The Message of Christmas by Eugene H. Peterson ~ Review

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The Message of Christmas by Eugene H. Peterson

Rather than being a full length book, this is more like a message or a sermon. It is divided into two sections: the first being called “The Message of Christmas.” The second section is about the “Gifts of Christmas.” Most of the book is exact Scripture pertaining to the prophesies that foretold Christ’s birth and all the circumstances surrounding the event. The second half focuses on the gifts involved in Christmas, what it means to celebrate Christmas fully, which means to have a personal relationship with God Himself.

I love having a source for the Scriptures throughout the Bible at a moment’s notice on hand. There are selections from the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Luke, Matthew, John, Philippians, Colossians, and Revelation. From the section on gifts, we learn how Christmas applies to more than just a head knowledge of celebrating a holiday. Again, this part is filled with Scripture from 1 John, 1 Corinthians, Habakkuk, Philippians, 1 Peter, Matthew, Hebrews, and James. That’s because gifts are the application of the knowledge we have of what Christmas is: a gift from God to His beloved ones. That’s us.

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This book is available in pamphlet form from TheMessageofChristmas.com where you can obtain a single copy or a pack of 20 pamphlets to share. At the end of this ebook, you are even given a link to download the entire Bible.

This book has one purpose in mind. It is to help the reader understand that Christmas is much more than just a few days off from work to celebrate a big dinner with family and friends. It is the outpouring of love that is expressed to all humankind in the gift of salvation through the man/God person of Jesus Christ. Christmas can be much more than just a day marked on your calendar. It could be the beginning of the rest of your life.

 

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My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah: Leanna’s Choice by Angie Dicken ~ Review

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My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah: Leanna’s Choice by Angie Dicken

I have to say that I have read several of this series, “My Heart Belongs in…” by now and I love all the ones I’ve read. My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah is another great book. It is a historical fiction book covering a time period about 100 years ago when immigrants coming into America were the Greeks suffering from a drought. Their presence was filled with conflict because they often filled in wherever they were needed, even when that gap was caused by workers on strike protesting poor working conditions. As a result, there were demonstrations and riots protesting these interim workers, and Greeks were looked down upon in disdain.

Leanna McKee was a recent newlywed whose husband was killed in a coal mining accident. She had been raised in Boston as a debutante, but rebelled against her upbringing because she was incensed about the treatment of immigrants and their poor working conditions. As a result she broke away from her family, who gained their wealth from such factories, eloped with an workingman and became a teacher of immigrant children in Utah. Her husband’s death left her in a town filled with male mine workers and few other women. She was determined to leave the area and began looking for employment somewhere else.

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Alex Pappas was a friend of Leanna’s husband, working with him in the mines. He befriended Leanna and employed her to watch his niece and nephew before and after school while their family was busy with work. An attraction began to grow between the two, one a widower and the other a widow. But circumstances and prejudices seem to work against them all the time. The Pappas family enjoyed their friendship with Leanna, but would not approve of anything more because she was not Greek.

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The first part of the book begins slowly. We get acquainted with the history of each of the principle characters and their personalities first before the situation changes. I really enjoyed learning something of the Greek culture. Both Alex and Brianna are haunted by their past failings. Alex has turned his back on God after the death of his wife, to his family’s distress, but remains stalwart in supporting his family’s move to America to begin their lives again. He fights against his attraction to Leanna because prejudice against them being together is very strong and could lead to danger for his family.

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Toward the end of the book circumstances looked bleak, and I began to feel the despair of the characters as they fought against unfair treatment and snobbery. There were some interesting twists in the plot and the tension was well built. The author had me rushing to the very end in suspense to see how it was going to work out.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour Publishing as part of the Barbour Review Crew program on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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A Miser, A Manger, A Miracle: The First Christmas Carol by Marianne Jordan ~ Review

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A Miser, A Manager, A Miracle: The First Christmas Carol by Marianne Jordan

What a marvelous adaptation of the Christmas Carol by Dickens! I’ve never heard of anyone taking the Christmas story and adapting it this way. Better yet, this book came about as a result of a play written by the author for her church production. What the author has done is to flesh out the story for the readers. She has done this so well that at times I was walking with Ebenezer in his soul searching journey led by three different angels.

Ebenezer was the Inn keeper in the tiny town of Bethlehem. He was delighted at the opportunity to earn a great deal of money when the Romans decreed that the descendants of David register in their home town to be counted and taxed. Ebenezer loved making money. He didn’t care how he accomplished that or who he hurt on the way. He considered himself above the rabble anyway. As people crowded into the small spaces of the Inn, Ebenezer had one room left and he was holding onto it to save it for a rich customer who could afford his lavish rates. One couple he turned away was a man and his pregnant wife.

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Then that night the angel Gabriel appeared to him in his home. He would be visited that night by three more angels, in an effort to redeem his corrupted soul. First he visited his past. Then the present. But nothing touched his heart until he started to get to know a man called Jesus. Even the man’s teaching didn’t touch his heart until he witnessed the scourging and the crucifixion of this innocent one. Finally he was a broken and repentant man. For the first time in his life, he wanted to save this man’s agony by offering his life for Jesus’ life. Then he was told this was Jesus’ choice, to die for him, the wretched, greedy Ebenezer.

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Don’t let the familiarity of the story scheme distract you. The author has done a marvelous job of allowing us to see life from Ebenezer’s eyes. There are many other elements of the Christmas Carol you’ll find familiar when you read this book.

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All of this enhances the experience Ebenezer lived in his one night of revelation. Since we already know the outcome of the story, and even the way it is being told, the joy is in the details. And the author did a wonderful job of telling this story with realistic detail and heart. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I hope you do too.

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Ho-Ho-Nooo (TJ and the Time Stumblers Bk 4) by Bill Myers ~ Review

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Ho Ho Nooo: TJ and the Time Stumblers Bk 4 by bill Myers

Middle grade readers will love this book. It should appeal to both boys and girls because it is a basic adventure book. The purpose of the book’s message is to explore the true meaning of Christmas without getting overly “religious.” The main character, TJ, takes on several jobs to try to earn money to give her dad for Christmas. Things get out of hand, of course, while she tries to compete with her sister who is planning on purchasing a large screen TV. To “help” TJ understand what really counts for Christmas, bumbling time travelers on a school assignment from the future visit TJ and stay hidden in her bedroom. She’s the only one who can see and hear them, but doesn’t pay much attention to their warnings. There are plenty of laughs to go around–good clean non-crude humor.

Herby and Tuna are traveling from the future to invisibly observe their target historical figure for a school assignment. Since their arrival, everything seems to go wrong for them, including equipment malfunctions; but they do manage to tag along with TJ to school and work for awhile. Their “help” is doubtful but funny.

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Besides the goofy humor in this short book, there are family dynamics to explore (TJ’s mom died of cancer recently) and social dynamics to learn from. This book, like the many others written by this author is not just a fluff piece. There are valuable lessons taught within the humorous events, just enough to prompt young readers to think. Parents will love this. Books like this were something I searched for when my children were the age this book is written for (between ages 7 and 11).

If you are looking for a hilarious, fast-paced adventure for your children to read, this is one I highly recommend. While it is the fourth book in a series, each one can be read independently.

 

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Haley’s Hangdog Holiday (Bk 2) by Tamie Dearen ~ Review

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Haley’s Hangdog Holiday by Tamie Dearen

While this book is the second book in a series, it is completely capable of standing on its own. The books in the series are only loosely connected, so you could read these books in any order and enjoy them. And of course each book features a dog as part of the story.

This is the type of story I enjoy reading over and over. It has a well developed plot that includes plenty of humor, realistic struggles for both parties in their lives as Christians, and development with bumps in the road when Haley and Gavin became a couple. Both characters are completely believable. They aren’t perfect, but are both striving to be the best person they can be. Being a Christian is a driving role in both their lives.

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Haley and Gavin had a lot in common. They were both extremely competitive and when they both signed up for a particular degree program in accounting, they came head to head at the top of their classes, striving for the same honors. In spite of that, they didn’t really get to know each other until two years into the degree program, and that by a chance encounter on the ski slopes in Colorado.

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Haley had no intentions of dating at all in school. On the other hand, Gavin had somehow ended up with a reputation as a playboy. It was undeserved, but he didn’t it much. They had to overcome a lot of wrong impressions just to get to know each other. Then came some impressive obstacles. It took a lot of time for those obstacles to be overcome. That is what drew me into the story. How they overcame and resolved those differences is what makes this story a great read.

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My favorite parts of the story have to do with the dogs Daisy and Bojangles. They added quite a bit of humor and dimension to the running storyline, especially for Haley who was not really a dog lover at the beginning of the book. While the dog element is not prominent in the story arc, it is still an important element. That is great for all dog lovers.

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After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

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After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu

What happens when your world falls apart all of a sudden? That is the theme of this book. Candace Rodriguez is a top ranking singer associated with a record label. Six months ago, she accepted Christ as her Savior. Slowly, her perspectives changed and she changed her behavior accordingly. It didn’t take long before she saw that her music future would have to change as well. Then one day she fell off a stage. She realized at that moment she had to take her future in hand both physically and spiritually.

God takes control and provides a way for Candace to get away to a farm in Maryland owned by a doctor couple where she can get rest and begin to regroup. While there, her faith grows as she waits for the Lord’s leading for her future as a singer. She’s under pressure to create a whole new line up of songs that are fitting with her new found faith in Christ. So she begins to undertake the task of writing enough songs to fill a new album. But her muse has fled. In the meantime, she meets JB Patrickson, who is also pulling up roots to begin life again after a brief stint on Wall Street as a trader. When the housing bubble crashed, so did he.

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JB has a history which makes him a bit gun shy around Candace. He is working hard to make the farm he is managing for his grandmother more prosperous. Their relationship starts out slow, but eventually they become good friends. Candace is trying to become physically healthy as well as spiritually healthy. She works hard to lose weight and JB has become her supporter along with the good doctors.

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What I like best about this book is the great way the author allows spiritual growth to show up in the characters’ lives without being overly talkative about it. Instead of talking it out, the author shows us how Candace grows. I understand Candace’s issue with weight loss too, as I struggle with the same problem. Her hard work was inspiring to me. I felt this was all good writing.

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In spite of working the book out in first person, the different voices were done very well. I usually find the first person use irritating and sometimes immature, but I think I was about half way through the book before I realized that I hadn’t even paid attention to the voice. I found that surprising. For once, the reader is privy to the thought process of a person whose heart is being turned to God and maintaining a mature attitude about it. I found that refreshing. I also like the moderate amount of tension built into the story. It wasn’t extreme, but it kept the story moving forward nicely. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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A Goose Creek Christmas by Virginia Smith ~ Review

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A Goose Creek Christmas (Book 4) by Virginia Smith

This is book four of the “Tales from the Goose Creek B&B” series. I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, so it seems to be sufficiently independent of the other books. This is also a novella although I did’t see any indication of that in the description. However I was able to read it through twice in just a few hours, so it is short.

This is a great light read filled with zany, quirky characters, a small town feel, and the ability to help you set the mood for the season.

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Albert and Millie Richardson are in their twilight years, have bought themselves a Bed and Breakfast and just recently remodeled it. They are anticipating their years of retirement when Al was unexpectedly released from his work as computer specialist. His pride was hurt more than anything else, since he was already prepared to retire in another year, so he decided to delay telling his wife for awhile so as not to upset her over the upcoming holidays. Well, that was his excuse anyway.

In the meantime, Millie had her hands full with one of her neighbors who takes on the task of decorating the downtown business district of Goose Creek. The problem was that her tastes clashed with those of the community, especially the downtown businesses. She was so distracted with this dilemma that she didn’t notice that her husband suddenly had more time on his hands than he used to.

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There are so many amusing moments in this short tale. I enjoyed taking the time to get to know this local community. If you are in the need for momentary breaks during the Christmas season, this is the book for you. It is a pleasant and sweet diversion.

 

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