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God’s Defining Love

June 22, 2017

Love. We all crave it in its many forms: a character trait, an emotion, a need to be satisfied. From the newborn to the aged and dying, we never escape our deep longing for love.

But what is love, really? Even our cat seems to need affection, and in its simpler form, love can be shown in that way. But affection can be fickle, can it not?

In the Greek language, there are several words for love. In John 21, Jesus asks the Apostle Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” However, the Greek word for love that Peter used is different than the word for love that Jesus had used.

Peter thought he loved Jesus unconditionally—more than his own life and was willing to die alongside Jesus when He faced the cross. But after failing miserably to fulfill that promise, he probably wondered if he understood love at all.

I think Peter’s confidence in his ability to love the way God loved him was so shaken that he simply could not honestly say, “I love you,” the same way Jesus meant it. Where Jesus asked him if Peter loved him unconditionally, Peter responded, “I have a strong feeling of affection for you.” It was the best he could offer in his own strength.

It is the best any of us can offer each other in our own broken humanness.

While there are baser forms of “love” that simply mean erotic or romantic feelings, the highest form of love is the one written in the ancient scrolls. Scrolls in which the Apostle John speaks of God’s love for us over and over again.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9

Never LeaveThroughout Scripture, God paints a vivid picture of His love. Across the spans of time from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, God’s love is there. On it travels, from death to a garden that held an empty tomb. And He wants to etch that story into the deep places of our hearts.

Far beyond affection, which is part of the way God feels about each one of us, He describes His love in promises such as, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “He will rejoice over you with singing.” Nothing can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:38-39)

And if we really want to know how love plays out in actions, the Apostle Paul describes God’s love this way:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)

Volumes have been written on the subject. Songs about love lost or found flood our airwaves. Better minds than mine have studied the varied nature of the love of God.

They tell me that my grandfather used to sing an old hymn called, “The Love of God” by Frederick M. Lehman (1917) when he visited inmates in prisons. If he wanted to impart hope to those men, I’m not sure he could have found a better way.

“The Love of God”

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

write the love#livegrace #loveofgod

Cover Reveal and Summer Happenings

June 12, 2017

Last week Revell allowed me to share the cover of my next book A Passionate Hope, Hannah’s Story, which will release next February. It’s early to talk about it, but so fun to share the great covers Revell comes up with–and the book is available for pre-order on Amazon. Of course, Redeeming Grace, Ruth’s Story is still new, so if you haven’t seen it yet, I hope you get the chance. Ruth’s story, which is also Naomi’s story, is close to my heart.

But since some of you aren’t on Facebook or other social media, I realized that it would help to also share the cover reveal here! And if you want to be kept up-to-date on more book news, please consider signing up for my newsletter. The summer edition will go out June 21, 2017, the official first day of summer! Though you could argue that summer is already visiting Michigan today as it is already 90 degrees, headed to 92! Almost as high as my mom’s age! And much too hot for some of us to traipse outside of our air-conditioned houses or apartments.

So I’m staying inside today as well and am trying desperately to get through the compilation of the Loves of King Solomon. The fourth installment of this series in e-book – The Queen of Sheba  releases this September, 2017. The compilation will be a paperback version and releases a years after A Passionate HopeA few more chapters to edit in this compilation which is more than just putting the four stories together, and then I’ll be on to my first non-fiction book.

I’m looking forward to this challenge of studying these biblical women in a different light to see how their stories can impact ours. In my many years of Bible reading and study, I have come to see the bigger picture of God’s great grace, and while I don’t have all of the answers (far from it!), I believe God placed these women in Scripture to teach us. To show us His love, mercy, forgiveness, power, grace and so much more. To show us how to live at a heart level. So we will wander down the path of introspection and ask the Lord to guide the way. I hope these upcoming books will be healing to those of us, including this author, from the broken things we hide so neatly in our hearts.

As for the rest of summer, I plan to do a lot of writing, but I’m also taking a business trip to a speaker’s conference in North Carolina. I still don’t know where God is leading or if speaking is His direction into a whole new challenge, but I love to learn and that’s why I’m going. I would covet your prayers for this journey.

I would also covet prayer for a back issue that has been waking me up at night. They’ve called it all kinds of things, but pinched nerve makes the most sense. I’m seeking God for healing, if He is willing.

Other than that, we look forward to each day wondering what God has in store for it. As Solomon said in Proverbs, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” And since we don’t know what a day may bring, we have determined to seek the Lord in each moment. To do what He has already planned for us to do. There is no better way to live.

One last note…I’m hoping to explore the topic of love in some upcoming blog posts. The idea of love is bandied about a lot these days. But what is love? If you had to define it, what words would you use to describe love? What does it mean to love God? Is self-love a biblical concept? Can love exist apart from God whose very character and nature is love?

If you have more questions on this topic, please email me or comment below. One can hardly avoid love when writing about Solomon’s loves. I hope you will join me in exploring how this applies to us.


#livegrace #thegreatestoftheseislove

June 2017 New Releases

June 7, 2017

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Engaged by Julie Arduini — Trish Maxwell returns to Speculator Falls with egg on her face and apologies to make as she tries to determine what’s next, especially when around paramedic Wayne Peterson. (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)


Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter — When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down. But when Josephine drives out to Noah’s North Georgia cottage to deliver the corrected papers, they are trapped there during a snowstorm. Things couldn’t get worse…until they are forced out into the storm and must rely on one another to survive. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Zondervan])


Then There Was You by Kara Isaac — Would you give up everything for a life you hate with the person you love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)



An Encore for Estelle by Kimberly Rose Johnson — A former A-list actress seeks to redeem herself in the most unlikely of places—a children’s theater. The writer/director didn’t anticipate a famous actress would ever show interest in his musical much less him. Will their pasts pull them apart or join them together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


The Cowboy’s Baby Blessing by Deb Kastner — When Ex-soldier Seth Howell suddenly becomes guardian of a two-year-old, he needs Rachel Perez’s help. Though she is gun-shy about relationships, this handsome cowboy and his adorable son break through. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Finding Love by Toni Shiloh — Delaney Jones is putting her life back together after widowhood when in walks Army soldier, Luke Robinson. Luke had a part in the death of Delaney’s husband–will his secrets widen the gulf in their relationship or will he finally find absolution? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)


Cozy Mystery:

The Copper Box by Suzanne Bratcher — When antiques expert Marty Greenlaw comes to Jerome, Arizona to search for a copper box she believes will unlock the secrets of her past, deadly accidents begin to happen: someone else wants the copper box, someone willing to kill for it. (Cozy Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)


General Contemporary:

Coming Home – A Tiny House Collection by Yvonne Anderson, Michael Ehret, Kimberli S. McKay, Pamela S. Meyers, Ane Mulligan, Chandra Lynn Smith, Linda W. Yezak — Tiny houses are all the rage these days, but what can you do with something so small? Here are seven stories about people chasing their dreams, making fresh starts, finding love, stumbling upon forgiveness, and embarking upon new adventures in tiny houses. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


Katie’s Quest by Lee Carver — Katie Dennis hopes for fulfillment as a single missionary nurse after the death of her fiancé. She trusts God for a new direction, but she’ll never fall for a pilot again. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:

A Sweetwater River Romance by Misty M. Beller — Rocky Ridge Stage Stop Manager Ezra Reid is put in a difficult situation when two ladies show up on his remote doorstep seeking refuge, one of them being Tori Boyd, the mysterious correspondence partner writing him letters for over a year now. Tori refuses the most proper solution to their circumstance—marriage. But when danger follows, it will take a lot more than luck to ensure Ezra’s heart is the sole casualty. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin — In German-occupied Brussels, a WWI nurse struggles to keep two life-threatening secrets. She’s in league with the British Secret Service, and she’s harboring a wounded British pilot. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])


Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection by Susan Page Davis, Susanne Dietze, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Gina Welborn — Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere — When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage. A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)


Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson — Set in WWII, an Irish woman must choose between her heart and her freedom when she finds a downed combatant pilot. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)



Mail Order Sweetheart by Christine Johnson — Singer Fiona O’Keefe must make a wealthy match to support her orphaned niece. Musically talented Sawyer Evans is a self-made, but not wealthy, sawmill-manager. Unwilling to live off his father’s railroad fortune, can Sawyer prove to Fiona he’s the man she needs when she’s already determined to mail-order a rich husband? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Freedom’s Price by Christine Johnson — On a quest to find her mother’s family in Louisiana, Englishwoman Catherine Haynes enlists a dashing Key West man seeking revenge for his own family. When an incredible secret comes to light, she and Tom will face a choice. Can they relinquish their dreams to step forward in faith? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])


Sutter’s Landing by Betty Thomason Owens — Still reeling from tragic losses, Connie and Annabelle Cross face life with their signature humor and grace, until fresh hope arrives on their doorstep. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)


Romantic Suspense:

Hidden Legacy by Lynn Huggins Blackburn — When someone threatens the baby she’s adopting, Caroline Harrison must rely on Detective Jason Drake, the man who once broke her heart, to figure out why. If Jason wants a chance at a future with with Caroline and her son, he’ll first have to help them outrun a hit man. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll — Pitted against each other to recover a map to the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, two recovery specialists follow the trail to Arizona. But someone doesn’t want them to find the map. . .or the mine. They must work together despite their mistrust and growing attraction, to save themselves. (Romantic Suspense from Barbour Publishing)



The Revisionary by Kristen Hogrefe — Revisionary or Rogue? To rescue her brother, Portia might have to break every rule in the book she set out to rewrite. (Speculative from Write Integrity Press)


Women’s Contemporary:

Redemption’s Whisper by Kathleen Friesen — Desperate to escape her past, a suicidal young woman flies from Toronto to a Saskatoon pastor’s home, the only people who may be able to help her. If only someone could love her, in spite of all she’s done. On the flight, she meets a young man torn between seeking affirmation in the big city and helping his parents in Saskatoon. Can these two troubled souls gain the peace they need—and in the process, find love? (Women’s Contemporary from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])


Young Adult:

All Things Now Living by Rondi Bauer Olson — Her whole life Amy has been taught the people of New Lithisle deserve to die, but when she falls for Daniel, she determines to save him. (Young Adult from Written World Communications)

by jill at 9:05 am in ,

Captive, Tangled, or Free?

May 30, 2017

Some weeks ago, I wanted to wear a necklace with my birthstone to an anniversary party. I wanted one with a gold chain because it fit the outfit better, but when I tried to pull the necklace from my jewelry box, I found three amethyst necklaces tangled in an enormous knot. I had no time to tackle the mess and free each one, so I grabbed a silver necklace and hurried out the door.

Later, I came back to that impossible mess and tried to separate the thin golden chains. I even asked for suggestions on Instagram and Facebook and searched the Internet for ways to loose these chains. I would pick at them now and then but came very close to giving up. Then I managed to get the thicker one free. But the two thinner chains were locked tight and one of my favorite amethyst hearts was attached to one. Was I going to have to cut it free and take my losses?

One Sunday afternoon I spent hours with a straight pin and oil and slowly, meticulously, pulled one strand at a time through one loop after another, but progress was very slow. I told my husband that there was a blog post in this somewhere–in other words, a lesson I needed to learn and hoped to share with you. IF I was successful.

But I had no way of knowing if that would happen. All of my best efforts couldn’t break these chains or rather release them from their bondage. If you know Scripture well, you are probably already seeing a parallel here, so let’s just go there.

Jesus said that He came to set the captives free. Isaiah predicted this about the Messiah generations before Jesus came:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (emphasis mine)

Jesus said to those who believed on him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” When He said that, He also had the power to do exactly what He said. He is truth, so the more the people of the first century got to know Him, the more they would understand truth and that truth would give them freedom from sin, fear, temptation…anything that might hold them captive. 

He can set us free too–just as He did those first believers.

But how often do I remain in a tangled mess believing lies because I won’t come to Him to teach me truth?

I’ve heard it often said that God has a plan for our lives, but you know, we don’t have to follow His plan. So often we want our own plan, and the lure of the world draws us away from the truth. We think we are here for years and years and that we can do whatever we want to do. We don’t realize how quickly our life is fading and that our purpose here isn’t about fixing the world. Our purpose is to remain faithful to Him who is Truth. To share Truth with hungering people who long for freedom at a heart level.

God didn’t say to neglect caring for the world–far from it. His Word has a lot to say about how we are to treat our fellow human being, even our animals. But our main purpose as those who know the one who is Truth is to share what we know of Him with those who are still tangled in lies.

Like those necklaces that got tangled in my jewelry box without any help from me–they managed to create a giant knot all on their own–so our lives can get pretty messy. As the old adage goes, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

Lies do that to us.

But if we know the Truth, the picture changes. Those necklaces? They’re free of each other though one still has knots. Kind of like we can still be held captive by things even after Jesus sets us free–if we don’t keep in step with His Truth. If I don’t remain faithful to His teachings, guaranteed I’m going to find myself in bondage to some sin or habit or…something. I know because I’m a work in progress. Like I’m still working to get the last knots out of that final chain, so God is working on my heart to set me truly free of the things that trouble me. 

I have to let Jesus do the work to set me free and that comes by trusting one truth at a time. By trusting Him with what I can’t control but what will control me if I’m not careful. 

He patiently woos me, woos each of us, determined to free us from our captivity so that we can go and proclaim good news to those who will listen. Good news that true, heart-deep freedom has a name.



#livegrace #lovetruth #hecametosetusfree



Forty Years!

May 21, 2017

Today I celebrate 40 years of marriage to my best friend. If you had asked me back then to see into the future of what those 40 years would look like, I could not have imagined in my starry-eyed youth. But I couldn’t have been given a better man to love. We actually celebrated a few weeks ago in Florida where we spent part of our honeymoon, but today is the actual day.

We listened to our pastor this morning talk about Psalm 127, written by Solomon, in which he writes, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Our pastor said the word “house” could also be interpreted “home.” And given what this day means to us, I thought back to those days of my youth and my longing to be married. I had dated several guys (as most of us do) and none were the “right fit”.

One day in frustration, I realized, I was tired of dating just to date. I wanted to meet the man God had for me. So I asked Him to please send that man. I met Randy shortly after that prayer.

Some people might say that God isn’t interested in those kinds of prayers. Others might suggest that there is no one “right” person for each one of us. I tend to believe otherwise. That is, I think that God does care about those kinds of prayers and I believe He honors our desire to let Him build our home. Maybe that means we don’t get the answer to that prayer as quickly as I did, but trust me when I say God has said “wait” on far more prayers than He’s given immediate answers as He did that time.

The point is that He wants to be invited into the process. Whatever we are choosing in this life, whether that means our homes, our careers, our ministries…whatever work or whatever relationships God has put before us, if He isn’t the one building them, if He isn’t invited to be at their core, Solomon said the one building them is wasting their time. The guards on the city wall watch (protect) in vain. It will do no good without the Lord.

I hope we’ve modeled this idea for our family and friends these 40 years. Sometimes it’s easier to just live life without thought to what God wants, isn’t it? We get up and do the same things day after day and maybe it takes 40 years to sit back and reflect on what could have been better, what was done right. And what can be done best in the future?

One of my favorite bands, Tenth Avenue North, sings a song called “What You Want”. It talks about us wanting what God wants, to follow Him and not keep trying to shoulder the burdens of our own dreams, when we are are “wired to let You lead.” To love how He loves. To want what He wants.

And that’s the point of letting God build the house, watch over the city, guide our careers, give us children or whatever other dreams we might have. He gave Solomon wisdom in his sleep. He gives to us gifts when we least expect them, but He does ask us to trust Him. To ask Him to be involved in the process. Kind of like I did in my youth when seeking His plans for my future.

The future hasn’t always gone the way I expected or sometimes even wanted, and Randy and I have walked some tough roads together these 40 years. But I wouldn’t have wanted to walk them with anyone else, and I’m grateful for each new day. Each small blessing because none of us knows what tomorrow might bring. We are a lot different today than we were back then, but then God has a way of working on our character and molding us to be more like Him. I hope we both reflect Him better today than the day the singer sang “God Bless This Marriage,” at our wedding.

For however many years we have left together, this is the day we celebrate us!


by jill at 3:25 pm in ,