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! :)

Is Doing What’s Right Worth the Cost?

Undercover cop Michael Hunt found himself wanted by the government, the police and the drug cartel. A fugitive presumed dead by the people who loved him most, his partner eliminated, he was left battered and alone in his fight to stay alive and battle the forces of unspeakable evil.

Hidden Agenda Cover - Lisa HarrisOlivia Hamilton was doing just fine as a reporter and guardian to her deaf brother Ivan. Till a slew of emails, murder, and deception turned her world upside down. Discovering the father they loved was the kingpin of a ruthless drug ring, coupled with helping a stranger escape the death sentence hanging over his head, the siblings were on the run trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuers. The door of life they once knew slammed shut. No turning back.

At the intersection where the danger that loomed for the law enforcer crossed the peril threatening the law-breaker’s son and daughter their lives irreversibly entwine, leaving no choice but to trust each other.

Corrupt criminals chasing them. Crooked cops lurking in the shadow of dark heinous crimes. Death knocking on too many doors.  A calculated kidnapping wrapped in betrayal, greed, ambition, family lies and family ties putting the very ones they wanted to protect in harms way. “What if doing what was right turned out not to be worth the cost?” was the question hot on their minds.

You’ll be wondering the same when every move closer to cracking the case is littered with bloodshed and violence. How many more people will die or get hurt? Maybe, it was time for Michael to turn himself in. Time to walk away from it all before more victims pay the price in the line of justice. Or could one more day in the heat of danger make all the difference in the world?

Wouldn’t want to ruin it for you but I can reveal this: they went forward in faith trusting God to the very end.

Hidden Agenda is the fast-paced, action packed conclusion to Southern Crimes series that grabbed my attention from the beginning and never let go. The final installment was enriched by the connection to the other two books but was solid as a stand alone volume. It held me spellbound as the intriguing characters brought the enthralling drama to life.

What I especially loved about this novel is how Lisa Harris brilliantly strung together threads of suspense, love, and life lessons into a story that captures your heart, keeps you at the edge of your seat with surprise twists and turns, while inspiring empathy, faith and the courage to seek the truth. The truth that indeed sets us free.

Every page swept me on roller coaster ride of emotion and anticipation. My heart raced. My heart melted.  My heart danced. My heart broke. With all my heart I highly recommend it!

While some things are mysterious, one thing I know for sure. There’s always plenty of encouraging words served with a measure of inspiration whenever we link-up at Holley Gerth’s place. So let’s head on over and enjoy some heart-warming Coffee for Your Heart together. See you there!

Disclosure – I’m honoured and delighted to be on board the Hidden Agenda Blog Tour with Revell Publishing who generously provided a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for this unbiased review.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

I Have Heard your Prayer…

She was hardly someone we would rush to invite to dinner. After all, wasn’t the shame of an empty womb painful enough for Sarah without Hagar taunting her with contempt? And that kid of hers Ishmael! Was it really necessary he mock and make fun of his half-brother Isaac? Rather nasty I’d say. No wonder they found themselves on the run and the eventually evicted from Abraham’s household.

But I have to admit my heart goes out to them whenever I read about how they wandered aimlessly in the wilderness. Rips my heart to bits imagining the scene:

When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears.  ~ Genesis 21:15-16

Brings me to tears too. Obviously moved the heart of God as well. True to the “God hears” meaning of Ishmael’s name the Lord …

…heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.  Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.” ~ Genesis 21:17-18

Their needs reached God’s ears and He saw every tear fall. In desolate wilderness Hagar started referring to God by the name “You are the God who sees me” because she knew first hand how He sees, He listens, He cares, and He responds. It held true for a lowly servant girl and her wayward son. It held true as He assured royal King Hezekiah years later:

I have heard your prayer

The same holds true for me and you this very day. And always.

Isn’t it comforting to know that whatever we are going through, we are never out of God’s watchful eye? We are not alone. Our heavenly Father is looking after us and will see us through. One day, one moment at a time.

As I read 2 Kings 20:5 recently I remembered the time peace washed over me as “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears” echoed in my heart like a voice from heaven. I just knew it was God speaking to me and the tears stopped. My prayer is that those words do the same for you whenever you cry out to God or cry your heart out. That your heartache will be replaced with peace, your tears washed away with joy, and you feel the love and presence of God who hears each prayer and sees every tear.

One of the most beautiful stories of God hearing our prayers and seeing our tears is about a couple on their knees longing for children and a girl without parents who just wanted to be loved. Our loving Father who listens with His heart wide open answered their prayer and silenced their tears when He brought them together in an unexpected way. Holley Gerth is the mamma in this circle of love and shares more about it in a way that will encourage you and move you to tears…the good kind. You’ll also see Mary, the mother of Jesus, in a new light as her words bring comfort for when your hopes seem to be on hold.

Oh yes, and there’s more. Lovelle Gerth-Meyers, that child who ached for love just got married Jan 3.  Her What My Wedding Meant to Me will touch your heart beyond words as she pours out  “It was about God, His ability to answer even the craziest of our hearts’ desires, and His ability to redeem.” 

Yup! Sometimes God gives us each other as an answer to our prayers and tears. That’s why I love linking us up  to Holley’s site where we gather together for Coffee for your Heart made with love, encouragement and the promises of God.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image