Monday, December 10, 2018

The Case of the Missing Jesus By Laura V. Hilton




“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”  MATTHEW 20:16


We have a Fisher-Price Nativity set that we display every year. It sits in a prominent place in the living room, and my young children are allowed to touch it, play with it, and recreate the story of Jesus’ birth.

A few years ago, we brought up the Nativity set and put the box on the table to unpack it. One by one we took them out of the box and arranged them around the stable. The shepherds, the wisemen, the camel, sheep, a sheep dog, a donkey. Then the Angel who stands in the center of the roof, Mary and Joseph who go inside the stable – and baby Jesus.

Except… Baby Jesus is missing.

I dig though the box, beneath all the paper wrappings and cushioning. No baby Jesus. Then four of my five children are sent to the basement, individually.

Mission: Find baby Jesus

Each return without Jesus.

This. Is. Not. Good.

I decide to give it a few days. Usually, when things go missing they will get wind of the news that they are searched for and appear in a prominent place. One where you will look at it and wonder “How could I not see it there?”

Sunday night, I sat in church while my husband preached about Immanuel. God with us. 

My mind went to the manager scene set up in our home where God in the manager is not.

I thought about how a baby is such an insignificant looking person. Small. Helpless. Least of all the family members. Now anyone who has ever had a baby knows that’s not true. The baby rules.

And then I thought about the least of them being the greatest. Matthew 23:11: “The greatest among you will be your servant.” And in Mark 9:38: Jesus… said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  Jesus came to serve. To seek. To save.

Insignificant? Hardly. He is King. He rules. He is the most important One.

In this case, it was true. A missing baby Jesus is…. Crucial. There is no nativity without Jesus. No Christmas without Jesus. No salvation without Jesus.  

No hope without Jesus.

Jesus simply had to be found.

The search for baby Jesus was on. Three of my children went to the basement and searched. They came up with Santa, a sleigh, five reindeer, a panda and most importantly, baby Jesus.  So all is right in our Nativity scene again.

And in our world. Jesus is no longer missing.


Is Jesus missing from your life? Can you find Him amidst all the clutter? Or do you need to search for Him and put Him in His rightful place. Right in the center of the celebration?








Sunday, December 9, 2018

Jesus Calling: 50 Devotions for Peace

Jesus Calling 50 Devotions for Peace

More than 20 million people have been touched by Jesus Calling(R). Experience Sarah's words in a new way, focused specifically on the peace only Jesus provides. The Jesus Calling topical devotionals--releasing simultaneously--each feature 50 readings from Jesus Calling with relevant Scripture verses on the topics of comfort, peace, and encouragement.

Life can be noisy. Pressures, tasks, and anxieties never cease, and sometimes the peace Jesus promises can seem unreachable. But it's closer than you think. Jesus Calling 50 Devotions for Peace is written as if Jesus Himself is speaking directly to your heart, saying, "Peace. Be still."

Readers around the world already love how Sarah's words connect with them on a daily basis. Now the new Jesus Calling topical devotionals offer a way to focus even more deeply on the major felt needs in your life . . . and in the lives of your friends, family, church, school, and co-workers.

With a beautiful, vibrant cover and stunning four-color photography, this topical devotional is a natural addition to the Sarah Young brand--and the perfect way to pour into those you love.
 

My thoughts: JESUS CALLING: 50 DEVOTIONS FOR PEACE came out at the beginning of this year and somehow I missed it.  I dearly love devotionals, read them first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and anytime during the day that I need to center my thoughts on Him and not my trials and tribulations.  With everything going wrong in my world right now, I dearly needed peace, and a dear friend sent me a copy of this devotional. 
This is a beautifully done hardcover copy, with full color pages, devotions intermingled with scripture, and oh-s0-calming.  It has a ribbon marker which conveniently holds your place.  I love this devotion and during this season am opening it multiple times a day.
If you are looking for  a devotion for a friend or family member, then JESUS CALLING: 50 DEVOTIONS FOR PEACE is  a book to consider. It will be a welcome gift under the tree or stuffing a stocking. 
I was given a copy by a friend (not the author) and all opinions are my own. I was not required to write a review.




Saturday, December 8, 2018

Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence: An Anthology 

(Echo Falls #3) 

Mass Market Paperback, ebook

July 31, 2018

by Marta Perry (Author)



  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQN; Original edition 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1335007001


A woman on the run seeks sanctuary in a peaceful Pennsylvania Dutch community—and finds a protector in the most unlikely of men…

One moment Rachel Hartline is secure in her career and community. The next, she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time—watching her ex-husband commit a crime that puts her in unfathomable danger. Fear and hurt send her home to an Amish farm and the family she’s always trusted. But a private investigator is close behind—and he may be a threat to her in more ways than one…

Cold, calculating Clint Mordan isn’t convinced Rachel is as innocent in her ex-husband’s schemes as she claims, but when her ex’s enemies target Rachel, Clint is driven to keep her safe. Maybe the terror in her beautiful eyes and the target on her back aren’t an act. But as his feelings toward her deepen, Clint realizes he’s the only one who can keep Rachel alive in a game where only the killer knows the stakes.

My thoughts: I was a bit surprised to find out SHATTERED SILENCE is not Christian fiction, but it is a clean read. Ms. Perry has penned a romantic suspense where there heroine flees to Amish country after her ex-husband steals company files and someone assumes she knows something about them so they are targeting her. 

I had my suspicions from almost the beginning who was behind it and I was partially right, partially wrong. I did like Rachel's interaction with the Amish family and Clint was a nice guy if someone tactless.

For the more conservative reader there is some swearing, and some alcohol consumption. 

This was the third book in the series, but it stands alone. I didn't read the first two and I wasn't lost.

I didn't enjoy this as well as I do the normal romantic suspense with a faith message. It started very slow and draggy,  and it seemed rather thick for  a mass market paperback. There was a bonus short story included at the end though, which I am not reviewing.  So in a way, this is a two story anthology, with the first being considerably longer than the second.

I was given a copy free. All opinions are my own.




Friday, December 7, 2018

The Mistletoe Secret

The Mistletoe Secret: A Novel 

(The Mistletoe Collection)

Hardcover, ebook, audio, audio CD

November 15, 2016

by Richard Paul Evans (Author)


  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501119811

The master of the holiday novel presents the moving story of two people who brave loneliness and loss to find love.

Dear Universe,
Is anyone out there?


Thinking no one is reading, a blogger who calls herself by her initials writes about her most personal feelings, especially her overwhelming loneliness. 

Alex Bartlett is reading her posts in Daytona Beach, Florida, after his divorce. Nursing his own broken heart and loneliness, he finds himself falling for this sensitive, vulnerable woman whose feelings mirror his own. Following a trail of clues the author has inadvertently revealed, he discovers that she lives in the small town of Midway, Utah. He makes his way there just after Thanksgiving, determined to find her. But how could he confess cyber-stalking an unsuspecting woman?

Alex finally finds the one he seeks, a woman who is as beautiful and kind as he imagined she would be. But is he too late to change the decisions she has already made:

My thoughts:  THE MISTLETOE SECRET is not a Christian book. As a result there is some beer drinking and other activities that most readers of this blog would frown at. However, I like Richard Paul Evans style and since he abstains from the use of curse words (thank you!) I will read his Christmas books.  

This is written in first person in the man's point of view. He was a serious jerk at times, but it turned out beautifully at the end.  I like the way Arie's friends stand behind her, prepared to run Alex out of time if he hurts her. 

I also love the way that Alex and Arie fall into friendship even though she can't possibly be the one he seeks. 

THE MISTLETOE SECRET is kind of depressing at times, but other times it is laugh out loud funny. I absolutely loved Alex's Marine friend. He is too funny. And put a native Floridan in Utah in an area that measures snowfall by feet and  not inches is hilarious.  

You'll want to read this book in one sitting.

I bought a copy of this book (but not on Amazon). All opinions are my own and a review was not required. 



Thursday, December 6, 2018

Lots of Christmas Jokes for Kids

Lots of Christmas Jokes for Kids 

Paperback, ebook

October 23, 2018

by Whee Winn (Author)


  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 5
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310767107

Christmastime just got a whole lot merrier with Lots of Christmas Jokes for Kids. Over 250 hilarious, kid-friendly jokes and riddles will make the whole family laugh out loud!
Q: Why is it always cold at Christmastime?
A: Because Christmas is in Decembrrrr.
Q: Who delivers Christmas presents to cats?
A: Santa Claws!

My thoughts:  LOTS OF CHRISTMAS JOKES FOR KIDS is just that. Wintery Christmas jokes that is sure to delight the youngster on your gift list but is guaranteed to drive the adult listening to the jokes batty.

My youngest daughter is at the tail end of the recommended ages for this book (actually a bit older) and she LOVES it. She read pretty  much the entire joke book to me, having me guess the answers (I'm happy to announce I actually got four answers right) and I told her to sic it on her friends next. She's excited to do so. I'm excited she has a new target besides me. 

If your favorite child loves jokes, grab a copy of LOTS OF CHRISTMAS JOKES FOR KIDS. They will be glad you did. 

I was given a copy free. All opinions are my own. ;
;


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Interview with Ada Brownell


Today we welcome Ada Brownell to my blog. Ada, glad to have you stop by. Tell us about your new book. 

Love’s Delicate Blossom, an historical suspense
By Ada Brownell

Sequel to The Lady Fugitive and Peach Blossom Rancher

Edmund Pritchett III wants to marry Ritah Irene O’Casey, but she says wait. The beautiful redhead is trying to rescue Tulip, a 14-year-old orphan kidnapped by Henry Hunter to work in his brothel, and Ritah doesn’t have much time. She has a train ticket to go to college and hopes to fulfill her dreams, but then she meets a handsome farmer and everything changes.

 What is your favorite Christmas song?

 O Holy Night.
 
What are you reading right now?

 Island Refuge by Kimberly Rose Johnson
 
What would be your dream vacation?

Maybe Ireland, definitely Israel, or on second thought, to be able to pay our whole family’s way on a cruise to Panama!
 
 How do you choose your settings for each book?

 I choose where I know the story could happen, and perhaps did.

Will we know what happens to your character after the end of the book?

There’s a wide open window that reveals what did happen in the future, connected to the miracle in a peach blossom—a tiny flower filled with life!

  Where do you like to write? 

 I have a nice office in our home, a large desk and many bookshelves that that display my love for books. But I started writing at the kitchen table.

How do you handle distractions?

 I had five children, so you learn to tune out some sounds and tune into others. I also worked many years in a noisy newsroom. You harness your thoughts, and point them to the way you need to go Once I get start, it’s fairly easy.

What’s on the horizon for you?  What will you be writing next? 

 I will immerse myself in marketing and doing blog tours, but I already have an agenda. I plan to make my e-book, Facts, Faith, and Propaganda, into a paperback. Then I want to make some of my lesson series, Dynamite Decisions for Youth into books. One is God in American History, and another is Love is Dynamite.

Share a holiday tradition or recipe

Our holidays have always been about family. Many years in my youth we had no  presents, but we had great fun and joy with all the brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and shirt-tail relatives that sometimes showed up for our big events. My mom and dad invited anyone who had a link to the family to come to our holiday happenings. When more people showed up, they just killed another chicken and brought up more food from the cellar.

Now, we like to have a good meal, open presents, and play table games. A time or two we went down the street caroling to our neighbors, and I’d love to do that again. We did the “guess the name of the carol” game, and my immediate family is all about singing. I love it when grandchildren come and sing.


Share your bio and links.

ADA BROWNELL BIO


A redhead and the eighth child in her family, Ada Brownell looks at things from a different angle. Ever thought about what’s in a fertilized egg? She knows when she eats her breakfast egg, there’s the feathers, the rooster’s crow, the scratchy feet, the capacity to grow, walk, peck, fly short distances, digest food, and even create eggs and other chickens in the DNA in that egg.

So when Ada wrote Love’s Delicate Blossom, she took a good look at peach flowers and noticed they’re as amazing as a chicken, even if they don’t talk. Like the egg, the most important thing in a blossom is life, if it’s still attached to the tree. That’s just the beginning of the awesome blossom. Love also is a living substance, born, nurtured, and sometimes everlasting. Joe Nichols explains more about that in the book, Love’s Delicate Blossom.

The author of nine books, hundreds of articles and stories in Christian publications, and even  more as news articles when she worked as a journalist at The Pueblo Chieftain.

She’s been married sixty-five years, has five children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren—plus some amazing daughters, sons, and grandchildren who married into the family.

Ada has played the piano or organ for churches, sang in choirs, trios, as a soloist; plus taught church youth for at least thirty years.

Ada’s Amazon author page— http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KJ2C06
Love’s Delicate Blossom—https://www.amazon.com/dp/1731156065
Brand: Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement
Twitter: @adabrownell







Tuesday, December 4, 2018

New Growth Press’ Spirit of Giving Family Devotionals Giveaway

For active families, reading the Bible together can feel overwhelming. However, family Bible study doesn’t have to be complicated! With just ten minutes a day, parents have enough time to pass on the most valuable treasure the world has ever known.

Start off the new year resolved to study the Bible together. New Growth Press has you covered and is giving away a family devotional package every family will want to win!

In this third and final Spirit of Giving giveaway of the Christmas season, New Growth Press is giving away THREE gift boxes of family devotionals (retail value of $148 each). From December 3-8, you can enter to win one of family devotional boxes. 


Each gift box includes one copy of the following family devotionals written by Marty Machowski:
Children love stories, and the parables provide a wonderful opportunity to engage their imagination and help them understand and live out the good news of the kingdom of God. After teaching a parable, Jesus often said, “Whoever has ears, let him hear.” In other words, “This is important, so you better listen up,” and what could be more important than the good news of the kingdom of God? This family devotional provides a unique opportunity for parents to help their children “listen up” and hear the gospel as Jesus himself shared it.
Wise Up is designed to connect the teaching of Proverbs to God’s larger story of salvation. Children will learn that Solomon’s wisdom, life, and failures all point to “something greater than Solomon”—they point to Jesus. The goal of this devotional is to present the wisdom of Proverbs against the backdrop of the gospel to show children that real wisdom comes only as we depend on Jesus for daily help and forgiveness.
Long Story Short guides families through the Old Testament stories and is designed to cultivate honest and powerful discussion about the Bible, which is the catalyst for change in children’s lives. Through 78 Old Testament stories, Long Story Short explains God’s plan of salvation through the Old Testament, focusing on the hero of Scripture and important biblical truths without being corny, confusing, or condescending. 
Suited for children from preschool through high school, this gospel-focused book is full of ten-minute devotions to continue the gospel story that began in Long Story Short. The consistent and short structure helps children walk through the life-changing truths of the Christian faith in the New Testament—without overwhelming them. Through 78 New Testament stories, Old Story New does the hard work for moms and dads. Simple discussion questions (and answers!) for each day’s devotion help children understand and connect with Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and the birth of the Christian church.
This beautifully illustrated storybook captivates young readers with the heart of the gospel. The Gospel Story Bible points to Jesus, helping families and kids identify Christ as the hero of every story. While it’s easy to forget Jesus in the midst of frantic schedules, family squabbles, and conflicting priorities, Machowski reminds families of God’s plan of salvation in Christ, which is continually on display throughout the Bible. Ideal as a storybook for your preschooler, a devotional for your grade school student, a refresher for the adult believer, or an introduction for the new one, The Gospel Story Bible is also a companion to Long Story Short and Old Story New.

In addition to these books for the entire family, the winners will also receive a new book of devotionals just for parents, and New Growth Press’ latest parenting book.
In this uplifting and faith-strengthening devotional book for parents, Marty Machowski encourages parents in the midst of trials. Full of Scripture, testimonies of faithful parents, and insightful meditations, Parenting First Aid equips moms and dads to run to God and trust his ability to do what they can’t. The easy-to-use format provides encouragement to turn to God in the midst of family difficulty. While God does not promise happiness and ease in parenting, all can find comfort in God and peace beyond understanding through the Scriptures and meditations found in Parenting First Aid.
Every family is unique, which is why Child Proof explores the need for parents to cultivate personal and intimate care for their children as modeled in God’s individual, personal, and fatherly care to his children. This child-rearing book lays a foundation of parenting by faith and progresses by teaching readers how they can know their own kids well and raise them accordingly. By discussing particular issues moms and dads might have in family life, Lowe demonstrates how formulas aren’t the answer, and parenting with biblical wisdom is best for a proactive rather than reactive approach to parenting.

In case you don’t win the prize pack, sign-up for New Growth Press’ e-news athttps://newgrowthpress.com/ to receive information about their Countdown to Christmas discounts so that you can order copies. Be sure to follow them on social media as well where they will be sharing daily deals throughout the Christmas season (facebook.com/ngpbooks | twitter.com/newgrowthpress | instagram.com/newgrowthpress).


Monday, December 3, 2018

An Amish Homecoming

An Amish Homecoming

Four brand new Amish stories of coming home. 

No Place Like Home  by Amy Clipston

Estranged daughter Eva Dienner has been staying with her in-laws, the Riehls, since her husband was killed in a fire, but now she wants her son to meet his maternal grandparents. Upon her return, Eva finds that the man her parents always intended for her is living in their daadihaus and running the dairy farm for them for free, despite her suspicions of him taking advantage of her family. Eva knows she should put the past behind her, but is she ready to move into the future?


My thoughts: At first I didn't like Eva at all - really, she didn't grow on me much at all, but Ian is a sweetheart and so is little Simeon.  I loved Ian's caring and nurturing spirit and how he strove to keep peace with everyone, even when Eva was firing insults and false accusations at him. One has to admire a man like that.  Eva was the one with issues to work through, and come to terms with her relationship--or lack thereof--with her parents. A sweet romance.

When Love Returns  by Beth Wiseman

Hurricane Harvey forces Sarah Zook to return to the home she fled six years ago when she couldn’t face her stern parents’ reaction to her unplanned pregnancy. Upon her return, Abram King can think of nothing but the pain she caused him—until he meets Sarah’s daughter and realizes that he never really stopped loving Sarah. Sarah and Abram must find a way to face the truth of their past so they can rekindle their first love.

My thoughts:  I can honestly say this is probably the best Beth Wiseman story I've read in years. I liked both Sarah and Abram and I really felt their anguish. Maam's point of view was poignant as well. This story moved me to tears.  Loved it. 

The Courage to Love  by Shelley Shepard Gray

After the death of her Englisch husband, Irene Keim seeks a fresh start by staying with her new friends Mary Ruth and Henry Wengerd in exchange for helping them around the house. But when Mary Ruth and Henry’s son Marcus comes around, he isn’t pleased with the woman they’ve taken in and is determined to push her out. Misunderstandings abound, but both Irene and Marcus learn that people aren’t always what they seem.

My thoughts:  I really loved the faith message in THE COURAGE TO LOVE. It was so sweet. I greatly enjoyed Irene and Marcus's story and getting to know them. I felt so sorry for Irene and yet she was such a sweet and kind individual despite her abnormal Amish upbringing. Most Amish aren't such obviously bad parents.  Going in, Ms. Gray was my favorite author in this collection as I usually love her sweet stories.  This stayed true to Ms. Gray's standards.  

What Love Built  by Kathleen Fuller

Independent and headstrong, Carolyn is determined to forge ahead with the opening of her bakery, a lifelong dream, in the Birch Creek home she left ten years ago. But she’s in over her head and needs help with the cleaning, shopping, and deliveries. Carpenter Atlee Shetler is visiting Birch Creek to escape the memories of his late wife. He takes a job renovating the new bakery and finds the project—and its owner—to be much more than he bargained for. Both Carolyn and Atlee must face pains of the past if they want to have the bright future God has planned for them.

My thoughts; Atlee is a widower and Carolyn beyond prickly in this middle-age romance. Ms. Fuller is an accomplished author and quite popular and you can see her writing is stellar in this story. Unfortunately, I couldn't relate with Carolyn. I understand why she is as she is but it didn't endear her to me.

Overall, a good collection that Amish fans will greatly enjoy. 

I got a copy free. All opinions are my own. 


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Mouse's Christmas Gift / A Savior is Born: Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas

Mouse's Christmas Gift 

Hardcover, ebook

October 2, 2018

by Mindy Baker (Author), 

Dow Phumiruk (Illustrator)


  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310759003

In Mouse’s Christmas Gift, written by Mindy Baker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk, one tiny church mouse must find a way to bring Christmas spirit to his little town when Parson gets sick and the usual Christmas Eve service is cancelled. Mouse never gives up hope as he prepares the nativity set and lights a small candle in the window to signal the villagers. Mouse’s small act of faith sparks a chain reaction of hope and love, demonstrating that even the smallest creature can make a big difference. This adorable book, with a cover adorned with foil and glitter, captures the spirit of Christmas and the joy of doing for others during the holiday season.
That night, on Christmas Eve, a small group of villagers gathered in front of the darkened church. Mouse peered out the window and his heart began to pound. They came!

My thoughts: MOUSE'S CHRISTMAS GIFT is a very cute story about a mouse determined to save Christmas when the parson gets sick and no one else is willing to step up to the plate. Mouse single-handedly decorates the church, thus motivating a small boy to hang a wreath on the church door and it snowballs from there.

It is a heartwarming story about how Christmas is more than the money we spend, it's more than the feeling, it's about one thing and one thing only. Jesus's birth.

If you are looking for a new Christmas book for your favorite young child, this is a good one.  

I received a copy free. All opinions are my own.

***************************************************************'



A Savior Is Born: Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas

Hardcover, ebook

October 2, 2018

by Patti Rokus (Author)


  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310764960

  • By arranging a few rocks together an entire story can be told. A Savior Is Born, Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas, created by Patti Rokus, is an unforgettable picture book that uses majestic rock art and simple yet powerful text to inspire wonder and awe as the miracle of Christmas unfolds across the pages. Readers will be absorbed in the nature-filled artwork that shows the birth of Jesus and the celebration of the very first Christmas in a powerful and unique way.
    The cover of this book sparkles and shines with foil, embossing, and spot gloss.

  • My thoughts: Well this is an unique approach to a book. A SAVIOR IS BORN: Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas is just that. Pictures of rocks arranged in a way to depict the Christmas story, which a few words describing the picture. 

  • This would be an idea gift for the child in your life that loves rocks, the artsy crafty adult you know who uses nature as their art box, or the person who collects unique coffee table books. 

  • My children weren't quite sure what to think if it, but I have to give the author kudos for creativity.  

  • I was given a copy free. All opinions are my own.