Monday, July 28, 2014

When Calls The Heart: The Dance

When Calls the Heart - “The Dance” is a feature length film from two episodes of the When Calls the Heart television series. When new miners are hired to help with the reopening of the Coal Valley mine, the town decides to celebrate with a dance. One of those new miners takes a special interest in Elizabeth (Erin Krakow) and showers her with attention and poetry. With Jack's (Daniel Lissing) insistence that the life of a Mountie is too difficult to share with a wife, Billy Hamilton's (Andrew W. Walker) flattery tugs at Elizabeth's heart. 

In a side story, one of the widows (Laura Bertram) is also attracted to one of the new miners (Derek Hamilton. However, her son (Will Verchere-Gopaulsingh) is not ready to have another man in his mom's life. Tensions increase as she struggles to extinguish her growing feelings that equal her son's resentment.

The celebrations of the new miners, a dance and the Miner's Games is not the only cause for joy, though. Widow Carla Noonan (Jill Morrison) is expecting her baby soon. However, the excitement is tempered with trepidation since there is no doctor available. Carla has moved in with Abigail (Lori Loughlin) and Elizabeth has her time grows nearer, but will the women of Coal Valley be able to care for her when she goes into labor early?

My Review: Once again, this is a well acted and well written film that keeps the viewer interested and endears these characters even more. There are a few twists here and there that lend to the excitement of the story, along with the poignancy of letting go and moving forward. You must believe that Jack and Elizabeth will realize their love for one another, but will misunderstandings cause a permanent rift? Also, realizing the hardships many of our ancestors faced gave me a greater appreciation of my blessings. If you haven't seen the previous When Calls the Heart DVDs, you will want to get in on the beginning of the series. You will fall in love with the people of Coal Valley.

I received this dvd compliments of Word Films and Edify Media for my honest review. I was not required to write a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

 Like "When Calls The Heart" on Facebook

Michael Landon Jr. – Director:  Michael Landon Jr., son of the late television legend Michael Landon, has been in the film business for over 25 years.  With two of the highest rated films in the history of the Hallmark channel, and several top ten releases targeted to the Christian market, Michael has become known for creating heartfelt, inspiring films that connect to the family.  He has developed and/or produced, directed, and written screenplays for Fox, CBS, NBC, Disney, Sony, Lifetime, and others.

 Brian Bird- Writer/Producer : Brian Bird is co-founder with partner Michael Landon, Jr., of Believe Pictures, a film and television production company.  He was co-executive producer and writer on the successful television series, Touched by an Angel.  Adding to Brian’s success, he had also written and produced episodes of Evening Shade, Step by Step and The Family Man.  Most recently, Bird wrote and produced Gametime, a two-hour television pilot for NBC, The Shunning, inspired by the novel by best-selling author Beverly Lewis, for the Hallmark Channel, and Not Easily Broken, adapted from the novel by T.D. Jakes and released theatrically by Sony/TriStar.

About Word Entertainment:  A leader in the music industry for over 60 years, Word Entertainment, a Warner/Curb company, is a unique, comprehensive entertainment company comprised of multi-faceted artist service departments including publishing, merchandising, booking, and online initiatives. Word Entertainment represents some of the top names and brands in music, including Meredith Andrews, Chris August, BarlowGirl, Francesca Battistelli, Big Daddy Weave, Jason Castro, Patrick Ryan Clark, Everfound, for KING & COUNTRY, Group 1 Crew, Love & The Outcome, Dara Maclean, Point Of Grace and Sidewalk Prophets and is home to 25 Entertainment, Word Distribution (representing Curb Records and Big Idea/VeggieTales among others), Word Print, Word Films, Word Music Publishing and Word Label Group’s Word Records, Word Worship and Fervent Records.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How To Pick Up a Stripper by Todd and Erin Stevens

The starting and ending points for all outreach have to be love. The most effective way to reach people for Jesus is through servant evangelism—showing God’s love in practical ways. This type of outreach is what Jesus modeled, is culturally relevant, and values people. The goal should be to invite people to take the next step from where they are.
Friendship Community Church, led by Pastor Todd Stevens, has experienced tremendous growth through acts of kindness. The church’s most radical servant evangelism project is Nashville Strip Church, founded by Erin Stevens. Erin’s life changed when God told her to "go feed the strippers." With home-cooked meals and gift bags, Erin shows dancers that God loves them. How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness includes the story of a dancer who has come to know Christ, left the strip club industry through Erin’s ministry, and is now serving with Erin to reach other strippers.
From feeding the homeless, to Easter egg hunts for special needs children, to ministering in a strip club, How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness provides exciting ideas for showing God’s love in practical ways.
Features include:

  • Stories from servant evangelism events, including Strip Church
  • Ideas for showing God’s love in practical ways
  • Inspiration to step out of your comfort zone to serve people 

My Review: How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness is a book that I would love to see more Christians read. When Jesus told us to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15), many people seem to think that means foreign missions. My passion is more for local missions, and I loved reading the various ideas AND reminders to love others as Jesus loves us. Many of the ideas mentioned in the book are not new ones, but each may be one that a reader has not considered. Or, they may spawn new ideas for your church, family, or for you to consider on your own. They range from simple acts of kindness to major 'step out of your comfort zone' projects. The point is that YOU may be the only example of Jesus Christ that someone encounters and your words and example make an impact.

The book is written in a conversational style that was helpful, inspirational, and, at times, humorous. On one page I would be nearly in tears due to a person who had made a decision to follow Jesus or the actions of the community of believers to reach out to people, and on the next would be laughing out loud at something Todd had written. The title of the book alone was enough to convince me that this was written by someone who shared my sense of humor, and was more like the person I want to be. Great book and one I definitely recommend to others.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers 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 CRF, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Todd and Erin Stephens were interviewed by Scott McCausey on Christian Devotions Speak UP in June. Listen to the podcast here.
In the interview, Erin mentions The Voice Bible. I reviewed that a couple of years ago. You can read my review here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Notes From A Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.
The popular blogger and founder of the internationally recognized Simple Mom online community tells the story of her family’s ongoing quest to live more simply, fully, and intentionally. (publisher description)

My Review: Notes From A Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider is described as part memoir, part travelogue, and part practical guide. That does seem to sum it up fairly well. Oxenreider does chronicle the various places she has visited and adventures there, although I am not quite clear why she was in most of them. There are also long discussions on what decisions were made and why they were made about schooling, televisions, and numerous other daily activities. To be fair, she definitely does have a talent for writing and expressing herself. Her style reminds me somewhat of Ann Voskamp. And, I was very impressed with the way the book was divided into organized sections. Great clarity of thought went into what belongs in each section.

But, I must confess, her idea of a simple life is vastly different than my own. While I am certainly in favor of world travel and broadening one's cultural activities, she did come across as a tad condescending at times.I am happy for her that she is able to live her life the way she wants to, but that is not a lifestyle many are able to live. There are some great ideas, but not all are realistic for many of the people I know. It is a great book for some people, but just not for me.

Thank you to Shelton Interactive for the opportunity to read and review this book. They provided a copy to me at no charge. I was not required to write a positive review.

They have also offered a copy to one of my readers. If you would like the opportunity to win a copy of your own, please leave a comment on the blog before 11pm (CDT) July 24, 2014.

Notes From a Blue Bike website 
Tsh Oxcenreider 
The Art of Simple blogspot 

The Perfect Summer dvd

In The Perfect Summer, fatherless teenager Jake (Adam Horner) has to leave Chicago and move with his mom (Sydney Penny) to a small surfing town to live with her father (Eric Roberts) when she needs help supporting them. With no home internet, cable, or friends, the transition isn't easy and Jake isn't quite ready to accept the changes.

While using the internet at the local surf shop, owned by Cody (Jason Castro), Jake is attracted to a young surfing prodigy, Kayla (Katie Garfield)... which makes him an instant enemy to the town bully, Tyler (JD Banks). In an effort to fit in, and spend more time with Kayla, Jake agrees when his grandfather, Lou, offers to teach him how to surf. Through these surfing lessons, Jake also learns lessons in life about determination, facing fears, and rising above the challenges when all seems to be crashing around you.

"The Perfect Summer" was written by Nathan Scoggins and Gary Wheeler; Wheeler also directed the film. The dvd is 85 minutes long and suitable for most audiences. The bullying scenes may be too violent for younger viewers, but it is a clean, wholesome movie. Watch the trailer below:

 My Review: Despite some criticisms I have, I honestly did enjoy watching this movie. It has a message about moving along with your life no matter how awful things may seem, whether it is due to your own mistakes or when circumstances occur that causes life to pivot. Yet, it is not told in a preachy manner that will turn off the audience it is intended to reach. It can be enjoyed as a simple entertainment or used to start a discussion based on topic or characters

The film moves along in a predictable direction and I did think some of the roles were caricatures of the same type that appears in countless films. That's not to say that the acting was not good; I have just seen these people in nearly every beach film from when I watched "Beach Blanket Bingo" as a child on up to the most recent films. There were also a couple of things that did not quite make sense to me.

The movie is worth watching. Being predictable is not always a bad thing, and I did think the acting was solid. I enjoy watching Eric Roberts in everything I have ever seen him in, and this film is no exception. Both Sydney Penny and Louis Mandylor are seasoned professionals who give great performances. With the exception of Jason Castro (whom I know only as a singer), I don't know the younger actors in the film, but felt they all did justice to their roles.

 I received The Perfect Summer compliments of Word Films and Edify Media for my honest review. I was not required to write a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Persecuted by Robin Parrish

The Question Is Not IF Attempts Will Be Made to Limit Religious Freedoms, But When

John Luther, simply wants to share the Gospel and enjoy a quiet life with his family. He never asked to be at the center of a political controversy, but an ill wind has been blowing through the halls of Congress, and supporters of a new religious-equality bill see Luther's endorsement as critical.  When Luther refuses to lend his support, he unknowingly sets in motion an explosive plan bent on destroying his reputation and undermining everything for which he stands. His once-normal life is turned upside down as he becomes a fugitive left with only one dangerous option--putting everything he holds most dear at risk while he fights to expose the truth. It is a mission that brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that could threaten the very fabric of our nation's freedoms.

My Review: The premise of the book is the lengths some will go to further their own political agenda. From the novelization of a film that will be released July 18, 2014 (Persecuted), this political suspense thriller seems unimaginable, yet it also feels well within the realms of possibility as our nation, and the world, grows increasingly hostile to conservative and Judeo-Christian beliefs. The novel also touches on how easy it can be for the lure of wealth and power to tempt us to compromise, and even turn from, values and faith once held dear. 

Some of the characters did not develop quite as fully as I would have liked, although I did enjoy imagining the actor playing the roles in the film as I read the book. There were also a few things that seemed a bit far-fetched, but this did not distract me too badly; books and films tend to stretch things past believability in these type stories. I enjoyed the book and it kept my attention and made me speculate on the possibility of things like this happening...and what I would do in the same circumstances. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Make sure you go out and support the film while it is in theaters. Check out the trailer below:

What others are saying about Persecuted (the movie):
"Bringing the battle of FREE SPEECH to light." FoxNews
"House of Cards for the religious sect." - POLITICO
"A big thumbs-up." - American Family Association
 GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on the blog to be entered to win a copy of Persecuted. Deadline to enter is Sat., July 19, 2014 at 9pm (CDT).

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides
Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Persecuted (movie) on FB 
"Persecuted" website 

 "The framers of our Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion." –Billy Graham

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ragamuffin dvd

RAGAMUFFIN is based on the life of Rich Mullins, a musical prodigy who rose to Christian music fame and fortune only to walk away and live on a Navajo reservation.

An artistic genius, raised on a tree farm in Indiana by a callous father, Rich wrestled all of his life with the brokenness and crippling insecurity born of his childhood. A lover of Jesus and a rebel in the church, Rich refused to let his struggles with his own darkness tear him away from a God he was determined to love. As he struggled with success in Nashville and depression in Wichita, Rich desired most of all to live a life of honest and reckless faith amidst a culture of religion and conformity. (product description)

Ragamuffin was written and directed by (who also plays "Sam" in the film) and stars , , and Production companies were Color Green Films in association with Kid Brothers of St. Frank Co. and Duality Filmworks. Running time is 137 minutes and it is rated PG-13.

My Review: I am familiar with Rich Mullins music, but did not know as much about the person. The film portrays a man who struggled with many issues, including tobacco, alcohol, depression, and his poor relationship with his father (excellently portrayed by Mel Fair). Although the movie does seem to be a bit darker than I would like since I have heard that he had a more whimsical side, and it is obvious that he cared greatly for others, especially troubled youth, but it did help me to understand him. His music shows a man who loves God whole-heartedly, but struggles with both the church and the trappings of fame. Yet, I also found myself able to empathize with some of the personal demons Rich faced as he pursued peace with himself and with God.

There were a few technical issues now and then (that I lack the knowledge to fully explain) and sometimes the time frame did not seem quite in accordance with reality of the age of the character, but it was a good overall look at Rich Mullins. The commentary tract (which gives the dvd Bonus Points from me, and added ones for the Closed Captioning!) with director David Shultz and Rich's brother, Dave (who plays a DJ interviewing Rich), explained that the story was meant to be of more how Rich would have viewed events in his life, plus some characters and stories were put in different sequence or a character would be the compilation of more than one of the people in Rich's life. Understandable. Loved the music, but I was a little surprised to learn that the singing in the film was actually done by lead actor, Michael Kohl, instead of using Rich's voice. However, it works.

Buy Ragamuffin

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing
address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Giveaway Details: Since my birthday is Sunday, I want to give this as a gift to someone else. All entries must be in by 5:25am (CDT) July 13, 2014. A winner will be selected that day (after I wake up!), and you will be contacted for contact info for me to send to Propeller Consulting, LLC. Simply let me know you want to be entered. 

Rich Mullins:
Singer and songwriter Richard Wayne “Rich” Mullins was best known for his worship song “Awesome God” which has been embraced as modern classics by many Christians. His music has been covered by many artists, including Caedmon’s Call, Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, Third Day, John Tesh, and Hillsong United. Mullins’ musical career formally began with Zion Ministries in the late 1970s, where he wrote music and performed with a band called Zion. Mullins first solo hit, “Awesome God,” appeared on his third album and brought his music to a wider audience. Rich Mullins was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Gospel Music Association (GMA) on April 29, 2014.

Finally, my personal favorite of Rich's songs..."Hold Me, Jesus"

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn & Alyssa Joy Bethke

Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke

A great romance was set in motion before you were born. A relentless Lover is pursuing you, and He has made His intentions clear. He wants you to be His forever. How will you respond to the One who longs for you to be His with your whole heart?
In Spoken For, Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke speak to your heart about what it means for you to belong to Christ, who you are because of His love, and how that affects the way you live. Drawing on biblical promises and their personal experiences,   these two friends share what it’s like to live out God’s unfolding love story.
You are not up for grabs. You are spoken for.
Includes questions for group discussion and personal reflection.  (publisher description) 

Spoken For speaks to all who have ever known the pain of rejection from someone they loved or feel that not even God loves them.Chances are, this includes all who will be reading this. Robin and Alyssa share painful break-ups in their own lives with the grieving process and their eventual healing. This includes anecdotes from falling in love with the men they married and the assurance that God has a better plan if we rely on Him. But, more than just stories of human courtship and love, they share the love God has for us. Through stories and the discussion questions, the reader is shown that God wants to pursue her in a relationship that makes her feel treasured and loved beyond measure. Chapters include:
1. An Epic Love Story – Yours
2. You Are Wanted
3. You Are Pursued
4. You Are Loved
5. You Have Been Called
6. You Are of Great Value
7. You Are a Peculiar Treasure
8. You Are Set Free
9. You Are Covered
10. You Are Promised
11. You Are Spoken For

Maybe because of my age, my favorite part was not in the romantic love stories. There was a story Robin told about a young girl who came to her house, upset because her parents refused to let her see a move that all her friends were going to see. Using 2 Timothy 2:21 and a fine china plate, Robin uses both to explain that her parents love her and want her to be special and to keep her mind pure. That reminder made more of an impact on me when considering Christ as the Bridegroom and me (as part of the Church) as the waiting Bride.

Really good book and I did enjoy it and found truths and reminders I need (often) that God loves me and is pursuing me. While it did not always capture my full attention, I would definitely recommend it for high schoolers and college-aged women. Naturally, older women can get a lot out of it too, but I found it more suitable for a younger age.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from "Blogging for Books" for my honest review.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Leaving Limbo

Suppose you woke up and realized you had been asleep for 19 years?

Monica was a teenager looking forward to her engagement party and a happily-ever-after life when a car wreck leaves her in a coma. She awakens to a world that has radically changed and leaves her puzzled as she struggles to pick up the shattered pieces and fit them all back together. The people in her life have moved on while time stood still for her. Can she accept things will never be the same again?

Elias Cecil, Mandy Brown, Noelle Perris, Owen Williams
Leaving Limbo, written and directed by Sandy Boikan, is a charming, poignant, funny, and thought-provoking film that isn't quite a fairy tale, but only because it is more indepth. Based on Boikan's play, My Wonderful Coma, the film touches on topics like forgiveness, regrets, guilt, redemption, restoration, and wasted years. The running theme, based on Joel 2:25, reminds us of God's promise that there is hope for our future. 

Mandy Brown, as Monica Wyatt, is fascinating to watch as she goes through every range of emotion as a young woman who awakens to find herself nearing 40 and having slept away half of her life. Trying to come to terms with things that were not common in the 80s brings moments of comedy...and nostalgia. She gives an outstanding performance as a woman who emotionally is still on the brink of adulthood yet has suddenly been propelled into a world that must feel like she is living in a dream. As former fiancee, Ben, Elias Cecil gives a great portrayal of one who has given up his dreams and grown up to be a serious, overly-protective father who has lost much of the joy of life he had as a teen with a promising future. 

Owen Williams (Wallace) does not get as much screen time as some of the others in the film, but his character is one of the more fascinating ones. As the driver of the car, he has spent 19 years living with the guilt of his actions. He reminds me a lot of Jim Carrey as a comedic actor, but both actors are also incredible in dramas.

The remaining major cast members all give strong performances. Noelle Perris is Tuesday, Monica's best friend, who also married (and divorced) Ben as Monica lay sleeping. David Fruechting gives a tremendous performance as the father who never gave up hope, and used his experience to share his faith and hope to others in a crisis situation. Lauren Montgomery as the niece who was a child in 1989, but now a woman who is in many ways more mature than her aunt is like the "voice of reason" as Monica struggles to reconcile her past life with her current one. The comic relief is Amy Mathieson as Rosa, the British nurse who has spent over a decade caring for her comatose patient and still thinks of Monica as her closest confidante. 

There is so much to say about the film, but I don't want to risk giving away any plot points. Some of the things that seem illogical to me all make sense as the film adds different layers and twists to the story. There were a couple of times when things did not quite add up for me, but not to the point that it took away my enjoyment. Leaving Limbo is one of those films that can carry heavy subject matter, but does so with a compelling story, a lot of fun references to the 80s, and a satisfying ending. It is a faith-based film, but it is a natural part of the character's lives. This movie is one that can be enjoyed by all. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend others to pick up a copy.

Important Links:
Leaving Limbo on IMDb
Leaving Limbo the Movie

Buy on Amazon or CBD
Leaving Limbo on Facebook
Fragile World on Facebook

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this dvd from the director of the film in order to write this review. No promises were made of a positive review.