Tag Archives: Angela Thomas

Every Day Graces: OPEN Your Eyes!

“Where in the world did I put my glasses?” my Mother would ask at least one hundred times a day. To remedy this, Daddy and I tried buying several pairs for her, one for every room.  But… if you’ve ever experimented with that, you know, pair by pair, they still mysteriously vanish.

Forever impatient with her, let’s just say “payback has returned one hundred fold”…John and I now need “readers” (sigh).  We compete to find a pair wherever we land in our home.  Our own boys have the gall to roll their eyes when we begin hunting  for glasses.  Has anyone solved this mystery?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week I shared a pearl from Angela Thomas’ Bible study, Brave—Honest Questions Women Ask.  It’s a beautiful phrase I wasn’t familiar with:  “soul refreshers”. (Click here if you missed it)

This week I’d like to share another beautiful, comforting pearl which really opened my eyes.  (Pun intended.)  Angela challenges us to watch for every day graces.  Every day graces are people God places in your path, usually unexpectedly.

A recent example happened when John and I were walking Gracie, our more-than-enthusiastic terrier,  along  Blankenbaker Lane.  An extremely sweet gal came out of her home just to meet Gracie.  Hey, every dog lover loves another dog lover!

Gracie

(Notice how well-trained she is to stay OFF the furniture….)

One thing led to another in our conversation with this lovely lady.  We discovered we had mutual friends and she knew some of John’s siblings.  Somehow the conversation centered on churches and we told her about a new church John’s brother and  sister-in-law have helped start.   Don’t you know, our new friend’s attending there now?  How fun is that? (Checkout Throne of  Grace Community Church on Facebook.)  Now THAT’s an “every day grace”!

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  (NIV)

Angela adds, “I believe God gives smaller, everyday graces that minister to us.  Heal us.  Encourage us.”

An everyday grace can also be a phone call, an email, or a note from someone saying something so special you know it’s Heaven-sent.  Sometimes this happens with a total stranger.

I remember being in Georgia on a family vacation one summer.  The boys had taken a boat out on the lake while I stayed back at the pool.  I went into the restroom and there was this beautiful lady there, cleaning away.  She said, “Hey Baby…” in just the sweetest, warmest, southern-of-all southern tones.  Made me want to crawl right up into her lap.

When I left, she said, “God Bless you now…”  I nearly burst into tears!  Timing was uncanny:  only-God-uncanny.  Our trip came right after a lovely woman, “Miss Margaret,” who was like a guardian angel to our family, had had a stroke and could no longer babysit the boys or just come and bless our home, one of her many gifts.  I literally felt like this total stranger, who seemed to be able to see into my soul, was an angel dropped into the restroom by God to bless me abundantly. (You can tell I’m still not over it!) Another “every day grace.”

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A fascinating book I read recently comes to mind with this whole concept of everyday graces.  Praying for Strangers—an Adventure of the Human Spirit  by River Jordan is powerfully transforming.

Praying for Strangers

River shares her experiences of praying for strangers whom she encounters every day.  Some seem unbelievable, and yet clearly God was orchestrating them, one by one.

River begins by explaining:  “I tell her (the person she’s just run into) about my resolution, explaining that today she is my stranger, that I’ll be thinking about her and saying special prayers for her all day.  Then  the oddest thing happens.  She looks at me with what I must call wonder.  She grabs me and hugs my neck. ‘Do you know what I was just saying to God this morning? Do you?  I was just praying this morning and praying for other people, but I stopped and asked the Lord, God, is there anybody in this whole wide world who is praying for me?’”

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 Later in the book River says, “I’ve been thanked more already in this year of my life than all my years put together, for something so intangible and invisible as prayer.”  Did you see that?  “Intangible and invisible”—Oh, if you’ll just watch, more often than not, you will get to SEE visible results. 

River also includes a great quote by E. M. Bounds:  “Walking with God down the avenue of prayer we acquire something of His likeness; and unconsciously we become witnesses to others of His beauty and His grace.”

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River shares loads of benefits from this act of praying for strangers:  “…the light in someone’s soul can suddenly shine a little brighter. …I realize that’s the key…How often are we really touched by the sincerity of the questions, of someone asking and really wanting to know exactly how we are?”

Another man who made an impact on her is named Edward.  After she tells Edward of her resolution, he says, “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that.”  River then replies, “Listen,” I tell him.  “You have no idea what doing this has meant to me. This year I have two sons deployed.  One  in Iraq, one in Afghanistan.  I think this resolution has somehow been saving my life.”  He smiles as I continue.  “Every day it forces me to walk thru’ the world WITH MY EYES OPEN, to SEE other people’s needs, and not just concentrate on my own fears. “

Remember what Ann Voskamp said in her book One Thousand Gifts?  “The remedy is in the retina.”

Let’s OPEN OUR EYES!  Our next “every day grace” is just an encounter away. 

 As everyone’s favorite Winnie the Pooh offers, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you.  You have to go to them sometimes.”

Winnie The Pooh

Today I’m off to have lunch with a friend at California Pizza Kitchen.  It’s located in a mall. Malls usually contain lots of people… Lookout Louisville!  Let’s open our eyes!

 ‘Til  next time!

(Today’s post is dedicated to my two most evangelistic-without-trying- friends:  Nancy Aguiar and Becky Pippert.  Nancy knows no strangers.  She’s taught countless women all about the Bible for years.  She’s my “Bible Answer Woman”.  She’s the quintessential “listener” you can lean on.  Carry on, Nan!

Becky is best known for having written the classic, Out of the Saltshaker and into the World—Evangelism as a Way of Life.  God orchestrated our encounter in Naples, Florida many years ago.  Perfect scenario of an “every day grace.”  She and Dick lived in Louisville for a while, but have now “gone global.”  They’ve been ministering in Europe and all over the world for several years.  I am blessed to call her friend, mentor,  and devoted prayer warrior. Hurry back to the States, Becky!  We miss you and Dick! May God Bless you and your moving ministry abundantly.)

Out of the Saltshaker

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Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

Vacation-mode to Real World-mode: Piece of Cake???

“Ladies  and Gentleman…  Greetings  from the flight deck.  This is your captain speaking.  We are number three for take-off.  Flight time to Cancun is two hours and forty minutes.  Current weather is clear skies with a temperature of eighty-four degrees.”

Whoa!  Vastly different scenario from the snow-covered runways we’d just left in Louisville!  Our “Mexican Adventure” was about to begin…

Airplane flying over tropical beach.

John and I were traveling with four other couples, all of which are dear, long-time friends.  We all met when our oldest children, now fast approaching their third decades of life, were starting grade school at Dunn Elementary.

While we frequently gather for dinner, or lately parties and weddings, we’d never traveled together collectively, ten for ten of us, much less stayed in the same house  for seven days.  So how did this transpire?

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Last fall, at the most gracious invitation of one of these couples who’ve invested their lives helping and leading Boy Scouts, the ten of us attended a Fund Raiser Dinner for the Scouts ( www.scouting.org ).

Upon entering, we were presented with many tables of silent auction items. Each item was more tempting than the next.  Unbelievably, we all agreed on bidding for one particular vacation home in the Caribbean.  (Never imagining we’d win.) The description of this item read:  “Sleeps ten to eleven adults, located on the beach, with a pool….”  Say no more.

We appointed a designated bidder in our group, agreed on a do-or-die bottom-line price, and went along enjoying the evening.  Before we knew it, the auction began…

Fast-as-lightening verbiage spewed from the auctioneer’s microphone…

Quickly, the bidding boiled down to our friend against another guy across the room.  Palpable tension mounted.  Nine out of ten of us leaned closer and closer, toward the stage, while our bidder bravely held his own.

We were nearing our do-or-die bottom- line price when, the next thing we knew…..

“BANG!” went the gavel.

“SOLD!” went the Auctioneer.

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What just happened?  Oh my word….WE WON!!!!

Now what?

WHEN can we go?” became the Land of Denial question.  How do you begin to coordinate ten calendars while most of us have aging parents whose health can turn in an instant???

Brave souls that we were, the girls soon met with calendars in tow to plan our “prize”.  (What a way to support the  Scouts!)  With one of each of our feet already planted firmly in the Land of Denial, we discovered just a few challenging  details:

feet in sand

“You’ll need to fly into the Cancun Airport.  We recommend you rent a car as the house is seventy-five miles south of Cancun.  Be certain you do not exceed any speed limits.  Be certain you only drink bottled water.  Pack antibiotics just in case.”   Alrighty  then.

Water bottles

Amazingly, we found a week in February we could all go.  The list-making ensued.

The Lord truly helped orchestrate our trip or it would have never happened with all ten of us.  He also protected us while we were there, not to mention the well-being of our parents back in the States.

 While in the Land of Denial, some of our more amusing challenges included watching the ever-changing speed limits on the highway.  With our two mini-vans (!), our two very competent drivers, their co-pilots (usually not the spouses…),and a few back seat drivers (which usually were the spouses, thank you very much) navigated just fine.

If only you could see the dirt road we had to traverse just to get to the road to our house!!!  Interspersed with iguanas and major, no-foolin’-major,  dips-n-holes, we finally hit concrete toward the house.

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A lovely concierge named Guillet greeted us upon our arrival.  Our neighbors from Louisville, Kentucky, came down the beach to say “hello”. (No, I am not kidding!)  Remember, we were in Akumal, Mexico!!!

And so the week  went, one “gift” after another.

Ann Voskamp, who wrote one of my all-time favorite books, One Thousand Gifts, challenges us to constantly be on the lookout for blessings, or “gifts” from God, from  the littlest to the biggest of things.  She says, “Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on.”

One Thousand Gifts

Here’s a sampling of “gifts” from our trip:

Picture-perfect weather every day.

The only-God-could-have-created-this-beauty of the beaches and Caribbean waters.

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Swaying palm trees.

Take-your-breath-away sunrises by morning.

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Brilliant stars, too numerous to count, by night.

NO health issues!!!

Delicious food, both in restaurants and prepared by a sweet couple, Noemi and Jorge, in our house.

Noemi and Jorge cooked for us twice while we were there.

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I’m still dreaming of the gargantuan bowl of homemade, to-die-for- guacamole that Jorge whipped up both nights!

Jorge making guac

The lizard we spied scurrying along the ceiling in our kitchen never made it upstairs to our bedroom!!!

We all read LOTS OF BOOKS!

Writing while basking on the beach!

Daily walks on the beach.

NO SCHEDULE!

This is worth repeating:  NO health issues!!!

TWO POINTS I’d like to bring home: 

 1 – While it is tough returning to the real world from a vacation, it is possible to continue to count your blessings regardless of your surroundings. (Sorta/kinda a piece of cake–perhaps more petit-four in size.)

And, while returning to cold February temps in Kentucky wasn’t ideal, and while the gray skies and leafless trees seem not-so-much-a-piece-of-cake compared to the tropical palms of Mexico, we remain blessed.  May we see things with your eyes, Lord.

Ann maintains that “…ingratitude makes the poison course.  The cure against thanklessness’s bite?  The remedy is in the retinaHow we behold determines if we hold joy.  Behold glory and be held by God.” 

Prior to that, she reminds us, “Without God’s Word as a lens, the world warps.”

Super exciting:  Ann Voskamp  is COMING TO LOUISVILLE for the North American Christian Convention, July 9th – 12thShe’ll be speaking at the Women’s Luncheon, on the 11th and will be leading two workshops on blogging that afternoon.  For ticket information, please visit www.gotonacc.org .

 Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to read her excellent blog.  Go to:  www.aholyexperience.com

  It’s EQUALLY important to count the blessings of friendships.

My sweet little small group of Bible study buddies is currently studying Angela Thomas’ Brave—Honest Questions Women Ask.  We have found it very helpful and empowering.  Angela takes challenging topics, such as “I am worn out,  I am undisciplined, I am trembling inside, I am suffering a thorn, etc.” and gives us promises from God’s Word on how to survive.

Brave

As a bonus, we have all loved discovering “pearls” or gifts Angela drops into each week’s lesson.  One discovery is a beautiful phrase:  “soul refreshers.”  What are “soul refreshers”?

 Soul refreshers are “Godly friends who refresh your soul.”  I pray as you read this, you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, yeah, mine are so-and-so…”  Angela adds, “If you don’t have a soul-refreshing friend, would you write a prayer asking God to bring you one, OR to bring YOU to someone who needs such a friend?”

Angela took us to I Corinthians 16:18 in the NCV,  where Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, “he said that his friends Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus ‘have refreshed my spirit and yours.  You should recognize the value of people like these.’”

 Don’t miss that point!  “We should RECOGNIZE THE VALUE of people like these.”

I love what The Message says:  “They’ve refreshed me by keeping me in touch with you.  Be proud that you have people like this among you.”

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group of guys pic from Mexico

Angela offers three excellent suggestions for us all:

(1)    “We carve out time for Godly friendship, even when there is distance involved.”

(2)    “We let them know in thoughtful ways how much they mean to us.”

(3)    “We give to them as they have given to us by listening, remembering, and laughing.”

While I’d like to quit there, Angela takes it one step further (Yes, sometimes she steps on our toes!!!).  She says, “While we’re at it, as the Holy Spirit is really convicting me in the moment:  Am I a soul refresher?  For  my husband?  My  children?  My  neighbor down the street?  Oh may it be.”

Lord would you just show each and every one of us who it is, perhaps this very day, who you would have us ‘refresh’ in you?  We thank you and praise you for the many blessings of friendship you so graciously have given us.  Amen and Amen.

  ‘Til  next time!

(This week’s post is dedicated to SIX  fantastic couples:  One very obvious one: To the multi-talented Noemi and Jorge, of Akumal, Mexico, who can seemingly cook anything, delighting ten-for-ten of us every single time! To Kathy and Joe Daniels who got this group of truly twelve together in the first place.  Kathy is still with us, right up in Columbus, Ohio, while her precious Joe, is with our Lord in His Heavenly Home, patiently awaiting us to talk football with him.  We had more fun laughing at what Joe would have said to some of our um, “antics”.  Finally, let’s not forget the ever -patient FOUR couples we just traveled with:  Randy, our birthday-boy-of-the-week, Happy 56th!!!, Susan, Jon, Denise, Steve, Bev, John and Jayne:  we’re a/k/a “The Ya-Ya’s and the Yo-Yo’s”. Another  story for another day.  Thanks for the   memories!!!  Love all y’all….You define “Soul Refreshers”.)

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But I Don’t Have TIME for a Bible Study! (Beating Busyness – Part 1 of 4)

If my Mother were still with us on this earth, and she knew this tough topic I’m about to broach, she’d cross her arms and say, “Well now, THIS ought to be REAL interesting….”

She used to get a kick out of sitting in our kitchen, watching our three boys come and go while I attempted to feed them, put coats on, tie shoes, coordinate carpools and hunt for the next necessary piece of sports equipment. She said it was like watching a funny tennis match. Hmmmmph.

Eliz and her parents

At Mom & Dad’s 50th Anniversary Brunch, 2002

 

So, I confess I’m preaching to the choir. We shall get down to business. We are going to attempt to beat busyness. We will apply a little “margin”* to our lives, our calendars, our sweet, smiling faces. No frumpiness, no frowns, no frustrated sighs allowed. And yes, we do have time for a Bible study. Stick with me…

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After a boatload of research from being 100% convicted, no thanks to Priscilla Shirer, I’m convinced we all  need a lil’ margin. Good news? Margin beats busyness.

It all started with a conference I attended with eight thousand other women a couple of summers ago. Priscilla was one of three speakers, the other two being Kay Arthur and Beth Moore. All were powerful, but when Priscilla began to teach on margin, I felt as if I was the only one in the room. Biggest “aha moment” to date. (Her message can be found in the chapter entitled “Sabbath Spaces” in her excellent book Resolution for Women. We’ll be talking about this more in Part 4, later in the month. Meanwhile, checkout her website for more information: www.goingbeyond.com)

Resolution for Women

*What is “margin”? Margin is the space between our load and our limits. Breathing room. Best definition I’ve heard comes from Andy Stanley in his Bible study Pushing it to the Limits. He says, “All good things happen within margin…such as your relationships with others, and with God. And, because we are human, we all have limits on our time, our energy, and our money. So, if we push our limits, spreading ourselves too thin, we push out God. Therefore deleting any margin we may have had.”

Note the warning…pushing out God deletes margin. Skipping quiet times in the morning would be a good example of margin-less living. Yes, we’re getting to that excuse about Bible study…

The guru of margin, Richard A. Swenson, M.D., has written numerous books on margin. I’ll be quoting him frequently over the next few weeks. Richard opens our eyes from the get-go in his book, Margin-Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives:

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“Margin-less is fatigue. Margin is energy.  Margin-less is anxiety and worry.” (Worry’s one of my special sins, you? Please forgive me AGAIN, Lord.) “Margin is peace. Margin-less is our crazy culture. Margin is counterculture. Margin exists for relationship.  Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has time to listen, let alone love.” Ouch!

How ’bout a couple of real-life scenarios?  Margin-less is hurry, frantic frenzy, speeding tickets!!! (Anybody?) Margin is slowing down, being still, being calm, basking in a bubble bath, taking a nap, reading a novel, meditating on Scripture….(Catching on now?)

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Why do we need margin? Because God did not create us to be spinning in a thousand directions, out of control. He created us to yearn for more time with Him, to learn more about Him, not the world in which we live. Remember He’s the One who created rest. (See Genesis 2:2-3** below.)

In 1915, an Australian by the name of F.W. Boreham said: “I believe that a supreme goal of one’s life should be to secure a margin. A good life, like a good book, should have a good margin.” Poor man would flip over today’s culture, huh?

One of my favorite devotionals is Jesus Calling by Sara Young. Flip over to October 24th’s entry if you have a copy. Sara uses Psalm 23:1-3**, Genesis 2:2-3** and Luke 1:79** to encourage us. Remember she writes as if Jesus is speaking directly to us:

Jesus Calling

“…Learn to unwind whenever possible, resting in the Presence of your Shepherd. This electronic age keeps My children ‘wired’ much of the time, too tense to find Me in the midst of their moments. I built into your very being the need for rest. How twisted the world has become when people feel guilty about meeting this basic need! How much time and energy they waste by being always on the go, rather than taking time to seek My direction for their lives.

I have called you to walk with Me down paths of peace. I want you to blaze a trail for others who desire to live in My peaceful Presence. I have chosen you less for your strengths than for your weaknesses, which amplify your need for Me. Depend on Me more and more, and I will shower Peace on all your paths.”

Notice, He notices when we are too wired from being “always on the go”…Let’s look at one of Jesus’ invitations from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (The Message says, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Love that!)

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HOW can we build margin into our everyday lives? I’m going to give you a sampling of a plethora of ideas from Dr. Swenson’s book on Margin.  He offers excellent details, twenty-two for example, on margin in physical energy, fourteen on margin in emotional energy, sixteen on margin in time, and sixteen on margin in finances!!! We’re going to tackle only four, one each week.  These will include:  Bible study, Prayer, Guarding our Calendars, and Rest (which is directly tied to keeping the Sabbath.)

This week’s answers the title of this post:  “But I don’t have time to do a Bible study.”  God’s Word answers:  “Yes, you do.”

Are you good at coming up with excuses? I could teach a class on such. Not a boastable attribute… The first time I was invited to a Bible study, I received four  invitations, three of which came from family members. Talk about pressure!

But guess what I learned? Every time I tried to study the Bible on my own, I failed. When I joined a class, with friends and accountability, Bingo.

Author and Bible study teacher Angela Thomas says Matthew 6:33 is her life-verse: “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  www.gospel.com,  spells it out for us: “It’s often the case that we put our spiritual life on a lower priority than other ‘pressing concerns’…Jesus is telling us that a properly balanced life is one that puts Him above our other concerns. He’ll take care of them.”

I can’t explain it in the physical realm, but when we put God first, He somehow supernaturally, exponentially adds to our day. Don’t take my word for it. Try it.

Another cool thing happens when you read God’s Word (and we know the Bible is God-breathed from 2 Timothy 3:16**). You’ll get to know Him better and you can hear His voice speaking to you straight from Scripture.

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For example, one of my dear friends y’all hear me talk about all the time is Liz Curtis Higgs. She’s written  just a few  books. (She’s well on her way with #31! Check her out at: www.lizcurtishiggs.com)

When I read her writing, because I’ve gotten to know her, I can  hear  her voice, as if she is reading to me. So it is when you study the Bible…

Robert Bugh, in his recent release, When the Bottom Drops Out—Finding Grace in the Depths of Disappointment, maintains that “long before a crisis hits, IF we’ve been deeply rooted in the Word of God, THEN we’re equipped when difficulty comes, or ‘when the bottom drops out.’” Bible study readies you for daily living.

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Adding a Bible study to your calendar is just one way to build margin into your day. We’re on our way to beating busyness! (Bible study recommendations are listed at the end of this post.***) Next week we’ll talk about prayer. What an invaluable resource.

‘Til next time!

(This week’s post is dedicated to Priscilla Shirer, an amazing wife, Mom of three boys, Bible study teacher, speaker, and writer. Let’s pray for her! It’s a miracle she does all she does and she is living proof of Matthew 6:33—see above. Thank you, Priscilla, for haulin’ all those belts to Freedom Hall. You set me free! Not quite ready for a home inspection, but I’m workin’ on that 14%!!! We’ll be talking more about your inspirational message in future posts. May God bless you and your precious family.)

**Genesis 2:2-3By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

Psalm 23:1-3The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

Luke 1:79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

2 Timothy 3:16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

***Below are some recent Bible studies I’ve done which are well worth your time:

Bad Girls of the BibleThe Girls still got it

The Girl’s Still Got It–Take a Walk With Ruth and the God Who Changed Her World and newly revamped Bad Girls of the Bible (due out July 16th) by Liz Curtis Higgs

James Mercy TriumphsDavid Seeking a Heartbelieving god  Stepping Up

James: Mercy Triumphs; David: Seeking a Heart Like His; Believing God; and Stepping Up–A Journey through the Psalms of Ascent all by Beth Moore

Brave

Brave — Honest Questions Women Ask by Angela Thomas

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Jonah: Navigating Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer

No other GodsNehemiah

No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols; and Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break by Kelly Minter

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Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons, Margin, Scripture