"Sometimes while I'm talking to God, He'll show me something about myself in such a way that I have to laugh at my own humanity and how funny I must look to Him." - Donna

Donna...just found your blog...I absolutely love it! And I love your singing! I'm at work right now and it was just exactly what I needed to hear to help me make it through tonight! Thanks for your ministry here!
- Robert

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Today's Devotional: Lines and Longing



Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! - 2 Corinthians 9:15 niv
I’m sitting in my warm, cozy home in front of my beautifully decorated Christmas tree – one of several trees scattered throughout my house. I’m afraid I go a bit overboard with the Christmas d├ęcor. The weather outside is truly frightful, as it has snowed since the wee hours of this morning. Since I work at home, I don’t have to venture out into this mess, and for that, I’m thankful.

The meteorologists started warning us about the storm headed our way yesterday morning. Every few minutes, they proclaimed the importance of being ready. They changed the forecast from ‘winter storm watch’ to ‘warning’ as the storm organized itself and seemed bent on making this area its target.

In anticipation of this storm, I power-shopped yesterday. Scowls and angry attitudes abounded. Long lines and a short amount of time to get everything done make even the most serene person ready to snap. For every “Happy Holiday” I responded with “Merry Christmas” – my own way of bringing Christ back into the celebration. But I’m still not completely ready.

Watching the news last night, the forecasters reminded me of preachers I heard as a little girl. “The Lord is coming,” they proclaimed. “You must be ready for His return!”

I’d lie in my bed at night, peering into the darkness. Would He come tonight? Was I ready? A great sense of anticipation and a good dose of fear filled my heart as I tuned my ears for a trumpet blast.

Even now, my heart beats faster when I think of the magnificence of Jesus Christ’s return. How wonderful! How amazing!



In the craziness of shopping, baking, and planning family get-togethers, I forget sometimes that not only did Jesus come as a baby, but died as a young man, and rose as my Savior. One day, He will return for His children, and whether I’m eight or eighty, I’m a child in His eyes. His child. And I’m ready when He is to go Home. I long to be with the One who loves me so.

Now don’t get me wrong – I want to stick around for a while, doing what I can to tell others of God’s love, but I’m prepared to meet Him. Are you ready, or do you cringe at the thought of where you’ll spend eternity?

As you wrap gifts, think of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. When you see the Christmas lights, associate their brightness with the Light of the World. And as you stress over being ready for the holiday, ponder whether you’re ready for the Reason for the holiday – the birth, death, resurrection, and soon-coming return of Christ our King. I hope you’ve accepted the free gift from God sent to you - the gift of His Son.

I hope the snow lets up soon, too. I still have some shopping to do.

Prayer: Lord, please help me to remember why I celebrate on the 25th of December each year. I thank You for Your love. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

*Originally posted on 12-22-04.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Scripture Moment: Be Your Best


My quote for you today: 
"Never accept acceptable. Strive for superb!" - Donna J. Shepherd

Colossians 3:23-24 -Today's New International Version (TNIV) -"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Love Under the Bubble Wrap


Wow! I'm so honored when someone takes time to write a review and post it on Amazon. And when it says such nice things, my day is made! Here's a snippet of what Mary Busha said about Love Under the Bubble Wrap - a novelette:
I love the way Donna wove humor, disappointment, deep love, and even sarcasm into her story. Her characters are so real they seem to step right out of her story and intersect with the lives of her readers.
Thank you, Mary. I'm tickled pink you liked it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: The Exceptional Life, The: 8 Powerful Steps to Experiencing God's Best for You by Stephen Arterburn

I've listened to New Life Live, a nationally syndicated radio and TV show, for years and know that Steven Arterburn, founder of New Life, an author, speaker, and one of the longtime hosts, has a knack for taking what could be very complicated problems and providing steps to simple solutions. The fly in the ointment is that many people do not want to give up anything to gain something better – a "new" life. 

In The Exceptional Life, The: 8 Powerful Steps to Experiencing God's Best for You, Arterburn boils down what he sees as the major problems in life to eight categories. Each chapter identifies the origins and features of a negative quality, trait, or behavior and how it impacts a person's life. Then Steven gives Bible-based advice on how to give up the negative for the positive.

Steve uses stories, both funny and sad, but always relevant, to illuminate his points. Although I enjoyed each one, sometimes I did find myself struggling to get back on track. It tickled me though, because after listening to Steve talk on the radio for several years now, I could almost hear him telling the stories. If you're not used to his conversational style of writing, though, it might not seem as endearing. I believe if you stick with him, you will find he does make his point.



Overall, this book is a thoughtful, insightful, and useful tool to help you get started on that journey to become free of negative behaviors and traits that prevent you from having a better, more positive, yes - exceptional life. As a follow up to this book, consider "Healing Is a Choice" also by Arterburn which will help you take further steps to experience God's best for you.

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers for an honest review.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Devo: A Better Plan


Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
   but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. - Proverbs 19:21 niv

I got up bright and early on Monday ready to start my day and my Internet wouldn't work. Scree-e-e-ch! That will put a halt to your plans, won't it? I'm not on the web much on Sundays, so I look forward to catching up with everyone first thing Monday morning.

I decided a big cup of coffee was in order before I called the cable company, and while I poured that first cup, it was like the Holy Spirit whispered to me and said, "God doesn't need the Internet to talk with you for a while."

That's right! I know that, of course, but sometimes in my haste to 'get things done,' I forget. I had a nice time talking with the Lord. An even BETTER way to start my day. No, the BEST!

And obviously, I figured out what was wrong. Well, I guess I should say - I did the first thing any computer-savvy person does - unplugged everything and restarted it, and voila! I'm back online. Maybe God had plans for me this morning, too. I'm so blessed I didn't miss our appointment! 

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Review: The Power of the Prophetic Blessing by John Hagee




At the beginning of "The Power of the Prophetic Blessing," Pastor John Hagee confidently asserts, "You don't need to search any further for the answers to the challenges of your life; you just need to believe that you have the potential to lead a blessed life...because you were born to be blessed!" 

Hagee starts by defining the prophetic and priestly blessings. The second section talks about the eight prophetic blessings of Jesus, and the final section teaches about releasing and receiving the blessing. 

The principles taught by Hagee are well-researched and backed up with many Scripture references. He also includes many personal anecdotes and relevant quotes from Bible teachers. If you've ever heard Pastor Hagee preach, you'll almost be able to hear his voice booming with his unique delivery from the pages of this book. I don't necessarily agree with all of Hagee's points and interpretations of scripture, though I found myself hoping that he is correct in his assertion. I do  agree with Hagee that words are powerful, and speak the Word of God over my life for prosperity and blessings, health and healing, for favor, and ask God to bless my spouse, my children, and future grandchildren. Because of the teachings in this book, I've been assured I have a biblical foundation for continuing this practice. 

Be sure to have your Bible handy as you read this book. Some of the teachings might seem controversial, but  pray and seek God's guidance as you read. 

I give this book a 3-star review. I was given this book by Worthy Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Father's Day: Playing for My Father



The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.
– Exodus 15:2 NIV


Luther Jack Riley, L.J. for short, was not a musical man. His wife, Mammie, grew up singing, and when they visited her family, the whole clan gathered around the piano to sing for hours. But not L.J. – he sat to the side and listened, never singing a note.

At the age of nine, Lavawan, the youngest of L.J. and Mammie’s four children, found out his dad had a plan. Even though no one in the family had ever expressed a desire to play a musical instrument, for some inexplicable reason, his father decided to buy a piano.

Lavawan waited on pins and needles for the piano to be delivered. Somehow he knew, as if by instinct, he’d be able to play it. He’d already begun calling it "my piano.”

Finally the day arrived. It rained hard that day, and the movers covered the wood with plastic sheeting. They rolled the old upright into the living room, and Lavawan’s anticipation grew as they peeled back the plastic. He had such an unusual feeling about it all. He knew before he sat down he could play that piano.

All four children took turns trying to play. One by one, they quit – except Lavawan. Every single day, he spent hours picking out notes. He had no teachers, no lessons, just a tenacious determination to learn.

L.J. worked shift work at the paper mill and often had to sleep during the day. It would be difficult for most people to sleep with a kid banging on the ivories for hours on end, but not L.J.

Lavawan’s mom pulled him aside to tell him she'd noticed something odd. "When you play the piano, your dad sleeps. When you quit, he wakes up."

One day Lavawan knelt down beside his bed and prayed a fervent prayer. “Please, God, if you’ll give me the ability to play, I’ll use it for Your glory the rest of my life.” Within a few months’ time, he could play almost every song the congregation sung at church. He became the church pianist at the age of ten.

Over the next few years, he learned to read and write music fluently. He became a concert pianist, and played for thousands of people. Thousands more sang as he played in worship services. Lillenus Publishing Company has released several books of arrangements for piano by Lavawan Riley.

He testifies, “The call on my life depended on a decision and act of my father totally independent of me. He did not know I would become a pianist and serve in the ministry all these years. I know God guided the steps of my father.”

L.J. Riley passed away a few months ago at the age of 84. Lavawan played for his father’s funeral. While he played, all he could think of was that rainy day many years ago when his daddy felt led by the Holy Spirit to buy a piano.

As he filed past the casket, Lavawan laid his left hand on his father’s lifeless right hand and prayed another fervent prayer. “God, these hands have finished their work. They toiled for years, and now they toil no more. But in my hands, there is still life, and I will use my hands to serve You the rest of my days. Thank you, God, for giving me such a father.”


******************************

Lavawan and his wife, Sheila, are dear friends. I’ve been blessed to see him in concert many times. When he plays, the Spirit of God fills the room.

I never knew L.J. Riley. When I asked Lavawan about his dad, he sent along a picture taken two years ago. He looked exactly like I imagined he would – a short, pudgy man in a ball cap with a friendly smile.

Even though we never met, I am grateful to L.J. Riley for his openness to guidance from the Lord. My desire is to be led of the Spirit the same way in every area of my life.


Prayer: Lord, I love You and give thanks for the gift of music. I praise You for my own musical ability, and pray I will be faithful to minister for Your glory. Like Lavawan, I am grateful for my earthly father, but most of all, I thank You for being my heavenly Father. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.


*Originally posted Father's Day, 2004

NEWS! Look for this story  in The Best Dad in the World - in bookstores now! (and another one in The Best Grandma in the World!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Coach and Four: Allisandra's Tale - Linore Rose Burkard



A bit of intrigue, a lot of romance, and a whole lot of enjoyment - that's what you'll get reading Linore Rose Burkard's Coach and Four: Allisandra's Tale. Ms. Burkard researches and sets the scenes with such authenticity that you find yourself transported through time to the era in which her characters live. This is a delightful story, and gives you a taste of the talent that made Burkard's longer book, "The House in Grosvenor Square" a winner of the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award (IRCC). Available in Kindle format only, but you can get your Kindle App free here: Kindle App. Visit Ms. Burkard's website to see trailers, sign up for her newsletter, and more free downloads: http://www.linoreburkard.com/

Friday, May 10, 2013

Devo: Even at MY Age!




Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. - Proverbs 16:31 NIV


In the grocery the other day, I commented on the high price of blueberries to a woman about my age or slightly older. She looked at me like I might mug her, turned her cart and practically ran.

Then, when I looked like I couldn't find something in another aisle (and couldn't! Where DO they hide coconut flour?) a young couple volunteered to help me find the item and asked if they could get anything else for me.

So what does this mean? Am I the old lady that youngsters (yes - I said youngsters, so that proves my point!) help now? Or did I simply run across some exceptionally sweet people who happened to be younger than me? Sometimes older people will lament how rude this 'younger generation' is, but I have not found that to be the case. In my experience that day, the older (I think...) woman was the rude one.

On Facebook, I posted a picture that said, "Live your life and forget your age." Most of the time, I don't think about age or aging. I'm the absolute worst at guessing someone's age, usually guessing far younger. But when the young couple jumped to help me, I did momentarily ponder whether they thought of me as a dotty old women wondering the aisles of the grocery store looking for odd things. Like coconut flour!

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

My Tips for Writers Using Pinterest

What is Pinterest? Here's the official definition from Pinterest:

"Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests."

Here are my top ten tips for writers in particular, although many will apply to anyone learning to use Pinterest.

1. Post your favorite books on your personal Pinterest page by adding images
of all the books you love in your life.

You will probably want to have one board devoted to your books. That's fine, but be sure to have other boards devoted to books and authors you like and different topics that interest you. Avoid giving the impression that your Pinterest profile is being used solely to promote yourself. Be sure to follow the site's rule: "Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you're proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion."

2. Find other writers on Pinterest and follow their examples. Use a board for characters, clothing, research, and scenes.

3. Someone said a Pinterest board is like your high school locker (remember those?) as it is a way to show your readers what interests and inspires you as well as what you're working on right now. 

4. Look for book recommendations or comment on other boards in the Film, Music & Books section.

5. Share writing tools, stationery, journals, books and writing-related items in the "Gifts" section.

6. Use #hashtags and keywords. Much like on Twitter, tagging your pins with trending hashtags or keywords will help you find new followers. Searching for other pins and boards using hashtags will also help you find similar brands on Pinterest to follow.

7. Add the Pinterest bookmarklet to your browser's bookmarks bar. This is a time-saver, because it allows you to easily pin things you find while browsing without going to the Pinterest website first. To get it, visit the Pinterest "Goodies" page and drag the "Pin It" button to your browser toolbar. Now, when you see something you want to pin, click the bookmarklet and you'll be prompted to create a new pin. Be sure to scroll to the correct board for each pin.

Another vital tip from Pinterest - "If you notice that a pin is not sourced correctly, leave a comment so the original pinner can update the source. Finding the original source is always preferable to a secondary source such as Google Image Search or a blog entry."

8. This tip has saved me a lot of time. If you're pinning an image from a website using the Pinterest bookmarklet, you can highlight some of the text on that page before you hit "Pin It" and the text will automatically show up in the description box. Still edit and add hashtags.

9. You can also tag other Pinterest users by using the @ symbol with their Pinterest user name. You have to be following at least one of their boards. That user will see the pin, and it will link to their Pinterest profile. Use this tip to help promote each other on Pinterest.

10. And finally, follow me! I'm at http://pinterest.com/donnashepherd. My boards are a hodgepodge of recipes, crafts, interesting and funny pictures (Bonus tip - funny pins gets re-pinned more often!), and of course, a couple are dedicated to my books. I have links to wonderful inspirational and Bible quotes, too. I hope you'll check them out.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Review: Beyond Talent by John C. Maxwell



I LOVE this book. I received this book several months ago, and am normally very quick to read and write reviews when my schedule allows. I have gotten so caught up with the stories, the advice, and the practical tips in this book that I actually forgot I had received it for review. My copy is bookmarked, starred, highlighted, and dog-eared. At the end of each chapter are Application Exercises which have helped me to go beyond the talent I have to excel and achieve. Maxwell is motivating, humorous, and informative. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to take  God-given talent to its full potential. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Review - 5 Days to a Clutter-Free House: Quick, Easy Ways to Clear Up Your Space



In my never-ending pursuit of being an organized person, I asked to review this book. When it came time to read and review, I couldn't find it. Boy, do I need this book! 

The first section of the book focuses on cleaning and organizing your home using a team approach. While I think that would be a great way to tackle a big job, most of my friends and family are every bit as busy as I am. Using their tips and taking more than five days, I do think the tips provided by authors Sandra Felton and Marsha Sims are still valuable and practical.

In my opinion, the second half of the book is where the real value lies. The authors focused more on maintenance of your home after you declutter. The chapter titled "Manage Yourself" helped me understand why I tend to let clutter build up. The next chapter "Manage Your House" had Clutter Busters and Rules that helped make the task of being organized seem more manageable. For the second half of the book alone, I would say this book is worth the purchase.

I will be putting their tips into practice. Right away!

*Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in order to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Mother Syndrome (Baby Shower Devotion)


I received an e-mail from a friend, its content riddled with errors. These weren’t small mistakes, but glaring oversights. A few moments later, I received a second message apologizing for the first e-mail. “Please forgive me. I must be suffering from New Mother Syndrome. All I can think of is the baby.”

What mother hasn’t felt that way when she brings home a newborn? What is this syndrome, and how does it affect us?

The New Mother Syndrome affects our thoughts. When I had my daughter, I obsessed over her. I could think of nothing else. Was she too hot or too cold? Was she hungry? Did she need a diaper change?

The Syndrome affects our sight. We develop tunnel vision. In a room full of people, we see only our precious tiny baby.

And it affects our heart. At times, I felt my heart would burst, as it seemed to expand with the love I held within for my firstborn. I couldn’t imagine my heart having the capacity to love another child as much. That is, until I had another. My heart grew – again.

Every new mother discovers the capacity for a new kind of love similar to God's agape love. Agape love is unlimited, as is a mother's love, regardless of the number of children she bears.

In Psalm 139, we read that God knew each of us before we were born, and he thinks of us. “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.”

My son used to play soccer. When he put on his uniform and ran out onto the field, it became difficult to distinguish him from his teammates. But it only took a moment for this mom’s eyes to discern which child belonged to me. My ears became tuned like antennae to his voice. If he cried out in distress, I’d run right to him, much to the dismay of the coach.

Just as our eyes and hearts focus on our children, God’s eyes and His heart focuses on His children. Psalm 34:15 says, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.”

Isn’t it reassuring to know the Lord’s eyes are upon us, and His ears are open to our cries? I imagine that the heart of God swells with each person who accepts Jesus as Lord.

So if you’ve been hit with the New Mother Syndrome, can you expect to recover? Never! It’s a chronic condition, lasting a lifetime.

If you can’t think straight in the newborn stage, wait until the toddler years! Then from about the age of five to twelve, the racket in the house is deafening and not conducive to rational thought. And the teen years? With many parents, it's back to obsession and worry.

Our vision remains fixed. From ball games and recitals, to graduation and marriage ceremonies, our eyes stay focused on our children.

Does the heart recover? Not really. It flutters with every child’s cry, breaks with every fallen tear, and periodically swells with pride.

Motherhood is a privilege and a gift from God. Immeasurable joy fills my days as I do my best to be an example of godly love.

Yes, New Mother Syndrome may be acute and chronic, but I thank God every day for the blessings associated with this affliction!

(If you'd like to use this column in your newspaper, blog, magazine, or any other format, please email me by clicking on 'Write Donna' in the right-hand column of this page. I'm getting a lot of requests for baby showers. I'm happy to email a .pdf. Thanks! - D.)

*Websites where you can find New Mother Syndrome include:
Christian Work at Home Moms.
Christian Mommies.


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