Click Here For Free Blog Backgrounds!!!
Blogaholic Designs

Monday, February 28, 2011

How Long?

Have you ever asked that question? 

I certainly have!  And usually it has been phrased something like this:  How long oh Lord?  How long is this going to last?  I'm just ready for a break!  This is just too hard!

I hope I'm not the only one that has found themselves at that point at one time or another.  With the way things are presently in our world, something tells me I am not alone.

One of the things I am doing in my quiet times with the Lord this year is a deliberate and slow reading through the Psalms.  I've read them before, but this year I wanted to take my time moving through them.  I started on January the first with Psalm 1.  As of today, I have only made it through Psalm 9.  The truths I have encountered thus far have been so timely and have been like a soothing salve to my soul.  Along with the Scripture, I am reading through John Calvin's Commentary On The Psalms abridged by David C. Searle.

Two passages stood out to me in Psalm 9:
"The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you."  (verses 9-10)
"The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God.  But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish."  (verse 17-18)
My family lives in an area hard hit by the housing crisis and the sinking economy.  We've only lived in SW Florida for going on four years, but in that short time we have seen so many people come and have to go; go because they have lost their homes and can't find work.  Gas prices have increased over night to ridiculous prices.  Gas is cost between $3.40 and $3.50 a gallon here right now.

Then you turn on the news and watch all the chaos in areas like Egypt and Libya.  Or you hear about the mother in Tampa, FL that shot and killed her two children, ages 13 and 16 because they were "mouthy".  Or a child takes a gun to your child's school and when facebook bullying ensues a week later upon the child thought to have turned the kid in, one of the mothers blames it on the school not offering her child counseling.  (Counseling was offered to the kids.  I wonder where this mother's sense of parental responsibility was!)

Last night, as I was reading through another portion of Vicki Courtney's "5 Conversations You Must Have Wtih Your Daughter" , I was encouraged, but reminded of the daunting task of raising Godly children in the present culture.  The enemy's attack on our families is great and only the strength of the LORD sustaining parents in today's culture will help us stay the course.

All these things and many you can think of yourself would be enough to discourage anyone; to make anyone become concerned about the future.

I wonder what your oppression, affliction or worry is today?  What trial are you facing?  It may be something seemingly insignificant as a minor "bump in the road" or it may be something huge and you wonder "how long".  Let me encourage you to read the two passages above from Psalm 9 again and let them wash over you.  In the LORD, know that your need is not forgotten and your hope will never perish.  Jehovah God is a refuge and a stronghold that can be trusted in times of trouble!

John Calvin says this in his commentary on these verses:
"If always He (God) protected us from adversity, who amongst us would not be completely attached to this present life?"
"God never says we shall not experience afflictions, but He does promise to bring us His help after we have been subdued under the cross.  He speaks of hope, not that our expectations will be instantly gratified, but to call us to prayer that His powerful hand may at least be stretched out on our behalf."
And finally consider these words from David Clarkson (Puritan writer/pastor):
"The love of Christ daily loads us with benefits.  He gives us nothing but what is good.  He blesses our curses, temptations, afflictions, sin and death, and they all prove good to us.  Even all His ways prove good to us; and not only all the ways of God, who loves us in Christ, but all the ways of those who hate us, whehter reprobates or devils.  This is the great privilege of those whom Christ loves; nothing shall befall them, but what shall prove good for them.  They may conclude, in whatever condition they are in, it is the best for them, and if it had not been so, they would never have been brought into it; and whenever it shall cease to be so, they shall be removed out of it.  This is the sweetest privilege, yet the most difficult to believe at all times, since there is often great opposition to it by our sense and reason, yet it is most true.  Christ's love gives us whatever is good"   (Taken from the devotional thoughts from January 29 in Voices From The Past)
So, how long?  I have no idea, but what I do know beyond any shadow of any doubt is that the One True God has it under His control and I don't want to miss a single thing He has for me in these shaky times. 

I pray you don't miss what He has for you either!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Passport Through Darkness

Audra Jennings with the B&B Media Group, Inc. sent me a copy of Passport Through Darkness:   A True Story of Danger and Second Chances by Kimberly L. Smith.

Phillip Yancey says this about this book:
"Kimberly Smith voluntarily walks through the gates of hell.  If you can read her account without being affected, you should check for a pulse."
And I would have to agree with him absolutely one hundred percent!

In Passport Through Darkness, Ms Smith is very candid and painstakingly transparent about the journey God has orchestrated for she and her husband Milton.  They are the co-founders of Make Way Partners "a mission organization committed to ending human trafficking".  I would greatly encourage you to visit the website and also Kimberly's blog found here. 

In her book, Kimberly tells the story of how she and Milton encountered orphans in Spain and how God used them to begin their journey ministering to women and children in bondage through human trafficking and the sex slave industry in some of the darkest corners of the Earth.  Kimberly tells how God brought her from simply living life as wife, mother, corporate executive and faithful church member by transforming her life and allowing her heart to be knit with those forgotten lives in Darfur and Sudan. 

She tells a truly eye opening and heart wrenching story and she is so transparent about her personal struggles and mistakes along the way.  She and her husband literally sacrifice everything for orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa.  But, this is a beautiful story of how two ordinary people took steps of faith into broken and very dark places and allowed God to transform them by His redemptive power.

There are parts of this book that are difficult to read.  I appreciate how Ms Smith handled the subject matter with great care and sensitivity without glossing over the atrocities these women and children live in every moment of their lives.  We sometimes want ministry to be all nice and easy and convenient, but real ministry meets people where they are and they aren't always in the easiest places. 

If you desire to be challenged and encouraged to live beyond yourself and fulfill a greater purpose in your life through the power of Jesus to the Glory of God and the good of others, then you must read this book.  

It can be purchased at by following the link provided bellow:


Jesus In The Present Tense

Karen Davis with the B&B Media Group, Inc. sent me a copy of Jesus In The Present Tense:  The I AM Statements of Christ for the purpose of my review.  The book's author is none other than Dr. Warren Wiersbe, an internationally known Bible teacher, author of the popular "BE" series of Bible commentaries and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago.

Dr. Wiersbe writes:
"My past may discourage me and my future may frighten me, but 'the life I now live' today can be enriching and encouraging because 'Christ lives in me.'"
Jesus doesn't say, "I was" or "I will be", but He says, "I AM"!

Dr Wiersbe also says:
"God doesn't want us to ignore the past; the past should be a rudder to guide us, not an anchor to hold us back...The better we understand our Lord's I AM statements and by faith apply them, the more our strength will equal our days...We will abide in Christ and bear fruit for His glory today - now."
One thing that I appreciate so much about Dr. Wiersbe's writing is that he doesn't overwhelm the reader.  He uses concise statements packed with amazing truth and points his readers straight to God's word for ultimate clarification.  In this most recent book, he explores in detail the I AM statements of Christ in the New Testament:
I AM the Bread of Life, I AM the Light of the world, I AM the Door, I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the Resurrection and the Life, I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life, I AM the True Vine
He also presents what he calls the "neglected I AM" found in Psalm 22, the messianic psalm that describes Jesus in His suffering and His resurrection glory.

Jesus In The Present Tense could be used to enhance your devotional time or it could be an excellent resource for an in depth study of the I AM statements of Christ.  Either way this IS a resource you will want to add to your library!

This book can be purchased at by following the link given bellow:


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where is the baby?

I'm not sure how it happened, but I turned around one day and 24 months flew right past me!

somehow turned into this...
and this...

One thing that hasn't changed in two years is the fact that our little "cute mess" (JennaBeth says it like this - "coot mess") is still the miss priss in the family...
Our lives have been anything but boring for the past two years!  If there ever was a "spice girl", JennaBeth is her!!

I just recently finished reading Mary Beth Chapman's book Choosing to See.  If you want to read a testimony that will motivate and encourage you to seize every moment with your children, to enjoy every day given to you with your loved ones that would be the one to read.  I can't imagine one single moment without JennaBeth, Cecily or Bentley and I pray the Lord never asks me to walk the hard road the Chapman family has been asked to travel.

So, I want to remember as much as I can about the joy JennaBeth has brought and will continue to bring into our lives and allow the Lord's strength to help me on the days she isn't so "joyful", because boy can two year olds have those days!!  I don't want to miss one dance with her!

Where do I even start cute mess?  You are one big bundle of energy, sweetness, joy, craziness, and stinky's.  It takes all I have most days just to keep up with you!  But you can't even begin to imagine how much I love you.  You were the surprise two years ago we hadn't planned, but oh how God chose to bless us!  I'm so glad I get to be your mama.  When you come up to me and say, "want to love mama" and you put those little arms around me, my heart experiences something that I just plain can't put into words.  What a gift you are!  You are a little talker these days!  You know exactly how to tell us what you want like:  "want 'nack" or "ride bike me" and "wanna cuckle" (color).  You have long blonde hair and big blue eyes.  You are wearing pull-ups right now and love to "go pee", which right now to you is just sitting on the potty, but I know you'll get the idea soon.  You love to pray with your bubba (what you call Bentley) at meal times.  You will fold your little hands and say, "dank uh for food, jink (drink), and nice day" and you end it with a big "amen".  You want to do everything he does.  Sometimes you get the little toddler "tude" though and your big thing now is to tell me "no" real matter of factly.  You take care of "pink" (what you call your lovey the pink bunny) and Anna baby (your baby doll you got at Christmas).    You love your daddy and sessy (what you call Cecily).  And they love you.  You love to have books read to you.  You will bring one of us a book and say, "read book me".  I know we all lose our patience too easily with you, but I hope you sense how much your family loves you! 
It is the biggest honor to be your mama JennaBeth.  I know there will be lots of "dances" to have with you as God helps me and your daddy to guide you through life.  I can't wait to see the beautiful young woman you will become and how God chooses to use you to bring Him glory.  
Let's dance,
your mama

Be sure and listen Steven's story behind the song at the end of the video!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Writing Notes During Church

Disclaimer:  My husband told me the other day that I needed to write a blog post about how much I loved him, because I always post about the kids.  Now, he might want to consider this post as an act of submission on my part (Our pastor has been preaching out of Ephesians 5 the past several weeks on the marriage relationship), ha, ha, but what he may not know is that I have actually had this post rolling around in my head for a while now.  So, Mike here's your post!!

Valentine's Day did not quite turn out like Mike and I had planned.  Actually it probably was because we did not plan very well.  I think we've both felt the need for a break and a get away so strongly as of late that we just "went" without thinking much.  To make a long story short, after about an hour's worth of driving and stopping by four different places just to be told there was an hour to two hour's wait to eat, we gave up.  Or we almost did.  We actually ended up at a little "hole in the wall" Mexican place that turned out to actually have some pretty good food.

I could have let that disappoint me and make me feel like I had a "less than" Valentine's dinner out.  I actually think that maybe it really was the best Valentine's Day ever.  Let me explain.

I was looking forward to going out with my hubby, but it was because of some things that had taken place prior to that evening.  Earlier that day, Mike had brought home roses for me along with a card and some candy.  That was sweet.  But what really touched my heart is that he also brought home cards and little boxes of candy for each of our kiddos - Cecily, Bentley and JennaBeth.  In case I haven't ever mentioned it on this blog, I'll do so now:  MY KIDS HAVE THE BEST DADDY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!  It was almost more than I could stand to know the he had taken time to pick a card for each of them and write a personal note to each one!

Life has been crazy lately for us.  There have been trials and challenges that if left to themselves to do the work the enemy would have for them to do, well they would have accomplished what the enemy always wants to accomplish in the lives of God's people:  steal, kill and destroy.  But God...I love those two words possibly more than any other in the English language...But God has not forsaken us.  He is doing a mighty work and I know that He will bring it to completion, which will be for His glory and our good.

In the midst of all this, God reminded me of something on the Sunday evening before Valentine's Day in a truly amazing way.  It wasn't some tremendous spiritual experience with flashes of lightning and great emotion.  It was kinda like the gentle whisper in which Elijah heard God speak (1 Kings 19:11-12).  And it came in the form of my husband (the Associate Pastor of the church I might add) writing notes during the pastor's sermon!  Here's his note he passed to me:
I was reminded by way of that simple note that I had a partner in this crazy life we are living; a partner that God gave me almost 19 years ago; a partner that I would rather do crazy with before I would do "normal" with any other!

I have this quote from John Piper written in my Bible by Genesis 2:24:
"God gets glory when two very different people and very imperfect people forge a life of faithfulness in the furnace of affliction by relying on Christ."
So, Mike, how did I do on "your post"?????  And for the record, I'm so very glad you are the one with whom I am "dancing in the minefields".

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Sabbath by Dan B. Allender is part of The Ancient Practices Series.  A copy of the book was sent to me for the purpose of review by Thomas Nelson

"What would I do for a twenty-four-hour period of time if the only criteria was to pursue my deepest joy?"
That's the question that Allender asks in the introduction to his book.  He has many good things to say in the introduction like this:
"Perhaps one of the most radical gifts we can bring the developing Third World and the decaying Western society is the Sabbath.  Not a day off, but a day of celebration and delight.  The Sabbath is a day when the kingdom to come has come and is celebrated now rather than anticipated tomorrow."
And this:
"We live in a dark day, but it is still rare for someone to publically tout his or her violation of the Ten Commandments, with one exception - our debasement with busyness...Sabbath rest is not an option; it is a is as wrong to violate the Sabbath as it is to steal, lie, and kill."
He goes on to explain in the introduction that the Sabbath is to be more than a day of "ceasing" but a day of delight and rest or "menuha" which is the Hebrew word for rest, "but is better translated as joyous repose, tranquility, or delight.  To the biblical mind Menuha is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony...It is the state in which there is no strife and no fighting, no fear and no distrust."

I was quiet disappointed in this book.  Like I say, the introduction was very good, but then the rest of the book was quiet redundant.  I found Allender to be very "wordy" and I had to step back from portions of the book asking myself "What exactly is he trying to say?".  I'm in no way saying that Allender was speaking heresy, but the book was full of stories of how he and his wife have "done Sabbath" rather than looking at ancient traditions and how they line up with the Bible, which is what I was expecting from the book.

Although I didn't particularly care for this book, I'm not saying it would not be worth looking at.  

Sabbath can be purchased at


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Deadly Ties by Vicki Hinze

Well, the first thing I have to say about this author, Vicki Hinze, is that she is BRILLIANT!  I absolutely could not put this book down and was drawn into the story from the very first few paragraphs of the first chapter!  Deadly Ties is Book Two in the Crossroads Crisis Center Series by Hinze.  I was sent this book for the purpose of review by Waterbrook Multnomah and was not expected to necessarily give a positive review, but an honest one.

And honestly, if you love suspense and love to read books that make you sit on the edge of your chair while reading, then you really must get your hands on this series.  The first book in the series was Forget me Not and the third book is expected to be available in Spring of 2012.  You better believe that I'll be getting my hands on that third book and I'll be going back to read the first one!

Deadly Ties tells the amazing story of Mark Taylor and Lisa Harper.  Here's the Book Short via YouTube:

In Deadly Ties, Ms Hinze weaves a beautiful picture of love, courage, forgiveness, and the sovereignty of God in all things.  Mark and Lisa (main characters in the story) travel a journey that involves ruthless murder, emotional and physical abuse, kidnapping, human trafficking and cyberstalking.  Those things don't sound so beautiful do they?  However, through this suspenseful story Ms Hinze helps the reader to understand the truth that "it's hard to walk in faith when we're in one of life's long and dark tunnels.  It's easy to feel forgotten and lost and helpless and hopeless.  But we're not.  In God's own time, He reveals that to us, and rather than feeling forgotten, we know that He was right there with us in that dark tunnel, gently leading us to His light."  (Quote from Ms Hinze in her personal note to the reader at the end of the book.)

Mark and Lisa learn what it means to really trust God and His master plan.  Mark and Lisa find their purpose.  And I think as you read their story, you will find begin to understand some of your own as well.

A reader's guide is included in the book making it an excellent choice for your next book club selection.  Deadly Ties as well as the first book in the series can be purchased from the publisher's website or from


Monday, February 7, 2011

Superbowl Doctors

While daddy was watching (or shall I say "trying" to watch) the Superbowl, these two...
were playing "doctor".
They even got big sister involved!  I believed the two little ones checked her over thoroughly!

After getting a clean bill of health from Dr. Bentley and nurse JennaBeth, Cecily fixed Sandra Lee's Sweet Pepper Poppers.  Here's the recipe:
non-stick cooking spray
2 pints baby red, yellow, and orange bell peppers or jalapeno peppers
1    8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup chunky salsa
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
Cut each pepper lengthwise through stem.  Using a spoon, scrape out seeds and veins.  Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, green onions and shredded cheese.
Fill hollowed-out peppers with cheese mixture.  Place peppers on a baking sheet.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through.  Top each pepper with a spoonful of the salsa.

Now, we used jalapeno peppers.  They were so good.  We just made one mistake.  In reading the recipe in Sandra Lee's cookbook, we failed to abide by the little side note that tells you to go to page 77.  On page 77, you are reminded that when working with jalapeno peppers, you should always wear gloves.  By the time we were through making the pepper poppers, both mine and Cecily's fingers were on fire!!!  Mine settled down after washing with hot soapy water, but Cecily's were really bad off.

Before  going to bed, daddy (Mike) finally found somewhere that said a remedy for such pepper issues was soaking your hands in milk.  So, Cecily did that and was all better!  So, there were lots of "doctors" in the McIlwain house this Superbowl Sunday!

And yes, Cecily and I learned our lesson!!  We WILL wear gloves next time we are anywhere near a jalapeno pepper!!!
Blessings to you this Monday,

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Whatever is Good

I'm not sure where I came across this quote, but I have it written in my Bible at the beginning of the book of Psalms:
"Anything that makes me need God is a blessing".
It used to be that when anything hard came my way I would cry out to God "Why is this happening?  It was always why, why, why.  Thankfully the LORD has brought me a long way from why to what.  Now when the trials come I'm more prone to ask in quiet reverence before Him "Okay, what do You want me to learn and apply to my life through this?  What part of Your character do I need to see and understand more clearly?"

One of the most quoted Scriptures I guess would probably be Romans 8:28,
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
But there are some things that come our way or that we see going on around us that make us ask, "But how can this be for my good"?  A very clever tool of the enemy of our souls is to get us to question God and His intentions toward us.  But over and over in His word God tells exactly what He intends for His children.  Here are just three out of many:
"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless."  Psalm 84:11
"The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing."  Psalm 34:10
"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy."   Micah 7:8
This great truth of God's mercy and grace toward us had been whirling around in my mind and heart when I came to this devotional thought from David Clarkson, a Puritan pastor, a few days ago taken from Voices From The Past :
"The love of Christ daily loads us with benefits.  He gives us nothing but what is good.  He blesses our curses, temptations, afflictions, sin and death, and they all prove good to us.  Even all His ways prove good to us; and not only all the ways of God, who loves us in Christ, but all the ways of those who hate us, whether reprobates or devils.  This is the great privilege of those whom Christ loves; nothing shall befall them, but what shall prove good for them.  They may conclude, in whatever condition they are in, it is the best for them, and if it had not been so, they would never have been brought into it; and whenever it shall cease to be so, they shall be removed out of it...Christ's love gives us whatever is good."
Please know that if you are a believer and are trusting in Christ alone for you salvation, He will only bring those things or people into your life that will be for your good and His glory!

Praising Him,