Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Giveaway of 2009!

UPDATE 1/3/2010 @ 8:45 pm: WINNER!

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2010-01-04 02:42:44 UTC

Congrats to A Stone Gatherer! Email me your address, Kim, and I'll send it on its way! Thanks to everyone for entering - more giveways coming soon!

* * * * * * *

Mea culpa. I was cleaning out my email and realized I missed a blog tour a few weeks ago, and this one has a giveaway! I can't believe I did that, because I was eagerly awaiting the release of White Picket Fences after meeting Susan Meissner last spring, and I read the book just as soon as it arrived in my mailbox. I don't know how I missed getting it on my calendar.

I interviewed Susan at the Christian Book Expo and posted part of that interview here, but saved her discussion of White Picket Fences for this post. Here's what she said:

It's about a contemporary family with the iconic perfect life from the outside – the white picket fence life: good jobs, parents who love each other, a boy, a girl, a dog, a minivan. They’ve even convinced themselves everything is fine. But one of the kids has some powerful and painful memories and no one wants to talk about it because to do so would be to admit they don’t have the perfect life.

For the father especially, he's created this perfect world for his family and doesn't want to consider that maybe there are some skeletons in the closet that need to come out, because then that would shatter this illusion that he's been able to create a perfect home for his family that he loves.

Is the father responsible for the bad memories?

No, it's nothing that he did. It's what he's not doing now that's making it worse. So I spend 400 pages getting these people to deal with it, because it's going to destroy them if they don't.

So how do you come up with your ideas for your books?

I kinda have created a brand for myself with taking a contemporary setting and then bringing in a historical thread. And sometimes the historical thread is very obvious, and sometimes it's subtle. With White Picket Fences there are two secondary characters that interact with my primary characters, and these two secondary characters are survivors of the Warsaw ghetto - a Catholic and a Jew - and they are now living in a nursing home together. My main characters are teenagers and they go visit them for a school project. And it's through the recollection of living out the Warsaw ghetto and being sent to Treblinka, which is a Polish concentration camp where almost a million Jews were slaughtered. So as they are relaying their experience for this Social Studies project, it's revealing to the two teenagers what happens when you bury ugliness because you don't want to look at it. And that's what this teenage boy's family is doing. They want to bury the ugliness and pretend it never happened, because if you look at it then you have to deal with it.

Amanda Janvier’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay while her vagabond brother is in Europe, but the white picket fence life Amanda wants to provide is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son Chase, is haunted by the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will love White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?

Susan Meissner cannot remember a time when she wasn’t driven to put her thoughts down on paper. Her novel The Shape of Mercy was a Publishers Weekly pick for best religious fiction of 2008 and a Christian Book Award finalist. Susan and her husband live in Southern California, where he is a pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. They are the parents of four grown children.

Like her other books, this is a compelling story. I was a little nervous going into it because I wasn't sure what that "bad memory" involved. (I was a little concerned it might have been of an abusive nature, but it was nothing like that.) The way Susan wove the historical thread into the story was interesting and provided another layer to the story; I was not familiar with the Warsaw ghetto prior to reading this book. This is a book that gives much to ponder after the last page is turned.

You can learn more about the book, read an excerpt, and purchase it here.

I have a brand-new copy of this book for one of you. Just leave a comment on this post by Sunday (1/3/10) at 6:00 pm CST and I will draw a winner. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog. US and Canada residents only, please.

Many thanks - and apologies for my delinquent posting! - to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing copies for my review and to give away.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Random Dozen - Au revoir 2009!

1. Do you find it gross to share drinks with family? Friends?

Husband & kids occasionally - it's okay. Friends - prefer not to, but it wouldn't be the end of the world.

2. What have you learned this year? (You didn't see a question of that weight coming, did you? At least not for #2.)

That Lid will have at least one question that stumps me. And I have learned that it is way too easy to forget what I have learned!

3. When do you dismantle the Christmas decorations?

12:01 am on Dec. 26! Actually, since the tree is on the back porch, it is still there with the lights on it. And I need to put away my nativity set. But generally, as much as I enjoy the decorations during the anticipatory phase of Christmas, I'm ready to put them up as soon as Christmas is over. I like to start the new year fresh, without that chore hanging over my head.

4. Something you wish to accomplish before the end of 2009 is:

Devise a better system to keep my books for reviews organized. A good night's sleep.

5. How do you feel about winter (after Christmas)?

It's a nuisance. I like it cold for Christmas but then I'd just as soon it be 75. I have a bit of a tendency toward seasonal moodiness, and the cold, rainy days of January & February make me drag.

6. Have you participated in after-Christmas sales?

Nope. The only store I've set foot in is the grocery store. And that one was with reluctantce, except people around here like to have regular meals. Such a demanding family!

7. Do you have plans for New Year's Eve?

Just our usual plans: sleeping! We don't stay up late - unless neighboring firecrackers keep us awake!

8. Is there anything special awaiting you in January?

Defining special as out-of-the ordinary (as opposed to exciting), I'm having a "delightful" endoscopy and colonoscopy next Tuesday, the day my kids go back to school.

9. If your life this year was a movie, what category or genre would it be? (Romance, Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Suspense, Farcical, etc.)

Medical drama, since my FIL passed away and I've had more MD appointments than usual.

10. How much time per day do you spend blogging? Please do not lie. I will know.

Anywhere from 2 to 12 hours! LOL I have no idea - 2 hours sounds good, if you count reading and writing.

11. Who runs your household?

It's a team effort. I pay the bills and take care of most of the day-to-day minutiae. He takes care of the big stuff.

12. Share one hope/dream for 2010.

Intentionality. In my spiritual walk, marriage, parenting, etc. I don't want to just go with the flow.


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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Helping Friends Find Christ

Everybody lives by it—even skeptics and atheists!

That’s right. Everyone you know trusts something they believe in but can’t prove or know absolutely. They take it on faith. And if you want to talk to your friends about your faith, it helps to understand what they believe and how they got there. Because badgering people to change their minds just doesn’t work.

Based on Mark Mittelberg’s book Choosing Your Faith, the Faith Path workbook and DVD set builds on Mittelberg’s sensible, evenhanded approach to evangelism. Inside you’ll meet six fascinating people who looked at the world in six different ways before they embraced faith in Christ. Very likely you’ll recognize people you know—and you may even recognize yourself.

Work through Faith Path and you will:

• Understand people who approach life differently from you
• Recognize the danger of paths that lead away from Christ
• Deepen your own faith in Christ and reinforce your reasons for believing
• Gain confidence in talking about Christ with others

Relativists, traditionalists, mystics, authoritarians, and others…they’re all here. And after you understand how these folks think about faith, you can help them find a trustworthy pathway to truth. Because no matter what your friends believe, they still matter to God.

Mark Mittelberg explains the 6 Faith Paths (adapted from an interview with

As Christians, we need to understand that the people we’re trying to reach think in differing ways when they consider faith. And if we don’t learn to speak to what they value, it’s almost like we are speaking a different language. For example, if all we want to do is give testimony, but they think like scientists and want the evidence, then we’re not going to connect.

So the best way I know to share about this is to go through the six paths people take when they are considering faith, and the six best ways to help them.

· First, for example, is the relativistic path. A person on the relativist path basically decides what they want to believe and calls it truth. This one’s popular on college campuses. They decide what they want to believe, and that mystically becomes true for them. Their truth may not be the same as your truth, and they think that’s OK. So what do we say?

What I try to show is that relativism does not work in any other area of life. For instance, try running your investments based on relativistic, wishful thinking. Would you pick a company out of the blue and invest in them without doing any research into their finances or outlook? No, because you would eventually go bankrupt. Your belief does not change reality. If your beliefs don’t change reality in the realm of daily life, why would they change your spiritual life?

· The second approach is traditional. This one says, “I believe what I believe because that’s what I was taught when I was growing up, period.” How do we respond?

Congratulations on honoring your father and mother, but let’s be honest, someone’s mom and dad were wrong. You’ll never know if your traditions are true unless you test them. Which of your relatives figured it out once and for all for your family? If I look around the table on Thanksgiving, there’s no way I would want to trust my eternity to any of my relatives.

You’ve got nothing to lose by examining your beliefs, because if they prove true, you will only reinforce them, and if they prove not to be true, don’t you want to know? Jesus warned in Mark 7 not to let tradition get in the way of the truth of God.

· The third path to faith is authoritarian, which is similar to the traditional in that it’s a hand-me-down, but this one has a lot more force. This one says, “You will believe this.” One example, and it’s not the only one, is a friend of mine who was raised in the Muslim faith, where he was taught that Allah is God, Muhammad is His prophet, and you will accept this. He did growing up, but he reached a point where he realized he needed to weigh whether he could trust the authorities that were telling him this.

That’s what we teach—the need to help everyone really evaluate whether they can trust the authorities in their lives. It’s not anti-authoritarian; we just want to make sure we have the right authorities. I think when you compare the religious authorities out there, you will see Jesus that stands up to scrutiny like no one else. That’s what my friend, the former Muslim, found as well, and today he is a follower of Jesus.

· The fourth is the intuitive faith path. This is the person who says, “I don’t need all your arguments and evidence because I know in my heart what is true.” It’s the Star Wars approach: “I feel the force.” And it’s sort of the Oprah Winfrey approach, where she teaches in her classes to get rid of doctrine and just follow your heart, or your spirit.

The wisest man who ever lived, named Solomon, warned us in the Old Testament that there’s a way that seems right to a person that ends in death. People tell you to follow your heart, but the Bible says that the heart is deceitfully wicked.

Intuition is like a flashing yellow light on a dark intersection at night. It can warn us to pay attention, but it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know. We still have to look around and figure out what the situation is. When it comes to your spiritual life, don’t just look at your heart but look at the information available to you.

· The fifth one is the mystical faith path. This is the one that says, “I know what to believe based on what God has told me.” Someone in this mindset feels that their spiritual experience trumps everything else.

So what do we say? First, we don’t deny that God can speak to us today. God did not lose His voice 2,000 years ago. I think we need to be seeking His voice and His guidance in our lives daily. But not everything that feels spiritual is from God.

First Thessalonians 5:20-22 says, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” That’s a very appropriate warning for this discussion. We shouldn’t ignore something that is from God, but God Himself tells us to test it very carefully and to hold on only to what we know to be from God.

· The sixth one is evidential faith path. This one can be misused, but when applied correctly, it can lead us into truth and help us test what we’ve come to believe from other faith paths.

I give priority to this one. It relies on two undeniable vehicles of truth: logic and evidence. I say “undeniable” because you can’t argue with logic without using logic. It’s through logic and evidence that we determine truth in every other area of life.

When it comes to spiritual matters, logic and evidence can point us in the right direction. For example, I’m convinced that historical and archeological evidence will support the Bible in ways that don’t support the Quran or Book of Mormon. The evidence for the Resurrection supports the authority of Jesus in ways that make Him unique among all spiritual leaders. The evidence of science points to the reality of a Creator who made us.

Mark Mittelberg is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and a leading outreach strategist. He is the author of Choosing Your Faith, coauthor (with Lee Strobel) of The Unexpected Adventure, and coauthor (with Bill Hybels and Lee Strobel) of the Becoming a Contagious Christian curriculum. He previously served as the evangelism director for Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association. Mark earned a Master’s Degree in Philosophy of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Heidi, and their two teenage children.

I've flipped through the workbook and watched a couple of sessions of the DVD, and I can tell this is a good study for personal evangelism. The DVD sessions run from eight to twelve minutes long, leaving plenty of time for group discussion. There is essentially no homework, and the presentation is easy to understand and not theologically heavy. The description of the various types of faith paths provides insight into these viewpoints while pointing out their flaws as a belief system, making it easier to identify ways to open a discussion with individuals.With eight sessions to the study, this would work great for a short-term Bible Study or book club.

You can purchase the DVD and workbook directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

Thanks to The B&B Media Group for providing a copy of the workbook and DVD for my review.


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What Matters Most

Did we believe in God in order for Him to serve us?
Or for us to serve Him?
When life takes a sharp left turn and one is in the midst of tragedy, heartbreak, and disappointment, the above questions are ones which strip our faith down to the bare bones. Gilbert Ahrens is one man who wrestled with this, and the result is his book Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred.

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX-—In the blink of an eye, life can change forever. Hopes and dreams of what we’ve envisioned our lives would be can disappear in a moment. Tragedy and heartache can instantly pierce the veil that once separated the world we knew and the one we could never have imagined. In his new book, Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred: Reconnecting with What Matters Most After Loss and Adversity, author Gilbert Ahrens recounts his own personal story of conflict, struggle, and suffering in an intimate letter to his young daughter. His story offers strength, suggestions, and encouragement to others who find themselves on the solitary journey of loss that—sooner or later—is the one thing that we all have in common.

On a beautifully clear, crisp autumn evening in 2002, while traveling outside Denver, Colorado, Gil’s car was hit head-on by a drunk driver traveling 95 miles per hour. Gil, his wife Kim, sister Margot, and three-week-old daughter Olivia had been going 60 miles per hour. The driver of the other car was only 18, and the passenger in his car was killed instantly. Gil’s family survived but just barely. Among many other serious injuries, the worst was that his wife, Kim, suffered a broken neck that paralyzed her—sentencing her to a wheelchair. Their baby daughter, however, emerged miraculously unscathed.

In a split second, the lives of this seemingly ordinary family were upended, disrupted, and derailed—just as they were beginning to learn the ropes of parenting a newborn. They were instantly transported to a new world of “survival”, which then over time transcended to the less dramatic but still unknown world of “coping.” But, in the wake of devastation and anguish is where recovery and, ultimately, redemption are found. In Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred, Gil explores and embraces the process of struggle, brokenness, and healing in a way that is honest, heartfelt, and yet at times, reassuringly humorous.

Suffering has no purpose unless it draws us closer to God, which I think is why He allows it and created it in the first place,” writes Gil. “It is very difficult to connect with God when we feel able, strong, and self-reliant. But it is often only in our weakness, need, and insufficiency that we allow ourselves to be open enough to let God in.

In Shattered, Shaken, and Stirred, Gil tenderly encourages readers with an eternal truth he has learned through personal trial and affliction: When there is hardship, it is for a reason. “Any valuable tool or piece of equipment needs to be tested and pushed to its limits in the laboratory before it can be ready for service in the field. God is not testing us to see if we are worthy; He is preparing us for something greater than we can imagine. The key to everything—to surviving, coping with loss, adapting to changed realities, and managing to get by—is Faith, Hope, and Love; that is how we find and reconnect with joy.”

Born in Suffield, Connecticut, Gil was born to parents both of whose families played significant roles during democratic turning points in the history of both the United States and Germany. From his father’s side, he is a direct descendant of Israel Bissell, who has been credited with performing the real midnight ride (while Paul Revere slept) that warned American Revolutionaries of the British invasion. From his mother’s side, his great uncles, Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg and Friedrich Werner Graf von der Schulenburg, and his grandfather Maximillian Graf von der Schulenburg were executed due to their involvement in the July 20, 1944 assassination plot against Adolf Hitler.

Gil holds degrees from New York University and Boston University and briefly studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music. Early in his business career, he co-founded a consumer electronics start-up and worked in Japan in strategic planning for a large global manufacturing company. Subsequently, Gil was an investment banker for several years, most recently as Managing Director at J.P. Morgan. He has also been an elder at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and is currently on the board of directors at Abilities United, a non-profit in Palo Alto, California, that helps champion those with developmental or physical challenges.

Gil now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is married to Kim, an amazing woman with whom he shares the joy of raising a charming, brilliant, and utterly wonderful daughter. Together, they all succumb to the whims of Sparky, their domineering Jack Russell Terrier, and Bella, a demur Scottish Terrier determined to dominate every inanimate object. Passionate about ice hockey, Formula 1 racing, University of Texas football, and cigars (a vice he acknowledges freely), Gil often wishes that he could be more Italian in mind, matter, or the spoken hand.

Find out more about him at his website.

When life takes a sharp left turn, the faith we so assuredly proclaimed in good times is suddenly tested. Gil Ahrens shares the process he went through after a devastating car accident left him injured and his wife paralyzed. Written in first person as a letter to his daughter, Shattered, Shaken and Stirred is interspersed with entries from the author's journal as he grapples with the tragedy that he and his family experienced. These glimpses, along with the narrative of the book itself, will resonate with anyone who has experienced heartbreak. From recognizing that much of his struggle is with The Dragon/Tormentor (as he describes his spiritual enemy) to wrestling with what consequences the young driver who hit them should experience as a result of the accident, to the frustrating experiences with the health care system (the one place the book was a bit laborious to read) to the practical aspects of recovery and rehabilitation, the book is honest and authentic. It is also full of hope and victory, as he "tells" his young daughter that "the most important thing is that your hardship is really a means for you to grow closer to God.".

Shattered Shaken and Stirred may be purchased here.

Thanks to The B&B Media Group for providing a copy of this book for my review.


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Monday, December 28, 2009

United by a Common Bond

One of my favorite memories of this Christmas will be the Christmas Eve service at our church. This is the first one we've attended, because we are usually already in Houston. But our worship pastor asked my girl to sing a solo at the service, so we stayed in town and headed to Houston as soon as it was over.

And while my girl's solo is certainly one of the reasons I loved the service, it is by no means the only one.

Several of the families in our church host foreign exchange students. Additionally, our church members represent a variety of nationalities and cultures. While I was aware of this, I hadn't given much thought to it; it's just part of living in a city with high-tech industries and a university.

During the Christmas Eve service, the Christmas story from the book of Luke is always read. This year, however, it was done in a unique and touching way. Our worship pastor read the first verse (in English), and then one after another, the subsequent verses were read in a variety of languages by the folks for whom that is their first or family language. As they walked to the microphone one by one, they read. . . Spanish, French, German, Indian, Hungarian, Mandarin Chinese -- about twelve of them read until the final verse was read in English by a woman from Britain.

As I listened to the familiar story spoken in languages I couldn't understand, I marveled at the fact that such a diverse group of people from so many different backgrounds are united by Christ. It was absolutely beautiful.

We celebrated the birth of the One Who is spoken of in this verse:
And they sang a new song:
"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because You were slain,
and with Your blood You purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Revelation 5:9

And for those moments, I had a tiny glimpse of heaven.


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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Grief and the Holidays

Losing a loved one is always difficult, but so many find the grief devastatingly unbearable during the Christmas season. In his new book Transforming the Valley of Grief, author Tom Mason shares his journey of grief after the loss of his wife. This slim volume is a manual for anyone who is coping with grief and offers practical insight and suggestions to those in “the valley of grief” this Christmas.

Transforming the Valley of Grief (Xulon Press, September 2009, ISBN 978-1-60791-616-1) follows Mason’s own journey from the moment the tsunami of grief crashed into his life, through the peaceful, solitary moments meeting God in the wilderness, in the times where unexpected memories triggered flash floods of emotion and to the moment when the valley opened up and he was able to fully embrace his changed life. The book includes many specific, practical tips for both grieving men and those who love them and want to support them through the valley. Each chapter concludes with a “notes to self” section with positive suggestions for men to try at different points in their journey of grief and a “notes to others” section. At the back of the book there is a collection of discussion questions perfect for use in a grief support group.

This slim volume is the perfect gift for the friend or loved one who is coping with loss, and it is essential reading for anyone who wants to support a grieving man but doesn’t know what to do or say. Mason offers beautiful spiritual insights, often drawing from the comforting words of the psalmist. But perhaps more important are his detailed directions for surviving single life—everything from how to plan an effective mini-sabbatical and how to find your way as a “pre-married” in the church singles group to what you should do with the leftovers your wife would have made creative use of (toss them and forgive yourself). The loss of a loved one always brings change, and Mason helps readers think through the various decisions they will face as a result (i.e., Should I stay here or move away? Do I want to remarry someday?).

Mason shows readers that, though the journey of grief begins in the darkness of the valley, God will reveal new light, joy and purpose as you “do the work” of grieving and He transforms the valley. “There is hope, even if you can’t believe it right now! There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Mason says. “There is an end to your dark valley, and this book is about getting there and the various steps and stages along the way.”

Tom’s journey of grief is the topic of his book, Transforming the Valley of Grief, a new manual for grieving men which documents his healing process and contains many practical suggestions for others who find themselves (or their friends) dealing with the loss of a loved one. He was compelled to write the book after searching in vain for a book on grief written from the male perspective to guide him through his own journey.

“I am absolutely convinced that men and women process grief differently. Women are from Venus, and men are from Mars, after all,” Mason says. “Women process grief verbally; men retreat to their caves to grieve in isolation, or at least, they are expected to do so.” Tom has written this book so that no man must travel the valley alone.

Although it's a couple of days after Christmas, this is still a timely book, for grief is not limited by the calendar. This is a good book for a man who is grieving as well as for his friend who wishes to learn what is helpful -- and what is not! The chapters are brief and relatively easy-to-read. (I say that with the understanding that nothing is easy-to-read in the midst of heartache!) The practical suggestions help the reader put feet to the concepts in each chapter. If you or someone you love is walking the journey of grief, grab a copy for him and one for you as well!

Transforming the Valley of Grief can be purchased here.

Thanks to The B&B Media Group for providing a copy of this book for my review.


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Saturday, December 26, 2009

TSMSS - The Day AFTER Christmas!

I just stumbled across this song by Matthew West last week. I love that he's put these thoughts into a song. And how perfect that TSMSS falls on the 26th!

Since he apparently just sings this at concerts and it's not on a CD, there weren't any lyrics, so I wrote them down the best that I could hear them!

Lyrics and Music by Matthew West

Here comes the letdown
Christmas is over
Here comes the meltdown
There goes the cheer
But before we have a breakdown
Let us remember
The Light of the world is still here.

So Happy Day after Christmas
And Merry Rest of the Year
'Cause even when Christmas is over
The Light of the world is still here.

Come January
I'm ready for summer
The Super Bowl's over
And I'm ready for spring
Yeah, sometimes we all need
A change in the weather
But it won't change the reason we sing

Happy Day after Christmas
Merry Rest of the Year
'Cause even when Christmas is over
The Light of the world is still here.

So take down the stockings
Take back the sweaters
Take down the lights
And the star and the tree
But don't let this world take
Your joy after Christmas
Take joy to the world as you sing

Happy Day after Christmas
Merry Rest of the Year
'Cause even when Christmas is over
The Light of the world is still here.

Happy Day After Christmas to you!!


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Friday, December 25, 2009

Glory to God in the Highest!

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."

Have a Blessed Christmas Day!


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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For the Kids

Grab your kids around the computer for a great Christmas story!


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Story - Free Download

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 is offering a free download of the Christmas story from Luke read by the singer/songwriter himself. In fact, the 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.

You can access this free download here.

Don't miss this opportunity!


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Monday, December 21, 2009

A New Tradition?

For a variety of reasons, we never managed to put more than the lights on this year's Christmas tree. That is a good thing, as it turned out.

My girl tends to be a bit allergic to trees; they generally make her congested and her occasional asthma flares up. She has steadfastly maintained that it is worth it, however. Both kids are extremely resistant to the idea of an artificial tree. My girl can tell you exactly which table we were sitting at in a restaurant the year we announced our plans to get an artificial tree. She burst into tears, and my boy said in a most incredulous tone of voice, "I can't believe you would even think of doing such a thing." I thought the kids were going to walk out on us!

So we've continued to get a real tree year after year. However, this weekend my girl started getting really congested and coughing. And since she's singing a solo at the Christmas Eve service, we realized the tree had to go.

So now it is on our back porch, just outside the breakfast room window. It looks really pretty out there, especially at night when it's dark and the tree lights are on. Who knows? This may be our new tradition! For me, I love the fact that I've already vacuumed the dead tree needles from the living room floor and that I won't have to do that again this season!

I'm planning to put the gifts under and around a table displaying the nativity scene.


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Last-Minute Recipes

Christmas smells are in the air. Cinnamon, evergreen, vanilla, pumpkin, cranberry...the aromas are mouthwatering. Compliments of the Kathy Carlton Willis Communications authors and staff, these delightfully scrumptious tastings will be sure to tantalize the senses this season.

From the kitchen of Sandra Glahn

Author Sandra Glahn released Kona with Jonah and Frappe' with Philippians in 2009. These Bible studies are part of her Coffee Cup Series.

Serves 6

2 heads fresh broccoli
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c. grated sharp, cheddar cheese
1 t. dry minced onion
2 egg whites, well-beaten
1 c. mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Crushed potato chips

Cut flowers off broccoli. (You can shred the spears for slaw later). Chop broccoli flowers into bite-sized pieces. Microwave on high in 2 T. water for 3 minutes (or steam for 5 minutes on stove). Drain. Mix everything together except broccoli. Add broccoli and mix gently. Put in Pam-sprayed casserole (1-1/2 qt. size). Sprinkle with crushed potato chips. Bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes.

Virginia Smith’s Favorite Christmas Recipe

Virginia Smith's January 2010 release of Third Time's a Charm is the much anticipated conclusion of the Sister to Sister Series.

My grandmother made this every year before she passed away. I’ve continued the tradition.

Mono's Lemon Cake

3/4 cup oil
1 cup canned apricot nectar
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 Lemon cake mix

Combine ingredients with mixer. Pour into greased, floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 for another 25 minutes. Turn hot cake onto cake stand and poke with toothpick. Pour on a mixture of:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Cover with the cake stand lid and wrap tightly with several layers of plastic wrap. Let stand for 2-3 days before serving.

In the Kitchen with Kathy
Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm, can’t get enough Christmas. She takes the star off the top of the tree and makes it shine in the lives of her clients all year long. They aspire to reflect the true star of Christmas, Jesus Christ, every day.

People think this is a puff of sweet potatoes—and try to debate me every time when I say it’s carrots!

Cafeteria Carrot Souffle'
Serves 8

2-3 15 oz cans sliced carrots, mixed or blended until mashed/pureed
1/2 cup melted butter (I melt in the microwave—use REAL butter)
1 cup white sugar (I use a tad less, this is SWEET)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
small amount of spices of your choice (I use cinnamon)
3 eggs, beaten (I go ahead and beat this with a mixer so that it makes the casserole really pouf)
1 teaspoon confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Mix all ingredients except the confections’ sugar, and transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 30-60 minutes (Recipe says 30 minutes, but because I puree the carrots, it takes longer to solidify in the oven.)

4. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, optional.

Ready, Set, Bake with Gina
With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, Gina Stinson, publicist assistant for KCWC, enjoys the special opportunity to spotlight fiction and non-fiction authors who reflect the light of the Savior all through the year.

These are fast becoming a favorite with family and friends....ooey, gooey goodness!


32 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped (or you can use one package of caramel chips)
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt together the caramels and heavy cream, stirring occasionally until smooth.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the melted butter until well blended. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan. Reserve the rest.

Bake the crust for 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove and sprinkle with chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour the caramel mixture over the top and then crumble the remaining crust mixture over everything.

Return to the oven and bake for an additional 12 minutes, or until the top is lightly toasted. Cut into squares while it is still warm.

Bon Appetit!


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Holy Bible: Mosaic NLT Giveaway

UPDATE Wed., 12/23 - WINNER!
True Random Number Generator
Result: 6

Congrats to A Stone Gatherer! Email me your address & the certificate will be headed your way!
* * * * * * *

I have another blog tour I need to play catch-up on due to extenuating circumstances beyond my control. Tyndale House Publishers released a new Bible this fall, the Holy Bible: Mosaic NLT.

Encounter Christ on every continent and in every century of Christian History. A new genre of Bible—a weekly meditation Bible—Holy Bible: Mosaic is an invitation to experience Christ both in His word and in the responses of his people. Each week, as you reflect on guided Scripture readings aligned with the church seasons, you will receive a wealth of insight from historical and contemporary writings. Full-color artwork will engage the soul; quotes, hymns, prayers, and poems enhance the rich devotional experience. Also includes a Dictionary/Concordance, NLT word study system with Hebrew/ Greek dictionary. A beautiful layout of art and devotional content, and an online community and content will extend the experience.

Bibles are very personal possessions, and while I am very picky about the one I use, I appreciate that we have such an array of Bibles from which to choose. Holy Bible: Mosaic is a fascinating combination of readings, artwork, and devotionals. Those who especially enjoy art and depictions of Biblical events from various cultural perspectives will find much to like in this book. It's not my particular taste, but that is a point of personal preference. Additionally, while the Bible itself (as found in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments) is universally applicable, it is very difficult to write devotional material that all denominations will agree on. The danger is that in trying to appeal to all, it may appeal to none. Because I am not from a liturgical church background, some of it just didn't resonate with me. But don't just take my opinion, take a look for yourself.

In fact, I have a copy to give away to one of you! Due to the weight of the Bible, the giveaway is actually a certificate for a free Holy Bible: Mosaic"; the winner can either redeem it at a local Christian book store or by send it directly to Tyndale if no bookstore is in the area. Due to Tyndale's limitations, this offer is only good for those in the US. Leave a comment on this blog by Tuesday (12/22) at 8:00 pm CST and I will choose a winner using Random Number Generator.

Thanks to Tyndale for providing a copy for my review and a giveaway certificate.


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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Double Book Tour!

I'm a little behind posting on these two books due to some mail issues, but I don't want to miss the chance to tell you about them, primarily because of the testimony that connects the two, one fiction and one non-fiction.

Blind Sight by James Pence is a fast-paced, suspenseful novel in which a man grieving the death of his own wife and children is suddenly and unwillingly caught up in a life-or-death race to reunite two children with their mother. Here is the summary:

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.

Written by James Pence, the book was just one of many on the shelves. Terry Caffey was not even aware of the book or that his wife owned and had read the book. Until his life took a sharp left turn:
(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.

Thus begins Terry Caffey's journey of grief. Devastated by grief, his faith falters as he wonders how in the world God could allow such a horrific tragedy. On one of his visits to sift through the rubble that was his home, he spots a charred page from a book. As he reads the words still visible on the fragile page, it is as though he is reading a page out of his life. For the page reveals the heart cry of another man wracked with grief who learns to trust God's sovereignty in the midst of his darkest hour. That marks a turning point in Terry Caffey's journey. Eventually, he discovers that the page he found is part of the novel Blind Sight.

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.

Paul Harvey would say, "And now you know the rest of the story." But you don't, until you read both of these books.

About The Author:
James H. Pence is a full-time professional writer and editor living near Dallas, Texas. James 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.

James Pence recounts how he and Terry Caffey met and impacted each other's lives:
Terry Caffey and I met through my karate for homeschoolers class. Back in 2005, his wife Penny brought two of their three children and enrolled them in my class. Erin their oldest daughterand Tyler their youngest son or two of my students. Over time, Erin and my daughter Charlene became very good friends. As a matter of fact, Charlene would often stay with the Caffey's when my wife and I were traveling.

Somewhere in there I gave Mrs. Caffey a copy of my novel Blind Sight. I don't remember if she read it, but she was a big reader so she probably did. As far as I know Terry had never read it.

About six weeks after his family was murdered and his house burned, Terry returned to his property and stood on the ashes of his house crying out to God. His burden that day was to understand why God had taken his family and left him behind without them.

As he was praying, he noticed about 15 feet away a brown scorched page from a book leaning up against the trunk of a tree. He went over and picked it up and read it. It just happened to be a single page from Blind Sight that had survived the fire.

But it wasn't just any page. It was the page where my main character, a man who had lost his family in an automobile accident, came to grips with God's sovereignty in his loss. When Terry picked up that piece of paper the first lines he read were, "I couldn't understand why you would take my family and leave me to struggle along without them but I do believe you are sovereign. You are in control."

It was as if God had saved or preserved that piece of paper to remind Terry that he still cared.

Some time ago, when I was struggling with my own depression over the fact that Blind Sight hadn't sold very well, I gave my book back to God. And I told the Lord that he would just use it in someone's life I would be happy. And boy did he use it in someone's life. From the standpoint of a writer I can think of no greater honor than for God to use my words to change someone's heart.

A few weeks after I learned of the connection between Terry and my book, we got together and began to discuss the possibility of telling this amazing story in book form.

What an incredible testimony of God using a Christian fiction book to speak truth into someone's life, encourage them, and point them back to Himself. I read Blind Sight first, followed by Terror by Night. While the circumstances surrounding the grief differ between the fictional Thomas Kent and the real-life Terry Caffey, the spiritual struggle is much the same. Blind Sight is a fascinating story in itself, as Thomas deals with his own demons while helping to reunite the two children and their mother. Terror by Night was captivating, and the fact that the events in the book really happened only increased my heartrate as I read! There was a tight deadline to write and release Terror by Night and that is the one aspect I wish had been done differently. I'm not sure why they felt the need to rush it so. The book was released so quickly (about 18 months) after the tragedy occurred that I felt it lacked a little of the perspective, and possibly discernment, that will only come with the passage of a few more years. I would like to see what happens 5 years down the road, both with Terry's life and his daughter's. Be that as it may, however, both of these books are compelling and the combination of the two is a powerful testimony. I highly recommend them. You can find more information, including where to buy them, on Tyndale's pages for Blind Sight and Terror By Night.

One more word from James Pence in response to the question "What message do you hope readers will take away from reading both books?"
I was so excited when Tyndale decided to release Blind Sight a second time. It's rare that a novel gets a second chance at life. And it's especially satisfying that both books were released simultaneously. And even though one is a novel and the other a nonfiction book, the message that people can take away from the books is really the same. God is sovereign.

So often we are confused when difficult circumstances come into our lives and we wonder why God would allow that. Sometimes we even get angry with him and demand an explanation like Terry did. But the message of both Blind Sight and Terror by Night is that while God doesn't explain himself to us, we can trust in his goodness and sovereign grace. We know that he is working all things together for our good and we can trust him in that. Blind Sight communicates that message by way of a novel; Terror by Night communicates the same message by way of a true story.

Special Gift Basket Opportunity!
The publicist, Kathy Carlton Willis Communications, is giving a Gift Basket to one commenter from the various blogs hosting this book tour. I will be drawing one name from the comments on this post on Monday morning to submit for that drawing. The Gift Basket contains:
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

Just leave a comment by 10:00 am tomorrow (12/21) for a chance to be entered into that drawing.

And remember, God can use anything, even a burnt page from a work of fiction, to speak to your heart! It reminds me of the words of the old hymn by William Cowper:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Thanks to Kathy Carlton Willis Communications and Tyndale for providing me with a copy of each of these books for review.


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Saturday, December 19, 2009

TSMSS - Hallowed Manger Ground

Bethlehem, small among the clans of Judah, lowly and inconsequential, now teeming with families seeking to register for the census. Inns bulging with weary travelers, filled beyond capacity. A common stable, pungent with the stench of animals and dung, offered naught but a roof and a manger filled with hay. One of many such stables in the city of David, with nothing to set it apart from any other. Until this ordinary stable became the birthplace of a not-so-ordinary baby, and the simple stalls became a Hallowed Manger Ground.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
God incarnate here to dwell
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Praise His name Emmanuel


More songs at Amy's!


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Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Smiles

I'm sure it's been making the rounds, but it still makes me laugh. . . .A friend emailed me this picture the other day. Pretty clever!

I heard this song for the first time last year and loved it. Every parent has experienced this. I heard it the other day and it made me smile all over again.

Fortunately, our family is past the toy packaging stage. Now if they could do something about CD and DVD packaging -- those stickers you have to peel off the edges once you get inside the plastic make me crazy!

Finally, for those of you with kids, especially little boys. . . .

Have a great Friday!


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Thursday, December 17, 2009

40 Loaves - Review and Giveaway

UPDATE: Sunday, 12/20/09 @ 9:45 pm -- WINNER!

True Random Number Generator
Result: 9

Congrats to Janet Ruth! Email me your address and I'll send the book your way!

* * * * * * *

Do you ever have questions about faith or your walk with the Lord? Are you ever hesitant to voice them aloud due to the fear of being looked down upon or judged to be lacking in your beliefs? Then C. David Baker has written a book just for you!

Titled 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day, this book is full of "daily readings to renew a hungry spirit." Each chapter title poses a question and utilizes Scripture to point to the answer along with examples, reflections and teaching. The questions addressed get right down to the nitty-gritty of Christian living and include:
  • Why does God seem silent in my life?
  • Why does grace sometimes make me uncomfortable?
  • Why are some Christians so hard for me to like?
  • Why do regrets have so much power in my life?
  • Why don't I feel safe at church?
Each chapter ends with additional Food for Thought questions and a prayer. Many of the prayers are from the Psalms; others are from Christians who lived long ago, including some in the 16th century.

This would be a great stocking stuffer and would be a good book for a Bible Study group or accountability partners to do together. And at the end of this post, you have a chance to win one of these books!

You can learn more about the book, read an excerpt, or purchase it here.


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.

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. Learn more about him at his website.

The publisher has graciously provided a copy for me to give to one of you. Just leave a comment on this post by Sunday night at 8:00 pm CST, and I will draw a winner. US and Canada residents only, please.

Books provided for review and giveaway by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Booked for the Holidays Finales - Winners!

Here are the winners for the Booked for the Holidays Finales (Part 1 and Part 2). To determine the winners, I set up a spreadsheet/table for the books. The commenters who wanted to be entered for each book's giveaway were listed and numbered in the order their comments were received. Once all the comments were entered, additional numbers (assigned in order of their comment) were added for those who had posted the Booked for the Holidays button on their blog. The exception to this is anyone who left 2 separate comments, one to enter and one to let me know they had posted the button. For each book I then had Random Number Generator choose a winner.

So without further ado, here are the winners!

Monday's (Part 1) winners:

Hallie's Heart by Shelly Beach: #19 collettakay
Morningsong by Shelly Beach: #12 Thena
Ambushed by Grace by Shelly Beach: #8 Kim who left a comment at 3:12 Monday
Precious Lord, Take My Hand by Shelly Beach: #2 Sara
The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk by Shelly Beach: #12 CeeCee

Tuesday's (Part 2) winners
Let Darkness Come by Angela Hunt (copy 1): #1 Merry
Let Darkness Come by Angela Hunt (copy 2): #13 Virginia C
The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson: #15 Winning Readings
Finding Christmas by James Calvin Schaap: #17 Barbara H
The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh: #10 Mary Lou

Congratulations to all of the winners!

PLEASE NOTE: In order for me to get these in the mail in a timely fashion, all winners must respond and email me their mailing address no later than Thursday, 12/17/09 at 6:00 pm CST. If a winner has not responsed by that time, a new winner will be chosen for that book. So keep an eye on this post to be sure all the books are claimed!

Thanks so, so much to all of you for making the 2nd Annual Booked for the Holidays giveaway such fun!


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Christmasy Random Dozen

1. Gingerbread: For or against? Discuss.

I'm not against it, but I don't particularly care for it.

2. Is it important to you to always stay (live) close to family?

Yes, but not real close. About a three-hour drive is just right!

3. Which holiday pretend character do you wish really existed?

Right now I wouldn't mind having a bunch of elves!

4. Which holiday movie best represents how you feel about Christmas or life?

I would say A Charlie Brown Christmas,. Because it is so easy to get side-tracked by all the "stuff" and overlook what Christmas is really all about.

5. Is there a particular Christmas song that you're enjoying now? Any that you're tired of?

I absolutely LOVE How Many Kings. It just about brings me to awestruck tears every time I hear it.

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only One did that for me!

And I love O Come O Come Emmanuel. As long as it's sung right. What I'm tired of? Rocked out and jazzed up Christmas carols. They are beautiful like they are. I am such a traditionalist!

6. What is your favorite way to remember those less fortunate at Christmastime?

We love to adopt families through our church, buy gifts, etc. Our church youth group takes backpacks with blankets and personal items to the homeless, and we always donate items for that. We like being personally involved other than just dropping money in a kettle.

7. Does it upset you to see "Xmas" instead of Christmas? How about "Happy Holidays" etc., instead of "Merry Christmas?"

Theoretically, Xmas doesn't bother me because X is the Greek symbol for Christ. But because it has a bad connotation and you see it in store windows and ads, I don't care for it. (If I'm jotting a list and want to abbreviate the word, I'll write Cmas.) Same thing with Happy Holidays. It used to just be a catch-all like "Season's Greetings" that encompassed Christmas and New Year's and was used interchangeably. But now since it is deliberately used to replace "Merry Christmas", it irks me. Although I suspect believers get their knickers in a knot over this much more than Jesus ever would!

8. How many Christmas programs are you attending this month?

Public schools don't have Christmas programs. But I attended two "Winter Concerts" and both were last week - my girl's Orchestra Concert and her Choir Concert. And yeah, they played and sang Christmas music!

9. Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Any chance of that dream becoming a reality?

I wish I were dreaming of one, but there's simply no point.

10. Tell me about a Christmas present you received as a child. Pics are always nice.

No pics for this one. One year, when I was about 8 or 9, I couldn't decide if I wanted a REALLY BIG present (which meant I would probably just get one gift) or if I wanted a WHOLE BUNCH of smaller presents. There wasn't anything particular I wanted, but I'd always thought having a REALLY BIG gift to unwrap would be fun. But I loved opening presents and hated the idea of having just one thing to unwrap. When Christmas arrived, there was just one present, a REALLY BIG one, for me. When I opened it, I discovered the box contained a bunch of individually wrapped presents! At the time, I just thought it was so cool that I got both of my wishes. But as I grew up, I realized what an incredible thing that was for my mom to do. I was the youngest of four kids, and I can imagine the time it took for my mom to get all our gifts wrapped. She went to a lot of effort to please me.

11. How many Christmas parties are you attending this month?

Two, and both were last weekend.

12. How do you keep yourself centered on the significance of Christmas?

Music that focuses on the why and Who of Christmas.

More folks have linked up with Lid at 2nd Cup of Coffee, so go see their answers. Better yet, join in!


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CFBA - The Sheriff's Surrender

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Sheriff’s Surrender

Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)


Susan Page Davis

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!

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

This is such a fun read. Half the time I wasn't sure whether to laugh at or shake the men of Fergus, Idaho -- specifically, one Sheriff Ethan Chapman! Gert is spunk, determination, sass, and fire all rolled up into one. Yet she is also tender-hearted, as evidenced by her care of her widowed brother and her desire to help the women of the town learn to defend themselves, including those not normally accepted in proper societal circles. The men, of course, have decided that Gert and the ladies are good for nothing but biscuits and babies. Will the women ever be able to convince them otherwise?


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