Friday, October 30, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Life Lessons

Lessons Learned
A devotional by Temeka Borden

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” –James 1:2-4 (KJV)

Trials are inevitable. We will have to go through some things. We must be tested, and we will continually be tested until we “pass the exam.”

We often forget that God is trying to teach us some things. Perhaps it’s to have more faith. Maybe He is trying to teach us to have more patience. It’s possible He wants to show us how to really love others. Maybe He wants us to forgive more swiftly. We must remember that our trials are our opportunities to learn some important lessons and to grow.

I can’t help but to think of my past trials and reflect on what I learned and how I matured. It wasn’t easy. Many days were challenging, but I didn’t give up and I learned much. I often talk about how I was in one situation in particular—a situation in which I had to “grow up” very quickly. Although, I faced many difficult days, it was a great opportunity to learn and continually build on my leadership skills, my people skills, and my life skills in general. 

In the aforementioned role, I had to learn patience. I had to know when to bridle my tongue, and I had to learn when to speak up. The bridling my tongue part was more difficult than the speaking up part, however, and it took patience. In the aforementioned role, I had to train others, be trained by others, and train myself. That took patience. In that role, I had to learn how to listen to others, even when I knew (or thought I knew) I was right. That took patience.

In the aforementioned role, I had to learn how to better love others. It’s easy to love those who love you, but to love those who don’t love you? That took some maturity and some strength. Although I was shown much respect in this role, there were some instances when I was not. I had to show love to several individuals who not always showed love to me, and for the few who looked down on me, I had to love them too.

In the aforementioned role, I had to learn how to grow in my faith. Some days were tough. I had to work with limited funds and squeeze what felt like $100.00 out of two cents. I had to have faith that regardless of what I faced that day, that every challenge I faced would be overcome. I had to have faith that when I spoke up on what was important and what was right, that God would have my back.

In the aforementioned role, I had to learn how to forgive more swiftly. I often teach on the importance of forgiveness and how it is liberating. It’s a great example of Christ’s love and it is something we are expected to do. But let’s be honest, forgiveness is not always easy to do. Some people will do some very evil things, and the very thought of forgiving those individuals may seem extremely difficult. However, learning how to forgive is an absolute necessity and is a hallmark of a mature Christian.

Don’t despise your trials. I know it gets tough at times. It may seem as though things will never get better, but always remind yourself that the pain you are experiencing is due to your growth. They’re called “growing pains” for a reason. Keep growing. You’re only positioning yourself to be better used by God.

Author Bio:
Temeka Borden, better known by her pen name, Positivity Inspires, is an author, speaker, minister, and 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.  

After recently experiencing what she describes as the "lowest point in her life," Positivity Inspires wrote the following about herself to serve as an encouragement and reminder of who she is in Christ:

"I am a child of God. He loves me unconditionally. Although I have my shortcomings, He has blessed me with a desire to do what is right. I have been blessed with many natural and spiritual gifts. I am an author. I am a speaker. I am a teacher. I am a runner. I am a drummer. I am a singer (when I’m in the mood), and I have a strong 'fashion sense.' I am loved. My family and friends are my heart, and I know they will support me no matter what. I am educated. I currently have two degrees (one of them a doctorate), and with God’s help, I will complete a third degree soon. I am a multi-state licensed medical professional who completed a specialty residency, which prepared me for the workforce (and made me a FORCE to be reckoned with). I am a leader. I have served in administrative roles and was successful in those positions because I made a difference (with God’s help). I am ambitious, and I know that with God, all things are possible. I know He is going to do great things through me."

Positivity Inspires loves God and she loves people. She strongly encourages others to show kindness, respect, and love to everyone. Positivity Inspires loves and welcomes diversity and flourishes in culturally diverse environments. She also is passionate about giving back to the community, and her favorite mantras are: "Speak Up!" and "Watch God Work!"

Connect with Temeka:
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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Reasons why forgiveness is good for you

A devotional by Julia Wilson

“For if you forgive people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 
–Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

Forgiveness – we all need to forgive and we have all been forgiven. It sounds so simple but it is often hard to do.

I watched the movie Unbroken a few months ago. It is the true story of Olympic runner American Louis Zamperini. He ran in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. During World War II his plane was shot down and he spent 47 days in an inflatable boat before being rescued by the Japanese and interned in a prisoner of war camp where he was treated cruelly. It was an excellent movie but harrowing. We saw Louis Zamperini promise God that if he was rescued, he would serve God all of his days. It was a powerful movie.

Then I watched Unbroken: The Path To Redemption – oh wow, that was an amazing true movie covering the years 1945-1950. Louis Zamperini returns to the States, trying to cope on his own as he suffers from PTSD. He has flashbacks to his POW days and can never escape the face of his biggest tormentor, the Fish. As he immerses himself in alcohol, his marriage is on the rocks.

Louis Zamparini’s wife attends a Billy Graham revival meeting in Los Angeles in 1949. It is here that she accepts Jesus and begins to love Louis unconditionally as God loves her. She asks him to go to a revival meeting with her. He goes but reluctantly. He walks out. He goes the next night and is walking out again when he has an encounter with the risen Lord. It is powerful to see it played out but the best is yet to come.

Louis Zamparini returns to Tokyo in 1950, to visit a prison where the cruel Japanese guards are held. He stands before the inmates except the Fish who is yet to be found, and he forgives them all. He asks if the Fish is found, would they give him his (Louis’) Bible. Louis forgave much because he knew he was loved and forgiven by God.

Both movies are very powerful and well worth watching as you witness the love of the risen Jesus Christ and the power of His love to help us to forgive.

Another powerful tale that comes to mind is that of my hero, Corrie ten Boom. She and her sister Betsie, as Dutch Christians, helped to hide Jewish people during World War II. They were both caught and imprisoned in Ravensbrück where Betsie died.

Years after the war, Corrie ten Boom was speaking in Germany. At the end of the meeting she saw the former concentration camp guard (responsible for Betsie’s death) coming towards her with his hand held out. Corrie knew she could not, nor did she want to, forgive him. She prayed “Lord, not in my strength but Yours” and a power went down her arm as she reached her hand out to shake the former guard’s hand. She forgave in the strength of the Lord.

Forgiveness is something that many of us struggle with but we must forgive because Jesus has forgiven us. I have heard it said that to withhold forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Or like sitting on the branch you are sawing off.

If we withhold forgiveness, we risk becoming bitter. We carry a burden that was never meant for us. When we forgive, our burden is lifted, our spirit is lighter and we can move with freedom into the future. Often the hardest person to forgive is the face in the mirror.

We need to remember that we are loved by God, confess our sins to Him and receive His forgiveness, and then live loved and forgiven.

If you feel burdened today, please join me in this prayer: Dear God, I come to you with a heavy burden. I ask that You take this burden from me. I do not want to carry it any more. I freely confess my sins to You. Help me to forgive myself. Help me to forgive those who have wronged me. Thank you for Your forgiveness and love. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

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, October 27, 2020

Romantic Reads: The Promise Keeper

Welcome Sherri Stewart to the blog! 

She's here to talk about the inspiration for her book, The Promise Keeper

Enjoy this glimpse behind the scenes of her story!

The Story Behind The Story of The Promise Keeper by Sherri Stewart:

Does God have one special person for you? That was what Jonathan believed in The Promise Keeper. He believed that God was interested in the details of our lives, just the same as a really good father is in his children’s lives.

Luke 12:7 says, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” This seems to point to the fact that God is intimately acquainted with our lives. However, Meadow, the object of Jonathan’s love, isn’t so sure. While she believes that God knows us, she’s not quite sure that He involves Himself in the minutiae of our lives. That is the question of the book.

At the start it seems as if God has brought Jonathan and Meadow together. They are two American strangers that hold the same ticket to a seat at a concert in London. Coincidence or Providence? They spend time with each other, and Jonathan is amazed at how many other coincidences occur. Yet when Meadow spends her last few days on a field trip to see the castles before she returns to the states, Jonathan receives some other providential signs that he should go after her. But where? To which castles?

This brings up another issue about God’s concern with the details of our lives. If He has one special person for each of us, how hard are we supposed to work to find that person? Jonathan seems to be working way too hard, and things don’t go as planned. So should he give up or keep trying to find her?

I’m not a chick flick fan, but I do enjoy a few: Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding, Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, Megan Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, and Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity. People who don’t have God in their lives have no trouble believing in coincidences, karma, destiny, and serendipity, but I believe if we ask God to lead, He will.

I know a man who prayed about finding a wife, and he believed God would direct his path, so he took his cues from his daily readings in the Bible. When he read that Isaac’s wife would come from the south riding on a camel, he took that to be his promise from God. Years passed and he forgot about it, until he found himself on a blind date with a gal who showed him pictures of her trip to Egypt, and you guessed it. They’ve been married for forty years.

If you liked the movie An Affair to Remember or Serendipity, you may like The Promise Keeper.

Author Bio:
Sherri Stewart loves a good suspense novel, especially one that challenges her faith. 

She proves that it’s never too late to achieve a dream. Her careers as teacher, principal, flight attendant and immigration lawyer have provided fodder for her books.

She's a member of Word Weavers International, ACFW, and the California Bar.

A recent widow, she lives in the Orlando area with her dog, Lily. 

When she's not writing or teaching, you'll find her walking the Disney parks for exercise and thinking through plot lines or planning her next trip to settings for her book.

Blurb for The Promise Keeper:

Meadow meets Jonathan by chance when they end up with the same seat ticket to a concert in London. Chance or something more? Thus begins a whirlwind fairytale in London and in Wales.

But all good things must end when Meadow returns to Atlanta and Jonathan heads back to law school in New York. They promise to keep in touch. Jonathan believes that providence has brought them together. Meadow’s not so sure, but they promise to meet at Christmas on the rooftop of Cardiff Castle in Wales in two years if they’re not already spoken for.

Will Jonathan keep his promise? If you enjoyed Serendipity and Sleepless in Seattle, The Promise Keeper is the book for you.

Buy The Promise Keeper on Amazon

Monday, October 26, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Dreams

When I Grow Up …
A devotional by Glynis Becker

"Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture."
–Psalm 100:1-3 (NASB)

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was a child who loved all things related to air and space: planets, stars, the Space Shuttle, airplanes. I dreamed about being an astronaut, but dreams and reality do not always coincide. The truth is, I am not a risk-taker at all, so even riding roller coasters at the fair is a no-go for me. There is no way I’d actually take a rocket to space. I realized at a pretty young age that I would never be able to introduce myself as an astronaut.

I also spent some time wanting to be a doctor or nurse. I love science, but the more I learned about biology the more I realized I wouldn’t be able to handle that at all. My family, who has seen me almost pass out from someone just talking about their surgeries or ailments, thinks it's funny that I ever even thought I could work in the medical field. So I guess I’ll never be able to introduce myself as a doctor, either.

In this society our entire identities can be wrapped up in what we do. We often, probably too often, place our search for meaning and legacy in the job or position we hold. If it’s one the world considers prestigious, then we are “successful.” If not, a person might feel they have nothing important to offer.

In the kingdom of God no one is insignificant. No one has any more than anyone else to offer to God. He has given us life and breath and we all we can do is give those back to Him. You and I may not make major contributions to science, or write bestselling books, or be loved by millions as a celebrity, but lucky for us, our eternal identities don’t depend on any of that.

Do you feel like you’ve failed or are insignificant? Offer Him yourself today. Give Him this moment and ask Him to breathe new life into your identity. No matter your age, no matter how many dreams have been crushed by your shortcomings or the circumstances you live in.

I now have a new dream for when I grow up. I want to see myself the way Jesus sees me. I want my identity to wrap itself in His. And I want to see others that way as well.

Let’s pray: Dear God, I give You everything. I don’t care if I am a success or a failure in this world, I just want to be who you have designed me to be. I love you and want to rest in Your love for me. Be with me today and always. In Jesus’s 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

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Little Lamb Book Spotlight on Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo by Shelly Roark

Interview with Shelly Roark about her book, Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo:

Congratulations on writing this book, “Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo” for children! 
Let’s talk about it …

Alexis: What inspired this story?

Shelly: My daughter, Gracie, was the inspiration for Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo. She has always loved animals . . . and is just a tad headstrong and persistent. Bless her! We’ve never seen an animal that she didn’t ask to take home. Our home has been blessed with a hamster, cat and two dogs, but it isn’t enough. Gracie literally wants a house packed with critters!

I remember one day after saying ‘no’ for the thousandth time to a new pet, I said, “Gracie Lou you won’t be happy ‘til you have a zoo!” The phrase stuck in my head and I decided it was a great way to share a lesson on patience and trusting God’s timing.

I’ve often told Gracie that God created her for a purpose and that she would see her dreams come true in His timing. Gracie is a teen now and plans on becoming a veterinarian. So, the book concludes with a look into the future possibilities when you trust in God.

Alexis: When you were a child, did you want your own zoo just like Gracie Lou?

Shelly: I’ve always loved the zoo. Our local zoo was one of my favorite family outings as a child. We always visited the local zoo on our family vacations as well. As an adult, I continued to take my own children throughout their young years. However, I must admit that I’m not really an animal person. That’s why Gracie heard “no” so many times! I admire people who are animal people and was always fascinated by zookeepers who were never hesitant or unafraid among wild animals.

Alexis: Gracie Lou is the star of this story. Describe her personality. Share her dreams. Has she always had such a heart for animals?

Shelly: Gracie Lou is a headstrong gal with a soft, gooey inside—her tremendous love for animals. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it! However, she needs a little lesson in the value of patience and trusting God for her future. She also needs to understand that a “no” from Mom and Dad isn’t the end of the world!

Alexis: What does Gracie want to be when she grows up? Why?

Shelly: Gracie Lou most definitely wants to be a veterinarian or something that allows her to care for and love on animals of all sizes and shapes.

Alexis: How long has Gracie had her pet turtle, George, and why does she want him to have friends?

Shelly: George is Gracie Lou’s sidekick. He’s really the only pet that her parents feel can be kept in their small apartment. George loves Gracie Lou and she loves George!

Alexis: Why won’t Gracie’s parents allow her to have more pets?

Shelly: Gracie Lou and her parents live in the city in a small apartment. Her parents don’t think there is enough room for her to have any other pet but George.

Alexis: How does the real-life lesson of learning how to trust God’s plan, apply to this story?

Shelly: In the story, you see that Gracie Lou’s dream and passion for animals will be fulfilled when she discovers God’s plan for her life as an adult. She becomes a veterinarian. Our current circumstances are not the end of our story. God has a great plan for your life and you can often glimpse it when you consider your passions and talents. However, you must be patient and understand that you still have a lot of growing to do before you get there. God loves you and will guide you.

Alexis: What is one of the faith lessons that Gracie learns in this story and how does it help her in life?

Shelly: Gracie learns the importance of patience and trusting God. She learns that we don’t always get what we want immediately and that’s OK. It’s not the end of the story.

Alexis: What role does your real-life faith in God play in your storytelling?

Shelly: I’m a simple girl and love simple faith lessons. Childlike faith is a very powerful thing! I’m so blessed when God turns the light bulb on during real-life interactions that allow me to explain principles of faith from Scripture to children. I’m blessed and strengthened with these simple stories that God speaks into my heart!

I also think stories are such a great way to explain eternal concepts. Jesus used parables so effectively. My favorite parts of Scripture are the stories! I still get new inspiration from biblical stories no matter how many times I read them.

Alexis: What message from this story do you hope resonates with the children who read it? 

Shelly: My hope is that God will use this story to give parents the opportunity to discuss faith with their children. There are a few different aspects of faith and life in the story that might open the door to a deeper discussion between parents and children—patience, obedience, trust, God’s plan and purpose.

Alexis: What life lessons have you learned about faith in God and trusting His plan over your own?

Shelly: Gracie Lou’s passion is animals. Mine has always been writing and storytelling.

I’ve seen how God has worked throughout my life to grow and nurture that talent and desire for his purposes. I went to college to earn a degree in journalism and worked for a decade in the newspaper business. God then opened the door to work for ministries using the skills I had gained through my early career.

Now, I am blessed to tell the real-life stories of people whose lives have been transformed through different ministries across the country. I’ve told the stories of ministries that provide Bibles to those who have no Scripture in their own heart language. I’ve been able to shine a light on the plight of orphans and victims of tragedy.

The stories God has given me to share has even saved the lives of preborn babies. I’ve been blessed for more than 20 years to write these inspiring stories and raise funds for the ministries that make all these efforts possible. Today, I write for Focus on the Family. God knows the future and we can trust him to shape and mold our talents and passions for his purposes.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview!

Author Bio:

Award-winning author Shelly Roark has been writing professionally for almost 30 years—from early years as a newspaper reporter to ghost writer for ministries and non-profits. Today, she is a senior copywriter for Focus on the Family. 

Her debut children’s picture book—The Bubble Who Would Not POP!—received four national awards, including Gold in IBPA’s 2018 Benjamin Franklin/Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book (Children’s/YA) and the 2018 Silver Medal Illumination Book Award. Shelly’s second children’s book, Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo, received the 2020 Silver Medal Illumination Book Award.

Shelly and her husband Geoff live in Texas with their three teens.

Blurb for Shelly’s book:

What kid wouldn't want her own personal zoo?

Gracie Lou wants nothing more for her pet turtle, George, than for him to have friends. But Mom and Dad insist that their city apartment is too small to house a monkey, or a duck, or a giraffe, or an elephant. They say she needs to be patient and trust in God's plan, except Gracie Lou's not sure she can wait that long.

After a wild night spent with a houseful of rowdy zoo animals give her a lesson in the value of patience and God's perfect timing, Gracie Lou learns that God has a great plan for her . . . if she can just wait for it!

Written by Shelly Roark, award-winning author of The Bubble Who Would Not POP!, Gracie Lou Wants A Zoo is a delightful message of God's love for all of His children, especially those who have ever wondered about His plan for them.

Connect with Shelly:

Friday, October 23, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Choices

Who Will You Choose to Be?

A devotional by Amy Odland

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 
– John 8:6b-9 (NIV)

Ever been to a restaurant with a group of people and have someone in the group who doesn’t know what they want to eat?

First, they let everyone else order before them to buy more time. Then they possibly ask the waiter a bunch of questions, trying to narrow their decision by eliminating items they were considering. Or maybe they listen to what those who ordered before them got and just copycat someone else’s order that sounded tasty.

Maybe at some point we’ve all had a turn at being this person...unable to make a decision and then as the pressure mounts, we either make a decision in haste or just resort to accepting the decision someone else made and substituting it for our own. I assume many of us can identify with having moments of indecision and feeling stuck when trying to make a difficult decision in a moment of pressure...especially decisions more paramount in life than just what to order for dinner while dining out.

The religious leaders in the scripture verse above had a difficult decision they needed to make at a moment's notice. After Jesus knelt and wrote in the dirt, they decided to abort whatever scheme they were trying to carry out. Their silent, inward examinations led to the woman’s forgiveness and pardon. There was a second group of religious leaders in Acts 7:57-58 who were spurred on by their anger and rage in response to the truths and exhortations Stephen spoke in his self-defense against the false accusations they’d brought against him—their rash, impulsive, and selfish decision led to his death.

Here’s the thing:
As Christians, we get to decide every day, in little decisions sprinkled throughout our day, who we stand with. Do we stand with the righteous who are trying to uphold the law and “rules” of our faith or do we stand with Him who ushered in a new law? Jesus said in John 13:34 (NIV), “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another.”

In Luke 10:27 (NIV), Jesus told an expert of the law he’d answered correctly to Jesus’s question of what is written in the law. He’d said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus emphasized the idea of us loving God and loving others in both of these examples. In effect, He said to only worry about these two laws, effectively erasing all the laws man had warped or perverted over the years since Moses had brought down the stone tablets from Mount Sinai.

Just like when ordering at a restaurant, we need to each decide what we stand for, what we believe, and who we’re following. We need to decide for ourselves and not piggyback off the order/decision of another. We need to make a decision and not delay to the point of missing our chance. We need to rededicate ourselves to that decision each day and remind ourselves of this: Will we let love rule the day or will we let prideful righteousness win?

We are only responsible for our own choices. You won’t have to give account for my decisions and I won’t have to give account for yours. We have only our own sinfulness to account for.

Here’s a thought: Do you make your decisions based on the fact that Jesus will judge you for them? If you made a chart representing each day of your life, with a dot representing every day and assuming you lived to the age of exactly 85, you would have 31,025 dots on the chart. Each of those dots symbolizes a new day, a new chance to make the right decision, to make a choice like the group of religious leaders in John 8 did: to choose love and drop your stone in the dust instead of throwing it at someone.

What will you choose when you interact with other humans, Christian or otherwise? Will you choose to keep your pride, to condemn and throw stones or hurtful words, or to shut your ears and eyes to the truth when someone speaks it to you? Will you realize your own shortcomings and offer forgiveness to those who seek it or be kinder than is deserved and listen to truth no matter what it costs you? What will the dot for today in your life represent when Jesus recounts your whole life to you someday?

In closing, let’s reflect together on these words from Jesus found in John 13:35 (NIV):
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Note to the Reader from Amy: 
To read more about the judgment of believers, you can read 
2 Corinthians 5:6-10 and Revelation 20:11-13 or this article here ...

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, October 21, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Why God's servants should not conform

Nonconforming Servants of God
A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 
–Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Humans are social critters. We like to form groups, clubs, tribes, alliances and then define who’s in and who’s out. Anyone who attended a public high school in America can probably remember the cliques of their day and what was required for membership. Band geeks, nerds, jocks, whatever your crew was, even if it was just you and two others, there was always a code of sorts. Maybe it was dressing a certain way, talking, having the same hobbies or extracurriculars, but belonging meant conforming.

We still have our tribes and clubs as adults, but we also have cultural and societal norms influencing how we live. There’s a great deal of social pressure to conform to what the majority of people around us think is the “correct” way to live. In our age, we have to add to that the pressure from media, everything from Facebook, to movies and television, YouTube, and TikTok. We’re continually being told how to behave, what to consume, what to think.

God calls his children out of the world and all its influences. Instead of being focused on ourselves, He calls us to focus on Jesus and to live our lives as witnesses to his Grace and Mercy. And it’s not easy. Living according to God’s will makes no sense to a world that glorifies the self-indulgent. The temptation to give just a bit here and there, going along with the world, is pretty strong. In the United States and other wealthy nations, we’re insulated from sacrifice by the comforts of our daily lives. We indulge ourselves. We dull our spiritual senses with platitudes and watered-down works. We don’t give of ourselves; we write a check to someone already doing the work while our lives are unchanged, unbothered by God’s great commission.

I’ve noted in these troubled times that some of that comfort has been stripped away. I’m not as complacent as I was before. Life and death feel far more immediate. It’s like waking up from a comfortable doze to see the house on fire. It feels more urgent to share the Gospel. Far more critical to seek God’s will. Have you felt that too?

It’s time to shake off the drugging influence of the world’s creature comforts as well as its influence and remember whose we are. We need to allow the Spirit to renew our minds and change our perspectives, and then dedicate our lives to living our faith.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Romantic Reads: Know You More

Welcome Jan Thompson to the blog! 

She's here today to talk about her book Know You More

Enjoy the interview!

Interview with Jan Thompson about her book, Know You More: Christian Coastal City & Beach Town Romance (Savannah Sweethearts Book 1)

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Jan: I wrote Know You More in part to show that multiracial and multiethnic Christians can worship God together in peace and harmony in a Christian church. In fact, Riverside Chapel somewhat mirrors the first century churches that the Lord led Peter and Paul to start. For example, in Acts 2:5-11, we saw a list of believers from many countries coming together to hear Peter preach at Pentecost. Also, back in the day, cities like Ephesus and Corinth were trade crossroads in which people from all over the known world congregated to do business and meet one another. Those were the places Paul planted churches.

Alexis: Describe the setting of this story. Why did you set it in a coastal city and beach town?

Jan: Know You More is the first book in my Savannah Sweethearts series (not counting the prequel, Ask You Later), and sets the tone for the entire series about a community of multiethnic Christians who attend Riverside Chapel, a church housed in a riverboat that’s docked on the Savannah River in Savannah, Georgia. The churchgoers live in the area, in the coastal city of Savannah, and also on the beaches of Tybee Island across the bridge.

I grew up on a tropical island, and my family lived about ten minutes (depending on traffic) from the bay and beaches. Many of my contemporary Christian romance books gravitate toward beach towns, and I find that my experience of having lived on an island and in a coastal city enables me to describe life by the ocean. I love the coasts and beaches, and so I write about what I love and have experienced in my own life.

Alexis: You’ve described this story, Know You More, as a “multiracial romance.” What is the ethnicity/racial makeup of your main characters Diego Flores and Heidi Wei?

Jan: Diego Flores’s father is a Hispanic-American pastor who is now the part-time counseling pastor at Riverside Chapel. The semi-retired senior Flores doesn’t want to do it full time because he wants to spend half his time traveling with his Italian wife, Diego’s mom, to Italy where they like to spend the summer. However, Diego still talks to his dad regularly to get pastoral advice on church and love.

Heidi Wei is a Chinese-American Christian who is an active member of Riverside Chapel, as is her brother, Ming, who happens to be Diego’s best friend. They all attended the University of Georgia some years ago before Diego was called into the pastoral ministry and went off to seminary. They all met again years later in Savannah, when Ming invited Diego to pastor their church. Know You More begins over a year after the friends have reunited.

Alexis: Describe Diego’s church, Riverside Chapel. What makes it special to him?

Jan: Diego has been an associate pastor in the previous churches he worked in. This is the first time Diego is the senior pastor of his own church. Needless to say, he is quite nervous about shouldering such a heavy responsibility. As with any growing church, finding space to house Sunday morning services becomes a challenge for him. Diego sees how God comes through for his church every time they have a need. As his church grows in number, God provides for them a bigger space. Even though it’s on a riverboat, it’s rent-free. Diego is thankful to the Lord that Riverside Chapel continues to grow without getting into financial debt.

What role does faith in God play in the lives and hearts of your main characters?

Jan: As the senior pastor of Riverside Chapel, Diego not only preaches the Word of God, but he also has to live what he is preaching. As they say, he has to “walk the talk.” Diego sees that his friend Heidi Wei has a strong faith and wants to do everything she can to help their church grow. Together, they learn to minister to their congregation, while God works in their hearts about their relationship with each other.

Alexis: How does your real-life faith in God impact your fiction storytelling?

Jan: My Christian faith plays a very integral role in my storytelling. I have to understand what God is saying before I can write it in my books through the eyes of my characters. That is to say, if I don’t understand a Bible passage, I cannot explain it. In some of my novels, I allow the characters to study and learn more about the Scripture, and sometimes it becomes clear to me as I write out the scenes and chapters.

Savannah Sweethearts is more involved because all eleven books are about members of the Riverside Chapel church community, starting with their pastor. Diego and Heidi show up in every book, so I do have to remember what their theology is. After all, Diego is their pastor. In fact, he is also a counseling pastor to several people in my spinoff series, Vacation Sweethearts.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Jan! Do you have closing comments?

Jan: Thank you very much for inviting me to Romantic Reads for this interview. I appreciate it. I’m happy to write the books I enjoy reading, and I hope that there are readers out there who also love to read the types of books I like. My publishing imprint has a verse that has been an anchor for me in the process of publishing and marketing my books: “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works” (Psalm 26:7). 

Ultimately, to God be the glory!

Author Bio:

USA Today bestselling author Jan Thompson writes clean and wholesome multiethnic contemporary Christian romance with flavors of women’s fiction, Christian romantic suspense with elements of mystery, and inspirational international thrillers with threads of sweet Christian romance. 

Her books are for readers who love inspiring stories of faith, family, and friends.

Blurb for Know You More:

He loves her… He loves her not… She’s waiting for him to decide.

A young pastor of a growing church in a thriving coastal community, Diego Flores has to come to grips with God’s will for his pastoral and personal life as he falls in love with his best friend’s sister.

If you enjoy reading clean and wholesome Christian beach romance, you’ll enjoy USA Today bestselling author Jan Thompson’s Savannah Sweethearts series set in the coastal city of Savannah, Georgia, and the neighboring beach town of Tybee Island on the Atlantic Ocean. Savannah Sweethearts begins with Know You More, the multiracial romance of Pastor Diego Flores and Heidi Wei.

Diego’s Disquiet…
Diego Flores has been interested in his best friend’s younger sister since their college days, but his calling to grow Riverside Chapel takes up most of his time. 

When Heidi Wei becomes his strongest supporter in his church ministry, how does Diego show his feelings for her without giving her the wrong idea?

Does she see him as potential husband material or just the pastor of their church?

Heidi’s Hurdles…
Heidi suspects that Diego is sweet on her, but he seems to believe that his divine calling prevents him from acting on it. If it isn’t meant to be, she’s not going to push for it. Yet every time they are together, something happens between them. Have they moved beyond the platonic relationship they have enjoyed all these years to something more personal?

When a crisis hits Heidi’s family, Diego has to balance pastoring his congregation and ministering to Heidi without losing either one. Being in love while pastoring a church is difficult for him to juggle. Which path is more important? Which one should he focus on?

If you like Know You More, you’ll want to read the rest of the Savannah Sweethearts series. The next book is Tell You Soon, a romance with suspense featuring Heidi’s brother, private investigator Ming Wei. In this second book, there’s romance, there’s intrigue, and there’s a beach house for sale. Have some tea, settle in a comfortable reading chair, and enjoy these sweet celebrations of faith, hope, and love in Jesus Christ.

Buy Know You More on Amazon

Connect with Jan:
Book News:
Amazon USA:

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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Monday, October 19, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Power, Compassion and God's Heart for Humankind

God's Power and Heart of Compassion for Humankind 
A devotional by Malinda Fugate

Key Scripture:
Matthew 8

If we open the pages of the Bible to Matthew 8, we are ushered to a front row seat where we witness Jesus Christ heal a man with leprosy, restore mobility to the servant of a centurion from afar, relieve Peter’s mother-in-law of fever, and drive out demonic spirits from numerous people.

As we continue to read through the chapter, we see Him calm a raging storm and send evil spirits into a herd of pigs. As these things unfold, we are confronted with three major truths about Christ:

Major Truth #1: Jesus has the power to heal.

Skeptics have argued since the days Christ walked on earth that He was merely a man, a good teacher at best. But through miraculous acts of healing, the Lord demonstrated power that could only be done by the Son of God. He provides care better than the most skilled doctor, defying laws of nature and physics to do what can only be done through divine power.

Major Truth #2: Jesus has authority in Heaven and on Earth.

Matthew 8:5-13 highlights an encounter with an official in the Roman army who had great faith in Christ. When Jesus offered to come to his home to heal his paralyzed servant, the official declined. His reasoning? As a person in authority, he understood that commanding words have power, and this was especially true of the divine power of Christ. He trusted that it would only take a word from Jesus to heal the servant and that’s exactly what happened! This healing demonstrated the authority of Jesus. The driving out of demonic spirits and the calming of the storm would also serve as evidence of Jesus’ authority on earth and in the supernatural realm.

Major Truth #3: Jesus has compassion.

The power and authority of Christ is worthy of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that He is Lord. But the most remarkable thing the healings of Matthew 8 show us is the incredible compassion of our Savior. Jesus didn’t wield His power with the heavy hand of a tyrant. Instead, He actively loved the people God sent Him to save. He sees our needs and provides gentle, kind care. He removes hindrances and brings us closer to our Heavenly Father. Jesus overflows with love for us and shows us in many ways, including healing.

My Conclusion:

Jesus Christ reigns in Heaven and on Earth, and so we rightly declare that He is worthy of glory, honor, and praise. But it is His love that moves our hearts to worship in a way beyond description, exceeding what can be articulated with words.

The precious relationship that we have with our Savior is like no other. Such a powerful love can’t be matched, imitated, improved, or replaced. Nothing can take it away or destroy it. We are secure in the love of Jesus Christ who gently holds our hearts in His strong, capable care.

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.

Her writing includes children's faith resources, commercial copywriting, and various faith-based stage and screenplays.

Malinda invites you to explore the various 3:16s in the Bible with her new book, The Other Three Sixteens (published by Ambassador International in May 2020).

She also invites you to read her previously published books: Bible Time for Active Kids, which is an activities-based devotional that is available for purchase on, 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, and then worked behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Salem radio stations, including The Fish and KKLA.

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

She lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi.

Visit Malinda online via

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Little Lamb Book Spotlight on Kind Soup by Jean Petersen

Interview with Jean Petersen, author of Kind Soup:

Congratulations on writing this story “Kind Soup” for children! Let’s talk about it …

Alexis: Why did you write this story?

Jean: I wrote this story as a framework for children to not only learn about the Fruits of the Spirit listed in Scripture, but as an opportunity to look around us and see how many things we have and work that are chances to develop and live in the virtues daily. There are simple ways to show kindness, love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, faithfulness, and gentleness throughout our days, and sometimes we don’t even know we’re sharing these values. Writing this book was a way to share an intentional and impactful example of sharing the Fruits of the Spirit.

Alexis: Who are you hoping to reach with this story? Why?

Jean: The book is written for children, with target ages Kindergarten through third grade, however I have many younger and older readers of all ages who have shared their interest and love of the book. The target audience’s age is centered within a time formidable learning for children. However, it’s a great reminder to readers of all ages about these virtues, and their gifts that help us, and others through our journeys and adventures together.

Alexis: I think that the concept of “soup made with fruit” as a tie-in to the Bible-based “Fruit of the Spirit” is pure genius! What (or who) inspired you with this concept?

Jean: Thank you! I was inspired as my children and I were making our homemade chicken soup. I tend to create characteristics and silly antics with animals, nature and other objects, just to have fun with our children. When we dropped the chunks of chicken into the stock pot one afternoon, they bubbled and bounced in the hot water. It made think of ‘Joy’ as the chunks bubbled up and down. We were also making a batch of soup to share, and the ideas kept rolling from there with the story.

Alexis: Why did you choose Kate and her Mom to be the main characters of this story?

Jean: I used these two characters ultimately, however I had started out with a brother and sister, and additional family characters being introduced. My story began to get too long, and off target. So I revised, and I removed those additional characters. I also have several additional children’s books penned incorporating fathers and sons, groups of boys and girls, mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters. So I knew I had a couple opportunities to showcase those relationships and their development.

Alexis: Describe the personalities and heart of Kate and her Mom. What do they look like?

Jean: Kate is a curious little girl, filled with kindness and acceptance, hope, joy and wonder. Her mom has a heart to share a deeper meaning to a task, and story the themes of the virtues, but also the depth of having a friend in Jesus as the one who taught her the lessons found in the book. She is kind, happy, patient, loving, faithful and humble.

Alexis: In what ways do you hope that real-life mommies and their baby girls will bond as they read this story together?

Jean: My hope is that mommies and their littles will develop a love for being together in the simple moments. Sometimes cooking can feel routine and mundane, but when you’re intentional, creative and put God at the center it takes the ordinary to extraordinary. Kind Soup is a multi-layered book, also. There’s the opportunity to share random acts of kindness, along with spreading the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’ in many ways, and there’s the part of the ‘friend’ in Jesus that the momma talks about who taught her. Having our children and readers know that they have a friend in Jesus is important. He’s with us in every action, supports us, cheers us on, and smiles with us, as our Friend, when we share the goodness of Him that’s indwelling in us. There’s also the community spirit of getting out and helping others. Through our actions, we can be a light for someone, no matter the size of the gesture...doing something for another helps them as well as us.

Alexis: Is this story for boys and their daddies to read together too? In what ways do you make this story relatable to males?

Jean: This is a very applicable read for anyone. When I read it in school and public events, the boys love to talk about how they cook with their Dads, or that they go to their neighbors to help shovel snow. It gives me such joy to listen to them share how they each resonate the concepts within the story.

Alexis: Describe the setting for this story. What makes it special?

Jean: The setting is a warm and cozy kitchen filled with the aroma of homemade soup wafting throughout the air. It’s a place that resonates the ‘feel’ of the fruit of the Spirit. There’s love between the characters, joy in the moments together, peace as they learn and work together, patience when they’re preparing the soup and taking it out into the community, kindness in their heart for each other and those they want to share their goodness they’ve prepared, self-control in equipping themselves as they make the soup and carry it beyond their home, and faithfulness as Kate finds the most important part of making the soup, and how the Jesus is at the heart of it all from the very first idea and ingredient, to the last friend it was shared with, and Kate realizing who her friend is and how much of a friend He was to her mommy too.

Alexis: What life lessons are you trying to teach the children who read this story?

Jean: The life lessons are how to incorporate the Fruits of the Spirit in everyday life, and Jesus is at the heart of it all. These virtues are fostered and grow with us, and the more we fill ourselves with Holy water, the more these grow and spread to those around us. We can share them, as they have been shared with us, in many ways and on any given day. Why? Because that what the good Lord has asked us to do, to be a light for Him.

Alexis: In what ways did you pray yourself through writing this book?

Jean: I began this book praying this scripture, Galatians 5:22-23, and it truly developed from there, notebook and pencil I started writing. I did not realize how much I would lean onto this scripture as the book developed, and it became the heartbeat of the whole process.

Alexis: How does your real-life faith in God affect your storytelling?

Jean: The good Lord prompts me strongly to write, and He weaves the characters and scenes into play. Many times, as I write my weekly children’s column, I start with a base idea, and the words just come freely and create the story that is meant to be told for the week I am writing. The good Lord weaves the story, and I just write it down.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book?

Jean: Kindness, Love, Learning, Jesus and Togetherness

Alexis: Thanks for the interview! Would you like to share closing comments?

Jean: Thank you so much! This has been an honor. I truly appreciate your interest in Kind Soup, and your time.

Author Bio:

Jean Petersen is a Montana author, freelance writer, and columnist. She is the author of award-winning books, Kind Soup, a children's picture book published by Little Lamb Books, and The Big Sky Bounty Cookbook-Local Ingredients and Rustic Recipes cookbook published by Arcadia Publishing and The History Press. She and her family live on a small farm near the Beartooth Mountains in southern Montana.

About the Book:

Soup made with fruit? Yes, please!

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-controlit's these traditional Fruits of the Spirit that Kate and her Mom are cooking up in the kitchen today. 

An ordinary day in the kitchen turns into a celebration of the extraordinary gifts that Jesus offers not just to Kate and her mom, but to all of us as well. Kind Soup is wrapped in prayer and ladled out with love.

This divine recipe is as much a joy to make as it is to share and invites readers to pour, mix, and stir, while each spread features a Bible verse to reflect on and memorize.

Kind Soup is a treasure that will encourage and inspire families for generations to come.

Connect with Jean:

Friday, October 16, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: God calls us to love one another like Jesus Christ

He calls us to love

A devotional by Alexis Newlin

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” – John 13:34 (ESV)

We are no match for the gates of Hell, for the sin that resides within us and the evil that seeks to destroy us and everything we hold dear. Alone we cannot overcome this darkness. We are hopelessly lost. The only answer that gives us a fighting chance is LOVE. Jesus is love. Through Him and only Him, do we ever have a chance for victory.

Now love is not easy. It is hard work. It takes putting ourselves aside, admitting that we are weak and need a Savior. God has revealed that love is one of his biggest weapons. Jesus saved us all with one simple act. Love. He conquered sin and death for us all. And when we use it, we can conquer anything. We just have to learn how.

So I took a look at 1 Corinthians 13, because I needed to figure out this “how to really love” thing. Like I mentioned before, it’s hard. Why is it hard?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. For one, I’m human. And with that comes selfishness, pride, impatience, foot-in-mouth syndrome, and anger. And when I’m wronged, here come vengeance and unforgiveness. It’s a mess, but it’s what you default to when you are human and try to go it alone.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.”

There’s a lot to love, many things this one word seems to hold. Yet, it was Jesus Christ’s one command to us in John 13:34 (ESV) was, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

I look at that command and think: “God, I am so human. I want what I want, when I want it and how I want it. How can I possibly follow this?”

Yet, He calls us to love. It’s a scary thing because we’re human. And better yet, you want us, with all our mess, all our stuff, all our love of self, to join together with another human – with all their stuff and mess and love of self – and call it love.

Wow. That’s an even bigger command. To let worlds collide, very different worlds, and learn to love within them.

So what do we do with all of this? What is our plan?

We have to follow love. It’s the only way to win. It’s the only way to defeat the enemy. It’s like a throat punch to the devil every single time we choose to love. Every time we choose unity over separation, another throat punch. Pretty soon the devil can’t speak anymore hate and fear into our lives because his throat is swollen shut. That’s an awesome thing.

Every time we lay ourselves down, and choose these things and choose Christ, the enemy reels back in and it causes him pain. It makes me happy to know that every time we do this one simple act, to love, it destroys the enemy.

So I choose love. No matter how difficult, how scary or how painful…I choose love.

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 launched her first podcast – The Brave Podcast – in January 2020.

Connect with Alexis:

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Significance

Are You Willing To Be Common?

A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.” 
– Acts 2:44-46 (ESV)

For years I searched for answers to questions coming from a broken and doubting heart. I’ve wrestled with questions such as these:

“Am I special?”

“What is my value?”

“Is there meaning in my life?”

There just didn’t seem to be anything significant about my life. I felt lonely and sad. If only I could find the traits that would make me more lovable!

Ultimately, the answers to my doubts have come from God, through His Holy Bible. His words to me have been loving, gentle and affirming, as a good Father is. In building me up, I became strong enough to receive a new message from Him, one that requires bold faith and trust: Are you willing to be common?

While accepting God’s opinion about my value, I had continued to seek my place in the world, searching for a unique talent, profitable business or popular ministry. Didn’t God’s favor mean abundant blessings of fame and fortune? Treating our internal illness of unbelief with the world’s physical therapy will only keep us incessantly treating symptoms. It’s when we address our Creator Himself that the healing will come. 

The Bible says:

Truth will set us free. (John 8:32)

The Spirit of Truth guides us into all the truth. (John 16:13)

God’s Truth helps to sanctify us. (John 17:17)

Emboldened and inspired by these promises, I became a student of the Truth. I read scriptures, delving deep into Living Water by researching the original texts in the Hebrew and Greek. My life began to look different, less desperate and more confident. I had less tendency to compare myself with others. False beliefs became easier to spot and address. I saw all life—mine included—as premium. I felt special!

In the book of Acts, there is mention of others who, like me, had a lifestyle turn around when they heard the truth revealed by Christ. These early Christians are commonly referred to as “the Acts 2 Church.” Reading about their behaviors and selfless love for one another, a specific verse jumped out at me in Acts 2:44 (ESV), which reads, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”

I would certainly not say that I had all things in common with my fellow church-goers. Far from it! We are as different as opposing political parties. So what did this all things in common mean?

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon lent insight into the word common. The Greek word koinós is typically used in the context of the “ordinary”, but more profoundly, also the “defiled or unclean.”

With this surprising definition, I saw that these early Christians came together knowing they were equal in their sin. Despite labels of rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile, spiritually they all suffered from the same common illness: sin.

So what did they do? They responded in opposition to the world’s answer ... they gave. Rather than striving to gain worth, they understood their value with God and surrendered all else. By selling all their excess, and dispensing it, they no longer had need.

Wow! No more need! I thought back to how desperate I was to have value so I could be lovable. My need was great.

Rather than striving for the attention of people, God was asking if I could accept His love as sufficient, and follow His direction in a life of service. Could I, day in and day out, tie an apron on my ordinary, sinful self, not to gain value, but knowing I already had it? Would I believe in His way?

Friends, God’s heart is summoning us to the work of coming together as a unified family. His call is to care for one another.

Perhaps, this is the message God is speaking from His Heart to yours:

Dearly Beloved, please accept my invitation to work for the Kingdom of Heaven. In this position you will be serving the needs of others. The hours will be long, the duties taxing, but the compensation is generous. Will you come and be common? Love, Your Heavenly Father.

Author Bio:

Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior. 

She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community.

Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.

Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Romantic Reads: The Key to Love

Welcome Betsy St. Amant to the blog!

It's a special day for Betsy because her new novel, The Key to Love, releases today!

Please join me in wishing Betsy a "Happy BOOK birthday!" 

She's celebrating with us today by talking about her book, the setting, its characters, Paris (France) and French-inspired bakery treats like macaroons and Petit fours.

Now here's what's in it for you: Betsy is going to give away one, signed paperback copy of her book to the winner of the giveaway contest! You can enter the contest via the Rafflecopter widget that is located at the end of this blog post.

Now onto the interview ...

Interview with Betsy St. Amant about her book, The Key to Love:

Alexis: “The Key to Love” is a lovely and unique title for a story! What is its significance?

Betsy: The title is referring to the lovelocks that are featured in the story, where my heroine, Bri, has created her own version of the lovelock wall at her small town Parisian themed bakery after the real lovelock bridge was shut down in Paris years before.

Alexis: What was your inspiration for writing this story?

Betsy: I started with two ideas—one, I wanted to incorporate the concept of the lovelocks, but when I started plotting the story, Paris declared the locks on the bridge over the Seine river an eyesore, and replaced the locks with glass panels. I had to revise my initial idea for the story, so I had my heroine make her own version instead in small-town, mid America! I ended up liking it this way so much better. Two, I wanted an opposites attract trope for my hero and heroine, which is why Bri is girlie and everything romance obsessed, while Gerard is the scorned, permanent Bachelor type who Bri accuses of “making flowers wilt when he walks by.”

How did you research this story? Did you travel to Paris (France) and Kansas?

Betsy: I’ve never been to Paris, unfortunately. It’s on the bucket list! But I did a lot of research online and through chatting with people who have been, and I mapped some things out that applied to my story. I’ve been to Kansas years ago to visit a dear friend and loved it. The tulips were blooming when I visited, and I was so charmed with the entire state in general. It seemed the perfect spot to set my fictional town!

Alexis: “Story” is a very cute name for a fictional town! Paint a picture of it with words.

Betsy: Story, Kansas is a town reminiscent of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls, where everyone knows who you are, and everyone knows everyone else’s business, but nobody really minds, because it’s all done in love!

Alexis: Let’s talk about the heroine of your story, Bri Duval. What does she look like? Sound like? Act like? What are her primary passions, character flaws and strengths?

Betsy: Bri is dainty and blonde and a huge romantic at heart. She usually bakes in a frilly apron and comfy sweatshirts, and loves the term “wanderlust”—it’s on the wall of the bakery and on a steppingstone leading to the lovelock wall outside. She’s kind and compassionate and knows what she wants—but her flaws come into play in that she’s kept her late parents on such a pedestal, determined to hold out for a love like theirs, that she doesn’t recognize love when it does come her way. She’s placed her identity in the wrong things and begins to lose herself when the pedestal her parents are on starts to wobble.

Alexis: What were Bri’s dreams for her bakery when she opened it and what are her dreams for it now?

Betsy: Bri’s mother, who passed away when Bri was only 18, learned to bake at the same bakery that Bri operates now. It’s owned by two eccentric elderly sisters, Mabel and Agnes, who are not blood-relation to Bri but loved Bri and her mother like their own. They serve as both comic relief and voices of reason in the story, and I love them! They continuously cracked me up. Bri bakes there in memory of her mother, but she’s also trying to save the bakery from being sold to her conniving ex-boyfriend, a town lawyer.

Alexis: Why are petit fours the dessert of choice for Bri? What is her favorite flavor?

Betsy: Since the bakery is Parisian themed, there are a lot of petit fours and macarons! There’s also some decorated sugar cookies and delicious iced coffee and other goodies. Bri spends a lot of time trying to recreate her mother’s macaron recipe, except there’s a problem—she doesn’t know her mom’s secret ingredient.

Alexis: Why did Bri re-create the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery?

Betsy: Bri made the lovelock wall to serve as a memory for her parents’ love story, and to encourage the concept of love and romance in her town. The eccentric bakery owners, Mabel and Agnes, are known around Story, Kansas as matchmakers, so every time they match up a couple, they hang a lock in their honor.

Alexis: Let’s talk about the hero of your story, Gerard Fortier. What does he look like? Sound like? Act like? What are his hopes, life goals, most telling weakness and his greatest strength?

Betsy: Gerard is scorned by love after a failed engagement and a lifetime of watching his mother get dragged around by men. He’s sworn off love and is content to be a permanent Bachelor. His goals are more career-oriented right now, and he’s determined to promote up into his travel magazine’s lead writing position so he can write about things he really cares about—and make more money to help take care of his mom. His flaw is that he tends to run from the hard things and from “putting down roots.” He’s a permanent wanderer.

Alexis: Why did Trek Magazine send Gerard travel to Bri’s bakery to write a feature story about it?

Betsy: Trek sent Gerard to write about the bakery after it went viral from the matchmaking schemes of Mabel and Agnes, and the lovelock wall. Gerard didn’t want to do it, but if he wants the promotion, he’ll have to!

Alexis: What are Gerard’s first impressions of the bakery and Bri?

Betsy: Gerard first thinks that Bri is naïve and a little weak (though he reluctantly notices how pretty she is).

Alexis: How does Bri feel about Gerard when she first meets him?

Betsy: Bri thinks Gerard is a little rude, and a little too rough around the edges. He doesn’t fit her mold of anyone she’d be interested in (though she begrudgingly notices how handsome he is).

Alexis: How does her parents’ true love story affect Bri’s expectations for her own?

Betsy: Bri kept her parents on a pedestal all this time, holding out for a love as perfect as their own. But when that image gets tainted, Bri has to realize who she really is and what she really wants—outside of her parents— and recognize that love doesn’t always look the way she thinks it should.

Alexis: What is the moral of the story?

Betsy: The Key To Love is a story of identity. I hope readers come away from their journey with Bri as she discovers where her identity truly lies, to being encouraged in their own.

Alexis: If you could step into this story as a baker for Bri’s bakery, which one of the desserts on the menu would be your favorite to make and taste? Explain.

Betsy: I’m a sucker for a good petit four, but they’re incredibly hard to make! So, I’d probably just end up buying a few from Bri and binging later that night with a good book. Hehe.

Author Bio:

Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of over fifteen inspirational romance novels and novellas.

She resides in north Louisiana with her hero of a hubby, two total-opposite young daughters, a vast collection of coffee mugs, and an impressive stash of Pickle chips. 

Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she’s not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha–no whip.

She blogs frequently at, a devotional site for women. 

Betsy is proud to be represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency.

Blurb for Betsy's book, The Key to Love:

The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so, she's created her own version of the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery in Story, Kansas. 

She never expects it to go viral — or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He's definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for a love story like the one her parents had, and that certainly will not include the love-scorned-and-therefore-love-scorning Gerard.

Just when it seems Bri's bakery is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just her business but the pedestal she's kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri's recipe just needs to be tweaked.

Novelist Betsy St. Amant invites you to experience this sweet story of how love doesn't always look the way we expect 
— and maybe that's a good thing.

Buy Betsy's book on Amazon, Baker's Books or Barnes and Noble

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