Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Through the Shadows by Karen Barnett - REVIEWED

About the book: 

Through the Shadows (Abingdon, May 2016)

As San Francisco rises from the ashes, an age-old battle looms between corruption and the promise of new beginnings.

The devastating earthquake is just two years past, but the city of San Francisco is still trying to recover. Destruction of this magnitude is not so easy to overcome---and neither are the past regrets shadowing Elizabeth King's hopeful future.

Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth dedicates herself to helping girls rescued from slavery in Chinatown brothels, even if it means putting her own life at risk to sneak through the gloomy alleys and rooftops where dangers lurk.

Putting her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable. But opening her heart is even more terrifying. So when Elizabeth meets attorney, Charles McKinley---a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco's crooked politics---Elizabeth begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?

Buy your copy HERE!

My Thoughts:
If God had given her the gift of freedom, why did she live under the shadows of the past?” (p.202)

Often times, as I read fiction, God will place a character in my path that is dealing with a similar struggle. Elizabeth King is just such a character, and the question above is a very succinct summation of the trouble that seems to dog her every step.  She is unable to forgive herself for past indiscretions, and because of that, is unable to accept God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy.

Charles McKinley is facing a different type of situation all together, but the results are the same.  He is trying to please others because he feels beholden to them for their help in some way.  He is unable to stand up for himself in the shadow of their control, and he finds himself facing decisions that make him very uncomfortable.

Charles and Elizabeth are able to find their way into each other’s worlds despite some pretty daunting odds.  I was intrigued to find, in the course of this novel, that human trafficking  of young girls has a  long and disturbing history in this country.  To find that the Mission in this novel is based on a real mission and the life of a real missionary was a powerful revelation!

The fact that this was a real battle that was chosen for these fictional characters makes the conclusions of their story both realistic and powerful as it reflects the transforming power of God’s grace upon the lives that it touches.  This is truly a unique and powerful combination of history, fiction and God’s grace! I am all too happy to recommend this novel to everyone!! 

About the Author:
Karen Barnett is the author of Beyond the AshesOut of the Ruins, and Mistaken. Named the 2013 Writer of Promise by Oregon Christian Writers, Karen lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband and two kids. When she's not writing novels, she loves speaking at women's events, libraries, and book clubs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Worth Living how God's wild love for you makes you worthy by Mary DeMuth - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Start living the confident, joyful life you were made for
In a world of comparison and competition, it's hard to remember that our true worth lies not in our circumstances, our achievements, or our failures. It doesn't even lie in how we react to those things. Our worth lies in God's unending love for us.

With deep compassion, Mary DeMuth dares you to believe that the God who started a good work in you is faithful to bring it to glorious completion. That the God who redeems you also loves you--right now and always--with a beautiful love. That you are a daughter of the King, always welcomed in his presence.

Discover here a future of strength and security, knowing that you are wildly loved and destined to have a great impact on the world around you.

My Thoughts:
The problem comes when we prefer the so-called comfort of a barred life to the open air of freedom.” (p.66)

Guess what?  That one sentence in this glorious, honest, God-loving, identity defining book sort of nailed me to the floor.  I’ve been fighting to break free from this familiar prison of guilt, shame and unworthiness for a very long time!  This book has given me the courage to break free from that bondage and step into the light of God’s wild-about-me love and begin walking in His redemptive freedom!!!   This is a divine appointment in my life, and I will sing  praises to God for a long time, thanking Him for guiding Mary to write this book!!

All of us, no matter where we come from, what we’ve been blessed with, or what life seems to have denied us, we all must learn to believe the truth of God’s Word rather than the lies of the enemy.  Many of us believe the lies of the enemy and walk in unworthiness from a very young age because of life-events or circumstances beyond our control.  Mary encourages all of us to recognize the lie and replace it with the truth of God’s Word.

Each chapter states the lie, then follows that with the truth of what God says about us.  The chapter ends with journal-worthy questions and a prayer.  Honestly, if you take the time to examine your own heart and answer the questions, you will not be the same person by the time you reach the end of the book!!  You will be walking  fully in your identity in Christ and be free from the lies you have always believed about yourself.

Readers, buy this book!! No matter if you think you have lived a charmed life, or if you feel like your life is the biggest mess on the planet, you will find hope, direction and healing in the pages of this book. Thank you, Mary Demuth for allowing God to use your life story to set others free!! PRAISE THE LORD!!! 

About the Author:

Mary DeMuth is a former church planter in France and the author of more than thirty books. A sought-after international speaker, she has overcome (through Jesus's healing) a difficult past to become an authentic example of what it means to live a brand new story. She lives in Texas with her family.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A View from Karen Pashley's Window - Precious In His Sight

I've not yet read this story, but was intrigued to talk with the author who has written a story that is speaking to so many who are walking through the war zone of infidelity.  Join me as I visit with Karen about her novel and her journey to publication!

Adultery, forgiveness, mercy….quite a combination of areas to tackle in a first novel! Can you give readers insight to the inspiration behind your story?

It sounds corny, but this entire story—the characters, the settings, the dilemma they face, it all came to me and played out in my mind like a movie while on a summer road trip through the mountains. I thought about it often, and more than two years later, I challenged myself to the task of transforming it into a novel. I’ve always felt called to encourage women, and am passionate about sharing the hope that Christ offers us. During the very long writing process (seven years) I went through some difficult health and family hardships that then translated into the struggles my characters faced. It was as if my journey (though not similar to the story line at all) became woven into the fabric of the novel.

Where do you think believers stumble the most when it comes to forgiveness and mercy?
I think our American Christian culture tends to compartmentalize sin into categories of our choosing. Some sin is tolerated as being a “struggle,” an “issue I’m working on,” or excused as being “part of the times we are living in.” While other sins represent lines in the sand that some Christians see as intolerable, and,more detestable than others. I wonder, though, on the day we all stand before the Lord, what it will be like when we realize that every single one of us are in the same boat, and need the same cleansing blood of Jesus. I wonder what we will think of our fellow sinners then. I hope we will all be elated that Jesus paid the price for us all, and He didn’t discriminate based on the labels we place on each other. Especially in the light of a grievous betrayal? Certainly, we all struggle with forgiveness. But, if we place our focus on Christ—on His love for us, and His good plans to turn a dark situation into something that glorifies Him, I know forgiveness is possible—and it is powerful. I’m not saying it’s easy. But aren’t the rewards of living free from bitterness worth it? How do we get there, you ask? Only through a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute surrender to His will, and by renewing our mind continually with the Word of God. Do you think, as a whole, that sometimes the church isn’t clear on the difference between contractual and covenant relationships? I don’t know that I’m qualified to have an opinion on that, but I think that if the members of the body of Christ could redirect their thoughts from their problems and the source of their problems and instead focus solely on the person of Christ and what He means to them individually, then relationships in general would thrive.

Do you think this is a novel that will have any appeal at all to someone whose life has been impacted by adultery and betrayal? Why or why not?

I’ve heard from women whose marriages ended after an adulterous situation, and they have found hope and comfort as they read about the main character and her struggle to forgive. That being said, I did hear from one woman who was finding it hard to read some of those deeply painful emotions, as they brought old wounds to the surface. I tried to be sensitive to readers’ real life scenarios as I wrote the book. I believe if someone is open to allowing God to minister to her broken heart, then she can receive hope and a lifting of her spirit by the end of this story. That’s my prayer—that by the end of the book, no matter what your journey has been, that you will feel hopeful and encouraged that with God all things are possible, and that He brings beauty out of ashes.

You made a statement recently; “We must work with God rather than running from Him in our hardships. We must never lose our hope. Storms will come. We shouldn’t fear them. With God, we can persevere with dignity and joy.” Can you expound on this a bit for your readers?

In my personal experience, I tend to handle difficulties much like a toddler pitching a fit. I immediately react with clenched fists, frustration, overwhelming fear—and in those moments of insanity, in the rush of emotions that flood my mind, I take my eyes off of the Lord. Thankfully, God is not put off by my outbursts. He understands my agony, and my humanness. He does not say, “Well, now you’ve pushed me too far. We’re done.” I’m so thankful He is a forgiving and merciful Father! So, when my runaway train of emotions finally comes to a halt, I unclench my fists, and I push the reset button. In an instant, Jesus is there, with outstretched arm, whispering, “Take my hand. Let’s walk this difficult road together. I’ll not leave you, I promise. We’ll get through it together.” I’ve learned that it is possible to experience peace and serenity even in the midst of intense pain and hardship. The hardship doesn’t disappear, but hand in hand with the Lord, I find strength.

Ultimately, we cannot place our hope solely in our desired outcome of a situation. We must place our hope in the person of Jesus Christ—He alone is the hope of glory in us and through us.

What have you learned about the writing process now that your first book has been published?

That it is much, much more than just writing a good story. There are revisions. And then revisions of the revisions. Editing, marketing, developing relationships with people in the industry and with readers—writing is not for the faint of heart!

Are you able to give us a sneak peek into your writing schedule and tell us if there are any more stories that are waiting in the wings?

Sure! I am almost finished with a novel study guide that will be a companion to ‘Precious in His Sight.’ It’s a compilation of personal stories that relate to the deep themes in the novel, along with biblical insights, questions for group or individual reflection, and journal prompts. I think it will be great for bible studies and women’s groups as a short term workshop. And for book clubs who want to dig a little deeper as a follow up to the novel. I’m also working on a sequel to “Precious in His Sight,’ and am looking forward to offering it to fans of the first book early in 2017.

How has the journey to publication impacted your faith journey?

During the course of this seven year writing journey, I went through some pretty intense storms of my own. I battled a debilitating and violent illness that was very tough. My family and I were blindsided by the heartbreaking discovery that one of our children was battling an opiate addiction. Some days, it was hard just to get out of bed and keep going, and yet, when I sat at my computer and thought about the characters in this book, the tough circumstances in my own journey, and my struggle to see God’s goodness in any of it, my experience became part of the characters’ journey. Putting myself into each of the characters’ shoes led me to a deeper understanding of God’s faithfulness and His daily outpouring of love for me. 

What words of encouragement would you like to share with others who are working toward

First, there a many viable options to get your work published. Don’t be shy! Seek out other writers and published authors and ask questions. Writers are the most generous people I’ve ever known when it comes to sharing their knowledge, experience and time. And resolve to be patient! You’ll go through ups and downs, you’ll blow your writing goals from time to time, and you’ll feel like quitting once in a while. Stick with it. The reward of completing something that is uniquely you is worth all the late nights, cramped fingers, and re-writes. Persevere, trust God, and have fun.

Precious In His Sight by Karen Pashley

About the Book:
A determined wife, her guilt-ridden husband, and the other woman, whose struggle may set them all free . . .

What if your husband was cheating? What would you do?

Feisty, tenacious, and adorably flawed, Sugar Brennan is fiercely committed to her family, her traditional Christian values, and her spotless reputation in her affluent Southern community. When she discovers her husband Clay has been unfaithful, Sugar is determined to right the wrongs in her life.

Then Clay's former mistress returns to Westfield with devastating news, posing a heart-wrenching dilemma that challenges Sugar to rethink all she's believed about faith, family, and the healing power of forgiveness.

She's been raised in a preacher's home, taught to love her enemies.

She's got the fish sticker on her car and a collection of good works under her belt.

But . . . reach out to the woman who nearly destroyed her marriage? Surely God wouldn't ask her to go that far.

I've not yet read this book, but have lived the reality that threatens this marriage.  My marriage didn't survive the storm, but I'm intrigued to find out how this character handles the situation.  Number One on the Christian fiction reading list since it hit the shelves, I'm quite certain it is making a positive impact.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Someone Like You by Victoria Bylin - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Someone Like You (Bethany House, May 2016)

Single mom Julia Dare has a lot on her plate.

A brand new Christian, Julia is busy trying to run her own business, spend time with her widowed mother, and raise her young son, Max, despite his father's less-than-ideal influence on him. When a big account from her event-planning business sends her to the Caliente Springs resort, she's shocked to come face-to-face with Zeke Monroe, the resort's general manager and her college sweetheart.

With his faith in tatters, Zeke Monroe is determined to keep the historic Caliente Springs resort running despite financial difficulties. But when Julia walks back into his life, he can't ignore the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client's dream wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. When Zeke and Julia are pushed to their limits both personally and professionally, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?

Purchase you copy HERE.

My Thoughts: 
“Tap…Tap…Tap.”  (p. 266)

I’m not going to spoil this…sound…and reveal its source, but I want you to listen for it as you read Victoria Bylin’s book, Someone Like You.  This is THE BEST and most REALISTIC story of relationships I’ve read lately!!  I was expecting something far different from the treasure  I found!

This novel deals with many kinds of relationships - familial, romantic and spiritual.  Bylin weaves all of these relationships together seamlessly and the result is breathtaking!  I can’t really share too much, because I don’t want to spoil a moment!  But if you will listen for the “tap…tap…tap…” you will enjoy the richness of its conclusion more that I can begin to describe!

I think what spoke to me the most was the fact that the main characters were realistically flawed , and they had embraced what they perceived to be failure , and that perception was coloring their entire world.  Does sin have consequence?  Most certainly! Can God redeem those consequences?  Definitely!! Julia and Zeke’s story is a beautiful story of God’s grace and mercy that will impact your faith in a powerful way! 

Don’t miss this novel!! It is a treasure of great value!  So much to enjoy! So much to digest!  So many rich blessings to take away!!  And read this novel with your ears open….Tap. Tap. Tap.

About the Author:

Victoria Bylin writes contemporary and historical romances known for their realistic, relatable characters. Her work has finaled in contests such as the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and the RT Reviewers' Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky.

Check out the great give-away HERE!!

Monday, May 16, 2016

My Toddler Bible - REVIEW

About the Book:
Fans of Chris Embleton-Hall's cheerfully distinctive artwork will be eager to see this new Bible! Twenty stories--nine from the Old Testament and eleven from the New--are retold in a concise and friendly manner in a rounded, easy-to-read font. Very, very bright, and very, very fun!

My Thoughts:
I know it is a small detail for many, but the second story in the Toddler Bible was a put-off to the intention and accuracy of this entire book.  The author chose illustrations that show Adam and Eve dressed in fig leaves as they till the soil and  plant seed.  She totally negates the first blood sacrifice and the need for blood to cover sin.

I thought the whole point of introducing toddler’s to God’s Word was to begin to teach them their need for a Savior.  Yes, the crucifixion is included, as is the resurrection, but even toddlers need to know that God’s plan of redemption was in place from the moment Adam and Eve left the garden.  Yes the redemptive parables are included, (lost sheep, prodigal son) and some of the miracles of Jesus, so this  is a basic introduction of the major and most well-known Bible stories.

The illustrations are engaging and colorful, and the language is simple and straightforward.  This is a good introduction to God’s Word for any toddler.  My only complaint is that a very important detail was passed over, and that was off-putting to me.  Accuracy should be paramount when God’s Word is being represented. 

About the Author:
Juliet David has written many children's stories and Bible activity books. Her other interests include painting, music, and travel to Israel and other Bible lands. This experienced author lives in London with her family.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Sister Dear (Thomas Nelson, April 2016)

All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?

Convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish --- time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.

But Allie's return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie's claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.

As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret---one that holds the key to Allie's freedom.

Buy your copy HERE!!

My Thoughts:
People accepted the stories they were told.” (p. 77)

This one sentence – simple, innocuous and found early in Laura McNeill’s story – captures a profound truth.  It make me almost hyperventilate when I face this truth in all of its meaning.  Yes, this story captures a completely human, and very Southern, way of behavior – keeping secrets and twisting the truth so other believe the reality you need them to believe so you can gain the support for your own twisted motives.

Okay, I know this is a strong statement, birthed out of my own life being torn to shreds by secrets and lies and manipulation…and thankfully, my reality wasn’t as brutal as Allie Marshall’s in the book!! But oh, how I related to the depth of the deception she faced at the end of this story!!  Oh my!! If this author isn’t Southern, then she has studied their behavior very carefully!  Good grief!! Makes me skin crawl!

This is a fabulously told tale that captures the insidious nature of pride, the secrets that it keeps, and the manipulation needed to keep said pride intact!  The totally sold out, I-don’t-care-who-gets-hurt belief that your own story/needs/desires trump everyone else.  Oh my word!! This story nails it!!

You will bite your fingernails OFF before you reach the end!!  It is good!  But oh my!! Too close to home!! Still shivering!!!    I HATE secrets!!  HATE ‘em!! 

About the Author:
Laura McNeill is a writer, web geek, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a graduate program in interactive technology at the University of Alabama. When she's not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in Mobile, AL with her family.

I'm Reading intermittently through major life changes. Review tomorrow....

Please be patient.  I'm still here!!

Monday, May 9, 2016

The End of Law by Therese Down - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Two SS officers—both involved in Hitler's Final Solution, both in love with a beautiful woman— but only one can live with his conscience 
Therese Down delivers a powerful story set in Berlin in the 1930s and early 1940s and woven around the fortunes of three people: an ambitious SS officer, Walter Gunter; his naĆ­ve wife, Hedda; and a guilt-ridden SS officer, Karl Muller.

Gunter— intensely loyal to the Third Reich, entirely ruthless, with dreams of military renown—is outraged to be placed in charge of the T4 euthanasia program.

Muller, an engineer and trainee doctor, reluctantly oversees the safe delivery of lethal gases and drugs to the killing centers, and is required to convert shower rooms and bathrooms into gas chambers in commandeered hospitals and prisons. Both detest their jobs.

Meanwhile Hedda is treated with increasing brutality by her sadistic and permanently enraged husband. Desperate to protect her two young children, she faces agonizing choices of her own.

A magnificent and meticulously researched novel based on real people and events, The End of Law focuses on the difficult moral choices made by soldiers and civilians under a corrupt regime, and on the disruptive power of an awakened conscience.

My Thoughts:
The decade between 1935-1945 was brutal in many ways.  Germany suffered the most nightmarish part of the atrocities of that decade under Hitler’s evil regime.  Therese Down captures the brutality of this time period from many viewpoints, but primarily through the eyes of an SS Officer and his wife and children.  As the decade progresses and the atrocities increase in number and brutality, the effect of that horror becomes evident in the lives of this family.

Yes, there is a transformational change in the life where faith hangs on with brute tenaciousness, but overall this book captures the hopelessness and darkness that reigned throughout all those who suffered through this era.  I think this is an important book for that very reason.  We need to remember so we are not tempted to repeat those same atrocities.

I think Down’s  work is brilliant, detailed, realistic and engaging.  Her characters  - from SS Officer Walter Gunther to his innocent daughter so bravely defended by her mother – all are made real through her writing.  Many are based on real life characters, and that adds even more depth.

It is a book that is hard to put down.  I can’t call it an enjoyable read, but it is most certainly significant and style and content!  I HIGHLY recommend this novel!

About the Author:
Therese Down is currently working as the Head of English at a High School in England and has been teaching English Literature and Language for over twenty years in a range of schools and colleges. She holds a MA in Employment Law and is experienced in personnel management.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A View from Daryl Boyer's Window - The Cleansing!

I told you last week that I would be back this week with an interview that went in depth on Daryl Boyer's project, The Cleansing.  God is sending out a trumpet call to His children right now, and I am so thankful to share with you what He has done in Daryl's ministry!  Enjoy your time with Daryl!

Daryl Boyer…..introduce yourself!  How was The Cleansing conceived, and how did it become a reality?

                I am a Worship Director, Youth Pastor, husband, and father to three beautiful daughters.  I am originally from Michigan but now reside with my family in South Jersey.
                I began a journey in June of 2014 that would change not only my life, but really my entire way of thinking about the Lord, reaching out to the people around me, and the content of the songs that I would write and share with others in the months ahead. While I was on vacation in June of 2014, The Lord began to show me that he wanted His church to get a greater understanding of what it means to be made new, to really truly be cleansed and refined in Him. Now at the time I had very little understanding myself what that actually looked like in its fullness. Yes, I had already had a relationship with the Lord, but did I really truly understand what that meant know the fullness of God’s cleansing process over my own life? 
Over the next few months God began to take me to scriptures in my time with Him that started to unwrap His heart for me in new ways. I began to now see all the things Christ wanted me to become through all He did on the cross in a way I had not seen or considered before. I began to now see that I had been made a new creation that was given an authority to walk out the things God declared I could be. I began to see that becoming a new creation and becoming all that God had for me was about yielding and receiving., not about a 12 step striving process. I finally began to understand that as I yield and fully surrender, it was giving God the permission to reveal His heart to me. In this season God began to clean away years of wrong thinking that focused on what I did wrong instead of who He said he had made me to be.  He showed me to focus forward and leave the past behind in the refining fire.
                In March of 2015 after attending a “Power and Love” conference with Todd White and Robby Dawkins, I had been given the full and life changing perspective on exactly what the Lord desired for my life.  I would charge forward in making an album The Cleansing, that would talk about the heart of God  toward us and His refining process, a process that is fully life changing for all when we yield completely to His refining hand and stop striving to clean ourselves up.

Have you always considered yourself a musician? How has God used music to mold your life into His image?

                I was always a very musical child growing up, I started singing at a very young age and playing guitar when I was about 10 years old. As I got older and was playing in various bands I began to see the value in using my talent and gifts for worship and for honoring God. I believe fully that because of my willingness to submit to the Lord in the use of my talents, He is able to shape and mold my music into exactly what His heart desires. I am certain that in that submission, and in that process, my life is equally  transformed more into His image along the journey.

This project seems to be filled with a heart cry for believers to be fully submitted to God’s presence and direction in their life.  The title song of the album – The Cleansing – prayerfully asks; “Lay me down on the altar of your refining fire, to be the one you’ve called me to be.”  What is the story behind this song?

The song The Cleansing is really about understanding exactly who Christ has called us to be as a new creation in Him. The real life and heart change for all of us comes when we drop the idea from our system that says we can somehow clean ourselves up by our daily actions in order to be worthy representatives of Christ in the eyes of the world and of the Father. It is true that we should desire to walk in a way worthy of Christ’s pleasure for us, but we must first be fully dead to ourselves and our ways of doing things in order for that to manifest a change of fruit.  The fruits of what we can offer the world will become what God puts on our branches, as we let Him trim away the dead and useless branches in our lives and place them on the fire. We need Christ to burn away the things of the old man so that the new man is all that is allowed to remain.
Romans 6: 5-6 (mirror translation) says it like this: “(5.)We were like seeds planted together in the same soil, to be co-quickened to life. If we were included in his death we are equally included in his resurrection. (6.) We perceive that our old lifestyle was co-crucified together with him”; this concludes that the vehicle that accommodated sin in us, was scrapped and rendered entirely useless. Our slavery to sin has come to an end.

Amen for that! We have indeed been given the invitation to receive this as truth.  We just have to willingly make the choice to surrender ourselves up to the process of allowing God to truly replace the old man with the new man. It is about an entire lifestyle change that is born as a result of our full submission to the refining and re-birthing process.  The Cleansing is indeed about walking out each day knowing that we live a new life  in Christ Jesus , one that is complete with a whole new identity in Him.

Do you lead worship in your church? 

I am the Worship Director  and enjoy leading worship for my home church on the weeks that I am not ministering on the road. Christ Fellowship Church in Seaville, NJ is currently my home church and foundation where I try to invest all that I can when I am not traveling. I believe it is important that everyone establishes roots and serves in a church somewhere. I enjoy serving  at Christ Fellowship under the leadership of Lead Pastor Andrew Surace.

Has music opened up doors to minister in unique ways?  In what ways?

I believe music has opened up many opportunities for me to minister in unique ways. Truth is, there are always curious people in every concert and in every service that are looking for a real experience with the Lord. Sometimes we can spot these people in the room, or we may even already know them. Either way, we do not always have the right words to say, or the ability to help people receive those words. I have found that time and time again in the midst of my lack for spoken words of comfort, Christ always steps in the midst of the music. It seems that music can always do what normal words from our lofty thinking never can in general conversation. Music often picks up where our human thinking leaves off or looses effectiveness.
I think that people are moved because the music and worship to the Lord is a direct line to our spirit. When our spirit is being moved and positioned toward the Lord, God is always able to move in unique and unexpected ways. The precious and unique move of God often comes on the wave of great worship.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had with a listener since you’ve released this project?

I think that one of the most memorable experiences for me has been that of a women I had not previously known who was battling cancer. Shortly after her hearing the album I was informed of the impact it had had on her.  It was truly humbling and powerful to hear how God had used my song “Just In Time” (track 10 on the album) to bring about a new level of hope to her in a time she was really needing to experience all of Gods hope, mercy, provision, and love. She was able to draw from the music of the CD to further find faith for her healing from the Lord. It blows my mind, how amazing the Lord is!

Where do you find inspiration to write your music?

I usually find my music inspiration through the things that I am dealing with in my own life, or in the midst of something God is showing me. Sometimes I write a song based on a scripture or prayer revelation the Lord is showing  me in a certain subject or situation. Ultimately, the truth is that outside of the Holy Spirit's direction the songs are just another run of the mill song. The real inspiration and power for the song comes from the Lord. I know for me the biggest part is getting alone with my guitar or on the piano, hitting record, and then just taking my time as I listen to the Lord playing what flows from my spirit. This is probably the method I used to write half of the album “The Cleansing.” I feel that the Holy Spirit moving in us writes the best songs, and then we get to sing them to express God's heart if we are willing. What an honor it is!

What is the most personally meaningful song on this project? Why?

The most meaningful song on this album for me is the Title track “The Cleansing.” From day one of having the album theme and concept picked before the songs were even written, I just knew in this song the Lord was going to deliver something powerful in its completion.  The title track was actually one of the last songs that I completed in the demo process, before taking the full game plan to Nashville for it's completion. I love the way that the song really walks through such a gentle invitation to come  draw close to Christ' love and grace. I also love the way that the song points out God's perfect love as being the core fuel in the refining process over our lives.  It is so important that all God's children understand His desire is to manifest His unconditional love over our lives, in the process of being refined in Him.
What do you hope listeners find in the message of this album? What do you hope they take away from this album?

My biggest prayer for listeners is that they find new freedom, understanding, and truth in Christ. I want God’s children to see that they have an irreplaceable value in Him because they are His. Their value is not established by what they may or may not get perfectly right each day. Christ knew full well who he died for when he went to the cross, and He saw us all as worth the price.  God has declared us all to be identified in Him as a new creation, filled with His goodness and love, and overflowing with His presence. I want for people to get a revelation of who Christ says they are in Him, and He sees them.

My desire is to see God's children free from the mindset that says they are just a hopeless sinner.  Satan wants us fixated on starting our day thinking we are just a sinner. God wants us to start our day remembering that He made us a son and delivered us from sin’s grasp and bondage.  Christ died for us to become sons in His kingdom.  We are here and breathing to represent Christ well, by making the focus be about Him in us, and not about us and our flesh. I want people to understand Christ has made all things new in the hearts of His children, it's about stepping into that understanding, and walking in that truth. Christ in us is the Hope of His perfect Glory!

What would you say to encourage others who feel like God has called them to be worshippers through their music?

I would say to go all in with an unquenchable passion, really seek the Lord in everything you step out in along the way. Leading worship and sharing worship that is designed to move hearts before the father, comes from a life that is submitted fully before the Lord.  It requires a daily place of continued submission. He will bless your offering of submission and take your musical gift and bring forth more then you ever could in your own strength. I would also say that it is important to understand the honor that comes to a Worship Leader in being entrusted with taking God's children into His presence during worship as well as in everyday life. Chase the Lord with all your heart, use all your gifts unselfishly, and really enjoy His presence. The more you continue to make it about the Lord, the more the Lord will bless your worship. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Inheritance by Michael Phillips - REVIEWED

About the Book:
The death of the clan patriarch has thrown the tiny Shetland Islands community of Whale's Reef into turmoil.

Everyone assumed MacGregor Tulloch's heir to be his grand-nephew David, a local favorite, but when it is discovered that MacGregor left no will, David's grasping cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island's land. And while Hardy doesn't enjoy much popular support, he has the backing of a shadowy group of North Sea oil investors. The courts have frozen the estate's assets while the competing claims are investigated, leaving many of the residents in financial limbo. The future of the island-and its traditional way of life-hangs in the balance.

Loni Ford is enjoying her rising career in a large investment firm in Washington, DC. Yet in spite of her outward success, she is privately plagued by questions of identity. Orphaned as a young child, she was raised by her paternal grandparents, and while she loves them dearly, she feels completely detached from her roots. That is until a mysterious letter arrives from a Scottish solicitor. . . .

Past and present collide in master storyteller Phillips's dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace, and of the dreams of men and women everywhere.

Purchase you copy HERE!

My Thoughts:
Help me, Lord – help me know what to do.” (p. 353)

Loni Ford’s whispered prayer is born in a rather desperate place.  She finds herself in a position to choose a completely different path that that of an executive  assistant in a large investment firm in D.C. Not only does she discover a rich heritage of loyalty and faith, but she finds herself in the Shetland Islands in a “cottage” left to her as an inheritance. She has no idea that her inheritance sits amid much turmoil!

Michael Phillips is an author who I’ve been reading for decades!  He was my introduction to Christian fiction when it was a fledging genre.  Through the years, I’ve come to know that any time his name is on the cover, I am about to enjoy an epic tale filled with characters who become residence of my heart and mind in a way that makes it hard to put the story down! 

The Inheritance is no exception! In fact, this reminded me why I began reading Christion Fiction all those years ago.  The characters struggle with the timeless things all believers face, and their story is enriched with a deep and fascinating history that is flawlessly woven among the chapters so the reader becomes fully engaged in every aspect of the novel!

This novel begins a tale that leaves many things unresolved, and that makes me happy with anticipation that I will be able to enjoy more time with this fantastic group of characters!  I can’t wait to see what develops as Loni steps into her heritage!  (she has to, right?!) 

I HIGHLY recommend this novel!! 

About the Author:
Michael Phillips is a bestselling author with more than 70 of his own titles. In addition, he has served as editor/redactor of nearly 30 more books. He is known as the man responsible for the reawakened interest in George MacDonald of the last 30 years. In addition to the MacDonald titles adapted/edited for today's reader, his publishing efforts in bringing back full-length quality facsimile editions also spawned renewed interest in MacDonald's original work. Michael and his wife, Judy, spend time each year in Scotland but make their home near Sacramento, California.