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Praying When We Feel Hungry

Parachute PrayerAre you ready for the first Parachute Prayer of the new year? I discovered this one while taking my son to the airport last week. It was a long drive, and we were running a little late. Suddenly my stomach started growling. I have no idea why; we’d just eaten a good dinner. But my stomach was hungry, and I didn’t dare ask to stop for food. We needed to get our boy to the airport on time.

My youngest son would call this a first world problem, but I didn’t really see it as a problem. I didn’t need to eat, and I knew when I’d be able to eat. My stomach just had to be patient. Thinking about this reminded me, however, that there are those who do need to eat and who don’t know when they’ll next be able to eat. They became the subject of this new Parachute Prayer.

Hunger ParachuteWhenever we feel hungry but can’t eat right away, let’s pray for hungry people who don’t know when they’ll get their next meal or if they’ll get enough to feel satisfied when they do. Let’s ask God to provide generously. Let’s ask Him to prompt others to pray—and to serve. Let’s ask Him what He wants us to do—on a regular basis—to help relieve this problem . . . in our communities . . . all over the world.

Then, if we have time (or maybe later when we have time), let’s let this Parachute lead us to others regarding needs in society. When we let Him, God’s Spirit will guide our thoughts from one prayer concern to another related concern and to another and on and on. Linger over the ones that most burden your heart. Trust all to our sovereign, loving God—the God Who Sees.

Father, thank You for seeing the needs of Your children all over this world. Please provide food, clothing, and shelter for those who don’t regularly have access to these basic needs. Warmth is crucial in many places at this time of year. Help the lonely find family and friends. Thank You for Your care. Thank You also for letting us participate in Your provision plan. Show us what we can do and prompt us to obey. We love You, therefore we love others. Help us to love generously in both word and deed . . . as Jesus did. Amen.

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Letting a Little Child Lead

Woolly Shepherd

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6

One of my favorite sights so far this Christmas season is still bringing a smile to my face when I think of it. At the beginning of this month, my husband and I, with some friends, went to see the Christmas festivities in a small town not far from where we live. Shops were open; some were serving cider and sweets. Christmas lights decked every store front. There was even a horse-drawn carriage for people to ride in up and down the streets. The church near the end of the main boulevard offered a living Nativity complete with donkeys, sheep, and goats. We started our tour there.

We walked slowly to view each scene from the Christmas story: Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem with their little donkey. Shepherds in the fields with their flocks. Angels on pedestals, all serene but for one boy-sterous little one who wanted nothing more than to fly away. (With the head angel’s encouragement, he was making a great effort to stand still, sweet child. I was proud of him—and tickled at the memory he brought to mind of my own boy-sterous angel child of just a few, well, maybe twenty, years ago.)

Finally, we came to find Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus, all in the stable with shepherds, wise men, and animals galore. As we approached this highlight of the experience, a mother among the witnesses was tending to her child in a stroller. As she did, her slightly older daughter quietly slipped over the ropes separating guests from the living display. She sat down primly on a bale of hay, crossed one hand over the other in her lap, and settled in to watch Baby Jesus. And watch she did. I think she’d settled in for the duration.

Was she supposed to be there? No. Did anyone disturb her? No way. This little child was leading us all. While we were casually enjoying the festivities, she was adoring the baby. And, though I knew that baby wasn’t really The Baby, the memory of that little girl boldly moving closer, so she could see and not be disturbed by the chaos around her, has stuck with me since that evening. That little girl’s actions defined worship and peace.

Father, thank You for using this little girl to remind us what Christmas is all about. Even as we enjoy the celebration of Your Son’s birth with family, friends, church, and community, help us do so with hearts full of worship and adoration for Jesus. After all, He came to reveal You to us. That fact alone deserves our awe-filled contemplation. Thank You, Lord! We love You. Amen.

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What Help Do We Receive to Pray?

The Conversation BeginsThe conversation begins . . . prayer. Have you started this conversation yet?

My hope as I write this series is that it will encourage anyone who stumbles across it to discover how easy it is to talk to God. I want people to become comfortable with prayer because I know that the thought of praying to the One and Only, Almighty Creator of the Universe intimidates some people. But God encourages us to come to Him. Anyone who sincerely wants to can talk to Him about anything on behalf of anyone at anytime, anywhere. As we do this, seeking to share our lives with the God Who loves us more than anyone else ever can while attempting to get to know Him better, we’ll begin to recognize His response.

But that’s getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. First we simply need to begin to pray. So, just in case you are still feeling a little bit intimidated about talking to God, today I want to show you the help He provides. That’s right. God will actually help us to pray; He is that serious about wanting us to come to Him.

  • Let’s look at the Holy Spirit first. Romans 8:26-27 is one of my favorite passages on prayer:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

If ever we want to pray but find ourselves at a loss for words, God’s Spirit is right there with us uttering exactly the right ones. He reads our hearts and serves as a translator, of sorts, communicating just what we would say if we could. He knows what we want even better than we do and intercedes on our behalf. I have found this meaningful in times of deep heartache, when I knew that something needed to happen but had no clue what. The Spirit knows what we don’t and intercedes in accordance with God’s Will. This makes crying your heart out in God’s Presence an extremely powerful prayer with few, if any, words.

Romans 8-26

But if you’ve never prayed before and simply want help as you give it a try, God’s Spirit is there for you, too. God understands the weakness of beginning something new. Therefore, you also can claim this Bible promise as you pray; God’s Spirit will help you.

  • Hebrews tells us that Jesus intercedes for us, too:

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”Hebrews 7:25

If you are a child of God, Jesus is praying for you. He gave His life so you could have an eternal relationship with God. Therefore, no one is more motivated than He is to see you succeed at growing in Him daily. If you’re struggling with temptation, He’s praying you’ll claim the strength He offers to resist. If you’re trying to understand God’s Word, He’s asking God’s Spirit to clarify your thinking. If you’re attempting to communicate with God, He’s part of that too. How could He not be? He Is God—God the Son, full-fledged member of the mysterious Trinity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, inviting us to pray, helping us as we do, and praying for us, too.

  • Finally, let’s consider those who’ve gone before:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”Hebrews 12:1-2

I know that some people believe that there is a literal cloud of witnesses watching us and cheering us on. Others say this isn’t possible for one reason or another. Rather than get into that debate, let’s look at the verses just before these two and let them take us to the author’s point:

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”Hebrews 11:39-40

Hebrews 11 is often called The Faith Hall of Fame. It tells about people in the Bible who showed great faith in God. The conclusion of this chapter tells us that God’s plan is still in motion. Whether these witnesses are actually watching us or not, they knew when they were living that they were part of something bigger than themselves, part of something that would continue after they died. Their actions, their prayers, their hopes were all on God and what He would be doing in the future—currently our present (to be handed off to future generations until Jesus comes). In a sense, the people who lived before prayed for us—and may still be praying for us.

And God is adding our prayers to their prayers as He continues His work in our world. Our little prayers are part of something bigger than we can imagine and, one way or another, they are boosted and bolstered by those who’ve already lived their lives.

My words seem very insufficient right now, but I hope I’ve given you just enough of the idea that you can think about it and let the concept grow. God invites us to pray, and He helps us. When we pray, we share our lives with Him, we get to know Him better, we help others to come to know Him, and we participate in His Kingdom in ways we can’t even begin to understand. Our prayers matter more than we know. This doesn’t need to intimidate us, though. God couldn’t have made it easier. To pray, we simply talk with Him.

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Who Can We Pray For?

The Conversation BeginsIf you’ve been following this series, you already know the answer to this question. We can pray for anyone whose name or face comes to mind. In fact, if their name or face comes to mind, we can get in the habit of considering it a call to prayer. If we’re aware that God’s Spirit is with us always and learn to pay attention to His prompts, He’ll call us to pray for others more often than you may think. I’ve written about this in Parachute Prayer: the Practice of Praying Continually. I invite you read that book to learn more about this discipline.*

Here are a few ideas for now:

  1. We can pray for God. Jesus did! In The Lord’s Prayer, He prayed that God’s kingdom would come and His will be done.  We can ask for this, too. Does God need our prayers in order for His purposes to be accomplished? Ultimately, I don’t think so. I suspect the prayer for God is really for our benefit and for the benefit of those around us. When we ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will be done, we’ll become more aware of ways we can participate. We’ll become more willing and eager to participate. God’s Spirit will work through us to draw others into the action, too.
  2. Who We Can Pray ForWe can pray for our families.
  3. We can pray for our friends.
  4. We can pray for ourselves.
  5. We can pray for our churches.
  6. We can pray for our communities.
  7. We can pray for people who serve our families and communities.
  8. We can pray for our nation.
  9. We can pray for our world.
  10. We can pray for strangers we encounter while out and about.
  11. We can pray about needs we see on the internet, in the paper, or on TV.

We can pray for specifics if we know them, but if we don’t and sense a reason to pray, we can pray generically. God knows what’s going on in other people’s lives even when we don’t. Going one step further, we don’t even have to wait until we sense that someone needs a prayer. If we’re sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight, we can talk to God about the fellow travelers who come into view. If someone treats us with unexpected kindness—or undeserved grumpiness—we can whisper a prayer for that person as we go on our way. One deserves a blessing; the other may need it desperately.

Father, please make us sensitive to Your Spirit’s call to pray—for anyone, anywhere. You know the whole world’s needs. Thank You for inviting us to participate as You work in our world. Thy Kingdom come, Lord. Amen.


*If you’re starting to think about Christmas, Parachute Prayer even has a section on praying through the holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and more. To order a copy from Amazon.com, click here.

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Praying Our Way through Fear

Not So Evil Clown

I can almost look at this picture without being terrified.

October. The month when people tend to celebrate all things scary. I don’t take it too seriously. My husband and I don’t decorate, but I don’t mind if the neighbors do. Bats, cats, pumpkins, skeletons, evil clowns . . . wait . . . no, no, no! Our neighbor across the street has actually plastered a clown face three times the size of his front door to the front of his house – the house that is facing mine! (This morning, I’m kind of hoping that the storm melted it down. Or does that only work for witches?) Clowns are fearsome things.

So I have a new Parachute Prayer today. When we see things that frighten us, let’s pray. Let’s let these fearsome things remind us to ask God for courage and for protection – for ourselves, for our families, from evils seen and unseen. Then let’s thank God for using these to remind us He is there. He is with us. And He is bigger than anything!

Father, thank You for watching over us. Thank You for Your presence, for Your protection, and for the courage that comes from knowing You are here. We love You, Lord! Amen.


You can find more Parachute Prayers in my book about them. Click here to order from Amazon.

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Home Owners’ Dysociation Blues

Blue Bonnet“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” –Luke 6:27-31

Last week, I read The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker (and loved it, by the way). I immediately recognized it as dystopian fiction but realized that I didn’t know, precisely, what that word means. What exactly makes dystopian dystopian? I looked it up. It was a well, of course, moment for me.

Dystopian is the opposite of utopian. A utopian society, if it existed, would be perfect. A dystopian society, on the other hand, is one where nobody wants to live. Well, nobody except for a select few power-hungry bullies who force everyone else to follow all their arbitrary rules – such as: every district will send two children a year to fight the other districts’ chosen children to the death because doing so will maintain harmony in our world. Or you will spend your childhood preparing for marriage, but if you aren’t chosen for marriage on a specified day, you will have to be society’s invisible slave for the rest of your life. Or you can only have one virtue. If you have more than one virtue, you are a danger to society and must be destroyed.

Somebody really needs to stand up to bullies who make ridiculous rules like that.

My husband and I recently moved into a dystopian community. We didn’t do this on purpose. But, in spite of this, we do love our new home! We chose it from a distance through pictures. We even “drove” down the street via Google to see what the neighborhood looked like. We knew there was an element of risk, but we’ve lived in the general area before and are only renting this time, so we felt confident. And we were thrilled when we walked into the house for the first time. The reality is even better than the pictures were. And as a bonus: if I walk out my back gate, I walk into my very own wildflower field! Have I mentioned we love our new home?!

We’d only been here a few days, though, when we got an e-mail message from our property manager. Seems the trailer we were using to move some of our stuff into our home was perceived as a violation of Home Owners’ Association (HOA), or should I say, “Home Owners’ Dysociation” (HOD) rules. We were told to move it off the property immediately or face the HOD tribunal for disciplinary action. Thoughts of Jace from Duck Dynasty fighting for the right to keep chickens on his property came to mind. That and knowledge of forms of disciplinary action taken in fictional dystopian societies was enough to make us comply. We finished unloading the trailer and moved it that afternoon. Now we can’t walk through our garage, but since the HOD can’t see it, they don’t care.

Horse ThistleIf you don’t already know this, my husband and I move every few years (You can read some of the lessons we’ve learned from this here.) It’s not unusual for neighbors to come to the door to introduce themselves and welcome us to the area. Some offer to help if we need anything. Others bring flowers or fruit baskets or casseroles. We never expect this from our new neighbors, but it’s always nice to receive a friendly greeting. It helps us feel like we belong.

The e-mail from the HOD had the opposite effect. It made us wonder if we may be unwanted here.

Instead of coming to our door to talk with us politely, an anonymous stranger with a camera took a picture of our trailer and sent it to our property manager along with a complaint. That’s just offensive.

And, as it turns out, the rule about trailers only applies to trailers that aren’t in use. Ours was in use, helping us move into our home. That stranger with a camera was overzealous—and just plain wrong. (Not to mention, a tattletale.) We almost wish we could have faced that tribunal to defend ourselves, but our property manager refused to tell us how to contact the HOD. She also refused to give them any defense on our behalf. Just thanked us for complying to get the HOD off her back.

As I said, we love our new home. But had we seen the rules before we signed the lease, we wouldn’t have chosen to live here.

Ironically, the letter that came with the list of rules said “These obligations [notice: not rules, obligations] are not intended as an inconvenience or an invasion of your freedom, but rather as a means of maintaining harmony in your community.” Ironically is a difficult word to use correctly, but I did use it correctly here. The truth is the exact opposite of what is stated in that letter. We were inconvenienced. Our freedom was taken away. We don’t feel any harmony. And we don’t yet feel that it’s our community.

So what are we going to do?

  • We are going to enjoy this new place for as long as we are living here.
  • We are going to love our neighbors as we love ourselves—even if we learn they go around taking pictures of perceived HOD violations and tattling on us.
  • We will avoid further confrontations with the HOD by following their rules—unless they tell us to fight each other to the death. (In that case, we’re breaking our lease.)
  • We’re going to thank God for our home, for our neighbors, for this new community, and for any opportunities to serve in His name.
  • And the next time we see someone moving in, we’ll visit, introduce ourselves, and take a welcome gift.

The problem with dystopian societies is their leaders care more about outward appearances than they care about the individuals who live within. It hurts to be one of those individuals. But there’s an object lesson here. Whenever I notice the specified exactly one tree and seven bushes in each yard of my neighborhood, I’ll remember that people are more important than buildings or yards. It’s people who give value to a community. It’s people loving people in Jesus’ name who make that value soar.

Father, please teach us to care about the people who inhabit the homes in our neighborhoods. Help us to reach out with love and acceptance and hospitality. Thank You for the perfect example we see in Your Son. Help us to clothe ourselves in Him as we love others in Your name each day. Amen.

Bible verses that floated through my mind as I wrote this: Philippians 1:10, Matthew 23:27, Philippians 4:4-7, John 13:34-35, Colossians 3:12

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Book Review: “Whenever You Come Around”

Whenever You Come AroundI enjoyed visiting King’s Meadow again with Robin Lee Hatcher this week. Her newest book in that series, Whenever You Come Around, is one of the sweetest I’ve read this year. In this book, readers meet successful author Charity Anderson who has been avoiding King’s Meadow, her hometown, for years, refusing even to visit her parents there. But her house in Boise requires major renovations following a flood. With her parents in Europe for the summer, Charity figures she can hide in their home, write her next book, and avoid contact with anyone for just a few months.

But then her dog accidentally trips the boy next door causing him to break his ankle and wrist. Charity feels obligated to help him out since she’s living right there and, well, his dilemma is her dog’s fault.

Yes. It’s a romance. But it’s also a story of community, of people taking the time to notice another’s pain and to not let that person hide behind it, missing all the good things that life can bring. It’s a story of God gently nudging people away from their self-placed limits on life and toward the gifts He has for them. It’s a story of trusting God to love in order to be able to love.

I liked everything about this story: setting, characters (new and old), message, pace. If you appreciate contemporary Christian romances, you’ll like this book, too.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

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Praying for Those Taking Final Exams

Parachute Prayer PostDepending on where children live and what grades they are in, finals week can start as early as today (maybe earlier—I’m already seeing graduation pictures on Facebook!) or as late as two months ago. Regardless, it’s finals season! So let’s start praying for our kids—whether they’re our kids, our grandkids, someone else’s kids, or all the kids of our nation or even of our world. Finals are stressful! The pressure’s on; let’s pray.

I’ve come up with two prompts for this particular prayer. First, whenever you see a Number 2 pencil, pray. You know why, I’m sure, so I won’t explain. But if you’re praying for a particular child on a particular set of days, put a Number 2 pencil where it doesn’t belong, where you’ll see it often, where it will remind you to pray. I’m taping one to the microwave just as soon as I finish writing this post. My boy’s finals start today!

Finals Prayer PromptYou’ll encounter the second prompt when you go shopping. Graduation cards, invitations, and decor displays are starting to show up everywhere. Congratulations Class of 2015! We’re so proud of you! We’ll be even more proud once it’s official. Before these kids (and young adults) can graduate, they have to pass their finals. Let’s let these store displays remind us to pray.

Father, a good education is so important. We want our kids to develop healthy minds, to learn all they’ll need to know to enjoy the blessings and responsibilities of adulthood. As this school year comes to a close, please remind us to pray. Please help our kids to remember all they’ve studied and to be pleased with the results of their efforts. Thank You, Lord! Amen.


For more prayer prompts to practice, read my new book, Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually! Available here.

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Four Days to Book Launch! “Parachute Prayer”

Dear Reading Friends:

Cover RevealI’m so excited to announce the upcoming release of my new book, Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. It is my heart’s desire to encourage people, through this book, through this blog, through my life, through whatever means possible, to pray. God loves to hear our voices (and thoughts) directed toward Him, conversing about anything and everything all the time. He loves it when we pray because He adores us. I am praying that Parachute Prayer will help the people who read it to understand this and practice it in a new way.

Here is the back cover synopsis of the book:

Have you ever wondered what Paul meant when he told us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? Do you long to develop a regular habit of prayer, one that helps you keep prayer concerns before your God while also reminding you of His constant presence? He is with you. He loves you. He wants you to talk with Him!

Through a personal prayer concern, author Janet Benlien Reeves discovered that God has planted prompts to pray all over the place. Training herself to notice them and respond became a fun and meaningful exercise—one she’s eager to share with you.

In the pages of this book, you’ll read Janet’s story, learn the concept of Parachute Prayer, and find more than one hundred Parachute Prayers to try yourself as you begin to develop this simple habit. You’ll also discover how “the practice of praying continually” can draw you closer to Your Savior, benefit your people and your world, and launch you into deeper, more focused prayer times.

I am writing this post today to let you know that Parachute Prayer will be available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle this Friday!!! (The Kindle version is even available for pre-order right now!) Friday is just four days away, so I’m doing everything I can think of to spread the word about this book.

Would you like to help? I would absolutely love it if you would like to help!

Prayer Prompt for BookMy first request: please join me in praying about this book’s release. I’ve even turned this request into a Parachute Prayer prompt to remind you. When you see a dandelion, real or drawn or photographed, please pray that God will use the book Parachute Prayer to call people to pray, to draw them and their loved ones into a closer relationship with Him, and to strengthen His kingdom. Please ask God to get this book into the hands of people who will benefit from the practice of Parachute Prayer, from the practice of praying continually.

Thank you so much!!!

Here is a short list of other things you can do to help me if you’d like to:

1. Rumor has it that Amazon is more likely to promote books whose author pages have a following. Did you know I have an author page? If you visit it, here, and click follow, Amazon will be more likely to help me to promote this book. (And you’ll receive word from Amazon once the book is released.)

2. If you have a Goodreads or Shelfari account, add Parachute Prayer to your list of books to read.

3. If you are a fellow blogger who likes to review books, send a link to your page along with your mailing address to me at Janet@WildflowerFaith.com. I would love to send you a complimentary copy of Parachute Prayer in exchange for an honest review on your blog. (And if you wanted to post that review in other places like Amazon.com, BN.com, Goodreads, or Shelfari, I would love that, too!) (U.S. addresses only, please.)

4. If you know a fellow blogger who might like to review Parachute Prayer, please let that person know about this offer.

5. If you have a Facebook profile, like my Facebook page, then like, share, and/or comment on announcements about this book and on any Parachute Prayer prompts. (I usually post these on Mondays. Please feel free to share them to encourage your friends to pray!)

FluParachute6. If you have a Twitter account, use #ParachutePrayer to encourage people to pray and introduce them to the concept of the book. For example, using a prompt I posted on Facebook this morning, you could Tweet: When you see a box of tissues, ask God to help people with the flu to recover quickly. #ParachutePrayer

7. Tell people about this book! Word of mouth is still the most effective means of recommending something.

These are just a few ideas, but I’ll appreciate anything you come up with. I only have one little voice, so your voices help me so much!!!

I’ll be back tomorrow with another post about Genesis. On Friday, I’ll be launching a book giveaway to celebrate the release of Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. I hope you’ll come back then!

Thank you, my friends–

Janet

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Book Review: “The Dandelion Field”

The Dandelion FieldSingle mom Ginevieve Lightly has been running from life with her daughter, Raine, since she was old enough to do so. Raised in an abusive environment, abandoned by Raine’s father, Ginevieve doesn’t trust anyone. All she wants is to provide a loving home and a better future for her child. In her mind this means running away whenever someone gets close enough to cause them pain because she is convinced that everyone has an agenda that will eventually cause her pain.

But Raine is a senior in high school. She doesn’t want to run anymore. When her mother’s car breaks down in Banister Falls, Wisconsin, Raine begs Gin to let them stay in that town until she graduates. Gin reluctantly agrees, but then regrets it when Raine announces she’s pregnant.

Cody, the baby’s father, was also raised in a single-parent home. His father was killed in a tragic accident when he was six years old. But his father’s best friend, Dan Moretti, stepped in to mentor Cody as if he were his own son. The Dandelion FieldWhen Cody announces that the baby is his, Dan is right there, offering support to both teenagers and their moms, helping them all understand more clearly what being a parent means.

I loved everything about this book. I appreciated the way Dan and his family and friends modeled unconditional, and relentless, Christian love for Gin and Raine. I loved “seeing” God at work in their lives through these people and by other means. I enjoyed the dandelion analogy and was very pleased with the book’s perfect ending. I recommend this book!

Zondervan sent me a complimentary copy of The Dandelion Field in exchange for this honest review.