Sunday, August 28, 2016

Innocents Pray

A book review

Every now and then you run across a book that affects you to your very core.  It was that way with me when I read Lisa Lickel’s book, Innocents Pray.
To begin with, the setting in Innocents Pray seems like any other with what looks like an average American family, complete with their own struggles and quirks.  We have a father who works away from home more than he’s at home, a teenage son dealing with the struggles of being a teenager yet fighting fears and demons no teenage boy should face, and a mother who must yet again fight the battle with the dreaded C word, along with trying to decide whether or not to put her family through another battle.  Add to the story a live-in companion/nurse who becomes more than just a caregiver, but a friend to the mother, a spiritual advocate who has secrets of his own, a doctor who is searching for a cure and a whole lot more, and a few other surprises thrown in for good measure, Innocents Pray is a book that keeps the reader not only intrigued but wondering what’s going to happen with the next turn of the page.

Liberty Davis (more affectionately known as Libby), an avid artist who runs her craft and art business from a studio inside her home, is fighting the gnawing in the back of her mind that her cancer may have returned.  Passing it off as a strained muscle from walking the beach of her Wisconsin home, she ignores it and tries to hide it for as long as she can.  However, her companion and nurse, Nona sees right through Libby’s fa├žade and calls her husband Vic home from his work abroad.

Vic Davis, Libby’s husband has been secretly called home by his wife’s companion.  She fears Libby is sick again.  Catching a private flight with Brother Abel of the Alexian Brotherhood and spiritual advisor of Paradise House, a hospice facility stationed in California, Vic and Abel strike up an impromptu but distant friendship in the few hours of their flight.  Neither knows that they’ll ever meet again, nor how connected their lives will become.

Through the journey of Innocents Pray, you watch as first Libby, then Brother Abel detail their life events, always wondering how one plays into the other.  However, there are also a couple of mysterious blog posts from different blogs to contend with that lead the reader to wonder exactly who is posting these things and how distressed their life must be to write the things they do.

Innocents Pray is a very intriguing book.  I kept reading, trying to decide if Libby was going to succumb to the cancer invading her body.  Would Vic, her husband ever realize that keeping his home and family together was important, rather than jetting off to who knows where to install medical equipment for the company he works for?  Not that his job isn’t important, but doesn’t God also desire for one to keep his family together?  How were Libby and Vic missing the vital issues that their son Jordan was struggling through and why were they passing it off as just everyday things a teenager goes through?  What part did Nona, Libby’s companion and nurse serve in all this?  And how was Brother Abel connected?

Of course, add in the mysterious research that Dr. Rich Bernard is doing at Paradise House and it’s a web of mystery, intrigue and deception…or is it legitimate? Who will live and who will die?  That’s one question I wanted to know.  The outcome was surprising.  Through it all, faith in God flows through the undercurrent throughout the entire book.  Whose prayers will He answer?  How will He answer?  Does He even answer?  As the pull of the book claims; “One wants her to live, one wants her dead, one wants her cells.”  Who will get their wish?  Whose prayer will God answer?

Having lost my mother to cancer over twenty years ago, Innocents Pray tested my comfort zone.  However, determined to read this with an open mind I finished the book and was glad that I did.  It was a great story with twists and turns, lots of people, lots of opinions and a little bit of drama weaved in for good measure. 

It also led me to research the Alexian Brothers, a healing mission of the Roman Catholic Church.  They engage in *“a prophetic, holistic approach to healthcare, rooted in Gospel values.”  The Alexian Brothers have an 800-year legacy.  I had never heard of the Alexian Brotherhood, however found the organization quite interesting.

Lisa Lickel does a great job of keeping you entertained as well as wondering what’s next.
I recommend reading Innocents Pray, especially if you’re struggling with your faith, loss, or just want to be kept on your toes.  You don’t have to be Catholic in order to understand the depths of faith and questions we all ask God periodically throughout our lives; especially the question of, when several people are praying different prayers for the same person, whose prayer does God answer?


Innocents Pray is scheduled to release on September 1, 2016 and is currently is available for pre-order. You can secure your copy by going to any of the following links:












Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer and editor who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include the Buried Treasure mystery series (The Last Bequest, The Map Quilt and The Newspaper Code) and the award-winning romance, Meander Scar; A Summer in Oakville, co-authored with best-selling author Shellie Neumeier, Healing Grace, The Last Detail and a series of historical early reader books, First Children of Farmington. She has a novella in Brave New Century, a historical anthology, and a radio play in the anthology A Wisconsin Harvest, Vol II. A novella, Everything About You, released as part of the Love Is series from Prism Book Group. She also writes short stories, feature articles, and radio theater. She belongs to the Chicago Writers Association, the Council for Wisconsin Writers, Women’s Fiction Writers of America and Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp & Retreat. Lisa loves to encourage new authors through mentoring, speaking, and leading workshops. Lisa also is an avid book reviewer and blogger, and a freelance editor. She is married to a high school biology teacher, and they have two sons and daughters in law, grandchildren and a grand-kitty. Find more at LisaLickel.com.



Walk Healed!

Shelley



*For more information on the Alexian Brothers healing mission check out the following link:



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Listen to Your Tour Guide

A few years ago I was traveling to speak at a weekend ladies retreat which was six hours away from my home. The journey was not only eventful but I was thrown every detour I could possibly run into. The GPS was telling me to go one way, while the printed directions said to go another. I knew the direction I had to go, was following the printed directions, yet the GPS kept telling me to make a U-turn and go in the opposite direction. None of it made sense. I felt like Alice down the rabbit hole.
 
disney.wikia.com
This trip was a new adventure for me. For the first time I was driving solo. I had never ventured out of my home area by myself any further than a couple of hours away. I knew my area, how to get to where I was going, and how to get myself home. This trip however, was into the Great Unknown for me. To say I was a little apprehensive would be an understatement, yet I was completely calm.


On this trip I ran into one road construction project after another. There were detour signs galore. Yet, I always ended up back on the right road in the direction I needed to be going. At one point even a huge thunderstorm and hard rain pelted my new car as I tried to navigate the highway and keep myself on the road and from running into another vehicle. But that didn’t stop me from moving forward toward my goal.

On the final stretch of road I knew I was nearly there. Yet, once again a detour. This time there was a complete road block with a detour sign which was pointing the opposite direction. I stopped in the middle of the road and looked at the sign. Really? Left? The place I was going, I knew in my heart, was not that direction. I looked left. Nothing. Then I looked right. There was a road. In my heart I heard, “Turn right.” So I did.

Up and over a set of railroad tracks and down this dusty road I went. I wasn’t sure how far I would go, but suddenly there was a gravel road going to the left and I heard again, “Turn here.” So I did. Now I’m in the middle of a huge corn field, on a gravel road, in the middle of nowhere, out of my area and alone. Great.


Suddenly though, there was a stop sign in the middle of the corn field. Who put that there? I stopped. I looked to the left and instantly saw the rail road track that I just had crossed earlier. Hm. So I turned left, crossed the tracks, and then stopped at the stop sign there. When I looked to the left, there was another barricade with a detour sign. I was on the other side of the road block. I had gone around it without having to take the opposite direction.

I turned right and was back on the road I had come in on and back on track to my destination. Within minutes I was where I was supposed to be. At my hotel. Safe. Secure. Relieved. And yes, I was thanking God for getting me to my destination.

That was several years ago. The ladies retreat was amazing. It was small, but for a first time speaking engagement, it was just what I needed, just what they needed, and I made a brand new friend and discovered a sister in Christ.


That trip taught me a lot about trusting God to get you where you’re supposed to be. The enemy throws many detours our way to trip us up, put us on the wrong road, send us in the wrong direction and just really mess with our lives. But when we absolutely know which direction we’re supposed to go, those detours won’t deter us at all, even if they tell us to go in the opposite direction.
 
fullbridgeacademy.co.uk
Not even Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, can keep you from doing what God has called you to do. But along the way, those interruptions and detours can become an entertaining and fun adventure if you allow the Holy Spirit to lead you.

My point is this; if you stay focused on your Tour Guide (God), then all the other distractions will be just the sights you get to see during your tour. By staying focused on Him, you will reach your destination safe, sound, and better than when you began… and you just might have a laugh or two along the way.

Trust me.


Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. ~Isaiah 30:21 (NLT)


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Don't Lose Your Sparkle in the Fog

For some reason I just woke up in the middle of the night. Actually, I woke up within an hour or so of falling asleep. It could have been several things, physical things, and at my age those things seem to be increasing in number. However, I don’t think it was a physical thing that woke me.

Although I did get up and take care of the physical things. I also became quite curious about the night and why I was awake. I even tried to go back to sleep, which didn’t work. But while I was up, I noticed that the atmosphere inside the house seemed off. The air conditioner was on, the blower was running, but it seemed…stuffy. Yet, the temperature hadn’t changed.

 Now, most people would say that was due to the humidity outside, which is generally correct. I set out to prove it to myself by unlocking the front door and stepping outside to feel the temperature and humidity for myself. That proved to be a learning experience all its own.

To say that I stepped into an Edgar Allen Poe atmosphere would be an understatement. It would have been easy for me to get lost as soon as I stepped onto my front porch, because when I opened the front door I literally stepped into the fog. This fog was real, it was thick, and it was tangible. It was also scary.



Being surrounded by fog is not only uncomfortable but it’s confusing, scary, and sometimes frightening. We can’t see when we’re in the fog. We can’t navigate. We can become lost. And sometimes the fog can be so thick that it causes us to crash. What do we do?



Don’t lose your sparkle in the fog.

Jesus says that we are the light of the world. We are to let our light shine. But how can we do that if we are surrounded by fog? Won’t we lose our sparkle? Absolutely not! Our light never goes out. Though the fog surrounds us, though it tries to extinguish us, it cannot because darkness cannot overtake the light. Therefore, we cannot be hidden in the fog.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” ~Matthew 5:14 (NKJV)


Instead, we can shine because the Light of Jesus shines from within us. Because we are His, because we are royalty, His heirs, we can sparkle for the whole world to see. We can straighten our tiaras, shine em up a bit, and allow the light of Jesus to bounce off that tiara and shine for everyone to see.

There are so many people wandering around in the fog today. They may not know they’re in the fog so how are they going to know how to get out if we don’t sparkle and show them the way?


“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)


That fog outside my door is creepy. But I am confident that that fog has no power over me. I won’t lose my sparkle in the fog. Don’t allow yours to get lost, either. Let’s sparkle today so others can see what wonderful things God is doing in our lives. Be a light and help someone find their way through the fog.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hidden

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. ~Psalm 91:1

A friend of mine recently made a Facebook post which included this verse. This just excited me and I commented, “I love that whenever we feel attacked, overwhelmed, or just out of sorts we can simply cry out to God and He immediately shields us, hiding us from the enemy.”

backyardnature.net
But you know, immediately after I posted this I was inspired that God gives us so much more than just a shield. When we are shielded by or “under the shadow of” the Almighty, we are hidden from the enemy.  Hidden!  
Did you get that? He can’t see us.

If he can’t see us, he can’t mess with us.  Think about this for a minute. 

In the movie Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent sends her minions and even her evil crow to fly throughout the kingdom, searching for the princess so that she could destroy her. But Maleficent couldn’t see her. Why? One reason is because Maleficent’s minions were morons, but Princess Aurora was hidden, literally in plain sight.

Now, change that to the devil looking for you.  By the way, he is looking for you.  God’s Word says that he “prowls around looking for someone to devour.” If he’s looking to devour you, dear lovelies that means he’s looking to literally destroy you.

BUT… He can’t.

Now let’s leave that for one minute and look at what happens when we run to our Almighty. Like hiding behind your mom’s skirts when you were little, or even under Grandma’s apron, you were hidden from whatever was after you. Whether you were hiding from a sibling, a friend, or something or someone who scared you, when you were under that shield, you were hidden and safe. You knew it. Why? Because you knew that Mom or Grandma wouldn’t let anything or anyone touch or harm you. That’s how it is with God, our Almighty Father, our Heavenly Daddy. He is our Refuge and Safe Place.

Can you imagine how frustrating it is for the devil that while he’s attacking you, wreaking havoc with your emotions and physical self, that suddenly you disappear? *POOF!* You are hidden from his sight. Invisible to the enemy. 

One word and you’re gone.

Jesus!

We are held in the palm of His hand. We are covered by the hand of God. Then we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. And nothing and no one can touch us. Period.

crated.com
Look lovelies, every day we wrestle with spiritual issues. They may come in various forms, causing us to think we are dealing with physical issues, personal issues with another, financial issues, mental or even emotional issues. But in reality it’s all stemmed from spiritual warfare.

The gist of it all is that we are attacked all day long, every day. We can handle it in one of two ways; physical or spiritual. If we handle it physically, we will wear ourselves out.  However, if we choose to handle it spiritually, we have immediate safety.

We may not see it with our physical eye, but if we look at it from a spiritual standpoint, we will see the hand of God moving in our situation, shielding us and rallying around us to bring our situation under His control. All we have to do is rest in Him, trust Him, and allow Him to do His thang.

Our Almighty, Most High, Heavenly Daddy, is our Strong Tower. We can run into Him and be safe. We can hide under His mighty wing, shielded from the enemy, hidden so that we can rest and recuperate. It’s not our battle, after all.  It belongs to the Lord.  And He has promised to fight for us. In fact, He already did, and He won. Therefore, we always win!

Are you tired today?  Are you running out of steam?  Have you run to the Almighty and allowed Him to hide you under His wing? If not, why are you still trying to do things on your own? Stop wearing yourself out and call to the Lord. He will hear you and answer you, but not before He shields you from your adversary.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to stay hidden for a while and rest. Gather your resources, put on your full armor, prepare for the wrestling match, and when you’re ready, God will raise his wing and you will appear before the enemy, already victorious… and there won’t be anything he can do about it. Why? Because as God raises His wing from you, you will already have your foot on the neck of the enemy and he will have to leave you alone.

Now, how exciting is that!

If you’re out of sorts today, let me encourage and challenge you today to run to God. While you’re hidden, pick up His Word and read Psalm 91. And if you want to read more encouragement, contact me for a limited reading list at shelley@shelleywilburn.org.


Until then…



Saturday, July 16, 2016

It's Your Choice

I stopped at Sonic on the way home one night, to get a lemonade and an unsweet tea for my husband and me.  As the young man brings our drinks to the car he greets me and says, “How are you tonight?”  I smile and respond that I’m doing wonderful and ask how he is, to which he replies, “Horrible!”

I’m stunned by his reply.  So I try to make things light and say, “Aw, it can't be that bad! Think positive.”  He’s not having any of it and begins to tell me about his lot in life, how bad things are, and this is his second time working at Sonic.  I’m wondering why he’s telling me so much when he looks at me and says, “Before, I would walk home with sixty dollars in tips.  Now I go home with only ten.”

As he’s digging for my change, I calmly look at him and say, “Keep the change.  Tip is for you.”  Not even this makes him happy.  His response is, “Are you sure?” 

I respond with, “Yes.  Now see?  Something positive in your day.”  Nope.   Not even that worked.  He walks away, still venting as I loudly end with, “Gotta think positive, dude!”

I drive away thinking out loud, “Wow, maybe if your attitude was better your life would be better.”

Yet, as I’m driving down the road thinking about this young man (this is the second negative encounter I've had with him I realized) and his negative outlook toward life I realize something very important; you have the power to choose which direction your life goes.
nymag.com

You can either choose to be a victim of your circumstances, or you can choose to rise above it and be victorious.  It’s your decision.  It’s your choice.

Maybe that sounds ridiculous.  It’s not.
Maybe it sounds too good to be true.  It isn’t.
You may say, “That sounds good in theory, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
No. I don’t.  But you don’t know what I’m going through either.

Now, before you jump to conclusions and think I'm bashing this young man, think again.  I'm not.  But because of what he has said to me, this made me think.  My life isn’t perfect, either.  It’s not a bowl of cherries.  Things go bad, have gone bad even.  I don’t live in paradise with everything handed to me on a silver platter.  Life is life.  We all have negative things that happen.

However, every day I choose to walk healed.  Every day I choose to rise above.  Every day I choose to live as more than a conqueror.

Why?

Because God’s Word says I don’t have a spirit of fear.  I have power, love, and a sound mind.  God says I’m more than a conqueror.  God’s Word says that I can do all things through the strength He gives me.  He says I’m the head and not the tail. He says that I'm blessed going in and I'm blessed coming out.*  And He says much, much more even, but there’s not enough room to include it here.

You may roll your eyes and blow me off – you may say I’m a kook, an idiot, or a fake – that’s okay.  Because God’s Word also says that no weapon formed against me will prosper and every tongue that rises against me will fall.

But you know what else?  All of what I just said that God says about me… it’s also for you, too.

Whether you believe it or not, or live it or not – well –

I’ll be praying for that young man.  My hope is that God will show him how much he’s loved and that God is for him and not against him.  That’s my prayer for everyone I come in contact with whether personally or through my videos and blog posts. 

God is crazy about you dearest.  I hope you know that.  All the things happening in your life are to move you toward the wonderful plans God has for you.  It’s up to you to learn from them and move into your calling.  However, they won’t happen overnight or just out of the blue.  Victory is yours.  Jesus already paid for it.  Whether you receive it or not…

It’s your choice.





* For a list of Scripture used in this post, send an email to shelley@shelleywilburn.org with It's Your Choice Scriptures in the subject box.

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