Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween

Halloween can be a very controversial day and I am not going to dispute with anyone about whether it should be celebrated or shunned entirely. I dislike the frightening or evil side that some seem to enjoy, but I don't like that stuff the rest of the year either.

To me, it is the beginning of a season of Sharing and Caring. I have no problem with kids dressing up, getting treats, playing games, and just simply having fun. Giving out candy may not exactly be the same as "And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of My followers, you will surely be rewarded." (Matthew 10:42), but it does work on similar principles. Giving treats and joy to kids is one of the earliest examples of sharing and giving that kids can grasp. It is offered freely and without anything being required in return. Hmmm, that concept sounds familiar too!! "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God." (Ephesians 2:8)

My very first Halloween was when I was only 3 months old, so i have no memory of it, but have always treasured the story my mom told me about it. Oct 31 of that year she was a young mom, and I am sure exhausted from taking care of her first child (although I am sure I was a perfect child! LOL!). My dad was working 2nd shift so it was just the 2 of us when there was a knock on the door. When the costumed kids yelled out, "Trick or Treat!!", my mom realized she had forgotten all about Halloween. She apologized to the group of kids and explained that all she had to offer them was her baby's bottle. A couple of hours later, the same group of kids returned...bringing Mom a bag of candy from what they had received from neighbors! They wanted to share with someone who had none.

So, I think of Halloween as the first day of Sharing Season. During the coming weeks, people will be donating food, toys, etc. for others less fortunate for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, just think of this as your first opportunity to give to others---whether you think they are deserving or not. At the least, it is a great example to give to children about simple acts of giving and kindness. Life can be sweet and fun if you let it!!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Audrey Bunny by Angie Smith

 From best-selling women’s author Angie Smith (I Will Carry You, Mended) comes this sweet children’s book about a stuffed animal named Audrey Bunny who fears her imperfections make her unworthy of a little girl’s love. She'll learn the truth soon enough, and young readers will learn that everyone is special and wonderfully made by God.





My Review: This is a wonderful book for young and old alike. Beautifully illustrated by Breezy Brookshire, Angie Smith tells a story that is sure to be loved by all. Audrey Bunny had lived in a barrel of other stuffed toys in a toy shop, but was never chosen because of her mark. However, a sweet little girl named Caroline spots Audrey and comes back the next day to buy her as her own special cuddly friend. Audrey treasures the time spent playing with Caroline, yet is always careful to find a way to conceal her mark. Finally, the day arrives when Caroline announces that Audrey will be attending school with her for something called "Show 'N Tell"!! Oh no! Audrey's worst fears are about to be faced as she realizes that there will be no hiding her mark from Caroline and her friends. Is she about to be rejected again?

I read this as I was preparing to face my own fears of rejection as I prepared to go on a journey and would be meeting many people I only know through Facebook. This beautifully written book about God's unconditional love and acceptance from others actually helped calm some of my own fears. This is a book that can be used both to help a child who fears rejection and to teach children about loving others even though they may appear to be a bit different. Even when the scars are not visible, reassurance of a Creator who loves us just the way we are is a valuable lesson for all to learn. I highly recommend this book.

GIVEAWAY: FlyBy Promotions has another copy of this book to be given to one of my readers. To be entered to win a copy of Audrey Bunny, leave a comment and your name will be added random drawing. Contest will close next Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 at 12 Noon (CT).


I received a copy of this title from FLYBY PROMOTIONS as part of their blogger review program. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 255 'Guides concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. I was not asked to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 Angie Smith is the wife of Todd Smith (lead singer of Dove Award winning group Selah), best-selling author of MendedI Will Carry You, and What Women Fear, and one of the most popular speakers and blog writers in the country. She holds a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University and lives with her husband and daughters in Nashville, TN.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Epic Grace by Kurt W. Bubna

EPIC GRACE: CHRONICLES OF A RECOVERING IDIOT by KURT W BUBNA

God never wastes anything--our strengths, our successes, or our mistakes. In this collection of true stories, Kurt Bubna, a self-confessed "recovering idiot," chronicles his own honest, heartfelt, and often hilarious missteps along the path to grace. You'll discover what it means to experience the "unconditional" love of God, regardless of how often you stumble, and you'll gain a fresh view of how to find God's purpose for your life. Learn from Kurt's trials and triumphs that God is indeed the God of second chances--and His epic grace can transform even the most imperfect life into something priceless. (publisher's description)



Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot is a title I just could not resist, and I am glad I did not. I have a long way to go on my road to recovery and it was good to know that there are others on the same journey. This is one of those books I did not want to put down once I started reading it. Bubna's stories of failures and struggles resonated with instances in my own life and were a good reminder of the grace God extends to each of us. There is nothing we do to deserve it, but He loves us enough to grant it anyway. Written in a humorous, self-deprecating style that I love, there is also a raw honesty that helped to put a soothing balm on some of my own wounds I continue to reopen. I have gone through some of the same things that Bubna has and, through this book, I have remembered the grace God extended to me and am reminded that God will use the shattered portions of my life. 

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. No expectation were made for a good review and all opinions are my own.
For further info on the subject of Grace, check out the following links:







Grace in Epic Porportions 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Kurt Bubna website
Kurt Bubna on Facebook
Twitter: @kurtbubna


Friday, October 25, 2013

One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian

Real life is long on law and short on grace—the demands never stop, the failures pile up, and fear sets in. Life requires many things from us—a stable marriage, successful children, a certain quality of life. Anyone living inside the guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty of daily life knows that the weight of life is heavy. We are all in need of some relief. Bestselling author Tullian Tchividjian is convinced our world needs a fresh encounter with grace. (publisher description)

 “Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



One Way Love by Tullivan Tchividjian is on a subject we sing about...and how Amazing it is, read about, and experience without always truly grasping the concept: GRACE. We live in a world of reciprocity and find it much easier to understand the concept of law---you do this, and that is your reward or consequence. But grace is unmerited favor that is undeserved. Using a variety of anecdotes from his own life, literature, celebrities, and familiar people from the Bible, Tchividjian gives us examples to bring home his point in a manner that makes it more easily understandable. You know how we exhaust ourselves trying to please God (and others) to prove we are worthy. There are also those (and I have been guilty) who defiantly break the rules, and are surprised when shown grace anyway. Tchividjian reminds us that God's grace is here for us to accept. When we try, and when we fail to live up to our own expectations of what we should do, God's love for us does not increase nor does it diminish. God's grace truly is sufficient. This is a really good book and I do recommend it.

CONTEST: Flyby Promotions has a copy of this book to send out to one of my readers. Simply leave a comment letting me know you would love to be entered by Oct. 31, 2013 by 10am (cdt)

 William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. A Florida native, Tullian is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a contributing editor to Leadership JournalHe is an ordained minister in Presbyterian Church of America. He is the author of six books; including the best seller, Jesus + Nothing = Everything  that won Christianity Today’s 2011 book of the year. He travels extensively, speaking at conferences throughout the U.S. (Photo Credit Mike Meyer).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Salvaged web series

SALVAGED is a web series that is based off of a young adult Christian fiction novel, SALVAGED, by Stefne Miller.


* ABOUT SALVAGED


Attie Reed should have died in the wreck that stole the lives of her mother and best friend. But her life was spared. Why?

When Attie moves to Oklahoma to stay with the Bennetts for the summer, she hopes she has left her nightmares behind. But her battle is far from over, and Riley Bennett steps forward to help her fight the nighttime monsters. As the battle wears on, Riley begins fighting monsters of his own: his feelings for Attie. And Attie realizes she must begin to face the monsters of the night herself if she wants to conquer them for good. 

Can Attie's life be Salvaged?


(* description provided to me from blog tour site)

MY REVIEW: I admit to being a little confused as I began to watch this, but I am glad I stuck with it.  After I got more of the gist of what was going on (and I had not read the description first), I started over and was drawn more into the story.  There were times it dragged a bit, or the acting wasn't quite as good, but it is a series I would recommend, especially for teens. This is a turbulent time for many, and Attie is facing and coming to terms with a tragic accident that forever changed her life. All of the main characters are also  dealing with their own pain, but the focus remains on Attie rather than trying to overwhelm the viewer with too many stories at the same time. The uncertainty, pain, steps forward to healing, and even the steps backward, are a real and honest portrayal of the struggle to make sense of it all and move forward. 



AUTHOR'S INTERVIEW: STEFNE MILLER

How did the Salvaged web series come about?
I was working with Director, Paul Morrell on a movie adaptation of my third novel, Collision. We had just completed the screenplay and were about to move in to the next phase, when I told him about an idea I had for Salvaged. I'd always believed that it would make a great teen drama series - either on television, straight to DVD or web streaming. He loved the idea and was interested in doing it. Within days, a friend that I mentioned it to, offered to pay to have a pilot/proof of concept reel developed. Less than a month later, I was in LA holding a casting call. Two weeks later, a cast and crew of 25 were in a rented house, shooting for five days. We decided to take the pilot episode and also release it as a web series so that we could introduce people to the story, characters and our quality of work. We believe that this can only help both the Salvaged and Collision projects.

What is the big goal?
The big picture goal is that a network or distributor would pick up the series. I've already written the scripts for eight 45 minute episodes or what could easily be turned in to a mini-series.

Who are you hoping to reach with this series?
Salvaged, the web series is based on my first novel by the same name. It is a young adult Christian fiction novel that was able to transcend the lines of Christian fiction and also move into the secular market. Salvaged was first picked up in the mainstream young adult fiction blogging world and the reviews and ratings landed me on the Goodreads.com Reader's Choice Awards finalist list for Debut Author of 2010. I am hoping that Salvaged will continue to reach out into various audiences and present them with a powerful story that has the ability to impact lives - no matter the way in which they receive it (book, web series, tv show, etc).

When does the series come out?
There are six episodes. The first was released on September 25th. The remaining episodes will release every Wednesday at 8 am (CST) through October 30th.

Where can viewers find the episodes?
Salvaged has it's own YouTube channel at: youtube.com/salvagedseries. The episodes will stay on the Salvaged YouTube channel for viewers to watch far into the future.

Where can we find out more about the series and the book? 

You can also learn more about the series on the official Salvaged web site at salvagedseries.com. You can read an except of the first chapter of Salvaged, the book, at my web site, stefnemiller.com, or purchase a copy online or at your local bookstores. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I am Second (paperback)

I Am Second  is a book, somewhat like mini-biographies, that shares the story of people from all walks of life. Some names may be internationally known and others are completely unknown to you. But each has a common thread that binds them together and you may find you can relate to a few of these stories yourself.   If you have ever seen any of the videos, you know the premise of the white chair and the black backdrop. These are not stories told in shades of gray, but in a simple black and white straight-forward manner. "I once was like _______, but I turned to Jesus and now I am ________." Some are turning to God for the first time and others are returning to Him....perhaps they have even tried and failed more than once. The personal testimony given is unlikely to match yours, but at least one will have a story that you can relate to in some way. Even if your story is completely different, the message is still reiterated to all that God will never leave you and is waiting for you to come to Him. Authors Doug Bender and Dave Sterrett have put together a compact book that is filled with stories of darkness, rejection, pain, and emptiness, but end with the hope found in Jesus when you choose to place Him first in your life and yourself (& all other things) second.




You may remember that I have reviewed this book before, however there is a difference. This paperback version has been revised and expanded. The copy I was given was online, which is not a method I like; I am the old-fashioned, hold the book in my hand and turn the pages type. With that being said, I still love the book. I am also still just as clueless on how you can use your phone to scan over some odd design to see a video...but I am assured it works. The important thing is not the technology but that the message each of these people are conveying: "I was here, but when I put God first, I was able to climb out of the rut." This clearly shows how simple it is to give your own testimony.  There are no claims that life is now free of sorrow, but there is an emphasis on the hope we find in Christ.  The most important lesson though, is to learn to say, "God is first---I am Second."

There are too many of the videos for me to choose just one, so here is a link to their YouTube channel, along with several other I AM SECOND pages you will want to check out for yourself.
I Am Second Youtube Channel
I Am Second Website
I Am Second Facebook
I Am Second Twitter

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shattered by Rita Schulte

SHATTERED: Finding Hope and Healing through the losses of life

There are few today who are not affected directly or indirectly from the effects of loss. Death, divorce, abuse, job loss, and health issues are the most common reasons we are adversely affected, but there are also disappointments of shattered dreams, failed expectations, doubts about faith, and other losses that contribute to the pressures bearing down.

Shattered explores how these losses can impact all areas of your life, including your relationship with God. There is the immediate impact, especially in major losses, but there is also a tendency of some to bury both the hard-hitting problems and the smaller ones that gradually occur. The refusal to talk about, or even think about, our pain can be detrimental.

This book tells the reader that to deny or ignore our pain is what stands in the way of healing. Schulte explains that it is necessary to pay attention to what you are trying to cover and offers hope through “healing tasks of the heart”. If we allow our losses, hurts, bitterness, and anger to keep building it affects us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This is designed to draw you to a closure, hope, and a more secure relationship with God.





Good book! I am one of those who buries pain and puts up emotional walls when dealing with everything from a major loss to a minor one. I wish I had learned how to deal with losses many years ago instead of letting them build up to to where I am today. My open rebellion against God ended many years ago, but I still struggle with trust issues...even more than I realized. Although a lot of my "rocks" remain covered from others, they are there and weigh me down. Even though I am aware of this about myself, Shattered did help me to realize that I have not dealt with a lot of the losses in a healthy manner. Of course, I realized this, too, but have never moved forward to the healing portion. Acceptance of what has happened and trusting God that there is an overall plan are only a part of the process. There is more to do and Schulte wants the reader to move to a better level.

Part 1 deals with Evaluating the Assault of Loss on the Heart, Part 2 is Reclaiming Your Heart, and Part 3 is the healing Reinvesting the Heart. I could strongly identify with a paragraph in one of the chapters in Part 3 about the reluctance to reopen dreams placed on a shelf due to fear of trusting others...including God. There is also Appendix A, B, C, and D to help you further evaluate the losses you have experienced, how you felt, and how you are dealing with them. Whether you are dealing with a fresh catastrophic loss, small ones that have added up over the years, or a combination of the two, Shattered is a useful tool for allowing God to once again create beauty and value from a life that feels broken.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Leafwood Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Alone Yet Not Alone Returns For A Second Weekend

 Alone Yet Not Alone had an enormously successful weekend in its limited opening in Grand Rapids, MI; Franklin, TN; San Antonio, TX; Houston, TX; Dallas, TX; Knoxville, TN; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Atlanta, GA; and Colorado Springs, CO. Due to the turnout, the film has been held over for a 2nd weekend in all locations. Get your tickets here.

Based on the true story taken from the novel of the same name written by Tracy Leininger Craven, Alone Yet Not Alone is designed to encourage and uplift families in difficult times and tells the inspiring story of Barbara and Regina Leininger and their journey of faith and survival during the French & Indian war in 1755. Captured by the Delaware Indians in a raid on their home and transported over 300 miles of wilderness to Ohio, the sisters are sustained only by their abiding trust in God, and their hope of escape against all odds to be reunited with their family.


A movie filled with action, drama and suspense, Alone Yet Not Alone was filmed on location at historical sites in Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina to allow audiences to take the journey with the characters. Filmmakers realized that in order to tell the story authentically, they would need to shoot where the events actually happened or those similar in terrain.

Highlighting themes of endurance, perseverance and faith with positive values and entertaining action sequences that make it safe viewing for families, the film recently garnered the “Family-Friendly Seal” (12+ years) with a five Dove rating from the prestigious Dove Foundation. AYNA stars Kelly Greyson (Return To The Hiding Place) with Jenn Gotzon (God’s Country, Frost Nixon) and actor/musical artist Clay Walker (Clay Walker: Jesse James). Directed by Ray Bengston with co-director George Escobar, screenplay by James Richards and George Escobar.

With its recent box office success, plans are currently underway to roll out a nationwide release of the family-favorite film on February 21, 2014 with opening cities to be announced at a later date.

For more information about Alone Yet Not Alone, please visit 
 Seatzy.com/Alone
Alone Yet Not Alone website
Like AYNA on Facebook


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rufus and Ryan Go To Church

 Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! is a board book that is sure to be a hit with your pre-schooler. Ryan is a 4 year old whose favorite companion is his stuffed monkey. On Sunday morning Ryan and his family go to church and, of course, Rufus goes with them. Ryan explains what is happening to Rufus so he will know when it is time to sing, pray, or to be quiet and listen. They also share play and snack time together.

Even if you attend a church that has a separate pre-school worship area, this is a good book for kids to learn how they should be have in "big" church. At the least, it will explain what you are doing while they are in their own class. It is a simple book with brightly colored illustrations to hold a child's attention and is very sturdy and the perfect size for a child who wants to "read" alone.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book for review purposes by FlyBy Promotions. The were no requirements that they review be good---only honest and fair.

About the Rufus and Ryan
Rufus and Ryan is a new series of books for preschoolers, featuring Ryan, an energetic little boy, and his stuffed monkey Rufus. Basic Christian and church concepts serve as the foundation of the series, with an additional focus on character traits and development. The text is presented in young Ryan’s voice as he teaches Rufus about the concepts he is learning himself. Each story is about 150 words, using age-appropriate vocabulary and themes.
Also available now, Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers


About the Author
Kathleen Long Bostrom is a published children’s author in both the Christian and trade markets. She has a Master’s in Christian Education and a Doctorate of Ministry in Preaching, and she has worked in children’s ministry for many years. Kathy and her husband, Greg, have three grown children and live in Illinois. 

About the Illustrator 
Rebecca Thornburgh began illustrating children’s books full-time in 1996 and today has almost 100 books to her name. Rebecca’s vibrant watercolors have been showcased in previous Ideals titles, including the new edition of The Story of Christmas. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters.