Book Review: The Daughter of Highland Hall

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The Daughter of Highland Hall, is a winsome story of love prevailing against all odds. Author, Carrie Turansky, does an excellent job of detailing her characters from the inside out. Every reader will find themselves somewhere within the intricacies of an individual personality. Turansky seamlessly carries the plot from the prequel, The Governess of Highland Hall, into the love story of the next generation.

The formality and exclusivity of London’s high society threaten to keep John and Katherine apart. John is compelled to serve God with his life, but torn between whether continue his father’s missionary work in India or work among the poverty stricken in London. Katherine is pressured by her aunt Louisa to pursue a wealthy husband and elevate her family’s status.

Carrie Turansky highlights the qualities of morality, faithfulness, humility, forgiveness and service in this story.

While fairly predictable, The Daughter of Highland Hall, is still a compelling story. Every night, I looked forward a quiet hour entering the lives of this endearing family.

Got Troubles? Here’s What To Do…

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Please enjoy this guest post by Esse Johnson:

Alesia Brown recently interviewed me on Touch A Heart Talk Show about my blog post, Breakthrough Now: From Stress to Rest. In the post I exhort that Jesus does not want you to bounce from joy to fear, paycheck to paycheck, and breakthrough to breakthrough, but from glory to glory, peace to peace, and faith to faith. That is, the breakthrough you need is not foremostly in the natural, but in you.
Fill in the blank. The Bible says, “Be anxious for _____________.”

Real People, Real Problems
A man called in to ask the question on everybody’s mind, essentially saying: yeah, but what do you say to the people struggling to pay bills every month? Maybe it seemed like I was out of touch, preaching from an ivory tower with no personal understanding of the struggles of life. I didn’t emphasize enough of my past and how I lived by miraculous provision for years. In any case, he was very kind and not just spewing out doubt. He genuinely needed an answer from the perspective of nitty gritty reality.

This is why Jesus was born in a dirty shed, made to rest in a cow-feeder (manger) and raised among common people, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15 NIV). These truths don’t change just because we face challenges in the natural. It’s precisely then that we get to show up as real believers!

The caller mentioned the failing economy and the housing market. I imagined a single mother working full time and barely making ends meet. He asked me for the top two or three things I would say to people like the single mother in my mind. How can I expect them to find peace?

Lord, I thought, give me not just a word that is true, but the “now” word of Truth that will birth faith in every listener (Rom 10:17).
Before I could think, the words just flew out my mouth like a bird from a cage: ACT LIKE A BELIEVER!

The Gentiles Worry
The normal Christian life is filled with the fruits of the Spirit, which don’t include fear, worry, anxiety, or freaking out. They are love, joy, and peace. If you walk in fear, you’re acting like an unbeliever. The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing. Don’t worry about what you’ll eat or drink or wear. Seek peace and pursue it. Be diligent to enter His rest. You know these verses. The scriptures are so clear; yet, we allow ordinary challenges and circumstances to rock us way off the Rock.

“So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things (Mt 6:31-33 GNT).

That’s the word. Either you believe it and act like it, or you don’t, and you act like a Gentile. Faith is a gift, but believing is a choice.

Forgive me for sounding harsh. It’s not against you, but against the oppressor, and for you.

What does the King “require of you”?

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (Jn 6:29 NLT).

Hallelujah! The word for “believe” (pisteuó) means “entrust.” To believe is not an intellectual exercise. It means to entrust yourself to Jesus. Entrust your life, finances, children, fitness, health, everything to Him. That’s acting like a believer. Every challenge is allowed in order that you might draw nearer to Jesus.

Your faithfulness to Jesus (through trust) draws heaven; but anxiety and fear attract darkness. Those emotions put you in agreement with the powers of darkness. If the Kingdom suffers violence and the violent take it by force, a Christian responds to a trial with violent diligence to cast her anxieties on the Lord, seek peace and pursue it, refuse to doubt God, go deeper in intimacy and worship. The other stuff is of the flesh, and (fill in the blank) the flesh profits _______________.

My Testing

Ever since I released that word, I have been tested it seems on every front. It’s not the first time. I’ve lived “lean” by supernatural provision alone. I’ve lived rich and poor. I’ve believed for healing. I’ve learned to act like a Christian. I’m so thankful the Lord is testing me so I can be reminded how the Spirit is faithful to rise up and multiply grace and peace to me when things in the natural seem to be falling apart. That caller maybe thought I was speaking from an ivory tower, but I was in the thick of it myself. Nevertheless, in eternity, God will remember that I chose not to doubt Him, but to remain in His rest and bring glory to His name. This is the secret behind miracles. It’s relying on Him alone.
Beloved, God is not challenged by your natural circumstances. He’s working day and night to teach you to set your mind on things above, and not things of the earth (Col 3:2).

The scripture says to be anxious for NOTHING. That eliminates the option to worry about bills, kids, even matters of life and death. I didn’t write it. He did.

I love how The Message translates this scripture (Phil 4:16):
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life (MSG).

And:
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil (Ps 37:8 ESV).
You are more than a conqueror. You are a supernatural being. Want to see miracles? When trials come, don’t spin your wheels. See the plan and intent of God by drawing near to Him. God, I thank You for giving my friend Your spirit of wisdom and understanding, even as Moses, to know the ways of God. Let nothing shake you from the assurance of faith.

If ever there was a rebellion, it is choosing fear and worry over the Holy Spirit who produces peace in you. I say this with tenderness of heart, knowing full well that I speak it to myself whenever trials come: ACT LIKE A BELIEVER!

Then, you’ll see the victory of a believer.

I hope you enjoyed this guest post by my Spirit-filled friend. Esse has blessed my life in so many ways and I know God intends to use her to bless millions. Please, please follow the links here to purchase the book, 50 Shades of Grace, and visit her blog.

Merry Christmas!

For a truly life-transforming revelation of God’s amazing grace, read 50 Shades of Grace: Free At Last, by Dr. Eddie Summers. You will never be the same. Purchase it here or instantly download a free excerpt.

Esse Johnson is a blogger, ghostwriter and burgeoning publisher through S.E. Works 111 ® . Read more from Esse at KissOfChrist.com and facebook.com/KissOfChrist.

LASTing Peace, Why You Should Be Miserable

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Are you miserable? Would you even know if you are miserable? How does awareness of our misery allow us to enter into full and complete joy?

When God Throws an Air Ball

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Some times God throws the perfect layup—a perfect opportunity. We see what we assume is His will from a mile away. We’re grateful and we’re ready to go. Then suddenly, it falls short.

And we wonder, What is God doing? What went wrong?

A friend of mine’s husband has been without a job for almost three months now. The long anticipated return call finally came. The job he had most wanted came through. Could he start next week?

The following Monday, he arrived early, checked in with his new boss and prepared to go to work. Looking sheepish, the boss pulled him aside. Something came up, he said. Something in the paperwork, something that my friend’s husband thought had long been resolved, they were sorry, but he couldn’t work there.

The news crushed them. Everything had seemed so perfect! What had gone wrong?

It isn’t always a job. Perhaps you met the “perfect” person, but then the whole relationship fell apart. Maybe you’re expecting a baby and you’re so excited, but there’s a miscarriage. Maybe you’ve planned the perfect wedding and then find yourself standing in front of the justice of the peace.

Whatever it is, sometimes God throws the perfect layup, and then it falls short. 

God doesn’t always offer personal explanations, but Scripture is always the light to our path. In this case, a story from David’s life gives insight into the confusion.

David was a young shepherd, probably about 12-years-old when Samuel, the prophet, came to his father, Jesse. Samuel announced that one of Jesse’s sons would be the new king of Israel. Obediently, seven of Jesse’s sons marched in front of the prophet, but each time God said, “He is not the one.”

Perplexed, Samuel asked if Jesse had any more sons. Jesse admitted there was one more, a scrawny shepherd named David.

When David arrived, God told Samuel, “This is him! This is the one I want you to anoint as the King of Israel!” Quickly, Samuel did as he was told.

Logically, we might imagine that Samuel pulled a crown out of his bag, put it on David’s head and marched him to the castle. David should have begun ruling right away! But that didn’t happen. In 1 Samuel 16:13, Samuel turned around and went home. In the very next chapter, we find David back in the fields with the sheep.

I wonder if David asked God, “Why? Why do I, the King of Israel, have to go back to the sheep pen? And how long do I have to wait, God?”

Many years down the line, David did rule over Israel; he was the best king Israel ever had. God called David, “A man after my own heart.”

The Bible never tells us exactly why God made David wait for so long. We do know that in those waiting years, David was filled with the Holy Spirit. He wrote many of the Psalms during that time, singing and sharing his praise for God. He made many good, godly friends in that time too.

We will not always agree with or even understand God’s reason for toppling perfect plans, altering the natural course of things or seeming to change His mind. At times, it may seem like He has misled us. David must have felt that way after being anointed king and then sent back to the fields. Later he was called to the palace merely to serve King Saul by playing the harp.

Even after David took the throne, there was never any explanation as to why God anointed him and then sent him back to being a shepherd. If David had been king right away, perhaps Israel would have avoided many wars and a lot of blood shed. David never would have been hunted by Saul. But the end of the story is that David became a man after God’s own heart and God abundantly blessed him.

Even when things don’t make sense, the end of the story is always that God is working things for our good. He is always faithful and all that He does in our lives is out of His lovingkindness. As we learn to wait through the confusion, we will become men and women after His own heart.

Faster in the Wrong Direction

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Did you ever read the story of Winnie the Pooh and the sand pit? I’ll sum it up for you:

Pooh Bear and his timid sidekick Piglet got lost in the woods. They didn’t even know they were lost until Piglet pointed out that they kept passing a very familiar sand pit. Could it that they were just going in circles? No, Pooh asserted, the sand pit was following them.

What do you do when you’re lost? I’ve got some great stories about being lost.

There was the day after my wedding, when I traveled with my dad to pick up my car, that for reasons I won’t go into, was in a small town about an hour away from my new home. Once, I was settled behind the wheel of my own car, Dad waved goodbye and drove off toward his own house. I promptly took the ramp to the interstate—cluelessly, in the wrong direction. I didn’t realize I was lost until an hour had passed and I wasn’t home yet. And then I did the worst thing I could possibly do. As anxiety mounted, my foot got heavier. I could find no where to turn around! I sped faster and faster. In my mind, the faster I went the sooner I would find a solution and fix my error. As you can imagine, going faster only sent me farther in the wrong direction—faster. As well, I missed the first opportunity to correct the situation. 

That wasn’t the first, nor the only time I’ve done something like that. I’ve gotten lost when out for a simple run, on roller-skates, in my grandparents neighborhood, in many an airport and more. Suddenly, nothing looks familiar; instead of slowing my pace and thinking clearly, I push faster and faster praying that home is around the next corner. However, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed my tendency to accelerate when I’m lost.

Speaking of praying…

What do you do when you feel spiritually lost? I don’t mean lost as in unsaved, or doubting your salvation. I mean lost like, “God, what am I supposed to do with my life? What am I supposed to do in this situation? What am I supposed to do about this relationship?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Since I’m baring my soul, being honest about my disabilities (directionally challenged) I’ll admit that I do the same thing when I feel spiritually lost—I go faster.

Many times, after a move with my husband’s career, I’ve felt detached, floating, essentially lost. I don’t have a job. I don’t have a church. I don’t have kids. Who am I? What do I do God? What did you make me to do?

And usually, I start running. I make lists of all the volunteer opportunities I can find, call them all and offer to be there tomorrow. I sign up for every club. I give my number to every smiling face at the dog park and suggest, “Let’s meet for coffee sometime! I’m sure we have a lot in common.” I visit 15 churches in 15 Sundays.

Suddenly, I’m swamped, overwhelmed and more lost than ever. None of my new activities seem to be “homey”. I’m overcommitted and under-fulfilled, over-used and under-serving. You see, I can’t really serve the way I want to, the way God calls me to, if I’m trying to do everything and really only doing it for my own self-fulfillment.

This year, 2014, God gave me on word to wrap my life around: Walk. I asked Him for one word to guide my pursuits this year, to focus my Bible study; one word to plow the Scriptures with and put on like shoe leather. He simply said, “Walk”.

I have to think this means a couple things. 1) My most delicious prayer time is spent on long walks with my dog. I know there I’ll find Him, when I’m undistracted by the to-do list and to-see people. 2) I need to walk with the Spirit. The Word says when we do this, we won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh. He doesn’t say to run with the Spirit. There’s intention in the slow, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other; the rhythm of walking. 3) No matter how useless I feel, or briefly how disconnected, I need to walk slowly through change. Whether it be into my new life when my husband and I move next time, or any other upset of routine. I must set aside the choking panic of impending solitude and take steady, meditated steps, placing each foot in the footprint of my Father.

I don’t know that these lessons will be well applied to my propensity to be physically lost. I’ve got enough to think about merely applying them to my obedience to Christ. But, perhaps they might. And if not, I always have my iPhone :)

Little Miss Mary, Perhaps not so Saintly?

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Abby Kelly:

A perfect one to reflect on at Christmas time!

Originally posted on Predatory Lies:

At Christmas time, second only to fame of baby Jesus, is that of the virgin Mary. In fact, in many instances, she’s not even the runner up, but the main character celebrated in the Nativity. As the story goes, the perfect, serene, pious, humble virgin drew God’s attention. Because of her near perfection, He chose her to bear His one and only begotten son. But where do we get this idea?

As I read through Luke 2 and Matthew 1 this year, a couple things struck me as off kilter from my usual Christmas perceptions. First is Mary. What do we know of her prior to the angel’s visit announcing her conception of Jesus. Absolutely nothing! Imagine what her life must have been like. What if Mary wasn’t gentle? What if Mary hadn’t been fully submissive to her parents? What if Mary once slipped an apple in her pocket as…

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Have Yourself a Mature Christmas

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Merry Christmas!

I know you’re accustomed to a video on Mondays, however this week is going to be a little different. (However, I did include a slideshow for you!) It is Christmas time after all. :) A time when all schedules melt like snow off mittens by the fire. A time when best-laid plans morph into better endings through the course of multiple alterations. Do you know what I mean?

I’m typing this post from the study in my sister, Kelsey’s, house. For the moment, her little ones are napping and Kelsey, too, is recuperating from our many Christmas-induced outings to see lights, Santa, the mall, a “Walk to Bethlehem” at a local church and more. So, I’ve sequestered myself and am doing my best to be quiet, which is oddly challenging even for a “mature” adult.

But that’s what we’ve been discussing lately, right? Maturity.

My new Bible study, Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What? is due out on June 2, 2015, and though the manuscript is complete, I’m still gathering thoughts and taking notes on what spiritual maturity looks like, how it acts in a variety of social situations and truly, who can claim to have it.

No doubt, the bustle of the holidays has the potential to bring out the most immature side of people. Just read the Black Friday headlines and you’ll recall what I mean. (Or take a peak: Mall Riots, Walmart Riots)

And then of course, there are the arguments about whether to stay at the in-laws, in a hotel or just not to visit at all. There are the squabbles over new toys and tears over the wrong ones.

Those are minor examples, but what about the deep-seated issues, the traditions and even convictions that we hold close?Tempers and immature behavior can erupt, even among Christians, over disagreements about how Christmas is celebrated or observed.These thoughts bring to mind Paul’s words in Colossians 2:16-17:

“So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.”

There are absolutely, no doubt, solid-as-a-rock, nonnegotiables in the Christian faith. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Christianity is the most exclusive faith there is. No, no one is excluded by virtue of race, gender, age or any other variable known to man. The exclusivity is in Christ and Christ alone. He is the exclusive way to the Father and eternal life. And that truth starts in a stable.

We must stand firm, without wavering on the truth espoused in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”.

And again, the Gospel began in a stable. We must guard, with all diligence the truth of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.

BUT, or perhaps I should say and, because this is not a contradiction, but rather a continuation, the overflow of our conviction concerning Jesus:

When it comes to tradition and preferences, whether it’s okay to sing “Frosty the Snowman” or only “Silent Night”, whether it’s okay to put cookies out for Santa Clause or if that will warp our children’s ability to discern fact from truth for the rest of their lives–Christians must respond with maturity.

Does it really matter if Jesus was actually born in December?

Does it matter if there were 3 wise men or 15?

Does it matter?

Does it matter if the whole family is together on Christmas morning or not? Really?

That’s what mature Christians must ask themselves before they take a stand. Does it matter?

The answer is decidedly yes on one thing: “Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.'” John 18:37

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15