Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mailbox Monday

I love participating in Mailbox Monday - it is so much fun to see what everyone is getting in the mail. A special thank you to everyone who stops by my mailbox and visits and/or leaves a comment - I LOVE hearing from people, and would love it if you left comments with links to your reviews of these books!

Thanks for taking the time to visit!

Here are the books that came into my house last week:

All the Tea in China by Jane Orcutt - Historical Fiction / Regency Era Romance

The Beauty Prescription by Debra Luftman, M.D. and Eva Ritvo, M.D. - Non-Fiction / Self-Help

Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual: For Everyone from Beginner to Pro by Bobbi Brown - Non-Fiction / Self-Help / Makeup

The Conscience of Abe's Turn by J. Timothy King - Fiction

Get Positively Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Looking and Feeling Gorgeous by Carmindy - Non-Fiction / Self-help / Makeup

It's Your Call: 7 Sure Ways to Fulfill Your Life's Purpose by Lawrence Powell - Non-Fiction / Christian / Self-Help

Seeing Venice: Bellotto's Grand Canal Essay by Mark Doty - Literature

The Secret Lives of Men: What Men Want You to Know About Love, Sex and Relationships by Christopher Blazina, Ph. D. - Non-Fiction

Snow Valley Heroes by Robert J. McCarty - Fiction - Children Ages 6-12, Parents, Grandparents




What was in your mailbox last week??

If you would like to participate in Mailbox Monday, head over to The Printed Page and grab the logo. Make sure to visit other blogs hosting Mailbox Monday and comment/leave your link!

Review: Seeing Venice: Bellotto's Grand Canal, An Essay by Mark Doty

Title: Seeing Venice: Bellotto's Grand Canal, An Essay
Author: Mark Doty
Pages: 64
Publisher: Getty Publications (November 7, 2002)
Genre: Literature / Essay
Edition: Hardback - many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!




Perfect for : Personal Use, Hostess Gift, Coffee Table / End Table book

In a nutshell: This nice little book (about 5 1/2" x 6") contains an essay written by Mark Doty. He has done a nice job of looking closely at this beautiful painting and writing about different things within the picture. Take a close look at the picture below - can you find the man on the balcony on the upper left hand side? He has done a nice job of speculating about him. The pictures within the book are very nice, and the dust jacket unfolds to become a complete picture of the famous painting. This would be a great coffee/end table book, as well as a nice office or hostess gift. This would also be great for the art enthusiast!

From Getty Publications:
Bernardo Bellotto's magnificent View of the Grand Canal provides a rich visual record of life in eighteenth-century Venice. This painting—one of the most popular in the Getty Museum—is so sweeping in its scope and so detailed that it requires repeated viewings to take in its portrait of daily life in Venice in the 1740s.

This small book presents Bellotto's great painting in a series of beautiful details that allow the reader to examine the painting closely and enjoy the colorful and busy goings-on of Venetian life captured so unforgettably by Bellotto. The book jacket unfolds to become a small poster of the painting in its entirety. Accompanying these delightful images is a lyrical essay by noted American poet Mark Doty. Together, Bellotto's painting and Doty's prose make for an unforgettable encounter with the art and life of Venice.


First Paragraph:
PRIVACY In cities, paradoxically, there is an extraordinary kind of privacy; hurry and talk, just a little distance away, make solitude more complete, and more delicious. This man who's stepped out onto the balcony on the side of a grand house overlooking the canal, his face turned toward open water, this woman a floor below him, on a balcony of her own, three small stone creatures on her balustrade - they are caught in moments of contemplation. They're fixed in postures of ease; they have as much time as they like. She leans forward on her elbows, a piece of cloth - scarf, handkerchief, dustrag? - draped from the railing between her hands; he rests his right arm on the rail, his body inclined toward the view. Great expanses of sky open beside them, a continuum of atmosphere interrupted only by the jutting of masts, banners half-flying in the breeze. That wind seems to be blowing only in the marine distance. Here in town the air's utterly still, and clear. Huge field of sky relieved by cloud banks. So much space around the dreamster; their equivalents in the twentieth century would be the isolated figures of Edward Hopper, solitary citizens poised in perennial silence.

My Review:
The book is made up of a nice essay that follows the progression of pieces of the painting View of the Grand Canal by Bernardo Bellotto. I enjoyed viewing the pictures as I read the essay.

Content: The essay and included pictures take a closer look at this famous painting.

Format: The book starts with an essay by Mark Doty, then spotlights different parts of the painting in over 40 pictures. The book ends with a page about the artist. Special Note: The dust jacket unfolds to become a picture of the entire painting.

Readability: Very easy to read, with clear pictures that help the reader to focus on different parts of the painting.

Overall: A great book for an art enthusiast. Also great for the coffee table or office end-table.

About the Author: (From Getty Publications)
Mark Doty's most recent book of poems is Source. In 2001 he published the book-length essay Still Life with Oysters and Lemon. A Guggenheim, Ingram-Merrill, and Whiting Fellow, he has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Martha Allrand Prize for Nonfiction. He teaches at the University of Houston, and divides his time between Houston and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Stop by these great sites to read more reviews of this book:

Bermudaonion's Weblog

Winner: The American Journey of Barack Obama

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to stop by and participate in this giveaway!

Without further ado . . . . the winner is:

Bermudaonion

I have sent you an email and left you a comment on your blog! Please make sure you send me your name and address so I can forward your information to Hachette Book Group, who will be mailing you a brand new copy of the book. If I don't hear back from Bermudaonion by next Wednesday, December 3rd, I will go to the next name via random.org.

Take care ~ Wendi

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Recommended Gifts


From the blog of My Friend Amy :

Here's today's question: As you may know, I launched a campaign to encourage people to buy books for the holidays (you can visit that site here) and there are some fantastic blogger who have really contributed a lot of great ideas into the blog. I hope you check it out.

But now it's your turn to share some ideas! What books should be others be buying for Christmas? Do you need any gift help? You can handle this topic in two ways....either make a list of recommended books to give as gifts this year OR ask a question about what book you should get someone. (for whom you have been unable to think of a book gift for).

Keep it about books!

My Answer: I am going to keep my post focused on some great Christian Holiday books that I've recently read!



1. The Christmas Edition by Robin Shope: This is a wonderful Christian romance set during the holidays. It is a wonderful example of finding faith and helping friends in need. This would be best for older teens and adults.

2. Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn: A young woman travels to England to try to locate the only family she may have left. With only a few clues to her father's identity, her faith will be challenged during her quest to find family. Once she finds the family she has been looking for, she must make the decision to tell them her real identity and change their family forever, or return home, keeping her secret. Along the way, while finding her family, she also finds her faith. This book is appropriate as a gift book, and would be great for older teens and adults. It is a beautiful hardback edition and has a sequel.

3. Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn: The sequel to Finding Father Christmas, this wonderful book explores a young woman's relationship with her new family and her boyfriend, as well as her deepening faith. Another beautiful hardback edition that would be a great gift.

4. White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter: A holiday book set in Amish country. A young man struggles with feelings of abandonment shortly before he is to be married. He was left with an Amish family when he was six, and now that his father is looking for him, he doesn't want to see him. Will a carriage accident bring him closer to his family or tear the family apart? This wonderful holiday story includes a recipe for White Christmas Pie! Great Christian romance that gives readers a glimpse of Amish life.

Care to answer the question yourself? I welcome you to post your thoughts here, add them to your own blog and head back to Amy's post and add a comment with a link to yours. :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Review: In The Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett (WildCard Tours)

Title: In the Shadow of Lions (Chronicles of the Scribe #1)
Author: Ginger Garrett
Pages: 311
Publisher: David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)
Genre: Christian Fiction / Historical Fiction
Edition: Standard - Many thanks to the publisher for sending me this book as part of the FIRST WildCard Tours!!




Perfect for : Personal reading, Book Club reading (Includes Discussion Questions)

In a nutshell: I have really enjoyed reading this book. The style is different than I expected. A bitter woman dying of cancer (a professional editor) is visited by an angel, who wants her to write a chronicle of the story of Anne Boleyn and her relationship with King Henry VIII, and to chronicle the story of Rose, a peasant girl. Both women are severely impacted by the church and their faith. This book will challenge you to see that Anne Boleyn may have been a different woman than historians portrayed her.

At the end of the book, the author has included notes on the story, a note to readers, general notes, a bibliography and discussion questions.

From Amazon:
"I am the first writer, The Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne, and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world."

So begins the narration of one such angel in this sweeping historical tale set during the reign of England's Henry VIII. It is the story of two women, their guardian angels, and a mysterious, subversive book ... a book that outrages some, inspires others, and launches the Protestant Reformation.
The devout Anne Boleyn catches the eye of a powerful king and uses her influence to champion an English translation of the Bible. Meanwhile, Rose, a broken, suicidal woman of the streets, is moved to seek God when she witnesses Thomas More's public displays of Christian charity, ignorant of his secret life spent eradicating the Bible, persecuting anyone who dares read it.


Historic figures come alive in this thrilling story of heroes and villains, saints and sinners, angels and mortals ... and the sacred book that will inspire you anew. Fans of Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury will love Ginger's intriguing combination of rich character development, artful settings, and inspiring historical insights.


It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


Ginger Garrett



and the book:




David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ginger Garrett is the critically acclaimed author of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, which was recognized as one of the top five novels of 2006 by the ECPA, and Dark Hour. An expert in ancient women's history, Ginger creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women.

On September 11, Ginger's non-fiction book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible, based on the historical research that began in her work on Chosen was released. The book explores the connections between beauty and spirituality, offering women both historical insights and scientific proofs that reveal powerful, natural beauty secrets.

A frequent radio guest on stations across the country, including NPR and Billy Graham's The Hour of Decision, Ginger is also a popular television guest. Her appearances include Harvest Television, Friends & Neighbors, and Babbie's House. Ginger frequently serves as a co-host on the inspirational cable program Deeper Living.

In 2007, Ginger was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award for her novel Dark Hour. When she's not writing, you may spy Ginger hunting for vintage jewelry at thrift stores, running (slowly) in 5k and 10k races, or just trying to chase down one of her errant sheepdogs. A native Texan, she now resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Paperback: 311 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448875
ISBN-13: 978-0781448871

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:







And Job said unto God:

I admit I once lived by rumors of you;

now I have it all firsthand…

I’ll never again live

on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.

Job 42, The Message




CHAPTER ONE


Tomorrow, someone else will die in my bed.

Someone died in it last month, which is how it came to be called mine.

The infernal clock moved confidently towards 1 a.m., and I turned my head to look at the window. The window of this room is a miserly gesture from the contractors, producing more fog than visage. I watched the gold orbs—the lamps on the lawn of the hospice sputtering off and on in the darkness—that dotted the fogged glass.

That was the last moment I lived as an iver, one whose eyes are veiled.

One orb did not sputter but moved, gliding between the others, moving closer to the window, growing larger and brighter until the light consumed the entire view. I winced from the searing glare and tried to shield my eyes, but the IV line pulled taut. Wrestling with the line to get some slack, I saw the next movement out of the corner of my eye. I bit down hard on my tongue, my body jerking in reflex, and felt the warm blood run back to my throat.

Outside, a hand wiped the fog away from the glass, and I watched the water beads running down the inside of my window. There was no searing light, only this mammoth hand with deep creases in the palms wiping down the window until we both could see each other. A man’s face was against the glass, but no breath fogged his vision. He was a giant, grim man, with an earring in one ear and dark glasses, and he was staring in at me. Even through the morphine, fear snaked along my arms, biting into my stomach, constricting around my throat. I tried to scream, but I could only gulp air and heave little gasps. His expression did not change as he lifted his hands, curling them into fists. I flinched at the last moment, thinking him to be Death, expecting to receive the blow and die.

Then I grew suddenly warm, like the feeling you get stepping out from an old, dark city library into the busy street and a warm spring sun.

Death didn’t even hurt, I rejoiced. I could slip into it like I slipped onto that street, eyes down, my thoughts my own, and simply turn a corner and be gone. I lifted my fingers to beckon him. Yes, I thought. I saw the beautiful Rolex on my birdlike wrist, and saw that it had stopped. It is time.

When I looked back up, he was beside me, staring down, not speaking. I wasn’t dead. His frame was monstrously large, hitting what must be seven feet tall, with a width of muscle strapped across it that was inhuman. As he watched me, his chest didn’t move, and his nostrils didn’t flare, but heat and warm breath radiated from him. When he laid his hands across my eyes, I was too scared to move my head away. His palms covered most of my face, and a sharp buzzing drilled into every pore. He began to move his hands elsewhere, touching and bringing to life every splintered inch of my body. When he got to the cancer, with one swollen lymph node visible even through my stained blue gown, he rested his hands there until the swelling sighed and he swept it away with his hand.

“Wait!” I screamed.

I didn’t want to live. I hadn’t known that was going to be an option. I deserved to be damned. To return to my life was too much to ask of me. I was finished.

“You’ll still be dead by morning,” he reassured me. His voice was deep and clean, no tell-tale dialect or inflection. Taking off his glasses, I saw he had enormous gold eyes, with a black pinhole in the center that stayed round and cold. There was no white in them at all, and they were rimmed all the way around the outside with black. I stared at them, trying to remember where I had seen eyes like this. It was years ago, this much I remembered.

I had to shake myself back to the moment. Clearly, morphine was not setting well with me tonight. I wanted to die in peace. That’s what I paid these extravagant sums for. My hand moved to the nurses’ call button. Mariskka was just down the hall, waiting for her moment to steal my watch. I knew she’d come running.

He grabbed my hand and the shock seared like a hot iron. Crying out, I shook him off and clutched my hand between my breasts, doing my best to sit up with my atrophied stomach muscles and tangled IV.

He leaned in. “I have something for you.”

“What?”

He leaned in closer. “A second chance.”

Second chances were not my forte. As the most celebrated editor in New York City, I had made a killing. I loved the words that trembling writers slid across my desk, those little black flecks that could destroy their life’s dream or launch a career. I bled red ink over every page, slashing words, cutting lines. No one understood how beautiful they were to me, why I tormented the best writers, always pushing them to bring me more. The crueler I was to the best of them, the more they loved me, like flagellants worshipping me as the master of their order. Only at the end, lying here facing my own death, did I understand why. They embraced the pain, thinking it birthed something greater than themselves. I saw how pitifully wrong they were. There was only pain. This is why I was ready to die. When you finish the last chapter and close the book, there is nothing but pain. It would have been better never to have written. Words betrayed me. And for that, I betrayed the best writer of them all.

“Burn any manuscripts that arrive for me,” I had ordered my nurse, Marisska. “Tell them I’m already dead. Tell them anything.”

“I’ll let you write the truth,” the man whispered.

“I’m not a writer,” I replied. My fear tumbled down into the dark place of my secrets.

“No, you’re not,” he answered. “But you’ve coveted those bestsellers, didn’t you? You knew you could do better. This is your second chance.”

It caught my attention. “How?”

“I will dictate my story to you,” he said. “Then you’ll die.”

Taking dictation? My mouth fell open. “I’m in hell, aren’t I?”

He tilted his head. “Not yet.”

I pushed away from the pillows and grabbed him. Blisters sprang up on my palms and in between my fingers, but I gritted my teeth and spat out my words. “Who are you?”

“The first writer, the Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world. The stories are forgotten here and the Day draws close. I will tell you one of my stories. You will record it.”

“Why me?”

“I like your work.”

I started laughing, the first time I had laughed since I had been brought to this wing of the hospice, where the dying are readied for death, their papers ordered, and discreet pamphlets on “end of life options” left by quiet-soled salesmen. I laughed until I was winded. He rested his hand on my chest, and I caught my breath as he spoke.

“Let’s go find Marisska.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Product Review: Avon Liiv Botanicals


I was lucky to have been chosen to participate in the Avon Holiday Blogger Campaign with MomSelect. Avon was nice enough to send me five different products from their Liiv Botanicals line of natural skin care.

Here are the products I received (there are many more items in the line, including both bath & body items and apparel & accessories):








Descriptions (Taken from the Avon site):
liiv botanicals Vital Body Moisturizer ($9.50/Sale $3.99): With Active Plant Essence Technology, rich formula helps lock in skin's natural moisture. 6.7 fl. oz.

liiv botanicals Vitalizing Eye Cream with SPF 15 ($12.00/Sale $9.99): In just 2 weeks, see the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles diminish. With active plant botanicals, our rich formula absorbs quickly, helping to retexturize the delicate under-eye area. .5 fl. oz.

Discover nature's secret to revitalized eyes. Discover the beauty of botanicals. Our exclusive Plant Essence Technology™ captures the antural goodness of botanicals to deliver the richest infusions of plant nutrients directly to your skin.

liiv botanicals Rejuvenating Facial Cleanser ($7.50/Sale $3.99): With super-oxygenated water and powerful botanicals, this cleanser invigorates skin. After one use, skin is detoxified of impurities and makeup. With continued use, pores appear tighter and skin feels ultrasmooth.

Preservative-free, dye-free and suitable for sensitive skin. Fragrance-free. 2.5 fl. oz.

liiv botanicals Vital Day Cream with SPF 20 ($15.00): WHAT’S OUR SECRET? Potent formulas enriched with powerful botanicals...dye-free and preservative-free to breathe new life into your skin.

Nourishing formula with natural plant extracts protects skin from harmful UV rays, stress and the environment. After 1 day of use, skin is noticeably fresher and smoother. In just 3 days, skin reveals a healthier clarity and improved texture and tone. Fragrance-free. 1.7 fl. oz.

liiv botanicals Vital Night Moisturizer ($15.00): What's our secret? Potent formulas enriched with powerful botanicals...dye-free and preservative-free to breathe new life into your skin.

Recharge skin at night with rich botanicals and rejuvenate skin’s texture and tone. In just 3 days, fine lines and wrinkles appear diminished, and a more youthful look restored. In just one week, skin looks virtually flawless. Awaken to beautifully rejuvenated texture and tone. Fragrance-free. 1.7 fl. oz.

My Review:

With light botanical scents, these great items are refreshing, and leave behind soft skin that feels really clean!

Now for a bit on each item:

Facial Cleanser: The serum is light and runny - be careful when opening as you can get more out than you want. I learned to put a dab on my fingers, then close the tube prior to putting it down because I laid it on its side and it started leaking out. The huge plus to this one is that is has a very pleasant scent (light and green smelling, not a floral scent, but not earthy - I don't know how else to describe it but it really is pleasant!), and it completely removed my eye makeup! It also left my skin feeling clean without drying it out.

Day Cream with SPF: I love this cream! It is so light and doesn't leave my skin feeling oily, it actually seems funny to call it a cream, but it is a cream. It has a slightly sweeter scent than the cleanser, but it is very light. I can tell a HUGE difference if I forget to put the day cream on - my skin is SO soft after using it only a few times!

Night Moisturizer: The night moisturizer has more of a green scent (similar to the cleanser) rather than a sweet scent. It reminds me a little of a gel, and has a slightly pinkish-pearl look to it. It is also a light product that leaves my skin feeling soft and clean, with no oily feeling at all.

Vitializing Eye Cream w/ SPF: It comes in an applicator, similar to an angled lip gloss. This makes it really easy to apply just a dab under each eye. With almost no scent (I didn't notice any at all), I did not notice any eye irritation. I did notice that the skin around my eyes appeared more hydrated, and I noticed fewer fine lines after a few days. To me, this was the most cream-like product, but that is probably what made it more effective for the eye area!

Body Moisturizer: I think this item had the most floral scent of the bunch, but it was still light and pleasant. The tube is easy to open and apply. The lotion was quickly absorbed into my skin, leaving it soft and fresh feeling.

A note about each item - a little goes a long way. Each item has a really nice light scent, and when used together, I felt really refreshed!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Teaser Tuesday: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
3. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. 4. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
5. Please avoid spoilers!

My 2 “Teaser” Sentences for today:

She waited until after Valentine's Day before she paid her first visit to the farm, sparing me the usual flurry of construction paper hearts passing in and out of everyone's hands but mine. Through the grime of a frosted upstairs window, Amelia and I watched her mince her way from her car toward the rickety front door, her rabbit-skin boots leaving a refined calligraphy in the snow.

~ p.81, “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker





From the Publisher:
When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how record-breakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.

~ Wendi

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Blog Widgets

Today's question: Blog Widgets. Do you use them? Do you have them on your blog? Do you know what I'm talking about? :-) A blog widget is that list of books "From my LibraryThing" and such, that you'll sometimes see on someone's sidebar. If you use it, do all of your books show up or do you have it set to only show certain books? Do you have a search widget, which would allow your blog readers to search your library? Have you ever made a photomosaic of your book covers? You can find widgets and photomosaic information on the "Tools" tab in LibraryThing.

My Answer: I've got a widget that lists random books from my Library Thing bookshelf - it currently shows all my books as I'm adding to my library as I review them rather than adding all my books!

I've only been blogging for a little over three months, so I'm still learning about widgets and other neat things - so that is really the only one I have other than what Blogger has provided for me (archive, about me, links to other blogs, etc). Oh!! I did somehow add a page visit counter!! Yeah!!

I don't have a search widget - didn't know about it until today. I also haven't seen the photomosaic until today!! What a neat thing to do - I'm going to have to figure out how to make one. :)

~ Wendi

Review: For the Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone

Title: For the Love of St. Nick
Author: Garasamo Maccagnone
Pages: 46
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (October 7, 2008)
Genre: Christian fiction / Holiday
Edition: Standard ~ Signed by the author ~ thanks Garasamo!!





Perfect for : Personal reading

In a nutshell: A very short, very touching story about a family who has faced many challenges in a few short years, loss, illness, relocation to a new state, and a Navy father who must occasionally leave his family to complete risky missions with his team. Instead of destroying faith, these challenges serve as a quiet source that affirms faith and strengthens the family. The events on page 41 brought tears to my eyes and made my heart soar! This is a great (and short) holiday read with a touch of Catholic influence and a whole lot of faith!

From Amazon:
Two boys who have lost their mother tragically, worry they'll never see their father,a Naval Commander, after he embarks on a secret mission with the United States military. After the boys are advised by their nanny to seek the help of St. Nick, the boys are shocked by an early Christmas visit.


First Paragraph:
Mother died during the birth of my little brother Johnny. I was three years old at the time and don't remember much except that my grandmother, Nana Beth, who was babysitting me at the time, dropped the phone and her head when my father called from the hospital and broke the news. When Nana sunk to her knees and started crying hysterically. I was so scared; I ran and hid inside my parent's closet, clinging in the darkness to my mother's favorite dress, rubbing my cheek over and over against the soft fabric until Nana Beth was able to find me.

My Review:
This holiday story is narrated by Tiger, Johnny's older brother by three years. Tiger and his father, known as "The Commander" to most, lose their mother/wife at the same time that they gain their brother/son Johnny due to complications during Johnny's birth. These same complications cause Johnny to fight illness throughout his life.


The family is relocated because of the Commander's job in the Navy, and he hires a nanny to help with the boys. During a secret mission for his country, Johnny becomes terribly ill and Tiger is the only person on hand to tend to him. Just when it seems there is no hope, a miracle happens!

Characters: Although we never meet "Mom", Tiger and Johnny are both boys growing up under the guidance of their father and nanny, Mrs. Pennington. Even though the story is short, it is easy to quickly become attached to the characters, and to experience the wonder they feel during the holiday season.

Story-Line: A gentle story filled with family and faith. The book gives the reader the ability to glimpse the joys of childhood, along with its challenges.

Readability: I found the book easy to read and enjoyable, with touches every reader can enjoy and appreciate.


Overall: This is a nice holiday story with a truly touching ending.

About the Author: (from Amazon)
Garasamo Maccagnone is the author of the novel, "St. John of the Midfield, as well as the childrens book, "The Suburban Dragon,"and a collection of short stories entitled, "The Affliciton of Dreams." Born in the wake of the Korean War, Maccagnone's stories derive from his life and his experiences from the last half of the 20th century. Today Maccagnone lives in Shelby Township with his wife and three children.


If you would like to visit his website, click here.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to add a link to your review, please leave me a comment!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mailbox Monday

I love participating in Mailbox Monday - it is so much fun to see what everyone is getting in the mail. A special thank you to everyone who stops by my mailbox and visits and/or leaves a comment - I LOVE hearing from people, and would love it if you left comments with links to your reviews of these books!

Thanks for taking the time to visit!

Here are the books that came into my house last week:

The Adventures of Songha by Linda R. Caterine - Children's Book

Hannah Grace ARC by Sharlene MacLaren - Christian Fiction (WildCard Tour)

Hitler and Mars Bars by Dianne Ascroft - Historical Fiction

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins - Romance

The Lost City of Z ARC by David Grann - Mystery / Adventure

Marketplace Memos by David Shibley and Jonathan Shibley - Non-Fiction / Christian Living / Professional Growth (WildCard Tour)

The Mighty Queens of Freeville ARC by Amy Dickinson - Memoir

Mom's Needs Dad's Needs by Willard F. Harley Jr. - Non-Fiction / Love and Marriage - I won this from Ashley over at Putting God First Place - Thanks Ashley!!

The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian - Non-Fiction / Christian Living / Prayer - I won this book from Nise over at Thus Far The Lord Has Helped Me! Thank you Nise!!

Pray Big for Your Marriage by Will Davis Jr. - Non-Fiction / Christian Living / Prayer

Safe in the Shepherd's Arms by Max Lucado - Non-Fiction / Christian Living / Inspiration - I won this book from Nise over at Thus Far The Lord Has Helped Me! Thank you Nise!!

Santa Responds by Santa Claus (YES - I even checked Amazon and B&N - the author IS listed as Santa Claus!!) - Comedy / Parody

What Does God Want Me to Do? by Clem Boyd - Non-Fiction / Christian Living



What was in your mailbox last week??

If you would like to participate in Mailbox Monday, head over to The Printed Page and grab the logo. Make sure to visit other blogs hosting Mailbox Monday and comment/leave your link!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Dream Movie

From the blog of My Friend Amy :

Here's today's question: We've been blessed to finally start seeing some of our favorite Christian books come to life on film. So far, these have been largely low budget films, but they generally get the heart of the books across. But my question for you is...if you had an unlimited budget, what Christian fiction book would you like to see made into a film? Who would you cast in the main roles? Would you have a preference on director? Any songs you'd like to see on the soundtrack?

My Answer: On a previous Faith 'n Fiction Saturday post, I talked about one of my all-time favorite books being Ruth: A Love Story by Ellen Gunderson Traylor. This book has actually been made into a movie called The Story of Ruth. I'm not sure the movie was filmed because of the book, or because of the actual bible story, but it is a very good representation of what Ms. Traylor wrote in her book! I don't think I would change anything about the movie. The actors were great and the movie itself was beautiful.



I've read some pretty great Christian fiction books lately, among them The Christmas Edition by Robin Shope, Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn, and Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman. Each of these books now has a place of honor on my permanent "favorites" bookshelf.



Any of these books would make great movies! As I'm sitting here thinking, I'm struggling to pick just one that I would like to see made into a movie, especially as another favorite series of mine is the Canadian West Series by Janette Oke!

Ok- for my answer I would pick Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman. It is the story of a young woman who is not happy with what her life has become and she is looking for a new start to life. She contacts her grandparents who are Amish and goes to visit them for a while. While there, she learns about how they live and why they chose the Amish lifestyle/beliefs. She ultimately makes some life-changing decisions and becomes closer to her grandparents, her mother, and new friends. I don't really have any preferences as to actors, actresses or directors, but would like the movie to remain as close to the book as possible.

Upon further thought, I'd love to see Michael Weatherly as Samuel, Sasha Alexander as Lilly, and Goldie Hawn as Lilly's mother.

As for the other characters and the music, I would need to do some research to see who would really make those characters shine, and I'd want appropriate music.

Great question Amy - I'll be thinking about this all day!!

Care to answer the question yourself? I welcome you to post your thoughts here, add them to your own blog and head back to Amy's post and add a comment with a link to yours. :)
Ruth by

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review: Crafting Jewish by Rivky Koenig

Title: Crafting Jewish: Fun Holiday Crafts and Party Ideas for the Whole Family
Author: Rivky Koenig
Photography: Jennifer Levy
Pages: 272
Publisher: Mesorah Publications Ltd. (November 12, 2008)
Genre: Non-Fiction / Crafts / Religious
Edition: Hardback - many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy to review! Thanks Mark!!



Perfect for : Personal Use, Kids Crafts, Kosher Kitchens, Hostess Gift

In a nutshell: This is an absolutely beautiful book from cover to cover, the recipes, crafts and pictures are stunning! While all the items within the book are geared toward a Kosher kitchen and Jewish holidays, most of the craft projects can be changed a little (if needed) to fit into any theme or holiday! This wonderful book has some scrumptious recipes, kids crafts and elegant crafts for adults within each holiday section. With easy-to-follow instructions and beautiful full-color pictures, this book would be a great addition to your bookshelf, or would make a great hostess gift!

From the Publisher's Press Release:
Crafting Jewish follows the Jewish calendar year, beginning with projects for Rosh Hashanah and concluding with crafts for the Sabbath and everyday fun. Among them are: a painted honey dish, sweet-scented sachets, a “stained-glass” flag, a mini-succah centerpiece, a wooden-block menorah, Purim puppets, a seder plate, a mezuzah, and Sabbath candlesticks. The book also suggests party ideas and quick menus for each holiday, such as: Round Raisin Challah, Breakthe- Fast Muffins, Butternut Squash Kugel, Potato Latkes with Applesauce, Falafel & Fruit Buffet, Purim Pops, a Passover Week Picnic, Frozen Cheesecake, and Koenig’s Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies. Woman’s Day magazine plans to feature Koenig’s Glowing Glass Menorah as part of a Chanukah spread.

Each project in Crafting Jewish features very clear and easy-to-follow instructions, along with a full-color picture of the completed item. Koenig provides a detailed tool and ingredient list, as well as a description of all tools and decorative materials needed to recreate her ideas. The illustrations, shot by food photographer Jennifer Levy, are aesthetically rich and inspiring. Koenig notes that many of the crafts are easily adaptable to multiple holidays or everyday fun and will appeal to adults and children alike.

Excerpt:
Instead of my normal 1st paragraph, I'm going to show you a few of the project photographs that the publisher provided: Chanukah Tray, Beaded Napkin Rings, Decoupage Fruit Tray, Candy Pillows, New Sew Pillow and Large Hamentasch.







My Review:
The pictures above are very pretty, and represent some very nice projects from the book, but they are not my favorites! Some of my favorites are the Decoupaged Apple Dish, children's costume accessories, Embellished Picture Frame and the Decorated Mirror. The pictures don't even include any of the recipes such as: Apple-Pear Gallete, One-Bowl Carrot Cake, Chicken Kabobs and Pomegranate Punch.

Content: There are over 120 colorful projects inside this book, with lots of ideas for get-togethers, including lots of recipes! The book includes things for the following Jewish holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot, Chanakah, Tu B'Shevat, Purim, Pesach, Shavout, Shabbat. It also includes a chapter for every-day use. The content is suitable for all ages, although kids should be supervised by an adult.

Format: The book starts with a note to parents, then a note to kids. The author then talks about kosher kitchens, followed by a product and tool guide and then a section for each major Jewish holiday. For each holiday there are plenty of craft projects and recipes.

Readability: Very easy to read, with clear pictures and easily understood instructions. There is even a section for templates! It can't get any easier unless someone else comes and does the work for you. :)

Overall: A wonderful book for adults and children full of Jewish recipes and craft ideas. You don't need to be Jewish to appreciate or use this book - anyone can enjoy this book and make any of the items it contains. I encourage you to pick up a copy and try some great new recipes and crafts for the holidays!

About the Author: (From the publisher's press release)
Rivky Koenig is passionate about three things: family life, crafting, and preserving Jewish traditions. Not surprisingly, the upstate New York teacher, wife, and mother of five found a creative way to weave her enthusiasm into a single focus — Crafting Jewish: Fun holiday crafts
and party ideas for the whole family (ISBN-13: 9781422608173, ArtScroll/Shaar Press). A delightful and visually appealing volume, Koenig’s book appeals to novice and experienced crafters alike, offering more than 130 projects themed around Jewish holidays.

A teacher of Literature, Language–Arts, and Social Studies, Koenig gained recognition for her tactile, hands-on approach to pedagogy, reinforcing subject matter through artistic and creative tasks. “It’s well known that people learn more by doing than by hearing,” she reflects.

Her foray into Jewish crafting began with a stint as director of a series of crafting workshops for a popular teens’ summer camp in the Catskill Mountains. “I saw kids get turned on by the idea of handmade traditional crafts they could make at home with family and friends. As we created, we’d discuss the significance of the project to Jewish values and practices. These lessons stay with them for life.”

Rivky Koenig’s talents are captured in full display in Crafting Jewish, a concept that caught the attention of ArtScroll Mesorah Publications in Brooklyn NY, a major publisher of Jewish books for more than three decades. “Crafting Jewish is a brilliant way for families to share significant
and quality time together,” enthused Gedaliah Zlotowitz, Executive Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at ArtScroll Mesorah Publications. “In today’s economy, everyone’s looking for less expensive activities. Here’s a resource that saves money and time while enriching everyone’s knowledge of Jewish traditions.”

Review: Pure Gold by Pam Davis (FIRST WildCard Tour)

Title: Pure Gold
Author: Pam Davis
Pages: 192
Publisher: Authentic (September 15, 2008)
Genre: Non-Fiction / Christian Life/ Spiritual Growth
Edition: Standard - Many thanks to the publisher for sending me this book as part of the FIRST WildCard Tours!!



Perfect for : Personal reading, Bible Study Group

In a nutshell: This is a nicely thought-provoking book - at least it was for me. I've spent much of today thinking about how I feel God's grace has touched my life, and how I can foster more grace in my life. Pam has done a wonderful job within this book of explaining what God's grace is and why it is important, even going so far as to equate it to the importance of real gold in the marketplace, which ends up being a very good example, something that most people should be able to relate to in some way. She explains that it takes time and effort to pan for God's "gold" or grace. She has done a wonderful job of supporting her points with scripture from the Bible. She has also included some powerful stories to help illustrate the points she is trying to make. This book is a good tool for an individual as well as a bible study group or Christian studies class.

From Amazon:
Buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich. Revelation 318 NIV Prospectors throughout the ages have sacrificed everything to search for the gold that would make them rich. For many, this was a fruitless journey. As Christians, we, too, are searching for gold, Gods priceless gift of grace. Learning to accept Gods grace is the most important thing you can do to become, grow, and mature as a Christian. But first, you must understand every facet of grace. Davis has done a marvelous job of correlating intangible grace with tangible gold, the greatest historical and universally valued commodity. Christians can now grasp the biblical concept of grace in a practical, real, and meaningful way. Pure Gold picks and shovels through the mountain of Scripture, leading the seeking Christian, a spiritual prospector, to sift the soil of their soul and discover within the brilliant Rock, Gods pure gold, grace in Christ Jesus. Possessing the treasure of Gods grace enables us to live rich lives that give us joy, peace, energy, passion, and the ability to rise above our daily burdens.

Excerpt: (See below to read the first chapter, which was provided as part of the FIRST WildCard Tour earlier this month)

My Review:
This is a good, thought-provoking book designed to encourage readers to become more influenced by God's grace in their lives.

Content: There is a lot of information in this book. Pam has included plenty of real-life examples and backed up each point with scriptures from the bible.

Format: The chapters were nicely organized, and each had a "Nugget" of information, a prayer of grace and questions for reflection.

Readability: There is a lot of good information within the book. I found some of it easier to understand than others, and found that I sometimes needed to put the book down in order to think about what I had read.

Overall: This is a good book for people in all stages of their faith. I believe that different people will receive different benefits from reading this book, and that they can later re-read the book and glean additional information from it.

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



Pure Gold



Authentic (September 15, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


PAM DAVIS is an author and motivational speaker who views her charge as bringing the timeworn truths of Scripture to life. Pams candid teaching style not only enlightens but also entertains, leaving her audiences with a refreshed desire for the living Word of God. She lives with her husband, Steven, and three children in Fort Worth, Texas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Authentic (September 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068640
ISBN-13: 978-1934068649

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Gold and Grace

I remember a time in college when I headed to the beaches in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for spring break. No, I wasn’t there for something honorable, such as being part of a missionary team doing beach evangelism. In fact, I was more like the prodigal son in the company of swine about to come to my senses.

I sat in my car, thinking, I can’t find you, God. I’ve tried everywhere, good places and bad, but I can’t find you. I’ve tried church, seminars, books, even Bible college.

Then I said out loud, “Running in circles, where to start?” And in my heart, an answer followed: “The answer lies within your heart.”

Hmmm. So I put my hands on the steering wheel and continued out loud, “Running in circles, where to begin?” And again in my heart I heard, “Quit seeking outside and seek within.”

This was such a novel thought. As a child, I had asked Jesus into my heart to save my sinful soul. So where did I expect to find him, except in my heart? As a confused college student, I suddenly realized the extent of my disorientation. Looking for God and his grace out there was like driving the wrong way on a highway. I’m doing everything right—foot on the gas, hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. And yet something’s terribly wrong—I’m causing one crash after another, and I have the dings and dents to show for it. Not to mention the fact that my anxiety is off the charts.

This reminds me of the story of a woman driving down the highway when her cell phone rings. It’s her husband, and frantically he shouts, “I just heard on the radio that a car is driving the wrong way on the highway you’re on. Please be careful!”

“Dear, it’s not one car,” the woman responds. “It’s hundreds of cars!”

We can easily be like that—disoriented. We can easily be disoriented from the truth that if we’re saved by God’s grace—through Christ Jesus—then he’s not merely out there as a transcendent reality. But he also lives immanently, within our spiritual hearts, guiding and equipping us from within. Maybe we become disoriented so easily because we live in a culture so foreign to this biblical truth of a God-within reality. So that there is no confusion as to the term God-within reality, let me quote the words of Bible teacher Arthur W. Pink: “The great mistake made by most of the Lord’s people is in the hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone.”1 If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, then indeed within you is Christ’s nature, and within him is the God-within reality.

Whether you’re driving on a highway or trying to find God, disorientation can be deadly. Jesus knew this. He sent a messenger to a group of Christians to point out their disorientation and to reorient them. No wonder these believers were disoriented. Look at the foreign environment where they lived. Their society focused on freedom so much that they named their city “Rights of the People.” They built their city in honor of a woman; so if a statue stood at the edge of town, it would have been a woman. These people, richest among their neighbors, established an elaborate banking system. Their textile industry made their citizens among the most finely dressed of their era. Their sophisticated medical school boasted advanced treatments.

No, this isn’t a city in your country! It was Laodicea, the home of a church Jesus sent a messenger to. Listen to his words: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich” (Revelation 3:17–18).

Could Jesus be talking to us? Could our environment be so similar to that of the Laodicean Christians that we’ve also become disoriented, claiming we do not need a thing? His words are addressed to the “church.” Could we—the church—be in a state of spiritual bankruptcy even though we’re saved? If so, what did Jesus mean that we can buy gold from him and become rich?

Let’s find out together—just in case we’re the ones driving the wrong way.


The Commodity: Grace That Yields Life

My friend Laura2 was a worker ant, or so it seemed. When she got up each morning, she organized her day, her husband’s day, and their four children’s day. Efficient, organized, and with a mind that worked at lightning speed, she was a vital member of her church, Parent-Teacher Association, and her husband’s business. I felt tired just listening to her schedule, and I often sighed in amazement at all she seemed to accomplish every twenty-four hours.

Yet this worker ant, who was part of God’s kingdom, grew unresponsive spiritually. Instead of the once-glowing and enthusiastic woman I loved to laugh with, my friend grew uniform and almost militant in her pursuit of productivity. Her spiritual life seemed to exist in a hole that she dug deeper and deeper away from the light. I remember praying, “God, she doesn’t have to be a worker ant. You recreated her to be a queen—one who has wings and can leave the hole she’s digging herself into to visit the heavens. You’ve transformed her and made her capable of breeding spiritual life.”

An opportunity arose in God’s divine timing. One day Laura came over for coffee and noticed a sticky note on my refrigerator that reads, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” As she read it, she became deeply irritated and cried out, “If I don’t plan things, they won’t happen!” I countered, “Then what? You fail?”

After a moment, tears spilled from the corners of her eyes. Happiness, satisfaction, and joy had subtly been linked to productivity instead of to a relationship with Christ. That was okay for a worker ant. But not for a queen.

As we worked our way through a box of tissues together, we talked about the “have to’s” of life: have to take care of her family, have to fulfill what she felt God wanted to do through her in her church, have to be a helpmate in her husband’s business. Then the challenge surfaced: If she didn’t plan, how would she accomplish all the have to’s? What resource could she draw on?

I told Laura that God had been teaching me how his grace is a resource that yields life. We can accomplish our activities as a manifestation of that life. Each day we can experience joy instead of the slow death of a numbing routine. I knew because I had experienced it both ways. Like Laura, in my attempt to be an obedient Christian, I had somehow missed the message that we not only begin our salvation by grace but also live it out by grace. In fact, I had found a verse that said this perfectly: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3).

It took some time, but Laura began to yield to God. As she saw him working within her each day, his grace brought excitement and childlike anticipation to her life. Somehow, she still accomplished all the necessary tasks—not always in the order or the ways she anticipated—but they got done. This new way of living surfaced another, more powerful, force behind Laura’s need for productivity: her desire to be in control. Slowly and intentionally she discovered that when she yielded her control to Christ, she experienced his divine grace—the spiritual sweat of God’s diligent work in and through us.

In addition, like a queen ant, she hatched “eggs”—eggs of life. Because Laura possessed grace, other people she came into contact with were dusted effortlessly with life. The worker received grace by faith to be a queen.


Disgustingly Lukewarm Believers

Each of us must receive from the Holy Spirit the very real spiritual commodity of grace to live Christ’s life deposited within us. Receiving this grace comes through faith—faith in God instead of faith in self. Jesus desires that we possess all his riches: “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:15).

However, most of us are like Laura used to be. We get so wrapped up in getting through each day in an orderly fashion that we forget to put our faith in God. As we gradually transfer faith in him to faith in ourselves, we become lukewarm.

Jesus addressed this phenomenon in his message to the Laodicean Christians: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:14–16).

Jesus used strong language with these followers. He said, “I am about to spit you out.” Actually, that’s a nice way of saying, “I want to vomit you out”! Why did these Christians sicken Jesus so much?

In the ancient world, the master of the feast served cold beverages to refresh and revive or hot beverages to soothe and comfort. However, a lukewarm beverage—like drinking warm salt water—can make you sick. The Laodicean Christians knew this well, because they piped their drinking water from a city a few miles to the north. So by the time it reached their city, it was often lukewarm and even sickening to drink.

Yet instead of vomiting out these apathetic believers, Jesus offered them gold! This isn’t gold as we usually think of it. It wasn’t a tangible treasure. In fact, the Laodicean Christians had that. They paid more than twenty pounds in gold to Rome for taxes each year, yet Jesus called them “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Instead, Jesus offered gold that the Old Testament prophet Malachi described this way: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3).

God’s pure gold is his grace. Only this kind of gold can make us truly rich. Instead of us being wretched and afflicted, his grace enables us to endure troubles. Instead of us being pitiful, God’s grace supplies us with the power to perform. Instead of us being poor and empty in satisfaction, his grace gives us wealth of significance. Instead of us being blind, the Lord’s grace enables us to perceive eternal reality. And instead of us being naked, impoverished morally, and dishonoring of our purpose for existence, God’s grace allows us to be clothed in right standing with him and able to offer righteous acts that will revive and comfort our disoriented world. All this will happen as we buy gold from Jesus.

The word buy is interesting (Rev. 3:17–18). Isn’t God’s grace free? Should Jesus have said, “receive” instead of “buy”?

Jesus is specific and intentional, and he indeed does say, “Buy.” Why? Because when you buy instead of receive, your heart moves toward what you desire at a cost. In essence, Jesus was saying to these Christians who lived in a materially abundant society, “Don’t just desire to be rich in God’s grace; take action at a cost to yourself to receive grace.” Let’s examine what that looks like.


Physical and Spiritual Gold

Even though God’s grace is spiritual gold, we can understand it better by comparing it to physical gold. For example, we know from artifacts of ancient civilizations that physical gold has been treasured since the beginning of history.3

Grace—spiritual gold—has also been treasured since the beginning of history. Philo, a first-century Jewish philosopher asserted,

The just man seeking to understand the nature of

all existing things, makes this one most excellent

discovery, that everything which exists, does so

according to the grace of God, and that there is

nothing ever given by, just as there is nothing

possessed by, the things of creation. On which

account also it is proper to acknowledge gratitude

to the Creator alone. Accordingly, to those persons

who seek to investigate what is the origin of

creation, we may most correctly make answer, that

it is the goodness and the grace of God, which he

has bestowed on the human race; for all the things

which are in the world, and the world itself, are

the gift and benefaction and free grace of God.4

Physical gold is also rare and beautiful. Even primitive people greatly desired this precious metal. However, they didn’t value gold for its beauty alone. They thought gold was divine—the sweat of the gods.5 When the ancient Egyptians discovered gold nuggets in riverbeds, they concluded that the gods had been working in Egypt and that the nuggets of gold provided evidence of the gods’ sweat. They also believed that this rare commodity held magical power to cure illness and give knowledge.

Grace, spiritual gold, is certainly rare and beautiful—so rare that we can only find it in one source: Jesus Christ. Grace is also mystical, because we can’t explain how grace given by Jesus Christ can cure illness, give knowledge, and impart life. The apostle Paul expressed it this way: “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! . . . For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ”

(Romans 5:15, 17).

Further, grace is truly divine. We could say that God’s grace is the spiritual sweat of his diligent work. Jesus said, “My Father has worked [even] until now, [He has never ceased working; He is still working] and I, too, must be at [divine] work” (John 5:17 amp).

I like this summary of God’s grace: inexhaustible, unmerited benefits that give us joy, pleasure, goodwill, thanksgiving, and the essential benefit—spiritual life.


A God of Grace

Almost everyone knows the Old Testament account of Noah and the ark. But in the many retellings of these events, we often miss the point. God revealed his abiding presence, provision, and authority, showing himself to be a God of grace, to Noah and his entire family and to generations that followed.

When I think about the story of Noah, I envision it like this:

In Noah’s time, lust had replaced love. The lust

for wealth led to murder. The lust for sex led to

beastly unions. Noah tried to remind his friends

and coworkers that they were fortunate to have

life in their bodies, to have food in their bellies,

and to have children in their arms. All this

provided evidence of the goodness of their God.

But they wouldn’t listen. They didn’t care. Their

evil thoughts and actions vilely betrayed the love

of their unseen God.

Alone, with his eyes toward heaven, Noah

searched for God’s formless face. Silently, he

declared his devotion to righteousness, knowing

in the pit of his being that this pleased God. And

God responded, “Noah, I’m going to put an end

to all people, for the earth is filled with violence.

All the people of earth have corrupted their ways.

I am surely going to destroy both them and the

earth.” The words sent a shock through Noah’s

body. But before Noah could respond, God

added, “But you, Noah, have found grace in my

sight.”

Of course, the rest of Noah’s story is well

known. God instructed him to build the ark,

to gather pairs of every kind of animal, and to

prepare for the flood. Noah and his wife, and

their sons and their wives, along with the animals,

were the only survivors of the flood.

After the floodwaters subsided, Noah stood

with the grass moist beneath his feet and his

sun-kissed face toward heaven. He beamed as

tears streamed down his cheeks. Birds fluttered

overhead. The jackrabbit and kangaroo seemed

to race. Horses galloped by as bears rolled in

the grass, scratching their backs. With his hands

clasped behind his back, Noah felt a fragile hand

in his own. He turned and again was enraptured

by his own mate’s eyes. “God has made a new

home for us,” she whispered tenderly.

At that moment, voices they’d heard a

thousand times registered in their ears: “Mom!

Dad! Look!” Turning toward their children, Noah

and his wife saw the heavens as a brilliant canvas

cascading with vibrant colors. A new home, a

new land, love, harmony, blessing. Fixed on the

glorious sky, Noah declared, “This rainbow is a

sign of God’s grace toward all life on the earth.”

(author’s summary of Genesis 6:9–9:17)


Eternal Drudgery or Eternal Dynasty?

Even today God testifies that he a God of grace. Yet we often fail to stake our claim on the gift of grace in Jesus Christ. Like my friend Laura, we face a choice of what we want to participate in. We might call it eternal drudgery or eternal dynasty. So often we choose the drudge—and we end up feeling lost, hopeless, useless, numb, stale, and even obsolete.

God, however, wants us to choose the dynasty and that is why Jesus warns: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

What keeps us from making the obvious choice—the lifegiving choice of God’s grace? I believe for most of us it is a fundamental misunderstanding of grace. Jerry Bridges wrote, “I suspect most of us would say we declared permanent bankruptcy. Having trusted in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we realized we could not add any measure of good works to what He has already done. However, I think most of us, actually declared temporary bankruptcy. Having trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we have subtly and unconsciously reverted to a works relationship with God in our Christian lives. We recognize that even our best efforts cannot get us to Heaven, but we think they earn God’s blessings in our daily lives.”6

For most of us, just trudging through life day to day blinds us from seeing our need for God’s grace. Look at the following areas of life, and think about how each of these can challenge your need for God’s grace.


• Spiritual life: Do you feel barren or empty? Or do you sense that you’re growing and even reproducing life in others?

• Physical life: Do you constantly sense a decrease in force or energy? Or are you alive with energy provided by your relationship with the Holy Spirit?

• Mental life: Do you feel like you’re regressing from a state of stability—maybe feeling lost or even having perverse thoughts? Or do you feel vivid, charged, and stable, with your experiences creating pleasant and fulfilling memories?

• Emotional life: Do you go through most days feeling numb, lacking power to respond? Or do you feel passionate about your relationship with the Lord—having a relationship that you could describe as glowing or on fire?

• Appearance: When you look in the mirror, would you describe yourself as lacking radiance, cold, or even steely? Or would you say that you’re bright, glowing, and animated because of your relationship with Christ?

• Activities: As you go through each day, week, month, and year, do you see the things you need to accomplish as decreasing in quality or as too uniform and listlike in nature? Or do you find a variety in your activities that allows you to approach them with a sense of vigor and a satisfaction that you’re accomplishing tasks out of your love for God?

• Relationships: Do you find yourself easily offended or sense that your relationships with others are stale? Or would you describe your relationships as pure, vital, and functioning because of who you are in Christ?

If the first question in each of these areas describes you more often than the second, you might sum up your feelings by saying that your physical existence is more an experience of death than life.

But is that really what you want? Instead, most of us would rather answer yes to each area’s second question. Those questions describe true life when we embrace God’s precious treasure of grace.

How conscious are you of God’s desire to extend his grace to you each day? Maybe your image of God is one of a detached king in an air-conditioned heaven, feasting on grapes and wine. But that’s not who God is at all! Instead, he is working, creating you in Christ to be a work of grace and to do his works of grace. God is a hands-on God, who works efficiently, extending grace with his hand of Light—Christ. God touches us with the Holy Spirit, causing us to grow, have life, and bear fruit for him. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16).

“I chose you.” Those three words alone illustrate how God actively works in our lives. Pastor and teacher Oswald Chambers commented on those three words: “That is the way the grace of God begins. It is a constraint we cannot get away from; we can disobey it, but we cannot generate it. The drawing is done by the supernatural grace of God, and we can never trace where His work begins. Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; the salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Himself.”7


The King’s Throne: God’s Throne of Grace

I will never forget one of the most dramatic examples of God’s grace at work that I have ever witnessed. In October 1996 Yankee Stadium was filled with people on their feet. The roar was deafening. The pitch was thrown, and the home crowd went wild as the pop-up was caught, and the New York Yankees won the World Series. John Wetteland, the thirty-year-old closing pitcher, was swept up in the air by his teammates. My husband, Steven, and I sat in front of our television set with tears streaming down our cheeks as we watched John scan the stands, searching for his wife, Michele.

I first met Michele in the spring of 1990, when both of our husbands were in major league spring training camp with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yet I’d heard of Michele much earlier. Before either of us got married, our future husbands, Steven and John, were roommates during winter ball in Puerto Rico. Apparently, the women pursuing John in his single days were notorious, and the other ballplayers teased John about his pursuers, referring to them as a harem.

Michele was busy pursuing God’s will for her life, attending college and working part-time. When John, the renowned “king of the ladies,” visited her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, for a series of games, Michele was certainly intrigued and fascinated, but not captured. Michele already considered herself part of a harem—she was a bride of the Lord Jesus, and she resided in his court, respecting his kingdom’s rule.

This posed a problem for John, who indeed was captured by Michele. Instead of being lured by John’s gold and the prospect of more gold, Michele turned away. Like the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas, John was struck with amazement: What’s this? No cards? No calls? No boxes? No bows?

Intrigued and fascinated by whatever commodity could compete with his own, John met the lover of Michele’s soul—the Lord Jesus Christ. Admitting that he’d been trying for years to fill a void in his life that he never could fill, John surrendered himself to God’s kingdom and received an overabundance of grace—the spiritual gold that really satisfies.

Steven and I watched as John stood beside Michele and their twin daughters to receive the trophy for the Most Valuable Player in the World Series. Emotion-filled words choked from his lips: “I would first like to thank Jesus Christ—my point man. Then my wife, Michele, who is my rock.” John was correct with this declaration, because the Rock of Jesus Christ is inside Michele Wetteland. Her spiritual grasp was stretched in her courtship with John, and now she’s richer in every way for choosing to possess God’s grace, instead of merely the world’s gold.


Thrones of Gold

All of us must make the same choice that Michele faced. Will we place ourselves or the world or a myriad of other things on the throne of our lives? Or will we become royal children of God, placing him on the throne to rule and make us rich with his grace? As followers of Christ, each believer becomes part of God’s royal spiritual kingdom. Since we are his royal children, God doesn’t withhold any good thing from our spiritual life. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord God . . . gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right” (Psalm 84:11 nlt).

Of course, the false thrones of the world certainly look attractive. This was true even in ancient civilizations. The pharaohs and high priests of Egypt sat on gold thrones, and their palaces and temples sparkled and gleamed with gold. They sat on hammered gold-sheathed furniture surrounded by golden statues. Gold thread shimmered in draperies, tapestries, and clothing. The very walls shone with gold. At night royalty slept on gold beds. When Queen Hatshepsut rose from her morning bath, she powdered her body with gold dust. The Egyptians buried their royalty in gold, wrapping their bodies in yards and yards of linen strips with golden jewels placed in the wrappings. The coffins that held the wrapped bodies and the jars that held their vital organs were covered in gold. We could say that a royal Egyptian’s journey through life to afterlife was a path of gold.8

In contrast, God offers us his true throne of grace. He and Jesus are seated on this throne of grace. Yet God’s grace also pervades every part of his kingdom. He purchased his royal children’s salvation with grace. We, his heirs, are covered with grace. We display his grace, and we sit with him by grace. Because we are royal children of God, our journey through life to eternity is a path of grace.

The writer of Hebrews described the Lord’s throne this way: “We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. . . . Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14, 16).


God’s Grace: Spiritual Wealth

You might recall the Old Testament account of Sarai and Abram. God gave this husband and wife an opportunity to exercise their faith and to increase their capacity to receive spiritual wealth—God’s grace. God initiated his grace by calling Sarai, and by faith she received grace when she obeyed God by following her husband.

Sarai was stunningly beautiful. Living in the excitement of a metropolitan city, this woman had looks, wealth, love, and servants. Even her name was a blessing: “my princess.” Yet for all the things Sarai had, she lacked one thing—a child. In her day, nothing she possessed compared with what she lacked.

Then God told Sarai, through Abram, to leave her familiar surroundings and travel with Abram to an unknown land that he would show them, promising that it would be worth their while. The land they journeyed to was occupied by another nation, and the people there were experiencing a famine. This meant that Sarai and Abram faced famine as well when they arrived. What were they to do? Trust in self-rule or God’s rule? God had placed them on the road, and they would learn that God would preserve them on the road. They would learn to follow, not lead.

Fearing for his life, due to the famine in the land, Abram decided to take an independent journey, traveling from the land of God’s choosing down to Egypt and right out of God’s perfect will. Then, fearing that the pharaoh might kill him and seize Sarai for his harem, Abram stepped further out of God’s will and hatched his own plan.

Abram said to Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you” Genesis 12:11–13).

The choice Sarai faced didn’t appear to be a grace-laden path at all. Instead, it appeared to be a dead end, where she would lose her chastity, her honor, and her promise for a happy and fulfilled life. She found herself at a crossroads of two kingdoms: not Egypt’s or her husband’s, but self-rule or God’s rule. Certainly, self-rule seemed reasonable, because Sarai thought she would lose everything. Assertiveness, as we will see later, wasn’t something she lacked. Yet God promised her what self-rule could never give her: a child.

So Sarai trusted God, yielding to her husband and obeying his wishes. This placed her right in the gold-adorned court of Pharaoh, Egypt’s ruler. The Egyptian courts at this time were lavish in golden d├ęcor. The Egyptian goldsmiths were experts at combining different colors of gold in their patterns. Adding iron gave gold a purple hue, copper made it red, and silver made the gold pale yellow.

Draped in an array of physical gold as part of the king’s harem, Sarai remained obedient to God. Although she was physically trapped in Egypt, she had not ventured spiritually from the court of the King of Kings. God rescued this royal child and, consequently, her husband and their entire entourage, sending “great plagues” on Pharaoh and his household. This all happened before Egypt’s king could violate her in any way. Abram, her husband, was shamed for his lack of faith in attempting to sustain his life apart from obedience to God.

With Sarai’s spiritual grasp stretched by exercising her faith, she possessed more grace/gold than when she arrived; she left Egypt as a wealthy woman spiritually as well as materially. Pharaoh treated Abram well for Sarai’s sake, and Abram acquired sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and servants.


The Golden Path of Grace

Sarai chose the path of grace. This golden road leads away from trusting in self-rule toward complete reliance on God. As Christ’s followers, we all face this choice. Will we place ourselves or Jesus Christ on the throne of our lives? If we choose to let Jesus reign, God promises that we will experience the richness of his grace in our present life and in eternity. The apostle Paul eloquently described this great gift of grace: “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]” (Ephesians 2:10 amp).

Did you catch that? God has prepared paths for us, and we should walk in them! Yet we so often stumble on the path, failing to live the abundant life God has for us. Paul addressed the reason for our stumbling: “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 9:30–33).

How interesting that Paul described Jesus as a stumbling stone. Think about that. You don’t stumble over a mountain or even a huge boulder. You stumble over a nugget that’s right under your nose, because you didn’t see it. That’s the way it is with God’s grace. His grace is right under our noses, there to meet our every need throughout each day. But instead of realizing it, and instead of kneeling down and receiving it, we stumble along in unbelief.

Walking the golden path of grace isn’t a scurry through the mall or a race measured by speed. It’s a deliberate, intentional climb up the jagged face of a mountain with stones mixed in with hard dirt.

When we think about the consequences of stumbling while climbing a mountain compared to stumbling on a flat terrain, we understand why the psalmist declared, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). A light on a dark and dangerous mountain, pointing out nuggets that when overlooked would become stumbling stones, would be the difference between a steady assent and a bloody heap of broken bones.

In the same way, as we travel up the golden path of grace, God’s written Word is the light that points to who Christ is and the grace we can receive. When we see and receive nuggets of truth of who he is on our individual, prearranged path and trust him completely, we are never put to shame. “I want those already wise to become the wiser and become leaders by exploring the depths of meaning in these nuggets of truth” (Proverbs 1:5–6 lb). Possessing his spiritual richness and abundance sounds better

than a bloody heap of broken bones!


—————————— Nuggets——————————

G od’s

R iches

A t

C hrist’s

E xpense

——————— A Prayer of Grace ———————


Lord God, we acknowledge we exist only because of your grace toward us. You are our Creator, and we praise you for our very existence, our planet, and all that spans beyond our universe. We acknowledge the rarity and beauty of your grace given to us in Jesus Christ, and we know that no one can come to you apart from him.

Father, we acknowledge that you are always working in and around us, pouring out your grace as you re-create us in Christ Jesus to do the very works of grace you have preplanned for us. We acknowledge that two roads exist in life. One we walk by our natural resources that lead to destruction. The other we walk intentionally as a spiritual road of grace that leads to life. Thank you for providing this golden road of grace and the gate, Jesus Christ, by which we gain access.

Help us, Lord, to slow our pace, to take our steps cautiously, so as to live the abundant life you have prearranged and made ready. Amen.


——————— Questions for Reflection ———————

• Reflect on a time when you or your family was lost. How did it make you feel?

• What were some of the reasons you lost your way?

• If walking the golden path of grace isn’t a scurry through the mall or a race measured by speed, how conducive is your lifestyle to carefully walking the golden road of grace? Is your goal to keep pace with grace or pace with the world?

• Consider a time when you have stumbled in unbelief in difficult circumstances. How did God show you he was present and there for you?


Notes

1. Arthur W. Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1955), 200.

2. Not her real name.

3. Richard B. Lyttle, The Golden Path (New York: Atheneum Books, 1983), 15.

4. Philo Judaeus, The Works of Philo (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), CD-ROM.

5. Lyttle, Path, p. 21.

6. Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 17.

7. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1935), 73.

8. Lyttle, Path, p. 10.



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