Friday, October 26, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas

Book Review

A Merry Little Christmas set in 1961 by Anita Higman is a very cozy story. While it is a story set during the Christmas season, it is not a typical seasonal story with Santa, red and green themed rooms, and busy shopping. Christmas is subtle in this book.

A Merry Little Christmas is a love story. Francine Martin is a young woman who owns and operates a farm in Oklahoma. Charlie Landau is a wealthy young man who buys Franny’s farm. There is a spark between them immediately. They find that they share a similar sense of humor and a love of music. The author also deals with a sub-plot that explores the issue of racism in 1961. An older, African-American woman named Noma comes into the lives of Franny and Charlie and plays an important part in the story.

There is a complex web of problems for Franny and Charlie and as the story unfolds the reader sees how things begin to work out for the couple. It could be said that in real life things just do not work that smoothly; but I believe the story should be read with an attitude of watching how God works in individual’s lives – taking a hodge-podge of people and problems and pulling them into a beautiful mosaic design.

This is a perfect book to read curled up in a cozy chair by the fireplace, drinking a cup of Christmas tea. The reader can enjoy watching how our detail-minded God puts together the puzzle pieces of problems for a very likeable young couple and marvel at the beauty He creates, just in time for Christmas Eve.

I received this book from the publisher in return for a review. All opinions are my own.

About The Book

Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds.

Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who's preparing to spend the holidays alone...again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny's farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she's more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart-that sometimes love comes when you're least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?

Meet The Author

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She's been a Barnes & Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Find out more about Anita at

Author Anita Higman invites readers to kick off the season with a spirited holiday tale. Anita is spreading the Christmas cheer by giving away FIFTEEN COPIES of the book

To enter to win A Merry Little Christmas, just head over to THE CONTEST PAGE at Anita's website and fill out the short form. Be sure to put BLOG CONTEST in the Subject Line. That's it. 

Winners will be announced on the Litfuse blog (and notified by email) on 11/9.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My First Handy Bible

Book Review

I often complain about the lack of aesthetics in most churches and ministries today. Once upon a time art in the church was all about giving God the best, not “our best” but “the best”, whether we’re talking about music, art, or even the Sunday morning bulletin.  It’s all a matter of how we view God. 

Is He worthy of the best? 

Let me ask this: if the president was coming to visit our church, would we settle for what we do every week, or would we try to up the ante and maybe hire in some professionals to give him an experience that’s worthy of his visit. 

How much more for the King of Hosts?

Is it any wonder that so many find the world more attractive?  At least they seem to care about and believe in what they’re doing enough to spend some effort and money on it.

This may seem like a strange rant to walk down for a review of a Children’s Bible, but often times I see Christian publishers doing the same thing: just throwing together some half-baked artwork for their cover, and crummy stories that took probably all of ten hours to write, draw, and color for children’s books.  

And then I there’s the Handy Bible. 

The book itself isn’t all that impressive.  Its gimmick is a cheap plastic handle and a cheap plastic latch that keeps it closed.  Imagine a tiny briefcase.  But inside . . . inside it’s amazing!

They hired professional cartoon artist Gustavo Mazali to illustrate the Bible stories, and the scenes and imagery are just gorgeous.  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was about the artwork.  He has a style similar to Sam Butcher’s Precious Moments, and if you were just thinking about the commercialized version of his work, I’d encourage you to check out the Precious Moments Chapel and some of his finer paintings.  I think Mazali is much better at expression than Butcher was though.

My son loved the stories too, though at three, he wasn’t as excited about the professional quality of the art.  Someday he will be.  I learned to draw by copying out of a picture Bible, and maybe he will too.

At any rate, I highly recommend this book, but also all the other selections from Scandanavia Publishing with illustrations by Gustavo Mazali.

About the Book

As soon as they can talk, most little ones begin asking for a Bible to hold in their very own hands. Now, from Denmark to America, comes My First Handy Bible (Scandinavia Publishing) for babies and toddlers, with all the best stories from Genesis to Revelation. Young children delight in carrying around the compact and colorful Bible—taking it to church, “playing” church or cuddling up in a lap to have it read to them. My First Handy Bible has huge appeal for parents, grandparents, teachers and children’s ministry leaders, but especially for the kids!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


What exactly is a miracle?  If you’re a Bible believing Christian, that’s probably not a question you’ve asked.  If you’re a skeptic, you’ve probably wouldn’t even waste much time pondering that question and dismiss it with a remark about ignorant people.  Yet miracles are part of the universal human experience.  There is no culture on Earth that doesn’t believe in miracles of some kind.

Tim Stafford is a senior writer for Christianity Today and has spent twenty-something years traveling the world and hearing accounts of miracles, which are the topic of his new book aptly titled: Miracles.

He admits that as a reformed Presbyterian, he didn’t have much faith in miracles and mostly leaned toward the position that God had gotten out of using people in His miracle working business after He finished his epic memoirs aka the Bible. (My words not his.)

But when a young man that he knew from his Presbyterian church, who had been bound to a wheelchair, went to a healing service at a more charismatic church and walked away from it pushing his wheelchair in front of him, Mr. Stafford decided to start digging a little deeper.

He found two things: there’s a lot of hyped-up, exaggerated miracles that people just want to believe but probably aren’t even close to true, but there are also real documented miracles happening all over the world.  He gives one example of watching Muslims come to Christ in Mozambique because a deaf man is healed in His name.

What is the thing that separates the real from the hype?  Well, the real are much rarer, usually important to an individual and those who know him/her, they’re life-changing for everyone involved, and most importantly God uses these “signs” as just that--signs that point to Him.

I have to say that I loved this book.

I’ve seen miracles first hand.  When my son was born, my wife went blind from complications because her blood started to clot and hemorrhage and damaged the tissue in her eyes, as well as other organs throughout her body.  It wasn’t certain whether she would live or die, but according to the doctors and the counselors that visited during that time, if she made it, her sight would be impaired for life.

I remember making videos of our son for her with the dim hope that God would heal her someday, and I wanted her to be able to see her son’s face when he was born. I also remember writing about healing during this time in the post Healing and God’s Heart.

People all around the world were praying for her recovery, and our boy was a month and half old when his mom was stable enough to come home from the hospital.  I can’t point to a specific moment when she got her sight back, but the next time we went to the doctor, she had 20/20 vision.

This is one of those examples Stafford would point to as hard to verify.  The medical records show that she was blind and got her sight back, but they chalk it up to the body healing itself.  They can’t explain how it healed itself, but it did.  It happens all the time.  Of course, that’s a skeptic’s response.  I don’t know how it happened, but it wasn’t a miracle because miracles don’t happen.

On the other hand, I’ve heard lots of people in the more charismatic side of things claim healing, but then a week later, they’re suffering again.  Were they healed or not? I’d say, no, and I think Stafford would too.

However, I think his summation is a good one.  If someone tells you they’ve been healed, hope that they have been and praise God.  Rejoice with those who rejoice.  If someone needs healing, pray that they will be, and mourn with those who mourn.  But don’t get so focused on signs and wonders that you forget whom the signs point to. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

You Don't Know Me

Book Review

The first thoughts that crossed my mind while reading You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren were, “I would like to live in Deep Haven, Minnesota.” The description of the mythical town of Deep Haven is better than the narrative from a tourist brochure. Warren paints a town that is so appealing and breathtaking it is impossible not to consider a small town relocation.

There are many things to like about this novel. This is a suspenseful book that builds gradually to the climax giving the sense that this may not end well. Warren pens a story that is exciting; but she also draws a full cast of characters that are complicated and multi-dimensional.

This is the story about Annalise Decker, wife, mother, daughter-in-law and friend extraordinaire. She does everything well. No one in Deep Haven, including her husband, would ever guess that she is really Diedre O’Reilly, relocated through the Witness Security Program – a woman who testified against a murderer who promised that he would kill her.

One of the predominant themes in You Don’t Know Me is redemption and second chances. This is shown beautifully in the protagonist’s life but also through the entire cast of characters. It is a story of the danger in keeping secrets and the devastation of a judgmental attitude. But most of all, it is a story of God’s overwhelming and amazing grace.

I loved this book. It was a book that was moving on so many levels, a book I would pick up every chance I could find, letting tasks like laundry take a secondary position. There were many wonderful things to take away from this story. I am happy to recommend this book.

I received this book from the publisher in return for a review.  All opinions are my own.

About the Book: 

A Deep Haven Novel

Sometimes the secrets we keep to protect ourselves can be our undoing.

To all who know her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She’s a permanent member of the PTA, never misses a sporting event, and is constantly campaigning for her husband’s mayoral race.

No one knows that Annalise was once Deidre O’Reilly, a troubled young woman whose testimony put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Relocated through the Witness Security Program to the quaint harbor town of Deep Haven, Deidre received a new identity and a fresh start, which began when she fell in love with local real estate agent Nathan Decker.

Twenty years later, Annalise couldn’t be more unprepared for her past to catch up with her. When Agent Frank Harrison arrives with news that the man she testified against is out on parole and out for revenge, Annalise is forced to face the consequences of her secrets. Will she run again, or will she finally find the courage to trust those she loves most with both her past and her future?

Meet Susan: 

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.

Find out more about Susan May at

Win a $200 Weekend Getaway

RSVP for Facebook Author Chat Party on Oct. 23rd! Welcome to the campaign launch for Susan May Warren’s latest offering in her beloved Deep Haven series, You Don’t Know Me. Susan is celebrating with a $200 Weekend Getaway Giveaway and hosting a fun video Author Chat Party!

One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa Gift Card (Use that to catch up with a loved one and “Get to Know” your spouse, friend, sister, mom…whomever!)
  • The entire set of Deep Haven Books
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 22nd. Winner will be announced at the ”You Don’t Know Me” Author Chat Facebook Party on 10/23. Connect with Susan for an evening of book chat, Deep Haven trivia, and a live video chat! There will also be info about Susan’s BookShout read-along and a chance to win gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of You Don’t Know Me and join Susan on the evening of the October 23rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the books – don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!


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