Friday, December 23, 2016

Bedtime Stories

Bedtime. It’s the time of day adults think is a reward and kids think is a punishment. Bedtime stories have long been seen as one of the ways to get kids to calm down and allow rest to overtake them. Here are two books written specifically as bedtime stories.

Book: Close Your Eyes So You Can See by Michael Card, Illustrated by Stephen Marchesi, Harvest House Publishers, 1996
Genre: Picture Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 4+
Subjects: Imagination, Bible Stories
Summary: “Close your eyes so you can see…” starts off all ten stories in this picture book. It then gives a setting and characters for children to imagine. Then it goes into a gentle story about some child interacting with Jesus. They are all fictional stories but based around something from the Gospels. It includes the stories of: Jesus at the temple as a young boy, Jarius’ daughter, the disciples’ argument about who is the greatest, the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus blessing the children, Jesus healing the little boy in John 4, Jesus comparing the people to children singing a dirge, Palm Sunday, Peter’s denial of Jesus and Peter’s miraculous escape from prison in Acts.
Notes: Each story is short – no more than 4 pages. There’s 1 picture per story so you can show children the picture, then let them close their eyes as you tell the story. It encourages them to use their imaginations. It can even be a devotional book with the Scripture reference listed at the beginning and a couple of discussion questions at the end. I highly recommend this book!
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Book: Time For Bed, Sleepyhead by Daniel G. Amen, Illustrated by Gail Yerrill, Zonderkiz, 2016
Genre: Picture Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 3-8
Subjects: Imagination
Summary: The narrator of this story is a polar bear reading to their cub as it goes to bed. The cub doesn’t want to go to sleep so the mom explains how the brain has to rest to get rid of the trash in it so it will be ready for the next day. She then tells a story about a bunch of animal friends having a day at the beach. At multiple points through their day the characters rest and relax. At the end of their day they are so tired they can’t even keep their eyes open or talk without yawning. This is supposed to make the polar bear cub relax as well.
Notes: This book is all about psychology. The author is a renowned psychiatrist and wrote the book specifically to use scientific techniques to help children relax. It has very cute pictures and can be read in a calm tone of voice to help put children to sleep and it encourages them to use their imagination to picture what might be happening with the characters. However it has absolutely no spiritual element whatsoever. It doesn’t claim to. It is nothing more than a cute scientific technique to make children fall asleep.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 0/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 127:2 – In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Thank you to Zondervan for providing me with a free review copy of Time For Bed, Sleepyhead. All opinions are my own. 

Prayers and Answered Prayers

Prayer is an abstract concept for some. Some people think it’s about having just the right words, some think it’s about memorizing scripts and reciting them, some think it’s only something for super holy people. We claim prayer is simply conversation with God, but don’t often truly teach or model that. This journal can help!

Book: Prayers and Answered Prayers, Tommy Nelson Publishers, 2016

Genre: Journal/Nonfiction
Target Audience: Girls 9-13
Subjects: Prayer
Summary/Notes: Written as sort of two books, this journal has 2 flaps for each day. It is supposedly formatted according to prayers and then recording answers, but it’s not. It’s simply two ways to interact with God each day. For example: one of the days has you circle countries you would like to visit for the “prayer” section. Then the answered prayer section has you thank God for places you have visited and pray for people in countries you would like to visit. One day has you doodle what you like best about your parents for the prayer section, then look up a verse about God being our Father and try to memorize it. So it definitely is not a “pray for something specific, then come back and record it when you see that prayer answered” type of journal. It’s simply using writing and doodling to get young girls to tell God about all sorts of different things in their life. There isn’t a ton of Scripture focus – mostly just thinking – but some days do have kids looking up verses. If used the way it is intended to, it can definitely strengthen a young girl’s prayer life – get her used to talking to God about everything that goes on. It will help erase the idea that one has to get just the perfect words to talk to God. I highly recommend it for that purpose.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray continually.

Ephesians 6:18 – And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

Thank you to BookLook for providing me with a free review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Royal Christmas Wedding

Avery hurried to Susanna's apartment. Would she marry Colin if he really rang the bell for her? Bet your bottom dollar she'd marry him. In a Georgia minute.

Book: ARoyal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck, Zondervan Publishers, 2016
Genre: Romance
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Love, Trust, Parent Relationships, Trust in God
Summary: The bell rung. No one knows why. Tradition states that a man rings the bell in the old abandoned chapel to announce his intentions to marry the woman he loves. But no one admits to ringing the bell. The media says Prince Collin did. But he hasn't been willing to admit it and there certainly aren't any goats arriving at the home of the girl he has been seen with the most, as tradition dictates. In fact, Prince Collin hasn't been spending much time at all with the girl he is supposedly dating. Instead, Colin is spending his time with the sister of the queen - and goats are arriving at her place of residence! Years ago Avery and Colin were in love. An engagement was even possibly coming soon. Then, all of a sudden he broke off all contact with no explanation whatsoever. Avery's heart never fully healed. She loved him, really genuinely loved him. Now, due to the events of the season, they are thrown back together and reminded again of how much they loved one another.  Love isn't what was lacking before though, and it's not what's lacking now. Trust in God to guide and direct them, even when others advise a different direction is one element needed. There's also a need for rekindled trust in one another after the brokenness of the past. So the questions become: Will Colin ring the bell on Christmas Eve? And if he does, will Avery show up on Christmas morning to marry him?
Notes: A Royal Christmas Wedding is the conclusion of the Royal Wedding Series, finishing the story began in Once Upon A Prince, telling the story of the royal family from Brighton. As with the others in the series, it is a story of trusting God to do crazy amazing, even miraculous things to bring two people together. Each character has to learn to trust God enough to step out in faith and pursue the one God has placed on their heart. I highly recommend this book and the series for the spiritual elements and the gentle fairy tale romance.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Thank you to Celebrate Lit for providing me with a free review copy of this book!
I appreciate it!
All opinions are my own.


To celebrate her tour, Rachel is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card plus a copy of A Royal Christmas Wedding and a copy of The Wedding Shop. Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post to earn 9 extra entries in the giveaway!

Blog Stops

December 8: New Horizon Reviews
December 8: inklings and notions
December 9: Redeemed Hope Dweller
December 9: Book by Book
December 10: Blossoms and Blessings
December 10: Pause for Tales
December 11: Quiet Quilter
December 11: Ashley’s Bookshelf
December 12: Bibliophile Reviews
December 12: Lights in a Dark World
December 12: Splashes of Joy
December 13: Moments Dipped in Ink
December 13: Neverending Stories
December 14: The Power of Words
December 14: Counting Pinecones
December 14: D’S QUILTS & BOOKS
December 15: Genesis 5020
December 15: CTF Devourer
December 16: Lighthouse Academy
December 16: Christian Bookaholic
December 17: Smiling Book Reviews
December 17: God is Love
December 17: Simple Life, really?!
December 18: A Holland Reads
December 18: The Scribbler
December 18: Faith * Love * Books
December 19: By The Book
December 19: Karen Sue Hadley
December 19: Southern Chelle
December 20: Faithfully Bookish
December 21: ASC Book Reviews

The Cottage

Loni sighed thoughtfully. "That's what makes all this so complicated. It's about more than an inheritance. The very fact of my being here stirs up the unknown of my past. Who were my parents, who was my mother, where did she come from? Suddenly here I am in the very place where my mother's grandfather was born. Trying to put that into the perspective of my American Quaker heritage, and then figure out what I believe as a Christian myself... I'm not sure what to think."

Book: The Cottage by Michael Phillips, Bethany House Publishers, 2016
Genre: Modern Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Adult men and women
Subjects: Identity, heritage
Summary: Loni has inherited the land, but has no idea what to do with it! If only it were as simple as selling it and moving on with her life. Between the oil company trying to get their hands on the island, the business tied up in the inheritance, the interesting
connection between the chief and the laird roles, the greedy young man next in line to inherit, the taxes on the property and the heritage she is discovering it is far from simple! The more she discovers of this Shetland Island, the more intrigued she becomes. Playing no small part in that is the chief, the spiritual leader of the land, David Tulloch, a humble, yet passionate man. Soon, her visit to Whales Reef brings up more questions than just what to do with the inheritance, it has her questioning her heritage as well as her future!
Notes: The Cottage is the second in the Secrets Of The Shetlands series. In typical Michael Phillips fashion, it is a fairly good sized book, rich with spiritual content. The characters are challenged to look beyond the obvious, to seek God and follow His direction and leading in every decision they make. This book especially deals with heritage - the spiritual legacy left by those who have gone on before. Loni has rebelled against the spiritual heritage of her grandparents who raised her, whereas David has totally embraced his, even leading the people of the island in the things he was taught. Many questions are brought up in the story, challenging the characters, and therefore the readers, in pursuit of true maturity. I HIGHLY recommend this book as well as the first in the series - The Inheritance.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 78:4 - We will not hide them from their children. We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book!
I greatly appreciated it!
All opinions are my own.

The Silent Songbird

She herself felt quite content on the soft grass, staring up at the peaceful stars. She could imagine God winking down at her. Was God thinking, 'My beloved child Evangeline has escaped from Berkhamsted Castle'? She imagined God as the father she had never known, a perfect Father. He was proud of her for not staying and marrying someone she could never love. It was also possible that God was angry wit her for not doing as the king had directed her. But she preferred not to believe that.
She closed her eyes, stretching her arms above her head, then pillowed her cheek on her hands. She was free of Berkhamsted Castle and free of her own identity. The day that had begun as the worst of her life had ended as the best.

Book: TheSilent Songbird by Melan
ie Dickerson, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2016
Genre: Fairy Tale
Target Audience: Girls 13+
Subjects: Romance, Love, God's Will, Sacrifice
Summary: Bleeding hands beginning to develop calluses, hours spent peeling potatoes, accusations from jealous servants, lessons in self-defense. None of this sounds like the life of a privileged ward of the king. But it's the life Evangeline has chosen. Fleeing an arranged marriage to a man much older than her who frightens her, she dons the life of a servant. Circumstances throw her together with the son of the lord, and a fascination for the Scriptures begins to bind their hearts together. She is only safe though, as long as her beautiful song voice remains silent. When she is no longer seen as a mute, the king's man will come after her. Keeping up her disguise is the only way to remain safe.
Notes: The Silent Songbird is the seventh of the young Adult Fairy Tales from this author. This one is based off of The Nightingale. A young girl running away from an arranged marriage, wanting the freedom to marry for love takes a job as a servant and falls in love. As it turns out the guy she was to marry is evil, wanting to take over the kingdom and she needs rescuing from the guy she falls in love with. The spiritual element comes in her passion for the Scriptures, Westley questioning his heart - his parents have taught him Jeremiah 17:9 - the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and her questioning God's view of her and whether or not her deceit and disobedience to the king is acceptable or not.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 5:17 - Do not be foolish but understand what the Lord's will is.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a free review copy of this book! All opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What Is God's Will - Sea To Shining Sea

When I was maybe 11 years old (My mom and I have been working to try to figure out the exact year, this is our best guess), my Mom started reading a book aloud to my siblings and I. Then, for whatever reason (It might have been becoming too in-depth for the younger ones), my parents let me take it with me to camp to finish on my own! It was the first adult book I ever read! And pretty soon, I saved up my money and book #2 was the first book I ever bought myself! I don’t have specific memories of the rest of the series – except #4. It came in one of those clothing boxes like you get from Younkers or JC Pennys as a Christmas gift along with a Precious Moments pendent on a lavender ribbon. Whenever the other came though, I was hooked. Each book fascinated me. I proudly displayed the entire series on the top shelf of my one bookshelf for years. It was one of the first things moved to the new house when my family moved when I was 14. I always appreciated them, but not until growing up, did I see the real value in them. 
I have recommended them before due to their impressive spiritual content. I don’t always agree with the author’s theology, but every point of theology I DO agree on, I am impressed with how he handles – and there’s a lot more I agree with than I disagree with! As I re-read the series recently, I found myself fascinated all over again. 
But one conversation between the main character and her stepmother particularly caught my attention. It’s an issue I have somewhat wrestled with myself lately – how can I know what God wants of me? What does walking in His will look like? How do I follow His direction? This is the question Corrie is wrestling with in Sea To Shining Sea, book #5. She has been asked to write more articles for the newspaper about the election, specifically working to help get Abraham Lincoln elected. She’s also been asked to start doing speech making for the cause. Not everyone around her believes in the cause though. Some are strongly opposed. What is right? What does God want of her? Here is the conversation she has with her stepmother about it:

“You see, that’s what I am getting at. Both my heavenly Father and Mr. Parrish together contributed to that remaking process in me. But eventually I did change. Eventually I learned the new ways. And now, after all these years I am truly an altogether new and changed person. I have matured in many ways. As a Christian, as a daughter of God, although He is still with me always – inside my heart and right beside me – I no longer require the same kind of training I did back then. I am God’s daughter, I am also a grown woman. I think God treats me in many cases like an adult rather than a child. Whereas, as first He had to show me everything and had to take my hand and literally g

uide me through every step of life, He doesn’t have to do that anymore. He has trained me and in the same way that a parent gradually releases a child to walk on his own, I think God begins to release us – not to walk independently of Him, but to walk beside Him as He has shown us without His having to direct every single move we make. In obedience to Him, we walk along the path He has given us to walk without having to stop to consider every step. Does that make sense?”
“I think so,” I said.
“It’s very difficult to explain what I mean,” Amelda went on. “I don’t mean to sound as though I think I want to walk independently, or that God isn’t there with every step I take. I do try to bring Him into all aspects of my life, even more than I did at the beginning. But the more we mature as Christians, the more of our decisions He leaves in our hands – knowing that we are walking along the road He has placed us in, and according to the ways and habits and attitudes that  He has trained into us.”
“In other words,” I said, “He might be leaving part of the decision of what I should do in my hands?”
“Exactly. If He didn’t want you to write, I am confident He would let you know it very clearly, and I am equally confident you would obey His voice. But since He has led you into writing in the past, I think He will very often let you make the decision yourself as to what specific things you write about. He may give you a stronger sense of leading at some times than others. But there will also be times when He will trust you to go either way when you’re facing a particular decision, and He will make either one work out for the best”
“Hmmm…that is a new way to look at it.”
“God is our Father of course. We must look to  Him for everything. We can’t breathe a single breath without Him. We can’t take a step without Him. Yet it is one of the many paradoxes of the Christian life that He also entrusts us to a sort of partnership with Him. As we walk along with Him, keeping our hand tightly in His, it is as if He says to us, ‘My son, my daughter, I have trained you and taught you and placed my life and spirit inside you. Now go… walk in the confidence of your sonship. I will always be at your side; if you err or misstep, my hand will be right there to help you up and guide you back into the middle of the path. But until then, walk on with the boldness that comes from having my Spirit inside you.”
“Do you think that applies to big decisions too?” I asked. “Things like whether or not I should get involved in this election?”
“I think we always have to pray and ask the Father for His specific guidance,” replied Amelda. “Then the time comes when we must make a decision.”
“And if we don’t seem to hear a definite answer?”
She thought a minute, the answered. “There are two ways, it seems to me, in which God can answer our prayers and direct us. He can open doors, or He can close doors. If we’re standing still, facing a fork in the road, facing a decision to be made, He can either open a door going in one direction or close the door going in the other. Or, if we don’t happen to see the fork, or don’t see any possibilities clearly, it has always seemed best to me to keep moving and praying until He either opens or closes a door. I’ve even prayed something like this sometimes: ‘Lord, I don’t know for sure if this is the way You want me to go. It seems to be best right now, and I think this is what You want, so I’m going to keep moving cautiously ahead until You say otherwise. Please Lord, if this is not what You want me to do, slam the door shut in my face.’”
“Is that what you did before the election four years ago?” I asked.
“I suppose it was something like that, although there was, as I now look back on it, an ample supply of my own wishful thinking involved in what I thought was God’s leading. Yes, I thought I was going in the right directions, so I moved ahead. But then when God made some things clear in my thinking about my relationship with your father, I knew He was closing the door.”
“And so maybe Cal Burton’s coming like he has is the Lord’s way of opening the door to what I’ve been in doubt about all this time.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me a bit,” said Amelda
“I’ve been thinking about Davy Crockett’s saying, ‘Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.’ Maybe I’ve been expecting the Lord to be more direct than He wants to be.”
“There’s wisdom in that motto,” said Amelda. “Yet, on the other hand, we don’t always have the luxury of being absolutely sure before we have to go ahead. In the absence of any possible leading by God, sometimes we have to launch out according to what circumstances seem to be saying, and prayerfully trust God to open and close doors as we go along.”

See? That’s why I recommend this book, this series, this author! If you want to be made to THINK deeply, to be challenged, pick up a Michael Phillips book! 

What Will You Do To Get The Best - The Braxtons of Miracle Springs

What will you do to get the best?
I read a book tonight – historical fiction, set in 1867. The characters, a former minister, his wife, her two siblings and a friend – all Christians, some very very very strong Christians, are visiting San Francisco. A friend recommends a place to eat, saying it is absolutely the best food in town. Everyone knows it. It’s so good, that not just anyone can get in. So the friend gets them an invitation and the group of six young people go out to the boarding house/restaurant. They are instantly uncomfortable. Here’s how it is described: 

“It was dark despite the candles on all the tables, and the d├ęcor was too gaudy for my taste with red and black flocked wallpaper, big gold light fixtures, and two or three paintings of women on the walls those expressions I didn’t much care for. The sorts of men scattered about at the tables didn’t look or sound like the kind you’d want to spend much time with. It wasn’t what you’d call a family restaurant, and I knew from his face that Christopher felt a little uneasy too. “

The characters concluded it felt more like a tavern or a bordello than a restaurant and regretted going there. They felt they were being a bad witness to the younger ones in the group and felt ashamed of being there.

That brought to mind a question from the Ethics class my husband took in college, taught by the president of the Bible college we attended. The question was, “Would it be unethical for the president of the Bible college to eat at the buffet in the casinos in the next town over?” (FYI – this was in a state that did not allow casinos, but was right next to a state that did.) The reputation was that the casinos had the best food in the area. If you wanted a good buffet, you should go there. That’s what the word on the street was.

Some would say it’s an easy question. Of course you should go there. If it has the best food, you should do it. Especially nowadays when most dine-in restaurants serve alcohol. The line between “restaurant” and “bar” is very blurred. So what’s a casino? If it has good food, go for it, right?

So that brought to mind the question of how far we should go to get the best.
Our culture would say “as far as it takes” because we “deserve” the best. We should fight for the best, do whatever it takes to get the best. The best food, the best clothes, the best electronics, the best education, the best media, the best service from places we visit, etc. We should want the best, expect the best, fight for the best, demand the best, pursue the best.

Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

When I read the discussion between the characters, at first I was put off by it. Christopher was making such a big deal out of nothing! Nothing happened, no one did anything wrong or was even tempted to do wrong as a result of being there. And the characters admitted that the food was possibly the best they’d ever had. Yet the characters, especially Christopher and Corrie, felt it was wrong of them to be there.
But maybe they were right. Maybe the only “best” we should want, expect, fight for, demand, and pursue is God’s best. And I’m pretty sure His best has nothing to do with making sure food and possessions are highest quality. So maybe that’s my challenge for this week. In the midst of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, I can think about God’s best – denying myself and following Him instead of expecting to only have the highest quality food. (Which would be Carlos O’Kellys enchiladas – that’s what’s on the menu for tomorrow!)

If you liked this, check out more of The Journals of Corrie Belle Hollister by Michael Phillips. This particular excerpt is from The Braxtons Of Miracle Springs

by Michael Phillips, Bethany House Publishers, 1996.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Book Blessings for Fall

Apple pies are being baked, leaves are falling, pumpkins are being picked and carved, kids are dressing in costumes and begging for candy, turkeys are being cooked – it must be Autumn!
Here’s a few fun books for the season. Most of these I have reviewed before, but the first one is a new treasure for you to add to your collection!

Book: Pumpkin PatchBlessings by Kim Washburn, illustrated by Jacqueline East, Zonderkidz, 2016
Genre: Picture Books
Target Audience: Kids 2-6
Subjects: God’s creation
Summary/Notes: This cute little board book tells of some of the things to be found at a pumpkin patch and puts it in terms of things to be thankful for.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5

Book: Thankful written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Archie Preston, Zonderkidz, 2015
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 3-10
Subjects: Thankfulness
Summary/ Notes: Adorable! That’s the best word to describe the picture book Thankful written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Archie Preston. The author takes the reader through a day in the life of a family, showing what they are thankful for. It’s not just an ordinary family though. The children have great imagination and pretend to be a number of different professions and we get to see what each profession would be thankful for. Archie Preston draws beautiful illustrations of the kids, showing exactly what they are imagining. One of the things I appreciate about this book is that the ideas are not overly simple. For example, one of the pages says “The dancer is thankful. She loves the beat that stirs her heart and hips and feet.” It has cute little rhymes for each idea expressed. I like how it conveys gratitude to God for more than objects.
This not-so-simple picture book is one I can definitely recommend to children and their parents!
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5

Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 3-10
Subjects: 4/5
Summary/Notes: It’s fall and the leaves are changing colors, pumpkins are growing and the land is beautiful. The bear family is thankful for all the beauty. To celebrate they attend the Harvest Festival at a local farm. Most of the book is focused on simple enjoyment of the activities of the festival and the beauty of the land. One section though shows Brother Bear saying that “mother nature is putting on a good show for us” and Mother Bear saying that “mother nature works for someone a bit higher up.” And Papa Bear tells them that harvest time is about more than enjoying the season, it is also a time to give thanks to God. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5

Book: The PumpkinPatch Parable (From Parable Treasury) by Liz Curtis Higgs, Illustrated by Nancy Munger, Thomas Nelson, 2015
Genre: Picture Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 3-10
Subjects: Parables, Holidays, God’s Love, Showing Love To Others
Summary: A rejected gift, a sunflower reaching for the sun, a pumpkin shining it’s light, a beautiful Christmas tree – they all have one thing in common: they can be used to illustrate Biblical truths. That’s exactly what Liz Curtis Higgs does in this collection of picture books. She takes each item and weaves a creative story around it, turning it into a parable just like the ones Jesus told. Each story is focused around The Farmer and his children who learn lessons from things the farmer grows. The one on pumpkins tells how the icky stuff is taken out and is then used to shine God’s light.
Notes: This a collection of stories written years ago, now reprinted into one volume parents can use each season of the year. It contains beautiful illustrations and each page also contains a Bible verse at the bottom of the page, further diving into the meaning behind the parables. The author manages to weave not just the one major point, but a small Biblical truth into each element of each story.  I highly recommend this book as a way for parents to teach children Biblical truths using common symbols of each season.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.