Grace, Hope and Lots of Love….

I got it in the mail today…the third this month….a life preserver for my soul.

Not that life has been particularly rough,

Or rocky,

Or even that hard…but it has been, well…

Exhausting.

And just when spiritual weariness is about to overtake me, someone sends an envelope full of love….

Not cause someone died, or married or grew one more year….but because someone cares.

On the front of the super cute little organizer Dayspring sent me when I volunteered to receive beautiful cards and send them out as encouragement to others is the scripture from Genesis 12:2, “I will bless you and you will be a blessing.” Oh how those words ring true as I write this.

I was going to write about how wonderful it felt to share these cards with others. (And it did.) I was going to write about how awesome it was that Dayspring sent me these beautiful cards for free (and it was.)  I was all set to write the review about these beautiful images and the card stock quality and how well all the envelopes fit (and they do)…

But then last week, it came…this beautiful card encouraging us to “Play on.” A moment of acknowledgement of purpose in a time where I felt adrift.  Perfect timing.  And I was buoyed.

Then yesterday, my eight year old daughter got a card of encouragement (she got braces put on last week) in the mail…a silly little frog with braces on the front and on the inside written in the hand of her friend : “ Sticks and stones, break my bones (but not my teeth). FYI: you look cool with braces even though I can not see you!” My Lizzy teared up at the sight of it and smiled bright at the thought.

And today, when dinner wasn’t ready yet, and homework was being fought over, and the dog wouldn’t stay out of the trash can…in that moment, came the card that I’ve sent out three times this month…a message that I love….one I so needed to hear today. I was undone and pieced together in the reading of that card.

I received beautiful cards to share with my friends and family, and I have truly enjoyed sharing these cards, but in the process, I received so much more…God’s promise printed on the card organizer is so true: “I will bless you and you will be a blessing.”

You could be an encouragement to someone today….drop them a line…one written with ink or pencil or crayon…take a few minutes to find a stamp (or two…postage went up again this week) and throw a life preserver out…you never know who you might save from drowning.

An update, a book review (and giveaway!), and some other lame excuses…

Ummmm…wow….so long time, no post! I feel a bit like I’ve run across a friend  I promised I would call last month in the freezer section of the grocery store.  I’m sorry seems a little lame. I missed you seems disingenuous (even if it’s true.) I’ve been a little busy is a terrible understatement, but I am sure you have been too, so it feels a lot like an excuse. Anyway you cut it, I feel a bit shameful for not having written in several weeks…so, well, I bring you presents! Presents make things all better right?

Ok…so let’s dig in….

I’ve been busy:

Photo courtesy of Old Hat Studios

We have finally wrapped on Stage 1’s Fall Production of Alice in Wonderland.  Cardsman #4 and Flower/Lobster/Cardsman both did amazing jobs in their roles. My dear hubby and I ran the sound for the show (woo…that was no easy feat) .

The following week zoomed by and by Thursday I was headed to Ransomed Heart’s Advanced Captivating Retreat in Buena Vista, Colorado. The weather was beautiful and the setting absolutely stunning.  There was so much wonder and love to be had and shared there. I promise there are posts coming with what I learned, what God shared and how amazing an experience it was (but I am trying to get to the presents part :)!

But now to the nitty gritty….during this awesome experience in Colorado, I got to meet two of my favorite authors: John and Stasi Eldredge.

(I wish I had a photo with Stasi, but I forgot to bring my camera the day I chatted with her.)

John has written a new book and I was lucky enough to get a preview copy to review….and even luckier to get an opportunity to hear him speak a bit about this amazing work.  Ya’ll this is one of his bests…a book that promises to help set the Christian heart free…and delivers.

Here is the review I wrote for Amazon:

Beautiful. Scandalous. Disruptive.

This book will change your view of Jesus. John Eldredge has written a book meant to set the hearts of Christians held captive to the religiousity free. Beautiful Outlaw walks us through the gospels, the scriptural stories of Jesus’ life and instills personality, motive and heart to each one. Seeing Jesus in this way has made me fall in love with him all over again. Seeing Jesus as truly human who experienced hunger, compassion, thirst, love, fatigue, and anger helped me to come to terms with my own human experiences.

Looking at the gospels through the lens of shaping a picture of a personality has helped me understand the man more thoroughly and in so doing, understand God more thoroughly. His playfulness and sense of humor, His gentleness and compassion, His cunning and disdain for the religious spirit of the age are presented in a way that is easy and quickly understood.

This is one of John Eldredge’s best books to date.  If you are looking for the story of the real Jesus…not some “creepy, religious” version of Jesus, this book is for you.  If you are looking to set your heart free from religiousity and legalism, this book is for you. If you just want to learn more about the man and love more about our Savior, this book is for you. Read it….more than once….you won’t be sorry!

What is so cool about this book and it’s message is how generous Ransomed Heart has been with it.  They are making available an 18 video DVD series FREE by download or live stream as well as the companion study guide.  There are also opportunities to take part in a live simulcast and a small live tour this fall.  HOW COOL IS THAT? For more info go to www.beautifuloutlaw.net.

So, in the spirit of generosity that the Ransomed Heart team has started, I am giving away a copy of Beautiful Outlaw to one lucky reader….here’s how to enter:  Watch the video trailer for the book below and leave a comment with your thoughts about the trailer before midnight on Oct 19th 2011.

 

I’m So Excited! (Holley Gerth’s new book and a giveaway!)

Oh! I am so excited! My friend, Holley, has published her new book and I simply can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! You can pre-order your copy here (Release date is  Sept 1, 2011) OR go to her blog to learn about an awesome giveaway!

So often, I feel like Holley  has peeked into my mind and is writing all the thoughts I was afraid to put on paper. Many times, she has provided through her blog the absolute perfect encouragement at the perfect time. She consistently speaks God’s word to us in an encouraging and uplifting way.

Here’s how she describes her new book:

Turn on the television. Spend time on the Internet. Take a walk through your local mall. Everywhere we go there are messages about who we are and who we’re supposed to be.

And yet in the middle of it all, one voice is quietly calling to our hearts.

It’s the voice of the One Who Loves Us.

He whispers…

“You’re wanted. You matter. You’re wonderfully made.”

In our noisy world, our busy lives, those words that express God’s heart for you can get lost. This book is an invitation to find them again.

I can’t wait to get my copy!

Book Review- People of the Book by Kathi Macias

This book arrived just as I was finishing leading the first retreat of a five part retreat series called Practicing Your Path. I was worn out and needed some light reading to distract me. This is the first book I’ve read of Kathi’s and I must say that I will be reading more.  While this book was so well written that it was both easy and enjoyable to read, it’s message certainly wasn’t light.  There’s meat there and a lot to think about.  I will be reading the rest of the series! Two thumbs up!

Here’s what Kathi had to say about things:

People of the Book is the fourth and final book in your Extreme Devotion series. Each book is set in a different country, with the theme of first devotion and commitment to Christ above all else running through all four. How is People of the Book different, and who/what inspired you to write this book?

People of the Book was the most difficult of the four Extreme Devotion series books to write, but it is also the strongest when it comes to a call to personal commitment to Christ and to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. With each of the books, I began drafting the manuscripts through Internet research, since I had never lived in any of the four countries and had only visited one of them. After the original draft, I worked with someone who either currently lived in the country or who had recently spent many years there. People of the Book was the toughest because the Saudi women I connected with via the Internet were understandably apprehensive about associating with me. Most, in fact, were terrified to do so. I was therefore quite pleased to meet a young woman named Dolly Dahdal here in the States who, until just a few years ago, had spent the majority of her life in Saudi Arabia and understood perfectly why I had chosen to write this book. We shared a passion to help expose the fallacy of “honor killings,” a horrific crime perpetrated primarily against women and girls who in some way bring “dishonor” on their Muslim families, and Dolly was a major contributor to the authenticity of this book.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of this story?

Eighteen-year-old Farah, who lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with her family, wants nothing more than to develop a deeper, more meaningful devotion to her Muslim faith. She sees the month of Ramadan as her chance to draw nearer to Allah, and she pursues that goal throughout the holiday. All goes well until the prophet Isa—Jesus—appears to her in a dream and calls her to Himself. At the same time, her only brother, Kareem, who has never liked Farah, actively seeks an opportunity to expose her for the sham he believes she is.

Meanwhile, Farah’s seventeen-year-old cousin, Nura, has begun to frequent an online chat room where former Muslims gather to discuss their new faith, based on their belief that Isa is much more than a Muslim prophet—He is actually the Son of God. While there, Nura becomes acquainted with an American girl of Muslim ancestry—now a devout Christian named Sara—and a friendship quickly develops. However, Sara has problems of her own due to her fifteen-year-old brother Emir’s involvement with a gang.

The lives of Farah, Nura, and Sara ultimately dovetail until each finds herself at a place where her faith is put to the test. Will they remain faithful to the end? Will God protect and keep them safe in the midst of persecution and treachery? Or will they be required to pay the ultimate price for their faith?

Kathi, how did you get into writing? Has it always been your passion, or is it something you came to later in life?

I’ve always wanted to write, for as long as I can remember. I was an avid reader even before I started kindergarten. I wrote a short story in third grade that the teacher liked so much she showed it to the principal, and they decided to turn it into a play for the entire PTA. I was hooked! One day when I was about 13, I was walking home from school with my then boyfriend (now husband), Al, and I told him I’d be a writer some day. He often reminds me how blessed I am to have been able to do what I dreamed of all my life.

I understand you’re running a special contest that has to do with this book. Can you tell us about it?

Not only are there several opportunities to win a copy of the book on various blog sites included in this tour, but I’m giving away the entire four-book series at the end of the tour to someone who leaves a comment on one of the blogs, so be sure to check them all out and leave comments on each one!

In addition to writing, you are a popular speaker at women’s event, writers’ conferences, and various venues around the country. How can people find out more about you, your writing and speaking, sign up for your weekly devotional newsletter (in English or Spanish), and/or just view your many book videos, etc.?

They can find me at one of my websites (http://www.kathimacias.com;http://www.theTitus2Women.com) or on my Easy Writer blog athttp://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com. There is a “contact” button on my Kathi Macias website if they’d like to send me a message. I always respond to all my emails!

I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview on my blog. This blog tour is managed by Christian Speaker Services (www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com).

Book Review and Give-Away – You Are Loved by Linda Gomes

Today’s post is an interview with  Linda Gomes, author of You Are Loved.  i found this book an interesting, but frankly, difficult read.  Linda is open and brutally transparent about her life of childhood abuse and the path that she has been on to healing the wounds of her past, but I found the writing style a little hard to follow in places.  Even still, the story of her journey to healing and redemption is a powerful and inspirational one.  Make sure to comment below…one lucky commenter will win and autographed copy of Linda’s book.


What inspired you to write You Are Loved? And was there a pivotal point that changed your life?

My life and its past had always been a burden to me.  I tried to hide it, lie about it and pretend that I was just as “normal” as everyone else until I realized that my faithful life was being affected by not being myself! I made a decision to become a part of a class at my church called Wounded Hearts that was lead by the most amazing woman!  (You can read more about her in dedication of my book) after several hours of being a part of this group I was encouraged to write or journal and  that lead to asking for prayer and writing Monday Morning Prayer which I emailed to my friends.  It was very well received, much to my surprise as I never thought of myself as a writer!  Then one day I was thrust into a trial that I had no frame of reference to handle.  I thought that my attending my class was confidential until  I read an email from a pastors husband that once again tried to pigeon hole me by suggesting that my crying foul and not tolerating abuse in my life was somehow “because of” my past!  The exact words were “she must have some significant damage in her past to react this way” It had been the story of my life to not speak out when I was hurt, to not demand respect and to take the abusive behavior from others as just another part of my life as if I deserved to be treated less then.  The impression that was transmitted openly in a not so private email was that this man felt that he knew who I was, because of a class that I was attending! God hit me at that moment like a Mac truck!  I was keenly aware that this type of reaction and careless assumption was the reason I had hidden for years, taking me off of my path and “shaming” me back into hiding and away from the blessings God had intended.  I saw it so clearly at that moment!  I was working so hard to not be “pigeon holed” that I was not the authentic person that God was trying so desperately to use for His purpose.

I made the decision that day that I would use my life and all of its facets to speak out and not hide any longer.  I would not allow anyone else to “tell” my story!  I could no longer allow another broken person to define “who I was” and just cower in the shadows.   I realized in that moment that women hide from their abuse because they believe they will not feel loved by anyone if they tell their story.  The ignorance in one email brought me to my knees before God, begging to be relieved from the pain of the secret that was snuffing out my life and the gifts that He had intended me to be blessed with!

You are loved, was the message that I had to accept and then I had to allow Him to use my story to reach out to others!

How can reading your book have an impact on the reader’s life?

My hope and prayer is that my life will encourage other women to be brave in his name!  I exposed my life because I was living in a way that  the world had designed and defined and not the life that God was working to use to restore others. I believe that His plan is to shed the light in the dark corners where we hide our deepest pain.  My book reveals pain and fear that can control and lead a life into desperation and isolation, destroying His purpose!  As you will read in the first page of You are Loved,  Surviving is my History, Living is my Destiny,  the impact will be that my readers will finally know and believe that they are loved and that they are worth it!

What are your plans for the future in the publishing world? Think you have any more books in you?

I am in the process of writing new book called EMBRACE.  This book is a culmination of all the steps it took for me to be the woman God intended.  Embracing your life and all of its facets is a process, this book will bring you full circle, through the pain of your life to the joy that the healing that God creates through that pain, teaching you to walk in His Embrace in order to lead others to His salvation!

What else does God have you doing these days Linda, and how can our readers connect with you?

Embrace Ministries is the passion of my life these days.  I am still writing Monday Morning Prayer and the Daily Light Switch. You can find me atwww.embrace-ministries.net.  I am also on Face book at http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Gomes/1260573178#!/pages/You-Are-Loved/281441512624. Both of these pages allow feed back and support.

How can our readers purchase your book?

You can purchase my book on www.embrace-ministries.net.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview on my blog. This blog tour is managed by Christian Speaker Services (www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com).

Review – Between a Rock and A Grace Place by Carol Kent

If you are struggling with the question “Why, God?”- run…don’t walk to get this book. Carol’s story is heart wrenching and compassionately told, and full of nuggets of hope and grace in an ugly, fallen world.  I could not put this book down.  A definite must read.

Here’s a little video to introduce the book and Carol’s story, and a  short interview with Carol.  I hope you enjoy!

What are “grace places,” and how can hurting people in need find them?

All of us experience tight spots when life turns out differently from our dream. When we face the overwhelming obstacles of life, we can experience the last thing we ever expect—the sweet spot of grace. Grace places have a variety of forms, but some include:

  • Receiving love when we don’t deserve it
  • Finding safety in the middle of a fearful and uncertain experience
  • Being comforted by friends and family (people who are extensions of God’s love)
  • Experiencing the embrace of God when we have run out of strength and courage

“Grace means the free, unmerited, unexpected love of God, and all the benefits, delights, and comforts which flow from it.” (R.P.C. Hanson)

How important are contentment and gratitude in finding grace and peace?

My son, Jason, is teaching me that I need to choose contentment and thanksgiving in all things. As an inmate in a maximum-security prison, all of his personal items must fit in one small one-foot-high and one-and a half-feet-deep and two-and-a half feet long steel lockbox. He has learned to live comfortably with very little, which brings him a surprising sense of peace.

When I was visiting him one weekend I asked how he holds on to hope in the middle of a life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence. He said, “Mom, I have a gratitude list. Whenever the clouds of depression try to discouragement, I get out a piece of paper and write down everything I have to be thankful for. I’m thankful I have two parents who will be my advocates for as long as they live. The average number of years a lifer gets visits is five years and then no one comes anymore. I’m also thankful I can be a missionary on a compound that houses up to 1,700 men.” I’m learning from Jason that I find contentment when I choose to be thankful and when I invest my time in helping other people.

There is a theme of surprise throughout the book. What is one of the greatest surprises you’ve had?

The powerful story of Tammy Wilson and Matthew Ben Rodriguez is in this book. Tammy contacted me after I spoke at an event she attended because my son is incarcerated in the same prison where Matt, the man who killed her mother thirteen years ago is incarcerated. She had been praying for someone to lead Matt to Christ and asked if Jason would try to meet him. It turned out that Jason and Matt were already friends and this amazing story is one of forgiveness, redemption, and restoration that can only be explained in the supernatural dimension.

Between a Rock and a Grace Place releases 10 years after your son, Jason, was sentenced to life in a maximum security prison and includes excerpts from Jason’s letters. Can you tell us how he’s doing now?

He has just taken his 8th group of men through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course and he will be facilitating a biblical counseling class on marriage and family this fall. He has a prayer group of twelve inmates who fast and pray for the needs of each other and their families. Prison is a depressing, dark, and sad place, but Jason is living for things that will outlast him.

When you received news about Jason’s clemency hearing being denied, how did you respond?

I wailed like a baby, sobbed, felt angry, hurt, and disappointed in God. Then we saw Jason a day after this devastating news. He was calm and very much at peace. He hugged me as I wept and said, “Mom, this case isn’t about having the best attorney or about having the favor of Florida’s top executive political leaders. If I am ever allowed to walk in freedom in this lifetime, it will be because God miraculously opened a door that was closed.” My son helps me to develop an eternal perspective and that day he comforted me.

What advice do you have for those who are stuck between a rock and a grace place?

In the middle of your own hurt reach out to someone else who needs help worse than you do. When you involve yourself in meeting the needs of others, you discover an unexpected freedom on the inside. Corrie ten Boom once said, “What did you do today that only a Christian would have done?”

As a result of your journey, you and your husband have founded the nonprofit organization Speak Up for Hope. What are the goals of the organization, and how can people get involved?

Our vision: To help inmates and their families adjust to their new normal.

Our mission: We exist to provide hope to inmates and their families through encouragement and resources.

Please go to http://www.speakupforhope.org for a list of practical ways individuals, churches, and organizations can help with specific projects. Our goal is to live out the truth of Prov. 31:8-9: “Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice. Stand up for the poor and destitute!”

Where may we connect with you further or to purchase a copy of Between a Rock and a Grace Place?

I would love for you to visit my web site at www.CarolKent.org, browse through the various events and other resources available. You may also join me on my Facebook page, please click here.

About the Author

Carol Kent is the bestselling author of When I Lay My Isaac Down and A New Kind of Normal. Carol is an expert on public speaking, writing, and on encouraging people to hold on to hope when life’s circumstances turn out differently from their dreams. She lives in Florida with her husband Gene.

Carol Kent is a popular international public speaker best known for being dynamic, humorous, encouraging, and biblical. She is a former radio show co-host and has often been a guest on Focus on the Family and a featured speaker at Time Out for Women and Heritage Keepers arena events. She has spoken at The Praise Gathering for Believers and at Vision New England’s Congress. She is also a frequent speaker at Women of Virtue events across the country.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by Zondervan in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services atwww.ChristianSpeakerServices.com for more information about blog tour management services.

Escaping the Cauldron by Kristine McGuire

Recently, I ran across a woman who wrote a memoir about her life as a Christian witch.  As a former Wiccan, this caught my attention.  Escaping the Cauldron is an open and honest look at the world of the occult and how Christian’s are being drawn into that world.  It is a fantastic resource and a fascinating read. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a friend or relative who is involved with or drawn to the supernatural/occult. Below is an interview about her book and what she hopes to achieve through it.

What is the book about?

The book is part testimony of how I went from committed, albeit legalistic, Christian for twenty-nine years to witch, medium, and ghost hunter for eight years before God restored my faith and life. It details my personal struggle with trying to be “the perfect Christian” while being drawn to the Occult from childhood. The book is also a Biblical study that examines the current pop-cultural interest in the occult (in particular ghosts, hauntings, and mediums) and how this interest is affecting Christians as well as their beliefs about the supernatural.

Why call it Escaping the Cauldron?

This is actually the first book in a series, What Christians Need to Know about the Occult. It is a series of collections written from my former experiences as a witch, medium, and ghost hunter. This book is primarily about ghost hunting, mediumship, and the paranormal but I chose “Escaping the Cauldron” as the main title because witchcraft was truly my entry into the arena of occult interest and exploration including such things as divination, psychic ability, spirit guides, mediumship, ghost hunting, etc.

What do you think is the most important chapter of the book?

I think there are many important chapters but “Spiritual Warfare” and “How Should Christians Respond?”are the two which take everything discussed in the previous chapters bringing it all together, helping the reader understand their authority in Jesus Christ and leading the way to a ready defense for any kind of paranormal or supernatural event they may experience in their life as a Christian.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

I hope to inform and equip Christians with information about the occult. Additionally I pray the church will begin to acknowledge the presence of the spiritual world around us and listen to people who come forward with stories or claims of paranormal experiences without dismissing them immediately. When the church refuses to listen or offer any Biblical assistance, many people are forced to seek help elsewhere. This generally means seeking out ghost hunters, mediums, and psychics. I also hope to encourage Christians who may be questioning their faith to seek a deeper relationship with God, especially if they are stuck in a form of legalism. Our answers truly can be found in Jesus Christ.

Where is the book currently available to purchase?

The book is available in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon. The book is also available in paperback and e-book editions at my blog site: Kristine ReMixed at www.KristineMcGuire.com and Lulu Publishing.

How are you available to the Christian community?

I write a daily blog, Kristine ReMixed at www.KristineMcGuire.com, on a variety of topics including faith, marriage, prayer, spiritual gifts, and the occult. I also work with my husband through Big Fish Ministries at www.BigFishMinistries.com, ministering through speaking with him at church and para-church events about marriage, facilitating seven day or special event prayer rooms, helping the homeless, etc. I am also available to speak at any youth, women’s, or church events on a variety of Christian topics.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by the author in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com for more information about blog tour management services.