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Book Review: “How to Catch a Prince”

How to Catch a PrinceHow to Catch a Prince, the third book in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding series was a sweet combination of fairy tale romance and practical Christian thought. I was caught up in the unusual storyline right from the start and enjoyed it to the end. But I also loved watching American Heiress Corina del Rey, under the mentorship of two fun, yet mysterious strangers, explore the concept of loving well. As a wife, as a servant/ruler, as a daughter, as a friend, Corina strove to grasp it all.

How to Catch a Prince is the story of a secret discarded by tragedy, of Corina’s attempt to participate in life again after 5 1/2 years of mourning, and of eligible bachelor Prince Stephen of Brighton hiding from royal responsibility as a professional rugby star. When Prince Stephen’s brother uncovers the secret and confronts him, Prince Stephen fears other secrets, long buried, may also come into the light. Thankfully for him, and Corina, someone has determined that’s what needs to happen for healing to begin.

I enjoyed reading this book, meeting the new characters and seeing some from the former stories in action again. I appreciated Hauck’s subtle insights and the simple way she presented significant truths. I’m happy to recommend this book.

Zondervan sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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God Gives and Enables, So We Can Practice Faith

“Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath, that is why on the sixth day, he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out. So the people rested on the seventh day.” –Exodus 16:29-30

When I read Exodus 16 this morning, my attention was drawn to some truths about our God. In case you’re not familiar with the passage, though, I’ll quickly summarize:

God Provided for His GiftGod has just set the Israelites free from Egypt and led them safely across the Red Sea and into the desert. They are hungry. And they are complaining about it. Rather melodramatically, in fact. They wish they were back in Egypt. They wish they were dead. And I kind of wonder if Moses doesn’t wish they were back in Egypt or dead, too. Just what has God gotten him into?

God doesn’t waste any time diffusing the situation. He tells the people that He will provide. He will be sending manna in the morning and quail at night, and when the people receive it, they will know He is their God.

God gives specific instructions about the manna, though. The people are only to gather what they need for one day, trusting God to provide for the next. Some of the people gather more and try to hoard it, though. That ends in a stinky mess. On the sixth day, however, God tells the people to gather enough for two days, so they can rest on the Sabbath. Those who obey discover that the manna doesn’t go bad overnight when stored for the Sabbath. (And those who don’t obey go hungry on the seventh day.)

So here are the truths that caught my attention this morning:

1. When God gives His people commands, He also gives them the means to keep them. He told His people to rest on the seventh day. He knew they would be hungry, though, so He kept the manna from going bad. He made it possible for them to rest by meeting this basic need.

2. When God gives His people good gifts, He also gives them all they need to enjoy them. Imagine giving dinner in a nice restaurant and tickets to a musical as an anniversary gift for a couple with young children. To be sure they could enjoy the gift, you would also offer to watch their children that night and, if necessary, pay for parking in the theatre lot. The gift would be no good if the couple couldn’t leave their children or afford extra expenses that went along with it.

Likewise, Sabbath rest was a gift from God to His people. He wanted them to enjoy it, so He provided all they needed, so that they could. In covering all the details, God gave the Israelites no excuse to disobey Him. He showed that He is not unreasonable. He is aware of all that His children need. He is able to provide. The Israelites learned to trust Him (at least for a time). They rested on the Sabbath day.

Father, thank You for Your provision, Your generous gifts, and Your attention to all of the details surrounding these. You’ve given us every reason to trust You with our lives. Help us to follow You in faith. We love You, Lord. Amen.

  • How has God revealed Himself to you as the God Who provides what you need?
  • What is God asking You to trust Him with right now?
  • What can you do about it to exercise Your faith?

 

Congratulations to Marina B., winner of the Parachute Prayer book giveaway! Thank you to everyone who participated.

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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.

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Anchored, Tethered, Rooted, Built Up

Finding Home“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”Colossians 2:6-7

One thing I long for as I move from home to home to home is stability, an anchor of sorts. I’m thinking of a science fiction show I once watched. Can’t quite remember which one, but I do remember that the main character was jumping around in time and needed some kind of tether to keep her attached to her own time. If the tether came undone, she’d never find her way back to her own time. I think I kind of feel like that sometimes. I need for something to remain the same, or I’ll never know when I am “home.”

But there’s a reason why someone once said, “You can’t go home again.” Home as you’ve pictured it changes. Friends you go home to visit move away. Favorite stores close. Nieces and nephews grow up. Grandma changes the way she cooks . . . or relocates . . . to Heaven . . . which inevitably brings changes to all the traditions you once knew. This is how life works, and it happens whether you move a lot or not. But when you’ve been away for a while and come “home” to find all changed, it can feel a little unsettling.

Colossians 2.6-7If we anchor ourselves to these kinds of things, each visit home will be more confusing than the last. We’ll enjoy some of these changes and be disappointed by others, but either way we may still grow to feel increasingly out of place. Attaching ourselves to that which is ever-changing, that is, anything in our physical world, will eventually leave us feeling lost.

Colossians 2:6-7 tells us what we can anchor or tether our moving selves to. Paul uses two different words, though: rooted and built up. Both enhance the idea. If we’re rooted, we’re attached to the ground. As plants gain strength, nutrition, and stability from the ground, we gain the same if the soil we’re rooted in is healthy. Likewise, if we’re built up on a proper foundation, we are standing on something concrete that will support us, keep us level, and enhance our strength when the world around us starts to shake. Of course, Paul was telling his readers to be rooted and built up in Christ. Jesus is our anchor, tether, soil, and foundation wherever we go.

Notice some of the other words Paul uses, though. First he says, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue . . .” Continue is another stable word. Some people think being saved is all that matters, but if we’re to enjoy the benefits of saving faith, we must continue to live our lives in Christ.

Paul tells us how with a few more stabilizing words: “strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” Again, we cling to what’s already established: our faith in Christ. Someone introduced us to Him. Then we learned some more about Him. The relationship grew. The relationship must keep growing wherever we go. We may move to another location, but we must continue to talk with God, read His Word, and let Him teach us about Himself and His Kingdom wherever we are. We continue, we’re rooted, we’re built up, and we’re strengthened just as we were taught.

When we live our lives in Christ, we’ll always be anchored, tethered, rooted, and built up. Jesus is the stability we need.

Father, as the world changes all around me, all the time, I am overflowing with thankfulness for the tether You provide. Help me cling to You . . . forever. Amen.

If you found this helpful in your moving journey, I’ve written a whole book of devotionals to encourage you: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

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You Are Here

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.” –Ecclesiastes 7:14

Christmas TreeI don’t think anything tests my trust issues more than traveling by airplane. It’s not that I don’t enjoy flying; even turbulence usually feels more like fun than fear. My problem is trusting the airplane to take off and land when and where it’s supposed to. (And for the record, I have much experience with airplanes not taking off or landing when they’re supposed to and even with them landing where they’re not supposed to. Seeing Welcome to New York when you expect to be walking off the plane into Boston is a memorable experience.)

So I knew before we left for it that our recent trip to Northern California would provide an exercise in trust. Thankfully, our flights were great! No problems other than turbulence going over the Rockies. We were so excited when our plane touched down on time in San Francisco on Christmas morning. Only a three hour drive separated us from our loved ones . . . or so we thought.

Then we got to the rental car counter. Though we had reserved a car well in advance, the company we were counting on did not have one available for us—or for many other families beginning to gather rather grumpily. (If they could have found pitchforks, they would have used them. I have no doubt.) Things got worse when people started figuring out that none of the rental car companies on-site at the airport had any cars available for anyone. We’d all made reservations, but the companies failed to provide what they’d promised. I don’t know how many families were stranded at the San Francisco Airport on Christmas Day by rental car renege, but it was not pretty.

Thankfully, my husband found an off-site rental car company that claimed to still have cars available. We hopped on their shuttle with three other families, and prayed they’d really have cars for us all.

This is where the trust lesson comes in. They had said they had cars, but so had the company we’d made reservations with. My mind went into overdrive imagining all that could go wrong. Not only were we alone in a city where we didn’t know anyone, we were also leaving the place (the airport) I held responsible to fix our plight. What if this new company didn’t have any cars? What if their shuttle wouldn’t take us back to the airport? What if all the hotels in the city were booked, too? What if we had to spend the night in a strange rental car company waiting room with only stale coffee creamer for food?

You Are HereGod stopped my thoughts right there. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t cause a wave of peace to gently swaddle my soul. No. He simply put an image of a map in my head, the kind that you might see on a hiking trail or in a mall directory. The clearest thing I saw was the red dot with an arrow saying, “You are here.”

And I understood! I wasn’t looking for a hotel or sleeping in a waiting room with nothing to eat. I was on a shuttle headed for hope! Even better, though I was stuck in the present moment, God was in my future—whatever it held.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

Suddenly, I was thankful. I was thankful for God’s presence and comfort, for my husband’s quick-thinking and resourcefulness, for a safe beginning to our journey, and for the possibility of a car to rent to take us on to our Christmas celebration with the family we’d traveled to see.

That picture stayed with me for the rest of the trip, too. Whenever we went somewhere new and scary or had to make a quick decision, I’d see that “You are here” sign. Then I’d remember God’s faithfulness, let go of worries about the future, and enjoy the day’s event.

Our rental car adventure ended well. The new company upgraded us to a Toyota Sienna mini-van on the other company’s dime. The extra space allowed us to shuttle everyone around in one car instead of us always needing to take two. Togetherness on a family vacation is a happy thing!

Even so, I knew (and I know) that even when I trust God, sometimes He allows things to go wrong. These things teach me to trust Him—no matter what. God loves me. God has a good plan for my life. God is building Christ’s character into me. I can trust Him all the time.

I am here. With Him. Right now.

That is very good.

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Book Review: “Love Without End”

Love Without EndI am ready to move to Idaho after reading Love Without End. In this sweet romance, Robin Lee Hatcher has invited readers to join her characters in a welcoming community. She’s placed city girl Kimberly Welch there, too, against her will and with a sullen teenage daughter. The community may be welcoming Kimberly, but she wants to go home to Seattle and plans to just as soon as she can find a job there.

Her daughter, Tara, has other plans. For the first time in her life, she has a horse—a gift from a friend. And local ranch owner, Chet Leonard, has offered to stable the horse and teach her how to ride and care for it. Tara only has eyes for her horse, and it belongs in Kings Meadow.

This is a story of God gently healing hurts and changing hearts, guiding people where they most truly want to be. I appreciated the pace. My favorite parts of the story, though, were the intermittent flashbacks into Anna’s life—a story within the story of God’s generous provision. Life doesn’t have to unfold as expected or planned to be good.

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

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Book Review: “The Princess Spy”

The Princess SpyI’ve been curious about Melanie Dickerson’s books for some time now. They’re all about fairy tales and princesses, so how could she go wrong? Now that I’ve read one, The Princess Spy, I see that her idea was even better than I’d thought. Dickerson has taken the fairy tale, removed the magic from it, and written a sweet, clean story about a girl and a boy (and their family and friends) trusting God to get them safely through a perilous circumstance. The Princess Spy is based on The Frog Prince. I wasn’t sure how this could be without magic to turn the prince into a frog, but Dickerson explained it logically as if a perfectly normal event occurred and later became a magical tale.

The story is set in Germany in 1413, so, technically, it’s historical fiction. Margaretha, the main character, is under pressure to marry but hasn’t found a suitor to capture her heart. She’s considering Lord Claybrook from England when Lord Colin shows up, seriously wounded and bearing alarming news. Margaretha must decide whether to trust him and act to save herself and her family or to ignore his warning, viewing it as confusion coming from an injured man.

How Margaretha and Colin overcome negative first impressions and begin to understand and appreciate one another is the bulk of the story. Margaretha reminded me of Disney’s Rapunzel, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why. I recommend this novel for young teenage girls and thank Zondervan for sending me a copy in exchange for this review.

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Living Our Belief

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”Romans 8:1-2

When I read these verses today, I stopped to wonder how many people actually believe them. I had to stop and search my heart to be sure that I truly believe them. I say I believe them. I believe I believe them. But do my actions prove I do?

DSC01706eAs I prayed about this, asking God, “Do I really believe that there is now no condemnation for me? Or am I still trying to earn Your grace, so I can be certain there’s no condemnation for me?” the parable of the unmerciful servant came to mind. (If you are unfamiliar with this story, click here to read the NIV version at BibleGateway.com.)

In this parable told by Jesus, a man owes the king so much money that he will never in his lifetime be able to repay it all. The king, wanting to settle accounts, declares that the man and his entire family be sold into slavery to pay the debt. But the man falls at the king’s feet and begs for mercy, promising to somehow find a way to pay the debt. The king, feeling great compassion for the man and his family, chooses to do more than the man asked; he cancels the entire debt and sets the man free.

But the man response is puzzling. He immediately goes out, finds someone who owes him money, and throws that man in jail until the debt can be paid. Naturally, witnesses are upset about this. They tell the king, who becomes angry with the man. The king tells the man that, out of gratitude for his own forgiveness, he should have shown mercy to the man he needed to forgive. Then the king throws the man in jail to be tortured until he can pay his impossible debt in full.

I’ve never understood why someone who was forgiven such a huge debt would go out and treat someone who owed them just a little bit that way. After today’s reflections, however, I’m pretty sure these actions have something to do with whether or not that someone truly believes Romans 8:1-2.

You see, if the servant had truly believed that his entire debt was forgiven, he would have, I think, forgiven the one who owed him. I don’t think he believed this, though. He had asked for time. He wanted to pay his debt. He wanted to prove to the king that he was worthy of forgiveness, that he was able to repay in full without anyone’s grace. And so, as soon as the king set him free, he went out to collect funds to repay the debt. There was no gratitude in his heart because, though the king had indeed forgiven him, his pride had kept him from forgiving himself and convinced him that the king hadn’t really forgiven him either. This pride made him a prisoner who longed to be set free. It wrongly told him that collecting funds from others with debts would open the door of his cell.

The Pharisees were a lot like this unmerciful servant, imposing impossible-to-keep rules and regulations on others. By enforcing the law, they thought themselves worthy of the Kingdom of God. In their minds, they were proving themselves to God.

But the Bible is clear that we can never do enough to prove ourselves worthy of God’s Kingdom. We can’t do enough righteous deeds. We can’t keep the Law perfectly. Like the unmerciful servant, we can only throw ourselves at the feet of our King and beg for His mercy. And thanks to Jesus Christ, we have it! Praise His name!

All we have to do is believe. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! There’s nothing to earn. Nothing to prove. Nothing to demand or collect from our fellow servants. The King has set us free, and we are free indeed.

Once we truly believe this, our actions will show it. Instead of rushing out to throw our debtors in prison until they pay what they owe, we’ll tell them what the King did for us and point them toward freedom, too. Having freely received, we will want to freely give. We’ll live lives of grace and gratitude. We will love as the Spirit leads.

  • Do you believe?
  • What would help you to believe?
  • How must this belief impact your life?

Father, thank You for forgiveness, for freedom from condemnation. Thank You for new life in Christ. We believe! Help us live our belief. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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Unbalanced, Resting, and Free

Words Aptly Spoken“One of the favorite words in the Rule is ‘run.’ St. Benedict tells me to run to Christ. If I stop for a moment and consider what is being asked of me here, and what is involved in the act of running, I think of how when I run I place first one foot and then the other on the ground, that I let go of my balance for a second and then immediately recover it again. It is risky, this matter of running. By daring to lose my balance I keep it.” –Esther de Waal, Living with Contradiction

I came across this quote this morning in the daily devotional I’ve been reading this year, A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, and it really made me think—especially when I put on my running shoes and took off for five and a half miles shortly after. I put the quote to the test, confirmed it was true, and made a few discoveries of my own to share with you.

When we run, we launch ourselves into the air with one foot then catch ourselves with the other. We don’t really think about this; we just do it. (No Nike reference intended.) But the launching is risky. It’s like singing a Capella for a moment, hoping that when the accompaniment starts again, we won’t have slipped off key for our audience to hear. If we don’t hold our feet just so while in the air, we’ll fall when gravity pulls us back to earth.

This means walking is safer. When we walk, one foot or the other is always in contact with the ground. (This is part of the definition of walk.) The motion is the same; we’re still pushing up with one foot while supporting ourselves with the other. But we never actually leave the ground.

So we have a choice to make. Walking is safer, but when we run, we enjoy a moment of freedom from the earth—we soar! And it’s in this moment of soaring that we rest!

That’s right. We rest. We rest while we run but never when we walk.

Most fascinating of all: those who’ve learned to run the fastest, rest the most. Have you ever watched an Olympic runner sprint? Their strides are longer than their heights. Those runners get air!

10-29-14 PostMe. My stride needs work—lots of little jumps. I’ve read that if I boldly allow myself to enjoy a longer stride, I’ll find myself running faster with less effort. That change will take courage because it will involve greater risk. My stride won’t lengthen until I trust myself more, until I stop believing that if I stay in the air too long I will fall.

This trust is what running through life with God is all about. God offers us freedom and rest, but we have to be willing to jump, to work on our stride. This will leave us feeling unbalanced at times, but it sets us free. It lets us rest. No worries about the future; it’s in God’s hands. No struggles to be met in our own strength, with only our own resources. Just confidence in the One Who’s leading us where He wants us to go, where, ultimately, He knows, we most want to be. This running is risky, but God won’t let us fall. He’s teaching us to trust Him, so we can run with Him for all eternity.

Father, please help us to run with confidence and strength. Set us free to enjoy life Your way. Enable us to rest in You. Amen.

Related Bible words: Hebrews 12:1, Isaiah 40:31, Proverbs 3:5-6Proverbs 3:26

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Of Christopher Columbus and Trying to See Beyond the Horizon

Finding Home“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”Hebrews 11:1

I know Columbus’ Day was ten days ago, but as I work up the courage to face yet another move, I’m wondering if maybe he and I are kindred spirits of a sort.

No. I’d have probably related better to his crew—looking over his shoulder on the boat and asking, “Just how sure are you that we’re not going to drop off the edge of the earth?”

Evidently, Christopher was pretty sure since he and his crew found land before they reached the horizon.

Funny how that works.

Preparing for a move is kind of like sailing toward such a horizon, don’t you think? Your calendar is full of things to do right up to moving day—and then it just goes blank as if you’re disappearing over the earth’s edge. Will there be things to do and friends to make in your new community? Will you find meaningful activities, a church to get involved in?

Of course, you will. You know you will. But you can’t see it, so it still feels like you’re headed for a fatal precipice.

Columbus sailed by faith that he would find land, not destruction.

Columbus put his faith in an idea, though. We move forward with our faith set in God. All just happened to work out well for Columbus. Trusting God, we can’t go wrong.

Father, please give us the courage to obey and go, even when we don’t know much about the place where we are going, even when it feels like we’re headed for the edge of the earth. We don’t have to see beyond the horizon to know that You’ve prepared good things for us to discover in our new land. Thank You, Lord! Amen

If you’ve found this message encouraging as you prepare to move, you might enjoy my book: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.