Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 10 Books of 2009

I read over 100 books in 2009, and decided to list my top 10 list, not in any particular order, but these are what I feel are the best books I have read this year:

1) Fatal Illustions by Adam Blumer - Christian Fiction, suspense. This author's first book, and it was an awesome read. Though full of suspense and mystery, still extremely Christian in content. My sister thought it was too scary, but it was just right.

2) The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh - Christian Fiction, Christmas. Another new author's first book. I recently reviewed it, and consider it one of the best Christmas stories I have ever read, and one of the top 10 books for this year that I read.

3) The Riley Covington Series by Jason Elam & Steve Yohn - Christian Fiction, suspense/action. I read all 3 books in this series this year, and loved them. Since all 3 were excellent, I am counting the series as one here. Full of action and suspense, I highly recommend this series, especially for men, but my sister loved the books too.

4) Scream by Mike Dellosso -Christian Fiction, suspense. Mike is a fairly new author, Scream being his second book. I enjoyed his first, Hunted, and he only got better with Scream. He is another author who pulls no punches with the Christian message in his books. An author to watch.

5) Defenders of Hope series by Amy Wallace - Christian Fiction, suspense/mystery. The third book in this series, Enduring Justice, was my first book I was officially given to review. I read all 3 books in the series in 2009, and really enjoyed all three. The author combines suspense and mystery, a solid Christian message, and extremely flawed characters and comes up with a great story -three times. Highly recommended for mystery & suspense readers, and another author to keep your eye on.

6) Losing God: Clinging to Faith Through Doubt and Depression by Matt Rogers - Christian "Self-help". I haven't read many books dealing with depression, but thought this was an excellent one. The author chronicles his own story of depression and getting through it. I found the book extremely encouraging and helpful, and probably need to read it again.

7) The Dreamhouse Kings Series by Robert Liparulo - Young adult Fiction - though published by a Christian publisher, there isn't much Christian content in these books, 5 of 6 out right now - but they are excellent, and something adults can enjoy too. Definitely among the best books I have read in 2009. I am eagerly awaiting the sixth and final book coming out in a few months.

8) Firstborn by Conlan Brown - Christian Fiction, suspense. One of the most recent books I reviewed, and one of the best I have read this year. Suspense with supernatural aspects, I was pulled into the story and enjoyed the whole book. This was the first book by this young author, and definitely worth reading.

9) Sophie Trace Trilogy by Kathy Herman - Christian Fiction, suspense & mystery. Two of the three books are out in this series, and I am really enjoying it. Another author who pulls no punches with her Christian message, Kathy also spins a great story of mystery and suspense. I personally think this is her best series yet. She only gets better.

10) If God Is Good....Faith In The Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn - Christian living. The best book I have ever read that tackles the question of how can God be good and allow evil and suffering. The author doesn't answer it in a few quick sentences either. This is a thick book, yet interesting and easy to read.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!!!!!


Firstborn by Conlan Brown

Today I am introducing a new fiction author, Conlan Brown, and reviewing his book, Firstborn.

Book description:
The Firstborn, those gifted with Foresight, Hindsight, and Insight at the time of Christ's death are divided between themselves. And when an Islamic holy man is murdered outside of his mosque it becomes apparent that one of the Firstborn was to blame. Now, with the threat of a terrorist attack on an unspeakable target the Firstborn are spiraling out of control. Leaders are dying, members are being kidnapped, and unity is being forced. Three heroes, differently gifted and divided must work together to thwart those who would go too far.

Their breakneck race against time plunges them into a world of danger and through a gauntlet across the United States. From the Riverwalk of San Antonio, where Devin Bathurst, John Temple, and Hannah Rice must protect one another from assassination, to the gritty streets of Washington DC, a paramilitary compound in Pennsylvania, and ultimately back to our nation's capital, the Firstborn must unite to prevent an impending atrocity from becoming
reality.

This book is one of the best Christian fiction novels I have read this year - and I read over 100 books this past year. The plot is a bit unusual - the author takes the idea that the people who rose from the dead when Jesus was crucified were given special supernatural abilities: Some can see the past, some the present - things going on apart from where they are - and the future. These 3 groups do not get along, and some of them have lost sight of their purpose - to protect people.

This novel is described as a "thriller" on the cover, and it is. There is a lot of action and suspense, yet it is definitely Christian in content and its message.

One can read too much into a fiction novel, but if I am correct, the message the author was trying to get across, is as Christians, we can lose our focus. Get so set on defeating evil and those who do not see eye to eye with us, that we lose our focus. And that we need each other, and unless we unite as Christians, we will be useless and will face defeat.

I highly recommend this book, and the sequel which I haven't read. This is definitely an author to watch.

This book is from Realms Publishing, an imprint of Strang Communications, and they are fairly new to the Christian fiction market, but I have really enjoyed and been impressed by anything I have read from their authors so far.

About the author:

Born in 1984, Conlan Brown was functionally illiterate until the fifth grade, when he learned how to read and write, as well as a love of story, from his grandmother. Conlan went on to start college at the age of sixteen, and now holds a Master's degree in Communication, which taught him the academic principles needed to write Firstborn.

Conlan lives on Colorado's Front Range where he is working on his next book. He enjoys video editing, film scores, and developing high octane, thought provoking fiction that turns pages and excites the senses.

Firstborn is available from Realms Publishing.

Thanks to Leann from Strang Communications for the review copy.

A Not-So-Silent Night by Verlyn Verbrugge

Christmas is a time for peace on earth, a time for favorite carols, family dinners, and familiar traditions. It’s about a beautiful story of a lovely babe in the manger. Or is it?

A Not-So-Silent Night is a revolutionary book that reveals the darker side of Christmas, a side that exposes pain, humiliation, fear, and danger. Though we usually choose to ignore them, these elements—in their cultural and historical context—reveal the true meaning of Christmas where the shadow of the cross is inseparable from the manger. Author Verlyn Verbrugge maintains that until we see the dark side of Christmas, until we shed tears with Mary and Joseph, until we experience the fear that war is on the horizon, we will never truly understand the awesomeness of what happened in that little town of Bethlehem. Timely and provocative, A Not-So-Silent Night is perfect for pastors looking for a new approach to their traditional Christmas sermons and for anyone who wants to get past holiday commercialization and get back to the reason for the season.

This is not your average Christmas book. The author takes a look at the darker side of

Christmas - what it was like for Mary and Joseph to face people's reactions to her out-o

f-wedlock pregnancy, the slaughter of the baby boys in Bethlehem, and even had an interesting take on the no room in the inn situation.

This book isn't what you'd call light reading, but I found it informative, interesting, and gave me some new insights into the Christmas story.

About the author:

Verlyn Verbrugge (PhD, Notre Dame) was a full-time pastor before becoming senior editor of academic and professional books at Zondervan. He has authored and contributed to several books, including Early Church History and Your Church Sign.

A Not-So-Silent night is available from Kregel Publishing.

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

3 Cowboys

My brother-in-law emailed me this picture from his cell phone - I thought it was too good to not pass on. My nephews with some of their Christmas presents:


Just One Star, re-post

I posted this from memory last year before Christmas, and after Christmas ran across a book that had it in the after Christmas clearance sale at a Christian bookstore. So here, in better wording than my memory, is "Just One Star."

Back in the throne room of Heaven, plans were being made to announce the birth of God's Son on earth. Michael, the archangel, had just finished describing his great heavenly display of comets and falling stars, for a year preceding, and following the birth.

Gabriel went on with his musical plans - a great angelic choir with tens of thousands of voices, tuned with Heaven's finest and latest harmonies, ready to serenade the earth. There would be ten thousand sopranos, ten thousand altos, ten thousand tenors, ten thousand basses.

But God interrupted their conversation. "No," He said, "that's not really what I had in mind."

"What, you want more?" Asked Gabriel?"

"No", God smiled. I planned a small family gathering in Bethlehem, actually. We don't need all those trimmings."

"But.... all my stars...." said Michael. "What will I do with them?"

"And my angels," Gabriel added.

Just then, Jesus stepped through the pearly gates, out into the red carpet of time, and started down the spiral stairway of stars.

Michael pleaded, "Father, let us do something, please! He simply can't go unannounced!"

"Well, alright, " God said. "Gabriel, a few angels.... and Michael, just one star."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What About Santa?

I'm bored, so decided to blog about Santa. What is a Christian to do about him? There are two extremes: let your kids believe that there is a Santa, or be so against him that you point out to everyone that if you re-arrange the letters of Santa, you can spell "Satan." Now that really convinces me that Santa is Satan. Wonder what anagram my full name would make?

If you're reading this, you may disagree with me. In fact, you most likely will. I believe it is wrong to let your kids believe in Santa, that he brings their presents and "sees them when they are good or bad." I don't think it is that much of a stretch to say that when they find out that Santa really isn't real, they might question some other things you told them are real - like God and Jesus.......

And besides, isn't it technically lying to let your kids believe Santa is real and brings their presents? And something else - if you buy your kids presents, do you really want the credit to go to a fat guy in a red suit? I wouldn't! I'd want the kids to know I bought the gifts with my hard-earned money!

Some years back, the Statler Brothers recorded a cool song on one of their Christmas albums - the song is titled Whose Birthday Is Christmas? Here is the chorus:

Oh daddy just whose birthday is Christmas
The Bible says that Jesus was born
Oh daddy please explain, I had to ask because
You hear so much about Santa Claus


Great message. I love the song.

It is true. Santa has taken Jesus' place. I cringe when I see a Santa figurine at the manger, and see people's decorations all Santa-themed, and no Jesus.

Now I am not extremely anti-Santa Claus. If I had kids, I might let them sit on his lap, while making it clear he wasn't bringing their presents - that I was. I have never decorated with Santa or sent Santa Christmas cards. I do however, like some Santa songs, which I might avoid if I had kids - who knows. I dearly love "Hey Santa" by Wendy and Carly Wilson - if you've never heard it, you should!

We can teach our kids about the real St. Nicholas, and what he was all about.

I am not one who goes around pointing out that Santa is an anagram for Satan, and I am not saying we should - but I think we do need to use wisdom in dealing with Santa. Some of us may feel the need to ban him completely - no songs, no decorations of him - others may do some of both - but I do firmly believe we shouldn't allow kids to believe he is real. But hey, what do I know - I'm just me.

In closing, a bit of trivia, and a funny story.

First the trivia: You may or may not know that for years, Santa was in black and white. Until 1931. In that year, Coca Cola hired an artist to draw Santa for a Coca Cola commercial. He decided to put him in the colors of Coca Cola - red and white. So, Santa owes his colors to Coca Cola.

The funny story: This is humorous, but also proves my point - a Sunday School teacher was talking about the devil to her students one Sunday morning. One little boy spoke up and said "I don't believe the devil is real. I think he is like Santa Claus - he is Daddy."

Take my poll on Santa - and chime in with your thoughts if you want.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sweet By and By, by Sara Evans & Rachel Hauck

A redemptive story from multi-platinum recording artist Sara Evans.

Jade Fitzgerald left the pain of her past in the dust when she headed out for college a decade ago. Now she's thriving in her career and glowing in the light of Max Benson's love.

But then Jade's hippie mother, Beryl Hill, arrives in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee, for Jade's wedding along with Willow, her wild younger sister. Their arrival forces Jade to throw open the dark closets of her past--the insecurity of living with a restless, wandering mother, the silence of her absent father, and the heart-ripping pain of first-love's rejection.

Turns out Beryl has a secret of her own. She needs reconciliation with her oldest daughter before illness takes her life. In the final days leading to the wedding, Jade meets the One who shows her that the past has no hold on her future. With a little grace, they'll meet in the middle, maybe even before that sweet by and by.


My thoughts:

The good:
I enjoyed this book. It had likable and colorful characters. The story itself is somewhat of a romance, but more of a story of forgiveness and finding God. The authors showed how even someone who has lead a rough life, been let down and betrayed by everyone in their life, can find forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and turn around and forgive those who have hurt them so badly.

I quickly became engrossed in the story, and though this is not a novel of suspense, it was still a a page turner as I got caught up in the story and couldn't wait for the outcome.

The bad:
Those in the story who were already Christians - the groom-to-be, Max - and his family in particular, seemed to have a very shallow Christianity. Both Max and his father were smoking cigars - and I am adamantly against the idea of Christians smoking - shouldn't be in a Christian book - and Max also seemed to have gotten drunk at his bachelor party - I again fall back on even those who excuse Christians drinking do still condemn drunkenness. The book also seemed to have more than its share of slang, which is better than outright curse words.

Conclusion:

The book is still worth reading. Even though the Christianity of some in the book seems shallow, there is a definite change in the heroine of the story, and even in fiction, it is good to see how God can heal, forgive, and change.

The 1st thing I love about Christmas

The 1st thing I love about Christmas.......

The realization of what it is all about. God becoming a little baby. A baby that was born to die.
Much is said about Calvary, how important it was that Jesus died for us, and it is. But what we need to remember is that without Bethlehem, there would not have been a Calvary.

So this Christmas, focus on the Baby in the manger, and remember that same baby was sent here to die for you and me. He truly was born in the shadow of a cross.

One King

In the beginning there was the Word
Pure love was spoken to reach every man
They stopped and listened but all that they heard
Was a language that they could not understand.
No joy, no peace, no hope insight

So He came with starlight and love in His eyes
No regal welcome for His infant cry
There have been many babies to become a king
But only one King became a baby

He left behind His throne of pure light
Gave up His crown that we might be free
He chose a manger that Bethlehem night
And reaching through time and space He saw me
No joy, no peace, no hope insight

So He came with starlight and love in His eyes,
No regal welcome for His infant cry
There have been many babies to become a king
But only one King became a baby

He could have chosen to break through the sky
With anthem and angel wing
But He knew we'd understand a baby's cry
And learn love from a servant king

So He came with starlight and love in His eyes,
No regal welcome for His infant cry
There have been so many babies to become a king
But only one King
One King became a baby.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 2nd thing I love about Christmas

The 2nd thing I love about Christmas...........

The lights. We used to drive around and look at the decorated houses when I was a kid, and we loved it. I still love it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My favorite Christmas CDs

I love Christmas music - really love it, and have a lot of Christmas CDs, but here are the Christmas CDs that I think rank among the best ever - in my opinion, of course.

1) A Family Christmas by The Talleys - original Talleys from 1988. It has a few awesome medleys, including the best version of White Christmas ever. Though out of print, I was fortunate to get the CD on ebay a few years ago to replace my worn out cassette.

2) Every Light That Shines At Christmas by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound - a new CD this year. It has a whopping 16 songs, some new, some old, and is a great CD.

3) What A Wonderful Christmas by Anne Murray - the only CD I have of Anne Murray is this double disc Christmas CD, and she does a terrific job on the songs. One of my favorite secular Christmas songs is her Christmas Wishes.

4) The Magic of Christmas by Garth Brooks - also has a few more songs than the average CD, and one I have enjoyed for several Christmases now. An interesting note - I am no fan of the word "Gee", and do consider it slang for Jesus - but interestingly enough, Garth Brooks is the only singer I ever heard say "Oh the traffic is terrific" as opposed to the "Gee..." that even Christian singers have used in the song. (This from the guy who swears in his country songs)

5) Once Upon a Christmas by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton - These two sound great together, and put together this awesome CD that I love to listen to.

6) It Feels Like Christmas Again by Jeff & Sheri Easter - one of my favorite Southern Gospel groups, they put this CD out a few years ago, and did a great job on it. A mix of new and old songs.

7) A David Phelps Christmas: One Wintry Night by David Phelps - though part of the Southern Gospel group, The Gaither Vocal Band, this CD leans heavily towards CCM, and is a terrific CD, even better than his first Christmas CD.

8) Christmas Gaither Vocal Band Style by The Gaither Vocal Band - their second Christmas CD, from 2008 - a great quartet Christmas CD.

Below, The Home for Christmas Medley by the Talleys, 1988

The 12th pain of Christmas

The 12th - and final - thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me.........

Putting Christmas away. The tree, nativity scene, decorations. Yeah, I know - It's all about Christ's birthday, and we can have Him all year long, but it's still sad.

The 3rd thing I love about Christmas

The 3rd thing I love about Christmas..........

Decorating the tree. It's more fun with someone, but most of my adult life, I have decorated it by myself. Still fun. And I love it when it is decorated to shut the lights off and stand back and look at it. There are a lot of trees that are nicer, fuller, better decorated, but it is MY tree, and I am happy with the results.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas All Year Long

I ran across this in a Christmas book I am reading, and looked for it on line to see if I could find it to share here. I did:

Christmas All Year Long
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Matthew 1-2

Have you ever thought about giving something away every day of the year leading up to Christmas? These daily gifts could be called our "Christmas projects," one per day, every day till Christmas. Just think of the fun of being able to say "Merry Christmas" in July!

Here are a few suggestions:


Mend a quarrel.
Seek out a forgotten friend.
Write a long overdue love note.
Hug someone tightly and whisper, "I love you so."
Forgive an enemy.
Be gentle and patient with an angry person.
Gladden the heart of a child.
Find the time to keep a promise.
Make or bake something for someone else. Anonymously.
Release a grudge.
Listen.
Speak kindly to a stranger.
Enter into another's sorrow.
Smile.
Laugh a little.
Laugh a little more.
Take a walk with a friend.
Lessen your demands on others.
Play some beautiful music during the evening meal.
Apologize if you were wrong.
Turn off the television and talk.
Treat someone to an ice-cream cone (yogurt would be fine).
Do the dishes for the family.
Pray for someone who helped you when you hurt.
Fix breakfast on Saturday morning.
Give a soft answer even though you feel strongly.
Encourage an older person.
Point out one thing you appreciate most about someone you work with or live near.
Offer to baby-sit for a weary mother.

Let's make Christmas one long, extended gift of ourselves to others. Unselfishly. Without announcement. Or obligation. Or reservation. Or hypocrisy.

This is Christianity, isn't it?


When you give yourself, the gift never has to be returned.

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, Day by Day with Charles Swindoll (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2000)

My Christmas Wish List

My family is big on Christmas wish lists - write down what you want/need for Christmas, and everyone shops off of it.

I got my paper out this year and started writing what I wanted. To my surprise, I couldn't come up with much:

Some books I want
Socks
Cologne

And that's about it.
For the "dire straits" I'm in, I don't need much. Well, money of course, and the way my computer has been growling and humming, a new PC would be nice - but that's not anything to put on my Christmas wish list that someone would actually buy.

A job would be nice. My own place again. Seeing my Indiana friends. Peace on earth, a new President and Speaker of the House - stuff like that.

But when it gets right down to it, I really don't need much. Guess I have more to be thankful for than I realized. :-)

Christmas Comes to Pleasant Hill

Last night, our school had their yearly Christmas dinner and play. Some turkeys were donated for the meat, and everyone was to bring in a main dish and a cake or salad. Needless to say, there was a lot of great food. :-)

After the meal was over, some of the high school kids put on a play, Christmas Comes to Pleasant Hill, under the direction of the lovely and talented Miss Lori LaVan. The play is about Maggie, played by my niece, Stephanie, who is left alone when her pastor father dies, and she goes to live with her mean and nasty Aunt Bertha, who likes no one, and no one likes her. I thought the kids - and Lori - did great. For a small Christian school, the props and sets were great also. I put a few pictures below.

My niece, Stephanie - Maggie in the play. I thought she did an excellent job, but I could be prejudiced.

"Maggie" seeking advice from the store owner, Mr. Waddles, aka Denver Grabill, our pastor's son.

Maggie with her ailing father

The mean and nasty "Aunt Bertha", aka Jennifer McHugh - she did a great job with her character.

The town council meeting with Mayor Ben in charge - Benjamin Sanders

The town Christmas tree being decorated


The cast

A close up of the kitchen

Close up of the bedroom

And one more of my niece

Primal by Mark Batterson

Christianity has a perception problem. At the heart of the problem is the simple fact that Christians are more known for what we’re against than what we’re for. But the real problem isn’t perception. We as Christians are often quick to point out what’s wrong with our culture. And we certainly need the moral courage to stand up for what’s right in the face of what’s wrong. But before confronting what’s wrong with our culture, we need to be humble enough, honest enough, and courageous enough to repent of what’s wrong with us.

So what’s wrong with us?

The answer is simply this: We’re not great at the Great Commandment.
And in too many instances, we’re not even good at it.

That, I believe, is our primal problem. That is the lost soul of Christianity. If Jesus said that loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the most important commandment, then doesn’t it logically follow that we ought to spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy trying to understand it and obey it? We can’t afford to be merely good at the Great Commandment. We’ve got to be great at the Great Commandment.

The quest for the lost soul of Christianity begins with rediscovering what it means to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength

In Primal, Mark Batterson discusses how all too often we have drifted away from the passion we had when we first became a Christian. He shows how necessary and possible it is to get back to that place. I enjoyed the book, yet was convicted by it. I have never read anything by Batterson, but found his writing enjoyable and easy to read. A must-read for any Christian, whether you have lost your passion or not.

About The Author:
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC was recognized as one of the 25 Most Innovative Churches in America by Outreach Magazine in 2008. One church with eight services in four locations, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations. Nearly 70% of NCCers are single twenty-somethings.

The vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the metro DC area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. In 2008, Ebenezers was recognized as the best coffeehouse in the metro area of D.C. by AOL CityGuide.

Mark has two Masters Degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of a best-selling book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. And he is a daily blogger at http://markbatterson.com.

Mark is married to Lora and they live on Capitol Hill with their three children: Parker, Summer, and Josiah.

Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah which provided this book for me to review.

Primal is available from Waterbrook/Multnomah at http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781601421319

The 11th pain of Christmas

The 11th thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me........

Parting. When Christmas is over and Paul and Pam head back to Pa with their three boys. Vicki and Steve have gone home with their three girls. The house is quiet.

The 4th thing I love about Christmas

The 4th thing I love about Christmas..........

The Nativity scene. I love to gaze upon it and try to imagine what it really was like that night. And I know the wise men were not present at the stable, but I'm sorry, I put them there anyway. Jesus wasn't a piece of colorful ceramic either, but that doesn't stop you from using one. ;-)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The 10th pain of Christmas

The 10th thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me......

Santa at the manger. I hate to see it, whether an outdoor Nativity scene, indoor, or just a ceramic figurine of Santa kneeling at the manger. I get the idea, but Santa is not real, Jesus is - imaginary figures do not belong at the manger. If you're going to put Santa there, may as well invite the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny too :-)

The 5th thing I love about Christmas

The 5th thing I love about Christmas.........

Christmas cookies. So many kinds, and so many to eat in so few days. :-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Paper Bag Christmas - and a Giveaway

This is not a book that I was sent to review. I won it, and when I got it in the mail and looked it over, thought it might not be one I would enjoy. I was wrong. I loved it. I laughed and cried. I have read many Christmas books in my lifetime, and love to read them, but this one really gets a hold of the reader and shows the true meaning of Christmas. A must-read for sure.

Dr. Christopher Ringle is the last person you'd expect to find moonlighting as Santa Claus at the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. But it is there that he meets a young man named Molar Alan, who desperately needs a new perspective on the underlying value of Christmas. Dr. Ringle recruits Mo and his older brother as volunteers at a nearby children's hospital for the holiday season. At the hospital, Mo is tasked to help bring holiday cheer to the young cancer patients on the fifth floor. His biggest challenge is befriending a decidedly angry girl who is so embarrassed by her scarred appearance that she hides her face behind the safety of a paper bag.

Though this book is fiction, I found it to be a very touching story. I laughed through the hospital Christmas pageant, and found myself crying as two very different kids gave their own unique Christmas gifts to God. I am highly recommending it, and after checking with Valerie from Hachette books, am doing a giveaway, courtesy of her. Check below for details.

About the author:

Kevin Milne was born in Portland, Oregon on June 13, 1973. Nearly eighteen years later he graduated from high school in Sherwood, Oregon, a small country town outside of Portland. From there it was off to college, where he studied anything and everything that caught his interest.

In his first two years as an undergraduate student he changed majors almost a dozen times, studying such varied fields as film, journalism, communications, philosophy, pre-dentistry, advertising, pre-law, pre-medicine, political science, and German, then finally earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Just about the only thing he didn’t study was business, which, ironically, is what he chose to pursue in graduate school, earning an MBA at Penn State University in 2000.

Today, Kevin is a business professional by day, an author by night, and a husband and father around the clock. He and his wife, Rebecca, were married in Washington DC in 1995. They now reside in Kevin’s hometown of Sherwood, Oregon, where they are the proud parents of five children: Mikayla, Kamry, Mary, Emma, & Kyler (aka "the boy").

The Giveaway:


I am giving away more than one copy of this book, depending on the amount of entries I get. 1-5 entries, one copy. 6-10, 2 copies. 7-15, 3 copies. 16-20, 4 copies, and anything over 20, 5 copies.

US and Canada entries only, no PO boxes.

To enter, tell something you would like this Christmas for a gift.

I will pick the winners a week from today, December 23.

The ninth pain of Christmas

The ninth thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me........

Getting the Christmas tree up. I love to decorate it, but it is usually in a hard-to-get-to-place, and is a pain getting it from that location to where it needs to be put up. I got smart and bought a pre-lit tree which is really easy to put up once I get it out. Anyone remember the days of trying to assemble a tree that had umpteen branches you had to put in little holes? We've come a long way baby!

The 6th thing I love about Christmas

The 6th thing I love about Christmas........

The church candlelight service. It has always been a special time for me. And at the end when everyone holds their lit candle and sings a Christmas carol. God seems so near.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Night After Christmas and a Giveaway

Does Christmas seem like a stressful, unsatisfying ritual? Why do we go through this annual exercise of decorating, shopping, wrapping, and over-spending— only to vow we’re going to do it differently next year? Was Christmas always this way? Or did our culture make it into something it wasn’t meant to be?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, you may well need this book. Christmas does, indeed, offer something more. Obscured beneath the tree, hidden inside the gift wrap, buried under plastic debt lies an enduring enigma that beckons us to reconsider. Somewhere in all the clutter can be found the key to a merry Christmas. For those who take a second look, there awaits a gift that can make every day a holiday.

I received this book to review in the mail today. I hadn't requested it, but am glad they sent it. It is a delightful little book. The author does his own version of "The Night Before Christmas" poem, only he goes at it from the standpoint of "The Night After Christmas." Though the

poem has amusing parts, he brings home how commercialized Christmas is, and how we all too often shove Jesus to the back of our celebration.


The book was written by Jim Chapman and has lovely illustrations by Jay Montgomery.

Interesting trivia about the book: The author wrote it because of something Jim Elliot, martyred missionary, had said about the commercialization of Christmas.

Though the book looks like a kid's book, it is something we could all read and be reminded of.

Giveaway: Thanks to Abigail from Winepress Publishing, I am doing a giveaway of this book.

To enter, comment and tell either one of your favorite things about Christmas, or a way your family helps focus on the true reason of Christmas. Or both.

US entries only.
I am shortening the entry time since Christmas is so close, so that the winner might possibly get the book in time for Christmas, so all entries must be in by Sunday, December 20.

Thanks to Abigail from Winepress Publishing for sending the review copy, and for agreeing to help me out with a giveaway.

Terror By Night, A True Story of Tragedy And Forgiveness

(Greenville, TX) – A father denied his daughter dating privileges with a certain young man. Typical teenage behavior might have included pouting, a bad attitude or perhaps even a yelling match. Never in a million years would Terry Caffey have suspected it would involve murder. Yet, in the early morning hours of March 8, 2008, Terry’s whole world turned upside down. His wife and two sons where brutally murdered and burned in the house they lived and Terry was shot twelve times…by his daughter and her friends.

Terry Caffey and James Pence reconstruct this tragic yet strangely beautiful true story of God’s sovereignty, forgiveness and grace in Terror by Night. As if the story of Caffey’s family wasn’t enough, readers will be captivated by the way God ordained the meeting between the Blind Sight author and Caffey with a burnt page from Blind Sight found at the crime scene.
This was a sad, but fascinating story to read. I cannot imagine losing everything you own, plus your wife and two sons, and then find out that your daughter was in on the murders.

Terrry Caffey, the father who survived the murders, tells his story in this book, Terror By Night, along with James Pence, author of a fiction novel that God used to help Caffey heal, which I already have reviewed - I re-posted it to appear right below this review.


After having his house burnt to the ground, and most of his family murdered, Terry Caffey returned to the ruins of his home weeks later. Miraculously, he found the page of a book, Blind Sight, a Christian fiction novel. The page, badly scorched, had a scene where the fictional character was questioning God as to why his entire family had been killed, and he had survived, then he went on to accept the fact that God was sovereign and had a purpose. Terry Caffey was convinced that it was a message from God that the very page containing those words was the only page left from the fire.
Not only did it help him on his path to healing, but it also resulted in that author co-authoring this book, Terror by Night.

Terror By Night is not only the story of a great tragedy, and cruel murder, it is also a wonderful story of forgiveness, and shows that no matter what happens, God is always there.

Terror By Night, and the fiction novel Blind Sight, are both available from Tyndale Publishing.

Thanks to Kathy Carlton Willis Communications for the review copy.

For more on the story, here are a few links to the original news story:
http://www.newser.com/story/20712/texas-teen-planned-familys-murder-for-a-month-cops.html

http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/03/02/texas.deaths/

http://cmm.lefora.com/2009/01/23/charles-james-charlie-wilkinson-murderer-caffey-fa/

Blind Sight........ A Second Chance for a Novel, and a Giveaway

No one plans for bad things to happen. No one plans on losing their family. No one knows how to move on after horror strikes. No one. Not even Thomas Kent. After receiving a strange phone call from a long-ago friend requesting Kent to pick up a package at the airport, Kent begins a spine tingling, suspense filled journey in which he hopes to reunite the package (his friend’s children) with their mother, Justine, a traitor in the Fellowship for World Renewal Cult. Twists and turns in this page turning drama make Blind Sight not only a journey of extreme action and thrills, but one of discovering the sovereign plan of God.

This book was published in 2003, and I read it not too long after that. When I got the email about the blog tour, and read the interesting circumstances involving this book, I couldn't pass up the chance to read it again and review it.

It's not often a book gets a second chance, but this one has gotten exactly that. And this book also proves that yes, God can indeed use something as simple as a Christian fiction book.

In March of 2008, Terry Caffey lost his wife and 2 sons. They were killed by his own daughter and her friends so she could date the boy her parents were against her dating. Terry was also shot, but survived before the house was set on fire.

Returning to the ruins of his house later, he found a partial page from a book. A Christian fiction novel - Blind Sight.
The page described the turmoil of the main character at his losing his family, with he alone left behind. The finding of this scorched page led to a meeting between Terry Caffey and the author of that book, James Pence. The two went on to write about the Caffey tragedy in a book titled Terror By Night, a book I will be reviewing at a later date.

Back to the book: Though I had previously read Blind Sight, I had forgotten most of the story, so I was pulled into the fast-paced action - and there is a lot of it. I found myself cheering on the good guys, and hoping for the defeat of the bad guys.

This is an excellent novel, and deserves a second chance. If you enjoy suspense novels, you will definitely want to read Blind Sight.

About the author:

James H. Pence is a full-time professional writer and editor living near Dallas, Texas. J
ames is a multi-talented writer who has been published in both fiction and nonfiction. His publishers include Tyndale House, Kregel, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. James holds a master’s degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in creative writing and journalism from Dallas Theological Seminary. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Dallas Bible College. James is also a vocalist and gospel chalk artist, and he regularly uses his talents to share the gospel in
prisons. James is the author of Blind Sight, a gripping novel about mind-control cults and coauthor (along with Terry Caffey) of the new book: Terror by Night: The True Story of the Brutal Texas Murder that Destroyed a Family, Restored One Man’s Faith, and Shocked a Nation.

This book was provided for me to review by Kathy Carlton Willis Communications, and is available from Tyndale Publishing.
Check back later for my review of Terror By Night, the true story of a man who lost his wife, 2 sons, and his house - all at the hands of his teenage daughter.
In the meantime, if you'd like to read the orginal news story, you can find one version here: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/030908dnmetcaffeykillings.3a53d16.html

Special Gift Basket Opportunity!

Each blog tour host has the opportunity to send in the name of one of their commenters for a chance to win a gift basket from the author.

This special one of a kind basket includes:

Angel- James Pence
Bind Sight- James Pence
Terror By Night- James Pence
Quality 8.5 X 11 in printing of the scorched page
DVD of Chalk Art Illustrations from James Pence

I will pick a person to enter who comments on this blog post by the 18th of December, by Random.org

The eighth pain of Christmas

The eighth thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me..........

Christmas cantatas. I'm weird. I know it. I have never been a fan of choirs for one thing, and all too many cantatas have either weird songs in them, or a familiar song to a bizarre tune or arrangement. Or both. So while most people look forward to the Christmas cantata, I don't.

I did like the one our church did this year. It had a lot of nice songs in it and they did a terrific job on it, so I don't dislike all cantatas. Just some. :-)

The 7th thing I love about Christmas

The 7th thing I love about Christmas........

Christmas music. I've said it before. I love Christmas music, and lots of it. I'm listening to it right now as I blog. :-) Bring it on!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Going green for Jesus........ A Green Rant

I will admit it. Be offended if you want, but I think the whole global warming thing is a fraud. Oh that's right, now that everyone is getting snow and cold temps, it is now called "climate change." Yeah, whatever. We had climate change when I was a kid. We called it summer, winter, spring, and fall. Huh, imagine that!

I about flipped my lid tonight. I was looking at a sales flyer that came in the mail from Family Christian stores. Towards the back, were the new VBS kits for the coming year. One of them, and I kid you not - is called "Going Green for Jesus." I about choked. Who wants their kid to go to VBS and get more of the political junk that is being shoved down our throats on a daily basis? I sure wouldn't want that.

There are 30,000 scientists who have examined global warming/climate change, and disagree with Al Gore and his followers. They agree that yes, there may be some climate change, but nothing to worry about, and nothing man-caused. But the other side is intent on ignoring and shutting up any debate. Any time someone who disagrees with Al Gore asks him a question, they are shut up and hauled away. He can't handle debate.

And something else that gets me, all of the big proponents of Global Warming are hypocrites. If Al Gore was so worried, he'd sell his sprawling energy-using house and his gas guzzling limo and cut down - but no, just we, the common man is supposed to do it. John Travolta, another G.W. hypocrite, has 4 jets. Yeah - 4. What does one person need with 4 jets? And what about global warming and his 4 jets?!

I have been seeing some of this "going green" stuff creeping into the Christian market. Guideposts magazine, which I don't really consider all that "Christian" was on the green kick for a while, and now some books are being marketed by Christian publishers. And now we have a VBS kit about going green. Excuse me while I go throw up.

I admit we shouldn't just trash the earth, and it doesn't hurt to recycle and do a few things like that, but get real - this earth is going to be around as long as God wants it to be, and then it is going to be destroyed by fire - and what do you wanna bet Al Gore will be there blaming it on global warming?!

I refuse to buy the reusable bags at stores. I want real bags. Paper or plastic. Paper can be used to wrap packages you mail, and the plastic make great garbage bags - see I do so recycle!

Our president has been over in Copenhagen promising that we are going to cut green house emissions and all that. If he does, it isn't going to help global warming - it will raise energy costs and cost jobs.

There may be some climate change, but I am one of the biggest skeptics. What do you think? And if my church uses the "going green for Jesus" VBS, I will be looking for a new church!

Link to VBS kit: http://ministry-to-children.com/cokesbury-vbs-2010/#comment-11625

Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday

If you have never heard this song, you need to. Brad Paisley takes a look at how politically correct we are becoming in a funny way

The 8th thing I love about Christmas

The 8th thing I love about Christmas........

Reading the Christmas story. I usually start a few days before Christmas and stretch it out to cover those days. Of course it will be easier this year with my NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible I got to review. :-) http://thoughtsofasojourner.blogspot.com/2009/12/nkjv-greatest-stories-of-bible.html

The Seventh Pain of Christmas......

The seventh thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me.........

Weight. Gaining it. All those cookies & other sweets. Food, food, and more food. Tis the season for gluttony. Sigh. But it's so much fun!

Cashless by Mark Hitchcock

Somewhere between writing checks in the 80’s and swiping a piece of plastic today, we missed the significance of the emerging cashless society. But there are reasons to take notice. According to Mark Hitchcock, author of several bestselling prophecy books and a trusted expert in this field, what is happening in the world today is consistent with prophecy written in Revelation 13, which predicts a one–world economy under the rule of the Antichrist.

With current research on the global economic, technological, and religious landscape, Hitchcock addresses important questions, including:

Will there be a one–world economy in the end times?
What is the mark of the beast? Does modern technology relate to the mark?
How does the absence of cash prime things for the Antichrist?
The advent of the cashless society is an important one to examine and think through in light of God’s Word and His promises.

I have read several of Mark Hitchcock's books in the last few years, and he knows his stuff. In his newest book, Cashless, he takes an in depth look at how the world is heading towards a cashless society. Always backing up his findings with fact, he shows how we are fast being set up for that very thing. I found the book interesting, though a bit scary to realize how close we really are.

From my own personal experience, Mark Hitchcock is one of the more sound and knowledgeable authors out there today writing about prophecy and end times events. If this type of reading interests you, check out not only Cashless, but the long list of other books that address end times events and issues.

The author:
Mark Hitchcock is the author of more than 17 books related to end–time Bible prophecy including the bestselling Armageddon, Oil and Terror. He earned a ThM and PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary and serves as a senior pastor of Faith Bible Church in Oklahoma, an adjunct professor at DTS, and has served as a contributing editor for the Left Behind Prophecy Club for five years. He also holds a law degree.

Thanks to Harvest House for the review copy that was provided to me.

The book is available from Harvest House publishers.

40 Loaves by C.D. Baker, and a Giveaway

“Why don’t I have more faith?”
“Why am I so bored with Jesus?”
“Why are Christians so hard for me to like?”

There are many questions we’re not supposed to ask when playing by the religious rules. It makes people uncomfortable. So why is it that Jesus invited questions and even asked some of them himself? What is it that you’re afraid to ask God? It’s a risky prospect to begin asking–but far riskier to continue simply trying to get by without knowing. Author C. D. Baker asked himself 40 soul-searching questions which started a conversation in his heart and ultimately showed him more about God than He ever expected.

Can we become more honest with who we really are and find who God says He really is at the same time? Come indulge yourself in daily readings with an honest exploration of your secret fears and thoughts, and know that you will always be welcomed in God’s unconditional love.

The author takes 40 questions that Christians have and addresses them in an easy-to read and understand way. Questions such as Why are some Christians so hard for me to like, Why don't I have more faith, Why am I so afraid of death? He also gives some common sense Biblical answers to the problem/question.

This book would make a good devotional, or just a quick look-up to answer some questions people may have. Though I didn't agree with the author 100% on some doctrinal issues - he is Calvinist, I am not - I still enjoyed the book and feel he addresses some issues in a Biblical manner.

The author:

C. D. Baker founded an award-winning business before redirecting his career to write full-time from his small farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He is the author of eight books, including six novels, one of which was a finalist for a Christy Award. Baker has a Master’s degree in theological studies from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

The giveaway: I'm going back to a tw0-week giveaway on this. Comment on this post and tell me what your favorite devotional book is, or one of your favorites. The drawing will be held two days from today, on December 28th. Entries must be in my midnight on the 27th. US entries only.

Thanks to Waterbrook for providing the giveaway copy and review copy.

To learn more about or purchase this book go to RandomHouse.com

The Sheriff's Surrender by Susan Page Davis


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Sheriff’s Surrender

Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)

by

Susan Page Davis




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


I've always loved reading, history, and horses. These things come together in several of my historical books. My young adult novel, Sarah's Long Ride, also spotlights horses and the rugged sport of endurance riding, as does the contemporary romance Trail to Justice. I took a vocational course in horseshoeing after earning a bachelor's degree in history. I don't shoe horses anymore, but the experience has come in handy in writing my books.

Another longtime hobby of mine is genealogy, which has led me down many fascinating paths. I'm proud to be a DAR member! Some of Jim's and my quirkier ancestors have inspired fictional characters

For many years I worked for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel as a freelancer, covering local government, school board meetings, business news, fires, auto accidents, and other local events, including a murder trial. I've also written many profiles and features for the newspaper and its special sections. This experience was a great help in developing fictional characters and writing realistic scenes. I also published nonfiction articles in several magazines and had several short stories appear in Woman's World, Grit, and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

My husband, Jim, and I moved to his birth state, Oregon, for a while after we were married, but decided to move back to Maine and be near my family. We're so glad we did. It allowed our six children to grow up feeling close to their cousins and grandparents, and some of Jim's family have even moved to Maine!



ABOUT THE BOOK


Gert Dooley can shoot the tail feathers off a jay at a hundred yards, but she wants Ethan Chapman to see she's more than a crack shot with a firearm. When the sheriff of Fergus, Idaho, is murdered and Ethan is named his replacement, Gert decides she has to do whatever she can to help him protect the citizenry. So she starts the Ladies Shooting Club. But when one of their numbers is murdered, these ladies are called on for more than target shooting and praying. Can Gert and the ladies of Fergus find the murderer before he strikes again?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Sheriff’s Surrender , go HERE

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The 9th thing I love about Christmas

The 9th thing I love about Christmas.........

Getting Christmas cards. I enjoy it, especially if the person wrote a little note inside. Can't expect it from everyone, but I like it.

A funny story about notes in Christmas cards..........

A few years back, I'd say around six or seven, I spoke at my church for a youth service on Keeping Christ in Christmas. Afterwards, I got a few little notes in Christmas cards from people telling me how much they enjoyed that service. I don't think I got a big head about it, but it was nice to hear. Then I opened a Christmas card that had a little note written in it. I smiled and started to read, expecting another compliment. It wasn't. The lady thought I was making fun of the Salvation Army in my service and decided to take me to task over it. I came down to earth fast.

And for the record, I did NOT make fun of the Salvation Army - which I pointed out to her and suggested she listen to the tape they made of the service. :-)

The Sixth pain of Christmas

I can just imagine millions of people are hitting my blog daily to find out what my next pain of Christmas is. I'm kidding. Probably the only person reading these is myself. :-) Oh well, at least I have one fan! :-)



The sixth thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me...........


The sadness of Christmas. It happens every year. The last gift is unwrapped. I look around and wonder if it is the last Christmas that the whole family will be there for. Sounds morbid, I know. But I do it, and can't help myself.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The 10th thing I love about Christmas

The 10th thing I love about Christmas......

Family togetherness. Having Mom & Dad, Vicki & Steve, Paul & Pam, and the kids: Stephanie, Allie, Katie, Josiah, Benjy, and Nathan - oh yeah - and me - all together for food, gift-giving, and fun. Can't ask for more than that.

Making Christmas too "Jesus-y" Part 1, The Conversation

I learned a new word today! I was in line at the post office and the lady in front of me asked for a book of stamps. She was asked if "holiday" stamps were ok. Her reply, "as long as they aren't too Jesus-y - God doesn't belong where these stamps are going." Anyone who knows me, knows I can be outspoken, and I couldn't help myself. I spoke up, "Ma'am God belongs everywhere." - "Not on my stamps!" - "Oh yes, He does."

I stepped up to be waited on by the other clerk while she continued with her transaction. And her comments to the clerk. "I think it would be awful to have your birthday on Christmas Day." Again, that overwhelming urge to speak came over me - "That's when Jesus' birthday is, you know" (with a smile). She laughed and agreed with me.

The conversation has stuck with me though. How can a holiday stamp -aka Christmas - be too "Jesus-y" when it is all about Him? Can anything about Christmas be too "Jesus-y" when it is His birthday we are supposed to be celebrating?

I really doubt that God looks down at Christmas and thinks "Man, they really need to cut out emphasizing my Son so much at this time of year.!" Ok, for one thing, I doubt God says talks like that - but if anything, He looks down and shakes His head in sorrow that so many don't recognize Jesus enough at this time of year.

I bought six stamps and said I didn't care what kind they were. Had I to over again, I wish I had said "Give me the most Jesus-y stamps you have!"

I wonder how many Christians lose sight of Christ during the Christmas season. I am afraid a big majority of us.

Since this is on my mind, I am going to re-post two blog posts I did last year. One is a story, and the other is a post I did on ways to keep Christ in Christmas, some of which are original, and some are borrowed.

Making Christmas Too "Jesus-y" Part 2 Ways to do it

(Re-post from last Christmas)

I love Christmas! Everything about it - well, the good things. :-) Family, presents, Christmas cookies, presents, the music, presents, the lights, presents..........Seriously, there is more to it than presents. I do like to get them - who doesn't?! But I also like to give them.

A few years ago, back before our church started this new "youth focus" thing, I spoke om this subject. Wish I had kept my notes, but I usually threw them away after I got suckered into speaking. (I would rather speak than sing though - that is a horrid experience!) Anyway, thought I'd "jot" a few of those ideas down, what I can remember. Christmas is so commercialized, it is easy to get caught up in the sales and the hustle and bustle, til we forget what we are celebrating. I think Christians should celebrate Christmas like no one else on earth. It isn't about Santa, it is about our Savior being born in a manger. The TRUE Messiah. Easter is a big deal - what good would our religion be with a dead Savior, but let us not overlook Christmas. The time set aside to celebrate His birth. Without His birth, there would not have been a Calvary, or a Resurrection. Here are a few ideas of mine, and a few borrowed from a book that I have. The list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.

1) Start early, especially if you have kids. Get an advent calendar, and involve the kids in using it in the days before Christmas arrives. There are also devotionals written for Christmas, and the month preceding it. I saw one at our local Christian bookstore for either 99 cents, or a couple of bucks.

2) Among your Christmas decorations, a Nativity scene is a must. Therein lies the very reason for the Season. One of the highlights of my Christmas is putting mine out, lighting it up, and as I gaze at it, think about what that first Christmas was like. I don't get hung up on things like the wise men weren't at the manger, and things like that. I just enjoy my Nativity scene.

3) If one can afford it, it is nice to pick a family from church or your neighborhood, or even an individual, who doesn't have much, and take them some gifts, or even a cookie tray. Another neat idea is to do the 12 days of Christmas, and do it anonymously: take a small gift every day for 11 days preceding Christmas, and a larger one on Christmas day.

4) Give money once in a while to the Salvation Army. It gets old seeing them everywhere, but they do good things with the money they bring in.

5) Read Christmas stories. I have a ton - ok, a lot - of Christmas books, not all of them necessarily about the birth of Christ, but they still convey the true meaning of Christmas. Fortunately, I did manage to dig those out of storage, and will be able to enjoy them in the coming days.

6) Take in a Christmas cantata, candle light service, or some type of Christmas program. Even a play. The Christmas Carol isn't a Christian production, but it does get the meaning of Christmas out - giving.

7) Break out the Christmas music. There is a ton of good Christmas music out there. I like the occasional "Jingle Bells", "White Christmas", and some other secular tunes, but you just can't beat the ones that tell the Christmas Story. "Silent Night", "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear", and even the new ones: "It's Still the Greatest Story Ever Told", "Mary's Boy Child". Usually I break it out in September, and by mid-November, am listening to nothing but Christmas.

9) Say "Merry Christmas". I hate this trend away from calling it Christmas. It isn't "Happy Holidays", or "Xmas"( and yes, I have heard the theory about that one, but still hate to see it).

10) Family traditions. One our family had which isn't religious, but was fun, and slowed us down, was to drive around looking at the Christmas lights. There are others. The author of a book I have, "Keeping Christ In Christmas", takes his family to a candy making store to watch candy canes being made by hand. The possibilities are endless. They don't always have to be religious in nature, but a tradition that takes some of the hustle and bustle out of the season for a while.

For younger kids, a birthday party for Jesus can be a neat idea.

11) Special Christmas event. I am not sure if anyone in my area does anything like this anymore. The Columbiana Christian Church used to do a "Walk With Jesus", where they had scenes from Jesus' life from the Nativity to the Resurrection. I always enjoyed it, and it was a great reminder of everything that Christmas was about, and beyond. Sadly, they have quit doing that, but if one could find something like that, or a live nativity, that is a great thing to do at Christmas.

12) Spread the joy. I have never been one to witness much, but have taken the opportunity at Christmas a couple of times. When approached or asked by a sales clerk to buy this or that, one can ask if they know what Christmas is all about - I have done it.

13) Outreach. Organizations like Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, and more, are good ways to give, without receiving any material thing back. Some churches have a special offering that goes to some need. Our pastor has made it a practice that people can give him money that he can pass on to someone who needs it.

I benefited 2 Christmases ago from someone giving. I had moved to Indiana, and not found a job immediately. I finally got one in November, but funds were low as Christmas approached. I wondered how I was going to buy my nieces and nephews Christmas presents. It didn't look possible. Then one Sunday at church, a young boy handed me an envelope, and said it was from "Santa". Inside was $100, enough money to buy everyone a modest gift. It made my day. And who knows how many people in our lives could use a little cash.

14) Christmas Caroling. This may get back to my church, but that's ok. :-) I am not a fan of our modern day caroling. We pack up in vehicles and drive from place to place to sing to church members, many of them not house-bound, though some are. Whatever happened to standing on a street corner and singing to nearby houses? That is what I'd enjoy. Regardless, it is a way to keep Christ in Christmas.

15) Do an advent candle, with appropriate readings.

16) Maybe the best way of all: do some spiritual inventory. Someone once said that Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts: the Gift of God (His Son) to man, and our lives to Him. If all is not right between our soul and God, what better time could there be, than the Season that is all about Him to get things straightened out. And even if all is well, it is still a good time for some personal reflections on what His birth, and death, has done for us.

17) Lastly, read the Christmas Story from the Bible. It can be stretched out into a few readings, whether individually, or for the family.

And lastly, the words to one of my favorite newer songs:

The Reason
Verse 1
Going back to Bethlehem, gonna' find this Baby
Looking for a manger, where the King of Kings was laid.
But I never made it to Bethlehem, I never passed a star or three wise men
I found out Baby Jesus was real, when I was distracted at Calvary's Hill.

Chorus:
And you can't get to His manger, without looking past His cross
A "No vacancy" sign at the Bethlehem Inn
But He made room for the lost.
And on your journey to find three wise men
You'll pass a crowd crying "Crucify Him"
There's just a lot whole lot more to Baby Jesus
There's the reason why He came.

Verse 2
I don't come to condemn the excitement the season brings
I'd just like to leave with you this very important thing
He's not in a manger. You won't find Him there anymore.
But if you listen closely, you'll hear a full-grown Jesus
Knocking at your heart's door.

Bridge:
The reason He came was to give life
He came to set the captive free
To bind up the broken-hearted
And give a chance to a loser like me
So while you're making memories during the holiday
Don't forget the reason Jesus came.

Making Christ too "Jesus-y" Part 3, Suffocating The Guest of Honor

I may have told the story on my blog before, but it bears repeating. A young couple had tried for years to have a baby, but with no success. Finally, when they had lost all hope, it happened. A baby boy was born into their empty arms. They were thrilled! After he was brought home, they threw a party in his honor, so that all of their friends and family could meet the little prince who had made their lives complete.

After all of the guests had arrived, someone finally asked to see the little guy. The joyous celebration turned somber as they realized no one knew where he was. A frantic search began all through the house until finally he was found. On the bed where all of the guests' coats had been piled, nearly suffocated to death. Christmas is still 6 weeks and 2 days away, but let us go into this one determined to celebrate the true Reason for the season. Let us not suffocate Jesus and lose site of Him amid all of the hustle, bustle, and commercialization of Christmas. Christians have the best reason to celebrate, and let's do it in style.

The fifth pain of Christmas

My pal Steven asked if I was going to be able to come up with 12 things I dislike at Christmas, and then said if anyone could come up with a list of negative things, I can. I think he was kidding. Regardless, next up.......

The fifth thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me.........

Returning Christmas gifts. It happens to us all. Someone buys us the wrong size, buys you something you already have several of. Speaking of which, I learned a lesson one Christmas. Do not tell several people you want or need the same thing for Christmas. I did that. That's the year everyone gave me a pair of gloves. :-)

Anyway, it is a pain to return something after Christmas - ever see those lines?! It makes you want to go screaming away. I've seen people marry, raise kids, and send them off to college while waiting in the Christmas returns line. OK, I really didn't, but you get the picture.

I have actually kept things people gave me that I didn't need or want, all because I hate returning things after Christmas. That's why you will find several hairbrushes, soap, cologne in my drawer - stuff I never use. OK, I made that up too. No one has given me a hairbrush or comb since I started shaving my head, but if someone did, I'd never part with it! And I do use soap!

In all honesty, I am pretty easy to please, and haven't got too much I didn't need or want. Other than Bart Simpson stuff. One of my sisters, I won't say which one, but she is a pastor's wife - for years has been buying me Bart Simpson stuff. Boxers, tape of Bart Simson singing, poster - all kinds of stuff, and she loves to grab the item when I'm not looking, and wrap it up for the next year. :-)

Well, I digressed. Anyway, it is a pain to return stuff after Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The 11th thing I love about Christmas

The 11th thing I love about Christmas.......

Getting gifts. I admit it. I enjoy receiving gifts also - it's human. As long as we aren't greedy about it. :-)

Skillet Cookies

My favorite Christmas cookie!

Skillet Cookies

•1 cup chopped dates (I used 10 ounces)
•1 cup sugar
•3 tablespoons butter
•1 egg, well beaten
•1/2 teaspoon vanilla
•2 cup crisp rice cereal
•3/4 cup pecans
•1 cup flaked coconut

Preparation:
Mix dates, sugar, butter and egg in heavy skillet. Melt over low heat; cook for about 5 minutes on low heat, until bubbly. Remove from heat; add vanilla, rice cereal and pecans. When cool enough to handle, roll into small balls and roll in coconut

What's your favorite Christmas cookie? :-)

The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Familiar Stranger

Moody Publishers (September 1, 2009)

by

Christina Berry




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. All that confusion must have influenced her decision to be team captain of a winning team on Family Feud.

Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, released from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!

Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers.





ABOUT THE BOOK

Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise . . . if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with no memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child?

But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Familiar Stranger, go HERE

My thoughts:

This book is totally different from anything I have ever read. First off, the way it is written. It is written in the first person, but it goes back and forth between the man and the woman in the story, with the author always making it clear who is thinking/talking.

I thought the plot sounded really great, and I was not wrong. I tried to figure out where the book was going, but I was blown away at the end. Though not a mystery book as in suspense/crime, this book could rank as a mystery in some ways. You have a man suffering from amnesia who from all appearances was going to leave his family - but why? And there are mysterious circumstances surrounding it all.

I really enjoyed the book, and would recommend it. You won't be disappointed.

The Fourth Pain of Christmas

Ok, this should actually be #1, but I was being goofy and didn't plan on carrying my goofiness on to do 12 pains, but this is probably my biggest gripe with Christmas. So.......

the fourth thing at Christmas that's such a pain to me.......

Stores & people who try to take Christ out of Christmas. I pay attention to stores who will not allow their employees to say "Merry Christmas." They get none of my Christmas shopping. It is ironic that the same holiday that gives them so much business is the same one that they won't acknowledge by what it has been called for years - Christmas.

It is my personal opinion that any store who cannot call it "Christmas" should also not have special sales at Christmas to draw more people in. They should not benefit from the holiday at all.

And along with it, I hate to see Merry Xmas. I know, I've heard that the "X" stands for Jesus, but get real...... do you think that is why people use the X? Nope. They either use it out of laziness or to avoid putting "Christ" in it. So chuck the X.

Next up, the 5th pain of Christmas!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The 12th thing I love about Christmas

Just in case I get accused of being negative with my "12 pains of Christmas", which is just done in fun, I am going to do 12 days of what I love about Christmas, and count down from 12. I covered some in another post, so ignore it. These can be something else to read if you're bored enough. :-)

So, the 12th thing I love about Christmas........

Giving. It truly is more blessed to give, than to receive. I love to get presents, but there is something satisfying about watching someone open a gift that I got them. More satisfying than getting a present myself.

In With The New........

Every year, there are new Christmas CDs, new Christmas songs, and this year is no different. Though I am next to penniless, thanks to something called Swag Bucks, I had enough credit with Amazon to get myself a new CD and some downloads. Here are some new Christmas songs that I am enjoying:

1) Redeeming Love: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. Older song, totally awesome.

2) I Heard The Bells (see note at bottom) - Casting Crowns. Actually recorded last year, but I didn't hear it until this year. Different version, but I love it.

3) The Night Before Christmas (see note at bottom) - Brandon Heath. A fairly new CCM artist, came out with this Christmas single this year, and I love it. The words. The melody. Good song.

4) How Many Kings: Downhere. Awesome song - I really love the words.

5) Christmas Makes Me Cry: Matthew West & Mandisa - cool song, and it doesn't mean cry in the sad sense

6) Give This Christmas Away: Matthew West & Amy Grant - I guess this song is on the new Veggie Tales Christmas DVD. Neat song, good message, and Matthew & Amy sound great together.

7) Ring The Bells: Travis Cottrell & Natalie Grant - just a great song & terrific harmony.

8) Comin' Home For Christmas: Dolly Parton (single)

Now for the note at the bottom......... Amazon regularly has several free music downloads - mostly music no one sane would enjoy, but also has a handful of decent songs. Right now, they have at least 50 or more Christmas songs among the 1274 free downloads. Among them are the new Brandon Heath Christmas song, The Night Before Christmas, and I Heard The Bells by Casting Crowns - and some other Christmas song by them. As of right now, they are both on the first page of free songs that come up. So download them. If you never have downloaded Amazon songs before, you will have to download their downloader. You can set it so they automatically go to Itunes or wherever you store music. Have fun downloading and listening!