It takes a thief!

Forgiven and Loved Cross MugIt’s probably one of the quickest conversions in history. That thief, you know, the one crucified next to Jesus. One minute he’s hurling insults and spitting taunts. Then…moments later he’s humbly pleading, ” Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Luke 23:42 Somehow, he figured out, just inches away, hung royalty – our king and prince of peace. But how?

I found myself wondering what happened to change that thief’s mind. Was it the love in Jesus’s eyes? Some mysterious divine revelation we know nothing about? The devotion of someone in the crowd? Or was it something Jesus said?

Then it hit me. The words Jesus spoke that get me every time, The words that both pierce and soften my heart. “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34  Maybe that lawbreaker queried  “Who is this man who begs forgiveness for His enemies…in His darkest hour? Surely He is innocent!”  Is that what the thief saw that turned things around for him? God in flesh, the long-awaited Messiah, dying to save us? Was that his “I believe” moment?

We will never know. But I can tell you this. I’m so grateful for that thief. Thinking about him brought home the magnitude of Jesus’s love and forgiveness. The love and forgiveness He poured out on that cross. The love and forgiveness He calls me to extend.

Like most people, I always loved this story as a comforting reminder that it’s never too late or too far gone to be swept into redemption’s everlasting arms. It took that thief to help me see anew Jesus’s willingness to take us back no matter what.

It spills hope into Good Friday and into my heart as I picture that tender moment. Jesus lovingly looking that crook in the eye with the same promise He offers you and me. A reservation in paradise Luke 23:43, purchased for us with His  blood. Because, as Max Lucado puts it, “Nails didn’t hold Jesus to the cross. Love did.”

Adios perfectionism. Hello love.

You're Loved No Matter What Cover - Holley GerthIf perfectionism has been invading your turf with flaming arrows doused with doubt and fear, threatening to devour your peace and joy, I have great news for you! There’s a new book in town armed to change that and send those pesky arrows quivering in defeat. Forged by the words crafted by Holley Gerth, You’re Loved No Matter What doubles as a mighty sword. Page after page, it slashes lies whispered to keep you hostage to unrealistic expectations, cuts off the power of “not enough” at its source, and carves truth-shaped love deep into your heart.

What’s remarkable about this sword is how it operates like a Swiss Army knife ready with the tools you can whip out to combat perfectionism and live victoriously free from its strangling grip. The practical and potent toolkit covers boot camp assessment and strengthening exercises that reveal who you are so you can fully live the purpose you are wired and designed for. Holley takes you through discovery stations where you will be equipped to wipe out the perfect-person/like-so-and-so mirage with crystal vision of authentic you via personality tests, skills and strengths finding mission, love language learning curve, and obstacle-smashing course that brings the primary role that fits your strengths into view with bulls-eye accuracy.

You’re Loved No Matter What presents the ultimate field manual set up to guide you through every minefield, tactic and attack perfectionism shoots at you with simple, clear-cut, pocket-sized things you can tackle right away and carry on through all your tomorrows. Packed with brilliant strategies and useful insights it will alert you to where perfectionism comes from and why. Then clothes you with protective layers of know-how. Such as:

  • Practical plan for beating perfectionism that walks you though shifting from pursuing perfection to embracing God’s love
  • 5 elements needed to be perfect in God’s eyes, offering new perspectives that will change your life
  • Difference between guilt and godly sorrow and how to switch from guilt cycle to grace cycle with ease
  • Gratitude tools that knock-out guilt and perfectionism with a swift 1-2 punch
  • 7 steps to freeing your heart forever from the shackles of perfectionism in a ‘Magna Carta’ type declaration of new-found freedom, followed by a prayer for each step
  • 7 reasons to pick up your sword and fight to protect against perfectionism
  • Characteristics of real people
  • Characteristics of God and qualities of His love
  • Commitment of Words pledge of allegiance to each other and to the loving God who made us
  • Go Deeper Guide for individuals and groups

…and so much more!

Key to winning back your freedom from perfectionism is locking into the truth behind the title of the book. Believing that God loves you no matter what acts like a semi-permeable breastplate over your heart that deflects the fiery arrows of perfectionism while letting love flow freely both ways. It rescues us from the snares of trying harder and liberates peaceful contentment with who we are. Where we are. Because, as the book explains, God’s love has no limits, expectations or requirements; is not dependent on us, cannot be earned and has our ultimate good in mind.

Feeling totally loved and accepted by the unchanging God we naturally respond with love and acceptance in return. What better way to rouse up the troops than with a heart fully loaded with high-caliber love? The kind that stops us dead in our tracks from chasing crazy standards. The kind that causes us to drop the reins holding us back for fear of failure or not measuring up while boldly offering the best of who we are and embracing the best in others with love and grace.

That’s the cool irony about enlisting in God’s cavalry. Though the battle against perfectionism rages on, it is actually a lifelong process fired by love and with joy Together with our God leading the charge, we stand side by side and heart to heart, rifle-ready to stand guard against perfectionism. Shielding against the dangers of approval-hungry insecurities, we furnish a safe, welcoming haven for each other to come home to…the way we are.  Just like Holley says, the truths in this book become real in relationship –  in the everyday admission that none of us have it all together but we are all better together.

When we know we’re loved no matter what our hearts are freed from the need to be perfect. Free to love and be loved without reservation. Free to be all God created us to be with hearts and hands open to everything He has for us. Which makes perfect sense, don’t you think?!

So, pick up a copy of You’re Loved No Matter What. Take its truths with you everywhere you goShare it with everyone you know, That way we can all live free joyfully and lovingly forever. Together.

In the meantime let’s hang out together at Holley Gerth’s place for some encouraging and inspiring Coffee for Your Heart. See you there!

Disclosure: Many thanks to Revell Publishing for the invitation to be part of You’re Loved No Matter What Blog Tour and the complimentary book in exchange for this unbiased review.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

Now, That’s What I Call the Beauty of Grace!

The Beauty of Grace Cover - Dawn Camp

Don’t you just love it when you can’t wait for something and when it arrives it’s even better than you ever imagined? That’s exactly what happened as I read The Beauty of Grace. With so many of my favourite writers gathered together within the pages of the same book I was giddy with excitement as I delved into this compilation about God’s love. Even so, I was taken quite by surprise with more than I expected.

I thought I would be reading a lot of sweet “God’s loves you, He really does” type stories that would warm my heart. Sure enough, I did soak up words of hope and encouragement; words of wisdom, comfort, joy and peace. In between being totally bowled over and dropping to my knees over the courage, humility, and raw transparency of every single contributor! At times, I found myself literally cradling the book close to my heart, thinking “Wow, oh wow! Even if this was the only entry it would be worth it!” I saw love beyond the comfy-cozy. Love that is steadfast. Love that is sacrificial and fierce. Love that holds tight when everything seems to be falling to pieces. God’s love to and through human hearts.

The ‘love notes’ you’ll discover inside The Beauty of Grace are beautifully complemented by heavenly nature photos taken by Dawn Camp – simply divine pictures bursting with a visual metaphor for the subtle, yet definitive proof of God’s love expressed in creation. It’s all there in black and white for you.

Each short ‘heartdrop’  is a priceless reflection of God’s love bouncing off the page and straight into our hearts.  You’ll meet:

  • A terminally ill woman relay “Nothing about my life is about me, it’s about who He needs me to be”
  •  A young girl whose health silently stole her gymnastics dream wildly cheering her friend living that same dream.
  • A mama who lost two houses, gained two babies, dropped an income and didn’t have the $1.97 she owed for groceries at the same time her father’s life was slipping away in ICU
  • The family who started Mercy House in Kenya to provide hope and opportunity to pregnant teens living in extreme poverty
  • The woman with 5 children and a depleted emergency fund who invites you to join her as a fellow God-watcher; keeping a watch-full eye out for His goodness and assurances, waiting in joyful expectation for the adventure He has in store for us

…and so much more!

Divided into well-chosen themes that include Purpose, The Big Picture, Surrender, Trust, Lessons Learned, Hope and Encouragement, and Worship, The Beauty of Grace covers a variety of topics written by diverse people in different situations. You’ll hear uplifting messages for changing seasons and stubborn circumstances; tough times and hard places. With words that will renew and inspire where you need it most, this book promises to be a favourite you’ll want to go back to time and time again. And share with others

Soul-stirring right down to the last page, this collection of love-infused offerings from the heart ends “just right” with friends sharing Communion. Because that’s what it’s all about. Doing life together. Sharing our lives, and being there for each other in loving service. Standing as full length mirrors to God’s love through our stories and through our love for Him and others…in remembrance of Him. Now, that’s what I call the beauty of grace!

Disclosure: Many thanks to Revell Publishing for the invitation to be part of The Beauty of Grace Blog Tour and the complimentary book in exchange for this unbiased review.

I’m delighted to tell you Holley Gerth, who wrote the forward and is a contributor to The Beauty of Grace, invites us to link- up  together each week to share encouraging and inspirational Coffee for Your Heart. Come, join me at her place for more sips of the beauty of grace… brewed with love.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

Though They Stumble…

Got so mesmerized by the beauty and grandeur of this gorgeous photo of Northern Ireland I nearly missed seeing the teeny tiny people walking along the carved passage through this marvel of nature. I wonder what was going through their minds as they trekked through the snake-shaped path to the Carrick-a-Rede bridge. The slim, suspended bridge made of wire rope and Douglas Fir steps that swings over a 23m deep and 20m wide chasm.

Would they be able to stand steady? Slip, stumble, or fall? Lose their lunch or their nerve? Can they depend on the lattice ropes to prevent them from dropping into the waters below? Might they need to hang onto something (or someone) along this exhilarating, frightening adventure?

They knew the challenge before them when they bought their ticket. That a spectacular scenic view and birdwatcher’s paradise, not to mention the captivating wildlife on land and sea, awaits once they cross. And they knew there’s only one way to make it happen. Trust the bridge.

Northern Ireland Pic with Psalm 37:23-24 Looking at it, that bridge looks fragile and scary, yet has a history of holding people up. Keeping them from plunging into danger. God is like that. He is our faithful bridge that secures safe passage over life’s troubled or consuming waters. The bridge that connects us to each other and to Him with love and forgiveness. The bridge that keeps us from falling when we stumble. When we mess up, fess up and get knocked down by the wind and debris life pelts at us. He holds us when we’re on shaky ground and carries us when we’re too weak and broken to go on.

He is the bridge to good things ahead and the heavenly view marked by joy on the other side of forever after. The God who laid down His life for us lays a rock-solid pathway to everything we need until we reach our final destination –  eternity with Him.

There is nothing to fear, for He is with us and for us. We can trust Him. Every step of the way.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what would happen if anything goes wrong or someone can’t make it across the rope bridge, a boat will come pick you up. God does the same with you and me. He gives us each other to be His hands and feet…and heart. Like we do when we link-up at Holley Gerth’s. So let’s head on over for some Coffee for Your Heart that will pick us up and take us to the bridge of encouragement.

Photo CreditHuge thank you to the talented Elton Baretto for permission to use his breathtaking picture of Carrick-a-Rede. For your viewing pleasure, here is the original photo I’m sure you’ll love!

Carrick-a-Rede  Rope Bridge by Elton Baretto

See, I told you he was talented!

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

That’s Why I Love You!

I never dreamed the desire to tell the angel of my heart that, for all his many wonderful qualities and ‘cover of GQ’ good looks, “I love you because you’re you!” would turn into my most popular blog post – by far! Almost four years later it remains the all-time most viewed and continues to be shared. So, with love to the sweetheart who inspired it, and for those of you who want to tell someone special “why I love you” I’m continuing the tradition of sharing the fully customizable poem that started it all on Valentine’s Day… with an extra romantic verse added on this special day celebrating love.

Why I Love You

You are very good-looking
but I don’t love you for your looks.

You are super smart
but I don’t love you for your brains.

You are creative and brilliant too
but I don’t love you because you are a genius.

You are sweet, sensitive, and compassionate
but I don’t love you for your tender heart.

I’ve never known you to say “no” to anything anyone asked of you
but I don’t love you for your goodness or generosity.

You are gracious and diplomatic
but I don’t love you because you have a way with words.

You have an irresistible sense of humour
but I don’t love you because you make me laugh.

You are a lot of fun to be with
but I don’t love you because you’re such great company.

You have strong arms that have drawn me close to your heart
but I don’t love you because you take my breath away

Why do I love you?

I love you for no reason at all.

I love you because you’re you!

Why do I love you?   ♥     No reason.   ♥     I just do.

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Wide Open

It's Not Who You Know, It's Who You Are Cover - Pat Williams  If a book undeniably tied to celebrities, subtitled “Life Lessons from Winners”  gets you rolling your eyes or gagging at the thought of being fed high-octane bites of inspiration that burst with promise and fizzle out in real life, I hear you. Do we really need to read accounts of the rich and famous to teach us “focus and prepare, be good to people, serve, do your best; be honest, positive, passionate and loving; work hard, have faith, spread joy…?” As it turns out, It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are says very little we probably haven’t heard before. But oh, well worth the read.

Like the raw ingredients eggs, flour, butter, milk, cocoa that transform into a irresistibly delectable cake when mixed together, rising in the oven, the stories combine to whip up a fresh batch of determination to live and give with all we’ve got. Each entry is short and simple; many are sports related. Every single message is doable and can be applied immediately. By anyone. And like that chocolate dessert the lessons never lose their flavour or appeal.

As Pat Williams shares the life lessons from his cupboard of memories he inadvertently draws you into the kitchen of his own life where nineteen children sit at the table; where the battle with multiple myeloma, embarrassing failed first marriage and bouts of adversity are blended into his recipe for success. His eagerness to keep his ‘eyes and ears wide open’ so he can learn from others, and then impart those lessons is the bread and butter cream behind this book. It’s the royal legacy icing that spreads the wisdom from the past by living it out in the present so future generations can taste its sweet goodness.

From my seven pages of notes with quotes and reminders from this collection of anecdotes and insights, what struck me between the eyes and at the centre of my heart was Pat William’s call from the start to not “squander the opportunity”.  To step up with loving courage to be all that God created me to be.

It was worth it to read It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are for the concluding piece alone. It had a powerful effect on me and brought me to tears. With about one week left to live, bible teacher Wendell Kempton found the time and strength to plan his “going away party”  complete with the balloons he promised his granddaughter. When the time came, his son ushered his heavenly homecoming whispering “…you’ve done your job and you’re going to your eternal reward. Get your best sermon ready, Dad. You’re going into glory.” The funeral “party” that followed saw six successful sports figures speak about how he influenced their lives, and proved to be a great celebration of a life well-lived and triumphantly completed. Not because of who he knew, but for who he was.

For me that’s what it’s all about. Live my life on earth in such a way that when I arrive at heaven’s gates I’m greeted with “well done good and faithful servant.”  It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are underscored that desire and touched my life.

Disclosure: Many thanks to Revell Publishing for the invitation to be part of It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are  Blog Tour and the complimentary book in exchange for this unbiased review.

Come join me at Holley Gerth’s place today where you will find more wisdom and refreshing Coffee for Your Heart  with Holley and friends. Meet you there!

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

Sticky Friends are Such Fun!

Friend Sticks Closer than a Brother - Proverbs 18:24
“Almost there friend. Keep hanging on to my tail and let’s stick close. Together, we’ll get to the top of this mountain in a flash!”

The minute I saw this picture my friend sent from his romantic trip to Aruba with his lovely wife, I broke out smiling. Immediately, I thought of what fun friendship brings. Cracked me up imagining these adorable yet distinctly different creatures having the time of their lives together on this rock-mountain.

And well, my quirky sense of humour got the best of me. I just couldn’t resist adding the silly caption that reflects the serious truth about friendship and sharing it here for you. Hope this gets you grinning from ear to ear and reJOYcing over the friends who stick by you. Friends who stick it out through the tough days and sticky messes. Friends you stick by and stick with because they mean so much…and you love them so!

With special thanks to the friends who are the glue that hold me together with love that sticks around even when hard times are on the loose. You rock!

I’m tickled pink to link you up with my amazing friend Holley Gerth today for more reasons to smile in addition to a generous measure of Coffee for Your Heart 

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

Photo credit: Thank you to my friend who wishes to remain anonymous for putting a smile on my face with this picture! :)