Friday, January 31, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Rest


Spiritual Rest
A devotional by Temeka Borden

“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.” – Genesis 2:2 (KJV)

God worked and then He rested. Yes, God rested! It’s right there in the Scriptures for us, clearly inked in black and white. Let me tell you something about me: I love to work. I love getting things done. I am a goal setter and a goal crusher (with the help of the Lord) but I also understand the importance of rest, especially these days.

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a former colleague years ago. She was a go-getter, and I was always impressed by her strong work ethic, her ability to train others well, her organization and leadership skills, and the quality of work she produced. In this conversation, she explained to me the importance of taking advantage of my vacation days. She explained to me the importance of rest, and she explained how one is much more productive when he or she is rested. I have found this to be so true.

I also remember working late one evening and thinking to myself, “I’m just going to do this one thing, and then I’ll go home.” That one thing turned into another “one more thing” and another “one more thing” and another “one more thing.” I ended up texting my manager who was traveling and telling her I was staying late because I still had some things I wanted to finish up. That’s when she told me to stop and reminded me that the work will always be there. She then told me to go home. I listened, packed up my stuff, and went home, and I was glad I did because I was very productive the next day.

At times, we get so caught up with the “Let’s get it done” attitude that we neglect our rest—spiritual, mental, and physical.

Remember, it’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to say no at times. It’s okay to get your rest. In fact, you should get your rest, and if we don’t learn the importance of saying no to ourselves and to others, then we can easily become exhausted.

Now, let’s talk about this in a spiritual sense.

I understand that I can better feed others when my soul has been fed.

Recently, I announced to my social media audience that I was taking a sabbatical with regard to my live Biblical teachings. I have experienced quite a lot over an extended period of time, and in a couple of videos, I described how my ministry was under “spiritual attack.” I also stated that I had been feeding my readers and viewers (spiritually) for quite a while and that I needed someone pouring into me at the moment.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m still on my spiritual job, but I am at a point where God has me listening more than teaching and posting right now. I have been watching and listening to various Biblical messages almost daily and allowing my spirit to be fed, nurtured, and refreshed. Trust me, it is making a difference. These sermons and inspirational messages are serving as excellent reminders of who I am in Christ and reminding me of the power that resides within me. I am reminded that God has a handle on things, I am an overcomer in Christ, and that as Philippians 4:13 (KJV) says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

I’m writing all of this to say the following: Take the time to take care of yourself. Now, I believe in being a hard worker, especially in a spiritual sense, and I’m reminded of Colossians 3:23 (KJV), where it states the following: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” In other words, work like you’re working for the Lord because if you think about it, with anything we do, it is an opportunity to be a light for God.

In summary, work hard but rest hard too. Be willing to humble yourself and listen! Listen to God and listen to others as God speaks to you through them. Doing so strengthens your spirit and better positions you to serve others.

As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

~*~
Author Bio:
Temeka Borden, better known by her pen name “Positivity Inspires,” is an author, speaker, minister, PharmD, multi-state licensed pharmacist, founder and owner of Positivity Inspires, LLC, and most importantly, a servant of the Lord. 

She was introduced to Christ at a very early age and was raised in the church. Her ministry focuses on encouraging Christians to love God first, to love all people, to continually strengthen their bond with Christ, and to study His Word, and live His Word daily.

Dr. Borden has been blessed with a variety of gifts, and she has gained much professional experience in a variety of settings. She also has served in administrative roles in the professional and church settings. 

In addition to obtaining her PharmD, she also obtained her bachelor's degree in biology (minor in English), and she is working on her third degree. What's more, as stated in her words, “I completed a specialty pharmacy residency that prepared me for the workforce and made me a force to be reckoned with.” She is a long-distance runner, a drummer, a singer, and she has a strong “fashion sense.” She also can read and type at almost supersonic speed in some instances.

Dr. Borden loves to learn and is constantly looking for new ways to challenge herself.

She loves God and she loves people. She is “crazy about her family,” and she adores her friends. She strongly encourages others to show kindness, respect, and love to everyone. She loves and welcomes diversity and flourishes in culturally diverse environments.

Dr. Borden loves to laugh and loves to make other people laugh. She also is passionate about giving back to the community. Her favorite sayings are “Speak Up!” and “Watch God Work!”

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Magnify


A Heart of Praise
A devotional by Karen Lynn Marstaller

“Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” 
–Psalms 34:3 (ESV)

According to my paraphrase of the Dictionary.com definition for the word “magnify,” to magnify means to “enlarge, or make bigger.”

I think that daily to-do lists that many people have may look something like this: Wake up, work, drive, cook, clean, babysit, study, wash, ad infinitum. Our to-do lists never end!

My tendency is to make my to-do list longer and more ponderous. A total of 15 or 20 items seems pretty normal. Surely I’ll get more accomplished that way, right? By the end of the day, that comfy recliner is looking pretty good.

David (a character in The Holy Bible) had a to-do list that was real simple—magnify the Lord, get together, exalt His name.

All through his psalms, David’s voice is loud and clear. He cries out his needs to the Lord, and then he praises God. He praises God, and then he cries out for deliverance. Threaded through his heart’s cries are his wonder and amazement at God’s great power and might, His tender mercy and grace, His forever love and radiant joy.

If David, who is described in the Bible as being a “man after God’s own heart,” chose to magnify the Lord, then I will too!

When I awaken, I sing for joy (Psalms 149:5). In John 12:12-13, the people went out to meet Jesus shouting, “Hosanna!” Nobody cares how loudly (or off-key) we sing our praises when we’re driving to and from work. The people on your mass transit commute might notice, but you’ll figure a way out to praise the Lord without disrupting the peace. While I’m in the privacy of my own home, I like to hum “Jesus Loves Me” while cleaning up the house or folding clothes. It cheers me up every time!

Isolated places to worship allow our hearts to soar as we unite with the Holy Spirit in praise, but David calls us into community worship, as well. This happens in our churches all the time and we are blessed by our moments in His house.

But what about all the other places where we come face to face with people who crave a gentle touch from the Lord?

The cashier at the grocery store is paid to be pleasant and courteous, but how often is he or she treated disrespectfully and unkindly? A simple smile, a gentle word or a prayer breathed deep inside share the Father’s love in ways we can never understand.

Who else would benefit if we decided that today that we will magnify the Lord? The hospital chaplain, who pours out his life for the people who come to him for answers? The beleaguered schoolteacher, who just spent $72.37 of his or her meager paycheck to buy paper, pencils, and pens for his or her 127 students?

A smile goes a long way in cheering a fussy baby. Deliberately holding the door for someone is an attention-getter. Magnify Him. Our servant heart offering a cup of cold water to someone who’s dying of thirst provides a taste of the abundant Life that we enjoy.

I have a friend who carries bottles of water in her car during the summer time. She never goes out to run errands unless she’s carrying a fresh bottle. And she never returns to her car with it. But that simple gesture (along with her genuine smile) magnifies the Lord.

Going for a jog is great exercise. Make one tiny little difference. Wave at that neighbor of yours who is housebound, but who struggles out to her front porch every morning to watch her world wake up. Magnify the Lord with her.

Jesus met the needs of ordinary people when He walked on this earth. He stopped, He spoke to them, sometimes He fed them, and He touched their lives. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to continue what Jesus started. Even though 2,000 years have passed, the message is the same: go, disciple, baptize, teach.

While we’re going about our Heavenly Father’s business, let’s do what David did: Magnify the great and mighty name of the Lord!

~*~
Author Bio:

Karen Marstaller is a retired high school teacher who spent most of her career challenging creative students to write. 

Her heart is for her readers. She writes to encourage them, to make them laugh, to show them that life is a beautiful journey, and regardless of their past, to show them that there is joy ahead if they will just keep looking.

Karen and her husband live in central Texas in a sweet little home that they completely remodeled. They enjoy spending time with their family, which includes seven precious grandchildren.

Most of all, Karen writes in obedience to the command to love your neighbor, to offer a cup of water to those who are dying of thirst, and to comfort others with the comfort she has received.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: God Knows


Preparation
A devotional by Glynis Becker


“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet water. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” –Psalm 23:1-3 (NASB)

God knows what I need before I need it.

After all these years and all the times I’ve seen it happen, how is it possible that it still surprises me? Every day He is preparing us, in big and small ways, for what our next steps on this journey will be.

Moses spent years as a prince in the palace of Pharaoh. Though he was probably unaware, those were years of preparation for a greater task. So were his years as a shepherd, just like another famous shepherd: David. Who knew that learning to throw rocks, possibly from both necessity and boredom, would lead where it did for that shepherd boy and that we’d still be singing about it thousands of years later?

Nothing is ever wasted with God. No time doing “ordinary” things. No “small” actions. No time spent in prayer. None of it.

Often at the end of one year, I’ll start thinking through a word to focus on for the upcoming year. Usually it’s a charge to myself to accomplish something or to be more mindful of some aspect of life I feel is lacking. The word that wouldn’t stop coming to my mind this year was “connection.” Circumstances in the last few years have left me feeling a little disconnected from my circle of friends and family and I felt like this word was a way of reminding myself every day to make the effort to connect with the people around me.

Plus, I want a deeper connection with God. I hope I’m not the only one who feels like I “unplug” from God, mostly unintentionally, through the busyness of life, distractions, and even the occasional arrogance of wanting to do things my own way. This year I would change that by making an intentional effort at connection with Him through study, prayer, and meditation.

Because I’m not as organized as I’d like to be, for the first time ever, I bought a planner to help reign in the chaos of my days. As I was looking ahead and making goals for the year, there was a spot for my year’s word and next to it, one for a verse. I’ve never picked a verse for the year, but it only took a few minutes to come up with one: Psalm 23. In an instant, hearing those well-known and well-loved verses gave me a beautiful picture of not only connection, but peace during difficulties, hope in our relationships, and comfort in eternity.

And amazingly, God knew in December that this is exactly what I would need in January, when already our family’s year looks nothing like we thought it would. I would soon crave focus and connection in a way I didn’t know at the time I chose it.

Praise God for His sovereignty, knowing our futures, knowing our hearts, and preparing us for each day of our journey through life, often in the smallest of ways.

Let’s Pray: Thank you, Jesus, for being with me, not just beside me, but ahead of me, as I walk through my earthly life. And thank you for the gift of an eternal, abundant life with you now and always. In Your precious name, I pray, Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

Glynis Becker writes devotions and inspirational fiction, hoping someday to have a published novel on her resume.

She has co-written several screenplays, including the film Sinking Sand, available on DVD and digital streaming.

Glynis, whose childhood was spent all over the country as an Air Force brat, has called South Dakota home for many years, along with her husband and two teenage children.

When she’s not writing or reading, she is watching more television than she should and crocheting. You can find her at www.glynisbecker.com.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Celebrate Lit blog tour for "There Is Hope" (book) by Carla Huelsmann


Welcome to my blog's stop on the Celebrate Lit blog tour for There is Hope: Bloom Where You are Planted (book) by Carla Huelsmann!

Read my review of Carla's book below and enjoy your time with her today! 

Remember to enter the fun giveaway contest toward the end of this blog post.


~*~
About the Book:

Title: There is Hope

Author: Carla Huelsmann

Genre: Journal, devotional, memoir

Release Date: August 2018




52 life lessons for those struggling with major illness will inspire hope and encourage those suffering to take back control of their lives.

Carla Huelsmann dealt with the daily impact of seizures since age two. Her life-long battle with epilepsy impacted all parts of her life, family, career, self-confidence, and independence until corrective brain surgery ended the seizures. Free from the debilitating seizures and their accompanying residues of doubt and fear, Carla Huelsmann lives independently and shares her story to help others along their own journeys.

Part journal, part devotional, and part memoir, this is a book of hope, faith, and inspiration. The book addresses the fears, challenges, and questions about the future those going through a major illness, debilitating injury, or life crisis may have. Designed as a traveling companion for those facing challenging circumstances, each one-page entry is accompanied by blank space for the reader to journal his or her own thoughts and prayers.

My goal is to give hope, help, healing, and resources. I want to walk alongside others and assure them they are not alone; there is hope. -Carla Huelsmann

~*~
Buy Carla's book on Amazon

~*~
About the Author:

Carla Huelsmann earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern Illinois University, subsequently taught grades five through eight, and now works for the US Department of Veterans Affairs in St. Louis, MO.



The alumnus of a fiction-writing course at Southern Illinois University, and the CLASS Seminar with Marita and Florence Littauer, she is also the author of articles on her experiences, and is available to speak.
~*~
A Message from the author (Carla):


I want to inspire and equip others struggling with epilepsy or other major illnesses to take back control of their lives. Eighteen years after corrective surgery, I live a seizure-free life that I feel in control of. And, I want to share my story and lessons learned with others facing serious challenges. 
My goal is to give hope, help and healing and resources of helpful information in one book. I want to walk alongside them and assure them that they are not alone and there is hope!
I’ve dealt with seizures, epilepsy and their daily impact since the age of two. It has impacted my family, career, self-confidence, independence and much more. Through it all, family, friends and faith have provided bedrock sources of strength. In addition, timely interventions by doctors, new contacts, new techniques and self-discipline came at opportune times through perseverance.

Now free from the tunnel of doubt, fear and debilitating seizures, I’ve gathered up my collection of personal journals and thoughts in order to help others along their journey. There Is Hope: Bloom Where You are Planted is a devotional for someone going through major illness, major injury, or life crisis.
~*~
My Review of Carla's book:

There Is Hope: Bloom Where You are Planted is a book with a beautiful cover that makes you want to pick up the book, open to the first page and inhale deeply as the reader!

However, as I journeyed through the pages of this story, I found it to feel incomplete.

My impression is that the author wrote the manuscript, telling her story but then simply divided it into chapters that were not complete. As I turned the pages of this book, I found chapters that were barely two paragraphs long! And at times, the endings of the chapter felt more like a beginning that hadn't started or middle that's missing. It left me feeling like the author's story, as formatted in this book, is not complete. Halfway through the book, the author had letters to her doctor as full chapters that were only about one or two pages long! I didn't understand how that was considered a chapter and I've yet to read any other nonfiction story written with this type of layout in any other book in my lifetime thus far.

However, I do think that the author does a good job of putting her heart out there and I admire how she isn't scared to share deep details of her personal real life story in a way that will help the reader have hope in hard times. And I do realize that the summary of the book says the these are "52 life lessons" that compose this book. However, I still do think that some of these life lessons throughout this book could have been elaborated for stronger impact. Sometimes the lessons were too precise and concise. 

But I couldn't move past the feeling that this book was incomplete and the chapters didn't feel or look like chapters. It doesn't take away from the message of hope and resilience that is at the core of the author's story. But it just feels ... incomplete.

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

~*~
Blog Stops
Texas Book-aholic, January 13
janicesbookreviews, January 14
Older & Smarter?, January 16
Through the Fire Blogs, January 21 (Author Interview)
Mary Hake, January 21
CarpeDiem, January 23
Splashes of Joy, January 24
By The Book, January 25 (Author Interview)
God is Love, January 26
~*~
Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Carla is giving away the grand prize of an autographed copy of the book! Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter:

Friday, January 24, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: A Miracle


The Miracle That Almost Didn’t Happen

A devotional by Amy Odland


“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.”
– John 11:43-44 (NIV)

I have been meditating on a different verse lately and thinking how it applies to this story about Jesus and Lazarus. It’s Ephesians 3:20 (NIV) where Paul mentions God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”

When we read about Larazus’ death, we have the benefit of hindsight, of looking back and saying "Wow! This amazing and miraculous thing happened!"

They didn’t have this benefit back then and because they couldn’t even fathom it, almost stopped the miracle from happening.

When Jesus got to the tomb, he said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha’s reply was (my paraphrase), “Are you SERIOUS? He’s gonna stink something BAD, oh MY, Lord.” 


Poor Martha was worried about the stink! She probably thought Jesus just wanted to pay his respects to the body because he wasn’t there when Lazarus died. Keep in mind, this was even after she and Jesus had just had a conversation about life and death and him being the “resurrection and the life.” Martha still had no expectation of Jesus raising her brother from the dead before her very eyes. She could not even imagine such a thing.

I don’t know that I have any awesome personal examples to share. No earth-shattering miracles happening over here like people rising from the dead. My dad died of a sudden stroke almost 19 years ago at age 50 – he’s still dead.

I still have family members who don’t believe in Jesus – they haven’t changed their minds and believed in an instant. I still have thorns in my flesh I wish God would take away.

But I have seen bucket loads of little things happen over the years: Protection from evil I wasn’t even anticipating. Guidance and wisdom given when I’d asked. Healing — albeit slowly — physically and spiritually from sicknesses and wounds.

Individually these things would maybe not move me to expand my imagination of what God can accomplish, but the culmination of them together over my lifetime makes where I am now in life feel like a miracle. I tend to be like Martha and worry about the stink, a.k.a. the here and now or the circumstances, but reflecting on all God has done in my life can renew my hope and revitalize my prayers just as seeing and interacting with a LIVE Lazarus in the days that followed probably did for all who knew him.

Martha and Mary and the other people mourning Lazarus that day had no idea what they were going to see. Their imaginations couldn’t create something so astounding, something they’d only heard about in the Scriptures up until that point. But after seeing Lazarus walk out of that tomb with the burial clothes hanging off of him, I would imagine the self-inflicted limitations of their prayers and beliefs were expanded greatly.

Do you feel ridiculous asking for a crazy thing, just as Mary and Martha would’ve felt asking for Lazarus to come back from the dead? Have you noticed when hope dwindles, our prayers become limited?

God really can do immeasurable things, beyond what we can even think to ask for.

Lazarus’ resurrection was for a purpose … so those who witnessed it would believe God sent Jesus.

What big prayer should you be asking Him in the midst of your hopeless situation?

We can know to pray for something crazy, something we’d never imagined before, because God has done crazy things before and He could very well choose to do them again in your life to show His power to those around you.

Your big prayer being answered could have a purpose too. God can’t say “yes,” though, if you don’t ask. Don’t let the title of this devotional be the title of your prayer life. Make the big ask. Move beyond what you can imagine or think. Move into God’s immeasurable power that is within you. Don’t be the miracle that almost didn’t happen.

~*~
Author Bio:
Amy Odland has been serving in church ministry as a volunteer leader for over 16 years, in various worship, prayer and women’s ministry roles. 

Her passion for helping women stems from her own struggles and lessons learned in her journey as a Christian since first deciding to follow the Lord in 1994.

Amy’s priorities after her faith include her family — husband Rick, and their four kids — as well as extended family who all live close in proximity and the many friends she’s made over the years.

In addition to a love of teaching and helping her husband with the bookkeeping for their many businesses, Amy has recently expanded her stay-at-home work to include leading author’s book launch teams for publishing companies like Baker, Revell, Barbour, and Lifeway.

She also enjoys teaching new authors about platform building, self-launching, and online marketing.


~*~
Connect with Amy:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Singing


A Song
A devotional by Julia Wilson

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” 
– Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Wow … this is one of my favourite Bible verses. I love the image of God as a Mighty Warrior and also one who will draw near and sing over me … and you.

When I was very small, my Dad used to put me to bed and every night he sang "Edelweiss" over me. My Dad sat on the bed and drew close to me and sang just for me. To this day, I cannot hear "
Edelweiss" without remembering my Dad singing to me. It is "our song."

Can you imagine God singing over you? What song would He sing? Can you picture the scene … lying in bed and the Almighty appears. He sits on the edge of your bed, looks you in the eye, smiles and begins to sing your special song. How do you feel? Do you feel warm? Loved? A sense of belonging?

Songs are powerful. We hear a song and it transports us back to a moment in time. What songs do that for you? I cannot hear “Candle In The Wind” without remembering the very lovely Princess Diana’s funeral. When I hear “You’re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book,” I am transported back to the 1970’s and I am watching speedway with my Dad and brothers.

Imagine what God thinks every time He hears your special song. He thinks of you. He pictures you. And what about you? Every time you hear yours and God’s special song, do you think of Him and smile? Do you feel that overwhelming sense of love and belonging?

Zephaniah says "God delights in us." Stop and pause for a minute … The Almighty God delights in you! Wow! He sees you. He hears you. He loves you. He delights in you.

When I delight in my children, my heart swells and I just love them for who they are. Imagine how much greater God’s love is for you.

Songs are used in worship.

When we sing, we are tapping into something that is higher than us. I have been known to be singing worship songs in my kitchen when suddenly I ‘feel’ an overwhelming sense of love for God. I know I have to get down on my knees and worship Him right where I am. I can worship with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Sometimes worship is so overpowering that I sing with tears streaming down my face, though I am not crying. In worship we draw closer to God. When we are upset, it is important to worship too. As Casting Crowns say, "I will praise you in the storm."

Whatever season of life we are in, songs will draw us closer to God. I have lost count of the number of times I have sung “Blessed Be Your Name” when my heart was breaking.

In summary, songs are powerful. They transport us to a moment in time. We all have special songs that mean something to us. Imagine God having a special song for you that transports Him to thinking of you every time He hears it.

As we close this devotional, I'd like for y0u to remember these words in James 4:8a (NIV): 

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." 

God bless you!

~*~
Author Bio:

My name is Julia Wilson but I also go by Christian Bookaholic.


I live with my husband and five cats in a small town in Worcestershire on the banks of the River Severn (England). We have four grown up children and three granddaughters.

I have always loved reading and have always been surrounded by books. I used to work as a teaching assistant for special needs in the local high school. Ill health forced me to stop working in December 2015. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (known as M.E.) and fibromyalgia. I now have plenty of time to read and review books!

Our eldest son set up my Christian Bookaholic blog. I review every book I read. I read over 300 books a year. I read Christian and mass market. I prefer stories set from 1850 onwards. My favourite type of books to read is stories set in WWI and WWII, and Russia under Czar Nicholas II.

I am a historian, having a Combined Humanities degree where I majored in History and minored in English. I also love swimming. I only learned how to swim in 2017 and go swimming four mornings a week for 90 minutes before breakfast, it keeps my joints going.

I am also a crazy cat lady. I absolutely love my cats. I have grown up with cats and cannot imagine life without them. My dream is to own an old fashioned seal point Siamese … but not while we have our young rescue cat as she hates other cats!

I love God and love going to a large lively church called Lifecentral. I cannot imagine life without God. He gives a peace even when life does not. He guides my life. He is my Rock.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Interview with Melony Teague about her book "A Promise to Keep"


Interview with Melony Teague about her book A Promise to Keep:

Congrats on writing and publishing your debut book, A Promise to Keep! I thought it was a spectacular story, but that’s just my honest opinion! *wink* 


Let’s talk about it …

Alexis: When was this story created in your imagination? Tell me about your creative process.

Melony: I started writing the book in 2018. I wanted to write about a high school reunion and all the emotions that go with that, especially a 20-year reunion. Once I’d gotten past chapter three and got a sense of who the characters were, I fell in love with them. They pretty much took on a life of their own after that. Although I had a synopsis to start with, there were some surprises, and surprise characters that demanded an entrance along the way.

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Melony: I wrote this book because I wanted to be able to take people on a journey for a few hours – an escape from the messiness of life, if you will. And, in the process I hoped to write a story that would not only entertain but be meaningful.

Alexis: Tell me about the heroine of your story, Savannah Sanderson. What does she look like, sound like and act like? What are her primary passions in life?

Melony: Savannah Sanderson is a research librarian and she was born in South Africa, but is now living in the USA. So she has a South African accent (just like I do.) She has caramel colored, long hair and blue eyes. Her passions are books and reading. She hasn’t had much time for anything else since she has been a caregiver for so long.

Alexis: Tell me about the hero of your story, Michael McCann. What does he look like, sound like and act like? What – or who – is his greatest dream?

Melony: Michael McCann is a technical rescuer. He is tall, and has longish hair – just above his shoulders. He has blue eyes. Michael is, well, you’ll find out more when you read the book. And as for his greatest dream, well, you’ll also have to read the book for that, but here’s a hint: he thinks his dream is unattainable.

Alexis: Why doesn’t Savannah recognize Michael when she reunites with him right before their high school reunion, even after he clearly has not forgotten her?

Melony: Michael McCann is not the boy he used to be in high school, and most of us can relate to this. Life changes you and teaches you lessons, sometimes hard lessons. Michael is no different and he struggles with his “who I was then” and “who I am now” persona.

Alexis: What is it about Savannah that makes her completely unforgettable to Michael?

Melony: Michael and Savannah were close friends, so he remembers all the things he liked about her back when they were both teenagers. He remembers her quirky ways and her South African accent. He has to deal with some regrets from their past, and reconnect and rekindle their friendship. I love this line from Michael as he describes Savannah: “Women were generally confusing enough—but this was Savannah, who took confusing to a whole new level.”

Alexis: Why does Savannah prefer to escape into happily ever after fiction stories than face the real world and deal with people who don’t live in books?

Melony: Savannah, being widowed, is trying to protect her wounded heart and needs to grieve and heal. It’s understandable that she’d rather risk her heart on a fictional hero, rather than a real life one who might break her heart.

Alexis: What was your favorite scene to write in this story? Why?

Melony: Oh goodness, I had so much fun writing many of the scenes in A Promise to Keep, but I think the ones I loved the most is the ones with a certain character who likes to watch the weather channel and his spat with Donovan Radcliffe. I guess I had so much fun with it because both of these characters showed up and staked their claim. I like characters like that.

Alexis: If you could sit down with Savannah at your local coffee shop for a girl talk, how would you take your coffee and what would be the first topic of your conversation?

Melony: I actually prefer a latte, with a shot or two of espresso. No sugar. I rarely drink straight coffee. I’d chat to Savannah about books. We share a love of romance novels and the classics, so there would be much to talk about.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember the most about A Promise to Keep?

Melony: In A Promise to Keep, Michael McCann says this to Savannah: “The things in my life that bring regret are not so much things I did. More like things I didn’t do. Words I should have said. Moments I should have cherished. It’s funny, but in hindsight, I see them all clearly. It’s harder to recognize an opportunity you’re missing while you’re in it.”

We can all relate to this. It’s a reminder to us as readers to enjoy every moment and be present. Regrets are often about what we didn’t do as a result of fear or for other reasons. What hits home is the fact that we sometimes don’t see the opportunities right in front of us and we are always looking ahead, searching for that elusive thing that will make us happy. Sometimes, we already have it. I think we can learn from Michael’s mistakes.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Melony! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Melony: In closing, I’d like to say thank you for hosting me here! I hope readers will be inspired when they read the book, and I look forward to hearing from readers.

~*~
About the Author:

Melony Teague writes contemporary romance with a dash of humor, she loves to inspire and motivate others through her written words, and she believes everyone has a story to tell.



Melony is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the co-author of As the Ink Flows, a devotional for authors.

Her fiction debut, A Promise to Keep, releases on Jan 21, 2020.


Melony was born in South Africa and now lives in Toronto with her handsome husband, their two teenagers, and does the bidding of her two adorable cats.

~*~
About the Book:

Research librarian Savannah Sanderson wants nothing more than to escape into her happily-ever-after novels with their larger-than-life fictional heroes. 


But a promise to her late husband has her attending her dreaded twenty-year high school reunion, drinking ghastly punch, and taking desperate measures just to keep her vow, even if she has to hide behind the d├ęcor to do it.

Once a reckless troublemaker, Michael McCann fled town after graduation. Now a professional technical rescuer, he’s back for the reunion, but on his trip down memory lane, he soon comes face to face with unresolved issues, namely Savannah.

Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero? 


~*~
Buy Melony's book on Amazon 

~*~
Connect with Melony:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melonyteague/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelonyTeague

Monday, January 20, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Spur On


Spur On
A devotional by Malinda Fugate


"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." 
–Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)

Jesus Christ changed everything. 

The very first believers were learning how to transition from their Jewish rituals to follow Christ, and it wasn’t as simple as attending church once a week. Yes, they gathered together regularly to worship and learn (and often shared a delicious meal!), but their new lifestyle required a daily difference. Letters from Paul and the other apostles helped them as they walked by faith in the Lord.

The writer of Hebrews knew that changes from Jewish tradition to Christianity took some adjustments. He took care to discuss how God remained faithful and consistent while fulfilling His covenant though His Son. The people knew and believed that Christ died and lived again, so now what would they do about it?

Suddenly, God was closer to His people than ever before. No longer was a priestly mediator required; Jesus did that once and for all! So what is the response to an up-close God? The answer remains for us today as true as it was for the early believers. Hebrews 10:22 makes the priority clear: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.” Snuggle up closely.

Spend as much time with Him as possible. Additionally, we are to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Christian life is full of challenges, but survival is possible because of our God who keeps promises 
  including promises to care for us, fight for us, and never leave us. 

Life in Christ begins in our individual hearts, but we are not intended to walk with Him alone. In the very next breath, the writer of Hebrews speaks of community. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together…. encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). To “spur” is to urge, and most of us can’t help but think of a cowboy’s footwear, motivating his horse to gallop! From our hearts overflowing with God’s love, we spill onto one another to encourage and support. 


We can inspire enthusiastic action that glorifies Him!

The early church had the uncertainty of newness, and thankfully we have the opportunity to learn from our spiritual ancestors. They probably could relate well to some of our modern challenges, like a charged political climate that divides friends and family or the pressure to focus on our individual selves while the Lord calls us to be community-minded. Christ was as countercultural then as He is now! 

These instructions were meant for such times as these. They are a prescription for the ills of society. Jesus goes against the flow and through His word shows us how to live the best life in Him. It starts inside and works its way out as the kingdom of God spreads quicker than a mustard plant, heart to heart in a growing community of brothers and sisters in faith. When we are actively living God’s word, it affects everyone and everything around us.

As we draw near to God who holds our hearts, let’s look at how we can spur on one another. Sending a text, email, or hand-written note of support goes a long way to lift up a loved one. Invitations to serve and worship the Lord together strengthen the body of Christ. 

When we see someone stepping out in faith, strengthening their cause with our time, money, and prayer glorifies God and fulfills His instructions to spur. James tells us we can’t just hear the Word, we have to do what it says. 

Take action today to be intentionally close to our Heavenly Father and pull someone else in close with you. What can you do today to encourage a sibling in the faith?

~*~
Author Bio:
Malinda Fugate writes from the heart. 

Though she serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California, she is also a crafter of words published in books, including The Other Three Sixteens (May 2020 release with Ambassador International), Bible Time for Active Kids, which is an activities-based devotional that is available for purchase on Amazon, and The Pen and the Sword: Connecting With the Word of God, which is an interactive creative writing journal. 

Malinda earned a communications degree with a theatre emphasis from Azusa Pacific University, then worked behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Salem radio stations, including The Fish and KKLA.

Her writing includes children's faith resources, commercial copywriting, and various faith-based stage and screenplays. Malinda lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi.

When she's not writing or working at church, she might be creating art, reading, or exploring the many adventures to be found in the Los Angeles area.

~*~
Connect with Malinda:
Website: www.malindafugate.com
Blog: https://malindafugate.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/malthestar/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/malthewriter/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/malthewriter/

Friday, January 17, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: God's Truth


Fight guilt with God’s truth
A devotional by Alexis Newlin


“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 
– Romans 8:1 (NIV)

Do you ever beat yourself up or struggle with guilt after making mistakes?

I do.

I’m starting a podcast and it’s all very new to me: working with audio equipment, using the right app for editing and learning about soundproofing.

All of this is way out of my element. I’m a writer, not a podcaster. Then God informed me that I would do this podcast and now I am both.

It’s been quite a learning curve. I mess up a lot.

Today’s blunder involved sound.

Several months ago, I set up an interview with a friend that God selected who has a wonderful story to tell. Grateful that she said yes to this new endeavor of mine, I placed her on my calendar several months out so I would have enough time to prep for her interview.

Finally her interview date arrived. I turned off all fans, dripping water, anything that could mess up my audio quality for this interview. With my equipment set up, sound checks done, I was ready to go.

Then the sound of metal clanking and an engine revving floated through my window.  My landscapers were here and my microphone was picking up every single sound they made. I forgot that my landscapers usually arrive on Thursday mornings around 7 o’clock to do yard work. Therefore, I had to cancel the interview.

My guest was gracious and rescheduled but I felt terrible. How could I forget such an important detail?

Honestly, I am my worst enemy when I make mistakes. (I may have a slight problem with perfectionism.) I am overly hard on myself. I play the mistake over and over again in my head, going over what went wrong and how I failed. I tell myself things like:


“You should know better.”

“You’ve failed.”

“You never get things right.”

“You let everyone down.”

“Why do you always forget the details?”

“You’re a disappointment to God.”

After this conversation with myself, I’m not feeling too great. These lies have weighed me down. The guilt hangs on me like a heavy millstone. I feel myself slipping away from God, too ashamed to be in His presence.

I forget the most important truth found in Romans 8:1: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Because we are children of God, we’ve gained our freedom from condemnation through Christ’s sacrifice. He put himself on the Cross because He loves us and wanted to take the weight of our sin away. That weight is eternal suffering and separation from God.

When we sin, repent and ask for forgiveness, God out of love forgets it. It’s as if the sin never occurred. So when we choose to continue to bring up that sin or feel guilty about it after receiving God’s forgiveness, we are basically saying that our sin, our mistakes are too big for the Cross.

Nothing is bigger than the Cross.

God knows we’re human. He knows we’re going to mess up. Yet He loves and forgives us anyway.

When you’re feeling guilty or unable to forgive yourself, remember that no condemnation comes from God. God convicts our hearts when we sin, but offers love, forgiveness and ways to change. Any lasting guilt and shame you’re feeling comes from Satan. We have an accuser, an enemy of our soul who seeks to destroy us through false accusations, shame and guilt. When you’re struggling with this, you’re being attacked friend.

When those attacks come against you, fight back with truth. Here are some of my favorites:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” –2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” 
–Psalm 103:12 (NIV)

Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” 
–Hebrews 10:17 (NIV)

When guilt comes, remember: 

You are loved. You are chosen. You are forgiven.

~*~
Author Bio:
Alexis is a 36-year-old lover of Jesus, loose leaf tea, roller coasters, writing stories and going on adventures. Originally from Marietta, GA, Alexis now resides in Fresno, CA. 

You can always find Alexis outdoors enjoying a walk in her neighborhood, scoping out the newest food truck, hanging out with friends or planning her next trip.

Her church, The Revival Center, and family mean the world to her. They have supported her through the loss of her mother and her own cancer diagnosis.

Alexis enjoys encouraging others by reminding them not to look at what they see, but to always look to God, who is working in the unseen.

Alexis currently writes for several online ministries and hopes to launch her first podcast – The Brave Podcast – in January 2020.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Lessons learned while in the Emergency Room


God is with us
A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 
– Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

There is little in this world that tests both faith and patience like the emergency room. I would know. I’ve spent an awful lot of time in them recently with loved ones in health crises.

We’ve arrived in a rush, panicked, and after vitals are taken and decisions made we wait. Nurses come and go with various treatments and tests and we wait. I’m not a particularly impatient person, but I’m used to being in charge, and when sickness comes, it’s the boss. A kind of tension develops between the fervency of my prayer and the stretches of time with no updates.

It’s in these moments that I think about Psalm 46:10a (ESV), “Be still and know that I am God.” The song floats through my mind as well. Being still is not something I excel at. I’m a doer. When trouble starts, I make a plan to end it.

But in life there’s so much I can’t plan my way around, so much that is outside my control. Sometimes I have to sit in it and deal with the trouble as it is. It’s easy to be angry at God in these moments, to doubt that He’s even paying attention to what I’m going through. That’s when I remember this verse from Joshua.

God is with me wherever I go, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Even in the emergency room when things seem pretty bleak, He’s there.

When my daughter was a toddler she’d often run ahead of me, giggling with happiness at her newfound freedom. She’d look around and think she was alone, but I was there. I was with her, watching, making sure she didn’t get lost. I think that’s how God is with us – we can’t see Him or feel Him, but He’s with us in our troubles.

God has not promised us an easy life, free of difficulty. Far from it.

The New Testament is full of warning that we’ll face persecution and trials. But we won’t be alone. We can draw strength from our saving faith in Jesus Christ to be “strong and courageous.” If we try to draw from ourselves, we’re lost. The reserve of strength inside us is limited. I’ve hit my limit more times than I can count. It’s a terrible feeling to know that you’re at the very end of whatever emotional and physical strength that you have. It’s a lonely feeling as well.

Instead of relying on ourselves, we need to remember that God is with us. He is our strength, and, in reality, He is where any strength that we might seem to have comes from. We don’t need to despair or fear.

God is walking with us, sitting in the emergency room with us, the boardroom, the courtroom, the classroom. God is with us so we can be strong with His strength and courageous to live the life that He has given us.

So don’t be frightened, don’t be dismayed. Wherever we go, God goes with us.

~*~
Author Bio:

Christa MacDonald is a 2017 ACFW Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction.

A native New Englander, she was inspired by her travels through the north woods of Maine to write The Broken Trail, which would become the first in the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

Christa's writing focuses on the real-life challenges of the modern world, love’s sometimes crooked path, and the redemptive power of Grace.

When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty.

She and her husband live with their three kids, two cats, and one dog along the coast of New England. Connect with Christa at www.christamacdonald.com.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Celebrate Lit blog tour for It'll Be Okay (book) by Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner


Welcome to my blog's stop on the Celebrate Lit blog tour for It'll Be Okay (book) by Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner!

Read my review of Sheryl's book below and enjoy your time with her today! 


Remember to enter the fun giveaway contest toward the end of this blog post.

~*~
About the Book:

Is it okay for Christians to doubt?



When we don’t get answers or see God’s guiding hand, it’s hard to keep praying or walking forward in faith. Difficult times often cloud our perspective. Does God see me? Does he hear me? Does he care? Many Christians confuse doubt with unbelief and are afraid to admit those fears, but God is not threatened by our questions, and doubt does not negate our faith.

Our doubts express a yearning to be sure of what—and who—we trust. When our questions are answered by trust, faith is fed and our doubts transform into deeper belief that pushes us toward a decision.

· When we address doubt head-on, faith can grow.

· God has a plan in the good and bad that life brings.

· God can heal our wounds and turn our past mistakes around.

Join nationally-known Bible teacher Sheryl Giesbreacht Turner as she guides you toward a deeper understanding of the role doubt plays in your spiritual growth—and how learning to ‘doubt your doubts’ enables faith to prevail.

~*~
About the Author:


Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner holds a bachelor of arts, a master’s in ministry, and a doctorate of theology. 

Her television and radio show, “Transformed Through Truth,” is nationally and internationally syndicated; it’s seen and heard daily by millions of viewers and listeners on audio, internet, Roku, and YouTube networks across the United States and through The Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network worldwide. 

Sheryl is the author of three books and hundreds of columns, articles, and devotions. 

As a Lead Like Jesus facilitator, a blogger, and a missionary with Freedom in Christ Ministries she has personally equipped hundreds and facilitated the training of thousands of national and international leaders. 

She and her husband, Dr. Jim Turner, live in California’s Central Valley where she enjoys running 5K races with her eighty-five-year-old mother.

~*~
Author's Note:

I’ve always been the one to ask the questions. 

As a kindergartener, I embarrassed my mother when I inquired, “Where did I come from?” 

Years passed, as a teenager, I made unhealthy life choices, experimented with alcohol and street drugs, and wondered, “What am I here for?” 

As a young adult, in Bible College; I asked God to take control of my life and questioned, “What’s my purpose?” 

Maybe you, too, have had or now have questions? These concerns may even keep you up at night? Doubting ourselves or God may be criticized as a lack of faith. I disagree. Doubt is the in between. Doubts need to be addressed. If doubts are not considered, they will rot our faith from the inside out. When we doubt, we are able to be honest with ourselves and God. We should not be afraid to doubt.

As a delivered drug addict, stage four cancer survivor, and former widow, I’ve faced many types of situations which caused me to question God’s love, goodness and compassion. As I have gone to His word, I’ve discovered He hasn’t changed, His word continues to speak and revives my faith, taking me to a deeper level every single time. 

I am reminded of this in Lamentations 3:21-24 (NIV) Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Thank you so much for being part of this blog tour. I am excited about what God is going to do with His truth in us as we bring our questions to the Answer – Jesus.

Love and prayers, 

Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner

~*~
My Review:

One question sets the course for this book. The author asks the reader, "Is it okay for Christians to doubt?"

From there, the book unravels like a ball of yarn as the author peels back the layers of that question like an onion until she reaches its core and at the core is the answer to everything: Jesus (Christ).

I truly enjoyed reading this book! The author's transparency and heart for Jesus could be felt throughout the book. She's not afraid to share the good, the bad and the ugly from her personal life experiences.

Sheryl (the author) writes in a way that encourages the reader and inspires their heart to keep trusting in God through it all. I like how she tells the reader that doubt can be a healthy part of your faith journey with God. I like how she reminds the reader that God is not afraid of your doubting Him and He can handle your honesty. I like how she encourages the reader to go to God with your doubts and trust Him to give you the answers that you need.

I liked the cover of this book. I think that the picture of a person walking through dense fog was appropriate, as was the brightness of the light in the lighthouse that stood in the background. I found it to be metaphorical because it's true to real life! Oftentimes, as believers in God, we feel like we're trying to navigate our way through a spiritual fog that's so dense that we can barely see what's in front of us or around the corner. But all the darkness and fog in the world cannot prevent God's Guiding Light of Love from breaking through (enter the bright yellow light from the lighthouse). I love it!

I also appreciated how the author says, "Our doubts express a yearning to be sure of what—and who—we trust. When our questions are answered by trust, faith is fed and our doubts transform into deeper belief that pushes us toward a decision."

What a powerful truth and life lesson that we can all benefit from learning!

The author taught me a few things that I did not know, mainly this point: "When we address doubt head-on, faith can grow." I didn't know that because prior to reading this book, I always had the impression that doubting God is not a good thing and it should be avoided at all costs. I was taught to praise Jesus through every storm and never question God. But this book reminded me that God is not afraid of our doubts and He can handle our honesty! 

It also reminded me of the Bible story that church people call "Doubting Thomas." He was one of Jesus Christ's followers and he didn't believe that Christ had risen from the dead, saying that he wouldn't believe it until he could see it (see Jesus in person and see the marks on His hands and feet from the nails that the Roman soldiers used to fasten Him to the cross). So what did Jesus do? He showed up! He appeared to Thomas and instructed him to touch His hands and see the scars from the nails. He also ate a piece of fish to prove that He was human and alive. And finally, Thomas believed! 

I like how even to this day, Jesus Christ is patient will all of us because He wants us all to be saved. If we doubt, He's okay with it but He doesn't want us to doubt him forever. So He shows up in so many different and wonderful ways to prove that He's real, He loves us and that He has good plans for the stories of our life (Jeremiah 29:11).

Finally, Sheryl Giesbreacht Turner's career as a Bible teacher truly shines through her storytelling in this book. I was captivated and learned a lot of life lessons from her teaching!

And like any good teacher, she didn't leave me as the reader without writing about how I can apply these principles discussed in her book to my every day life. It was a really worthwhile read, well deserving of five stars!

*Celebrate Lit provided me (Alexis A. Goring) with a complimentary copy of It'll Be Okay (book). My opinions in this book review are my own.

~*~
Giveaway:

To celebrate her tour, Sheryl is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!



Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


~*~
Blog Stops:

janicesbookreviews, January 9
Older & Smarter?, January 10
Texas Book-aholic, January 12
Artistic Nobody, January 13 (Author Interview)
God is Love, January 14
Genesis 5020, January 15
Emily Yager, January 18
All 4 and About Books, January 19 (Author Interview)
Mary Hake, January 19
Beck To Basics, January 20