I like magazines. Short, informative articles, inspiring stories and lots of pictures are definitely welcomed in my busy life. I think kids like magazines too. So I was intrigued when Jessica Lippe, the senior editor of Girlz 4 Christ, emailed me about her magazine. A couple of us took a look and we liked what we saw.

Girlz 4 Christ is an online magazine for teen girls. It comes out quarterly and is delivered free to the teen’s email box. (The teen must be 13 or older to sign up without a parent’s permission.) If you go to their website, http://www.girlz4christmagazine.org/ , you can view their Winter 2015/2016 issue. (I had scroll to find the “Read this issue” button.)

I thought the range of articles in the magazine was impressive: from fashion tips, to spiritual insights, to practical helps for Christian living, to interviews with inspiring women. The editorial staff seems to know their audience. The pieces are written with a teen girl’s interests in mind. Yet the articles also mentor teens, providing them with the insights and wisdom of more mature, but still young Christian women.

Nancy Ellen Hird

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

21 daysoflove21 Days of Love, compiled by Kathy Ide and published by Broadstreet (2016) is a must-read for Valentine’s Day. It is creative, heartwarming and insightful. Not your ordinary collection of flowers and romance, this book shares true-to-life tales of all different types of love, focusing on God’s love as the primary and most important of all. Women, ages 18 and above, will find this a good read.

There are twenty-one amazing stories with a wide range of relationships–sweethearts, spouses, parents and children, grandparents, friends, pets, caregivers and couples from other countries. I enjoyed reading each story and learned something from each one. The main theme of the book is that God should be the center of all relationships. With His guiding hand, all love relationships will be greatly enhanced. I would like to highlight a few of my favorite stories.

The story I could relate to the most, A Finger and a Big Toe, by Nancy Ellen Hird, is about a young mother who is troubled because no matter how hard she tries, the woman she wants to have a significant relationship with, isn’t responding with equal interest. I think this is a common issue in the friendships among women. We often seek a friendship with someone and are disappointed when it doesn’t work out the way we had planned.

Becky and Carla are good friends, but Becky also is seeking the friendship of Jennifer, a woman she works with in a volunteer organization and whom she admires greatly. She tries unsuccessfully to reach out to Jennifer and make time for them to get to know each other. When Jennifer doesn’t respond, Becky is upset.

While at a church event with Carla, Becky sees Jennifer and learns that Jennifer and her family are planning to move in the near future. Becky is stunned. On the way home, she tells Carla about her disappointment.

Carla gives encouraging advice and shows Becky that perhaps God had a reason for preventing the friendship to blossom. Becky realizes how blessed she is with a friend like Carla, and learns an age-old lesson of trust and obedience to God’s plan. I believe this story can encourage others to place God at the center of their relationships.

Another story I particularly liked is Desert Crossing, by Dona Watson. It is the story of Lori, the mother of a nineteen year-old son named Josh. Her husband David is away with the military, deployed in the Middle East. As the story begins, Josh has gotten into some trouble with drugs and has had to spend a night in jail. Lori is hoping and praying for his safe return home. She settles into bed, praying and crying out to God for both her husband and son.

Soon she hears a door open. She believes Josh has come home. It turns out to be her husband David. Lori is thrilled he has returned and thankful they can face the challenges with their son together. After a happy greeting, she takes him to the kitchen to make him a meal and explain about their son.

Shortly after that, Josh returns and is overjoyed to see his father. He admits he was wrong and agrees to get help for his problem. The family is reunited with a sense of hope for the future.

Every story in this little book is encouraging and well-written. I loved the variety of characters. There is even a story about a little dog. This book would be a great one to read, and also would make a wonderful gift.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

 

Most of us appreciate the significance of the 1960s civil rights struggles in America and honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year. We know he was an important leader and have seen film clips from his stirring “I have a dream” speech. But unless we learned about events from people who participated in the movement itself, we do not know the rest of the story.

Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr., and first published in 1964 gives readers insight into this watershed moment in American history from the pen of one of its most influential and principled proponents. It is, in essence, a literary time capsule for the year of 1963.

Dr. King opens by describing the worldview and tragic socioeconomic circumstances of the average African-American of that time. The motivation for change is clear. He then goes on to chronicle, step-by-step, how he helped organize and carry out nonviolent protests in the city of Birmingham.

One of the most interesting parts of this book for me was the way Dr. King combined his faith with action. These two elements are inseparably interwoven. Prayer and scripture informed each move he made. An example of how he extended his values to the movement is reflected in the pledge each person was required to sign before participating. In summary, they had to promise to meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus, commit to nonviolence no matter what happened, pray daily, be courteous and loving, perform acts of service, and persevere. What high standards!

The unfolding of the movement in Birmingham, its setbacks, successes, negotiations, and long-term results are all documented here. The opening chapters are quite compelling. Chapter 5 is the Letter from Birmingham Jail, an overview of his beliefs. There is a description of the March on Washington. Then Dr. King describes his hopes for the future and his analysis of the political environment of the time.

Included are photos of Dr. King with other civil rights leaders, of police and demonstrators, the sites of recriminatory bombings, and the historic gathering in Washington D. C. on August 28, 1963. An Afterword by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. in the volume published by Signet (2000) helps put the book into historical perspective.

I recommend Why We Can’t Wait for high school students. The language is brilliantly eloquent and the concepts are complex. Younger audiences might struggle to grasp the full meaning.

This slim book (about 200 pages or less, depending on the print version) is probably on the shelf of your city or school library. Why We Can’t Wait is also available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

When Lightning Struck: The Story of Martin Luther was written by Danika Cooley and published by Fortress Press (2015). This historical novel on the life of Martin Luther, the German theologian credited with starting the Reformation movement in the 1500s, is impressive. Danika Cooley works hard to combine storytelling with historical fact, weaving period details into narrative and quotes from historical documents into dialog. The book does an excellent job of making history accessible to the reader.

It begins when Luther, on his way to law school, scurries under a large tree for protection during a thunderstorm. Lightning strikes the tree, raining down fiery debris around him, and Luther vows that if he survives he will become a priest.

Martin’s father, a successful businessman, is a strict man whom Martin equally fears and loves. His mother tells him tales of superstition and myth. His father has sent him to school to become a lawyer so the boy will be able to support them in their old age.

When Luther tells his family and friends that he is changing professions, they are stunned and angry. They try to dissuade him, but Martin enters a monastery. He works his way up, through study and self-discipline, to priest, Doctor of Theology, and university professor.

Luther is pursued by a sense of guilt and the fear of an angry God. He fasts himself into gauntness, sleeps on the cold stone floor of his cell, and confesses sins constantly. He is consumed with hopelessness at his inability to shorten the time after death that he expects to spend in purgatory before entering the realm of heaven.

A mentor gives Luther a copy of the Bible. In it, Martin Luther begins to see glimmers of God’s love and grace. He spends hours studying it and teaching from it to his students.

Sent on a trip to Rome, Luther is shocked by the sin and luxury he sees among the priests and nuns there. He also finds little comfort in the holy sites he visits and the holy relics he views.

After this he discovers in scripture that salvation comes by faith alone. He also begins to see God as a source of love. He teaches this “New Theology” in his classes and writes about it.

When the buying of indulgences to shorten one’s time in purgatory or to purchase forgiveness from sins begins to empty the pockets of his poor neighbors, Luther writes a list of objections to their sale and posts it in his town—Wittenberg—for local debate. A printer makes copies and sends them far and wide, creating shock waves across the Roman Catholic Church.

Luther tries to bring change within the Roman Catholic Church, but arguments between him and its leaders become so strident that Luther and the leaders break with one another. The Protestant Reformation begins with sweeping changes to the priesthood, to forms of worship, and to theological teaching across Germany. Luther’s personal life is transformed as he works out what biblical teachings mean for himself and the society in which he lives.

This dramatized biography describes a man who transformed Christendom by his teaching, writing, Bible translation, song compositions, and the very force of his life. Yet it also paints a picture of personal struggles and flawed character. It shows the life journey of one trying to balance the spiritual and secular powers of his time, as we all do.

Approximately 250 pages, this book is best for Young Adult readers. It is sold on Christianbook.com and Amazon.com in hardcover and e-book formats.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

 

 

The Secret of Pembrooke Park written by Julie Klassen and published by Bethany House Publishers (2014) is the type of book you want to curl up with in front of a warm fire. It is filled with mystery, romance and adventure. Set in England in 1817, it will delight you with details of a society where young women enjoyed a season of fashion and social events. It also contains the depth of blossoming spiritual discovery for the main characters.

The story centers on Abigail Foster, a young woman in her early twenties who has some wonderful and practical qualities. She is pretty, but she feels her younger sister, Louisa, is the beauty of the family.

Abigail is secretly in love with Gilbert Scott, a neighbor and friend from childhood. Gilbert is headed for Italy to study architecture for a year. At his going away dinner, Abigail spies him having a quick tête-à-tête with Louisa. It seems minor, but then when Gilbert tells Abigail they should not “shackle themselves with promises,” while he is away, she wonders if he will ever return her affection. She is afraid she has lost him.

We soon learn that, with Abigail’s advice, her father has made an unwise investment. The family has lost a great deal of money and must give up their fashionable home. A solicitor, on behalf of an anonymous client, offers to rent Pembrooke Park to the Fosters for a low price. The house, located some distance away, has been empty for a number of years. Abigail and her father decide to move in immediately. Her mother and sister will join them when the London Season has come to a close.

When Abigail and her father arrive at Pembrooke Park, they discover the house was suddenly and mysterious vacated. Father and daughter meet the Chapmans. Mr. Chapman used to be a caretaker at Pembrooke Park. He and his family reside in their own home, except for Mr. Chapman’s son, William. William is a curate and lives in the parsonage close by. Abigail becomes friendly with all of the Chapmans, and William in particular. William admires her as well.

Not long after moving in, Abigail hears strange noises at night. There are rumors that the house contains a secret room and a hidden treasure. Abigail receives letters from one of the house’s former residents. The letters come in the form of pages ripped from the diary of a girl who once lived there. The pages are unsigned, but Abigail suspects they are from Harriet, a former resident. Increasingly, Abigail becomes interested in the history of her new home and seeks to solve its mystery.

The plot continues to twist and turn. I don’t want to give the ending away, but it is fascinating to watch how all the parts of this story come together. During this story, Abigail is growing closer to the Lord and beginning to understand what Christianity is all about. Through her relationship with William and hearing his sermons weekly, she grows in her faith and is able to seek Him through all the trials she faces. She realizes that what she really wants is the treasure of God’s love and to use her life to glorify Him.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park is a great story for women eighteen years and older.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

 

 

 

Christmas has come! God's blessings are yours.

Christmas has come! God’s blessings are yours and ours.

I thought you might need a breathing space, a time of refreshing. This YouTube might help.

Click here to watch and listen to a video by New Life productions of Mary Did You Know?

 

A Christmas Gift for Rose, written by Tricia Goyer, is an uplifting story for the Christmas season. (Amazon lists Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013, as the publisher of the hardcover version.  Zondervan which is now connected to Thomas Nelson is listed as the publisher on the title page.) Suited for women ages 14-30, the story takes place in Berlin, Ohio.

Rose Yoder is Amish through and through. She loves her family and surroundings. As the book begins, she is upset because her boyfriend, Jonathan has just returned from being a medic in Europe during World War II.

Rose refuses to see him, feeling that he has betrayed all of them when he left for the war. She still cares for him, but doesn’t think he will be able to be content where he is, now that he has seen so much of the world outside of the Amish culture. He wants a chance to talk to her, but she keeps putting him off.

About a week later, Rose has a disturbing dream. Her mother goes to comfort her. The dream is a recurring one in which Rose searches in a house, going from room to room looking for people who have left her. Her mother decides to tell her something important that has not been shared with Rose.

Rose came from a poor family, struggling to live during the Great Depression. When she was very young, she would often come to the Yoder’s house to eat and to play. One day, when the Yoder’s son took Rose home, he discovered her family had left with no forwarding address. All they left was a wrapped package to be given to Rose when she was older. This news is a shock to Rose, who realizes that after persecuting Jonathan for interacting with Englisch folks, she herself is Englisch and not born Amish as she had assumed.

Rose has a deep desire to find her birth family. Her mother tells her to open the package they left. Inside, Rose finds an apron, decorated with roses. On the back, she finds the names of her family members, including the name of a little sister who had died.

Rose decides to begin seeing Jonathan again, but he feels that she will never be content until she finds some answers about her birth family. He leaves, but doesn’t tell her why.

Close to Christmas, Rose meets Curtis Williams who works at the grocery store. She discovers that he is her brother. She speaks with him and finds out her three other brothers, Timothy, Bobby and Rodney, have lost touch with Curtis. He doesn’t know where they are. She also learns that her birth parents have died.

Jonathan comes home just in time for Christmas with a heart-warming surprise gift for Rose.

A Christmas Gift for Rose has an encouraging and happy ending.  Rose realizes God has been looking out for her all this time. He brought her to the Yoder family at a time when they needed her just as much as she needed them. She realizes she can commit her life to the people around her regardless of her original roots.

This story has many great lessons. Most importantly, it shows that we have been adopted into the body of Christ and belong to him because He paid the price and loved us enough to sacrifice everything. I know this book will bless you and bring a new appreciation into your life for God’s gifts to you.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

Hanukkah begins on Sunday, December 6, 2015. (Sorry for the late reminder.) It ends at sundown on December 14.  John 10:22 mentions Jesus celebrating this Jewish holiday where it is called the Feast of Dedication.  Walking with Y’shua Through the Jewish Year offers a bit of history, a bit of reflection on how we might respond to the holiday and some suggestions for family fun. Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah is a picture book for school-age children that tells the story in an exciting, inspiring way.

Reading holiday books with a child or children can be such a rich experience for everyone. If you are looking for Christmas books that you and the kids might read and enjoy together, here are some suggestions:

It’s a Wonderful Life for Kids!

Jotham’s Journey

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Lucille Nadine Alexander’s Birthday

Read and Play Christmas

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

Sparkle Box

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

21daysof christmasSometimes during the Christmas season, I feel and act like the Gingerbread Man. I am running, running as fast as I can. But I am not running away from things, I am running to keep pace with my to-do list. Know the feeling?

The running can be fun–exhilarating, exciting. However, if I keep it up, panic sets in. I begin to feel that I am losing my sense of what matters; I am losing my sense of me. I need to step away from my list, sit down, and just be loved.

Reading 21 days of Christmas, compiled by Kathy Ide and published by BroadStreet Publishing Group, LLC (2015) is like sitting down in your favorite chair with a cup of hot chocolate (tiny marshmallows melting into creaminess) and breathing, just breathing, life back into your being. The 21 stories from 21 writers have various themes and settings (first century, 19th century and contemporary). The stories all take place at Christmas and explore life at this time of year with its joys and its real challenges. For example, one story looks at a young wife whose military husband will be away for the holidays. Another lets us listen in on the questions Joseph may have had about being the father of the Son of God. Another story shows a young teen hoping for a place to belong.

The stories are brief, under ten pages. Each story is followed by a   a short reflection (Life Application) that connects with it and takes the reader deeper into the story’s theme. These reflections gave me something to think about and something to savor.

I like it that 21 Days of Christmas is an anthology. I love hearing the different voices of the various authors. Reading their different stories, with different circumstances and different settings gives me a sense of community and the breadth and depth of God’s love for us all. So . . . anybody else for hot chocolate for the soul?

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

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