Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Little Seed: A Life by Callie Grant

"Little Seed: A Life", a Graham Blanchard Publishing praise book, follows the life cycle of a seed. Following the progression of a seed from when it is first dropped into the ground on to its transformation through the seasons to a full grown plant and ending with the plant producing seeds of its own, this book can open a discussion with a child about how God changes and uses all of His creation through growth.

God's provision for growth is another story that can easily be another discussion that evolves naturally while reading this book to your preschooler. I love the bold, bright illustrations by Suzanne Etienne and believe they will fully engage a child's attention and initiate conversations about all they observe. The simple sentence structure is also just enough to hold a young child's attention and can stand alone or their own or be a stepping stone to a richer discussion about what is happening in the story, or to help an older child see this as an illustration of spiritual growth. This board book is a terrific size for older preschoolers to hold and "read" on their own. I highly recommend this book.

I received this book free of charge from Shelton Interactive in exchange for my honest review.

Graham Blanchard: Christian Children's Books
Callie Grant

Shelton Interactive
Suzanne Etienne

Close As A Breath by Callie Grant

"Close As A Breath" is an absorb book written by Callie Grant that encapsulates a fabulous autumn day shared between a daughter and a dad. As she asks her father numerous questions triggered by the things she can see, smell, and feel, he responds with answers that explain that through the unseen and the seen, she can know that God is also surrounding her.

This warmly inviting book, illustrated by Sarah Ackerley, will retain a child's interest and will likely trigger a few more questions being asked. The simple answers the father gives his daughter are age appropriate (the book was written for children up to 6 years old). They also open the opportunity for a parent to discuss God and faith with his child on a very elementary level that helps to build faith.



I received this book free of charge from Shelton Interactive in exchange for my honest review.

Graham Blanchard: Christian Children's Books
Callie Grant

Shelton Interactive

Sarah Ackerley 

Jesus Saves Me by Callie Grant

"Jesus Saves Me," from the Knowing My God series, is a learn book. The main theme in this book by author, Callie Grant, is presenting Jesus as The Good Shepherd in a simple introductory style for young children. Using John 10:14-16 for the scriptural basis, the book uses the words of Jesus to explain how the shepherd takes care of his sheep just as He takes care of His people. The book also teaches the importance of getting to know Jesus so you learn His voice over all others. Of course, this is put in a simplified manner that young children can understand.

What impressed me the most was how the book can grow with the child or is perfect for a family with young children of various ages. There are very simple sentences that a toddler can understand and not get bored with, but there is also a longer paragraph on the page for young readers or for any child that is ready to learn more of the basic tenets of faith and to reason out how to apply what they have just read to their lives. Parents can use the written portion, along with the illustrations to teach their children more about Jesus and His love for his people. Illustrated by Jodie Stowe, it is brightly colored and has photographs that will both capture a child's attention and initiate conversation. The book is suitable for children 0-7 years old, and is a durable board book that is easily held by small hands. The negative would be that it is probably easily chewed by young ones who are teething, but I do recommend this book.
 

I received this book free of charge from Shelton Interactive in exchange for my honest review.

Graham Blanchard: Christian Children's Books
Callie Grant

Shelton Interactive 
Jodie Stowe 



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

The new original series "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" (created and executive produced by Martha Williamson of "Touched by an Angel") is a wonderful combination of romance, comedy and drama that follows the lives of four postal detectives who transform themselves into a team of detectives to track down intended recipients of undeliverable mail. Their missions take them out of the office where redirected letters and packages can save lives, solve crimes, reunite old loves and change futures by arriving late but somehow always on time. The team includes charming Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius), the group's leader is a man of faith who prayerfully approaches his work with the goal of making a difference in people's lives; new team member, Shane McInerney (Kristin Booth), a technophile who brings 21st century sensibility to the group; free-spirited, “girl next door” Rita Haywith (Crystal Lowe) who has a photographic memory; and lovable Norman Dorman (Geoff Gustafson), a master in conventional research methods.

The show aires SUNDAYS, 8/7c on Hallmark


This incredible series even incorporates scripture in its themes and in the conversations between characters.  In FACT, The American Bible Society has built a bible study consisting of a 7 day Bible reading to dig deeper into the theme revealed in each episode:



My Review:  At first I was not sure what was going on. Since I was thrown into an episode several weeks into the series, I just saw quirky characters I knew nothing about and was not positive about the premise of the show. But, I watched enough to get a bit caught up, and did some research. This is definitely a work of fiction. The 4 main characters work in the Dead Letter Dept. of a Post Office. My dad worked for the Post Office prior to and after this career in the Navy, so it helped to establish that this is not based on actual practices. I have much admiration for the USPS, but I don't see them using detective work of this type to get the mail delivered.

Once I got settled into a clearer idea of what was happening and was pulled into the story, I slowly fell in love...with this series. It's not the absolute best I have ever seen on television, but it is a clean, funny, romantic, poignant show that has both some mystery and a message. I laughed, I cried, sometimes I rolled my eyes, but I truly enjoyed it. I wish I could see the series premiere movie and the other episodes, but that is not likely. However, I advise YOU, if you like good clean television that can both just be a way to relax, or a chance to delve further into points being made, to make this part of your regular viewing.


Watch the trailer below...

Thanks to FlyBy Promotions for giving me the opportunity to review an episode. In exchange, I was only asked to give a fair review.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Good Book movie

The Good Book, written and directed by Sharon Wilharm and produced by her husband, Fred, is the latest release from Mainstreet Productions. The film is a silent evangelical film that follows the impact that a single small red New Testament on the people who receive it. As the Bible is passed around, we get a brief look at how God's Word is there to speak to our needs and to make a difference in our lives.

It starts with a boy named Daniel (Evan Fielding) who runs away following a horrible mistake he made. He ends up at a campsite for homeless people and is befriended by Esau (Torry Martin). It is there that Daniel becomes the first to receive the pocket testament. The Bible goes from hand to hand, with the giver signing it before passing it along, and we see how it affect the life of the next who receives it. It is amazing to see how our actions have a ripple effect, touching the lives of brief encounters and the lives of those we will never meet on Earth.


Torry Martin, Danny Lee Ramsey, and Mike Parker
Ok, I don't want to give away each story told, but I do want to mention some of the stories or actors whose performances stood out to me. I will get the bad out of the way first. There was a scene near the beginning that I just did not see the point in, and it was the only one where I disliked the music. But no film is without a flaw (in the eyes of the viewer anyway). And, the film continued to improve until the end.
BK Bomar, Apolonia Davalos

A public defender and his wife (BK Bomar and Apolonia Davalos), had a personal tragedy that I am all too familiar with, and it touched me deeply. Both turned in excellent performances, and I could deeply identify with Davalos in particular. The music during the climatic discovery also touched me deeply. Rick Holets is the composer for this film, and I truly loved the music [other than that one scene].

 Of course, Jenn Gotzon lights up the screen of any film she is in. Both she and Amanda Pentecost were highlights of the film for me. Each were very expressive in their actions and you could feel exactly what they they were going through. Gotzon's character went through both joy and sorrow, and she could not have expressed the emotions and actions any stronger if there had been words to speak

Amanda Pentecost, Donald James Parker, and Jenn Gotzon
Josh Childs

When the Bible is launched from the local area into the hands of a foreign missionary (Josh Childs), the poignant message of what a difference this book makes truly hits home. It brings the reminder that this is not a tame tale to be taken lightly, but a book whose message is considered dangerous around the world. The risk to spread the gospel was shown, and the film ended with a spark of hope for the future.

I love old films, including silent ones, so the genre is one I am very comfortable with viewing. I do believe this film will be an excellent evangelical outreach tool. There will be no worries with CC or translating into a multitude of languages. Each scene was presented in a way that will 'speak' for itself to all viewers and get the message across that your life will be radically changed when you read God's Word...and begin to apply those words to how you live.

Thank you to Sharon Wilharm for providing me with a link to see this film for
Fred and Sharon Wilharm
review purposes; no promises were made of a favorable review.
As a side note, I want to add that it was fun to see FB friends Torry Martin, Mike Parker, and Paul Spite (one of my favorite authors) in the scenes with Daniel. And, while I am on a personal "shout-out", Donald James Parker caught my eye, and I thought fellow Cullmanite, Brandon Oliver, was excellent as the employer who was willing to take a chance on someone.

Through the Deep Waters by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kim Vogel Sawyer’s latest novel, Through the Deep Waters, is the story of Dinah Hubley, who wants to escape her disreputable past. Born to a prostitute and raised in a brothel, Dinah dreams of becoming a well-respected Harvey girl. The requirements of becoming a server in one of Mr. Harvey's restaurants were to be of good moral character, have at least an eighth grade education, display good manners, be neat, articulate and...be between the ages of 18 and 30. Dinah is only 17, but begs for an opportunity when a desperate situation makes it necessary for her to get away.

 Her only option is to accept a job as a chambermaid at Harvey's Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas, while waiting for her 18th birthday. Unused to trusting others, Dinah is reluctant to accept the interest of chicken farmer, Amos Ackerman, or the friendship of her co-worker, Ruthie. As both try to teach her about the love of God, will she turn to Him for forgiveness and healing? Can she forgive herself, and bravely share the sin that brings her so much shame with the people she has grown to love...or will the past continue to haunt her?

The Clifton Hotel - Florence, Kansas
courtesy of Harvey House Museum



I have loved every book I have ever read by Kim Vogel Sawyer, but I must admit that this one has been my favorite of all. I have always been a bit intrigued by the Harvey Girls (I love old movies!), so learning more about the lives of some of these girls and the standards of behavior required for them to maintain, along with the prestige and privileges of different positions was enthralling. But the circumstances of Dinah's upbringing and her progression as she slowly learns about God and tentatively puts her trust in Him is also like watching a flower slowly bloom and come to life. The novel has conflict and situations that affect people always, and the characters do not remain one dimensional through out the book. It has been a while since I have read a fictional novel that I only put down because my eyes literally would not stay open, but this one kept me wanting to read just one more chapter before falling asleep. Excellent historical novel that can speak to those who prefer contemporary stories. Well done!

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.




A past filled with shame can be washed away with a love that conquers all
Born to an unloving prostitute in a popular Chicago brothel, timid seventeen-year-old Dinah Hubley was raised amidst the secrets held in every dark, grimy room of her home. Anxious to escape, Dinah pursues her dream of becoming a Harvey Girl, waiting tables along the railroad in an upscale hotel. But when she finds out she isn’t old enough, her only option is to accept a job as a chambermaid at the Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas. Eager to put everything behind her, Dinah feels more worthless than ever, based on a single horrible decision she made to survive.

The Clifton offers a life Dinah has never known, but blinded to the love around her, Dinah remains buried in the shame of her past. When a handsome chicken farmer named Amos Ackerman starts to show interest, Dinah withdraws further, convinced no one could want a sullied woman like her.  Despite his self-consciousness about his handicapped leg and her strange behavior, Amos resolves to show Dinah Christ’s love. But can she ever accept a gift she so desperately needs? - See more at: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?work=221541#sthash.FrcsTiXT.dpuf
A past filled with shame can be washed away with a love that conquers all
Born to an unloving prostitute in a popular Chicago brothel, timid seventeen-year-old Dinah Hubley was raised amidst the secrets held in every dark, grimy room of her home. Anxious to escape, Dinah pursues her dream of becoming a Harvey Girl, waiting tables along the railroad in an upscale hotel. But when she finds out she isn’t old enough, her only option is to accept a job as a chambermaid at the Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas. Eager to put everything behind her, Dinah feels more worthless than ever, based on a single horrible decision she made to survive.

The Clifton offers a life Dinah has never known, but blinded to the love around her, Dinah remains buried in the shame of her past. When a handsome chicken farmer named Amos Ackerman starts to show interest, Dinah withdraws further, convinced no one could want a sullied woman like her.  Despite his self-consciousness about his handicapped leg and her strange behavior, Amos resolves to show Dinah Christ’s love. But can she ever accept a gift she so desperately needs? - See more at: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?work=221541#sthash.FrcsTiXT.dpuf

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Forbidden Topic

Church is where many go to worship and to study more about the tenets of faith, but it is also a place of sanctuary and where it should be safe to share your problems with other believers. Yet there remains a few topics that are seemingly off-limits for discussion, and one of those is depression. Despite the fact that many of the leaders of the faith we read about in the Bible suffered through bouts of depression, a lot of churches gloss over those portions of the Bible or refuse to acknowledge that a Christian can be depressed.

There are examples given all throughout the Bible. They include men, women, rich, poor, powerful, helpless, old, and young. Some of the chapters in Psalms that resonate most with me were written by David during times of discouragement and despair. Jeremiah became a prophet for his people at a young age, and went through many periods of depression as he reached out to God's people.

One of the themes of Beyond the Farthest Star is the deep depression suffered by the pastor's teen daughter, Anne Wells. Instead of a church family that embraces her and seeks to help Anne and the Wells family, there is a distance that is emotional and leads to a physical distance as they move to a church in a small Texas town. But, is simply starting over in another town without properly addressing the problems a relief or merely more burden piled upon this young girl? Is lack of support from the church something that needs confronted?

Bodie and Brock Thoene further explored the issues of Anne and other characters in their Beyond the Farthest Star novel, based on the screenplay by Andrew Librizzi. Watch this Brock Thoene interview about the subject of depression and what strides, if any, the church is making to help teens who are struggling. Then go to the Beyond The Farthest Star Facebook page and share your thoughts.


Sign up to CONNECT with BTFS on the website
to let distributors know that you want this film in your local cinema.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Raising A Princess by John Croyle

Raising a Princess: Eight Essential Virtues To Teach Your Daughter by John Croyle

So many little girls dream of being a princess, but former Alabama defensive back, John Croyle, has further defined exactly what qualities it takes to raise your little girl to be more than just a fairy tale princess, but to truly be a princess---a daughter of the King. Croyle, founder of the Big Oak Boys Ranch in Southside, AL, and Big Oak Girls Ranch in Springville, Alabama, uses the example found in Proverbs 31 to raise girls to become strong, courageous, compassionate young women.

Croyle, through the acronym P.R.I.N.C.E.S.S, says there are 8 virtues to remember and practice for raising your daughter.

Praiseworthiness – A princess understands she is worthy of praise simply because she is made in the image of God.

Righteousness – She lives according to God’s normal, not the world’s normal.

Initiative – A princess makes good things happen.

Nurture – God built into girls and women an instinct for nurture that boys and men simply don’t have in the same way.

Character – A girl of character knows what her deepest desires are and chooses accordingly.

Empowerment – Your princess needs to understand life isn’t just something that happens to her. She has the power to choose.

Servant-Heartedness – A princess finds purpose not in being served, but serving others.

Stability – As stability is provided for daughters, they will grow into the kind of people who help create stability for others.

Although the book is written primarily toward men, the book absolutely can be used by women, too. The importance is in raising your daughter to be the confident, compassionate person she is cable of becoming. Croyle and his wife, Tee, are the parents of a daughter and a son, but also have 40 years experience in helping to raise abused and neglected children and repair the damage done to them by others, usually their parents.

Each child who moves to one of the ranches is told 4 things during their initial meeting with "Mr. John":
1. I love you.
2. I’ll never lie to you. 
3. I’ll stick with you until you’re grown. 
4. There are boundaries; don’t cross them.

Building the trust of a child is just the initial step  From there, he and the house parents make the above principles a part of teaching a girl that she is of value to herself, to others, and to God. This book was filled with wisdom that a parent can use to instill confidence and build trust with their child. You won't raise a perfect child---no one can make that promise---but I have heard numerous success stories of children that had gone through unimaginable lives and these practical and godly principles made the difference. You will want to go through this one with a highlighter! It was all good, but several things just made me stop and want to soak in the words I had read. This is the perfect gift for anyone who will have a part in raising a little girl. 

100% OF PROCEEDS GO TO SUPPORT BIG OAK RANCH!!

Disclaimer: I received this book free from Shelton Interactive. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”

PS: I have never read this book, The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood: A Proven Game Plan for Raising Sons, but several years ago I heard John preach on the topic before it became the book. Using the acronym M.A.N.H.O.O.D., I have never forgotten his words:
M - MASTER
A - ASK AND LISTEN
N - NEVER COMPROMISE
H - HANDLE YOUR BUSINESS
O - ONE PURPOSE
O - ONE BODY
D - DON'T EVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP

If you are raising a son, get this book too!!

John Croyle was an All-American defensive end at the University of Alabama during a renowned title run under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Croyle declined a career in the National Football League and instead went on to found and develop the Big Oak Ranch for Boys. Over the next few decades they worked to start the Girls’ Ranch as well as the Westbrook Christian School. He and his wife, Tee, together have raised hundreds of young men and women, including their daughter and Big Oak child care director, Reagan Croyle Phillips, as well as their son and former NFL Quarterback, Brodie Croyle. For more information, please visit www.bigoak.org.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mom's Night Out

All Allyson and her friends want is a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation . . . a long-needed moms' night out. But in order to enjoy high heels, adult conversation and food not served in a paper bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for three hours... what could go wrong?

Stars: Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins, Dave Hunt, Andrea Logan White, Robert Amaya, Abbie Cobb, Harry Shum Jr., Alex Kendrick, Anjelah Johnson, Kevin Downes, Manwell Reves, Sammi Hanratti, Jason Burkey, and Brad Heller.  

Mom's Night Out (Affirm Films, Provident Films) is directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin, written by Jon Erwin and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell, and produced by Kevin Downes, Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin, Elizabeth Hatcher-Travis, Michael Scott, and David A.R. White. It is distributed by TriStar Pictures.


My Review: Mom's Night Out is one of the most delightful comedies I have seen in years. It was pure joy to sit through a film that was not filled with crude, raunchy, vulgar "humor" or language. I honestly had doubts about even attending; my thoughts were "chick flick" (not a huge fan), the "dad is inept" routine (whose popularity is what led me to quit watching television comedies years ago), and how rare comedy is with faith-based films. I seldom cry or laugh at films, in theaters anyway, but I laughed out loud during much of this film. Best part? I laughed at loud because it genuinely appealed to my sense of humor. Sadly, I have been known to laugh out loud because a film is poorly written or made, but this film is simply funny. 

During the past couple of days, I have read some bad reviews of the film, and I want to address those. The ones I have read have been written by people who apparently attack any film that has Christianity shown in a positive light (and Mom's Night Out is by no stretch of the imagination an evangelical film), stay at home moms (the laments by some of the reviewers about Allyson's lack of employment are a humorous read themselves), and those who actually seem to feel a need for raunchy humor and crude language. I have read a few comments about it being "sexist"; I saw couples I recognize----partners who know that marriage is not 50/50 but 100/100, and that sometimes one needs a bit more support (and it works both ways). Instead of seeing a small slice of life, these reviewers have completely defined people based on one storyline.

I remember having a 'come-apart' a couple of times when a house full of children, especially pre-schoolers, got overwhelming. That is a part of who I am, but not the complete person. Understand what I mean? So, I could completely relate to the film and various characters in it. Some parts edged toward 'screwball comedy', which I happen to love, but sometimes you need to suspend belief for a while. So, take a break, relax, and enjoy!

Loved the film, the writing, the acting...and the location---Birmingham, Alabama!! I highly recommend this film.


Mom's Night Out website
Mom's Night Out on Facebook
Mom's Night Out on IMDb
Buy Tickets

Thanks to Affirm Films for providing me with a ticket to a prescreening via FlyBy Promotions. I was not required to give a review in exchange, but opted to on my own. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Passion by Louie Giglio

What exactly is it that instills passion in a person’s soul? What brings the fire to make a difference, the desire for significance, the power to live a life that matters? And who will lead us in this quest toward the future of the Church? In this remarkable book, some of today’s most gifted communicators highlight the dedicated generation that is rising up to show us how to lean toward the centrality of Jesus Christ and His bright light of glory that brings purpose to our own lives and proper glory to God the Father.
Since it first began in 1995, Passion has had the privilege of encountering millions of believers under the age of 25, a sea of men and women whose lives have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Their voice is getting louder as they rise, united as a generation, bringing hope and light to the world.
Author and general editor Louie Giglio has brought together these incredible authors to share their thoughts on what it means to burn with a passion for Christ.  As delivered to Passion Conferences, the book includes contributions from Giglio himself as well as multiple chapters from:
  • Francis Chan
  • John Piper
  • Beth Moore
  • Judah Smith
  • Christine Caine
The wave is growing into a global awakening. Join the movement. - (publisher's description) 

 



My Review: Passion: The Bright Light of Glory by Louie Giglio starts out as a brief history of the Passion Conferences. Since the target audience of Passion is for college aged people, I have never attended one, but the music that is introduced is part of the background of my daily life and the speakers are people who have had an impact on my spiritual growth. I also love the core verse: "Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts." -Isaiah 26:8.

This book has key messages that have been presented by some of the best Christian teachers there are. Each speaks the truth found in God's Word to a generation who wants to do more than live a passive life, but to also follow Jesus passionately. But the message is not just to the youth; I have grandchildren old enough to attend Passion and I still eagerly absorb and am refreshed by the words of these speakers. This isn't a book to just sit and read through, but one that has multiple chapters that need to be savored one at a time.

I received this book free as part of the BookLook book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255