he has demanded full commitment—you must be for or against him. In Exodus 32:26, Moses asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?" In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, "He that is not with me is against me." Have you made your choice?

*Other posts about the prophet Elijah: Love in the Time of Drought, In the Waiting Room, A Widow, a Prophet, and Provision from God, An Intersection of Time and Eternity, and Ways to Handle Drought

~*~
Author Bio: 


Inspired by the Bible story of Elijah and the widow’s son, Dana McNeely wondered why the prophet had come to stay with these two. Who were they? What was their life, before? And how did the boy change after dying, seeing the other world … and coming back? 


Dana began research for her novel, “Rain,” which tells the story of the three-and-a-half-year drought from the boy’s perspective.

No stranger to drought, Dana lives in an Arizona oasis with her hubby the constant gardener, two good dogs, an antisocial cat, and migrating butterflies. She writes biblical fiction, cozy mysteries, and has written for magazines and newspapers. Her short story “Death in the Butterfly Garden” appears in SoWest: Killer Nights (2017).

Connect with Dana on Facebook, Twitter, or DanaMcNeely.com

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Summer Stories: To Claim Her Heart


Dealing with Bitterness
A guest post by Jodie Wolfe


"Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many." ~Hebrews 12:14-15 (HCSB)

There’s a good chance that at some point in your Christian walk, you’ve struggled with disappointment and hurts which if unchecked, led to bitterness. Perhaps you’ve been treated poorly by others, you were blamed for something you didn’t do, someone said hurtful things about you or treated you unfairly, maybe you never measured up to your family and their expectations of you, someone didn’t listen to you or said things behind your back, or maybe you’ve had a friend who betrayed you by going against their word. There’s a myriad of situations that can lead us into bitterness if we don’t make a conscious decision to root it out.

There have been several times throughout my life when I’ve suffered blows that have rocked me to the very core. I believe women especially deal with holding onto our hurts, bringing them out on various occasions to remember how we’ve been wronged, only to stuff them back down inside us again until we feel the need to repeat the process.

When we’ve been hurt, we must make every effort to forgive and move on. Satan loves to have us recall the hurts and fall into bitterness because it keeps us focused on ourselves. It limits our chance to be effective as a Christian when our eyes are on us instead of the Lord.

Letting go of the bitterness isn’t always easy and may not be a once and done type of thing, especially since the devil loves to bring things up to us multiple times. Sometimes we need to continue to pin that bitterness to the foot of the cross, over and over again.

This struggle is what my heroine faces in my newest release, To Claim Her Heart. Elmer Smith (Elsie) is suffering after the loss of her father and childhood home. The Christians in her church weren’t there when she needed them the most to come alongside and assist her. In turn, she’s bitter about life and takes it out on those around her.

She participates in the Cherokee Strip Land Run to find the land her father wanted her to claim. She does so, as a way to honor him. Sparks fly when she finds out that she’s claimed the same land as a preacher. It takes a while for her to learn the important lesson of releasing the bitterness that has claimed her life.

I love this quote from my hero, Benjamin David. He tells Elsie, “You can’t keep holding on to the bitterness, or it’ll eat you alive. Don’t allow Satan to win. He desires for you to be discouraged, defeated, and unforgiving, but God has better things in store for you, if you’ll allow Him to work in your life again.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather choose to walk the road of forgiveness instead of stumbling along on the thorny path of bitterness.

~*~
Author Bio:

Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. 

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and  Romance Writers of America (RWA). She has been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. 

A former columnist for Home School Enrichment Magazine, her articles can be found online on CrosswalkChristian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio. She's a contributor for Putting on the New and Stitches Thru Time blogs. 

When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. 

~*~
Blurb for To Claim Her Heart:
In 1893, on the eve of the great race for land, Benjamin David prays for God to guide him to his 'Promised Land. Finding property and preaching to the lost are his only ways of honoring his deceased fiancĂ©e. 

He hasn't counted on Elmer (Elsie) Smith claiming the same plot and refusing to leave. Not only is she a burr in his side, but she is full of the homesteading know-how he is sadly lacking. 

Obtaining a claim in the Cherokee Strip Land Run is Elsie Smith's only hope for survival, and not just any plot, she has a specific one in mind. The land's not only a way to honor her pa and his life, but also to provide a livelihood for herself. She's willing to put in whatever it takes to get that piece of property, and Elsie's determined to keep it.

Her bitterness is what protects her, and she has no intentions of allowing that preacher to lay claim to her land . . . or her heart.

~*~
Buy Jodie's book on Amazon

~*~
Connect with Jodie:
Website: https://www.jodiewolfe.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jodie-Wolfe-553400191384913
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JodieAWolfe
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/JodieAWolfe
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15220520.Jodie_Wolfe
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2JZZcqw

~*~
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, June 22, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Mercy


Ready for the Mercy

A devotional by Gail Kittleson


“But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit...staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!” Jude 1:20-21 (MSG)

At one time, I sought in vain for literature that incorporated Scripture and the Twelve Steps. Now, I see it everywhere and often note twelve-step principles in Scripture itself. This teaching focuses on us—we can change only our own lives, not others’!

What a principle to live by, and Jesus taught it so clearly. How could I not have noticed this in my early faith days? 


Here’s one example: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” — Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)

Obviously, this passage has been there all these years, and I may have even memorized it. How is it that it took so long to understand the connection? Ah, well, no use regretting the past—I see it now. But how to keep this focus? Jude gives us a very specific guideline: Build ourselves up, pray, keep open and ready to embrace the gifts sent our way. In so doing, we turn from old self-defeating thought channels that declare us unworthy, unlovable, incompetent, and doomed to fail.

This inner turning requires practice and effort, but it’s do-able. We form the habit of catching ourselves when our thoughts go astray. In place of negative, self-doubting thoughts, we pour in positive, self-affirming ones. We become the authority in our lives, claiming our personal power to decide the direction of our thoughts and attitudes, regardless of our emotions.

One day, we look ourselves in the mirror and say, “God loved you enough to exchange Jesus, His only Son, for you. And I love you, too.” Then we address ourselves again the next day in the same way, until this attitude grows stronger inside us.

And then we maintain this steady focus one day at a time. Each morning, we start afresh.

My Prayer: Just for today, dear Lord, help me to build myself up in faith, rejecting the inner thoughts that would tear me down and pull me away from your constant love. Keep me right at the center of that unchanging love, my arms open and outstretched, ready for Your mercy.

~*~
Author Bio:
When Gail Kittleson'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, June 20, 2018

Summer Stories: The Introduction


June 21 is the first day of Summer 2018 and to celebrate, I'd like to introduce you to a new series on my blog, "Summer Stories"!

Every Sunday for the entire span of this summer, I will feature a new book and its author on my blog. The authors will contribute to my blog by way of author interviews, character interviews, devotionals based on their book, personal essays and book review plus story excerpt features.

The books that will be featured are from a variety of genres under the Christian fiction umbrella, including but not limited to Contemporary Romance, Historical and Amish fiction.

Best of all, you will have the chance to WIN a copy of the featured book each Sunday!

So sit back, relax, sip your favorite summertime beverage and get ready for Summer Stories!

Love,

Alexis
Founder of "God is Love" blog

Devotionals for the Heart: Rose Bushes and God's Grace


The Scent of Grace
A devotional by Paula Moldenhauer


"As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us."
 — 2 Corinthians 2:15 (TLB)

Any parent of multiple children between the ages of 8 and 18 know the drill. Even when you limit their outside activities, there are days when you wish you could clone yourself. I still remember one of many weekends years ago when our family of six endured three straight days of nonstop running. Two of our boys played in a hockey tournament, and our daughter competed in a gymnastics meet. Though the events were scheduled close together, they were in three different locations—none of which were on our side of town.

At the end of the push, we came home hungry and tired. After eating out between events, I didn’t feel I could pull the “let’s just get a pizza” card. I dug through the fridge, coming up with a big bowl of pasta and some veggies. Since I don’t have much storage in my kitchen, I have a pantry of sorts in our garage. I put the noodles into heat and rushed out the back door and down our steps, in hopes I had a jar of spaghetti sauce in the cabinet outside.

As I came down the stairs, I noticed a few blossoms on the rose bushes by the garage door. I wanted to enjoy them, but instead, I cringed at the weeds in their bed. Sighing, I continued my mad dash toward the door.

Suddenly, I screeched to a stop.

The fragrance of roses filled my senses.

I paused only a second, but in that moment I felt God. The perfume of the flowers took me out of my hurry mode long enough for me to experience beauty and tugged me toward the Divine.

I wish I could tell you I chose to stop and embrace the moment. Or that I at least breathed a prayer of thanksgiving. But I didn’t. I rushed into the garage, grabbed the sauce, and flew back up the stairs.

Real life consumed me. Feed the kids, clear the table, assign chores, sort the laundry, meet that writing deadline.

Gazing at the computer screen, too depleted to write, my mind went back to the rosebush.

Too often, I treat God’s grace like I treated the rose. I catch a whiff of its beauty and rush on, noticing all the little weeds of my life instead of embracing the wonder of amazing grace. A grace He pours over me and through me like sweet perfume.

I stared at the computer awhile, longing for that rosebush. Finally, I pushed my chair back, releasing myself from the next task on my to-do list. I needed to (literally) stop and smell a rose.

A light rain had fallen, and the air outside smelled damp instead of perfumed as I tramped down the back steps. I went to the blossom, stuck my nose right in the middle of that flower, and inhaled deeply. The fragrance was heavenly. I spent a couple of minutes pulling the unsightly weeds, pausing every little bit to sniff the rose.

You see where this is going.

It’s a joy to pause and let the wonder and beauty of Christ soak into our souls. When we inhale deeply of the fragrance of His character, the busyness, the irritations—the weeds—of life are more manageable. We recognize the sweet fragrance of His grace surrounding us, living in us, flowing from us.

Oh, Jesus! How I need Your grace. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Teach me to breathe deeply, inhaling its perfume. Whether life is a blur or a saunter, it’s better when I dwell in Your fragrance.

~*~
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. Today’s devotion was adapted from her devotional book, Soul Scents: Rooted

Visit her at www.paulamoldenhauer.com and sign up for her newsletter to get a weekly Flourishing Moments and periodic updates on free days for her books.

For daily Flourishing Moments like Paula’s author/speaker page (https://www.facebook.com/PaulaMoldenhauerAuthor/).
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Everything


He Left Us Everything
A devotional by Nanci Rubin

I’m reading a memoir and the title is “They Left Us Everything.”

It is written by a woman who recently lost her mother, her father died years previously and she’s in the process of cleaning out the family home. A house she and her three brothers called home for over half a century. She, now in middle age along with her brothers are left to ‘empty out’ a twenty-three-room house where every corner in every room offers a memory. Middle-agers who have gone through caregiving and burying our mothers will find this book relatable.

As one reviewer wrote, this book, “hits you deep in the gut…amid the scraps of paper left in jacket pockets, family photos and pieces of furniture, part of the ‘everything’ our parents leave us with are our memories of them, good and bad. Perhaps figuring out what to do with them is as close to a manual of grief as we get.”

This book has opened a plethora of memories for me. I lost my mom two years ago, and I still find pieces of memories in out of the way places, little things that remind me of how much I miss her.

This morning I got up early, not because I wanted to, but because my darling cat, Juliette was hungry. She has learned to wake me gently, and I appreciate her respecting my rest. The title to this book grabbed me in a profound way. They Left Us Everything. I saw Jesus in this title and through Him God has left us everything!

I was reminded of a time twenty-years ago shortly after my brother died. Losing him at such a young age rocked my world. I’d thought we’d grow old together. It was a difficult time for me while grief devastated me. It was during my caterwauling and pity party that God spoke to my spirit reminding me that He understood my grief. He’d sacrificed His son for humanity. It quickly put things in perspective.

I bemoaned why Ronnie, my brother, wasn’t healed and the unfairness of it all. God is so patient with us. We can’t know everything. It was Ronnie’s time. He’d rededicated his life to Christ before passing, and he was actually ready. I wasn’t. I didn’t want him to leave. God revealed a view of Heaven assuring me that my sweet brother was enjoying the same pleasures there that he'd enjoyed here on the earth plane. However, everything there was created to His taste and in perfection. This knowledge gave me an abiding peace.

He also reminded me that the blood of Jesus, the Cross, and The Comforter are all we need in this life to overcome the world and our eternal enemy. He’s done all He’s going to do. The rest is up to us. I began to search the scriptures to confirm what He’d shared.

John 3:16 (KJV), the very first scripture I committed to memory, took on a whole new meaning. It reads: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him, for he dwelleth in you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.”— John 14:16-18 (KJV)

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” — Ephesians 1:7 (KJV)

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.” — Revelation 12:11 (KJV)

BC (before Christ), these scriptures were just words. They didn’t gird me, heal me or penetrate the armor I wore daily to circumvent any emotional conflict. I didn’t want to feel anything. Many of us walk around numb, defeated and allowing the cares of this life to drag us down.

AC (after Christ), once I understood the weapons of our warfare, the power in the blood of Jesus Christ and the guidance from the Holy Spirit, I knew what the Father meant. Accepting Jesus opened my blind eyes and deaf ears. I saw the world around me with the blinders taken off. He did leave us everything.

What’s even better? The best is yet to come!

~*~
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, June 17, 2018

Let Love Bloom: The Bashful Bride


Interview with Vanessa Riley about her book The Bashful Bride:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this story?

Vanessa: My daughter actually inspired this one. She and a group of her friends have crushes on late night talk show hosts. It amused me to discover this and also made me aware that my late night writing schedule has allowed her to stay up too late. Bad parenting skills. 

Alexis: Why did you title your book, “The Bashful Bride”? 

Vanessa: Ester is shy. She is a big dreamer but is more comfortable helping you with your plans than she is living them for herself. Ester’s bashful but inside is a heart of a lion.

Alexis: Why did you choose to set your story in London, England?

Vanessa: I love London and its perfect backdrop for the Regency novels.

Alexis: Describe how you did research for this story. What was the most challenging aspect of the research? 

Vanessa: I do a great deal of research for my stories. I search through court filings, old diaries, newspapers, and history books. The most challenging aspect of research is how to present facts that differ from what one sees on TV or from preconceived notions. I show a different viewpoint of history, and I want people to enjoy it and not feel overwhelmed when they realize that what they thought was true, might not be.

Alexis: Arthur Bex is the hero of your story. What’s he like? Describe his heart, looks, and motivation. Talk briefly about his background too. 

Vanessa: Arthur Bex is hiding a secret. He survived an incident and made a choice that meant he lost everything. He lives in fear that once the truth outs, he’ll lose everything again. He is motivated to right wrongs and to protect his heart, but to love is to be vulnerable. That’s his struggle.

Alexis: Ester Croome is the heroine of your story. What’s she like? Describe her heart, looks, and motivation. Talk briefly about her background too.

Vanessa: Ester is shy and sheltered. Eloping with Bex is her first step out into a world she is no longer under her father’s protection. It’s scary, but she wants her own dreams. She just hasn’t decided if she’s ready to fight for them.

Alexis: What role does a friend's newspaper advertisement for a groom play in bringing Arthur and Ester together?

Vanessa: A dear friend of Ester, Frederica Burghley, has been placing advertisements in a newspaper for a husband. When she nets Arthur Bex, Frederica steps aside for Ester. Strong friendships want each member to be happy. Frederica, though desperate for a husband, wants Ester to be happy. 

Alexis: What or who threatens to tear Arthur and Ester apart? Why?

Vanessa: Secrets and fear are the things that tear them apart. Arthur’s secret is dreadful, but his unwillingness to share his burden with Ester is a deal breaker. Ester wants everything in a neat safe box. She is unprepared for how messy the real world can be.

Alexis: Arthur is a famous actor. Ester is a shy heiress. Is this a story of opposites attract? Why or why not? 

Vanessa: Not really opposites. They have a lot of things in common including a love of Shakespeare.

Alexis: What it about Arthur that made Ester fall in love at first sight?

Vanessa: Ester fell in love with Bex when she saw him perform on stage. His acting and his voice won her heart over.

Alexis: What is it about Ester that intrigues Arthur and makes him want to protect her at any cost?

Vanessa: He wants a forthright woman who will believe in him. He sees that in Ester. She’s very strong in her opinions.

Alexis: Why it is important to Arthur to marry a woman of “good character” and in what ways does Ester fit that bill?

Vanessa: Ester believes in truth and is passionate about it. Arthur is passionate about his fight for abolition. They both are fighting the good fights. Arthur believes that if she can truly love him, then she’ll fight for him.

Alexis: If you could spend a day with your main characters, what would you do and why?

Vanessa: We’d probably all go see Shakespeare in the park. I think we would have a blast.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about The Bashful Bride?

Vanessa: That forgiveness starts with forgiving yourself. If you can’t forgive yourself, you will be held in bondage, and you will hold others in bondage. Ester and Arthur each have to come to a place of forgiveness before they can move forward and love freely.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Vanessa! God bless you and your writing.

~*~
Author Bio:
Vanessa Riley writes Regency and Historical Romances of dazzling multi-culture communities with powerful persons of color. 

Vanessa writes for historical romance readers who admire and acquire books that showcase women who find joy in sweeping kisses and strong sisterhoods. 

Even in the darkness, she promises to give you laughs and to show you how light always prevails and how love always, always wins. 

Vanessa juggles mothering a teen, cooking for her military-man husband, and speaking at women's and STEM events. She’s known for her sweeping romances and humorous delivery of poignant truths. 

You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

~*~
Book Blurb for The Bashful Bride:

A friend's newspaper advertisement for a groom nets the most famous actor in London, Arthur Bex. Shy heiress Ester Croome proposes to elope with the handsome man, who she's secretly loved for two years, in order to escape an impending engagement arranged by her overbearing family. 


Trying to outlive the shadow of his villainous uncle, Bex needs to marry quickly—to a woman of good character. And smart, beautiful Ester fits the bill. But a harrowing trip to Gretna Green and dangerous abolition rallies prove to be a more treacherous stage than either imagined. Infatuation and a mutual love for Shakespeare might not be enough to bind a couple looking to outrun the chains and secrets of family and the past.


~*~
Buy The Bashful Bride on Amazon

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Connect with Vanessa:
Website - www.vanessariley.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/VanessaRileyAuthor
Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/VanessaRiley
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/regencymaid
Instagarm - https://www.instagram.com/govanessariley

*Sign up for her newsletter to get access to free stories, giveaways, and more at:
www.VanessaRiley.com

~*~
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