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Book Review: “Pursuit” by JoAnn Durgin

Pursuit: A Christian Romance Novel (The Lewis Legacy Series Book 8) by [Durgin, JoAnn]

 

Pursuit is JoAnn Durgin’s latest book in the Lewis Legacy Series and is my favorite of all the books in the series.

Pursuit stars Will Lewis, the next to the youngest child of the Lewis clan. As a toddler, Will was fascinated with outer space. As he grew older, he never wanted to be anything else but an astronaut and completely focused on, worked and studied towards that goal and he has finally made it. In just a few short months, he will command his own crew on a thirty-day mission to the International Space Station. Nothing will interfere with this, his ultimate goal. Nothing and no one will distract him.

Enter Dalton Smith. The girl next door with the unusual name. Dalton is a Christian singer/songwriter who has gained popularity among Christian music-lovers. With her wit, charm, beauty, not to mention curiosity about NASA and the space program, she is just the distraction that Will does not need. But distract she does! It was so much fun to read how Dalton helped Will get his head out of the clouds and his feet back on the ground.

Ms. Durgin obviously did her research as Pursuit is filled with interesting facts about NASA and the space program, which in my opinion, made the book all the more captivating.

In Pursuit, there is suspense, a beautiful love story, a reunion with the rest of the Lewis family (which is why I encourage you to read the other books in the series, although each book can be read on its own) and the Christian message that Ms. Durgin includes in each of her books.

If I had to rate this book on a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 15. It’s well-written, fun to read, and has a wonderful message.

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Book Review: “Transform Your Life: 7 Steps to a Better Life”

 

In preparing to write “Transform Your Life: 7 Steps to a Better Life,” Dr. Nella Ann Roberts spent months reading, researching and interviewing people who have transformed their lives. From this, she developed the seven steps that will help every reader to transform his/her life. The steps are easy to understand, however, those who want to transform their life must 1) know what in their life they want to transform; 2) plan the steps of their transformation; 3) be committed and disciplined in their body and mind to have a successful transformation. The beauty of the program is that the steps can apply to all areas of one’s life: weight loss, improved relationships, obtaining a new job, buying a new home—the list is endless.

This book is based on Biblical principles, sharing the wisdom of the ages on transformation of our lives.

Dr. Roberts shares stories of people who, for various reasons, needed transformation in their lives. She also shares from her own personal experiences, helping the reader to understand they are not alone in their need for transformation.

At the end of each chapter, Dr. Roberts has included a section titled “What About You?” wherein she motivates the reader by asking questions based on the chapter. She then offers Exercises to help the reader begin and carry through on their personal transformation.

If I could only recommend one book for 2017, “Transform Your Life: 7 Steps to a Better Life” would be the book. It is a must read for anyone who wants to live a better life.

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It is Well With My Soul

George Spafford wrote the lyrics to this beloved and enduring hymn. Spafford suffered several traumatic events in his life that led up to the penning of this hymn. His son died at age 2. Spafford suffered financial ruin in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. His business sustained more hits by the economic failure in 1873. Spafford had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. Due to business, he sent his wife and daughters ahead while he remained in Chicago. As the ship crossed the Atlantic, it was struck by a sea vessel and sank rapidly. All four of Spafford’s daughters died while his wife, Anna, survived. On his way to meet his wife, Spafford wrote the words to this hymn as his ship passed near the place where his daughters died.

Here are the original lyrics:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to knowa
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!

There are a couple of verses here that I do not remember singing as a child. But the words are wonderful – verse four – “No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.” Verse five – “Oh the trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.”

In Genesis 50:20, we are told that what the enemy meant for evil, God turned it to good. (My paraphrase) The enemy meant to destroy Spafford but even in the midst of this tragedy, Spafford clung to God and was inspired to write the words of this song. And because of that, millions of people, down through the years, have been able to sing and say, It Is Well With My Soul.”

Here is a beautiful rendition of this hymn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FexGqNDBK3g

As you go forth into this week, my prayer is you will be able to state unequivocally that it is well with your soul!

Blessings to all!

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Great is Thy Faithfulness

If there is anyone who still follows my blog and actually reads my posts, please don’t faint! I’m actually posting here for the first time in over three months. Sad, isn’t it?

If you’ve read even a small portion of the 600+ blogs I’ve written through the years, you know that I love music, especially praise and worship music. The church that I belong to sings wonderful praise and worship songs that can move us to raise our hands, to bow before the King, to shout, to cry, to proclaim our love for the One who created us.

But I love the old hymns, too. And I miss them. A few weeks ago, I visited the Baptist church where I serve on staff. And oh, my, it was like going home. We sang hymns that I’ve not heard, much less sung, in probably thirty years. It brought back such great memories of being in the youth choir, accompanying the youth choir, and moving up to the adult choir and playing the piano for church services.

The pastor preached an excellent sermon and with almost every other sentence the pastor said, there was this wonderful older gentleman (who I found out later was blind) who gave a hearty “Amen!” What a blessing it was to hear his voice and in his voice I heard the faith that had carried him through many “dangers, toils and snares.” Hearing his “Amen” reminded me of the “Amen  Corner” as we called it in the Baptist church that I attended from an infant until I married. On each side of the pulpit were two rows of pews. If you were facing the pulpit, the “Amen Corner” was on the left side and the children sat on the right side. Most of the deacons, including my daddy and grandaddy, and a few of the other men of the church, were found sitting in the Amen Corner every Sunday. Many “amens” were heard as the pastor preached.

Don’t be fooled. My daddy never got so caught up in the sermon that his eagle eyes didn’t catch me talking and cutting up or passing notes on the children’s side, across from the Amen Corner. When we would get home from church, I was reminded in no uncertain terms that my behavior would not be tolerated. It was a crime that was punishable by being banned from sitting with my friends for a few weeks and having to sit with my grandmothers. Oh, how I wish I could sit with them today. How I would love to see my daddy one more time in the “Amen Corner” and my mother in the choir.

But I digress.  Singing those hymns a few weeks ago has spurred me to the piano (sometimes on my lunch break to the grand piano in the sanctuary) to play the old hymns that I remember. Hymns like, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “It is Well With My Soul,” “Just As I Am,” “Amazing Grace,” and the list could go on for pages. So, I’ve decided to share my love of these hymns with you–perhaps a little history behind the song, the scripture that maybe inspired the song, and hopefully, a recording of the song by someone who can sing much better than I.

Today’s song is “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

“Thomas Chisholm wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” as a testament to God’s faithfulness through his very ordinary life.  Born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky, Chisholm became a Christian when he was twenty-seven and entered the ministry when he was thirty-six, though poor health forced him to retire after just one year. During the rest of his life, Chisholm spent many years living in New Jersey and working as a life insurance agent.  Still, even with a desk job, he wrote nearly 1,200 poems throughout his life, including several published hymns.

Chisholm explained toward the end of his life, “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now.  Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.” ” (1)

Chisholm based his song from the scripture found in Lamentations 3:23. I enjoy reading and studying the various translations of the Bible so I’ve included the verse from the New International Version and from The Message.

Lamentations 3:22-24 New International Version (NIV)

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24The Message (MSG)

22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

My prayer is that as you read this blog, and you listen to the wonderful version of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Jordan Smith, you will be reminded, as I have been, of the faithfulness of God to you and your family through the years. Of how He has never let you down,  and no matter how dark the circumstances you face, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Great is His Faithfulness.

Blessings, my friends!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm-KsLytcW0&index=1&list=RDdm-KsLytcW0

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Where Did Christmas Go?

I wrote this blog and posted it two years ago. It is just as relevant today as it was then.

 

Christmas has come and gone and once again this year, I ask myself, where did December go? But this year, there is a more important question to be asked: “Where did Christmas go?”

The retail industry and the media have banned together (perhaps it wasn’t planned, but they are working hand-in-hand) to take Christ out of Christmas.

It started a number of years ago when someone decided to take the word ‘Christ’ out of Christmas and replace it with an ‘X.’ Thus the word became Xmas.

My employer mentioned the other day that Target has forbidden their employees to say “Merry Christmas.” Apparently, the “powers-to-be” don’t want to offend anyone who may not celebrate Christmas because of their religious beliefs–or the lack thereof. Yet, when you go into a Target store, guess what’s playing over the speaker system? Christmas music.

I suspect other stores have quietly told their employees the same thing – don’t say “Merry Christmas” to the customers. There is a grocery store about a block from where I live and I’m there at least once a week to pick up an item or two. Every time I shopped there during December, the checkout clerks wished me “Happy Holidays.” And I would respond with “Thank you. Merry Christmas!” The clerks didn’t know how to respond:“Do I say something? Do I wish them a Merry Christmas? What if the boss hears me?” and so they stood speechless, looking like a deer caught in the headlights of a tractor-trailer.

President Obama, at the lighting of the great tree at the White House this year, deemed it the “White House Holiday Tree.” No longer is it the White House Christmas Tree. In fact, the President never said the word ‘Christmas’ during the ceremony.

Radio stations that have traditionally played a mixture of secular and religious Christmas music, at about a two-to-one rate—now play secular/religious Christmas carols at about a ten-to-one rate. If you listen closely, you may hear one religious carol in a one hour period.

Light shows around the country are no longer Christmas Light Shows, but are “Winter Wonderlands” or “Holiday Lights,” etc.

Children are no longer out of school on Christmas break, but rather they are on Winter Break.

I’m sure there are other situations like the ones I’ve mentioned, but these are enough to prove my point, which is, the true meaning of Christmas is being lost. It has been a subtle change over the last few years, but this year, it was blatantly obvious.

So, what does it really mean—this removing Christ from Christmas? Who does it impact? Does it make any difference? As Christians, we will always celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time. After all, He is the “reason for the season.” So it doesn’t impact us, or does it? We must be careful that we don’t get caught up in the commercialism, which is another way of taking Christ out of Christmas. Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have a problem with giving and receiving gifts. Even Jesus received gifts at his birth. We, and I include myself in this group, need to make sure that in our Christmas rush of buying and wrapping gifts, baking, and entertaining, we take as many opportunities to sit before God and experience His gifts to us during the Christmas season as well as throughout the year.

And maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but what better time than the birth of Jesus to share his love and salvation story with our families and friends who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior? However, if we—and again I include myself—don’t take a stand against taking Christ out of Christmas, we will have nothing to witness about.

What can we do? Continue to wish everyone a “Merry Christmas.” Don’t shop at stores who forbid their employees to wish the customers “Merry Christmas.” Write the President. His mailbox should be filled to the point of bursting with letters from Christians protesting his elimination of the word Christmas during any White House celebration, not to mention the discrimination he shows to Christians year-round.

Politicians, media, and the entertainment industry are so concerned about being “politically correct” to everyone but Christians. When are we going to stand up and say “Enough!”

Thanks for allowing me to speak from my soapbox today. Please leave a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree with me—and why.

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Book Review: The Christmas Challenge

JoAnn Durgin has written another #1 best-seller in The Christmas Challenge. And as with all of her books, I was captivated from the first page until the last.

The story takes place in Serendipity, Pennsylvania, where the hero, Donovan, and heroine, Claire, are joint owners of an advertising agency. They had dated for a while, but are now doing only what is required in order to maintain a working relationship. But that is not going to last long. Read the book to find out what happens!

The Christmas Challenge is a sweet love story that will bless you whether you read it now, during the Christmas season, or in the middle of the summer. Just don’t let 2017 go by without reading it! You won’t regret it!

 

 

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Hope Prevails

My dear friend, (whom I know only through FaceBook) Michelle Bengston, has been through so much this year. In the midst of all, her book, Hope Prevails was released. Although we’ve not spoken of this, I would venture to say that when she began writing this book, she was not aware of how much all of us, herself included, would need this book.  If you haven’t read it, the book should be on the top of your list of books to read in 2017.

Michelle posted the comments below on Christmas Eve night. It resonated with me and I asked her permission to share it with you. My prayer for you is that you will know, regardless of your circumstances, regardless of how bleak your life seems to be at this moment, that you will grasp and hang onto the fact that Hope Prevails!

Posted on FaceBook by Michelle Bengston on December 24, 2016.

I’ve got my sick lads tucked in bed, and the house is now quiet, lit up only by the lights on the tree. The tree has only one ornament on it this year, one that says “HOPE.” It’s been a year of sharing the message of #HopePrevails that was only made possible because of the birth of our Savior. 

Yet tonight I can’t help but think of the miracles we are waiting to see come to pass in our family and also thinking of all those I know who are in need of His same touch. The grieving widows and parents. The orphans coming to the table this year missing one or both parents. Single parents trying to make ends meet. Parents of incarcerated children. Those who are divorced, alone, and trying to find a new normal. Those who are estranged from their loved ones. Those in need of physical healing. Those in need of emotional healing. Those in need of financial healing. 

Tonight as I reflect on the significance of the holiday, I’m ever grateful that God didn’t send a president, or an entertainer, or a professor, or a scientist to the world, but instead He sent a Savior who was born in the most lowly of places to save us from our lowest selves, and to show us an unfailing love that isn’t dependent on what we do or who we are but whose we are. 

The greatest miracle was that Jesus would give up His place in heaven to come to save us all before we even knew we would need it. If God would do that out of His great love for us, surely He is able to meet any other need we would have. “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you can ever dream, imagine, or pray for!” (Ephesians 3:20) Now that is a miracle we can all depend on!
Because of His great love for us, #HopePrevails!