"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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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.
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