Thursday, December 31, 2009
Today it ends...2009. My family has been fighting a nasty stomach bug for the past five days, so I'll be glad to greet a new year without this pain! :) But, looking back, this year has been one of growth, loss, changes and new opportunities. Blogging continues to open new doors, introduce me to wonderful friends and in general just pours blessing after blessing into my life. I'm looking forward to new books, great interviews, more give aways and lots more fun starting in 2010! Please, come by and visit, stay a while, and come again!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The Sweet By and By is a book that bears the name of Sara Evans as the author “with” Rachel Hauck. This is a chic-flic in book form, and it will satisfy those in need of emotional angst that ends in emotional giddiness. It’s not a bad read, really, just predictable. The daughter, Jade, basically despises her hippie mom, Beryl. She’s getting married. Her mom comes to the wedding three weeks early. And thus the drama begins.
This story is as much about Jade facing her past and being honest with her fiancé as it is about she and her mom finally coming face to face with their own very difficult relationship. This is a story of mistakes, bad ones, that finally surface and demand to be dealt with. It’s about a messed up family facing God after facing their own frailty.
I enjoyed the story for the most part, but for the first time, the design of the book got on my nerves. Sara Evans name overshadows the title of the book itself, and then a full length body shot, complete with cowboy boots and a white cotton dress, adorns a third of the back cover. Sara’s face is even on the book spine…can we say vain? A tad egocentric if you ask me. I guess Sara’s country music fame is supposed to sell the book Anyway, it was a bit over-the-top.
So, if you like chic-flics, you’ll like this book. Drama abounds. There are some spiritual moments, but even those tend to be dramatic. Did I mention there is lots of angst? And drama? Okay….on to something else.
You can pick up your own copy HERE today.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Best-selling and award-winning author Rachel Hauck lives in central Florida with her husband, Tony, a pastor. A graduate of Ohio State University, she left the corporate software marketplace in '04 to write full time.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Shattered Shaken and Stirred is the second book I’ve received that bears strong testament to God’s goodness and sovereignty in the midst of grave trials. Gilbert Ahrens’ life was shattered, shaken and stirred when he and his wife and infant daughter were hit head-on by a drunk driver. God mercifully spared their lives, but He forever altered their daily reality in such a way that their faith will be a shining testimony of God’s grace and mercy to countless others.
I was drawn to this book, because I actually witnessed a similar event in the life of a couple in our Army unit several years ago. Bad weather and a stalled logging truck were the culprit, but the outcome was the same. The father and infant daughter were unharmed, but the wife suffered a spinal injury that left her wheelchair bound. Actually, my friend was left paralyzed from the neck down permanently – a much worse outcome than Ahrens’ wife – but their journey was not so dissimilar. I was amazed at the way God worked in the lives of all who were touched by this tragedy, and thus I was curious about an inside look at another family’s experience.
Shattered Shaken and Stirred is written from Ahrens’ to his young daughter as a chronicle of the events that forever altered their lives. It’s as though he is remembering for her in his book. I learned some pretty painful details about the actual hospital stay, therapy and life-altering decisions that are required when tragedy strikes unexpectedly. The Ahrens family truly came through with a stronger faith and a beautiful testimony, but it was not without some dark, horrific experiences along the way. There were, in fact, some details that simply were too much information…and while I didn’t think they were necessary for the story, I could understand why a father might include such detail if he were leaving a legacy for his daughter.
Ahrens was brutally honest about his emotional struggles all along this journey. Yet despite the fact that there were times he felt as if he’d rather not go forward, God always brought him to the next level of faith and trust and enabled him to keep trusting Him. I encourage you to visit the author’s website and learn more about this family and their experiences. Your heart will be changed.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Terror By Night is a story only God could write. He wrote it in painful, unfathomable and miraculous ways upon the life of Terry Caffey. The ever-common rebellion of Caffey’s 16-year-old daughter set in motion the most terrifying horror imanginable, leaving Terry without a family and without a home.
Though it would seem to also leave Terry without faith, instead it leaves him with unshakable faith in the sovereignty of a Holy God. Terry knew, even as he shared his story, that there would be those who would read it and doubt his motives. His actions and decisions within the year following his tragic loss might indicate a careless, unfeeling conclusion to his story. However, Terry testifies of a grace, a strength, and willingness to forgive that goes far beyond human ability.
I daresay James Pence will not soon forget the role God allowed page 348 of his novel Blind Sight to play in this drama. Lives have been forever changed because Pence was faithful to write the story God gave him to share. Terry Caffey has also faithfully shared a very painful look into the most tragic moments of his life. The testimony of God’s grace and mercy throughout the entire ordeal is evident and abundant.
My prayer is that this modern-day, Job-like story will encourage others and be a strong testimony of God’s goodness and grace. Terry Caffey sums it up this way on page 231:
In the midst of horrific tragedy: God is good all the time.
When all seems lost: God is good all the time.
When nothing in life makes sense: God is good, all the time.
When our world is spinning out of control: God is good all the time.
And because God is good all the time, we can press forward and go on with life.
A-men, Terry! A-men! Thank you for being obedient to write this story and share the truth of God’s goodness amid tragedy with others!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
“I’m going to tell you something, Nicholas. I don’t think you’re going to like it, but you need to hear it any way – and after all these years I believe I’ve earned the right to say it. You are not an insect.” ( p 209)
I have adored Nick Polchak from the moment I met him – even if he looks and acts like the bugs he love to study. Now, in Ends of the Earth, he finally discovers he just might be human after all! What a ride! Once again, Polchak is called to the scene of a grizzly murder and asked to study the maggots infesting the wounds to determine the time of death. As it turns out, while his presence is appreciated by the law enforcement of the area, he was requested by a rather beautiful woman from his past. And if that wasn’t interesting enough, Nick in turn requests the presence of Alena and her miraculously talented but very weird dogs to help him solve the crime. Things have never been so confusing!
Once again, the reader enjoys all of the twists and turns of a good murder mystery, but this time the effects of the crime are far reaching and deadly to potentially millions! Add to that the fact that the two women in the story are fighting over Nick like a dog over a bone, and the fact that one of the bad guys has wormed his way (pun very intended!) into Nick’s lab and you have the most entertaining Bug Man novel yet! I absolutely LOVE Nick’s sarcastic wit, and Alena’s sharp tongue isn’t far behind!
Now, Tim Downs tried something new at the end that I found highly frustrating! Pick an ending indeed! Good grief, man! Y
ou can’t pick an ending after the book is published! You should have run that poll before the presses rolled and not left the ending so discombobulated! Now fans must either wait for another Bug Man novel, or be forever disappointed if the series ends with no resolution. The romantics in your fan base are not happy!
Okay, rant over. The story is GREAT, as usual! Nick is more endearing than ever, and I have my personal favorite among his pursuant females. So, I’ll just have to wait along with everyone else to see how things turn out! Until then…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Friday, December 25, 2009
by Dawn Meehan
In the hustle and bustle and commercialism of Christmas, take time to remember the real reason why we celebrate - the birth of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May you all have a blessed Christmas!
I had a VERY long day with the kids doing little but fighting. By the time we left for church, we were all short tempered, snapping at each other, and not at all in the Christmas spirit. Thankfully, once at church, we calmed down. Things were put in perspective for us. We sang Christmas songs and began to smile at one another again. The kids didn't fight once while we were there. Well, they did use their battery operated candles as light sabers for a minute, but we'll forget about that part.
I never sent out cards (sorry to all my family and friends). It just didn't happen this year. I don't think I ever completely finished my shopping, but it's a little late now. Several items I ordered online have been back ordered. I just realized that the kids have eaten all the cookies I've made and there are none to put out for Santa now. I encouraged them to leave him a glass of wine instead. And I failed to read the Christmas story to the kids before they went to bed.
Now that's worth celebrating!
Dawn Meehan (aka mom2my6pack) grew up in Chicagoland where she began her writing career at the age of 5 with her widely praised, The Lucky Leprechaun, an epic tale of a leprechaun who is- yes, you guessed it, lucky.
Dawn has six children, basically because she didn't want seven. She is the author of Because I Said So and spends her days blogging at BecauseISaidSo.com, changing diapers, cleaning pudding off her ceiling, tackling insurmountable piles of laundry, and explaining to her kids why they can't have a pet squirrel or an indoor slip-n-slide.
From my Window to Yours....MERRY CHRISTMAS!! I cannot fully express what a blessing all of my blogging buddies have been to me this year! To all of the authors, publicists, publishers, alliance leaders, blogging pals....so many many many that are part of this effort....I love you all and wish each of you a blessed Christmas with family and friends! I look forward to reading with you in 2010! Celebrate!! Christ is born! He is Risen! He is Coming Again!!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
by Maureen Lang
One of the reasons so many of us love the holiday season is that it's just so...pretty! Twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, packages that glisten with bows and fancy wrapping. Our houses are trimmed with wreaths and glowing trees, and the neighborhood lights up the night with strands of icicles and glimmering reindeer.
Even we get decked out for the holidays! Chances are most of us will attend at least one party this season, and if we don't usually don clothing or jewelry with a bit of sparkle, now's the time to take a chance with something that reflects the holiday.
Smiles are another reason this season is such a popular one. They accompany that familiar greeting-Merry Christmas! Smiles go with the gifts we give and with the gifts we receive. Smiles go with the old Christmas carols and classic movies we watch every year.
The holiday season is a time when everything can seem amplified. But what if we're all decked out on the outside, from the sparkling clothing to our best effort at a smile, and on the inside we're anything but happy? If life isn't what we expected it to be, the gap between reality and our happy, hopeful expectations seem wider when everyone around us is laughing through the season.
I know there are as many reasons to be unhappy as there are to be happy, and I wouldn't begin to have the answer to make this season bearable for everyone. But I do know a few things that have worked for me:
Slow down. What? During the busiest time of the year? Yep. I know when I feel completely overwhelmed it's because I'm pressuring myself to do too much. So I try to plan ahead, settle for less than perfection, do my best without driving myself and everyone around me crazy. Choose what's really important and let go of the other things. And I've adopted my aunt's favorite saying: "However it turns out, that's how we like it." Works wonders on attitude!
Pray. As my pastor reminded me this weekend from Psalm 34:18: the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. God may not deliver us from our troubles, but He promises to stay beside us-in fact, closer than when everything seems hunky-dory.
Find a moment to give thanks for what you do have (without looking around at those who have more).
This last point deserves a moment of reflection, and is something I'm still learning to do. I have a child severely handicapped by Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. For years I thought I'd accepted his condition. I obediently said to God, "thank you even for this," since it taught me many things about adjusting to the life I've been given rather than the one I might have chosen.
But as my son gets older, I see new forms of acceptance making that feeling of gratitude more genuine. I think I'm finally letting go of some of the hopes and dreams I had for him, my oldest son. I can no longer imagine him any other way than the way he is, even though I'd be first in line if a cure is ever found.
I still think it's a good thing to give thanks in all things, even if it begins out of obedience rather than tender gratitude for whatever thorn we live with. But realizing it's okay to grow into that gratitude was a blessing to me.
Maybe some of the bruises on our spirit seem tender during the holiday season, a reminder that all the glitter on the outside might not light us up on the inside. My prayer is trust Psalm 34:18. Let's lean on Him this season-He's right here beside us!
Maureen Lang grew up loving to tell stories, and God has blessed her immeasurably to be able to tell them to a wider audience these days. For the latest goings-on, please check her blog!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
by Anna Joujan
Holy. Holy. Holy is the Lord. The familiar catch of breath. The sting in the eyes. And the tears begin to flow with the falling rain. Or do the tears fall with the flowing rain. What is it in these words that I whisper that wrenches at my heart so? Why does Mary's prayer touch the core of my being, so many centuries after it was spoken?
I think it must be because I know that she was just a girl, just a human being, with a woman's heart like my own. And so, when I hear her wondering words, I can feel with her the emotion she must have felt. To bear the son of God-what wondrous mystery, what glorious honour! And she was, like me, just a young woman-much younger, in fact, than I am now. And so, no matter how often I hear the story and read her words, it still has the power to bring abrupt and unsought tears.
What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!
Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers. Since her family's move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and running to a fault. She blogs at Full of Grace.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
by Melody Carlson
One of my most memorable Christmases started out as a natural disaster. But isn't that a bit how a pearl is formed? An oyster's soft easy life is disrupted by the invasion of sand, but something good comes out of it. When I was eight, we experienced the worst flood in recorded Oregon history. It was only a few days before Christmas when our streets became shallow rivers and the governor proclaimed a state of emergency. My sister and I assumed the flood was simply our new water-world playground and didn't understand the seriousness of washed out bridges and downed power lines and submerged homes. But when we realized this flood was about to nix our usual three-hour trek to our grandparents' home near the coast, we were not happy.
Naturally, our mom, a single parent, protested the sensibility of holiday travel (most of Oregon's rivers were involved in the flood). But Christmas at Grandma's house was our favorite event of the year. And thanks to our persistence, Mom finally gave in. We piled into the car and headed out. Flood waters climbed higher the closer we got to the coast. And at one point the road behind us was closed and the one ahead was flooded and about to be closed as well. The state policeman told us we could cross "at our own risk." We followed a Volkswagen Bug into the water-then we actually watched the bug floating away! Of course, there was nothing to do besides plow on through the water, which appeared to be nearly two feet deep! Fortunately we had an old heavy Chevy that did not float away, but the water seeped in and pooled on the floors.
Fortunately, we made it safely to the grandparents. But once we arrived, we learned there would be no Christmas tree because the road to the woods was closed. Then my grandpa picked up his ax and led us outside where he chopped down his prize holly tree planted in the parking strip. I stared in horror, thinking Grandma was going to have a fit. But then he explained the city had told him to remove the tree for traffic visibility. So we had a twelve foot holly tree for Christmas. It was a little prickly decorating it, but with its shiny green leaves and red berries, it was the most beautiful tree ever! So what started out as a disaster turned out to be a soggy, holly, jolly Christmas after all.
Melody Carlson, author of Limelight, Love Finds You in Sisters, The Christmas Dog, 86 Bloomberg Place, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Carter House Girls, and much more... http://www.melodycarlson.com/
I will start posting reviews again on the 26th, so don't worry...I haven't stopped. Just taking a bit of a break! I will tell you this, there are some AMAZING books coming up in 2010! I can't wait to share them with you!
Monday, December 21, 2009
by Tricia Goyer
Mary, the mother of Jesus is one of the most well-known women of all time. She was also a teen mom facing an unplanned pregnancy. This Christmas we will see evidence of Mary's story all around us. And as you hear it through Christmas songs and Christmas shows think of three things:
1. Mary was signed up for a big task she wasn't prepared for.
2. Mary no doubt faced criticism from people around her.
3. Mary found someone to turn to - a friend who could help Mary to succeed in her new role. It was Mary's older cousin Elizabeth.
Elizabeth played an important part in Mary's life. We know this because the book of Luke begins by telling us Elizabeth's story first. Elizabeth was the wife of a priest. She was very old and had no children, but God blessed her in her old age by allowing her to get pregnant. After Elizabeth's story comes Mary's story ... another surprise pregnancy. Can you imagine what a shock that was to everyone who knew both women? (Yes! I'm sure you can!)
The cool thing is that the angel Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth's surprise pregnancy. It's as if he was saying, "Look, there's someone in your same situation. Turn to her. She can help you."
Mary did go to Elizabeth. In fact she lived with her older cousin for three months. Elizabeth was the first one who rejoiced over the child Mary held within her womb, and I imagine Elizabeth was there to encourage Mary as she coped with the idea of becoming a teen mom.
Like Mary, each of us should have people in our lives who we turn to for help, support and encouragement. Being a mom isn't an easy thing, and facing an unplanned pregnancy is even tougher.
When I had my son Cory I was 17-years-old, and there were a group of women from my grandma's church who supported me. They were the first ones who showed me that the child that was growing inside me was a gift. They gave me a baby shower, and they fought over holding my son after he was born.
As my son grew, there were other women I looked to ... and most of the time they didn't even know I was watching. One of them was Cheryl. Cheryl was patient with her children, she gave them big hugs, she laughed with them and played with them and I modeled myself after her. The thing about finding mentors is sometimes we can observe them without them even knowing. And if we're really lucky they enjoy their role of giving us advice.
Later, when I had two kids, I met a friend named Cindy. She and I were the same age and we became quick friends. Cindy was a support to me because we traded babysitting, talked about parenting problems, and we encouraged each other. She was someone who was walking the same road as me, and her advice helped more times than I can count.
No matter who we are, or where we live, each of us can look around and see the people we have in our lives. Some may cheer us on, some may guide our parenting, and others may just be there to walk along side us. If the mother of Jesus needed someone to look to for support ... shouldn't we? Everyone needs someone to provide a little help and support.
Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-one books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. Connect with Tricia at http://www.triciagoyer.com/.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
by Susan May Warren
Whos, Here, we are Whos here, smaller than the eye can see. Whos here, we are Whos here, I'm a Who and so is she...
I've always wanted to live in a musical. When I was a kid, I loved Oklahoma, Sound of Music, West Side Story. I seriously thought that, if the moment was right, maybe the stars aligned, people would break out into song and dance.
I was sorta right. Because in my house, one needs to be able to talk in movie lines and song lyrics to effectively communicate. At any moment, someone might break out with a quip from the Princess Bride, or Finding Nemo. They might sing Tomorrow from Annie, or My Favorite Things like Julie Andrews.
But, most recently we've found ourselves speaking in "Suess"...
It's suppertime, son, and the time is near To call far and wide the sneetches who hear Just the sound of their bellies, the whir of their gear The Gurgles and Burbles that give them great fear Tell them all, tell them loud, tell them clear Their hands they should wash, check their face in the mirror Because the food is now ready and it's time to steer Close to the table, where they'll find hot gribbles here.
Why, you ask? Because David and Sarah are performing in the community theater's production of Suessical the Musical, a hilarious conglomeration of Dr. Suess' fun work, from Horton hears a Who to Horton Hatches an Egg.
As the Christmas season draws close (and the songs from the play linger in my head), one line has stood out to me... "We are here, we are here!" You know the story - that part where, after everyone has called Horton names and they're about ready to boil the speck that contains Who-ville, Horton calls out to the Whos to send up a cry to prove themselves as real. "We are here, we are here!"
It strikes me that sometimes we can feel like Whos...smaller than the eye can see. Tossed hither and yon by the wind, helpless and facing being boiled. Tired, perhaps, or alone. Wishing someone might find us and pay attention.
Someone has, and that's the good news about Christmas. Because we don't have to "make ourselves heard," like the Whos. In fact, even before we realized we were headed for the cauldron, God intervened. God demonstrated his own love for us in this - while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8). That's what Jesus is all about - he's the answer to even the unspoken cry of our hearts, saying, "I am here, I am here." Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
So as this season approaches with its whistles and bells I hope you hear the voice where the Mighty One dwells -- down deep in your hearts, so nothing can shake the knowledge of his love, given all for your sake.
Merry Christmas from Susie May Warren
Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of twenty-one novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep's Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader's Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota. http://www.susanmaywarren.com/ Check out her Christmas Novella, The Great Christmas Bowl.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
by Mary DeMuth
Some friends had a camp, and on that camp stood a barn. In the corner of the barn was a tiny apartment, flanked by this caboose and hundreds of acres of Texas pasture. We'd never been there before, so we followed directions at night, making plenty of wrong turns.
When we found the place, we drove a borrowed car over the cattle guard toward what would be our home for a month. String lights illuminated a small porch, a window and a door in the corner of an aluminum-sided barn. We hefted large pieces of luggage to the apartment.
And when we opened the door, Love welcomed us.
The place, usually completely unfurnished in the winter, was decked out with just the right amount of beds, couches and tables. The pantry was full. We had dishes and garbage cans, and cups and forks and food. But even more, we had a Christmas tree. Friends had hijacked the place, decorating it for Christmas. Cookies preened on the table.
I will never, ever forget that Christmas. We had so little. We felt the painful burden of failure. But we were loved, so terribly and wonderfully loved.
Christmas felt right there, in a barn. We heard the nickering of horses, the meowing of kittens, the clop of hooves against the barn floor. Chickens and goats and cows served as a holy object lesson of the incarnation. Although we were warm and clothed, we understood more keenly the Savior's homelessness, how He left the splendor of heaven for the sodden earth. We experienced barnyard life alongside him, without much to call our own except our Heavenly Father and our sweet family.
He was enough, that Christmas. And He will always will be.
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/
Friday, December 18, 2009
by Holley Gerth
Ten years ago my Grandma Frances went home to heaven in her sleep just before Christmas.
My Grandpa carefully handed me a brightly-wrapped box on Christmas morning and said, "This is her gift. Now I want you to have it."
I opened the lid slowly and tears came to my eyes as I saw a lovely string of pearls.
My Mom gently helped me fasten them around my neck. As I ran my fingers over each one, I thought of my Grandmother and all she taught me through her life...
1 Corinthians 13:13
At age twenty-nine, my Grandma contracted polio and learned she would never walk again. She had a husband, two little girls, and a future suddenly very different than she imagined.
A pastor came to visit her in the hospital. He said, "Frances, this can make you bitter or better." She often told that story with a sparkle in her eyes as she said, "I chose better." I learned through her example that faith is a choice and with God we can thrive through anything.
My grandparents took a leap of faith and started the first Christian bookstore in their city with a small kiosk in the center of a mall. Over the next few decades that little kiosk grew into a large and successful store that touched countless lives.
Many of my favorite childhood memories are of curling up in the back room with a stack of books. My Grandma taught me hope is like a small seed and, watered with prayer, it can grow into a huge blessing for many.
For fifty-six years my grandparents shared a life together. I adore these two pictures because one is taken when they were dating and the other just a few weeks before she died. The twinkle in their eyes is still the same-and that's not easy in this world. They faced their share of challenges, like my Grandma's disability, but always got through them together.
My Nana also loved her family deeply. When I went to college, she often wrote notes to me and signed each one, SCTH (Stay Close to Him). She showed me love is a commitment that begins with Christ and then overflows to everyone else in our lives.
I still miss my Grandma Frances, especially this time of year. Sometimes I pull out her string of pearls and hold them in my hands. Then I think about how we're all creating our legacy as we live. And while the difficulties we face may seem hard to understand now, God can turn each one into beauty that blesses our family for generations.
Holley Gerth - Cofounder of (in)courage, editorial director for DaySpring, author of Rain on Me, wife of Mark, lover of Jesus, friend to YOU.
Visit Holley at Heart to Heart with Holley or follow her on twitter as @HolleyGerth.
Tyndale House Publishers would like to invite you to be a part of a special holiday offer. Christian recording artist and author of 101 Ways to Give This Christmas Away, Matthew West (http://matthewwest.com/ ), is offering a free download of the Christmas story from Luke read by the singer/songwriter himself. In fact, our goal is to reach 1 million total downloads. You can also download a free copy of the Gospel of John in the New Living Translation.
Some ways this download is being used:
- Family time listening experience (hot cocoa, fire place, Christmas cheer)
- Christmas E-cards (include a link to the download in your Christmas card this year)
- Posting the link in the comments sections of other blogs you read to spread the word
- Embed the audio file into your Facebook page or website so it plays automatically
- Spread the Gospel though Twitter
- Send the link through a text message or through your smart phone so you can download the file and play it all around town
TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY, CLICK HERE!
Think you have a fun, interesting, or unique way that you’ve used the download? Want to share it with the world and in the process enter to win a Tyndale House January new release? Post your story in the comments section of the Tyndale Blog (http://www.tyndale.com/articles/blog/) , and we’ll draw 5 winners on Christmas Eve.
Here’s what you could win:
The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory
Raising a Modern-Day Princess by Pam Farrel & Doreen Hanna
The Busy Couple’s Guide to Sharing the Work & the Joy by Kathy Peel
The Courteous Cad by Catherine Palmer
Blackout by Jason Elam & Steve Yohn
Tyndale’s New : NLT Holy Bible Mosaic HC
Thursday, December 17, 2009
by Patricia Crisafulli
The old farm on a dirt road in the backwoods of northern New York State was described to me so many times, I can imagine the place, even though I never saw it: the big frame house with the wide porch, the pair of maple trees out front, and the barn in the back where my grandparents kept a cow or two, pigs and chickens, and a team of work horses.
That old house came alive for me in dozens of stories that my mother told, of how she and her sisters grew up there during the Depression. The stories had that long-ago feel not only because of the years that had passed, but also because of the era: tales of riding in a horse and buggy in the summer and a horse and sleigh in the winter. My grandfather owned an old Model A Ford, but the tires were patched beyond repair and there was no money for gasoline.
One story that has always stayed with me was of a particular Christmas in the early 1930s, a time my mother remember as the "depths of the Depression," and there was no money. In order to pay the interest on the mortgage, to keep the bank from foreclosing on the farm, my grandfather needed a relatively small sum. The amount I remember being told was $13, but for the little they had in those days it might as well have been $13,000.
Tested by trouble and sorrows, my grandparents relied on their deep and abiding faith. As Psalm 34 tells us, I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. The answer to their prayers was to be found right in their own backyard with gifts of the earth. My grandmother went into the woods to gather bushel baskets full of ground pine, with green sprouts like miniature boughs that spread in great patches along the earth. From willow branches she made hoops, around which she bound the ground pine to make wreathes.
She sat up all night making wreaths, enough to fill a large hamper basket, which my grandfather strapped to his back. At four in the morning, he hopped a ride on the milk train into Syracuse, where he went door-to-door selling wreathes. Night after night, my grandmother made wreaths, and day after day my grandfather sold them.
As Christmas approached, my grandmother had saved coupons that came in tins of coffee to get a Kewpie doll for her daughters. The only other things she gave them were mittens she knit herself.
Then on Christmas Eve, my grandfather came home from the last day of selling wreaths, exhausted but relieved. The farm was safe for another year. From what he had earned, he had a dime left over, which he spent on his beloved wife to buy her a powder puff. That night, my grandmother gave him her surprise: enough money from selling butter and eggs all year to buy four new tires for the Model A Ford.
Hearing this story as a child, my head was too full of the Sears & Roebuck "Wish Book" catalog to really comprehend it. As an adult, I try to fathom living with no money at all. What lingers in my heart, however, is the love of my grandparents for each other: the dashing young American soldier in World War I and the beautiful French girl he met overseas and then returned to her country to marry.
Many years, thousands of miles, and untold hardships later, that love continued. During a very dark December, they found a way together to keep the farm and the family together. And so it would always be for them.
Patricia Crisafulli is a writer, published author, and founder of www.FaithHopeandFiction.com, a monthly e-literary magazine with stories, essays, and poetry to inspire and entertain.
Letters to Darcy originated as a blog, written by a young woman from Texas named Tracy Ramos. The blog was comprised of a series of diary entries that Tracy wrote to her unborn daughter, Darcy, over the course of approximately nine months. Early in her pregnancy, Tracy learned Darcy had a rare, terminal genetic condition known as Trisomy 18. Of people diagnosed with this disorder, about 95% die in utero, and for surviving infants who live to term, less than 10% survive their first year of life. Tracy’s response to her unborn daughter Darcy is an incredible testament to the sanctity of human life. You will walk with Tracy and Darcy through each entry and see how lovingly mom Tracy cares for her unborn child. Through her simple, honest, and intensely personal entries, Tracy beautifully and convincingly answers the question: When does life begin?
Oh, dear reader! To read this story is to experience a miracle! The love poured upon these pages is tangible and powerful! If you have ever, ever questioned the beginning of life at the moment of conception, you will never, ever question it again after reading this story! What a precious testimony of God working in the lives of His children!
I lost my first child through miscarriage, and reading this helped me to grieve this loss, but also allowed me to rejoice in the gift of life anew. I have two beautiful, healthy sons now - ages 14 & 16 - and I will love them all the better after reading this precious tribute to Darcy! Praise GOD for the gift of her life and the testimony of her family!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tracy Ramos is a stay-at-home mother and home educator. Tracy lives in Magnolia, Texas, along with Jason, her husband of twenty years, and their six beautiful children. She will soon give birth to her tenth child, Brooklyn, in mid-November 2009. Darcy, her ninth child, has joined two other siblings in the presence of our Lord.
Tracy’s life and passion are her family. She loves spending time with them and enjoys playing games and sports, watching movies, working out, and riding her Kawasaki Ninja with her husband. She gets a rush from finding great shopping deals—even when she chooses not to buy. Tracy spends her free time reading, clipping coupons, and going on Facebook.
“I absolutely love my life. Thank you, Lord.”
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
by Stacie Ruth Stoelting
Last night, I dreamed that God resurrected my beautiful adopted aunt, Mary Jo Hoffman. But morning renewed my mourning for her: Christmas trees, snow globes, and music greeted my grieving heart. Relate?
In previous years, my maternal grandpa (a.k.a. "Papa Ray") died near Thanksgiving and my adopted "Grandpa Morley" died near Christmas. Now, people cannot compare grief. But I believe we all know that the holidays challenge the grieving.
Christmas arrives like a pretty package full of grief triggers: Empty chairs, missing faces, and silent voices seem to haunt the holidays. Here are "12 Ways of Christmas" for the Grief-Stricken that have worked for me:
12 Ways of Christmas for the Grieving
1. Don't put excessive expectations on yourself. Don't expect the holidays to be the same.
2. Rest. Cut down the Christmas clutter and just get away from the typical, if possible.
3. Rearrange furniture to reduce "absence" reminders.
4. Avoid sugar highs and lows because they naturally induce emotional lows. Also steer clear of over-eating and under-sleeping. Eat well-balanced diets. Some mood enhancing natural foods include yogurt, kefir, green tea, omega-3 rich foods (i.e. salmon, cod liver oil, etc.), and lower sugar dark chocolate. One excellent resource for healthier lifestyles is First Place 4 Health, founded by the knowledgeable and kind Carole Lewis: http://www.firstplace4health.com/.
5. Admit grief. Trying to move forward while denying the reality of grief causes one to fall face forward. Does your face smile while your heart weeps? Give yourself permission to cry. Jesus wept. Weeping releases excessive tension. Address depression. Don't deny it. Pretending the nonexistence of depression only promotes its growth. (I include a list of counseling centers on my page for hurting hearts: http://prayingpals.org/linksforhurtinghearts.html.)
6. Forgive and receive forgiveness through Jesus. Release everything to the Lord -including any so-called regrets about your departed loved one. In Loved by Rebecca St. James (FaithWords, 2009), the point of God's abiding love encourages us: "He [Jesus] is ready to...stand in the gap between you and the pain, and to be your constant companion in the dark hours. He loves you."
7. Reach out to the more burdened and hang around kids this Christmas. It may not feel easy. It may even feel impossible. Ask Jesus to love thru you and get your eyes off problems and on to Him and others.
8. Understand the concept of new normalcy. The onset of new traditions and expectations may seem daunting, but God gave you your previous normal. Ask Him to give grace/hope in the face of the new normal. Let Him lead you to a place where you can relax and let Him beam His light on you.
9. Take a "hands off and hands folded" approach to the holidays. Reduce activity and increase connectivity through prayer and Christian companionship. If you're isolated, feel free to join my weekly online prayer group (http://www.prayingpals.org/). And stay in touch with your local church.
10. Face and treat chronic health issues. If you feel sick, everything feels worse. (One excellent resource for those with chronic health conditions is Rest Ministries.)
11. Reclaim your Heavenly purpose on earth. Ask Jesus to grant supernaturally His grace, hope, love, peace, and comfort this holiday season. Then don't fight His help. Be open to His opening of doors to cope and hope this holiday season. Just receive Jesus. Ask Jesus to give you a Heavenly perspective on earth. God holds good things for you! He grants you great purpose for your life hereafter...and here, too. Embrace His grace and seek His face. He's there. I know. In the face of grief, I'm with Him right now.
12. Remember: Trials don't indicate a reduction in God's love for you. He loves you and promises to make things right in the end. Spend time focusing on His unchanging love for you. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)
Holidays include lots of grief for relationships/loved ones that left, forsook, or died. But let's focus on the essence of Christmas: the present of Jesus' presence in our lives! Wow, may a relationship with Jesus be our miracle and encouragement this Christmas! "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Cor. 9:15)
Could you think of anything greater than receiving God for Christmas?
While my dream didn't come true today, I know it will: Mary Jo will be resurrected and we will be reunited. This year, focus on a different angle of Christmas: Let Christmas remind you of Jesus' birth to banish death.
After Stacie Ruth met Jesus, her life blossomed with true joy and purpose! Life's blows hurt her, but Jesus heals and strengthens her. Now an author, actress, and recording artist, she laughs at the irony and praises God, who uses unlikely people...like herself. To find out more about her ministry visit http://www.brightlightministries.com/.
Why don’t I have more faith?
Why am I so bored with Jesus?
Why don’t I feel connected at church?
These are the types of questions the religious establishment often makes it uncomfortable, if not impossible, to ask. And by asking them, C. David Baker, author of 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day hopes to start a conversation in people’s hearts, then with others, and ultimately with God. Many circles of Christianity have led us to believe that certainty and confidence are the proof of true spirituality; questions are discouraged.
But Jesus offered his followers an ongoing conversation—a relationship built around a free, open-ended discussion. Questions were encouraged. They were often impertinent, sometimes alarming, and the religious establishment was distinctly uncomfortable with them … just as it is today.
“40 Loaves is something of a collection of the kinds of questions I felt finally free to ask of myself and of my relationship with Christ,” says Baker. “It’s my belief that these questions are shared by many others who long for the freedom to simply ask them out loud. I hope this book becomes a platform that frees others to search their hearts more deeply and be fed with the Bread of life.”
Each “loaf” here is a big question that stimulates discussion, investigation, and contemplation; it will take hours—or days—to digest. Conversational, inviting, disarming, and real, 40 Loaves nourishes self-examination and offers validation for those who feel discouraged, guilty, or even shamed when the realities of their lives don’t match up with the ideals of the Christian establishment.
I've not completely finished this book, but I've read enough to tell you this: c.d. baker takes a scriptural approach to the often difficult questions that arise in our faith walk. He guides the reader with thoughtful questions and meditative prayer. I'm really enjoying this book! If you would like to receive a free copy of this book please leave a comment on this post along with your contact information. I will draw a winner next week!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: C. David 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 nominated for a Christy Award. He has contributed articles to the Christian History Institute’s international publication Glimpses, and to Christian Singles magazine. Baker has a Master’s degree in theological studies from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
“When we face the worst that’s in us, somehow we become better than we are – better than we ever thought we could be.” (p.223)
Sullivan Crisp has become somehow better to me than when I first met him in Healing Stones. I’m not sure how that is really possible, though, because I adored his character from the moment I met him! Healing Sands is the third in this brilliant series by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn, and I am quite certain that God is using this series in a powerful way in many lives. Each novel in this series tackles issues common to many but courageously faced by few. I think Sullivan Crisp is going to open doors for many to face their worst self and become their better self!
Healing Sands’ central character is Ryan Coe, and she is one angry lady! As a matter of fact, when the reader first meets her she is so tightly wound she practically springs from the page! When she answers a request from her editor to photograph a crime scene her life takes a dramatic and unexpected turn that will forever alter her entire world. Meanwhile, Sullivan Crisp is establishing another sound Healing Choice counseling group while ever in pursuit of the woman who he faults for the destruction of his family. When a new counselor shows up, driving a car almost identical to his own, Sullivan Crisp’s world begins to come upended as well. As these two stories become intertwined, the reader is brought face to face with what it means to surrender everything to God. Everything.
Healing Sands included a plot line that I wasn’t expecting, and it made for an extremely satisfying and suspenseful read! Once again, the writing captivated me from the first page, and I savored every phrase, every description, every nuance of emotional struggle and worshipful surrender. Rue and Arterburn are an incredibly paired writing duo, and they reach deep into the heart of the reader throughout the story. The spiritual truths are woven seamlessly into the tale, and by the time you reach the final scene…well, satisfying seems somehow insufficient as a definition. This is just another incredibly great novel!
I highly recommend the Sullivan Crisp series to everyone who loves an engaging, emotional read! Pick up your copy HERE today!
And please, visit my friend Linda's blog and read the GREAT interview she did with Nancy Rue about this series!
Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing a copy for review!