Tag Archives: forgiveness

Review: When Mountains Sing, by Stacy Monson

Wen Mountains Sing, by Stacy Monson

When Mountains Sing, by Stacy Monson (His Image Publications, 2019)

Mikayla Gordon’s discovery of a family secret sets her on a quest to find answers. In the process she may find herself—and find God. 

Mikayla is the outdoor, adventurous type, thriving from childhood on fishing with her father. Her journey takes her away from her magazine-writer job on a cross-country trek, with a tiny dog as her travel buddy.

From her native Minnesota, Mikayla ends up Colorado, where the mountains capture her heart. Camp director Dawson Dunne, who offers her a temporary job, may claim her heart too, although Mikayla’s committed to returning home in time for her sister’s wedding.

The scenery in this novel makes it a beautiful place to linger, and I enjoyed hanging out with the characters. Mikayla’s anger and hurt takes time to work through, but the kind people she meets are a balm to her and to readers as well.

Favourite lines:

“No use hurrying through life when all we have is what’s here in front of us.” [Kindle edition, page 75]

Layers of jagged mountain peaks surrounded them, from green and detailed in front to a hazy blue in the distance. Thick forests spread like carpeting, a river winding through the valley. [Kindle edition, page 178]

Recommended for nature lovers, this gentle story of self-discovery and romance includes themes of disappointment, family secrets, forgiveness, faith, and relationships. The bond between Mikayla and her two sisters is warm and strong, despite their very different personalities.

When Mountains Sing is book 1 in the My Father’s House Series, and it’s one of the books in The Mosaic Collection. Visit stacymonson.com to learn more about author Stacy Monson and her books.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: The Traitor’s Pawn, by Lisa Harris

The Traitor's Pawn, by Lisa Harris | #romanticsuspense #Christianfiction

The Traitor’s Pawn, by Lisa Harris (Revell, 2020)

Shootings, abduction, traitors, and national security risks in Corpus Christi, Texas. The danger in The Traitor’s Pawn starts almost immediately and doesn’t let up.

Somehow the abduction of Detective Bree Grayson is linked with FBI agent Jack Shannon’s investigation. The crisis reunites these two former best friends, and as they work together they discover romantic feelings that have lain dormant since college. Bree finds herself again dealing with her father’s abandonment, pain she thought she’d left behind.

The stakes in this novel are high, but the characters’ introspection allows readers chances to breathe. Along with the romance thread, there’s a theme of anger and forgiveness as Bree processes her lack of relationship with her father.

One thing I found a little disappointing was the resolution of the conflict with a particular antagonist. This person will remain nameless, to avoid spoilers, but was introduced as a worthy villain in a way that had me expecting far more involvement in the final crisis.

Overall, though, The Traitor’s Pawn is an enjoyable romantic suspense with a strong thread of faith.

Favourite line:

My father always told me that God is about the long game. That he’s more interested in who you become, even if the actual process is difficult. [Jack speaking about his own father, Kindle location 2933]

Visit lisaharriswrites.com to learn about author Lisa Harris and her books and ministry.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. My opinions are my own.]

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Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop, by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter Bookshop, by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2019)

Friendship, self-discovery, love, and a celebration of reading—and of independent bookstores.

Maddie Cullen had a knack for engaging with her customers and knowing the right book to suggest. When she died, she left envelopes for her two employees and her estranged niece. Each woman’s letter included a Bible passage and a list of books.

Madeline, her niece, inherited the store but doesn’t want to keep it. Claire and Janet, Maddie’s employees who supported her through her final days, wish the new owner would just let them carry on the business as usual. As the three women work together, each also reading the books Maddie’s letter “assigned,” they develop a strong friendship and each grow toward the potential Maddie had seen in them.

Each woman’s point of view is written in a different tense: first-person past, third-person past, and third-person present. I always find that sort of delivery jarring, and I confess I also had a hard time connecting with the characters. All three were a bit of a mess at first.

I’m glad I stuck with it, because it’s a heartwarming story. As it progressed I grew to care for each of them. And I wish I could visit the bookstore!

For more about Katherine Reay and her books, and for book club resources, visit katherinereay.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Reconciliation, not Rejection

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
Acts 3:19, NLT*

Peter’s not being judgmental here, not waving a big stick or speaking condemnation. If we could hear his tone, we’d hear urgency. Longing.

In the Temple, he’s speaking to a crowd about Jesus. He has just put it to them plainly: Jesus is the Messiah from God, whom they and their leaders have rejected and killed.

He’s also declared that they didn’t know the full story, and their choices were part of God working out His plan (Acts 3:17-18).

Now that he has laid out the truth, he’s calling for a response. He’s inviting them into forgiveness. Into the Kingdom, where they belong.

This is Peter, who denied his Lord three times. He can’t even claim ignorance for that. Only fear. But Peter knows from personal experience about the forgiveness and grace of God, about the love that longs to restore and reinstate and repurpose.

We know that love, too, so as we encounter people who don’t know Jesus, if the Spirit leads us to address some form of sin that’s holding them back, let’s remember that the goal is reconciliation, not rejection.

Addressing sin isn’t about “look what you did.” It’s about “this is serious, but don’t let it keep you from God’s love.” And instead of pointing fingers, we can speak from a place of experience: “God does forgive, because He’s forgiven me.”

Oh Holy God, You alone are Judge, and You are also Saviour. Give us compassion for those still trapped in sin, and speak through us to offer reconciliation. We know this is a hard topic, and many will take offense at the truth, but help us to speak it in love and to entrust the results to You.

Here’s Michael Card’s haunting question: “What Will it Take to Keep You From Jesus?” Let’s remember the heart behind the call.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Thicker than Blood, by C.J. Darlington

Thicker than Blood, by C.J. DarlingtonThicker than Blood, by C.J. Darlington (Mountainview Books edition, 2015)

Christy’s life is a mess, and she has nowhere to turn. She walked out on her younger sister, May, after their parents died. That was years ago, and she couldn’t bear for May to see her now.

May still carries the grief of abandonment, and wonders what she did wrong. She thinks she’s forgiven Christy – until her wayward sister stumbles back into her life.

The story alternates between the two sisters’ points of view. Christy sees May offering unbelievable love and patience, while May reveals to her friends just how hard it is to give consistent acceptance to someone who seems so ungrateful.

There’s more to the story than that, of course. Christy’s job is on the line and she has an abusive ex. May’s about to lose her beloved farm to foreclosure. But it’s the relationships and the characters that drive the story.

I found this an honest look at the cost – and benefit – of unconditional love.

Thicker than Blood was originally published after winning the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. It’s book 1 in the “Thicker than Blood” series, and it’s free as an ebook on most platforms. For more about author C.J. Darlington and her books, visit cjdarlington.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Berry on Top, by Valerie Comer

Berry on Top, by Valerie ComerBerry on Top, by Valerie Comer (GreenWords Media, 2016)

It’s taken 10 years for Liz Nemesek to be willing to make even a passing stop in her hometown. Too bad the guy who drove her away came back first. Worse still, Mason Waterman is renting her parents’ old house, claims to have changed his life, and is now a good friend of her brother.

Liz can’t deny the changes – they were long overdue – but just because God forgave Mason doesn’t mean she will. Or that she’ll forgive God. Or admit that maybe she bears some responsibility, herself.

Past hurts, secrets, and Liz’ rejection of her childhood faith threaten to keep her from a chance at happiness with Mason, despite the matchmaking attempts of his young twins. But trying to do life her own way just gets her into an even bigger mess.

One of the things I appreciate about Valerie Comer’s romances is that her stories are about more than just the happy-ever-after. They’re filled with real people with real (and sometimes difficult) issues. They don’t gloss over hurt, but as the characters begin to change, we see the difference that God can make in broken lives.

Berry on Top is the sixth and final book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, and readers can look forward to a new series with some carryover of characters: the Urban Farm Fresh Romance series will be set in Spokane, Washington.

As well as the Farm Fresh series, Canadian author Valerie Comer has also written the Riverbend Novellas series and a stand-alone fantasy novel, Majai’s Fury. For more about the author and her books, visit valeriecomer.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

When We Get into Trouble

“Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?”
Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed.
John 18:26b-27, NLT*

Peter loved Jesus. I’m sure he wholeheartedly meant his earlier vow that he’d never deny his Lord. (Matthew 26:31-35)

Yet here he was, doing that very thing. Matthew’s account says Peter’s denial was so intense it involved cursing. And that when the rooster crowed and he realized what he’d done, he fled, “weeping bitterly.” (Matthew 26:69-75)

Why did he do it? Was he afraid? Or was he trying to stay “under cover” in case there was a chance to rescue Jesus?

Whatever his motivation, Peter’s denial came because he was acting on his own initiative and in his own strength.

Isn’t that when we get into trouble, too?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT*

Our best intentions can blow up in our faces. Peter’s experience reminds us how important it is to learn to listen to and rely on the Lord. He also reminds us of Jesus’ loving forgiveness when we mess up (see John 21).

Our God and Saviour, Your grace to forgive is beyond our understanding, but we receive it gladly and we rely on it often. Teach us to walk closer to You, to trust You instead of ourselves. Slow us down to listen before we leap. Make us people after Your own heart.

What better prayer than Matt Maher‘s “Lord, I Need You“?

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Because You Belong to the Lord

Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.
Philippians 4:2, NLT*

Because you belong to the Lord.

We forget this perspective, forget that belonging to the Lord is supposed to make a difference in our behaviours and our motivations. Not so we can earn more love (or more salvation) – we can’t —  but because we love this God who loved us first.

We want to please Him. And we want the people around us to see the difference He makes in our lives. In cases like this, to see that we value loving Him more than we cherish our very real hurts and disagreements.

Euodia and Syntyche have had a serious falling out. They’ve worked as a team before, likely been close, so this is more painful than if they’d never been friends. Or perhaps they never really got along but were able to overcome it until now.

The friction is hurting the local body of believers. It’s also giving ammunition to the scoffers who think all this love-and-unity stuff is too good to be true.

And it does the same today. In every group of believers, there will be differences of opinion. Even conflicts. And our enemy loves to get us focused on anything that can divide us. The good news is, God wants to use these opportunities as ways to demonstrate His kingdom living. If we’ll rely on Him.

Because you belong to the Lord.

It’s not about us. It’s about God – the news of what He’s done for us and His power to save us from ourselves. We don’t have the luxury of indulging in hurt feelings and splits. Even if Euodia and Syntyche can’t work together anymore, like Paul and Barnabas, they need to reconcile in the common ground of Christ.

If we can make reconciliation more important than restitution or revenge, the world will recognize something – Someone – holy at work.

Our God, You ask us to do what’s impossible, but all things are possible with You if we’ll choose to believe. Conflict is part of living. Please help us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Give us willingness and power to forgive, and remind us that forgiving doesn’t mean the “other side” is right. Help us to love those who have hurt us, and to pray for their good. Intervene in disputes among Your children. Help each to understand the other, and to see where confession, change and courage are needed. We ask this for the sake of Your Kingdom and Your reputation in this world.

Let Steven Curtis Chapman‘s “For the Sake of the Call” remind us of our greater purpose.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Character interview: Pam Lake

Pam Lake is  the heroine in the newest novel in The Women of Valley View series by Sharon Srock. Pam’s story releases this month.

Janet: Pam, thanks for visiting us today. It sounds like you have a great group of friends in Valley View. You’ve given your support to Callie and Terri in their stories, but how does it feel to be in the spotlight yourself?

Pam: Janet, thanks for having me. Being in the spotlight is not something I would have chosen for myself. It was tough to share the secrets of my past, even with my friends.

Janet: Let’s start with some surface chatter. I know you’re divorced, remarried to a loving man. Do you have children? A job outside the home? Hobbies?

Pam: I have two children with my first husband. Jeremy is the oldest. Then I have a daughter, Megan. They are not quite 14 months apart. I work four days a week in my husband’s law office doing computer research. It’s great to have a three day weekend each week. As far as hobbies go, I’m not a crafty type person, but I do love to cook.

Janet: And tell us a bit about Valley View. Where is it located, and what are some of the things you most appreciate about living there?

Pam: Well, Valley View is the name of our church. We live in Garfield, Oklahoma. Garfield is a small town in the central part of the state. I think the thing I appreciate the most is just the sense of community we have. We care about each other.

Janet: It sounds like you’re facing a life-changing struggle. Are there some wounds in your past that might not be as healed as you think?

Pam: Divorce always leaves wounds behind. I don’t think you can ever be so happy in a second or third marriage that it completely wipes away the baggage of the past. This is only multiplied if you have children with an ex-spouse. You will always have to find a way to deal with the ex for the sake of the children.

Janet: You have good friends who will stand by you. Do you also have a faith to help you through this crisis?

Pam: I thought I did. What I’ve come to realize is that the unforgiveness in my heart was just like a nasty, sticky clog in a drain pipe. I was trying to live a life of faith on the tiny drips of faith that managed to flow past the clog. Once I allowed God to flush the unforgiveness out of my system I discovered what I’d been missing for the last four years.

Janet: Tell us the truth: is it possible your abusive ex has changed? Or is this just more manipulation?

Pam: I think God’s love can change anyone. I wanted to believe that Alan was excluded from that, but he isn’t.

Janet: Do you want him to have changed? If he has, what does that mean for you? And what would it take to convince you?

Pam: You know, I honestly didn’t think it mattered. I have Harrison in my life now. But it didn’t take long for me to start dumping the baggage of the past onto someone who didn’t deserve it. I had to forgive Alan in order to fully love again. I don’t have to be convinced, I just have to leave it in God’s hands.

Janet: Even if Alan hasn’t changed, can you forgive him? Forgiveness doesn’t mean what he did was right, but letting go could help heal some of your pain. Easier said than done, I know!

Pam: Like I said, There comes a time when you just have to give it to God. Alan could never heal the wounds his words inflicted. But God could, and did, once I asked him to take the pain away.

Janet: I really hope things work out for you, Pam, and I’m glad you have a good support network.

===

The Women of Valley View: PamPam’s divorce broke her heart. The cruelty of her ex-husband broke her spirit. A bottle of sleeping pills almost took her life. Four years later the scars of Alan Archer’s emotional abuse are beginning to fade under the love of her new husband. When Alan returns to Garfield, Pam must learn that buried secrets and carefully cultivated indifference do not equal forgiveness.

Alan Archer has returned to Garfield with a new wife and a terminal heart condition. His mission? To leave a Christian legacy for his children and to gain Pam’s forgiveness for the sins of his past.

Two hearts hang in the balance waiting for the delicate touch of God’s healing hands.

 

Purchase links for The Women of Valley View: Pam
Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Pelican Book Group

Sharon Srock

Author Sharon Srock went from science fiction to Christian fiction at slightly less than warp speed. Twenty five years ago, she cut her writer’s teeth on Star Trek fiction. Today, she writes inspirational stories that focus on ordinary women using their faith to accomplish extraordinary things. Sharon lives in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma with her husband and three very large dogs. Her books include: The Women of Valley View: Callie and The Women of Valley View: Terri. The Women of Valley View: Pam released 11 April 2014.

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Connect with her at www.sharonsrock.com or on FacebookGoodreads or Pinterest.

Please visit Sharon’s AMAZON page to find current info on her books, and check out these free reads:

Free PDF: MEET THE WOMEN OF VALLEY VIEW

Free Novella: FOR MERCIE’S SAKE

Review: Imogen’s Chance, by Paula Vince

Imogen's Chance, by Paula VinceImogen’s Chance, by Paula Vince (Even Before Publishing, 2014)

Imogen Browne is a 20-something American with painful memories of Australia—painful because of the hurt she unwittingly caused the Dorazio family. She knows it’s time to try to make amends, and returns to Australia in search of short-term work. Marion Dorazio invites Imogen to board with them for old times’ sake.

Marion’s twins, Asher and Becky, are Imogen’s age, and their brother Seth is a few years older. It looks like the family has moved on from the accident that injured Marion—and from the second source of pain that none of them know Imogen had a part in. Why reopen old wounds?

When Asher is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, each family member’s turmoil begins to surface. Imogen, as the impartial visitor, can offer the support that the family are too emotionally involved to give. She doesn’t expect to fall for Asher in the process, and if he knew what she’d done, he’d never speak to her again.

Asher, Imogen and Marion carry regret over things they’ve been afraid to say—things that have caused hurts and misunderstandings. With Asher this has a flip-side, because he learned this behaviour after a childhood of saying too much.

What stands out to me is Asher’s health and the quest he and Imogen begin together. Should he accept the doctors’ prognosis that he’s likely to die, or dare he risk what he begins to discover the Bible says about healing?

Asher and Imogen both come from Christian backgrounds but neither thinks God is particularly close to them. Their search is organic to who they are and the situation they’re in. It’s not a sermon or an author-driven agenda. Essentially, they come to believe that God can heal Asher and that whether or not He chooses to do so, they need to trust in His strong love each day.

This is what I took from the novel, the reminder to rest in God’s love and to not be straining to see the good or bad the future holds.

Lest this sound too serious, I’ll mention that one of Asher’s methods to get his mind off the negatives that have filled his life is the practice of daily gratitude, which he doesn’t do like your or I might, in brief lists or even in a journal. Asher writes thank-you notes—very quirky thank-you notes.

Imogen’s Chance is a story of relationships and reconciliation, forgiveness and love. It pulled me in, to the point where I’d be irritated when I had to stop reading and attend to daily life.

Paula Vince is an award-winning Australian author. Imogen’s Chance is her newest novel, and it’s available worldwide as an ebook and in print from most online retailers. For the month of April 2014 she’s running a blog tour with multiple prizes. Details here. You can learn more about Paula at her website, and check out her blog, “It Just Occurred to Me.” You can also read an interview I did with Paula in 2012, as well as a recent interview with Imogen herself.

[Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]