Saturday, December 13, 2014

Where God Finds You: 40 Devotions Bringing Bible Characters to Life by Anita Higman, © 2012

   Through reflection on Scripture and prayer, my hope is that you'll discover a place in each of these lives of vulnerability, tenderness, truth, and love––a place where you can find God ... and where God finds you.
   --Anita Higman

For the word of God is alive and active.
   Hebrews 4:12

Join Anita as she brings these Biblical characters to life, entering them in our every day lives with their foibles, choices, and yearnings for something more. Beyond stories, they were real, as real as we are in our day and generations. Glean from them, plans and ideas that are expanded when given to God to lead and direct. So much simpler than having no path!

You will smile at some and cheer for others ~ wishing they would make a choice to what is open to them, the decision that will bring them so close they can feel His breath, His very presence. Awe and awareness, lovingly given. God is with us; He has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us. This is for all of us, in our every day lives, to bring us to the very heart of God.

Even Zacchaeus, my very favorite ~ he wanted to see who Jesus was... (Luke 19:3) and to have ~ a pure heart. His name means "pure." You will visit many ~ Leah, Paul, Hagar, Martha, Eve, Thomas, Elizabeth, Hosea, Steven, Simeon ~ and desire to seek God speaking to your own heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Excerpt ~ Chapter 11, Ruth

R u t h

Your people will be my people
and your God my God.
Ruth 1:16

I know the weight of death—the way its serpentine burden coils around one’s being. My husband’s fever had overtaken him so quickly, so dreadfully. Once we laid his body in the dusty ground, I became a part of the desert with him, dried up with no spring to feed it, thirsty and without hope. The remains of my beloved family mark the land but for a short time, but the grief will stain my spirit forever.
   Life begins at birth, and the years meander like a stream. But at times, it dries up too soon—before the water can flow down the hillsides and wander through the valleys, to water the land and bring new life to the earth. So it was with my husband. He was the stream that vanished.
   I touched my body and grieved the loss of children—my babies—who would never be born, or run in the barley fields, or grow and have children of their own. I would never know the joy of my womb.
   I looked up at Naomi, grieving mother of my husband, and of another son who also had succumbed to the fever. She was already weary in the sun and yet we had only begun our journey toward Bethlehem. I surveyed the load on our donkey and then spoke to Naomi. “There is room for you on our beast. I will carry some of the load. Please. You must rest.”
   Naomi stared down the road toward Orpah, her other son’s wife. “Your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her, Ruth. There is still time to join her.”
   I would never go back.
   There on the dusty road, I knelt on the ground in front of my husband’s mother and clung to her robes. “Please do not press me to go, to leave you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
   I looked up at Naomi. Her eyes appeared as dark as twilight, but the lines drawn on her face by worry and sorrow softened for a moment. She looked down the long road leading to her home and sighed. Was I a burden to her?
   For a long moment, I waited for an answer and prayed for favor. I looked up again, and Naomi gave me a slow nod. “So be it, my daughter.” She laid her hand softly on my head.
   You will be my mother, Naomi. You will be my home.
   “We have little food,” she said. “Some barley bread, dried olives, and figs . . . When I went away, my hands were full; now they are empty.” She stared down at her weathered and callused palms, and sighed again.

I would never go back.

   I put my own hand in one of hers. “Not empty now. We will face the perils on the road together . . . be it hunger, robbers, wild animals, or weariness.” I rose from the ground and brushed the dust from my tunic and mantle.
   The sun had now toiled its way across the sky to the place where it met the earth. The light was no longer oppressive, no longer a threat. I took the donkey’s tether into my hand, and we set off again, side by side, toward Naomi’s homeland.
   Awe creased my face, and a timid joy settled in my heart. I remembered that Naomi had spoken of a relative—a man named Boaz—and I wondered what hope he might offer us . . .

The Story from God’s Word
Ruth 1:14-19
   Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
    “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
   But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
   So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem.

The Story—from Then to Now
   Loyalty—it’s a word that’s gone out of vogue in recent years. As our society embraces a more transitory, short-attention, throwaway lifestyle, relationships don’t seem to be as deeply cherished as in earlier years. Concepts such as steadfastness and devotion and fidelity don’t seem to make it into everyday conversation anymore, let alone our lives. In fact, those values seem as old-fashioned as sitting out on the porch to watch the fireflies.
   I have a close friend named Brenda—that’s her real name, by the way—who has clung to me for almost twenty years. She has been what Anne of Green Gables called her friend Diana Barry—a bosom friend and kindred spirit. In spite of my occasional lapses in calling Brenda, my failing to have her over for coffee, and my forgetting to pray for her, she remains steadfast.
   Brenda has seen me at my worst. Yes, she’s seen the dark side of Anita Higman, and incredibly, she still loves me. Brenda is a dedicated friend like Ruth was to Naomi. She is like the Proverbs 18:24 friend—“one who sticks closer than a brother.” There are rewards for this kind of commitment—it pleases God.
   The biblical account of Ruth and Naomi paints a picture of the falling away of the Israelites and their homecoming back into God’s favor. But I especially love the literal story here. Boaz told Ruth how impressed he was with her faithfulness toward Naomi. He even referred to her as noble. Boaz must have thought, if Ruth could be that committed to her mother-in-law, then she would surely be a devoted wife and mother. In the end, Ruth did marry Boaz. And Naomi went from being empty and bitter to having renewed life, and arms filled with her sweet grandson.
   I absolutely love this happily-ever-after story.
   In fact, Ruth the Moabite is rewarded in another way, since she becomes not only the great-grandmother to Israel’s King David, but she is placed in the lineage of Jesus! This miraculous story all began with a humble concept, but a very powerful and honorable one—loyalty.

~*The Story*~
Questions to Think About

1. One of the themes of the book of Ruth is the deep loyalty and friendship that can form between women. Who are some of the women in your life who have been like beloved sisters to you? What makes these women so special to you?

2. What does it take to make a friendship last a lifetime?

3. What were some of the bonds that held Ruth and Naomi together?

4. How might life have been harder for either one of them if they had gone their separate ways?

5. Do you think these kinds of long-term friendships please God? Why?

6. How do you think people in general view loyalty today?

7. What benefits come from living a life of faithfulness to family and friends?
From Where God Finds You: 40 Devotions Bringing Bible Characters to Life, Anita Higman ~ Standard Publishing Company

***Thank you to author Anita Higman for sending me a copy of Where God Finds You: 40 Devotions Bringing Bible Characters to Life. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

How God Grows a Woman of Wisdom: A Devotional by Anita Higman & Marian Leslie, © 2014

  The price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
                       Job 28:18

Anita Higman and Marian Leslie have joined their writings to bring a devotional with this defining Introduction:
It’s easy to dismiss wisdom as an antiquated biblical term.
It sounds so foreign to the modern mind-set, maybe a little
lofty, and almost unattainable. But to God it’s a spiritually
discerning way of living that never goes out of style.
It’s as vital as air is to our lungs.
   Wisdom isn’t about someone’s IQ or how many degrees
one has. Wisdom is the perceptive and godly judgment that
keeps a woman on track. Keeps her moving forward in grace,
beauty, and love. A woman of wisdom is a woman of prayer,
faith, and strength—a woman everyone admires.
   Where can we get such a beauty treatment for the heart?
Since God is the Father who loves to give good gifts to His
children, all you have to do is ask. . . .
A beauty treatment for the heart.

How God Grows a Woman of Wisdom is the first release in a brand-new devotional series designed to enhance your spiritual journey. Featuring two hundred–plus devotional readings complemented by scripture selections and prayers, this lovely collection offers a powerful blend of inspiration, encouragement, and motivation for every area of your life. Touching on topics like beauty, blessings, conversation, joy, patience, prayer, relationships, work, and more, you will find yourself drawn ever closer to your heavenly Father as you meditate on each reading and open your heart and mind to God’s Word.

A Scripture, devotional, and prayer ~*sweetness for the soul*~.  The last three, entitled "God Does Not Reside in a Box, Psalm 47:2; The Wear and Tear of Daily Life, Proverbs 3:5-6; and Stuck in the Past, John 8:31-32, are descriptive of our need to allow Him to change our hearts. There is a Scripture Index in the back, and to read where you are studying in the Bible.

Write in it; make it yours. Highlight and make notes in the margin, dating it. When you re-read the devotions you will be amazed to see how God has changed your perspective as you make a comment this time, and... bring a smile of remembrance.

I like the clarity and introspection these devotions bring, woman-to-woman. How dear are our experiences together as we read and reflect on all God is and has already done for us. Pearls of wisdom at just the right moment!

Excerpt ~ God Is Doing Something New

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
                                                 Isaiah 43:19

So much of life depends on the flow of thirst-quenching water. Creeks,
streams, and rivers draw people to congregate and build towns around
them and to plant crops that grow into fields of harvest. On the other hand,
to experience a dearth of water across the land can be devastating. It can
make a verdant valley inhospitable. It can make what seems like a promise
     Imagine that desert, dry and barren—with no hope of even a cactus
flower to bloom—suddenly coming to life with bubbling pools of pure
water. That is what God promises us. He is doing something new in our
lives. He is making a path through what feels impassable, and He will
command a stream to flow through the wilderness of our pasts, places
where we had only known the wasteland of sin and a landscape of despair.
     So, believe in what God can do. Have faith, and bring your empty
buckets to the stream. Lift the dipper to your parched lips, and taste the
water that is sweet and new and refreshing.

       Father, thank You for Your provision, hope, and joy. Without You,
           life is dry and hostile. Come into my life and quench my thirst.
                 You are the only one who can fulfill me. Amen. —AH
From How God Grows a Woman of Wisdom, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

***Thank you to author Anita Higman for sending me a copy of the devotional How God Grows a Woman of Wisdom, co-written with Marian Leslie. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

headshot: anita higman, right-click to download the high-res 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pearls: A Collection of Inspiration and Wisdom by Anita Higman and Ruth Vaughn, © 2002
A sweet book to put in with your Christmas goodies ~ Pearls of Wisdom and longings for nearness.

On days when you think your spiritual
growth is hopelessly slow in flourishing,
Remember that the gargantuan oak tree
   and the majestic redwood grew silently,
They grew and stretched magnificently––
   even when no one seemed to
Except for the caring and watchful eye of
   the Master Caretaker.
Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
Happy are those who hold her tightly.
    Proverbs 3:18

A beautiful little book with enormous heart-filled longings relinquished to the One who cares and carries us! Each page illustrated with Truth to remind us we are not alone nor forgotten. His Love shines off every page.

You will want a copy of Pearls too ~ stop and rest awhile ~ you will be abundantly filled.

***Thank you author Anita Higman for sending me a copy of Pearls: A Collection of Inspiration and Wisdom. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Daily Grace for Daily Life: Encouragement for Women by Anita Higman & Hillary McMullen, © 2013

A little book of Daily Grace expands to a full heart as you receive and reflect, offering an uplifting cup of mercy in your day to yourself and those around you. Anita and her daughter, Hillary, share these devotions that will boost you to explore further and allow God to fill you with joy and thanksgiving at His bountifulness in any season of life. Just the right size to take with you, I like how there are topic sections with 9-10 devotions within them ~ Embracing God's Passion; Practicing the Art of Praise; Finding Victory in the Midst of Sorrow; Decluttering our Spirits; Cultivating a Servant's Heart; Viewing Life from Heaven's Porch; Reflecting the Beauty of Mercy; Discovering Who I Was Meant to Be; and Hearing the Voice of God.
Joyful Abandon
"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn
and become like children, you will
never enter the kingdom of heaven."
          Matthew 18:3 ESV
Imagine a child on Christmas morning. Her delight at the bright, colorful packages under the tree and the promise of hours of enjoyment hidden beneath the wrapping. Most likely, the little girl has done nothing to deserve the gifts. Yet she accepts them all without question and with great joy and gratitude. Unfortunately, people may find Christ's grace a little harder to accept than a Christmas present. The concept of complete forgiveness for all their sins can be a difficult thing to grasp. And even harder to fathom is the fact that His grace is a free gift––it can't possibly be earned by their own merit.

   When Jesus' disciples asked Him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He responded by calling a small child to Him and telling them that if they became humble like a little child, they would be the greatest in heaven. Contrary to the world's definition of greatness, Jesus was asking them to become lowly and meek, with a deep realization of their inability to achieve forgiveness through any effort of their own. Just as a child will throw herself at the foot of the Christmas tree to tear open her gifts, so should we approach Christ's grace with joyful abandon. ––HM

God, thank You for the free gift of grace.
Help me to accept it without inhibitions or fear.
--Daily Grace for Daily Life, 146-147

***Thank you to author Anita Higman for this copy of Daily Grace for Daily Life. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***