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May 31st, 2011

Book Review: That’s When I Talk to God by Dan and Ali Morrow, Illustrated by Cory Godbey

Prayer is such an abstract idea for small children.  Sometimes it can be hard for them to understand the conversational (if invisible) conversation that takes place between believers and their God.  That’s When I Talk to God is really one of the best works I’ve read for children that both explain and give practical examples of times when it is appropriate and natural to pray.

In this story, a mother shares with her small daughter that prayer doesn’t only take place at bedtimes and mealtimes (when children are most often exposed to spoken prayer), but that prayers are just talking to God, and that you can do that whenever you like!  After realizing this, the little girl (while being encouraged by her mother) enters into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of repentance (phrased as a simple apology – great stuff), prayers for the needs of others who are in danger, and a prayer for courage.

Appealing in its own right as a story, but five-ear-old has asked me MANY times to read this book to her.  Though I haven’t been able to get my eight-year-old to sit down and listen to me read it to her directly, I think she’s been listening because I have seen her seizing upon situations similar to those shared in the book to pray aloud.  That’s one way I know this book is working, and is one of the better titles available on the subject!

Like most children’s books on prayer (I’m not sure why this is), the story does NOT give examples of praying in the name of Jesus.  To me this always seems odd, since the scriptures are quite clear that we come to God THROUGH Jesus, and that we are to pray in His name.  That is a fairly simple addiction for parents to make verbally as they read this book with their children.


May 31st, 2011

Book Review: One Hundred Butterflies by Harold Feinstein

onehundredbutterfliesWere you ever blessed as a child to have beautiful, large, full-color coffee-table type books full of gorgeous nature photographs?  I wasn’t, but if I had One Hundred Butterflies would have been amongst my favorites.

Harold Feinstein is a professional photographer who has captured one hundred striking specimens in this photographic masterpiece.  Though the introductory author’s note and foreword claim that butterflies represent a masterpiece of evolution, I instead see within the pages of this book and the butterflies captured therein the wonders of God’s creative hand at work, and His great love of beauty and diversity.

Printed on heavy, glossy paper, each butterfly is photographed against a deep, black background.  Many butterflies are presented on a two-page spread – one page showing the top of the butterfly, the other page showing the underside.  Butterfly quotations are also sprinkled throughout the text.

This is such a beautiful, and inspirational book, not only for insect-lovers (which we tend to be around here), but also for general interest readers.  There is no doubt that this is a gorgeous book – certainly one that is not to be missed!


May 31st, 2011

E-Book Review: Biblical Home Education by Anne Elliott

biblical-home-education2Lately I have been re-tooling my thinking (again) in the realm of educational philosophy.  It seems that this is never really finished as homeschooling moms, doesn’t it?  We need to continually re-evaluate our goals, philosophy, and pedagogy (methods) so that they are in line with our priorities.  When I saw that Anne Elliott had produced a new homeschooling resource for parents titled Biblical Home Education, I couldn’t wait to read it.

I have been a follower of Elliott’s work for the past couple of years – her vision of educating her children from the Bible as her main text has so closely aligned with our own family’s original vision for homeschooling that I decided she was an author to keep my eye on.  Not only have I been reading her excellent blog and newsletter, but I’ve also listened to several of her recorded talks at online homeschooling conferences and have always come away inspired.

Biblical Home Education was really a delight for me to read.  Like any other homeschooling mother, Anne Elliott is in the trenches herself.  As the mother of seven she has the same questions the rest of us do – how do I teach with toddlers underfoot?  How can I keep my homeschool organized?  Which methods are the best?  And above all – how do I teach in a way that not only imbues my children with a deep understanding of the Word of God, but how do I use teaching methods that draw directly from the Word and that are influenced by God’s philosophy of teaching (and not that of a homeschooling ‘expert’).

This new e-book arrived just in time for me to renew my mind and re-inspire me in my original vision for homeschooling.  It can be so easy to become distracted by the clamor of academics, so easy to put second things first, and leave first things until last.  Elliott has reminded me once again that Jesus taught us to put the kingdom of God first and that all other things will be added unto us – this works for homeschooling too.

Elliott doesn’t claim to have it all figured out.  Instead, she writes as a fellow participant in this life we call homeschooling, a fellow seeker who has turned to God, His Word, and her husband for advice and insight into her teaching methodologies.  I’m so pleased to have access to her thoughts as a homeschooling mother further along the road than I.  Like her, I am seeking a better way – God’s way – and there is much food for thought here to mull over.

Readers of Elliott’s blog will no doubt recognize some of the thoughts, and some of the material, but I am so thankful that it is now available in a single pdf location that I can load into my e-reader and actually read!  Biblical Home Education represents 138 pages of inspirational advice that is well worth spending the time to read.  I feel blessed to have spent several refreshing evenings listening to Elliott’s heart for fellow mothers who are seeking to serve the Lord and disciple their children in His ways.


May 30th, 2011

CFBA Tour: Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Darkness Follows Realms (May 3, 2011)

by Mike Dellosso


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted, was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years, has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets, and has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, the International Christian Writers, and International Thriller Writers. His short stories have appeared with Amazon Shorts and in Coach’s Midnight Diner genre anthology. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master’s Graduate School of Divinity.

Mike Dellosso writes novels of suspense for both the mind and the soul. He writes to both entertain and challenge. In addition to his novels, Mike is also an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and a faculty member at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference.


Sam Travis lives in a Civil War era farmhouse in Gettysburg, PA, where he awakens one morning to find an old journal with an entry by a Union soldier, Lt. Whiting…written in Sam’s own handwriting. When this happens several more times, both at night and during waking “trances,” Sam begins to question his own sanity while becoming obsessed with Lt. Whiting and his bone-chilling journal entries. As the entries begin to mimic Sam’s own life, he is drawn into an evil plot that could cost many lives, including his own.

Can the unconditional love of Sam’s daughter, Eva, break through his hardened heart before a killer on the loose catches up with them and Sam’s past spurs him to do the unthinkable?

If you would like to read the Prologue and first chapter of Darkness Follows, go HERE

Watch the book video:

May 27th, 2011

SmartLabs Toys Contest Winner!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter the giveaway for a SmartLabs Toy of the winner’s choice!

Our winner of this giveaway is Erica G. who entered her name to win a Cupcake Decorating Studio!  Thanks for your prompt response to my email Erica, enjoy your Cupcake Decorating Studio!

May 27th, 2011

Loan Officer Training – Akin to New Testament Tax Collectors?

For those of us living in the west, the animosity we see in the Bible presented towards tax collectors can seem odd.  We might wonder – weren’t these guys just doing their job?  What is so wrong about being the guy to gather taxes?  Sure we might not like the IRS, but to declaim everyone involved in taxation as a sinner?  Isn’t that a bit…harsh?

Well, for the Judeans, tax collectors had sided with the tyranny of Rome that was occupying and controlling their homeland.  I don’t think that this animosity towards tax collectors was really a financial objection to being taxed, but rather a smothered cry of rebellion towards the oppression they were experiencing at the hands of the Romans.

However, as Jesus’ words and those of Paul speak to us of earthly authorities, we know that as believers we are to obey them inasmuch as what they require does not go against the clear teaching of God’s Word or His commands on our life.

In our culture there are also occupations who are though of as ‘less than’ though we don’t perhaps categorize everyone in them as ‘sinners’ right off the bat.  Lawyers, IRS (yep, tax collectors again), bankers, and maybe even mortgage brokers in light of today’s economic situation.  While there might not be many people lining up for Loan Officer Training because of some of the stigmas associated with those in the financial field during times of economic strain, many consider TrainingPro is the national leader in mortgage education.

Remember though, lawyers, IRS agents, and loan officers, they are all people and all have access to the love and forgiveness of Jesus despite their past, current, and even future actions :).

May 26th, 2011

Book Review: Pompeii: City on Fire by T.L. Higley

pompeiiFrom the time I discovered T.L. Higley’s work a couple of years ago through her Seven Wonders series, I have been reading everything of hers that comes my way.  How did she make it onto my ‘must-read’ list?  First – she writes historical Christian fiction in time periods and locales that other Christian authors won’t touch.  Pre-New Testament times where there was no clear gospel witness (like ancient Egypt), and in New Testament times in exotic locales – not limited to Jerusalem and Judea.  Most historical fiction being published for Christians these days seems to be limited to the bonnet and buggy era, and to be honest – I’m just not all that interested.  She’s also a good writer with a passion for history and locale.  Thank God for T.L. Higley!

For all these reasons, I am always so excited to get my hands on one of her novels, AND I think that Pompeii: City on Fire might just be her best offering yet!  It could be that the Roman setting of Pompeii is more familiar to me than that of Petra (the last Higley novel I enjoyed), but the story was immediately engaging and drew me in right away.  I read this novel in a day and a half and the compelling story drew me in and swept me away in tides of dramatic suspense.

Ariella is a young woman who was taken captive during the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans.  Sold as a slave to a powerful Roman who was deeply involved in pagan rites involving debauchery and abuse her life in captivity for nine years led her to abandon the God of her youth and to eventually escape from her bondage into a new form of slavery by disguising herself as a male gladiator.

When her fighting troupe makes its way to Pompeii she encounters Quintus Cato – a man fleeing a career as a failed politician in Rome.  Despite his attempts to avoid political involvement in his new home, he finds himself drawn into the fight against a corrupt government official that dominates and seeks to control the lives of those he loves.  Though disguised as a boy, Ariella finds herself being drawn to this compassionate man who seeks to defend the weak and as Mount Vesuvius rumbles to the north the pair will find themselves thrown together as evil forces escalate in Pompeii and tensions mount.

I have to admit that I initially found the cover art a bit cheesy – a female gladiator, oh no!  I was relieved to find that Higley pulls the storyline off though without ever descending into the realm of the trite or stereotypical.  Having written a story filled with rich meaning, Higley has more than satisfied my expectations in her latest work.

Pompeii is definitely a book for adult readers.  Many disturbing themes are addressed as the followers of pagan belief systems indulge in predatory manipulations and outright abuse.  These are not described graphically, but though the references are somewhat veiled, and many times occurred in the past, the implications are clear and easily drawn by readers.  These occurrences are entirely appropriate for the storyline and serve to develop a heightened appreciation for the freedom found through the sacrifice of Yeshua.  In the midst of this spiritual oppression Ariella and Cato find themselves drawn into the loving embrace of a Savior and a people for whom the barriers of status, heritage, and religion have been demolished.

The romantic storyline is tender and full-hearted while remaining subdued in outward expression.  This is one of the features that I adore about Higley’s work; subtle romances full of protective instinct and bursting into expression only at the height of the storyline when clear danger presents itself.

Experienced Higley readers will have their expectations fulfilled in this new novel, and new readers will no doubt find themselves scouring bookshelves for Higley’s work – as I now do.


May 26th, 2011

I Don’t Need A Florida Personal Injury Attorney

Living up here in Canada as I do, the chances that I will ever need a Florida personal injury attorney are pretty slim (but you never know – God does have a way of proving me wrong on things I’m fairly confident of, just to teach me things!) We also don’t go out a lot, so the worst threat to my personal well-being is the huge crop of mosquitoes that have hatched out of our slough this year!

Hmm, personal injury lawyers can help you if you are affected by pain and suffering due to careless negligence of drivers, physicians, and products.  I don’t see mosquitoes on the list.  Too bad.  I could really use a court order to get rid of these little she-blood-suckers.  I had to keep my toddler in the house for a few days because my husband was afraid that if she received any more bites she would really suffer!  She had…many…many bites.  For some reason those little biters just love sweet baby blood! :(

So, here I sit, bug-zapper in hand (boy, I love these things!)  Waiting to zap any bug that makes a dive towards any of my little ones.  I can’t get a lawyer on their case, but I can zap them!

May 24th, 2011

Book Review: Andi’s Fair Surprise (Circle C Beginnings #3) by Susan K. Marlow, Illustrated by Leslie Gammelgaard

andifairsurpriseOur family loves the Circle C Beginnings series.  My oldest (newly eight) counts these little Andi books amongst her favorite early chapter books that she can read independently.  The pages are printed on creamy paper, there are ten chapters, each is around six pages long in an easy to read type for young readers, and includes one illustration.  She also really enjoys doing the free activity pages available at the books’ website and the lapbooks that can be purchased as go-alongs.  My younger girls (5 and 2) love listening to Andi’s adventures when I use these short chapter books as read alouds for them.

In the third installment in the Circle C Beginnings series – Andi’s Fair Surprise – Andi and her family make the long trip by train to the California State Fair – a weeklong agricultural celebration!  Not only does Andi have a new dress and hat to wear to the fair, but she also gets twenty cents to spend each day!  She eats treats, plays games, and eventually wins a lamb with her fair ticket!

Andi is particularly adorable in this installment – she is such a sweet, but authentic six-year-old.  She learns about social graces that she was previously unaware of, learns to sacrifice for the good of others, and gets into some mischief as well!  Because our family lives on a farm with cattle, the western 1800s theme is such a good fit for us.

A funny episode that I simply have to share occurred the first day I read this book to my children.  I was hanging laundry on the line outside when I spotted my five-year-old trying to lasso our little bottle fed calf in the front yard (the opening scene in Andi’s Fair Surprise is Andi practicing her lasso skills on her dog, on the chickens – anything she can find).  I told my girls that they should wait until Dad could give them a lasso lesson and then I went into the house with some laundry.

When I came back out (two minutes later) I found my 2.5 year old with the lasso attempting to rope the calf.  He took off running, and somehow she ended up on her belly holding onto his rope being dragged along behind!  She was so surprised!  I told her to let go and all was well – just a few grass stains and a bit of a scare, but you can see how inspirational Andi’s stories can be for children!  Not only do my little ones continually ask for more, but they also have such fun ‘playing Andi’.

These are just lovely, simply told, but authentic stories of character development and growing up on a ranch in the 1800s.  There is even a vocabulary list of “New Words” for those unfamiliar with farm terminology, and “A Peek into the Past” which provides more historic detail.  We adore Andi (and Lesslie Gammelgaard’s illustrations this time around are particularly cherubic!) and we can never wait for the newest books in the series to be released!


May 18th, 2011

DVD Review: The Grandfathers

thegrandfathersThe story of Nate Saint and Jim Elliot’s martyrdom in South America at the hands of the Waodani is certainly one of the best known stories of missionary devotion amongst the North American church.  Books have been written, documentaries made, and the spiritual progress of the Waodani people closely followed.  The latest DVD in the journey of the Saint family and those they minister to is The Grandfathers and follows Jesse Saint’s experiences among the Waodani as a teenager and adult both in the jungle and at home in North America.

Jesse Saint is the son of Steve Saint and the grandson of Nate Saint.  Told through his eyes, viewers are able to see the Waodani progress towards independence and the challenges they face as they begin integrating with the wider world around them.  Jesse’s bonds of affection with the men who murdered his grandfather are also explored – the men he now affectionately calls his grandfathers.  It also explores Jesse’s lack of direction and focus in his life and his uncertainties surrounding his personal identity (those these are never entirely resolved).

Having been captivated by the incredible grace and love presented in The End of the Spear I was eager to watch The Grandfathers.  Apart from some incidental mentions of baptism, the blood of Jesus, asking God what He thinks (once and this was Steve), a spiritual experience following the deaths of Elliot and Saint, and the influence of Christianity on the Waodani (comments made by a college student), there isn’t really any direct drawing of attention to the difference Jesus has made in the lives of those portrayed in the documentary.  I have to say that I am very disappointed by this.  With such an opportunity to call attention to the life-changing faith that Jesus gives His followers.

While production quality is high, the story line is a bit choppy and jumps around without any real unifying thread.  I think the unifying element that is missing is Jesus.  How does Jesse feel about Jesus today?  How does he feel about the work that Jesus has done amongst the Waodani?  About the forgiveness that Jesus has wrought in their hearts?  It just isn’t there.  Instead we are left with some teenage angst with only a smattering of forgiveness thrown in, and that a somewhat vague forgiveness, the heart of the message is missing.



Jennifer. Follower of Yeshua. Wife of one man. Homeschooling mother of 5.