Take Hold: “Taking Hold” of all God has for you

51SWNKNxuiL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_“Settling is not your destiny…” With a tag-line like that, how could I not read this book? Having been on my own personal journey of discovering what it means to have the fullness of life Jesus talks about in John 10 the last couple of years, the title of Sharon Jaynes’ latest book grabbed my attention. In it, Sharon invites the reader to tread deeper in faith, to live boldly for Jesus and take hold His promises by letting go of the insecurities, fears, unforgiveness, comparisons and a number of other worldly things that hold His precious children back. Take Hold opened my eyes to a few things I hadn’t considered before and challenged my own perceptions of the events of my own testimony by looking through Sharon’s eyes and her own life experiences. Because of the truth sprinkled throughout this book, I’ve chosen to give God access to those very areas that I’m afraid of and let Him do with them what He will…it is for my own benefit. While not an easy ready (Sharon goes deep), I definitely recommend reading this book. If you’re looking to dig a little deeper and apply these truths to your life, there is a Bible study in the back of the book.
This book was part of a launch team package issued by the publisher.

Book Review: Jesus Swagger: Break Free from Poser Christianity

Let’s be honest. When one hears or reads the term “swagger,” it causes one to pause. At least it did me. When I see the word, I envision someone with an arrogant aura about him and hipster-style clothing. Not that I have anything against hipsters, mind you. Jared Wilson, however, defines swagger as “a person’s style – the way they talk, walk and dress.” He takes it another level deeper: Real or fake. Arrogant or humble. Inclusive or exclusive. All words I’ve heard used to describe today’s Christians.

Wilson and many other authors have explored this topic a lot in recent years. I applaud this group for shedding light on what is so blatantly obvious to those outside the church: poser Christianity. In other words, lukewarm Christians. Talk and walk do not match and they’ve gotten too comfortable with their faith.

I feel that Wilson’s treatment of the topic is adequate, but not quite even. Perhaps in an effort to not come across as sounding too preachy. Overall, it’s an easy read, but be sure to take some time to really grasp what he’s trying to say.

Would I recommend this book? A tentative yes. If you’re looking for a easy-to-read, gentle place to start on this topic, this is the book for you.

This book was provided by the publisher in return for a review.


Book Review: Life is _____. by Judah Smith

_240_360_Book_1523_cover Judah Does it Again — Leaves the Reader Wanting More:

I loved his first book, “Jesus is ____” and found a similar connection to this book. The author has done a great job at presenting a topic he knows all too well, namely that God is crazy about us and that Jesus came so that we could have life to the full. Many of the analogies Judah uses will hit home for the reader. He speaks in today’s language, using day-to-day terms (like Spandex and carbs) to hit a point home. I found his humor to be refreshing and on par with my own outlook on life and the reader is left relishing in the fact that God loves him or her. Deeply.

I highly recommend either getting your own copy or borrowing it from your local library. This refreshing take on the gospel is a must read and won’t leave you disappointing. If anything, you’ll be left wanting more – of God.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book courtesy of Booklook Bloggers.

perfect love casts out fear

What exactly does that mean? I’ve been learning that this last week. Well, God has probably been trying to get through that wall for quite some time and it’s finally starting to sink in.wpid-eebb16dd1b0f7b9227d3d3582585ccee.jpg

1 John 4: 18 reads:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”

I’ve been blessed with some great friends, but there are a couple that currently come to my mind when I hear the phrases real and authentic. This last year hasn’t exactly been easy on any of us. They’ve been facing their own storm while I’ve been dealing with mine and because of the depth of our relationship, I hurt when they hurt. I’ve recently discovered how true it is vice versa.

There’s something about the fact that our storms have seemed to coincide with one another. Mine exploded on the scene two weeks after theirs’ began. And this week, during the six month mark, their storm has reached a climax of sorts. Not wanting to burden their-already-full plate, I’ve kept my own personal pain and issues to myself this last week. Side note: I don’t recommend doing that. Ever. If you’re struggling with something, share it with someone, but share it with love, grace and take great care in who you share that information with.

As I mentioned, their storm, although not over, culminated this week. I received a phone call mid-afternoon with the bare minimum when it came to details (fact: that never sits well with me, detail-oriented gal that I am). At the time, I figured that was all the pertinent information they were able to give at that time and I didn’t feel I had the right to ask any additional questions I may have had as I was still at the office. But under the surface, I didn’t want a repeat of the week that all hell broke loose in their lives, and yet, I wanted to give them both the space and time they needed while still trying to be there for them. I even went to the gym – as planned – in an effort to burn off some of the emotional stress. Not all of it, apparently.

I didn’t want to invade my friends’ privacy nor did I want to come across as too nosy while give her the space I knew she needed, so I reached out through a private message, not expecting any response. I got one that didn’t sit well with me.

One of the many things that drives me bonkers with social media, email and texting is that you cannot hear inflection or tone, as you can with a phone call or speaking with them face-to-face,  nor can you read body language, as you can in person. So many things can be misunderstood and become twisted.

The message I got back was filled with periods. Very straight forward. Direct. Too the point. And cold.

Too cold.

I didn’t like it.

My heart didn’t like it.

I wasn’t sure if I should or even could reach out to her husband, so I chose to hold off. Before long, my mind reverted to my usual M.O. – the one where I, ever the optimist, dive off the deep end into the land of worst-case scenarios. It’s like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to relationships, as it has seemed to when I look back. The lie that Satan spins when it comes to “this relationship being too good to be true” comes to fruition when he starts pushing my buttons. Believe me when I say he knows where to hit it just right. I was under spiritual attack and that attack led an attack mentally and emotionally. Maybe even a little bit physically. I was tempted to shut the door and walk away before life got any messier than it already was. It was an invitation to take the coward’s way out.

Then God hit me with what I like to call a Gibbs to the backside of the head with the truth (if you’ve seen NCIS, you know to what I’m referring…than you pop culture!), metaphorically speaking.

Truth #1: I am not a coward.

Truth #2: I am a daughter of God and I can do all things through him — I can remain content no matter the situation. I can stand strong in him in the face of adversity. And I can be still in the midst of any storm life may throw my way.

Truth #3: I am loved and I am known. Deeply, unconditionally and completely.

Truth #4: I was not going to walk away from something good; something God himself brought into my life at a time when I needed it most. It was evident that I still needed this very good thing.

This relationship is real.

Life isn’t always easy. It’s messy and beautiful broken in ways I’m just starting to see.

It was/is time for my walls to come down; to let others in; to let them see the real me — all of me. I’m not even sure I know who she is…we’re still getting to know each other. But God knows her and thinks she’s pretty amazing and worth knowing. Here goes…

God is doing something amazing in my life with this relationship and I don’t want to miss it.

I had finally reached a point in my evening where I’d had enough of moping around and making assumptions I had no right to make. I knew this downward spiral wasn’t my best yes and it wouldn’t stop unless I chose to stop it. I also knew that I wouldn’t sleep unless I spoke with someone; someone who knows me, knows my heart and was in the midst of the storm that was swirling.

I knew the one directly facing the circumstances wasn’t going to be in a place to speak, so I called the other.

He answered on the first ring.

The conversation that followed is one of the hardest and best I’ve gotten to experience this side of eternity. It was raw and it was real. There were tears and the invitation to carry one another’s burdens widened even further. Love and deep appreciation were reaffirmed. Real love. The kind that drives out fear.

1 John 4:18 was taking root in my heart as we spoke.

I’ve never – and I mean “never” – had a relationship like this before. I’ve gone through the majority of my life assuming I would always have relationships that would never get any deeper than sub-surface (not to the heart level, anyway) and that they would come and go with the changes in life, like they always seemed to. When the going got tough, people walked away. I’ve believed the lie that grew in my heart when I was a child — that I would never have long-lasting ,deeper-than-surface (or sub-surface) level relationships because I’m too sensitive; too neurotic at times; too “me.”

What a crock!

Experiencing this is a first for me. I’m not perfect. I’m going to mess up. I’m going to say and do stupid things that a simple “backspace” or “delete” won’t undo. There’s a lot of hurt beneath the surface of what others see; a lot of things that God and I are working through. Those things will take time to work through and heal and it will only happen if I choose to face it. I don’t want to miss out. I’m deeply grateful for their patience and love. I’m starting to learn to believe and starting to comprehend just what it means to really have someone in my corner, God included; to have someone truly mean it when they say that won’t be giving up on you.

It’s one thing to experience unconditional love from family, but it’s another to receive that love from someone who hasn’t seen the ins and outs of day-to-day living and all that comes with it.

I’m in awe.

God’s love is like that. The only difference is that his love isn’t based on our human condition. I don’t have to earn it. I don’t have to fight for it. It’s based on who He is.

This love isn’t just available to me. It’s available to everyone, including you. It doesn’t matter what your past holds or what your present circumstances are. It’s all about him. It comes down to a choice: choosing him. It’s a choice that needs to be made each day…sometimes each moment. Will you let him love you where right where you are?

a christmas testimony, 2014

To give means to freely transfer the possession of something to someone. God gave. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world, loved us, so much that He gave Himself so that we could have eternal life; so that we could have Him if we choose to believe in and follow Him.

That’s one of the key messages of the gospel: God showered upon us His unconditional love, great mercy, and generous grace. Christmas is about giving all of that and so much more.

Jesus said that it is “better to give than to receive” (reference Acts 20:35).

God gave.

You gave and continue to give.

My family and I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting over the last year and our time here at Living Rock. I recall a message from July about being tested. We have been in so many ways. We’ve seen God’s hand at work in all of this and can still say that although we don’t understand what He’s doing, we trust that He is ultimately good. He gave us that message about being tested, preparing us for what was to come. We count this trial as pure joy because this testing is building perseverance in our faith and depth in our relationships with one another.

In October, through the “Jesus Is…” series, we talked of God’s provision and He has so graciously provided in every way imaginable and continues to provide. God knows our needs and He’s met them before we were even aware of them. He has given us so much. He brought us to Living Rock, knowing we would need support from the body of Christ in our darkest hour. Prior to calling Ashley home, He sent our hired hands who have been there through thick and thin and continue to do the work required to get us all through the day. He provided the foundation we continue to build our faith upon. He gave us you; our community and our home.

Paul talks about giving thanks in all circumstances in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. We are so incredibly grateful – grateful for the time we had with Ashley; grateful for the gift of His Son, Jesus; grateful for the gift of eternal life by faith; grateful for the body; grateful for you. Because of you – your ongoing support, unconditional love and grace – we’ve come to a deeper understanding of what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. Thank you for being the love of God in our lives. Mere words cannot express the depth of gratitude we feel and that is the message God has given us this Christmas. All the glory goes back to Him.

As this Christmas season is upon us, we ask that you continue to pray for us as we continue to heal and also pray for forgiveness as God has forgiven us, but not to forget where we have been or where we are at as we move forward.

Song of the Season: “For All that You Have Done” – Rend Collective


Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my soul’s forever song
My story and my light

From mountain top to valley low
Through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that You have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm

In unity we’ll stand as one
As family we’ll go
Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand
Into the great unknown